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Farm Fresh Blog
Friday, November 21 2014
Sometimes I look through my photos and feel more than a tad guilty. This poor dog spends a great deal of her life waiting on us
to do something. Anything. Something important. Something fun. Anything.
This series perfectly illustrates her problem:
"Hey!Im readyAreweworkingcowsorsheep?Arewetakingthemuleorwalking?Areyoucoming? Are you coming? Are you COMING!"
"Hellloooo? You coming? Tired of waiting. I'm getting weak here."
"Cobwebs. Cobwebs growing on my ears cuz I'm waiting so long on you."
"Seriously? The cats? You're feeding the cats first? Do you have any idea just how much of my life I spend waiting on you to get to work?"
"And they say the Border Collie is the World's Smartest Dog. Clearly somebody needs to re-think that list."
Monday, November 17 2014
"The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys."
Other Half has been pining away for a GoPro video camera. Since he doesn't lean toward extreme spots, I wondered why he needed a tiny camera that he could strap on before doing something that would give our insurance company fits. But true to form, he wasn't planning on strapping the camera on himself. He planned to strap the camera ON THE DOGS. Yes, the dogs. He even bought a special harness made just for strapping the camera on your dog.
He wanted a camera on Aja when she was training in bite work and narcotics. He wanted a camera on Dillon to get a dog's eye view of the forest as the dog bounced across the ranch. (Buy plenty of Dramine.) And he wanted to strap that camera on the Border Collies while they worked cattle. Yyyyyyyeah. . .
Trace was not nearly as thrilled with this idea as his handler.
Since the camera battery was still charging, Other Half decided to do a test run with Trace just wearing the harness. He wanted to make sure we didn't take any chances with Trace slithering under a barbed wire fence and catching the camera on it. I had to go to work so I sent Other Half out there with my Canon to document it. I caught the first part and frankly, I wasn't too impressed. I was later assured that the dog finally settled and started to work.
Calves are bunched into the buck pen, munching on a round bale of hay. Remove calves from buck pen. Place cattle in arena where they will later be fed.
This is right up Lily's alley. Her forte is up close, predictable pen work. She drives well but gathering at a distance is simply beyond her. On the other hand, Trace's forte is long distance gathering. He sees no point in close up pen work because, "Well duh, you've already penned 'em up."
Nevertheless Other Half wanted to use Trace for this because he eventually wants to put his camera on Trace. As predicted, Trace went into the pen and announced,
"Well duh, you've already got 'em penned."
Eventually he got the cows moved out. (I think the cows moved on their own because they're used to Lily moving them daily.) Anyway, once they were outside the goat pen, then Mr. Trace decided that they needed to be penned in the arena and he was the man for the job. Alrightie then.
According to Other Half, after Trace got over his initial hesitation, he decided he could work in the harness, so the next step is to attach the camera to the harness. Of course, then there will be the whole learning curve when we try to figure out how to upload the video into the computer and then edit it. Trust me, all the cussing will need to be edited out. :)
Thursday, November 13 2014
"A man's got to know his limitations."
After yet one more unsuccessful attempt to use the camera-phone, I gave up and promised myself that tomorrow I'm taking that Canon into the barn and cranking up the ISO on those cats. I WILL get some decent pictures of black cats. It might not be tomorrow, or the next day. Or next month. Or next year. But I accept the challenge!
Any animal shelter will tell you that black dogs and black cats are the hardest to place. They are shadows that fade into the wallpaper behind their flashy, colorful counterparts. Some organizations even go so far as to highlight the problem and promote these animals as "Ninja Cats" or "Ninja Dogs." And so when Dear Friend Michelle said she was rescuing feral cats and that she'd place black ones with me, I was delighted to be able to give two ninja cats a home. I don't have to have flashy, I just have to have lethal.
