Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 at a glance




     If last year was called ‘Live and Learn’, then I must call this year ‘Miles on the Tires’. 2017 is the Chinese year of the Red Fire Rooster. Boyo boy has it been a year for the border collies and I. It was a mix of circumstances that opened up doors than I bravely jumped through, not knowing the outcomes on the other side.


Bluegrass Classic, Soldier Hollow Classic, and the Belle Grove National Sheepdog Finals
were all new trials for our team this year.
Feist Hill Field
Sonoma Wine Country SDT


Feist and I started out the trial season strong
landing second on the Hill Field at the
Sonoma Wine Country SDT
The sheepdog team gained valuable experience at the scopey Zamora Hill SDT.
Both Tane' and Feist earning points toward the nationals.
Tane' putting together the smoothest and most timely pen on very
wiley range ewes.

Young Jag doing big chores.  Learning.


Somewhere between the vast hills of Zamora
and our Northern Nevada SDT, Tane' showed
up as part of the open team.
Running consistent in the NNV SDT
he was awarded High Combined.

Feist at our Northern Nevada SDT



Thanks to the imagination and fearless spirit of
Amanda Milliken, I accepted an offer to run
Monty in the Kentucky Bluegrass Classic SDT.
Monty the Great!!!






With Monty holding my hand, somehow we
landed in the DL on the final day.
Here we are working on my
first full international shed.



Bluegrass Classic
and I tasted my first
mint julep


80 Acres SDT
Kingston, ON
Feist


Canadian National Championship
 Feist and I completing our first International shed
and finishing off with
a sweet pen.

Third Place
Canadian Nationals





Due to a shift of circumstances
we were offered a last minute
invitation to the Soldier
Hollow Sheepdog Classic



Young Jag doing real work
and learning about
responsibility in Kingston, ON.



Feist wrapping the post
at the 2017 National Finals
Belle Grove Plantation, VA


Ending the season with three dogs 
finishing the course.
Monty, Jag, and Feist




End of trial season.
A moment of pastoral peace
in Kingston before flying
home to Nevada.






UC Hopland SDT
in the gorgeous Mendicino region
of California.  Feist, Monty and
young Tane' running exceptional.




     In the openfield sheepdog world, I have come to understand, that my knowledge and experience is just skimming the surface.  Suffice it to say that we have merely skipped a stone across the surface.  I have felt that I have been swimming in the deep end, so to say.  The amount to learn and experience is so vast.

     I do love this sport.  I have a passion to improve and learn something so impossibly challenging.  This year I have also learned that I must do it my own way.  With so many different styles and lines and techniques... I must hybridize and find what fits comfortably for myself and my dogs.  

     In my vision, it is not to "beat" others, but rather to develop to be the best teams that my dogs and I can be, at that given moment in time.  The focus must always be ' watch the sheep and trust your dog'.  My mechanics are to focus on what we have at that moment, (whether practice, work, or trial), not what we don't have. My sports history gives me a vision of how fairness and equality straight across the board is important in this sport, like all others. Many generations of western ranching, also reminds me that even though the sport is amazing, preserving the working BC is the MOST important aspect.  Communication and consistency is the key.

     And weirdly, even though I have only scratched the surface, my largest satisfaction is not the 'win' per se but rather the inspiration.  It is a tough sport.  I love that I am getting feed back from my contemporaries that my little ripple in the deep end has inspired them.  But that makes my heart happy, I hope we all do well.  There is no secret elixir or formula, you just have to go out and make your way.  Thus so many people call it your journey.


Cheers to 2018!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Live and learn


Live and learn


     My theme for the past year.  I feel like we have enrolled at the USBCHA University.  This year was indeed a learning.... and living year.

Feist watching Joni and Cap
Kingston 


     We went on the road at the end of the season to do a bit more living and learning.  The dogs and I met up with Amanda, Barbara, and Bev at SoHo.  I only watched the last day, but it was amazing.  My good friend and DHS volleyball coach met up with me to watch the final day.  




Dorey sporting gold
     After Soldier Hollow, I fell in line with my dogs and rig to Meeker.  We picked up another passenger Mr. Monty Man that day.  




      Bev showed me the ropes around Meeker.  Including the famous statue in down town, as well as the practice field.  It was great to have at least one practice before running the Monty dog. 

Barbara Ray and Stella Meeker
Jag the younger


Watching opening Meeker Ceremonies
from the top
of the bluff


Beautiful Meeker
and the top hands

     Back in the convoy to Carbondale.  This would be my second time at Carbondale, CO.  Excited to be there.  Happy to be having two kicks at the can.  Overwhelmingly happy for little Zola to be running on the nursery field. (that's another story).

The crew

Zola, Amanda, and Mt Sopris

Monty and I



     Nationals this year was a very good learning experience.  Feist and I made it to the semi-final round.  In the semis, we had a nice run going, and then I made a bad call on my whistle timing and we ended with letters.  But I was so super proud of the 27 pound Feist dog.  She more than held up her end of the 50%.  I had a wake up call for my next set of learning issues. 

