Tara and Easter

Tara and Easter
"Aw, mom"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Incredi-Bull

Remember that fabled trip north from Florida to donate two of our Dexters to a children's farm in Virginia and pick up our new eight month old baby bull?  Yes, the trip where my dear husband and I journeyed with our two year old son over 650 miles and lived to tell about it.

Well, that little bull has grown up.  Armstrong of Paradise is just over two years old and he looks great!


Please excuse the hay on his head.  He had just pulled his head out of the round bale feeder.
He is short in stature, well within the height standards, and has a lovely temperament.  He is gentle and easy to work with.  He also loves oranges, bread, and horse treats.  He can be hand fed treats by our preschooler.  He is a long-legged, Chondrodysplasia free, PHA free, and homozygous for A2/A2 beta casein.  That big mouthful essentially means that he doesn't carry the dwarf gene or a deleterious recessive gene for pulmonary hypoplasia with anascara, and his daughters have the potential to make lovely milk cows.  He has a beefy build and his dam had a lovely shaped udder.

If he had a personal ad, it would read something like this:

"Short, dark, and handsome seeks numerous short term affairs with lady cows.  Likes long ambles through the pasture, snuggling, treats, and mutual grooming.  Muscular build and a true male, but knows how to treat a she-bovine."

I knew he was special but I didn't know he would be in demand.  After some encouragement, and a big fat check from his breeder to pre-pay me for some of his straws, I took him to what we will call "Happy Camp".  The artificial insemination facility will collect 300 straws so we can share this good bull with Dexter cows all over the US.  It really is a nice thing to own such an animal.  I hope next year, I will see pictures of some of his calves produced by other breeders.

Our goal as Dexter breeders is to produce good tempered cattle that have a sound build and, that Holy Grail of cattle breeding; a true dual purpose animal for both dairy and beef.   We breed only long-legged cattle and sell our heifers as family milk cows.  Several of our cows are currently making gourmet cheese.  Some animal breeders might prefer to keep their best animals to themselves, but we feel that anything that improves these friendly little cows, keeps them employed and useful, will also help ensure that they will continue to be around 100 years from now.  Since we really enjoy these little guys, that makes us smile.


A New Beginning

This past June, I found my new trail horse.  She needed a new beginning desperately and I needed a riding horse.  Sometimes things just come together perfectly.

After I lost my beloved horse, Allie, I dismissed the idea of another horse until winter.  Maybe even spring.  It hurt to see her empty stall but I wasn't in any hurry to find a replacement.  I heard about a breeder of nice Quarter Horses and looked for an ad someone told me about on Ocala's Craigslist.  Not the best place to look for horses, but I was curious.  Ocala is a horse mecca so perhaps their Craigslist horses are much higher caliber.

I saw the following ad:

"Registered Morgan mare $250"

What the heck?  A Morgan?  Those are expensive horses.  The kind of horses one dreams about now and again but they are much too pricey.  It's like wanting a BMW but only having enough money for a Hyundai.  Then, of course, one must ask, what's wrong with the horse?  That's a kill buyer price, which is not a good sign.

The seller was a bit difficult to talk to but my instincts said to go look and bring a trailer.  The poor mare was 22 years old, skinny, depressed, had improper hoof care, and an eye that needed attention (untreated injury from over a year before).  Miraculously, she came with the proper registration papers, although it was not the seller's name on the papers.  Hmm.  After seeing how pitiful she looked, I just paid the guy cash and got her out of there.  After settling her into our round pen and setting up an appointment with our vet, I contacted the owner on the papers to make sure she wasn’t stolen.  The previous owner was relieved to hear from me.  The mare fell through the cracks after a lease to own type situation that went very wrong.  The previous owner was not in a position to take her so, with her blessing, I registered her in my name.  Wow, my first Morgan!  I have admired the breed for a long time but have owned mostly stock horses or Quarter Horse/Arabian crosses.

(Her first day in our round pen)



The first step was to give her a thorough vet evaluation and gain her trust (she was flighty and unsure at first).  She only took a few days before she was following me around.  She needed boosters of everything since the previous owner could produce no vaccine records of any kind for the year and a half he owned her.  A trip to the local veterinary school for a thorough eye exam revealed good and bad news.  She was blind in her right eye but it had healed in such a way that the eye should not cause her any further trouble and did not need to be removed.  It was right around the Fourth of July, so we named her Libby (Liberty). 

