Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sepia Sheep

A couple photos that were quite poor quality and about to be tossed before I decided to try them in sepia tone.

I love this one of the single, it makes me want to know what she is looking at. It has a lonely feel to it, perhaps if only because it’s a sheep on her own (the flock is behind her, to my right). It was taken on an evening check of the flock, the sun is just going down but there is still some residual light.

The next photo was taken during the day but is too light, or overexposed. Not a great one but I appreciate the scene, knowing a few extra details about the sheep as a shepherd does.   I wasn’t trying to take a photo of any dogs but I see Tex landed in this one.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Presentation Pieces

Last January I was sitting on a producer panel at a sheep symposium. We were asked questions about our farms/ranches. In an answer to one question I mentioned that Allen and I were working to pay off our land mortgage and would so in the spring (of 2016).

That comment resulted in an invite to share our story at this years symposium. That’s what I was speaking on this weekend - how a grass based sheep operation helped pay for the land.   I know some of you have followed this blog for some time and might be curious about that story as well.  It is a 40 minute presentation; here are a few snippets of what it contained (I must admit the presentation had some great photos to help it along :-)  and it was better received by the human audience than by the Kelpies).

This place used to be a crop farm until we turned it into the grass based sheep operation it is today.

“The ewes are what we spend 365 days a year with so we focus on keeping ewes in great condition year round, not just at breeding time and lambing time. The input we put into our animals is in keeping them out grazing and moving across the land. Our priority is a flock who thrive in the grassland environment we’re in - if the ewes do that the rest will be there too.”

“It is an approach that holds relevance for Allen and I and how we view farming and our role in the environment.”

“We are spending more dollars in keeping the flock healthy than we are in treatment of animals. I would hazard a guess that is not the case on a lot of farms.”

“Keeping your ewes, and your land, healthy and content is the biggest time and money saving effort you can do.”

“Approaching your farm in this manner takes a rearrangement of the pieces of your thinking.” 

“…. examining what the land and animal offer and what we offer in return - what’s our potential in this game? The closer to the natural value of a thing we can stay the simpler it seems to be. As soon as we push for the animals, the land or ourselves to be un-naturally valuable, we seem to lose our way.”

“There has also been a lot of letting go - letting go of what we can not control. There is a lot of trust in Mother Nature and a belief that those of us who are fortunate enough to be on a piece of land, no matter what size, have everything we need to make this work, no matter what scale.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ewe Routine

There is not much of a perimeter fence remaining on the winter pasture where the flock is grazing.  That fence line is the last stretch we have to change out from electric high tensile fence, to new woven-wire fencing. We need to replace some corner posts and the current high tensile wire is loose which means sheep can walk through the fence if they want to. That’s how they came into the yard area the other day.   

In the deep cold weather they don’t venture really far.  On milder days they definitely go further but are not leaving the pasture.  It is only a matter of time before they do though.  During any other season they would be leaving.  Snow and short days are on our side for now, and the ewes are very routine in the winter; they return to the bedding area every night.  In the summer this is not the case.

Speaking of routine, mine has been lightly sidetracked as I prepare for a presentation to our provincial sheep symposium. It is a small event that takes place this weekend. I’ve been practicing my talk on the Kelpies - being stuck indoors with me they have little choice in the matter but are keeping their comments to themselves.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Wooly Wanderers

Just when we thought the ewes were ready to hunker down on the hay feed and stay put for the winter they begin wandering off to graze the greater pasture area.

The ewes are making this choice to leave the hay feed and venture out and forage as they prefer and I love to see them do so. I feel very strongly that being able to travel and forage at any time of the year goes a long way to keeping animals healthy and content. If we locked the ewes up in corral spaces we’d never know of their strong desire to do so.

Today the ewes ventured toward the yard and discovered a hillside right on the edge of the yard that they have not yet grazed. They are actually just outside of the pasture. This meant they were in view from the house - a rare occasion. I had to stop and watch them each time I passed by the window. Sheep therapy.

With the combination of the winter scene and the uncommon spot, it was like seeing them anew.  Finally I grabbed the camera and darted outside, still in my moccasins, to take a few photos regardless of the flat light.  It is marvellous how vigorously they dig for edibles under the snow.

I let the Kelpies outside at one point and they all gawked at the scene - taken by surprise that sheep could be right there, in their yard; we always have to walk or drive out of the yard to see sheep. Oh they gave me a laugh.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Felting Through Cold and Wooly Days

It’s a cold and wooly day; a day well suited to working with wool in one’s spare time. Since I pulled the felting needles out, I’ve been working pretty steady on needle felting.

A couple blog posts ago I shared the sketch and layout of the start of another project.  This is the finished look.

This one is just a little better than 12 x 16 inches in size. Made with wool from Shetland sheep, Romney sheep and Corriedale sheep. The shetland wool was used for the background and while it did not felt easily, or tightly, the longer fibres created an effect on their own with little shaping from me.

Many of the scenes I imagine doing with wool are of the sheep and the guardian dogs.  Only occasionally does one of a Kelpie pop into my mind, although I do think of many kelpies pictures to do with color pencil.  I have a bag of brown/blackish shetland wool the was gifted to me from a reader.   It was the brown/black colors and the long fibres that made me see a kelpie in some fashion and when I went through my reference photos the pose of this dog seemed a simple one to try.  I have no title for it yet.