Master’s Report July 2015

The first day of cubbing is Friday, September 11, 2015, seventy-two days from today as I write this, 9 July 2015. For those of you going on vacation, I hope the time is restorative, great fun. For those of you staying home, I expect you will be repairing fences, boots, sewing ripped hunt coats and for those of you who were truly impressive, weeding your garden. I am looking out my window at wisteria that needs cutting before it takes over the state of Virginia. As for my gardens, well, I tell myself that flowers were once weeds so really, my gardens do have flowers. Oh, the fibs we tell ourselves.

Even with the heat I know most of you are walking out your horses. We start the true conditioning in about three weeks, taking it slow. By the first day of cubbing the horses are ready and so are the hounds. As always, there’s a bit of fat. Never start cubbing 100% fit. A little pad provides insurance because once we pass Opening Hunt, November 1 this year (yes, it will be 80° F, I swear) but once we get through it the temperatures drop, many more calories are burned. If you start cubbing without that insurance you can really run down horses and hounds. Then again, they will lose warmth.

While most of you know how focused we are on nutrition, conditioning, training it occurred to me this morning after working puppies that I have never discussed our physical structures, land or rationale behind the same.

Before that, puppies are doing very well. They aren’t ready to walk out alone but they can go one or two at a time with the big kids. Wednesday or Friday mornings they “play” just with themselves. So this morning, lots of running about, then called back to me, a little walking, packing in. Pretty good but Lego feels being in front is more important than being with the group. Just takes time. They are surprisingly good about loading up on the party wagon. Yes, a few need to run laps around the wagon but they finally load up. And the puppies immediately rush to the top tier of the trailer so they can see outside. You know they might miss something otherwise and this group doesn’t want to miss a thing. We are preparing ourselves for that first deer jumping in front of their noses. What a shock. A few will go after the deer but this class is very wanting to please so a call should bring them back. Remember, the youngsters are seeing everything for the first time. They’ve already seen foxes because the foxes patrol the kennel. I always fear that unkind words are spoken.

As to the wildlife, our bears, plural, are much in evidence. Docile, they keep to their routine but they’ve been hell on the feeder boxes.

More wild turkeys than I remember and rude, too. Those pompous lead hens will stop in the middle of the road and shoot the bird at you, forgive the pun. Really, this younger generation, no manners at all and their parents are even worse.

Hawks, owls in abundance, as well, which means a bumper crop of small game which means happy foxes.

That’s the home fixture report. Now on to our Oak Ridge kennels.

Roughly an acre and a half plus are fenced and cross fenced. We also have a third of an acre or more to the south of the kennels with a narrow creek through with if we ever need to expand. We are fortunate to have so much land and we always have acres across the road that could be used.


One story high, cinder block construction with a concrete floor, a slanted roof, and three rubber base painted bays inside and a tiny room with an even tinier bathroom and sink, a refrigerator for meds and a small desk.

Each bay has a partially covered back section which can be closed if a hound or hounds needs to be sequestered. The floor is also concrete.

Immediately behind this is a trench, concrete, which carries water and waste to a buried tank. You have to lift off the cover, let everything run down, then put the cover back. There are two of these tanks in the main kennel which are pumped out each year before cubbing. There is also one at the Puppy Palace, thousand gallons. Because we keep the heavy lid on, we have not endured overflow which would happen with these torrential rains. This system which was costly to install and necessary, according to newer state laws, cuts down on odor.

If in the narrow aisle you face the bays, the first two bays to your right open out onto an enormous run which wraps behind the side yard, more on that later, to another large yard containing a pond, small, and two condos along with a raised wooden bench. There is also a condo in the section of the run closest to the kennels.

Hounds love, love, love their condos which have removable doors for summer, replaced in winter along with straw.

Housing choices make for happy hounds. Some like the raised benches inside, others want to curl up in their condos or lounge on the porches built on to the condos. The porches delight the hounds in all but the most inclement weather.

Also, inside the main kennel is a whelping room which doubles as a recuperation room. This space has good ventilation and is easy to keep warm when bitterly cold. The concrete floor has rubber mats such as you use in your trailer. And yes, they can be chewed to bits faster than you can realize but they are easy to replace and if a hound is bone weary, the mat helps. Also, it’s easy to clean.

To the left of this is a feed room with built in wooden coffers, shelves and this room can be closed off.

To the right of the whelping room is the large feeding room and draw pen. This is two stories high, a concrete floor and three ways in and out.

You can open the draw pen door from inside or outside but if you are inside you have to have help in lifting the heavy outside bar. The bar closes upon to thick wooden doors.

The sides are 10 or 12 feet high so this, while roofed, has plenty of ventilation. It’s easier to keep hounds warm than cool.

Large troughs are used to feed and they are hosed out daily. Part of this space has a loft for storage. We put the summer fans up here when fall comes along with some odds and ends.

Our dream is to extend the floor across the space. We would not enclose below this room as we still want the ventilation. This would be our office and with lots of windows, we could monitor hounds in the main kennel and the side yard without going out there which, of course, changes their behavior. We’re lucky, they get along but it’s helpful to observe them among themselves.

The little room with the drain and bathroom is too small for an office, plus mud slides in on the bad rains. Comes in right under the door. It’s easy enough to clean but this isn’t a place to put records. Too difficult to protect plus the humidity won’t help the papers.