I am amazed at the combination of spirit and tractability of Morgans.  These were the US Calvary horses that carried generals.  In fact, her breeding is from UVM, which was the government's breeding program.

As I worked with her through the summer, she adapted quickly to being handled on her blind side.  Long grooming sessions relaxed her and I taught her a few verbal commands so she knew what to expect even if she couldn’t see it.  She filled out nicely and her coat changed to a lovely dark chestnut color. The saddle and bridle changed her demeanor from quiet and alert to proud and bold. She arched her neck and moved beside me like paintings of classic horses from long ago. Perfectly obedient and responsive but spirited and musical in motion. She was lovely. Truly this is the breed that generals rode into battle. 



The local Morgan Horse community was extremely helpful in giving me information on her background and training.  Many different people compared notes and I received a call from the lady that originally saddle trained Libby!  It was wonderful to hear about how she was as a young filly.  I am impressed and thankful for at the amount of support I have received from other Morgan Horse enthusiasts.  A local Morgan trainer came out for the first ride.  Libby was tractable but very reactive inside the round pen.  She moved with exaggerated animation and perhaps a little trepidation.  The saddle-seat training Morgan show horses receive can be quite intensive.  On subsequent rides, I felt her coil underneath me like a spring, ready to throw her legs out and move.  Instead, I found that if I halted her and began to rub her neck, she relaxed.  I used verbal commands to ask her to move and she did move more quietly.  She is a lot of horse but we seem to be developing a language to communicate.  She has a good mind so she is coming around just fine.  She is very affectionate.  She nuzzles me and gently puts her head against my chest.  Outside of the arena, she relaxes and goes very nicely.  I took her out to a local trail recently and she did very well.  I have a new trail horse!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cat Drama

Why, oh why, did the happy feline peace that existed on our farm turn into kitty WWIII?

We have, against our better judgment, three indoor kitties in relative bliss. We also have two outdoor barn cats that each had separate buildings to thrive and enjoy chomping the heads off small scampering critters. All's well, right?

Not anymore. Barn kitty number 1, Bagheera, is a black, spayed female. To simply state that she dislikes other cats is like saying Osama Bin Laden disliked Americans. No, this little beast HATES other cats with malicious intent. However, she had the big hay barn all to her spiteful self.

Barn kitty number 2 is Ginger, our sweet, older barn kitty.  She is a professional barn cat that actually came to us from a larger barn where she was in a managerial position (you should see her resume). This was definitely a step down for her, but she wanted a quiet job to enjoy semi-retirement. We had just built our horse barn feed room with a built-in cat door. Ginger adapted well and ran her side of the yard with expertise. Ginger also came to us with her own cat tree, (her office) which we placed in her domain.

Well, this summer, Bagheera noticed certain perks about living in the tack room versus the hay barn and she pulled off a rather nasty takeover.

Ginger, instead of moving into the hay barn, hid under the tack room floor and insisted on being fed by the horse stalls, even with the risk of suffering from Bagheera's wrath. We were plotting as to how to coax her into the hay barn when she relocated herself to our back porch. She now wants to be an indoor kitty really badly. As in, the little creature is holding a kitty vigil by our sliding glass door and giving us cute looks while we eat our meals. We are currently feeding her on the back porch, but, now what? We don't want to upset the indoor environment, nor do we want to risk the indoor kitties starting to spray because of her presence just outside.  My husband, like all men, is somewhat preoccupied when he comes home at night, but he CAN count.  Three cats suddenly turning into four would be a little obvious.  Unlike many men, he actually knows all the cats' names. 

Arrrrgh! Why don't cats honor peace treaties?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Old Horse's Dream

He was a working horse.  His grey coat was white from age as he was saddled up every morning and tied to the hitching post to await passengers at a resort up north.  His job was long and hard.  He endured the annoying clumsy kicks and sudden yanks on his bridle from impatient green riders.  Large and small, Heavy and light, green and experienced:  He carried them all through the prime of his life and beyond into his aged years.  Sometimes, a timid little hand reached up with a treat or a pat.  A wide smile on a young face when he lowered his head to sniff them.  Finally, one day his weight began to drop and his ration would no longer suffice.  A busy rental stable hasn't the time to individually care for older horses requiring TLC.  So, he was sold.

A mother and her two sons came for him.  His new home had sparse pasture and his new owners knew nothing about caring for an older horse.  In the harsh northern winter, he was turned out to fend for himself.  Complaints about the "skinny white horse" caused him to be advertised as "free" on Craigslist to get rid of him quickly.  After all, the boys had  become bored of their new toy months ago.

