A Prickly Bite

Thistle plants have a flower head with spikes, and leaves that are adorned with tiny thorns that stick in your jeans when you walk through a thistle patch.

I have a love hate relationship with the Prickly Beauties.

The sheep seem to be attracted to the milky stems.  I've seen the ewes attempt to eat the flowers.  Cows will eat them too.

Truck Dog Three

The third pup of the trio and also Allen’s favorite.  This is Speed, perhaps soon to be Tanner; Allen and I think we should change his name. 

Sheep Full Day

We have not done any routine gathering of the flock this summer with the stock dogs (either for the purpose of night penning or just tucking ewes into a bunch at dark) like we have in the past.  Last evening we gathered the ewes and walked them home and we could tell the difference in the way the ewes moved.   Last night felt like the first time we tried night penning several years ago, with the ewes being reluctant to go where directed.  The stock dogs worked very hard. 

Today we sorted ram lambs from the flock and tagged all the wether lambs.   This is probably the earliest we have tagged market lambs but we had to sort out ram lambs anyway, which meant taking a look at everybody, since we had our hands on them it made sense to put tags in at the same time.  It was a long and full day of sheep work with Allen doing the brunt of the tagging work and me and the Kelpies gathering and moving the group and working the large alleyway to fill the race with sheep.   I used Gibson, BJ and Cajun at various times and when it was time to move larger groups from the holding pen to the alleyway I  used two dogs together.  BJ hasn’t worked stock since having her pups. 

I do not have any photos from our sheep full day but it looked similar to this Sunday wooly workload.

I do have another truck dog photo to share though.   This time it’s BlackJack along for the morning ride.

His ears are getting help to stand like that, they still flop

But Do You Know What It Is?

Some pieces of artwork look quite pleasing in the sketch form, as I felt this one did.

This is one of those scenes I wanted to capture in wool.  How cool would that be I thought.  Now that I’m part way through though I am wondering if others can tell what the scene is.  It looks abstract upon first glance and if abstract were what I was hoping for this would be okay, but I like to share scenes and tell stories.  

This is where it is at in the needle felting stage.  So dear readers can you tell what the scene is? 

The sketch is below if you need a clue, it seems more obvious in the sketch.  I suspect anyone who does not experience sheep on a regular basis might not see the scene at first glance, if they ever do.  I had a similar experience with an older piece of artwork, also done in wool come to think of it.  A very kind, elderly, farmer lady was trying hard to encourage my artwork but when she got to that piece she had no clue what it was and had to ask, “what is it dear?”  It was a dogs nose resting on a paw, cropped close up so you just saw the nose and paw.  It was very, very obvious to this die hard dog fan but until that point it had not occurred to me that another viewer might not have a sniff of what it was.  Even when told what the picture was she seemed confused. 

I'm wondering if this piece will be like that.  If so, a good title for this piece will go a long way. 

Ticking Along Smoothly

While I’ve been bumping my way around in blogland, the rest of the place is ticking along smoothly.  We check guardian dogs, we check sheep, and we fence.  Before and after a day of that, I walk the stock dogs and work them.  There is no rotational grazing on our part so the ewes are taking that into their own hands, grazing where they will.   There are a lot more sheep trails on the place but the grass is holding up well and some of the lambs look to be half the size of their mothers already.  There are several of these clean white face dolls in the flock this year.  I think they have the best ears of all.

Next Up On The Easel

The photograph of this scene catches me every time I come across it but drawing it feels halted somehow.  I want so badly for it to have the sense of connection between man and dog that I’m hesitant to dive into it for fear of making a blunder.  But dive in I shall.

Coming Around Full Circle

I’m back to where I started.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone... “  lyrics from that famous Joni Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi

I am returning here because I think you were right, this is a rather lovely account of the last five years and it can continue to be so even with a shift in focus and change of scenery.  This way nothing needs to be deleted, everything stays in one place and people can return to read the old and see the new as well. 

I feel a tad sheepish for leading you around for the last ten days and I am berating myself for stepping away to begin with.  But stepping away and then having the blogging hiccup lead me right back, provided the shift in perspective I was seeking.  This occurs all the time when working stock dogs, it goes along smoothly, then it dulls, then it becomes work with some amount of uncertainty, then I take a break, then I see the dogs a little differently again and I return to training, and we’re smooth and glossy again only now with another layer of depth and discovery.  It’s the way of my life really.  I suppose the important piece is that we keep on continuing on.  

So the focus will shift a bit here and the scenery might change and I’m toying with what to do with thousands of photographs.  Otherwise it feels good to be home.

I’ll import the recent posts from the other blog and I will continue from there.

The Trio Stays Cool

The trio of Kelpie pups have taken to the water.  Prim was first to discover the water and loves to play there.  On recent very hot days they've all enjoyed playing around and keeping cool.

Zeus in The Morning Sun

Zeus in the morning sun
Zeus resides with the rams and my dogging sheep.  He pops back and forth between the seperate groups who graze in paddocks adjacent to each other.  He often gets fed and checked on first because he's closer to the yard and we travel through here to get to the main flock.

Coming Off The Easel

When I work on a piece of detailed artwork, bit by bit, one ear, one eye or one spot of the shoulder at a time, for awhile I can not see the whole.  Working on the ranch is similar.  All I see is the next fence line to put up, or gate to fix, or ewe that needs attention.

