I didn’t bottle-raise the two Nigerian Dwarf does born here in February because I didn’t want goats who followed me everywhere. Instead, my plan was to let their mom raise them, taking less milk so she had enough for them. Then I watched as she slowly taught them to eat more on their own and less from her. I think she was getting pretty tired of nursing, to be honest.
The doelings were not afraid of me, by any means. But they really wanted very little to do with me. Looking for that happy medium, on Monday I pulled the two girls and put them in a small pen not far from their mother. This did not go over well:
After a day piteous non-stop sobbing on the part of the doelings and the mother, I switched them, putting mom in the new area and putting the babies back in the are where they were raised. That seemed to work much better for all. Then I started teaching the youngsters to associate me with food, and at the same time started milking the mom while giving her lots of yummy grain.
Five days later, things are going pretty well. Mom is patient and content while I milk her, and although she still cries for her babies, things are winding down on her end. She has been through this before, after all. And the doelings have gone from eating sweet treats near me, to eating out of my hand, to eating while being held in my lap.
We getting there. And I think I’m going to keep both of the doelings. They’re very nice kids.
I don’t anything in any organized fashion, and I think I’m getting worse as I get older. Actually, I know I am, because I’m aware that I’m gradually, finally starting to think of my way of doing things not as “better” or “worse” than some person I imagine to be a perfect paragon of organization but as simply … the way I do things. With no efforts to reform, I’m just going with the flow as much as I can.
This spring, the way I’m doing things is to put 30 bales of straw on their sides in my front yard, add soaker hoses, fertilizer and plants and say, “this is just fine.” There’s a big “L” in the middle what could be called a “lawn,” but really is just a swath of moles and green weeds. That’s the “L” to the right, and that parts done. Next will be putting the rest of the bales along the fenceline, to take advantage of the sunny location while using the chain link to support the vegetables and flowers.
I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. At the last place I had raised beds, but making this place inhabitable took more time and more money than I anticipated. Raised beds are out of the question for this year. Next year, maybe. Or maybe not. I snorked up an article on straw bale gardening in the New York Times, download the scanned an e-book and called the feed store for the bales, which they delivered. Maybe this is the kind of gardening that will work for me: Short Attention Span Gardening.
No plans to wax poetic about garden from me, nor do I intend to keep meticulous notes. I planted willy-nilly, vegetables and flowers, and I’ll see what comes up. The first four tomato plants are the ones the Russians gave me in exchange for my horse manure. Everything else is nursery starters or seeds … melons, beans, squash and peppers. Sunflowers and other flowering annuals went in where the soaker hose drips water on bare ground.
I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. And at the end of the season I’ll cut the balling cord and spread the straw across the lawn to feed the soil and slow the weeds. Next year? I don’t know, and I’m not thinking that far ahead.
I’m seeing many of my Facebook contacts post a link to an article, all offering some version of this comment: “My dogs never wear collars, and this is why.” And yet, Nancy Kerns’ very nice piece in the Whole Dog Journal does not suggest “going naked” 24/7 but rather to control and minimize risk while preserving the value of a collar with ID tags:
Here are five things you can do to keep your dog safewhen he’s playing with other dogs.
Just because you “once heard of a dog somewhere” dying when his collar was caught on a heater grate doesn’t mean your dog should go naked all the time. In any given year I’ll pull 12-15 strays off the road (as true out here in “the country” as it was in “the ‘burbs”). The dogs with collars and ID* are home within the hour, typically. The others go to the county pound after I take their picture for posting fliers, online and in the neighborhood. Wanna guess what happens to most of the strays at the county pound?
Because I have a Flat-Coated Retriever, I know a lot of people with Flat-Coated Retrievers. We think they’re really special, but there’s a reason why Golden Retrievers are more popular by a factor of something like 1,000 to 1: Flat-Coats look “generic.” How so? There was one time I met my my friend and business partner Christie Keith at a half-way point for coffee (at the time, we lived two hours apart). I had my beautiful, well-mannered, good-natured champion retriever McKenzie with me, and she had her dog Rawley, a half-grown Deerhound puppy. My dog was background noise; hers made eyes pop.
