Friday, April 25, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Golden Rule?

Remember the Golden Rule? "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"? Can you think of a better way to run your life? A more simply elegant tenet to live by? I can't. I'm not saying that I always succeed in following the Rule in my day-to-day life, but I do keep it in mind at all times, and I try my best. I remember several years ago being asked by a friend how I could remain friends (or at least friendly) with a person I used to date and who was emotionally abusive. I moved to another state to get away from this person (the former BF). But once some time had passed and I was able to be more objective, I was also able to become his friend. And that's what led to my other friend's question. I was a little surprised by the question to be honest. I hadn't really thought about the friendship in "how could you" terms. But I did have an answer: "Because it's no harm to me to be his friend, and he could use a friend, and I'm the one who has to live with myself at the end of the day." My answer was just another way of saying "I'm trying to live by the Golden Rule."

What I can't understand is people who deliberately treat others like crap. I'm not even talking about the big stuff, like murder, here--I'm talking about the little encounters--things that happen in everyday life. I have a friend who called me the other day and told me a story about another supposed "friend" of hers. This "friend" has taken advantage of my friend not once, but several times. While my friend faults herself for being so naive and giving this person the benefit of the doubt and trusting her word (on more than one occasion), I have to wonder what is going on in the mind of the other person, whose behavior is causing so much trouble for my friend. How do people who lie, take advantage of others, and not be a good friend by any stretch of the imagination live with themselves at the end of the day? Do they just not think about the negative effect they are having on another person's life. Do they just not care? I can't believe such people are evil. I'd like to think that they have just lost sight of the Golden Rule.

It seems that people who have lost sight of the Golden Rule can't understand why they alienate the few friends they have (or had). These sorts of people always find a way to blame their problems on someone or something else. It's sad really. What happened to accountability? The Rule holds you accountable for your actions (...as you would have them do unto you). I think that if I were consistently losing friends (or perhaps even making real enemies) I would do a little self-reflection and try to figure out what I am doing wrong--not try to make excuses and lay the blame at someone (anyone) else's feet.

What happened to the Golden Rule?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Georgia on My Mind

I took a trip to Georgia on Tuesday--flew into Atlanta in the evening, picked up my rental car (a RAV4, which was quite sporty), and drove to Stone Mountain for a meeting I was to attend the next day. I was hoping I could get up early and walk to the top of Stone Mountain (which isn't much of a mountain by anyone's standards), but alas the fellow checking me into the hotel noted that the trail was clear on the other side of the park, and I knew there was no way I could get there, do the hike, and get back to the hotel in time for the start of the conference at 8. Otherwise, I might have had some nice photos to share.

So what made this trip notable? Well, there was a Land Forces Conference in full swing at the resort. By Land Forces, I mean military, and lots of 'em, from all over the world! And GA State Troopers crawling all over the place too. We figured we were either very, very safe or in grave danger (if the secret had gotten out). I don't think the meeting planners at TBM would have arranged a meeting at this resort had they known what we were in for, but of course what else was going on there was kept very quiet. So instead we just got the surprise on arrival. My boss said that helicopters brought in military brass on Tuesday (I missed that), and whatever satellite and other electronics they had going on wreaked annoying havoc with the sound systems being used in our meetings. One of our consultants said they created quite an upset when a large group gathered in the rotunda area to get on buses to go out to the WIKA plant, as they were congregating and blocking the troopers' lines of vision. Oh my.

But, really, who can resist a conference center full of (mostly) men in uniform? (Okay, maybe some folks can, but I've always had an affinity for military men! Had I known, I wouldn't have been neraly as resistant of my boss' entreaties to go in the first place!)

