LGD's - One Summer Morning

One morning of last week, the ewes were rather tightly bunched and when I arrived they seemed to think I was there to open gates and let them move to new pasture. They were mistaken. They had to wait unit tonight to move. I’m holding them on the paddocks a few days longer than usual. There are several ewes determined that it’s time to move and they keep slipping through the fences to show me. I think they are winning the battle. They are infuriating. 

All five guardian dogs were with the bunch that morning so I stayed on pasture to take pictures and was lost in time and space for a spell. I was in one spot long enough for the ewes to approach and check me out. It was a relaxing morning. I uploaded over one hundred photos from my camera :) 

Curious Ewe

The two females

There are two dogs in this photo, can you see them?

Lady among sheep
 Tell tale signs of guardian dogs with the flock. Lol. I didn't intend the pun; I just realized it when I wrote that out.

Nifty that I caught one photo of the two females and in this photo are the three males. 

Learning About Wool

I took in a local sheep show and sale taking place this weekend where I enjoyed happy company and good conversation.

Admittedly, I wasn’t half as interested in the sheep show as I was in the wool crafts and judging of fleeces. Three fibre loving ladies were laying fleeces on a skirting table and then judging the quality. As they worked they were more than happy to discuss what and how they were judging. I took full advantage of it, stood table side, got my hands on the wool and asked many questions. The ladies were patient with my interruptions and eager to share. Bless them, they taught me a lot about wool today.

I raise market lamb of a commercial wool breed. For several years I didn’t give wool a lot of thought, except as an indicator of health, and around shearing time. Now, the more I explore wool and all its uses, the more fascinating wool becomes to me. It’s not just wool but that sheep are such a versatile animal, providing fibre and food, both of which are easily accessible to us. As obvious as that last statement sounds I think it is lost on a lot of producers. We think that wool fibre must be top quality to be useful, but wool of all types has uses. I’m sure there are uses that we haven’t thought of yet.

I'm going to enjoy exploring with wool. 

Wooly Creations

I mentioned I would share this piece when it was done. Well, I think I’m about done with it.

Sheep and a Kelpie stock dog, created with wool..., how fitting is that! :) I like it. This piece is 3 feet by 2 feet; my first attempt at a large piece of needle work. I’m happy I stuck with it and completed it.

It is 100% wool. The grey canvas is a piece of locally purchased, machine felted wool. The drawing was needle felted by hand. The wool I used, however, is not from my sheep (not there yet). I’m just starting with this medium so have a lot of trial and error ahead of me, including learning to wash and dye wool. Meanwhile, I purchase wool so I can do the creative work I love to do. And yes, it feels insane to be buying wool.

After spending so much time on a large piece I needed to do something that would go quicker and whipped up these two smaller pieces in what seemed no time at all, after doing the one above. I'm also trying out a different types of wool canvas to find out what I like. 

With wool art, there is no print making. Every piece is an original with no copies. It will be tough for me to sell these pieces (especially the large one) but I am putting them up for sale. I have been a dabbling, closet artist for several years, doing pencil and pastel drawing prior to needle felting, and it’s time to let go of some of my creations. 

Blooming Native Prairie

A few posts back I shared some photos of the blooming prairie. Those shots were of the tame pasture and the plants growing in the ditches.

My last few morning walks have been out to a parcel of native prairie and a favorite sitting stone. The native prairie is also in full bloom and it has very different blooms to share. One of my favorite things is native prairie land. I am so grateful that there is some of it left here.

Neat how she missed stepping on a flower

Not sure this one is a native species...

We are all thoroughly wet just from the moisture in the morning grass

Gibson on A Flock Move

I had the camera with me during last evenings flock move. It was a gorgeous evening, as warm and calm as it looks in the photos.

I took Gibson along for more experience driving behind the flock. I did give him a chance for a couple small gathers to bunch the flock together. The second one was too much distance and he blew through a stop to race ahead for sheep and I was too far away to influence him.

There were a lot of sheep when he got up there, which he tried really hard to deal with, but just didn’t have the scope of experience for being that far away and to get around that many sheep. When he finally stopped running through sheep, he looked for me and we smoothly sorted ourselves out. He was pretty proud of himself and I made sure he kept that feeling. Then I slipped the long line on him and we worked together, driving the flock the rest of the way. 

