I will be posting more info in the next few days for our litter of Lucious/Maia puppies born November 24th, 2014. There are still six females available!
A really huge thank you to Jennifer for providing this excellent commentary on her puppy, Gypsy Adelaide, from our 2013 Anatolian/White GSD litter. She has been the most perfect owner, and we love her. Gypsy could not have a better home.
Gypsy is an amazing puppy. Her personality is amazing. When my husband and I decided to take the plunge and get a GSD and Anatolian Shepherd we knew this would be different than training our older girl.
Gypsy is a smart dog there is no doubt about that. Having a dog like her has so many positives and some negatives. She is very intuitive and you can see that she learns at everything she chooses to do.
The challenges of having a pup liker her are:
Commands are an option
She is a BIG puppy! Like most puppies they go through awkward stages and have to learn to be graceful. While she has come a long way she bumps things over. She does not realize her size and if she “shakes” your hand prepare yourself to really feel a high five. She moves furniture when she lays down and will lay/lean against you and she feels like a rock. I mostly use patience with her size. Although, I make sure that if she is an obstacle that I make her move. After all, I am not trying to give her alpha status.
As is common with Anatolian Shepherds she picks and chooses when she wants to listen to a command. A LOT of patience is needed in issuing a command. Gypsy will not do a command if she feel it is not necessary. You can see the look in her eye she tilts her head to the side and you can see that she is not going to follow the command. I use my “mom” voice with her quite often. I also use her middle name. I have to be firm when I am giving her a command that she does not want to follow. I also do not give her an option. I have had to make her submit a couple of times. Now I just make sure every now and again I make her submit. When I make her submit I make her lay down and then I dominate her. I lean on her and put my face in her face and growl at her. I also stare her down from time to time and I will not move until she looks away or down. While all this may sound odd or unconventional it works!
Gypsy owns our yard and everything in it. She digs dens all over the yard. All her dens are in places where she has the advantage to see everyone coming or going. Every plastic planter is her personal toy including small landscaping lights. To be honest I am working on a plan of attack to keep her out of my raised beds and flower gardens. I don’t mind that she digs holes so much, because that keeps her working and makes her happy. Any tips would be appreciated for the gardens.
As I stated earlier she does not realize her size. She thinks she is a lap dog. I just reinforce the command “down” and I am firm. She will now put her head on the laps of the visitors she likes and sit in front of them on the floor. Only when it comes to me does she try to get on my lap or if I am giving her sister love.
Perhaps rules and commands are in the same group. As is with everything if she doesn’t find it agreeable she will try not to listen. I should add that she loves our whole family but her and I share a special link. I am her momma. Our older dog bonded with my husband but Gypsy has bonded with me. As a result she challenges my husband on everything he says. When I reinforce a rule or command she will listen to me the first or second time. When my husband tries to correct her she will make him tell her 3-5 times. I believe this is because he has never dominated her the way I have. I truly believe the domination technique I use has helped immensely. Ask yourself this, what would she have to do if she were in a pack of dogs?
Great with Children and pups
I taught her in five seconds where her toy bin is and I am currently working on showing her how to put them away. When confronted with any new situation she tilts her head and just observes. She figures it out. You can literally see the wheels in her head turning and she is forming an opinion. When she was a tiny puppy she figured out if she stepped on the storage chest at the foot of my bed that she could get on the bed. She potty trained quickly and only pooped in our house two or three times. I can honestly admit that the times she pooped it was our fault not hers. She learns all commands within minutes as long as we lock up our older dog. If the older one is out she will not focus on us. She also has trouble focusing if food is involved. She loves eating!
Gypsy is one of the most loyal dogs! She does checks to find out where everyone dog and human are in the house. If someone is not home she will go to the front window and stay there until that person is home. When the person that is home moves she will come and check on them and then go back to the window. This is instinctual. We have not had to teach her this. She will also not leave our side when we are outside. She is not a runner and lord knows we appreciate this trait. I do not have to use leashes if I do not want to. Again we have not taught her this, this is instinctual.
Her size is an asset. As she is becoming more graceful you can see the agility and her speed. We plan on using her size to our advantage and will take time this summer putting her to “work.” We are planning on training her to pull a cart so she can help us garden. I think putting her to more productive work will help with keeping her out of our gardens. I am curious to hear your thoughts.
While it is frustrating when she does not listen to a command it is also nice. Her independence is fantastic because unlike most dogs we do not have to entertain her. She is content playing by herself and keeping herself busy. We just have to make sure that what she has chosen to do isn’t naughty. We do this by keeping toys available to her at all times. She also checks on the chickens quite a bit. However, I think she is more interested in eating the chicken poop.
