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Monday, November 30 2015

After years of worrying about water up here, I can finally breathe a little easier. This area of Texas normally only gets something around 34 inches of rain. This year we are now over 54 inches and moments ago I just heard the weatherman say that we may as well say that we'll get at least 60 inches of rain this year. Wow.

Let me make this clear - I'm not griping. I'm celebrating!  Our water retention tank for the house is full. Our stock tanks are full. We have enough water to last us into the spring and summer. All three ponds are not only full, they are creeping well out of their banks and the overflow is being whisked away by the creek. Ahhhh the creek.  She is a beautiful yet deadly neighbor.

The main body of this creek meanders through our property giving it its wild beauty. The banks are steep and the bed is dotted with fields of large boulders. Most of the time the creek is dry leaving a highway for wildlife.

It is also an expressway to death for some. We see the tracks where coyotes run piglets into the creek where they cannot scramble up the steep sides before the pack takes them down in the boulders, leaving nothing but footprints and bits of fur.

Multiple dry branches of the main creek also thread like veins through the ranch. They are so numerous that we don't pay them any attention until the rains come, then they are a map leading to the big event. You can hear it before you see it. The water eases along like a freight train, moving much faster than it seems. And like a train, there's a lot of power in that water. We see large trees moved great distances. These trees take out our fences before moving on in the next rain, taking what's left of the fence with them.

 This is the road crossing. It is 4 feet deep now.

There is a rule to living on this ranch. Respect that creek. Power like that can kill you quickly. The bulk of our ranch is actually on the other side of the creek. Most of the deer blinds around here are little shacks, and yes, at least one hunter has had to spend the night in his blind because the creek came up while he was hunting.

That water is nothing to play with, so you can imagine my worry when the rains trapped my beloved horses on the other side. They have access to the entire ranch now, but every morning the horses still show up at the barn for breakfast. It rained all day on Thursday. Friday morning the horses didn't come up. Saturday morning the horses didn't come up. Sunday morning the horses didn't come up.  We knew they'd been trapped on the other side of the creek. This created a dilemma. They have plenty of pasture, and rocky bluffs with thick forest to protect them from the cold wind, and duh, they have plenty of water on that side. They're safe from everything but a cougar dropping out of a tree, and I don't think that's likely. But what if we call them? What if we call them to the barn?

Tiny is a mustang, he has good sense. Musket is thinking man's horse, he's nobody's fool. Joe isn't a big thinker, but he's not brave either. But Montoya, bless his heart, Montoya would try to cross that creek if I called him.

I few weeks ago I saw him cross a pond that came up above his chest because I called him from the other side. This is a bad picture, but see the water line?

I called him, and instead of running around the pond, he came trudging through it to come to me. I was so stunned that I forgot to whip out my camera to photograph it. The water line along his side shows you how high the water was. Montoya forged across that pond because I called him.

Some folks see Montoya as a spoiled, pushy horse who doesn't know his place.

These folks are attracted to horses like Musket, a horse who keeps his distance and would just as soon that you keep yours. That's not Montoya. He may be in your face, but you will never have to chase this horse with a halter. He wants to interact with you.

He wants to do whatever you're doing. You have his undivided attention. He doesn't act this way with total strangers, just friends. And with friends Montoya wants to go through his repertoire of tricks.  (He was a big hit at the neighbor's pool parties. They would call him to the fence to get him to perform.) He wants to bow, back, sidepass, lift each foot, and give kisses. Montoya wants to do Stupid Pet Tricks and show you how smart he is. He wants to learn more Stupid Pet Tricks. He wants you to scratch his butt. He wants you to lean on him, and hug on him, and comb his tail. Montoya is the Barbie Doll of horses. He is the perfect horse for little girls who can't keep their hands off a horse.  Montoya eats up the things that would annoy other horses. (Don't hug and lean all over Tiny. He's polite but he really doesn't like it.) I've had Montoya since he was a weanling, and he trusts me, so if I call this horse, he will try to cross that creek. And it'll kill him.

