Saturday, December 25, 2010

More New Lambs!

So I've been busy preparing for Christmas dinner at our house, and have been remiss at posting photos. Marcia had twin ram lambs; Comet and Cupid, Shirley had twin ram lambs, Rudolph and Hermey, and Angel had her ram lamb, Bumble just today.

Yes, if you add up all the posts, that means 9 lambs, and only ONE is a ewe!! So I am still waiting for Prancer and Vixen. I just can't name a ram lamb Vixen!

Here are the photos!

Here is Marcia's Comet (he looks a lot like Blitzen!)

And this is Cupid. He was so soft and fuzzy, I had to name him Cupid.
Shirley gave birth to two very big ram lambs, we thought she had triplets again! Anyhow, this one is Hermey. Google it, and you'll get where the name comes from.
And here is Rudolph! Just in time for Christmas, look at that little pink nose! I really really really was hoping this one would be a ewe lamb. He's so cute! And I'd love to keep another ewe from Shirley, but alas, the odds are stacked against us... another ram lamb! Still adorable anyhow!

Last but not least, I was coming in from doing the chores today, and just happened to take one last peek in the barn at the sheep. There was Angel, laying on her side (not a normal position) and I saw two little hooves poking out from her back side. I climbed in the stall, sat down, and watched. She really struggled, since this was her first. But she didn't take nearly as long as some others I have watched. She wasn't too stressed out by my presence, as she is one of the few that likes to be petted. But eventually, Bumble tumbled out. He got up pretty quickly, but Angel was pretty dazed. While Bumble ambled about, meeting all his fellow lambs, eventually, Angel realized something was going on, and quickly found him and started to clean him off. They are off to a great start, he's eating well, and all is good in the world of lambs. Great job, Angel!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Donner and Blitzen

Welcome Donner and Blitzen! First time mama ewe, Betty, gave birth yesterday to Donner and Blitzen, two ram lambs. She is seen below with Donner.

It was a very cold day, and quite often, first time moms are a little dazed. Actually, sheep have a hormone that puts them in a trance while they give birth. Lucky Sheep! The problem is, when it's their first time, they often have no idea what's going on. Especially if they have twins for their first time, they may inadvertantly abandon one, because they don't know what just happened.

These two got to snuggle under a blanket on the heat pad for a while, because they were so COLD! Mama had no idea what was going on. Also, mamas have a wax plug over their teats that can be hard to remove, especially for a brand new lamb. For a first time mom, that plug can be pretty hard to remove. They can also be engorged, where it hurts for the lambs to nurse. I know how that feels! And they will walk away, or kick at the lambs when they try to drink. She seemed to be suffering from ALL of the above.

Donner was able to get a drink from mom, but Blitzen was really struggling. So we decided to give him a bottle to give him some strength to fight the cold, and try to get to mom again.

But this morning, Blitzen was still shivering, even after a night on the heat pad. So he got to come inside to warm up all the way through, and to get another drink from the bottle..

Atlas and Goliath were very concerned about why a little lamb wasn't out in the barn with his mom. They needed to check him out and make sure he's OK.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dasher and Dancer

Finally, some happy news on the farm!

Jan, who has looked ready to pop for days now, finally found a cozy little corner and laid down to give birth to her lambs. One ram, one ewe. I named them Dasher and Dancer.

I always forget how small and adorable new lambs are. And Jan always has interesting colored lambs! She has given us 2 all white lambs (and we kept Angel, our first). This time, she gave us a typical white with a black head and a few spots here and there, and an almost all black lamb.

So these are the first of the season, and what a way to start healing some of the wounds of losing our Bridget, and my Hobbes, and start filling the barn with happy again!

Trying to get fed! Being born is hard work, it's time to eat!

Shannon and I got a chance to sit down in the stall, and watch Dancer be born! Jan made it look way too easy. She found a comfy spot in the hay, and with 3 pushes, little Dancer tumbled right out.

Dasher is a ram lamb, and he is the white one. Little Dancer is a ewe lamb, and is a pretty black with white spots. She reminds me a lot of Pebbles when she was born. Welcome to our farm, little ones! Great job, Jan!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Flerd becomes a Flock Again

In August, 2009, we bought our first cow. Having a cow amongst our sheep turned our flock into a flerd (flock + Herd = flerd). We had a mix of four legged livestock now.

Marlow was 6 weeks old when we got him. He weighed about 150 pounds. We put him in the back of a pickup truck and drove him home. We bottle fed him for weeks. He's barely bigger than our Great Pyrenees, Goliath, in the picture below.

