Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Addition

As you may know, the Mrs and I have been expecting... to adopt a mini donkey at some point.  We finally got the opportunity to adopt a MDINA (a "mini donkey in need of assistance") just after Christmas, and we jumped at the chance.  We have named him Gino Bartali il Ciucciarelli (Gino Bartali the little donkey).


Mini donkeys are not bred down in size.  They are Sicilian so they just happen to be short and rather hairy.  Little Gino is white and gray with a sorrel (reddish brown) cross on his back.  He stands about 36" tall.

Since he is from southern Italian and seems to be religious, we named him after Gino Bartali, the great Italian cyclist who raced just prior to and just after WWII.  Gino Bartali, known as "il Pious," was a beautiful champion and even helped the Italian resistance during WWII.  Hopefully little Gino will live up to the name.



We were initially a bit concerned that little Gino would get bullied by Snow and the Bumpas hounds, but those concerns were quickly laid to rest.  Snow is completely smitten with, as the Mrs. calls him, "little donkey man."  We have not really let them interact because Gino was just vaccinated today.  He will be on quarantine for about 2 weeks, but it appears that Snow will stand outside his stall and watch him until we let him out.


He has also proven that he can hold his own with the Bumpases.  Thus, he should be a fine addition to our farm.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Country Livin'

It is a wonderful time of year.  In order to enjoy the outdoors, I have been getting out with my trusty camera to capture some of the local beauty.  This view is one of the reasons I love my little part of the world. 


There are just so many perfect little farms scattered around.


Each one seems to have its own little story to tell.


 Quaint little churches that seem to just pop out of the landscape.



 It is just a good time to get out and appreciate rural living.





Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

On a cool day in November 2009, I set about to build a patio.  I got to drive a bobcat and dig around in the backyard.  It was a lot of fun... until it started raining... and raining.  After it stopped raining, it started snowing.  To make a long story short, there were some delays.  Some members of the family were a bit irked.  But now, all of that unpleasantness is behind us because... drum roll please... the patio is complete!

BEFORE


AFTER


Of course, I had help from Dave and the folks at Highland Renovations.  It was my general idea, but they made my idea a bit better... specifically the steps.
I got out to the nursery to purchase some plants the other day.  I put in three hydrangea against the house on the left and framed it with some coreopsis.  The french doors are framed by two sky pencil holly.  Next to them, I planted some salvia; blue on the left and white on the right.  I put in an azalea on the right next to the white salvia.  In the foreground we have some knockout roses with some New England aster next to the wall.  It should look great next year.

I still need to do a lot more work though.  There are a lot more plants to plant, and I will need to get some patio furniture and a fire pit too.  (It looks like I will be spending this Labor Day at the Amish market.)  I'm going to put a disappearing fountain in the bottom right, but I need a bit larger pot.

Next, I need to start the renovation of Big Fat Pond.  I will need to clear out a lot of overgrown plants both around and in the pond.  That will probably have to wait until next year though.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Indignities of Cohabitation

I have been way too busy to blog lately, but the elements have forced me to take a break today.  With that said, I figured it was about time to shed some light onto a dark and sinister issue with which we have been dealing on Bully Hill Farm.

If you are a lady and happen to be living with a man, you know.  It can be degrading, painful, and dare I say, down right disgusting at times.  Messes are left uncleaned, toilet seats are left up, there's body hair, we're just gross.  I see the look on the Mrs.'s face... I get it.  That being said, this degradation is nothing compared to those who are living in abusive relationships.

I have tried to make a happy home for my chickens.  I recently undertook "The Great Coop D'Etat Revitalization Project."  The chickens were pecking at the wallboard, so I added lovely wood paneling.


I even added an outdoor enclosure so that the chickens could get some fresh air during the day without the risk of being devoured by Bumpases or birds of prey.


The Flockers have been quite pleased with their new freedom, but life is not a bed of roses in Coop D'Etat. 

I'll just come out and say it... Little Brett Buckwalter has been sexually assaulting the hens.  Oh, I could try to downplay the whole thing and call it mating.  I could make excuses and say, "This is just the way chickens behave."  I could focus on the positives, and note that Brett is a vigilant protector of his hens, but I can't bring myself to sugar-coat this behavior.  I have seen him do it.  He acts all sweet, gives some high pitched "bocks" and dances around.  Then when he gets the attention of a young lady, he pounces on her back, his sharp talons grabbing at her supply flesh.  He bites the back of her neck, gyrates and flaps his wings, and then jumps off as if nothing has happened.  The poor hen stumbles away dazed, not knowing what hit her.  It is upsetting and terrible to watch.

