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Locust Farms Mating Nuc Update May 8, 2012

Yay, I am so happy after checking the nucs today! We saw 13 of our mating nucs with nice sized laying queens (it’s amazing how fast their abdomens grew in about 6 days). So, we hope that they continue to do well and we will be able to meet our first year’s nuc orders, whew, what a stress relief.

We were privileged to have our first nuc customers out last Friday to our apiary. They bought two of our strong 2011 nucs that were ready to go home and it was so fun talking bees with them. It was a bit like sending thousands of my own babies away, but I know they will have a great home and hope they do great work!

I love bees.

Petunia took this photo as practice for 4H photography project – It’s one of our bees on a peach blossom earlier this spring, they’re working girls.

Bee Update May 3, 2012

Pat and I looked at our first 10 nucs and our parent stock that we used to make splits yesterday to see how they are doing. At first, we were only looking for eggs and didn’t see any so in the first two nucs we did not look closely for queens (which are small at first and grow their ovioules over the next week). We did find some queens in the others but we didn’t find queens in all of them. After awhile of checking, one hive seemed to gather a lot of bees on the nuc’s entrance, perhaps a mated queen was coming back from flight. Yesterday was a beautifully (hot) day for mating flights.

It is officially day 25 from the OTS method of notching the cells which means that if the bees used one of my queen cells that I notched, then she would be ready and may be laying, but if they chose an egg, we are 5 days from seeing a mated queen and adding time on the end for her to develop her ovrioles. We will check the other nucs in 5 days, since everything seems to be running behind a bit.

My very first nuc getting acclimated to its position before I install it, May 2008.

All of this nuc rearing makes me remember when I went to buy my first nucs. When I bought my nucs in 2008-2010 I never asked how old the queen was. I know that I got a queen that had overwintered the first time I got my nuc in 2008 (her color marking was the year before’s color). That was an awesome and strong hive that overwintered well and I loved having as my first beekeeping experience. The next year, I bought two nucs and I think those were from the previous season’s queens, but I am not sure because I didn’t want the queens marked as I wanted to stay as natural as possible. I only believe they were the previous season’s queens because, when buying them, the nuc provider said it was the first time getting into those hives that spring. I was on the waiting list for both of those nucs.

On the right, my friend got her first nuc a couple weeks after mine 2008. She kept hers on my property for awhile and I helped to care for it.

The spring of 2010, I planned on using the OTS method of splits (so didn’t get on a waiting list), but, unfortunately, that was the year every single one of my hives died – about 6 of them, which made me sick. We had built a pond the fall before and spring of 2010 was very cold.

Making the pond in the fall of 2009

I had about 5 hives, because I had tried to practice the walk away split method on two of the strongest hives. I had even gotten a late swarm, but it didn’t prepare for winter fast enough, so died early into winter. Basically, all the bees froze since they were so close to the pond. They still had some honey but they didn’t leave their cluster to go get it and they froze and starved. There was still activity at the hives that spring [robbers!], so I didn’t realize it until opening them in early April. Seeing all of them dead was so discouraging; I seriously almost gave up. I felt so bad that I had not only killed them, but had wasted so much money for my family. Every single one of my nucs were just less than $100 and I had driven 4 hours round trip to pick them up each time I did. This was a serious investment that just went away so quickly!

To add insult to injury, the wax moths found my hives so tasty that they demolished all of my comb. I was leaving the comb out until I could get some more nucs (I wasn’t on the waiting list this time, so ended up having to wait until the middle of June). I bought my nucs from a provider who doesn’t treat the bees with chemicals which is very important to me and the way that I want to manage my hives. I don’t want to tell others how to manage their apiaries, but it isn’t easy finding non-chemically treated bees I have found, so waiting is what had to happen to get those nucs that year. When the nucs were ready, I bought three nucs with 2010 queens (marked blue) then and told the nuc provider that I really wanted to make my own nucs one day. He grafts his queen cells but he was also trying the OTS system. So the summer of 2010 was spent recovering comb (feeding lots of sugar syrup regularly and often) and trying to figure out how to keep the bees alive through the next winter and especially those few weeks before the maples bloom.

