Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken McNuts

There is a McDonald's on our way to the biggest small town near us. We pass it everytime we drive in and its always busy. Always. Lately they've been advertising an inhuman amount of their Chicken McNuts for like $2. It just sounds horrible.

One of the downsides of making your own food - and I mean when Step #1 is running out there and butchering something in your yard - is that you can't go out to eat anymore. It doesn't taste good. And its not worth it. At best its expensive and disappointing - and at worst you end up with ecoli or botulism. Or just sick because your system rejects all the crap they put in their food. And when I say "they" I mean to tell you its just about everyone. There's a couple places we can go but mostly we just avoid most of it.

We met some folks at their favorite diner recently. It was awful. I could believe it wasn't butter. And those were barely pancakes. More like space pancakes because I'm pretty sure if we launched them into orbit they'd still be there a million years from now and probably wouldn't even burn up if they ever hit atmo. I guess after a while you start to taste all of the fillers and stabilizers and such. Blech.

A couple news stories caught my eye recently. I dunno if you saw the story about the teenager who only ate McNuggets?  Then she passed out and has health problems? Is anyone really surprised?

I tell you who isn't - Weight Watchers. Did you see that they have a "deal" with McD's to list McNuggets as a healthy option for their plan? I thought it was a joke at first. Seriously? Sure I get it that WW might want to list fast food in their points system. But to put the WW brand on the McD's menu? On McNuggets? Come on. I woulda loved to be at that marketing meeting. I bet a couple of them boys had a bet that it would never work.

Do you even know whats IN them chicken nuggets?  Have you seen this gross pink stuff? And more on it here...and check out Jaimie O and the kids.

As a person who regularily guts chickens I can tell you two things...

1. To be clear, there are parts on a chicken that could be considered "nuggets" - but no one wants to eat them. Chicken nuts do not resemble their nugget counterparts. Aside from a rooster's cojones, there are no nuggets located on a chicken.

2. They claim that a generous 50% of the ingredients really is chicken in a nugget . White meat. I'm here to tell you that most of the meat on a young, but still ready, creepy meat is kinda white meat. There really isn't dark meat because the commercially raised and processed bird is so young. I'm not sure if this is a technicality - and McD's says "white boneless chicken" - which leaves the door open for a lot of pieces and parts.  So I hope you weren't expecting all boneless breast meat in that whooping 50% meat.

Sure, you're saying to yourself, you dont eat that crap. What about the frozen stuff you're eating? Does it come in a bag? Does it pretend to be an appetizer or an anytime-tizer-thing? We got some a while ago thinking we'd have pizza and wing-dings. But after the first couple boneless wings we both started looking at each other. Sure, in an academic sense, it was in fact chicken. But there just seemed to be a little too much weirdness for us. Of all the chicken we've "made" here at home we've never had the same consistency or texture as what we found in an enticing bag of chicken wing bites in the freezer section of our local store.

I dunno. If we live in a world where someone's mother would let her kid eat nothing but nuggets for 15 years and where Weight Watchers strikes a "deal" with McDs to have a 50% meat-not-nut on their menu...then maybe we'd better have a little talk about nutrition in the next couple of weeks. What do you say?

I can tell you for a fact that we are not going to the McD's drive thru for a sack-o-chicken-nuts, no matter what the price.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Now spit out that breakfast-franken-food and go make yourself an egg!

Monday, January 30, 2012

My biggest fear - realized. Almost. Pretty much.

Nicholas got a mouse last nite. Not just any mouse - but the King Mouse. I have a feeling the mouse retribution will be horrible. With this victory Nicholas crossed the Rubicon. There's no going back.

 No wonder Nicholas has been brushing up on his ancient battle general history. He fought the good fight.

I heard the battle rage in the pre-dawn hours. I laid there gripped with fear thinking that at any moment he would jump up on the bed with that mouse. Its my biggest fear.

He didn't. But when I got up this morning there were pieces of mouse residue all down the hallway. Big. Gross. Pieces.What a way to start the day. Its gotta get better, right?

That Nicholas. It's always something with that guy.

Happy Monday everyone and I hope that you didn't step on anything gross that squished this morning!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why we aren't welcome at the LensmakerMart anymore

We had to go and get The Big Man glasses yesterday. It didn't go exactly as planned. We may very well never be allowed back to the LenzmakerMart. I can't tell if they just don't have a sense of humor there …..or if maybe we don't get “off farm” enough to be around decent folks. But you know how we are.

So my husband had to go renew his drivers license down at the DMV. Everything was going great until the learned government employee behind the counter failed him on the vision check.  The way that guy was going on about giving my husband a daytime restriction for glasses and such you'd a thought he was blind as a bat. So we ran right down to the biggest small town and signed up for the exam at the local eye doc. Afterward she declared The Big Man's vision to be 20/30.

Are you kidding me? Just so's ya know – my vision is like 20/200 in my good eye. Yes. I need a daytime restriction but him? Really? The doc even said that they should have passed TBM but the DMV guys are notoriously jerks and they have their machine set badly. I admit that after shelling out $75 to find out the government employees are jerks kinda put me in a bad mood. So we probably shouldn't have taken it out on the good folks at the LenzmakerMart. But they may have had it coming.

Not having had lunch yet, and having a bad attitude, I marched into the closest LenzmakerMart, glasses prescription in hand, and demanded the "least dorky glasses at the cheapest possible price for that guy” (*pointing at TBM*).  We were kindly directed to the cheap wall of frames.

Finding glasses frames for TBM turned out to be a challenge because he does in fact have a head that resembles a giant pumpkin.  The situation was ripe for hilarity and we very nearly peed our pants laughing at the bad options.

At one point I turned around and yelled... I mean... asked the LenzmakerMart gal for “the MOST dorky glasses.” She didn't think any of her inventory was “dorky.” Until TBM turned around wearing the old man/Uncle Stanley huge plastic rimmed frames. We were hanging off each other with laughter. Some folks who started to walk into the shop turned around and walked back out. The LenzmakerMart gal glared at us. We couldn't help ourselves and kept laughing.

Eventually we found a suitable option and I have to admit TBM looks rather fetching in his new specs. But before we could return to the safety of our farm we had to go thru one last ordeal. They sat us down and fired up the Opti-Tron 9000. TBM needed an eye scan so they could make the lenses for the new frames.

