Ridgetop - our place and how we muddle along

Ridgetop

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Ok, I am starting a journal - a little late since I have been enjoying this site for several years and posting on it too. We have had livestock for 30 years now but never had any time till the past couple years due to kids, livestock, gardens, canning, 4-H, work, volunteer, etc. This sounds fun but I don't think I can recreate the past 30 years . . . . Consequently I might jump around a bit as I write.

Most of what we built 30+ years ago is starting to fall apart, so now we are having to rebuild. This time we have experience behind us, but at our ages we don't want to invest $$ more than we have to into barns, pens, etc. The reason for that is our 6 acres in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley, will go for development when we sell out. Few horses and less livestock left here, we are hold outs. I am a slow learner in the realm of social computer stuff though so it has taken this long to figure out to post pix, start a thread, etc. Al of which only happened after LOTS OF COACHING from all you tech savvy people. The only thing I do well on a computer is type fast and operate word in office mode. I still haven't mastered my iPhone, and when I got a new ne and the sales rep was telling me all the cool new stuff I could do with it, I understood nothing. I still don't know how to save or retrieve stuff from the Cloud. My phone tells me that I have to back up my phone and I follow the instructions, but apparently I am not a member of the secret tech society that automatically knows these things. My children and grandchildren were practically born with their hands shaped to cradle a gaming console and cell phone, Go figure.

That must be why I stick with livestock.
 

Ridgetop

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Strange! Why is there a picture of my washer and dryer posted? I wonder what picture I meant to post. I wanted to post a picture of Cammy but when I scanned the photo it became a PDF file and wouldn't upload.
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This is the photo collage I did after e went to Montana de Oro. Not really large enough. The one below is my Dazzle as a yearling. I miss them both.

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And Josie The Mule, who is pining and calling for her missing buddy.
Now here are some pix of the barn during our cleaning and dismantling, getting ready for the new lambing pens.
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During
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Almost done

Our barn is only 24' wide x 36' long. That was the entire flat area available. Can you tell that DH worked for a power company? The brn is build of cross srms. The DWP training center as moving from one location to another and ere getting rid of all the cross arms and pole butts at that location. We made lots of trips bringing home all the cross arms and pole butts we could. That heavy creosote soaking has kept them solid for over 30 years. Although the barn is small, we are the envy of our friends because hardly anyone here has an actual barn. Most people just have 12' x 24' pipe corrals with partial covers and small open sheds for their other animals. The weather is not severe enough to need a barn. Our horses are lucky to be loose on 5 acres and we rarely put them inside a barn stall. Actually the last time we used the barn for horses was when Jubilee foaled 10 years ago and we took the center panel out to make a 12' x 24' foaling stall. Then she was outside and foaled on the field after all those weeks of bringing her in, wrapping her tail, and pampering her! DS3 carried the foal inside while DS2 led Jubilee in. She got confused and kept ting to return to the field and foaling puddle thinking her baby was there! DH did the whole imprinting thing and had a lot of fun with both of them. He never really enjoyed riding because of his bad knee but loved imprinting, halter breaking, trailer training, etc. The foal turned into a lovely TWH mare. Pitch black like her mother. We had her professionally trained, and she won a lot of ribbons with the trainer's students on her. DH gave her to our DIL last year because all her new riding buddies in Nipomo have Rocky Mountain horses which are supposed to be gaited. She is the envy of that whole crowd because they have to make their horses gait. ??? All my TWHs gaited naturally even when crossing the pasture. Skittles just goes down the trail at a nice fast or slow walk naturally. DIL adores her, even though she and DH3 have 3 other horses. Skittles is quickly becoming her favorite. The others are quarter horses and will be great for the grandchildren once they start riding. I don't approve of TWHs for kids because they want to do gymkhana, jumping, cowboying, etc. TWHs are for nice fast trail riding by people who appreciate their fabulous smooth gait. Kids just want to go fast, at least mine always did. LOL

Well, all this talking about the horses, sheep, and barn has cheered me up. Very cathartic! G'night y'all.
 

Ridgetop

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I have read through my earlier postings when I promised to tell you more fun Ridgetop stories. I was sidetracked by politics, the evil bane of democracy.

Which stories would be fun to relive? Here is one about one of our Weimaraners. I have had Weimaraners since I was 15. We always had a male and female. Our first 2 dogs we had after DH and I got married, were Rogue and Lisa. Rogue took life seriously. He would patrol the property every 2 hours - if DH was not home, he would up his game and patrol every hour. Lisa would relax on the floor usually going out with him (we had a doggy door at the old house) but sometimes she would not bother. If she heard a noise, instead of getting up and checking it out she would let out a sharp woof. Rogue would leap up and run to check on the situation. Lisa would lay back down. It was just like "Honey, I hear a noise - go check it out"! LOL On the other hand she could be very vicious in a fight, and was an excellent watchdog in her own right. I remember the two of them tangling with another dog and while Rogue went in from the front, Lisa came in silently from the back and slashed at the other dog's rear legs.

I have been lucky in my dogs. They were all wonderful and well trained, I spent a lot of time making sure that they were well trained since I don't like untrained dogs. When DD1 was about 2 years old, I realized that she had ben watching me with the dogs. As she started to run towards me across the wet kitchen floor I automatically put up my hand in the signal to "stay". She stopped dead in her tracks. Astonished I gave her the hand signal to "sit". Down went her bottom on the kitchen floor! I had a perfectly trained 2 year old on hand signals. Unfortunately she was not dependable outside the house and never really mastered the "recall" and "come to heel". Does that mean that dogs are smarter than 2 year olds?

Anyway, I think this s a good lead in to how we bought our first LGD.

The rabbit barn was built, the yard fenced, the rabbit cages hanging with water lines in the barn, nest boxes in place when we heard a commotion in the barn. We had put bells on our goats' collars so we could hear them moving around. We had had several stray dogs coming into the property even though it was fenced. We were actually more worried about coyotes back then. We didn't know that stray dogs were more dangerous to farm stock than coyotes. The bells were to give us a heads up if they were attacked. It saved them and our rabbits. The bells were jangling wildly, and we could hear some loud noises in the barn. Our dogs were barking in the hallway. Jumping out of bed I called to DH that something was after the animals. I had my shotgun. DH was hopping down the hall trying to climb into his pants. Down in the barn the commotion was getting worse. We ran down and caught 2 stray dogs chasing the goats in their small pen and going after the rabbits in their cages. Luckily most of the rabbits had litters and had jumped into their nest boxes. We had left our dogs in the house so they would not get in our way in the barn. We cornered the dogs in the barn and just as DH got ready to shoot them, I realized that he was facing the horse corrals right on the other side of the open barn. The shot would hit the horses! Realizing this, he handed me the shotgun, grabbed a heavy shovel and attacked the dogs who ran out of the barn. Making sure that they were headed home we returned to the house.

