Monday, October 31, 2011

Pup play pics

Nan Lloyd’s auction impulse buy, Coshies Blaze, a the first proper sable border collie I think I’ve seen in the flesh:

blaze 1blaze 2

Another one of Nan’s, this time her own breeding, Kumbark Ginger (I think he’s by Robertsons Allanah out of Ramulam Leena):ginger 1ginger 2ginger 3

Also Nan’s- Mac’s Scarlett, by Grassvalley Moss out of Mac’s Gem:scarlett 1scarlett 2

Andrew Gorton’s new yard prospect, Yarralonga Solo (by Yarralonga Blue, our Charlie’s litter brother, out of Cagella Kinder)solo 1solo 2

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Playing with pedigrees

It's a rainy day... I'm mucking around with pedigrees.
Interesting inbreeding coefficients...
Mac's Gibb
Mac's Mabel
Boylee Copper

Friday, October 21, 2011

Will he or won’t he?

I used to love starting pups. All that potential, promise, anticipation, hope- dreams just waiting to come true.

I’ve kind of gone off it now. So many hard decisions, big expectations, anxiety and the ever-present threat of disappointment… But then it doesn’t help that I’m a bit over sheepdog trialling too. The logistics of finishing a workday to race home and throw some tinned food and clean bedding in the caravan, wrestle permanently snot-infested, feverish and cranky small children into carseats and drive for hours to some random paddock in order to work dogs I’ve hardly seen all week just isn’t lighting me up the way it once did. Ah well. Hopefully this too will pass.


And if it does, perhaps this little man will be out on the trial ground with me. Or not. Gibby is the sort of pup that makes me the most anxious, because I like him so very much. And doesn’t that always seem to end badly? Of course, it didn’t end badly with Bill, who was a very disappointing pup, and it’s because he’s so like Bill that I like Gibby so much. He’s just a big happy klutz of a dog, all jump and leap and kind of sweetly ugly, but he thinks the sun shines out of people, and will trot along happily behind me (when he’s not savaging my Cape Gooseberry). He also has a quirky personality, just like Bill (“quirky” being my favourite euphemism for psychotically deranged), and I always get along best with dogs other people dislike.

gibby 2

Gibb might turn out alright on sheep- his father is Grant Cooke’s Grassvalley Moss (G. Tod x G. Lisa), who has produced a pretty impressive crop of young trial dogs, and his mother Gem (Boylee Fred x Pendalup Tess) is a nice young dog with some of her mum’s style and her dad’s calmness… but then lots of well-bred pups don’t make the grade.

R is starting Gibby’s sisters soon- this one is Daisy, because she looks like a cow.


Here’s another one I’m worrying about: Katy. She’s a Fred-Queani daughter, but she’s a handful. Looked awesome as a young pup, but now she desperately needs a decent recall, because she’s intent on bringing home any sheep within airscenting distance… I guess Queani was something like this as a pup, and she’s turned out alright.

katy standskaty headkaty

And these ones- I worry about them, too. kidsThey’re grubby, opinionated, noisy and bring home all sorts of things I’d rather they didn’t. gingerbik

And while I have all sorts of high hopes for them too (happiness, health, high-paying career that enables them to care for their aging parents in the manner to which I’d like to become accustomed), if they don’t live up to them it probably won’t end with an ad in the Farm Weekly. At least I hope not.farmboy

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things Farm People Like: 1) Babywearing

It’s International Babywearing week!

I wrote this a while ago, but now seems like the most appropriate time to post it. Lots of links in the text- click away!
The other day, while the boys were at Pony Club, the Ginger Biscuit and I hung out in the veggie garden. Now that we’ve had some rain, I’m suddenly starting to think I may be able to actually grow things again, so it’s been a mad weed-and-plant-a-thon. Unfortunately the GB was still a little under the weather after our latest round with the booger monster, and all she wanted was to be held and carried. So this is what we looked like in the garden:
2011-09-04 12.56.062011-09-04 12.57.24(and no, I’m not referring to looking haggard and badly groomed, although we certainly had that going too)

