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Farm Fresh Blog
Saturday, June 28 2014
Each morning while the baby goats are drinking their milk, Briar walks around and carefully sniffs their butts. I'm not talking a casual sniff-sniff here, I'm talking a detailed inventory for each and every goat. This appears to be an important part of her day, and nothing struck me as unusual about it until last night.
Yesterday Other Half had been 'in charge' of the barnyard because he was off and I was at work. When I left for the office I cautioned him that the Girl Goats were in the back yard. (Code: DO NOT TURN POLICE DOG OR TRACE LOOSE UNTIL YOU PUT UP THE GOATS!) Boy Goats were loose in the pasture. His job was to confine everyone at dusk in their separate pens and feed them.
Easy, but it requires some planning. For instance, the goats are still close friends and so if you simply choose to walk through the main gate, you will have a crush of friendly goats on both sides of the fence. Since this fight is rather like trying to push toothpaste back in the tube, it's easier to just walk through the gate with a dog. The presence of the dog will keep friendly goats from mobbing you because dogs are icky and if you have a dog beside you, then you have cooties. Thus, you should take Briar or Lily with you when you walk through the gate. I can explain this until I'm blue in the face, but since men seem to think they know what they're doing and shun any female assistance, my advice falls on deaf ears.
And so it was that last night I returned home to find that Other Half had put the goats in their pens but had saved the task of bottle feeding them for me. Oh joy. I pointed out that at no point on my days off do I ever have a day off from barn chores, and yet, when he has a day off, I still end up doing most of the barn chores. So while he's working, I'm doing the barn chores. And while I'm working, I'm doing the barn chores. On my days off, I'm doing the barn chores. And on his days off - I'm still doing the barn chores! And so there it was, almost midnight, and he was off ALL DAY LONG - and the goats still hadn't been fed.
Blah, blah, blah.... he tuned me out like Charlie Brown's teacher. This is something I'm sure every other woman in this world is familiar with too. You can see a man flip the switch in his head. Like a remote control. You have been muted. Your mouth opens and closes, but no noise comes out. Nevertheless, I had my little fit, and he nodded his head. On the surface while this appears to be agreement, experience has taught me this is merely the male version of "Let's get on with it." And so we trudged out into the dark, armed with flashlights, and a large bucket of milk.
I went into the Girl's Pen. Immediately warning bells sounded in my head. The Robot from 'Lost In Space' was waving his arms wildly shouting "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" I was missing a goat.
A baby goat. The tiniest little girl.
My intial reaction was to panic, but then I remembered that they had been with Briar all day long. I glanced at Briar. She was unperturbed. Other Half headed for the back yard where Trace the Troll and Cowboy (aka Snidley Whiplash) were now running loose.
That's where the baby goat had been all day. So while he searched the back yard, I took one look at that Big White Dog and trusted that if a goat was really missing, that dog would have known it. I gambled, and with Briar in tow, I headed to the buck pen.
Sure enough, she was sleeping in a pile of cuteness with the boys. Apparently Other Half had not noticed that she had squeezed through the gate with him and joined the boys when he put the boys in their pen. Now had it been me, instead of Other Half, "I" would have noted that I had FOUR goats in that pen instead of THREE goats. The DOG would have noted that there were FOUR goats in the pen instead of THREE. The dog would also have noted that one of those goats was a FEMALE. But Other Half does not concern himself with such things. Everyone was in a pen. No one was screaming. Everything must be okay. Right?
So Briar escorted Little Lacey back to the Girl Goat Pen where she sucked up her milk and all was well in the world.
Other Half was visibly relieved. The absolute last thing he wanted to happen is for one of those goats to end up hurt or dead on his watch. Because even though he accuses me of doting too much on them, he knows that hell hath no fury like a woman who is right!
He defaulted to the one phrase we use that reminds us to see the humor in things around us: "You can blog about this."
Yeah. I guess so. And I thought about that as I watched Briar take a careful inventory of baby goat butts this morning. Their little tails swished like windshield wipers across her face. She counts. I swear the dog counts. I'm certain that Big White Dawg knows how many goats she has, what sex they are, what they had for dinner, and how they're feeling this morning. And so while Other Half doesn't have a clue, (Until last night, but I bet if you asked him today he could tell you!) which goats are male and which are female, I can assure you that Briar has it all carefully mapped on a spreadsheet in her head.
