Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Next Generation

I never get tired of listening to Joel speak. :) And this little 6 minute clip about the next generation of farmers (hey, that's me!), was as enjoyable as all his other videos have been.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I'm A Fighter

"Fall down seven times, get up eight."

"If you want something bad enough, then you have to be willing to fight for it."

I'm a fighter. I don't mean that as in I pick fights among people and cause trouble. I mean it as in I'm a stubborn person who will  do what she sets out to do, and isn't afraid to defy odds.

I got to pondering over this subject today while randomly thinking about how much I like the fighting breeds in the animal world; primarily poultry and dogs. From Pumpkin Hulseys to Pit Bulls. Sweater stags to Staffordshire Bull terriers. I love, love, love these fierce breeds that so many people shy away from. When people learn of my rather odd fascination for fighting animals, they ask if I like them for the illegal sport of pitting animal against animal in a brutal contest to the death. No. I don't like that stuff. And I'm not for it.

I like these headstrong breeds for their character. I like their grit, determination, courage, and fierce loyalty. I like that. They've got a fighting spirit that I highly admire and try to maintain in my life. Fall down seven times, get up eight. That old proverb never mentions falling down that eighth time, but it implies a dogged spirit that will get up again no matter what. It is a warning to those who dare to mess with us. We cannot be stopped.

I struggle with fear. With feeling insecure, worthless, useless, and invisible. These are all lies I tell myself; I know that they are lies. But they are hard to shake nevertheless; they hang in the back of my mind like cobwebs just out of my reach. Silently taunting me day and night. They are my perpetual ghosts that I must either listen to, or fight off. I have a tendency to listen to them until I remember that old proverb... Get up eight times. So get up I do, and fight my battles. Fight not only my mental ones, but the ones that I meet with daily. The problems, struggles, and topsy turvy happenings. Things worth having often have to be fought for. They will require blood, sweat and tears. Do I - do we - have the tenacity and perseverance to keep up the good fight?  

Besides loving those fighting breeds of animals, I also love learning physical fighting methods. Self defense, skills with knives, archery, firepower... I enjoy it all, and would love to someday learn karate or kung fu. Some might think me brutal, but I like it because knowing these things helps replace my fear with confidence. I am prepared for the worst, am trained to be aware of my surroundings, and while I hope and pray that I never find myself in a bad situation, I do not fear the possibility as much as I used to. I sometimes wonder what sort of message I cast to random people on the streets with my body language... Do I give the impression of a fearful person or a confident one? Do I seem approachable, or would a person rather go to someone else with their question? I want to be confident, yet approachable. One person made an offhand comment to me the other day that between my body language and the pocket knife that is forever present on my self, I give the impression of being a confident person who is ready to conquer the world. I gave the person a quizzical look at that comment; I often feel like my fear must show through my mask... I do not feel like a person ready to conquer the world most of the time, but I am slowly learning to let that fear sink into oblivion where it belongs. I want to be a confident, strong character. A fighter.

More than just being able to fight for myself though, I want to be able to be able to defend those who I care for. And you know what? Defending my friends and family can require more than physical demands. It may mean standing up them when they are being treated unjustly. It normally doesn't bother me when someone tries to downgrade or belittle me; I can usually handle that fairly well. What riles me is when someone dares to insult, accuse, or otherwise hurt my family or friends. Hurt me. Make me your victim. Take me instead. But don't you dare hurt my family or friends. Otherwise you will unleash a fury neither you or I will be completely prepared for. My sense of justice rebels at the thought of an innocent person getting needlessly hurt. I don't have many good qualities to proclaim for myself, but loyalty is one that I will put on that very short list...