I honestly don’t know how anyone manages parenthood without a decent baby carrier (or six). Hanging out the washing, vacuuming, washing dishes with a small, hungry or unsettled baby- impossible! Negotiating a busy shopping centre with an aspirational toddler whose legs don’t hold up to all that walking as well as they’d insisted- oh, my aching arms! One small piece of cloth, a couple of sling rings, and it’s no problem at all.
For those on farms, baby carriers are even more essential. Pushing your average pram up a boggy hillside? Drafting or drenching sheep? Feeding chooks? Digging over a garden bed? I guess you either plonk the kid in a pram and try to ignore the squarking, or time your activities to coincide with naps, or you learn how to pop your baby on your back and get on with life.
farmboy ergo 25-10-2008 8-20-15 AM
Sheepdog trialling in the Ergo
Babywearing also turns out to be something of a branch of parenting culture, one that fits well with attachment parenting type philosophies. Newborns can spend that Fourth trimester much as they did the previous three- close to their mother’s heart, rocked by the rise and fall of her breathing and the sway of her daily activities. They can feed as they go, hands-free, so those cluster-feeding periods in the evening don’t clash with mealtimes and the hourly fees required for the usual six week growth spurt aren’t a major drama. Older kids can be up with their mum or dad, close to the action on hip or back, seeing what their parent sees, able to engage with the world from the safety of their grown-up’s body. And I really don’t think there’s a better way to handle the up-down, “carry me! let me walk!” stage of toddlerhood than a ring sling or rebozo hip carrier.
gb ergo 2
Sadly, babywearing seems to be a forgotten art for today’s parents. It’s the business of the dreadlocked, lentil munching, cloth nappying hippies found hanging around Steiner schools, and their parents (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Mainstream parenting today is all about putting babies down and getting them to stay there. Out of the cot, into a bassinet or bouncer or pram, into the carseat, which goes onto the shopping trolley, and then back to the pram/bouncer/cot again. Is it any wonder we have such high rates of positional plagiocephaly? “He just wants to be HELD all the time” has become a lament of arm-sore, frustrated parents who can’t get anything done, rather than a natural part of infancy and a wonderful part of parenting.
Some of my absolute favourite moments with my babies have been enjoying them as they sleep in a carrier, soft hair tickling my chin, intermittently twitching and sighing, warm milk breath against my chest.
babyk sling

I didn’t plan to babywear- it just sort of happened. After Farmboy arrived via caesarean, I found it easier to walk the dogs with him held on my chest than trying to wrangle a pram, and Farmboy himself was not a fan of lying flat on his back in a pram. R bought me a ring-style sling on impulse in a baby store one day, and that became our most essential parenting item. In the BubbaMoe, Farmboy was carried, breastfed, fell asleep- after which I would often lay him down somewhere.

GingerBik used the same sling almost as much, although by then I’d expanded my horizons and had a range of other carriers to choose from.

I’ve bought the vast majority of my carriers second-hand, making them much more affordable. There’s a big element of individual preference involved in finding the right carrier for you and your baby, so it is a good idea to test them out before investing a lot of money. Of course, most carriers hold their value very well, so you generally won’t lose much if you decide to sell one on.
So we started with a ring-style sling, the BubbaMoe, also known as an adjustable pouch. You do have to be careful with positioning with these slings- high and tight is the key.
P1300388kate sling

I moved on to actual ring slings, which are more adjustable to different body shapes, as well as allowing you to vary the depth of the pouch, but do involve some practise to get used to the rings. Ring slings are brilliant for newborns, feeding in the sling, and for hip carrying older kids. In theory, you can back carry in a ring sling, but I never felt very comfortable or secure with this.

For back carries, we started off with an Ergo. Ergos are what’s known as a “soft structured carrier” or SSC. They have a waist belt that ideally holds most of the child’s weight on your hips, not your shoulders, and the shoulder straps are adjustable for different sized parents and kids. You can carry your baby on your back, on your chest, and with some carriers (eg the Ergo) on your hip, although that never felt comfortable for us. They are expensive, but most SSCs will last from birth to toddlerhood or beyond, and then you can sell them on when you’re done.
AQWA in the Ergo

I have three SSCs: the Ergo, which is very sturdy and comfortable, but is fairly low with a bigger child (see above), and you need to buy an infant insert separately for newborns; an Olives and Applesauce carrier, which features an inbuilt harness so that you can clip a small baby in safely before lifting them onto your back (and they can’t drop out even if you undo the straps accidentally); and a Kanga X2, which is a beautiful carrier that comes in different sizes from baby to preschooler. We’ve recently outgrown the X2, so it’s officially for sale now (this is it here). That’s the other thing about good baby carriers- they have fantastic resale value, and some resell for more than they cost new.
The KangaX2
Olives and Applesauce!
SSCs are based on traditional Asian baby carriers, like the mei tai, podaegi and onbuhimo. They have a squarish fabric body that holds the baby, and some form of straps that you can tie in a variety of ways to carry babies from newborn to school age, on front, back or hip. This makes them more adaptable than SSCs, and you can adjust them to suit different body types and situations.
k sling - Copy
Tiny GB on our Maya Tie wrap tie
In the Hunbaba mei tai
In an onbuhimo, a Japanese mei-tai kind of jobbie
And then there are wraps. Ah, wraps! They’re simple pieces of cloth, ranging from what you have handy (a towel or tablecloth) to specially woven fabrics designed for maximum comfort and support. Some are cheap and easy to come by, others are limited editions sought after by fanatical collectors.You can tie them a thousand different ways, and Youtube is filled with demonstration clips. They can double as change mats, hammocks, blankets and shade cloths. The special ones may be folded and stored away for grandkids, or sewn into quilts or pillows infused with the memory of sweet sleeping baby breath against a mother’s throat.