    On finals day, I watched in amazement at the top handlers ran intently for 25 minutes.  Several hands were running two dogs on that day.  Yes, I have watched the national finals many times on that last telling day.  I have never remotely considered getting ready or preparing for it mentally or physically myself. Another curtain call. More homework.

Feist overlooking Strang Ranch


     That was an amazing learning journey.  Reading books, watching videos, or attending clinics could not have illuminated my mind more.


Point Pleasant SDT


     Back to the drawing board.  New trial season.  Running an old pro Monty, teaching me the subtle
points.  Feist my solid good partner turning 5 years.  Tane' my last years nursery dog 3 years old, soon to be four starting to get his feet under him.  Jag my next years nursery prospect, fun and eager to learn.

Feist Hopland SDT

Winter fun trial
Bonanza, OR
Tane'

     Still working/managing the practice at home.  Fielding a land and livestock business as well.  Practicing when I can.  Learning at every turn.  Living for every moment.  We are looking forward to the new year.  Great opportunities to have fun with friends. A clean canvas to start my new painting, the art that one finds commingled with your sheepdog partner.  Amazing chances to breath in the beauty and magic of what we call sheepdogging.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sheepdog journey

And the story continues

      It has been a long time since I have blogged. For a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is the ever elusive time.  It seems like I am hitting the busiest time of my life.  I feel like with the passing of my Mother, that my life lesson is, 'to live...fully'. I am hitting my stride - or trying to. I reflect only briefly backwards of the time I may have squandered walking up a path designed by someone else.


     A very good friend of mine several years ago gave me the analogy that your dog running parallels how things are 'going' in your life.  Thus the periodic reference to the 'sheepdog journey'. I don't entirely buy into it.  However, when your life is cluttered and your energy is like the hoarder households kitchen, sure enough it's tough to find the focus needed to hold up your end of the partnership with your dog. I have witnessed very good people who go through rough life times and take it out on those around them, including their dogs.  I have to admit on more than one occasion I have worked my butt off- felt like I have moved heaven and earth-to make it out to the quiet field with sheep and my dogs.  Once there I would find myself exhausted/cranky/angry/distracted----and as soon as  I recognized it, I just loaded everyone up and went for a walk or headed home. That baggage is not theirs to carry. It's not their job to fix it.  It's my job to bring my 50% of the partnership to the table.



    I am into my third year at the Open-level.  I made the jump fairly immediately after getting the Feist dog who was accomplished, but still only two years old.  It's been a huge learning curve. Tall. Steep.  With limited time and limited funds, time management has become the key.



     I have come to terms with some truths for our current situation. There are two times of year that we take time off. When it is too hot to work and when it's too cold. In the winter when it plummets below zero, I don't even try. Sometimes we get an abundance of snow/ice and training is based on safety of the stock and the dogs.  It is good for the minds of the dogs to have the break.  In summer, the days are long and hot in the high mountain desert. I have come to terms with four-something in the morning. The summer season is brutal. No works at lunch. No practice after work or in the evenings-too damn hot! Endurance training comes in the form of swimming and high elevation hikes/runs.  Runs happen when it's cool enough in areas with no fox tails (grass seeds) or rattlesnakes.



     There are several times of year that fields are not available, or very tricky to find. We juggle with ranchers who are actually making a living. We routinely play second fiddle to irrigated fields and fields that are growing hay for the winter months.  Hauling out to BLM land is always an option, but not in rattlesnake season. During these times working in the arena or in the cattle yards affords a chance to practice at hand work.  Shedding and penning practice that makes sense to the dogs. We have chores to do here. "Don't make a wreck.... Or you will have to fix it."


     Sheep. The most important element of all to the sheepdog.  I still don't have the perfect answer yet.  The good thing is that we get experience working on different sheep.  My hope of consistency is still in dream works.  I have tried several very inventive experiments, that were not the solution.  We are lucky to have good exposure to fresh range ewes when available. My hope is that the dogs will be specialist on the toughest sheep and smart-pliable to lighter farm flocks. Tricky tricky tricky.


     We are starting to team up.  I have to be a different 50% for each different team.  The balance is different for each of my teams. Learning strengths and weaknesses. My whistles, which are still not good, are improving and are being used differently for each dog. My timing is getting better. My feel and stock reading is starting to improve. My absorption of the flood of free advice is starting to become more discerning. Don Miguel Ruizs' 5th agreement 'be skeptical, but learn to listen'. I am trying to accumulate a tool box I can reach into when the unexpected manifests. "That didn't work, I think I'll try this".


     With the commitment of the Feist dog, I also made a promise to hold up my end of the bargain.  I wasn't really that aware of what that would mean.  Contributing back to the sport that had so graciously accepted me was another learning curve I was innocently ignorant of in the beginning. In the past 2.5 years I have learned to judge N, PN, and Nursery trials.  We have committed to putting on a first rate sheepdog trial every year, with all the work that entails.  I have done some set outs, scribing, hazing, and DL exhausting.  I have met with sponsors.  I have sat with the general public to explain and answer mundane questions.  I have admired the twinkle in the eyes of the spectator or the novice handler that are also drawn to the magic of the sport.