Sometimes you want something, but logic - and possibly people - says it's not possible for you. Do you take on the attitude of a defeatist and give up at that? Or do you rise to the challenge and prepare for a stout battle? Sometimes you gotta' fight for what you want. And I'm not saying fight against the people who say 'no'. I'm saying you're probably going to have to fight against the odds, against yourself. Get ready for the blood, the sweat, the tears. The pain, the wait, the anguish. Folks have said it's impossible because it's a hard road. So be prepared to fight. If you truly want something, you may have give it all you've got. Whether it's a farm, a college education, or what-have-you. Life it a perpetual test of our perseverance and determination. And just know that some folks will most likely try to trod on you, on your dream, on your goal. Listen to those people and see if their words hold any truth. If they do, then look into making changes. If not, then disregard. Get up that eight time.

 I love the fighting breeds of animals because they are a tangible example of what it means to keep going even when all seems lost. They will keep going, keep fighting, keep daring, even when the odds are grossly against them. They're a reminder to me to keep up that courage and grit. To keep trying, stay loyal, and stand up for yourself. Not a bad lesson to learn from a chicken and a dog...

One Tough Cookie

I've always liked Pumpkin Hulseys. They're just cool chickens. I'm not really a chicken person, to be honest... I find them rather annoying creatures. But, I do like the Hulseys... These birds are something different. They're tough, and they're smart.

I've managed to give away just about all my chickens now; but my Hulsey pullet remains thus far. Why? Do I like her too much to give her away? Is she too valuable to part with?

It's true that I do like her, and that she *is* a valuable bird (let's see... I just saw a pullet sell for $300 a few weeks ago?), but that's not why she's still here. I can't catch her. 90% of the time I can't even find her.

Three times now I've assumed she's dead. Assumed that a bobcat got her, or a hawk nabbed her, or a raccoon found her in the night. And then I see her flitting by for two seconds, only to disappear back into the brushy borderline of our property. She's gleaning her own food, getting her water from the creek, and roosting high up in surrounding trees come nightfall. I have yet to see a Barred Rock, or a Buff Orpington survive this long on their own.

I suppose I should eventually try and catch her before I leave for Missouri, but part of me is curious as to just how long she can take care of herself before she starts coming back to the barn. She's one tough cookie, that bird is... The Pumpkin Hulseys are a fighting breed, and this little pullet has proven herself strong. I may not like chickens, but I'm definitely a fan of these Hulseys... They're different.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Good Slaughter

I watched this video this morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good way to wake up and start my day. ;) This gentleman knows what he's doing with meat and loves what he does. Makes me miss the slaughtering line of work... I've always enjoyed that stuff.

Monday, August 26, 2013

She's On Pinterest

I've had a couple people ask lately if I have a Pinterest board... And, well -- Yes I do. ;) Sigh, I will cave and admit that yes I know my way around that addictive website. Hehe. But aside from that, the folks who first asked if I had a pinterest board, then asked how to find said board! My response is usually something like, "Uh, can I send you a link to it? I don't know how else you find it." Okay, so maybe I don't know my way around Pinterest *that* well these days.

But yep, that Goatsong... She's on Pinterest. ;) She doesn't do a whole lot on there, but if you're curious about what little is on there, then try clicking that image below and it'll take ya' right to the action. 

You're welcome. LOL.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I know, I know, I already posted pictures of Ruby a couple weeks ago. But it never hurts to see more pictures of a pretty bovine, right?? Truth be told, these pics are up for a potential buyer. So Bil, these are for you. :)

I'm gonna' miss this heifer, and that's the gospel truth...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Frozen In Time

Life seems really weird right now. I went from the craziest July I've ever experienced where livestock is concerned, to a creepily calm August, now that practically everything is gone. It's like the calm before a storm; where the wind dies down, the birds and crickets go silent, and it feels like everything is holding its breath. Waiting... Waiting. And for the record, I'm not good at waiting for things.

