Monday, December 27, 2010

Bad Girls!

Waking up to the sound of somebody pounding on your front door is never pleasant.  On Christmas Eve, I was a few hours into a good sleep after a busy night at work when the pounding began.  Tired, I tried my best to ignore the noise.  When it continued with increasing force for more than a few minutes, I decided it probably wasn't another UPS delivery and that I should get up and answer the door.

One of our elderly neighbors was standing on our porch.

"I'm sorry to wake you up," he said, staring at my disheveled hair and pajamas. "But I just saw your dogs running down the street, past my house."

In my half waking state I can only hope that no explicatives crossed my lips in response.

"I'll help you round them up in my truck," he continued.

"Thank you," I managed to reply. "I guess I'll meet you down there in my car."

I closed the door and sighed deeply.  Brian was busy at work which meant it was my sole responsibility to get these dogs back to our property.  And with two more nights of work ahead of me, I needed to round up the dogs with enough time left for me to get some more sleep.  I looked down at Arthur who was still barking from the neighbors' interruption of our daytime sleep.  I wished our other dogs were ten pounds instead of ninety.

A few minutes later I was dressed with cheese in my pocket, driving down the road.  At first I couldn't see the dogs or the neighbor who had promised to help.  Trying not to panic, I continued to drive.  Finally I saw both dogs down a random driveway, with our neighbor behind them in his old truck, trying to steer them in the right direction.  I stopped, jumped out of the car and called their names.

"Gretel!  Beatrice!  Come!"

By some miracle, both dogs looked at me and ran in my direction excitedly.  I shoved the cheese at them, hoping to lure them in further.  In the next moment, it was as though I was overcome with some superhuman strength (which was probably motivated by my intense desire to get back into my warm bed and back to sleep).  I opened the trunk of the SUV and one by one, shoved the dogs inside.

Gretel and Bea in the dog run

My luck continued as I was able to get both dogs back into the fenced area they share with the goats and then inside the 10" x 10" dog run where they lived as puppies.  I walked the outer fencing, trying to understand how they got out.

Maia on the A frame, eating tar paper. 
The goats were a bit unruly while the dogs were locked up.

Brian was able to capture their attempted escape.

 Later that evening when Brian made it home, we spent an hour laying out additional fencing. I went to work, leaving Brian on duty.  Twice that night, the dogs escaped, provoked by a tailless raccoon that lives in the blackberry bush behind our house.  Brian watched them escape the second time and found the weak link in the fence and was able to patch it up.  Interestingly, it is Gretel who initiated both escapes (we previously though Bea to be the devious one) and would not come back when called.  Brian was easily able to collect Bea back into captivity but had to chase Gretel all around our neighbors property.  She made a beeline to where she found the pan of bacon grease last week. I suppose you can't really blame her for that!

I am happy to report there have been no more successful escapes although the girls remain on the naughty list for the time being! 

Beautiful Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just Another (Windy) Day

I am one of those people who unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it) does not look their age.  I am frequently asked by patients, "How old are you?" as they wonder if I am the real RN or simply a student.  The other night at work I was asked this very question. 

"I'm twenty-seven," I replied. 

My seventy-seven year old patient said, in complete sincerity, "That old, huh?" 

"What do you mean, that old?"  I asked, surprised.  Coming from somebody closer to eighty than seventy, I found this statement rather ironic.

"Well, you're closer to thirty than you are to twenty.  All downhill from there."

With this conversation in the back of my mind, I looked around this morning feeling pretty darn satisfied with my life.  My day began with feeding the animals.  The wind has been howling since dawn and the dogs, somehow energized by the gusts, played aggressively for a few hours. They then found a dry spot in the sun to sleep.  They may be nearly 90lbs but still not too old for puppy naps.

As mentioned before, the goats have been eating the bark off the apple trees.  Really amazing the damage that a couple of dwarf goats can do!

And Betty snuck in the house as I was running out to take some pictures. She and Arthur had a play session before she scooted back outside.