For the next few nights neither of us got much sleep. Every few minutes I would get out of bed and check on the barn. After 3 days I told DH this couldn't go on. I had read about LGDs and they were just becoming known and used by ranchers. The Idaho Sheep Station had done a study on their use, as had one of the large universities back east. This was pretty much before internet, so I had to call the Idaho Sheep Station and got some phone numbers of people who had LGDs. I spent much of the next couple days tracking down ranchers who were using LGDs to try to acquire one. Nowadays I just go on line, then it was a real chore. This was when shooting, poisoning and otherwise eradicating predators was being outlawed by the federal government. Many predators were being put on the endangered list, and new ways of protecting livestock were being looked at and tried. Lights, loud horns, and finally guardian dog breeds were studied. The dogs were the most successful.

After several days of long distance phone calls, I finally I located a sheep rancher in Idaho or Montana who had puppies for sale. This was back in the days of "don't socialize or pet the dog". "Ignore him and keep him with the livestock at all times". Seems silly now to think that this was how people were taught to use these dogs. Anyway, the rancher said he had a 5 or 6 month old pup that was working really well and would sell him. He was a Shar Planinetz Maremma cross. Both parents were working on this rancher's place, protecting his sheep flocks from coyotes, cougar and bear. A couple of stray neighborhood dogs would be no challenge. I sent him a check and an airline crate in which to ship me the dog. He called me back with the flight instructions. On the morning of the dog's arrival I received an apologetic call from the owner. there would be a delay in shipping the dog. He had gone out to catch him and load him in the crate but when he grabbed him, the dog turned around and bit him! :ep He would have to drive to town and get some tranquilizers from the vet to knock out the dog so he could load him and ship him. "No, no" I said, I can't have a dog that bites it's owner! I have small children around all the time and would need to catch the dog and take it in for vet visits, etc. What did he do for that? The rancher said that he did not ever socialize with his dogs since that would "ruin" them. I asked for another puppy, possibly one younger. he had one but it was only 10 weeks old and not a trained guardian. No problem, I would take that one and he could ship it to me in a week.

When the puppy arrived, he was very large, black with a white splotch on his chest and soooo cute. "Now" I told the children, "we can't pet hi or play with him because it will ruin him as a guardian for the goats and rabbits." The children looked at me and agreed. The puppy sat at our feet and looked cute.

Maverick grew and grew. He liked the goats. He liked all of us. It was impossible to give him some caresses when feeding him. he needed to learn his name didn't he? The children seemed to find a lot of reasons to visit the barn and took a longer time over their chores. In spite of our disobedience to the going school of thought, maverick grew up to be an excellent guardian dog. I found out later that many ranchers who were told not to socialize their dogs had trouble with them. The dogs would not let them work their flocks because they didn't recognize them when they came out to their far pastures. One or two were badly bitten by their own dogs!

Maverick did a good job. At 4 months of age he drove off Wellington, the enormous Doberman that lived next door. This Doberman took a particular pleasure in pooping on our door step every day. No matter what we did, complain to his owners, hose him with water, throw things at him, Wellington came back every day to deposit his gift. Until Maverick turned 4 months old and decided that he did not want Wellington fouling our doorstep. Not only did he make it clear to Wellington that he was not to poop on our step, but he was persona non grata on our property. Wellington never returned. DH was ecstatic - no longer did he have to check the step before leaving for work in the dark hours of the morning. We never actually saw Maverick do any real guardian work, but no more stray dogs came on the property. One day when I was working in the yard, I noticed 2 large stray dogs on the adjacent field. At that time we hadn't bought it and it was not fenced. Maverick, age 8 months, saw the dogs too and I waited to watch my guardian dog go into ferocious action against the interlopers. Maverick strolled out to the field and to my shock began to play with them. as they moved away he would stop and sit down, They would return and he would play with them again. Finally the dogs wandered off while Maverick remained on the field watching them go. I did not realize it at the time, but I had been privileged to see instinctual LGD "play away" behavior. Faced with 2 dogs Maverick had enticed them away from the sheep. He was too young and while large, not full grown yet, so could not take on 2 mature predators. Instead he had played them away from the property where his goats were. Once they were safely on their way, he stopped playing and watched them go while maintaining his spot between the herd and the danger. I did not realize what I had seen, I just thought that the "guardian dog" that I had paid a lot for (the dog, vet check, shipping out the crate and shipping the dog out to me) had not attacked and dismembered the 2 strays. I called the breeder to tell him that I was unhappy with the dog since he didn't seem to be doing his job. The breeder asked if I had lost any animals. I said no. He told me to give the dog a little more time, and if I lost any stock to have the dog put down and send him the tail and he would refund all my money. He said that the proof of a good guardian was whether you lose stock. If you don't lose any animals, even if you never see the dog do anything, he is doing his job.

When Maverick was barely 1 year old, a cougar came down into our neighborhood. Maverick had been circling the property all night barking his alarm bark. Suddenly, the neighbor's beagles started baying. Maverick's bark became almost hysterical. Lady, our Weimaraner, began snarling and barking in the family room. Alarmed, I jumped out of bed and called to DH to get his gun because something bad was out there. Running into the family room I found Lady throwing her body against the large glass window. The glass was actually bowing from the force. Out on the driveway Maverick was going at it with something that was snarling back. I opened the door and Lady was out like a flash to join Maverick. Snarling the 2 dogs chased something big down the driveway and followed it down the road. They paid no attention to my commands to come. Up above us the lights were all on and the beagles were going crazy. Down below us the snarling fighting duo chased something. The beagle neighbor came out with a floodlight and shone it down onto the lower neighbor's barn. Their mare had just had a foal 2 days earlier and luckily they had a proper barn. The mare and foal were locked a stall. The owner came running up the slope to his barn. The dogs had reached the corral which was lined with plywood because of the foal. It effectively stopped the dog but not their prey. As the upper neighbor looked on in shock, the cougar in his words "flowed" over the 5' rails into the corral and disappeared from while the beagles bayed and Maverick and Lady snarled after the cat. The mare's owner threw open the stall door to find his dark chestnut mare completely white from sweat and foam. The foal was backed into a corner behind the mare as she faced the corral behind the barn where the cougar had passed. Maverick and Lady, duty done, returned to the house. Needless to say, Maverick retained his tail and I realized what a godsend a good LGD was. We slept very soundly from then on.

Maverick was a good dog but only lived to be about 5 years old. However, we had already gotten him a helper - a Pyrenees from a Basque sheep rancher in Bakersfield. Sandy was the best LGD we had and 20 years of our subsequent Pyrs were measured against her - until our Anatolians. Good LGDs are born not made . I am lucky to have had several good ones, and a couple of great ones.

I realize this post is not amusing, but it is one of the good memories we have. By the way, amid all that confusion and shouting the children never woke up! LOL
 

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Here is the information I was supposed to post first!

We live in So Cal, hot and dry, but not desert. When we get good rains, green stuff shoots up like Sleeping Beauty's enchanted forest. It doesn't last long - once we stop getting rains it dries out and becomes tinder for the fire season.