In my defense I gotta say that gal really needs to lighten up and find some joy in life. She was kind of dour. So I shouldn't have expected much when I told her my concerns that their new fangled eye scanner Opti-Tron 9000 thingy was really part of a vast government conspiracy to track and catalog us good citizens with retinal scans.


I thought it was kinda funny And its not like I said “rectal” scans which is what I almost said....


She was also mad because I wouldn't let her upsell us on all the upgrades that don't come with the stated price for the lenses. Not even the $30 “One Year Limited Guarantee.”  With a tone that you'd expect from a jaded school marm she said “not to come crying to her if we needed them replaced in a year.”

I kindly told her I'd be happy to stand there and let her give me the “told you so” if it came to it. She and I glared at each other. The Big Man squirmed uncomfortably briefly before he snatched me up by the hand and thanked our helpful sales gal...and then drug me quickly to the food-o-rama to improve my attitude with french fries and ice cream. 

It worked and pretty soon we were laughing about how hopefully he'd get his license renewed next week without incident. Or maybe by the time it was done with he'd end up not only with glasses for his “failing” eyesight, but also a hearing aide, a cane, and orthopedic shoes. For heavens sakes.

So now we're sitting here watching TV - both of us with our glasses.  But of course I can't just let it go so from time to time I gotta call him  "Four Eyes."  Or as one of all y'all suggested, Urkel.

I'm a fine one to talk since I've had glasses since I was a teen. Of course I've never felt bad about it. And aside from when the dog ate my $600 reading glasses I've never needed the $30 year guarantee.  That poor gal at the LenzmakerMart is just gonna have to bide her time to give us that “told ya so.”

So that's the long and short of it. You can't take us anywhere, I guess. But least we can laugh about it.

Happy Saturday everyone! Anyone else head into town lately?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pasta alla OFG - Farmstyle

You know that I love liver in the wurst way. And it goes without saying that bacon tops my list as one of the all time best foods known to man. The questions then, was how to combine my two truest loves.

Pasta alla OFG...Farmstyle.. that's right baby!

I thought. I considered. I pondered. Then it came to me. All I really needed was a vehicle on which to deliver the lovely liver and the precious bacon...... pasta. And then I could include my other favorite food groups, cheese and cream. And of course there is booze involved. So I created Pasta alla OFG. Farmstyle. Whoot! 

Wondering how to incorporate more liver into your life? Here's how.

Step 1: Run right out and butcher some chickens in the yard..... Hum. Maybe we don't need to start that far back....

Bacon, several slices
Onions - a handful
Chicken livers - however many you've got
Brandy - a splash and a glass. The glass is for you, the splash is for the pan.
Chicken stock - enough to fill the bottom of the pan and then some
Cream - a big glug
Some kind of grated cheese, preferably some you've made yourself
Lots of ground black pepper

Starting with a cold pan, slice up some bacon into a medium dice. Turn on the heat and allow the fat to render or add more bacon fat from that jar you keep on the stove. After the fat has rendered and the bacon has started to cook, add a handful of onions. I like mine chunky style. All this can happily cook on the stove until it suits your liking. I don't like my bacon overly crispy so I cook until the chewy stage.

In the meantime, clean and cut up some fresh chicken livers. Watch out for that weird green thing! Thats the bile duct. Throw that away. Don't get any of it on you or your livers or anywhere. Recoil with horror from it. Preferably you've already tossed this when you were dressing the chickens.

Add the cut up livers to the bacon pan and gently cook until most of the pink is gone. Add a grinding of black pepper. Then add a big splash of brandy. Let this cook while you toss back the glass of brandy you've poured for yourself. Carefully place head over pan and smell the heavenly scent of bacon, liver, and brandy all swimming together. For heavens sakes be careful so that you don't ignite the brandy, tho, and burn down your house.

After the sharp smell of the brandy has cooked off, add some chicken stock. How much? How much sauce do you need? Coat the bottom of the pan and a little more, at least, and let it cook together.  Add some cream - at least a big glug. Add another grinding of black pepper.

Wait! Did you forget to start your pasta? Whole wheat pasta? Whatcha doin' eating white pasta? Throw that away right now. Whole wheat pasta is better in so many different ways. And its sturdy enough to stand up to for itself in this dish. Might as well pour yourself a little more brandy while you're standing around waiting for the pasta to cook because you didn't start it first. Sheesh!

Make sure you dip out a little of the pasta cooking water and add it to the sauce - not more than a quarter of a cup. Then add the pasta and coat with the sauce. Really toss it around in the pan like you know what you're doing. Can you flip the whole thing over without throwing it all over the wall? That's the way. Say, have more brandy while your at it.

Then add in your freshly grated, aged, goatsmilk cheese. You know the one like this? It grates like parm. Fantastic. And more black pepper. The sauce should be thick and coat the pasta. Voila! Pasta alla OFG.

To make it truly Farmstyle....Serve yourself up a big portion, add more grated cheese and more black pepper.  Pour yourself a lovely little cab and stagger.. I mean... head toward the couch for an evening of pasta, bacon, liver and crime time TV....of course, with a herd of over interested cats trailing you.

Least ways, that's how we get 'er done around here.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bacon Bacon Bacon Bacon Bacon


More bacon!

Bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon!

Black pepper bacon, home cured and smoked. 

Seriously - what else do I have to say? Yay bacon!

Yesterday I finally got around to slicing up the last pieces of bacon that I cured. And then I smoked one cold night. Once its smoked its pretty stable so no I wasnt worried that I hadn't sliced it right away. Plus our beer/meat fridge is on the coldest setting so it was just fine. The thing about real, fresh meat is that it stays good longer than anything you get in the store. 

So I sliced our bacon thick and put it in freezer bags.  Of course I had to test it first. Home cured and smoked bacon is amazing. I had a lot of BLT's yesterday. I really liked the pepper version - it was nice and snappy. The piece in the first two pictures was just regular, no special seasoning, plain smoked bacon. The last pic is the black pepper version. The difference is what spices are added during the curing process.

Yesterday I also smoked some of the jowl that I had curing. And I strung up some other pieces to dry cure. Its amazing. After all the stuff you hear about food safety, all you do is cure a piece of meat in salt and then hang it in your basement for a couple days or weeks and voila - pancetta or guanciale. Can you believe that? One of these days, when I can build a real smoke house, I'm going to try curing a prosciutto.   But until then I'm going to go and fry up some thick cut bacon and have me another BLT. For breakfast. 

