Montana Arrival

I am nestled in the snowy foothills of the Bear Tooth Mountain Range in Montana at the Burradoo ranch.

There is a kennel full of well bred working kelpies, a tidy flock of Katahdin sheep, a few horses, a few mules, a few cats, and a few chickens.  It's snow covered and cold.  It's a gentle change from my prairie scenery and I am on holiday here for a spell.  Allen stayed home to keep tabs on the animals and on Lady.  With a farm full of critters this is how we holiday for now.

I'll post when I'm able to and imagine once I settle into the routine here that blogging will become more regular again.

I've got my camera along and expect it will get well used, however, I've only got the Ipad so uploading photos might not happen.

A Lady In The House

Last night we brought Lady to the house for her second bath and she stayed in the house with us overnight again.  There is something peculiar and absorbing about the guardian dogs when they wind up in the house.   I took about a dozen photos of her just looking around and being curious.

We know the livestock guardian dogs as they are outside, and the outside is what these dogs know.  When they land in the house it’s like the outside dog we knew alters for the inside and we’re seeing them afresh.  It’s like watching a new dog, checking out the new digs for the first time, except the dog isn’t new, it’s one you know well.

Lady is curious about the surroundings this time, she ignores the stock dogs, and after brief curious sniff from them they ignore her too.  She gawks around and occasionally she ventures a few steps into the living room.  She stands for a long time before finally deciding the place is safe enough to lie down.  She stays near the front door, knowing full well it’s the way out. 

She headed back out this morning, wearing one of my farm bunny hugs to help keep her warm.  We do not reject keeping her in the house, however she refuses to eat or drink while she’s up here and she really, really needs to do both of those things right now.  So we toggle back and forth between the house when she has to have a bath and at the building with some sheep otherwise.  This way Lady is with sheep, (although she knows this is not her flock) and will eat something and drink from the livestock water bowl during the day.   It's a meet in the middle approach.

On another note, I made a bit of a spontaneous decision and am heading off to Montana, USA this week.  I was planning a trip in March but have decided to go a little earlier and stay a little longer.  I may miss a couple blog posts but will do my best to get back on line when I can.

Re-sorting Rams

Jayde was very pleased to do some work
We had a soft and warmer winter day last Thursday and brought the flock home to the yard and sorted out the rams.  I put a few stock dogs to work to help move animals up for sorting and to say the dogs and I are rusty is an understatement.  Yikes.  Nonetheless, I do like taking a couple months off from stock dog work.  We’ll all be eager to start back up in earnest again come warmer weather.  

At the end of the sort, the cull ewes were marked (they’ll stay on as training sheep for the summer) and went back out with the flock.  The rams re-joined the half dozen wethers at the barn paddock.  These will be our two groups until shearing time in April. 

Today Gibson and I did a small piece of work gathering and sorting the rams from the wethers because someone was coming to look at them.  Two of the rams were sold, heading home with an individual who is looking for animals raised in this natural manner.  They will service his tidy flock of ewes and all the sheep together will provide fertilizer for his organic fields.  I’m never really settled with selling animals but we need to rotate our rams this upcoming year and if two of them go off to help someone else build their grass based flock I’m okay with that.

Helping Lady

We finally took Lady in to the vet, something we probably should have done a month or so ago.  We kept making allowances for the fact that she’s so unfamiliar with human handling and we didn’t want to stress her, but she needs some help now.  Lady arrived as a semi-wild young adult LGD and it’s taken a couple years to get to the point that Lady actually seems to enjoy our company and petting. 

At the vets office she went into her shut down mode.  She stood, head down, eyes half lidded, slightly drooling with stress, willing everything to go away and thinking it would if she just made herself unnoticeable enough.  She’s indoors with me tonight, drying off after having a bath with some medicated shampoo. 

She developed an oily coat just as we headed into the cold winter and it grew steadily worse.  She’s been dropping weight, eating sporadically and having trouble keeping warm enough.  I put vests on her but she always manages to loose them.  

The plan for now is to get her coat and skin infection cleared up.  The blood work showed some concerning results leading to a possible kidney issue but that might very well be resolved if we can get her health back on balance. 

We’ll try to keep her with the sheep as much as possible because that’s where she is the least stressed and about the only place that she’ll even attempt eating, but on the days she gets bathed there is no possible way to have her be outdoors in our winters. 

She’s a very quiet house guest and while she’s not content, she’s warm and comfortable and stressed out enough to just lie down and rest.

I Think She Gets It

The Holistic Management conference was a public immersion into all things I like about our way of life.  It was like a re-awakening and the company was indeed good. 

I did go in blind on the producer panel and kicked myself afterward.  I thought the producer panel was designed to be a Q & A; a chance for the audience to ask questions of us.  Turns out it was a presentation by each of us, with a few minutes left over at the end for a few questions.  That’s a great thing too, I just wasn’t prepared for that format.

