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Farm Fresh Blog
Wednesday, July 31 2013
Gross and disgusting alert!
Each time we go to the ranch, we take four dogs with us. Since snake season is upon us, we concentrate their potty breaks to one mowed area near the cabin. All other fun for them is had from the back of a 4 wheeler or in the pond. Now one would think that this would mean a build-up of dog poop. After all, in south Texas, the poop stacks up fast.
But guess what?
It's like the Poop Fairies swoop in and steal it!
Where have the Poop Fairies BEEN all my life?!!
(Okay, you were warned . . . )
I've heard about these little guys for years but finally observed them up close and personal last week. Apparently we have lots of dung beetles at the ranch. I kid you not. Within MINUTES of a dog poop hitting the ground, these little bugs are hard at work, rolling it into balls and rolling off with it. Within a hour the dog poop is GONE!
It takes a bit longer with horse poop, but you get the idea.
Dung beetles make a major contribution to agriculture. Not only do they whisk away the poop before harmful insects have a chance to lay eggs, but they bury it in the ground, thus improving the soil. After spending a weekend observing these little workers, it further reinforces my tendencies to avoid pesticides. This is certainly not a bug that I want harmed.
Long live the Poop Fairy! Long live the Dung Beetle!
Monday, July 29 2013
They even mulch and recycle.
Other Half has the large and rather messy area of the yard that is simply a collection of tractor implements. This equipment sits around the yard, waiting to be used. Grass grows up around them. Without our yard crew, this area would be a nightmare. Now . . . not so much.
But this isn't without great hazard to them. One morning I watched Clover startle and take off running like a spotted ape. Closer inspection revealed that poor Clover had discovered a wasp nest on the underside of the front-end loader.
Clover definitely "took one for the team," because "I" am the person who would have gotten 'got' if she hadn't found it first.
With the recent rains, (and the broken riding lawn mower) I really, REALLY appreciate my yard crew. Today I was forced to add to the crew. There is simply more grass than this crew can handle alone. Reinforcements were called in today . . .
And when you think about it, like my sisters in suburbia, I still get to admire the cute "gardener" . . .
There's even a cute little 'cabana boy' on the porch . . .
So who needs a truck load of men with weed-eaters?
Saturday, July 27 2013
While we were at the ranch last week someone stole my goats! And my sheep! Someone backed into the yard and loaded up the whole crew!
When we returned home it was dark, so we were careful to remind each other that we had left the sheep in the yard while we were gone. This mantra must be repeated often.
"Don't forget the sheep. Don't forget the sheep. Don't forget the sheep."
Because if you forget, this is what happens:
So we didn't forget the sheep. The problem was that we couldn't find the sheep. Or the goats. Nothing. Nada. I walked all over the yard. I called. I "baaaed." I sounded like a damned fool in the dark trying to find them. Silence. Crickets.
Briar was here. She had a slight limp, but that could just be Big Dog Stove Up from sleeping under the horse trailer.
I walked out to the goat yard just in case our Farm Sitter put them up. Nope. No goats.
As I walked in the dark I slowly came to grips with the idea that they'd been stolen. While the bulk of them could be replaced, certain little faces floated to the forefront of my mind . . .
No. I didn't want to face the idea that these sweet trusting faces would be sold and butchered.
I reported my fears to Other Half. He joined the hunt. I called the Farm Sitter on the wild chance they'd found a break in the fence earlier in the week and had just found another one. No. No luck. They were there when she left. I already had visions of haunting every feed store, feed lot, back lot, butcher shop, and barbecue. Other Half was already planning on pulling the security cameras and calling the sheriff and livestock investigator.
And then he saw something.
While I continued to walk around the yard with a flashlight, Other Half caught the glow of an eye reflected in the flashlight. And just like that, the world began to spin again.
There they were. The entire flock had climbed into the cattle trailer for the night. Apparently they had discovered the cattle trailer while we were gone and learned that it was a nice place to get in out of the rain. (They had also discovered the breezeway between the house and the garage and the couch in the breezeway.)
So all was well in our world again, but I learned an important lesson my flock. Certain animals are just livestock, but some animals are more than that.
They are friends.
Sidenote: Other Half told me later that he was most disgusted that someone would steal the entire flock and not take "that damned white dog."
Clearly he has taken leave of his senses.
Friday, July 26 2013
Yes, ours is life on the Funny Farm. I found this sign at Tractor Supply and simply had to have it. My only complaint is that it has no goats - NO GOATS! Or sheep! What the heck?! (This little flaw didn't concern Other Half. Go figure.)
