Classes are done but now I’m faced with a mountain of grading and the writing of three conference papers.  Yikes!  I can’t believe how swamped I am.  Nevertheless, today I got up and took the dogs for a good long hike at the conservation area.  Once home, I got pulled into my garden and did about 45 minutes of work there.  With this unprecedentedly early spring weather, everything is coming up fast and furious.  The problem is that the ‘weeds’ are coming up more quickly than my intentionally planted perennials.  If I don’t get on top of it right away, it will be almost impossible later.  On Saturday I liberated one small garden bed, and today I got on top of another.  I also am bit by bit clipping back bushes that normally are all that need to be done this time of year.  This year, they should have been clipped a month ago!  I cut off a lot of buds and am hoping I haven’t done too much damage.

I still haven’t planted any food plants in my garden here this year.  I’m really unsure what I’m going to do about that.  As work is ending, so is my income.  I don’t have the budget to be bringing in a lot of soil, and what’s here is not very good.  I may need to stick to container gardening after all.

The dogs are all quietly sleeping after their run.  I don’t like this stop-start-stop approach to their exercise these days.  I don’t think it’s good for their muscles and joints.  They haven’t had a run since Sunday, so naturally today they were higher than kites and ran extremely hard.  Fortunately Ross is no longer like this; he’ll be 8 this summer and no longer has the boundless energy of the younger dogs.  He still runs around but no longer has to hurl himself through the forest undergrowth like the girls do.  Rather, he jogs along at a nice pace, sniffing and marking as he goes.

I got the dogs out for some more stock work on Sunday.  It went pretty well.  I put my cell phone in my pocket and used it as a timer to keep my sessions short.  With Mira I kept strictly to 5 minutes and just took her out several times.  They are probably more accustomed to the warmer temperatures by now anyway, but I wanted to be extra careful with her.  She did fine – both in terms of how she worked, and her health.  My homeopath told me that I should just keep her constitutional remedy on-hand for future episodes of heat exhaustion as it should address the symptoms.  I’ll be sure to do that.

Kess was a monster.  She is so, so, so fast – as usual – and kept plowing the sheep over me.  I worked her twice for about 7-8 minutes each time (again, using a timer).  At this point I don’t enjoy working her with these dog-broke sheep because it’s almost dangerous.  The sheep kept slamming into me, stepping on my feet and knocking me about . I know one sheepdog handler who has to permanently wear a brace on her leg when she trains because her knee got hyper extended exactly in this kind of situation.  I have enough ailments to struggle with and something like that would really make me mad.  I get very sharp with Kess when she does this and that does help keep her back a bit.  But still, she’s tough to work.  I need to find some sheep that don’t want to hide behind my legs.

Hannah worked fairly well but showed me some of her typical inclination to do her own thing.  I really had to sit on her to get her to listen, at which point she started to get kind of slow and look around for other stock to work rather then the group she had.  That was annoying.  I actually called her off three times when she started being like this.  I wanted to make it clear that if she wasn’t going to listen, then she wasn’t going to get to work.  Each time I then walked her all the way back to the stock – I could have sent her on an outrun to pick up the stock, but she loves outrunning, so that would have been a reward.  Plus, I don’t want to reinforce her already existing expectation of driving the sheep a certain distance, and then coming back to me to do an outrun.  This was a mistake in my training which led her to anticipate being called back, and just turn and come back to me when she felt she’d done enough driving.  Anyway, I walked her back across the field three times and got her to do some more driving.  Finally she stopped fighting me and started listening well.  As soon as she did that, I let her do some nice big outruns, followed by some real farm work.  She was very pleased with that and hopefully understood that if she listens, she’ll get to do the things she enjoys.

Afterwards the dogs were lovely and mellow.  Even miss Kestrel was relaxed and enjoyable to be around.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that side of her – the dog I know she can be if only I had more time.  She’s such a lovely dog in general, but lately she’s been so wound up mentally that she has been getting on my nerves.  She settles well in the house but spends her time anticipating things, and then explodes into action when she thinks it’s going to happen. For example, if I make a move towards my bedroom door, she thinks she’s going to be let outside.  So she explodes through the door and rushes down the stairs so fast that sometimes she falls, wipes out and slams into the wall across from the bottom of the stairs.  Crazy dog.  And no, that doesn’t make me laugh.  I find it upsetting and vastly irritating.  Lately I’ve put her on a leash and made her heal down the stairs with me, one step at a time.  But after working stock several times on Sunday, the relaxed, gentle Kess was back.  I’m glad to see she’s still there.

Now to get back to work.  I have nearly 400 exam and essays to grade over the next week, so I may not have much time to write as any free time will be spent with the dogs.  But maybe it won’t be as all consuming as I fear.  Well, best get back at it!