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Farm Fresh Blog
Wednesday, December 31 2014
Mesa knows she is a Border Collie, so despite the fact that Dillon and Ranger are nice to her, rather than be happy sitting with the nerdy kids in the cafeteria, Mesa wants to hang out with 'cool kids' - the border collies who barely tolerate her presence.
Cowboy and Trace
Trace is aware that she wants to play with him. If he's in a good mood he races circles around the yard, impressing her with his speed and athletic prowess. For the most part however, he politely avoids her, like a movie star hiding from overeager fans and the paparazzi.
When she catches him, he signs her autograph book and then hastens off to avoid her, leaving her starstruck in his wake.
Cowboy, aka "Snidley Whiplash" left me in stitches last night. She saw him and started to bounce his direction. He fanned his ears at her in what we describe as "elephant ears." This is seen as a threat display by every other member of the pack. It is the canine equivalent of shooting her the bird. Mesa, ever the innocent awestruck fan, wiggled through his threat display and kissed him on the nose. He stared at her in disbelief for a moment as she smiled adoringly at him. I was reminded of Gru in "Despicable Me."
And like Gru, he grimaced back a smile and let her follow him around the yard as he peed on tires.
Although she doesn't appreciate him, hands down, the best babysitter is still Ranger. He enjoys her company and is more gentle than Dillon who sees her as the best toy he's ever had. Because she and Dillon play too rough and get overstimulated, I'm limiting their time together a bit more. Ranger gives her the patience and discipline she needs for her age.
Sadly though, she'd leave her Nanny-Dog in an instant to follow the cool kids around the playground,
because she knows she is a Border Collie,
and Trace is just sooooo cool!
Monday, December 29 2014
Any deer that doesn't make it back to the North Pole with Santa is in danger because it's still open season in Texas, and someone just got her hunting license. I've never been a big fan of hunters taking trophy pictures with dead animals, but this was her first hunt, so here goes . . .
Jaws with Paws!
"Run, Run, Rudolph!"
Photos courtesy of $1.47 sale bin at Petsmart. Please ignore any and all dog hair on carpet not attached to a snarly beast.
Sunday, December 28 2014
This post is for all the folks who've written asking for puppy pictures - disgustingly cute sugar in the morning - not Sweet & Low, not saccharin, but full-bodied, all the calories - SUGAR!
This picture so clearly illustrates the relationship between Lily and Mesa. "Can't I even take a piss in peace?!"
Mesa adores Lily and follows her everywhere. As of yesterday The Great One soften her No Annoying Sidekick Puppies Rule and began playing with Mesa - at Mesa's expense. She is not actually playing with Mesa, she is toying with Mesa.
"Want it? Huh? Want it? HAH! You can't have it! YOU'RE TOO SHORT! Short people suck! LOSER!"
Fortunately for Mesa's ego, there are other members of the family who see her as a contributing member of the family and not the butt of jokes. Dillon adores her and has adopted the role of full-time babysitter.
He is quite patient with her and although she gets hurt when their play gets too rough, he apologizes for stepping on her, slinging toys into her, and accidentally dumping her off the couch. When either of them gets too excited, I have to call time out.
She's a tough little booger, and always comes back for more though.
Ranger thinks she's cute but has taken a back seat to Dillon as Primary Babysitter. Raising this much energy is a full-time job and I appreciate their help.
She is young, younger than I really like to bring a puppy home, but she's doing fine and the rest of the pack helps with her social skills. Mesa adapts easily to everything. She has 4wheel drive and motors over strange surfaces with ease - concrete, tile, gravel, rock, boards, tin, carpet, and stairs. She isn't gun shy, but the train whistle in the distance does bother her. Barking dogs in kennels do frighten her but she's beginning to realize the barking isn't directed at her. The sights and sounds of the barnyard don't faze her a bit. Because this is so important to her career, we just carry her around, not taking the chance that she'll get hurt or scared by the livestock.
Lessons she has learned thus far:
1) Sheep know you're a Border Collie even if you're tiny and being held. If you stare hard enough at them, they will move away because they are weakminded and The Force is strong in you.
2) Don't walk underneath male dogs who are peeing on a tractor tire.