Until I see the artwork in another form or look up and take in the whole, I don’t know if I hit my mark or missed it.

Allen was right with this one.   When I uploaded the photo, for a brief moment, I thought I could reach into the screen and touch him.  I believe I hit the mark.  I find black dogs to be one of the toughest to work with and have it look like there is perspective and depth, not just flatness.  The other is white, which happens to be the color of most LGD’s, the other dogs I like to draw.

One odd thing about this piece –  I have no idea yet of a title for it.
If you have an idea for a title, please feel encouraged to share it, I’ll enjoy reading your suggestions.

All The Right Moves

Sometimes the thought processes and moves the dogs make take me by surprise.  Typically Lily keep her meals for herself, standing up, leaning over and indicating to other dogs that approaching the food is not wise.   This morning, she and Diesel were eating nearby one another and when Diesel finished eating first we stayed to watch.  Diesel casually moved toward Lily.  What unfolded next was not what we expected.

Lily became agitated with Diesel being near to her meal.  Instead of continuing his frontal approach Diesel turned his back to her and no word of a lie, stepped backward into her space.  One step, then another, then another.  Lily gave a brief lunge and snap – which might have been effective if she had a front to confront.  But the only thing facing her was Diesels rump, which she punched with her muzzle.  He stepped backward again, fully overtaking her space, the food now in between his front feet.  Lily was at a loss as to how to deal with this and hence gave up her meal.  I laughed aloud at D’s cleverness and pluck.  Smooth as silk he completely derailed any retaliation and claimed his prize.   How did he know to try a move like that?  It appeared he had no hesitation about what he was doing either.

They never cease to amaze me.

p.s. We stepped in, called Diesel off the food, and let Lily back to her meal.

Through The Prairie Seasons

The long art cupboard sits covered with wool, felting needles and the latest felting piece and the drawing table sits littered with color pencils, erasers, sharpeners and the latest drawing.  I bop back and forth between the two.

I shared the start of this piece in an earlier post (Still Felting) and am pleased to say it’s about finished, and that I really like how it turned out.  It’s a simple piece in that there isn’t a lot of detail and maybe that’s what I like about it.  It’s rare that I jump up and down about a piece of my own artwork but I do with this one.  I really love it.  I haven’t decided if it needs a finish around the edges or not, I’m leaning toward leaving it as it is.

Through The Prairie Seasons, Hand Needle Felted (100% wool), 14" x 60"

It’s five feet long and tough to get a photo of what it’s really like.  This next photo was taken about mid way to finish but gives an idea of it close up. 

A Watchful Pair

Creating artwork is a bit like the ranch work in that there are often several tasks/processes on the go at the same time.  On second thought perhaps that’s just a reflection of how I work.

When I am deep into artwork I also discover that I yearn to take my camera out more and watch the sheep and the dogs.  Having good photographs is the start of the process for my artwork and so I’m looking around the place with a different eye than I might on a ho hum day or when I’m in a ho hum phase of life.

There are some scenes sitting in the recesses of my mind that I want to capture in a photo and/or a piece of artwork, and then there are some scenes that I don’t know are there until I am out taking photographs and being in the right place at the right time.

The Lull Afterward

You know when you start a new thing and you’re all excited and then you do it and there is that lull afterward, the world stayed the same and nothing jumped out at you like you thought it might.  You did it and your day is still like the last one.

I’m in that head space.  A bit lost and wandering.  It feels odd to be taking this in a new direction.  Like I'm changing up an old friend.   But I’ll press on here for an honest try.

This is the progress on the latest piece.  I’m playing with a new technique and keep expecting this piece to fall apart, which happens more than you think, but so far it’s holding together.  I’m working with color pencils.

A few more layers of color are in place now.  The eye on the right isn’t complete, I’ll come back to that.

I was showing this to Allen, comparing it to an older piece of artwork and trying to describe what I hoping to achieve.  In response to a confusing description on my part, he said, “Well, this one looks like I could reach out and pet him and my hand would  actually curl over his head.”  The best compliment I could have received – that’s what I’m hoping to achieve.

Dogs and Ranger

This is the current drawing on the table.

The dogs and the Ranger are two icons of this place.  When the Ranger is parked near the house for any length of time the dogs will soon be in it.  Perhaps anticipating the next outing or at least hopeful they will be taken along the next time.

Allen commented that either I love this dog or he is very photogenic because of all the stock dogs, I draw him most often.  Hhmmn, I think perhaps it might be a bit of both.  Cajun does hold a spot in my soul, a rough spot now burnished smooth with the easement of time and understanding.  And as well, looking through photographs in my iPhoto collection, there are many good ones, and even a few stunning, photos of him.

The areas I need to adjust are beginning to emerge

If I draw him a hundred times it would not be enough.

Deep Appreciation

I am reading your comments and emails, thanks a bunch!  I appreciate knowing this blog had such a reach and impact.  You have given me a lot to think about.  I appreciate that some of you wish to come back and read the blog, that people might wish to do that, had not occurred to me. 

It is not an easy choice to let go of this blog, you are right in that it has been my journal, for half a decade.  The new blog won’t be too dissimilar from this one though and that encourages me and I  hope encourages you to come on over and join me there.  It’s a needed change of focus and scenery but with the same subject matter.  With the type of art I like to create I do not produce artwork at a rapid pace, so there will be photos and writing about sheep and dogs to fill the gaps.  Kind of like this one (for you, Farm Buddy).

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