Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Jody dog

I'm counting on the fact that so many of my friends are dog lovers and will understand this.  Please share.

My husband and I are dog people.  That might have been the first thing we ever had in common.  While my husband is a dog person though, he has merely put up with my need to drag home every stray I've come across in the last 10 years.  A testament to his patience in this aspect of my life is Jody.  Robert is a lab person.  I am what we call a "laboid" person.  The majority of my strays are all something, something and lab.  For a lab person, learning to live with a Border Collie is like culture shock.

Six years ago I spent the summer driving a tractor in the hayfield for my friend Bruce.  During that time Bruce acquired Jody, a pedigreed but untrained two year old Border Collie from a breeder.  I'm not exactly sure what Bruce was thinking.  I think he expected her instinct alone to be enough for her to work his cows.  She definitely had the instinct and the motor that comes with a Border Collie.  Unfortunately, when he let her loose, she nipped the back of his legs, not his cows'.  So he chained her to a doghouse where every single day that I went to work I had to watch her lunging against the end of that chain.  I took her treats and promised to find her a better home.  It took me two months but I finally convinced Bruce to let me take her home.

When we arrived home I promised Robert she was temporary.  I was going to find her a home.  To prove this I didn't even let her in the barn with our crew of mutts, but housed her in the large pen that our goats live in.  I was not going to become attached to her.  Despite my inexperience with herding dogs, it didn't take me long to realize that finding her a home wasn't going to be easy.  To say that she was high strung is an understatement.  To say she is intense is an understatement.  To say that I became attached to her is an understatement.  It wasn't long before she moved into the barn.

If you've never been loved by a Border Collie, I don't think you can fully understand what I'm about to say.  If you have, I think you will nod your head in agreement.  Jody is neurotic. about. me.  If my path around this farm on a daily basis were mapped from above I would look like the dot you see on the map on your phone.  I would be the dot and Jody would be the circle around me.  Wherever I go she is moving in a circle around me.  If I stand still longer than 2 minutes, she is laying on my feet.  If I'm bent over transplanting, she is in my face.  She has zero concept of space other than to know that my space is her space.  If she is inadvertantly left in our large dog pen while I'm in the field, she paces the fence line barking a reminder that she was left behind.  For the last six years she has been my co-worker and companion.

When our little boy Milan came along four and a half years ago I worried about his impact on our dogs.  None of our dogs were young and none of our dogs had any experience with children.  The dogs definitely felt his presence,  When he was an infant they stayed outside more than upstairs because who wants to wake a sleeping baby?  When he was a toddler crawling over everything in his path, they stayed outside more than upstairs because he couldn't understand they weren't something to crawl on and I couldn't keep up with four dogs and a toddler in the house.  Outside was a different story.  They could get away from him rather than get caught in a corner in the house.

Our large lab, River, has never seemed to notice Milan.  River goes on about his business running over or around Milan as he sees fit.  Our little dog Lina is rarely loose unsupervised because the beagle in her has her following her nose to places she shouldn't be.  My old dog and constant companion, Chacey soon proved that I was going to have to be ever vigilant of her to keep her and Milan separate.  Having lost most of her hearing and her sight in one eye, Chacey has a hard time with Milan.  He easily sneaks up on her, sometimes on purpose, sometimes on accident and scares her.  Having gotten a reaction from her the first time on accident, we went through several months in which his entire goal while outside was to terrorize her.  We finally came out of that phase a couple of months ago.  That left Jody.  My neurotic companion with all of her quirks had one really redeeming quality.  She loved Milan.  The child crawled on her, stepped on her, kissed her, whatever, and she would lay there and take all of it.

I thought, finally, I have one dog that is good with children.  Three years ago when we started our Farmshare program though, this proved not to be the case.  Jody quickly showed she could not handle being around other children.  Her instinct kicked in with them and she wanted to move them.  After ALMOST nipping several children, I knew we had to keep her in the dog pen when other kids were around.  I didn't understand why she was this way with other children and not with Milan.  My best guess is that she saw him as an extension of me and never once offered to herd him. 

Until last week.  We have young chickens living in the backyard waiting to be moved out to pasture and they like to come up to the barn.  Milan was chasing them back to their coop and Jody was in the dogpen next to them frantically running the fenceline trying to get after all of them.  I let her out to be with me without thinking twice.  A few minutes later Milan ran across the yard to pick up a golf ball when she started circling him and then nipped him on the butt.  When he fell down, crying, she nipped him on the cheek.  I had stepped around the barn and didn't see any of this happen, just heard him start screaming.  My hope was that most of this was in his head although I could see immediately that she was looking at him differently.  With the situation diffused and everyone split up, I hoped that with time to calm down things would go back to normal, determined to be hyper-vigilante and not let this happen again.  Two days later we were all headed outside to do chores, Milan ahead of me while I was putting on my boots when Jody started circling him and chased him back in the barn.  I don't know what switch has flipped inside her head but she's decided it's her job to move him. 

