Scritchy and me

It is with much sadness that I announce that Scritchy the farm boss dog for the past decade died on Thursday morning. Scritchy lived for nineteen years and she ruled the fluffy collective of dogs with an iron paw. She will be much missed.

When a boss dog is lost, the remaining fluffy collective gets thrown into a tail spin. And that is exactly what happened before Scritchy arrived on the scene. Up until that time, Old Fluffy was the boss dog. She was a real character, and is of a breed known as a ‘Spitz’. When people asked what breed of dog she was, I’d describe her as a Pomeranian, if only because nobody knew what a Spitz was.

The breed hails from northern Europe where they are put to work herding deer and reindeer. And yet here was this Spitz dog at the bottom end of the planet, in a very hot and sunny climate without a reindeer in sight. Despite the lack of reindeer, Old Fluffy knew a thing or two about other animals, and no matter how large and aggressive another dog was, she’d just go for the eyes and then for the throat, and all other dogs would quail in fear. With the notable exception of the Crunchy Beagle.

Regardless, she was an extraordinarily photogenic dog in her younger days. When out on walks, strangers used to regularly stop me on the street and ask to take her photo. Old Fluffy obliged the request with dignity and good grace. Here she is at 15 years of age:

Old Fluffy with a young Sir Poopy in the background

Old Fluffy was an excellent companion and she would happily follow me around all day long. We were good mates. Eventually however, at the venerable age of about sixteen years of age, she succumbed to seizures which left her screaming in pain. It was a kindness to end her life, but I was bereft with grief at the loss.

The two remaining fluffies (Sir Poopy and Toothy – both known to long term readers) began aggressively vying for the boss dog position. Candidly, neither dog was good leadership material, and so the editor and I went to visit an animal shelter which we’d been long supporters of.

On a cold concrete floor in a steel mesh cage, sat Scritchy the miniature fox terrier. Scritchy was the only small female dog available, and so we shared a brief moments conversation:

Chris: “Need a boss dog, and you look like you could do the job. How about it?”

Scritchy: “Yep, can do it.”

Chris: “All right, let’s do this then.”

And that was about as much thought that went into choosing Scritchy. She had four legs, a sprightly look to her eyes, and a spring to her step. What more could you want in a dog? The animal shelter people were a bit weird though. Paperwork had to be signed acknowledging that Scritchy was already an older dog, as if I didn’t know that. I guess they were worried that I would complain about it to them should anything untoward happen. Given that was the case and disclaimers had to be signed, no discount was offered. The paperwork was signed, money was handed over, and Scritchy was bundled into the car and off and away to her new life on the farm.

Upon arriving at the farm it took no time at all for Scritchy and Toothy to become good mates. They were of a similar size and temperament. And Scritchy exerted her alphaness over the much larger Sir Poopy by simply unceremoniously sleeping on top of him whenever he reposed at his leisure upon the beanbag. Fortunately for Scritchy, he did that act a lot. And all the vying for the leadership role ended then and there.

Some dogs love attention, but Scritchy was not one such. At a guess she spent her first years of life in a house whereby most of her time was spent alone in the backyard. Self sufficient was a good way to describe her personality and she required very little in the way of maintenance. With the final exception she never once set foot inside a veterinary clinic. She was very hardy.

During her decade long life here on the farm she witnessed all of her mates and underlings die. And after a decade of life on the farm, and nineteen years of living, she too began to ail physically and mentally. By her final day she was not the dog that she once was.

Scritchy keeps warm and comfortable on a cold winters day

Rest assured though, even in her final week of life, she still found the energy from somewhere to successfully attack the younger sheep dog pups (Plum and Ruby), and teach them the proper meaning of: “what for!” The two young pups looked on the older dog with expressions of both fear and awe, and Ruby in particular spent much time with Scritchy towards the end.

Vale little Scritchy mate, and where ever your spirit now resides I hope that you are giving the other spirits: ‘what for’.

Over her grave we planted a flowering cherry tree. The tree has an amazing view over the valley, but more importantly the grave site is elevated ever so slightly higher than her mates grave sites. And it also conveniently overlooks the dog enclosure. Scritchy would have definitely have approved of such arrangements.

A flowering cherry tree was planted over Scritchy’s grave

With heavy hearts, the ongoing work continued on the farm.

Two of the steel rock gabion cages were completely filled with rocks and then sewn up. Here are the cages before they were sewn shut.

Hours of work went into filling these steel rock gabion cages. Before being sewn up.
On a sunny winters Sunday, the two end steel rock gabion cages were sewn shut

The steel rock gabion cages are holding back an enormous amount of soil. However, they can easily do that task. The cages themselves contain an enormous amount of rocks of all shapes and sizes.

The line of steel rock gabion cages is now nearing completion

Two days were spent cleaning up the forest surrounding the farm. With the cost of insurance rising over 18% year on year, it is prudent to reduce the bushfire risk. Such cost increases don’t seem sustainable to me and with the economy as it currently stands, I would imagine that plenty of people will not be renewing their insurance policies. Anyway, not many people undertake such forestry work, and that is probably because it is really hard physical work. But just the thing to do when your heart is heavy with grief.

We conducted a small burn off of the grasses and forest litter

The ash from the burn off will be spread over the area. We also have heaps of chipped up organic matter to spread over the area courtesy of the nice electricity company. And in about two years when the soil life gets established, the area will be jumping with lush vegetation.

In an adjacent rocky area, which has quite mineral rich soil, we planted an English Oak and an English Elm tree.

An English Oak and English Elm were planted

Observant readers will note that in between the two trees, at some long distant past volcanic event, a lava flow had run down the mountain saddle and left this exposed reef of granite. There are a few of them dotted around the property, and the nearby trees grow exceptionally well thanks to the minerals.

On Sunday morning, the winter weather (1’C / 34’F) produced a solid frost. There was ice everywhere.

Ice from frost settled over the property on Sunday

Ice even formed on the corrugated steel roof sheets on the house. The solar hot water panels used a lot of hot water that night protecting themselves from freezing solid. You can see in the next photo that the area around the two solar hot water panels are free of ice.

Ice from frost formed on the roof of the house

In one of the terraced garden beds, the flow of underground water could be seen in a line of frozen ground.

The frozen ground indicates the presence of underground water

The frost didn’t hang around for long, as the slowly warming winter day caused the ice to melt. On the leaf of a mint scented geranium, a drip of melting ice can be seen dropping onto the leaf below it.

Ice from frost melts and drips off this mint scented Geranium

Despite the frost, there are signs around the farm that Spring may be early this year. If this is the case, then we’ll probably enjoy a very long Spring. I spotted Daffodils which were close to producing flowers:

Some Daffodils which are close to flowering

A well established Manchurian Pear tree has decided that Spring has come early and it has produced Spring leaves and flower buds.

A Manchurian Pear has begun producing spring leaves and blossoms

Some of the fruit trees have even begun to produce some tiny leaf buds, which is also a sign that Spring is here.

A Plum tree begins producing spring leaf growth

Over the past week, a few sunny days has sped along the carrot crop:

The Carrot crop has put on a bit of size despite the frost

Onions have likewise decided to grow:

Onion seedlings have put on a bit of size this week

Onto the flowers:

Pineapple sage has continued to delight and amaze
This Lavender has one look: Attractive
A beautiful cluster of Geranium flowers
Feverfew flowers, Californian Poppies, Balm of Gilead and a purple Penstemon flower

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 4’C (39’F). So far this year there has been 657.2mm (25.9 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 644.6mm (25.4 inches).