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Farm Fresh Blog
Thursday, September 27 2012
Poor Joe is having some problems fitting in. He is a gentle soul, so I put him in the roping arena with Musket. Since Musket gets picked on by the other horses, I thought they might make good roommates.
Unfortunately after a one day honeymoon, I came home from work to find that Musket had beat up poor Joe. I had one paint horse with kicks and bites all over him, and one roan horse with not so much as a scratch. Eviction time!
So I until Joe can get assimilated into the herd, he can stay alone in the arena or with the sheep.
This worked out until the goats discovered Joe had hay. Yes, the idiots who have so much hay in their pen that they turn their noses up at it, decided that when turned loose in the yard with a horse, they simply MUST eat his hay. They swarmed over Joe's breakfast hay like gypsies in the palace!
Easygoing Joe just ambled off and returned after the gypsies had left. He's such a sweetie.
This afternoon when I left for work, Joe said that instead of staying alone, he wanted to go out with the sheep. Okie dokie. So I opened the gate to let him in with the sheep and goats. And that's about the time Briar turned into a monster and informed poor Joe that he was "NOT a part of the flock!"
(clearly someone has failed to inform Briar that SHE'S a dog and not part of the flock either. I'm just sayin'.)
It's rough being the New Kid On The Block.
Sunday, September 23 2012
Did you ever see a stranger across a room and swear you'd met before? Did you ever meet someone for the first time and get an immediate sense of familiarity? A connection. You can't explain it, you just trust in it.
And so it was last Sunday afternoon when I was dropping off a soap delivery to an old friend. I glanced in her back yard and saw this:
Like a cartoon character, my heart leaped out of my body. Who was this horse?
I stopped in my tracks and asked her about the horse next door. She told me he belonged to her brother who'd purchased the horse for his 5 year old daughter and rarely ever rode him.
"He's a push-button horse, but he's just wasting away there. I've hopped on him bareback and he's PUSH-BUTTON."
I was intrigued. "Take me to meet this horse."
And so we walked to the pasture. He immediately came up to greet me. She remarked that he is normally polite but distant and was surprised he was so friendly. I was more intrigured. There was "something" about this horse.
I've learned to trust those "somethings" and so I asked if the horse was for sale. She allowed as how he wasn't on the market, but her brother had recently tossed around the idea since the horse wasn't really being ridden. So I made a date to test drive him the following Sunday.
I went home, but couldn't get the horse out of my head. He was perfect for me. Short enough to easily mount, (unlike OTHER members of the family)
and calm as a cucumber. (Unlike OTHER members of the family)
I've spent a good bit of my life riding hot horses, but I'm 49 years old now. Now, I want short and calm. (But OTHER members of the family will ALWAYS remain members of the family!)
In the middle of the week I took Other Half to see this paint horse. He was unimpressed. He likes his horses big. Big ranch gelding are more his speed. This guy looked more like a mustang off the plains. But I was undaunted. There was "something" about this horse.
At first I thought he was a 'medicine hat' paint since he appeared to have the distinct "hat" and a front "shield" that made these horses so prized by the plains Indians. They believed the horses possessed special powers that would protect the rider from harm.
Closer inspection revealed that he wasn't a true medicine hat because the "hat" was just a bit off over his left ear. He has parti-colored blue eyes.
Nevertheless, there was still something about this horse that I just couldn't get out of my head. He just seemed to be the Painted Pony I had spent my entire life searching for. So two days later I dropped in to visit him. Once again, he happily walked up to greet me. This time I gave him a cookie. We were now BFFs.
"Best Friends Forever"
So Sunday rolled around and I waited for reality to smack me in the face. My friend reported that he'd been hard to catch in the pasture. Yet once again he happily greeted me like we knew each other. Once again, she thought this was odd. By then, I'd decided that perhaps the horse felt the same thing about me - something familiar, something comfortable.
He was easy to handle on the ground. Loaded into the horse trailer like a champ. Unloaded like a gentleman. Although he hadn't been ridden in months, he acted like he'd been ridden yesterday.
