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Tuesday, March 31 2015

The bucklings got their first taste of the Great Outdoors today. Actually that's not true. They were born in the Great Outdoors and were whisked away to the safety of an artificial world of stalls and shavings.  I don't like keeping them in a barn because it's dark and dusty and not a good place for growing lungs. So today we met the rest of the goats and played in the yard.

Everyone else had beet pulp and given the choice between babies and beet pulp, there was little interest in the babies so they were free to explore.

 There was the occasional "Are you my mother" moment. The other girls were horrified at the idea of being followed by hungry munchkins.

 "Are you serving breakfast?"


 "Are you my mother?"

 "Are you lost, Kiddo?"

Briar assured herself the buckling was okay and he ran back to Mom and 24 Hour milkbar.

Then Briar settled down beside the fence to bark at the cows and inform them that she had new babies and so there would be severe consequences for any cow caught trespassing near her kids.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, March 29 2015

Although many dairy people take the babies off their mothers at birth, my schedule just doesn't allow for that. That's why being a good mother is really important to me. I want to know that the does I keep have strong mothering instincts. Feather sure proved that when she delivered two healthy baby boys by herself (undoubtedly with interference by Briar) and refused to leave the second baby (which I didn't see because it was under the cattle trailer) when I tried to lead her away. She is very attentive to both her little boys.

One guy is a real Hoss. He is big and robust and quite the eater. At the moment I alternate between calling him "Hoss" and "Groceries" because he's always eating.

The spotted one is a bit smaller and not as strong an eater. We worried about him at first, but today he seems to have picked up and gotten with the program. (Thank God, because we were going to start bottle feeding him if he didn't.) He appeared to be the one born first and was hiding under the cattle trailer when I found him. I think he had a lot more interaction with an overenthusiastic Briar (thus he was hiding under the trailer) as he is more shy and more easily startled than his brother.

I think he just needs more time with me sitting in the stall taking his picture. He loosened up enough to start checking out my boots this morning. At the moment I'm calling him "Arrow." He has a marking on his right shoulder that reminds me of an arrow. His mother has the same marking.

I'm happy that Feather had two babies as they are already beginning to spar with each other.

So it looks like these guys will be just fine, and all is well in our little world.  :)

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:10 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Friday, March 27 2015


We came home from the ranch last night to find that someone gave birth early! Feather was due the first week of April so I thought we'd have enough time to get back, but these babies were just barely dry when we drove up. Briar was already eating the placenta.  (yes... gross, but it's part of her job too!)

The not-so-good news is they are both bucks. I'll either sell them as bucks or wether them and keep them as weed-eaters at the ranch. The good news is that Mom and babies appear to be just fine. Feather is a good momma and considering that she did all this without human help, I'm happily impressed.

  Thank you, Lord!

One that looks like Mom. One that looks like Dad.

"Hello World! Nice to meet ya!"

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:03 am   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
Friday, March 20 2015

While I was coughing, doing my taxes, and sleeping, look who grew up!

 Aaaaaand then everything went out of focus because Mommy forgot there were sheep in the yard when she went outside with a puppy and a camera.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:11 am   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, March 17 2015

When Nyquil is your best friend, the only thing that pulls you out of bed is staggering outside to feed the animals. Let me just say this: A farm is a giant baby that WILL NEVER GROW UP! It wants to be fed - now!

The farm doesn't care if you're sick. The farm doesn't care if you are coughing up a lung. The farm doesn't care if you haven't brushed your teeth or if your hair looks like a rat's nest. It only cares that you walked past the window in search of more Nyquil, thus proof that you are vertical, thus you cannot claim you died in your sleep.

At times like this the farm will post sentries near the fence, animals who assume the responsibility of watching the windows for signs of human activity. These sentries will then alert the rest of the livestock who will begin bawling, neighing, and baaing en masse. It is a barnyard symphony led and conducted by the sentry who witnessed you sneak past that window for Nyquil.

The farm is not your friend. You are sick. You only have two friends - Nyquil & Blue Dawg.

While you huddle under the blanket, awaiting the next coughing spasm, the Blue Dawg waits beside you. When the spasm of coughing seizes you, he bravely wades through it to lick your face, and offer CPR. Should he call 911? Should he make funeral arrangements? Are you an organ donor?  He is Florence Nightingale - the Canine Nurse. Blue Dawg will stay at your side for hours. He is concerned about your health.

