Cast and Crew: Independent Tailwaggers Association

Farm dogs are what you make of them.

The classic picture of the farm dog is the big shaggy mutt that trots around without a collar, generally as a guardian of livestock, property or people. Occasionally the stereotype is replaced by a purebred livestock guardian dog (LGD) whose breed is impossible to pronounce let alone spell- these are often giant, aloof and intelligent animals who wish to have everything to do with sheep and little to do with humans.

At Douchebaggery Ranch, you find neither the easy-going mutt nor the duty-driven LGD. The canine residents of the homestead are Oscar Mayer Wiener and Bonibon, working dogs in their own right. I don’t like to call them “rescues”, as I have not removed them personally from some awful situation. They are, however, both second-hand, like most everything here at DR.

Oscar is a Cairn Terrier that I found in the local SPCA’s proverbial bargain bin. He came with allergies, and stank to high heaven with a yeast infection when I brought him home, despite weeks of treatment at the shelter. He is still an avid nail-biter thanks to chronically itchy feet, but has cleaned up nicely aside from that. Oscar is total chicken shit when it comes to noises like fireworks, thunder, the clothes dryer (I ended up having to rig up an indoor clothesline for fear of giving the poor bugger a heart attack every time I do laundry) and the crowing of the cock quail (who, much to Oscar’s dismay, has to live indoors with his harem during winter months). This year, Oscar spent New Year’s Eve drugged out of his wits, compliments of my neighbors at the adjacent trailer park where the fireworks began at 4pm. He is also known as the Piddlestick due to his habit of pissing in the house when he’s scared- or when it’s too cold or wet for him to want to go outside. Aside from his various working positions at the farm, Oscar’s official title is the Best Thing In the World. That’s because he is.

Oscar and Bonibon getting ready for work.
Bonibon came from a family that didn’t want her any more- it’s a long and stupid story that I won’t get into, because all it would accomplish is to get me mad all over again. She is the archetype of a fufu dog, and I place her pedigree somewhere around a toy poodle crossed with a dish rag. She is elderly, has cataracts in one eye, and is in general a pathetic excuse for a dog. She is also absolutely adorable.

The Fufu being a fufu.
The Fufu and the Piddlestick are full-time bedwarmers. They crawl under the covers with me every night and serve as four-legged hot water bottles. They work night shift year round, with no weekends, holidays or sick days. It’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta do it.

All jokes aside, the dogs probably save me a lot of money in the winter, since I no longer need to heat the house at night. In other words, like everyone else at DR, they Earn Their Keep. They also work part-time as doorbells, and Oscar has the additional job of janitorial services. He waits patiently beside me any time I’m cooking or eating, and dutifully vacuums up any food particles that fall on the floor.

Some day, if Douchebaggery Ranch ever moves to a larger piece of land or a more remote spot where predators become a bigger concern, I might get a LGD (second-hand, of course). Until then, my principle is to not keep any dogs that are large enough for me to ride. (This, mind you, is not difficult, since I’m a tiny person.) Still, I insist that there is room for small dogs in the homesteading life. From the lost art of ratting to the indoor positions of personal space heater or intruder alarm, fuzzy little shits like Boni and Oscar can easily transition from their modern role of “canine babies” to real assets. Not that there’s anything wrong with canine babies, but I have the odd belief that animals who have a job feel more appreciated than simple companions. This is total hogwash, of course- all a dog needs to feel appreciated is a bowl of food, the occasional romp in the woods and belly rubs on demand.

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Fauxlosophy Department presents: Problems Worth Having

It has been a sad week of sorts, which goes to prove that even douchebags get the blues. (That could almost be a song title.) The goats, Maddy the Obnoxious and Patrick the Supreme Asshat, have left, and so have my dreams of goat cheese and newborn kids that bound around like they have springs on their hooves. Patrick and Maddy are now living on the farm of a friend of a friend, where they are enjoying their own herd, 90 acres and utter mayhem. (Ever wondered why during medieval times Satan was depicted as a goat? Folks those days may have been way off on many things such as considering baths a yearly necessity, but they got this one right.) Apparently Patrick still shows his affection by head-butting people at groin level, so it is an added bonus that his new humans are not intending to have children…

The Dink and the Fiddlehead

The reason for the goats’ sudden departure is a realization that hit me during a week of feeling particularly lousy, thanks to the evil superpowers of clinical depression: some problems are not worth having. Having half my mind constantly worry about whether the goats are in or out (of the barn, the pen or trouble) is one of those, as is the realization that the cloven-footed devils were sucking up energy that I don’t have in the first place. Walking into the barn and finding out that one asshole quail hen has pecked her husband’s head open is another problem not worth having. (Birds are mean pricks, by the way, in case I haven’t mentioned that before.) Yet other examples are having my barn cat go missing, and finding a drowned chick in the ducks’ water basin. As I said, it hasn’t been the best of weeks.

