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Farm Fresh Blog
Thursday, December 31 2009
There is a certain "learning curve" that comes with goats. Raising no other kind of livestock quite prepares one for the trials, tribulations, and comedy that comes with goats. Good fencing is a must, but good humor is even more important. I first started raising goats in the years BBC (Before Border Collie) and BOH (Before Other Half). We've come a long way since then, but some things never change. Here is just one of those early days:
Wake up at 7 AM. Realize that David, (most trusted handyman that I borrow from his wife, Sandy!) will be over at 9 AM to help me put up new goat fencing and I still need to go to Home Depot. Start to go feed the horses. Note chicken is loose in back yard. Chicken trespassing is a capital offense punishable by death on this Homestead, and so I had to put the dogs up so I could get the chicken in. Chicken is not at all cooperative. Finally get Ice (who looks like a black wolf to livestock)
Pretty quickly Black Wolf gets Chicken to go where she belongs. Get garbage out. Feed animals. Note that goats are where they should be. My mother lives in a small house on my property. Move goats into Mom's back yard where she can watch them.The only area in that yard not entirely goat-proof is a pipe gate. Plan to tack fencing on top of pipe later today. Mom is in her back yard so she is keeping eye on goats. Fine.
Really, really, REALLY need some caffeine. Realize I'm totally out of Starbucks mocha frappuccinos. Will get frapps on way to Home Depot. Get in truck. No gas. Take a deep breath. Will get gas when I stop for frappuccinos. Go to Exxon. Rush to door to get frappuccino. Door is locked. Sign says "Be back in 5 minutes." Look at handgun in car and wonder how much jail time I would get. Decide to pump gas instead. See clerk return. Go get frappuccinos. Get back in truck and slurp up caffeine like an addict snorting coke. Feel better.
Head to Home Depot. Can't find cart. Can't find wire. Finally steal cart from display. Find field fencing. Can't get cart close enough to rolls of fencing because of machinery left in aisle. Have to roll wire to cart. Pay for wire. Try to unload wire into truck. Wire is stuck in cart. Cuss. Look around to see who is watching me have a childish temper tantrum. No one. Cuss some more. Kick the cart. Wire comes free. (hmmm.. violence 'can' be a good thing.)
Arrive home at 9:10 AM....Ten minutes late. (spent 10 minutes chasin' freakin' chicken this morning!) David is already there. Inform David that I haven't had enough caffeine, it's been a bad morning, and I'm just a bitch. He seems okay with that. (Sandy has trained him well.)
We spend all morning putting up fortress to keep my beasts inside their prison. Break for lunch. Goats are where they should be. Return from lunch to finish up. Goats have gone walk-about. David tacks up fencing on top of pipe gate while I retrieve goats. Since I do not have a bucket of feed, the goats are less than enthusiastic about returning home. Wish for BB gun to shoot goats. Push goats toward opened gate. Watch them by-pass opened gate. Wish for handgun instead of BB gun. After much cussing, get goats back in yard. David finishes their gate. They should be secure. Woo hoo! David and I head for back pasture to tear down an old fence.
Mom yells that goats are out again. WHAT!!!!! They got down on their knees and crawled under David's new & improved goat-gate. (Seriously consider shooting goats now.) Decide that goats need to understand that there is a severe penalty for jail breaks. Go get Ice, The Black Wolf.
Black Wolf is happy to help herd (read: terrorize) goats. Black Wolf enters pasture. Goats stand at attention like gazelle staring at a cheetah. Black Wolf slowly meanders in their direction. Goats scream "WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!" and run like hell to get back where they belong. Yeeeeesssss.... I pat myself and the Black Wolf on the back. This method has definite possibilities. Decide that goats need to clearly understand that they are not safe from Black Wolf until they are in the barn. So I have Black Wolf move them to the barn. Goats trot to barn quickly. Yep... I was liking this a lot! Too much perhaps. The goats make it to barn porch. Nope, that's not good enough for a grumpy woman who started the day with no caffeine. I wanted them in a stall. (should have stopped while I was ahead.)
