Tuesday, 10 October 2017

September Swangsong

September has been my last month in Germany. And what a bitter sweet time it has been.

On the one hand I can celebrate all I have experienced and learnt with friends who have visited. On the other hand I have to say good bye to a life that I have loved and say farewell to people that I have loved sharing my great adventure with.

Nonetheless, I have to close this chapter of my life. And I have to begin a new one with sheep and dogs in Australia.

I hope that you have enjoyed my blog. And I sincerely hope that you have learnt to appreciate the sheep and the dogs and the way of life of the traditional German shepherd.

I am currently fondly reviewing photos and videos. Here are some of the recent ones.

This should have been in an earlier blog

This is from one of Richie's last flights

The car pass to end all car passes

At the Bundesleistungshuten - the German National German Shepherd Dog Herding Competition

Our final dinner before I left

The Bear man's last day with his flock......he is now safe at home waiting for me to arrive back in a couple of days.

Guest Contributor 5

Let me introduce you to my final Guest Contributor, my Australian friend Karen.
Karen's claim to fame is that she is the owner of Kyra, the mother of Bear. Like me, and also Pat, Karen is a GSD owner of many years who has become addicted the thrills and spills(!) of traditional herding with our dogs.

What experience did I take away from Germany...

Well I would have to say the 3 main things that sticks out in my mind are...

1. How warm and welcoming the people are...
2. How wonderful the food is....
3. I CAN NOT over state how Obedient the dogs are....

I personally want to thank Alexa making this trip possible. Not only going the extra miles in driving me around (Kermit rules), to the beautiful apartment I stayed in but also introducing me to such a wonderful experience, introducing me to Georg and his lovely family and friends.

Just saying "Thank You" to Georg does not seem enough to cover the gratitude I feel. Also the ability to learn and study Georg's magnificent 8 Dog Team and he's 500 flock of sheep...WOW!!!!
The experience of watching 500 sheep being worked by two and three German Shepherds is a priceless experience. The knowledge and experience passed on to us from Georg will enrich my own training back in Australia.
Also the welcoming kindness from George's family, his beautiful wife Margot and his family Susanne, plus their charming friends.

I also met a lovely lady Pat, who also has German Shepherds, from the UK. We all had a brilliant time for 3 days watching the German Shepherd Sheep Herding Nationals (BLH) and we enjoyed experiencing the German hospitality...all I can say is...2 Australians and a Pom walked into a pub....LOL

I am extremely looking forward to going back to my farm, to begin a new chapter of sheep herding......

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Wandering Shepherd 4

Moving the Sheep

I love moving the sheep. It can be calm and slow or fast and hectic. This depends both on the nature of the move and the will of the sheep. Sometimes they do push the limits.

So, we can be moving just across the way, or across a busy road that needs to be navigated carefully. Dogs can push sheep into the traffic or sheep can lead dogs into the traffic. It requires skill and preparation. You have to organise the flock and know before you start how you are going to handle their movement. It is not an occasion to "wing it".

One problem is that the roads curve and visibility is not always great, so Georg has been able to use my help to stand and stop the traffic on the most vulnerable side.

Here the sheep leave the road at Magerkingen and climb up to cross the railway crossing.

Travelling the back way into Magerkingen
Not the same railway crossing, but the same line

Moving the sheep along forest trails on the other hand is a leisurely delight. Bear loves moving the sheep. It has immediate purpose and I think it appeals to the bossy side of his character.

Preparing to move on
Bear moving sheep along a country road

Young Lambs

While we have been up here lambs have been born. They can either be born during the grazing day or overnight in the pens. Usually it goes smoothly but there can be times when Georg needs to give the ewe a hand. Normally Georg will take the twins and triplets home to the barn in his trailer. The single lambs and their mothers go into a nursery pen until the lambs are strong enough to travel with the flock. Usually a few weeks.

This is what you can find when you arrive in the morning.

A temporary pen alongside the main pen

Nursery pen

Looking after the stock

Naturally care of animals and their health is an ongoing job. The main tasks are foot care; thorns being picked up by the sheep grazing among thorny bushes and foot infections due to the wet soil.
As well there is the usual parasite prevention needed.
Georg uses the old shepherd skill of catching a sheep with his Schippe (crook) to look after the feet or to check on a sheep's condition. For the parasite and foot infections he sets up temporary yards and, often with help, he will treat the whole flock.

This guy knows what he is doing
This guy doesn't

On this occasion the Vet helped with injections

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Guest Contributor 4

Below is my English friend Pat. Pat and I first met at the national German GSD herding competition, the Bundesleistungshuten, in 2010. We bonded over our love of GSDs and the German style of herding.
So far we have always met in Germany at the BLH but this year Pat was able to come and visit. And talk with me about dogs and sheep. Bliss.

Pat stayed a week with me. Coming out to the sheep each day, speaking to Georg (in German) and spending the weekend once again at the BLH before heading back to her own dogs and sheep.

.........Standing at the edge of the Graze (grazing area) I feel as if I am accompanied by shepherd dogs past and present.

These beautiful old mountains evoke nostalgic thoughts, stories and memories of Shepherds and flocks and dogs that have gone before.

The attentive watchfulness of the Schafer and Hunde is constant.

Everything beats to the sound of grazing sheep as they move end to end (of the Graze) and back again.

This is work, natural and efficient. The clearance of undergrowth and grass, stubble and brush is sensitive to the care of the land, flora and fauna.

