Posted in Animals, Family, life

Remembering Drew Miller

imageWe had to say good-bye to one of the finest dogs there was.

Our Drew Miller.

Our Drewby Dooby Doo.

He was somewhere around 11 years old. Give or take a year. He was named after a preschool classmate of Ashlynn’s. He was her second puppy after her first Drew Miller met an unfortunate end under a car tire. So when asked what to call the new puppy, he was Drew Miller too. Or Drew Miller #2. I guess technically he was Drew Miller #3 if you count the classmate.

He had the manner of a cat, not giving a flip if you pet him or not. or if you liked him or not. He was not a man’s dog. He was not a companion dog. He was a dog’s dog.  Unlike most dogs that eagerly run to greet you, if he was feeling generous he might raise his eyebrows and thump his massive tail no more than four times on the ground in greeting.  That was as good as it got. He wasn’t one to be bought or tricked or persuaded.  Not even with steak.

He was a large fellow, narrow through the hips and broad in the chest. Built like a Marine but with an awkward gait that showed something wasn’t quite right in his hips. He never allowed that to stop him on our outings and he would run as far and as fast as he could before slowing to a crawl and lagging far behind. Tongue lolling. Then when you least expected it, here he’d come blasting past with renewed energy. He was rescued from the humane society and was labeled part border collie, which couldn’t have been the farthest from the truth. Part beaver and part killing machine was more accurate.

 

He was a wood chewer and loved a good stick to chew although fetching one was out of the question. He practically ate our house down to the shingles as a puppy. “You can’t fault him for being a dog,” my dad replied after my complaints

He loved to be outdoors in any weather and often had to be dragged inside with a leash on a frigid night.

imageHe had the heart of a warrior, fighting anything that threatened his territory.  Porcupines, badgers, skunks, possums, and rats. He was proud of his kills and laid beside them until we took notice and patted him on the head. He alerted us to snakes and strangers; yet was gentle around all things important: chickens, cats, and kids. His tail was a weapon in itself if he ever whacked you alongside the thigh on his way to chase a rabbit.image

 

He was a country dog to the core. He lived a good life on many adventures with J-dub and me from the prairies of Texas to the mountains of New Mexico. He spent his golden years running, chasing, and occasionally catching out in the open range. The wind in his face. Untethered. Just being a dog.

He will be missed.

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Posted in Animals

The Chicken Chronicles: An Update and Addendum

The month of March is upon us and with that comes an anniversary. Or a birthday, rather. My chickens turn three years old. Happy, happy birthday girls!

It’s a landmark, a milestone, a big deal to have three-year old chickens. At least I thought it was until I googled the life expectancy of a chicken and found it to be 8-10 years for backyard hens and some have lived up to 20!!! What???? 20 years. I’ll be drawing medicare. Almost.  It’s only a big deal to be a commercial chicken and live three years.  Just chalk that up to my list entitled, I thought I did well, until I found out I didn’t.

Given that enlightening statistic, I am not doing so well with my backyard hens. I’m down to only 3. I know, I know. If you’ve been hanging around this blog for long you might remember I started with a lot more than three. More like 15. But you know, life happens. There have been accidental deaths, malicious deaths, unexplained deaths, and drownings. It’s been quite the ride.

And if you haven’t been hanging around here long, here’s the dealio.  These girls were raised in the house, yes you read that right, in the house! First in the bathtub of the extra bathroom then in the spare bedroom/office. A cardboard box served us well as a brooder until they were old enough to go outside. Looking back I realize I might have been a bit overprotective. They would sit on our hands and sit on the desk with me.  Looking back I realize I didn’t realize little chicks could put off so much dander.  Woowee, the dusting I did once they were outside.  Then as they got older, they were treated to earthworms bought from the bait store. I watched them grow from little fuzzy chicks to the awkward ugly teenagerish stage before they turned into hens.  They would fly on our laps, hide eggs willy nilly.  They learned to get along with the dogs or rather the dogs learned to get along with them.  One even hitched a ride with J-Dub to church and was walking around in the church parking lot.

These chickens have traveled with me, moving from Texas to New Mexico in the back of a truck because I couldn’t bear to part with them. They are dear to my heart. They have given me hours of enjoyment. Just the other day, I was throwing sticks for the dogs in the backyard and one of them attempted to fetch with them, running out behind them after the stick, hoping it was something a bit tastier, a Slim Jim perhaps. Of course I tried to get a video but by the time I ran to the house and grabbed the phone, everyone (dogs and chicken) had lost interest in my game.

