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Farm Fresh Blog
Thursday, 30 September 2010
Last night Other Half came home at 5 AM. He was tired, grumpy, and had a headache. Lily does not recognize those states of being. At 5 AM, she is happy and wants to play. She wants to lay in bed and do the backstroke across the covers to get into the crevice between Mommy & Daddy so that she can backstroke across his chest, and he can rub her tummy. She also wants to scratch imaginary ticks and fleas. (I check that dog religously and she does NOT have bugs!) But . . . she will wait until we are trying to sleep and she will scratch dry skin, and then bounce on his chest to announce "HELLLLOOOOOOO!!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!"
He will scratch her tummy and go back to sleep. Sometimes I kick her off the bed or put her outside. Last night I was too tired to do either. Her Thing 2 Counterpart (Cowboy) is now awake and pacing beside the bed. As he moves his dog tags rattle out an irritating melody.
At 9:30 AM Other Half decides to get up and go the restroom. He is naturally escorted the entire 8' from the bed to the toilet. After all, he might get lost in the artic blast of the air conditioner and need a Border Collie to lie beside his prone body to keep him warm until rescue arrives.
In the restroom there is a calendar. This is the picture for October:
I had just turned it over last night. (I hope little Trace grows up to look like this dog!) Anyway, with his canine escort, Other Half returns to bed. The melody of Cowboy's dog tags continues to tinkle and Lily bounces on his chest. He lays there in silence for a moment . . . and then he says,
"You know what we need to do?"
My mind races through images of kennels lined up on the back porch with dejected dogs waiting impatiently for their day to begin. But then he says something that surprises me . . . . . .
This man who had not had a moment's peace and uninterrupted sleep in 4 hours, announced . . .
"What we need to do is get some pumpkins and carve faces into them and then take pictures of the dogs beside them."
I love this man.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Now in his defense, he will not eat those exotic fried foods. He does, however, want his vegetables and most of his meat fried. He wants "Man-food!" Manfood is meat and potatos . . . and cornbread. If something green lands on his plate, it had better be fried, or an opened can of green beans. He will eat a salad if it has lots of ranch dresssing on it. For him a salad is in a ready-mix bag with a jug of ranch dressing. He "might" spruce it up with some radishes, some tomatos, . . . and homemade bacon-bits.
This is what I looked like 5 years ago:
I hid this picture because I thought I looked fat. Someone told me once that women should keep old photos because undoubtedly you will look back and say to yourself, "What the heck was I thinking? I'd be happy to look that way now!" That was an entire jean size ago! Those were wise words.
Now I look a bit more like this:
Okay, my hair is still long, but I've added a few (lot) more pounds! And okay, I can probably squeeze into those old pants again if I try really hard, and don't breathe, but the point is . . . all this fried food isn't doing ME any favors!
So I am determined to get us eating better! Sunday I went to the grocery store and spent $218 on good, real food. While I was there, he phoned to place his order since I was also nixing our eating out EVERY NIGHT when on-duty. Not only is it expensive, it's unhealthy!
This is what he ordered for himself:
(Yes! It cooks in 90 seconds! And has enough sodium to preserve a hog!)
When I came home, he inspected our new meals . . .
"You know I don't eat chicken unless it's fried!"
(He will eat those . . . with lots of salt.)
and the list goes on . . . .
After spending $218 on food that afternoon. Do you want to know what we did for dinner?
Whereupon . . . he ordered a giant chicken-fried steak sandwich, and . . . greedy little pig that I am, I gave up and ordered a chili-cheese burger. WTF!!??
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
This humble flower heralds the fall season in south Texas.
Bunches of morning glories creep along the roadsides, across the fences, up the power lines, and down the canals.
They bring promise of relief from the brutal heat . . .
. . . and the threat of hurricanes in the Gulf.
Grow Little Friend! Grow!
Update: Word from Texas A&M Veterinary School is that the necropsy tests on the bull and the feed were inconclusive. This is sad news as now we may never know for sure what killed these cattle.
Monday, 27 September 2010
Cue music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sssqBjaTzOU
"Ebony . . .
and Ivory . . .
Fit together in perfect harmony. . .
Side by side . . .
. . . on the piano . . .
. . . keyboard . . .
. . . Oh Lord . . .
. . . Why don't we? . . ."
"Get AWAY from me, you Common Yard Dog!!!"
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Ginny wrote yesterday to tell me that she has a "doggie-crush" on Briar. I was delighted. Other Half almost puked. He is not one of Briar's biggest fans. She is big. She is often wet. . . and she jumps on him. It's not a recipe for endearment. While I see a sincere giant puppy, he sees a gigantic muddy dog who was supposed to spend her life locked in the pasture with no human contact. (Yeah right! Like THAT'S gonna happen around here!)
I have the ability to make a pet out of anything with fur, but I don't believe that has diminished her effectiveness as a Livestock Guardian Dog. Because the sheep are kept close to the barn, Briar only has about 9 acres that she's accountable for, and even then, it's only at night. During the day, while the grass is plentiful, the sheep are with the horses, thus, Briar is off-duty. Since she is more valuable to me than any one sheep, I cannot take the chance that Montoya the Missile will stomp Briar into the ground.