While I was sure Robert was going to say she had to go, he surprised me by saying she simply needs to be kept up when Milan is outside.  So that is what we've done for the last week.  I take turns having Jody or Milan with me as I walk the farm.  When Jody has to be in the pen while I am outside though she frantically runs the fenceline barking continuously.  Watching her from across the field takes me back to the dog she was chained up at Bruce's house.  Throwing herself against the end of a chain, barking.  She may not be chained here but she's no happier like this than she was there.  And as much as I hate the idea of letting her go, I can't stand to watch her be like this.  

So now my hope is that this post can reach someone who can give her a better home.  And I know that's going to be a tall order.  She's scared of most men, unless they're soft-spoken.  I know when to expect bad weather because she disappears.  One of the only times she is out of my sight, if a storm is coming she can only be found behind our recycle bins.  While she's had a good stint as an inside/outside dog with us, she only makes a good inside dog when we are in with her.  If left alone in the house, uncrated, she will pee on things, poop if she feels the need and destroy any plastic toys within her reach.  She is very comfortable crated at night.  Jody has no training as a herding dog.  She does respond well to her name unless it's being called by a man that scares her.  She leaves chickens alone, our horses too.  Our goats being behind a fence drive her crazy.   I have no idea what she would do around cattle.  She's never offered to chase a car up or down our driveway, but would chase a car driving fast along the highway if given the chance.  She could not live on a busy road with no supervision.  She does not enjoy car rides, she hovers in the passenger floor board, motionless.  That would probably change if given the opportunity.  The only time I take her off the farm is to go to the vet.  She is up to date on her shots and 6 month heartworm as of last week.  She is spayed.  In the past she had a tickborn disease called Ehrlichia but it was treated.  With the antibodies still in her system, she tests positive for this every year at her annual.  She really likes raw eggs on her food.  

With all of that said, it's breaking my heart to write this.  To make this decision.  

This is my dog. 

I don't take this lightly.  Six years ago I promised this dog a good life.  I will not set her up to fail.  If you can help me, or know someone that can, please email me at rattlesgarden@yahoo.com.  Thanks for sharing, y'all.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Summer Veggies

We have finally used the last of the tomatoes we grew this fall in the high tunnel so last night I pulled the first bag of tomatoes out of the freezer to make tomato sauce.  Heaven.  As I work on my end of the year photo book at night, I'm bombarded with reminders of a great tomato year.  I love my husband, my children, my family, my critters and tomatoes.

Monday, December 1, 2014


These are a few of my favorite pictures of our market booth at the Hillcrest Farmers Market from the summer.  While I'm pretty good about getting them posted to Facebook, I need to do a better job of getting them on here for those that don't use Facebook!

Thursday, August 7, 2014


With the end of the CSA season and a trip to Iowa for a little vacation under my belt, I'm hoping things have slowed down enough for me to do a better job of keeping this blog up to date.  With that said though, I'll be realistic, life happens.

I'm excited about something that has happened on the farm for the last two weeks and it has me wanting to share it.  I like to give food to people.  Giving food to people who appreciate it is something that makes almost any gardener happy.  Asking money for the food I grow was a really hard transition for me several years ago.  It was a transition that was necessary for us to grow as a farm, but it was hard.  Sometimes it still is hard.  I get really excited when someone else is excited about something I've grown and still want to say "Take this! Because it still amazes me that I can grow something this fantastic!"

For several years now we have donated our excess produce on Saturday morning's to a women's shelter in Little Rock.  I really didn't put a lot of effort into this donation though until this year when one of the volunteers mentioned how much the cooks at the shelter appreciated the food and found ways to use all of it.  That was all of the affirmation I needed.  Since then we've picked extra on Fridays with the intention of donating.  When our CSA season ended a few weeks ago we were left with a surplus of produce on Tuesdays as well.  A friend mentioned taking it to the food pantry in Vilonia for their Wednesday morning pick-up.  So we have.  And they have shown a lot of appreciation for the food.

Over the course of the last few weeks though, it's obvious to me that our small farm runs on a small enough profit margin that I can't continue paying my helpers to pick a large amount of food to be given away.  A friend helped put me in touch with the Society of St Andrew.  This faith based program coordinates a huge network of volunteers that go into farmers' fields and orchards at the end of harvest, glean what remains and distribute it to food banks across the country.  This is a fantastic program! To our farm this week they sent a group of volunteers from Michigan that were going through a program called Harvest of Hope to glean eggplant and cherry tomatoes.  As they were gleaning, a truck from the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance arrived to take everything immediately to the food bank.