I loved him, and we had a fun summer. Sometimes he would nap in the sun with his head in my lap. We probably got too familiar with him, as he started getting a little push as he got bigger.

Our plan was to raise him for meat. He was supposed to go in the fall. But we were too attached. Between then and now, he's gotten really nasty. He's jumped the stall wall in the barn, he knocked down the fence in the strawberry patch, and he charges me on sight. While Larry was out of town, he had me pinned against the truck for a while, and just last weekend he got a horn dragged from my hip to my shoulder, and almost ripped my shirt off me. It's time to say goodbye. Tomorrow is his trip to the meat locker. I'm very sad. I know he has to go, but we raised him from a baby. And now I'll never get to pet my Marlow again, or stand and scratch him behind the ears. Goodbye big guy! I hope you enjoyed your life on the farm. It's ironic how much time I spent saving him from bloat, teaching him to eat again, just for this. But he gets to go on our terms, quickly, and with purpose.

Marlow was a planned departure.

Bridget wasn't supposed to go, not yet. But she left us today. Miss Bridget was my sweet little girl cow. She was a gift on Mother's day this year. A little Belted Galloway calf. She didn't ride as easily in the truck as Marlow did. She was scared. She came to us with pneumonia and a broken jaw, and scars from a coyote attack on her face.

We nursed her to health, bottle fed her, even while her broken jaw clicked under our hands. We got her all better. She enjoyed the summer in the sunshine, with Marlow and the sheep. Lots of sunshine, lots of grass. I don't think she ever gave us hard time.

Then she got sick this summer. She had symptoms of Pneumonia, so we treated her for that. And while some symptoms got better, others popped up. Underneath the pneumonia was Malignant Catarrhal Fever - a rare virus with a 90% fatality rate. My little girl wasn't eating, was drooling and had a very high, sustained temperature. We gave her medicine, I fed her through a tube, and eventually, she beat the odds and lived past the fever. She got better!

She was always a pretty mellow little girl. Hearing her MOO again made me know her strength and her vision were returning. It was so nice to hear her speaking up. With winter on, and everyone eating hay, it wasn't as easy to see lethargy in the animals. I'm not sure how long she's been sick. But last night, when we returned home from a funeral, she was bloated.

We tubed her, and thought she would be OK. Larry checked on her before he went to bed and said she was fine. IN the morning, she had bloated again, so we tubed her again, and then we decided to go to work. I called the vet to come out and see her anyhow.

He said she had a very low temperature, as well as an internal parasite, and that if we didn't warm her up, she would just bloat again. So I called my neighbor to come over and put some blankets on her to warm her up. But it was already too late. My poor sweet cow, who started life being sick, ended up leaving us that way, too.

She never got to grow up. She never got to see her full potential. She never had a chance.

I never forgive myself for the animals that suffer. I recognize the irony that we raise animals for meat, and I get attached to them, and then they go away. I know that all animals, pets or otherwise, go away eventually. We've lost 3 dogs in 2 years. It never seems fair. We processed 45 turkeys this year, and I was sad to see them go, but the ones that make me mad are the ones that get sick and die, or get hurt and die. We've lost a batch of chickens to some sort of respiratory infection. It hurts me to my core that I bring an animal to my house, and that it should suffer in any way. They are supposed to live their lives (how long or short that should be) and they should pass quickly and painlessly. I will admit that I have been able to provide that for all of our dogs. And Bridget was supposed to have at least another year, and then a quick and humane ending.

The fact that she suffered at all makes me feel so guilty. It makes me want to give up ranching. It breaks my heart that she was alone in a barn stall, in the cold. I don't know if a cow can tell, I don't know if she knew how much I loved her, and just wanted to care for her.

So tomorrow morning, after Larry gets back from the processor, we'll be cow free. And we intend to remain cow free for the rest of our lives. We tried it, it doesn't work for us. We are going to stick with sheep. (which answers a question for us... we don't need to cull our sheep flock for the sake of the cows! No one will get MCF again!) I wasn't ready to say goodbye to them both. But I am ready to focus on our sheep, who, even having about 20 of them right now, never really get sick! Sheep are easy!

So goodnight Ms. Bridget. Goodnight Mr. Marlow. I never thought I'd grow up to have my very own cows, but once I got them, I never realized how quickly they would leave me. Goodnight my sweet cows - I hope there is a big green pasture in the sky where the grass never stops growing, and somehow, I think Hobbes is waiting for you there - he just wants to play with you!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Aftermath

So we did it. We process over 40 turkeys. Sold all but the very biggest ones - we ate half a 32 pounder for Thanksgiving, the other half will come out at Christmas. We have 2 more 32 pounders in the freezer and a whopping 35 pounder - I sense a spring barbeque...

