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Farm Fresh Blog
Tuesday, July 26 2016
Gomer Pyle Saved My Life. Well, really it was my mom, but Gomer Pyle was definitely there. I was probably 10 or 11 years old at the time, living in deep rural North Carolina. Our property backed up adjacent to a big timber company's forest and they were logging that year, pushing dinosaurs into close encounters with children who ran with dirty feet through well worn dusty paths in those woods.
Our heads were filled with whatever adventure we'd seen on Sunday night television, be it Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, or the Wonderful World of Disney. We spent our daylight hours exploring the forest and letting our imaginations run wild with a heavy dose of Disney. These adventures came to a screeching halt, however, at 4 o'clock every weekday afternoon, when 3 kids and a pitbull dog piled into the house for our daily dose of Gomer Pyle, Gilligan's Island, and the Wild, Wild West.
Sprawling on the floor underneath the window unit air conditioner, we filled up on the familiar comfort of favorite television. That particular day was like all the rest except for one thing - my mother was taking advantage of the knowledge that for the next two hours the kids would be cemented to the living room floor. She was in the bathroom. By herself. Something you can't do often if you have three small children. This put her in just the right spot to see it when she looked out the window. A giant root was moving across the yard.
Yes, that's how she described it. A root. Okay, maybe it could have been a tree branch. Nevertheless, it had her attention. Fixated on the image, she strained to see through the screen and to her horror she realized the root was actually a rattlesnake that was longer than a shovel. And it was crawling underneath our swingset, the very place her three children and one trusty pitbull dog would have been had we not been glued to the television. (Well, I think the pitbull was really more about the air conditioning than Gomer Pyle.)
So thus began a historic event for my family, one that has been told, and retold many times. I recall it vividly because it was the first time in my young life that I experienced real fear. As country kids, we were well versed about snakes. I was familiar with rattlesnakes, and had heard of copperheads, but never seen one. (I think I've seen my quota now though!) Mostly we just had non-poisonous hog-nosed snakes, and the occasional rattlesnake, but this dinosaur heralded what could be called the Summer Of The Giant Rattlesnakes From Hell.
I learned a great deal that summer, but none stuck in my head as strongly as watching the following events unfold. The first thing my mother did was make sure all children and the dog were still inside. Check. She then picked up the phone and attempted to call every man in the neighborhood to come kill this monster. They were all still at work, but my aunt wanted to come see it when mom finally got it killed. (Younger Self Observation: My mom is made of stronger cloth than my aunt. Frankly if my sister-in-law called to say she had a giant freaking snake in the yard, I'd come across the street to help.)
Since she had three small children, none of which may survive a bite from a snake that size, my mom did what any mother would do - she armed herself for battle. She found one of my stepfather's pistols, and she stood on the porch and attempted to shoot the giant snake as he moved through the yard. One by one the shots rang out. One by one they missed their mark. (Younger Self Observation: Learn how to shoot a gun properly.) In her defense, it was a long shot and the snake was moving. Once out of bullets, she was left with a novelty paperweight in her hand, three fascinated children behind her, and one dog hiding in the living room.
So there was only one thing she could do - get out there with a shovel and kill that bastard the same way she killed all other poisonous snakes, chop off his head. This was easier said than done considering that he was longer than the shovel she was using. We stood on the porch and watched in utter fascination. Warrior Mom definitely trumped Gomer Pyle for our attention. I wasn't really afraid. After all, this was Mom, she could do anything. (except for shoot a gun, she clearly needed remedial marksmanship training in that.)
In this year of Summer Olympics, I just want to point out that my mother should have been on the US Track & Field Shot Putting Team, because the next thing she attempted to do was fling a cinder block onto his head to pin it down. Now first, let us all be amazed that my mother could fling a cinder block with any kind of distance and accuracy. A moment of silent reverence, please. Okay. Guess now what happens when a full sized cinder block lands on top of a full sized rattlesnake.
It bounces like a freaking rubber ball. And it pisses off the snake. Yeah. She definitely had his attention. From the snake's point of view, this was a clear-cut case of assault. There he was, minding his own snakey business, when someone shot at him and then tossed a cinder block on his head. He was having a bad day. It was enough to make him want to crawl into the air conditioning and watch Gomer Pyle.
