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September Mornings

Posted 9/16/2011 7:59am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

May and September are my two favorite months on the farm.   The air is cool but the sun is warm.  The grass, assuming we've had a decent amount of rain, is growing like crazy.  Many mornings the cool night air is slow to burn off leaving behind a veil of mist that hovers over the low spots in the valley.   This week, after the deluge from Hurricane Lee, the mornings have been exquisite. 

Every other day the ewes and ewe lambs that are grazing a half mile down the road at our neighbors farm need to be moved to a new paddock, so Mac and I set out as soon the school bus drives away,  I on my bike and Mac racing along side in the pastures and fields along the road.   There are few things more beautiful than Mac running at full speed through a dewy, green pasture on an early fall morning.   He is so swift and light that except, for this black coat contrasting with the intense greenness of the pasture,  there appears to be little disturbance from his dash across the fields.   He runs knowing he has a job to do and whether that job is moving sheep, chasing a Frisbee, or keeping track of the seven chicks in our yard, there is nothing that pleases him more than a job to do.  

The first time I rode my bike to move sheep,  I was concerned about how Mac would do with running along the road, but he is well trained to "down" at the sound of vehicle approaching, so I gave it a try.   All I had to say was, "Ready to go move sheep?" and  begin my ride south and he was off, cutting through the pastures several hundred feet from the road, slipping through fences when necessary, and occasionally looking at me to be certain he understood correctly.     I was baffled when at one point he suddenly stopped and downed.   I called twice but he wouldn't budge.   Then in the distance I heard a car approaching and until it passed, he refused to move.    As soon as it passed and I said "okay", he was up and running, faster than I could ride. 

We don't have enough movable fences to create a whole new paddock without removing some of the fence from the paddock the sheep are currently grazing first.    Mac's job is to hold the sheep in place while I remove a line of fence and use it create the new paddock.   He has become increasingly patient and skilled at this job.   Just his presence, lying still in front of a flock of seventy sheep, is enough to keep them crowded together and in place till the time is right for them to move.   All this for affection and praise, a bowl of chow, and a bone or two.   How did we ever run this farm without a dog?