Thursday, January 21, 2010

All Natural Squeaky Toys

Well I tried working stock yesterday. What a mess. The snow is now so deep and heavy that two of last spring's lambs actually got stuck. If I can't train the dogs at least I can keep them in shape. So off we went to run in the woods, where a number of trails have been packed by snow mobiles.

Song has been quite attentive to the rustlings of rodents in their under snow tunnel network. I often see her poised, head cocked, looking down at the snow. Then she pounces, head straight down into the snow. Yesterday she came up with a prize, a rodent of some sort, dark gray, big enough to stick out either side of her mouth. She dropped it on the snow a couple times, and quickly pounced and recaptured it. The rodent did what rodents do, it squeaked. Vesta, who will lay and squeak a toy for hours if allowed and spends her indoor time looking for wherever I may have hidden these toys, heard the compelling squeal of Song's prey. Next time Song dropped the little beast, Vesta had it.

I called the girls to join me as I continued up the trail. As Vesta ran by I saw a tail and some legs sticking out of her mouth. She ran another hundred yards or so up the trail in front of me. Then she flipped her head up a couple times, and finished with a big swipe of her tongue around her lips. Mmmmmmm, fresh rodent appetizers.

I don't think they'll be catching any more rodents. After the squeaking all the girls were interested in catching things. So if one girl poised above the snow to pounce she was quickly joined by other hopeful hunters, who only provided distraction and interference. Neither boy cared at all about the vermin.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I lost Cato last week. He'd gotten out of the yard the week before and gone to visit the neighbors across the street. He was hit by a car right in front of our house on his way home. He spent 24 hours in the emergency clinic then was sent home. At first it seemed he'd be okay, but it became apparent that he had neurological deficits, which began to get much worse. So we took him to Tufts where they found that the first vertebrae connecting his skull to the spine was knocked out of place. It needed to be re-aligned, which would cause great trauma to the spinal cord and brain stem, possibly killing him, likely putting him on a respirator for a few days. Then there was a long recovery. The decision point was that even if all went as well as possible the repair would be fragile, meaning that exuberant Cato would need to be restricted the rest of his life. I could not put him through all that to live a life of frustration.

Cato was my first BC, a home trained pup who took me from Novice Novice to the National Finals to the World Trial. He was my go to dog for difficult farm work. Cato focused on the job at hand, and got the job done. He slept in my bed every night.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pups have all flown the nest

The last of the pups left this moring. Little Dylan left for Ontario today. Joni left for VT on Friday. Dusty got to ride on an airplane to FL on Wednesday. Her person came to get her so Dusty got to sleep in the cabin in an underseat bag. Arlo went to VT on Tuesday. Jimi went to NJ on Monday. Cass and Maggie left last Sunday, Cass will be in MA and Maggie had a long ride to KY. Janis was the first to leave on Friday the 1st. Her trip was moved forward to avoid the big snowstorm that was coming through.

So now I've dismantled all the x-pens in the living room. Pulled out the plywood, rubber matting and newspaper protecting the floor. Picked up the myriad of toys. Pulled the calf hutch off the deck as well as the clear tarps that were on the rails as wind blocks. The vacuum cleaner got a workout and the living room and deck look great.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Nature of Hay

Hay is a remarkable substance. Properly harvested it captures much of the nutrients available in the included forage, removing the bulk of the moisture to allow long term storage. It provides nutrients and calories for my flock, keeping them fit and healthy through the winter, providing energy to stay warm and develop the lambs inside them. I love the smell of good hay. It is fresh and sweet and clean and wholesome. I bed my dog houses deeply with hay in the winter so the dogs can make a warm nest. The dogs smell delightful. I love the smell of the loft loaded with hay.

If only I did not actually have to carry the stuff.

