Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roman-Style Fettuccine with Chicken

This is another terrific Italian dish from Giada De Laurentiis. I grew up thinking that if you were going to serve pasta, you had to smoother it in either a tomato or heavy cheese sauce. Oh what a sheltered life I lead! I have made this dish many times, and it's always a crowd favorite. When I tell Julie I'm making this for Sunday dinner, it always makes her smile.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs of pasta. Since pasta is only sold in 1 pound boxes, I usually go ahead and cook the full 2 pounds and include a little more chicken.

Giada lists this recipe as making 4 to 6 servings. My experience is it makes 8 servings, and more if you up the quantity of ingredients. Even if you invite friends over you'll still have plenty of leftovers.

If you don't have fresh herbs, it's OK to use dried, but just reduce the amount by 1/3 to 1/2.

I recommend serving this dish with a nice Chardonnay. It's a great one-dish meal to serve on a cold winter night.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
3 oz prosciutto, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. fettuccine
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the bell peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juice, wine, thyme, and oregano. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the broth, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir and cook until tender per the directions on the package.
  5. Remove the chicken and let it cool slightly on a cutting board. Using a fork and knife, gently shred the chicken. Return the chicken to the pan Stir in the parsley.
  6. To serve, spoon the pasta into serving dishes and top with the chicken and sauce.
From Giada De Laurentiis Everyday Pasta

Monday, December 29, 2008

TJ and Peekay in the News

This past Saturday and Sunday Peekay and I competed in the AKC sanctioned North Georgia All Breed Herding Trial in Watkinsville, GA. I plan on doing a full article on my blog soon. Peekay failed to qualify on either day, and thus did not earn her Herding Intermediate title this weekend.

In my nine years of trialing my German Shepherds, I have never been more proud of my dog, than I am of Peekay's performance on Sunday. We drew an incredibly difficult set of sheep. When let out onto the arena, two of the sheep went straight to the grain pan at the set-out point. The other sheep, to be known hence forth as "A-hole" ran to the other side of the arena. Peekay and I waited at the other end of the field for over 1 minute as the set-out dog worked hard to get him with the others. For our entire run, A-hole was as rank as I ever have seen a sheep behave. Time-and-time again "A-hole" would break ranks and try to escape. Time-and-time again, Peekay gathered him up and brought him back. Peekay was relentless at inserting her will on that sheep. I am swelling up with emotion just recollecting it now.

But as I said, the full story will have to wait. This past Thursday I received a phone call from a reported from the Athen's Georgia newspaper, The Athens Banner-Herald. The report had learned about our trial from my blog, and wanted to know if it would be OK for him and a photographer to cover it. I recalled the paper had done a story years ago on Doyle, and I new he wouldn't mind. I also told him that the trial was open to the public, and admission was free.

What a great story they wrote! The story made the front page of this mornings addition!

Click here to read the story on the Athens Banner-Herald's website. I'm quoted a few times, and Peekay is referenced.

Make sure you also view the article's accompanying Photo/Audio Slideshow. It's terrific! They really captured the spirit and essence of our herding trial. Peekay and I made the cut and we're featured towards the end.

The man with the charming Georgia accent and wearing the cool chilly pepper shirt is Doyle Ivie, the owner of Woodsend Farm. Doyle and his girlfriend Claire Hamilton make it all possible. They certainly doesn't make any money herding. He tries to break even, but I'm sure that rarely happens. They are the salt of the earth, and I can't thank them enough for those Tuesday and Thursday nights they waited for Peekay and me to show up to practice. They make it all possible.

Speed is good, Staying is better!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Practice Report

On Thursday December 18th Peekay, Lauda, and I were back in Watkinsville, GA for sheep herding practice. This would be Peekay's final practice session before the AKC sheep herding trial on December 27th and 28th. My plan this evening was to keep it short and simple. We were going to do simulated A-course, intermediate class runs. There were to be no drills, no special lessons. Tonight I wanted to establish where we where at. If we ran into problems we would deal with them as you would in a trial: the best way you can. We would keep the sheep flowing from station-to-station. I would physically positon myself on course only where the AKC rule book allowed.

