Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Working Dogs and Dogs Working

Just to let you all know, there still are sheep here on this farm. Lately it has been all about knitting and such on the blog. Sorry about that to all of you who are fans of our sheep and animals but tis the season and life here is varied to say the least.

The growing lambs are still in the pastures and orchards just outside our farmhouse. It is so nice to look out the window every morning and see them grazing (yes there still is grass there to pick around and snack on). They really are quite funny sometimes. While I was taking the photos of the gnomes the other day in the studio, I kept looking out the window to see what they were doing. I'm not sure what was going on but they were wired - all day long, they kept running back and forth between the different fields - in a complete tear.

When we walk through the fields, we often see stray bits of wool left behind on the brambles. I'm sure some bird will use this in their nest in the spring.


Sometimes I have the dogs with me and sometimes not. If I do, the sheep will bunch up pretty immediately and it changes how the photos look. The lambs are always aware of a dog being there - as they should be.


We couldn't farm without a good Border Collie or two. They are so indispensable. Besides being constant companions, they have a real job here on the farm. They live to work. Without a good dog, it just would not be possible to move the sheep where we need them to be. The sheep see the dogs and they know we mean business (or the dog means business). Herding the sheep is everything to the dogs. They even know how to spell! This morning we were talking about the sheep and what needed to be done today as is the usual breakfast conversation. The Farmer usually spells out the word S-H-E-E-P because if he says it, they will both jump up and head to the door ready to go. And you know what - this morning after he spelled it out, they both were up and ready to go. It was, sadly for them, just a false alarm.

A few weeks ago, after taking Ness down to the lower orchard for some photos, I was finished. "That'll do," I said to Ness and she immediately came to my side and we began climbing back up the hill towards the house. And then she began to drift. I looked over and called to her because I was done and she can't be left in the fenced pastures with the sheep alone. Here she was - not paying any attention to me.


"Aw, come on Nessie, let's go." Nessie just looked at me...... with a look similar to the one Julia gives me rolling her eyes......


I swear, if a dog could roll her eyes, she would have been doing it.... And then we got a little higher on the hill and I looked over. There I saw this.


Yes, a whole other group of lambs that she wanted to herd and put into their place. I spoiled her fun for that day because I was done. But Nessie, if she could have, would have been down there in seconds, the lambs would have flocked together and she would have moved them along.

Sometimes I see different distinct breeds of dogs in people's homes. They have certain characteristics that may be annoying to the family they live with, to neighbors, or to the police. But you know, most breeds of dogs were bred for some kind of work. Sadly people forget that and purchase dogs that shouldn't be kept in suburban neighborhoods, much less apartments in large cities. Border Collies were bred to work sheep and most of them do it beautifully. I do worry that the breed will get watered down but thank goodness there are farmers raising dogs along with their stock to continue the working genes. There will come a time when we need to find another pup to work at our farm and keep us company besides. We have to hope we can find another as sweet and helpful as the four we have had so far.

13 comments:

Turtle said...

nice photos. We lost our dog lst spring after 15 years. We haven't the heart to add a new furry member again...yet!

Gramma Phyllis said...

When I was a youngster my godparents had a border collie on their small farm. Not only did Bumbo herd the sheep, but he worked the geese and us children. Uncle Willie would say to him, "Don't let the kids out of the yard," and he wouldn't let us out of the backyard and anywhere near the creek!

Susan said...

I'd so love to have a border collie but I don't have any work for him to do! Someday maybe I'll get an itty bitty indoor dog again. Read a really wonderful dog book recently "Rose in the Storm" I think it's called. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Kristin there are lots of great Border Collies out there. I take herding lessons from a Border breeder, she has the most amazing dogs. My Belgian just can't compete, but we have fun and get the job done eventually.

j.dixonk9@sbcglobal.net

Erin Leigh said...

That is one beautiful dog you have there! I love the markings around her eyes!
I, also, just read "Rose in a Storm." I highly recommend it - great novel about a border collie trying to save the farm in a massive blizzard.

Virginia said...

My parents used to keep keeshonds, who were originally bred to work on boats on the Dutch dikes. We lived near the beach in Oregon, and it was pretty entertaining to stray down towards the water and inevitably have a dog come down and herd us away.

Melissa (Meliabella) said...

LOVE your dogs (they always greet up when we take a ride up your way) and LOVE the new blog outline!

Good job and GO UMASS! :)

Penny said...

i agree with the sadness when a dog who wants to work is stuck in an apartment, house, "kennel". i have no words other than i'm happy your four have the love and sheep they deserve. i love that vicariously through you, i can experience puppy love. my little house has a bit more earth than my neighbours but there is no way i could give a puppy the life he or she deserves. some of my neighbours think they can, and my heart goes out to their puppy who, while loved, is living a life style that makes me sad.

in any case, thank you kristin!

Deborah said...

I love the looks on the sheep's faces, and Nessie looks so happy amongst the sheep.

Laurie said...

Wonderful tribute to my favorite breed - thanks!!

Brenda said...

My dog has learned to spell also. He loves going to the beach to run and swim (it's a great way for him to get his much needed exercise). After he got all excited at the word "beach", we started spelling out "b-e-a-c-h". He figured that one out too, so now we call it "the sandy place". It's only a matter of time before we have to come up with another code name.

Anonymous said...

just so you know I have to spell out the word c h i c k e n to Fred the cat! Linda

Beau said...

I do wish that people would take the time to learn about the breed they "think they want". Talk to those who breed and own the breed.

I have friends who decided to get into sheep -- Karakul sheep. They got a border collie to help them. What no one knew was that Karakul sheep are not like 'other' sheep. One could refer to them as "they who will not be herded". The poor border collie had to substitute whatever it could to satisfy the lure of herding: chicken, grandchildren, whatever.