Hello Boys

The rams were particularly curious to see me today and since I was without a stock dog they even approached the Ranger. I think they were looking for salt and mineral, both of which have been absent due to all the rain. I don’t have an extra covered mineral tub and while the salt is fine if it gets wet, the minerals are wasted.

I’ve been taking BJ and Gibson out with me to check on the rams and to let them work a different group of sheep other than the schooling sheep. The rams are really light on their feet so the dogs have to learn how to work that out. It’s also good for the rams because we don’t do much with the rams throughout the summer other than check on them. They’re a small group so they stay in one paddock longer and only move when we need to keep them ahead and separate from the ewes. When they seldom see stock dogs, they get pretty flighty, then when we do move them it’s all the dogs can do not to lose them. So working the rams regularly is teaching them not do a panicked flee at the sight of a dog.

Further South of the rams, the ewes were spread out on one of my favourite Native Prairie hillsides. The ewes do not graze the Native Prairie as much as they prefer to graze the tame grasses due to the alfalfa that’s present there. At certain times of the summer though, they take a real liking to the native grasses and seeing them graze or bed there is one of my favourite scenes. I can’t capture the entire spread in one photo so we'll have to settle for joining two photos together. You can click to big-ify.


On The Easel - Getting Started

Taking the first steps is the hardest with a large piece of artwork. I procrastinate on the simple matter of making a decision about the canvas or paper used, and from there the procrastination only deepens, .... but only for so long. Eventually getting started is the only thing left to do.

This is the piece on the easel at the moment. I rough sketched it out awhile ago and then tucked it away while I went onto other projects.


It sits front and center in the art room now and I tease away at it in between wool projects.

I'm enjoying the process of a large piece again and this one in particular has many tiny details that are challenging to capture (you can click on the image to see it larger). 


Collared

I slipped collars onto Lily and Pippa today. I took the collars with me at breakfast time, placed them on the pups and fed them immediately after. They hardly noticed. Collars are the first step to leash training, and even if the collars were no big deal, I’m sure the pups will notice the leashes.

Pippa sports a new purple collar
I could place collars on them when they’re just little tykes but somehow I never seem to get around to doing that with my LGD pups. I don’t leash walk them when they’re little because I lean away from doing too much with the pups during the stage of bonding to sheep rather than me. I do handling of ears, tails, toes and food bowls, but otherwise I leave the pups alone.  When they’re little they follow me on their own volition, without leashes. Eventually that desire fades. When I might have trouble catching them, is when I tend to do a little leash work. It’s not my goal to train the LGD’s pups to heal on a leash but I do want them exposed to being led by a leash and the restraint a leash imposes so walking them into a vets office or tying them up while we do flock work isn’t a nightmare experience for them.

I’ve done hand feeding and food bowl manners with the pups as I find food is one item these dogs like to get argumentative about. Perhaps I just notice it because they’re not raised underfoot in the house so it’s far more apparent. Lily and Pip had to learn to fend off a wily wether lamb that tries to steal from them if I feed the pups in close proximity to the sheep.

Accepting but not fully relaxed about it
Lily still takes a protective posture around her food bowl and she’s pretty quick to utter a warning to any animal that approaches. Both pups accept me being there and I still practice having them be calm before feeding and putting my hands in their bowls. But no other better approach. As pups mature their almost frantic desire for food wanes and by adulthood, they’re often skipping meals and you have the opposite worry - dogs getting enough to eat when they’re working hard.


Sheep, Rain and Deepening Convictions

This challenging stretch of rain, cold and wind, deepened my conviction about sacrificing maximum production and what has become “the business of farming,” for raising sound and hardy ewes in a natural manner, with as little interference from me as possible.

We moved the ewes to that adjacent paddock with abundant shelter and they never used it. They grazed and slept on the hillsides - in the rain. And since the ewes did this, so too did their lambs. I brewed and stewed with worry through 48 hours of cold and steady rain, wondering why those ewes never sought shelter. Wondering if I should force them to move into it. Wondering if days of rain was going to erase a smoothly successful, but still raw, lambing season. Each time I went out and saw lambs curled up in deep grass, looking wet from head to toe, I cringed. I fully expected to pick up dead lambs each morning and evening. 

The rain stopped sometime last night and today was a deep grey and cobalt blue day, with patches of brilliant sunlight and calmness. A day of sunshine is all it takes to dry everyone off and warm everyone up again. A day of sunshine is just the break I need to loosen the knot of worry in my gut, even if only for today, since there is a forecast of rain over the next three. 

I toured around and through the flock this morning, scanning extra thoroughly for anything out of sorts or dead. Mid way through, I stopped to feed the first guardian dog I came across. I stooped to say hello to Lady and offer her a bowl of food and it hit me. A moment of intense gratitude and relief, mingled with amazement at these ewes standing all around me, and at this life. The feeling was strong and pungent, more so because it and similar moments have been sparse lately. It was a rush of soulful knowing; the kind of moment that solidifies your choices and why you do what you do. 

I am amazed how lambing happened as quickly as it did and that the bulk of lambing is over with rather than happening during this soggy stretch of weather. With lambing so recently occurred and still a few newborns arriving, we are not out of the woods just yet, but I’m sure appreciating the sun filled meadow while we’re resting here.


