Trespassers and Falling Bullets

ImageFall is officially here, and still shows no sign of acquiescing.  The leaves, almost unperceivably, are beginning to give up the vibrant, dark green hues of summer.  First passing through lighter shades of green, some are starting to pass on to yellow.

The oaks are starting to give up their acorns in earnest.  That’s good for the deer.  Hunters are starting to prowl.  That’s good or bad for the deer depending on who you ask.

It’s also bad for us, Jennifer and me.  Last year we had a run in with our some of our “neighbors” over their decision to dishonestly hunt on our property.  We are fully expecting some sort of confrontation this year.  Then there is the matter of someone else putting a stand up on us.  That needs to be addressed as well.

This past Sunday, another situation arose which requires some sort of addressing.  Just as Jennifer and I were about to leave out with the dogs on their afternoon walk down to the creek, someone drove down the road by our cabin.  They were barely visible due to the amount of foliage between us and them, but we could tell they were on a 4 wheeled ATV with a roof on it.  We actually heard them yelling before we saw them.

We waited for them to get on down the road before heading out in an attempt to stay clear of them.  I thought they were headed down across the creek.  We know everyone that lives down that way, if not by name then by sight.  We didn’t actually see these people, but we thought that maybe they were just out for a drive.  People seem to drive down here even though it is an extremely rough and steep road with no outlet.

So we started out.  Maybe 50 yards from our driveway, we heard dogs barking – dogs as in more than one. All of our dogs perked up with surprise.  Surprise changed to anticipation in about 1.2 seconds.  Apollo headed down the road toward the barking.  I had Jennifer take the other dogs back to the cabin and I went after Apollo in an effort to avoid a confrontation.

He was standing just around the first bend in the road.  I rounded the bend just in time to see a dog charging him.  Apollo ran back to me and the charging dog came to within feet of me, barking with its bristles up.

I resisted the impulse to draw my Beretta and end the encounter, even though the dog was lunging and barking.  After all, it was the owner of the dog who was at fault, why hurt the dog until it actually bit me or mine?  Luckily, the dog didn’t get close enough to bite me. I picked Apollo up and stared the other dog down until he no longer seemed a threat.  I turned to walk back toward the cabin which only renewed the aggressor’s attack.

The ATV was nearing, and with it came two more dogs.  Apollo decided it was time for a tactless retreat, worming his way out of my hold he ran off toward the cabin, with some of the aggressive dogs in pursuit – so much for loyalty.  I saw him make it to the cutoff to the driveway well ahead of the pursuing dog or dogs.  I started to turn to the two people on the ATV.  My intention was to tell them that they had better get to their dogs before their dogs got to mine.

My intention was thwarted when I heard a male voice say “Watch out for the bullet.”  To get the full effect, one must remember that around these parts, people speak a little slow with a little southern accent.  Also, change “for” to “fer”.  Not knowing what was meant by that warning, I turned around to see that the man driving the ATV was now standing next to the ATV.  The surreal part is that he was holding a revolver at a more or less 45 degree angle from the ground and a 45 degree angle from me.  He was about to fire it.

Even though it was obvious that neither I nor the dogs were the intended targets, I lost my cool.  I yelled at the man not to fire the weapon because people lived all around.  The woman with him said it was just to bring the dogs back.  The man said something to that same effect.  I just kept yelling for him not to fire.  The man got on his ATV and proceeded on his initial course – leaving me to deal with his dogs without so much as an apology.

I started up the hill to the cabin.  A few steps into it and his dogs came running, barking at me as they passed.  Back at the cabin, Jennifer had put our dogs up.

The couple did not come back for any kind of apology.  Jennifer and I went down the road and found that the ATV had gone down to the waterfall, disregarding four (4) “No Trespassing” signs clearly marking the decaying road leading to it, not to mention all of the other “No Trespassing” signs along the slightly less decaying road leading to those four signs.

I wanted to go find those people and ask them just what they were thinking.  Here they were, driving an unlicensed vehicle down a private road where they have no standing, with aggressive, unrestrained dogs of which they have no control, and unholstering and preparing to fire a weapon off into the air while standing on my property.