We know this, so we've made a point of not calling the horses. Sunday we headed out on foot, walking the forest along the creek, hoping for a glimpse of them.

We can't get them back across the creek, but wanted to know they were safe. It took a long while of trudging through wet brush, but eventually I saw just a flash of white. I touched Other Half on the back and we dropped into "sneak" mode. We hid behind trees to stalk up on them.

I could see Joe plainly and there was a flash of white through the trees that had to be Montoya. Joe thought he heard us but wasn't sure, so we continued to hide lest they see us and try to cross.

It took a few minutes but Tiny and Musket came into view. Unlike the white horses, they are perfectly camouflaged in the forest. I took this picture a moment before they came into view. Can you see them?

I couldn't either, and yet, they were there.

We satisfied ourselves that the horses were safe at Moss Bluff. It is the most protected area of the ranch.

If they stay at Moss Bluff they'll be fine. The rain is finally ending, but it'll be days before the creek goes down enough for them to cross. I won't be happy until they show up at the barn again, and the next time the weatherman calls for rain, you can bet their shiney hineys will be locked in the front pasture. We're not going through this again.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:11 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, November 28 2015

The rain continues to come down. It has rained since Thursday, and we live in a barndominium, so in short, we live inside a zoo that has cabin fever. Friday night the temperatures dropped thirty degrees, so we are now in the 30's and low 40's with a cold wind and rain. Even the carpet-coated Navajo Churro sheep decided to come inside the barn. The dairy goats think they're in hell. They huddle together and pray for Santa to bring them a space heater. The Livestock Guardian Dogs are still in the barn with the sheep, but the Border Collies have decided that sleeping in a crate in the muck room is better than staying in the barn.  We are on Day 3, and even the regular House Dogs are bored with it.

I feel sorry for the big livestock, the cattle and the horses. They are cold and miserable. If they stay on the barn side of the creek, they have hay and syrup tubs, and the relative shelter of thick forest.  Yesterday all the cattle were on this side of the creek, but it appears that the horses got caught on the other side of the creek when the water came up. They didn't come in yesterday for breakfast. Or for dinner. We worried, but we don't want to call them. If we call them, for sure Montoya will try to forge the raging creek to come and I don't want him caught in that current. They have grass to eat, a rocky bluff for a wind break, and much thicker forest on that side. They are safe as long as they don't try to cross the creek.

I look forward to getting the pens behind the barn covered so that in addition to sheep and goats, I can bring the horses into the barn area for protection from the weather. Most of the time they are happier outside, but this is a sneak peek of the real winter that's coming, and I'd be happier if they were locked safely behind bars with a big pile of hay.

Although we are stuck inside, we've cooked enough food for an army. Our Thanksgiving plans went off-rail because the rain came in that day. Fearing we would get caught on the other side of rising floodwaters, inside of enjoying the holiday with friends, we opted to stay at home with our furry family where it was safe.  Other Half cooked a ham. Because we had plenty of time, and nothing much else to do, he then cooked a brisket. We gorged ourselves and enjoyed the National Dog Show on television. Since our electrictiy tends to go on the blink, I wanted plenty of good food cooked so that even without power, we could heat it up on the stove.  No one's going hungry around here.  Thus far, the power has stayed on. I now have a refrigerator stocked full of easy to heat, yummy meals anyway though.

The woodburning stove is keeping it toasty warm in here, fooling the cats into thinking they might want to go outside until you open the door and show them the weather. They stare into the rain for a moment before saying, "Then again, maybe I don't."

Like our zoo, we're geting a bit of cabin fever too. Locked inside with this many animals in the rain gives us a peek of what Noah's Ark must have been like. There are breaks in the rain when I can take them outside to potty, but they are shortlived. We return to the warmth of the house and then spend more time cleaning up ourselves and them. Wet clothes and wet dogs. Lovely combination. Thank God for stained concrete floors.

