Monday, May 2, 2011

End of an era... start of another

The girls have been helping me study. And thoroughly enjoying the study breaks for hiking. This was taken on our first nice day in what seems like forever!

I take my last final of my undergraduate career tomorrow! It seems absolutely insane that I have been here for four years. I went from a know nothing city kid to a teaching assistant and valuable asset to the sheep program in such a short time. I can easily say that I am a competent member of the agricultural community... granted, not so much in cattle, but I have worked with all the animals!
The plan is to stay in Logan for a couple more years to get a masters degree in agricultural extension. I will have a research project, write a thesis, and become a more educated member of society, with the intention of educating other producers. I am strongly considering teaching, at a university level.... no young people for me.
Someone asked me the other day if I have been dreaming about the day when I would finish for a long time... the answer is no. Really, it doesn't seem real. I'm now only a few days from graduation and it still seems so far away. Granted, part of that is that I'm planning to continue, but still.... it seems so far away!
So, highlights of this semester.... working at rafter 7 sheep ranch, working with students (there was quite a group of fantastic students in one of the classes!), hanging out with dogs, seeing the evolution of the new wool lab, and the most recent... raising Lilly the lamb. Yeah, she went to school with a friend and me. We were featured in three different newspapers. She has a facebook (Lilly St.Croix). She's back at the farm now and won't talk to me, since she's busy with her other lamb friends... jerk.
Now for the new era talk.... Tag! She has grown into quite the strapping young lady! Let me start by saying that I adore this dog. She is completely crazy, but super cuddly when she has the chance.
Tag's big agility debut is on Thursday and Friday. I am super excited. Looking forward to having a hell of a good time with her. Oh, and I purchased a video camera for the occasion. Stay tuned for video posting this weekend.

Love her hair in this one... static! This was taken on a recent road trip to Montana.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The interview

If you've any significant time around me, you have seen me turn a corner too tight, trip on the floor, get my shirt caught on a door knob and be flung into the wall, etc. Well, I am finally being recognized for my walking skills... I was interviewed yesterday by CNN for a story they are doing on being accident prone. Most of my friends know that this is right up my alley!
CNN sent out a request for stories from accident prone people and three different people sent the call to me, so I decided to write in and low and behold, I was chosen to be interviewed. Here is my submission...

“Accident prone” is one way to describe it, but “accident waiting to happen” is another, equally appropriate way to describe my astounding grace. The running joke with my friends is that walls jump out in front of me, doorways move, or the display case on the corner of the aisle moved with the sole purpose of tripping me. Let’s just say that I have an uncanny ability to turn corners too tight, lose my balance, or miss the object which I had full intentions of leaning against. There really doesn’t need to be anything there for me to trip on, as I have been known to trip on the floor, my own feet, or any crack, crevice or slight abnormality in my path.

I don’t just walk into things, no, I even attract accidents. Last year, I was involved in two fairly serious traffic accidents, both of which were CLEARLY not my fault. Once, I was stopped at a stop light, and the girl behind me didn’t notice that everyone in front of her was stopped because she was texting. She hit me going about 35 mph. The next time, someone decided to flip a u-turn in the middle of a highway, right into the side of my car. Who does that? Thankfully, the dogs and I were fine in both cases, barring some lasting back issues related to the accidents.

Oh yeah, there are also the accidents that happen while I am training or competing with my dogs. Let’s see, I have stepped in a hole while sprinting twice, tearing a ligament in both ankles and stretching the ligaments in my knees. Have I mentioned yet that my physical therapist loves me? One of my favorite stories happened a couple years ago at a dog agility trial. I was the next dog in the ring, to run a friend’s dog, when he jumped in the air and head butted me in the mouth. I was still in shock as I walked into the ring because I was missing about three quarters of both of my front teeth. I got about three jumps into the course when the pain got bad enough that I stopped, the dog ran off to his owner, and another friend came to see what was wrong. After an emergency trip to the dentist, I now have my two front teeth back.

Now for one of my most embarrassing moments, and one of the stories my friends just love telling… Have you ever jolted yourself awake, maybe after a dream where you’re falling and you’re about to hit the ground? You know, when you set bolt upright, thus awakening yourself from a deep sleep. My first year of college, I did that a lot, and only once was there any issue arising from the experience. I lived in a dorm with cinderblock walls. When I jolted awake, my up was not up, but rather over. I whacked my head right into the wall and knocked myself out. On the bright side, I slept the rest of the night, but unfortunately the next morning I woke up with a splitting headache. Regardless, it makes an excellent story to be retold by countless friends.