Go Bacon!

Happy Thursday everyone! Are you all drowning in this crazy rain? Or is the sleet and freezing rain upon you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's like riding a bicycle....

Tuesday was a hard day on the farm. Tuesday was a great day on the farm. Tuesday was a hard day on the farm.....Sometimes this life is like riding a bicycle.

Angel - nothing special or remarkable. She was the sweetest thing.

The down strokes are the hard days. The days when the bugs eat all your green bean, or the rain won't stop, or you go out to find rats in your turkey house. That's the hard work. It feels pointless, its repetitive, and sometimes it feels like its all uphill.

The upstrokes are the good days. When you go out to find a perfectly blue sky day and the birds are singing, and the skip poppin' baby goats come running around the barn to dance and prance away the day, or when your best hard workin' farm dog helps you and its like you can read each other's minds. The good days are a piece of cake and its all sunshine and roses. Its like driving fast with your windows down and the radio up and the wind in your hair on a straight country road with no one around for miles.

But the upstrokes and the down strokes, together, propel you forward. Hard, easy, hard easy, pretty soon you're making progress. The hard times - the challenges - force you out of your comfort zone and make you learn something new. All "easy" days give you a false sense of well being and don't let you master the skills you need to keep going. And it makes you ungrateful and self absorbed. Its good to remember the cost at which your life comes. It keeps you honest. Its the difference between "Hey look at everything I've done!" and "I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me."

Tuesday was Angel's last day with us. She was just a chicken, one of my laying hens. Nothing remarkable or interesting about her, just a regular old laying hen with a big floppy comb and beautiful white feathers. Of course she was a favorite. She was one of the original chicks that we got when we started out. I think she must have been 7 or 8 years old. I can't even believe that she lasted this long - I prepared to preach her funeral 2 or 3 times when she had a prolapse a couple summers ago and I was sure she wouldn't make it. But she did.

This time her luck ran out. She developed some kind of abscess that couldn't be fixed and her number was up. My smart friend calls this kind of end "the final kindness." And so it was and it was time. It should have been last week but I couldn't bring myself to make the decision. Tuesday, tho, I couldn't put it off any longer.

We've had a lot of attrition lately with our good old hens, but that's only because they are getting along in years. So one by one we are saying goodbye to them. Most of them we just let pass away with dignity, unless, like Angel, they were suffering.

Angel PurplePants held a special place in my heart. There's a funny story about her, and how she got her name, and I'll write it up one day. But not today. She was my good ol' girl and we had a fun relationship. She let me carry her around. She came when I called her. She wasn't flappy and ridiculous. She was the sweetest thing. So we buried her beside a lovely little tree in the garden.

That was the down stroke.

The upstroke was that we also hauled in a full harvest of meat chickens. We probably have about 35 pounds of fresh, naturally raised meat cooling in our coldest fridge right now. Tomorrow I'll part them up and we'll have good eating for many meals. And they are huge too. So many dinners, so much stock, so many leavin's for the cats. Thank heaven for our full harvest! We've fed them on the cheap and now are getting a just reward. To be sure it was a cold day with a biting wind but that just made us work a little faster.

So it was a weird day. One to her grave and others to their glory in noodles. Sometimes folks ask me how we can butcher our own chickens. But today just showed its all how you think about it. We'd never send dear little Angel to the pot but we couldn't get that mean meat roo to the block fast enough.

Down stroke. Upstroke. Just keep peddling. It feels like progress.

Have a great Wednesday everyone - and if you have a special hen, give her an extra snuggle and tell her she's the sweetest thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Berry Crisp in Winter

We all survived the Ice Storm 2012-near-disaster.. whew! But at this writing (late on Sunday nite) it looks like things are cranking up again on the weather front. Hopefully Monday morning we'll still have the lights on.  This is what I'll be having for breakfast...

What could be more decadent than berry crisp in winter?

Remember when we dominated at the U-pick strawberry farm? And then we went on a blueberry rampage? Those were probably two of the best projects we did last summer...well not including all of these also... but berry picking really paid off in a great way.

For the last couple weeks we've been in a crisp frenzy. Specifically blueberry and strawberry crisp. What a joy to have a little bit of summer just when you need it in their dark winter days.

This one was a combination of whole blueberries, ready to go blueberry filling, and ready to go strawberry filling made last summer and frozen in those gladlock containers. Easy peasy!

And nothing could be easier to fix. I grab about a quart of each - either whole berries or portioned, already-made, thickened fruit filling from the freezer and put them in my baking dish. I let them cook low and slow (maybe 325*?) for 30 - 45 minutes...and then I make the topping.

What's in the topping? Whatcha got? Mine is roughly equal parts of old fashioned oats and flour, then enough brown sugar to be sensible...and enough butter to make it look 'pebble-y' when whirred in a mini-chopper (or food processor if you have one).

Take the now-melted-berries out of the oven, shake on the topping evenly, and put it back in for about 30 minutes or until the crisp topping is.. well... is crisp and lightly browned.  You can turn up the heat to about 350-375*.

Berries + cream = heaven

Then its nothing but berry-liciousness and cream... oh golly who wants some?

Happy Monday everyone! Got a weather eye on the sky? These winter thunderstorms can pack a wallop - everyone OK?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh no I didn't... Oh yes I did.

Oh yes I did. Come on, admit it....

... how many of you panicked when you heard that Hostess declared Chapter 11 and may go belly up?  Did you run right out and buy yourself a box of Ho-Ho's or Ding Dong's or Twinkies or what not?


Sure you did. We saw you huddled around the same end cap at the local Safeway or Kroger or PigglyWiggly or what not trying to decide which one to buy. I know because we saw you there. Why, we were standing next to you doing the same thing.

All of us, about the same age, nervously laughing about "do we or don't we"? Then we all walked away with a box of memories in our carts.

I have to tell you tho. After about 5 or 6 of them Ho-Ho's I remembered why I hadn't had one in about 20 years. I nearly died to tell you the truth. I think I might stick with that Michael Pollan's idea of making my own junk food from now on.

While I ain't got any particular love for Twinkies, deep fried or not, I do hope that our grand ol' gal, Hostess, makes it out of bankruptcy and doesn't end in a fizzle.

Well now, you can deny it all if you like but if you didn't buy yourself a box of Hostess whatevers, I'm sure you thought about it. Go on now and admit it. If not, there'll be an alter call for all you liars later.

