Friday, September 30, 2011

Flyball Training Series: Building a Box Turn

(As a precurser to this post, I will once again appeal to people on Facebook to go "like" Koira's picture. Only a few hours left in the contest and Koira is three votes behind. Just click on the link and "like" her picture!)

I realized it has been way too long since I last posted part of my Flyball Training Series. If you missed Part 1: What makes a flyball dog or Part 2: Jumps, drills, motivation, and direction, you can go back to read those and catch up.

At this point, you have found a number of things that fully motivate your dog. I prefer tugging as motivation, but you can use anything.

You have also determined which direction your dog turns easiest (remember, turn direction is always referred to as the dog's directions). Both of my dogs turn to the left.

You may have also trained the touch-stick behavior, which will be helpful with this next step.

To start building a box turn, first, you need to know what your end goal is. A good box turn has a number of elements that should all be present. In order, the dog should take off for the box, land high with his front feet, followed immediately by his back feet, with head positioned low and near the ball hole, catch the ball as it is triggered, push off from the box strongly, and land in the lane, facing back toward the handler. The dog's body position on the box is very important. You want the dog landing horizontal on the box, not at an angle or vertical. All four feet need to land on the box, and the back feet need to be high up to maintain proper positioning, not down low. You want each foot to hit the box only once, then push off strongly.

Pallo, showing proper horizontal box positioning

This sounds complicated. It is, sort of. The box turn is the hardest part of training flyball for most people and dogs. But, when trained properly, a good box turn shouldn't be that hard to achieve.

There are probably as many methods for training a box turn as there are for training any other complicated maneuver in any sport. I'm going to share what I know of each method, letting you know which I use (or used, as Koira was originally trained differently), and what I see as the pluses and minuses of each.

A good first step for training any method of a box turn is an over-and-back. Using a touch stick (or a motivator held in your hand), have a helper hold the dog on one side of the jump. Stand right next to the side of the jump your dog should be turning toward (I stand on the left, because my dogs turn left). Reach over the jump, have the helper release the dog, and use your hand/touch stick/motivator to lead the dog over the jump, then quickly back to the side it started.

 You want the dog to land-turn-return all in one smooth motion. It will take a few tries to get that smooth motion. This is duplicating the body motions the dog will be using once on the box, working the same muscles.  It is a great starting point for any of the methods for training a box turn. (Koira did not start out doing over-and-backs, but Pallo did. I have since taught them to Koira, and work both dogs with them occasionally, just for fun.)

Once your dog is doing over-and-backs smoothly, you can place a turning board on the ground in the area the dog lands. A turning board is just a piece of plywood or similar, covered with the same type of matting found on a flyball box. Some dogs don't like stepping on a new surface, so it helps to get them used to it flat on the ground first.

I have used three methods for teaching a box turn. I recommend using two of them.

Method One (the not recommended method):
(This is the method Koira was originally trained with. It gave poor results, and I am still trying to fix her turn. I am sharing it so you know what NOT to do. Some classes still use this method. I didn't know any better when I started training Koira. I'm hoping by sharing this, it will help someone else avoid the years of retraining I have spent on my dog.)

Start off to the side of the box. Load a ball in the box. With the dog on a lead, run quickly toward the box, using your leg/knee to encourage the dog to place feet onto the box and grab the ball. Once the dog is regularly stepping onto the box without too much encouragement from your knee, add in a cone in the center of the box. With the dog on a lead, encourage your dog to circle the cone, placing feet on the box and grabbing the ball. Start wide, then gradually straighten as the dog gets the picture. You can also add a jump of some kind along with the cone, to encourage the dog to jump onto and off of the box. Some people who train with this method will teach a go-out on the flat, training the dog to circle the cone and return (we didn't).

This method of training is unreliable. It trains a wide, sloppy, slow, and low turn. (If you have questions as to why and how, feel free to ask and I will clarify.)

