Even More Weather Changes

March 2, 2010

So we went from a sunny day on Sunday, gloomy on Monday (all sounds kind of appropriate, doesn’t it?)… and today… it’s snowing.

For a while it was coming down pretty hard.


A little snow, or a lot, it doesn’t seem to bother the cardinals.

Cardinal in snow storm.

Snowy days always seem like a good excuse to go walking in the woods and alongside the creek.

Snow on banks along creek.


Creek with snowy banks.

Some of the snow was getting slushy and falling off the trees into the creek with little “splats!”

There’s not really a lot of snow on the ground, but Toby had fun running around in the woods.

Toby having fun in the woods.

There was a little snow along the slews.

Slue and snowy ground.

Spot decided to come out and see what we were doing when we got down around the pond.

Spot walking through snow.

The bottom pasture was also snowy of course.

Snowy field.

By then it was getting so slushy, and so much water kept dropping on my camera lens, I just gave it up and went inside.

Toby and I were tired out anyway.  (Okay, maybe it was just me.)

Toby The Tough

February 2, 2010

Toby is one tough dog.  He makes a pretty good guard dog, big and stocky and weighing in at over 80 pounds.  Usually he’s pretty easy going, but this is deceptive.  Just threaten his mama and see what happens!

A couple of years ago we had one of those rotten roosters that likes to spur you.  Or more precisely, he liked to spur ME.  He was smart enough to steer clear of The Farmer, who probably would have wrung his neck after a time or two.

But me, oh yeah, I was fair game.  I mean, this monster would actually hide around the corner of a building, so when the unsuspecting person (me) walked around the corner, he’d jump out and nab me.

One day Toby saw him do it, and this is the result:

Dog and rooster fighting.

Rooster and Dog Fight!

See, you don’t mess with mama or you answer to Toby.

So I’ve always wondered what he would do if I walked in the house and a burglar or someone was there.  Well, last week, I sort of got my answer.  No, there wasn’t a burglar, but…

It’s like this.  I’d finished evening chores, and just fed Toby and ready to go in the back door.  Unbeknownst to me, The Cave Geek was getting ready to run the vacuum in the den and heard me come up on the back porch.

What is it with sons thinking it’s positively hysterical to scare their mother out of her wits?  (No comments like “What wits?” allowed!)

I opened the door, and there was this over 6′ tall hulk looming over me shouting.  I think it was something innocuous like “Hi Mom”, but that didn’t register until I’d already jumped out of my skin and screamed.

THAT bought Toby right into the fray.  Fortunately for the smart-aleck Geek person, Toby immediately recognized him and went “Oh, it’s you.  Wanna pet me?”

I was impressed. Toby was eating.  Toby is SERIOUS about his food.  Woe unto any other critter that comes close when he is eating!  Yet he came running when I screamed.

What a good dog.

It’s snowing!

January 29, 2010

It started snowing here a while ago, and it’s coming down pretty FAST for our part of the world!

This poor cardinal is braving the snow to wait his turn at the feeders.

Cardinal bird in snow storm.

And there’s snow on the ground around the pond…

But the snow doesn’t keep the sheep from getting out!

And the chickens are standing around under the bird feeders hoping for a treat…

Chickens, hens and rooster, in the snow.

Even Toby likes to play out in the snow!

Toby the farm collie out in the snow.

That’s it for now!  If it keeps snowing like this, I might have to go out in the woods later and get some pictures!

Enjoy your weekend!

Australian Predators of Sheep

January 18, 2010

In one of the comments on the  Dohne Sheep in Australia post, Ceecee asked what other predators bother the sheep at the Homebush farm in Queensland, Australia. I asked Susan about Australian predators of sheep, and her husband was kind enough to send me more information. (Thanks Geoff!)

I’ve added a few extra facts since here in the U.S. we’re not familiar with how these predators became a problem in Australia. So here’s our combined effort, with quotes from Geoff in green:

“Homebush Sheep Predation”

“Feral animals which endanger our sheep are pigs, foxes, and previously domesticated dogs.”

Wild (feral) Pigs –

Feral Pig

Pigs are not a native species to Australia, but were introduced by way of Captain Cook with the first fleet to Australia in 1788.