Neither run went completely smooth. Peekay had trouble on her counter-clockwise outruns. She was coming in too fast, and tight. In this practice we didn't have the luxury of having a stock handler to spot the sheep for us. We had to pick them off the back fence. These sheep didn't want to leave the security of the fence. Each time they ran along the fence of the arena and directly into the Y-chute, instead of coming up the center of the field.

Peekay's outruns in the clockwise direction were much better. For whatever reason, they are slower and wider. The goal at the beginning of any run is to minimally stress the sheep. Just prior to coming into the field, the sheep are safe and secure in their holding pen. In a matter of seconds they are driven out by a stock dog and thrust into the arena. Before they know what has hit them, another dog comes hurtling down the field towards them. If there is going to be big trouble, it usually will occur withing these first 10 seconds of the run.

Unless I change my mind on the way to the trial tomorrow, for the first time I can recall ever in competition I plan on sending Peekay on the outrun in the clockwise direction. Just like people being either right or left-handed dogs are right or left-sided. Peekay favors her right-side (counter-clockwise), but through practice she has improved her left side outruns and flanks dramatically. Being the human in this dog/man partnership, it's my job to make these hard decisions.

On both runs, each time we exited the Z-chute and turned for the holding pen, the sheep attempted to escape down the arena. The would make the turn, and begin running. Both times Peekay was more than up for the challenge. On my command she ran down the center of the arena and cut off the retreat. In horse racing she has what is called tactical speed. She has slow speeds, fast speeds, and speeds in between. They can be called upon on command. This makes us a very formidable competitor.

On cross drives this night we were 50/50. Half the time Peekay hesitated a split second, and the sheep ran back to the gate. I think I discovered a technique to help correct the problem. Without getting too technical, I found if I am too close to the fence, Peekay doesn't want to come in between me and the fence. If I step away from the fence, it opens the door and she is more willing to shoot the gap.

I'm presently sitting at my breakfast nook table typing this blog. Both Peekay and Lauda are sleeping like babies at my feet. It is the night before the trial. In little more than 12 hours our first run will be history. I'm excited and confident, but certainly not cocky. I've been trialing long enough to know that there is no sure thing. Even with all the preparation, there are some variables you can not control. It just takes on wrong command; one moment of hesitation, and you're done. But I'm going into this trial feeling like I've prepared my little GSD well.

I started herding with her with the goal of reaching the Intermediate class. We are now on the threshold of our 4th AKC herding title. Unser was my first herding titled German Shepherd Dog. Lauda was my second. Unser crossed "The Rainbow Bridge" over 5 years now. While Lauda will be coming to the trial with us, it won't be long before he too makes the same journey. When "Peeks" and I walk on the field, I'll be thinking of both of them. Peekay is an extremely talented dog, but we have reached this moment in large part to the ground work laid by Peekay's predecessors . Because of them, I am a better trainer. They'll always have a special place in my heart. If we earn a title this weekend, a piece of it will belong to Unser and Lauda. Speed is good, belly rubs are better. Thank you Unser. Thank you Lauda. I love you both.

Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary

Of all the recipes I have posted on this blog, this may be my favorite. If you love a hearty tomato soup, you absolutely must make this recipe. It's very easy, has simple ingredients, and it's packed with lots of flavor. I made it on a rare week night when I cooked. I'm not an exceptionally speedy cook, and it took under 1 hour including clean up.

This soup is also very healthy. Many tomato based soups use heavy cream as a thickening agent. This recipe uses cannellini beans. The beans are packed with nutrition and give the soup a nice texture. I would recommend using a low-sodium chicken broth. It cuts down on the salt, and you won't sacrifice any flavor.

This recipe is from From Giada de Laurentis' Giada's Kitchen New Italian Favorites. Another bonus for this recipe, Giada is easy on the eyes!

2 tbs unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (16 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can(28 oz) crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup plain yogurt
zest of 1 lemon

  1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary, and the red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes covered.
  2. Puree the soup in a blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf. Return the soup to the pot and keep warm over low heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. To serve, place the soup into bowls, dollop each with the plain yogurt. Sprinkle the top with the remaining fresh rosemary and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

From Giada de Laurentis' Giada's Kitchen New Italian Favorites

Peekay Townsville SC Herding Practice Report

On Saturday December 13th Peekay, Lauda, and I were back at Red Creek Farm in Townsville, SC for sheep herding practice. Our goal was to sharpen up my #1 black-and-red GSD for the sheep herding trial at the end of December.

