Winter To Spring

I grew up on a farm, and as a child, I don’t recall paying much attention to the changing seasons. More focus was on the stop and start of the school year than on the seasons. Later on, during the dozen years living around the city the seasons were a phase of weather I adjusted to by way of clothing and driving conditions. 

But living on the prairie and looking out for sheep and dogs has changed that a little bit. There is a pulse that resonates on a deeper level, almost like it wants to talk to you, perhaps guide you, and this feeling is always strongest for me in the Spring time. Spring to Summer, Summer to Fall, and even Fall to Winter blend into one another to some degree. But on this northern prairie Winter to Spring is less blend and more emergence. Winter and Spring seem to be in an arm wrestle and yesterday was the first day that Spring got the upper hand. Spring is leaning in hard now, that much can be felt, and slowly the long arm of this winter is being laid to the table. 

The guardian dogs are acting chipper, the ewes sleep apart once again, they are up earlier and are a tiny bit restless. I’ve been able to shed one layer of winter gear and it is time for the Muck boots to come out. It will be mud-ugly as the snow melts but I think that will be short lived this year given the lack of snow. 

Shearing the flock is fast approaching and we'll be throwing ourselves into full days of outdoor work before we know it. We shall adjust. Bring on Spring. 

Cold And Soft

I took about twenty steps from the house this morning and then turned back, heeding the nudge that said go back and get the camera. It was foggy, foggy, foggy, and calm but still cold. Foggy days are fast becoming some of my favourite to take photos in. 

Heading out on the walk I was focused on the black and tan dogs which were the only thing of contrast out there. I was watching the frost from the foggy air light upon every raised line of hair on their bodies, becoming thicker and thicker. It was like a sketch by Mother Nature happening as we walked.

But meanwhile there was someone else with us. While the black and tan dogs were a slight contrast in the fog white Wren was everything but contrast.

Cold and soft are adjectives not expected to go together. But in this case they do and I think it’s why I just love these photos so much. I had to share more than just one. I have no extra words to give them - these ones can speak on their own. 

Creative Bent

A few posts ago I mentioned being on a creative bent. I wasn’t kidding and I’ve been loving the time spent creating which has included both artwork and writing.

There have been a few late nights and early mornings as I just want to keep going. There is an interesting thing happening; when I really dive into making artwork, writing ideas begin to flow, so I'm often between the two, felting and then jotting in my journal or furiously typing on the laptop. The artwork is comfortable, the writing requires bravery and the unknown, I'm glad one can help the other along.  

Writing is tricky to show in photos but the felting isn't. The larger needle felted scene I started earlier this year is finished. Since this one is pre-sold but won’t be delivered for a little bit yet, I’ll hold off showing the finished version until it's received on the other end. This photo is about three quarters of the way through.

Meanwhile I decided to give wet felting a try. I'm curious about felted vessels and making felted canvases for myself. This is my first attempt at a felted vessel. 

It was wet felted and then I needle felted the sheep design. I popped out into the yard to find a few winter sprigs just to use for the photo. It had the same feeling as picking summer flowers and grasses from around the yard.

Attempt number two below; still without a clue about how much shrinkage is going to happen and how to get the final shape I'm really after. This wasn't it but I'll work with it. Also learned that it's best to just wet felt with the colors I'm after and worry about specific design later. The wool moves around and migrates through the layers so any design is altered that way (at least until I learn further). 

It looks tiny in the photo, it's roughly 5 by 7 inches and 2 inches wide. It's kinda cool in real. It's still all fuzzy and you can see in the dark shape how the lighter wool migrated through. I think I'll tidy this one and perhaps add a wee Kelpie or a Border Collie in there somewhere.

Choring around sheep, walking dogs, creating with wool and writing about it all - I feel completely immersed in this life at the moment.

Solo Photo

I was lucky to get this photo.  I did not watch and wait and take hundreds of photos to get one as is often the case. Instead I get in front of the ewes who are intent on leaving, quickly slide out of the ranger and fumble to get the camera out of the camera bag riding in the back, get the monopod out of it's sleeve and attached to the camera, check the camera settings, get focused and take precisely two photos before the ewes turned, made off and the scene was over.