Ho-Ho's just aren't the same with out the foil wrapper so I do believe that I've had my last one. Goodnite, sweet Hostess, and good luck!

Any body else give themselves a headache with bad snack cake choices? Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More on Dogs and Livestock

THANKS, everyone, for all the great comments on our post about having big dogs! Great feedback and thoughts from everyone. A couple questions and comments came up several times so I thought I'd tackle them all here, if that's ok?

How do you train a hard workin' farm dog? Run right out and get the book, How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition). The book is by the Monks of New Skete who raise and train German Shepherds and is a great resource. Follow it to the letter and you'll be just fine. Then go and watch about 100 hours of Cesar Millan on Hulu. You'll remember that the bad owners are too much for us to watch, but wow, I learned a lot from his book, Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life.  And for folks who want to train their herding dogs, well The farmer's dog is a classic.

One thing to remember, tho, is that managing big dogs is a lot of work. And not everyone has the personality for it. Or the time that it takes to train a big, hard workin' farm dog. So if its not your thing than that's just fine - there's nothing wrong with a good ol' family dog.

Luckily for me, I'm naturally bossy and believe in hard work and discipline. And it doesn't hurt that I'm a kind of a bad ass with zero tolerance for shenanigans.

We had a funny conversation the other day with someone who was interested in our curly tailed bear killer pups, Zander and Kai, and was gently trying to figure out if we had "too much dog." He looked up at The Big Man who answered that he'd always had big dogs and had been known to make big dogs pee their pants with his voice, so no problem. Then our friend turned to me and asked if I probably had problems managing the dogs? Because I'm a small person with a not deep voice?

"Nope," I said and looked straight at our friend, "I am one bad mutha-fu$!%*er."  For his part, The Big Man just nodded and said something about how dogs three counties over cringe when I get cranking if there is naughtiness going on. You have to be the boss of your dog and definitely the leader of your pack.

What about dogs and livestock?  I think DOC said it best... with a lot of work and the right handler it works. To be sure the biggest threat to your livestock is a dog running loose. To make sure its not YOUR dog that is the threat you need to persistently, continually, relentlessly reinforce to your dog that you "own" all the livestock.  And its on you to make sure that you organize your barnyard so that success is possible.

Put your critters behind fences, teach your dog not follow you thru a gate (unless invited), show your dog the livestock and tell them, "This is mine." Teach your dog "leave it." Encourage your dog to help you round up the critters but not in some crazed, wild eyed chase.  Hold your dog by the collar (or harness which works best) and slowly walk him with you while you round up the hens saying "bring them in." We have a command that means, "keep doing what you are doing but slow down" so there isn't a prey-driven chase. Be enthusiastic with your praise when your dog performs well. Provide the right correction when he doesn't. Many big dogs like to work and all dogs love having a job.

But don't forget for one minute that wrapped in whatever packaging that defines your dog's breed - at his heart he is a prey seeking, blood lusting, killing machine. You can shape it. You can command it. You can give it a job. But at his heart your dog is a wolf. Several dogs working together is a pack and all they want to do is kill something. Your ordinarily reserved, good natured dog will be very happy to be out there killing all your chickens if egged on by his brother dogs. Or even if one chicken looks at him funny. So supervise your dog at all times.

The exception to this are livestock guardian dogs - which are so hardwired to guard flocks of whatever you've got that they really don't need training. But we don't have those so we manage with training and supervision.

But what about the danger of mixing dogs and livestock? I'm willing to take that chance especially since, in my case, its more about the danger of livestock to me. Don't fool yourself, friend. The barnyard is a dangerous place especially if you aren't a particularly big person. As our livestock gets bigger so grows the danger to yours truly.

My city friends are convinced its all a big petting zoo out there but I'm here to tell you that's just not the way of things. Even the most docile goat can have a bad day and all bets are off when any of the critters are in rut. I like having Dog#1 sitting at the gate waiting for my signal to run to my rescue, if required.

Remember when poor Jenna got run over my her sheep? (See "Ten Horns 9/19/11) I can tell you for a fact that there is no way my dogs would let a bunch of stupid sheep run me down. And if they did, the dogs wouldn't leave me lying out there in the field. I know this because I've fallen before, one time badly, and Dog#1 rushed over and used his huge head to lift me up. And he let me put all my weight on him so I could stand.

As for rampaging flocks, the dogs tend to act differently if there is cause for alarm and I've learned to listen to them.  More than once the dogs have been at my side before I even knew there was malfeasance occurring. They've also learned that a sharp breath in (that precedes my scream) is the signal to come charging my way.

What if the dogs aren't around? They're always around - the only time they aren't is if they are intentionally gated in up on the deck. We always hold a proximity. We even have a command that means 'stay where I can see you' so that all the dogs kept are nearby. Its good for my safety and its good for me to supervise them.

It may seem like a big responsibility for your dog to protect you, but that's what they do. And inevitably someone will get mad and say, "Oh YEAH? Well. My goat could kill your dog!"  Beggin' your pardon, but your goat may kill your dog. But not mine. Could a goats get in a few good hits? Maybe a lucky blow? Sure. But we chose our dogs to be sturdy enough to stand their ground when necessary.  I've seen, and commanded, our dogs to stand their ground with the goats. I'm here to tell you that its not even a fair fight.  

Another someone was wondering why we chose these curly tailed bear killers when we have stock?  Remember that I'm out there alone most of the time. So I need my defensive team to be pretty big and burly. A couple of hundred pound bear killers are just the ticket. An unconventional choice for farming? Sure. But that's how we get 'er done around here.

We also need hunters. The shepherds (Ti and Lucky) aren't natural hunters at all. With fox central just on the other side of the goat yard, and the coyotes getting closer each season, we need to make sure we have some natural born killers out there. So Kai and Zander's job #1 will be to work as a team to clear out the varmints and keep the predators at bay. They probably will not develop the herding qualities that the shepherds have. But Kai is starting to get the hang of bringing in the chickens.

So that's the rest of the story on dogs and livestock.  The next time you are out in your barnyard go and look at your goat. See that her eyes are on the sides of her head? That's so she can see behind her when something is chasing her. Now go look at your dog. Forward facing binocular vision. Predator. Prey. That's the way of things. If you work hard you can get that wolf not to kill your prey. But it takes persistence. Supervision. Hard work. Discipline. That's our way of things.

