Grateful for Green

With some luck and good management the pastures ahead of the sheep are lush and plentiful.  When they move into a new pasture one can’t help feeling satisfied that everything looks as it should.  That only lasts for a couple days though and then the evidence of a thousand mouths eating that grass begins to show.  The flock is now at it highest point for grass intake, with the lambs no longer getting much milk from the ewes and eating grass like no ones business and the ewes eating to keep up with raising growing lambs. 


This photo is from the morning after two inches of much needed rain, the ewes are still wet and the grass is that fresh, newly watered green.  The ewes have just arrived in this pasture.  I like to hang around and soak in the scene when we make a pasture move with the ewes, as it keeps me feeling grateful that we still have grass and averts the back of the mind niggling that at any time the conditions could change.  We have been abundantly wet for the last six or seven years so this dryer year feels abnormal.  We are watching in amazement as the wetlands shrink back at a rapid pace and drowned and dead trees are sticking out of dry earth rather than water.  This has been a year of change and I'm not sure yet what adjustment needs to be made. 

Sheep on The Trail

Somedays they make me laugh out loud.  They have realized the gate to another pasture is open.


I knew I wanted to do a pasture move soon and upon seeing there happened to be a group of watchful ewes in the proper corner one fortuitous morning when I happened to be without stock dogs, I opened the gates and called to the girls in a come and get it voice.  Word traveled quickly and what followed was a half hour procession of sheep, everyone following the trail out.  


Kelpies Willing and Waiting

If there is any indication that there might be a chance of me heading out on the Ranger and taking dogs along, there’ll be a Kelpie, or two or three, waiting on the bus.  These two have already deciphered that they’re coming with me this time.  I do appreciate that they are so willing, it gives me motivation to be the same. 


Flock Work, A Rare Video

Okay, I don't do this very often and it’s taken some doing but I managed to upload a few videos I took while moving the flock last week.  They're phone videos and my phone is a few years old so the quality is pretty low key. 

The first video is to give an idea of the area we’re in and what the Kelpie dogs do on a regular basis.  We’re about to start the gather of the flock; you can see a few sheep off on the right side. I want the dogs to go over the hills in search of more.   I have two dogs with me and am on foot.  Allen has two dogs with him and he is on the Ranger.  This is the send of the first dog, Cajun.  A moment later I send the second dog, BJ (her video isn't uploaded yet).  BJ works tighter and together she and I will begin moving sheep nearest us. Cajun is on his own, I trust him to search for and find sheep. 


A short time later we have the flock loosely bunched.  I’ve met up with Allen and Cajun is now with him.  BJ and I are still working and Coyote Mic has just been put on the ground.  This next video isn’t about the stock dog work but watch how Mic skirts the six guardian dogs she encounters.  Just a few minutes prior to this BJ met the guardian dogs as we approached the gathered flock.  Her approach to keeping the peace was to go soft for a few moments while passing the guardians and then go back to work (that video hasn't uploaded yet either).  Mic just gets around them as quick as she can, giving the guardians little time to worry about her.  BJ is on the far right moving up that wing, Mic starts out in the centre to pick up that ewe and lamb, then she'll work the left wing. Things are moving quite quickly right now, a little too quickly actually. 


Coyote Mic and BJ are still at work, I've caught up and the ewes have just discovered the gate is open for them and have picked up speed on their own account.  BJ and Mic are keeping everyone up at the rear. Listen to this one with your sound on, moving a large flock of ewes and lambs is a noisy affair.  It's unlikely the stock dogs will hear a command, they might hear a whistle. 



This move was about ¾ of a mile to the yard where we penned the flock for the night.  That video also not uploaded yet.


Solo Photo(s)

While watching the ewes graze yesterday morning.  Meadow brome seed heads and thistle plants are the fan favourites right now.  

She's in mid bite with a mouthful of seed, watching me watching her

She was snatching them up so quickly I was lucky to catch her

I wonder if it takes a bit to harden their lips to thistle each season


The Fibre Show, On The Other Side

So I came through the weekend of the fibre showcase feeling stretched as expected but also feeling pleasantly surprised and very encouraged.  

At first light it would seem that a sheep show and fibre showcase go hand in hand but that is not the case here.  It's only a small number of sheep producers in our province who have any care for the fibre their animals produce. Due to the low cost paid to the producer for wool, wool has taken on a perception of being a necessary cost of production that is never recovered, especially by large flock owners.  So around here, if you want to know about wool you talk with a fibre enthusiast. 

In this vein it was a pleasure to visit with the dozen other fibre lovers who came out to be part of the event by way of demonstrations and selling fibre wares.  We had weaving, spinning (wheel and drop spindle), knitting, felting (wet and dry), locker rug hooking, yarns, rovings…. It was a group of good and earthly people, with everyone encouraging each other’s success with that underlying knowledge that your success heightens theirs and vice versa.   

Sold (I needed half a dozen more of this popular piece) 
In terms of sales I did very well, hence being pleasantly surprised, but the other occurrence that startled me in an unexpected way was the response and feedback to the felting work whether people were purchasing or not.  Photographs are the only way I have of sharing my work online but seeing them for real seemed to draw people in.  People were curious and amazed; even the men were stopping by to have a look. 

I owe huge thanks to the ladies who took a chance and came out to be a part of this tidy showcase of fibre (I'm not sure they want their names published so I'll leave it there; they know who they are).  Collectively we did a fantastic job of displaying and promoting fibre, and of respecting each others work while we did so.  And I can’t forget my other ladies, who produce the fibre and set me on this path to begin with.


Taken last evening while bringing the flock home for this morning's job of sorting a couple ram lambs out.  There are at least a couple guardian dogs in there somewhere and Coyote Mic and BJ are the two kelpies in the rear.


BlackJack Rides Along

Ranch work is solitary so it frequently appeals to me to have a dog along.  Some days there isn’t much that we do in terms of working sheep but on those days we’re company for each other nonetheless.  More often though there are little bits and pieces to fill an evening with and these little bits and pieces that happen daily make life with these dogs that much richer.  

Take yesterday evening.  I took BlackJack along and first we stopped by the orphan lambs and did some training on them.  He’s definitely a lamb hunter but what I’ve been able to teach him while working lambs has been worth it.  

Afterward I always give BlackJack a squirt from the milk bottle (I’m only feeding milk to one of the orphan lambs so am using a bottle and not a milk pail).  







From there we drove out to pasture.  We did a short stretch of driving on ewes and lambs (the dog working the livestock at the rear; driving them forward). Everywhere you look there are ewes and lambs so the opportunity is all set up for us and it need only be a few moments at a time when a dog is learning. 

Next we made our way to the water bus. It needed to be refilled which meant pailing out the water in the tub trough first.  My other dog, Coyote Mic, taught BlackJack the joy of chasing water spray.  He chased water, I laughed at his craziness.  

Where I go, he goes, so after that he came along for another ride to refill the bus and then scouted for sheep while I hooked the trough and float back up again.  A sweet and comfortable evening; one woman, one dog. No fan fare, no one else to know about it.  Nothing else in the way, all worries momentarily forgotten because of the enjoyment of time, and place, and tasks done with a dog.



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