Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gone To the Dogs

I often try to get Farm Buddy to write some blog posts.  There is lots of interesting stuff happening over there, but it is often hard for me to write about because it is difficult to do so and still respect her privacy.  Finally, with a bit of prompting from some of you and in honor of the Border Collie Brigade, she decided to tell the dog's stories.  Once you get her started, she does go on a bit:)  So, grab an extra cup of coffee and enjoy this guest post from FB at Natural Borders Farm....


Well hello.  I am the guest blogger today, writing in honor of Scout and Tanner’s birthday!  Yes, of course I know that Tanner is very regrettably no longer with us, but it is still his birthday, and I am going to continue to celebrate it forever.  My dog, Scout, is Tanner’s brother.  He is twelve today.  They were born back in 2002.  

Here is how it came about.  At the time, I had my first border collie, Lark, and she was about twelve years old.  I was worried that working the cattle was going to become too much for her, and decided to add a puppy to our family.  After much deliberation, I found a very nice woman that had a litter due, so I reserved a female puppy.  Just about everyone wanted a female pup, but on October 28, 2002, seven male puppies were born, with not one sister in the bunch!

At that time, Kris had one older dog and had no plans of getting a new pup, but weeks later, her old dog was diagnosed with very aggressive bone cancer.  Although at first reluctant, I finally talked Kris into getting a puppy with me.  What fun we had going to visit the puppies every week while waiting for them to be old enough to come home!

Finally, on December 22, 2002, we brought the brothers home.  At the time, Kris lived about seventeen miles from me, so we would try to get together a couple of times a week.  Whenever I told Scout that he was going to see his brother, he would race to the window and wait for his arrival.  They had a blast together!  Eventually Kris moved to the same town where my farm is located, and I assumed the best job ever, which was taking care of Tanner when Kris was at work.  

Now I know you know a lot about Tanner, so let me tell you about Mr. Scout!  He is a piece of work; always has been and always will be.  First of all, he is a stockdog.  He will work sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, probably anything.  He is fearless.  He is also very opinionated.  We will have cattle to move, I will call him over to tell him my game plan.  He listens and says, ‘Well that’s not a bad plan, but we are going to do things MY way.’  However, he always does get the job done!  He is a direct dog.  He doesn’t like to mess around with an outrun.  Thinks things should be handled head on, when it comes to livestock.  Even after we get the cattle moved and everyone is in the right place, he likes to do what I call his “drive-by shooting”, where he makes a little run at any unfortunate cow that is near the fence just to prove how tough he is.  
Scout’s specialty is bulls.  When a bull comes over for the season, the bull always marches into the pasture of ladies with a big attitude.  Scout likes to sort of limp into the pasture where the bull is (think Killdeer bird faking a broken wing).  He then lays down about fifty feet from the new bull.  The bull strides confidently over for the first forty feet, then hesitates a little, seeing this seemingly almost dead-looking dog.  Scout maintains his position, still appearing to be a brain-dead dog that is incapable of movement.  Finally the bull regains his confidence and approaches Scout, getting closer and closer.  Scout appears to be a resting zombie.  He waits until the bull is sniffing him over, actually touching him, then leaps into the air and bites the bull hard on the nose!  From that moment on, throughout the time that the bull remains on the farm, he is very, very respectful of Scout!  

Scout is also a great sleeping dog.  He sleeps under the covers, next to me, with his head on the pillow.  He has done this every night since I brought him home.  When he thinks it is time to get up, he jumps off the bed and whacks me on the head with his paw.  I try to hide under the covers, but he is relentless.  When I finally get up and head straight for the shower, he remains in the bathroom, guarding against serial killers.  As soon as I am dressed and ready to go, he quickly goes back to bed to grab an hour or two of additional sleep.  He is a real piece of work.  

My other border collie is Kelsey.  She is five and a half.  When Scout turned ten, I thought I should start thinking about where I would eventually get another puppy.  I was referred to a breeder and went to meet her and her dogs.  She had two females that she said she planned to have puppies from in about a year.  One of these females was Kelsey.  I liked her best right away because of her pricked ears.

