October 2016 has been crazy....I think we've had more rain this month than we had all the previous months. Just like Game of Thrones....I hear....Winter is Coming...and it's going to be a long one. Most the tasks I saved for October will have to wait till spring sun now. I had visions of spraying out more of the blackberries and burning and.....well, that long list of things to do. Instead I hand hack the darn blackberries when I have time...and I look at the poison hemlock sprouting with the warm rain, all the while making a plan B. I'll hand pull the bigger plants and then spray the heck out of the blankets that are trying to grow. I wonder how many years I'll have to be vigilant to get that stuff gone?
I treated my bees for mites mid August. I felt like I was behind schedule...the bee keepers in the know say we are a whole month ahead of schedule. I was a few days late pulling my treatment because of the darn yellow jackets! I talked a friend into coming out and lifting the honey/bee filled boxes so I could quickly get in and get it done. This is the first time I've been in my bees since mid August and I was so surprised and happy. My one smaller hive, that I split from my big honey producing hive, looks awesome! My big hive that I bought in as a NUC looks amazing.....it has two deep boxes and a honey super that I contemplated pulling. But there were 4 frames of honey all capped and ready for winter bee meals...so I left it. Then there was my Honey Sign hive.....the big established top bar hive a friend gave me. That hive swarmed, then I moved them into their new tidy boxes. Somehow they got into a pesticide and mid July I was down to three frames (maybe). They are my meanest bees....very aggressive during the August dearth....and they tried to rob honey from my other hives. As far as being a new bee keeper is concerned....there has not been much I've loved about these bees.....until now. Going from three small frames of bees in late June.....to boxes of thick capped honey comb...well, these girls are amazing!
I also got excepted into the Oregon State bee mentorship program. I am so looking forward to learning more so I don't always feel like I am chasing my tail!
Then, of course, there is the dog work! My bottom field is coming together nicely. The people who lease it for grass seed are about the nicest people I know. They let me work my dogs and graze the sheep but also don't mind my plans for improvement. I think I have gotten all the blackberry sprayed out of the filed...and they disced my corner 8 acres, smooth enough that I hope to be able to work dogs down there in the spring after I get called off the main field. I planted clover knowing the sheep will love that as well as the bees....now my fingers are crossed that it does not all wash away.
Life continues in the order Mother Nature rules. I think the challenge is finding some order in the chaos of rain, yellow jackets, pink eye, hemlock and all the things that get that are thorn at me. Every day I learn something new and interesting. I had a sheep die a few days back and I drug her down to the bone pile under the big tree at the furthest end of my field. I put up a game camera but have not seen anything....last night the coyotes were singing and backing down there....time to get the camera back up and sneak a peak. Fall and weather means I'm seeing tracks in the barn....perhaps a raccoon or skunk is planning on winter in there. And big buck tracks in the front. The game camera is going to be busy capture all I miss in the darkness of night.
I walked into the local knit shop, pants covered in blood and birthing fluid, hair in a messy pony tail, shirt smelling of all things lambing. I wanted to slink in, grab the cream wool I needed to continue my hat knitting, and run back out to the car unnoticed. I wondered in the back of my head if I would receive any help....I looked like a homeless bag lady and smelled much worse! The lady behind the cash register seemed not to notice....wait, she must have because she asked me what I had been up to that day. I told her I was helping a friend lamb and to please forgive my appearance...next time I would come in properly dressed and coiffured...well, okay, at least tidy and smelling clean! Of course, lambing led to my own sheep and wool and spinning and yarn and....a field trip to Rocking Dog Ranch.
The lady behind the counter turned out to be Marie Greene, a knitwear designer here in the Pacific Northwest and owner of Olive Knits. She has been knitting since she was a little girl.....and her designs are amazing! I think we might be soul sisters really.....her heart belongs on a farm. She did indeed come out for a visit and took the tour of this amazing place I call home. When she saw my little apiary, she told me she's always wanted to work with bees. That comment led to her coming to help harvest honey....and a friendship that was starting with the love of land and wool was sealed in propolis and beeswax. She's stuck with me now.
