Beautifully Incomplete

I posted this on Facebook a couple days ago and was surprised that the consensus on it was, a resounding yes, it is interesting and beautiful just as it is. This is the piece I started on Dive In and Forget. On that blog post I wrote: I had no plans for it other than to finish it and enjoy it. Hmmph. I dabbled at it and I thoroughly enjoyed doing so because it was a piece I was doing only for the sake of drawing again, not because it had to turn into anything specific. At this point in the progress I set it on the shelf for a day while I went back to work on that large needle felting piece I shared the start of earlier. 

Allen walked by and commented how the drawing looked pretty cool like it was, only partly done. I chuckled in an offhand sort of way. That was over a week ago and I haven’t wanted (been able) to add any more to it since. Now that I see it, I can’t un-see it. It reminds me of how beautifully incomplete we all are, and of the strength in understanding this. All around me is the best example going - nature and the land - always unfolding and evolving, never complete but instead beautifully incomplete - as nature intended. 

So in the end, this one just might have a spot in the studio as is to serve as that reminder, and I’ll start on another - there is no shortage of ideas for artwork.

If you're curious to know, the dog is BJ, she is the most photogenic dog of my bunch. She has a look that is serious but often with a touch of concern and that’s exactly how she is.

Caught With A Mouthful

For the most part the ewes are just eating their way through the remaining winter. I can relate - it's hay feed for them and snacking on Kit Kat bars for me. 

With only a modest amount of snow we've been able to move the feeding location so that we don't keep feeding in the same area on the winter pasture. The ewes are now on a spot we call the weed patch. Here they're once again finding stuff to nibble on under the snow. We've had a lengthy stretch of cold with wind almost everyday and I'm feeling extra thankful to have bush to feed around and always find a place out of the wind. 

The daily scene right now reminds me of a drawing a did a couple years back so I went through the archive photos to find it.  I still have the original artwork.

It surprises me a bit to see artwork I long forgot about. I’ve been working on art quite a bit lately since another way to stay out of the wind is to stay busy indoors between tending to all the animals, walking with kelpies included, because like feeding sheep, not much stops that from happening. 

Either way, we'll get it done

The stock dogs and I were outdoors today to tackle another sheep job. I sold a group of lambs so needed to sort them and get them tagged for load out on Friday. 

The outdoor alleyway that leads to our indoor raceway is blown in with snow so I decided to bring all the animals in the front of the building and pen them in a narrow side pen.  At the back of that pen I can open a swing gate and feed them to the raceway from there. This way we get to work indoors. 

Gibson and Coyote Mic gathered and got them into the building without trouble but the group was not going to fit into that narrow pen. This group of animals numbers about 200 head. We had about three quarters of them in but would need a plan B. Plan B was to do a gate sort between two pens, releasing the animals I know I can send back out and then continue with plan A. I only needed one dog to gate sort with and decided it would be Coyote Mic. I haven’t gate sorted a large group of sheep in some time. I lost myself in the work, leaving Mic to cover and hold sheep while I managed the gate and cut the proper animals out. Slowly, slowly we managed our group down to the last dozen who would now easily fit in the narrow pen with the rest.  

From this point on I used the raceway and three way sorter for the rest of the group. Gibb and Mic were tied up and watching for much of this. I have to tie Coyote Mic or she jumps panels to get in with sheep somewhere. When I got down to the last small bunch and could pen all of them at the mouth of the race I tried my hand at getting the dogs to work the raceway. To keep a flow of sheep going down the raceway when the animals know there is a catch gate and a human at the end takes some doing. Often a person has to walk numerous times up and down the raceway. This is what I wanted the dogs to do for me. Gibson has an idea of this as I’ve tried it with him a time or two before. For Mic it was a bit perplexing but gave her great excitement in trying. She could never really get around the sheep as experience has taught her she should and she had zero patience for waiting on me before more sheep could move up. [Sidenote - this is not the same thing as backing with a Kelpie. I do not teach my dogs to back because our grid style panels are too dangerous for hooking a dogs leg when they come down off sheep and I've seldom had a reason to use backing]. 

After sorting the original group we moved the animals that were not needed back out to the feed area, leaving us with 50 odd lambs to resort and ear tag. I took a break for a late lunch and when I came back out I (bravely) brought BlackJack with me. There was only a couple simple jobs to be done now, perfect for his scatterbrained mind. With BlackJack's help I moved the lambs back to that narrow pen and again filled the raceway. This time I needed to catch each lamb at the catch gate to ear tag it. With a smaller group of animals I was able to fit them in the back pen, leaving the sides of the raceway clear of sheep, and let Jack try working the raceway just as I had done with Gibb and Mic. He took to this job readily, if a little too excitedly. Once he understood go back was a cue to move more sheep up and not a cue to leave the ones he just brought, he became eager to do it. 