At least the goats got their happy ending- lucky bastards that they are. I was left with my problems. Given the option between getting overwhelmed and falling into a half-baked kooky mindset of philosophical acceptance, I chose the latter. And I decided that most of my problems fell into this other category: Problems Worth Having. 

Pumpkinvasion- so much for my coffee table…

Allow me to elaborate. For example, baking a blackberry pie and realizing that in a one-person household the only way to finish it before it gets moldy is to eat pie at least two meals a day, that’s a problem worth having. Not knowing where in the name of all creation you’re going to store the 15+ head-sized pumpkins that your single, over-zealous vine produced is another such problem. As is what on earth you’re going to do with 15+ pumpkins in the first place. Not being able to turn in bed because every inch of available space under the covers is taken up by two warm dogs and a snoring cat is also a problem I consider worth having. Being a mile behind cleaning because you’ve been too busy cooking, freezing, drying and canning; having to put a turnip into each soup and stew because you don’t know how else you’ll use them up; wondering why the hell you (quite successfully) grew turnips when you don’t particularly like them; being nearly -but not quite- sick of eating fresh eggs every day; running through postage stamps faster than a bottle of wine because people still write you letters; having your kitchen look like it’s been invaded by red and green aliens because there are tomatoes ripening on every horizontal surface… these, friends, are all Problems Worth Having. I have a shit ton of them at the moment, and I hope you do, too. 

Cast and Crew: Masked Marvels

Douchebaggery Ranch is proud to have its very own superheroes. (And no, I’m not one of them- I’m just the pitiful Human who is trying to keep up with everyone else day after day.) Ladies and gentlemen and everyone else in between, allow me to present Daisy and Daisy, the muscovy ducks.

Named according to the DR tradition (which declares that animals I can’t tell apart get the same collective name), Daisy and Daisy share the title of Chief Asshole of the Coop with the rooster. They are mean to the chickens, and outright nasty to the three not-so-small chocolate muscovy ducklings I acquired earlier this summer (one of which is Donald, their prospective husband). The ducklings are just in the process of growing their primary wing feathers, and after finding them covered in blood from their savaged pinfeathers two mornings in a row, the poor buggers had to move in with the quail who reside in the other, sectioned-off half of the coop. Speaking of husbands, Daisy and Daisy have buried two. (Well, one died from severe bumblefoot that he had when he came, and the other disappeared. No suspects have been apprehended.) I rather hope that the third time is the charm, for Donald’s sake. (And my own. Self-propagation is considered a virtue on Douchebaggery Ranch, as my freezer stock mainly consists of the excess second generation males of various species.)

Daisy & Daisy at work


Then why, you might ask, are these douchebags dubbed the Masked Marvels? Let me tell you a story. My garden is in its 3rd season this year, and peas, beans and brassicas are just making their debut. The previous two crops were utterly decimated by slugs. My options were to put down slug bait (strychnine, a particularly awful toxin, various “safe” products that still come with toxicity warnings, or actually safe products that happen to be completely ineffective), set up beer traps (which require a lot of maintenance, and waste perfectly good beer) or find something that eats them. Enter the Daisies. I soon found out that along with the slugs, they cheerfully gobble up all sorts of insect vermin, including catching flies straight out of the air. Right now, the relevant equation is as follows: slugs + flies + food scraps = eggs + meat. How is this not a superpower?!
For the records, duck eggs taste “earthy” (ie. gross) when fried or scrambled, but they are AMAZING when used in baking. There’s some information out there about the fat content of the yolks and what have you, along with all sorts of stories about French chefs using duck eggs for baking, but all that aside, seriously, they make damn good waffles and absolutely divine coffee cakes in comparison to chicken or quail eggs. As for meat, that is a discovery I made last year, when I actually had a previous  flock of muscovies- one got mauled by a dog, one got ran over (conveniently on a sub-zero day) and two took off one day and never came back. The first two mentioned thus made their way into Freezerland, and were much appreciated on cold winter days in the form of soup and stew. Muscovy meat is nothing like the utility ducks (usually Pekins) I used to roast for Christmas. No fat-filled breast for the muscovy, much to my dismay. However, the meat is dark, and makes a much better substitute for beef than chicken. Duck and barley soup? Duck stroganoff? You name it.

