Adventures in Farming: Stalking the Wild Ruby

April 16, 2018

To give a little background, when this took place our alpaca farm was located at 9600’ on 40 acres of supremely vertical property. The views and spring snows were abundant, the oxygen not so much. One of our livestock guardian dogs, an amazing Anatolian Shepherd girl named Ruby Begonia, had discovered during a five foot spring snow storm that she could, in fact, scale the fence and have run of the whole 40 acres. It had become a daily game: she’d get out, make sure the property was secured from any potential threats, play tag with her favorite fox, and be waiting for me next to the barn when I came home from work. If I happened to be at home, usually due to a snow day, I’d look up to see her cruising by the window on the front deck. Occasionally she would come to me, but more often she needed to perform her job duties and patrol before she would come back and let me take her back to the barn.  She never seemed to actually leave the property, but I had concerns that as she expanded her territory that we would have a problem.

So one April afternoon, the sun was shining, it’s a beautiful day, and I look out and see Ruby tracks heading up the drive from the barn. They showed up nicely in the fresh snow.

Bad idea #1: Let’s see where she went.

I bundle up, put on the muck boots, because they’re the tallest for going through snow, and off I go.

Bad idea #2: Let’s wear rubber sole boots with no tread whatsoever and go tromping through 18” of snow that has now melted to the consistency of snot and is just about as slippery.

But, I digress. Off I went up the logging road a fair way, but it looked like her tracks came back down, so I turned and headed back down the (big) hill to the barn and back up the (bigger) hill away from the house on our driveway. When I got to the entrance to our drive, I was faced with a dilemma. Her tracks went both ways – up the road to the left and down the road to the right. I chose the downhill to the right because it was an easier walk.

Bad idea #3: Forgetting that if you go downhill you have to go uphill when you come back and it will be later and you will be tired.

Since the downhill way is the way down to Black Mountain (about a mile) and to our nearest neighbor (about half a mile), I’m wondering how far down the road she goes and am appropriately concerned. The good news is she only followed the road around the first curve before veering off to the right, back on to our property.

Bad idea #4: Leaving the road you know and following some dumb-ass-part-mountain-goat of a dog off into the freakin’ hinterlands. Road less travelled, my patootie.

But I’m still cheerful, because I’ve got her tracks to follow, it’s a lovely day and how hard can it be? After all, just because I’ve never tromped around that part of the property how was I to know there was a rather large ravine (oh, so that’s where the creek goes) or that Ruby is apparently one smart mountain goat and knows exactly where to step, because if you don’t go right in her footsteps you hit snow covered rocks, logs, and other assorted pitfalls just waiting to suck you in and push snow in your face. Three times. In the same spot.

Bad idea #5: Keep going; it’s got to get easier.

Funny how Ruby knew exactly where to stop, turn and choose another path and yet I wasn’t able to see the two freakin’ foot drop off. More snow in the face and a skinned shin. (Even through jeans and long johns and those stupid rubber boots with no stupid tread. Height on boots is apparently no advantage whatsoever when you go ass over teakettle – the snow just shoves its way in from the top. Easy to do when you’re upside down – I didn’t even put up a fight.)

I finally crawl, grasp, and wheeze my way out of the Ravine From Hell only to find myself back on the logging road, just about at the exact point I’d turned around at the start of this grand adventure. Now I see her tracks going both ways – further up the logging road towards Conifer Mountain and back down towards home. I picked home. Slogged my way past the barn – stopped for a moment to catch my breath and let my heart rate return to normal plus remind Otis what an awesome dog he is for staying home and just wait til I get my hands on his sister – and then trudged the rest of the way up the (biggest) hill to the house and the ensuing 27 steps up to the porch. (And whoever says cardio exercise releases endorphins is simply full of it.)

Can you guess who was waiting for me on the front porch? Good thing I love that girl.


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Sally Ball and her husband Jim own Rivendale Farms and spend their time with 18 alpacas, 2 very large dogs, and 2 incredibly spoiled cats. Sally is a Realtor and heads up the KW Land division for Keller Williams Foothills. Some speculate she chose to specialize in Farm & Ranch simply because she likes tromping around outside and hanging out in barns.

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