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Farm Fresh Blog
Friday, 31 May 2013
Thus began the initial heated argument between two otherwise intelligent adults. Other Half, not wanting to face the horrible possibility of losing Dillon, insisted that the marks on Dillon's nose were caused from leaping into the barbed wire fence. Me, ever the "let's face the worst case scenario head on and deal with it", insisted that Dillon WAS BITTEN by the rattlesnake and needed to get to the vet immediately. I refused to even entertain the idea of dilly-dallying around waiting to see if Dillon swelled up and died.
So after a quick search for the vet's phone number, and a text to Dear Friend Kim, we bounced off down the road with a confused Lily, a terrified Trace, and poor Dillon, who was already beginning to swell. I tried to call the vet's office (with the ad that says they answer the phone 24/7), but our phone reception was so bad that I couldn't get the call out. I tried to call Dear Friend Kim. She answered immediately. Which direction to go? South toward the 24/7 vet that I couldn't reach on the phone or north toward Kim and her vet. Through broken cell phone reception, she advised north. North it was. I glanced at Dillon. There was no denying it now. No barbed wire did this. His head looked like a Shar Pei and was quickly approaching Bull Terrier.
Because text messages were going through but cell reception was not, Kim called her vet to tell him we were en route. He didn't return her page. We got to an area where we could get cell service and paged him too. No return call, but we chose to just drive there anyway. Thirty minutes had gone by and we were sitting in the clinic driveway. It was now dark. No one was home. No one was at the clinic. Called Kim again. She had drugs on hand for this occasion. In the country, sometimes you have to be your own vet. Even the vets knew this, so her vet had made her an emergency snakebit kit with the necessary drugs.
So we drove toward Kim. Another 25 minutes. She met us on the highway and we drove to her ranch. Dillon's entire head was swelling. Other Half shot Dillon up with dexamethasone and epinephrine and we took additional drugs to get him through the next day or two. Dillon's head was alarmingly large, but he was still breathing and that was the important thing. He had had the rattlesnake vaccine last spring and was due for another. I kicked myself for not updating it before this spring. Now we just had to trust that it would work. And pray. I did a lot of praying. We had gotten drugs into Dillon within 2 hours of the bite. Hopefully that would do it.
When the sun was high, we drove to town to buy an additional security light and a push mower. The plan was to create a safe "potty area" that I could walk (with my Henry rifle) prior to letting the dogs out for a bathroom break. So I mowed for several hours that afternoon and six more hours the next day. We saw three more snakes but they were non-poisonous. The snakes were definitely on the move this Memorial Day weekend.
I didn't rest easy until we'd given the dogs their final potty break and loaded them up in the truck to head back south. The people who live here full time take this in stride. They keep drugs on hand in case, or they just let the dogs take their chances. I look at Dillon's happy little face and know that this isn't the last time he's gonna get bitten by a snake. He's a Labrador, it's in his DNA. The best I can do is protect him from himself, keep his rattlesnake vaccine up to date, and keep lots of drugs on hand.
Note: It turned out that the vet was camping in an area with shoddy cell phone reception and didn't get our pages until the next morning. By then Dillon was already his happy D-Dog self again.
(Actual sign at the San Antonio Police Academy)
Thursday, 30 May 2013
Two things scared the crap out of me as I was a child - tornados and rattlesnakes. As kids we watched The Wizard Of Oz every year and frankly, few things scared me more than tornados and flying monkeys, but since to this day, I've never run into a flying monkey, the rattlesnake trumps the flying monkey.
Let me begin by saying that I grew up in rural North Carolina where the timber rattlesnakes were longer than the shovel that killed them. And while I appreciate the fact that everything plays its role in the ecosystem, since a rat snake is pretty fine rodent control, I've never been a big fan of rattlesnakes. My mother impressed upon me early that if a snake that big bit a small child (i.e. "me") then there might not be enough time to get to the hospital before said child died. Alrighty then . . . Made a believer out of me!
