Friday, February 25, 2011

Tools For Winter

The cold and snow are back. We need the snow, but i confess the cold is a real drag.

I took my camera to feed today and took some pics of a few things we could not do without during these cold winter days, when the most important job is feeding the stock.

Most important is the hay grapple. This is a new tool this fall and it may be the most handy piece of equipment we have ever purchased. The gapple picks up the 120lb-140lb hay bales( 4-6 of them at a time) so we don't have to wrestle them by hand. As i weigh about the same amount as the heavy bales i look like a monkey f.. a football when i have to hand load them. Not fun.

 Next up is a good Border Collie. As i explained in the dry land post we use the collies to keep the sheep away from the fence as we drop the feed down. The less hay in the fine wool sheep's wool the better.

We have to use livestock guardian dogs(LGD) to keep the coyotes from eating the sheep. This is Ella.

A very sharp knife is always needed

This is the new LGD who is starting his training. He has his own small group of sheep, and his name is Maximus aka Max aka Maxie

This pic was taken this fall as we were moving some sheep home from some fall graze a few miles from our ranch.  This is Mint, and may be one of my fav pics. I can just see her contemplating her job as she waits for me to get started.


Each year for Christmas we give a cut and wrapped lamb to my folks, and to my brother and sis in law. This is a wonderful pic of a 10-7 Ranch rack of lamb, expertly prepared by my brother Richard. This pic makes my mouth water and would not be possible without the above listed "tools".

Martin was not with me this am but i think this look on Nellie's face sums up what he usually says/thinks when i am taking pics and not working "put the camera away and lets get to work!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For the Joy of it

I am reading a new book called "Finding your Zone: The 10 Core Lessons For Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life." I was looking for a refresher on some sports psychology and this book had the best reviews.

I finished the book this past weekend while i was at the Zamora sheepdog trial. Most of the ideas put forth in the book were things i needed a refresher on, but i have read and learned before. There were however a few concepts i have never internalized.

The author does a lot of consulting for the PGA so i got tired of his lovefest with Tiger Woods. This book was written before Tiger's public fall from grace. You could not say Tiger had his "life zone" too squared away, but the man does know how to handle pressure in sports.

The main idea that i took away from this book was something that i was not doing, but that i had recently told our 7 year old son about when he was competing in a wrestling match.  If we compete in sports we must do so for the fun of it, because we find joy in the game. We can't play for the prestige, the money, or so that others may think better of us. The "goal" must simply be the joy.

Such a simple idea, i am not sure how i lost that goal as my main focus. Ok i am pretty sure it was when i started to care too much about winning, and not enough about the process. If asked about my very best memories of my older dogs, it is not always a trial win that first comes to mind.  The best moments for me are when the dogs work and our team work transcends the "win" and is just beautiful in it's own right. Some times these moments are on the trial field, but many times they are not. Some times the best moments come in the runs when you don't win.

I have shared in my post about Blue the moment that is my favorite in our years as a team. The moment for my young bitch Mint came when she was about 14 months old. We were sorting some replacement ewe lambs that we had just purchased. These lambs were from a flock of 4,000 ewes, and they had been handled very little. I needed to take the lambs thru a small gate in  our handling system. The lambs did not see the gate as an option.

Even at such a young age, and with very little training, Mint just knew how to balance the push and finesse needed for this job. It was simply beautiful to watch. It took some time, and i mostly kept my mouth shut and let Mint do her job. When the lambs went thru the gate my husband looked at me and we both said "WOW!"  I have put many lambs thru many gates, but this job on this day was difficult for any dog. To watch a young dog figure it out in the way that she did, just made my heart sing.

Mint has been able to handle very diffucult ranch jobs form a young age, but she has been a handful to get ready to trial.  I will not move Mint up to open for a few more months, and i know she is not going to be the easiest dog to trial. I simply enjoy and admire the dog.  Of course i hope we have a long and prosperous career, but i would not have put the work into her if i did not enjoy her so much.

In writing this i realize that all the dogs i have kept to train to the open trial level have first given me that "joy" away from the trial field. Maybe for me that joy also equals a trust that i pass on to the dog. That trust is part of what makes us a team that can then do well on the trial field. 

When i went to compete this weekend i tried to put the 'fun" first in my mind. I will say that it made me much more relaxed as waited to run.  I still felt competitive, i just tried to focus on a good run and nothing before, or beyond that.  The zamora outrun is legendary for its tricky hills. I ran with Nellie first( her first time here) and i would not call her a natural outrunning dog.  When i sent her and she climbed the first hill, i held my breath waiting to see where she would come up. When i saw her climb the 2nd hill and run along the tops of the hills i was so thrilled.  We had some trouble later in the run, but for me that outrun was uplifting. Nell and i did not place at this trial, but my faith in her is strong for a long career as a solid team.

