If you live in the country, you already know about the joy of rodents. When we lived in Oregon, we had huge rats that could bloody our 80-pound Weimaraner dogs ... our Jack Russell was more skilled, but took a lot longer. They were ugly with beady eyes too close together and a weirdly long crookedy snout. They were easy to hate ... they destroyed everything and are suspected to be the source of the spark that started the fire that burned out house down.
Now that we're here in northern Idaho, we've found all sorts of cuteness. We loved the shrews in Oregon, which live here, too, but they aren't rodents though they are entirely awesome little creatures. There are so many cute mice here and I'd love them except they get in everything. This little squirmy baby is gray on the back with a white belly, huge eyes, and a funny little tail. Mom was a little chibi (cute anime creature) mouse that could be a model for stuffed animals and children's toys. There are also little brown ones, ground squirrels, rats, and all sorts. This is where they are meant to live - in the country - so how do we strike a balance?
"How can you stand to eat your pets!?"
I'm sure most people have asked that or been told that depending on which part they play: the meat raiser or the supermarket consumer. Let me just take a moment to explain one thing - eating my "pets" is actually nicer than eating feedlot beef. My animals are loved, handled gently, and allowed to behave like animals should. They eat healthy food, sunbathe, scratch on trees, and enjoy their lives. They are raised by their moms and kept in herds of their friends. When they are "taken down the road," they have no idea what is happening. They are not hurt first or scared or kept in crowded dirty pen or feed lots. Lights on, lights off. I don't think all animals are afforded the same courtesy, especially poultry, and I think that part is the shame.
This does tie in to naming livestock. Livestock are not the same as pets ... not always. Pets are companions and often work on the farm, too. Livestock are producers (or should be). We name all the livestock we plan to keep for longer than meat. Honestly, a lot of the calves end up with nicknames even though they are destined for the freezer - there is Hamburgler, Big Red, Little Red, Chocolate. We've heard of naming them Meatloaf, Chuck, Fillet Mignon (we didn't eat her but sold her - too cute), etc. Our other animals have names that, for the most part, we remember and use when we handle them, and we have a method to this madness.
We've owned dogs since we were first married, and both of us owned dogs before that. We quite like the Weimaraner breed, but have also owned a Jack Russell terrier, Chihuahua-rat terrier mixes, and before getting married we've lived with English pointers, beagles, terrier mixes, border collie, and mutts. We've seen some breeds are smarter than others. Our Jack Russell was extremely smart, troublingly so, and trained very easily. Our Weimaraners are not as smart, but very interested in pleasing. This has made them easy to train. Our dogs live in the house with us with the exception of our guardians (livestock guardian dogs, often called LGDs).
After having owned and trained many dogs, it is apparent these are very different than others, so much so we have come to refer to "the dogs" as one group and "the guardians" as another. They are so different! And, I'm not being dramatic ... I'm not a dramatic person, but quite the opposite.
If thinking about getting a livestock guardian dog, please take warnings and advice from others seriously to avoid a bad situation for you and the dog. Just to say it up front, I do not recommend Akbash dogs as a pet for anyone. Great Pyrnees might be okay in the right setting with the right family ... might.
When we've had groups of animals, there is often one that has a knack for getting into trouble or giving me headaches. Among our Lowline Angus, it's a little heifer (soon to be cow) named Easter (because of the day she was born and not because of any religious qualities). Of our horse's, it's my daughter's mare, who happens to be a very good horse but a bit boy crazy at times. Among our dogs, it's also my daughter's - Link.
We acquired him as a puppy when we were building our house the first time where we homesteaded in Oregon. He peed on everything, slobbered any hand hanging low enough to reach, and liked to unload our laundry basket and chew up dirty clothes, then sleep on them. He also has a sensitive stomach but is the first beast to eat unholy things he finds outside - often after rolling in them - and then gets diarrhea and sometimes vomiting. Horses, cattle, and even sheep and goats are treat vending machines constantly leaving treasures for him to eat and perfume himself with. I don't know how many times he came back from a "quick bathroom break" outside with green stinky smears from shoulder to shoulder. But hey, he's a dog.
We usually have at least half a dozen each of cats and dogs on the farm, sometimes more. Cats are fantastic at rodent and bird control (so we get a few cherries and blueberries). Dogs are livestock guardians or companions who also help guard the farm. They contribute and are valuable members of "the team," and we enjoy their personalities and friendships. Some of our pets have sensitive stomachs and we watch what we feed them. Most do fine on good-quality commercial pet foods. However, we have found that when homesteading and living on the farm, we have the ability to provide them a far superior diet.
Last year when I casually told my sister in Texas about the mountain lions and bears and other wildlife we live among, she laughed at me at said it sounded made up. Those in northern Idaho know we have an abundance of wildlife. We love having them around us, even the predators. It's an amazing place to live. At the same time, it presents problems to homesteading and farming.
We were in a sort of limbo during the spring of 2016. I had acquired four Oberhasli goat does and twelve East Friesian ewe sheep who all had little ones at their sides. With the addition of a few more later, these were our foundation animals from which we would breed and grow our herd to our desired production levels.
Wife to Brandon, mother to Tess and Liam, farmer, entrepreneur, cook & baker, nurse, and accountant who loves to try new things, travel, and work toward greater self-reliance.