On the Dog Front

I haven’t quite figured out how to keep up with posting on the dogs. I could probably write a blog focused solely on them. This week I made a trip to the vets with Oakley to have some minor wounds tended to. Turned out Diesel is picking on him and maybe Whiskey too once there is action started. So Oakley has been relocated again and right now resides with the pups, Lily and Pippa.  When he’s fully recovered I’ll put him back to work with Zeus again.

Zeus tangled with a porcupine but thankfully only incurred about ten quills on his nose and muzzle. He wasn’t fond of us taking them out but we managed to.

Lady received a haircut. She and Pippa are the only two LGD’s here with long coats and Pippa’s just a pup, so her coat will be self managed for awhile. When Lady whelped her only litter of pups, a couple years ago, she had a really bad time of it and landed in the vets in order to save her life. Health wise she never fully bounced back from that and her lackluster coat is one of the indicators.

I’ve been working stock dogs regularly and Mic and I securely planted two feet in Allen’s bad books. Her for biting a chunk out of the Ranger seat, me for tying her up on the Ranger while I worked other dogs. 

Mic goes a little crazy when she sees other dogs working. Mic goes a little crazy over a lot of things. She’s a bit of a wild card and presents a whole new level of stock dog work.

Today was quite uneventful, dog wise, with credit to the full day of wind and rain. I’ve been stewing all day long over the lambs and how they’re faring. I made the flock move this AM to put them on a paddock with better shelter. The ewes never settled though, they traveled back and forth and in and out. I’m very curious over what that is about. Just when you think they should, and need to, find shelter, they don’t do it, and cramming them into a building for a long day of rain would be far, far worse for them.

The rain is supposed to be with us for the week, so tomorrow I’ll do another move and set them on a paddock that was not in my original rotation. It’s one of the paddocks where the rams hang out, and it’s a lovely paddock with plentiful bush areas for a lot of ewes and lambs to shelter in. The downfall is that the craftier ewes know they can cross the cross fence there and will likely wander to the next hay field. Ah, such is the life of sheep and shepherd. 

Over Doing It

Here she is - that fourth ewe in line, mentioned in the last post. Perhaps she was starved in a past life. Every time I see her, all I can think is wow, how and why does she eat so much?



Lambing has slowed considerably, with half a dozen or so lambs in a day now. Things have been progressing very smoothly which I am sure is a result of some serious culling last fall.

The last few days have been the worst, and have been mostly the Targhee cross ewes who have lambed out.  Those ewes seem to like communal lambing, often lambing close to one another instead of moving away to birth. This results in mix up’s of whose lamb is who’s.  Not a big deal in our case so long as the lambs get raised. It’s my inclination to control what goes on and make sure everyone is matched up proper that makes it feel out of control. The real headache is the ewes who walk away from lambs or can’t count to two; maybe the end result of some of the mix up’s.

This next photo was taken last Wednesday during a move with the flock. This is the group of ewes yet to lamb, my forward drifting group. 


In this group, there are replacement ewe lambs I do not expect are carrying a lamb; I'm guessing they make up maybe a third of this group. Today, according to my count we’re all but done lambing. That means over half those ewes in the photo lambed this week, just to give an idea of how swiftly things can happen around birthing time.

Take another look at the photo - see anyone familiar? The ewe above !! - I'm pretty sure that's her along the bottom of the photo, right of center, below Whiskey's right hip (if you click on the photo you should be able to view it in larger size). 

Time Renewal

"You catch the present moment without words or thought. Few things are easier to describe and harder to do. The crux of the matter is time. .... Most of us take for granted that time flies, meaning that it passes too quickly. But in the mindful state, time don’t really pass at all. There is only a single instant of time that keeps renewing itself over and over with infinite variety. "
  
Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets


Animals know and live this concept of time being an illusion. Spending time in the company of various animals everyday allows me to glimpse it now and then too and shapes the world I see and live in. 

There are 300 lambs on the ground now. We’re almost through lambing. We’re still drifting animals forward however now the front bunch (those who have not lambed) is a small group and the dropped bunch (those with lambs) is large. Our moves are less frequent now, happening every second or third day.  Moving the ewes with lambs is a pretty large event now.

Calling ewes forward to new paddock

(Notice the fourth ewe in line; how full she is. She's remarkable - her fondness for eating is second to none. I'll get some photos of her to share with you).


Fog on A Monday Morn

The soothingly peaceful view from my deck in the wee hours of the morning.








Spring Blush

It’s been a while since I shared some artwork. I’m still fitting in time for creative spurts as I can. Sometimes that’s very early in the mornings, either before or after walking dogs.  Often it’s mid afternoon, right after I’ve done the afternoon rounds out on pasture. If all is going smoothly I have a little bit of time before I’m out to work stock dogs or start supper. Most of the evening is taken up with lambing and flock work. After dark, if I’m not ready to call it a day and put my feet up, I might fit in time for this blog or be in the art room again.  I still wrestle with feeling guilty about doing artwork but I’m a lot more prompt about squashing those thoughts.

I haven’t picked up the coloured pencils for awhile but have been doing more needle felted wool art. Thought I’d share the finished piece. I know I shared it as a work in progress some time ago, when I was still waiting for blue wool to arrive. This piece contains also wool from my ewes, which I find immensely satisfying.

"Spring Blush"
I love the scene and that sky, but truthfully, not sure about choosing to finish the edges the way I did. It's very neat and tidy and I know someone will love it; I wonder if it would look better having the edges rough, wooly and unfinished looking though. I have some green bamboo rods that will do well for  hanging it, and will give it a nice touch. It’s another large piece, measuring 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide. It is for sale.

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