Monday, May 31, 2010

Sheepdog training weekend

Posted for Nan, because her very excellent website ( is down temporarily. Nan's training days are always good fun and good value- she caters for everyone, all sorts of dogs, handlers from different backgrounds and levels of experience. Plus great food (unless I'm taking something, in which case be careful) and hospitality. And FREE!

To be held on the 5th and 6th of June at Murray and Nan Lloyd’s property, west of Darkan, Western Australia.

Start at about 9am but people can come at anytime during the day either on the Sat or the Sun

If you have a young dog you want to start the right way or if you are having problems with an older dog come along for some assistance.
Experienced handlers will be available to assist and explain the principals of dog training.
We can also supply information for anyone who would like to have a go at sheepdog trialling now or in the future.
Or if you just want to come a long for a look to see what we are about then you are more than welcome.

There is no charge but if anyone wants to stay for lunch we ask that they bring a plate of food to share.
We can also supply accommodation if required.
Enquiries ring Nan Lloyd on 97361043 or email

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A conversation

Scene: a hillside track, late afternoon. I’m leaning out of the ute window, R is on the motorbike. He’s a bit flushed, which could be sunburn or the sudden drop in temperature as the evening sets in. We’re watching the last of the mob disappear over the rise ahead, with Charlie and Bonnie loping behind them.
R: You know what’s different about kelpies?
Me: No, I really don’t.
R: You don’t have to SAY anything.
Me: Because you’d be wasting your breath, they don’t listen to anything you say?
R: No, seriously. That’s what it is- with border collies, it’s always, “come here, go there, sit down, stop that!”  With kelpies… Well, Charlie’s a really smart dog.  He knows when those sheep are going to break into the bush, and he’ll just go out there and block them before they even do it. And he just goes far enough, and doesn’t cause any trouble. He’s actually a really smart dog.
Me: Oookaaay.
R: (nods towards gateway, out of sight over hill, where rising dust indicates that the mob are passing through) They could just do this all themselves. I don’t need to say anything.
Silence. The sheep and dogs have moved away out of sight. The shadows of the standing trees and boulders have melted out towards the east, converging into dusk.  It’s getting cold.
Me: Well, if that’s done, do you need any more help?
R: (looks away over hillside, relaxed smile on his face) No, I’ll just take a lap around the paddock and meet you at home.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Down on the farm...

One of the things about farm life that I'm still getting used to is the rhythm and repetition. In the city, life seems to cruise along at more or less the same pace, marked by occasional events like birthdays and Christmas, and, back in the day, big dog events. Otherwise, its just weekdays, weekends! Weekdays, weekends!

Now, it's like we're following a path through the year: every week we're tackling something different, plodding along or running to catch up, usually following known routes over well-trodden ground but sometimes heading into rougher country. Drenching, crutching, rams go out, rams come in, spraying, seeding, lambing, tailing, crutching, weaning, shearing, harvesting. Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again. You can look ahead and anticipate uphill slogs or nice easy downhill cruising, but in the end the terrain of farming life is mapped out by the weather. The long range forecast controls not only our working hours and tasks, but our moods, our sleep, our spending habits.

In the city, its so different. Sometimes you wear long pyjamas, sometimes you sleep nude, sometimes agility training is rained out or it's too hot to ride to work, but generally weather is just something that happens on days off.

Not commonly seen in the city- a roadside goanna:

On the farm at this time of year, it's all about the break. That's the break of the season, not a wave or a fracture or anything so frivolous. What we need is rain, then some more rain, followed up by more rain. We have pregnant sheep looking for food in bare paddocks, weeds that have to germinate so they can be sprayed, and crops that need to be planted or they won't have time to grow. Last year had a late break followed by very little rain, and the end result wasn't pretty.

Sheep trailing over the hill at dusk:

Just a short while ago, the world was coloured blue, red and yellow. I'd harvested most of the summer garden and started preparing for replanting. We lived in shorts and shirtsleeves and watched the skies for signs of the seasons shifting. Dust rose above mobs of sheep as they trailed across empty paddocks, and mixed with the smoke of early stubble fires, warming the evening light and setting sunset ablaze with colour.

We finished drenching, taking rams out of their mobs, and moved the ewes here and there to access what feed was still available on the ground.

Back in the yards:

J was pretty happy to get back into sheepwork:

JJ was doubly happy:

Kate, on the other hand, was a little underwhelmed by her first yard experience:

We kept the sheep alive with daily trails of oats across the dirt, and the lawns alive with the fire truck.

Then the redgums began to flower, big dark trees erupting with cool yellow blossom along the roads and across the paddocks. The bee man arrived with his caravan and hives, and left us the usual complementary buckets of honey. Predictions of an early break to the season were heard.

And right on cue, the clouds began to roll in.

With thunder and lightning we got the rain, rolling down the hills and filling the dams and watertanks, flooding the roads, soaking the earth. Hopes were high for a good season. Everyone went flat out to prepare for seeding, moving machinery and stocking up on chemicals for spraying.

Photography skill << awesomeness of scene. So if you could just imagine a large lightning fork striking the hill just beyond the tree, that'd be great. Cheers.

And again:

Wet stuff falling from the skies, and grateful (if damp) sheep:

Welly weather!

Is that green grass, Fin?

Yes, Jack- it does look like actual green stuff growing from the ground!

Really, really green! Everywhere!

But now the promise of more rain seems to have evaporated (sorry...).  It's been weeks without anything more than an early morning drizzle. The subsoil moisture from the early rain kept the grass growing well for a few weeks, but now that's petering out and the green paddocks are fading back to a dusty pallor. The Boss' mood has been sinking accordingly, and while he's kept busy with preg testing (130% for the first couple of thousand ewes tested- w00t!), feeding and moving sheep and burning stubble, tempers will be starting to fray shortly.

Stubble fires in the back paddocks:

Exhibit A: Cranky farmer:

More rain, please!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sorted also.

Scratch that- he's gone back to the breeder...

Again, not one of ours, but he's local and really needs a home.

Flash is 16 months old, originally from a working dog breeder, and his owner now can't keep him through no fault of his own. He's very willing to please and is easy to train, loves pats and cuddles and great with other dogs and kids. Barks at horses, respectful of cats, wants to work sheep.

If you're interested or know anyone who may be, please leave a comment here (I won't make it public) or email me- I have the owner's contact details and can help with getting Flash where he needs to go.

Lower 3 photos courtesy of Michelle Wrighton Photography: