Saturday, July 4, 2015

Growing Stronger

Heath is growing and I am slowly getting stronger. There are always a few setbacks but I think I am making good progress. I've gotten a bit of yardwork done, with much more to do, but having done a shout out to some folks nearby, I'm bartering assistance for teaching how to make soap, do canning, work with sourdough, breadmaking, and various other skills I have picked up along the way. We had a delightful two days this past week with a lady and her son who helped clean off the back porch and the brooder in the milkroom. We made cheese (which I made a mistake with, by forgetting to turn off the heat at a couple of points along the way) candles and body butter. We also got up early to go watch them branding some calves down below our pasture, and take some pictures.

A neighbor pulls calf behind him, waiting for a heeler

One of the ranch cowboys is set up for the heel shot

2 pair of buckaroos keep the ropes tight while the branding crew does the ground work

Big smiles are always a treasure from this girl, as she recoils her rope and gets ready to bring another one in

Neighbor and her nice horse digging in and starting towards the branding crew

Getting the job done

 It's always a good time, watching the cowboys and horses working together and making sure to cause the calves the least possible amount of stress. In spite of what the process entails, the calves resent being held down more than being worked on, and once they are finished, they jump up and go eat. Cattle are amazingly tough animals with a fairly low functioning central nervous system which allows them to feel very little pain. They are well suited for the rugged life provided on the range.

Meanwhile, Heath has gotten bigger. He's managed to get himself up on the papasan chair, has learned to pick up his toys and put them away (although apparently bones and chewy hooves don't belong there) and has had a great time using his almost boundless energy chasing bugs and things. He brought me a mouse he had dispatched (Good Boy Heath!!) has killed several bugs that were stalking me, and unfortunately responded to my ebullient praise by bringing me a potato bug! Ick!

He caught me watching him one morning...and totally made my day by happily running into my arms with all the love a puppy can fit!

It's been a great month so far. God bless you all, and have a wonderful Independence weekend!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Keeping Time

Summer is just about in full swing. Flowers are coming up, the hummingbirds are back and there are scores of butterflies who come to visit what is so far in bloom.

Heath, the new English Shepherd puppy, has filled the vacancy well. He surprises me everyday with his intelligence and personality. At only 12 weeks, he is, of course, housebroken, has a solid "sit", "down" does various tricks already, is well on the way to a good "stay", closing cupboards and the back door for me, though not yet on cue, puts his toys away, sticks with me like a shadow and has been 24/7 entertainment. He's been good around the ducks, watching but not chasing, loves to visit the leppie calves, would LIKE to chase the chickens but the Maremmas aren't allowing it (luckily) although he has made himself useful already in helping me to round up 4 chicks that escaped from the brooder. In addition to that, he has killed 3 or 4 bugs in the house for me and has brought me a baby bird that died from falling out of the nest, and has killed a mouse and brought it to me as a treasure. 

Unfortunately, after receiving high praise, he, being an over-achiever, brought me a live potato bug later that afternoon. At that I was horrified, shuffling as quickly as I could around the kitchen island with Heath and his 'gift' to me, in hot pursuit. Not a pretty picture.

Everyday brings laughter as he thinks up something new. His mind is always working, you can almost see the wheels turning. It's been an incredible blessing to me, since losing Cider. My days which before were almost unbearable because of pain and loneliness, are so much better. He has been a great distraction and gets me moving more than I would if he wasn't around. It's amazing how quickly you can move when you suddenly realize you don't see the puppy and there are strange noises coming from another room. He has brought life and joy in abundance and it's infectious.

He learns like a little sponge and is very intuitive. There are days when we play hard and do lots of things, then there are days like today, where I am in so much pain, I can hardly stand to move and even laying here, I'm aware of how much my joints are hurting me. He naps quietly near my bed and occassionally stands with his feet on the bedside asking me to lift him up. He showers me with kisses then happily lays across my body while I run my fingers through his soft little fuzzy coat. He communicates every thought with his eyes and his body language, even his walk. It's uncanny how easy it is to understand him. When he's really excited about something and wants me to get up, his little tap tap of feet on the floor is a thump-thump. Not too hard to pick up on the difference!

Today I while I lay here writing, he jumped down from the bed and left for a little while. I could tell he'd gone outside because I could hear the magnets on the screen door click.  He returned at top speed, sliding around the corner on the slick linoleum and wood floors then picked up speed on the straight away by the bed and accelerated once again on the carpet, not crashing into any walls or furniture until his last tight turn. Thumpity-thump-Whump!!  He happily barked at me, wagging tail and bouncing on his front feet. I got up and followed him outside where he showed me that he'd taken his stuffed "froggie" out there, and had learned to croak it, so we had a session of throwing the big tennis ball, the froggy and doing some sit stays. He was overjoyed.

