Fly and her farm family

Susie Fly & Sheep 1The Fabulous Fly and her farm family

For anyone who hasn’t heard, we are having a brutal fire season in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m writing on a day when the smoke is filling the air and we hear that 12,000 acres of land have already been burned in the forests of eastern Washington State. The fires closer to home—43 fires all tolled in and around Washington and Oregon—have in some cases joined forces, fanned by the winds coming from the north. I feel for the men and women fighting these fires, and for the losses already sustained.

The post I’ve been planning on the state of affairs in my garden this summer will have to wait until the air is clearer to take photographs. I am hoping that my gardening friends can help me think of some alternative plants and approaches to a changing world with dryer and hotter conditions. Your thoughts helped me design my entire front garden bed—you are all amazing in your knowledge!

I’m linking in with Donna’s Seasonal Celebrations and with [email protected]PlantPostings —sharing a feeling of farm life and a view into one woman’s hard work keeping her farm animals alive and well while moving into the cooler, longer nights. Please join check out these two amazing blogs and the stories they have to tell.

The Farm I’m taking you to today is Magnolia Farm in Central Oregon, the home of our friend, Elissa, and her six working sheepdogs. Elissa writes me today that the smoke in her area is so thick that her throat is sore and her eyes burn, but on the days we visited, the days were a little cooler—a gift for the firefighters.

Magnolia Farm sign


I have written about Elissa before and included a link to a terrific, short video on life at the farm.


After the first minute of a recipe for preparing lamb—it was after all, a chef who made the video!—we get to hear for ourselves how Elissa feels about taking the life of an animal for food. It is a fascinating and thought provoking four minutes. I invite you to participate in the conversation about this really important subject.

Our Border Collie, Fly, was born and raised her first year on this farm. (Once she started to work, a nerve injury in her throat was discovered….) Now, she is a city girl. But it is still great fun to go back to the farm where she first learned about herding and see if some natural instincts kick in.

Fly in Fieldx1000

Fly was pretty relaxed—no changes in her easy-going ways, meanwhile her sibling and the other dogs were raring to go!


I wish I would have asked more questions about the types of these sheep. If anyone knows, please share.

Bunch of sheep
Elissa and Susie Petting Sheep

I guess it wouldn’t be a day in the country without our beautiful girl rolling in something disgusting. I learned that the rest of the dogs don’t always roll in sheep or cow poop because it just too ordinary for them. (They wait for more interesting stuff, like cougar or bear….) But for our sweet-smelling city dog, the cow dung was just too irresistible, so Fly found the hugest, messiest pile of you-know-what to roll in and had a grand time of it. Of course we let her enjoy it to the fullest…

But there was no way she was getting in the car with us without a bath!

Fly getting a bath

I’d love to hear about YOUR dogs–every dog lover I know likes other people’s dogs too for the most part. Are you a dog person or a cat person? What IS the difference anyway….I’ve never really known. (I’ve usually had both….)

Have you ever watched a Sheepdog trial? Does your dog or cat garden with you?

What would we do without our fabulous furry friends???




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    • Ah, I would bet that the Welch blogger would have a lot to say about the sheepdog trials there. I would LOVE to see them in that location. These dogs are so brilliant. I had a cat once, whose name was “Orange”, but I like “Chocolate” better!

  • I did know about your fires, and my heart goes out to everyone affected, animal or human. We have them every year (often deliberately lit). I hope yours are brought under control soon.
    Our German Shepherd liked to roll in very dead things. Which made crap smell sweet.

    • I heard that we had contingents of men (and probably women as well) firefighters from New Zealand and Australia who came to help us fight our fires here. Some of the guys were interviewed in the line getting fitted out for their gear. One man said: “Well mate, we know you will come and help us in our hour of need.” Right he is! It’s a whole new world now where everybody has to help everybody…(or we won’t make it), said a quiet part of me….

  • Elena Caravela

    I do hope that the fires come under control very soon. To answer your question, I’m a creature person. I love them all:)

    • We’ve had a few days of rain Elena and it HAS helped. But these are still scary times for the west. I imagined you to be a “critter” person, why am I NOT surprised? I wonder if you ever do animal studies? Thanks for writing in and being such a support. You won Donna’s contest, so I have a book going out to you. Amazon just wrote me and told me the box of 25 books I ordered will be here very soon. I’ve already got the envelope and note written! That is how ready I am to get that book to you-:)

  • Hi Susie. The smoke was awful, wasn’t it? I kept thinking about how difficult it must be for those who live close to the fires and how they’re having to deal with that smoke for weeks on end. And it occurred to me that the smoke blowing east was easing the burden for them. Like, maybe we who live on the west side of the state were sharing their burden for a few days, if that makes sense. I’m a cat lady all the way but your dog and his siblings are beautiful.

    • The smoke was pretty bad. Did you have health warnings in central ORegon? We did have about two days of them here. I know what you mean about sharing the burden. It makes total sense to me, just a feeling of being in it together. When the rain came, I literally went out and danced in it (like a goofball.) I was SO happy.

