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Farm Fresh Blog
Saturday, February 28 2015
The beauty of aging is that with gray hair comes wisdom.
"Pick your battles."
That is the probably the wisest advice you can take for anyone raising kids, stallions, rams, bucks, bulls, or husbands. Assess their behavior, decide where it lies on your scale of 'will not tolerate' and act accordingly. Be consistent, be fair, don't lose your temper, and above all, recognize when a little behavior can grow to something more serious in the future.
Jethro is my first bottle-raised buck. In the past all my bucks and rams have been pasture raised, thus they have had a tiny mistrust of humans. Because I know how big he will become, I've been careful not to make Jethro a pet. I handle him, but I don't pal around with him and love on him like I do the girls. He has wether friends and cows for companionship. The problem with that is that no one really checks him when his play gets too rough. The wethers are too little, and the cows . . . I mean, what's too rough for a cow?
Yesterday I stole a moment to play in the pasture with my camera. It was a cold and windy day, and Jethro was in rare form. He wanted to play - with me. I don't care how tiny and cute they are, don't let rams or bucks or bulls, or stallions play rough with you. Testosterone is not your friend. That silly play can escalate into something really dangerous, not necessarily today, but in the future. A healthy respect for humans is important for your safety and theirs. Many deadly farm animals started out as pets that were allowed to play rough with humans.
I like Jethro. I'd like to keep him for quite a while. Thus, it's important that Jethro understand humans are not toys. Let me state the obvious: You cannot hit or kick a farm animal hard enough to gain its respect for very long. Unless the correction is very well timed and shocking enough to get their attention, you merely gain their interest as a worthy opponent.
I do not spar with farm animals.
That is not to say that I intended to put up with any crap from a juvenile Jethro. So deflecting Jethro's attempts to play, I made my way out of the pasture, and returned with my bodyguard, who had been watching this from her kennel. She needed no instruction. She simply slithered into place by my side.
This is the face of The Law. She has an innate ability to read livestock and understand when a challenge has been issued. She knew Jethro was being disrespectful and she was ready to address the issue. This is Clint Eastwood, tossing his pancho over his gunbelt to free up his pistol.
Jethro saw the dog and was initially put off, but then any common sense he had fluttered off in the cold wind, and he trotted toward me again, shaking his ears. The dog stalked forward about four feet. I'll give her credit. She gave him the chance.
He stared at her. She stared at him. The soundtrack to a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western began.
And a gust of breeze took any brains Jethro had left, so he dismissed the dog, and bounced at me again. And Lily darted out like a cobra and bit him right in the nose.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Cue Aretha Franklin)
"Sock it to me. Sock it to me. Sock it to me . . ."
It was a perfectly timed correction. Jethro hightailed it away to reconsider. He stood at a distance and thought about it. The buck shook his ears and postured a bit. The dog just stood there, waiting for him to make her day.
"I think I'll go play with the cows."
And the clouds parted. Jethro had a moment of clarity and decided that he didn't want to wrestle with me anymore. He'd rather play with the cows. He shook his head at us and trotted away to join the cattle. I was then able to go about playing with my camera in peace.
Is Jethro dangerous? No. Absolutely not. He is a big, goofy boy, not even a year old, just trying to figure out who he is in the world. He likes humans and we like him. But if I allow him to jump on us, and butt us, and disrespect us, he will become dangerous. So for our safety and his, it's just best to have my canine bodyguard at hand.
"Sock it to me. Sock it to me. Sock it to me . . ."
Listen to Aretha Franklin: https://www.youtube.com/embed/6FOUqQt3Kg0
Thursday, February 26 2015
When did I go from this:
21 years old
51 years old
A dear friend of mine once said this about aging, "It was like I woke up one day and someone had put a 'fat suit' on me while I slept."