 Finally, and most excitingly, the elk showed up in daylight today!  I was looking out the back window and noticed that some of the cows up the road were small and brown.  Knowing that just wasn't right, I grabbed  a pair of binoculars and could see the elk herd!  They have been in the same spot for hours and I am hoping to get a closer picture. (And I wonder if any of the neighbors with elk tags will see them this afternoon!) 

All in all, my assessment of my twenty-seven year old life is a positive one.  And with all the plans we have for our little farm, I am certain that while we may have to climb over giant hurdles, our life after thirty will be anything but downhill!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

I am no Alpha Dog

Bea searching for a treat under my jacket
Last week I came home from work in the morning and decided to take the dogs for a walk.  In the recent weeks, both dogs have been great in the back pasture, coming back when called and generally staying out of trouble.  I let them out the gate and off they ran.  They started with a perimeter walk around our property and quickly made their way through the hole in the fence and into our neighbor's property. 

"No big deal," I thought.  We'd gone that far before and only once had trouble getting the girls to come back home.  They continued around the perimeter and started walking the very back line along the fence.  "Girls!" I called.  Both dogs looked up, pausing a moment from their furious sniffing.  "Come!".  Still, they looked at me, but neither dog made a move in my direction.  Instead they continued at a brisk pace, down the fenceline and away from me.

By this point I was starting to get worried.  I made my way towards their fluffy white forms in the grass.  Unfortunately, my pace was substantially hampered by my shin-high, $6 rainboots and the soggy pasture, it having poured with rain the night before.  Despite my perilous footware and difficult terrain, I began a jog down the feild.
It is true that I was once a bit of an athelete, skiiing, volleyball and rugby.  But those days are behind me now.  As I was running through the mushy grass filled with puddles and holes, I huffed and puffed and watched the girls run farther in the distance.  When I finally caught up with them they were at the back fence of our neighbor's property, looking for a way to get out.  Fortunately for me, the fence held them back.

I got the girls to acknowledge my existance and got them turned around in the opposite direction.  I started back towards the house.  Looking back, both dogs had their heads buried in the grass.  Bea came up with a large, dead mouse in her mouth.  "YUCK!"  I screamed, and dived towards her.  I got her to drop it but when I turned around, Gretel had a dead mouse in her mouth!!  I ran the other way towards her and thought my lungs were going to explode.

Brian was in the house during all of this fiasco and I started sending silent prayers to him, hoping he would come and rescue us.  I made it out to the dirt road leading to our house and trudged back towards our property.  Thankfully the girls followed me.  But they didn't stop at the house as I did, they ran toward our other neighbors house and away from me.  "I am no alpha dog," I thought. It was time to call for back up.

By the time Brian made it outside, I was doubled over in my neighbor's front yard, tears streaming down my face. 

"Where are the dogs?" He asked.

"I don't know," I replied through sobs "They went that way."  I pointed behind me, over the hill and out of sight.

Brian ran off behind the hill and within several minutes, both dogs had returned and Brian was able to corral them into the fenced area where they live.

I felt humbled and defeated and a little disappointed.  Gone are the days when I could take my sweet and slightly obedient pups on a walk in the pasture.  Even Brian now occasionally has trouble with Gretel and Bea.  He had to carry Gretel home the other day when she ran away and found a dish of bacon grease on our neighbor's porch.

Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet around here.  Arthur attacked neighbor dog Pepper yesterday and she ran off with her tail between her legs.  Amazing that a larger dog could be afraid of a 10-lb Chihuahua!  Rambo and Betty White continue to spend more time outside (and continue to catch mice and moles!), although Betty still comes inside at night.  The goats have started stripping the bark off all the trees in the pasture.  They definitely miss having varied vegitation in the colder season.

We are preparing to have a quiet Christmas and we hope that everyone has a Happy Holiday!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Surviving our First Winter

It's hard to believe it is already the middle of December.  We had lots of snow the week around Thanksgiving and nothing since!  Temperatures are supposed to drop again this week but in the meantime, the weather is staying mild with highs in the 50s.


Betty White and Rambo are spending more time outside with the nicer weather.  Occasionally we have to pursuade Betty to go out by feeding her outside, but once she gets out there, she and Rambo have fun exploring the property.  A few days ago I witnessed Rambo catching a mole (which he brought back into the house, ALIVE) and yesterday, Brian saw Betty playing with a mouse.  They are adapting well to their new country life.

