Thursday, October 27, 2011

UC Hopland Research & Extension Center

Nice blog article about sheep production at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, about an hour north of us near Hopland, CA.

Talented staff maintain HREC as a sheep ranch

We'll be there soon!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Y after I

You've all heard of "i before e except after c". This guy (below) is getting a slightly altered name. I've decided to change the spelling of his name to Ryme. Someone suggested it to me and I really like the warmer, more poetic, rhyming, meaning (rather than the cold, icy, frosty meaning). The spelling won't change how it sounds to the dog of course. It's probably crazy but I'm looking forward to a more harmonious and communicative relationship as we work together on the sheep. Actually things have been going a lot better with Ryme on the sheep (with only those few exceptions -- sort of like "after c").

Ryme with the remains of an old ball that they play with at the field

We were treated to practice RESDA-style runs at a nearby ranch last Sunday morning. What a gift it was to take Ryme to a completely new place (to him, at least) and run a small RESDA trial course with some nice cheviot cross ewes and lambs. It was a really good barometer of where we are. He was far from perfect and did one little blowup lifting the sheep. I felt badly that I didn't handle him better to keep our communication lines flowing on the gather--maybe I was too relaxed! But the best news was that Ryme settled right back down and worked beautifully -- seeming to have no tension -- through the rest of the course. We had a lamb in the group who did not want to play with the adults and Ryme kept the lamb tucked back in time after time when it wanted to wander off. We even got the pen which few people did.  Despite the initial blow up I felt really good about our progress in running at a completely new site.

These are all just silly camera phone photos taken at almost dark at the sheep field before it rained a week or two ago. All of these areas are now nice and green. The sheep are happy about all that green! I need new pictures! But I'm just getting around to posting these. I sort of like the grainy quality of the phone photos. They are certainly different than the pics from the Fuji.


All three photos were taken within about a minute of each other but it's interesting how the light is different on each one. I really like the one of Coal and the low evening sun shining on him from the west. Someday soon I must get the real camera back out and take some photos with green grass in them.

Coal's leg seems to be doing OK. He and I have come to some agreement on the need for him to not spin. The spinning only really happens now at meal time, and if I plan ahead by crating him, I can avoid that. So I'm very hopeful that with careful exercise, work, treatment, and rest we will beat this leg thing and get him healed up and ready for the upcoming Open USBCHA trials.

It's almost the weekend! And we have a sheepdog lesson planned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Only Constant is Change

We've been nursing a little lameness in Coal's right hind for almost two months now. His esteemed chiropractor now thinks that he's either aggravating or causing this by his incessant spinning and antics when he is not working. So I've been advised to stop the spinning (fact is she begged me to stop it for 48-72 hours post-adjustment on Wednesday evening).

Changing the routine with Coal has not been easy. On sheep he is the serious kid with the pocket protector, white shirt buttoned up to the neck, and calculator in hand. Off sheep - a side of him that many folks do not see - he is a wild and crazy guy who loves to start chase-me games with Chief and runs constantly with a binkie (any available toy  or in a pinch a piece of wood or whatever), spinning in circles. He always spins the same direction and this activity is causing wear and tear on his five-year-old right hind leg. Sigh.

So I've been keeping him more contained with leashes, crates, and separation from the other dogs. I am seeking ideas on how to make this work on a more permanent basis. I've already gotten some good ideas (and some good humor) from the Facebook crowd. I'm throwing it out here as well.

The change in the dynamic with Chief and Rime has been the most unexpected part of this situation. Where I thought that maybe Rime was the instigator in a lot of the in-home mayhem, it actually must have come from quiet little Coal. Without Coal running circles around the dining room table, Chief and Rime are almost downright sedate. As they say, the only constant is on we go.

If you have ideas for keeping a border collie quiet, post in the comments. He really needs to stop this spinning and I am probably not a good enough dog trainer to accomplish that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chiefie X

Chiefie turned ten years young earlier this week. Tonight we had a little doggie birthday party with his friends down at the park. I even baked a doggie birthday cake! Talk about doggie mayhem. Chiefie seems happy and healthy. I am very happy to have him with me.

More photos here!

RESDA Fall Trial 2011

The 2011 RESDA season is now history. The final trial of the season was yesterday in Boonville (Mendocino County Fairgrounds - where they also play high school football as well as host the county fair). The added touch of fun detail included the white lines and yardage numbers painted on the field from the football team and the goalpost at the end of the field. (I wonder where the other goalpost was, or did I just miss it?) Once again I felt strangely like I was in Evening Shade! The pen was intrepidly attached to one leg of the goalpost in a bit of extremely good planning by judge Joyce.

The morning started very cool and foggy and the early runs went fairly well. The sheep - commercial (mostly) whiteface ewes from the nearby Johnson Ranch - were challenging but just so. As the day wore on, the sun came out, the sheep were getting hungrier and all that green lush grass was just a bit too tempting. The runs got harder and harder for the dogs. Some dogs gripped out or couldn't lift.

Coal ran #15. By then the sheep were heavy. He tried his hardest but we timed out and didn't get chute or pen - leaving us with only a few points. The sheep continually pushed back on him and he showed a lot of courage for a dog who is not intrinsically very brave. Once time was called I really urged him on verbally as we put the sheep into the exhaust.

