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Farm Fresh Blog
Thursday, 30 October 2014
This weekend is Opening Day Deer Season in Texas. It's like a national holiday. Think Christmas for men, except instead of decorating in red and green, the world is colored in camouflage. Like wildebeests migrating across the Serengeti, men in pickup trucks move in great herds across Texas. And mine are no exception.
We have already established however, that I'm not a big hunter myself.
I tend to think of deer like this:
Other Half took his cow dogs with him. Good thing too, because he just called to inform me that the hogs have torn the creek fence gap out again and we have cows all over the county - again. This means they'll have to spend hours and hours gathering cattle and repairing fences. Been there. Done that. Still have the blood stains on my t-shirt.
Other Half has almost everything he needs for the job. He has 4-Wheelers, wire and fence tools. He has a big strapping son. He has one half-cocked, know-it-all troll dog, and one earnest worker with a bad back. What he doesn't have is a first rate 'listens-to-you-pushes-forward-and-backs-off-when-she's-told' First String Cowdog.
Can the Second String do it?
Yeah, I think so. Hopefully. It might not be as pretty, but it'll still get done. The older Troll Dog gets, the better he gets. Control is still not his forte, but when your cows are out, you use whatever tools you have available, and he isn't gonna get any better if he doesn't get practice. Besides, experience has shown that in his case, running a quarter mile through rough brush to get to the cows does a lot to knock the edge off an excited pup. And it works to his advantage that Other Half has so much faith in Trace. I'm quick to reach for Lily in most situations, but Other Half is happy to work through the problem with his little troll dog.
Cowboy's back won't allow him to do much rough work before he's benched and spends the rest of the game riding in the truck.
I look at this and realize that sometime down the road we're gonna have to add another Border Collie to help Lily and Trace. Eeegaads. It seems like just yesterday I brought Baby Lily home.
We have too many dogs as it is, but the primary purpose of these Border Collies is stock dog work, and one or two dogs isn't enough when we've split them between farms like they are this week.
So although the men planned a lovely hunting trip blasting Bambi, after they spend several days repairing the damage to the fences done by the hogs, I think that perhaps Porky Pig will look better and better when seen through the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
This hogzilla was on our place Christmas Eve a couple years ago. Although I detest "man poses with dead animal" pictures, I think this perfectly illustrates the size of the hogs that are running through my fences like army tanks. So for every Bambi shot on our ranch, I expect the boys to shoot a hog or two.
Thursday, 23 October 2014
Sometimes we see most clearly in the dark. For instance, when you hear coyotes yipping and screams in the night, you can pare down life's essentials pretty quickly - gun + dogs
You don't get too caught up in fashion.
We have already established that I am not now, I have never been, nor will I ever be, a fashion icon. This does not however, mean I do not make a "fashion statement."
Although society's image of the stereotypical farm girl is blue jeans, boots, and a denim shirt, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that many of us wear yoga pants, t-shirts, and tennis shoes, or worse, crocs. Gasp! (I just blew that Hollywood image outta the water.)
The thing you have to understand here, is that for real farm girls, it's more about function than form. For example, when I'm at the ranch in north Texas, I do wear blue jeans and boots. That's because I need to carry a gun everywhere because of the freaking copperheads and rattlesnakes. Blue jeans hold up guns. Yoga pants do not. I wear boots for the same reason. Boots give some protection against snakebites. Crocs do not.
But now let's zoom to the farm down south. I can count the number of snakes I've seen in the yard on one hand, and all but one of these was harmless. Down here I'm trying to juggle a full-time job, a husband who has a full-time job, and more animals than Noah brought on the ark. And it's hot. Good gosh, is it hot. Image a tropical rainforest with concrete. That's south Texas. As soon as you walk outside, you break into a sweat. This is the Land Of Yoga Pants. Yoga pants and rubber boots.
Yes, it's a real fashion statement. I'm not sure what it says, but I know it isn't pretty. On the other hand, it's harmless.
Well, kinda. It's harmless until . . .
. . . until events jettison our Farm Fashionista from Odd & Fumpy Weirdo to Full-Scale Ninja Nutjob. Let's examine the Ninja Nutjob.
The Ninja Nutjob emerges as a Farm-Fashionista-With-A-Firearm when the wolf is at the door, the coyotes are in the pasture, the bobcat has just snatched a goose.
Times like this call for an all-out committed response, and there is no time for fashion. Our fashionista has only a moment to grab a gun and a flashlight. Now here's the hitch. As if yoga pants, a long t-shirt, and crocs are not enough to set the neighborhood ablaze with gossip, in an effort to save time, the smart fashionista grabs her handy dandy police gunbelt which comes equipped with both a gun and a flashlight. (It's really handy. Home Depot should sell these suckers.)
The trick is to condition your neighbors not to call 911.
Fortunately one of our neighbors was seen running around in his underwear with a pistol when he caught someone breaking into his garage. It's the same concept as a bobcat getting your goose. We don't judge in our 'hood.'
And while this attire may raise the eyebrows of local law enforcement, for some people, furry people or feathered people, these duds are the cape of the Superhero!