Maia and Weekend have run out of apple tree leaves to eat and have now taken to chewing on the tree trunks.  We are now feeding them two types of hay and minerals to supplement for the lack of vegitation in winter. They had their hooves trimmed for the first time and did very well (Arthur puts up more of a fight when he gets his nails cut!)

Bea and Gretel were supposed to get spayed today, but Gretel has been under the weather and the operation has been postponsed for a few weeks.  Gretel spent her first night away from home at the vets office last week and was put on antibiotics.  She looks better every day and we are getting prepared for the stress of having our huge puppies with stitches (that need to be kept clean!) in their bellies.

Even though this winter has been a fairly easy one so far, I think we are all looking forward to the longer days of spring and summer!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Elk Have Arrived!

Yesterday afternoon our neighbor knocked on our door.  He wanted to tell us that he had seen elk prints in the mud and that they had been eating the apples in his orchard.  He asked us to keep an eye out for them and to call him if we saw anything (he got an elk tag this year...)

Late last night, Bea was barking and barking and barking.  Which isn't unusual given all the critters that live around our house.  Brian was curious to see what Bea was barking at so he grabbed the spotlight and pointed it out at the pasture behind our house.  We immediately saw the green reflection from one, then two, then hundreds of animals' eyes!  The elk herd was in our neighbor's pasture, just in front of the pear orchard.  And there were so many of them!  There must have been a hundred, all frozen to their spot, staring back at us.  It really was incredible.

I unfortunately do not have any pictures to post of the event (we tried to take a few but it was too dark to show anything).  We are hoping the elk reappear again during the day so we can appreciate them in the daylight...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snowy Thanksgiving

It has been a very busy week with work, weather and celebrations.  My parents came to celebrate Thanksgiving with us and got to experience our first big snowfall of the year.  It was a bit like a blizzard last Tuesday morning but cleared up by the afternoon.  The animals survived it well and Bea and Gretel discovered that they like to eat snow!  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of good food, good company and my parents were able to meet our muddy animals.

The other morning I went to feed the animals after work.  At the last minute, I decided to take them for a walk because the neighbor dog, Pepper, was at the fence, crying for a playdate with Bea and Gretel.  I opened the gate and off they ran.  They ran and ran and ran.  When it was time to have breakfast, they came back immediately (which is a big improvement as they had a period of major disobedience!).  Neighbor dog Pepper was sad to be left to play alone.

Suddenly, I noticed that Pepper seemed to be stalking something.  We have no shortage of random critters around here so I went to inspect her prey.  I was dismayed to find that Rambo was frozen in the middle of the road.  In an instand, Pepper was off and runnig after Rambo.  He ran straight up the telephone pole!  I spent half the morning trying to get Pepper out of our yard.  Unfortunately, I don't think this rivalry is over! Pepper certainly enjoys a good chase.  In other news, Rambo (now called Bo Bo) has warmed up enough (after indulging in large amounts of cap nip) to let Brian and I pet him. 

Bea and Gretel continue to grow (we think they are close to 75 lbs) and are sweet as ever! 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's Cold Outside!

Since fixing the fence earlier in the week we have not had any more escape attempts. The girls have been behaving so well that I decided to take them for a walk this morning before breakfast. They ran like crazy in the back pasture and then took a minute to walk the perimeter (typical behavior of the breed who instinctually guard their property). A few minutes later, Gretel decided she was hungry and ran back up to the fence, wanting to go back in for breakfast. It was a good morning.

The weather has been getting colder every day. There is snow on the mountains around our house and the animals' water freezes in the morning. The water in the hose froze the other morning as well which was rather inconvenient. The goats and dogs seem to be tolerating the weather well, staying snuggled in the A-frame at night.

Arthur is doing just fine with the transition to winter, staying snuggled up inside the house.

Monday, November 15, 2010

BBB (Bad Bea and Betty)

Nearly every time I take care of a dying patient at work, a member of their family says to me "I don't know how you do this job". The truth is, I'm not sure how I do it either. All I know is, regardless of how hard my shift was and how many tears were shed, when I see our animals running to greet me in the morning, a smile comes to my face.