Anyhow. We did it. We sold most of the turkeys we processed, and for the first time, we didn't have to turn away any customers. Everyone got a bird (or two). We even have about 18 turkeys left - a few toms and a bunch of hens, so I can breed my own heritage turkeys this year.

As usual, we figure out ways to make adjustments for next year. We may convert part of our shed into a brooder for the turkeys. We plan on raising more, so we can process more. We plan on ordering a similar mix of birds - some heritage, some double breasted. BUT we will NOT order any double breasted toms! No one wants those birds that are 30 pounds and larger! So we will try our luck with more heritage breeds for the smaller sizes, and double breasted hens for the larger bird, but none of those gigantic birds!

We had our Thanksgiving with our family. We've heard some very pleasant compliments by those that ate our birds with their families. Believe me, I appreciate the feedback! There are good and bad moments to farming. Selling turkeys is one of those good experiences. It's a long weekend for us (and for our volunteers) but the fruits of our labor is worth it. I am honored that I can help make other peoples' holidays a little more special.

Now is generally the time of year we finish up winterizing the farm. We put away hoses, we clean up the pasture, we get heated waterers out for the animals, and we think of taking a short rest before it's time to start ordering seeds and getting the greenhouse ready.

But this year, we have a few more tasks to finish. On December 9, we say goodbye to our beloved Marlow. Larry had expressed an interest in keeping him longer, until next spring or fall, to see how big he may get. But I won't last much longer. Marlow has it out for me, and charges me at any chance he gets. He had me pinned to the tailgate of a truck for a while, until something caught his attention, and I could grab a nearby stick to fend him off. He goes after the dogs, our child and me, I presume sometimes Larry. It's not safe. And with baby lambs on the way, we can't have a wayward steer who may stomp on them, or butt them in a fit. He could hurt them badly. So on December 9 he goes away.

A week after that, our next batch of 5 lambs also goes away. They are way past their due, being about 7 months old, and there is no sense in feeding them all winter. We know the ram lambs did their job - as most of our ewes are expecting - some seem very ready and may drop any day.

So that's our third winter item to contend with - poorly timed lambing. I didn't really want lambs in December - but it's not awful. With a barn, some heat lamps and a heat pad, our lambs will do just fine in the cold. We can quarantine the new moms and the lambs into a barn stall of their own, and lock them in for a few days to keep them all warm. We've had winter lambs before, so I am not concerned. It's just more fun in the spring, to sit out in the corral and watch the lambies gambol around. When it's cold, I don't spend as much time hanging out with them!

So one big Marlow is leaving us, 5 little lambies (Archie, Tigger, Eeyore, Red and Sally) but possibly all 15 ewes are pregnant, and in the next month or so, we may have 20 or so new lambs running around. Happy Holidays, indeed!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Turkey Weekend

So, I processed my first turkey of the season. He was injured, everyone was picking on him, and with 100 new baby chicks arriving this week, there would be no room for him in the brooder (aka "the hospital box"). So we took care of him this weekend.

I thought - easy - 30 minutes. Kill him, gut him, skin him, and put him through the meat grinder. (then cry about killing a bird)

Well, it hasn't been that kind of week for me. We had no sharp knives, I had to use a cleaver. He processed out at 28 pounds, so he was a big boy. And he wouldn't fit in a turkey cone. So we had to sit on him so he wouldn't break his wings in that last jerk, or break our faces! Needless to say, he didn't go down easy.

And then after he did, he was quite a bit of a bird to manage. I gutted him just fine, but that skin did not want to come off. And no, I didn't want to fire up the scalder for one dang bird, so I skinned him instead of trying to pluck him dry.

Then I decided to get moving on the meat grinder (because I cannot eat a 28 pound turkey by myself) and I forgot how awful our meat grinder is. So I go through one leg, and one breast and put the stinker back in the fridge. Tonight, I will cut off his other breast, and make some dinner for me and my nugget. Then, if I have the time and patience, the rest will go through the grinder, or heaven forgive me, I may just feed him to the dogs. It's been that kind of week.

And I have one more to go. Next weekend we process ALL the turkeys. I believe I am now at about 32 reservations for birds. I have 65+ in the barn (and at a minimum, I want to keep 13 of them) So that leaves me with 50+ to process in 3 days. That's doable.