Thus, Briar not only guards the sheep, but the goats, the chickens, the house, and the entire barnyard. As a bonus, she is gentle with family and friends. (except that she is a giant, wet, friendly dog . . . imagine Clifford the Big Red Dog in a different color.)
Briar is adapting into a routine of guarding my mother's chickens at night.
In the evening Mom locks up her hens and opens the back gate. Briar hustles over to Mom's for an egg. She is officially On-Duty. She lays on Mom's deck where she has discovered that she can survey her entire kingdom. Yesterday I noted that she even brought her own entertainment.
Cee Cee asked for an update on Roanie . . .
I took this shot this morning. Roanie is fat and happy. She is amazingly friendly for a sheep who was given injections daily and endured terribly painful medical treatments for her dog attack. Although she is not what I wanted to breed, we made the decision to keep her for breeding because she is the kind of survivor that you want to reproduce. Her right rear leg is ever-so slightly shorter, giving her a tiny limp, but not really enough to notice unless you're looking for it.
She and Briar remain good friends. Roanie understands that Briar is here to protect her from others who are a bit more predatory in nature.
"HEY! I was never convicted of that charge! There were no witnesses, and no DNA samples were collected! In fact, if you need a good lawyer, I can highly recommend one!"
Saturday, 25 September 2010
This is the reason I sleep at night. (or don't, depending upon how much she barks!)
Together they are a formidable team.
Much has been written about Briar and her value on the farm, but I rarely sing the praises of poor little Ranger, my Blue Heeler. Friends and family members will argue that Blue Heeler has very little to praise, but I'm here to stand up for him and argue his case. You see, they don't like Blue Heeler because, unlike most dogs, . . . Blue Heeler cannot be bought.
He cannot be bribed, cajoled, reasoned with, or paid to look the other way. His world is black and white - you either live here, or you don't, end of discussion. Please keep in mind that my mother has lived next door for the ENTIRE three years of his existence, and Son lived in the house with him for two years of his existence, but alas, rules are rules, and as far as Blue Heeler is concerned, if you are not Mommy or Daddy, then you are evil and will undoubtedly steal all the silverware (or at least the paper plates) during your visit. He is, in short, a deranged psychopath.
But quite frankly, there is a time and a place for a psychopath. If we lived along the border, I'd have a pack of thirty little blue psycho dogs since friends there report that they cannot even ride horses along the fence line without being in pairs and carrying firearms. They are literally at a war with the drug cartels that cross their ranch land to run narcotics into the U.S.
As it is, crime here tends to slosh over from the shadow of the city. Each year I see more and more evidence that the world I live in at work is following me home. And as the crime slowly creeps our direction, I have a greater appreciation for my little blue psycho and am now his biggest fan. Actually, I'm his only fan. Other Half gave up on him some time ago.
But each time he makes some disparaging remark about Blue Heeler, I hasten to point out that HE, (not ME!) brought this little pyschotic creature home. While I tend to research and agonize over the best puppy to fit our household, Other Half lets caution fly and hopes for the best. In the case of Blue Heeler, he needed a cow dog. He went to an old childhood friend that raised cow dogs who had a litter of pups. While they cussed and discussed current events, he leaned across the back fence, pointed at Ranger, and said, and I quote, "I'll take THAT one." (He . . . never. . . touched . . . the . . . dog!)
I was aghast. But . . . it was HIS dog, and I would never stand between a man and his dog. So we brought the terrified little fruitcake home and over time, the Stockholm syndrome took over, and he quit trying to run away and accepted us as his family. We started him on billy goats and he was soon a decent little helper on the farm. He moved to penned cattle where he was also a nice little helper . . . as long . . . as you didn't get excited and yell at him. (Read: Birth of a Cow Dog )
You see . . . Blue Heeler is a sensitive soul. As I have explained to Other Half many times, "Ranger knows what's in your heart." If you are angry, he knows it. If you scream at him for chasing cattle past the gate, he will throw up his little paws like Nathan Hale in "The Bird Cage" and wail, "Well! I can't do ANYTHING right! No one loves me! Pen 'em yer own damned self then!"
And he runs out of the pen. This never fails to ignite Other Half who is a country boy and not given to cajoling and building up the self-esteem of a working dog when he's standing in a muddy cow pen.
And so Blue Heeler comes to Momma, who hugs him and makes him feel special again. I have come to appreciate Ranger, not for his working skills, but for his steadfast devotion to family. He loves his pack. As fruity as he is, he will risk death, dismemberment, and electric fences to protect his family. When Briar was zapped by the hotwire, Blue Heeler jumped not one, but two fences, to rescue her. He was zapped twice but he came to lick her face and make sure his giant friend was okay. (read: Justice? )
Last month when Border Collie was absolutely freaking because I was trying to pull a tick from between her toes, he leaped onto the bed to lick her face, and comfort her. (We have since addressed the "don't play with my toes" issue and she's much better now.)
Several times a day he cleans the eyes and ears of Ancient Blind Bloodhound. It makes me smile as I watch his obessive devotion to his pack. More and more, I see Ranger not as a Mad Hatter, but as a crazy Greek Mother, protecting his family and giving the "evil eye" to anyone who dares threaten them.
So when Other Half is not home, and Blue Heeler crawls into bed with Lily and me, I can sleep soundly, knowing that I am protected by the best little blue psycho in Texas.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
After the death of one chicken, the Beast was sure to return for another easy meal last night, so we left the gate open to allow my dogs to patrol my mom's yard too.
