Sunday, May 26, 2013

Number Cones

Bold blocky 3" numbers show up well!
A few years back I took it upon myself to keep our dog club's number cones in good repair (3 sets, as we have a large agility field with 2 full courses set up most times, plus a mini course).  For years we've made our own using upside down 8" flower pots and 3" stick-on mailbox numbers. These work okay, except that the pots become brittle and crack after about 6 months in UV light. The stick on numbers start to peel off after a few months, even if they are sealed over with clear package tape, which also starts looking ragged after awhile. (Even the number cones you purchase include decals, which don't last long outdoors despite their being expensive.)

So last winter I decided to try something different-- 3" numbers stencilled then hand painted on smaller, sturdier 5.5" pots, using an acrylic paint pen, then sprayed with 2 protective coats of Krylon Crystal Clear.  These take awhile to paint but they are proving to last a long time.

The first set I made was yellow pots with black italicized numbers, which took 2 coats to cover and still looks great on the field after several months of use.  It hasn't needed any touchup.

This red set, finished yesterday, is white paint on red pots, which took 4 coats to cover.  I won't use white paint again!

We prefer the block numbers to the italicized.

Project Tips:
  • Lay your stencil over the pot and draw the outlines with a pencil or colored pencil, not a pen which bleeds upward through the paint.
  • Remove the stencil, trace over these lines with your paint pen, then fill in. A steady hand is required!
  • Don't let the paint touch the cardboard stencils, which gets them wet and they lose their sharp edge.
  • Also, even if using vinyl stencils, the paint bleeds under the stencils making a huge mess.
  • Clean up mistakes quickly using mineral spirits!  Have it handy because these paint pens drip and you will inadvertently drag your finger through the paint at some point.
  • Doesn't hurt to have a paint pen the same color as the pots, for tidying up numbers that got too wide or tall and won't come clean.

The bottom cup makes
these pots extra sturdy.
These Misco pots are sturdier than most -- thicker plastic that doesn't seem to disintegrate, more flexible but stronger, and with a snap-on bottom cup that makes them double strong.  A case of 24 pots can be ordered year round from Misco Home and Garden for about $1 apiece. We got ours individually from Walmart at $.97 each but they are seasonal items and they rarely have enough of one color at one store, and since it's a good idea to have a few extra pots for when a few of them get kicked, squashed, chewed up, or disappear, a case of 24 is perfect.

I'll report back how these pots are holding up over time.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dog Club Annual Mother's Day Crawfish Boil

L to R:  Allison, Nathan, Me, John, the Boiling Pot
It's that time of year again, and for a 4th consecutive year I landed up being in charge of coordinating my dog club's annual picnic.  Despite the work, I love the picnic because it gives dog trainers a chance to include their spouses and kids in a club event, and I especially love to eat crawfish. For the 3rd year Nedra offered her lovely home and back yard with huge covered patio and shaded yard. I did the shopping and food prep, and John took a day of vacation and was in charge of boiling up the crawfish per my recipe (below).  Clubmate Ken smoked 2 pork butt roasts for the meat eaters, and everyone brought a side dish, so there was heaps of food and scrumptuous desserts. 38 people showed up, and the party lasted 4 hours.

This took place last Saturday, Mother's Day weekend, so it was also perfect for me to combine a club event with visiting my son and his wife, and my sister-in-law, leaving them free on Sunday to party with the other halves of their families. We almost aborted the party due to 2 days of torrential rain on Thursday and Friday and a forecast for Saturday of 40% rain which made a few people cancel, but we took a chance and the weather turned out beautiful. We had no choice, really, as every other weekend is scheduled with trials our members are attending.  There is no perfect weekend, really, to accomodate everyone in our club.  Someone is always trialing in agility, obedience, tracking, or some such.

For anyone interested in putting together a cajun (highly seasoned) crawfish boil, here's my recipe (which some say is "the best crawfish they ever had"):

I figure 3 lbs of crawfish per person (some won't eat them, others will eat 6 lbs, so it works out so there are no leftovers and everyone gets their fill.)
So for every 10 people, a 30 lb sack of live crawfish.
Cut up all the ingredients in advance and portion them in zip lock bags to add to each sack you boil.
1st batch:
3/4 of a 73 oz jar of Zatarans Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil
4 yellow onions, cut in half
1 bunch garlic, cut off root end and separate into toes
4 lemons, cut in half and tossed into the water, squeezed.

6 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and cut into thirds.
1.5 lbs of fresh mushrooms
1 lb. link sausage (any kind), cut into bite sizes
2 lbs. small red potatoes, skin on, cut larger potatoes into chunks the size of the small potatoes so they cook through.

Purging: Fill a large cooler with water and mix in a box of plain salt.  When dissolved, dump a sack of live crawfish in to purge them of their mud, for about 20 minutes.  Drain the muddy water, fill cooler again to rinse, shake to agitate, then drain again.

Meanwhile, fill an 80 quart crawfish pot 2/3 with water, add the Crab Boil, onions, garlic, and lemons, and heat to a rolling boil.

Add the purged crawfish and return to a rolling boil.  The water should just cover the ingredients.

