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.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday Chores

Today is a beautiful day. The sun is shinning and the temp is 48 degrees already. The wind is a bit brisk, but if you are working, it isn't bad at all. Now, tomorrow is suppose to be a whole 'nother deal, with highs in 20s! I started out the morning after doing the regular chores, by walking the fence line and repairing or plugging any minuscule holes that might exist. I think I probably will have a few skunks cussing at me tonight. My original plan for today was to concentrate on cleaning out the barn that should have been cleaned out months ago! However, last night when I put Boone out about 9:30 and went to count sheep, I noticed the sheepies were restless, standing huddled together gazing off into the night. That is always a sure sign that 'something is out there'. About that time I heard a dog bark. It sounded like it could be in the woods on the far side of the pasture, across the road. However judging by the sheep, this was something out of the ordinary. Earlier when I got home from work, I parked the truck in front of the house, so I could carry in groceries. When I went to start it, the key wouldn't turn (which is another story, but seems to be a Ford thing, and requires rocking the vehicle to get it out of a bind). So, since I needed to pull the truck around to the garage, I decided to do that, after first getting my pepper spray and sticking it in my pocket. The garage is nearer to the area where I thought the dog was. Once I got out of the truck I shinned the light out into the field and saw eyes, with another bark confirming that it was indeed a dog. In the field. The field that connects to the field where the sheepies hang out in the day. Bummer. My outer fences are very good. Non climb horse fencing, with barb wire on the top. I know a dog can breech it, but it will have to be a determined dog to do so. This is the first time that a dog had gained access to the fields. I set out across the field, calling to the dog, my aim was to be able to catch it. Obviously it had gotten in, but was finding it hard to get out. Luckily, while scared, it eventually came up to me. I knew whose dog it was the minute my flashlight picked it up. It was a young, smallish Corgi and had on a collar and what I thought was a name tag. He was timid but willing to be friends and I got him to follow me to the gate, then slipped my scarf through his collar until I could get some twine from the garage. He wasn't too happy about all that, especially when I tied him to the fence while I went and called his owners. I was 99 percent certain who he belonged to, but thought I would check his 'nametag' to be sure. I was pretty incensed to find it wasn't a name tag, but what looked like a cattle tag threaded through the ring of the collar with the words 'USDA' # (whatever) written on it--no phone or address. Yep, one of the inmates from the neighbors backyard puppy mill. Argh. This place is really not that bad considering ones I've seen pictures of, as they do walk the dogs and (evidently) turn them loose to run at times. They are also well fed and look good. However what started out as a few dogs has grown and I can see it becoming a 'bad' place if they are not very, very careful. The noise of the dogs has already begun to shatter the peace and quiet of the countryside. What used to be an occasional barking spree has turned into an almost constant cacophony of dog voices. I will not even get into my puppy/kitty mill rant, because I would not stop.

Now, where was I? Oh, so I thought, I could just put this dog over the fence, since its so late at night, but I didn't really seriously consider doing that. I was set to make a point. I like the folks who own the dog, and they've always been decent neighbors, so I wanted to be tactful, but I also wanted them to know where their dog was. I called them and when the lady answered I asked her if she was missing one of her Corgis. She said, well, she had turned one of them loose but she thought he would stay right around the house. I said, well, he is here, tied up to my fence and I'd like someone to come get him. I told her my sheep were very upset and he was in the pasture. I also repeated all this when the daughter came to get him. If I see him around again, then I will have to become more drastic in what I say to them. They must understand that their dog in my sheep pasture is not going to be put up with. It's worrisome though. With it's short stature and long body, the dog was evidently able to wiggle under somewhere a larger dog couldn't. I didn't find any place really obvious where he got through, but there were a couple of places, where skunks had dug and tunneled under that it's possible he could have wiggled under. The dog was very sweet, quite pretty and decidedly liked the treats I gave him. Killing a dog for me is not an option. The owners need to step up to the plate and be responsible and I hope they will. Now it's just a waiting time to see if it happens again.

While I fixed fence, my dogs, Ariel and Boone, searched the fields for traces of the intruder, 'helped' me wire barricades in place and generally had a good old time. By the way, if you have a fence that has a gap under it at a high place a great thing to use to block it is those cheap, metal flower garden border fences. The ones that fold up. They cost very little, and pushed deep in the ground and wired to the fence, they can be very effective. Of course now I'll have to buy some more for my flower garden!

After I got the fencing looked after, I hauled two loads of accumulated sheep poo and straw out of the barn. I used my 'tarp system'. I take an old worn out tarp, tie a piece of binder twine to each corner of the short end, to make a 'harness' for me to pull it with, then lay it out near the stall to be cleaned and load it up. I have to be careful not to overload it, but it slides along the ground very well, and is a fairly easy way to haul the muck to the garden. I have probably about five more loads to go in the main barn. I'll work on that this afternoon. There is also one load that needs to be cleaned out of the Shetland barn. Lambing will begin in a month, so the barns have to be clean! I'll lay down some barn lime, once the chickens finish 'tilling' the newly disturbed areas.

I also need to get after the wood pile today sometime, before that cold front moves in. I need to do some re stacking and cover it up better. I sure don't want to be out there trying to cover the stack when the weather is frigid!

Have a great day! The pictures are of the sheep enjoying a late fall treat of Pumpkins. As you can tell by the photos, some like them and some snub their noses to them. The chickens were very excited, but had to wait their turn!


Corinne R. said...

That nifty "tarp system" is a good idea. I always have to move load after load with my wheelbarrow since we don't have a tractor.....I think the harness should be for Boone though ;).

Nancy K. said...

I feed my girls pumpkins in the fall, to flush them for breeding season. Mine all love them and they're supposedly natural dewormers too.

Kathy said...

What great tips: the fencing and the tarp! I could even use the tarp if I have to move hay "into" the barn. Thank you for sharing, Tammy!
I had a spinning apprentice when we lived in Kansas who ran a Shetland Sheepdog "mill". While she did feed them well, I couldn't help but be disgusted at the dogs living conditions. They were warm and dry, but in an old run-down building away from the house. She would just have those poor mama-dogs crank out litter after litter. She is no longer in business, of which I'm glad...very glad. (I feel the way you do)

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Cleaning out the sheepfold is on tomorrow's agenda. The rain and snow have been blowing in on the south side, so the bedding is wet as well as dirty. I may need to buy some more straw and clean it again before or in the middle of lambing -- whenever that is!

Tammy said...

Hi Corinne & Kathy, I read somewhere--maybe the Shetland list---several years ago where someone used an old bedsheet to drag out loose used straw from the barn. I then modified it the tarp and it works great. I had originally intended to teach Boone to pull the tarp, but he still has some old scars on his chest area, and I'm a little afraid to strap anything across them. For pictures there are some on my blog entry from September 24, 2006. I think most of us are pretty inventive when it comes to making our chores easier! ;-)
Nancy, this is only the second time I've fed them pumpkins. I had planned to plant and raise a bunch this year to do the flushing with (partly because I saw how much yours enjoyed them), but the season was so dry I only raised a couple!
Kathy, The tarp system should work well pulling hay in as well--especially with all that nasty snow you have on the ground! Puppy and Kitty mills are turning into a big business in this area in part because you can actually make good money at it in a low income area. But it makes me sick when I see how some of the animals are treated. I even spaz out about making sure my sheep have room to roam, friends to roam with, just so they don't get bored!