Our Rhode Island Red

Chicken Nugget came to us as one of our first farm animals and our first chicken. Nugget was found by a friend wandering around a sub-division and had been clearly used as a chew toy by the neighbourhood dogs. I was working when Nugget was “delivered” and was very concerned by her appearance.

All her tail feathers were gone and her bottom was a bit of a mess, but it didn’t look infected. Nugget got along well with the pigs, so we depended on food, water, clean living and a little farm love to help heal.

Within a week we had farm fresh eggs. I learned so much about eggs from sweet Nugget. I had some of the most delightful breakfast eggs thanks to this lovely chicken.

Nugget was not just the only producer on the farm, but she was friendly and had a lot of personality, for a chicken. She would squat down when I came close, so I could pet her silky feathers.

In late July we found Nugget lifeless on the floor of the chicken pen. She did not appear wounded or injured in any way. She was just gone. We don’t know how old Nugget was, but we like to think she died of old age.

We’ll miss you little Nugget. Especially, your best hen buddy Missy.

Duck Invasion

They’re everywhere! Run for your lives! The ducks are escaping. Again.

We have gone to extreme measures to contain our ducks, but they simply refused to stay in one of the fenced area of the farm. I wouldn’t mind if they wandered around, but I’m terrified they’ll wander down the busy road. We’ve clipped wings, rewired fencing, clipped more wings and moved them into three different “secure” areas.

This morning Brent went outside and was startled by a cloud of feathers erupting from beneath the car. He jumped back as Mr Smith (Mr Trouble Smith) flew out from under the shade of the car and followed him into the barn.

With the cats meowing for their breakfast Brent unceremoniously dumped their food into the bowl on the ground and the duck pushed the cats out of the way to eat.

This was simply unacceptable.

Since the pigs seemed happy in their new digs I decided to put the duck in with our two remaining chickens. We lost our sweet chicken Nugget this week and with Misty the hen nesting on a batch of eggs, Elvis, our rooster seemed lonely wandering the pen. I decided to see if Mr Smith could escape since his recent flight wing clip.

As of dark time tonight Mr T Smith was keeping Elvis company while Mr P Smith was keeping his pig friends happy on the other side of the farm. Maybe two male ducks can’t live together. Like the odd couple.

Cutting the Grass – Farmer Style

It finally rained yesterday, which means the grass had a growth spurt. I have a lot of grass to cut and I was trying to think of new and productive ways to take care of this job. I was staring at my horse when I decided to move them into my backyard for the day.

The goats are great at trimming trees and eating that deadly sawgrass that has left me with deep abrasions on my forearms and legs. The three of them (Autumn -horse, Nelly – little goat and Billy – big goat) are currently weeding around my pond.

What a great idea! I’m a super-smart!

Out to cut the front lawn, because letting them loose on my road doesn’t seem like a great idea.

See? Smart!

Relocating the Pigs

On Sunday, July 24, 2011 we decided to relocate the pigs. With the help of Uncle Alan and Grandpa Frank we used some grain and plastic pallets to guide the pigs to their new digs.

We had a fifty foot area to across of open danger and the rest of the area was fenced. If we could get them across the driveway then all would be well, but the eighty kilometer roadway was about twenty feet from the initial gate. On a hot July morning armed with buckets of grain and plastic pallets we threw open the gate and tried to entice the pigs towards their new home.

Pigs hate change. Even if change is for the better.

Little pig Ginger followed the sound of the grain pail across the drive and walked slowly and placidly across the black top and through the gate into the next “safe” area. I gave her a little pile of grain to devour while we tried to coax her best pal Charlotte to do the same.

Charlotte weights about one hundred and fifty pounds and was less willing to leave the comfort of her pig paddock. With Brent and Alan brandishing plastic pallets and my dad persuading with a stick we managed to get the big pig out of her old home and onto the driveway.

