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Friday, February 28 2014

As we have already established, what started out as a delightful puppy grew to become a first caliber troll. This begs several questions. How? Was he always a troll? Could we have done something different? Will he ever change?

So let’s analyze the Troll Dog.

Trace is a troll because he is your classic 'resource guarder.' In layman’s terms that means Trace classifies everything in his world as

1) belonging to/or important to Trace’s survival/fun,
2) not belonging to/ or unimportant to Trace’s survival/fun

Here are examples of things the Troll values:

* Food
* Water
* Human attention
* Vehicles (trucks, 4-wheelers, mules, etc… “if it rolls, it’s Troll’s!)
* Toys
* Anything another dog wants

It is interesting to note that Troll’s aggression is ONLY aimed at other dogs. He has never shown aggression to humans. Despite the fact that he will rip another dog’s face off for walking near his food bowl, a human can reach down and pick it up without incident. He is quite submissive to humans.

Troll is not an overly dominant dog. He is actually only above the Labrador on the Doggy Totem Pole. His status in the pack does not affect his aggression in the least. Given the opportunity, he will launch himself at Cowboy and Briar at meal times, and - they will always kick his little arse. He does not learn, and will not hesitate to do it again. Troll is such a monster that at the hint of meal time or vehicle time, he will race across the yard, snarling and drooling like a, duh, troll. He will attack any dog in his path with absolutely no provocation. Because of this, he is only allowed loose outside with Cowboy, Ranger or Briar, because he intimidates Lily, and Dillon will flat-out kill him.

Did we create this? No, I doubt it. He was always fed separately and never had to fight for food or anything else. We also do not indulge his behavior. We don’t think it’s cute, but we don’t bow to his brattiness either. Trace was selected for us by the breeder. I wanted a male. He had two males. Someone else chose the white one first, so we ended up with Trace. Had I seen his behavior in the puppy pack, I seriously doubt I would have brought this dog home to a multi-dog household.

Ironically, if we didn’t have other dogs, we might not ever notice his extreme troll-like behavior, because he confines his aggression to other dogs. It is possible he might try this crap with children if given the opportunity but he is not allowed free access to kids so we’ll never know.

Will he ever change? No, I seriously doubt it. Trace is a troll. A leopard doesn’t change his spots. We simply accept that he is a troll and protect the other dogs from him, and we protect him from himself. (i.e. keep him away from sweet-natured Dillon who is slow to anger but will makes an earnest attempt to murder Troll when he is attacked by the little snot)

So there you have it, the anatomy of a troll. It isn’t pretty, but then we didn’t buy The Beast to be a family dog. He was purchased to be a working cow dog. His parents were kept in an outside kennel and not part of a pack. I seriously doubt his breeder had any interest whatsoever in doggy social skills as part of his breeding program. (But trust me, I will ask about that with any future dogs!)  Would I reproduce this creature?

No. Absolutely not.  Do we love him anyway? Yes. He is, in fact, a delightful little creature in many ways. One simply has to remember that he has the heart of a troll, and not blame a troll for being, well - a troll.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 04:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, February 27 2014

     It's been wet. It's been yucky. Today is the first sunny day we've had in a week. All this is the perfect combination to bring the Outside Dawgs inside and throw the Inside Dawgs outside. Since Other Half has been out of town all week, it was also the perfect time to sneak Little Miss Thang into the house. Miss Briar loves All Things Inside.  Here is a list of her favorite Inside Things:

* Air Conditioning

* Heating

* Carpet

* Kitty Litter Box

* Cat Food Dish

* Dog Toy Box

* Carpet Underneath The Air Conditioner Vent

* Carpet Near The Heater

And so it was that I brought Large-Fluffy-Dirty-Outside-Dog-With-Hay-And-Briars-Stuck-In-Her-Coat inside the house (Cuz Other Half wasn't home and what he doesn't know won't hurt him!)

Anyway, today Briar discovered yet one more thing she loves about Inside. I settled down on the couch to eat lunch. Lacking imagination, time, and any concern for my health, I was eating a $1.29 frozen pizza.  (Yes, I KNOW it's bad for me, but it was cheap, and it was THERE!)

So I ate a couple of slices of pizza with Cowboy, who must be watched closely lest his lift his leg in the house, and Trace The Troll, who must be watched closely because he is a Troll to every living creature except humans.  I was flanked by Border Collies. Briar had staked out some territory on the carpet and was happily watching television - apparently one more thing Briar likes about Inside.

Since I ran out of steam after two pieces of pizza, that left two large pieces for the dogs. Cowboy and Troll are quite familiar with this process and sat up expectantly as I began cutting the pizza into forksize pieces. Briar continued to watch television.