It didn't happen like that with me though, it was a gradual thing, starting in my forties, just about the time I quit running and gunning on patrol and went to a more sedate job as a crime scene investigator. I also went from being an unhappy person to a very happy person. Unfortunately, the happier I got, and the more comfortable I became with who I was, the wider I got. And now for health reasons, I'm not at all happy with the weight itself, but I wouldn't trade the happiness and the wisdom I gained along the years that came with the weight.
When I was skinny, back when I thought I was fat, I was unsure of myself, afraid of confrontation, desperate to prove I was of worth to those in the world around me. Now, now don't piss this fat woman off. Instead of turning away from confrontation, I'm happy to take the fight to them if necessary. Crazy has a name, and that name is a confident woman with nothing to prove.
I stumbled over that concept yesterday after the The Perfect Storm. Other Half is in Arizona this week. I'm juggling a full-time job, eight dogs, and a farm. Not long ago my big truck broke down and I had to pay big bucks to get it on the road again. Then it broke down again, leaving me stranded not once, but twice. The second time the fault was with something the mechanic's shop failed to do properly so they fixed it with no charge. They apologized and sent the truck home and promised I would be happy. I had to sell my beloved old Toyota 4Runner with 300,600 miles on it to pay the mechanic bill for the big truck. That did not make me happy, but at least I had the big truck working. So yesterday I loaded three dogs in that truck and bounced down the road to the grocery store, but halfway there a "check gauge" light came on.
I considered turning around and going back home. Then the puppy peed in the back seat. I sat at red light, mad, trying not to cry in frustration. I phoned Other Half. He was still in class and didn't answer. Screw it. I drove to the grocery store.
Thirty minutes later I climbed back in the truck and guess what? The 'check gauge' light was on again. And the puppy peed in the back seat again. WTF! Thankfully I had a thick comforter to catch the urine, but it did not improve my mood. I was angry at the whole situation, angry enough to drive that truck right back to the shop, peeing puppy and all.
Now a mechanic's shop is like a police shooting range, a fortress of testosterone which intimidates women. I don't understand mechanical things. If the problem is not a flat tire or a dead battery, I can't fathom it. But guess what, folks. I'm not going to let that stop me from dealing with mechanics. I could have waited. I could have driven the truck home and let my husband deal with it when he got back into town. After all, isn't that what husbands are for?
Normally, being busy, I might have avoided the issue but on this day, I refused to be intimidated by something I didn't understand. I don't understand trucks. So what? The mechanic doesn't understand the stages of decomposition of the human body. He has never reached into a bathtub of decomp goo to pick up a loaded gun filled with maggots. I have. Score one for me. So I wasn't going to let my ignorance of a subject intimidate me and keep me from stalking into that mechanic's shop and saying,
Now here's the funny thing. My husband has no social skills, even on a good day. He has no filter on his mouth. If he thinks it, he says it, and he doesn't care who he offends. The last time my truck was in that shop, my husband made it clear to the mechanic that they needed to make me happy because "I" was the crazy one. If they thought he was bad, they really didn't want to meet me.
So as the mechanic was mulling over in his head who I was, I simply said my husband's name. Everything suddenly clicked into place. I saw in his eyes the moment he realized the crazier woman married to the crazy man was standing in front of him. He was most gracious and happy to help me deal with my currrent problem which turned out to be simple and completely unrelated to the earlier issue.
Guess what, folks. Confident women are called crazy bitches by men, but the reality is that we aren't crazy, we just really don't care anymore. I don't know anything about diesel engines, but I refuse to let that intimidate me so much that I won't stand up for myself. And it felt good. I did not walk into that shop, hesitant and meek. I paid good money to fix that damned truck and I wanted it fixed properly. I wasn't rude, I was simply honest, and I wasn't concerned with what he thought of me. My self-esteem is not wrapped up in what some strange man thinks.
He was very nice, solved the issue, and I was back on the road in minutes, with a renewed self-confidence. I could have waited, but if I had waited for my husband to fix the problem, I would have been angry about it all week, and I would have cheated myself out of the opportunity to add another layer to my self-confidence.