The paths beaten by the dogs at the edge of the flock are directed and defined by the Shepherd and found by the dogs. Every paw placed has a purpose.

Thank you Alexa. Thank you MeisterSchafer Krieg.

It has been wonderful to be part of Bear's great adventure and to see first hand his super work at the flock.

Bear, Yukon, Zambo, Zora and Dana look on as X works

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Guest Contributor 3

Let me introduce my third guest contributor - my dear friend Miriam. Miriam and her partner Graeme have just spent five days with  me. 
Fortunately, due to Bear's recent Excellent performance, I was able to take some time off. We had a splendid time exploring the region and several of its historic towns.

Section 1  The Dogs

When Alexa and I haven't seen each other for a while we have lunch. Or dinner. Indeed, even when we have seen each other quite recently. But not in Baden-Wurttembuerg. Instead we (Graeme and I) deplaned at Stuttgart and were rushed to Germany's premier German Shepherd Dog Show at Ulm. What an eye opener. Never have I heard so many languages at a dog event....truly international.

And never have I seen so many German Shepherd dogs in one spot

Nor have I seen officials so splendidly turned out as the SV Herding Commissioner Herr Jurgen Henzler

The secret to the good form of the dogs is their regular work with weights

And what about these arm protectors used in training dogs to act tough-with restraint!!

But we know that GSDs are all soft inside. Check out their fluffy dice.

Section 2  The Church

Alexa and Graeme were exhausted by the dog show engagement and planned to quit Ulm without viewing the Ulm Munster. They chose to sit in the car and snooze while I visited this magnificent Gothic cathedral. Commenced in 1377 and completed over 5 centuries..with some later stained glass window additions, it was the tallest church in the world until the completion of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. And after I entered the church, an organist limbered up on the pipe organ...then moved into the second movement of Bach's Orchestral Suite No3 in D Major..
This is what Alexa and Graeme missed.

Section 3   Town

We abandoned the country for the town on two occasions.

Courtesy of Reinhold, Alexa's language tutor, one Saturday we journeyed south towards Switzerland and through ridiculously picturesque valleys.
That is Reinhold in the orange jacket. Graeme with the beard and Alexa. I am the 37 year old enigma playing Dorothea Lange behind the camera.

First major stop was Wangen im Allgau, a medieval city that operated as a free and imperial (self ruling) city from the 13th century, a status that was secured by the establishment of Fidelis bakery in 1505, which business has continued to this day.

Take time to watch this video of the fountain - gold standard example of medieval humour.

Second major stop was Meersburg on the shores of Lake Konstanz, home of the famous Bodensee vineyards. We recommend Bodensee Riesling. And German Beer.

Across the waters on a clear day one can see Switzerland's Konstanz, where the Rhine flows into the lake, and beyond that, the Alps. It was not a clear day.

But we did enjoy a visit to the UNESCO world heritage site where the Stone Age remains of one of 11 (or is it 9?) pile dwelling settlements around Lake Konstanz are brought to life with a fine reconstruction.

The final cultural enrichment of the day was a typewriter exhibition in a display window of our carpark. 

Note to Wilson Parking: time to lift your game.

Our other town day trip was a trip to Tubingen, home to Germany's second oldest university, located on the Neckar river.

Entrance to the old town is across the Neckar Bridge, with flowers cascading down lamposts and the bridge. We ambled across through a cloud of alyssum fragrance.

Tubingen is another exquisite  medieval town of Catholic origin that was overtaken by the Reformation. We took our touristic responsibilities seriously and engaged a guide. Good move. Elizabeth beguiled us with her erudition, gently imparted. 

And she took us to a 5 star cheap eat - the Lebanese Kichererbse, with outstanding falafel and uber cooll. The original owner Mieciu Langer - what a story.

Section 4   Food

Having seen the local freshly smoked trout in an earlier blog from Alexa, a visit to the fish man was high on my priority list. From pond to plate in one day. Perfection.

And a surprising delicacy was leberkase, with finely fried onions and the first pretzel I have ever enjoyed. Fresh out of the oven, a pleasing salty crispness on the outside, soft inside. Courtesy of Fidelis baker in Wangen im Allgau, established 1505. 
Thank you Reinhold for the introduction

Local tomatoes and basil. Here is only one third of the bounty bestowed on us by Reinhold from his garden.
Who knows who ate all the tomatoes in four days? I only ate 30 myself.

Alexa Cooks
Alexa Cooks

Thanks to Reinhold for the recipe. Thanks to Alexa for outstanding culinary performance.
Exceptional place Germany. Collingwood pasta.

Section 5   Country

More bucolic scenes from the Schwabische Alb....with some underlying serious environmental issues.

That corn as high as an elephant's eye is planted extensively through the Alb. It is used for animal winter fodder...and biofuel.

A closer scrutiny of the sunflowers shows this is not the usual crop to be harvested. Instead it is a EU initiative to counteract the loss of farmland biodiversity and to conserve pollinators. Hence the planting of a diversity of flowers, which will die down over the autumn and be replanted in the spring.

Bear appreciates it all on his morning walks.

Section 6   Shepherding

What a day Graeme and I spent on the mountain with Georg and Alexa shepherding. Soaring blue skies...no wind...sheep at our feet...deck chairs and grapes provided by Georg who rightly judged us as spectators, not workers.

Alexa has provided numerous photos and commentary on the art of shepherding. Here are some of the examples on the art of the master and apprentice, an exceptional thing to see.

Bravo Georg, brava Alexa, bravo Bear