Sheep Time Well Spent

To sit and be with sheep a few extra moments is always time well spent in a day.
These two ewes are curious about me sitting low in the grass, waiting to take their photo.

They catch my attention because of their contrasting black and white faces grazing side by side.


Both of them watch me with curiosity as they graze closer and closer.


The white faced girl lifts her nose to scent me just like I see the dogs do.


They are unhurried and unworried, completely unaware of photography or their own beauty.

Lily

The sheep and the livestock guardians grow so comfortable with each other. Lily is curious this evening and investigates the activity around the mineral tub. 

 


Back At It

Back at it, but in my mind there is a good deal of compare and contrast going on between the sheep and dog world I am familiar with, and the world of people I found myself in this weekend.


I think it is the combination of a three day, large family gathering plus having company here at the farm for an extended period. My view is shifted and/or expanded; in some cases it is realigned, in other cases there is confirmation that it holds true.  I love it when life does that.


While I have missed writing blog posts this past week, there has been ample conversation with our guest, Lena, about this place and the values and belief’s that help make it run as it does. Values and beliefs that to a degree, are handed down by the family we gathered with on the weekend, even though in physicality, the lives we live are vastly different. Thank God for family. 




Bustling Times

All but 400 feet of the first half mile stretch of fence is laid out, ready to be tightened and stapled. One small milestone. I have the good fortune of some help this week while Lena, a visitor from Germany, is here to experience life on a farm. I’m not sure fencing is what she had in mind, but fencing is very much a part of life on a livestock farm.

Years ago, Lena's father came from Germany to work as a hired hand on my Dad's farm and they have stayed in contact since, visiting when able.

Lena and I, with the help of a couple of kelpies, also brought the ewes homes, sorted some animals, treated some sore feet and a few cases of worms. We tackled some Electranetting yesterday and in between the regular farm work Lena heads out to see the horses and I work my stock dogs. And each morning and evening we are out to see the flock and visit the guardian dogs. This weekend though, we're taking a break from farm life to join in some family celebrations at Mom and Dad's place. After some tough work fencing, we will both enjoy the party atmosphere and perhaps a cold drink or two.

Having company sheds a new light and fresh perspectives on the place and what we are doing here. Each time I explain what is happening or why, I am reminded of how much there is to share and how remarkable it is that others are interested in learning about it.

Watching sheep

Feeding the guardians

Summer Heat

This is about as much work as the livestock guardians feel up to on these hot days.

Oakley

Lily and Pip are still hanging out on pasture with the flock and Diesel is still with the dogging sheep. I’m enjoying this easy phase because I know what may come yet. Whiskey has not deterred the pups at all, in fact I think he likes having them out there. So we answered one curiosity and know for certain that Diesel is the sole instigator of trouble with new dogs working his turf.

The ewes rise early and eat themselves to plumpness. Then they lie down for the rest of the day, peacefully passing away the hottest hours doing as little as possible. This is good for me because it means they aren’t fence crawling during the day. The only time I have to worry about them is the evening. It isn’t even possible to keep them contained at the moment as our fence is null and void with many sections under water and thus no way to keep power to it.

One bonus of this year of water is that we’re more eager to get our new perimeter fence up. We started the project and while we’re eager to just start strapping some woven wire up, there is plenty of prep work to tackle beforehand.

We unknowingly disturbed this colony of ants when we cut into this dying tree growing too close to the fence line. There were furiously tying to make amends to the upheaval we caused them.


This year water will be the biggest obstacle to building fence. We haven’t figured out how to put this woven wire across the some of these wetlands and going around some of these temporary lakes isn’t feasible.


Hopefully we’ll have a plan by the time we get the wire to the first body of water we can’t span across.

LGD Pups, Small Successes

We are having some small successes with integrating the guardian pups to large flock work on pasture.

This is Pippa on the first day I took her out.

She wants to get to know the ewes, but the ewes initially move away, recognizing she is a strange dog.


So the set up right now is this: we have Diesel at the training yards with the dogging sheep. Zeus is with the rams. Lady, Oakley, Whiskey, Lily and Pippa are with the main flock. We've had three consecutive, successful days with the pups staying on pasture, so it would seem that Diesel was our ticket. I have no idea how long to keep him out before putting him back with the main group, or how long he'll be kept out before finding a way to return on his own.

This was the scene on day two. Pippa is keeping tabs on where I am but also choosing to remain in the vicinity of the sheep. Neither she nor Lily has attempted to follow me out over the last three days, dropping the necessity for me to camp out on pasture.