I have extra large turkey cones on order so that we don't have to sit on anyone. I have a crew of volunteers coming to help me process. It's going to be a great weekend.

But I have to get through ONE more week of being a single mom on the farm. It's wearing me out.

So the good things that have happened in the past week?
I have a great kid and a great puppy, and 3 great dogs and 3 great cats. So that's awesome.
I finished weatherproofing the chicken house
I got a Sheep Transport System built
I got firewood delivered
I fixed the fireplace
I got the brooder set up in the barn for the new chicks
I finished 3 batches of yummy new ice cream flavors
I "fixed" a section of fence that was pretty sketchy
I spent time with my nugget
I planted 2 trees and two hazelnut bushes

The bad things that have happened?
2 baby chicks died :(
Marlow has charged me multiple times, pinning me against the truck this weekend (he has been put in detention, and I really want to eat him now)
The barn almost burned down - the sheep knocked down a heat lamp into the straw, and the turkeys flicked the light switch that turned it on!
The turkeys wandered up the street (I wonder if I lost any?)
Did I mention that Marlow keeps charging me?
Athena got in a fight with the neighbor's dog, and stopped eating (until I bought her some canned food)
We've had some rough days, and my nugget and I just need some sleep!

So I have 6 days to go. Tues-Wed working, Thursday getting the farm ready for processing, Friday, Saturday and Sunday processing - and then Sunday night, Mr. Referee finally comes home AFTER the hard work is all done. Boo Hiss!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some of my Favorite Chickens

My neighbor helped me hatch a few chicks over the last few weeks. Out of 30 eggs, we've had 7 successful hatches. There may be more, but it may have been a tough time of year to be hatching chickens.

ANYHOW, in light of my 7 new chickies, I thought I'd show a few pictures of some of my favorite chickens.

This guy here is our Barred Rock rooster, and a few of his Barred Rock hens. He's a fantastic rooster!!

This is one of our Silver Lakenvelder hens. Looks like she is done molting, and has grown her feathers back. She is a pain in the butt, but she's beautiful!
This is "Friend Bird" I can't remember her breed, Fayoumi, maybe? But I call her "Friend" because she always comes over to check me out and sort of follows me around. She always comes by to say hi. I think she's great!

This is Fang, he came from our friend's house. He's a black Polish rooster. He's already got a few "grey" hairs - 2 white feathers are growing on his hat.

This is "Little Girl Bird". She is the first hen I hatched this spring. Her brother has since met his demise, but Little Girl is out with the hens, and possibly even laying eggs by now. Yup, no idea what she is!

Chicken House

The chicken house is almost done. We finished the second set of egg boxes this weekend. They are almost done in this image. Of course, that was a few hours before the sheep knocked them all out and we had to put them back in again.

The egg boxes open from the outside, so we don't have to climb in the truck to collect eggs. We need to put latches on the outside of this to ensure clever foxes or coyotes can never figure out that can get in this way.

Here are the egg boxes on the inside.

Of course, the highlight of the new house is the clear roof. This allows light in, even when the chickens are locked in the house. And think of the views the chickens on the top perches will have! And yes, the chickens use all the perches. I see them in there at night, at all levels of the perches. Bonus!

We can close the tailgate at night, and the chickens are all locked in, safe from coyotes. We also close the door during the day, and latch it. We thought that would keep the sheep out and the chickens would go through the little side holes. OOPS! The sheep can jump on the tailgate, and the ram lambs can also fit through the slots. So we need to make those slots smaller to keep the sheep out!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Additions to the Farm

We have some new additions to the farm. It's nice when projects get completed...

Grain Bin

We finally got our grain bin installed! Larry said that we look like real farmers now. We have a grain bin! We are looking forward to the savings in chicken feed. I am also excited about not having to unload 18 bags of chicken food from the truck every week! Now I just have to fill a bucket and take it to the chickens. So, we will keep our eye open for a second bin on craigslist. One for layer ration, one for flock raiser. Then we'll be pretty much stuck on raising birds!The Badger

You have to be familiar with Monty Python to understand why we named this the badger. This is chicken house 2.0. Our first is called the Rabbit. I used to hum the music from Monty Python and the Holy Grail every time we pushed that stupid chicken house around. Eventually, when we put on the doors and egg boxes, we couldn't push it anymore, and had to pull it. This past summer, over time, both doors fell off, one axle broke, and the egg boxes started to fall apart. So, we took one of our dead 1970's era Ford F100's, and made it into the chicken house. I am working on getting it painted this weekend, we have another set of chicken boxes to make, and 4 more perches to put inside. It has a clear roof, so even in the cold, the chickens get sunlight inside, perfect for the winter! As opposed to the Rabbit, this one is sheep and coyote proof. We don't need to haul around chicken fences, as the sheep can't get to the food inside the truck, and when we close the tailgate, the coyotes can't get in either. And with big tires and a truck frame and suspension - it shouldn't get stuck in the mud, either. Hoorah!


