Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Happens to Old Ewes

At her prime 24'ser was a big ewe and was a good keeper. She taught a lot of lambs the needed lessons of pasture life. On numerous occasions she stepped forward as lead ewe for the flock.  She was a kind and honest ewe and was often used when training stock dogs. As such she became very comfortable being near me and would allow me to scratch her chest (a rare thing in a large pasture raised flock).

She was one of the ewes I put with ewe lambs while they were in a seperate paddock during breeding. 24'ser, along with her old sidekick Madge, led them to the mineral tubs, to water and to shelter when the weather got ugly.

24'ser was an old ewe; one of our original group of five. She arrived at age six and has been here for six going on seven years.

She lost her teeth a long time ago. This long winter was tough on her and she became thin. I saved her twice in the last ten days when she was down and couldn't get to her feet. I expected that very shortly there would be a morning that she did not get up.

When I found her body I knew I would write a blog post about her.

24'ser in Lamb - Spring Time Two Years Ago

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hint of Spring

Today was the first day it felt like there might be a tinge of spring in the air. It was overcast and snowing but the snow was soft and springy. The air felt like spring in the fresh way that new season air does. And there are small hints that melting has been occurring. 

The mornings are now filled with the sounds of a great number of excited chirping birds. And on our walk out to the pasture this evening the dogs and I stirred up a hawk.

This is all good as I am ready for my winter landscape to morph into a more colorful one.  I am ready to shake off winter and welcome spring.





Friday, March 25, 2011

Feline Addition

This young feline arrived two days ago. I'm hopeful that he will become a friendly sidekick to our current cat and that he'll prove valuable in mousing ability.


Every cat we've had in this house sits in this spot at the top of the stairs. They have a view of the main living area and can safely watch the happenings of the house.

I lost my old male cat last fall but did not feel any particular rush to get another. I knew eventually I would as I never feel settled having a single of any animal. When this six month old was offered to me this past week, it just felt right, even though I had not set eyes on him yet.

I like him. He is very sweet. Most of all he feels like he fits.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Re-Growth

The first day of spring is here.


I've lived on the prairies my whole young life and despite the fact that the first day of spring is a far cry from the first shoots of green showing themselves, the notion of spring still brings forth images of greenery and a rooted feeling of hope.



Prairie winters are long and by the end of them I begin to wonder about the feeling of soft dirt under my feet, the smell of grass, the sound of a cricket.


My landscape is still a sea of snow. I haven't seen bare ground for five months. The animals have been eating hay for 92 days. It feels like it has been a long time since I last witnessed anything growing on the land and I have lost my deepest sense of what living on the land means.

This temporary disconnect from the land happens each year but it isn't a negative thing. The disconnect causes me to reflect on the necessity and importance of spring and why I feel so uplifted to know she is here even though my landscape remains a winter one.

The transition from winter to spring is one of death and re-birth. Every spring I re-grow into the connection I have for land. And each year the connection is altered and runs deeper because of the experiences I have come through. For me spring is truly the start of a year on the ranch. 

It is a good time to be on the land. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

View on the Canine World

Stock dogs and working with them has shifted my view on the canine world.

I have come to the conclusion that my dogs aren't interested in my emotional life nor do they understand it. They're just forced to deal with it because they live in such close company with me. The dogs don't ride on emotional roller coasters and they live far more stable lives when I am not overly controlling of theirs.

My dogs are the same whether I am happy or sad or angry. It is my perception and lack of awareness that alters what I see in those states. Because dogs are such an integral part of my life they often help me gain my good feeling, going with the flow perspective back.

It isn't that they know to do something to cheer me up when I am mired in an emotional pond. But it is because they don't follow me into the pond that they can pull me out.

They keep on being themselves, ever present in the here and now, and finally my fog is pierced and I have a moment where I take notice. I look at them and recognize something natural, something light, something very relieving. I pause, I laugh, I cry, I feel the relief. For one moment they cause me to shift my focus, shift my thinking. They free me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Comic Relief

And just when I need it too.

Jayde with Burnt Hot Dog Bun
Anything will do for a toy for Jayde including hot dog buns and snowballs.

I didn't give my dog that burnt hot dog bun. Some crafty canine fetched it from the burning barrel. My bets are on a little black and tan Kelpie.

Now, I do compost my food waste. However my simple, no effort compost bin is close to full. During winter compost doesn't compost too fast here.  So recently I've been tossing some of the more burn-able food in the burning barrel instead of in the compost.

On the ranch we don't have Loraas coming along to pick up our garbage. So we burn it. As we burn garbage the barrel fills with ash and another winter oddity happens. We aren't able to get around on the land to dump the ashes from the barrel. So the garbage and any remnants of it remain near the top. That's how crafty dog fetches it from the barrel.

To prevent this I do the obvious - place a cover on the barrel. However, I had recently burnt the garbage so the cover was off. For some reason the very old, discovered at the bottom of the freezer, freezer burnt hot dog buns did not burn completely before the fire died.

And that's why the little collie was playing with a burnt hot dog bun.


She left the burnt end for someone else.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Natural News Article

I don't often think of food restrictions and laws regarding food. I take for granted the food we raise on the farm and the freedom to raise it naturally.

So when a post about food sovereignty came through my email inbox today it opened my eyes a little and I felt it well worth sharing.


