Endings, Beginnings, & Everything In Between

The quote in the feature image really resonated with me when I first heard it several weeks back. Probably because I’m going through a period where I’m facing several endings on both personal and professional levels. Won’t lie, there are one or two I’m struggling to come to terms with. As the rest of the quote points out however…

 

…it’s not negative. It’s just life.

 

And we face endings every day. Large and small. Yes, some cut deeper than others. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the pain and disillusionment. Sometimes we search for a reason we’ll never find, other times we don’t even notice them. When all is said and done, without endings how can we have beginnings? (or dessert, for that matter?) Every evening is an ending, every morning a beginning, full of promise and new adventures. A chance to, in some tiny fashion, begin again, or at least to carry on the best we can manage.

Urghabhail an la!

 

(That’s your Irish language phrase for the day. 😉 )

 

Speaking of new beginnings, this little guy came to hang out this weekend. Don’t get excited, people, he’s not ours, but he is a working dog. This is Jet, service dog in training. As of right now he’s in what is described as the ‘puppy raising and public access stage’. At this point, he does not have a specific task assigned him as his person hasn’t been chosen. I hear there is hope he will become a diabetic alert dog. Jet’s visit was a win-win for the rest of us because… PUPPY SNUGGLES!!!!!!!!!! And that’s the best kind of therapy for whatever ails you.

This past weekend was pretty good for the soul from start to finish. Beautiful weather, a group of awesome folks with nice working dogs, and the camaraderie that comes along with days such as those. Hopefully everyone learned something and found some new tools for their box, whether they use them now, or down the road.

The only drawback to weekends like this is that my own dogs don’t get to work too much. Except, of course, for my right paw, Miss Jig, who thought the pumpkins we threw out for the sheep were a good breakfast before we sorted.



I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our supervisor, Rebel Kitten. Rebel usually avoids crowds, but obviously thought this one was da bomb! because he couldn’t seem to leave us alone. His favorite participant by far was Arrow, the BC. The adoration was reciprocal, though not much appreciated by us humans when he came out into the training field to say hi to his new pal and show his support. That cat can be a real pain in the ass, sometimes, but he’s also quite the character. And, after all his hard work, he helped himself to a much needed water break. Maybe that’s what he thought I meant when I said I needed a drink.

My personal high point from the weekend is depicted in the video below. No sound because I was chattering and it was windy. You’ll see Jig enter from the right side in the sun flare. For some reason Jig thought there was a gate at the far corner of the field and I had to redirect her to the actual gate, then she missed the return gate when something else caught her eye. I’m sharing because I was pretty proud of her in this moment. Also, because there’s been some chatter on a group list I lurk on, regarding what real working Aussies are or are not. It’s a bit of a burr under my saddle, have to say, because the long and the short of it is certain people discount the dogs belonging to those of us with small farms and limited numbers of stock. Apparently if you don’t have thousands of acres of open land and huge herds of cattle or sheep to manage, and your dog doesn’t have a job each and every day, it is not a true working dog.

I beg to differ.

I don’t have wide open fields. My largest open area is probably just a hair over 2 acres. I keep anywhere from as few as 20 to close to 50 or so sheep, occasionally a handful of steers, and a flock of chickens. There are days in a row I don’t need my dogs to do anything. Then there are days I couldn’t manage without them. And if I can stand by a pen gate and send my dog out of the arena with nothing but a flank command, through one gate and pasture, out into another, to bring in the whole damn flock with me never having to leave my post or put my coffee down, well, that’s my definition of a true working dog.

 

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Out of Hibernation… Sort Of

Usually around this time of year I’m starting up the blog after the winter hiatus, bombarding you with pictures of lambs cavorting, and laying out my training/trialing plans for the year. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating. With any of it. I know other areas of the country are worse off. It’s hard to take solace from that, however, when, as I write this, it’s snowing. Again.

Lounging on the couch is all well and good when we’re under-the-weather,
pun intended, but we’ve had enough downtime.

