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Farm Fresh Blog
Saturday, January 31 2015
Well, it happened today - this morning - on our morning walk. The goats rushed to the fence to see me and suddenly they slammed on the brakes - staring at my feet. And at my feet a sleeping dragon had awakened.
She squared off, lowered her little head, raised her eyebrow, and the National Geographic music rolled. And at that moment, the goats and I realized a baby cowdog woke up. They took a step back and sealed the deal. That was it. The "power" breathed into her like a Jedi force and just like a light switch flipped, Mesa turned on. Alrightie then.
I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in the movie, "Madagascar" when Alex finally realizes he's a lion, the ultimate predator. This scene never fails to put me in stitches: http://youtu.be/6PutXIL2MS8
If you haven't seen the movie Madagascar, do yourself a favor and see it. You will not regret it.
Thursday, January 29 2015
This is the modern cowboy:
While not entirely excluding work on horseback, we still find that the use of a 4wheeler with dogs is a pretty easy way to work cows.
There is a creek running through our ranch that wild hogs (and cows) use as a highway. The fence gates across the creek crossings are supposed to work like doggy doors, flipping up when the water flows bringing debris with it, and then settling back into place. The problem is that the cattle have figured this crap out and use the fence gaps like giant doggy doors. Thus they come and go as they please. Since our ranch has the only ponds in the area, they still come home to drink, but those hussies roam like tomcats in the hood.
This must stop. They have everything they need on our property: grass, water, shelter, cattle feeder. There is no need to adopt this "free-range" attitude. Talking to other ranchers in our area, this is common with their cattle too. One rancher even pointed out that Texas is a free-range state, thus fences are to keep cattle OUT not to keep cattle IN. Hmmmm...
I don't care. I don't want my cattle loose. I don't want my cows so far away that they can't even hear us calling them. Thus Other Half made plans to seal the doggy door closed. The first good rain will take it out since the fence can't raise up now, but for a while, it'll keep the cattle inside. But before he could change the fence, he had to find the cows and return them to the property. I drove around the first day and they were nowhere close. And since we've had some rain up there recently, there was obviously no burning desire to return home to water either because the next day they hadn't returned.
So Other Half loaded up the 4wheeler with his favorite tools: fencefixing materials and Trace
I have a love/hate relationship with this dog. I would probably like him more if he wasn't so dog-aggressive and so hard on my sheep. Other Half adores the little beast. He's happy enough with the way the dog works cows and they have a good relationship. I suppose the dog works because Other Half believes in him.
For example, they loaded up on the 4wheeler that cold rainy morning while I stayed in the warm house and did inside chores. He had a thermos of coffee, a walkie-talkie radio, a gun, and Trace, so I didn't worry much, but I didn't expect to see them for hours.
Less than an hour later I heard him bumping me on the radio. A half mile off the property Trace had found the cows, gathered them up, and headed them back home.
And after that he just settled down behind a cactus and watched them - like a peeping tom stalker.
That big black cow is Snickers the Water Buffalo who will stomp a dog to death if she can catch it. The trick to working these cows is to give Snickers a healthy amount of distance and let her think moving the right direction is her idea. Don't push this old girl to fight or she'll make an honest attempt to kill your dog.
He doesn't have a lot of formal training, but Trace reads cattle really well. He doesn't have a lot of finesse but he understands the basics - find the cows, get around them, pick em up, bring em to Dad, hop back in the 4wheeler. And because of this, he manages to be a basic tool for the modern cowboy.
I think it takes more than just having a good dog. I think it takes a healthy dose of believing in that dog. Trace steps up to the job because Other Half believes he can. He isn't nearly as judgemental with this little dog as I am, and it shows in the dog's performance. They ride out together, both having a big picture of the job, and working together, they get it done. And really, I suppose that's what it's all about.
Monday, January 26 2015
The evolution of a nickname is a curious thing. Lily's alias is "Gator," Dillon is the "D-Man," and Trace is "Red Feather." It was assumed that Mesa's nickname would evolve to be "May May," but such is not the case. This past week at the ranch her new nickname emerged:
Because the cow goes "Moooooo."