We arrived a half hour early for the scheduled 9:00 AM start. When we pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised by the small turn out. There were only two other cars in the lot.

I walked Peekay on leash to to the sign-in area. John Tholkes, who along with his wife Carol Anne, own the farm, was talking to a couple with a German Shepherd. As I approached I heard him say, "Now here is a German Shepherd that is fit to work." He walked up to Peekay and gently touched her sides.

"You shouldn't be able to see her ribs, but you should be able to feel them when you touch her side", said John. What we apparently walked into was John telling this couple that their dog was fat! He even had the woman come over and feel Peekay's ribs. He was right, their dog was overweight by at least 15 pounds. By the expression on both of their faces, I don't think either one wanted to hear it. I wonder if they'll be back?

This was a very good practice. More people came, but the attendance was smaller than usual. I think some of the regulars were scared away by the morning temperatures in the low 30s. . We were 1 of only 3 dogs in the intermediate field. Over the course of 4 hours, we had 5 separate runs.

Our first run had a little drama. We were the first ones in the intermediate field. Carol Anne warned us that the sheep that were in the field were not the set she would have chosen. These particular group of sheep did not have a lot of "dog experience" and were flighty and unpredictable. Sure enough, soon after we started Peekay was moving the sheep along the fence when one decided to make a break for it and ran back to the gate. Peekay took off in hot pursuit right on it's hoofs. The sheep, without any hesitation, ran head first into the wire fence. Thankfully, sheep are pretty tough and he he just bounced off, shook it off, and returned back to the others. After that we had no problems.

I like working fresh and flighty sheep. Sheep like this are the ones you typically draw in a trial. They constantly are looking for a way to beat the dog and escape. Light sheep force both me and Peekay to be alert and work as a team. If you can work light sheep, you can work pretty much anything.

We continued to work on inside flanks. An inside flank is where Peekay, from just a voice command from me will circle the sheep in either a a clockwise ("go by"), or counter-clockwise ("away to me") direction. What makes the "flank" an "inside flank" is when Peekay is circling the sheep, she will operate in the area between me and the sheep. Prior she has been doing outside flanks, where I am in between her and the sheep. In our current trial class, and even more in the advanced class, I am restricted as to where I can be on the course. In order to move up in class, Peekay will need to execute reliable inside flanks.

One each successive run, Peekay improved. She became more comfortable working on the inside. I could see she was figuring things out. I worked hard to be consistent in my commands and my corrections.

By the time we went in for our final run, the sheep were tired and rank. The dog before us had placed them in a small holding pen along the fence. They couldn't get them out. It was up to us to finish the job. I sent Peekay to the back wall of the fence. She stuck her head through the slats. One of the sheep stood his ground, lowered his head and stomped his hoof. Peekay maintained eye contact and stood her ground. The sheep moved in and tried to butt her. Peekay slipped to the right, and chomped her jaws. She didn't bite him, but the sheep got the message. He moved out of the pen with the others.

After that we practiced a few inside flanks and called it a day. It was another good practice, and we headed home a little better than we left. Speed is good!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chocolate Bourbon Cookies

This past Sunday we attended the annual Nottingham Gate Subdivision cookie exchange. For the very first time in the 7 years we have lived in the neighborhood, we enthusiastically RSVPed "yes" and attended. Prior years required each person to bring a whopping 6 dozen cookies. I don't think we ever had 6 dozen cookies in our house at one time ever! Really, what would we do with so many cookies? This year the rules were modified and inclusion in the exchange only required 3 1/2 dozen home baked, from scratch cookies. The rules strictly forbid anything store bought.

I attended with Julie, and predictably other than the host's husband, I was the only man in attendance. No matter, I had a good time conversing, and sampling the cookies.

We picked this recipe for one reason; it has bourbon! Surprisingly these cookies didn't have a boozy taste. The bourbon flavors married quite nicely with the chocolate.