I ask Black Wolf to move them into the stall. Goats panic and two of them run right over us and take off at a dead run for the north forty. Black Wolf immediately overtakes smaller one and pulls him down. He is certain that he is a dead goat and yells to his companion. His companion runs faster and leaves him. (Companion didn't have to outrun the dog... just his little buddy) I yell at Black Wolf and she drops goat who is now firmly convinced that Satan has him. (Satan has pointy ears and a fluffy tail.) Goat races around corner of pumphouse to follow his companion through goat-proof gate. I hear only a thunk of wire. My mother reported that from her angle, she saw goat slide under the wire. In order to accomplish this feat at that speed, the goat must rival the talent of any professional baseball player who slides into home plate. The goats are now split. Those left in the stall are beside themselves with horror at what has happened to their companions who ran over the dog, so in true goat-like fashion, they decide that they must leave the safety of the barn, to re-join their companions.
I shake my head at the utter stupidity of it as they attempt to sneak past Black Wolf to get to their buddies who are huddled against the fence line in terror. Wolf and I back off so the herd can get back together. Then we step toward them. They race through a non-goat-proof fence toward the barn. Ahhh... progress. I put Wolf on a stay and open goats' stall door. They stare at us like gazelles. I motion Wolf forward. Goats bolt toward barn, into stall, and into the goat prison.
Hmmmmm . . . The predator/prey relationship at work. Black Wolf watches a lot of Animal Planet on television. The goats apparently need no such tutorial.
Tuesday, December 29 2009
Everyone should have the kind of job where work is play. No, I'm not talking about CSI stuff, I'm talking about the gig Border Collie has . . .
This is for all the readers who write me about training their dogs to herd. GO TO A PROFESSIONAL!!! I have been blessed with a dog with good genes, but I still manage to screw up things on a fairly regular basis. Because Border Collie MUST help me on the farm, we tend to work with an eye toward the job and not look too far down the road. We just muddle along, the work gets done, and everyone is happy . . . until . . . we go to our semi-regularly scheduled training time with Professional Herding Dog Trainer aka Sheep Goddess. At this point, Sheep Goddess screams and points out that Border Collie doesn't like to go in a counter-clockwise direction, and not only have I unwittingly ALLOWED this, I have actually been quite accommodating and adjust my own body position for the dog. Hmmmmm . . . . never noticed that. (That, by the way, is what you pay these people for . . . )
After pointing it out, Border Collie is quite happy to go counterclockwise.
Then things went a lot smoother. Sheep Goddess was happy. Border Collie was happy. I was happy. Sheep were . . . sheep.
Things were going well . . . until the sheep began to lose interest. Now Border Collie is pretty smart. She can count fairly high and tends to notice when she is missing someone. But then again, this was a larger group.
Someone got bored with the game.
Apparently Border Collie failed to notice this and marched the rest of the group along. Sheep Goddess was not amused.
"Huh? Where? OOPS! My bad!"
The morning was filled with tough mental and physical work for her. But at the end of it . . .
Don't you wish we ALL had this much fun at our jobs?
(I want to thank Other Half for taking these pictures. The day was cold and windy and he did NOT want to get out of the truck!)
I also want to take a moment to invite everyone to view "The Countdown" section of the website. Police Dog and I are counting down the days to her retirement. She has given most of her life in service of Man, and I'm of the opinion that she needs a hum dinger of a retirement to make up for the fact that soon ANOTHER dog will be leaving for work each night with Other Half. (Sniffle . . . sniffle. . . sniffle)
OH! and something else! I have FINALLY figured out how to enable the comments sections for the blogs. Most of you have been e-mailing your comments (and you are quite welcome to continue to do so!) but I finally figured out how to let you post the comments publicly. I'm still having to go back on the old blogs and enable the comments sections (give me a little time) but the new ones should be up and running!
Sunday, December 27 2009
Police Dog is reaching the end of her career. In 10 days she will officially retire. She and I are marking off the days on a calendar. She is old now, and her body is beginning to betray her. Police Dog couldn't get in the truck last night without help. (Sniffle . . . sniffle . . . sniffle . . . .)
