On Guard Wool Painting

I am hunkered down and working on the next issue of my newsletter, Crooked Fences, which goes out in a couple days time. (you can subscribe by following the link). There are a couple of delays though - namely drawing and playing with wool. Being being creative in a manner that is easier for me than writing, is an easy distraction.

So I swap between writing and drawing and felting. This felted piece came together quickly. I wanted it to be a companion for the Trio of Queens piece.

This one did not quite work out as I'd hoped though, still, the one thing I enjoyed was playing with a way to create hay/straw with fibres.

Mineral Adjustment

A pallet load of Kelp arrived in December and is stacked in the Quonset. I have been offering kelp to the sheep for several years. I started giving it as a free choice mineral on it’s own, and then switched to blending it into a mineral mix. Throughout the grass season I can cut back the amount of kelp I use in the mineral since the ewes are receiving decent nutrition from the grass. I carried this mineral plan into the winter this year and since the sheep seemed to be seeking salt I have been adding kelp to their loose salt and as well in the mineral blend but not offering kelp on it’s own (a cost saving choice).

The ewes have begun to pick at the bark on the trees that make up their winter shelter; a sign that it’s time to change up the minerals. For this flock, a sign that the kelp might be needed again. So I will increase the amount of kelp in the mineral blend as well as offer it up free choice, and probably do so for the remainder of the winter.  I don’t want to increase the amount of kelp I put in the salt, so as to prevent the ewes from consuming too much salt in order to get the kelp. They like kelp, so I know as soon as I start offering it, the mineral tub will be a popular hub for the first few days.

In the winter I get lax about refilling the minerals regularly.  I head out on the tractor in the morning and have no place to take mineral containers with. In the evening I walk out and don’t wish to carry four mineral containers. So I keep saying I will do it tomorrow. In between morning and evening I forget all about making an extra trip out to take care of minerals. But the bark eating is a sure sign that I need to get my butt in gear. Tomorrow, lol, I will take a pail of kelp out.

Winter Residue

Even when feeding with a tractor we take advantage of the hills and roll feed out.  This hillside is a nice example of what it looks like.

The aim is to get the hay spread out and not left in piles. With the feed rolled out there is enough space for the ewes to eat at, and the residue that will be left is more thinly spread. In our short growing season climate there will not be a rapid breakdown of this residue, and if it lays too thick it will stifle the spring grass growth. If it is spread out the grass will be able to grow through it, and the residue can take its time to breakdown. When it does, it becomes organic matter returned to the soil, complete with fertilizer from the ewes. 

In the spring it looks like this.... I’m looking forward to seeing scene like this one again.  Not too much longer.

Routinely Hanging Out

BJ, love this girl even with her spookish temperament
There is not much sheep work for the stock dogs right now. With it being so cold I don’t get too enthusiastic about being outdoors on training sheep either.  So work wise, we take it easy for January and February. We make do with plenty of daily exercise and moderate exercise when the temperatures are too frigid for extended periods outside.

I want to increase the exercise we gain from our time out, for them and for me, so I bought some new wheels. Winter is a pretty harsh time to start riding a bike but I’ve already jumped on and tried it out - and loved it. So I’ve gone several more times. It makes my legs burn in a good way and I love keeping pace with the dogs. Once the snow clears I hope to be out riding on the pasture trails.

Family Photo

I snapped this and several other photos of the group about ten days back.

 Llama, ovine, bovine, canine and equine (one of these things is not quite like the other :-) )

The guardian dog is Zeus. He was born here (out of Lady by Whiskey) and we raised him from a pup and he is proving to be a very valuable boy. Not just for his protective abilities but because of what this photo displays. This dog is comfortable with all these species of animals (although less so with the horses). We really just need our lgd’s to be bonded to sheep but having one who accepts the llama, cows, and horses is a bonus.

His partner Willow was equally accepting of the variety of animals we put with her and I like to think some teaching took place between them because Willow was like that. Willow had been a partner to Zeus for his whole two years of life, however, she was one of the dogs we lost in December.  Zeus is having to work solo for now.  

