Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Video - The RESDA Way

All you sheepdoggers will want to watch this new video, created by RESDA historian, George Powell:


It's extremely well done and explains the RESDA club's history and scoring process. There is some lovely footage of the ranches where RESDA trials have been held over the years (and one beautiful ranch that we won't be able to use again, which is sort of sad but it's good to see it in the video).

And yes you will find Coal and me proving that we can actually pen sheep.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

That Time of Year...

What dogs do while waiting for mother to work on Turbo Tax...

We know you are busy paying bills and PG&E costs a fortune but would you please turn up the thermostat so we don't have to huddle?
It's that time of year, to get crackin on TurboTax. So what do dogs do while "mom" is busy working on Turbo Tax? The above is what they do. It's totally boring if you are a border collie. Meanwhile "mom" is telling the boys to just be quiet and lie still a little longer  (on a perfectly sunny Sunday - c'mon!!!) because "mom"  has "people things to do". All these "people things" are what keep the roof over your handsome border collie heads!  ha ha!
It is that time of year. The January weekends are short days but getting longer. Some yard work occurred (until the dang chain saw broke and I couldn't fix it - bad words were overheard by passing birds) but was cut short. That project will have to get re-visited.
Some fencing repair at one of the sheep fields was required. Not a big job but one requiring two people. It's a nice feeling to get that sort of thing done before the work week goes into motion again on Monday.
Some dog work occurred. Coal and I are working on our stuff from last weekend's clinic and some other observations that may help us this March. We can only work at it and do our best. Some revelations are getting light shone on Coal's (sometimes) tentative outruns. I may have something to work with there. Fingers crossed and moving forward - yeah!
We have one young ewe who has a huge bag and has looked ready to lamb for at least a week. Her once svelte teenage figure is gone. She hasn't done anything yet. She is a two year old St Croix/Dorper cross who has never lambed before. We wait. It will be the first lamb off of our Cheviot ram lamb. Much anticipated as this is the first ram we have ever had of our own.  Her bag got checked today by someone experienced who pronounced it "beautiful". We wait! The Scotties will take more waiting. Apparently they had higher morals at least for a period of time, than our St Croix/Dorper friend did. 
We're all anxious to see what the little Cheviot fella will produce.  Meanwhile as reward for all his hard work the ram lamb has been moved away from the ewes as of last weekend and is spending his time connecting with his inner guy self living with three wethers on pasture elsewhere for a few months.
Almost time to fill in those entries for Zamora Hills and Sonoma Wine Country sheepdog trials.
A birthday was had...by me. I am grateful to still be around and for many things and for wonderful people.
Yes, it's THAT time of year..............

Monday, January 21, 2013

Good Workshop

This past weekend RESDA sponsored a workshop with Bill B at his place near Zamora. It was a one-dog deal over two days with unlimited auditing. Coal and I were up on Sunday for our turn. The format was structured that each person ran their dog with Bill's instruction and input in the morning and then in the afternoon we were able to run again with the group offering support and suggestions, and Bill leading the discussion. It was casual, laidback and very helpful. Most of the folks were running their younger dogs that they are bringing on. A lot of the work was centered on the dogs' approach to the sheep and working on outruns. 

Coal and I were one of the few more experienced teams in the workshop but that was OK. We worked on the finer points of his fetch, taking my steadies down the fetchline and flanking exercises driving on the great Zamora hillsides. It was exactly what I wanted to work on. The boy and I have just gotten out of synch with each other, I guess it is because of lack of work over the winter, lack of space to work on things, and lack of daylight to put in the time during the week. It was suggested that Coal might also need some more "me time" in order to get tuned back in with me and us as a team to be ready to run open in March.

I'm really grateful to the Redwood club for seeing the need for this workshop and to the hosts to making it happen. Lessons and individual practice are good, but it's also beneficial to sit and watch other people facing similar challenges and to hear the solutions as they are played out for different dogs at similar experience levels.
We also had great weather for January and only a little bit of that famed Zamora wind... :-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Brrrr..... it's been cold lately for our part of the world.  The temps overnight have been around 27 degrees (F) which is warm compared to what I grew up with in the Midwest but it's downright cold for this area of the country. And I guess I have become spoiled by California weather to where it feels really cold to me! It's the dark time of winter but the days, I have noticed, are starting to get a little bit longer. This is enough to warm my heart even though the air may be very cold! We have been able to get out with the dogs a little bit after work in the past week or so. It might mean just a few minutes of time put in on each dog but hey, I will take anything at this point!

That said, Ryme is still somewhat lame. :-( Apparently he is making it a seasonal thing, as last winter he was lame as well only more severely than this year. It does not appear to be so bad this time but it is hanging on. I let him do too much last Saturday but he was having so much fun. My bad. Ugh. It's not fun being the Bad Cop where dogs are concerned. He's seen the doggie chiropractor of course, who gave me two exercises to do which he stood beautifully for, while she demonstrated them. Now me actually doing those exercises on him is quite a different story; how does a dog turn itself into a pretzel? I can show you, just let me try to do the exercises on Ryme for you to see.