The life of a police dog isn't an easy one. They are often born in another country and imported here by a vendor. (Police Dog was born in Germany.) The vendor then sells the dog to a police agency. They often don't get a REAL mommy or daddy until they get a permanent handler. Much of their lives is spent in kennels.
The lucky ones end up in homes where the police officer makes the dog a part of their family.
Other Half has had 3 police dogs. Soon he will get Police Dog #4. Retired police dogs have a VERY hard time adjusting to civilian life when they must watch NEW POLICE DOG go to work with Daddy. (They often don't last very long after they retire.)
Because I firmly believe that Police Dog got a raw deal in life before she came to live with Other Half, I am determined that she will spend her retirement years living The Good Life that the average pet dog in this country takes for granted. Against Other Half's wishes, Police Dog and I have been practicing for her retirement. (Police Dog LIKES PIZZA!)
When Police Dog retires, she will become a civilian. She will no longer be owned by a police agency. She will become my full-time dog. This comes with certain perks! (Ask Border Collie.)
My dogs eat people food!
My dogs take LONG walks in the pasture and play in the snow! (where they can read their pee-mail!)
My dogs are allowed to sleep on the bed . . . (where there is an electric blanket)
(note the pillow stuffed between the bed and the night stand so little people don't fall off the bed . . . this chick has got it made!)
My dogs get to be REAL FARM DOGS! Police Dog is marking the days off her calendar!
Thursday, December 24 2009
Montoya's disdain for goats grew over time. They were safe in their own paddock, but woe to the goat who strayed into his Kingdom. This happened two years ago . . . nothing has changed.
I am a cop. I get home late. Tired. Walk in barn. Notice that several goats have escaped their pen and are inside Montoya's paddock. Hmmmmm . . . that was probably entertaining at some point. Goats are happy to see me. I am not as thrilled to see them. Herding goats is not an activity anyone wants to do after midnight. Goats want in their stall, but cannot figure out how to get into their stall so they are huddled in the stall with the chickens. Huddled . . . Hmmmm . . .
Wednesday, December 23 2009
Several of you have asked me to give you an update on Montoya and re-post The Goat King. Here it is:
The Goat King
Montoya gave a disgusted sigh. Because he didn't appear to harbor any genuine animosity toward the goats, I released His Royal Highness in the goat paddock. For a moment, he watched the goats as they stood on their hind legs and stripped a tallow tree.
I swear I heard him snort, "Peasants!" And since he considered an Arabian stallion to be a more suitable companion for royalty such as himself, he trotted off to the back of the goat paddock and called Sultan. The stallion ignored him. Again. So His Highness spent the day ignoring the goats, and they spent the day hard at work. I guess the up side is that since he thinks he's too good to associate with the lower classes, I'm spared having to drag along goats when I want to take Montoya away from the barn.
Montoya is still doing quite well. He has matured into a stunning adult . . . who still doesn't like goats.
Tuesday, December 22 2009
Warning! Warning! The contents of this blog may be disturbing to some readers! Do not proceed further unless you are of stout heart!
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
There is someone on the farm who oversees all activities with a critical eye. Meet The Supervisor!
If there is hard farm work to be done, The Supervisor WILL be there! (Here is The Supervisor's first taste of chocolate!) Ah HAH! Someone has been holdin' out on her!
Since she is short, sometimes she must oversee Her Workers (that's us!) from atop her pony.
NOTE: The Supervisor does NOT like being taken off her pony!
The Supervisor went with us on the long trek to get cow feed yesterday. She scrutinized the loading of the truck. Afterwards she shouted encouragement and commands as her minions worked the goats that evening.
Then she announced that since meat goats and meat cows don't do HER a lot of good, she WANTS a DAIRY goat! I wonder how long it'll be before we get a couple of milking goats . . . .
Sunday, December 20 2009
Other Half bought me these flowers because I had a crappy day.
It helped. It certainly helped.
I love sunflowers. Years ago, when I began my work with CSI and got a firsthand look at the ugly side of life, I tended to get really depressed. (Cuz, well . . . it just sucks to see that much Death.) So I started buying myself flowers. I would buy them at the grocery store each week. They brightened my kitchen. They brightened my day.
