Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Damn and Blast

No finals for me this year. Song pulled up on 3 legs while playing with her beloved basketball at a friends house Saturday evening. The dogs had run together fairly hard on the hills just before this and she had shown no problems. My immediate thought was the knee, so I iced the knee a couple times that evening. When I first examined her the muscles on her right hind (the injured leg) were blown up and rock hard.

Long story short, she has a non-specific muscle injury on the back inside area of her haunch. The muscles involved are the semi-tendinosus, semi-membranosus, and the gracilis? There are other muscles in that area but those are the main ones. The prognosis is very good, recovery not unreasonably long, but the finals are only 3 weeks away and I would be risking re-injury to try to run her that soon.

She has been running very well as the summer progressed, really taking responsibility for her stock and managing them on the lines. She lacks subtlety, but is a lot of fun to handle. She keeps me in the hunt, keeping her wits about her and remaining responsive under pressure. I was looking forward to running her in VA.

I pulled Levi as well. I was on the fence about running him as I doubt he would be competitive, and he really does not feel ready. I won't make the trip for just Levi.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vesta, hog dog

I needed to move the pigs from their pasture to the working pen so I could run them through the chute and sort out the ones going to the butcher on Monday. I’ve not worked these pigs since young as one of the big red ones is quite aggressive and none of my current dogs seemed that good at handling him. I started with Song, who was game and tried really hard, but she was not wanting to bite them and not wanting to stand her ground when they came at her. The dogs really can’t stand their ground unless they are willing to bite as the pigs will bite the dogs or just run by/over them. Song did her best and stuck with it but she did not impress them enough to be able to help me hold them in the corner till I could swing the panel shut and trap them there. So I thanked her for her efforts and tried Fina. Fina thought the pigs were fun to work as long as they were moving away from her. As soon as one turned towards her she looked away, and tried to find some sheep in an adjoining field, pretending the pigs did not exist. If I got the pigs moving she’d come back and help, but again if one came towards her she went back to casting out for sheep somewhere. I was pretty sure Levi was not going to stand up to them, so I tried Vesta, who has been quite fascinated with them. Well guess who was willing to step up to the plate and bite a great big pig on the nose as it was coming at her? She was unsure at first, and it sure would have helped if she was better on command, but she wanted to work them and started to get annoyed with them coming at her and not behaving. If they really came jaws open she dodged them then came back in bit their noses. It was not always organized, but she made an impression on them. She treated them nicely as long as they moved off her so they started thinking hard about just running at the dog. Once she had gained some respect then she was able to quietly hold one side of the corner while I approached the panel on the other side and swung it shut. Good girl Vesta! The pigs are not terribly fast, but they are faster than me. I'd have been out there till sundown without a dog to help.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Great Sloth

Some may tell you the great ground dwelling sloth is extinct, but certainly it has left modern tree dwelling descendants. Today I realized I was looking at another relative of these tree dwelling creatures best known for their economy of movement. The alarm went off at 5AM as usual. It was a lovely cool morning with the much awaited rain drumming on the roof. I pounded the snooze a couple times before getting out of bed some 20 minutes later. I opened the door for Song to dash outdoors, then called for Dare who ambled through. Dare is seldom in a hurry to get up in the morning. Not having seen Levi yet, I called his name a few times, no sign of him. So I walk back to my bedroom where I'm greeted by eager faces of the three dogs in crates, ready to go play. Where is Levi? Sprawled on my bed, big smile on his face, tail thumping, hoping I'll climb back in for another hour or so of sleep. What a lazy beast!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Splitting Sheep

Yesterday I decided to split the lactating ewes off to wean them. The lambs are 5 months. They are grazing in an electronet paddock with their lambs and some yearlings on town land by the cemetery. My latest thing has been using the dog least suited for each piece of farm work so as to strengthen those skills in that dog. As such Levi (“I can’t stay put for 2 seconds”) was the choice. I wimped out and decided to take the dog most suited for this task, Fina. You can park her while you are sorting and she stays put. Poor Fina, she’s done little farm work. When I’m doing farm work I’m doing a job, my mind is completely focused on the job, and the dog had damn well better be helping me do the job. In other words dog, don’t mess up.

