I had thrown five roosters (all Range Sussex) out of the chicken coop for fighting. I figured if they all survived a week it would probably be safe to start letting the hens out during the day. Of course, the morning I was planning on starting to free range again when I went out there were only four roosters to be found. Since four of the five had been ganging up on one poor rooster I was figuring it was most likely he had finally been killed by another rooster. However, he was one of the four so it transpired that one of the bigger and more aggressive roosters was missing. Needless to say, the hens haven’t started to free range again.

Since I’ve been stopping any attack on the one rooster whenever I’ve been outside, I guess he has decided that I (and the dogs) are safe. Anytime I go out now, he comes out from hiding and starts following me (in heel position, next to the dogs) Bug and Fix will move the other roosters back to the coop, but they have started ignoring this one.

Sharing a drink

Socialization in Times of “Physical Distancing” and “Stay at Home” – clarification

In the first post when I mentioned taping sounds that your pup may not experience off your property and in new surroundings, I neglected to mention that those should be played for the pup sporadically OUTSIDE. Most people watch TV, movies or use their computers so your pup is likely to have heard sirens, etc. in the house coming from those different media sources. It is a different thing to hear those outside in an area where the pup may not be expecting to hear those sounds.

Secondly, I heard the governor of California explain why he disliked the term “social distancing” and instead preferred “physical distancing.” After hearing his explanation I have to agree with him, so I am now trying to remember to use a more accurate term “physical distancing.”

Socialization in Times of “Social Distancing” and “Stay at Home” – Part Two

Strange People: Introducing your puppy to new people and “social distancing” are not compatible. However, there are some things that you and members of your household can do to minimize fearful behavior around people as your puppy grows up.

Make a list (can you tell I’m big on making lists?) of different clothes worn in different seasons. One of the things that a lot of people don’t think about, is that the strangers you may introduce your new puppy to in one season will likely be dressed differently at a different time of the year. Clothing really does make a difference to a puppy as the silhouette of someone in a hat looks different than the same person without the hat. This is why your puppy may have a fearful reaction to someone it knows until that person gets close enough that the puppy can smell him or her. This exercise will put you ahead of the game as you will socialize your puppy to yourself and others in your household wearing different clothing. Wear hats of different types; wear heavy jackets, lighter weight jackets and no jackets at all. Wear glasses, sunglasses and no glasses. Put your hair up and leave your hair down. Wear clunky boots and strapless sandals. In other words, play dress up. If you have any kids in your household, or a spouse or significant other, have them play dress up as well. See who can come up with the most ridiculous outfit.

Make a list of your friends and family and then note the distinguishing features for each. One may have facial hair, another might wear glasses. While you can’t introduce your new puppy to them, you can try to simulate those characteristics. Wear perfume or aftershave. If you have a cane or crutches, use those around the puppy. Change your gait – shuffle or limp. Don’t forget that sounds are important – talk to your puppy in different voices. Deep voices, high pitched voices, loud voices and soft voices. Practice different accents.

Your puppy is going to KNOW that it is you in that clothing or faking that accent but you are habituating the puppy to a lot of differences that it will eventually encounter in the real world. Is it going to be as good as introducing your puppy to your friends and family? Probably not, but it will be better than not doing anything at all and you will remain socially responsible by distancing yourself from anyone not in your household.

Socialization in Times of “Social Distancing” and “Stay at Home” – Part One

The primary socialization period for dogs is from 20 days (roughly three weeks) to 6 weeks and the secondary socialization period is from 6 through 12 weeks of age. Since most puppies go to new homes at about 8 weeks, this means that the breeder is responsible for ensuring the puppies receive socialization during the primary socialization period and for part of the secondary socialization period. Once a pup is brought home, it is incumbent upon the new owner to ensure that the puppy continue to be socialized to new environments, people and novel objects. Twelve through 20 weeks of age is a period of habituation for the puppy. The puppy will generally start to exhibit fearful behavior in new environments, around strangers and towards novel objects which is why it is so critical that the breeder and owner take advantage of the first 12 weeks to properly socialize a puppy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the rules for the world. People are being asked to practice “social distancing” and avoid contact with anyone outside of their household. Many states have implemented “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders which limit excursions away from home. Both of these new rules drastically affect how one can meet both their social obligations to their communities and their obligation to properly socialize their new puppy.