So, to flat-coat owners: How much effort do you think anyone is going to put into finding the owner of yet another “black Lab mix”? I once found a pair of Borzoi (Borzini!) roaming free. That was novel enough that even though they had no tags I was able to figure out whose Borzini they were within hours. But a “black retriever mix” will be unlikely to ring any “Whoa, rare breed dog! Someone is looking for this dog!” bells either with a Good Samaritan or a shelter worker. Instead, you’ll be (anonymously) considered as just another dirtbag too damn lazy to put a tag on your dog. Once at the pound, you’ll be d lucky if your dog lives long enough for you to find him there (although as a lazy dirtbag, that’s totally your fault). Oh, if you doubt that’s how many many shelters operate, you should be reading Yes, Biscuit.
Moral of this story: Quit obsessing about the things that happen very rarely, and look instead at the things that happen more commonly. Then, put your efforts there. Your dog should play naked, yes, he should. Your dog might be better off living naked, I don’t know, maybe you really do have an escape-proof life. I have double gates with locks, work at home and so am with my dogs more often than not, and lock them in the house when I leave. And my dogs have collars. And ID tags. And microchips.
Does this mean my dogs are guaranteed not to die of their collar getting caught on something? Of course not. You cannot eliminate risk entirely, nor, frankly, would you want to, because the risk then would be that you’d kill yourself out of boredom. And dogs, since they cannot enjoy the media we use to thrill ourselves vicariously, would be really really bored if they never did anything slightly risky, like … oh … eat.
It’s human nature to freak out over the unusual and ignore the common. That’s why we don’t leave our homes when there’s a sniper at large in a metro area of million people, but think nothing of the much more risky behaviors of texting while driving, or eating a shitty diet every day.
As my friend and co-author Dr. Paul Pion is found of saying when talking about medicine, “We’re all gonna die, that’s a given.” His point is that we do what we can to forestall the inevitable, but it truly is inevitable.
So … I’d advise you to make an effort to ignore those Social Media Freak-Outs De Jour. Use the big brain evolution put at the top of your spine. Risk really isn’t that hard to figure out if you look at things rationally.
Note: Yes, I know someone is going to say, “I don’t collar my dogs because it ruins the fur around their neck for the show ring.” OK, well, that’s a variable. It’s not my variable (I’m don’t have show dogs now, and my dogs wore collars and still became champions even when I did) but it’s one of yours. Put it in the mix, sure, but do consider that your purdy dog is going to look just as dead as the one in the body bag next to him if the person charged with killing at the pound that day fills like emptying all the cages, hold period or no.
Maybe you get lucky and your local shelter is one of the good ones. Maybe not. On my side of the river my dogs’ chances of survival at large are far worse than they are one the other side of the river, just a couple miles away. The City of Sacramento has a pretty good municipal shelter. Yolo County does not. Another item to put in the mix, and another reason why my dogs wear collars and ID, unless, yes, thanks Nancy, not when they’re playing.
Image: Worrying about my dog sometimes drives me to drink.
*A microchip might help save your dog if he makes it to the municipal shelter. Or it might not. It might help if his finder is savvy enough to take a dog to the closest veterinary office for a chip scan, but what are the odds someone knows enough to do that?
An ideal equine officer is unfazed by the sound of train whistles, the chaos of large public events, the blasts of boom boxes or the crackle of bullets or fireworks. He must be capable of quickly moving through crowds, creating barriers and pushing criminal suspects into a position of submission when called to do so.
Patrick, tan and white with a blond mane that sparkles in the sunshine, excels on all fronts, [Officer Kate] McLoughlin said.
Patrick’s personality, in particular, “puts a smile on people’s faces,” she said, including one suspect who, as McLoughlin was interviewing him, lost his can of King Cobra malt liquor when Patrick snatched it from his hands to try to drink it.
“He’s got the kind of personality and spirit that you just can’t train into a horse,” McLoughlin said.
True that! But King Cobra? Patrick, really! Here, he drank Guinness.
On New Year’s Eve I turned 55, which sure doesn’t seem as old as it used to be. I celebrated by cleaning mud off the legs of two horses, training one dog and removing from the refrigerator the numerous half-eaten bowls of food prepared in a failed effort to get a dying dog to eat. I lost McKenzie the day after Christmas, two months short of her eighth birthday.
