Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kip's Day

Yesterday we had perfect weather to be outside- what better day to trim sheep hooves.   Kip helped by holding them in a corner so I could catch them.   There he is in the above picture watching the sheep.    Then we took them out in the pasture to watch them eat.     The low, wet areas are getting up to grazable height, whereas the high, dry areas where the sheep really prefer to be are still very short grass.   So we go out and hold the sheep to grazing in their less favorite areas.  Sheep like to have a good high lookout to see any predators coming, but when those areas are patrolled by a big, black wolf they are willing to eat in the low spots.

They will not, however, stand in water to eat.   Here they are jumping over a puddle.
"We're not moose you know"

This is Adot and her two lambs in front
Adot is doing fine. She is feeding the lambs now, although I'm still supplementing with bowls of milk since the lambs aren't as fat as the others.   They also eat hay, grain and grass with enthusiasm.   The ewes have all developed a taste for milk replacer, so first I have to use one of the dogs to separate the group from the lambs or they won't get any.   Hank is becoming an expert shedder.  We don't do it the text book way, but which ever way seems to work at the time.   Usually I'm pointing and yelling "hold those guys!" while trying to ease the lambs toward the gate.   Which he does, good Hankie.   

This is the newest member of the flock.  He was born Wednesday

His mother is still very protective and he can't follow quick enough to keep up with the other sheep so Kip has to use all his patience (down, stay, walk, down) to move them along slowly.  

Moving slowly across the field...

Sheep grazing

Kip hanging out with me

Kinda big for a lap dog, aren't you?
The End

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tessa in the Big Field

Yesterday in the drizzle I took Tessa out to the big field to try her out there.  We first practiced in the small pen some of the commands she knows:  get around, lie down, walk up, out, stay.   Then we took our sheep through the gate and she did a nice wait while I got it open and let them through.   Then I called her to me, picked up the rope and had her "go bye" while holding the rope and walked with her around the sheep, pointing the stick at her when she tried to go in toward the sheep.   Lucky for us the sheep are so excited about fresh grass they don't take off running for far corners of the almost 5 acre field.   If they did run off  I'd just walk with her on the rope until we got them in a corner somewhere.   Sending her after running sheep that are already far away would not be a good idea at this stage. 

When she was thinking "go around", and the sheep were standing in the open rather than against a fence, happily eating grass, I dropped the rope and let her go around.   She did a nice circle, then started to get tighter so I pushed her out, then walked away from the draw.   She settled into walking behind the sheep then.   As soon as the sheep began to pass me I would make another turn and push her out.  

After a few minutes she started hanging out at the draw side, not wanting to go all the way around.   I did not see this in Sally, but have in some of the other dogs when they want to control the sheep and have figured out a spot they can hold them without running around and getting out of position to stop the sheep from running to the draw (where the other sheep are).  

This can be good and bad in my experience. 
The good:  it shows the dog is really thinking and reading the sheep, wanting to be in control and not just run around like a crazy nut. 
The bad:  if you want to actually walk the sheep toward the draw it takes a bit of work to get the dog to give up her position there.    Just pushing her around with the stick won't do it usually, they just go out wider but still hold the same side, which is what Tessa did.
So I have to show her that she really can go around to the non-draw side and not lose the sheep.  What I did was down her, walk to a position way off to the side, way off to the right, and then send her left to the sheep's heads.  It worked, and I expect it will take more of that as well as a couple of other tricks I have up my sleeve (from training Kip) to get her flexible on that.  


The pictures are from today.  We have sun!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rainy day

What to do on a cold and rainy day?   Play frisbee in the house, of course!

Each pup got a separate turn because otherwise certain dogs (Pepper) hog the frisbee.   Sprite is not interested in picking up the frisbee but she enjoys chasing along with Tessa and bugging her.

We're waiting

Tessa plays in a restrained, serious but somewhat low key way.  She brings each one back and doesn't get too excited or distracted.  She'd really like to lie down and chew on one but I use the lure of the second disc to keep the fetch game going.  Sprite will try to tug the disc out of Tessa's mouth but if it falls on the ground she's not that interested in it anymore. 

Sprite "supervising" the fetch game
Tessa will play tug but she's got her eye on me asking "Is this really ok? 

Can you get any more frisbee in your mouth?

