Sunday 28 December 2014

Kitty, Rams & Dogs

The Love Kitty

It has been difficult for hubby to get photos of Humphrey-kitty as he lives in the rafters of the barn.  However, Humphrey has become bolder and comes down more frequently when the barn is clear of dogs.  Often the dogs are about but ignoring Humphrey’s presence and then he is safe.  I don’t know how he can tell.  Well, sometimes he can’t tell and the white flash of dog up the pile of hay sends Humphrey-kitty scurrying back up into the rafters.  

Sister described him as love starved as he just clung to her and crawled up onto her shoulders.  Over the holidays daughter was quite taken by Humphrey-kitty for similar reasons.  He really is very loving.  Unfortunately, this cat-allergic owner is not very loving in return.  And so often I’m busy doing this and that, fetching hay from his safe spot where he is fed; Humphrey-kitty remains love deprived. 

We have decided to get a second kitty to keep him company.  We need to do so soon before Humphrey gets much older and less accepting of a new friend.


I got into a panic I guess.  The Pepto Bismol was not working and Christmas was coming for real.  I had dewormed Birch, the ram lamb, but still there was no improvement.  So, after some consultation with my shepherdess neighbour, I took up a plastic spoon and Ziploc bag and scooped some poop.  I went to the Vet and submitted the sample for testing.  This was the 23rd and they had regular hours. 

I dropped it off and returned home well before company arrived.  Lunch was already prepared; it just needed to go into the oven when the guests arrived.  Late in the afternoon I returned to the Vet to pick up the prescribed medication for the now defined problem; a more specific dewormer and an oral remedy for a bacterial gut infection.

And then the next panic set in.  Since the marking harness was too large for Birch, I had removed it.  After the normal three week reproductive cycle of the ewes I put on him a homemade marking harness that was small enough to fit and did not rub him raw on his legs like the other.  I used Beau-dog’s car harness and a marking crayon, the same as that on the ram harness, provided by my neighbour.  Now, if Birch marked any of the ewes they had not conceived in the first cycle.  This could be his problem or hers….

There were two that were marked in the first week of wearing the harness.  And then some other ewes looked to me to be in heat but there was no observed interest or marking by Birch.  I began to panic.  What if we had no lambs?  That would absolutely not do.  Maybe I had made a mistake getting Birch….

I got online and found a mature ram on kijiji.  There was a brief email exchange on the 23rd, a phone call the morning of the 24th and the ram arrived just after lunch.  They had named him Rambo.  I thought, unless he’s going to shoot a coyote, that’s not an appropriate name.  I suggested the children name him and son-in-law came up with Abraham as he is to sire many.  It stuck with me, and Abe it is for short.

He is a North Country Cheviot from Saskatchewan.  He is 5 or 6 and has progeny to prove his worthiness.  The seller reported that he likes bread and was good with their two children of four and seven years of age – which means there is less fear of him running across the field to bash a person as rams have been known to do.   He can be “aggressive with a pail of grain”.  If Birch has bred all the ewes then Abe will be the flock sire next year.  Either way it is a win-win situation.

On Christmas day hubby and I outfitted Abe with the marking harness and let him out with the flock.  We found that once we caught him Abe stood almost without being held and allowed us to put the harness on him.  Stay tuned….

Over & Under

The Maremmas have been quite good about staying in the field with the sheep.  I tell them, “Stay with your sheep” and when they get out and we head back to the field, I say, “Sheep, sheep, where are your sheep?”

Hubby has noted that there is a pattern to their getting out.  Mornings are a popular escape time.  At first Millie was going under the fence.  It was some time before Ruby began to do the same.  We have had more workmen around and this seems to entice the dogs out of the field.  After several escapes and I was able to deduce that it was under the fence that they came, I plugged it with a log across the bottom of the fence.

That worked for a bit.  Maybe one day.  Then Millie began to get out again.  After a few days I was able to determine she was getting out at the same spot by jumping over the fence.  It was not an easy jump though.  She was limping on a hind leg one day.  She stopped jumping out so I deduced she caught her leg on the fence while jumping out. 

Then Ruby discovered her own Houdini-ness and began to shrink to nothing and squeeze under the back gate.  I wondered why the inside of her back legs were muddy.  It was the squeezing part.  Hubby put her back three times in quick succession.  She’d go back in the front gate and scoot to the back gate and squeeze under it.  I put a log along the bottom of the gate and that ended that. 

