Libby is a landmark for all of our visitors, truly a dog that you won’t forget.
She is a breed of Hungarian livestock guardian dog called a Kommondor. Her skill is to go out with the sheep or goats and if any predators show up or something she deems threatening (gun shots, strangers) she will spring into action to protect her flock.
It didn’t really work that way for our farm. When Libby was a young pup she got shocked by the electric fence and never wandered across that line again. She decided that Rick is her flock and she guards him like a mother hen. Anyone new comes around and you will find Libby standing between Rick and the stranger, until she decides that it’s okay and she wanders off.
Sometimes she will jump on Jet over a chicken or duck that is running around the yard. Is it because she wants to protect the chicken or duck for herself? My reasoning for Libby’s instinctual behavior is that all she thinks about is food and if anything were to happen to Rick how would she eat?
Last year I decided to start a flickr journal 365 Days of Libby, truly the goal was two-sided, Libby is getting old, she was 12 last September 22. And I wanted to start using my camera to record life on the farm, to remember the people who attend workshops and the fun they are having while they are on the farm.
I was pretty good for a while, but every picture was the same, here is Libby laying in the snow in the driveway for a month, then images of Libby laying in the gravel of the driveway for months. The idea started to turn towards Libby being a weather station, if she is wet it is raining, is she blanketed in sunshine, the sun is out. Get the idea?
Truly Libby is a smile station. She brings me joy and lifts my spirits everyday. (No, I didn’t say smell I said smile)
See if it doesn’t work for you.
Darwin: A story with a happy ending.
Several years ago during a Quillisascut Hearth Bread workshop there was a clutch of duck eggs that hatched. It caused some excitement as we scooped up the ducklings and their mother to put them in a safe spot away from dogs, cats and wildlife. This is the continuing story of one of those ducklings named Darwin.
One of the eggs was slow, it was having a hard time cutting the egg open. Baby birds, at hatching time, have a little point on the top of their beak called the “egg tooth”. It is what they use to cut open the shell, called “pipping”. The “egg tooth” is on the top tip of their beak. Can you see the egg tooth on the duckling looking straight ahead, in the top left photo?
As you can imagine it’s a tight fit for the little bird all curled up inside the egg. To free themselves they sort of throw their heads back, tapping at the egg from the inside and cut their way out. It is a slow process and an amazing thing to see, the baby duck cuts off the top of the egg so the head gets free and then they start stretching their bodies and kicking out of the shell.
Sometimes the duckling never makes it out of the shell, it is too weak or there is some other problem. It is hard to sit by and not lend a hand, but it is probably better for the health of the duckling and the flock to simply let nature take its course. (obviously, we are not very good at following this advice and for Darwin, it all turned out okay)
In the *video the question of what will happen with the little duck remains to be decided. Never fear it all turned out happy for lucky Darwin who turned out to be female and is now a very protective mother. *(When the video is posted on youtube, I will let you know.)
Darwin is a Muscovy duck, it takes 35 days for the eggs of the Muscovy breed to incubate. When the mother duck sits on the eggs she keeps them warm, moist, and turns the eggs each day. She still reigns over the barnyard and each summer she surprises us with her own little ducklings. (Cruz will be the dad of the future ducklings.)
It is the end of December and Cranky is the only chicken laying eggs.
You might remember reading about Cranky earlier this year. She was the little chick hatched by a duck. The mother duck would have nothing to do with her, so it was up to us to care for the baby chick. We put her in a box with a light, some chicken feed, clean water and kept her in our house. Cranky complained, she made mad little chicky peeps, hence the name Cranky.
Eventually, Cranky moved outside with the Red Broiler chicks and spent the summer moving around the farm in a mobile pen, until the day all the Red Broilers went to freezer camp.
Cranky was set free to make friends with Mr. and Mrs. Pretty and Billy Jean, the Quilli flock of free range Naked Neck or Turken chickens. Now she spends her days clucking about the farm and building nests in the haystack. Maybe next spring she will hatch some little Crankies of her own. (with some assistance from Mr. Pretty)
What is your chicken story?
People sometimes ask if our dog, Jet, is a Border Collie and we often reply that she is a “Mock Border Collie”, the people we bought her from were named Mock. Jet’s parents lived and work on a cattle ranch, they both looked true to the breed, but I think there may have been some hanky-panky going on with mom and a midnight visitor.
Even as a puppy Jet was “off the charts” the vet suggested she be put on a diet. We had never heard that a three month old pup could be overweight. She also has some interesting mannerisms that are submissive and aggressive combined, obstinate, but wants to please. (In all of these I can relate to her, so maybe she is simply picking up on something else)
All of you who have helped feed the poultry on our farm have seen her tendencies and display of bird dog instincts. Although, her number one obsession is cats. She might be helping hold the goats back at the garden gate and her eyes begin to drift towards a kitten over by the water bucket. Will she follow her pursuit or stick with keeping back the persistent goats?
Jet is the most outgoing dog on our farm. When new visitors arrive she is the first to greet them, she won’t rest until each person has been acknowledged, sitting at their feet waiting for a pat on the head or a few kind words.
One of the BIG boys here at Quillisascut.
The General staged a Coup d’etat and knocked Viceroy off his throne. He has the moves, the biggest set of horns ever and look at those invincible bangs, Stylin’. He drives the girls wild!
The General was super-sized when he was born late in February 2011. Butterscotch is his Mom (Freckles his Grandmother). His Dad was a Boer X buck that was visiting the girls that fall. The General was the only kid that we could see any Boer like qualities.
This photo was taken in the summer, before, well, before he started dosing himself with perfume. (For those of you who have been here in the fall you will know what I am talking about)
Truthfully, I have not spent much time with him, I leave the bucks to themselves. It is helpful if they are respectful enough to keep their distance from humans, yet tame enough that we can get a hold of them if there is a need. Which means he is admired from a distance.
Does he remind you of someone?
The newest farm family member, Mimi, the rescued barn kitten.
Boy has she quickly learned to take advantage of a good thing.
Rick found her meowing out behind the barn, tiny little thing, crying for attention, yet she clawed and hissed and spat at him when he went to pick her up. He held her very carefully, fed her some canned cat food, which she went after with gusto. As soon as she seemed full, Rick put her back where he found her. A little later we heard more meowing so we fed her more, oh and by this time she came up to us, no claws or hisses! We saw the Momma qitty behind the milking room- ah-ha introducing the kittens to where the humans will feed them. There were three more qittens out back! Good to know our little girl has family, although she was obviously the runt of the litter, being half the size of her brothers and sisters.
Next morning when we went out to milk, no runty qitten showed up at the dish. Rick started hunting around and found her half frozen, stiff, little moaning yowls, she couldn’t even move. So hard hearts that we are, we brought her in the house and put her by the fire where in a matter of hours she was up moving around. Our idea was to move her back to the barn as soon as she was back on her feet.
Guess what? She likes the house better then the barn and afirms she knows nothing about those other qittens we call her family. Now if we could only get her to start eating qitty crunchies instead of hamburger.
Maybe next week she will be ready to move back to the barn?
The end of summer is the culmination of our warm weather projects. Here in the inland northwest it is a time of processing and storing foods for winter. One of our projects is butchering the pigs, it is a big job that calls for helpful and skilled hands.
Late October, when the days grow cool, our close friends visit the farm to help us with the pigs. Animal harvest is a solemn anchor to the season, yet a time of celebrating another year with our friends who have been joining us in this fall ritual for fourteen years.
Ten years ago Chef Greg Johnson came along for the autumn pig butchery. Greg has generously shared his story with us. Lucky for us the weekend was also documented by Gary Moogk. Continue reading