Willow the Akbash, A Livestock Guardian Dog

Willow the Akbash, A Livestock Guardian Dog

Willow the Akbash, a Livestock Guardian Dog

(March 2013 – August 17, 2017)

 

It is with heavy heart that I tell you that my darling Willow, my Willowmina, has passed away.  She was 4 years old and a stunning Akbash.  Akbash are a breed of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) from Turkey.  Willow guarded her goats and was always in the middle of a pile of them.

Willow, the Akbash Dog

I said good night to her and told her to guard mama’s goaties around 11 pm on August 16th.  By the time I went back out about 14 hours later, she was dead.  We appeared to have had a predator attack during the night.  Willow was fluffy and lovely clean white when I last saw her but when I found her in the barn she was covered in dirt and filthy.  She had been in a hell of a fight thrashing around in the dirt.  We had about 1 inch of rain in the wee hours of that morning and she was completely dry so I know that it happened between 11 pm and about 2 am before the rain started.

Her guarding partner, Rachel, was injured.  Rachel is a 2.5 year old Anatolian female.  Anatolian is another breed of Livestock Guardian dog from Turkey as well.  Ike was in the pen next to the girls with about 5 goats and the girls were guarding my milkers and a few kids, about 14 does in total in the other pen.  We did not have a scratch on any of the goats.  All were accounted for and on all four legs still.  Willow died protecting her goats.

Charlie and Willow in the Barnyard for Morning Coffee

That is a Livestock Guardian dogs job but to be honest I didn’t ever think we would have it happen.  I always thought their presence and barking would be enough to deter predators.  We had 9 LGD that we had combined in with the goats and retired into the house.  However the giant breeds have a shorter lifespan and we lost 6 of them last year.  I did not replace any of those dogs, so we were down to 3 Livestock Guardian dogs out in the pens with the goats and none in the house with us.  That lower number has made their collective “voice” quieter and smaller.  We had noticed that the coyotes and other predators have been coming much closer in the woods this last year since the passing of our main guard and his brother, both of which were 10.5 year old.

 

There was no broken fences, no holes in the fences, no holes dug under the fences in or out, none of the gates disturbed, no chains or locks moved, no fur on the fencing anywhere.  No evidence of anything wrong except my dead Willow and the corner of the tarp that had been attached to the top corner of the barn had been torn down.  There was no blood.  No fur except Willows everywhere but I didn’t think that odd at first as she was blowing her coat.  There had been so much rain there was also no tracks.

 

I took Willow to the vet and had a simple autopsy performed.  The left side of her body was covered in canine puncture wounds like she had been in a fight with another canine which I think was one or two coyotes or wolves.  The Right side of her body seemed OK except for a hole tear in her hip.  Well it seemed small but once the vet moved all the hair aside, she was able to see it was much worse.  And there was a tear in her shoulder on that side as well that I missed entirely with all her fur.  Both locations had the muscles torn to shreds and the vet used words like “hamburger” and “eviscerated” and a “vicious attack”.  All of that was not visible to the eye on the outside as all that damage was under the fur and skin and inside.  This attack had fractured her shoulder but it had not broken her hip.  The vet said that this trauma of those injuries on the Right side was what killed her.

Willow saying Hello to a newly born kid goat

The injuries on one side of her body did not match what I saw on the other side of her body which is why I think it was two different types of predators. I think a coyote or two got in and got into a fight with her and Rachel.  (Rachel’s injuries were all puncture wounds on her face and head and all swollen up and got infected.  She did not have any wounds visible anywhere else but walked as if she has been battered and had sore muscles everywhere on her body.)  They were scared away by a cougar.  I think the cougar was drawn in by the smell of the blood and it could hot foot jump up onto the roof of the barn as the ground is high behind the barn and there were a few stumps there that gave a leg up.  It was a simple walk across the roofs of the barns to the one in the pen, and in the dark the blue tarp might have seemed like another roof which is why the corner was torn down if the cougar tried to jump on it.  I think the cougar either hit her and slammed her on the barn or bit down on her, either way it would have taken more force to fracture a shoulder of a 90 lb Akbash fighting for her life than a 30-50 coyote or 20-30 bobcat could have managed.  I know that bears can do damage but they are inherently lazy when it comes to livestock attacks and attacking a pen with two livestock guards in it as well as having to swat down 5 foot fences would have been more work than it would have cared to exert.  Never mind the fact that bears are NOT graceful and would have done some damage to the fence as they would have torn it down and not bothered to enter the pen any other way.  That doesn’t really leave much else.

I know that a Livestock Guardian Dog’s job is to protect their stock with their lives if necessary.  But if you want my honest opinion, I would have given half the goat herd for Willow to be back with me.  Willow is family.  The goats are stock.  I begrudged every day she was in the barn yard guarding goats and not in the house guarding me.  She was my baby and I miss her terribly.  I am devastated to think her final time was so filled with pain and terror and that we have lost her so violently and so young.