And I love our animals even though they are often naughty. A few days ago, a man was walking with his dog in our neighbors's pasture. Bea and Gretel were barking and barking. Finally, it was more than Bea could handle. The next things we know, Bea is on the other side of the fence. Luckily for us, Gretel (still being a nervous pup) could not figure out how to get out so Bea stayed close to the fence, waiting for her sister. We were able to lure her with a bone back into the fenced area.

We were not sure how Bea got out until yesterday. We saw her first standing up against the fence. Then her front paws went over. She hung on the fence for a few minutes (I was so afraid she was going to hurt herself!) and finally was able to scoot her hind legs over. Needless to say, we were outside until after dark making reparations to the fence. Our back yard is starting to look a bit like a military compound with its rough fencing but at least our dogs stay safely at home!

We have been working on transitioning the cats to live outside. Rambo has not slept inside for nearly a week. He has found a hidey-hole where he is safe and warm overnight. Betty has stayed outside a few nights and had done quite well. Until last night. Both cats were on the roof and all night we could hear the pitter patter of little feet and littler feet (cats and mice, ick). We imagine that Rambo enjoyed himself very much. Betty, we know for sure, did not. She sat outside our bedroom on the balcony and meowed. And meowed and meowed and meowed (much like Lily, the lovely cat I left with my parents). She must have sat there for a good four hours. At six in the morning, Brian couldn't stand it anymore and let her in downstairs. Our new plan is to build her a place in the garage so she can still have some indoor space without occupying Brian's 'man room' in the basement.

Aside from the above adventures, we have been enjoying Phillippe's daily visits. We have also been watching the Kites that hunt in the pastures around our house. Not the type of kite you would imagine, but a bird that hunts by hovering in one spot and then diving down to catch its prey. They are beautiful birds. We also have a pair of Red-tailed Hawks that live nearby. I am getting lots of use out of my binoculars....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feels like Winter!

The last few days have been fairly quiet. Brian has been home due to problems in the candy kitchen at work. We have been able to take the dogs for walks in the pasture. In light of our previous experience, we now leave the goats behind at the house. The girls have been behaving well except for a minor run-in that Gretel had with one of the neighbor's cows. She tried to chase it but it ran straight at her. She took off in the other direction with her tail between her legs, traumatized.

The coyotes were out and howling again last night. From our balcony I watched Bea and Gretel both bark ferociously. Bea stood up on her hind legs, her head now high above the top of the fence. She wanted to get to those coyotes so badly. Great Pyrenees are known to jump fences. Thankfully Bea isn't quite bold enough for that yet, but we may be needed some five or six foot fencing in the future!

It rained most of yesterday, with high winds and temperatures down to the 20's overnight. No snow this morning but the feel of winter is certainly in the air! The dogs fur was wet from rain and was stiff with cold last night. I worried they would be cold but all four animals snuggled together in the A-frame and all four seemed fine this morning. Hopefully it will keep them warm as the temperatures continue to drop!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Our First Weekend Away

Brian and I went to Portland for a quick trip this weekend. It was the first time that both of us had been gone for a whole weekend. We left our house and animals in the care of a co-worker. Although we completely trust her housesitting abilities, we worried about the animals the whole time we were gone!

Thankfully, all animals were accounted for when we returned. Nothing was obviously amiss. This morning, however, I noticed a few things. The dogs have always enjoyed digging holes in the backyard. It is characteristic of Great Pyrenees (and puppies!) to dig. Usually the holes are in the middle of the yard. We assume the are looking for grubs (when we had their poop tested for worms when they were babies, the vet told us it was full of bug parts - they really enjoy eating bugs!!). Two new holes appeared over the weekend and this time they were right next to the fence. Good thing the dogs are so big it would take them weeks to dig themselves under the fence!

I also noticed that most of the straw was missing from the goats hay feeder. My initial reaction was "Wow, those goats must have been hungry while we were gone!" Then, after giving the girls a treat this morning (I'm getting really bad about spoiling them...) I went back in inside and upstairs. When I glanced outside, Bea was sitting in the hay feeder! I'm still not entirely sure how she got in there but it must be a soft dry place for her to enjoy her treats.

