Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happiest of Happy New Years to All

Gibby is getting a New Years present - he will finally have a doggy door from the dog pen. My across-the-road neighbor offered to install the door for me - and he's a professional carpenter. We looked at the door last night and he said it should be easy (even though the big door is an old wooden door that really should be an interior door - it was once a hallway door before I expanded my bathroom and eliminated the hallway). He's going to add a piece of plywood to hold the door panels together and put the doggy door through the plywood and the door. He offered to put the doggy door in when I spoke with him a couple weeks ago, so I took him up on it when he came over last night to fix my mailbox. The snowplow had knocked the mailbox post over and he brought a T-post over to brace it up - I've never had such a thoughtful neighbor before. This has certainly been my week for having some very kind help from quite a few people.

My hope for everyone for 2009 is that help is available when needed, but life goes smoothly without much need for help! My very best wishes to everyone for a wonderful and exciting new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Our power went out Saturday night and came back on this morning. The cold was awful, the lack of warm food terrible, concern about keeping my mother warm was very worrisome - but having no internet connection topped it all off and made a miserable time.

We had a shower to go to on Saturday - not having a hot shower beforehand was met by a milk bottle of cold water (I've been storing gallons of water for just such emergencies). We drove the fifty miles to the party-site and discovered that the restaurant was also without power, but they had moved the party to another restaurant in their chain two suburbs away. We had a lovely time at the party, even though it sounded like the wind was going to tear off the roof tiles. The evergreen trees surrounding the restaurant were blown into horizontal positions, but they would pop up straight whenever the wind let up. When the party was over, I knew I couldn't take Mother home to a cold house, so I stopped and bought a generator - knowing full well I wouldn't be able to cope with it. A generator is one of those things, like a chain saw, that my father and brothers drilled into me was too dangerous for me to attempt to use. I've had several chain saws since my father has been gone, but have never felt comfortable with them. Funny how my father seems to be looking over my shoulder whenever I touch one. I bought the generator anyway, stopped at the farm, saw Gibby and determined that heat and light were on in his house (but I couldn't imagine taking Mother into the mud and toy/trash littered house) and picked up two electric heaters. I drove home through the little village where my closed-up antique shop dominates the landscape. I thought I could ask a friend who lives there to help me, but found all the lights on in the village - so I was hopeful our power was on, too.

No such luck. I got Mother into the house and under several blankets, then went outside to see if I could lift the huge generator box that two men had lifted into the car. It really irritated me that I could hear a generator running next door at my brother's house - that was my mother's generator that my brother took. At first I couldn't budge the huge box, then I took a deep breath, and pulled with every bit of strength I could gather - it moved. Once I moved it the first inch, I knew I could get it out somehow. I found a ramp board and placed it on the car bumper, then surprised myself by lifting that box over the edge and onto the ramp - I was cheering in my head as the box started down the ramp, then it somehow twisted and fell the rest of the distance to the driveway. At least it was down. I cut the box open and went inside to read the directions by flashlight. It was at this point that my father started reading over my shoulder and I knew I was in trouble.

My cell phone hadn't worked all day and the house phone required electricity (I totally forgot I had installed a different kind of phone upstairs, but I remembered later so I could report that our power was out.) I had tried the cell phone a couple dozen times, always hoping that AT&T would solve their problem and start working again. I went back outside, stripped off my heavy jacket to get to work, and tried the cell phone again - this time I got through to my friend's house in the village! Alas, he'd already gone to bed, it was only 8:00, but he had to be up at 2AM for his job - I thanked his wife, told her not to disturb him, and went back to pondering the generator. The problem now was I couldn't get it out of the box. I decided try to cut the box with a steak knife, then I was going to load Mother back into the car (which was going to be about as hard as taking the generator out of the car because she was exhausted and sound asleep) and go find a motel. I had decided to deal with the generator tomorrow when a car suddenly came up the driveway, and there was my dear village friend! He had climbed out of bed to help me! In about half an hour the generator was running, the heater with the fireplace fake flames was on, and so was the little tv that didn't need cable to run.

My friend advised me to get some more gas in case the generator ran out, so I drove into town and got the gas and stopped at a party store to see if I could find something for our dinner. I asked if they had any pizza slices left, and the clerk said, "Not for sale" and then handed me a box filled with half a large pizza. He wouldn't let me buy it, just gave it to me. I wonder if I looked as frazzled as I felt.

After we ate a few bites of pizza, I sat down in the recliner, pulled my jacket hood over my face, had two dogs in my lap, and was quickly asleep. I woke up when the silence hit me. The TV, lamp, and heater were off. I thought the generator must have run out of gas, so I went outside, used the key to turn the machine off, and filled the gas tank. I was surprised that it filled to the top before I had emptied both gas cans, but I still thought I had everything under control - right up until I couldn't get the d--n thing started again. I tried and tried the electric start, then the pull start, and no luck. I got the directions out, traced out the starter and choke, thought I worked both of them, and still couldn't get it started. I checked the outside thermometer and the temperature had dropped from over 50 to barely 20 degrees - and now I again had the dilemma of trying to load Mother into the car to find a motel at 1AM. I knew that wasn't going to work, so I called 911 and explained the situation. Within about ten minutes I had two vehicles with flashing lights and three firemen in the driveway. Ten minutes later, I learned that the choke was in a different place than I thought, and the generator was started.

The men wanted to be sure everything was working, so they came inside and we found only cold and darkness. Luckily, one of their flashlights briefly struck the power connector I had used at the end of the extension cord - it had a rocker-style on-off switch. I switched it on and there was light - and heat - and tv. The men were pleased with their help, gave me a lecture on getting a different power cord, running it through a window instead of the door, said, "After all, she's not so young (pointing to the blanket pile where my mother was) and you're no young stud yourself." That stopped me. I wanted to say, I'm not a young stud or an old stud, but then I remembered how helpful they'd been and remembered that all that was showing through my black clothing was my glasses and my nose, so I let that comment go and thanked them profusely. I never told them that I had figured out that one of the dogs must have stepped on that power strip switch when they were stealing the rest of the pizza off of the coffee table and caused all that trouble. I just went back to sleep and didn't wake up again until this morning when it seemed much warmer and something told me the power was back on. Halleluiah!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Glibby is now a regular householder

Christmas is over and life is getting back to normal - although I haven't had Christmas for the animals at the farm yet, Mother was ill for too long to think about much else - she's much better now and had a wonderful time with her nieces and nephews and one of her grandchildren yesterday. I may wait to have Christmas for the animals when she's feeling well enough to start going to the farm again. In the meantime, I'm going to gather a whole pile of walking stick length sticks for Gibby - his old ones are buried underneath the snow.

The snow has been so deep that a very kind neighbor plowed out the farm driveway for me, and now the driveway and parking lot has turned to ice, and I have a lovely skating rink. The cats must have tried out the rink because yesterday there were little paw tracks skidding down the snow mounds around the edges - I hope the cats weren't in a hurry, it looks like they were having trouble getting to secure ground.

I'm a bit leery of the ice myself, and Gibby's dogpen has also turned to ice. I've had to give up getting to him that way. Now, instead of dancing around anxiously and licking my fingers while I try to remove the chain that weaves between the gate and the fence, Gibby charges out through the kitchen door. I have to be really fast with my hands and good with my balance to grab his collar as he tries to bolt through the porch door. Once I get the cable clipped to his collar, he seems to be the happiest dog in the world - he fairly flies out into the snow, and snow flies everywhere.

The snow is so heavy the tarp over the chicken yard has ripped and caved in. I haven't found a way to cover it over again, maybe I'll just spread another tarp over the opening. In the meantime, I won't be too unhappy if the rooster finds his way through the opening. He's been pleasant and peaceful for a while but suddenly has started attacking me again. Yesterday, I was so fed up with him, I opened the gate wide and tried to talk him into moving out into the great wide world - but he just glared at me and stayed put. When he attacks me, I have to fend him off with whatever is in my hand, usually the plastic feed containers. He attacks, I hit him, he attacks again, and I hit him again. Over and over. I know roosters have little brains, but he is really dumb, charging right into my swing - it puts me in a pretty poor mood to be beating up a little animal. I wonder what would happen if I let him move in with Gibby... maybe feathers flying instead of snow...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gibby's been busy

Gibby has been out of the dog pen a couple times recently. Both times, it looked like he got tired of waiting and found a way out shortly before I arrived - his footprints in the snow showed he hadn't travelled around too much. So, I bought a chain intended to be a tie-out, and used it to weave the gate closed from the bottom all the way up to the top. It worked, Gibby was in the dog pen when I arrived today.

