Friday, July 29, 2011

Odd picture

Umm, pasture art?


Bobby the Plecostomas is our new addition to the fish tank. We're not sure if it's male or female, so I guess that could be Bobbie.  The other fish are all doing great, so far they are growing and thriving.   Especially Cartman.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sometimes a little dog needs a little help

I took Sprite out to check the lambs last night.  They are in our neighbor's far pasture, which has grass up to my waist right now.   We had to walk past my other group of sheep to get there, so when I sent Sprite for the lambs she thought I meant the sheep she already saw and started the wrong direction.  I called her back and lifted her up above the grass, pointed her nose toward the lambs and told her "look".    She saw them, I set her down and sent her "go bye".   She went out perfectly, stopped on her own in the perfect spot and creeped up slowly to them them started, and brought them to me without a command.   I have to tell you my heart was singing to see her in action.   And some people wonder if dogs can visualize in their heads.  She saw those lambs, and kept the picture of where they were and how to get there as she ran out, since once I set her down they were out of sight again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pepper's Job

Pepper got the job of taking the older group of sheep through the barn to munch down my small pen for a few hours.  It's not convenient to get the lawnmower into- much easier to let the sheep do it.  

All done!

Moving the sheep day

We move sheep around regularly from one pasture to another, and today was the day to move again.   Ben took the lambs over to the far pasture, which hasn't had any grazing and is getting really tall.   Probably too tall, but the sheep will manage I'm sure. 

I snapped some pictures of him and the sheep.
Before I sent Ben:  
The lambs with a helper bird on board.  It's not just elephants and zebras that attract little bug eating helpers.
Rounding them up

Bringing them to me

Going toward the gate

Now driving

On the other side of the gate he brings them to me again.   I want to make sure they don't get mixed with the other flock in the field.

Through the next gate

The last gate- the grass is getting really tall over here

Sheep vanishing into grass

After that I let him go get the neighbor's lambs to put them in the pen. 

At first the lambs are curious about the new dog
First he took them to a corner and then down the fence to the pen.  
Getting them out of a corner
About to enter the pen
Ben didn't  have any trouble with them.

Ben watching them at the gate of the pen


Yesterday was mostly hot, but it cooled off in the evening and at 8:00pm I went out to train Pepper, Tessa and Sprite.   Tessa is in heat now, but it didn't make a difference in her work.   I gave her only 3 sheep, and two of them rams, so she had to adjust herself down a little from the larger group that we were using.  The rams are pretty well behaved but are still rams and if you don't give them an escape route they are more likely to fight than other sheep.    So when we worked on some driving I made sure to keep Tessa back and not let her push into the fight zone.   Just her staring at the old ram was enough to get him to move.  

Pepper worked the other group in the L shaped field, which is tricky as they run around a narrow gate to get to the other side of some trees, so the dog has some interesting challenges there.  She did really well.  I didn't let her drive out ahead of me, but stayed right with her as she drove the sheep.  

Sprite worked the lambs in the large field, and I had one moment of shock.   I sent her over a hill on an outrun to start with-  we saw the sheep, but they saw us also and darted behind the hill just as I sent her.   When I didn't immediately have sheep coming at me I marched up to the top to see what she was doing- to my surprise there was no one there.   No Sprite, no sheep.   The grass is pretty high in some places, so I was searching the field for moving grass, then finally spotted them just to my left.   Evidently the sheep had bolted just to the left to go down in a dead end alleyway as Sprite was coming and she didn't know how to get them back out again without making a mess so she was just holding them there.  

This is a video of Kip, but it shows the alleyway where Sprite was holding the sheep.   The grass is higher now than it was in this video.

I had to go help her get around them, then of course they bolted for the other side of the pens off to the left in the video.   Once we got everyone collected we had a pretty nice session.   Sprite was a little too pushy on fetching them but had a really nice pace while driving.   I practiced driving a square around the middle of the open area- drive for one side of the square, have Sprite make the sheep do a 90 degree turn and drive another side, and so forth.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Garden is going great

The hard work with the garden is starting to pay off.  Tonight for dinner everything but the chicken came from our garden- green beans, zucchini, onions and sweet corn.   

