Stubborn Walk and Our Puppy














My DSLR has been needing some maintenance.  I should send it into a professional to get properly cleaned.  I kept telling myself that I couldn’t be away from it for 6-12 weeks as they said it would be.  So it’s been sitting there, waiting for me to do the cleaning like I did once before.  It’s such delicate work, that I was waiting for a time when I could concentrate, which doesn’t really exist in this home.  It’s been sitting there for probably over a month, and finally I realized that I’m going to want it ready to go when this baby comes, and to just suck it up and fix it.

I forgot how much I love my camera compared to my phone camera.  I did my best, and it’s working much better, but I can tell there’s still a button that sticks a bit, and I might have to bite the bullet and get it tuned up.  But not now.  I need it for the baby.

After it was fixed, the sun was going down outside, and I couldn’t help myself but to take a walk.  I haven’t even wanted to walk out to the mailbox since last Wednesday, it hurts so much to walk.  This baby sits so low.  But I stubbornly walked a little around the yard with the dogs.  It was just so pretty.

I was sick of sitting with my feet up.  My mental health required it.  It’s one of the most gorgeous times of the year in our yard, and I just couldn’t stand looking through the porch window anymore.

The meat chicks got out to pasture today.  Our old dog, Lena, who is a black lab/German Shepherd, and about 7 years old has been playing outside with our new “little” pup, Nanny, who is a Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd mix.  She’s about 7 months old, and already a bit bigger than Lena.  She still has some growing to do.  She lives outside with the sheep, and we got her for the purpose of keeping predators out of our yard, which both of the breeds in her do well.  They guard livestock, and are extremely serious workers.  They are nocturnal for the most part, hunting down predators at night, and snuggling all day.  Our last livestock guardian was 2 years old when we got her, as she was being re-homed by a family who just couldn’t meet the needs that her breed required.

A puppy is so different.  Soooooo different.

Lena tries her hardest to keep on top of Nanny.  They wrestle and play-fight.  Lena comes in at night just wiped out, often too tired to climb up the stairs to her bed in our room.  She naps whenever she’s inside and away from Nanny.  She’s lost most of her fat since Nanny came to the farm. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Lena so fit.   She no longer lays around depressed like she did for months after our last livestock guardian, Missy died.  She snores from exhaustion, and is cautious of her hips when she does stairs.  Nanny is an energetic pup.

She’s getting into trouble, like most puppies do.  We finally got her to stop jumping on people.  She knows how to sit, and she knows how to come, at least as well as livestock guardians ever learn how to “come.”  (They consider it more of a suggestion.)  She’s killed 2 chickens.  I’ve heard from other breed-owners that it can take up to 2 years to get them to understand not to chase chickens.  She killed 2 kittens, but we believe that was an accident.  The 2 mama cats kept letting their kittens wander in the barn, and it stressed Nanny out.  She kept picking them up in the back of the neck, and bringing them back to each perspective nest.  She never felt it was ok for them to be away from their nest.  We think that she was too clumsy with 2 of them.

Then the other day, I was pulling out of the driveway and I saw Nanny picking up an animal from the rose garden, and heading back to the barn with it.  I stopped and called her over, and sure enough, there was a black kitten that she was holding from the back of the neck, ever so gently with her teeth.  It was so cute I nearly pulled my phone out, but the kitten was so freaked out that I just reached to rescue him from Nanny’s mouth.  Other than being a bit wit from her slobber, the kitten was fine.  I walked him back down to the barn, and lay him with his mama, which seemed to satisfy Nanny.

That’s not what’s going on with the chickens, though.  She eats those.  Knut ran out to chase her away from eating a chicken last night, and it turns out she was just eating a squirrel.  I have no idea how she caught a squirrel.  She’s ridiculously fast.

She’s a snuggle-bug with humans, and the walk was much more work than I meant it to be because I kept telling her to stop pushing and leaning against me for some snuggles when I was trying to take a picture.  Finally, Lena rescued me and enticed Nanny to a wrestling match, and then they went running all over the yard.

The kids are learning that they actually need to pick up their toys outside now too.

Or they’re destroyed. It’s not a bad lesson to learn.

Nanny has a good heart.  I can already tell she’s smart and eager to learn.  I can tell she has some great instincts.  But the fact that she’s an immature puppy is written all over her too.  Fortunately, they grow out of that.