We do have lambs on the ground, but there is very little cavorting taking place. Except inside, around the feed bunk and the other sheep, and occasionally around the hay bales when the little reprobates sneak out during feeding. Some of the lambs have taken to cozying up to the trough when mom is otherwise occupied, probably because we still have the tank heater in.

I warned Rebel to watch his balance. Just because the tank heater is in,
doesn’t mean the trough is a hot tub.

.

The chickens, on the other hand, have decided their warm, cozy coop
isn’t near as nice a roosting spot as the bottom barn rail.

 

Not only do the chickens not roost in their coop, they don’t lay their eggs in the nest boxes. Currently they have a spot behind the bales which makes me glad I’m still somewhat flexible and provides motivation to continue practicing yoga. They’ve also made a few nests on top of the hay, and in a corner behind a feed bin. It wouldn’t be as bad if they all picked the same nest. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It’s like a never-ending egg hunt. Rather like our never-ending winter and only slightly less annoying.

I wish I would have had my phone on me the day I found Rebel Kitten on one of the bales with an egg nestled between his paws. I’m not certain what he was going to do with it, but he looked a bit put out when I confiscated it.

Speaking of Rebel, he isn’t such a kitten any more and really turned out to be quite a nice cat. I say it like that because that outcome was questionable when he was younger. There were times the only way I could catch him was to put on a thick leather glove and show him my hand. He’d latch on like a tiger on the haunch of its prey, all fangs and claws, and I’d lift him off the ground. Now he only uses his claws when he wants to be on my shoulder, and then its just a gentle request to be hoisted up. The cat loves to be up high.

 

Rebel doing his impersonation of
Snoopy impersonating a vulture.

 

On the training and trialing front… not much going on. There were a few days we were able to work, but not with any consistency. I can only hope we get a day or two in before our first trial which just happens to be in Iowa at the end of the month. They’ve been getting more snow than us. I’m thinking I may have to pack snowshoes.

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Never a Dull Moment

It’s been a moderately eventful week here at the farm. It all started on the 26th with the very early arrival of twin ram lambs. We aren’t scheduled to start lambing until this week, and the ewe that lambed didn’t even appear bred. She also didn’t have any bag to speak of. Yet, there they were, two tiny ram lambs. And there she was, no milk, first time mom, wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. Ol’ softy that I am, I bundled up the boys and relocated them to the laundry room without much hope of their survival. One of them especially, the red one dubbed Crybaby, wasn’t even able to stand, and I’m pretty certain neither of them could see yet.

Their first milestone was living through the day. The next was surviving for 2 days. I had to enlist the aid of friends and family to feed them those first couple of days, since missing work wasn’t an option. The white one, named Linus by my great-niece (also responsible for Crybaby’s moniker), took to the bottle right off. Crybaby… not so much. I did convince him, however, to drink from a bowl. He wasn’t the best at it, but must have been getting enough that way because he started getting stronger and surprised me by finding his legs.

By the end of the week, both boys were happily taking their bottles and this weekend, they reached their 1 week milestone and even got to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.

Linus & Crybaby getting some outdoor time.

It amazes me every day that they’re still alive. I’ve never had the best of luck with bottle babies.

On Saturday went to pick up these fine girls, having decided that farm fresh eggs is the way to go this year. (And to give the Hubs even more to do once he retires.)

According to a friend of mine, they are now Poker, Henny-Penny, Chicken Little, and Camilla. Don’t ask me who’s who, I didn’t name them.

We got our first two eggs, one yesterday and one this morning. They are… tiny. Never having had chickens, I did a little research and discovered what we currently have are called Pullet Eggs and are, by some reports, even more delicious than regular eggs. We shall see.

And, of course, Rebel had to check out the newcomers. I was a bit concerned he might think of them as a food source, but he seems content to leave them be.

On the topic of Rebel Kitten, if you haven’t seen the video of him disrupting my last training session with Jig, I’ve posted it below. It makes me laugh every time. I truly do not understand their relationship. Jig isn’t the friendliest of dogs. If you’ve read my blog before you might recall she truly wanted to eat Dillon when he was a puppy. There are times she still considers it as an option. Yet she and Rebel play and tussle all the time with no hard feelings. The Hubs claims it’s because, in his words, “They’re both psycho.”