I speared a chunk of pizza with my fork and offered one to Troll. (He can eat off a fork as well as any human toddler.) Also a pro, Cowboy shifted in place to angle himself for an easier delivery. I forked one in his direction and then speared another one. Briar was watching all this with casual interest but the only thing that moved were her eyebrows. So I called her.

She heaved her big self up and ambled over to the fork. After a quick sniff she cautiously closed her jaws over the fork.  Her expression was priceless. She was experiencing true bliss. For $1.29.

I took great delight in watching her savor each and every bite from the fork. Her manners were impeccable. She waited her turn every time, and took each bite gently when offered, but when the plate was empty, she looked up at me with the cutest expression: 

 "Y'all been holdin' out on me!"

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, February 25 2014

This is me, when I spend all morning working on goat milk soap and realize that time has gotten away from me and it is now time to get ready for my 'real' job:

"Sigh... time to go to work."

I was in the groove! Got up in the morning and fed The Masses. Milked the goat.

Cut up two batches of fresh goat milk soap!

Stacked cut soap to dry

Got ready to make another batch of soap ..... and noticed the time.


"Well crap! Where does the time go?"

I really wish making soap paid as well as playing Twister over dead people.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Friday, February 21 2014

Heeeey!  Remember this little face?

 Well he and his sister are eating solid food now and that's the green light for me to start milking their mom.

 This means that at night the babies are locked in a pen inside their mother's pen. They are given alfalfa when I tuck them in at night so they won't be hungry. They get to eat their breakfast when I milk Clover in the morning.

 She can give me almost half a gallon each morning, but I don't take all that. I milk enough to fill my jars and then leave the rest for the babies.

 "Mmmmm.... warm milk!"

All this means that I am back in the soap business - my favorite kind of business!


Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:04 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, February 18 2014

WARNING: Graphic!

A wise old man once told us that you're never bored

"as long as you have a windmill and a black bull."

His reasoning was that you always have work to do on one or the other. Our black bull is normally never any trouble, but he's been getting up in age and that brings special health problems.

We returned to the ranch in North Texas last Friday after the nasty winter storms released their grip on that country. Bully didn't make it.

 We knew it was coming. He was pretty old. He wasn't maintaining his weight. His vision wasn't good. He had started getting nosebleeds. Death has been creeping up on him. Apparently Death caught up with him during this last ice storm.

The rest of the cows are fatter than dog ticks. They survived the weather just fine. Although the cubes had run out of their feeders, they had plenty of grass in the forest. Bully didn't starve to death. I examined his body quite closely. I'll spare you the most graphic photographs, but the crime scene investigator in me had to detail Bully's death in pictures.

Although I was sad that Bully died, I was happy to know that he had not starved to death, nor had he been attacked by coyotes. There was plenty of grass in his belly, and no evidence of bite marks on his hindquarters, tail, nose or ears. It looks like he just laid down and died in the cold.

My next concern was completely selfish: the location of his death.

Bully often hung out beside the cabin. Not only did he appear to enjoy the company, we later put a feeder there to make hauling feed in sloppy weather easier. I feared Bully would die beside the cabin and I'd have hundreds of pounds of rotting bovine upwind of me.  But no, Bully died like he lived, with very little trouble to us.

He died in the forest below the pasture, far enough from the cabin that even when he began to thaw, we couldn't smell him. Good ole Bully. He was such a sweet bull. I miss him. On the other hand, he was an old bull and he lived a good life. Other Half and his rancher buddies point to Bully's death in the forest as a waste of money. He could have been taken to the sale barn months ago and we could have gotten 'something' for him before he died.

I guess so, but the idea of an old bull, confused and frightened, being prodded to his death, bothered me. I felt like Bully deserved better than that. As it was, we got two more good calf crops out of him and he got to live, and die, like a wild cow. (Not really wild because he had a feeder in addition to all that acreage, but it was a lot closer than most cows ever see to being wild.) So I was okay with Bully's death, and once he was gone, the scientist inside me wanted to study him.

First I had to study his death scene like any good crime scene investigator. I looked for some cause of death. Since I saw no signs of murder, I opted for "natural causes." I had to photograph the scene. Don't ask me why. It's just habit I guess. Finally, his death provides me with the opportunity to examine the predator/scavenger population.

WARNING! Graphic! (well, not really by my standards, but then I recognize that my standards are pretty screwed up, so I'll bow to what is considered graphic by normal people.)

We found Bully on Friday. He had just started to thaw and the flies were arriving. Most of his body cavity had already been cleaned out by critters prior to our arrival, but there was still plenty of eats available so we set up a game camera to capture shots of everything that bellied up to the Bully Buffet. (pardon my sick humor - it's something Crime Scene Investigators have in spades)

I was most disappointed in our pictures. What I expected: coyotes, raccoons, oppossums, bobcats, buzzards, and maybe a curious cougar!