When my mother got up this morning,
this is what she found beside her chicken coop . . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
My mom sent me a text message to inform me that Briar had
camped outside the hen house,
. . . next to George!
(for more about Briar & George, read: "I will name him George" )
Hopefully the raccoon saw that George the Hen has a Very Big Friend.
The sun was up so Mom returned Briar (and Ranger) home and closed the gate. Briar was a happy camper when I woke up. I received a morning briefing from her regarding her duties that night and she was then off-duty and free to enjoy her day.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
As many of you will recall, last winter The Boogey Beast (or Beasts!) got into my hen house and murdered ten (10!!!!) chickens in less than a week. Night after night I would fortify that building like Fort Knox, only to find the dismembered bodies of victims and traumatized witnesses. That effectively put us out of the chicken business at this house. We transported the remaining laying hen to the hen house with the cattle, about 7 miles away from THIS Boogey Beast.
As you will also recall, my mother lives in a little house in one of my pastures and raises a small flock of chickens that are her pets. She names and dotes on these birds. (a hazardous and heartbreaking habit in this neck of the woods!) Thus far, her birds have remained safe because she keeps them in a coop by her back porch whereas my birds were inside a locked coop, inside a 1/4 acre flight pen, right beside a canal which is a Predator Superhighway.
Last winter's Boogey Beast attacks and earlier attacks on goats prompted me to drive across Texas to purchase a Warrior . . .
Okay, I know she was little, but cut her some slack, she was 12 weeks old!
Yeah! That's right!
My little warrior is all grown up now, and she's a force to be reckoned with!
Now this is all well and good, as long as she can get to the animals she is supposed to guard. Thus far, there have been no attacks on the sheep or goats. They are penned up at night and Briar is their Bodyguard. She takes her job very seriously . . . so seriously, in fact, that there are times when I am sleep-deprived that I want to turn off her barking. (If you have a Livestock Guardian Dog close to the house then you can empathize.) Most of the time I hear the racket and visions of terrified coyotes dance in my head, so I fall back to sleep, contented, but when I get to bed at 2 AM and she barks from 3 AM to 4 AM, I am tempted to shut her up so I can sleep. (As I discovered last night, that is not a good idea.)
Common sense would tell you that you don't buy a LGD and then shut her up so she can't patrol. If she isn't patrolling, then someone is left unguarded. But I didn't have common sense last night . . .
After listening to Briar bark for a solid hour, I stalked outside, saw my mother's flashlight in her back yard, and decided that my idiot dog was barking at my mother who must be giving her dog a late-night potty break. So I told poor Briar to "Shut up!" (I believe I said, "Shut the *BLEEP* up, you stupid dog!", but who remembers?)
Anyway, I shut poor Briar up, and I went back to bed. Other Half rolled over and grunted when I informed him that my stupid dog was barking at my mother.
When I woke up and turned the dogs out for a walk, Briar made a bee-line to the fence . . .
So did everyone else . . .
Then I got the uneasy feeling that I'd done a Very Bad Thing last night as Briar tracked down the fence line.
Her path led to the old bird pen. The scene of many murders (20 turkeys and over 30 chickens in two years!), last winter I abandoned the flight pen and its chicken coop. It appears that The Boogey Beast still remembers the flight pen.
Briar even checked out an ancient coop that had been abandoned at least 15 years ago. This was also the scene of countless chicken killin's. (Briar is peeking straight down into the canal from that perch. Two years ago a bobcat piled 4 dead chickens behind the window that Briar is looking through.)
While the rest of the pack became bored and wandered off, Briar continued her hunt. She was a woman on a mission. (The dog did her Master's Thesis on "Predators of Texas.")
And all the while she worked, I remembered how I called her names and shut up that poor dog last night. I was ashamed of myself. I'm a dog trainer. The mantra of ALL dog trainers is . . . "Trust your dog!"
And then the phone rang . . .
and my mother informed me that The Boogey Beast had gotten into her chicken coop last night sometime around 4 AM. She was lucky. She only had one dead.
Briar doesn't hold a grudge. She continues to patrol with a renewed vigilance. And tonight . . . tonight, I'm a lot more humble . . . and tonight . . . tonight the gate will be opened so she can patrol in Grandma's yard too!
To read more about the Boogey Beast Wars read:
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Every morning when the livestock are put out, and these two are off-duty, . . . they play . . .
They dance . . .
They shuffle . . .
They spin . . .
And they remind me that no matter how serious life gets, it's important to take a moment and enjoy . . .
. . . the dance.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
The thing about raising livestock is that your plans for the day can change at a moment's notice. Yesterday Other Half and I were finishing up watering sheep when his phone rang . . .
and our plans for the day changed . . . because $11,000 worth of show cattle were dead.
While these weren't our cattle, they belonged to a friend down the road and he needed help. So we climbed in the truck and raced across the bayou. It was bad. It was really bad.
On the surface it appeared to be a problem with the feed. All died within minutes of eating. One died with her head still in the bucket.
Thus began the phone calls and the cold, hard reality of getting two heifers buried and a dead bull loaded onto a flatbed trailer for a trip to the state veterinary university for testing.
And all this had to be done before his daughter came home from school. They were her cattle, her hopes, her dreams. The little brahma heifer was her baby.
