lavender, lacewings, and lucky lollygagging

Make yourself a cocktail and settle in, friends, we have a guest post by Regina Fitzsimmons!

We asked our friend, farm care taker, and favorite writer, Regina, if she would write a little ditty to share with our farm friends, something about her experience these past few weeks on the farm. Between cross-country road travels, family wedding celebrations, and preparing for the fall semester – she did. Regina is a proficient farm dog snuggler, apple and (newly!) lavender aficionado, master potato beetle squisher(even though it’s so gross), mighty delicious cocktail maker, care taker of all things, care maker for all things, ever haloed in tenderness, delight, and wonder, and, amidst so much more, she is certainly one of the world’s most talented and thoughtful word crafters. AND the included photos are ones she took and shared with us (so let’s just add Official And Amazing Farm Photographer to the list too). Regina, thank you, dear friend. Our hearts are full of flamingos. – T&J

Yesterday I packed up my car with a cooler full of kale, a precious carton of rainbow-pastel eggs, a heavenly jar of dried garlic scape powder, and a golden-yellow bottle of homemade limoncello. I just glanced down at my shirt, and noticed little tufts of Radish fur—from my goodbye squeeze yesterday morning. I can hardly believe I get to write these words: For the last month, Cycle Farm was home. 

When Trish and Jeremy told me they were whizzing across the Atlantic for a family wedding, during a hustle-bustle harvest month, I was reminded—as I always am with these two—of their unceasing generosity. It is no small thing to pack up a bag, say goodbye to the best dog in the world, and leave a home and livelihood in the hands of somebody else. But Trish and Jeremy did so with ever-present kindness, trust, lightness and humor, enthusiasm, not to mention a kind of superhuman bottomless patience for my litany of questions—including real winners like, “Wait, but how do you pick up a chicken again?” or “Which one of these is the vegetable and which one is the weed?” 

This might be stating the obvious, but hot tamale: The difference between working at a farm and running one is as staggering as the difference between a garden snake and a rattler. I’ve worked on a lot of farms over the years, but prior to this summer, my farm days have always looked relatively similar, regardless of locale: my mornings and afternoons were buttressed by some effortful work and a lot of zoning out. I’ve experienced negligible, if not non-existent, foresight or hindsight. I’ve always had a farm boss who’s told me exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do that thing. I’ve rarely registered an entire landscape, I’ve instead zeroed in on one task: planting a row of onions, seeding a tray of lettuce, attempting to harvest a pile of potatoes without stabbing too many of them with my pitchfork. 

The farmers that I admire, though, are a direct inverse of my obliviousness. They are always attentive, eternally alert. I suspect there’s no greater land steward than a farmer. I am moved by their ethics, their Herculean strength, their flexibility, dependability, and ever-present observation. The farmers I admire are never not paying attention—they’re cognizant of the quality and moisture of the soil, of the number and variety of the pollinators, of the invasives, the water quality and rainfall, the aridity and humidity, the weather and projected weather and the weather trends from last season, and so on. They’re thinking about saving seed for next year, or the planting schedule in years to follow. They’re aware in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever been aware, of an entire ecosystem at their fingertips. Trish and Jeremy are farmers like that. 

While I gallantly attempted to emulate these two, I am still very much the bumbling farmer that I ever was. And I’m not being self-deprecating! Lemme paint y’all a picture: This past month I misidentified lavender *quite literally* more times than I correctly identified it. I excitedly emailed Trish some pictures of onion seed, only to be so gently informed that those were, in fact, not onions at all. I weeded a baby beet bed and probably yanked out upward of 10 mini beet stems in my haphazard process. When a chicken flew directly toward my face I literally barked, “COULD YOU NOT!?” And then I promptly burst out laughing, the noise of which thoroughly startled all the birds who zoomed away from me as fast as their little scaly legs would let them. Suffice it to say, it was a super solid, very brave move, to let me steer this farm ship in their stead.

