Photo Friday

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. And since I’ve been keeping that little Canon in my pocket, I’m starting to get a collection of daily life farm shots. Time to share some.


I’m labeling these next two When your chore dog… fill in the blank.


When your chore dog… decides to use the pull-by-the-ruff method of putting the ram back where he belongs and this is what you find when she’s done.


When your chore dog… thinks she’s gotten one over on you by stealing an egg when, in reality, the joke’s on her. It’s a wooden egg.


The snow finally crusted over enough that we can walk on top of it. So into the field for a romp with the boys.



Then it’s on to chores.


Finn and Linus are developing a special relationship. Linus is not particularly thrilled about that.

Finn apparently needed a better view and thought looking under the wheel barrow would work ???

Winter is finally starting to fade, temperatures are rising, days are longer, and spring is on the breeze. The air is full of change and adventure, and I find myself in some very strange territory these days. I’m excited about the coming year and what it will bring. A little scared as well. There is already a new routine forming on the farm, and I’m having to learn how to loosen my grip on some things. That’s hard for a control freak, but old dogs can learn new tricks. Sometimes it just takes a while.

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Practicing Acceptance

Yes, it’s pitch time again. Those of you not on social media may have missed that the e-version of Bound in Shadow is now available for pre-order. It feels like it’s been forever. Release date is officially March 6 for the e-book. You can pre-order from just about any place e-books are sold, but to make it easier for you, here are some of the most popular spots:


Amazon Apple Books Barnes & Noble Kobo


And remember, if you read it and enjoy it, the best way to help out an author is to let others know and to leave a review. Reviews don’t have to be anything intense. Just a couple lines on why you liked the book. Which hopefully you will.

On other fronts… I think we can collectively agree this weather bites.


This combined with sub-zero temps makes any real training impossible.


Good thing there are chores to do. And because there’s little else right now, you get a barrage of photos (mainly because I scored a free Canon Powershot and wanted to put it through it’s paces).


“Hey, are you coming? We’ve got work to do!”


Granted, there’s not really a lot for the daily designated Chore Dog to do because as soon as any of them make an appearance my sheep decide not crowding the wheel barrow is probably their wisest move. Still, it’s one-on-one time with me and working on downs, being quiet and calm around the stock, and pushing. Especially where Linus is concerned.


I do believe Linus has never come to terms with the fact that he was born a sheep.


He believes he should escort the wheelbarrow whilst sneaking a snack.


Finn, however, has started to insist Linus behave. Something Linus is not so good at.


Finn is getting pretty adamant about it, however, and Linus reluctantly complies.


“My turn?”


Dillon holding his ground against Cello and giving his best Gandalf impersonation… “You shall not pass!”


This weather and life in general are really forcing me to accept things as they happen and not try to force the issue. That’s something I work on when training as well. Believe it or not, I’m better at it when working with my dogs than I am when dealing with plans and things in general not moving along as swiftly or smoothly as I’d like. They are moving, though, so that’s a good thing.

I know a lot of folks around the country are being hit with some nasty weather. I hope everyone stays safe and warm. Like everything else, we’ll muddle through. Remember…


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Out With a Bang

My dogs have an uncanny ability to see challenges in the strangest places, and they are more than happy to pick up the thrown gauntlet. For instance, if my vet says, “I’ll be out of town this day this day this day.” One of my dogs will invariably counter with, “Time to develop some mysterious ailment.” When my vet says, “I’m retiring from doing surgeries.” You guessed it. Challenge accepted.


Miss Jig has been having a rough couple of weeks. She tested positive for Lymes but even with a course of antibiotics and a few other drugs, she was just off. She had little to no appetite and a fever that would come and go. Monday her symptoms worsened and got us back to the vet’s bright and early Tuesday. When Dr. D came out of the clinic to talk to me, I knew it wasn’t good. Jig had developed an open pyo and would require surgery sooner rather than later.