A little later on.  Can you see her? (Click on the photo to biggify).  She's the white spot just to the right of center. The ewes adjusted to the two new white dogs very quickly. This was helped along by two important factors. Our ewes are very familiar with guardian dogs, and these two pups are showing exemplary behavior around the ewes, acting very polite as they settle themselves in.


On the third day: Pippa is looking very content. I always get a sense with each of the dogs and my sense with Pippa is that she is content, she is confident, she is a dog in her element, right where she belongs, fulfilled with the task of doing a purposeful job. I want to be her.


Lily is also doing well, although she is not quite as confident as Pippa. She is still nursing an injury on her hip, so she's not feeling 100 percent and she's not as active as Pippa with moving around with the sheep. She's very willing to stay put with the sheep though, and no longer shows any interest in following me. I'm quite astonished that this early phase went so smoothly, once we removed Diesel.

Camping Out

I’m going to camp out on pasture with the sheep and dogs or at least spend some late night evenings with them.

Lily and Pippa started following the Ranger (us) out to the pasture in the morning. We thought we’d go with it, and have made a few attempts at putting them out with the main flock to stay. Well, they stay as long as I’m there and now they’ll stay for a few hours afterward but then they return to the group of dogging sheep.

When Lily followed me back out again one evening I left her out as it looked like she was going to stay put. The next morning she was back and was sporting small bite wounds on her hind quarters - an injury I’m familiar with - an injury I’m almost certain is the D-man’s doing. I’m very surprised that Diesel has taken offense to one of the pups being out there, and wonder deeply about what went on. 

I would really like for Lily and Pip to be able to guard the pasture flock along with the current three. Yet it seems Diesel is saying no thank you.

Before I give up on the notion that these dogs can work together I’m going to try switching dogs around. So Diesel came home to the dogging sheep and Oakley, Lily and Pippa all went out to the flock. I tried taking Zeus out as well but he promptly left, headed back for his rams. He’s been on the receiving end of Diesel’s wrath and he’s also still intact so I can see why there would be ripples there. I let him go back as he wished.

If Diesel will tolerate it I’ll keep him separate for awhile and let the other five dogs get familiar with working together. The pups know Oakley well so having him there will be good backup and security. I chose to leave Whiskey out to find out if he’s involved in causing any of the trouble, or if it’s only D-man. Lady is pretty neutral and I’m pretty sure she’ll accept whomever.

Last night I had Allen drop me off and I stayed out with Lily and Pippa until after dark, then quietly made my exit and walked home without them. It was quite fascinating to be a part of the evening with them and watch as they traversed the paddock and the flock. While Lily and Pipp remained with the flock when I left, I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll be back here come morning.

I think it might take a couple evenings or nights of camping out on the pasture with them to convince them to stay out. Spending a night with the flock and the dogs is something I’ve always wanted to try. While we know our sheep and our dogs well, I’m suspicious that we are fairly clueless about what really goes on over the night period. That said, I’m also a fair-weather camper, if I’m going to do this I’d really rather not be soaking wet with rain.

Meanwhile we’ll keep Diesel closer to home and keep returning Lily and Pip to the flock as needed. It seems that Lady, Whiskey and Diesel have everything covered but I’d really, really like to establish a solid pack of more than three dogs with this flock and that means getting Diesel to accept another dog working on his turf.


Rain, Here We Go Again

I spent the better part of the afternoon indoors waiting it out as another thunderstorm deposited heavy rainfall. I was okay with being indoors; I spent the time working on this piece, slowly getting detail into the flock.


Meanwhile, it was another significant rainfall, close to three inches. We live on the dry land prairie, and are just not sure what to make of all this rain. Regardless, I love the fresh feeling after summer rain. The very air is dripping and the greenery around here is intense.

This rainfall cut gullies in the driveway. 


And this evening, a few hours later, water is still pouring across the pasture. I'm trying to upload a very brief video but it is very painstaking. (How do people post so many videos all the time anyway?)


You can tell by the photo that the water is really moving which means there is significant volume of it flowing through here.


More fence lines are lost as the wetlands continue to rise. Sections of pasture are getting cut off.

Although we are receiving all this rain, there is no worry of flooding here because we live in hilly land and all this water does run off into potholes and wetlands. Natural blessings.

Nor are we complaining about the rain because we do live on the dry land prairie, and we get that rain may quit at anytime and not return for a very long time. 

The Gangs All Here

Heading out to work sheep and everyone wanted to come along. The old guy Fynn jumped in for the photo opp. He's the brown and white dog in the back, at center. The only one not tied in.


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