Yields 50 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbs cocoa powder unsweetened
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firm pack
1/2 cup bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
1 cup mini chocolate chips, semi-sweet
2 egg whites
2 tbs water
3 cups pecans, finely chopped
  1. Combine the flour and cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside
  2. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until creamy and sooth. Beat in bourbon until well blended.
  3. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  4. When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 F. Grease w large cookie sheets. Beat together egg whites and water and set aside. Using 1 level tablespoon, shape dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll each ball first in the egg whites then in the chopped nuts. Arrange the balls 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. If the dough gets to soft, periodically return the dough to the refrigerator.
  5. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are still soft but have a light crackled crust. Cool cookies on the cookie sheets for 2-5 minutes. Carefully remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peekay Entered in AKC Sheep Herding Trial

Alpharetta, GA - Confirmation has been received that the entry of The Power of One Vom Grunenfeld CD RE HSAs, aka "Peekay" has been accepted and she will compete in the North Georgia All Breed Herding Dog Association's American Kennel Club Herding Trial on December 27th and 28th. The Trial is to be held at Woods End Farm in Watkinsville, GA. The 58 lb black-and-red German Shepherd Dog will be competing in the "Herding Intermediate A Course Sheep" class.

On Saturday morning December 27th, Peekay will be running under judge Cathy Hartley. and has drawn the pole position. Overall she will be the 4th of 50 dogs to run and the 1st of 8 dogs in the HI A Course Sheep class. It is estimate our run will commence at about 8:30 AM.

On Sunday morning December 28th, Peekay will be running under judge Sandra Lindenmuth, and has drawn the #6 hole. Overall she will be the 23rd of 50 dogs to run, and the 6th of 9 dogs in the "HI A Course Sheep class. It is estimated that Peekay's run on Sunday will commence at about 11:15 AM.

The holder of an outstanding 7 American Kennel Club Titles ( 1 Obedience Title, 3 Rally Obedience Titles, and 3 Herding Titles), Peekay looks to add her 8th title at this trial. A qualifying run on either day will earn her the coveted Herding Intermediate Sheep title. To date Peekay has competed in the HI A Course Sheep class 4 times, and has earned a qualifying score twice. Neither her stablemate "Lauda" or her predecessor "Unser" have ever competed in the Herding Intermediate Class, let alone have had a qualifying run.

Peekay has been working very well in practice, and the team is optimistic for a good results on this last weekend of December. Her outruns have been outstanding and has consistent explosive tactical speed. Her work drive is second to none. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Speed is good --- Staying is Better!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lake Windward 5K

On November 16 I ran the Lake Windward Elementary (LWE) 5K Road Race. LWE is where Julie teaches. It is also the elementary school the kids in our neighborhood attend. The race is put on by the school's PTA, and is held in conjunction with their "Waffles with Wally (Gator)" fund raiser. All participants get the event t-shirt on the left. Having lived in Florida for 13 years, I'm very familiar with alligators. Seeing them in the wild or in zoos never fails to creep me out. I like this androgynous, non-threatening Wally. I think he's so lame, he actually cool. I like Wally's skinny legs and carrot top hands. I think all alligators should wear clothes; it makes them less threatening!

While this was a very small race with less than 100 participants, this was not an easy race. The course is the most difficult 5K I have seen. The race began and ended in the school's parking lot. This was the easy part. The meat of the race; two laps of the 1.3 mile walking trail in the neighboring Webb Bridge Park gets ones attention. I typically run 3 times a week in Webb Bridge Park. I know this trail like the back of my hand. The trail is made of dirt and compacted gravel. There are multiple steep hills. You would be hard pressed to find a more difficult course.

This is the second year of the running of the LWE 5K. Last year I finished 5th overall, and 1st in the over 40 male age group. Construction on the walking trail resulted in an odd circuit of the park's trail. My time last year was a questionable 2o minutes and 5o seconds. To this day I contest that the course was not measured correctly and was really less than 5 kilometers. I remember looking down at my watch at the 1 mile mark and seeing 6 minutes and 35 seconds! I don't think I can run a mile in that time down hill on concrete let alone uphill on dirt!

