A Visit With Annabel

Annabel and Adam operate Double A Ranch, a tidy place near Fromberg, MT., about on hour and a half from where I am staying. 

Annabel and I have a deep appreciation of sheep, dogs and land in common, plus she has encouraged me and supported my Crooked Fences newsletter almost since I started writing it.  It was a treat to connect and visit with her and meet the lovely Targhee and Romney sheep and the dogs.  

This is the gorgeous and confident livestock guardian dog at Double A Ranch.  Kit is an admirable dog who seems very sure of herself and her job.  She is very business like and so, so lovely.  

The Romney sheep... my first meet and greet with this breed.  They are such compact and stout animals and I have a soft spot for colored sheep in a flock. 

Annabel's appreciation of healthy and sound animals and the fibre they produce rings strong.  

These girls were so relaxed as we walked and talked our way across the pasture.

Kit once again.  Perhaps telling me enough with the photos already.  You can follow Annabel and the Double A Ranch crew on Facebook.   Double A Ranch FB Page

The cats meow of this visit - Annabel invites me to go through her wool stash and gifts me with a treasure trove of wool for my felting artwork.  The assortment of wool types, bulk wool, tops and rovings, some natural and some dyed filled the trunk of my car!  Her generosity astounded me.  I peeked in the trunk of the car again this morning just to take it all in once more.  I can't wait to dive into this and create with it. 

On the way back to Burradoo Ranch I passed by this worrisome scene.  Fires are a concern in this part of the state where regular moisture is often lacking.  While this fire is burning many miles away from Burradoo, suddenly I wanted to get home to check on animals and assure myself all was well. 

Latest Word From Home

The latest word from Allen on how things are at home is that the snow is on its way out and the dogs are all okay.  He moved the ewes over to a piece of pasture with a large parcel of Native Prairie and they are picking in there while still receiving some hay feed.  Shearing will take place either April 15 or 16 so readying for that will be a first order of business when I get back.

Now that the weather is less cold, Lady has moved out to the flock where she will be most content.  She's a fussy creature all around and a particularly fussy eater.  Any change upsets her so the sooner we get her back into her regular order of the world, the better.  Even having Allen feed her instead of myself threw her off.  Her coat trouble is not solved but she is looking better, although is still too thin for my liking.

Meanwhile in Montana (gosh I like how that sounds), I had a couple of relatively simple days doing chores, hanging around Burradoo taking photos, and missing Allen sorely.

The Burradoo Flock

Pervus, the ancient mule

Playing in the creek that runs through the property

Sitting up on the rocks
Today I was invited to join in on some work at the neighbors place sorting a few cow/calf pairs on horseback and moving them up to new pasture.  Clyde picked me up at the yard, with Pruney, the horse, all saddled and ready to go.  What a fantastic time helping out and being on a horse, sore sit bones and all!

Marked Impressions

Up on the rocky ridges behind Burradoo Ranch
Allen and I enjoyed a wonderful day exploring the tourist town of Red Lodge, an hour from the ranch I am staying at.  Allen is an avid motorbike fan and has a summer trip planned that will pass through Red Lodge and traveling the famous Road to the Sun.  Thousands of bikers pass through Red Lodge each year and along with the nearby winter ski hill, the town is a year round tourist destination.

Later on we headed up to the trail head at Custer National Forest which Bill showed me earlier.  The Bighorn sheep were still there!! and I soaked up a second visit spent watching them.  Seeing these wild sheep just lights me up.

We did a short hike on the trail and were in awe at the gorge and the power of the river running through there.  With the mountain run off still to come down the river was just getting started.   Nonetheless the roar of the water through the gorge started my heart pounding.  It was incredible.

Having been here close to a month now, Montana has definitely left an impression on me.  Allen could see why.  What a change this is from our prairie home.  On the second day of his short visit we happened upon a piece of a land for sale and, just like that, the seed was planted.  Our minds started to whirl.  Could we really?

Photo Catch Up

Catching up with a few photos....

Arrival at Burradoo Ranch back in February.
Burradoo BJ overlooks the place
Sheep photos soon follow
Helping out on Shearing Day
One of my favorites, shorn sheep grazing with BearTooth Mountains in the background.
Shorn Sheep
Watching the livestock guardians and flock who graze across the road from Burradoo Ranch.
LGD with flock, located across the road
One of the great highlights of this trip... seeing the wild sheep.
And the real beauties... little Bighorn Sheep

... and big Bighorn Sheep

Company and Camera

I have been blessed with company.  Saskatchewan friends Liezel and Larry were here for a short two day visit and some farm supply shopping at Billings. They headed home this morning.

