Monday, February 28, 2011

Life lessons on the farm

"Is she your pet?"

"No, sir, I do not have any pet sheep."

"Is she valuable?"

"Well, the price of sheep is high...but she is not a show sheep, nor is she registered.  Her value is in her production and the training she brings to the dogs."

Every time I am faced with the decision of life vs. death....I always feel a little awe.  The power I have in a few words and more dollars.  When life is spent to feed folks, I am proud of my way here on the farm.  Birth through to the day of processing, my sheep are healthy, hormone free, and pass with as little stress as possible making for top quality fabulous tasting lamb.  However, when my order takes breath when no sense can be had from the matter...I am left with feelings of complete and utter inadequacy.  Missing the early signs, an ear droop; mistaking distance from the flock as pre-labor; buying hay when prices were low to feed a year later.  Today, I am down one ewe....almost full term yet a decision of mercy.  Sad I could do no more for three lives.  Knowing I am called to be a shepherd and that my money, even in the robust of times, is to better the whole and not the one. I now await the necropsy.

The skies reflect my mood.....and the fields, my tears.


They might be just sheep but I am their shepherd.  Lessons learned through the school of hard knocks are as valuable as painful.  I think I need a good birth to bring perspective. 

Seize the day.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Moving out....moving on.

The weather here in the valley has been frigid!  In an effort to keep stress to the new lambs a minimum...I divided the barn and had all the ewes and lambs in one part of the barn in addition to all the pregnant yet to lamb ewes in a different section.  The barn was tight, filled to the brim.  At the suggestion of a friend...I hung Christmas lights around the lambing areas so the sheep could see each other and their lambs.  Also I wanted to keep the night check disruptions to a minimum.  Somehow the sheep think they should be fed every time they see my face.  With snow and black ice road conditions, I moved out to the RV at the ranch. All in all it was a little stressful. Keeping the RV warm when outside temperatures dipped below 17 was challenging.  Kind of silly, but the atmosphere the Christmas lights gave to the barn made me smile every time I checked for lambs at night.

Now the temps are back to the high 40's so it was time to kick those frisky babies out of the barn to give room to the grumpy gravid ewes. Yesterday, I introduced the lambs to their new digs....I was not surprised....they loved the big area!


Today, they are officially kicked out of the barn hotel and into their permanent home. They have not really appreciated the benefits of the creep feeder just yet.  They love the hay bales I put out for wind blocks....let the king of the mountain games begin.


For my friends and followers....no, the big wide super huge ewe has not gone yet!  She was lapped by a kathdin ewe who lambed out twin ewes last night.  I just love katahdins...they lamb, clean them, feed them and away they go!  They are so hardy.  Plus no tail docking makes it easier on my tender heart who hates the whole process of banding lambs.




Tiny Dancer is doing fabulous!  I'll wait to turn her out until she is bigger than the katahdin lambs being born. I do need to pierce her ear.


Today, there are a couple of ewes looking like they will be moving into the labor and delivery rooms soon!  I feel so much better having the lambs and their moms turned out and room for the pregnant ewes to have personal space.  Now if that big woolly girl would go I would be eternally grateful!

Seize the Day!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Holiday: This One's For YOU!

First born lamb....looks more like a well-fed toddler!


Know how to tell the boys from the girls at Rocking Dog Ranch?  Boy's sport their ear tags on the right.....girl's on the left.  That is my G rated version of telling them apart.



My favorite girl lamb...shhh, don't tell the others!


Coyote Girl's ewe lamb

I mentioned in a post that I had to pull both of Coyote Girl's lambs.  I'm pretty sure I talked to CG the whole time I pulled and helped clean her babies up.  Okay, I'm chatty at times.  All that to be said, I do believe these lambs imprinted with me....so now when I come into the lamb area, they will come right up to me and let me catch them. They are so stinking cute, I always snatch them up....giving them hugs and kisses.  Wonder how long it will last?



