Snow White

She is there if you look for her.


A quick photo post tonight and then it's back to working on the December issue of Crooked Fences.   There is a link on the sidebar if you're interested in receiving the newsletter. 


Art Unexpected

I have been diligent about rising early to have my few hours in the art room.  I am often pulled toward a particular project and it’s not always the one on the easel that I’m working on.  I used to ignore that pull, making myself push through the project on the easel.  Lately I’ve been moving in the direction that strikes me, knowing that I will come back to every piece eventually.

After yesterday and today the art room is a happy mess.  I pulled out some old frames, tidied one or two of them up with paint and Tung oil, and started to pair them with the recent string of felting projects stored in the cupboard. 

When placed in this frame this artwork just popped.  I shared the start of this piece back in August  but I never did show the finished piece.   You can view that post here if interested, But Do You Know What It Is?

It's just sitting in the frame for now and there is no glass.  I think I’ll leave it that way.  A purchaser can have the option to buy it with the frame or not and then display it how they like.  I can’t believe how much it came to life with a frame though.  Just need to figure a way to tidy the back side and prepare it for hanging if it does stay in the frame.




A Walk to Re-settle

While we did not travel far nor stay away from home for long, and the chores were done with routine regularity each morning and evening through Christmas, the days immediately following Christmas are another type of re-entry into daily life. 

This morning I rush as I go about the chores.  I say a quick hello to the guardian dogs, put the feed down and leave shortly to carry on with the next chore even though I have no where to get to when the work is done.  Allen left for work several hours ago.  I am eager to take a walk and sort out the jumble of thoughts that percolate at this time of the year.  I am also eager to be back indoors to draw or to write, either will do and there are exciting projects within each.  

It is cold out (too cold for the camera) with a stiff wind but I don’t mind; there is palpable relief with walking today.  I have been walking since my youth when the farm dog and I would accompany each other a mile down the grid road to the train tracks, hang out there for a bit and return the mile back to the farm yard.  I haven’t missed many walks between then and now, nor have there been many that were not taken with the company of a dog or two. 

Perhaps after a couple days full of family and visiting, it is the familiar company of dogs as much as the walking that settles me.



Merry Christmas with A Little Borrowed Humour



This country life has seeped deep into our bones and we no longer get caught up in the swell of holiday shopping and parties.  The next few days will be per usual for us as we move through the regular routine of greeting and feeding the sheep, dogs and cats, and feeling the extra gratefulness that accompanies the Christmas season.

For anyone else who might be feeling a little harried and in need a slice of humour at this hectic time though, take a click over to the Yarn Harlot’s recent blog post.  Even though it has been a few years since I have been to a shopping mall during the Christmas season, I can still relate to this recent blog post and it gave me such a laugh.  Cheers everyone and may you have a wonderful Christmas.

Artwork in Progress

This is my third attempt with this drawing so that adds up to quite a bit of progress, really. lol.  On the first attempt I was trying new pencils and new paper.  It took me a bit to figure out it was the paper that wasn’t to my liking.  That one got tossed.  The second attempt was feeling out the new pencils; that one got tossed as well.  I'm proceeding rather cautiously with this third attempt. 




First Touch of Winters Cold

The first spell of winter cold weather is arriving and there is a deep chill in the air this evening.  It is amazing that the winter solstice is just around the corner and we will begin the slow gain of daylight hours again.   The ewes are still grazing the stockpiled milk vetch, which is also amazing, although I reckon we will start feeding hay in the next week.  To graze until Christmas is an exceptional case in this climate.  We rolled out some of last years hay bales for bedding and thought the ewes might pick through that but they don’t even pick, they go grazing.

I sorted the rams yesterday and used Gibson to take them out to pasture to meet the ewes.  Oh, happy day for them!


We have an abundance of ram lambs that we held back and now I need to decide what to do with the half a dozen I chose not to use.   Having the extras means guardian dog, Zeus, still has animals to look after though.  When I moved the rams out Zeus stayed put and Diesel came with and I thought maybe he would stay with the flock but he returned and set himself with the cull sheep group. 

