A Girl and her Farmdog

 

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“It’s easier,” we assured ourselves, committed not to get another dog.  Cats are really a lot easier.  We can run off to Taos and leave them some big bowls of food and water and they don’t mind a bit.  Cats don’t typically eat the couch or leave horse-like piles in the backyard.  “No, we don’t need a dog,” we said again.

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I suppose it began with a one page article in Sunset Magazine some months ago where a blond photographer and her wolf hybrid traveled the country together capturing the perfect shot.  I miss my wolf.  And a dog to travel around with me would be so fun.  I haven’t really opened my heart to a dog since Navajo.

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image_1511665275681Then there was the adorable lab at one of the fairs we did.  Then the movie, A Dog’s Purpose.  Kinda knew that would do me in.  Then I cried when my granddog went home after two weeks at my house.  My other granddog is my logo for my company and he is just too fluffy and cute for words.  I wanted a big floofy dog.

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And into our lives entered a ginormous ball of fur.  Gandalf talks like a husky, is huge and fluffy like a wolf, protective already, and at three months old is already forty pounds.  I am in love.  So is Doug.  The cats…well, not so much.  The kitten loves him though!

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If you are considering a farm dog or a city dog, it may be the perfect holiday gift for yourself and for the little soul that you bring home.  If you have extra love to give, there is a pup out there who would be so grateful.

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The New Farmdog

20170924_071821On Mabon, the eve of equinox, I smudged the house with oils and Doug carved on a candle a few things we wanted to manifest.  “Dog” was one of them.

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The next morning my friend, Alli, sent me a picture by text message of a litter of puppies.  Her husband was fixing equipment on a ranch and the pure-bred puppies were only fifty-dollars.  He could bring one home for me.  I looked up at the sky and said, “Dang, that was fast!”

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He ended up bringing one home for Alli and for one of their other friends as well.  Eight week old Heelers are pretty dang cute.

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We named him Arthur to match Merlin, our ten week old kitten.  Those two are running around this place like little bats out of hell until they fall into one of their many naps.  It’s pretty cute around here.

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Well, here he is folks, meet Arthur.

Compassion For Even the Smallest

 

tinyTiny Timothina had a bad day.  When we returned from our show last night we thought she was dead.  The other chicks were running over her.  Her wing and one leg were stretched out.  “Mama, I think we lost the runt,” Doug said sadly.  We saw her move though and there was life and hope.

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She was smaller than the other chicks and just wasn’t thriving.  We put her in her own small box with mini bowls of food and water and turned the light on her.  The next morning she was still alive though still laying on her side.  I put her in my shirt and rocked her as I had my coffee and checked emails.

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When we came home from our show tonight she was laying in her water dish and not well.  I held her again until she died.

That happens, it is hit or miss with chicks.  They are hatched then shipped all over the nation within twenty-four hours and sometimes for no reason we find that the chick (or grown chicken) has died of Sudden Chickie Death Syndrome (we made that up, don’t google it).

Each and every animal that comes through our farms is precious to us.  A live spirit.  A soul that came from the same universal energy source we did.  Their life is important.  Many an experienced farmer might just throw the chick away or put them in another box and walk away.  But we have brought many a chick back from the brink of death.  Ginger was practically decapitated when we found her, various chicks brought back by sitting on my lap watching television lived long lives.

So, do not give up hope on your weakened animals.  They may die, but you can hold them as their spirit is released.  We send love to each and every creature we have the honor of being around.  And this returns to us.

Life with Squirrels

 

squirrelWe have never been known to have underfed animals, and that goes for wildlife too.  Where most folks purchase squirrel proof feeders and shoo them away, we set out welcome signs.  We have a long history with squirrels.

It started with me as a child and teenager at the park feeding them and talking with them.  I didn’t think it strange, I still believed everyone spoke to animals.  Our first home we had together in Parker had a lot of squirrels, one particular was named Pierre, and he had a large bowl that we kept on the table in the back yard filled with bird seed and squirrel food.  The birds could still get to it and we didn’t have to mess with feeders.  One time we heard him yelling so we looked out our window.  There he was with his empty bowl.  He caught sight of us, showed us the empty bowl, then threw it on the ground.  Yes, squirrels are not much better than toddlers, I am afraid.