We went to town last week. A 4-hour one-way trip. Even though he only sees TheMan in the early morning, and again after work, he is always happy and excited to be around him. He was so thrilled to see him all day, he had to sit on the console of the truck where he could be constantly touching him. Note the leg over TheMan's arm.

There was pitiful crying and anxious watching of the door when TheMan would exit the truck to go in one of the shops. Until his return, I was ignored for this pose.

His appreciation to see TheMan return to us safely was shown enthusiastically.

There are about 4 times a day, he feels he needs a hug, so he asks to be picked up and he sits back in my lap for awhile like this...

It just doesn't get any sweeter!

The Maremmas have spent most of their time out with the sheep, only coming in for occasional foot and ear checks as the cheat grass, or foxtail, is at a dangerous phase now, due to the drought.
Things look like late August or September around here. As usual, they are doing a fabulous job of keeping the sheep and their lambs, the calves, the laying hens, and (21) three week old chicks safe from all comers.

Heath has wisely chosen them as role models….

 Throughout the day, he practices his new skills, such as putting his toys away in the toy basket…

Then he rests up for a new day.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Meet Heath

It has been difficult blogging this year, due to a variety of issues. For those who are new, I was wheelchair bound for over 6 months in excruciating pain when a pre-surgical injection went wrong. My leg has now been replaced (knee, that is) and is in good shape. The death of my old friend Cider was very hard on me, and I am still not able to write about him, but one day I am sure I will. Meanwhile, life goes on. I knew before Cider left me, I was going to have to have another dog. I just can't live without one. Being alone all day gets old, when you can't be active. It was no problem at all when I was healthy, because there are a thousand things to do, from breaking colts to landscaping or any number of things, but being sedentary makes for a lonely life. I had spent a good deal of time researching what breed would be the best fit for my needs. I knew I couldn't have another Golden Retriever as it would be impossible for me not to compare him with Cider. I settled on an English Shepherd after reading up on the breed, reading lots of posts on forums and speaking to breeders. One in particular, Mary Peaslee of Shepherds Way. I had filled out her puppy buyer's form 3 years ago and now the time had come to purchase a pup.

I contacted her and found she had just gotten back from taking a dog down to be bred in N. California. I waited anxiously from January to March, when the puppies were born then to May, when I could finally pick mine up from Jennifer Keuhn of Compatible K-9, as her Pixie was the dam. She spent hours and hours working with the litter from the time of their birth and she and Mary did temperament testing and matching to buyers. The pup chosen for me was Heath, and I could not have chosen better. He's been an absolute joy to have around.

He weathered the 8+ hour trip home with no problem. Jennifer's work paid off as he was relaxed and happy, ready for the adventure even though it was the first time ever away from his littermates, dam and family. He did some co-piloting and when he was sure all was well, he napped.

I brought the Maremma's in to meet him. They were not exactly enthralled with him and wound up on the couch together, hiding from his little needle sharp teeth. Mind boggling how dogs that fearlessly confront cougars jump up on a chair to get away from a small puppy.

However, Heath did enjoy cuddling in Mr Potamus' fur when he wasn't looking...

He adores TheMan...and can often be found competing with Scottie for a spot at his feet

And Scottie takes revenge by denying Heath access to his toys...

All in all, the little guy has settled in nicely and made my life a whole lot cheerier and less lonely

He's become my little shadow and we have been having a great time having new experiences together...including some that were not so neat. We lost a couple of mother ducks that were setting on eggs. No idea what killed them. One afternoon, Heath and I stumbled across one of the remaining ducks, with her neck stretched out from under the porch. Just to make sure she was as dead as she looked, I poked her with a stick. She wasn't. Heath and I made it to the back door at just about the same time with an angry duck in pursuit. It's going to be an awesome summer now that I have a partner in crime again, I can tell.

Monday, May 11, 2015

We've Just Begun

It was time for my three month post-op checkup. I put almost 40 eggs in the new incubator, poured in some and water. We made arrangements for someone to fill waters and watch over the milk cow, horse, sheep, chickens, ducks and dogs and packed for our 12 hr. drive down south. We pulled up just in time to see our son and a neighbor talking out front, while his youngest daughter, 3 yr old Kinley was playing with Evelyn, the neighbors 3 yr old daughter. I climbed out of the pickup with my arms open wide and said “Hey there Kinley!!!” Kinley waved and headed for the house, and Evelyn ran up to us and gave us both a hug. Evelyn doesn’t know us so it started us both laughing.