Since clearly the gun and the cinder block didn't work, it was back to the shovel. Mom crept up on the snake. The snake waited. She chopped at his head. He sprang back and struck. And hit the shovel.
The sound of his fangs hitting that shovel rang across the yard and deep into my heart. For the first time it occurred to me that this was for keeps. This wasn't a game for our afternoon entertainment. It was Mom or the snake. And for the first time I felt real fear. We'd had it drilled into us. Do not get bitten by a rattlesnake. You will die before we can reach a hospital. This snake was bigger than anything I'd ever seen before. I knew that a snake could strike over twice the length of his body. He was longer than the shovel Mom was trying to kill him with. I could see she was woefully under-armed.
All I saw was a woman with an empty gun and a shovel. What I couldn't see was the weapon of courage that comes from a mother defending her children from a monster. And by the time Gilligan's Island was coming on, Mom had chopped his head off and we were celebrating like castasways who see a boat.
We were very proud of her. I mean, really, what other woman in the neighborhood could claim such an accomplishment? Take a few bows, Mom! So when my stepfather returned home that evening we bounced out to the truck to share the good news. He burst the bubble a tiny bit because in the bed of his truck was a rattlesnake longer than Mom's snake. Holy shit! (I did not know that term yet, but I'm sure it would have been the perfect response. It might have gotten me popped in the mouth but it definitely would have applied to that situation. Just sayin.')
So after much oohing and ahhing on both sides, my stepfather hoisted Mom's snake into the back of his truck so he could cart both snakes off 'into the country'. In hindsight, considering that we lived in the middle of bumf*@# Egypt anyway, carting the snakes further into the country' seemed overkill. I suppose he just wanted to toss the still very deadly bodies into a place where kids and dogs wouldn't end up playing. Therefor, he drove them down a dirt road to a place called, ironically, Eygpt. During this trip he reportedly ran across yet another giant rattlesnake and a copperhead. Not having a gun with him, he resorted to running the snake over with the pickup and beating him to death with jumper cables.
Yes folks, these are the people who raised me. So while fourteen copperheads in one summer is disconcerting and annoying as hell, it doesn't really measure on the yardstick of Bad-Ass Snake Adventures in my family.
Sunday, July 24 2016
Nothing around here gets in a hurry to do anything but eat. Stop and smell the roses takes on a whole new meaning in the country. And if you're a raccoon, it could mean "stop and smell the garbage." Our garbage can is about a mile away, near the main gate. One night we were coming in after dark and I started to step out and open the gate but saw a rather hefty raccoon poking around by the trashcan. I decided that perhaps now wouldn't be a good time to exit the vehicle, so we watched. And waited. And he didn't leave. He was well aware of the truck, not thirty feet from his little black nose, but there he shuffled around in the headlights, unconcerned.
I was in a hurry. I had to pee. He was not in a hurry. He was on Raccoon Time. So I waited some more. And he poked around some more. Eventually my bladder won. Wars could be fought by angry women who have to pee. I got fighting mad. No raccoon was gonna stand between me and my bathroom. I stepped out of the truck and hollered,
"Hey! I see you!!!"
He stood up. "Who? Me?"
"YES, YOU! Leave! Scram!"
If a raccoon can look affronted, he did, but he ambled his fat ass off into the forest anyway, muttering something about calling his Homeowner's Association on me.
Each trip to town goes something like this:
Slow down for rabbit in the road. Yell at rabbit to move.
"No, you aren't! Get out of the bloody road!"
"No, seriously! Move, you dopey rabbit."
(Climb out of truck. Stand on running board and wave arms.)
"I SEE you! Get out of the road!!!"
"Wait? You see me? Seriously?"
"Oh crap! This way! No, that way! No, that path is better! Wait! I ran that way this morning. This way!"
(Rabbit is almost off the road, but - )
"No, that direction is better!"
(Rabbit runs all the way across road in opposite direction and stops. Still in the road.)
"Can you see me now?"
Honk horn again.
"Move, you stupid rabbit!"
"OKAY! Geeeeesh... Okay, see you tomorrow, okay? Yeah, but you won't see me because I'll be invisible."