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We moved to Elbert county, and to our surprise found that there were hardly any squirrels!  We had one that visited us on the porch in the mornings as we had our coffee when we lived in Elizabeth.  His name was Pedro.  When we moved to Kiowa, there were even less!  We were delighted when we noted the squirrel nest in the tree near the road.  Unfortunately one baby fell out of the nest.  I carried him in my shirt tending to him, trying to bring him back to health.  But, I fear he had too much internal damage.  As I gently held him on my lap swinging in the back yard he had a seizure, scared me so that I tossed him.  I felt so bad, I held him close to me again crying as he passed into the next world.

You may have noticed we are not particularly scared of rabies.  Rabies is one of those rampant fears that is actually quite rare in reality.  No one seems to be scared of dogs and cats or people.  They could all be carriers!

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A few months back Shyanne brought to the shop a squirrel that she had rescued from the street.  We didn’t think he would live the night.  His held was tilted to one side and he made slow circles when he tried to walk.  We thought it was spinal, but began to believe it was neurological.  Every day without fail, the squirrel allowed Shyanne to give him his medicine.  We make very good animal medicines, and he received his twice daily doses of Arthritis and Anti-Parasite.  He took to us rather well, particularly Shyanne.  She could be seen out on her smoke break in the back with a squirrel playing at her feet.  Every day he wandered further and further, she would just call him and he came prancing back to her, gaining strength each day.

Soon he was well and we knew it was time to release him as he looked at us as captors instead of friends.  Shyanne drove him to a nearby state park and released him.  She sat on a rock watching as he climbed a tree, came back to her, climbed a tree, fell out, climbed a tree, looked at her with thanks, and was gone.  Through tears she made her way back to her car.

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Healing animals is one of our favorite aspects of our work.  We are glad that we did not raise our children to fear animals.  We adore these creatures that share the earth with us and they have made our lives so much lovelier, even the wild ones.

On our new homestead here, there are two rather fat squirrels that have been working very hard, despite the black birds, to build a nest in a hole in the tree outside our kitchen window.  We leave them bits of toast and greet them.  Perhaps we will have some young ones scampering around the yard and house.  I better get a bigger bowl.

The Littlest Farmgirl Strikes Again (and choosing backyard chickens)

How does a nearly four year old remember life on a farm so vividly two years ago?

“We need to get goats,” she says casually.

“We can’t have goats here,” I replied, “but guess what we are getting?”

“A cow?”

“Uh, no.”

“How will we get milk?” she exclaims!

“We are getting sheep though.” she continues.

“Uh, we can’t have sheep here.”

She sighed as if mustering patience for me.  “But I love sheep!” she exclaims again.

“We are getting chickens!” I said brightly.

She told me all about chickens and how we get their eggs and take care of the chicks and feed them.  The sunny opening of the soon-to-be shed beckons and I can nearly see the ladies pecking the ground in the sunlight, rolling in the dirt, and having their lively conversations.  Today we go to the feed store and reserve our chicks.  Two of our favorite breeds were our originals, Golden Buffs and Jersey Giants.  Neither breed is very interested in flying the coop and they are dang near cuddly.  They are also great layers.

Trying to appease the child I said, “Well, I think we can have ducks…”

“Oh good!  We’ll get a little swimming pool for them again..” Maryjane told me how we will care for them and did some quacking for good measure.  My goodness, what a memory.

Once a Farmgirl, always a Farmgirl.

Ten Days in Seven

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Perhaps it stems from my active imagination.  Just last night I dreamt up a new business idea that spreads the love of farming to young children and would be very popular.  What if we had Farmgirl birthday parties?  I could bring a baby animal and farmgirl treats and as the farmgirl myself (little kids love my flowy dresses and aprons), I could have a little side job.  Add that to my list!

Or perhaps it was out of necessity as entrepreneurs before Doug went back to work that we had to make every idea and hobby a business of some sort because that is how we made it, a little here, a little there.

A homesteading school, a BIG farm (as Maryjane describes it) that can have camps and visitors and provide food for the community (and us), and…birthday parties…and, oh yea, my shop and my herbal school, and I should be able to fit in a cup of coffee and a shower on Tuesdays maybe.

