Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What I did Last Weekend - or Hooked!

Some of you might recognize the dog in the photo as the subject of several other blogs, recent and not. This is Clifford, my Welsh Springer Spaniel, known officially as American and International Champion Briarbanc Brych Red Dog, RE, OA, NAJ. I'm the person in the middle - the only girl in the photo. The two guys are Spaniel Hunt Test judges, Erich and Dave. The orange rosette is important.

The American Kennel Club offers competition for a wide variety of performance events, one of those is Spaniel Hunt Tests. I have wanted to enter Clifford in one of these since he was a little puppy retrieving his first birds. He is without a doubt the best upland hunting dog I've ever owned or hunted with in over 3 decades of hunting. The only thing that's stopped me (besides squeezing a little more time out of each day....) was his retrieving. Spaniels are required to retrieve on land and water. Clifford wants to find the birds and doesn't care too much about bringing them back. (He has Labradors to do that for him!) Yes, I tried teaching him to retrieve numerous times over the last 6 1/2 years - making me question my dog training skills - and "something" always came up and I'd put it off again.

About 2 weeks ago a message came across the local Spaniel list announcing that entries were still open but closing soon for three upcoming local spaniel hunt tests. I looked at the calendar and saw (wonder of wonders!) that two of the days were "open". I thought back to the last training session where Clifford was stealing bumpers (retrieving training objects) from the Labradors and bringing them to me. What the heck - I entered him in the two days.

A friend was setting up training sessions, one last Sunday and then one on Thursday. I managed to make both of them. The first one was semi-encouraging and semi-disastrous. He was a bit out of control and brought back 2 of 4 birds. The Thursday training session was much better. He brought back 3 of 3, and did a great job of quartering (finding the birds on land), and one outstanding retrieve.

In between days, I pulled out a bumper and played fetch with him. He was less than stellar at bringing them to me, but improved each time.

Saturday came and we headed out. His land work was acceptable (I thought) and he flushed 3 birds, one was shot and he retrieved it (!!!), one flew away behind us (no shot), and one landed where Clifford caught and brought it in. Unfortunately, the judges wanted to see a little more retrieving. They threw a dead bird, Clifford found it easily but only brought it half way back, left it and wouldn't pick it up again. Dang!

Home again, and I did some fun bumper games with him, encouraging that retrieve to be complete to me.

On Monday, we were at a different site. It was open, thick grass, and the dogs were having a lot of trouble locating the planted birds. Clifford was the next to last dog to run. His work was excellent! He found birds that many dogs had run past, and brought his required 2 all the way in to me. :-) We then got to wait several hours while the more advanced dogs did a couple other tests before we moved to a pond for the water retrieves. Clifford was, again, the next to last dog to run. He enthusiastically ran into the water, swam out to the bird and brought it back... not quite to hand, but CLOSE ENOUGH! He earned the Orange Rosette and the first "leg" of his AKC Junior Hunter title.

So here's the "hook". It takes 4 qualifying performances - or 4 "legs" - to earn the title of Junior Hunter. Now, could someone who persevered to get her PhD at age 52, stop with 25% of a title completed? I don't think so! ...then there's Senior Hunter... and Master Hunter... but we won't go there - yet.

- Franna

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tag, I'm it!

Michelle recently tagged me for a meme and asked me pretty please to play, so here goes:

The rules: Posted here at the beginning. The player answers all questions. The player then chooses six people you want to know more about and tags those people by listing their names at the end of the post and going to their blog and leaving a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Also, you let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, 1998. Life was a lot different for me ten years ago. I was working for Boeing on a fighter aircraft program, making titanium parts. I was a single mom raising my daughter, assisting with her 4H Club - Dawg Gone Dogs, going to school to get my Master's degree in Engineering. We had 3 dogs, none of whom are alive now, and 2 cats, both of whom are still alive and relatively healthy for senior kitties. I had no idea that I would learn to spin and have a farm with sheep 10 years in the future.

2. What were five things on my to-do list today (not in any particular order)?
I didn't make a to-do list today :-) I worked at Take Root farm in the morning weeding turnips and onions. I then took Clifford and met a group for hunting training. I came home and took a nap... zzzzzzZZZZZZzzzzzzz After that I was inspired and trimmed Clifford's feet and nails, then took on Thomas, and finally Villa. Then I picked up pizza for supper. Last will be a sheep check and change the bandage on Black Market's leg. Well, that's more than 5.

3. What snacks do I enjoy?
Ohhh, snacks. Sweet things, salty things, fruit, finger size veggies.

4. Where are some places I've lived?
Well, I grew up in Seattle, unincorporated King County between Burien and DesMoines, spent a year (4th grade) in Cambridge, Ohio, on an 18 acre "Gentleman's Ranch", lived in Richland, Wa for 12 years, spent time in Pullman at WSU, a few months in Alexandria, VA, and the rest in the Seattle area.

