Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

We, Kota, Colt and Rue, aka The Bagley Pack, want to tell you about our wonderful Valentine’s Day.  On Saturday, our mom bought balloons and we posed for pictures so she could make special cards for John and our friends.  

Then, early Sunday morning while John was downstairs reading the paper, we again put on our balloons and waited until just the right moment…

and we all ran downstairs to surprise him with a Valentine’s Day greeting.  John was very pleased and we got lots of pats.

Afterwards, we went outside to check for squirrels and mess about.

And just hang out until breakfast.

In the afternoon we got to go to the farm.  That’s even better than wearing a balloon and surprising someone!  The coyotes sang their evening songs and we barked and barked and barked.  What a great day!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Don't Rain on Our Parade

Saturday, February 6, dawned bright, clear and beautiful.  And it’s a good thing; we were going to a parade and certainly didn’t want any rain!  The Texas Hill Country Stock Dog Association was invited again this year to be a part of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Western Heritage Parade & Cattle Drive.  In all, there were 36 groups participating, but ours was the only one that involved sheep.  There were some twenty of them, big-eyed at all the noise and activity around them.  (I loved the Super Bowl commercial with the talking sheep; can't you just imagine what these would say if they could speak!)

The six handlers and dogs herded our sheep through downtown San Antonio to the delight of the crowds lining the parade route.  Three very experienced dogs did most of the work, keeping our little flock (mostly) in the center of the street, stopping them when they got too close to the “riding steers” and the herd of longhorn cattle in front of us.  The three less experienced dogs, Rue among them, were kept on leash and helped to move the flock along.  

The staging area was under I-35 at Houston Street.  While we waited for the parade to begin, the sheep hung out at the far end of their enclosure, watched closely by the six border collies. 

To be sure that the sheep were as festive as the dogs and handlers, Ken put red bandanas on a couple of them.

The Jack Sellers Bexar County Palomino Patrol & Drill Team lined up near us.  Their beautiful palominos were decked out in way more silver than I could have carried.  They were splendid as they pranced down Houston Street.

Then it was time for the parade to begin and out came the longhorns.  I’m not sure how many there were, but they came in all sizes and colors, including several small calves.  Flanked by cowboys on horseback, they made a real statement. 

Then came the riding steers.  And if you haven’t ever seen one of these behemoths with horns that can measure seven feet from tip to tip, sporting a saddle and bridle and carrying a rider, you won’t believe your eyes.


These guys were beautiful, and as well-behaved as any saddle horse.

And then it was our turn.  Out came our sheep, kept on track by Kaige, Mac and Jack (and helped, of course by their handlers, Ken, Jo Anne and Cindy).  

Scott, Marilyn and I followed with Belle, Jen and Rue, who were very disappointed that they couldn’t get closer to “their” sheep but glad to have a part in the action.  Jen, at 4 1/2 months, was interested in the sheep, but was also happy to stop along the way to let the kids give her a pat.

Here are some shots of our trip through downtown SA as we waved at the crowds and dodged the “cow pies” left by our friends the longhorns.


When we had to stop to keep the sheep from running into the longhorns, the dogs circled the flock on command to keep them in a group.  The crowd was really impressed, especially since most commands were given by whistle and each dog had to respond to his own handler’s instructions.  The cacophony of whistle tones and the whirling dogs and sheep made for a very exciting scene.

At the end of the parade route, a trailer was waiting for our sheep.  They wasted no time in jumping in, very glad to be back in a familiar environment. 

I didn’t see much of the rest of the parade, but John got pics of quite a few of the participants.  He especially liked these lovely senoritas,

and this cowboy and vaquero.

There were plenty of other riding groups and clubs.

And when it was all over, the seven of us regrouped at a nearby Mexican restaurant which allows dogs on its patio.  The food and chilled beverages were much appreciated after a very busy morning.

The border collies were all tired and happy, and napped in the shade.  Little Jen was so sound asleep that we had to shake her to wake her up when it was time to go.

It was a great day and we look forward to next year.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Is It Spring Yet?

We have spent several days at the farm the last couple of weeks.  The cedar clearing project is progressing, though not as quickly as we had hoped.  The more we cut, the more there seems to be.  Pictured below is one of the areas John has worked with the skid steer.  Past the piles, you can see the branches of Spanish oak and other hardwood trees that were being smothered by the invasive cedar (technically Ashe juniper).  It is also known as mountain cedar, Texas cedar and blue berry juniper, as well as !X#!@! cedar and other “colorful” descriptors.  It is a drought-tolerant evergreen tree that can be very pretty.  However, once it has moved into an area and formed almost impenetrable “cedar brake,” it is very difficult to eradicate. 

We only use the skid steer on the larger trees, but there are many smaller trees that have to be hand cleared.  Here is John doing some work with his chain saw to remove smaller cedar and scrub beneath some of our Spanish oak trees.

The enormous piles of limbs will dry over the next couple of months, and we hope the Fish and Wildlife people will be able to do a prescribed burn later this spring.   Then there will be room for new grass and other more desirable plants to sprout.  

This has been a very mild winter; I don’t think it has reached 32 degrees yet in Volente, and it has only dipped into the high 20’s a few times at the farm.  After cool nights, the sun has been warm, and dogs have enjoyed naps in the yard.  Here, Rue is joined by Cousin Molly, who spends most of her time with her cousins when she and her family are at the farm.

Walks through the pasture and woods are popular with us as well as the dogs.  Kota always picks up a stick to signal the beginning of a walk, a behavior she learned from Nickie.

It’s my understanding that Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating Pennsylvania groundhog, came out of his burrow on Tuesday and did not see his shadow.  According to folklore, that means that we will have an early spring.   I’m inclined to agree.  This week, we saw a couple of wildflowers beginning to bloom, but the real story was the birds.  Tuesday we looked out to see more harbingers of the coming spring.  The trees in the yard were alive with flocks of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings. 

They were flying from branch to branch, especially in the female cedar trees, which this time of year have plenty of plump, blue berries.  (Thank goodness, our trucks weren’t parked under the trees!)  They worked their way through the trees for half an hour or so, then, just as quickly as they had come, the moved on.  They did, however, leave us with renewed hope of an early spring.