These days Daisy is busy molting and the other Daisy seems to have stopped laying in moral support, so there are no duck eggs in the kitchen. However, two Donaldas are growing up along with Donald, and since they are directly related to the flock-husband-to-be, their fate is yet to be decided. As much as I hate to eat females, selling them is not the favorable option at this point, as most people prefer not to buy livestock just before the winter. It looks like, once again, douchebaggery will prevail. Such is life, and such is the world…

Donald, the prospective patriarch

Fauxlosophy Department presents: the Strawberry Conundrum

In most of the temperate world, strawberries are a sign of the summer’s coming, the heralds announcing the end of spring. Here in coastal Nova Scotia, our strawberries ripen in friggin’ July. Figures. I first discovered how ubiquitous the wild strawberries are two and a half years ago, within 24 hours of moving into my house. My front yard, now I know, is more strawberries than grass, as are the so-called lawns of all my neighbors.

Wild strawberries are bright red, tart and the size of my little fingernail. It takes a few thousand of these buggers to make anything worthwhile. This, you might argue, is a perfectly good reason to not bother with picking them. I disagree. Food, free food that grows without planting or watering or tending to (or pruning, or frost-wrapping, or trying to save from goats, or de-contaminating of aphids) is a gift from (enter deity of choice here). So it takes hours to pick it- hours of lounging in the grass on a summer’s day, while gleefully hunting for treasure under the leaves. Hmm. That does not qualify as Work in my books, whatever you say. That’s more like the best damn way to spend a summer day, and the berries are just the fringe benefit.

wild-strawberry(image courtesy of smartphotostock.com)

Now, here’s my question: why the hell does NOBODY ELSE pick wild strawberries around here? This year the berries were so abundant that I gathered an entire potful in one afternoon, which made 4 good-sized jars of delicious jam. I bet, if we did the math, we’d find there are hundreds of pounds of wild strawberries in the dinky town of Cow Bay alone, quietly decaying under the leaves where most of them are concealed. This is not just a waste, it’s outright disrespectful to the earth under your feet- especially if you consider that most folks are at the supermarket as we speak, buying methyl-bromide-sprayed California strawberries that have been shipped here in refrigerated trucks using oodles of oil.

Harumph. So that sums up the situation. And here are the parts I REALLY don’t understand:

  • How come nobody even NOTICES that under their toes lie strawberry fields? My neighbors have been around for years, and didn’t know their yard was covered in strawberries until I picked one beside our feet and held it up to them. (They responded with a non-committal “huh, how interesting” and continued to ignore their existence.)
  • People claim they have no time. Assuming this is true, and that they are not wasting 6 hours a day binge-watching the Game of Thrones, then why are they not setting their kids on the quest? The average three-year-old can recognize a strawberry, and a pair of sibling can scour a yard more efficiently than a pig that’s caught a scent of truffles. They’d have a ball at it, too- it’s a treasure hunt, remember? And if you want to add a little extra motivation, you can always mention strawberry shortcake.
  • In an age where the word “parenting” has become a gerund for reasons I can’t for the life of me understand, why has “berrying” fallen out of use??

The Oracle say: Do my cranky ass a favor today, and go pick something wild to eat. Then thank the earth for all the work you didn’t have to do, and be proud of yourself.

Department of Communications Presents: How to Love Like a Douchebag

Terms of endearment on Douchebaggery Ranch are somewhat different from what you might be used to. This is partially due to my Turkish upbringing, where calling a child “you little son of a donkey” is equivalent to “mama’s little angel”, and partially due to the sheer amount of assholery that is exchanged among the residents on a daily basis.

Common praises on DR include the following:
1) “Good morning buttheads!” (My standard greeting for the goats during Morning Rounds)
2) “Aren’t you my pretty little birdbrains?” (My show of admiration for the chickens, whom I am really quite proud of)
3) “Who’s my little shithead? Who’s my little piddlestick?” (Frequent exchange of affection with Oscar the cairn terrier, who responds with a furiously wagging tail)

You get the idea. The statements above are not meant to be insults, though a lot of outsiders get mortally offended, thinking I purposely belittle my fellow fur-and-feather companions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If it was possible to reword the same sentences into “normal world” language, they would roughly read:

1) “Good morning, playful creatures whom I like more than I’d like to admit!”
2) “Aren’t you good-looking, egg-laying, much-appreciated-despite-your-low-intelligence birds?”
3) “Who’s my little tailwaggy dog whom I can’t get mad at no matter how much trouble he gets into and how many times he pisses in the house, because I love him far too much?”

See? It doesn’t quite work the same way- far too much is lost in translation. Besides, mushy doesn’t fit into farm life, unless it’s the kind you step on.

It’s all about communication, after all, and I’m pretty sure the little asshats know exactly what I mean. Sometimes, words are what you make of them.