The Big Mouse Adventure

We’ve been dealing with a mouse problem.  I hate to say it, but we’ve had.  We had a mouse problems a few years ago.  Knut usually set out poison in the barn and unfinished basement, and it wasn’t a problem…until one day I was cleaning out the kids’ toy boxes and saw the mice had nested piles of the poison in the corners of each and every cubby basket.  I freaked out, as you can imagine. Then, even though I’ve never been a cat person, we got a bunch of the sweetest, most social barn cats from a friend of a friend to replace the poison.  We haven’t seen a mouse since.  Sure, we see evidence they leave behind in the unfinished parts of the basement, or outside, but for the most part, we can pretend they aren’t there.

Until this Spring.  I’ve seen the cats play with mice pretty much constantly outside lately.  I’ve seen 3 mice come out into the open in our house in the last 2 weeks.  Also, the back hall closet had some…movement.  We’d be sitting in the den, watching a movie, and we’d hear them squeaking, running around, etc.  It gives me shivers just to think about it.  I knew it needed a good clean out, but I was afraid if I cleaned it out I’d find…well, mice.  Live. Mice.  And I don’t like to find them.  I stand on tables around them…not go out of my way to find where they live.

So Knut got these super awesome traps, and we set them in the closet and then he’d check them twice a day, and for the last week or so, there was at least one mouse found there at each check.  That’s every 12 hours we were catching at least 1 mouse.  I figured we’d get rid of all of them, THEN I’d clean it out when the coast was clear.

I know I’m a scaredy cat.  I admit that openly.

But yesterday, Knut cleaned out the traps when he got up in the morning.  Then while we were eating breakfast, we heard both traps go off.  I was so grossed out at the consistency we were catching them, I said “That’s it!  That’s it!  We are cleaning it out TODAY!”  I was planning on doing it this weekend, but I couldn’t live with them in there anymore.  I was planning on doing some cooking for the rest of our busy week, and get a few projects done.  All of it was canceled.  The mice needed to be evicted.

So obviously, I paid one of my kids to do it.  David’s my big strong man of the house when Knut is planting the fields during spring work.  Then we broke house rules and brought a series of barn cats inside to supervise his work.  Only 1 of the 3 cats we chose to bring inside showed any interest in chasing the mice that we found.  The other 2 were overfed…and they have barely touched the food we give them lately.  There’s been a lot of mice in the barn too.  But I don’t live there.

It’s what we get living yards from the farm’s grain bins, I guess.  It’s just been a bad spring in that department.  We are down to only 5 cats right now too, and the mice problem is really more under control when we are between 8-10.  We think one of our cats, Midnight, might be pregnant right now, so…I hope so.  Believe me, I’ve asked the humane society for cats, multiple times, but they say cats aren’t for chasing mice, and they will only give out declawed, inside cats that sit around all day.  Those cats sound bored.  Our cats have all sorts of fun.  We feed them and take care of them.  They get a ton of affection from multiple people in our family.  They just have a job to do…and they love to do it.  We have a philosophy that animals are happiest when they are doing what they were bred to do.  Missy is happiest outside chasing predators.  She is constantly scanning the horizon for threats.  It fills her heart with joy.  You can see it all over her face.  Lena is a companion dog, and is happiest when toddlers are using her as a pillow, or playing fetch.  The chickens like to eat bugs and scratching the dirt.  So we don’t keep them in a room and feed them specially formulated food, and cut their beaks off because they can get bored and peck each other like commercial operations.  We let them all over the yard to dig for bugs, and eat all the ticks we seem to breed there.  They are so happy and don’t bug each other, and I really think it effects the quality of our eggs.  Our cats are hunters.  I cannot imagine them being happy not hunting.  It’s all about respecting the animal.

Mice have the job of dying.  I have no sympathy for them.  I know God created them too, but…I just can’t.  They’re food for cats.  That’s their purpose in my mind.

We’ve also learned that animals are essential to avoiding chemicals.  If we didn’t have free range chickens, we would spend hundreds of dollars a year spraying for ticks in the yard.  Before chickens, we picked 2 ticks off our kids a day.  Since we got chickens a few years ago, we see 1-2 a year.  If we didn’t have cats, we’d have to go back to putting poison everywhere and find it in the kids’ toy boxes again.  If we didn’t have Missy, the chickens couldn’t range and find ticks.  If we didn’t have Lena, we’d have to buy real floor pillows.

