Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No Limits

My daughter is trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. The opportunity to move home with our grand daughter has provided her with a chance to have some time, explore and try a few jobs on for size. 

This morning she was talking over some training/school opportunities with my husband.  Amy loves physical work.  She is not the type to sit at a desk.  It would drive her insane.  Her current job is setting up and tearing down stages before and after concerts.  While working she has met a few people that do the iron work and scaffolding.  She expressed an interest to John about trying to get into an iron worker apprenticeship program.  As an union commercial electrician John did his best to discourage her.  He regularly works with the iron workers.  Knows the state of the economy & how the trades are struggling with lack of work.  He was trying his best to convince her it was a hard life & brutal trade that would break her down physically, making her old before her time.   

I understood he was being protective.  He wants a easier life for her, and she is a woman.  Bless his macho chauvinistic heart, he just cannot imagine her as a iron worker.

That annoys me.  I say all the more power to her! 

Sure, it is a hard, dirty job.  I don't think that should limit her.  She always enjoyed playing in the mud.  A little dirt and hard work never bothered her.  If she makes the choice to pursue that type of job, good for her.   She should be encouraged to do whatever she wants in life.  God only knows society will shoot her down enough.  Her family shouldn't.

This evening I was cruising around on FaceBook and came across a quote my cousin posted.  It spoke to me and reflected exactly what I was trying to explain to John.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them ~ Bruce Lee

We already limit ourselves.  I want my kids to see a world without limits.  Rules and laws, of course, but no limits for themselves and what they can achieve in life.

I have lived my life surrounded by self imposed limits & conformed to the expectations imposed on our generation and sex by society.

Too many times I hear "you should not do that, you should not think that, you should not want that."

Who says I shouldn't? 

Before: Living life to please others and conform to what I believed they wanted. For example:

  • I ignored my heart when I chose medicine over art. (self imposed financial expectation - nursing paid better than art)
  • I married the wrong person because I felt like no one else would want me. (self imposed limitation of self esteem)
  • I sought to please another person when I took a job in accounting, where every day I felt trapped in a cubical, slowly eating away my soul. (expectation of earning power)

Today:  Living to be happy & blessed by the support that surrounds me

  • I spent my entire day on a tractor, my butt hurts but my mind is happy.  I am content to look back and see exactly what I accomplished.  
  • Having my arms shoved elbow high in a sheep during lambing, being covered with alfalfa or other unmentionable has made me happier than any damn spreadsheet or P&L statement.   
  • Caring for our flock has given me an awesome tangible sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, through nurturing and seeing the fruits of my labor reflected in the health & contentedness of the animals. 
  • I accepted a job that pays me 1/3 less than what I made in an hour at my previous job.  I am blessed to have a husband who supports me and my choices. Who cares if I have a high powered position that makes oodles of $$ when that is not my priority in life?  Who am I trying to impress? 
  • Each and every time I accept a photography client I am doing something I love, an expression of my art & passion.  
  • I have the best of three worlds.  Farming sheep, training dogs & photography. 

Hopefully one day I can make enough money to make a serious contribution to our finances.  But for right now I am not going to let limits, expectations or self imposed rules tell me what choices to make.

What price is happiness?

My wallet may be bare, but my heart is full.  

 I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.
~ Louisa May Alcott

Very Bad Fork

The baby was playing with the cooking utensils and left a plastic fork in the chair.  As Brynn was climbing up into her favorite spot to take a nap, she encountered the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fork.  Which set off a typical Brynn freak out.

She is such a weird dog. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Good Bye Mud

Mud is been the bane of my existence.  Living in the Pacific Northwest we are plagued by mud, on top of mud, below mud, mud in your pants, boots and underwear.  Mud that will suck the boots right off your feet.  Stinking, rotting, f__king mud. 

Is it obvious, there is not much in this world that I hate more than mud.  
Except for foot rot. 

We do not have foot rot in our flock and I want to keep it that way.  One way to achieve healthy feet, prevent the spread of foot rot or scald, is to provide a dry surface for your sheep along with regular foot care.  If you cannot provide dry, you can at least try and create a well drained area, free of mud.  

My mission:  Get rid of, or at least control the freaking mud which harbors bacteria, and organisms promoting the spread of disease. 

1st step:  Use tractor to grade and excavate the pen to facilitate water flow and eliminate areas where water pools (did not take pictures of that process).  

2nd step:  Big ass truck with 40 yards full of hog fuel freshly processed for my sheep. Pray that big ass truck does not sink in the soft ground.  

Whoops, tree casualty.  Oh well those branches needed to come down anyway.  

This driver was brilliant.  He got that massive truck through the 10 foot farm gate to the right in this picture.  6 inches to spare.  

I love dump trucks.  When I was little, all my friends were playing with dolls.  I had plastic horses, dirt, rocks and card board boxes.  I dreamed of playing with a tractor and dump truck.  At last, my dream is realized, it completes me.  