"She came riding a Big White Dog!"
Just imagine our Caped Crusader wearing yoga pants and a gunbelt riding along the fence line on a large white dog. Yep, that's superhero material right there! Heck, Marvel Comics will be calling me in no time.
"Hi Yo, Silver, away!"
Thursday, 16 October 2014
I thought we'd take a walk with Briar this morning.
Sparrow & Feather
Orville stills hangs out with the goats because the sheep barely tolerate him. He is becoming a pretty friendly little dude because the goats are so tame.
"Why are you taking pictures when you should be feeding us? Snap to it or we'll be forced to report you to Management!"
Poppy - my favorite calf
Jethro, Tim, & Tony shoving each other at the gate when I show up with a bucket.
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
I arrived just in time to blow up Barney. His explosion sent purple dinosaur fluff and stuffing skyrocketing. No, I myself, did not blow up Barney. Clyde did. I was just happy to watch while others whipped out phones to film Barney's demise. Yes, we were all adults. Yes, we're all supposed to be sane and not of the serial killer variety, but give country folk a rifle and some tannerite, and something is gonna go boom!
It works like this:
Stuff some tannerite into Barney's purple butt, or perhaps duct tape some onto Barbie. Set her in the pasture a good distance away, avoiding horses and cows. Walk back to porch. Make sure all have cell phones ready. Begin filming. Put Barbie or Barney in your crosshairs. Slowly squeeze trigger. If you hit the tannerite a very loud explosion will occur and bits of Barney or Barbie will be spread around the area. I'd like to see this done with a pumpkin or a watermelon.
Anyway, back to Barbie and Barney. It's good clean fun for adults, and I guess if the zombies ever come, you'll be in practice for blowing them up too. The important thing is the fun with friends. And this leads me to my 'Points To Ponder" for today.
I've made some interesting observations over the years. Our friends in North Texas don't sit around waiting for their adult children to make time for them. They hang out with other friends who also don't sit around waiting for their adult kids to make time for them. In short, they live their own lives. Oh sure, if their kids need them, they'll certainly go running to help, but the point is, they live their own lives instead of making their children's lives theirs. You simply cannot depend upon someone else for your own happiness. You must make your own happiness. And a major ingredient in the recipe for happiness is good friends.
Friends are the family you pick for yourself. Yes, friends can come and go, but don't kid yourself, family comes and goes too. I've seen a lot of death, and experience has taught me that in life, friends are just as important as family. In fact, they can make the difference between just getting by, and really enjoying everything that life has to offer.
As we age our families expand like a spider web connecting relationships through almost invisible fibers. Many of us have this romanticized vision of family as multiple generations sitting around the table for Sunday dinner like the family on the television show 'Blue Bloods.' The reality is that this usually only happens on Thanksgiving and that's exactly when the murders occur. Sharp knives, alcohol, and family members who don't like each other forced into close quarters are never good ingredients for a happy holiday. Worse, this delusion sets many of us up for disappointment with life in general.
What about the people who can't gather their family? Often they sit, in a self-imposed exile, waiting for family members to carve some time out for them. My advice? Go blow up Barney. Seriously. Hang out with your friends. Make an additional family. Don't spend this holiday season fretting about whether or not your adult kids can come see you. Make your own plans and let them deal with it. Include them or not, but I wouldn't not have fun with my life because I'm waiting for someone else to have fun with me.
I've noticed that there is a lot more fun in this life if we quit fretting about why someone else isn't making time for us, and we start making time with other people. I learned this lesson from Maggie's Grandma. Maggie was my old partner when I was still patrolling the streets of The Big City. Young and busy, Maggie rarely made time for her grandmother, but unlike my grandmother, who sat around worrying about when someone was gonna visit her, Maggie's granny was a "happenin' granny" who lived her own life instead of waiting for people to fit her into their lives.
One day Maggie decided that since she was scheduling a 'date' near the town where her grandmother lived, she could just call Granny the day before, and pop over to see the old girl for a few minutes before her date.
This is what Maggie was expecting:
Grandma sits around all day in anticipation of seeing her grandchild for probably thirty minutes to an hour. She has cooked goodies, cleaned house, and is waiting with bated breath for the arrival of her precious grandbaby. Maggie will spend the alloted time with her grandmother. Feel special. Cross the 'Grandma Thing' off her list of things to do. And then go spend time on her date which was the real reason for her arrival in town.
Grandma already has plans with her friends. Yes. She is bowling. Maggie is welcome to come before bowling, or she can stop by the Bowling Alley, but what Grandma is NOT gonna do is cancel bowling with her friends so she can sit around all day waiting on Maggie to decide that she has a little time to spend with her grandmother.
This sent an important lesson to both Maggie and to me. I was in the patrol car with Maggie while she talked to Granny on the phone and I can assure that she was speechless when she hung up. And she was filled with respect for Grandma. When she finally found her voice, Maggie turned to me and said, "Wow. Grandma's got it going on!"
Grandma made it clear to both of us that she was not sitting around in a dark and dusty house with a crystal jar full of hard candy on the coffee table waiting for Maggie. Well, color me 'impressed.'
