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Farm Fresh Blog
Sunday, November 20 2016
With a hypnotic whisper their eyes tapped me on the shoulder.
So I did.
Reason #467 for having a Border Collie.
In the years BB (Before Briar) it was my custom to have Lily herd the chickens back into the coop around 2 o'clock in the afternoon before I left for work. Since birds behave about like cats, this wasn't an easy task but in time, she trained them.
Now that I have Livestock Guardian Dogs, getting chickens into a coop before dark is not such a pressing issue, but before I retire for the night, I like to have the birds locked inside their coop in the chicken yard.
Birds work on their own schedule and sometimes getting them to bed is like putting down a Girl Scout slumber party. They don't want to go inside the coop until the sun has completely set. Since I greatly dislike having to tromp back out in the dark to lock the coop, I recently hired a new Troop Leader.
One part Nanny McPhee. One part traffic cop. One part Clint Eastwood. Mesa gets the job done.
Tonight I didn't get the birds in until well after dark, so they were already inside the coop. All I needed to do was lock up. I was still leaned over, locking more devices than a New York City apartment door, when I felt the stare.
Then there was an angry squawk.
"You want this one?"
I turned around. Lily and Mesa were outside the chicken yard, poking an indignant bird toward me. One dog on each side, steering a chicken. My Darwin Award Winner. Aptly named "Darwin."
This bird flies out of the chicken yard on a regular basis. I doubt clipping a wing will solve her problem as she is a master of the artful hop. Her study of aviation would make the Wright Brothers proud. And she could definitely be a contestant on the television show, Wipeout. I have been assured that as she matures, she'll get too heavy to accomplish these feats of grace. Maybe. If she lives that long.
Darwin gets out every few days. Sometimes multiple times a day. Her record is four. I have ten dogs. The chicken is playing Russian Roulette. One day she is gonna roll a Blue Heeler.
But not today. Thanks to Lily and Mesa, Darwin will live to see another sunrise. And you can add that to your X Games list of extreme sports. There beside BASE jumping, skydiving, and wingsuit flying, you can add the extreme sport of Wipeout Chicken Hopping.
This sport consists of a young bird, preferably a heritage breed of laying age, who will use objects in the court of play to provide a take-off point for launch. Objects may consist of, but are not limited to, the coop roof, the shade cloth tarps, feeders, waterers, and the metal hoophouse. Bird may use any of these objects in any combination to achieve her desired launch. Bird must take into account weather conditions such as prevailing winds and humidity which may adversely affect feather frizz and lift-off potential. Points will be added for each obstacle used in combination. No points will be awarded if player is eaten by dog on the other side of the chicken yard fence.
Thus far, our reigning champion in the extreme sport of WipeOut Chicken Hopping is Darwin.
Don't get too fond of her. Her days are numbered.
Friday, November 11 2016
As the car slowly crunched to a stop beside me I looked up from the sidewalk and read the pity in the woman's eyes. Perhaps I shouldn't wear my barn clothes in public.
Other Half had business at Best Buy, our local electronics store, and as usual, we brought a dog or two. On this day the Chosen Ones were MoonPossum and her best pal, Mesa. After a short potty break the dogs and I sat down on the sidewalk outside the store to wait for Other Half to exchange his new cattle-hunting drone for another one. He seems to think a drone will replace riding the ranch on horseback or 4Wheelers in search of stray cattle. I imagine that now we'll be riding the ranch on horseback or 4Wheelers in search of a stray drone. Nevertheless, it is an itch he has the scratch, and so the dogs and I waited patiently outside the store.
We could have waited in the truck, but Possum is a pup and needs to see the world so we plopped down outside the main doors. On the sidewalk. Yes, the ground. If you've worked with cattle then you realize that on the Cleaniless Continuum, a sidewalk outside an electronics store isn't all that bad.
So I leaned my back up against the wall and engaged in a bit of people watching while the dogs chilled. Ranch dogs. Just chilling. I was impressed by how calm they were. They were as calm as Homeless People Dogs, just sitting there, watching the flow of human traffic. Chilling.
From time to time dogs in passing cars said hello. This bulldog rolled past us several times.
I was thinking that perhaps we looked a bit Bohemian, me in dirty clothes with a scarf on my hair, and two scruffy dogs at my feet. Somewhere between rancher and writer, I was okay with that look.
Just me and my girls, chilling like some Bohemian artist hiker. I was okay with that image until the car slowed to a stop beside me and an older woman with kind eyes held a Whataburger bag out the window.
"Do you want this for your dogs? They look like they'd like a hamburger."
I gaped like a goldfish as my romantic Bohemian vision crumbled into the cold reality. "She thinks we're homeless."
On the one hand I wanted to explain myself. On the other hand, it was What-A-Burger. I didn't want to cheat them out of What-A-Burger.
And so we kindly accepted the charity of a stranger who drove away feeling much better. The dogs got a double meat cheeseburger and I was reminded to clean up before I went to town. It is still nice to know that if I'm ever homeless, the good citizens of Weatherford, Texas will make sure my dogs are fed.