Another plus to the black cats is that they're friendly. While stumbling around the internet in search of names for black cats, I happened upon a reference to a comment Temple Grandin made in her book "Animals Make Us Human." She said that black cats are "more social overall." Interesting. Perhaps that's why two mostly feral cats tamed up so quickly. Another interesting tidbit I stumbled upon was that the Feline Genome Project is experimenting now with the idea that a mutation which causes the black fur might actually make black cats resistant to viruses in the HIV family. Hhmphf . . .
Anyway, I turned my assassins loose in the barn today while I did chores and let them stay out of their cage for a while.
1) canned cat food
Things they don't like:
(There is nothing wrong with that goat's eye, it's 'goat spit' on the camera lens. Such is the problem with photographing Nubian goats!)
Ninja & Nikita (La Femme Nikita)
Look out rats! There's a new sheriff in town, and she moves like a ninja in the night.
Wednesday, November 12 2014
If you're trying to run a farm without a farm collie, you're cheating yourself and doing a lot more work than you should. Note that I said "farm collie," not Border Collie, since an Aussie, a Cattle Dog, an English Shepherd, or even a Belgian may fit your needs just fine. Get a dog that's been bred to be a FARM COLLIE, a stock dog. I just mentioned a few of the more common breeds, there are others.
"But I do just fine without a dog. Why should I bother with another mouth to feed? My animals come just fine to a bucket of feed."
No, they don't. You're kidding yourself. MOST of the time they come to a bucket. The times they don't you are left stalking around the pasture throwing buckets at cows.
A dog will eliminate all that foolishness.
Let me give you an example. Each night I put the sheep and goats in their pen and release the big calves and male goats into the front pasture. In the morning I put everyone up and release the sheep and girl goats again. I don't feed anyone but the barn cats, I just rotate animals. The cows are not in a big hurry to go up. If I relied on a bucket, I'd have to feed these heifers every time I wanted to move them. This is unnecessary because I have a farm collie.
Lily knows where everyone belongs. There is very little discussion about it.
Note the large calf in the background. That is Delta the Flying Cow. She knows the game too, and is waiting to see if the dog sees her.
First Lily gathers the wild one bucking around the pasture in the cold, then she scoops up everyone else - including Delta.
And then she stops. Just like that. When the last calf has filed in, she stops at the gate. This took Lily about one minute. I would still be throwing buckets at cows. Instead, I stood there, drinking a frappuccino and taking pictures.
And the best part?
Unlike paid farm help or family farm help, the farm collie is always ready to work. He or she does not have to be dumped out of bed and pumped full of coffee just to get some work out of them. The farm collie asks nothing more than a happy game of fetch after a job well done.
So if you have a farm, do yourself a favor - get a farm dog.
Wednesday, November 05 2014
Other Half is returning home today so I guess I'll have to return his dog.
Unlike the other dogs in this household who start out as his dogs and slowly migrate to become my dogs (Dillon & Ranger - because all good things in life come from Mommy!) Aja has always maintained her allegiance to him. That's a good thing because since she's a patrol dog, his life depends upon her. She absolutely adores him but is slowly deciding that while Daddy does all this fun stuff with her, Mom allows her to be a dog, and that's a lot of fun too.
That may not sound like much but it really is, because many police and military dogs live a very different life from pet dogs. Think Sparta versus Athens. Because we already have so many Athenian dogs living in this household, it is sometimes easier to keep Aja in Sparta. Instead of sleeping in the bed at night, she sleeps in her crate beside the bed. She isn't given free run of the yard because she is valuable so she must either be supervised, or locked in her kennel run. Since she doesn't know any better, unlike the Athenians living in this household, our Spartan pup is happy and doesn't pout when incarcerated.
But my argument is that she is a dog, not a tool, and she has social needs that cannot be met by humans. Aja came to us with few if any canine social skills. Dillon and Ranger have worked on that and she is a happy member of the pack now - a little rough, but she gets along with everyone. She doesn't eat Lily for being a micromanaging bitch, and she doesn't try to play power games with Briar. (That would be Clash Of The Titans)
Since Other Half has been at the ranch, Aja has had the luxury of living in Athens, where dogs are loose in the house, sleep on the bed during the day, clean up Mom's dinner plate, and play chase games with the rancher's dogs next door. This is a quick way to exercise ten dogs at one time. He turns his dogs loose and they immediately run to our fence. It is the high point of everyone's day - fence fighting with the neighbors.
