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, life

Fowl, Reptiles, and Worthless Mammals

Instead of Spring Fever, I have contracted a bad case of Chicken Fever (this is not to be mistaken with Bird Flu). It has been brought on by pictures, videos and reports of friends and family getting some new spring chicks.

If you didn’t know, my flock of fowl came to a bitter end a couple months ago after losing the last 2 to a raccoon. It was heartbreaking.

Today I decided “it’s Easter time, it’s springtime, I’m going to the feed store and picking out some baby chicks”. This was  completely an impulsive idea since our family is in a state of transition and because we’re not exactly set up for a new brood of babies, but I let the impulsivity settle in and I set about preparing for some new chicks. My husband built me a nice mobile chicken coop a few months back that I could use to easily keep them safe and warm, so I decided to get busy. My first order of business was to walk through some high grass and drag it to another part of the yard.

Now friends, I consider myself a brave person for the most part. That is, as long as I keep both feet on the ground. I really don’t care for deep water, and I’d rather not participate in anything that involves jumping from a cliff so I’ll just politely decline. But you know, the everyday things don’t too much bother me. I’m not afraid of spiders or storms or Friday the 13ths. Despite my courage with these things, there is still one thing that will make me scream out loud and pee down my leg a little and that is a snake in the grass. Or one in the road. Or the pasture or even a cage for that matter. They just give me the eebie jeebies. It goes back to Genesis where God says to the serpent “You will crawl on your belly and strike at their heels and they will pee down their legs” or something close to that.

I’ve had my fair share of snake experiences, more than I care to count.  I’ve even had one of those real scary snakes shake their tail at me and I’m telling you what……there is nothing that can make your heart quicken like hearing that sound.  Living in the country in Texas taught me how to differentiate between the “safe” bull snakes and the poisonous rattlers but no matter the kind, I still don’t like them.

We have a big backyard here in New Mexico, full of big trees and unkept grasses. It’s a bit wildernessy and wild with sticks and rocks and a creek that butts up to it. It’s a great place for our three dogs to run and live like dogs.  “Worthless” dogs as my husband would call them, because you see J-Dub believes animals should have a job or serve a purpose (like a horse, a cow, a pack mule, a chicken) and these dogs are nothing more than pets. Mostly he’s joking. Mostly. But it wouldn’t hurt if they could do a little something to earn their keep around here.

Now in this big backyard, just this spring, I have seen no less than FOUR SNAKES!!! FOUR! Granted, they’re nothing like the big bull snakes that hung out with me in Texas, they’re just little old grass snakes, but they’re snakes just the same. They crawl on their bellies and give me the shivers.

The other day, our little dog Ozzie and our middle-sized dog Grace were bothering a snake in the yard and EK and I wanted to spend the day outside without worrying about a snake, so I got a big shot of bravery and decided I would remove the snake from the yard. It was coiled up good so I got a shovel and scooped that little serpent up. I held that shovel out away from my body as far as I could and I fast walked to the fence to chunk it over. But Grace, the cow dog, was too nosey and jumped up to see what I was carrying and the snake slithered off my shovel and into the tall grass. So much for my bravery. Watching that sucker slither off, made me turn and run in the other direction. I’ve had enough of that good deed.

Today after getting my wild new chicken whim,  I attempted to drag the heavy mobile chicken coop to a different part of the yard. I pulled out my back and only managed to get it out of its deep ruts about 1/2 inch when I noticed that Ozzie was interested in something in the grass. He kept sticking his nose in and jumping back a little. Grace ran over, nosey as always, and I called her back just to see what would happen. Ozzie stuck his nose in and out quickly a couple of times before he dove in hard and pulled out a snake and began shaking and biting and I’ll be dadgummed if he didn’t kill that snake right then and there.

His worth just about quadrupled in my book. I think I’ll keep this one around. My little snake killer.

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And I’ll keep this one because he’ll defend his turf and take on anything that dares threaten his people. He’s fought porcupines, raccoons, skunks, and even those fearsome possums–you know, the ones that play dead.

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And this one? She’s still got a lot of earning her keep to do. But she’ll love you to death and is sewn together out of 100% obedience and loyalty. I guess we’ll keep her too.

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Needless to say friends, with the excitement of the morning, I didn’t get a chicken coop moved. Nor did I get any chicks today. I think pulling out my back cured my chicken fever…for a while anyway.

Posted in Animals, Children, Faith, Family

The Hummers

I overheard them talking in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago.

You need to get ready for them.

They’re here.

We saw some at our place yesterday. 

Hummingbirds.