The well-digger across the street came and dug a gigantic hole in the pasture. Son brought our flatbed trailer over to load the bull. And as the school bus stopped in front of the house, tears welled up in my eyes, for the hardest part of the day was about to begin.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Obession has a name and it is Border Collie. Although I consider myself a relative newcomer to the breed, their quirky behaviors don't surprise me a bit. I've had Belgian Shepherds for many years and am used to high-drive, creative dogs.
Most of that time I cautioned the casual observer that they did NOT want one of those dogs unless they were able to devote a great deal of time to them. With the Border Collie, I must add this though: "You must be prepared to live with someone who has all the creativity of a 5 year old child, without the thumbs."
That's it! If my Border Collies had thumbs, they would be dangerous. (Or . . . very, very useful, I haven't decided which.)
Quirky is the word that most aptly describes them. Lily's intelligence is scarey. In my past life, before I went into police work, I taught middle school for ten years, and I can assure you, Lily has more focus than the average 12 year old child. If she had thumbs, there is no doubt she would be building Science projects in my living room while she watched the Discovery Channel.
Instead, when she is not working livestock, she is coming up with creative ways to entertain herself and help around the farm. (A Border Collie really would re-wire the light fixture when asked to change the light bulb!) Part of the problem is that her idea of help is to dominate every other breathing creature under her watch and force them to tow the imaginary line of rules that she sets forth. She is "the Fun Police." Lily is that child in the classroom who asks the teacher if she can "take names" when the instructor steps out.
While many of you already have Border Collies, to those of you who are thinking about taking the leap, look closely at this:
Look at the boards in my barn. Yes, it looks like a child playing with a chain saw whittled at them.
They should look like this:
When she was four months old, she leaped up at a horse's face, stuck her skinny little leg between the boards and fell. Her leg broke in two places. Okay, THAT took the wind out of her sails for the next 24 hours. But later, after she sported a little pink cast, she was back in business!
We unwittingly create obsessions:
I taught Lily to close the gate. I stepped back and proclaimed "This is good." But it was not good enough for a Border Collie as unfortunately now she cannot pass that gate without closing it . . . again . . . and again . . . and again.
While I was at work one night, Other Half sat in the recliner and watched eight (8!) hours of Band Of Brothers. During that time, he encouraged Lily to hunt "Nazis." Unfortunately, Lily had no clue what a Nazi looked like, so she ran around searching for a Nazi, confident that God would reveal a Nazi to this humble little hunter. That's when she saw the Barn cat on the porch. Suddenly the Lord had revealed to her the true identity of a Nazi. (groan . . . )
Other Half thought it was funny. He demonstrated his new Nazi Hunter when I got home from work that evening. I was not amused. Neither were the Barn cats. Neither was the House Cat. An obsession was born.
Cowboy cannot ride in the pick-up, the 4Wheeler or the Mule without reaching out and snapping at passing cars, passing tree limbs, or shadows. Since he is a rescue, we have no idea where this obsession sprang. If you scream at him for slamming into the window when you're driving down the road at 60 mph, he will sulk for a moment and then begin to lick the windows instead. Ohhhh. . . grossssss . . .
Now people argue that Border collies without jobs create these weird obsessions, but I cry NAY! (neigh!!!!) My Border Collies have jobs! (well, Lily does, because of his back problems, Cowboy is just a Truck Dog now.) Lily works livestock; she has constant mental and physical stimulation, and she is STILL a nutcase!
But I love her, and wouldn't have her any other way, because with a creative dog, you are only limited by your imagination and their lack of thumbs.
Friday, 17 September 2010
There is a giant chasm behind my barn. It's a drainage swale that runs the length of one paddock and measures about 2' wide and approximately 1' to 6" deep. (Yes, that's inches - 1 foot to 6 inches) But if you are an equine of any sort, be you horse, mule, or donkey, this is a giant chasm and must not be crossed lightly. (Goats however, will plough through this with no problem at all.)
Wednesday morning Ruffy conquered the chasm. Why he chose to run in wild abandon escaped both me and the rest of the herd, but it was beautiful to watch.
(We've all quit asking why Ruffy does the things he does . . .)
Nevertheless, something crawled up Ruffy's behind and he decided to race back and forth across the chasm. I captured the proof of his bravery for all to see!
"Hey Everybody! Watch THIS!!!"
"Watch me AGAIN!"
(Yes, that little bitty shadow of a ditch IS what he's jumping!)
And . . . LIFT-OFF!
"Eat my dust, Suckers!"
"Hey! Ona! Didya see THAT?"
(For more on the chasm, read: The Chasm )
Yes, we know Ruffy is fat. He gets one carrot a day and is forced to live in a paddock where the sheep have mowed down all useful vegetation, and yet . . . our little Dunkin' Doughnut still maintains his rotund figure!
Thursday, 16 September 2010
After working a murder call for over 10 hours, I got in at 3:30 AM last night. Now I ask you, if this little fat pony can run . . why . . . after almost $1000 spent . . . is my air conditioner NOT RUNNING?!!!
Note: after calling Other Half (who is in an air conditioned hotel room!) to report the latest development in the lightning-strike saga, I heard him turn to the dog and say, "Uh oh, Oli. We better stay here. It's not safe to come home yet. Mommy is a Bitchy Bear."