 The lead ewes are on the way, now recognizing where they are going.

Curling around through the gate and into the new paddock. That's Diesel in the rear, coming along with Gibb and I.

In between checking sheep and moving sheep I'm making a little time for more needle work. I'm very pleased with how this piece is turning out. I'll share it in full when it's complete.

Pre-Morning Work

I headed South on my walk this morning, and stopped at my favourite weathered grey stone to sit for a spell. The dogs rustle in the grass, exploring with eagerness, as they do when they have not been to a spot in a little while.  I was engrossed in the view when they alerted me to some action taking place behind me.

Peering over my right shoulder, I see a stream of white woolies cresting a hill, flowing into a hollow and disappearing out of sight. These are not grazing sheep, these are sheep on the move.

Without enough electric juice passing through the wires of the fence, there are a band of ewes who regularly take to crawling through it to graze the greener grasses perpetually located on the other side. Occasionally this renegade band can get the whole flock excited about moving and ewes pour to the fence line. I wait to see if that’s the deal this morning. The ewes reach the corner of the paddock, and confused that there is no big move, they curl inward, staying put.

The renegades slip through the fence.

I decide to alter the route home, and lead the dogs in the direction of the flock. The dogs have seen the flowing sheep in the distance and as soon as we step in that direction they amp up a notch. I’m not too sure I’ll keep five stock dogs with me while we push the ewes back, but then, if we give those ewes a surprise incentive to get back where they belong, it probably won’t hurt.

Like dogs, sheep become very familiar with routine. They will not be expecting my early morning, back door approach with five dogs.

It works like a charm.

I take the dogs across the next cross fence. Cajun has done this job so many times he performs it in his sleep, (I’ve seen him). He’s eager to go ahead, and when he does, I just let him be. The most outward ewe lifts her head, spots Cajun, lifts her head higher, spots me with four more dogs, and promptly tucks tail and flees back to the flock, alerting all others on her way.

I feel alive and satisfied as we walk home for breakfast and to start the work day.

Blooming Prairie

After a morning walk last week, I returned to the house, grabbed up the camera and headed back out. Everything on the prairie is showcasing its blooming glory. We have a short window of summer blooms, and each year I am here, my appreciation of the summer prairie landscape deepens.

Lest you get lead astray, rest assured, I am not a green thumb, nor a gardener and I don’t know the names of half these plants. Yet it doesn’t matter to me that I don’t know their names, because they don’t either. What matters is that I appreciate that they are here. That I understand I would not be here raising sheep in this manner, without all these species being present.

Tonight I had a moment to get the photos cropped and re-sized. Enjoy.

The purple and pink of Alfalfa and Sanfoin

Baby's Breath

Trees setting seed

Our beautiful, although greatly despised, Canadian Thistle

Cicer Milkvetch

Even the Cattails ...

Precious Grass

Meadow Brome

Just A Flock Move Day 2

Day Two

My mornings work awaits
Last night I was pretty high on the work the dogs and I did. It is an impressive feat to bring in this many animals with two canines. An unfortunate incident on day two brought me crashing down.

The first task of the morning was moving the flock into a holding pen. With the flock well grouped in the night pen area I took the opportunity to let Gibson have his first experience with the large flock. Up to now he has worked groups from three sheep to a hundred sheep. Still I wasn’t going to let him work this number on his own. I also put Cajun on the ground with him. 
Moving into first holding pen
From here we worked groups of sheep into subsequently smaller pens that I could catch and sort in. After penning a group, I would tie the dogs, then go through the group of ewes and catch the thins and treat them and sort the yearlings I wanted. Then unleash the dogs and bring the next group in.

The first couple groups of sheep were relatively easy to pen but as the morning wore on this job became progressively tougher. By midway, as Cajun and Gibson tired, I needed to add a dog, so Jayde was in too.

When the remaining group was much smaller I put BJ in for a bit of work on a group, working with the other dogs. She was a little on again, off again, and not sure about all the pressure and the noise.

