Friday, April 28, 2017

Family Photos

Just kicking around with the kelpies.  The old guy, Fynn (Border Collie) still manages to get into the game a bit too.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Zen Sheep Move

Moving the flock to a different pasture.  There is hay feed awaiting them just over the hill.  As it turned out they hardly touched it.  The desire to move and nibble their way around a new space was too strong to be swayed by hay feed or deterred by a light skiff of snow.  They found their way to a native prairie hillside and have been grazing there for the last two days.

BJ is the kelpie moving the flock with me on this morning.  In the first photo there is a guardian pup on the upper left side.  Two more dogs are over the hill.  Oakley is in the rear.  I'm not sure where the other two are at the moment of the photo.  This is the finish of the morning chores and it was sooo peaceful; one of those times of feeling connected to dogs and sheep and time and place.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Walk With Kelpies

The Kelpies help with keeping the mood light as we deal with naked sheep, wet snow and colder temperatures, all the while worrying about Lily.  She is indoors with us and has adjusted well enough that she now sleeps rather than stress and cry.  We visit the veterinarian tomorrow to see how the wound is healing and if we can begin to salvage what is left of the muscle and tissue in that leg.

Friday, April 21, 2017

An Injury Forces Lily Off Duty

All the sheep on the place are still being held adjacent to the yard on account of some cold weather after shearing.  We’ll send them out to pasture tomorrow, meanwhile we have been feeding hay to them here. 

Yesterday morning I drove through the main gate, parked adjacent to the first paddock and hopped off the tractor, lifting four of the seven bowls of dog food from their holding place.  Usually four white dogs meet me here.  This morning only Tex, Wren and Birdie, the new pup, came up for breakfast.  I fed them and climbed back on the tractor to head over and feed the main flock.  I’d come back to this paddock afterward and feed Zeus who seldom approached when the other dogs were around and whom I was sure was sound asleep on the far, south side of the hill.  Lily was the missing white dog but maybe she was in the next paddock this morning.

Oakley and Whiskey approached while I fed hay.  They were looking for breakfast but still no sign of Lily yet.  Hay feeding finished I returned to the starting paddock and left the tractor.  I headed over on foot to check where Zeus was.  As I crested the hill he raised his front end and took a long and deep stretch, looking to be in no rush to rise from his slumber. I dropped a dish near him and saw that Lily was further down, resting in the piled hay.  Lily always investigates our approach even if she doesn’t want our affections.  I made my way to her, wondering what was up. Still she did not rise.

When injuries occur to guardian dogs one is often making best guesses as to what the hell happened. Most often you didn’t see a thing; you go out to check your dogs and discover one is injured.  That’s as much as you know.  A quick investigation of Lily showed that one hind leg was badly injured.

It only took a moment to conclude that we needed the help of a veterinarian and as it turned out that’s where we spent the rest of the day.  Lily tangled with something that ripped a significant mass of muscle, two layers deep, from the back side of her hind leg.  As a result from the rip, the remaining muscle is pulled apart from the skin all the way from the top of her leg to her toes.  Nerves behind the muscle are exposed but not torn, however they aren’t responding either.  She may or may not regain full use of her leg.  The major vein in her leg was not touched. It is too risky to close the wound at this stage.  It’s packed with gel and gauze which is held in place with shoe laces and stitch loops (picture a ladies corset).   Our best summation is that Lily met up with a beaver which we’re seeing more of this year.

So Lily is definitely off duty for awhile, although each time she gets outside the house she leans toward the pasture where she thinks she should be.  She doesn’t have much energy at this point but if I drop the lead she begins a slow three legged hop to the gate.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Unshorn and Shorn

Two different photos, obviously taken on different days but kinda cool to see them side by side.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Needle Felted Artwork, Bearded Collie

The handful of Bearded Collies I know, I know through herding and the reference photo for this artwork was provided by a friend who has been to our herding clinics almost every year we’ve hosted them.  This is her dog, Drift.

Months ago, when I first asked her about the photo I planned on drawing the scene.  When I came back to the photo more recently I changed my mind and decided to attempt doing it with wool.

I worked on this piece in every spare moment I had this weekend.  I was wary of it when I started but once the first layer was in place I sensed what it could be and had to see if that was the case or not.