Wednesday, June 25 2014
Some folks are simply masters of the insult. Cowboy is one of these people. He is the Don Rickles of the dog world - the Insult King. (For those of you under 45 who have no idea who Don Rickles is, google him.)
Anyway, Cowboy's social skills in the pack are less than stellar. He is the perfect candidate for an 'only dog', not one dog in a multi-dog household like ours. Cowboy is such a sweetie that unless you had other dogs, you'd have no idea what a butthead he can be. Actually, Butthead should be capitalized, because he's a capital butthead, but yesterday Cowboy was crowned KING Butthead.
Storms have been rolling through the area all week, bringing much needed rain to ranchers, and sending storm-sensitive dogs hiding under the house. Cowboy is one of those dogs. So while Lily laughs in the face of thunder, Cowboy is reduced to a panting, slobbering puddle - which is why he was in the house.
I left him in a dog crate. Cowboy was in one crate, and Trace the Troll was in the crate beside him. After all, that's what dog crates are for - happy, secure little caves for frightened puppies. But the storm was over and it was time for chores, so I left the Mean Dogs inside and took the Dogs With Social Skills outside to feed livestock.
Yessirree Bob! He was a happy boy. Me? Not so much.
I wasn't so much concerned about Cowboy getting out of the crate. No, my problem was the smell. Yes. The. Smell.
You know The Smell.
It's the smell of dog poop in the morning, People! Trust me, there is not enough caffeine in the world to face that with a smile. Like Elmer Fudd hunting 'wabbits', I crept into the living room, stalking the offensive smell. The problem was that it's hard to narrow down the aroma of a warm turd under a ceiling fan. (Sorry to be blunt, just keepin' it real, Folks.)
Anyway, after a cursory unsuccessful search, I punted the ball to Other Half because under the Rules Of Dog Ownership, the owner of the dog is the owner of the dog turd, thus if one can prove up the identity of the dog that left said poop, one can further assign the responsibility of clean-up to the dog owner. And since all MY DOGS had been outside with me, and his two degenerates were both in dog crates when we left, and upon our return ONE of those degenerates was loose, assigning ownership of the poop wasn't much of a task. That said, after a quick fruitless search, I tossed the responsibility at Other Half and headed for the shower.
It took a while but soon Other Half's screams echoed through the house. Yes, screams. Not shouts. Screams. Hmfph.... His tone was enough to really get my interest. Where. Was. That. Poop?
So filled with curiosity, I padded into the living room to find Other Half standing over The Ultimate Insult.
Cowboy really outdid himself this time. Even I was impressed. Lily was disgusted. Trace was horrified.
As an aside, Other Half pointed out that Cowboy cheerfully followed him along his search with great interest, saying,
"You're warm. You're warmer. You're cold. You're colder. Ice cold. Warmer. You're getting warmer. Hot. Red HOT! Smoking hot!"
Cowboy had done something so evil that he may as well have been dressed in black with a tall black hat twirling a pencil-thin mustache as he tied the heroine to the railroad tracks.
Cowboy pooped IN. The. TOY. BOX!
YESS!!!! He gave all the other dogs the ultimate middle paw. He crapped on Holy Ground - the toy basket. That rascal backed up to the big wicker basket that houses ALL the dog toys and dribbled poop ALL OVER THE TOYS.
I know. Trace almost died of shock.
Other Half managed to salvage the kongs and a rope, but if it was fluffy or made of cloth it had to be tossed.
"MY WUBBA! Snidley Whiplash KILLED MY WUBBA!"
And that, Friends & Neighbors, is how to deliver the ultimate insult.
Wednesday, June 18 2014
Spring at the ranch brings wildflowers and snakes. I'll spare you the three copperheads, but I did want to share what greeted me at the main gate when I arrived. Ahhhhh....
One day I'll plant rows and rows of lavender along my red dirt road, but until then, I'm happy to enjoy the wildflowers that God sends with the spring rain. And few things say "Welcome back," more than this sight at the main road.
Saturday, June 14 2014
Those of you with nutty dogs will understand this post. Those of you with highly adjusted, perfect dogs (like Dillon!) will not, but please bear with me. As we discussed in my last post, Ranger is a space cadet, (on a good day) but he's my little space cadet and I love him. Because he's such a nutjob, we normally take Ranger with us when we go to the ranch in north Texas because:
A) Boarding kennels are expensive and Ranger is horrified by the experience anyway.