There are still a lot of weeds to pull- I never keep ahead of them with pulling and mulching, but I'm not a perfectionist and I won't spray them with poison.     The peas are at the tail end of the season and the asparagus we declared pretty much done and let it grow out.   There are still carrots and garlic to finish growing up.   Hopefully we will get some pumpkins but the plants aren't looking that great. 

For dessert the kids had ice cream with raspberry sauce.   The sauce was from our raspberries, but the ice cream was from the store.  I'm not quite motivated to make ice cream since I don't eat it much.   If anyone has any non-dairy recipes that include raspberry sauce I'm looking for suggestions.   

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The wonders of nature

 A snapping turtle crawling across the driveway, rider leech on it's back.   It may not be attractive, a little creepy  with the leech, but I get a charge out of it anyway.  I'm one of a few people I know to get excited about snapping turtles living in my pond.  I haven't seen any since a few years ago there was a huge old female laying her eggs in the pasture.  I found her dead later that summer, but this may be one of those babies that hatched.    I was trying to drive in the driveway, so I got out and herded the turtle off to the side with my ice scraper.   

I hear they are a delicacy.
Photo by John Harrison at,   used with permission

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pepper Pot

The heat wave has moved off to the south and east (sorry guys) and we are back to normal summer weather that doesn't feel like your lungs are stuffed with warm, damp cotton.  It's such a relief.  

I got out in the pasture with Pepper and Sprite yesterday- Sprite helped me move the lambs, then Pepper worked on moving the other group of sheep from one pen to another.   She was very excited, but we worked for quite a while on several groups of sheep and she settled down.     I threw in a little driving around the small pen too.  
I can't decide if Pepper's nickname, Pepper Pot, comes more from a pot containing pepper, or the revolver.
From Wiki:   "The pepper-box revolver or simply pepperbox (also "pepper-pot", from its resemblance to the household pepper grinder) is a multiple-barrel repeating firearm that has three or more barrels grouped around a central axis."

But it's definitely not related to the Pepperpots of Monty Python's Flying Circus.. 

"The term Pepperpots refers to any of the middle-aged, matronly types played by the men of Monty Python. A pepperpot is usually somewhat overweight and wears a rather unflattering ensemble often topped off by a small, old-fashioned hat. She holds a small purse in her gloved hands, and is very often seen out and about, apparently running errands while her husband is at work. She usually speaks in a high voice that sounds very much like that of a man imitating a woman."  
Pepper would be more likely to grow up to be one of the grannies who ride motorcycles and wear leather, and look like she could wrestle a bear.    

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Too darn hot

Last night there was another huge storm, but the high winds seem to have missed us.  Just a few miles away, in the city of Stevens Point, there are trees down on every block,  really huge ones uprooted, and one street closed due to flooding.  

Today it's just too darn hot. According to my car temperature gauge it was 101, but those tend to run a little hot because of being on a car.  I haven't looked at the official weather. 

So Dane, David and I went and saw Harry Potter in the cool cool movie theater (Michael has camp this week- they bailed on being outdoors and also went to a movie- Zookeeper.  Funnily enough we ran into the camp group at the theater.  Small towns. )  I thought the last part of Harry Potter was a great movie!   Yes, I cried when the Weasley kid died.    Now, I haven't spoiled anything because surely anyone who wants to see the movie already read the books, right?
Just as we were getting ready to go to the movie, however, I spotted two ducks in the dog yard.   They had been there long enough to lay an egg, and with dogs out.   With Cinder's help I rounded them up, actually I was pulling the fence back together while she took them almost to the gate on her own.  They had to go around the long way, away from their buddies, to get back out the gate.    Of course they would never think of going back the way they came under the fence. 
Hot dog!