Well, once everything was out, and everything was vacuumed up, David decided he didn’t want to do anymore.  He was so overwhelmed with the mess.  The closet contents were spewed across 2 rooms in all of it’s mouse chewed/pooped glory.  I rubbed some essential oils that deter mice all over the floor and baseboards of the closet.  We took a trip (it ended up being 2 trips) to town to get plastic tubs to put everything in.  This closet under the stairs stores the bulk flour, wheat, rice, oatmeal, etc. for the family.  One half bag of flour was ruined, but the rest of the food was untouched because it was actually stored better.  They’re all in tubs now anyway.  Some of the Christmas boxes were chewed through, and several party things, and a hodgepodge of items were chewed through.  I threw away about a 1/3 of the closet’s content because the mice had ruined it in some fashion.  So today we have to take a trip to the dump.  (We don’t get trash pick up way out here.  We try to recycle as much as we can to avoid trips to the dump, but this stuff seriously needs to go.)  Everything got crazy clean before  it went back into storage, and I think I cleaned the rooms I was sorting through all this stuff in about 4 times after it was all gone.

The good news is that I had to get rid of so much stuff that my vacuum fits in there again.  So that’s a bonus.

And this morning?  The traps were full again.  So I guess the cats missed a few.  Actually, I think we’ll be catching them for awhile, but with an aggressively clean space, they’ll start running out of food options.  I hope.  I’m not ready for an inside cat yet.  Don’t tell Silje, but this event has nearly brought me there.  That’s how traumatizing it’s been.

Training Missy and Silje the Photographer

The other evening was just so beautiful that the whole family was out in the yard working.  Knut got his roses uncovered from their winter bedding of leaves, and convinced Elias to practice biking without his training wheels.  I was working with Missy’s electric fence collar, and working on expanding her territory, while keeping her away from the road.

Last fall, we finally caved and got her a GPS controlled electric collar, that so far has been working really well.  It’s not just that she crosses the road, it’s that she likes to nap on the road.  She just likes to chill there and bask in the sun, and feels it’s a great place to watch for cars.  Not cool, Missy.  Not cool at all.

We need her so badly for our other animals, and the animals we intend to get.  I don’t think we would have indulged for just a “pet.”  She is absolutely the best guard dog I have ever met.  She is so kind, but so alert and so smart and intuitive…besides the whole napping on the road thing.

My favorite was last fall, when Elias and Solveig were playing with the facet outside and making a big wet mess.  I told them to turn off the water, and they did.  5 minutes later it was back on.  I told them again to turn off the water.  It was too cold, and too messy for that day.  They turned it off.  Then Missy walked over and sat herself right in front of the facet to block the kids.  She was like “Nanny” from Peter Pan, saying, “Now run along kids.  We’re done here!  You heard your mother.”  She doesn’t snap at the kids, but I have seen her use her body to block an area, or even lean in towards them to make sure they stay put.

Actually, she did this with me during harvest last year, because she was nervous when I was going back to the grain bins to give Knut his supper.  It gets really loud over there when the grain dryer is running, and she thought it could be dangerous for me.  I had to tie her up to get back there.  It’s not exactly fair that I do all the training with her, but Knut is her favorite.  She hangs on his every word.  If I’m working with her, and Knut enters the yard, I’m invisible to her.  It’s all about Knut.  She loves him so.  (Knut thinks that because I have such a small stature, Missy thinks I’m one of the kids…which might be logical.)

Lena, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything to keep her close to the house.  She’s too scared to go 10 feet away from any of us.  Her running off has never been a problem!  The only thing Lena is good at is being a cozy reading pillow, and playing fetch.  Oh, she loves playing fetch so much!  Try playing fetch with Missy, and she’ll give you a look that says, “Well that was stupid.  Now you’re going to have to get it.  I’ll stand guard while you do.”

Missy is a working dog and likes to be treated as such.  We can now set her boundaries via GPS, and she gets a sound to let her know she’s hit her boundary.  15 yards later, the collar starts vibrating, and 10 yards after that, it will shock her.  These large “zones” of stimulation is great for a dog that runs as fast as her.  Seriously, seeing her run is a sight to see!

So far, she stops at the vibration, but now that she knows the boundary, the sound that we humans can’t hear is enough to turn her around.  There’s white flags that we’re supposed to put up to be a visual reminder of her boundaries, but I didn’t see the point when the yard was covered in snow.  That’s my next project.

