Three Heads and Lady

Lady in one of her favorite places - right amongst her sheep. This is actually on a move.  The ewes are headed back out to pasture after we sorted ewe lambs out. This was the one photo I managed to catch before the scene was something else.

I'm dreaming of having a fancy camera one day, and have started saving my pennies. Mostly so I can take better quality photos for artwork reference but also so I can enjoy catching action shots that end up blurry with the current camera.

LGD Pup Rearrangements

Lily and Pippa started out in a small paddock directly behind the building set with a tidy group of yearlings. The pups and the sheep could access the alleyway and the building and at night the pups and sheep slept in the building together.

Meanwhile there was a general transition to the rams, llama and steer as I walked the pups about that paddock frequently. This way they also interacted with Oakley and Zeus.

After shearing Lily and Pippa were moved to a new, drier paddock along with Oakley and Zeus and the ram group.

They are now very familiar with their sheep and are interacting in a manner that is pleasing to see.

They have discovered the water bowl and are now tall enough to drink from it.

They still play endlessly. They sleep curled up together and are always seen together. They have started to have little spats over food.

Lily is the most determined to follow me and found a way to slip out the gate today. Pippa screeched loud and long about momentarily being left behind.

They are polite as ever around Oakley who has zero tolerance for bumping into, climbing onto or pawing.

They know Zeus is more of a push over and have tempted him into play a time or two. They have learned not to help themselves to the adults food bowl. Every pup gets that lesson and every pup learns it quick.

They are comfortable with PJ, the llama but still keep an eye on that steer. They have shown a little bit of guarding behaviour, alerting and barking at strange approaches and sounds.

All in all I think we’re off to a good start.

Trying My Hand At Shearing

This is me trying my hand at shearing sheep.

Photo courtesy Liezel Hattingh
I managed to do five ewes while we were in the home stretch of our shearing day. Like so many new experiences there is much more to this than meets the eye. Holding properly without a having a death grip on the ewe, repositioning as you shear, long reaches to get every where needed, how wiggly sheep can be, being mindful that the clippers in your hand can lay a ewe open or take a fingertip off.

I’m a slight person and I always wondered if shearing would be doable, most mature ewes weigh 1.5 x what I do.  Doing five ewes is a satisfying accomplishment. My legs and shoulders are still sore, but my back is not sore at all.

My fleeces sure didn't come off in one piece and shearing may not be my next career choice yet it is very rewarding to have experienced one more facet of sheep and wool.

Blessed Shearing

It’s the end of a long day. I’ve just come in from taking the dogs for a short walk in the dark and then puttered around the kitchen tiding up from supper. While I’m exhausted I’m not ready to head to bed because it’s one of those days I have to savour for a moment more.

To reflect on how this all came together and turned into a day of beautifully blended people working harmoniously at a common task. And that that common task was helping Allen and I out during a long day of shearing.  By gosh we are so blessed.

Blessed to have first rate friends like Jill who come out year after year, even knowing what she’s in for. And that she brought along Judith who was eager to experience a day of shearing and soak it all up and who boldly jumped right in to help out.

Larry and Liezel who drove three hours one way to join us first thing this morning, stayed with us the entire day and brought fresh farm eggs.

Heath who took a day away from city life to see what shearing was about because Allen asked him if he would help.

Cynthia who made the trip out from the city to join us in the afternoon, and was a welcome relief person.

Rodney, a nearby neighbour, for coming by in exchange for some help on his shearing day and staying right to the end, which I don’t think he was expecting to be quite so far off  when he arrived.

And by gosh, Andrea. Andrea got in touch with me a short while ago via my website. Just a simple email that said she was interested in coming out for shearing day. Oh, and she said she has a love for fibre. We did not know each other before this morning. Last night when it looked like we would have enough extra hands to keep up, Allen and I sorted out how to add a skirting table so we could try our hand at skirting fleeces, something we have never done before.

Well, Andrea happened to be quite the expert on wool and skirting fleeces. What are the chances that just the person we needed was here today. A complete stranger to boot. The synchronicity of that is just glorious. Andrea and I hit it off right away, discussing a common fondness for good wool. Of course she is no longer a stranger and yes, she really does love fibre.