Friday, December 26 2014
Trying to add a new puppy during the holidays is a lesson in chaos. Although we weren't ready for a puppy yet, Lily's breeder had pups that were of her line and since his place was just an hour from our ranch in north Texas, we made the decision to pick up a pup when we were up there last week. We picked up two female pups and took them back to the ranch for the week. The other female was destined for a longhorn breeder in south Texas and she was hitching a ride with us. Her name is Jingle.
I completely fell in love with this pup! I told the lady if she ever decides she doesn't want a Border Collie anymore, this puppy always has a home with us. I've got a feeling she isn't letting go of this little treasure.
They spent the week wrestling with each other. I am really thankful for stained concrete floors. Yes, they're sandy at the moment, but accident clean-up is a breeze!
Jingle went to her new home on Christmas Eve, and I missed her immediately. Mesa seems to be doing just fine without her sister. We have a pack of dogs, so she has plenty of canine family members. Dillon the Labrador is her self-appointed babysitter.
Mesa went outside to do chores yesterday. She was happy to watch the world from my arms. Nothing bothered her. This kid was born on a working cattle ranch. It's a cow feed lot with horses, cattle, and 18 wheeler trucks coming and going, so the sounds and smells of the barnyard are familiar.
The adult Border Collies are fine with her, and Dillon simply adores her. I keep her away from the patrol dog and Briar because they are so big and she's still pretty small. Right now she thinks she's 'king of the world' and I don't want to change her opinion of herself. She may think she's a big bad cowdog, but she's still living life in a bubble.
Protecting a baby Border Collie from herself is a full-time job!
Thursday, December 18 2014
As those of you on the farm Facebook page already know, #1 Ranch Dog got nailed in the face by a cow this week. Ouch!
The reason she got kicked was because she just had to have the last word. She was moving cattle into a catch pen and after getting all the heifers in the pen, one cranky broad decided she was coming back out. Lily immediately moved in, bit her in the nose to turn her around, bit her in the heel to head her back into the pen, and for good measure, bit her again in the heel. That's the bite that got her kicked in the eye. The cow went on into the pen, and Lily wiped her eye with her foot and then got back to work. I freaked. It was a simple accident, but then, most accidents happen just that fast, that's why we call them accidents.
And she was fine.
But it highlighted two issues.
1) Lily was doing the work because Trace couldn't do it. Troll is fine for gathering cattle at a distance, but for pen work, you might as well get Lily because he doesn't see a point in it. He also doesn't have the balls to go 'one on one' with a cow that challenges him. He bullies sheep and goats to the point where he has been banned from working small stock, but when it comes to big stock, if a cow calls his bluff, Troll Dog backs off.
But Lily doesn't back off, and it's not a bluff. Challenge her authority and she will eat you, and enjoy doing it. She may not have the fancy moves of a trial dog, but she reads livestock, and she has an unfailing work ethic. Those two traits can take you pretty far on a farm.
2) That brings us to the second point. In essence, we only have one good working cow dog. We have a house full of dogs, but only one 100% reliable cow dog. Cowboy is too old to work now, and Trace is only good for distance work. Lily is having to shoulder all the responsibility for cow work. It slowly dawned on me that although Lily is five years old, in her prime really, it's time to start a puppy to help shoulder the work responsibility later.
EeeeeeK! We already have too damned many dogs! My mind simply reeled at the idea of adding another. I did a quick inventory:
Lily - #1 Ranch Dog
The inventory results revealed what I already knew. We have too many dogs, but not enough working cow dogs. So I begin to mull over the idea of another cowdog.
Finding Border Collies is easy. Rescues are full of homeless Border Collie. These are very nice dogs that need a family and will make the perfect pet. But I don't need another pet, I need a ranch dog - a very specific kind of ranch dog - the kind that can work cattle. That gene pool is much smaller - much, much smaller.
A good friend of mine just raised two litters of working dog pups. Nice pups. Really nice pups. I resisted. I wasn't ready for another dog. I wavered, but resisted.