These chickens are tough.  You have to be to live around here.  Just the other day I accidentally pelted one  in the head with a pine cone.  Pure accident.  Trust me, I didn’t miss my calling playing softball.

Recently we’ve been dealing with our new dog Ozzie, the chi-weenie, really giving the chickens fits. There is one hen in particular he likes to bully and we’ve taken to calling her mangled back because he literally will get on her and attempt to pluck her alive, leaving her down exposed. Her back is a mixture of yellow and white soft feathers. He is punished harshly when he is caught but he is proving himself to be a slow learner in regard to the chickens. I didn’t know what to do and I almost gave him away but J-Dub, seeing the distress it was causing me and EK both, built a portable chicken tractor/coop for the chickens. Before that, they roosted in an old well house but were free to come and go and roam as they pleased. With this new chicken coop on wheels they are enclosed constantly but safe from the terror of the chi-weenie.

I prefer them to be free range. They prefer to be free range. But it puts me at ease to know they are safe when I can’t watch them closely. Each day I  let them out to roam about and forage and I put the dog up.  All animals are treated equally.

J-Dub worked a long time on the chicken tractor and I am so happy with it. These contraptions range anywhere from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars. We tried to be as economical as possible and also reuse things around the place. Upcycle if you will. We can actually call ourselves green now.

He bought the lumber new and built a 6 foot by 6 foot frame. He covered it all in wire, bolted  two wheels on the back (which may need replacing) and a handle on the front to push/pull/heave it around. There is a door to let the chickens in and out. On the back he built a box for them to nest in, equipped with their own little ladder to climb. The nesting box has a lid that opens up so I can reach in and get the eggs. He covered part of the top with tin and yes, he did, he added rain gutter which flows into the watering trough. On the opposite end is a feed trough with a trap door so I can dump hen scratch in easily.

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And no, I don’t have trick chickens that lay oblong, funky shaped caps of some sort.  That’s just a decoy.  It worked.

Basically it’s a chicken dream house.  And I’m really getting the itch to stock it with some babies.

Posted in Animals

A Broody, Moody Hen

I’ve got a broody hen.  In other words, she wants to be a momma.

This hen in particular sits in a wheelbarrow.  Day after day.  Night after night.  She won’t eat.  She won’t drink.  And if you go near her, she puts her hackles up and makes a noise that frightens me.   I’ve never been harmed by a chicken, and yet I still am frightened.  It is an unwarranted fear that I can not explain, especially considering the fact that my hens are darlings.  Perhaps it dates back to when I read a children’s book, “Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket” and Junie B. was worried that the chickens were going to peck her head into a nub, and she would have to walk around in a pair of overalls with a nub as a head.  I’m sure that is it, since that is so very logical.

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So day after day, night after night, this yellow chicken sits in a red wheelbarrow hoping beyond hope that the egg she ISN’T sitting on will hatch.   Crazy chicken.

It is  impossible that she will ever set a nest and have a baby chickie because:
1) there is no rooster here to fertilize her egg, so no matter how long she sets a nest, it will still just be an egg.
2)  There is no egg that she is setting since we removed it from underneath her weeks ago, hoping she would be about her business.

No such luck.

Day after day, one of us, (mostly Ash, but sometimes me if I’ve had a shot of whiskey first) will pick up the hissing, pissed off chicken, afraid that her head is going to spin around and start pecking me to a nub and throw her out of the wheelbarrow, so she can get a drink of water and maybe a bite to eat.   And as soon as we do, she lets us know she is not a happy chicken.  And as soon as she can, she makes a run for the water trough, gets a drink, and before you know it, she is back in her wheelbarrow on her imaginary nest, dreaming of waddling babies.

But if you were ever wondering where the expression  “got her feathers ruffled” originated, my belief is it came from an insane broody hen after she was tossed from her wheelbarrow.

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Posted in Animals

The Rat

 

Ah, the joys of moving.  I’m in the middle of moving to a new home, which means a whole lot of cleaning, throwing out, organizing, donating, uncluttering, and packing.

I’ve tried to organize the process and do a little bit in a certain area each day, and so far I’m about 5 days behind schedule.

I have empty boxes piled in the living room, right next to packed boxes piled in the living room, while still trying to maintain the rest of the house and quite frankly, I feel like I’m living in a rat hole.

I’m not sure why story books and cartoons portray mice as such cute critters.

If you ask me, there is nothing cute about a mouse.

