Posted by: dancingwithsheepdogs | April 16, 2012

Freeing the Lambs!

You know that spring has arrived when there is enough grass to finally let the sheep out of their winter paddock ,  which has now become like a winter prison for the growing family of lambs.  When there is just 20 ewes hanging out eating hay, the winter paddock seems like a pretty sweet spot.  Even  the cute little lambs by their side seem sweet and cozy.  But the grass is now poking through the thatch, and hungry mommas, sick of eating last year’s hay, are ready for the “asparagus” of the grazing world, which is the sweet, tender shoots of that first grass.   For days now, they have been looking through the fence with abnormally mournful “Baaaas”.  In the unseasonably warm weather of the past few days, the grass is coming in fast.  They can smell it,,,

 Normally, we wouldn’t release the sheep onto the grass until it is good and green, establishing a good base of growth to be able to survive the rigors of grazing.  However, since Brian is planning to plow up the field behind the winter paddock this year,, we decided to give the mommas and their lambs a treat and let them out earlier than usual.  Everyone is excited for the first taste of spring.

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Posted by: dancingwithsheepdogs | April 5, 2012

Lambing is Finished, Let the Herding Begin!

JUST ANNOUNCED:  SUMMER HERDING WEEKEND DATES:

MAY 12/13     JUNE 16/17     JULY 21/22      AUG 11/12    SEPT 22/23      OCT 13/14

When we arrived in PEI in 2010, we brought with us 18 sheep to start our new flock on the Island.  Here it is, just 2 years later, and this week we finished lambing with a record breaking number of 25 lambs, with not a single loss, and only 3 assists.  I have written and rewritten this blog post several times, because it seems that every time I go to post, we have another lamb!  Needless to say, these are exciting times for Pembroke Farm!  Happily, most of the lambs are twins, with the exception of the Shetland offspring, which are mostly singles.  We are seeing a nice balanced selection of rams to ewes, blacks to whites.  We even had one little “smuttynose” ram lamb born, who is reminiscent of the “magic lamb” born last year.  His little brown nose, brown ear spots and brown eye rings make him easy to pick out in the crowd.  His mama, Mica, is ever so proud and never leaves his side.  I am impressed with these Shetland mamas.  They are fiercely devoted to their lambs, and pop them out with no trouble at all.  I was shearing a group of them the other day, and while I was in the middle of one, I heard a grunting, and looked over to see one of the Shetlands in labor.  By the time I had finished shearing, a beautiful little ram lamb lay in the corner next to the chicken who was laying an egg!  Of course, it was hard to tell which came first, the lamb or the egg!

Along with lambing, shearing is now done, and the fleeces look better than ever.  We are really looking forward to the opening of “The Sheep Shop” in June, where we will be selling a wide variety of “all things wool” for the summer months, including our fleeces and handcrafted wool things.  Right now, I’m busily making little woolen fairies for those small visitors, and plan to start making hats as soon as the final edits of Dancing with Sheepdogs is finished.  Now that lambing is over, it should be soon.

The field is virtually free of snow now, and folks have been arriving for herding lessons once again.  It’s a bit muddy, but the new yearlings are full of mischief and have been lots of fun for those folks getting into some early herding!  The round pen is still a bit icy, but we’ve been enjoying some lovely and challenging open field work.

We have some dates  listed above  for Summer Herding Weekends.  We’ll only be able to take 7 dogs total, so email me soon at lorna.mcmaster@yahoo.com if you’re interested in joining in the fun!

Posted by: dancingwithsheepdogs | March 11, 2012

Dog Sports Redefined

As many of you know, Sweep has been back with us now for a week or so, waiting for a hot date with Sadie.  Sadie has been in heat for over a week now, and she’s taking her time with deciding whether or not Mr. Sweep is a suitor.   Mostly their courting has been about chasing each other around the farm at full speed, sharing mutual stare downs at the beach, and taking turns peeing on the same spot over and over.  We’re hoping that the “blessed event” of standing heat will happen soon.

