BJ's Trio

Yesterday BJ whelped a small litter of three very plump little puppies.  They are more precious than precious itself. 

Her whelping went off without any major hitches.  She was momentarily surprised to see the first pup.  I think I was too.  She licked it off quickly and then ignored it, getting back to the business of whelping the next.  When she was done she tended to all of them and has hardly left their side since.  She spent all day next to the pups, napping and feeding.  She has plenty of milk to go around so these little firecrackers should grow like weeds.

Puppy one is a black and tan male, puppy two is a very surprising cream colored male and puppy three is a female cream, which surprised me even more.  Two creams in a litter of three is quite remarkable, plus BJ and Drover are both black and tan dogs.  I imagine creams are more common in Australia where Kelpies are so popular but cream colored Kelpies are not that common in North America.  I have only seen them in pictures. 

Their coat color is something immediate and tangible to adore and focus on but I can’t wait to learn who they are and what work skills they bring to the table.  I have fallen head over heels for this little trio so much that I am being sappy about them when sappy is not my thing. 

I’ll try not to overload you with Kelpie pictures but before they grow up and leave the nest, I think these babes just might be the most photographed Kelpie pups in Canada.

Sitting With Lady

For the last few months I have been wishing for some answers and a solution to Lady’s health troubles.  Yesterdays repeat visit to the vet netted just that but the answers and solution were a little hard to digest straightaway. 

The underlying issue of her coat trouble is diseased kidneys and recovery to healthy kidneys again is highly unlikely.  She’s a pretty sick girl as we suspected but also very, very stoic and hiding just how sick she is. 

The vet likened her level of discomfort to a bad hangover.  We gave her fluids to rehydrate her and I opted to put Lady on a course of antibiotics and hormones to ease her level of discomfort and took her home, returning her to the sheep.  I have lived with and let go of several dogs and know that I’ll know when it’s time for us to return to the vet. 

Meanwhile, early this morning BJ, the kelpie I took to Montana for a breeding, began pacing, panting and digging the dog bed into a nest.  Nothing else to report yet, she’s still doing the same things. 

I am watching one life slip out of this world while anticipating another slipping into it.  I find lambing time is very much the same, although with the dogs involved, it greatly intensifies the feeling of sitting in the gap between life slipping away and life being given.

Leaving Sleeping Dogs Lie

These photos were taken a day or two before shearing when the flock was settled in the paddock near the yard.  I recall it was a really windy evening and I was able to sneak in the gate and walk uphill to get these photos before the dogs sensed I was near and woke up.   I was surprised to see Whiskey sleeping belly up.  Unlike the stock dogs who are frequently in the house and sleep belly up on a regular basis, I very seldom see a livestock guardian dog do so.

Wooly Abundance

These lovelies are gifts received over the past year from Canada, the USA and South Africa.  They are resting upon a lovely orange and purple rock I brought home from Montana and the wool behind them is part of a parcel Andrea gifted me today when she came by to collect the fleeces she set aside on shearing day.

There is wool from breeds of sheep I have not yet laid eyes on in the flesh.  Old English Southdown, Shetlands, Jacob, and Scottish Blackface.  There are baggies of small rovings of various colors - perfect for a needle felting artist.  Once again I am in awe of the generosity.

I would love to leave this little collection sit as I have propped it here in my art studio but it will need to move on to make room for felting projects.  There are many reminders in this little collection; of people and places and the connections I have with each of them. 

And The Dams Let Loose

With gates open and fence wire let down the ewes are traveling about the whole place in search of greens.    While our daytime temperatures are climbing to 10-12 degrees above zero, at night it still drops below zero Celsius.  There is the barest hint of greenery all over the landscape; the grass is ready to take off but I think it knows better.

Spring always results in a revisit of the land, traveling about to see the land anew.  Water pouring along a ditch has everyone’s attention, so with shearing done and nothing immediately pressing, we take some time to tour.  A beaver dam located along the edge of our pasture let loose and the resulting damage indicates the volume of water that the wetlands are holding this year. 

At the beaver dam the day after it let loose
The water spilled into the neighbours crop stubble field and cut a deep trench across the quarter section, literally cutting his field.  It flows into the ditch and passes under the roadway through a culvert.  Here it enters one of our hay fields. 

I am thankful there is a thick stand of grass residue to staunch the flow, and years worth of roots to hold together the earth underneath.   The flow of water spreads out as it travels across the hay field rather than cutting a trench.  

The water travels a mile before it reaches a terminal wetland in the corner of our pasture.  This wetland has held runoff for the last three-four wet years we have had, not spilling its banks until this week.   We were here the day before and it was still holding with a foot of rise to go before it spilled.  We didn’t think it would but the next day we saw that we were mistaken.  The water rose that foot and is pouring onward, now threatening the nearby roadway.  I can not get the entire body of water in one photograph.  (This is the same land I ride to with the dogs, where we were cut off on an earlier hike).

Parcels of grassland are not accessible
It feels odd to see this volume of water because the landscape is dry and dusty.  Also, we only had an average winter snowfall and we haven’t received any Spring rains yet.  Weather wise, there is little reason to think that water will be an issue. 