This year I was fighting the worst cold I have had in recent memory. The week leading up to the race I missed two days of work and did absolutely no running or exercise of any kind. As the race started my legs felt tired, and I could still feel the crud in my chest. I jumped out to an early lead, but was quickly caught and passed by several runners. The first guy to pass me was the guy who won last year. I didn't expect to see him again. The second guy that passed me was the guy I beat last year for the over 40 male win. He was listening to his Ipod, and had a confident steady gate. The others that went by I didn't recognize. About 1/2 mile in we hit the first hill. I passed 3 people on the first hill and was in fourth. I was right behind the guy in third place, and could still see the leaders. The guy in third appeared to be laboring already. I just stayed behind him and waited for the next hill. Sure enough, at the next serious climb he cracked. In the middle of the hill he suddenly stopped running, put his hands on his waist, and walked up the remainder of the hill. I ran by him and didn't look back.

I ended up finishing 3rd overall, and second in the over 40 male age group. Even with being sick, I ran the race in a respectable 23 minutes and 26 seconds which translates to a 7 minute 54 second mile pace. I figure being sick slowed me down by at least 1 minute. I wouldn't have won, but I had a real shot at second. The guy who finished second beat me by just 40 seconds. But running these races is more about competing against yourself, and less about competing against other people. It was a nice little event, extremely close to home, which encouraged parents and kids to get out and exercise. Hopefully the PTA will continue to have the race next year, and more people participate.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Alton Brown's Pot Roast

I made a couple of small modifications from the original recipe found on the Food Channel's website. Alton's ingredient list included 1 cup of chopped cocktail olives. I absolutely hate olives, and I omitted them. He also had the oven temperature set at 190-200 degrees. I was afraid with such a low temperature and after 3 1/2 hours of cooking, the meat would be still raw in the middle. I raised the temperature to 225 degrees.

I was very pleased with this recipe and my changes. I would certainly make this again. The meat was so tender, you could cut it with a spoon. The flavors were very unique. The rub gave the meat a slight bite. The raisins gave the sauce a hint of sweetness. The dish had a very elegant, sophisticated flavor, but nothing was overpowering. The spice rub and gravy complimented each other very nicely.

I was fooled by this recipe. One of the items I liked was the tin foil pouch. I thought clean up would be a breeze. I was wrong. While I could just throw away the tin foil, I could not throw away the blender nor the cooking pan! I'm not a good "clean as you go" cook to begin with, so I rely heavily on the dishwasher. Unfortunately our dishwasher was broken and everything had to be cleaned by hand.


  • 1 (2-pound) blade cut chuck roast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins


  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Place a wide, heavy skillet or fry pan over high heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, rub both sides of meat with the salt and cumin. When the pan is hot brown meat on both sides and remove from pan.
  3. Add just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan then add the onion and garlic. Stir constantly until onion is softened. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, and raisins. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half.
  4. Create a pouch with wide, heavy duty aluminum foil. Place half the reduced liquid/chunk mixture on the foil, add the roast, and then top with the remaining mixture. Close the pouch, and wrap tightly in another complete layer of foil. Cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until a fork pushes easily into the meat.
  5. Remove from oven and rest (still wrapped) for at least 1/2 hour. Snip off 1 corner of the foil pouch and drain the liquid into a bowl or measuring cup. Add some of the "chunkies" and puree with a blender. Slice meat thinly, or pull apart with a fork. Serve with sauce.

TJ's Tiger Woods 09 Highlight - Ouch!

Tiger Woods 09 for the Xbox360 has a really cool feature. This is the first video game I am aware of where you literally can be in the game. You can upload digital photos of yourself, and the game will put your face on an animated computer golfer. Amazing!

The conversion algorithm isn't perfect. Depending on your facial features you'll have varying degrees of success. My golfer came out near perfect. It looks so much like me it's creepy!

Here's a short video of my golfer on the tee at the 1st hole at TPC Sawgrass. I am sporting a shirt, tie, sport coat and my favorite Abe Lincoln stove pipe hat. I think the dude I hit over reacted slightly. I expect to hear from his computer generated lawyer any day!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Practice Report

Tuesday night Peekay, Lauda and I were in Watkinsville GA, for sheep herding practice. With our AKC trial only 2 1/2 weeks away, it was time to get serious and start tightening the screws.

