Monday, January 26, 2009

Peekay AKC Herding Trial Photos

Here are photos of Peekay from the December 27 & 28 American Kennel Club Sheep Herding Trial held in Watkinsville, GA. Click on any photo to see a larger image.

Peekay runs down the red sheep with the white face.

Closing the door on yet another escape attempt.

At the handler's post, giving the signal to let out he stock.

Peekay guards the back door as the sheep return to the holding pen.

Flanking the red sheep with the white face.

The big dog waits for my next command.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blueberry Cobbler

I recently was looking for a quick and easy dessert recipe and stumbled upon this one. With only four ingredients, and two of them sugar and butter how can this be bad? The homemade flavor is terrific, and it can bake while you're eating dinner.

I would recommend using a 1 1/2 quart baking dish instead of a 2 quart. I think the 2 quart dish spreads the top crust too thin, causing the blueberry filling to bubble through the top excessively.

Make sure you serve this warm, and top it off with a dollop of whipped cream.


3 cups fresh blueberries
1 plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup self-rising flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour the blueberries into a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the sugar over them.
  2. In another bowl combine the melted butter, the remaining 1 cup of sugar, and the flour. Mix well to form a pastry. Pour this over the blueberries and bake for 45 minutes.
Yields 8 servings

from "The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking"

Cheddar Corn Bread

I'm not a big fan of traditional true-blue Southern cooking. I usually find it to be:

a) Dry
b) Overcooked
c) Flavorless
d) All of the above

I prefer my Southern cooking to be "Yankee-ed Up". For example, take the classic "corn bread". I find eating traditional cornbread as appealing as dining on a cardboard box. Hands down, my favorite cornbread comes from the "3-for-a-dollar" Jiffy box mix. It just has the right balance between sweet and bland for my pallet.

So imagine my surprise when I was flipping through my "Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking" cookbook, and found the following recipe. This hallowed Georgia restaurant makes cornbread with Jiffy mix too. The recipe is no more difficult than the one on the box, and it is 1000% better. The texture is more like a moist cake, and the flavor is twice as good. I have all the ingredients in my pantry, and can't wait for the occasion to make it again.

2 (8.5 oz) boxes of corn bread/muffin mix
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 (14.5 oz) can cream-style corn
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a bowl combine the corn bread mix, eggs, milk and yogurt until blended. Stir in the corn and cheese.
  2. Pour into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into squares. Serve warm.
from the "Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Sunday Trial Results

This blog entry is going to look a little boring today. No picture. No videos. Just words. This article looks like a chapter from one of my electrical engineering text books. I was expecting to get the photos I ordered from the trial photographer this week. As of post-time, they have not arrived. When they do I'll post them.

I have to start this blog with an apology. I must apologize to the red sheep with the white face. In an earlier blog I gave him the unflattering name "A-hole". I want to take that back. Even though he is just a big dumb sheep, he deserves better. Of all the participants at a herding trial, the livestock have it the worst. The dogs, handlers, workers, judges, and spectators all choose to be there. The only creatures that really don't are the most important -- the sheep.

I appreciate the sheep. I know on the surface that sounds stupid, but let me explain. In the morning before the trial, the sheep are back in the pasture, standing around grazing or doing whatever else dopey sheep do when they are not on the clock. All seems peaceful, until a man opens a gate and lets in "THE DOG". The sheep immediately tense and gather. They are forced to march out of the pasture to an unknown fate. Once at the destination, they meet more people, and more dogs. They are sorted and subdivided into smaller groups. They are whittled down further until the once mighty herd, is partitioned into multiple groups of 3. Each little group is put in their own little 4x10 pen. Here they stand in the cold, rain, and mud waiting. People walk by and stare. Dogs come by and intimidate. After what must feel like an eternity, the metal gate to their little stall creaks open. A dog thunders in, and drives them out onto the runway. Another gate opens and the small group of 3 is thrust into the arena. They are lead to a small pan that has a few kernels of corn. Maybe they are able to wolf down a mouthful of food when they notice real trouble. Here they spot another dog, the trial dog, thundering down the arena on its outrun. Now the fun really begins.