On the Easel Part II

This drawing is a compliment to the previous one, and is also a winter scene.  The reference photos were taken on the same clear, cold day. 

The pencil drawings are the quick part, relatively speaking, since I am not the confident artist who can draw quickly.  I love to do these simple pencil sketches though.  This one will be finished in color pencil as well and it will take a bit of time to complete each piece now.




LGD Stalking the Stock Dog

I regularly see brief intervals of Lily stalking something I'm unaware of.  On this morning I am very aware that she is stalking toward Coyote Mic who is near my feet.


When I started using Mic to move the flock out to pasture in the mornings Lily kept intervening, running at Mic and giving me (and Mic) a bit of a worry about her intentions.  This repeated itself for a few mornings.  On this morning I delayed letting Mic work and let Lily approach first. The flock of sheep are tucked up over the rise behind Lily.  (This was also before we received out latest snow). 


Mic doesn’t usually take kindly to investigation by the large dogs, yet this morning she is very obliging with the greeting.  I wonder if she understood something about Lily’s earlier attempts to prevent her working.  If she knows she needs to help Lily understand her own intention.




Oakley wanders over to check things out and with everything completed so smoothly Mic and I move off.  Amazingly when I send Mic around the flock Lily does nothing this time, she doesn’t follow Mic but instead moves into the flock.  Some level of understanding was reached between the two dogs.


We are now bedding the flock on the winter pasture so we are no longer night penning and I haven't witnessed this scenario again but what a treat to see it take place even once.  Such fascinating creatures all around us. 



Sorted and On The Easel



Cull ewes and the remaining wether lambs have been sorted from the main flock.  The rams will be sorted and turned out in the next day or two.  We originally thought to turn the rams out at the beginning of the week but held off a few more days as pushing lambing too close to April is iffy for us on account of the weather we can get at that time.  Mid May should be good; fingers crossed. 

I finished the last of the guardian dog houses.  A little tuft of dog fur on the door jam and depressions in the straw are evidence of use.  I’m pretty sure Oakley is using one and Diesel too, but don’t know about the others yet.  Interestingly it is the houses with straw bedding that are being used but the ones with wool are not yet.  

Indoors, I’ve paused with needle felting to pick up the color pencils before I forget how to use them.  This is a winter scene and as simple as this composition looks getting the colors and tone of the sky and the snow is going to be challenging for me.



Sweet Stock Dog Sychronicity

I wanted the flock at the barn paddock tonight as tomorrow we will sort the ewes for breeding and then release the rams.  I got waylaid taking photos this afternoon and came in later than I thought.  When I headed out to pasture the last trickle of ewes were just making their way to a favourite sheltered spot when we caught up with them.  The sun was low in the sky.  I let BJ tuck these ewes up to the rest and get the entire group moving along to the east paddock.  The ewes poured through the long narrow pass and then bee lined for the mineral tub they had forgotten about.  The dogs and I left them momentarily and went ahead to open gates.

Judging from the sinking sun there was not much daylight left but likely enough to get them into the barn paddock.  I had Jayde along and sent her and BJ together to gather the group.  It lifted my heart to see the old dog and the younger dog team up, and to see Jayde work freely on a job that didn’t demand a bunch of commands from me.  Also seeing BJ when she works with another dog.  BJ is my best team dog, she turns it up a notch when she’s working with another dog and enjoys it.  Jayde is all business, whether or not another dog is along.  With those two girls at the helm I had the ewes in the barn paddock just as the sun sank and silently edged us into that dim evening time before complete darkness sets in.

Ah, that sweet stock dog synchronicity!  Such elation when it happens, such angst when it does not.  But tonight it happened.  Tonight, one Kelpie, one Border Collie; hardly a word spoken and a short evenings work immensely enjoyed by both the dogs and I.  What a gift.

Taking the Flock Out

Following on the heels of the last post, this post is Coyote Mic and I taking the flock out in the morning.

