Reflections of Ewe

Following on the heels of the post about water and this land... 

On this particular evening the still water tells how calm it is.  Funny thing, I did not see much in the way of photos when I made my way past this spot.  Just some sheep drinking.  I took a few photos and carried on.  When importing photos from the camera later on this tiny batch of reflection photos were my favourite and made me wish I had spent more time there.  

We do pump water from the wetlands to our portable water bus which lets the sheep drink from a trough.  Still, if the water station is too far from where the sheep are grazing that day, some ewes will go down to the shore of wetlands for a drink. 

Water and Such

In response to the question about the water the dogs are playing in in the last post here's more than you probably wanted to know :-)  Our property is rolling hills, bush, pothole sloughs and wetlands; there is no river or creek.  The above photo is one of the two wetlands next to our yard.

The dogs play in the sloughs and wetlands, some of which are quite large.  Just fyi, sloughs are temporary collection points, they tend to be shallow and by late summer/early fall will have dried up.  Wetlands are more substantial bodies of water that hold water year round.  The riparian area (grasses/shrubs/trees) around each one will be different. 

If you examine the next photo you can see five wetlands in the spread of ¾ mile.  This is where the sheep are grazing now and funny thing: this is a file photo from a year ago but Cajun and I just moved sheep to the far side of this very pasture this afternoon.  It's like we did a repeat of this photo. 

Approximately 185 acres of our property is water.  That’s more than one quarter section worth of water.  Amazing for dry-land prairie and that’s the beauty of it too.  
Part of the reason Allen and I pay a lot of attention to how the grass is doing, is because the grass is the natural filter for the wetlands. If this land was cropland you would see substantial affect on the wetland health, we know because when we bought this place it was cropland from one end to the other. We converted it back to grassland. 

The water being in lowland areas coupled with low annual precipitation means the hilltops lack it. The nature of this land is hilltops with desert like conditions, slopes with mid range conditions, and lush valleys - all on a mini scale in each pasture.  It makes rotational grazing challenging. 

Given that there are numerous wetlands there is an abundance of marsh loving songbirds here as well as waterfowl.  This area has one of the highest populations of migrating waterfowl in Canada. 

Of course the numerous wetlands allow for an easier time of watering livestock. We pump water from the wetland to our portable water bus which lets the sheep drink from a trough.  Still, if the water station is too far from where the sheep are grazing that day, the ewes will go down to the shore of wetlands for a drink. 

Granted I am severely biased but this is a beautiful piece of grazing property, albeit a tad in the middle of no where.

White Dog Water Play

To date we haven’t had a guardian dog that likes the water as much as Wren does. While other dogs will wade in and get their feet wet, Wren enjoys getting wet and catching the water as it ripples past her.  

Birdie will follow Wren but prefers being closer to shore. Tex hardly ever gets in the water.  These photos really couldn’t be separated because they tell such a playful story, so you get all of them in one blog post.  This is Wren, Birdie and Tex during a hot morning.  

We place a great deal of altruistic notions onto guardian dogs and to some degree rightly so.  Yet these moments say a lot about the nature of guardian dogs.  How they're dogs, first and foremost; dogs living a very free, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous life, but also a very joyful and purpose-full one, which is a gorgeous example of living and something we can all hope for. 

Wren and Birdie
Wren being oh so tolerant of Birdie towing with her tail
Backlash from Wren
Wren and Birdie again

Tex comes onto the scene

Tex and Wren

Racing off, Tex (on shore) and Wren

Lily Update

I appreciate the comments on the photo of myself and the large-dog crew. It really is a rare photo because a) I'm in it and b) so are all seven lgd's - having all seven dogs in one place does not happen very often.  We were in a bit of rush to get the photo before one or more dogs wandered off. 

Lily is doing quite well.  She has a slight hitch/limp in her step but if you didn't know to watch her for it you would probably miss it.  Changing direction and doing turns off her hindquarters is when the leg fails her.  She has to think about jumping fences now whereas before she jumped without hesitation, all in one motion.  I'd rather she never jumped them at all but she is an athletic and determined dog. 

She has reasserted herself as matriarch of the pasture once more so Tex is showing up with the dogging sheep more and more often now because she pushes him out.  I expect Lily and Wren will have some disagreements as Wren matures although it may be that Wren is enough of a softie that she'll avoid that at all costs.  Wren is not a confident pup.  Birdie seems to have won Lily over though but Birdie is still such a pup that she isn't really on Lily's radar yet. 

Tour Time Once Again

We do a tour tomorrow for international beef and sheep conference attendees.  Attendees are individuals from different countries and the focus of their conference is cost of production, so that will be the starting point of discussion.  The group will visit our place (low input, grass based) and also visit an intensive sheep operation (high input, no grass base).  I have a few notes prepared but otherwise we have done enough tours now that I know to expect, and accept, that tours are always a bit of a surprise in some fashion and you can never be sure where the conversation will go.  Often, at some point or another, the conversation steers toward dogs because we can’t do a tour here without someone taking notice of one dog or another.   

We will take the group to a pasture hilltop overlooking where the flock is and begin discussion there.  When a group of people show up on pasture I’m pretty sure the guardian dogs will make their presence known and perhaps take over for us :-). 

Speaking of guardian dogs, here’s the other rare photo that I chickened out showing you on the last post - a picture of myself with all seven guardian dogs in the photo as well.  Shy as I am about photos I handed Allen the camera and insisted he take one. The white building photo bombing in the background is our one and only sheep building/shearing shed.  It’s a long way away but the camera makes it look near. 

It Takes a Bit of Time

It takes a bit of time to move the flock right now given that there are young lambs at foot. Gibson is the Kelpie dog in the left forefront of this photo and he’s really only needed for encouragement for the ewes but doesn’t need to push much.  The ewes go willingly, eager to move their lambs away from the dog.  He does the occasional flank, going from the left to right side and back again to keep the family groups caught up but otherwise not rushing the ewes.  Gibson is understanding of the job (which is one of the reasons I appreciate kelpies) and I’m just coming along with the camera at this point.  The sheep are traveling to a gate in the valley spot at the top right and then traveling up the long hill.  That white spot on the long hill slope is a guardian dog, waiting/watching as ewes pour into the new pasture. A little ways to travel and no rush is peaceful. 

Lambing is near finished; it’s just a trickle of new lambs arriving now.  As lambing duties dissipate Allen and I turn our attention to a major project that we’ll likely do only this one time since we have no plans to leave this place.  We begin the build of our house.  Some jobs are contracted out, such as the timber frame portion, but otherwise Allen is looking forward to doing a great deal of the build. 

I have little idea of what to expect, other than obvious busyness and decision making.  So far we’ve been through a rash of delays and are feeling eager to get underway.  It occurs to me now that the one thing that will continue on as usual and help keep us level headed and on track despite the upheaval and plentitude of home building is the habits and routine of the sheep and dogs which is why we're here to begin with.

A rare photo with all seven guardians! 

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