In the meantime, Sweep has been having a blast on the farm.  I wrote about the flooded and frozen garden a couple of weeks ago.  Now after a big rain, and another freeze, the entire field, right to the Training Ring, is a solid sheet of ice.  The day of the big rain, Sweep spent the day wading in his own giant puddle as if the rain had fallen just for him. 

This morning, life got even better when we invited our friend Toby over to go skating.  Sweep was in his glory because Toby is a hockey player.  And now, so is Sweep.

We have agility, and flyball, and discdog, and of course, herding, but come on, everyone, this is Canada.  Sweep  wants to know, when we are going to get with the program and teach these dogs how to play hockey?  He’ll be first in line…

Sweep has turned into a delightful “big dog” and we are really enjoying his visit.  I can tell he misses Julia and Blake, but he’s doing his best to have a blast on his little “Camp Pembroke” vacation.  He still has a sense of humor that is unsurpassed by any dog I have ever met, and he and Sadie are going to be a wonderful match!

Posted by: dancingwithsheepdogs | March 11, 2012

Lambing Has Begun, Need I Say More?

After another winter of frozen water buckets, and twice a day chores no matter what the weather is doing outside, one begins to wonder why one has sheep at all.  Then lambing starts, and you begin to wonder why everyone doesn’t have sheep.  I suppose part of the answer lies in the fact that it’s 4 AM, and I’m still awake after having gotten up at 3 AM to check on lambs,which gets to be normal this time of the year.  It’s not for everyone, but I love lambing time.

There is nothing that brings more hope, more of a sense of wonder and connection to the Great Mystery than the birth of lambs.  The ewes make it look so easy!  It seems like one minute they’re eating hay,  looking like wooley beach balls on matchstick legs, and the next minute they’re licking off a slimy new lamb.  Of course, every once in a while, one will have trouble getting one out, but that’s not the norm for our flock.  I’m pleased to say that our new “sheep byre” experiment has worked.  We built a low skinny shed into which the sheep are free to come and go, and mostly they choose to lay outside.   That is, until they are ready to lamb.  It seems that there is an unspoken agreement amongst the flock members—whomever is lambing, gets the shed to themselves.  It’s been a wonderful arrangement because I can look out my window and know when someone is lambing, just by the vacancy of the shed.  We keep a nice bed of clean straw in there, and voila, instant birthing room.  My only job this season has been to iodine their navels and send them on their way.  Most of the mamas will bring their babies into the shed and night, and the young hoggits from last year will join their mamas with their new siblings, which keeps the whole shed toasty warm for the new little ones.  I have never seen a healthier crop of lambs, and a nicer crop of wool.

For those of you who know our sheep, so far Ellie, ever the star of the show and never to be outdone, was the first to drop twin ewes, one white, one black (of course she waited until I came outside so that I could watch the whole thing.  Last year, she was the one to give birth in front of the entire Dancing with Sheepdogs  crew),  Edith had twin black rams,  Fredricka had a single black ewe with floppy ears, and yesterday one of the black Shetlands had the first official Mondanock Mini born to us in Canada, a strapping white ewe lamb.  As many of you know, we name our lambs by letters of the alphabet, and this is “I” year.  With many more lambs to come, we’re looking for “I” name suggestions.

I’ll keep you posted as the lambing season progresses….

Posted by: dancingwithsheepdogs | February 25, 2012

Waiting for a Snow Day

Ice tapped on the window this morning and the feeling of “ahhh, a snow day” made me snuggle deeper under the covers, enveloped in the bliss of the anticipation of a long awaited snow day.  When I was a teacher,  I would live for the sound of the snow plow growling down the road, waiting for the sound of early morning phone to ring saying school was cancelled.   We would all dance around chanting “no school today, no school today…”  The day would always be spent doing special things, as if the time was stolen from an otherwise full docket of  ‘have to’s”.   I guess I was hoping for a taste of that timelessness when I heard the ice pinging.  Nowhere to go.  Trapped inside.  Hot coco, homemade cookies…Ahh the possibilities that come from a snow day.

