The first sunflower in our gardens popped up this week, we barely noticed it, but it is pretty sweet. I am a follower of color and light, it speaks to me of hope and promise.
Our hay is in the barn, our wood is stacked in the woodpile. The last step to winter is putting fresh soil into the Pole Barn and re-shaping the land around the Pole Barn where water and ice pools in the winter. Our friend and neighbor Vince – one of my favorite big men in big trucks (he does not have a small dog) – came and is spending the day working on a number of things.
First, he is scraping out the pole barn and putting some gravel in.
Then, he is bringing a second load of grave (this with rocks) to create a new grade along the side of the Pole Barn so the water will flow down hill instead of turning into a mud bog for us and for the dogs when it rains or snows.
Then, he is moving the hay feeder and bringing some rebar to plant in the ground to anchor it, so the animals won't keep moving it when they scratch themselves or gather to it. It is heavy, but the sheep and the donkeys manage to move it around all the time, it travels all over the pasture.
Scott Carrino is taking our large pile of horse/donkey and sheep manure and Vince is putting it onto his old truck Sarge so it can fertilize the Pompanuck Farm gardens. Scott came over this morning, got a full load and is bringing it back to Pompanuck. Maria and I get a free lunch.
Vince is also planning to scrape out the dirt around the Three Sisters garden and dump some manure in there for next year for Maria. We need more space for corn.
Every August, Vince and I talk some farm management – Maria has absolutely no interest in this subject at all, and I love plotting the details of the farm – hay, water, land management, rotational grazing. Who would have thought it?
Vince is one of those men who moves the earth around, building a new water drainage system is not difficult for him. When Vince finishes today, we will be 100 per cent ready for winter. That always feels great for me, but it does require a good deal of planning and experimentation. We've been trying to get the dirt right out there for some years now, we are close.
The plant growing in the pasture looks like it has decided to be a pumpkin, not a watermelon, probably not even a hybrid. It is turning orange and getting big, there are a dozen like it. Now, we have to figure out what to do with it. Our neighbors and some farmers have pronounced it a pumpkin, perhaps not one we would want to eat, but a pumpkin nevertheless.
Last Fall, we gave the donkeys some watermelon rinds, and it seems they got planted in our manure-fertilized pasture.
Increasingly, Gus surveys his new kingdom, he is the Prince of the farm at the moment. His size surprises me again, and again, especially when offset with the size of the farm and the other animals. There is something quite vulnerable about him, and at the same time, quite poised.
He does not know he is small, and it seems odd to me that such a small creature would cast such a big shadow, and be a substantial presence here. This is one of the things that surprises me about having a small dog.
A new face joins the Bedlam Farm lexicon, Mandi Mulready, who works at the Mansion Assisted Care facility, and is a great animal lover, has signed up to be our dog sitter when we are away. She knows Red and Gus well from their work at the Mansion, and she and Fate bonded instantly.
Blessedly, my dogs love people, I would not be comfortable any other way. I've known Mandi for months, and watched her work, she is conscientious, a hard worker, loving and reliable.
In just a few minutes, the dogs were all over her, and she wants to learn how to do some sheepherding with Red. We've also signed up Sandy Adams, a former teacher and a farmer (we get our hay from here) to take care of the donkeys and sheep while we're gone.
I like splitting up the functions.
Mandi will stay over at the farm when we're away, the dogs lives don't really change much. For all the hysteria about separation anxiety – hundreds of thousands of American dogs are now being medicated for that – I have never had a dog who suffered from separation anxiety. Another benefit of early crate training.
Perhaps because I've never seen it, I don't really believe in it, it is to me too often just another human neuroses we are transferring to our dogs because we can't look at ourselves.
When we leave, we don't have a big dramatic farewell, we just go. And when we come home, we just go about our business as if nothing has happened. Because we don't make it a big deal, the dogs don't know it's a big deal, so they skip the drama.
Our dogs have never battened an eye or suffered a minute of anxiety.
Maria and i mostly take short one or two night treks when we can, this year we are going away for 10 days in October to New Mexico, our longest-ever vacation together. We are pretty cranked up about it. And we need it.
It is a great feeling to have Mandi and Sandy lined up. Mandi will get to know the dogs feedlng and sleeping and other routines in the coming weeks, and when I'm away on a trip, she can bring Red into the Mansion to visit the residents. Gus, too. Mandi has known Red for some months and seen him work. She was astonished at the farm yesterday to see the other side of Red, the herding side.
I have no problem with kennels, they are fine once the dogs get used to them, but I think this is easier for them, especially with two border collies and a puppy.
I'm showing her how to run the dogs in the pasture, it will be fun to teach her how to get Red to handle the sheep. It isn't that we plan to go away a lot – we really are too busy to do that – but when we do, it's great to have people like Sandy and Mandy around, we don't have a thing to worry about and the farm and the dogs are in very good hands. It is a gift to be able to go away.
Mandi is a lot of fun, we are lucky to have found her, and the dogs are already on board. It took her about two minutes. They won't even know we are gone.