They’re dirty, they’re nasty, they scurry about leaving those little mouse turds behind.  And I just got the shivers, no lying.  In the cartoons, they always have a cute little face and live in a  tidy little mouse-hole with a rocking chair and an afghan.  Maybe a little table and a few chairs formed from old thread spools they’ve collected.  Mama mouse wears an apron and daddy mouse usually dons a vest with a pocket watch with a pair of spectacles resting on his nose.

But that’s Hollywood or Walt Disney and certainly not an accurate portrayal of the rodent which I hate.

Living in the country, mice are pretty inevitable.  I mean, really I’m living on their turf out here in a big open field.

Not too long ago, I blogged about my mouse troubles here.  And how I went about getting two little kittens from my mom’s to help ward off the mice.

Well, I think they are doing their job.

Or something is.

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This is the gross of the grossest, I know.  But this rat was lying dead in the drive the other day.   J-Dub doesn’t have a gigantic foot by any means, but nonetheless that is one big dude.

Funny, I don’t see his little pocket watch or spectacles.  This isn’t one of Cinderella’s little helpers is it?  More like Templeton from Charlotte’s Web, who is the accurate depiction of a true rat. A  nasty, fat, filthy varmint.  A dead one, at that.

So kudos to the cats.

Or the dogs.

Or the sudden acute coronary thrombosis that took his life.

 

Posted in Animals

The Cat’s Meow

We haven’t had any chicken killings, no wild horse escapades,  nary a snake has snuck up on me of late.   The dogs have been calm, the skunks have been distant, no electrical or water outings to speak of.  Save my 9 month old causing a ruckus, it’s been relatively quiet here at the J & A Chicken Ranch.

The weather is turning cooler, and if you live in the country, inevitably means the mice try to scurry inside.

For the record, me and mice, we don’t jive. I usually keep poison out in little hidey spots and have a trap or two set, but now that our little EK is crawling and nosing around, neither poison nor traps are a good idea.

In case it bears repeating, me and mice, we don’t jive.  So I couldn’t just live with the nasty little varmints.  I knew they were around, being the light sleeper that I am, I could hear them in the night and quite frankly I was just a tad creeped out.  My mother told me she heard that rats ate a baby in New York City once and I just couldn’t bear the thought of mice nibbling on my tot’s ear or at the very least scuttling about throughout the house.

I had to do something, so do it, I did.

I brought home some cats.

Two little kittens were born under my mom’s house about 3 or 4 months ago.  My mom and my niece worked diligently taming the little cuties, feeding them saucers of milk, getting them to come in the house, until they were just almost pets.

One is a little gray and white one that Ashy mistook for a girl and named Flower and the solid black one is name Bandit, Bandi for short.  He’s a bit wilder.

I had to bring Flower out first, as we only had one cat carrier, and couldn’t fit them both in the carrier, much less catch the little black one.  As soon as the door was opened, Flower was MIA.  He took off and I didn’t hear from him for 3 days.  The food was eaten each night, but I wasn’t sure what exactly could be chowing down in his absence.  Finally on the 3rd night, we heard a meow coming from the tree so we knew he was still hanging around.

The next day, I quickly went to my mom’s and got Brother Bandi.  Now this little wiry black kitten is skittish and wild acting, but when the door to the carrier was opened, he just stayed put for a while.  Then he nonchalantly walked around the yard, sniffing around, venturing out of the front yard fence momentarily.  I was pleased to see that he wasn’t going to run and was hoping that he and Brother could reunite shortly.

I sat out and watched the reunion closely as they began mewing at one another.  Slowly the little gray kitten tiptoed off the haystack where he had stayed hidden and they scurried off together running underneath an outbuilding.  I sat on my bucket on that beautiful fall afternoon smiling  at how grand life is.  Then I went in the house.

It wasn’t much later that the quiet, grand life was interrupted with yelps, and barks, and bangs, and growls.  As I ran to peer out the back window, I discovered that Bandi had found his way into the backyard and the two dogs, Drew and Grace, were not appreciating their intruder.  The backyard had turned into a boxing ring with 2 against one and the dogs were winning.  I ran out there screaming and shouting, but our dog Drew will fight to the death and refuses to be called off of anything he has cornered.  The only way was to open the gate and convince them to go outside where Drew could go chase invisible rabbits and dig holes under pipe.

Once the dogs were gone, the little black cat pressed himself against the back screen door, wide-eyed and panting.  His fur was matted and wet from the battle and his heart was pounding.  He stayed there frozen.  I went to him to try to help him, but he ran away and climbed into a bush in the backyard where he stayed perched for at least an hour.

