Justin Tadlock

Why I haven't blogged much this year

“When are you going to write some new WordPress tutorials?” people ask.

I’ve been getting emails off and on this year about why I haven’t blogged as much. Generally, when I haven’t blogged in a while, it’s because I get a bit burnt out or am working too much on new stuff for Theme Hybrid. While I have been working hard at Theme Hybrid, I haven’t gotten burnt out. This year has been different for me.

This blog has always been a place where I can share my thoughts with the world on any subject, but I haven’t felt motivated to do so because of the events of my life this year. I think it’s time to finally share my story.

Gardening

As many of you know, my great uncle died earlier this year. This is something we knew was coming as a family and were able to come to terms with the loss.

Uncle Donald lived next to my grandparents and my aunt (three households). Much of his days were filled with tending to the garden to provide a sizable portion of the food that everyone would eat throughout the year. If you’ve never lived in a situation where a garden can be the difference between eating and not eating, it may be hard to truly understand how important my uncle’s job was to my family.

My other uncle, who also lived there, decided to take up the role of handling most of the garden. Unfortunately, he had a major heart attack. He’s only now getting to a point where he can do harder work.

I offered myself up to take on the garden work this year, but most of the family started pitching in. I’ve also tripled my flock of chickens to provide additional food (eggs). I let my birds free range most of the time, so this is at low cost.

Much of my free time has been devoted to working my grandparents’ garden. I’m also trying to teach them about more sustainable approaches to growing food because I won’t be able to do this year after year. They’ve only ever known traditional row-cropping methods of farming. They’re a bit hesitant to dive into other ideas. Therefore, I’ve got a few no-till beds set up to show them what companion planting with deep mulching can do with little work involved.

Needless to say, this has left little time for blogging.

Losing a best friend

I love animals. Other than for health benefits, this is one of the major reasons I attempt to stick to a mostly vegetarian diet. I currently have 4 cats and 17 chickens. I want even more, such as a good guard dog for my chickens, some goats, and maybe a few sheep. Even though I consider all of my animals pets, they also do their share of work.

Even my cats do work. Well, except for the oldest. He’s turning 11 years old this November though, so he’s like the grumpy grandpa around here who expects everyone to cater to his needs 24/7. The cats catch most of their own food. Between 4 cats, they’re only fed two small bowls of food once a day. It’s their job to catch rats, mice, moles, and other critters. In exchange, they get my protection and lots of petting. :)

In 2013, I took in a extremely young pregnant cat whose owners had abandoned her. She had 4 kittens (one only lived a few days). These kittens were actually born in the bed I was sleeping in. Kit, the mother, must’ve decided it was the best place for them. The kittens have been with me every day of their lives.

In June this year, a neighbor’s dog killed Bear, one of the cats, now barely more than a year old.

I heard the dog in the yard chasing the cats. Bear darted into the thick woods and the dog followed. I lost sight of them within seconds. About a minute later, I heard him scream out in pain. I was able to find him by following his voice.

This is the only time I’ve ever felt enough rage to kill an animal with my own hands. I grabbed the dog by the throat and tackled him to the ground, doing anything to get him off the cat. I don’t know how long I stayed there, but I knew the dog would die if I didn’t let go. I also needed to get Bear to safety. I let go of the dog and scooped Bear into my arms, rushing him into the house.

It’s the fear you see in their eyes that’s worse than anything. There were no visible injuries, but I knew he was hurt. I tried to calm him the best I could. He sucked in air as if every breath was his last, fighting each second to hold on. As I started to get up to call the vet, he reached out and grabbed my shirt sleeve with his claws and clenched, not allowing me to leave. He looked at me. His rapid breathing started to slow. Moments passed. His claws dug into my shirt until the end.

Burying him was perhaps a bit harder. Bear’s siblings were present. They watched from about 10 yards away as I buried their brother. Neither of them ate anything or played for days.

I knew I was well within my rights to shoot that dog and be done with it. This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to get him from my yard and return him to his home, which was a couple of miles down the road. But, I knew this was the fault of an irresponsible owner who kept the dog tied to a tree and gave him no training. I’ve personally witnessed him kick the dog for barking. Another neighbor has seen him leave the dog without water if the dog accidentally knocked his water bowl over.

Because I knew the dog was a hunting dog and was living in a terrible situation, I had no problem putting him into a better home in the wilderness. I couldn’t bare the thought of bringing him to a shelter where he would most likely be put to death if no one took him. I knew of a good spot about an hour away where he could live free and chase all the wild animals he wanted.

I hate it when people drop off animals at random places, particularly dogs that have been domesticated. As humans, we are their caretakers. In this situation, I didn’t see a better option for protecting the animals at my home.