Fina did a nice job bringing the ewes to the break in the net the holding them there without running them through. She worked nicely on command to change their position so I could sort the desired ewes up front. I managed to sort a few through. When I’m at the fence like this they know it is off, and the lambs wanted to follow their mothers. Of course there were some other ewes already weaned that were determined to get through, making it harder to get the ones I did want. I lost a few I did not want through so I called Fina out to put them all back in again. She had trouble with the concept of coming back out, but managed and got them all back in reasonably. Next attempt I got a better set out, but still had a couple animals that dove through last minute that I did not want. I decided to put them all in the trailer, then just grab the unwanted sheep and put them out of the trailer and have Fina put them back behind the fence. Remember this is all happening in a town field along the cemetery. I pull Fina out of the paddock to load the split sheep into the trailer. They have started down a dirt road into the woods. I send her to gather. She goes straight down the middle of the road, dives through the middle of them and splits them into the woods on either side (where I could not even see them). I yelled at her and resent. She basically does the same thing again, not thinking about the job or reading her sheep, making a bigger mess. I really let her have it. We get all but two of the sheep, those two she had buggered into the woods and chased, almost putting them back through a lower part of the fence (more mindless work), then finally they ran along the fence and woods back to the road up top near the trailer. I go to load everyone in the trailer (not entirely sure I actually have everyone since some of this happened out of sight so I’m guessing how many were lost and how many we got back). Fina’s feelings are hurt since I’ve yelled at her. She’s not sure she can do more than lay on the ground and feel sorry for herself. She quickly decided that taking my commands and contributing to the work at hand was a much better route to survival and we got the girls in. They load easily and I’d backed the trailer along the fence so she really only needed to cover one side. I get the two I did not want out, and Fina did a reasonable job putting them back in the paddock for me. Fina apparently does not deal well in tight situations (on road between fence and woods) where the sheep can and will actually try to get away.

I have the water tank in the trailer as well and the sheep have almost emptied the water in the paddock. I decide to go fill the water tank and come back to fill the trough. I go to the closest spigot in the cemetery to fill, noticing someone watering graves down at the next spigot. I wonder how long she has been there and whether my yelling at Fina was a tad crude for sacred ground. Oh dear.

I drive back to the paddock, clean one of the tanks and start filling it from the trailer tank. There are still some ewes with bags in the field. I decide to try to get those while I’m waiting for the water to fill. This time I take Levi. He was not bad. I manage to sort the three ewes still in the paddock with bags out the opening in the fence. Now I need to load them in the trailer without losing the sheep already in the trailer. This time I was not planning on loading sheep so I did not park the trailer along the fence. The sheep can go either way around the trailer and there is no real room to cover. And the sheep in the trailer were getting antsy as there was no food in there. They wanted out. It was a bit exciting. One sheep booked past the trailer and van, then veered and ran up a big pile of dirt they have for burials, Levi running right up the pile along the outside. His work was close, fast, but he was always trying to get a job done, never splitting through them, and reading his stock. I suspect he’ll be my go to farm dog in another year. He is much better than the girls at moving large groups. Fina is too direct and may dive through them. Song does not keep forward pressure on as she tucks the sides. Levi has a great sense of how to keep forward pressure on while keeping the group moving on line. He has always had this, nothing I taught. Also, he never gets truly stupid or silly which both girls are capable of.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Well we had a bit of rain in the past few days. A relief but not even beginning to be enough to end the drought. We've gone hot week after hot week with virtually no rain. My pastures are burned to a crisp, brown grass crumbling under your feet like uncooked angel hair pasta. I'm getting some big bale hay in to feed the sheep. The pigs lay in the dust. Right now my sheep are on town land beside the cemetary, not great forage but at least green. I've been supplementing with grain to keep condition. There are other offers to graze around town, but none of the areas is large enough to make it worth hauling the sheep and equipment over to set it up. I want at least a couple weeks of grazing to make the setup and transport worthwhile.