What A Good Dog!

December 28, 2009

A little over 5 years ago, Toby came to live at our house.  I got him from a very nice lady who lived far enough away we had to ship Toby via air.  At the time I got him, my health was deteriorating so quickly, I felt there would come a point I would need a service dog, and a dog that would be a help around the farm.  I figured before I was so bad off I absolutely needed a helping dog, I’d get one and train it.

As so often happens in life, things didn’t turn out quite like I expected.

First off, I discovered it was difficult to do a lot of training.  Not Toby’s fault; he’s super smart.  It was my lack of energy at the time that was the problem.  By the time I managed to do all my “have to” chores, I didn’t have any stamina left to work much on dog training.

Still, he learned the important stuff.  He obeys the commands of “sit” and “come”.  He knows he is not allowed to jump or otherwise cross fences, and he doesn’t go through a gate until he knows I’ve given the okay.

What I have never managed to communicate to him is herding.  His idea is to run through the critters and scatter them.  He has never shown the least bit of interest in bringing animals TO me.

Nevertheless, he is a great companion.  He’s also a good guard dog, so by default watches over the other critters.

Farm Collie with ewe sheep.

He has grown big and stocky, with a lot of muscle.  You can get an idea of his size maybe from this picture of him beside my son, who is over 6′ tall.

Toby, our farm collie, jumping for water.

He and Neffie are good buddies, and hang out together a lot of the time.

Maremma Sheepdog and American Farm Collie

However, the neighbors dogs are a different story.  He doesn’t want any other dogs to encroach on his farm.  If another dog is walking down the road, he goes nuts.  He grabs the woven wire fence with his teeth and shakes it like mad, jumps up on the fence, and barks and growls.

But when he and I are outside of the fences, walking to the mailbox or on the road or even in the woods, it’s a different story when another dog comes around.

He totally ignores it.

I mean, the other dog can be barking, prancing around and having fits, and he acts like it doesn’t even exist, or at least is so beneath his notice he can’t be bothered.  I don’t know if it’s because he figures he’s with the alpha of the pack and I’ll protect him, or if it’s because we’re not in his “patrol” area, so he just doesn’t care.  Whatever the reason, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him totally ignore other dogs getting right up in his face and barking and growling.

This past Saturday, however, was a little different.  The Farmer and I were transplanting some trees from beside the driveway and putting them alongside the main pasture.  Toby was supervising as usual.

Toby and The Farmer going to water trees.

At one point, I had to go out of the fenced in area to get some more trees.  Toby went with me, and when I went back to the main pasture, I left him to his own devices, sniffing around on the banks by the road, still on the outside of the fence.

Now the neighbors across the street have a dog who considers her patrol area is not only their property, but the property of the neighbor right next to them, and the unfenced front part of OUR property which is across the road from them.

Neighbor's dog, Gracie.

As you can see from this picture of Gracie beside our garbage cans at the end of our driveway, she isn’t exactly a petite little thing.  Nope, she’s a fairly good-sized dog, but she doesn’t have Toby’s height or bulk.

Anyway, the point is that she and our other neighbor’s little beagle decided to take on Toby.   I was not with him.  He was outside of HIS usual patrol area.  The other dogs escalated from growling to actually getting up in his face and then jumping on him.

BIG mistake.

Toby exploded into a frenzy of  growls and lunges.  He was really tearing into those other two dogs.  I was afraid he’d kill that little beagle, and Gracie wasn’t faring too well either.  I knew I needed to somehow stop the fight.  From the way things were going, I wasn’t so much worried about Toby, but I didn’t want him to hurt the other two dogs.

Although I’ve never had this work once dogs are embroiled in a fight, I mean it has NEVER worked before with any other dog I’ve ever owned. . . I called him.

“Toby, come!”
And he did.

Oh. my. word.  If a dog will hear and obey you when in the middle of a fight with two other dogs… wow.  What a jewel.  I’m so proud of him!

What a good dog!!!

Farmer Firebug

April 21, 2009

I’m sure I’ve mentioned in past posts that The Farmer is a bit of a firebug.

Well, remember the big tree limbs that fell on our house?  He had all that wood to burn that he cut up and moved down to the bottom pasture. 

This past Saturday there wasn’t much wind, so he decided it was time to set fire to it.  He gathered up a bunch more little twigs out of the front yard to add to his pile and help get the fire going.

The Farmer gathering twigs.

That seemed fairly innocuous, so I left him to his devices and kept working inside.

Later, I decided I’d check on him and see what he was up to.  Well!  What he was up to was not only burning his pile of wood, but burning off part of the bottom pasture!

Fire in bottom pasture.

It seems he decided since that area’s all swampy, he’d just let the dried weeds burn off.  And there he was allowing a huge fire, and hadn’t even hollered at me so I could take pictures.  Bad Farmer!

Dried grasses on fire.