The piece is made with a variety of wools including Shetland, Corriedale, Romney, Border Leicester and a bit of yarn I don’t know the make up of.
No title. Approximately 12 x 16 inches.  Needle felted.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Shearing Extras

The first group of sheep shorn are the rams, this way when they are done they can be moved out of the way, remaining separate from the ewes.  Doing the largest sheep at the start of the day also means the shearers don’t have to tackle that at the end of the day when they’re at the lowest energy point.  On account of having ewes with lambs this year they were also a separate group and were shorn following the rams.  Lambs were caught and moved to a pen and ewes were able to rejoin with them after shearing. Then the family units were moved out of the way.  After that we started on the main flock.

Since it was sunny out and we parked the ewes outdoors in the alleyway, the ewes were moved around the bugle and into the single file raceway.  One person and dog looked after this task. There is another person or two along the raceway to keep the flow of sheep going up to the shearing floor.  Sheep are masters at backing up when they reach every suspicious spot along the way, even stepping over anti-backup bars.  Gates along the way and butterfly doors seem to be the best at preventing them from backing up.

Most of the extra help is utilized around the shearing floor.  As soon as a fleece is shorn from an animal it is picked up off the floor, out of the way of the shearer who is moving to get the next sheep. The fleece is tossed onto the skirting table where it undergoes a quick skirting.  The tags (any wool containing manure) are tossed aside, the belly wool and wool from the neck area (often the most contaminated part of a fleece) are bagged together.  The remainder of the fleece is rolled and placed in the maw of the wool packer.  Throughout this process, the shearing floor is regularly swept to clear it of bits of wool.  We are set up for six shearing stations and with six shearers shearing at once there is a constant flow of fleeces coming off the floor.  There isn’t time to be choosy about skirting, you skirt quickly and clear the table for the next fleece.

The shearers are a hired crew, all from within our province, two of them are women.  The two visiting shearers were from New Zealand.

Throughout a day of shearing I’m pretty much in all places at different times, moving sheep, picking fleeces, skirting, packing, and then tending to coffee, lunch and supper details.  It really is a whirlwind of a day but made so much the smoother by the helping hands.  The day goes by fast and at the end we’re all ready to put our feet up.

As for the guardian dogs, they follow the sheep when the flock comes in, however, they make themselves scarce once the action begins.  Oakley always comes by to see what’s going on but then finds a place to sleep for the day.  Lily, Zeus and Wren are not interested in visitors and were hardly seen throughout the day.  I placed Tex, Whiskey and our new pup (I have to catch you up on that addition) in a dog run for the day for safer keeping.  Whiskey and Tex both like to be right in with the sheep and the pup is often underfoot.

The night before shearing day; Whiskey sitting with ewes 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

And Then We Were Done

With the majority of the prep work done, one of the last tasks on the evening before shearing day is bringing the sheep in.  Whether or not we place the sheep indoors the night before is weather dependent and so that they have empty bellies prior to shearing.  The mommas and lambs have already been moved indoors.  Then we brought in the flock.  The stock dog is in the upper right hand area of the photo; just coming around the group.

In the next photo she's working them across a wet spot.  The ewes try to spread and go wide, rather then through the water and the dog has to work the wings and keep the group together.  You can see her checking her sheep.

Working them into the building.  Starting the flow is fairly easy.  As the building fills and the lead sheep realize there is no exit, getting the second half of the flock indoors is significantly harder work. The dogs stay on task covering the back of the flock.

We chose to risk leaving the rams outdoors and bring them up at first light in the morning.  It did not rain so we were safe.  The next morning, as soon as the rams were penned, separate from the ewes, the ewes were moved outside to the alleyway, where they had more room and fresh air.  It's never a good thing to keep large groups of animals indoors for long, since the weather was in our favour we were able to let them wait outside.

From this side of the day, the best way to describe shearing is a whirlwind of activity.  This year we were ever so fortunate to see the place abuzz people who came out to help.  There were eight shearers here but only room for six to set up so they were able to spell each other off.  We usually have five shearers.  This was a planned strategy since they had a couple visiting shearers along and another large flock to tackle the next day.  The helpers were kept busy keeping a constant flow of sheep to the shearing floor, collecting wool, skirting fleeces and packing wool sacs.

The forecasted rain showers stayed away and it was a very smooth day on account of all the helping hands.  It was one of those hard work days spent in good company which, at the end of it all, leaves you feeling like all is right with the world again.  Shearing should be like that everywhere and always.

