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Friday, July 12, 2013

I'm back...again!

 Hello there! It's been quite a while since I wrote about life here on Hickahala Ranch. My apologies for that...I've had my hands full (as usual). I have to biggest reason for not blogging is that I forgot my password! So tonight I finally sat down and figured out how to reset it!

As you can probably guess from the photos we've had a few new members join the family and, sadly, we've lost an old one that is missed.

Pictured above is little Max. I found him last December running down a deserted road late one cold rainy night in the Bankhead National Forest Wilderness Area. Of course I stopped immediately, hopped out and snatched the frightened little boy up and brought him home (a two and a half hour drive).

Max is a chihuahua/dachshund mix and was only four months old when I found him, weighing a mere six pounds. He's doubled his weight now and is quite a round little sausage of a dog. He's a Mama's boy too, of course!

Next is our most recent family member, Bailey. Don found her sitting next to our garbage can when he left for work one day a few months back. She was also about four months old and is a boxer mix.

Like all the dogs we find, Miss Bailey fit right in with the other dogs and is a happy-go-lucky
girl who loves to play and jump in the pond. She's like a bull in a china shop, but is such a friendly sweet girl I can't help but love her.

It is with a sad heart that I have to add that we lost dear old Drake a few weeks ago. Drake was nearly 14-years-old and was suffering congestive heart failure. Meds helped him for a while, but age caught up with him. Fourteen is very old for a Labrador, so we were fortunate to have him in our lives for such a long time.

A kind soul to the end, Drake released us from the hard decision of taking him in to be put to sleep. While I was grocery shopping he slowly followed Don to the pond where the other dogs were playing. Drake loved to go swimming, but hadn't made it down there in several months. I guess he wanted to leave this earth doing what he loved best though. Don watched in surprise as Drake swam out to the deep end and took a few laps. Then he paused, looked at Don for a moment and slipped under the water. Don dove in and pulled Drake out, but he was gone. Rest in peace old fellow. We miss you.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Kitchen Frogs and Other Oddities...

Life on the farm is kind of laid least according to John Denver. Life on our farm has been kind of odd lately, but that's the way we like it. Okay, life on our farm is always kind of odd with all the dogs, cats and other critters we live with...some odder than others.

For instance, the other night I was cooking supper and had to get something out of the freezer, which is in the laundry room. When I walked back into the kitchen a tiny little toad was sitting on the kitchen counter next to the sink. I was taken aback for a moment, but realized he must have been in the potted plant I'd brought in earlier in the day (it was still sitting on the counter). I scooped Little Toad into a jar so I could show Don before setting him free. 

A few minutes later I stepped into the hallway to get something from the pantry. When I returned to the kitchen there sat a teeny toad on the kitchen counter looking quite content. I immediately wondered how such a small creature could have gotten out of a tall jar! Imagine my surprise when I realized that the first froggy was still in the jar. 

The rest of the evening I kept my eyes peeled looking for more baby toads, but these two were my only visitors. After showing them to Don they were put back where they came from - outside the garage under the floodlight where all the night time bugs gather. I'm sure they are both fat frogs now, even though I didn't invite them to have supper with us.

Early the other morning we were awakened by the most distressing cries coming from the fenced in front yard. I got up to see what was going on and was quite surprised to see a white-tailed fawn in the yard! I don't know how the little thing got over the fence, but it was panicked and couldn't figure out how to get out. Our dog Teagan was barking at it, but the other two dogs, Angus and Caoilainn weren't paying it much attention. In fact, Angus was asleep! 

Don threw on some clothes and hurried out to see if he could catch the fawn. I was able to call the dogs into the house and then went to slip on some shoes so I could help Don. However, in the few minutes I was gone the fawn managed to squeeze its way THROUGH the fence and ran off towards the big pond. 

I assured Don that the doe was probably standing in the trees at the pond keeping an eye on her baby. He was worried because the fawn was still young enough to have spots and it had banged itself up a bit trying to get through the fence. We are both still amazed that our dogs didn't touch it. Don said Teagan appeared to be trying to herd the fawn, not hurt it. We haven't seen it again so I'm sure baby and mom were reunited.

