Off In A New Direction

Okay let’s do this. 

The idea of mixing my artwork and writing to showcase livestock guardians, stock dogs and the sheep, was stirred up quite some time ago.  Animals and this lifestyle dictate and consume my days though and for the most part this a very good thing.  This lifestyle demands a fair bit of time and attention, yet because I live this lifestyle I have this lifestyle's perspective to share.  This has been the dilemma for several years and despite encouragement and signs that direct me toward pursuing artwork, I have put that off, waiting for the right time.  Then that radio clip I was thinking about on the walk to the bus, happened, and the realization that I’m just waiting for the right time because I’m damn scared to start something new, this artful something in particular, could not be ignored.

Changing this blog into something else doesn’t feel right and in order to pursue an art blog I feel I need a fresh platform.  Knowing I can’t keep up with a second blog I have decided to end this blog and start up the other.  I will remove this blog entirely in a few weeks time. 

Update: I went off to a new blog, hit a snag and came back again, realizing this is worth continuing and it will survive some changes. 

I hope you enjoy all the changes but for anyone who wishes this blog would carry on as is, the Crooked Fences Newsletter is the perfect alternative.  The newsletter is a spin off from the ranching with sheep website.  Each month in the newsletter I recap what took place here on the ranch, share some personal musings and write about life with the dogs.  It’s free and when you subscribe it comes to your inbox each month.  You can subscribe here.

As for the new blog changes - well, it will be mainly artwork, with some photos and essay.  It will be more random, more about being and less about what we’re doing on the ranch.  In my artwork I create what I know so the subject matter will lean heavily towards the dogs, dabble in the sheep, and trickle through my thoughts about this way of life. 

Morning Ritual

The early morning hours and late evening offer a gorgeous cool reprieve from the heat.

This is a slice of my morning ritual.  Most times I head out with the adult dogs for a long bike ride or walk.  I return, drop off the old timers (the two border collies who are not in this photo), add the pups and head out again for a shorter walk that the pups can manage at this age.

It is kind of as peaceful as it looks; I rarely miss a morning walk.   

Sometimes I mix it up and take the pups with everyone right away.  That will happen more as the pups grow up and can keep up.  We don’t always walk the same route.  Sometimes we go down the road, sometimes we head out on a pasture trail. The route I take depends on where the flock is.  We go where the sheep are not.

In the evening I’ll gather the training sheep and sort them to work/train a couple dogs.  Then do a second short walk with everyone.  This is us hanging out in the yard afterward.

All the adults
and the pups too
[Hhmmn... The images look better in iPhoto, uploaded here they look a little blurry].   

Kelpie Trio

They are becoming less ‘BJ’s pups’ and more their own little individual selves. 

We took the pups to the veterinarians today for their second set of vaccinations.  We survived. 

They are twelve weeks old and beginning to look like young dogs with an ample dose of puppy.  Given that we live in such a rural location, they really are like good ole farm dogs in that they don’t see much of the urban world.   We all had quiet a surprise when, while taking a short walk prior to our appointment, a little poofy, doll of a dog, escaped from his owner and came barreling down on us at full speed.  The poof dog got the scare of his life when three puppies, erupted into a ‘what-the-hell’ surprised and panicked volley of barking.  Poof dog ran right through us and under the nearest vehicle and hid.  At the time it was minor chaos for us and the dogs, but looking back it’s a tad funny, although the owner of the poof dog looked very shell shocked and I guess we probably did too.  One of the sagas of when country dog goes to the city. 

It is becoming more apparent that the pups need time apart.  They depend on each other too much and do things accordingly.  I’m just not sure how to handle that as it means doing a lot of things three times over.  It makes me question the choice to hang onto to the three of them until older.  Nonetheless, amidst the challenges are plenty of gorgeous moments of puppy, and this will net me some great (and maybe some tough) learning experiences.  All to be looked forward too.




Day to Day

Allen and I are making good progress on the perimeter fence.  We have more posts pounded in the ground and we’re getting set to roll out another half mile of woven wire.  Allen is the only person I know who works just as hard, or maybe harder, in the heat.

On account of the heat and being busy, the days are melting into one another.  It feels as though one day has gone by when it's been three days since I posted.