That said, we three children, two dogs, and numerous cats played in that forest and except for some close encounters no one was ever bitten by one of these monsterous snakes. For the most part we simply understood this simple rule of survival in the country:
non-poisonous snake = good poisonous snake = bad
Then I grew up and the snakes grew smaller. Well, they didn't actually grow smaller. I simply moved to parts of the civilized world where a foot long snake of any sort sends everyone into a tizzy. Since my measuring stick for impressive snakes was a shovel, most of these snakes were found lacking. Don't get me wrong, I'd still shoot a foot long copperhead in the blink of an eye, but I would pause to apologize first. Rattlesnakes? No. Rattlesnakes get no apology before I pull the trigger.
So what do I do? I buy a ranch in North Texas that is so wild you can't sling a dead cat in the woods without hitting a copperhead and neighbors tell of killing multiple rattlesnakes in one day.
So here we are. Ahhhh, spring in North Texas, when the tornados and the snakes are on the move. Even though last spring we saw no rattlesnakes, I wasn't naive enough to believe we didn't have any. No sirree, my experience with rattlesnakes has been that when they do show themselves, it's in a big way. (like just when you think you've made it safely back in the cabin)
The two things I worry most about at the ranch are snakes and hogs - and the solution to both is down the barrel of a gun. I wear snake boots to protect myself, but for some reason, Cabela's doesn't sell snake boots for Labrador Retrievers. (probably because in order to work, he would have to wear it on his head)
I always monitor the dogs closely during any outside time. During the snake months, instead of a morning run, they ride on the 4wheeler. It satisfies their urge to run and explore without giving them access to snakes. All bathroom breaks are closely supervised. (experience has just proven that this does not prevent the dog from being bitten RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU)
Our first night at the ranch I killed a copperhead on the gravel driveway close to the cabin. (right where a rattlesnake would be 2 days later!) This reinforced the message that snakes were on the move and we needed to be careful. And were we careful? YES! We were so careful that while supervising the evening potty break, we walked right past that rattlesnake ourselves before the damned thing bit the dog on our second pass.
We had already walked down the driveway and were less than 25 yards from the cabin when Dillon leaped 4 feet in the air. I heard the buzzing immediately. Other Half is partially deaf and never heard the buzzing even when he was standing beside it. I grabbed the dogs while he grabbed my gun.
Since Lily and Dillon are stimulated by gun fire, I held them while Other Half opened fire on the snake with two guns. Trace ran like a spotted ape back to the cabin. He now associates the smell of rattlesnake with the dreaded sound of gunfire and has some serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (but in this country, that's a good thing)
We saw that Dillon had been struck on the bridge of the nose, slightly below his eyes. So I rushed all the dogs back to the pickup truck, started the engine and air conditioner, and grabbed my beloved Henry 22 lever action rifle. The snake was mortally wounded, but still very much alive, and very angry.
So was I. I know it's not right. I know that no joy should be gained from killing something, but looking through the peep sight at that snake staring right back at me brought immense satisfaction. I said unladylike things as I pulled that trigger and sent him to his maker. And while this snake was certainly not as big as the timber rattlers I grew up with, he was still large enough to get my attention - and kill Dillon.
I lowered the rifle and glanced at my phone to see what time it was - 7:40 PM. And so the countdown began to save Dillon's life.
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
We just got back from the ranch and I'm gonna let these pictures tell the story:
1) No matter how closely you watch a dog, things happen. Life is too short to beat yourself up about it. Live and learn. And Reload.
2) Memorial Day weekend is not a good time to reach a vet at 7:40 PM on a Saturday night.
3) Other Half will shoot a snake until he almost cuts it in half.
4) "Vengeance is mine" sayeth the Lord, but it still feels REALLY good to look through the sights of my lever action Henry 22 rifle and see the peep sight filled with the face of a rattlesnake staring back at me, whisper "Die Motha F*@#r" and pull the trigger for a kill shot.
5) If you live in Rattlesnake Country you MUST get the new rattlesnake vaccine. This probably saved Dillon's life. (and prayer! Prayer too!)
Since time is short today, I'll give you all the details later. Hug your dogs. And if you live around rattlesnakes, call your vet TODAY and get that vaccine. It's cheap. It can save a life.
And get a Henry lever action .22 rifle too.
Bonus Lesson: Nothing will motivate a woman to push a lawnmower for 6 hours like rattlesnakes hiding near her cabin.
