Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Just Another Snowy Day

This seems to be the winter that won't stop and we haven't even had to deal with the brutal conditions that many have faced this year.  Saturday we got another round--cold, some freezing rain, about five inches of snow.  It made for interesting chore times.  Sunday rolled around and the temperatures had risen into the lower 30s and I was able to snap a few (zillion) pictures.  I have lots of 'help' with the chores.  Here are a few examples.

 Carly & Tang checking for rats in the hay barn.  

Not helpful, but another thing being dealt with right now in this cold weather--Gracie has something wrong with her eye--it seems to be ulcerated but cause unknown.  The vet prescribed ointment and that didn't work (besides the fact it would get so cold it wouldn't come out of the tube), now she is on prescription drops that had to be filled at the human drugstore--and Gracie DOESN'T have health insurance!   Not to mention that she has not been very cooperative about it.  She is thrilled that she finally has gotten on the list--after all these years-- to get grain at night now too--the only way I can bribe her into the 'torture' chamber.  By the way the eye looks much worse now. 

Not sure who is wooliest--Ranger the Shetland (sheep) or Minty the Collie (Dog).  Minty thinks she is the boss of everybody so she was on guard to bark if Ranger moved on inch closer.  He isn't impressed. 

Ashley appears to be helping by pushing the sled, but actually she was waiting to walk in the path I broke.  She is lucky she is cute. 

Dog Down!  A little emergency snow between the toes removal.  Right in my path too. Never mind that it's slick, I'm dragging a sled with hay and coming off a small incline. 

Tang isn't crazy about the snow, but he is pretty serious about 'helping' with the chores.  See he is growing a little!

Fritzi (Center) and a pack of girls around him wait patiently for hay.  The true story is I got a different pair of coveralls and they can't decide if I'm friend or foe.  Fritzi is also trying to look cute and innocent because he has been on my black list since he rammed me one morning.  Long story--but let's just say he perceived an injustice when I let Gracie instead of him finish off some leftover old-folks grain. 

Tang inspects the leaning tower of hay feeder.  Could be a little cleaner Ma!  

Tang checking hay quality.  Not so good in this bale, Ma. 

I think we should feed this bale tonight points out Carly.  She is so pleased with herself because she got up the nerve to jump up all over these hay bales.  She thinks it's so awesome she should get a treat every.single.time.  I don't know why she looks all clean and groomed here, because she isn't--they are all pretty grimy. 

Yikes!  Don't leave me out here alone with this mob!  Run Tang Run!
Meanwhile back in the house the cats are working hard at keeping the bed warm.....  Actually there is a heated 'half' blanket on there so it's kitty toast central.  The one I wanted to lay on it was Meshach my soon to be 18 year old man--but he is stubbornly laying at the head of the bed where there is no heat.  That is Sage's teddy bear laying in the middle, keepin' warm with the cats.  Left to right Trinity, Gabe, Tempe (Torti), Sage, Noah & Meshach in the very back.  Verity and Chaco were probably under or behind the stove......    

Hope Spring will come soon and that you are all making it okay through this winter!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Collie Pinwheel

 ...And other randomness.....

The Collie girls and I were tired after a busy day off (for me) so we took a break on the deck, and the girls crashed.  Days off (mine) are such hard work for them!   They can't nap seventy times a day when I'm there, as I have to be snoopervised constantly.   Starting at the lower left and clockwise we have Minty, Carly and mommy Ashley.   They often lay close like this when sleeping however occasionally it all goes bad when Ashley comes up out of dead sleep with fangs bared and ominous growls.  But they still risk it.   

Ashley says, who me??

And we can't forget our little short Collie, Tang, who was hanging out in one of the deck chairs with us, also resting. 

 This weekend I was finally able to get an old-bedset-drawer-turned-bench-soon-to-be-turned-cat-sunroom moved into the catio and remodeled.   My sister gave it to me back in the summer after she converted it to a bench and then became tired of it in her breezeway.  It sat out front on the sidewalk all fall and finally I got a sunny day and the time to set it up.   I mounted it on an old (for real) bench in the catio, slid a clear roofing panel behind it and one over the top, screwed those down and added some chair cushions I found at a garage sale last summer and ta-da---instant kitty suite.  Then the kitties got to come out and inspect it.  They approved.    I plan to get a flexible fabric cat cube to put in the middle section so that there will be more privacy in each 'room'.  That way the ambushers won't have such an easy job of it.  Total cost to me was zero, since I had the panels, screws, cushions and of course bench on hand.  Now the kitties will have an outside hangout when it's raining (or snowing) and they still want to hang out in the catio.  The roof on the 'sunroom' extends out about a foot and half on one end so they can sit on concrete blocks under that as well and still stay dry.  