I am still keeping Diesel free of his drag object during the day but wearing it at night.  This seems to be working although it is tough to know if the dogs are getting along or if the heat just has them sapped of energy and thus not interested in picking fights with each other.

The ewes graze early in the morning and late into the evening.  We hear them from the house, calling to lambs and talking to each other.  They repeatedly return to the weedy patch and to my amazement are nibbling on the thistles there.  The lambs enjoy a romp on a favourite slough side rock pile whenever the ewes are grazing in this paddock.  [I haven't been out with the camera for a few days.  I dug up a couple file photos for this post.  The scene is very similar today].

Holy Dragonfly

If a lot of insects make you cringe, this post probably isn’t for you.

In this area of the prairie we are plagued with mosquitoes every summer.  We always notice when the Dragonfly's show up and enjoy seeing them (they eat mosquitoes).  But never have I seen them like this. 

This is at 5:30 am on a foggy morning and I’ve just headed out, walking the stock dogs.  There was a light cloud of dragonflies along this tree lined trail, however, I was amazed at the cloud of them that emerged from the trees a moment later, when birds flew through. 

Even though the air was thick with them, they seemed to lift as I walked through, not flying near me, and I was not bothered by them at all.  I don't like a lot of insects but these had plenty of space to be in and I stood, amazed at the sheer number of them.  I have no idea what their presence represents but hopefully it results in less mosquitoes.

A Walk to The Water Bus

The water bus is back in use and there is one thing I often begrudge about the water bus, having to walk whenever I have to move the thing.  I either walk out to the bus, move it and walk home, or I drive out to the bus, move it and walk back to the vehicle I drove out in.

It has been two summers since we last used the water bus but the ewes were drawn to it right away when it showed up on pasture again.  In the past we would move the water bus to the next grazing paddock and the sheep learned to follow, today the sheep are moving as they please and I come along later, taking the bus to wherever they set up camp.

[File photo]

A couple mornings ago I started out alone, on foot, to walk to the water bus.   At the first gate out of the yard I turned around and came back to get a dog, just one - Coyote Mic.  So ingrained is my habit to walk with dogs it felt empty to walk without one now.
I started the walk feeling sorry for myself, and annoyed that I had to take this time for a regular mundane chore of the summer.  My mind meandered to a conversation I listened to the day before on Good Life Project Radio.  A short clip on how the time is never right to make changes in our lives, or do new things, or stop doing the worn out things.... waiting for the right time is very, very seldom a legitimate reason to wait.  More often it’s an excuse not to start.  Ouch.  I’ve been waiting for the right time for a number of things.  Maybe that is why my world seems to have stalled.   Chewing upon this new perspective was niggling at me.  It reminded me of a similar perspective Allen shared with me a few years ago:  There is always enough time.  It’s how we choose to empty it or overfill it, that gets our knickers in a knot.

Glancing up from my private mental conversation, there was the bus, just in front of me.  Now this walk wasn’t long enough and my mornings work was less of an annoyance.  I emptied the water tub, loaded it in the back, collected filling hoses and the mineral tub, and drove off to catch up with the sheep.  I’d refill from a wetland once there.  Having played catch with the water I scooped from the tub to empty it, a very wet Coyote Mic rode beside me.

BJ's Trio

A bit of the Kelpie action around here lately.

Prim and BlackJack check out a bone, BJ's wrestles with Speed
Correcting Prim
The boys wrestling
Coyote Mic gets in on the action too
 I think this is the two boys again (I took many photos and lost track)

Guardian of The Day

By 8 AM the ewes are grazing their way to the shade which means the days are hot.  The guardian dogs regularly cool themselves off by wading into the sloughs.  I couldn’t find Oakley yesterday morning.  In the evening I could hear his constant, higher pitched bark which he does when he’s away from the sheep and can’t get back in.  Given that he was sounding a call, he was easy to locate, and he was on the wrong side of the woven wire fence - with a lamb.   There was no gate close by and lifting him over a four foot fence was not going to be doable by me alone.  Besides that I had to catch a lamb in the open which wasn’t likely to happen either. 

I went home and picked up Cajun, then drove all the way around to pick up Oakley who was eager to hop in the truck.  The lamb was staying right with him and almost followed him right to my feet however I was next to the truck and Cajun was there.  The smart lamb had second thoughts and bolted.  Cajun was more than willing to oblige and catch the little gaffer who wasn’t so little when I had to carry him back to the truck. 