As a result we have been informed by our esteemed Chinese medicine practitioner that Ryme needs, among other things, more warming foods in order to heal up and avoid this winter injury thing. So I have made soup for the dogs. They are getting a two-course meal at dinner time with a bowl of warm bone broth followed by their meal. And who, I ask, is making delicious soup for me? I might as well answer  with Campbells or Progresso.

I think everyone has realized that their paycheck got left too long in the dryer over the New Year and it has come back a shrunken version of its December self. I got the sticker shock myself. Before this shocking news was delivered though I had realized that extreme budget cuts were still in order. So with much reluctance I am putting the dogs back on a diet of half kibble, half raw. I hate to do this but I am cutting all kinds of things (including my own stuff) to try to trim what we spend each week. After bugging my friends to the point of mutiny about what they feed for kibble and why I did a ton of research about what I wanted in a dry food. First, it had to save me money. If I couldn't save $75-85 a month I was not going to do it. That left out the very popular Orijen. Next, it had to be actually manufactured by the company that had its name on the label, so that leaves out all the brands now manufactured by Diamond and Proctor & Gamble, etc. That criterion narrowed the field considerably and ruled out a lot of the really good foods that I used to use such as Wellness, Innova Puppy, and Natural Balance. I didn't mind if there was a little bit of grain in the food since I am still feeding half raw and it is winter (and the dogs are outside all day though they are inside at night). I wanted good ingredients from a company that stood behind its own product. That sort of thing is getting hard to find but I settled on Fromm's for now. I got their Fromm Puppy Gold food for the two working dogs and also bought some Wysong Synorgon to add in for Chiefie to make his diet a little bit lighter.  I ordered from Chewy.com. The service is good and there is no tax (yet) to California. Shipping was free over $50. The Fromm was a 33 lb bag for just over $50. Not bad. We'll see how it works out.

That's the story here. Trying to stay warm and adjust our budgets. That pretty much describes January 2013. Making a habit out of gratitude. Yeah!

Looking forward to a small sheepdog clinic get-together this weekend. Coal will get the nod since he is sound and he will be the one in the trials this spring.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Gladys the Sheep

Gladys and Flo were sisters. They are two of the three ewes above on the left in the cover photo of this blog. They were Corriedale/Columbia crosses that were part of our flock for many years. To begin with there were actually three sisters. We called them The Big Girls, and for good reason. Their Columbia half ancestry made them almost big enough to saddle and ride. But, they were tolerant of our dog training activities, didn't cause much trouble, and for the most part stayed out of harm's way. They had bad feet but that wasn't their fault. The first of the three big girls (before they had names) was (sadly) one of the casualties of the coyote storm that drove us out of the pasture in spring 2007 that is pictured above with the beautiful valley oaks in it. What a great field it was for dog training...and sheep watching...until it wasn't.

Anyway to keep our sheep safe, we finally bugged out of the beautiful field with the valley oaks, with Gladys and Flo (yet unnamed) in tow along with a lot of other sheep. Moving to other borrowed fields meant we had to cut our sheep numbers. We sold some sheep here and there...placed one really old Cheviot lady "Granny" back with the person who sold her to us a few years before (where she lived out her life until she died of natural causes)...and yet we were left with the to-be-named Big Gladys and Flo. It looked like they might have to get put on the trailer for the next trip to the auction, which none of us wanted to happen.

A friend with Belgian Tervuren emailed with really great timing, asking if we had any really QUIET sheep for her to train her older puppy on. Yes!!! The Two Big Girls didn't go anywhere or do anything that they didn't consider properly and with taking their time about it. And my friend asked if we would consider taking two too-fast Barbados wethers in trade for the two ewes. Yes!!  So on an appointed Sunday, the trade was made; the Two Big Girls went on the truck over to Vacaville to live out their days mainly eating grass and training a few young Tervuren to work sheep. The two Barb wethers joined our gang and were instant characters who stood out in our crowd of Dorper crosses. Upon getting to their new home, the Two Big Girls were given new names: Gladys and Flo. They worked out well for several years.

Flo died a couple of years ago and we got word just recently that Gladys had to be put down just before Christmas because her arthritis had gotten the best of her. She had lived a "long lazy life" for a sheep in her new home. Gladys and Flo were probably at least  11-12 years old...an advanced age for a big ewe.

You know what they say about naming the sheep. Once they get a name, they stay with you. Well we never named the Big Girls but their memory stayed with us. They are part of our past and a fond memory.

The two Barb wethers, likewise, stayed with us. It seemed like bad karma for us to get rid of them after they'd been around even a short while. First one and then the other led our flock and then died with dignity of natural causes. We never knew how old they were but they had to be old when we got them. They were old souls in spirit. We never gave them names other than Mr Barb. 

Here's to you, Gladys and Flo, and the two Mr Barbs.  Thank you! And thanks to the friend that gave Gladys and Flo a home.