B) No one who farm sits for us wants to watch Ranger. Imagine a space cadet with his phaser set to stun. That pretty much explains why no one wants to be responsible for Ranger.
Tomorrow I'm going to the ranch for a quick trip to check on house building. Because I'm taking a girlfriend, there is limited space in the truck and I must only take essentials. Now while Ranger may argue that he is "an essential," he was bumped by Mr Perfect. (i.e. Dillon)
As Other Half has pointed out many times, juggling our assortment of dogs is like running a penitentiary. They tend to sort themselves into gangs and we have to protect certain individuals from others.
Rules to live by:
1) Cowboy picks fights but always loses fights them.
2) Trace is always looking to shank someone.
Because poor Dillon is the dog most likely to be attacked by The Mean Dogs (male Border Collies: Trace & Cowboy) if someone (Other Half) makes a mistake while juggling dogs (inmates), a certain gentle chocolate Labrador (Dillon) will be assaulted by at least one uppitedy Border Collie with a Death Wish. Although slow to anger, Dillon is a force to be reckoned with when attacked.
So to protect Dillon from any mistakes, and because he is more apt to play well with homebuilders, Dillon gets to go to the ranch instead of Ranger. The other seat will be taken by Lily. (Well duh! She is "an essential.")
Before I leave, Ranger had his lawyer draw up paperwork for Other Half regarding the "Rules Regarding Ranger's Care During Mommy's Absence."
They read as follows:
1) Ranger is to be given AT LEAST one hour of cuddle time with Daddy each day.
2) Ranger is not to be left in a crate in the living room.
3) When Daddy is sleeping, Ranger is either to be LOOSE outside or in bed with Daddy.
4) Ranger is to be fed two meals daily, plus snacks.
5) Ranger is to have free access to clean, fresh water (or a muddy pond)
6) Ranger is to be given free access to a cellular phone with text message capabilities, and cable television.
(Failure to comply with above rules will result in Ranger reporting said noncompliance to Mommy.)
Thursday, June 12 2014
I saw a little face on my Facebook feed yesterday that gave me pause. It was a little blue heeler dog, bright eyes shining, hoping to be adopted. I get lots and lots of pictures of homeless dogs on my feed. I try to share most of them in hopes that a pair of hopeful eyes will connect with someone who can help. Some of them stay on my mind, others don't. This little dog stayed on my mind because of this little dog:
He was my first blue heeler, and he is crazier than a bed bug so I swore he would be my last blue heeler. I've changed my mind though. Don't get me wrong, he's still crazier than a bed bug, but now his good points outshine his . . . eccentricities.
When I got him, I didn't want another dog. I didn't need one, I had three perfectly good dogs of my own, but I was dating Other Half and he used to raise these crazy little dogs, so when he announced that a friend of his had a litter and he'd like to pick up another cow dog, I thought,
"Oh cute, he's getting a puppy."
Wrong. First of all, it was not cute. He didn't have time or space for another dog. Second, it was not a puppy, it was a wild animal. There were several pups in the pen, Other Half chit-chatted with his buddy, peeked over the fence, pointed out a victim, and said,
"I'll take THAT ONE."
I was aghast. That is NOT how one chooses a family member for the next twelve years. No puppy testing. No interaction at all. That's not even how you choose a working dog.
But that's how he did it.
His friend leaned over the fence, grabbed the little fellow by the front leg and hoisted him over. As soon as his little feet touched the ground, the pup was gone. He spent the next hour peering at us from behind corners. Eventually, he was captured and he rode back in my lap. He was shaking like a leaf and convinced that we had kidnapped him. I had serious doubts about the dog and Other Half's ability to care for the little beast. At the time Other Half had a patrol dog and a crazy hunting dog. His yard was not fenced, so both bounced between outside kennels and inside crates. That was no kind of place for a psychotic puppy. Thus I agreed to take the little beast home with me, to my fenced-in quiet farm at the end of a dead-end street. The agreement was that I would housetrain him and get him started until he was old enough to move back in with Other Half. On paper he belonged to Other Half, but no one explained that to the little blue dog.
