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Farm Fresh Blog
Thursday, August 28 2014
Even though our cattle are 'dog-tick' fat, and don't need us to give them groceries, we still call them up and feed them from time to time because it's a handy way to count heads, check for new babies, look for injuries or illness, and keep them tame.
Most ranchers have some kind of siren mounted on their truck to call cattle up out of the forest. Other Half has one of these sirens too but I never have to use it because I have my own cattle call. So what is this call which is guaranteed to have cows running out of the woods like third graders racing to the cafeteria?
"It's that loud-mouthed black & white dawg!"
Yes, from the time we leave the cabin, Lily barks her silly head off as we drive down the road to feed the cattle. Her barks bounce off the trees and echo across the pasture, never failing to call up greedy hippo-hiney cattle.
"You're welcome. This is just one more service offered from Barbed Wire Border Collies, Inc."
Wednesday, August 27 2014
"Oh man, I need your help working some cows. I gotta take some stitches out."
"No, it'll be real easy. Just move 'em into the headgate, hold 'em, and take the stitches out. Real easy."
"Well hell, you know what they say, "It ain't no fun if nobody gets hurt!"
"Ok, I'll see you in a little bit."
And that's all there was to it. He was on his way. When you can call a buddy to help you work cattle in Texas, in August, and he's in your driveway in a under an hour, friends and neighbors, that's a true friend. Nothing quite siffs through your friends like asking someone to help you work livestock. And friends like this certainly pan out like gold nuggets.
Time and use has worn down the rough patches so these two work together like a well-oiled machine.
With very little set-up or ceremony the pair settle into a comfortable pace. They been working cows together for over 35 years.
And now, all these years later, they're still the same cowboys - a lot older, a lot wiser, and a lot more gray hairs, but like a dusty old pair of boots, they just fall into stride together. That's the thing about old friends . . .
Monday, August 25 2014
"Aren't you afraid to be there all alone?"
First of all, I'm never alone. I have Lily, and Dillon, and Ranger.
You are never alone if you have a Blue Heeler. You will always have a body guard. A Blue Heeler is like having a platoon of marines by your side.
Then there is the fact that I am a trained police officer for a large metropolitan city. Once you've gone toe-to-toe with crack heads and drug dealers, somehow creatures with smaller brains aren't that frightening. And we have already established the fact that I have firearms and won't hesitate to use them. Being a crime scene investigator in a large city will remove any hesitation you might have to pull the trigger.
Thus, I felt pretty safe. The only thing I worried about was one of the dogs getting bitten by a snake. Other Half has a friend who lost his Blue Heeler this weekend to a rattlesnake. They rushed him to the vet but he died anyway. So.... even though I'm a tree-hugging, environmentalist, and I normally practice a 'live and let live' philosophy, when it's your dog dying on that table at the vet clinic, we can discuss ecology and my willingness to shoot the little bastards on sight.
So if I see them, all copperheads and rattlesnakes die around here. End of discussion.
I have, however, forbid the boys to shoot my coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, and any cougars. (That may change when my sheep and dairy goats move up, but for now, it's live and let live.) That said, perhaps you can weigh in on this:
There has been much discussion about what left this. My first thought was that it was a giant hairball - coughed up by a really, really big cat.
Other folks say it's coyote poop. I can see that too. If the fecal matter has fallen out already, then I could see this being a coyote poop. On the other hand, I've had some big dogs, and that's a really, really long canine poop. Of course, maybe Wiley Coyote had a Thanksgiving dinner and left this giant Mr. Hankey. (See! I'm not so old that I haven't seen some of the cartoons you young folks watch. For those of you in my generation and above, google South Park and "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo." I'm not a big South Park fan, but the boys loved it.)
Anyway, the majority seem to lean toward coyote poop. When I found this, it was coiled, more like a poop than a cat hair ball.
And speaking of poop!
Check this out! These poops were all over the ranch! Someone has been eating a lot of prickly pear cactus!
You didn't realize when you sat down at the computer with your cup of coffee that this would be a blog about poop, did you?
But that's the thing about living with wild things. If you want to study them, you've got to study poop. There is even a word for it - scatology! I remember learning that word as a child and being fascinated by the study of animal poop. (I was a weird kid.)
Okay, but let's get away from poop for a minute to share some of the other wildlife I found this weekend.
These guys were everywhere. Now we normally have lots and lots of bugs, so it takes something really interesting to get my attention, and these guys did it. We were inundated with these green bugs. I counted over 15 in a 2'x2' patch of short weeds.