In this and future posts, I will provide some ways to overcome those limitations and enable puppies to receive critical socialization from eight to 20 weeks.

Keeping in mind that since socialization is not just about exposing a puppy to things, but rather teaching appropriate behaviors in those situations, quite a lot of socialization occurs at home. As soon as a puppy comes home, it can start learning basic manners. As it grows older, basic obedience can be added. Teaching a puppy self-control (manners) and confidence (obedience) helps a puppy with the coping skills necessary to handle new environments, strange people and novel objects.

New Environments: Make a list of surfaces that your puppy has not yet had an opportunity to walk on and then think about unpopulated areas with those surfaces where you can take your puppy. These excursions do not have to be lengthy – even ten minutes a couple of times a week will be beneficial. In public, remember to pick locations where you can avoid encounters with other people and always keep your puppy on a leash or long line. Some novel surfaces can be set up at home – has the puppy ever walked on a tarp or other type of plastic that makes noise?

Make a list of environmental sounds, both urban and rural, that you want to expose your puppy to hearing. In a pinch, you can create a “playlist” of very short (less than 10 second) sounds from TV shows or Youtube videos. Include sirens, children yelling and babies crying. Just playing one sound at a time throughout the day can go a long way to ensuring your puppy habituates to normal sounds that might be difficult to expose it to while keeping your distance from people and staying at home.

Harder will be exposing your puppy to the smells it would encounter out in public, and that is mainly because you probably have never consciously paid much attention to those smells. However, dogs rely more on their noses than their vision so exposure to different odors is critical. The next time you go out to put gas in your vehicle, take your puppy. (Your puppy should either be crated and the crate secured so that it does not become a flying missile if you are in an accident, or should be securely fastened into a seatbelt / harness system.) Put the window down a little while you are putting gas into the car so that your puppy is exposed to the smells of vehicles, odors from the fast food restaurant that is likely to be next door to the gas station and all of the other myriad smells that your nose doesn’t register.

Bug wearing seat belt harness hooked into car restraint system

One of this Weekend’s Projects

The former owners of my place evidently entertained frequently enough where they had put in a concrete patio with a gazebo and had installed a pond surrounded by flagstone off one corner of the patio. (I removed the gazebo a few years ago and replaced it with a greenhouse.) The pond was not operational at the time I moved in and I never bothered to put in a pump. Therefore, over the years, the pond really has only provided a breeding place for mosquitoes and I kept saying I was going to remove it and use the flagstones to create a path to the pump house.  However, there always seems to be more projects than time and this project kept getting put off. Today though two friends showed up to help me put in both a pathway to the pump house and one to the keyhole garden.

One friend and I started the task of removing flagstone while my other friend designed the path and laid the stone. (I had no idea how complicated it is to properly lay flagstone — I would have just laid the stones on the ground and assumed that was sufficient.) We removed enough flagstone for both paths and I promised the rest of the flagstone to my friends in exchange for their help so will help them move and load the rest when they come to pick up the stone.

Luckily it rained Friday and briefly yesterday so the ground wasn’t rock hard. I will salt the spaces between the flagstone and around the edges so that weeds don’t overgrow the stone. Once I pull weeds (again) from the area, I will seed it with clover.

Here is the new path to the pump house (it got the seal of approval from Kip, Sleet and Fix.) I’ll post later on the path to the garden and the keyhole garden.

Kip, Sleet and Fix




Este es el fin

I previously mentioned that going into this year I was still uncertain as to the future plans for the farm. After having spent the last week dragging myself out of bed to attend to the livestock, I have made a decision about the farm.