Remembering all of these episodes in my beekeeping experience makes me want to have quality nucs for the people who have asked to be on my waiting list this year. I know the sacrifice in money it is to purchase (insects!) these honeybees that can be challenging, frustrating and downright mind-boggling at times. But, I also know that the challenge that our apiaries create are also ways to make us grow in problem solving and perseverance. Maybe I should have just made enough nucs last year to sell as overwintered nucs. But, I am creating nucs with this year’s queens and there is a risk in that. I don’t control the weather or if the queens get eaten on their mating flight from a bluejay. I must trust that the decision I have made on management is the one I have made and to see it through, knowing that whatever happens, I will surely learn from it.

So, I pray that my queens are getting mated well and in 5 days when we look at the nucs again that we will see well grown queens laying a great pattern of eggs. And I pray that I can deliver quality nucs to those trusting me with their nucs this year. And, still I play the waiting game…

The Waiting Game

Tomorrow is the magic day to open the nucs to see if the queens are mated and laying eggs well. We made splits on April 7th and April 8th using the Mel Disselkoen method of OTS queen rearing. After we had a good report from the state apiarist, we decided to take some nuc orders as we are attempting to sell nucs for the first time this year.

Last year, our nucs mated at our property a few miles away and we never got to see the close up nitty gritty of the process and maybe that was for the best, because this year I am immersed in the process and cannot believe the amazing wonderment of the entire thing, but I am also shocked at the angst and bewilderment in realizing how much I still don’t know about bees and what that does to me. Sure, it may sound silly to admit, but I am one to be brutally honest, maybe even too far of myself. Here’s the thing….I don’t know what I don’t know and I am sure that I will be discovering a lot as I learn over time – and can I learn these things through books ?, no….I must actually try, and fail, then try again. Waiting is humbling and nail biting at the same time.

After making our splits this year, we realized that we were experiencing robbing from a neighboring apiary. How did I know I was being robbed? No, the culprit bees weren’t wearing masks and carrying crowbars – I could only tell, because the bees were a different strain than our bees (yes, there are races of bees that were developed due to isolated geographical breeding – mountains and islands being very isolating and certain races of bees were created that have distinguishing characteristics, color being one factor), these robbers were the happiest color of sun shiny yellow you could find. Our bees are more grayish yellow. So, seeing these bright pops of sunshine lower themselves to a life of crime was disheartening. I thought robber bees only took the food source of other bees, but soon realized that they may have been responsible for the killing of one of my queen cells which I had found ripped open and empty when checking the splits to make sure the queen cells were developing properly in the middle of April.

Using our robber screens to protect the mating nucs caused at least one nuc to have a cluster outside it, which may mean that the queen got confused and couldn’t find her way back because of the screens. Live and learn.

Thinking that the robbers could kill other queen cells in my mating nucs, I did lots of research and found that some people use robber screens effectively to stop robbers. I worried that the robber screens could impede my mating queens during their mating flights, but in the limited reading I could find, it seemed like the queens usually find their way back inside the mating nuc. I took a chance to protect the mating nucs from robbers, but may have hurt the mating queens’ progress. I sure hope I made the right decision; there is no way to know until tomorrow though. It kills me that I may have less nucs ready to sell than the orders I have. I will feel very guilty and demoralized if so, but even if most of the queens didn’t “take” I have a back up plan. But, bees know more than me and,hopefully, if the robber screens impeded them they figured out a work around, just like I will have to find a work around if I have less nucs ready than I would like. I’ll just make more queens without robber screens and wait a few more weeks for laying queens. Sometimes (all the time) agriculture can be about the unknown and taking a risk, and then learning from the mistakes that are made.

Tomorrow, depending on the results I find in the hives, I may have to reread this to remind myself that I am still learning, that I need to have patience with myself and I can play the waiting game…. because didn’t I learn as a child, “It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game?”

March Sewing Projects and Updates 2012

Pretty-fying my Ironing Board

My ironing board was ugly and needed a facelift! I had extra fabric from my mini-ironing board project so I used that so they would be twinkies.

Philodendron was kind enough to take off the old top and use the foam to be a pattern to mark on the fabric that we wanted to cover the ironing board with. It wasn’t perfectly cut out, but it was going to be fine and I truly appreciated her help and time.