Today, I received a little Truthbomb...it said, "Gratitude attracts more reasons to be grateful." Isn't that the truth? I'm aways a little amazed at how new friends come into my life when I least expect them. To be honest, the decrease in my trialing has left me a little lonely. Being home more means I am not spending as much time with my trialing friends and, of course, they continue to travel and experience the trial life on the road. My good friends take me along vicariously through stories shared, runs watched, dogs, sheep and views.....thank God for cell phones, texting and Facebook messenger! This summer has been filled with the challenge of this new life.......THIS is what I have been dreaming of for years! Then BAM...in the moments of loneliness....I find new soul sister friends who grab hold of my dream, showing me with new eyes how freaking amazing that dream is! The journey becomes a little sweeter.
Now fall officially here.....bringing with it a sense of digging deep to get all the "things" done before winter arrives. The Farmer's Almanac says it is going to be a doozie of a winter......and perhaps arriving a little early. I've got farming happening in the bottom pasture; the corner 8 acres that were let go to wetness have been tilled and I'm putting clover in as soon as I know what the tractor man is doing with that disc he left behind. A big huge land improvement plan is in place and now I wait on my farmer friends. The whole land affair seems a little chaotic from the outside...but for me, it brings such a sense of....I don't know exactly how to explain it.....I just know this place is amazing and it is going to be so beautiful as I soldier on.
Relationships take time....friends, lovers, grandchildren, dogs. In my heart, I've known this...although there were times when I did not listen; times where I jumped into a relationship without going through the steps of developing and learning and listening...all those tiny steps that make for strength, deepness and trusting. I'm challenging myself to take time.....all the time it needs to nurture all that I am longing for in life.
I'm working a new-to-me little dog that has been here for three weeks. She is all trained up and shiny in the right hands. But for me, I have my own way of doing things; my own way of communicating......and she does not understand me, at least not at this point. In three weeks, we have done a lot.....real work pushing to sort lambs for shipping, small field work to develop understanding and trust, and a little big field work. Most days, in the familiar, she is coming along with me.
That old phrase "it takes a year to partner up with a dog" is such a great reminder when things go...well, really wrong! At a recent trial, I thought perhaps...with all our "coming along" I could exhaust a little with her. And with that....pretty much everything that could go wrong on an exhaust did.....well, we did not run sheep into the fence but we did everything else really wrong. It was a good day for me to practice all the things a good developing relationship needs to continue to be deeper and filled with trust and understanding. I went and helped her.......immediately..... I got what I could while whisking the sheep off the field..... then, we stopped.
This relationship needs more time! We need to chat on the phone a little, go to lunch, laugh, share experiences, watch a few movies.....all the little things that happen as a friendship begins. I can't expect her to go from "not knowing me" to " best friend" without the time and miles. This dog brings such perspective and I'm grateful for the reminder!!
I'm working on three things...all of which I wrote on my hand at the recent trial. I wrote it in ink on the back side of my hand so when I looked down I would see the words and remember:
Bella loves it when I run with those three qualities. Our relationship has the time behind it, plus the miles...and when I am really calm, and very quiet, and honestly fair....she shines. I stumbled a few times while I ran her this weekend...but, with my eyes wide open....she told me when I was off. For me, that is exactly how relationships, the good ones anyway, work. The give and take in communication, the adjustments made based on the feedback, that miraculous dance that occurs when the partnership is in sync.....yep, this is why I go back for more.
In talking with a friend about all the above, I came to the conclusion, yet again....changing myself, growing myself, developing myself is my highest calling. I mean really, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right? I love it when my dogs give me their all......I owe it to them to keep to my task of giving them my all right back...calm, quiet, and fair. And when "it" goes to crap...because there will be days it will.....the relationship will be the calm in the storm.....if the time was invested.
I journal....no surprise that I write out all my inner most over thinking. Writing helps me sort me.....and I do go back and read what I have written. They say the definition to insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result....so I read myself to see what insanity I have going on. I could do a secret true confession here and tell you I am addicted to sugar.....yep. But really my epiphany from reading myself is...I am addicted to STRIVING.