Conversational Quotes For The Weekend:
Salesman at Loews: "Good afternoon, M'am. What kind of mower are you looking for?"
Me: "A lawnmower that cuts up rattlesnakes into tiny pieces . . . ."
Salesman at Loews: (Pause) (Nod) "Okay, I can help you with that!"
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Aja has been with us long enough now for us to get a real feel for her true personality. Unlike Oli (medically retired police dog), Aja LOVES being a police dog. She loves everything about it, and truthfully, if this dog wasn't ours, if I saw this coming at me in the dark, I might 'poop ma pants.'
But unlike Retired Police Dog Zena who exhuded a quiet dignity,
Aja is a goofball, a giant puppy with no social skills whatsoever. She has the best of intentions, but Aja makes Dillon look dignified. Like the daughter in ABC's "The Middle", she is a canine version of Sue Heck.
I have to laugh at her. Dillon can only handle limited play time with her because she is so rough. Ranger, ever the tutor, is amazingly patient with her lack of social skills. The rest of the pack look at Aja like she is, well, "Sue Heck."
Because of this I'm embarking on a project to gracefully mature Aja into "something you can live with."
This involves a lot more play time with Ranger and Dillon and a lot more time loose in the house. Think "bull in a china shop."
Today I found myself telling her "Drink with your mouth, not with your feet."
I have finally found a way to soothe the wild beast. Today after she'd been careening around the house, bouncing off furniture, playing until Ranger was worn out, and playing until Dillon was worn out, she stood beside me while I folded laundry. I started singing to her and she just stopped and stood there with the sweetest look on her face. I folded an entire load of white clothes while that silly dog sat there listening to me sing to her. It was the high point of our morning.
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
It has come to my attention that I clearly overlooked someone in the pasture. Apparently the baby goats are not on their own. I've noticed that when photographing them, they tend to hang out with their aunt, Clover. Since she didn't seem to dote on them, I didn't pay it much attention until I saw a most intriguing thing.
Ice, The Black Wolf, can often be loose with the sheep because she doesn't bother to chase them, but the baby goats have garnered her attention, so I've been locking her up when the sheep are in the yard. But on this day she was walking with me to get the mail and she happened to look at the babies with just a bit too much interest.
That's when Clover sprang into action. She rammed that dog so fast neither the dog nor I even saw it coming! The babies peeked out from behind her.
"What she said Dog! What she said!"
Monday, 20 May 2013
The goat twins are quite bonded to each other. They are more bonded to each other than they are to their crack head mother. (Who has a habit of just walking off and leaving them alone anyway.) They have learned that when in doubt, you can count on each other, and maybe the lady who doles out sunflower seeds. In a panic, run to Primary Caretaker (or the creepy dog who stares at you) if you can't immediately locate Crack-Head Mother.
Yesterday their bond paid off.
Take 1 old syrup tub bucket + 2 curious goat kids = fun (or disaster)
Around our house the syrup tub buckets are used for everything. They are dog water bowls, tomato planters, doggy jacuzzis, horse feed troughs, sheep feed troughs, and jungle gyms for baby goats.
Because goats and sheep have a habit of climbing in the buckets and pooping in them, I often tilt the buckets against the side of the lean-to or barn to reduce the debris I have to dump out the next morning. This keeps the buckets cleaner.
Enter baby goats. I have several tubs of different sizes just for their climbing amusement. This almost proved fatal yesterday:
Am walking around goat/sheep pen where babies have just been released to play with the rest of the flock. Note with satisfaction that they are careening around comfortably. In preparation to blend babies with flock full time, begin to examine fence for "baby gaps." Get absorbed in this task until the screams of Baby Brother (who has just been christened "Raisin Bran.") rattle my brain enough to garner my attention. He is hysterical. He is running around hollering his fool head off. I look for his sister. Bailey is nowhere in sight. Hmmmm...
Begin earnest hunt for Bailey. Raisin Bran has climbed on top of a bucket and is screaming at the top of his lungs. I cannot find Bailey either and begin to panic. I cannot hear her answer him. That is BAAAAD!
Raisin Bran climbs off bucket and begins to race around again, searching for his sister. Note that his crack-head mother has not bothered to answer him. Briar is outside the pen so no one comes to his rescue except me, Primary Caretaker.