The fabric folded once inside itself and stitched with a straight stitch to make it a “finished” edge, so it wouldn’t fray, it isn’t perfect, but it works great.
I didn’t want to take the time to thread the string through the whole cover, so I just sewed the string (it was in the cover previously) in the seam while finishing the seam edge. I pinned the string at the beginning so it wouldn’t pull through during sewing.
I used a piping foot while sewing in the string and finishing the seam, but I don’t think it is necessary, just take care not to sew the string to the fabric since it needs to move to tighten around the ironing board.
It is so lumpy! It needs tightened!
Almost tight enough
Putting it upside to down to get it really tight, I asked Cactus Jack to hold it with his finger so I could tie it very tightly.
The cover is tight enough for me and much prettier.

Organized my fabric with the ruler folding technique which is awesome!

Using this tutorial I organized the fabric I have been buying from some groups on Facebook, which is so fun and dangerous too! I needed them organized to be able to see what I had to work with. One of my daughters wasn’t using this shelf that she had in her room, so I borrowed it and love it.

Philly’s Bias Skirt

The first cut-I didn’t understand the instructions at first here on this tutorial, and it was only supposed to be a 5 minute skirt, heehee, but I knew it would be longer since I don’t have a serger, but the tutorial was very helpful.
Since I didn’t understand the cutting instuctions, this is what happened the skirt was too long at the side seams, it needed to be gradually cut up toward the seams, so I trimmed it.
I used FOE (fold over elastic) for the waist, which was wonderful to work with. And I roll hemmed the bottom hem which I learned how to do in the following video from youtube and my sister helped me while using her machine and rolled hem foot, yay! Collaboration!

This rolled hem tutorial was very helpful to me.

Petunia’s Paperbag skirt

I had bought some “camo” type fabric on sale a couple of summers ago and I wanted to make a skirt with it. While searching for free skirt patterns I learned about the Paper bag skirt pattern on this blog.

It took me nearly all day to finish that skirt, but I actually accomplished it in one day! I think the quick clothing is really fun for me to see the progress and the finality of it. My quilts are just not the same and I think these shorter distractions were helpful to my brain. Plus the girls loved their clothes which really motivated me to keep on making projects!

Update on 12 for 2012 and other sewing too – February 2012

This whole project to finish 12 in 2012 has been very motivating! I have been sewing my little heart out, but I still haven’t finished January or March’s UFOs, whoops!

January project, still in progress

January’s project is being attempted to be quilted as I go (or QAYG – which is “Quilt As You Go” method, using those wacky acronyms that quilty people use and I take a while to decipher). I have quilted all of the three sections and now I just need to get it together into one large quilt. I am afraid to put them together and I know that is what is blocking me from feeling confident enough to go for it.

Taking breaks from my January project during the thread painting out of sheer frustration and needing a distraction. The threadpainting took a lot longer than I anticipated and I learned that I really am not a detail person; it’s not my strength.

Happily distracted with cute clothing patterns online for free!

I have been making cute clothes though, my first time ever, unless the skirt I made in 8th grade Home Ec counts…that skirt’s process was so painful, I don’t really count that as fun or sewing, more like torture!

Fat Quarter Dress

This fabric that I found at Tuesday Morning – love that store – during Christmas break was really calling my name to do something with it. When I saw a person post on one of my Facebook fabric groups about pillowcase dresses and fat quarter dresses as a spin off, I found that fabric’s purpose!
The fabric was perfect for a Valentine’s dress for my niece. It was still chilly and she wore it with a long sleeve shirt underneath and some leggings. She loved it and I was so happy! The tutorial at The Mother I followed was pretty clear, but I didn’t understand the armhole instructions, but fortunately her great pictures helped me understand better. The ribbon is a little “slippery” on the shoulders, so I think next time I will make a fabric “ribbon” to thread through the top.

Zig-Zag Skirt

I made two skirts for each of my daughters using this Moda Tutorial from this awesome blog of PolkaDotChair here and Moda Bake Shop. The tutorial was great, but I misunderstood and didn’t have enough triangles to make two rows, so I just made one row and changed up the placement of the row for each of my daughter’s skirts.

Patchwork Drawstring Bag

Pinterest is always inspiring and I loved this tutorial I found on some patchwork bags found here at Pink Penguin. The bags are so cute and they are a great way to use up scrap fabric pieces and they are a perfect size for my daughters to use for purses. We made them with drawstrings and the girls like the ability to open and close them easily.