Koira, with her front feet badly placed on the box, demonstrating a low, wide, slow turn (this is a turn to the right, she now turns left, I changed it as part of our retraining process.)

In any case, why don't we return to what you SHOULD do?

Method Two: 
(This is the method Pallo was trained with.)

Move your jump for the over-and-backs closer to a wall, and place the turning board between the jump and the wall. Using a 2x4, multiple 2x4s, or other sturdy blocks, slowly put the turning board at a low angle against the wall. (You can easily practice this part at home, even without owning a box.) Continue doing over-and-backs like this, until the dog is comfortable with the landing side being slanted. Place both jump and turning board in front of your box. Use the box to prop up the training board at increasing angles. Maintain your criteria for a good, fast, four footed turn with all four feet crossing the jump, landing, then returning smoothly. Over time, you will increase the angle of the turning board until it is the same as the angle of the front of the box, at which point you will move the jump in front of the box and take the turning board out.

Once you have a good turn, you add in the ball. It can be added in earlier, on velcro on the turning board, if you want. We normally will jam the box at first so that it doesn't fire at full speed, then let it fire faster once the dog is comfortable and grabbing the ball.

Method Three: 
(I haven't used this method much, but want to try it some more. It comes highly recommended by some top teams.)

A touch stick behavior is required for this.

After doing over-and-backs, take the jump out of the way. Have you dog stand against the wall, placing the front feet up on the wall. Mark the wall with a tape line at the dog's elbow height. Use the touch stick to encourage the dog to bounce off the wall above the line.

 If the dog just puts up their front feet, move the stick higher or have someone hold the dog back, to get a running start. Have the dog jump up, then whip the stick away straight out. Reward the dog after every turn. Change the positioning of the stick on the wall (higher, lower, farther to one side or the other) to adjust the dog's body position on the wall so that they are bouncing horizontally off the wall above the line.

Doing the opposite of the above method, where you slowly ramp up the angle, you put in a ramp in front of the wall and slowly ramp down the angle before replacing it with the flyball box.

This is supposed to train a very high, straight, fast turn with no lagging, double hitting, or hang time.

Method Four:

I have also used an additional method, similar to Method Two above, but using a specially built adjustable ramp that I made. It is made to be used with a snub-nosed box, like the one I own, and I have found it a really nice way to teach a good box turn. But, since most people don't use snub-nosed boxes, its a little bit silly to share it in detail.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If anyone is on Facebook...

You could, if you are on Facebook, go over to Flyball Today and "like" the picture of Koira. If she gets enough likes, her picture will be the face of Flyball Today for the month of October. Which would make me happy.

Click this to go straight to the picture of Koira, which is awesome.

(Votes will be counted at the end of the month, which is Friday, so get your vote in before that please!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday meal planning

Well, its Monday again, meaning a great time for some meal planning. I have been looking in my cupboards, fridge, and freezer, complaining to myself that there is nothing to eat. But, since there is plenty of stuff in there, I think the problem is just that I need to get organized, plan some meals from what is in the cupboard, and plan a shopping trip specifically for items to go with what I already have.

Breakfasts: Toast w/ apple butter, bagel thins with fried egg and sausage, toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
I made the apple butter last week, and have more cooking in the crock pot right now. I have half a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jam, bagel thins, eggs, and sausage (though I need to take some sausage out of the freezer to thaw out some)

Lunchs: Pad Thai w/ cashews and veggies, tater tots w/ cheese and ranch, tuna w/ crackers
I already have cashews, various frozen veggies, tater tots, tuna, yogurt, pickles, crackers, and cheese.

Dinners: Crock pot pork roast (preseasoned), pasta w/ veggies, grilled cheese sandwich w/ baked beans, acorn squash/sausage/veggie quiche
The roast is in the freezer and needs to be used, I have plenty of pasta and frozen veggies, and have the bread, cheese, and baked beans. Also have some leftover acorn squash needing to be used.