To gather the sheep and bring the flock home in the evening a stock dog is definitely an aid, but for taking them out in the morning a dog is not really necessary.  A dog does save us a few steps but the reason I chose to use a dog is to give a young dog exposure to flock work when the task is a pretty simple one.  Young dogs get overwhelmed trying to gather numerous sheep that are spread far apart on pasture but when the flock is a tidy bunch as they are in the morning, the dog can experience the numbers without having to push for distance at the same time.

I’m giving Coyote Mic the exposure to this many sheep because she’s a straight running dog (little evidence of a natural cast) and convincing her to bend out around sheep that are spread out is proving to be a challenge.  She prefers to cut in and collect the first sheep she sees.  Doing this job will hopefully help her see more sheep and realize we want them all.  We have done this job several mornings in a row now and it’s the first time I see a hint of her understanding. 

Ready to go. 


Trying hard to lean out and get around and still keep her view of the sheep. 


At the first gate the ewes that have passed through must travel back up along the fence line, which causes the animals still on the inside to want to follow before they get through the gate.  It’s a nice little job for the dog to have to cover them and keep them moving through the gate. 


Traveling through an intermediate paddock to the next gate.  I often wonder if this part even feels like work to the dogs but it’s a great way to introduce the idea of working behind the livestock with me, (in driving mode) rather than always fetching stock to me.  With this many sheep no finesse is really required and it is pretty easy for the dog to grasp the job.  All I say to her is ‘let’s walk them up,’ and nothing else.  Just let the task be the information in this case. 


 Asking her to wait so we don’t pressure to much and cause a jam at the gate.  Look at her ears.  :-)


Then another little task of working the last few sheep through the gate so they all keep up with the flock.


Guardian dogs are fed and sheep are out to graze, that'll do Mic, that'll do. 


Bringing The Flock Home

Cajun helping me bring the flock home.  The ewes were spread pretty far on this evening and Cajun has already covered a lot of ground doing a long and sweeping gather to put the ewes together.  We are nearing the night pen area now and the ewes are going willingly.


At the top of this photo is the night pen paddock, one gate straight ahead, where the ewes are headed to, over the hill along the left and then a right turn into the final gate.


p.s.  There is one guardian dog in the first photo (barely visible but he's there) and two in the second (their tales tails give them away). 

Wool Art Curious Ewe Lamb

The sketch for this piece was penciled out a couple of years ago and at that time I made an attempt at the felting part too.  I stalled and almost tossed it in the trash.  Just the other day I happened upon it while looking for wool canvas.  I still wasn't sure what to do with it but decided to pull it out and put it aside.

I have a couple of projects I'm feeling keen about but yesterday was one of those days in the studio when nothing I tried worked out.  Feeling frustrated I switched gears and laid this half started attempt on the table.  I ripped part of it out and started again and I have to say I'm glad I did (I really should have taken a before photo).  It's such a sweet piece, don't you think?

Still some finishing to do on the background, maybe a tweak or two yet, but I'm excited to have something come together, and surprised that it was this piece, and wanted to share that.

It needs a good title and/or she needs a name.  Suggestions?



Evening Blend

The yard is well sheltered and still full of snow but out on open pastures the recent warm weather stretch is quickly diminishing the snow cover. 

In the evening light the ewes match the landscape and are easy to miss.  They blend into the evening.  The stock dogs will notice the movement of the sheep, and before I let a dog off the Ranger to send them I encourage them to look to help them locate the ewes.  Click on the photo to see a slightly larger version.


Did you notice the three ewes at the bottom right? 

Wool Art Coming Off the Easel

A few early morning moments in the art studio results in the completion of this tidy piece.  This is a very familiar scene around here during lambing time and I like the feeling this one evokes in me.  The image area is 8 x 10 inches and allowing for some material edges it comes out to be about a 10 x 12 size.  I've titled it Come On Junior, Time to Go.


Even though I don't plan on framing the needle felting I often set frames or matt board on top of the pieces just to give me an idea of how finished the piece looks.  A frame can really change a piece or cause something to stand out. 


Guardian Dog Housing

This post is about the dog houses I mentioned I was working on for the livestock guardian dogs.

I got it into my head that I could probably build dog houses with what we had around the place and so created a challenge for myself to do so.   