Brett doesn't care or feel any remorse.


What's worse, he has picked his favorite targets, Camilla and my gentle little Eu-Eu.  Both girls have been subjected to so many attacks that Brett has torn out all of the feathers from their backs.  Without their feathers, I feared that Brett would start cutting them with his groping and grabbing claws.  The other chickens could start pecking at the wounds.  Thus, I had to do the unthinkable. 

Nobody is happy about this.  But...


I had to put aprons on Eunice and Camilla.


Camilla has never been the brightest of chickens, and I'm not sure that she even knows.  My darling Eu-Eu, however, is appalled.  I can see it in her face... she is angry.


She has been giving me rather judgmental looks too.


But alas, this is the only way to keep her from being injured.  Hopefully, her feathers will grow back quickly and she can look like a proper Orpington again.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Great Article in Time Magazine

Dogs are descended from wolves. Wolves live in hierarchical packs in which the aggressive alpha male rules over everyone else. Therefore, humans need to dominate their pet dogs to get them to behave.
This logic has dominated the canine-rearing conversation for more than five years, thanks mostly to National Geographic's award-winning show, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.
.
But many experts say Millan's philosophy is based on now-debunked animal studies and that some of his techniques — most famously the alpha roll, in which he pins a dog on its back and holds it by the throat — are downright cruel. Rival trainer Victoria Stilwell has launched a competitive assault on Dog Whisperer by starring on Animal Planet's It's Me or the Dog and by spreading her system of positive-reinforcement training virtually and with troops on the ground: this June she launched a podcast (available on positively.com and iTunes) and franchised her methods to a first batch of 20 dog trainers in the U.S., the U.K., Italy and Greece. She uses positivity as a counterpoint to dominance theory and reserves her aggression for the poorly behaving humans.
.


The debate has its roots in 1940s studies of captive wolves gathered from various places that, when forced to live together, naturally competed for status. Acclaimed animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel dubbed the male and female who won out the alpha pair. As it turns out, this research was based on a faulty premise: wolves in the wild, says L. David Mech, founder of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center, actually live in nuclear families, not randomly assembled units, in which the mother and father are the pack leaders and their offspring's status is based on birth order. Mech, who used to ascribe to alpha-wolf theory but has reversed course in recent years, says the pack's hierarchy does not involve anyone fighting to the top of the group, because just like in a human family, the youngsters naturally follow their parents' lead. 
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Says Bonnie Beaver, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): "We are on record as opposing some of the things Cesar Millan does because they're wrong." Likewise, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) issued a position statement last year arguing against the aggressive-submissive dichotomy.


It is leadership by showing a good example, not dominance, that AVSAB says owners should strive for in relation to their dogs. The organization's statement, which does not explicitly name Millan but references his terminology and some of his controversial techniques, argues that dominant-submissive relationships that do occur in nature are a means to allocate resources — a problem that rarely exists between dogs and their owners. (Nor even, AVSAB notes, among feral dogs, which live in small, scavenging groups without alphas controlling access to food and mates.) House pets, on the contrary, bark too much, jump up on you, ignore your commands, growl and nip at you because they have been inadvertently rewarded for this behavior or because they have not been trained to act differently.


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To be sure, Millan's approach to retraining is sometimes warm and fuzzy, and he has much common ground with positive-reinforcement trainers like Stilwell. Both trainers strive — as much as possible with a nonspeaking animal — to determine the psychological cause of a pup's misbehavior. Both encourage people to ignore dogs' annoying habits so as not to accidentally reward them with attention. Both agree that punishment is only effective during or within half a second after the offending behavior: yell at Butch for peeing in your kitchen after he's already walked away, and Butch will think he's in trouble for walking away. Both trainers obviously love animals.


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But, AVSAB says, calling a dog's behavior aggressive, as Millan often does, should be reserved for the most violent animals, and some critics even dislike the quick smacks on the flank he gives to focus a dog's attention. "Discipline doesn't come in the form of screaming at your dog, hitting your dog or putting it into an alpha roll," says Stilwell. "When you do that, instinct tells the dog to shut down, which is mistaken for calming, but really you're making the dog more insecure."