Other cooking plans: In addition to meals, I am also trying to preserve plenty of the fresh fall produce for use later in the year. I am making a second batch of apple butter right now in the crock pot (skin, core, chop apples, put in crock pot on low 8 hours, smash, add spices and sugar, cook another 6-8 hours). This second batch of apple butter is going to be a spicy batch, with Thai chilis added in (yeah, those are the ones rated as the second hottest chili in the world).

I also have the dehydrator going. I already did blackberries and raspberries. Yams were on sale, so I did a few of those as dog treats (Koira loves them, Pallo is indifferent). It is currently full of acorn squash (also for dog treats). As soon as the squash is done, I will add in more apples and pears. I already did some, but found another tree in my neighborhood weighed down with apples that I got permission to take, so plan on doing a lot more dried apples, and possibly some more apple butter as well.

Depending on time, I might go pick some more blackberries as well to dry. My freezer is full, so no more frozen berries (picked and froze 2 gallons of raspberries and 3 1/2 gallons of blackberries already), but I like the dehydrated berries in cereal. It started raining yesterday, which means if I want blackberries still this season I better get them today. If the berries are soft, I might even try making fruit leather with them instead of just dehydrating whole berries.

My shopping list (stuff I will need to buy to make the meals I have listed above with the stuff I already have):  Bread (I only have half a loaf, and haven't had bread at all in the past month and a half, so plan on using quite a bit this week); fresh veggies (whatever is on sale or cheap, to compliment what I have frozen); ranch dressing (used the last of it up last week); Pad Thai noodles and seasoning

What the beasts are eating this week:
I picked up a 50 lb case of beef scrap super cheap while in Washington for the flyball tournament (through a raw feeding buying co-op group). I packaged up most of it into gallon ziplocks and put them in the freezer, but ran out of room for all of it. Its great quality meat, mostly really good red meat, a few organs (maybe 2 lbs of liver, and 3 kidneys total in the box), and a little bit of super fatty stuff (I threw away about 3 lbs of pure fat probably). The good stuff that didn't fit in the freezer is what is on the menu this week for feeding.

Koira and Pallo are loving it. Martha eats all the red meat off of any fat or tendon she gets given, but seems to be enjoying it as well. I did pick up a few turkey necks and meaty pork neck bones as well for providing some bone for the week. Between those few boney additions and the leftover meat that didn't fit in the freezer, it should be about a week's worth of food for the beasts.

For more menu planning ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie and StoneGable

Friday, September 23, 2011


I know a lot of dog sport people get tired of all the ribbons. Many people have huge buckets full of ribbons they never look at, and some people just toss them straight into the trash.

I love ribbons. And, the tournament this past weekend gave out some ribbons! So I had to have the dogs pose for some pictures.

They are both wearing their red flyball collars (a collar with a loop handle on it) for the pictures. 

This ribbon is technically Pallo's, for his team coming in second in their division. Koira's team came in fourth, so got single ribbons instead of rosettes. But she ran amazing, and deserved a rosette picture.

Pallo was super confused at this posing-for-a-picture in the back yard. We rarely take photos in the yard.

And, of course, enjoy the Saturday blog hop!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Long Lost Sisters?

This dog is a fellow flyball competitor. She is 6 years old and a pit/lab/rott mix. The tri-color markings have to have come from her pit bull inheritance. She is from the same city as Koira. Both of them had a brindle pit bull as a father. Tri-color genes in pit bulls aren't that common, and the dark tri is less common than the dilute tri (grey, light tan, white). What are the chances? (They also both have identical white spots on the backs of their necks, but after a long weekend of flyball, neither wanted to cooperate for a better photo session.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

What an awesome weekend!

We had an awesome time at the X-Fidos The Ball Is Out There tournament!

