Monday, February 27, 2017

Thane Got to Meet SHEEP!!

The first thing I want to say is an apology for how many photos are in this blog post...but, hey, it could be worse - I took 169 photos today, but I've pared it down to only around 20 - give or take a few - to share with you.  :P



Anyway, to begin at the beginning, I've been looking for a place for quite some time where I could have Thane evaluated for herding instincts.  I'm not even sure I want to pursue actual lessons at this point, with livestock probably still at least a couple years away for me, but (being rather obsessed with my dog) I just wanted to see how Thane would do around sheep.

I talked with Thane's breeder, and she recommended True Colors Farm in Washington, Maine - she took Thane's sire there for some training a while back.  So I looked it up, and a few emails later, Thane and I hit the road and made the three-hour trek east!

Thane sees the sheep.

The sheep see Thane.
Brenda and her Border Collie, Josie, show us how it's done.

Thane is curious but nervous - tail between his legs, hanging back.

Getting a little more bold...

Whoops, nope!  Too scary!
A little more focused...

And then kind of "herding," and kind of just puppy zoomies.

Brenda uses the stick to keep Thane from hanging out with her.

She has to watch out for sheep, especially with an erratic puppy in the ring.

These sheep are well-broke and will stay close to Brenda.

Thane pauses to dissect a chunk of wool - best toy ever!!

Easily distracted.

Nice moves, Bud.

Kind of doing what he's supposed to be doing...

Flying Collie!

Brenda keeping him where he belongs.

Aaand slowing down.
Thane had three different brief sessions in the ring; the second two were with sheep that were less broken and wouldn't stick close to Brenda - both to save her knees, and to try to encourage Thane to chase them.  At this point his instincts are not yet fully "awakened."  Brenda did say, however, that he didn't seem to be just chasing the sheep for fun - rather, he was trying to catch them, and was going for their heads.  I'm under the impression that that's a good start.  :P

I'm going to let him grow up more and try again in a couple months.  It was a fun experience, though.  I'll be showing you other photos from around the farm over the next few days, but for now, have a couple Border Collie photos.  Another lady brought her two Border Collies for some troubleshooting...I admit that I couldn't see their flaws - it's so amazing to watch them work!

This is Doz:

And Brook:

Thane's herding style won't be quite like theirs, but it'll be really cool if someday he's as talented and responsive as these beautiful dogs!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Turning My Sap into Syrup

So since my last post, we've collected probably several gallons of maple sap from our two trees.  The sap flow is slowing down now, but I'm curious if it'll pick back up in a few days when the overnight temperatures drop back down below freezing - we've been experiencing an unseasonably warm week!

So far I've been pretty happy with the spiles and tubing, but if I were to do this on a larger scale, I'd almost certainly buy the more traditional metal spiles and the lidded metal buckets that hook onto the spiles - as the snow melts, the plastic jugs keep sinking lower.  In fact, this morning, the jug on the far right in the above photo had dropped so low that the tube popped out.  

And this one hangs in the air until it's got enough sap in it to weigh it down.  :P

On Thursday, I had a bit of time before work and started boiling some of the sap down.  Friday, I got started nice and early.

This is what it looks like when you get started - perfectly clear.  I drank a cup straight from the collection jug - it just tasted like sugar water (and apparently, it has lots of health benefits!!  See this link for more information.)

This pot had been boiling for a little while - the color is starting to change.

And this is what I had started to boil on Thursday.  From what I understand, it's fine to pause the boiling at any point and store the partially-boiled sap in the fridge, then put it back on the stove when it's convenient.

You can also keep adding fresh sap when the pot has boiled down some.  So I did that all yesterday morning, boiling the sap and gradually adding more until, by the time I had to leave for work, it was all in two pots.

My amazing sister-in-law, Becky, babysat the boiling pots for me after I went to work, eventually combining them both into one pot when they had boiled low enough.  

When I came home from work, THIS was on the stovetop:

It's so pretty!!  :)  

Now I just need to strain it, and then I can refrigerate it or can it.  

This has been an excellent adventure, and I'm sure I'll do it again next year!  :D

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tapping My Maple Trees

I had a good day off from work - I got a few things done, but it still felt relaxed.

A friend and I took our dogs for a walk in the woods.  The little dog's name is Dexter, and he's a cute little guy...I was impressed with his enthusiasm for tennis balls, even though he can barely hang onto them.

He and Thane got along quite well, actually, mostly ignoring one another after the initial greeting, which was fine by me.  At obedience class, Thane tends to be super excited to see the other dogs, so it was good to see that he is capable of settling down after a bit.

In the afternoon, I decided to go ahead with a project I've been thinking about for a long time - tapping a couple of the maple trees on our property.  I bought four spiles and a length of tubing last week, and with the weather we've been having, I thought I'd check to see if the sap was flowing.

I'm just doing these two trees, since this is more of a fun experiment than anything.  The one on the left is a Sugar Maple (at least, I think it is, lol.  :P ) and I'm pretty sure the one on the right is a Silver Maple.  

I dug a path...

...and drilled a couple holes (thanks for loaning me your drill, Dad!!),  And, yes!  The sap started flowing almost immediately!

