We are coming in late fall and early winter. The leaves have been turning and the nights are chilly. The horses has been getting their winter fuzz and their whiskers are tinted with frost in the cold morning mist. The sheep are huddled with their heads down while the rain beat down upon their back. The chickens are starting to molt and their new dark pin feather stand out against their bare pink skin. As the dogs go for their nightly run, I note their fur is thicker and their breath is a crispy, white mist as they pant. The grass has not grown anymore and the garden has died back, exposing the tomatoes that I had missed.
It’s dark when I get home so I am limited on my dog training. I use a dog to do stall chores, pushing lambs off the feeders, holding a single for an examination or moving them from one pasture to another. This last weekend was the worming so a couple of dogs got to pack the stalls, hold the sheep and then resort and place them all back in the appropriate pasture. The North Country Cheviot ram was a bit surly and tried to charge Rainey. At first, Rainey barked but held her ground and with encouragement with me, then went forward for a few front head grips and finally turned him. She quit barking and put her energy into the face bite and when she was done, I saw a little dog become stronger and had a touch more confidence. The next time she saw him, her neck stretched out farther to him as if challenging him but he didn’t take the bait.
I reduced by flock by half since we had a horrible winter last year and this year was going to be the same and the feed prices went up by 50%. I usually buy a steer to fatten up over the winter for a summer butchering but passed this fall as it would not be a good return. Last winter we had more floods than normal and the pastures were wetter than they ever had been and I didn’t want to have many sheep on such wet ground. I trimmed down my flock to about 30 sheep and so will have to make due with them. If the feed prices lower next year, then I might rebuild my flock up again.
I am selling one of my horses, a nice dun (buckskin) AQHA mare. I have Emmy, the older Arab and two nice riding mares (Emma and Lisa). Maggi, is close to 16 hands high, well cow bred with Hollywood and Poco lines, trained for trail and had some cow exposure. She is tall for me and with my limited use of my right arm; I can’t pull myself up on her, let alone put a saddle on her. I had to sell my roping saddle as it was too heavy to put on a horse since I can only use my left arm to lift the saddle. If you know of anyone looking for a well trained mare, let me know.
This summer and fall, we had a cougar move in the neighborhood. He killed some of my lambs and ewes but really wreaked havoc on Nayab’s flock, getting over 15-20 ewes and lambs. He finally was killed by the Fish and Game Department after he was injured on the highway across from my farm. The local coyotes have been busy too and last night went into a stall at my neighbors and killed a lamb. Luckily for me, I have the two LGD who defend the flock. I hear them bark at night and the coyotes howl so I know they are on their toes.
Tess is up to her old ways now and it is good to see that. She begged to work last night and I used her as a backup dog. She cannot hear the whistles so I used voice commands and she did quite well. The ram saw her and thought she was an easy mark. He took a run at her and then much to his surprise; he was on his ass, with a black leech on his nose. The leech didn’t let go for a few seconds and when Tess did let go, the ram ran back into the center of the flock. The ram should be very grateful that Tess only had three canine teeth instead of four as one tooth was removed. He had a nice little puncture and a healthy respect for the old dog. Tess enjoyed working tonight and it has been a long time since she worked that long. I tried to give her a break and chained her but noticed she was chewing the chain so I let her do backup some more. She was quite please with herself and as we walked out, her tail was wagging in great delight and I saw the sparkle in her eyes and the dance in her step. I failed to see the dimming, cloudy eyes, the white flecked face, the spaying feet and the age in her body. Instead I saw Tess as a two year old, full of life and spark. Tess felt that way too.
Roo went to his new home in Ontario and is a cherished member of the family. He has children that play with him and Grant works him on sheep every day. He will be going to the sheep yard to help Grant at his work and also be his trial dog. It was a great fit and he can still trial. We are getting reports on him and hope to hear of his success with Grant. Tam has been sold and we wish him success.
Rainey does quite a bit of the chore work. I also use Sava as she needs more seasoning. Nan will help but as soon as her chores are done, she races back to the house so she can be let in so she can sleep on her dog bed. I have been training Kate and now she can do small outruns and balance well. She is only 15 months old and tries hard to please. She is a softer dog so I tailor my training to her like I train Rainey. I prefer a tougher dog but will work with what I have. She does have the desire to please so that has helped quite a bit in her training.
Sarah the feral cat that is no more, has decided she likes to be a part time house cat. She has also discovered that if she gets a rat or mole, she gets a can of kitty food. That’s fine and dandy, but the other day, when I was feeding the lambs, I felt her brush up several times against my legs. I turned around to check her out and realized that she was tossing a huge dead rat on my legs to let me know of her great prowess as a huntress. I screamed and jumped two feet in the air and she was puzzled by my reactions to her fine gift. But she forgave me when I got her canned food and I removed the rat to the garbage bin. She presented me with a mole the next day and she was doubly rewarded as that mole had been digging up the lawn. She will follow me to the house and beg to be let in and will settle in my lap or the couch for a while before wanting out. The dogs give her a wide berth as they have felt her sharp claws on their muzzle when they stray too close.
Kodi had a setback the other week and we thought we would have to put him down. His back leg collapsed and I had to rub them to get them working. He was very unsteady so I had a vet come out to look at him. Of course, he must have known something was up as he trotted away, unsteady but the back legs working fine. We shrugged and looked at each other figured out that he was telling us he was not ready to go quite just yet. I don’t think he will make out the winter so he has a stall with big bed of straw to lie in and when he is ready, he will let us know. Glock, amazingly enough, is usually the rambunctious teenager, has been very gentle and concerned with him. He will stand guard next to the food and let Kodi eat while he keeps the sheep away. After Kodi is done, only then he will eat. He follows Kodi around and you can tell of the deep friendship these two have. We have other LGDs before but they never really clicked with Kodi but with Glock, they seem to have a special bond. Kodi is training Glock to be his replacement and we see the changing of the guard. It’s going to be a sad day when Kodi passes but that is a part of life.
My Aunt passed away and it affected me deeply this week. When I was a small child and we spent some time in Aurora, ILL, Aunt Betty would take time to make sure we fit in. She went out of her way to make sure my mother, a new arrival to the US, would feel at home. I have many fond memories of her and she would send me cards for my Birthdays and holidays. We would chat on the phone and catch up on family history, her son, Jeff died about over 25 years ago and we were very close. It has been a weird week for me in feelings and emotions.
We have some one day trials coming up in a couple of weeks so the weekends will be sharpening up the dogs and my skills. The Finals will be in Klamath for this trial year and I need to get some points so I can go. Nan has a bit over ten points and I need to get a second Open dog so I can get points for that dog. Rainey is on the edge of moving up but her drive is holding her back. I might just take the plunge and move her up.
The nights are long and the days are short but life still goes on. It will be good to see spring but in the meantime, I will take winter with the full force of the gale winds it throws at me.