"Never miss a good opportunity...

...to keep your mouth shut." This saying is stenciled on a faux-rustic sign in one of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants. That same saying popped into mind on Saturday afternoon, as I was watching Spouse and Uncle finish a 300' stretch of woven wire goat fencing.

It was near 100-degrees F that afternoon. The guys were drenched with sweat. It had been a frustrating morning, with wrong tools, wrong attachments, you name it, it was wrong. I wasn't feeling well, so instead of helping with the fence itself, I was bringing out beverages, food, and whatever else might be needed. Then I got a look at the fence.

It's not obvious from the picture unless you're familiar with the way this type of fencing is made. [Hint: look at the fencing up the vertical wood post on the right.] There's smaller openings on one side - in this case, the top of the fencing - with larger openings on the bottom. Weeeellll, it's supposed to go the other way 'round, ostensibly to keep out smaller critters... I mean, varmints like rabbits and foxes. I looked at the guys, looked at the fence, looked at the guys once more, and decided that "you know, it's not really all that important", and that this was indeed A Good Opportunity to Keep My Mouth Shut. To set the fencing right-side up would mean taking down all 300' of it and starting again from scratch. Uh, no.

The next day, I casually mentioned it to Spouse. "So, are the smaller openings supposed to go on top with goat fencing?" "What smaller openings?" "You didn't see it? Huh, maybe I'm mistaken." An hour later, with a sheepish look: "Um, yeah. It looks like we did put it upside down. When did you notice?" "Yesterday, but with the way you two looked, figured it might not be the best of times to mention it." "Huh. Pro'lly a wise decision."

I nod sagely. I'm learning.

[pic #1: the new fencing. About 3/4's of the property left to go.]
[pic#2: the reason for the fencing. That's a 36" fence she's got her front paws on, folks. Only five months old. I think we accidentally bought small horses instead of dogs.]


goodbye, old friend

There comes a time in every relationship when one needs to re-evaluate where it's going, and if there's still a future together. In the beginning, you fit me like a glove, and there was no friction whatsoever. We went everywhere together - hiking in the mountains, walking in the city, working on friends farms. You supported my efforts, and I, in turn, kept you clean and clothed in the finest Vibram soles and sturdy shoelaces. But now it feels like your mind is elsewhere. You've dropped grommets and tiebacks who knows where, and pinch at my toes if we're together for too long. I've even tried new insoles, hoping that a change of internal scenery would help, but to no avail.

It's been almost twenty years together. I wish there was something more we could do to make this relationship work. In the end, sometimes it's better just to let things go. Goodbye, old friend. You were my first pair of hiking boots, and your memory will be etched in my heart forever.

[too bad they're too big to bronze]


Death and Dismemberment

It was our fault, as owners, that the chickens got into the dog partition of the primary pen. I had seen the chickens hanging out on the roof of the pup’s shade awning, and assumed they would fly over into the chicken side come evening, like they usually do. Wrong. Dead wrong.

Spouse and I went out for supper, and when we came back, checked on all the critters per usual. Saw only one grown chicken sleeping in the coop (Nutmeg). Umm, eh? Shined the flashlight on the cedars, no big chickens roosting there. Looked around the pen, and saw two chickens in a sleep fugue on the hay bales in the pup partition. Ruh-roh.

Grabbed Hausfrau #2, and moved her to the coop. Went to move Cinnamon, and noticed that her feathers appeared to have been gnawed a bit, and had a slobbered look to them. Her wings and legs checked out okay, so moved her gently to the coop as well, hoping that there was no internal damage. Wait, where’s Hausfrau #1?

Poor baby. What remained of her was in the doghouse. She wasn’t eaten, just probably “played with” to death.

You don’t correct pups or dogs after-the-fact, as it just confuses them, and it’s cruel. But I was FURIOUS. I slammed my fist into the doghouse roof and let loose a string of invectives that would have made my dead Marine Corps daddy proud. If the pups were oblivious before then, they were aware that "something was wrong" now.