And then one day, Thanksgiving Day to be exact, I saw Lily's breeder on Facebook. I scanned his page with feigned casual interest. After all, I wasn't looking for another dog this soon. I sent him current pictures of Lily so he could see how well she turned out.
This proved to be my un-doing, as he had another litter of puppies now. Oh crap! I wasn't ready for another puppy right now! But it was related to Lily, my #1 Ranch Dog. She's sound, she's sane, she works. He sent pictures.
I'm on my way up this weekend.
I have promised myself that the pups must test as well as Lily did at that age or I'll just wait. Another rancher that lives nearby has noticed how handy Lily is around the farm, and wants a puppy from that line too, so if all goes well I will be returning with two puppies. We shall see.
Perhaps Lily will soon have an apprentice.
"Oh yee haa"
Friday, December 12 2014
This series of photographs got me to thinking about dogs and kids.
Every day this child takes a stroll around the neighborhood with her grandfather, and every day our house is one of their stops because of this big white dog. Briar has watched this child grow up. I clearly recall the first time she smiled her toothless grin at that big white dog and Briar's heart melted. The dog had never seen a human that small before and I was a tad worried until I watched her expression change to the same look reserved for baby lambs. Briar got it, she just got it. And they've been friends every since.
And this works for the dog and for the child. This little girl will grow up loving animals and she won't be afraid of big dogs, and Briar, and dogs like her, will benefit from being seen as a person of value. This dog is teaching not only the child, but her parents and her grandparents, and everyone else who experiences the bond between a dog and child. Briar isn't just a dirty dog in the barnyard. She is Briar The Person, someone who has feelings, likes and dislikes, and rights. She is not a piece of property; she is not a tool. She is a 'someone' not a 'something.'
As a child, I was born with a passion for dogs. My mother likes to tell the story of how, as a toddler, I interrupted my grandfather's funeral by loudly announcing to everyone there was a dog in the cemetery. I was born with a passion for dogs, but I was educated by my parents how to properly behave with a dog, and that is the key to a happy life for both the child and the dog.
When I was a kid, we had a pit bull. Say what you will about these dogs, but I will still stand up and loudly defend them as the perfect kid's dog. There is a reason why they were called "nanny dogs." Butch was a black brindle dog with a white t-shirt, and he was our constant companion. My mother used to say she knew it was time for the school bus because Butch would park himself by the road and wait for the bus carrying his kids. Butch was Our Gang's dog, Petey.
I don't remember all the spankings I got as a kid, but I do vividly remember the spanking I got when Butch was a puppy and my parents found me using him as a pillow while I watched television. I don't recall the dog minding it that much, but I do recall the lesson that A DOG IS A PERSON AND NOT A PILLOW. And I also recall the lesson that no matter how much we have to sacrifice, you don't leave family, and Butch is family. Butch got heartworms. We were poor, but I don't think my mother could bear the thought of three children losing their dog, so instead of putting him to sleep then or letting the disease take him, she opted to bite the bullet, tighten up the already tight belt just a little more, and try the dangerous procedure that could cure him. She taught us an important lesson. A dog is not a thing. A dog has value. A dog is a member of the family.
A dog is not born being a kid's dog. There is education on both sides. My brother had the quintessential kid's dog in a yellow Labrador Retriever named Beau. He got Beau when he was still single. Baby Beau was a little chick-magnet. After all, who doesn't love a Labrador puppy? But if you've ever seen "Marley and Me" you know how destructive Labrador puppies can be and Beau was a true soulmate of Marley. My brother used to travel a lot and so I babysat Beau quite often. There was no fence high enough to contain him, and once loose, Beau was a one-dog destruction team.
But my brother loved him, and the dog was family. Dumping the dog at a shelter was never an option. It's a wonder Beau survived to adulthood, but when he did, something wonderful happened. Beau grew up to become the perfect dog. Roy got married and had kids of his own, and the dog that in many homes in America would have ended up in the pound, became the perfect kid's dog. That yellow dog was worth his weight in gold. He raised my brother's three little girls as patiently as my brother raised him. Beau more than gave back everything he'd chewed up, dug up, and thrown up. My brother's patience with that destructive puppy was rewarded, and it was a sad day for everyone when the old dog died. My brother has since added a chocolate Labrador to the family because the loss of a good dog leaves a gaping hole and the creation of the perfect dog takes time.
