New Old Rooms

We are experiencing another bout of bitter cold. Our thermometer read minus 36* Celsius this morning. Weather station reported minus 31 and had issued a wind chill warning. It is below minus forty Celsius with the wind.

I stalled as long as I was able before going outside for chores. Herding dogs had to stay in and make do with a walk later. It was downright frigid outside. It was the kind of day you hole up inside if you can. So for the most part I did.

Allen and I did some spring cleaning yesterday. Spring cleaning in February distracts me from the fact that it isn't spring out. As a result of the cleaning I gained a room back. A room I had moved out of last year.

So this morning I was eager to organize this new, old work space. Since this work space was upstairs in the warmth of my old little farm house I puttered there as much as I could today.

I set up my little brown desk and big white art table and dropped a couple dog beds on the floor for the dogs. I'm content in my new space.

I think it's going to be one of those creative years.

Winter Wind

Today the cold was accompanied by one of those bone chilling, strong and relentless prairie winds. It felt like a blizzard only without the snow. I can hear the wind still blowing as I write.

We spent a portion of the afternoon tagging our ewe lambs. We will pull the rams from the main flock soon which means the ewe lambs will be reunited with the ewes. Easier to tag them now when they are already seperated then to seperate them again for tagging later.

We used a portable radiant heater to keep the plastic dangle tags warm and therefore pliable enough for easy tagging. In the cold the plastic becomes stiff and it is doubly difficult to punch the button through the tag.

On the upside the cold minimizes the potential infection from the ear tag in the animals ears. And there are no flies buzzing about either.

Tonight the cows and ewes bedded down in a tight group, each lying close to another and in no hurry to move. The ewe lambs are reluctant to leave the shelter of the shearing shed, having been led there once again by the two old timers. The horses have hunkered out of the wind in a well sheltered slough bed. The guard dogs bedded in the shelter of a round bale.

Despite the howling wind it is very quiet as every creature on the place is settled in to wait it out.

Self Imposed Frustrations

"Ask yourself: is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I am doing? If there isn't then time is covering up the present moment and life is perceived as a burden or a struggle. "
Eckhart Tolle

This pretty much describes my state right now. 

I was organizing stock dog clinics and web site material today. It seems that I can fritter away hours just organizing and then getting frustrated by my lack of accomplishment elsewhere. I did get a stock dog article written which was a welcome diversion from the business expenses I still have to finish and the livestock ear tags I have to make in order to ear tag our replacement ewe lambs next week.

At least all this organizing took place indoors as it is very cold out once again. Another thing I am frustrated by. Two more months of cold winter to go and we should begin the slow warm up to spring. Then I can stop dressing like this....



The main water bowl was dry tonight. A fill with warm water hauled from the house seemed to get water flowing again. It helped that the sheep, having just come in from the pasture, were ready for a drink. When numerous animals drink the water has to flow for awhile to keep up which helps free any debris or ice build up in the line that causes the bowl to run dry.

The horses have discovered the spot where the fence is buried beneath snow and now walk into the adjoining paddock to check the extra bales there. This puts them right next to the sheep which they seem to enjoy watching. I walked them back to their original paddock last night but they were right back in the new one this afternoon.

Natural Choices

I always ponder about why sheep do what they do.

We usually have no need to encourage the sheep to leave the night pen and go out in the AM. They see us open the gate and once we move far enough away (herding dogs are with us) they make their own way out to pasture.

This morning they weren't eager to go out and we did not pressure them. They know things we don't.

They did make their way out later in the morning but did not venture toward the far end of the pasture where they have been eating of late. Instead they chose to eat at some less choice bales that were close at hand.

The ewe lambs had made the trek up the long hill in their paddock to stand in front of the shearing shed and showed no real desire to go back out and down to the bales. No doubt they were led there by the two old timer ewes who reside with them. Smart girls, those old sheep. It's why I like placing one or two of them with a group of young animals.

We had a small snow storm last evening and although it was clear this morning by the afternoon a strong wind was blowing again, kicking up  last nights fresh snow and making it quite miserable to be outside in.

So is this what the sheep knew? That the storm wasn't quite finished? That even though the morning weather seemed a little more settled, there was more coming in the afternoon so staying in close proximity to shelter was the wise thing to do?

Lizzie

Mornings on the ranch are simply one of the finest times of the day. I love them - they always work out somehow.

