Friday, May 30, 2014

The Hills Are Alive

The hills are alive with the sound of sheep. Lambing is not as quiet as you might think from the picturesque scenes.

There are all types of moms and all types of chatter. Ewes so attentive to their lambs they don’t get more than five steps away from them and murmur to them frequently.
Ewes who stray while lambie naps and then bellow for them to wake up and catch up.
Ewes who bellow at the sound of any other lamb crying.


There are lambs who keep so close to mom they almost trip her. And lambs who begin to stray from mom by the end of the first week and seem oblivious to her hollering in panic for them. There are lambs who are constantly at the neighbours, looking for a snack.
When a ewe loses a lamb to death there is hours of crying.
Often a lamb will pop out of a sound sleep, gawk around, and then leap to his feet, realizing he’s got no ewe. This scenario results in a ear piercing little lambie baaahh that gets the attention of every ewe on the place.
When I catch each lamb to dock a tail or band for castration there is a great amount of noise and activity from the mother.

Moving up to join the next group

When I’m moving the lambed group up to join with others there is  a lot of sheep talk as ewes keep their lambs with them. If pushed too hard and forced to mix, there is a lot of confusion and bawling. Keeping a slow steady pace and letting the family units have room between each other keeps the peace. 

I know I’m well into lambing when the lamb races begin. I watched the first little lamb race last evening. The lambs are still young and the races start out with very short hill side sprinting and leaping with a twin or with a fellow lamb from whoever happens to be next door that day. The ewes always close by.  As lambs grow the races progress into long hill side races with an entire gaggle of lambs running full out, leaping and twisting in the air as they feel the desire.  The ewes are in the distance lifting a head now and then to check the surroundings, occasionally getting sucked into the foray and joining a race.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rain, Dogs and Art

I woke in the wee hours of the morning to the crack of close thunder and strong rainfall. In an instant my thoughts went to Lily and Pippa and how they were faring in their first thunder storm. Alas, I’m not such a doting guardian dog mom that I walked out to the paddock, in the dark, and the rain and lightening, to find out. They seemed just fine when I arrived to feed them breakfast which I did do shortly after first light.

Rain this morning meant a delayed move of the flock until the afternoon. So before this move Allen and I stretched out some electranetting to subdivide the next paddock. As the grass grows more rapidly and stronger, the alfalfa is starting to take off and we are mindful of bloat issues. It’s also far tougher for the guardian dogs to look after ewes on a larger space than a smaller one. I’m down two dogs this year so it’s weighing on my mind. The drop band of ewes with new lambs is the smallest group right now and are set on 80 acre parcels with one dog available to watch over them.  Oakley is staying with this group but seems uncertain. I am wondering if he is acting cautious about being so near to Diesel.

Lily and Pippa are testing one another and had a fight which we could hear from the yard. Pippa wanted to try again tonight but was promptly put in her place by yours truly. I have been doing minimal handling of them, wanting them to bond stronger with sheep and follow me around less. One of the cons of two pups at once is the possibility of them bonding to each other and less tightly to their charges. However, seeing Whiskey and Diesel together now, leaves no doubt about the teamwork that can form between two siblings. 

p.s. The art show went well for me. The feedback to the wool art ranged from, "I can’t believe you cut up a good blanket," to, "oh my god, this is gorgeous work." I sold my first piece to a real live stranger (as opposed to a family member or friend). He bought the piece I worked on throughout the show. A gallery owner stopped to ask if and where I was selling out of and was surprised that I was brand new to this gig. He left me his card. A fellow exhibitor was so kind and talkative, and shared ideas and provided some incredibly helpful critiques of my work. So at the end of it all, I came away enthused and in awe of the perspectives of people and what they will share.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sheep, Grass and Dogs All Around

The trees are still unfolding their leaves, but the grass is taking off now. Over the last three days the landscape turned a brilliant green that makes me imagine stone fences and England, complete with sheep grazing the hills.