The sheep I held back for dog work came running to get their viddles today.  As I look outside now, the snow is melting away.  Tomorrow is supposed to be in the teens overnight....then those cute lambs get kicked out into their new digs on Saturday. 

Now it is time to get some home chores done....washing and cooking and maybe a visit with the vacuum.

Seize the Day!

Finding Delight

The weatherman has been predicting a visit from winter here in the valley....making a last ditch appearance...right as my lambs are due.  Yesterday, I spent the day rearranging the barn to accommodate 25 ewes and a small ever-growing herd of frisky baby lambs.  Boy oh boy...do sheep hate change!  Well, at least the woolly girls did...the katahdins were so very thankful, moved right in and made themselves at home!  I moved out to the RV and will stay there until the cold snap is over.  It was so nice last night to get up, check the ewes, and be back in bed in less than 5 minutes.  I am so grateful to my electrician friend who came out and set me up with an RV plug-in.


Today, we have snow!  Not much, but I am a valley girl, like, ya know, and I do NOT heart snow!  However, my girls do!  Gyp met snow at the New Year's Day sheepdog trial...today, she was in puppy heaven.  Running, playing, even getting grumpy Snook into a "chase the puppy" game. 


I'm fighting off a bought of severe grumpiness.....in finding delight in the day, here is what I am thankful for: a barn where the sheep can come in, an RV with comfy beds, an spanking new plug in for that RV, and dogs that laugh in the snow!

Bella

Nell striking a pose
Join with me in thinking birthing thoughts for that big truck sized ewe today.......she is over-due and needs to go!

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tiny Dancer

Saturday, one of my Coop ewes gave birth to two of the tiniest lambs I have seen.  Both weighed in about 5 pounds each.  I'm not exactly sure what happened....my sheep friends think that maybe the ewe had triplets and was reabsorbing one.  Needless to say, I feel a bit inadequate.  The smallest of the two was not thrifty so she went to live with another friend.  The lamb that stayed is now called Dancer....I'm singing Elton John to her.  She is sporting a sweater sleeve cut just to her size.  She is feisty....time will tell.


Today, my other coop ewe lambed.  Earlier in January, she ended up with a broken jaw and I almost lost her.  It took me some time and help from my shearer to figure out what was wrong.  First I thought she had bottle jaw from the edema under her chin.  She lived off the protein block I had in the barn as she could not chew.  Once the broken jaw was proclaimed....I attacked with vigor...as my good friend Shannon said.....just get her through to lambing.  Grain, soybean meal, alfalfa, molasses....all in a pen just for her and my other coop ewe...twice a day all you can eat Rocking Dog Ranch buffet.  The work paid off with twins...the girl weighing in at 9 pounds and the boy a good 8 pounds!


They hit the ground ready to rumble and are already starting a good sibling rivalry.

                              

Soon enough they will figure out that one on each side works better!

It is supposed to snow here tomorrow and into the weekend.  They are saying 2-6 inches on the valley floor.  I'm scrambling trying to sort out how to handle the hair sheep that should begin lambing tomorrow.  I'm hoping that this time the weatherman is wrong.


Gyp thinks that maybe lambing should get over with already...she is tired of not working sheep! At 1/3 done...I'm ready to agree with Gyp.  A full night's sleep sounds refreshing right about now!

Seize the Day!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coyote Girl

Just about three years ago, I went down to Geri's for a day of doggin'. When I got there, Geri told me her flock of sheep had come in from their walk about graze and she was missing a lamb.  A few hours later, we looked out and saw the most pitiful sight....the missing lamb was attempting to come home.  Somehow, she had survived a terrible coyote attack....left ear hanging, bite marks in a few places, and most radical....huge deep gashes on both sides between her stomach and her flank all the way up to her spine.  A small 2 inch flap of skin could be lifted to see her spinal cord.  Besides the ear flop, she was dragging a back leg.  Geri asked me to take her home, the range grazing life her sheep lived would not allow for the lamb to live long.  Having already had a few really bad experiences with free sheep....I almost said no.  However, my heart got in the way and I had an empty dog crate....what the heck. 

