Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tough Love

Pearl resting in the dining room.
It's been six weeks since Pearl left us.  A day doesn't go by without me thinking of what an amazing girl she had been.  I was left with a beautiful gift in her daughter, Jojo.  That fluffy little girl is a joy, just like her momma.

Downtown Lander, WY
Last Thursday, hubby and I had a weather window to make the six plus hour trip one way to Lander, WY.  Here in this small town in the middle of nowhere, we picked up my newest addition to the Ranch, Denali.  
Denali on the ride home.
Denali is an 8 week old Great Pyrenees. She made the six plus hour journey home cuddled in the backseat of hubby's car.  Denali was as quiet as a little mouse for the majority of the trip, minus a little whining when she first left her family.
Denali and her goats.
Now the fun begins!  Denali is a blank slate.  She was born on a sheep and goat farm.  Mom and dad are working livestock guard dogs.  She's had minimal contact with people.  Now she needs to bond with the goats, learn that they are hers to protect.  All I can do is stare out my window at this adorable little cotton ball outside.  Right now, I can't let her bond with me, which means VERY little contact with me and no contact with the family. She's penned up next to the goats, but they keep wiggling through the fencing to hang out with each other.  My does are being gentle with Denali, and Denali is learning to be gentle with the does.  Luckily, the goats have had contact with dogs, so they aren't too skittish around her. Denali is observing, learning, taking everything in.  Once she has bonded with the goats, I can start training her.  In order to raise a good protector, I need to follow a completely different training regimen than dog owners are used to.  Denali is an LGD, not a pet.  Her place on the Ranch is to work, to keep goats and chickens safe, and to fill the big paws Pearl left.      

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Winds of Change

I'm feeling incredibly blessed.  I've been doing a heck of a lot of praying lately.  Pearl's passing left my little farm world a bit topsy turvy.  The last six months or so have truly been a time of upheaval.  Now as the warmer days of spring taunt me, I'm beginning to re-envision the Ranch.  I've raised chickens for 8 years now and goats for 3.  It's high time I take stock and create a clear set of goals for this crazy dream that needs to become a profitable reality.  I've been busy "playing" farm.  Currently, my coffee table is piled with various books on goats and farming.  I'm researching business plans and niches in my area.  Reading, learning, soaking in every little bit of information I can find.  I've got plans, BIG plans, but also smart plans.  Any decision I make must benefit the Ranch and not put a financial strain on my family.   God has been a wealth of knowledge and inspiration during this time as I quietly wait and listen for him.  He knows what's best, and he's filling me in on the details.  I'm finally listening, I see a bright, bright future ahead.  Exciting updates to come!!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ebb and Flow

Regal dog.

Life on the Ranch is ever changing.  Weather dictates most of my plans.  Life and death are an ever-present reality.  With a heavy heart, I am ready to talk about the death of my spirit animal, Pearl.  Pearl was a rare jewel: patient, loving, protective, stoic. Never have nor ever will find a dog with her gentle spirit.

February 11, 2016, Pearl crossed the rainbow bridge after a short battle with an aggressive, incurable osteosarcoma or in other words, a really shitty bone cancer.  She began to slow down in November, lose weight.  At first, I thought she was depressed from lack of attention.  For 8 weeks Pearl and her adorable brood of pups were the center of attention.  A steady parade of friends came through to pet Pearl and cuddle the pups.  I figured her weight loss was caused by a change in food.  By the end of November Pearl moved into the house, so I could keep her well fed and warm.

We had good days and bad as time went by. Pearl would put on some weight, but her movement would decline.  After I had exhausted everything I knew to do to help her, I called in reinforcements, my farm vet. Blood was taken, medications prescribed, I was hopeful.  Then the bloodwork came back negative for all of the diseases we thought she may have.  The only odd thing was a low protein level.  More bloodwork, more meds, yet she continued to decline.  We moved Pearl to the deck, with a dogloo, and a heat lamp.  She hated being in the house to the point where she'd literally eat my walls.  I wrenched my back shifting her position, trying to get her to move.  Pearl stopped moving, she stopped eating, she stopped drinking.  I was exhausted and at my whit's end.  The vet came out again!  This time, we gave her vitamins in hopes that that would jump start her system.  My vet and I cried, we knew her time was short.  I looked into the soulful eyes of that amazing dog, I told her it was okay to go.  I loved her, but she could be healthy, playing in sunny fields with our other dearly departed dogs.  I kissed her nose as I always did.

Hubby got home late that fateful night with dinner.  As I ate oblivious to my hubby visiting Pearl and retiring upstairs for what seemed like an excessively long time. He came back down and broke the news, Pearl had passed.  I gave her permission, I told her it was okay, but it wasn't, she was supposed to get better, I had prayed, I had faith.  Sitting in the cold, I stroked her limp body and sobbed.