Highlights of this weekend's flyball tournament include:

  • Pallo measuring under 14" on Sunday, giving us a 8" jump height
  • Koira running clean all day Saturday, proving herself to be a reliable flyball dog
  • Pallo not dropping his ball early at all, all day Saturday
  • Koira earning her 500 point Flyball Dog Champion title on Saturday
  • Koira running start on Sunday
  • Koira's new person best time on Sunday of 4.7 seconds, with 0.2 seconds of start error
  • Pallo running all day Sunday, still with times under 6 seconds even at the end of the day
Lets just say, it was an awesome weekend!

Koira ran with one of our two Regular teams, while Pallo was running with an Open team. It was my first experience running two dogs full time at a tournament. It was pretty hectic, but I felt like I had gotten the hang of it by Sunday. Plus it helped that our wonderful team leader set up the lineups carefully, giving Koira her races to sit out and rest on those that were close to Pallo having to run with Open. And, my friend Brit came along for the weekend despite having never been to flyball before and helped out by holding one or the other dog while I ran the other, then giving them water and putting them back in their crate until I was done with the other race and able to cool out the dogs.

As much fun as the tournament was (and it was, a ton of fun, with not only an awesome potluck, as per normal, but also a great dinner-and-wine get-together in our crating area Saturday evening), there were of course things that need some more work or didn't go quite right.

I realized that we needed more work with some of the following:
  • Koira's turn, which started out good but degraded fast
  • Pallo, who needs to know that carrying the ball all the way back is a required part of flyball
  • My starts (which I can't really work except at the next tournament, since we don't have lights)
  • Koira's passing
  • Pallo being passed into (close passes currently encourage him to drop his ball)
I am looking forward to practicing these skills over the next month, then seeing how far we've come by our October tournament, only a little over a month away right now!

*The pictures on the grass are from a demo last weekend, as we were running indoors, on dirt, in poor lighting this weekend and I didn't get many good pictures. Thank you to David for getting the picture of Koira at the tournament (she fumbled the ball and was going after it, she still ran a 4.2 that time, even with the fumble!).

Friday, September 16, 2011

We're Off!

Me and the dogs are taking off early tomorrow morning and driving up to our tournament. At a 3 hour drive and needing to be there by 7am, it'll be a really early morning. But, the dogs have been resting all day today and will probably sleep in the car on the drive up.

So, what do you need to take along when heading off to a tournament? I always make a list so I don't forget anything. The list is split into two columns, labeled Dogs and Human.

Here is my Dog Gear list of stuff to pack (we are staying one night):

  • 2 collars
  • 2 leashes
  • 3 flyball collars (need a spare, just in case)
  • 2 coursing slips
  • 2 pair of skid boots (I made Koira a second pair, just in case I lose or destroy one pair)
  • 2 tugs
  • 2 sheepskin tugs (new, specially made for Pallo)
  • 1 water bowl (the dogs share)
  • 2 chicken quarters (one each for breakfast Sunday morning)
  • 1 roll of poop bags
  • 1 crate cover (because I only got around to making one)
  • 1 crate pad (I only have one...)
  • 2 dog beds (for car, crate, and hotel)
  • 2 crates
  • 1 emergency kit
  • 1 sweatshirt (for Koira, in case it gets cold)
  • 1 towel (for mud control)
Anything you see that is missing? What all do you put on your list when traveling for a tournament, trial, or dog event?

My human list includes the basics, like the clothing I need to pack, as well as various other things. Here is the current list I have of what I need to pack for myself:
  • 2 team t-shirts
  • 1 team sweatshirt
  • 1 red sweatshirt (matches our team colors, just in case the other one gets dirty)
  • 1 light jacket
  • camera
  • video camera
  • batteries
  • battery charger
  • water bottle
  • other drinks (juice, soda, etc)
  • drink mixes
  • 1 chair
  • 1 pillow
  • book
  • CD books (for the car ride)
  • 2 pairs of jeans (in case I get super muddy)
  • 1 pair leggings (in case it gets super cold)
  • 2 pair shoes (again, in case of mud)
  • Pajamas
  • Phone charger
I'm sure there are other things I am forgetting. I have yet another list of food stuff to pack for sharing. Our team always puts together an awesome potluck spread, so I have to make sure I actually pack and bring what I sign up to bring! And I get messed up the morning of, because some things (like stuff for in the cooler) can't be packed until the morning, and I don't really do my best at 3:30 am, even with a list to refer to.