Over the course of the morning I had a chance to visit with the man in charge of the Harvest of Hope program and the man delivering to the food bank about the possibility of planting extra next year specifically for them to harvest.  I'm excited about the possibility of helping them in the future.  I also came away with some thoughts about setting up our own small network of volunteers branching out from our CSA community.  Throughout the summer I have moms volunteering themselves and their kids for picking cherry tomatoes or retirees offering to help pick a little bit.  I now see a niche these people could fill on the farm.  I'm so excited about all of this! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Raising Beds

After a frustrating start to the week, an awful lot got done around here yesterday thanks to the help of the college students, the loan of a trailer from another farmer and Robert taking two afternoons off from work.

Last year we bought a new piece of equipment for the farm that raises beds, lays irrigation and covers it all with plastic mulch.  And while that is a pretty fantastic piece of equipment that can do a lot of things in a short time for us, we've found that to make it work the soil has to be just right and every setting has to be spot on.  If either of these conditions is not met the results are more than frustrating.  The most frustrating part of using this equipment though can be knowing that our lack of farming experience is usually the biggest factor we need to overcome.

Tuesday morning met me with a series of vehicular and trailer malfunctions that kept me from picking up the load of fertilizer we needed to get on the ground before raising beds.  After giving up on what should have been an easy errand to run, the boys and I made our way on to the farm we buy meat from.  My morning was salvaged when my farmer friend sent me away not only with meat but with a trailer hooked up to my ride and I was able to pick up fertilizer.  Thank you!

Shortly after I made it back to the farm, two interns and a volunteer college student showed up despite being on spring break.  Robert came home from work early and we all set in to pull beds.  With the bed raiser already on the tractor and all of the necessary adjustments made the night before, this should have made for an easy afternoon.  Instead, it turned into several frustrating hours that went no where.  No matter what we did or what adjustments were made the plastic continued to pull up out of the dirt resulting in an extremely messed up bed and a lot of work to be done by hand.  The frustration of using this piece of equipment is always made worse knowing that we are usually in a time crunch to get beds raised before the next rain comes and we have to wait for dry ground again.  After a long day working I sent the college students on their way.  Robert stayed with the tractor.  He came in at dark, successfully having raised one bed.  Now we were ready to go.

Wednesday morning started with greenhouse work.  With the greenhouse busting at the seams, we moved every flower and every remotely cold-tolerant veggie transplant to the caterpillar tunnel until it had no open ground left in it.  This made just enough room to sow trays of spaghetti and butternut squash, cucumbers and the first round of sunflower seeds.  We finished sowing the last of eight rows of green beans...8 more rows than I feel like picking but worth all the work when they make it to a kitchen.  Early afternoon Robert made it another short day at the office and came home to direct the bed raising show around here.

With the help of the interns and Milan, the entire north field of beds was fertilized and and covered.  Gus and I were literally no help.  We did provide some moral support while making laps around the north field taking pictures.  Have I mentioned Gus doesn't like to stop moving?  When I do stop he cracks a little whip and lets us all know about it.  My contribution to the afternoon is simply documentation.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Catching up Since January

So much has happened around here in the last two months!  I've put off writing any blog posts because the things I have to write about deserve so much attention but I can't seem to find the time to give it.  I'm going to try to catch up on some of it in one post.

The biggest news and the reason everything else slowed way down around here in January was the arrival of our newest farmhand, Baby Gus.

Now almost two months old and with the arrival of some warmer weather. he's starting to join us in our work around the farm.  

The second major happening on the farm in January was the completion of our high tunnel project.  

We're excited about the season extension this 30x72 foot structure is going to give us early in the spring and late in the fall that we haven't had before.  A blog post dedicated to building this high tunnel will come in the very near future.  

Finally, the reason we are not only caught up around the farm but ahead of where we've been in the past has to do with the arrival of our spring interns that started work out here in February.  This will be our fourth year as part of Hendrix College's internship program and we are more involved than ever.  

In the past we have hosted as many as three interns on the farm during a semester.  This semester we are hosting five in addition to hiring two of our former interns as part-time employees on the farm.  They have been a super crew and a pleasure to work with.  They all have taken on major roles on the farm and have made working out here a team effort.  Not only do I appreciate the help they provide but I really enjoy the energy and company they bring every day.  And Milan does too.

I'm excited that they also want their voices heard.  Soon they will begin writing blog posts for me regarding their experience here at the farm over the course of the semester.  A great way to help me keep up to date with this blog and provide more than just my perspective.  

That catches me up on major news.  Now to begin the process of catching up on our spring planting progress.  Today though, it's way too pretty to stay inside on the computer!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 CSA

Finally, an update on the upcoming CSA season!  Check out the info on our 2014 CSA page to find out details about becoming a member of our 2014 CSA program that picks up weekly baskets of goodies directly from the farm.  For those of you that want to pick up your baskets in Little Rock from Robert, contact me before signing up for the CSA so we can discuss details.  For those of you interested in the possibility of a Farm-to-Gym program, drop me an email and hang tight, more info to come soon on this exciting opportunity!