Now whatcha waiting for? Get out there and teach that dog to herd up all them chickens and bring them in.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In Praise of Salmon Faverolles

This first time I saw some Salmon Faverolle chicks I knew I had to have them.

My beautiful Jane.

They were adorable little puffballs and it was easy to tell the roos from the ladies by their different colors.  So quick as a wink I grabbed a trio, stuffed them in a sack, and ran for the truck before their previous owner could object. Salmon Faverolles are now one of my favorite chicken breeds.  Great layers, easy keepers, and they have excellent table qualities that make this dual purpose chicken a must have for everyone's barnyard.  And they are on the ALBC list.
Total Goof
The are, however, ridiculous. As in total goofballs. And nothing bad you've ever read about this is true. They are not shy, they don't get picked on my other chickens, and the roos can be formidable. They may surprise you. I once found the shattered remains of what was once a huge rat next to an over-agitated Salmon Fav hen who had obviously stomped that rat to death. You wouldn't expect it from a fluffy ridiculous chicken. Cool blooded killers.

Original trio, see the hens are light brown and the dark one is the rooster

I started with the ladies, Eliza and Jane, and their roo, Mr. Tibbles. I am currently overrun with Salmon Faverolles and I just love it.  Mr. Tibbles is definitely my favorite rooster right now. However, he has the most annoying habit of not letting me talk. As soon and I start chatting with the Good Neighbor Mom, Mr. Tibbles struts over near me and starts screaming his head off. Goof. He's only flogged me once and I think he was just having a bad day. Despite his size he doesn't let the other bigger roosters push him around.

See that Mr. Tibbles with his fancy finery is really only as big as a normal hen. 

Salmon Fav's aren't big chickens. They are really plump and round in shape, have tuffed ears, fluffy little faces, and one weird extra toe. I am not lying. They have an extra toe. I do not know why but its a little creepy especially on the chicks. Except for that freaky fifth toe tho, everything about Salmon Fav's is rollypolly and beautiful.  Check it out in the picture below - see the extra toe on the hen?

See Mr. Tibbles' stunning feathers and coloring? He's showing this young hen where to find food.

My two mature Salmon Fav hens are complete opposites. Jane is lovely and refined and demure. Eliza is a nutbag. I'm not kidding. She is certifiable. She's flappy and ridiculous, likes to perch up high, doens't like to come in at night, and does not like to be told what to do. Eliza had exactly one chick hatch last summer - Doolittle. I call her that because she does little but be ridiculous. She's lovely tho and a keeper. Doolittle doesn't fit the light beige, salmon color standard - she's obviously a mix and is beautifully black and white splashed.
A close pix of that freaky extra toe and the roo's fancy coloring.

I loved that they were funny little chickens, really appreciated that they were good layers... but what got me was when we dressed one particularly mean roo. I figured I'd get a handful of meat from what was surely mostly feathers on that small, angry roo's carcass. But wow was I surprised! It was a lot of meat that was amazingly tender and delicious... dare I say.... delicate?

 All their extra fluff makes them cold hardy. Winter? What winter? This gal is still laying.

Chicken from your yard is always more chicken-y then what you get in the store but the meat from the Salmon Fav roo was so...so... sublime... that it was stunning. We'll have another Rooster Day here soon and dress the rest of the extra roos. I'll take some pix and better notes if I haven't sold you already on why you should have a couple lovely Salmon Faverolles in your barnyard.

So what do you think, Chai Chai? Are you ready for some Salmon Faverolles?

Happy Tuesday everyone, remember that the hatcheries will start cranking up their incubators soon. So why not add a couple of Salmon Fav's to your order? You won't be sorry...unless that freaky extra toe is just too weird.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Whatcha doin' with them big dogs anyway?

Sometimes folks ask me what we are doing with all these big dogs.

My Number One Dog, Titan, on patrol. Isn't he something?

They ask, aren't they a lot of work? Expensive to feed? Provide jaw-dropping vet bills? And what about having those curly tailed bear killers with livestock - aren't they just gonna eat the goats? Is it worth it?

The answers are... yes, yes, yes, I hope not, and ohmigolly, yes.

Yes, I spend my days repetitively issuing commands, pointing in the direction I want the dogs to go, telling them "don't touch that", and standing there glaring while a stubborn pup walks painstakingly slowly toward me. I've probably only slept in past 8:30am twice in the last 16 months because one of them needed to go out and pee (who's idea was it to get a pup two years in a row?).

And I've had more than a few hair pulling, hat throwing moments punctuated by flying tackles to save a flappy hen from certain death at the hands of an over interested pup. But the training pays off when I'm watching Titan hot stepping a bad rooster back into the hen house, or when I send Kai around to "go bark" at something.

We go thru a 50 pound bag of expensive dog food a week - even with all the meat and stuff we supplement from our barnyard. As for the vet bills, well, I had an expensive truck repair and I tell you the truth - that pup gets better mileage... or should I say "smileage" than that truck, for sure.

As far as the livestock goes, any one, and definitely any two or more of those dogs working together could easily kill any of the goats. But so far the goats aren't stupid enough to get out of their yard and I haven't been stupid enough to leave the gates unlocked so the dogs can get into the goats. And we are working on carefully shaping those bear killer's prey drive...... without being fooled for a moment that their biggest joy in life would be to release their inner wolf and to pull down one of them meat bags... I mean, goats.

But even so, folks ask, isn't it dangerous having high-prey-drive-dogs with obviously-prey goats?

You know what's dangerous, friend?  Living out here in the country. Time was that you were safe living in a small town. Now things are different and this small town has seen its share of big time city violence. Living out in the country with the crazies and the ol' wild cats used to be manageable. But now, hell. Now you've got pot growers, meth labs, and just plain, no-damn-good folks with nothing but violence in mind. Throw on top of that the cuts in public service - many of the local sheriff and law enforcement agencies have had to lay off some of their officers - and at best we are 15 to 20 minutes from a 911 response even on a good day.

So while it would be sad if the pups went on a rampage and killed some hens or the goat - what I'm really concerned about is who is gonna show up here looking to do harm and what I'm gonna do about it.  Four enormous, barking, snarling, territorial dogs who work together are our first line of defense. Aside from, you know, the actual fence... and the gate, of course.