Unfortunately, we also found out this collar doesn’t work when the temp outside is below 10 degrees.  So now that the weather is nice, we’re working hard to get her boundaries set in her brain.  We had a smaller territory set for her because I was having difficulty setting it with the large snow drifts and lack of access to some of the locations.  Now that it’s all set, we can do some more serious training with her to keep her off roads, while allowing her several acres to roam, which her breed requires.  Hope this works before next winter!!

Ingrid was running around about as wildly as Missy in the grass.  They were both excited to stretch their legs.  I feel bad I missed a few pictures of them checking each other out.  Ingrid loves dogs so much, and Missy is a good head taller than her.  Whenever I saw them kissing each other, though, I didn’t snap a picture but ran to catch Ingrid because Missy just has to walk past her to knock her down.

Anyway, as we were all busy, and Silje was looking a little lost, so I handed her my camera and told her to snap some pictures for me.  


My kids know not to touch my camera.  Silje has her own, but it’s not nearly as nice.  She was shocked and excited.  So she carefully went around the yard and snapped pictures for several minutes.  I got to see the world through her eyes.  What a treat for me!

Of course, the vast majority were of animals.  :)

The picture seen above was mine, but here are some of her gems out of the 50 or so pictures of hers I found:

  (She was especially proud of her chick pictures)

I see a photography class in her future.  Imagine the things I’ll learn when she starts researching everything to death, (like she always does) and then comes running and telling me all the exciting parts.   I might finally learn all the things my camera can do!

Animals and Cold

The Christmas decorations are slowly getting put away in their tubs for the year.  After this stretch of insanely cold weather, we’ve had a bit of reprieve, and resuming my walks has felt like coming up for air.  The animals are venturing out again, as well.

What to do with Missy was quite the discussion for awhile.  Lena, of course, was inside during the deep cold.  We moved all the cats together down to the barn during that time as well.  Missy?  Well, her electric fence collar battery doesn’t work in the deep cold, and I felt very strongly that she should be down in the barn with the cats, since she does not enjoy the indoors.  She likes to take naps on the road, so if the electric collar wouldn’t work, we’d have to keep her safe somehow.

What happened, though is she got so stressed out being cooped up in the barn that she started vomiting.    She couldn’t stand the idea that she couldn’t get out to see what was going on.  Is it silly that I can physically see her relax when she can see the horizon?  So then, after a few phone calls with other Great Pyrenees owners, we were convinced that the hard cold doesn’t bother this breed, as long as she has access to shelter, she can be outside.  We don’t need to force her into a building.  Even then, some owners said that given the option of being inside, or outside in -50 degrees, their dog chose to be outside.

This type of guardian dog is bred to be outdoors with the animals they are guarding.  They’re not little lap dogs.  She is a hard core working dog/mini polar bear, and it’s taking me awhile to get used to that.  I think it’s amazing, but it’s just so different from my city-animal mentality.

So we tied her up with a long cord near the doghouse, so she could get at least some shelter from the cold, and she couldn’t get to the road.  She was not a fan of being tied up as she’s used to roaming with her electric fence that doesn’t work below -10.  Still, she only retreated to the doghouse for shelter at night, and even then, not always.  She loved sitting on a little drift on the side of the driveway where she could see everything, even though the crazy-cold wind was blowing right at her.  She makes this city girl shake her head in amazement.  Her desire to be alert to all that is going on with our property, scanning the horizon consistently for any possible threat is her passion.

She has a stubbornness to be where she wants to be, and doesn’t like her decisions to be questioned.  I’m learning to trust her instincts… as long as those instincts don’t lead to napping on the road.

Even though the yard has a deep layer of snow, we’re deciding which laying chicks to order for delivery in another month or so, and Silje and I are browsing the seed catalogs already.  Our 9 chickens in their coop have been handling this winter pretty well, and just so barely started producing enough eggs that I no longer have to supplement with eggs from the store.  It’s hard to catch them before they freeze, but the weather was so nice today, that none of the eggs were cracked when I went to gather them.

Pineapples are in season right now at the grocery store, and I’m dehydrating a bunch.  The juicy scraps have been going to the coop for our poor, bored chickens who aren’t allowed outside to scratch in the snow.  I think we should put an ash pan in there tomorrow so they can take turns taking a dust bath.  Keeping them occupied to not pick on each other gets tough this time of year.  We only have 9 in there right now, though, which is less than half our capacity.  They’ve been doing pretty well with all the extra wiggle room.  I wish we had another 5 or so, so I wouldn’t have to ration our eggs so strictly.

This snow won’t last forever.  A few more months, at least, but not forever.