Last month I just sort of muddled through. The loss was as keen as any I’ve ever felt, and the worst of any of my dogs. In part, that’s because she was so young, and in part because we’d beaten back cancer, month after month, but in the end, the rogue cells won. And finally, the loss was brutal because of who she was, a sweet, special dog so adaptable that she’d gone with me on a two-month book tour, traveling from city to city on a custom-wrapped bus, wagging her tail through everything new, from elevator rides to TV studios, to conference trade show floors, from coast to coast, 29 cities in all. She never met anyone she didn’t love, and the feeling was pretty much mutual.
And then she was gone.
I buried myself in my bed and in my work, and when I wasn’t doing either, I was slogging through ankle-deep mud to care for the two horsse that remained after Patrick went off to the Sacramento Police Department (yes, he passed!). We hit a cold streak when I had to worry about the pipes and the aging heater, and … well, I think you get the drift. It has been a miserable few weeks here, kinda like this. The month ended with McKenzie’s daughter Faith (pictured) limping, which of course I figured was also cancer. Turned out to be considerably more normal for a crazy-pants 3-year-old retriever: torn knee ligaments. She’ll need surgery in the not-too-distant future, but this I can live with. She’ll be fine, and I have pet health insurance.
January ended with a cathartic call with a friend a few days ago, and then, every day, I just started to feel better. The days grew warmer, the mud finally dried up, the writing and the focus got better and then, last Wednesday, I got the stalls cleaned down to the floors at last, the horses brushed clean and the barn and tack room organized. Yesterday I opened the back door to let the dogs out and could smell the world changing again. There are now flies in the manure and mosquitoes in the air. Bayberry, my Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat, will be delivering her kids soon, and the neighborhood ferals and barn cats are already fighting over mates. You can smell the grow.
It’s time to think about spring, and the garden I couldn’t get to last year, since it was all I could do to make the property safe and liveable for me and the animals, a project that predictably took more time and more money than I had, but got more or less done.
Two weeks after my pasture flooded, I still have standing water, two pools about 20-30 feet across and couple inches deep. The twice-daily slog to the barn is trying, as the mud sucks at my boots and plays with my balance. The biggest concern of all, though, once I realized I wasn’t losing $3,000 worth of hay to rising water, was the health of the horses. They needed to get out of the mud.
I have picked their hooves and rotated them through the higher and dryer back yard every day, but the problem at night remained: I have two dry stalls and one flooded one, lots of gooey mud — and three horses. One of the horses had to be re-homed, so that meant: Which one was most sellable? Which one did I like riding? Which ones had other options?
All answers pointed to Patrick, my 9-year-old Spotted Saddle Horse, as the horse who was going to leave. He’s the best horse I have, well-trained, smart, good-looking and with great feet, conformation and health. But he’s too much horse for me under saddle, and our relationship as horse and rider had become more strained as I became less and less able to earn and maintain his respect. He was never dangerous or unkind — he’s bright, friendly and playful — but his energy, intelligence and boldness meant I could never relax on the trail.
The quieter, shorter and frankly more boring Rebel was a much better ride for anxious older rider I had, at almost 55, suddenly become. And the third horse, my trashed ex-racer Haggin? Total sweetie, but more of a pet than a ride because of track injuries. And even when sound, he’s also too much horse for me as a rider, although my friend Ann rides him when she can.
As I prepared to sell Patrick to the best possible home, my friend and trainer Alana Henley of Sunfire Equestrian mentioned that she thought the Sacramento Police Department’s mounted unit was looking for a very special horse, and that mine might be perfect. She knows what it takes: She used to be a Sacramento PD mounted police officer. She called, and last Friday, two officers came over to look informally, and two days ago, the unit did, in uniform. The next day Patrick passed the veterinary check at Loomis Basin, and he officially went to the police barn as an officer in training. It will be 60 days before I know if he’ll “stick” or come back, but there’s no downside for me or for him: Two months of great care, dry footing and good training. Being a police horse is a great life for on outgoing, confidant horse, with constant attention from the officers, volunteers and public. If he doesn’t make the grade, he’ll be even more appealing to potential new owners.
It’s the second time I’ve tried to find a new career for him (although it’s the first time the career has meant his leaving me for good) and I think this time, if he passes, he’ll be great at the work. Arena work as a hunter-jumper didn’t suit him (although he loves jumping!) but being out all day seeing the world? It’s perfect for him. The police officers think so, too, and they’re very picky about the horses they try in their program. Today I visited him after his first full day in training, and got a glowing report, very promising.
