Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Updates

Wow, I can't believe how long it has been since I have updated.  Not sure I will remember everything, but will try....

Let's see... lambing went well this year, lots of twins.  We did have some rudely cold weather,  and one of those days, we had a set of twins born when it was -15 degrees out (not wind chill, just air temp).  Those lambs did well.  Nothing like good deep straw to keep them warm.  Toward the end of lambing I had to have some what emergency abdominal surgery.  I had one night in the hospital and of course two ewes decided to have lambs.. thankfully the folks I hired to care for them took excellent care of the sheep and I was able to stop by the next day and jug the new mothers and their lambs.  I was not supposed to do anything for about six weeks, but four days after my surgery I was cleaning the barn.  I just cannot abide dirty pens...

So, we finished lambing and then I had a clinic.  I had long wanted to have a clinic to work on not sheepdog training per se, but rather teaching your dog in a way that comes natural, and learning how to actually be on the same page as your dog.  The clinic went well, and we were lucky to not have rain.

The no rain situation continued a bit long and the grass was very slow to come in.  So slow that I brought them off the grass a few times.. it was very tenuous.  Finally though, the grass did come in, and sheep were able to eat to their heart's content.

Trialing season started and Joe and I ran without success our first trial, but then in June we did fairly well.  He won the ranch class at one trial.  He came in 11th out of 105 dogs at an open trial.  I was very proud that we finished it let alone placed.  Then we ran at another open trial and got 7th.  Joe is a great dog to work/trial with.  He listens well has reasonable power and a very good gather.  He's sort of all that and a bag of chips to me.

On other dog fronts, Johnny my just one year old in March of this year is coming along gangbusters now, and I am going to get him on whistles in the next few weeks.  He loves to drive and has gone past his some what overly determined to have his way ideas.

I got a new puppy, her name is Jenny.  She hails from Mike Davis in South Dakota.  She is a real corker and keeps me on my toes (and Johnny who is her outside babysitter).

Other than that, the next thing for me is another trial, and then I am putting on another trial in September, at another field. It should be good, I hope! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Finally, who I am........

It's taken some time, well, to be honest, all of my life, to begin to see who I am in the whole scheme of what I call my life.  Most of my life, well, truth be told is all of it these days, is centered around animals.  I work full time with animals, I have my flock of sheep, dogs, one cat.  As a kid I was around livestock, and of course house hold pets,  and several of my first jobs were with livestock (horses mainly).   For some reason, I got into agility, and stayed in that venue until I got tired of the increased competitive behavior of the handlers.  I never really liked that part of the human condition.  Don't get me wrong, I do like to compete and do well, but I know all too well, that that winning feeling is fleeting, and we are only as good as our last competition.  I think my last trial in agility, I actually bagged a pairs run because my partner was *so* over the top determined to win.  She sucked the life right out of that for me.

I then got into the sheepdog world, and started to see that there was a lot to this sheepdog work, wherein I could spend most of my time training my dog, which is what I prefer, and in the meantime add livestock to my life.  As for most people, I believe having your own sheep makes it truly real for you, and you look at things differently.  For some time I tried to keep doing the same sort of training with my dogs as I had earlier, but something about it bothered me.  I was not letting the dog figure things out for himself, and it was very, well, dry.  Dry for the dog, dry for me, and honestly, reminded me of obedience work (I also did that for a time before agility).  Here is where my quirky bits appear... I *do* want to do well at sheepdog trials, and can if my brain settles, but I do not get a big giant high out of it.. it's weird.  What I get a high out of at competitions, are the small things that go very well.  Those are the things I remember.  Dog catches a sheep trying to escape with deft ability, the dog and I handle the sheep at the pen in such a way, they pretty much blithely walk in.  Dog finds the sheep in a field with thigh high grass.  You know, that sort of thing.  I am pretty sure this is not what the top hands in the country look at, but I have no idea!

