Foggy Softness

I’m procrastinating the writing of my Crooked Fences newsletter, mostly because since coming home from Montana I have a lot of things I can’t figure out how to say.  So it’s a quick post tonight with a few photos of a gorgeous foggy morning doing chores.

The stock dogs and I went out for our walk before chore time and I had the camera along then, hoping for some kelpies in the fog photos, and knew I would take the camera with when I headed out for chores too.  It’s not often that I take the good camera when I do chores because room on the small tractor is limited (this camera needs a backpack) and there is dust.  Yet fog lends such a soft look to photos and it’s challenging to get contrast, so I had to try.  I’m glad I did, the string of foggy sheep photos that resulted from a mornings effort are very rewarding.

Lily leads the way 

There you are girls

Forever curious

Lined up on the hay

Kelpies, Cattle Dogs and Cows

My stay at the last place in Montana was a short one but enough to catch up with the wonderful friends who own the place. Allen and I have gotten to know them through the dogs.

The landscape here is gorgeous rolling Montana hills with timber rather than the rim rock found closer to the mountains.  There is abundant antelope, sandhill crane and gopher populations, and there are Kelpies, Cattle Dogs, and cows instead of sheep.  In fact, there are a lot of cows here - about 700 head and they are just at the tail end of calving.

I noted a few similar attributes between a couple of these dogs and my dog Cajun and was pleasantly surprised with watching them.  I got to see Tanner at work and help out a little bit.  Tanner is the cream fellow in the above photo whom I know well because I raised him as a pup and then later he spent a summer with me.

I'm relying on more photos tonight as I’m short on words.  Yesterday was a long day of traveling home, and today, sinking into the routine of chores for animals I know well, and catching up with all things left to the wayside while one is away for a month.

The resident Cattle Dog, Gus

Whirlwind Interruption

Going to water

While I fully intended to blog the last couple days, having a wee social life while I am here, plus preparing to leave, created a whirlwind of interruption in computer time.  

I headed out from Burradoo this morning and this time leaving stirred up a host of feelings am not sure what to make of yet.  Each year it is increasingly tougher to leave the dogs and the place.

I am not headed for home just yet though.  Tonight I am at another ranch in NorthWest Montana, visiting with more kelpies and company.  I had a wonderful sunny afternoon with the host, taking dogs for a long walk across just a tiny portion of this land and then a couple hours to explore and take photographs.  And I did plenty of that, however, we will both have to wait to see any of them because  sleep is sorely needed after a morning of driving and a full afternoon of hiking.

p.s.  I posted a short series of the flock in the top photo going to water on Facebook. 

p.p.s. the lgd in the last post is Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Komondor cross.

Unusual LGD

There is new guardian dog at the neighbours, just up the road from here.  After getting permission to be there I took a drive to see if I could get some photos.  I’ve visited a few flocks and several guardian dogs on my trips here but have not yet come across any that look like this fellow.

It was mid afternoon and I woke him from a sound sleep. He was very wary and wasn’t about to let me anywhere close to him.  I don’t know what breeds he is comprised of; I’d take a wild guess that he has a white breed and perhaps Anatolian or Mastiff and maybe Komondor.

Trying to get better photos only succeeding in pushing him further back and off his sheep.  I let him be and took a few photos of some of the members of his flock instead.

Almost Like Home

The sheep got lazier and lazier about moving out to pasture and back so I started using a dog to help them along.  I use either Muster or Drover (two of the Kelpies here at Burradoo) to take sheep out to the day pasture each morning and Gibson gets the pleasure of taking them back to the night corral. This is Gibb moving the group across the bridge and heading through the kennel yard.

We’re bringing the sheep in a little early to sort a group and work a few dogs. 

Holding at the gate, while I take pictures

I worked Gibson a bit, then started with BlackJack and moved on to Nugget and Deuce, two younger dogs Bill asked me to work a bit while here. A pretty easy and relaxed time was had by all, and I felt very pleased with the dogs and myself.  If only working them went that smoothly every time; we might be champions by now :-)  

Sheep, Big Ones

Look at what I spent time watching.  An hour or more of photographing flew by like nothing.  I am so taken with these beasts, perhaps because they are sheep, they are wild and I don't get to see them where I live.

Bighorn Sheep

Their winter grazing grounds is in the lower elevation of the Custer National Forest which butts up against a mining site.  I have traveled up here before and not seen a single sheep, this time I saw two bands.