Thankfully, I didn’t do this alone. For a few days, I was joined by Tom, who tirelessly weeded and planted potatoes that are now leafing out, promising delectable abundance in months to come. For a few solid weeks, I was also joined by Marci, who expertly irrigated all the fields, and trellised cucumbers and tomatoes with astounding attention to detail and care. During some of the hottest days, she and I took shelter indoors and swapped stories that were so funny, my face ached from the laugh-tears. There were also a few days when Radish and I flew solo—a thought that had initially made me nervous, to shoulder so much responsibility, but turned out to be downright peachy. Radish has a warm way of quelling any sort of worry. She and I dipped our toes and paws in Spearfish Creek on the daily, and she seemed to sense anytime I was feeling worried; she’d wriggle under my arms, squeeze tightly into my side, nuzzling in as close as she could so there wasn’t a trace of space between us. Looking back, I’m overcome by the total delight of all this companionship. These farm friends made my days feel so rich, vibrating with energy and color, zest and flavor, humor and comfort. 

It feels both moving and a little sorrowful, looking back at Cycle Farm in the rearview. This morning—my first daybreak away from the chickens and good dog—felt a bit strange, a little lifeless. It’s just after six in the morning as I type this, and looking ahead, my day seems blandly devoid of structure. During the weeks spent at Cycle Farm, my days began at first light, when I stumbled out the backdoor to feed the ensemble of symphonic chickens. I thought of Jeremy this morning, now resuming this routine. I glanced at my clock, wondering if he was walking toward the chicken house at that very moment, booting the roosting hens from their little cubbies, greeting them with gentle hellos and breakfast goodies. This past month my days closed at last light, tucking them in—a task now back in the skilled hands of T & J. I am comforted that the farm is back in their far more capable care, but I also miss, in a selfish way, the chance I had to learn with and from this landscape. For the past month, I’ve tried to study this ecosystem, to attempt to look and listen the way T & J look and listen. I wish I could’ve given as much as T & J give on the daily. And yet, I’m also buoyed by the notion that ultimately, I did the best I could. Everything I did, I did to nourish something else. And the farm, in turn, gave so much more—it never stopped gifting. There’s an everlasting indebtedness there, that I neither deserved nor earned. And yet, it was still gifted to me. What I’m feeling now is an undiluted delight in reciprocity. It feels so good to give; it feels so very precious to be taken care of.

There’s something I thought about so often this past month, that I thought I might also share here. I found myself reflecting on my very first visit to Cycle Farm. My friends Avery, Craig, and I zoomed over to Spearfish, to take a peek at T & J’s new home, before it had really revved into gear. Trish and Jeremy had just touched down in Spearfish and already two things were growing: garlic and bulbous radishes. I remember Trish uprooted one of the radishes for me to nibble—my first taste of the bounty to come. I kept rewinding that old memory these past few weeks. Cycle Farm seems unrecognizable, compared to that first glimpse. It’s always been beautiful to me, but it has also transformed into a truly astounding landscape. It is a carbon sequestering machine. It invites a host of birds and butterflies, friendly bugs and wiggling snakes—it is a regenerative biodiverse landscape in its very essence. Also. Guys. Can we just take a second to talk about the POETRY DISPENSER inside the farm stand!? WHAT MAGIC IS THIS!? There’s watercolor and block prints everywhere; the artistry is as skillful as it is gorgeous. Everything is handmade.   

Over the years, I have had the fortune to work with and learn from many farmers and land stewards. I also studied agriculture in school, which provided a different, albeit more bookish, agrarian education. All in all, there have been few who’ve taught and inspired me as much as these two. In such a short number of years, they’ve grown something that I struggle to articulate in words—there’s simply so much happening. The restoration, the regeneration, the animal husbandry, the seed saving, the continual pivot away from motorized equipment—everything you see is done by hand. The farm embodies intention, reflection, and thoughtfulness.  

Additionally, I’ve had the equally great fortune to work on a few farms that seemed to embody joy, where the work felt vital and important, but also fortified by levity, forgiveness, and good humor. I realized, while writing this post this morning, that I’ve had a smile plastered to my face while doing so. Cycle Farm’s got all the good vibes. As does the community in Spearfish who were so kind, so endlessly welcoming to me, offering help, laughter, and friendship everywhere I turned. It’s possible, I imagine, to feel alone and pretty freaked out, keeping a farm going in a farmers’ stead. But I always felt the inverse. I was continually looked after, supported both by the farm and by this kind and heart-filled community nestled in the Black Hills. 

