Sometimes opportunities present themselves in odd ways.  With Fern being in heat, I am keeping her completely separated from Gel.  Keeping her separate has given me the opportunity to give her more one-on-one attention.  Gel is quite demanding about attention and if he’s around, Fern tends to get pushed aside.

When I was at work yesterday afternoon, Gel was in his run and Fern was in her crate.  When Wally got home from work, he let all the dogs out to potty (Gel and Kessie first, then Fern by herself), then put them back.  When I got home from work, I took Fern down with me to bring up the sheep.  Gel was not happy with that arrangement, but that’s okay.  I tend to rely too much on him and the thought is always in the back of my head: what would I do if anything happened to him.  Fern needs to be ready to step in his shoes when the time comes.  Kessie likely is not going to be able to do it, but that’s okay.  Wally loves her and that’s all that matters.

I don’t know that we could keep the number of sheep that we have if I didn’t have the dogs.  Sure, if we had permanent fencing and could just put the sheep out to graze and leave them there it might be okay, but what about catching the sheep to worm them or trim their hooves?  How do people do it without dogs?  I am very happy that my dogs get daily, real work to do.  Not only do my dogs help manage the sheep, but they help with the dairy goats, ducks and chickens.  They are versatile, honest workers and I’m blessed to have them.

Yesterday got crazy busy.  I had to be in work at 2:30.  After I milked, I got the brainy idea of taking the chicks out of the brooder and putting them into a chicken tractor.  Wally and I have discussed making a chicken tractor many times, but have yet to accomplish that goal.  We talked about taking one of the hay feeders which is constructed from a piece of cattle panel that is set circular (to go around a round hay bale) and covered with a plastic swimming pool (glad I didn’t throw away those duck pools that sprung leaks).  So, I got the one feeder that we were not using and covered it with chicken wire and put the chicks in it.  All was well until I had to open the panel to put their food and water in.  Some of the chicks came running out and of course Onyx was there waiting for just that to happen.  Once again, he had a chicken in his mouth.  This time, however, with the help of Gel and Fern, I was able to run him down and get the chick away from him.  The chick is fine.

The funniest thing about the whole operation was Rose.  I was working on the tractor up near the fence.  She was lying on the ground watching the chicks with great interest.  You may recall I’ve had some issues with Rose roughing up chickens and ducks.  Either she or Kitty killed one duck when they were younger.  Since then, Rose has roughed up one chicken and one duck, but luckily she didn’t kill them.  I think a lot of that was just puppy, but I am still pretty diligent when the chickens or ducks are around Rose.  I was told that livestock guard dogs tend to go through a phase of playing with poultry to death and I’m hoping Rose is past that stage.

Rose watched those chicks for the longest time.  Once I was finished, I let the dogs back out and when they came close to the chicks, Rose snarled and barked at them like I’ve never heard her.  I think she was protecting her chicks!  When they escaped on me and went into the fenced-in area, she just watched them.  One slap with one of those big paws would have been all it took to kill one of those chicks, but she never offered to do that.  This may work out well as what I’ve been wanting to do is to set up a chicken tractor in the fenced-in area to use the chickens as mini rototillers.  If Rose decides she’s going to protect the chickens now, it will be safer for them in there.

Once I figured out that using the hay feeder wasn’t going to work, I covered the box that we use on the back of Wally’s truck to transport sheep and goats with another roll of chicken wire.  It is about four feet by five feet and is made from goat panel (2″ x 2″ squares vs. the cattle panel which is 4″ x 4″).  when I finished covering it with chicken wire I put the chicks in there.  It has a door.  It’s working okay for now, but I can’t use it permanently because eventually we’ll need to use it again to transport sheep or goats.  I wanted them out of the brooder for two reasons, one, if the eggs that are in the incubator hatch, I’ll need to put the new chicks (ducklings?) in there and, more importantly, they were kicking shavings into their water and feeders such that I was having to clean them out several times a day.  There is no way to hang the feeders high enough to keep the shavings out of them.  Raising chicks is a pain in the butt.  I hope that soon one of the hens will start to sit and I can avoid doing this in the future.