So, am I accident prone? A couple dislocated ribs, ligament problems, a couple car accidents, at least one concussion, a couple knocked out teeth, and a whole bunch of laughs later, I feel fairly confident in answering a resounding yes.

The funny thing is, the day after I submitted my story, I broke a toe by tripping on a roll of astroturf. That made my grand total of broken bones a whopping two (the first broken bone was another toe when I tripped on a lawn mower parked in my parents' garage).

Anyway, the point in my sharing this is that I feel one of the most important things a person can learn in life is the ability to laugh at themselves. Lately I have been around all too many people who take themselves WAY too seriously, and was reminded by this interview how refreshing it is to simply laugh at the crazy event of the day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Visitor and Tag update

We have a visitor. This is Miner, and I think he is quite the handsome devil. He is visiting me to get some socialization, and where I am around campus, the farm, training, college students, dogs, sheep, etc all the time, I offered to take him for a few weeks to work with. Miner really seems to be enjoying his time here and is starting to open up. He gets to go on runs with the gang and is starting to really dig in with my girls. He goes to classes with me, to both farms, and even got to help me work on the wool lab this week.
On one this week's walks.
Miner supervising the wool lab organization amidst the wool

He is here at the perfect time, as this is such a busy time for me around the university. This week was sheep shearing, so I spent three FULL days at the school farm working sheep, packing wool, trimming sheep feet, and teaching kids about wool and shearing. For the most part, it was fairly enjoyable, although I had one REALLY bad day... let's leave it at, it was a bump in the road and I am extremely thankful for my dogs and good friends to help me through the rough times.

Tag's News

Today Tag had an AWESOME agility training session! We did a couple dog walks, all of which were really nice. We stuck to almost straight approaches and exits, just trying to get the confidence back and boy am I happy! Also played around with some course work... wish I had video because I am really pleased! I am having tons of fun with my girl, and am so excited about what we are doing together.
Herding wise, she is also doing quite well. I wish we had some sheep to work on a daily basis, but working once or twice a week, I sure am pleased on the herding front as well. Again, I have got to get some pictures and video.
We are still dealing with some lack of confidence and softness, both in agility and herding, but I think it is at least getting better. I tend to think maybe Tag is coming in heat, and thus acting odd. I don't know, but am sure glad to see it diminishing.
Oh yeah, Tag is now weaving 6 poles and hitting some pretty hard entries. I'm very proud.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Training Highs and Low

First the highs...
Got to take Tag herding TWICE this week! She is really a lovely, natural worker on the sheep. She doesn't have quite as much natural feel as her sister, but plenty of push (a quality which Gyp lacks). She is sensitive to my pressure and always wants to keep trying, all resulting in some really nice work for my not yet one year old girl.
We just started working on some jumping, and Tag is doing AWESOME!!! She is a gorgeous, naturally tight jumper. Yet again, doing some lovely work.
Last week, we worked on turns off the DW and she was catching on phenomenally well. This week at training, she was doing 90 degree turns off the DW well, especially considering this weeks weirdness (see the low)

Now for the low...
Tag is being weird and sensitive this week and is lacking the confidence she has had lately and I do not like this new development. Since she is unsure, she is slower and more hesitant on the contacts. I can't think of anything that would have caused this development in the last week, and since she is being more sensitive overall, I'm wondering if the change is hormone related.
That being said, since Tag is not stretching out how I want across the contacts and is therefore higher than I have come to expect of her.

I decided that we are going to limit any contact work over the next week... if we do anything, it will only be low DWs with straight entries and exits to just get her flying again. When I see more confidence in daily life, I'll start the contact stuff again.
The other day I was bored and decided to play with a new agility trick. I decided to teach Tag directional wraps (right/left) on verbal cue. I've never taught right/lefts because I am directionally challenged and am with my dog 99% of the time and really haven't needed that particular tool. My plan is to use this ONLY as a command to go and wrap in the direction I say. I'm sure I can find lots of uses in that context.
I have been taking pictures (even keeping up with my 365), but have yet to load the recent ones. The plan is to upload them tomorrow.
Hopefully we'll also get to go herding again this week. Tag is the first dog I've trained from the beginning (besides Tika, but she hardly counts since she's so naughty about it). On a side note, it is amazing I went as long as I did without a BC to help around the farm. I don't know how Tika and I managed.
I have a busy week ahead, full of school, lab work, and sheep club activities. Hopefully the wool lab will be mostly finished by the end of the week and the lambing and shearing barns will be ready for use (the shearing barn needs to be since we shear next Monday-Wednesday!) Otherwise, lots of dog play and hopefully a hike or two are on the docket for the week. Oh yeah, and playing with my belated birthday present... new video editing software. So excited!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This and that

Yesterday involved more lambs, training (mainly for Tag, but all three girls got some work), and some long delayed hang out time with some friends. Today, however, cleaning, dog play, and laziness have ruled.