I always giggle when I hear people of faith refer to themselves as being sheep in the Lord's flock. If they only really understood the life of a sheep, I think they would reconsider. Being a sheep really sucks. No matter where you are, it's never the right place. There is always a dog, who really despises you, ready to move you someplace else. Once you get there and settle in a bit, the dog moves you to a new place, then a another, and another, and another...

Trial sheep don't know how to read. They are not following a script. They have no rules to follow. They just reacting to their environment. Some are relaxed, some are a little jumpy, and some are scared out of their minds. When we step onto the field, it's Peekay's and my job to move the sheep through the course regardless. So the red sheep with the white face did nothing wrong. He was being himself.

And our friend was again himself on Sunday. For some reason I started Sunday with a quiet confidence. I just felt that we had unfinished business from Saturday. Maybe it was viewing the video of the day before. I felt far more relaxed. Peekay is always "sharp", but she too also seemed a little more relaxed.

I knew our run was going to be incredibly difficult the second the stock handler gate opened and the 3 sheep entered the field. Two of the sheep followed the stock handler like robots to the grain pan. The third, the red sheep with the white face, bolted across to the other side of the arena. It took the set out dog, a retired herding champion, a good minute to round him back up and bring him to the others. The entire time Peekay and I were 100 yds away at the other end of the arena waiting. Peekay laying at the #1 cone was intently watching that sheep's every move. Deep down I knew that my only hope of qualifying was if the judge ordered the stock handlers to give us another set of sheep. That order never came.

If you read this blog you know that besides sheep herding my other passion is cycling. There are times when you are in the saddle, you would rather be any place else, but on that bike. Your muscles ache, your knees hurt, your butt is raw. But you know, that you have no choice. You have to get home. You have to continue. You reach down deep and find things inside yourself that you thought you never had. You will yourself forward. You will yourself to drive on. Failure is not an option.

As I gave Peekay the stay command and stepped away to send her on her outrun, I had one of those moments. I told myself by God we may lose the war today, but we are not going to lose the battle. Come hell or high water the red sheep with the white face is not going to win today.

I sent Peekay on the outrun. She executed it perfectly. Before I new it, the sheep were thundering up the center of the course with Peekay at the helm, guiding them to me. It wasn't long before our old friend started acting up. Almost immediately the red sheep with the white face tried to retreat. We were both ready for him. Time and time again the red sheep with the white face tried to retreat. Each time Peekay and I correctly anticipated his move, and cut him off.

I have never been more proud of my dog's non-qualifying run then I was of Peekay's performance this day. Usually once a sheep tries to escape, and the dog has demonstrated that it's quick enough to cover, they typically give up and do what the dog wants. Not our friend. The red sheep with the white face never stopped trying.

Some point on this run it became personal. This was our version of Muhammad Ali vs Joe Fraiser at Madison Square Garden. I remember one incident vividly. It was just after we rounded the #3 corner, and were heading for the holding pen. As the group approached the pen, the red sheep with the white face suddenly broke into a run and started off down the arena. Peekay noticed it right away and immediately took off down the center of the arena right behind. She was able to turn on the jets, angle in and stop the sheep in his tracks at the cross drive. Peekay and the sheep locked up their brakes in unison. The grass was still wet from the prior days rain. Both animals slid to a stop, divets of grass flying in the air. The red sheep with the white face abandoned his retreat and trotted back to the rest. Peekay trotted behind him.

I have to thank our Judge. During all the retreats and all the battling with the red sheep with the white face, she was silent on the scoring stand. At no point did she issue us a warning. I also was calm and focus. I put my trust in Peekay not to hurt the livestock, and she was worthy of that trust. Peekay had no malicious intent. She was not creating havoc for havoc's sake. She was doing what a good herding dog does, gathering her flock.

