Animals – Pets

January 1, 2014 – New Year’s Meander

Even though it was a balmy 5 degrees today, we decided to get out for a while.

We returned to a small creek near its confluence with the Iowa River and brought Daisy along for the adventure.

It looked a bit different than a visit to the same place at the height of summer.

The trees adjacent to the river still show the marks from this spring’s highwater flood mark. All in all, a brisk walk to start out the new year.

February 29, 2012 – Cat in the Box

Really not sure what to say about this!  Our cat, Steve, must be leading a double life as a chicken, looking for a cozy place to sit, or just needing a little uninterrupted “me time.”

cat in nest box

I hope he’s hunting, but his posture doesn’t project an alert mouser.

February 24, 2012 – Snow!

The biggest storm of the year (all three inches of it) at least stuck to everything to make a fanciful landscape.

dog in snow by barn

Doggy in the snow!

snow on fence

Snow fence.

Raspberry bushes.

snow on cold frame

Clear, blue skies and snow. A look of winter.

The chief engineer didn’t design for three inches of wet, heavy snow on the cold frame.  While it didn’t open up to the outside, some of the support wires did collapse.

But of course, under the snow, the water droplets on the plastic remain fluid.

July 25, 2011 – Welcome, Daisy the Goldendoodle!

As we lost our Golden Retriever mix April after 14 years on the farm this late winter, it was finally time to get another dog. I’ve been reticent about getting and indoor dog as one of my housemates is allergic to dogs.  But then they found these that shed much less, if at all.

Here’s Daisy –  named so by Martin on occasion of his 10th birthday.

She looks like a big teddy bear.

Daisy and Martin relaxing on the couch – Daisy is half poodle and half golden retriever – she’s supposed to be about 50 pounds full grown.

one year ago…”A Quiet Day in the Country?”

May 4, 2011 – Polecat

Not a polecat in the traditional sense of the word (skunk), but instead a our black cat Ora, checking out her domain from above.

black cat on pole

Actually, the cat is also monitoring Linda as she gives a supplemental feeding to a couple of the bottle lambs from the set of quads.

bottle lambs

I wonder if the cat might not be licking up any spilled milk after the feeding is over?

one year ago…”Thought on Youth Coaches”

April 17, 2011 – What Should Maizie Do?

Life isn’t always pretty and beautiful on the farm. This post from Maizy proves it.

First off, it wasn’t my fault. Last night my owners gave me too much leftover rib fat and rib bones from their dinner. I had to eat it all, and it went down so easy I had to steal from the cat’s portions as well. Then they locked me up in the mud room overnight. I tried whimpering so they’d let me out when I started having problems. Did they come? No.

dog doo

I missed MOST of their shoes and boots with the four separate piles I left. Now I’m getting the stink eye from them. What do I do? Pretend it never happened? Act all guilty like those dogs in the You Tube Guilty dog videos?

one year ago…”Spring Mushrooms”

February 16, 2011 – Farm Fixture April Has Chased Last Rabbit

Today was the day every pet owner dreads – having to willingly drive to the vet to put a long-time pet away. April had slowly given up the will to live, not eating as much, then not eating at all, not drinking water, and finally the last two days, not moving from her comfortable place in the hay in the barn. So it was time.

April had been on the farm before Martin was born.  The girls were three and five when we retrieved April from the shelter.

For 14 years, April has been part of the backdrop to the farm.

She took seriously her animal guarding duties.  Whenever we packed up livestock, she spent the night close by, instead of in her usual spot.

In her younger days, she accompanied us to cut a Christmas tree.  We’re guessing she was a mix of Golden Retriever and Collie.  We called her our Marilyn Monroe dog.  She was laid back and non-barking – things I prize in a a dog!

Like everyone, she had her faults and quirks – the biggest one was her terror of thunderstorms.  When she was young, she was caught in a hailstorm, and rather than seeking shelter, she ran around in the hailstones – some big enough to break windows in the house.  After that, she would stop at nothing to get into the house during thunderstorms.  She destroyed two doors, before we learned to call her into the house when storms were coming and put up steel doors, so she couldn’t hurt herself or the doors if a storm came when we weren’t home.

It was a good life on the farm – sunshine and children to play with.

April always insisted on being part of the first day of school photos.