Willow on Patrol in the Orchard

I did call the DNR, which told me that there are no cougars in the state of MI.  ~BULL!!~  Our neighbors have been watching a pair with two kits all summer.  Others have photos of them.  Our woods and his woods back up on each other.  Cougars have a 100 mile range of territory.  He isn’t even half a mile from me.  The cougar has been spotted south of Shelby, MI which is about 5 miles from us.  I told the DNR he didn’t know what was under his nose.  He tells me they are protected.  Hmmmmm…why is something that does not exist protected?  Like I said before ~BULL~.  If I ever see the cougar, it or I will not survive the encounter.  I follow the rule that the old Colorado mountain man told me….if you SEE a cougar, it is TOO LATE!!  They only show themselves when they are going to attack you.

 

I have seen two cougars in the wild in my entire life.  One in the mountains of Colorado at 10 am bright and sunshine day when I almost ran it over at the end of my driveway.  I think we were both stunned to see each other that morning.  And my other encounter was when one darted across the road and I almost ran over it one dark stormy night when I was out driving the back roads in Scotland.  I have heard cougars late at night when I was outside with the stock on my Colorado Ranch in the mountains…..it had a fresh kill and the screams were some of the most horrifying sounds I have ever heard in my life.  I have no desire to repeat any of that.

Rest in Peace, my Willow.

Willow, ever watchful
Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Kids Born

Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Kids Born

 

 

We have had some new Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goat kids born 11 days ago.  This is from our new doe, Meg’s Mini Rachelle, and our new buck, Amasanti BB California Gold (aka Fred).

Amasanti BB California Gold (aka Fred)

I in particular was looking forward to this breeding with great anticipation because Rachelle is a Swiss marked Nigerian and I have never had one of those before.  Fred is a Gold and I haven’t had that one before either.  I have had a cream, possibly a gold but never in a buck.  Fred is from a buck recently imported from California and Rachelle is also from lines totally new to my herd. I researched the lines and have brought in some pretty goats but only after making sure they are from very milk producing lines.

Meg’s Mini Rachelle

I bought several new bucks this year and a few does as well.  The bucks specifically are from proven milk lines and should be of the quality that my does are.  In the past, I believe my bucks were more neutral when it came to milk production and now I have bucks that are as high or higher in milk production than my already high producing does.  I am hoping that it will breed my does, who are already high producers, up even farther.

My goal is to have my does and their daughters all be half gallon or 4 lb a day milkers or better….always.  I don’t want average milk production or low production that so many Nigerian breeders seem to think is standard.  I am not focused on only pretty faces or eye colors.  I have pretty faces and fabulous eyes but not at any expense in the milk pail.  Dashing colors and sparkling eyes do NOT put milk in the pail.  Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats are just that….DAIRY GOATS!

Rachelle’s Triplets

I have been a closed herd since moving back from Colorado to Michigan.  We did our testing and with the herd negative on their tests, it is now time to close the herd back up.

I have a few photos of these lovely little darlings.  We were lucky and right there when mama went into labor because she went EARLY! and she had triplets and if we had gone into the house even for that hour or so before coming back out to do evening chores, I have no doubts that we would have lost two of the kids.  She popped number 2 and 3 our in about 30 seconds total at once after having had kid 1 about 15 minutes prior.  She was a bit dazed, I would have been also with two kids popping out in 30 seconds, so she couldn’t react quick enough to get the sacks off their heads.  That left me with towels in hand to help her.  I was her labor and delivery nurse.  Kid 2 was the only doe in the lot.  1 and 3 are gorgeous bucks.

Kid 1 is a black and tan Swiss marked boy.  He was the smallest of them all.  I think he might have only been a pound and so tiny.  But he was strong and up and nursing about 3 minutes after she had his sack off before he was even dry.  And 11 days after, he is one of the bounciest of the three!

Willow meeting the boys for the first time

Kid 2 is the doe.  She appeared white.  But a couple of days ago, I realized she is not all white.  She is a Cou Blanc!!  I am so excited.  I have one Cou Blanc in my herd currently, but Sweet Pea is 13 years old and has never thrown a Cou Blanc herself.  This little darling is white head, white neck and white shoulder area and color on the rump.  I can see the distinct line mid back where a buck skin pattern would break except her color placements are the opposite of a buckskin.  Where a traditional Cou Blanc has white on front and black on rump, this little gal has white on front and pale gold on rump.  So I am guessing that Gold is her color family and Cou Blanc is her pattern.  She has the little gold strips in the same spots on her nose and face as Sweet Pea has her black strips.  The only thing that Sweet Pea has that this little one does not have is any gold strips visible yet on her legs.  Her legs currently just appear all white.  Oh and she doesn’t have Sweet Pea’s wattles.

So after three hours of unplanned goat midwifery, we returned to our normal lives….minus the hours lost playing with the new kids over the last 11 days.  but…..Aren’t they all just so cute?