Thank goodness that lamb stayed with Oakley.  The pasture they were in is thick with tall grass and I never would have noticed a lamb out there especially since I had no reason to expect one to be there.  Lily was out the day before this but put herself back in.  I think the dogs and lamb were slipping through a gate that doesn’t close tight to the brace post.  This morning I headed out with an extra piece of lumber to fill the gap so all should be secure again.

Still Felting

I have not posted artwork for a long time but I am still stepping into the art room on a regular basis.  I have a couple sketches underway plus this needle felted piece.

I was eager to put to use that stash of colorful wool gifted to me from a friend in Montana and for some reason kept thinking of the four seasons.  An idea of sheep passing through the seasons began to form.  It started out like this.

I don't normally do my sketches for needle felting this way so this whole process is new.  This piece is a long, narrow one and in my head I was after a certain scene, or layout.  I drew and cut out the shapes of sheep and lambs and this way I could position and rearrange without re-drawing each time.  And it did take a few times to get something I was pleased with.

Once I had a rough idea of the layout I put the wool down but nothing has been felted yet.  The background fabric (100% wool) was changed part way through.  I switched from the neutral tan to a vibrant, teal colored fabric.  

Isn't it neat how they're floating on the wool...

It sat like this for a few days and I'd fuss with it, then when I felt okay with it I started felting, lightly doing the background to start with and then getting some loose detail of each sheep in place.  This is where it's at.  I think it will end up being a table runner or perhaps a banner style wall hanging.

Quiet Days

There is definitely an empty feel when we drive out to pasture and Lady is not there but I also feel a space of relief because upon the first few trips out to pasture since her death I still feel okay about the choice we made.   Thus far, I have shared my journey with a fair number of dogs and thus have experienced the loss of a fair number too.  How the death of dogs impacts me is perplexing.  Some turn me right upside down and some quietly seep out, just as they came in. The death of Lady is a quiet one.

Being down to four dogs out on pasture creates some incentive to get the woven wire perimeter fence finished.  A new and more secure perimeter fence will ease the job for the dogs.  I have not made any progress on convincing Zeus to be the fifth dog out there.  He returns to the rams every time. 

Diesel is one of the four dogs we have out on pasture which is still a bit of a concern since he tends to push other dogs around.  He has been wearing a drag object for the last while to prevent him causing too much trouble.  This morning I removed the drag, deciding to leave it off for the day, when life on pasture is low key and all the animals hunker down out of the summer heat.   I’ll put it back on for the night time as that’s typically when other animals are afoot and things get more exciting for the dogs.

Otherwise, the lambs are growing well and for the next while it looks like a pretty low key summer here with the usual routine of sheep and dogs.  I am not doing the usual moving of portable electranet fencing this summer which I'm thankful for (I don't miss that!).  I will be rolling out some wire fencing again, doing a lot of stock dog work and hopefully quite a bit of  work in the art studio as well. 

The little pups are becoming a handful, friends are visiting on an almost weekly basis to work stock dogs, and Allen and I have been convinced to host the fall sheep camp once more, so there is that too prepare for and look forward to. 

One Less Lady Among Us

Today was a tough but not unexpected day.  Lady seemed tired this past week; like she just wanted to rest.  The medications were not having much impact anymore and only serving to keep her here for our sake.  We knew it was time and made the appointment at the beginning of the week. 

Allen and I will certainly notice her absence and I am curious if and how the remaining guardian dogs will notice it.  Lily is the sole female now and seems poised to step into that role.  We are not in search of any replacement guardian dogs or pups just yet.   We have had a fair share of trauma's and tough losses this past year and a half and are not ready to add guardian dogs.  Besides that, the three Kelpie puppies and an unexpected adult stock dog, dropped here for training, have me swamped and feeling overwhelmed with dogs at the moment.  I can not add another new dog right now.   

We will sit tight and see how the five guardian dogs do.  Four are with the flock and we are trying to convince Zeus to join them, but so far he is still convinced he must be with the rams. 

Tomorrow morning's check of the flock will definitely have a spot of emptiness to it.

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