Friday, January 27, 2012

Rain in January

Rain is falling on semi-frozen ground, and no one is happy.

Because I want to preserve the pastures, the horses are confined to their paddock, where they've spent most of winter. They long to go to the pastures, nibble grass and run.

The sandy paddock offers enough space to run and buck, but I suspect the horses like to run on turf, dig their heels into dirt, and kick up divits.

The sheep aren't happy either. To preserve pastures, I'm keeping them in the barn area and feeding them first-cutting hay. They much prefer seeking the faded soft grass in the winter pastures to the dried hay they're given.

The Border collies aren't working sheep, and mile-long walks in the rain aren't enough to blow off steam -- for human or dogs.

We are all learning that the longest winters may not be the snowiest ones. Instead, they may the ones of endless rain and mud.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Awaiting a Leader

Temperatures warmed and rain fell overnight. Water from the rain and melting snow couldn't soak into the frozen ground. It congregated in the low-lying areas before flowing to drainage ditches, streams and rivers.

Mid-morning, when I looked out my office window, I saw the sheep, standing in a line and looking off to the five-acre pasture where the grass is greener, tastier, taller.

Between the sheep and nirvana was an impromptu stream.

The sheep waited for one minute, two, three.

Few natural defenses have made sheep cautious animals. They don't like dark places. They don't like the unknown. They certainly don't like water crossings.

Llamas are less fearful. Llambert the Llama and his long legs approached the stream, then proceeded through it.

The sheep waited as he strode toward the pasture.

Were they waiting for some delayed danger? Or, were they waiting for their leader, Good Mom, to step from the middle of the flock, place her nose to the water, and walk through?

Once she crossed, the others followed single file.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Woods After Snow- Day 2

My ski tracks weren't the only tracks in the snow when I returned to the woods the day after the snow.

A deer and a coyote chose to use the path I'd created.

As I skiied, I was reminded that the woodland creatures do not hibernate in winter, that hunting and foraging continue, and that in some cases, those two activities collide.

I stopped to inspect the tracks and the fur left behind. A squirrel chose to use the already made ski tracks instead of staying in the underbrush where he was safer from the predators of the woods.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Woods After Snow-Day 1

The first ground-covering snow of winter arrived overnight.

Clipping on my skis, I headed to the woods.

Upon entering, I noticed the silence. The only sound was the horn of a faraway train. Had all the woodland creatures huddled under the blanket of snow?

A swoosh overhead told me that I wasn't alone. Two red-tailed hawks were hunting.

For the snow creates a great hunting ground. A mouse, a squirrel, a rabbit is easy to spot in the black and white stillness after snow.

This sign, though, must have been difficult for the birds to see.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Clicker Training Resumes Tonight

I was working on a short story about a wayward beagle when I heard the clank of metal behind me.

Turning around, I saw this.

Dewey Kitty was taking feeding time into his own paws.

I watched in amazement as he did this.

With the trash can lid off, his next step was easy... if you have the flexibility of a cat.

With the weather being nice for January, I've been spending more time outside working the dogs, and not any time training Dewey.

Tonight, the trash can gets secured.... and clicker training Dewey Kitty resumes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wood Cutting in January

I heard crunch when I stepped into the woods. It was caused by the breaking of ice, not the breaking of fall leaves.

An unusually wet fall delayed the annual wood-cutting ritual until this past weekend when the ground finally froze.

The thermometer read five degrees when I awoke, but the forecast called for calm winds and sun and a high in the 20s. In other words, it was a perfect day for cutting wood.

As always, the spouse cut, and I carried the logs to the awaiting tractor and wagon.

Soon, I was shedding layers: the hat, the coat, the gloves.

The shedding continued when we returned home hours later. While the jeans and socks and gloves dried by the fire, I sat nearby in my long underwear and a dry pair of socks.

I was ready to cap off the perfect day with popcorn, porter and a football game.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Caeli Returns

Caeli, the Border collie, returned to the farm this week --and increased the farm's energy levels more than the sun in January.

The 32-pound black and white furry bounced out of the car, ran three laps around the house, and woke the sheep from their mid-afternoon nap.Tag, the Border collie, whined, stepped a little higher, then gave chase.

I stood on the back porch, pondering if herding training had changed her into a taut bundle of energy, or if, in the past two months, I'd been lulled into the comfort of older dogs.

Now, two days later, I'm wondering if she's settling any, or I've just gotten used to the whirling dervish that is Caeli.

Monday, January 9, 2012

When the Sun Shines in January

The birds sing and the dandelions bloom.

And, Trick, the Barn Cat, forgets about his usual January activities -- eating and sleeping.

The temperatures reached into the 40s this afternoon, and he wanted to play.

The hen was his first victim.

He stalked and pounced her, then fell over and gave her his best come-hither look.

She was not amused.

Puffing out her feathers, she came at him with talons outstretched.

He rolled on his back to show her he meant no harm.

She didn't believe him. For in her chicken world, hens do not play with cats.

Undeterred, Trick selected his next victim: Mickey, the Border collie who was herding sheep.

He stalked and pounced the dog. She stepped to the left and continued working the sheep.

His third victim was Leslie the Cat, who, when pounced, gave a half-hearted chase.

That was the best he could do on a sunny day in January.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On a Sunny Day in January

I saddle up the Haflinger for a short ride, and remember I haven't ridden in a few months.

I remove weeks of manure from stalls and paddocks.

I remove my winter coat and marvel that it is January in Ohio and I am wearing only a sweatshirt and turtleneck.

I take a long hike with the dogs.

I work the dog on sheep.

I forget about the dreary, wet December when I thought the sun would never shine and the mud would never dry.

Friday, January 6, 2012

When I Return Home...

I return home from work early this afternoon.

The sun is shining. The temperature is in the 50s. I plan to move hay, walk the dogs, work Mickey on sheep.

In the paddock, the Haflingers snooze. In the pasture, Llambert the Llama rolls in the dirt while the sheep nap nearby. Inside, the cats are curled into balls on the bed.

I briefly consider joining them.

But it is January. The sun is shining. The temperature is in the 50s. I'll enjoy the sun -- but I'll be moving.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Perfect New Year's Day

As an early bird, I've never been a fan of New Year's Eve. New Year's Day, though, is one of my favorite holidays.

I believe a big part of it should be spent doing things you really enjoy.

So this New Year's Day began with a breakfast of leftover wiener schnitzel (with Dijon mustard and wild mushroom sauce) and cabbage.

After feeding the critters, walking the dogs, and reading the newspaper, I turned to the most pressing issue of the day: how to dress for the sheepdog trial. Winds speeds were predicted to be up to 40 mph and temperatures in the 30s.

So I dressed in some of my favorite winter gear: alpaca socks, wool long underwear pants, sweats and rain pants, silk long underwear shirt, wool long underwear shirt, and turtleneck. Then, I put on my canvas duck winter coat, alpaca hat, and Muck boots, loaded Mickey, the Border collie, into the car, and drove to a sheepdog trial.

Sheepdog people are an interesting lot. Like their dogs, they fail to see weather as a reason NOT to work dogs and sheep. Sheepdog people also like to eat. So for lunch, I grazed on sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and chocolate covered cherries.

After running Mickey and placing second, I said my good-byes, loaded up the dog and headed home where I stoked the fire, fed the critters and made mashed potatoes and sauerkraut for dinner. If cabbage is truly a lucky vegetable, we're going to have a good year.

The evening calls for a fire and snuggling while listening to the wind and feeling the bite of winter that is finally arriving.