The only words that came from the scoring stand were the words "2 minutes", telling me that I have used 8 of the 10 minutes allowed to complete the course by AKC rules. I wasn't going to get beaten by the clock. We passed on the cross drive and brought them to the pen. We weren't going to let these sheep just walk in. I placed Peekay at the mouth of the gate and opened it. The sheep started to move forward, but I wasn't ready to let them in. I commanded Peekay to take a couple steps forward and she responded. The sheep stopped. Peekay just gazed at them. I wanted to drive the point home to the red sheep with the white face that he was going to leave the arena on our terms, not his. For what seemed like a longer moment than it really was we all stood motionless with the gate wide open --- man, dog, and sheep. Peekay body puffed, tail out, and ears at 12 O'clock, standing like a stone wall, gazing at her sheep. Finally, I called her off as I swung the gate open wider. She obeyed and the sheep ran through to safety. As I closed the gate, spectators applauded. In all the years I have been participating in herding competitions, this was the only time an obvious non-qualify run earned applause. We didn't qualify, but I showed all that we belonged on that field. They all saw that Peekay is a true herding dog.

After I closed the gate, I gave Peekay the command "Green" which is her release command. She did what she always does after a job well done; run full steam around the arena, then charge me. We both left the arena full of adrenaline. I didn't feel like the right thing to do was to load her straight away in her crate and walk away. I wanted to live the moment a little longer. I walked her out the gate of the farm, down the side street. As we walked a spectator came up to us and told us how good we were. I swelled with pride as she described how nice Peekay worked, and how well we handled a very difficult, stubborn sheep.

We're still one qualifying run away from the HIA-s (Herding Intermediate A-Course, Sheep) title. I've entered Peekay in a 2 day trial in Hillard, FL February 21st and 22nd. Until then we'll both be back on the practice field working. As always speed is good, staying is better.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chris Berman's Baby Back, Back, Back, Ribs

I have made this recipe several times for family and friends, always to rave reviews. The meat is as tender as meat can be and not be in a stew. The sauce is simply spectacular.

I like to serve this recipe with Alton's Brown Baked Beans. If you have only 1 oven available, you have a small problem. Alton's bake beans call for an oven temperature of 250 degrees. Chris's ribs calls for an oven temperature of 350 degrees. I have a solution. I cooked the ribs with the beans at 250 degrees however I increased the cooking time from 3 to 4 hours. The ribs were just as juicy and tender as all the times I have made this before.

This recipe comes from my extremely manly "The NFL Family Cookbook". ESPN's Chris Berman's rib recipe is fairly tame. Here are some of the wilder recipes this cookbook offers:

Bud Grant's Pheasant and Wild Rice Casserole

Robert Kraft's Superbowl Chili (it serves a whopping 35 people, and calls for 10 lbs of meat!)

John Elway's Hamburger Soup

Manu Tuiasosopo's Kalua Pig Roast

Ty Detmer's Fried Venison Backstrap

Bud Grant's recipe actually calls out a bow and arrow in the ingredients list!

Seriously, this recipe is a home run. Make this for your next dinner party, and you will be a legend. The smells are wonderful, the presentation is spectacular, and the taste never disappoints.

6lbs baby back back pork ribs
2 cups water
4 cups tomato ketchup (32 oz bottle)
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs. lemon juice
3 Tbs. rum
3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs. liquid hickory flavoring
2 tsp. Louisiana pepper sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut the rib slabs in half, leaving 6-8 ribs per section. In a large roasting pan, arrange the ribs evenly, then add the water. Cover pan tightly with a lid or foil to prevent steam from escaping. Bake for 3 hours.
  3. About 2 hours into baking time, make the sauce. In a large saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Prepare the coals or gas grill of the barbecue. Remove the ribs from the roasting pan. Discard the water.
  5. Cover the ribs with sauce, saving about 1 1/2 cups of the sauce for later use at the table. Grill the ribs on the barbecue for about 5 minutes per side, or until slightly charred. Serve with the reserved sauce.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Forza 2 : 2004 Tom & Jerry Ferrari F430

Tom and Jerry was one of my favorite childhood cartoons. Growing up in western Massachusetts in the 70s, classic Tom and Jerry was on local TV in the afternoons after schools. I have warm memories of the days when we couldn't play outside. We would sit in front of the TV and watching Jerry beat the crap out of Tom with sledge hammers, grenades, anvils, and my personal favorite TNT. Somehow Jerry always managed to get Tom to pick up or eat a stick of TNT. He would take ghoulish pleasure in pushing down the plunger and watching Tom blow himself in a pile of chard fur.