That is how Coyote Girl came to live with me.  With the help of a vet friend and a local goat milk producer, I nurtured the lamb who was about three weeks old.  She lived with the flock and I hand fed her 4 times a day.  With a lot of care she eventually started healing, the ear would droop only occasionally, and her back leg limp became less over time. Believe it or not, she ended up being a really great puppy starting sheep...calm and good in the round pen.  I was not going to breed her but she was infatuated with Hoosier the ram....so one day, I opened the gate and she started the journey to becoming a mom.


Yesterday, with a little help from me, Coyote Girl gave birth to twins.


A little 10 pound girl and a little 11 pound boy.  They seem all legs and ears...and way bigger than the 8 pound coop/blue face lambs I have been having. 

It makes me think of that George Strait song...."I Saw God Today":
I've been to church
I've read the book
I know he's here
But I don't look
Near as often as I should
Yeah, I know I should
His fingerprints are everywhere
I just slowed down to stop and stare
Opened my eyes and man I swear
I saw God today

Events like this bring me back to one thing I really love about the life I get to live.  Tiny miracles!  A small lamb that beat all odds and survived a coyote attack, to heal and go on to have twin lambs, and for me to be there to help her when she needed just a little more muscle to get the job done. 

I saw God today!

Seize the Day!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Smokin in the Boys Room


This here is the surprise lamb of a few weeks ago......definitely a Gerber lamb!  He reminds me of my youngest son, who at three, met Pluto at Disneyland.  With an impish grin...he ran right around and pulled Pluto's tail...then scurried of shrieking with delighted giggles. I think I will call this lamb Jake Jr. Today, I thought I caught this lamb smoking behind the hay stack....and I do believe he has hot wired the tractor.  He can not wait for his tiny cute little innocent girl friends to break out of jug jail.  I think he has mischief and mayhem planned....and I do believe I heard him humming "Take you for a ride on my big green tractor". 


Do NOT let that face fool you.....I certainly have my eye on him!

Today, 831 brought twins into the world!  A girl and a boy....both white with the nappiest fleeces that will leave my spinning friends drooling.



Today, a good friend stopped in and helped me band and pierce ears.  I think this year's tiny pink ear tags are really cute! 


Nothing like a little "mama love" to ease the pains from the day.

                              

I continue with the drives back and forth for lamb checks.  Tomorrow and Friday, the weatherman says snow here in the valley.  All I can say is, please let him be wrong!

Seize the Day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Program

Well "bless my soul", I am so thankful I waited till mid February to lamb.  At three this morning, as I drove to the ranch from home because it was just too cold to stay in the RV, I had snowflakes intermingled in with the pouring down rain! Two girls are due today...and looking like they might live up to that prediction.  I now have a quick break in the action to report on the Kathy Kn*x clinic....or as Full Tilt says: "KK clinic." 

I was able to sell my Sunday at the clinic to a friend (thank you, C) because I knew I was cutting it close with lambing.  So I drove up and back for just one day.  Bella was again the dog of choice as I continue  sorting tension.  Both times out with K, I tried my darnedest to set up tension and Bella just laughed.  I learned that Bella and I are on a good path.  Bella trusts me and herself at closer distances which over time will hopefully lengthen into the bigger open outruns.  K pointed out that I was using a stop at the top and sometimes a little short....a lingering symptom of my days of "keeping Bella out of trouble."  With the sheep pulling hard to a holding pen, I sent Bella to lift out of that pressure.  K asked me to let her do her thing so we could see what she would do with a bunch of sheep facing her.  Bella was cool as a cucumber, walking right into those heads with thought and supple beauty and took a "lie down" after she lifted them. I did this a few times just because it was so fun to watch Bella shine. I know I have said this before but it is so amazing to work consistently with a person who saw Bella the very day I bought her.  It reaffirms the journey: staying consistent, working through instead of avoiding, appreciating the progress, and letting go of other's opinions and comparisons. Another hour and yard in my time and miles life.