Gosh, saying goodbye is like a sucker punch. I’ve never successfully driven down the whole length of Evans Lane without pulling over to dry my eyes. I also leave Cycle Farm kinder and gentler than when I arrived—my friends bring out the best in all living things. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Cycle Farm has a quiet way of grounding us with humor, of refilling bellies and hearts, of tethering us to kindness, and of restoring hope during times when care and decency feels in short supply. Thinking about it all just makes me sit here and smile. I’m shaking my head, too, having just murmured aloud: How did we all get to be so lucky? 

winter, farm visitors!

A productive, restful winter.
Woolly socks, hot tea, the melodica, seed catalogs and Sibley’s bird guide. Beans and potatoes. And eggs. Building a gate for the chicken yard, scheming mobile coop designs, reviewing conference notes, reflecting on last year’s growing season, planning for this year’s. Baking bread and stirring resistance. A hammock in the greenhouse, cross country skis by the door, books by the couch… and on the table, and on the floor, and by the bed. And visitors!vicious-birdsWe’ve had a couple predatory birds visit the farm over the last month. A Northern Shrike briefly took up residence in our greenhouse, helping with pest management. And yesterday we happened to see a Eastern Screech owl peeking out of a basswood tree. Our chickens don’t seem to mind the company and are laying abundantly.

We’ve also had a couple friends visit the farm over the last month. Thomas came from Washington bearing whisky, reggae on vinyl, and a big stack of NYT crossword puzzles… *sigh*… winter. Radish enjoyed having a ski-mate and perfecting her newest trick, hoop-jumping. We enjoyed having help with our seed inventory and cleaning up the greenhouse after the shrike massacre (3 mice, 7 house sparrows, decapitated and impaled on popsicle sticks. eeew).And then our friend, Gordon, and his sweet basset travel companion, Dot, were snowbound here on their way back home. Several of our trees are from Gordon’s fruit tree nursery in northern New Mexico. We took the opportunity to walk through our young orchard with him, and learn more about orchard management, tree health, and practice grafting techniques.gordon-tooley-visitAnd now the house is empty, the futon is folded up. The seed orders are in. The days are growing noticeably longer. The greenhouse is seeded with every sort of spring green, turnips, radishes and beets. We’re looking forward to a few sunny days to help with soil temperature and germination. seeding-greenhouse-feb-5feb-2017-photo-montage2While we anticipate fresh greens, farm feastings have been mostly a whole lot of soups, and squash pie, and fermented things. When you have a chance, check out this exceptionally delicious, new favorite recipe for fermented hot sauce, also lovely kraut crocks.

Thanks, friends. Siempre adelante.

late August update, photos

The summer’s growth has crested into harvest. We’ve been trying to keep up. Here’s a bit of what’s putting up garlicThis was a great year for garlic; our new flower beds are showy as all get out; spending late nights processing junky, split and buggy tomatoes; our kale grex is ready to get out into the field.

bees bees and birdWe have two hives now, Pipi Longstocking and Heidi, both wild swarms, they are doing great; the herb beds are all bBbzzZZzzzy with native pollinators; and we have a hummingbird!! (a female ruby throated hummingbird, we’ve seen her regularly for 3 weeks now).

lambs hops rainbowHops are ready for harvest; a welcome light rain and double rainbow during chores this morning; the pasture management committee is hard at work and ruminating.

birds and seed

The lambs are followed by a chicken tractor: fresh grass, sheepshit, and bugs make for happy birds; our young birds from Sand Hill are growing up, with rose combs and hairy legs; seed saving is on full swing, and we’re already totally stoked about Spearfish’s second annual Seed Swap (stay tuned, next February).

csa so far

The CSA is going well. We’ve had beets in the shares and strawberries! SO GOOD. Our CSA members are such an incredible group of local food enthusiasts, we’re immensely grateful. Thank you, CSA, for sharing the season with us, for your bright smiles each week during pick-up and your courageous kitchen wizardry as we experiment with things like celtuce, fava greens, and sprouts. (If you’re interested, our weekly CSA newsletters are posted online here.)

We have been learning heaps. On the syllabus this summer: livestock and pasture management, blight and orchard care, experiments with row crop farming and flood irrigation, marketing meat birds, increasing production for our CSA, tax incentives for, and the difficulties of, encouraging ag land preservation, farm insurance. And time management, we’re learning about time management.