Thank God for lots of things. When you are locked inside on Thanksgiving, there is a lot of time to think about your blessings. I caught myself yelling at the television set on Thursday when a reporter covering retail sales said, "The real reason for this holiday is so people can enjoy time with family."  Really? Really? Did his parents teach him that?  I know his heart might have been in the right place, but he missed the target.  Someone else remarked that they loved Thanksgiving because it was a secular holiday meant to be enjoyed with family and friends. Really? Did I miss something here?

The name "Thanksgiving" implies that we are THANKING Someone for something given to us. Yes, we are thankful for friends and family, but thankful to whom? Let us not get so turkey drunk in the madness of holiday shopping that we forget the real reason for this season is to pause and give thanks to God for all we have.

One of my favorite sayings is this: "What if you woke up tomorrow and only had the things you thanked God for last night."

 Think about it.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 07:12 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, November 25 2015

As she trotted down the hill the sway of something caught my eye. The realization of what I was looking at hit me and I tripped over the root trying to photograph the testicles swinging between her legs.  No kidding. The ewe with red splotches on her face is a hermaphrodite.

Other Half was cutting firewood when I walked over and announced that she was a she/he. Naturally this required closer inspection, so we roped her, sexually assaulted the poor thing, and verified that our ewe had both a scrotum and a vagina. There are no testicles in the scrotum, but there's no doubt that it's a scrotum.

I contacted the breeder and, bless her heart, she immediately offered my money back.  She didn't know and we didn't notice it when we selected her because the lady had a lot of running sheep moving closely together so it was easy to miss.  Besides, anyone wanting to deceive a buyer could have just banded her and no one would have ever known she was a hermaphrodite. We'll keep the ewe for wool, but scratch her from the breeding program.  I have named her Hermione.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:16 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, November 22 2015

A layer of frost clung to their backs. Clearly they were more concerned with the Border Collie glaring at them through the fence than me as I pretended to ignore them and  busied myself breaking ice in the water troughs. Appearing to be a cross between a sheep and a yak, these walking carpets were different from any sheep I had ever known, and yet something about them stirred my soul. They are primitive, earthy creatures, these walking relics, these reminders of a past that man, in his infinite arrogance, is doomed to repeat time and again.

A white ewe, speckled and splashed with burnt orange splotches regarded me thoughtfully as she chewed. I looked into her eyes and thought about the blood of her ancestors splashed across the pages of American history.

Her ancestors were hidden in canyons while agents of the US Government, went village to village and slaughtered native sheep in front of horrified Indian families who were dependent upon Navajo Churro for wool, meat and milk. For a culture based on sheep, this was devastating.

The government later replaced the dead sheep with "better" animals, non-native European sheep that were more dependent upon water, and not suited for the harsh, desert land. But there, hidden in remote areas, the remaining Navajo Churro sheep survived in secret, like a seed in the desert patiently waiting for rain.

In the 1970's the rain came. The sheep were re-discovered and studied. Like the  Mustang, the Navajo Churro was honed by the brutal conditions of the American West into the hardiest of creatures, uniquely adapted to this environment. Efforts were made to bring back the Navajo Churro sheep from the brink of extinction. While the majority are still found in the Four Corners area, there are pockets of Churro sheep around the country. I was first introduced to them by my Sheep Mother, Dear Friend Sue, who lives on the Arapaho Indian Reservation in Wyoming. She has spent a lifetime raising sheep, and has forgotten more about them than I will ever know. Years ago Sue told me about the Navajo Churro and from that moment I have wanted my own flock. This weekend it fell into my lap.

I was able to acquire a tiny flock of purebred and partbred Churros. While at the Estate Sale, my Other Half took a fancy to the spotted Jacob sheep that were also part of the liquidation of livestock, and so in addition to the Churros, we also came home with three purebred Jacob sheep. At the moment I do not spin, or weave, or knit, or do anything with fiber, so the sudden addition of fiber sheep among my flock seems out of place. And while I do have an interest in these things, and now have the time to learn, my desire to buy the Churro sheep was not about fiber, or making money, it was about history, righting wrongs, gene diversity, and saving an animal from extinction. As my mother so eloquently put it, buying the Churro was about 'giving back to the planet.'