The Border Collies are concerned about their walk.

"Exactly how long do you plan to shirk your responsibilities and stay in bed?"

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:17 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, March 14 2015



When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is:

Tail up = goat

Tail down = sheep

This may not always apply, especially if the tail is docked so closely you can't see it, but it's still a reasonable rule of thumb.

Orville Reddenbacher didn't get that memo.

 He is a sheep, not a goat.

In his defense, when the young ram first moved in, the ewes hated him on sight, and the only group that would let him hang out with them was the dairy goats, so he stayed with the goats, who kinda stayed with the sheep, so it was fine. The plus side is the goats are very tame and thus Orville is decently approachable without being too friendly. But recently I've noted that when the groups get split, young Orville chooses to go with the goats instead of the sheep. Yes, the goats get better food, and more of it, but sheep can't have copper in their diet, thus Orville's continued Identity Crisis can be a bit of a problem. Plus, Orville doesn't NEED the delicious groceries the goats dine on.

And times they are a changing. The pregnant girls are beginning to show. Feather is starting to 'udder up.' Sparrow is getting a matronly spread.

It's time to evict Orville from the group before babies are born. I thought this would be as easy as simply locking the goats up and leaving him outside, but he waits. Like a teenaged boy, he waits. He waits for them to return his Facebook messages and Tweets. He waits.

The goats do not return his affection. He is, after all, a meat sheep, far beneath dairy goats on the Farm Caste system.  They let him hang around because they are ladies, ladies from the South. Well-bred ladies from the South are never rude. After all, there is never a good excuse for bad manners. Bless his heart.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:36 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, March 11 2015

Sometimes all you can do is hold them while they cry. And cry with them.

We were strangers until today, but I suppose God put me on that path because I'd understand. I saw the little dog's broken body in the ditch just across from my mailbox. I went to her and touched her side to make sure there was nothing I could do, but she was cold. Her little red collar was lying beside her at the edge of the road. I picked it up to check the tag, but it was from a clinic far from here, and I knew she was a neighbor. I picked up the collar anyway. At the time, I didn't know why, but now I do, for the collar led me there.

We were pulling into the driveway with a load of feed, so I carried the collar with me while I opened gates to the barn. I got the animals fed and then climbed in the truck to drive to the neighbor's. On my way out the main gate I noticed the little dog's body was gone. They already knew.

But they'd want her collar, so I drove on.  I pulled into the driveway and began calling out. A moment later her tearstained face walked around the edge of the garage clutching the little dog wrapped in a sheet. We were strangers, but in that moment, she was a sister. I opened my arms and held her as she cried. As we cried together.

She set the little dog down on the bloodstained tailgate of her truck and we talked. We held each other and cried some more. And then I knew why I'd been moved to take the collar. It led me to her, and on this terrible day, she needed the warm arms of a stranger who understood the pain of losing a good dog.

Sometimes God just works that way.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  8 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, March 10 2015

There is a quiet peace in the morning, between that time when the sun creeps up and when the farm itself realizes the primary caretaker is vertical. It is when you can walk with the dogs, sipping coffee, contemplating God, life, the sunrise, and how a farm goes through so much hay. Tiny spring flowers struggle to make their way above ground, only to be snapped off by the teeth of the puppy as she races along, bent on making her mark in the world today.

The cows, still bedded down around a dwindling round bale of hay, notice me but do not bother themselves to stand and demand breakfast. The sheep are already out to field, mingling with early rising horses.  I thread my way around tractor implements as the pup races ahead, eager to conquer new heights today. Her joy in the morning is infectious, so even the older dog lowers himself to play in the mist. The puppy tests her legs, her lungs, and her world as she runs faster, climbs higher, and gets bolder with each passing day.

The rain has finally stopped and the water is slowly receding, leaving the blasted mud. Goats and cats, kindred spirits in this weather, huddle in the barn, hating this muddy world together. The pup bounces at my feet, mud dotting the top of her white forehead. Sure that she has my attention now, she races to the top of the dog walk, where she pirouettes like a dancer and smiles back at me.

I smile back. The red troll dog sees my grin and hustles up behind her, eager to prove that he too, can climb to new heights.

I assure him that he is a most wonderful canine and a valuable assest to the farm. After all, every ranch needs a troll that can climb. I survey the pasture, counting fluffy bodies in the distance. The large white dog at the fence has already counted sheep and we compare our numbers to make sure they match.  I already know they will. If the count was off, the dog wouldn't be at the fence.

