A Year of Green Hills: 2011

It's time for our yearly review of the year...

By January the heavy snow of late 2010 has melted. I work on my indoor photography and find the 'sports' setting on my camera very useful indeed. The first twin lambs of the year are born, a girl and a boy.

February sees the lambing in full swing, with most of the pet ewes having lambs this month. We sadly loose Panda, the first sheep I called my own. Pip continues her life mission to be the cutest thing on the planet.

In March I turn sixteen and get a new mobile with working Internet. I have my first go at looking after Guinea Pigs. Let's just say it doesn't end well. *Cough, cough*

April arrives and a friend of mine comes for a visit, as does Cousin Sue near the end of the month. We celebrate Easter with some straw and cuddly toys on a sunny afternoon. The lambing is coming along well.

May sees great upheaval inside the dog pack - Kim moves to a new home and she and Sheila turn five. Lambing is slowly drawing to a close and we enjoy the sunny weather while it lasts. I visit the Balmoral Show.

June brings with it the end of High School and some GCSE exams to boot. Green Dog TV also makes its debut on YouTube. The sheep are clipped. Lambing is pretty much finished, but some pets remain in housing.

The summer holidays begin in July. The first short fiction story is published and happens to be three posts long! I test the dogs and Sheila and Pip turn out to be smarter than Ben - no surprises there. I go to both the Sheep Event and the Castlewellan Show. Round baling begins. Pip also starts work as a trainee sheepdog.

The baling ends in August and I go to Belfast Zoo. I finally get my GCSE results (2 A*, 2 A, 6 B and 1 C) and manage to get a place in a photography course which will last two years. Pip celebrates her first birthday. The pack gains a new member and returns to six with the arrival of puppy Teddy.

September sees the beginning of my photography course. I go to the Seaforde rally and meet up with the Kinelarty dogs. We say a sad goodbye to Cousin Sue, R.I.P. Pip celebrates her first Gotcha Day. Teddy has already learned to pose like a pro.

October is a big month for my photography as I become the proud owner of my first DSLR.

In November not very much happens, to be honest, but I do manage to get this photo of the family.

December sees the birth of the first lamb, Ben's first birthday, Teddy's first Christmas and one very muddy puppy. But no snow.

And we just know that
is going to be brilliant.

So thanks for the support this year, and my you all have a happy new one!

PS: New Year's Day is also when I celebrate a certain collie's birthday, so happy nineteenth birthday to Fly!

And finally, it's the last blog hop of 2011...


Smooth as a Mercedes (Sort Of)

The first lamb has arrived - meet Merc.

He was born on the 28th in a field which meant that the poor fellow was quite cold when we got to him.

This year, I thought it would be fun to name lambs after cars, and so Merc is named after the Mercedes brand, because of their smooth running and luxury reputation. When I opened the gate to Merc's field in order for Dad to drive through with the tractor, Merc was doing a lot of falling over. "He's just fallen over, hasn't he?" I asked when I returned to the tractor.

"Yes. Yes, he did," my Dad replied.

And he fell over a lot, because he has the hugest legs and they're long as well. He was trying to walk, bless him. So I decreed him to be bumbling, and so he's called Merc because he's not as smooth as a Mercedes.

Merc's mum is none other than Old Tilly.

She's a quiet girl and doesn't mind the camera very much at all.

In fact, Merc was so bumbling that he couldn't even find the teat, so he had to have some help with that. But he did get there in the end, and now he's drinking away.

One down, many more to go.

Have a Very Muddy Christmas

Not everyone has a lazy Christmas in front of a crackling fire. Some people (emergency services and hospital workers being a good example) have to trudge on regardless. Another group of people who simply don't stop are farmers.

Christmas morning for us was spent feeding the sheep.

The ground is muddy because it's so saturated. The poor sheep.

Flock by flock, the sheep are going to start coming inside again, ready for lambing in the New Year. Standing there in the mud, drizzle and high winds, the sheep looked miserable.

We really have to get them inside.

When the silage came, they were happy!

One ewe even tried a new hair-do.

And Sheila came along for the ride when we checked the sheep at home.

We had a very muddy Christmas, but the dinner was great!

Green Dog TV - Pip at Work

I know I should probably be showing you what we all got up to on Christmas Day, but Boxing Day was way more productive - I promised you a video of Pip working and I give you the 'Pip at Work' video! You'll get to see Pip and I gather a flock and you'll also see her attack the quad a little bit (much better than she was before I hasten to add). So sit back and relax, and have a little look at 'Pip at Work'...

With thanks to Dad the cameraman.

Christmas Calling!

It's Christmas Eve, but what's that we hear?

It's Christmas!

As the dogs have just said,
Merry Christmas, Everyone!

(And bonus points to anyone who can guess the magazine whose cover I've based the Christmas Calling drawing on. I'll give you a clue - everyone wants a copy of it at Christmas so they're well prepared. Any ideas?)

Snow, Sheep and Sunsets

It was around this time last year when I, dad and Kim were moving the now heavily pregnant ewes around. This year, with Kim off to a new home, it's down to Pip to move them. When rounding up ewes which are in lamb, it's important to take them slowly so that they don't get injured or too panicked for the safety of the unborn lambs.

Pip's almost gotten over her quad-attack phase now, only relapsing when she gets a bit over-excited.

