Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Archive for tag: farm life

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Dogs in the SnowIf you visit a farm that raises livestock, you may encounter livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). LGDs aren't your usual pet dogs, which people don't always realize. We've heard stories of well-meaning neighbors accusing farmers of mistreating these working animals, or worse, threatening to remove the dogs!

We asked one of our Farm Stay U.S. members, Ruth Pepler of Dogwood Hills Farm in Arkansas, about her experience with LGDs.

Some of the things I have discovered about these amazing dogs over the years I have learned the hard way. Our very first Pyrenees, Maya, was given to us because she would not stay way out in the pasture with the goats. She kept coming to the farm house. Our set up was much more to her liking with our farm house in the middle of the hub of pastures.

At Home with the Livestock She was an excellent guardian and could be completely trusted with moms delivering, chickens and baby chicks, and our guests. She knew that the guests belonged there and watched over them as well!

They say it's not good to let them socialize with people or they won't do their job. We have not found this to be a problem.

When visiting a farm with livestock guardian dogs, it's always good to know the ground rules. These dogs have a very specific job to do, and you would not want to distract them. The rules at Dogwood Farm, for example, are:

  • Don't hand feed the dogs. Scraps can be given to them in their feed buckets.
  • Don't chase the chickens or any other animal, the dogs find that to be questionable behavior.
  • Listen to your parents... the dogs know they are your Alpha!

Nursing Puppies
Learning to Guard


LGDs may work alone, if the farm is somewhat small, or there may be several dogs working together.

At first, I didn't know that it's hard for them to be the only LGD if the predators are thick. Our dogs run 72 acres, not a large farm, but surrounded by numerous coyote, big cats, an occasional wolf, and bear. We now have a team of 3 adults and 3 puppies. They work very well rotating and training the younger ones.

One of the things I have noticed as the younger ones step up into a more active role, is that they will dig out a hole or several holes in prime locations for watching their charges. If I can't find a dog, the first thing I do is look out where the goats are, then check the opposite hillside and there, dug into the side of the hill, is a watchful dog.


Digging Cooling Off

Winter is a whole other topic. The barn is open on either end. The dogs have access to hay, heated water, and cozy goats to snuggle up with. Where do they sleep? Smack in the middle of the driveway, out in the snow, with a paw over their nose! We've discovered that ice blocks make great toys! They carry them all over the place.

Good Dog

Thanks very much to Ruth for sharing some great photos and talking with us about these special "farm hands"! Do you have questions about livestock guardian dogs? Leave it in the comments.

(Photos courtesy Dogwood Hills Farm)

Taking Better Animal Photos

This blog post was written by Susan Gibbs of Juniper Moon Farm and originally appeared on her blog. She has kindly given us permission to re-post it here, and we hope it will inspire our readers to get out there and take some photos for the Farm Stay U.S. 2011 photo contest!

Taking Better Animal Photos by Susan Gibbs


Let me start me start with a disclaimer: as a photographer, I make a very good shepherd. I have almost no training whatsoever in photography and everything you're about to read is based on nothing more than years of trial and error and figuring out what works for my own pictures.

I do, however, get asked all the time how I get the shots of my flock that I post on the blog. I'm happy to share my secrets, if you can call them that. BTW, all of the photos in this post are unedited because I want to show you what you can do no matter what kind of camera or software you have.

1. Take more pictures. Lots more. The more you shoot, the greater the odds are that you'll get one good one. It isn't unusual at all for me to take 300 or 400 shots in an afternoon and, if I'm lucky, I'll have three or four photos I consider worth posting on the blog. If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, your odds will be a bit longer because most point-and-shoots don't work as quickly as animals move. It was the frustration with that lag time that led me to buy my first digital SLR and I would never consider shooting animals with anything else.

2. Get down on your subjects level. This is the easiest way to improve your photos of animals and probably children. I see so many pictures of lambs on other peoples blog that are clearly taken standing above the animal, and, cute though the lamb may be, the pictures just aren't very compelling.

This isn't always easy to do. Some times I have to lay flat on the ground in the barnyard or on the floor of the barn to get good shots. Sometimes I pick the animal up and bring him/her up to my level. It definitely helps to wear clothes that you don't mind getting dirty in.

Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about:

goats from above

shot from above


goats eye level

shot from the goats' eye level


chicks from above

chicks from above


chicks eye level
chicks eye level


In both of the first pictures you can tell that the animals are cute but the in the second pictures you can really see them.

3. Get closer. Then get closer still. You really want to fill up the frame with the subject.

a lamb too far

too far


lamb closer


See the difference? And while we're on the subject, unless you're shooting man-eating tigers, zoom with your feet, not your lens.

lambs not close enough

close, but not close enough


lambs much better
much better!


4. It's all about the eyes. Okay so now you're on the animals level and your really, really close. Start shooting and look for moments when the animal is looking at you full on, where both eyes are on you.

cow okay

This is an okay shot but…


cow better

this one is orders of magnitude better.


There is no way to get these kind of shots without taking many, many, many pictures. Here's another example:

lamb almost



lamb very close

Very close. I probably would have gone with this pic had I not gotten a better one.


lamb just right

This. This is exactly what I wanted this picture to do. You can really see this lamb's personality in this photo.


One more example:

sheep good

Pretty good.


sheep better
Much better


Of course, not every picture has to have the animal looking directly into the camera, but if he's not, then it should be deliberately so, as in this pic:

cow not looking
I hope you'll find these little tricks helpful. Play around with them, take loads of pictures and let me know what you think.

Farm Blogs Make Good Reading

Achorn Farm

If you have never read a farm blog, now is the time to start. There are a legion of bloggers who write about their lives in often hilariously funny or wise or insightful or heart-warming (or all of these together) prose.

I am sure there have always been farm diaries written late at night when the chores are done and the kids are in bed, even when the only light was from an oil lamp and not the computer screen. I am also sure we write our stories as a way to exhale from the day's unexpected events, because life on a farm has more than its share of unexpected events.

Homesteading Neophyte

Photos are the side benefit of many of the stories. We have become photo-journalists in our own right. I almost hate to go out to the barn without a camera in my pocket.

So, here are a few of the farm blogs I have found entertaining. They are great for reading alone or aloud. Great for a laugh or a cry.  Great to know we are not alone in the vagaries of farm life! (Disclaimer: I have included my own farm blog in this list. I hope to look back on it in 20 years for a good laugh and a sigh.)

Farm Blogs:

Farm Tales