The coffee gets low as the farm lets out a breath and finally wakes up. The cattle struggle to their feet and call to me. Horses and sheep begin to amble in. Goats peep out of the barn. They won't step into the mud until they are certain I am committed to coming out there. I take that last sip of coffee. It is time, time to feed and face the day and the rising din of racket as the farm wakes from its peaceful slumber.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:25 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Friday, March 06 2015

There are levels of being a ranch dog around here:

Baby Cow Dog:

Sometimes useful Cow Dog:(not really)

Retired Cow Dog:

Useful for lots of chores Cow Dog:

"Go-to" Stock Dog:

But there is one role they all want above any other. This spot is not based on experience and working ability but on desire, and good behavior  - The Truck Dawg!

Job Description:

Must accompany Driver on any and all vehicle trips. Must be able to sit in truck unattended for hours on end. Must be a silent buddy who does not stomp on packages, and raid the groceries in the back seat. Must not chew seats, or steering wheels. Must have good record of not peeing in the truck. (This excludes Mesa at the moment.) Must not lick the windows or bark like a damn fool at passing vehicles. (This excludes Cowboy unless you're feeling generous.) Must be a good guard dog who makes having a "club" or car alarm unneccessary. Must be ready at any hour for the moment the car keys jingle.

Now the Bible says that faith moves mountains because if you believe, God will reward that faith. I'm not sure I really understood this concept until I met this dog:

Trace is living proof that if you want something bad enough, if you believe in it, if you have faith, then God will smile on you and move that mountain. This little guy has taught me much about faith. When things don't go his way, if someone takes something from him, he doesn't dwell on it and pout, he darts his little eyes at us, confident that we saw his problem, confident that we'll make it right. And even though we didn't plan to intervene on his behalf, because of his faith, we do. We make it right for him, because he believes we will. The day I made that connection was quite an epiphany.

And it's that same faith that earns him the front seat. He is no more qualified than Dillon or Ranger, but Trace understands the concept that "Chance favors only the prepared mind." He knows what he wants. He prepares himself so that by the first jingle of car keys, Trace can race through the screen door and across the yard and wait at the truck before the other dogs have even noticed you are preparing to leave.

Trace has a PhD in human behavior. He does not occupy his time with silly things. He stares at his world. He is a scientist with a lab coat, marking his clipboard each time the humans do something. So while Dillon is absentmindedly chewing on the Log Of The Day, and Ranger is rolling in cow poop, Trace is studying the variables and analyzing the probability that we are headed to town. Trace makes his notes and acts accordingly and is waiting at the truck before I've even found my purse.

He is a poker player looking for your "tell." Something as simple as moving a purse from the kitchen table to the counter will have him racing through the screen door to wait underneath the truck. Yes, under the truck. He hides like a stowaway, waiting for you to open the door when he can slither inside like a shadow moving across the seat. We see his faith and are moved.

I have seen him wait two hours in the front seat because he saw us pack one box in the kitchen that he knows we only load when we are going to the ranch. I assure you, the Blue Heeler has yet to notice this box even exists, yet like NASA tracking the stars, Trace's computations show him that the red box filling with hamburger buns and corn chips will eventually lead to a road trip to the ranch. And sometimes Trace's faith alone, has gotten the poor Labrador bumped from riding in the cab to riding in the dog box in back of the truck, simply to make room for a little red dog with lots of belief. One cannot help but be charmed by someone who puts so much time, energy, and faith into achieving one goal.

The pinnacle of Truck Dawg trips is working the Livestock show. Every year Other Half works the show, checking in exhausted exhibitors who have driven across Texas, who fight the traffic of a metropolitan city with bleary eyes and a loaded stock trailer. And every year, these tired travelers are welcomed by a fellow rancher who answers their questions and gets them set up. And little Trace is right there, sitting in the truck, studying, taking his own inventory of stock trailers. He is Ralphie in the Christmas Story, daydreaming of the day the bulls get loose and someone needs a Border Collie to keep them off the freeway.

He will save the day! He will be the Morning News story. He will make the Yahoo News! He will be a viral internet sensation! He will star on The Tonight Show!

Or maybe - maybe he'll just sit in the truck, waiting, waiting to be needed. Because that's what makes a good truck dog.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:05 am   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email

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