The cats greeted me in the driveway. I was bending down, giving a tail tug to each cat as they paraded in front of me, then I looked over to the wood pile where they were coming from, and saw one poor cat standing perfectly still. It really scared me when she didn't move at all - she had a dog food can stuck on her head. I pulled it off, and luckily it came off easily. I think the poor cat had just realized she couldn't breathe. I've been giving the empty cans to the cats to lick after I feed Gibby. I never thought about any of them getting stuck.

My little black youngster has returned. A young cat came to me when I was tail tugging. He let me pet him, which usually the cats don't allow, then he ran ahead and turned to look at me and came back. Just on a gamble, I put my hand on his side to pick him up, and instead of running off, he leaned into my hand. I picked him up and he ducked his head down so I knew it was him. He's been gone for about a month and has gotten fluffier. I thought he was poisoned, and I'm very happy he wasn't.

I'm still carrying the doggy door in the car, haven't had time to install it yet. Gibby doesn't seem to mind leaving the door open and heating the whole outside world.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gibby is a Great Dog

I think I should change Gibby's name to Gibby the Great or GG for Great Gibby. The poor boy spent most of yesterday and a good part of today locked up on the front porch so the furnace men could do their job. Apparently he didn't bark or do anything to make the men aware that he was even there. Once the new furnace was installed, I let him out, and he was even nice enough that he didn't pull too hard on his leash. He ran out to the end and then turned back, which was really good because the ground was a sheet of ice. Gibby was glad to get back into his dog pen, he went right in and then ran back and forth and around a couple times before settling down by his food dish.

I went back to the farm again after dark and had a great time. I wore a headlamp, the kind made for bicyclists, and it made walking around much easier. The cats were fun - the headlamp caused a reflection of their eyes that made the porch on the red house look like it was decorated with Christmas lights. I wonder what the cats were thinking when they watched a head height headlamp aimed at them. There are some new cats moving in. They have the same coloring and small size as my cats, but I can tell they are new because I hardly get to see them - they disappear the minute they spot me. They're probably coming from the big barn that's across the street from my west-side neighbors, there has been a lot of crossbreeding between that feral colony and mine for years. Maybe there was a bumper crop of babies over there, too, and they didn't have a big die-off. New cats as scared as these are might not even stay around, they might just be checking out the possibilities. I don't know if anyone feeds the cats over there anymore, Carol, the woman who used to feed them died several years ago. I don't even know who lives in the tenant house there now - it might not even be a tenant house anymore. Part of that land was sold and a giant house, that looks like a great big gray and gloomy orphanage, was built in the field behind the tenant house. I've never seen any people near either house since the orphanage was built.

Anyway, Gibby is back in his giant doghouse, and the heat is on. I'm carrying a doggy door and some new tools for installing it around in the car - but it's way too cold to install it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gibby is a Guard Dog

The gas man was coming today to turn the gas on in Gibby's house, so I moved Gibby and his cable to a far part of the yard. I fastened his cable to the steel supports of my old two horse trailer and the first thing Gibby did was move the trailer sideways - that is one powerful dog!
He had a mean sounding bark for the gas man and I was glad I had moved him out of range. He stopped barking when I told him it was okay, and that made him look like a really well trained dog. While I went with the gas man to check the furnace, Gibby had fun getting himself into a real tangle. What he did to that cable reminded me of the game we used to play on the playground when I was a kid that we called "Chinese Puzzle" - kids would grab hands in a circle and then tangle up together and let the person who was "It" try to untangle without breaking any hand grips (I supposed today we would have to be PC and call that game by another name). Anyway, Gibby had his cable wrapped around, over and under, around a clump of little trees next to the corn crib. It also looked like he had started to pull some wood out of the corncrib. Pieces of wood, leftovers from construction projects, have been stacked in there for years. I recognized some of the wood he pulled out as being from a room renovation in the red house back in the seventies. I only use the corn crib as a storage place for dead animals. I put the cats there in case the Dept. of Ag. would want to do autopsies, which they didn't.

I finally got Gibby untangled and put him back in the pen. He was really disappointed, but I promised I would see him later.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gibby Loves Eggs

Gibby had a treat today. Since we are having a snow storm, I wore my down jacket to the farm. When I gathered the eggs, there were only two, and I put them in a side jacket pocket with my keys. I bent over to clean out the chickens' water dish and heard a scrunch - when I reached into my pocket there was a severely cracked egg. I put it in the palm of my hand and walked over to Gibby - somehow, he knew whatever was in my hand was for him, and he raced over and very gently took the egg out of my hand. In a few minutes, he came over to me and looked for another egg, but I saved the second egg to take home.

It was much harder to walk around the yard with him, the snow was very wet and slippery and I'm afraid it will be icey tomorrow. I probably should have taken out the big tractor and driven it down the driveway a couple times to pack down the snow, but I had left Mother at home alone and she wasn't feeling well so I decided to deal with the snow tomorrow. It's supposed to snow all night and be pretty bad by morning.

Some friends came out from town and helped me put up some of my mother's Christmas candles.- they're little figures, like Santa and angels and snowmen and wisemen, etc. Mother has the largest collection of Christmas candles in the world - at least that is what we have thought for the last twenty-five years. She started collecting them before I was born - so, quite a long time ago. The boxes they are in are very heavy, so I made a decision to only put up a few this year, we probably put out a couple hundred. It's kind of nice to have only a part of the collection on the mantle, the bookshelves, window sills, etc. because it's easier to see individual candles. There are a lot of memories connected to those candles.

The candles put me in a Christmas mood, so I'm going to get my Santa antique replica rug out and get some hooking done.

Gibby Found the Flatbed

I thought I'd post some photos of the surviving cats - even though a dozen are gone, there are still a lot of cats. When I'm feeding them, an old picture book story I had when I was in nursery school runs through my head, "Cats here, cats there, cats and kittens everywhere". I found a copy of that book when I was teaching and used to read it to my kids - I suppose today I'd get into trouble for reading it because it's kind of gruesome, the cats get into a huge fight and there is only one survivor. At the moment, I can't remember the name of the book, but I believe the author is Wanda Gag.

Gibby was really active today - running like a wild dog as usual, rolling over and over, getting tangled up with Blue and Patches, and even exploring in the weeds. He dove into the weeds next to the garage and found the flatbed trailer. He danced around on it, left it to run around some more and returned to dance again, several times.
Today, I used the sport speed setting on the camera so I could catch Gibby during his race-around. Here he is at one end of the yard,

and here he is three seconds later at the other end of the yard.

Gibby may have looked silly chasing his tail, but he was smart enough to stop once he caught it!

I think Gibby liked being up high and hidden. I don't think he knew I could see him. He really has good balance, the top of the flatbed was a sheet of ice and snow - its completely shaded by the garage so the snow didn't melt like it did in the yard- but he never slid across it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gibby Howled

How strange that I mentioned the farmhouse doors in my last blog and I arrived at the farm today and immediately saw the new front door open. Gibby was howling an unusual howl, I thought maybe he was stuck inside the house again, but he was out in the pen by the time I got far enough in the driveway to see him. I fed the cats and then walked out to see what the problem was with the front door. The snow has been melting, but there was still enough snow to see footprints if there were any - there weren't. The door was open, but no note from a neighbor or anything else I could think of to cause the door to be open. It's funny, when I started to enclose the front porch, I had great plans for using it and now it's just piled with stuff and I have no time to see what's there. Oh, I just realized what's missing - I had some old library chairs from the school where I taught back in the sixties - chairs I loved, but they took up a lot of room in the small dining room in the house, so I had stored them out on the porch and I think they're gone. I'll have to go back and look tomorrow. I did pick up the keys and locked the door. Very few people knew about those chairs and I can't imagine why the people who knew would want them, so I guess I'd better do some better investigation tomorrow.

As near as I can tell, Gibby's odd howl didn't mean anything other than responding to hearing me open the gate. He was dancing in the pen when I got to him. He's such a cheerful dog. When I let him out, he ran from me to Patches and back again. Blue jumped at him, to keep him away from Patches, then Patches and Blue got into a barkfest. While they were doing their doggy things, I went over to feed the chickens. Next week, I'm going to have to find some time to go up to the dog pound to find another dog, Gibby really needs a roommate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gibby is a Speed-Demon

The cats are still all well today, I think for sure that PetPride food was the poison. One of the raccoon-like cats let me pick her up today. The boss-cat seems to be the one that looks like Blackie, so I'm going to just call her Blackie. There's always been at least one Blackie for as long as I can remember. New Blackie runs first to greet me. She's the only one who comes from the farmhouse, although I know Tiger lives under the pool room and will come from there later. Tiger never participates in the greeting ceremony.