When Pepper plays the world is a little blurry.   There is usually plenty of roo-rooing and growling.  She likes tugging, but also knows "drop".   Sometimes she drops the first one too far away in her excitement of getting the second one and then I send her to pick up the one she dropped first.   She can also catch in midair if I throw them close by.    She is such a happy dog, always smiling with her whole body. 

They really love these soft discs more than the hard frisbees that can get sharp edges and hurt their mouths.   I have to put them away right after the game is done though, as they would dearly love to chew the discs into small bits. 
Poor Hank, who would love this, doesn't get to play frisbee in the house.   When he plays fetch he goes from a 60 lb dog to a 60 lb full speed ahead battering ram and things in the house tend to break, like chairs.  Hank is not neglected though.    He and I spent an hour in the drizzly rain with the sheep yesterday, keeping them in their grazing spots.    Unlike Ben, Hank does not chill next to me or go lie under a tree until needed.  He is on high alert the whole time, watching tensely after the sheep in case I need him to do anything.  In sending him I have to remind him with "easy" unless I want him to go like a rocket.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Grazing sheep

Our grass is starting to grow, and since I want to let the pasture grass get a good start before putting the sheep on it (experts recommend 4-6 inches high), I have been taking the sheep around other places that are not fenced and so will not get grazed much this summer.     Of course, without good dogs I couldn't do this- the sheep are faster than me and would just run off and get into places they shouldn't, like the road.    Yesterday the kids came and helped me.   We found a frisbee that had been lost before the snow last fall and the three of us played frisbee while the sheep ate and Ben watched the sheep.   I don't have Ben trained to boundaries so he doesn't know where I want the sheep, but if they start to really book he will collect them up again, or he'll just lie in the best spot for preventing them from escaping.   Or if I don't like where they are going I send Ben.     David also wanted to help so sometimes he got to tuck the wandering sheep back in if they weren't going very fast. 

I don't have any new pictures today so here are a couple of cute puppy shots.



Today I worked Sprite and Pepper, and both did really well.   Sprite was driving down the fence, with only a few reminders for commands.   She's also gotten good at putting the sheep through the free standing chute.   Her flanks are just so nice- it's awesome to have that naturally and not have to continually remind her to square up.   
Pepper did a lot of fetching of a larger group, and a little bit of driving.   I put her back on a really long line and then of course never needed it.  You think she knows the difference?  Darn smart dogs!  But she is getting more and more happy to be compliant -doing things just because I ask and being willing to listen.   It's only a few situations where she goes over the excitement threshold and her ears shut off.   None of that today though- good teamwork!

Ben as a puppy during the crazy ear stage

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Any eggs on the ceiling?

The day started bright and early this morning at 5:30 with a rush of dogs into the bedroom.   I groaned, "there's dogs in here" or  "mmmph, mmmph, dogs", something like that.    I had locked all the dogs in the living room so we didn't have to worry about them eating the Easter Bunny, or finding all the Easter eggs and eating the candy out of them.   The living room was a handy candy and bunny-free zone with a door.    Dogs on the loose must mean at least one kid was up, possibly finding all the eggs without bothering to wake anyone else up.   So I stumbled out of bed and put the dogs outside.   Then I re- hid the eggs Michael had found while he was sent to wake up his brother after a small (probably mumbled and incoherent) lecture.   I have learned not to bother trying to wake up Dane at 5:30 even for Easter egg hunting.     He's happy to miss the whole thing for a few extra hours of sleep.   For me, once I'm up going back to bed is not really an option.  

 The kids had really wanted to stay up all night to catch the Easter bunny and demand more loot.   This idea was vetoed in favor of setting some traps to confuse and capture the Easter bunny, and if we did catch him (her?) we would not be demanding, we would be asking nicely if he had any extra candy.      If the kids had their way the Easter bunny would be a hostage and it would probably be the end of the holiday as we know it.   We'd have to rely on an Easter beagle, or maybe even an Easter Raccoon, who certainly volunteer for any egg related job, would be clever with his fingers in getting the candy into the eggs, and good at sneaking in and out of houses.  But  I can't really imagine an Easter Raccoon being generous and sharing; he'd probably keep all the eggs himself.   So I convinced the kids to be nice to the Bunny if the traps did work.  

This would be bad

 Newspapers were deployed in kind of a maze/trap/confusion.  In the morning we found evidence in the form of purple tracks and chewed newspapers (I've known a few bunnies).    And of course lots of candy and eggs.   But don't worry, he was not captured so we are safe from the Easter Raccoon for now. 