Plus, Allen decided to do a quick road trip and join me here for the weekend.  He just recently arrived and settled in and I'm so excited to share part of this experience with him.

While I impatiently waited through the day for Allen to arrive I passed some time with a short trip to Fishtail for the specific purpose of stopping in at The Muddy Lamb.

I first visited The Muddy Lamb a couple years ago and knew if I ever had the chance I'd stop in again.  It's a little gem of a shop in the middle of a gorgeous no-where spot of  Montana.

Pottery and wool - what a great combination.  I had to shop.  I bought three little clay sheep made by a very young local artist, and of course, I found some gorgeous rust brown wool to my liking.

I'll visit there again before I leave.

Allen also brought something special with him.  My camera-to-computer cord.  With any luck I'll be able to import photos onto the computer here and perhaps start sharing a few of them.  I'll tackle that a bit later though, right now I'm signing off to visit with Allen.

Hiking Around

I headed out with BJ and Mic for another hike up the rocky hills.  We took the same trail only went a little further to the top to see what lay beyond.

Beyond is an expanse of natural and tough Montana grassland that is not easily accessible, although I know there is a winding road that makes its way to these upper grazing lands. There is a livestock watering source there so livestock do graze up here at some time.  The only critters we found there were more deer and the dogs put the run on them.

This rugged grassland pours ahead in one direction and in the other direction is the edge of the hill we just climbed, with a valley ripe with tame pastures, black cows and a handful of sheep below.  We stayed there a bit, enjoying the view and watching the sheep graze their way back toward the ranch and their night pen.

The sheep are let out to graze each morning and brought home at mid to late afternoon. They have free reign to graze where they wish in between and can slip through fences so one needs to keep an eye on them.  They are so familiar with routine that even if they are not brought in by me and the dogs, they bring themselves home, knowing, and expecting, to receive their evening corn.

Caught in The Act

I had a pretty good laugh today.  I put two and a half kelpies (BJ, Mic and Muster) outside of the house this afternoon and returned myself to the indoors.  A few minutes later a neighbour stopped by to see how things were going and upon coming into the house made a comment about dogs penning sheep.   Somewhat confused I popped outdoors.  The three dogs had retrieved sheep, which I didn't know were grazing so nearby, and nearly penned them in the attached garage, which I guess is as close to me as they could get them.  I figure it was Coyote Mic, the half Kelpie, who instigated this little venture.

I put sheep back to the field, collected dogs and returned to the house feeling rather sheepish and trying to come up with a way to assure the neighbour that I had everything under control.  But then I decided it does no good to tell lies.

That's kinda how things are going here.  Regular chores, a few mishaps, and some good laughs.  With shearing days, supper invites and going to fundraiser events Bill and Janice lined up previously, I'm beginning to feel more and more like a local.

The last two days have been remarkably windy and when Mother N calmed her winds this evening it was downright warm and blissful.  I sat on the deck of this beautiful Montana log home I'm staying in, looking at mountains, watching the sun go down and thinking of how out of control life needs to be.

Flying Solo

I have taken over the reins on Bill and Janice's place for a few days while they are away and they have been a busy and jumbled few days as I settle into flying solo with all the chores.

The longest part is exercising dogs, cleaning kennels and feeding.  Then off to take care of sheep, mules, horses and chickens.  There are more chores here than I have at home, making me question the sanity of my choice of a holiday. :-)

And can you believe it, a ewe died already!  I'm feeling pretty downtrodden.  She came in from pasture, laid down and died shortly thereafter.  She was very, very full (too full) and was the only one to look so full, yet I'm not convinced that this was bloat.  There was something else going on that I could not see and diagnose in time.

A flock of sheep moved onto the pasture across the road and there are two guardian dogs with them.  It reminded me so much of home, I rode out there, parked on an approach and took photos.   It is seldom that I get to photograph dogs other than my own.  It lifted my spirits.

Today was a big shearing day at a local rancher's place.  Somewhere around 700 head of Targhee sheep.  I took BJ along but she wasn't needed, as there were many extra hands.  I was employed as sheep painter (marking the shorn sheep after they were vaccinated and wormed).  Later I moved over to help shift sheep in pens.

This was an international shearing day.  The shearing crew hails from Montana, England and New Zealand and there was some connection to Australia in the mix too.  Some of the folks helping were from Hungary, and me from Canada.  Much of the conversation revolved around "where are you from?"

The set up was another portable shearing trailer although this one was larger size with a raised alleyway inside, exit chutes on one side and fleece being collected by the packers on the other.  The wool packers travel with the five shearers.  It was quite the unit.