I thought about that this weekend as I spent time with my North Texas 'family.' As bits of purple blew across the pasture, I was reminded that just because you're all grown up, it's still important to make time to play. In fact it's probably more important at 59 years old than it is at 9 years old.
So the next time you're tempted to waste time waiting for someone to make time in their lives for you, be it a man you think will make you happy, a woman you think will make you happy, or family members you think will make you happy, instead, pick up the phone and schedule some fun time with your friends. And that, that, will make you happy.
Saturday, 11 October 2014
I grew up on a steady diet of "The Wonderful World of Disney." Every Sunday evening our television glowed with another tale of wonder and imagination. One of my favorites was "That Darned Cat" the story of Siamese who lives a secret life. His family is completely unaware of his travels around the neighborhood until he comes home with a diamond braclet fastened around his neck. Thus the mystery begins.
Briar is like that cat. No, she doesn't roam the neighborhood. Apparently, the neighborhood comes to her.
A few weeks ago I was in the kitchen when I heard a woman's voice outside. A neighbor had her toddler in a stroller at the gate. At first I thought they wanted my attention, but nope, they were visiting the Big White Dawg. She explained that a storm was coming but the baby wanted a walk anyway. Fearing they'd get caught in the rain, she didn't want to get too far away from the house, but thought they enough time to visit Briar and thus pacify the child. And it did.
Apparently Briar is a regular stop on their trip around the neighborhood. I find this vastly amusing. Other Half is not a fan of my big white dog. She's big. She's hairy. Most of the time she's dirty. 'Aloof' is not in her dictionary. I've found that people either really dislike Briar (for the above reasons) or they absolutely adore Briar. (in spite of the above reasons)
It has come to my attention that the toddler next door is just one of Briar's unknown fans. The UPS man stopped at the gate last night. We had a short conversation about Briar and once again I realized the dog has a secret life going on outside our family.
Although deeper into the country than the little farm where Briar grew up, this property is on a main county road so it gets far more traffic. In addition to cars, we also get a lot of bicycles and joggers. Thus more people have access to this giant white dog, and clearly these people know Briar.
I had one lady stop to tell me that she used to be afraid of the dog but now they are great friends. She talks to Briar as she powerwalks down the street. I don't even know this woman's name, but she knows my dog.
While fishing for a home for a rescue dog, I once asked another neighbor if he was ready for a new puppy, and his response was,
"No, the next time I get a dog, it's gonna be one like this big white dog!"
I swear I saw Other Half gag.
Briar just smiled. And maybe she winked.
Monday, 06 October 2014
I've started building my fall inventory of soap and thus begins the merry-go-round of making soap, cutting soap, bagging soap, mailing soap and delivering soap. The goat milk I'm using is the last of the frozen milk from Clover and Crimson. I stored the milk in glass Mason jars with a little blue dab of painter's tape on the lid where the goat and date is listed.
I can't help but get a bit choked up as I pull the milk out of the freezer. By the time I've completed my Christmas inventory, I will have run out of milk from Crimson and Clover - my first dairy goats.
Last spring when I ran CAE tests on everyone, my beloved Clover and her son, Dash, came up positive. While other people may be able to juggle CAE positive goats with negative ones, we have neither the time nor the space to do it, so I opted to place everyone in pet homes and start over again. Although it hurt to lose them, they went to great homes with people we trust, so all was well.
Clover and her babies went to live with our grandchildren so we could see them regularly. I missed them, but was satisfied that they were living happy lives as beloved family pets. They got lots of attention and followed the kids everywhere. But just as there is a snake in the Garden of Eden, there are parasites in Paradise.
Most likely these were parasites the goats came in with but because Clover was at the tail end of lactation, she was affected more than the kids. Clover began to lose weight. She was wormed and seemed to be better, but the kids found her dead one morning a few weeks ago.
Like an ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand and pretended it didn't really happen, but each morning that I pull milk out of the freezer, it's there in front of me. I have to deal with her death. I cannot keep pretending that the next time we visit the kids, she'll come trotting up with her ears swaying from side to side.
The rest of the goats are fat and happy with strong immune systems, but Clover just didn't make it. I cried. I cried for Clover, I cried for the grandchildren who lost a beloved pet, and selfish beast that I am, I cried for me, because I loved that silly goat.
There is a philosophy among goat people -
"It's always the pretty ones, and the ones you love the most who will die."
Sadly this holds true. Parasites are nasty little bastards. Worming goats and sheep with the right drug for the right parasite is always a tricky game. Most of the time we win, but this time we lost. And it hurt for everyone.
Clover will always remain that one special goat for me. She was my first dairy goat. The first goat I learned to milk, the goat who led me to the world of goat milk soap. She used to hum when I milked her. It was the oddest thing. I think she was actually talking to herself as she ate her grain, but it sounded just like humming. Clover was my humming goat.
So each time I take a Mason jar out of the freezer and peel away the little blue sticker with her name, I will hurt a little inside, and through the tears I will remember my beloved Humming Goat.
Vaya con Dios, Clover. Go with God.