OK, so he's not really a farm dog - as in, he isn't meant to herd or to guard. But he's new to us! This is Moose! He's my new companion! After losing Hobbes, I really needed a buddy who would do farm chores with me, and nap by the couch. So i found Moose. They claim he is a Malamute mix (I saw his sister, she was certainly a Malamute mix, she had the right markings). But he's brindle, which is not a super common dog coloring. So we have NO idea what he is. I only suspect that he'll be big and fluffy, which is just what I want! And so far, he's a total DOLL! I love him!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grain Bin

So, we got a great deal, on an unused 2 ton grain bin on Craigslist. These people bought it, built it, but never had it installed. So we bought it. Small enough to get home in our truck, and here it has been sitting for a while now.

So I finally got off my duff and hired some folks to pour a concrete pad for it.

However, most of the people we called just didn't get it. They wanted to pour a 6" pad, reinforced with rebar, and then we could drill some holes, and glue in some studs to hold down the bin's feet.

That would work fine, even for large racks in an industrial shop, or an RV pad or a sidewalk. But this is outside - a glued in stud might pull out over time. And this sucker has to withstand wind - who's to say 6" of concrete isn't just going to peel up out of the ground during a 100 MPH wind gust.

SO I finally found A & E Land Construction - they understood what I was talking about, and yeah it was expensive. But my grain bin isn't going to blow over in the wind. And the bolt isn't going to heave out of the concrete either. These guys put caissons, or feet, under each of the bin's legs that goes over 3 feet deep, all reinforced with rebar.

And the studs sticking up to attach the feet to... those are looped around the rebar, so they won't pull out over time, either. Very cool. Now we just need to get the bin up on the pad, and get it filled with grain!

It'll take a while, but this grain bin will eventually pay for itself. The bonus here is that a) grain is a LOT less expensive if we buy it by the ton, instead of by the 50 lb bag b) I've been hauling 18 of these bags into the barn every week. Great workout, yes, but I am TIRED of hauling feed bags! I'll still have to haul it out to the chickens in buckets, but it will come to ME first.

Friday, October 1, 2010


So as we are at Bridget's 20th day of being ill, we finally had the tests run. She came back positive for MCF, Malignant Catarrhal Fever. Most publications (and I have read publications from CSU Vet School, MSU Vet School, Ag extensions in Iowa, Washington State and other places) say that most cows succumb in 10 days. Bridget is so far, beating the odds.

So we have decisions to make. While many of her symptoms have subsided - her nose is clear, she has a great appetite and is eating, she's more active (and feisty). Other symptoms have appeared or stabilized. Her temperature goes up and down, but has never hit below 102. Her eyes show signs of edema, and they are swollen with fluid and milky white. It seems to be affecting her vision, but she is not blind.

She has not yet shown signs that her systems are breaking down inside. Lots of things are going in - food and water. And all of those things are coming out as they should. Those are positive signs, too.

However, the vet seems negative about her complete recovery. He still thinks she will die from this, though some cows can survive, and I am still betting on Bridget to be one of those.

But we have decisions to make. If our sheep are carrying the OVH virus that causes this disease, then we, responsibly, shouldn't raise any more cows. We can attempt to breed this virus out of our flock, and we can be successful at that. It does not show signs of hanging around outside of its host, so if we can breed it out, it can go away. This also gives us the ability to possibly breed out the CL from our sheep, too, though this does hang around outside of the host. We have the winter going for us.

The process is to remove the ewe when the lamb is about 1 month old. In our case, this would mean that the ewe goes to be processed, either as mutton, or as dog food. But she has to go. This would then allow us to test the lambs for CL and OVH. If they have either, then we are unsuccessful. If they have neither, we can vaccinate for the CL to make sure (since it might hang around on fence posts or something) and know that we might be winning the war on both fronts. We could possibly replace our sheep flock in one go, keeping the ewe lambs and one ram lamb. We won't allow any outside sheep back on our farm.

This could start as soon as next month, as our sheep start to lamb. We would have to segregate the new lambs from anyone else, until all the ewes are gone.