For each of our two practice runs, I decided we would run the entire AKC A-course to the Intermediate class rules. Just before we went out on the field, Doyle swapped out the stock. The current set of sheep had been out there with several different dogs for about an hour and were spent.

When I opened the gate and walked onto the field with Peekay, I immediately new that the new set of sheep were very LIGHT. With Peekay a good 30 yards away, the sheep were reacting to her movement, giving her a wide berth.

The problems of last week had disappeared. We no longer had a problem of the sheep hiding in the chutes. With Peekay 20 yards behind, the sheep would easily enter the Y chute, and exit out the other end. Peekay didn't have to even get close to the mouth of the gates, let alone go into them. The first time the sheep approached the Z chute, they were going so fast, they ran right by.

No practice would be complete without problems. This night our main problem was moving the sheep out of the #3 corner which is in between the exit of the Z chute and the entrance to the holding pen. The sheep went into the corner, but wouldn't come out. In order to get them out of the corner, Peekay needed to approach pressed against the back fence, forcing the sheep to shoot out.

Peekay gets it. I've been herding with her since she was 6 months old, and I know she understands her job. She knows that it is her responsibility to keep the sheep together and to prevent them from running away. To get the sheep out of the corner, Peekay would have to "open the door" and give the sheep the opportunity to run uncontrolled down the field. Once open, she would have to quickly out flank the sheep, and close the door. Peekay was very reluctant to open the door. I tried several time to swing Peekay wide, but each time she kept heading on a trajectory directly to the sheep, keeping them pinned in the corner.

We eventually got them out of the corner, and into the holding pen. Getting them out of the pen was our second problem. When we draw light sheep I can typically position Peekay behind the back wall of the pen. The sheep see her, feel her presence and they'll move away from her and pop out. Not these sheep. They seemed quite happy to stay in the safety of the pen. I had little choice but to bring Peekay into the tight confines of the 10 x 10 hold pen with the sheep. . This is always a very delicate maneuver. I moved Peekay up slowly one step at a time. The sheep stood motionless until they couldn't take it any longer. Suddenly they all made a break for it. Peekay did a great job to run after them, cut off the retreat, and hold them along the fence. We practiced the hold pen exit several times, and we were successful about half the time. Not bad.

In the end I was pleased with he practice. We were presented with a number of situations that we could run into at the trial. We uncovered some weaknesses that we can work on correcting.

Plans are for this weekend to head back to Townsville, SC for another herding clinic. We'll keep trying. Only 2 1/2 weeks to our trial!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Turkey Hash

This recipe is from the Reader's Digest Like Grandma Used to Make Cookbook. It states very matter-of-factly that "Chicken Hash" was Thomas Jefferson's favorite breakfast food, and how this recipe was adapted from the original to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey. I have made this recipe countless times, and have always blindly accepted this to be true. I even took patriotic comfort in this claim. However, is it really his favorite? I decided to investigate. Here is what I have found from Google:

lists pancakes & spoon bread among "TJs" favorites, but does not mention chicken hash. Hmm....

American Library.gov states macaroni and peach flambe' were his favorites and again does not mention chicken hash.

And shockingly I found this website when I googled "Thomas Jefferson favorite hash".....

I still want to believe that this was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. But could the people at Reader's Digest made a mistake? For all I know this was George Jefferson's favorite! Regardless this is still a very good post-Thanksgiving breakfast. If I wasn't delinquent with this blog entry many of my faithful readers could already have made this dish. My apologies, and I'll try to do better next time. Hopefully you still have some Turkey hiding out in the back of the refrigerator or froze those leftovers. Serve Turkey Hash with a side of scramble eggs. For an extra treat, mix in some cheddar cheese with those eggs.


2 medium-size potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 small green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

  1. In a small saucepan, cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain.
  2. In a 10-inch skillet, melt butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and green pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in potatoes, turkey, rosemary, black pepper and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more or until it has the desired consistency.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peekay Herding Practice Report

It's been over a month since I last blogged about herding with Peekay. Since the end of October we have only been out practicing four times. Three times we have been to our home field in Watkinsville and once we attended a clinic in Townsville, SC. We have also missed a couple of practice opportunities because of bad weather and yours truly being sick with a very nasty cold.