3rd step:  Finish prepping the pen, haul manure down to compost pile.  I am a queen of multi tasking.  All mother's are.  We have it down.  

This next photo reflects my brilliant multi-tasking talents.  

I am able to drive a tractor, maneuver between the new fence posts, use my phone to take these glorious pictures, and move sheep all at the same time.  NOTE:  I did NOT text and drive.  

 Nosey lambs.  (bark needs to go all the way down that alley too.)

Aaaagh, they are following me! 

Really Missy Lamb, you MUST choose this moment to climb the pile that has been there all day?  

Hello....ever thought about going around the pile?  Must you go over?

Oh no, the big orange tractor is gonna EAT YOU! 

Hurry hurry hurry!


The black lamb asks "Is it gone?  Can I climb the pile now?"

Where did the rest of the pile go? 

There it is!  

Tomorrow, truck load #2.  Finish spreading the bark 6-8 inches thick.  12 inches in heavy traffic areas...all the way down the alley.  

Good bye mud, for now.  

Next up, dragging & reseeding areas of the pastures.   Moving yet another fence-line.  Setting up strip grazing fences and weaning. 

Am I a farmer yet?  

Whatever I am ... I am damn tired and really need a shower.  

"Listen Camera Face, you smell like nasty sheep farts.  Put us out of our misery and take a bath. Okay?  Thanks."

This from a dog that eats sheep sh*t.  Really?  


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sadie Sue & Kennel Cough Too....

We arent going to the trial.  I had to pull Brynn. 

I am surrounded by contagious sick dogs.  All hurkin' coughin' and gaggin'.  Kennel cough has struck.  In all conscience I cannot take them to the trial, risk exposing others, certainly cannot expect Brynn to work with reduced lung capacity.  

My dogs are all current on their vaccinations.  Even if you have a current Bordetella vaccine it may not prevent an infection. 

Last week I took in a foster dog.  She was only at our house for a few days.   Unfortunately she generously shared a nasty strain of kennel cough with all she met.  

Our little 'Typhoid Mary' goes by the name Sadie

Sadie is 10 months old.  She came from Oregon via a friend with a goat grazing business.  She did not care for goats & they wanted to find her a good home, so I offered.  

The very day she arrived, our friends across the street from our sheep saw her on FaceBook and fell in love. 

These are the people we have lured into the world of sheep.  I am telling you, it is more contagious than kennel cough.  They are buying sheep this fall, a foundation flock of purebred Romney ewes.  Since we are going to be heading in the direction of purebred romney breeding stock we will be complimenting each other's operations nicely.  Brenda & Jim also have the barn we will be lambing in next year. 

Because they will have sheep & watched us through their front window over the year they have come to appreciate the value of a good dog.  

Their ride on the slippery slope has begun...I warned them.  It is a rapid descent into this addictive life. 

The first moment Sadie saw Brenda, it was kismet.   A mutual admiration society. She flew across the pasture the second Brenda came through the gate (their house is the blue one behind, like I said, right across the street.)

Brenda fell in love with Sadie and vice versa.  

Love at first sight.  

Now Brenda's husband has fallen for the lure of the border collie.  He is taking lessons with me and I will be helping him train Sadie so she can help them on their farm.  

Maybe one day he will take her to a trial!  

What a fun ride they are starting. 

 Sadie the first time on sheep. 

Until my girls are feeling better they are off training and no more sheep work than is absolutely necessary for the minimum of care.  

I feel like I am going through withdrawal.  Seriously, I may explode.  

I am addicted to the work.  The smell of the grass, trees, & woods.

 The slow gentle movement of the sheep, calms my obsessive brain. 

Focusing on the work, moving the sheep, retreating into my 'sheep zen' is soothing, peaceful.  

Seeing the lush vegetation, watching the birds, frogs, feeling the breeze or soft rain on my face instead of the hum of a computer, rush of a city, scent of exhaust is catharsis to my soul.  

The dogs better get over the kennel cough soon, or I am liable to start using John to move the sheep.  

That would be unpleasant.  He is loose eyed, the sheep do not respect him and his flanks totally suck.  The last time I blew my whistle at him he threatened to wrap the lanyard around my neck and squeeze.  I simply cannot work under those conditions. 

I told him if he would just listen, then I wouldn't have to correct him.  Sadly, he has this thing about taking pressure, if you apply to much he just quits and leaves the field. 

But...well, you know. MEN!  You gotta love em, or....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Memory, huh?

An excellent aspect of my job is the sheer amount of physical exercise I get from day to day.  Yesterday I stepped on the scale and have officially dropped 45 lbs since I started this job. 