With lambing underway my days are largely consumed being outdoors in the company of sheep. I’m still moving the ewes to fresh grass each day and doing drift lambing again. I brought Oakley and Zeus over to look after the lambed out group, which at the start of lambing is the smallest group. Oakley is willing to stay there but it’s the first time I’ve moved Zeus to a different group of sheep and so far he isn’t convinced it’s a good choice. He returns to his group before morning.

Today I stepped away from sheep and dogs and grass to spend the day at a local art show displaying artwork of sheep and dogs and grass. Then came home to an evening of moving sheep to new grass and juggling dogs. :-) I live a great life, with a great man who helps make it all possible. 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wooly Optimism

I didn’t get the ewes back to the start of the grazing rotation prior to the first lambs arriving. A set of twins arrived yesterday and four more lambs today. A feeling of optimism comes over me when lambing begins with sets of twins (born to first time lambers too) and I relish in it.


I did get my wish of rain, although it came on Monday, the day of the AHBA herding trial which followed our weekend clinic. After a day of cold rain the sun shone strong and warm, encouraging the grass to grow and driving the girls to seek the shade.


We pulled off another successful clinic; the bulk of the credit for that going to our great clinicians Dave and Trudy Viklund and the participants. People either make or break events, and blessedly the people we attract here continue to make them ones to remember. Like all good parties, it was a treasure to be a part of it and it was sad to see it come to an end.


Once all the company pulls out and heads back to their regular lives I always feel a stagnant emptiness lingering about the place. This year it was staved off by a) kicking right into lambing and b) preparing for an art studio tour. The former will be ongoing for at least the next month, the latter takes place this weekend. I feel nervous optimism for this as well.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Getting This Party Started

Here we go again; we’re getting this party started.


Folks are pulling in this evening for a weekend stock dog clinic. It amazes me that people come out to this little middle of nowhere sheep farm to work dogs. I’m going to enjoy the weekend, rain or no rain although I’m wishing for the first scenario.

Notice the hedge in the foreground, and the trees... no leaves yet. The grass is coming though. I’ve been moving the ewes to a new paddock every day. The paddocks are larger in size as I don’t have any netting up to subdivide them yet. They stay long enough to browse around and the next day we’re off to a new piece. Each new piece has more grass. I’ve passed through six paddocks and I have four more paddocks to pass through for the first time, then I’ll be back to where I started. By then, especially if it rains and sun heats us up, that grass will have regrown quickly and we’ll keep going.

We’ll be into lambing very shortly and while I can’t manage for every scenario I’m hopeful that this might also put the ewes near to the yard at the start of lambing which is a bit more convenient for me.

Meanwhile the dogs and I have been moving the dogging sheep that we need for this clinic to where ever we can find the grass. On this day it was the front yard and then into the dog yard for the afternoon. The stock dogs were a bit perplexed and excited by that set up.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

All Directions

Vaccinating ewes, moving sheep, readying for stock dog clinics, checking fence lines, trips to the city for business and supplies, working stock dogs, ... I’m quickly settling into the pace of farm life in the outdoor season. As I go about my days, caring for sheep and surrounded by spacious prairie scenes, I am often deep in thoughts, which by evening are reluctant to flow out of the pen and onto the paper.

I’m dreaming, wishing, wondering and worrying a little too.

I’m moving all the sheep in all directions trying to put them onto grass wherever I can find it. I have some concerns about ergot poisoning so I am praying for a new season of grass to show up. I did not feed hay today but I can’t push the ewes too hard this late in their pregnancy.

My feet are sore at the end of the day. My face is hot from the winds but not the sun. The stock dogs are sacked out on the couch each evening, having exercised well or worked sheep, or both.


There has a been very little time spent in the art room this last week. I’m satisfied with this peaceful life with it’s balance of hard work and great play but I’m feeling edgy lately. Maybe it’s the new pace of busyness, or maybe it’s the recent lack of creative time, or maybe it’s all the tension of waiting for a Spring that might pass us up. 


Friday, May 9, 2014

Weather Acceptance

We are gearing up for a small clinic tomorrow and then Sunday we’ll be vaccinating ewes. I’m in awe that we’re a couple weeks away from lambing and there is no grass for the ewes yet. That hurts in a lot of ways.