I have entered Peekay in our herding club's American Kennel Club Herding Trial. The trial will be at our home field in Watkinsville on December 27th and 28th. Peekay is entered in the Herding Intermediate A-Course Sheep class both days. Having received two qualifying scores in AKC trials earlier this year, she needs to obtain a qualifying score on one of the days to earn her Herding Intermediate A-Course title. Of the 5 AKC herding classes, the Intermediate class is second from the top. Very few non border collies even attempt the jump from "Herding Started" to "Herding Intermediate", let alone have success.

Here is a summary of our recent practices:

Nov 4 - Watkinsville, GA : Cross drives continue to improve. Multiple times Peekay was able to shoot the gap between the fence and the flock and then reverse direction to get them to walk across the field. Out runs were also good. On our final run we executed a near perfect cross drive. I drove home to Alpharetta with a big smile on my face.

Nov 18 - Watkinsville, GA :With missing a week because of illness, and concentrating on the cross drive for weeks, Peekay developed a bad habit at both the "Y" and "Z" chutes. I have trained Peekay to follow the livestock into the mouth of each chute. Once in the chute she is to keep walking until till just before the sheep exit the other side. It is at this point I give her the "Back" command. Upon hearing this command, Peekay should do a 180 degree turn in the chute, and exit the same way she entered. Upon exiting, she should loop wide to pin the livestock against the fence, preventing them from retreating on the course. In this practice she was very reluctant to enter the chute. When she reached the mouth of the chute, she would swing wide. If you draw very light sheep, you usually can get away with this. But these sheep were not light. Sensing no pressure from the dog, the sheep were stopping in the middle of the chute and wouldn't exit. I had no choice by to take Peekay a step back and repeatedly make her enter the chute and exit on command.

Nov. 23 - Townsville, SC : It's always good to go to different places and practice. Dog's are truly creatures of habit, and often associate training to specific locations. I constantly witnessed this when I taught dog obedience classes when we lived in Florida. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had a student explain to me how well their dog would perform the exercise they just flubbed at home. Training at different locations offers re-enforcement to the dog that commands are to be followed at all times and places.

This practice session we worked on the basics of flanking commands. Peekay does not have a very good "inside flank". We can get away with this in our current trial class, but certainly will not go far in the Advanced class. I worked on techniques to teach the inside flanks with the help of my instructor John Stokes. I originally planned on attending the clinic on Saturday, but because of my cold, I decided to stay home and rest and attend the clinic on Sunday. Most of the handler/dog teams were novices, and not using our field. They had two round pens staffed, and both had several dogs in queues. Peekay and I were fortunate enough to be just 1 of 3 intermediate teams. This meant we received a lot of field time and one-on-one instructions. I came away with some good ideas on where we need to improve, and how to get better. However my focus is to have Peekay ready for the December trial, so I won't make any radical changes in my training techniques until after the trial.

Dec 2 - Watkinsville, GA: We went right to work on the Y and Z chute problem. Peekay was much improved from the prior week. Towards the end of practice, she was entering the gates on her own, and exiting on my command. The practice had no major wrecks, and I considered it a success.

Present at every one of these practices was Peekay's stablemate "Lauda", our 12 year old GSD. He is still battling his Degenerative Myelopathy , arthritis, and bone infection. He has his better days, and his not so good days now. It's difficult for him to stand up for any length of time. I always walk next to him to catch him in case he stumbles. On November 24th, we came very close to losing him. It was the day after the Townsville, SC practice, and the next morning he just couldn't stand. We made "the call". He was to be put down at 11 AM.

We spent the earlier part of the morning petting him, hugging him, and letting him know he was special. Something inside of me told me to give him one more chance. I helped him up and supported him as he stumbled down the ramp I built for him in the garage. I gently released my grip from around his midsection and let him walk. We continued to walk to the yard and do his business. He then became the same old Lauda and began to explore the nearby bushes. With relief, we called the vet back. He still went to the vet at 11 AM, but it was only for an examination.

I know "Pal" doesn't have much time left. I know any day now could be his last. I am just grateful for every day he is with us. He's the best.

Speed is good.