This would allow us to keep Marlow, and Bridget, and possibly allow us to get more cows next spring. But it would mean that our sheep all go away. Shirley, Gertrude, Marcia, Cindy, Jan, Alice, Lucy, Velma, Daphne, Angel, Trouble, Betty, Pebbles, Peppermint Patty and Veronica. We would lose them all, and start with a new flock. Granted, they would all be raised on our farm (and bottle fed, so maybe they would all like us!) but it's hard to imagine saying goodbye to them all... But maybe it's the responsible thing to do, to breed out a virus that they carry, and a disease that chances are, they all have (aside from Peppermint Patty and Veronica, who were vaccinated at 8 weeks)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Pioneers

I have a new addiction. Thankfully, it has fruitful results for us all. But yeah, I am addicted to canning. It has all around made me addicted to preserving the fruits (pun intended) of the harvest season. I have also taken to freezing fruits, breads, etc. I've already made 6 loaves of zucchini bread to freeze. I still have 2 large zukes from the garden, and more on the vine... I need another zuke recipe!

Shown on the shelf here: Dill pickle spears, dill pickle slices, bread and butter pickle slices, grape jam, apricot jam, peach jam, canned peaches, canned spiced peaches, peach pie filling, cherry jam, plum jam, pickle relish, strawberry jam, raspberry jam, blackberry jam, apple sauce, apple pie filling, pear jam, canned pears, raspberry chocolate sauce, peach BBQ sauce, salsa, peach salsa, strawberry pie filling.

I think I may have missed a few. I have used up every jar I had - including 3 dozen I bought new (which was silly of me) 3.5 dozen I bought from the thrift store, and at least 3 or 4 dozen that my father-in-law brought over from Larry's grandfather's house. Apparently, his aunt has more... our tomatoes aren't ripe yet, but I am envisioning canning some tomatoes and tomato sauce, and more salsas.

With all of the above I have used apples from our orchard, cherries from Sy's tree, peaches from Mick, Tomatoes from the tomato guy, honey from a local farm, grapes from a neighbor, and all the following from Gino and Doris from Little House Farm: apricots, peaches, plums, pears, cucumbers, tomatoes, hot peppers, and a second or third dose of all of the above!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

HOORAY for second opinions

I called our regular bovine vet to come out on Saturday. He was out of town last week when I needed someone to look at Bridget. He came out do put her down, she was so much worse on Saturday.

He did NOT agree with the first vet. He said MCF cows have a lot of drainage from their eyes. He also agreed with what I read about how it is much more rare in cows in the US. So he didn't suspect it. He thought it was chronic pneumonia. He did say, however, that if she wasn't eating, then she would starve to death, and he was preparing to put her down.

I don't know what made me do it. But I grabbed a handful of lilac leaves. Something Marlow LOVES to eat. And I took them to her, I just wanted to pet her and say goodbye. But she started to eat them! She ate them all! The vet said if we could get her to eat, then he would gladly wait a few days to see if she would come around.

So I gave her loads of leaves. I went inside to prepare some more antibiotics and a vitamin shot for her. When i came back outside, she had walked over to a bale of hay and started eating! There was hope!

So, we may not lose Bridget. The light at the end of the tunnel is very faint. She went almost a week without eating, and her temperature is NOT dropping. It was almost 106 this morning. But she's eating. I am hoping, with some more antibiotics, and some food, she'll have the strength to win this one. I'm rooting for her, that's for sure!

Friday, September 17, 2010

We're going to lose Bridget

This poor girl came to us on Mother's Day, with a broken jaw, pneumonia, and scars from a recent coyote attack. I truly believe she would have died, if left where she was, because no one was treating her for anything. So we thought she was going to have a good life with us, a great life. Being loved, and healthy and growing up cared for.

She got sick over the weekend. My description over the phone to the vet at CSU told him it was one of three things - she had a blockage in her mouth, pneumonia again, or rabies. He told me a few things that would differentiate, and I took her temperature, and felt confident it was pneumonia. We gave her antibiotics and hoped for the best.