Life around the farm is getting quieter still. I made the decision to just go ahead and sell Ruby and the two sheep. If I'm going to be gone for a year, then I might as well just start everything over when I come back, and not leave the burden of caring for them on anyone's shoulders. It's a hard, hard decision though... Ruby is the most amazing little heifer, where quality and hardiness are concerned. She was and is everything I could have wanted in a future milk cow. But I'm trying to not think about it. In fact, I'm trying not to even be out in the barn very often these days, just to make it easier to sell her. I've had so many people ask to buy her that it's been shocking. Folks from all over Oregon, folks from WA, and even a few folks from CA! She went from "for sale" to "sale pending" in about 3 hours of being posted. Meanwhile the goats have been listed for 5 solid months... Oy vey. But I am finally down to only needing to sell one goat, and that's Rose Of Summer. I gave Tamarack to someone who needed a buck (selling bucks is practically impossible right now), and I had to put Trigun down a few weeks back, since she stupidly ate some foxglove and the result was NOT pretty. Things happen on a farm though; no way around it.

The microgreens business is still going strong, and I'm happy to report that one of my sisters will be taking over the whole thing while I'm gone. Right now the two of us are working on plans for winter, and how to keep the micros going; I think our plans are good, we just have to execute them now. ;) Having the livestock gone, and expanding the micro business has done an incredible job at showing that in the long run I am NOT a vegetable person. The microgreens pay really well, and they're certainly easy to do, but oh my goodness... They are so boring. It's a job I could do in my sleep. Mentally stimulating, they are not. I miss the brain power needed for livestock. I miss having to outsmart the hogs, and getting to convince the 1,200 lb. cow to cooperate. I do best with a mix of this. Livestock to keep me on my toes, but then also the micros to give me something mindless to do when I'm fed up with the animals. 

And I really, really, really miss my milk cows. I get depressed when I don't have a milk cow around. There's suddenly no reason for me to get up at 5:45-6am, no reason to be outside at 7pm on the nose, there's no daily routine, no familiar chores that are always done precisely the same way... Not to mention there's no presence of the cow herself. Cinnamon especially has been missed. It was neat getting to try having a "HoJo" around (dairy person's term for a Holstein/Jersey cross), and I'm quickly getting quite hooked on crossbred cows. Their hardiness is amazing. A week or two ago I saw a day old Brown Swiss/Holstein heifer calf for sale on CL (mistake... I now try to not go to CL seeing as I can't buy anything!), and all I could think about was what a killingly good milker she'd be. Raise her up and then breed her to a third breed like a Montbeliard or Normande... Oh man, just thinking about a cross like that makes me grin. Three way crosses intrigue me and I've been doing a LOT of research these days, comparing them with 2-way crosses. Another cross I'd like to tamper with someday is a Holstein (cow)/Brahma (bull). It'd have to be an "old style" Holstein though; I'm rather particular about that. The "new style" girls these days are TALL, leggy, and prone to hoof/leg problems, mastitis, and usually milk too much to be hardy enough for a small farmer. The old style Holsteins are incredibly hard to find, but they're still here and there (confession: I almost bought one last month. But once I decided to intern out of state, I sadly had to cancel on her.). These old girls look like tanks. They are heavyset, broad, short legged, and they know how to put the food away. ;) They still milk well though; often doing 10-12 gallons a day. Anyway, my logic behind this cross is wanting a cow that milks well, but also has the will to graze right through the heat of summer. This year is said to be the driest summer that Oregon has had in 119 years. Yeah, three digits there. It's been HOT, and it's been DRY. Ellie and Cinnamon both did fairly well in June, grazing their way through the pasture, but once July came on and we started having days on end that were in the 90's, both just hunkered down and wouldn't graze at all during the day. Which meant I had to increase grain and give them good hay to keep their milk supply up, which then meant they were too full to graze by nightfall! Aargh! So I'm wondering what an infusion of brahma blood would do... My thinking is that the brahma would strengthen the feet/legs, lower milk supply a good bit (I figure if I start out with a cow doing around 12 gallons a day, perhaps the brahma blood would bring that production down to maybe 6-8 gallons a day? I really have no idea.), while increasing butterfat content a good bit (I hear brahmas have a butterfat percentage that is higher than Jersey cows!). Being a crossbred, the resulting calf would be much hardier than a purebred, and with luck, that brahma blood will create an animal much more willing to graze right through a summer afternoon. I hear these cows are pretty placid too, so that's an extra plus in my book. LOL. Someday I want to try this cross. :) Amongst others of course... I'd still like to try some three way crosses (I could totally go nutty with the 3-way's... So many breeds to try out! Norwegian Reds, Holsteins, Brown Swiss, Montbeliards, Normandes, Australian Reds... And those are just the dairy breeds!). And hey, maybe if my F1 Holstein/Brahma crosses turn out, I'll try crossing two F1's and see what THAT offspring is like. I know, you're thinking that that's going to be a lot of cows around... Something wrong with that though? *innocent look*