Gypsy is fantastic with all children and puppies. This is instinctual also. When my niece comes to visit Gypsy is so easy with her. My niece can hit her, crawl on her, and do whatever she wants and Gypsy will let her. We have to discourage my niece from hitting but never have to worry about the puppy nipping. Gypsy has pulled my niece by her pants and moved her where she felt my niece should be (away from the stairs.) She loves to give my niece kisses. We have another friend that just got an English bulldog mix. The puppy is super small. Somehow Gypsy just knows that babies are delicate. When our friend came to our house with his pup she laid down on the floor to play with the puppy. She knew that she had to get as small as possible. It is safe to say that she is a gentle giant when it comes to puppies and children.
She is the calmest puppy I have ever had the pleasure of raising. Due to this and her size I often forget she is still a puppy. What she has managed to do in the few months of her life took my older dog 3 years. It is nice to come home and see an excited puppy that is happy to see me but know she will calm down within a few minutes.
Training Gypsy is both a joy and a frustration. Watching her grow is amazing. Every time she learns something new I feel so proud. My older dog is smart but Gypsy has the most amazing problem solving skills. This is not a dog for a first time dog owner but for a more seasoned dog owner. An owner that gets an Ophidian Pup should understand the intricacies of what it means to own a determined dog. I do not regret getting her and in the future I hope to get another dog just like her.
**These were my suggestions regarding the questions Jennifer asked in the post:
1) Try outlining the area you want her out of with your urine. This way she can get a good idea of the boundary. Then, if she goes in there, growl at her and put her on her side. The idea is that this is your area, and she can’t go there.
2) Make sure she has a spot where she can dig–I would bury some raw bones there for her, so that maybe she won’t even care about anywhere else. Even better if there is meat on them.
3) Put up a visual boundary–you can start with stakes and string, but quite frankly if she gets fixated on going in a certain area and she will not listen you may have to put up a hard boundary that she cannot easily get into, like a fence. Boundary issues is one thing that is VERY difficult with LGD breeds.
I am thinking if she is just digging, that the buried bone idea in her dig area may do the trick. Let me know if any of those things work!!!
When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than a dog. I wanted a
dog so badly! I had a room full of stuffed animals because I loved animals so very much. One of my favorite stuffed animals was a stuffed dog—it was a German Shepherd Dog—it was grey, and it had a vinyl face that I thought looked so very real. I was very proud of that dog—it was about the size of a three month old puppy. I took it everywhere with me. I would talk to it and try to make dog sounds out the side of my mouth so that people would think that the dog was real. I was sure that when they looked at me that they thought it was, and I was very proud to have my very own German Shepherd under my arm. I would walk up and down the dog food isle when my mother shopped for groceries, talking to the dog and trying to decide which kind of dog food to buy. I saved up my allowance and bought a leash and collar for my dog, which I held onto dearly while walking in the store.
Whenever I would go to the library, I would check out books on dogs and animals: stories, non-fiction, anything I could get my hands on. In time, I discovered the American Kennel Club, or AKC, and checked out a book from the organization listing all the purebred dogs that were accepted at that time. I poured over every class, every breed, dreaming of which dogs I would own, and wanting to learn about this thing called showing. I sent away for information about dog showing, and obedience trials. And I bought a copy of the AKC book of breeds for my very own.
Finally, when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, my parents decided to let me get a puppy. I don’t think I had ever been so excited. What kind of dog? At the time I was partial to Golden Retrievers, Brittany Spaniels, and Shetland Sheepdogs. I finally decided upon getting a Sheltie, and I bought a book specifically about Shelties, and I named her before I ever found her: Elsa.
Being thirteen years old, I didn’t know anything about breeding dogs, or how to find a breeder, and my parents didn’t either. I poured through the classified ads, calling every ad for a Sheltie I could find. My parents took me to look at the puppies. The people had the dogs in their home. The first place was a nice house. A woman there had both Shelties and Afghan Hounds. She brought out a puppy for me to see, and it looked ill. My parents insisted on seeing the other dogs, and she reluctantly led us to a large room with cages on the wall. In a bottom cage lay an Afghan hound that looked like she was whelping. It was an ugly site—clean, but not a loving home. I suppose, in some ways, it was reminiscent of a puppy mill—there were not even any nice large kennels—just strange cages, and a shifty woman. Nothing like the puppy mill I helped to bust years later, which was horrifying, but not a loving breeder, loving home, either.
The next place had a nice mother dog that we could meet, and a litter of adorable Sheltie puppies. I picked out my little girl and Elsa became my first dog. She was covered in fleas when we got her home, but we fixed that up quickly. As she grew, her elbows turned outward, and she would have been disqualified from a breed ring because she grew too large for the standard. She was my dog, though, and I loved her dearly. Both sets of puppies, by the way, were AKC. My Elsa was registered AKC as well, even though she was oversized, even though she had dysplasia. The AKC label meant nothing as far as a guarantee for a healthy, sound dog. Nothing at all.