Here is an excerpt.
"(NaturalNews) The town of Sedgwick, Maine, currently leads the pack as far as food sovereignty is concerned. Local residents recently voted unanimously at a town hall meeting to pass an ordinance that reinforces its citizens' God-given rights to "produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing," which includes even state- and federally-restricted foods like raw milk." 

"It is the way things used to be done before Americans sacrificed their freedoms to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal agencies that now tell the public what they can and cannot eat."
 

The full article can be read at the Natural News web site: Maine town becomes first to declare food sovereignty

I think this is a fine, fine accomplishment and as a producer of food I hope it paves the way for future decision making.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Breeding Ends

The rams were seperated from the ewes last week but I missed making a post about it. Perhaps because I wasn't involved in the work.

Allen did it all one day while I was at the off farm job. And he used Jayde and Fynn to help him do it. Allen doesn't use the dogs much so I am thoroughly impressed although sad I missed it all (okay only a little sad). In reality Allen used the dog because I wasn't here to see it. He probably worked them better than I do too.

I did take note that he never used Cajun....probably a wise choice on his part.

All this means that the ewe lambs are back with the ewes and the rams are now back in the shearing shed paddock recuperating from all their hard work. I'm not sure if it's actually the case or not but the chores seem a little easier because the ram group is pretty quick to get done with just a dozen or so rams in the paddock now. 

This switch around means that if I wish to do some training with the dogs it has to be with the rams. With the snow load and not having the luxury of a winter chore tractor to move feed around where needed I can't just keep a small group of ewe lambs somewhere for training right now.

I'll have to change up what we were working on but I'm sure we'll manage.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Trail Out to Pasture


There is something mystical about walking along a trail bordered by trees.  

This is one of the most peaceful trails on the farm and it is a lovely space especially in the summer time.  

This is the trail out to the winter pasture. This is the trail the stock dogs and I walk every morning and again in the evening. After a recent snowfall Allen carved a path with the snowmobile which makes walking a tad easier. At the point of this picture I am already well out of the yard so it is a bit of a hike. 

Far up, near the top of the picture on the right, is a break in the trees. That's where the pasture gate is. The dogs are actually up there somewhere, probably off in the trees investigating deer trails.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bale Piles

I guess nobody told them they weren't goats.


The little creature on top is a ewe lamb. And if I am not mistaken those are a few ewe lambs butts in the front as well.

This is what happens if we don't get twines off and get bales rolled out when they are about half eaten. The sheep keep on eating and end up with a mound of hay they can climb on top off. They cows and the llama assist by eating at the bale from the top.

We get kind of grumpy when we see this because it takes a lot of pitch forking to move the pile around. Spreading it around makes much more efficient use of the feed since then the animals can get to the bottom and clean up. 


Forking is easier when you don't have to wade through the sheep so I will either get a dog to help keep sheep at bay or tackle this bale in the morning while the ewes are still in the night paddock.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cajun and Single Ewe

It is very rare that I can get a picture of my stock dogs working. I'm often by myself and when I'm working I don't have the opportunity to operate a camera at the same time. But sometimes it happens. 
 

This scenario presented itself just moments after we came onto the pasture. The rest of the flock is out of the photo to the right, beginning the walk to the yard. This girl was taking her time about it. So Cajun moved forward to see to it that she caught up.

My camera has a decent zoom so he is actually quite far ahead of me. Amazingly he did not go after her and cut her off from the flock. He is prone to doing that because he loves holding a single.

I appreciate this picture for the story it tells and for what it isn't. It's simplicity makes it what it is even though the quality of the photo isn't stellar.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Herds of Deer

It is the time of year when the deer begin to group. We see them in herds of 50 or 60, sometimes more. 

There is ample food for them this winter since last year was such a spectacular year for grass. However, the snow is deep now, so they have to work to find grass and traveling in the snow is becoming more difficult.

It is a little easier for their predators to hunt and catch them when the snow is deep. We have also seen a few coyotes out in the daytime and our guard dogs have brought home leg of deer a few nights in a row now.

This photo is the tail end of a group of about 40, winding their way along a trail the lead deer had to plow since the snow was fresh. They travel very much like sheep do - in curves, rarely in straight lines.


 
In the photo they pass behind a hill and disappear from our view. 

We watched for awhile and sure enough they came up through the yard. Here they are coming along the driveway at the entrance to the yard. You can see others filing out from behind the trees.


 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Conscious Ranching

I was pondering a few deep thoughts this morning which happens often when I am going about the chores and where land and farm are considered.

I feel a natural connection between myself and the land. A connection that arises from a deep place of conscious awareness. A knowing that Mother Nature isn't a figure that is 'out there', but rather Mother Nature is a figure-less energy in here - within me, within the land, within the animals.... As such I am Mother Nature. I am of the same energy; the air I breathe is Mother Nature. This is so for everyone but few live in awareness of it.

The awareness of it is the whole reason I feel compelled to be on the land and raise livestock in the manner that I do. Although the journey began with a love of sheep and the smell of country air the connection goes far, far deeper.

With this, another great thing will happen. As more people who live away from farms and ranches become consciously aware people, they will seek like minded people and food grown and raised with similar conscious awareness.

So the ranch connects, of its own accord, with mindful people seeking a taste of a life lived in this fashion and the food being raised. This therefore is a fascinating and timeless journey as it will have no end. 


It is a good time to be on the land.