We had a mission, regardless of what happened, Charlotte would be directed away from the road. Brent and Alan nudged Charlotte with their pallets encouraging her to follow me and the sound of grain into the next fenced area. She was a foot away from entering and joining her friend Ginger when she dove right, pushed past Brent’s pallet and into the far corner of the driveway.

With a little pushing we got Charlotte back on track and into the second fenced area.

The second fenced area belongs to the dogs, who were unhappily locked up during the pig transfer. The dogs were making their unhappiness well know at this point. The noise did nothing to calm the pigs.

With lots of squealing and bit of snorting we managed to get Charlotte into the three acre paddock. We turned to entice Ginger into the same area when the ducks decided to give a hand. With snapping ducks at my heels, barking dogs in my head and nervous pigs running about we really had to focus on calm to get Ginger into the new paddock.

Luckily, Ginger is very food motivated. With a shake of the feed bucket and a wag of her tail we got around the pond and into the new area.

We had no idea Autumn hated pigs so much.

The initial introduction didn’t go so well with Autumn chasing poor Charlotte into the trees. We made a solid area where the pigs and horse could share a fence line.  The pigs could come and go as they pleased, but the horse could not enter the pig area.

We built a summer shelter for the pigs with a roof and open walls to let the hot summer breeze flow through. The pigs seem very content in their new digs.

We’re hoping by winter to have the pigs share a closer area with the horse and goats. We would like to share electricity, water and heat during the cold winter months.

Duck Bites

I have two male muscovy ducks who like to hiss. Male muscovy ducks hiss while the females offer a feminine quack. My males are lonely and would love to have some female companionship and to show their discontent they like to bite me. A duck bite is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s like a bad bruising pinch with a slight break in the skin.

I usually get bit about once a week and it’s usually confined to my legs, but Mr Smith got me mid-forearm on Sunday leaving a half moon scab surrounded by a dark blue bruise.

This week I was accidently head butted in the right thigh by my big goat Billy. I am becoming a purple farm animal mess.

I am also working five twelve hour days in a row and I think the animals sense my absence and are punishing me by head butting and biting. Autumn is kind enough to only push me around with her massive head. I consider that a hug.

The dogs show their disappointment at my absence in more pleasant ways, like cuddling and playing excessively. Gizmo is so cute this week that I’m giving him extra cookies to alleviate the guilt I feel at being the absent mother.

After work each day I flood a small area of the pig paddock, so they can roll around in the wet mud and cool off after their supper. Even the chicken will partake in a dust bath followed by a sip of pig flavoured water.

Combining farm life with a full time job is a challenge this week.

Flooding the Horse Shelter

I didn’t do it on purpose. I returned home from the Canine Club Getaway and went out to check on my farm animals. The horse/goat water looked a little low, so I plug in the pump and turned on the tap. Brent yelled at me from across the fenced yard to remember to turn it off. I laughed. I always remember.

I filled hay nets and mangers. I cleaned out the manure and gave Autumn a quick brush while the water trough filled. It’s another stolen moment. I’m waiting for one thing, but enjoying another: the definition of farm life.

I leave the shelter with a smack on the bum for Autumn and head towards the outlet to unplug the pump. I’m closing the gate when I hear Brent ask if I need help. I’m almost finished. He asks if I want him to unplug the pump. I say, “no. I’m walking right by it” and I am only twenty steps away from the outlet. I laugh again.

Taz meets me at the pond and entertains me with a little frog hunting. She’s belly deep in muddy water eyeballing a bullfrog that’s nearly her size and I giggle as she pounces the frog dives underwater. She and the frog are dancing.

I call Taz to come into the house and Poco runs over with the ball. I throw the ball a handful of times for the dogs before turning and heading to the house. I remember thinking how tired I was feeling, but in a good satisfied way.

The next morning my dad asks what happened? Happened? What does he mean what happened? I don’t know what happened. What?

He was drinking coffee on the flagstone patio and he could hear water running. Water running? Where was water running? OH… water running… oh. I didn’t unplug the pump and flooded the horse shelter. Flooded it.