Then I hear it - the pitiful answer to his screams. Under the bucket. I flip the syrup tub to find a very grateful Bailey. She races off to join her brother,
and all is well in their world again.
I thank God that I was in the pen when this happened. Had Bailey not been able to get out of the bucket, she would have roasted in the sun. (shudder)
Note to self: Do not prop tubs against buildings. Always listen to the screams of baby goats. Don't forget to thank God for all blessings - large and small.
Saturday, 18 May 2013
Except for Roanie and Ma, I've never really made pets out of the sheep, but that was before the dairy goats. Dairy goats are not goats. They are dogs in little goat bodies. And they're really, really easy to handle. And so, I decided that I need to tame up some sheep. Enter sunflower seeds.
Sheep and goats LOVE sunflower seeds. They are crack for sheep. And look who has gone from a 'touch me not' sheep to a begging crack fiend!
Remember Flower Pot?! She is taming up nicely and hopefully she'll soon be as easy to handle as the dairy goats. Girlfriend DOES love her sunflower seeds!
And for everyone who has forgotten how this cute lamb got such a stupid name, read: Another
Thursday, 16 May 2013
To the utter astonishment of the dogs, there were goats in the kitchen sink this morning. Live goats. In the sink.
Over half of you are now making notes to never eat in my kitchen again. Yes, I sank to a new low.
(Well, this might be on par with the calf in the bedroom last year.)
As you have probably figured out by now, the rain did not wash all the syrup off the baby goats yesterday, thus we had to goat-nap and whisk them into the house. While Other Half got the water warm, I let them run around the living room. (cuz they were cute) Then he held one twin while I plopped the dirtiest one into the sink and scrub-a-dub-dub!
Then voila! Clean goats!
(Slightly disoriented, and telling the flock tales of Alien Abductions, but clean nevertheless)
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
This morning I was reminded of the Uncle Remus tale "Brer Rabbit & The Tar Baby."
I violated The Prime Directive of Life With Goats yesterday. Yes, friends and neighbors, I left the babies with access to a syrup tub. This morning they were covered in syrup. I mean COVERED with syrup! Even the white parts are sticky! It appears that not only did they play in the syrup tub, they slept in the syrup tub.
Fortunately it was raining today. Hopefully most of it will come off in the rain. If not, guess who will be washing baby goats in the kitchen sink tomorrow morning?
Sunday, 12 May 2013
We have several contenders for Mother Of The Year on the farm. Let's start with the "Also Ran" category.
Crimson: Mother to adorable Bailey and brother that at the moment I'm calling Coffee (or Raisin, depends upon my mood)
This photo was taken last week. The babies are two weeks old and pictures like that are few and far between now. Crimson is a crack-head mother at best. She fully buys into the dairy farm idea of pulling babies from mothers and bottle feeding them. I don't have time or energy for that so I expect Crimson to hold up her end as a mother to her adorable brats. But since Crimson spends all night locked up with the little beasts, as soon as she is released to graze with the flock in the yard, she flings off all maternal trappings and refuses to acknowledge that she has babies. Seriously...
They tag along with the flock, bouncing around their new world, full of merriment and fun, until the flock leaves them. Then they panic and scream their fool heads off, calling every predator in the county. And then this is what you usually see -
Briar sighs and walks over to see what they're screaming mimmies about. They get distracted and shut up. Most of the time I walk out there too just to make sure that nothing really bad is happening. I must have gone out there 20 times today. I check them regularly. Briar checks them regularly. Their mother? Not so much. In fact, she never looks up.
"Babies? What babies? Who has babies?"
Definitely Crimson is not in the running for the Mother Of The Year Award. No, this year's recipient of the coveted award goes to Snickers the Hell-Bitch Cow . . .
. . . for her stunning portrayal of Enraged Water Buffalo Mother when approached by two Border Collies. In case you missed this Short Film, Snickers and five calves were among other cows who made a jail break while I had the gate opened to drive the tractor in the pasture. I was forced to use dogs to get the cattle back inside the pasture. Snickers mutated from her normal Hell Bitch Self into a bellowing, raging water buffalo who rammed fences while roaring at the top of her lungs. It was quite impressive to all. Snickers fiercely protected not only her own baby, but the other four calves in the Day Care Center. And for this act of
If you have never seen the fierocity of a mother water buffalo, watch The Battle Of Kruger on You Tube. It's painful to watch at first, but keep watching. Not only does it gets better, but you will get a better appreciation for the protective instincts of a water buffalo. This is one of the best wildlife videos I've ever seen!