I tend to over pack. That may be evidenced in my lists above, or possibly not... But my goal this time is to have one bag for the dogs, one bag for me, one food bag, and one cooler. Plus the crates, dog beds, and chair that don't fit in bags (but those totally don't count). I don't know what I would do if I drove a tiny little car like the 2-door Toyota Tercel I drove when I first got Koira. Find some way to downsize, I guess...

Do you end up taking everything but the kitchen sink along with you, just in case?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Raw Feeding, and a Human Recipe

Yesterday, I received a comment on my menu planning for the week post about what I feed my dogs leading up to a tournament and during the tournament. So I thought it would be a perfect post for Tasty Tuesday. It may not be a treat recipe, but my dogs sure enjoy their "breakfasts" so why not?

First off, I raw feed. More than that, I try to do prey model raw feeding. This basically means taking a bunch of random, easily available parts of various animals and piecing them together in a way that would mimic the diet my dogs would have if given whole raw prey. But, I don't have the space or desire to have a full deer sit in my yard while my dogs eat off of it, hence the prey model "franken-prey" style feeding.

The basic requirements I follow for my dogs are 80% muscle meat, 10% edible bone, 5% liver, 5% other organs. This isn't a daily weighing of each piece, it is an average I try to achieve over time. And, I adjust it based on my dogs own needs. Edible bone helps keep stools solid, so if my guys have soft or mushy stools, they get more bone for a few days. Overall, they probably get closer to 20% bone just for stool management, which is fine. Organs, especially liver, can create soft stools, so those meals are often fed between two bone-heavy meals. But, I never feed bones without meat attached. Meat should always be the basis of a raw diet.

Anyway, back to the specifics leading up to a tournament.

I have two main focuses leading up to a flyball tournament: That my dogs receive enough food to provide them with the energy they need to compete to the fullest extent; That my dogs have firm, formed stools that reduce the likelihood of diarrhea at a tournament, or even worse, in the ring.

So, first in achieving the second of my goals: I feed no organ meats in the week leading up to the tournament. They get organ meats in the week before that, and the week after, and since I strive for a balance over time, it does no harm to them to leave out the organs for a week. My dogs also get plenty of bone in this week, though being careful not to feed enough bone to create "fossil poops" which are hard, crumbly, and white, indicating too much calcium. For the first of my goals, I generally feed my dogs extra starting 2 days before a tournament. Not a lot, not enough to create problems, but a bit of extra.

So, with that in mind, this is my dog's meal plan for this week:

Monday: Chicken quarters w/ glucosamine supplements
Tuesday: Beef roast, handful of blackberries, glucosamine supplements, salmon oil (I do not normally add vegetables or fruits to my dog's food, but had leftover blackberries from making the human recipe below, and the dogs love them.)
Wednesday: Chicken thighs, beef heart, glucosamine
Thursday: Beef heart, salmon trim, glucosamine (salmon is frozen at least a week before feeding to kill the parasite that causes salmon poisoning)
Friday: Chicken quarters, beef roast, glucosamine
Saturday (morning of the tournament, fed at least 2 hours before racing): Chicken quarters
Sunday (second morning of racing, fed at least 2 hours before racing): Chicken quarters

This is a slightly more bone-heavy week than I normally would feed. I don't take the glucosamine supplements with us when we travel unless we will be gone for more than a week, as it needs to stay in the fridge. It is more for joint support in active athletes than anything else, and missing a few days here and there won't hurt them at all. Chicken is the easiest and cheapest edible meat-and-bone to feed. Beef roast was on sale recently, and beef heart is normally cheaper than any other red meat (that is, meat from mammals, including pork). I don't feed pork leading up to tournaments because it can sometimes cause loose stools in my dogs.