On the subject of cows... Here's a quick video I had taken last month and completely forgot about until today. Hurray for my grand memory. Not. This shaky, crazy clip is one that I nabbed while walking Cinnamon down to the barn for milking time. If there is ONE thing I miss most about having cows, it's leading them to and from milking. Walking the cows is/was the best. Especially when you get to cross a road and listen to their hooves clip-clop on the asphalt. Cars would always slow down and people loved watching me and my huge cow lumber by. Mornings were my favorite time though. The morning mist would be rolling off the road and hay fields, and everything would be completely silent. All you could hear was the cow plodding along, and snorting in anticipation at the thought of breakfast. I really miss that...

As I've mentioned already, not much is going on here right about now. :-/ I feel like I'm frozen in time. Waiting for the months to go by, and eventually leave to Missouri. Part of me feels like time is going to crawl by, but then the other part suspects that it may go faster than I'm prepared for. I need to get hopping in the next couple of weeks, buying a plane ticket for me and Gyp, getting my driver's license, and all those other necessary things that are required when one's about to move. I'm really looking forward to being in MO and being back to having 8-9 hour work days. I'm getting insanely bored these days, not having enough to keep me occupied! But hey, it's good to practice patience right? Hehe.

I will try to get back into my writing groove for y'all. Just bear with me here. I'm still trying to figure out WHAT there is to write about seeing as I'm in the "hurry-up-and-wait-stage", where I don't really have any animals, but in a few months I'll be on the biggest adventure I've been on yet! But I'll be thinking on it. And I'm sure this crazy farm girl can find plenty to write about if she'll only stop and think about it each day. LOL. I'll do my best. Just be patient with me. ;)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dirt Hog

I am a bookworm. There's no denying it. Other members of my family have those nifty things like Kindles, and Nooks, but I've always stuck to the real deal where reading material is concerned. Not that there's anything wrong with technology, mind you, I just like the feel of a book in my hands, getting to turn pages, dog ear and highlight favorite parts, tuck notes and stuff in the spine, and then eventually get the pleasure of taping my copies back together because they're so well loved.

And today I finally had to start taping together one of my favorite books; pages 105 through 122 fell out! It's titled 'Dirt Hog', and is written by one of my favorite authors, 'Kelly Klober'. This guy is neat, and I love his writing style. 

 While taping my book up this afternoon, I skimmed over the back of the cover, reading about the author. Same words I've read hundreds of times already, but this time something stuck out: The blurb mentioned that Kelly Klober lived in Middletown, Missouri. Huh... I had no idea where Middletown is, and I knew MO was a good sized state anyway... But I was curious. How far away is Middletown from where I'll be, come December? A quick search on Google Maps had me beaming; turns out the Middletown is only an hour north of where I'll be! ^_^ Way cool! I wonder if he'd allow a crazy farm girl like me to visit his place someday and pester him with questions. I think I'm going to have to find a way to ask. :) I would love to shake his hand someday and talk hogs with him. 

Missouri is starting to sound like a really neat state. :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Adventure

So... There's something I need to tell y'all. There's been a reason behind the silence here on the blog (you might as well know it now: If it gets quiet here, then something is obviously up), and while I've been dying to share the news with you, I haven't been able to until just today since it hasn't been 100% positive until NOW.