Tuesday, November 08 2016
He leered at me with a smile that was supposed to be charming but the charm was lost by the beads of urine on his nose.
I just wanted a walk. A simple walk. I live in a wild and beautiful place that rivals any state park, and yet I can't enjoy it on foot because of the damned animals. Not the wildlife. Oh no! There are copperheads, rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, feral hogs, and at least one cougar, but am I worried about them?
Not in the least. No. I can't take a walk because of my own animals.
Hunting season officially opened this weekend, thus I have to lock up my young Livestock Guardian Dogs. They simply cannot grasp the idea of seasonal visitors who set up camp right along our fence line, and cook sausage and bacon, and all manner of delicious food. These are temporary neighbors who offer an exciting relief from the boring ho-hum daily grind of barking at buzzards, bobcats, and coyotes.
It is simply impossible to leave the dogs loose to guard the livestock without having at least one (Judge) abandon his post for a vacation with the neighbors, who thought he was cute at first, but since he:
1) crapped on their front porch
I'm sure he has more than worn out his welcome.
So the boys are in lockdown. The sheep have to be kept at the house, and the Boys have to be in pens or in the barn. That's a lot of confined energy. Since I'm
Because the buck pen was sloppy due to rain, I'd left the bucks out last night with Briar. Instead of returning them to their pen this morning, I tossed them across the fence into the lease pasture where they could trim trees along the fence line when they finished breakfast.
After chores I leashed the Anatolians and headed out for my walk. Since the horses were still finishing up their breakfast at the gate, the plan was to slip out through the lease pasture, walk down the fence, and then slip back into our place from another gate. That was the plan. That didn't happen.
I opened the gate to walk through with the Anatolians and the spotted buck bulled his way past me to get into the yard with the sheep. He then proceeded to try to rape my ewes. I slammed the gate in the brown buck's face and turned to watch the chaos in the barn yard. It was like a pervert on a merry-go-round. Suave is not in the vocabulary of a billy goat.
I slammed the kennel door shut on confused Anatolians and raced off in pursuit of a spotted buck who couldn't understand why none of my ewes were interested in a relationship with a total stranger from another species, who landed on their backs like a child having a pillow fight while bouncing on a newly made bed. After several futile attempts to catch the bastard, I seriously considered shooting him. Seriously.
There was a gun in my back pocket, because, well, one never knows when a copperhead will rudely enter your morning. Shooting the buck was a dancing temptation in front of me. I own both his parents, so he can easily be replaced. A buck in full rut can be a nasty, obnoxious creature who pees on his face and tries to screw anything that will stand still. If I'd already bred him this season, I think I would have shot him right there in the yard as he knocked down my churro ewes. I was that mad.
It was time for a Border Collie. There is nothing like having a Border Collie grab a back leg to make even the most horny of bucks change his way of thinking. Lily penned the buck. I caught my breath, put the Border Collie back in the barn, and tried to start my walk again.
With leashes on the Anatolians, I started through the gate once more. The brown buck trotted toward me with a smile. I stomped past him. One does not want to encourage the attention of a billy goat. Especially a friendly one coated in urine.
"Hey, would you like a little company?"
"NO! Go away!"
Not quite as obnoxious as his son, Jethro, the brown buck, still wasn't going to put off by my rude behavior, so he opted to amble along behind the dogs. With a happy bobble, he followed us down the fence, his long ears swaying with each joyful step. We were taking a walk! Together! He was a happy camper.
Disgusted. I was not a happy camper. One cannot enjoy the smell of the forest with a billy goat in tow, particularly when the goat wants to rub his urine-soaked body against you. We made it to the gate and the dogs and I slipped back through, leaving the buck to himself on the other side. Not to be discouraged, he called behind us,
"Hey! Hey! You guys go on ahead, I'll catch up with you as soon as I cross the hill and go around the pond. Don't worry. I'll catch up with you!"
I ignored him. His bell jangled in the distance as he sought a way to keep up with us. And true to his word, he joined us on the other side. The cattails around the pond parted to reveal his bright eyes. He reminded me of Joe Pesci in the Lethal Weapon movies.
"Hey! Hey guys! I found you! See? See? I told you. I told you I'd catch up!"
I growled and ignored him. We reached the fork and struck out north toward the creek. The buck stood at the fence and called.
"Hey! Hey! Uhm... there's a barbed wire fence in the way. I can't really go there. Well. Maybe I can. I guess I might can climb through the wire. Give me a second. Oh crap! That hurts. Well. Hang on. Wait. Don't go. I'm coming with. Wait!"
I left him.
Soon the forest was silent except for my boots squishing into the red mud and the bell ringing on the dog's collar. That's when I rounded the bend to see the cattle coming through the creek in my direction. Nothing can ruin a walk with dogs faster than a cow trying to stomp your dog.
