Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Space Weasel and Sloth Saga

Title Page and Theme SongSingALong by Anne, Story and some illustrations (but not most) by Michael
Space Guardian and Nature Guardian
In the beginning, there was the Guardian of Nature and the Guardian of Space. They ruled the Universe together.  Peace and harmony happened.  But one day the Space Guardian declared "I should rule more than you for there is more space than nature!"

The Nature Guardian disagreed but the Space Guardian was too greedy so they were angry and didn't talk to each other.

They each made an army while they were not speaking.  The Space Guardian made an army of Space Weasels.  The Nature Guardian formed his from the wise sloths of Earth who think they are funnier than they are. 

To be continued

Monday, September 28, 2015

Saturday Morning Excitement

There is nothing that will get your blood moving and heart pumping early on a Saturday morning like a call from your neighbor saying "Your sheep are out in the road."

My wonderful husband offered to crawl out of bed and help, but I told him I thought Sprite and I could get them back ok.

A few minutes later, after grabbing clothes, boots and dog, I was walking down the road and saw them out in an open field.  

I sent Sprite "way to me" out into the tall grass, but the sheep saw me and bolted away, like I didn't feed them all the time or something, the bastards.  They weren't going to wait around to see if they knew me or not.  They ran across the road and up into another neighbor's yard behind some pine trees.  

Sprite couldn't see them go, being shorter than the grass, so I called her back and we walked down the road further.  I sent her again.  She still couldn't see where the sheep were, but she went all the way down the driveway past them, looking, then spotted them and inched up from behind.    I walked carefully slightly closer to the sheep.  About the time she made contact I stepped out from behind trees.  The older sheep came directly to me, recognizing me.  The lambs bolted to the side, but Sprite tucked them in.   

We took the sheep down to the nearest gate and plopped them in to our field, no problem. 

I immediately spotted the trouble:  a dead tree had fallen on the fence.  I hauled it away and went back to the house for more clips to hold the fence up again.  

I'm sure Decker (the brown one in the foreground of the above picture) led the escape over the fence, he's just that kind of sheep.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ben the Good Helper Dog

Today was deworming the sheep day, and Ben was such a good helper.  
Of course he was.  But today I really appreciated him.  We couldn't see the sheep from the barn, but I sent him out into the pasture on a "way to me".  I got all the gates set the right way, shutting some and opening others, and just as I was straightening up here came the sheep in an orderly line.  I stopped Ben and closed the gate.  Easy.

He lay quietly holding the sheep as I caught each one and gave it the medicine.  The only time he got up is when one young one bolted out of the group.  Ben put it back.

It should always be this easy.   

Friday, May 8, 2015


“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”
Aldo Leopold

Yesterday I took a couple of the dogs, Pepper and Sprite, out for a walk.   Spring is here, and the critters are out.

I first saw the coyote about a hundred yards down the road.  It stopped to look at us.  I stopped.  Once it had figured out what we were, it faded silently into the woods to my left.  

There are a lot of coyotes around here, but I almost never see them, like maybe twice in 12 years.  Hear them, yes, but not see them.   I got the distinct gut feeling that it was circling around in the woods to watch us from behind.   A few dozen more paces on, the dogs caught the smell.  They hadn't noticed before.  I love watching them scent.  Their ears and noses twitched.  

When we past a certain spot about 50 feet closer than where the coyote had stood, their heads snapped right in unison.  I guessed that this was the place the coyote had come out on to the road before our arrival.

Both dogs scented eagerly in the air as we walked, then Sprite had her head down when we reached the place I had seen it and she was drinking up so much heavy scent that she had to lick her lips to clear them.  Pepper was starting to lose interest "Eh, coyote, big deal."   

They both turned their heads to look into the woods at the place it had disappeared.  I'm guessing it was long gone by then.

That was our first morning encounter.

Another mile down the road a bald eagle flew just over my head, near the river.  I watched a pair of geese watching me as they paddled upstream.  

On the way back I heard the sweetest, purest sound in nature:  the Wood Thrush.   It has a habitual summer home at a certain tree farm on our road, and this was the first time I'd heard it back again. It is like a flute, only prettier.

Since I last wrote, we lost two more of our beloved dogs: Kip and Cinder.  We are down to seven dogs, which seems like enough for now.  

Since the snow melted I have been working Tessa, Pepper, Sprite and Ben again, usually just Wednesdays and Fridays.  Taz is a bit more dog than I want to handle at the moment.  If you know anyone looking for that intensity, he's available to the right working home.  This is not a dog to sit on the couch all day.  He's very affectionate, wants to be in your lap once he gets to know you.   I'm sure he'd work cattle.  His dad was Hank and his mom, Tessa.  He doesn't do anything really naughty in the 50 x 50 pen, he's just really intense.  He's learned to circle and to stop on balance, but I haven't done much more than that.   