Some of the girls



Monday, July 18, 2011

Try again

The weather here must have sneaked up from Missouri and chased our Wisconsin summer away.  It's beastly hot, so not much outdoor work going on here.  Yesterday I had to move several groups of sheep to new places and Hank did it with many breaks to cool off in the water tub.   The ewes moved over to our neighbors' field, the lambs moved temporarily to a smaller pen that is getting really tall grass, and the wether/ram flock moved to a new pasture.  

Today after the big storm there was a short cool spell before the heat came back, so I worked Pepper for a short session on some picking up sheep from a corner that she tends to rush.   She did very well, and I threw in a few walk ups and practice on direction commands while we were at it. 

Then I took Sprite over to the neighbors' for another try on their lambs.   This time I got a bit smart and closed the gate between pastures first so they wouldn't have that escape route.   Then the field was about the size of two fairly large arenas next to each other.    We did a few outruns and worked on settling the sheep with her on one side and me on the other.     So that was about it for the day, I put the gate back the way it was and we retired to the air conditioning and watching Harry Potter 7, the first part, in preparation for going to see the second part.    It wasn't my favorite of the Harry Potter movies, but book 7 wasn't my favorite book either.     Oh, and making raspberry pie.   Mmmm.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Win some, lose some

Sprite as a puppy- I haven't taken any new pictures lately

In the interest of expanding the dogs' horizons, yesterday I took Sprite over to the neighbors' to see if she could get their lambs in the pen.    She had already done a couple outruns to gather our lambs, and a drive up the fence.   I sent her around the lambs and she did the most beautiful outrun I could have hoped for.  She was wide and kept checking her sheep all the way around.  They saw her, but did not feel alarmed until she came to the lift and started slowly stalking in on them.   It was much better than she did on our sheep- I could really tell she was feeling them out to get a good start to things.  I didn't say anything to her at first and the sheep turned and moved off her.   Then she looked like she wanted to rush so I stopped her and then flanked her to turn them back toward me- they had turned away from me.   They are wary of people.  Well, that was the best part right there.  We started trying to drive them to the pen, but they bolted back and got past Sprite, she tried to head them but they got to the other gate first, which leads to another pasture and was open, and we had to start over.  Well after the second time of almost getting them to the pen and having them bolt away Sprite was very tired and the lambs were hot so I decided to quit.  

Later in the day I took Hank over and tried again with the lambs next door so they would get a little more tamed.   His outrun is not as nice, but he does well enough to get them turned toward me at the lift instead of running a different way.  With his experience and steadiness he gets them headed the right way, but again right at the pen they bolt for the hills (so to speak, there really are no hills)  and Hank is not one to let a sheep get away even though he is not quite wide enough to stop them properly so he crashes into the leader and they both go down, but pop up again unhurt.    I make him stop and reapproach them slowly, then we carefully drive them up to the pen and this time they go in.   Meanwhile my neighbor has been watching from her garden and she says "very impressive".     I didn't think it was all that great, but they did get in the pen eventually.

Hank working calves, from a couple years ago

One of my favorite Hank pictures

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Walk by the river

I took Ben and Pepper for walk down by the Wisconsin river today.  It was lovely out for a walk- just when we got hot it sprinkled a couple of drops. 

Now I'm just finding things to do on the computer to put off going out to weed the garden.   If I wait long enough it will cool off some, right? 

Duck a la Pepper, not a recipe


Ducks by the driveway

Pepper did a great job with the ducks today.  We took them around the farmyard a bit.    She didn't let any escape or get under barns or into the woods, which is a real possibility with the non-duck proof fences. 

Hank with lambs

After giving the lambs a little time in the small pen we moved out into the big field and Hank worked them around.  I got some pictures, and one video.  He was getting really hot, as it was warm and muggy today.    

the small pen

Picking up some laggers.  I didn't notice until just now that all the ewes are standing behind the fence looking on.