I share this story not so you'll run out and buy a Christmas puppy for your children, but to shine a spotlight on the lessons you are teaching your children now. That wild dog that is currently digging up the back yard can become the perfect dog with some attention and some time. Don't discard that dog in favor of the cute little puppy in the window who will also be digging up the back yard in a year. Don't dump that old dog at the pound to make room for a new shiny puppy. Don't teach your children that dogs are things to be discarded when they misbehave or your life gets busy, or you just want something new. The way you handle that dog today teaches your child important things about life tomorrow.
Wednesday, December 10 2014
These dogs are polar opposites.
Briar is a thoughtful mountain, slow to anger, but a force to be reckoned with when moved to action. She divides her world as thus:
Sheep & Goats = family
She further subdivides the dogs in our household:
Dillon the Labrador: family
Lily is the micro-managing control freak. She wants to take names when the teacher is out of the room. She wants to be the hall monitor, the crossing guard, and the teacher's pet. She is a creature of rules. Lily likes knowing what the rules are and she expects everyone to follow the law. Lily is that cop who arrests other cops, she is Internal Affairs. Rules are meant to be followed. There are no exceptions.
This is the way Lily sees her world:
Mommy & Daddy = Gods who make the rules
Lily and Briar share no mutual admiration. They barely tolerate each other. Lily has no respect for Briar's power and Briar accurately pegs Lily as a bitch. No time was this more evident than yesterday as I fed the dogs. It went like this:
Scoop up dog kibble from bin on porch. Feed Briar on porch. Feed Lily inside house behind screen door. Scoop more food and go to outside kennels. Feed dogs. On return trip hear insistent barking. Not alarm barking. Tattling.
"Quit that! Stop that! I'm telling! I'm tellin' Mom! Mom! MOM!"
Round the corner to see Briar glaring over her shoulder at the screen door. Hmmmmm . . .
Step onto porch and note that I left the lid off the dog food bin. Briar must have been stealing dog food. Note Lily's satisfied, smug look. The teacher has finally returned and read the list of names. Briar has been bad and Lily is happy to report it.
Lily smiles at me. Briar narrows her eyes and stares at Lily.
"Snitches get stitches. . ."
Sunday, December 07 2014
Please forgive me while I have a sexist meltdown.
There is a reason why Labradors end up in the pound. They are smart. Monkey smart.
I have one of these apes. Two actually, if you count the husband. At the moment they are both in the doghouse, but the dog is safer than the husband. It is said that women are better than men at multi-tasking. I'd like to offer up that women are also better at following a chain of future events like a line of falling dominoes. A woman's mind will have flashed forward with computer-like speed while the man is still wondering why we even care that the first domino fell.
Let me give you an example:
Last night I come home from work to find that husband has decided 11 pm is a good time to clean out his closet. He announces that he is "throwing stuff out!" Since he is a borderline hoarder anyway, I'm always supportive of any attempt on his part to throw away blue jeans he's had since 1970, but it soon becomes apparent that he's not really throwing stuff out, he's merely reorganizing things in a search for a pistol he probably hasn't seen in four years and has just now remembered. His trash bag remains suspiciously empty on the floor. I note this, but being a veteran of that fight, I refrain from comment. After all, all I really want to do, is lay in bed, play on facebook, and then go to sleep.
After having worked night shift for 33 years, Other Half is wide awake. He is a squirrel on crack. And he has a partner, a monkey smart partner who is thrilled to death with every new discovery in the closet. Dillon is thrilled simply because Other Half is thrilled. They are hunting. The dog isn't sure what they are hunting, but the air of the hunt is afoot. Count him in.
And in short order the dog's anticipation is rewarded when Other Half pulls a dusty orange dog bumper off a shelf. He knocks some dust off it and Dillon glows with excitement. Gollum has just set eyes on his precious ring.
And this is the way everyone in the room processes the incident:
Other Half: "Oh look! I forgot we had this. Dillon would like it."
And true to form, Other Half gives Dillon the bumper and then goes back to
What man says: "Dillon! Don't tear that toy up!"