Big dogs are reliable, never jam, and are always loaded.  Unlike bullets, I can always call the dogs back. And I don't have to be around for them to work. Large barking dogs, like gunfire, are disorienting and tend to scare off opportunistic ne'er-do-wellers.  Or at least slow them down. Not that I'm against firearms. In this part of the world "gun control" means hitting your target and making it look like a defensive shooting, even if the offender is running away in a slow, arching pattern.

Having big dogs in the yard is also a good deterrent if thieves are out looking for their next robbery. If your house can't be seen from the road, a couple big dogs behind your gate are a great way to send bad guys to the next house. I didn't think this would actually happen to us until one day I had a guy pull into our drive "looking for directions." We got the gate the next weekend. And yes, the dogs kept him in his truck. I've never seen anyone roll up a window so fast. Just so's ya know, out here no one in their right mind would drive up to a house they can't see just to say "hi" and ask where Timmy's house is located.

Of course, having big dogs has its downside. The mail man and the UPS guy hate delivering out here. I tell them to hold our packages at the post or just throw the deliveries over the gate. Mostly the delivery guys are good sports about it. But I'd rather have the inconvenience of having to drive down to get whatever I ordered then to have a couple of Labradoodles out there scaring exactly no one.

I know a guy who lives in civilization. One night not too long ago a couple of them clipboard carrying types knocked, then pushed their way into the house when this guy opened the door. This guy's wife and two small kids were in the kitchen having dinner. This guy is man of action, so he got the bad guys shoved right back out. But this guy said to me that it was the first time he "got" the dog thing. Yep. Even if someone makes it down the drive, I only answer the door with at least two dogs at my six. Bad guys might be able to push their way in, but friend, I am here to tell you they wouldn't enjoy what they would find inside.

To be sure big dogs aren't for everyone. And families should have family dogs... but I am glad I've got all this mouth and teeth around me. Sometimes folks ask if Dog#1 is really just a big teddy bear. Nope. He loves me for sure, but the rest of your son's-o'-golly-whats are on your own.

We had a situation nearby that could have very easily gone even worse than the tragedy that was left when the smoke cleared. The dogs started howling at the sirens but I didn't think too much about it until the Good Neighbor Mom called and asked if I'd seen the warnings on the news. Suffice it to say we all locked the gates, got the guns, and put the dogs out. Mercifully the situation was contained but innocent lives were lost for no good reason.

After we got the 'all clear' I called the dogs back in and we all sat there. Me and the big dogs and the curly tailed pups. I'm not foolish enough to think that if home invaders made their way into the house that it would be like a movie scene with the dog saving the day. But I do know that it wouldn't be too easy for them bad guys to get inside in the first place.

That night, as we sat and watched the news report, Titan put his huge head on my chest and gave a big dog sigh. If it came to it I knew that he'd stand with me. I'd seen him stand in the splash zone and not flinch when the shooting started for our hog harvest, watched him get that pig turned when it was charging right at me, and scare back another pig who was coming over the fence.  And heaven knows my Dog#1 and I have battled that gander more than a few times.

I don't know exactly what would happened if violence came our way.  But I do know that me and the dogs, well, we'd  put up one hell of a fight.

Keep an eye out for malfeasance, friends, and keep the gates closed. You just never know what's gonna happen. 

Does everybody have today off? Everyone gets a holiday but the chickens never get a day off and neither do I.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Miss Ginny's Chicken

This morning it was 0* when I took the dogs out. So today my plan is to do exactly what the temperature was.. nothing. So I thought I'd show everyone's Ginny's chick!

Remember a while ago we had that funny hatch and I started handing out chicks.. well, really I was just assigning some folks a chick? Ginny, from over at Gingergbread's House, got a beautiful chick - I knew she was a hen when I first saw her (the chicken not our Miss Ginny).  So, here she is...

Isn't she beautiful? We had funny lighting that morning but the chick, named Ginny, is just a stunner. I love her lovely speckles.  She is the softest white with pale brown, and non-feathered legs. She's got a beautiful shape. She'll be "heavy" and wedge shaped and a good layer for sure. Some of these young hens are starting to lay, but we haven't been pushing them. In a few weeks, tho, we'll start to see things pick up with the longer days.

You can see that she's not as big as some of the hens. Here she is with Raspberry, my beautiful brown-red Cochin hen. Ginny the chick also has the "right" number of toes. Many of this hatch came from one of the Salmon Faverolles, which have a fifth toe. Its kinda freaky but I don't mind too much.

This will probably be her rooster.... he's yet unnamed as he just got a pass on Rooster Day last week. Look how beefy he is! These light brahmas dress out beautifully. The only drawback is that they have this kind of weird "single hair" feathers...long thin wisps. If they are missed during plucking I just singe them off with a lighter. Easy peasy.

Today the sun is out and all the troops are out in their yards. Its started cold but is now a balmy 20*. Everyone had cabin fever from being cooped up for the last two days so they are out enjoying the sunshine.

I still have sloth and am parked by the fire with Nicholas. The weather will break on Monday or Tuesday and then I"ll get busy but until then..... I'm gonna just sit here by the fire.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What we've been getting ready for....

This is why I haven't been around much. We had to get ready. It showed up late on Thursday nite. And stayed.

The White Death is here. By the end of the day this hill was covered in snow. In reality we didn't get that much snow. But the bitter cold temperatures had me in a tizzy. We had some very cold wind chills and at this writing, late on Friday nite, we are headed below zero.

The dogs loved the cold and snow. Especially our little snow face. Zander doesn't have his undercoat just yet so we could tell when he started to get cold. But Kai didn't have one hoot for the blowing wind and snow. She loved it and didn't want to come inside.

Everyone else was confined to quarters. Even the barncats. If the wind hadn't been blowing so bad we would have let everyone out. But as it was, there wasn't any reason to be outside. Last winter we would have been lucky to only have 16*...but the animals just aren't just used to this cold. We had a beautiful 50* day earlier in the week!

We were really glad we took care of the extra roosters earlier in the week. Having that gang of thugs locked in with the hennies all day would have been a disaster. And the roos would have been fighting all day.

I gave the hens some extra rations, some special snacks, and some hay to keep them entertained. Their water didn't even freeze so I knew they were warm enough. The ducks and geese were doing just fine but I made sure they all had fresh straw so they had somewhere dry to stand. The meat chickens were just fine, they had a couple heat lamps.

