Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Scorching Saturday

It's acutally only in the mid-80s at the moment, but we're supposed to have our third (or fourth?) day in a row with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s. Whew! I finally broke down and turned on the air conditioning, mainly because on Thursday I had to go into the office and that means the dogs have to stay crated, and I knew they would suffer in plastic boxes in the house when the temps started pushing 90 and above. I actually prefer not to air condition because it keeps us acclimated for the work we have to do outside, but something you've just got to bow to peer pressure (i.e., the housemate). So I compromise. The thermostat is set at 82 and will probably go a little higher as summer goes on. I refuse to have a $300 electric bill and I can't stand being cold anyway, so it works for me!

I didn't even take Jill or Boy on our second walk to the "back 40" yesterday afternoon. You can just see how the heat wears on the oldsters when we're out on our walks/romps. They love to go, but when it's in the upper 90s, they're better off staying inside. I don't need dogs collapsing from heat exhaustion just for the sake of a walk. At least we have a couple of creeks they can take a dip in, but the wooded area leading up to the one behind the neighbor's horse pasture is pretty much poison ivy heaven (as I discovered the other evening, and after which I got home and promptly hopped in the shower with a bar of castille soap--happy to say I've had no breakout from that adventure and the dogs did enjoy their swim), so if I want to take them there, I need to be sure I have long pants on, and I don't know if I can stand it. So they may just have to make do with our own little creek, which has a few deep holes for splashing in.

I got up early this morning and sorted sheep so I could work Raven in the round pen and work the rest of the youngsters on the rest of the flock (minus the few problem sheep, which I sorted into the ram lot after pushing the rams out into the unfenced pasture to graze).

Raven actually did some tiny outruns to the right. Woohoo! And for some reason the sheep were being a little more cooperative today and we managed to get some fetching in too. Raven makes clear advancements every day--it's just amazing to watch.

I worked Pip out in the big field on the bulk of the flock. He's driving a lot better and his enthusiasm is up a couple of notches since I've been working on trying to make things fun for him (not all work and training). After working Pip, I took Phoebe into the lamb lot and we pushed the lambs up into the stall and shut them in, and then I had Phoebe going around them to the right and left, basically doing packed pen work, although the stall wasn't completely packed (the lambs will cram themselves together anyway, so the purpose of the exercise--to get her comfortable working in very close quarters with sheep--was still possible). While I had the lambs up, I checked everyone again and gave some Red-Glo to the couple who looked like they might be showing the first signs of anemia. I went ahead and dewormed those several lambs again, just to be on the safe side. I used Phoebe to help me feed the ewes behind the barn and the lambs when we were done working in the stall.

Then Raven got her second turn in the round pen. I tried actually going across the pen and sending her to the right, but she wasn't quite ready for that. If I shortened the distance about halfway, she'd go. That's progress! I did some wearing around and worked on stopping her, immediately letting her flank to the right or the left after stopping as her reward for stopping. She seems to be really enjoying her work now.

Last, I took Lark out in the big pasture and did a bit of driving with her. Then, because she's been doing some things like flanking all the way around to my feet when I ask for a flank (I think this is because I've used her a lot to push sheep away from feed bunks, so she's got it in her mind that she's supposed to come around to me and push sheep away, even when we're doing other tasks, like sorting specific sheep into the round pen), I just did a "walkabout" all around the pasture with her. The purpose of that exercise is just to let her balance sheep to me without saying anything to her. A couple of times as she was flanking to contain the sheep to me (there's one tunis ewe with a lamb that constantly wants to break off by herself) she came all the way around in front of me, but a simple verbal "ah, ah!" got her attention and she corrected herself. I think it would help to do a lot more of this, so that's what we'll be doing in the near future.

Then, since I had gotten the Cydectin out for those several lambs, I decided to go ahead and worm the entire flock. So I had Lark put the group I was working in the pasture into the foot bath chute (sans foot bath) and proceeded to dose everyone. I don't usually do this, since I find that using the FAMACHA method of checking for signs of anemia and then worming just the affected sheep has worked well for me, but I also recognize that FAMACHA is mainly concerned with barberpole worm and so doesn't really tell me the "state of the union," so to speak with respect to other intestinal parasites. And since my Cydectin is expiring, I thought I'd go on and do everyone to use it up.

So I wormed the sheep in the chute and then used Lark to push them back out. Interestingly, we've pushed sheep through that chute a lot to get them used to going through in preparation for foot bath treatments. But apparently once you close the ends off to contain the sheep, they decide that the end is permanently closed, even if you go in and push a few sheep out. So Larky had her work cut out for her, working from the back end, while the sheep in the front refused to budge. She did finally get them moving and on out of the chute, and she and I called it a day.

But I still had to take care of the three sheep in the round pen, and the sheep I'd pushed into the ram lot. Lark's brain was a bit fried by this point, so I pulled Pip out and let him hold the sheep to me in the round pen while I wormed them--not an easy task since there's no corner to hold them and so he had to cover the full arc on his side while I grabbed and dosed. Once we were done with them, we dosed the older tunis ewes, the karakul and her twins, and the several other sheep I'd pushed into the ram lot. Once we pushed them back out in the main pasture, I took Pip into the lamb lot and we pushed them all back in the stall, and I sorted all the ewes and wethers at the gate while Pip held them to me. Once I'd gotten everyone out of the stall but the three ram lambs, we pushed the rest of the lambs down through their lot, through the alley lot where Josias and Fido have been residing during weaning, and back into the main pasture. I had Pip go ahead and drive them all the way down to the woods where the rest of the flock was resting in the shade. Then I took him and gathered Josias and Fido back out of the unfenced field and back into the alley paddock. I opened the gate between that and the lamb paddock and then on my way out, let the three ram lambs out of the stall. So now Josias, Fido, and the ram lambs are all together. So far Josias is basically ignoring the lambs. I'm guessing they're still too young and small for him to feel he needs to assert any dominance over them.

The next thing on the agenda will be to take Fido to Chaudry for butchering, which I hope to do next week. That will supply our lamb for a good part of the year. And now that Josias has other sheep to keep him company, Fido can fulfill his destiny.

And I got all this done by 9:15 this morning!

Now I can hide from the heat and relax. The first thing I need to do is take a shower--handling all those sheep makes for a definite lack of cleanliness. Then I'll feed all the dogs (have to wait for the ones who worked this morning to have plenty of cool down time). Too bad I don't have a Netflix movie handy to watch. Although it feels like "wasting time" to just hang around the house and relax, you really can't do a whole lot in weather like this--not if you don't want to risk your health anyway.... (I do need to go find Maia a kiddie pool, and I also need to go to Pet Supplies Plus and pick up dog and cat food, so that may be a project for this afternoon--if I don't decide to take a nap instead!)

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