You just had to admire Tom though. We never learned of Tom's back story. He was always drawn like a cat that lived with a nice family. Instead of laying around and sleeping all day, he took his job of getting rodents out of the house serious. He acted as if Jerry was his last best hope at a meal.

Tom was relentless, but all too predictable. His usual move was to lie in wait outside of Jerry's mouse hole -- you know that stereotypical 180% Gothic arch that looked like it was built by Frank Loyd Wright? Tom would always play to Jerry's weakness -- cheese. Now I like cheese, some may even say I love cheese. Heck, if I ever get another Border Collie, I'm going to name him "Cheese". But there's no easy way to put it, Jerry had an addiction. Jerry would lose himself momentarily, and stumble into what ever trap Tom had laid out for him. But luckily for Jerry, Tom had the mechanical aptitude of, umm, well, of a cat and his contraptions predictably backfired every time.

Without exception, I like my Ferrari's painted in classic red. When I saw this car in the Forza 2 auction house it brought back too many good memories. The artwork on this car is spot on. I can't imagine how much time someone spent drawing this. It must have been days. I present to you, "The Tom and Jerry Ferrari F430".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Alton Brown's Baked Beans

A long time ago, I searched high and low for a good baked bean recipe. I finally found this one from "The Food Networks" Alton Brown. I've made this recipe several times and I am hooked. I can't tell you the last time I bought a can of baked beans.

While not a must, I do recommend the use of a cast iron Dutch oven. The cast iron does a superb job of evenly heating the beans. The heavy lid seals the pot firmly, and the nipples on the inside collect and uniformly distribute the moisture. But if you don't have a cast iron pot, don't worry. A regular pot will work fine. Just make sure you have a tight fitting lid.

The recipe calls for two jalapenos peppers. You can adjust the "heat" of the dish by how much of the peppers you use. I typically use one entire pepper and discard the seeds and veins of the second.

When adding the reserved bean water/vegetable broth, I've done it many different ways. I've used just bean water, just vegetable broth, and various combinations of the two. In my opinion, no one mixture came out better over the other. I believe that the reserve bean water contains the bi-products which result in beans causing gas, so use the bean water at your discretion!

This recipe is great at building anticipation. It makes your kitchen smell great for the entire day. I love to make it on a lazy Sunday afternoon so I can hang around the house and enjoy the wonderful aromas.


1lb dried great northern beans
1lb bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
Vegetable Broth
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt

  1. Place great northern beans in a plastic container, and cover with just enough water to submerge. Let soak overnight.
  2. Heat oven to 250 deg. F.
  3. Place a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat and stir in the bacon, onion, and jalapenos until a enough fat has rendered from the bacon to soften the onions, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste, dark brown sugar, and molasses.
  5. Drain the beans and reserve the soaking liquid. Add the drained beans to the Dutch oven.
  6. Place the soaking liquid in a measuring cup and add enough vegetable broth to equal 4 cups liquid. Add the liquid to the Dutch Oven and bring to a boil over high heat.
  7. Add in cayenne, black pepper, and salt. Give them a stir and cover with the lid.
  8. Place the Dutch oven in the oven for 6 to 8 hrs, or until the beans are tender.

From the Food Channel Website

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Saturday Trial Results

I've attempted to write this blog several times. After pecking away on my keyboard, and then proofing what I wrote I wanted to barf. Maybe I'm holding myself to too high a standard, but I don't care. SELECT/EDIT MENU/DELETE thank you very much. You are the weakest link, good bye.

In each of my previous antiseptic attempts I gave a boring chronological blow-by-blow account of our Saturday run. Simply dull and pointless. I have a video of the entire run uploaded to Youtube, and it's embedded in this very blog. I really didn't have anything to add.