Anyway, we were up at the ranch in North Texas last week, and as always, it's a great place to get away from it all. It is a study in contrasts. The raw beauty and peace allow you to overlook the real dangers that lurk. Our lives there simply fold around the dangers. We wear snakeboots. We (I!) mow the grass beside the cabin so we can see the snakes. We exercise the dogs in the heat of the day. And we carry guns.
Just like American Express - "Don't leave home without it!"
The creek was dry again, but clearly it had run with some power while we were gone. Tires had floated downstream. Other Half pulled them out carefully and dumped the sand out of them (carefully!) before loading them onto the mule. Guess what a grown man with a gun does when a mouse falls out of a tire?
He screams like a girl.
Okay, he didn't really scream like a girl. He kinda barked in surprise. Thankfully it was a mouse and not another copperhead. The last time he lifted up a tire there was a copperhead underneath it, so the mouse was an improvement.
My favorite thing to do on the ranch is to drive! I love just driving in the mule around dusk and seeing the wildlife. Turkey! Turkey! Turkey! I love watching the turkeys. And deer. Lots of deer. With the return of good eats, the hogs have moved on, so we haven't sighted them in a while.
This is my favorite inhabitant. He is a painted bunting and is quite a flashy little dude. He lives in the meadow at the top of the staircase climb of rocks. I see him all the time, crisscrossing above me as I drive through, but I've only once gotten a picture of him. (and it wasn't very good) Since he is clearly a regularly, I think I should name him. Perhaps I shall name him after an artist. Picasso?
And no drive at dusk is complete without this:
WARNING! Not for the squeamish!
. . .
. . .
. . .
It is what it is, Folks.
I don't like killing, but my little Henry lever-action .22 rifle is my buddy. We have more than our fair share of poisonous snakes, and thus my "live and let live" attitude has shifted to exclude rattlesnakes and copperheads. Yes, they have a place in the food chain. Just not outside my back door.
Wednesday, July 24 2013
Sorry about the delay in getting your comments approved and posted! We went to the ranch and didn't have a computer. Here is an update on Henry:
Dear Friends Michelle & Bobby puppy-sat Henry for us while we were at the ranch. They have lots of dogs too. They have GREAT DANES! Henry did just fine. Michelle sent regular text messages so we got to see pictures of Henry. He got along great with his roommates.
Henry chewed the Great Danes' bone . . .
He enjoyed family time with their mommy and daddy . . .
Yes, that little black blob on Bobby's foot is Henry!
Henry played! Like a real puppy!
Here is Henry with Lulu:
It's a video. Hopefully it'll work. (first time I tried to upload a video. We'll see....)
Henry also gained more weight! He's filling out now. I took him by the feed store yesterday and he was quite the little celebrity. Other Half had taken him in last week so when I walked through the doors with Henry in my arms three women cried out, "HENRY!!!" and whisked him up. Henry enjoyed his time meeting and greeting people in the store. The staff girls had Henry running around the counter like a cat.
They took pictures with him and put him on Facebook. Henry is a 'happenin' little dude!'
Please get the word out and help us find the perfect home for Henry. He will stay small. He gets along with people, dogs, and cats. He rides in the car well. He loves to be carried, and is happy to sleep with you, or sit in the recliner and watch television. Henry has won the lottery and he knows it!
Wednesday, July 17 2013
Henry's story will always be a mystery to us, but given our experience policing in the ghetto, we've got a pretty good idea of his start in life. His un-neutered generic ghetto dog father met his un-spayed generic ghetto dog mother and several puppies were born. Human children likely played with them for a while. He likes humans. A LOT! Someone in his life was kind to him. For some reason, the food ran out. Henry was on his own in a ditch by a railroad yard.
Henry is clearly a plucky little survivor. He is obsessed with where his next meal is coming from. He's had some bad encounters with other dogs because he was quite defensive around our dogs at first. When Briar first met him, he hunched up and growled low at her. Briar has killed possums bigger than Henry. She raised her eyebrow, gave him an incredulous look and walked away.
He has since loosened up. By now he's figured out that the dogs here will just ignore him. Dillon tries to engage him to play with a kong toy that is almost as big as Henry is. Toys are clearly not in his databanks. Henry is almost frantic in his perpetual search for food. Even though his belly is full, he cannot wrap his mind around the idea of regular meals.
"You must eat fast! You must eat it ALL! You must hunt for more!"
Henry is starved for human attention. He loves to carried. He loves to be cuddled. He loves the human touch. Other than food, Henry loves nothing more than to sit in the recliner and watch television with you. He would make a perfect companion dog for someone who wants a smaller dog.
Henry was in Heaven. He charmed everyone. They ran into my mother at the post office. She texted me to say that I needed to take pictures that captured his "grateful expression." The vet gave him a clean bill of health and pronounced that he just needed 'groceries' and TLC. They sent him home with goodies and promised to help find him a "furever home!"