I wondered if my addiction is unique to me...or if it is a human nature issue....that striving for more/better/change; cleaner flanks, bigger outruns, more sheep.......the list goes on and on for the things I fall into striving for. Perhaps I strive to keep myself from falling into "settling" which is a huge fear of mine. Not giving my all and falling short to then feel the disappointment and excuse turning into "well that was the best I could do" knowing that I gave only half a heart.
If one edge of the knife is "settling" is the other "always striving?" The idea really smacked me after I ran my half marathon last year......it took me a good year to train and fundraise. The whole trip was magical and the run itself was a dream come true experience. But after the race......there was this huge hole in me......I'd achieved my goal and then....now what? A faster half marathon, a longer race, a race in Europe...all the possibilities and yet that feeling of "that was it?"
Having a bit of a critical nature, being a bit of a perfectionist...well those two traits really hold hands to create a purpose of never ending striving. I look around and see that striving might be a human "issue" really. All those striving for more...better dogs, bigger land, thinner bodies, more money. Of course when you mix in some comparison with the striving...well, holy hell, Batman!
I'm off to a sheepdog trail this coming weekend.......I've trained a bit and worked a lot more. We shipped lambs on Thursday and Sis got some hard pen work mixed with learning to work with me on a quad. I love the days of work.....with or without the dogs. I'll head to the trial; the little test to see what I have in my relationships with my girls...how far I've come with the work in me and my fairness and partnership. And somehow, I hope to find the tip of my knife; that little place between 'settling' and 'striving'......that place where I know....life is good!
I just opened an email....the tag line was "Beat Stress". It was a woo woo advert for a meditation program that touts, "Imagine achieving instant results -- LESS STRESS, more happiness, greater focus, improved creativity...immediately." WOW!!! IMMEDIATE results...all without effort. As I read the ad...I thought "damn, too bad it wasn't weight removal!". Right? I thought about that ad all day long today....so much of what is wrong in me has to do with wanting results RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE! Those 10+ pounds....I put on over months...yep I sure would like them gone NOW! The zen of meditation that takes a life time to attain....sure would love that in less than 12 minutes a day with a miraculous audio program. Or how about a "trained to open dog".....yes sirree...that can be done in a month. What if.....bear with me on this one....what if I took the time to enjoy the journey. What if, I enjoy the food I eat and the runs of the day.....and instead of wanting anything other than what I have this very moment....I just am! What if I take my time and allow my dog the privilege of sorting her outrun by providing opportunities to have big field gathers as well as set sheep for her. What if I take my time and enjoy her unfolding...knowing that any step of the way, I can be there to help her and teach her; trusting myself to know when to do just that. What if i don't make a big deal out of what happened yesterday....knowing today is a new day and it will never be yesterday again! What if, I took time to mediate instead of the time on social media? Perhaps....just perhaps....I can embrace what is and allow what will be....taking the time to do so. And perhaps I will stop looking for short cuts or magic bullets! Yep, it's a good day to make extraordinary! Seize the day.
I spent the weekend at a sheepdog trial.....I've not trialed since late last fall. The past two years, my trialing has been sparse; with the BIG move, I wanted to be fair to my dogs. If I can't condition them and put some time into the working relationship, I'd rather not spin them out onto a field of lines and precision. Now here I am, full circle back to the beginning of my roots.....the trial that started it all for me......surprisingly, I'm not the same person I was ten years ago.
I keep thinking of my favorite movie quote...."Seize the day.....make your life extraordinary"; whispered by the lead actor, Robin Williams, as he points to a trophy cabinet filled with pictures of teams from the past.....reminding the young boys that all those men in the pictures were dead. It's the fate of all of us; the ending punctuation of our life book is death. Indeed the other truth is: we have the opportunity to make this day, the one we are living right this very moment, amazing. The quote reminds me...I choose....at the very least, and most, I chose my focus.