I showed Elsa in a few obedience shows after taking classes with her. It was a wonderful experience that I really enjoyed. After going a way to college, Elsa passed on, and I had different dogs over the years as I raised my children—all mixed breeds. It wasn’t until six years ago that I reunited with my love and adoration for the German Shepherd Dog. In my opinion, GSD’s are one of the most intelligent and versatile breed of dog that exists today, and I will never be without at least one until the day I die.
I recently have found some forums online that are dedicated to the GSD—either breeding, training, or just for the love of them. Some of them are very enjoyable and I am learning some very interesting things there, from some very dedicated and lovely people. Then there are the other groups, and I am very sorry and disappointed to say that the majority of these groups are run by and championed by people who are currently involved with the AKC.
Any fondness I had left for the AKC from my childhood has been destroyed by these people. I tend to feel that, even though I rapidly approach the age of fifty, and even if I make it to one hundred, there will always be more for me to learn about any given subject. If for no other reason than other people have other experiences that I have not had, and therefore insight that I may not have had or considered. There are always going to be other perspectives out there, and I don’t have to agree with them, but I do stand a possibility of learning something from them. I guess the term that people used to use for such a philosophy was “humility.”
These people, however; these AKC breeders and trainers, know it all. They know the one right way to do things, and they know the one right way to think, and to breed, and to sell dogs—they apparently do not have to live another day because they have nothing left to learn. They do, however, enjoy reinforcing this mindset in each other on a continual basis, and usually at the expense or sacrifice of anyone who wanders into their midst who is in any way not exactly like them. Well let me tell you, I am nothing like them, so I am really good fodder for them, and they enjoy trying to tear me down with relish. It is amusing. And more importantly, it is sad.
I find I suffer from a rare condition that makes me think that there are people in the world who are basically good: decent, moral, honest…people who, like me, realize there is another human being on the other end of the line, and that if a person reaches out to me in earnest, and with good intent, then it is decent of me to do the same. I realize that if someone comes to me as a breeder, then it is my duty to be respectful and treat them as they deserve to be treated—honestly, and with integrity. So is in this regard that I joined these forums, because it is my belief that if a person has more experience at something that I am interested in, even if I do not share all of the same philosophies, then I stand to learn something. So, I came to these people to see if they had anything to teach me about GSD’s and about raising and training dogs, because like I said, I will never know everything there is to know, and I will never stop learning.
Well, what I did learn is that many of the people in the show dog business, and in the dog training business, are horrible, cruel, and belligerent people that lack humanity, decency, and consideration of others. And that is sad. And that gives dog breeders and trainers a bad name. And that, given that they stand up as AKC people, really gives the AKC a bad name. I have read copies of forums where AKC and show breeders attacked a woman who was earnestly seeking advice in their forum with disgusting racist and demeaning remarks. They seem to want to do anything to drive anyone away who is not exactly like themselves. And what they do not seem to understand is that the only people left to sell dogs to is each other, and a few people out there who believe that the more expensive something is, the better something is. And, that is just not the case.
Now I know there are many AKC registered dog breeders out there who I am sure are honest, good people with integrity, and at this point, if you are reading this, please contact me and let me know who you are and what you are about. As I have written before, if someone comes to me and wants a show dog, or a dog to work in areas that mine are not suited for, I would love to have a list of reputable breeders who are decent, honest people that I can refer my customers to. I will not sell a dog to someone if it is not a good fit for what they are looking for. And to me, reputable breeder does not mean what it means to show breeders. It means someone who loves their dogs, takes excellent care of their dogs, and who cares about where their puppies end up. It also means that they take responsibility for every life they help to bring into this world, until that life is ended.
I will follow this article up with my position on such health testing as genetic tests and OFA certification, why I do not think that it will guarantee you a healthy dog, and why I do not do it. I will support my opinions with what research I can provide, and I have always been up front about my philosophies as a breeder, and as a guardian and caretaker of the animals and land to which I have been entrusted.
I will also try to maintain a list of people who are not decent as dog or animal people, so if you wonder about who you are dealing with, feel free to ask, and if I know of them, I will tell you what I know. All we can do as people in a community of dog lovers is look out for one another, and be honest, and forthright about what we do and why we do it. There is a habit amongst the not-so-decent folks of labeling breeders like me, much in the same way that people are labled as ni**ers, fa**ots, jezebel’s, witches…you get the idea…labels intended to dismiss, diminish, and degrade anyone who is not like them. These terms in the dog world are byb, or back yard breeder, and pm, or puppy mill. There are people out there who could be called both: people who basically factory farm dogs in cruel conditions totally for money, and people who have a dog or two staked out behind their homes for the sole purpose of breeding for cash. They do not invest any time, love, or energy in their dogs, and these dogs are not part of their families.
With our dogs this is not the case. Our dogs are our partners on our farm. They are family, they are friends, and they are loved ones. What we have we give to them, and in return we have the privilege of sharing our lives with some truly wonderful and amazing individuals. In this way we are truly blessed, and I am sorry for the people who are so embittered by life that the best way they can think to represent the dog world to the public is through cruelty, condemnation, and competitive jealousy that drives them to try to steer people away from any breeders that have a different philosophy than their own.