Last, but not least (that would be the baby frogs) was our critter adventure last night. I went out to the garage and as soon as I stepped out I noticed my cat Norah was trying to get something from behind the cooler where the dog food is stored. Cautiously (as in I stood in the house and leaned way out) I used the flashlight to see what she had. Poor frightened little field rat! It was huddled up and trying to be invisible, but Norah kept circling and trying to figure out how to get Mr. Mousie. I quickly closed the door and let nature take its course.

When we were getting ready to go to bed Don put some of the dogs in the garage for the night. I asked him if the little rat was still there and he wasn't sure so I got the flashlight and we checked again. Amazingly, it was!  I convinced Don that the poor thing was terrified and the dogs would make quite a ruckus if they found it. My soft hearted husband put on his work gloves and carefully caught the little rodent who squeaked in terror more than once.

We took the rat outside and set it free in the grass. As we stood there watching it make a cautious getaway I told Don that we were probably the only two people on Earth who would go into their garage at 4 a.m. to rescue a rat!

I guess we're just two soft hearted  oddities ourselves, but I don't think being odd is a bad thing. It certainly keeps things interesting around here!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kenobi's been quarantined!

Monday afternoon while I was out doing my weekly shopping Don called to tell me Kenobi's lump had ruptured. This upset me terribly as I was hoping to get her to the vet and have it lanced before that happened. She's now quarantined in the dog kennel by the house and not very happy about it. I know she misses Obi and Juan, but it's best they be separated for a few days while we care for her wound.

When Don found her he tried to clean up the ruptured abscess as best he could. From what he told me, Kenobi put up a good fight (he chased her around for 30 minutes...usually she's underfoot) and was quite vocal in her protests. This did not sit well with Obi and Juan who began butting Don in the, well, butt. This made any kind of doctoring quite difficult. I have to admit, I wish I'd been home to see it as Don's description gave me the giggles.

Don took Kenobi to the vet where they lanced the abscess and cleaned it out. The vet hasn't done any tests, but says it looks like CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis) a horrid bacterium that has no cure. It affects the lymph system and is highly contagious, hence the necessary quarantine. You can read more about it here: if you'd like.

I am hoping that it isn't CL and is just an abscess due to a small wound or insect bite. Goats are notorious for such abscesses. If it is CL the other goats have already been exposed due to it rupturing in the goat pen. Makes me sick, but there's no sense in beating myself up over it. The vet told me not to bring Kenobi in until the lump softened so I waited...waited until it was to late.

Fortunately, other than the abscess Kenobi got a good bill of health. She's a nice 57 pounds, is clear eyed, eating well, etc. Vet says she'll be fine. I won't be able to breed her or use her as a milk goat, but that's okay. Obi, Juan and Kenobi will just be dogs with hooves that "baaaaaa" instead of bark!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hello August!

The dwindling pond

August and the dog days of summer have arrived! Only thing good I can say about August is that it's one month closer to Autumn! Just today I noticed the days are getting shorter. Normally I do my evening chores as late as possible in hopes that the temperatures will be a tad bit cooler. Usually that means I'm back in the house by dark, which has been 8:30ish. Today it was 8:00ish and dark already.

The heat has been a real bear, but fortunately all the animals seem to be dealing with it okay so far. I expect it will be worse before it gets better, but the rabbit gets his bottle of ice to cuddle with, the chickens, ducks and goats have shade and fresh water and the dogs stay inside in the air conditioning. They're not about to lay around outside during the dog days of summer!

Hermione and Teagan
Even the cats have found ways to stay cool. Some of them refuse to go out, some of them prefer lounging on the cool concrete floor in the garage and, as you can see, Hermione likes to spread out on the floor with the dogs so she can cool her belly on the floor. More often than not you will find her sprawled out like this with her belly spreading out on each side of her body. It's like she has plastered herself to the floor.

Guinness, our Husky mix, is the only dog to lay like this.. He likes to lay on the back porch with his rear legs sprawled out to the sides. Being a large dog, it's a funny sight to see.