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, November 17 2015

Meet the JV Team - Judge & Jury

They are bigger than everyone but Briar now, and they aren't even 6 months old.

Because of their size, it's easy to forget that Judge and Jury are still just kids. They are long and lean and remind me of teenaged lion cubs when they walk. These guys are very athletic, moving suprisingly fast for their size. I have heard the Anatolian Shepherd described as the 'basketball player of the dog world' and it certainly fits them.

 Mesa is more agile but only a year old herself, so they are great playmates. Because of the size difference, I keep an eye on them lest in their play, they accidentally drown their little buddy in the pond. The play not only keeps them fit, but it sharpens their skills. It is warrior training. This fun sparring prepares them for their future.

 Considering the predator load here, I appreciate not only their size, but their warrior nature.  Even at their young age, they are already at work. At night, they sleep with the sheep and goats in the stalls which open into runs behind the barn. These runs are adjacent to the buck pen.

The night before last, because of storms I was forced to shut the main doors of the barn, locking Briar inside the barn. This left the buck pen unattended. In the middle of the night, the puppies exploded with barking, alerting the rest of the dogs. Other Half ran outside but whatever caused the disturbance had already run off into the dark. It was not until morning that I realized a predator had climbed the fence and attacked two bucks as the puppies in the stall pens alerted the pack inside the barn. Thankfully the bucks only had minor injuries, but it was a wakeup call for me. Without these dogs I would have no small livestock within a week.

So chalk one up for Judge & Jury, my young Spartan warriors, children, already training for war.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:44 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, November 11 2015

I got a request from a reader to do a post about how we juggle this large pack of dogs since she is now dealing with personality issues herself, so here is my attempt to muddy the waters. First and foremost, it ain't Cesar Millan around here. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a Dog Whisperer hater, I actually like some of his stuff, but if I let my dogs run together in one Disney movie inspired pack, Trace and Cowboy would be dead, and Dillon would have no ears. We have so many players around here that you need a score card just to keep them straight.

So no, it's not a Disney movie, it's more like a penitentiary with prison gangs. And truly, it's all because of two dogs - Trace & Cowboy.

Things used to be somewhat rosie around here until Other Half rescued Cowboy, the half-crippled Border Collie. He is the canine equivalent of Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver. He makes nice-nice with adults (humans) while being hateful to the other kids (dogs) behind the humans' back. This leaves adults with the impression that Eddie Haskell is a nice boy when in reality, he's a dick. (I'm just sayin'.) That pretty much sums up Cowboy. If you didn't have any other dogs, you'd think he was a really neat dog whose only crime was lifting his leg and marking on everything. But as soon as he moved in, Cowboy immediately started trouble with poor little Ranger, the blue heeler. Instead of openly growling, Cowboy fanned his ears, lowered his head, and did feigning attacks if  behind a barrier. Ranger would oblige him by kicking his crippled ass. We discovered quickly that they couldn't even be in adjoining pens because they would rip each other's noses up. Thus ended any harmony in our family.

So if you're marking your scorecard, Cowboy must be kept away from Ranger.

Cowboy must also be kept away from Dillon, the Labrador, for the same reason. Dillon and Ranger both will leave Cowboy alone, but Cowboy starts stuff he can't finish. If left unsupervised, Dillon would kill Cowboy. Cowboy is Snidley Whiplash and Dillon is Dudley Do-Right on steroids. He's sweet, and slow to anger, but don't attack him. He will kill you.

This leads us to Trace, the red Border Collie. Trace is good with everyone but Dillon. Trace launches unprovoked attacks on the innocent Dillon, who will then proceed to shake him and choke him until he's crapping on himself and gasping like a fish out of water. You would think he would learn. Trace wasn't always dog aggressive. In fact, we had never seen any kind of aggression in him until Dillon hit puberty. Then Trace decided that Dillon needed to be eliminated. I have never completely understood his open aggression toward Dillon since it has never ended well for Trace. Dillon does not start a fight, but he will end one.

