Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Re-Post Interrupted

In this rural location the wind interrupts our internet connection and the last two days have been terribly windy, resulting in no internet access since yesterday morning til late this afternoon.  I did intend to post on schedule but could not.

Since we have arrived at New Year's once again, I thought re-posting this seemed fitting.  I first shared it in my Crooked Fences Newsletter.  (If you're in to this blog you'll enjoy the newsletter as well).

Here's the post:
"This is the time of year when I can almost forget I have sheep.  I mean aside from doing morning and evening chores every day there is little else taking place that involves the flock.  During Spring, Summer and Fall my days are regularly consumed with being outside, attempting to accomplish the never ending volley of tasks that crop up on a farm.  But the winter presents a chunk of time without hurry.  Time to cozy up, be at peace with dark winter evenings and make some dreams for next year.

The land is frozen and a tad barren looking.  A recent warmer day has created an icy shine across the landscape.  The monochrome grey-blue skies and grey-white snow, is occasionally interrupted by patches of long dead, orange-brown grass.  There is a unpretentious beauty about the place.  Even at this time of the year, land and livestock are intrinsically linked and I am glad I have planted myself at their intersection.

I am grateful to stand on a piece of land and know it breathes a life of its own.  I have a sense there is a meaning behind the madness and perhaps I am directing its course more than I think because I know now that being out of control is also being perfectly in control.

I witness how land and animal belong to the real nature of each other and I am satisfied to know that I can go with that flow, adding my own colorful nature to the mix.  This is what it means to exist amidst land and animal.  It is an accomplished place to be.  It is a compelling place to dream. "

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Calm

I was hoping to post some brilliant writing tonight and I waited all day for it to happen, but after a couple days of Christmas affairs it just isn’t happening.

My Christmas holidays used to be as complicated as everyone else’s still seem to be but these last few years the holidays have been immensely calm.   All the time spent in the company of sheep and dogs offers me a great sense of serenity that is finally able to percolate into other aspects of life.  The last few days were full of expected company, expected roles, plus unexpected conversations and unexpected understanding.  It was a good few days.  

We started feeding hay to the sheep on a daily basis on Christmas day.  They don’t head out to graze as often and I expect they’ll stop doing so completely very soon and since they have taken to crossing fences again lately that will be okay with me.  The guardian dogs are all faring well although Lady still looks unkempt.  For a month or so I have been adding raw meat, trim and scraps to their diet.  I recently discovered the wonders of my crock pot for making meat/bone broths and hot mashes of rice, oats and scraps.  The dogs have been gobbling it up. 

We did not travel for Christmas and did not step outside of our usual routine so it’s really been life per usual with extra visiting thrown into the mix.  Allen has a long seven day stretch of work now and I’ll spend the time taking care of animals, finishing up the chocolates and continuing with artwork. Not a bad way to wrap up a year.  Not bad at all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monochrome Beauty

The winter solstice has just passed, rolling us gently into the winter season.  It’s truly a winter wonderland out here this week, not in the manner of fresh snow but in a gorgeous display of whites nonetheless.  It’s like Mother Nature has gone monochrome, and in only the way Mother N can do it, she has created an incredibly natural show of it.

It’s not likely I’ll match her real life display on my camera lens, but here’s my best effort with the little know-how I have of this new camera. 

It’s morning and the rising sun casts a pink glow over this little patch of our back forty.  The stock dogs are milling to and fro, wondering why I've delayed the ritual walk, but some moments you just have to stand still for.  (Click on the photos to see them larger size). 




Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Soulful Purpose to Everyone.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Contented Completion

All our sheep sorting is done and yesterday Cajun and I walked the rams out to the pasture, completing the job.  I let Cajun move the rams part way and settled them there, knowing they would find the ewes without trouble.  I called Cajun back and turned to watch the guardian dogs. Well off in the distance one dog had sounded the alert.  It was Lily and Oakley who ventured forward to investigate the rams, sniffing them in greeting, letting them pass and then walking with them. 