The news? I'll let Bilbo the hobbit share it with you. ;)

Yep, ze' Goat Song (me) is going on an adventure!! More specifically, I'm interning on a small farm in Missouri, come November/December! 

And this would be where y'all hold up your hands and go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa; when and how on earth did this come about!? What about the cows? And the chickens?? And the sweet deal with the local butcher shop?? And what's going to happen to your dog?? And WHY are you going anywhere in the first place!?"

You guys talk fast. Slow down. ;)

This was a bit of an unexpected turn of events for even me, so I can relate to any feelings of surprise you might be feeling. It was right about the time that Ellie died that things started unraveling over here... I may love this farming life, and y'all may love it too, but I sometimes forget that not everyone in the world loves this lifestyle like I/we do. Not everyone in my family likes what I do; not everyone is keen on having dairy cows that start bellowing 2 hours before milking time, or chickens that are constantly wandering onto the front porch, or goats that escape, or pigs that root up the pasture when they're not supposed to... To those of us who enjoy the agricultural life, this is normal stuff; to those who aren't so into livestock, it's an annoyance. In almost every farming book I've read, there's a blurb about how your entire family needs to be on board with your farming dream before you jump in and do it. I have to admit that I wrote this off every time I read it, since I figured it didn't apply to me. "Oh, I don't have to worry about that... My family won't be doing the work!" Lesson learned: It actually does apply. There are still times when I've needed help getting hay, or needed to ask someone to run to Wilco while they were in town and pick up some more grain, or help me capture runaway hogs. Or barring that, you still need the family to be on board with it so that you don't have conflicts when that heifer is in heat and she's bawling literally all night long, or when milking time gets in the way of family plans, or when chicken slaughtering creates more of a mess than you thought it would and you can't get the blood stains off the concrete... 

So I came to a crossroads in life: I either needed to put the farming dream on a high shelf and hope that the dust wouldn't settle on it too thickly before I got the chance to get it back down, or I needed to learn how to get better at this. Much better. I went with the latter idea. And started looking at internships.

I've done this dance before with internships. For three years running I've been trying to do it. It had never worked out though for one reason or another, and I lost hope in the idea. And this time around, I was extremely skeptical that I would even find anything. I could have tried again for Polyface, or I could have tried for a 400 acre sheep ranch in Montana, or I could have tried for a goat dairy in Tennessee, but I didn't do any of those. Nope. I wrote up a very, very specific list on what I wanted in a place to intern at, and then figured that if this was God's will that I leave everything here in Oregon that I've shed blood, sweat, and tears over, then I would find a farm that had every single thing on that list. 

I called it, "My Impossible List"
Okay, so maybe I was a little cynical as well as skeptical...

My list was as follows:
1. Livestock as main enterprise.
2. They have to have dairy cows.
3. No veggie crops; a personal/small garden is fine, but I don't want to be doing acres and acres of vegetables through the summer. (I'm just not that type of farmer... This girl needs livestock)

4. Would really like to be the only intern. Barring that, I want separate living quarters!! (seriously, this was one of the harder requisites to meet! A lot of places make guys and girls share the same house, and some even go as far as bunking in the same room. Oy vey! Nope, ain't lowering my standards to that level!)

5. Farmer's market experience
6. Permission to bring my dog.
7. Permission to borrow a vehicle when needed, so that I don't have to go through the hassle of getting my own.
8. Internet access (Hehe, so I can keep writing for y'all!).

And then I had the "it-would-be-neat-if..." list. Just those "extras" that weren't mandatory. On that list was:
.Cheese making
.Permission to try growing and selling my microgreens there
.Fireflies (yeah, even that went on the list... I would love to be in a place that has fireflies!!)
.Moderately mild winters (Montana, thou art out of the question. I don't know what I'd do with all that snow!)

Armed with my impossible list, I began searching the nation for a farm. My mission was laughable. I'd find a farm that had just about every single requisite of mine, and then I'd find that they wouldn't allow me to bring my dog... Or I'd have to have my own vehicle... Or I'd find that there was the possibility of having to share living quarters with a guy. Sigh... This search was starting to feel hopeless. 