Alas, I was there for less than 24 hours, and so left around 3 p.m. to drive back to the airport and fly back home. Since work was buying and every eatery in Hartsfield Airport was packed, I waited till I got back to Greensboro to get dinner at Kabab & Curry, a Nepalese restaurant that I just love. Well, they've completed the new bypass around Greensboro and I ended up on it (I do much better at these sorts of things in the daylight, as I haven't actually seen the new highway configuration to know where I needed to go to be where I needed to be) and so had to turn around to go back to High Point Road. I was absolutely starving, so I decided to go ahead and dig into the appetizer, vegetable samosa, which comes with a dipping sauce. I put the dipping sauce in the van's cupholder and proceeded on my way home. As I got close to the house I called Jimmy to ask him to put the dogs up if they were out so I wouldn't have to fight to get through the gate. When I hung up the phone, I stuck it where I normally do: you guessed it, the cupholder, which was already occupied by a cup of dipping sauce. I soon learned that sitting for a few minutes in a Nepalese dipping sauce is death to a cell phone.

But there is good news. Because I've been with Verizon for two years, I was due a new free phone anyway. I just had to take time out of my day to go to the Verizon store and get it. And of course whatever dipping sauce does to phones apparently makes it impossible to retrieve data off the phone to put on the new phone, so I had to retype in all my contact numbers. Bleh.

More Lambs
Yesterday evening shortly after 6 I went out to feed Maia her supper. I looked over in the lambing pen and saw, well, a lamb. When I got closer, I could see that number 84, who is named Oprah, had twins, a ram and a ewe. The ram lamb already has horn buds (the sire was the horned ram that came with this flock and has been gracing Lark's food bowl in ground form for these many months...). There's another ewe who looks like she might go soon, and she'll probably do so over the weekend while I'm gone to Roy Johnson's cattle trial. So Jimmy will have to be point man on lambing for the weekend.

A Cattle Trial
Yep, I haven't been to a cattle trial in a couple of years, mainly because I have no cattle to work on a regular basis, so it just didn't really make sense. But I did have a chance to try Lark, Pip, and Phoebe on Laura's BF's calves once about a month or so ago, and they looked pretty good. Unfortunately this trial is run on the full open trial field course, so it's really above Pip and Phoebe's abilities at the moment. It's probably pushing Lark to the limits of what she can do too, but I just decided what the heck. Cattle trials are a little more forgiving in some ways (no real emphasis on lines as long as you make the obstacles), so I figure that even if Lark takes a wrong flank now and again, there's not likely to be great harm. And since she seems to like working cattle, why not?

And Pip may get a chance by default, though he's nowhere near ready to do that much driving. Twist has been coming up lame intermittently on her left hind. I'm praying it's not a cruciate issue. If she shows any lameness at this trial, then I'll just throw Pip in instead. Who knows? He might actually surprise me and make it all the way around the course!

Since Laura and Chuck plan to be there, I'll see if I can't get someone to take photos and/or video.

Monday, April 14, 2008

How to Relax on a Sunday

I haven't ridden horseback since I moved out here from northeastern North Carolina in January 2005. So when my friend Darci asked if I wanted to go for a ride, I said "Sure!" and we set up Sunday for the big event. In preparation, I dug through my trunks looking for a pair of riding breeches (no seams are a good thing when you're planning to spend lots of time in the saddle on a trail ride), and the good news is that I can still fit in them!

I got to Darci's place around noon and found that I would be riding their buckskin quarter horse mare Cocoa. She was a very sweet girl (after she finally allowed Darci to catch her anyway). We brushed (you know, I don't think there's anything more relaxing than grooming a horse, and I've spent many, many hours grooming) and tacked up and off we went. (Okay, I had to get used to the idea of riding Western, since I was raised on hunter/jumper ponies and later in my show career turned to dressage, with very little Western sprinkled in when I showed for a woman who wanted me to do English and Western pleasure and dressage, oh, and a little sidesaddle too!) Three hours later, I had enjoyed the conversation and the scenery but my tailbones were telling me it was time to stop! Surprisingly, I am not very sore this morning, so the muscle memory must still be there.

Darci lives near Raven Rock Park (http://www.stateparks.com/raven_rock.html) and apparently you can ride horses in the park. I'm hoping we can do that some too, because where we rode near the edges of the park was absolutely lovely.