Such insecurity can have unintended consequences. For one thing, rather than submit, your pets might lash out at you. "They may react with aggression, not because they are trying to be dominant but because the human threatening them makes them afraid," AVSAB says. For another, even if a dog looks subdued, you don't know what's going on inside. "Fear increases cortisol," says AVMA's Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Long-term fear increases it significantly and can lead to long-term health problems associated with stress" — a point that Stilwell, in her melodious British accent, likes to point out to her clients on TV.
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Take the example of Atlanta couple Louie Newman and Judy Griffin, who already had two Lhasa apsos when they adopted a rescue poodle named Manny. Not only did Manny pick fights with the other dogs, he also would attack Newman whenever he went near his wife or even tried to hand her the remote control. Newman and Griffin thought Manny wanted to control everyone, but Stilwell told them he was just trying to figure out his status in the household. "She said he was always tense. He didn't ever blink. I would've never thought to check if my dog blinked," says Newman, a recording executive in Nashville, who learned to relax when approaching Manny and to court him with treats. "He was really insecure. Who would have thought that? He acted like he owned the house."
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Of course, letting Manny's whims rule the roost was one of the couple's big mistakes. The question is to what extent they, or any dog owner, should put him in his place. With Stilwell gearing up for her third American TV season and Millan in the middle of his sixth, the answer may be a lot simpler and less dramatic than producers would have us think. "All I have to be is one position higher than that dog," says Beaver. "I raise him to see me as a leader. Not an alpha, a leader."
__________


Link to article.


Thank you Time!

Wow...


Monday, June 21, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fetch

OK, this is really just a test.  I stumbled accross some video software on my computer so I figured I should take some video of HT playing fetch and then do some editing.  I uploaded the video to YouTube and then had to figure out the appropriate player size for this blog.  At some point, I will try to sync the video to music.  Here is my initial offering:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Paddling

The Mrs. and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.  As part of said celebration, we purchased his and her boats. The boats will allow us to spend more time together and enjoy the outdoors.  The Mrs. actually lived in a swamp for a while and got around by kayaking.  Now that we live on a farm, she tends to yearn for her days of yore, when she traveled on the water.  We purchased her a nice recreational kayak, and we purchased a small barge for me... I needed a something a little larger and more stable and kayaks actually have weight capacities.

We loaded everything up this morning and drove to Big Fat Lake for a little fun.


We left the boat launch and paddled out into the lake.  We soon came accross a small island.


As we paddled around the island, we saw lots of geese and even a belted kingfisher.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to paddle a barge and take pictures at the same time.


As we continued on, we explored lots of little inlets.


After a few hours of paddling, I was in danger of running aground, so we made our way back to the boat launch.


It was a lovely day to be out on the water and a wonderful way to spend time with the Mrs.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wow

A good story about a friend of a friend:


Sonntag's Great Adventure from Richard Olsenius on Vimeo.


Thanks to Jean for sending this to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day to everyone!  It was a beautiful Earth Day on Bully Hill.  More trees and flowers are blooming.


(pink dogwoods)

(apple blossoms)




(cherry blossoms... the kind that actually produce cherries)

(Cherry blossoms... not the fruit tree)

(I'm pretty sure these are weeds, but I really like them)

OK then, I've been on a bit of a hiatus from actually posting information about animal training.  I recently visited a doggie friend that was having a hard time greeting people at the door.  This little bully was getting a bit too excited when guests arrived, and she really did not know how to respond appropriately.  The owners were going to explore a few different options, but one of the things we discussed was teaching the dog to go to a specific "safe spot" when there was a knock at the door.  While this might seem very complicated, it is easy when you break things down into simple steps.

The first step is to start target training with the dog.  I think we've demonstrated that one before using the horses.  Once the dog learns basic target training, you can add some more distance and throw the target.  I also demonstrated this with the horses when teaching them to fetch.

Here, we are going to teach the dogs to go to a safe place using the same basic concept.  Instead of a jolly ball or a ball on a stick, they will need to target a blanket.

The following are some short videos of the dogs after I throw a blanket onto the ground:

video

video

video

video

video

This is not exactly the most exciting stuff in the world, but it is good progress.  As demonstrated by Petunia, even if the dog accidentally hits the target, you still click and reward.  The dog needs to figure out for herself why she is being rewarded.  Once your dog figures it out and is going to the target all of the time, you can add a command like "spot."  Thereafter, we can start to reward the dog for staying at the spot for longer and longer periods of time.