I took many photographs of shearing and sheep and sorely wish there was a way to share them.  I have some gorgeous photos of shorn sheep grazing with the snow covered Bear Tooth mountains in the background.  Amazingly they do not use guardian dogs at this place.

What A Drive

The weather warmed up here in Montana, and within a day and a half all the snow was gone.  Back at home it will take another month before the snow leaves.

The tidy flock of Katahdin sheep were let out to graze and the girls headed eastward along the flat and narrow expanse of pasture at the base of the rugged and rocky foothills.

At mid afternoon BJ and I headed out on foot to find the sheep and bring them in.  I almost gave up on walking any further when I spied them.  We were a long way away from the ranch.

These sheep are pets and heavily dogged so they hardly need anymore fetching by dogs.  In the training areas they are near impossible for the dog to drive as they cling so fast to the handler.  I wondered if they might drive better out here in the open when heading for home.

So far BJ has only done short drives and still questions what this is about.  Setting these dogged sheep up to head for home worked beautifully for us.  They were heavy sheep so they didn't flee but they knew where they were going and moved steadily along.  

She hooked them once and I helped her re-set and we were off again.  When they slowed up to stop and eat she powered in and made them move off again.  She did such a fine job!  BJ was born here, and I'm happy that Bill and Janice get to see ones of their pups at work.

Up at the main house, she has made herself right at home, curling up on the window seat, stealing the prime seat of Muster, the resident Kelpie.

Highlight for This Sheep Lover

What a day for this sheep lover.  Bill and I took a drive to see the mine in this area and locate a trail head for a hike at a later date.  Up near the mine is the winter range land for Bighorn Sheep.

And there they were.  Two small flocks grazing there with half a dozen rams in their midst!

Oh I was ecstatic to see these wild sheep for the first time.  We watched from the vehicle for a short spell.  They were completely unconcerned with us.  There were ewes, yearlings and rams, still in their winter coats as they have not started shedding yet.  They grazed and they rested along the roadside, not a worry in the world.  I wanted to sit there with them as I do sometimes with the sheep at home.  Somehow I felt connected.

For this sheep lover, this is one of those moments to hold dear for a long time.

The Wonder of It

While I walked Mic and BJ early this morning I marvelled at the Bear Tooth Mountains in the near distance and the wonder of  how we are here.

Encompassing all the ups and the downs, dogs have always been good to me and for me.  The Kelpies are my connection to Bill and Janice and hence why I am here.  Such a blessing.

A warm chinook came in today.  We walked in the snow covered fields this morning and on the grass by the evening.

It was a full day with regular chores plus putting out a bale for the sheep and one for the horses, a small fence clean up job, and then working a string of dogs all afternoon.

I'm about ready to put my feet up and watch the sunset on this Mountain Range which is a sight I don't get to witness back home.

Small Similarities

The first dog I have started to work while I am here is a young kelpie named Deuce, a solid sized, dark faced dog who is just being started.

Mocha also had a go with me today.  She is just coming back to work after having had a litter of pups.  Mocha has limited experience and was a bit cautious of this new person handling her.

Both Mic and BJ are feeling pretty fresh on the sheep as we are coming off of a couple months rest since at home I don't work the dogs in January and February, as they are such wickedly cold months for us.

Allen tells me that back at home March is starting out in the same cold weather fashion and coming in like a lion.  It is also cold here in this western part of Montana, with a plush layer of snow.  I am still doing chores in full winter clothes.  The local people are anxious for a touch of Spring weather that should be here by now.

Montana Day Five

I am beginning to get the routine of the Burradoo Ranch.  I still have to scrutinize each Kelpie to know which black and tan dog I'm looking at but that will come.

There are deer everywhere and they are far less fleeting than our deer at home, comfortable as these deer seem to be with livestock, traffic and people.

I have BJ and Mic with me and the other morning bald eagles perched in the trees just back of the house and watched the dogs and I walk by.  I'm really wishing there was a way to upload photos.

Yesterday we helped shear 100 head of Rambouillet sheep at the place down the road. It was a trailer shearing station set up and that was neat to see.  I oohed and awed over the fine quality wool and brought a small fleece back with me.

In between ranch chores and traveling the local area and visiting we have worked dogs a few times in between.  BJ and Mic will have a go today if the weather allows.

Allen assures me the dogs and sheep are doing fine back at home.  I only have access to the internet at the main house and when I'm there I'm visiting with Bill and Janice. So touching base is hit or miss.

Popular Posts