So back to the scorecard: Cowboy cannot be kept with Ranger or Dillon, but can be kept with Trace. He bullies Trace, but then Trace deserves a lot of it. When Trace does the same sneak attacks on him that he does on Dillon, Cowboy responds by grabbing him by the muzzle and slamming him into the ground. That has resulted in linear scars on Trace's muzzle, but to my knowledge these two have never gotten into an actual fight.

Back to the scorecards: Trace can be kept with Cowboy, and Trace can also be kept with Ranger. He sees both Cowboy and Ranger as adults. Dillon is the target for his aggression.

Seeing this, it's tempting to assume that Dillon is the problem but that is not the case. Dillon is not aggressive. He's a happy guy as long as you don't attack him, or try to push him out of his food (Ranger).  Dillon and Ranger can be kept together but I have to watch them because from time to time Ranger will decide that he is the top dog and thus he can shove Dillon away from his food or bone or toy. Over the years this has resulted in just four dog fights. We pull Dillon off Ranger and separate them for a few hours. Once Dillon calms down he is back to being a happy goof and Ranger is a little wiser. In short, Dillon and Ranger are civilized. They have lapses, but for the most part, they make an effort to keep a stable pack relationship.

Now on to the girls:

Lily is a bitch, but she does not fight. Not with anyone. Lily will correct everyone in the pack because she is the Keeper Of the Rules, the Sergeant At Arms. Rules are very important to her and as such, she does not hesitate to point it out when someone else is breaking them. That said, Lily does not involve herself in dog fights should one break out. She knows that participating in dog fights is frowned upon by the establishment. Lily must be protected from Briar. Briar dislikes Lily but tolerates her most of the time. I never, I repeat NEVER, leave them alone together. Briar once caught Lily coming through the pasture gate and attacked her. Trace joined in because that's what Trace does. Briar is so powerful I could not get her off Lily who made no attempt to defend herself. Other Half heard the fight and came to help. He had to kick Briar and Trace off of Lily. Had we not been there, they would have killed the little dog.

I see shades of Trace in Mesa. At the moment she is not yet a year old and gets along with everyone. Like Lily, she is into micromanaging other members of the pack, but unlike Lily, I see a ruthless streak in her, just like Trace. I used to worry that she would start to bully Lily, thus earning her a spot with the Mean Dog Pack (with Trace and Cowboy), but I haven't seen it yet. Mesa gets along with everyone. I do watch her closely around Briar and do not leave them alone together. Mesa irritates Briar because she lavishes unwanted affection on the big dog. Briar still treats Mesa as an annoying puppy.

This brings us back to Briar. Briar is not the sweet, lovable goof that she appears to be in her pictures. (That's Dillon.) Briar can be a force of nature. She is big and powerful and does not hesitate to throw her weight around. Fortunately Briar is not dog aggressive. She just asks to be left alone. And leave her sheep alone.

The Livestock Guardian Dogs are a special issue since they are not technically part of the pack. They fall into the Livestock category. They stay outside 100% of the time. They are not pets. If we didn't have livestock we would not need the Livestock Guardian Dogs. Because we actually live in the barn though, with sheep and goats wandering around the yard, efforts must be made to pay  attention to how Guardian Dog personalities mesh with House Dog personalities. Judge and Jury tower over everyone but Briar and they are only 5 months old. I'm already mentally gearing up for male dog issues with those two, both between themselves, and with the other male dogs in the family. This will force us to juggle more personalities but because the Anatolians are working dogs, their needs trump everyone elses.