His luck seemed to change.  A knowledgeable lady saw his ad and picked up the skinny old horse.  She fed him and watched his weight return a little, but his teeth needed work and he had digestive issues.  More than she could afford with her own horses to care for.  So, she appealed to her network of horse owning friends.  A rescue a few states away offered to take him if he could be shipped.  He was loaded and hauled south.  He was fed well, but his teeth were still not looked at and his digestive upsets continued.  Then, the rescue was folding due to the economy.  All rescue horses had to go.

An inquiry from a family in Florida brought another trip in a trailer and another new start.  Finally, he was evaluated and re-evaluated until his issues were sorted out.  His digestive upsets were because his back teeth were worn down to stubs.  They could not effectively chew hay anymore so the hay he was fed was causing persistent diarrhea, weight loss, recurrent choke and colic.  The solution was no more hay.  A senior feed with some water was his new diet, plus medicine for his melanoma.  Now he gained weight and held it.  The burns down his legs from the diarrhea healed up.  He stopped colicking and choking on his food.  The new owners were a father and mother with a baby.  They thought he was a dear old horse and deserved to be cared for in his twilight years after serving so long as a dude ranch horse.  A quiet retirement; no riding, no work, just rest.

Then, one day, after a few years in his new home, he was needed.  The baby was now a small boy ready for his first ride.  The mother carefully saddled the old horse, checking and re-checking the saddle fit.  A hackamore was used rather than a bridle because she noticed a melanoma lump on his lip where a bit might put pressure.  The mother rode first, just walking, to see that he was safe.  Then, the boy was hoisted up into the saddle peering excitedly from under his helmet.  Cries of delight as the little boy clutched the old horse's mane.  After the brief ride, the boy stood in front of the horse and reached up to pat his chest.  The old horse lowered his nose and the boy hugged his face.  The old horse closed his eyes and held very still.  The boy kissed him.

The mother worried about the old horse so no more rides.  He was groomed and petted and the boy fed him treats, but no more riding.

Then, again, he was needed.  The same thing happened.  The boy was now able to sit in the saddle by himself while his mother led him around the farm.  The boy exclaimed from the old horse's back, "Wow!  I can see the whole world!".  The old horse sighed happily as he gently carried his young charge.  His eyes were bright and responsive.  The mother noticed the change in his attitude.  She saw contentment, calmness, and...a sense of duty?  She had thought retirement was best but this old horse didn't want to be left out.  He was more affectionate whenever he had something to do.  He was truly happier with a job.  Maybe old horses, just like old dogs and even old people, don't want to be forgotten or tucked away.  They want to be part of a family.  They want to be useful and needed.  So, a little work for the old horse from now on.  Only 30 minutes a few times a week.  Or 10 minutes, if 30 is too much.  A light rider (just walking is enough)..  A child to love him.  Light riding, lots of grooming, and plenty of treats should be enough to keep him happy.

Andy is our old horse and this is his story.  This is how I learned that the best thing for an older, sound horse is to need them.  Make them feel useful.  And allow yourself to be humbled by their sense of duty.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Celtic Festival Adventure

I must admit that one of my favorite things to do is to share gentle animals with people that don't normally have a chance to see them, especially children.  Our son is lucky enough to grow up on a farm (although ask him how lucky he feels in a few years when he has a list of daily chores) but many, many kids never get to see a real cow, horse, pony or donkey.  All of our animals are friendly and gentle.  Some seem to have a special knack for interacting with children.  Our AQHA gelding, Phoenix, is wonderful with everyone.  Donkeyotee is also exceptional.  Those two enjoy visits from children and even happily trailer out to our son's pre-school or our church picnic to enjoy attention.  Our Shetland Pony, Maggie, has proven to be quite a little ham and has an entire trick routine she does for kids at the Scottish Games every year.  Our small herd of Dexter Cattle are also quite interested in visitors and come running to the fence to inspect for treats or enjoy a little scratch.  Our friendliest cow is Fiona, our son's cow.  It should be no surprise that we agreed to bring a few cows to a local Celtic Festival.  It was held this past weekend in anticipation of St. Patrick's Day next weekend.  I think they started a week early so they could invite the Scots and the Welsh to play, too.


First, a few pictures of the event.  Of course, the Scots brought along their kilts and pipes. 