So I heeded their advice and went to The Walmarts to buy a couple of feeders.  I googled how to make sugar water (4 parts water to 1 part sugar), and I filled my feeders and hung them on the patio.

I doubted they would come.  Just because I doubt most good things will come in my life.  It’s a huge weakness in my character.  But lo and behold, as Emma Kate and I were outside enjoying the day, the dogs, and the chickens, they came.  They did!  Two of them hummed their way over to the feeders and got a drink.

I was thrilled.  Absolutely thrilled.  I ran to get my camera and of course, as in the way things happen, they flitted away to the trees.  I could still hear them tweeting and buzzing around, but they wouldn’t come to the feeders again.

I waited and waited and waited.  Some might find waiting on the hummingbirds tedious and boring, their minds filled with a laundry list of to-do’s that they would rather be doing, but the simplicity of the afternoon overtook me and as I waited on the hummingbirds, I sat in the sun and let it warm me all the way to my insides.  There’s something healing about a little sunshine warming the innermost.

I watched my darling daughter play in the animal’s drinking water.  We have a waterer for the chickens and a big bowl for the dogs, but they don’t seem to understand the distinction, so the dogs drink after the chickens and the chickens drink after the dogs, and Emma Kate drinks after both.  It’s good for the immune system I say.

She got pine needles and dunked them through the water and sucked the moisture off, she splashed, and she laughed.  And the laughter from a little child on a sunshiny spring day is music to the ears.

She herded chickens and hugged them from behind and Grace, our heeler dog, herded right along with her.  Ever vigilant to protect Emma from chicken danger.  Meanwhile, Drew, who’s a couple milkbones short of a full box, chewed on a pink bone and didn’t ever once feel his manhood threatened.  Real dogs chew pink bones.

And finally as the day drew to a close, and the sun dipped behind the house, and the shadows grew longer, I got a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird.  But my true treasure is the several decent pictures I got of a simple day in the backyard that soothed and healed my soul.

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Posted in Animals, Family

A day in the backyard with 5 chickens and two dogs

Today the weather is agreeable.  The skies are a cobalt blue with an occasional fluffy cumulus cloud in the distance.  The wind is slight. It’s still chilly enough to need a coat, but when you find a good place to sit in the sun, your insides begin to warm and your heart smiles.

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As does your mouth.  Me and little britches went outside to enjoy it for a while.   The chickens were making an awful ruckus earlier in the day and I thought we’d better scout for eggs in case they’re laying willy nilly as they are prone to do.

In case you’re new here, my backyard is home to  5 wonderful chickens, two dogs and an occasional visit by me and my girl, EK.

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That’s Drew, wanting his belly rubbed.  It’s a dog’s life.

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The dogs are sweet, albeit a bit rambunctious.  And EK is a bit leery of their wagging tails, licking tongues, and overall ambitious nature.

Our girl dog, Grace, is a heeler/shepherd.  A tad on the hyper side, a herder of all chickens,  and may I add that she also is in heat.  It’s important to the story, trust me.

She loves Emma.  She just doesn’t understand her boundaries.

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She wants to love on her but outweighs her by about 25 pounds.

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Emma is always glad to see the dogs, as long as she’s in someone’s arms, safe and protected.  I set her on the ground and told those dogs NO, and allowed the morning to progress.  Drew is content chewing on a stick but  Grace wants to see EK up close and personal and Emma was happy to see her.

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Right until Grace rolled over on her back begging for a belly rub, bumped Emma and made her fall down.  I of course, did my parental duty and ran right over to brush away the tears and scold the dog, but not before I snapped a picture or two.  Not to worry, she was unscathed.

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Time passed.  A chicken wandered over, Grace followed.

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Emma fretted, but was relieved when Grace herded the chicken along and ignored the need for a belly rub.

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It’s okay, Emma.  It’s ok.

Later, a new dog entered our backyard through a bad spot in the fence.  A small black, high jumping dog.

We had gone inside but spotted him through the window.  Was he after the chickens?

Nope.  Just Grace.

We (as in J-Dub)  ran him off twice, then we (as in J-Dub) fixed the bad spot in the fence.

Who knows.  In a few months, the backyard may be home to five wonderful chickens, two dogs, and a passel of puppies.

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All wanting their bellies rubbed.

Authors note:  I started this post when EK was asleep, then she woke up and sat in my lap here at the computer.  I showed her the pictures and she said “Emma”  “bock, bock” “Drew” and when she saw Grace she said, “NO, NO, NO”.    And then “night night”.  She’s so precious.

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.