Update on my February 12 for 2012 project – I got it finished, woohoo!

My original post laid out my goals for this year here. I’m getting there slowly, but surely!

I had missed some months for the block of the month tutorial, so I had to make my own blocks up from a picture of the finished quilt that I had taken.
A mini block with one inch squares
Quilting the mini quilt, hiding the threads was the most difficult since I stitched and stopped on the middle sashing..
Gladiolus was very happy!

It was a fun month to stay inside and sew. Even though I didn’t get my January project finished, I had lots of fun working on these clothing projects and seeing the children’s faces made it all the more fun. I think I may be addicted to sewing clothing and I know I have lots to learn, thankfully the internet is full of knowledgeable and sharing people. Thanks to all of you out there that make it possible for me to learn!

Our Boot Tree – The First Step to Having a More Presentable Entry Way

It was beautiful weather for central Indiana last week, wow! The bees were buzzing and lots needed to get done outside.

One major project I’ve been wanting to tackle is to assess the system that is used for our shoes in our entry way, see my list of 2012 home goals here.

Boot tree solves the outdoor shoe placement problem. It’s not beautiful, but it’s very useful and my gardenia will camouflage it when it is warm enough to move plants outside.

Here’s the back story and a video on my shoe situation:

Our entry way is tough to keep clean with mud and barn shoes.

We take off our shoes when we come inside for a couple of major reasons:

1. We have free ranging chickens who you might imagine leave little “presents” that may accidentally find themselves on an unsuspecting shoe.

Rodeo Rooster back in his heyday 2011

2. The previous owner decided light beige carpet was fine for them; however, 6 people, 4 inside dogs and a muddy winter makes me tend to think [ie KNOW] it isn’t the best flooring choice for us. But, I obviously need to make it last as long as possible before I can figure out any other solution and I want to stay clean without going too crazy…keeping the dirt outside is the first step in the arsenal.

3. Did I mention the chickens? Oh yeah, I did.

We have special shoes to do outside tasks and I wanted those shoes to have a place outside, but I didn’t want them on the ground to be a lovely hiding hole for sleeping toads (I love those little toads and the jobs they do on nightshift eating all those bugs, but I didn’t want to create a toad hotel). *Sorry toads, I really want to make you some toad cottages one day*.

Don’t look at the following picture if you are afraid of toads…or toads in your shoes or anything in your shoes; it’s a bit disturbing, but I like pictures and we had this one so I thought I’d share. Just scroll past it without looking. My daughter found one in her shoe last summer, yes, there were some screams. The toad was fine and slept right through the melee.

My daughter found this resting toad in her outside shoe Aug 2011

I took a video of my husband making the Boot Tree for me. The log was shorter than I imagined it would be, but I like that it can be used as a stool, so it all works out in the end. The children have taken to the new routine of wearing shoes outside and changing into barn shoes there. Eventually, I may have a small chair or bench next to the boot tree.

Pat making the boot tree for our family’s outdoor shoes.

When the children come back from outside chores or playing, they wipe off their boots at the boot wiping spot and don’t walk on the sidewalk before changing their shoes…that way the barn shoes never touch the outside mat for “regular” shoes (I still need to get an outdoor mat, the astroturf one we had gave out a while back).

It may seem like our barn is very unclean, it really isn’t. The goats have clean bedding of straw and the chickens have clean pine shavings in their coop. This year’s wet and warm winter has caused a lot of mud that I really don’t like, and I also know that the occasional “thing” might get stepped in, even though we are more adroit at avoiding those mishaps the longer we have lived on this little homestead.

Well, that’s my project for this week…oh William Morris…I just want things to be beautiful and useful; getting there takes time, but it sure is fun to see progress! Thanks again to Jule’s at Pancakes and French Fries where I am linking this project up and I find so many other motivating stories and projects. I am not alone and that feels nice.

February 1, 2012 Videos around the Place

I wish I could say this is Wordless Wednesday…but that’s almost impossible for me, oops.

Here are a couple of videos of the nice weather and the animals enjoying it.

Chickens eating the Hedgeapples Feb 1, 2012

My hedgeapple hypothesis seems to be playing out to be true, yay!

Honeybees out and about, finding some water and having cleansing flights.