I am sure some of these people breed amazing dogs, and that some of them are amazing trainers. It is just a shame that they are not able to be amazing people as well.
As I have written many times, the most important thing for our puppies’ and dog’s development, health, and well-being is diet. That, and a loving, nurturing environment that provides boundaries and guidance through training and teaching is all that a dog needs to have a wonderful life. The more that I have researched optimum canine diet, the more I am certain that the best diet for a dog is raw diet. Raw diet can come in multiple forms, and dependent on the age, health condition, and breed of dog, there is no one right answer on exactly what should be included in raw diet. That depends on your dog.
To start with, dogs need a certain ratio of muscle, bone, and organ meat to be healthy and get the nutrients they need. Some people supplement this base diet with tripe, vegetables, raw eggs, raw milk, yogurt…things of this nature. Very few people add some grains, but that is usually based upon certain breed types.
I have been wanting to transition to a complete raw diet for a while now. Our dogs have been fed a combination of organic, high quality dry food, and raw meat, organ meat, bones, eggs, raw goat’s milk, raw goat’s milk yogurt, and some veg. They also get some cooked meats and bone broth. I am now in the final stages of converting to raw diet, and I am very excited, and so are they. What stopped me thus far had been affording raw diet, and finding enough sources for the meats, bones, and organs.
This past trip to town I picked up 50 pounds of beef heart, 20 pounds of beef liver, 20 pounds of pork neck bones, and 30 pounds of ground chicken and turkey chubs with bone and some veg. That will not get me through three weeks. But, we are getting closer!
Part of what I am learning is how to source for raw diet as inexpensively as possible. I was already spending a LOT of money on dog food, so right now I am trying to keep that the same, or reduce cost. Since we have large dogs, we need a lot of food. Our dogs average 85 pounds each. Dogs need to eat approximately 2-3% of their body weight daily, depending upon their work load. Lucious, our male White GSD is an athlete who is agile, and very high energy. He looks like he does not have an ounce of fat on his body, so he will need a minimum of 3%, if not a bit more. The nice thing about Lucious is that he seems to regulate his food intake. He gets full, and will not over eat. In fact, if he has meat and he gets full he will bury it for later. He likes to age his meat, and he likes to hide it so that the chickens don’t steal it, or the coyotes, either.
Jasmine is a bit older, and trends towards a little heavier at times. I will base her at 2-2.5% of her ideal body weight. Keep in mind when converting to raw that you can adjust quantities as you observe how they are doing on the diet, and increase or decrease according to your specific dog. There may be times of year that they need more or less food, too, such as more in the winter as it gets cold, and less in the heat of the summer, when no one wants to eat too much.
Chelsea, since she is still building back from her litter for winter cold will get at least 3%. And Maia, who is now just 3 months old and growing (fast) will be based at 3% of current weight. The Ophidian Cats are also converting to 100% raw, too, and have had partial raw from kittendom and birth, respectively, with our older cat doing amazingly well with the transition, though he used to have mostly dry food. He is looking svelte and is acting very young at 14+ years of age! The same ratios apply to the cats, though they only eat what they need. It is amazing to see raw raised felines—the musculature on them is impressive, and they are very large, healthy cats!
I am still working on sourcing for raw, but will share what I have thus far learned, in hopes that readers will transition to raw as well, for the health of the beloved carnivores in their lives! The most direct way to source for raw is by raising the animals oneself. We are doing this on the farm, but there are times when there are no animals to butcher and nothing left in the freezer. (Hopefully someday that will not be the case.) So, in the meantime, while waiting for pigs to grow, etc., we look outside to source. The first, and my favorite source, because it is free, and often the healthiest, is deer. Healthiest because deer are also raised on a natural diet without chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics. Deer get hit by cars every day, and what better use for a deer that lost its life then as food for someone else? Many counties have sheriff departments that are responsible for road kill deer. They often have lists one can get on to get a call when a deer is hit and then go collect it immediately from the deputy on site of the accident. Now I am on a list for my county, but unfortunately do not have access to a vehicle but twice per month, so that has not worked out too well, though I could have gotten two deer this past week, and my dogs, cats, and freezer would have been nicely full. Darn.
Many people source meat from conventional groceries—sale items, etc. I do not do this because I do not and will not buy factory farm meat. It is full of toxins, antibiotics, growth hormones, and in factory farm chicken meat, we find arsenic—from the chicken’s feed.
There are raw meat coops in many cities, and many people work with local butchers for obtaining meats at discounted prices. It takes a bit of homework and leg work, but it is So worth it! What you get in return is a healthy dog with shining white teeth, regardless of age, no body odor, shiny eyes, shiny coat, and good energy. And let’s not forget few if any health problems. When we invest in good diet, we save at the veterinarian’s office!