 Lastly one of our many gorgeous sunsets this winter.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Have a Collie-Jolly Christmas from 
the girls--Ashley, Minty & Carly

Gracie says to make sure you take time to enjoy cookies and never hesitate to ask for more! (which is what she was doing in this picture....)

 Tang encourages you to seize the moment, enjoy every toy mousie, sparkly ball and walk with your family (even if your family is all collies and peeps) that comes along. 

Noah hopes you will take time to find a warm spot (under the stove if you can fit) to relax and rest and refresh yourself.  

 And Tempe says make sure you take time to spend with your sister and family and friends --even if you think you are too busy.  (Trinity says but I was sleeping)

Merry Christmas from the gang at Fairlight Farm!
May God Bless you in the New Year.   

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Million Dollar Kitten

The Million Dollar Kitten......

….or how Tang uses up three of his nine lives before he is even four months old.

Day One--Misery
If you remember back in July—the 9th to be exact-- I found a little orange kitten on the edge of the parking lot at work as I was prepared to head home for the day. He was in bad shape—dehydrated, weak, hungry and I found out later injured.

Tang chows down his first meal after being found
I found him on Wednesday and took him to the vet on Friday after work as the kitten could barely walk and was obviously injured in the hips or spine. The verdict without x-rays was likely a fractured pelvis and the treatment was predisone and cage 'rest'. There was also a very brief mention of 'hopefully he hasn't herniated into the chest and since his lungs sound good he is probably okay—nothing I (the vet) could do about it anyway'. At first this wasn't hard and Tang was agreeable to resting and eating and eating and resting. He had allot of ground to re-gain.

Growing and trying to heal
On Saturday he had a setback and his breathing was too fast, so I whisked him off to the vet again, where they decided to keep him for the weekend and give him Dexamethasone shots and observe him. By Monday he was feeling lots better and eating well, so I brought him back home.

I hide from Mommy all the's fun
Sometimes I sit real still and hide in plain sight....
Tang continued to improve with 'bed' rest and eventually was getting around quite well on his injured leg/pelvis. By August 2 I had him back to the vet for his first round of shots. He had gained about a pound by then.

Tang trying to be normal...but his face looks distressed....
Time went on, and Tang tried so hard to act like a normal kitty—he would run and play and even attempt tree climbing. There were things though...things that in hindsight weren't right and in the back of my mind I knew they weren't 'normal'. He tired easily. His breathing seemed too rapid. He ate like a horse...but would only eat so much and stop. He was growing, but was long and lanky and looked like someone had stretched him out and he hadn't popped back to his normal shape. But he was up to 3.6 lbs! There was a definite 'empty' space in front of his hips and behind his ribs. But he pretended so hard to be okay.

Then one Friday in September he didn't act well. His appetite wasn't good and I had to coax him to eat. By Saturday he wasn't eating at all and in obvious distress with his breathing. I called my 'cat' vet with little hope of getting him in on a Saturday morning. However the vet's daughter was at the desk and worked him for 10:30—I had to hustle to get ready and out the door as it is 36 miles away.

When I got to the vet my regular vet was not on duty, and I was seen by a lady vet that I had not met before. She was pretty nice and listened to what I had to say. I told her what was going on and that I was concerned about a) the bad cat diseases—FIV, FeLV & FIP and would like him tested for these (although there is no test for FIP) b) I mentioned what the original vet had said about possible herniation. So they whisked little Ting-Tang off for an x-ray and blood test. I didn't have a good feeling about any of it.
Sweet little Tang pre-surgery

Not soon enough the lady vet came back—shaking her head as she came in the door and saying, 'well it's not good news'. The x-ray had indeed revealed that Tang had been severely injured and had suffered a herniated diaphragm. What this essentially meant was there was a tear in the wall of his diaphragm that had allowed his liver (and possibly) other organs to be pushed up into his chest cavity. This of course was causing breathing difficulties since his lungs could not expand properly.

Indeed. And this is the little kitten who kept playing and climbing and trying.

He would not survive much longer. He was in distress. The lady vet said they did not do surgeries like that there. It was too delicate and intrinsic. He would have to be in a very controlled atmosphere. The closest one she knew that would do it would be in Springfield and it would be very expensive. From stories I've heard it would have likely been over $1,000 just to get started. My heart was very heavy. I asked her what the blood test revealed. If he had tested positive to the diseases I would have had him euthanized as his immune system would have been compromised making his chance at surviving surgery slim,  and it would have been a continued risk for the existing cat colony. However he tested negative so I told the lady vet I could not make the decision right then, I'd have to figure out what to do. I knew I couldn't afford a thousand dollar plus surgery. It was a horrible decision to have to face.