Even the two barn cats have given up the relative cool of the barn for the garage. Harley and Murphy both can be found snoozing in the garage. Murphy sleeps like the dead in the most awkward positions. One of these days I'll have to share a photo of him. Coming home from the grocery store Monday evening I found him down by the pond sprawled out in the middle of the driveway. He never even twitched as the truck got close to him, which scared me badly. I just knew he'd suffered heat stroke or something and was lying there dead. Jumping out of the truck I called his name and he slowly raised his lazy head and yawned at me. WHEW...I moved his lazy self off the driveway so I could drive on up to the house.

Speaking of the pond, it is getting awfully low. I haven't been down there fishing since Don killed the huge water moccasin. Nearby Arkabutla Lake is so low that I see dead fish floating on the edges of the lake when I go to Hernando to do my shopping. It continues to be terribly dry and hot here. Today I dug up an onion for supper and the ground in the garden is dust on top and dry as a bone beneath the surface. It was so hard I was barely able to get the shovel into the ground around the onions. No way would I have been able to just pull it out of the ground!

So I welcome August and hope it passes swiftly! I'm yearning for cool Autumn days and autumn rain pattering on the roof.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

They ambushed me!

Short blog tonight, not because I have nothing to say (Don would agree that my having nothing to say is an impossibility), but because it is very painful to type tonight. Plus, little crumbs of baking soda keep falling all over the keyboard and computer chair!

This evening I was out cutting down some brush for the goats to munch on when I obviously stirred up a wasp nest. Those things are fast...I never even saw what kind they were, but suspect they were the same nasty red wasps that got me last year. One got me on the outside of my right arm just above the elbow and the other got me on the inner right arm on the bicep...and then I was running and screaming like a banshee. 

I am mildly allergic to wasps and by the time I finished my evening chores and ended to the house for Benadryl  and a paste of baking soda for the stings I was having cold chills and light-headedness. Now that I'm medicated I am just having pain...these stings really, well, sting! The one on the inside of my arm rubs against my tee shirt so it feels better if I hold my arm out away from my body...which makes typing difficult.

Y'all have a good night and be careful outside. Obviously there are wasps waiting to ambush an unsuspecting person everywhere. If they do get you remember to administer a paste of baking soda and cool water to the sting as quickly as possible. It really does help!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things I've learned since becoming a goat granny...

Spent some time this evening in the goat pen, which includes the chicken, duck and rabbit pens. I had a few things I needed to do on top of the normal feeding, watering and petting everyone. Doing anything extra is quite a feat with my three new "helpers" underfoot, even a simple thing as going in and out of the gate. I've never had goats before (my Daddy did though) so I've been learning a lot since getting the three amigos...learned some stuff today too! For example:

1. Goats like to stand on things. Now, I knew this already and had put some sycamore stumps, etc. in the pen for them before they arrived. However, I've also discovered that they will get in ANYTHING. One day I had the wheelbarrow loaded with fresh hay for their house. I raked out the old hay, turned around and Obi was standing IN the wheelbarrow munching hay. I managed to get her out, put the hay in the house, turned around and Kenobi was standing in the wheelbarrow! She did NOT want to get out and we had a serious discussion about how she could tip the wheelbarrow over and fall. I finally convinced her to get out and let me go about my business.

2. If you lean said wheelbarrow on the fence the goats will have to go behind it to see what's back there. If you lay it on its side so they can't knock the wheelbarrow over, they will put their front hooves up on it to see if they can knock it over (they can).

3. Even male goats think they are boss. Juan is pretty sure he is king of the hill and, although he's to shy to let me touch him, he has NO problem butting in (literally) on what the girls are doing.  Juan is always kicking up his heels and pushing the girls out of the way at dinner time. He's quite a little rascal with them, which is funny considering how scared he is of me! He was also scared of the dogs at first, which makes me think Juan is just all bluff and bluster.

4. Goats are picky...sort of in a strange way. They have loved munching on the small elm tree, the hedges and various other vegetation in their pen. They haven't touched the grass. I have discovered that if I pick a blade of grass and offer it to Kenobi she will eat it and ask for more. Of course, once Obi realized what was going on she had to come over and eat some grass too. Kenobi took offense to that and there was quite a little tussle going on despite the fact that I tried to explain to them there was grass all over the ground and plenty to go around. I do believe goats are hard more ways than one!