It was a nice, full winter day of work leaving me with the satisfaction of being a day ahead of schedule, and the satisfaction of being able to toss my dogs into work whether we’re well practiced and well oiled, or out of practice and a little rusty. Either way we’ll get it done. 

My apologies for the lack of a photo, but the internet is way to slow for uploading photos tonight. 

Needle Felting in Progress

A few photos on the progress of the needle felted piece I am working on. It’s been a cold, cold week (and I am just getting over a wicked cold) so there is time to be indoors and working on it. Since this is a scene with some detail it had a different start than other pieces I have done recently. On some pieces the background is incorporated as part of the piece and then I don't have a line drawing to go by. On this piece I drew the outlines of the scene on paper and then used that paper drawing as a template to get the outlines on the fabric. 

I wasn’t interested in drawing every sheep that is in the background, I just needed to know where they traveled in order to keep the perspective. Oddly enough this is sounding a bit like sheep in real life - know where/how they travel and keep your perspective. 

From here I lay out the first attempt of wool and color to see if it suits and then keep going, - and going and going and …  

Sometimes the background is incorporated as part of the piece. Like on the recent Three Sisters piece.  In this case I'm felting all those little sheep in place before I lose where they belong. Once a first layer is in place across the whole piece I turn my attention to more of the detail in the foreground which will be needed to give a sense of distance to the scene. Once I have some detail in place I start on a second layer, basically repeating the entire process, building it up. 

Dive In and Forget

Some days I just need to sit down and draw; dive into detail I know I can get with a color pencil in my hand and not worry about - well, just not worry period. That’s a magical thing. 

Picking up a pencil and doing the first drawing that came to mind tonight righted the day and my spirits. It was one of those days you stumble through while questioning where the heck you’re going in life and if you make any difference doing any of it. It seems everyone else is flying around on paths of greatness or at least great fun, and you're still doing what you do without much fanfare about it. I think many farmers and ranchers might relate, such is the solitude of our affairs. 

It’s a good thing feeding sheep and dogs is so habitual, otherwise I might have forgotten that today. And it’s a grand thing to have a sideline activity to dive into and forget every thing outside yourself for a moment. It shapes up my head game every time. 

There are no plans for this piece other than to finish it and enjoy it because it soothes me to do so. I chide myself for drawing yet another dog, but each piece is a piece of appreciation I feel for the canines that are such an asset to this life. I also have a felting project in the works; a commissioned piece for a fellow grass based sheep person. I’m into a tedious phase on that one though, trying to create a scene with lots of grass and lots of sheep. I’ll share progress on that one soon. 

Another one of life's small moments well enjoyed

I decided Jethro’s time with his band of ewes needed to end. So I sorted him from his group, placed him with the rams I didn’t use this year, and then needed to send his band of ewes to rejoin the flock. To get them to the flock meant passing through the paddock where the cull ewes and replacement lambs are stationed. Normally I would have moved those animals to a pen before bringing other animals through to prevent anyone from mixing. But it’s winter, there is snow and cold in the way, and I figured with a little feed to keep the first group preoccupied I could pass Jethro’s ewes through. I’m generally a low risk taker in life; this is my idea of taking a risk.  

I grabbed Coyote Mic to help me since she’s so quick to cover her stock I was pretty sure the ewes wouldn’t have time to think about where to go but would just have to go where told. Being that it was cold out, and not having worked stock for a spell, Mic was eager. It worked like a charm. Out the gate, down the trail, around the bend, and a left turn through the second gate, which I promptly shut to separate us from the others. After that, just a trek through the yard and out to pasture. I hopped on the Ranger, which I had left parked in the yard, while Mic moved the sheep on out. Taking the Ranger meant we didn’t have to walk back home. We made our way to the flock quickly and without incident, three guardian dogs arriving to join us and investigate the newcomers to the flock. 

I called to Mic to hop aboard for the brief ride back. She scootched herself close to me, sitting tall, looking proud and warming up her toes on the seat blanket. Another one of life’s small moments well enjoyed by each of us. 

With this task complete we have three groups of sheep to feed and water rather than four.  The cull ewes and some left over market lambs will need to move out next.

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