We had just put a group of ewes and lambs into the first holding pen, and I was going to push them into the next handling area myself. BJ was just on the outside of the gate and in a moment of poor thinking I let her come into the take pen with me. Almost immediately a ewe began to hunt her. I called to her, knowing I needed to take her out of there. BJ headed across the take pen and down the alleyway, with the dog hunting, mission driven ewe right behind her, and me, reaching, reaching, reaching, desperate to get there in time. I didn’t. The ewe nailed her hard, slamming BJ against the alleyway and pushing her head into the dirt. BJ hollered. I swore.

She was physically unhurt, meaning she had no broken parts, moved and walked fine. Mentally she was done. I cursed a thousand times over. I checked my tears and my swearing. I put BJ up. I still had work to do and there was nothing else to do but carry on with it and hope that my little Kelpie girl bounces back from this.

Steadily I got through the flock. I now had yearlings sorted and penned and the flock waiting in another holding paddock.

Since I brought the flock in the evening before and then took this time to handle them, they were hungry and ready to go and eat. I planned for them to go back to the paddock I gathered them from, feed there for the rest of the day, and then move them to a new paddock in the evening. 

Once more, I used Cajun and Gibson to collect the group and head them out the way they came in. The last of the sheep left the holding pen. Knowing an open gate when they see it, the ewes picked up pace and began to pour out to the long alley way leading to pasture. Remembering the way they came in they were headed right where I needed them to go. Perfect; a nice and easy way to end the long morning.

Cajun and Gibson took off. I don’t have the breath to explain how the next several minutes played out, but in a nutshell, Cajun eventually came back to me.  Gibson got all the way to the front of the flock and began turning them, pushing them back toward me, causing the ewes to spill in the opposite direction down the alleyway. He was not able to turn them into the gate again and the ewes disappeared over a hill. Okay, this was a mess, but on its own, was not such a big deal. There was a fence and gate at that end of the alleyway.  I collected my dogs, got on the Ranger and headed out to turn the ewes back again.

As I crested the hill, my eyes about popped. This was one of those seldom occasions when stock dogs make your life more difficult. The ewes had pushed the gate open; five hundred hungry ewes with hungry lambs were out on an un-grazed paddock of lush grass and alfalfa, fanning out in a great wave of sheep. I had visions of bloated ewes, four feet in the air, dancing in my head.

I raced out to the furthest point of sheep. I slipped the leads on three dogs, keeping BJ with me, and uttered an urgent and simple go, go, go!!! Jayde disappeared. Cajun and Gibson found a pocket of ewes and starting ringing them. Boys, boys, boys… all the sheep please. Go.

There was no fancy work in the next few moments. It was three dogs and I moving hungry sheep and moving them fast. To their credit, we had the whole flock off the paddock in less than five minutes! The dogs created the mess, but they saved it too. It was a real life, large flock version of the Calgary Stampede Stock Dog Trial.

Later that evening as Gibson and I were driving the now full-bellied ewes to the appropriate paddock, I was marveling at the day and what a roller coaster ride it was. The stellar performance of the dogs in one moment to the confusing chaos in the next. Amazement at one juncture, stinging disappointment at another. The dogs and I and what we had accomplished in a day. It was quite the feat for all of us. 

A reflective evening, driving the flock with Gibson

Just A Flock Move

Wow, what a couple of sheep and dog full days.

It was time to sort off yearlings which will be used for the upcoming August Sheep Camp. At the same time I can get my hands on a few thin ewes and treat them.

When I have to do flock work I prefer to to gather the flock and night pen them the evening before. It breaks up the work load for myself and the dogs which is beneficial when it’s just the dogs and I doing the work. The night pen is a large training field and the ewes and lambs have ample room and time to settle after being moved. In the morning they are close at hand.

I find gathering on pasture by far the easiest task to do. Easiest being a relative term. It’s not necessarily easy, because there are a lot of miles to cover to gather five hundred sheep in the hills. The dogs tire out, but pasture gathering is not nearly as taxing as moving five hundred ewes with lambs into a pen they don’t wish to go to. That is bloody hard work.

