Friday, December 2, 2016

Morning Dog, Evening Dog

We sent the flock eastward into the stockpiled winter pasture. With decent weather this should be suitable grazing until January.

Until this point the ewes have traveled westward from the night pen so getting them to travel the opposite route for the first time required some assistance.  I let baby BlackJack have the chance. We had a perfect set up for sending from a hilltop and out around the fat end of an apostrophe shaped wetland that was between us and the flock.  He barely knows to outrun, let alone go any distance but the lay of land could make it happen naturally. He was fixated on the sheep he could see and taking a shortcut in the wrong direction to get there. Once shown where to travel instead, he was off, the land forcing a correct path. I quickly backtracked, to be sure of meeting him near the flock.

After the outrun, he made a mess of things by pushing too hard and splitting his group around himself but that’s all right for now. We regrouped and the next time I sent him around, he did a sweep of the whole group, getting to the far side of everybody before changing direction again. Small steps.

He doesn’t calm the stock like some dogs do and the ewes were moving quickly to get away from the whirling devil. Once we got the flock strung out and going I had to get control of him because he just wanted to dive in for whoever he could cut off. One step forward, one step back. He can only do so much work before hindbrain gets the better of him and this was plenty. Someone watching from that hilltop might have thought it was a gong show but giving him the opportunity of the job and to make his mistakes was rewarding for both of us. We got our sheep headed where needed.

When the ewes are grazing the east field it is the only time I can see sheep from the yard, and then only from the high points in the yard, and only when they’re on certain knolls.  I stepped out front door, zoomed my lens way out and got this picture. They’re ¼ mile away or further.

For bringing the sheep off the pasture in the evening I took the reliable fellow, Gibson. He’s become such an easy dog to have along and hardly a word is spoken between us on routine chores like this. I put him on the ground while I drove along in the Ranger. The ewes were already headed in and the only time he was really needed was for the last stretch up a hill and through the narrow pass leading to the night paddock.

Judging from the very full bellies of these girls I think they’re finding plenty to eat on this winter pasture.  Holy, some of them really went to town on this first day, lol.  As we head into winter I’m pleased with how the majority of them look; their fleece is tight, their eyes are bright, they’re traveling well, as they must.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Nova Scotia Flock Visit

I gave myself a small mission for the trip to Nova Scotia - to visit with a flock of sheep and their guardians as I have done in Montana and here at home in my own province. Having that small goal helped me get through the meeting portion of the trip.

Before leaving from home I touched base with a stranger known to me as Nova Scotia Shepherd, whom I follow on twitter. Would they mind a visitor who wanted to take some photographs? As it turns out, this person follows me through my Crooked Fences Newsletter and this blog, and were happy to meet up. We both have a similar approach to raising sheep on grass, and a deep appreciation of guardian dogs.

In hindsight it was a good plan to make the connection since many sheep flocks in Nova Scotia are reared indoors so you don’t see many sheep just driving around. While I toured only a small piece of the province, I saw just one other group of sheep in a front yard paddock.

When I arrived the sun peaked out in an otherwise very rainy day, and I was greeted with a volley of barking which quickly tapered off as we walked out to watch the flock.  There is a large flock here and seven dogs.  The dogs were alert and watchful as one would expect.  I was observed the whole duration of my visit by one dog or another, and was occasionally followed, although none of the dogs sought any direct attention from me.  They went about their business and I went about taking photos and visiting with Matt and Tasha, my gracious hosts.  

Once the dogs determined I was not an immediate threat, peace resumed.  After an hour long visit I continued on my way.  Not a bad way to spend a spot of one's afternoon I thought.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Side Trip

The colors of Nova Scotia are gorgeous even though this is not the prime time to see the province in all its spendour. The grass is still several shades of green, the soil is red, the shores are yellow and orange and brown, I was not expecting so many trees and such a forested feel, and there is no straight road to be had. 

I was in Halifax for sheep industry meetings, necessary although not really exciting. After the meetings I rented a car and headed to the Northern shore of Nova Scotia. The only concrete plan of the day was to meet up with Nova Scotia Shepherds, Matt and Tasha and visit their flock and their dogs (a connection made via Twitter).  Otherwise, I spent the day traveling at my leisure and stopping where I wished, to take photos.

I landed in Truro that night and the following morning headed westward, taking the trail along the southern shore of Cobequid Bay and the Minas Basin, travelling around to Wolfville and area (with a name like wolfville, I had to head there).  At noon I headed back to Halifax to catch the plane headed toward home.  All the pieces fell into place, plane rides, taxis, meetings, rental cars, driving and navigating, and hotel rooms. Away and home again.

For each place I visit there is a photo that takes me to a specific moment and place and causes me to think, yes that is what it was like.  Oddly enough, this next photo is that photo.  Upon good advice, I stopped at a very old general store and before getting back into the rental car, I stood on the side of the highway and watched these lovely white birds while absorbing where I was and what I was doing.  My guess is they are doves of some type (?)

I arrived home late last night. The experience of my walk was heightened this morning; the pace, the company of dogs, the prairie chill. The small pack is momentarily different before the familiarity of home and place settles into me, and the dogs and I are one and the same, connected again. Going away from home and returning lends to that feeling in spades.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Somehow We Adjust

Three days of being indoors and in meetings; slipping out for a short walk to the Halifax harbour to get fresh air and perspective.  Such a change of setting and of being.  The steady stream of people and meetings takes a lot of adjustment for this prairie introvert.  No meetings today though.  Today I might see some sheep and dogs and catch a few sights and sounds of this beautiful province of Nova Scotia.