Over at Bill’s (Allen’s Dad) place the same situation is even more severe.  Yep, another beaver dam let loose.

The water is not causing us any pressing issues but sure is a sight to behold in this dry-land prairie.  I watch and wonder about the difference between methods of farming.  Did we create this?  Do these small natural disasters become something larger because in our farming practices we’ve become so far removed from natural? 

We are getting around fine with the Ranger and are fortunate to be in hilly country.  The ewes have plenty of dry ground to travel on although they must be doubling the miles they would regularly cover just by way of going around all the extra full wetlands they encounter.  They will be in good shape for lambing next month.


Photo from my Montana Collection
So shearing day has come and gone and the wool has been delivered to the collection depot already.

It was a busy day with five people shearing, including one lady shearer.  Several people returned to help us out once again.  We had two wool packers running and it was a continual collaboration of hands to keep up. 

Andrea, along with Lyn, a farm helper from abroad, managed the skirting table for us and since Andrea has the best knowledge of fleece quality it was a prime place for her.  The majority of the fleeces were skirted but if the backlog of fleeces piled to high we began packing fleeces without skirting and marked the wool bags accordingly.

Our modified sheep handling set up seemed to work well and since it did not rain this year we held the ewes in the outdoor paddock and alleyway.   With Jared and a stock dog to provide the incentive the ewes poured around the bugle and directly into the raceway, where Liezel and then Peggy kept them moving up to the shearing floor. 

Allen and his dad, Bill, managed the wool packing, tying full bags and unloading them.  Myself, Peggy and Cynthia were the wool pickers and floor sweepers with Liezel and Allen joining us when they could.

Andrea set aside a handful of choice fleeces and we also kept the Corriedale fleeces.  Jethro’s fleece was something else and probably weighs close to ten pounds. 

With five shearers the pace is full steam ahead so there was no time for picture taking until it was all said and done and then we still had to feed sheep yet.  But tired or not, every year I feel great contentment at the end of our wool harvest. 

Mingling of LGD's Encore

A second series of shots of Lily and Diesel.  Lily acts polite and appeasing but it doesn’t work.  By the next day she was pushed out of the group and showed up at the yard.  I walked her back to rejoin Oakley and Zeus, who returned on his own.

Mingling of LGD's

With the ewe flock, ram flock and respective guardian dogs being in neighbouring paddocks, the young dogs took it upon themselves to reorganize.  Lily and Zeus decided to join Diesel, Whiskey and Lady for a spell.  Oakley had no part of this and stayed put with his ram and wether flock.  He might have joined them in his younger days but he’s not as spy as the youngsters anymore.  He’s also not fond of being near Diesel, with good reason.  Lady is hanging out nearby but Lady seldom gets involved in the drama’s of the pack. 

I see the dogs interacting all the time and occasionally playing, but it’s rare that I have the camera along when they are mingling like this.  This is one set of shots when Whiskey and Diesel spot Zeus and move in to inspect.

The following few photos are in sequence.  Every person who watches dogs with interest probably has their own version of what is taking place here.  What is remarkable to me is how Zeus handles the inspection.  Enjoy and decipher as you will, and feel free to share your comments.

L to R: Zeus, Whiskey, Lily, Diesel

L to R: Lily, Diesel, Zeus, Whiskey

I almost get that photo of Zeus and Whiskey that I've been wanting

Zeus and Diesel, pretty clear look here

Little Lady

We moved the ewe flock to the paddocks nearby the yard and will keep them here for a few days until shearing.  This way they will be close at hand should it rain and they need to be put undercover (plus we shouldn't lose them, and we won't be touring the countryside to find them).  We made changes to our handling race at the barn so we brought the flock through there this morning.  Gibson and Coyote Mic helped me gather and move the flock.  Mic being on an inaugural run with this many sheep.  I always love how each stock dog feels in their work on our first few large tasks of the Spring.  The dogs are as fresh as the season itself. 

We moved the ewes down the large outside alleyway, funneling them around the bugle and through the long, new raceway, just letting them travel through and exit without being handled at all.  We’ll repeat this a few times prior to shearing day so they are familiar with it.   

With the flock being close at hand, it is a simple matter to slip out and feed guardian dogs, and take some photos. 

This is Lady sitting atop power pole hill.  Her coat is looking better but the oily secretion is returning.  What you can’t see in the photo is how dreadfully thin she is.

We worm our guardian dogs regularly, but I’m thinking to treat her again as she is slipping backwards on me and I'm at a loss as to why.  Her health is a constant concern right now.  If only the ewes could share a little body fat and fleece. 

Spring Brings A Choice of Shoes

Thanks to Allen’s help tax time paperwork is almost complete.  I’ve been to the city to restock with people food and dog food.  Chores are lighter and becoming routine again.  The girls are looking heavy with a full year of fleece, and some are looking heavy regardless of fleece.  We’re gearing up for shearing day which is next Thursday.  Not so slowly, I'm settling into my roles here once again. 