I will keep posting updates on this topic, including more ideas for sources for raw! In the meantime, there are pet food stores that carry raw products under brand names such as Bravo, Primal, and many others. Here is a great site to read reviews of all types of pet foods, including packaged raw products for pets. If you do need to feed dry food due to budget or availability, you can check on different brands here to try to find the best quality option for your pet!
And here is an excellent forum for discussing and learning about raw diet. Check it out!
I have been considering writing this article for days. Thought better of it. Thought again. This…what I am thinking of…is perhaps the crux of why I am doing much of what I am doing at this point in my life. It is both complicated, and quite simple.
This has to do with foreign, primitive notions and concepts: things like morality, integrity, honor, and quite frankly, a notion of what is, and conversely, what is not sacred.
What drives a person, at approximately middle age, to look around one’s life and to realize that everything that they’ve been taught to think and believe is not real or true? That the constructs of society, culture, nation, government…that these things are but constructs manufactured, not to give a sense of liberation, growth and development, but as things utilized to enslave, diminish, disparage, degrade, and control.
Now I like the old-fashioned notion of not discussing politics and religion in public. I didn’t used to, but I do now. So, I will attempt, in this article, to appeal to a broader sense of Principle, because when one’s focus is constrained by definition, one’s perspective is often limited, and one’s potential unrealized.
So, I look around, many years ago now, and I begin to see an unfolding of the reasons why, despite moderate “success”, that I was somehow never happy or satisfied with the track my life was on. The more I looked at different ways of being, the more I realized I was tragically destined for not a life, but some kind of place-holder for life; some kind of paper doll existence. I say this because I walked away from everything I “had”, and found out that I don’t need anything. I say this because there is no such thing as “having” things. Material existence is transitory. Living is not about having. Living is about doing.
I am going forward in my life by going backwards: back to where I think mankind went wrong. Back before technology, back before “convenience.” When people say the worst thing they can imagine, they say “you wouldn’t want to go back to the stone age.” Well, yeah, I do. And, with a lot of struggle, I am hoping to.
Okay, why? The universal thing that people who say that they are aware of what is currently befalling the world and its “advanced” societies is this: Technology will save us. Bullshit. Salvation does not come from that which caused the problems in the first place.
There was a time when there was no separation between life, living, religion, spirit, morality, integrity, honor. There is a nobility in the living of life in the manner meant or destined for the nature of a thing. This is easy to see when we look at the natural world, no matter how or why you believe it was created. To see, for example, a deer walking majestically through the forest is universally appreciated or else there would not be so many attempts to capture the beauty in so many photographs. There are no colors more bright then the greens of the leaves of those trees. There is no greater sense of dignity then the way that buck surveys his surroundings. And then we gasp as the wolves take him down, yet we cannot look away, so efficient and amazing is the way in which the wolves work together to survive.
Now let me contrast this feeling with that of this modern world. Let’s see, what has technology brought to us here? Miley Cyrus enacting child porn during an awards show? And here we are, in an age so sticky and sickly that I have to second guess my inclination to write about something as base as morality. So let me forge on ahead. Let me do what we are no longer supposed to do and have an opinion.
It has become acceptable and mainstream for our children to live in a world that is basically pornography. Sex sells, and children sell, and boy howdy, sex and children together is becoming more and more wed in the consciousness and the subconsciousness. And why not? Isn’t everywhere Vegas now?
And this is complicated, because our cultural morality is dictated by the board room of the corporation, whose nature was legalized as a personhood, whose soul is determined and bound by its sole purpose of generating profits for its shareholders. That, my friends, is the god of this nation. That is what deals out the morality of our society like cards on the poker table. At all costs: life is no longer sacred. Life is commodity, and if you don’t see how you are being factory farmed the same way as all the other animals are, then you might want to take a look around while you still can.
So, being that I long ago rejected this imposed reality and instead chose a morality innate to my being, and yes, I’ll say it, a religious morality, I have found myself living in a way that horrifies most of my relations, and probably quite a few other people as well. So be it.
You see, there is one thing that most religions have in common and it is this: There is a destiny for a human being, and that destiny is tied to one thing that is crucial to existence, and that is that each human being must live for something greater than himself. Simple, really. To live for something greater than oneself, one is therefore allowed and able to partake in an existence that is, in no short order, miraculous.
This is, sadly, a concept almost forgotten in the modern world, and it does not matter whether a person claims religion or atheism. I have met many people of different religions who live for themselves entirely.
I don’t think I need to go into the complete degradation of our modern society, and this will be a book if I do so. If you have no idea what I am talking about I can only give so much advice: turn off the tv, the cell phone, the car, the radio, and walk somewhere that you cannot see a building, cement, or other people. Sit there until you know what I am talking about. Ask yourself how you feel about yourself, your family, your life, your neighbor, your lover. Ask yourself why you hurt, why you feel sick, why you are nervous, depressed, angry. If you are none of these things, take your pulse…you may already be dead.