Cajun and I went home, walking in the lovely, peaceful grey morning.  I feel content that this task is done before Christmas this year.  I hope the weather gods are with me come the start of lambing mid May.

Every outdoor surface is heavy with the crystals of winter fog that has been lingering for a few days.  I’ve been wondering why the ewes are not making regular trips up for water but I suppose they’re taking in some moisture with every mouthful.

I rolled out hay feed this morning and the ewes traveled to the feed.  But before I was done chores they left the hay and headed back out to graze.  It’s remarkable that they’re still grazing this late in the year.  The milk vetch is proving to be a worthwhile stock piled forage.

I’ve been putting my pedal bike to good use this year.  Lately I’ve taken to going further along the grid road than usual, riding, in the company of the dogs, until I reach our outlying piece of hay land. This property is not adjacent to any of the others.  It’s not fenced and we’ve never grazed the sheep here and I’ve never explored it on foot.  I ride my bike on the road until I’m abreast of this piece, then leave the bike and go for a walk across the pasture.  The snow cover is minimal and only of issue in the hollows now, and I revel in the simple ability to travel on the pasture and feel frozen, grassy, earth beneath my feet in the winter time.  I feel the thrill of walking in the midst of land that has been here all along but yet I’m just discovering now.  The stock dogs are enthused and thrilled to be exploring new spaces and it’s energizing just watching them. 

We enjoy a long time there each day and afterward, my bike ride, and their run home, are a little less vigorous in a very contented, satisfied and soul filling way. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gone For A Winter Stroll

It might have been better to have left well enough alone.  It might have been better to let the ewes decide when they were done feeding on the milk vetch.


Instead we led the ewes off the milk vetch pasture and into the millet field, hoping they would pick at the remaining millet while the snow cover is light and they can find it.
We led them there with a bale of hay, spread out the feed and parked the ewes right on top of it. We didn’t think they’d leave the hay feed or the millet field.

That evening I was in the midst of a rare, once in lifetime, baking spree so Allen graciously headed out to do the rounds.  Allen enjoys the sheep when all is well but not so much otherwise.  The ewes were nowhere near where we fed them that morning and the simple evening check suddenly expanded into much more.  The ewes, with their dutiful guardian dog companions, had to be collected from a mile further to the West, and they weren’t looking to settle and bed down any time soon. Allen brought them toward home, heading for a back gate, and instead the ewes turned a corner into the North West pasture, still moving in earnest. With the arrival of darkness he finally left them on a hillside and hoped for the best.

They were still there this morning - and we left them in the North West pasture to graze today and probably tomorrow too. Tomorrow night they’ll be brought in to bed in the small paddock near the building. Thursday morning we sort groups for breeding.  From there, maybe we’ll send them back to the milk vetch pasture. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The New June Bug

We purchased our first side by side vehicle, six years and 20,000 km’s ago. At the time I thought we were paying for an extravagant toy.  The first day home with the new black and silver Polaris Ranger we invited the three border collies to check it out and instantly dubbed it the Border Collie bus.


From that day onward each stock dog has come to understand that ‘get on the bus’ means we’re very possibly going to the sheep, but at the least, we’re going for an adventure.  The extravagant toy turned to out to be an essential vehicle for life on a grass based sheep ranch.

The Ranger is strictly a farm vehicle, only driven around our land. It’s our main farm vehicle and we use it year round. We use it rather than the truck. We’ve driven it through deep water, deep snow, deep mud, rough terrain and regular trails.


All the dogs, livestock guardians included, have ridden on the bus at one time or another.  It carries pups back and forth to pasture, and sick and injured dogs home to the yard; it hauls all manner of material in it’s ample box space, and has towed a few things too. 