I need to point out that I’ve been pretty spoiled where vets are concerned. Dr. D has been my vet for close to 30 years. She knows me, knows my dogs, knows I don’t tend to panic and don’t need things sugar-coated. Her staff is awesome and love my crew even with all their idiosyncrasies. I trust her. That’s not something I do easily. Especially where the care of my dogs is concerned. Unfortunately, my back-up vet lives over 3 hours north — which wouldn’t have deterred me except Jig hates to travel and they were predicting a winter storm. My next closest back-up vet was under-staffed and over-booked. They recommended a clinic about a half hour away. To have to entrust Jig to a vet I didn’t know at a clinic I didn’t know… let’s just say that didn’t help my anxiety one little bit. They had an opening Wednesday morning, however, and I had to take it.


That was The. Longest. Day. Ever.

Have to admit, I was a bit wound waiting for the clinic to call, realizing I’m not even remotely prepared to lose Jig. Bad enough to have her out of my reach in a situation beyond my control. It conspired to unhinge me. My morning litany consisted of repeating she’s going to be fine any time my thoughts wandered down the dark, tangled paths of imagining everything that could go wrong. I attempted to keep myself distracted as the morning wore on and on and on in that interminable way time does when you don’t want it to; teetering on that edge of wanting the phone to ring and dreading that when it did it would only bring bad news.

I even got to the point of spotting these two pics I’d hung up as a reminder to deal with that project.

I studied them a moment and it struck me how similar the images were, how alike the dogs in them had been, how one is gone and one not…

My superstitious brain took over. I saw it as an omen and snatched Jig’s picture off the wall.

It wouldn’t go back up until she was safely at home.

When the phone finally rang shortly after noon I was terrified to answer. The voice on the other end told me the surgery had gone well and Jig was in recovery. I damn near cried, I’d been that stressed about it. Even still, I wouldn’t — couldn’t — relax until my girl was home. A while later when the phone rang and the clinic’s number popped up again I about had a coronary. No worries, they just needed to check what meds we had here so they knew what to send home. Damn, damn, damn. Okay. Breathe. Be calm. Don’t imagine the phone ringing again in the middle of the night.

It didn’t. And as of slightly after 10:00 this morning, my girly-girl was back home where she belonged and my world righted itself.


With Jig down & out the last couple of weeks I’ve been having Dillon tag along for chores. The Man may not mind fending sheep off the wheelbarrow and feed trough, but I do. What’s the point of having dogs if you’re not going to use them. Am I right? Earlier this week, I decided to introduce Finn to the job as we haven’t spent much quality time together of late. He did rather well. He has this way of approaching a gate with so much enthusiasm you expect he’s going to be out of control on the other side. As soon as he gets into the pen, however, he just settles in and goes to work. He did so well, in fact, the Man decided both the boys should join us for chores the following day.

Surprisingly enough, it went far better than it could have. They’re so totally different in personality and working style I really wasn’t sure if they could work together. Finn is so intent on the stock, however, I don’t know if he even realizes Dillon’s in there. I’ll try and get some pics or video, but it’s rather hard having to manage a wheelbarrow, the boys, and a camera.


And now a quick update on other fronts as I’ve alluded to changes and then went silent. I hate when people do that, don’t you?


I think we can all agree, 2020 has been quite the shit-show. So many people have been affected in many different ways. All things considered, we’re weathering the storm fairly well thus far. My control issues have made things stressful at times, but I’ve managed to keep most of my remaining sanity. How much that is remains a highly debated topic in some circles. I truly do despise the over-used term new normal to describe life in general right now. We all need to determine our own normal. In mid-October I discovered ours would be changing. The company I work for announced we are shutting down due to our largest customer pulling their jobs from us. And by largest, I mean 99% of the work we did. As of the end of February I will be unemployed. What that means for us is still something we’re navigating. No, I can’t retire yet. A plan is forming, however, and you’ll be learning more about some of it in the coming month. Whatever happens, we’ll muddle through. That’s what we do.