The mess was incredible and poor Autumn was standing on the edge of a pond in her shelter. The goats had taken leave to brave the outside. Oh dear.

Brent had gone to work, so I only had to listen to dad give me an earful about leaving the water on all night. We spend the next several hours digging, by hand and with the backhoe, to move some water.

We had to put down a layer of stone, then a layer of sand and finally the rubber mat. Autumn and the two goats had been moved to the pig paddock for the day. The pigs were not happy and squealed as they tried to chase Autumn. Uncooperative in the chase Autumn turned and tried to bite the pig.

The shelter turned out beautiful and better than before with the thick rubber mat (thanks Uncle Chuck). No more dirt for my pony.

I’m having a little trouble moving still and my back aches a little, but the animals are happy in their own dry shelter. Thanks Dad.

Brent did manage to give me an earful too. Especially, after he figured out I told dad he’d left the water on all night. Always blame the one who isn’t there.

New BMW Kicks!

My motorcycle is a 2004 BMW F650 CS and I love her more than most people. Sorry folks, but she’s super hot. I’ve gone out of my way to look after this little beauty with dealership maintenance and frequent trips to the spa. After six years she’s like one of my children, but I only pay attention to her in the summer.

In early June 2011 Brent and I jumped out of bed, rushed out the door and mounted our bikes at seven in the morning to head south in search of new motorcycle tires. The temperature was hovering around 11 C (50F), but with the heated gear we were very comfortable. Brent actually kept the heated vest on and opened the vents in his jacket to get the right temperature.

Wearing the heated gear made me want to ride in cold weather. It’s like watching a good storm from the safety of the house. It’s like watching rain fall from under an awning. It’s like a disappointing Christmas morning, it might not be what you wanted, but it’s still a great day.

We arrived at the shop and the sales crew were very friendly, but the shop folks were a little rude. No matter! They had cheap tires and were willing to install. I will sacrifice customer service for money on this particular adventure.

We went to the coffee shop across the street and had coffee with our favorite peanut donuts. I don’t know they stopped making these beauties in Canada, but if you’re listening Mr. Horton: we want our peanut donuts back! It seems that tires and donuts go together.

Brent and I spent our time enjoying our treats and talking about motorcycles. Which to buy? What we were looking for and how to get it? We’re still looking for another dual sport. I don’t want to take the BMW down to Florida and ride it hard on the dirt roads. In case you’re new to the story, Brent and I go to Florida every winter for a few weeks and escape the cold. We take as many toys (and puppies) as we can carry and play.

Brent and I would like a pair of dual sports we can ride the scrambles and down the trails. My BMW is not built for this type of riding. She’s a straight up street bike that’s far too pretty for a layer of mud. Luckily, my bike and I often have different trains of thought on mud. There’s a time and a place to get a little dirty.

With fresh sticky tires we head back home riding side by side enjoying the special moment. You can smell the fresh cut grass and dampness of the lake. The world seems a little crisper with the wind in your face and a big vibrating machine under you.

I never feel unsafe on my bike. I don’t ride reckless or excessively fast. I take my time and enjoy the handling and the power of quick acceleration. Remember: I drive a SMART Car which is not going to win a bicycle race, so my bike is how I get my power fix. I am also vigilant on my bike. I watch everyone, see everything and move away from even the remotest potential danger.

Brent and I work as team to protect each other and keep each other safe. We love our bikes and want to keep riding them for years to come.

We decided on an extra treat and stop for pizza at a little restaurant in Lewiston, NY. We meet a friend for lunch and have the most delicious chicken pizza and a single beer. We get caught up in converstation as we sit on the patio not quite ready to go home, but ready to ride.

We take the long way home along the river and I always get the that wonderful feeling of joy when I return to the farm. We ride into the drive to the sound of engines competing with yippng, clucking, snorting and nickering. It’s the sweetest music. The farm is so comforting and welcoming. I’m glad to be a part of it.