Thursday, 09 May 2013
There are certain unpleasantries of ranching that we must all endure if we are to be responsible for our livestock - castration and disbudding come to mind. Castration is must-do chore if we plan on keeping any males for any length of time. The only question is how we want to do it. Most of the time we opt for banding, but we have had Dear Friend Cathy's husband (the vet) do a surgical castration when we've waited a bit long for banding.
In the past, I haven't disbudded my baby goats, but then I was raising meat goats and other than the annoying "getting their heads caught in the fencing" the horns have never been a problem. In fact, they make nice handles. But then I entered the world of dairy goats. I bought some does without horns and I bought some does with horns. Guess what? Getting accidentally hooked by friendly goats isn't fun. Getting hooked in the face is even less fun. So I sold the horned goats and kept the ones without horns for milking. And I acquired a polled buck in hopes of breeding babies that didn't have horns.
And guess what? Thus far we have a 50% success rate.
The little girl doesn't have horns.
The little boy does.
Enter the concept of disbudding. That's a white-washed-prettified term for branding the horn bud with a red hot iron to kill it before it develops. Yes, it sounds medieval, but then again so much of what we do with livestock for their own good can sound medieval.
The cold hard reality of life as a boy goat is that most of them end up either eaten or shuffled into isolation. This little guy's best bet for a good life is to turn him into a friendly pet. The best way to do that is to castrate and dis-bud him, and cuddle him and feed him raisins and put a cute little collar on him. Goats are eaten. Cute little goats that act like dogs have a better chance of becoming pets on farms.
So Saturday I packed up the babies and took them to The Goat Lady. She has done this procedure countless times and I trust her more than I trust myself. There is an art to this. If you don't leave the iron on long enough you can get nasty scurs - ugly horn growth thingees. If you leave the iron on too long, you fry your baby's brain. That's enough for me to take lots of lessons before I do this for real.
The procedure was pretty quick. The Goat Lady picked him up, gave him a CDT shot and then she shaved his little horn buds so she could see what she was doing. Then she put him down to play with his sister while the iron heated up. Then she scooped him up again, held him down against her thigh and applied the iron for a count of 15 seconds for each bud. He was not happy. Then she sprayed him with purple medicine and set him down.
He bounced off, shook himself, and announced that he had been assaulted. . . "But no hard feelings."
And then he came home and played with the rest of the flock. The little guy didn't skip a beat.
He played and played and then he and his sister went back in lock-up where their Nanny-Dog reassured them that they were not alone in this cruel world where people kidnap and assault baby goats.
Wednesday, 08 May 2013
Other Half and I have an ongoing argument about the virtues of cattle versus sheep and goats. He is a steadfast cow man while I'm a dyed-in-wool sheep & goat woman. (no pun intended) He argues that sheep and goats are too much trouble for their value. I argue that cows are too much trouble and too dangerous for their value, PLUS they take up too much acreage. It's a no-win situation.
And that takes us to this morning. As usual, I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. He is at work and I'm juggling the farm chores by myself. The morning went like this:
Wake up when large blue toy is dropped on my head. Good morning, Dillon. Bring Cowboy and Trace inside house. Let Lily and Dillon outside. Make sure that Cowboy and Trace are in kennels. Let Ranger out of his kennel and we snuggle for a few minutes so he can feel special. Remember that I have to go to work early today. Exchange Dillon for Ranger. Take a shower. Make coffee. Stumble out to greet the day.
Put Ranger in outside kennel. Put Dillon in outside kennel beside Ranger. Put horses in stalls. Note that 5 calves and Stupid Paisley Cow are loose in neighbor's pasture. Feed horses. Feed sheep and goats. Let dairy goats out to eat and baby goats play. Load Lily in mule with cow feed. Drive out to back pasture. Hot wire is down. Hot wire is in pieces coiled on the ground. Cuss cows. Cuss hotwire. Cuss Other Half for not selling Paisley. Cuss Paisley.
