I couldn’t imagine life without a dog or two. I’ve had a number of breeds including mixes, a collie, a couple of English Mastiffs, Rotties, and now, my baby Australian shepherd. My dogs are working dogs, earning titles in obedience, tracking, and herding trials. Dogs need a job, and you and your dog working together is a form of communication you simply don’t achieve any other way. Annie, my sweetly serious Rottie girl has herding and obedience titles and is working on her advanced, Open and Utility obedience titles, as well as her tracking test. She has a great nose for tracks and that Rottweiler stubborn obsession with getting it done. Cricket, the new baby , is currently learning the Important Things in Life. Come when you’re called, don’t bother Annie before she’s had her coffee in the morning, and chewing Mom’s slippers gets you the kind of attention that you really don’t want. Oh yeah, pottying outside is a good idea, too. She’ll be working ducks, sheep, and cattle, like her very accomplished mama, Tick. She already does a nice job of flanking around my Banty chickens, who really don’t know what to make of this furry and determined whirlwind.
The Sheep keep the blackberries, tansy ragwort, and assorted other unpleasant invaders out of my woodlot and provide herding practice to Annie and soon, to Cricket. Bruce the Ram, a purebred St. Croix who looks more or less like a Saanen goat with a heavy white mane, is mostly a gentleman. Mostly. You just don’t turn your back on him, and he provides Annie with some nice practice at ‘holding’ without backing down. February is lambing season. Good thing lambs are born with a nice warm coat.
I live on two and a half acres. When my kids were young and I was very broke as a self supporting writer, raising all our food was the only way to get a leg up on the poor cash flow. We ate a lot better than most people, and it cost sweat equity rather than dollars. At the time, I had dairy goats, so that ‘everything’ included meat and milk. Nowadays, although I love sheep milk cheese, I have put in my time milking twice a day, thank you. Got the tee-shirt. With no live in backup, it puts a serious crimp in your social life. But I still eat a lot better than most folk, with the ability to pick something fresh out of the garden behind the house, 365 days a year. The diet gets a bit limited in the cold months, but you can do a lot with winter squash, onions, garlic, hardy greens, and root veggies. And of course, the added benefit is that I have to get off my duff from in front of the computer here and go outside to do stuff several times a day. I hate ‘exercise’ and if I had to do it in order to stay fit, I wouldn’t. But chasing sheep, weeding, pitching manure, splitting wood, or hauling hay isn’t ‘exercise’ it’s ‘chores’. There is a difference.
My house suits the land, was designed for the lot by the friend of a friend, and is passive solar, heated exclusively by sunlight (when we have it here in rainy Oregon) and my small woodstove. It’s cool in the summer, flushed out by the evening breezes most nights, and warm in the winter, with its minimal windows on the north side and extra insulation. Small and cozy, it suits my current ‘bachelor’ lifestyle.