This same attitude has taken over my training as well.  Instead of breaking things down into "what I need to fix", I break things down into "that was very good", or "this needs a bit of work and we will get there".  I am always an advocate for the dog, and sometimes that is at odds with the way that many handlers look at sheepdog work.  I look at training a young dog as making music- we progress as we do, when we are ready.  There is not a time table as to when the dog should be doing this or that.  I think it's important to realize that most times, what we do is affecting the dog more than we think.  A LOT more.  With the frequency with which dogs change hands, it would appear to an outsider that there are many many bad dogs (no talent, weak, you name it) being bred in this country.  I have to look at the statistics, and see how many are sold at about a year, and how many get to stay.. and I have to wonder were they all that bad, and what was so bad about them?  Being that I do not breed, I don't know.  I do know that I attach myself to my dogs big time, and maybe that is why I see things differently.  Maybe I have just not been in this game long enough, who knows.  What I do know, is that I would rather work and train dogs than trial, and maybe in doing that, do well at an occasional trial.  I do not get enjoyment out of the social part of trialing, that is for sure.  I would much rather be at my place, or at a small out of the way trial, then be a cog in the wheel of a big trial where the atmosphere is thick with tension.  I hate tension.  I don't like it in dogs either.  When there is tension around me, I get tense, my dog gets tense and it becomes this thing wherein I just want to go home and re-set.  I did that a lot last year.  I need to find a balance for myself...

One of the things I have done to address this is to create the farm trials I plan to have, where we compete on courses we have never done before, and our brain is not necessarily on the perfect turn at the post or cross drive turn, but on "can my dog even do this?" Can my dog fetch sheep from two different fields opposite of each other?  Can he then take them both to another field very far away, and handle them with aplomb, and then get them back to me, and then we separate them into the groups they were in?  Can he?  Will he?  He's never done this before... scary times.. but hey, you know, sometimes you have to go into the deep end of the pool to see if you can swim... and when your dog DOES do this, and you HAVE completed the shed.. and the pen door has closed...your mind is not even thinking about that turn at the post, or that cross drive turn, your mind is reveling in the fact that this was nothing like you have *ever* done, and your dog did it FOR YOU.   The high you will get from this will far surpass any conventional trial win, trust me on this.  To walk into parts unknown, and have faith and have the courage to try and then be able to do it?  Puts you on a whole other plane with your dog.

So, this is where I am.. I don't really jive with conventional trialing modes of operation,  but I do appreciate good runs.. so maybe who I am is someone who is saying the same thing as everyone else, but in a different way.  Sometimes we have to take the good parts of what we do, and eschew the others just because it works.

In closing, I want to share this, an except from an earlier post I wrote some years ago:

"They work simply because we ask them, they fear nothing, because there isn't time to do so, and in return, all they ask is that we allow them to stay, and do our bidding. Is there any better dog that that? I think not."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Time marches on!

It has been a very long time since I have posted.  Time is marching on, and by the end of the day, it seems I am just ready to shut my eyes...

We are just about into the winter solstice.. thankfully, the days will get longer starting on the 22nd, I believe of this month.  For that I am grateful.  I was at a meeting yesterday late into the day, and I could not believe how dark it was at four o'clock.

I have made some improvements to the farm- the floor of the mixing room has had 3/4" crushed stone added to raise the level, as it was getting absolutely soupy when it got rain (bank barns have less than wonderful drainage at times...).  I had wanted to get stall mats, but after learning they were 100 lbs each, and I needed several, I decided to hold off.  But, winter was coming.. so I rented a truck, and headed out to Tractor Supply to go get them.  My friend Mark and I put them in, I laid some straw on them and  we were good to go.  Soon after I finished that, we had our first freezing rain storm, and the floor stayed dry!!

I have been working Johnny a bit, but sort of hit a blockage in our progression and then I learned, by having gone to another place, that Johnny needs more than just balancing at this point, he needs to work the sheep.  So, we are now going to be moving out of the round pen and let his brain get stuck into the whole process.  I really like Johnny.  He has a great temperament, almost funny at times, and is keen as mustard on sheep, but not crazy.  I love his looks too.  Smooth coats are the way to go in terms of keeping your house clean!