We moved to this spot over 30 years ago so our kids could have horses and a more country lifestyle. We always planned to buy a farm or ranch when DH retired but after I counted up how old the kids would be then I realized they would be adults! So DH worked all over the city and knew where there were horse pockets. We checked them out and bought here. Horrible house, no outbuildings, no corrals, no fences, terrifying single lane 1/2 mile dirt road up mountain to house, but no neighbors, surrounded by silence. DH fell in love since he worked as lineman/underground high voltage so always surrounded by traffic and people. I hated it but I am a dutiful wife so . . . OUCH! Pulled muscle trying to pat self on back!

30 years of remodeling house, building barns, putting in water lines, building corrals and fences, planting gardens and fruit trees, rebuilding sheds, rebuilding animal pens, removing dead trees and plants (PH was 9!) rebuilding soil by digging out all planters and garden areas 2 feet down, collecting manure from neighbors (got reputation as insane), composting, remodeling house, repairing . . . repairing . . .

Just repeat that paragraoh over and over . . . .

So, we bought some horsekeeping books, got used stalls, kids got ponies. I went to school in Ireland for 2 years so in GB we ride ponies. It was a good choice since ponies are headstrong little beasts and after growing up riding their ponies my 4 kids could ride anything. 100 falls to make a rider . . . . and then add some more. If you can't fall off and get back on, don't get a horse.

In our old home we had rabbits for meat and chickens for eggs, fruit trees and a huge garden. I canned all summer and had a boutique business selling homemade jams, jellies and pickles. Remember those days when schools could have bake sales and sell homemade stuff? Aaah, the good old days! I am soooo old . . . .:old Our first plantings all died, I replaced them and they died again. Took a soil sample PH OF 9! :ep Began years of soil amendments.

Next came goats. Bought more books and studied up. The kids and I put up more pens. We love dairy goats! :love A wether to eat, and 2 dairy does for milk. I drove 3 hours to get them because I wanted CAE clean, high milking does. The breeder was getting her milk stars on her herd so kept them until they finished then sold them to me bred. Win, win!

They were easy to hand milk, gentle, easy to handle, quickly learned how to get out of the gates, but my 3 and 4 year old boys were able to lead them back to the pens even they were barely as tall as the 2 Nubians. Milk was delicious and we now had our chickens, milk goats, rabbits for meat. Sadly I found out that the ground was pretty barren.

First spring rain came and turned the ground bright green! my children ran out barefoot in their shorts return weeping bitterly since all that lovely green was prickly nettles! BAD MOMMY! Wasn't the first time, won't be the last. o_O

Immediately enrolled the kids into 4-H. Now we would be able to learn all about the animals we were keeping and I wouldn't have to study my textbooks so much, right? Wrong. No livestock leader in our club. The members only kept market animals and just fed them till fair time. WHAT!?

More in the saga later . . . .

YES! IT IS A SAGA - 30 YEARS REMEMBER! :clap
 

Ridgetop

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Sooooo . . . The new lambs are in the barn training to return to the barn for their delicious grain feeds at the end of the day. We will leave them there while we discuss other occurrences over the years on our place.

I will be jumping around chronologically on this thread as I think of other things to talk about that have happened here. Back when we first moved here the only thing standing in this place was the house which needed renovations, a strangely placed 10 x 20 flat roofed concrete block building, and portions of unconnected chain link fencing at random intervals. There were also a couple of flat, or rather semi flat areas, that had apparently been graded at some time. There was also a lot of trash that the previous owners were suppose to remove from the property but "forgot". The house sits on a private road because the street it is legally on does not exist. It is a "paper street" only in the imaginations of the city map makers. We are hard to find even by people who were born and brought up in this area. Our little town has a lot of these private roads winding around the hills and canyons.

Anyway, our old house was being torn down to build apartments so we retained the right of salvage. We tore out all the ceiling fans, light fixtures, kitchen cabinets my FIL had made for us, the antique glass door knobs and cabinet knobs, sliding mirror closet doors, the solid mahogany front door, the HVAC unit, the rolling chain linkgates and hardware, our 18' x 36' Doughboy pool, and the entire 400 sf brick patio that DH had laid in sand. Sadly we couldn't bring the 100 year old orange trees or the 75year old Camellia bushes that lined the drive. I did dig up and bring as many of the landscaping shrubs that I could. Sadly, they all perished since our soil in the middle of the valley was beautiful and the soil at our new home was clay and shale with a PH of 9. Once we were on the property, with all our possessions, DH went back to work.

Culture Shock! I quickly found out that just because you have the same number of rooms in the new house, it won't compensate for the loss of 1,200 sf! Too late now. We had moved with 4 children, 2 Weimaraners, 2 cats, 27 breeding rabbits, 12 chickens, and all their assorted equipment. We set up a temporary rabbitry and poultry yard on the driveway surrounded by our kennel runs. There was no patio, no complete fencing, no towel rods, and we were down a bathroom since we told the owners we did not want them to finish the 2nd bath they were renovating. We didn't like their plan and planned to change it.

Our city dogs had never been around coyote filled hills. For the next 6 months they barked every time coyotes yipped or howled. DH was working 6 and 7 10-12 hr days every week. I got up in the am, fixed breakfast, drove the kids to school, brought the toddlers home, unpacked, did school pickup, unpacked some more, cooked dinner, put everyone to bed, and unpacked. We moved into the house in mid October. Halloween came and the children got ready to trick or treat BUT we had no lights on our private road and the nearest house was 1/4 mile away! After driving around we realized that our new rural neighborhood had no sidewalks or streetlights. The only lights in town were at the neighborhood park. There was a small Halloween carnival inside so the kids got to go there. The following year we learned that there was one neighborhood where everyone went and took the kids there. 30 years later that neighborhood is still the only place anyone goes to trick or treat. They have an HOA, the residents hire security guards, and close the neighborhood to automobile traffic - only trick or treaters and parents are allowed to walk in.

At first everyone was unpleasant which really surprised us. Then we bought our first ponies. Suddenly people smiled at us. We gradually met our neighbors. We learned that they all feared new people moving in, suspecting them of wanting to do away with the horse keeping and livestock. Once they saw that we had horses and animals, we were accepted. Our kids joined the local 4-H club. Where I thought my children would learn about animal keeping from their leaders I found out that there were n livestock leaders in this club anymore. We were on our own. I bought books and ordered them from the library. Every animal the children wanted to raise, I had to learn about it. 4 children raise a lot of livestock, and not just terminal for the market auction. We wanted dairy goats for house milk. I read everything I could about them and we fenced in a yard with a shelter for them. I found a dry yearling for sale locally and went to see her. She was very pretty, friendly, and would make a nice showmanship goat for DS. I bought her and she came home in the back seat with us. That night the mother of the only other dairy goat project child called me. She said, I just found out that since you want to drink your goats milk, you should NOT buy a Toggenburg since their milk is the least palatable of all the dairy breeds. I wanted to warn you. Unfortunately, the goat I had already purchased was a Toggenburg. I eventually got 2 Nubians, twin sisters and both exceptionally high yielding does on milk test. The breeder wouldn't let me take them until they had completed their milk stars. She then bred them before we picked them up. So now we had our chickens, rabbits, milk goats, and the children had their ponies. The house as still falling down, but we were optimistic. Our last house had been falling down too and we had rebuilt it - no problem! We had graded off one of the flat spots and installed our huge Doughboy so the kids were able to swim. They had to wade through the nettles to get to the pool, but farm kids are tough.

