The past few days have been filled with preparations.  We begin our calving season soon.  Our first due date will be on the 23rd, so we are trying to get ready.  The days have been extraordinarily nice with the temperature reaching well into the 40’s.  While that sounds, and is, a luxurious warmth, it has made the snow melt and run off.  Unfortunately it doesn’t all run off, and the water is freezing every night into massive ice skating rinks at various low points.  I do not drive the tractor except in the field.  The steep road behind our bunkhouse has been slick for a long time, but the mile from it on down to what we call the school section is also doing its imitation of a frozen river.  If you have never felt a tractor slide sideways, let me tell you, it is much more unnerving than a car sliding sideways!!  I do have this recurring nightmare of losing brakes on a vehicle, so I’m pretty chicken when it comes to uncontrollable situations!  Vernon has slid in the tractor as well, just for those of you questioning my ability!  Vernon and I have put up the electric fence around the heifer lot.  The far fence was frozen down and although he tried many ways to raise it, Vernon ended up having to string new wire for the electric fence.  Johnny has been cleaning corrals and feedgrounds of snow and ice.  The dogs have been with me and it has been fun watching Dally handle situations.  Elsa and Lucas go out of sight and she gives a small whine, sees me, and comes running for protection!  She follows Lucas through the brush as well as her little legs will carry her, intent of keeping an eye on her daddy.  I call the dogs, and who gets to me first?  Yup.  She splats through the mud, slips on the ice, and gets stuck in the snow.  All the mud and ice and snow is new to her, and I relish seeing it again through a puppy’s eyes.  But the big change is still on its way; tomorrow we vaccinate heifers, and our calving season begins!!

Working Dogs Video

Elsa pushes up some cows through deep snow.  I’m not giving her direction beyond her first “Get ’em up!” partly because I’m breathing so hard from walking through the deep snow!  She does gather them, even recovering the one I thought she had left.  She follows them around the corner of the road, and then comes back to check on where I am.  Typical English Shepherd behavior!  Lucas is shown just following our cows down the road while Elsa and I ride in the pickup!  There’s no technique there but make sure they continue to walk down the road.  Easy duty!


Elsa bunny hunting.

When we get used to anything, it becomes an instant frustration when it doesn’t work the way it was designed.  You turn the faucet, the water should come out.  You flip the switch the light should come on.  You start the tractor the diesel engine should growl right along.  This morning it didn’t.  So I sat on the metal tongue of the hay trailer and waited.  Vernon comes over, says he thinks it is the fuel filter, and he has to go get another one out of the other shop.  So I wait.  The chill begins to seep through and I have to move!  Elsa is “Dog of the Day” and we head to the haystack to look for mice and bunnies.  To deter the fiendish deer from eating all of our hay, Vernon has stacked some old straw bales around the good hay.  It has worked well, the deer refusing to jump the 6 feet up to the top of the straw to relish the green hay.  As we work our way around, I begin to wonder.  Elsa is athletic.  Hmmm… Before you know it, we find a shorter bale and she’s up!  We circle the stack, Elsa walking above me, seeking the treats I reward her with at each request that she follows.  No hesitation.  Dang.  This girl could be an agility dog!  I think I need to delve into this more…Elsa and I could use the time together.  We wait.  Aha! He’s back.  If nothing else, I am extremely mechanically impaired…but I can hand a wrench if that is what is asked of me!  So we go to the shop and supervise.  We help.  We wait.  We’re off!  Down to the yearling steers and we begin to feed.  Fifty yards in and the tractor stops and beeps at me.  Huh?  I pop it back into F and go a bit more.  The infernal blue machine stops 20 yards farther on and beeps at me.  OK.  I’m outta there!  VERNON!!!!!  We switch places and I pitch hay while he gets in to play with levers and listen to the engine.  We start.  It stops.  We start.  It stops.  We head to the house and Vernon calls The Tractor Guys.  Hey, don’t laugh.  Their business is called The Tractor Guys.  I wait.  OK.  I’m sent for Johnny down at the other place and ask him to bring his tractor here to feed with.  I return home and wait.  I’m released finally because Lucas and I become a Therapy Dog Team on Tuesdays.  We abandon ship.  It took Vernon and Johnny until 1 pm to feed today.  And Vernon continues to mechanic on one thing or another until 5:30.  It is ready.  Tomorrow, Vernon will climb in the blue tractor and turn the key and the diesel engine will growl along.   

Snow walkers

Lucas, Elsa, Dally, and I took a walk.  The day was warm and softening the snow, burning it off of the south facing hillsides.  Today was a good day for black and white!  I didn’t get as many good pictures as I wanted.  Dally is a fast little girl.  She weighs 17 pounds and had her first big trip to town the other day.  Not only did we see the vet, we saw our bank president (who also owns English Shepherds), our feed store salesman, my bosses at Eleutian, tellers at the Ten Sleep bank, the post office people, librarians, and everyone at the middle school girls’ basketball game!!!  Whoo!  She did amazingly well, as often she wants a few seconds to check things out!  We need to do that some more!  On this walk, she harrasses her parents by biting their necks or trying to heel them.  Often she is ignored, sometimes a sharp reprimand and a roll is necessary.  Elsa is usually the disciplinarian…Lucas is an easy going dad!  Dally learned about cactus and other stickery weeds… she learned how deep snow can slow you down… she learned following in footsteps means less work for the follower than the trailblazer…she learned walks are great fun!