But, I refrained.  I could see my pursuit of them turning into a hillbilly version of the George Zimmerman debacle.  So I did nothing.  Last year when a bullet came whizzing through the wall of our cabin, the sheriff’s office wouldn’t even come out to take a report since it was obviously “an accident.”  So I didn’t even bother reporting this one.  Maybe I will stop by the SO later in the week if we make it to Marshall.

The day after the incident, Jennifer and I followed the ATV’s tracks to the highway.  We surmised that the couple must have turned onto our road from the highway.  As we were walking back, we ran into a neighbor.  He offered some idea as to who was driving the ATV, as well as where they came from.

At this point, I have to decide whether to do nothing at all, or to turn it over to the sheriff’s office.  I feel that I should at least report the incident to the SO to have a record of the incident in case these people come back.

Also, Jennifer and I are looking into ways to politely and safely approach trespassers to inform them of their transgression and to deter them from returning.  Each law enforcement jurisdictions handles trespassing differently.  However, in my previous employment, I could usually issue a trespass warning to a person, then have them arrested if they returned.  Some jurisdictions required a written warning, some required a verbal warning in front of an officer.

The use of a chain or gate on the road is not an option as the “private road” through our property is an easement for the people who live behind us.  Just to be clear, I would not be seeking a trespass warning or trying to have someone arrested for merely driving down the easement.  However, there is a secondary road that ends on private property.  That is where the problems all occur.   Any ideas or suggestions from those of you who have experienced this same problem would be appreciated.

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Falling Into a New Season

Jennifer went out to deal with the dogs this morning. When she returned, she said she thought it was going to rain. A few false starts later and now we have rain.

I stepped outside just before it started. It seems as though all of nature was waiting in anticipation for the impending rain. The goats were calm and not crying for their usual morning outing. Even Boomer and Apollo barely acknowledged me as I looked at them lying in their favorite dusty hole in the driveway. I could sense only the slightest of movement from the woods. I heard maybe one or two birds chirping, but they were very faint, as if whatever message they were communicating was a necessary one – there seemed to be no joy in it.

I almost stepped on a rabbit last night. It was odd to see one so close to the cabin with all of the dogs around. Maybe the coming rain had something to do with its behavior. Maybe it was the mostly full moon.

Night is coming sooner these days. Shadows are getting longer, and are appearing where they haven’t been seen all summer. The temperature now drops with the setting sun, replacing the relentless heat retentive landscape that has plagued us for the last few months.

While standing outside just before the rain, I realized that fall had arrived. It had been announcing itself for the last week or so – the rain is just its formal introduction. I’ve been trying to ignore all of the signs – avoiding them even. Even though fall provides us with relief from the sun and heat of summer, I can’t help but feel anxious: the relief that fall brings to us will soon give way to the cold and darkness of winter. And with the cold and darkness comes all sorts of discomforts.

We had a rough winter last year, but we learned a lot. Hopefully we learned enough to make this winter better than the last.

Radio and Podcasts

We listen to radio and podcasts for entertainment. They also have the added benefit of educating us as well. Radio stations are hard to get on the homestead, unless you want to hear someone preaching or maybe you want to hear about some guy who threw a ball to another guy. Don’t get me going on sports talk radio. I just don’t see the point in it.

Likewise, I can only stand so much of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. Therefore, I listen to podcasts. A podcast is just an audio recording of someone speaking and is available on the internet. There are thousands of them out there. Are you interested in horses? Just Google: horse podcast. Then download whatever looks interesting.

Some are better than others. Some are terrible. Some are very good. Some are educational. Some are purely entertaining. Some wish that they were educational or entertaining. I like podcasts because I can download them to my smartphone while in town at McDonald’s or Taco Bell. (Wifi at those places is free.) I can download a 3 hour podcast in a minute or two. So, I download whatever I want to listen to and take it home. I download enough to keep me entertained for a week at a time.

Are you listening to podcasts? If so, what are they?