One afternoon I found a really twisted sunflower in a batch of perfect sunflowers. I had bought the arrangement in a hurry and not noticed this weird one. After I unwrapped the flowers, it stood out like a sore thumb. I considered discarding that one because it ruined the bouquet, but at the time, I'd seen so much Death that Life, any life, was very important to me. So I stuck it in a vase of water with the rest of the flowers and put them in the window. What happened after that forever changed the way I looked at the world.
To my amazement, the next morning I couldn't find the weird flower. Every flower in the vase was now facing the same direction--toward the sun. It was the first time I realized that sunflowers, even cut flowers in a vase, will continue to move toward the sun.
I stood by the window and followed that line of reasoning for a moment. It had great philosophical implications for someone who saw so much darkness. It changed me. I still love sunflowers for their simple, country charm, but now I also love them for their wisdom.
Yesterday sucked, because sometimes Life just sucks. But "tomorrow is another day," and tomorrow is here now.
My dear friend and co-worker, Fergus Fernandez, gave me these because I had a sucky day. They helped too. They certainly helped. Thanks Fergus!
Saturday, December 19 2009
I'm ready for tomorrow. (I think!) The day just tipped the scale from tragedy to almost black comedy.
Without going into details (read the posts below) I walked all the way out there . . . and . . . the rifle wasn't loaded. Had to go back to the house and get another one.
Spent an hour digging a hole in the mud. Border Collie supervised. Needed frequent breaks to scrape mud off shovel. She tried to entertain me by leaping in air, grinning, and helping me get mud off shovel.
Came back inside to clean needles. Don't like to re-use needles for injections again, but still boil them for other uses. Border Collie and I shared a pop-tart. (Yes, she is lowering her standards.)
This is what happens when you don't watch a pot of boiling water. No more water . . .
. . . . lots of melted plastic!
Since Life is what you make it, instead of viewing today as a tragedy, perhaps we should look at today as a Black Comedy and move on to tomorrow.
Saturday, December 19 2009
It is shortly after 9 AM already. I have killed two of my animals.
Border Collie crawls in bed at 7 AM to announce that the sun is up and we have chores to do. Check the lamb. She doesn't look good. Took a turn for the worse overnight. Concensus seems to be a back injury but without very expensive tests we can't be sure. Although I am tempted to whisk her to the veterinary university, I know better. The farm cannot afford it and I have other animals to consider.
Make the unhappy decision to put her down. Go to feed the rest of the animals. While feeding the mule I hear all hell breaking loose in the back yard. Blue Heeler has a chicken. Somehow one of my own hens managed to get out of the chicken pen, cross a pasture, and climb into my back yard. Big mistake. I descend upon Blue Heeler in a rage. (He has the good sense not to suggest Anger Management Classes this time.) The chicken is not dead. I must wring her neck. This sounds easier than it is. Amazingly, chickens are hardier than they appear. It is ugly work that must be repeated several times. After it is over, I take a moment for myself and cry. Then I go get the rifle to shoot the lamb.
Friday, December 18 2009
It would appear that the chicken was not the only victim of coyotes last night. I have a lamb who may not make it. The sheep were fine last night. I didn't notice anything unusual this morning when I fed, but later found that this lamb couldn't stay up on her feet. Alert and eating while lying on the ground. I didn't immediately see a problem. Later it became apparent that although she could struggle to her feet, she could not walk. It is like her back legs are partially paralyzed.
Called the vet. He hasn't had a chance to get back with me. Contacted sheep/goat man who is also a paramedic. He thinks she has a possible pelvic injury, or disc problem, probably caused by the horse . . . probably caused by the coyotes. At the moment, we are still working with her and haven't given up hope, but we may still have to put her down. Grrrr . . . damn coyotes!
Friday, December 18 2009
My day began with dead chickens. Well, actually only one dead chicken, with visions of many more to come. A canal runs along the entire south side of my property. This canal is a Predator Superhighway and is the main reason why all livestock smaller than Border Collie MUST be locked up when the sun comes down. (The Zombie Wars begin!)