For this, my 6th attempt, I am going to try a new tactic. I've watched the video several times now like Payton Manning studying film of an opposing team's defense. I went into my den, dimmed the lights and watch the video over, and over again for hours. I watched it so many times I think I broke my version of Microsoft Media Player. But seriously, many thanks to my wife Julie for taping this run for me. When you are on the field it's surprising how little you really see. Your field of view is so compressed. Everything happens very fast. I find watching herding videos of myself very educational. It's why NFL Offensive coordinators call the plays from the press box instead of the sideline. It's like an out of body experience.

For Saturday's run I am going to break it down for you into two categories: 1) things I liked and 2) things I didn't. After you read this, go to Youtube, or watch the video here. Feel free to throw your two cents worth by commenting in the area provided below. If you watch the video at Youtube, you do have a "view in high quality" option.

So I consider myself a "glass is half-full" guy. Lets start out with the positives:

Things I liked:
  1. My Outfit. - I really like the look of my "PacTech Performance" rain coat. With the risk of sounding pompous, I think it's cut works with my body type. The canary yellow color just "pops" off the drab gray Georgia skyline. It balances nicely with my earth tone green "Life is Good" running hat. My Lucky Brand jeans are neither too short, too long, too tight, or too baggy. They accent my "Bass All Weather" boots perfectly. I love my Bass boots. They are both fashionable and functional.
  2. Peekay's Fur - By no means do I claim to be objective, but I think Peekay is a real "looker". On a scale of 1 to 10, she's an 11. It's hard to tell in this video, but I love the way in some light she looks "Black and Tan" and in other light she looks "Black and Red".
  3. The Outrun - Once I fixed my body position (see #1 of things I didn't like") Peekay pulled off a neat and clean counter-clockwise out run. She went nicely behind the sheep, didn't dive bomb, completely ignoring the set out dog and stock handler, and pushed the sheep up the center of the course on line. She did all this with the single command from me "Go by". She could have been wider, and she could have approached slower, but I'm not going to get picky.
  4. The Power of Peekay - Peekay's AKC registered name is "Power of One vom Grunenfeld" taken from the Bryce Courtney novel The Power of One. The name fits her perfectly. In practice I once saw a sheep challenge her. Instead of walking away, the rogue sheep squared up and looked Peekay square in the eye. Mistake #1. The sheep then dipped its head and stomped its front hoof in defiance. Mistake #2. Peekay just stood there. She didn't bark, she just held her ground and returned the eye contact. I just stepped back, and said "go get him" and let her do what she needed to do. Like a lightning bolt, she charges the livestock, and lets him know who was the master. Watch the video and it's clear that in Peekay's world this is not a game. Herding is very serious. When she steps onto the field, there is nothing else in her world but me and the livestock. The video speaks for itself.
  5. Attempt #2 at the Y-chute - Things settled down a little. Peekay did a nice job of walking up and pushing them into the chute. She also did a good job reading her stock. When the stock came out the other end, the tried to loop back. Peekay read the move well. When the sheep tried to retreat, she was in the right position to prevent the escape.
  6. The Z chute - The only obstacle that we got right the first time. The sheep tried to go around it, and Peekay did a nice job of preventing the retreat. We lost points for being offline, but in the larger picture it's nothing to complain about.
  7. Attempts 2 and 3 at the holding pen - Once we cleaned up the mess after our first attempt at the holding pen, I thought Peekay did a nice job. We were beginning to figure out that the sheep we drew were troublesome. It took us a while but we got them into the pen. Each time they tried to escape, Peekay did a nice job of reading the stock to cut off the escape. On attempt #3 I also did a good job of using my body to block the sheep and help her out.
  8. Peekay's speed - When I'm on the field, I love watching her turn on the jets and gun down a rogue sheep. It takes my breath away. If you have a great run, you shouldn't see things like that, but it does add to the entertainment value.