Happy New Year
May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.

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Shaking it off…

I realized it’s been quite a few weeks since I last posted anything. I’ve been meaning to, I just haven’t had the energy or the motivation. It’s a late-winter-not-quite-spring thing. This time of year, with the promise of nice weather right around the corner yet not quite within reach, I tend to get impatient with not being able to venture out and do the things I most enjoy, which leads to being more irritable than normal, uninspired, and generally frustrated and restless. Besides which, not a whole lot happens this time of year and I don’t have a lot to share.

Jig appears to have similar issues as she’s been moody lately. Actually, she’s been a downright bitch, just ask Finn. Poor guy can’t even look her way without her curling a lip. Seems Jig and I are both suffering from the winter blues. Thankfully, Saturday was gorgeous. A good thing, because I had some chores that needed doing regardless of whether or not Mother Nature wanted to cooperate (which she did). And Jig and I really needed to spend some quality time together.

First on the list was moving the ram. Have to admit, Jig has a bizarre relationship with Cello. She’d rather kiss him on the nose than tell him to move. When she does need to get stronger with him, she opts to grab his ruff and pull. Kind of counterproductive. For his part, Cello never seems to take offense and has never once thought about fighting with her.

He wasn’t thrilled to be relegated to the hill pasture. It puts him too far from the other sheep. No more touching noses through the fence with his girls. Still, he claimed his pasture like a king.

Next up was sorting out the bred ewes and tagging last years ewe lambs. Something I’m a bit behind on. I feel the need here to give a brief introduction to Linus because he always makes chores a bit more interesting than they sometimes should be.

Anyone who has been here has likely met Linus. He seems to have quite the fan club. He was a bottle lamb two years ago, a preemie twin who my niece’s daughters named.

He’s the white one. The red was his sister, Cry Baby. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive.
Somehow, Linus became Dave’s buddy and shadowed him around, which probably explains his attitude.

In all honesty, I didn’t expect Linus to make it through that first winter. He had a weird shape, like he was perpetually bloated, and a very distinctive baa, which he still has. It puts me in mind of Marge’s sister on the Simpsons.

In any case, Linus did survive and eventually even started to look like a real sheep. Something that still amazes me. Unfortunately, he doesn’t act like a real sheep. Downright refuses to. He’s got my dogs believing he doesn’t need to obey the same rules as all the rest. Even Jig will just ignore him unless I press the issue.

“Yep, just go about doing your job, Jig. Don’t mind me.”

Much to Jig’s and Linus’s dismay, I do insist he be treated like a normal sheep.

Linus, “You don’t really expect me to move, do you?”
Jig, “You know I’m going to have to bite your nose if you don’t.”

Once the chores were done, I had just enough daylight left to take take Finn for a walk.

Being nice out, I’d left the barn open. Something Finn discovered on the way back to the house. He also discovered the chickens were out and about. Finn likes the chickens. More and more every day. Maybe a bit too much. His feelings are one-sided as I’m fairly certain the girls aren’t all that fond of him.

A little bit of stalking…
…followed by an excited bounce. Fortunately, he never tries to make contact with them.
He seemed particularly interested in the black one.

Nicer weather and longer days… a great combination that hopefully go a long ways toward yanking me out of the doldrums.

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Photo Friday

I haven’t done one of these in a while. It was gorgeous today and we’re due for a winter storm tonight and tomorrow because Winter has finally chosen to make an appearance, so, I decided to do one of those feed-the-soul things and take my camera on a little walk-about.

This little guy was one of the few birds I saw out and about.
When you have hair sheep, you have spindles of wool on fences.
Linus… need I say more?
When you’re a ram that hangs with cattle, and you can’t control yourself, sometimes you need to be reminded, “When a girl says no, she means no.”
And then there’s this guy…
…and the moment when he discovered the chickens were out.

Stay safe this weekend. There’s a lot of nasty weather brewing.