However, this was surprising...Star Wars stormtroopers....in kilts?!



Our 3 1/2 year old son just saw "Star Wars" for the first time recently (only the original) and was smitten over Princess Leia.  There was a young lady with one of the stormtroopers that our son was absolutely certain was the real Princess Leia.  So, they were nice enough to take a picture with him.



They had so much going on at this festival from a full St. Patrick's Day parade, to character storytellers, beer booths with real Guinness, several Irish and Scottish bands, and even St. Augustine's own pirates joined in the fun.  The predominate color was green followed by Scottish plaid. 


After consulting with our veterinarian, we decided to take Bonny and her very young calf, Gráinne, who was born on March 1st and is healthy and strong.  Bonny is a very affectionate cow with us but more reserved with strangers.  It made me a little concerned about her reaction to strangers near her very young calf but her base temperament is stable and calm so we obtained a health certificate for her and her nine day old calf. 


I tried to consider things from every angle to ensure I was providing for her comfort as well as for the enjoyment of the public.  We parked the trailer behind the portable corral and blocked off the back of the pen with a tarp in case of rain and to provide her with some privacy.  This worked pretty well the first day but she was moving around too much with visitors on three sides to keep an eye on her calf.  The second day, I blocked off an additional side of her corral with the display table and a rope.  This worked out much better and Bonny spent much more time laying down. 



Bonny set her own personal boundaries by happily accepting treats from everyone but bumping people's hands if they tried to pet her.  Most cows hate having their heads petted but many of ours tolerate or even enjoy it.  Bonny likes attention from us but she only allowed a few strangers to pet her head.  I discouraged people from reaching into her corral without a treat to put her more at ease.  I did go into her corral frequently with her and the baby to groom and scratch her favorite spots.  This also helped relax her and showed people just how affectionate cows can be.



People were absolutely enchanted with baby Gráinne.  I also think she will grow up to be one of our most laid back cows after her time spent in the public eye. 



I gave the cows an important break overnight by loading them back up in the trailer. It has high solid walls and is roomy enough for comfort. Lots of hay and water overnight really refreshed them both for the next day. I think they needed the break. I also walked them around a little when I got there in the morning before the event opened for the day. I think that helped quite a bit, too. Calves are most hyper in the early morning and late afternoon so this gave them both a chance to stretch their legs.

I couldn't believe how easy it was to load the cows. I just led them up to the back of the step up trailer (and it's pretty high) and gave them their head so they could jump in. Baby needed a little help to get in but she leaped out all by herself. Gráinne was leading like a pro by the end of the second day.  We normally don't even begin halter training until calves are six months old.  It will fun to see how much she remembers at weaning time. 

The only issue we had were with dogs. Bonny reacted to seeing any dog by walking around and fretting over her calf. The event was posted 'no dogs' but the volunteers at the gate had trouble with a few people that insisted on bringing their dogs in. When the organizer spoke to me, I mentioned it and she was apologetic. The poor kids working the gate gave in when they were yelled at because they couldn't give a good reason. The organizer thanked me for explaining how cows do not like dogs. She said that next year, she will have a good reason to turn dogs away and will enforce it with other folks at the gate, if necessary. The dog owners were nice enough to get there dogs out of sight of the cows when I asked them to, so no real issues. Bonny also calmed right down when I went in the pen and soothed her with my voice and petting. 



Overall, it was a great experience for a lot of kids to see a real live cow and calf and even feed a cow a treat (I had hand sanitizer for them).  I was able to present this breed to the public and answer many questions.  Many people stopped to read the board I put together for the display and our son enjoyed handing out St. Patrick's Day coins, necklaces, silly bands and clovers to kids.  We opted out of the St. Patrick's Day parade this year due to the age of Bonny's calf but next year, Fiona will have an older calf and she would actually do very well in the parade with proper preparation.  I now know what to expect which will help me plan for next year.  I have learned one thing, St. Augustine really knows how to celebrate!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Singing Donkey

We have many animals here on our farm.  The only animals we sell are the cattle, but we also have three horses, a pony, and a donkey, as well as three weed eating sheep, and some poultry.  All in all, a working farm.  The donkey, however, is the one that has grabbed the attention of the fickle public, at least for the moment.  I should begin with where he came from.

(Skip to the bottom to see the video first).