In the weeks to come, I’ll write about the podcasts that I listen to.

Homestead Entertainment

What do you do for entertainment when you don’t have electricity?

Being off grid is great. It gives us time to reflect; to read; to enjoy each other’s company; to enjoy the beauty of nature; etc., but sometimes we just want regular entertainment.

We have always enjoyed watching movies. We used to go to the movie theater about once a week. Sunday afternoons were good. Theaters with a bar were even better.

The nearest theater is over 25 miles away. There is no bar. I don’t even know if it is open on Sundays. It doesn’t really matter. It’s not like we have the money to go anyway. Even if we did, we would be so anxious to get back home that we probably wouldn’t enjoy ourselves anyway.

What we do is rent a movie every now and then. We watch it on the laptop. It works great. Of course, we don’t have any butter flavored popcorn or a 2 gallon soda. But at the same time, we save about $30.

Ozark Homesteader 09/11/13

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Ozark Homesteader 09/11/13

Defective Bulldog

We did a lot of research into dog breeds in order to find the most vicious dog breed in the world. We wanted a dog that would rip a person’s throat out with little more than a soft growl as a warning – a dog that would be relentless in an attack. Jennifer wanted said dog to be big.

Big, mostly because Helo, our Bichon-Papillion mix is physically small, regardless of what size his attitude tells him that he is.

My research started with people who work with dogs. However, people who work with dogs think that their breed is the gentlest breed to ever walk the earth. My research continued.

I moved on to looking for academic studies, which were very lacking. Most were laymen and laywomen trying to write academic style papers. These studies seemed to be infomercials for the author’s breed of choice. I continued.

I looked into actual statistics. Statistically, Labrador Retrievers are the most vicious breed as they attack more people annually than any other breed. I have had a few Labs, and they have all been less than fear inspiring. In fact, they were all big babies.

So, I started looking into anecdotal evidence as reported by news agencies. I found that a couple of breeds are all over the news. According to what I read, pit bulls seemed to be exactly what I needed. Many stories reported how a pit bull attacked a person (man, woman, or child) without the slightest provocation or warning. The pit bull is so vicious that they have been banned by local governments throughout the US. This sounds like exactly the kind of dog that I am looking for!

A little over a year ago, we acquired a pit bull as a puppy. We named him “Boomer”. There’s a theme. First one to email it to me is the winner. For whatever good being the winner is. He has a documented pedigree and papers – neither of which is doing me any good.

I think our pit bull is defective. Turns out he isn’t as vicious as promised by the media and local government.

In fact, he seems to be a big baby. One day this past winter, for instance, he didn’t want to get out of bed. Evidently this pit bull is temperature sensitive. He can’t get out of bed if it is too cold. Likewise, he can’t get up before 10 am. Guess this pit bull needs his beauty rest. He refuses to get out of bed before his 26th yawn of the morning, and without proper stretching he just won’t get going. I didn’t find any mention of the propensity for sleeping in, yawning, stretching, or intolerance of cooler temps in any of the literature.

And it turns out that he is intolerant of temperatures over 90 degrees. Unfortunately, we have already reached the 90’s this year. Since we do not use air conditioning on the homestead, the coolness of a hole dug under the cabin (usually that one of the other dogs have dug – he’s a little lazy) must suffice between swims in the pond and in the creek.

He isn’t very fearless, either. He is scared of flyswatters – terrified, actually. He is skeptical of any machine with a motor. And he was scared so badly when confronted by freshly fallen snow (the first snowfall of his life) that he turned around and retreated to an easily defended position – our bed. He also is routinely bullied by Helo, who weighs 17 lbs. Boomer, the supposedly big, bad pit bull, can’t eat until Helo lets him eat. Boomer weighs 70 lbs. His head is almost as big as Helo’s whole body.

He is skeptical of new people. However, once he decides they aren’t going to hurt him, Boomer usually insists on some petting.