It is not the natural state of man to be sick, anxious, depressed, angry, in pain, always hungry, always tired, unable to love, unable to feel, unable to understand the concepts of inner peace and tranquility. Did you know that?
Did you know that there exists a place where harmony is the natural order of the world and life, that when you breathe you don’t feel a catch, that when you walk your body does not feel effort, but levity? Do you know what it is like to really sleep?
Anyway, not a book, not a book.
How did we find ourselves, you and I…how did we find ourselves in a place where we have to whisper our disgust at what passes for normality? Where we celebrate depravity and not beauty? Morality IS about judgment, people. We are supposed to judge. When we do not judge ourselves and each other, we get things like NAMBLA, we get things like people calling themselves “scientists” to justify cutting things off of other living things while they scream in pain and terror all the while stating that the one screaming feels no pain. (Look it up.) We get the insanity of corporations making things that poison us and kill us and calling it food so that we eat it and wonder why we are sick. (Cancer is not normal, and things didn’t used to get cancer. Yes, it’s true.)
Why, we ask ourselves, does our government, I mean the corporations, I mean the military industrial complex, I mean our government normalize illness, despair, pain, and torment? Oh, shoot. No politics. Sorry.
Did someone say profit? Hey, good job.
Now, let’s talk about morality. Let’s talk about silly things like the fact that life is sacred. Life, and all that it creates, and all that created it is sacred. Holy. Divine. (Is it weird to read words like that? Does anyone say those words anymore?) Now if life is sacred, then how can we put a number on it? How can we say what it is worth? What price tag do we put on it? And if life is sacred, how can we own it? How can we trademark it? How can we sell it?
And, if life is sacred, then why are we, like everything else that exists on this manifest world, owned?
You know, when my grandmother was a child, people farmed because that was how one lived. People raised their food, and provided for themselves and their families. They shared what they had in abundance with others who had less, and traded with others who had more. People lived. There was a time before that when money was even less important. There was even a time when money didn’t exist. Hard to believe, huh?
I remember in the eighties when I was entering adulthood when there was a great stir because there was an assault happening on the family farm. Terrible thing. People were upset about it, because farming was the American way of life, and now family farms were being run out of business, and people were losing their land, their farms, their homesteads that had been in their families for generations. Everything on that land was built by members of that family…ancestors. That had a lot of meaning for people.
People were so upset by this that they got together to yell and scream with outrage. They are killing the family farm, they said. People like John Cougar Mellencamp, and Willie Nelson got together and made songs and held concerts to raise awareness and money to try and help hold these farms together, but there was an agenda, and the war was lost. We lost that war, my fellow Americans. But they didn’t want you to know that. Somehow, something else happened, and people forgot, and that’s just progress anyhow, and that’s just what happens, and that’s just how things are.
The corporations became the farmers (they got to be people when the slaves got to be people—legally, because, they said, it was only fair.) The corporations became the farmers, and then the corporations decided what food was, and who could eat what. They also decided that it didn’t matter how they treated animals, or people, because profit was all that mattered.
I remember when I was a kid and I went to visit my grandmother’s farm how we would sometimes go to the county fair. I didn’t know much about 4 H back then, but when I had kids, I got them involved with 4 H, and it struck me the other day how what started as a way to try to encourage kids to take pride in their families and their farms has become a way to indoctrinate kids into the corporate farm family. Now it’s about profit—farms are a business. I challenge you to find one child in 4 H who has the slightest idea about how to grow a seed without poison, or to raise an animal without grain. Just for starters.
I go to a fair now and I see mutants. Animals so deformed by chemicals and steroids and toxins and GMO, and humans who are basically the same way. And we wonder why our little girls are getting periods at eight years old…don’t get me started.
Not a book.
So, I don’t support 4 H. I tell you what—if you have a child in 4 H and you want to buy, say, a goat from me for your child to do 4 H, and you want a discount? Have that child come to me and explain to me how to raise that goat naturally—with no antibiotic feed, with no coccidosis. Have your child explain to me why they should leave its horns on. Have your child tell me what to do if the goat needs to be wormed that does not involve buying poison at a store. Have that child tell me about what it means to be a goat—what a goat wants in life, and what a goat thinks about. Have your child tell me why we, as humans have goats, how that all came about, and ways to keep goats from turning a forest into a desert, which goats can do, have done, and will keep doing if they are allowed to. For good measure, have your child tell me how to keep a goat from being killed by a predator without killing the predator.
Then I’ll give your child a goat for free (but they have to mean it.)
All right, this has probably gone on too long already, so it will have to be a “part 1” or else I’ll just go on and talk about something else next, we’ll have to see.
But to close, I’ll ask you this: Where are the people who cried about the death of the family farm, and the family, and all of those kinds of things now? Why, in 4 H, for example, doesn’t anybody seem to remember all of that, as they extol the virtues of GMO, and teach factory farm techniques and practices to the kids? Oh, right. Profit.