We arrive at the field, tractor and trailer ready to go, quad ready to leave the confines of the trailer, Pip already riled up, ready to go too... and it starts to snow. All three of us are left to sit and wait in the trailer. I'm on the quad, dad's leaning on the front with both elbows, warming his chilled hands. Pip's running in and out of the trailer, in of snow, out of snow. The snow, by the way, has now turned into a blizzard. The 'windows' on the sides of the trailer are no good against the elements, and the snow's beating in. Pip won't be able to wait much longer, now that she's standing and watching the sheep from the ramp.

You might be able to see the flakes there. You can without a doubt see that the snow isn't lying and creating a winter wonderland. The rain had been coming down by the bucketload during the week, so the ground was too wet. The tyres create muddy tracks in the ground and there are a few flooded fields. In the town, however, the snow does lie and for about an hour, it almost looks like a Christmas card. Almost.

After a good twenty minutes, the snow does die down a little. It's quad time! And some day I must take my camera with me and take some photos of the actual sheepdogging, since that's what this blog is meant to be about and I for feel like I'm cheating myself from some photos, so you lot probably feel cheated too.

Anyway, back to the job at hand and the sheep are safely gathered in.

By now the snow has stopped and it doesn't make an appearance for the rest of the morning. Which is handy.

Dad reverses the tractor and trailer into position while I hold onto Pip, in case she does something silly. When he's in position, the sheep are herded onto the trailer by Pip who does an astounding job for such a novice. She makes sure that none run backwards. This is also the point, as they go onto the trailer, where things can get a little too rough. As was the case here and I had to tell Pip to slow down a little as all of the sheep tried to fit into the trailer which could only hold about sixteen. Some would run back and the ones on the trailer are closed in, ready for transit.

We weren't going to bring them home so they only move down the road. Pip and I wait in the field with the sheep for him to return for another trailer full of sheep. To entertain myself, I take some pictures of the sheep.

I haven't taken pictures of the sheep in a good while, so it was nice to see them close up again. This black one was nice to photograph.

And what's this? Oh, it's Pip. She always wants to be the centre of attention.

It was when the last of the ewes were loaded onto the trailer that dad spotted one close to lambing. She had to come home with us, bless her, so we can keep an eye on her.

And this is where the sheep moved to. Not a bad change of scenery in my opinion.

Evening came, and Teddy looked a bit cross because he missed out on all of the fun.

Oh... you didn't dig up all of that mud, Ted! (Look at the evidence on his nose. He he!)

The evidence was mostly gone before I took a photo of him in front of the sunset.

The people on TV are saying that we won't have a white Christmas this year, just a wet one. Ah well, at least that means it's warmer.

 And if you don't make it back before the big day, Merry Christmas!


Teddy: Frost is cold.

And yet Mum made me sit in it so that she and Stay could do their photo thing.

But I wasn't the only one to suffer. They made Uncle Ben and Auntie Pip sit in it too.

But then Auntie Pip got all rebellious and refused to sit in the frosty grass.

But I'm a good dog so I sat down again.

You may be wondering why I have a muddy nose. Turns out even frozen puddles have mud in them too.

There was a tree stump with mushrooms on it. Stay came over to have a closer look.

Uncle Ben was confused.

But then he's always confused.

Pip Helps Out

Pip: Stay isn't very good at getting ready for Christmas. He's (it's a he now. He just looks like a he) got no arms or paws to speak of, no oppose-able thumbs to plug in the Christmas lights. I on the other hand have a very important part to play. I have to make sure that the tree goes in the right place.

The humans had this silly idea this year for putting the tree in another room. I told them to stop being so silly and to leave the tree as is. It's not too difficult, is it?

I'm now watching proceedings as Mum plugs in those Christmas lights with those handy oppose-able thumbs of hers. The tree itself is in exactly the right place, in front of a window for all to see come the darkness of night time. At least, I hope they see it. We are quite far away from the road, but I'm sure the humans will stop their cars on the busy main road to gape at our marvellous tree.

Stay clicks at me as Mum flicks the switch. Oh look, here come the lights...

Mum, I and Stay all watch as the grey tree blends into different shades of grey, flickering as they go. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to see in colour. Must be nice. Mum squeals something about 'circles' and 'bokeh' and then Stay clicks again.

I am the self-employed tree inspector, so I have a closer look at their handiwork.

Yes, this tree looks to be in working order. Something about 'Fido Optics' makes the tree work. Of course I knew that. I'm the tree inspector. Mum and Stay try a few ideas for pictures with the lights off. None of them work and Mum gets up off the floor and walks over to the light switch. While she is doing this, I make a B-line for the unguarded box of doggy treats. I use a paw to tip them over, but none fall out, so I stare at it with distaste until Mum gets back.

Now that the lights are on, Mum says she has a better chance at getting a photo of me with the tree.

"Hey, Pip, over here," she says, pointing to a part of the floor. I move into position like the good dog I am. "Over here." I move again. "There, Pip." Yet again and with growing boredom, I move to the allocated area. "Ah, that's a good girl."

Stay has been clicking the whole time, but he soon stops when Mum's happy. And I get treats, so I'm happy too. Before we leave for a torch-lit walk, Mum turns off the lights again so we can see what the tree looks like.

I think humans will stop their cars to see that, don't you?