A year later we began building our rabbit barn. 24' wide by 36' long with a shed roof sloping from 16' to 14'. DH and I built it our-selves using power pole cross arms. The LADWP has its own training center for linemen to teach them to climb the poles. They relocated the climbing yard and we could have all the cross arms we could carry away. Our property drops 4' down to the level where the barn was to be build. The goats were located another 4' down from there. there were retaining walls but no stairs. The children and I had build rudimentary steps down so we could feed and milk. DH was working those terrible hours and did not have time to build proper steps. Our family does not believe in hiring people to do what we can do ourselves so the make shift steps were going to be there until DH had a few days off and felt like they were important to build. He decided to go down and check the feed situation one evening. After the steps collapsed under him and he returned from the emergency room on crutches, he made a call. We had concrete steps by the end of the week.

While he was on 2 weeks of sick leave, I drove DH in the truck back and forth to the climbing yard and loaded 12' and 14' crossarms into the truck, came back and unloaded them. Cross arms are 4" x 5" creosote soaked lumber. After DH decided we had enough cross arms to build the barn, we started bringing home pole butts. These are 10' pieces of creosote soaked power poles, 12' TO 14' in diameter. Naturally I could not load these like I had the cross arms. I drove DH down and he hobbled into the "pole cat". Once in the seat, with his crutches balanced on the side of the machine, he used it to pick up the pole butts and load them into the pickup. Our poor little 1/2 ton extended cab was a bit overloaded and I had to drive carefully. Once we got the load home DH rigged a line around each pole butt and tied it off. Then I drove slowly forward while he balanced on his crutches and guided the pole butt off the truck. Now the driveway was filled with giant poles and we had to move them into an area to store them. Summoning all the kids, we rolled the pole butts into a pile. Back and forth several times a day, load after load, for the 2 weeks DH was laid up we brought home the materials for his rabbit barn. Then we started the work.

More later . . . .
 

Ridgetop

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Just realized I have been posting our activities elsewhere. Got caught up in other posts.

So to catch up, DH is packing for Texas as I write this. He would have finished his packing, but he can't find the suitcases. He is furious with some of the California propositions on our ballot. Particularly #10 which establishes 539 new "Rental Boards" which will have large staffs of state employees earning large state salaries. These "Rental Boards", which are touted to make housing affordable, come out and inspect your house if you decide to rent it, then tell you how much you can rent your home for. No matter what the going rate is, or what your home is worth, the rent is set by these RBs and can not go higher than what they determine. In addition, when a tenant moves out, you cannot raise the rent to whatever is current, because the RB will not allow any rent increases. For this, you must pay a fee to the RB (state), they will send tenants to you. When you want your house back to move back in or sell it, there is another fee to remove your property from the "for rent" status of the RB. This is touted as making homes more affordable for renters, and as making property more affordable for buyers because it will lower the value of your property. On the other hand, there will be no corresponding lowering of property taxes! Rent control in many cities has resulted in rents being held artificially low which has prevented some landlords from doing upgrades or improvements.

Luckily we no longer have rental property in California, having sold it and relocated our assets to :love Texas :love!
However, since we are thinking seriously of moving to Texas and renting our property, this would affect us negatively. On the other hand, DD and SIL still are in a rental so they could rent from us without notifying any Rental Board since it would be family living there. They are interested - of course, I did not mention that DS1 and DD@ would also be sharing the house with them. ;) :gig

Anyway, I started cleaning the barn stall that we used extensively 2 years ago during the rainy season. Our rainy season (when it comes) consists of tropical storms from the South Pacific and Mexico. We don't get pleasant rain, it is like someone upended a bucket over us. The ground can't soak it in fast enough and there is a lot of flooding, especially in burned hillside areas. We can't clean out the stalls in this type of rain, since the barn tends to flood so we keep adding straw to the stall, layered with Dri Stall, and lime between kidding/lambing. The layers in this stall had been there 2 years, had dried in stratified layers, and were 14" higher than the rest of the barn floor. Last year DS2 started digging it ut but didn't get very far. The stall floor was still kind of wet, and the manure layers were extreme heavy. We could only fill the barrels halfway. He got about 2' of the 12' stall done. Now he is off working in northern California. I took the mattock and started working at the layers. It actually was pretty easy since I stood on the high layer and dug the blade between the layers and under the bottom layer. Then I had to pick up the dried layers. I think it must be like the old buffalo chips, layers of flattened manure with dried grass in it. Probably could use it for fuel it the smell didn't kill us! LOL I filled 3 huge trash barrels before I went inside and collapsed. I have apparently gotten weaker in my "late middle age". the next day DS1 found me hacking at the layers ad took away my mattock. He dug out more and I filled the rest of the barrels - 7 of them. Now we were out of barrels. We had only done one third of the stall. I suggested to DH and DS1 that we just chuck it all over the edge of the gully but they insisted on loading it in the truck for the garbage pickup. The truck will only hold 8 full barrels. They had to lift the barrels into the bed, make 2 trips done the hill half a mile to the street and unload all the barrels. Then 2 trips tomorrow to bring the empty barrels home. DS1 refused to consider dumping it into the gully saying that it would "cause dust". We live on 6 acres of dirt, the sheep have eaten everything that did not burn, and we are surrounded by another 100+ acres of burned over dry hillsides. Our neighbors have horses. But dumping the equivalent of 20 wheelbarrows of dry manure into the gully would "cause dust". :heIf I had suggested that we dump it into the front loader of the tractor, DH would have been thrilled to drive it 100 feet and dump it off the edge. Go figure.

However, now DH and DS1 are on board with cleaning out the barn so I can order my new Sydell lambing pens in time for lambing season in November. I typed up a list of all the storage areas we needed to clean out. TWELVE OF THEM! 4 are 10' x 20', 2 are lofts in those buildings, and the rest are smaller sheds about 8' x 8'. After 3 hours of discussion (loud arguing) THE MEN decided on a sequence of the work . . . .

First, we would finish cleaning the barn. The rest of the manure stratae would be dug out with the mattock, and the barrels filled again. The other 3 stalls which just have sheep berries and straw will be cleaned. This sequence will take 2 weeks because the trash and manure barrels only go down once a week. After the first stll is dug out, DS1 will take apart and remove the 2 pipe corral stalls. First I have to cut all the wood and wire panels loose from the pipe panels that have been attached to keep the sheep and lambs from escaping through the bars. Once the stalls are removed a more thorough cleaning of the barn floor can be done, ready to set up the lambing pens.