Blackie walks ahead of me toward the red house porch, stopping often and looking back over her shoulder. Each day, she stops at least once, sits up on her haunches and touches her nose to my hand. I can give her tail a little tug and even pet her long body, but she won't let me pick her up.

I tried to take some photos of Gibby, since I haven't posted any pictures of him recently. He was in the yard, running in a large circle, stopping at one side to sniff the ground around Blue and Patches, and then stopping at the other side to sniff the ground near the pool room - maybe sniffing a cat trail. The first photo, above, shows how fast Gibby was moving - he ran right out of the photo.

He slowed down a little bit so I got two more photos.

After about fifteen frustrating minutes, I finally caught him checking out the smells near the pool room. By the time I got this shot, it was getting too dark for more photos.

Gibby still has access to the house. The two antique planes I brought from the shop didn't work, the blades kept slipping out. I'll have to get back to the hardware store and buy the plane I wanted originally - can't do it tomorrow, the store will be closed for Thanksgiving, so Gibby has at least one more day to play inside. Once I can get the door closed and locked, then I can figure out how to install a doggy door.

I guess it's really funny that a door to my house doesn't close. It's odd enough in this day and age that I don't lock my doors, but apparently I don't shut them either. I have absolutely no idea how long that door has been so swollen that it won't close, I guess it could be years. I think when I opened the dog pen for Gibby the door looked like it was closed, but it was just resting against the door sill. When I had some men finish enclosing the front porch this fall (a project I started before I bought the store back in 1994) they installed a door with a lock and keys. They asked me if I wanted to lock the door - and I laughed. A dog pen door that won't close, a back door held shut with a pitch fork - and a locked front door. I guess a polite burglar would be deterred.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gibby's still a house dog

The Michigan Department of Agriculture moves quickly for a bureaucracy. I called this morning and reached a very nice woman who said she usually didn't answer the phones. She was surprised she couldn't get anyone else to answer their phone and I thought it was going to be like calling any other bureaucracy - when she said she'd have someone call me, I figured I'd either never hear from anyone or I'd get a call weeks from now. Not so. The first man called me within a few hours and explained he was trying to reach the regional representative near my farm. The regional rep called me a couple hours later, and he's going to meet me tomorrow morning. It's a good thing I have a whole bag of the Kroger cat food that I haven't opened, he said they can only test bags that haven't been opened. I'm going to give him the opened bag and the empty bag, too.

The other good news is there were no dead and no sick cats today. I'm more convinced than ever that the poison was in the food - I only wish I had caught on sooner. I counted fifteen cats today - the year old orange cat with the friendly face was back. I haven't seen him for a week or more. There was also one cat caught in the pool room - the long-hair black yearling who looks like Sooters. I can't figure out how he got into the pool room. I had to pry weeds and vines away to get the door open, and then, of course, he wouldn't come out when I called. I had to leave the door open and hope he would come out on his own. I tried to watch from around the corner but all I saw were more cats going in. I played a little with Gibby and then climbed up the broken steps to look in the pool room - while I was looking I heard a little mew, looked down and the little Sooters was sitting outside, just under the ledge below the poolroom floor. How sweet of him to let me know he was outside - he even sounded like my old Sooters (Sooters was my much loved house cat, killed by a friend's pack of dogs eleven years ago.)

I tried unsuccessfully once again to lock Gibby out of the house. I stopped at the hardware store to buy a plane to plane off part of the door so I could get it closed tight again. The girl at the hardware store talked me into another tool, a plastic handle with a sort of rough file fitted into it. It was a stupid choice, not strong enough to deal with the hard wood of the door. I filed down part of the softer wood of the doorframe and was able to get the door halfway shut, but not far enough to be able to engage the dead bolt. I whammed on it from the inside with an old hammer and wedged it in further, but I bet Gibby will have it open in a flash. I'll have to go back to the hardware tomorrow and buy a plane - or, if I have any sense, I'll go to my own store and get one of my antique planes - I bet I could get rid of half a door with one of those in half of the time I wasted today. If I remember correctly, I have eight or ten antique planes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gibby is Picky about His Drinks

There were no cats in the driveway when I arrived today. Gradually, they appeared, one-by-one. First, Young Blackie, then one of the raccoons, then a few appeared on top of the woodpile. The welcome was sad, I felt it and the cats seemed to feel it. I walked over to the red house to feed them and it felt all wrong, all wrong because there were no little kittens runnning under my feet. I saw the short hair gray kitten, but she was the only kitten left. She ran to a dark spot on the porch and curled up. The dark spot turned into the two black youngsters who were sick yesterday. They were dead today - but at least there were no new sick cats. I think the change in food stopped the killing. I'm going to call the Department of Agriculture tomorrow and tell them about the cat food - maybe I'll tell Krogers, too. I still have two bags of the damn stuff, one opened and one not. There are only twelve or thirteen cats left - less than half.

Gibby has been busy redecorating the inside of the farmhouse. The two electric heaters are keeping the main floor warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and maybe warm enough to feel good to a hairy dog. He's been throwing everything loose into the dining room, including the almost empty dog food bag. I retrieved it, and filled the big bowl in the kitchen. Gibby seems to be having his meals there instead of in the pen. I guess I'm going to have to get some tools out - make that door into the pen close tight by shaving down the side, and then install a doggy door. When really deep winter hits, I can't have that door wide open or the pipes will freeze in the basement - in fact, the water storage tank is in direct line with the stairs and that door. I moved the tank into the basement some years ago when I got tired of spending all the below zero days with a blowtorch trying to melt the ice in the top of the tank where it was buried out in front of the barn. There's no way I have time for that foolishness now.

Gibby and George are apparently never going to be friends, but George doesn't seem to be as wary of Gibby as he used to be. Tonight, he walked right through the circle Gibby was running so he could ask me to let him into the house. That required some pretty fancy footwork to jump over the cable. I guess George must think the dog food in the house tastes better than his food at Grandma's house. I was pleased to see him feeling well enough to be walking around instead of just laying by the car waiting to get back in.

There was only one egg in the hen house today, but it was a beautiful bright blue - almost a robin's egg blue. Pretty soon I'm going to have to find something to do with those eggs. Even though we had eggs for breakfast, I still have three dozen in the refrigerator. I know it's silly, but I love to take them out and look at them - they're blue and green and pink, and some are gray. The pink ones are from the old hens and only appear once or twice a week, but we've been getting three or four of the others every day, until today. I put that one beautiful blue egg in my jacket pocket and forgot to give it to Mother when I got into the car. We had to go to the feed store and I bought a fifty pound bag of chicken feed - and some thermal underwear for Mother. I struggled to get that bag of feed onto the top of the grocery cart, then had to muscle it from the cart into the back of the car. I already had three big bags of cat food in the back (two good ones and one of the probably poisonous Kroger bags) so I had to shuffle them out of the way and then get the chicken feed in - and with all that and several ins and outs under the steering wheel, I got all the way home before I remembered that egg. I took it out of my pocket and it was still whole, tough little beautiful blue egg.

Well, I didn't tell you much about Gibby today because I really didn't spend much time with him. I don't think I even threw one stick for him. He watched me carry the two dead cats to the corn crib and must have understood I wasn't feeling really cheerful, because he didn't even ask me to throw a stick. Oh, he did tell me he doesn't like well water - something I suspected. I dumped the ice out of the bucket by the back door of the house and filled the bucket with fresh clean well water. He chose to lick the icey chunk of rain water and never put his nose in the bucket at all. There are enough chunks of rain water ice around the farm, maybe I should take some in the house and melt them for him. And then again, maybe he should learn to like well water.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gibby Should Be Warmer

I bought a new electric heater for Gibby's farmhouse. My first heater is running in the living room and I put this one in the kitchen. I'm hoping to keep the pipes from freezing while I wait for two weeks for the energy monopoly to turn on my gas. I can't understand how a company can stay in business and maintain such a monopoly when their service is so poor - two weeks before they can click a button on a computer. Of course, I wasn't expecting snow and freezing temperatures this early or I would have annoyed them sooner. Anyway, both heaters have enclosed heat sources so they won't burn the house down if Gibby knocks them over.