Saturday, July 23 2016
Before we begin, you should listen to the Steve Earle song, "Copperhead Road" and get that earworm tune in the back of your head as we proceed with today's post.
You don't need to listen to a whole song about bootleggers, I just figured I'd put the tune in your head as your read because that's what's playing in my head every evening as my eyes follow the beam of the flashlight while I hunt for the little red bastards. Copperheads, not bootleggers. It's a nightly ritual now. We have killed at least 14 copperheads since I started counting at the start of summer.
I know. How horrible of me to kill God's innocent creatures. They're just part of the food chain, doing good on this earth by eating rodents. Without snakes the rodents and bugs would take over. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you have 14 copperheads crawling around your back door and your snake huggin' tendencies will wobble a little too. Hey! I'm a 'live and let live' person, but do not lurk by my doorstep! I have 9 freakin' dogs, 5 cats, and about 30 or so sheep and goats IN THE BARN with me, there is no damned room for snakes in here!
Let me give you just a short excerpt from my summer. Let's slice out this week.
I try to get all the chores done before dark, leaving me time around 9 pm to potty break the house dogs and get them inside before the copperheads roll out of the forest like zombies lumbering across the yard. On this night, I had the dogs inside and was doing a final roll call for the 3 kittens who still come inside at night. The two adult cats are on their own. One kitten comes inside, but another lingers outside the kitchen door near the picnic tables with one of the adult cats. The adult cat insists on my attention. Noting her empty food bowl on the ground, I stride in that direction. Gray kitten starts to come to the door but turns back and looks toward the picnic table. This should have been a clue.
I chose to ignore said clue and continue toward the empty food bowl. Right into a copperhead.
Apparently he saw me before I saw him and he was beating a hasty retreat so by the time I got the gun out that rascal was at least 20 feet away. Nevertheless, I made sure my cats were clear and started shooting.
Now the funny thing about shooting snakes is that they are easy to hit when they're sitting still, but even a .410 shotgun shell has a hard time hitting a fleeing snake doing a serpentine at that distance. My first shot missed. I was running to gain ground for a better shot when I saw the second copperhead. Yes, the second copperhead.
Funny thing though, I didn't see the cats any more.
So I shot at the second snake who was racing in the opposite direction of the first snake at warp speed. I'm still not sure where the cats beamed to but they were G-O-N-E, gone. I was then left to shoot at two fleeing suspects going two different directions in hopes of at least slowing them down enough that I could get closer. Until - click.
Nothing. I'd shot all my .410 shells. The gun was empty. It may as well have been a paperweight. So there I was standing in the dark with an empty gun, a waning flashlight, two scared copperheads, two missing cats, and an empty catfood bowl. Fortunately Other Half was in the barn and the sound of gunfire alerted him that perhaps there might be a problem on the north side of the house. I screamed at him to bring me another gun. Now that, Friends and Neighbors, is something he can do. Screw gun control folks, when you have 14 effin' copperheads you want guns handy where you can grab them at a moment's notice. So he trotted out with my trusty Henry lever action .22 rifle. If you can only have one gun, this is it.
Other Half and I are a pretty good snake hunting team and we soon dispatched Copperheads #10 & #11. As I've said before. Other couples have bonding experiences over Date Night. Around our house we have Snake Night.
Yes, the one on the left is a very large copperhead.
That was Wednesday night. Thursday night we were returning home late. Most of the chores had already been done before we left, so the only thing I had to do was close the door on the chicken coop and potty break the dogs before bed. We rolled into the yard. Other Half cut the truck engine off and I opened the door and stepped onto the running board to scan the yard with a flashlight.
He ridiculed me for my caution. Being the person holding the gun AND the flashlight, I had all the cards, so I just ignored him. The beam of my light found a copperhead not 12 feet away. After a few cuss words, I shouted at him,
"I WANNA HEAR THE WORDS! NOW! I wanna hear the words!"
"Okay, you were right."
Music to the ears of any woman.
So I shot Copperhead #12 and continued my slow progress to the chicken coop. At the gate of the chicken yard I found another copperhead. Other Half shot Copperhead #13.