He had quite a conflagration going there for a while.  The smoke was so dense at times, it made it look dark outside.

Fire in bottom pasture.

Our Farm Collie, Toby, helped keep watch to be sure the fire stayed within bounds.

Toby, our Farm Collie, watching the fire.

I was amazed at how much racket the fire made.

I can’t imagine what it must be like in a really big fire, like a forest fire.  The noise must be absolutely deafening!

The Farmer used an old broom to beat out any fire going towards the woods or rest of the pasture.  It looked a little worse for wear by the time the fire was out.

Burnt Broom

It really didn’t take long for the fire to sweep through the swamp and burn off all the dead vegetation.

A pasture full of ashes.

Fortunately, any little critters had time to make a run for it or bury themselves down in the mud.  There was no evidence of any crispy critters once the fire burnt out.

Just so ya know no creatures were harmed in the making of this post.smile-face

Removing The Tree Parts From The House

April 14, 2009

Last Friday, part of a tree fell on our house.  One of the neighbors called to tell me there was a tree on the house (I’d noticed), and he had a couple of chainsaws available to help remove it.  I thanked him and told him I’d pass along the information.

However, by the time The Farmer gets home from work, it’s a little late to start such a big project, so he opted to do it Saturday morning.  

Our youngest son, aka the Cave Geek, offered to help.  I offered to help.  The neighbor had offered to help.  But the first I knew he was even working on it, he’d already got a lot of the limbs away from the house.

The Farmer Surveying Fallen Tree

Yes, Mr. Stubbornly Independent was well on his way to getting the job done, and though we once again offered to give him a hand, he declared it was really a one-person job.  After that, I just stood around and took pictures and wisely (I thought) refrained from offering advice.  

Fortunately, the only real damage done was to the gutter.

Damaged Rain Gutter

It got rather bent out of shape, and the edges of the roofing got a little crinkled, but otherwise, there didn’t seem to be any real harm done.

The Farmer got all the tree away from the side of the house, then started cutting it up into manageable pieces.

The Farmer cutting up a tree.
You need to enlarge this one to see all the sawdust flying!

Fortunately, the biggest tree part that fell on the house was dead wood, so not as heavy as it might have been.  After he cut the tree in pieces, he threw those over the fence for later carting to his burning place in the bottom pasture.  (The Farmer is a noted Fire Bug.)

Look at that strong guy tossing those logs around!

Look at that strong guy tossing those logs around!

After the big stuff was out of the way, there were still a lot of small branches and twigs left on the roof, so Farmer climbed up there to get them off.

Flying Twigs!

Flying Twigs!

The easiest way to get the smaller stuff off the roof was to sweep it off.

Sweeping off the roof.

Just look at that!  Who would have guessed the macho Farmer knows how to use a BROOM!

While he was on the roof, he decided to clean out the gutters.  They fill up as fast in the spring from fallen tree “fruit” stuff as they do in the fall from fallen leaves.  After crawling around on the roof, the Farmer took a break.

The Farmer sitting on the rooftop.

But he wasn’t done for the day.  Oh no!  I may have thought he was, but then I looked out and saw him up in a tree!

The Farmer in a tree.

He’d decided to cut off some more of the dead wood to prevent it from falling on the house in the next windstorm.  However, this tree has power lines running through it.

The Farmer up in a tree.

Of course, those power lines were one of the reasons I wasn’t thrilled about him getting up in the tree, so he didn’t mention those plans to me.

But he got the more limbs down, so I guess he was pleased with that.

Tree clean up.

He certainly had a bunch of wood for burning when he was done! 

And I think he finally wore himself totally out, so he took a rest by the rose bed with his best buddy, Toby.

The Farmer with Toby, our Farm Collie.

The Farmer with Toby, our Farm Collie.

After he’d rested a while, he did manage to cart a few loads off and burn them, but there’s still a lot of wood left in that pile.

I’m thinking it will be a while before all that fallen wood is totally gone!

Toby’s Second Favorite Activity

April 2, 2009

I think we’ve pretty well established that our farm collie, Toby, loves playing in water more than anything else on the planet. However, creeks and puddles and water spraying out of a hose aren’t always available, so what does he do with the rest of his time?

He plays with sticks. Anything from a tiny twig the size of a toothpick to a 2×8 board to a log so big he can hardly drag it around.

We had a big limb fall out of a tree a while back, and The Cave Geek broke a chunk off to give to Toby.

Trying to pull a log away from our farm collie doesn't work.

This was great prize to Toby!

Toby carrying off stick.

Ha, ha!  It’s mine, all MINE!!!!

He carried it all over the place, even though he could barely close his mouth around it, and drooled cause he couldn’t swallow with that big chunk of tree in his mouth.

Toby with is prized stick.

Walk softly and carry a big stick?

This just happens to be his idea of a good time.  In fact, the minute you go out the door, the first thing he does is look for a stick.  It doesn’t matter what size, he’s just got to have one!