Evidence from the Easter Bunny

Michael enjoying his chocolate

 Yesterday after dying eggs we had a lot of dye and some old coffee filters, so we made Easter decorations.   Michael had some great ideas for colors and designs.  


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ewe doing better? Yes, thanks.

Adot and black lamb who is really getting into her dinner

The white lamb

Adot, my ewe with mastitis who wouldn't eat, is doing a lot better.  She is back to eating and acting normal, and I even saw the lambs nurse once today.  She had been avoiding them, and I was beginning to think they were giving up trying to suck.   I have been supplementing them with bowls of milk replacer, and milking Adot.   Both my sheep guru and vet agreed that if the lambs weren't nursing she should be milked twice a day to help with the mastitis, in addition to getting massive penicillin shots.  She wasn't too bad to milk at first; she was pretty listless and would just stand there.   Now she's got her energy back and milking has turned into "chase the dancing sheep udder"  as she leaps around.   I tie her up in the barn (otherwise in the field all the other sheep crowd around getting in the way)  but she still manages quite a bit of jumping and wiggling.    The lambs are one month old now and not ready to wean, so I was dancing myself to see them latched on and tails a wiggling out in the yard this afternoon.  

I have been putting her out with the other sheep during the day, which means Hank has the challenge at night of sorting just her and her lambs off and bringing them into the barn.   He did a great job doing a shed out in the open tonight and just bringing the one ewe- on the second try.  On the first try we got all the sheep in the barn.   Of course the lambs follow along with their mom.   Tonight I gave her some grain, and that made her stand still for a short while anyway.    And as a bonus I got nuzzled by a milky whiskered lamb.  

We had a good day to be outside, and it's supposed to be even nicer tomorrow.   Here are Tessa and Sally hanging out on the deck. 
Deck dogs

I worked Pepper and Sprite out in the big field.  Sprite got a small group of three who just wanted to graze and not move, except for Spazzy ewe, who has a name but the descriptor suits her better.   It was a bit of a challenge keeping two pokey sheep moving and keeping one Spazzy sheep from running off, so she had to work.      Pepper got the big group which made them all hang together better, even if they were all stopping to eat every few steps.    We did some driving and some fetching.   Most of  Pepper's flanks have gotten really nice, even on the fence she was going round and quietly.   Only when she slips out of drive mode into "oh my God, they're getting away!!" and runs to head them off does she slice really badly.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Pepper with an egg
Pepper thinks it highly unfair that I barely mentioned her yesterday and wrote all about what Sally did.   Pepper got a chance at some new tasks and did very well.   First we sorted off one wether and two yearlings into the large field.  Those would be our working sheep.  Then she brought all the ewes and lambs into the small pen and moved them to a new spot where the little ones hadn't been before, the area by the barn which has started to grow some grass.  

The group we picked out to the work in the big field was a light one so Pepper had to keep her distance and work carefully.     She had to pick them up out of a difficult spot, which is narrow and odd shaped, and filled with unusual draws and ways to escape.   She did very well, going and stopping just where I told her.    Then we fetched down a fence line a bit, moved out into the open and did some short drives and short outruns.   She needs to tone down her lift somewhat, it still tends to be a bit freight-train like unless I tell her to stop, but otherwise she did really awesome.  Yay Pepper!

She's also good at carrying eggs without cracking them.   There you go Pepper Salt Feet, bragging done. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sally in the big field

I got a bunch of dogs worked today: Pepper, Hank, Tessa, Kip and Sally.  Sally was doing so well in the small pen I took her out to the big field.   As I suspected, out in the open she really widened out and I was able to get some pictures.  She doesn't really have a stop yet.  They are not the greatest since I couldn't do much standing still, but here they are. 

Looking a little intense like her mom

Good calm puppy

Going around on the fence nice and easy
Those were from the small pen, then we move out into the big field:

She's way out there

She was just as calm and in control of her sheep out in the open as in the smaller pen.  What a good girl! 

And Back to Spring...

The snow has melted already, giving us still more water, and bringing my mood back up to "Tra La La" levels.   My sick sheep is also eating everything in sight, which makes me doubly happy.   Sheep are not like dogs.  A dog can lose it's appetite for a day or so with a tummy upset and then be back to normal with no trouble.  When a sheep loses it's appetite it can have spiraling downward stomach troubles- they need to keep stuff moving through there to stay healthy.  