Shearing and Scratching

The day was sunny, warm and windy. The sheep day pasture is just out front of the house so we can watch sheep from the deck. I took advantage of it though and worked BlackJack and Gibson. It’s a large pasture space and we couldn’t work the sheep too long in the warmer temperatures. The dogs felt the heat too and headed to the creek afterward for a swim.

Yesterday was a full day on my feet with chores on either end and in the middle helping at a shearing day for a large flock of Rambouliett sheep.  It was a busy pace all day long and I wasn’t shearing or even hosting shearing :-)  All I managed was a quick photo at the end before the last sheep travelled over the hill to the feed.

Today the tiredness carried over so I took some time off my feet to do some artwork.  I just brought along a couple scratchboards, enough to keep me busy while I’m here and simple enough to pack because not a lot of art supplies are required.

I’ve got two on the go right now.  The first is very interesting to work on.  I’ve titled it The Shed’s and The Dead’s.  On large tracts of rangeland you continually find antler sheds and skulls.  This particular pile of antlers and skulls sits in front of the guest cabin here.

The second piece is another experiment with figuring out how to scratch the texture of wool.  I’m working from an old and rather poor quality photograph so detail is sparse.  This is a very early stage. The dusty look is from chalk, used for the line drawing. 

Burradoo Sheep and Dogs II

This is a sheep scene very different from what I’m familiar with at home.  With the snow gone, these pets are being moved out to pasture for the daytime and returned to the corral area for the night.  One hardly needs a stock dog to move them, they’re so willing to follow and return at night for their treat of corn.  No guardian dogs. 

This is a small flock of 37 sheep kept primarily for enjoyment and used to start young stock dogs and train older ones.

Burradoo ranch is equipped with gorgeous and very functional kennels which eases the task of looking after numerous dogs (it is a dream kennel).  The main kennel is a large building with ten indoor/outdoor runs.  It has an indoor space complete with couch (for special visits and dog snuggling), double sinks and cupboard space.  You can access every kennel both from the inside and the outside.  Photos of dogs cover the walls and a couple of my photos are pinned up here.  There is a second kennel building with five large indoor kennels and with full veterinary clinic on the side, with sink, exam table, bathroom, laundry - the works.  Dogs in heat or with puppies are housed here.  You can scroll through photos at the Burradoo website  (Hover your curser and you'll get a brief explanation with the photos).

All the dogs are housed in indoor/outdoor kennels overnight.  In the morning they are taken out for a run, then turned into one of three large exercise yards for the day.  Kennels get cleaned and hosed down every day.  In the late evening the dogs are let loose from the exercise yards and return to the kennels where they’re fed.  After eating they have a second short run, this one just to allow them to do their business, then return to kennels for the night.

During the grazing season the dogs are put to work, going along to mountain grazing allotments where large herds of cattle are put for summer grazing.  Rancher and dogs cover miles of ground checking on cattle.  This is done on horseback.  Later in the summer a large band of sheep moves onto the ranch land here in the valley.  There are no guardian dogs with this flock so Bill and Janice, and the Kelpies, take over the task of bringing the flock to the corrals for safe keeping every night.   The dogs get lots of work at this time.

It is a part time job to keep up with numerous stock dogs.  Since my dogs at home play two distinct roles (stock and guardian) and hence live seperately, it never feels like this does.  The high energy here takes some getting used to.

Photo taken two days ago; snow melted off yesterday

Burradoo Dogs

There have been a few losses at Burradoo this past year and some of the dogs I got to know well are not here this year.  Stubborn and headstrong as this old-timer is, I’m glad to have another stay with him.  He remains one of my favourite working Kelpies. Becker is father to BJ/grandfather to BlackJack.

Since I’m sharing a favourite Kelpie I have to share a favourite Border Collie.  This is Bill and I’ve had my eye on him since I first worked him a few years back.  I offered to buy him but no luck, he is too well loved and appreciated right here where he is. :-)

For the most part the ranch dogs listen well, I’m able to take the dogs and work them on sheep etc.  Dogs have a great sense who is in their midst and wether one is worth listening to or not and they gauge this continually, hence you’ll be worth listening too as long as you’re in the groove and worthy.   As soon as you’re out of touch they brush you off a bit or, in the case of some individuals, brush you off completely.  Often dogs you don’t live with listen better initially because you don’t know one another so both parties tend to be more on the ball.  The real test comes a few days in when you begin to slack and take for granted that they’ll listen.

