Artistically Stepping Out

A couple months back I convinced myself to enter an art show at the local art gallery. The artwork in this show will be critiqued and judged so I am treading cautiously here.

Once I convinced myself to enter I had little trouble coming up with a grouping of five pieces and got to work bringing them into reality. Then they sat for a little bit. Then I picked them up again and started tweaking and finalizing. The art show is coming up mid week so now I’m spending the evening finishing picky details and framing.

Somehow this experience of placing art into a judged show feels like an act of self acceptance that making art is okay to do, and I have to say, it feels okay to be doing this. That may sound flawed to anyone who has been brought up immersed in art and creativity. But in my upbringing, and in this walk of a work harder agriculture life, art and being creative is seldom embraced as meaningful work and often it’s not even noticed at all. So I continually wrestle with a lot of caustic beliefs in order to push on and pursue my creative side and to step outside my comfort zone with it. 

So I am really appreciating that it feels okay to want the experience and to be open to whatever comes of it. And because I tend to create artwork about what I know - the sheep, the dogs, the land - this validates the artwork as a way to share a good life on the land which is what all agriculture should be about. 

Soft Blur

This photo created with the curtesy of a photo bombing guardian dog. The softness of it is so appealing. A gorgeous fluke if I do say so myself. 

Our sheep are fed and bedded, wool is delivered, saved fleeces are skirted, dogs are well, a good deal of wool felting has occurred in the last 72 hours. Life is moving right along.

Shearing Aftermath

Shearing felt like a huge event this year but I don't know why that is. The days since have been a mixture of fussing over naked sheep in cool weather, tidying up in the shed, feeding sheep and felting with wool. Oh, and awaiting Spring. 

In a typical year the ewes would be nibbling last years buried native prairie grass and we’d have cut the hay feed in half at least. This year it is still full on hay feeding, especially since the ewes are shorn and the weather is cool. The hay feeding is further complicated by the fact that our tractor broke a spindle on shearing day and is currently useless. We have adjusted by returning to bale grazing which was something we used to do years ago before we even had a tractor.  

Tomorrow we can deliver our wool to the collection depot, minus the fleeces that went home with people at shearing day and the ones I kept. I’m feeling eager about this years wool because that rug I have planned for the new house requires a good deal more wool than I currently have in my workspace. I’m planning on using the three fleeces kept from the Corriedale ewes. This flock to felt project will be underway soon.

Post Shearing Day Thoughts

Moving the ewes home the evening prior to shearing
Yesterday was shearing day. There is a tonne of prep work ahead of time and then a long and busy, busy day and yet it flies by. Early this morning I sat at my desk as usual but instead of doing artwork I sat there soaking quietly in a heap of deep thankfulness for the thirty odd friends and strangers who showed up to lend a hand yesterday. People just kept showing up. 

It snowed all day long but stayed just warm enough so that it became soupy, soupy, muddy outside. While that presented challenges and a whole lot of mess, inside the shearing shed was a beehive of activity and chatter. Each year shearing day shifts something around for me; this year in particular with so many people. And that’s what I was thinking of this morning - trying to put my finger on what it is. 

Then today I received an email that put it into perspective. With Maureen’s permission I share that email here because it answered some of my curiosity and it moves me deeply to read her words. Everyone who hosts work type days at their farm needs to read this because it’s good to know there is still magic in such things. 

"...  I could not resist the opportunity of spending a working day with animals and a community of physically hard-working people. I appreciate the good food and hospitality. And am touched by your “soul work”. You provide me with a reminder of the deep spaces hiding within all of us.

The day brings back so many warm memories of my grandmother. I can see her in my mind’s eye cleaning wool, carding, spinning, and knitting. And of course the steady supply of brightly coloured handiwork, especially the mittens. I am not sure that I will ever get to the point of working with the fibre like she or so many people I have met at the shearing days do. But I have finally taken the steps to get the spinning wheel and carders back into use. I have a long way to go to produce any decent product, but am basking in good memories along the way.

Then there are your animals. Being able to watch the dogs work the sheep elicits fond memories of working dogs in general. And, someone I was talking with yesterday mentioned how calm your sheep are. For me, it speaks to the attitude of their keepers.

Thanks for the opportunity of this grounding experience."

Thank you Maureen, and every single one of the people who joined us this year.  Thank you on so many levels.

Winter Travels and Travails

She spends the bulk of her time with Tex and the rams but takes to travelling out to the ewe flock and back in again. 

I watched her going across country while I was heading back to the yard, going the only way I can travel, that is, by way of an established trail through the snow.  

The photo stirs me in some way. It has a lonely feel to it. Also, Birdie is anything but wild, but if I didn’t know that, I might think she was. And if I didn’t know her I’d be curious about where she was going. 

Another thing about this photo, it just shouldn’t look like that much winter is still with us. Scrap that recent blog post I wrote about Spring leaning in hard. Winter has the upper hand again, or maybe we're into second winter. It’s seriously cold again, the spring melt has only barely started, and I’m a bit disbelieving that we’re shearing in a weeks time. 

This month has presented a few opportunities of bittersweet photos. This next one just makes me shake my fist at Mother Nature and plead with her to get Spring in gear already. 

Amazing that they still know where the water should be, but frozen over doesn’t aid them much and a good deal of their food source is well buried beneath winter long, crusted over snow. 

To ease the frustration I’m taking advantage of the extended winter by continuing to do artwork and writing. I may not be able to solve the woes of Mother Nature but I can find ways to open eyes and hearts to her and help deepen the connection. 

LGD Explosive Encounter

My meeting with the Sarplaninac LGD was indeed unexpected. I was down on one knee, taking photos of a guardian dog off in the distance. Then I turned my body, just panning with the camera in front of my face to see what else I might see. Unknown to me, this huge grey dog had moved up behind me and when this strange person and a big black, eyeless shape turned to face her she erupted in a volley of deep, dark, serious barks with a hint of panic in there. While neither of us intended to, me and the camera scared the heck out of her and in turn she scared the heck out of me. 

I turned my back to her again, not sure if that was a smart move or a really dumb one because of her level of intensity. She seemed to settle though. It took several minutes for each of us to settle that first burst of adrenaline and she watched my every move for several more minutes. If I raised my camera she would go on full alert again. 

I think my finger pushed the camera shutter button by startled reflex the moment of our explosive meeting. There is this one photo of her vocalizing and no others, and I was rattled and concerned with how to get out of a bad situation to think about taking more. 

I walked away and she suspiciously followed. Afterward, I was able to get a few photos of her from a distance and looking a bit more relaxed. 

Aside from the Sar’s being beautiful dogs I’ve been curious to learn more about them ever since meeting up with Louise, blogger at Predator Friendly Ranching. Louise has been very generous about answering my questions and sharing information about these dogs, which she knows so well. 

And while I’m writing of guardian dogs and thinking of future prospects, blog reader and blogger herself, Farm Buddy, shared news of her Maremma's litter of puppies.  If you're in need of a puppy fix, pop over to The Dancing Donkey and check out The Great Eight and see future guardians in the making.

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