By the time we were nearing the end of the ride, Darci's mare had injured a rear hoof, so we had to run into Sanford for an EasyBoot (after Darci's DH Bobby cauterized the bleeding). Darci says she's fine today, but I guess it will be a few weeks before we can take them out again.

I had brought Lark, Pip, and Phoebe with me, and although it was getting late and chores at home were calling to me (as in it would be nice to get them done before dark, which I didn't), I decided to give them each a turn on Darci's hair sheep (three ewes and I don't know how many lambs). The sheep were very light and there was a strong draw to one corner of the pasture (where the ram and a still-pregnant ewe were housed), but even so I was quite pleased with how everyone worked. Pip has really started listening and giving me gears when I ask while he's fetching or driving. In fact, given that Twist is coming up lame intermittently, I might put Pip in a couple of her runs at the cattle trial next weekend. He's not actually ready for an open-sized course, but his inside flanks are definitely shaping up (it helps that he takes the stop before the flank most of the time now), with reluctance to take them yesterday based solely on the pressure in the field, and even then he took the flank I asked for most of the time. Phoebe seems to be going through a bit of a confidence crisis (at least that's what it looked like on Saturday at Tony and Mary's place), so I used the opportunity of light sheep and a fence line to give her a boost on her driving. With Lark I just worked on her flanks and then practiced a bit of shedding. She was coming through pretty nicely, although we're going to have to work on that whole "wrong flank" thing. She's had a problem with mixing up her flanks and so when I ask for a flank of she gives me the wrong one, I stop her and ask again, repeating until she gets it right (assuming she didn't get it right after the first stop). Well, border collies being what they are, when we're working on shedding and I flank her and stop her sometimes she thinks she's being stopped because she's taken a wrong flank when in fact all I want is a stop. So the extra flanking she does makes for a rougher shed, but I haven't done a lot of shedding with her and I think once she figures out the job of shedding, the confusion over "lie down" meaning lie down vs. an inidcator that she's taken a wrong flank will work itself out. I did some exercises where we started to push the shed sheep back to the rest of the group and then when they saw the others and started to hurry toward them I flanked her around to catch them and she caught on to that really fast. Whew! One thing I worry about with her breeding is a tendency to widen flanks under pressure, but so far she's been great about coming in and focusing on the sheep at hand to keep them apart rather then winging out wide to gather everyone back together. Overall I was very pleased with the work of all three youngsters yesterday.

Now I just need to get working on dog-breaking my karakul yearlings here--as in making them my new round pen sheep that are suitable for starting beginner dogs on. That should be entertaining! Well, and two of them need to be halter trained in the next two weeks so that they are ready to show at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival the first weekend in May. But halter training will have to wait until after my overnight trip to Atlanta (Kings Mountain actually) tomorrow. No doubt those six ewes that are yet to lamb will choose Tuesday night and Wednwsday to do so, since I won't be around....

Friday, April 11, 2008

Let's read, and other stuff....

Wow, it's been more than a week since I've written something here--sometimes life gets busy and before you know it, a bunch of days have just flown by. So what have I been up to? Well, one thing I never stop doing is reading. A while back, when all the movie hype was still going, I read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I haven't seen the movie, but my sister Jean has, and she's the one who told me I should read the book. So I did, and I quite enjoyed it. A while ago I had bought the other two books in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and I finally got around to reading those. Even though they are children's books, I thought the story was entertaining and original. I've been meaning to add The Golden Compass to my Netflix list as well, but haven't gotten around to that either.

Since my "reformed" book-buying self is trying to make better use of my local library, I recently got a few more books from there. I had ordered Don McCaig's Rhett Butler's People, as well as a nonfiction work my sister Renee had recommended, Free For All and I had a voice message that they were available at my local branch for pick up. So off I went to the library. I always check out the "new books" section while I'm there, and so as usual I added a couple more books from there.