The following year, this breeder called me and asked if I would be interested in purchasing Kelsey because she had several new, promising herding dogs, and was willing to let Kelsey go.  As I said, I had planned to get a puppy, and never thought about getting an older dog, so I told her that I wasn’t interested.  Kelsey was just shy of three years old at that time.  However, I just kept thinking about her.  I decided that bringing a new pup home would be very hard on Scout because he was used to being the center of my universe, and I knew a pup would require and just attract much of my attention; whereas an older dog wouldn’t be so needy or quite as cute!  I decided to give Kelsey a try.  In my life of often making bad decisions, this was a spectacularly good one!!!  Kelsey is a GREAT dog!  And she even has a fabulous outrun!  

Kelsey is a tremendous stock dog on both sheep and cattle, but she has a totally different style than Scout.  Where he is direct, she is subtle.  She is also very gentle, never ever grips, and wouldn’t even consider a drive-by shooting!  If she encounters stubborn cattle, like my cow Violet, she becomes a mosquito, buzzing back and forth until Violet finally lumbers in the correct direction.  However, she does have a weakness.  Kelsey is made for a kind and gentle world.  She cannot tolerate anger or stress.  This is not a problem, as long as I keep her in the house when I am trying to bale hay!

I know Shelley wanted to know what happened to Buster.  In case you are not familiar with Buster, he was a Maremma dog that I considered buying last summer during the fox wars.  Last summer, there was a family of foxes that did their best to totally ruin my life.  They killed many of my beautiful chickens, including moms with baby chicks.  Poor Kelsey and I were nervous wrecks!  Every time we heard a chicken cluck, I would race outside, and Kelsey would hide behind the couch (remember her stress hang-up). The woman I got Kelsey from had Buster, a male Maremma that wasn’t working out for her because he liked to hang out at the farmstead instead of staying with his sheep in different fields.  She thought he might work for me. 

Buster was a very sweet dog, and I really took to him.  He had known Kelsey, as they came from the same farm, and they got along very, very well.  However, Buster was a very large male dog, and I was scared to introduce him to Scout and Tanner.  I was told that as long as they were respectful to him, Buster would not bother them at all.  Well, the problem was that Scout was not respectful of anyone except possibly me, and then only occasionally!  I knew he would give Buster attitude, and he was eleven years old and about half the size of Buster.  The way I solved this problem was by just keeping them apart, which made a lot of extra work for me.  In the morning, I would first take Scout and Kelsey for a walkabout, then Buster and Kelsey.  This would continue throughout the day, which took a lot of extra time and energy.  Also, Buster was no border collie.  If we were hiking about the farm and something caught his interest, he just left!  He did not pay any attention to my wishes at all, which was frightening, as I feared for his safety.  As the weeks went by, he did get better at this, but it was still a problem.  

At night, I kept Buster in my mudroom attached to a lead, so that he could go in and out of the house as he pleased, but still be safe.  He was becoming very fond of me, and appointed himself my bodyguard (not so much the chicken’s bodyguard).  Buster did not appreciate Kris arriving back from work at two in the morning, which is when she came to pick up Tanner.  This became a very serious problem.  I told Kris to use the front door and give Buster plenty of space, but I could tell that those two did not get along.  Finally I realized that if Buster’s lead broke, he might actually eat both Kris and Tanner!  

It was a very tough decision, but I finally decided that I could not risk Kris, Tanner, or Scout ever being harmed, so I did return him.  He remains at his old farm, and is doing very well. 

The coyotes apparently killed off the foxes, and the summer of 2014 was blissful!  I still entertain the thought of a livestock guard dog, but I believe I would have to have a puppy.  Here is the thing; I would like to have a livestock guard dog (LGD), as I do worry about my sheep.  My sheep go in and out of the barn as they please.  I do not lock them up.  Coyotes could potentially wipe them out, which does concern me, although the coyotes and I have signed a peace treaty.  The thing is, if I got one LGD pup, I would feel bad to have the pup just living in the barn and outside with the sheep.  Also those pups are seriously irresistible, and the next thing you know it would be sleeping with Scout, Kelsey, and I!  Therefore, I believe I would have to have two pups, so that they could keep each other company and be happy, and I wouldn’t feel guilty, but that winds up being a huge investment to guard my small flock, although I would be devastated if my sheep were harmed.  If anyone has any great ideas about this, please let me know.  

