Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rocks and Rain in January

On our walk the other day the stock dogs and I detoured off the road and headed across the neighbouring crop field.  Just a walk that day, so I was on foot and happened across a nice grey, flat stone.  I stooped to pick it up and paused there, holding the solid, cool wonder of it in my hand for a moment.  The dogs raced back to see what I had found.  They took a sniff, seemed to shrug their shoulders and carried on.  They hold no questions about such things.  Me on the other hand, I was in awe (and a little concerned) that it is January on the Northern Prairie - and it’s above zero degrees Celsius and I’m finding stones and taking them home with me.

The field we were in is a flax stubble field and the stubble of flax plants is thin.  There is no straw cover because the straw left over after harvest is harrowed into rows or piles and then burned in the early winter.  This leaves behind strips of naked, blackened earth, which warms up quickly if the sun can reach it.  The continual cropping practices means the earth has no protection here.  This field was barren going into winter and will be barren coming out of winter. 

The recent warm weather and full sunlight are making quick work of the snow cover, and fields like this, with little cover, are the first to become exposed and begin drying out.  It’s really rather dismal and doomsday looking.  I think the land owners could use a few sheep to help turn it around. 

The wonder of the weather didn’t stop there.  Yesterday it rained.  The sheep and I hardly know what to do with rain in January.  They went wandering, looking for food that wasn’t hay.  Today was very windy but stunningly gorgeous, with full sun and above zero temperatures.  A beautiful evening to try for some photos - except that the camera battery died.

The ice on the wetlands is already melting

Soaking up the rare warmth from a January sun

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ewe Talk

I shared these on Facebook a short time ago, but I'm no longer on Facebook so I feel the need to share them again.   Besides I'm in need of a short post tonight because it's late and I get up real early, and these photos need little help from me.

There were taken in the morning, as the ewes are rising.  There is a great amount of posturing and communication between ewes as they rise and decide upon their day.  It is one of my favorite things to sit and watch them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sheep On a January Sunrise

I’m quite fond of these few photos and how the morning light highlights and almost outlines the the ewes.  It seems so apt to me that the sun would touch the ewes like that, in its own way of greeting these genial creatures.  
January mornings are cold and yet these scenes have a touch of warmth in them.  The routine here right now is very - well - routine.  It is supremely peaceful in its own right, exemplified by the rare warm weather we are experiencing. 

When life is routine it is easy for it to become mundane or unremarkable and it takes awareness and habit to see it otherwise and be grateful for it.   Taking photos and viewing them later always grants me a new perspective on the place and the animals.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Glorious Beast of an LGD

He is an exceptional and glorious beast.  He is a formidable character, as imposing as he looks in some photos.  At work, he is all business, he wants the whole job.  At rest, he relishes a good belly rub and loves to be scratched on the sweet spot of the chest.  Visitors are often attracted to the white guardian dogs and will welcome their attentions, but more than a few have hesitated around Diesel, asking about him before touching.

I sat to take some photos and he approached to visit. The sun was warm and perfect.

We chatted for a spell and he rested there with me.

He grew curious when I lay down on my belly but endured my opportunistic photo shoot for the short term.   When he had enough he got up and left, which is so true to his character.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Snippets and Land Travel

I haven’t gone far at all and yet five days have gone by since I last posted.  Our internet service has been very spotty, working one day and not the next, and not working when I decide I have the time to post.  Life in the rural prairie.

It was brutally cold and then it warmed up significantly. The ewes are moving about, swath grazing in earnest now.  The guardian dogs have uncurled from their nests in the hay and are active again.  The stock dogs and I have stretched our legs in earnest as well, traveling once again to that far off piece of pasture, and doing training on the sheep.

I have little recollection of how I decided the dogs and I needed to bike and hike out there; previously it always seemed like too much extra effort to go the extra distance.  I'll go another day, I kept saying.  Now I’m glad we go.

I love this piece of land, the hills are perfect, the bush is just right, it has native prairie and lots of wetlands.  Most of all, somehow it feels like it is a back-woods-private-place, and once we have crested the first hill walking in from the roadside, it feels like we are somewhere pristine and on our own.  It still feels new and exploratory, and somehow my mind soothes and settles itself out while I walk around there. 

It is tough to describe what land really means when you’re in love with it, and you rely on it.  We rely on land to deliver food, water, sustenance and shelter to the sheep, and I rely on these prairie spaces for my Self, each and every day too.  I rely on it to provide a place where my soul can re-center.  Because these prairie spaces do this for me I have deep respect for the land, and thus, it matters how and what we do here.  Our agricultural practices matter. 

This is not a rainforest, or a coral reef, or a hundred mile long river bed.  This is another one of the same things though.  It is equal in its prairie way, and it matters that there are places like this remaining in the world. 

Prairie wool