Sunday, March 26, 2017

On A Roll!

I have some pretty darn amazing friends in my life.....right now, they are all off seizing the day and allowing me to live vicariously through them.  I especially love the calls after a run....where they share their glories and disappointments and, together, we begin to sort out what might have happened.  I LOVE that mental chess game!  A common theme from the range ewe trials is that one ambitious ewe that appears to not want to flock and prefers to go off and do her own thing...testing the dog every step.  "How to handle this?" being a common question being asked after a run with a rogue appearing ewe.

I remember back a few years...gah more like 7, when I went to a clinic with Nell.  The clinician asked me what Nell had on her...and I said, "well, she knows everything."  What I meant was.....she knows her commands....come bye, away to me, lie down (although one would never know this), walk on and steady.  She absolutely knew those commands on dog broke sheep and, on said sheep, looked very shiny for the most part. With the patience of Job, this clinician stuck with me.....helping me to see that "knowing commands" and "knowing sheep" are two hugely separate skills for both me and my dog.  Thus began my lifelong endeavor to know sheep, to allow my dog to know sheep through feel and lack of me telling them what to do every step of the way, to begin to really appreciate and respect that natural instinct that lies in my dog's DNA when it comes to sheep.  Yes, the training of commands and the reciprocal allowing me to tell my dogs what to do is important.  However, for me...... the ahhhh producing feel and understanding a dog has of sheep that have rarely seen a any dog besides a predator is what makes this journey magical.

I've been pondering sheep a lot this winter....because, heck what else did I have to ponder?  Sheep, being a prey animal...and our dogs, being predators, brings a multitude of variable reactions to the field of sheep dogging and big gathers.  What makes that one ewe go on a recon mission?  Did she show any subtle signs she would be testing the dog?  Did the dog give any feedback that they might allow the sheep to do whatever she wanted?  I've been told about fight or flight.....and getting around the course is giving the sheep the option to flee the way we want them to in a walking fashion.  I've also witnessed runs where the most belligerent sheep, sheep that had beat the set out dog and ran back to the pen a few times before being set, were settled down and trained around the course by a respected handler.  I scratch my head and watch the video over and over and over.  How did the dog and handler settle those sheep?

The idea of "bossing sheep around" is probably said tongue in cheek......I know I have felt like I wanted to boss sheep around many times.  The idea of "I'll teach that ewe a lesson!" is so easy to fall into on a run going bad or when sheep do not want to go into the Pratley, cross the creek, or go through the footbath.  Pulling the excuse out of my back pocket..."that is just a bad ewe"....makes life simple and yet top handlers rarely get bad ewes!  How can that be?  Sure, every now and then they do...but for the most part, top handlers end up at the top of the result list for a few reasons.....and most of the handlers KNOW sheep.  I think back to that run in Virginia where Jack Knox drew up an recalcitrant ewe.  Though his run did not get him through to Saturday......watching him work the sheep around the course was a clinic all in itself.  I'm pretty sure he never had "we're going to boss these sheep around" in his mind ever.  Perhaps there were a few times where Jack's dog told that one ewe what to do..but it always ended with the sheep being allowed to go.  The run was all about pressure and the release of pressure....pressure corrects, the release of pressure trains.... together, Jack and his dog used this concept to get that packet of sheep around the course.

Studying sheep.....knowing what sheep are thinking before they actually think it.....understanding sheep behavior.......beginning to understand when to use pressure and when to allow escape......all the little fine details of just knowing sheep makes working sheep smoother.  I'm not there yet!   I sorted sheep with my sheep producing friend the other day.  I used my dog, some shedding, and a gate to sort a few I was selling.  I missed two so my friend sorted them out of the barn for me.  She just used her body and her eyes.  I seriously doubted her ability to get this done......wrong on my part!  It was an international shed, allowing sheep to leave, while knowing exactly what to watch for and keeping the two back to the end.  It didn't hurt that is still in her 20's!  I think I need to do more of that.....moving and working sheep without my dog so I can understand them better.

I have a lot of respect for sheep.....we wouldn't have these dogs if it weren't for the sheep. My  mentors have helped me learn that sheep are not stupid; like so many creatures, they do crazy things when they get scared.  I'm beginning to learn that it is a life long endeavor to understand sheep.  I love the never ending learning!  That and the dogs are what keep me out of the bars at night LOL!