The night was cool with some frost but today the ewes had a warm day to adjust to their newly naked selves.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pre Shearing Preparations

We’re almost ready to roll for shearing on Tuesday.  The preparations have disrupted the usual peaceful pace and hence kind of sets us up for the upcoming busy season.

One of the bigger jobs to ready for shearing is sorting the sheep.  I started the sort while walking the flock home by dropping the ewes with lambs out of the bunch as the flock travelled, much like one would drift ewes during lambing.  Only two sets got through with the main flock and were sorted later.  Once the flock was moved ahead and corralled we returned to bring the ewes with lambs up and set them in an adjacent paddock.

With the lambs out of the way, BJ and Coyote Mic were pulled off the couch for the job of moving the flock the next day, which they were absolutely thrilled with.  With me and the dogs working the sheep in the alleyway and keeping them flowing, Allen ran the sort gate.  We sorted the rams from the ewes, and lighter weight, old-crop lambs (born 2016) were sorted into a second group.  A handful of butcher wethers were sorted and set with the rams as well as the dogging wethers.  This places all the males together. Cull ewes were placed with the old crop lambs - none of these animals will be shorn since they will be sold.  At the end of sorting we’re left with four groups, the males, the ewes, the not to be shorn, and the mommas (pre-sorted).

We have all groups within reasonable vicinity of the yard.  Possibility of rain is in the forecast so this way we’re ready to move everyone to an indoor space if needed.  With all the sheep nearby all the guardian dogs are also here and each figuring out their turf and who can go where.

With the sheep sorting done, we get the shearing floor ready, make adjustments to the raceway to join the shearers unit, bring in a flat bed wagon to hold the backlog of fleeces that inevitably occurs, find panels for a skirting table, collect brooms and baskets and so on.  Away from the shearing building there is help to line up, a house to tidy and food to prepare.  All while keeping our eye on the sky in case rain shows up and we have to move sheep in an instant.  I’ll have a full day again tomorrow and then Tuesday we roll.

Shearing is when the shepherd gets a look at the ewes and finds out for sure how they’re doing after a long winter.  I’m a bit apprehensive this year because while the ewes look good, they don’t look to be in tip top shape.  It’s just something in the way they look; one gets a feeling about such things when you’re so familiar with a flock.

There have been no new lambs for a few days now, so our early lambing has wrapped up.  Also, Tuesday will be full day, so I beg your pardon in advance - I may not get a blog post up on the same day.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It's Just Not Ideal to Lamb Now

… and the lambing continues.  We are really hoping this will wrap up in time for shearing which happens next Tuesday.

When disruptions from the usual way of operating happen it always highlights one’s choices for operating the way you do, or sometimes, if your mind is open to it, can suggest an alternative.

There are a few reasons why this is not an ideal time for lambing for us and why we would not switch any time soon.

The ewes do not have grass feed at their feet as they do when pasture lambing in May.  Those ewes who birth must move to where the hay feed is to eat, and this is where every body else is congregated as well. So lambs mix up with ewes who are not their mamma.  They always seem to manage to get themselves sorted out but it's not what the ewe prefers.

When lambing a little bit later the ewes have some time grazing on fresh and highly nutritious grass prior to lambing.  With lambing at this time of the year they do not have that.

The flock is traveling continually in search of greens they know are about to sprout. Lambs just a couple days old, must follow.

Weather is a huge factor with pasture lambing no matter what month.  Right now though our nights are still below freezing.  The lambs manage well so long as mom is attentive and they get up to suck. If we get a rain at this time of the year, it is a cold rain and that does no one any good.  So while we’re hoping for good spring rain for the sake of grass, we’re also hoping for it to not happen for another week for the sake of lambs.

It's really not a major deal to have a few lambs now, it's just not ideal.  We are taking it all in stride, a fact that speaks to our comfort with raising sheep.

The guardian dogs are well aware there are little ones about and I can count on Whiskey to indicate where the newest lambs are; he’s always settled nearby.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Artwork Among Lambs

So there are a few more lambs on the ground, nineteen of them so far, born to twelve ewes.  While not my ideal time to lamb, all is going well and the weather is decent for them.  Everyone remains out on pasture.  The ram was only out for a day so allowing for the variation in individual ewe gestation periods we should be able to breathe easier by the end of the week.

Meanwhile I thought I’d share the results of the in-progress artwork I took to Montana with me. Progress photos were first shared here Shearing and Scratching.  Since I often get asked after I post, yes, both are for sale.  Just touch base with me if interested.

