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.

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.

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.

Solo Photo

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

[Photo from my files]

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. 

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. 

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.

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.  

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.


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