After 21 runs in the open and a short break for the judge, we ran the "pro-novice". There were five dogs and Rime ran #3. Last time in this arena, Rime got spooked by the tarps blowing horizontally along the fence. This time thankfully he did not seem bothered by the tarps. I also had made sure the bottom of the tarps were tied down as I helped to set up the course. I really wanted Rime to have a better experience, this time around. While he was excitable at the beginning of his run once we got to working as a team he showed some nice, more "normal" work, stopping and taking his flanks nicely. I do wonder when or if he will get past his excitable phase at the beginning of the runs though. Considering that he is never on this type of sheep though, I am happy with how he settled down mid-run.

I took my camera along but again didn't take any photos. Since no one had been hired to do the setout for this trial as is normally done in RESDA, the handlers who are able to, had to take turns moving the sheep through the pens up top and letting the sheep out of the chute for the trial runs. I volunteered for the first stint which meant that the camera stayed in the car once again. This is too bad as it was a gorgeous day with blue skies, green grass, and great dogs to watch.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harvest Fair 2011

Last Friday through Sunday, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds hosted the annual Harvest Fair. It's almost as fun as the big sister, the annual Sonoma County Fair, but smaller and more friendly, and less crowded. And obviously three days instead of three weeks or so! The main events are grape stomping, wine tasting, apple viewing and tasting plus the usual eats, drinks, things to buy and entertainment to see and participate in. Besides all that there is always a RESDA sheepdog trial in the Lyttle Cow Palace (covered arena) during the Harvest Fair. We had quite a few sheepdog trial fans who showed up, and many of them kept score right along with the judging, on our club leaflets!

In the RESDA system, all Open handlers who have run dogs for a certain number of years are called upon to judge their peers once during the year. Most years we have more judges than trials, and these assignments are drawn out of the hat at the February annual meeting. So, since last February I have known that I, Moi, Yours Truly, was to be in the hot seat of judging the Harvest Fair trial this year. I have judged AHBA trials before, but not RESDA trials. Under California State Fair rules, family members cannot judge each other, so in years past - having been drawn out of the hat first - my brother has taken on the family judging duty while I clerked for him. This year the role was reversed. Oh my! Since last February, I have been studying the RESDA by-laws and thinking through each possible scenario of what could happen with dogs, sheep and handlers in the Lyttle Cow Palace.

When the day finally came to judge I felt confident that I had prepared myself for every eventuality. Once we got going it was actually kind of fun. Jack had already provided me with all the paperwork and office supplies ahead of time. A wonderful team was in place to support my efforts in the form of clerk George, assistant score keeper Teri, announcer (brother), course hauler (another Tom), and we can't forget sheep provider (yet another Tom), sheep handlers, and sheep. Everything worked together really well and I felt like the trial went well. Nothing odd happened and there were a lot of really nice runs. The Harvest Fair provided a rainbow palette of various colored ribbons down to tenth place. So I got to do a lot of handing out of the "goods" which was fun. Western Farm Center provided the Champion with a nice plaque for the win. I'm glad it's over though!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October 1st

October is here. It's hard to believe that the summer has flown by so fast. In my mind, it's only just past the Fourth of July. I had better catch up quickly!

In Northern California the first part of October is always so nice. And there is excitement in the sheepdog world. Our little "second season" of USBCHA trials is on the horizon. And the RESDA calendar is almost wrapped up. Tomorrow is the Harvest Fair RESDA trial (where I will be sorting the runs); the Harvest Fair is always fun with the fall decor, the wine tasting and grape stomping, and the llama show. This year I'll be looking at the llama show with more interest since we have two llamas to deal with on a weekly basis now at one of the fields that we share. Next weekend is the final RESDA trial of the year, up in Boonville and the RESDA season and the dog of the year competition will be all wrapped up. Then, the USBCHA calendar gets some activity with Pt Pleasant, Hopland, and Dunnigan trials in our (relative) neck of the woods.

Preparing for these trials with the added pressure of less and less daylight each week should put some enthusiasm into my dog work that might have been missing lately. Having a lesson last weekend certainly made us ramp up a bit already. I have been letting Rime slide on his stops and come-bye flanks. I was using two or three whistles to get Rime stopped instead of one. I knew about the stops but was letting it slide anyway - bad me. I had not "seen" the flank issue though - you would think I could notice things like that after all these years but I guess that is why we pay a trainer the big bucks (ha!) to tell us things we are not seeing. Anyway this week I have worked Rime a couple of times in the evenings and he has complied very well with me giving him clear communication. One whistle for the lie down, and if he doesn't take it, then a verbal. And if he doesn't take that, then a correction voice and take a step into him. For the most part I have not had to go beyond the verbal. He's dropping very neatly most of the time on the home sheep. On new sheep at different fields, it will be a different story but there is no excuse for me to not have a good stop on the home sheep and fields. As for the sliced flank he was cutting on the come bye - his worst side. No wonder he can buzz the sheep on that side. I have to get quicker at noticing his body language before he does things - that is MY homework assignment. I also have to correct the cut when it happens but preferably before it happens. I did this a couple of times this week during our work session and it worked like a charm. This worked great for Bid's away flank several years ago - and I just need to put the system into place for Rime.

Coal has been worked just lightly this week to keep him tuned up but with the thought of not aggravating his little injury and letting him heal. I am crossing my fingers that he will be completely sound by the time we go back to trialling. The water has been too cold in the big tub to use it for water therapy - despite some really warm days the past couple of weeks in the 90s. So we are left with light exercise, lots of rest and not too much running on the extremely hard and slick ground. If it rains a little bit next week that will be most welcome, to soften things up.

Next week is Chiefie's tenth birthday. I am still working on doggie birthday cake plans. I hope everyone reads Cold Antler today, and Carol Lea Benjamin's blog. I really liked the themes of home, and life is good. Enjoy!