I got this kind of spile.  It's less expensive, and it's only 5/16th of an inch instead of the more common 7/16th, so it's supposed to be a little better for the tree (thanks for finding me a 5/16th drill bit, Dad!!).

My one tip - attach the tubing to the spile before you pound the spile into the tree!  I put the first spile in by itself, and it was challenging to attach the tube to it.  (Thanks for finding me empty containers, Dad!!)

I had everything all set up in the early afternoon.  I went out about 5:30 or 6 this evening to empty the containers because I probably won't have time to check on them in the morning - and look how much sap we already got!

As I understand it, I'll have to collect roughly ten gallons of sap in order to end up with one quart of maple syrup.  I'm not sure if I'll try to get that much...but I'm having a blast so far!  I'll keep everyone posted on how the boiling down process goes.  :) 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Icicle Fortress

We're getting another snowstorm right now.  Apparently winter decided to hit New England all at once!

I went out today to shovel our back deck a bit.  I've been becoming a little bit concerned, as the snow level has risen, that Thane might soon become tempted to jump over the deck railing into the unfenced portion of our yard - he likes to stand on the seat and watch the world go by.

In the spring, I'll probably end up building some sort of little topper to go on the railing so that there's no way Thane could get over it...but today I came up with a (very temporary) solution.

Yes, it's true...our deck is now partially enclosed by an icicle fortress.  And yes, my family laughed at me.  :P

I only had enough icicles to do one side of the deck, but that's the part that is closest to the ground, so I was most concerned about Thane jumping off that side.

Hmm, I hope Thane doesn't eat them...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Personal Clouds

Dad, Timothy (my youngest brother) and I did some snow cleanup today.  It was a beautiful, sunshiney day, and I tried to get a couple shots of the sun shining through the powdery shovelfuls of snow.

As I was looking through the photos this evening, though, I thought that - with a little imagination - it looks kind of like Dad and Timothy were each battling their own personal little snowcloud that was hovering overhead.

Here's Dad, swatting at his snowcloud with a shovel.  It retaliates by snowing on him, but it's so little that it can't do too much or it will...

...go up in a puff of snow.  

And here's Timothy, hanging out on the roof with his snowcloud.  This one's aggressive - see the bigger chunks in there?

In fact, it looks like it's trying to develop into a mini blizzard, so Timothy grabs up the shovel and gives it a good whack!

Another snowcloud conquered!

The next one tried to jump out at him from the other side...good thing he's quick with the shovel!


More snow tomorrow!  

Happy shoveling, everyone!!  :P  

Monday, February 13, 2017


We got a LOT of snow last night...although I hear it's nothing compared to what Maine got (and is still getting).  

But still, I'm glad that I switched from a temporary, 3-foot-high wire fence to six-foot stockade fencing this past autumn, because this is all that I can see of the wire fence now:

We have enough adventures with Thane without him stepping over the fence and getting loose!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Herding Dog Headaches

Walks with Thane are always interesting.  He's got the herding dog tendency to nip at ankles or to jump up and grab at my sleeves, especially if he's in a playful mood.  My dog trainer suggested a game to distract him from that behavior - I say, "Ready?" and grab a treat, then toss it on the ground and say, "Go find it!"  Eventually, if I'm consistent in catching the behavior early enough, the nipping habit should be broken.  

It is helping, but I don't always have treats on me - or sometimes I can't get to them.  Like today.

I was cutting between two groomed trails, walking over the no-man's land where you might sink into the snow an inch - or a foot.  I made it to within one step of the groomed trail when - you guessed it! - the ground suddenly dropped out from underneath me and I was in snow up to my knees. 

This normally wouldn't have been much of a problem - I'd just catch my balance and step up onto the trail.  But then Little Mr. Crazy decided that this was the best game EVER - and grabbed hold of my right coat sleeve for a rousing game of tug-of-war.

Needless to say, it's a teensy bit challenging to get your balance and step out of knee-deep snow when a 50-pound dog is attached to your sleeve, tugging for all he's worth!  And I couldn't get to my pocket to distract him with treats because I keep them in my right-hand coat pocket.

I'm glad no one chose that moment to pass by...although they'd have had a nice story to tell.

I was both laughing and kind of wishing for the rolled-up newspaper my Mom keeps suggesting I use on Thane.  I eventually managed to wrestle my way up onto the trail, detach Fang from my sleeve, and attempt to recover some of my lost dignity - but then I had to laugh again because the Goofball was so overcome with excitement that he got the zoomies and nearly fell in the hole in the snow where I'd been stuck.

Ah, Thane.

He's a good boy...but I can't wait until he's completely grown up!

Don't let anyone tell you that raising a puppy is all tail wags and soft little kisses!!

No matter how regal said pooch tries to appear!

Saturday, February 4, 2017


Mom pointed out that I forgot an important detail about the lotion in my Thursday post.

That detail?  

Thane LOVES the lotion...if I put it on, he'll try to lick my hands as if it's some sort of delicacy!

Weird dog.  :P  

In totally unrelated news, I've found a possible lead for getting Thane into a herding class!  

I've been warned to watch out, because the sheep will knock you over.

That is, if Thane doesn't knock me over first.