We did then did another sweep to clear the yard before we gave the dogs a potty break.
Little known fact: 3 Livestock Guardian Dogs and 1 Border Collie can squeeze themselves together into a small room and not make a sound. Just sayin'.
Fast forward to last night:
Other Half was gone and so I was left to batten down the hatches for nightfall by myself. This practically guarantees a close encounter with a reptile. I got all my chores done and was making my last trip into the barn before I went inside for the night when I glanced at the water spigot, expecting to see my giant toad, Jabba the Hutt, but saw a copperhead instead.
I threw out an F bomb. He ran behind a trash can. I ran for a shovel. He ran along the base of the barn. Like a bull in a china shop, I knocked tools over while madly grabbing with my snake catcher pole. He made it underneath a planter where we both stopped to catch our breath. The only thing more creepy than the copperhead you can see is the copperhead you cannot see, so I climbed on top of the log splitter to both give me the advantage of height, and because I'm a weenie and don't like an unseen copperhead around my ankles. I then began to dismantle the planter in my quest for blood. At this point I began to question my sanity. Who does this shit alone in the dark? I was trying to juggle a flashlight, a gun, a shovel, and a snake catcher pole. I definitely needed the other half of my snake catching team.
Those headlights coming down the driveway were a welcome sight. I think Other Half was just happy that I had not shot up the side of the barn in my solo hunt for the copperhead. Yes, it would have been easier but there are holes in the other side of the barn already where Other Half shot it up. Sometimes we get lost in the moment.
So Copperhead #14 joined the ranks of his brothers, flung on the other side of the fence for the raccoons.
We have killed more copperheads this summer already than we killed all of last year. This has been a bad year for copperheads. I blame the unusually wet spring, and two mean-ass Border Collies.
Yes... Border Collies. In particular, these murderous bastards.
I've been told that armadillos eat copperheads. While I'm sure that's not the bulk of their diet, ANYTHING that eats snakes is welcome around here, so I was happy when armadillos moved underneath the cabin. We had a few close encounters where we had to rescue armadillos from Border Collies
but overall it was working. We saw the occasional copperhead but mostly we saw where the armadillos had tilled up the yard at night. It was a trade I could live with.
All was well until the Border Collies and Briar killed the armadillos. Yes, two in one night. I was livid. And guess what?
The close encounters with copperheads began a steady climb.
April 27: copperhead by barn door
Do I have absolute proof the death of two armadillos is directly related to our spike in copperhead sightings? No, I don't.Will I allow anyone to ever shoot an armadillo out here? No, I won't. From now on those little buggers get safe passage wherever they want to go. Godspeed, Little Armored Buddy.
And the copperheads?
Well I'm hoping that we thin out the bold ones, leaving only the shy ones that don't come up to the barn alive to reproduce. Hopefully over the years we'll end up with a population of copperheads that stay in the forest. I don't want to eradicate all of them. That would leave the niche open for rattlesnakes and trust me, I'd rather have the copperheads. They aren't as quick to bite. If they were, the dogs and livestock would already have been bitten. Because of that I'm not actively hunting copperheads down in the forest, but if I happen see one, especially around my house, I'm like a chicken chasing a bug, except that this chick carries a gun - and a shovel.
Thursday, July 21 2016
Dear Reader Christine asked about Lily. She wanted to know how my #1 Ranch Dog was doing now that Mesa was assuming more responsibility for chores around here.
Rest assured. Lily's status as the Supreme Ultimate Perfect Dog is secure. (pause while the rest of my pack of dogs gags)
I have long held to the notion that the dogs are different tools in my toolbox and while now I find myself reaching more and more for Mesa because she needs the practice (and she's better at a lot of stuff) Lily is still my go-to girl for many jobs.
While Mesa is good for large sweeping gathers or short stuff where bluster and bravado can bluff her way into success, Lily is required when fine-tuned driving is needed, or a job absolutely must be accomplished right now with no care to being soft on stock because they're rioting in the alfalfa barn like a protest crowd storming an electronics store.