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
It's the little things in life that make it just so much more pleasant - perks like electricity and air conditioning immediately come to mind. (Particularly if you live in Texas during the summer.)
"I FINALLY HAVE AIR CONDITIONING AGAIN!!! WOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOO!!!!"
I'm sure the dogs and House Cat appreciate it too. (Thank you, Lord!) Other Half is at K9 training again and thus hasn't been able to share in our joy.
Speaking of little things . . .
The breeder sent new pictures of Trace. Little Dude is not missing any meals! He is a major chunky monkey!
Does this little Beast look familiar?
It's a Lily-Gator!
She used to be a chunky monkey ball of fuzz too! She was all fur and teeth! Now she is my most spoiled top ranch hand.
BUT . . . (warning! Blackmail photo!)
I am not the only one who spoiled Lily . . .
I give you State's Evidence 1:
Note the pillows stuffed between the bed and the night stand so little people don't fall off the bed. Shhheeesh what a lucky pooch!
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
I was sweeping the floor yesterday when I spotted this:
EEEEKKKKK!!!!! When you're moving quickly and the room is dark, this looks like a giant spider! (shudder)
Then I remembered this:
When I sheared the rugbacks, I tossed the rugs on the floor in my study. Every time Border Collie gets into my office, she picks a little bit of the rug off and carries it around like a toy.
Satisfied that this monstrous "spider" was a actually a stray piece of stringy wool, I reached down to pick it up. But something, . . . Something . . . made me pause. Thomas Magnum on Magnum P.I. used to call it his "little voice." Well just as I was about to snatch up that piece of wool, my little voice of caution screamed, "Wait! Turn on the light first!"
So I did.
Oh . . . My. . . Gosh . . .
That does NOT look like a piece of stringy wool! It looks like a giant crunchy spider!
It IS! IT IS!!!! It is a giant spider!!!! And a little one too! and some dog hair . . . . . (Please ignore the dog hair.) I almost picked this up with my bare fingers!!!! The very thought of it made me shudder and do the "spider shuffle." This is a move whereby the shudder starts at the tip of your fingers and like a giant wave it moves up your arm to your shoulder where you then begin flicking your hands and dancing in place saying "Eeeewwwwww!
You are welcome for that mental picture. Have a nice day.
The moral of this story is . . . turn on the lights when you sweep!
Monday, 13 September 2010
One of my readers (Peg!) asked me if Penny and Ice were the same dog. She went on to point out that since most of the dogs have stage names it can be a little confusing trying to keep everyone apart. I realized immediately that SHE WAS RIGHT!!!!
So the first thing I did was fire off an answer to her that "No", Penny and Ice are not the same dog. They are both Kona's sisters, but Ice is his littermate. Kona and Ice are from a repeat breeding of Penny's litter. The breeder liked Penny's litter so much that she repeated the breeding and got another nice working litter. My mother had three old dogs die within a year apart, leaving her dog-less (shudder!), so Kona's breeder sent her Penny. Penny's owner had died and Penny needed a loving home. It was a match made in Heaven.
This is one of my favorite pics of these two. What a yard-workin' team! (Union Mandated LoveFest Break!!!)
I also put some thought into the problem that many newer readers probably need a playlist to figure out our Cast Of Characters, it would help if I actually gave readers a "Cast of Characters!"
So I did! In the About Us sections I just included photos and names. I'll add to it later, but I hit the main cast. Go have a peek and let me know what you think!
Oh dear . . . Deb just wrote to inform me that I needed to add the horses to our Cast Of Characters. I'll start adding them . . .
Monday, 13 September 2010
If you have livestock of any kind, one of the most important tasks is getting hay. Unlike square bales which have to be picked up out of the field and immediately stacked in a protective barn, large round bales can stay outside. The rain rolls off the top and down the sides. The exposed hay provides sort of a protective thatch covering for the good hay inside.
It looks yucky but underneath all that straw yuck is nutritious yum!
Yesterday we had to haul round bales. Because we need to go down a county road, Border Collie and I followed behind in the Mule to supervise and provide highway assistance. (jumper cables in case ancient antique Ford tractor dies!)
So we loaded up and down the road we went!
Few things stir the heart of country people like hay in the field. Note the thunderheads forming in the sky. Not only was the sun going down quickly, but the storm clouds were brewing.
Storm is coming!
There wasn't much for Lily and I to do . . .
except follow and make sure the traffic didn't run over the tractor. I'm not sure what we were supposed to do if the traffic ran over us . . .
The storm passed us by . . .
. . . but we couldn't escape the setting sun.
And THIS is why I didn't get my yard mowed or my house cleaned last night! I finally got the yard mowed this morning. Now I must tackle the house. I have an air conditioning repair man coming over this afternoon, and my living room still smells like a Bloodhound. (for those of you who aren't familiar with that odor, it is a fragrace best left outside, but alas, it is hot, and she is old . . . so we make sacrifices.)
Sunday, 12 September 2010
I had a reader write me yesterday to ask about Ice. Janie writes, "... what is Ice's story? I know she is Kona's sister, but is she a retired police dog as well?"