Kicks for the Ford

Do you know what scrubbing is in terms of truck tires? The term was thrown around my house between several men as I stood in the kitchen making eggs. I knew scrubbing a pot or the toilet or the floor, but not on tires. I felt so out of touch as they discussed what would happen to the truck, like she wasn’t mine.

It turns out my big one ton Ford dually was scrubbing front tires. She needed a front end alignment and new tires. Too much scrubbing it seems. The sheer size of my truck makes it impossible to take it to just any garage for an alignment. A heavy equipment lift is only one of the requirements. I can hear the dollars adding up as we go on our search for truck tires.

After two days of internet and phone calls Brent declares he’s found the best deal and we do a little road trip for new fronts and an alignment at a popular heavy duty truck shop. As we pull up I notice the garage has ten bays and nearly every one of them is full. The place is rocking.

Little did I realize that there’s a secondary garage down the road strictly for alignments with six bays of it’s own. We’re told it’s going to be over an hour, so Brent and I start walking towards the local Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and a treat.

We talk about all sorts of dreams and plans. We have so many ideas that sometimes we get lost in our ideas and they morph into crazy thoughts that become unachievable. I love these talks.

We spend an hour in a coffee shop on the edge of the bad part of Buffalo eating peanut donuts, because you can’t get peanut donuts in Canada anymore, talking and spending the day together. I like that we can find time for each other in the middle of waiting for truck tires.

We get a phone call while waiting saying that we need a tie rod as well and do we want them to go ahead and do the work? Another couple hundred dollars. We decide to get it done and suddenly we have another half an hour of each other’s company. It might have cost us, but it’s worth it.

We walk back to the garage and pick up the truck with fresh tires, tie rod and an alignment. Instantly, we can feel the truck is happier. It’s driving straighter and not scrubbing tires anymore.

Kicks for the Ford became a pretty good day.

Canine Club Getaway – The Adventure!

Bottom Line: I’ve already booked for next year!
Saturday – Day 1 Canine Club Getaway

Taz woke me at 0630 as though she knew it was an exciting and important day. After giving her some belly rubs I crawled out of bed and headed downstairs. With each step I woke up and WOKE up. Today was the big day! Today was the real start of Canine Club Getaway!

By the time I fed all the farm animals and got the four of us ready it was 0800 when we hit the road. I was anxious as I crossed the border, but the female officer was more interested in Poco’s mohawk and what breed of dogs I carried in my little Smart car.

People pointed and smiled as I roared at seventy miles an hour down the I90 towards Lake George. I made one quick stop for fuel and my wallet didn’t groan as I pulled out the sixteen dollars it took to fill the tank. It was a peaceful ride as I sang with the radio and felt mellow.

I might have become too mellow when I found my self shedding a few tears over a sappy country song. Nearly six hours later I reached my destination before I started having true conversations with myself. We were met in the parking lot by a lady with a big camera who took Poco’s picture before I’d even turned off the engine. Popular.

The four of us walked, well three walked and Gizmo was carried, to the main registration lodge. It was a bit hectic, but it was nice to see all the dogs and their crazy owners. I got my room number and drove my car up to one of the three separate lodges. It’s older, a little rustic, but very spacious. Two double beds and one single. Gizmo has already claimed the single.

Taz sits on the table watching all the arrivals while Poco joins Gizmo to catch up on some naps. It’s almost time for orientation. I better get going! Arf. Here’s to the dogs!

Orientation was late and a little disorganized, but we got through it and celebrated afterwards with grape juice. Yeah. Grape Juice.

We played a few games including the hot dog game which entails you holding your dog at one end of the room and throwing a piece of hot dog to the other end. The dog has to go get it and bring it back without eating it. You’ll never guess who won? Out of sixty dogs Gizmo was the only one to bring back a piece of hot dog untouched. I’ve never been prouder. This was a gold moment!

