Monday, April 25, 2011

Bucked Over

Guess what Edina produced today?

Now, Eddie, Patsy, I want you to attend to the weather this week. Not the wether -- there are going to be three more of those here soon enough. You know, the stuff coming out of the sky and sideways on the wind that you have been screaming at me about?

What did Noah bring onto the ark?

Was it all the animals after their kinds, in large male-only herds?

Work it out, ladies.

Why Auctions and Alcohol Don't Mix

Last fall I bid on some items at an auction to benefit the New York SAR Federation. A warm amber liquid was offered by a friend and accepted before bidding commenced. Got a nice tuggie toy for Cole, a gift certificate for a company that sells training gear, and this other thing.

It was a certificate for a very expensive collapsible aluminum police dog crate.

The catalog said that it was only 32" long, so it didn't get much in the way of bids. I walked off with an auction bargain. It was puzzling though -- why would a company that caters to police departments make such a small crate (and in only the one size)?

I've got donut-spare sized SAR dogs, and I'd always coveted one of those bombproof aluminum crates for car and airline use. Didn't think about the "collapsible" aspect until later. No airline will take one. Derrr... amber liquid.

Finally sent in the certificate a few weeks ago. My intent was actually to forward the thing to a friend with a smallish dog who is experimenting with crate destruction. But since I'd never seen one, and was concerned about the "collapsible" aspect, I didn't have it shipped direct. I wanted to inspect it first.

When the UPS delivery golem -- the jackass who throws my packages in the driveway, speeds down our lane, lies like a priest, and dented this very expensive item tossing it on the porch this time -- appeared the other day, I thought the giant box he hefted out was the six or eight trees I'd recently ordered

We opened it up in the living room:

It is 42" long. Catalog typo. It eats up the entire center of the living room. We've all been worshiping it, and PC tried to brain me with a femur the other day. Cole has learned to do a handstand in front of its open door. Rosie does her best Snoopy on the doghouse impression atop it.

It won't be going off to contain Ms. Maddie; the sides are wiggly, the aluminum stock is pretty thin, and I'm fairly sure she can get her jaws around the air vents and commence injurious mayhem. The top and bottom, however, seem to be engineered to withstand a tactical nuclear strike, and the door is Hannibal Lecter-worthy, and has a lock.

It would make an uber-cool end table if we lived in a giant loft served by a freight elevator and decorated in a sort of post-modern industrial ironic mode.

It is far too large for my car.

It does easily fold down into something the size of a giant radiation-shielded architect's portfolio.

Open thread: What the hell do I do with this thing?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Photo Good Phriday: Eoster Greetings

This weekend we will search the farm for hidden nests of eggs, and the leporaria for more nests of new rabbits.

We will eat flesh and candy and drink wine.

There will be fire.

There will likely be some new additions to our herds and flocks.

The pear tree will burst into flower.

Nothing to see here. No Goddess arising. Move along, return to your churches, have a cracker, and feel sorry for all the sins you've done while all around you Nature is flowering, fucking, hatching, kindling, kidding and generally bursting forth without apologies, restraint, or any sense of decency. Remind yourself relentlessly that it's a Very Solemn Father and Son thing. No Girls Allowed.

I feel compassion around now for browbeaten "Christians" who work so hard to avoid being Pagan that they forbid themselves to be Human.

But She is there for you, anyway.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Job Application

A friend's account of a puppy at the shelter where she volunteers brings back a story.

This is Goose. He's at B.A.R.K. in Billings, MT, and he is looking for a home. Goose is a RRR -- random reservation ranch rover. But he looks a lot like someone else I know. And he's a precocious retriever. That just might mean something about the kind of dog Goose intends to be.

It's June, 2007, and the Pistons -- the offspring of Pip and Boston -- are about five weeks old. Eight adorable little fuzzy landsharks. They're precocious, by which I mean, they have responded to the interaction of their driven genetics and their enriched upbringings by teaching themselves all sorts of skills -- going outside to poop, climbing out of their pen, bossing around full-grown German shepherds.