We shrank into the forest before they saw us. So much for my walk. I turned around and headed back home. Much to the relief of the billy goat pacing the fence, we emerged from the forest beside him. With his world now back in balance, Jethro bounced down the trail on the other side of the fence. I was still trying to salvage my walk in the opposite direction of the cows, when we ran into the horses.
Montoya stood in the road ahead of us. Delighted. What a pleasant surprise! Mom. Out here. In the middle of nowhere. Perhaps Mom has more breakfast with her.
Sigh. No. No close encounters with horses either. Like cows, the horses aren't big fans of dogs. I plowed forward and slipped through the gate into the lease pasture before the horses could get too close. No worries. They would just follow us down the fence. The cattle trailed behind the horses. Jethro was beside himself with pleasure. We had finally joined him again. As he walked with the dogs beside me, he would stop and look back over his shoulder with a coy grin.
"Hey! I'm cute. I'm sexy! Really. Don't you think I'm sexy?"
I slapped the end of the leash across his ass. "Get out of my way, you stupid goat!"
"Ooooh! S & M! Okay! Not really my thing, but I'm game. I can play that if you want!"
I ignored him and stomped off. He angled in front of me, but then had second thoughts.
"Where's your little black and white dog?"
I ignored him.
"She's not here, is she? Ahhhh . . . she's NOT HERE, is she?" He leered at me.
I put an Anatolian Shepherd between us and kept walking. The buck stopped to pee on his face and then trotted to catch up with us.
"Hey! Hey! Hey! Food Lady! Wanna screw!"
"Go $#@! yourself."
"Already done that!"
He leered at me with a smile that was supposed to be charming but the charm was lost by the beads of urine on his nose. I walked faster and made mental note to never again leave the house without a Border Collie. So there we were. What should have been a peaceful walk was instead a barnyard parade. I was flanked in the protective custody of two Anatolians while a horny billy goat leered at me, four horses followed us down the fence line, and cattle trailed along bringing up the rear.
The buck was clearly disappointed when we arrived at the barnyard gate and his walk was over. As I stuffed the Anatolians back into the goat pen it was hard to ignore her stare tapping me on the shoulder. The Border Collie's eyebrow was arched across her forehead like Spock as she silently accused me.
Why do I fight it? Without a Border Collie there is chaos. Why do I ever leave the house without a Border Collie to provide order and stability in this world?
Thursday, November 03 2016
No matter how bad your Monday was, you still didn't have to grab a bull by the penis. Or maybe you did, in which case I tip my hat to you, because you're probably a rancher in North Texas.
"I think that little yellow bull calf got bit on the pecker by a copperhead."
"The end's all black and it looks like the tip is sloughing off."
It really takes more coffee to have a conversation like this. Aside from the monetary loss of another bull, I was really pretty fond of the little guy. His sire was a Charolais bull that belonged to a friend of ours. We bred that Charolais to an assortment of Braford heifers and each calf that hit the ground was really nice. Since we moved up here and no longer had access to that young bull, we opted to keep a bull calf from this year's crop.
I like to work with the 'heir and a spare' approach to breeding bulls since they're so important to a cattle operation. If something happens to your only bull, there is no calf crop, and around here, it's entirely possible to lose a bull to a freak accident. Since we moved the cattle to North Texas, we've lost three bulls already. One was lost to age and blindess. His loss was no surprise. Another jumped a barbed wire fence and hung his penis, thus moving him from breeding bull to auction barn, to Taco Bell. The other one somehow damaged his shoulder enough to become permanently lame, thus he ended up in our freezer.
So I stood in the kitchen gaping like a goldfish. And that's when I remembered. Like a drowning man grabbing a life preserver I snatched at that thought.
"Cockleburrs! I bet he has cockleburrs in his hair! That's probably the black stuff you see!"
Days earlier I'd spent thirty minutes picking cockleburrs out of the paint horse's mane and tail, so it was entirely possible that the bull calf had simply walked through the same field and collected burrs on his penis. Ouch.
Other Half penned the cattle up and a sure enough, rather than a nasty infection, our young lad just had a major owwie which could be treated with a pair of scissors. So while he sorted cattle, I hiked to the house for a pair of scissors. No, I will not be using them in the kitchen again.
Never trust a cow not to kick the crap out of you. Especially when you're holding his penis. In addition to the lovely calf crop he put on the ground this year, the thing I liked most about the Charolais bull we borrowed was his temperament. He was easy to handle. I named him Groceries. We kept him for a while, and I worked with him daily. Groceries was just a nice, sensible bull. And he produced nice, sensible calves.
When you're standing in the pasture, holding onto a bull's penis, you appreciate a good nature in a cow. I mean, really, how exactly does one explain those injuries to an ER doctor? On the other hand, an ER doctor in North Texas has probably heard that one before.
So I stand and tip my hand to Groceries for passing on a nice temperament to his calves. Son Of Groceries stood like a placid plowhorse for his 'manscaping,' and soon joined the herd where they admired his new Beach Boy Clip and fitted him for a Speedo.