Seize the Day




Friday, March 24, 2017

Finding Joy

Perhaps I should have named Josie Joy. She is the funniest puppy I have ever owned.  She loves to pounce on things....all things including, and especially, her brother and her mama. She has this rare ability to make a game out of everything.  Any found item becomes a toy.....wood chips, fern branches, old, dead toy remnants, tiny crawling bugs.  She's very bold and confident; she has no issues attempting to take chews from her mom or letting the big, black, barking lab know she is not to be messed with at her first nose work field trip.  She is also biddable, friendly, and takes corrections....for now anyway.

I really love Jon too.  Although he is playful, silly, and rambunctious, he has a more serious side.  He has some opinions and his own way of doing things.  His leash is NOT his favorite training tool.  He is very thoughtful and is very bonded to me....but he definitely marches to his own drum.  Since I've never raised a boy pup before, I wonder if it is that Y chromosome, his genetic make up, my raising of him or a combination of all the above.  He forces me to think outside the box.

The puppies are headed to Puppy Class starting next Monday. I am so excited!  A good friend is going along to handle one pup while I work the other.  Leash walking is top of the list of things I want them to love....that and riding in the car!  I'm starting to drag them along with me to nose work class as well.  With two, I have to discipline myself to work on all the puppy things that are important to me: leash walking, riding in the car, waiting patiently in their crates, sleeping in crates, coming when called and perhaps not trying to cut me off at the pass when I am walking!

I've retired Nell from sheepdog trialing and have career changed her into nose work.  Nose work is like search and rescue to some degree....only thing is, we are rescuing "odor" in the form of anise, birch and clove.  I started into nose work with Dottie Jean.....I had spent so much time on sheep with Dot....attempting to sort her tension.  On the one hand, she was a natural. But on the other hand....the tension laid just under her skin and I'm not sure she found joy in her work.  Together, we started nose work and she really blossomed.....she loved Tuesdays and even attended a few mock trials.  Dot has since gone on to live with my good friend up in Washington and loves her life...filled with hikes and dog parks and people. She has a new best friend and is loving life....and I could not be more happy for her and my friend.  After she left, I started Nell on nose work and just love to see Nell sort and figure out things....and shine.  My little sheepdog, the one who took me to the finals and ran on Saturday......loves sniffing for things.  She surprises me everyday with her ability to overcome......nose work class meets at crazy places like Lowes and dog training facilities....places Nell has never gone into.  She does not care about the people, or the other dogs....she just loves searching for scents with me!

Here in the Pacific North West, we are having the wettest winter (in the history of the world according to me!) and the daily rain that started October 1 is relentlessly holding on. The weather man predicted it will last well into April.....at least turning into showers and not steady, mud producing, faucet impersonating rain.  It's warming up and things are growing which is nice but frustrating as I see the hemlock growing unhindered by the spray I am longing to drench it in.....I can't because of the rain.  The bees are eating me out of house and home...one hive is consuming a gallon of sugar water daily.  Because they can't get out to collect pollen and nectar, I am feeding. My bee class says March is ofter the month of hive death because the bees have eaten their winter store and starve not being able to fly in the rain.  Not if I can help it!  Finally something I can feed the heck out of and not worry they will get fat!

As I wait, not very freaking patiently now, for some sun....these are the things that bring me joy.  I know sunshine is just around the corner.....in the mean time, I'll get ready to hit the road running.  Literally!!!  Running is top of the list of things I have missed this long, crazy winter.

Seize the Day!!!!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Season For All Things

Sigh...I look over to the right of my blog and see my blog list.....is it time to let go and clean it up? Sheepdog blogs are definitely a thing of the past.....sadly, some of the bloggers have passed on.  I still go back and read Vet On The Edge...her writing brought so much normal, mixed with serious humor, to my life!

This year, I've written my list of things to do...and decluttering is top of that list.  I've promised myself to declutter yearly....keep to the clutter less (or less clutter) ways of downsizing and moving.  Funny how things stack up...bee supplies, books, dog gear, clothes......oh and yarn, gah.  Perhaps decluttering the blog would be a good clearing as well.

Today we have SUN!!!!  I want to take off all my clothes and run naked through the muddy wet field...okay, not really! But I am tackling a few things....1) planting my bare root Honey Crisp apple trees!!!!!!  2) planting my blueberry bushes!!!!!!  And 3) getting into my bees!!!!  Because, guess what?  Rain is a coming!