But it wasn't so much their numbers that earned my attention. It was their bad-ass attitude. Friends and Neighbors, when a little bug acts like a bad-ass, I begin to wonder if there isn't some truth to it. So I took lots of pictures, and warned the dogs not to chase them. (Catching grasshoppers is a big sport that I discourage.)
How does a bug behave like a bad-ass, you ask? Trust me, you'll know. Since I was curious, I studied them a bit. Most bugs are oblivious of you. You are no more than furniture to them. But these bugs will puff their antennae forward and trot toward you in an aggressive manner if you put your hand too close. Hmmm.... Bad-ass Bug!
Since I didn't have reliable internet access, I had to wait until a friend could post the pics for me on her facebook page. The result:
Blister Beetle - one of perhaps 380 different bugs called a blister beetle
That made sense. Son's friend had blisters all over the back of his neck where something stung him. I had crushed something in my pants a few years ago that resulted in a nasty long blister above my knee, so I knew we had blister beetles, I just didn't know what they looked like.
Oh well, since we have no hay fields we plan to use for horse hay, outside of keeping the dogs from eating them, they are no more a problem for me than wasps. Therefore when I caught them in the house, I just tossed them outside. See? I really do try to practice a 'live and let live' mindset.
I will admit to stomping a scorpion in my office though. I had a weak moment. In the future I'll try to toss them outside. That should last until the first time I step on one in bare feet in the middle of the night, or the Labrador eats one. Then I may have to go back to stomping them. We'll see.
Tuesday, August 19 2014
The internet is filled with unique alarm clocks designed to separate even the most dedicated of sleepers from his pillow. We don't have any of those clocks around here though. Other Half is the kind of heavy sleeper that makes you want to take his pulse to decide whether you need to call the Medical Examiner or not, so getting him out of bed is a chore that should begin an hour before you actually need his feet on the floor. I have, however, discovered the best alarm clock on the market:
The Obsession Alarm Clock!
The Obsession Alarm Clock cuts the hour-long wake-up time into a mere 15 minutes! Yes! Fifteen minutes. Installation is easy!
Merely open the bedrom door, insert the Obsession Alarm Clock, toss in a ball, and close the door. The Obsession Alarm Clock does the rest!
No more trying to reason with an unresponsive lump in the bed. No more shaking the sleeper. No more pleading. No more pulling back the covers. Simply insert the Obsession Alarm Clock, toss in a ball, and forget about it!
The Obsession Alarm Clock works with state of the art efficiency to poke, prod, and scratch even the most heavy of sleeper out of his slumber.
And all this can be yours for the simple price of -
$19.95 + shipping and handling!
But WAIT! There's more!
Just pay additional shipping and handling charges and we will ship not one, but -
TWO Obsession Alarm Clocks!
Act now! Supplies are limited!
(Ball not included.)
Tuesday, August 12 2014
I stood on the front porch and listened again. The water well was still running. Since I'd done a livestock check before the storm swept through that night, I knew no water spigots had been left on by humans. That meant a cow had rubbed her head on a spigot and turned on the water. It was now 1:30 am. The water could have been running since 8:30 pm.
And it was. By the light of the full moon I could see that the damned calves had flooded the barnyard again. This was what had gotten them locked into the back pasture in the first place. They had only been up in the front pasture for two days, and on Day Two they flooded the pasture. Clearly it was time to lock them in the back again. But first, they must be sorted.
Just this week Other Half bought a few more little heifers to add to the gene pool. They are considerably younger than the other calves and I'd noticed that they weren't getting their fair share of groceries. Thus they'd been separated from the big calves.
But Other Half had just decided to turn everyone together in the front pasture to enjoy the lush grass that was growing so fast that even the sheep couldn't keep ahead of it. Well, scratch that little experiment. I turned off the water spigot and glanced at the Border Collie beside me. Her eyes bore into me, blazing as bright as the full moon over our heads.
No rancher wants to sort cattle at 1:30 in the morning. No Border Collie doesn't want to sort cattle at 1:30 in the morning. So with a sigh, I turned toward the pasture. She gave a happy bark and off we went. I trudged through the high grass while she bounced along. No one should be that happy in the middle of the night without loads and loads of caffeine. But despite my bad humor, her happy bounce tugged a smile out of me.
Ready. These dogs are always ready. And with a quick salute, she raced out and brought the calves up. The youngest calves had never been worked by a dog, but this actually made it easier to sort them from the rest of the crew who wanted no part of that little black & white face with the crazed eyes which glowed in the moonlight.
The younger calves were a bit bewildered by their nighttime visitor who momentarily stared at them like a serial killer, but then moved on to other victims. She selected the big calves and pushed these troublemakers into the arena, where they could be released into the back pastures.