Planted our First Seeds of 2012

My husband and I spent some time last night planting our first seeds of the year. He had taken the time to clean out the old seedling planters and move the plants that had been growing in there since last summer (oops, we didn’t transplant some) in our growboxes.

Sadly, the guilt of not transplanting last year could have prevented me from planting new seeds this year, so I am thankful that Pat took care of the mess and took the burden off my shoulders, whew.

We used our growboxes again which we learned from Jack Spirko’s Grow Light System. The boxes are now in our laundry room on a timer to turn them on and off (they need darkness too).

Growboxes on the timer. The top box includes the older plants that we never transplanted last summer. Sunberries are trailing over the edge.

We started the rest of our tomato seeds that were from last year (I had gotten from a big box store), some bell peppers, celery and different herbs.

On my list to purchase: some heirloom tomato seeds (there are so many choices, I haven’t decided what I really want) and comfrey seeds (I tried last year and never got them to grow past the seedling stage…I don’t think we transplanted them properly.)

Seeds we started Jan 29, 2012. Some are older and may not germinate, but we tried just to see.

It sure is fun to think that spring starts in tiny seeds. Really, it’s amazing to see how little they are, but they contain life inside to make all kinds of yummy food in the future. I love the whole process and enjoyed working with Pat last night, it was the best kind of date-night.

That Was Easier than I Thought It’d Be

A display of old books, some of which were found at the local dump when I was in grade school.

Even as a child I liked old things. I especially liked things with history and a story. I jumped at any chance to ride with my grandma on her trip to the dump outside her small town in the midwest. It wasn’t really a “dump” but rather some large trash bins for the local residents to deposit their weekly trash. People would leave stuff in front of the dumpsters that were treasures not trash (at least in my eyes).

I would take any nice books home with me. I loved to look at the copyright dates inside to see their age. Those books were so special to me that I even took them to school for show-and-tell. What I wanted the most from these “treasures” was to know their history. Who took the time to leave those books out by the trash dump? Did they imagine that a little girl would take them home and still have them as she approaches middle age? I [still] love to look at the old Geography book and see the fancy pen that the student used to write his name so long ago. Did he like learning like I did or did he wish he were somewhere else as his teacher droned on and on about the Geography of South America?

I know I must have been young when I found these treasures because I was around 10 or 11 when I bought a clawfoot tub discovered in my grandma’s garage. I imagined that big cast iron tub would one day go in my house where I would have happy children and a sweet family.

That clawfoot tub I bought when I was 11 years old.

The clawfoot tub followed me throughout my adventures into marriage (OK it didn’t follow me; I begged and borrowed to have some nice strong men move it around for me everywhere I needed it to go…hmmm that clawfoot tub could be a story in itself). But, I digress. I have a different story to share today … the story of the orange truck.

Somehow when I was a child I came into possession of a toy orange moving truck. I don’t even remember the circumstances in which I came by it, but I do know when I got it that I had imagined that my maternal grandfather had worked for this moving company at one point. Alas, he worked for a different company. This was apparently just a toy that my father had never really played with as a child (you see, I liked to enmesh my maternal and paternal families into one in my child brain…that’s how I made sense of things back then anyway). I tried to find out any stories about the truck but no one had any or thought it was interesting enough to remember. Thus, I have no idea of the orange truck’s history, story or if it was even ever loved. Maybe it was just never dealt with so it ended up in storage and I wound up with it since I so desperately wanted a piece of my family’s story.

The esteemed display of the orange truck.

But, here’s the deal. I don’t even like the truck. Yep, I said it, I don’t even like it at all. First of all, it’s really orange [!] and for some reason I have guilt every time I see it. Why have I kept it all these years? Well, I thought maybe my “future” son/grandson would like it…it could have been a girl, I’m not trying to be sexist, it’s just what I imagined. I don’t know how I imagined the conversation coming about but I imagined he would one day say, “Hey, mom/grandma that is a cool orange truck with obvious sentimental history, can I display it lovingly in my room?” Seriously, the imagined conversations in my head are really strange sometimes.

The guilt I feel every time I look at it must be because I don’t even like the big orange thing. I’m trying to keep a piece of family “history” that I don’t even like to look at. Well, this “William Morris Project” that I found through Jule’s website is changing me and that old thinking…I resolve to not have anything here in the house that I do not deem beautiful or useful. This orange truck is neither beautiful nor useful, thus it must “go” from its esteemed perch in my office.