The Shed's and The Dead's
9 x 12 inches, scratchboard

Getting to Know Ewe
8 x 12 inches, ink on claybord

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fool

It is April Fool's Day but I didn’t get the joke I needed.

Allen and I headed out for chores together tonight and while guardian dogs ate he took note of a ewe off on her own and not traveling with the others. We headed over to check her out and, be damned, she had a set of twin lambs at her feet. Wait, … please let this be a joke, isn’t it April Fool's Day?

No joke, but we’re not totally shocked either.  Let me take you back to this post: Son of A Bee, it’s a favourite one.  You’ll want to click the link and read it now. 

So alright then, that is when the lambs happened, but we’re eternal optimists and so we were hoping by dumb luck they didn’t happen.  No luck.

We moved mom and the twins within proximity of the flock so the guardian dogs could keep tabs on all.  By the time we did that another single lamb was born to a different ewe.  Looks like that son of a bee was busy enough that day.   

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Foggy Softness

I’m procrastinating the writing of my Crooked Fences newsletter, mostly because since coming home from Montana I have a lot of things I can’t figure out how to say.  So it’s a quick post tonight with a few photos of a gorgeous foggy morning doing chores.

The stock dogs and I went out for our walk before chore time and I had the camera along then, hoping for some kelpies in the fog photos, and knew I would take the camera with when I headed out for chores too.  It’s not often that I take the good camera when I do chores because room on the small tractor is limited (this camera needs a backpack) and there is dust.  Yet fog lends such a soft look to photos and it’s challenging to get contrast, so I had to try.  I’m glad I did, the string of foggy sheep photos that resulted from a mornings effort are very rewarding.

Lily leads the way 

There you are girls

Forever curious

Lined up on the hay

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Kelpies, Cattle Dogs and Cows

My stay at the last place in Montana was a short one but enough to catch up with the wonderful friends who own the place. Allen and I have gotten to know them through the dogs.

The landscape here is gorgeous rolling Montana hills with timber rather than the rim rock found closer to the mountains.  There is abundant antelope, sandhill crane and gopher populations, and there are Kelpies, Cattle Dogs, and cows instead of sheep.  In fact, there are a lot of cows here - about 700 head and they are just at the tail end of calving.

I noted a few similar attributes between a couple of these dogs and my dog Cajun and was pleasantly surprised with watching them.  I got to see Tanner at work and help out a little bit.  Tanner is the cream fellow in the above photo whom I know well because I raised him as a pup and then later he spent a summer with me.

I'm relying on more photos tonight as I’m short on words.  Yesterday was a long day of traveling home, and today, sinking into the routine of chores for animals I know well, and catching up with all things left to the wayside while one is away for a month.

The resident Cattle Dog, Gus

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Whirlwind Interruption

Going to water

While I fully intended to blog the last couple days, having a wee social life while I am here, plus preparing to leave, created a whirlwind of interruption in computer time.  

I headed out from Burradoo this morning and this time leaving stirred up a host of feelings am not sure what to make of yet.  Each year it is increasingly tougher to leave the dogs and the place.

I am not headed for home just yet though.  Tonight I am at another ranch in NorthWest Montana, visiting with more kelpies and company.  I had a wonderful sunny afternoon with the host, taking dogs for a long walk across just a tiny portion of this land and then a couple hours to explore and take photographs.  And I did plenty of that, however, we will both have to wait to see any of them because  sleep is sorely needed after a morning of driving and a full afternoon of hiking.

p.s.  I posted a short series of the flock in the top photo going to water on Facebook. 

p.p.s. the lgd in the last post is Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Komondor cross.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Unusual LGD

There is new guardian dog at the neighbours, just up the road from here.  After getting permission to be there I took a drive to see if I could get some photos.  I’ve visited a few flocks and several guardian dogs on my trips here but have not yet come across any that look like this fellow.

It was mid afternoon and I woke him from a sound sleep. He was very wary and wasn’t about to let me anywhere close to him.  I don’t know what breeds he is comprised of; I’d take a wild guess that he has a white breed and perhaps Anatolian or Mastiff and maybe Komondor.

Trying to get better photos only succeeding in pushing him further back and off his sheep.  I let him be and took a few photos of some of the members of his flock instead.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Almost Like Home

The sheep got lazier and lazier about moving out to pasture and back so I started using a dog to help them along.  I use either Muster or Drover (two of the Kelpies here at Burradoo) to take sheep out to the day pasture each morning and Gibson gets the pleasure of taking them back to the night corral. This is Gibb moving the group across the bridge and heading through the kennel yard.