Several ewes have been for a ride in the back and more than several lambs have ridden on the seat beside us or on our lap.  During one winter it was our feed vehicle, and we fitted it with a bale roller for unrolling round bales.  It became so commonplace it even made its way into some of my artwork.

We’ve done 20,000 km’s of pasture-touring and checking-sheep on this unit and it’s now time to retire the Border Collie bus.  It is parked in the shop for a much needed overhaul of parts and a little TLC.  It runs fine and will serve someone well in its retirement years yet, but given how much we rely on this vehicle and how many miles we pile on, we elected to purchase a new one. 

Unlike Allen, I don’t get that excited by vehicles, but my appreciation of the Ranger runs deep. What I do get excited about, and what I respect and admire and feel hopeful about, is that someone out there had an idea and a passion to make such a vehicle, and saw the idea through, and now I’m one of many recipients of that idea and passion.  How nifty is that.



This one was nicknamed June Bug before we left the dealership. A bit of a new look, a new color and a newer model, but otherwise a very familiar face to us. ‘Get-on-the-bus’ will continue to be a well used phrase around here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ram Power, the Other Half of The Flock

After a night of fog, daylight brought strong sunlight, resulting in a glorious display of winter whites.  I headed out with the camera planning for some snowy tree photos only to be completely distracted by the rams when I arrived there to say hello and check in on the group.

I put heavy emphasis on my ewe flock being the animals I desire to see me through this style of management. The dams are important but the other half of a flock is the sire of the offspring. For my purposes I’m seeking some of the same things in my rams that I do in my ewes.  Nice conformation, nice feet, nice size and they can’t be crazy wild.  I like an animal that looks like it will do just fine walking miles on the pasture and eating the good grass there.  I don’t just shop for a carcass when I look for rams and I don’t produce them with that in mind either.

This is one of my two pure-blood Clun Forest rams.  I love his head, his face and his tidy, tidy, black feet.  The body between the head and feet measures up pretty nicely too.


This is one of my crossbred commercial rams, born and raised here, on grass and with no grain.  I love that I’m getting some nice bone in the legs and keeping those tidy feet.


These animals do well on pasture because they have good feet and strong legs to carry them.  This fellow has a nice head, not to wide across the brow which means lambs with proportionate heads instead of large ones that are tough for ewes to birth.

Up close - the tidy ears and dark face of a commercial Clun Forest cross ram.


Then there is this fellow.  Jethro has come through his first summer and fall with us and enters winter in good shape.  He stands taller and is thicker than my stockier Cluns and Clun crosses.


He has a sweet expression and although he is a quiet and very unassuming fellow it has nothing to do with that sweet smile he permanently wears.  Jethro has one drawback, he has long toes.  They’re not overgrown like those I’ve noticed on a few of our ewes with Targhee influence (I'm noticing more and more there is a correlation between fine wool breeds and iffy feet) but I’ll be watching them closely and will see what results I get in my replacement ewe lambs next year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The S Word

Nestled as I am in this corner of a prairie life it’s easy to see agriculture through my own rose coloured glasses. I am quite content with the view.  I am quite content with my perspective and my passion that agriculture be about land and animals, not about production units and factories.

So it comes as a shock to me that during meeting consultations with various agriculture stakeholders and reps from our provincial ministry of agriculture, that using the S-word is akin to speaking way out of line. What is the S-word?  Sustainable.

It comes as a shock to me that in a room of agriculture ‘specialists’, for lack of a better word, it seemed I was the only one to consider the notion that we might be sustainable, or consider the environment as we move forward in planning.

It also came as a shock, although a very different and satisfying kind of shock, that regardless of how small I felt in that room full of ‘specialist’s yesterday, this time I spoke up. And when the feedlot fellow next to me looked as though he might like to jab me with his dessert fork because I used the S-word, I didn’t shy away.  

What I haven’t figured out is where to put the energy and over running frustration when I leave the meeting. Or what to do with the plethora of thoughts that are filling my head for a full day afterward.