While waiting for the weekly garbage pick up of the manure and barn cleanings, we will move out attention to the old milking shed. This is a 10' x 20' block walled building that is now used for storage. Most of the junk is old building supplies that are unusable, heavy, and need to go to the dump. DH said he will hitch the utility trailer and park it on the driveway so we can drag all the junk up 2 short flights of steps and put it in the trailer for a trip to the dump. So far so good. There are also some large pieces of furniture in the back of the shed. DD2's boyfriend is moving into an apartment soon so he can help remove the furniture up the stairs, and take them to his new place. Some of the stuff is DD2's large bins of "important stuff" which will be moved out to one of the other storage units. The remaining stuff - lots of it - is rabbitry carrying cages, new cages never assembled, cage parts, water system parts, electric fencing chargers, wire, set offs, etc., and miscellaneous horse waterers, tank floats, etc. All of that needs to be sorted into plastic bins for storage. The final step for the old milking shed is to water proof the walls, put in commercial style shelving units, then the shed will be used for current building materials (not many), the rabbitry equipment, hot wire stuff, and other livestock equipment large and small.
I am hoping to get the barn emptied by the time I have to have my surgery, and have a good start on clearing out the milking shed, and sorting the equipment.

Whether we move to Texas or not, this needs to be done. If we move to Texas we will have a start clearing out our junk and packing up the livestock equipment we will bring with us. I will be starting on the milking shed tomorrow since we will not have any available barrels until tomorrow night.

The ewes look like they are pregnant. I have checked my calendar and taking the last date they each marked I will calculate the lambing dates for them. Two of them are the new Dorper yearling ewes and I am excited to see their lambs. The 2 Dorset ewes I kept were bred to the Dorper ram and hopefully will deliver nice meaty lambs. I chose the ream based on his evaluations scores so am hoping for good stuff. I bid on a couple ewes at the on line sale yesterday. I was outbid which was ok. There will be another on line sale early May and the following weekend there is a show and sale in Modesto. DH and I are tentatively planning on going to the Modesto sale just for fun. I really need to learn to read the NSIP evaluation records better. They are confusing. I prefer the evaluation scale used by Wes Patton 1-2-3 low to high, and the order is frame size, shed, and pigment. I also learned my way round the sale catalog better this time so next season I will be able to really choose some good stock. Too bad I already have 2 good rams for my tiny flock since there were some fantastic rams that went for $700 with excellent evaluations scores out of South African import bucks. :( I won't need another buck for at least a year and there will be more good ones coming up . . . I only have 5 ewes now, since one Dorset ewe lamb died, I lost another Dorset ewe last year and I sold 3 Dorset ewes over the summer. I really like the temperament of these Dorper sheep. The ones I have are slightly smaller framed than the Dorset ewes, but that is probably because they are yearlings compared to mature ewes. Also the Dorsets are growing wool again while the Dorpers are still fairly slick. I plan to sell the Dorper X Dorset lambs for meat and keep the Dorper ewe lambs (if any :fl) in the flock. With 2 rams I can breed back and forth for a few years, then keep the best ram, sell the other and buy another better ram. I really want to upgrade the quality of the flock breeding for meat, weaning weight, complete shed and maternal traits. The Dorsets were really good and I really loved them but I just can't do the shearing myself anymore, and at $40-50 a head, I don't want to pay for it.

Greybeard told me a 2 years ago to look into Dorpers, so I hope he reads this. Better late than never!

I haven't finished writing more of the adventures of the Ridgetop gang, but plan to finish more tales of our crazy lives soon. Meanwhile, I am till laughing about the wild adventures of the rest of you, and enjoying everyone's activities. Life is good, keep laughing.
 

Ridgetop

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No worry here about flooding! LOL Even though the sheep eat off all the green stuff, we don't usually have any soil slippage either, probably because we don't do any slope grading. Mostly we just grade the top off to get rid of the manure and loose mud on the flat top of the ridge. However you can see why we are looking for something less steep. Slightly rolling is ok for pasture with slight rises for house and barns. Will be planning seriously for property purchase next year so we can move by 2020.

Yes, the puppies were all adorable. Here are pix of the males that are left. 20190124_095249.jpg output.jpg The puppy on the left is a black masked fawn, the puppy on the right is the black masked brindle, and the last male is white or cream. The brindle has a large white splash on his chest, a tiny white snip on his nose and white on his toes. Beautifully marked. They are currently with goats and Debra has started them on coming to her when called. I think she might have 1 white female left. They are all nice large pups, raised outside in the snow, with a partially enclosed well bedded shed. Angel is probably wondering why someone doesn't turn on the A/C here in 70 degrees! We barely drop to the high 50's at night! The parents are currently defending against wolves, foxes, coyotes, cougar, and whatever other predators lurk in northwest Idaho. Debra said someone lost a horse on another ranch to a cougar several months ago. The puppies are adorable! Angel already is attached to the sheep. She is doing so well!

I really loved the little brindle bitch due to her markings. She was allover brindle with no mask, but she was one of the smaller puppies. Debra is keeping her. Erick picked the puppy for me based on the videos of the puppies, size, conformation, and their behavior on Debra's Facebook page. He and Debra discussed their temperaments and attitudes and chose Angel for me before I went. Angel was actually the one Debra had originally thought to keep. Angel was more watchful, calmer, and seemed to have the makings of the kind of livestock guardian we wanted. She also has lovely conformation and Erick thinks she wil be little taller than Rika. Rika is a nice size bitch at 125 lbs. She is about 28" tall while Bubba is 33" tall. Both are as fast as a striking snake, and very athletic. That is what we need with these tricky coyotes, the steepness of our terrain and the division of our livestock area by the house which sits smack in the middle f the property on the ridge top. Great place for the view, but really awkward for the dogs to try to protect both sides from coyotes.

Rika spent all her time with the sheep so we got a second Anatolian, Bubba, to do double duty as sheep guardian and home protector. Angel will be Rika's replacement eventually, so we needed an Anatolian who was more sheep motivated than human motivated. She is cute as a bug and we have to be careful not to bring her inside except when the older dogs are off duty. She is sooo adorable that DH has to restrain himself from putting her in his lap! Only the realization that she will eventually be about 130 lbs. keeps him from spoiling her in that way. He actually had me take a photo of him with her on the bed to tease our friends! I have to be strict with DH more than the puppy!

We took our first walk around part of the property with Angel this am. She was on a leash so we could keep her with us since the mules and donkeys were loose. They came up to sniff at her and she was very happy to meet them. Lacey stomped at her though and I didn't trust the donkeys either, so we kept walking watchfully. We were trailed by 4 equines until they lost interest and started grazing. I won't let her loose around the donkeys and mules until she is older and can evade any stomping or biting. They are used to the larger dogs, but will sometimes try to sneak up on them. I am not sure what they will do if they catch them, but the adult dogs don't let them get close enough to find out either! LOL She was tired out when we got back and dove into her water bucket for a ling cold drink. The heat is hard on a furry puppy used to below freezing temperatures.