My bird pen is, unfortunately, on the south side of the property, right along the canal. It is about a 1/4 of an acre, covered in bird netting on the top, field fencing on the sides, and a short sheet of tin along the ground. The chicken coop is a metal/wood building enclosed on three sides. The fourth side has field fencing covering bird netting. There is a wooden door and a piece of heavy welded wire cattle panel across the wooden door (like burglar bars!) so the chickens can put themselves up at night when I have to leave the house before dark. Anyone caught outside the henhouse after dark is in danger. Or dead.
This set-up has worked for a while--until last night. My first clue (even before coffee I could figure this out) was the pile of feathers beside the chicken coop door. In my neighborhood, a pile of feathers is a BAD thing. Either Blue Heeler has shredded a down-filled jacket, OR there is a dead chicken somewhere.
It would appear that The Boogey Beast managed to get inside the main pen and slip up to the chicken coop. It then grabbed a chicken that was sleeping too close to the wire. Although it wasn't able to pull the whole chicken through the wire, the hen is dead and partially eaten.
I HATE picking up dead chickens! I wish I had a $100 bill for every dead chicken I've had to pick up over the years. Needless to say, there were NO eggs today. Also, none of the birds wanted to walk past the scene of the attack to get outside this morning. Duh! I'm sure it was a bit traumatic to watch their girlfriend get eaten. And like Jurassic Park, the predator WILL be back. I'm not sure where it's getting in, but it will most certainly be back tonight. I've seriously considered getting a couple of Livestock Guardian Dogs for that area, but then, who would protect my chickens from the Livestock Guardian Dogs?
I am reminded of something a friend said to me some time ago. She told me, "I just can't wait to get home at night so I can work on my Virtual Farm!" I was intrigued. What the hell is a Virtual Farm? She is on Facebook and loves to play FarmTown or Farmville, or Farmsomething. I asked her if there were "virtual coyotes" on her virtual farm.
"Of course not," she said, "It's a VIRTUAL farm!" (Hmpfh! City Girl!)
I questioned further and determined that there were also no vet bills on her virtual farm. Hmmmmmm . . . exactly how does one farm with "virtual coyotes and virtual vet bills?"
I bet there are also no virtual dead chickens on a virtual farm.
Update on Otis: He is getting better. The swelling is still down. He is taking his antibiotics, his Red Cell, and molasses.
Update on Dora: Before I get 500 emails asking me if Dora the Explorerer is okay, YES! she is! Dora didn't live this long because she sleeps beside the fence at night. The victim was one of the brown chickens who was not nearly as wise as Dora.
Thursday, December 17 2009
Otis survived the night! The swelling started going down within the first hour of receiving the injections. I walked out this morning and a happy, hungry, little goat greeted me.
Today he will start receiving doses of Red Cell and molasses to aid his recovery. Otis should REALLY like the molasses! (The gigantic pink ear tags have GOT TO GO!!! Good grief! Those suckers are enormous! Poor little goat! Other Half just infomed me that he'd found some much smaller tags to replace the pepto bismal pinks.) I want to thank everyone who emailed and called through the night to check on little Otis. Your prayers, advice, and well-wishes were greatly appreciated!
Wednesday, December 16 2009
OH MY GOSH!!!! Look at Otis!
This is what he is SUPPOSED to look like. Here is his brother, Amos.
I walked out this afternoon to get eggs and found poor Otis looking like The Elephant Man.
I mean LOOK AT THIS:
Poor Otis! I couldn't immediately get in touch with my vet, so (God bless the internet!) I got on the GoatandSheepRancher yahoo list and the Dairy Goat yahoo list for advice. God bless these people. Within an hour the advice was rolling in.
I was able to reach my vet who, after hours, (Bless him too!) gave me three shots for Otis--banamine, dexamethasone, and nuflor. Other Half wasn't at home, so Border Collie and I were left on our own to separate Otis from the other goats and poke him three times. (Otis was NOT amused.)
Keep little Otis in your prayers. Hopefully we'll figure out what's causing this before it's too late.
(I swooney! Ain't that just life on a farm? If it ain't one thing, it's something else!)