The rancher sits on his porch and plays on his smart phone while his dogs get their exercise. I stand on the porch and watch my dogs get exercise. Even though there is a fence between them, an element of danger exists however. Not only must the dogs avoid crashing into each other, they must avoid crashing into trees.
I saw one of Justin's dogs do this once. UGH! Ouch! It was like watching an episode of Batman. I expected the word "WHAM!" to pop up on the television screen.
Aja loves this game and lasts longer than anyone else. Briar drops out first.
Not only is she carrying a heavy coat, face it, Briar is not designed for speed. Ranger drops out next. Little Blue Dog is
Aja has a blast. It is the essence of just being a dog and not a Spartan.
What am I afraid of at night?
Not a damned thing.
Tuesday, November 04 2014
As has already been established, I can handle dead bodies. I can do bloody bodies. I can do hanging bodies. I can do rotting bodies. What I cannot do - is rat bodies. No. Negative Ghost Rider. Sister doesn't do rats, live or dead. When I was a kid I read a children's book that taught me how to deal with rats. Well partially. Unlike the sultan, I would have stopped while I was ahead. The story goes like this:
There was a king or raja or sultan who loved cheese. He filled his palace with cheese. The problem was that the palace was also filling with rats. In hindsight, I think they were mice because they were cute. A mouse can pull off cute. Rats have trouble with it. Something about those scaly hairless tails. Anyway, to combat his rodent problem, the king got cats.
And the cats took care of the rats. But in no time, he had a problem with cats everywhere. The book didn't mention litterboxes, but three hundred cats flinging kitty litter everywhere would be a problem. So to get rid of the cats, the sultan got dogs.
(I think I'm at that point in my home now.)
The dogs quickly chased the cats away. And then he had dogs lazing around the palace, digging holes, chewing the furniture. (Perhaps he should have invested in some dog crates too.) Anyway, the dogs were ruining the palace, so they had to go. How do you get rid of dogs?
Yes, the sultan brought in lions. And the dogs left. But now he had lions lazing around everywhere. (There was still no mention of kitty litter. I'm just sayin'.)
Anyway, to get rid of the lions, the sultan brought in elephants! Yes, elephants. And it worked. The lions hit the high road. But elephants hanging around the palace created a whole nuther set of problems so now he had to get rid of elephants. And guess what he did?
He brought the mice back! They scared the elephants away, and he and the mice lived in the cheese palace happily ever after.
Read my lips: I AM NOT GETTING CHUMMY WITH RODENTS!
Lessons learned: You don't need an exterminator. Use natural predators. Spay and neuter. Keep them outside or get a litter box.
We are in the midst of a rat invasion in the barn. Nadine the Rat Snake has moved on, and the rats are taking over. I expect to look out one night to find them carting Briar off. The dogs kill them when they can, but rats are smarter than mice, so it isn't as easy to catch them. Other Half has tried traps and poison, but these rats merely laugh in his face as they rip open bags of cattle feed. They have built underground palaces beneath the feed room.
Long before traps or poison (which I really don't like!) I would have gotten cats. I had cats on my old farm. And guess what? I had no rats! I had wonderful, sweet, beautiful, highly efficient paid assasins. I tried to bring them with me when I moved to this new house, but alas, my efforts failed, and I was forced to return them to the old farm where my mother was able to coax them to move in with her onto the property next door. I miss them, but I see them at her house. They are happy and healthy.
But I have rats here. I need cats here. As I've watched Other Half battle the rats, and lose miserably, I remind him that when we retire to North Texas we WILL be getting barn cats, because I flat-ass refuse to live with rodents, and up there, if you have rodents, copperheads WILL move in to take care of your problem.