I am tempted to place him with the main pack but my gut wins out and it says no, not right now. Diesel and Whiskey are pretty formidable male characters and with the current pack structure of three males and one female I feel they would displace Zeus from their group. Besides that though, I don’t relish spending the amount of time needed to monitor dogs, outdoors, in the midst of winter. I will give it some time and plan some changes for the Spring.

Peaceful Aftermath

Yesterday was dangerously windy and way too warm for January on the prairies. The snow was melting. 

I know the ewes do not like to travel when high winds are accompanied with snow or rain but there was no precipitation with this wind so I still opted to feed them out in the open rather than at their shelter. It was so windy the sheep did not want to leave the comfort of the bush that blocked the wind, not even to eat. As I rolled the hay out I watched it blow away. I stopped after the first bale.

I allowed the ewes to decide when to head out rather than make them go. They did get hungry enough and ventured out but they were heading back in before regular evening tuck up time.

Remarkably there is no damage here. There was a good deal of damage in nearby areas though and once again I am reminded that animals have great sense when it comes to knowing what the weather is about.

Today was gorgeously comfortable and almost made up for yesterday, which was a good thing since I had to muck around with one of the water bowls.  20 hours of relentless wind froze it solid.

This evening I took some time to sit in the snow, at peace with a winter evening, camera in hand, and watch some very special stock dogs enjoying the evening.

Missing from every group shot is Jayde;  that's her fuzzy head in the bottom corner

Looking zen

LGD Moving Through Sheep

When they feed on a swath of hay the ewes are tight to each other, each vying for space and best bits of the rolled out grass and alfalfa. They are pushy. They lean on each other and push each other out.  If I am rolling out a hay bale myself (not on the tractor) some of the ewes even forget their worry about being near a human and press against me. 

On this day I was sitting on the tractor for a spell, just watching sheep feed when Diesel approached on one side of the swath of ewes. It seemed he wanted to cut across and for the next few moments I watched him communicate his wishes.

He moves into a gap, communicates to a couple lambs.

Comes face to face with an uncooperative ewe. He asks and he waits.

Then gives her a hard eye look and slowly stalks forward.

She gives ground and he comes out on the other side.

He takes a look around and then saunters down the line to his two favourite girls. :-)

Wool Painting

On the easel - well, in a manner of speaking. I need to work with the wool paintings on a table surface so they don’t actually get onto the easel. This is what I'm working on.

This needle felted piece needs a few little touches to finish and then I need to figure out how to finish the edges which are just rough cut wool fabric right now.

Trio Of Queens

Photos In The Fog

It was a day of warming so I took the camera out with me.

The morning was very foggy. Not much of a picture day but I enjoyed the time trying and was pleasantly surprised.

Just Rising
Heading Out

Looking Around
It's warm enough to nibble along the way
Bringing up the rear

Retreat and Return

I'm back.

I took a bit of a retreat; not the kind where you go away to a quiet, warm, place of simplicity, but the kind where you internally retreat and deliberately don't think or do much beyond what you need to. I needed time and space to absorb the sudden loss of two of the guardian dogs.

When I was ready to come back here the extreme cold and wind played interference with our Internet service for a few days. Another thing completely out of my control which seems to be a theme for me lately.

With the extreme cold I do feel as though I am in the wrong line of work. Thankfully I understand winter does have an end, and blessedly the sheep and dogs don't fret about it. They take what comes. The sheep are fairing very well. One move I am very grateful I made is thoroughly culling unfit ewes before winter set in. Those cull ewes would surely be in trouble in cold weather like this.

We are putting the tractor to good use with feeding and moving snow. Well truthfully, Allen does the majority of the snow removal on the days he is home. I do try but it is oh-so-much quicker if he is at the wheel. The amount of snow is odd given how cold it has been. Typically there is very little snowfall here when there is deep cold.

Life is pretty settled here. It was not at all difficult to retreat without needing to go anywhere. There is always the warm and cozy spot, right where the sun shines in and Kelpies curl up. :)

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