Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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A true work dog

 Fer Coadee is all work when outside, we still have a lot of training to go through, she is fast to learn but slow to change existing behavior.  To which, when people drive up to the farm she is there to discourage them.  Not good when you actually want the person to get out of the vehicle and visit.  When we know people are coming, I have Coadee on the lead and try to calm her and change the behavior towards vehicles.

However, she is the master of her domain; nothing comes on the property without inspection and vetting by her.  Once she has established that there is no threat to the chickens, she is fine.  Her initial reaction upon contact needs tweaking because although the veterinarian said she is timid and passive, her work ethic is all business.  Her bark is ferocious and to a person that does not know dogs at sixty pounds and all teeth she presents a formidable figure.  We on the other hand know she would not hurt a day old chick let alone a person.  Most people do not get out of the vehicle until she is on lead.

The visitors get to know her and she them and that is when the lead comes off.  Coadee goes back to work protecting her charges.  We have seen Coadee chase off dogs, foxes, deer although the latter is more fun for her then work, I think she gets drunk on power sometimes.  We had one traumatic event with a hawk but it proved to be a positive even though we lost a layer.

Last fall Coadee was in the back of the house up on the porch were she could see all the hens.  I came out of the barn and looked over to see all the birds under the trailer and in the house.  That was odd because when I went into the barn they were doing their usual scratch and peck.  Then I saw something move over near the tree line.  It turned out to be a hawk that had just killed a hen.  Why Coadee was on the porch and not over there I do not know, she had to of heard something, but then again I was closer and did not hear any commotion while in the barn. 

I yelled and started to run to the hawk, thinking that charging would scare it away.  It just sat there, turned its head slowly in my direction and stared me down.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I bristled with goosebumps.  I looked for things to throw at it as I continued to yell, “Get out of here”.  Coadee had come down to see what I was doing as I am throwing wood, sticks, rocks, anything I could find to scare the bird away.  The hawk was unphazed and not about to leave its dinner behind.  I finally got a branch close enough to the bird to scare it off.  However, it just flew to lowest branch on the nearest tree.  I went in the house and got my gun, I was not going to let this bird take one of my hens, dead or not it was still mine.  Federal law prohibits the killing of hawks so I was not going to shoot it, but I could shoot near it to scare it further away. 

After about five shots, the thing finally gave up and flew off.  I picked the bird up and took it to the compost pile.  Coadee was there the entire time, head down just following me as I went about the business of composting the hen.  From that point forward when big birds fly near the farm she goes after them and barks.  It is amazing to see because it took her all of one incident to know that she had another danger lurking about. 

Recently, she showed her true work ethic much to the amazement of those on the farm.  English Sheppards are smart dogs you need to vary the training and keep them active.  If you have large herds (we do not) then the dog will keep itself occupied herding and protecting the farm animals. 

One day, I was working Coadee on the lead, by having her stop, come close, move left, right, straight, sit, lay, stay while I walk away and other mental activities.  As a reward I got the Frisbee out so we could play.  I was  throwing the Frisbee and she was fetching.  One of the things she does is goes out and then I throw the Frisbee to her, other times I throw the disk and she chases after it to catch.

I had her go out and then I threw a short one to her, all of a sudden she runs toward me like she is going after the Frisbee but she passed right under it without an attempt to catch her prize.  I realize she has seen a hawk and she had to go to protect her flock.  My wife and I looked at each other, we had just witnessed a dog, go from playing to protector in an instant.  They say that the English Sheppard is the original American farm dog and after that display, I can see the value in the breed.  I joke about it, sometimes I say it is rough when you have a dog that is smarter then you are but then again, who would complain.


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Hell hath no fury...

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  So goes the line from William Congreve's The Mourning Bride.  To this day, that line conjures up all sorts of imagery.  So few words yet they represent such a vast oasis of thoughts and actions.  

My story started simple enough.  I have a farm dog that likes company, human company to be specific and does not take kindly to being left outside to do her job alone.  Especially if she knows someone is on the farm.

Funny thing is she is on the farm all day by herself watching the chickens.  She has access to inside the garage all the time.  Inside the garage is where most of my shoes reside.  I have a couple pair of steel-toed shoes; a couple pair of muck boots, snow boots and of course my tennis shoes.  I wear the tennis shoes mostly when I leave the farm.  I recently started wearing a new pair while not quite getting rid of the old ones.  The old pair is now the official chicken pen shoe.

Because of poultry bio-security, we cannot allow shoes worn off the farm to set foot inside the chickens’ domain.  It is one of those ounces of prevention measures to keep the organic chickens healthy.  So we tend to have multiple pairs of older shoes in case there is a need to go to another farm or dirty environment.  For visitors, we have single-use booties when giving educational tours.

The shoes are stored on a low shelf in the garage by the door of the house.  If I am in the house, I have on a pair of shoes that never touch anything but the floors of our house.  I change shoes before I go outside and once again before coming back into the house.  Last thing we need is to bring salmonella, listeria or any other viral or bacteriological organism in the house.  Family and friends come over with babies, children and young adults.  Besides, being germ-phobic I am very cautious about cross-contamination.

I was home the other day doing computer work.  We have to redesign our labels to meet new requirements, access email etcetera.  Therefore, I spent most of the day inside working away.  Little did I know the ramifications of my supposed thoughtless actions.  I had gone out to let the chickens out for the morning.  Coadee went with me as normal.  Except this time, I did not stay outside or leave the farm.  I came back inside to catch up on the paperwork.

Coadee for her part tried to come along.  I wanted her outside protecting the chickens so I stopped her, made her sit, took my shoes off and went into the house.  She barked her disapproval and I set about getting the paperwork done.  The day got away from me, the next thing I know my wife is arriving home.  I look outside and see one of my new tennis shoes on the lawn.  "Okay," I think to myself, Coadee drug one of my shoes outside.

Except, when I go to retrieve the shoe I find Coadee decided to show her displeasure at not being allowed in the house.  As the picture below shows, she made quite a statement.

Let us review; she has had access to these shoes for over six months.  She is out all day by herself with access to the garage.  She is out all day on the weekends when we are working the gardens and the chickens.  Coadee has not chewed anything since being spayed.  No chewing of drywall, table legs, wood molding or anything except for her toys.

I am not a dog whisperer but I think she might have taken being left outside just a little too personally.  Yes, I was the one that made her stay outside.  Yes, they were my shoes and the newest pair at that, but there were over eight pairs of shoes to choose from.  I had a perfectly good pair of chewable shoes that she strategically passed over to select the best shoe.  I will never know how she did this, she has refused to take English lessons, so I am stuck with mere conjecture.  

What I do know is "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...."

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