Everyone in the family had a chance to say goodbye to April.  Last night,  Claire even did when we put the phone up to April’s ear so Claire could say good-bye and April could hear her voice one last time.

Each child in this world, if they are lucky, only gets one good dog to grow up with.  For our kids, we can thank April for being that special dog that they shared their childhood with.  Thanks April.

one year ago…”Sheep Bagging Up”

June 30, 2010 – Advances in Cat Feeding

With Claire’s recent departure, Martin has assumed the pet feeding duty.

Martin started feeding the cats, and immediately started making changes to the routine.  He added a new bit of technology.  Evidently he was not impressed with Claire’s dump a half pound of cat food out in a pile and run technique.  Martin instituted some new cat feeding technology – single serving cat feeders made out of an old board and tuna cans.  Although not totally apparent in this photo, four tuna cans are screwed onto a board, so all four cats can eat at the same time – portion controlled.

one year ago…”Lake Shetek State Park”

April 21, 2010 – Who Says Cats Don’t Make Good Shepherds?

Over the ages, many scientists, using keen powers of observation and conjecture, have winnowed many complex animal relationships.  These breakthroughs often times explain how seemingly random events are part of a larger unexplained whole.  I had just one such experience this week.  Many people regard cats as having few skills in  herding cloven-footed herbivores.  Dogs occupy most of the herding space, mainly due to their brash and over-the-top nipping, barking and running after their chosen herd of ungulates.

Cats have a different, heretofore, unrecognized approach to herding.  Cats are waaay more laid back – in fact, they’d rather make you think they weren’t doing anything at all.  Our oldest farm cat, Toby, probably about 13 years old by now demonstrated this technique to me, only after our long relationship.  In this photo he positions himself in what looks like a warm, sunny location, but actually uses the adjoining cavern to amplify his voice when he makes subtle voice commands and head motions to move the sheep.

After an initial calling meow, Toby uses almost imperceptible head motions to visually track to the sheep the direction he wants them to travel.  Here the lead ewe begins to follow Toby’s command, alerting the young lambs to come this way.

As his head moves from left to right in this photo sequence, the herd gains speed.

Once the sheep are safely moved closer to the barn, Toby acts as though he had nothing to do with it, even though the sheep look directly at him, awaiting further direction!

one year ago…”Apple Blossoms Soon”

March 16, 2010 – Three Cats in the Sun

Can you find the three cats in this photo? They were all catching some rays on the south side of the barn and since they are cats, didn’t bother to move when the sun went away.

Yesterday was one of those days when the spring list of things to do outstretched the hours in the day. I imagine many people besides me have a long list of things that need to get done. Today, my list included some computer work to keep my employer happy, taking down the Christmas lights, picking up the twigs and branches from the pruning, picking rocks out of the lawn that the snowplowing moved in the snow, and keeping the syrup stove stoked. At one point, I was able to get some peace of mind, by concentrating on being outside on the beautiful day, instead of concentrating on the mental list.

one year ago…”New Electric Fence”

July 7, 2009 – Have They Bonded?

Do you think Martin and the new kitten have bonded?

Oragif is very friendly and can’t get close enough to her people! Martin is showing her how to play in sand.  The other cats and dogs are starting to get used to the idea on a new cat on the farm.

Here’s a “self-portrait” Martin took of himself and Oragif. Looks like he got a lot of the cat and not so much of himself.

one year ago…”Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge”

July 1, 2009 – “Oragif”

A kitten recently wandered on the farm.

We’ve named this kitten “Oragif” in honor of the recently deceased cat “Figaro” (in case you missed it – Oragif is Figaro spelled backwards).  Figaro was a black cat who lived here for many years after mal-adjusting to city/house life.  So when this black kitten came, it had to be named after Figaro.  I thing Oragif is a bit of a mouthful, so it’s already been shortened to something that sounds like “Aura.”

one year ago…”Martin’s Birthday”

February 15, 2008 – More Fun on the Road

The plow has been by a number of times and the road is now at full width, but there are 6-8 foot banks of snow along parts of the road.

On the back sides of the banks on a downhill slope, Martin has spent many happy hours sliding, driving his Tonka truck, and pushing his truck down the drifts, kind of like the Hot Wheels jumps I made as a kid, only this is a much larger scale

one year ago…Thingamajig Thursday #61″

November 24, 2007 – Change of Season

The shorts and straw hats are now packed away and out come the layers of clothes and boots to replace them.