There she is.   The lambs are drinking milk replacer out of a bowl

I took a couple of pictures of the pond while I was out watching the sheep eat today.  This is a view of the driveway.  Normally, this area is dry woods.   The other side of the driveway is where the pond is supposed to be.

And here's our historic facilities, with water nearly reaching it.

You can't see from this angle, but it's a two seater, provisioned with plastic seats and electric lights.  The lights still worked last time I checked.  

Anyway, I think old buildings are cool, even if they are just outhouses.


Some of the chickens a couple years ago
We keep chickens for the fresh eggs, and occasionally have some extra eggs to sell.  The dogs can herd chickens as well, but they don't group together naturally like ducks do so the dog has to work hard to keep them in a bunch.   As soon as you put a little too much pressure it's every chicken for herself and they scatter.     The also will fly up to a perch to avoid the dog, which ducks don't do.    The breeds we have are Light Brahma (the rooster), Ameraucana and Buff Orpington.   The Buffs lay brown eggs and the Ameraucana lay green eggs.    It looks like Easter every day with all the colors. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mother Nature's cruel joke, and the sick sheep

Heavy snow is early April and late March is depressing.   Six inches of snow at the end of April is some sort of cruel joke.   Here we're hoping for grass, counting on grass, and all of a sudden the whole world is white again.

Pepper in the white s^%$

On top of that one of the ewes has mastitis and has become very sick.  She went from looking normal weight to very skinny faster than you could believe.   Monday was the first day she didn't come running to eat with the others.  I've put her and her 2 lambs in the barn to treat her and keep them out of the wet snow.    She has to be milked twice a day, which I've just learned how to do.    I never had to before, but now I have to and I did learn.   It's not difficult, you just have to get the technique down.   She's too sore to let her lambs nurse, so I've been preparing formula for them and they drink it out of a dish.    Once I get good enough at milking that I don't spray milk all over me and can hit a bucket, I will give the good side milk to the lambs.  One side of the udder is giving obviously nasty looking milk, and the other is normal.  

She also has to get penicillin shots, and has a betadine rinse and vaseline treatment for her udder.   All of this, plus her separate feed and water, takes about two hours a day.   Then there's all the time I spend hanging out watching them,  trying to see if the lambs and the ewe are eating, pooping, chewing cud (the ewe anyway) and behaving at all normally.    The most encouraging sign I today was when I was going in and out of her stall she kept wandering off, so at least she has the energy for that.  

Plus I have a cold and just feel like crawling under my blanket in bed.   This week could be a lot better.  Ok, going back outside to see how they are doing and try some baking soda water in case she has acidosis as well. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Working again

Hank watching sheep
This weekend was a bust as far as getting anything done.   Sunday I took a nap and felt lousy, but today even though my head still feels stuffed with fluff (and that's without taking any cold medicine) I had enough energy and was determined to get out and work dogs.   Hank worked on getting some of the younger sheep, including spazzy ewe, through a free standing chute they hadn't been in before and he did pretty well.  His "outs" are getting better.

Pepper did a little warm up in the small pen and then we took the sheep out to the big field where she was pretty calm and settled for most of the session.   I had her take the sheep to a corner and do some little walk up and outs, and she was starting to feel the bubble for herself and stopped on her own when the sheep just started to pick up their heads.   This is a big step forward for Miss Pushy.  


Pepper walking  up on the sheep nice and slowly

Nice calm flank

I just thought she looked cute here, ears a flapping
Sprite worked on some outruns and driving.   She did very well except for a couple spots where I had to keep flanking her to stay behind (but the sheep are leaning!!)  and one place where she got anxious pushing when they didn't want to walk through a wet spot and she jumped at them.    Her flanks are very good and she goes out nice and round. 

I got some exciting news from my mom at the AHBA trial this weekend.  Lena, who is just 10 months old, the sister of Sally and Tessa, got the first leg of her JHD and some really big complements from the judge, Roy Sage, about what a good dog she is.    Akela, a son of Kip, got the first leg of his HTADIs and did a nice calm job.     They only trialed one day, so will have to go to the next trial to finish their titles.  

Not so exciting today is one of my sheep is feeling poozly and I think she has mastitis.  I am giving her an antibiotic for that.  I  left her behind when Ben and  I moved everyone else out to eat grass in the yard.