And Mesa Moo has supervised all cow feeding,
and she has figured out now that the cow goes "MOO!!!"
Mesa was quite happy to watch the cattle from the safety of the truck but when Other Half carried her through the bunch to count cows, she was a bit apprehensive that the 'moo-moos' noticed her.
It is clearly a lot less intimidating when you're being carried through sheep or goats, but neverthless she handled the cattle well. I did notice there was no discussion of "Put me DOWN! I've got legs. Let me walk!"
The conversation went more like:
"Hold me tight, Daddy!"
And he did. And Mesa was just fine. At her age it's all about exposure to the world she will work in without allowing her to have a bad experience. So Mesa spent a week at the north ranch, soaking up real ranch life and the worst thing that happened to her was she got a stupid nickname.
Saturday, January 17 2015
It has legs now!
And a nose!
One day I noticed that Mesa was getting around faster and realized that she had suddenly sprouted legs. It was like a cartoon. One moment she was a guinea pig without legs, and then - there was a pop! And she sprouted legs!
"Even I don't believe that."
Regardless of when they appeared, they did, and Mesa the Mogwai Monster Minion is suddenly a very fast-moving twister with a mind of her own. Yes, a twister, that pretty much descibes what it's like to keep up with her.
And the twister has 4 wheel drive.
The day she came home, I placed a board on the back of the flatbed trailer and every morning she climbs the board to survey her tiny kingdom from the top of the trailer.
She also enjoys exploring the area in the side yard which houses all the farm equipment. Just like baby goats, baby Border Collies love this jungle gym.
Each day she plays on the equipment and I'm happy to encourage her up to a point -
This was the point.
I was busy snapping pictures when I realize the little beast was shooting to the top of an old dog walk. This was the first time she had ever shown any interest in the old thing. The ramp has become disconnected from the top so she thought everything was fine until she got to the top and realized that was as far as she could go. I hustled over as fast as I could move without trying to make too much of a fuss lest she bail off the top.
Dillon and Ranger were already on it.
No, I hadn't said a thing to them. The adult dogs just recognized she had a problem and rushed over there. I joined them and she got herself turned around. Then she climbed back down, turned around, and shot back up to the top. Monster likes climbing. Monster likes giving me gray hairs. While I appreciate her boldness, this is definitely not an obstacle I want her playing with at her age. Too much risk, too much strain on her growing body. So this will be her last view from this height for a while.
"LOOK! You can see the sheep from here!"
Thursday, January 15 2015
Who could be immune to the charms of this little mug?
Who could not love this face?
Or at least tolerate this face?
And this fuzzy butt!
I can't believe everyone doesn't just fall and gush over this cuteness personified.
Briar has not only not warmed up to Mesa, she has decided that Mesa is indeed, a Mini-Me version of Lily, whom she despises.
Thus by default, she despises Mesa . . .
. . . who really is a Junior version of Lily.
Briar has decided she doesn't like any of the Border Collies. She loathes Lily, whips Cowboy's butt when the mood strikes her, and tolerates Trace until he does drive-bys, nipping at her as he races past. It's sad really, since they used to play together, but as the Border Collies got older, they got more cliquish, and as Briar gets older, she gets more grumpy and less tolerant of other dogs. Just about the time the board of Barbed Wire Border Collies, Inc. met and decided to approve Mesa's membership application, Briar decided the pup was definitely a Border Collie, something that would grow to be a know-it-all-micro-managing-back-biting-sheep-intimidating-holier-than-thou canine upstart.
Thus, there will be no cute pictures of Briar cuddling with Mesa.
"Nooooo.... there will not...."
"That's her loss. This toy is neater than a Kong!"
Monday, January 12 2015
Everyone together now!
"TRUST YOUR DOG!"