Hay has an amazing ability to work its way into any amount of clothing. Wear a turtleneck, fleece vest, fleece jacket, winter jacket, long pants, hat, gloves and boots. Take a few bales out to the sheep. Brush the bits of hay off your jacket, noting with satisfaction that they seem to slide easily off the smooth finish of your outerwear. That, my friend, is a lie. The hay that slides easily off your coat is a distraction, covering the progress of the hay that is now working its way through 6 layers of clothing to your skin. As you took each bale and spread the flakes out for the sheep, small bits of hay have been surreptitiously disengaging themselves and beginning their journey. Some simply clung to your clothing as you carried the bale or lifted a flake. Some lifted through the air in the chill winter breeze, or perhaps separated as a flake was tossed to a hungry ewe. Many of these bits fall short of their goal, landing in the snow to be consumed by sheep or decay into the ground. But many successfully make it to the outside of your clothing. Once there they begin a burrowing process that any subterranean dwelling animal would envy. Hay can work through any fabric with ease. Natural fibers or manmade, knit or woven, if it is not hermetically sealed then hay can get through. If not through the fabric then it slides in the cuffs of your boots, up your sleeves, down the turtlenecks. Let’s ignore the fact that you never lifted the hay above your shoulders to avoid the turtleneck entrance, the hay gets in there anyway. Once in, it works its way through the layers like a chigger, aiming for the most sensitive skin. And only when it has positioned itself so as to cause maximum annoyance does that final, almost invisible, pointy piece of hay finally anchor to your undergarments.

You continue your chores, desperately trying to ignore this infernally uncomfortable sensation as the tiny bit of hay scratches at skin not at all accustomed to such abuse. Finally, in disgust, you drop the bucket you were carrying, unzip your coat, pull the hem of your sweater and underlying vest away from your body, un-tuck the turtleneck exposing your bare skin to the icy air, and reach up to sweep the offending needle of hay out of your clothing. You do this while leaning forward, pulling your upper layers away from you so the hay will fall freely to the ground. But instead it manages to slide down your body and into your pants. Lord only knows how since the waistband is so damn tight from holiday gluttony. Once there it snags on the top edge of your underwear and immediately works its way down into a position equally miserable as where it started. You sigh, perhaps swear, and finish your chores.

Once in the house you will find a good shake gets most of the hay out of your clothing, but there always seems to be one piece, one microscopic and very sharp piece, that cannot be found to be removed. You take a clean pair of socks from the drawer and slide them on only to realize that the wonderful, nutritious and remarkable hay is still with you.

Pups are hockey fans

Well the latest thing for pups is watching the hockey games on the pond. Usually we have few skaters as by the time there is good ice there is also snow. This year the skaters have been terribly ambitious, either shoveling or using a snow blower to clear large tracts of ice as fast as Old Man Winter covers them with snow. The pups like to watch the games. There is plenty of quick movement, and the crack of the stick on the ice and puck is music to their ears. One game really caught their eye today and I think it was the quality of the skating. The good players just glide along, hardly noticed by the pups. But today's determined players were hardly NHL material. They had lots of herky jerky motion as their bodies twitched trying to keep their balance, and lots of clicking of stick on ice, to keep from falling on their faces. The players had fun and worked on their skating, and the pups enjoyed all the erratic motion.

Today was a study in deep snow. We have a fresh 6 inches of light snow. For once I did well running in front of them as their little bodies plowed back into the snow on every stride. Hah you little beasts, look how I can outrun you. Probably the last time, but I did it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Pups go sledding

Well okay, the pups did not actually go sledding. But we loaded them all in the van today and took them to a local recreational area with a sledding hill. There I set up an x-pen about half way between the parking area and the hill, easy access from either. I filled it with adorable puppies. The puppies had a variety of admirers, with lots of little kids poking their mittened and gloved hands through for the pups to chew. What the pups really liked was the kids running around and the fast moving sleds coming down the hill. Now that caught their attention. Of course I'm not sure if I was socializing them with a variety of people/kids or with a variety of snow gear. Most of the smaller kids had on the one piece suits, hats, gloves, the full Charlie Brown treatment. Some of the really little ones were towed by the x-pen in sleds by mothers and fathers, which was really cool to watch.

The parents were quite pleased with yet another distraction for the kids, particularly when the parents learned that all the pups were already sold so they could easily field the "aw mom, can we get one" question.

Everyone now has had one distemper shot and had their nails done. I'll do Parvo next, before each pup leaves. The first pup left today with her new person, headed to Nova Scotia. Her departure was moved ahead to accomodate the snow storm that is supposed to hit Maine very hard. Hopefully it won't be bad here as we have the temperament testers coming on Sunday.