So imagine this. I'm sitting at work when I get a text from Other Half:
"I saw Michelle had some barn cars get one, theyre not house cats love u"
Translated: Since Michelle doesn't do anything with cars, I assumed he meant cats. He was probably playing on facebook in a deer blind and saw that our friend Michelle who does animal rescue was trapping and spaying feral cats. She needed barn homes for these cats, and so he finally gave in and admitted his technology-based weapons of war were not effective against rats. He hates cats, but he hates rats in the feed room more.
So I quickly texted him that we need two instead of just one. (That's two homeless cats off the streets instead of one!) He agreed not so much because he cared about homeless cats, but because he was on board with the idea of having a spare cat. (You can clean them up and dress them up, but they're still guys. . . )
I am reminded of many years ago when I had a similar problem. My old barn cat had died, and God sent me a tiny new Rat Warrior who grew to become a mighty hunter who turned the tide on the rodent invasion.
So in the next few days we'll have a couple of Ninja cats that'll remain prisoners for a while until they figure out that our barn is where food, water, shelter, and rat toys are provided. And then the proper Circle of Life can begin without the artificial aid of poisons and traps that don't work at all if you have smart rats.
Sunday, November 02 2014
People who take Sunday drives through the country only see part of the story as they get a break from life in the subdivision for a sightseeing roll along quiet county roads. Most think that because the window is down, they're getting the rural experience. Ahhh... No.
They see this.
Unless they are the UPS man or the garbage man, they see a giant lump of dirty white fur with a regal expression, gazing serenely at her flock like a lazy lion on the plains. Our sightseers are left with the impression that these Big White Dawgs are large and lazy creatures. They are not getting the full picture. These dogs are NOCTURNAL.
I am a solar-powered creature. Briar is not. Briar is moon-powered.
I gave this a great deal of thought last night as I laid in bed and listened to her bark. On my old little farm her barking used to bother me because I knew it bothered the neighbors. She lived on a dead-end street with very few outside dogs, thus, when Briar barked all night, everyone knew it. But not here! No sirree! This is the Land Of Barking Dogs.
The rancher next door has an entire pack of Black-Mouth Cur Dogs that bark all night long. The lady across the road from us has a collection of dogs that bark all night. I smile as I listen to Briar's voice get lost in the nightly serenade of the Canine Chorus. The people in this neighborhood like Briar because instead of being That Damned Dog That Barks All Night, she is Briar - The Friendly Fluffy Dog Who Smiles At Us. They don't know Briar barks all night because THEIR DOGS BARK ALL NIGHT!
In addition to the barking, Briar is also prone to Moon-Activated Rips spawned when cool weather and the moon collide. This event transmogrifies Briar into the Abominable Snowdog racing around the pasture, spinning in wild circles, and attempting to body slam and leap onto me and any hapless sheep or goat in her path.
She wants to share her joy with friends. Experience has shown however that absolutely NO ONE on hooves experiences the same thrill. Being clawed in the dark by a giant dog wet with dew is nobody's idea of fun except for Briar.
Since Other Half is still at the ranch, when I came home from work last night I had to get the farm ready for bed. This meant moving bucks into their pen, moving does and sheep into their pens, and turning calves loose. Normally this is easy. Last night Briar's moonlight antics threw a monkeywrench into everything. The goats were appalled by her behavior. Even the sheep didn't want any part of the mad beast racing circles in the night.
I finally gave up trying to coax sheep into a pen with a slavering, spinning beast. Briar gave new meaning to the word "lunatic." I got most of the little stock locked up and left the rest of them with the cattle. I banked on the idea that coyotes would also be put off by a large hulking creature spinning circles in the night.
The sun rose this morning bringing with it no evidence of a large white dog dancing in the dark. Briar is back to being a serene lump in the yard, staring off into the distance.
It is Sunday morning. Bicyclists from the suburbs are once again touring our peaceful county roads, blissfully unaware that this place doesn't really come to life until after the sun goes down.