Sunday, February 19, 2023


 I haven’t told anyone that I’m blogging again. I wanted to get a few posts on the hook before I did and then my nature kicked in and I thought… how long will it take for someone to notice? Specifically how long will it take for those who have been nagging me to notice?

So… I’m not saying anything for at least a month. As an experiment. Also because when I got accepted into Cedar’s anthology the local newspaper found out and I had a minor burnt out gifted kid meltdown. (My brain went “SKREEEEEE NOOO PEOPLE WILL BE *EXPECTING THINGS*” and I hyperventilated a bit at work… I had been accusing my mother of talking to locals about it for a couple of weeks and she swore that she hadn’t… and then one of our land renters told her “OH! I saved the newspaper for you, I thought you’d want it!”) 

And a little bit the fact that I now get to discuss my writing while I’m observing people peeing into cups at work… that’s super fun. 

Bright side on that last bit the person who did that made a huge deal out of how proud everyone was of me, yadda yadda… and then demonstrated that not only did she not read the book she also didn’t read the article, because she asked me how long it took me to write the book.

So… mostly for science. A little because I still kinda want to just pull my hole in after me. But mostly for science. 


 Memory is an odd thing. I was reading back through some old posts to see what I might want to write about, and came across the last time I was dealing with chicks. 

In that post I talked about the brooder house and a repair that I claimed was the most expensive just fix it with what we have fix I'd been responsible for starting. 

I don't even remember what that repair was. 

What I do remember is Farmdad hitting the top of his head on the lintel of the door, hard. I remember him saying he had a headache for a few days, and then finally admitting that maybe he should see someone, because he couldn't see anything out of one of his eyes. 

Acute angle trauma induced glaucoma. A sudden increase in inter-ocular pressure to the point of permanent damage. 

He didn't go blind. He did have to get holes lasered into his irises to reduce the pressure, and put up with a lot of eye drops. He did have a pupil that did not want to contract after they dilated him for an exam... it took almost a year for it to close up, and he refused to be dilated after that at all. He got through it, and got most of his vision back, and we moved on. My dreams of finding him the perfect eye patch were dashed, but I got giggles out of his reactions to some of the more outlandish ones I found. Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be much in between utilitarian black and utterly ridiculous in the realm of eye patches, at least for adults. 

But I don't remember what that repair was. 

Now it's gonna bug me.

Saturday, February 11, 2023


 With the price of eggs skyrocketing, I have decided that we need chickens again. However, Farmmom was completely over the whole chicken thing when we stopped replacing last time, so this time we shall have chickens at my house. 

But I have dogs, and town is full of feral cats. With that in mind, we invested in a solid coop with a small run built in. At a later date I'll get a larger run that's designed with a knock-out panel to connect to the setup so that they have more room. 

There's only going to be a few of them, and they're only going to be outside the coop for cleaning it, for a significant period, because chicks. So for now, the small pen is fine. 

We found a coop that has a metal frame, which Farmmom and I both really liked, and it said it could accommodate six chickens. I knew it was an overestimation, but it really is fairly tiny. If you're looking to raise quail it'd be a great one for them, but they can also be raised in 50 gal fish tanks inside your house if you're desperate. Also, don't try to ship quail... we tried it years ago and couldn't get them to survive two weeks after arrival.

Anyway, chicks. We got the coop a while back, and I wasn't in a hurry to put it together because it was cold and I had time. Then I realized chick days at the farm stores usually starts in late February. So last week I put it together.

Folks, let me tell you this: If you ever try to build a 4-6 chicken coop from a box, just know, the directions are worse than Ikea directions and everything is in the three feet above the ground. So you're going to be kneeling or squatting, a lot. 

Leg day from hell. And if you're like me, you'll spend more time doing it because if it is possible to put something on backwards, you will. 

I wanted to take up therapeutic drinking. But I got it put together, all except the last two bolts on the last fence panel. Somewhere, I used long bolts where I should have used short bolts, and I wasn't taking the damn thing apart again to find them, so the bottom of the end panel will be held by wire or zip ties, whichever I lay my hands on first. 

I've got a home for the used bedding from the coop, so I don't have to deal with the dogs rolling in it if I tried to compost it myself, have it take up space in the trash can, or otherwise figure out where to go with it... because I know someone who is starting composting this year, and wood shavings and chicken poop are both great for that. 

I also invested in a panel heater. Given proximity to the house, and the number of times I've sent fire departments to structure fires that started because of heat lamps, and the tight quarters, I decided that a heat lamp was a bad idea. So, panel heater, which doubles as a brooder while they're bitty. 

It took entirely too long to find one of the chick waterers... I found four feeders before I found a waterer, and I'm pretty sure it might be the last one we have. I only need one, though, since it's not like when we were hatching, brooding, and selling chicks. I don't have four tubs set up for varying ages and splitting up broods when they get too crowded.