There was nothing not to like about this horse. I hopped on him bareback and felt like I'd ridden him for years.
And so it was that I listened to that little voice and bought him. His current name is Little Joe, but as my friend said, "It's not like he answers to it."
She said that since he looks like an Indian pony, he needs an Indian name. If something comes up we'll see, otherwise, I guess we'll just call him, "Joe."
Thursday, September 20 2012
Other Half and I made a quick trip overnight trip out of town, leaving most of the dogs at the house either in the yard, or in outside kennel runs.
Most, not all:
Too much trouble
While everyone else stayed at home where Son could come by and care for them. Too Much Trouble went to a professional kennel and Too Precious stayed with her grandma!
This is because she is a Little Princess who does not stay in a concrete kennel and loose in a fenced yard was out of the question. Certain members of the family are not only too precious, they are smart and uppity and may be "voted off the island" by other dogs, thus, for her safety and my peace of mind, she went to stay with my mother overnight.
Now Lily knows my mother quite well. My old farm was right next door to my mom's house, and Lily grew up there.
When she was little, my mom would babysit Lily while I was at work. That, apparently is not enough, for a determined Border Collie who has been
"Lassie Come Home!"
It would appear that while she was happy to see G'ma and enjoyed her company, Miss Lily firmly believed that a Border Collie's place is with her mom and so Lily headed out in search of me. Poor Lil was convinced that if she could just get to her OLD home (next door) that she could find me. There are several reasons why this was a bad idea:
a) I was not there.
One can easily understand why my mother was concerned. Pit one clever Senior Citizen against one clever Border Collie and that must be reality television at its finest. For instance, I would have paid good money to watch this:
My mother has a doggy door so that her own dog can let himself into the yard to pee instead of using the dining room floor. Because Lily grew up with doggy doors, this was an express lane to the back yard and freedom. Apparently she had sneaked out of the house twice and so my mother decided that she would plug any tiny holes in her back yard to prevent our Canine Einstein from escaping. Lily watched all this from the porch.
Mom then went into the house and watched from the window as Lily inspected each newly plugged gap. Then, much to my mother's dismay, she hoisted her tiny ass over the fence like a gazelle and headed back to her Old House.
Thus it became apparent that unless her outdoor time was supervised, Lily would leave any time she pleased in search of her mom.
This is the same dog who, even if she is already outside, will sit beside the back door waiting for me to go with her before she will "do her business." While she has none of the annoying destructive separation anxiety issues, Homegirl is most definitely a titty-baby dog who has watched too many Lassie Re-runs. Since she was 6 weeks old, Lily has only spent 2 nights away from me.
Ironically, when I went to retrieve her this morning, although she was happy to see me, she blasted past me to greet Other Half, and then came back inside to play like she had been on vacation and daycare was the most wonderful place in the world.
Afterwards we went to The Kennel to pick up Oli. As we pulled up an alarm of barking dogs sounded. Lily was quite interested in such chaos and leaped to the front seat to get a better view. Other Half asked her,
"What's THAT, Gator?"
To which Lily replied, "Those are doggies who don't have grandmas!"
Tuesday, September 18 2012
Each season at the ranch brings new surprises and captivating mysteries. The puzzle for September was this:
I found them blanketing the gravel roadways along fence lines.
But what were they? The blooms looked like tiny purple pineapples or the blosssom of a lavender but the stalks were spiny and brittle, sharp and harsh. What was the fascinating plant?
So dutifully, Other Half and the dogs sat in the truck while I hopped out with my camera to document this oddity for further research. I then asked some local folks, "What is this?"
And was told, "Thistle."
Hmmm . . . . Interesting. I had never run across this kind of thistle, so when I returned to civilization, I whipped out my stuff on thistles. Nada. Nothing. Ah HAH! A mystery! A puzzle!
I was all kinds of excited, but I'm also lazy. A return to civilization also means the Merry-Go-Round of Life speeds up for me and because I wanted
The beauty of the internet is that one can toss out a question, like a rock skipping across a pond, and just wait.
"Eryngo - not a thistle. In the parsley family."