This afternoon I worked the stock dogs, which definitely pulled my head out of the political cloud for awhile. Tonight I fed the guardian dogs, gave Oakley a long scratch on the chest and watched the sheep meander in from grazing and settle themselves for a winter night. Tomorrow I’m at another meeting, but expect this one to be rather easy going. After that I shall be planted at home for awhile, with time and space to sort and shift this brewing energy.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Relief Is...

Relief: successfully feeding the livestock in windy -30 Celsius weather.

There is some nasty, windy, cold weather here and I’m offering the sheep some hay bales each day to get them through. Since we switched from leaving bales on the pasture to taking bales out to the sheep each day, it’s interesting how extreme cold now shifts my perspective for the day. Rather than a barrage of things to do, the focus is on getting animals fed.  If I do that I will have done enough. What remains of the day is minor and is wide open.

I also tend to approach cold days in increments, one step at a time.
I put on an extra layer of clothing, adding on the layers of outer clothes until I’m ready to go.

Next, the tractor just needs to run, it doesn’t matter that there is no cab and it will be cold. If the tractor starts and the hydraulics work we’re off to a good start.

Retrieve a bale from the stack and thoughtfully pick my route out to pasture. If I don’t get stuck the day will go much smoother. Assure myself that if I do get stuck, there’s always a shovel, the animals will still get fed, just a little later than hoped.

Once I get bales out to the pasture I breath a sigh of relief. Then I know the sheep will be fed, even if not where I intended to feed them, there is now food available to them.

Preferably get the bales to a sheltered spot, again if I get stuck, there is always the shovel and shoveling snow warms one up in a hurry.

Successfully unroll a couple bale. Assure myself if I don’t get the bales unrolled, there’s always a pitch fork to move hay around so four hundred plus animals have access to eat or to let them bale graze.

Failing all the above, curse and cry, then call Allen for advice and/or the neighbour for help.

On the days that Allen is home my perspective is different again. I automatically feel a sense of relief that comes from having a fix-anything-farmer-man at hand, and knowing there are two of us to accomplish the days feeding.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Solo Photo

This one is from the files. Oakley with some of his charges, taken last winter, although the scene is very much the same today.

I touched this one up with a little sepia effect, to warm it up because the world is cold out here.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seasonal Chores

The ground is frozen, the winter weather has put a halt to our fencing project for the year. Typically it will be late April or May before the snow is gone and the ground thaws again, so we have a lengthy reprieve from pounding posts and rolling wire. We feel good about having accomplished a nice bit of fencing; in several cases it was a hard slog to negotiate going through water or all the way around it.

Water crossing with woven wire fence
We hauled the last of our hay feed home this week; the ending of another lengthy seasonal chore, and one that always leaves us feeling very satisfied.

One of my rams is ill, not getting better but not getting worse either. He’s a prime fellow, very handsome with a dark face and legs, and is one of my favourites in all the good ways a breeding ram needs to be for our purposes. I’m giving him antibiotics and feeding him some barley chop and oats, for added energy in the cold. I’ve never, ever offered grain to any of my sheep before. I feel a little bit like I’m committing a petty crime. I sure hope he stays with me because I like him a lot and because he’s needed in order to cover all the ewes at breeding time. If I lose a ram, the others will have to make up the difference, which will stretch them, or I’ll need to shop for another ram.


I can’t be certain but I think the ill ram is the fellow on the right side in this summertime head butting contest. I seldom take photos of the rams, an oversight I’ll need to remedy.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Re Entry

No matter how glad I am to get home, re entry always seems to bring a brief period of internal agitation. 

Thankfully there was the hour long car ride from airport to home that provided the opportunity for me to spill the contents of a week of meetings at which I was a new player both in experience and knowledge. Allen did not have much choice but to listen as I rambled the week off to him.

I came home last night but I wasn’t finished with the week yet. My sleep was restless and full of kelpies and border collies who apparently missed me while I was away. Such genial creatures.