Two more dead cats today, and three who refused to eat. It looks like poison - and my mother asked if it was in the food - and I was stunned. I had already given them two feedings from a new bag, the same Krogers brand as the last bag. They had already eaten quite a bit tonight, there wasn't enough left to remove, but I had a bag from another source, so I gave them some of that. All of the young ones are gone except one very shy shorthair gray, the teeny-tiny black one has disappeared just like the brave little gray. I counted twice tonight, counted 17 the first time and 18 the second time - that's ten less than the highest count during the summer.

I also found a dead chicken. This was not a good day - no sign of trauma, no injury, and not the cold - right inside under the heat lamp.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gibby is a Muddy House Dog

This last month has been a difficult one, but everything seems to be looking up right now. Blue had her surgery, turns out she has/had a slow growing kind of cancer, a kind that can return at any time but should be comparatively easy to manage. I intend to take her to visit her vet often, since it was Dr. Lisa Lemke petting Blue that found the lump. It took a long time to decide to do the surgery because Blue was lactating and bleeding. I won't go any further into this, but it did confuse veterinarians at several vet schools.

I went away for a week and a good friend took care of the animals at the farm. That means that Blue and George and Patches had to return home. They returned home and apparently worked with Gibby to provide easy in and out to the dog pen, and Gibby has been a house dog ever since. I don't know if he stays in the house overnight or just goes in to romp around, but it's a good thing I had already decided that the couches and chairs all need to be replaced when I return home - they are completely soaked with mud. It's not as terrible as it would seem, there's not a stuffed chair or couch under thirty years old and not one that was in decent shape before Gibby moved in. At least, Gibby isn't a chewer and hasn't damaged any of the wooden furniture, which I do treasure.

The last few days, there are indications that Gibby has gone kind of wild. He has knocked boxes off of piles, cleared stuff off of tables, and generally made a huge mess. It looks like he was either looking for something or chasing a mouse through the house. I hope he hasn't taken his destructiveness upstairs - I haven't gone up to see. I put hooks on the outside doors yesterday, but they weren't effective - the eyes they were hooked into were gone today.

About a half dozen cats are gone. Little Gray is one of them, just disappeared. I found two dead on the porch. I think it might be coyotes, but can't figure out why they would kill and leave their prey behind. I enclosed the cat porch with heavy gauge plastic to give them a warmer place out of the wind, I hope I haven't created a trap they can't escape.

Winter has arrived too soon - frozen water buckets, frozen hose in the barn, chicken yard tarp weighed down with ice, etc. Despite knowing that winter always comes, I'm never really ready for it, and never expect it before Thanksgiving. I guess my biggest cold weather concern is water - have to get the heater set up in the barn trough, have to set up heated bowls for the cats and Rusty - so Rusty has water when I figure out how to keep him out of the house, where he's been using the automatic fountain in the bath room.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gibby's fine, but I've had some bad news

I've had some bad news about my Blue dog. I took George to the vet for a follow-up visit to check on the effects of the steroids he's taking to fight the autoimmune skin disease (penthagus)that almost killed him. The news with George was pretty good, despite the fact that he's gained ten pounds in ninety days. I thought while we were there that I should bring Blue in to have her phenobarbitol level checked. While the vet was doing the thorough physical check she always does, she found a tumor.

I had already explained that I was going to be in New York next week, so I said I would cancel my trip, but she said we could postpone surgery for a week. The cancer could be one of two types, 1) slow growing, slow enough that Blue could die of old age long before the cancer could kill her, or 2) extremely fast growing, so bloody in surgery she might need transfusions. Luckily, there is a Greyhound Rescue in the area, and Greyhounds are "universal donors". I didn't want to postpone the surgery, but the vet assured me that it wouldn't make a difference. We put Blue on some chemotherapy that could slow the tumor growth for the week I'll be gone.

I guess it's a good thing I wanted Blue's phenobarbitol level checked. Whew!

The other concern is Blue is showing signs of a glandular change, or at least some glandular activity, so we've ordered a pregnancy check along with her other blood test. Blue's too old to have puppies - this is probably almost exactly her twelth birthday, although we've always celebrated her birthday on January 1st, like we do with the horses.

Gibby had visitors both yesterday and today. Cathy, who will take care of him next week, is going to be his new best friend. He loves to play and she enjoyed playing with him. I'm not going to worry about him at all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gibby bit me today

Gibby was wild today - as he has been for several days. He has worked out a way to run without getting the cable tangled - he runs as fast as can be in a half circle, reminding me of the way you can draw a circle by putting a piece of chalk at the end of a string. He runs in one direction, then turns and runs the other way - and repeats this activity six or eight times, then runs to the bucket by the door for a drink.
When I had finished feeding the cats and the chickens and checked on the water for the horses, I was ready to feed Gibby. I told him to go to his pen and he gave me a look that clearly said, "You're crazy, lady. You haven't played with me yet." So, I tossed sticks and we played for a while. I stopped playing when Gibby turned the game into tug of war and his teeth came down on my hand - actually, his mouth is so big that somehow my fingers fitted between his teeth and I wasn't pinched at all - but I told him he bit me and Gibby calmed down right away.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gibby is Assertive

We had to go to a funeral today, a funeral followed by a three hour dinner - then home so Mother could have a nap before we rushed to the farm. We couldn't stay long at the farm because I wanted to drive into Ann Arbor to visit Bezoar, an author cat, who has been alone for a week and may have some good stories stored up.

Gibby has apparently decided he has entitlements. He is entitled to play catch for at least a little while or he won't go back into his dog pen. I haven't seen the kong for several days so the only available toy was the big stick. Yesterday, he played with it so fiercely that he broke off a piece about a foot and a half long. I was able for a while to alternate between throwing the main stick and throwing the smaller piece, but he soon told me that wasn't fair because I was throwing the second one before he had returned the first one. Gibby gets a look on his face that very clearly says, "You aren't playing fair." and then he quits playing.

Blue and Patches were not having a lot of fun. Patches kept barking at Gibby - I kept yelling at her to shut-up (unfortunately, other more polite requests for quiet make no impression at all). Gibby went over to Patches several times, in a bouncy-puppy friendly way, but Patches just lunged at him. Patches would jump, I would yell, and then Blue would be the enforcer and attack Patches. Patches would run and bark, Blue would chase and bark more, and Gibby would watch in amazement. I left them to it while I did my chores.

I gathered two eggs for the first time in months - one from the old hens, and one from the new. A big peach colored one from the old and a little gray-green one from the Araucaunas. We're going to have eggs for Sunday breakfast and try the new little eggs for the first time.

I broke up the barkfest by telling Gibby to go to his pen - my goodness that dog is smart - and off he trotted. Yesterday, he had explored into the weeds around my flatbed trailer and gotten his cable wrapped over and over around some Goldenrod so he was tied tight and whined for help - today he didn't go anywhere near that spot. Yesterday I had to take him off the cable so I could get it untangled and when he was loose, he didn't run away, just went directly to his pen. He is so smart, he runs to the pen and then waits just inside the gate for me to catch up with him and unclip his cable. If I have to go into the house to get his canned food, he sits right in the same spot and waits for me.

I can't stop thinking about some photos I saw at the funeral today. Our friend had emigrated from Chekoslovakia in the forties. There was a photo of his parents, with his father wearing a cross awarded to him by the czar. I have been thinking how excited I was about getting my letter from the university, how much more excitement there must have been around getting an award from the czar. There was also a photo of his cousin in a Nazi uniform. The cousin was conscripted by the Nazis and was never heard from again. He came here and earned a PhD in something to do with metals - and was given an award by China for developing something to do with better steel.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Gibby has a longer cable

Gibby now has a double length cable, he can reach the whole length of the back yard. Now it's harder for me to play with him, I am very leery of being caught by that cable. When I back off out of his way, he comes at me on his hind legs with his front legs up and waving - reminding me of a great big teddy bear. When he wants me to pet him, he runs to the end of the cable and then lets the cable hold his upper body back while he swings his rear end around and sits right next to me. His timing is so perfect, he doesn't knock me over. He only gives me a moment to hug and pet him, then he's off again at a run. He has new area to explore, but somehow in all that extra space we lost his kong. I had trouble trying to look for it because I had to keep alert to the approach of the cable. George was in the yard when Gibby did one of his fast run-arounds and the cable wrapped around George's feet - he did quite a dance to get loose before he lost his footing. That was one skillful dance I wish I had caught on camera.