5. What things would I do if I were a billionaire?
Oh my! Keep it quiet then pay off our debts, number one. Put enough away to be comfortable. Travel. New Zealand is high on my list, as are Scotland, Sweden and Nepal. Sponsor research into alternative energy, sponsor some sheep vets. Support charities for abused children and old dogs. Learn to weld. Build a hobbit hole house. Have an electric gate ;-)

Here are the six people I'm tagging: It's hard to ask six... does anyone want to volunteer? Drop me a line and I'll "tag" you. DH said he would, so I'll tag him. Kathy and Tina, will you play with us? :-)

Thanks, Michelle. You gave me an easy post to write. I have several more in the works but have been trying to limit my computer time so I get more done. It works sometimes ;-)

- Franna

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Confessions of an Age 55+, Retired, PhD Engineer, Shepherd, Mom, Daughter, Wife, Farm Hand

I am never bored. There is always something interesting to read or learn, or someone interesting to listen to. Sometimes, though, inertia takes hold and I can't decide what to do, or just can't get past that first step.

On Sunday, Mom and I went out to brunch at a restaurant neither one of us knew - the Mark Restaurant, in Olde Burien. It was very nice. I love my Mom and like spending time with her. So why do I see her so seldom?

When I dropped her off, she offered to loan me some books. I like reading books. My taste runs from sci-fi and fantasy to historical novels, self help and the "Chicken Soup" collections. Killer Angels is one I re-read now and then, the Harry Potter series can keep me up late, Nuts! was good (about Southwest Airlines), and Marley was a tear jerker - especially since we'd lost 3 of our dogs in the previous year. On airplane trips, I find a trashy romance novel and bury my nose in it for the duration. (I'm a white knuckle airline passenger.)

I poked through her bedside collection and picked out three very different sounding books.

First I started Dead Wrong by Janice Kay Johnson, an author from Seattle (!) The book is set near Bend, Oregon and kept me up late. It's kind of a romance novel, but also a mystery. The main character was a young woman detective who solves (rather personally!) a violent serial rapist/murder case.

The next one was Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. It was entertaining. A group of short, embellished, larger than life tales about Edward Bloom as told by his son as his father lay dying.

I just finished the third one this morning: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The book is laid out as a biography (purely fictional? historical basis???) of an Afghani who emmigrates to the US after the Soviets invade Afghanistan. During his childhood he watches his best friend get brutally raped while he hides in the shadows. This event colors his whole life. He eventually returns to Afghanistan to rescue the friend's son and finds some sort of courage. This is an outstandingly written book - haunting. Nightmare provoking.

The Kite Runner and Dead Wrong are not the type of books I like to read. (Big Fish was just strange, but I got some laughs from it.) I hate reading or watching (movies) where children and women are the objects of senseless and twisted violence. Couldn't these authors have used some other events to make their points? Yes, they are well written, but is it worth the nightmares, the flashbacks to the violent parts of the books? I like trashy novels where my flashbacks are to the steamy sections. ;-) sci-fi where the flashbacks are to the battles that the (women) commanders win by the skin of their teeth, fantasy where dolphins speak and diagnose illnesses and people ride dragons to battle alien life forces. Yet, I read these books and after some fashion, enjoyed them, and, if you like that kind of book, would recommend them.

Oh, confessions. I read books while the sheep were untended (though they don't need much tending out on pasture!), the dogs in their crates instead of lounging at my feet or being trained and played with, taxes need to be done (we filed an extension), much paperwork is languishing, websites are out of date, fleeces need skirting, yard work, and drywall, painting, and on and on and on.

What I need is a good dose of ambition. Something to get me away from the keyboard and on to tasks that need doing. I find that taking vitamins regularly helps my attitude and gets me motivated. So why do I slack off? heh... just before starting this post, I took my vitamins. ;-) Maybe that will get me taking more photos, sharing more regularly, making progress.

heh... confessions. I'm a farm worker now. The local CSA (Take Root Farm) was doing a work-share for the summer. It was full when I asked, but they needed some part time farm hands. I started last week. We planted beans, lettuce and fennel transplants. It was all bending and reaching. Ouchies. My back still isn't the same. Add exercises and situps to my list. :-\

I did figure out how to make videos (I still have to learn editing) and post them on You Tube. There are two. 1) Franjean (Shetland ram) walking around and eating ( a video to complement photos and fleece samples; he's now living in Oregon) and 2) Clifford at the latest agility trial where he gives me half attention after a bird swoops over him between the second two obstacles. There are flashes of brilliance, so maybe we'll get there.


Ohhhhh, I just got an idea for the Moonspinners Sheep to Shawl project (I'm the Chairman this year). I'll have to hustle to get examples together for tonight's meeting. Inspiration!

- Franna