Quickly gathering my wits I came up with something more to say. Without knowing why I did it, I skipped the details about how and what, and touched on who and why.  That we started out in the rough and came through, that I’m fascinated by land and human potential and how the two connect and build the other up as long as there is awareness and respect for the connection.  I told them I love coyotes. 

Then I sat down, and I thought, “wow that was short and sweet and kind of odd, I hardly mentioned sheep.” 

But here’s the thing and it’s pretty big.     

The audience wanted to know more, they had questions for me.  Unfortunately they weren’t given much time to ask them.  All afternoon the continuing feedback from telling that little bit of a story, told me something far bigger.  I kick myself for playing small and thinking we’re just a small story so there isn’t much to say.  We do have a story (every one of us) and it’s no small one, and people are interested in it and how it gets told.  That’s no small thing. 

Perhaps the lesson is that it’s not necessary to fill every minute with details and spew them back out, but that we BE wherever we find ourselves for as many minutes as we can do so.  There is truth in that and people always recognize it.  Animals live this way, the sheep and the dogs on our place - they live this way. 

I think this girl might get what I’m saying, and maybe it's finally sinking in for me too. 

On The Other Side of The Storm

Although they were a little early in doing so the ewes were on the right track in seeking shelter.  A hefty winter storm blew in late the next morning.  The morning dawned cold and windy but the girls got fed at first light so they had a chance to get a belly full to wait out the storm. 

The stock dogs and I got caught in the first bit of blowing snow while on our walk.   The rest of the day we were holed up inside.  I ventured out to check the girls again before dark but there wasn’t much more to do for them, they were settled in out of the wind (smart sheep) and disturbing them only disrupts that.  Much of the bedding was now covered in snow but there is no keeping up with that in some storms and this one was still going strong.  We’d have to dig out and start over again the next day, and we did just that this morning.

I just love how this girl is tucked up and covered with her fleece throw.  :-)
The next couple days are full ones.  The Western Canadian Holistic Management Conference is being held in Watrous and I’m involved in helping out and speaking on the producer panel.  I don't have a clear picture of what that entails so I'm going in a little blind on this one.  I'm sure I'll be in good company though.

Winter Shelter

The ewes are located on a paddock they wintered on a couple years ago and are taking shelter in a low spot completely ringed by trees. 

This year we could not bed them in the center clearing right away because it is a sheet of ice and there was little snow cover.  The ewes would travel into the clearing but hugged the edges, not wanting to step onto the ice.  So we started feeding around the outside of the bush ring, keeping them out of the wind.

We only feed at the shelter when bedding is needed or when the weather is nasty, most often we feed on the hillsides on clean ground each day.  The winds have been blowing from every direction this year.  One day they are North, North West and the next they are South winds and then they blow from East, and so we have utilized every side of that bush and are very grateful for it.  Large bush shelters are a dream when keeping livestock on pasture during the winter months.

Same spot, photo taken early 2013
Finally there is enough snow cover that we braved putting hay feed in the center clearing.  The ewes ventured right in.  It’s such a nice spot for them and with a few days worth of feeding, there is now a good layer of bedding under their feet.

While the guardian dogs were eating supper I watched the ewes travel from the hay feed on the open hillside to the bedding ground in the ring of trees.  Watched the wooly bodies slip through the trees and fill the clearing.  They were heading in a little early tonight, perhaps sensing the ugly weather that is coming our way.

Small Makings of A Good Dog

I took these earlier in the winter, when the weather was camera friendly.  The photos are not good quality so I tucked them aside, then came across them again tonight and decided quality or not they were worth sharing. 

Young Lily after she finished breakfast and visiting, then wandered back to the sheep while I was playing with camera settings.

Checking one way

Then the other

And straight ahead
All clear; time to settle in for some rest after the night shift

One last look around 

Small Photo Mission

Zeus is a laid back dog and I know he gets along with every other dog here.   I would love for Zeus to be on duty with the main flock, however Zeus is very attached to his band of sheep.  His band of sheep happens to be whoever is not with the main flock and I’d love to know how he decided these were his sheep because this band of sheep changes.  So he doesn’t have the same individuals all the time.   His band of sheep will also move around on the property so he’s not attached to the location they are in.  That doesn’t seem to matter to him, so long as he is with the sheep that are not with the flock.   Maybe he worries they are not protected.   Or maybe he has a limit to the number of sheep!

I can’t decipher why he won’t stay with the main flock.  I used to think it was because of Diesel, yet Diesel and Zeus work fine together as a pair.   But maybe in some way it is because of Diesel, because I think the dynamics change when the dogs are in a pack versus a pair. 

