Once again I've fallen behind on my updates here, and this time it was my publication deadline at work and some demos during the evenings last week. I had a deadline of Friday to get all the articles, images, and graphics for the next issue of the magazine to our designer. I made the deadline, but it kept me pretty busy last week. This week I have dedicated several days to work on an opus for one of our consultants. The topic is certainly interesting--the environment and being a good steward, but he left a lot of the research and writing to me (hmmm, how to get inside someone else's head to say what they want to say with only the barest of guidance?). So that's been work.
Montepelier SDT, Oct. 4-5
My weekend at the Montpelier SDT was pretty decent. I worked on some issues the youngsters have, placed a few times in various classes, and didn't place in open on Saturday because of my own errors, but managed a 6th place on Sunday without getting a shed. We were 10 points below the leading score, and of course a shed is worth 10 points. Still I was very happy with the way Twist worked, and as I said, the mistakes on Saturday were all my own. Phoebe did not have her listening ears on, so we worked on making her stop and waiting until I gave her a flank before she got up and moving again. On Sunday, our fetch was overshadowed by an overflight of a pair of fighter jets. So for a brief time, Phoebe really did have an "I can't hear you" excuse. As we left the field, Tommy Wilson commented that all we needed to really add to our run was a train to go by (which they do routinely, but somehow we missed that little pleasure). Pip was hesitant on Saturday but still placed third and ran much better on Sunday. He ended up reserve champion overall in pro-novice, though that was in part due to Laura and Nick moving out of that class on Sunday. Lark's ranch run on Saturday was agonizingly slow, but we made it around the course to place third (there were just six scores out of 15 runs). I retired her on Sunday when she kept going to the sheep's heads and stopping them on the crossdrive, while refusing to flank back around on the away side to push them forward. At the time I was puzzled and wondering if I had moved her up too soon and had just gotten her in over her head, but later on the drive home I got to thinking about the runs that day and a number of them ended with the sheep racing to the set out, so I think that Lark was just really feeling the pressure back to the set out and didn't want to lose her sheep, no matter what. Looking back, I remember Twist doing the exact same thing at the same trial and on the same sheep, so I figure it's not something I need to lose sleep over (as in some big hole in Lark or her training).
Oh, and I managed not to spend any money, although the Mayan blankets were quite tempting.
Dixie Classic Fair Stockdog Demo
The Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem opened on the 5th. Henry and Lou Ann normally help out with the stockdog demo there, but they were going to be in Georgia showing sheep, so they asked Tony and I if we'd fill in. Tony took the Sunday night demo because I was still en route from Montpelier. I did Monday through Wednesday. Monday was school kids' day and the noise level was deafening! Twist is my steadiest dog in small spaces and the arena we were in was pretty darn small. I traded demo work with Joyce, who also announced, and used Twist for the sheep work while Joyce used her 11-year-old Ben for the ducks. The sheep were Suffolk crosses, and we did basic work, showing how a dog balances to the handler, whistles, putting the sheep through a chute, and even over a jump (a crowd pleaser). Because we used different sheep each day, there was no predicting what would happen. At one demo, one sheep tried to bolt and jumped over Twist as Twist jumped up to stop her. Actions like that make me cringe, but the spectators enjoyed it. Then there was the time I forgot to shut both ends of the chute and the sheep went running back in and Twist had to push them out backwards. Each day, I took a different youngster along as well. It was good for them to get out in a situation with lots of noise and activity and they ended up being great ambassadors for the breed. The funniest part of talking to the kids was that we were in the arena in the cattle barn, and the early part of the week was the dairy cattle show. One little boy was talking to me and watching as people walked cows in and out of the barn for bathing. As one cow with a very full udder walked by I asked the little boy if he drank milk. He said yes. I then pointed to the cow and said, "Did you know that's where milk comes from?" His response: "Ewwwwww!" Someone later told me I'd probably turned the poor kid off milk forever. Did I mention I also told him that eggs come from chickens? Tee hee.
The duck part of the demo was pretty funny. The ducks are pulled out into the arena in a trailer being pulled by a remote control jeep. Let's just say I am not the greatest at operating a remote control vehicle, so every demo had its share of "crashes" into obstacles. In my defense, the pione shavings in the arena were deep, which only added to the unresponsiveness of the controls. Laura came out Tuesday night and was laughing her ass off at my attempts to drive the jeep, so at the last show as the jeep needed to be moved out of the arena and back into the holding area, I handed her the controls--and felt immense satisfaction when she struggled too! Anyway, the duck demo includes putting them up and over a Z-shaped ramp, through an agility tunnel, surpentining around some cones, and then up and over a teeter totter. Ben followed the ducks over the ramp and through the tunnel--it was so cute to see him come to the end of the tunnel and peek around it at the ducks! We did not use the world-famous duck washing machine, which was disappointing, but the crowds seemed to enjoy the demo anyway. I won't talk about the funnel cakes....
Doing the demo was a great experience for both me and Twist (I'm not much of a showman), and I'd certainly doing it again. But driving to Winston-Salem made for some late nights (and missed TV--ha!ha!). Laura tried to take some photos the night she was there, but the darkness inside the building made it nearly impossible to get decent photos with that little camera, so I don't have any good pictures to share.
Poultry at the Fair: Bah, Humbug!
On my first day at the fair, once we were done with the demos, I searched out the poutry barn. I don't even know why I do this to myself. I looked at the OEG bantams, which although mostly pretty, were probably twice the size of mine. Then I saw the Sebrights and my jaw just dropped. Those birds were easily as big as the leghorns on exhibit nearby. Sebrights are one of the true bantam breeds, which means they have no large breed counterpart. Now I'd venture to say that folks are turning Sebrights into a large breed, and that's truly depressing. What is it about showing livestock (of any sort) that causes "breeders" to produce ever-larger animals? The small size of a bantam chicken is as essnetial to its nature as wool is to a wool sheep. What is the point of large (extremely large) bantam chickens? I guess I'll have to be glad that my bantams are broody and prolific, because I'm beginning to realize that the only way I'll be able to find bantams of the size I like--they size they should be--is to breed them myself.
Indian Summer Weekend
This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous--Indian summer gorgeous--and I drove up to Becca's place to work dogs on Becca's commercial wool sheep. We had two groups--one in a smaller field and one out in the big field. I also worked Lark on the ducks, and once again spent time with both Pip and Phoebe getting them to stop and wait for the next command instead of just flinging themselves into another flank the second they heard a stop command. I worked more on Raven's driving, and held sheep with Twist in the larger field for a lady who was preparing her (working-bred) dog for the BCSA nationals. I also worked Kat in the bigger field, which was interesting because she pretty much blended in with the red tops of the tall grass, which made her difficult for the sheep to see as well. Before heading home, we took a jaunt to the pond, where a bunch o' dogs, mostly border collies, but a few others as well, had a great swim. A nice way to end a nice day.
Sunday I took it easy, went grocery shopping in the morning and wormed sheep in the evening. How exciting is that? Now I have to get ready for the Lexington SDT, which starts with nursery on Friday. Pip and Phoebe are entered in nursery, not because I think they're ready necessarily, but hopefully it will be a good experience for them.
And not to be left out from the rest of "the girls" I managed to watch most of the first season of Sex and the City. I don't know if I have the patience to watch all of the seasons, but I might manage it. I need to talk to Laura about my perceptions, because I think they are quite different from hers!
Oh, and I have another hen brooding eggs in the stall where I keep the square bales of hay. And where the two sheep pelts are still sitting, waiting to have the salt shaken off so they can be sent to Bucks County for tanning. I need to get on the stick on that one....