  9. Peekay's instincts - I have to remind myself of one thing. Peekay knows more about herding than me. It's in her DNA. It's not in mine. In fact, I have no idea what is in my DNA. At no point in this run was Peekay looking to cause trouble. She never tried to split, divide and conquer. All of the running, all of the chasing it was in attempts to gather the stock, not to make havoc. She is truly a herding dog.
Things I didn't like
  1. My attention to detail - I realize that I am herding practice experienced, but still a novice when it comes to trials. When I placed Peekay for the outrun, I intended to send her in the clockwise direction, but my body position was telling her to go in the counter-clockwise direction. So when I gave the command to go, she went the direction my body, not my voice, was telling her. Notice in the video that the first time I walked away from Peekay I'm facing the camera. The second time my back is to the camera. I need to do a better job of controlling my nerves and using my head.
  2. My initial reads of Peekay and the livestock on the "fetch" - The fetch is the portion of the outrun after Peekay moves behind the sheep and "lifts" them from the grain pan, and drives the sheep the course to me. About 1/2 way to me suddenly I saw Peekay break into a run, and the sheep take off. I assumed Peekay, uncharacteristically, decided that she wanted to run and split the sheep. I was wrong. After reviewing the tape, it was the red sheep with the white face who first started to run in an attempt to escape. Peekay was only responding to his actions. This set the table for the screw ups that followed. I assumed that Peekay was looking to cause trouble and that wasn't the case.
  3. My subsequent reads of the livestock and the "red sheep with the white face - It wasn't until I went back to the van after my run and looked at the video that I discovered that the red sheep was the trouble maker. I got so thrown off my game, that I missed what must have been obvious to all the spectators. In subsequent trials, I need to quickly identify the most troublesome sheep, and work on controlling him. Control the trouble maker, you control the group. Control the group, you are able to maneuver the course. Maneuver the course, you have the potential to earn a qualifying score. This was a mistake that I corrected on Sunday.
  4. My reaction to the judge's warnings - First I am not complaining about the judge. The judge has the responsibility to protect the livestock. She doesn't know me or my dog from Adam. Every time the judge issued me a warning, which was every time the red sheep tried to escape, I felt I had to do something to show that my dog was under control. Hindsight being 20/20 I would have handled this differently. I should have said next to nothing. Peekay wasn't doing anything wrong. I have trained her if a sheep tries to escape, to go off after it. She wasn't harassing the livestock. I let the warnings get into my head. Next time, I'm going to believe in my dog and stay calm. This was another mistake we corrected on Sunday.
  5. Long pauses with no movement. - Bad things happen if you don't keep things moving, and that was true on this day. After a long pause the red sheep couldn't stand it anymore and took off. I need to concentrate, make good decisions and keep things moving. Short pauses are OK to settle things down, but not long ones. If I keep Peekay moving, the sheep will keep moving and they won't have time to think about escaping.
  6. Peekay's stops - On a good day Peekay's stops are mediocre, and today they were worse than that. As usual, I'm mostly to blame. I lack consistency in my commands. Sometimes I tell her to "stand", sometimes I tell her to "wait, and other times I tell her to "stay". In the future I am strictly going to use "stay" as a command to stop motion. "Stand" will only be used to stand up from laying down position.
  7. My first attempt at the Y-chute - It all started with the long pause I discussed earlier. If I would have been more decisive, the sheep would not have tried to escape, and the subsequent mayhem could have been prevented.
Well I can't believe how long of a post this is. It probably takes twice as long to read then my actual run! I still haven't discussed the events of Sunday. That will have to wait for another day. Thank you all for your attention. Speed is good, staying is better. Here's to better runs ahead.

Friday, January 2, 2009

TJ's Tiger Woods 09 Highlight - It's in the Hole!

Here's a quick video of "Virtual TJ" on the links at the world famous TPC Sawgrass. Virtual TJ, sporting a slick stovepipe hat and tails, is standing in the tee box on the course's signature hole, the par 3 17th. This picturesque hole is known for it's island green surrounded by water. Play the video and enjoy. As Bill Murray says in Caddy Shack "It's in the hole!" If only real life golf could be this easy.