It took me longer to walk out there than it took the Border Collie to separate the cattle and push the offenders back into jail. And by the light of the smuggler's moon, we walked back to the house. She had that jaunty little trot with her gay tail waving in the air like a flag raised to the world. It was a good night to be a farm collie.
I couldn't help but smile as the moonlight shone off her bright eyes. She searched my face, hoping for more chores ahead. I listened in the silence. The water well was quiet once more. It was a good night to be a farm collie. It was a good night to have a farm collie.
"Closing the gate on one more chore!"
Friday, August 08 2014
We have a fig tree in the back yard. I pay little or no attention to this tree except when Other Half goes bat-shit crazy because the goats or sheep have been pruning the leaves and breaking limbs in their attempt to prune the leaves. Frankly, I think they've done the tree a favor. Five years ago, it was little more than a sprawling woody bush with branches going everywhere. Now that sucker has learned to grow up, Up, UP! It is now a tree. (You're welcome. Ruminant Tree-trimming Services available everywhere for a small fee!)
Anyway, not only is it becoming a nice tree, but it's bearing fruit.
Unfortunately we didn't notice it had fruit until other members of the family brought it to our attention. Other Half looked out the living room window, saw this, and stroked.
Really? He should have learned by now. And he should be happy that I'm not charging him for tree-trimming services on his fig and pecan trees. Just sayin'.
But this time he accused them of not only eating leaves, but eating FIGS! He called them: FIG THIEVES!
I call them budding scientists. They have discovered Isaac Newton's theory of gravity. In 1687 Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from a tree and began wondering if the same force at work on the apple also affected the moon. This led to questions about why the apple fell to Earth but not the moon. He puzzled on this a while and came up with a theory.
"Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the particles and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them."
Did you get that? No? Let me put this way:
"If you shake the tree, a fig will fall down."
Yes, our young physicists have discovered that if they shake the tree, rotten figs will fall to the ground, thus providing fig newtons for everyone!
I love this shot of Sparrow with her foot on that branch shaking it like a palm tree in a hurricane!
Monday, August 04 2014
Growing up in a place thick with rattlesnakes, my momma imprinted this lesson on me pretty early:
"Thou shalt not mess with ratttlesnakes! If you, as a tiny child, get bitten, we are too far away from the hospital to save you."
Alrightie then. So as children, although we regularly saw rattlesnakes, we did NOT under any circumstances get up close and personal with them unless the head had been cut off. Then and only then could you play cruel jokes on Mom, like stuffing the body of a 5' rattlesnake under the back porch just enough so that his lack of a head was hidden.
This particular snake had to be pulled back into place multiple times before my mother saw it because the body kept crawling off without its head. YES! Snakes do that. You learn weird facts like this when you live in the boondocks. So we pulled that sucker back into position many times. It was a pain in the butt, but the payoff when she came home carrying groceries and saw that giant snake sticking out from under the porch gave us riotous amusement. Forty years later, I'm still laughing. (My family has always been a little twisted.)
But I digress . . .
Each year Other Half simply MUST attend the grand Hunting Show which hosts booths and booths of vendors with plans on separating the hunter from his money. This is DisneyWorld for men. I get dragged along each year just because Other Half enjoys my company. (I guess that's the reason.) Anyway, for the most part, Father and Adult Son run around with starry eyes like children, darting from booth to booth. I have little or no interest in the booths, except one particular one.
Yes, those are rattlesnakes. Lots and lots of rattlensakes. This is a large pen and they are clustered along each wall, and underneath the lawnchairs and table in the center. The pen is made from a double layer of hardware cloth (1/4" wire mesh) tacked over 2x4 boards. The wire is the covered with 1' boards on the seams. This gives a relatively snake-proof enclosure. The humans step through a raised doorway to enter the pen. Thus no snake can squeeze under an ill-fitting gap between the door and the floor.
I tell you these things not because you, or I, ever plan on containing a hundred rattlesnakes inside a convention center. No! I have studied this man's enclosure because he uses it effectively to keep snakes inside. I plan to use something like this to keep snakes OUTSIDE! Outside my flower garden. Outside my dog pen. O-U-T-S-I-D-E!
I plan to fence this area in a pen similar to his rattlesnake cage.
And so that's my only real reason to look at this excuse for nightmares. That, and I'm morbidly curious about the people who do not police themselves and their children around these things. Last year I watched older kids lifting themselves up on their elbows to lean over the railing. Their feet weren't even touching the ground. This pen was not designed to support the weight of multiple small children using it as a jungle gym. There is only ONE man inside the pen to interact with the public, and not manage to get bitten by snakes himself.
Those snakeboots work. I watched this guy get bitten multiple times. He's a walking adverstisement for snake boots.