Debbie the goat seemed like she was a little chilled. We fixed her up with some B1, molasses, and Nutri-drench. Of course, they had a little extra bagged food, warm water, and all the extra hay they could eat.  Oddly, it was exactly at this time last year that we also had to fix her up. This pattern seems to be repeating so I'm thinking that it has to do with her pregnancy. Nibbles and Dahlia were just fine and didn't seem cold at all. We put up some tarps around the goat house to give them  more protection from the wind which seemed to come from a strange direction. Later in the day Debbie seemed to be just fine.

The weather guy is just now saying we've got another cold day on Saturday and another really cold night. Looks like Saturday will be more of the same. Everyone will be inside - including me. I've got sloth and can hardly move off this couch.

Happy Saturday everyone! Are you keeping warm?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mean Roo Stew

I make a mean roo stew....

...and by that I mean that I make a dang good stew. And I make it out of mean roos. Mean Roo Stew.  At least thats what my pal "J" calls it.

We've spent the last couple days "inviting" most of our extra roosters to dinner. Too many roos make for a bad barnyard situation. First your hens will be afraid to come in to roost at nite since the gang of thugs will be waiting for them like a bunch of hooligans outside of an all girls school. Next, its loud, annoying, and occasionally dangerous to have too many extra roosters. And last, you're feeding a bunch of  laze-abouts who may or may not be made of the right stuff to justly strut in the yard.

Unless you have small kids you should have a couple roos in your hen yard. Unfortunately roosters can jump kid-eye-height, talons out, kicking and flapping.  And you know how that ends.  Even a good roo has a bad day so it may not be worth the risk to your kids.

A good rooster will take care of the hens and throw the kind of chicks you need. He's call the ladies in at night, show them where all the good eats are, and protect the hens from intruders. That's what makes a good rooster like this one....

... he gets a pass on 'rooster day' and stays.  See how he sticks close to the girls? And he's nice and beefy. We love the Light Brahma roos for the big meaty, yields and how beautifully they dress out for dinner.

Remember that ridiculous group of ill-hatched chicks - the ones that hatched one chick at a time for a couple of weeks?  They had the most interesting collection of colors and patterns you'd ever seen. Finally they were getting big enough to sort themselves out into factions and different groups. Some of the roosters are starting to emerge as leaders - and some were volunteering for our latest Rooster Day.  So we had a nice collection of volunteers and we also dressed a couple of the creepy meats we got in the fall. But don't worry Ginny, your little hen is doing just fine. In fact, she is stunning.

That's Black Jack in the center - he runs a tight ship. I hated his brother but I like Black Jack just fine.

Our current rooster crew includes Black Jack, Red, Mr. Tibbles (my fancy salmon faverolle), and one of the iterations of light brahma roos from the lineage of Big Pansy. I think we are on "Nekkid Pansy" because we finally got a bare legged brahma rooster. We have another group of roosters who will be shown to the pot sometime in the next couple of weeks. Most are the young salmon faverolle roos.. except, you know... um.. not that Occupy one. He chose his own fate when he refused to come in that night.

Not too long ago we sent a salmon faverolle roo to glory in a pot of noodles.  He was extremely mean - but those tend to be the most delicious ones. And for a small bird I have to say the meat yield was amazing.  But the quality of the meat was what sold me. Mr. Tibbles will always have a pass but I can't wait to dress the rest of those salmon roos.

In the meantime I'm gonna cook down this pot of mean roo stew until the stock is rich and thick and the meat is tender and delicious. Should be ready soon. Now I just need to make some biscuits.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Anyone else got a mean roo who needs to go to the pot?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Breakfast and The Bubby

Whatcha having for breakfast? A dry bagel? Cereal bar? Nothin'?  This is what we had....

.... that's right. That's our bacon and our egg and look at all that lovely hash. The house smelled like breakfast heaven.

So we had an eventful weekend. If you're over on facebook then you know that we had a puppy-emergency.  On Thursday morning our Zander woke up fussy. By Thursday afternoon he woke up from a nap and his little muzzle was swollen and it looked like he had half a golf ball in his mouth. As soon as I saw it I called the best dog dentist in 3 states and had booked an appointment for the next morning. What an ordeal!

Amid speculation that his sister, Kai, had shoved a green bean - or a Barbie shoe - up his nose, we left our Zander in the able hands of the dental vet. It turned out that he had broken all 4 of his canines and they had become infected. The swelling was from a very badly infected upper canine. After an hour of surgery on Friday he was right as rain. Saturday morning we got our pup back and everyone was happy. Well. I mean, I had a nervous breakdown but I'm recovering.

We were shocked by all of this and wanted to know what happened? How could all of his canines be broken? The vet wasn't particularly surprised at all. She said we just have a big rowdy pup - with tiny, hollow, baby teeth. Too much force exerted on too small teeth = broken teeth. The big concern - aside from the infection - was that the bad baby teeth would impair the proper development and growth of the adult teeth.

To be sure we reported the first broken tooth to our normally Good Vet who said it was no big deal. Our Good Vet said that as long as he wasn't in pain the adult teeth would push out the broken tooth.  We agreed with this logic because it made sense since Zander's adult teeth would be coming in soon.

Originally I wanted to just take him to the dog dentist and really wish I would have done so.  The crippling dental bill was my tax for not following my first instinct.  A good lesson to always follow your gut. Had I taken the pup directly to the dentist with the first tooth she probably would have saved him from this infection. And he probably would not have needed all four canines removed. Lesson learned.

But all's well that ends well. Our "bubby"*** is back to full speed and this never even slowed him down. The big news was how big he is!  He weighed in at 55 pounds on Friday. At 4 months. Wow!  On the way home we stopped for a coffee and there was a woman with some kind of small "hand dog." I was gawking and she proudly said her little rat.. I mean.. dog was 4 months old. And yes, I was compelled to tell her that my dog craps bigger than her dog. Luckily she laughed.

That's the story here. We are going to try and get back to normal.  Such as it is.

Happy Monday everyone! Any one else have a nervous breakdown over the weekend?

***Why "bubby?" Well, everyone around here has a nickname. We called Kai "Curly" or "Wiggles" and we randomly started calling Zander "Bub" as in " Hey Bub! Whatcha doing?"  So now he's The Bubby. Who knows where I get this stuff.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter eggs

No lights, I put them all to bed at dusk, and no special layer mix.... and look! An arm full of eggs!

