Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Bugs of Summer: My Five Least Favorite

The horse flies, or B-52's, arrived this week.

They are big, lumbering and loud, and strike fear in horses, sheep and humans. I was bitten by one once, and I had a welt the size of a silver dollar on my thigh.

But while it stung, grew hot, swelled and itched, the B-52 sting didn't send me to the hospital.

That honor goes to the wasps... my least favorite bug of summer.

The wasps like to nest around pipe gates, horse trailers, manure spreaders, the portable sheep shed -- places where I frequently have my hands.

Unlike the B52's, the wasps are stealth stingers. When stung on the forearm, my hand swelled to Popeyean proportions even though I iced the sting and held my arm above my heart. The emergency room doc was impressed -- never a good sign.

Rounding out the Top Five Worst Bugs of Summer are the mosquitoes, house or stable flies, and fruit flies.

Because we usually have a breeze and because I'm an early bird, mosquitoes usually aren't much of a problem. But when the air is hot, still and humid, the mosquitoes whisper their arrival in my ears. They seem to find me when I'm picking berries, working in the garden, sitting on the back porch on a hot summer evening. "I'm going to get you. I'm going to get you," they say. I duck inside to avoid them.

The house or stable flies make my list because of their abundance and their bite. We live in an area heavily populated by factory farms housing chickens, hogs and turkeys ... and consequently, flies. When those hot, humid days arrive, the flies bite hard.

The fruit flies don't bite or buzz in my ears. They are just plentiful at this time of year, and always wanting to park themselves on tomatoes, apples, berries. When I see them, I am reminded of high school biology class, genetics and the fruit fly experiment. We used them because they reproduced so rapidly. And their rapid reproduction comes to mind when I see them parked on a tomato, a banana, an apple.

Other annoying bugs of summer? Ticks and green-headed flies.

Not making the list: spiders. Really, they don't annoy me. They weave their nests and often catch the bugs of summer. And sometimes, they also catch me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Savoring Moments with an Old Dog at Sheepdog Camp

At age 11, Mickey isn't as fast as she once was. She tires more quickly, and she's losing her hearing. But she still loves helping out at sheepdog camp.

One of our favorite tasks is the big gather -- or gathering 80 or so sheep from the pasture and moving them to holding pens so that they can be used in the sheepdog clinic.

Mickey has done this task hundreds of times over the years, and she knows where she needs to be so that the sheep stay flocked together.

She moves them along the creek and over a wooden bridge.

Once across the bridge, they move up a hill and into the holding pen. Then, Mickey gets a break while I use the young dog, Raven, to move groups of 6-10 sheep onto the practice field.

Mickey finds a spot in the shade and snoozes, waiting for me to call her to do a task.

I've had Mickey for almost two years now. Her job was to teach me about sheepdog handling. She's taught me to be a better handler, but she's also taught me about savoring life.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Scenes from Sheepdog Camp

For many days this month, the sheepdog camp is my home.

While Border collies have natural instinct to herd sheep, they must be trained on directions (left and right), to stop, and to move the sheep away from the handler.

Thus, sheepdog camp. During the camps, the handlers and dogs work on herding.

This year, I'm participating in the camps with two-year-old Raven. I'm also working at the camps.

My job is to sort six or eight sheep from the flock and move them to a specified place on the 10-acre field. Then, the trainer and participant and dog go to work.

 I have dogs that help with the job.

Mickey, the dog in the background, is an old pro at the job. She knows to sleep until called upon to work. Raven, the two-year-old, is still learning the job.

It's a job where we work for 10-15 minutes, then hang out in the shade for 10-15 minutes.

Then, in the afternoon, we do it all over again... usually at a different location.

It's a perfect working vacation for someone who likes to read, to work dogs on sheep, and to spend the days outside.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Loving the Rejects

Each morning when walking the dogs, I stop by the apple tree.

For the past week, it's been dropping apples.

I fill my front left jeans pocket and two back pockets with a dozen apples. The right front pocket gets no apples, thanks to a hole chewed by Caeli, the Border collie, in an attempt to get treats.

Upon returning home, I break two apples in half and offer the pieces to Lily and Jet, the Haflingers. By Day Three, they whinny in anticipation.

The rest I take to the chicken yard for the hens.

The hens cluck at the sweet treat and peck away.

For, unlike humans, they do not mind if an apple is misshapen,

or has a bad spot,

or a worm hole.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Like the Postman

When I told a friend that I was participating in a sheepdog trial over the Fourth, her response was, "So that's why the forecast is for rain."

She is convinced that sheepdog people only trial in bad weather.

In the past few years, I've worked the dogs in several inches of snow, gusty winds, rain, and 100-degree temperatures. Today, I'm packing two pairs of boots, two rain coats, rain pants, hats, and extra socks as the forecast calls for heavy rain.

I've trialed on some mild, sunny days. It's just that weather-wise, those perfect weather days happen less than the rain, the snow, the heat, the winds.

So, we make the day perfect in other ways -- by being surrounded by Border collies, sheep and friends.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ode to a Keyboard

I fell in love with the split, raised keyboard many years ago when I worked for a computer company and could try out new devices.

The husband complained about the funky keyboard and refused to use it.

So I kept it.

The letters -- or just the E, D, K, M, J, A, I, and O -- wore off -- and guests refused to use it.

I kept using it and kept thinking someday I should paint letters on the worn keys.

"You could replace it," the husband said.

"It works great," I said. And it did, especially with the abuse it got from the cat paws over the years.

Today, though, it didn't work great. The keyboard offered spaces in the most unusual places. Then, it insisted on auto-completing -- everything or "evergreen."

But it's most annoying habit was the backspace. When I hit that, it offered "6" over and over again.

Was it possessed?

I pondered that as I did chores.

Maybe, just maybe, my computer had a virus.

I plugged in the spouse's keyboard. It did fine.

And so I bought an ordinary, black, straight keyboard this evening.

It looks like everyone else's with one exception.

Dewey Kitty (whom, a close friend has told me, is a little TOO large to be a kitty) has found it a nice spot for a nap.