The shaggy one is a very small ewe born last year.  

Hank today

Our other project yesterday was to do a little work with the neighbors' sheep.  They have a few lambs just for the summer and fall and we help pen them up sometimes when needed, so I'm getting them used to listening to a dog.   They don't have to be really "dog broke" or orient to a person but it's helpful if they at least know what a dog is so we can get them in a pen easily or move them from one pasture to another.  I had Hank drive them to the pen and let them run in, then run out the chute and that was it for the day.  

This is a video from a few weeks ago that I just finally got loaded.  It's Sprite doing an outrun. 


Kids coming home!

The kids are coming home tomorrow! They've been visiting Grandma and Grandpa with Dane in San Diego.  I'm ready to trade a clean house for some hugs and and stories of fun in California.   They spent two days at Disneyland and it was "awesome, great, fantastic, the best!"   They went to the beach and didn't get washed away or eaten by sharks (I can't help it, I worry).  
They went to the 4th of July parade and fireworks-  here they are dressed up for the parade: 

Dane and the kids with friends, Christian and Linda

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dog breaking lambs

The other thing we're doing this week is dog breaking lambs, or getting them used to being worked without their moms.    They have been worked with the ewes pretty much since they were born, but when you get them on their own they don't have anyone to follow and tend to act more unpredictably, a bit like popcorn- one pops off here, another pops off trying to get back to the main flock.   The dog has to really cover them, and most dogs learn quickly a different kind of pressure is needed for them.   The lambs don't orient to me at all.    I use a down a lot to relax the lambs near me when the dog has them turned toward me.   If you just let the dog keep going and going and never stop the lambs don't settle.    So far this week Ben had the first day, then Hank, then Dodge, then Sprite today.    Except for Ben's turn, I have kept one ewe in the lamb group just to settle them down a bit, but still, every lamb who doesn't belong to that one ewe is looking to get back with her or his mom. 

Pepper is working the heavier sheep in the 1 acre field, and right now I'm concentrating on off balance flanks with a little driving, and of course always a few fetches thrown in.   I need her to come around from the balance point on a flank to my side and start a drive that way, which she does pretty easily.     I'm also working with her on holding pressure and releasing pressure on the sheep in a corner.  We cram a lot of stuff into each little session. 

Working ducks

Yesterday Hank and I took the ducks over to the smaller working pen to try out Sally and Tessa again with them.  It has been a few months since I worked either of them on ducks and last time Tessa did pretty well, while Sally only wanted to dive in or have nothing to do with them.   I expected this was Sally's immaturity so I had resolved to put duck herding aside for her for a few months and it just happened not to work Tessa on ducks either since then without me intending it.  

Tessa remembered exactly what she was supposed to do and was very calm and controlled.   She likes to walk straight and slowly and hold everything together that way, which is very handy for walking ducks around, but I tried to do lots of turns so she also could get practice in flanking and stay flexible rather than lock into one path of taking the ducks in a straight line.   Her flanks were good once she had to commit to them, even in the corners.   We started in the very small pen and then moved out to the 40 x 60 area.  

Some pictures from our short session today:
Tessa walking up

Tessa going around, with Luke "helping" from the other side of the fence.

nice and steady, holding the ducks to me

a little fetching

holding the ducks still

Sally was a big surprise.  It's amazing what a little growing up can do about solving a problem.   She showed no tendency to dive in or to avoid working the ducks.   I walked her around the little pen on leash first, practicing stop, walk up and both directions.   Then she was going around well as I let out more line so I dropped it and she continued to do a nice job going around, getting them off the fence and staying out.   Next we need to work a little more on stop, and then take her out to a slightly bigger pen.   The one I worked her in yesterday is the dog kennel, so it's very small.    It teaches them to handle the pressure of tight quarters without exploding, stepping on or biting the ducks, so then when you get to any place that has corners or fences the dog can handle it with a cool head.   Working ducks is all about keeping a cool head.