With heavy heart  and trying not to cry, I went to pay my bill. The vet's daughter looked over the paperwork and disappeared for moment into the back. When she came back, she said, my Dad does this surgery. He has done several over the years. She would call him right then and see if he could do it today. Evidently he and his wife (who is also the primary receptionist) were out of town at a ballgame. Through a loud and difficult conversation (remember a ballgame!) it was established that he would do it that night when they got back. Time was of the essence. I asked her how much it would cost. The bill was still going to be high, but it was not going to be a thousand dollars and more.

I'm not made of money and it was difficult to spend this large sum, but how could I not? So after hugging Tang and praying for the best I walked away. Late that evening the vet called. Tang had survived surgery and was coming out of the anesthesia. The next 48 hours would be critical. It was a very delicate surgery and his entire liver had been pushed into the chest cavity so it was possible it was compromised. Time would tell. No news would be good news. Didn't sleep that much or the next two nights amid horrible nightmares.
Ouch...first night home after surgery

Monday a.m. I called to see how he was. He was ready to come home! What?? So that evening I went and picked him up and was amazed that he looked so well. He came home with antibiotics and ten days cage rest orders...and a six inch long from 'stem to stern' incision.

Home after surgery
Ten days was a long time. Because the weather had taken a turn for the cooler I moved him and his crate inside (much to the consternation of existing cats!). For the first week he wolfed down his food and couldn't get enough. The little guy had been starving! He was good for about a day and then the playing started—this escalated day by day—even though there wasn't much for him to play with he 'made do' and trashed his cage. On day ten back to the vet he went for stitches removal—which didn't go well (they were already growing in) and a checkup. He was doing great! We were all grinning like hyenas. I found out later the vet had never done this surgery on one so small. Also that it was good he had grown and gained some weight before the surgery, so the delay from the time of injury was actually a good thing.
Gabe shut down completely when I moved kitten and crate in the house.  Look at that expression...what a big baby!    

After two weeks of restricted activity Tang was set free. I don't think he quit being in motion all day long. He could play and run and run and play and not get winded.
Almost time for stitches to come out

Another view of the ouchy belly.  Incision started just below his sternum
Restricted to strolls on a leash..oh how he hated that!  You can see he has a belly now though! 
Extremely jealous Carly and extremely aggravated Tang share a look
We'll never know what happened to the little guy. These kind of injuries are common when hit by a car, falls, and being kicked. They can also be congenital but since he had hip/leg problems it was more likely and injury.

Tang on the move --his first day of real freedom
After all that you'd think he could be a house kitty. But much to my distress, he can't. We are barely holding on as it is with the resident house cats and can't add anymore to the mix. I wish he could have a safe loving forever indoor home, but so far no one has knocked down my door to apply. I worry about him and pray he will be smart and lucky enough to survive 'out there'. So far he stays in the yard and putts about. When I am out doing chores sometimes he will venture out back with us. I put him up at night and who knows maybe always least until he is big enough not to be owl bait. He has grown allot and still has a gusty appetite. He is a purring machine.

I'm okay Mommy...really!
I spend long minutes searching for him and checking up on him. He is the invisible cat. I can't ever see him no matter where he is. And he never lets me know, just sits and watches.  I worry allot.  Allot.  At some point I have to resolve this and let it go, but the little bugger has wound himself around my heart.

Tang this week, hanging out with the cool catio cats.
Saturday he turned into a little monster.  He climbed up the catio and onto the roof of the house--not once but twice.  And I climbed up on my rickety ladder, not once, but twice to rescue him.  Yes, I know, he has to learn.  But I fear he will jump and re-injure himself and I cave in.  The second time he climbed down my face and left some nice scratches.   Not only did he climb up on the roof he later found a baby vole in a nest and played with it until I 'rescued' it.   (I hardly think it will survive).   That night he was exhausted, and I have to admit I was too.  All last week he was smitten with the catio people (house cats) and spent all his time out there.  The new seems to be wearing off though, as he has made reappearances back to the other side of the house.  Sunday I caught him in the act of shimmying up the catio fence towards the roof again.  I shimmied him right back down.   

Rotten Tang up on the roof of the house
If he survives long enough he has to go back to the vet in November for the big tutor surgery.  Then we shall be done, I hope, with his vet care.   At least I hope.  Only time will tell if there is any long term damage to his liver.  

