Thursday, 4 November 2010

What have we been up to - Pt 2 Garden

I can't believe it was back in August that Julie started on the long border in our garden. It was hard work for her to clear it out and get ready for planting but once done we had a session with her to choose the plants. Julie brought some books and we spent time looking at the most gorgeous pictures.

The planting is finished including lots of bulbs ready for spring. I say finished but there is one more item to go in the border but we have to wait for that to be delivered. We decided to put a couple of clematis in to grow up the wall and in between those a climbing rose. It's the rose that we have to wait for and it probably won't arrive until sometime in the new year or so. We chose Teasing Georgia Climbing and I can't wait for it to arrive and be planted in the prime spot.

Here are some before and after pictures of the border. We are so looking forward to seeing things grow in the spring and hope that it will look really beautiful instead of the rather muddled mess it was before.

The above two pictures show the border over winter (totally bare) and then in the height of summer, just a mass of overgrown grass type plants with no colour or structure.

Below are pictures of the border now that Julie has finished clearing and planting. It doesn't look much but hopefully we will see a big difference come next year when it all starts to grow.

I love the Autumn for walks, the beautiful colours and cosy nights by the fire but I don't like it for the dark nights and even more so for the leaves that fall. This year the oaks have had a massive crop of acorns and it seems that every acorn in the world has fallen into my agility area. They are a nightmare to clear up and it's back breaking work. That isn't very good for me as my back is very painful at the moment. The two procedures I had back in the summer haven't really worked this time which is very disappointing. Not sure quite where I go from here. I am hoping to start yoga classes so maybe some core strengthening exercises will help me.

The big leaf fall is just beginning and it's ongoing work between now and Christmas to keep on top of the leaves. Sometimes I think we should just leave them until everything has dropped but the trouble is we would be knee deep in leaves if we did that.

Most of the horse-chestnut and chestnut trees are finished and the oak leaves are starting to fall now. The oaks opposite and most of those in our garden/agility area are turning with the exception of the biggest oak which sits over our yard and sheds. That is always the last to come into leaf and the last to drop, it doesn't finish until after Christmas. It must be different species from the others but I'm not sure which. I assume the others are English Oaks but am not knowledgeable enough to identify this one. I should go and take a leaf sample and google it! Anyway, I hate leaves once they fall in case you hadn't realised!

We were very lucky last year in that we had an easterly wind when the main drop came and most of the leaves blew out across the fields. No such luck this year!

We have masses of chores to do outdoors over the winter including: re-roofing one of the sheds as it now looks very tatty sitting next to our new neat border; a new roof across the yard so that things will stay dry and not get covered with tree debris etc; decking to put round the summer house; new sheeting to be erected outside the back door for cover when it's raining; a car port for my little van; new larger-gauge gravel to go on the drive because I am so fed up with the tiny gravel which gets everywhere; mower shed to be racked out; fish pond to be cleared out and fix the filter and so on .....

All good fun and keeps us out of trouble!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Happy Birthday to our beautiful Kizzy

Where has the time gone. Our beautiful little Kizzy is four years old today. Here she is unwrapping her present. It seemed the right thing to give her a proper wrapped present as her biggest thrill is shredding wrapping paper. We love her so much.

Here are some pictures of our 'Princess' doing what she loves best:

Birthday wishes to Kizzy's litter mates: Oz, Zoe and Whizz

Monday, 1 November 2010

What have we been up to - pt 1 Agility Update

It's a while since I've posted on the blog mainly because we've been really busy and partly because I just didn't feel like it! Have been a bit bogged down with our year end accounts which causes me no end of misery as I always leave things to the last minute and then bury my head in the sand and hope it'll go away. It never does and I never learn. Oh well.

Anyway, the agility season is all but over and Autumn is well and truly with us. The clocks went back at the weekend and the horrible dark evenings are with us once more. There is a part of this time of year that I love as it's nice to be cosy by the fire with Christmas coming (and Olympia!!) but I really don't like the dank, dark days.

So with the dark evenings here what better way to spend an hour than catching up with the blog and remembering the last few shows of the year. I think I left off after Lune Valley and the World Tryouts. Quite a few shows between then and now and I can't remember all the details but some highlights are:

Rugby with Zeki getting 3rd in the Crufts singles (also EOQ).

On the lovely walk at Rugby venue with Pops, Zaz ( staying with us at the time) and Zeki

Agility Club
third win towards G7 for Zeki and some good runs from Kizzy with me running her. Here are some fantastic photos of Niamh from this show by Grace and Alex:

Niamh Q'd for Olympia semi-final and had a nearly with Zeki but one pole down. Andy Sandercock judged the large qualifier and it was a really good course, obstacle discrimination and some really tricky bits. Loved it as it gave me a chance! I know some people like to set very fast and relatively easy courses for Olympia Q's as they believe that reflects what you'll get at the finals. They are absolutely entitled to this view but I feel a bit differently. I see Olympia as a prize that should be earned. The style of course at that final is like no other due to the size of the arena and the nature of the event. From a personal viewpoint, I am so much better when I have to really work at a course than just blasting round fast patterns. Anyway, Andy's course certainly suited us!

