Today’s big excursion was to Lambtown in Dixon, CA. This is either my 3rd or 4th trip and each time I’ve mostly or entirely missed the sheepdogs in action due to the event finishing far earlier than scheduled. I hustled the morning errands and arrived at about 11:20am (30 minutes earlier than last time) and headed straight for the arena. This year the dog trials were scheduled to run until 3pm (in previous years, they were scheduled to end at noon; don’t know why they were longer today) so I actually got to watch them for more than an hour before I wandered off to see other stuff.

I’m fascinated by what the dogs do. The sheep handler at one end of the field releases 3 sheep, then the owner/trainer signals with voice and/or whistles and/or hand signals, the dog runs fast, walks, creeps forward, or lies down in order to drive the sheep the length of the arena and through, around, and into obstacles, and the sheep do their best to get away from the dog. The sheep seem to ignore the human on the field and if one gets separated from the other two, it really works to get back together with its buddies. All the herding has to take place within a certain time limit; I think 15 minutes.

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Some sheep were far more cooperative than others. I have to say all the dogs struck me as competent and professional although some failed at their task due to a sheep’s non-professionalism. During one trial, one sheep separated from its buddies and came up to the stands. Even though I was sitting a few rows back, I have to say I really felt scrutinized, like “hey, what are all you people looking at?”. Eventually, a second dog had to be called in and the two together rounded the sheep back into a group and drove them to the sheep pen at the other end of the field, although the handler there had to release a good chunk of the flock to essentially take the 3 into the larger group, then the whole herd went where they were supposed to go. Judging from the “uh-oh”s in the stands, I wasn’t the only one wondering whether we were having some sort of sheep mutiny.

After all the herding, the dog is rewarded with a lovely bath to cool off, which they all seemed to enjoy. The sheepdog finals are tomorrow, for any of you who are going.

I watched the spinners and weavers at the Sheep to Shawl competition and was impressed as always. It’s amazing a group can turn out a shawl in a few hours. I do wish I could spin with a group like that, but my hands were sweaty just standing around; there’s no way I could spin well at any kind of an outdoor fair. I could, however, shop, and here’s today’s loot:

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The large sack contains 12 ounces of California Variegated Mutant in a medium gray (color rather washed out in the photo) with a purple strand of Firestar running through it, from Morro Fleece Works. The Medusa-like bundle is 4 ounces of 95% Romney and 5% alpaca in the longest rolags I’ve ever seen. I can’t remember the vendor name — if you know, let me know, please! [added 10/12: it’s Aunt Janet’s Fiber Mill; thank you, fellow Raveler!] The rolags are around 30 inches long each. I’ve never spun from a rolag so this will be a new spinning adventure for me. The yarn is 80% superwash merino and 20% nylon in a subtle dark blue and green blend called “Fishing in the shadows” from Duren DyeWorks. I have no immediate plans for any of it yet.

The disappointment: no fiber animals to be found. Last time I went, there were alpacas and llamas and rabbits and many different breeds of sheep. This year, no. Just the one breed of sheep, and they were either in the sheepdog arena or the shearing pens so you couldn’t walk up to them to see them. Also, the events schedule is goofy. It lists times but not where anything’s taking place. Fortunately, the fairgrounds are small and it’s easy to walk the whole thing to find what you’re looking for.

The plan for the rest of tonight: to loll and allow the fan to do its work. It was warm today and is still 85 degrees in the apartment, too hot to sleep.

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