Angel's kennel run is right up against the ram pen which was actually the night fold last summer. DS1 is planning the layout of 2 other large corrals or folds for the ewe lamb we don't want to breed yet, and the 2nd ram that won't be turned in with the ewes this breeding. We will also make 2 more of the A frame shelters from the left over corral shelters. I think we will put up the shelters first, then build the pens around them though, that will be easier than trying to slide the corral shelter panels over the top of the 5' high corral panels again! LOL As we train her, we will keep Angel in one of the large folds, switching her between the different sheep - unbred ewe lambs, solitary ram, and breeding ewes & ram. Eventually we will let her be loose on the field with the other dogs during the day and shut her up at night in the barn pen with the ewes at night.

Rika is already teaching her to be polite to her elders. LOL Bubba has accepted her and is sweet to her.
 

High Desert Cowboy

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Angel sounds like a good workaholic, though I understand it can be annoying. Once Bella learned she could jump out she would immediately escape anytime I was in the vicinity of the sheep, because clearly I’m a silly two legged buffoon and have no idea how to do anything sheep related without her supervision. I used to have Hotwire around the top but I had to move it when I swapped things around. I put chicken wire across the top figuring a physical barrier would help. There I am fixing my H brace in the sheep pen and who should appear to assist but Bella. She climbed the side, tore a hole in the chicken wire, and came running with a grin on her muzzle. Now I’ve got pasture fence across the top. Just gotta make sure she doesn’t get her paws on wire cutters, she’d probably figure out how to use them. All you can do is half heartedly scold them because hey, they wanna work and thank the good Lord for dogs. If only we could find a way to get our kids to have that same enthusiasm right?
 

Ridgetop

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Yes, the good old days when the children could be ordered out to heavy manual labor, and rewarded with a rental movie, root beer floats. and :poppopcorn!

Now we still have our adult unmarried children work with us, but since we are much older, the work seems more backbreaking than usual. It takes longer to get them out there with us. I think sometimes they work with us because they are afraid if we do the work without them we will get hurt and they will have to take care of us as well as do all the work. LOL :old

However, I no longer live in fear of the 65 year old rusted water pipes breaking under the house. I had D use WD40 on the rusted joints several times. The next day he was able to get them apart, replaced the tangle of old piping with a single run of PVC and repaired the leak. We now have water in the barn and to the outside areas again! :celebrate

Sadly, in spite of constant watering, the 112 degree temps fried the sword ferns that we had to remove temporarily from the planter where the pipes were. Once we are sure that the leak is repaired and that no other lines are ruptured anywhere, DS will fill in all the trenches and eventually I will replant the flower bed. We have other flower beds surrounding the house that I designed when we poured our large patio. I have decided to concrete them in with salt finished concrete to match the patio. They are beautiful when planted but take too much water to stay nice. I will concentrate my limited watering on heat and drought tolerant plants and herbs and on the few vegetables I decide to grow.

Today the grandchildren saw a small snake crossing the path. They rushed to look at it while DH and I shouted at them to get back since we couldn't tell if it was a rattlesnake or not. The LGDs saw it too. They rushed to get to it before the children. After DH and I got the children back to where the dogs decided was a safe distance, I managed to get close enough to identify it as a California Kingsnake. I pushed the dogs off and picked up the snake to carry it to safety. I thought it would be dead but although it was slobbery, it was not bleeding anywhere, so hopefully it will live. I put it under the shed to be safe from the dogs. We have never had rattlesnakes on our side of the boulevard, but lots of Kingsnakes which eat rattlers. Our other dogs have always stayed between the children and the snake but kept their distance, and barked hysterically to summon me. I had never seen dogs jump on a snake like the Anatolians did. Erick Conard had told me that many Anatolians will try to kill snakes if they find them. It was a good lesson for the children about instant obedience when we ordered them to back off, since if it had been a rattler it could have bitten them. They were even more upset to hear that it would have bitten the dogs many times since the dogs would not have left the snake while the children were in danger distance.

I am going to tell the story how we got back into sheep after getting rid of all livestock except our horses.

By the time the last 2 children sold off their goats, we had already bought the adjacent 4 and 1/2 acre parcel from a developer. He wanted to grade off the top of the ridge starting at the property line (undermining our property), fill in part of the gully with a 12" culvert to divert the run off water onto our property, and the build 3 houses on a hillside only capable of holding 1 with the new horsekeeping restrictions. The houses wouldn't cut off our view, but 3 5,000 sf mansions right on our property line would severely impact our lifestyle. We had licensed our horses all along the property line but he was a problem. We kept our gate locked to prevent him from driving onto our property without permission but his constant phone calls demanding to be allowed to access his property by driving across ours and threats to sue us for better access to his property were making our lives miserable. Luckily we have an active property owners association dedicated to maintaining our horse areas and we were able to fight several of his bids for variances in the building restrictions. Finally we simply over paid him for the property after the 3rd time the planning department turned him down at a hearing. It was worth an empty bank account to finally have peace of mind.

So now we had 6 acres and where we did not have to cut much brush for fire control before we owned that property, now we did. Also, around that time we had constant winter rains resulting in massive growth of weeds and brush! First we fenced the property with welded oil pipe for the horses and covered it with no climb livestock wire. We turned our 5 horses out figuring they would graze everything down. Noooo, they peered into the gully and then stood outside the hay barn waiting for dinner to be served. We tried not feeding them for a day or so. The mule tore the door off the hay shed. :he We put up a corral around the hay shed. Finally, with only ourselves and 14 year old Kassy to clear 4 acres, we summoned our children back from college to help us cut the brush. After cutting and taking loads of brush to the dump 2 weekends in a row, we were so exhausted one night we left the cut brush sitting in the trailer. That is when we discovered that as long as we cut it and dragged it to the top of the hill, the horses and mule happily ate it. :barnie At least it cut out the trips to the dump, we just had to drag it up a 60 degree slope for those equine freeloaders. I swear they were grinning to each other.

The next year DH hired a company to cut the brush - $5,000 later we had a clear field. The next year it cost $3,500. Then late rains came and we had to cut again. :rant:somad DH was clutching his checkbook and hyperventilating, so I told him we would get some animals to graze the field. I thought I heard a snicker from the mule. DH wanted goats but we decided sheep were a better bet. They pursue a scorched earth policy which was what we needed for fire clearance.