     Over and over, I have yearned to retire and farm/ranch full time.  In my dreamy mind I think it is the only way I can realistically make significant progress in this sport.  In my ever so realistic nature, I know that the shift in my sheepdogging progress truthfully occurred when I quit seeing all the things I didn't have or couldn't do....and focused on the attributes that I did have available.  I have to run to the beat of my own drummer, just like in every other aspect of my life.  Keep it positive and love the journey.





Sheepdog journey

And the story continues

      It has been a long time since I have blogged. For a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is the ever elusive time.  It seems like I am hitting the busiest time of my life.  I feel like with the passing of my Mother, that my life lesson is, 'to live...fully'. I am hitting my stride - or trying to. I reflect only briefly backwards of the time I may have squandered walking up a path designed by someone else.


     A very good friend of mine several years ago gave me the analogy that your dog running parallels how things are 'going' in your life.  Thus the periodic reference to the 'sheepdog journey'. I don't entirely buy into it.  However, when your life is cluttered and your energy is like the hoarder households kitchen, sure enough it's tough to find the focus needed to hold up your end of the partnership with your dog. I have witnessed very good people who go through rough life times and take it out on those around them, including their dogs.  I have to admit on more than one occasion I have worked my butt off- felt like I have moved heaven and earth-to make it out to the quiet field with sheep and my dogs.  Once there I would find myself exhausted/cranky/angry/distracted----and as soon as  I recognized it, I just loaded everyone up and went for a walk or headed home. That baggage is not theirs to carry. It's not their job to fix it.  It's my job to bring my 50% of the partnership to the table.



    I am into my third year at the Open-level.  I made the jump fairly immediately after getting the Feist dog who was accomplished, but still only two years old.  It's been a huge learning curve. Tall. Steep.  With limited time and limited funds, time management has become the key.


     I have come to terms with some truths for our current situation. There are two times of year that we take time off. When it is too hot to work and when it's too cold. In the winter when it plummets below zero, I don't even try. Sometimes we get an abundance of snow/ice and training is based on safety of the stock and the dogs.  It is good for the minds of the dogs to have the break.  In summer, the days are long and hot in the high mountain desert. I have come to terms with four-something in the morning. The summer season is brutal. No works at lunch. No practice after work or in the evenings-too damn hot! Endurance training comes in the form of swimming and high elevation hikes/runs.  Runs happen when it's cool enough in areas with no fox tails (grass seeds) or rattlesnakes.



     There are several times of year that fields are not available, or very tricky to find. We juggle with ranchers who are actually making a living. We routinely play second fiddle to irrigated fields and fields that are growing hay for the winter months.  Hauling out to BLM land is always an option, but not in rattlesnake season. During these times working in the arena or in the cattle yards affords a chance to practice at hand work.  Shedding and penning practice that makes sense to the dogs. We have chores to do here. "Don't make a wreck.... Or you will have to fix it."


     Sheep. The most important element of all to the sheepdog.  I still don't have the perfect answer yet.  The good thing is that we get experience working on different sheep.  My hope of consistency is still in dream works.  I have tried several very inventive experiments, that were not the solution.  We are lucky to have good exposure to fresh range ewes when available. My hope is that the dogs will be specialist on the toughest sheep and smart-pliable to lighter farm flocks. Tricky tricky tricky.


     We are starting to team up.  I have to be a different 50% for each different team.  The balance is different for each of my teams. Learning strengths and weaknesses. My whistles, which are still not good, are improving and are being used differently for each dog. My timing is getting better. My feel and stock reading is starting to improve. My absorption of the flood of free advice is starting to become more discerning. Don Miguel Ruizs' 5th agreement 'be skeptical, but learn to listen'. I am trying to accumulate a tool box I can reach into when the unexpected manifests. "That didn't work, I think I'll try this".


     With the commitment of the Feist dog, I also made a promise to hold up my end of the bargain.  I wasn't really that aware of what that would mean.  Contributing back to the sport that had so graciously accepted me was another learning curve I was innocently ignorant of in the beginning. In the past 2.5 years I have learned to judge N, PN, and Nursery trials.  We have committed to putting on a first rate sheepdog trial every year, with all the work that entails.  I have done some set outs, scribing, hazing, and DL exhausting.  I have met with sponsors.  I have sat with the general public to explain and answer mundane questions.  I have admired the twinkle in the eyes of the spectator or the novice handler that are also drawn to the magic of the sport.



     Over and over, I have yearned to retire and farm/ranch full time.  In my dreamy mind I think it is the only way I can realistically make significant progress in this sport.  In my ever so realistic nature, I know that the shift in my sheepdogging progress truthfully occurred when I quit seeing all the things I didn't have or couldn't do....and focused on the attributes that I did have available.  I have to run to the beat of my own drummer, just like in every other aspect of my life.  Keep it positive and love the journey.