Thursday, December 12, 2013

Good Bye, Sweet Blaze.

We had to say good bye to our dear friend Blaze today - Farmer Man's best friend.  We knew it was coming but somehow you're still never quite ready to lose a pet.  He'd been slowing down this past summer and fall; he no longer followed either of us anytime we left the house, he slept more, he ate less.  We knew he didn't hear much anymore and suspected his eyesight was going.  Then, two days ago he just seemed to lose the use of his back legs.  We found we had to hoist up his back legs to get him to walk, he'd stagger outside and just lie down even in frigid weather.  We'd have to go hoist him up again to get him back inside.  He couldn't, um, lift-his-leg to do his business and would just fall down into whatever business he had done.  It was time to say goodbye...he could no longer function as a dog.

Blaze, a Border Collie cross, came to us through our pal Molly.  Almost twelve years ago Molly was a very young lady working for the summer at the Clear Lake trail riding ranch, which also held the Clear Lake/Wasagaming pound.  She had called home to her Mom saying that a lovely dog had come into the pound and was due to be put down and she just couldn't let that happen.  He had obviously been on the run a while and was a mess, but seemed to have a beautiful disposition.  Molly worked on finding him a home and when his time at the pound was up, Mom Nancy supported Molly's call and took the dog out of the pound.  Thank you, ladies!

Molly eventually got in touch with us, knowing that our farm dog Nicky was very elderly.  We had always loved the breed: Jes had always been interested in frisbee sports and a Border Collie would be a great match.  Farmer Man wasn't in town but I went over to Nancy's to meet the dog and fell in love!  I brought him home and Blaze was a bit of a surprise present!  Our vet, Dr. Sherry at Wheat City Vet, estimated he was three to four years old at the time.

It wasn't easy at first!  Blaze wasn't well socialized and we had the big farm dog (a Malamute) and we had little Teddy Bear, the diva.  Blaze also didn't like cats at all and the old farm cat Peanuts had to scratch his face a few times to teach Blaze some respect.  Because I didn't know the dog and was still working on walking him and teaching him simple commands, when I was working in the gardens early on I would tie him up someplace close by.  Soon, he was chewing through the rope to be free to come lie down beside me, where ever I was working.

Blaze really became Farmer Man's dog: Jes was always up-and-out earlier than I was.  Blaze would be with him every minute of the day.  When Farmer Man was working on the tractor, Blaze would find a place in the shade and just watch the tractor go up and down the rows.  At potato planting, when the speed is a little slower, Blaze would follow the tractor, up and down the rows. If the farmer was hoeing, Blaze would be lying someplace close.  He might take some time to go swim in the dug out, smelling bad for a time after, but he was never far for long.

When we acquired Grizzly Bear, Blaze and the puppy developed a special relationship.  I don't know if it was because Grizzly was the youngest, but he would groom Blaze intensely, licking his ears, face and even his teeth!  I wonder if Grizzly will miss him?  Blaze eventually became the most accepting dog, showing no problems with visiting dogs, barn cats, chickens and goats.  Even though he absolutely had Border Collie in him, he never showed any inclination to 'herd' anything, but that's okay.

Blaze was the kind of dog that didn't care about toys or treats - he just wanted love and pats!  Oh, he'd chase a ball or frisbee, sometimes he'd bring it back.  But what he loved most was getting his tummy rubbed and his ears scratched.  He was always a hit when we did farm tours, even with children because he would just lie down, roll over and offer his tummy!

I know we'll just automatically be looking for him for a while; it will be hard to find him 'not there'.  Hopefully, he had a good life and enough love and pats!  And we'll see him again....over the Rainbow Bridge.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's Been A While...

I've been a bad, bad blogger.  Nothing written for a couple of months.  I think that's the longest I've ever gone since we started the blog!  It's not that nothing has been going on - it's's just....

There's a couple of reasons: I find it so fast and easy to update on our Facebook page.  A photo, a couple of lines and presto!  Done!  Doing a blog post, to my mind anyway, involves more 'serious' writing, an essay every time, more thought, more preparation.  And Facebook often gives more instantaneous feedback: a like, a comment within minutes.  Second, by the end of our season we're so tired and cranky it's hard to write something upbeat and enthusiastic - which is how we like to have the blog.  And this wasn't a fantastic year for us, so it was hard to find the motivation to write.  I really just wanted a break, I guess.

So what's been going on since we last blogged early in October?  CSA went into the first week of October for the first time, an indication of a less than stellar year.  We were at the Global Market just Saturday's through October.  We were still harvesting in October: carrots, onions, hauling in winter squash.  First sweeps of the squash patches were for what was really ripe and ready for CSA and for markets.  We left squash on the vine to continue to ripen until hard frost, which came about the end of October.  We eventually took even unripe stuff hoping it would ripen in the sun room and because you can never have enough - it's great for feed for chickens and goats.  Ongoing problems with the tractor made harvest more difficult.  We can bring in a lot in a tractor bucket and much less in a wheelbarrow, so our work was made a little slower.

October was also all about making soap!  I'd signed up for a few craft shows and needed a good supply of our lovely goats milk soaps, well cured!  The soap made in October was well aged for December sales!  Three weeks is about the minimum our cold-process soap can be cured, so I was happy to have soap at least six weeks old for sale!  Created some new types of soaps and acquired some new molds that let me do guest sizes and some festive shapes!  There was quite a learning curve for the small molds; I found that at first I was letting the soap set-up too much so I was trying to get thick glop into tiny shapes.  Worked that out eventually!

The other challenge with both soaps and blogging has been computer problems.  The old office computer is dying and printing the labels I needed became a challenge with frustrating lock-ups and crashes.  Then, the newer laptop started to act up with the track pad going off - sometimes it wanted to just grab-and-move everything, or just highlight everything, or just ignore being clicked.  Trying to send a simple email might take five or six tries of hitting the 'Send' button before anything happened.   The laptop also decided it didn't want to recognize the printer.  Just writing this blog post I've had to stop three times to un-highlight text.  Aaaaargh!

November was about cleaning the barn and chicken coop, renovating and getting all the critters ready for winter....and breeding for the goats!  We almost completely emptied the barn of equipment and stuff, broke down the pens, hauled out old bedding and then re-built new pens with brand new bedding.  Farmer Man must have taken out forty tractor buckets of old bedding!  That, like harvest, took a while as Farmer Man was working off the farm and the tractor was acting up from time to time.  But that, also, eventually was completed.  On Remembrance Day, Randi the buck got his most fervent wish and got a couple of lovely ladies to live with.  Assuming he did his 'duty', we should have some babies mid-April.  We were still milking Mabel and Chocolate, so we didn't put them in with Randi at that time, because it would be too difficult for me to get them out of Randi's pen to milk.  I'm doing chores alone five evenings a week while Jes is at work and I'm a little intimidated by the exuberant Randi - he's a friendly buck, but enthusiastic.  We started the process of drying off the two milkers, which means milking less and less until they stop producing.  So we'll have another batch of babies, hopefully, mid to end of May.  That will ease things a bit; it got a bit crazy last Spring when the does all had their kids within 36 hours of each other and some of the babies required bottle feeding - don't want to do that again!

Mid-November to now has been about me finding some work, Farmer Man working a lot, always the chores, craft shows, fighting with computers, baking, thinking about getting ready for Christmas.  It's been busy!