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...