I don't know how long he will live. It's a violent world out there. But he has his chance now to be a normal little kitty. The resident outside girl kitties try and ignore him. He plays with the inside kitties through the doors and their catio fence. This winter I hope to be able to rig up a heated bed for him and pray he will be tough and stout enough to handle the cold.

I wish there was a way to fence my place to keep wandering kitties in...sigh.  

Not sure why I found that little scrap but find him I did and I pray his life is long and happy.   And I don't turn completely grey....

I'm ready to be rescued again now!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Summer Half Over

And summer is half over.   The last time I posted was in April, and since then the typical summer things have transpired.

 I planted a garden and have harvested a few things, fought the bugs, and  marveled at how big some of the squash plants are getting.  My tomatoes are producing lots of green tomatoes, but some type of stink bug is sucking the juice out of them faster than they can ripen.

Peppers, Tomatoes, Squash & Cabbage from the garden
The weather has been pretty good (so far) this summer, although at the moment it is pretty warm.  We experienced the most lovely cool front last week that required a warm fuzzy blanket at night so that the cats and I might be toasty.  Now it is back to 'real' summer.  It's getting dry now so hoping we get some rain soon, before the pastures burn up.    

Fresh Black Prince Tomato, Yellow Cherry Tomato, & some refrigerator pickles Mom made
The aged and infirm in the sheep lot consist of three at the moment.  Well, there are more than three aged sheep but only three that are infirm at this moment.  Willow is 13 and moves slower these days, but is as independent as always.  Her son Callum, is 'only' 11 but he suffered a back injury as a youngster in his ram days, and it's catching up to him.  Big white sheep, Annalea has a gimpy front foot, but other than needing to be guarded at feeding time does okay.  Willow and Cal hang out together and move at the same speed.  They avoid the rambunctiousness of the other sheep and I separate them at  feeding time.  This hot weather is hard on them.

The sheep and I have finally worked out a mutually beneficial system on grazing the front area of my place.  If you remember they have been rather at loose ends since all the leader sheep died over the last few years.  I couldn't get them to calm down and stay in most of the areas on the front of my land without penning them tight.  And even if that worked, they would then refuse to enter the area the next time--contrary to popular belief they aren't stupid. (Now stubborn..yes)  It was a real battle and very frustrating.  However, the solution was happened on accidentally when I was late putting them out front one night to graze.  They seemed much more calm during that time, so now after all the chores are done and it's almost time to go in the house with the dogs, I will turn them on the front, while I'm giving Cal and Willow their evening meal.  I leave the gate open to the paddock and they graze up until dark and then go out again at first light.  They have kept the front 'mown' pretty well.  Not the short 'just so' cropped look from the lawnmower, but I like it.  It looks a bit messy but it's short and green and full of life--lots of little flowers everywhere.   I've mown it three times this summer and will do so again when we get a good rain, but this is lots less than if I had to keep it all short on my own. 

Millie Cuteness Overload
My sister got a puppy!  This is huge.  She has been dithering about getting a puppy for years.  Sweet little Millie joined the family a few months ago.   My sis has been dealing with all the 'stuff' that goes with an energetic pup, and it keeps her busy (and a little worn out).   Millie is cute as a button and is part Maltese and Shih-tzu--a MalShi, and was a pound puppy along with her siblings.  You can read more about Millie on here

Millie & her big Green Frog
 My nephew had a brain bleed at the end of May--he was only 36.  He is doing pretty good now, going to therapy three to four times a week.  It's been very hard on him and his wife and four children to adjust and cope with this in their lives.  It was a sad and scary time and we were all happy to be able to celebrate his 37th birthday with him on July 4th.   His therapy will end sometime in August and hopefully he will be released to drive and also to go back to work.

Cleanup on the hen house has finally been accomplished.  It was a hot nasty, NASTY, job, but the worst of it is done.  I'd let things go over the last few years with only a few hens so there was layer of about four to six inches of very dry chicken litter on the floor.  I got that all shoveled and swept out (that sounds so quick and easy...) while wearing a mask.  Then I hosed everything down inside, but since it didn't drain as well as I expected it turned into some drama and  hard work getting the water out.  It needs another rinse off, but we will see.  Now I need to do some repairs around the outside edges  and install new nest boxes, and fix the roosts...and, AND....get some new chickens!  I'm kinda excited about that.  Ready for fresh eggs, and I miss seeing their little bobbing shapes around the pasture, not to mention their role as scrap disposal systems.  I only plan to get about six hens, or so and would like to get young adults.   