It was October 2003.  I was a naval officer stationed on a ship and we had just returned from deployment to the war in Iraq.  I had just bought a small farm and finally brought home my two horses after boarding them for many years.  The first horse was a mare that I rescued from an abusive situation when I was only a child.  Ellie, a beautiful buckskin Quarter Horse, was almost 34 years old and the time to say goodbye was drawing near.  How happy I was that she waited for me to return from the war!  I was afraid when I left that I would never see her again.  Each day was a gift.  She was hobbling around on her swollen bony knee, (found out later that the aggressive growth was osteosarcoma).  Her pain was managed, but she was depressed.  My second horse, a kind Quarter Horse gelding named Phoenix, would be alone soon.  I wondered if I should find him a companion.

The feed store had an advertisement up with a variety of animals offered including: goats, donkeys, horses, and some exotics.  It seemed to be worth a shot to find companionship for Phoenix.  Perhaps a goat would fit in nicely and Phoenix wouldn't have to be alone on my small farm when Ellie's time came. 

As I drove down the secluded driveway, a stark, dirt pasture came into view.  There was debris strewn throughout the place and buildings in disrepair.  Over 20 horses, two camels and four donkeys foraged through the empty pasture nosing around through piles of manure for a brave little blade of grass.  They were thin, but not yet weakened.  Manure was everywhere.  No sign of any type of cleaning implements or composting piles.  They were all standing in filth and mud.  The next pen that came into view held reindeer.  They looked to be in decent shape.  I composed myself and approached a middle aged woman with an unkempt look.  She explained away all I had seen.  I kept my composure and asked which animals were for sale.  She led me back to a small, dirt, pen that I had not seen before.  Two emaciated pony colts came up.  Their coats were rough and their feet were way too long.  In the corner of the pen, not moving, was a ragged brown creature.  I gasped quietly.  "Is that a donkey?", I asked.  She looked nervous and began spouting excuses.  I couldn't listen.  The creature's eyes were dull, his ears drooped forward, and he looked as if all hope had left him.  His shaggy, patchy coat was brown and there sores visible all over his legs, muzzle and naked ears.  Flies were feeding on the open sores.  His feet had never been touched and through his shaggy coat, his shoulder and hip bones were clearly visible.  His ribs were visible as well, though his wormy potbelly gave his abdomen a false fullness.   Some of her words filtered through the horror I felt.  "Four and a half months old...born here...I weaned him at two and a half months...petting zoo...used to follow me around, but now he just stands there so sweetly...".  My mind formulated a plan.  I turned to the woman with an innocent smile and asked, "How much for the donkey?".  His bail was $350.  I asked for a receipt.  I ensured the date of the sale, his description, the price and her name and address was on the piece of paper she handed me.  I returned with my trailer.  The little guy was in the same position as when I left.  I knew that my $350 dollars might simply buy him death on my peaceful farm instead of in filth and want.  He would not move, so I picked him up.  He was lighter than a feed bag, but I guessed about nine hands tall.  I placed him in the back of my stock trailer.  He looked so tiny and fragile.  I was thankful that the ride would be short.

I had already called the vet and asked for an emergency farm visit.  I had also prepared a 10'X10' pen where the freshest grass grew.  Water, feed, and hay stood at the ready.  The little guy still drooped his head and and there was no life in his eyes when I placed him in his pen.

Then, the unexpected happened.  My old mare, Ellie, nearly ran to the fence when she saw the baby donkey.  Her eyes showed a fire I hadn't seen in awhile.  She nickered to him sweetly and maintained a vigil while the vet examined him.  The vet was horrified.  She drew up several doses of de-wormer to give over five weeks; if he lasted that long.  She checked his sores, gave feeding recommendations and, after glancing at my pleading mare, told me that he would be better off with her, if she was gentle enough with him and I didn't mind the risk of allowing him into the herd immediately.  He was measured at nine hands, three inches and weighed 60 pounds!  He should have weighed twice that.

After a good scrubbing bath, (in which he gave me one small snort of protest), drying him carefully, dressing his wounds and hand-feeding him some grain, (he chewed each piece of grain painstakingly slow), he was turned into the pasture with his adopted mother.  Ellie fussed over him.  I prepared a deep bed in their stall and filled their manger with hay.  Ellie was on free choice senior feed/grain mix in a bucket big enough for both of them.  I counted on his donkey sense to not overeat the grain, and watching him carefully over the next few days, this seemed to work.  He walked a bit that night and then laid down with his horse momma watching over him.