The Scio Trial 2016.......I really enjoyed my dogs. Sis showed the things we have worked on in understanding, all the while knowing, she needs time to become. I asked things of her she was not quite ready to give and yet she also showed understanding and partnership as she sorted all the "new" I threw at her. My job now is to be fair and cut the muscle memory in myself; that muscle that goes to a bit of yelling when any dog does not seem to listen to what I am trying to say. Bella ran and it was good to see that she is feeling pretty fit. I spayed her in January and took a tumor off her back leg. Our journey back to fitness has been a little sore. She is also a little chubby.....sigh....taking weight off a spayed dog requires some creativity and the help of a village.
I read a blog post the other day that presented the idea: much of disappointment, and perhaps even some depression, stems from "expectations." At the end, the article encouraged me to let go of my daily expectations. I've thought about this for the past few days.......
I've made my own equation from the idea.....expectation + perfectionism = _______________. I've lived this, having had a few people in my past life that were expectation + perfectionism + personal low self esteem = very critical negativity. You know the type...where nothing you do is ever good enough and there is always, always something wrong. Perhaps I brought that to my early dog interactions.....poor Snook, my sacrificial first dog. Digging a little deeper, perhaps I brought this to my college years, friendships, parenting and most certainly to my relationship with myself.
I've already, with intention and focus, begun to put to death my perfectionism. The new question is: how does one let go of "expectation," especially when a toe is dipped in the pool of a competitive based activity? First off, letting go of other people's expectations is paramount. It's not just the sheep dog world of critical comparison...it's everywhere. I'm dabbling in the world of bees and I have joined a few 'bee forums.' I've found the critical expectation there as well.....from what type of hive is maintained, to needing to wear a total and complete bee suit to be comfortable working with those tiny stinging pollinating creatures from Heaven. "I'm so badass, I tend my bees in my birthday suit...you SHOULD too." Um...not ever going to happen!!!
I've been working with myself on "being present" for the past few years. I've struggled with this.....but it's a worthy quest for me as I let go of expectations. Also letting go of, what Dr. Daniel Amen calls, ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts. I've already confessed I work my mind around to seeing the beauty of the land as I nurture it back around to fertile and healthy instead of focusing on how sick and uncared for it was when I began. As I run, I try to see and be a part of the run rather than allow my mind to make lists of things needing done or worse...get caught up in not really wanting to run! At the trail this past weekend, I found myself falling into the list of expectations of what I thought my dogs could do, should do, do better. It was only a momentary lapse into the expectation insanity.....I breathed out and sought to seize the day. I volunteered to exhaust and move sheep with Sis.....
I spent some quality time with people I have not seen for a long while.....and while we chatted, I really focused on being in the here and now; I learned more about them and their lives. I sat and watched dogs run....styles of handling, glimpses of understanding, creativity in partnerships. As I drove home, I knew the day had unfolded into extraordinary.
Letting go of expectations, working on being present, exterminating ANTs, directing focus, and along the way.....finding the magic....it's a noble quest and I'll keep to it.
A long time ago, in a world that feels far, far away, a friend from a past life told me...."do what makes you happy." This advice came on the tail end of a disappointing trial season.....the disappointment falling on myself and who I had become. I had sort of lost sight of how I trained, the importance of relationship, and the joy that comes when focus is "right". I've thought long and hard about those five words "do..what...makes...you...happy". What does make me want to get out of bed in the morning? What makes my heart beat?
When it comes to dogs, I love watching a dog sort and learn....two parts natural instinct mixed with one part input from me. I double love watching a dog sort out sheep in real working situations. The confidence that comes from shutting the gate on a task and knowing the work was done, together...and done well.
I love riding out on a cool morning, climbing hills, Bella running by my side looking out and knowing...there is a job to be done today.
Watching a dog sort out its first look at a mob of "old croppers", which by the way are older bigger lambs being sold for bigger weights, finding courage and understanding how to move the bolder of the mob....well, it always takes me breath away to see the dog unfold into being useful.
Working together, my dogs and me, to help take a mob of sheep to a new field......doing a job, making it easier, smoother, less stressful.....makes me so proud of all that my dogs are.
I know happiness can be so fleeting...I also know it can be a side effect of right focus. I think, more than being "happy" I am seeking those daily captured moments where relationships are nurtured, deepened, solidified......those moments come putting in the time while staying present and doing the work.