After I got the chicks settled, I went down back to set the ElectroNet.  On our way down there, Kessie “pulled a Cian” meaning she ran off blindly in the wrong direction.  I called her, but she ignored me so I kept on going in my direction.  She never made it down to where I was setting the fence.  I was able to get that done quickly, then came back up to get the barrel of water for the sheep.  I put Kessie and Fern up and went back down with Gel.  I filled the water as Gel brought the sheep in.  By the time I put the ATV up and got back in the house, it was 2:07 and I hadn’t even taken a shower!  Shoot!!!!  I was only 15 minutes late, but I hate being late.

It’s only Walmart and I know some people look down on working at Walmart, but I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has gone through my line at Walmart and said that they wished they had my job.  Look at the unemployment rates by states.  North Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States.  I get daily e-mails from Career Builder and Monster.com and I might see a job I could apply to once every two weeks, if I’m lucky.  I heard from a paralegal friend yesterday and she said that they were still slow and that Charlotte firms were still laying off people.  Things are not good and while I don’t care for working at Walmart, I’m lucky to have the job.  My unemployment should last until at least November of this year and at that time, if nothing else has come up, at least I’ll be able to pick up more hours at Walmart due to the holiday season.  I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, I am prepared.

Back to opportunities, I’ve always felt I need to do a better job at managing my dogs.  I am sure I am being much harder on myself than I should be and that my dogs, in general, are very easy to live with and that I’ve done a good job raising them.  I know lots of people keep their dogs in runs or crates when they are not working them.  Still more have fenced-in back yards to keep them in.  I like to have my dogs with me, but lately the weather has been so wet that I’ve been forced to either put my dogs in runs or crates at least until they dry off.  As I write this, Fern is at my feet and Kessie and Gel are tied out to the fence.  The glass man came just as I was finishing up milking.  It was a bit of a circus getting the goats and Rose up all the while keeping Gel from going over to greet the glass man.  I immediately processed the milk into cheese and then went back out to help take the crates and other miscellaneous crap out of my car to keep it from getting covered with glass.  I hope he does a good job of cleaning it up.  He said it was likely lawn mowing that caused the breakage.  Lesson learned: move the cars when lawn mowing or weed eating is going on.

Gosh, I honestly don’t know what I’m getting at here.  I’m a bit out of sorts I guess.  It’s going to be a beautiful day and I should get out and enjoy it.  I have two loads of laundry to put on the line and a huge mess to pick up from my pretty much failed attempt at making a chicken tractor.  Wally and I talked about that a bit this morning and we might try again using the circular design and inserting a framed section for a door.  The frame would keep the panel in place and while the chicks may still try to escape out the door, I’ll have an easier time keeping that from happening with a door.  Then there’s figuring out how to put wheels on the contraption.

I’m starting to feel like a caveman.  Is this how man designed the wheel?  Trial and error and the need to do certain things in order to survive?

I’m off all of next weekend so that may be a project we’ll work on.  This weekend we are going to do a bit of fencing and gate repair.

I know what I’m getting at here.  I still feel guilty, or maybe it isn’t guilt, but shame at having the accidental breedings occur.  Fern being in heat now and the malicious e-mails I received yesterday have brought it back to the surface.  I know accidental breedings happen all the time, but for some reason, it seems to be coming back on me in a harsher manner than what it should.  Gel breeding Midge ended up with Fern (and of course the other puppies).  Fern is an amazing dog and I am glad the breeding happened because of Fern.  I know the people who have the other puppies feel the same way.  As far as Gel catching Fern, well, heck, besides locking Gel in Fort Knox, what else could I have done?  I truly didn’t think he could dig through the dirt in his kennel.  It’s rock hard.  He’s quite determined to pass on his genes, as he should be.  That’s a very natural drive.  Really, as far as I’m concerned, more of Gel’s genes should be passed around.  So mistakes happen and unlike so many people, I am not afraid to admit I make mistakes.  At least I didn’t purposely breed two unproven dogs as so many other people do “just because.”  I raised the puppies to the best of my ability and got them all in very good homes.  So, what’s the big deal?  I guess it’s a good thing that I occasionally make mistakes so I give ammunition to these people.

In the grand scheme of things (I say this a lot) if the worst that is going on here is illicit sex, I guess that’s not such a bad thing.  At least I’m not breeding to make money, or produce sport dogs, or conformation dogs, or mass breeding for the next great trial dog.  As Wally is so fond of saying, “I won’t be eating supper with those people” so why should I care?

Why indeed?