Today we had one of those miracles that makes farming exciting. After raising the five little Aracauna chicks, almost catching my mother's house on fire with their heat lamp, discovering that one of the chicks was a rooster, having that rooster escape and run me ragged around the barnyard, and waiting and waiting, today, FINALLY, the first egg arrived! It is so different from the eggs laid by the other hens - it's half as big and it's gray. I called it green, but the camera thought it was gray and it looks very gray and small in the egg box with the super extra large brown eggs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Poor Gibby

On Sunday, poor Gibby didn't get much of my attention, and he had to put up with dog trials going on across the street. The dogs were all Border Collies, and the sheep are the sheep that should be living next door to my barn, but aren't because the babies were dying. The shepherds guided the dogs with high pitched whistles and I'm sure that sound carried across the road to poor Gibby, alone in his dog pen.

Today, I had to drive down to the livestock auction to buy some hay. My horses forage in the pastures all winter, unless and until the snow is too deep, then I have to provide their forage in the form of baled hay. Last winter, I cleared out my hay loft and fed them that old hay, cleared it to the point that there are only about a dozen old bales stacked up in one corner - those are there for the cats to tunnel into. So, now that the weather is cool enough, it's time to acquire enough hay for at least a few months of feeding. I was shocked at the price of hay - I used to refuse to buy any for more than $2 a bale, today I paid $5.30 per bale. A very pleasant man, originally from Ontario, helped me load my 25 bales - which was wonderful because I learned that I'm not as strong as I used to be, but I had to unload the bales and put them into the barn by myself. Poor Gibby got to watch me from afar - I couldn't let him loose even though there were no hunters around because the lumberjacks were in the woods cutting down the trees.
I drove back to the woods to see how the work was coming. I got there just in time to see a beautiful old tree fall. It was shocking to
see the big earth mover in the woods. It was being used to drag the big logs out to the hay field. I saw only two big logs out there when I parked my truck, and I watched the third one dragged out. That big machine made a wide road through the woods and the fallen trees had already left a wide opening in the canopy so sunlight was hitting where it hadn't been seen for many years. I'm wondering how the wildflowers will be effected next spring - I haven't been back there for several springs, but I used to love watching the trillium and jack-in-the-pulpits give way to a carpet of adder's tongues.
When I came back for the evening feeding, Gibby really let me have it - jumping at me in a way he never has before. When I opened the gate and clipped the cable to his collar, he took off in a run as usual, but then came back and jumped next to me like a jumping jack, making a little cry deep in his throat. He even took my hand and then my wrist in his mouth. I think I was being given a really strong lecture. I played kong toss with him as long as I could stand it, several times he stopped playing and threw himself next to me to be petted and hugged. Then I deserted him to feed the chickens. He grabbed his long stick and started flinging it around, so I was glad I wasn't within range.
For the first time, Patches didn't spend her time at the farm barking at Gibby. I don't know what caused the difference today, but it was certainly much more pleasant - I could hear the gathering of the large flock of birds in the top of the huge old black walnut tree next to my house. It sounded like hundreds of birds, but they were so high up in the tree I couldn't see even one. They gather there for a couple days every fall and have done so for forty years, but I've never learned what kind of birds they are.
I'm going to have to spend more time with Gibby tomorrow, even though it's Bingo day and I have to go to the bicycle store to pick up my tricycle.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gibby had a dull day, I had a great day

At a University of Michigan varsity field hockey game today (UofM vs Temple) a small group of "pioneer women athletes" were honored by an introduction during halftime. The group has been granted honorary athletic letters for their participation on the field hockey team back in the 1960s.
Up until some time in the later 1970s women at the University were basically second class citizens. Womens sports were club sports, sort of sponsored by the university, but not recognized or financed in the same way as the men. In the sixties, even the cheerleaders and the band members were all male. A fall football extravaganza was a completely male event.
One woman doctoral candidate, Sheryl Szady, used her research opportunity to find the women athletes from those early days and persuade the powers that be to recognize us as pioneer women athletes. I played field hockey all the way from my freshman year through several years of graduate school. After more than forty years, today, I received a letter jacket. That's me in the photo, on the left. The others are Chris Schneider, Cheryl Barkovich, and Mary Hensel, who all played field hockey in the late sixties. I was not any sort of super player, but I loved the game and for me, autumn leaves meant field hockey. My mother started showing me and my friends how to play when we were still in grade school, which went to eighth grade. Then, I played all the way through high school, college, and graduate school. I only stopped playing when I started buying horses.

Those girls today had all kinds of advantages we didn't have - we played on a grass lawn behind the dormitories, a place where we sometimes had to beg boys to leave and toss their football elsewhere. The girls today played on astroturf, or at least some kind of special surface, a surface that had to be watered down during halftime, a surface that has a wonderful give and bounce to it. They have a shelter over their bench area - we just put our stuff on the ground near the field. They have an announcer stand - with an announcer - and an electronic scoreboard. Well, in addition to the physical changes, the game rules have changed so the game is faster, and the players were so fast my camera missed every significant play. We had to leave during the second half because my mother was getting cold, Michigan was ahead 3 to 0 when we left.

We went from the hockey game to the farm. I drove the car through the overgrown pasture and hayfield back to the woods. I think I showed the woods to my mother once, about twenty years ago, when I hauled the family back on a haywagon pulled by my antique tractor, but she doesn't remember that adventure. I have been talking so much about having trees cut that I wanted her to understand where they were coming from - she really doesn't like the idea that I'm allowing a single tree to be cut down, let alone forty trees. I couldn't drive right into the woods, but I'm hoping she realized that twelve acres of trees is a whole lot of trees.

I don't know how Gibby could tell we were at the farm when he couldn't see us way over beyond the orchard, but he seemed to be barking in an extra excited way when we pulled into the driveway. The cats were also strangely excited. They were scattered all over the yard, from the farmhouse, across the driveway, and all over the woodpile. No one could be unhappy watching two dozen cats and kittens fly in all directions before they all decide to race toward the gate. I picked up the fluffy little gray kitten and then another little gray kitten. For the first time, Fluffy started to purr. I got another burr pulled out of her fur, but there is still a wad mashed into her back fur. I'm hoping Gibby never hurts this one.

Gibby was a complete gentleman when I opened the gate and held him back so I could clip the cable on his collar. He ran and jumped around and three times headed for me - he came so close I was catching my breath. Then he dove into the grape vines near the house, I thinking looking for his kong toy. I found the kong over by the picnic table and we played catch for a while. Gibby is a real tease, he pretends he's going to give me the kong, then he tosses it where he can get to it first. After several teasing tosses, he finally lets me have it. I wished I could play this game with him until he was tired (although I'm not sure he ever gets tired), but my mother had been pretty patient all afternoon, so I knew I should hurry. Gibby ran around the trees and played by himself while I was feeding the chickens and giving the cats a second feeding (it seemed to me there were more cats than usual today.) I really hated to leave him. He'll get shortchanged tomorrow, too, since the pioneer athletes will be honored again at a luncheon.

Gibby couldn't run today

These are photos of the woods where Gibby is no longer allowed to go. It's hard to believe this can be a very dangerous place, but during hunting season, it's a killing ground. With neighbors who choose to trespass and choose to shoot into my land, there's no way to guarantee Gibby's safety here. It is a great place for a dog to run and play, but not with the gamble of being shot for a deer - and we've had evidence in the past that my neighbor shoots before he has a clear view of his target. The lumberjacks will be back in the woods today cutting down the marked trees - but one large mature tree will not be cut, even though one side is marked, a second look showed some damage at the bottom of the trunk.

Gibby played and played when I let him out of the dog pen on the cable. He couldn't go very far, but he put on a great show racing around the trees, dancing and prancing and playing the stick game. When I told him he was a good boy, he startled me by dropping the stick and running back to the dog pen fence and touching the body of the dead kitten with his nose.

Then he ran to me and layed down at my feet. If there is any way to read a dog's mind, I would bet Gibby was saying "I am soooo sorry." If I could have been sure he wouldn't run to the woods, I would have taken Gibby off of the cable that instant. Instead, I could just pet him and let him almost knock me down with enthusiasm.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gibby was a huge disappointment

I was so disappointed this morning. I went down to the farm to be sure Gibby was okay after his adventure yesterday, and I found he had killed one of the young cats. It was one of the two cats who did not run away from him, a mottled brown and orange and black youngster. I won't go into detail about how I know Gibby did it, but I have no doubt.

