Friday, August 30, 2013

Don't Go

Sheep camp went very well for me. BJ really came on strong. Gibson and I were stretched in an inspiring way and I gained deep insight into my relationship with Cajun. Jayde is keen as ever to work. There has been a pile of dog work for me behind the scenes as well as in front and I really enjoyed that.

We have one more day of trial hosting and then I will be on my own again to continue training the dogs on my own initiative. This is always a difficult thing for me. Even with activities I enjoy it is one thing to continue to do them because they need to get done for the sake of something else, than it is to do them purely on self motivation when no one is around.

The end of tomorrow is going to feel very lonely.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

So Much Fun

We have had a great three days of sheep camp, everything is flowing well and sheep and dogs are holding up well in some hot, hot, weather. These first three days have flown by and I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of the clinic.


Photo courtesy of Krystl Raven
Being host to a clinic does have some perks. Last night it was spending time with Trudy while she worked her two dogs. Tonight I thoroughly enjoyed taking Dave out to the pasture and letting his dog collect far spread ewes and tuck the flock back into a center paddock (where they are supposed to be) for the night. It is so rewarding to present those opportunities to friends and watch such talented stock dogs work.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Clinic Hosting First Day

The first day of hosting clinics is always the day I feel most rattled. So many things to think of at one time, realizing what I forgot, handling people and dogs. Yet at the same time,  the group of people we attract here is fabulous for pitching in and helping and everything gets taken care of somehow and Allen is hugely instrumental in this department. I don’t know what I would do without him. At the end of the first day I always feel a deep satisfaction that we did it once more. There are three more days, but for now, we’ve come through the firsts.

All in all a very successful first day. Several smiling faces around the yard and more than a few dogs dozing off into well deserved rest.  

It doesn’t happen that often but whenever we have a yard full of company I’m always curious about what the guardian dogs will do. The main flock and pack of guardian dogs are situated well away from where we are. I’m pretty sure the guardians know something is happening around the yard but I think it all sounds familiar to them, since I’m always out working my dogs. They are not venturing near.  I am surprised, however, that Willow and Zeus have not ventured into the yard yet. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Getting Ready

We’re almost ready to roll out the carpet for sheep camp and I feel a good sense of anticipation.

Sheep are resting, shop is tidied,every thing needed to host a group of people for a week has been laid out, some food dishes prepared, spare room ready, portable toilet readied, working areas checked and maintenance done, and this evening a couple LGD’s moved to a more quiet place where they can still be at work.

I have not yet decided which of the stock dogs I’ll focus on working while Dave and Trudy are here to guide us, but I feel ready and geared up to work dogs.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fencing Woes

I have been having some fencing troubles for awhile and the ewes are now taking full advantage of it. Despite the ample grass at their feet there is a band of ewes who are set on slipping through the fences to graze anywhere else but where I set them. It’s double trouble because they are teaching their lambs to do the same thing.

The fence trouble doesn’t appear to be a quick fix. The nightmare of this much electric fences is finding the fault. I have miles of fence to check and I’m not looking forward to the task. So far I’ve uncovered the ground rods and checked them out. I’m waiting for a new hand held volt meter and fault finder (I lost ours last years), which will make this chore a little easier.

Meanwhile we have a stock dog clinic to host. That, I am looking forward to. The clinic starts on Monday and runs for four days.  I expect folks to begin arriving on Sunday evening.  

Over the next couple of days I’ll be retrieving fence crawling sheep morning and evening. In between, I’ll be doing some food prep, cleaning the shop out, doing some repairs on the arenas and generally making sure we’re ready to roll. And I’ll still try to squeeze in some regular training time for my own crew. Tonight I worked with Cajun and Gibb and it was a good time. I’m going to appreciate this next week knowing the fencing work that awaits me come September.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Settled, Unsettled and Back Again

Remember my thoughts that the last paddock I moved the ewes to was a lovely place for sheep. (Moving Sheep Here and There)

I don’t think the ewes agreed. The whole while they were on that paddock they were very vocal about it. Ewes and lambs chattered back and forth constantly, trying to stay in touch with each other. On calm nights I could hear them from my open bedroom window. I would lay awake worried that something was bothering them.

I think the constant chatter was because the paddock was so full of bush and hills. They needed to talk to know who was where. When I moved them to the North side for a quick graze on 80 acres of weeds, they were quiet again. The difference was obvious and the North side was more open spaces with far less bush.

Grazing a weedy paddock
The weed patch was where we swath grazed and winter fed. We intended to seed millet for swath grazing again but never got the seed into the ground this Spring. The ewes relished the weeds but there was only a few days worth of grazing there and then we needed to move again.

From the weed patch we went to a paddock that was last grazed in June, during lambing. The grass in the paddock is thick and tall and it's mature. The ewes are quiet in this paddock as well. This morning I could sense the contentment of the ewes. I’m not fooled though, they’ll make a quick pass of the paddock and be looking for the next piece of grass, regardless of how much is left at their feet! For now though, things are blessedly settled here.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Return To The Flock

Around here sometimes you ride with unusual partners. I think Gibson is a little perplexed.