We started with a Hugabub, one of the most well-known, mainstream type of wrap, the “stretchy”, which is a jersey type material (or sometimes gauze) which is suitable only for front carries with small babies. You wrap the baby fairly tightly against you, and the stretch of the wrap makes it easy to comfortably position a squishy little newborn. For those averse to the tying process (which really isn’t any harder than tying shoelaces), there are versions like the Baby K’tan and Caboo (formerly Close Carrier).

The “gold standard” wraps are the woven wraps, not stretchy but more supportive, capable of moulding around tiny babies and also securely carrying big kids, on front, back, hip, in all sorts of ways. I’ve never been a fanatical wrapper, but we have a few and I have to admit, they’re probably my favourite carriers. My favourites are here: Girasol (my Downunder is grippy and very supportive), Ellevill (Zara blue is easy to wrap with and Silverpink Paisley is soft and gorgeous), Vatanai (Maruyama- soft and cool), Didymos (black/white Indio- cool, soft, easy, and Snowflakes- warm wool, very supportive).
Girasol Downunder ruck carry
Black and white Didymos Indio up close
Girasol Downunder
zara cloth
Ellevill Zara Blue
Every now and then, there will be a safety report related to baby carriers. There was a big recall of certain unsafe carriers (bag slings) in the US a while back, and in last month’s MJA correspondence reported a case of unexplained death of an infant being worn in some sort of sling, under the mother’s clothing. Unfortunately there were no other details of the type of carrier, and although the report did mention that the unusual way it was being used was particularly unsafe, the authors made some generalisations about babywearing which didn’t differentiate between good and not-so-good types of carriers, or sensible and not-so-sensible use.

Honestly, this drives me nuts. Babies die in prams, in car seats, in cots, in bassinets. Sometimes this is because they are unsafe products, sometimes it’s because they’re not being used properly, and sometimes it’s unexplained. It’s always unimaginably tragic, and we should definitely investigate and take steps to address those factors that we can improve. But when four babies died in strollers or two babies died in jogging prams a few years ago, no-one suggested that the use of prams in general may be unsafe.
"OMG! Don't panic, Farmboy, but we're in a spot of bother... a JOGGING pram!"
Here’s the deal: safe carrying involves some simple principles. In general, carry your baby in a carrier as you would in your arms. They should have a clear airway, no fabric obscuring their face, no chin folded to their chest. They should be held high and close to you- “close enough to kiss”. And you should be able to see and feel your baby breathing, and check on them often. Carriers like the recalled “bag slings”, that fold infants away inside cavernous pouches and then dangle them from parents’ waists are both unsafe and uncomfortable. Here’s an interesting video.

And those insanely (literally) popular front carriers, like the BabyBjorn? They’re okay. They’re not unsafe. We used a couple, early on. They allow parents to carry babies, they’re popular and easily accessible in baby shops etc. But… they’re really expensive, for what you get. Most of them don’t have decent waist support, so all the weight goes on your shoulders, making it uncomfortable to wear babies much beyond 6 months old. They have narrow bottoms, so the weight of the baby hangs from a narrow band across their crotch (hence the common name “crotch danglers”), which is uncomfortable for babies (especially boy babies), rather than supporting their whole bottom. And they encourage excessive front facing. Lots of babies do like to face out so they can see what’s going on around them, but it can be very overstimulating when they get tired. Much nicer to hip or back carry, so at least the baby can turn her head away when it all gets too much. Front facing is also more tiring for the person doing the carrying, as the baby’s centre of gravity is further out- they’re curled away from you, not towards you. Try carrying a child  in your arms facing inwards and then outwards.
But hey, in the end, it’s babies being worn, being held, being comforted, included, involved and appreciated, even when they want to be carried “all the time”… I’m all for that!

More information on babywearing is all over the internet. Here are some good places to start looking:
The Babywearer forums
Babywearing International
Baby Carriers Downunder

I’m obviously in love with babywearing, so if you know me, virtually or in real life, feel free to invite me to talk about it. And also feel free to tell me you’ve heard enough, if I won’t stop talking. I may also have some of my more attention-starved carriers available for loan or sale. Just ask!

Happy International Babywearing Week!
kate sleeps face

Sunday, October 09, 2011

It’s moments like these I really miss my pelvic floor…

j skipping rope

The living room:

Farmboy, in possession of the last two butter biscuits, tries to offer one to his sister. The Ginger Biscuit wants both or none at all. She scowls and shakes her head fiercely at the proferred biscuit, blonde curls rattling at her neck. Farmboy tries again. “Here, GB, we’ll both have one! One each!”

“Uh uh!” She flings her arms out in disgust, begins marching a vehement lap of the dining table, around and around, faster and faster until she’s toddler-running, oversized wellies slapping on the lino, tangled head tilted to the ceiling and chanting, “Uh uh! Uh uh! Uh uh! Uh UH!”

Frustrated, perplexed, more than a little horrified, Farmboy turns to me in genuine distress. “DO something, Mummy! She’s OUT OF CONTROL!”

k verandah