Wow, thanks Mom! So off I went to research eryngo. I NEVER would have thought this was in the parsley family. Turns out that it IS a native plant of Texas. Deer won't eat it. No suprise there. Spreads by seeds. Wear gloves so you won't rip your hands to shreds while harvesting seeds. Ugly stalks. Wait rewarded by phenomenal display of vibrant purple color.
And as I read more about eryngo, I thought about how this little plant was probably a good example of a life lesson. People wrote to gardening sites to tell them stories of how they
And isn't a lot of life like this? If we just patiently trudge on through the thistles, eventually, something good comes of it.
Friday, September 14 2012
Things are dry in North Texas now and thus much of the creek that meanders through the ranch is also dry. This gives us the opportunity to explore areas we haven't seen before. So like Lewis & Clarke, Other Half, Lily, and I headed down the dry creekbed to discover new frontiers.
There was the mandatory game of fetch along the way.
The creekbed was a veritable newspaper with stories of life and death on the ranch. Footprints in the sand followed the drama of coyotes bringing down an unfortunate piglet.
As the piglet's story trailed out of the creek, we continued our journey down the creekbed, into the rising sun. We rounded the corner and this rose out of the mist.
Boulders captured a freshwater spring in the middle of the dry creek.
Lily took the plunge.
"FISH! There are FISH in here!"
How to drive a Border Collie crazy: chasing fish on a hot day!
And so it was that we discovered another Honey Hole on a ranch rich with mysteries still undiscovered.
Thursday, September 13 2012
One would think, that given my work experiences, I would quit asking psychological and sociological questions. One would think that I'd have given up any faith in humanity and society as a whole, but like Anne Frank, I still want to believe. I still turn the Rubik's Cube of Life.
So here's the puzzle currently on my mind: Why are some individuals raised to hold life at such high esteem and others not? Or perhaps to explore this correctly we should examine the "glass half empty" versus the "glass half full" people, for in the face of adversity, how one views the situation greatly colors one's emotional perception of what happened. Take the major accident we were involved in over the holiday weekend.
Now, emotions aside, given the pure laws of Physics involved in the situation, as a "glass half full" kind of person, I realize how close everyone came to death. As an officer, I have worked those kinds of accidents on the freeway and I know firsthand how ugly they are, so in that instant, when faced with causing certain death, I chose life over property. I believed then, and still believe, that it was the only choice I could make. The accident was still ugly, but everyone survived. And in that situation, I, as a "glass half full" person believe that we should all drop to our knees in the roadway and thank God that we are alive and walking. (I am also thankful that everyone has insurance. There is a reason I have been paying Allstate for all these years.)
Now, to the other side of the coin. The occupants of the vehicle that hit me broadside as my truck was sliding sideways down the freeway because I chose not to mow down the girl in the roadway or the woman in the parked truck she jumped out of, are now suing me. Yes, they are suing me.
They believe that if I had stayed in the right lane, they would not have been involved in an accident. Clearly they don't understand that if a large truck with a loaded trailer hits a person in the roadway and then plows into a parked vehicle, it will NOT stay in the same lane anyway. Laws of Physics dictate that the truck would either have bounced into their lane upon impact, or it would have bounced into the retaining wall, and THEN into their lane upon impact. Either way, they would have still been involved in the accident.
Yes, I have insurance. Yes, they have insurance. Yes, the woman whose child jumped from the vehicle also has insurance. So I ask you, what is the point of suing someone? Sadly, I fear the answer is "money."
And herein lies my frustration. Why is that we cannot all be thankful we survived? Why do people feel the need to get rich off the backs of others? Is the need to 'make a buck' stronger than respect for human life? Has our society stooped this low?
Monday, September 10 2012
As we have discussed before ranch dogs are more than pets, they are tools in the tool box, each with his or her own specialty.
If you want finesse, you choose Lily.
If you need more distance but no teeth, you choose Cowboy.
But if you want distance, and you don't care about finesse or gentle, you choose Trace.
While he has more raw talent than the other dogs, Trace has less control. He is a red rocket, bent on his goal toward world domination. Livestock WILL comply - or else.
Unfortunately, Trace doesn't get as much practice because the weather has been too hot for the sheep, and we don't have free time to focus on Trace, thus, he is like a genie in a bottle. When you need him, you need him, but then you have a time getting that genie back in the bottle.
But such was not the case on Saturday. Lily and Trace were in the house and Cowboy was in one of the outside pens when I realized I was late for work, and still needed to turn sheep and goats into the yard to mow while we were gone. No problem. Or so I thought . . .
Call sheep as I walk to their pen. They are pumped. They have been locked up and are ready for grass. Open gate and begin to escort them on short walk to back yard. All but two lambs enter back yard. Those two decide they want to turn around at the back gate and head to pasture instead. Everyone else decides this is a good idea and the entire flock runs over me like a water in a fast rushing stream. I stand in the gate, helpless to stop them.
Grab Cowboy out of kennel. He is happy to oblige. He lopes toward the trees. They race around the round pen and begin this ring-around-the-rosies game they have learned to confound the dogs. Cowboy doesn't know what to do. He won't bite them. They know this. The dog stops and looks back at me as the sheep do the "end zone" dance on the other side of the round pen. They laugh and taunt him. He looks back, confused. They run through two more pastures and are now 5 acres away.
"Come' on, Cowboy. It's okay, Boy, you tried."
I have asked more than his gentle soul is capable. This is a job for The Terminator. So we walk back to the house and I exchange dogs. The Terminator has been watching this drama from the picture window in the living room. He already has assessed the problem and assimilated that into his plan for world domination.
I slip the end of the crook through his collar lest he, true to his impulsive nature, begin his quest without me, and we hike toward the flock. They are still 5 acres away, but they see Trace coming and begin to run in the opposite direction. I down him and slip loose the crook.
"Git 'em up, Boy!"
And with that, the Heat Seeking Missile is launched. Instead of running after them, he kicks out at an angle as fast as his little legs can run. The flock continues its path across the pasture until - the Genie magically appears in front of them. And then, it's on. Unlike Cowboy, Trace will use teeth and they know it. There is no laughing and taunting now.
He turns the flock on a dime and they decide they will outrun him in another direction, but he kicks out at an angle and heads them off again. This game continues until they reach me. They attempt to blaze past me, but he catches them again. In fits and starts, he escorts them through two pastures until they reach the paddock with the round pen. They attempt their foolish round-the-rosies game with The Terminator, but he is on them like a duck on a june bug.
He re-groups them and we continue our journey to the yard. I down him as they stream through the gate into the yard, but Trace and the sheep are convinced they are escaping again, and so he gives lip-service to his down and races off to catch them again.
Herein lies the difficult part of getting the genie back in the bottle. The yard is filled with all kinds of hazards that make working sheep difficult for a green dog with a wiley flock. I lock the gate and round the corner of the house as the first sheep are barrelling back my way. They split up in the yard, but he is carefully rounding trucks and trailers to recover the mass and roll that ball of sheep back to me.
By this time his tongue is down to his toes but he has them saluting him. As the snow ball of sheep gathers around my knees, I ask him again for a down. This time he drops to the grass.
The poor guy is so hot I fear he'll seizure and heat stroke out on me, so I scoop him up and drop him in stock tank. The Terminator is hot, but he is a happy boy. Mission accomplished, and he knows it.
As the weather cools, he will be able to get more practice. I feel bad because as it stands now, the only work he gets on sheep is when the job is already a train wreck. That's no way for a green dog to get experience. On the other hand, when I need him, I really need him. He is more capable of handling those train wrecks than the other dogs because he has the confidence for distance work they don't possess. The sheep choose to misbehave. They choose to run like deer. He merely heads them off and gathers them back up.
So as I take the soaking wet pup into the house where he can plop under a ceiling fan in the air conditioning, he looks back at the flock and growls,
"I'll be baack."
Friday, September 07 2012
I believe I have firmly established now that my final words will be "Oh God! OhGod!OhGod!OhGOD!!!"
Trust me, there are probably worst things to say in your final moments.
(For instance: "Hey! Hold my beer. Watch this!")
One would think that my business would give you more than ample opportunity to examine what's important in life, but from time to time, defining moments stand out. I had one of those moments this weekend.
Another birthday rolled around for me, and unlike those who dread each birthday like the tolling of a death bell, as we have also already established, I see birthdays as my excuse to
Yes, aging brings unwelcome party guests like arthritis, wrinkles, loss of flexibility, and weight gain, but it also brings a richness of experience and wisdom that my toned, tanned, and youthful self just didn't possess. And there is always the other alternative. So keep in mind that despite your ailments, "any day on this side of the grass is a good day." That point was driven home like a line drive in Yankee Stadium this weekend.
Other Half and I loaded up the truck and headed for the ranch to
That established, let's drive on with our story:
Other Half had a brand new Garmin GPS. We named her "Michelle." Other Half had already noted that Michelle not only shows a map, but she also posts the listed speed limit and what I was actually driving at that moment. (tattle-tail!) Anyway, Other Half smugly pointed out that I was "dragging ass" and driving too slowly. My argument that driving a loaded rig on a crowded freeway in holiday traffic did little to sway his opinion that I was once again, "Driving Miss Daisy." But . . . I'm a 'grown-ass woman and do what I want, so thank GOD, I continued to drive Miss Daisy and he soon bored and fell asleep.
He woke up as we were sliding sideways down the freeway. That was about the time I realized we were about to crash over the guard rail and pull a "Thelma & Louise" into thin air.
But let's go back some. I have replayed this scene a thousand times and the most frightening thing is that you can do everything right, and shit just happens. When I was learning to drive, my mother taught me this little rhyme:
"She was right she was,
And so it was that I sped along, wearing my seatbelt. The sun was up. Visibility was good. I wasn't tired. I wasn't fiddling with the radio, the dogs, my cell phone, or any of the countless other distrations that attack drivers daily. I wasn't speeding. I wasn't tailgating. I was Driving Miss Daisy.
BUT . . . I was on a busy freeway that is a major artery across the state. The freeway was a two lane roadway with concrete barriers on either side. There was no shoulder. There was nowhere to go. And that's when a woman riding in a truck ahead of me decided to leap out of a moving vehicle and land smack in the middle of the holiday traffic on the freeway. As you can imagine, chaos ensued.
The cars ahead of me were standing on their noses and swerving. I hit the brake too, but I was driving a Ford F350 and pulling a loaded trailer. That's a lot of weight. In essence, I was driving a freight train in the right hand lane. If I didn't get that truck stopped, someone was going to die. That was a given. The passenger-turned-pedestrian would die, people in stopped vehicles would die, and we might die if I couldn't get that truck stopped.
And that's when I saw the left lane open up.
I've fallen off enough horses to know that time slows down in the middle of a wreck, and I had time enough to read "Moby Dick" as the scene unfolded. It all came down to two choices:
Choice A: Stay in Right-Hand Lane
Choice B: Move to Left-hand Lane
Glance back at Right-hand Lane. Vehicles are stopped. We definitely cannot stay there. Go for left and continue to try to stop truck to prevent hitting any vehicles who are springing from right lane to left lane. Sit on brake. Truck begins to slide too far to the left and bumper catches concrete barrier.
Short Commercial break:
Ranch Hand Bumpers. These are sported on big trucks all over Texas. I must admit that in the past I thought this was a macho thing for country boys to put on their trucks and say they were protecting their trucks from damage when they hit a deer. Nope. That sucker will SAVE YOUR LIFE! Get one.
Now back to our story:
I am now trying to stop a truck that is sliding sideways down the freeway. The left hand side of my Ranch Hand Bumper is shaving away concrete.
This slows our speed considerably, unfortunately the green SUV in my rear view mirror now t-bones me and is shoving us down the freeway.
Another Short Commercial Break:
Big Trucks. Yes, we all strive for energy efficiency in everything. Little cars are great, but those of us on ranches need big trucks. The bonus is that when you are in a major accident, being in a tank doesn't suck. I will no longer whine about my gas bill when I drive across the state in my big truck.
Back to our story:
Other Half is now awake. We are sliding sideways down the freeway, and have just been hit broadside. And as if things can't get any worse, I realize, to my horror, that not only is the truck being pushed sideways, but it wants to continue going left into the concrete guard rail and we are on an overpass. I see nothing but my hood and a steep drop onto the highway below us.
At this point I have a thought,
"This is how people get launched over the overpass and fall onto the roadway below. And everyone dies . . ."
And this was the point where I gave it up. I had done everything I could possibly do and it wasn't enough. This had just become a "Jesus Take The Wheel" moment. It was not in my power to keep anyone alive. I held that wheel and started to pray the truck would stop before we climbed that k-rail and launched into space.
And the truck stopped. For a moment, time stood still for me as I looked out over my hood, at the roadway below.
Then I became vaguely aware of Other Half cursing loudly. He wanted answers but I had none. How does one explain what just happened?
(pic taken off freeway)
Angry and bleeding, but very much alive . . .
I climbed out of my truck as everyone else stepped out onto the freeway. There was a surreal moment of peace as the dust settled and humanity counted the damage. The question on all lips:
"Is everyone okay?"
Like actors on a stage, the players emerged.
The principle cast was obviously the drivers and passengers of the striking vehicles, but the supporting cast was quite interesting: the motorcylist who rode through the stopped traffic to come up and assist us, the doctor who came to render first aid.
When the doctor informed Other Half that he was bleeding, Other Half told him, "I don't have time to bleed."
Cops think a little differently. At the moment, Other Half was looking for the body of the woman who jumped out into traffic. No body on the highway. He peeked over the railing. No body down there. Hmmm . . .
Where was she?
A man came up to me talking about a kidnapper. Of course! Why else would you jump out of a moving vehicle into a crowded freeway? The freeway ahead of me was clear, the traffic long gone. If there was a kidnapping suspect, he was gone, but then again, so was my body. This was a puzzle.
And then I heard something that clicked everything into place.
"Why did you jump out of the truck?"
I saw an older woman talking to a young girl who was crying. It soon became apparent that the young woman had jumped OUT of the older woman's truck, causing the older woman to stop in the middle of the roadway, thus resulting in a bad day for everyone.
The young woman had road rash but was otherwise unharmed. I informed Other Half that I'd found our body, and our body was still alive. He went to investigate this further as I went back to the truck to check the dogs. What came next boggled my mind even more than finding my dead body alive.
The reason she leaped out of a moving vehicle:
They were having an argument about her doing her homework.
She leaped out of a moving vehicle onto a crowded freeway, endangering her own life, and countless others, over HOMEWORK?
Yes. It would appear so.
And there you have it. There are moments in our lives which force us to sit up and take notice, to assess life as we know it, for you can be tooting along, minding your own business, and the next moment make a decision that will profoundly affect your life and the lives of everyone around you.
So which would you choose? Right-hand lane or Left-hand lane?
Do you bitch and moan about growing old, or do you drop to your knees on the freeway and thank God that you lived to see your next birthday?
Saturday, September 01 2012
I love taking a walk with Briar. Unlike the Border Collies, who are constant motion, Briar strolls, a slow methodical patrol.
She tests the winds from time to time and marks the fence line, but unless she sees the neighbor's chickens on our side, not much bothers her. (Briar exacts a stiff fine for trespassing chickens. She eats them.)
She wanders around the hay bales, then checks the goldfish in the big tank.
Fish are still there.
And onward she goes. Briar slithers through the gaps in the fence made by young calves who bend the stays holding the wire in place.
I stay on the other side as I watch Briar slowly patrol that paddock. She putters around, stopping to test the winds and mark the ground from time to time.
But when you call her, she happily trots back,
and squeezes through the fence. Then we meander on to check the small critters,
who barely notice us,
past the ungrateful goats,
who resent Briar breathing the same air they breathe.
And she plops down where she can watch her little kingdom, confident that her borders are secure, and she is the Warrior Queen of all she surveys.