Man goes back to searching for gun while pretending he's cleaning. Dog goes back to disassembling the toy. I go back to playing on Facebook. Not my monkey, not my circus. I cannot help but note that dog is continuing to destroy toy. He has now punctured canvas and sand begins to spill onto bed. Who the %$#! puts sand in a dog toy?!
Dog is delighted. Woman is not. Sand is all over the sheets. Husband decides that NOW he should probably take toy from dog and clean sand off bed. Ya think?!
Flash forward to the next morning. Man leaves for work before the sun comes up. Large Brown Dog takes up his side of the bed. Woman notes dog is moving around and not sleeping. Woman's brain is too sleepy to process this infomation properly until she feels dog stand over her. A dumptruck load of sand drops into her face. Woman begins to screech much like a cat getting a bath. Border Collie attacks Bonehead Labrador and chases him to back of bed. Woman flips off covers. She spits sand out of her mouth and roars at man who is blissfully at work. Labrador blinks in confusion. He cannot quite understand why woman is not as thrilled as he is to greet the day. Border Collie brings the car keys and the phone number for Animal Control.
Woman screams at Labrador and snatches orange bumper from him. He is crushed. Woman then assures him that this is not his fault. Dog is blameless. Fault lies with Man-Child who did not properly secure toy in trash. Woman examines bed. Bed has enough sand in it to shoot a "Beach Day Barbie" ad. The only thing needed is a little plastic dune buggy. Woman now has sand in her eyes, her nose and her hair. Woman is reminded that she just had her hair colored and cannot wash all this sand out with water.
Woman does what women do - she phones Man in a rage.
Man finds this turn of events tremendously funny. He is, after all, many miles away from the blast zone. He is charmed that his dog located the toy, and stole it back. Woman wipes sand out of eyebrows and announces that since neither the dog, nor the toy, belong to her, she will just leave this mess for Man to clean up. Man happily agrees. He clearly has no understanding of just how much sand can be fit in a hunting dog's bumper toy, or perhaps he just has a better understanding of how angry a woman can become when she finds a load of sand dumped on her head just as the sun is rising. Woman properly disposes of toy and throws Dog outside.
Dog finds a rubber bucket and begins running laps around house with the bucket in his mouth.
Life is good for him. Note that a Labrador Retriever is the perfect Man-Child's dog, since they are both eternal children. As I watch Chocolate Thunder race around the yard shaking his prize at anyone who looks in his direction I am reminded that perhaps there is much we can learn from his happy innocence.
Live in the moment. Seize fun where you can find it. Make your own beach.
Thursday, December 04 2014
This morning the view of the fog-covered farm from the window had me grabbing the camera and rushing out to catch the moment. The problem was that I only planned to go take a few pictures, not do all the chores. This didn't sit well with the citizens.
Well, that's not exatly true. Briar was okay with it because she raced into the barn to steal what was left of the barn cats' bunny.
As soon as they heard the chain on the gate, little people started wandering up from the pasture.
"Hold up! She's got a camera, she's not feeding yet."
"Nnnot even Nicker Makers?"
"Bbbut I walked so far that I might pass out without some breakfast."
"Duped! Ladies, we've been duped!"
"She's really not feeding?"
"No, wait, people. No worries, folks. Here's some cat poop!"
"Clearly they need to lower their standards. There's plenty to eat out here."
Wednesday, December 03 2014
Yes, the common house cat.
Cats kill the most diverse assortment of animals in such numbers that they actually ranked as the most dangerous animal on the planet. (but they're really soft and they purr and sharks don't do that!)
So when the rats in the barn began to eat us out of house and home, we turned to mercenaries. Hired killers. Hit men. Hit Kitties.
Other Half, who is no fan of cats, wanted to see a pile of dead rat bodies at the barn door the morning after the cats arrived. We haven't seen that yet, but the rats have hit the road. I don't know where they went. Frankly, I don't care. (Probably the neighbor's farm since he doesn't have a barn cat.) Anyway I now see cats where I used to see rats. It makes my heart smile to see a large black cat draped across the same board in the rafter where rats used to scurry. It makes my heart smile to see two little black faces appear from underneath the feed room where rat tunnels ran like a New York City Subway system.