I am fitting into clothes that were stuffed in the deep recesses of my closet.  Shoes fit better too.  However, no matter how much weight I lose, will I ever shove my feet into high heels again.  No amount of pretty is worth that much pain. 

My wedding ring fits.  Now I have no excuse to not wear it.

I dislike most jewelry, except of course, the few border collie or sheep related items.  

I was invited to a party put on by our pasture owners Saturday.  I believe it was the first time they have seen me clean, make up on and hair done.  Usually I am covered with dog hair, sheep schmaltz, mud, alfalfa and/or other debris.   I put on earrings just for the event.  My ears have been pierced since I was a teenager.  I so rarely wear earrings, my ears hurt for a couple days.

These earrings are from the Ramshorn Studio border collie collection.   

I like them.  Order some today.  

I found my lap again last week. It had been missing for so long I gave up looking for it.  I have never been so far away from the steering wheel.  It feels nice.  I was so surprised I had to take a picture. 

One day I hope to find my hip bones. I believe they are there somewhere, screaming to be uncovered. 

Not unlike an archeological site, every day I find new things.  Things I have not seen in years without the help of a mirror.  Things I thought had fallen off, alas they are still there.  Floppier than I remember. 

Oh well, age is a beautiful thing.  Right?  RIGHT? 

At least age is kind and takes your eyesight with your youth.  That is so when you stand in front of the mirror you will not be overwhelmed by the urge to drown yourself in the toilet.   Mother nature is kind that way.  A permanent gaussian blur.  Until you put your glasses on...then you are screwed. 

Age also takes away the memory and the purpose, or subject of this post.  Because I will be dammed if I remember what it was I was writing about. 

I love sheep.  This is one of my Border Leicester ewes.  Rachel.  She is a pill. 

I love this baby.  She makes me smile every single day.  She is a pill too. 

 Life is good.  Yep, really good. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Learning to Trust

This weekend we will cross the mountains for a trip to the post.  Wessels Dirt Blowing Sheepdog Trial. 

Brynn and I have come a long way.  It will be interesting to see how we do this weekend.  We are running pro-novice on Sunday.
I pray we can work as partners on the trial field.  I hope I can control my anxiety.  My dream is to one day bring the confidence to the post I feel working my dog alone at home.

"I strive to be the person my dog thinks I am" ~ author unknown

Today we said goodbye to our range ewes.  

Brynn and I loaded them.  Together, as a team.  Both walking up and putting pressure on them slowly & surely.  Giving them time to think and then make the choice to jump up into the trailer on their own when they saw it was the only option open to them.  Just a small task, yet it was tremendous for me - especially with these sheep.   I knew each flank I gave Brynn, she would take.  No questions, she stepped the direction I needed, with the correct amount of pressure.  

I trust her.  She trusts me.  Together we did this, depending on each, like a dance.  It would have been impossible to do alone, or expect Brynn to do by herself.  

Partnership is a blessed thing.  

I was in awe of her slow, yet sure, inching steps forward.  I would move my arm ever so slightly, she would turn her head just a smidge...together we inched them forward.  The ewes respected Brynn, did not challenge her.  In turn Brynn respected them.  I was aware of the bubble and how my body position added pressure on them...and on to her.  

Working these sheep has been one of the best things I have ever done.  I am sad to see them go.  Alas they do not fit in my breeding program and sadly will not do well in our climate.  

They taught me a great deal.  Emphasized the bubble, by their dramatic reactions.  Gave a very clear definition of flight or fight zone.  How that zone changes with added pressure from a fence line, or a tree.  They showed me how they will hide in brush, behind fences, play circle the pen, protect lambs, attack the dog.  

I learned how to identify when my dog is too close, or not in contact.  

What precipitates a fight.  I also learned how they will run the fence line and defend their position from the highest ground. 

I learned how to watch the sheep.  The sheep tell me everything I need to know about where my dog is and what is needed next.  

With that, I have learned to trust Brynn.  I do not need to micro manage every nuance.  

Letting go and trusting is leap.  One that is precipitated by hours of practice.  

Working Brynn every day, moving sheep from one pasture to another.  Sorting, feeding, holding.  Normal chores has facilitated that trust.  

Not unlike letting go and learning to trust people.  It is a massive leap for me.  I have learned to anticipate pain, rejection or disappointment from trust.  

I have been learning...Trust is a choice.  I choose to bestow it, or withhold.  If someone violates that trust, then that is their problem, not a failing in my character.  

I used to blame myself if someone betrayed my trust.  How I convoluted that in my head is beyond me. 

The bottom line, I did not trust myself.  I did not trust my own instincts, knowledge or feelings.  

If you do not trust yourself and your own judgement, it is simply not possible to trust anything or anyone else. 

Isn't it amazing how learning to trust my dog, is teaching me how to trust myself? 

Through my dog's faith and trust in me, perhaps one day I will finally believe I'm the person my dog knows I am.