Well worth it. I just feel glad I live and work in nature when I look at this photo.

Just Sheep

In the landscape right now, the ewes can be tough to spot. Can you see her?

She’s among a string of ewes following a trail of their making, coming from an area we fed at previously and returning to the current bedding area for the night. 

As I travelled out to feed guardian dogs I spotted their movement. We travel together for a short ways before our paths crossed. 

The ewes are looking quite good as far as one can tell from appearance. Some  individuals are just starting to look a little disheveled (wool is long now and beginning to get taggy). A sure sign that shearing time is approaching. 

Other than the routine of sheep and dogs and walking, I've been in a creative flurry this last little while. I think it has something to do with the impending arrival of spring - it's like I'm doing a last burst of creativity before kinder weather pulls me outdoors for longer and longer stretches of the day's time. 

Observe and Ponder

Allen and I (along with Cajun and Gibson) did some sheep sorting on the weekend. This time bringing the ewe flock home and pulling the rams to end the breeding time. And since the rams are no longer with the ewes, it meant the replacement ewe lambs could join the main flock once again. So those girls got sorted from the culls and wethers they were with and joined the ewes for the short trek back out to pasture. The flock is looking more complete again. 

Sorting breeding groups takes a bit more effort for winter feeding and a bit more feed. When animals are in separate groups, we end up overfeeding smaller groups since they may not require a full bale every day but can’t really afford to skip a day of feed in cold weather either. So it’s nice to have the majority of the animals in one large group again. I do like that we elected not to breed the ewe lambs. There won’t be the maximum number of animals lambing this year but the choice will pay off in other ways.

The ewes are lightly wandering, passing through the weedy patch and some native prairie pasture in the day and returning to the bedding area each night. The weather is still cold but with a touch of warmth from the sun now. In other parts of the continent animals are in a migration journey toward us and I wonder if the animals here sense any of that. Do they feel that a rebirth of the grass is on its way? Does the grass know it is about to grow again? Because for me there is a tinge of all these things, even though they are a way off yet, but maybe I only feel that because I fixate on a calendar year, and March is approaching. 

The animals do not follow a calendar and so I want to know if they sense anything or do they only wander because weather (and no fence) permits them to. But I don’t know how to ask these things of them, only how to observe and ponder. So it intrigues me that the sheep are wandering.

Elusive Canines

They are so elusive, at least around the vicinity of the hub of our place. Most often I spot one when I am driving somewhere.  But when I’m around home and on foot there are always dogs with me or nearby, and so coyotes are not. 

This coyote was in one of the pastures adjacent to the roadway. We spied it on our return trip from town. I went back out to try for photos but it was too watchful and my attempts to sneak over a hill were not successful. If he did not catch my scent, he heard me as I have not managed a way to stay quiet when walking in cold snow. I was still two hills away when it made off. 

A glimpse of a wild canine still stirs something inside of me, my breath still catches. There is only one person I can speak to about these encounters and know, even if he doesn’t share the same sentiment, he will accept mine. But otherwise, in this agriculture country, there is no breathing room allowed for coyotes. Whether legal or illegal to hunt them, they are hunted, snared and shot year round. The fox gets more leeway and is less troubled by humans. I suppose since the majority of the mixed farms around here keep cattle, the fox poses little threat. Around sheep the wee fox can wreak havoc during early birthing.


I am well aware of the damages these wily creatures can cause, we’ve been through very harsh years with coyotes killing sheep and indirectly resulting in the death of dogs. And I believe a rancher needs to have the right to manage problem animals and secure the safety of livestock. But I am also well aware of what balance and coexistence feels like and the majority of the time this is the fluid state we exist in and so I can not hold long term grudges against these wild canines. I will remain grateful for each brief encounter I get.

p.s Thank you for the recent comments. It is curious that similar comments and emails seem to arrive in batches. I am not online with the blog every day (I try to keep a healthy dose of off line time in my life) so don’t always reply to blog comments immediately, however, I do receive the comments in my email inbox and I hold them there as reminders that people are reading and checking in for the photographs. Know that I am thankful for that.

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