Personalities are starting to stand out. Rosie is already ebil. Tuck (nee Ed, for Edmund Hillary) is already a genius. Maggie (nee Sally) is already sweet.

The back patio door is open, and the pups are swarming outside in the yard. I'm in the kitchen when Andy trots in, looking for attention, because that's what he does, his thing, to want to be constantly interacting with a person, and usually talk about it the whole time.

Oddman offering an opinon.

I don't know why I did it, but I wadded up a ball of paper and threw it the length of the kitchen.

This is the "fetch test" that one does when evaluating working puppies. You do it at seven or eight weeks of age, in a place free of distractions. If the pup brings back the paper ball when you call and clap encourage him, great. If he runs off with it and plays keepaway with you, well, then you know something important about his potential to be challenging. If the pup doesn't go after the ball, or is lackluster about it, he may just need another few days or weeks to reach that developmental moment. Sometimes I'm quite sure that a pup just can't see far enough or track motion with his eyes yet, but a week later it's all there.

I hate it when handlers talk about pups "flunking fetch." The test has become a shibboleth in some working dog circles, generally among people who have no clue how to administer it correctly or interpret it in context, and the sketchiest black and white notions about puppy developmental stages.

So that's the fetch test, except it wasn't, because one would never "test" a pup as young as Andy; he was simply not old enough to have reached the appropriate developmental moment.

I suspect I was seeing if I could get him to go away and stop bothering me, kid.

Instead, here is what happened.

Andy trotted the full length of the kitchen (about 18'), picked up the ball, trotted straight back to me without any encouragement, sat down between my feet, looked me straight in the eye, and dropped the ball. Then maintained eye contact.

Oh. I did not just see that.

I picked up the ball and threw it again, full length of the kitchen.

Pup trotted out, picked it up, trotted back, sat, eye contact, dropped ball. Maintaining eye contact until I picked it up again. There was no air of goofy puppy play in this retrieve. He was serious bordering on somber.

I felt my heart in my mouth. A brand-new being was making his decision about himself known to me, a rare and momentous declaration. I had to be sure.

Third throw. Andy trotted out to the end of the kitchen. He'd just picked up the paper ball when two of his brothers came rioting in the back door, a few feet from him.

Woohooo! Brudder Andy has a prize!

I figured that was the end of that. Before he could turn, there was a brother latched onto the spitty paper wad on each side of his mouth.

But it was not the end. Andy -- the male pup lowest on the puppy totem pole -- turned anyway, wrenching his brothers loose. He started back towards me, a brother on either side, and dragged them with him as they yanked on his trophy, ripping bits off as he forged on. His teeth remained resolutely clenched on the paper ball, eyes forward, undeterred.

He eventually reached my feet, sat, looked me in the eye, and at the moment that both siblings let loose of the paper, spit it out between my ankles.


One in a million. No hyperbole.

No less responsibility, as his breeder, than if I had a handicapped puppy to place. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. With dogs, "ability" and "needs" are the same damned thing. Dogs don't know about alienation of labor.*

And that is why -- not how, but why -- Andy went to live with Janeen, and become Audie, aka The Oddman.

Because he had to go to someone who would exploit him, know him, challenge him, adore him, and get him. Someone's whose needs and abilities were also the same as one another, and aligned with his. He was a gift, mine to give, not keep.

Five weeks old, and he applied for his dream job, trusting a headhunter to find the right position for him.


* Unless they've been conditioned to it with bribes and bad training ideology.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oh Hell

My name is little Bongo*
I sing my little song-0 ...


*No ears were eaten in the making of this post.
It appears that there never was but the one.
Apparently these things happen.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: Monolith

Spring or not, the asparagus is coming.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sneaky Kidder

My best guess last fall about the goatgirls' due date was today. I suggested to PC last week that he schedule the monthly AMRG training for the farm, so I could possibly participate in training while on birthwatch.