Well Janie, yes and no. Yes, she is a former narcotics dog, but no, she isn't one of our retired dogs. Her story goes like this:
When Kona was four months old, I took him to a Cadaver Dog seminar. The instructors giving the seminar were so impressed with him that they asked about getting a puppy from that litter. There was only one puppy left - a shy, black female. So they got her, and they turned her into a Narcotics dog. Unfortunately she was a timid soul and narcotics scenes tend to be chaotic. They are in strange places with strange people. Ice couldn't handle it. The only thing they could do with her reliably was locker checks in schools - same environment, no chaos.
These people had other working dogs, and Ice's limitations soon had her shuffled to guard dog status in the back yard. Unfortunately she took this job seriously. Their home bordered a hiking trail. Soon joggers were complaining to authorities about "the black wolf."
So they called me and asked if I knew someone who may be interested in giving Ice a Forever Home. At the time, I just had Kona, (Ice's littermate), and Alice the Bloodhound who was already infirm. Alice was not in the least bit interested in entertaining and young and virile Kona. So I agreed to take Ice. Her only job would be as her brother's friend and playmate. They hit it off immediately and I spent many hours sitting in my hammock with a glass of wine after work while I watched two Belgians play WWF at my feet. And she remained his best friend until the day he died.
At first she was lost without her brother. She's always clingy, but she became desperately so. In time, she has loosened up a bit. In fact, she has even managed to rise to the top and has claimed her brother's throne as Top Dog in the pack. Surprisingly, Lily the Border Collie (who is meaner) and Briar the Livestock Guardian Dog (who is bigger) still bow to Ice's authority. I find it amusing that the two dogs most concerned with taking control of the pack are Ice and Ranger the Blue Heeler. Both dogs are gentle spooks, but they have decided that "someone" has to lead the pack so "they" might as well step up and take the helm. Ice is a better candidate than Ranger because he tends to "shoot first, and ask questions later." He means well, but he views everyone as "the bad man" until proven otherwise. This includes Grandma, Son, and Other Half if he comes through the wrong door. (Blue Heeler really is nuttier than a fruitcake!) Kona kept Ranger from making some stupid decisions. Ice doesn't have that kind of control over Ranger.
So to answer your question, Ice hasn't done anything resembling real police work since she came to live here. And even though she no longer has a real job here, she will always have a real home here. She is my black wolf, my Florence Nightingale, my egg bandit . . .
Ice and Kona play in the morning dew (Nov 2009)
Kona died of kidney failure eight short months later. I never had a day's regret about bringing Ice into our home. They were littermates, they were best friends.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
Many of us will take a moment today to remember where we were on that fateful morning.
I was off-duty. I had called the office and no one answered the phone. Since police work is a 24/7 job, I found this disturbing and called the cell phone of a friend who worked dayshift. She told me that everyone was clustered in front of the television sets. I flipped on my television - and watched the tower fall - and cried.
Then I drove to work. The air space above the city was clear except for the fighter jets that zoomed above to protect us. I shall never forget the image of those jets over the skyline.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
I got the answer to the "Why me, Lord" question yesterday. Sometimes God puts Little Angels in your path so that you can help them along the journey to where they belong. I didn't need a kitten, but I never overlook the fact that at a very dark time, God sent me four little blessings that brightened my life. (read: The Littlest Angel )
Initially I wanted to find this kitten a home, any home, as long as it wasn't with me. Given a little bit of time to think though, and I remembered what a ray of sunshine a kitten can bring. And I knew someone who needed some sunshine in her life.
My Mom's dog is dying of cancer. She is young. Ironically she is The Enforcer's sister. Her cancer popped up shortly after his kidney failure. Every day Mom is faced with the prospect of losing her beloved Penny as she watches the tumor grow. It sucks. I know what she's going through. I faced it each day during Kona's kidney failure.
But that's where a little ray of sunshine comes in . . .
It is impossible not to smile when you hear her purr with her little motorboat engine . . and feel her claws kneading bread.
and smell her butterfly kisses!
Brother is still young and likes to play.
And now he has a little friend!
So when your spirits are looking low . . . .
Never overlook the charm . . . .
. . . of a Homicidal . .
Psycho . . .
. . . Jungle Cat!
(I think Mom has decided to name her "Blossom.")
Friday, 10 September 2010
We had no sooner finished up our moral dilemma with the homeless dog (see CSI Blog: Moral Dilemmas ) when Other Half's phone rang. It was Son. He had stopped at the local Chevron where lo and behold, he was flagged down by this:
She called out to him, "HEY YOU! You with the thumbs! I need some HELP DOWN HERE!!!!"
So he scooped her up and called his father. . . sigh . . .
(Don't get excited. She's not staying. We do not need another cat. We have four barn cats and one old house cat.)
Irrational people can argue that I lost a barn cat this winter, and my house cat is old. My argument is that three barn cats is enough, and if I lose the house cat, and if I actually "want" a cat in the house, then I can bring one of the barn cats back inside. (Faith votes for this!) So at 1 AM I was snapping pictures of her cute little self and then I slapped them to the inbox of every Soft Touch I know.
For the time being she's staying in "The Cat Room" which is where the last litter of calico kittens was raised. It currently contains a day bed where Retired Police Dog sleeps. (note all the dog hair) She and House Cat are locked in there with a litter box, some furniture and some toys. House Cat won't hurt her and may actually enjoy the company. I refuse to name her.