Anyway, Tag's training.... We are eternally working on her running dogwalk. When I am driving forward, she has lovely contacts. When we drive into nothing, she does fantastic, slight turns are fine, and for some reason she does well on tight turns (serpentine-type turns). However, our big hang up at the moment is turns ranging from about 45-90 degrees. Where we are currently snowed in, we can only get to contacts once a week, twice if lucky. I am currently debating how to work turns.... I'll let everyone know when I figure it out.

A-frames are lovely. Tag had never seen an A-frame before Christmas but the dogwalk training seems to have just flowed over. We started on a low contact but raised it quickly. Watching the video, I'm not thrilled with the high flying over the apex, but it's not as obvious when I'm running. At this point, I am going to let Tag decide how she wants to run the contact. She has yet to really miss, other than the one time in the video where I did a horrendous front cross. By the end of the A-frame segment, I saw some improvement on the acrobatics, so we shall see what happens.

I'm happy with the teeters for now. I see more confidence every time I train. Tag is such a thinker and I can really see her processing with this obstacle. I remember going through thinking stages early in the dogwalk training, so I'm not too worried about it here.

And in case the video doesn't work, here's a link:

Here are the 365 photos from the last couple days.
Day 4: Tika, asleep on my pillow. These guys sure make it hard to get up in the morning. All three girls are champion cuddlers, especially Tag. She LOVES morning laziness.
Day 5: I found some magnets while cleaning today. These two seemed particularly appropriate for the day. The only thing that could be changed is that all three dogs were bathed last week. You wouldn't know it after their farm fun.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lamb Party at the Farm

This is always a fun time of year at the farm. Amidst being buried in snow and frozen to the core by the frigid temperatures, lambing begins. We lamb early so we have fresh sheep to work in the spring, and our setup allows the ewes and their lambs to have plenty of shelter and heat if they need it. This year, we discovered the joys of dog coats for the lambs to give the newborns a little extra cover. Here is a view of the mountains from the "ranchette" (the house barn/pasture), where all the ewes come to lamb.
We had a lamb boom last week... seven lambs one day, and about 6 more through the next couple days. Here are the new babies.
For those who are wondering, these are hair sheep (bred for meat production). They never grow wool, but rather hair which they shed every spring. Our sheep are a composite of Dorper, Katahdin and Barbado breeds, chosen to produce fast growing lambs with colorful coats which shed completely (some hair sheep keep some long hair through the summer... we select against this trait). We also select for lambing ease and prolificacy. So far this year, we have an amazing lamb crop! Big, robust lambs with tons of color, lovely bodies, and lots of bulk.
Really, though, aren't they just so cute? I mean really, could you resist that face?
This lamb is one of our favorites so far. She is about 2 weeks old, and is quite the big girl already.
Keli and Tag really wanted to come in to help.
Speaking of Tag, we got a little bit of training in today and man is she ever doing some lovely work! We did some contacts, all at full height... GORGEOUS!!! She is really comfortable with the aframe, both going straight and turning. She is awesome on the dogwalk, particularly straight but is starting to understand turns and is doing some lovely work on that front as well. She is increasingly confident on the teeter and is getting faster and faster. I am absolutely in awe of this puppy. I'll try to get videos tomorrow, but am not making any promises.

And the photo of the day... lots of lambs

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Today was a relaxing day for the girls. Lots of sleeping, some bone chewing, and a lot of hanging out. I had a lot to do around the apartment, since I've been gone for a couple weeks. I am so lucky that the girls are willing to spend a day chilling out.
Tag is an amazing hang out dog, most of the time. When I'm up and about, she is always ready to go but is also more than willing to sleep all day if need be.
The snob look. Love her!
And here is the photo of the day.... I think Tag has the prettiest eyes.