There is so much work in any flock move it is near impossible to describe what needs to happen, the difficulty of getting that to happen, and what did happen, which is often skewed from what I planned to have happen. Or how to describe the roller coaster ride of working with the dogs.

Here are a few moments I managed to capture of us gathering the flock and night penning last evening. I’ll write up the work that took place today for the next post. It was a real roller coaster.

Cajun does the initial gather, traveling the outskirts and thus causing the ewes to begin to flock up. He hasn’t done a wide pasture gather since early Spring and with all the training I have been doing on driving, he is hesitant to go so far. I get him around and just when he’s at the top of the paddock he seems to remember. He does a lovely go-by and cross drive to bring a hundred or so animals through a pass between two wetlands. I meet up with him the other side.

Cajun works a wayward ewe and lamb up to the flock (and leaves the lamb intact :-) 

Still bringing everyone together. Jayde is now on the ground as well. Those two specks on the far side are the dogs.

The front of the flock has reached the first gate. The rear is still beyond the bus and that’s where the dogs are. Just prior to this photo Cajun was midway along the right side which created the shape of the flock. Initially I wasn’t impressed by his choice to come up there, however, it created a better flow coming to this gate.

Working lambs adds a whole new element to stock dog work. Lambs are too curious for their own good and have the infuriating habit of ducking back or popping if you pressure them to much or just cause they feel like it. Cajun is starting to show patience with lambs but his favourite thing to do is catch them. Jayde prefers to pretend lambs don’t exist.

We are now in a wide alleyway and the dogs were sent ahead to turn the ewes, who a moment earlier, were all heading directly away from us, thinking that they were going to the next gate and out to new pasture.

Here I had a moment to catch a short video as we turn the ewes into the second gate.

Flock Move

One more turn and a final gate into the training paddock where they will spend the night. This one proved to be the toughest part of the move.

All in and settling for the night. The flock has invaded the space where Willow, Zeus and the dogging sheep typically reside. Willow and her group are penned separately. I left Zeus out, and in this photo I think he is wondering if he is supposed to stay with all these sheep and the pack of LGD’s who came in with them.

Dark is coming on and I'm treated to a beautiful display of prairie sky while I walk back for the Ranger, which is way back where this all started.

Places With Purpose

While not the Australian Outback this place is still located in a rather out of the way, middle of nowhere spot.

So it is always a bit of marvel that friends drive out to work dogs here and that I have no trouble filling up stock dog clinics when I host them. And that, while I am not constantly inundated with company, I do get some very interesting visitors.

Today we had visitors from Germany.
Last weekend we had visitors from Italy.
Mid June two ladies from England were brought out to visit by a friend.
At the start of June Tristen and Cole drove more than three hours to spend some time touring the ranch.
I have turned away requests via email, from people asking to room and board here and experience the ranch.
For Sheep Camp in August, folks are coming from out of province and from Nebraska, USA, and there is interest from people in Louisiana.

While visiting in the house after touring the pasture, photographing sheep and talking about wool art, Karen suggested that we start something here. She suggested a place to stay, a lodge of some sort. A place that could accommodate all sorts of activities from arts, to clinics, to retreats for folks trying to get away from everywhere else. With a fence around it so sheep could always be grazing out front, she said.

Her suggestion gave me goosebumps and the reason for their visit began to resonate within. A few years ago I pipe dreamed about the very same idea. I have daydreamed about it numerous times since. It’s not the first time this suggestion has been made by visitors either.  People feel something when they are here.

I’ve long believed that people have callings, a particular purpose(s) they were meant to do and souls won’t rest until they do it. Maybe places have callings to.

Daily Landscape

My daily landscape right now is grass and sheep.  I love the colour contrast in this photo of just that, and I love the texture contrast between the lambs wool and the grass.

When the lambs are asleep in the tall grass it’s possible to sneak up on them. I’m just using a regular digital camera, no fancy zoom lens to get close ups with, so it took a few minutes of crawling in the grass, on my belly, to get close enough for a photo without waking this fellow or alarming his twin. The second lamb is right in front (that’s him, out of focus, on the left and bottom) and was keeping an ear on my approach.

I am about an arms length away and this second photo was just a few moments before the lambs spidy senses told them they best get up and go.

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