Most of the time I don't want holes in my livestock and Lily is prone to do that if they don't behave immediately. Handling stock involves the carrot and the stick. Lily is the stick. In those same situations Mesa rushes in and makes them think they'll get bitten, but she doesn't do any damage. On the other hand, Lily slides in like a Navy Seal and gets stuff done, but there may be a few holes in the most stubborn offenders. It might not always be pretty but the job is done swiftly, and the stock listen better to Mesa the next time. The sheep can be pretty well-mannered, but the goats can behave like gypsies in the palace, completely disrespecting a dog that doesn't back up what she says.
A classic example of when you need Lily's Clint Eastwood approach happened a couple of days ago. Some of the does are in season and the bucks are particularly obnoxious. They are large, stinky, uppity creatures who tend to be bolder and pushier than normal due to testosterone poisoning. Around here, the girls come into their pens in the late afternoon and the boys are turned loose so they can browse and graze until sundown. This happens every evening and most nights the bucks are simply in the background while we're doing evening chores. They wander in whenever they wander in and we close the gate behind them at bedtime.
They swooped in and I was surrounded by a Goat Lives Matter protest rally. They refused to let me pass. Irritated, I made the mistake of kicking one. He immediately responded with flared ears and renewed interest.
"Oh, you want a piece of me, Grain Bucket Carrier? Bring it on! Let's rumble!!!"
Ut oh. Big mistake. Do not give a hormone-addled buck the invitation to spare. I now had two bucks insisting on stealing my grain bucket and one was pretty aggressive about it. (Young and stupid. The older buck wasn't nearly as bold.) Now it took longer to type this on the keyboard than the encounter actually took place because just about the time I recognized there was a problem, a tiny black and white blurry missile launched herself in between me and the most aggressive buck. It was Mesa. She was everywhere and nowhere at once. Lily then soared in grabbed the older buck by the back leg and dragged him across the barnyard away from me, while the Livestock Guardian Dog watched in shocked amazement.
And that was it. Stopped before it even got started. And this is why if you have bucks, bulls, or rams, you need a good stockdog that can recognize the situation escalating and put a stop to it before it gets out of hand. Lily has the confidence for that. In fact, she lives for it. Mesa recognizes the situation but needs the confidence that comes with experience. It'll come. It's in her genes.
But to answer your question, Christine, Lily is doing just fine, still Top Ranch Hand, and Queen Of All She Surveys.
Tuesday, July 12 2016
After a year of retirement, I find that I still bleed Blue. I stared at their dead bodies on the television screen in horror before Fox News wisely switched off the camera in Dallas and went back to New York. But it was too late. A nation was shocked into the realization of what those of us in Law Enforcement already knew - police work is dangerous stuff.
I stared in numb silence at the television and there, in the safety of my living room, I cried. I cried for their families, and I cried for the officers who still held the line as they protected the very citizens who had been protesting against them earlier. And as the days passed and more stories came out, I still cried. I cried when I heard about the off-duty officers answering the call to arms, these officers who left their families, some dressed only in shorts and flip-flops, carrying rifles, raced to help their on-duty brothers and sisters. That, Dear Reader, is The Brotherhood. It is a bond that ties us all as brothers and sisters in blue. It is the very bond that so many distrust.
Perhaps unless you have been in military combat, it is hard to understand the bond between officers. As individuals, officers are not white. They are not black. They are not Hispanic. They are not Asian. Officers are Blue. If you don't believe it, watch them together in a crisis. The men and women I worked with over my career are closer than siblings, for you cannot experience some of the things we walked through together without developing an unshakeable bond.
"I've got your back."
For most civilians this statement means I'll help you move furniture. For cops, this means I'll put my life on the line to protect yours.
On some levels I can understand the mistrust of police. The Brotherhood of cops is a tightknit community and from the outside looking in, the wall we create around ourselves feels exclusive. People talk about The Brotherhood between officers as a bad thing, convinced that other officers will cover for a bad cop. Frankly, I've been involved in those investigations and an officer investigating a dirty cop is like a dog with a bone. We want to ferret them out. They make the rest of us look bad. But we want the chance to take care of our business ourselves first. We want the public to let us investigate things before the case is tried in a court of media and public opinion mere hours after it comes to light.