The next morning, the baby had shavings all over him and he discovered what grass was.  Watching his momma, he reached down and bit.  You could see the surprise and delight in his eyes when he realized that the green stuff that tickled his fetlocks was actually edible!  Yes, his eyes were alive again and I knew he had a chance.

The farrier came that day and opened up some abscesses in his tiny hooves.  He walked better after the trimming, but it took a week before he trotted and two weeks before he ran.  Within a month, his ears stood up straight.  He was finally deemed strong enough for vaccination the following month.  He was gelded at seven and a half months as he had a hernia that also needed repair.  After recovering, he was at an age where he preferred Phoenix's company.  They were fast becoming great playmates.  Ellie's pain became too intense to be controlled properly and she was put down in early January.  Her donkey picked up some of her mannerisms and personality, so she lives on in him.

I took copies of the vet and farrier evaluations, (dated the same day and day after, respectively), his bill of sale, and pictures to Animal Control.  As it turns out, the woman's farm, where I bought the donkey, was not visible from the road, so they needed the evidence I had in order to get onto her property.  

Here he is that first day:



One month after rescue, with mama Ellie:



Today, the sad, little donkey has outgrown everyone's expectations.  At first, I thought he was going to be a little donkey, so I named him Milton Burro.  Once he was a yearling, it became obvious that he was going to be a large donkey, so I changed his name to Donkeyotee, (pronounced Don Quixote).  He is over 13 hands tall and has a thicker coat than most donkeys and no lasting scars from his ordeal.  He loves to be hugged and he can carry his pack saddle like a gentleman.  I have started his saddle training as well.  He is very personable, but thanks to the manners taught to him by my old mare and his buddy, Phoenix, he is mannerly and easy to handle.  The only thing he hates are his shots.  

 Donkeyotee today:

He and Phoenix are still best friends and their paddock always has a variety of toys to play with:



Donkeyotee also taught himself several ways to garner attention, including his "monkeyface".



A few weeks ago, I was goofing off outside with my viola and the donkey brayed to me from across the yard.  Knowing what a character he is, I set up a video camera and played for him.  The result is a video that struck some sort of chord with people and it has gone viral:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Aui2TKucUg&list=UURJ2YjNTVQ9kMIqwmUJuLLA&index=3&feature=plcp

So, now, at 8 years old, Donkeyotee is getting more attention than I ever thought possible.  As a beginning violin student, I thought I was just going to embarrass myself in front of family and friends.  I had no idea how many people would actually watch this video.  Its all worth it, however, because of Donkey's story.  


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Mommy's Confession

Now, I should preface this by saying that we don't allow our son more than a small amount of screen time (TV or computer) per day.  The TV is watched with us right there and it can take us two or three days finish a feature length movie.

Parents, raise your hand if you have ever been forced to watch a children's show with insincere adults, a well-trained animal and the hokiest lines ever written and wanted very much to find the people that made that bane of civilization and personally beat them into a tin can?  Or have you been forced to watch a cartoon whose sole purpose to get your kid singing the most annoying songs ever written which made you want to personally tie the singers vocal cords together into a pretty bow?  Or high budget, high flash, low brain movies that made your child want cheap 'Made in China' garbage guaranteed to fall apart within a week (more applicable for the slightly older kids)?  After about two dozen of those, you are ready to do one of the following:

1)  Ban every cartoon, muppet, puppet and anything resembling cute from ever crossing your threshold or gracing the screen of your TV again.

2)  Get your spouse to watch your dear child while you spend an hour listening to punk and gangster rap on your headphones while playing with dangerous tools and not following directions.

3)  Ride your horse.  Right into the next state.

4)  Move to a remote cabin in Alaska without running water, regular bathing, or satellite tv.

Then, you find a little ray of hope.  Something with enough cute to satisfy the little one but with enough snark to keep the parents happy.  We were thrilled, for instance, when our son was finally old enough for Bugs Bunny.  The old favorites (violence and all) were pulled out and he has handled them well.  Whew!

Recently, our friends from across the pond have provided us with a form of sanity known as "Shaun the Sheep".  I think I'm addicted.  The best episode is "Hiccups".  It had me laughing until our son gave me a worried look. 

Our son loves it, too.  It's probably just a passing fancy, but anyone who makes childhood TV shows that are adult friendly should be awarded a public service medal, (or whatever the British equivalent is).  Oh, and "Wallace and Gromit" is another survivable kids show made by the same folks.