I got up in the middle of the night to check my email. Dear Friend From England Who Lives In Texas Now (aka: DFFE) sent me a message at 2:42 AM informing me that she does NOT need a kitten, but she congratulates me on my new kitten. (She said, "sorry - that was pure evil but I cannot sleep and it's late.)
I refuse to name this cat! I refuse to name this cat! Hey! Don't you think her markings look like a puzzle? Maybe I will call her Puzzle until I find her a new home.
Thursday, 09 September 2010
Yesterday I bought a little window unit air conditioner for the bedroom. Naturally it wouldn't fit in the bedroom windows, so we had to install it in the master bathroom. We cranked the thermostat down low and now the bedroom is quite comfortable. The bathroom, however, has icicles hanging from the toilet!
Our message for the day is brought to us courtesy of Faith the Barn Cat who wants to be a House Cat again:
"This is what you get for shutting me outside with the fleas . . . and no air conditioning!"
"Can I come back in the house now?"
"I don't take up much room and I promise I'll use the kitty litter box this time!"
Wednesday, 08 September 2010
Yesterday Tropical Storm Hermine rolled across Texas. We were expecting bands of heavy rains so I did what I could do to clear drainage and prevent my barn from flooding. The rains started on Monday. Tuesday morning more bands were coming in. Other Half & Cowboy had run to town and I was playing on my computer. BUT . . . I had that puppy unplugged and was using the battery and an air card! I had no sooner finished what I was doing and shut down my trusty laptop when a bolt of lightning struck. BAM!!!
Dogs came racing into the kitchen! "MOM! Is that normal?"
Not wanting to create titty-baby K9's, I walked around in a sing-song voice and said, "WOW! Look at THAT! Ain't it cool? Holy Toledo! How cool was that??!!" as I checked the house for damage. The dogs were not fooled. Then I smelled the smoke. Electrical wires were burning somewhere. Holy shit! (I did not say this in a sing-song voice.)
I immediately phoned Other Half to inform him that the house was just struck by lightning and "something" was burning but I couldn't find it. I said this as I was hustling all the dogs and the house cat outside. They were like Elementary students in a fire drill. "Is this for real? Is there really a fire? Can I call my parents to come pick me up?"
Other Half happened to be less than 1/4 mile off and as soon as he rolled up he hopped out of the truck (it may have still been rolling) to examine the roof. No damage. We did find this:
A power surge had literally blown a light fixture apart!
This used to be a light bulb.
The television immediately shut off. Other Half turned on the breaker and for a moment we saw a green weather man. Yes, he was green! Then we got this message:
And then the television and satellite receiver expired.
The burning smell soon subsided but as Other Half went around the house testing stuff with his electrical doo-hickey he found a problem in the area where we smelled burning. Don't ask me to explain it. I didn't understand. Something about open ground or some such. All I saw was a red light on his tester and he yelled "Cut it off! Cut it off!"
Sooooo . . . since I have worked Electrocution Deaths before, I didn't want Other Half to even bother trying to find the problem. I called an electrician . . .
. . . who came out in the rain, took one look at the socket, and said, "In my business we call this "BOOM!"
He worked for three hours repairing the damage, got the ceiling fan in the living room working again, and then gave us the happy news that our air conditioner was fried.
Then I called Allstate while Other Half called an air conditioning repair guy. Honest air conditioning repair guys are busy. Cuz they're honest! Our man won't be able to make it out until next Monday. Eegaaads! It's summertime in Texas!
We did okay with fans last night, but the weather is still relatively cool from the storms. When it clears up, things might get ugly hot. We may have to get a little window unit for the bedroom.
Or . . . we may have to move into the "Other House." The Weekend House is his house B.M. (before Me!) The Weekday House is my house B.H. (before him!) Neither farm is big enough for ALL the livestock so we bounce between them until we both retire and move to Bumfuktexas.
We'll see. I'm trying to remain positive. Lightning caused a lot of problems, but it could have been so much worse. Plus, at least we were home! The house might have caught fire. My DOGS!!!!!! I shudder to think. I'm sure that in the long run, we'll see this as a blessing rather than a curse. It might not be fun, but it is an adventure!
To be continued . . .
Monday, 06 September 2010
Last night Other Half and I were enjoying dinner with some friends when I received a text message from my dog. Yes, from my dog! Before I go any further, let me remind you that my mother and her dog, Penny, live in a small house in my front pasture. She raises a little flock of chickens, and from time to time she shares eggs with my dogs. Apparently she also shares her cell phone with my Livestock Guardian Dog:
Title: grandma says i can have all the eggs i want
today i herd a grate commotion at grandma's and montoya running into the barn. when i got to the fence, the chickens was under the ramp screaming, penny and grandma was headed across the pasture with penny barking and grandma screaming like a wild woman, and pore george was running toward grandmas as fast as her legs would carry her . . . but not as fast as the chicken hawk was closing in on george. well, i let out a huge woof woof (huge is the only kind of woof woof i have) and just as the hawk was about to pick up george, he decided he would rather not have chicken for dinner if he had to face me. he was about 3 feet from poor george when he lifted off and disappeared behind the barn. grandma says i'm a good chicken dog and i can have ALL THE EGGS I WANT!
call grandma tomorrow and let her know when i can have my eggs
For more on Briar and George, read: "I will name him George"
Sunday, 05 September 2010
Our slice of America is represented each year by the Small Town Parade. Nothing quite stirs the spirit like a home town celebration. Other Half grew up here.