At first the dog was convinced that I was his evil kidnapper, but in time, the Stockholm Syndrome took effect and he began to identify with his captors. Actually, just me. No one else. Just me. I tried to get him to glom (Is that a real word? Well, I'll be darned. According to Webster's so it is!) to Other Half, but the little conehead would have none of it. Ranger was super-sensitive and Other Half's loud voice and short temper were more than he could handle. He needed calm consistency. So he stayed with me. But I still insisted that he belonged to Other Half. Because quite frankly, I would NEVER have picked out a dog like that. The dog was a nut job. (And still is.)
But in time I began to see his attributes. Despite the fact that he is convinced the world is out to get him, he is fiercely loyal and will stay with me through thick and thin. He is deeply empathetic and makes the very best nurse maid you could find. Ranger is good with all things small and helpless: puppies, babies, lambs, sick calves, sick humans. Ranger is a regular canine Florence Nightingale.
Over time I saw that Ranger bloomed under patient consistency. I continued to call him Other Half's dog, because even though I was fond of the little warped creature, I still wasn't ready to publicly acknowledge that this mistake of breeding belonged to me. Until... until one day Other Half was joking around and mentioned selling the dog.
Do WHAT?! He reckoned some other rancher would give him $50 for Ranger as a cow dog. Sell Ranger!? Since he'd sold the crazy hunting dog to a narcotics trainer for $500, and I knew he had no emotional attachment to Ranger, as ludicrous as the idea was, I was putting a stop to it immediately.
Ranger would simply implode if he was sold. I stormed off and came back with the money to purchase Ranger. Other Half laughed at me and explained that he was just joking. He pointed out that no rancher in his right mind would pay $50 for Ranger. But I was insistent. NO! I demanded ownership of the crazy little conehead who was so deeply devoted to me. I would not have his fate in anyone else's hands. So Other Half gave me the dog. I surely didn't need another dog, but the little dog needed me. He had already come so far. He trusted me. In the end, the joke was on Other Half, because he married me and ended up with the dog anyway.
Over the years I've really come to appreciate the warped mind of that little blue dog. I finally see what people see in these weird little dogs. Ranger is loyal to a fault. He cannot be bribed with food or a scratch behind the ears. As I've told Other Half many times when Ranger has seen right through his impatient falsetto voice,
"Ranger knows what's in your heart."
So while his voice speaks nice words, Ranger knows when Other Half is angry and impatient with him. Sensitive dogs like Ranger cannot be fooled, and they cannot be rushed. But they can bloom. Ranger has bloomed into the perfect little ranch dog.
Oh, he doesn't work cows as well as the Border Collies, but he's that dog that I take out in the dark with me. Because he already believes the world is trying to kill him, Ranger is least likely to be bitten by snake, gored by a wild hog, sprayed by a skunk, or attacked by a raccoon. And yet, because he is so loyal, he would never fail to come to my aid if I was threatened. He is my little blue buddy.
So remember Ranger's story the next time you are peeking through the bars at a little face that needs to be adopted. Everyone wants the bold one. Everyone wants the cute one. Everyone wants the happy puppy. The dog that shrinks to the back of the kennel is ignored. He is probably not the boldest, but it doesn't mean that little terrified face cannot become your best of friends.
Think about it. As I look back over Ranger's time with me I realize this warped little dog has taught me more about life and love than most of my 'temperment tested perfectly selected" dogs. With time, patience, and consistency, your next best friend may be hiding in the back of kennel, or peeking through the bars, fearful, yet hopeful, that someone will give him a chance.
Wednesday, June 11 2014
Briar cleans up well. Here she is right after a bath and a brushing:
The baby goats do not appreciate their Livestock Guardian Dog. Perhaps they have their reasons.
I say, "Come out and be nice to your Big White Dawg."
To which they reply, "But..... but ...."
And they do have a point. It doesn't take Briar long to get dirty. This is what they see:
....a large, wet, hulking creature with twigs and hay stuck in its coat that eats sheep's wool.
And unlike me, the goats are not smitten with her Hollywood smile.
"Being clean is overrated."
And lest you think that I would leave you with images of a large, wet, dirty dog on your computer screen, I leave you instead with images of my lavender which looks like this, until I kill it, or give up and race it to the plant doctor (i.e. Doctor Mom who ends up with ALL my plants that are in danger of death from either goats or my black thumb.)
