Wednesday, December 19, 2018

What I Really Want for Christmas

While I appreciate a 50-degree, sunny day in December, I'm dreaming of frozen ground.

It seems like my farm chores, winter, spring and fall involve trudging through mud.

The mud is so prevalent that it's become part of the weather report in my journal:

Cloudy skies, 36 degrees, mud. 

Windy, 41 degrees, mud.

Another muddy day.

Meteorologists would point out that mud is not a weather term, but I doubt many of them are walking through it, in fear of falling or losing a boot.

The mud is worse around the gates.

I'm sure the mud seems worse this year, as we're past due for spreading gravel under gates--and one of our pastures was just planted this spring. New pastures have more bare space, and few roots to pull the water downward to those underground reservoirs.

But maybe, I think, I've just become old and crotchety and obsessed with the weather (and mud).

Or, maybe we've had a lot more rain.

I check the rainfall totals for the nearest weather station, about 30 miles from us. To date, we're about six inches above normal.

And then, because I can be a data geek, I check the rainfall for 2017, and see it's about 10 inches above normal.

That's a lot of extra water--and a lot of extra mud.

December 19, 2018--Light winds, sunny skies, high of 50 degrees, MUD.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Breaking in the New Farm Hand

For the past few years, Jack's been my number one farm dog. He moves the calmly and confidently, and the ewes never question his power.

I trust him to take care of me and the sheep. This summer, when the lambs were finding all types of ways to tangle themselves in buckets, he was the one I counted on to gently move them into a corner where I could catch and untangle them.

But Jack is well into his 10th year, and Border collies don't live forever. Another dog needs to step up and help out.

Niki is eager to do the job. At age 4, she has the energy and drive to work all day long, and the ewes never question her power. However, we have not developed that trust that Jack and I have.

Building trust takes work, and a lot of time. This fall, I've used her as the primary chore dog. Because chore work sometimes turns into training sessions, chores often take longer. And it's seldom easier to use her rather than Jack.

This week, wet weather forced me to take the sheep on an alternative route to their winter pasture. Rather than taking them through the waterway, their journey took them into an unfenced part of the farm, over a culvert and down the driveway.

Because the sheep had never taken that route before and never been across the culvert, I didn't know how they'd react.

The easy thing would have been to use Jack for the job.

Instead, I took Niki.

I knew she'd have to push the sheep enough to convince them to go over the culvert, but not so much they'd be scared and do some silly suicidal sheep thing, like jump off the driveway and into the rocks below.

She moved the sheep out of the pasture, down the driveway and toward the culvert. When I gave her a lie down command, she took it and waited, watching the sheep drift over the culvert.

With a few flanks, they were safely in their new pasture, and I was trusting Niki a little more.