    • Hey Beth, thanks! We do love this place, being with all those super-bright dogs, watching them so ready to do their work. And our friend, Elissa, is amazing. Thanks for being here–glad you enjoyed the photos-:)

  • I feel with you about the fires – we are in the same boat. We had some terrible fires in our neighboring county which thankfully are contained right now. But the fire season is far from over.
    I love the pictures from Magnolia Farm, especially the sheep and dogs. I’m both a dog and a cat person, and if I could choose I’d have a dog (or two). However, due to severe allergies in my family we can’t have any pets – which is hard both on me and my daughter. Good thing I have friends with dogs!

    • It’s always nice to have friends with dogs if you can’t have them. I would miss not having a dog so much, but it does get challenging when we want to travel sometimes. Fly has a favorite “auntie” and that helps a lot. Carola, I guess you must be in Oregon too, I know I’ve seen your comments from the coast. So glad you enjoyed the post and pics. Thanks for being patient with the software–it makes me approve the first comment, but thereafter you can comment away with no restrictions.

    • So great to see you here Christine! Thanks for writing in and leaving a comment. Glad you like the pictures–Paddy does a good job behind the camera. I just tried to text Sawyer to thank him for the tire payment, but it didn’t go through. I must not have the right # for him. Big hug.

  • I love cats but am really a dog person. I love their enthusiasm. Cats can be too snooty for me. My dogs would have rolled in everything and then been kicked in the head or butt by at least one other creature. They are suburban house dogs to the max. Fire is terrifying. I remember worrying about it when I was growing up in CA.

    • Hi Tammy, that’s exactly what I love about dogs: that they get so excited about stuff. Cats are like: ho hum, what have you done for me lately? If you watch Elissa’s video within the post, she says just that: “it can be the yuckiest, coldest day outside, and your dogs are like..YES! Ready to go to work!” She goes on to say it is a real privilege to work with a dog. Sounds like yours have had every suburban challenge-:) I like seeing yours on your posts. Good news on the fire front: we’ve had rain and it has helped our situation a lot, although by no means are we completely out of woods. Portland often has a warm/hot September. Thanks for writing in!

  • Finally getting around to reading and visiting blogs my friend. As always you have such wonderful stories to share. I do hope you are getting some relief there with the fires and drought. Here we have finally cooled down as it has been a hot summer. But nothing like your conditions.

    I adore Fly and her story…how wonderful to visit. I have had dogs but none for a while…they do bring such humor and joy to our lives….and patience….that is another lesson I have learned from these sweet animals. I watched border collies in Ireland on a sheep farm there….what an amazing animal. I love how they herded the sheep without any sound at all. I remember your post about this farm…quite a story.

    Thanks for sharing another visit Susan, and supporting Seasonal Celebrations.

    • Guess what? We’ve had some wonderful rain! I’m thrilled. Yesterday, it was hot and sunny, but this morning I awakened to rain….and was so happy. Guess I’m becoming a Pacific Northwesterner for real. It’s real break for the hard-working fire crews. I’m glad you enjoyed Fly’s story again. I realized I hadn’t taken photos of the farm, and I felt people might enjoy it, especially because many can’t take the time to view a video (even though it’s short.) Quite a life that Elissa leads, tremendous amount of work, but with brilliant border collies to help her do the job. Yes, you picked up on that: they do it soundlessly. That is part of their job, not to spook the sheep. I LOVE watching smart dogs work, they are a real partner for the farmer or rancher. Your book should reach you tomorrow. Amazon finally shipped my box! Sheesh, took them forever to ship 25 books.

  • One of my dogs was an avid gardener. I asked her advice on all major changes especially if it looked like my husband wasn’t going to agree. She always came down on my side.

    • I love it. Yes, dogs are loyal to a fault. You’ve got a perfect gardening pal there. Is she/he in the herding breeds? They are my favorite type although I love dogs of most all persuations. Linne W. at “Women Who runs with Delphiniums” gardens with her Scotty, and he seems to play a big role in her garden-:)

      • She was a German Shepherd. We made the mistake of throwing weeds for her to catch as a puppy and it became a lifelong hobby. Our previous dog was a border collie-wonderful dogs. Our next life change will be to have a smaller dog. I want to be sure I can manage the care of an older dog and 10+ years from now I may not want to regularly lift a 70lb dog into the car.

      • You are very smart thinking of a smaller dog for 10+ years from now. I understand that completely. I had a Sheltie, Rufus, who was pretty chubby at 50 pounds–even though he was a very big Sheltie to begin with–and in his later years I used to put a towel around his middle so I could hold him up as he walked outside to pee. (I’d lift the towel just the right amount to keep his feel softly on the ground, but take off the weight from his arthritic feet.)It was almost too much! I am imagining your German Shepherd catching weeds in her mouth! That is a very funny story. I’d love to hear what kind of pup you get the next time around. Our sweet dogs just don’t live long enough. They are family, 100% family.

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