 

a bit of a catch up……

a bit of a catch up……

It has been ages since I have posted to my blog.  There is a reason.  I had an accident in February that crushed my head between and beneath about 40-50 pounds of wood, ice and snow.  I dropped the wood box lid with all the snow and such on my head when my head was in the box.  It crushed my head in between, hitting me both in the back and front of the head, broke my nose, split my face open and required stitches and an emergency visit.  That has all healed up, but the head injury part did not heal as quickly.  It has been a long hard six months but I am starting to feel better and starting to create again.  Before this it was very hard to be on the computer, type, text, talk on the phone ect.  Just too much input causing too many headaches.  That is why I have been absent….along with a smart phone and internet that has refused to play nice….or smart!!

Dry laid stone dykes

This last week, we have been building stone dyke walls outside around the flower beds.  Dry stacking sand stone and doing some in round field stones.  It will make it much easier to strim and mow.  I have found that all my lovely plants do not always obey and stay in their beds.  Some of the plants like Lily of the Valley in particular, like to wander out of their beds all over the yard.

Beautiful Lilies

We have had some super fab lilies this last week pop their flowers.  I love my double and trumpet lilies.  For a week, every time I walked past the studio the scent in the evening was almost over whelming.  Their blooms are past now and I am finding I am missing their scent.

Sunflower

The Sunflowers have started to bloom.  I planted a lovely variety of RED sunflower that I am still anxiously awaiting to open.  They are sooooo close.  The birds however, planted loads of Black Oil Sunflower seeds absolutely everywhere and those have been blooming ….well…everywhere!!

I have been working on my final project and should have it finished shortly.  The Fiber Face piece is complete.  The backing is sew together, hemmed, pressed and sewn to the front Fiber Piece.  I have to add two more tabs to finish out the top and steam block it.  Than it is done and photos will follow.  I stitched the entire backing, tabs, and hems with my new to me 1954 Singer 99K.  I adore this sewing machine and with it being a hand crank, I can go as slow as I want to.  It is wonderful.  I have been afraid of sewing for years and avoided it since my childhood.  It is so good to be creating and making things that I want to.  Isn’t this machine gorgeous?

1954 Singer 99K

I found two lovely hand cranks.  This 1954 Singer 99K and also a 1957 Singer 15K-80. Charlie has used the 15K-80 to sew himself a felt quilt padded pouch for his new lap top that is too big for his old computer bag.  We went to the Hen House on the east side of the state and met a lovely group of ladies that were quilting.  One explained to Charlie how to do a “french seam” and he did it for his first piece.  I didn’t pay any attention to them as I was more focused on sewing a regular seam somewhat straight and not my fingers included.  I thought he could show off if he wanted to.

I did get several other sewing machines as well.  Five all total.  I already showed you and told you about the 1926Singer 31-15 treadle.  She is an industrial sewing machine.  I also got a 1941 Singer 66 treadle.  I will use these two once I want to go faster than my hand cranks allow.

Last but not least, I got a 1949 Singer 15-91 electric for when I want to go really fast.  All told I bought five vintage Singer machines and have plans to get my sewing, weaving, and spinning nook sorted soon.  Currently they are spread out all over the place and it looks like a fiber and sewing shop exploded in the house.

Good News: we finally located my brand new never been used Juki Serger and the box of all the threads.  We haven’t been able to locate it in the storage units or semi for the last two years.  I was convinced that it was in a specific storage unit which was the only one of our units that was broken into last fall.  I was correct and it was in that unit but was not stolen thank goodness.  It was just very well buried and hidden….enough so that in about 4-5 trips both Charlie and I couldn’t find it.  It is found now so more progress and learning is on my horizon.

Goat Kidding Spring Season was in May.  We had five kids total born this May, with three being sold to new homes.  Fall Kidding season is about upon us.  I have several goats getting ready to kid at the end of August and into September.  Sweet Pea had a single doe in June and it was a hard one for her.  Her milk didn’t come in as good as it should have and the doe kid was very weak.  I was out there when she delivered so I sat with the kid wrapped in a towel zipped inside my carhart for hours.

Aileen around a week old in the barn yard

She was so weak she would have died had I not taken her into the house for two days.  She is now fat, sassy and running around every where.  A blue eyed blue pinto roan off one of my best does.  Her name is Aileen, which is Gaelic for “sunbeam”.  She is Sweet Pea’s last kid as we will be retiring her and finding her a pet home for her golden years.

All the llamas that we gave away have all come back to the ranch.  We decided to get two of them back around Thanksgiving and let the other two go for good.  However, those two also recently came back to the ranch.  All of them we think may well be pregnant.  So we are watching them as certain ones are getting rather plump and heavy.

It has been very busy here on the ranch.  Trees coming down, walls going up, flowers being planted, weeds being dug up, goats coming and going, llamas coming back.  So much activity.

I have started to learn how to sew with a vintage hand crank machine.  I did my first quilt bit that I made to be a pad under the dog’s water dish for drips.  I have been spinning.  Finally I have made three scarves with the Broomstick stitch in Crochet.  I had planned on doing that several years ago but moving state and injuries got me side tracked a bit.  Now that stitch is super fun!  I have woven for the first time with a bulky weight single ply as my warp and silk hankies shredded and used for weft.  There has been so much going on I forgot to tell you all about it.  I know that this is a feeble catch up for so many months of silence but I will do better as I am able to put in more computer time.  Off for now…..