The next day i ran Kell. Kell had an injury this fall and this was his first trial back. I have started to get him back in condition, but i have trained him very little in the past 3 months.  Kell climbed the first hill and when i saw him running effortlessly along the tops of the hills i felt that passion that is the drug of many who run these brilliant dogs. Kell felt good that was the best part,  so the rest of the run was just gravy. We went on to have a nice run and place, and sitting here writing this i can still bring up that feeling that i had when i saw him running atop the hills.

Kell and i had a great year in 2008, but is 2009 we just could not put together a good run all year. In 2010 we went to a clinic with Alasdair Macrae, he pointed out some things i was doing that were "not fair" to the dog. He also showed me some exercises for keeping Kell supple on his flanks. That fall of 2010 Kell and i had our best year ever as a team.

The phrase "not being fair to the dog" really had an impact on me. I know that my dogs give me all they have and the thought of me not holding up my end by not being "fair" was very unsettling to me.

This book further brought into focus the fairness ideal.  If i am focused on the win, or my ego, or what others think of me or my dogs, how is that fair to the dogs? I am a driven, competitive and intense person. Much of that is hard wired and it is not always a bad thing,  but in the past few years i have often let that override the passion i feel for the dogs and the work. I think this past weeked the joy was added back in at the proper amount. The trick is to find the balance when competing, or in just living well for that matter.

I wanted to add a picture to this post, but i could not think of any working dog pictures that really captured the feeling.  I decided to post a picture of my 5 year old daughter playing basketball. Katy is too young to worry about all the outside pressures that sabotage many adult athletes. She plays because it is fun. When watching very young children play sports you can not help but smile and laugh. It is just such pure joy.
Katy takes her shot!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

blue dogs and Blue the dog

I started my love of working dogs in 1995 when I bought my first dog, an Australian Cattle Dog named Jaxs. Jaxs was a ranch breed little ball of fire and she was the first dog I ever used on stock. I grew up in Montana and most cowboys had a “heeler.” I grew up knowing that if you went to a ranch and they had a heeler, you did not get out of the truck until the rancher came out. I always admired the tough little dogs, and I still do.

Even thou Jaxs was not a young dog when we had kids she was a very good play mate...u did however always know when she had enough! I think she reached that point when i took this pic.

My dad told me when he was ranching the only thing a dog did was get you hurt. Later when he saw a trained dog worked he was amazed and agreed that a dog “like that!” would have been very useful to him.

The first time I worked Jaxs on stock I walked into a round pen and Jaxs immediately ran the sheep right over the top of me. After that I picked myself up and spent several minutes twirling around to a dizzy stupor. I will never forget the feeling when I walked out of the pen “WOW I want to do that AGAIN!!”

I bought some sheep with a friend of mine, and started to learn about the sheep and dogs. I bought another ACD named Diesel, and I went to many stock handling lessons and clinics.

Along the way I meet my good friend Angie Untisz. Angie helped me get started, and she took me with her to B.C. Canada, and to Lynn Leach’s Downriver Farm. Lynn has clinics and trials at her farm, and she and Angie were 2 of my first mentors. Without Angie as a travel/training partner/cheer leader, and Lynn’s guidance and encouragement, I am not sure I would have continued with the stock dogs.

I will always be grateful to Lee Lumb and Gail Cochlan for helping me with my cattle dogs even before I had Border Collies. I remember wanting to walk to the post with the confidence and stature that these ladies have. I will always admire the way these two women handle their dogs on the trial field, and the class with which they carry themselves off the field.
I entered some AHBA ranch trials and Jaxs and Diesel did pretty well at the basic farm type trials. These trials consisted of small gathers, pulling sheep from a pen, sorting and covering stock at gates.

While I was at Lynn’s she let me work one of her Border Collies. One time working a Border Collie and I knew that was for me. It was like driving an old pickup and somebody hands you the keys to a juiced up sports car. Shortly after I saw my first ISDS type field trial and I was on hook, line and sinker. Watching the dogs gather sheep at 500 yards and drive them around the course looked beautiful and thrilling to me.

I called Lynn the spring of 2000 and asked if she would be having any Border Collie puppies. Lynn said she was having a litter from her Delmar Sprite and Lee Lumb’s Lad. Angie and I happened to be at Lynn’s when the pups were born. Corny as it sounds I always felt like Blue was extra special because I was there when he was born. Then we went back for a clinic when the pups were 7 weeks old, and I got to spend a week picking my pup.

