"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

July 27, 2011

Freerange Parenting–aka 'Roscaling'

Roscoe seems to say: please let me out!
Our boys have invented a new verb this summer: 'Roscaling' –– Here's the official Pond family definition:

verb [ intrans. ] rare
act or behave in a free, exuberant, sometimes naughty, fashion––usually by roaming the countryside without supervision

noun [ attrib. ]
one who roscals
ORIGIN early 21st cent: from Kentucky, perhaps a blend of Roscoe and rascal.

Here at Valley View Farm we free range our cattle, our boys, our chickens, our deer and even our puppies. Recently I have questioned this practice with our dogs. Roscoe, just over five months old, has taken to enjoying long side trips on the ridge. This last one was six days. Imagine my delight when I was awoken this morning to "Roscoe's back!" after almost a week of worry, searching, calling, asking neighbors, and saying a few prayers. I now realize that it is irresponsible to the pets, and to others, to let them roam free, even though we believe in neutering.

Grass-fed cows who roam freely––with good fences––seem to be happy cows.

My favorite photo of John, Tom and Patch.
We've lost three other dogs, all brothers, to either coyotes, poisonous snakes, or whatever elements are out lurking in our woods and fields. We just don't know. I'd like to think that those three have formed a Pond Puppy Posse out in the woods or are being well-cared for somewhere else. The reality is that this just isn't the case.

Roscoe, John (before he disappeared) and Willard.

We have a large farm that is isolated enough that we have felt we could let our dogs run free (the last three were fixed and our now five month old Black Mouth Cur puppies, Willard and Roscoe, soon will be). We do have neighbors who know our dogs and who are close enough to our farm. One neighbor found our first dog, Lucy (who died here at 13), after she ran off after a bad storm (she, being a Bull Mastiff, was always close to home). That same neighbor also found our deer on several occasions after they had fled––they have now jumped out for good but that was because they were old enough and ready. I still owe this kind soul a chocolate cake, now that I think about it! [The deer have a territory of about 400 acres that straddles part of our farm and our neighbor's. They are fine, frequently sighted, and where they should be.]

Our boys are the main reason we are here: to raise them on a farm, in the dirt,
and to hopefully become responsible citizens of the Earth. This will always be home.

Our boys, meanwhile, live an unstructured life, apart from farm chores and haying (we are on our third cutting now and Henry mows and Eli teds––Dad helps with raking and baling and everyone takes turns moving bales with the JCB). Rather than do something different every day, especially during the school year, they are content to come home and putter around the farm, help with chores, or build forts or play. I often feel parental guilt about this, urging them to be interested in other things. But then I remember my own childhood: it was spent riding my bike around the neighborhood, visiting friends at their houses (in Akron) and later on my grandparents' farm where I made forts, rode our ponies, baked in the kitchen (I even brought ponies in the kitchen). I had a few after school activities in high school, but enough. There was much time for daydreaming, reading and having fun at home (but I've always been a somewhat solitary homebody at times, too).

Willard, right, will stay near if Roscoe is tied. 

But back to our Roscoe. His (much smaller) brother Willard is content to stay around but will be led astray by his brother. Roscoe has that glint in his eye and the firm desire to see what is over the next hill. I can understand this but I am officially now too old to worry about puppies on top of everything else.

Willard lunges for Roscoe during a recent play time.
He looks more fierce than he is!

So Roscoe's roscaling has been officially curtailed. This means that he either gets tied, or kenneled (for now he is tied during the day––at night they are confined to our back porch). We will figure out a good compromise. One good thing about tying a dog, as much as I hate to do that, is that we will be pressed to walk them regularly. This is good for all of us.

The entire family participates in moving the cattle from one pasture to another. 
A farm is a wonderful place to be raised and free range is generally best. But I'm realizing that there are dangers, too, and that I must be proactive in protecting everyone from predators. Not overreactive, just protective when necessary. It is the same with our boys: we want them to be free on the farm but to also carry with them limits and boundaries and good sense. Good fences are in place for a reason, just as long as the gate swings out and back in again, with plenty of room to roam.

You come back when you're ready!



  1. It's really difficult with a farm dog to keep them tied up....they are so miserable.....but they do need to be protected from themselves.

  2. Yes, I've learned this the hard way!

  3. I have an award for you. Pop over and pick it up.


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