The antibiotics should have worked within 48 hours to relieve her symptoms. Her symptoms were also not getting worse. Her temp remained high. Her breathing was not labored. She was not acting funny or walking like a drunk man. So it didn't seem like rabies, and if it was pneumonia, it wasn't going away or progressing. So I called the vet (something Larry doesn't like to do)

You can read about what she has here:

I don't want to get into too much detail, but here are a few key facts I gleaned from what I read:

1) she has a 90-100% chance of dying, probably within 10 days of seeing symptoms
2) it's untreatable
3) it's carried by sheep (strike 2 for our sheepies)
a note here - sheep carry it, but don't get the illness. It is transmitted during lambing season, and the virus can stay latent for up to 70 days before showing symptoms. That timing is just about perfect. So do the math on this bit - Bridget got it when Cindy and Alice were giving birth in late late spring. Marlow is NOT sick. He didn't get it, and the girls won't lamb again until november or december, and Marlow will be gone. So Marlow is safe... which brings me to
4) Cows don't transmit it to each other. Marlow can't get it from her, he can only get it from a sheep that is shedding the virus, and they do it when the lambs are 2-3 months old, they don't know why.
5) It is REALLY RARE IN CATTLE! Especially in the US. There is a a 40% transmission rate to cattle, if they get it. This disease is super super susceptible to deer and bison. Sheep carry a different virus than wildebeests do in Africa. The wildebeest strain is much more virulent. So it's more common in cattle in africa that are exposed to calving wildebeests.

So basically, what I am getting at is - this thing transmits essentially one time a year, to 40% of cows that are exposed. We just happen to have sheep that carry this virus, and gave it to Bridget. DAMN IT.

Our options at this point are a) never raise cattle again, b) cull all our sheep so we can raise cattle or c) cull all our sheep to remove this virus and the caseous lymphadenitis that they have and start over with a new flock of sheep (the we test for CL and the OHV virus) and wait a season to let the CL shed off the pasture before we bring in new sheep.

If I've ever been frustrated with farming before, THIS is making me want to throw in the towel completely.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fire on the Mountain

OK, so, not such a fan of that song from the Grateful Dead anymore. I was out this morning grabbing a few eggs to put in my incubator, and keeping an eye on Bridget (she has over 105 degree temperature, and probably has pneumonia again - and we now have a thermometer that I will never again use to take my own temperature!)

Anyhow, I saw a fire on the ridge. I went out an hour later, and it was worse. Here is a progression of shots from throughout today. It doesn't seem to be getting better. Good news is there are reservoirs up there, the wind is also blowing west, meaning, away from us. Our pasture is also flooded, so we have that going for us...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And Then There Were Three

I had 3 dogs before I got married. That was all my city would allow me to have. Anyone who knows me knows I would have more if I could. It's strange to think that only 2 summers ago, we had 7 dogs here on the farm. 7 was AWESOME! 7 felt like my limit, like that was a good number to have around. Now I am back to three. Three in the city would be fine. 3 on the farm, just feels like there could be more.

And it just feels empty. It's just a reminder of what we have lost. Now, don't get me wrong. I have loved every one of my dogs with all of my heart. I love the three we still have. I still love the 3 we lost, and I love the one we fostered. Heck, I love just about every dog I meet!

But it's never easy to say goodbye. We had months to spend with Ditka and Grish. They weren't necessarily good months, we watched those dogs decline, knowing that their day was coming, and keeping them comfortable until the end. Cleaning up after them, feeding them soft food, carrying them outside when we needed to. We had months.

With Hobbes, I had a week. You are never ever prepared to say goodbye to a dog. NEVER. But a week, it feels like I was robbed. robbed of the 4 years I thought he had left. Robbed of the memories we should have shared. Now, my daughter will never remember him.

So last night, I shared a steak with him. We took him for a walk through the neighborhood. I snuggled with him on the bed, knowing it was the last time he would keep my feet warm at night. This morning, I took him for a long hike at Rabbit Mountain. It was a lot different than Ditka's last hike (which was the slowest walk I've ever been on). Then he came with me into town to run some errands, because he always liked car rides. We shared a pint of ice cream, and we sat out on the back porch, in the shade, just watching, and listening, and being together.

And then my favorite vet came over. And he fell asleep in my arms. He just quietly slipped away - nothing like how he came to me, all fireballs and lightning bolts. He didn't resist. He didn't question. Goliath sat near me for a while, to comfort me. And then we laid him to rest next to Grish. And now my bear is gone. As I shoveled the dirt into his grave, all I could think, when I tossed that last bit that covered his face and ears, was that I would never get to see him again. I still don't understand what that means. To never see Hobbes again. I just hope he knows how much I love him.