Diesel was the first guardian dog I saw this morning. He trotted purposefully toward the fence and in one fell swoop I was back. Back to who I am and what I do, automatically slipping into a deeper sense of self importance that has nothing to do with airports, bureaucracies and personal politics.

I enjoyed time outside in weather that only a week ago would’ve had me complaining a wee bit.  It was windy, raining and snowing, yet I stretched the time I spent outdoors, just feeling refreshed to be out of doors.

While I was greeted by each of the guardian dogs in their individual manner of greeting, the ewes, being entirely and beautifully sheepish, simply went about their business. They are still grazing, that means we are not bringing hay feed to them yet, and thus there is no sufficient importance behind our comings and goings on the pasture - unless we set a stock dog on the ground.  I watched the ewes as they traveled, seeing and appreciating them all over again. After quite some time I returned to the yard, collected the stock dogs and headed out for a long walk, purposefully detouring as we went. It is pleasing to be home.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Solo Photo

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, ... it off to meetings I go.

[Photo from my files]

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What About Wool This November?

Winter has definitely set in here this week and while there are few things that cause me to cringe about going outdoors for my work day, windy wintery days like today are one of them.  Tonight the ewes settled on the sheltered side of a large bush area and are tucked close to one another, the dogs nestled right in amongst them. The rams have access to the building and were quick to settle there tonight.

On days such as these, after chores are taken care of, it isn’t difficult for me to decide to stay indoors.

Fibre lovers have dubbed November as the month to celebrate wool and thinking about wool starts me thinking about felting projects. There are a thousand and one things to make with wool and all of them are so naturally unique just because of the way wool is. My list of what to create is plenty long enough. Being a drawing artist and a sheep rancher there are certain scenes I come across that just call out to be made with wool. I think this next project is one of those so I’m keen to start it and to see it through to the end. 

Sketching on my wool canvas

Roughly starting to lay wool down to help keep my place
While I’m feeling keen about getting a project done by the end of Wovember (that's a deliberate typo, the month is really nicknamed that), the month is interrupted by a week of sheep industry meetings next week. My normal day is largely unstructured, but yet fixed to a physical chore routine set by the animals. A day of travel and four days of meetings is very foreign to me. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sit still for that long.

Nonetheless, time away from routine every now and then always does me good, so there is that to be had in the upcoming week. Yet somehow, I’m already looking forward to coming home. 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wintery Blast

There is snow cover on the ground and temperatures have taken a dip well into the minus side of the thermometer.  It always takes me a few days to get my winter legs solidly underneath me and I wonder if it is the same for the animals.

I repeatedly tell myself it does no good, but I worry steadily through the first few cold days of every winter. Is every one alright, have I forgotten about anyone? Are they cold? Should I make them come inside?

I think of the dogs a lot and this year I worry the most for Lady. She is not an easy keeper of a dog, she eats when she wants; not at every meal. She’s never been a real fit dog but especially so since she underwent surgery a couple years ago to remove her uterus after a difficult pregnancy and whelping. She’s always been border line healthy. Nothing that we can pinpoint as being wrong, but never looking well enough to make me feel at ease with how she’s doing. At the start of every winter I wonder how she’s going to fare. The one plus for Lady is that she loves sheep and the ewes are at ease with her. She always has a warm place nestled right with the ewes.


Today was not a day to be toting the camera. This photo was taken about mid October. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

That Fence

The other day I toted the camera with me when we went out to do some fencing work. Since my recent coyote encounter, I was really hoping to catch some wildlife but keeping a camera with a large lens at your side while one is busy fencing doesn’t work well. I know which activity I’d rather be doing but photographing greatly delays getting any fencing done.


The coyote encounter was a couple weeks ago, right in the area this photo was taken but prior to the new fence being there. I was working along the fence line, the stock dogs along for a run while I walked, feeding out a strand of high tensile wire to be used as a guide line for pounding the fence posts. I had a tangle in the wire and was working with my head down, vaguely aware that the stock dogs were milling about to the left of me.