I took the picture on the left one chilly winter morning. This is Boomer’s favorite sleeping position: sleeping between his mommy and me. Turns out that Boomer sleeps best in a bed with his humans, just like all vicious dogs! He rests best when his head is on a pillow but even then his snoring is pretty loud. When it’s cold, he needs to be under the cover.

I’m convinced that this picture alone is evidence that Boomer is defective. Vicious, ferocious, 70 something pound dogs bred to kill dogs, men, and children alike, could never lie between two innocent, sleeping people without ripping their throats out – right?

Actually, after meeting other people with pits and pit mixes, I’m beginning to see that Boomer isn’t defective. He is an average pit. Pits with a behavior problem are not average, and they are certainly not the norm. I think that most behavior problems in all dogs are caused by the dog’s interaction with people. They form a personality based on their experiences. If they are taught to be aggressive, they will be aggressive. If mistreated, they may become untrusting and aggressive.

Boomer will sit when told to do so. He will lie down when told to do so. He is learning to stay on command. He has a few people that he likes so much that he cannot help but jump on them. He doesn’t jump on strangers or Jennifer and me. He has no food aggression – I can take his food away from him while he is eating. Boomer and our new puppy eat out of the same bowl at the same time. Helo sometimes lets Boomer eat with him. Boomer will sit with great intensity and watch me eat without as much as a whimper. Boomer has very good manners unless he is overstimulated and even then he’s not aggressive, just very active. Like a bull in a china shop.

There is a problem with pit bulls, and it is not that they are defective. The problem is that some people use them as status symbols, or as a symbol of their own physical prowess. Those people should be banned – not the dog breeds that they favor. Dog breeds aren’t defective; individual dogs are, and most often it’s the caretaker of the bad dog that has caused the dog to be defective.

Armadillo Army

They say that the darkest hour is just before dawn.  This past Saturday morning, that hour was also the longest.

We’ve been rehabilitating two ducklings.  They were having seizures.  Side note:  Super B vitamins for humans dissolved in their water seemed to do the trick.  Ducks need more niacin than chickens, so sometimes a supplement is required.  Of course, the seizures could have been caused by anything and just ran their course.  Still, we felt better for having tried to do something.

All of that to say that we had ducklings in the cabin.  Wow.  Talk about getting sidetracked.

Anyway, since the ducklings were still having seizures periodically at that time, so they were in the cabin with Helo, Boomer, and me.  The other three dogs were outside in an oversized crate, just outside the window.

Something woke Boomer up, probably a seizing duck.  They kept me up most of the night.  He woke me up.  He woke us all up.  Apollo started barking outside.  A dog from way down the valley started barking.  Then everybody started barking – even me.

I finally got everybody to calm down.  Then the cats started growling.  They have enclosures on the front porch.  I assumed that our nightly visitor was trying to get some cat food.  I got out of bed and opened the door.  No raccoon.

A raccoon comes up every now and then and eats Meow Meow’s cat food.  Meow Meow is our 15 year old cat.  The raccoon reaches into her enclosure, grabs the cat food dish, and pulls it out of the enclosure.  I wish he would put it back.  She usually growls and hisses at him, but not always.

Nothing was on the porch, but I could hear something moving around in the brush, so I waited. The plan was to send him on his way with a shot of .22 shotshell, just to let him know not to come back.  It was dark.  I had no idea what time it was.  About 5 minutes later an armadillo came out.  It was the first one we have seen in our year up here.  Guess that explains what has been digging up the garden.  I gave him a good head start and tried to scare him off with a round of shotshell to the backside from about 30 yards out.  He barely noticed.  He did head off down past the chicken tractor at what I suppose was a fairly good trot – for an armadillo anyway.

Hearing something else in the brush, I walked outside.  It was another armadillo.  It ran when I got close.  I didn’t waste a shot on it. 

So, I finally got back into bed.  Everybody was calmed down and quiet.  They armadillo army had been repelled.  When I looked up out of the window, I could see that the sky was starting to lighten. 

I was getting back in bed just in time to get up – perfect.

Later, I found out that there is a computer game called Armadillo Army. 

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Bet it’s more fun than the real thing.