During a tournament, I make sure to feed the dogs early so they are not carrying around a huge amount of undigested food while racing. I feed them in the morning at home, and it would cause more problems to switch them to night time feedings for tournaments than it is worth. I do bring along chicken or beef jerky (that I make myself to avoid additions like preservatives) and feed that a little bit at a time throughout the day, including in water if I need to encourage the dogs to drink more. This gives them a bit more energy without causing stool or stomach issues.

Human treat:
The human treat I made yesterday won't be ready for another month. But, I might as well share it now. Blackberry liquor (for those of legal drinking age only please) is super tasty. (No dogs should ever drink alcohol, no matter how much they seem to want to.)

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
2 cups blackberries
vodka (or everclear)

Put 1 cup of blackberries each into a mason jar (I used two jars, you can put it all in one large jar if you want though). In a Pyrex measuring cup, place sugar, add boiling water, then stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour half of the sugar water into each mason jar over the blackberries. Fill the rest of the space in the jar with vodka (or everclear, if you want a stronger solution at the end). Put lids on jars, place jars in a dark, cool area. Once every few days, take out the jar and turn it over. Leave it sealed for at least a month.

After a month, strain out the berries from the alcohol. Put the liquid back in a glass jar (you can use a decorative jar to make it pretty). Some people discard the berries at this point, but you can also use them in any number of recipes, or as a simple ice cream topping.

For a variation, you can use brandy instead of vodka to make a unique flavored brandy. Make sure you like brandy though, first.

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the Menu Monday

I've tried many times to organize my shopping/meals in such a way that I have everything for the week's meals without having to run out to the store again. It never goes quite as planned, but I thought I would give it another shot.

*A note, is that I don't have a kitchen. I have a mini fridge, a microwave, a toaster oven, a hot plate, and a crock pot. I make an effort to cook home made food as often as possible within these limitations. Most of the time I will deliberately cook enough to have 3-4 meals at a time, since I live alone and cooking is a bit of a hassle with my kitchen (oh yeah, don't have a kitchen sink either, and washing dishes in the bathroom sink is a hassle).

What I'll be eating this week for:

Breakfast: Cereal w/ blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or peaches; Fried egg with chard and sausage, served on a toasted bagel thin with cheese.

Lunch: Tuna salad w/ pickles and cheese, served on crackers; leftovers; quesadillas.

Dinner: Hamburgers w/ caramelized Walla Walla Sweet onions; Sloppy Joes; Fajitas; Meat ball sandwiches out of the crock pot.

This weekend is a flyball tournament, and I want to bring a breakfast item to share that includes some of the amazing blackberries I have been picking. Anyone have a good, easy to make blackberry recipe that would be good for breakfast, travel easily, and is easy to eat?

To see some more menu planning ideas for the week, go visit I'm An Organizing Junkie and StoneGable

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We have a winner!

Congratulations to akgphoto. Please contact me at and we can talk about what you want for your prize!

Me and the dogs took off to the beach again this week. A friend of mine had to go out there to see his doctor, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to spend some time on the beach.

Pallo always loves the beach, especially the dead things to roll in.

The pups always have some great games of chase at the beach.

Love this picture of Koira's feet buried in the sand.

Koira gets super excited at the beach.

The weather was awesome, but even in the hour we were on the beach, the fog came rolling in.

I haven't been to this beach in a long time, but its really nice with the dunes, huge open beach area, and dune grass.

The wind picked up by the time we left, making Koira's ears stand up.