And then one day I found a small farm in Missouri... Reading through their profile, it sounded like they had almost everything on my list. They kept Jersey cows, and sold the raw milk on their farm, as well as caring for their beehives, and running their very small garden, and selling their surplus produce at the local farmer's markets. You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'? Yeah, this place sounds intriguing. So I emailed and asked questions... The two burning ones were if I could bring my dog, and what my living quarters would be. The wife emailed me back promptly and told me that I would have my own personal quarters in an apartment loft, and that I'd be not only welcome to bring my dog, but that my dog could live inside the apartment with me!!! Clincher right there. More questions were asked and answered, and get this: They had every single thing on BOTH of my lists. Every. Single. Thing. All the requisites were covered, and so were all the "extras". I could borrow a vehicle of theirs if I needed to, I had permission to try marketing the microgreens, there's enough internet access to keep up with my writing, and they even get fireflies in the summer time. :) 

I had to laugh when I first realized that I'd be going to Missouri; I haven't always had the best feelings towards that state. So far I've only been there once, and it was something like ten years ago... We went through the southern part of it, and all I remember is it being horribly hot, dry, brown, and flat. My family nicknamed it "Misery". (Sorry, Missourians!). But since then, I have learned that the northern part is really quite pretty (and I've been shown pictures as proof; my most humble apologies to those of you who live there; I take all my teasing back.), and it's a greener area with lots of rolling hills. I'm going to miss my Oregon mountains, but at least there are hills where I'm headed. And fireflies. I'd give up a lot to have the chance to spend a summer in a place that had fireflies. :) I'm also hoping that there might be enough snow in the winter time that I can try making a proper snowman for the first time. Complete with a carrot nose. That's been on my bucket list for years now, and I'd love to be able to cross it off as "done".

So the deal was struck this week, and I'm booking a one-way flight to MO sometime either in mid-November, or the very beginning of December. The goal is to stay in Missouri for a full year, as I'd like to see how they run things from season so season; but we're keeping the stay-length pretty open. If I need to leave sooner than that, then I can.

But wait!? What's happening to all my animals here!? Would you believe me if I told you that they're almost all gone? Yep, I'm down to just a handful of animals, and will continue to whittle the numbers down until I have only three: Darcy and Brown Sheep (the family asked to keep those two since they like their looks), and then Ruby, my dairy heifer. In fact, all that's left for me to rehome now are two of my goats (Summer and Tamarack... Anyone want some goats!?) and then a few rogue chickens (darn broody hens; how was I supposed to know that they were hiding on clutches of eggs??). Everything is calming down over here, and getting quiet... Goat Song Farm is going on a hiatus for awhile, and frankly, I'm looking forward to it. I always wanted to have one good adventure before really settling down to business, and now I'm finally getting to do it. 

Folks, this girl is going on an adventure. Hang on to your hats, 'cause this could get wild...

Monday, August 5, 2013

It Was His

Gyp is maturing into a beautiful, loyal, helpful farm dog, and is exactly what I've always wished for in a canine companion. He's not even six months old just yet (one week shy!), but he's already a working partner that I hate being without. A few weeks ago, all of the animals got out (except the cow; bless her heart!) and were wandering willy nilly on the neighbor's property (98 acres total). It was one of those moments where you don't know what to do except laugh, because getting them all back to one spot seemed impossible. So laugh I did, and then I called my dog. Gyp's training in herding is very little since he's so young yet, but he knows the basics. I can send him around the stock by saying "Come By" (clockwise), or "Away" (counter-clockwise), and then he and I sort of just jerry-rig things after that with commands of Come, Lie Down, Go Back, Leave it, Get it, and Wait. That, and I put a lot of trust in that puppy to figure things out on his own. Normally I wouldn't have put such a young dog to work like this... Everyone has always told me that you should wait until a dog is 6-10 months before you introduce them to stock, but I've had no choice with Gyp. I NEEDED him, so we're both just forging ahead. 