The movement of an animal came into my peripheral vision on the right side and brought my head up. It was a coyote trotting along and peering at us as though he was wanting to see what we were doing. He was only fifty or sixty feet away.

Almost in the same moment my head came up and I registered what I was looking at, the stock dogs spied the coyote. I gave a holler to call them in just as they bolted forward. The coyote was already running flat out. Dang it.

Oh how I longed to stand there a moment longer and see that coyote. Just to stand still with one for a moment and really see it. It gave me chills to realize how unaware I was of his approach but then he is the wild animal, he survives because he’s a bit stealthy. I don’t practice those skills.

I’m longing for a moment with a wild canine and at the same time putting up a fence to keep the ewes in but also to keep wild canines out. Such a juxtaposition of life is playing out in my backyard; in my choices. I suppose that fence is my way of coexistence, as are the guardian dogs. At least, it makes me feel better to view it that way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Regular Days

The sheep have become as familiar to place and routine as we have. They know where they are, they know trails and gates and where not to go.  A few days of night penning and taking them out in the morning with the stock dogs and the ewes began initiated the routine themselves. Particularly in the morning when they want to go out. All I need to do is open the gate. They still need a bit of encouragement to come home at night but then travel there willingly.

Pausing for a rub on the fence post

I love watching them in the morning, they rise, they stretch, they look around, some of them pick fights with their sleep mates, but not necessary in that order. Again in the evening when they come in they are interesting to watch. Some jostle at the mineral tub, some get comfy as soon as they come in, trying to find the best position to rest with a full belly. Lambs who are still with their moms try for another drink.  Some ewes find themselves next to an enemy and begin bullying each other, sorting themselves out.

Heading out    




In all these small ways the days are made regular, and conversely, in all these same small ways the days are made remarkable.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Not Knowing What We've Got Until It's Gone

I think we are going to see a great alteration of our landscape in the upcoming year.

All around the wetlands, the trees are dead from too much water. Soon they will begin to fall and the wetlands will lie exposed until the next crop of trees grows up, further out from the water. Nature’s way of doing her own redecoration.

The trees have been dead for a long while now, however, during the summer months I could dismiss that somewhat, looking everywhere else at the ample greenery. As we shift from Fall into Winter though, I feel the loss of those trees more and I want them back.


 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Off The Easel - LGD Art

Actually, it has been off the easel for awhile and a couple other pictures have been started and finished since, but I forgot to share it with you earlier.

This one came together easily and I always wonder why some artwork is like that. What is it about any particular dog, or scene, or project, or any matter of life, that helps it come together or makes it fall apart? 

To take you back: here’s the start of it...   LGD Art in Progress

... and the finish:




Saturday, October 25, 2014

Playing With The Camera Again


Allen and I forego the traditional purchase of gifts around birthdays, Christmas and other holidays. Instead we wait until we’re ready and able to purchase some item we’ve wished for.

This time around it’s a new lens for the camera. I think this one was more my want than Allen's but he graciously made it happen. I’ve tried it out a couple times and it sure is something I have to get used to and practice with, but it’s almost like a new puppy - I’m so excited about the opportunities.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

LGD's and Night Penning


I’m night penning the flock in the small paddocks near the yard where I often work the stock dogs. With several hundred sheep bedding down here, these spaces are getting well fertilized. A simple example of the sheep working for us.

The guardian dogs are in one place come morning and evening and it’s a simple matter to walk out and feed them.


Oakley has returned to duty and the worry about him not wanting to go back to work after a month up at the house with us was not needed. He seems happy to be back at work and hasn’t once thought to come back to the yard with us. He has to re-grow new skin on his hind leg so he’s still healing but it all looks good and feels as though there isn’t much more for us to do now except let him finish healing.