I found the cat before I let Gibby out of the pen, so I didn't let him out. I carried the body over to the dog pen, put it right in front of the spot in the fence where Gibby stands and barks when he wants me to hurry and let him out. I told him he was a bad dog for killing the cat, he looked at the cat, looked closer, ducked his head and looked up at me. He sat and stopped barking. I left the body there.

Back again in the afternoon, Gibby barked and I told him he was still a bad dog. He stopped barking. He was quiet when I went to the pen with his canned food. He was his usual dancing self while I was opening the gate, but I told him to back up and he did - no joyful bounding out of the gate. I carried his food over to his bowl without petting him. Then I filled his water bucket and left the pen to get a new bag of dry dog food. I brought that back and filled the free feeder - all without petting him.

Mother was quite upset with me. She was sure I was being too harsh, especially after I refused to give him the hamburger and french fries she had saved from lunch for him. She said I have to let him know I still love him, but I'm thinking I'm showing him I love him by trying to teach him how to be a good dog. If he would leave the cats alone when I'm not around, he could have so much more freedom. Also, he's going to be pretty upset for the next couple months. Now that I know he might run off into the woods and get shot by a trespassing hunter, I'm going to have to go back to keeping him on a cable. I'm not happy about that at all, and I'm sure Gibby is going to be miserable.
I posted a photo of my mother and George just to show how much she spoils my dogs - and they worship her. I watched the two of them communing for almost half an hour before I took this photo. George rests his head in her lap and just stares at her. George is her favorite, but Gibby is becoming a fast second.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gibby Really Upset Me Today

Gibby did a terrible thing today. When my back was turned, he ran away. I was distracted because the man who hunts my woods was angry about the timber cruisers and had spent the day pulling his hunting blind and his tree stands out of the woods. He was putting the final touches on his two truckloads when I arrived and he was so angry he barely spoke to me. His wife didn't even say hello. I was thinking about why he was so angry instead of paying attention to Gibby when I was feeding the chickens - in fact, I was distracted enough that I'm not sure I put the feed wagon away before I left. Anyway, while I wasn't thinking about him, Gibby disappeared.

I don't know what made me realize he was gone, but I thought he would return when I called him - so, I called and called. No Gibby. I covered the whole barnyard, calling in each direction, no Gibby. At that point, I was ready to believe the worst, and walked down the driveway and along the side of the road, expecting at any moment to see Gibby laying in the ditch. Phew, no Gibby.

My hunter friend came back to get his last vehicle and we chatted. I think he realized he had been foolish, said he should have talked to me before he spent the day ruining his hunting season, and then he started helping me look for Gibby. More calling and looking all over. The hunter took his four wheeler down the lane toward the woods, but returned when he saw three deer standing in the lane, deer who wouldn't be there if Gibby was there. He came back and then jumped over the riding ring gate (I can't believe I put the water trough right in front of the gate so it can't be opened) and went calling across the north end of the orchard. I pushed part of the fence down so I wouldn't have to jump the gate, and went through the riding ring and then through the orchard to the south side and out into one of the overgrown pastures. No sign of Gibby anywhere. The horses were looking at me like no one had been out in the pasture with them for a long time (perceptive critters, horses are), and there was no dog with them. I gave up. Went back to the car and drove over to my neighbor's house to the west - she's a dog lover - and asked her to keep an eye out for Gibby. I had heard barking from that direction earlier and kind of hoped Gibby had gone over there to visit her dogs. Turns out they had just returned from a trip and the barks were welcome home barks. After one last return and look around the barns and in the dog pen, I took my mother home.

I gave Mother one of those horrid microwaved tv dinners so I could hurry back to the farm. I was so upset that I wasn't a very pleasant dinner companion. Mother suggested I might want to stay at the farm overnight - and I didn't know if that was to look for Gibby or get my grumpy self away from her.

I took a new rug hooking book and the ATHA newsletter with me. I was expecting hours of waiting with no Gibby, but Gibby surprised me - he was waiting uncomfortably in the driveway when I drove in. It was dark out and he was caught in the headlights - not knowing who was coming, so he was kind of dancing around. I spoke to him as I opened the gate and he came running. First he ran to me, then on past me to the car. I think he was really disappointed that the other dogs and Mother were not there. I wanted to drive past the gate and didn't want Gibby to get hurt, so I let him into the back seat of the car. He anxiously sniffed all over the seat and barely responded to me at all. I petted him enough to learn that he was soaking wet. Maybe he'd gone back to the little pond in the woods for a swim.

I checked the dog pen and learned that Gibby had already eaten the two dinners I had left for him, so he must have been back for at least a little while. I put him back in the pen, and told him I was sorry. For the next month or more, through the multiple different kinds of hunting seasons, I'm going to have to keep him on a cable again. He looks way too much like a deer to be running in the woods without getting shot.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gibby Loves Apples!

Gibby has been disappearing recently - gone for long enough that I've been worried, then he suddenly reappears bounding through the weeds on the west side of the barnyard. I figured the only place to go over there was into the orchard and I couldn't figure out why that would attract Gibby, but I found out today.

Two timber cruisers came out to measure the trees in the woods so they could tell me how many and which ones they wanted to buy. I drove out and joined them long enough so I could take some mushroom and fungus photos for my dye project. They were both very nice, explaining to me why certain trees would provide good quality lumber and others poor quality. The damp side of the forest, where Gibby likes to wallow, grows trees that are useless for lumber - the dampness turns the color darker and maybe splotchy and people don't buy it (too bad lumber doesn't have the same type of appeal as fabric where a variety of shades and the mottled look are good things). It was also interesting to learn that trees that are wider at the bottom are trying to grow around ruined or sick parts of the trunk. After I drove the men back to the barnyard in the back of my truck, we made our deal. I signed the contract, and then we each had an apple. Some people toast with champagne - we woodsy folks eat apples. Gibby went nuts. I thought he thought we had red balls that we might throw for him - but I was wrong.

The two men went back out to the woods to paint the trees. On the way, they tossed out their apple cores - and Gibby charged for them. Seeing that, I tossed my apple core into the air above Gibby's head and he leapt for it and chomped it up - no wonder he wants to be in the orchard!

When the timber crew comes to cut the trees, they're going to reopen the road on the west side of the farm. Right now, it's so deep in weeds that I drove right over a huge old corner fence post because I couldn't see it (I had the two timber cruisers in the back of the truck and neither one even whispered anything like "Woman driver" - just like neither even changed the expression on his face when I told them I was collecting mushrooms because I'm a hooker who likes to dye). Anyway, when that track is open and packed down by the big trucks, it will make a nice race course for Gibby.

Gibby is Cat Bluffed

Gibby wanted to go for a woods walk today. Each time I walked toward the barn, he ran to the corner where the path to the lane begins, but there just wasn't enough time to go.

I had run out of chicken feed, so we had raced up to the feed store, but got there four minutes after closing. Our only alternative was to drive across the road to the produce market and buy a bag of field corn - they have a huge load of bagged corn and apples to sell to people who bait deer, but baiting deer is illegal this year - the DNR found one sick deer on a commercial deer ranch so they made baiting and feeding deer illegal to keep the deer from unnatural gathering, Anyway, getting the corn made us late getting the chores done at the farm.

There was a big cat race to the gate when we drove in the driveway. Brownie is almost always waiting for us and she seems to signal the others. The fastest racer is almost always the new Blackie - who lets me grab her tail while we go as fast as possible back up the driveway. Right after the new Blackie I watch for the fuzzy gray kitten in the photo. This little gray kitten was in a photo posted earlier, sitting on a saddle with burrs in her fur - and she seems to gather more burrs all the time. Today, she not only had burrs and stick-me-tights in her fur, she also had a piece of white fuzz from the dog bed that Gibby ripped apart when he first arrived. To my surprise, she let me pick her up so I could remove the worst of the stuff stuck to her.

She is a very brave little kitten. While I was watching the chickens to see if any of them were going to try pecking at the ears of corn I had put in their pens, Gibby decided he was going to chase cats. I had already stopped him once, just by saying NO until he turned back, but he knew my attention was on the chickens - so, he headed for the porch on the red house where I feed the cats. One little kitten was sitting about six feet out in front of the porch entrance. Gibby got to her first, but she wouldn't run. She stood up and hissed at him! His nose was right above her when she hissed, and he backed off fast! I didn't dare laugh at him, I just called him "Good boy" and gave him a hug.

