Gibson had a herding lesson today down at Tanstaafl (There aint no such thing as a free lunch) Farm in Greenfield, Massachusetts today. Between lambing, Jasper, cash flow, and the work weekends of pasture expansion: herding lessons have been on the decline. This isn't such a big deal, as G is only a year old and still a baby in the world of working sheep dogs. He has plenty of time to learn the ropes.
Today was a warm, muggy, overcast day. My lesson was in the late afternoon, and I was expecting my pup's usual amount of tom foolery. Gibson did not disappoint. He was so excited to be around sheep he lost most of his sense and was all high tails and bravado for the first fifteen minutes in the round pen. We work on a long line, with flags on sticks and training staffs and do our best to get him to calmly balance sheep between my movements. At a fast walk, if I move left, he should move right. If I turn last, he should turn to always match my choice and balance the stock between us. We do our best.
Gibson's 49-pounds, was no match for the little, prick-eared, 35-pound, sprite Emmy, who has three-years under her hide and takes commands practically at a whisper. When Denise sent her up the field to gather and fetch the three hair sheep we would be training with, I watch in confused awe. How do you get from Gibson to Emmy? From Jenna to Denise? I have no idea. I just listen to my teacher, and trust in the process. Like a car can drive cross country in the dark with only seeing the 100 feet of headlights in front of it—I train my dog a step at a time.
I have a clunky way about me, and a clunky young dog, and watching me in a herding lesson is watching a confused woman with a stick yell "LIE DOWN" 70-jillion times. But then by some point in the lesson Gibson calms down and moves sheep like a proper dog and I beam like I'm made of Tiffany glass and my heart's 200 watts of pride. Denise thinks we can start working on our out run next lesson. Just the idea makes me a little weak in the knees.
I have more to update you on. I brought home my ram lamb from Denise's farm tonight, and he is gorgeous. He'll be this fall's ram (and possibly this winter's roast). And three Bourbon Red poults are chirping away in the brooder box. (They were on sale at the Salem Agway, at a price too good to turn down), but that needs to wait till tomorrow. I need a hot shower in ways you don't want to understand, but let's just say bleach-scrubbing the ram crate for an hour and you get the picture. I know a lot of people say they put up with a lot of shit in their lives, but few of them have the laundry to prove it.
Also, I named the Milk snake Trevor.