Thursday, October 27, 2011

All in a dogs day

The old saying goes 'Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning'. Not sure it holds true, but I still notice, and the sunrises have been spectacular.

About 10 minutes later. Still nice. But getting noticeably later every day.

In just a few days, the tide has turned. Rather, the trees. Last Sunday it was hot - 86 degrees. Which is REALLY hot for late October. We sweat our way through some garden cleanup work, and finally stopped before we were really done. While we discussed and cussed at the fabric mulch which refused to come up this year (something different WILL be tried next year), I remarked at the contrast of the trees - some already bare, and the oaks still bright green. Well, 4 days later, they are about half turned. Interesting how each tree is slightly different, but predictable in color each year. One yellow, a couple more orange, and one usually quite red. Genetic diversity is great.

With the cooler weather, and earlier darkness, Dolly has taken to asking to go to bed earlier also. But with that, her winter night rounds have resumed. Which gets her into trouble occasionally.

But first - the rat story. We knew we had a resident in the garage for several weeks. I noticed one day that there were potatoes being moved, and Dolly had taken to spending as much time as possible lying in front of the garage fridge, staring intently at some unknown occupant. Then one day I noticed a pile of potatoes and small sweet potatoes stacked in the crack beside the refrigerator and the counter. I declared war. I wasn't sure what it was, but it had to go. (At least I knew it wasn't a snake, because they don't move potatoes.)

We backed the van out,pulled out the fridge, and proceeded to dig the veggies out. There must have been 25 lbs. Really. And a good share were packed into the drip pan and around the motor. Rotten. Now we knew how he could survive in the garage with no water. It was bad. Really bad. Thank you Don. He could handle it - he works with hogs.

Once the food supply and hiding place was gone, the critter moved. To under the hood of the van. Once again, I declared he had to go. Dolly was wearing her teeth and nails down on the front tire. So one pleasent afternoon I slowly backed the van out of the garage, and quickly shut the door. Dolly said he was still under the van. She sat and watched, while we suited dressed some of the girls who were 'neked' again. About the time we finished, there was a scramble, firece growling, and a yelp. I ran to see. Good dog Dolly. She had the critter on the lawn held tightly under her paws, but it was clearly not going anywhere. Poor Dolly had blood running out of her nose, and was not pleased when I took the sleek, fat light brown rat away from her, wrapped it in plastic, and Don deposited it where she couldnt retive it again. So, we laughed, we now had a 'Rat terrier' as well as a sheep dog. Dolly still checks the garage every chance she gets, but no more rats. (Very glad her shots are up to date)

So, when she goes to the kennel at night, she makes a 'round of the barnyard, checking for any out of place life forms. Occasionally there is a scramble in the leaves, and some doggy mumbling. But one night, there was more.

She lit out from the house at full speed, and I knew something was up. by the time I got to the yard gate, she was barking and growling. But the slope by the drive, there arose such a chatter - actually more like screaming. They were out by the bales, in the darkest part of the yard of course, and there was no moon. The caterwauling and growls was not letting up. I ran back into the house, yelling for Don to come quick. No answer - but he had been at he back door when went out. I went further into the house yelling like a banshee, to which he finally murmured 'What? ' Like I do that sort of thing all the time. sheesh. Anyway, we grabbed flashlights, and ran out. I was a little alarmed when it was deathly quiet. Then I saw Dolly slinking past the garage, headed toward the house.

I called her into the house and light to check her out. She was nervous and shaking, and there was blood around her mouth. But she soon settled down, and seemed ok. After a bit we took her out on a leash, and checked around the barn. The ewes were huddled in the far corner of the lot, but came toward us. We found nothing, so we left Dolly safely in the kennel, and went back inside. Dolly barked several times during the night, and of course I heard.

The next morning, Don came in and announced he had found the screamer - there was a young coon lying out by the garage. Dead, thanks to Dolly. She can quit this moving up in size business. And so, now she is also officially a 'Coon Dog'. Stick to the Sheep, please Dolly.

But the bucks are out, and things are going seasonally well. So until more news 'happens'. We're off to take lambs to the sale in Columbus. Less mouths to feed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We fall down, we get up......

Well, we do. Or at least we always have so far. But not if you are a leaf. And the leaves are falling. Down, for the most part. Except for the occasional passing corn leaf. The windy days of late have heralded the coming of the harvest season now in full swing. The corn stalks that seemed to turn white over night this year have shed their leaves, and now stand naked except for the sagging heavy ears, shivering in the foggy chill or the morning. The leaves blanket the ground now. Except for now and then in the afternoon breeze, when, dried by the weakening sun, a current picks a stray leaf and hurls it toward an unknown foe. I see them pass my window, sometimes arrow straight, sometimes curling and whirling, tumbling in the driving wind. And later I retrieve them from the shrubs and fence, limp and heavy with dew once again come morning. And time marks off yet another day, and week, and month.

We have begun the preparations. The garden is done, the harvest sorted, stacked, and stored. A good size stack of wood now darkens part of the view out my window. Chimney checked? Check. The wagon is filled with corn, and the hay bales stand in covered rows like giant sausages.
I looked up this morning, and it was October. 16th. (sigh). The almost-too-warm days are over. The 'F' word has been heard in the forecast. (freeze). But that's ok. I guess. The second blanket was pulled up without hesitation last night, and savored.

Don even took some 'vacation'. Yeah sure. Last year we actually went somewhere. This year, it was back to a working vacation. But we did get some things done, including renting a bobcat, and an attempt to clean the barn. It was only partially successful, but whats done is done. Since the grass is still growing and the crops in the field, the excavations got piled for the time being.

The lambs had a great time playing atop 'Mt. Sheepoopee' while it was there. But it was clear it was not going to last, so it got moved to the other pile. Sorry, lambs.
The whole mess will hopefully be spread on the garden, pasture, and fields before winter really sets in. (Sorry about the evil eyes. I'm blaming the lighting.)

Meanwhile, the sure sign of the season have been spotted. My mate and partner is usually quiet, often dozing in his chair. Recently however, he has been overtaken by spurts of thoughts and inspirations. His clipboard is at hand, and often I notice him flipping between pages, and making notes in margins. Why? You may wonder, as did I.

Of course - its breeding season. And one mark of a true shepherd is the careful selection of pairings of the flock. The amateur little realizes the complexity of the task. There is much to consider. Body type, condition, color, lineage, fleece and more. There must be planning before procreation.

And the sun sets sooooo much earlier these days. But its still kind of nice watching it.

And the last rose of summer literally blooms by the back gate.

But all is well. The promises of spring are hidden in the muffled shuffle of leaves underfoot, but if you pause and listen, you can hear them. The thoughts of a warm fire and wool sweaters, the gentle click of knitting needles and snow falling on yet green grass may materialize sooner than we think. But bring it on. Seasons change, and so must we. I'm up for a long winters nap. Meanwhile, I can still smell the roses.

And if by chance like the leaves we fall, we'll help each other up.