Archive for the ‘Dogs & Training’ Category

It’s been brought to my attention that we’ve been bad and haven’t posted a picture of Blaze in a long time. So here’s an update on our homestead dog!

She’s had to make a few adjustments lately with the addition of our new chickens and ducks to the homestead. At first she was VERY curious about them and, let’s face it, she still is! Naturally she wants to chase them but we don’t let her. She seemed to be a little bit intimidated by the ducks – mostly the drakes – because they would peck at her and try to run her off from her food and water bowls so we decided to let her “herd the ducks up” now and then so she could show them who’s the boss of the homestead animals. 

Bob and I were just talking about her life as the homestead dog. Blaze is about 10 months old now. She’s healthy, trim, alert, curious, has bright eyes, good teeth, and a sleek coat. We’re probably a bit prejudiced about the subject but we think Blaze is happier here on the homestead than she would have been in “the city”. She certainly gets more exercise here – she’s constantly on the move.

She has the woods to explore which provides LOTS of mental stimulation for her. Whenever she finds something new she lets out a specific bark that means one of us should come check it out too — she’s found everything from a turtle – to a lizard – to an armadillo –  to a racoon – a gazillion bugs – AND a copperhead snake. We take her “I’ve found something bark” very seriously!

Blaze is a very smart – typical of the rat terrier breed. She is definitely a working member of the homestead!

Blaze - the homestead dog - at Hickory Hollow Homestead.
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Blaze is ALWAYS on the alert!

Well… almost always!

Blaze - asleep on the job at Hickory Hollow Homestead.
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But we still love her!


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We have new baby chicks! We ordered a straight run of Speckled Sussex chickens. What is a straight run, you ask? Straight run means the baby chickens were boxed up at the hatchery without being sorted by sex. Although there’s no guarantee of how many males and female chickens you’ll receive it usually averages about 50 percent of each sex.  We ordered 25 chicks but it’s not uncommon for the hatchery to send an extra hatchling — kind of like a baker’s dozen for chickens 🙂

Boxed Speckled Sussex chicks from Meyer Hatchery.

Boxed Speckled Sussex chicks from Meyer Hatchery.

A chicken flock is an important step towards our goal of self-sufficiency. The breed we decided to purchase are called Speckled Sussex. Aren’t they cute? As adults they’ll have rich mahogany colored plumage with dark, white tipped feathers.

Boxed Speckled Sussex chicks from Meyer Hatchery.

Boxed Speckled Sussex chicks from Meyer Hatchery.

Speckled Sussex are a good dual-purpose breed. Not only are they known for being good layers (light brown eggs) but they’ll also achieve a medium to heavy weight (approximately 6-7 pounds) making them good for butchering for the meat.

Speckled Sussex hens are also known for being good brooders which means they’ll sit on their eggs and hatch and raise a brood of chicks. Broodiness is something that has been bred out of many other breeds. Most folks who order straight runs plan to butcher and eat the roosters first. We will also eat the rooster first, but in our ongoing efforts to be self sufficient we will be watching the flock closely to select which rooster we want to keep with the flock. Yes… we will have to listen to him crow but…. he’ll  also  make more “free” chickens!

These chickens are excellent foragers. Yeah! Eat them bugs – hopefully they’ll eat the nasty ticks first! We’re currently feeding them a combination chick starter/grower feed. Eventually we’ll primarily be feeding them with the “low-cost” free range method of foraging with the occasional handful of scratch grain tossed in for good measure.

Some of you who are familiar with raising chicks may be wondering why we’re getting them in July instead of April. Baby chicks must be kept at 95 degrees day and night for the first week. You then lower the temperature by 5 degrees each week after that until it evens out to the average daily temperature. Because we’re living off the power grid, we didn’t have the electricity required to keep the chicks warm enough in early Spring.

Obviously with the hot weather we’re having this Summer keeping them warm enough during the day is no problem. When the sun goes down and they’re ready to go to sleep we put them in a cardboard box and set them in the tipi. Although the tipi eventually drops below the required temperature, the box keeps them insulated and draft free. The chicks like to huddle up for sleeping and that keeps them warm too.

Of course… we introduced Blaze to the newest additions to the homestead! She’s doing pretty well with them… so far!

rat terrier with baby chicks

We’ll keep you updated on them!

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Our little Blaze is a very curious puppy. She's constantly exploring her territory. Today while we were working in the garden Blaze, who was close to us, starting barking like crazy at something she found in the grass— just like the other day when she found the turtle.

We could see it wasn't another turtle and, of course, we went to check that it wasn't a poisonous snake. We're not too worried if it's a snake as long as it's not a poisonous one except that we don't want her to kill the good snakes 😉

Anyway, this time it was Mr. Toad. Isn't it cute?

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Blaze was VERY curious but don't worry we didn't let her hurt it.

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Toads are great to have in the garden because they eat bugs, especially slugs and snails.

Hmmmm? Maybe I should build him a toad house?

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For all of those of you who are dealing with last minute tax returns, I thought you could you a cute moment to lighten your load.

Blaze, "the hillbilly dawg", wasn't sure what to think about the big pile of dirt but, as you can see, she's discovered it's really, REALLY, fun to dig in it!

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(Click image for larger view.)

Now doesn't this look like one happy homestead puppy??! 

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Took off to the woods this morning to hunt for morel mushrooms. We didn't have any luck finding any (DARN IT!) but we enjoyed the walk anyway.

Of course, Blaze (or as we've taken to calling her "Blaze – The Hillbilly Dawg) was having a great time scampering around, exploring her territory, falling off logs, and just being an energetic puppy in general.

Bob and I were looking at something on the property line but also paying enough attention to her to make sure she didn't get too far.

All of a sudden she starting circling one spot on the ground and barking and carrying on like crazy. We've never seen her act like this before.

GREAT we thought. We knew she'd found something and thought maybe she'd found a snake (hopefully not a poisonous one). 

So Bob grabbed a long stick off the ground and started poking under the leaves which as you see in the photo below were quick thick.

Hey, Blaze found a box turtle. Whew! No poisonous snake!

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We let Blaze sniff the turtle and check it out and then Bob held her hoping that the turtle would come out of its shell and take off again. Unfortunately, even after a good long wait, it only ever stuck out it's head. But it was fun while it lasted.

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We left Mr. Turtle alone and took Blaze off so she wouldn't bother it any more.  

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We took a walk in the woods this evening check out all the new Spring growth. Of course I had to take some photos of Blaze. Besides…. my sister says I can't post too many pics of the cutest puppy on the homestead 😉

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(Click image for larger view.)

She's really losing that "puppy" look, isn't she? I took the first photo while she was just sitting there looking around the forest then she was pretty good about working with us on the second one but finally she just said…

What?!? More pictures?!?

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Happy Easter to you all.

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I caught Blaze in the garden looking cute and sitting still for once. She is definitely in the ACTIVE PUPPY phase.

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If you want a reference point to judge her size, the stakes next to her are about a foot tall.

Oops! So much for sitting still!

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