I refuse to see myself as a helpless, aging, overweight woman who waits for someone to solve my dilemmas, for each problem I tackle myself gives me more strength to attack the next one.
Guess what? If those are the reasons you're trying to get skinny, you will be sadly mistaken. Skinny doesn't equal anything but skinny. Skinny won't bring you any of those things. Neither will money. Neither will the right make-up. Neither will the right man. If you are not happy with who you are as a person, getting skinny will only make you a smaller, unhappy person.
Happiness comes from confidence, and true beauty comes from happiness.
Ladies, if like me, you're carrying more pounds than you want, start eating better and exercise for your health only, not for some insane quest to be skinny. I'd love to be in the same shape I was in when I left the police academy, but unless I have drill instructors standing over me forcing me to run and do push-ups, it's not probable. It is more likely that I will learn to eat less convenience foods, and take more time to walk and jog with the dogs.
The important thing is that we not let our outward appearance define who we are as a person. Be confident in who you are, that is where real beauty lies.
Tuesday, February 24 2015
My office is in the city, a building surrounded by concrete. And along the building, in this paved barren landscape, stood four trees - until yesterday. I was told that it took only twenty minutes. In twenty minutes a truck rolled up, sawed down four trees, loaded them into a shredder, and then workers blew the debris away and continued down the street. It took them longer to block off the street than it took them to kill four trees.
I held back a tear as I stared at the pitiful empty stumps sticking out of the pavement.
"They're gonna widen the sidewalks and put in planters."
Really? Really! They are gonna put in giant concrete planters like we have on the other side of the building? Planters that are filled with weeds and the occasional cigarette butt? Those planters? They cut down four trees for THAT!!?
"No, they cut down 72 trees for that..."
Someone decided to go the entire length of downtown and cut ALL the trees so they could widen the already very wide sidewalk and create a nicer stroll for pedestrians.
I listened to this explanation and tried not to let the tear roll down my cheek. I've stood over dead humans with less emotion than I felt for those trees. When is enough enough? When does man in his infinite arrogance quit killing things to satisfy his fickle fancy for the moment?
Those big dreams for sidewalks and planter look fine on a storyboard, but the reality is that someone has to care for those planters. Someone has to put plants in there. And that someone always chooses annuals that must be watered often and replaced regularly. These plants float in a sea of concrete like a shipwrecked lifeboat floats in the ocean.
Seventy-two trees . . .
Seventy-two trees were probably chopped up yesterday to form the mulch for the spring potted plants the city will pay to have planted, and cared for, and ripped out and then replaced later with the next Home Depot season special.
I need to retire. I need to be in a place where the trees are older than me, where they and the rocks around them, look down on the struggles of man as he tries to eek a living from the land, with the land. I need to be there to protect the trees. There is a reason why I must own my land - because the land needs an advocate, a voice, someone who will stand up and defend it. The land needs people who will stand up and shout "NO! You will not cut down those trees to make room for whatever stupid idea of you've come up with today!"
It is easy for people to say that land should belong to the government so that it belongs "to the people," but I will take a firm stand and tell you that the moment you give control of land to the government, some pencil pusher sitting on an IKEA chair in a sea of concrete will look up from a painted storyboard drawing and give the order to cut down your trees to make room for people who will bring more money to the government. And the people who love those trees will stare at the pitiful stumps in the concrete and shake their heads.
The people will leave their offices to head to the bus stops, and they will stand around the stumps of these trees and ask why. They will look around and ask the police.
"What happened to the trees?"
And the police will be just as upset as everyone else. Some people will go to the city to demand answers, and they will be reminded that the trees belong to the government and the government can cut them down for "the good of the people," because tourists like wide sidewalks, and tourist bring money. And you can always buy more trees.
To read the story of my own personal battle for the trees:
Friday, February 20 2015
Embrace the weekend!
Cue Pharrell Williams' "Happy" video: ="https://www.youtube.com/embed/y6Sxv-sUYtM"
Dance the Happy Dance!