Fix, my young English Shepherd, turns two tomorrow. He is an exceptionally nice dog – very good structure with effortless movement and a wonderful temperament. However, while he has shown a lot of potential as a working dog, he has been very slow to mature. While this was not a problem when I had Tuck and I could afford to wait for Fix to grow up and develop into a useful chore dog, Tuck is no longer around and I can’t wait any longer. Fix on his good days (i.e., when his brain is engaged) has proven to be a useful dog. However, Fix, as is the case with most adolescent males of any species, lacks focus and all too often will start a task and then find something different to engage his focus. Losing focus while moving stock in open spaces can be, and often is, disastrous. So, while there are some tasks that Fix can do, and does, on a regular basis, there are other tasks where I no longer even try to use a dog. The bottom line is that I can no longer effectively and easily raise sheep.

Since losing Tuck last June, I have been looking for another working English Shepherd. After many frustrating months of no prospects, a friend found a litter in Virginia that had potential. Unfortunately, based on her evaluations of the puppies at 5 weeks and 7 ½ weeks, it appeared that while the litter was very nice, it was unlikely that there was a puppy to suit my needs. Finally, in desperation I turned to looking for a litter of working bred Australian Shepherds and found a litter on the ground in Texas from a very well known breeder. After committing to putting a deposit on a puppy, I returned to my search for an English Shepherd, figuring if I could find what I wanted before picking up the puppy I could eat the deposit. After more e-mails with English Shepherd breeders I have finally faced up to the bitter truth – the majority of English Shepherds today are not working dogs and those few breeders of proven working English Shepherds are breeding a dog too large for my purposes. Over the years I have run cattle, hogs, sheep and goats, not to mention the turkeys and chickens, on my farm and never once in all that time have I ever wished for a larger dog than I had. Since it is important to me that I am able, if necessary, to pick up and carry an injured dog, a 60-70 lb dog is just not viable.

I had contemplated getting rid of the sheep when I lost Tuck but several friends discouraged me from making any decisions while I was still grieving Tuck. In hindsight, I should have followed through and off-loaded the sheep last year, but I plan on rectifying that mistake this year.

As soon as it is feasible, all of the sheep, and half of the goats, will be off the property. I will make a final decision about the remaining goats at the end of this year when the milk test I started in February is concluded.

I will no longer need a working dog so I can pass on the puppy and Fix can grow up at his own speed. Este es el fin

Not a White Christmas. . .

It snowed last night. When I let the dogs out this morning, I had to kick Kip out . . . although she later remembered that she liked playing in the snow.

Heading to the barn

Kip in the snow

This is the view from my gate. . . I am feeding for a friend and was very happy that my new(er) truck has four wheel drive as I actually needed it to reverse.

Kip and Fix

I’m glad someone is enjoying the snow. The sheep, goats and chickens are all sure this snow is totally my fault and they are NOT HAPPY. Since it is still snowing, I’m expecting a total of about 6 inches.

Happy Holidays . . .

While I don’t personally observe holidays, when I remember I like to do something special for the dogs. I have been saving the last package of neck bones for today.

Christmas Day


Fix will have completely cleaned all the meat off the neck bones by the time I go out to feed in a short while and then he will carry around the neck vertebrae for several days. Kip, on the other hand, will bury hers after she spends 30 minutes or so chewing on it.  (Which then gives Fix a chance to steal hers as well as he is very good at finding what she hides/buries.) And while Sleet would dearly love a neck bone, her teeth just aren’t up to the challenge so she will get a little something extra for dinner tonight.

If we were in England . . .

we would be celebrating Guy Fawkes day. However, here in the U.S. I’m celebrating my birthday.

My garden tower in the breakfast room (or as I call it, my home office) is flourishing. I’ve been making pesto from the basil and parsley to go along with the spaghetti squash from my garden and I should have enough lettuce for a couple of salads a week through the winter shortly.

Morning of 11/05/18

The weather was gorgeous today so I snuck away just before noon and Fix and I took a short hike in the Quebradas (about a tenth of a mile south of my gate.)

Last of the desert flowers

Fix perched on edge of Arroyo










We had some rain a couple of weeks ago and the vegetation took advantage of the water and warmer temperatures.

I avoid the Quebradas when it rains because of the potential for flash flooding (the hikes are on the bottoms of arroyos) but it is nice to know that Fix could save himself if needed.

The cottonwoods are finally starting to change color. It won’t be long now before all the leaves are gone.

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