I think I need a ten day week.  A ten day week would allow me to fulfill all my business ideas and have plenty of time to garden and read and watch my grandbaby.  I know I am not the only one out there with a shortage of time.  With too short of time we all really only have time to do what we really love.

With the empty canvas ahead of us, we are planning our farm, but what kind of farm?  We think our best farm was in Kiowa.  A large plot in a small town with a huge pumpkin patch on a main road, with chickens and goats in the back yard.  It was fun, it was easy.  What I am is a plant medicine healer.  My shop is the cornerstone of my existence, as is being a mother/grandmother/wife.  A homestead is our life, our breath, what we really, really want and naturally live as, but can just provide for us.  Outside of that I have room for one more thing.  Maybe finish more books or take longer walks.  Maybe I don’t need fifteen businesses.  Maybe I can just live within seven days.  And in the meantime, I will live for today….while secretly planning chicken breeds.

Winds of Change

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The warm wind blew around me foretelling a light rain to come.  The mosquitos lessened and took cover as I pulled bindweed and thistle.  I don’t know why I would be weeding a garden that I cannot harvest from but I looked down the other day and noticed my nails were clean.  The lines in my hands were free of earth.  I had to get back into the garden.  I pulled weeds and counted what was growing.  Rows and rows of crops are waving proudly in the prairie soil.  Plants growing heartily in the prairie without much amendment and among weeds and voles.  My goodness, I think I can say I have a green thumb now.  How easy it will be in the city.  I begin to cry.  The cows are lowing loudly to capture the attention of the males across the road and the owls sweep grandly from tree to tree and the wind carries on it the sweet smell of first cut hay drying in the sun.  The country holds a place in my heart that cannot be tethered.  But it is not meant to be for us now.

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There are great opportunities in the city as well.  Wonderful folks to meet and wilder animals coming through from the mountains.  Its own beautiful scenery and friends to be found.  And seeds.  I can always plant seeds.  A message from a friend and I now understand.  It is sometimes hard to step off and go with the wind in a new direction but there is always a reason and the Creator knows where we are going in this sliver of time.  We just have to hold on to the tailwind and be on our way.

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The Little Dairy (a homesteader’s necessity!)

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Every homestead would benefit from a goat.  These dog-sized animals come with mega personality and fun while giving delicious milk for the homestead dairy cupboard along with chocolate milk, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and ice cream!  Goats don’t cost much more than a dog does and the investment is paid back in crazy antics (like jumping 360’s off of a pile of tires), snuggles, and food.

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Goats are great with kids and teach them about farming.  There are many cities and counties that allow goats now.  There are many types of goats to choose from ranging from Nigerian Dwarves to Saanens.  Dwarves give one to two quarts a day of rich milk while Saanens and Nubians can give one to two gallons a day!  Not too shabby.

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I love cows but they are hard to sneak into the city and they eat a lot.  Our Isabelle gives more than a gallon a day.  It is illegal to sell raw, nutrient rich, frothy, delicious milk.  However, a share is a good way to help other families receive a bit of milk for themselves. Our shareholders pay a small buy-in fee and a weekly boarding fee which entitles them to a set amount of milk.  So, Isabelle essentially belongs to four families!

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Our household still has plenty for cooking, drinking, and putting into vast amounts of coffee before farm chores.  I also make two pounds of cheese a week.  Today I will make Manchego aged in truffle oil.  I expected to have Elsa in milk too (she is doing great at her new home, by the way) so I was going to use Elsa’s milk for our needs and cheesemaking and Isabelle could supply shares.  But our plans never work out quite like we think!  Isabelle is still giving us all we need and lots of kisses as bonus.

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Goats are one of the only things that pay for themselves on this farm!  They do better in pairs.  Isabelle is a little tired of being followed around by her two month old sheep brothers, adorable as they are.  We traded Isabelle’s doeling for a doeling from Poppy, our friend Jenet’s goat, who is due in a few weeks.  We are hoping for a girl!  Then a little two day old Nubian will join our humble homestead.  If not, then we will be on the lookout for a companion for Isabelle and future milker.

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The other side of having a delightful goat that gives sustenance to a farm is the time involved.  Every day, rain or shine, or blizzard, Isabelle is milked at 8:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening.  Every.  Single.  Day.  This halts one’s spur-of-the-moment plans, but it is worth it.

