Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Joys of Rural Life!

So we all can probably recite the usual pleasures of living in a rural area, and I think most people you ask would admit that the perqs generally outweigh the inconveniences (like having to travel more than a few miles for shopping). The other night as I was stepping into the shower, one perq became quite evident. When I noticed the water pressure in the shower was quite low, I remembered that I had started water running into a stock tank earlier and oops! had apprently forgotten to turn it off. So out of the shower I hopped, dashed through the house wearing nary a stitch of clothing, out the back door (with a glance over at the neighboring barn to be sure they weren't there feeding the horses), and turned off the faucet (yes, the pasture was looking quite well watered, if unintentionally). In the country you can skip from shower to back yard without worrying about modesty. After all, the chickens and sheep don't care if you're running around in your birthday suit!

The dogs say, "Hey, aren't we going for like the umpteenth walk to the 'back 40' today?"

The Mules and Their BFL Friend Have Arrived!
And here for your viewing pleasure are my new sheep. Don't let their friendly looks fool you. They're wild as bucks! It's just that their desire for free handouts (hay) sometimes overwhelms their flight response. That's the BFL ram lamb (nicknamed "Tiny," lol) on the left. The dark-faced ewes are Clun Forest mules, and the white-faced ewes are North Country Cheviot mules.

A closer view, this time with GlenGrant the ram on the right.

With Laura's help, I sheared GlenGrant yesterday. It wasn't a beautiful job, but I'm sure just getting all that fleece off made him a much happier fellow. And, no, that's not a color spot on him, it's Blu-Kote. I never said I could shear perfectly, but we did get by with a minimum of bloodshed....

Personally I think the characteristic roman nose and blue-face of a BFL are better admired from afar, but just in case anyone prefers a close-up view, here it is.

When we sheared yesterday, we did so in a stall in the barn to be in the shade, since it was something like 88 or 89 degrees out. GlenGrant was not happy being alone with just two human females for company, so we brought the mules in to pacify him. They actually behaved like normal sheep, probably because they recognized that things could be much, much worse for them--I could be coming after them with my noisy shears. One of the Clun mules tried to eat Laura's shirt when she wasn't looking. It was probably this ewe, who is very nosy (as long as you don't look at her or move toward her or even think about doing anything to her).

A human behind a camera couldn't possibly pose any threat, so it's safe to come just a little bit closer....

The NCC mules. They are possibly even wilder than the Clun mules. And that's saying something.

Working Dogs

Remember Swift? Well, this is her littermate Simon. Yeah, you'd not guess it if you saw them together. Simon is cute isn't he? He's also a typical goofy boy dog of just over a year old. Did I say he was goofy? Understatement. He has learned pretty quickly to leave the chickens alone (in one sense anyway). The cats are another story, though I think JellyBean at least has put the fear of doG in him.

It looks like Lark might have some competition on the chicken herding front (note that Willow the Enforcer is going to make sure Simon doesn't do anything wrong):

At this point, Ms. Hen has had enough of Sir Simon and moves in for the peck, which I sadly did not get on camera. Poor Simon--can't get respect even from a lousy hen.

But once he's recovered from the indignity of it all, he's still pretty happy with life. Did I mention he's goofy?

So I have finally started on the re-education of Lark. And it actually has turned into the re-education of Phoebe too. After advice from several sources, I've decided to try to teach Lark to stand as a remedy to her clappiness. I don't know if it will successfully remedy her very strong desire to go to the pressure on a strong draw and hold there, but at least if I can teach her to stay on her feet, part of the battle will be won. So today we just worked on "stand!" She never quite got the concept on the fetch, but she was getting it on the drive and actually seemed to be relaxing into it by the end of our session today. I was keeping the work close and the work had an overall effect of slowing her down, which I don't want, but I mixed it up with some speedy stuff too, and I was really pleased with how quickly she caught on. Of course, there were a lot--a lot--of "Get up, stand" commands, which was a bit confusing for her, especially since she interprets "get up" to mean power up, as in drive on in hard, so it was like I was giving her opposite commands at the same time, but I think she's going to get it and hopefully it will help us with some other issues. I worked some on the stand on the fetch too, but she was having a harder time with that, and I didn't drill it because normally even if she claps on the fetch, she pretty much never sticks.