Today, I actually asked my son if he wanted the truck and my daughter suggested that it would make a great “guy” truck. Both of them got excited about using the truck to play with. They play “guys” with their little Fisher Price boys and girls and other little toys that make it into the guy box. So, this truck is destined to be played with and enjoyed by my children. If one day they love remembering the memories they made with it, I will share as much of its history that I know. If they choose to get rid of it because they don’t love it, I just hope they let it go sooner than I could. Letting that guilt and orange truck go…that was easier than I thought it’d be.

What Our Family Dogs Mean to Us

The family, but me, with all of the dogs Jan. 2012

I did an About Us section for our blog awhile back, and I decided I needed to introduce you to more of our family members. Today, I’ll start with the dogs.

It all began with Skipper. He’s our miniature dachshund that we have had the pleasure of being owned by for 13.5 years, yep he owns us…have you ever met a mini doxie?. It all started with dogsitting…we had some great friends in Texas who had a miniature dachshund, Buster, that was so sweet to watch; he would just curl up with you and nap. He was smart and would bark like he was a big dog (albeit he was barking at butterflies at times), he made me laugh. As a young couple, we didn’t have any pets and were really thinking about a getting a dog, but knew the commitment and expense that would be. Our daughter was only 1 year old and we wanted to have a dog with a great temperament around children too. When Buster had puppies with our other good friend’s mini dachshund, Sammie, we got the awesome privilege and gift to pick our first puppy…what a special gift Skipper has been to us. We picked Skipper out of the rest of the litter, because he ran to us and was so loving; he “skipped” he was so happy. Being a huge perfectionist (which isn’t a good thing a lot of times), I read lots of puppy books to try to learn the proper way to potty train him, crate train him and how to play with him to be the best puppy he could be. It sure takes a lot of patience to potty train a puppy, but Skipper and I made it through and he still comes and “tells” me with his eyes and little whine when he needs to go outside.

Skipper January 2007

Anytime you sit down, Skipper is always there to keep you company right beside you. You can’t feel lonely long if Skipper’s able to be there. He will lick you to let you know how much you are loved, if he gets any chance 🙂 I am thankful for Skipper’s clean-up duty that he took upon himself when all of my children were in highchairs….he would jump up there and clean any food particles up and of course take care of the floor for me (but he had to go on diet food to watch his waistline when he started that habit). What a great dog he is, his tail is always wagging!

Skipper is brave too…one day when walking in our suburban neighborhood, two dogs came running out of their yard toward my 4 year old daughter who was just ahead of me a ways with Skipper on the leash. Skipper jumped in between her and the dogs to protect her causing him to get bitten and scratched on his little belly that he exposed in a submissive way to the other dogs. My daughter still remembers that day and still talks about Skipper’s bravery.

2004-Skipper and the Children

Next Sammy came into our lives. I went to a little party at a friend’s house and heard about a dog that needed to find a new home. He was still only a puppy of less than a year and for some reason I just fell in love with him before even meeting him. Of course, I talked with my family and we had to talk with the landlord to see if it would be OK to have an extra dog in our rental. When we got the go ahead from the landlord (even though it would be $50 extra rent per month), I asked the owner if we could see how Sammy fit with our family for a few days before making a decision. Sammy is a cockapoo which is a lot different than our little daschund; he would need to be groomed when his hair got too long and curly. We were a little nervous about grooming and the commitment and money that would take, plus his fluffy feet did bring in more mud than Skipper’s little feet ever did. But, Sammy was so fun and full of life. Well, when he wasn’t sleeping that is, he was tired at first…our busy family of six gave him a lot of excitement. He fit in well with our family, he loved to go on car rides, walks and just run around with the children while they played outside…he was sure fast! We decided to get him after talking with my mother-in-law who encouraged me that he would make a great family member. Sammy likes to stay by me most of the day, he’s my “entourage”, even sleeping at the foot of my bed most nights. He also alerts me to any noises outside, using his awesome hearing in those fluffy soft ears of his. At first, he didn’t like vacuums or blue things and would bark at them, but he is not as afraid anymore. He is a cuddly teddy bear type of dog and the grooming has been taken on by my husband. When Sammy starts looking like a sheep, we give him a haircut. Thankfully, the children love to give the dogs baths, so that has been a blessing to keep him nice and clean. We also use towels to wipe their feet at the door during muddy seasons.