One of the absolute highlights this summer has been getting to host Abigail, a BHSU student intern from their Sustainability Program.

radish hoopingAlso, lastly, Radish and Jeremy are working on a new trick now that mocha is down (J: how do you want your mocha this morning, Radish? R: with whipcream and a double shot.) Radish has, believe it nor not, harnessed even more lust for life now that we have a freezer full of dehydrated chicken hearts and gizzards.



Bolita beans and Stone Barns

Little by little we are getting to cross things off our long and ever growing to do list: processing dry beans and taking stock of our seed inventory. Check. Check.

Our good friend Jill and Jeremy’s brother, Nick, came by to the farm just in time for processing the dry beans. The beans were harvested months ago and have been spread out in piles in the workshop behind the garage. Bolita beans and Colorado River beans. Just after the first frost, we clipped the plant stem at ground level and, starting at one end of the bed, rolled the plants up like loose, unwieldy tumbleweed/sushi rolls. These tumble weed sushi rolls (whole plant, pods and beans together) have been hanging out in the workshop ever since. To shell the beans, we initially tried using a borrowed leaf mulcher, this didn’t work so well as it ended up breaking most of the beans. Plus the leaf mulcher is loud and electric.

Our second method was more fun and efficient – certainly on our scale. We pulled out clumps of bean plants and laid them out on a tarp, then burrito-rolled the tarp so as to contain everything. Then we danced. A sophisticated study of jumping, pacing, stomping, twisting, and boogie woogie – all to find which resulted in the most efficient bean shelling. Then we unrolled the burrito tarp and manually sorted out the large bean plant debris, and poured the beans and chaff into a bucket to be winnowed. After cycling through this process several times, a tight procedure was mastered in the end. Lucky for us Nick has just returned from university in Norway, where he has spent long hours studying late into the night at dance clubs in Trondheim. Having a dance team on the farm not only provided us with the motivation to finally tackle the beans, but it made the process go quick quick and very merry. Thanks Jill and Nick, you both dance something fierce. We have an estimated 10-15 lbs of each variety.bean dancers

bean winnowing

We’ve also finished sorting through our seed inventory. Taking stock of our seed is important and will help guide us in making orders for new seed for next season. It’s also been a good chance to reflect on how well certain varieties grew over others, and decide on whether we want to grow the same variety next year. But primarily, poking through crinkly, folded up envelopes to peek in at BEAUTIFUL seeds is just ridiculous fun.

We have been able to save a good deal of seed from our crops this year, which is very exciting. This is seed from plants and varieties that did especially well here and we enjoyed growing and eating. We spent a considerable amount of time learning about the procedures for selecting for and saving seed, mainly from the good book “Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners”. Farming with only 3 acres and lots of neighbor gardens, there are limits to what seed we can reasonably save. Some of the seeds we’ve saved this year include different varieties of dry beans, blue corn, popcorn, fennel, tomatillo, a few lettuces, and amaranth.

One more thing as relates to seeds: some good people are looking for help putting together a film about seeds. The same people who brought us “The Real Dirt on Farmer John” and “Queen of the Sun”. Check out their kickstarter video here and maybe consider helping them out if you are able.what a good dog.

We had a chance to attend the Stone Barns’ Young Farmers Conference in the Hudson Valley of New York. Holy smokes. Stone Barns is glorious. We are grateful to have both received scholarships to attend, we learned a whole bunch, energy levels are high. It was also a excellent chance to reconnect with close friends doing magical things. During the conference, Jeremy got to try his hand at cross-pollinating pea plants. There were sessions on seed saving as a farm enterprise, swine husbandry, CSA management plans, composting, and orchards and pruning. Crop rotations, cover crops, chicken and pig butchering, farm business management plans, growing in greenhouses, soil nutrients, the Farm Bill. And more. Even a work songs workshop, in which we sang together and harvested turnips, possibly nothing is quite as fantastic. The conference offered us an incredible diversity of topics to explore, a huge community of motivated, beginning farmers, delicious foods prepared from the farm, a seed exchange, fun-spirited contra dancing, and unequivocal exposure to hipster fashion sensibilities. Thank you Stone Barns.

Slow tools, seed exchange, LOTS OF BEGINNING FARMERS!!, and very straight rows in the greenhouse.