If you've ever run Patrol Dogs or Search & Rescue Dogs, this lesson should be pounded into your head. Trust the damn dog. I cannot tell you how many times I've been
Before we go there, we have to touch base in the Land Of Sexist Rants again. Forgive me guys. What is it about men that makes them think their jobs are more important than ours? Why does a man think that it's okay to go to work, come home, go to bed, and have uninterrupted sleep because his spouse will take care of any and all responsibilities? And, why does a woman do it? Why do we allow him to come home and crawl in bed when we don't allow ourselves this luxury?
When I come home from work I must:
1) Potty break and juggle 7 dogs
When Husband comes home, he:
1) Goes to bed
Since the addition of Mesa the Baby Border Collie I have been forcing Other Half to at least give her a potty break before he comes to bed so that I can have an addditional hour or two of sleep before I face the day. My reasoning is this: He darned sure plans to use this pup on his cattle, and thus he should share the responsibility of raising said creature.
Ladies, am I right?
This is how it played out this morning:
Other Half comes home at 5:30 am. Mesa, as always, is delighted to see him. He takes wriggling, happy girl outside. A few minutes later, he returns to plop her in bed with me where she plays until he comes to bed. He then crawls in bed and plays with puppy. (expecting me to return pup to kennel when he's done) His reasoning: "You have to pee anyway. Just lock her up when you come back to bed." This sounds reasonable so I fall for it.
The lights go back out. Minutes later puppy is crying. He ignores her. I ignore her. After all, she has had a potty break. She has played. I should have at least an hour and a half before the sun comes up and I plan to SLEEP. If I get up now, there is no going back to bed. So I listen to her cries become screams. Her bowl begins bouncing around the kennel like a prisoner's tin cup banging the bars. I squeeze my eyes shut and continue to ignore her. Her antics become a full-blown fit.
And here's where I made my mistake:
Dillon comes to the edge of the bed and announces: "Mesa has to go to the potty."
I ignore him. He is her best bud and probably wants to start his day early too.
He paws my face. "Mesa has a CODE 1 Potty Emergency."
I yell at him to go lie down. He sighs and leaves, only to return and announce, "She isn't kidding. She's gonna have a mud blow-out if you don't let her out."
I roll over and ignore him.
And guess what?
Mesa has a mud blow-out. Simple as that. She shit all over her kennel floor, all over her toys, all in her little dog bed, and it was all over her feet. I peek in the kennel to find a very unhappy little girl sitting in the middle of a poopy dog bed, glaring at me.
Dillon's eyebrow said it all. "I told you she had to go to the bathroom."
And that's when I put it together. Rather than stand outside in the cold, waiting for a puppy to poop, Other Half had allowed her to pee and then run back inside. He ignored the basic rule of Training Your Dragon: The dragon ALWAYS has to poop! The Mesa Dragon has to poop twice before she is really done. He has been told this, but at 5:30 am after a long night at work, it's just easier to ignore that and count on the spouse to deal with it.
The lamp comes on and the fireworks go off. I point out that if he had taken the time to give her a proper bathroom break he would be snoring at this moment instead of helping me drag a dog crate outside, bathing a puppy, and washing her dog bed and toys.
I apologize to Dillon for not trusting his judgement. I apologize to Mesa for not believing her. I then rush Mesa, Lily, and Dillon outside and return for the kennel. Growl at Other Half who is still lying in bed, blinking like a mole. Open front door to take poopy trash bag outside. Mesa is standing at front door happy to see me. She no longer has to poop. (Ya think?!) Lily is disgusted by Mesa's actions and bites her in the face. Puppy does a backflip and falls off the porch, landing in a large puddle of muddy water. I smack Lily in the side with a trash bag full of shit. She is grossly offended by this. Mesa happily climbs out of puddle, runs around the deck, bounces up the steps, and appears at my feet, poopy, muddy, but happy.
I cannot help but smile at her good humor. No harm. No foul. She doesn't hold a grudge. Perhaps we can all learn something from a puppy.
I think about that as I hose out the kennel, her dog bed, and her toys. We take a long walk in the yard while Other Half plunks her dog bed in the washing machine. I have a 'wife moment' as I hear the washing machine filling up with water and shout through the screen door at Other Half, "You know you have to put something else in there to balance that load, right?" He grunts that he knew that. My mind does a quick inventory of the dirty clothes. Nothing in the hamper is something that can be washed with a crappy dog bed, so I ask him, "What did you use to balance the load."