He spent a good deal of time hopping off the wagon to shake hands with folks in the crowd. (He also does this in the grocery store which makes shopping with him difficult . . . I'm just saying . . .)
Since Ona's feet weren't yet "road-worthy" for the parade, Doug & Debbie, of Cornerstone Stables, graciously invited us to climb in their wagon. Debbie also grew up in this little town, so while she and Other Half reminisced about childhood memories and places gone by, Doug and I could only listen to them and smile.
Parades always involve a great deal of waiting in the staging area. It's a good time to catch up with old friends. . .
. . . and take pictures of each other!
After a long wait it was time to roll to the start of the route.
Chase & Chazz were our Picture Perfect Percherons for the parade!
We had a Pug in a sundress riding shotgun . . .
. . . a Yorkie in the middle!
. . . with Border Collie and Other Half hanging off the back of the wagon!
Let the parade begin!
I love to watch the kids stare in wonder at the horses!
Parades are all about the kids . . .
Little kids . . .
. . . and Big Kids
You just gotta love a parade. I am so thankful that I live in a small town. I am so thankful that I live in America.
Saturday, 04 September 2010
Our little town had a parade today. This is a rural community, so tractors and horses were a big part of the parade. We had planned to drive our draft pony, Ona, but she'd had ouchy feet in the weeks leading up to the event, so we decided not to push it. Naturally, shortly after we decided against it, she started galloping in the pasture the following weekend. (Fat Chick is getting hitched to the cart and starts lessons again TOMORROW!)
So because we couldn't drive our own horse in the parade, Doug & Debbie of Cornerstone Stables, graciously invited Other Half, Border Collie, and me to climb in their wagon for the party. We had a blast. I love a small town parade. My favorite part is watching the faces of the kids as they stare at the horses. I took loads of photos which I'll share as soon as I get a chance to edit 270 over-exposed pictures!
But if I had to sum up the parade, and our small town, in just one photograph it would be this one . . .
Friday, 03 September 2010
As I confessed earlier this week in Lazy? , I am a Lazy Person, who is more than willing to train a Border Collie to be my most willing and able servant. This is a great deal of fun for both me and Border Collie. Since she recently got a bit overexuberant and pulled one of the gates off its hinges (while she was repeatedly slamming it shut during a photoshoot to demonstrate what a wonderful help a dog is to Lazy People!), I decided to indulge Other Half in his desire to finally have a dog who would "Get him a beer!"
Lily loves training of any sort. She trains me as much as I train her. It's really more of a jam session than a dog training session, as anything with Lily always involves the free exchange of ideas on both sides. So last night at 1 AM, we demonstrated to Other Half our progress in the "Get me a beer" trick. (then I told him that we broke the gate!) "WHAT?!!!"
This past week we have been learning the skill of opening the refrigerator, (very easy) and a separate skill of picking up a cold drink in a coozie (very hard). This is what happens when you give a cold Dr Pepper to a 1 1/2 year old Border Collie:
Since this didn't happen until she had retrieved it several times, it was "well shaken." Thus, we had Dr Pepper spewing all over a $700 Lazy Boy and a confused but delighted Border Collie.
I decided to table this part of the trick until we'd purchased a sturdier coozie.
BUT . . . there was still another step we could work on - Reach in the refrigerator and grab a desired object!
For this task I employed the skills of Lily's best friend, Chuck! (Chuck lays around and smiles.)
(Please do not tell my mother that I'm keeping a slobbery dog toy in my refrigerator. Yes, this is only one of the many reasons why we rarely entertain in our home.)
So last night while Other Half took pictures for you, Lily and I demonstrated her progress:
"Lily, open the fridge, and get Chuck!"
Because Lily is a Border Collie with OCD, this trick can be done at least 50 times in a row, or until she rips the refrigerator door off the hinges, whichever comes first.
Thursday, 02 September 2010
"I didn't do this!"
"Seriously. Ona did it. Yeah. Ona did it when she was scratchin' her big butt. Look! There are even blond tail hairs stuck in the wood. Look!"
"Are you lookin'?"
"Ruffy, you have blond tail hairs too . . . "
"Somebuddy call my lawyer!!! I want DNA testin' done! I want my lawyer!"
Wednesday, 01 September 2010
The Work Dog
The After-Work Dog
After his shift Other Half likes to stop and pick up a bacon sandwich for breakfast. The cook at the gas station always packs that sandwich tight with bacon. Since we have eight (8!!!) dogs, Other Half cannot share his bacon sandwich with all eight of them. Soooooo . . . there is only one chosen Bacon Hound.
Bloodhound is old, and blind, and stinky, and her tumors have tumors, but her Super Sniffer still works great! And it never fails to rouse her from a deep sleep each morning when it detects the odor of bacon wafting through the house.
"Do I smell bacon?"
"Why yes! Yes! I do smell bacon! Bacon, please!!!"
"Is there more bacon?"
"Yes! Yes, there is! More bacon, please!"
(Note the gawdawful talons that she calls toenails. Those suckers need to be trimmed. That'll be a trip to Disney World for everyone . . .)
"No more bacon? What else you got up there?"
Yes, Bloodhound is old, blind, stinky, and on her last leg, but she definitely knows how to work it to her advantage.