This little fellow is a lamb I picked up earlier in the summer and bottle fed. He has been living with my handful of chickens and is being taken back out to the flock now.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Suspended


Some times I’ll spend a piece of the morning taking photos of sheep and the ewes will watch me, wondering, 'what in the world…'

I like it when we watch each other. It provides a sense of connection to animal, to land, to this life, and to a whole that is much larger than me and yet could not exist without me. I feel very earthly and unassuming and as though I am neither here nor there - I am suspended.



Saturday, August 10, 2013

Prairie Scenes

The mornings are wet with dew and this past week, foggy mist. Walking the dogs means walking in my Muck Boots if I wish to leave the road and go across the pasture. The mornings have also been gloriously calm, and brilliantly lit with the oncoming sunlight.

This is the scene, looking out to the East from my yard as I head out for a walk. A breathtaking way to start the day on the prairie.




On the next day, the fog is thick and hides the sun. The morning still holds a thick and heavy calm. It is difficult to see the sheep clearly and spot the guardian dogs. That spot of brighter white is Oakley, just rising from his sleep and coming over to see me.


It’s a prairie life…

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Riding Along With Dogs

All the stock dogs become familiar with riding on the Ranger soon after their arrival, and the water bus at some point later on. After every move of the flock I move the water bus and mineral tub. This is one of the tasks I kinda’ wish I had an extra person for. I either have to walk out to the bus, move it, then walk back home. Or I drive out to the bus with the Ranger, move the bus, and then walk back to retrieve the Ranger. There is no way to move without a walk back, which is another reason I like to take a dog or two along.


Cajun, Jayde and Fynn are very familiar with the bus, Gibb has come along a few times but it’s only the second time for BJ.  She hates riding in vehicles but is calm riding in the water bus and also enjoys riding on the Ranger.

When we bought the Ranger we had three Border Collies and we nick named it the Border Collie Bus. Every time we headed out with a dog, we’d tell the dog(s) to ‘get on the bus.’ Today there are two Border Collies as well as three Kelpies and we still tell the dogs to get on the bus.

Doesn’t look like there is much room for me…

One of every ear set :-)

... but we all fit




Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Moving Sheep Here and There

For a little over six weeks the flock has been rotationally grazing on three 80 acre-parcels adjacent to each other. The grass has held up well and I might have gotten away with another rotation. Instead I opted to put the ewes on a piece of pasture that has a large chunk of native prairie that is best grazed now rather than later.

The rams, cows and horses have been nibbling there up to this point. Moving the flock here meant moving the others out, and that meant penning the dogging sheep so we could travel through the yard paddock. So lots of stock dog work on this move.

Gibson and I took care of penning the dogging sheep without any trouble.

Because there are cows with calves I didn’t use a stock dog to do that part of the move. I did it with the Ranger. Jayde and Cajun have worked cows on occasion but just aren’t experienced on cows or patiently strong enough to work a cow with a calf at her side. I’ve learned that lesson.

Moving rams and doing a quick count to make sure I found everyone. The cows and horses are ahead of the group. These guys will go to a paddock on the opposite side of the farm from the ewes, to put as much distance between the groups as I can.


Next, the round up of the ewe and lamb flock. This time there were dogs involved for sure; Fynn, Jayde and Cajun were along to help. This part didn’t take long at all, even passing them through the small working paddocks and navigating four gates, went quickly.  The ewes wanted to get to new grass and were very willing to move this morning. It helped that the morning was foggy and cool.

This was the scene later in the evening. Isn’t this a lovely place for sheep?


This paddock is rugged and beautiful with sharp hills, lots of brush and, at the moment, patches of sunny Brown Eyed Susan’s


I hope the sheep don’t eat these.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Working Dog Artwork

Just a short post tonight to share the latest artwork.

This is another piece of needle felted wool art. I had trouble creating depth and detail in the legs but overall I like it very much. Black dogs are hard to photograph well and tough to replicate in artwork.



This one is a pencil drawing. I was surprised at how quickly this one came together. It is such a simple and peaceful piece. The real life version is quite stunning. I impressed myself with this one. 


I’m appreciating my choice to continue doing art throughout the summer (normally I let ranch work dictate my summer and put artwork aside). The more art I do, the more I want to do.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Peak At The Rams

Upon looking through my photos it dawned on me that I seldom share any news of the rams.

During the summer they reside with the horses and the cows and this year, PJ the llama is with them too.

They don’t have a guardian dog staying with them at the moment, because Willow and Zeus have moved over to the dogging sheep. So putting the rams with the larger ruminants is of particular benefit, although the pasture they are on is dangerously large.

Sharing resources with bovines and equines has some drawbacks.



But they manage ...