I picked up the dead chicken by the foot, fished the other leg out of the doghouse, and put both pieces atop the compost pile to await burial the next morning. Spouse walked the pups to the secondary pen and set them there for the night, so they couldn’t continue to snuffle or search for any remaining chicken parts I may have missed. While they remained waiting in the secondary pen the next morning, I cleaned out all the hay in the doghouse, and searched the pen for any remaining chicken gore. The pups snuffled around a bit when I put them back into their primary pen, but I made damn sure there were no leftovers to be had.

Oddly enough, chicken training has gained a greater clarity for both pups since then. Bandit was always pretty good with the chickens, but Maggie had an intense curiosity for those bouncy feathered things, and would need several take-downs to become submissive. Now, she’s very meek and mild around the girls. Hmph. Training will continue every day, as it did in the past, regardless. Alpha dog - me - is NOT amused, and I can call up the patience and determination of Job once I’m on a tear.

The three remaining* first-gen chickens seem to have created an even tighter bond with each other - I’m guessing along the lines of “We Survived Hell Hound Night 2008”. Maybe I should print them some t-shirts.

*the roos were picked up on Saturday, and the next-gen chickens were integrated with the big chickens on Sunday. More on them, later.


Holy crap! What a weekend!

We had about a week's worth of happenings in one tiny little weekend. There was drama, trauma, comedy and more than a little muscle soreness afterwards. Right now I'm recovering from a doctor's visit earlier this morning - everything's okay, just some long overdue maintenance on some skin issues - and will get my wits together for some writing later this evening. See you in a bit!

[pic: "whatcha got under there? huh? huh?"]


slowbeat day - sorta

[warning: not as sarcastic, jokey, or bitchy as I usually write - but we can handle it, we’re all big girls around here, right?]

A slowbeat day. Spouse is home from working the week in another city. When he’s home for the weekends, I tend to mentally and physically zonk out. I think it’s the knowledge that someone else is here, and it’s not all on my shoulders for now. I can take a break. Don’t get me wrong, I love working on this land, and I enjoy the quiet of my own company. It’s just a relief to know there’s some backup.

Today’s plan is to go into town to do the week’s grocery shopping (critter and human), and return the wrong-sized pantry shelves and brackets for the right-sized ones. I’ll then get the pantry shelving up, finally. The house has been in chaos for the last few days. Who knew we had so much stuff packed away in that tiny pantry space? Spouse will bring in the old mini-frige we’ve had sitting in the storage room upstairs, and we’ll finally have more shelf space to organize the food, crockery, and (ahem) alcohol. The mini-frige will be used to store the animal goods: medicines, green feed, and the like.

Tomorrow we’re getting a metric sh*tload of 3.5’ goat fencing to put up around the property. We still have about 400’ of brush left to clear back from the fence line. I imagine Spouse’s aunt & I will do the clearing, while the guys pull fence. The cedar is thick around these parts, and we’ve had to cut back branches and brush with a chain-saw. I love working with the chain-saw and clearing, and doing my best to keep things aesthetically pleasing. It’s like sculpture, but without the pressure of making “art”.

Sunday, we’ll rest. Sort of. Critter care never stops.

Off to sit with the pups until morning rush-hour traffic near the city calms down.

[pic: Nutmeg the Cubalaya on my shoulder. The Cubalayas are the sweetest chickens I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Good natured and curious. They're considered an ornamental breed here in the U.S., but Cubans have been using them for meat and egg production for years.]


Not Amused [pic]

Over an inch and a half of rain so far.
The wet chickens are not amused.

[the roos will be picked up by another family on Saturday]

Quick Update

So far, all's well. The geese are digging the rain, the chickens are hiding under the cedars, and the pups are oblivious. The winds and rain from Hurricane Dolly have been gentle up here. Thanks for the good wishes, on and off blog - much appreciated.

Gotta get ready for a job interview. On my way!

[pic: where angels fear to tread - "Princess" looking to chomp on Bandit's butt while Bandit's wrestling with Maggie. No casualties or injuries reported.]


battening down the hatches

South-Central Texas is expecting heavy rain, strong wind gusts, and possible flash-flooding of creeks and roads due to Hurricane Dolly blowing in. I've got all the critters, shelters, and other outdoor things taken care of. It's bloody humid and 96-degrees F at the moment, but I can see the bands of clouds rolling in. Keep good thoughts in mind for those further south where the defecation is hitting the rotary oscillator with a vengeance. Will keep you posted.