I’ve put an invitation out to fibre lovers and fibre artists in the area.  It would be neat to have a crowd of folks join us at shearing and to be able to skirt fleeces again this year.  We’re off to pick up a second wool packer this weekend.  Needing a second wool packer typically means a full crew of five or so shearers will be here.  If you’re reading and you are in the East central area of SK or are game to travel if you live further away, come on out for the day.  Thursday, April 16.  You can find my contact info on the about page.

Did she say something about getting a hair cut...?
Yesterday I laced on a pair of running shoes for the first time this Spring.  Our distinct seasons give us Saskatchewanites distinct small pleasures every year.  Wearing running shoes outdoors rather than winter chore boots or Sorels for the first time in five months, definitely feels like you have a spring in your step.   I got on the pedal bike and with six stock dogs in tow rode out to one of our pastures.  It was early enough in the morning that the ground surface was still frozen from the overnight temperature drops, meaning the pasture wouldn’t be too muddy yet.  I parked the bike and we headed in to the pasture on foot.  The plan was to circle a large wetland and make my way back to the roadside where I left the bike. 

Due to Spring runoff the first wetland was joined to a second so there was no getting around it alone.  I swung out wider to skirt the second wetland.  My route would be a little longer but no worries.  We traveled through a hollow to come between the wetlands and discovered a wide swath of water flowing from a third wetland into the second one.  The flow of water through there was steady and strong, and only ankle deep - but icy, icy cold.  We were cut off.  Now if I had my chore boots on,...  

Staying on Dry Ground

Photo Post

Today Mother Nature showcased a very calm and pleasantly sunny Spring day.  The recent snowfall disappeared.  Still, I spent the majority of the day inside, catching up, tidying up and puttering in the art studio (it feels good to be back in there).

Half of the ewes wandered toward the south paddock this afternoon so Gibson and I headed out this evening to drive them back.  It was like stepping onto the dance floor after a long absence.  The steps just came together for both of us.  Whether with human or animal I love those kind of dances. 

All of my 800+ photos from Montana are now downloaded onto the computer.  Maybe I’ll share a few before the trip is just a long ago memory. 

The colors of hair sheep

Burradoo Drover, the mate for BJ. 

Wooly tops.  A ewe lamb heading down the raceway for shearing.

The shearing shed, the wool exits this side...

... the ewes exit on the opposite side.

Curious ewes peering in.

On my way home from Joilet.  Sheep on the roadside, that is, on the wrong side of the fence.  Comforting to see that it happens elsewhere too :-)

Back at home and still obsessing over my recently acquired wool stash.  Where, oh where,  shall I start with this?   White, grey, black, brown, and colors to.  Isn't it gorgeous!

Burradoo To Dog Tale

The last couple days of my stay in Montana were filled with catching up with Bill and Janice and handing back the reigns to Burradoo ranch.  We talked and shared the stories of our respective adventures,  I shared the idea of Allen and I finding a place there, we worked some dogs so I could show where they were at in training.  We talked some more.  All of this was followed by a long and late visit with the neighbour who came to say welcome home to them and good bye to myself. 

Such priceless visiting outranked being on the computer to do a blog post.  The day after all the visiting I was on the road home.  While I had so much to think about on the 11 hour drive, I pretty much fell into a heap when I got here and marveled in the company of my own house pack once again.  Then I went to bed and thus I skipped blogging last night as well.

Cajun and Fynn as I come up the steps
This morning was an easy lope into the day.  Allen and I took a couple bales to the sheep and said hello to the guardian dogs. 

We stopped first at the paddock with the rams.  I did not feel the depth of how much I missed Oakley until he greeted me, snuffling and whining and leaning heavily into me.  Zeus was matter of fact.  Lily was excited. 

Zeus, Lily, Oakley
We moved onto the main flock and this time I did not speak and stayed out a distance watching ewes as they follow the tractor and bale out to the feeding area.  Diesel stops a ways off before deciding to continue with the sheep.  Lady travels with the ewes and passes on by.

Lady on far side. Diesel on the near
When they are almost abreast of me, Whiskey stops and starts to scent the air.  Both he and Diesel do this for about half a minute or more before deciding they know who I am. 

Home snowy home. 

Sitting Stones

Burradoo Ranch from the backside
Every place has a sitting spot and with all the rocky outcroppings above the ranch this place has more than a few.  I found my favorite one this morning while walking with BJ and Coyote Mic.

Half way up the slope is a boulder taller and longer than I am, accessible from the uphill side.  A rounded rectangular shape up the top with a perfect shallow depression for sitting with legs dangling made it feel so comfortable and homey.

I will say I am relieved to know the last day of my stay is upon me only because when you are taking care of someone else's animals there is a certain pressure (albeit perhaps self induced) to be sure all stay safe and sound.

I will also say I am full of satisfaction and sadness and excitement too.  I feel good for doing this trip.  I really do miss Allen and the dogs at home and am beginning to feel eager to see them.  I dislike  goodbyes though.  I have had quite an adventure here.  An adventure loaded with a variety of small an large occurrences and special people that have made it more than I thought it would turn out to be.

One other gift of this place:  I have finally begun to understand the phrase "where ever you go, there you are."

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