The first one, a small book by CS Richardson titled The End of the Alphabet was a great read! It's the story of Ambrose Zephyr, who discovers that he has 30 days, more or less, to live, and what he and his wife and one true love, Zappora (Zipper) Ashkenazi, do with the time remaining to him. It's a engaging little love story, and although you know from the beginning how it will end, the story of getting there will keep you turning pages even when you know you should be doing something else, like farm chores.

I finished The End of the Alphabet last night and immediately picked up Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert. Borchert is a librarian in the suburban Los Angeles area, and this book promises to be humorous look at life in today's public library. Having worked as a librarian in a very small town in a very rural area, and having seen my share of oddballs, geeks, and crazies (but thankfully no gangstas), I am looking forward to reading Borchert's account.

The other two books in my current "to read" stack are Rhett Butler's People, which tells Butler's side of the Gone With the Wind saga, and Life Class by Pat Barker. I've not read any of Barker's works before, but she has recieved critical acclaim (and the Booker Prize) for previous works, and this looked like it would be a good story. Here's an excerpt from the dust cover: "It is the spring of 1914 and a group of young students have [sic] gathered in an art studio for a life drawing class. Paul Tarrant and Elinor Brooke are two parts of an intriguing love triangle, and in the first days of the war, they turn to each other. As spring turns to summer, Paul volunteers for the Belgian Red Cross and tends to wounded and dying soldiers from the front line. By the time he returns, Paul must confront the fact that life and love will never be the same for him again. In Life Class Pat Barker returns to her most renowned subject: the human devastation and psychic damage wrought by the First World War on all levels of British society." I'll let y'all know what I think when I've read it.

More on Lambing, or My Achey-Breaky Back
So aside from the mental exercise I get from reading, there are still physical things that must be done around here. All that rain we had made a tremendous mess of the barn and mixing pen area. It got so bad, I just finally put everyone back out in the main pasture. Then I tackled the soaking wet, stinking, mass of muddy straw that the barn area had become. The property here is terraced, with the terraces made such that they hold water, which I suppose at the time was thought to be a good and useful thing. And perhaps out in the pasture it is. But the way the previous owners built the barn, water runs off the yard, through the barn stalls, and then collects on the terrace just below the stall entrances. In bad weather and with livestock present, barn fronts can be pretty messy places, but adding a landscape feature that holds water right in front of the barn just makes for a horrendous mess. It took nearly six hours over two days for me and my buddy the pitchfork to get the jugs, stalls, and area right in front of them cleared of all the sopping wet straw. Let's just say that my muscles were fairly screaming by the time I went to bed Sunday night (a good thing from a Weight Watchers point of view because that level of back-breaking work meant that I could eat pretty much anything over the weekend, and I still managed to lose weight!). But I knew my next group of ewes were due to start lambing today and that there's no way that stuff would ever dry out unless I cleared it out, so that's what I did. Yesterday, I went in and spread lime in the now-mostly-dry stalls and barn front. Today, I'll put down a new layer of fresh, clean straw. With just six ewes to lamb, I plan to just close off the one stall, since really two jugs should be plenty. I was tempted to just let them lamb out in the pasture, but since I'm not sure what Maia's experience is with newborns and I also have to do some traveling over the next few weeks, I figure it will be easier for the sheep and Jimmy if they're brought up into the barn/mixing pen area, which is on the schedule for this evening.

These ewes also needed crutching, which I did Wednesday evening. I don't think the job was quite as neat as when Laura and I did all the other ewes together, but at least it's done! So what if it was pretty much at the last minute. One of the ewes from this flock, my favorite ewe of the group in fact, named Sophie, had a stillborn lamb earlier this week. That leaves just six. Of those six, four already have good-sized bags on them. The other two may or may not have bags coming. I'd say they do, but since the sheep are new to me and I've not been through a lambing with them, I don't know what their bags are normally like. It would be nice if they all lambed early on. I'm afraid as we get into May the warmth will just bring out the flies, which makes things a bit more treacherous for the lambs.