What I got:

Possums   Lots of possums, or maybe just lots of visits from the same fat possum


 No feeding, just curious

   And a mangy coyote that reminded me to keep my dogs away from there! This rascal is what gives rise to tales of the "chupacabra!" (people who live outside of Texas will need to google this)

But two nights and hundreds of pictures and that was it!

Except for this visitor:

Paisley came to stand with Bully for a while. It broke my heart. I don't even like Paisley, and it still broke my heart. I had noted that Paisley was particularly aggressive with our dogs this week, and couldn't help but wonder if it had something to do with watching the coyotes eat Bully.  Something to ponder . . .

And even though Paisley annoys me, I found a little spark of fondness grow in my heart for Paisley when I saw these photos.

Despite it all, I have no regrets about Bully. While I don't mind selling older calves for meat, I just didn't feel right about sending ole Bully down the road to slaughter. He'd been a good bull for us, and I suppose the best I could do for him was let him die with some dignity. We could have brought him back down to South Texas to die, but he was happier there.

So last night I pointed out to Other Half that he no longer had "a black bull and a windmill" to keep him busy. He then reminded me that he does indeed still have a black bull!  In fact, he has three black bulls! He had kept these three to watch them grow in order to decide which bull to keep as a replacement for Bully. And true to form, we were gone for four days and they flooded the pasture twice while we were gone!  They still have a fascination with water spigots.

 Bully lives on!

Vaya Con Dias, Bully

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, February 12 2014

This is a Public Service Announcement:

"The very next person who tells me we are in a drought will be clubbed to death with a muddy boot."

Thank you.

It has come to my attention that people who say this tend to be weather men, and folks who aren't actually slopping their way through chores in the mud. These are people who get up in the morning, walk down the sidewalk for the newspaper, and return to the comfort of their clean house. They then get ready for work. This involves walking on clean floors, with clean walls. They then select clean clothes and clean shoes. After this they may walk through the house into the garage where their car is parked. They will drive to work and be slightly miffed that their clean car has now got road scum on it. They will be even further miffed when they discover their child's afterschool sports event has been cancelled due to weather. They will return home in their climate-controlled vehicle, drive up to their mail box, open their automatic garage door, slip their shoes off onto a special 'mud mat' at the door, and settle down to a nice evening in front of their computers and/or television where they will hear the weather man announce that we are still in a drought. 

Now let's examine the lives of people with farms.

These people get up early to care for the animals. There are no holidays, no sick days, no snow days, no rain-out days.  Like the old donut commercial where the man staggers out of bed every morning and says "got to make the donuts," these people stagger out of bed and say, "got to feed the animals." 

The carpet is not clean in this house. It is tan with a muddy brown layer in high traffic areas. The walls are flecked and smeared with mud at dog level. Muddy boots are stacked in the foyer. Muddy coats are hanging from the kitchen chairs. Muddy towels are piled in front of the washing machine. They smell slightly of wet dog.

These people fall out of bed in the morning to slide into Carhardt jackets and trip toward the foyer. They examine the strange lump in the hallway and note with satisfaction that it is not a dog turd, but a clod of mud from someone's boots. They thank God for this and continue to the foyer.

In the foyer they select the driest pair of wet boots and struggle to get them on over insulated socks. They then slide to the barn. These intrepid individuals are either sliding in mud or ice depending upon the day of the week and the hour of the day. Depending upon the temperature, the locks on the gates will be frozen shut. Much cussing and banging will be involved to open them. If it is not frozen, it will be muddy thus resulting in muddy gloves. The sound of the gate opening will not be greeted by welcoming nickers, but by impatient banging and screams of

"Where's my bloody breakfast!"

It is at this point where the individual will be mugged. Feeding farm animals is not as simple as reaching into a clean dog food bin and tossing sterile kibble into a bowl on the kitchen floor. Feeding farm animals on a cold, wet morning is like a Wal-Mart Black Friday Sale. Mouths will reach and grab from all directions but unlike monsters in a scripted Haunted House, they will make contact and will knock you down. Only when one has been knocked down by cattle while slinging out hay or cubes can one truly understand the meaning of the term 'collateral damage.' An Olympic figure skater has nothing on the moves a sheep rancher can make when sliding in the mud under the onslaught of wooly backsides pushing at knee level.

After the initial wave is over and mouths are busy, then the farmer can ready himself/herself with the problem of water. Ice may need to be broken and buckets must be filled. This is not the time for multi-tasking. Doing other chores while leaving hoses unattended only results in flooding. Although this is a Law Of The Farm Universe, to save time most ranchers will ignore this and thus overfill buckets which will lead to more mud and/or ice later - and more cussing.

