Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Ramp

Dare’s knees started going bad around 10 years old. The orthopedic vet diagnosed partial ACL tears, but felt that management was the best course at Dare’s age. So I started NSAIDs and some moderate restrictions on Dare joining the more exuberant activities. I also put a ramp up to my bed. Dare liked to join me when I first went to bed to say goodnight, then hop off and stretch out on his favorite stretch of hard floor under a window. Each morning he’d be back up to wish me a good morning. At first I had to make him take the time to go around and use the ramp. As the years went by he began to choose the ramp himself. He also began to spend the entire night on the bed.

The ramp has its drawbacks. It took some time before I learned to navigate around it when I got up at night. Worse, it gives puppies access to the bed. Puppies who may not be fully housebroken and find the expanse of soft comforter a suitable substitute for soil. I can tell you that it takes forever to dry out an egg crate memory foam mattress topper, days. The good aspect of the incredible absorbent capacity of this mattress topper is that the mattress itself has always managed to stay dry. Small consolation when I want to go to sleep but instead find myself with loads of sheets and blankets to wash.

Despite the drawbacks of the ramp, I can’t quite bring myself to take it down just yet. It has been there for 4 years. I can still hear Dare’s footsteps going up and down.


Monday, June 13, 2016


“Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fear is the most powerful of our feelings. It is a link to survival. Fear holds us back from excessive risk, makes us think hard about the possible outcomes, risks and rewards of our actions. Fear in good measure helps us make decisions. Fear in excess is panic. It keeps us from thinking rationally. We become too busy running or fighting to look closer at the threat to see if indeed it is the evil we imagine. Adrenalin powers reactions, not thought.
Marketers have known this for years. Watch the ads for bleach laden cleaners with worried mothers trotting around behind their children in spotless homes, wiping every surface with disinfectant. To sell disinfectant they sell fear of sickness in children. People react, buy disinfectant, and seldom take a moment to consider if this is really necessary.
Internet information "gurus" have known this for years. Dramatic language whips up fear of vaccines, food ingredients, etc. Once people are engaged with the fear they begin to react rather than consider. The fear mongers reap their benefits in advertisements and products.
Animal predators have known this for years. A pack of coyotes will worry stock behind a fence in a small paddock, building panic until the stock goes through the fence that had kept the coyotes out.
Preachers of all faiths have used fear to control their congregations. Salvation is offered by striking out at that which you are taught to fear.
Politicians have known this for years. A powerful speaker can tap into fear then invite the audience to join them in battle against whatever scapegoat has been chosen.  The speaker offers to save us.   The unified surge of adrenalin brings people to battle, not to thought. Who looks at the story and the faces of the enemy when the bugles are blowing?
Maybe we should.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Road Crossing

I need to start carrying the GoPro in the van because life gets interesting without any warning when you have livestock. 
I went out to move sheep to a new graze. Enroute I get a call and end up diverting to gather a couple loose lambs from a neighbor's front yard. I'd sold them to someone this past weekend and they'd escaped the fence and gone walkabout. Getting a pair of weanling lambs back through the thickets was not easy.

That done I head back to move my lambs. They... need to move across the road to a new field. The problem is the road is Route 113, very busy, fast, and the crossing is fairly blind. I need traffic stopped to take them across. On my way there I pass one of the Dunstable police officers. I ask if he can swing by and stop traffic when I'm ready. We set a time and I go prepare. We have a great police force. At 7 PM two cruisers show up and we make our plan. I'll move the last piece of fence and call to them when I'm ready. Then I'll wait till they have the cruisers in place. They'll hold traffic till all stock is across the road and down past the the little red one room schoolhouse that sits in the middle of the new field. I've already got the fencing ready. My only concern is that I must bring the sheep off a field and into a narrow band of woods and brush by the road that has a steep drop over a stone wall to the pavement. I'm not sure the stock will be comfortable traversing this. I did leave a few adult ewes in with the lambs knowing I would be making this trek. 
Fence moved I let the officers know. They parked the cruisers diagonally across both lanes on either side of my crossing. I sent a flank whistle over the knoll where Song and Levi were parked watching the sheep. They brought the flock with commitment. I was across already by this point, watching the sheep flow down over the wall into the road between the two cruisers with blue lights brilliant in the low light. What a picture it would have been!

All sheep were across with the older ewes kicking it into overdrive as they saw the familiar net fence and thick grass of the next graze. I was a bit worried as Fluffy the llama was just getting to the thicket on the other side. She was not thrilled but did pick her way through the brush, over the old wall and down the bank to the road. Then she put those long legs to use sailing across the grass to catch up.

The Strawberry Festival is held on these grounds late June each year. They like having the sheep there. I hope I've timed the grazing so we'll have cleaned out most of the field and be in the back corner where people can see the sheep on festival day. The officers checked in to make sure all was set and we chatted a bit. Did I mention the great police force we have? Boy I wish I'd been wearing my GoPro to get that photo of the sheep pouring down that bank onto the road between the two cruisers with the lights flashing.