The cats continue to become more comfortable with their new lives here. They have started spending the night outside. And we found another dead mouse! Never thought I'd be so excited about that...

Some of you may wonder about Arthur, as I haven't mentioned him very much in the blog. Arthur is doing very well and enjoys his life as the only real inside animal. As he doesn't realize he is a dog, he is just fine spending his days napping on the couch and cuddling. Arthur's life is good!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bea's House

When Brian drove to Astoria to pick up the puppies, the breeder told him to bring a large carrier and to prepare for the dogs to get carsick on the drive down. Sure enough, Bea and Gretel threw up on eachother the entire seven hour drive home. Later, the girls used the house to hide during their first thunderstorm. After that it was Bea who we most frequently found sitting in the house. She would often kick Gretel out. So we called it Bea's house.

Yesterday Brian decided to move Bea's house across the pasture to see if the animals would like it better. Sure enough, within minutes, the goats were both inside the house. A minute later Bea joined them. I couldn't believe two goats and a 70lb dog would fit in that little house! It was pretty fun to watch. We are hoping to add a picnic bench next to their playground (goats love to climb!)

I am pleased to report that we finally have a mouser! Last night we found a dead mouse right in front of Rambo! This morning when I went to open the back door, both cats ran out and have been on the prowl ever since. They are finally getting used to our house and de-stressed from their lives in the shelter. Makes me pretty happy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another Beautiful Day

One of my favorite parts of my new country life is feeding our animals. Since Brian has started working at the factory, I am on breakfast duty. We usually feed the animals together in the evening. When I come home from work in the morning, all the animals run up to the fence to greet me. No matter how difficult my night has been (and being an oncology nurse, things can get tough!) Gretel, Bea, Weekend and Maia always put a smile on my face.The dogs get to eat their kibble twice a day. Recently, I have been giving them lots of different chews to occupy their puppy mouths. They love to chew! Sometime they chew on sticks. The goats get clipping from various trees. They even eat pine needles! Amazing what their four stomachs can digest.
We have been very much enjoying the more frequent appearance of Phillippe the pheasant. We think he has been more adventurous in gathering food in light of the coming winter. He really is a beautiful bird! Hoping none of the neighbors decide to eat him for dinner!
We have been told there is a yearly elk run through our back pasture. They gorge themselves on the leftover pears in the orchard behind our house then come into our pasture to rest. Our neighbors have already gotten elk tags for this year. Will be interesting to see what happens!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Walking Our Goat Dogs

After a couple nights of work and a quick trip to the Bay Area to celebrate the wedding of our friends Jayne and Drew, I was ready to blow off some steam this morning. What better thing to do than take our goats and dogs for a walk in the pasture?

As soon as Brian opened the gate to the pasture, Bea and Gret took off running. They ran as fast as they could. Straight for the hole in the neighbors fence and onto his property. He owns 20 acres of pasture right behind our house. Being the adolescent pups that they are, Bea Bea and Gretel continued to run and run with absolute no regard to our calls.

Now, this would have been a fairly simple situation had we not decided to bring the goats on the walk with us. As soon as Brian would take off running to get the dogs, the goats would follow him. We struggled for a few minutes, got really far onto our neighbors property, our voices hoarse with yelling and finally, the goats decide to stick with me and Brian ran top speed to retrieve our naughty dogs.

When Brian successfully got Bea and Grets attention, they all started running back towards me, the goats and the house. But they were not alone. Pepper! The wild neighbor dog was with them, so excited to finally have some playmates (she usually runs around with a wiener dog, much to our neighbor's dismay). And when Pepper sees the goats, she has never been happier in her life. She has dreamed about chasing them from the other side of the fence for months now.

Brian continues to run back towards the house, animals in tow, when our neighbors comes up on his ATV. We chat for a minute and he laughs, "You're goats follow you around just like dogs. They are goat dogs!" He yelled at Pepper for chasing the goats, and she jumps on the back of his quad and take off.

We all made it safely back to the house, soaking wet and exhausted. Another small successful adventure at the farm.