Joe is doing great.  He just turned three, and now I have a dog who I not only can trust to bring me the sheep- using his head, and to push when needed in any circumstance, but now he has some nice style coming through.  So funny, when I think back to how he was a rank novice dog, to how he is now...I am reminded that *so* much changes as they grow up... he certainly was not inordinately special as a youngster, but one thing he did have was a connection with me.. that I think is very critical;  a dog who has an inborn need to learn and work with his trainer..

The flock is doing well, and I expect to start lambing some time in early February.  There is one Cheviot ewe who I don't think is bred, but I am not sure.  I sold the ram off rather early in the breeding season, so it is quite possible she cycled out of sync with the rest.  I have sold several Cheviots, and am only keeping the ones I truly like, so though numbers are down, we are in good shape in terms of quality.

Christmas is almost here, and I really am not ready.. but then I am never ready... this year seems worse!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Johnny on sheep

I finished the round pen yesterday.  I put the welded wire up, and am using bungee cord and clips to close it to a panel.  I think that will do.  Looks good.  Brought Johnny in there, he is keen as mustard, but not ready for training.  The things he did that I really liked were how he went to the head, tried to get between them and the fence (they were stuck to it quite a bit), and how he already seems to know how to gather.  He was very tired after that.  He was very happy too.  Johnny hates the car as it makes him nauseous, and he hates it when I put the leash on him at the farm, as it means car.  Well, for the first time ever yesterday, I put him on the least after we worked, and went and sat down with him to rest.  Instead of trying to disappear from my view while on leash, he actually sidled over to me for some loving- that is the magic of sheep on sheepdogs.  I was so happy!

I have a lot of barn clean up to get to this week, now that the pen is finished.  Hope to start on it today.

Let's hope we get some rain soon, as we are so dry, it is bad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Work

Jenna Woginrich has embarked on a series of vlogs that have been, well, painful to watch.  I cannot watch a single one of them through until the end.  Jenna has become a full fledged public figure and is redeeming this designation to try and reap more income from her adoring (cough) fans.  Those of us who actually farm, and pay our bills know what work is.  We do it every single day.

Jenna's most recent vlog is on "work".  Really Jenna? Honestly?  Have you *ever* done anything at that place of yours that does not include the majority of the work being done by your adoring fans, or friends? If you have, maybe you should tell us when.  With the abundance of blog posts on your recent forays into new hobbies, you don't really seem to actually do anything alone.

Let me tell you what work is Jenna.  Work is getting up at dawn, downing a cup of coffee, if you have time and pounding posts, by yourself, pounding until you cannot move another muscle and have to sit and rest.. Just long enough to catch your breath and go back to it, and you go until you cannot physically do one more single thing.  Then you rest again, and do a bit more, just to push yourself.

Work is getting on the tractor and mowing fields sun up to sun down, bouncing around when you hit holes, or mounds, and only stopping to fill up with diesel, and when done feeling like you are still moving.. and getting blisters from holding onto the steering wheel so long.

Work is stacking hundreds of bales with one person throwing the bales off the wagon (not five people helping).  It is cleaning the barn muck bucket by muck bucket every single day so your livestock don't live in their own filth.

It is looking at a problem, figuring it out, and addressing it by yourself.. doing a good job, because a job worth doing is a job worth doing well.  It is having worked so hard you feel like you can't get out of bed the next morning because you over did it, but having to suck it up and take an Aleve and get to your agenda.

Work is not: Hauling buckets of water to your animals because you refuse to get a hose, because sharing that you carry buckets of water will get you more hits to your website (lookit me I am so strong).

Work is not: Chatting like a school girl into a webcam, and pretending to know what farming is.

Work is not:  Owning lots of poultry because you know the majority will be killed and eaten by predators simply because you do not have space to keep them in.

Work is not:  Leaving mangy pigs in a mud pit, can calling it "raising them".  Neither is it leaving pigs in a dark barn, until they are old enough to be put out of their misery.