So Linda, I'm sure you wanted to know how the day to day juggling actually works. Here goes:

The Anatolians sleep in the Night Pens with the sheep and goats. The Mean Dog Pack (Trace & Cowboy) stays outside at night with the Livestock Guardian Dogs. Trace and Cowboy are loose with Briar and Aja. Aja, the retired patrol dog, keeps a safe distance from Briar who distrusts her and from time to time has kicked her butt. Trace and Aja stay inside the barn and wander into the barn yard to bark at things. Briar and Cowboy sleep in the barn yard and leave the property from time to time to chase coyotes on the other side of the fence. Briar climbs over or under the fence. Cowboy climbs under and then cannot figure out how he got out so sometimes we have to go out in the dark and help him crawl his cripple butt back under the fence. Both he and Briar walk cattle guards like one of the Flying Wallendas.

Dillon, Lily, Mesa, and Ranger sleep in the house at night. I get up before Other Half, so in the morning. I move those dogs into the muck room. I then open the kitchen door and shuffle in the Night Shift Dogs (Trace, Cowboy, and Aja) and put them in the bedroom with Other Half. After this I can open the muck room door into the barn aisle and release the Day Shift dogs to run and play while I do chores. I let the Anatolian puppies out of the sheep pens so they can interact with the House Dog pack, thus enabling them to familiarize themselves with family members now while they are little. The Anatolians are best friends with Mesa. They all race and play in the pond. Dillon and Briar go hunt rats together in the cactus. Lily and Ranger do chores with me.

After the sheep finish eating and I milk the goats, I can turn the livestock loose. We have outside kennel runs and so when I'm ready to go inside I either bring the Border Collie girls with me, or lock them in one of the kennels with Dillon. Ranger can stay loose outside. He doesn't roam away or eat sheep. The Anatolians stay loose with the livestock unless we leave the house. Then they have to go into a pen because I don't want them to accidentally get in with the cattle or horses who may kill them.

So my advice to Linda is this: Know your pack and don't take chances. Your Pyrenees can kill your Corgi even though the Corgi may start it. Don't leave them alone unsupervised. At the very least, use baby gates to provide some kind of barrier. Even though Dillon and Ranger get along, when I leave the house, I separate them. Just like good fences make good neighbors, dog crates and separate rooms keep harmony in the pack. All it takes is one visitor to knock on the door, or one stray cat walking past the fence to cause a bark fest which erupts into a dog fight. Anticipate that and save them from themselves.

Juggling dogs is not easy and it's not fun. We would not have this many dogs if we didn't have a ranch. As dogs die out, I forsee a future with only Border Collies and Anatolians because they seem to fit our ranch needs best. That doesn't mean we'd have less dogs though. As I've said before, you need a collection of tools, and each dog brings certain skills.

Linda, I hope this has answered some of your questions. Please understand one thing though. People will tell you that they run large groups of dogs together and they don't have any problems because THEY are the top dog in that household and fights aren't tolerated. The emphasis is on establishing dominance between the human and dog. My answer to that is that they haven't had the right combination of dogs yet. It lulls them into a false sense of security. That idea works with civilized dogs like Dillon and Ranger. Add something nutty like Cowboy or Trace and the pack dynamics shift greatly. The other dogs can and will vote those idiots off the island.  Do not let human hubris kill your dog, even if he brought it on himself. Dogs are animals and do not play by our artificial human rules.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:27 am   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, November 10 2015

I once heard this little truism that stuck with me:

What's a liberal?
A conservative who just got arrested.
What's a conservative?
A liberal who just got robbed.

This morning I gave some thought to another one:

What's an environmentalist?
A rancher battling the oil companies for land rights.
What's a rancher with a rifle?
An environmentalist battling coyotes every night to save livestock.

Okay, it doesn't have quite the poetic ring to it, but you get the idea. I have always considered myself an environmentalist, a tree hugger, if you will. I grew up on a steady diet of National Wildlife, International Wildlife, Defenders of Wildlife, the Cousteau Society, and the like. Everything has a place in this world. Don't mess with the food chain. Don't litter. Yada yada yada. On the other end of the spectrum, Other Half grew up as the rancher with a rifle. If it's threatening your livestock or your crop, shoot it. (I assure you there have been some bodacious arguments over that one. You do not shoot ducks just because they poop on your new all-terrain vehicle.)