They had previously been squeezing between the set of gates at the back and I had covered that with some plywood.  Much of their getting out is to follow a scent, check out a sound or greet a visitor.

The morning pattern was an important one to note.  In the morning Millie is coming off the night shift and is tired.  Ruby is cooped up in the barn all night and full of puppy vigour in the morning.  The dogs were accustomed to a good walk in the field first thing when we took the sheep out in the morning.  Often Millie is sniffing the air toward the back of the property after I let the sheep out of the barn.  So, I have begun to put the dogs out through the back gate in the morning.  They have a good ten or fifteen minute run and check of the back field and then they return.  They often end up at the house but they will come back into the field with the sheep.  The other morning Ruby came to the house and Millie was sitting at the back gate waiting for me to open it for her.  I walked Ruby back to the gate to where Millie had been waiting and put them back the way I wanted them to go. 

It will take a while to catch on to the pattern.  I often find I have to think like the dogs and try to work within that framework to make progress for all.  It will change, again, I know – with the seasons, the weather, the day, Ruby’s growth, etc.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Pool, peels, pepto bismol & bashing

Each day is the same but different.  Sometimes there is an event that is all consuming and often times the days are the same with only variations in the weather.  And yet there are silly antics that occur all of the time...

Pool Bed

Beau loves water.  And mud and snow, too, preferably all three at the same time.  So, a few years ago I picked up a doggie wading pool.  And to my utter disappointment Beau did not play in it.  This is the same dog who: will lie down in a puddle because it is there; will run through a puddle and then turn around and run back through that puddle; and also, the same dog who will bury a tennis ball in the snow and then dig it out again - because it is so much fun.

I recently put the pool to a new task.  When Millie began to appear lame or arthritic, which may be related to lyme disease which she has, I thought of keeping her warm and off of the ground.  So, I set up the pool as a doggie bed.  I put a rubber mat in the bottom and then added a bunch of straw bedding and some fleece from the sheep.  Millie did sleep in this once or twice that I observed.  Note it is not a water bed but a pool bed....

My goal was to get Millie grounded to the Small Barn and this has worked.  Some of my plans however have changed and there are now no animals spending the winter in the Small Barn.  So, now I have been working out how to get Millie more grounded to the Big Barn and the sheep that are in the Big Barn. 

I asked a neighbour to come over and create a dog opening in the bottom of the person door in the Big Barn.  He welcomed the task and had it done in no time.  He went home with a dozen eggs.  Inside the Big Barn dog door I created a pen that Millie can access from outside while the sheep are kept inside.  And in this pen I placed the pool bed. 

To my knowledge Millie has not accessed the dog door in the Big Barn without my coaxing.  Thus, she has not used her pool bed.  Ruby however has been found on numerous occasions in the pool bed.  She loves it!  She would like to stay in that pen and that pool.  It won't be long before I place that pool bed out where Ruby can make the most of it.

Banana peels and pepto bismol

Birch, the ram lamb, has had scours for over a week.  In non-farmer speak he has diarrhoea.  So, in one hand I had a syringe of pepto bismol for Birch and in the other hand I had a banana peel treat for Henrietta the llama.  Both Maremma dogs met me as I entered the barnyard.  They wanted what I was carrying.  After all, it is food.  This is significant considering that several months ago Millie ate very little.  Now she eats the full amount of kibble suggested by the food label, plus goodies I add to it.  I still make one dog's worth of dog food but simply cannot make food for three dogs, especially when two of them are LARGE.

I gave each of the dogs a small piece of banana peel and they wandered away to chew on it - literally and figuratively.  Both rejected this llama delicacy.  Their preoccupation with this activity allowed me to move across the yard to Henrietta.

And as I arrived at Henrietta both dogs were at my sides, again, and both were eyeing the banana peel that Henrietta was now eating.  So, once again, I gave them each a small piece to satisfy their incessant need to eat what another is eating. 

They went away and quickly returned, again.  This time Henrietta was pretty well finished eating the banana peel, at least, I had no more left in my hand.  I still had the syringe of bright pink pepto bismol.  Ruby jumps a lot, still, and now she jumped after the pepto bismol hand.  Then she jumped at Henrietta to get closer to her mouthful of banana peel.  Henrietta responded by spitting that mouthful of banana peel - as only a llama can do - at Ruby - of course she also got me and Millie.