Yes, sometimes they are. Occasionally you might run across a cop who is just an ass, but for the most part, officers are rude because they don't want to die, and they don't want you to die, and the behavior you are displaying scares him. He wants to see your hands. You know you're reaching for your insurance card. He knows there might be a gun in that glove box.
As an officer I have been on hundreds of traffic stops. I cannot count the number of guns I have pulled out of door panels, center consoles, and glove boxes. While many people get all bent out of shape because an officer has his hand resting on the butt of his gun during a traffic stop, I can assure you that for a large chunk of my career, my gun was out of my holster and pointed at someone EVERY NIGHT. That comes as a shock to most people, but in the kind of work I did, it was safer for everyone.
On some nights, that gun was the reason I came home at the end of my shift.. And my rude behavior was often the reason suspects went to jail instead of the morgue. If the gun was already out, he was less likely to do something stupid which would result in a bad night for everyone. I was looking for narcotics and felons and if you were a small fish caught in my wide net, once I determined that you were not a danger to me or my partners, the gun was holstered, the handcuffs came off, and I apologized for your trouble and sent you on your way. People, please understand, when the cop feels safe, you are safe. If he needs a gun out to feel safe in that situation, don't be offended. Guns don't go off by themselves. Guns go off when you scare cops.
"Well, if a cop is that scared, he shouldn't be a cop."
I won't even dignify that kind of stupidity with a comment other than to say I've heard it spouted all too often by ignorant people. If you think the job is easy, you get your ass out there and do it. They're hiring.
Perhaps the person or the vehicle meets the description of a suspect in another crime and the officer needs to be able to stop the car and check it out. That traffic violation just gave him the probable cause he needed to stop the vehicle. When things go bad the media reports this as "the cop just stopped him because he had a broken tail light" or "they just stopped him because he didn't use his turn signal and now he's dead! No one should be killed over a traffic violation!"
The cop ends up looking like a nitpicky, trigger-happy racist but the reality was the shooting was never about the traffic violation. Most of the time it was about not complying with simple directions.
But mainstream media doesn't want to hear that.
Statistics can be twisted and massaged to support whatever view you want to prove. My experience as an officer in a major metropolitan area gives me more credible information on the subject than someone who has had experience on a few bad traffic stops with rude officers, or someone who can quotes stats from FOX and CNN to me. In most cases I have to say, "Cite your source because your numbers don't jive with actual FBI statistics."
And I've been on the street. I have been in the hospital. I have stood over the dead cops. I know how fast 'routine' can go bad.
The extreme left can show me lists of dead citizens shot by police officers and I can show them lists of dead cops, but where does it end? In my lifetime I have never seen race relations so bad. I have never seen such disrespect and all-out hate for law enforcement. I have never seen our nation so close to anarchy.
Tuesday, July 05 2016
During most of my police career I was blessed with co-workers who treated me as an equal, as a sister, or as a daughter, and still today I maintain many of those friendships. Since these dear friends know me so well, they won't be surprised or offended to learn that I like my new co-workers better!
Work for a dog on a ranch can certainly be similar to police work. The job is about taking care of others. There are long hours in all kinds of weather. Sometimes you work in the heat. Sometimes you work in the rain. Either way, most of the time it's dirty work.
Somebody has to be in charge and the people enforcing the laws are often not well liked by those who are told what to do, but if society, or a ranch, is to run smoothly, you need sheepdogs.
Part of the job is rule enforcement.
Part of the job is community service.
Fortunately for those being served, it's not a popularity contest, because given a vote, sheep and goats would likely vote against having sheepdogs altogether. Like police officers and soldiers, sheepdogs are often tasked with serving a population that would rather pretend coyotes didn't exist.
But they do.
And fortunately for Rosie, so do sheepdogs.
Rosie chose to sneak away and have her babies in a tangled mass of briars, mesquite saplings, and black locust trees. Everything in here has thorns. It is hard for a human to navigate in this mess, but easy enough for a coyote.
Judge led me through the thicket to the new babies.
He was rewarded for his efforts when Rosie t-boned him.
Although Rosie didn't appreciate Judge's presence, he still brought help, and the babies were moved to the safety of the barn.
With everyone tucked away, the sheepdogs can go back to work, watching for things the sheep prefer not to see.