My homework for myself is to continue sorting through: correction with application for learning; helping/supporting; keeping out of trouble.  As I listen to and learn through application...FOR ME there is a huge difference in training a dog, which is where correction and support come into play, and running a dog...where all three are fair game.  It is time to start looking at the trial entry forms!

Back to the KK clinic:

Another really cool, brought-tears-to-my-eyes happening was all the pups at the clinic that were born and raised in my playroom.

Fist there was Dahlia, a pup off Bella.


Jill, a Nell/KK Jake pup was there with her owner who is also a good friend that takes lessons with me.


Two other good friends had their Nell/Jake pups there, including Dodger and Tweed.  However, it was pouring rain in the afternoon and I did not get my camera out.  I think I need some good rain gear for my camera because I am frustrated with myself for missing those moments!  While Tweed comes to my place regularly, it was great to finally see Dodger work.  He is just as handsome as I remember him...and I loved watching him on the stock!

And ranking right up there with the joy of watching those pups....was watching my friends who train with me.....sort and learn and understand and well, just blossom! 

This here is Mia.  She and her owner have been working with me for a couple of months now.  The introduction of "my interpretation of the Kn*x method" was very foreign to this team.....however, they took to it like my love for banana bread!


I can't get enough of watching all the dogs at clinics and listening to the input.  It's all I can do to wait to get home and apply some of the ideas, especially if I have seen similar happenings with one of my own dogs.  I would have loved to given Gyp a go with Kathy......but I feel like I have a good grasp on the direction I am going with Gyp.  There will be other clinics for Miss Gyp to get out and work.

I'm home fixing a couple of heat lamps and then it is back to check for lambs.....

Seize the day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be Mine.....





Pssst....telling sista secrets.


Happy Valentine's Day!

Seize the Day!

Teaser....

Here they are.....my twin ewe lambs from yesterday afternoon.


Last night, I stayed in the RV at my little ranchette.  Funny, after owning my place for 6 years this was my first all-nighter.  I knew coyotes lived around the place but yikes....they were close this morning when I did a 4 a.m. check.  No real worries because I do lamb in the barn and once they are ready to turn out....guard llama, Grace should take care of the babies. 

But back to 4 a.m.....I had to pull my first lamb of the season. I wondered if 820 would need some help...she is a tiny short-legged ewe, one of a 2008 set of triplets so she never achieved her full potential. She was looking pretty big.  After a little drama...I pulled yet another ewe lamb of color!


Little 101 is very excited to have friends to play with, although he is huge now that he is two weeks old.  And while 820 and I were busy with the birth of 104......the twins practiced their skipping moves in the jug next door!

Nap time.....

Seize the Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lamb Watch

Yesterday, I drove up to Arlington, Washington to work with Kathy Kn*x......the drive home was crazy! Wind and deluge rain.....top speeds of 45 mph while hydroplaning.....I began to wonder if my Mother Trucker days might be coming to an end.  I'll post more on the clinic in the coming days....but I am now officially on lamb duty.

Sorry about this rear shot...but hey, that is exactly what I am looking at 5-6 times a day.  These two girls look like they might be ready later vs sooner....but have a look in the background.
                            

That there is my little Nellie girl.  Always ready to give a helping hand. She cracks me up and adds brightness to my day.


My woolly ewes should go here in the next three days.  A couple of them look like they will twin for sure.  This ewe goes around groaning with every step.  She keeps complaining about her swollen feet, how she can't bend to tie her shoes, and she can't sleep at night or get comfortable.