Today's task was to put the brooder in, and pressure test it overnight with a thermometer. We'll see how well it maintains with the temps in the teens that we're supposed to get. 

Also to clean the feeder and waterer, and the jars for them, those are now drying on a towel. Once they're completely dry I'll put the feeder base back together and go ahead and fill it and put it in the coop. That way whenever I get the chicks whether it's next week or the end of the month, all I'll have to do is fill the waterer and turn on the brooder, and they're set. 

I actually did the math (if you know me, you know that me mathing is an occasion in and of itself, I hate math) and buying a new coop, chickens, and feed for a year, the chickens will more than pay for themselves in us not having to buy eggs, at current prices.  

Another task for when I have the chicks, I will have to convince the dogs that they're our friends to be protected and supported, not entertaining squeaky toys. It can be done with controlled introductions, and I want to handle the things extensively anyway. It's just going to be interesting to train the prey response out of two very prey driven dogs. Wubba may not be interested in fetch, but chase is his favorite thing. I don't know how Scaredy Pup will do with them. He was intensely protective of Wubba when we brought him home, so I guess we'll see if the concept of "baby" crosses species boundaries for him, or if we'll be settling for him just not actively seeking to murder them because they make fun noises. 

Soon: Chicks. In a few months: Eggs. Enough for me and Farmmom, anyway. And Farmmom doesn't have to deal with chickens again, so it's a win all around.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Meditations on Dogs

 I have come to the conclusion that neither my own temperament or the universe will allow me to be without a dog, and given the last nearly two decades, probably two. 

I've realized about myself that when I suffer a sudden, unexpected loss, I want to get a dog. If I already have a couple I can generally control myself. This kicked me in the ass in 2019, when FarmDog crossed the rainbow bridge. 

She was ancient of days, and the bestest of girls, but her seizures had become untenable, and I had to let her go. I knew it was coming in a general sense, she was 16 years old, but the specific timing was... entirely unplanned.

Fuzzy Pup was entirely lost... he had never been an only dog. He didn't know how to be without the leadership FarmDog had provided. I had to sit with him to get him to eat, because he had always eaten second... and he was fourteen himself, he couldn't afford to miss too many meals. 

So I had resigned myself to intensive care of the geriatric Fuzzy Pup for a while. Then one day as I was doom scrolling on Facebook at work, I saw a picture of a puppy, and thought "I should get a puppy."

And all of a sudden it felt like someone had drop kicked me right in the chest. I struggled with it for a couple of months, but Fuzzy Pup wasn't coming around to being the only dog and I was legitimately worried he would pine himself to death. I couldn't have handled that. 

So I looked, and found a young pup at a municipal pound about an hour from me. I set up an appointment and loaded up the Fuzz Bucket to go meet him. 

It was love at first sight. He came barreling out of the kennel and bouncing up to sniff at my hands, and gamboled around Fuzzy Pup like he had known him forever. Five minutes in the yard, half of which was Fuzzy Pup making sure the puppy knew he was older and in charge in a very gentle way, and the other half of which was the pup trying to climb into my lap, and I knew he was coming home with us. 


He was lively, and bouncy, and full of puppiness... which was exactly what I thought Fuzzy Pup needed to pull him out of his funk and bring him back to the land of the living. Then on the way home, we stopped at the Old Homestead because Farmmom demanded to meet her new Granddog... and I discovered that while he may be very emphatically My Dog, the puppy was not a Farm Dog by any means. He was terrified of Farmmom and Farmdad, and I would eventually figure out, of everyone who was not me. Eventually we found a couple of people that he was ok with, sort of and we discovered that the car is a better introduction place than anywhere else. But that was later. 



For the moment I was working with him and trying to belatedly socialize a three month old pup that had been in the pound since he was a month old. I eventually gave up on any idea of him being a friendly dog... I would settle for him not injuring himself trying to run away from situations and hitting the end of the leash full speed. He got better at trusting me, and I got better at figuring out what was likely to trigger him, and we made progress. Teeny tiny baby steps of progress, but we made progress. 




Then in early 2021, Farmdad died. Another sudden, unexpected loss. Compounded by the fact that even at 36 years old I didn't know how to function in a world that didn't contain my dad. I guess it doesn't matter how old you are when it happens, you never know how to do it until you have to. 

I thought I had dodged the new dog thing, having identified the coping mechanism (not necessarily an unhealthy one, so to speak but uh... not really tenable, long term, if you have more than a couple losses in a decade... and the 2020's have served up entirely too many already) and figured I could satisfy both the urge to get a dog, which hadn't gone away for a few months, and the knowledge that I did not need another dog, by saying "let me know if they don't all find homes" to a litter of pitbull puppies from a dumped momma dog. They were freakin adorable, there was no way they wouldn't all find homes. In the mean time, Scaredy Dog had continued to adjust to the world by dint of not having a choice... he wouldn't accept food from anyone but me, so if I went places, he had to go too.