Standing on the front porch I ask again through the screen door. Crickets.
The only possible right answer to this question was "dog towels" but since he didn't respond I knew he was still running around the house trying to find something to wash with the crappy dog bed because he had forgotten he couldn't just plunk a shitty dog bed in the washing machine, hit the 'wash' button, and go back to bed.
I take a lesson from Mesa who is happily bouncing around in the mud with a stick. I let it go. Walk around yard watching happy puppy while the wildly popular song from the movie Frozen rolls through my head. Other Half shouts through the window that Mesa's bath water is ready.
We bathe puppy in sink. She discovers the bag of puppy chow beside the sink and buries her head in the bag to pack her little cheeks like a chipmunk. Whatever. It keeps her still. Pick your battles. After her bath I make Other Half pose for a photo with a puppy burrito.
I inform him that I will blog about this. He nods. He is tired and no longer wants to hear how this is all his fault because he short-cutted her potty break. I will go on record as saying the fault is shared because if I had believed Dillon when he announced the emergency, I too, would have been snoring in bed instead of starting the day by walking in the mud humming the PG version of "Let It Go" while a grinning puppy chews on sticks.
Sunday, January 11 2015
The folks who are on the Failte Gate Farm Facebook page have already seen these pics, but since that's only a small percentage of our readers, I thought I'd share this little incident on the blog.
You all know Delta and her calf, Radio. This week I let the boy goats out of their buck pen to run around the farm because I anticipated the nasty weather coming down the pipe and wanted them to have some free play before the storms hit. The wethers chose wisely, and hustled off to entertain themselves eating browse and exploring. Jethro, the buck, decided to hang out with the cattle. Since hanging out with cows is normally a safe practice for goats, I don't discourage this.
On the other hand, there are certain behaviors that are just plain stupid. Sparring with cattle is one of them.
Delta humored him for a while.
I stood there, filling the water trough and watched this little drama play out. He pushed and she just stood there. Delta actually kind of likes Jethro, but there are limits. It was all fun and games until Jethro decided to butt Radio.
Delta moved so fast the camera couldn't even catch it.
Jethro wobbled like Charlie Chaplin and wandered away, thus ending his sparring with cattle for the evening.
It was not his finest moment.
Saturday, January 10 2015
The Board members of Barbed Wire Border Collies, Inc. met today and finally approved the membership application of young Mesa Langford.
After careful thought and consideration the board members have decided that Miss Mesa shows promise of being a Border Collie and thus they have accepted her into the Apprentice Program. She is delighted they have finally given her this opportunity to prove herself.
"And it's ON!"
Tuesday, January 06 2015
I felt so bad for her because she was born a night before a front brought three inches of cold rain, and left 6 inches of cold mud. Since this was all she knew, the calf navigated the mud like a snowboarding teenager.
These pictures were taken days ago, before she plumped up, but it wasn't until yesterday that she felt the warm kiss of the sun on her back. And today, after a second day of sunshine, she really bloomed. I had moved the cattle to a drier pasture and she was enjoying the thrill of galloping across dry ground. (Relatively dry ground. Well, not really, but compared to 6 inches of mud, it was dry ground!)
I named the calf, Radio. Other Half doesn't bother, but I name all the calves that stand out for some reason. Radio stands out for me because her mother is Delta the Flying Cow. Since Radio is almost solid red, and her mother is the Flying Cow, I named her after the little red wagon, the Radio Flyer.
Yes, my mind takes strange and convoluted paths to a particular destination. Yes, I know it's a stupid name, but come on, she's a cow - it's not like she's gonna answer to it. And you're talking to a person who has a sheep named Flower Pot because she got a pot stuck on her head, and another sheep named Chuck because she got "stuck like chuck" under a truck. Names help me remember their stories.
So her name will be Radio, daughter of Delta the Flying Cow who jumped out of a fancy auction arena.