While I would very much like to take credit for growing this beautiful being, I cannot. I bought it already in bloom. My goal is to see how long I can keep it alive, dry the blooms, and photograph it until I simply cannot take any more pictures of lavender! And then rush it to my mom's before it's too late for her to save it.
This plant feeds my dream of some day, SOME DAY, being able to grow rows and rows of lavender at the ranch in North Texas. But alas, that dream will have to wait until I am available full time to care for baby plants. I do much better with baby goats and things that can walk to water. Just sayin'.
Monday, June 09 2014
We're slowly getting a handle on operating the Day Care Center. Like everything else on a farm, it's all about routine. Get in a routine and don't change it! Seriously. I'm not kidding. A farm is like a classroom of 8 year old kids. Get in a routine and do not change! Preschoolers don't handle change well.
Personalities are emerging now.
We have the elegant 'teenagers' Feather and Sparrow, who are the leaders of this rowdy group.
Jethro, our little buckling, affectionate, but unless his tummy is empty, is more reserved than the others. He does love to untie shoe laces.
Brothers Tony and Tim are destined to be wethers (today) and will be full time companions for Jethro. These little guys are much younger than everyone else but hold their own quite well.
Timmy- willing to eat anything once
Tony - King of the World
The always affectionate Rosa Linda.
Stunt Driver Lacey - part imp, part mountain goat
Lacey & Rosa Linda
They are spending more and more of their time in the front yard. The plan is to allow them free rein of the yard so they can help the sheep with lawn duties. What happens? Very little lawn work is done. Baby goats end up sprawled out on the front porch like house cats. If they so much as hear you approach the front door, the spring up and begin to scream through the screen door.
"You come out now?"
And each evening the Kindergarteners make the long walk back to their pen,
where they spend the night under the watchful eye of their Big White Dawg.
"And people wonder why I sleep all day."
Tuesday, June 03 2014
I drive past there every time I go to town now, and like a silly tourist, I hang out the window with my cell phone, eagerly snapping "the peacock picture of the day!" One day I found myself blocking traffic and pulled aside only to discover that the woman behind me was doing the exact same thing. I cannot help but wonder how many people pull over from their busy lives, for just a moment, to gaze upon these stunning creatures.
Yes, I know they're loud. I know they roost in all the wrong places. And yet . . .
There is something I find magical about these living jewels. While I've never been big on buying jewelry, I've got to get some of these birds! (Not now, of course, after I retire and have more Livestock Guardian Dogs.)
For now I will content myself with watching them walk in the dappled sunlight, rays playing off their colors, dazzling my delighted eyes. No matter what else is going on, the day is just a little brighter if you take a moment to drive past the peacocks. We should never be so busy that we fail to slow down and enjoy the sight.
They are a little smile from God.
Sunday, June 01 2014
A "tipping point" is defined as the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development. Some would call this a "turning point."
I have reached this both personally and professionally. Few things allow one to see life as clearly as when one sees death regularly. When one is no stranger to death, the vagaries of life become more apparent, and painful. Over time we see that some people, animals, and places are merely seasons along our journey through life. We can choose to rave and shake our fists at God, fighting against what appears to be a tide of senseless hurts, or we can simply choose to accept that there are some things in life that we can never explain. We just accept it and move on.
Wow. Think about that. I don't think anyone has ever said something like that to me. The sad thing is that we rarely make time to spend with each other. Both of us are too busy. Most of our time together is stolen with hurried phone calls on the highway while she's at work and I'm going to work. She is still my sister, long after I divorced her brother. She accepted his new wife, just as she accepted my new husband. And always, always, she has accepted me. Like the famous line in "Bridget Jones' Diary", she loves me "just the way I am." And I love her. Some people come into our lives for a season, and some come for a lifetime. I suppose the trick is figuring out the difference.
At the end of life, people like this will be with you. Not your job. Not your money. Not your diploma. A fancy car and a fine house mean nothing if you're alone. Family and friends are your true wealth.
And perhaps that is what faith is - trusting that despite everything, God has the weather report.
After too many years of juggling clipboards over dead men, I've decided to put in for a transfer. It is time to find something closer to a "regular job" where I can focus more on what's really important in my life. I shall forever be grateful for the lessons the dead have taught me, but now is time to focus on the living.