There is a new stray cat.  I'm pretty sure it's a young tom.  It took a little while to figure out there was a new cat in town as he looks an awful lot like my two elderly outside girl cats.  Only they are more portly.  He comes up every night and talks to the cats in the catio, and that was what gave him away.  My girls talk but it's more a screamy meow, and his is rather a melodic mewmewmew.  So anyway, he has a date with the live trap and a trip to the vet for tutoring, then I guess I'll just release him and if he wants to stop in and eat he can.  Not really needing anymore kitty residents.  I don't think he is very wild but he is spooked.  I suspect he was dumped.   He is a beautiful silver grey and if I could find a farm home for him I'd be pleased!  Only this isn't the worst of it in the cat news.  There is a kitten.

One very sad misused kitty

First Meal at Hotel Paradise--he was thin and scraggly looking
Lip Smacking Good seemed to be the verdict
A week later and Ashley is consoling him--you can see the 'oddness' about his rear hip and leg
Seems my vehicle here on the parking lot at work was chosen by a wee kitten to lay near enough by to be noticed.  I'll also point out there were many vehicles and people on the lot that day.  Many.  I was leaving for the day and I did not see the kitten laying there in the grass against an old garage.   Seriously I try not to look around too much anymore.  However a weak, desperate meow did get my attention.  And again, until I saw it there.  I tried to leave.  Got it some treats out of the truck to give it, but no way could I bring it home.  It was so thin and dehydrated that it couldn't eat the treats, couldn't hardly even get up.   So I picked it up, tried to fob it off on another employee then put it down on the seat beside me and went home.   I had a little water bottle and poured some in the cap for it to drink and it was very thirsty.  It looked like a little girl to me.  The next day I got it worked into the vet after I got off work.  By then I knew that something was wrong with it---something in it's hips or back.  It could wobble around but was very unsteady on it's legs.

Feeling better but still favoring the leg --you can see how he sticks it straight out

Off to the vet yet again.....

Off to the vet we went the next day.  Without expensive tests and x-rays nothing obvious presented itself, but the vet's best guess was either a  fractured pelvis or some nerve/ligament damage.  He was also concerned that some of it's organs had been displaced and herniated, but everything 'sounded' good in the lungs and heart.  So back home we went with predisone and 'bed rest' instructions.   The next day he took a turn for the worse (yes, it was a he) or I thought he did.  Because it was so intensely hot I gave in when the vet discussed keeping him for observation and anti inflammatory injections over the next several days.  He was much perkier by Monday.  Now three weeks later he is more steady on his feet and the 'problem' seems to be located in the right hip area. He does well until he gets tired then you can tell it bothers him.  I am keeping him confined in a dog crate in the breezeway during the day and he has a small exercise  pen set up under the tree that he goes into before and after I get home from work for some change of scenery.  I also let him follow me around the yard for a short time in the evening. (edited to add:  he is loose in the yard when I'm home now)  He isn't as energetic as most kittens his age, but he is coping and hopefully will heal --the vet thought thirty days of restricted movement would be beneficial.  He was only about seven weeks when I found him.  Our best guess is he probably got thrown from a vehicle that he hitched a ride on...but we'll never know for sure.    Now he needs to go back for shots soon (edited:  he had those this past weekend) as they felt he was too young and weak the first time around.  I have a lead on a possible home for him, but have to have assurance that he is wanted before we proceed.  I will also keep him until he is hopefully better. (edited again:  possible home has never gotten back with me...)  He is very cute as all kittens are, but I cannot offer him much here.   He would be an outside kitty in an unsafe environment, albeit well fed and loved.  Praying for a home for him!   His temporary name is Tang and he is a very self assured young kitten and I think he will have a ton of personality.

Tang--Looking Better

Last night I was thinking that it would soon be time to get the wood supply ordered for winter, not to mention the hay.  It's been a strange year for hay--it was cool and wet for many days and so the first cut got delayed.  Yet, we never really got any good long soaking rains.  Just days of drizzle and clouds.   The ground is very dry and it doesn't take much to bake it.    I'm hoping though that we get some good rains as farmers are finally getting their first crop off the field and there should be time for a second cutting provided we get some moisture.   It's hard to think about winter... the older I get the less I cope with cold and inclement weather and having to drive on slick roads.  (especially the latter!)

Making himself to home on one of the many outside cat bed/nooks--needs lots of naps
But we still have some time to go before then.   There will be lots of hot summery days still when I will probably be hoping for winter.  

Collie Carpet--Minty, Ashley & Carly's favorite place to spend a hot day (inside in the AC!)

I guess that is it for now.  Hope you are having a good summer in your neighborhood!