Add the corn, mushrooms, sausage and potatoes.
Boil for 2 minutes, then cut off the flame.
Soak for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a big wooden paddle.
Drain and serve.

Nathan and John bring batch 2 to the table.
2nd batch:
Same as above, but add only 2/3rds Crab Boil, as the first batch leaves plenty of seasoning in the water.

3rd batch:
Same as above, but add only 1/2 jar of Crab Boil or it could be too spicy.

Try it!  It's great! But you will need at least 2 strong men to lift the straining basket and drain the crawfish.  I'm mighty glad to have my two fellas.

When I got home exhausted, to my great surprise, Nathan had sneaked in and left me a beautiful Mothers Day card, a gorgeous vase and 10 gladiola stems which opened in the next few days to look like this.   On Sunday I slept in til noon while poor John had to work, then we called my Mom when John got home and found out she had a nice day too, well remembered by all her grandkids.  John presented me with 2 lovely cards on Sunday, also displayed here. It was thus a most satisfying weekend.

Next week is my wedding anniversary, so there's going to be another party and more flowers right around the corner.  Pant!  Pant! Time is flying by and I still haven't signed up for my next agility trial.  I feel the need to practice and I have to get a better handle on training Pepper!   Yikes, he's 18 months old already and while he is lots of fun, behaves at home, and does all the full height equipment at speed, he still can't weave, is easily distracted, and is lousy at sequencing. I have a lot of work to do to get him in the game.

Upwards and onward!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Port Allen Agility Trial - April 2013

Maxie 6 runs, 2 Q's, 1 2nd place, 21 MACH points, 6 videos
Lucky Lucy 6 runs, 0 Q's, 6 videos

Port Allen is right across the river, 25 minutes from home, so we came home every evening.  It's my own dog club's trial, John participated as 1st assistant Chief Course Builder and was there at 6:30 every morning and among the last to leave.  He put in lots of volunteer hours for this family!  I did some, too, like cleaning equipment, help loading the truck, managing the signage, managing the wireless mike for the FAST classes, and some ring work, but mostly concentrated on running Maxie and Lucky. Pepper came along for the ride and enjoyed visiting friends and prancing about. We did lots of crate games, some leash training, and a bit of off leash training at the warm up jump, where he was easily distracted.

Was it our worst trial ever?  No, but it seemed like it at the time.  No Q's for Lucky.  Only 2 for Maxie.  But finally getting the heart to check Lucky's spreadsheet since then, it's not the first trial she came home with no Q's.  And actually, her first run was splendid, a solid MS Q with 18 seconds to spare, her highest speed points ever, and we both knew she had done GREAT!  Alas, exiting the ring I was informed we had been whistled off because she ran with tags on (can't do that in AKC)  I had put on her agility collar but failed to unclasp the everyday one. A first, and talk about kicking myself all the way to our crates!  How could I do that? Probably got distracted talking to someone.  I apologized to the judge later for not leaving the ring immediately, but I never heard the whistle. She said "no problem" and I will always be glad she let us finish that first wonderful run.  The rest of the weekend was just one thing after another, incomplete weaves, a backjump, missed contact, I missed queing one jump.  Sometimes she was looking for Daddy in the stands. On the other hand, her videos show some brilliant moments -- long stride, great form, spurts of real enthusiasm.

Veteranary therapy is growing in popularity at dog events.  Here's
Tracey's beagle getting an acupuncture treatment.
Maxie is a different story.  His first run he ran by the weaves without even attempting them (a first), Q'd twice his next 2 runs, then NQ'd the rest of the weekend, lots of missed weaves.  His times were a bit slower.  A chiropractor was on site so I set up an appointment for right after the trail.  She immediately noticed that he sits crooked, then diagnosed him as having "LOTS OF THINGS OUT OF PLACE",  and gave him an adjustment which she said "should hold 6 months"! She told me to never again let him jump off our high bed or high couch as it could be doing serious injury to his shoulders.

By coincidence, today I listened to a Bad Dog Agility podcast about Alternative Medicine For Agility Dogs, covering chiropractic, acupuncture, lazer and massage therapies.  It's quite interesting. I had no idea so many performance dogs have regular physical therapy treatments to keep them in shape for competition. 

So therapy is my plan for now.  We're in "take it easy" mode for now.  Maxie laid around the house for 3 days after the trial and looked pathetic.  Was he in pain?  How does one know?  After reviewing the videos carefully all I can see is maybe less push off in his rear legs, shorter strides, a bit less focus.  But it's very subtle.  I notice once in awhile Lucky clears a jump way too high (like 36" over a 24" bar) and comes down hard on her shoulders.  Will they wear out soon?

We've been to the Brandon trial two weekends after this one (previous post), where Maxie did Okay, not great.  He seems okay around the house, but maybe not so "puppy like" or playful. I have to become a better observer, and have begun to give him regular massages.

Oh, there was a videographer at the trial and for $18, I got a video composite of the whole weekend's runs, one for each dog, set to music.  They came in, and I found I much prefer fiddling with my own videos.

Upwards and onward,