I am doing a bee mentorship program with Oregon State University.  My bee mentor is coming out today to help me sort my hives.  I've been voraciously readying the bee book required.....out of three hives I attempted to winter over....I've got two that are very busy on warm, sunny days.  The third....I'm not sure they made it.  I'm looking forward to getting into that hive ands seeing what is up.  If it is not strong, I'll mix it with a split from a strong hive later this spring.  I'm thinking both big hives will require early splits before the blackberry nectar flows......hoping to keep swarming at bay this year.  And then that is it for me....four hives is my maximum!  I'm enjoying the bees...but they are labor intense if they are to be done correct.  A person has to get into the hives every 16 days while the hives are growing to keep swarming away.  And even after all that....there is the honey harvest...and then the August dearth....where the bees have no food source and the yellow jackets get MEAN.  I am trying to plant ahead this year for August food for my bees.....I'm doing a bunch of sunflowers and a few other plants that bloom in August.

I planted 5 acres of my bottom 40  in clover last fall.  Thanks to the folks who lease my property...they tilled it to the point of being able to plant!  The bees are going to LOVE the clover...and if I can keep it grazed....clover should bloom will into the fall.  Clover honey is delish....I'm thinking my honey will taste very different this year!

The puppies are growing, recalls are good for now, of course they know their names.  They are sleeping in crates at night...we are in bed by 9 and up by 6 with no middle of the night potty breaks.  A friend has volunteered to help me take them to puppy class....so we can get them leash trained and comfortable traveling and being in new places while meeting new dogs.  Secretly, I look forward to sticking them on sheep...and some days the draw is hard to resist!  But they are young....12 weeks yesterday....there is time to take and things to learn before they head to the round pen.  I think back to the quote by Virgil Holland....."I've seen more dogs ruined by starting them too early, than staring them too late."  So I will die to my curiosity......although when they see the sheep heading down to the bottom pasture to graze, and they pull up and watch....it makes my heart sing!

Seize the day!!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

And Then There Were Three

The puppies have been trickling out since last Saturday.  With serious evaluation, I felt a few puppies might be ready to fly the coop at 7 weeks, so I offered this up to their potential owners. After a long visit, everyone agreed and Nymeria (now Kestrel) and BenJen (now Ryhs) left.  Oh My GOSH!!!!  Going from 9 puppies to 7 puppies was Heaven and Hell all in one!  I missed them so much....but the energy level drop was amazing.  It was square rooted power.......7 hellions just did not create the chaos 9 could!  The next day, Jamie (now Kash) went to his home living on a working sheep ranch.  He not only has hundreds of sheep in his future, he has grandchildren to play with.  His love of children made me proud of all the socialization work "we" did as well as the nice, sound genetic foundation that was planned.

Yes, the puppies trickled out...and now, 8 weeks later, I've got three left.....the two I am keeping and the runt puppy. Arya (now Bess) was the runt and was born a little premature.  She looks great now but I felt she could use a little more time...so she will stay another week. I'll get her through her next fear period and then she will go to her new home......another working sheep ranch owned by my good friend.

Now I work on adjusting back to "normal".  Although what is normal when keeping two puppies was the decision made....and one is a boy pup at that!!!  I was going to send the boy off to be raised by a friend.....but so much of this journey has been "punt" and things changed...so Jon Snow (yes he keeping his litter name!) is staying.  The art of letting go and trusting flow continues......I wonder what lessons I am to learn in what lies ahead.

I have closed my Facebook account....I'm not sure if it is for a while or forever but it was time for me to take a break.  I was listening to a pod cast where the topic was "more social, less media" and all that Facebook has represented for the past 4 months made me think it was time for a break.  On the one hand, I'm so sorry to be missing out on the puppies going home and what the owners are sharing. On the other hand....all are texting me and I feel blessed to be a part of each of their lives.  I can't believe the fabulous homes that each puppy picked!  I'm also looking at all the time I spent on Facebook......time I am now hoping to spend on relationships, dog training and the list of heart projects for spring.   I'm still on Instagram....pictures make me so happy and it feels like people share more "good thoughts" there!  If anyone "needs" me....which really makes me laugh because I feel sheep dog blogs are really a thing of the past......I still have messenger.