When we were ready to leave, I looked back and noticed the black cats taking over the chicken pens. There are several sitting on top of the tarp covered chicken wire and several more patrolling the perimeter. I wonder if the cats are protecting the chickens...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gibby Neglected Today

Today, I didn't get to see Gibby until early evening because Mother and I went to Grand Ledge, MI, about an hour away from home to see and hear Senator Hillary Clinton. There were about a thousand people in the audience, all willing to wait almost two hours in the hot sun to hear Hillary support Barack Obama. The cheers were loud and long for both our Governor, Jennifer Granholm, and Hillary. Hillary spoke for close to an hour without notes or teleprompter, making a very clear case for the need to save America by saving the middle class. In addition to the impressive speakers, the members of the audience were amazing. Total strangers offered to help me with my mother and her wheelchair throughout the day. One lady passed her sunglasses down to Mother, and another lady brought a brand new t-shirt to put over Mother's head to protect her from the sun. A man pushed Mother's wheelchair up the steep exit from the park and then a quarter mile down the road, when it became a steep rise, a group of young ladies offered to push the chair up the hill, and one of them did. It wasn't easy pushing and I was/am very grateful. The best I could do to return the many favors was give a bottle of Gatorade I had tucked into the back pocket of Mother's chair for emergencies, to a lady we passed who was leaning into a tree and feeling ill from the heat - she had been standing for the several hours we were there.

When we returned home, I had planned to go to the Webster Township Festival, which was being held just down the road and around the corner from the farm. Usually at the annual festival I have a chance to talk with a rug hooker or two, see some animals, go into the old one room schoohouse and the old townhall, and maybe have a pork roast dinner. Mother was worn out, so I went down to the festival alone, planning to pick up a couple of their dinners to take back home. The first display inside the fence after I parked was a couple rows of old tractors. I love old farm equipment, so I walked the rows, and, right at the end, found my stolen tractor. Mark Bennett of Hamburg, MI stole my tractor over a year ago, and there it was! I spent the next two hours waiting for the police, finding they can't/won't help me, talking to the thief, and determining that finally, all I can do is go to court and sue the crook. Needless to say, by the time I got to the farm I wasn't in a very good mood.

When I pulled in the driveway and the cats came running in force, I had to let go of a little of my anger. By the time the cats were fed, I was feeling more civilized. Gibby was frantically barking, so I almost ran over to him, let him out, and he did that amazing jumping thing, but this time, he kissed me! With just the lightest touch, he jumped so he put his front paws on my shoulders and touched my face with his nose. I was so surprised my bad mood was entirely lost. Gibby raced from me to the car, probably looking for Mother and the other dogs, and then back to me at full racing speed. I was sure he was going to knock me down, but he skidded by me in the dirt and turned around behind me to run again. I tried to take some photos, but he was moving entirely too fast.
I did get a photo of the branch that almost killed the dogs yesterday, but it looks very small in the photo. Even though it looks small, it probably weighs a couple hundred pounds because I couldn't budge it at all. Gibby knew he wasn't getting his usual run time, but he was a complete gentleman about going back into his pen - of course, I was carrying a can of his favorite dog food to supplement his dry food. He had that juicy food scarfed up almost before I had the gate chained, then he came to the spot in the fence where I can see him as I leave - see him and feel really guilty for leaving so soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gibby Likes Me!

I was able to visit Gibby twice again today. The roofers are finished with the boarder's building so I went down to the farm to check the clean-up and write their final check. Gibby was barking, so I let him out as soon as I got there. I thought he might take off for the woods, but he stayed close by. I couldn't stay for long, so I told Gibby it was time to get a drink and he headed right for the dog pen. When I fastened the lower chain on the gate, Gibby gave me a gentle little lick.

When I went back again in the late afternoon, I let Gibby out of his pen, and instead of doing his wild run out to the yard, he bounced in front of me, jumping up to my nose, and making a funny little sound - he repeated this funny bouncing several times. I told him to go on, and he ran over to the car to say hello to my mother. He was pleased to greet everyone, even was gentle with Patches (yesterday, he told her to quit jumping on him by pinning her to the ground and growling at her.)

I went about my chores and was feeding the chickens when I heard an ominous crack. I looked around, and saw a large branch from a maple tree dangling down about 30 feet high, right over Gibby, who was standing next to Blue and Patches. I was suddenly so scared I couldn't even get a yell out, as the branch suddenly fell right on the spot where Gibby had been. Whew! I didn't see him move, but he was not there and the two cattle dogs were sitting inches beyond the branch. I went over to drag it out of the driveway, but the main part of the branch was too heavy for me to move. I rolled it over as much as I could, just enough to be able to drive around it. I found Gibby and gave him some great big hugs, followed by hugs for Blue and Patches. I am very glad they are all still with me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gibby was MUD from toes to tail

I think Gibby thought he was in heaven today. I had to walk the farm with a timber cruiser, and Gibby went along. He ran and ran and ran. At one point, I was afraid we'd be in trouble - the timber cruiser and I spooked up a deer, a small doe. The doe ran parallel to our path for a minute, then crossed in front of us and ran into "The Lurker's" woods. (The Lurker is a man who used to lurk in the bushes around one of my training areas. One day I was giving riding lessons to a group of little girls and a couple of them whispered to me that there was a man hiding in the bushes. Of course, I went right after him, using my Fifth Grade Teacher supervising playground voice and he scrambled backwards out of the bushes and made a fast dash for his own property. I was still giving him verbal what-for when he reached the corner of his own woods, and he turned and said, "I wasn't hunting", half a dozen times. There he is in camouflage clothes with his bow and arrows under his arm, and he says he's not hunting! I informed him that anyone lurking in my bushes and not hunting must be a pervert hiding there to watch little girls - and I said I was calling the police immediately. He was immediately gone. He has been called "The Lurker" ever since and I no longer remember his real name.)

Gibby came back from one of his forward forays and caught the deer scent. A deer colored dog chasing deer in this country would be shot, no second chance. So, we yelled his name, I yelled NO, the timber cruiser has two rottweilers and a strong, I AM THE BOSS, tone, and he yelled, "come here", and, unbelievably, Gibby left the scent and came to us. Whew! I don't think I have ever pulled a dog off a deer scent before. My old shaggy black dog, Shady, had been smuggled out of another county because she had a death sentence for being a deer chaser, and brought to me - to my farm where I could easily count 96 deer in the hayfield on a summer evening. She survived to very old age, but never stopped chasing deer.

Gibby loved the hay field, he ran and leaped and ran some more, but I think he loved the woods even more. He followed scent trails back and forth and covered the whole woods before I could get over the fallen tree near the entrance. Luckily, some of the ancient old fence was still up enough that Gibby ran into it and turned back into the woods. He found the mucky area near the back corner and ran up to us from there with black goo oozing from his toes all the way up to mid body and looked like a very happy dog. A few minutes later, he came back clean again. Then he did it all over again - covered with black goo, then washed clean. The third time, I had finally walked to the right spot and saw him rinse himself off in big clear puddle - what a clever dog!

I learned that the Emerald Ash Borer has been active in my woods. Lots of dead Ash trees. The Ash are so like the Walnut that I had thought they were just young walnut trees. I suspect there are no live Ash trees in my woods anymore. I lost a whole species of tree a few years ago when my front woodlot was all Elm and they died off. Surprisingly, a young elm sprung up in the middle of my front yard and is now about thirty feet tall. I think the Dutch Elm Disease must have died out and somehow this volunteer tree might survive. I'm not particularly fond of Elm trees, even though they lined the streets where I grew up, because their leaves are tough and rough like sandpaper when you drive the lawn mower around the tree and run into the low hanging branches - but I have great respect for that brave survivor.

The timber cruiser wanted to zig zag through the woods and check out more trees, so I headed back to the barn yard. I had way over walked what my legs could do and I wasn't sure I could even get back without having to sit and rest for a long time. I was quite surprised that Gibby didn't stay in the woods but came with me. He didn't stop running, but he kept me in sight. I had to stop a number of times to rest, but he didn't leave me behind.

When we got back, I went inside to wash, and Gibby spent about five minutes rolling in the grass. When the timber cruiser returned, Gibby was sound asleep on his back, all of his paws in the air. I said, "Gibby, do you want a drink?", and Gibby ran right into the dog pen to his water bucket. I think he is a genius.

When Mother and I came back several hours later at feeding time, I thought Gibby would be tired and subdued, but he was ready to run again. Mother gave him the supreme compliment, she said, "I think your new dog is another George."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gibby had a busy day again

I was able to spend several morning and early afternoon hours at the farm today. The supplies for re-roofing the boarder's lounge were being delivered and I had to be there to tell them where to put everything.