Not long after getting Sammy (on the left), Grandma Mc visits with her rescue, Beau ~ 2007

Sammy was a puppy and went through a chewing stage for a long time…he liked/likes to play with the children a lot!

Silly Sammy playing with Gladiolus, probably trying to chew her footie feet. He was a chew-er. 2007
Sammy has mellowed a bit in is middle age…he doesn’t chew everything, yay! He still loves to run and have fun, especially on the sledhill with the children. 2012

Our Great Pyrenees, Anna, came into our lives a year after we moved to our house out here. We realized we needed help to watch our goats, chickens and ducks and protect them from marauding foxes, coyotes and roaming dogs. Anna is our awesome livestock guardian dog who allows us to rest easy at night knowing that she is watching out for our animals as they sleep in their beds at night. It is Anna who allows us to come home a little later than dark when our chickens are sleeping on their roosts trusting that no predators are coming to get them; Anna has deterred those predators from even trying with her vigilant barks and patrolling runs around the pasture. Anna grew up with some friends of ours until they realized that she needed more work to do to be happy as they were busy building a house and there weren’t many animals on their farm at the time to watch over for Anna to feel useful; she wanted to work. A mutual friend had heard that I was looking for a guardian, because our goats had just had a big scare from a random dog running them around in the pasture; it was frightening how quick the goats could have been killed had we not been home and scared the dog away.

When we first introduced Anna to her new home, Nov 2008. She’s beautiful.

When we brought Anna home at the end of 2008, she fit in with us right away; she is very good around our goats, chickens, ducks, cats and Skipper and Sammy. I seriously love her and appreciate her work that she does for us on a daily basis. She usually takes the night shift and sleeps in the sun during the daytime. If its raining, she will sleep in the barn on the straw and the goats respect her space. The goats don’t respect her food; however, so we have to feed her away from them or she will let them eat all of her food out of deference to them as her charge (even though it would be bad for her and them, she is that sweet, so we have to protect her food from those silly, greedy goats).

Anna is very smart and instinctively protective. Our first winter she was here was the first winter it got snowy enough to sled down our hill. My son, Cactus Jack, had just turned 5 and we had explained that he wasn’t to go on the pond as it wasn’t safe to walk on or around. I stepped into the barn to watch a hen laying an egg and came back out to the pasture hill. My son had walked on the pond telling by his little footprints on the snow covered ice, but he hadn’t been alone; Anna’s footprints were right beside his. Thankfully, they were light enough that they hadn’t fallen through the ice. I am still thankful for Anna’s watchful eyes when mine weren’t there, yes I have mom-guilt for those few minutes I was in the barn and I am still grateful that there isn’t more to that story to tell. I just love Anna and her love and care to all of us.

Anna and Petunia Fall 2011

August 2011 brought Marmaduke into our lives. On our way home from church, we found him walking down the center of a country road. He was very skinny and staggering a bit, we didn’t even know what he was, he was so large we thought he might of been a small horse who was loose on the road. We drove up beside him and talked to him, he looked so skinny. I jumped out of the truck’s passenger seat and opened the back gate and told him to jump in if he wanted to come with us, he hopped right in. We drove to neighboring houses to see if he belonged to them; he didn’t want to get out and they didn’t open their doors. We decided he needed some food, water and rest so we brought him home for a respite. He had sores on his feet from traveling, open sores on his hips from being so skinny, scratches on various parts of his body and he was very thin. My children named him Marmaduke right then, cautioned by us that we didn’t know if he had an owner that was missing him somewhere. We didn’t even know what kind of dog he was, because his hair looked too long to be a greyhound’s…they are supposed to have slick, short hair like Skipper’s. We took him to the vet after letting him rest for a day at our house and after checking him for tattoos and chips, the vet agreed he was a sighthound, a greyhound. Marmaduke had no chips or tattoos and we held our breath standing in the vet’s office that we may have a new family member. We had done some research and learned a bit about greyhounds and knew that they needed to be indoor dogs because of their short hair, plus we learned other characteristics that we were able and willing to adjust to if/when we found out that he didn’t belong to anyone else. The vet called the greyhound rescue nearby to ask if he belonged to them, since we had found him close to their home; he didn’t belong to them, but they would be happy to take him, if we didn’t want him. My children and I all exclaimed that we wanted him, we had already fallen in love with his sweetness and we wanted to take care of him. He was ours and we were happy to nurse him back to health.

