Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Was There Any Doubt?

Thank you to Marnie N. for creating this enhanced photo-thingie (above) that brightened my day, one day last week when I was feeling a bit blue.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!

Every year, I try to find somewhere to go, to get out of Dodge during the Fourth of July Holiday. Where we live, the illegal and the legal fireworks go on for days and the noise is very scary for the dogs. The smoke fills the streets like a war zone. I don't mind a good municipal fireworks display with a band and the whole Americana deal; you can plan for the timing on that. But the local neighborhood's 24/7 pyromaniac schedule has us all on edge at my house. Some years we have gone to Carmel, but that can be an expensive outing.  This year I was so fortunate to have a friend invite us the opposite direction, to the high desert of western Nevada, where we not only escaped fireworks but enjoyed great sheepdog training opportunities and visits with friends. The weather smiled on us (it actually rained!) and we had a wonderful time. I was so happy to be somewhere "away" and at a location that was so beautiful. It really felt like R&R even though the visit was just a long (short) weekend.

Our friend has Scottish Blackface (like we do) so it was interesting to see the difference in my dogs' work on the same breed, but different sheep. There were several different fields to work in; I felt so blessed. :) Spot was good. There were no "starbursts"...that is my new mantra: NO STARBURSTS! :) Ryme and Coal got out for shorter work sessions as well. Chiefie got lots of walks and attention. They all got to roam about freely in empty horse pastures, periodically. It was heaven.

Morning and evening, we were treated to beautiful, open, Nevada high desert skies, at almost 5,000 feet elevation. Without all the city lights, the skies, the moon and stars, and surrounding hills were painted with subtle colors depending on the lighting.  Thunder clouds rolled in across the mountains and sometimes they brought drops of rain...and sometimes more...real rain! What a joy. Just the smell of it was wonderful.

Visiting with friends was superb. Often times at trials there are just short sound bytes of conversations and there is no chance to really talk through a topic. Over the Fourth weekend, we had some good talks about sheepdog and other things in depth, that I really relished. Oh and I was sort of forced to watch the first episode of Outlander, a popular series which I had heard of but never seen. It's a little rough for my tastes, but I enjoyed it and will probably watch some more episodes via Netflix. It was nice to find out what many of my friends have been talking about, and I can see what they like about it. :) And there was a trip to a nice little Mexican restaurant with great food... that part was easy to take.

As for our dog work, I found out that I need to make my shedding practice harder. Apparently our home sheep, even though they are Scotties, are way too easy to shed. I couldn't shed any of my hostess' yearling Scottie replacement ewes to save myself. Not with any of the dogs, including Coal. Oh my. Talk about a false sense of security that fell away like a thin cardboard floor... sigh.

All too soon it was midday on Sunday and I had to get home for work on Monday. Despite a long drive home it was totally worth it and I had a great time. Nevada, I will be back, I hope! :)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Martin Clunes - A Man and His Dogs

With Difficulty

I've been wanting to write a blog post for a few days, but I am torn about which event to describe. With difficulty I'm starting a blog post and even now I'm not sure which topic I will take.

Do I write about the wonderful happy dog-working and friend-visiting trip that I made to Nevada over the Fourth of July Holiday?

Or do I write about the sad events of last weekend when one of our sheep got killed by a mountain lion?

I think I will start with the bad stuff and get that out of the way. A month ago (now five weeks ago, actually) a lamb disappeared without a trace. We suspected that a mountain lion took him, but we had no proof because there was no evidence whatsoever of any predator taking the lamb. He just disappeared. I talked with the county trappers but there wasn't much they could do with no body, no blood, no nothing.

Last weekend, I went to check our sheep and work my dogs, and I found one of the older ewes missing. Actually as soon as I walked to the pasture gate I could sense something was wrong. I just knew. Before I even counted them I knew one was gone. One gets that sense after a few years with taking care of livestock. There should have been fourteen ewes, and there were only thirteen. I counted again and again and finally started looking through their faces, as I know them all. The matriarch was missing. Ryme and I went for a walk and I found the old girl, dead. She was dragged up against the fence in the classic scenario for a mountain lion kill. Her legs were pulled through the fencing and partially chewed. I left everything as it was, in hopes that the trapper could view the scene and take information from it to narrow down our predator.

By Sunday morning the ewe had been moved. Her body had been pulled through a hole now made in the fence. I had to look for her but finally spotted a horn sticking up through the  leaves and other debris that the lion had pulled over her to bury her partially. Now we knew it was a mountain lion because that is what they do with their prey.  About six or seven years ago, a mountain lion took a yearling ewe of ours out of the night pen, and buried her nearby in a similar fashion.

The trapper told me that there are a lot of mountain lions around our area. He also told me that this county is literally inundated with coyotes. I guess we have been lucky, the past few years because we have not had any predator issues in some time. So now this particular lion is gone but he could have relatives in the area. I was told that mountain lions are not necessarily loners, when they are young. We're putting our sheep in at night until further notice. It is and was sort of creepy to feel like a lion is watching you.  I respect them, but would much prefer that they dine on wildlife instead of our sheep. The trapper was able to show me where the attack happened, and then the drag marks from there quite a ways to where I found the ewe. He could differentiate the paw prints of the lion vs. the elderly guardian dog, who had been pacing back and forth over the dragged area, no doubt anxious in the aftermath. I have learned a lot about mountain lions in the past week.

I felt really sad about the ewe who was killed. She was one of the trio of our three oldest ewes, and a real character; not always easy to deal with but definitely the leader of the pack. When we worked our dogs with her in the group, she always made it a challenge. I am sure this is probably what got her in trouble when the lion came their way. She was a good old girl and will not be forgotten.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Beautiful Planets

 A grainy cell phone photo of Jupiter and Venus, nearly aligned in the Western sky (taken June 30th)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sonoma Marin Fair 2015

Coal's pretty purple 7th place ribbon from the Sonoma Marin Fair RESDA Trial
Sonoma-Marin is the only fair I have entered, so far, this season. I like it because it's close by, the entry fees are low, and mainly, because this fair is still based in agriculture as its charter. The scores were very high this year, with the winners Nancy and Ace getting 48.5 points (out of 50 in the RESDA scoring system) and taking the blue after a runoff for first place with Rhonda and Holly, who also scored 48.5.

Coal got 45.5 points, so when you get seventh place with that score, you know the work was pretty much top level and even. We haven't gotten a ribbon for anything in a long time, so it was fun to get something to take home.

Ryme was the also-ran this time. He was naughty on the gather, then worked pretty well although we did not get the chute. Ryme just does not like peeling sheep off the rail, and never has done well at it in a trial (although we work at it in practice continually).  I suppose I should have tried harder to get the chute but it seemed like it just was not happening. His score was really not bad considering: 37.5 points.

RESDA trials, even small ones, are a lot of work. It's the only venue that I can think of, where you set up the venue, run the trial, and then tear it down and clean up, all in one day (or one afternoon). Everyone needs to help. There isn't any host crew, committee, or paid help. So if I enter a RESDA trial, I plan to be there from beginning to end and help out as much as possible. But this one, like the other fairs, is a slice of home-town Americana that the dogs and I enjoy in small doses.