We also did some walking meditations in the city. Lots of bicycles. And people. And pretty kale in planter boxes.

NYC bicycles Blue hubbard squash on door step, decorative KALE in planter boxes, and blooming roses(in December?!). New York is a magical place.

Hooplah, last CSA day, greenhouse, garlic, and snowfall. Ramping up to slow down.

We had a wonderful time at the farm Harvest Hooplah last Saturday. Thank you everyone for joining us, for sharing good food and excellent company. Here are some highlights from the afternoon.

A delicious feast of locally grown, lovingly prepared foods, including our own young roosters, a flight of 9 different varieties of winter squash, and fresh pressed apple cider.

THANK YOU ALL for your support and enthusiasm this first year. We’ve never worked so hard before, never learned so much so quickly, and never had so much fun.  We’re looking forward to seeing you all around the farm next season.

The squash mandala on the floor of the living room has shrunk significantly since our CSA pickup last week. The final week’s CSA newsletter is posted online here. And we have a popcorn update since the newsletter was written: the toss-a-whole-cob-in-a-paper-bag-and-into-the-microwave trick actually works. Incredible.

Our new friend Jason came to help harvest and clean carrots and fingerlings. He does magical things with film and video, and introduced us to the aperture settings on our camera. SO MUCH FUN. Thank you Jason.

Jeremy, Radish, and our A-1 good friend Thomas have been busy building the stone wall for the greenhouse. It’s stunning. The wall is dry stacked rock sourced from an especially rocky hillside property in Spearfish Canyon, the gravel pit in Beulah, and from right here on the farm (from the frost-free pipe trench we dug earlier this summer).  The chickens will be cooped in the western end of the greenhouse, their pop-doors built into the stone wall. Pretty elegant set up. If we time things well with the weather, we may get straw bales and cob up this next week.

We were able to get most of the garlic in before the snow this week. We’ve saved seed from the three varieties we grew this year; Persian Star, Korean Purple and Music. And we’ve added Chesnok Red and Spanish Roja. We’ll get the rest in the ground here shortly. We have to.

The birds have started laying. Under the spruce trees. They have free range during the day and until the walls are up on the greenhouse/coop, they are over-nighting in the tractors. There are nesting boxes in the tractor, but they clearly prefer to snuggle down under the trees and send us out for a daily egg hunt.

..and a photo of the Dakota Black Popcorn. Wow.

And now with the snow and short days, wintertime reading has begun. A little bit. Tom is sailing through any and all Ivan Doig available at the Spearfish Public Library. I’m in the middle of Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy – in which he references this article from Orion about Mayapedal. Smart farmers use bicycles. And Jeremy finally has time to catch up on a stack of mail that’s been accumulating all summer. Radish is working on crossword puzzles.

The most beautiful bicycle in the whole wide world.


Our good friend Tom came to visit last week. He brought us happy tidings from Oregon, including Jeremy’s bicycle. The most beautiful bicycle in the whole wide world. It didn’t take long to get Radish on board. Farm dog turned parade princess. She totally digs it. The bicycle is a bakfiet-style cargo bike, designed to carry heavy loads efficiently. Jeremy built it.

We’ve been doing a lot of moving hops these days. As it turns out, the field behind the house is the largest hop field in South Dakota. Shouldn’t be a problem, except that we want to grow vegetables. So we’ve been shuffling hops around, out of their rows in the field and towards the edge – where we’ll set up a dual-purpose, hop trellis/deer fence. We’re so grateful to have had fantastic help in digging – thank you, friends.

Here are some miscellaneous feel-good images from around Cycle Farm. I’ll explain. First: we’ve been working on getting more work space and storage in the kitchen and just last week we finished a section of counter and shelving. The counter is a stunning 3″ slab of white pine. We pulled out the lindseed oil again for this, the smell immediately making us both desperately homesick for the Bain’s in Glorieta. Second: most everything is germinating safe and sound in trays inside, but there are a few little things going in the ground outside. Arugula, beets, spinach, peas, and fava beans. These are spending most of their time tucked under thick, insulative, white farm blankies. Third: there are several fruit trees on the property, pears, apples, an apricot. We’ve never pruned fruit trees before, but we studied up and climbed in. Overheard someone at the brewery suggest pruning trees such that you could throw a cat through the branches. (That’s the sort of instruction I can understand.) Borrowed an extendable tree pruner with a draw string; high tech gadgetry, very Spaceman Spiff. And in the weeks since we’ve got them all pruned up, they’ve opened up in blossoms. Fourth: Randi got these here muck boots for me, for my birthday. I love them, so smart. I like to wear them, muck around. And then talk about them, when I’m not wearing them, post photos on the interwebs.