Meanwhile the odd couple, Zeus and Diesel, are still together and staying with the rams. It feels like we’re under working a great dog since Diesel has tremendous potential for handling a good deal of work against predators and the small band of sheep he’s with hardly seems like enough for him. For now, I won’t try rocking the boat though. The two packs feel stable and all is well.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Where We Go While We're Getting There

What a beautiful day, in deeper ways than warm sun and light breezes in October. It was a much, much needed day of simplicity which brought to light all the places I’ve been while I’m getting there.

My good friend Jill came out to work dogs today and we each had a smooth and lovely go of it with our dogs, during that time we also had a deep and lovely conversation. The kind of conversation that cracks you open a little bit. The kind of conversation I was searching for without knowing I was in need of it. It contained lots of bits about dogs, snippets about ego, and learning to accept what is in front of us because we are where we are.

Afterwards I just couldn’t bring myself to face another afternoon of working on fencing on my lonesome, yet the day was so gorgeous I needed to be outside. I headed back out to work my young dog, Mic, for a spell, then I set about making a simple bird bath from stone I have been collecting. Whenever I’m out and about on the pasture and come across a stone I like, either because it’s flat, or it’s coloured, or stands strong, whatever the reason, I pick it up and bring it home. Eventually I make use of them.


I’m so pleased with it and working with the stone, without worry of the final product, was the most fluid way to carry the morning forward and further sooth my fretful mind.


The stone dish at the top is too flat to make a deep bath for the birds and with winter coming up it might serve better if it held bird feed instead. I hope the birds like it. It reminds me of how remarkable it is to live in a place that serves up such simple and natural materials in abundance.


Re-reading this post I am reminded of another time I set about a simple task with stone: A Task of Elemental Basics


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Prickly Beauties

I have a love, hate relation with these prickly beauties.

Thistles are like the scourge of the prairie and area farmers almost have an apoplexy when they see them. But as with all things of nature, they know where they belong and when. We have patches of them scattered about the farm, in spots bare of grass, in places where we left too much residue from hay feeding. In places nothing else will grow.


They’re the first plants to show up after stress in an area; they’re opportunists, which is one of the reasons why I like them.

I love how they expose and share their velvety softness, among their thorny spikes. They stay in flower late in the season and despite their opportunistic persistence and seeming uselessness otherwise, they still give back. 


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cajun

He pushes almost all my buttons. Give an inch and he’ll take a mile, and he doesn’t forget that you gave him that inch. He’ll expect you’ll give in again at anytime, he’ll demand it. He is arrogant. He is comical. He is sly. He thinks for himself. He loves to be with me or with Allen. He’s been one of the more difficult dogs I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and after five years with him, I’ve reached a place of deep respect and admiration for him. Allen and I joke that if it comes down to divorce, the one thing we’ll fight over is who gets Cajun (and BJ).


Working with him is no longer a tug-o-war for control but rather a give and take of the control both of us desperately seek. There is a level of deep understanding in that realization because really that give and take is the way the working relationship needs to be for every stock dog.  I understand Cajun better now, and I think this gives him great relief. I highly doubt he understands me better because right from the get go his understanding ran as deep as it needed. Dogs are like that.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Stay or Go

We had a long day of sheep work yesterday. Lambs have been selected for sale, tagged appropriately, and those who will be leaving have been sorted from the ewes. It took 24 hours for the crying between the separated lambs and ewes to die down.

I have favourite lambs every year and this time around I’m very glad this little gem is staying here.


She's a nice little female who already weighs 90 plus pounds and she's got style. She’s even more adorable in person. Somehow knowing she is here lessens the pinch in my heart I always feel when we sell lambs.


Friday, October 3, 2014

LGD's I'll Never Figure It Out

The livestock guardian dogs have fascinated me from day one but I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how they align themselves as a pack or why some of them fit into a pack so well and others never do. I’ve reached the conclusion that, despite what all the books tell, it isn’t necessarily about age of the dog, or sex or whether they are intact or not. Sometimes it’s none of the above - sometimes it’s about personality and stability. I suppose it’s not much different than humans - some play well together, others do not.

