Monday, February 20, 2012

A busy time at work

Regular readers, friends, and relatives checking in for an update on farm activities will have been disappointed lately, since I haven't posted for nearly two whole weeks.

Don't worry. I haven't abandoned blogging, nor have Aimee and I given up farming.

I've just been working weekends.

This began in later January with the start of my renewable energy class at our local community college. The class was pleasant to teach and successful. All the students were older, in their forties, fifties and even sixties, and very knowledgeable. I really enjoyed the experience and indeed had to stretch a little. I certainly spent a good deal more time researching new material and looking things up than I normally have to. I hope to be invited back.

This weekend I took our own Unity College students to the Camden Conference. This was a great experience for me, since the students I took were our very best, and good company. But I particularly enjoyed hearing the National Strategic Narrative authors Wayne Porter and Mark Mykleby.

This last is recommended for all my former mates in the RAF and indeed any ex-serviceman.

Here's a link to their You-Tube version, and to my commentary on the class blog.

So that's what I've been up to. I'll be back with more farm activities soon. Lambing season is all set to begin.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More on the stupid people and their dog

This has been quite the drama.

Still seething, I duly appeared at the Jackson Town Office yesterday at eight in the morning, to see if I couldn't find out whose murderous dog it was that crushed our chickens to death.

The Town Clerk had heard of other chickens getting killed in the neighborhood, but our Animal Control Officer wasn't answering the phone. Apparently there had been some kind of family difficulty. So I said I would call Waldo County Sheriff's Office, to see if the next time this dog appeared and attacked our livestock, I might not just shoot it dead and be done, safely and within the law.

Off I went to work. Later I found time to call the Sheriff's Office during my break.

The Deputy discouraged me from "discharging" my rifle at the dog if I could possibly help it, but told me quite clearly that if I had no choice to protect my animals, I could certainly kill the dog. He also suggested that the Selectors had a duty to provide a proper Animal Control service, particularly in order that our hard-pressed police forces were not tied up dealing with dogs and chickens, and that I should get onto them to make sure that they got on their job. I called the Town Clerk back with this second bit of advice, and was told that the topic of Animal Control would certainly be up for discussion at the next weekly Selector's meeting.

I could appreciate the Deputy's careful nuance. Random bullets winging about the countryside are probably not a Good Thing. But I also made sure to tell the Town Clerk that if Animal Control were not available, I'd have no choice but to shoot the dog.

I then went about my business for the rest of the day, albeit still little upset in the back of my mind that the chickens had been so brutally killed, and that there was very little that it seemed the authorities could do about it. I also dreaded coming home to find more carnage in my dooryard.

Returning from work around five in the evening, Aimee was already home, no further trouble had occurred, and she had good and yet better news.

The Town Office in the next town to the south, Brooks, had called and left a message, wanting to be called back. Aimee did so right away. Apparently they then wanted to know if we had been troubled by a white sled-dog type of dog. Aimee said yes, one grey-white sled-dog had just last night killed four or likely five of our chickens, and given us a good bit of trouble getting rid of it.

Well, then, said the Brooks authorities, we should submit a bill. Apparently they know whose dog this is, and the owners will be paying compensation. A lot of chickens have been killed all around the area, and this dog's owners are seemingly accepting responsibility.

Apparently too, the dog has now been shot, albeit not dead.

A pity, that.

Because unless the dog's injuries are so bad as to prevent it from ever running again, it seems that this particular owner or set of owners doesn't give a damn about their neighbors livestock, and so if the dog recovers, it may be allowed to go on the rampage again.

Better all round had it been killed outright.

How long has this dog been killing chickens? Weeks? Months? Years?

If this was my dog, I'd have taken immediate responsibility after the first attack, and put the dog down myself.

The Brooks Town Office wouldn't tell Aimee who the dog's owners are, but I've half a mind to call them today and tell them they should tell me who or they're sheltering criminals. Maybe if they won't give satisfaction, I'll make a police complaint.

I want to know who these stupid people really are, and why they think they can let this dog run. And, if at all possible, I want them punished so they are dissuaded from doing it again.

Farming is hard enough in our area without farmers having to worry about stupid people and their stupid dogs. And I really don't need this dog around during lambing season. My priority is to get rid of the dog as permanently as possible.

Aimee, for her part, still thinks the owners are the ones to be punished. Opportunity knocking, she ran up a bill last night and will duly deposit it at the Brooks Town Office later this week for payment. She included all the costs of raising the chickens, plus our time spent trying to get rid of the dog.