Last Thursday’s snow recedes from the fields as well now that we are in the unofficial season between winter and fall. Shall this season be called “finter” “wall” “fallter” “wintall?” It’s getting too cold to work on some outdoor projects, but not cold enough to make you cringe when stepping outside.

one year ago…

August 22, 2007 – Dog Agility

Emma loves her dog – Maizie.

Here she is working with Maizie on some dog agility maneuvers.  For a little dog, she can really jump – she can regularly clear the top level of the jump.  She’s now about two and starting to settle down a bit and learning what it takes to be a good dog here.  A couple of rounds of dog obedience lessons, some videos from “dog whisperer” Cesar Millan, and she’s on her way – not there yet, but much closer than a year ago. 

one year ago…

January 28, 2007 – A Boy and his Fish

Martin is very proud of his fish. If you look closely, you’ll find a gold and grey goldfish in the bowl. There is much “discussion” of fish ownership between Martin and the girls, who want to hone in on the fish ownership. Martin said “I started the conversation about getting the fish.” The conversation started more like “Dad, can I get an animal in a cage in my room?” Hamsters, rats, ferrets, and guinea pigs were all squashed and he finally seemed a bit shocked, when we agreed to fish. He was one happy boy to get them. It was worth at least two days of perfect co-operation!

one year ago…

December 15, 2006 – Dog House Upgrade

The 50 degree days continue. Was able to get more stuff put away/cleaned up and begin to renovate the 2 buck doghouse. First order of business was the roof.

Here it is after the old roof is lifted off.

The insulating panels are put in place.

Finally, the new steel roofing (leftover from the corn crib- now three sides of the corn crib are done). All that remains on the doghouse is the siding on the walls, but that will wait for a while.

one year ago…

June 16, 2006 – Bad Dog!

We have a bad dog! Yesterday we had a message on our answering machine from a neighbor telling us our dogs had been down chasing the sheep at his place. He also has very small dogs and was rightfully worried. These are things best discussed face-to-face, so I drove down and confirmed it was our dogs and told him I understood and would take steps to prevent it from happening again.

The first step was to buy a doggie trolley to keep Mazie chained up, yet give her some room to move. Next, we’ll get out the training collar and try to teach property boundaries.

March 1, 2006 – In Like a Lamb

March welcomed us with a nice 60 degree day. The most capricious of months, the temps in this neck of the woods in March range from a low of -35 (in 1996) to 90. The math comes out to a 125 degree range, the largest range of any month.

Today I got the pasture overseeded, the small fruit trees to the north pruned, and a load or R board hauled in the trailer – it was just right to carry 24 4×8 sheets with the cargo net – much better and easier than the truck.

Emma took the camera today and took this shot of Skunk. Skunk was the runt of a litter and has finally put on some weight.

November 5, 2005 – Date Night at High Hopes

Today we went to fetch Billy. He and Blaze “hit it off” right away. Blaze’s tail was wiggling and happy to see Billy. We’ll have Billy for about a month before he moves on. Hopefully Paullina’s time will come as well. We can sure tell there is a Billy here – it really stinks in the barn now.

Today Maizie entered the stinking dog sisterhood by finding and rolling in something disgusting. The girls gave her a couple of baths to try to remove the smell.

It was probably a good thing after coming home from the shelter – she is reported to be much more fluffy now.

October 25, 2005 – New Puppy for the Farm

After our experience with Blue and the confidence Emma has gained in dog training, we now have a new puppy. Her name was Missy, but nobody really cares for that name, so we are thinking of a new name. We were leaning towards Maizzie, but when Martin says that it comes out like Macey. So we’ll decide tomorrow and get on with it. We got her from the animal rescue league – she is about 4 months old and a mixed breed that contains some spaniel.

October 19, 2005 – Goodbye to Blue

After a period of decision-making and talking to animal rescue league and our vet, we decided to put Blue down. He had bitten Martin in the face, bitten a neighbor who fed the pets when we were out of town a few weeks ago and nipped at Martin again after we brought chickens back from the locker.

We got Blue from the animal rescue league this spring and he was Emma’s dog. Here’s a picture from one of his first days at high hopes.
She trained him to stop jumping on people, took him to obedience classes and taught him dog agility.