The ladies are still workin' even in the dead of January.

Happy Friday everyone! Anyone want a fried egg sandwich?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Snow Face

We finally had our first "real" snow. Zander loved it.

Snow face.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Smoked Duck Rolls & 12 Spice Sticky Finger Ribs

Dinner last nite was so good I couldn't even take a good picture.  May I present.... Smoked Duck Egg Rolls and 12 Spice Sticky Finger Ribs.

I mean to tell you this one was a hit right out of the park. Wow!

Don't tell The Big Man, but it is a fact that I have not-so-secretly been in love with a man named Tom Douglas for many years. Tom won't remember me but I shook his hand once and he made me laugh. And his restaurants have been the backdrop of several of my life's key events. Including the very last meal I had as a resident of a city which I used to love... I had octopus hash for breakfast. Yes, breakfast. Octopus. I'm not even kidding.  It changed my life.

But his books! My goodness his cookbooks are extraordinary. One of my favorites is Tom's Big Dinners. This beautiful book is where I learned how to make Sticky Finger Ribs. I even ordered his special Chinese 12 Spice Rub with Love... five spices just aren't enough for this chef and that is for sure. 

The fact is that you can't get Chinese five spice mix in an Amish town... and buying the ingredients separately was extremely expensive.. so I had to order from Amazon.com. Throw in a few more 'must have's' and I got free shipping (yipee!).  I originally wanted the five spice to make a specific roast duck... but when I saw the 12 Spice Rub with Love... I was drawn back to my not-so-secret love. So I made the ribs.

You remember that I made smoked duck egg rolls awhile ago here... I used Tom's recipe for sweet chili sauce (in the book he uses it for his Crispy Shrimp Rolls). The ribs were a snap. Just rub on the rub, let sit in the fridge for several hours, bake in the oven for about an hour, then finish under a broiler with a stunning glaze. Then I made a quick fried rice. Easy peasy.

The best part about our dinner was that it was fun, easy, and many of the ingredients came from our yard. I smoked the duck a while ago and had it waiting for me in the freezer. And the ribs were from our recent hog harvest. I used a package of our small "baby back" ribs - I'm not even sure if that's what they are really called... we just ended up with some smallish ribs while we were doing the cutting and packaged them as such. They were perfect.

The prep was easy but there were a several steps. But making egg rolls is fun tho, so it doesn't seem like work. And I was happy to use some chicken fat for the stir frying and some tallow I rendered myself for frying the egg rolls. All the ribs really needed was for me not to burn them. The sauces came together in a couple minutes.

When we were done - we were done. I mean to tell you there are not a lot of leftovers and both of us are full and happy.

Who says you can't get good Pac-Rim Fusion Asian style food in an Amish town... for heavens sakes just go ordered up some ingredients and make it yourself.

And Tom, if you ever read this, thank you for everything. Really. It made a difference.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Now run right out and order one or both cookbooks and some Rub with Love - you'll fall in love too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Go watch the house

The first thing I did after we bought this property was to tell Dog#1 to "Go Watch the House." So he did.

He went out on the deck, sat there, and commenced to Watch The House. Titan didn't just meander out and flop down - he intentionally marched out there, took up a strategic vantage point, and watched. Good dog.

The other day Kai and Zander were goofing around inside a little too vigorously. So I told them to "Go Watch the House." So they did.

Zander was a little nervous at first, and the weight of the responsibility seemed a little much for such a young pup to bear. But then he sat a little straighter, held his head a little higher...and watched the house.  Good dogs.

I think they are watching the goings on in the barnyard. But Kai takes this very seriously. She's not just laying at repose... this is her guarding stance for the house. She always sits in the same way in the same place. No fooling around. Since we got Zander she's taken on a new role. She's not so much the goofy puppy she was just a few short months ago.

Bringing Zander into the pack has really given her a push into a different position - with other jobs. She's been helping me round up the chickens at night and I've even sent her outside to "go bark at something" - which is normally Titan's job. She's also spending a lot of time with Zander - to wear him out - and mostly to teach him how to behave.

Even tho we give our big dogs a "reverse time out" so they can get some peace from the pup all of the dogs still spend a lot of time together.  Aside from being cute and getting lots of rest, Zander's most important job right now is to figure out how to be with other dogs. All of the dogs will learn to work together as a unit - and also separately as individuals.

Now that the bad weather is on us and there is a lot less time to be outside, so we are working with the dogs to learn more difficult commands. And they are learning to accept commands as individuals in the middle of a group.  This gives them a lot of mental stimulation - and keeps our tight ship running smoothly.

For instance today we played fetch with two balls. Lucky got to fetch the ball assigned to him and Titan got to fetch the other ball. Kai and Zander don't understand the fetch thing - but they like to run with everyone. This actually helps the learning process. Ti has to focus on us to see when he gets to fetch - even tho The World's Most Annoying Little Sister is bouncing all around and Zander is trying to bite his tail.

And then within all this activity the dogs are sorting out their pack order. Sure Kai can run with Ti to get the ball, but she can't grab it or get in his way too much. If she does, Ti puts her in her place. She has to respect the order of the pack. And no one, and I mean no one, ever jumps up on us to get a ball. Even little Zander has learned that good dogs sit and then they get toys (or food or loves). Zander likes to carry around his own ball and show the other dogs. But he's also started to bring it for me to throw for him...when he isn't rolling it down the hill to chase.

When we are done playing fetch we all go and get a drink and the dogs have to give up the toys and head inside. As we are walking in they look to me for their assignments, "Ti, you can stay out", "Kai and Zander go up on the deck," "Lucky come in the house." I do this by looking at each dog, saying the command, and pointing for them where they should go.

Zander has really learned this well. At first he'd just take off running. But after I stomped after him and carried him back like a sack of potatoes a couple times.. well.. he figured out just to pay attention and learn the commands. He's also learning to look at me for direction. This is great - I'm already working with him to learn hand signals and not just vocal commands.

We are also working on individual commands in the house. I'll instruct which dog or dogs may come out of the gated dog area and into the living room or the kitchen. This way I'm not trampled by a herd of dogs....and they respect that we "own" the house. 

Learning to function both as a group and also independently is really important. This enforces that we are the boss of them, refines their discipline,  and also helps me get my work done. "Lucky go and scoot that chicken in, Kai stay here with me."

Good dogs.

Happy Monday everyone! Did you all survive New Year's eve?

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