What got me wishing for Zeus to be out with the main flock again was Whiskey.  Whiskey traveled to the barn paddock one day this week.  I just let him be to see if he would take himself back to the flock and he did.  The dogs with the main flock have to travel up to the yard to access the water bowl and I think Whiskey just stopped for a day visit while he was up for water.  Anyway, the sight of those two dogs side by side in the winter sunlight, caused me to pause and soak them in.  Since Zeus won’t stay with the main flock he and Whiskey are rarely together.  I didn’t realize what a matched pair they are.  A stunning pair of tall, well boned, liquid whiskey colored dogs.  I had no camera along, due to the cold, and Whiskey returned to the fold.   It is now a small mission to get a photo of the two of them together.

Zeus (l) has light amber eyes and Whisk's (r) are dark pools

Well That Was Good

I did four hours of traveling and had 45 minutes in the spotlight today doing a presentation on winter feeding with sheep.  What the presentation boiled down to was what we do here at Dog Tale Ranch and how we manage with our flock though the winter.  The winter feeding topic on its own is not my most passionate subject, but nonetheless it feels as though my real passion for sheep, land and a few good dogs brought me through in good form, and that feels really, really good. 

I took off very early this morning to get to where I needed to be.  I put out more feed for the ewes last night, before dark, so that I didn’t have to do feeding chores this morning.  I headed out to pasture earlier than usual this evening as I was eager to go out and see them and say a soft thank you.  They hardly lifted their heads.   The guardians greeted me in earnest and were eager for supper.

When I’m out and about at public events (something that only happens sporadically) I’m not thinking about the blog or that I write one.  So when individuals approach me to tell me they read the blog I have a moments hesitation before it all catches up to me.  Oh, yes, The Blog, that I, me, - insert small moment of intense shyness here - write.  When persons approach to say they follow something that you do it means a great deal.  It has large impact.  Thank you for doing that today Laura.  And thanks to The Crazy Sheep Lady, who dropped me a note recently which made my day since I’ve been a fan of her blog, Punkin's Patch, for a two or three years. 

Thank you to everyone who stops by to read, and make comments, and who support events by showing up and who take a moment to encourage another, even if they don’t know they’re doing it. 

On The Easel

I’m embarrassed to say how long this piece has been on (and off) the easel.  I recently dove into it again and feel that it is finally starting to take shape.   The detail is tough with a large scenery piece, and while I work on it I think this may be better served being done in a looser style without focusing on detail.  But I’m well into it now. 

Looking at photos of the art part way through the process always causes me to see the picture anew.  Like now I can see that the trail in the snow needs to continue to the east and finish.  And the sky, the sky still needs something ?? 

The colors are pretty close although I think it's showing up a tad darker on the computer. 

I’ve got the title for this one already - 'Three Good Dogs'
You may have to biggify the photo to see them on the computer.

Solo Photo(s) Coyote Mic

I mentioned the young Coyote Mic in the last post and know I haven't shared much about her, so here she is (and no she's not any part coyote, it's her nic-name only).  There are several photos of facial expressions, this one gave me such a chuckle.

In the next photo she is readying herself to climb the walls, quite literally.   She's an obsessive one and physical exercise isn't always enough for this youngster.  She needs far more stock work than she gets in the cold winter months.  She fixates on spots of lights - the one she's interested in happens to be a glint of reflection from the camera. 

An Art Show? Really?

Lily’s concern over me and the possibility of being caught and hauled off to what was surely her idea of a small nightmare, was gone the next day.   She greeted me with some enthusiasm and wanted breakfast.  Her muzzle is a little swollen but nothing major.  Diesel is no worse off either although our trust with each other will probably be a bit fatigued for awhile.

It has turned cold, returning to more normal mid-winter weather.  The ewes ceased wandering and have hunkered down near the shelter again.  When I don’t have to be outdoors I’m hunkered down indoors.  Except for Coyote Mic, the stock dogs have been doing a fair bit of this.  Coyote Mic is young and still in near perpetual motion.

On the art front, some of my felted art has gone off to an exhibit.  While I have been drawing and creating for a few years I have yet to put myself out there as an artist.  Other than create it I don't do much after that.  I have no website and I’m not set up to sell anything.  It was only a short while ago that I was able to write ‘I am an artist’ on the about me page and not delete the sentence.  So when I received the invitation to place artwork in this show I was a bit taken aback and nervous about it.  I mean it feels so official.

The show was put together by fibre artist Monika Kinner-Whalen (she keeps the My Sweet Prairie blog).  The show is titled Our Prairie In Fibre and is on display in Saskatoon, at the Affinity Gallery on Broadway Avenue and they now have all the pieces posted online as well.  It’s all woman artists and is a reflection of each artists connection to our prairie. 

Our Prairie In Fibre online:

My two pieces are on the second page and I’m sure once you arrive there you’ll know which ones they are.  There is artwork in this show created by artists from near and afar and whom I admire deeply but never, ever thought that our art might hang in the same show.  Feels a bit surreal and I think because the gallery is away from me ‘in the big city’ it doesn’t quite feel real. 

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