It became painfully obvious to us that doing the easy thing would be to do what so many others do to pets – dump him off in another town, bring him back to the rescue league and not tell anybody about the biting or make up a story to Emma that we did return him to the rescue league. It’s just too bad the the right thing involves a lot of pain and heartbreak.

Emma said it right – it’s not fair to lose two dogs in one year. I agree.

September 13, 2005 – April Does in Another Door

We’ve already replaced one door after April freaked in a storm and destroyed a door. This time, there was a possibility of storms, so the dogs were locked in the garage. This is what the door from the garage to the mudroom looked like.
destroy door
Again, we are paying for the shortcuts of the previous owners who installed a hollow-wall interior door in an exterior location.

August 1, 2005 – Blue

Our new Australian Shepherd has a new collar these days. We just couldn’t break him of chasing cars on the road. Rather than have a dead dog, we bought a “training collar” (which is a nice way of saying shock collar). Before, when he chased cars, he immediately got stern warnings and locked in the garage, losing his freedom. So after a few rounds of that, he would chase the car against our commands, then run in the garage to get his punishment!

It seems to be working. We’ve had it on for a little less than a week and I’d say the chasing has almost (but not quite) completely stopped.

July 31, 2005 – Strange Days

Today was a strange day. We had a small chance of rain, it started about 6:30 am and I ran out to get the laundry. At about 10:00 I checked the radar and there was only a narrow band. By one the narrow band was still there and the last drops fell at 5:00. Two people said the clouds today were the weirdest they had seen. A neighbor called and left a message to look at the clouds to the north (I love the neighbors who alert me to this stuff) and my Mom sent me an e-mail saying they saw some weird clouds north of Ames. Here’s what they may have looked like, as I received both messages a bit after the fact.

April flipped out today. The lightning, although not frequent, dragged on for most of the day. She freaks out is storms ever since she was caught in a hailstorm that dropped hail big enought to break windows a few years back.
This is what she did to the back door before we heard her! This was an ouch on the paws as the broken wood is sharp!

July 13, 2005 – Chicken Loading

We just finished loading the chickens in all the chicken cages for transport to the locker tomorrow. It’s finally become a bit of a routine and marking of the season for us. After dark, the chickens are loaded into the crates and put in the pickup truck. I postponed the appointment at the locker a week since it seemed they weren’t growing as well in the heat. Now, however they seem very nice and plump.

About 4 am, I’ll awake and bring them to the locker, hand them to the slaughtering man six at a time and in a few minutes we’ll have dressed chickens ready to go home.

April has now figured out her job. She used to bark and flail at the chickens as they squawked and fluttered on their way to the chicken cages. Now she just watches and spends the night by the truck under the yard light, guarding the chickens all night long.

We always worry about heat this time of year. It is not uncommon to lose chickens due to the heat. Sugar Creek Farm had just such an experience (my nightmare) earlier this year.

Claire claims she wants to come tomorrow morning. We’ll wake her up and see what happens.

May 20, 2005 – Dog Agility

Emma has been taking Blue, our Australian Shepherd, to dog obedience classes and today got the dog jump apparatus out for the first time. It was a bit of a milestone since it was the first time she has used the equipment since Frankie, our Shetland Collie died unexpectedly. She started Blue jumping over the lowest rung, and moved up to the top, exclaiming, “Blue’s a natural!”


Blue is a very fast and strong dog, so this jumping is no sweat for him, even the highest rung. Got a bunch of tomatoes and peppers planted in the straw that will become next year’s raspberries. All the cages are up and the plants are ready to

April 4, 2005 – Frankie :(

Early this morning when Linda woke up and went to check on Paullina, Frankie was lying on the ground, stiff, only moving his eyes and his ears. We got him to the vet, but he didn’t last much longer. Evidently he suffered some sort of auto-immune reaction which caused liver and other organ failure. In hindsight, we look back and Emma recalls he didn’t want to jump over the dog agility apparatus on Sunday – I recall seeing him try to throw up something (of course, the dogs frequently try to throw up something, so I didn’t think twice about it.) Emma is crestfallen. We’re going to bury him in his favorite blanket and put one of the branches form the shrub he rested under on top of him so he will be surrounded by familiar things…
His last photo March 25.