Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Catching Up

Sometimes I think I have a hard time keeping up here because I write for a living and so never find the time to write for myself. A lot has happened in the past several weeks, but fortunately for anyone reading this, I'm not going to try to relate it all here now.

What's that I See Out the Window? It's Snow!
Last week we got some snow. Not much, but snow is rare enough here in the central Piedmont to make any snowfall exciting. It was already melting by the time I went out to feed, but I grabbed the camera and tried to get a few shots of the white stuff and whatever critters happened to be around.

It was probably 9 a.m. when I took this photo and you can see that the snow has already melted on the eastern side of the barn. The Rhode Island Red hen dwarfs the OEG bantams following along behind her.

Some of the karakul ewes.

Maia waiting for her breakfast.



Lark and Phoebe

Lark and Phoebe playing.

Mother and son

Farleigh has grown his coat back and is no longer the Liberty Lavender Dog. I think I'll let him stay fluffy until spring.

Working Dogs
The past two weeks has been pretty busy on the dog working front as well. Becca had surgery and asked me to keep Ted while she was recuperating, so I was up to 11 border collies here. Ted needs to get regular work, so it made sense for me to keep him since I can just walk out the door and do a little work with him. It's always fun to get a different dog in to play with.

In early November we went up to Tom Forrester's Mount Pleasant Farm trial. I ran Twist and Kat in open, Lark in ranch, and Phoebe in pro-novice. I had entered Pip, but he had hurt his toe a few days before the trial. He as lame off and on and I tried wrapping his foot really well and running him that Saturday, but it was obvious it was hurting him, so I retired him and pulled him from Sunday's line up. My dogs did reasonably well given the difficulty of the sheep and the fact that much happened over a hill where the handler couldn't see what was going on. There was some confusion here and there, like when Lark decided that an away flank was meant to be a look back and kept trying to go for the sheep in the exhaust instead of flanking toward me to turn the sheep at the drive panels for the cross drive. I couldn't get her turned back on the appropriate sheep and had to retire. The next day, her sheep escaped the exhaust after making the cross drive panels (a common theme of the weekend). The exhaust was behind a hill so the handler couldn't see what was happening there. You just had to stand and hope and wait. I waited at the pen a while and then decided she must not be bringing them and so walked away, retiring myself. As soon as I stepped away from the pen, I could see the sheep's ears coming over the hill. Oh well, too late then. The folks who could see what was going on said that Lark did a really nice job with one ewe who kept breaking back to the exhaust, covering her and pushing her back to the other two as she tried to bring them back over the hill to me. Ten or fifteen more seconds was all she needed, but of course when you can't see what's happening you have to make a decision and that's that. Still I was pleased with the work she gave me. Twist placed both days. Phoebe placed on Saturday. So all-in-all not a bad weekend.

With Dog Work Comes Good Eating
Whenever we have a get together at Robin's, it seems good food is always part and parcel of the activity. This past Saturday was no exception. Saturday was dog exchange with Becca and Christine. Darci rode up with me, and we crammed 10 dogs and their various and sundry items in the van with us. Lynn was going from Darci back to Becca. Ted was going from me to Christine for a month's training before going back to Becca. We got a bunch of dogs worked and ate Laura's wonderful chili and some chicken pie that Christine brought along. Sherry brought an amazing chocolate cake, Darci and I contributed biscuits and corn bread, and Anet contributed all sorts of chili accoutrements. Of course there were munchies too. Hey, you gotta occupy yourself somehow while awaiting your turn to work a dog!

Both Pip and Lark looked a lot better driving--staying behind the sheep and pushing on well. The exercises Robin suggested we try at home are clearly paying off with dogs who are driving with a happier and more positive attitude. Phoebe was her usual "bit in the teeth" self. If I can ever get her to listen a bit better, I think she'll turn out just fine, but for now it's like trying to keep a runaway freight train on course....

Who's a Cow Dog?
On Sunday, Tony, Mary, and I rode over to Chuck's place to work dogs on his sheep and cattle. There's a cattle trial coming up next month and since I don't have cattle here, I thought it might be beneficial to at least give the youngsters a go on Chuck's hereford heifers. They have been lightly dogged by Laura and Nick and were a good challenge for the dogs--behaving a lot like the cattle we meet at trials. Larky looked awesome. She really likes working cattle and has a sensible, direct approach with them. The same can't be said for Pip and Phoebe, who apparently have a lot of their daddy in them when it comes to working cows. They both relish the thought of grabbing hocks and heels and both got kicked for their trouble. Once again, Phoebe was more of a barely controlled freight train, but she worked the cattle reasonably well and I'll probably give her a go at Roy's.