I still haven't decided if I want to breed the yearlings and the ones who lost their lambs or didn't catch back this spring for a fall lambing. I wish I had a crystal ball to see what the weather is going to be and if we'll have pasture and whether hay will be available at a reasonable price.... Given the cost of grain, I'm leaning toward not breeding, because certainly by late gestation I'd have to be supplementing them and with feed at $10 for a 50-lb bag, I doubt I could get out of the lambs what went in to feeding their mamas.

My flock will soon be about 25 percent smaller as Laura has sold her entire flock (now 16 sheep counting the lambs) to Chuck, and they will be picking them up on Saturday to take them to their new home. This will help with my feed bill some, but it means I no longer have any well dog broke sheep for working youngsters on. I've decided that the five mostly crazy karakul ewe lambs will now have to be worked religiously so that they can be the new schooling sheep. If I want hair sheep to work, I'll just have to go down the road to Tony and Mary's place.

As for feed, one of the other reasons for separating off the pregnant ewes is that I can continue to feed them at the same level while cutting everyone else back. They have grass now, and the youngest lambs are a nearly a couple of weeks old now and have a creep area where they can get grain and not be pushed out of the way by their mamas. In another couple of weeks when the youngest are about a month old, I plan to cut the grain off entirely to the mamas and just let them go on pasture and hay. That should help the budget tremendously, as grain prices have been steadily rising, just like gas prices.

And although I don't have pictures (I'll try to get some soon), my little hen that looks like a golden Sebright (but isn't) hatched out six biddies last week. They are still living in a dog crate, but I plan to move them out into one of the chick pens this afternoon. The chicks are either black, black with red heads, or a mix of tan and black. Now let's just hope most of them are hens, since my hens have taken a beating over the past couple of years till I'm down to just four or five (with probably three times that many roosters).

And that's all for now here at Willow's Rest.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Maia Chronicles


As I've noted before, I am new to livestock guardian dogs. One thing I've discovered is that a controlling personality and a maremma aren't necessarily a good match. Since I can't expect a 5-year-old experienced LGD to change, that means I'm the one who must adjust.

You see, I think everything has a place, and I'm happiest when everything is in its place. The problem is that what I consider Maia's place and what she considers her place are two very different things.

On Monday, I let her off her tie out and set her loose in the main pasture with just a drag line (parachute cord). As I was told she'd do, the first thing she did was examine the entire perimeter, apparently looking for weak spots. My LGD mentor said she'd be looking for places where danger could come in, but I have to wonder if she wasn't also looking for places where she could go out!

Shortly after her perimeter check, she got her drag line hung on some branches in the big gully, and got herself loose by pulling out of her collar. Then, according to Jimmy (I was in the house working at the time) she charged straight through the flock and then chased them till she had them "pinned against the fence," at which point she sat down and watched them. The sheep are funny about Maia. When she was on her tie out, they would all go hang right with her, and one of the tunis ewes would stand pretty much right against her. But when she's off the tie out, they feel a need to move away from her. Clearly it's not a panicked sort of moving away, but it's still interesting to watch.

So I went out and got her collar and drag line, removed the line, and walked up to Maia and put her collar back on her. That went well. I mean, here's a dog who lived on her own for six months, had little human contact the four and a half years before that, and a little more than two weeks after being captured is letting me walk up to her in the pasture to put her collar on! I was feeling good!



I had also let the ewes and lambs out of the mixing pen and in to the unfenced field to graze. Not long after the collar incident I heard the border collies barking and looked out to see Maia strolling among the ewes and lambs. Oh no! She's supposed to be with the rest of the flock, not wandering around with the ewes and lambs (says the controlling side of me). I took Twist and got the sheep back in, but Maia had different plans for herself, and off she went to the creek for a dip. She was happy when I talked to her, but it was clear she wasn't planning to let me catch her. Now I was feeling not so good....

Well, it was nearly dinnertime (for Maia), so I went back to the house and made her dinner. I brought it back out and went back behind the creek to see if she had wandered off further, but no, she was still right in that area. With a bribe in my hand I was much more interesting in Maia's eyes, and she came up to me and let me catch her and put her back in the pasture. I put her on her tie out again simply because we had a vet appointment the next morning and I really didn't want to have to call them and cancel because I couldn't catch the dog!