After the beach, me and the pups took a bit of a break while my friend went to the doctor, then we went down to the Bayfront for some food. Rogue Brewery has a great, dog friendly outdoor seating area, and their food is pretty darn good too. Overall, a good day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Went to practice tonight, and Koira ran great. No crossing over, not even any looking over. She ran fast, single striding almost the whole time, down and back, held her ball all the way back to me, and was even releasing her tug easily to get ready for her next run. She is looking a lot faster now, and I'm looking forward to seeing what her times are like at the tournament next weekend. She ran with her new coursing slip (pink and purple) and also tried out her new flyball collar, which has a handle and is padded with home-done felting. I also made some skid boots for her and ran her with them tonight, and with as much wear as I see on the leather from just practice, I think the boots are something she really needs.

Pallo ran okay, but with some major ball dropping for no reason I could see. He was even dropping his ball before crossing jump 8, which is way worse than his normal right-on-the-line drops. Didn't need to potty, didn't seem overly tired. Not sure what his issue was. I might need to go back to his teeny tiny tug toys instead of a full length tug with him, because I can't really think of what else to do. Why do problems always appear or get worse right before tournaments?

On the plus side, Pallo is doing very good with his conformation practice. I brought him in during our baby dog class tonight and had a few team members help out with mock-measuring him. He was tense but for the most part did good. He moved his head a bit too much for me, and did his leaning-away from the measuring person thing once, which was annoying but better than normal. And, at least on the home made wicket we used, he measured at 13.5 inches, which means he would jump 8" instead of the 9" he normally measures at. This is my goal with him, because I have been pretty sure for a long time that if he just relaxes while being measured, we can get that good, low measurement. As our conformation instructor reminded me, though, I need to relax about it too...

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post to enter into the Giveaway. And, if you haven't yet done so, you can comment on each post this week for an additional entry into the giveaway, one entry per post.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Berries Galore!

Tasty Tuesday comes to the Flyball Dogs group with nature's abundance of berries this summer!

Kol's Notes
I have been making trips to the park, where I pick blackberries for free, a few times per week. Pallo always helps out, though he eats all the berries he picks himself. I have almost two gallons of blackberries in the freezer right now (even after eating tons of them every day). The park has tons of the Himalayan Blackberries, which are large and juicy. These are the kind most commonly found in stores. But, for those of you who don't know this, Himalayan blackberries in Oregon are a major weed problem. We spend hours and days every year fighting them back out of our yards, and they have nearly wiped out the native wild roses.

Here is my recipe:
Pick lots of blackberries. Eat lots while picking.

To serve: Grab a handful, put in mouth.

To serve as a dog treat: Hand berry to dog. More entertaining, teach dog to pick own berries.

Alternative way to enjoy: Freeze berries, then use in cereal in the morning, or just enjoy with milk (or half and half/cream for a richer taste). Dogs even enjoy the frozen berries as a great cool treat on hot days.

Pallo with one day's haul of blackberries at the park:

On my Sunday trip to Mt Hebo I spent some time picking other wild berries. My dad is just as crazy about wild berries as I am, so when we saw tons of ripe thimble berries as we were driving up the mountain, it was a no-brainer to stop and pick some. Thimble berries don't travel well though, so they are a pick-and-enjoy kind of a fruit. We also picked red huckleberries, which were super prolific this year. I picked some to bring home, even.

Then we hit a jackpot of a blue huckleberry bush, which are not nearly as common as the reds. We picked and picked and picked and finally had to get going, because we could have spent all day there in the woods picking berries.

We also looked for mushrooms while out there, but while we found a few lobster mushrooms, most of what we found was evidence of illegal picking crews coming through, picking all the mushrooms there, and discarding and destroying the ones not pretty enough to sell in stores. Man I hate those crews. We found the place where they must have been washing them in the stream, and found probably 10 pounds of mushrooms crushed and crumbled along the stream, totally wasted, alongside fresh beer cans tossed in the same area, likely by the same idiot pickers.