[pic: The Hausfraus, on my lap]

good dogs!

6:15 AM, and I'm awake [is this one of the signs of impending world doom?]. I decide to get up and enjoy a bit of quiet and coffee before starting chores.

Looking out the window, I see Bandit is - of course - hanging out on the poultry side of the primary pen. Maggie is on the pup side, the memory of nosing the electrified fence still fresh on her mind, I suppose.

Billy-Bob the goose is giving Bandit what-for, chomping on her fur. Bandit finally has enough, and gently stands up and turns full circle around. Billy-Bob backs down, and harrumphs over to the rest of the flock. Bandit lays back down at attention, watching the flock and all around her. Good dog!

Maggie must have heard something in the house as I was getting coffee ready. She's looking towards the house, searching for anything amiss. Not the "oh goodie, is the human coming out with treats?" look, but "I heard something funny, what's up?" look. Good, good dog!

I realize I ask a lot of these pups, but it appears they're up to the challenge. I'm a happy girl right now.

[pic: Maggie and Bandit, in the secondary pen, taken at sunset yesterday.]


no niceties necessary

I think one of the best things about running a farm is that you're not required to be a "morning person", in the sense of being chipper and energetic at the @#$! crack of dawn. You don't have to put on makeup, heels, or a suit. Your clothes don't even have to match. You can stumble out to the pens (or vegetable patch), mayhaps give a grunt of recognition to the critters if you're feeling spry, but other than re-supplying food and water, they really don't care what kind of mood you're in. And you don't have to care that they don't care.

Okay, maybe the dogs care a little. But a pat on the head will suffice for them. Can you do that with your current boss? Didn't think so. Damn, it's gonna be hard re-entering the workaday world...

[pic: obviously post-morning and post-coffee, as I'm smiling]


the craigslist advert

Granola crunching, hippie roosters - free to GOOD home

Reply to: *********@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-07-21, 1:11PM CDT

Okay, let’s be clear here: these are spoiled rotten roos. Hand-raised, free-ranging, organically fed. They will perch on your lap or shoulder if you sit still. Sicilian Buttercups, four months old, brood-mates. “Thug 1” is, to be blunt, a horn-dawg, and will... ahh... express his hormonal urges on anything that will allow. “Thug 2” is very protective of the ladies, but otherwise a sweetheart. When we bought them as chicks, we were assured they were female, but that turned out not to be the case. Ah well!

Because these are spoiled rotten roos, and trusting of humans (and accustomed to a cushy life), please DO NOT contact me if you want to use these birds for lab experiments, cage raising, or cock-fighting trainers. Take one or both, but only to raise them to fatten and eat, and/or to keep your chicken girls happy. Serious inquiries only. Urban chicken raisers, please note that these roos do crow in the mornings and late afternoons, so check your local ordinances first. Pickup in the ***** area.

It's a "lay low" day

Official temperature estimate is 96-degrees F, but heat index estimated for +105-degrees F. Enough to warrant a "hazardous weather outlook" warning from NOAA. All the critters have been sequestered into the shady primary pen, with plenty of water, pools, and misters to help cool things down. I'd already decided this was going to be a "lay low" day anyways, as sleep was poor over the weekend, and I need a break. Mmmm, sleep.

Stay cool, everyone.

[pic: apropos of nothing, but I love how the grown geese look like they wear bloomers]


Why eBay Should Be Classified as a Narcotic

Sweet Jeebus, keep me away from eBay, okay? Something happens to my brain when I start bidding. Common sense shuts down, feelings of fierce competition arise, and I will up, up, up the bidding until I am in the lead, dammit!

I now have bids on four, count'em, FOUR feedsacks. Why feedsacks? Because I saw some cool purses made from feedsacks on Etsy, and thought "hey, I can make that, no sweat!". It would have been cheaper just to buy the damn purse outright. All I can do now is hope that others with even less self control than I will beat my bids. Not that the bids were hugely expensive, just that all four combined will cost more than buying the original inspiration. Plus, I simply don't need FOUR feedsacks.

I'm an idiot sometimes. I truly am. May I be saved from myself.