We played a few other games and then we had an hour break before dinner. Time for a shower and perhaps a beverage to celebrate Gizmo’s first place. Never in a million did I think Gizmo would be the first of my three, yet alone the first of sixty, to win first place.

People are friendly, but everyone seems to go back to their hotel room for a well deserved rest. Gizmo is exhausted after his big win.

I’m meeting some interesting people. Dinner was good and satisfying, but not nearly enough if I was a two hundred pound man. I was full, but could have eaten more. Met some wonderful women from New York. When I say New York I mean Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens. I imagine they’re as different as Niagara Falls and Ottawa, but all the same to me: East Coast. How offensive!

Nice people who love their dogs. I heard a presentation about getting your dog into show business. I decided that I couldn’t put my dogs in the hands of a person who said she’d do what it took to get the dog to work. Get the shot. It sounded crass to a room full of true, hard core animal lovers. Making money off our dogs isn’t why most of us came to this conference. We love our dogs.

I think the staff should be positive and engaging. I think they should light up a room with their presence. I find most dog trainers treat you as though you were slightly stunted mentally until you proved otherwise. I’d like the benefit of the doubt and an open mind to see other possibilities. 

The best part of the evening was talking with the two young vets about Gizmos and Pocos problems. They made some interesting suggestions that Gizmo’s eye issues might be helped by more lubrication because he doesn’t blink all the way and has dry eyes. Poco’s problems are in his hips and not his knees. He swings them out, but seems in little pain. He’s still moving and enjoying life. When Brent and I decided to adopt Poco we said we’d make his life as happy as possible for as long as possible without doing anything extreme. The vet suggested three things: keep his weight down, exercise to keep good muscle mass and glucosomine. This seems like common sense to me, but I will start the supplements.

It’s 11pm and I’m sitting in my hotel room with my three dogs watching TV and having a final glass of wine. I’m feeling a little lonely. I love my dogs and I miss my husband.  

Day 2 – Sunday CCG
Woke up at 0530am ready to party! I’m excited to do some of the courses and play in the pool, but first breakfast. I feel great physically, but might nap by the pool later today. I don’t imagine I’ll make the day without a bit of sleep. Gizmo already on his second morning nap.

Breakfast was bacon and eggs, but there was a choice of pancakes and french toast too. I’m waiting to try the lure course and I plan on taking a video. Off I go!

So, the lure went too fast for my little guys and the woman who ran the talent portion stated that she didn’t have any confidence in dogs under ten pounds as their brains were too small and they were stupid. Not a great morning, but like every vacation there are bound to be ups and downs. Not everyone agrees on training methods, feeding, health, fitness and all the other myriad of dog related issues. There is lots to learn. 

I left Poco napping in the car and took Gizmo and Taz to agility. Taz rocked the course like a pro and Gizmo watched from the wooden deck (often looking in the wrong direction) to cheer his sister on. Taz was excited about doing agility. I didn’t need food or punishment to get her to play, but her ball and having fun was a great motivator.  

We went to an obedience class next and listened to Frank talk about training. The e-collar is the popular choice for training these days. It’s not something I’d get behind, but there’s lots of ideas to be learned. 

We hit the fly ball course next. Taz was a natural and even Gizmo did great. Poco had a hard time with the jumps because of his hips and a hard time with making the turn at the ball box because of his vision. Poco had most of his fun by the pool and in the room playing ball. I guess he’s just a simple guy.

We hung out at the pool after trying to get involved with agility. The staff were focused on a woman with two dogs who already had agility training. I guess that is more fun than working with beginners. The pool was much better.

I ran into a lovely lady from New York City who was a blast. We went to Yappy Hour and had few drinks and told stories. After dinner I took the dogs back to the room for their dinner and a little relax.

I’m keeping an open mind as I head to the seminar tonight regarding what vaccinations are important for your dog. It was an interesting seminar and I look forward to bit of my own research. 