He’s also had a head start! The place where I boarded him when he first arrived was adjacent to trails that wound through a wooded area notorious for quick sex. The men turn up in cars at the park that caps the trail system, and hook up with each other, or, occasionally, hookers, and head into the brush. Some of them apparently bring in reading material, to judge by what we found on the trail one day. The same area has homeless folks, some of whom behave in very unpredictable ways. We saw a lot of very strange behavior on those trails, and Patrick handled it all with grace and tolerance.
I just couldn’t be happier with this turn of events, and I’ll be holding my breath and keeping my fingers crossed that he gets through the training — it’s high bar! — and becomes Officer Patrick of the Sacramento Police Department. He’s also be a trend-setter, a horse of a different color for the force entirely: All the other police horses are solid-color horses. With his natural bling, he’ll really stand out!
Meanwhile, back at RBF, I have two dry stalls and two horses, plus the help of a young woman who lives around the corner and works as a veterinary technician. She’s 29 and a good horse-trainer, and she helps me a few hours a week with all the heavy lifting and stall cleaning. Winter? We’ll get through it. As long as the levee doesn’t break, that is.
Top image: Patrick, clean, last spring at RBF. Middle image: Patrick at the Sac PD barn, first day in training. Learning to wait is an important part of police horse work: There’s a lot of standing around for these equine officers. Lower image: Leftover porn stash on the trail, ho-hum.
So who’s here? Three dogs: McKenzie (still fighting cancer but running out of time), Faith and NED the puppy. Two cats, Ilario and Mariposa. Two horses, Haggin and Rebel. Two Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, Bayberry (mine) and Blossom (loaner). Two ducks, Bernadette and ABBA. And 13 chickens, none named.
I haven’t written about the goats yet (that’s Bayberry on the left, with my friend Susan Fox, a noted artist) since I wrote about the goat I ended up not getting. The reason? Sugar Maple would have needed milking all winter, twice a day, and I’m just learning. I figured learning to care for goats was enough of a Step 1.
But not long after, Joyful Hearts had a goat I thought would be a perfect fit: Bayberry. She’s older, more experienced at being handled and is easy to milk when the time arrives. She was also being sold as potentially pregnant, due in the spring. Perfect.
Because goats need companions, I asked my friend Xan of Flyway Farm to loan me one of hers for the winter, and she agreed. Which is how I came to have one goat and one loaner goat here at RBF.
A week ago to the hour, I was sitting in a house without power, my pasture under water and the last of a series of powerful winter storms dropping more rain in a torrent that looked like the work of a Hollywood special effects team. The horses were standing on the shallowest part of the flooded pasture, butts to the cold driving wind.
I couldn’t get to the barn safely, but I knew from seeing it the night before that another inch or so of rain would have pushed the flooded pasture above the level of the barn floor. The water would have destroyed about $3,000 worth of hay, that couldn’t be replaced for less than 25 percent over what I’d paid for it, since hay is more expensive in the winter.
No power means no well, which means no tap water, which means no toilet. No heat, OK, well you can usually bundle up enough to get by in this part of California, but then there was also the little matter of the Sacramento River less than a quarter-mile from my house and held in place by levees voted the nation’s most likely to fail by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
And none of that took into account that I was already dealing with the fact that my dog McKenzie, diagnosed last February with a very deadly form of cancer, had just three days before run out of chemo options and been given not long to live. And she was throwing up.
Oh, and I was out of Xanax. And wine. And chocolate. The first wasn’t fixable on a Sunday, the second and third not worth risking street flooding and accidents to make it up to the store.
Now, many’s the time that friends in recent months have told me how happy they are for me that I acted on my dreams. The more financially savvy among them have observed that I somehow managed to buy the place at what is turning out to be the very rock-bottom low of post-crash real estate prices. That was purely accidental, but it is true: The place has appreciated about $60K, or about 40 percent, since I bought it last February. On the other hand, my other house, the one I cannot afford to sell so am renting to a friend, is still valued at least that much less than what I owe on it, so … well, there you go.
The bottom line, though: Last Sunday morning was pretty darn shitty, and if I could have walked away from it all, I would have. Back to the nice quarter-acre and cute cottage in suburbia, where the power (a much better utility company across the river in Sacramento) is more reliable, and the water, sewer and drainage are managed by the county. Turn the tap, flush the toilet: It all works.