Monday, December 14 2009
Because we spent the day tagging and worming goats, there was precious little daylight left for moving cattle out of the rye grass. We do rotational grazing and thus, we need a cow dog. Cattle have to be moved frequently to prevent overgrazing. A 4-wheeler and a sack of cubes doesn't necessarily do it; there are always a few stupid ones, a few stubborn ones, and a few that just want to make you tromp through the mud.
Although Border Collie is a fine dog for sheep and goats, she's too young, too little, (too precious to me!) to put on cattle. For cattle we use Blue Heeler. It's not that he isn't precious to me too, it's just that he's bred to work cattle. He's built to work cattle. He can take a kick better than Border Collie. And he thinks it's funny when large bovines try to kill him. (I don't!)
Last night Blue Heeler and Other Half headed out to move cows. I took pictures. (Border Collie stared through the living room window and pouted.)
The smarter ones see the 4-wheeler and start running to the chute.
Some are less cooperative. In fact, that big yellow cow regularly tries to kill Blue Heeler.
Blue Heeler finds this insanely funny. (I do not. In fact, this cow is the main reason why Border Collie will NEVER be allowed to work this group of cows!)
Blue Heeler is much like Muhammed Ali. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!"
Eventually the cows end up in the new pasture, Blue Heeler has a great time, and Yellow Cow runs off to plot more ways to kill him.
Sunday, December 13 2009
Today we wormed and tagged some goats. It was Border Collie's first time to handle Evil Goat, a particularly nasty girl who has been known to attack even The Enforcer. She often carries a tuff of goat hair on the end of her horns because she will not hesitate to hook the other goats either.
(Look closely . . . she has a tuff of hair on her left horn!)
Because Border Collie is a baby, she has been used only on weanling goats . . . until today.
"Bring 'em in, Pup!"
"Hold "em here, Pup!"
Sure enough, Evil Goat just had to cause trouble.
I held my breath. Those horns are sharp. That head is hard.
Border Collie said, "You want a piece of me?"
After a short "Come to Jesus" meeting and one torn ear, Border Collie established herself as She Who Must Be Obeyed and order resumed.
Note the two weanling goats who already KNOW that Border Collie must be obeyed. She ignores them while she watches Evil Goat to make sure nasty Evil Goat behaves. Very wise. I have seen Evil Goat knock The Enforcer on his butt when he took his eyes off her.
She handled herself like a pro. She is almost ready for billy goats . . .
Saturday, December 12 2009
The Mystery of the Disappearing Eggs
I am not a mental giant before I've had my coffee. I recognize this fact and try to accommodate for my weakness. But lately, I have had to question my sanity. Each morning, it is my habit to stumble out of bed, cuss excited dogs, turn out goats, and collect eggs. I then return with the eggs, place them on a barrel and proceed to feed horses and sheep.
I always count the eggs. I am certain when I leave the hen house that I know exactly how many eggs I have in my pocket. I think. After I return from feeding the horses, lately I seem to come up with a different number. It's always LOWER than my original count. (In my business, we call that A CLUE.)
So today I did a little surveillance . . . and wonder of wonders . . . I found my suspect!
My Black Belgian!
Caught! Red-handed! (Red-tongued!)
"Hmmmm . . . that tasted like another."
And another . . .
And then there were 7 . . .
I put the remaining eggs in the pockets of my gym pants.
A word of caution: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT place 7 eggs in your pockets if you own a very bouncy 9-month old Border Collie . . .
. . . and then there were 6.
Saturday, December 05 2009
The trouble with Currier & Ives paintings is that they show you the romance but they forget the reality.
Romance is snow . . .
Reality is the mud that comes after the snow . . .
Romance is catching snowflakes on your tongue . . .
Reality is ice in all the puddles . . .
Apparently no one informed Blue Heeler there were sheets of ice floating in the puddles before he zoomed across them. He skated and careened like he was trapped in a pinball machine. When he finally reached dry, non-slippery land, he had to take a look back to see what demon had taken hold of him. The look on this dog's face pretty much sums up the romance and reality of a life after snow.