It took 6 months to find a small family commercial Dorset herd who would sell me breeding stock. Most commercial Dorset herds are under contract to processors for all their lambs and cannot sell privately. Best of all, these were fall lambs - Dorsets are known for out of season breeding! The breeders were in No Cal but were coming south to judge a herding dog trial. They offered to bring the sheep down for the price of gas. :bow

The day came when our 4 legged weedwhackers were due to arrive. The barn was ready for them. We would keep them in the barn for several weeks while they learned it was the place for hay and grain - ovine nirvana! The truck pulled into the driveway outside the barn. We lined up to herd the lambs into the barn. The lambs were in a wire cage built into the pick up bed. The breeder opened the gate of the cage and we braced to catch the lambs. 3 ewelings and a ram crowded as far away from us as they could get. 4 pairs of ovine eyes stared out, 7 pairs of human eyes stared back. I got a bucket of grain - there were no takers. This was an anticlimax. Finally it was decided that someone would have to get in and herd them out. All eyes turned to DD2. She was the youngest - it's our family tradition - in she went, protesting. The lambs crowded away from her. Finally one lamb broke and rushed for the gate. DS2 caught her on the fly and carried her triumphantly into the barn. Eweling 2 and ram lamb followed. The final lamb was determined not to come out. Finally DD2 crawled into the cage and the lamb came out in a rush. Hitting DS3 in the chest, it knocked him flat in the driveway with a hoof print in his forehead. As we all lunged for the lamb, she evaded us and dashed out onto the field! 4 acres - 60 degree slopes - massive gully with plenty of brush to hide in since it had grown back. In a lightning dash our high school track star DS2 raced to cut her off from the edge of the gully. 6 people joined in the chase to recapture the escapee. Shouting conflicting instructions, lamb and humans circled the flat acre on top of the ridge! 4 horses and the mule stood frozen in astonishment. Suddenly becoming aware that a fuzzy white thing - possibly a dog - was trespassing on HER PRIVATE FIELD Josie The Mule raced along in pursuit. Passing the humans she caught up to the lamb who had paused to seek an escape route. Seeing the big red molly approaching the lamb mistakenly took her for a rescue party, and ran to her. Big mistake! Josie kicked the lamb in the head. Horrified 7 people froze in place as the lamb dropped to the ground. One could almost hear Taps playing in the silence. One nice breeding ewe was now just a large pile of lamb chops and roasts!:ep As we approached in silence, we were astonished to see the lamb get to her feet. Shaking her head she took a few stumbling steps. Before Josie could finish her off we converged. I drove off the murderous mule. DS2 picked up the lamb and we all retreated to the barn. Upon examination it was clear why the lamb had sustained no lasting injuries. As all sheep owners know, sheep's heads are solid bone throughout. :gig

With the lamb safely locked in the barn with her flockmates, everyone retreated to the patio for bandaids, cold beverages, and war stories of other hair-raising animal adventures. With a friendship forged between those who go through a hellish experience together and survive, our new BFFs departed for their dog trials.

Next installment, sheep, no LGDs, and predators. . . . (here insert Jaws soundtrack!)
 

Ridgetop

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Well, the barn was up. The rabbit cages were hung, water lines in and automatic waterers working. Worm pits established, and the rabbits breeding like - well, like rabbits. Our kids had been to a couple of SFV Fairs where we became friends with one of the Ag teachers. Their rabbit meat pens had taken Champion and Grand Champion 2 years in a row. DH had set up the FFA rabbit program with several trios of good New Zealand Whites, then the standard of meat rabbits. DH was really into showing them, and was clerking at the rabbit shows. He had learned to judge meat rabbits and consistently bred, raised and showed the best. DH went to the school and taught the kids and their instructor what to look for in choosing meat pens and replacement stock. This was the first of many such trips to help the FFA kids with their rabbits. In many rural areas FFA kids come from farm families, the kids in our local Ag programs are city kids. They may have pets but have no idea of meat animals, breeding, etc. The trios were lovely quality, show animals in their own right, to get the kids off to a good start with quality stock. Show meat rabbits are good meat producers. The animals the FFA had been working with were bony stock, cross bred with non-meat types. The only claim they had to being NZWs was they were white rabbits. Several months after the trios (show animals in their own right) had been delivered, and housed in the rabbitry, I got a call from one of the students. She was practically in tears. The students were breeding their rabbits for the first time and had discovered a large growth in the stomach of one of the bucks. :ep Was it bleeding? No. Did it have any discharge? No. The students were afraid the rabbit had developed a disease or cancer. DH was at work so I drove out myself to the school 20 miles away. Anxious faces looked me as I removed the buck from his cage. Turning him upside down, I examined his belly for the lump. There was nothing there. I placed the rabbit on the exam table and palpated him gently. Still nothing. I asked if they were sure this was the right rabbit. Yes. Where they had seen the lump? I turned the buck over again and had them look. Right there! They pointed at Mr. Bunny's testicles. Rabbit testicles are placed on the forward side of their penis instead of behind it like other mammals. They had gotten the young rabbits at the end of summer after the Fair. It was still hot then and rabbits often suck their testicles up into their bodies when the weather is too hot or too cold! This was the first time the students had seen them hanging free. After checking both of the other bucks, I reassured them that the rabbits were normal and so was their equipment! Happy students, happy bunnies. :clap

Having announced I would be telling tales of piggies, I went off on discussing rabbits. We can come back to them later as they run through our farm life consistently.

So, barn built, rabbits and chickens housed (we brought our chicken coop with us and fenced it in), we decided that the next thing would be to get a pig for meat. I mentioned that our 4-H club had no livestock leaders anymore, didn't I? So I brought home all the library books on hog raising I could find. Now we just needed the pig. I had no idea where to get one. Finally, DH said that a guy he worked with lived in the Antelope Valley and there were some pig breeders near him. Armed with the cross streets and the vaguest of ideas where to go, we packed a picnic and set off. We didn't find the pig breeders we had been told about, but we did find a U-pick peach orchard and picked lugs of peaches for me to can. As it grew dark and the street signs disappeared, we navigated the roads from gravel to asphalt and back. DH can find his way anywhere - he is like a human homing signal! :love All of a sudden he slammed on the brakes and swung a fast left turn. He had seen a sign for a swine breeding farm. When we drew up in front of the house, the owners came out to tell us that they were not allowing anyone in to see their pigs because of disease. Saddened we confessed that we wanted to buy a pig to raise for meat. We were invited in and the couple sensing a couple of city suckers said that they might have pig for sale. Apparently a sow had savaged her litter and they had been able to save only one of 15 piglets. They were rearing the 2 week old piglet on formula and baby cereal. If we wanted it we could buy it for only $20. Now I realize they wanted to get out from the chore of feeding this piglet round the clock and probably did not expect it to survive. This crazy couple with 4 small kids cooing over the tiny Duroc piglet were easy pickings. It's ears were already notched and it had been vaccinated, etc. DH handed over $20, the farmer carried the piglet out to the car in its cardboard box, and we had our first pig.

Ham Hocks thrived on our nice rich goat milk. Pretty soon she was eating pig pellets soaked in got milk. The children would play with her, and she would follow us around the farm like a dog. Our friend, the AG instructor, came out to look at her since we thought she might be large enough for the Fair. He told us she would not large enough and it would take another 200 lbs of feed to get her to butcher weight. I bought 200 lbs. of pig feed and we sat back to wait for her to grow. When she finished the last of the 200 lbs. of feed, we made arrangements to take her to slaughter. We had located a fellow on the other side of Antelope Valley who did slaughter and cut and wrap. We had no horse trailer, but DH's dad had located a free camper shell that would fit on the Datsun bed trailer he had made years ago. We would transport the pig in that.

