Side Projects

Amidst looking after sheep and trying to sell some, I am working on a small but incredible opportunity that I am apprehensively, elated about.

I am creating a presentation about livestock guardian dogs and coexisting with predators, which I present in a months time. I think the excitement I feel is self explanatory. 

The couple thousand photos of sheep and dogs I have taken are coming in handy. Tonight I pared down to 115 possible’s for the presentation. lol. It’s a start.


Oh the images of artwork in my head; this life presents me with so many.  Some days it pains me to have them knocking around in there, and not be able to draw fast enough.

The Curiosity of Lambs

This lamb was playing curious George around feeding time. The sheep are far more familiar and comfortable with the livestock guardian dogs than they are with me. This little one had strong motive, or perhaps a case of the bliss of ignorance, to come so near while I stood there.

I was waiting for the dogs to set the boundaries and teach little lambie to keep a distance from the food bowl. She didn’t push it too far and while Whiskey curled a lip when she passed by his bowl, no one made a big fuss about this girl being near.

When the dogs were done and gone, she just had to investigate the bowls to be certain she was not missing out.

Grass Manna From Heaven

I moved the flock to a paddock they last grazed late in the summer. I had walked the dogs there the day before and was pleasantly surprised to see how much green grass was still there, especially among the thistle patches. The ewes have been eating some hay and whatever they could nibble on a cut hay field. I think the new (yet old) grass was like manna from heaven to them.

As we crossed into the new paddock the ewes spread out slowly and then began moving quicker, nibbling the grass in earnest. By this evening they were threading their way throughout he thistle patch. This will give us a few more days of grazing, at the least, which is welcome in a year when winter feed will be tight. After they graze here I think I’ll move them over to the paddocks they grazed during lambing. I wasn’t planning to come back to these at all but I may change my plan.

This flock move was handled by Jayde and Gibson. The distance and spread of the sheep got the better of young Gibson and his initial gather was tight, way too fast and brought him in through a group of sheep instead of staying out around them all. The situation stretched the young lad. 

To be gathered...
The rest of the move was nicely done. Jayde has not been to work for some time and seemed so satisfied to just do a long job of moving sheep. She’s hurting a little tonight though, as her old injury resurfaces.

Crossing a sparse, weedy paddock; no food here

Made it. I added this last photo because I like the feeling it invokes in me - the dogs, the sheep, the work, how it all represents this life.


Not The Moments I Envisioned

When I imagine about being a rancher, downsizing and selling animals are not the moments I envision.

Today some folks came by to look the cows. As we stood talking and looking at bovines it flittered across my mind that I was very possibly wearing the same expression and sharing the same body demeanour I have witnessed in other folks selling their livestock to me. Speaking very factual, a bit nervous, composing myself while doing something that is fatiguing to do.

Selling some of the ewes from this lovely flock will be even more so, because it’s tough to part with something you have dedicated several years of living to.

A friend asked me if I felt it was a failure that I was selling ewes and I thought that was such an interesting question. No, it is not a failure because as soon as I made the decision about selling, I felt relief. For me the feeling of relief is always a good direction to go in. There are more than a few valid farmer reasons for downsizing, like winter feed concerns, how much one person can manage without equipment to do so, and future grazing needs, however, making a choice that feels right for where you are now, can never be a failing.

These are great sheep through and through - always allowed to eat, sleep and be natural. Seeing some of them leave will be very tough but the few hundred animals that will stay here will be manageable and the fewer numbers opens the door to other options. I’m shifting a dream to take a rabbit trail and make room for another. That’s not failure at all.

Choosing Thanks

So far this has been a month of decision making with some easy choices and some difficult, but most of the choices have been centered around parting with some of this flock.  I was all set to write a long post to relate everything and share the why's and the what for's but now that I'm parked at the computer I just want share some thanks instead, because even when choices are tough to make, we are still blessed to have the choices.

Things are feeling a little more settled here and it's remarkable how much thanks I feel for that alone.  We have started rolling hay out on the pasture for the main flock. The small band of sheep who like to slip the fences are now contained in a paddock near the yard.

Willow went missing four days ago. Allen found her today in the bottom of an old pit at the neighbours yard. That he happened to discover her there is amazing. We are so relieved to have her back home.

On this Thanksgiving weekend we are not harvesting - and I am very thankful for that every year.

I'm thankful that I have this land and this flock to make choices about, and I'm very okay with this being my daily scene.