He may have a point.

They also both feel responsible for keeping an eye on everything stock related and take offense to things going otherwise than they feel is right.

Here Rebel Kitten, Barn Cat Extraordinaire, is having a word with one of the calves.

I’m certain to be regaling you with cute lamb pics in my next post, and I’ll get more training related subjects going again because Jig is really benefiting from having her own calves to work and it’s awesome.

For now, I leave you with an example of how we handle distraction training here on the farm.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG0TZOMAq_o]

I’m sorry, I just find it impossible to watch that without laughing.

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Rebel’s Big Day

Yesterday was a big day here on the farm. Yup. Mr. Rebel Kitten officially assumed his position as Barn Cat. Given the speed at which he moved from place to place, and the efficient manner in which he kept an eye on absolutely everything, I’d say he’s going to do things his own freaking way. Then again, that seems to be the theme around here.

Here he is in a moment of stillness watching the calves. He’s not entirely sure about them.

 

And here are the calves watching Rebel. They’re not quite sure what to make of him either.

Since Rebel seemed occupied with coming to terms with his new responsibilities, I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and firm footing (that’s something of a rarity this time of year) and get some training in.

The calves have been here a week and, though they’ve met the dogs, I haven’t done anything beyond having Jig walk in on a nose to turn them. Having her own steers is going to do that girl a world of good. Okay, it’s going to do us both a world of good. Confession time: I pulled one stupid already. Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As you can see in the above picture, I’ve got the feed bunker in the doorway of the barn. This was due to weather. In any case, three of the calves were in the barn and I needed them out for the moment. I had Jig with me and that’s her job so time to take advantage of a situation.

I sent Jig into the barn and one of the steers promptly exited like a good bovine. I felt the need to then step into the barn myself because black dog, black calves, no light, no trust. All my attention was on that black dog in the shadows behind those black calves and making sure she didn’t start rodeoing. None of my attention, not even the tiniest bit, was on my own self. Jig pushed as she was supposed to do. The calves turned to leave as they were supposed to do. I stood there eyeballing my dog and blocking the exit as I was most decidedly NOT supposed to do. Let me tell you, people don’t give cattle near enough credit for their athleticism and grace. Thankfully the barn door was all the way up because the calves sought their only route out and that meant going over the feed bunker. The first one could have put a hunter-jumper to shame and did so from a dead stand. The second was not quite as talented, or perhaps not as bold. He landed in the bunker. It took a moment, but he extricated himself much as you’d expect a hoofed, four-legged animal to do; via much scrambling of legs, flailing of hooves, and flinging of feedstuffs.

Now, in my defense, Jig has been known to get a bit enthusiastic about moving cattle. Where enthusiasm equals stupid and rowdy. Still, I fully admit, the entire debacle was my fault and due to lack of trust.

In any case, yesterday was a much better day with some focused training. We moved the calves into the small arena and gave them a moment to settle in because they thought the new space was for romping and playing. My focus was on getting Jig to turn them, then take the pressure off and let them move off. That’s hard for her. One of our biggest issues. But she did very well and, overall, I was pleased with everyone’s performance, once I overcame a bout of diarrhea of the mouth and, oh yeah, trusted my dog.

Unfortunately, we had a slight distraction.

Rebel decided one of his responsibilities is to oversee all events.

Good distraction training for Jig.

Done with the steers, I took Dillon out on some sheep. Talk about distraction training. Rebel came right out into the arena. We worked through it and I warned Rebel he was going to get run over. The sheep, apparently, didn’t think that was a good idea and avoided him altogether. I finally convinced him to leave and continued on with Dillon’s lesson while Rebel watched from the other side of the fence… for the most part.

Here we are, working in the take pen, getting Dillon comfortable in pressure and being calm in tight places.

And here’s Rebel, deciding Dillon needed some assistance holding the sheep to me in the corner. *head, desk*

I have the feeling I’m going to have to start a new series of posts: The Adventures of Rebel the Barn Cat.

 

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