After a while though, carrying it around isn’t enough.  He has to chew on it.

(Sorry about the poor quality of this little video, but the digital camera I’m using these days is from way back, and the technology wasn’t so good for video capture.)

The video may not be the greatest, but you can hear a couple of good crunches in there and see those nice big teeth working on reducing that bit of log to splinters.

That isn’t the biggest chunk of wood I’ve seen him carting around, but like I said, he’s not picky about the size.  Sometimes he has little sticks that look like he’s got a cigar hanging out of his mouth.  Sometimes he plays lumberjack.

But whatever the size, carrying and crunching wood rates right up there as his second favorite pastime.

There’s Something Fishy About The Woods

March 31, 2009

I decided to meander around in the woods after the flood waters receded, just to see what might have been left behind.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in the woods was the Trillium is finally up and blooming! 

Trillium cuneatum

Most of the buds aren’t fully opened yet, but these are some of the first flowers around here to welcome spring.

Whippoorwill Flower

This particular variety, Trillium cuneatum,  is also known as Whip-Poor-Will Flower, Cuneate Trillium, Large Toadshade, Purple Toadshade, Bloody Butcher, and Sweet Betsy.  That’s sure a lot of different names for one little plant!

Nearby there was some Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica) blooming.

Virginia Springbeauty Flowers

These little flowers pop up all over the place in the woods.  Of course, after the flood waters had been through, they weren’t the only buds in the woods.

Bud Light

Nestled among the other flowers, there was a special metallic version known as “Bud Light”.  It’s frustratingly long lasting in the woods, and the only flowers that appear with it are the blooming idiots who consume a little too much of this bud’s nectar.

I don’t know if this particular denizen of our woods tried any Bud Light, but he was certainly laid back.

Box Turtle - Male

In fact, this male box turtle was totally unconcerned by my presence and happy to pose for pictures.  How do you like those bright red-orange eyes?  That’s what makes it easy to tell this turtle is a guy!  (The females have brown or light orange eyes.)

He was wandering near yet another patch of flowers, some Yellow Trout Lilies, also known as Dogtooth Violet.

Trout Lilies

They’re another one of the first wildflowers to bloom around here come spring.  They are such a pretty bright yellow, and look particularly cheerful after the drab browns of winter.

Trout Lily

Supposedly, this plant is called a TROUT Lily because the mottled leaves resemble the patterns seen on trout fish.

But these weren’t the only fishy things in the woods.  Oh no.  You see, along side one of my regular paths in the middle of the woods, I found a fish.  Yep, that’s right, a fish.  You want proof?  Here’s a picture:

Fish in the woods.

See, told ya!

At first I thought it was dead, considering the flood waters were long gone and there was only a little puddle of water left underneath it.  However, when I touched the fish, it moved!  Whoa! time for a rescue operation – get it to the creek quick!

I tried scooping it up with what little water there was, but the fish was unimpressed with my rescue efforts and flopped out onto some leaves.  Now here’s where I wish I had someone following me around and taking movies of some of my misadventures.  I mean, surely ONE of them would go over well enough on Funniest Home Videos to win the big prize!

Just picture a chubby old lady chasing after a little fish flopping all over the fallen leaves in the middle of the woods.  I picked it up several times, but it was a slippery little devil and would manage to get loose once more, and there we’d go again… fish flopping, me hopping.

Finally I sandwiched it between some leaves to hold it fast and ran … well, stumbled really, as fast as I could to the creek, trying to get there before the fish ran out of air.  I’m not sure which one of us was gulping for air the most by the time we made it to the creek.

Despite the prolonged lack of water, after I deposited the fish sandwich in the creek it wasn’t long until the fish was swimming off.

Fish in creek.

I took two pictures in quick succession, but by the second one he (she?) was long gone!  (Do you suppose he’ll tell his buddies about his remarkable experience when a strange alien plucked him out of the woods?  Maybe he’ll even appear on the Fishy Springer show on Small Fry TV!)

Since we were by the creek, our Farm Collie decided it was a good time to wade right in.

Farm Collie in creek.

Toby loves playing in water no matter what the temperature is!

As you can see here, the flood waters left a lot of debris.  All kinds of leaves and stuff caught in the branches of this fallen tree.

Tree fallen across creek.

On the bank nearby, I found a black plastic milk crate which I carried back to the feed shed.  I even found something to carry in it on my way out of the woods.

Yes, there was one last interesting thing Cast Away by the flood waters:

Ball by creek.

Like Wilson, this ball was washed to shore. I think it needs a name. Should it be another Wilson or something entirely different? It’s generic, with no name imprinted on it anywhere.  What would you call a little mini-basketball left behind after a flood?

What with spring flowers, stranded fish, a turtle and cast away basketball, this was definitely one of the most interesting walks in the woods I’ve had in a while!

1 3 4 5