By the end of the day, though, it was pretty clear we would all survive. I had medication for McKenzie’s nausea, and I got her stomach settled. The rain stopped, the sun came out and I sloshed through calf-deep water with the dogs at my feet, heading out to feed the horses, hoping and praying the stalls and the hay storage was still dry.
Today I woke up to a brilliant, crisp morning, and although the route to the barn is ankle-deep mud, the standing water is almost gone and there are big patches dry enough for the horses to stand in several places in the pasture. It could have have been worse, much worse, and it could be worse yet, but it’s pretty good today. McKenzie is still not long for this world, but she feels very, very good on palliative care, and has outlived every prognosis yet, so who knows?
With the smallest bit of luck we will all get through to the spring with no storm worse than ones we just had, and then I can fix the grading and drainage and it’ll never be that bad again.
Well, as long as the levee holds.
Image: Faith enjoying Lago del Buena Fe´as only a water dog can, December 2, 2012
Meet Ned, the first Sheltie puppy I have had in my life since 1986, when I brought Andy home from the breeder. (Drew was almost five years old when I adopted him.) I had been researching breeders for months and had planned for a tri-colored boy puppy from an earlier litter, but that didn’t work out. I had hoped for the puppy to overlap with Drew, but that didn’t happen, either: They missed each other by a couple of weeks.
I flew to Minnesota to get him about three weeks ago, and brought him back in a soft-sided carrier stowed by my feet in the first-class cabin. I wouldn’t use my miles to upgrade for me, but for a puppy? You bet! He was a great little traveler and has shown himself to be a marvelous little puppy every day since. He’s smart, bold and learns quickly.
He makes me smile every day.
His name stands for “No Evidence of Disease,” which is abbreviated as NED on my dog McKenzie’s monthly chemotherapy report card. In just the few months since McKenzie was diagnosed with soft-tissue sarcoma, these three letters have been my favorites.
Welcome, little NED.
Image by Eric Christensen
Almost all the fencing has been upgraded now, with safe, secure areas for the chickens and ducks, the two goats who’ll be here soon and, of course, the horses. There’s an escape hatch in the main pasture gate that’s kept open while I’m out, so the dogs (even the little one goes out now) can get out of the way of the horses immediately if they need to. (Picture at above, with Tony.) Tony the Foster Racehorse will be going back to the trainer’s barn, and so will Haggin, my own Off-Track-Thoroughbred. Haggin’s recovery from life-threatening racing injuries has been nothing less than miraculous, and it may well be that he’ll end up as someone else’s horse. (With me retaining return rights to protect him from some awful future fate.)
The fact is, he feels so good these days that I don’t feel safe on him. He’s fine for a confident beginner in the arena, or any intermediate rider on the trail, but I still have such a fear of speed and of falling, and he wants to move those glorious muscles of his, floating over the ground gracefully and beautifully — but a little alarmingly swift for me. I had planned for him to be a pasture pet, given his off-track prognosis, but I think he can do better now. Time will tell what we can arrange for him. I hope he can become some girl’s sweet pet ride, because he is so handsome and personable.
This week will see the addition of a second bomb-proof gaited trail horse to match Patrick. Rebel is a Kentucky Mountain Horse, an easy-going gelding who will make it possible for me to always have company on the trail. My plan is to put together a small riding club of (probably) women who haven’t the time or money for a full-on commitment to a horse, but who’d like to ride every week or so for a modest membership fee. Rebel and Patrick are perfect for this work, since both are comfortable, well-mannered and friendly horses who love attention.
Having two horses here and the third at my trainer’s stable where he’ll get better riders on him should work out just fine.
I have a tendency to get tired. Not tired, like “I’ll have a nap and perk up tired” but bone-tired to the extent that nothing short of an adrenaline burst from a life-threatening experience could get my mind and body moving. And actually, I’m not sure even that would be enough, sometimes. This has been going on all my adult life, at the very least, and I “cope” by crashing. Because this tends to lead to cancellations of planned events I have finally started to plan fewer, or explain my situation when making arrangements. I find that most people are pretty understanding when you tell them up front that chances are decent that you’ll have to reschedule from time to time.
As I get older, I reschedule a lot.