Group Heart-Attack? No... [pic]

No mass murder or die-off, just a communal dust-bath by the current crop of chicks. They're almost eight weeks old, and will be integrated with the main flock next week.

[click pics for bigger photos]


Ain't too proud to beg*...

...or cajole, or even bribe. I needed to get all the critters into the large pen early the other night, so I could go into town and purchase the pups their very own hard plastic kiddie pool (by recommendation of the LGD trainer** - and a post coming up about the pool, soon).
  • Pups? No problem, although it's kinda not fair at the moment. I just leash them, and bring them from the secondary to the primary pen.
  • Geese? Slightly more of a challenge, but with a long enough pole to provide guidance, it's easy enough to walk behind and "herd" into the pen as well.
  • Chickens? HA!
As soon as you even think you need them to be in a specific area, they give you Ye Olde Hairy Eyeball and scatter. It's a sixth sense. They can smell the desperation on you. I managed to catch four of the six within a record five minutes, giving them a gentle toss over the poultry netting into the pen. After ten more minutes of cajoling and pleading, the remaining chickens - Hausfrau and Thug2 - were still having nothing to do with it. "Aww, come on chickens! Come'ere pretty birds!" Nope.

Finally, I resort to a bribe: a fresh ear of corn. It's chicken kryptonite, a siren call, and CANNOT be resisted. I bend over at the waist, and wiggle the corn cob a few inches off the ground. "Heeere, chicken chicken! Heeeere pretty girls!" Aww, sh*t, wait: here come the previously penned chickens, pouring OUT of the pen. Alright, re-arrange posture and make like Quasimodo, lurching gently backward into the pen, swaying that ear of corn like a watch in a hynotherapy session. "Heeere, pretty girls!, Heeeere, chickens!". The bribe works. They're following!

Once inside the pen by a good six feet, I lay the ear of corn on the ground (carefully pulling fingers away from their avaricious beaks) and walk gently to the gate. Now on the other side of the net, I pole the netting fence/gate prongs into the ground like Michael Jordon with a slam-dunk. Yes!!! The crowd roars with approval!

Well, they do in my head at least. Maybe I should get that checked?

* see The Temptations sing the original - yum!
** LGD - Livestock Guardian Dog

[photo: the usual suspects]


Latest "in" spot: the porch

The geese are now hanging out on the front porch on a regular basis. The chickens have recently discovered the pleasures of the porch as well, and the roo's* like to crow from the railing. I already know that the pups love it, and would hang out there too if I'd let them - which won't happen until we get the proper fencing installed around the property. I'd rather keep them in the larger, shaded pens with freedom of movement than tied up on the porch.

Anyhow, current issue: all that lovely bird poo. You simply must see to believe how much geese can crap in an hour. It's a royal mess. Current solution: set the hose sprayer to needle-fine and fast, and blast the leavings off the porch and into the front garden beds. This manner conserves the most water, gives the front garden beds a drink and some fertilizer, and provides a little bit of evaporative cooling.

The routine leaves me feeling like a Parisian shopkeeper, hosing down the walk in the morning to get rid of all the previous day's "leavings". Now, it's been 20 years since I was last in Paris, so perhaps the dogs, pigeons and humans are no longer making as free use of the walls and sidewalks as they used to. Wait, scratch that: hopefully the humans are exercising more discretion. Dogs & pigeons? "Bonne chance!"

*The person who responded to the Craigslist ad never called to pick up the roosters. Will have to list the rotten little farts again.


Billy-Bob's got a Pompadour!

Billy-Bob is cruising through the back-end of goose adolescence, with only a bit of baby down still clinging to his neck and crown. But oh! The Lyle Lovett/Don King hairdo of his gosling youth is giving way to a high-and-righteous 1950's pompadour! Pictures don't do it justice. Click on a photo to enlarge, and check him out, ladies!!

[oops, accidentally posted instead of saving as a draft... oh well.]

Roosters 4 Sale

It's a sad day, but the little buggers brought it onto themselves. Thug 1 is a nasty brute to "the girls", and Thug 2 is a nasty brute to the humans - and both are only four months old. I guess they're living up to their names, but this does not look good for their future. I'll list them in the farm section of Craigslist, where they should get a home (and possibly a spot on the dinner table in the near future). Beautiful boys, but we can't have mean poultry. If they weren't part of the holy-sacred-protected first generation of poultry (and too young to cook), I would have snapped their necks already.