I would like my whippers-in, John and Toot to have access to hound papers, medical records, etc. A computer up there would help, too, as we could get into the MFHA stud book whenever we needed something. There’s no way we could put a computer in that tiny room.

We would like a place to sit down, talk over the hunt, etc. Right now we try to cram into a truck with double doors, huddle together for a little bit around the tailgate table. Being able to review a hunt after it has just concluded allows us to iron out some wrinkles, most especially to review hound performance. As we each cover different territory we each see different things.

This is a dream, one we’ve had for years but in the fullness of time, I believe it will come to pass.

As it now stands we have one full staff meeting once a year usually at Mary Shriver’s. She is excessively generous so this year we had it at Tea Time and we will probably move it each year until we get our true office. You’d be amazed at what we cover. To give you an idea, this year, I posed three questions which led to many others.

  1. How do you know when hounds have overrun the line?
  2. How do you know when hounds are running heel?
  3. How do you know when the fox has doubled back?

Maria brought aerial maps of our territory and Mary and Dee brought more maps from the MFHA seminar and Becky brought a grill! (She brought other things, too) but our Becky B. lashed her big grill onto her truck. Sonia helped her lift it off. I think we have resourceful and creative ladies here.

I mention all this because it might please you; interest you to know what goes on. We all look forward to being able to do this on a more regular basis right there with our hounds.


This is the octagonal building you pass when we ride back to the kennels coming from a westerly direction. Four pie shaped rooms feed into a center space with a large drain, the hose hangs overhead. You can wash out this kennel in the blink of an eye. The fourth bay stores food, broom, and mop.

If you close the outside door and the outside window, open the door into the kennel you can keep it warm or open and keep it cool. The outside runs are nothing like the huge runs at the main kennel but they each have condos.

As this was originally built for puppies, we didn’t need a lot of space and we were careful about the chain-link fencing. Puppies can crawl under, through, do the damnedest things. The priority was safety, fresh air, cleanliness, and sunshine. Each bay has a mud flap entrance for hounds and each bay has a raised bench now that this isn’t used for puppies anymore. One bay is used as a backup whelping room but now that we have the big whelping room we may change this. There is quite a bit of light in this kennel.

If I could do things over I would build a gigantic octagonal kennel because cleaning is quick, the shape lends itself to conserving energy. The ventilation and natural light are so healthy, pleasant. We now use this for old hounds, a retirement place with some younger hounds they are also. The small puppies are up in the grey kennel which I will come to later.

I forgot the side yard at the main kennel. It’s just that, to the right of the kennels, secured so the hounds can’t get in. Two condos and one big outside water trough take care of the hounds in this space who are some of our more sensitive girls.


Another very large space at least one quarter of an acre. This is Herb’s old four horse trailer with a big pitched roof and surround porch and steps. Inside is a raised area across the nose which we bed with straw in winter. Lucite panels are slipped into the side slats and a heat lamp, as well as a big fan, is fixed to the ceiling.

This area like all of them uses a frost free pump. On the bitterest of nights the big outdoor water trough freezes. The indoor buckets have only frozen on the subzero nights but it takes a lot of refilling on a winter’s day. A wonderful new condo is also on these grounds along with too many pine trees.

Gyps in season are put up here as it is further away from the other kennels. The distance goes a long way to keeping order. It’s harder on John and Toot but better for hounds.

Oak Ridge hounds enjoy an abundance of space, light, fresh air, and shade. They can run and play to their hearts content. Happy hounds are easy to work with plus why have hounds if you don’t give them the best?


A gambrel roof building about 14’ x 12’, 10 foot high ceiling, insulated, with a wrap around porch on two sides with a railing. Very warm in winter and the porch, as well as a raised bench, plus a small, low condo help in summers.

The puppies and mom come here. After weaning, the mother returns to the kennel. We introduce her again to her friends over a period of days, returning her to the grey kennels later each day. We’ve never had a problem but why take a chance? The inside of the grey kennel has a raised bench where mom can repose if she needs a break.

Puppies are kept here until at least six months old. I work with them almost every day except when I’m on the road. It’s really playing with some horn calls and running around the area which is a square about half a football field maybe a tad larger. It’s next to the five bastards so no one is out of the gossip loop.

Keeping the puppies close has drastically cut down on training time once they go down to the big kennels. We are very careful about this and initially take them down for an hour, monitored. Each day it’s a bit more time. However, I will feel better when I can put half-grown puppies in the yet to be built second trailer run.

There you have it. With the exception of the ladies planting flowers last year, our kennels aren’t pretty but they are tidy and serviceable. Hounds are happy and we have few problems with sickness or parasites. The only real problem we’ve had was kidney failure due to old age. I believe our hounds stay healthy because they are not in crowded spaces, have with the exception of the Puppy Palace, and many choices as to where to sleep and play. In good weather they all choose to be outside. Of course, keeping current on all their shots, monthly worming helps, too. And that is your complete kennel report.

Rita Mae

1 thought on “Master’s Report July 2015

  1. What an absolute joy to read! I have been a true fan ever since you spoke at the VMFA a few years back. I am in the middle of Fox Tracks and recently moved my mare to Little Hawk Farm and am seriously considering joining the hunt, all thanks to you and your divine story-telling!
    I must say in reviewing the other Virginia Hunt websites, they all lack your devotion and sass.
    I hope I am blest to meet you again in the near future. Please continue to write forever!
    Happy Trails!
    Sherrie M. Farnsworth

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