Thumbs up, Marmaduke gets to stay with us! Aug 2011

Marmaduke slowly regrew his hair (his hair was long since he hadn’t had any new growth in awhile due to his body being under stress) and his sores got better. He also had a case of whipworms and hookworms which took about 8 weeks to get rid of, about 4 trips to the vet every other week for worming meds and collecting and disposing of each of his bowel movements to keep the worms from spreading to us or our other animals; parasites are a constant battle around a farm and I didn’t want to add to their population.

Marmaduke after one of his many vet visits to deworm him, he is happy here, I think he’s smiling.

Marmaduke is better now, healthy and very energetic, he’s our morning alarm clock…we haven’t had to use one since he started sleeping in our room at night, he wants to get up and GO!. He loves to go on trail walks with Pat in the morning and he even gets to play with Anna sometimes too, before the goats wake up, he kind of finds them fun to run with, so he isn’t trusted with the farm animals off the leash. He likes to show off how fast he can run to Anna, he’s funny.

Marmaduke looking better and loving Pat

Marmaduke gets afraid of lightning and thunderstorms, but we have started tying a towel around him like a cape and it makes him feel safer…I want to make him a cape with an “M” on it, so he can look like Super-Marmaduke. He likes to sleep on his cozy bed cushion and he loves to give hugs, he’s such a loving dog, it makes me wonder where he came from and if they miss him. He’s a sweet boy and we are so glad that he is in our lives.

Charlie on the first night here after almost hitting him on the road. He was flea bitten and ridden and had sick eyes that needed cleaning.

At the end of October 2011, I almost hit little Charlie with the truck within inches of his life. I swerved to miss the little guy in the middle of the dark road and I still remember his eyes looking back at me that moment before it could have been a horrible outcome, still makes me shudder. Fortunately, I missed him and ended up picking him up out of the road while making traffic slow down. I called our neighbor to see if she knew whose dog it was, she didn’t but had seen a dog like that a few miles away a few days before I found him. We put up signs and took him in, the children decided his name would be Charlie, I just heard the other name in contention was “Swerve”…Charlie fits him better. He was flea bitten pretty bad and the vet gave him his shots and thinks he is around 2 years old. He was “fixed”, so we figured someone was missing him. We called around and drove to ask if he belonged to people who had advertised missing dogs. We decided to give it a month until we could officially welcome him into the family. It was right around Thanksgiving when we made the announcement; he was in the McCartney family.

Marmaduke and Charlie hang out on Marmaduke’s bed

Charlie loves helping Pat in the morning chores around the farm. He is good around the chickens, ducks and goats. He took a while to warm up, but now he zooms out the door for his morning chores and walk with Pat and Marmaduke. Charlie doesn’t need a leash, he runs around and then comes back to check on Pat and starts sounding like a snorting little piggie when he gets really worked up and energized; he’s so funny and cute. Charlie doesn’t like lots of commotion and likes to go in his crate for security. After he was here for 2 months, he got brave enough to come out to be with us on Christmas day and sit on our laps…he doesn’t like floor threshold changes, I don’t know if he had ever been inside before.

The first time Charlie came out of the kitchen himself, he doesn’t like changes in floor texture and is working up his courage. Dec 2011

He still doesn’t trust our son, although Cactus Jack hasn’t done anything to cause Charlie’s distrust. I wonder if Charlie was around a boy that wasn’t very gentle? I hope that one day Charlie feels safe around all of us here. He is a happy, bouncy joyful reminder that going outside to take care of our outside animals is fun and exciting every day! Charlie is our chore cheerleader!

I read someone write that having a dog is expensive and I agree, having 5 dogs is also expensive. It may seem that we have it easy and that’s why we have these 5 dogs, but we have to budget just like most families, it’s not easy. These dogs are in our family and we take that commitment to them seriously and pray that we can always provide for them until theirs, or our, dying day. Yes, it costs money and time to keep these dogs healthy and happy, but what they contribute is great too and I believe they make all our family’s lives fuller for their being a part of it.