I don’t usually do this, but I wrote this a few years ago and felt like it topically belongs on a homesteading site, so why not. It is a work of fiction. (I have tried to get published in magazines, etc, but that is about impossible I guess.) I hope you enjoy it.
“It seems a bit cannibalistic to eat a tomato,” I said, squinting at Raina in the bright summer sun.
She paused, her brown hair glinting with its summer sheen.
“How did she get to be fourteen?” I thought to myself. “She was just a baby.”
“Mom, you’re so weird,” Raina said.
I smiled at her freckles as she tossed her bangs to the side of her dew kissed forehead.
“Well, think about it,” I said.
I pinched a plump red orb still clinging to its vine.
“It’s kind of like a babies butt. All smooth, and firm,” I said laughing.
“Now you’re just gross,” Raina said, but her mouth twitched at the corners, and she turned and looked over at the fence.
“I see you smiling,” I said quietly, pulling the tender tomato from the vine.
Raina continued to stare at the fence that surrounded our garden. She got to her feet and picked up the yellow tabby from the other side of the fence that had been swatting beans through the slats. For a moment she was a little girl, hugging her kitten to her face, her hair cascading over its swatting paw. The cat jumped to the ground and ran off―her childhood following close behind. She turned toward me.
“Can I go over to Gina’s?”
I stood and brushed off the front of my jeans.
“Is her mom home?” I asked.
“Yes, Mom!” she snapped back.
I regarded her a moment.
“Be home at eight,” I said.
“But it’s summer,” she said with a whine, as if her childhood had sneaked up again behind her.
I gave her the mom stare. She did her best to match it but I had years and two kids on her, and she had barely even felt a hormone yet.
“Fine,” she said, turning and stepping over the fence. As she walked to the house I watched her arms swinging defiantly, then gradually moving in a rhythm that matched the songs of the birds in the trees over her head. The sun seemed to wink at me through the branches in a knowing way.
I let out a long breath and returned to the tomatoes, pretending my back didn’t wince as I lowered myself to my knees.
It felt good to be out of school for the summer. I had two more years to go before I would graduate and hopefully find a job. Somehow we were making it. It had been three years since Jason died, and the insurance money was stretched tight. I missed him so much. I took a bite of tomato, letting the juice drip off my chin before wiping it with the back of my hand.
I didn’t really care that much for tomatoes, but god, he had loved them. I took another bite, feeling closer to him as I chewed. I looked around the garden―his garden. The girls and I had kept it going since he’d passed, but it was getting harder. Mel just graduated high school and was working and getting ready for college, and Raina was getting too busy with her friends. I sat back on the ground and tossed the rest of the tomato against the fence. The sun waved as it dipped behind the top of the house, and I smiled back, trying not to notice the tear that had slid slowly down and come to rest on the crease between my nose and cheek.
I put the last tomato in the basket and stood, shaking the stiffness that had settled over me onto the ground with the dirt and straw. My hands found their way to the hair I had pulled back and absently adjusted the band. I looked at them then, and slid the skin on the back of one with the thumb of the other, seeing myself watching my grandmother do the same thing when I was small and sitting with her at her kitchen table the summer I had stayed with her on her farm. That had been my favorite summer―taming barn kittens, chocolate soup, and catching fireflies in canning jars. I remember the rattling of the cicadas that cascaded through the air, and the smile that would wake up my face when the roosters began to sing in the early morning before the other birds had thought to.
I sat down on the swing, not bothering to dust if off from the absence of little girls. Why was it that an empty back yard was so much easier than an empty house? I looked at the huge basket of tomatoes I had set by the slide. I would bag them up and take them over to Mrs. Lynn’s and Mrs. Saddler’s that evening. None of us like tomatoes very much, but Mrs. Lynn and Mrs. Saddler both like to can them, despite the fact that they were both well into their eighties. I understood, though. Being busy made another day pass.
My old friends don’t call anymore. They didn’t understand, and I didn’t want to explain it. It’s funny how people have about a two week limit for someone else’s grief. First there are cards and flowers and casseroles. Then, just as the numbness starts to wear off, there are a lot of awkward glances and long silences. You haven’t even started feeling the mountain of pain and they are starting to make excuses why they can’t stop by. I figured it out after about four or five months. We hide death under our doormats in this society, like an old rusty house key long forgotten. We know it’s there, but we’d rather keep trying to scrape it off our shoes and stay all snug and warm in our houses, pretending it will get old and rusty like that key. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll never have to lift that mat to find it.
I leaned back on the swing as far as I could stretch and lifted my toes off the ground, closing my eyes to the clouds that swirled between the dancing branches of the big old maple. I didn’t hear her at first, but then pulled myself up when I heard Mel calling out the back door.
“Mama,” she called, and I smiled at the way she still called me that at eighteen.