I've employed a different strategy this year.  First I synchronised my breeding with CIDR plugs.  The vote will be in on the use of those at the end of lambing season.  I keep having nightmares of coming out to check for lambs...and finding them everywhere...with no ewe knowing which 100 babies are hers.  Second, I fed better.  Only the smallest amount of alfalfa and not too much of grass hay....going for smaller lambs and hoping my pull rate is decent.  Third,


this is not a sign that my obsession has gotten me kicked out of the house....really!  I moved the RV out to the ranch so when needed, I can spend a night or two with the girls.

Let the lambing being....off to check!

Seize the Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ode to All Things Pups

My friend from Behaviors of a Dog Mom had a litter of winter pups....well, her Lucy had the pups and my friend was a fabulous puppy-raiser.  Her job titles included taxi driver, with a LONG round-trip to Canada ........ wedding coordinator ...... doula ........ nanny........indoor park manager........ and play date facilitator, as well as chef.  Amazing all the hats a person has to wear to put forth a well socialized pup.

This puppy really wanted me....


And then there was this little fellow....


He was just teasing me because HE is Rye...the keeper and subject of his very own blog!

This was the one little princess.....


And this cute boy....aren't his eyes beautiful?  I wonder what color they will end up being.....


Although puppies are very cute and warm your heart in ways that only puppies can......I love this part:


The Beginning!  This is Lana and my pup 8 month old pup, Bracken.  If I could have had a pup from Mint's litter....Bracken was the girl I would have picked.  Here she is on sheep for a little "let's see" exposure. 


I just love watching the young dogs.  Gently looking at the package wondering what all is in there and then starting to unwrap them......seeing their natural talents and sorting out how to best bring out what lies inside!  Sigh....

You can watch video footage of Bracken on Lana's 10-7 blog.  It will be fun to watch her grow up......

The sun is shining here in the Willamette Valley.....I think I will go work my pup.  Gyp is now the designated "chore dog" and I'm loving how she is sorting out the sheep and applying her understanding to get the jobs done. 

Seize the Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dreams

I'm taking a class about dreaming.....the kind of dreams that are similar to goals but so much bigger and richer and well...Mondo Beyondo.

Mondo Beyondo Dream Big

It has been a very fun class...pushing me to dig deep and find those little whispers of excitement one can only experience when dreaming. I received  tiny notes of affirmations....one said, "DARE to say it out loud".

One of my Mondo Beyondo dreams would be to attend Soldier Hollow.....and run a dog!  There, I said it.  Some day I want to get that invitation in the mail to run a dog at Soldier Hollow. 




Maybe I will put baby steps to the dream by being a spectator this year!  You can check out their web site....Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Trial 

How about you?  Are you dreaming and living a Mondo Beyondo life?  I know I am! 

Seize the Day!!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Favorite Quotes

When I am at a clinic, you can often find me with a yellow legal pad taking notes.  Some of my favorite notes are really quotes I jot down.  I just stumbled upon my notes from my Scott Glen handling clinic of last August....and I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes.

"The first trick is getting a hold of your dog; the second is knowing when to let go."

"You can take the freedom and make them right or give them freedom then give them heck for being wrong."

"Strategy goes out the window if the dog doesn't do what we ask."

"You might not have to stop your dog.....but you better be able to stop your dog."

These quotes came about during my time with Nell.....but now, as I work my girls, I see how each applies in so many different ways. Then there is this one:

"Know your dog"

The journey continues.......

Seize the Day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mulligan.....

I had the most fabulous opportunity to have a do-over on those Targhee lambs!  Not in a trial situation, but in a really cool learning atmosphere for both me and my dogs on the same field with the same lambs from the Sunday trial.  Time and miles.....behind the wheel of my trusty Caravan!

The day dawned crispy bright....perfect dog working weather.


Lana set the top of the field, and then did her work back to the trailer.....a little like tag.


Lana's dog lifting off Geri
 It was a huge learning lesson to just sit back and watch the dogs.  Sunday's judge, Liz, brought her dog to have a go on the course.  I loved watching Bea sort and learn and get better and better.....while Liz handled, helped, taught and let the dog sort.