Delta is proving to be a most attentive mother - really attentive - really, really, really dangerously attentive.
Delta is a Braford, a breed whose roots go back to the meaty Hereford and the wily Brahma. (Hereford: Big red meat cattle with white faces. Brahma: hardy, long-eared Indian cattle who jump fences, good mothers/very smart/can be trouble)
I think the Braford combines the best of these breeds, and Delta is a perfect example. Despite the fact that she jumped out the arena during the auction, she's never given us a bit of trouble. She is smart and perfectly reasonable around the farm. She gave birth to a big calf with no assistance in the delivery. Read: Will You Help Me Flip A Cow?
Because she got cast in the round bale of hay, she was immobilized when her calf stood up and wandered around the pasture. She was smart enough to know I was trying to help her when I put ropes on her legs and flipped her. She didn't kick me. (I really appreciate that. Score another one for Delta.) And as soon as she struggled to her feet, she limped off to claim the calf she knew was hers.
Since that night she has kept a careful eye on Radio. And so it was that I was in the pasture this afternoon filling up water troughs while Briar puttered around the barnyard. I was vaguely aware that Radio was motoring around the back pasture. Briar was sniffing around the arena, and I was deep in a phone conversation.
It wasn't until my eye landed on Delta trotting in from the back pasture like a war horse that I even took much notice of Radio, but I followed Delta's suspicious glare straight to Radio, who was standing beside Briar.
Briar was in her own little world, completely oblivious to the fact that a cute bear cub was standing behind her and an enraged grizzly was charging their direction.
I called to Briar. She flicked an ear but continued her olfactory inventory of the arena. I glanced back at Delta. She was covering ground fast and was about to turn Briar into a white greasy spot in the pasture. This was serious shit, and Briar was having a Pyrenees moment.
I screamed at her. The cow was trotting faster. Briar still ignored me.
"La dee daaa, la dee daaaa."
She finally looked at me just as Delta entered the back of the arena. I pleaded with her to hurry.
"This is serious shit, Briar. Come! I mean NOW! Really, really NOW!"
"Now? Like now, at this moment in time? Or now, as in this week? Now is such a relative term, don't you think? Have you studied Einstein's Theory Of Relativity? Space and time should really be considered together and in relation to each other."
By this time Briar had decided to amble toward me to further discuss Einstein and was trying to find a way to get through the boards. Delta was gaining ground fast. Briar was oblivious to the Volkswagon Bus intent on killing her. It wasn't looking good, but just as the dog slid between the boards, Radio lost interest and turned back to greet her mother. Delta slid to a halt and shook her fist at Briar's furry butt, which was then on the other side of the fence, wiggling in my direction.
I think I need to call my hair dresser and color the new gray hairs which turned today and I think I have a stomach ulcer.
Until Radio gets some age on her, Briar has been banished from the pasture. The sheep will just have to count on Delta to protect them. Something tells me they'll be just fine. And Delta has proven that when her calf is ready to be weaned, she can be moved to the ranch up north to have her next baby. I would not want to be a coyote caught trying to steal Delta's baby.
So yes, maybe Delta has a wee bit more Brahma in her, and Brahma cattle do jump over fences, but no one, no one, NO ONE, messes with their calves.
"What are you looking at?!"
Tuesday, January 06 2015
Mesa is a Border Collie, a young Jedi warrior, eager to hang out with other members of her race.
The problem is -
they don't want anything to do with her.
I juggle the time she spends with the other dogs carefully. It is a delicate balance. A steady diet of Dillon and she would become a monster. Too much time with The Mean Dogs and she could end up with a serious self-esteem problem, or hurt. They can only handle about 3 minutes of her company. It's nothing personal. They hate everyone - even each other.
She has all the moves. She grovels. She gives them space. She just wants to be near their Border Collie Greatness. And for all her efforts, she gets nothing.
"I wouldn't care if you died now."
"I can help you die now."
"If I don't look at you, maybe you'll die."
"Go play in street, Worm."
Eventually their attitude sinks in and she settles down in the mud to wonder why they hate her. I remind her there is a reason why we call them "The Mean Dogs."