We’re bringing the sheep in a little early to sort a group and work a few dogs. 

Holding at the gate, while I take pictures

I worked Gibson a bit, then started with BlackJack and moved on to Nugget and Deuce, two younger dogs Bill asked me to work a bit while here. A pretty easy and relaxed time was had by all, and I felt very pleased with the dogs and myself.  If only working them went that smoothly every time; we might be champions by now :-)  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sheep, Big Ones

Look at what I spent time watching.  An hour or more of photographing flew by like nothing.  I am so taken with these beasts, perhaps because they are sheep, they are wild and I don't get to see them where I live.

Bighorn Sheep

Their winter grazing grounds is in the lower elevation of the Custer National Forest which butts up against a mining site.  I have traveled up here before and not seen a single sheep, this time I saw two bands.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shearing and Scratching

The day was sunny, warm and windy. The sheep day pasture is just out front of the house so we can watch sheep from the deck. I took advantage of it though and worked BlackJack and Gibson. It’s a large pasture space and we couldn’t work the sheep too long in the warmer temperatures. The dogs felt the heat too and headed to the creek afterward for a swim.

Yesterday was a full day on my feet with chores on either end and in the middle helping at a shearing day for a large flock of Rambouliett sheep.  It was a busy pace all day long and I wasn’t shearing or even hosting shearing :-)  All I managed was a quick photo at the end before the last sheep travelled over the hill to the feed.

Today the tiredness carried over so I took some time off my feet to do some artwork.  I just brought along a couple scratchboards, enough to keep me busy while I’m here and simple enough to pack because not a lot of art supplies are required.

I’ve got two on the go right now.  The first is very interesting to work on.  I’ve titled it The Shed’s and The Dead’s.  On large tracts of rangeland you continually find antler sheds and skulls.  This particular pile of antlers and skulls sits in front of the guest cabin here.

The second piece is another experiment with figuring out how to scratch the texture of wool.  I’m working from an old and rather poor quality photograph so detail is sparse.  This is a very early stage. The dusty look is from chalk, used for the line drawing. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Burradoo Sheep and Dogs II

This is a sheep scene very different from what I’m familiar with at home.  With the snow gone, these pets are being moved out to pasture for the daytime and returned to the corral area for the night.  One hardly needs a stock dog to move them, they’re so willing to follow and return at night for their treat of corn.  No guardian dogs. 

This is a small flock of 37 sheep kept primarily for enjoyment and used to start young stock dogs and train older ones.

Burradoo ranch is equipped with gorgeous and very functional kennels which eases the task of looking after numerous dogs (it is a dream kennel).  The main kennel is a large building with ten indoor/outdoor runs.  It has an indoor space complete with couch (for special visits and dog snuggling), double sinks and cupboard space.  You can access every kennel both from the inside and the outside.  Photos of dogs cover the walls and a couple of my photos are pinned up here.  There is a second kennel building with five large indoor kennels and with full veterinary clinic on the side, with sink, exam table, bathroom, laundry - the works.  Dogs in heat or with puppies are housed here.  You can scroll through photos at the Burradoo website  (Hover your curser and you'll get a brief explanation with the photos).

All the dogs are housed in indoor/outdoor kennels overnight.  In the morning they are taken out for a run, then turned into one of three large exercise yards for the day.  Kennels get cleaned and hosed down every day.  In the late evening the dogs are let loose from the exercise yards and return to the kennels where they’re fed.  After eating they have a second short run, this one just to allow them to do their business, then return to kennels for the night.

During the grazing season the dogs are put to work, going along to mountain grazing allotments where large herds of cattle are put for summer grazing.  Rancher and dogs cover miles of ground checking on cattle.  This is done on horseback.  Later in the summer a large band of sheep moves onto the ranch land here in the valley.  There are no guardian dogs with this flock so Bill and Janice, and the Kelpies, take over the task of bringing the flock to the corrals for safe keeping every night.   The dogs get lots of work at this time.

It is a part time job to keep up with numerous stock dogs.  Since my dogs at home play two distinct roles (stock and guardian) and hence live seperately, it never feels like this does.  The high energy here takes some getting used to.

Photo taken two days ago; snow melted off yesterday