Do you know what doesn't make me smile?
This made me grimace. It made Other Half howl in anger. This was his rabbit. Well, not really his. It was a wild rabbit that was choosing to hang out in the pasture near the barn. Other Half used to admire him at night. I think the proximity to the barn made the rabbit feel safe from the coyotes that cry in the dark. It's been here for months. We often wondered how it avoided Briar. Apparently Briar doesn't move as fast as a ninja cat.
I found the rabbit's partially eaten body in the cats' stall. The next day nothing was left but two feet, some fur, and a fluffy cotton tail. :(
So she hustled her big white butt out to the pasture and settled down to eat her prize.
I still feel bad for the rabbit, but at least no part of him was wasted. There is nothing left now but two little feet, and there is no doubt in my mind that Briar hasn't forgotten about them either. The next time she gets into that stall those feet will go faster than chicken wings at a Superbowl party.
Monday, December 01 2014
Over the weekend I was reminded of this song from the musical "Annie Get Your Gun," when I was informed that my husband had little or no faith in the ability of a group of women who came together to work some cows.
(Pause for the collective shouts of outrage. I KNOW, huh?!)
It began like this:
Dear Friend Clyde had a hip replacement three weeks ago. Dear Friend Kim announced to her girlfriends that since her hubby was currently out of commission, and she had some cow work that needed to be done, she needed some help from the girls. Well duh! That's really all women need to do. Girlfriends do not need the promise of beer and emergency room visits to entice us to help each other. (Although there was one ER visit when a green mule announced rather vehemently that she DID NOT want to work cattle today. And this would be why I like my horses old and short.)
Apparently Other Half and Dear Friend Clyde had a conversation about our ability or lack thereof to complete the task without the aid of testicles. (I know!) Under interrogation, both men pointed fingers at the other one. I have no doubt that my own husband, (who should know better by now, but I've always said, "It's easier to train a dog than train a man"), took a very active, if not dominating, role in this conversation. Alrightie then.
Few things will entice a group of strong women into action like telling them they can't do something.
Take that! No testicles needed, Boys!
The day was cool and windy. Not a good start for green horses and mules. One mule opted not to participate, and another lady made the wise decision to exchange her youngster for her tried and true, old steady horse.
Trust me, the older I get, the older and shorter I like my horses, so I strongly approved of her decision to ride this old girl instead.
Rather than carting my Steady Eddie Horse, Joe, back up to North Texas, I borrowed Dear Friend Clyde's horse, Leo. Leo is a mountain of a horse, but he's calm. Leo is Joe on steriods.
Dear Friend Kim rode her mule. I just love saying her name: "Jelly Bean!"
We rode out with Dear Friend Clyde leading on the 4Wheeler with a sack of cattle cubes. Once we got the cows gathered, the chowhounds followed the 4Wheeler, while we used the horses to keep stragglers, doubters, and calves with the group.
After the cows were gathered, we sorted calves and mommas, and popped a calf with a shot and a sporty new ear tag.
Weaned calves went in one pen. Mommas went in another. Everyone else returned to the back pasture. The bull calf that needed to be banded (castration) turned out to be a heifer, so outside of husbands, no banding was necessary.
I took some pics of the ladies working.
This was such a solid working pair. This girl and her horse made sorting cows look easy.
I wanted to steal this mare tied to the fence. She's a 'been there, done that' horse. If I didn't already have Joe I would have tried to buy this mare.
That mare came from the farm of the lady who owned this stallion.
She's got some really nice horses. He's a four year old homozygous liver-colored paint with the most level head I've ever seen. I watched him get his horseshoe caught in the fence.
He patiently waited for his mommy to rescue him. This could have been a catastrophe, but the horse was only mildly annoyed that his foot was caught. He was also ridden easily with mares. Loved this stallion!
After the work was completed, we returned the herd to the back pasture and then went to the house for beef stew. As the sun was going down on the drive back to my place, I had the great pleasure of calling my husband to report our success. Making that phone call felt good.
So men, remember this:
Never underestimate the power of a group of women on horseback.