One big caveat - I have no carpentry skills whatsoever (that means these are not fancy), and I don’t understand how buildings have to go together and why so in that order.  I just don’t think that way, but I figured I could tackle these because they didn’t need to be exact or pretty, they just needed to be a shelter of sorts.

Allen offered a sage word now and again, and an extra hand once or twice, but otherwise left me to my challenge.  I often worked on this project on days he was at work. 

First I perused the stash in the Quonset building.   Old rough slab lumber, assorted pieces of plywood, a tidy stack of pallets, a bale of loose insulation from a long ago porch addition, pieces of styrofoam insulation from the current shop construction going on.  Then there was my raw wool stash from two years ago, I even hit up the pail of assorted screws left over from other projects. 

The first house is built for two because that's how big the plywood piece I had to start with was.  This piece of plywood became the floor.  I found four old L table legs that I used as corner posts and secured to the base.  From there I cut rough slab lumber to make the walls. 


The interior is lined with wool kept in place with a burlap wool bag stapled to the wood.  It looks like a sofa cushion.  Straw for deep bedding in this one.  Not sure if two dogs will curl up together inside of it but I’m hopeful they might.


The second house is similar to the first but single dog size.  The walls are lined with some left over pink insulation, not quite as air tight but still pretty good I think.  The bedding in this one is wool. 


The third house is made from pallets. The base is a pallet with a plywood sheet to make a solid floor so paws don’t get caught.  This is covered with pieces of thick styrofoam insulation.  The walls are pallets to and they are stuffed with loose insulation material.  Because the pallets are slatted and therefore the insulation exposed I needed to cover the exterior in order for this house to stay dry.  I wrapped it with old swather canvas and stapled this to the pallets.  I didn’t bother cutting the pallets down to size but instead chose four of equal size so they’d work to make a box.  This is a large house and a heavy one so it’s a good thing it has a pallet base which means it is very easily moved with the pallet forks on the tractor. 



I’m still working on the fourth house, it too is being made out of pallets but I did cut these down so the house is a single dog size.  The fifth house is a large size Dogloo brand dog house we’ve had for years.  I lined the floor with the remainder of the thick styrofoam insulation and tossed in some straw for bedding.  Definitely not as cozy being that it’s plastic but my plan is to set this house in the barn paddock which is where Zeus normally resides.  When the weather gets really cold, we let any animals in that paddock access the building since natural shelter is sparse in that paddock. 

All the houses have thick styrofoam insulation on the floors and then bedding material on top of that.   All the houses are set onto pallets to keep the base off the ground and for ease of moving them around with the tractor.  All the roofs are old plywood I cut to fit.  The two rough slab house have slanted roofs but the pallet house has a flat roof.

We have tried various shelters in the past and the dogs used them very infrequently, preferring instead to be nestled with the sheep.  I know it could very well be the case that I’ve done all this work and the dogs won’t go near the things (but the sheep will I'm sure)!  I’m good with that, the dogs have the option, and I feel better for it.  In due time these houses might become all too familiar to them.  I’m hopeful they’ll last at least a few years. 

Photo Abundance

We are experiencing a gorgeous warm spell and the stock dogs are spending the days outside with us while we take advantage of it and work on projects we still hope to finish before winter does drive us indoors.   My routine is to rise early in the morning and spend it the art room, giving myself some time there before the world, and the weather, outside requires my attention. 

I have many photos in my photo collection.  There was a string of days in the fall season when I took the camera with me almost daily, resulting in hundreds of photos during that time alone.  It’s now a snow covered landscape here, but on account of cold weather I don’t take the camera out as often.  I still plan on sharing those photos, this photo is one of them.  I’m hoping you’ll forgive me for showing photos from summer and fall while it’s our actually winter season outside.   


I've captured a few silhouette type photos lately, not sure where that attraction arises from but some of them are rather striking photos.  This one is showing up a bit darker here than it is in my photo gallery. 


The Rubbing Tree

A tree perfect for sheep to rub their backs upon (and for a photo opportunity).




On The Easel

Next on the easel is this sketch, completed today.  The final version will be needle felted, I think. 




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