With the merging of families and farms, there was also the merging of new ideas and the emergence of an alternative to sitting up all night with a rifle, and the indiscriminate killing of things. Enter the Livestock Guardian Dog. (Backed up with a rifle)

I was reading a post on a Facebook Farming list recently where a rancher was bemoaning the ignorant arrogance of environmentalists who sought to advise him on how to deal with his predator problem. With a foot in both camps, I read his post with interest. In great detail he listed everything he'd done to protect his livestock. It was an extensive list, and yet, still the predators kept coming.

Like that classic scene in Jaws, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." after reading the extensive list of what he'd already done, the only thing I could think was "You're gonna need more Livestock Guardian Dogs." I didn't bother to add my two cents worth into the discussion because I figured he'd probably already examined that option and for whatever reason felt it wasn't feasible at the time, but as I listened to the dogs bark at coyotes all last night I thought a lot about this rancher.

It started at 10 o'clock. We had just gone to bed, and the barking pulled me outside. There I could hear the coyotes gathering up and realized that the house was completely surrounded by groups of coyotes calling to each other. The sheep and goats were safely in the pens behind the barn with the Anatolian puppies. Judge and Jury are only five months old, but are already almost as tall as Briar. They are bigger than all our other dogs, but nevertheless, they are still pups and not ready for real battle.

No, the only dogs on the front line are an arthritic Pyrenees cross, and an old Border Collie with a bad back. Briar and Cowboy both trot out into the dark to confront the threats. While Briar is imposing, Cowboy is no match for anything but the most arthritic of coyotes, and so he has no business on these missions. Aja, the aging police dog, and Trace, the red Border Collie, stay in and around the barn. They did not sign up for hunting coyotes or cougars. Apparently it is not in their contract. They are good backup for the pups, but they have no plans on marching out into the night to take the fight to the enemy. Old Cowboy, however, dutifully follows Briar out to war.

Last night I finally had to lock Cowboy in a kennel lest I wake in the morning to find him gutted like a calf by a pack of coyotes, for even after the singing stopped, I knew things were still lingering in the dark. The dogs told me so. They spent the night barking at the south side of the fence. Eventually I had to close the barn doors to keep Briar from marching out to battle by herself. And even then, the puppies in the stalls that opened into runs behind the barn, barked into the dark. Still something lingered in the trees. It watched my sleeping sheep, and goats who snored in blissful peace, unaware that the only thing standing between them and a horrible death was a pair of five month old pups who growled at the night.

When I walked outside to do chores this morning I noted that Briar's face was smeared with blood.

I carefully inspected her and saw that although she had a slight limp, she had no injuries. The blood on her face was not hers. Although I won't call them up to shoot them, I have absolutely no problems with shooting the coyotes who linger and call to each other at my fence. That fence is forty feet from my barn.

The reality is that everything must eat, and humans provide easy meals for predators. We push our way into their habitat bringing ignorant prey animals with us. Predators either adapt or move on. I am very aware that we moved into their habitat, but there is plenty of food in the forest. Coyotes can hunt thousands of acres here unmolested, but do not stand forty feet from my barn and call up a hunting party because you found a treasure trove of sheep. That's when I will shoot you.

The predator load here is no joke, but indiscriminate shooting isn't the answer either because that niche will just be filled by something else. Calling them up to shoot them will only kill the young and the stupid ones, leaving the wily to breed. We must convince the predators that it's in their best interest to just move on. This restaurant is not open. Sheep and goats are not on the menu.

It is easy for people driving smart cars and wearing Birkenstocks to judge our decisions from the safety of their locked doors. They can imagine a benevolent, beleaguered Mother Nature until a coyote runs out of the forest and nabs their little dog on the sidewalk right in front of them. Until your house is completely surrounded by the singing of coyotes, you don't realize how many eyes are watching your sheep, hoping for an easy meal. But that's when you do know, the only thing keeping them in the forest, is a Big White Dawg, and two gangly puppies.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 07:33 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email

Red Feather Ranch, Failte Gate Farm

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