Ruby jumped away and then back again, half leaping up at Henrietta.  The llama's response was to half leap forward, poking her face forward too.  No one was amused.  Ruby does bring this upon herself.

Bashing sheep

Ruby has been well bashed by sheep.  They have become accustomed to her but do not usually like what she does.  She wants to play with them and often approaches them as a litter mate.  They scoot away...  Some of the ewes simply bash her outright whenever Ruby gets close.  And if she's not close they will run four steps to bash her.  This is about as aggressive as a sheep can and will get.

Tall Girl - yes she is the tallest sheep I have - seems to do a lot of Ruby bashing.  Unlike gossipping this kind of bashing is physical.  I have been bashed by a few hundred pounds of ram during mating season.  It is not a pleasant experience.  Granted, Ruby now weighs almost as much as the ewes but they do have a hard head. 

So, one afternoon I was in the barn and observed Tall Girl leap half way across the barn to bash Ruby.  Ruby fell over flat and laid there.  It was not that she was winded.  She has learned that if you lay flat on the ground they leave you alone.  Ruby is more often now seen crawling on her belly in the barn, playing it safe.

Sunday 7 December 2014

One less...

Hunting coyotes is a sport around here.  The deer population is down this year due to an increase in coyotes.  Where livestock is kept the owner has the right to shoot predators.  And a certain level of responsibility since compensation for losses due to wild animals is a provided by the province – that means you taxpayers.

The hunter, Mr. Robert, was referred to us by a service man who has done a fair bit of work for us here.  We had asked Mr. Robert to send us an email when he planned to come and hunt on the property. 

I was in the big city for the afternoon and evening so this really is hubby’s story.  When he returned home from work he found a note from Mr. Robert.

Hubby got the wheelbarrow and headed back to the cabin.  Late home from work there was not much light left in the day.  She wasn’t too big to lift into the wheelbarrow; she being the dead coyote.  At the barn everyone’s full attention was on that wheelbarrow.  Part of this is that the animals were looking for dinner.  I had given them ‘lunch’ which I normally don’t do, to see them through the day until hubby gave them a ‘light dinner’ and tucked them into the barn.

Henrietta came over and looked at the carcass.  She startled, wiggled and squiggled and scampered away quickly – our collective powers of exposition are inadequate to describe Henrietta’s peculiar movements.  I have wondered before if she is afraid of coyotes, perhaps having been chased by one or more since her arrival here.

Ruby looked then growled deeply, recognizing this as an intruder.  Millie leapt for the coyote’s throat which resulted in her landing in the wheelbarrow, and then she began to drag it out.  Thus, one can surmise Millie has had some serious experience with coyotes and has little fear of doing her job.

All of the sheep gathered around the wheelbarrow.  I transport hay several times a day in a wheelbarrow so this activity is literally the arrival of the ‘haybox’ – the military cook’s food vessel .

In addition to these observations, take note of Mr. Robert’s comments regarding the dogs.  He was not willing to enter the field where the dogs guard the sheep.  A pair of workmen had arrived earlier in the day and the experienced fellow told the new lad not to go near that big white dog; don’t put your hand over the fence…  There is a very healthy respect about for the big white dogs.

It was a late half past eleven when I arrived home, noting that hubby had put on a lot of outside lights for me which I thought was sweet.  As I was unloading the car, Beau dog appeared to greet me, and then hubby.  It had gotten very cold outside.  I was not used to being greeted in this way, especially so late in the evening as usually hubby is sleeping by now. 

“Leave your stuff and come and see the dead coyote” he said.

“The what?!  You shot a coyote?”  I responded.

“I didn’t, but Mr. Robert did” And he began to tell me about his evening.

The female coyote appears to me to be a young one, born this year.  As we later viewed a photo hubby had sent to Mr. Robert we admired the colours in her coat.  Its lovely coat does not change the way we feel about this cunning predator that eats our sheep!

And so when hubby sent Mr. Robert an email to thank him and tell him where he left the carcass for retrieval, Mr. Robert came back with “One less coyote eating your sheep”.