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Farm Fresh Blog
Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Farm Collie


A good dog is not defined by a rule book, a set of standards, or anyone else's opinion. I may cuss Trace and call him a Troll, but he is Other Half's little buddy and proof positive that if you give a good dog a job, and believe in him, good things will happen. Other Half takes that little dog everywhere with him, and like a sponge, Trace soaks up everything he sees. He has a doctorate's degree in watching Other Half.

This week the boys went to the ranch while I stayed home to tend the farm. Because we have the cattle locked away from the ranch house the wild oat grass was so tall it was over the dogs' heads. Other Half and Son spent a good bit of time mowing. There is plenty of grass on the rest of the ranch too, but this is "special" grass and the cattle would love nothing more than to get into it. We don't want them to discover it even exits, because if they do they will destroy fences to reach it, and then hang out around the house, no doubt damaging a $30,000 water retention system and scratching their asses on the window unit air conditioners. The very idea of losing 20,000 gallons of fresh water, or window units being ripped out by itchy, shedding cattle sends me over the edge, therefore, we are quite vigilant about closing all gates that might allow cows access to the ranch house.

Until yesterday . . .

Other Half drove the truck down in the meadow below the house. Since he was by himself, and the dogs aren't good at opening gates, and the cattle were nowhere to be seen, he assumed he could safely leave the gate opened so he could drive out later. After all, he wasn't going to be long.

He was down at the bottom of the pasture when he saw cattle emerging from the forest and trotting toward the gap in the fence. There was absolutely no way he could beat the cattle to the gate in a pickup truck. Other Half looked around for Trace but only saw Cowboy. Trace was nowhere to be seen. He cussed the dog for wandering off and went to stop the cows himself. As expected, they beat him to the gate. But unexpectedly, they didn't enter the gap. The whole group was crowded at the opening, but no one was brave enough to enter -

because there in the gap was a little red dog with piercing yellow eyes.

Trace had apparently assessed the situation as it was unfolding, raced away from the truck, ran 30 acres uphill, and then hooked it across the tree line to emerge at the gap before the cattle could arrive. And he did all this without Other Half even seeing him.

Once again I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a good ranch dog. I'm not talking about a dog that sits in the kennel waiting for you to practice the sport of herding. I'm talking about a real ranch dog. I'm talking about a dog that sits in the truck and watches everything that goes on around him. Only when they know what is normal, can they know what is abnormal. These dogs aren't Lassie, and they aren't Rin Tin Tin, but they are highly intelligent and they've been bred to work closely with ranchers. Trace isn't exceptional, he's just a normal farm collie with little to no formal training. Imagine how handy dogs with formal training are if they get to go everywhere with you!

This week Other Half helped one of our neighbors get out of the mud and found himself driving the guy's tractor. He climbed up into the enclosed cab and discovered a Border Collie inside! Sister had been in the tractor with Richard. Sister is always by Richard's side. I don't think I've ever seen him without her. One of the reasons why these dogs are so handy is because like Sister and Trace, they are always there, watching, studying, and waiting - waiting to be needed. That's what sets the farm collie apart. A dog like that isn't created in a kennel. It's not created sitting at the house. It's created in the truck beside you.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 01:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Wednesday, 22 April 2015


A lifetime ago, before I went into police work, I taught Science to a generation of children born before The Discovery Channel was common viewing. Always in a hunt to enrich the education of my students, I ended up learning as much as the kids did. And from time to time, it still pops up. For instance, this week I was vividly reminded of a group of people living along the Amazon river. They have houses on stilts with big porches because the river floods every year and the porches allow them to move their pigs, goats, dogs, and chickens onto a raised area, where everyone lives until the water finally retreats.

After weeks of almost daily rains here, I have become a member of that tribe. Ours is a life of mud, where you must wear rubber boots just to walk to the back yard, and the dogs must be hosed off before being allowed inside the house. Three of the five outside dog runs have flooded, leaving only two raised concrete kennels. This means two dogs to a kennel when I leave the house, and no one wants to bunk with Aja because she's a loud-mouth who poops in the kennel and then trots through it. Although the kennels are covered, a driving rain coming in at an angle leaves the dog who doesn't fit into the dog house very wet. Ask Lily.

Except for short free-play time in the yard, the goats are living in the barn. It's dry, but dusty, and not an ideal place for baby lungs to grow. They think they want into the yard, until they get there and discover that it is as wet as it was the last time they demanded to come out but then stood in a dry spot beside the gate calling me in hopes that like Moses, I could part the Red Sea and give them dry passage.

Despite all the rain the cats appear to have adapted well. Being feral, unlike the goats, the cats don't expect me to solve their problems. They deal with it and so instead of complaining, they become masters of ingenuity.  They live in and around the barn and have developed a series of catwalks on barn roofs, trees, and the dried top edges of a deep ruts in the pasture left when I drive the mule out to feed cattle.  I really admire them. Unlike the cattle, who suffer in silence, or the goats, who complain about every wretched moment, the cats silently adapt.

So you can imagine who badly I felt when it happened. What happened? Well, I had one of those moments you wish you could take back, where you do something without thinking and as soon as it happens, your mind extrapolates the result at warp speed, and you instantly regret your actions, but are powerless to stop the chain of events once set in motion.

It happened that I was checking on goats and noticed that someone had pooped in the water bucket, as goats do. Little soggy cocoa puffs were floating at the top, like a twisted Halloween carnival version of bobbing for apples. The goats were busy eating so I opened the stall door, snatched up the bucket, and slammed the door again before someone decided the world outside the stall was better than the feed in the trough.  Without another thought, I slung the contents of the bucket out the barn door like a slop jar. My bucket had reached its apex in flight, the point of no return, when I glanced out the doorway, and saw one of the barn cats sitting on a dry patch of earth with her back to the impending doom.

Despite my whispered pleas of "No! No! Nononononononooooooooo!" I could not recall the arc of water as it dropped in slow motion onto the unsuspecting feline.

Despite my profuse apologies the poor cat had no clue where the assault originated.  She scanned the roof top and the heavens with an accusing eye. Hmmmmmm. . . I'm not proud of what I did next.

I just went with it. She thought God had smacked her with more water from the heavens, and so I just went with it. Since I was not a suspect, or even a Person Of Interest, I disappeared into the barn and let God take the blame. He has broad shoulders. On the other hand, if a large bucket of water comes out of nowhere and lands on my head, I'll be sure to listen for God giggling.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:11 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 20 April 2015

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

                                                                            Friedrich Nietzsche

Border Collies are known to be quirky.  People less understanding, call them weird. I prefer to use the above quote. Perhaps we just don't hear the music they hear. Perhaps they are in a world of Dr Seuss and Horton really does hear a Who.

So when Mesa began chasing invisible things in the yard, my first thought was that she might be chasing shadows, but her movements were too quick, too erratic, and often over a mud puddle.  I soon realized that Horton really did hear a Who, or rather she saw one.

Mesa's newest sport is chasing tiny flying insects that are so small I cannot even see them unless the lighting is just right. She spins and pounces and snaps in her hunt of the elusive "no see 'em."

 I watch her in the yard, darting here and there at apparently nothing and I think about the lesson I can take from this. Don't judge others. Perhaps they can see beyond us. Perhaps they can hear the music.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 07:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email

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