We've got two more young roosters, Ameraucanas, waiting to take their place. In another ten days, we'll be integrating the latest generation of chickens with the older girls, who should keep them all in line. I hope the new guys work out better than the Sicilian Buttercup "roo's".

[EDIT: Whoa, that was fast! Already got a taker for both. I'll miss the little thugs *pout/sniff*.]


Cross-Post from Barbells & B*tching

Barbells & B*tching is my (currently) much-neglected exercise blog. Below may shed some light on why...
Revamping Joe's Goals

I had been using Joe's Goals before all the farm critters came along. Now, some of the goals look a little silly:

  • Get up early as a goal? Sheeeyit... it's not even an option anymore.
  • Exercise? Walking at least twice a day, with two pups who become furry, forty-pound magnetic tether balls that roll around and bounce and entangle. You should see my delts now!
  • Bag lunch? Begging your pardon, but I'm too damn tired at lunch to go out. Sometimes there's only enough energy to drop my face into the fruit bowl on the counter.
Time to re-arrange the goals.
It's been too hot to take the pups running, and I don't have the time to hit the gym. Regardless of these challenges, I think I'll be okay.

A Polite Request

Bandit enjoys getting into the goose pen at night. Not that its a big deal at this point, mind you. She and the geese (and the chickens) get along just fine. Matter of fact, if Bandit is in the pen and the geese are walking by outside, Bandit will shove her whole body, length-wise, against the fence. The geese - bullies that they are - will squawk and gnaw on her through the fence as if they're the biggest bad-@sses on earth. Bandit gets her back scratched, the geese get their machismo on, everybody wins.

[Night-time is more peaceful between the species. The geese sleep close to the kennel partition near the pups, and the pups do the same near the geese. Perhaps the geese know who the actual bad-@sses are, and stay close for protection.]

Yesterday I walked over to the pen to let the geese out for their afternoon forage. Came upon Bandit straddling the kennel partition with her front half OVER the fence into the goose pen, back half still in the kennel. Smiling that goofy Great Pyrenees smile, she's just standing there while the geese are squawking and chewing on her. When she finally notices me staring, she sheepishly flips her backside into the goose pen (the geese scatter at that point), gives herself a shake, and then trots over to the gate where I'm standing, acting as if nothing's amiss.

Once again, I realize a fence is just a polite request to these pups. Thankfully, they're also growing up to be polite pups. Most of the time.

[Vet visit later this morning. Laying bets that the pups are close to 50 lbs at this point.]


italian door-stop

"What? It was close by, with enough heft and height to keep the door open!"

[San Marzano tomatoes, baby. That's the way we roll 'round here.]


Goose Invasion

Way back when (oh, starting about four months ago), we'd raised successive sets of goslings in the living room. Once the weather was warm enough and the goslings were old enough, we'd put them outside. We had taught the first set - Godzilla and "Queenie" Kong - how to walk out the front door and down the patio steps to graze. Thing was, once they were outside "full time", we never seriously thought they'd want to get back into the house.

Last weekend, Godzilla had led the whole flock up onto the porch, as he does from time to time. This time, however, the front door happened to be open. He must have seen Spouse sitting on the couch, and decided to come in and revisit the "good old days". After Godzilla and his latest goose love - that day, it was Miss Cecily - were in the house for a few minutes, the rest of the geese gathered up their courage and followed suit.

Once they were all inside, anything on the floor was considered a goose toy. Shoes were dragged and scattered everywhere. If it was hanging off a chair, it was chewed on. If something wasn't dragged or chewed on, it was pooped on. It would seem the geese had a wonderful time. Spouse mostly sat and watched, laughing at the chaos.

After about a half hour, the geese finally grew bored and toddled back out to the porch. It took Spouse two towels, a bucket of mop water and about a half hour to clean up after them. Thankfully, we have concrete floors and industrial carpet mats - easy to clean - but to think, some folks get pissy about geese on golf courses. Sheese!

[I don't believe Spouse is going to allow another goose invasion anytime soon. Say it with me now: awwww... ]


Welcome to farmsteading!