My point is that this guy cannot be responsible for YOUR CHILDREN! This is not a babysitting service! This man is trying to look out for you, your kids, and himself, but it is your responisibility as a parent to keep your kids from hanging on the fence, poking their fingers through the mesh, and putting their faces up against the wire. Yep. I've seen it all.
And my conclusion is that these are future Darwin Award Winners, parents who expect the world to be so sanitized that it's safe for their child to be nose to nose with a rattlesnake because the snake is behind a wire cage.
I was also able to talk to the main snake guy regarding my copperheads. It has come to my attention that many of my copperheads that are the size of adults still have yellow tails which indicate they are still juveniles.
I noted that my juvenile copperheads were much larger than the copperheads in his display terrarium which had the solid red tails of adults. My question was: When do juvenile copperheads lose the yellow tail?
He looked at my photograph and assured me that yes, indeed, that was a copperhead. Yes it was a juvenile. And yes, that was a pretty freakin' big copperhead to still be a baby. Hmmmm....
I thanked him for his time and took more pictures of the way he built his snake cage. If this size snake is a baby, my flower garden definitely needs a snake fence around it.
Friday, August 01 2014
Well, we will. Yep. That's the plan.
Upon hearing this, many people tilt their heads, much like the RCA puppy listening to his master's voice in a phonograph.
"In a barn?"
"With the animals?"
I don't try to explain it anymore. My horsey friends get it completely. Since they'd have their horses in the bedroom if they could, the idea of living in the barn appeals to them. Don't get me wrong, there are sacrifices. Lots of them. For instance, I've had to sacrifice the cute factor for function. I love cute. Clapboard wood-frame houses are just adorable to me.
Unfortunately, I'm having to build a home that can withstand forest fires and requires little to no maintenance. Other Half and I will grow old in this house. We can't be calling the kids up to North Texas to fix things because we're too old to climb up ladders, and too poor to pay someone else to do it.
Thus, I had to give up my idea of a cute little gingerbread house and make do with what was, in essence, a metal box with an apartment inside. I have faith though, that even my metal box will become a really cute home after we add the porches, paddocks, and a garden.
At the moment, it's little more than a metal box, but I love staring at the ranch house and planning what will be. While others see a simple metal box, I see my dreams. I pour through photos like a child studying the Sears & Roebuck Christmas Catalog. I just dated myself and lost half my audience! For you younger folks, imagine someone has given you a large sum on an Amazon Gift Card and you are trolling Amazon while your mind calculates, runs down rabbit trails, and returns again.
I must balance my wants with my needs, my bank account with my dreams. There is also the inevitable power struggle with the Other Half. It's not so much a power struggle as a space struggle. He claims valuable real estate for things like welding machines and tractors, I claim the same space for goats and dog kennels. It is said that building a house is a sure test of a marriage. Now that's Reality Television for you!
Who wants to see drunk kids in Jersey when you could watch the more realistic drama of a husband and wife plan a house together? Put them in a remote region of Texas and arm them both with pistols, and you will have a recipe for real Reality Television!
Other Half has already solved part of our problems by deciding that he must build a 'shop' behind the barn. At first I stroked because I had planned to put turn-out paddocks there, but he pointed out that he would cover the area between the barn and shop, thus giving me "covered" paddocks. Deal!
And that's really what planning a house is all about - running down rabbit trails in your head, only to find that your spouse has run down different rabbits.
Here are some photos of My Metal Box. With just a bit of imagination, you can see beyond the box to the home it will be!
Because the water retention tank is here, we cannot have livestock in this area, thus, it'll be fenced as a garden for plants I don't want goats eating.
This runs the entire side of the building. Things that need protection from the sun and hail can go here. This area has been the object of multiple space fights. (grin)
Peeking through the barn aisle. This was supposed to be the back door into the home, but since the Builder tilted the house on the lot, this will end up being the front door. The barn aisle is extra wide. We'll have gates on both sides to lock animals in or out of the barn area. The loft area isn't finished yet. It'll be accessed by a spiral staircase inside the house, but we'll have aisle access to the loft too.
A French door will be put in the loft so that you can walk out the loft to stand on top of the patio and overlook the pasture and the mountain.
The four stalls will open up to covered paddocks behind the barn. Other Half plans to put in a shop behind the paddocks.
Once the Loft Porch is put in, this will be the view:
Current view from the kitchen window
The dairy goats and sheep will have access to this area. It slopes down into a pond area which is dry now, but holds water during the winter and rainy season.
So there it is, bit by bit, with each new project, my metal box will become a home for us and our animals. So to answer the question,
"Yes, we will live in a barn with the animals!"