Okay, well that is all the dog news from Natural Borders Farm.  Next time, we will cover either sheep or cattle!  So Happy Birthday to Scout and Tanner!  October 28th will always be a special day for Kris and I. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Me and My Donks

There is a lot of stuff in my head right now.  I am working on writing some of it down because that helps me sort it out.  I'll probably post some of it.  Most of it?  None of it?  We'll see.  While I wrestle demons, how about a very rare photo - one that actually includes me:)  Like most people, I usually hate photos of me, but I actually like this one.  Taken by a friend who was here for a visit yesterday.

Dark and Stormy Nights

It's 1:50 am and we just had a weird, late October thunder storm with lots of lightning, wind and hail.  After it passed, I went out to check on the herd.  They were right where I thought they'd be, tucked into the barn, all sleeping together back to back, head to tail in a triangle of equine contentedness.  It's my turn now and I'll sleep well knowing that the only thing that bothered my herd on a dark and stormy night was an annoying flashlight beam hitting them in the eyes. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Philosophical Question

It's been tough lately and once again, I really have to thank all of you.  The Internet is full of miserable stuff, but this blog community is really quite remarkable. You folks never cease to amaze me and you are why I keep writing.  Thank you.

To answer the one question about Tanner and Moss possibly having been poisoned somehow....I do not think so.  I think the only poison they got into is the same poison in us all - they got old.  It is a dog's one true fault that they do not live long enough and that's true for cats as well.  The average lifespan of a border collie is 12 years.  Tanner died four weeks shy of his twelfth birthday.  Most of his 6 brothers are all still doing well.  Although one died several years ago from cancer and the rest have all slowed down and become old men.  Scout battles arthritis and can't climb my stairs.

Moss had health issues since the day she got here.  She came to me loaded with every parasite you can think of.  She also had two severe injuries that I know of in her previous life - she was run over by a truck and she was trampled by a draft horse, both of which nearly killed her.  She crawled off to die after each accident, but somehow, she just didn't.  Add to that the burden of innumerable litters of kittens and chronic starvation - all those things take their toll.  She was not a young cat when she came here 6 years ago.

The timing stinks, but it is what it is.

So, time to move forward.  Time to think about the question everyone has been very politely NOT asking:

"Is Kris gonna get a new dog?" 

Maybe.  Probably.  I'm thinking about it.  I've been thinking about dogs a great deal lately - rescue dogs, shelter dogs, purebred dogs, mutts....

I've been looking around, doing some research.  Most of that is worth several blog posts all by itself if I can find the time and words to write about it.  The current world of shelter politics and marketing is.....interesting/disturbing.  Sad.  Always sad.

There are some good reasons not to get a dog at all.  I always leave my dog with FB when I am at work as I don't think dogs should have to be home alone for 9-10 hours at a time.  Doing that adds 20 miles a day to my already 70 mile commute.  I don't have cats in the house because I am allergic to them.  My allergy doc thinks I shouldn't have any animals in the house.  Actually, he thinks I should get rid of all my animals, sell my farm and live in a bubble.  One really shouldn't pay too much attention to doctors.  They're awfully depressing.

In the end though, I always circle back to the same old philosophical question:

If a life goes on without the company of a dog, is it any life at all? 

I suspect that if you happen to be the kind of person who understands that question, the answer will be self-evident. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another Goodbye

I wasn't sure I even wanted to mention this, but I know someone will notice and wonder so.....Moss is gone now too.  About 6 weeks ago she got very sick with bloody vomit and diarrhea.  Before I could do anything for her she disappeared.  She was gone for four days and I figured she was gone for good.  I was pleasantly surprised when she showed up on the fifth day looking very thin, but otherwise totally healthy.  She seemed like she was making a full recovery.  I got her special food and she was eating more than she ever has, it seemed like a good thing at first.  Then she started drinking far more water than normal, eating more than normal and yet still losing weight.  She has steadily declined since then despite all efforts.

In the past few days, she became unsteady on her feet, unable to jump onto a hay bale and somewhat disoriented.  This morning, I could see the end in her face. This afternoon, I once again gave the final gift.  She went to sleep purring softly in my lap as we sat in the hay barn one last time.

The first half of Moss' life was very rough.  She was a feral, half starved, abused, neglected creature who came to me with an abundance of scars, few teeth and neurological damage.  She learned to enjoy life here and wanted for nothing.  It is a bit ironic that it is only recently that she has begun to enjoy human touch.  Her best friend the past two years has been Ramsey.  Like so many of us, she took to him right from the start.  I figure that Moss was approximately 12-15 years old.  Not terribly old for a cat, but ancient given how hard the first half of her life was.