One pup just stood out like a super star. He was bold, with blue eyes, and he just said “PICK ME!” I had a very cool named picked out for him, but on the way home Angie said he really was a “Blue” and I agreed.
The day i picked Blue
The first thing I taught Blue was “get a hold!” To bite on command. I will never forget a women telling me “that is a Border Collie NOT a heeler.” I laughed then, and now, as that bite has served Blue and I well over the years.
Blue was a very good cowdog. tough with a big head bite. He was in 6 USBCHA Cattle finals and made the top 20 4 times.

I have some wonderful trial memories with Blue, but I will always have that one moment that changed the way I look at Blue, and all the dogs that have come after him.
Blue's first sheepdog trial
Angie and I were at a friends and the sheep were up a steep hill about 300 yards. To get to the sheep the dog needed to go out and around some trees and thick brush (blind from the sheep and handler) and then along the top of the hill to the sheep, and bring them down a steep hill.

Blue was about 9 months old, and I did not want to send him and have him fail. Angie said “just send him and see if he will succeed!” I sent Blue and he went out and around the trees and brush, but when he came up at the top he couldn’t see his sheep so he came back to us.

Afraid of the failure, I didn’t want to send him again, but Angie insisted I try. This time Blue went out and around, came out on top and with some encouraging walked along the top of the hill until he saw the sheep. He then brought them down the steep hill at 100 mph, but he did it. More importantly WE did it as a team, and that thrilling feeling of team work between handler and dog has stuck with me to this day.

First trial Blue ran in a fun trial when he was one

With Blue I was like the little kid who is ridding his bike along the top of the fence with no knowledge or care about gravity. I just believed Blue could do anything and therefore in my eyes he could. I still believe that dogs can feel that kind of trust, on and off of the trial field. When you trust a dog, they trust you, and the magic of a good partnership is born.
 Cutie Pie
I bought my first farm when Blue was only a year old. There were no fences when I first move there, and no handling equipment, so Blue had do most of the work with no help. I just expected him to move ewes with lambs, sort sheep, and to do all of the jobs that needed to be done. Blue never let me down.

One day when Blue was 5 i noticed he was not acting like himself. I asked my friend Angie ( who is a vet) if she could look at him. Angie took Blue in and did a chest x-ray where she found that his chest was FULL of puss. Later Angie told me that  when the fellow vet in her office saw the x-ray he said there was no way that dog would live.

I was pregnant with my daughter Katy at the time, my son was a toddler and Marty was out of town.  A friend came to watch my son and Angie i went to the large animal hospital in down town Portland. They told me Blue would probably not make it, and that his only chance was to crack his chest and get all of the puss out of his chest cavity. By now Blue was having trouble breathing, and i remember these vets and techs standing around him while he lay on the table. I was petting Blue and sobbing, and when i went to leave this dog who could barely breath tried to stand up and come with me.

We waited all night and Blue came through the surgery. For several days the vets were saying that he would probably not make it. I went in several times a day to see Blue and day 3 i brought a cooked chicken patty from a fast food place. Blue loves his food and he was not eating. For the first time since the surgery Blue lifted his head, wagged his tail, and ate the chicken!

 We still dont know why he got the infection but something he ingested (like maybe a thorn, we had been in Texas for the national cattle finals) got in his body, and the body tried to wall it off.  The puss built and built and became a spider web of puss in his chest cavity. As Blue began to heal  they told me that is was a miracle that he lived, but he had scarring( that would effect his lung capacity) in his chest and would never be able to compete in stockdog trials, or be a working dog. 

One thing Blue taught me is that you can NEVER underestimate the heart and desire of a working dog. Blue lived that day because he willed himself to live. A  good working dog lives to work, and Blue wanted to work. Three and half months after his surgery Blue competed in a sheepdog trial with a 500 yard outrun on range ewes, and he placed. Blue went on to compete and do well for another 5 years.  This is a pic of that trial.

Holding the line
Blue and I went on to a successful career on sheep and cattle, taking me to many national sheep and cattle finals along the way. He probably taught me more about dogs and stock than all the dogs I have had, and will have in the future.

Blue is retired now and lives inside as the class clown, throwing toys around, saving Katy from Barbie, and in general enjoying his well earned retirement.

Jaxs died in the fall of 2009, right after the USBCHA sheepdog finals. This was Blue’s last finals and I retired him when it was over. It was also the same time my Border Collie Kell( Blue's half brother) won the all around stock dog (sheep and cows) award. Blue had been up for this award several times, but we never quite accomplished it. I do credit Blue with much of the success of my later dogs, including Kell. It was a bitter sweet week.

My father and grandfather were ranchers. From the time i was very young i wanted to live that life, and raise my children in that lifestyle. My dad's advice was to go to college, get a degree and stay away from ranching. My father loved to ranch, i think he just wanted an easier life for his "baby girl."