Wrangling that small herd of miscreant ruminants was probably one of the first jobs that has managed to wear my pup out. I'm not kidding you, he was exhausted. It took the pair of us three hours to get everyone rounded up. Gyp had the time of his life getting to herd the goats (he seems to like them better, since the sheep have a tendency to scatter), and even in his tuckered out state he was in, he still had a huge, blissful smile on his fox-like face. I was beyond exhausted by the time I was done; so tired that I could barely stand, and I was almost past being coherent (running for 30-45 minutes I can do. Sprinting for three hours, I cannot.). But we did it... That little English Shepherd and I did it. 

Last week I had another problem. An easier problem, to be sure, but I wasn't sure how Gyp would handle it. I had two broody hens that had both hatched out clutches of eggs on the exact same day; so I had fluffy little chicks running around all over the place. One morning I found that five of them had gotten separated from one of the hens and they were a good distance away from where they needed to be. I had absolutely no idea what Gyp would do with a bunch of fluffy, cheeping, bite-sized chicks. I wouldn't have been surprised if he went nuts and tried to eat the little things. But I sure wasn't having any luck getting them anywhere on my own; they kept scattering. Ever tried herding little week-old chicks??? Not exactly what I would call a walk in the park. So I did the most logical thing at the time: I called my dog.

Not surprisingly, Gyp was excited by the little fluff balls. Tail wagging, ears perked, and tongue lolling, he thought for sure this was a new toy for him. Worried about the safety of my chicks, and of Gyp learning how to kill poultry, I gruffly told him to "leave it and come by". Wonder of wonders, that little dog obeyed. He drove those five little chicks all the way through the pasture, through the barn, and then up to where the hen was; weaving left and right with each "come by" and "away" I gave him. 

This dog amazes me.

And today was the day where it really hit home as to what a good dog he is.

I've got barn swallows nesting in my barn. Yeah, surprise, surprise... Barn swallows in a barn. Duh. Okay, to continue... It's not uncommon at all for a chick or two to fall out of the nest and be raised on the ground. It happens every year. Three days ago I found a teeny, tiny newly hatched chick on the gravel floor; it was barely bigger than a quarter, and only had a few feathers here and there on its small body. It didn't take long for Gyp to find it and I wondered what he would do. Sure, he handled the chicks well, but those could at least run away. This thing just sat, wiggled its wings and made noise. Can we say "squeaky toy"!?!? I stood back, and watched... Gyp was almost vibrating with excitement and intrigue towards the little bird. He walked tight circles around it, sniffed it, whined in uncertainty, and then finally sat down. And stared at the little bird. The whole time I did barn chores (which isn't too long these days... But still a good thirty minutes) Gyp just sat there. Two feet away, and watched the strange creature that he had found. 

And that became his routine. Instead of following me around for chores, he instead sat and watched "his" bird. Never touching it, never getting closer than two feet, he simply guarded it; keeping the broody hens away from it. It was HIS bird.

This morning started out the same. I went to feed the calf, and Gyp went to find his bird. But then I noticed that he couldn't find his charge as I saw him walking around the barn in an agitated manner. After a few minutes we found it: Dead. It looked like one of the broody hens found it after all and decided that it looked tasty. Gyp sat down in front of his little dead bird and the dejected look on his face fairly screamed the words, "Fail... Epic fail..." If a dog ever looked sad, this dog sure did right then. He'd failed his mission, and his little bird was no more. Sorry pup; better luck next time.

But it was right there and then that I realized just how grateful I was for this shepherd pup. It's not every five month old pup who you can trust completely to herd ruminants for three hours and guard day-old swallows. How I ended up with a pup this special, I really don't know... But I'm glad that he's mine. Every day I'm glad for him. 

I do wish that his bird has survived though... Bless his canine heart, that bird was HIS. Maybe he'll get another chance someday...