"Whose got your tail?!"
Cue: Needle scratching across LP record . . .
Oh well . . .
Take a lesson from Briar: Don't let a minor annoyance ruin your happy day.
Bring on the weekend!
But be responsible . . . Am I the only one who thinks this dog looks stoned?
Note to Fluffy Dawg Fans: Yes, it's ALL HAIR! Briar has a massive amount of coat now. Because she's got bad hips, we keep her just a tad underweight but sister is carrying enough extra hair to make an entire sled dog team.
Wednesday, February 18 2015
A necessary skill for a cowdog around our place is riding on the 4-Wheeler. Most of the interior of the ranch is not accessible by pickup, thus, if you want to get places, you ride a 4-wheeler or a horse. I use the 4-Wheeler a lot to roadwork dogs in cool weather, and in warm weather it provides a safe way to transport dogs through snake-infested areas. (One evening last summer Dillon and I shot 3 copperheads within 100 yards of each other. I'm so glad he was safely seated on the back of the bike instead of racing down the trail beside me.)
So last week Miss Mesa Moo learned to ride the 4-Wheeler. Each frosty morning, she'd bounce up and down on the side of the bike, shaking her ticket at me, and I'd haul her into the seat up front while another dog or two climbed up behind, and down the trail we'd go. To a young pup, this was Disney Land, and that bike was her ticket to the Magic Kingdom.
One morning the 4-Wheeler didn't want to start because it was cold. Mesa was so excited that she grabbed a root sticking out of the ground and began shaking it back and forth in frustration,
"MAKE IT GO! MAKE IT GOOOOOOOO!"
The engine heaved to a start and she happily climbed on board to ride. What a brat. I think we can check "Ride The 4-Wheeler" off her list of skills a cowdog needs around here.
Mesa has sprouted legs now and is entering the gangly, scruffy stage of puppyhood. She is better able to keep up with the big dogs, but since she is still merely a tasty meal for coyotes, Mesa is not allowed to play near the forest edge without Dillon and Ranger. A Border Collie is not the top of the food chain in these woods.
(Game camera photo on ranch 25 minutes from our gate.)
Although Mesa prefers hanging out with the other Border Collies,
don't kid yourself. If something dash out of the forest and snatched Mesa up, Trace and Cowboy wouldn't look back. They would simply be good witnesses to the abduction.
So if you need a bodyguard, your best bet is your big brown buddy. He's always got your back.
Friday, February 06 2015
Have you ever noticed that barn attire in the winter bears a striking resemblance to the way homeless people dress? Layers. Lots of layers. And the top layer is a dirty camouflage jacket. You don't bother to wear clean clothes because frankly, you're just gonna get dirty again. In muddy weather cleanliness lasts all of thirty seconds once I exit the door. A dog will greet me with muddy paws, or a goat will stamp muddy hoofprints on my clothing. A horse will then give me a kiss, wiping mud on my cheek. I resign myself to wear mud all winter.
Homeless people have an excuse. I don't. I have a hairbrush. I just didn't use it today. I stare at my hair sticking out in all directions from a loose ponytail. Talk about fifty shades of gray! And I believe that's a piece of hay left over from this morning's feeding. Shaken out of my daze by the tiny paws bouncing on my leg, I look down at her toothy grin, but the rip in the leg of my gym pants glares back at me. The puppy really doesn't care what I look like. She doesn't care that I smell like muddy cow shit already. No, the dogs don't care, and Other Half is out of town, but I look in the mirror and decide that I care.
At least at this moment I care. When I am rested. When I'm not hungry. When I'm not overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do it. I care today. I look at the dirty old woman in the mirror and resolve to make a better effort to walk outside not looking like a homeless person. The neighbors might appreciate that. Tomorrow? Well. . . we'll see how much time I have.