Anyhow, we then headed up to the top of the mountain. I did my hiding for the search dogs, then we spent time in a huge meadow. I picked wild strawberries (which are teeny tiny and have the best flavor ever), eating most and putting some in the bucket to bring home. I also found wild trailing blackberries. These are murder to have in fields, they crawl along the ground, looped just high enough to catch your ankles and cut you open like razor wire. But man, their berries are the most delicious of any kind of blackberry ever. Not many were ripe (strawberries and blackberries aren't normally ripe together at all), but I got some to add to my wild berry medley, which I brought home, froze, and plan on eating mid-winter on some crepes.

While in the meadow, I had to (of course) take some pictures of the dogs.

This is my new favorite picture of my pups:

Koira thought it was a really hot day, and that shadows taste good for lunch:

Even though this picture is focused on the grass and flowers instead of the dog, I am really liking it. I should almost just say I did it like that on purpose...

Pallo was all squinty all day because of how bright the sun was, and spent a lot of time mouthing random plants (which is how he has gotten sharp grass seeds jammed into the inside of his lips before, requiring antibiotics):

Don't forget to leave a comment to enter in the giveaway for a coursing slip or a bungee leash!

And, because I have received a few comments about this, to find coursing in your area: Using a search engine, good words to use are sighthounds, coursing, lure coursing, gazehounds. All of these will help you locate a club in your area. If that club doesn't offer the CAT, they will likely be able to direct you to the other clubs in the area, or know who or where the CAT is offered locally.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hebo Mountain

I took off with the dogs yesterday to go visit my dad and take a trip up to Hebo Mountain. We camped up there a few years ago and just loved it. There were wild strawberries, service berries, blackberries, blueberries, and more, which we snacked on the whole time we were there. With the weather all funky this year, everything is coming into season late. Even though last time we were up there was in July, this year's September was much the same for vegetation. 

We drove up to the first crest of the mountain and were surprised by the huge number of people up there. Then I noticed a lot of the trucks were labeled "Search and Rescue" while a lot of the people were in official gear. We stopped the car to ask if there was a search going on or just training, and we were told a hunter (it is bow hunting season here) had been lost on the mountain, but had been found.

We kept driving on past all the chaos to the place we had previously camped. My dad ran off to collect some sort of seeds from a plant he saw up there previously and wanted while I started picking wild strawberries in the small meadow. It wasn't long, though, before three search and rescue trucks pulled up nearby. I walked over to see what was happening, and it was some of the people with the dog teams, wanting to do some training drills.

I volunteered to be one of the people to get "lost" for the dogs to find. They were working on scent discrimination, so each of us going to hide carefully unwrapped a piece of sterile gauze and wiped it on ourselves, standing way apart so the wind didn't put multiple scents onto the scent article. Then we walked together up the trail a ways, and when we reached a meadow, we all split off in different directions and went to hide.

I took off to the right, aiming for some trees over there so I could hide in the shade with the dogs until it was our turn to be found.

The view from our hiding spot:

One of the dogs finding a different person went first. We could hear them working the trail, but knew they weren't coming to get us. Since I had the dogs with me, they were using it as a training opportunity for a young dog of theirs to learn to follow the human scent instead of the more interesting dog scent.

While we waited, I took a couple pictures of the pups and our surroundings.
Pallo was bored, and didn't know why we were just laying around in the shade instead of running around exploring.

Koira just took the opportunity to lay down for a nap in the nice cool grass.

Then Koira heard the searchers coming:
They started out from that direction, then passed by us on the main trail.
Then they made what I heard was a really nice corner, following our trail as we took off through the meadow, and came up and found us. 

This is the bloodhound who searched our trail:

She was a total sweetheart.

We did a lot more on the mountain, but this story of helping out some working dogs seemed pretty perfect for a Labor Day post. This Search and Rescue unit got called out for the search, then when they arrived were told the man had already been found. A bit of a waste of the day (if they hadn't stayed around for practice, at least), but as one woman said, any live find is a good find.

Hope everyone else is enjoying their Labor Day weekend, and don't forget to leave a comment to be entered into the Giveaway!