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Monday, August 10 2015

Some days I feel like we are the Jews making the journey to the Promised Land because it seems we have wandered across Texas for 40 years instead of just the month of July. Moving sucks. Moving a farm is something akin to insane. Add a new kitten and two puppies at the same time and you are certifiable in any state.

No one feels the stress of the move more than the livestock. This makes conditions ripe for disaster. Like the rest of the state, we have battled the parasites. Each day is another battle. We have treated and wormed until the stock are sick of seeing us. Most of the flock is fine, but things are still touch and go with Sparrow. I almost lost her, pulled her back to the Land of the Living where I almost quit worrying, and now she is teetering on the edge again. The vet, the feed store, and the veterinary supply store all share the same tale - it's a bad year. Everyone is losing sheep and goats.

As ranchers we are in a Catch-22. We can worm regularly and run the risk of breeding drug resistant worms, or we can worm only when there is a problem. I have always chosen Door #2, but this year I'm still battling drug resistant worms, and thus I find myself shotgunning the problem - trying everything in hopes that something works. Some animals are amazingly resistant. The worms hit the elderly and the nursing mothers. The young sheep and goats are fine.

Saturday night I finally moved the sheep and goats home. It isn't ready yet, but since I tied up loose ends with the police department last week, we are officially retired now, and thus I have the time to monitor the stock hourly. We have a few small pens, but no stalls inside the barn yet, so we find ourselves juggling dogs and livestock. The property beside the house is fenced and manages to keep cows away from the barn, but needs to have a layer of field fencing attached before I trust goats and sheep loose unattended. Briar has her hands full up here.

Dear Friend Clyde watched her at work one night and remarked on how she impressed him. While he and Other Half worked inside the barn all night long, Briar lay in the driveway beside the goat pen. He said she would jump up and run off barking, then return to plop down in the same spot. Then she would run off barking in a different direction, and return to the same spot. This went on all night. Small wonder why the dog sleeps all day in front of the fan in the barn.

There is a reason why Livestock Guardian Dog breeds are nocturnal. Think about this when you want one as a pet - THEY ARE NOCTURNAL. THEY BARK ALL NIGHT AT THINGS THAT LURK IN THE DARK. While this may be annoying in a subdivision, it is quite comforting when your closest neighbors are the coyotes and bobcats coming up for an All-You-Can-Eat-Sheep-Buffet.

Last Sunday night we added some help for Briar - Judge & Jury.

They are baby Anatolian Shepherds and will some day tower over Briar but for now, they are just two more things under her protection. She pretty much treats them like she treated Mesa as puppy, they are a nuisance.

She either growls at them, or ignores them. I did note however, that Cowboy, in typical Snidley Whiplash fashion, took it upon himself to go over to their pen and posture aggressively. Briar eased herself up and slowly walked up, loomed over him, and said, "Stop that or I will kick your ass."

Snidley Whiplash skulked off and left the puppies alone after that.

Perhaps the biggest issue around here is that we lack a routine. A farm runs smoothly only because the animals have a schedule and expectations. At the moment we are flying by the seat of our pants. Some days flow and others are a train wreck. For instance, Mesa and Lily have managed to easily move The Boyz from their night pen to their day pen and back each day. I moved the Girlz home Saturday night and stupidly assumed the same routine could be adopted Sunday morning. Train wreck! Mesa had sheep bouncing off the walls and a lamb ended up with minor injuries. I was at an emotional breakdown. I wanted to cry but I didn't have time. Animals needed water. Water is precious here and I find myself hauling it by the bucket because it is too precious to allow goats to poop in it. (Has anyone developed a watering device for livestock that can be filled with a water hose but works to fill only a small part of drinking area at a time so when the beasts poop in it you don't waste the entire batch of water!!?)

The thermometer is climbing dangerously high. Even with care, animals in this part of the state are dying from the heat. The dogs and livestock seem fine, but the barn cats were in danger. To help them understand where they live, I still had them in dog crates in the barn. Unfortunately even with a fan on them and ice water, they were panting. I couldn't exactly bring them in the house until cooler weather. They were semi-feral and I have five to seven dogs in the house at any given time. It is Cat Hell. (Except for the Foundling Kitten who lives inside until he's big enough to handle The Great Outdoors.)

Since the Barn Cats would not have enjoyed the same deal, I decided to take the gamble that they'd stay home and turned them loose early. After I got word that two horses died yesterday in the heat, it confirmed my decision. The rest is up to the cats. They know where the groceries are served. I hope they choose to stay.

It is painful to open that crate and turn them loose, not knowing if I'd ever see them again, but at some point, I just have to have faith.

And that's really what it comes down to. When you stress animals and people enough, the bare bones of the situation are seen - who can adapt, and how quickly. We are as stressed as the animals. We do everything we can, but there reaches a point where the animals must also step up.

* Briar must not leave the farm and follow my pickup down the road. She hasn't done this since I threatened to shoot her with Dillon's K9 Kannon at the front gate.

* We must grit our teeth, say a prayer, turn the dogs loose, and hope a copperhead doesn't bite them. And if it does, we have the drugs on hand. Thus far, the dogs haven't left the property, and no one has been bitten. (Knock on wood!)

* We continue to fight the stomach worms in the goats and sheep daily but in the end, it is all still a learning process. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.

* The dogs (and the husband) are slowly adjusting to having a fearless kitten in the house. He will be outside soon enough, not soon enough for the kitten, but too soon for me.

* And we will have to adjust to living without the luxury of two nice paychecks. We are retired now. (I remind myself regularly of "the lilies in the field." I have faith. We'll be fine, but Other Half did tell me it was time to start writing that book!

And so there it is. It has been a long, hard journey, but we are finally here.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 05:55 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Oh my,you sound so very tired and I wish I could come to help. Those coyotes love to play with the guard dogs, teasing them and keeping everyone awake all night but with help from the pups on the way things will be fine. LOok back to how far you have come since you first found your red feather ranch-you are doing great!
Posted by Sue in Wyoming on 08/12/2015 - 06:22 PM

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