And also, Jared who came along mid morning, expecting only to stay a short while and staying much longer, engrossed as he was with putting his dogs to work moving the ewes.

Finally the shearers. Lorrie, Laverne and Dave. What a terrific crew of guys.  Per usual they put in a solid’s days work, shearing 400 head without complaint, when they (and I) were only expecting around 350. I’m still not sure how my count got so wrong but I'm chalking it up to those smaller lambs I decided to leave in the group to be shorn instead of sorting them out. 

The day flowed right on by, almost seamlessly. Tomorrow morning as I feed animals and slowly ease normalcy back into the farmyard I’ll still be counting the blessings of this day.

Thank You All.

Pre Shearing BeeHive

It’s a beehive here as we ready for shearing on Tuesday and deal with rain and snow.
Sheep were brought indoors this afternoon when the rain showed up and then let out when the sun came out and put then back in again when the sleet started in the evening. Tomorrow morning they will be back out. And tomorrow night back in again.

This is what wet weather before shearing means. We’re really hoping for the forecast sunny, dry day tomorrow and Tuesday.

I put BJ to work with Gibson for bringing the flock in the second go round. Her first go at flock work. What a treat it is to work that dog. I brought BJ along in work very differently than I did Cajun and Gibson. Recognizing how sensitive she is I just let her work, without demanding she show any one skill or another (a novice mistake I made with Cajun and Gibson). So far I like that approach very much. She’s tight and fast and she knows it’s okay to work how she needs to. I’ve learned that that last part is the most important.  All the other fancy stuff will come later - when she's ready for it.

It’s been a busy couple days. Our usual pace of life has sped up and the weather wishes to complete matters. Nonetheless there are plenty of moments that remind me how remarkable it is to live a prairie life with sheep and dogs.

Cold Shower

Away and back again. My second presentation on livestock guardian dogs is over and done. Afterward I enjoyed a visit with my sister and family. Today I gingerly picked my way home again as our province is being swept with a springtime winter storm. A cold shower if you will.

When I left there was only a little bit of snow in the tree belts and valleys. Everything looked so hopeful for Spring. It felt like the shock of a cold shower to see the yard blanketed by snow once again.

I’ll enjoy this evening arrived fresh home and tucked indoors and then next up is earnest preparation for shearing on Tuesday.  Panels to move, building to ready, sheep to sort, meals to make. And prayers that the snow ceases and the sun shines to be said.

What Are LGD Puppies up to All Day Long?

They play, they catch lovely scents in the air, and they still sleep for long periods. 

In the morning they take walks around the sheep paddock with me, weaving in amongst the steer, the llama and the rams. They interact with Oakley and Zeus. Then it’s back to their own paddock and their own small band of older lambs that they hang out with. They get breakfast and then I leave them alone. I slip back out at noon to note where they are and feed them lunch. They explore and play some more.

I go back out again in the evening. We might do another walk around then. They might mingle with the stock dogs. Then I tuck puppies and sheep up indoors so they sleep near each other.

The pups can still slip through almost every fence, including the woven wire and sheep panel fencing. But if I set them with the sheep and leave out the reinforced front gate, they haven’t figured out to go around and get out the back fence. So they stay put, which works well for both of us.  I won’t hot wire the paddocks until the pups are a bit older... well, actually my reason is far more selfish, I don’t want to do it until it’s a bit nicer out.  :-)

Pippa scents the air, animals are downhill to the left

On The Easel

Carving out little bits of time (usually early morning, before the sun is up time) to pick away at this piece. I know the photo looks fuzzy.  The un-worked parts are quite faded at this point. You can see that I’m working in more detail starting at the top left corner.

I delivered the male pup to his new home today and stayed to be a part of my friend Liezel’s shearing day work bee. There is something quite satisfying in seeing a flock of sheep sheared (and eating delicious homemade lunch and pie afterward).  I wonder if the shearers feel that way.

I still have board meeting homework to get to and another LGD presentation to get ready for, so just time for quick post tonight.  I’ll be doing an update on the pups soon.

Tangible Measurements of the Arrival of Spring

Morning walks now take place before breakfast because it’s decent outside even early in the morning.

I can detour off the grid road during my walk. I visit pastures I have not been to all winter.

Instead of full days for artwork, the days are now full, and I fit in time for artwork.