There is a bit of a heavy heart here as I close this chapter of my life.  I've learned over the years to Never say Never, but I am pretty darn certain I won't be having a litter of puppies again.  For me, personally, I feel so much responsibility in providing all the socialization and experiences that young puppies need to leave my home with resilience to stress.  The feed back from all the puppy owners makes me very proud that this litter was all that and more.  But 9 puppies was a lot.....and then the issues with Sis...it was a good way to know it's time to pass that baton to the younger generation!  And with that, I grieve a little.

My thoughts as I head off into the next chapter of "raise two puppies in the same household" is an idea that Patrick Shannahan gave me years ago.  He told me, "teach puppies to learn......that is your task!"  Tied with learning to learn, I am searching for ways to create independent thinkers.......my definition of which is exploring and self rewarding without me being the que or the reward giver (at least not every time).  In addition, I've got name recognition, recall, leash walking, manners, bonding, car riding....ALL THE THINGS!!!  :)

The journey continues......as always I'm reminded of my moto......

Seize the Day!!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Life

In November, I fantasizes about blogging every few days.......documenting the birth and growing up of my Sis litter.  I've actually spent the past year planning this event.  Thinking of the qualities I love about Sis and how I would want to improve her.  Looking at males....how they work, what might compliment Sis, and what potential males have produced in their offspring.  I did all the genetic testing I knew I needed on both Sis and her potential husband and I had a peek at Sis' hips.  In October, the male of choice, Rob, came to me and spent a few weeks at Camp Rocking Dog......knitting and watching Game of Thrones with me...I think he enjoyed his spa stay.  With a bit of encouragement, I got Sis bred...and off Rob went...back to the Wyoming Ranch where he is the get-er-done dog.

I x-rayed Sis to see how many puppies I would be looking for when the big D day arrived.....looked like 7-8....nice sized litter really.....and so the wait began.  As the bets were placed, I picked Christmas Eve and so it was, 12:15 on Christmas eve morning, Sis and I began the process of puppy birthing.  I had a camera in the room and my friend, Monique, stayed up with me to coach me in all things puppies....thankfully.  My friend, Emily came to help but Sis would have none of it...Emily slept on the couch and provided moral support with a side of cheering when that fourth girl was born. At the end of the birth, Sis and I had 9 puppies.....one tiny runt of a pup that I was hoping we could save...and 5 really big pups.....4 girls and 5 boys.  I spent Christmas Eve with Sis and her new little family.




This is where my story goes South.....shortly after all was said and done Sis began to dig, pant and go off food.  I took her in to x-ray her again, checking to see if perhaps I had left a pup behind.  By the time the 9th pup was being born, Sis was out of gas and I had to help.  My vet felt this was normal post birth behavior so we went home and soldiered on.  A few days later, we ended up at the emergency vet and Sis had eclampsia.  She was spending everything she had on feeding that litter to the expense of her calcium.  It took a transfer to Oregon State University and many visits to find the real culprit which was low magnesium.  Once they got her magnesium within normal range, she could utilize her calcium and it was smoother sailing.  With the help of many friends, a team of doctors at OSU, and a bunch of me.....Sis has raised all 9 of her puppies and they look fantastic.  There is a reproduction group on Facebook that was pretty amazing in knowledge, advice and support.

The pups are all on solid food now; I started weaning them early to help take the pressure off Sis.  Today, after a quick top off at the milk bar, Sis gets a shirt on and the playing begins!  She is such a sweet mom and I love how she loves her puppies.  After such a rough start and all that Sis went through....she is finally having some fun with them....all 9!

Amidst all that.....I did not blog.  Thankfully friends took pictures and little videos as there are places that are a little fuzzy for me!  The pups will be six weeks on Saturday......two more weeks and they begin their journeys to their new homes.  They look great and are so social......I'm pretty proud of this litter....and it took a village to get here!  I've decided to keep two puppies.....

Josephine Florence 
Jon Snow
This is life.....all the amazing-ness of life!  I know that sometimes things just happen...and then I get to dig deep and find out what I am made of.  My friends and family really surrounded me with so much support and that made all the nights doable.

Perhaps now the blog can be amazing updates of puppy cuteness......

Time to seize this day!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Good Stuff


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.

Yep, all this is the GOOD stuff.

Seize the day!


Friday, September 23, 2016

Seasons and Friends

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.

She blogged about her visit here......Olive Knits: This is Not Yarn

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.

Seasons and friends.....I'm embracing both!!!

Seize the Day