Then I got a call, "Come get your dog."

The universe, or Farmdad's disembodied spirit, or something, was looking out for me. If I had tried to choose the perfect dog for me out of that litter, I could not have done as well. I did not know how much I needed that last, unclaimed puppy, with the brown spots on his shoulder and tail, and the crooked tail from being born breech and having to be pulled. I did not know how much Scaredy Dog needed him. And I did not know how much I would appreciate the fact that he would have the benefit of Fuzzy Pup's example. 

Even at eight weeks old, that pup was nearly fearless, and he knew already that Scaredy Pup wasn't. He was about three months old when he started meat shielding for Scaredy Pup. Wubba (one of his actual nicknames) would put himself forward when rude people wanted to pet strange dogs, and let Scaredy Pup hang out in "place" between my feet, where he felt safe and I could explain that the brown one is Not Friendly. 

Between Wubba's assistance with interposing himself between Scaredy Pup and the world, and his example of approaching the world with a curious mind instead of a frightened one, we made more progress with Scaredy Pup. More slow, slow progress. 



Let me tell you, I have learned more in the last three years about training dogs than I ever knew before. I had never had a collie type dog before, or a dog that was just fearful of the world. I had had people tell me that they wanted me to train their next dog, before, when they had met FarmDog or Fuzzy Pup... and when Scaredy Pup came into my life I thought I was pretty knowledgeable, in a general sense. I knew I couldn't train a perfect bird dog on the first try, and I didn't even want to try to tackle a herding dog, but I felt like I knew what I was doing with household pet dogs. Early on I thought I might have just forgotten what puppies were like... it had been over a decade, after all. Then I figured out that he was just unique in my experience. I learned to use new tools for his own safety, I researched, I put hours of work into just getting him to Chill. Out.


I couldn't do it. Not to the level that I wasn't still concerned that he was going to have a heart attack in four years. So I asked my vet for medication. And that has helped... the medication with more work, and nothing awful happening, has helped more. 

 After three and a half years, last year Farmmom finally got to see Scaredy Pup play. She finally got him to take food from her hand. She has gone on the majority of trips with us, and in the car he would take treats, and limited affection when I was driving, but if she was facing him, he noped out. 

Last October I nearly cried when Wubba and Scaredy Pup were wrestling on a visit to the Old Homestead with some of the Blogorado attendees there.


Wubba showed me that I wasn't as big of a failure as I sometimes felt, when Scaredy Pup would have a meltdown in a place that I couldn't stop and work him through it... when I had to just choke up on the leash and march him out of the area, or stick him in a corner and finish what I was doing at arm's length. Wubba reminded me why I love pibbles. Wubba and Scaredy Pup together helped patch my heart when Fuzzy Pup left me too.

Wubba and Scaredy Pup have come on every trip I've gone on since I got them. They are quite familiar with riding in the car, and hotels. As a matter of fact, they have their own suitcase, a nifty little travel bag that came with food bags and wheels, and lots of pockets. However, given that they are now 70+ and 80+ pounds I'm considering upgrading their bag to a carry on size and investing in one of the larger dog food transport bags intended for week long camping trips.... The current bag is limited when it comes to trips any longer than three days. 

They also have a cooling solution for the car, when I have to take them but can't kennel them in a hotel room on warm days. That one was spendy, but well worth it.

Wubba has had some solo adventures too, to keep him from picking up Scaredy Pup's attitudes. He had a grand time playing with children at little league baseball, even if he was sad that I wouldn't let him chase the ball. (Unlike FarmDog, Wubba has zero interest in fetch. Chasing the thrown thing is fun. Knocking the thrown thing around is fun. Picking it up and bringing it back? Not so much. Scaredy Pup is my fetch dog, and he's not nearly as fanatic about it as FarmDog was.)

 I don't think I can live without a dog. I'm pretty sure the universe won't let me, not for long, but hopefully I have a long, long time before I have to face the prospect again.  Before I have to live without these faces in my life.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Oy Vey.

 Well. Today I was yelled at for not blogging much anymore, and just as I was thinking to myself "but I don't have anything to write about!" someone piped up with a couple of things that I could be writing about. That I kind of do write about, but in blurbs on Facebook instead of here. So, fine, here I am.

A lot has happened since I last sat down at an empty page on this blog... Losses, gains, pain and joy. 

I might tell you all about all of it someday. Not today. Today, I am just making the blank page no longer blank. 

Today I am hoping that whatever creative spark existed in me once upon a time, it hasn't withered and died under the weight of life and the world. 

Today, I am making another track in the world in the hopes that someday, it will matter to someone, as the tracks left on my heart and in my life by those I care about have mattered so much to me. 

Today, for today, I am back. We shall see if the muse has abandoned me for greener pastures, or if she's just been testing her check liver light in the back of my mind for all of these years.