Finally, with EK in her stroller, I got a chair and stood atop to reach up and remove the little fellow.  He quickly hopped down, found his way out of the dog’s backyard territory and has stayed hidden every since.

My mom and Ashy came out that evening after I called and told them the story and were able to woo the frightened little guys out of hiding for a few minutes of reassurance.

Needless to say, the dogs are back in the backyard, one cat stays hidden on top of the stacks of alfalfa, the other stays hidden under an outbuilding.

I don’t think they like their new home much, but on a good note, I haven’t heard from the mice lately.

 

 

Posted in Animals

Chasing Rabbits

We have these two dogs.

Drew and Grace.

 

Grace is so appropriately named and could have easily been named Faith.  She is loyal to the end.  Always there right beside you.

Drew on the other hand, should have been named Retard.

He’s just  a big goofy dog who likes to chase rabbits.

We have some pipe lying around because

1) we live in the country and country people acquire crap like pipe
2) J-Dub was going to build something but instead it’s laid in the pasture collecting rabbits.

Our dogs are outside dogs who live in the backyard, lush with dirt, having trampled or eaten every stitch of grass or weeds that ever attempted to grow there.  But each evening when it’s time to do the evening chores, we let the dogs out.  Who let the dogs out?  I said we do.  Opening the backyard fence gate is like shooting off a gun in the 50 meter dash.  Away they go, barreling past, knocking you down if you hadn’t the foresight to move quickly, sprinting towards the wide openness.

Grace runs a little pace and then realizes she is Grace the Faithful and comes back and follows whomever is doing chores, getting the hay, the horse feed, gathering the eggs.  She’s their little sidekick.

Drew the Retard on the other hand, heads to the pipe.  Because once upon a time, many moons ago,  he chased a rabbit.  And maybe that rabbit ran into the pipe.  So Retard thinks it’s still in there and he is determined to chase it out.

He starts at one end of the pipe, sticks his nose in, tail wagging maniacally, sniffs around, then runs to the other end of the pipe, sticks his nose in, sniffs around, then back again to the beginning.  Ad nauseum.

Every night this is his routine.  After he has run circles around the pipe, sniffing and wagging,  he then begins to dig.  Because if he can’t sniff that nonexistent rabbit out of there, by golly, he’ll dig it out. He starts at one end of the pipe digging ferociously, runs to the other side and digs ferociously over there, then back to the beginning, ad nauseum.

 

Perhaps he’s digging a grave for the nonexistent rabbit when he ousts him from the pipe in which he does not live.

Finally around sundown, panting and bloody toenails, he is exhausted.  But he will not leave his post.  No sirree, not this soldier.  While Grace the Faithful lies on the porch waiting on master to put her up, Drew the Retard lies beside the pipe and keeps vigil on the nonexistent rabbits until we have to call him home to his lush dirt backyard to rest up for his next night of rabbit chasing.

 

 

Posted in Animals, Children

Peace, pecks, and pigs—Randomness

It’s a peaceful kind of morning.  No hustle, no bustle.

There’s a cool breeze, and it’s a nice respite before the West Texas July sun follows it’s usual path in the cloudless sky and the daytime temps rise to scorch and wither.  But after all, it is summer.  What else do we expect.

EK and I sat outside for a spell.  Me with my coffee, she with her glee.

Watching the world through the eyes of a baby brings on a new light.  I read that every day to a baby is like a visit to Paris for the first time for us.  The new smells, the new sights.  We would be on high alert, taking it all in.

Her yard is a far cry from Paris, I would have to imagine since I’ve never visited there.  But oh, how she takes it all in.  She notices the smallest things.  A leaf blowing across the yard, a black bird flying to rest in a tree top, the bark of Drew and Grace from the backyard saying, “We want out, let us out, we want to see you this morning too”, the choo choo whistle as it rolls down the tracks.

A chicken flew up on the arm of our chair with her beady eye and pointy beak.  Me, I’m a bit intimidated.  I don’t know why I suddenly became afraid of my chickens, as if they could peck me to death or something.  I usually shoo them away afraid they might peck EK, but today we just sat.  The chicken jerked her chicken neck around studying us, and EK stared back.  I put EK’s hand on her feathers to let her feel.

The other day my mom mentioned how the baby needs one of those toys, you know the kind we used to have as a kid.  Where you pull the string and the animal makes it’s sound.  I said, “Mom.  Look around.  Why does she need that?  We have horses that say neigh, dogs that say ruff, chickens that say bawk, cows that say moo, right here.”

That seemed to satisfy my mom, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she pulls up with a pig in the passenger seat one day.