It is muddy everywhere - in a good way. The melt water is flowing. White guardian dog puppies are thoroughly muddy.

We now have trouble getting around on the fields with the tractor due to ground thawing and wet conditions.

There are small slivers in my hand from working without mitts.

Evening chores now take longer as the ewes are spreading further in hopes of finding grass instead of hay. Cajun is joining me again for evening flock work.

On a trip to town this past week I didn’t bother to pack the winter clothes in the car.

The Sorrel boots have been replaced by Muck Boots.

I’m working stock dogs each day again; getting sheep ready for a stock dog clinic in May.

The house has a faint, wet dog and manure odour, tracked in from throughly dirty and thoroughly happy stock dogs who now stay outside all day but I wimp and let them inside in the evening since their dog houses are still buried in snow.

We are preparing for shearing the ewes - April 22 if you’re interested in joining us. We’d love to have you.

Coming Off the Easel

I have not dived into that large sketch yet. I did finish up a series of four pencil sketches though and haven’t shared them here yet.

I did these for a couple different reasons. I wanted a series of four sketches that were of a common theme and/or told a common story. I was also in the mood to do some faster projects and working solely in pencil answers that. I also wish to try having some prints made (hopefully through a local printer) and thought starting with simple black/white pencil sketches would be nice and simple. 

These four are on tan colored paper which I thoroughly enjoyed working on just as a reprieve from black on white.

Making Do With What You Have

Our makeshift lambing jug.

This babe was born last weekend when it was still pretty cold outside and Allen was on his own to look after things. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you are on your own and you have to. Allen caught the ewe while she was distracted with her lamb, loaded her on the Ranger and gave the pair a ride to the building.

The ewe is Josephine, she’s a bit of a pet. She was due to be culled last fall because she’s not the best mother. Then I had a change of heart and decided to keep her because she’s a great ewe for stock dog training. She’s experienced.  Okay, she’s also one of my favourite ewes.

So in a way I’m glad she has had her lamb early and that we are able to manage her and the lamb. We’re giving her extended time in the building where she must stay close to her lamb. Josephine is ready to leave, her lamb isn’t quite ready to keep up with her yet. 

A Walk With the Barking Dog

I drifted through doing chores this morning, feeling slightly disjointed after a few days away from the routine.

I arrived home last night and settled these three into their new digs. Two will stay, one is still en route to his new home. He’ll be here for a few days before moving on to be with my good friend Liezel at Pilgrim Farms.

After chores I headed out for a walk with the house dogs. I was seeking a long walk and headed across a pasture I have not visited all winter.  I hastily grabbed the camera before heading out. Maybe there will be some interesting snowscape, I thought.

About midway along we scared up a coyote and watched him race away to our left. BJ was the only dog who spotted him and watched him go, the others were heads down scenting his trail.

A few moments later a sharp, short bark behind me brought me to attention. Mr. (or Mrs?) coyote had circled back behind us.

I turned to watch him, and moved in his general direction. He was being very vocal so was not concerned about staying out of sight or mind. I had to constantly keep the stock dogs in check as they badly wanted to race off and give chase. The coyote alternated between approaching and retreating. We maintained a shared distance between us and he shadowed our walk, yipping and kiyaying the whole time. We travelled together for a spell.

I dipped out of sight and put a little distance between us. He was still kiyaying. I turned back in the direction of his sound and headed to the top of a hill to lookout from. He had already made the same move. He was perched on a hilltop, sighting us.

His presence on this morning gave me much to think about when I finally turned away for the walk home.

I don’t have a fear of the coyote, nor any shred of hatred for the ‘barking dog’, as so many ranchers do. I do have concern for my girls,... my ewes,... their lambs. Chances are the coyotes will get a few of my animals this year.

I am perched between elation at such a rare glimpse of a canine so beautifully wild, and the hard fact that I have chosen to raise livestock in this coyote territory.

I feel the tinge of regret over the recent loss of Willow and Glory, guardian dogs here for the purpose of attaining peace and coexistence, and killed at the hands of a bitter neighbour who has room for neither of those in his life.

And why a walk with a coyote on this morning? This, the first morning with the pups. I feel hope, skepticism and amazement that the newly arrived fur balls bumbling around at my feet today, could be a link to that peaceful coexistence. 

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