After the livestock have been fed and watered, it is now time to return to the house and get ready for work. Yes, work - because hauling 50 pound bags of feed and 65 pound bales of hay is not work. Sliding through mud or ice while carrying water buckets that slosh on your pants leg is not work. It is now time to shed those muddy clothes and find clothing that isn't muddy. It will not be possible to find shoes/boots that aren't muddy. Although the selected pants start out clean, they will be flecked with mud along the journey between the house and the truck as the now off-duty rancher leaves for the office. The running board of the truck will be slippery from either ice or mud, thus resulting in Olympic gymnist moves to get inside the vehicle, and more mud on pants legs.

On the drive to work they will note the scores of farm workers at the local farmer's market removing or covering the crops for the third time in a week.

People who have livestock will arrive at the office with hay in their hair, without make-up, with mud smeared on clean clothes from the kneee down and from elbow to wrist. Their co-workers will be dressed in clean clothing that is not appropriate for the weather outside a climate-controlled office or vehicle. They will question the off-duty rancher about the moral issues regarding raising livestock for food as they explain that everything necessary for a good meal can be obtained without guilt, or effort, from the grocery store.

Alrightie then.....

.... people who say things like that just scare me.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:08 am   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, February 02 2014

Few things make you question your life choices as much as cold rain and mud. Juggling personalities as you make sure animals have adequate shelter and hay can often require an elaborate flow chart.

'This animal can bunk with that one, but not next to that one. These get along, but not at meal time. We used to have enough kennels, but then you rescued THAT one.'

Heaven forbid if a little Nyquil throws your flow chart off. Chaos ensues. I've done this long enough now to recognize the patterns. When the weather is bad, not only are we grumpy, the animals are grumpy too, thus juggling the personalities becomes even more of a chore.

So when I'm sliding through mud, and knocking frozen locks open, it's easy to ask myself why I keep them. Despite their trouble, the sheep, goats, and cattle actually earn money, and although it's tempting to cut back to just one species, I'm not big on putting all my eggs in one basket. Plus, running these species together confounds the parasites that prey on them. But what about the horses? Why are we keeping horses we rarely have time to ride?

They're large. They eat a lot. Sometimes they're dangerous to the smaller livestock. Much of their work is outsourced to Border Collies. We rarely have time to enjoy riding them. And yet, we feed them. We juggle their personalities. We enjoy their company over the fence.

And oddly enough, we buy more.

What is the magic of a horse? Since you can only ride one horse at a time, it stands to reason that you would only have one horse for each rear end in the family. Oh, sometimes we reason that we need extra horses in case someone else wants to ride with us, but in reality, we simply want the extra horse, or don't want to sell a horse we already have to buy another one that we want. What is this spell a horse casts over us?

I was the quintessential horse crazy little girl.  A horse was not merely my ticket to the stars, a horse was my star. Not to ride, just to breathe. Perhaps that is what separates those who want horses from those who need horses. Ride, ride, ride. A horse is not a glorified bicycle. It is not a toy. A horse is a magical being that takes us to Tirnanog - that mystical Celtic land of eternal youth, abundance, and joy.

I was a shy child, who withdrew to my world of books and animals. I spent much of life with my nose in a book, dreaming, or drawing horses. My interactions with real horses were few and far between, but I dreamed. Oh, how I dreamed. Life changed when we moved to an area with a boarding stable within bicycle distance. I lived at that barn, a willing slave who worked just to be around the horses. And because of this, my mother took a chance. A single mother with two children and more than enough responsibilities of her own, took a chance and bought a $750 horse - and changed my life forever.

For the first time I actually participated in life instead of reading about it. My world opened up. I developed friends at the barn, not friends my age, but friends who actually shared my passion for horses. Girls younger than me, ladies older than me, all these women were caught under the same spell - the magic of a horse. When other girls my age were experimenting with drugs and sex, I had the confidence to avoid those pitfalls because I had the responsibility of a horse. I learned the value of hard work at a thankless job because every burger served meant a bale of hay for my horse. That mare wasn't just my ticket to adventure on the trails, she was my ticket to life.

In hindsight, I realize the one gift of a horse was life changing. It was more important than my grades, what car I drove, or what college I attended. That horse wasn't a mere stepping stone in my life, she was the solid foundation that gave me the confidence to build a life. So much responisibility on the back of a little horse. . .

And so now, like countless other horsewomen with busy lives who keep horses they don't have time to ride, I say,

"It's not about riding the horse, it's about breathing the horse,"

and about the days, sometimes the rare days, when we take some time to throw a leg over the back of a horse and ride away to Tirnanog.

Life is just clearer from the back of a horse.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:38 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email

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