The people at PetsMart were smitten and have also offered to help. The people at the feed store took pictures of him. Henry is the face of stray dogs everywhere - scared, uncertain, overwhelmed, and ever so cautiously grateful.
Most of these photos were taken on Day 1 of the new chapter in Henry's life. Even now, 3 days later, he is a changed dog. He now sports a little collar and a jaunty little trot. There is food in his belly and hope in his eyes. Once we get some weight on his bones, you won't even be able to recognize him.
Please get Henry's story out there. We want to find him a perfect forever home with someone who loves a plucky little terrier-type dog with a strong will to survive. The vet estimates that Henry is approximately 5 months old. He will stay small. We will get him neutered when the vet decides he's healthy enough. Even though we don't plan to keep him, I will always worry about his future, therefore, I'll have him microchipped so he will always have a ticket back to us no matter where his journeys take him.
Sunday, July 14 2013
I once heard a story about a man walking on the beach who saw a boy running along the surf, picking up stranded starfish and tossing them back into the ocean. The man asked the boy why he was bothering to toss the starfish back into the water since there were so many stranded starfish on the beach that morning that it was impossible to make a difference.
The boy picked up another starfish, threw it into the surf and said,
"I made a difference to that one."
(This story is credited to Loren Eisley.)
Well Friends & Neighbors, we can't save them all, . . .
. . . but we can save this one.
Other Half was working a neighborhood known as the 5Th Ward today and was flagged down by this poor little tyke. I fully believe the puppy read the side of the police car and said,
"Hey YOU! Officer! Pullover! PULL OVER!"
Other Half stopped and called the little guy who came up whining. He brushed the fire ants off the little fellow and gave him some water. Grateful puppy slurped it up. Then Other Half, who keeps dog food for his own patrol dog in the car, tossed out some food.
And took a cell phone picture.
Which he sent to me.
Then he called me.
We both knew it. We couldn't just leave him in the ghetto. Emaciated, dehydrated, covered in ant bites, and fleas, he climbed into the front seat of that patrol car, and drove out of the ghetto forever.
Other Half met me at Petsmart where we bought him canned dog food, a collar, a toy, and a dog bed. We took him home and after a long warm bath, he settled down in his very own bed for the night.
He can stay until we find him a 'forever home.' We can't keep him, but we couldn't just drive away and leave him there either.
You can't save them all, but when God tosses one at your feet, what else can you do?
Looking at a brighter future
Now he needs a name befitting the brighter days he has ahead of him. Any ideas?
Friday, July 05 2013
Like 'old age,' having a farm "ain't for sissies." This is never more apparent than when you raise birds. Chickens are on the bottom of the food chain and I learned a long time ago that getting attached to birds was almost masochistic. Don't get me wrong. I still got attached to some of them, (The Famous Dora the Explorer, and all my geese), but experience has taught me that birds don't die of old age on a farm.
For years I lost birds. And for years I sought ways to protect my birds from predators. I considered the idea of a dedicated "farm dog" whose only job was to stay outside and protect my stock, but couldn't justify the cost of another dog just to protect chickens or goats.
And then I lost a goat not 100 yards from the barn. And 11 turkeys in one night. And 3 geese. And 10 chickens in a week. Night after night. No matter how well I fortified the chicken coop, The Boogey Beast kept sneaking in and murdering my critters.
One day I counted the dollar cost of lost livestock. It was staggering. That's when I decided to bite the bullet and get a warrior to stay in the farm yard and protect my livestock.
And guess what?
The killing STOPPED.
Suddenly I realized something that farmers for centuries already knew: the Boogey Beast doesn't like dogs.
Soon I embraced the idea of using dogs to protect my stock. Clearly the mere presence of dogs helps a lot. (Especially as my warrior grew!)
I was reminded of this little factoid this week when Daughter informed me that while she and hubby were on a well-deserved vacation, and the kids and dogs were staying next door with their grandparents, that Dangblasted Cursed Boogey Beast snuck onto their farm in the middle of the day and killed 7 chickens.
Damn you, Boogey Beast!
She pointed out that now she realized the value of a good farm dog. Apparently while her older Heeler/German Shepherd mix, Maddy, was next door with Grandma and Grandpa and the kids, the Beast(s) had felt comfortable enough to stroll right in and dine on chicken. Regardless of whether or not the Beast was a couple of loose dogs, or a single coyote, the end result is the same. Heartbreak.
This got me to thinking about the Other Cost of losing livestock.
"That's what happens on a farm sometimes. That's why we always have a gun, huh Daddy?"
(I love this child!)
And so the moral of this sad tale is: Never underestimate the value of a good farm dog.