It was the day before Abby P’s 7th birthday and their other grandparents were also down so we could have a little celebration dinner. I picked up the packages we had wrapped and carried them into the house where Abby ran and gave me a hug, and with a big smile said “Are those for me?”
I told her “No, these are for Kinley.” Her smile disappeared, her arms dropped and she politely mumbled “Oh, ok”. 
Laughing, I told her that I must have misread the names, as it was actually HER name on the packages and she skipped over to the wall to place them where her other gifts were piled up. We had a fun evening, Abby was a charmer and we hit the sack early.

Monday was a day for recovery, as the 12 hour drive down is brutal on my auto-immune issues. I’d been running around like a champ the night before, but apparently some little gremlins had snuck in during the night and beaten me and I woke up sore all over.

TheMan’s mom was in the hospital so it was good that we were down and could go to visit her. We spent about 5 hours visiting with her then after hours of alternately standing and sitting, so I was pretty sore for a couple days. The Dr’s office called my daughter in law’s phone to confirm the appt. while she was at work (we gave her number while I was recovering at their home). She in turn called my son, Cody, who was home from work that day, and he told me. I said “Ha! Well, that’s nice. It would have been a real bummer to drive 12-15 hours and have the appt cancelled!’

Ten minutes later, they cancelled my appt.

Making the best of it, I said, “Well at least we got to be here for Abby’s birthday dinner and I get my hair cut tomorrow, because it REALLY needs it.”
Next morning, TheMan went back to the hospital to visit his mom without me, as I was still hurtin’ and promised to remember to get me to my hair appt by 11:00. He pulled up at 11:30. I look like “Cousin It” and have no idea when or where I will be able to get it cut.

We met a daughter and her family for lunch. Their two boys are wild typical boys, but they have it all under control. It was nice to see the bigger brother so affectionate with his little brother! 

We missed getting to see our oldest son and his family as well as our youngest daughter and hers. It's always so hard when we go down there, as it feels like we are constantly running and constantly driving after already driving 12 hr just to get there. It wears me out, but it's so good to see family.

The last night there, we went to dinner with my youngest son and his family, and our ‘honorary son/daughter’ and their kids, at Shogun’s, a Tappenyaki Restaurant. It was SO much FUN!!! Watching the reactions of the kids was priceless. The chef was awesome, TheMan was a terrible catch, allowing 5 shrimp to fall to the floor, Abby was amazed and Kinley was unimpressed. The other 3 kids had been there before, but still enjoyed it immensely. Ryan sat 1/2 on PapaRandy’s chair and 1/2 on mine, so I opted to stand. The kids scarfed up the food and so did I. It was excellent and a great memory.

 Looking unimpressed....

 But the big flames got everyone's attention, as did the flipping of knives like they were 6-guns and all the other fun stuff...

and everyone got a turn at catching food that was thrown at their mouths...this child with the flip top head did well...

TheMan dropped several shrimp before successfully capturing one, and I apparently spent the night looking either horrified, or looking as though I was melting, even though my face hurt from laughing...go figure. I caught all but one shrimp...except I couldn't close my mouth fast enough and they kept bouncing back out. I guess I have rubber teeth...

The eldest of the kids came back with us for 2 weeks. It has been a pleasure, helpful, and entertaining to have her here. She also has given me incentive to keep getting up and getting stronger, on the less painful days, so she's sort of like a physical therapist in a way...or maybe even an emotional therapist since she's much fun to have around and it's hard to be cranky or depressed with her here.

Having not milked SushiMoo since Sept, right after she calved, I wondered if she'd do ok.  Planning to wean her calf finally (at a ripe old 10 mo of age) I opened the back gate and looked at about 15 cows and leppie calves staring my direction. I lifted up a bucket and hollered "Sushiiiii!" At which point the Maremmas went DIRECTLY to her and followed her up and into the corral. I was astounded, both by the fact they knew her name and that she responded to my call. She was a dream to milk, except she wasn't providing much. Since it is a great deal of work and she had to be dried off by June anyway, we only milked a few times then let her dry off so she can go back out with the others and prepare for her next baby.

Meanwhile, the dogs have kept a close eye on our little guest everywhere she goes, within their realm. They stare while she works with the horse and follow her around the pasture to make sure nothing gets pushy with her.

One week down, only one left. We want to make the best of it. We've done lots and hope to do lots more, then she'll head back home to her family and I'll be home again, only not alone. Because next week, right after dropping her off, I will be picking up my new puppy!

It's been quite a year, and it has only just begun.