Friday, October 10, 2014

Working Tessa

Friday is one of my dog working days.  I actually thought to time myself today, just out of curiosity for how long I spend on a typical session.

Thirteen minutes.

It was pretty much an average length session too, so I don't actually spend that much time training, which was a little surprising to me.  Whenever I go outside, I always find a zillions little things to do, so it ends up taking way longer than the actual training session.

Well, anyway.

We first worked on a little fetching and she was fast but wide.  I was pleasantly surprised at how wide she was working, without any pressure, and how square her corners were.  I think she was reading the jumpiness of the sheep.  I don't know why they were a bit jumpy, but they were.

I practiced a few off balance flanks, having her come a full circle around the sheep with some encouragement.   

Then we started a little driving.  She was still coming just a bit too far to the head, so I picked up the line she was dragging and guided her into "way to me", "there", "walk up" and so forth, down a fenceline, keeping the sheep at a steady walk.  After we'd gone about 100 feet I dropped the line but kept my body movements and commands the same.  She successfully drove another 100 feet or more, then I re-positioned myself to present a different visual picture to her, and sent her to gather them back.  We worked on some small fetches, then I had her drive them toward the gate.  This is a tricky area, because at first they will try to bolt away from the gate in two possible directions.  Then as they get close to it, they seem to realize the inevitable and RUN toward it as a draw.   Tessa handled it beautifully, taking my direction commands, then driving at a trot until I told her steady, which she did!  Yay Tessa! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Update for Fall

This is us lately, the couch sitters.  Well, not entirely.   I'm still working some of the dogs for their continuing training, so here are the updates:

Cinder:  Retired.  Her back legs are unsteady, she's mostly deaf.  But if she goes out to the pasture when another dog is working she'll disrupt the lesson, drive the sheep to the far side of the place, then sit down with her "Didn't I do well?" look and also "I can't hear you, but you said drive the sheep away, right?"  

Luke:  Also retired.  Limps a little bit, mostly deaf, but still pretty spry for a 14 year old.

Kip:  Retired.   Has a cancer in his mouth, and a fast one growing too.  He still seems full of energy though.

Hank:  Had to be pts in August after developing heart condition.   I miss him tons!  Such a sad loss.  

It's not a good year for the old guys.
Here are the younger dogs:

Ben:  Doing fine, one of my main chore dogs.

Sprite:   My other main chore dog.  She's also good at lying by the fire and being adorable.

Dodger: Still here, not doing much with him.

Pepper:  In training.  She works once a week or so, depending on the weather.   She is still really, really fast.  She likes flanking a lot more than she likes driving.  She also likes cuddling on the couch and barking.  At everything.  Well, not at sheep, but at everything else.

Tessa:  Possibly up and coming chore dog.  She works nice and calmly, is easy to do chores with.  She drives a little bit.  I work her about once a week.

Taz:  OMG hyper spaz dog.  He's a handful on the stock, I'll say that.    Still working in the small pen once in a while, when I get the energy for him.   He could use some daily work, and possibly a large herd of cattle to kick some sense into him.  I think he'd like that.  

My mom ran her dogs in the trial last weekend, and Lena, who is Tessa's sister, got started titles and did a nice job.  Also Akela, who is Kip's son (out of Melica) got open titles with good scores.  Yay Holmbergs!  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Working a couple dogs and loading a trailer

I have been working dogs again.   I asked my husband to help me out with keeping me sticking to a schedule, so he put "work dogs" on my schedule for two days a week.   I had been alternating working Pepper and Tessa on those two days, and also using the older dogs to sort for me.   They were doing pretty well until the super cold weather and deep snow got here.    I'm pretty well taking a break with them until the weather improves.   I did try to work Pepper once in the barn, but it was too much for her, she never would calm down, so I decided to give that a rest also.

Yesterday I sold a few of the sheep, and Hank did an awesome job sorting out the ones the people wanted, then driving them through the yard, down the driveway, and right into the trailer.   This was even with a lot of people "helping" including a bunch of very small children.   I did yell a bit at them to keep the kids out of the way lest they get trampled, but they didn't do that very well, and Hank managed to keep the sheep calm enough not to run over any little kids. 

Anyway, to them it looked like another routine day on the farm, but to me, I was proud as punch of the Hank dog.   Nothing like a few trailer loading episodes go awry to make one appreciate a really smooth one.