And here are a few more photos from around the farm, pretty pretty.

The Dog Bitter

Number One farm dog met a chicken last week. Our neighbor’s chicken. A gorgeous and girthy red layer, who unfortunately found her way out of the run.

Our good dog had never met a chicken before. We weren’t totally sure how she would find them.. I confess, in the back of my mind I had sun-kissed visions of the dog and a happy flock living merrily together. Radish would naturally take pride in herding the girls and protecting them from any sort of danger. And the birds would respect Radish as their loyal guardian and keeper, and as such they would stay where they belong and not make a mess of our vegetables. That’s not at all how it happened.

The bird never even had a chance. Jeremy and I gushed apologies, completely mortified. The owner was gracious and forgiving, suggesting that she was an old hen, not a very good layer. Yea, right. Her name was probably Blue Ribbon Layer or Holly’s Prize. We assured him we would replace her with a vigorous layer in the spring. Apologizing again, we -all three- tucked our tails and went home.

So our darling dog is a masked chicken killer. Feeling like horrible neighbors and poor dog owners, we took a walk down to the brewery to digest what had just happened. Crow Peak was having a tasting and naming of their new Special Bitter. It’s an excellent beer, and there were some great bitter-themed names suggested. A favorite was Valley Annex Bitter. Jeremy and I told the story of our afternoon, our bad dog, ..and the chicken. Our name suggestion was The Dog Bitter, as that’s what happened to her. She got bit.

Last night, in memory of Holly’s Prize, we had a Dog Bitter. And it was delicious. Thanks Crow Peak. It may not set things right, but it sure does make for a happy(ier) ending.

a session beer with a bite

Welcome home

Our first few days on the farm have been full of unpacking, pouring through seed catalogs,  setting up the office, baking, and spending time with the Smiths. Radish’s first few days have been full of chasing deer, watching squirrels, pretty sunsets and building confidence on polished wood floors.

We’re getting more comfortable with the house and land – plans are becoming more tangible. Hearing enthusiasm and support for the farm from folks and friends around town  has been a boost as well.

The kitchen has been inaugurated with bread, cookies, beans and champagne. It sports a mess quite well. We’re looking forward to putting in more counter space, to further increase our mess potential. The doorway to the basement has been inaugurated by Jeremy’s head SMACK into it, a couple times, always followed by particularly flowery language. We haven’t quite figured out how to remedy that, neither the smacking nor the language.  It’s certainly becoming home.

Lots of boxes and more Radish

It’s all packed. Everything. In boxes. Ready to move up to the farm. Little brother Nick is helping us with a pickup, as the Saturn just won’t quite hold the whetstone AND all our garbage. We’ll be in Spearfish next week – aiming for the eleventh. It’s almost as though Jeremy consulted his astrologist on this. Or could have been the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

So biding our time, we’re finishing up the last few days here: I’m at the office, Jeremy is drinking lots of coffee and reading lots of books, late nights talking about ordering seeds/crop rotation/planting schedules/budgets. Maybe we’re cramming. Yes. We are cramming. All this happy excitement is frosted with a thick sort of melancholy. Saying goodbye to all our lovely New Mexico family and friends. It’s pretty much the pits. Except that we’re bringing New Mexico’s finest mutt with us. And bags full of beans.

More about the dog. We’ve been teaching her how to thin carrots.

Hope all is well for 2012!


Radish, sweet dog

Please join us in welcoming Radish. Number one sweet dog. From Bridging the Worlds Animal Sanctuary in New Mexico, she was quickly identified as a prime South Dakota farm dog by her fosterfriend and our goodfriend, Mollie.

Radish is quick to learn. Mollie and Trish are working on the basics. Come. Sit. Down. Don’t eat the cat.

Jeremy will work on the more advanced skills. Fetch. Pick a hand. Tea cup on nose balance. Help harvest.

She’s a fantastic pup.