February 17, 1998 - August 25, 2010

Hobbes, with Ally. Singing along to something! Only Ally could get Hobbes to sing. Circa 2002

Hobbes sleeping with Puppy at a party at Larry's house. Circa 2004

Hobbes in full hiking gear, the Homestead Hike, 2006
Hobbes in full doggy happiness, after we moved to the farm, he thought we bought him his own dog park! 2007

Chewing on a bone in the front yard, 2009

Last night, watching the sun set one last time. Don't worry Hobbes, I am always with you in spirit. Wherever you go, I am always at your side. Because you were always at mine.
August 24, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It never gets any easier

I've been spoiled in my life. I have had a few dogs. I grew up with grandparents and friends who had dogs. I remember my grandparents dogs all lived until they were very old. My friends dogs also lived until they were very old. To me, it's almost normal for dogs to be16 or even 18 when they pass away - from old age. Things start to fail, and you do the merciful thing. That's what we did for Ditka and for Grish.

It's not easy, no matter the situation. But after we lost Grish last fall, and at the time, Athena and Hobbes were just 11, we thought we had at least another 4 years before we had to go through this again. But Larry as another hole to dig in the backyard. I'm not ready for this.

He's not old yet, but he's suddenly sick. Hobbes has a tumor in his lower jaw. I thought it was a tooth infection. And what's the first stage of grief? Denial, right? I asked the vet to do a biopsy. I should have known, as soon as she stuck the needle of Lidocaine in his mouth - it wasn't an infection. Certainly after she removed some tissue, if I was in the right frame of mind. But then it quickly moved to Bargaining, right? Instead of admitting to myself that an infection would have drained, I'm still hoping that the test results come back Monday with something other than cancer. Something treatable. I don't know what the third stage of grief is, but Exhaustion is in there somewhere. Which is where I am.

Assuming this is a tumor, his only option is a very expensive surgery to remove part of his lower jaw, to remove the tumor. That leaves me with an old dog, missing part of his mouth. Some people may judge me for choosing to put him out of his misery, instead of doing everything in my power to keep him alive. but I'd only be doing it for me. I'd be deforming my dog, simply because I can not bear to part with him.

And I can't. But i can not put into words what this dog means to me. My good friend, and former roommate actually put it succinctly; "He was an asshole in the beginning, but turned into such a good boy."

Anyone who did NOT know him when I first got him has NO idea. I can't even describe. And me, the crazy dog lady, I used to sit on the carpet, hugging him, telling him that if I was at the end of my rope, if I couldn't keep him, than no one would. I knew if I gave up on him, he'd bounce from shelter to shelter. So I HAD to figure it out. I had to make it work.

It took 3 solid, torturous years, many chewed up CDs, shoes, and many other items. It was nights wearing ear plugs, it was 5 mile runs just to tire him out, it was obedience training, crate training, and then one day, he just changed. After 3 years, he realized life was a lot easier if we all just got along.

And that we did. He sleeps on my feet in the winter, and keeps me warm. He follows me everywhere. Now that I am married, I know that Hobbes will be the last of "my" dogs. That No matter what, Larry will be the alpha, and all dogs will look to him, instead of me. Don't get me wrong, all the dogs love me. But Hobbes is MINE. My buddy. He sticks with ME. He's laying by the couch right now.

SO, all the rules change when a dog is facing his last days. They get to eat whatever they want. They get to break the rules. Hobbes is eating chicken and rice, but mostly because it hurts to much to eat regular food. Like Ditka, he'll probably split a pint of ice cream with me before he goes. We'll have a last day together, we'll go hiking, we'll snuggle. I'll cry, he'll know.

I told Ditka, in his last moments, to save a spot on the couch for me and Hobbes, that we would join him again one day. I had no idea Hobbes would be there so soon. So they'll keep that couch good and warmed up for me.

This is Hobbes and I, back in his asshole days. Looks like I am squeezing the life out of him, but I like hugging my baby bear. He was a pain, but it was all worth it.

I'm surprised at how many serious pictures I have of Hobbes. He's such a goof, but he could be so serious at time. He's still pretty young in this pic, as most of his face hasn't started to grey yet, just his little chin.

This is Hobbes trying to love on our cat, Schroediger. When Larry moved in with the cat, Hobbes thought this was his new toy, and he wanted to hug and squeeze is and name it George. He still loves Schroed to this day.

For soem reason, I have a lot of pictures of the back of Hobbes' head. But really... how many people take a picture of the back of dog heads? I do, I want to remember this side of him too!

Here he is more recently, hanging out on the back porch with me. He's squinting into the sunshine. You can see his fuzzy black muzzle is mostly grey now, as well as around his ears. I don't know what to do without my buddy. He goes into the cellar with me, when it creeps me out, he does farm chores in the dark with me, sometimes when I get a little freaked out at night. He's my shadow when I want one, a pillow when I need one, and just a loyal friend. My Hobbes, my Baby Bear.