After everything was delivered, I let Gibby out. Fortunately, he shows no interest in going down the driveway unless there are people in the driveway. As long as he continues to focus his attention in the barnyard, he'll be safe. He ran around checking things out but didn't do his wild running - no sliding soccer tackles to scare me. I spent a little time cleaning out the dog pen, Gibby had quite a collection of cardboard and aluminum dinner trays. The recent weekend of constant rain washed away a lot of the dust that accumulated during the years the pen was not being used and part of the pen floor is now the original gravel. I never liked the gravel for the dog paws, but at least it is the little round kind and not rough pieces of rock. Gibby seems to be very happy with his dog house. He chose the smaller of the two - well, actually, I chose it for him by putting it under the tarp, but he agreed with the choice and runs right into it when he's in the pen and not eating. He seems to get smaller in the dog house, he curls up and only takes up half of the space.

For the first time, when it was time for me to leave, Gibby didn't want to stay in the pen. He went in willingly, but when he saw that I was closing the gate instead of going in with him, he tried to squeeze his way out. That really bothers me, having to lock him up, but it's so much safer for him. At least I could promise to be back later.

The roofer discovered some ants in the two by fours where he fell through the roof, so I had to buy some poison. I bought a concentrate and had to mix it after I got to the farm. I let Gibby out, then went into the farmhouse to mix the poison. Mother said Gibby went back and forth between watching the back door and putting his head in the car window. It took forever to mix the poison - I wanted to do it very carefully, so, of course, none of it worked out right. First of all, I used a strofoam cup to measure out the concentrate - big mistake. The cup disintegrated in my hand while I was trying to pour it into the gallon bottle. Ugh, poison all over the sink, on my hands, and splashed who knows where else. I'm going to have to do a major scrub down before the dogs stay there when I'm in New York. That poison is so potent I don't want them to touch a dried drop. Even after thoroughly washing my hands a number of times, I was leery about petting the dogs, especially Gibby who has lately taken to licking my hands. I pasted a poison warning on it and put it on the pallet with the roofing supplies.

Gibby followed me through the rest of my chores, but I wasn't up to playing with him - dealing with the poison was exhausting. That's the first poison chemical I've allowed on the farm since 1984 and I don't like it, but those carpenter ants must be stopped before more of the roof falls in. Gibby seemed to respond to my mood and was pretty subdued. He chased some cats, but not with his usual energy.

He was even pretty calm when I took his dinner out to the pen. Here's hope for a better tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gibby, Gibby, Gibby

Gibby and I had a great time twice today. I called my friend, Bobby, to ask a question about roofing supplies and caught him out in the middle of my woods (aren't cell phones great?). I hadn't heard about it, but apparently there is a new, extra week of killing deer - a special week for killing does. This is a horrible time to do this - I have seen a lot of deer lately, babies still with spots. Killing the does will kill those babies, too. Bobby was checking the woods to see if our frequent trespasser, a man we call "the Indian" was out there killing deer. Last year we had a terrible time with him - he shot a little baby deer - shot it right at the foot of the tree, deep in my woods, where Bobby's son was hunting. Needless to say, the son was very upset and words were exchanged. Anyway, Bobby told me we had trouble, a dead tree fell across two fences, my neighbors sheep pasture fence and my horse pasture fence. The new sheep fence was really smashed, and last we knew, there were a hundred sheep in that pasture. So, I left immediately for the farm, and Gibby joined me to walk back to check the fence.

When I let Gibby out of the pen (the gate repair is still holding), he did his wild running, around in a big circle, back to me, to the car, back to me, etc. I think he was surprised to find the car empty, no other dogs and no mother. He did one straight line run at full speed right at me, but I was now confident that he would swerve away or stop in time - but, oooooooooooo, I was almost wrong. He slammed on his brakes about a stride too late and slid right into my feet- just barely touching them. For a second, I was sure he was going to knock my feet out from under me.

We went down the lane that starts next to the barn, Gibby going back and forth and side to side, covering about ten times more ground than I was. When we got to the beginning of the pasture, a tree that grows right in the corner and acts as a fence post, had dropped some hickory nuts on the ground, so I gathered a pile and left them there to pick up on the way back. I was thinking the squirrels would probably see that pile and make it disappear before I got back.

I saw the downed tree and it really did some damage to the sheep pasture's new fence. I was glad Bobby was coming back with a chain saw. Once I saw it, there was nothing I could do alone, so I walked a little further and found another scattering of hickory nuts. I was really surprised to find them before the deer or squirrels or other animals had gobbled them up - last year, I didn't find any - so I piled those up, too. Gibby was dancing on his toes, trying to get me to hurry on, and he didn't even tell me that a man was coming up the lane calling my name. It was the fellow, a Quarter Horse cowboy, who works for the sheep man. I stopped and talked with him on my way to the farm. He came over to help with the tree and instead helped me with the hickory nuts. I filled the pouch I made out of the front of my shirt. I already made a hickory nut dye sample, so I might use these for eating. I think I'll save the husks and dry them so I can see if dried hickory husks give as good dye as fresh hickory husks. Gibby must have been disapointed because our walk was cut short. We walked back to the barn and got there just as Bobby arrived with the chainsaw. Gibby was as good and polite as any dog could be. I told him I had to leave and he walked right over to the dog pen. I reached over to chain the gate, and he licked my hand - such a wild big dog being so gentle!

I went back to the farm again at feeding time and Gibby was just as active as if he hadn't run for miles earlier in the day. We both went back to check the fences and found the two men had cut up the tree trunk and fixed the sheep fence, but left the horse fence down on the ground with the tree branches laying on it. It's rusty old fence that needs to be replaced, but when it's up the horses respect it, so I had to prop it up with some of the branches from the tree. ( I left one big branch in the path so Bobby would have to stop his four-wheeler to move it - I was feeling a little irked that my fence was still down.) Gibby was running back and forth, up to the barn yard and then back to me. Patches was barking at him and I think he couldn't decide who he wanted to play with, Patches or me.

I fed Gibby just before time to leave. Yesterday I put a whole bag of dry dog food in a feeder that he can access any time he wants. I couldn't tell whether he had eaten much of it or not. I think he figured out how to use it - he has to push his head on a swinging door to get to the food. However, he really loves the other food I bring to him from Mother's leftovers, he jumps up to see it no matter how high I hold it while I'm taking it to the pen. I think he's saying, "What's on the menu? is it meatballs and rice again? Oh, I hope it's spaghetti! Wow, is it really a hamburger and fries???? Yum! Today there were no leftovers, so his meal was a can of premium dog food.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gibby is Busy

The mended gate held - Gibby was in the dog pen when I arrived this afternoon. I was really pleased because I had sent some young boys to the farm to see about roofing the boarder's lounge building (that's the name we always used for the vacant converted barn on the farm.) I was concerned that Gibby might be overly protective if the boys got there before I arrived - but, like most boys who haven't successfully held many jobs, the boys were an hour late, and when they finally arrived, Gibby treated them like old pals.

When I opened the dog pen gate, Gibby wanted his one minute of petting.He ran to the car to say hello to my mother, then he sat by my side and let me rub behind his ears. Looking down at him from that perspective, he has a really big head - lots of brain room. Maybe that's why he is so curious and so smart.

After his petting, he did some wild running.

Then, he started MY work routine! He apparently remembered that I go first into the barn to check on the horses and the indoor water trough. He headed into the barn ahead of me, then came back to be sure I was following.
He went right into the pump room and checked out the pump. If he had hands, I bet he would have turned on the water for me.
Next, he ran through the stallion section, then came back and jumped up to look into the stalls - stalls that have been empty now for almost a decade. I wonder if he could tell who used to live there.
Outside of the barn, he tried to play with George.

George just kept turning away, keeping his back to Gibby.
After just a few minutes, George begged to be let back into the car. He made it very clear that he has no intention of making friends with that new dog.
Patches is a completely different story. As soon as Gibby gets near, Patches just flies at Gibby. When he isn't near, she barks at him.
Gibby condescends to play with her for a few minutes, but his wild running is hampered by the rope clipped to her collar - which somehow always ends up wrapped around my legs.
I'm having a lot of fun with Gibby. I enjoy doing the rounds with him. He watched me feed the cats from a distance, then stood in front of the chicken pen while I filled the chicken feeders. It's almost like he's apprenticing and watching everything I do so he can get it right and do it himself next time.