The thrilling part of this little fight over being hand fed blades of grass is that Juan came up to me yesterday to see what all the fuss was about and even took a blade from me! I'll win that handsome guy over one way or the other.

Yesterday I was going to put up a tarp (actually a cheap plastic tablecloth with flannel backing I found at the Goodwill Outlet) to provide the ducks some extra shade. That didn't happen since Obi decided the red tablecloth was food and every place I attached it to the fence she attempted to eat it off. So today I executed Plan B...their leaky kiddie pool is now upside down on four sticks I pounded into the ground. I put it up in one corner of their pen and ran a longer stick catty-corner through the fence across the top of the pool to keep the wind from blowing it off. It's a temporary fix until I can come up with a Plan C.

Today I discovered that I can NOT set a bag of feed down in the goat pen while opening the gate to the chicken pen. The three stooges almost had that bag of scratch chewed open in the few seconds I had my back turned to them! I guess it's partly my fault...I give them bits of corn out of the chicken scratch and they probably thought I'd brought them a 50 pound bag of treats!

5. There's a reason you need good fences for goats and it is not because they'll jump over them. No, the reason you need good fences is because goats like to rub on the fence...and rub...and rub...and rub. Now my goat fence bows out all the way around the pen. 

6. Goats are affectionate, fun and good company. Until I got Obi, Juan and Kenobi I didn't realize just how companionable goats could be. I know my Daddy's goat, Junior, followed him around like a dog. As soon as Daddy walked outside in the morning Junior would jump the fence and follow him all day long. In the evening Daddy would tell Junior to go back to the barn and the goat would jump back over the fence into his pen for the night.

Obi, Juan and Kenobi start calling to me as soon as I round the corner of the back yard in the evenings, or if they see me in the front yard. The two girls follow me everywhere in the pen (with Juan doing the same at a distance) and they love to be petted, to have their ears and bellies scratched, their heads patted and their ears rubbed. They listen when you talk to them and they will jump up on you to get your attention. When you leave the pen they will cry after you (unless they're still busy munching on something yummy like sweet gum branches).

7. Last, but certainly not least, I've learned that I really REALLY like having goats and I love Obi, Juan and Kenobi with all my heart!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the right path...

When Don and I first bought Hickahala Ranch it was nothing but open fields and a few acres of wooded bottom land. We loved the way it looked and discussed leaving it like that...natural. Of course, we soon discovered that open grassy fields are NOT natural here and, if left unmowed, our fields would quickly become woods!

As the years have passed by it seems like Don kept mowing more and more "lawn" until he was spending all of his two days off on the lawn mower. This year, he's finally come to the "green side". I've urged him time and again to bush hog instead of mow, to let the horses into the fenced in front yard from time to time and to let me put the goats in the back yard. I seriously doubt that it was my nagging that changed his mind. I reckon he finally just got tired of mowing because this summer he's decided to just mow paths!

He's keeping the front yard mowed around the fence and about ten feet out from the house. He mows me a path to the garden and one to the pond. Pictured above is his path to the woods behind the house. Everything else is left to grow. I think it's great! No more wasting gas (I hate petroleum products and America's dependency on them), no more wasting time on the lawnmowers and no more wasting money constantly fixing the blasted things! Nope, Don is now on the right path...the "green" path that I've been trying to steer him onto for a very long time.

The benefits are amazing. We have more birds around the house...cardinals, hummingbirds, yellow finches and little Indigo buntings, to name a few. The barn swallows raised their family on the back porch and have decided to stay for a while. Some evenings I step outside and there are dragonflies by the hundreds hovering over the lawn. They attract bats, which I dearly love to watch swooping low to catch mosquitoes and other insects. The taller grass also attracts grasshoppers, which in turn help to feed the garden spiders that are beginning to build their webs around the house.

Don has told me to sell the riding mowers in my mom's annual yard sell in October. What mowing needs to be done will be done with the push mower or bush hogged with the tractor next year. It's just one tiny step on the path to a more environmentally friendly farm and I couldn't be happier!