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This year, I have been cutting the rounds of cheese in half so that I have one pound wheels.  One to keep, one to give fine folks that donate to our farm.  I blended white wax with red wax and found it created a lovely pink patina to cover my cheeses with.  I love it.  My favorite color. I think it will be my new thing.

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I simply cannot imagine a homestead without a goat.  A homestead necessity!

Freezer Camp

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to Freezer Camp we go…!”  The sing song text came over after I told my friend, Jamie, that the roosters lost their jobs.

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The landlords decided that the chickens should stay in their coop and modest enclosure from now on.  The roosters’ jobs were to protect from predators, to sound the alarm should a hawk fly overhead, and to make babies.  Once they all moved into snug quarters they decided their new jobs were to have sex and eat as much of the buffet as they could.  Egg production declined, and food intake went up.  The good looking fellows, I am afraid, had to be laid off.

I used to get so angry when I would read articles in Mother Earth News or other publications about how eating meat was actually better for the environment.  Or studies that eating meat is actually good for you (I still wonder sometimes).  I was a staunch supporter of no killing.  We were vegan, and our children were vegan, and by golly our cats would have been vegan too if we could have found a way!  We published vegan cookbooks and made fun of meat eaters and went to vegan restaurants and were never going to eat a chicken!  Moving to the country changes one’s ideals a bit.

I noticed my country friends had animals they used for meat.  These animals were raised in a happy go lucky place, fed what they were intended to be fed, and killed swiftly, usually without knowledge of the situation.  These animals were not in a factory farm setting.  They did not wallow in filth, in closed-in cages, eating dead animals and genetically modified foods, many never seeing the light of day.  Abuse on the line of murder is common and that side of the meat eating industry is beyond devastating and morally way off base.  But these animals were living a good life and were spared the atrocity of old age.  My old chicken, Laverne, is the saddest to thing to watch.  We could have done her a service by lopping her head off last year and could have put food on the table as a bonus.

I realized that the unending damage of mono-crops, especially soy, was going into a lot of my “healthier” meat alternatives.  That big companies owned these seemingly peaceful veggie companies.  Animals will be killed, just like people, in wars and in natural disasters, by our outlandish cars, by plowing fields for soy beans.  The pastures and rolling plains dotted with cows could not be if we did not support the local rancher.  Food closest to its source has to be far healthier than the unidentifiable ingredients on the packages lining the shelves of the health food store.

My goal is to provide as much food for our table as possible because I will know where it came from, who touched it, no chance of listeria or e-coli here!  So, Christopher Robin and Owl (I really need to stop naming them!) will do their part on this farm.  They snuck by the inspectors at the hatchery, pretended to be girls, came to live at our farm, had a marvelous time, and now will join freezer camp.  Seems fair!

I am thankful that I can live around animals, give them a great life, and provide my own food.  This is the good life.

Ebb and Flow of Farm Life

The ebb and flow, the life and death, the frequency changes and seasons all so crisply clear when one lives on a farm.

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The ducklings do not fail to bring smiles.  Frolicking in their playpen in a casserole dish turned pond.

The farm dog lays under freshly mounded soil by the empty bee hive.  Bumble passed away in the night.  The quiet house without his tick-tick-ticking and the sight of him this morning haunts me still.  Dumping the pile of dead bees in the compost.  A weight pulls my heart.  The dead chicken with suspicious slobber on her feathers.  Death is real and constant.

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The monastery of frogs chant from the pond beneath the full moon.  The baby red winged black birds chirp madly in the greenhouse.  The kittens play.  The seedlings stretch to the sky, the sun on their limbs.  The breeze brings on it blossoms from trees and the scent of dampened soil.  Elsa’s side grows.  Twelve more days until she kids.  Bundles of fluff, lambs who think they are dogs, greet me with kisses and lean against my legs.

Relationships start.  Unexpected, journeys change.  Paths bring second thoughts, perhaps regrets.  Marriages strengthen.  Friends offer embraces.  Words of wisdom and love over the telephone far away.

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The Creator waits for our prayers of thanksgiving as we busy ourselves with endless internal chatter.

Wading through and finding peace in the respectfulness of death, the joy of birth and spring, and my spirit shall join the frogs in their meditation of all that is.  Take a breath.

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Spring is here and the journey continues.