The next morning her body was wrapped in an old sheet, and placed in the trunk.  Next stop for hubby and me, the CSU Veterinary Hospital in Forst Collins for a necropsy.  Normally, I love a road trip, but this one was macabre.  I was a mess, every little thing brought me to tears.  To make matters worse the pathology department was at the very back of the amazing veterinary hospital next to the dumpsters.  How could I leave my beautiful, special girl near dumpsters?  I did it!  I kissed her good bye one last time and let the pathologists do their job.  I needed answers, I needed to know what killed my young, vibrant dog.  We were barely on the road after a somber meal, when my vet called with news.  The preliminary report, an aggressive osteosarcoma which probably began in her rib cage.  

The days that followed brought more reports and more answers.  An incredibly aggressive bone cancer began to form sometime in November.  The evil beast grew and spread at an alarming rate.  We would have never found the cancer, it was completely untreatable, and due to her young age it was NOT genetic.  It was a cruel twist of fate.  Pearlie was a once in a lifetime dog.  I was blessed to have had her in my life.  She is greatly missed!  I thank God every day for her daughter, Jojo.  Jojo is a little piece of her mom, a tangible piece I can hug.  Pearl may have left her family, but her legacy lives on.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

My Plug for Universal Pet Food

Boo eating puppy food.
I know that dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements, but it would make some much simpler if there was a universal pet food for both.  My dogs would scarf down a bowl of cat food at the first opportunity.  Cookie, my cocker spaniel, follows me into the bathroom to get cat food snacks from the bowls on top of the dryer.  
Marmalade licking the gravy out of a can of Pedigree dog food.
My cats seem to love dog food.  They sneak hard food out of dog bowls.  The new thing is to hang out and wait for me to finish feeding Sunny, my guard dog, so they can lick the gravy out of his soft food can.  Now if my dogs like my cats' food and my cats like my dogs' food wouldn't it be easier to feed everyone the same food?  Food for thought!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

And it's not even noon yet!

The new girls with a few icky boys for warmth.

I would like to preface this with; yes I am still sick, I can barely talk, and shortly after posting this I will be taking a nap.  At 6:15 AM I got a phone call from the post office alerting me to the fact that my chicks were in.  Pajama-clad, I scurried to the post office to retrieve my precious package.  Nothing better than a box of fluffy butts to brighten your morning!  Unfortunately, since I've been barely functioning for the better part of a week, I was not the least little bit ready for the newest additions to the Ranch.  The next hour was spent rearranging, cleaning, and preparing for the new girls.  

Once the chicks were settled in their brooder in the coop I began the usual morning chores.  All was well until my buck, Valentine popped off the horn that I had banded months ago in the heat of passion.  That of course, led to a bloodbath!  He had removed his horn in such a way that an icky blob of tissue remained on his head bleeding profusely everywhere.  I grabbed my first gear and set to work on him.  In no time, Valentine, the milk stand, and myself were covered in blood.  Every time I'd try to get the blood stop powder on the bleeder, Valentine would shake his head removing the powder.  After what seemed to be ages, I was able to slow the bleeding enough to where I could return him to a pen all by himself.  At last check, the bleeding has nearly stopped.  I cleaned the blood out off his eye and gave him some Nutridrench for extra vitamins.  Later today he'll get revaccinated.  

During this time one of my kiddos had been texting me, telling me she felt awful and wanted to come home from school.  Really!  I still hadn't even milked yet or cleaned up the bloody crime scene.  I quickly informed her of the situation at the Ranch and as soon as my work was done I headed out to pick her up.  Back home, I hope to relax for a bit, but that wasn't to be my fate.  Sure enough, my very sweet, escape artist guard dog broke his chain and was out running loose.  Off to chase Sunny down!  Luckily, he's been better about coming when he's called and headed straight to me.  Now he is hopefully still in the dog run with his friends.   After checking on Valentine and the chicks, I am finally sitting down with my coffee and some blood orange sorbet.  Yum!        

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Take a Nap!!

As a homesteader, I can endure a lot!  On any given day I deal with bitter cold, feet of snow, mud, torrential rains, blistering heat, manure, birth, death, cuts, bruises, and icky goo.  The one thing that will bring me to my knees is being sick.  I have been blessed (note the sarcasm) with a nasty upper respiratory virus since Sunday.  I'm talking body aches, fever, chills, and a cough so painful I feel like someone is plunging a knife into my chest.  Farm chores are a massive challenge as I drag my body around the yard.  I fumble through chores and return to my germ infested home.  Everyone else in my house has what we now believe is Enterovirus D68.  Yuck! That means there's no rest for the farmer.  I muddle through and nap shortly after.  Warm weather is on its way, a chance to rid my house of germs so I can recover and get back to the Ranch.