January 17th, 2015 §
Even though I now live 3,570 miles away from my farmdog, I think about him all the time, especially when I see a black and white shepherd here in Edinburgh—which is about every day given that this is the land that originated the breed. Ancestors of the English Shepherd went to the New World with the colonists, where they were developed into all-purpose American farm dogs.
Interestingly, the breed “English Shepherd” isn’t known as such here in the U.K. unless dealing with a specialist breeder. A quick glance around the internet reveals that some U.K. breeders are importing English Shepherds from the U.S. for their breeding programs, touting the benefits of these “American” dogs. What goes around, comes around, right? Here’s the clearest explanation I’ve seen of the origins of the breed and how it developed. Right now there are only three U.K. English Shepherd breeders listed on the U.K. English Shepherd Club Web site. Maybe Tuck has a future here as a stud dog?
As much as I am sure he’d like that, Tuck is doing great living with my parents, where he has everything he needs plus the added benefit of canine cousins. Tuck grew up a wild child in a Free Union holler’, homeschooled by an eccentric and reclusive single parent—this new socialization is good for him. As dogs do, he’s adapted to and accepted his new reality without a backward glance, which is all I could hope for. Happy fourth birthday, farmdog.
Past birthdays: Third birthday, second birthday, first birthday.
(Thanks to Dad for the photo, and all the regular updates.)
December 16th, 2014 §
on the top shelf of an Edinburgh garden superstore.
August 6th, 2014 §
It took me a long time to get used to having a dog that constantly keeps his eye on me, even when pretending to relax. At best it is intense, at worst somewhat creepy. But now after three and a half years of living with my “English shadow” I am having a hard time imagining Tuck not having my back at all times.
Last night he watched me as I prowled about the woods, photographing the surprise lilies. He came right to the edge of his invisible fence line, as I walked beyond it, and didn’t budge.
Sometimes Tuck is silly, often he is playful and excitable just like a typical puppy. Sometimes he is the purest expression of wild joy that I have ever seen, flying at full speed across the field first thing on a cool morning. But ever since I have known him he’s also had a serious, contemplative side, and that’s the Tucker I saw last night—his old-soul face. I wonder what he knows.
July 4th, 2014 §
From your friends in Free Union—where this English shepherd and some suspiciously British-looking bunting hopefully don’t give us away! We’re patriots, despite appearances to the contrary! We swear!
(Even if we do love England.)
June 25th, 2014 §
Look who bounded in the house last night, keyed up like all get-out, covered forehead to paws in skunk juice, as I was all showered and in my pjs and ready to go to bed? At least he took it like a man and was only shot down his front and not all over. So last night at 10:00 p.m. I was doing emergency bathing in a little puddle of floodlight.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much. The last time Tuck was skunked was May 2012, which isn’t too bad for living in the wilderness. At least now I have my act together to run a hot water hose out of the laundry room, so I don’t have to do cleanup in the house.
One word: Technu. It’s that poison ivy, outdoorsman soap that combines with and removes nasty oily stuff. After the last skunking, I’d bought a bottle for just such an emergency, and boy, does it work. I rubbed it into Tuck’s fur and it seemed to instantly neutralize the skunk smell in a way that the dish soap and vinegar I used last time didn’t. I followed up with a regular dish soap wash and this morning he smells pretty decent, all things considered. Interestingly, the Technu wasn’t as effective at removing the smell from Tucker’s invisible fence and nylon collars, which still smell pretty skunky.
There are some recipes for homemade skunk smell remover online, but they use hydrogen peroxide. As the owner of a black dog, I didn’t want to play amateur beauty parlor and end up with a bleached-out pet!
February 13th, 2014 §
The second wave of this big storm ended at dusk, and with just a bit of light left I went out with the dog to get some photos. I didn’t take an official measurement, but the snow came over the top of my wellies, which are 16″ tall. That’s a lot of snow, especially for here—the most since “Snowpocalypse” in 2009/2010, the winter I built my house. Tonight the national news reported that 60% of the U.S. is under snow. Impressive and wonderful, to have a real winter again.
Being snowed in makes feel especially fondly toward my little farm, which gives me everything I need. Looking back on it from across the pasture, I can see the candles lit in the windows, a warm coop that shelters my flock, a great garage full of capable machines, a beautiful wood stove burning through the sidelights, and a black dog that’s happy to break any trail I need. I never expected to feel as in love with a place as I do here. It’s a feeling I looked for my entire life, and I am blessed to have created it. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, my love is right here.
More snow photos to come, I imagine, in the morning.
January 17th, 2014 §
December 25th, 2013 §
Despite the roaring fire in the woodstove, Santa found his way down our chimney last night.
He even found the peanut butter to stick in Tucker’s present.
Once the peanut butter was gone, in less than five minutes, I got the new toy dumped on my lap and an invitation to play.
So much for Tucker quietly amusing himself. But at least he understands the holiday lesson of sharing.
Merry Christmas from our little farm family to yours!
November 24th, 2013 §
A friend and Tuck and I took a long hike up to Blue Hole and further up the mountain to Shenandoah National Park.
Tuck in one of the swimming holes along the North Fork of the Morman’s River. It hasn’t rained in a long time, and the water was low and crystal clear, the rivers easy to cross. This is the first and last time during the hike that Tuck got totally submerged. He figured out pretty fast that mountain streams in late November aren’t the same temperature as they are in summer!
The last of the fall color. Just about all the leaves are down now, and it’s looking very wintery.
Blue Hole. This is where my friends and I did most of our swimming growing up. With the water snakes, timber rattlers, copperheads and ticks. Rural childhood. You can jump off those big rocks below and not hit the bottom of the hole.
Yesterday I gave away one of the roosters that hatched this past summer. He’s turned into a handsome guy, but there’s no way I need three roosters in a small coop. This guy went home with a jolly lady and her young son—found via CraigsList—to rule over his own flock of hens. So he’s on to a better life, and I am happy about it. I knew he would be well-treated when his new owner asked what he prefers for treats! HA!
November 17th, 2013 §
The brilliant fall colors and blue skies of a week ago are gone, replaced by dark and fog. It’s so socked in that the chickens put themselves to bed before four in the afternoon, and I haven’t seen the mountain in my front yard for two days.
After lots of computer work this weekend I had to tear myself away from the woodstove and get outside. I loaded up Tuck and we drove a short way from my house for a muddy, mizzly walk that brought to mind similar tramps across the English countryside.
I am really struck by how much it looks like winter now. There are a few hints that we’re just tiptoeing over the starting line of the season, such as the still-green grass and the last of the dangling, russet leaves, but it’s really clear now that this will be the view for many more months. Here’s to making the most of it, and trying to find its subtle beauty.