The one situation I don’t have much sway on is the din in the morning when I arrive at the kennel area and the dogs know a run is about to begin.  Getting complete calm would take a constant commitment to stay on top of, and with a group of dogs I won’t change this behaviour in the couple weeks that I’m here, besides it’s not my pack of dogs to change, but I still ask it while I’m here :-)

While I bring dogs with me, it’s not my goal to throw them into the mix here.  I’m here to look after everyone and there are many dynamics in a pack of dogs that live together plus there are also females in heat at the moment so tossing two strange male dogs into the group isn’t needed in my mind.   There’s also a lot of energy flying around in a pack of active stock dogs.   I always have a couple of the ranch dogs up at the house and they and my dogs mingle as we come and go and sometimes go for runs together.  All that said, if I were to live here I’d get my dogs familiar with the whole pack as soon as possible.

I enjoy your questions and comments and I’ll touch on the sheep and the feeding routine in the next post.

Montana Day Four

I left SK just prior to a nasty blizzard blowing in there. I reached my destination in Montana and while there was a light skiff of snow it was soon gone.

This was on day two, sunny but cool and windy. On each of my stays here I hike up to the top of the rim rock. I just love it up there, such a vast space of rugged and gnarled landscape. All the species that find a way to grow in this landscape surely deserve a great amount of respect.

This is the scene today. I took over the crew of dogs and did my first run with the pack this morning in heavy snow and tonight as I write it is still snowing.  All the dogs were agreeable and quite respectful today, sensing the change in personnel and taking a bit to sort me out before trying any shenanigans they're bound to try on me at some point.

I'm repeatedly counting dogs during, and when we return from a run, to be sure I have everyone accounted for.  The photos only capture some of the group of fourteen. It's only one more dog than I have at home but with over half of my dogs being guardian dogs they don't join in on runs with my stock dogs. 

Montana Note

I have arrived and settled into my accommodations in Montana. The internet access at the guest house is non-existent so I’ll touch base from elsewhere as I’m able.

Life at Burradoo is as regular and familiar as ever, just with fewer dogs this year.  I brought Gibson and BlackJack with me as both like to travel and are easy to have along.

We unexpectedly jumped right into the Montana wildlife scene on our first morning walk when Gibson and Jack herded a mule deer fawn into the creek. Gibson called off, young Jack - not so much.  Both he and the fawn were in the creek and it took a few minutes to convince him to leave the little critter alone.  Once the dogs were out of the way Bill and I returned to the find the fawn but it had moved on.

We worked a few Kelpies on sheep this morning and then moved the flock to the day pasture for grazing. A nice, easy task to start off with.  I expect to work a few dogs over the next few weeks that I’m here. 

With meeting and greeting the familiar faces I know here and catching up on the chore list, I haven’t uploaded photos from the camera but I will do so shortly.  Meanwhile if you'd like to take a peak at where I'm at you can hop back to some of last years posts starting around this one: coyote calls. 

In The Sun's Rays

A calm winter evening, it’s beauty heightened by the fact that it is winter; it would be remiss to take a gorgeous evening for granted during the winter season.

The ewes seem decently content. Most evenings they have returned to the communal area before dark and many will already be settled and chewing cud.

I don't feel quite as content but have cause.  I am leaving next week, heading to Montana for a visit and to take care of Burradoo Ranch once again. I’m busy with preparations at home so that life is as easy care as it can be for Allen who will take care of things while I’m away.

I do not have specific plans for my time in Montana, just one side trip to stop by and visit with Tanner and company, Tanner is the cream Kelpie who was here last summer.   Otherwise I’ll be busy with all the dogs of Burradoo and exploring the land.  I’ll be taking two dogs with me (and my camera and laptop ...).  

Grazing Move

Small celebration today - the sheep moved into the native prairie to graze.  I thought they might have been over there yesterday but of course when I went out for the evening chores they had all returned to where I had rolled out hay.  Today I was out in the afternoon and there they were, rooting in the native prairie.  Remarkably I had a phone with me so I took a couple photos as proof for Allen.

I’ve been wishing and wanting the sheep to graze there as the prairie needs some disturbance of its heavy thatch.  They have access to an open milk vetch pasture and access to this native prairie pasture.  The area they bed down in is roughly between the two pastures so each morn they get up and chose where to go.  To date they’ve been heading to the milk vetch pasture.

This piece of pasture also has plenty of bush which cuts it up and sheep can get separated easily.  It does make me a tad nervous that they’re in this ‘wilder’ space but still pleased.

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