Work is not: Riding horses.


PLEASE do not espouse that people are afraid to work when you would not know work if it bumped square into you.  You live off the backs of hard working people, you do *not* work.

By all means, keep on with the vlogs, because we can archive them as examples for how NOT to conduct oneself.




Sunday, September 28, 2014

Training pen time

Yesterday I started the training pen I wanted to set up for Johnny.  Although he is not quite ready to start, I want to be ready when he is.  So far, the few times I have put him on sheep, they run into the woods, and even though he is game to get them, it is just not a good idea.  So, I started by pounding posts in yesterday.  I think I did about 10?  Today was time to finish.  I wanted to make it as big as I could, as bigger is better for training pens.  I used 5 16 ft combo panels and also some left over sheep and goat fence I had.  I am about 24 ft short of what I need.  That amount includes space for a gate, so probably more like 21 feet.  I have some cheaper welded wire fence I may just use.  Then, this will be done!  It has not been easy, but honestly, if I wait for someone else to help me I may just die of old age.  But, I have to thank those who could not help me for whatever reason, because they have taught me to be more resourceful, strong and persistent, and really know what I want.  Tomorrow I move sheep (need to find a new ground rod for the charger since mine is missing.. One thing you will note is that some of these posts are not so level. This bothers me, but they will be removed after about a month, as this training pen is temporary.  One of the posts in particular fought me and I call it a draw. It is not as deep as it should be, but I had either hit rock or a massive root.  I had moved it several times, but well, like I said, it's a draw.   In the first pic, the sheep were convinced I had grain and ran ahead of me.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

I am baaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, I am not sure who is still even paying attention to this blog, but after an extended, and cathartic, I might add, absence, I finally feel ready to come back and share my life.  I have re-centered myself, and am hoping I can keep this place not only fun, but perhaps a little educational- in the don't make my mistakes sort of way.

I feel like I should share why I had to take leave for a bit.  I felt sort of empty, and even more so, extremely unhappy with other bloggers who have taken the very meaning of a blog; a life diary on the web, and subverted it to the explicit purposes of funding their lives.   I found that extremely offensive and decided I did not want to be part of it- and that meant a break.

Well, now I am back and ready to move forward!

So, what has happened... Well, I had a very nice crop of lambs this year.  Almost all lambs have been sold, or retained for breeding.  The ram I have is just great, and produces excellent well muscled lambs, with quiet temperaments.  He is being sold this year as too many of my flock are related to him.  I also have one cross bred ram lamb for sale.  Other than that, I purchased three ewe lambs from the owner of the flock from whom I rented sheep for my sheepdog trial.  They still have tails, which is rather annoying, but they have good confirmation and I hope to eventually produce really nice lambs from them.  As I mentioned, I hosted a sheepdog trial at the property across the street from the farm.  It went very well, and was a monumental effort.  I do mean monumental.  BUT, it was so worth it.  My goal was to have a calm, relaxing trial on good sheep, and that is exactly what we had.
There was a lot of help by many, but still, it about wiped me out for days afterward.  Hopefully we can have it again next year!

On the dog front, not sure if I mentioned it, but I have a pup named Johnny, he is about 7 months, and is a smooth coat.  I named him after my friend John who passed away.  Did I mention that?  My very very good friend John passed away at the end of March; he was found in the sheep barn having suffered a heart attack.  It was very very difficult for me to process and I miss him every day.  His property is for sale.  So very sad.

The summer flew by, partially, I think because of the long winter we had.  The hay (most of it) is in the barn, and I still have a lot to do.  Lots of barn clean out.  I did get a load of crushed stone in the barn so that I can put stall mats on the floor, and I will put straw on top of that.  I should save a lot of money in straw, as now the floor should be raised above the wet zone (water seeping in),

This fall, I don't have many plans,  I would like to do some trials, but in all honesty, I am not sure I could afford it (to go away).  This is one reason I wanted to have my own trial...

Well, that is it for now.  I hope all has been well with you.  I have attached some pics of some of my favorite things.