Rome was not built in a day, but it is a lovely place now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Snow

I don't know why I find this so amusing, but I most certainly do.  Snow is virtually a baby.  She's 6 years old now and she likely weighs a ton.  She's as big and she is ornery.  Part of being a young, growing horse seems to be a desire to eat all the time.  She consumes far more food than Ellie Mae.  Thus, in the mornings and in the afternoon, Snow is in a huff, waiting to be fed.  If she is in one of the pastures, she will pace back and forth against the fence until I come to get her:


Well, that is slightly amusing, but not really funny.  This, however, is her reaction when I open the gate to "bring her" up to the barn.

video

I have about 20 videos of the exact same thing.  Sure, the blue-bloods will probably stroke their beards, cluck their tongues, and note that this is not the proper behavior for a horse.  They are probably right.  Still, she's always waiting in front of her stall when I finally make it up to the barn with Ellie, and she seems to be having fun.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Flat Stanley Post II

OK, I made a couple of Flat Stanley posts before my charming sister read it.  Here is the second post:



The Arrival

The trip in the mail took two days and I arrived at Bully Hill Farm unscathed... physically that is. Spending two days in solitary confinement is tough. It's just you and your thoughts, man... your thoughts. Well, I was real happy to get out and stretch my legs.

It was great to meet Uncle Paul. I had been told he was fun, but nobody told me that he was so handsome, strong, and kind.


Uncle Paul took me on a tour of the farm just to get me acquainted with everyone and everything. First, I got to meet Aunt Sarah. She is very pretty. Uncle Paul said that she is a Quaker which is an old religious group that settled in Pennsylvania. The Quakers were led by a man named William Penn which is how Pennsylvania got its name. They are a peaceful religion except Aunt Sarah apparently likes to yell at construction workers for making too much noise. Uncle Paul said that is why they had to move to the country.


Uncle Paul and I walked around the farm so I could stretch my legs and see everything.


Uncle Paul carved a fancy sign for the driveway so everyone who visits knows where they are.

The farm has lots of open fields so Uncle Paul's horses can run around and eat grass.
The horses get to stay in a big red barn.



The barn is on top of Bully Hill and you get some really neat views of the surrounding land


After a long trip and a walk up a big hill, I sure am tired and hungry. Uncle Paul says that we will need to eat and get to bed early because living on a farm is a lot of work. I think I'm up for it.


Sincerely,

So I know... how is this objectionable?  We learned about the Quaker religion and how a neighboring state got its name, we had a little character development for the protagonist, still my sister was all upset.  There's just no pleasing some people.

The Flat Stanley Project

No, this is not the name of a new band.  A few weeks ago my sister asked if I would assist with a project for my nephew, Matthew.  His class had just finished reading a book called Flat Stanley.  The premise of the book is that Stanley Lambchop is a normal kid, but his father purchases him a bulletin board which falls on him and flattens him.  Despite being flattened, the kid is fine and goes on adventures, solves crimes, etc....  It is painfully obvious that this book was published in 1964.  Anyway, everyone in the class made a Flat Stanley out of paper and mailed it (him, if you want to personify a piece of laminated paper) to a friend or relative.  I was the obvious recipient of my nephew's Flat Stanley since I live on a farm, oh yea, and I'm awesome.

So, I get Flat Stanley in the mail.  I'm supposed to keep a journal for him and track our adventures together.  I figure the easiest thing to do is make a blog for him.  Unfortunately, I have trouble writing for 2nd graders.  Thus, it seems that I will have to censor my work and publish the original product here.  Enjoy.



Introductions

Allow me to introduce myself, I'm Flat Stanley. I was made by my good friend, Matthew, as part of a school project for Ms. Mowery's 2nd grade class at Northfield Elementary School. Here is Matthew:

He's a smart kid and he's really good at sports.
I'm called "Flat" Stanley because I was flattened when a bulletin board fell on me. Despite some apparent damage to my skeletal structure, Dr. Dan said I was in fine health.  [Dr. Dan, someone from the Physicians Quality Assurance Board is here to see you.]  That was great because it meant nobody had to call Child Protective Services.

One of the neat things about being flat is that I can travel to visit friends and relatives simply by mailing myself in an envelope. Traveling by the U.S. Postal Service is great because it is cheap, I don't get charged for carry-on luggage, and I don't get subjected to searches and full-body scans. I don't even need to take off my shoes.


Matthew decided that it would be a lot of fun for me to visit his Uncle Paul because he lives on a farm. Matthew's mom was a little concerned because Uncle Paul does not always act "age appropriate" and "likes to work blue." I don't know what that means exactly, but I promised to properly censor my journal... despite my obvious First Amendment rights.

I'm really looking forward to learning about farm life.


Sincerely,



Obviously this is both very entertaining and totally educational.  Still, my sister was all like "you can't write about Child Protective Services... blah, blah, blaaaaaah."  My point is, kids gotta learn.  Regardless, I have made the Flat Stanley blog pretty lame so I will publish the fun versions here.