Today would have been my third straight day of planned outdoor activity (my youngest retriever and I were entered in a hunt test), and I should have known that wouldn’t work. And indeed last night I was so bone-tired that the muck cart felt as if it weighed a thousand pounds, and every scoop of manure seemed like a hundred. Feeding, watering, and putting the horses up for the night seemed to take all evening. Sometimes I am light-hearted and light-footed as I work happily — yes, happily — through barn chores, but when I am tired like this it’s only the love of my animals and my concern for their care that keeps me moving.
This morning I canceled hunt test plans for the day and had a much better morning with the chores. Wrote a little, napped a little more and feel a great deal better. But still … winter is coming and I have more animals now. It makes me anxious, worrying about how I’ll be up to their care over the months ahead.
So far, if I have a bad day I just go slowly, and break up the chores into a couple of sessions instead of one. And I have found a hard-working young woman in the neighborhood — a vet tech, no less — who will be helping a couple days a week for $15 an hour, which seems fair.
Everything always seems to work out, if not always on schedule. I just have to keep plodding and trust that will work out in the months ahead.
I still have the garden beds to get in before spring, after all.
As readers could probably tell, I had a very difficult time with the loss of Drew. I’ve actually gotten a little more used to losses over the years, so the depth and breadth of my sadness really surprised me. I still feel really good about having provided hospice care for him, even though it made the loss harder. I think next time I will be better prepared, which will help.
Two weeks ago today, my almost 16-year-old Sheltie, Drew, drew his last breath in my arms, on my bed, with my friend Dr. Kelly Byam helping him cross to whatever’s on the other side.
Drew should have died a year earlier, when his main veterinarian, Dr. Bill Porte (actually, my pets have several veterinarians, all top-notch “primary care” and specialists, plus my livestock veterinarians, of course), diagnosed him with end-stage renal failure, and said I might buy a little more time by giving him sub-cutaneous fluids at home every day. (Aside: Doing so is easy and inexpensive. If your veterinarian ever offers it as an option, please, please consider it.) A little time turned into months, and Drew was happy and pain-free until the last day of his life.
When that stopped being the case, I made sure his life ended, and swiftly. While everyone has to decide what is best on his or her own, I have always thought I’d rather be a week early than an hour too late in timing euthanasia. In reality, I’ve generally been just on time, and that’s OK, too.
Losing Drew was going to be hard, I knew. But I didn’t realized (and have had many others tell me since) that providing hospice care for a pet at home can make the aftermath even more difficult. That’s because the daily care you provide a dying pet makes the bond even stronger, and the routines of care — daily fluids in Drew’s case — become habits that service to remind you of your loss for days and weeks after. In my case, every day around 10 a.m. my mind kicks me to ask: “Have you given Drew his fluids? Don’t forget!”
Now, of course, I’m trying to forget.
But that wasn’t the only thing that made the loss harder than “normal.” Not long before Drew died, the folks at the local public radio station asked me to become a regular on a new segment about pets for their daily interview show, Insight. The first topic: End of life care for pets.
The producer found out that Drew died, and he asked me a couple days after if I wanted to talk about another topic. I thought I was doing pretty well, so I said it wasn’t necessary. And in fact I was doing fine a couple days after Drew died. A week after, on the day of the program, I was not doing well at all.
The result was an interview that I am as proud of as anything I’ve ever done professionally. Because I was (mostly) able to transcend my pain and help other pet-lovers. And because even while I was getting in every point I needed to make — without notes of any kind — the slight warble in my voice that told of the tears I was (mostly) holding back made this a pretty powerful piece.
And while I have always liked Beth Ruyak, for years an anchor at the top-rated TV station in our area before she went national, I was schooled first-hand in the art of the interview, as she skillfully kept me on topic while helping me to keep it together. It was hard for her, too: She’s an animal-lover, and as she was interviewing me, her own eyes were brimming with tears. She’s a consummate professional, and it was a pleasure to be in studio with her. Even under such unexpectedly difficult circumstances.
Rancho Buena Fe' (Good Faith Ranch) is the personal website of Gina Spadafori. An experienced reporter and editor, Gina is a syndicated columnist and the author of more than a dozen books. She shares her life with dogs, cats, horses, chickens and ducks, and works to advance and support sustainable, local and humane small-scale agriculture.