Ag Experience for Them, Child Experience for Me

This week I am taking part in a new adventure. I headed to Ag Experience to volunteer at the sheep booth. Ag Experience is a three day event for Grade Four school children to experience agriculture. They experience all number of things, from a cookie auction, to canola crushing, to cow milking, to stock dog demonstrations, to getting their hands on some wool at the sheep station. It was fast paced (we had 11 minutes with each group of students), it was quite loud, it was slightly annoying, it was very entertaining. Like good dogs, the children who came with good leaders behaved the best. Those who didn’t …. well… they were the most energy draining.

Not much could complete with the stock dogs working the sheep (no, not me and not my dogs but a dear friend and his) but I was fascinated at how many children were attracted to the needle felting. They wanted to use the felting needles, they wanted to play with the coloured wool, they wanted to touch and to hold, they wanted to create something. They connected with wool because they connected with a picture, and then with an idea to make something. I hope it’s an experience at least a few of them will remember because the world needs more artists.

Stock Dog Rush

I had a funny and exhilarating moment this morning.

The flock was in a large paddock near the yard so we could sort cull ewes today. This morning I walked through and collected guardian dogs. I leashed each of them and walked them to nearby dog runs. I did not latch the gate behind me. I knew I wasn’t going far and was immediately returning.

No the sheep didn’t escape and yes, I did return very shortly - with three Kelpies, whom I did not bother to leash up and allowed to run ahead of me, since they’d all stop ahead at the gate. Yah, you can see where this is going can’t you.

All I caught sight of was the last Kelpie just before she disappeared over the hill and amongst a whole lot of sheep.

“Shit,” I exclaimed. 

“I think you left the gate open”, Allen nonchalantly commented as I ran past.

I ran down the trail and up the hill, hoping sheep would still be in the paddock. Just as I neared the top of the hill a whole lot of sheep crested it, barreling toward me. I ran back the way I came, now in front of a fast moving flock of several hundred animals. In a moment of quick thinking I decided to take advantage of the situation and just headed for the barn which is where I wanted the flock anyway. I just hoped the dogs had collected all of them.

The flock poured around the bend, into the barn paddock and down the alleyway (usually a very tough spot to move them into) in no time at all and not a word spoken. I had to catch my breath. I think the dogs were smiling. They seemed very invigorated by the event and admittedly so was I. I hooted and laughed. What a rush; what a treat to see them go to work like that. I think I’ll use three dogs more often.

Moving and Migration

Everything seems to be moving and shaking here. The Sandhill Cranes, the Geese, the ducks - they’re all on the move. Yesterday on our morning walk, we stirred up a coyote who crossed our path and fled, then paused on a hillside to check back and see if we were any threat. Apparently we were, he went on his way. I haven’t seen a coyote in many months.

The ewes are moving fast, they hardly seem to be grazing. I will check on them in the morning and before I make my way around the paddock they have traveled one end to the other or gone to a new paddock altogether. I’ve opened up the gates so they can travel at will between paddocks and get whatever greens might be left (there isn’t much). The guardian dogs have a spring in their step, like the cool air feels good to them or they know something is up.

This evening was crisp and already chilled with the pending night of below freezing temperatures. Cajun was cold with riding and then waiting on the Ranger while I tried to get some photos of Diesel and Whiskey who were having a great romp together. The setting sun was behind cloud cover so the lighting was not good, however some moments are worth getting regardless. 

They start on the ground. Look at those ewes racing past to catch up to the flock.

They move up to a bale.

Then back on the ground and they're off.

LGD's and Stock Dogs - Keeping The Peace

Following on the heels of the last post. These are some photos taken a couple weeks ago. Gibson is with me to check on sheep.  No particular reason that I have Gibson along. I just decided it was his turn tonight. I switch up who I take although most often it’s Cajun who rides with me right now because the ewes are wandering and Cajun is my right hand dog.

Some ewes are nearby and when I let Gibson off the Ranger his first thought is to work them... but,... not before pissing to announce he is here. Maybe it was his plot to distract the two big boys.

When I call him back the LGD’s are gathering around me, so they meet and greet each other. Gibbs stands for inspection. This is the type of interaction I like to let the LGD’s and stock dogs have. I want the dogs to be familiar with each other.

Gibb, thinking he might get one up on Oakley...

But then Glory comes along and steals Gibson's attention. They engage in some play bowing and a little frisky play.

This results in more inspection by Oakley and Diesel. The most worrisome LGD is Diesel, he’s sharp and he insists on knowing who is in his territory. I always watch out for Diesel and Whiskey when sending the stock dogs to gather the flock. I don’t want those two to be surprised by the stock dogs.

I love that there are ewes in the background, watching the show as they pass by. Right after this, Gibson leaves and begins to work sheep again.

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