KC Festival
Zeki got her final win for G7 and then another win the following day. Here she is with her prize, clever beautiful little girl:

DIN - Zeki got into the G6/7 final and was a superstar, such a shame her daft handler pulled her off a jump right at the end, she also got a couple more wins at that show; Andy and Kizzy starting to get back on form with Kizzy coming 5th in the small champ final with clear runs in all three elements; sadly not at all on form with NN at DIN. Here are three videos from DIN and some photos of Niamh and Kizzy:

I absolutely love these photos taken of Kizzy at DIN - she looks so lovely, thank you to Patch Guipago for these super pics!

And a couple of Niamh taken by Grace and Alex. I particularly love the shot with Leah and Herbie where we've been caught without realising having a cuddle (and kiss) with our lovely doglets.

another 3rd place for Zeki in EOQ class and some good runs from NN in prep for the semi finals the following day. I camped over night in my van at Letchworth, here is Niamh getting ready for bed on the new pillow I bought her :o)

Love the above photo as Niamh leaps in the air as she watches Leah and Herbie run. She gets so excited as she always assumes it's pairs when she sees them run!

Fantastic shot of her focused and driving through a tunnel. What a lovely girl and what a great shot (not sure Alex or Grace but thanks anyway!)

Olympia semi-finals, Stoneleigh - I truly didn't think I would get Niamh to Olympia again as the qualifying process is very hard now. We are a good team but there are so many great partnerships out there and rather a lot of them quite a bit quicker than we are! We have consistency on our side and I guess I can handle the pressure of big events having participated in quite a few over the years. So I have to stay focused on the positives and I really did that during my walk at Kenilworth Castle before driving on to Stoneleigh. I gave myself a good talking to and it seemed to work! I had stayed over night at Hill Top Bed & Breakfast in Kenilworth where both my dogs were able to come into the room and I would thoroughly recommend this establishment to anyone with up to a couple of well-behaved doglets. I was treated so well and waited on hand and foot. Such lovely, welcoming and friendly people.

Anyway I digress but it does help to stay somewhere nice where you don't feel under pressure because of your dogs. I know Kenilworth quite well and have often walked in the castle grounds and find it a good way of relaxing before the trauma of the qualifier! Niamh dug up several mole hills and got smothered in mud so I wasn't best pleased at that!!

On to Stoneleigh which is literally five minutes up the road and got parked and organised and then went to watch the novice qualifier. It was quite a tricky course and we saw a lot of E's. I was quite nervous as this was to be our warm up run and I hoped that I could get Niamh round! As it happens the course ran really well with the slightly more experienced dogs, it wasn't as tricky as it had looked from the outside. I decided what I wanted was a clear round with solid contacts, I also found somewhere that I could turn Niamh towards me rather than flick her away even though it was slower to work the combination like this. I have a few issues with her flicking away from me when I want her to turn toward me but more of that in a later training update! Niamh didn't disappoint and ran a lovely clear which boosted my confidence.

Before lunch Simon built his qualifier and we were allowed to walk it over lunch. It was quite trappy but still a fast course. I really liked it as it wasn't just a straight forward blast. I walked it probably twenty times and drilled into my mind all the things to remember. The course had a bit of everything: running past the face of obstacles not to be taken; pull or push throughs; go rounds; snakes and a fast finish. Sadly I didn't get it on video as I was on my own and just had to concentrate on my run.

We ran quite late and Leah and Herbie had already gone clear running early on. I was thrilled for them and so wanted to get it right for me and Niamh. I was very nervous.

Apparently by the time I ran (which was two thirds through the competition) all I needed was a clear round but I was unaware of that. Bless her, Leah stopped anyone from saying this to me because she knows that I work much better under pressure and would probably screw up if I went out just trying for a clear. As far as I was concerned I had to go fast and clear. Niamh was brilliant and I couldn't have asked for more. We ended up 10th out of the eighteen that qualify and I was delighted with this result.

The competition is so different now and because there are more in each semi and a lot more go through to the final (sixteen whereas used to be five) I was worried that this would make me complacent. I mean when you know you have to get top five you have no choice than to go for it but when you are looking at top eighteen it would be so easy to take it too cautiously and blow it. Anyway, we didn't and we're going to Olympia. I am so thrilled! My clever, wonderful Niamh.

This is the cake that Leah made for me and Niamh for qualifying. I wish I was that creative!

Will he, won't he? I couldn't possibly eat Niamh - it would have been so wrong. That didn't stop Andy. Horrible person he ate my dog.

Gillingham - just can't remember what we managed to do there. I don't think very much agility-wise but had a great time as I love the venue and had lots of nice walks. We were able to go early as Andy and Tamzin had a trade stand so it was nice to have a few days away. Here is the naughty one peeping out from the windbreak:

Stour Valley - great day with Niamh getting four out of four clears and some good places. Didn't do as well with Zeki!

South Downs with 6 hours between my two (yes two) runs but it was worth it as Todd and Zeki won the pairs that was over by 10.00 am and then it was gone 4.00 pm before the qualifier was set up. The wait was worth it Zeki was a star and won the Olympia qualifier meaning we have qualfied for the 2011 semi-finals! Zeki won a lovely picture frame (well two actually) at South Downs and this is perfect for the lovely photo that Gran'Ma bought for me at DIN of Zeki competing in her first final. It was even worth the four-hour drive home (accident on M25)!

Zeki and Todd with their haul from Southdowns show

I think that's about it for the agility competition update. I have one more show before Olympia which is North Downs and also the WAOC try outs in December. More of that later!