Saturday, January 03 2015
There many skills a well-rounded pup must master.
Drinking out of the water trough
And to see her through all these lessons is her BFF - Best Friend Forever, Dillon. The eternal child, he is happy to play with Mesa. In fact, she's the neatest toy he's ever had.
But their play must be monitored closely. Dillon is a big fan of any stick he can find in the yard. Dillon defines stick as anything ranging from the size of a twig to a log. I do not want him playing with sticks around her. Sticks are dangerous.
This is not on the approved toy list.
Despite her size, Mesa the Mogwai thinks nothing of stealing a stick from him.
And good-natured beast that he is, Dillon lets her get away with it. He bows to her size and her temper. That is the recipe for making a monster. Fortunately there are other members of the family who are more than ready to give Mesa a dose of reality.
"Sister you better start dialing 911 now."
Friday, January 02 2015
It's time to start training my dragon. This is actually not true. The dragon training began immediately whether I was ready or not. A puppy is a sponge, soaking up everything around her. You can choose to wait to start training until she's bigger, but then bad habits are already in place. At Mesa's age, we can shape the behaviors we wish to keep, and ignore behaviors that are undesirable, hoping to extinguish them. The only physical correction she gets is when she is attacking my ankle. I reached down and scruff her a bit, then I redirect her. I do not roughhouse with her. She is all teeth and if you want to see a mutation quickly, roughhouse with her.
A couple of days ago we began shaping behaviors with cheese. Right now all I want is a sit, and a touch my palm. Since my background is from schutzhund, agility, and flyball, I don't have a lot of trickdog skills in my basket, so I want to expand that with Mesa. That means hitting the books myself. I dabbled a bit with Lily and she learned how to gather the sheep, then run close the gate behind herself. Lily runs and grabs things I can't reach. She also learned to open the refrigerator and pick up a Dr Pepper can. (and puncture the can with her teeth) But for the most part, I didn't do the trick training with Lily that I wanted. (It's never too late!)
I didn't do any trick training with Trace. He quickly became Other Half's dog and neither of them had much interest in tricks. But like Lily, Mesa spends a great deal of her time seeking eye contact and attempting to interact with us. She is clever and already tries to manipulate her environment to attain her needs. When she's hungry, she runs to the kitchen, twirls her little butt in the air, plops down and stares at the kitchen sink. If that doesn't bring forth food, she barks at the sink. This alerts someone that her tummy is currently empty and she wishes it to be filled. She began this on her own. Now I ask her if she's hungry and she directs her stare at me instead of the sink, but she still twirls in the air and lands with drama. I note her 'airs above ground behavior' as she jumps in the air, swings her body, and lands like a clumsy cat.
Beause she's a baby now, I'm not reinforcing that behavior as I don't want her to hurt herself, but in the future it can be a fun trick. I'm also considering teaching her to ring a bell on the door when she has to pee. I want to teach her to turn the lights on and off, and a multitude of other things that I see on Youtube. She is clever, and my schedule allows more time now.
So my question to you guys is this:
What is your favorite resource for trick training?
I love watching vidoes from Page and Nana, but I'd like to start following a forum or blog that talks about trick training dogs. Any ideas?
Thursday, January 01 2015
Happy New Year!
In our house 2015 is officially the year of the Mogwai!
Mogwai? What's that you ask?
Remember the movie, Gremlins? Let me jog your memory:
An inventor wanders into a Chinatown antique store in search of a gift for his son and sees a Mogwai (Cantonese for Monster) which the owner refuses to sell because owning one is too great a responsibility. The owner's grandson ends up selling the cute little critter with these instructions:
1) never expose it to bright light (it will die)
2) never let it touch water (it will multiply)
3) never feed it after midnight (it changes from cute Mogwai into destructive beast)
From this creature
to this creature!
Thank you Steven Spielberg and Warner Brothers, you have just described life with a Border Collie puppy.
"You know you love it."
Yes, I do.
Raising a Mogwai Mesa is a great responsibility but what a happy way to start 2015.