I'll keep the story of taking Maia to the vet short. I'll just say that she was quite against getting in the van, but throughout the struggle (okay, outright fight) to get her in, she never once made an aggressive move toward me. I finally lifted her in and tied her snugly to a crate and off we went. At the vet's the was a very good girl. She's up to 78 pounds now. I got her microchipped (I kind of had to since I had gotten her a collar the day before, along with a nameplate, which stated she was microchipped). She got a clean bill of health for her spay incision and her anal gland infection. I'm thinking that the next time she needs vetting it might be worth a farm call to have the vet just do it here. LGDs don't like to leave their flocks, and Maia at least doesn't think riding in a vehicle is something a dog should ever do.

My next step in the "taming of Maia" (you know, bringing her under control) was to put her in the round pen with seven sheep, including the two young tunis ewes who seem to like her. According to my plan, these sheep were going to be the "core flock" who would accept Maia and through their acceptance, help the rest of the flock to accept her as well. I put wire over the gate so she couldn't crawl through there and left her with her core group of charges. She and they seemed quite happy last night and all was well this morning when I went out to feed.

I went ahead and let the ewes and lambs out to graze and then came in to feed the inside dogs. Maybe half an hour after letting the sheep out I look up from the kitchen sink to see sheep moving purposely and Maia out there strolling among them. So much for my "climb out proof" round pen. Well, my mentor had told me just yesterday that Maia would insist on checking the boundaries and keeping an eye on all the sheep, so I took a deep breath and decided to let it be (those of you who like to have control over your animals will know just how difficult this is).

Maia moved among them for a while, checked the boundaries over by the horse pasture, and then strolled up to where the sheep were grazing out front. Next thing I know, all of the sheep are moving back toward the gate at the bottom of the field, with Maia bouncing along in the middle of them. (This is when my mentor's words struck: Jimmy had said she was chasing the sheep, but my mentor had said that it probably wasn't chasing but Maia asserting her control, and sure enough here she was running with the ewes and lambs, but clearly no one was in a panic--they were just doing what Maia wanted.) She put most of them through the gate and then lay down in front of it. I thought perhaps her drag line had caught on the log at the base of the gate, so I walked down there and called her.

She came bounding up to me. Yes! I told her what a good girl she was. In the meantime, the rest of the sheep went through the gate. So I walked to the gate and called Maia to come along. She had other ideas and headed to the creek (FWIW, this same creek goes through the main pasture, but isn't as deep there). Instead of going after her to try and catch her (that's my natural inclination after all), I shut the gate and went to feed hay to the ewes. I could see Maia at the top of the road that leads to the back of the property. Oh, I was just itching to get her to come back, but my new, noncontrolling self told me to leave her be.

A while later I looked up from my computer and could see a white shape just below the ewe pasture, between the fence and the creek. Yep, it was Maia, and she was watching things from outside the fence. Because I just can't let go entirely, I got a couple of dog treats and headed down through the ewe pasture, through the gate in to the main pasture, and then through the gate at the bottom by the road. I called Maia to me and she came up all wiggly and clearly pleased with herself. She let me catch her and lead her back into the main pasture. I didn't really see the point of trying to put her back in the round pen, so I just gave her some scritches and told her she was a good girl. She was so happy with my praise that she did a couple of crazy runs (you know, running in a big circle with her tail part way out and then dropped). She went right through the sheep in that pasture, who just scattered out of her way and then regrouped. She did a couple of crazy runs and then sat down to the observe the sheep. That's where I left her.


In another few months, she just might have me trained!

On another note, the last set of twins from the first lambing group was born to Khayyam in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. One of the twin ewes is quite a bit larger than the other, but they both seem to be healthy and strong.

Here's the bigger lamb:


Woops! "Little Bit" gets stuck in a hole in the straw!


But she didn't waste any time getting herself up and getting to the milk bar....