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March was off to a rocky start not only with Cian’s breakthrough seizures, but with lambing as well. The weather was absolutely frigid, the majority of ewes were first timers, we lost a couple lambs, and one mother earned herself a spot on the fall trailer ride. All-in-all, that’s life on the farm. Things seem to have leveled off, however, and we’re down to just one ewe left to lamb. Seems there always has to be one holdout. To give us all something to smile about, I give you Photo Sunday, and a level of cuteness only lambs can achieve.

All images ©2019 K. L. Schwengel/Rustic Photography

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Spring Has Sprung! I Hope

Sunday was a gorgeous day – finally – and I had every intention of taking advantage of the beautiful afternoon by getting in some training. First, however, I had to feed the bottle lamb. Done with that, I decided a quick walk-about was in order to check the footing in the pens and arena. The day before they had been slick and soupy. On my walk-about I noticed the duck-proofing was off on part of the arena fence. I don’t have ducks this year, so could have just removed it. That would have taken more time than I wanted to spend, so I opted for a quick repair with baling twine instead. Before taking care of that, however, I needed to bring over several wheel barrow’s worth of wood chips to fill in a soft spot in the roundpen, which reminded me that Cian’s outside run needed a bit of TLC. More precisely, it needed a great deal of woodchips put back into it. Out of the four dogs, Cian is the only one that manages to have more woodchips out of the kennel than in it. Not only that, but he pushes them to the back in a huge mound, creating a nice wallow in the front of the run. This time of year, wallow equals mud pit. Finished with those tasks, I managed to find a few more little maintenance things that needed doing. I guess that’s what happens when the weather hasn’t been conducive to anything other than the necessities. Anyhow, by then it was time to do afternoon chores and feed the lamb again. Needless to say, no dogs were worked.

Monday was another nice day and, given that I’d taken care of all those little annoying things the day prior, I was determined not to waste the little bit of free time I had after work.

These two were up first.

I experimented with working Dillon and Jig together a few times earlier this year after a suggestion by a friend, but couldn’t get to it with any sort of regularity to really gauge the results. My hope is it helps Dillon understand what I want, or helps me understand him, I don’t really care which way it goes. To be totally honest, my first hope was that Jig didn’t kill him. Jig doesn’t share well, and only started tolerating Dillon once he became more than a mouthful. To my surprise she never fussed with him, except once when they collided. Even then, it was just a quick warning snap and she kept about her business.

We’re working on the very basics, which is old hat for Jig. One thing I’ve noticed on any gather, short or long, is that Dillon will veer off as Jig brings the sheep in, and position himself to block any potential draw. I wind up with Jig pushing from the rear, and Dillon holding the front.

They really do work nicely together and, surprisingly enough, make a pretty good team. I’m not certain the tandem work is really accomplishing what I want, but I’ll stick with it for a while now that it looks like I might get some consistent training in. I need to give it a chance and not succumb to my tendency to move on too quickly.

That’s something I’m going to really fight against doing with Cian. Those of you who know me, or are regular visitors here, know it’s one of my worst bad habits. Oooh, a little bit of success at Step A? Let’s just take ten giant leaps to Step Z!

Bad, Kathi.

Cian has been in the round pen a handful of times and is gearing up to start some more serious training this year.

He’s starting to get more confident, which manifests itself in him taking some cheap shots on the top side. I have to be very careful of my corrections at that point, as he can’t take quite that much pressure yet.

He squares up very nicely when I step into him, and he’ll down when I ask, and those are both some nice building blocks to start our foundation on. Slow and steady.

Yeah. Like that.

I finished up the day taking Jig out for some one-on-one. I want to make sure I’m completely in her head when we get to Iowa. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and will need to find many off-the-farm places to go train this year because at home she’s a freaking rocket scientist.

I’m thrilled spring has finally made an appearance. Hopefully it sticks around and we can settle into a regular working schedule again.

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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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