Saturday, July 02 2016
Check this out.
Yes, it is as soft and scrumptious as it looks, as soft as the softest cashmere. Yes, I made it, or well, I'm in the process of making it. Guess what it is.
Yep. It's Briar. (Okay, the brown stripes are alpaca.) Who knew she would make such soft fiber? Since I discovered spinning wool into yarn, nothing is safe. I look at soft puffy clouds in the sky and think of spinning, so it wasn't much of a stretch to spin up the pile of dog hair I stripped out of Briar. Without all that undercoat, she is much more comfortable and I have discovered yet one more use for this nifty dog. Why scour the internet in search of cashmere goats when I have a Livestock Guardian Dog that gives me the softest of cashmere without any additional cost?
And no, it doesn't smell like a dog. It is such an amazingly pettable scarf that you just want to scrunch it up against your cheek. It's not just plain dog hair, it's "cheingora.
And it's cheap and easy to obtain, unless of course your Livestock Guardian Dog meets a skunk. I'm hoping that doesn't happen again until I get enough undercoat to finish my scarf.
Now on to other business. . .
The Boyz are growing up! This week new milestones were reached. We have been giving them increasingly more and more responsibility. It's been a while since they've gone on their Frat Boy Walkabout Tours. Those aren't nearly as much fun anyway when it's blistering hot outside. They could still do it though, and now that I've bragged on them, for sure someone will slip under a fence to chase hogs under a setting sun.
Instead of allowing them both loose at the same time, I just have one out with Briar, and the other is either locked in the barn aisle or inside the house with me, lounging on air conditioned concrete floors. Who wants to slip under the fence and run off in this heat when you can hang around with the sheep, waiting for shift change when you get an hour or two in the AC? Yes, Friends and Neighbors, I know it flies in the face of all the Leave-Them-Alone-With-The-Flock-Don't-Make-Pets-Out-Of-Them advice. So sue me. It works. I don't have to prove anything to anyone anymore. I'm too old for that shit. I just have to have my dogs stay home with the flock, and I don't care how it gets done. We did this with Briar and she turned out just fine. Now the Boyz are following in her footsteps.
And guess what? They stay at home now. Yes, they are pets, but then so are my sheep and goats. Pets with jobs. Remember. Helloooo... We live in the freaking barn! As long as the dogs stay in the barnyard or the pastures surrounding the barn, they can do their jobs. They don't have to stay alone in the back forty with a flock of sheep. That's too much to expect any dog, especially puppies. The sheep stay within earshot so it's reasonable to expect the dogs to stay within earshot. What I don't want is them slipping under the fence and disappearing for an hour or two while they play in the forest. It's happened in the past and will probably happen again before they are adults.
Jury is better about staying with the flock during his shift.
Judge, like Briar, often sleeps under a horse trailer where he can keep an eye on things.
Jury is much more personal with the flock. He checks butts every morning, walking through the flock, licking rear ends and taking inventory. Judge? Not so much. He spends more time scanning for threats. Judge doesn't kiss babies and pat their butts. Judge is a warrior waiting for enemy invasion. Jury is your quintessential maternal-type Livestock Guardian Dog. He prefers to be part of the flock while his brother prefers to be a guard dog who is simply safe around the flock. Together they complement each other and will make a great team.
It has taken 13 months to get them to this point. That's 13 months of work on the part of a conscientious breeder who properly socialized them with goats and people, and then on our part as we worked through all the jail breaks and chasing bouncing lambs. It doesn't happen overnight. And you're never really completely done. Livestock Guardian Dogs don't train themselves.
Even now I know there will be setbacks. Just because I bragged about them today, I'll go out tomorrow and find a dog has left the sheep to chase hogs. That's Murphy's Law. But each day they get better and better. Yesterday I left Judge loose with Briar while we left the house for the day. Truth be told, I was worried all day that he'd go walkabout. When we returned home, he ambled out from underneath the cattle trailer and trotted down the long driveway to greet us. It was the prettiest thing I'd seen all day.
That was a milestone. It was one step closer toward our goal of leaving them out with the flock all the time, secure in the knowledge that everyone will be safe and present when we return home. It's a long road, but well worth the journey.