Goodbye Moss, I am sure there is another warm hay barn with lots of good donkeys to play with.  Say hello to Tanner for me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Colors

Most of these are from several weeks ago.  Unfortunately, Fall is just about over with here.  It really seems like this was the shortest summer ever.  Everyone I know seems to be in a sate of benumbed shock that the weather forecast is mentioning snow all of a sudden.  It's just too soon.

Goodbye Summer, we miss you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wild Turkey

This is the hatch of wild turkeys who have been hanging around all summer.  This is a mother and her brood, which she hatched out very late in the season.  I think there started out being fifteen of them, lately, I consistently see ten.  There are always one or two hens who raise babies in my pasture each Spring.  This group was born in mid July, which is very late for babies to be hatching.  The mother must have lost her first clutch.  I wasn't expecting them and I nearly mowed them over with the brush hog.  I ended up having to leave a portion of the field un-mowed since I didn't want to kill them.  They've been making daily circuits around the property for weeks now. 

They LOVE the dust wallows that the donkeys have created and stop by for a bath every morning.

They stay clear of the donkeys because Emma will push them out of the pasture, but they also follow along behind them picking through their leavings.  They do a great job of breaking up manure piles.
I had the maybe-bright-idea to create a flower bed on this unmowable stretch along the driveway....

I used a telephone pole that the electric company took down in the Spring, filled it well aged manure....

Covered it with straw and figured I'd leave it till Spring.

The turkeys had a blast tearing it to shreds.

I haven't seen them for a few days now.  That's how turkeys are though.  They hang out in the same area for weeks or months at a time and then, for some unknowable turkey reason, they move on.  I probably won't see them again until Spring.  I'll give it a few more days though before I bother to repair the "flower bed" again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Good Angels, Bad Angels

Good Angels...

Naughty Angels playing tug-o-war with the lead rope...

Bad Angels have no pictures or videos because they require two hands.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Fall Harvest

This was one of last week's projects over at the farm....

bathing and storing 5009 squash.

Well, OK, maybe that'a a slight exaggeration, but there are certainly enough to last the year.

We've been having frost regularly and everyone is putting the gardens to bed for the winter.  (I can't believe we're already using the "W" word. shudder.) We folded away the plastic mulch...

and installed a brand new pair of rototillers....

They went to work immediately.

They'll have the entire garden worked over in no time.

Nothing like happy, enthusiastic employees.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Taking Up the Slack

Hey folks, we're all still here.  Thanks again for all of your patience and understanding.  It's been a tough adjustment getting used to life without a Border Collie to keep everything running properly.  We're muddling through though.  Barely. 

Tanner was never technically a "working dog", but it's amazing to suddenly notice just how much he did to keep order around here.  The riff-raff element is definitely taking advantage of his absence.  There were at least 15 deer hanging out under my deck when I got home last night.  The deer are always a nuisance, but they have never been brazen enough to use my house as a scratching post before.  Darned vermin. There is a flock of wild turkeys doing laps around the house and a pair of rabbits sunning themselves in the driveway.  Intruders everywhere.

My daily walks in the woods, which are a vital part of keeping my own joints working, were just too hard to do all alone.  Tessa and the donkeys have had to step up and fill in - which they are thrilled about.

"Maybe we should've gotten rid of the dog earlier if it means more time for US."

"Especially since BEECH leaves are involved!  YUM!!!"

"I don't see any beech trees here Ma, let's go find some."

Donkey priorities are a bit different from a Border Collie's.

The only real trouble with taking the donkeys out each day is that now they think they should go out twice a day.  Or maybe three times.  For four hours each.  They start nagging to go out again just as soon as we get home.

Tessa is a big fan of hiking too.  She loves going for walks and she has truly mastered the art of beech leaf harvesting.  She goes for the bulldozer method.....

Farm Buddy has been doing some work on another farm and has been leaving Scout and Kelsy with me for babysitting duty one day a week.

The equines are great hiking partners (when you can tear them away from the beech leaves), but there's nothing quite like a good dog.  

And she rescued the basketball.

The donkeys have been having a great time with it, but I do cringe a bit watching them.  I know my poor dog must be twirling in his grave at the very idea of a basketball in the clutches of donkeys.  It is SO against The Rules.

I know this would make him MUCH happier....

We're muddling through.