It’s a hit to the ewes nutritionally. Typically by now they would have been grazing grass long enough to gain a good deal of fresh spring shoots prior to lambing. So far all they’re getting is tiny little sprigs trying in earnest to grow.

We have been feeding hay since November 20. That’s just shy of half a year and about a month longer than normal. Aside from me being thoroughly tired of feeding hay, that hurts the farms bottom line a good deal. I did not wish to let animals go last fall but now I’m sure glad of the choice to do so.

The green is on its way, I know that, and it won’t get here any faster no matter how impatient I feel for it. The weather is an aspect of farming, and I seldom complain about it because I accept that. I just feel like maybe there is something I could do to urge the grass along or to make Mother N take heart.

Maybe after this Mother's Day weekend the place will be showcasing it's green glory once again.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sneak Peak At LGD Pups



When I head out in the afternoon to feed pups I go as quietly as possible, climbing over the fence instead of making noise at the gate, so that I might see where the pups are, and what they’re up to, without them knowing I’m around. As they grow up and grow more alert I’m less successful at getting in unnoticed. 

This is where they were at this afternoon. They still fit into and enjoy napping in the dogloo which has been a welcome shelter during our cool spring. That's Pippa rising up, and Lily still asleep. It won't be much longer and they won't fit in here together.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

On The Easel

Some of the artwork I’ve been cramming in.

This is the piece that was on hold while I waited for blue wool to arrive. It's still a work in progress, however, now the end is near.

Needle Felting - In progress

I made some good strides on it last week. Unlike pencil, paints and pastels, when you purchase dyed wool you don’t often get the same colour shade twice. The blue that arrived was lighter than the blue I started with so I ended up redoing the whole sky, but I’m happier with this version.

This piece is hanging in wait once again while I work on making some detailed grass for the foreground. This is an exciting piece to tackle because of it’s size and oddly enough I am excited about the shape of it. I love how tall it is. It’s about three feet high by two feet wide. When finished, the 'canvas' will be trimmed and I think I'll hang it freely from a rod (without a frame) but I have to figure that out yet.

Meanwhile I completed another piece, which I'll share in another post, and started the next one... I am cramming.

Needle Felting - Just started

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spring Cramming

“Spring on the prairies comes like a surprise.
One minute there’s snow on the ground
the next there’s sun in your eyes.”

Spring on the Prairies
song by Connie Kaldor

Late last week we received a lot of rain, which took care of the bulk of the left over snow. Tuesday morning this was the scene in my dog yard.


By Thursday the snow was gone and I was out checking fence lines because I moved the flock to a new paddock. The temperature actually reached double digits, on the plus side. The whole place was mud for two days but strong prairie winds helped dry things out. These wild temperature fluctuations seem crazy but are becoming common here.

We deliver wool tomorrow. Like a crop farmer delivering his crop, it’s always satisfying to see that happen. We try to deliver our wool asap after shearing because numerous large bags of wool take up a bit of storage space, plus the trailer we have it loaded on is borrowed and needs to be returned. We take our wool to a wool collection depot that is an hour away and we have to wait for the wool depot to open for the season.

I kept a fleece for myself, and started washing some of it today since I was indoors for a spell to do some needle felting. I’m determined to get in as much art time as I can before the summer season.

Afterwards I braved strong winds and headed out to work stock dogs. The dogs and I are quickly getting back into the swing of things. BJ and I are really stretching our wings and I’m loving the fact that she’s loving it. Mouse had a go as well. I’ve only just started her this week so am enjoying the newness of a  raw, young dog. Gibson is chilling due to a cut toe pad. Cajun is my main work dog so he gets quite a bit of the regular work around here. I train with Cajun less often though as he does not enjoy being trained on too much. Same with Jayde except with her it’s because she has some chronic soreness after several years of working hard. And Fynn, Fynn's pretty much retired to the easy life.

BJ helping with some post shearing sorting