Thursday, February 05 2015
Because of the mud and juggling Briar around the cows, yesterday I put her in the buck pen with the boys. While the goats fall under her protection, Briar considers herself a sheepdog, not a goat dog. The goats have never been fond of Briar, and thus no one was particularly thrilled when I locked her in with the buck pen. As I filled the water trough I watched this little drama play out.
Jethro - young buck, not even a yearling yet, who believes he's Billy Bad-ass since he's the only one with testicles. (These things get him in trouble.)
Briar - self-appointed Guardian Of The Galaxy
As soon as Briar entered the pen, I noted Jethro giving her the hairy eye. She ignored him. He shook his ears at her a few times. She continued to ignore him. He got bold enough to stiff-walk her way with his head down. She turned her face to the side, just barely in his direction, and lifted her lip in a silent snarl.
And Jethro decided that retreat was the better part of valor. Interesting. This is the same idiot who thinks he can spar with the cattle. Perhaps Delta knocked some sense into him when he tried to ram her calf a few weeks ago. Whodathunkit?
"Sparring with the dog will not part of the matinee performance."
Wednesday, February 04 2015
As Briar points out almost every day, not everyone loves Border Collie puppies. Some folks like Big White Dawgs. Therefore today's post is a nod at my favorite BWD, so let's take a morning walk with Briar.
The stock has been fed. The sheep and goats have to stay locked up until the calves finish eating or they will mob the cattle troughs and then eat all the cow chow. (This bothers Other Half more than it bothers the calves.) While the calves eat, Briar and I take a walk.
She patrols the pastures.
And up by the yard.
She gets the giggles and transmogrifies from Briar the Noble Pasture Protector to Yeti - the Spinning Abominable Snowdog.
And she runs.
And she spins around.
And she collapses on the ground.
Where she winds herself up and begins again.
And when she is finally out of breath, the spinning Yeti turns back into a peaceful pasture puppy,
who is just as cute as any Border Collie.
Tuesday, February 03 2015
After careful consideration and taking into account that Mesa is quickly growing into an opinionated, independent pup, who thinks nothing of standing up for herself, we decided Mesa was ready for The Big League - Aja, the patrol dog.
Although Aja isn't dog aggressive, for the longest time Mesa looked like a guinea pig, not a dog, and until we were certain that Aja understood that Mesa was a little person, there was always a stout fence between them - until this day.
She got bounced around quite a bit, but she loved it.
"If you can't play with the Big Dawgs, stay on the porch."
And play they did. Mesa quickly figured out that she'd leaped into the deep end of the swimming pool but soon discovered that she could still engage Aja from the relative safety of underneath vehicles. She used guerilla warfare to dash out, do a sneak attack, and dash back behind a tire to emerge with a face full of teeth on the other side. It was great fun for both dogs.
Because Mesa is so small, I still wouldn't leave them unattended but not having to juggle these two for potty breaks sure makes my life easier. It has been pointed that juggling dogs around here is like living in a penitentiary. (Yes, it is!) The pack is broken up into two sub-packs:
The Nice Dogs: Dillon, Ranger, Lily, & Aja
and The Mean Dogs: Trace & Cowboy
At the moment, Mesa interacts nicely with both packs, but I wonder if in the future she will live as peacefully under Lily's thumb. Lily is a micro-managing bitch, but she isn't a fighter. Mesa is a scrapper who isn't going to back down unless she is clearly outmatched by her opponent - and then she might hold a grudge for a while. This will probably put her in the Mean Dog camp with Trace in the future, which is fine, because I need her to be able to work with him as a team on cattle.
In the mean time, I will enjoy the liberty of being able to bounce her between the packs for playtime and potty breaks. And to answer the question before you ask -
No, she still isn't allowed around Briar.
Briar still sees her as a Little Lily and despises her. She watches Mesa playing with the other dogs and isn't charmed one bit. As far as Briar is concerned, Mesa is not cute, Mesa is a baby Border Collie, something akin to a baby alligator in her book.
"It's not cute. It's just small."