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Friday, July 31 2015

Yesterday Briar and the Boyz made the grueling journey to north Texas. The plan was to leave at 4 am so the bulk of the ride would be when temperatures were still cool. That didn't happen. I wasn't able to get on the road until 6:15 AM and this put us smack in the middle of rush hour traffic when going through The Big City. As the minutes ticked away, the temperature climbed.

I had Lily, Ranger, Dillon, and Aja in the cab of an F250 pickup. Briar and the male goats (and Orville the ram) were tucked in the back of the horse trailer. Even with the windows down, it was a hot ride. We arrived around 2 PM, in the heat of the day. Poor Briar was almost at the point of a heat stroke.

She was having such a hard time that brought her into the house and let her lie on the cold concrete floor underneath the air conditioner. Even after she cooled off some, she had little interest in major exploring. She made a cursory attempt to walk the perimeter of the buck pen but decided it was too thick and too much trouble in the heat.

She eventually made her way to the barn, and collapsed in front of the big barn fan. When Lily brought the goats into the barn for the night, Briar escorted them and then plopped back down in front of the fan for the evening.

Last night I locked the goats inside the barn and left Ranger with Briar as additional security. I was awakened around 1 AM when the coyotes came close enough to the barn for Briar and Ranger to go batshit crazy. (Note to Self: Do not doubt the addition of 2 Anatolian Shepherd puppies. Briar will definitely need the help here!)

This morning she was rested and relaxed and ready to begin her day.

Briar took a walk with the other dogs and checked out her new digs.

She seems to like her new home. Thus far she has given me heart failure by sticking her nose into every place most likely to contain a copperhead. She has patrolled and marked and given it her seal of approval. Briar does not, however, like the hot sand in front of the barn, and the grasshoppers that land on her head.  Hopefully the coyotes don't see how she behaves when grasshoppers land on her nose.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:35 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, July 23 2015

Believe it or not, we are still moving! It isn't just a matter of moving a farm across the state, it's building the pens, building the stalls, and adding field fencing to existing barbed wire fences. It's trying to find space for a lifetime of accumulated "stuff" that simply will not fit in the new house.  It's juggling 7 dogs without the appropriate outside kennels. Yes, you can just turn them loose outside - during the day. At night, you better confine the dogs because like the freakin' Zombie Apocalypse, the damned copperheads come slithering out of hiding as the sun creeps down.

We got two in one night. I caught the above one actually coming inside the barn, slithering into my dog kennel - and I beat him to death with a bush ax. (Momma don't play around her dogs!) Other Half actually stepped on a copperhead one morning. It got away by hiding in a roll of field fencing. He altered his plans that day to include mowing everything close to the house. (Think "prairie dog hill" folks, PRAIRIE DOG HILL!"  Short grass doesn't keep them from coming close, but it does let you see them.

Which, unfortunately for the snake, leads to their demise. I'd actually leave them alone if it wasn't for the dogs, but I worry about losing a dog to a copperhead bite. That said, Dillon and Mesa dug out of their kennel one night while Other Half was puttering inside. He said they were only alone for about 20 minutes (Manspeak Translation: at LEAST an hour and 20 minutes) They had been out long enough to go down to the pond and take a swim, explore through all manner of bushes containing sticker burrs and briars, and meet me at the main gate when I came driving up in the dark. Friends, watching your dogs gallop up in the dark is both a welcome and a troubling sight.

They were loose at Prime Time Copperhead Hour - The Witching Hour, in the Prime Time Copperhead Location, and yet, both dogs emerged unharmed. Apparently the snakes in this area are not that aggressive. (except for the rattlesnake that did bite Dillon a few years ago) And given the choice, I'd rather have the copperheads than the rattlesnakes. They are easier to spot, and they aren't as poisonous. And they clearly aren't as quick to pull the trigger.

To answer your questions before you ask, (See, I'm learning!) No, Briar isn't up here yet. She is still with the boy goats down south in the care of a neighbor, but I shall inform her that she has a very strong fanbase. No, I haven't brought the girl goats and sheep home yet. They are still with Dear Friends Kim & Clyde who should be nominated for sainthood by now. No, I haven't picked up the Anatolian puppies yet. They are still babies and should be ready for our ranch when we are ready to take them.

Briar fans will be delighted to hear that my new veternarian is a goat person who has a livestock guardian puppy that looks JUST LIKE BRIAR! When he told me about her, he said,

"Go look in the back kennels (in the clinic) and see that ugly shaggy dog. That's it."

I poked my head back there and sure enough, it was a baby briar! I quickly whipped out my cell phone to show him pictures of what his little gem would grow to become.

That said, I guess I need to get off the computer and start putting up more field fence in the mesquite patch to make a day pen for the bucks. Ta-ta!

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:15 am   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, July 11 2015

One of the biggest hurdles in moving a farm is in moving the livestock. On this last trip up we moved the rest of the cattle, and the girl goats and sheep. Briar is still in South Texas with the boys. The cattle were dumped out on our place and the goats and sheep went to their temporary home with Dear Friends Kim & Clyde. They have four donkeys and a mule that they placed around the goat/sheep pen. We dropped them off in the early afternoon. By that evening Kim was ready for dairy goats herself. The next morning we were on our way to a nearby farm to buy her a Nubian doe weanling. Yes, folks, dairy goats are like cocaine - one taste and you're hooked! They are that dangerous.

A big concern with the move was the fact that Roanie was heavily pregnant and I really didn't want to bounce her across Texas. She weathered the move like a trooper though, and a few days later this little guy was born.

Yesterday we turned Roanie and her new baby out with the herd. Another hurdle down.