“Coming,” I called back. I grabbed the basket and walked toward the house like a kid called in for supper.
I looked at her and wondered at the grin she had on her bronzed face. She laughed and kissed my cheek, and I looked around the dining room as she slid the glass door shut behind me, blinking the sunshine from my eyes in the dusky room.
Raina came around the corner following a cake with smoking pink candles and dark brown frosting.
I stood puzzled a moment, trying to think of the date.
“Happy Birthday, Mama,” Mel said, taking the basket from my arms. I looked at her with surprise and she guided me to the table. She and Raina started singing and I sat watching as they turned into loving women before me. Raina ran out of sight for a moment and returned with a large box.
“What in the world…” I started to say, but Raina thrust the box onto my lap and Mel pulled the top off, both as excited as they were on those first Christmas mornings.
Staring back at me was a tiny face of fur, shiny and black and wiggling to be free of its cardboard confines.
I pulled the tiny puppy out and it licked my nose. I couldn’t help but cradle it to me, and looked from Mel to Raina through a mist of tears.
Mel pulled the hair back from my cheek and Raina bent down and kissed the other.
“Happy Birthday, Mama,” they said.
Becoming a homesteader is, you know, not that big a deal. You read a little here and there, and jump on in. How hard could it be? What is there really to know?
Not only is that the typical, overly-optimistic sentiments of an empire-spoiled American, but man…where were my ancestors of long ago to smack some sense into me when I had that kind of thinking going on? So it should be no surprise, and I imagine excellent fodder for my long-dead ancestral audience watching over my shoulder, that I only just got smarter then my goats about five days ago.
Up until that point, it had almost devolved into all out war. Now I am first of all thankful that I have Nigerian Dwarf goats, and not a whole herd of Nubians that could have really laid me out if they wanted to. I can still pick most of my does up, so when it comes to terminator wrestle-mania, I do have the upper hand. I have thus far figured out that when you buy an adult doe from someone (“Oh boy—and she’s in milk!”), that what that means is she is a cull from another farm because…(a) she is a bitch, (b) she is smarter then most people, (c) she was retired from the military for being too mean, (d) all of the above.
To think I started milking without a stanchion. I am not even going to tell those stories.
I had to devise a stanchion where basically a person could, I suppose, make a goat bondage sort of film. One of my beloved does (and I do love her—she’s the smartest doe I have), has to be tied in 2-5 places, depending upon her mood.
So, I am thinking—fill up the bowl with tasty oats, and they will let me milk them while they are distracted (they eat fast—lots of oats). That lasted about thirty seconds. Goats are multitaskers . Then came the ties. That worked for a while, but then recently they would chew and thrash and fight and I was getting war-weary. I tried head-butting them, but that just made them laugh I think.
Then it dawned on me. They keep demanding more and more grain as I try to milk. I took Kore, the matriarch of the herd by the horns and we had a discussion. I told her that this was it. She could have the grain after we milked, and only if she was good. This was after we had had a tough go-‘round. I warned the other two girls in milk, too. Stand there and get milked, or else no grain. I tied the ties, strapped the straps, and WOW! It worked. I guess they had figured that as long as I was the sucker giving out grain for free, screw it.
Now they chew their cud and wait for their grain after we are finished milking, and I can pet them and tell them how great they are instead of threatening to make them into chops for the dogs. I have time to think back to a few years ago when I was imagining skipping through the forest with farm animals hanging out, free-ranging, la-tee-da-tee da….that was before I knew that they were all members of the Underfoot Nation.
I do have a substantial number of species free-ranging at a given time, but now it is more because I am still fencing and less because I am an idiot suburban person who read a bunch of online nonsense about how idyllic life is with animals running all over you.
What they failed to mention, and what I will mention, is that they all seem to belong to this apparent union that humans were not told about. It has something to do with buckets, and the fact that I have apparently invisible resources upon my person containing things like grain.
Grain is evil. It is like crack. They think they must have it.
It is either that, or they are trying to figure out how to do me in so they can eat me. A couple of pigs did try to taste me once or twice, and I know the chickens are quite capable of it, if I were to lie still long enough.
Try walking a foot. I dare you. You will, immediately out of no where, have any number of turkey legs, goose feet, chickens, and occasionally goats and a pig or two (they do so love to get out to see what I am up to) under your shoe. Oh, and dogs and cats, too, because they want to see what everyone else thinks is going on. So, each step is akin to my being in some black-and-white silent movie routine. I just need a cane and a mustache and I am ready to go.
It is not enough to just follow me around. Oh no. They have to, like dolphins around a boat, ride the crest and fall of each attempt to put a foot somewhere towards the direction that I want to go in. It doesn’t matter if I step on someone (and I try not to), that just seems to solidify their desire to step up the pace of foot-shadow dancing.
Ohhhhh. That’s what pens are for. Duh duh duh duh duh. Now everybody go to your room!