Tuesday, September 30, 2008

it's electric!

That's a picture of King Sal, inside a fence. Which is a new thing for my sheep, to be all contained and proper. Yup, after weeks of floundering on the subject, I finally electrified the fences. I wasn't avoiding it because I thought shocking sheep for a nano-second was mean, or because I wanted to save on my electric bill. Nah, the reason for balking at the set up was because it was a big fat logistical nightmare. I had to figure out where I would ground the charge, how long the extension cords had to reach, where I'd plug the bloody thing in - all those technical specs... And all of it had to be a movable vehicle. It was just a lot. You know what I mean. After ten hours at the office, the last thing you want to do is absorb a couple thousand watts to round out the day. So I've been putting it off.

And because of my procrastination, once or twice a week when the grass got short, the sheep (always egged on by Marvin) would break out, and me, being new to this business, would freak out and run outside in towels (why this always happened when I was showering, I don't know) and then desperately try to lure them home to their pen with bribes of grain. And that worked fine. I swear those sheep could be two miles away and hear the grain bucket and come loping my way like herion addicts hearing a junkie slappin' an arm. But I was tired of constantly looking out the window for them, or coming back from walks with the dogs to see them landscaping the driveway. So I finaly caved and set up the electric netting. I'm glad I did. The sheep have been staying in their pasture and I know if I leave for a short 2-mile walk with the dogs they'll be there when I get back. Grant it, it hasn't been perfect. I learned that Marvin still escapes if the charge is low but we'll figure it out.

In other news, I saw Jon Katz twice last week at two local book readings. I went to his book tour opening at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge NY, and then again Saturday night in a Manchester bookstore I love more than nonfat creamer (Northshire Books!) when our hayride plans were rained out. Both readings were interesting and insightful. I got to pet the famous Izzy and Lenore, and hear about his life as a hospice volunteer/writer/hobby farmer. All of which was engaging and interesting.

I like Jon Katz. I like his writing, his stories, his unapologetic and kind view about dogs and their roles in our lives. He honestly admits the holes they fill up emotionally and the surprising things he learns living with them. His writing says what many dog lovers feel and for that I'm grateful he shares his life with us. I actually haven't read any of his stuff until recently. My friend Heather suggested him to me this spring and I read his books while I was getting used to Vermont. So it was a fun shock to realize I wasn't just reading about a person with a similar lifestyle - but he lived a few towns over. Neat. (I also just read Kingsolver's book this summer too... something I should've read a long time ago! That' another blog post.)

Since I'm both involved in border collies and writing - the subject of Jon Katz has come up many times. It seems border collie people either love him or hate him, and I've heard the whole gamut. I even emailed him a couple times, hoping to get a sliver of advice. I usually would never bother a writer, but how could I not give Katz a shot? I mean come on, he's a local writer that works at home, runs a small farm, and lives with herding dogs. Pretty close to what I aspire to be. So I emailed him, introduced myself, and asked if he had any advice for a new young farmer getting involved in sheep and border collies.

Katz did reply, which pleased me. He was cordial, but distant. Which is exactly what he had to be. Being a best-selling author he must get thousands of emails a year from people telling their own small farm stories. Out of the few emails we did share he wanted to stress that he was a writer with some sheep and farm animals, not a farmer. Which was a polite way to say "I'm not your farm messiah, kid." And that's fine. My long term goal is the opposite of Mr. Katz. To be a farmer first, and a writer second. I'm certain I'll be better at managing sheep than I am at managing sentences. (Which is best observed by the opening of the second paragraph of this post. All those commas could pile their assets together and take out a home equity loan) So while I doubt myself and Mr Katz will ever be chums or sharing a beer at a sheepdog trial, seeing him read and meeting his dogs was a downright treat. And I strongly suggest you pick up some of his stuff and give it a whirl.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is funny. When I first started reading your blog I instantly thought of Jon Katz. I like him, I like his books and I like how real he is. I feel the same way reading your blog as I did reading The Dogs of Bedlam Farm. It is fun and real.

September 30, 2008 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger Mare said...

I've been reading Jon Katz books for years, and have also exchanged a few emails with him. I really like his advice on living with and training dogs. I have a new puppy now and am using a lot of new ideas and techniques, pulled fron a lifetime of living with dogs, and the tons of advice out there on the net, in books and on tv.I watch Cesar Milan,and read Jon Katz and a few others, and have a technique somewhere in between that fits me well. And i LOVE Northshire Bookstore! Haven't been there in a few years.

October 4, 2008 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Robin EH. Bagley said...

I also enjoy Jon Katz's books, but I have to be careful when I read them. As a former border collie owner, I get the urge to buy a pup whenever I read his books. Since I currently have a Welsh corgi and a lab/shorthair cross, a new border would definitely be a mistake at this point. But someday.....

April 19, 2009 at 7:44 PM  

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