They are incredibly peaceful and incredibly routine. Especially in the winter. Even when I get wrapped up in a mood, the morning will almost always show me an upside.

This morning I caught Lizzie in this photo. The smaller photo size does not do it justice. There are other pictures of Lizzie in the post AM Pictures.



Lizzie is an interesting character. She's a hunter, not a flock guardian dog. She's keen on hunting small animals, fox and coyote.

Since lambs are included on her list of small animal prey she stays up at the yard. She is pretty much attached to us,  going wherever we go. We keep saying we are re-homing her, yet here she remains.

The Simplest of Things

This is a favorite rubbing tree for the sheep and cows. It is along the path from the night pen out to the winter pasture. 



You can see the discoloration on this tree. The greenish areas are well greased with lanolin and feel like hard, smooth plastic.

Watching animals rub or roll I marvel at their ability to immerse themselves in seemingly unimportant tasks like rubbing from stem to stern or scratching an itch for minutes on end.  It appears very blissful. 


 
It reminds me of the state of being one experiences when immersed in a task one feels compelled to do. Clock time ceases and therefore there is no hurry to complete the task, to be elsewhere, or to do otherwise. 



It is these simplest of things that are constant reminders of the state of presence that everything natural exists in.

Just Another Day

There is something very uniform and satisfying about sheep, or any herd animals, lining up to eat. For a moment everything is in its place and all is right with the world. 

 

The ewes are looking very good and they are in good body condition.  The rams are still out with the breeding group and the ewe lambs are still in a separate paddock.

The ewe lambs are really consuming kelp mineral right now. It's a long season of eating hay so this is reasonable. Late winter  and up until we see spring grass seems to be the time when the sheep ramp up their intake of mineral and salt. Their intake will level off again with grazing green grass.  

 



 

The fleece on the ewes is very thick right now. It is remarkable to place your hand in the fleece and feel the denseness of it. It lessens our concern over them being on pasture even in the winter. 

When people discover that we do not house our sheep, even in winter, there is skepticism, and we can almost hear the assuming mental commentary of how our sheep must be in poor condition if we are forcing them to stay outdoors. 

Contrary to assumptions, quite the opposite is true and we cannot fathom putting these girls into a barn for the winter.

A Craft the Soul Knows

I live where I am supposed to be and this life of sheep, dogs and grass keeps me in touch with the natural world and therefore with myself. Yet finding the words to adequately share what I know and love is sometimes just to pressing. It all gets a little un-natural sometimes.

So I picked up a drawing pencil today and I drew dogs and sheep for a couple hours. It felt like a few moments.

It has been several months since have I have done any drawing. Never mind the whole reason I picked up the pencil was because I was so frustrated with trying to force writing to happen that I couldn't sit at the computer any longer. It worked, in that wondrous way that being where you are supposed to be and working on a craft the soul knows you are supposed to be doing, does.  

So the day turned around and I feel a little closer to natural again.

Timeline to Spring

The daylight hours are slowly increasing. It is now light by 8 am and stays light until shortly after 6 pm.

The flock is moving further west as they graze on the bales. The sheep are lingering longer on pasture in the evening, innately aware of nature's clock and taking advantage of a bit of extra daylight feeding time.

We have a longer walk out to retrieve them in the evening and a little bit of encouragement from the dogs is now needed to start the flock toward home.

Even though it is still cold out we notice and take heart in these trivial matters because they are the way we measure our time line to spring.

AM Pictures

It has warmed up considerably (too much so actually) so I took the camera with me this morning to capture a few pictures of the day. 

The morning sunrise as I step out to do chores. It's another warm sunrise. Yes, to me there is such a thing as warm sunrises and cold sunrises, especially during a prairie winter. 






While out on pasture for morning chores. This is Lizzie, she often gets up on a bale to enjoy the view and watch me work. Here she is watching a small group of deer, grazing in the adjacent pasture. 




Lizzie watching me.







With morning chores complete, Cajun and I take some time to polish our teamwork by separating and working a small group of ewe lambs. With keeping larger numbers of sheep we have to separate a group any time we want to train. This is good since it gives us both a real task to start out with. I really find training is easier when there is a task at hand.



 

This is the first winter I have taken advantage of the shearing shed as a place to work the dogs. It is a long but narrow building, however, it works very well for close work and it is lovely to be able to get out of the wind.


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