The total was $282.50.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A stupid person's dog

Here's what we could find of the carnage in and outside our barn yesterday, caused by some neighbor's dog.

Four chickens were killed, crushed to death. One remains missing. The rest were terrified, but managed to run away and hide in crevices and corners.

All this happened in the short space of time, less than an hour and a half, between taking the photo in yesterday's post of the chickens happily sunning themselves in front of the barn, and nightfall when I went out to lock everyone up.

Ernie and I found him in the north paddock, which is being used as the winter sacrifice area for chickens and our very pregnant ewes. I chased him around the paddock with the crook, trying to snag a leg, or at least give him a good-enough blow that he wouldn't come back. When that didn't work, I opened the gate enough for him to squeeze out.

Even so, he still hung around, no doubt hoping to have more "fun", squeezing the life out of our helpless birds. I ran for the rifle and called for Aimee, and we tried to get the Jackson animal control officer's number while I had a bead on him, but the number we had was an old one.

I was in a quandary as to what to do. Although it was dusk, I had a clear shot. I could have killed him or mortally wounded him with some ease, and that would have been the end of the problem. But, I suppose, we wanted to give the owners a chance to do right.

Poor terrified chickens.

And poor sad farmers. I feel a huge responsibility for having not adequately protected them.

We know which dog this is. It's some kind of sled-dog cross, one of those stupid breeds like an akita or husky that can never be trained, and run for ever if they get out. There's no doubt what he did. Ernie and I caught him red-handed when we went out at dusk. We have been seeing this dog on and off for several months. Mostly off, so that implies his owners do keep him tied up or in a pen most of the time. We just don't know who they are.

Aimee said to fire just to scare him off. I did so. Hopefully the owners heard the shot. And I will go to the Town Office early today to see if I can't find out who this animal belongs to.

We don't want money for our birds. We just want to tell the owners to be more careful, and to put them on notice that the next time I see this dog on our land, it will be shot.

I took three of the four hens and plucked and cleaned and froze them. Although their flesh is bruised and bloody, they were fat birds and will make nutritious soup. The fourth, nearly four years old now, was too scrawny. Aimee said that only one was a new bird and thus a regular layer. All will be replaced this spring. So no great loss except to my pride as a farmer and the protector of home and hearth.

But if that dog comes back and goes after our precious lambs in April, that will be another story. Lambs are yet more valuable than chickens and we have friends and customers who rely on us for the nutritious meat and high quality breeders we raise.

Plus, no one in their right mind, least of all a shepherd, wants to think of a poor baby lamb having the life squeezed out of it by some mindless bloodthirsty dog, whose owners are probably too stupid to care.

Aimee said that it wasn't the dog's fault, but the owners who should be shot.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Shortly before we discovered Ernie on the web page of National English Shepherd Rescue, we discovered Flame on the website of, another rescue organization.

While NESR concentrates on the one breed and the operators are very knowledgeable, PuppyLoverME couldn't tell us whether or not Flame, although an Australian Shepherd and possibly even purebred, had any shepherding potential, while it was clear Ernie did. I needed a sheepdog more than anything.

Ernie was just a misunderstood puppy. Flame had been truly rescued, from a so-called "high kill" shelter in Louisiana. Apparently she spent the first twelve months or so of her life in a ten by ten foot pen with a Rottweiler and two other dogs. When the Rottweiler got out and killed a goat, the owner consigned all three to the shelter.

We hedged, and told them we might take Flame as a second dog, or if Ernie didn't work out.

But Aimee was so happy to have Ernie to play with, the thought of TWO crazy dogs chasing each other all over the place was too much, and so Flame duly arrived one day, clearly a great reprieve from the very sad existence that had been her fate prior to rescue.

Ever since then, life on the old farm has been a good deal livelier. See Aimee's Facebook page for more pictures and a movie of them chasing each other in the woods.

And Aimee has been spending what seems like it surely must be a small fortune on doggy toys.

Flame is home now and settled in. She seems to like her new life.

Today's big task was to learn to ride in the pick-up truck with the trash and recycling to the transfer station.

BIG SCARY pick-em up truck. Flame had to be manhandled to her seat, but after that enjoyed the experience.

We also walked in the crisp snow down to the beaver ponds, where Ernie managed to sip off the ice and fall in the brook. The look of shock on his face was quite priceless, as I struggled across the ice myself to haul him safely out by his front paws. Luckily, I didn't break through and was able to get him secure. The water was four feet deep where he went in, and had he let go the ice, he'd have been sucked under.

So I guess Ernie is a "rescue dog" after all.