Tomorrow is a new day and I’m going to start with some gentle stuff. Sleeping in. Relaxing by the pool and maybe some more theory. I don’t agree with some of the training methods, but I’m still learning new things. I’m going to learn all I can to give my dogs the best life possible.

Day 3 – Monday CCG
Slept till 630am. Not sure why I’m waking up so early. Super Taz is sleeping with her nose on my computer. How cute. I love spending time with my dogs and this is a wonderful location to chill with the pups. 

Taz was bumped up to advanced agility after her first class. She’s a natural – fear does not exist for Super Taz. She’s already learned the names of the obstacles and does the course like a pro. I have more trouble than she does while running, directing and then tripping over my own feet. It’s a good experience and I’m planning to see if Gizmo will give it a shot. He likes to jump.

We went to a course called Prep class for Canine Good Citizen & Therapy Dog International Testing to become registered therapy dogs. I’m going to see if Taz and Gizmo can pass the course on Wednesday morning. They did great for the prep. Poco wasn’t really a candidate because he’s not all that fond of being touched by strangers.

For barks and crafts we made a tee shirt with our dog’s paw prints all over the shirt. We dipped their paws in paint and then I let my little guys walk all over it. Turned out dirty cool.

Sat by the pool this afternoon and everyone enjoyed some off leash time. Had a brief photo session with the photographer while the puppies wore their wedding garb. Way too cute in the little red wagon.

Post dinner: costume parade. Poco is going as biker and Taz is going as Carrie from Sex in The City. Gizmo refuses to participate, but I have his tee shirt that spells out “STUD” in red rhinestones at the ready.

We lost to a golden retriever with a hard hat. 

Day 4 – Tuesday CCG
Woke up at 0700 and felt a little tired, until breakfast and then I felt better. I drank a lot of tea. We went for an hour and half hike this morning through the pine trees. I chatted with Tara the crazy lady with the border collie cross who is a sweetie. She’s sarcastic and funny and likes to have a few cocktails. We get along very well.

After the hike I took the pups for another pre class for the Canine Good Citizenship and Therapy Dog Certification. The tester was there and said I could test Taz and Gizmo individually and then together. They could be team therapy dogs. They’re both very good at the testing process. The test is tonight at 6pm. This is exciting.

I looked at some pictures and brought Brent a tee shirt telling everyone he’s the world’s best dad – just ask his dogs. Since I missed the important bath time yesterday I went back to my room for a shower and the dogs are completely passed out.

A lovely lady gave Poco a plush toy that looks like a cheeseburger and he loves it almost as much as he loves his ball.

Taz passed her test! She received the Canine Good Citizenship Award and is a Registered Therapy Dog. She’s did fantastic and looked like she had fun. Gizmo wasn’t tested because we learned that he doesn’t know how to lay down. It wasn’t taught in the prep course and I didn’t think of it until they asked Taz to do a sit and down stay. Oh dear. Gizmo doesn’t know how to lay down. I’ve been trying to teach him for the past few hours with some success, but he’s not reliable.

The tester agreed to test him in the morning. We’ll keep working on it, but I’m not making any promises. They want to test them as a team as well, which won’t work if Gizmo can’t learn the down command by tomorrow.

I spent the afternoon doing barks and crafts, lounging by the pool and dog trivia. We won a new toy and a flashy collar.

Dinner was good and the lecture afterwards was about natural medicine. Interesting perspectives. I’m pretty tired and it’s time to head to bed. We go home tomorrow. 

Day 5 – The Last Day. Wednesday. 
With the help of Frank, one of the trainers we managed to teach Gizmo to lay down long enough to pass the test. The tester then tested Taz and Gizmo together as a team. They passed! It’s an extensive testing process and I’m so proud of how they listened, learned and acted like themselves. Sweethearts. 

A few minutes of agility and then I spent a good hour packing the Smart car to full capacity. By 1230 we’d grabbed our boxed lunch and head home. I look forward to seeing my new friends next year. CCG 2012 here we come.