We don't have donkeys. We don't have a llama. We have Briar. Although I have a lot of faith in Briar, I also know that the moment I move those sheep and goats onto this property I will have coyotes, bobcats, and possibly the cougar, coming right up to the house for a free dinner. That's more than Briar can handle by herself. We've built night pens behind the barn that are completely encircled by an alleyway where non-LGD dogs can run. This will allow them to protect the stock at night. My plan was to use the other dogs to 'supplement' Briar until her age forced me to get new livestock guardian dogs. After all, we have 8 dogs, I really didn't want to add any more.

But then . . .  Then I looked at the forest. I noticed how easily something could slip out in broad daylight, grab a baby lamb, and sneak right back into the foliage. There was no way Briar could be everywhere at once, and around here the forest has eyes.

Since I knew it was inevitable, I decided open myself up to the possibility of adding the pair of Anatolians I had always said I'd get when we moved up here. If it was meant to be, a pair would fall in my lap. Sure enough, a few days after I opened myself up to the idea, I saw a litter. These pups were exactly what I was looking for.

A phone call later and I had reserved two five week old boys.  They will be ready when we've completed the move and are ready for them.

Yes, ten freaking dogs. TEN!

3 Livestock Guardian Dogs
4 Border Collies
1 Freeloading Blue Heeler (holds down the bed)
1 Retired patrol dog (currently Head of Barn Security)
1 Labrador Retriever (currently Head of House Security)

I'm trying to not focus on the fact that we have ten dogs. I'm trying to focus on the fact that if I don't add dogs, I'll be subtracting lambs and kids immediately. Any rancher can tell you, once you turn the light on to signal the buffet is open, the predators will roll in night after night. It'll take quite a while to get these little guys trained anyway. They should be ready to take over full time by the day Briar is too old to be effective. If we get pups now, there shouldn't be much of a gap. Anatolians grow to be giant dogs so when these guys grown up like their dad, they should cause the predators around here to think twice about snatching up a goat.

 Big dogs!

This move up to North Texas is like a three ring circus anyway, what's a couple more acts in the show?

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:41 am   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Friday, July 10 2015

I'm not a very religious person. It's been a while since I've been to church and other folks know the Bible a lot better than me, but I do talk to God all the time, and I try to be open to His side of the conversation.

I think this is the hardest part of every relation - listening to the other person. My experience has been that if you don't listen to His whisper, God will send a roar to get your attention. There are things I've learned to accept in life - when a door opens, when a door closes, and when God puts something in your path. If God sent it, there's a reason. I can jump up and down and screech "Why NOW? Why NOW of all times?! I don't have time for this?!" Or I can put my big girl panties on and do what we all do - call Mom for help.

The adventure went like this:

Driving home from my last official night at work as a police officer I am on the phone with my mother in deep discussion about packing for the Big Move. I am on the way to her house to pick up shelving for my closet. I have my mother on my ear piece, the radio is on, and my air conditioner is blaring. Over this I hear a dog barking. Since I'm on the county road not too far from my mom's, and since her dog sometimes goes walkabout, I stop the truck to check it out. Now here is the weird part - I'm on the phone with my mother, and I ask her if her dog is out, and she says "no" but I am still compelled to stop and investigate the barking. Who does that?

It is late. It is dark. My mother has already said her dog is in the house. Why did I stop? Why did I get out of the truck? In the darkness I see a large canine figure take evasive action. This dog clearly does not know me, nor does it want to know me. I shrug, get in the truck and drive off. Even I am confused by my own behavior.

And then I hear it. Over my mother talking in my ear, over the radio, over the air conditioning, over the truck engine, I hear the plaintive cry of a kitten. I slam on the brakes.

Once again I step out of the truck and walk back down the dark county road. Out of the darkness a tiny kitten amps up the volume on his cries.

"Stop! Stop! Wait! Help me, Biped! Help!"

He ran through the dark along the county road and into my arms. I stood on the highway and accepted my fate. My husband hates cats. I have 7 dogs in the house. I am in the middle of moving an entire farm all the way across the state. The absolute last thing I need is a kitten so tiny that he must stay inside the house for quite a while, BUT what are the odds that all these things would fall into place to allow me to be in the right place to save this little guy? Without these things lining up, the dog would have killed the kitten, or he would have been hit by a car on the highway. Instead I stopped when I heard the barking and the kitten flagged me down. How could I possibly hear his cries over all the noise in my truck? The kitten was nowhere near my truck when I stopped. How could I possibly hear his cries?

That, Friends & Neighbors, is when you stop questioning things and just accept that God has sent you another cat. Don't fight it. Just accept it and go on. My long-suffering mother agreed to care for him until we moved. She named him Pavarotti because he has a healthy set of lungs and he was singing an opera all night while locked in a dog crate. This is the same woman who named a cat, Ptolemy, when my stepfather told her not to name the next kitten the kind of common name that kids think up. His decree was probably in response to the white cat we had named Snowball and the tabby cat named Tiger. Enter Ptolemy. Since he was no student of Egyptian history, I KNOW he'd never heard of that name before. And as kids, we then had a reason to look up Egyptian history. My mother was a bit of a progressive.

And so it was that in the middle of moving a farm across Texas, God sent us another family member. Meet Pavarotti. I must assume he is destined for great things.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:45 am   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, July 09 2015

We are almost completely moved in to the new ranch! It's been so long since I blogged that I almost forgot how to type!  Since the day has started again and we must make use of every scrap of daylight available, I'll just send you a few pics that represent the move thus far:

"We're finally here!"

 More copperheads.

God send us another Rat Warrior.

Dear Friend Kim falls in love with dairy goats.

We still have so much to do that we don't know where to turn next! Retirement is harder than working full time!

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:06 am   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email

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