The day came that Ham Hocks would take her last ride. According to my pig book, we could easily get her to load by dragging a pan of corn in front of her into the trailer. She would follow it right in. Getting the pan of corn, I dutifully dragged it to the back of the trailer where I came to a sudden stop. The floor of the trailer was on a level with the top of her back. This had escaped our notice when planning to transport our sweet HH to the butcher. We had also neglected to train her to leap into the bed of a Datsun pickup which was what the trailer had originally been before its second life as a utility trailer. Since she was now docilely eating the corn at the back of the trailer, DH said we would just lift her into the trailer. After all, she only weighed 225 lbs. Together DH and I put our arms around her. We tried to pick her up together but couldn't get her off the ground. In fact she didn't even notice us trying as she continued to gobble her corn. DH said we would just lift her front feet into the trailer and then heave the rest of her in. She noticed this. Not happening. I think DH said he thought she weighed more than 225 lb. but although his mouth was moving I couldn't hear anything over the shrieks of porcine rage in our ears. As she slipped through our arms, she caught sight of the trailer with its camper shell door looming open. Ham Hocks announced that she would not enter the trailer, nor would she ride in such a vehicle, and in fact she would stay home. She ran straight back to her pen.

We discussed new plans to get her into the trailer. We needed a ramp so she could walk up into the trailer. DH and I hauled 2 long 2 x 12 planks over and propped them on the back of the trailer. I scattered corn up the ramp. Once again we brought her to the trailer and the new ramp. She greedily ate all the scattered corn as she walked along the side of the ramp. DH tried to push her onto the ramp. She resisted. One side of the ramp fell off in the struggle catching DH on the shin. Squealing insults Ham Hocks retreated to her pen again. I offered DH ice, he angrily refused . :somad We needed reinforcements. Our children were summoned from play and informed they must act as side rails. Dubiously they looked at Ham Hocks who was much larger than they were. DH limped into position, DS1 and DD went to chivy Ham Hocks up to the ramp again. Hocks Hocks snorted and charged through us, scattering small children like bowling pins. Satisfied, she returned to her pen, refreshed herself with a long drink of water, and waited for our next assault on her person. She gave a whole new meaning to "Just Say No!" Strange that I had never noticed that she had a particularly malevolent stare.

After a 15 minute break to bandage up and pacify the troops. I went inside to my trusty library and retrieved "Everything You wanted to Know About Raising Pigs" Volume I. Apparently I should have ordered Volume II as well, it probably had the recommendation not to raise pigs. Under the heading "Moving and Loading Your Pig", after the bit about dragging pan of corn into the trailer and happily shutting the gate on the loaded pig, I noticed it continued on the next page. There was the next chapter, What To Do When Your Pig Won't Load. It said to put a bucket over her head, tie a rope around her rear leg and guide her backwards into the trailer. Right. I went outside and told DH this news. When he finished laughing, demanded to see the book. I went to get a bucket, he went to get the rope and we sent DS1 for the large push broom which was also mentioned in the chapter. Maybe to sweep up the pig poop that was beginning to accumulate n the drive way. Once armed with our weapons we sent the children to retrieve Ham Hocks. They came back pigless. Apparently she was napping and refused to wake up. I went down to get her. Finally, she agreed to come up to the driveway again if I would stop slapping her butt. I hoped I was not bruising the ham but it was all I had. Walking triumphantly along she saw the refilled corn pan sitting enticingly on the driveway. Measuring the distance from it to the trailer she swaggered up to it and dropped her snout into the corn. Gently we scratched her back and murmured endearments as DH swiftly tied a loop around her rear leg. The rope ran through the back of the camper shell through the window and was held by DS1 and his sister. At a signal from DH we sprang into action. DS1 and DD pulled on the rope, I swung a large rubber bucket over Ham Hock's face and pushed her back. Keeping her steady, DH maneuvered her feet onto the ramp. As I backed her up the ramp, DH struggled to keep her feet on the boards and pulled the rope backwards and into the camper. Quickly kicking the ramp boards aside, DH slammed the tailgate and camper shell gate on the surprised porker. Running around to the front of the trailer he quickly tossed the rope end into the camper and slammed that window shut. Loud squealings and grunts began as Ham Hocks tried to break out of the trailer. The little trailed rocked back and forth as the enraged hog tossed back and forth. The camper shell gate started to open as she thrust her nose against it! As I leaned on the gate to keep her in, DH grabbed another length of rope and tied it shut. We were exhausted, but couldn't stop to rest. We had to get Ham Hocks to the butcher before he closed, he was almost 2 hours away, and we had wasted most of the morning trying to load our pig. Shoving all the children in the truck, we drove off. Once on the road, Ham Hocks settled down a bit. When we arrived at the butcher, after the fateful deed was done, he weighed her. So much for our friend the Ag instructor judging weight - Ham Hocks clocked in at 340 lbs.! She was delicious by the way.

Other pigs have come and gone. We bought a used Miley 2-horse trailer eventually. We had 2 pigs for DS1 and DS2 to raise for the Fair. They lived in the old wire chicken coop with a little house in the middle. The rains came late and the pen flooded leaving them sitting in their house like Noah's ark. During the day after feeding time they would seem to vanish only to reappear in their pen at supper time. I thought I just didn't see them in their house since I did not go in during the day. But one day I went out with a load of fresh fruit scraps from canning and decided to give them a treat instead of throwing them to the chickens. No pigs in the pen, no pigs in the pig house, NO PIGS. We didn't have any LGDs yet, could a coyote have gotten them? They were only about 35-40 lbs. That afternoon after school I had the children all go out looking or the pigs. DS1 and DD came in and said the pigs were in their pen. Impossible! I looked and there they were, oinking for supper. The next day, same scenario. Pigs gone then mysteriously back in the pen at supper time. Finally, I decided to accept it. Some sort of pig magic, apparently. Then came the day the children came in and said that the pigs were not in the pen. We went searching and there they were sitting under a bush disconsolately eyeing their pen where their dinners sat. We opened the door and in they ran. I did what I should have done weeks before. I searched every inch of the pen, only this time I pushed and pulled every bit of wire. Nothing appeared to be out of place until one overlapping piece of fencing wiggled. It looked perfectly fine, not bent, It overlapped another piece of fence wire which was firmly attached to the posts. The top layer however, was not firmly attached and when it was lifted, a small pig could squeeze out between the 2 sections of wire. They came back into the pen at night the same way until - they got too big to fit! Once out they couldn't get back in! :lol: Case of the disappearing magic piggies closed.

Then there was the case of Devil Pig. After several years of our kids raising livestock somehow I was promoted to livestock leader. Until then I had been livestock leader in default of anyone else. If your kids wanted to do a project and there was no leader, guess who became the leader? So, I was the pig leader, and the lamb leader, and the veal leader, and the goat leader, and the dairy leader, and DH was the rabbit leader, and a few other things if there was ni other parent doing the project our kids wanted to be in. Of course, once there was a leader for the project other kids joined up. If you build it, they will come . . . .
 
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