And that brings us to Phoebe. I have a confession to make here. In training Phoebe I had let my own training philosophy sort of fall by the wayside. I try to be a calm and quiet trainer. In fact, I was talking with a friend the other day who pointed that very thing out about my training style. As we discussed training philosophies, it occurred to me that I was my own worst enemy when it came to Phoebe. All this time I have let her push my buttons and I've reacted in a way I wouldn't with any other dog. I don't know if this is because I expect more from her because I know what she can do or if we just got into a head-butting contest without me really realizing it. I did know that what I was doing wasn't working. The harder I got on her, the harder she's pushed back. I was on my way to making a hard dog, I think. So after that recent conversation, I had an epiphany of sorts and decided I needed to change my attitude when working Miss Pheebs. No more getting annoyed or getting strident or getting loud. I had to get back to the kinder, gentler me. When she does something overtly silly, I just shake it off and maintain my even keel and calm attitude.

The result? I can already see her relaxing and little more and perhaps becoming more responsive. One big thing we have fought (and I mean fought) is the lie down. So today, since I had stand on the mind, I decided to work with her on a stand. And she loves it! She caught on quickly (of course it helps that she doesn't have Lark's automatic down, so I didn't have to start from getting her up and then asking for a stand) and was being much less hardheaded about things in general. Now I just have to see if we can maintain this newer, happier relationship and move forward from here.

I'm not working on anything in particular with Pip. I did a few outruns today and a little driving and tried to set up fetches and drives that were similar to what Laura and Nick were doing earlier to see how Pip responded in the same situation. Interestingly, he didn't want to come off the pressure in the same places where Nick was giving Laura trouble. It makes me think that while there is some disobedience going on (obviously), they must also be reading some pressure that we humans aren't seeing so clearly.

Linc worked really nicely today. I don't think it will be long before Laura can take him out on a pro-novice course.

I had Simon out in the round pen earlier this week and he showed me he doesn't need a round pen. So today I had him in the field with the dog broke hair sheep. There were some very yeeha! moments and some nice work. He reminded me of Twist as a young dog in that he wanted to work off to the side and control the lead sheep. He has a pretty good sense of balance and circles nicely in both directions. I couldn't send him very far on an outrun without him deciding to go straight up the middle, but if I was careful how I sent him, he went around nicely. He definitely showed me where I'll need to concentrate to start with. Today I saw a lot that was very unlike his littermate Swift. I'll be interested to see the parts where he is like her.

And now I must break out the bleach and go scrub a stock tank before dark.


~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

I agree, country live does have its perks... that isnt one of mine, but OK LOL
Never have appreciated those noses, I had a tunis ewe with a roman nose, if not so exagerated as Grant's is, but she went back to Ohio. Just dont like the look. Besides, tunis arent supposed to have roman noses :/

Darci said...

Well, I love the new sheep! And I always have enjoyed running round neekid in the country, been there, done that! LOL Some times it just cant be helped,and then some times... if it feels good, Do it! LOL

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I think all your new sheep look very sharp, but I'll take my BFLs at a distance and NOT in profile, thank-you!

Julie Poudrier said...

Hey Becky,
A roman-nosed tunis makes you wonder what might have happened behind the barn somewhere, huh? It's interesting to me that the mule ewes definitely inherit the BFL ears, but don't get the super roman nose, thank goodness. I can't wait to see how the BFL crosses on the tunis as far as ears go.

It's the rare opportunity when my housemate isn't home and I can run nekkid with impunity. It's best kept private--pretty frightening otherwise! lol!

Yep, those BFLs look great at a distance, but that nose, OH MY!

Betty Gillis said...

Just reading your comments on putting a stand on your clappy dog, I think that's a great idea. My really good dog is very sticky, and I try to never down her, I want her on her feet pretty much at all times. Stella is bred the same way as this dog, and I was worried about her being sticky as well, so although she has a down, I very seldom use it. I know a lot of folks don't feel they can get as good a stop with just a stand, but I've not found that to be the case, Stella's stop is pretty darn solid. The other thing I've noticed with all my dogs, with a stand, it seems like they are more relaxed than with a lie down? Maybe with a stand, they feel more in control? Anyway, just my novice two cents ;-) hope it works with your dog.