These days the feral pigs are common and widely distributed over large expanses of Australia. They appear to threaten the long-term survival of a number of species of native plants and animals across Australia by either direct predation of native animals or by consumption of native plants.  They also have been implicated in the spread of the root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi.

And they are a problem when you have sheep!

“Feral pigs are endemic, and hard to control. They are omnivorous, and will eat nearly anything. They are very keen on young lambs. Large specimens have been observed trailing mobs and picking off lamb after lamb from the back of the mob. When killed and cut open they can be seen to have consumed many lambs in one ‘sitting’.”

Foxes –

Fox in Australia (by Joe Tompkins, from the Fox DNA website)

Foxes are feral in Australia because they’re another introduced species. European foxes were brought to Australia in the mid-1800s for hunting. They have spread to most of the continent since that time.   Foxes compete with Australian native animals for food and habitat and can act a source of disease.  They have a major impact on the Australian fauna, predating on ground nesting birds, mammals and reptiles. . . and sheep!

“Lambs are always at risk from all predators. Healthy adults are generally safe from crows, foxes and pigs. Sick adults or lambing ewes are also at risk from all predators, especially crows and foxes. A lambing ewe is a very vulnerable target. Foxes will kill a lamb before it has cleared the birth canal.”

Feral Dogs –

Wild dogs can be a problem anywhere it seems.

All classes of sheep are in danger of attack from dogs: wild, feral or domestic.  A dog, or much worse still, a pack of dogs, can inflict massive damage on a sheep flock.  The dogs will kill many in the mob by frenzied biting and tearing, while many other sheep die from being run to exhaustion, and will die with no signs of being bitten.  Others will survive the initial attack but develop infection. Unless these sheep are treated with an antibiotic many of them will die, or the wounds become a target for flies to lay their eggs in, which develop into maggots, and this also often leads to death.

Interestingly, after an attack it is possible to determine the type of dog which committed it. A dingo (native dog) will attack the flanks of the sheep, whereas feral or domestic dogs tend to attack the head and fore-parts.

I’ve known of many people here in the states losing sheep to dogs.  We’ve even had problems here, but fortunately, there’s never been more dogs at one time than our guard dogs could handle.

Now for the native species of Australian predators!

“Native animals which can attack our sheep are crows, eagles, and dingos.”

Crows –


Well, crows are familiar here in the US as well, but I don’t think I’ve heard of this problem before. . .

“Crows will attack a ewe in the process of lambing, targeting udder, vulva and eyes.  They will attack the lamb during birth or immediately after, before it stands, and peck out the eyes.”

Now that’s nasty!

Eagles –

Wedge Tailed Eagle (courtesy Wikipedia)

These are largest raptors in Australia and are the most common of all the world’s large eagles.  Wedge-tails can eat almost anything of a suitable size, live-caught or as carrion, so lambs are right in there as a viable food source.

“Wedge-tailed eagles will target and can carry away lambs, or tear them into carry size portions. They are Australia’s biggest eagle, and a protected species.”

And lastly, one of those uniquely Australian species…

Dingoes –

Dingos, along with feral dogs, are the biggest terrestrial predator in Australia.  As such, there are considered an “apex predator”, meaning they have no natural enemies of their own, and sit at the top of the food chain.

The attack sheep pretty much the same way as wild dogs, and are seen as a pest by the sheep industry in Australia.

Geoff also noted. . .

“Health of the sheep is a big factor in their vulnerability to attack from any predator, except dogs.  Vitality can be compromised by many factors such as available feed or parasite burden. Nutritional stress simply caused by a reduction in feed quality due to seasonal conditions will impact on the vitality of the sheep enough to make them more vulnerable to attack. Nutritionally depleted ewes have a longer and more difficult lambing, and the ewe and lamb are both slower to recover from the stresses of birth. From their and our point of view a quick birth is a good birth. Our management is highly focused on providing the pre-lambing ewes with added nutrition, especially in adverse seasons, to ensure they as strong as possible for the big event.

Some predation can be rationalized and come to terms with as ‘nature’s way’. When sick, weak, or dying animals are taken for example.  However it is hard to accept seeing the remnants of a mob that has been decimated and terrorized by a pack of dogs, or seeing an otherwise perfect lamb dying because it’s eyes were pecked out by a crow as it slept.

But we try.”

Sounds like an exceptionally good shepherd to me! Thanks for all the interesting info Geoff!

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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!!!