Back Down to Earth

Back at home and the first line of business is collecting the Kelpies and going for a walk.  I have to wonder how much the affairs of agriculture might shift if farmers and ranchers just walked on the their land on a frequent and regular basis.  

The conference presentation and subsequent feedback has been an experience and a half. My presentation was pretty rock solid and delivered well enough.  I wish you readers could have heard it as presented because I think you would have liked it. I stretched myself with giving voice to some challenging thoughts about agriculture that I wrestle with and was shocked by the deep reaction and feedback afterward. I still have no name or description for what got stirred up but something did. 

In the evening following the presentation I had the wonderful opportunity to dine and converse with some very deep thinkers and movers in agriculture.  There was no small talk here, it was deep, it was probing, it hurt my head, it was fascinating, it went on for a few hours. Interestingly I got warned about naysayers and sure enough those comments showed up today.  Gosh I wish I knew where to go with this, but I just don’t.  What I know is sheep and land, and how much the bigger picture of land with animal, with nature, matters for me.  

Naysayers aside, because that’s precisely where they need to go, I am floating in a stupor of gratitude over the experience, which has given another notch of confirmation that I’m living true in this ranch life.  I’m a bit lost in my thoughts and feelings but coming down to earth with each visit to the flock.  I'll stay in touch :-) and consider a way to share the presentation online.  

Speaking of Land and Sheep

I am at the Cdn forage and grassland conference.  I am typing on my phone and it's an old phone.  Tomorrow I give a farm tour presentation. Twenty minutes to share photos and talk of land and sheep and of course I squeezed dogs in there to.  Some of the photographs could probably stand on their own but I added a few words. A few snippets  are included below but beware this does not flow well without hearing the full presentation. 

I am nervously excited.  I am glad I have good photos. 
We have a strong focus and a deep respect for animals and land, beginning to understand how instrinsically linked animals and land are. Forage has become king here and there is an unpretentious beauty about the place.  It matters that there are these and other intangibles we cannot get our hands on. 

The Ag industry has never before been in such a rush to grow a crop or raise an animal. We have never before been so reliant on numbers to guide us, so much so that we forego our own observation of habitat and animal.

If we wish to improve our environmental practices in agriculture what about making this a two way street again; putting coexistence at the forefront of every choice we make lest we get too far down this path of taking the animal out of nature and human out of humanity. ... 

Find The Flow and Go With It

Zeus and I are sharing a moment of watching the same thing. 

There is a beautiful simplicity to sheep trailing off.  I have taken similar photos many times over in different spots, in different seasons, and I never tire of watching them go or catching photos of them as they leave.  Part of why I try for such photos is to hold onto the connection that started when they were passing nearby which I know will sever once they get so far away.  At that point there is always the briefest moment of loneliness and I think that too is captured in scenes of people or animals walking away.  

Someone once told me they were advised that it wasn’t correct to photograph or draw animals from the rear or moving away; that viewers want to see the eyes.  I think that whoever dispensed that advice to begin with never spent time watching animals leave or maybe couldn’t accept that brief moment of loneliness. 

The ewes seem to go precisely where they need to go but it seldom feels like they planned to go there. Not every animal follows the other when they head out for the day.  More often small groups of ewes branch out on finger trails. Yet each group is taking the path of least resistance, flowing and curving with the land knowing that the most natural way to travel through the day is to find the flow and go with it.

House Options

I moved the dog houses out for the livestock guardian dogs.  It felt a bit early but turned out it wasn’t early at all.  With the recent dump of snow, plus cold winds, the dogs are already making use of them.  

I always feel a desire to make things comfortable for the dogs even though they will make their own choices about where to shelter and sleep.  This way they have options and my knot of worry will ease. 

And our house … it is coming along well enough.  There are couple of roof panel pieces to put in right at the peak and then it’s completely closed in.  We’ll wrap it in house wrap and that’s where the exterior will remain until spring.  Meanwhile we’ll turn our attention to the interior.  The in floor heat was turned on tonight to test out the system.  I’m thinking ahead to felted wool rugs, a little bit of artwork and favourite photographs to be made into prints (and maybe to be made into a book too). 

LGDs Lead The Way

The hardest part for this post was picking which photos to share.

The ewes were moved over to the stockpiled pasture a couple days ago and we decided to start bringing them home overnight, mainly to allow them access to the water bowl, secondly to accustom them to gathering up at night once again.  The stockpiled pasture is large and without fence on two sides so we feel more secure  bringing the group home at night. 

This photo series is the first morning of turning them out to pasture.  They must pass through a narrow, treed alleyway.  You may recognize it because it’s one of my favourite places to take flock photos as the ewes funnel through. 

I thought I was taking photos of sheep and what landed on the camera is a short but very interesting series of the guardian dogs.  It’s very common that the first ones to travel out into a new place are the guardian dogs. Lily and Whiskey in this case, sniffing at first; note the lead ewe on the left, also sniffing and the others watching. 

Comfortable with going forth now the dogs lead and sheep begin to flow.  Once the dogs move the ewes have trust in the decision and overtake the lead. 

This photo was the real surprise - look who’s coming up on the right.  Birdie - charging her way out as is her custom.  Birdie moves like this all the time, around the flock, through the flock, to the flock, away from the flock. 

She’s an example of a guardian dog whose actions do little to keep the stock calm.  The ewes have lived with the little white frenzy for close to year now are certainly used to her ways and know just to move out of her way and go back to what they were doing. 

The bright side of Birdie is that when she acts serious about a potential threat, the ewes take heed, and sometimes it is Birdie’s charging that gets them rounded up in a hurry.  How in the world they detect the difference is beyond me. 

A few moments later the ewes are filtering out into the winter pasture. There is lots of green feed here, I expect they will be content for awhile. 

All From Watching Sheep Rise

The weather is cooling, we have had our first snow.  Winter is on my mind; on an internal level winter always represents an inward turn for me and I am ready for that, on the outside I must move the ewes to a new pasture soon.  Making room in life to live for ones Self, and the routine of things to be done, I’m often back and forth between the two worlds.  

During the long daylight days of summer the ewes are up and gone grazing by the time I arrive on pasture in the morning (and I do arrive early).  At this time of the year the ewes are still bedded down when I arrive so while I wait for guardian dogs to eat I watch sheep rise.  I witness ewes in morning greetings. 

In doing so I recognize a melding of both worlds.  I feel the immensely satisfying spot in my soul as the routine of this life turns into a life built upon, and for, my Self and who I know that to be.  And it doesn’t matter which one came first.  

I think now that this is how it happens; how you get closer to living Your life.  It doesn’t happen in grand hurrahs and winnings, but rather in gestures, hunches and small moments of watching the world around you and finding something there to bring your soul home. 

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