Yesterday I put the girls in the birthing stall and checked for signs of imminent kidding. Edina lost her mucus plug (I know, lovely image, eh?), but that can happen days or a week before labor starts. I felt their tailheads and pelvic tendons; Patsy's was looser. First in line.

Last night Cole and I slept on a cot in the barn, with barn kitty Smeagol. Other than the discovery that ducks never sleep, and a closer-than-normal experience of Son of Domingo's 0330 daily crow, it was a quiet night.

This morning it was clear that Patsy was imminent. Her udder was "strutted" -- not just bagged up, but shiny, tight, and with her teats pointing outwards.

Patsy, left -- strutted. Edina, right -- not yet strutted.

All day long I hung around the barn while teammates and their human kids came and went, sure that earnest labor was going to start any minute. Zilch. No hard contractions, water hadn't broken.

Around six, we zipped out to our favorite local little rib joint, just up the road, because clearly nothing was going to happen in the next few hours.

One hour later I came home to a very smug Patsy. Despite the fact that she had spent the day bleating and complaining whenever I left her stall, she vanted to be alone.

The yellowish-tannish-white kid is a buck. The pure white one is, finally, a little doe. Both have had a nice drink of colostrum and are doing well. She's accepted them both and, contrary to a common pattern, seems to be favoring the doeling a bit. I was particularly anxious to monitor Patsy's kidding because last year, her first kids, she would have rejected her second-born if not forced. No problems this year.

Cleaned up the placentas, tied off the kids' umbilicals and dipped 'em in iodine, made sure everybody was dry, gave Mom a bucket of grain, made some introductions

And put the little family to bed.

Now the Edina vigil begins.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rural Gods III: The Empire of Bubbahotep

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The Emperor Bubba-Hotep

His historic empire* stretched from Maryland to Missouri. Some say it still does.

He and his sons and brothers and nephew-sons and cousin-daughters took to their legions of gravesites and sacred groves an assortment and volume of grave goods and offerings seen nowhere else.

Any attempt to sink a fence post, trench an asparagus bed, bury an ex-sheep, cut firewood, clear brush or delve an ancient manure pile becomes an archaeological investigation nearly guaranteed to be stopped dead by Bubba-Hotep's barely-submerged treasures. Every ravine of Appalachia is replete with his sacred tithes, the mystical middens into which sacrifices were tipped in the conviction that they'd "go away" if dumped "down the crick."

His artifacts are glass shards, bedsprings, steel roofing, mysterious and shapeless chunks of corroded sheet metal, ominous and rusted steel drums, bricks, shingles, angle-iron and machine parts, whole implements, rotting timbers, blasted fragments of clay pigeons, cat skeletons, tractor tires, broken cinder blocks, the occasional near-complete vehicle, and wire.

Fence wire -- smooth, barbed, woven, welded -- was the signature medium of his court craftsmen. Embedded in tree trunks, sagging from tree to post to ground, stretched at tripwire height through the woods, heaped and tangled amid the brambles and vines at the edge of pastures waiting to ensnare any mower deck or horse's hoof that dares profane the sacred site.

Our farm woodlot is privileged to host an especially hallowed monument, the Convertible of Bubba-Hotep's Favorite Nephew.

Teams make new discoveries every day; most recently, a wire hoard that rivals the Sutton Hoo treasure.

Being the third in a series of revelations concerning the powerful deities who govern rural life. Iconography by the inimitable Kelly Bahmer-Brouse.


* Many thanks to Friend o' the Blog Linda Kaim for introducing us to the Empire of Bubba-Hotep and its artifacts.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Photo Phriday: Another Fine Pickle

Secundus is an idiot.

This is how I found him this afternoon, at least 50' from the shed where this panel had been propped up overnight during renovations.

There was nothing on the other side of it that he needed to get at.

As I was packing up my tools this evening, I caught his brother trying the same trick.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Photo Phriday: Don't Mind Me

I'm just in yer pantry, peeing on yer M&M's