 I did the first two things and i am very proud of my police career( catching bad guys was prob not what my folks had in mind either but i know they are proud of that too), but i always kept the dream. I don't think i would have had the courage to buy my first farm ( while i was still single) had it not been for my faith in the dogs. I know we would not have made the move to the bigger ranch and full time ranching without the dogs help. I will always be grateful for the blue dogs that got me started, and the dog named Blue that took me to that next level, and changed my life.

Jaxs and Katy explore puddles
I knew i would marry Marty when he didnt care that i had 4 dogs :) If he only knew!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New 10-7 ranch LGD( livestock guard dog) needs a name!

We were in a need of a new LGD after loosing our beloved Boomer this fall. Boomer was a wonderful guard and the pup will have some big shoes to fill. Boom was an amazing lambing dog. If you went out to check the pasture and ewe was having trouble( either lambing or cast) he would stay with the ewe and bark until you came and checked it out.  We never lost a lamb on Boomers watch and he was so gentle with the kids. Whenever the kids were in the pasture he followed them around like a puppy.

These dogs are so noble, brave and devoted. It is impossible not to have immense respect and love for them, but they do need to earn it.  Boom was well loved, and is greatly missed. RIP good dog.

The new pup is from Janet McNally's lines  Janet has been breeding these dogs for over 20 years and they are tested on her commercial sheep operation. Janet's Minnesota farm is in bear, coyote and wolf country.   The parents are owned buy the Lewis ranch   There the LGD must guard 1,000 ewes over 1,500 acres in southern Oregon.  Proven lines and proven ranch dogs.

I had many pups to choose from, and i picked the pup that reminded me the most of Boom. Not in looks so much as his personality.   The kids greet the new pup like they do all pups, much love. This pups sire is a litter mate to one of our other LGD, and the dam is a sister to Geri's bitch Shasta.

Handsome guy hu?

These are the ewe lambs the new pup will have to "guard" for a few days until he settles in. Soon he will learn about electric fence and more sheep....not in that order.

Welcome to the 10-7 Ranch lil for a name! Kids want "Swat" i like "Pascal" aka "Cal" Martin and my nephew like "Thor".  Any name suggestions? Post here or facebook or email.

 If anybody is in need of a new LGD the Lewis' had a buyer back out and they have a male left.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

pup video Bracken and Gin 8 months

Elizabeth Baker was kind enough to take some video last Sunday of the Mint X Rye pups. The video was taken at Geri's house on some puppy sheep, and then on a small flock of lambs and ewes.  The pups are 8 months old and have both been on stock 3 or 4 times. I don't start pups early as a general rule, but i like to take them for a spin when they are young. Bracken is the female pup i kept, and Gin is Elizabeth's pick.

I think both pups work quite similar, with Gin being more thoughtful. I don't like to see too much caution at this age and want a pup to be rearing to go. One thing i liked about both pups was the more they worked the more thoughtful the became. I saw both pups stop and think.Both pups pulled the stock off of the fence which i loved to see. I also love that they are both mad keen to work.  

 The other pup i kept is a male named Star. He is a little more immature than the girls, but also very keen. I will get some video up of him soon. I hope to get video at some point from the other pup owners, all have had their pups on stock and all are keen.

If Bracken and Star are  ready i may try and get some training in late this spring before we lamb. I like to let the ranch work train the pup as much as i can.  Mint was so full of herself and so much dog that i mostly did ranch work with her for the first year of her training. She also did a fair amount of catle work on the range. I think i could have trained her up much faster for trials, but i did not want to take too much out of her.

 In starting them on ranch work, the sheep and the work teach the dog. I am not a very good trainer so if i can let the work sort the dog it helps me train, and i get to see if the pup will be the kind of dog i like for the ranch and trial field.

Bracken (Mint x Rye) 8 mo. from Elizabeth Baker on Vimeo.

Gin (Mint x Rye) at 8 mo. from Elizabeth Baker on Vimeo.

Gin (Mint x Rye) at 8 mo on the large flock from Elizabeth Baker on Vimeo.

Bracken (Mint x Rye) at 8 mo on large flock from Elizabeth Baker on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

wide open spaces

Today a  group of us gals trailered sheep, dogs and ATV's out to the range land.  Big outruns (650 yards) and lots of sun shine made for a nice day.

This is looking to the west.


Mint Taking the sheep up to set out.

The set out is up on the saddle of the hill.

View from the top look to the bottom far left for the
trailers and dogs


view to the south


Mt Shasta to the south west

A recliner rock i sat in while i set sheep

Kell cools off after his turn...big dog little tub

The peanut gallery waits their turn. Mint and Nellie

View to the east i love these rimrocks

I hate to get excited as we have not had enough winter but this looks like green grass :)

Good friends, good dogs, and the wide open spaces = a blessed day