Pip got kicked in the face and ended up with a bloodshot eye. Although it made him a bit leery of going around behind the cattle for a short while afterward, he soon was back to the antics that got him in trouble in the first place. You'd think after a good whallop to the head that you'd back off a bit, but Pip thinks that cow tails are made for swinging from (just like his daddy) and still tried a bit of that nonsense even after being hit. At least he didn't just quit, but it would be nice if he learned a little more quickly from his mistakes. I've decided to run all three youngsters at Roy's. It's really a bit much for them since it's the full open course and none of them are running at the open level, but it will be good for them I think.

I also worked Twist a little on the cattle before working anyone else and then took her over to the sheep and did a bunch of shedding with her. She's a great shedding dog and proved it again and again on these difficult-to-shed sheep. She still is missing some spark in her work. Her thyroid test came back basically normal (only abnormality was a low free T3, which apparently is insignificant).

When I had Dr. Redding check Pip's eye (all is well there) we also discussed Twist. We decided to go ahead and put her on Lixotinic to boost her iron, since she's at the extreme low end of normal for red blood cell count, and iron in the red blood cells are what carry oxygen, the lack of which could affect stamina and other work. Since we're not finding anything obvious on any of the tests we've done, this is just another "let's try it and see if it makes a change" kind of thing.

Kat was extremely pushy working sheep on Sunday. It seems that lack of regular work has made her forget things like pace, but I forgave all that when she came through on a really nice shed to both of our bad sides. (You can call a dog through into your right side or your left side, depending which what you're facing. I usually find myself calling a dog through into my right hand on a left flank out of habit, but the way things worked out, I called her into my left hand on an away flank and she did a beautiful job. That's just awesome for a dog with a shaky shed.)

Mary worked Raven and did a really nice job setting her up for outruns and doing a bit of wearing and driving. Raven worked for Mary despite both me and Laura being there (both of us have worked her). That's a good thing because I think it means that when Hilary gets her back, Raven will not try to cheat Hilary but will work for her honestly too.

The weekend before last also turned out to be a dog work filled weekend. Robin came down and met Laura and me for lunch at the Wild Onion (yum!). Since it wasn't raining as had been predicted, we went back to my place and worked dogs. That Sunday, Laura came down again and we went over to Tony's and worked dogs with him. That's the value of having friends with working dogs and sheep--even when you're not feeling like doing much, they're likely to get you out and working dogs despite yourself!

Since Laura is farm sitting for Mary and Tony for Thanksgiving, I imagine there will be plenty more dog working to be done over this weekend. We have our last sheepdog trial of the season the following weekend, so this is good prep, especially for the youngsters, whom I seriously considered pulling from nursery because of various issues we've been having. Now it's too late, and we'll just have to plow ahead (that's figuratively speaking, Phoebe!).

Big Buck and the Story of a Vegetarian
Jimmy killed a really big buck last week--it was a near-record size, probably about 250 pounds. I had Jimmy save the unwanted parts for a friend but she couldn't get over her to pick it up, so this morning instead of feeding everyone their regular breakfast I went out to the box of parts and just doled stuff out. Even the chickens got in on it. There were deer parts all over the yard.
Later I went into the fridge for something and saw a plastic container of broccoli and figured it was time to throw it out, so I tossed it on the yard for the chickens. When I looked out later, there was Farleigh, picking through the grass and munching on broccoli--with venison all around this dog chose veggies. I always knew he was a strange one....

I won't go into the details about how aromatic it is in here with all the dogs lying around with bellies full of venison.

Reading Corner
If you want to read a dog-related story that's hard to put down, get yourself a copy of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (HarperCollins, 2008). It's a dark story in many respects, and even when you have a good idea about what's coming and think you'd rather not know what you suspect will be, you still won't be able to turn away or put the book down. It's a gripping tale about a family that raises its own type of dog, the Sawtelle dog, and of Edgar, a boy born mute who speaks only in sign. Edgar helps raise the dogs on the family farm in Wisconsin and lives a happy childhood until the death of his father. When Edgar discovers the truth behind that death, his actions set off a chain of events that lead to the ultimate--and both expected and unexpected--conclusion to the story. This is one book that moved me emotionally in a way that much fiction doesn't. If you're not afraid of beautifully written, evocative stories that don't always turn out the way you'd like them to, then Edgar Sawtelle is definitely a book worth your time.

For a complete change of pace, the book I'm currently reading is Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation by David A. Price (Vintage Books, 2003). It's an account of the interrelationships among not only the English colonists but also with the Native Americans they first try to live in harmony with. I'll let you know what I think when I've finished it.

Oh, and for those of you who remember mention of the book I was reading before Edgar Sawtelle it was The Forger's Spell. It's another book I'd recommend as a riveting account of how art forgeries are pulled off and how one forger in particular was able to full some of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals of his time. What I came away with from this book was a sense of wonder that we are ever truly able to say "This is a Vermeer, and this is not." I'll never look at art the same way again....

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