The lack of snow has been on everyone’s mind this winter, from NH, where the bare ground looks like April instead of February, to PEI, where you overhear it laced in people’soverheard conversations.  Remember the days when it used to snow?

So this morning an anticipated day of working on Draft 4 of Dancing with Sheepdogs was sadly interrupted when the ice and snow turned to rain, then sun by 9:00.  So much for a day of winter.  Though I’m normally sick of snow by now, I am actually grateful for the sand-like white stuff that fell in the night.  Though we can’t do much except squish through it, I’m still happy to see that a bit of winter will still grace the farm, just in time for spring.

Posted by: dancingwithsheepdogs | February 16, 2012

Skating On the Garden

 I wondered how we were going to handle living our first Canadian winter in our little house.  After living on Sunpower Farm, with four stories of space to get lost in over the course of a winter, a 16×20 foot house seemed like a challenge, even for two people who really like each other.   There’s a lot of advantages to a house this size.  It takes me less than an hour to do a thorough cleaning, and we just don’t worry about things like hosting large dinner parties, planning for lots overnight guests, and the use of our public library has deleted our need for owning lots of books.  In short, we’ve adjusted.  Since I sold my business, Lorna’s Wool Needle Felting Kits back in December, the constant worry of where to store an entire inventory of wool has been reduced to the spinning basket tucked in the corner.   We don’t have a living room any more, we have a loveseat.  No office, but a desk tucked in the hallway, and a laptop.  More and more, I keep realizing, what else does one need?

Creative solutions to cabin fever, that’s what.  We do our chores, walk on the beach, eat food, do our chores, read/write books, eat more food, do our chores…you get the picture.  This week, I broke up my winter by coming to the states to visit friends, leaving the chores, the beach, the cooking, the chores to Brian.  This morning, when he called, he breathlessly shared his new solution to cabin fever….

“I just came in from skating on the garden!”

“On the what??”

“On the garden!”

“Ice storm?”

“Ice Storm.”

I look out the window at the bare NH ground, and remember a time when we used to have winter, too, and look forward to the first skiijour of the year.  Maybe in March?

Posted by: dancingwithsheepdogs | February 15, 2012

Joining the New Century

I have heard that it is important, in later life, to learn new languages to stretch the brain and keep you from getting stupid as you age.  I tried taking French class earlier this winter, but it just didn’t grab me.  So, I ‘ve decided to take on Computers 101 as my new language of choice .  What that has to do with farming is kind of a mystery, but I have found that there are so many joys that come from living on Pembroke Farm that it is hard to keep it all to myself.  As part of my own personal stretch, I have traveled down to the States to spend time getting an Update from my forever partner in teaching crime, Marilyn, who blogs at Harleywoman Writes Again .  Marilyn and I taught public school together for over a decade, and that much time in public school will make anyone a friend for life.  So this friend for life has just retired, and is doing her best to pull me into the twenty first century by challenging me to start a blog.  Perhaps it’s because I only recently got a phone at the farm in PEI, and it seems that every time we talk there’s some new happening on the farm, some great story, some small incident that will make her lol (see, I can be taught a new language).

I am also, after 7 years of wishing, finally getting my book, Dancing with Sheepdogs:  A Beginner’s Guide to Herding out of my head and onto paper.  During this same trip to the States,  I spent three days with my sheepdog mentor, Sally , who has gone over the first draft of the book with a fine tooth comb.  We corrected issues, debated training technique, and as she read and edited, she’d suddenly exclaim, “oh, Lorna, don’t forget to mention….”  My first draft is now covered with pages of notes, for which I am grateful.  Writing this book has occupied every waking moment and I know now why I have waited for so many years to embark on this journey.  It is a huge project.  But, I think the book will solidify a lot of my thoughts about training sheepdogs, and put all of those thoughts into one neat package. 

So, I am grateful for friends today, friends who help us think outside the box, friends who help us take our dreams and ambitions to new places, friends who cook us meals and say, “come, stay with me and I’ll help you with your project.  Better make it three days,  we have a lot to do.”

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