Feed other cows. Five calves return. Paisley cannot figure out how to get through fence. Slick wire with no hotwire on it. Paisley is not a mental giant. Cuss her some more. Walk out there and try to get her in. She is uncooperative. Cuss Paisley. Water horses. Checks goats and babies. Call Other Half while water trough is filling. Cuss Paisley some more.
Other Half gives advice:
"Get a sack of cubes." (Done that.)
"Get a bucket and walk her to the walk-through gate." (Walk through gate has field fencing tacked on top of it by the neighbor. It is no longer a gate.)
"Get Cowboy and run her back through the fence." (The only way to get Cowboy to her is to run Cowboy through ALL the other cows with babies and then down to where Paisley is and THEN walk him back through those angry mommas and babies. Too dangerous for Cowboy. Don't even consider using my precious Lily.)
Walk out there again. She is just as uncooperative. Refuse to use dog. By now the rest of cows have finished eating and are curious. Cuss Paisley. Cuss cows in general. Other Half gives more advice:
"Leave the bitch where she's at. Deal with it later." (Works for me. I can't be late for work today.)
I remind him again how much trouble cattle are. He is not in the mood to listen. Fine. I'm not in the mood to have the same argument. Realize I'm running out of time. No more time for cattle. Put Lily back in yard. Clean dairy goat yard. Give them water. Give them alfalfa. Put goats back up. Water sheep. Go back to pasture to turn off horse trough that I left running.
Turn horses out. No time to snuggle baby goats. Stuff them back in pen. Go to dog kennels. Start to water Ranger. Note that he has watered himself. He has grabbed the end of the hose which was sticking into his kennel. Blue Devil has dragged hose into his kennel about six feet and then chewed it so that now it is a sprinkler hose. Cuss Blue Dog. Leave him there. Get Dillon and Lily and go water garden in front yard. Enjoy a moment in the garden.
Let Lily and Dillon play in the water hose. Ranger hears this and barks from behind the house. Remind him that he already had his "play with the water hose time."
Other Half calls back and I have to admit that I left the water hose where the dog could chew it up. He is gracious about it. He does not cuss my blue dog like I cuss his red cow. At least one of us is an adult today. (The key to a good relationship is that only one person can be a child at a time. . . )
Now the outside chores are done and I must get ready for work. He must get back to work. And maybe, just maybe, when I come home Paisley's dumb ass will be back in the pasture. Or maybe the rest of the cows will be with her in the neighbor's field. I really don't like cattle today. . .
Sunday, 05 May 2013
Things continue to be hectic here, so blog posting has been spotty but I HAVE managed to take some pictures this week of the new baby goats. Although these aren't the greatest of shots, some folks have asked for pictures of Briar and the babies and since I happened to catch this little drama play out, I figured I'd share the less-than-stellar shots with the Big White Dawg Fans.
The goats and sheep have been turned into an area where Other Half keeps old farm equipment and tractor implements. Without them, this would be a weedy mess, so they provide an excellent service by keeping the area trimmed. To the baby goats, this is the same thing as Disney World. They climb over and under and through everything. (Thankfully we don't have a problem with poisonous snakes here.)
While their momma is off enjoying some "mommy's day out" time, the babies are having a blast bouncing through a John Deere graveyard. Until Little Brother gets stuck.
Well, he's not really stuck, but he thinks he is.
The fun has come to a halt. He gives a couple of pitiful cries but in the wind, his momma doesn't hear him.
But someone does . . .
Someone who is always watching . . .
She ambles over to check out the situation.
Junior is fine. With a few sniffs and licks, he wriggles free and joins his sister.
Briar just stands there for a second, watching them.
Then she turns to amble away.
"Who was that masked man?" the kids ask each other.
And Briar settles back down again to watch her flock.
Unappreciated by them, but highly prized by me.
Wednesday, 01 May 2013
Nothing quite reminds you to live in the moment like spending time with animals, and no one does it better than baby animals. Each new experience is a novel adventure and watching them waddle through life forces me to slow down and appreciate the world around me too.
Take a lesson from this kid. Breathe in life. Each breath is a new adventure.