Lana took a walkie talkie up with her and talked me through Nell's lift and fetch.  This helped me understand running on these lambs with greater clarity....and Nell got more confident with each step.  On her second outrun she was coming onto the top similar to Sunday, I saw it and was able to blow her out for a more appropriate approach to the lambs.  On the other hand, I gave her way more freedom to work and was pleased to watch all that came from the dance of team work. 


I also had some time with Sally on the course. I struggled with where to put her to get my drive going on Sunday....I loved having the freedom to sort myself out.....by the end, and with some input from friends...the feel of the sheep and my dog was coming together.

I'm taking a class on "dreaming" right now...... the challenge for the week is in finding the balance of embracing thankfulness for the huge blessings of "now"...while living with the courage to listen to the heart whispers to pursue dreams.  I am so thankful for my ranch, sheep, dogs, family, friends, and life.  With all the puzzle pieces that make up my journey.....I see them fitting together, forming an amazing masterpiece.  When I speak about my dogs and my trial experiences, I try to be authentic....embracing the good and sorting out what needs work.  I don't feel confusion.....for me it is the understanding that life is about "time and miles".  I know I become more polished with the different experiences that my friends bless me with. I live in the valley and much of my dog work happens on valley sheep.  Some more dogged than others.....certainly farm-flock the most of them.  I'm struggling to put into words how deeply thankful I am for friends that allow me new experiences; be it big fields, range sheep, a second set of eyes, or a place to lay my head. The gift of being believed in while at the same time being pushed towards potential is truly priceless!  At the end of the day, I strive for a dog that can get any job done and for me to know and understand my part in that result. 

Seize the day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

So....How'd You Do???

I participated in a really great and challenging sheepdog trial this past weekend.....and when I got home a few friends asked "how did it go?"  Then my friend at 10-7 Ranch posted a really thoughtful entry on the 10-7 Blog that really iced the cake of my thoughts.  Personally, I am working on disciplining my mind; focusing my thoughts on finding the good in my dog work.  I'm getting better at seeing what went wrong and why...instead of blaming the sheep, or the dog.  Generally it is handling, lack of experience, or need of a deeper understanding in the training.  However, if I fall into the trap of finding joy in my placement only, I will experience a relatively joyless life. 

How do I find joy in an RT?  Or, gasp....beauty in a DQ?  Those were the questions I challenged myself with, three times on Sunday, as I ran three dogs!  So how did I do at the trial?  Each of my dogs showed improvement in areas we have been working on.  Sally called of the cows (cows!  I'm not sure what she was thinking as she HATES COWS!) and got up to her sheep. She also looked to be feeling great and in better physical condition than the last trial, January 1.  Nell walked straight in and did not slide off the pressure or try to catch an eye.  Bella let me handle her and showed less tension.  That is how I did! Some of the good I found myself....and others bits came from friends.  I am finding that good friends....those that have my best interest in mind and can be honest, supportive, and real....are worth their weight in gold.

I did realize, as I stood at the post, much of the progress that NEEDS to be made is in my handling!  I did not handle Sally at all like I want to.  Pounding the stop button is NOT how Sally is handled best by me. I also need to work fine wool sheep and most definitely fine wool lambs so I can get a better feel of how to run on them. My girls need that work and time to figure out as well.  Nell could have used a little more help on her outrun.  And Bella possibly could have been kept tension-free if I had gone to verbals when I saw the tension building.  All that insight was worth the drive! 

I also took time to watch run after run.....dogs with miles of experience sorting out the sheep and showing me how it would look and feel.  And less experienced dogs being "handled" to keep their run together.  I can't wait to put my girls back on those lambs and see if we too can figure them out!

I see many a road trip south in my future....wonder if I can squeeze one in before the lambs make their appearance?

Seize the Day!!!