When I had the flock at the yard to weigh lambs, Diesel headed back out with the flock thus putting himself back with the main pack. Zeus was still with the rams and Oakley is still up at the yard with us. Diesel has been on his own with the dogging sheep for about seven weeks. Meanwhile Lily, Pippa, Whiskey, Lady, and Oakley (until his predicament) were gelling well as a pack. The pack felt good to me.

I was sincerely hoping Diesel would slip into the main pack without fuss. That he’d feel the stability and realize he was now odd man out, not ruler of the roost. Alas, it didn’t happen. Right away on the first day, Lily was upset with the new arrangement. Within two days we had trouble and Pippa and Lily were pushed out and Lily got injured, making it dog number three to take care of right now. Diesel (assuming it was he) is once again, unscathed.

Next we tried putting Diesel with the rams and Zeus with the main flock, but Zeus refuses to leave his bunch of sheep, and returns to them, even though Diesel is with them. This morning, Zeus and Diesel, two unlikely bedfellows, were sleeping tightly curled up together. This evening both came bounding over, seemingly very happy with their new found partnership to each other and thus convincing me I’ll never know how these beautiful creatures make decisions about the way of their world.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sunday Wooly Workload

This was the workload in front of me the other day.


BJ and Cajun have just penned the flock and did a dandy job of it. Those two work well together.
I wasn’t able to get the whole flock in the photo and the first group have already filed through the bugle into the building.

I’m proud to say I got through all those sheep and weighed all the lambs (I collapsed into an easy sleep early in the evening afterward). I’m pretty pleased with the weights and the next step is tagging and to arrange for selling some lambs.

I’ll be selling a few extra than planned on it order to recoup Oakley’s vet bill. That’s okay, he’s worth it.  We culled heavily last year and just taking a quick gander at the ewes as they filed down the alleyway I don’t think I have many culls to sort out this year.

Allen’s work schedule has changed so he’s only gone three days a week now and home for four. This week we’re working on the fence and making good headway. We’ll take a day to tackle tagging lambs and it will be good to have the second pair of hands for that.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sunrise Walks in The Fall


Stepping out; my view from the deck

Rain or shine, wind or calm, fog or clear, I take a morning walk with my dogs. It's a healthy taste of the prairie first thing in the morning. It's opportunity to connect with nature. It's a meditation of sorts.

The last week of mornings have been gorgeous, there is great color in the air due to all the harvest dust and the sunrises are vibrantly alive. On this morning a low layer of thick fog softened the earth.

In the East pasture; in the fog

Allen and I keep making attempts to get fencing done but keep getting halted. Today our delay was the tractor tire; we'll need a new one. So Allen went out to swath the millet instead and my work started in the evening.

The stock dogs and I gathered the flock and walked them home. We took the girls up to the barn paddock and penned them there for the night. I took four dogs and worked all four. It was a peaceful job done with zest and satisfaction on a cool prairie night. It was almost like there was a hint of our peace filled morning still with us. I love that. 

Watching the geese flying in the colors of the sun

Tomorrow I'll move the ewes and lambs through the alleyway so I can weigh lambs to find out how we're doing and what might be ready for sale. It will be a long day for me and the dogs will see a lot of work again.

Glorious - what else is there to say

Monday, September 22, 2014

Remembering That It Happened

Going through some photos I took notice of these for the first time. I saw them before but didn’t pay attention, I think because sheep camp was a bit of a blur.

These offer a peak at what our place looks like and where I do most of my dog training work. And proof that you were all here (for those that were); proof that we really do this each year and that’s kinda remarkable. I'd kinda like to have the week back.

The Working Areas (four arenas/fields and holding pens)

Some of the Company

Waiting in the wings with Cajun