1:15 AM - Wake to deep barks from the pups, which they tend to use when there's a varmint or unknown human on the property. Go outside with the flashlight, look around, don't see anything. Hear a chorus of dog barks in the distance... and the pups replying with the same deep barks. Ah, I see: they're trying out for the dog messaging relay team.

"QUIET!!" Miraculously, they listen, and are quiet the rest of the night. Or else the message was relayed successfully. Probably the latter.

5:30 AM - Roosters are impatient for the sun to rise, and did not get the "QUIET!" message from earlier. They decide to encourage the sun to come up, and do not stop crowing until the rising is complete. Good job, roosters!

6:30 AM - It's 30 minutes before I'm usually up. I'm now hearing loud, annoyed nattering from the ALL the geese. No barking from the pups, so am not sure what's going on. Roll out of bed, look through the window, and see that both pups are out of their kennel section and are now in the main poultry pen *sigh*. Before I turn away, I hear YIPE! YIPE! YIPE! and see that Maggie has forgotten past lessons and nosed the electrified netting. She's running around like a dog on fire, scattering geese and chickens everywhere. I hurry outside, turn off the netting, and as I open the gate, both dogs nearly bowl me over as they tear out of the pen.

Oh, this day is just getting better and better!

Corral the pups into the big pen, get the geese their green feed, head check all the critters (all are accounted for), and head back inside. Write this post so as not to wring any necks. Where's my @#$!! coffee?

Welcome to farmsteading.

[photos have nothing to do with this morning's events]


Gardening on hold - it's raining!

Oh, happy day! Much needed.

[Oh, wait: this means I can't put off the dishes any longer.]

Monday is "get back to work" day

I've felt like a lazy bum since last Monday. Not much more done than taking care of the critters. This Monday, however, there's a backlog of items needing to get done. First and foremost on the list is gardening.

1. Need to plant the last fig cutting, which came from a tree that was smuggled brought over from Italy by Spouse's grandfather many years ago. We have no clue what type of fig it produces. "What kind of fig is it?? It's from ITALY! That's all that matters!"

2. Two pomegranate bushes that also need to be set into the side garden beds. One was mangled by the pups, but is gamely hanging on. We hope it will survive the transplant and any further puppy onslaughts.

3. And last, but not least, two peppermint plants - one standard green, one variegated. They'll be planted in the northeastern garden bed, next to the condensate drip. Mints are such garden thugs that I'm not too worried about them surviving winter around here. Surviving the geese, however, will be another story. Stay tuned.

[photo: chickens on the straw hat. They appear to be appalled at the strange thing on my head. Click the picture for a better view of their expression.]


photo - goose noir

As I wrote to our farm friends on the East Coast, "doesn't this look like both Spouse and Godzilla should have guns in their hands? Kinda film-noir-ish?" Next post will be about how the geese (yes, plural) got into our house...

[photo: Godzilla and Spouse, taken by my iPhone camera. Click on the photo for an enlarged version; it should show the blue of Godzilla's eyes much better.]


the milkman's dog

Was reading that Bandit's coloring is not the AKC approved version for her breed, the Great Pyrenees (aka Pyrenean Mountain Dog). The horror! Idly wondering if her mom had a thing going on with the milkman's dog, did some further research on GP coloration. Turns out, black & white is indeed a GP color, just not a "show-dog" color. According to the k9s.supanet site:

"It is similar in size, shape, and coat texture to the Newfoundland, which unlike the Pyrenean usually has a black or brown coat. However, the Landseer Newfoundland and a Great Pyrenees with dark patches on its coat are difficult for the layperson to tell apart."

Well okay then! Not that Bandit gives a rat's @ss, mind you. Call her a bastard's get, call her a Newfoundland, just don't call her late for supper.

Aside: It looks like Bandit's guarding instincts are starting to kick in. Keeping my fingers crossed that Maggie's will be following shortly.

[photo: Bandit on the upper left, Maggie on the lower right. But you knew that already.]


Pic: I got yer back

"No worries, dude. I got yer back."

[good word, check out those paws!]

Of Mice and Various Snakes and new Duck Feed Station

As mentioned in the previous post, our region is experiencing a near-Biblical plague of mice. "It's due to all the moisture we had...