Visitor Interlude

Perhaps because I am a person who walks the prairie and sits on stones and ponders the way of things, I am also a person who is always asking “is this the way forward, am I on a purposeful track?”  Well, every once in a while there comes a day that duly shouts the answer. 

I made a trip to town to pick up felting artwork that was in the local art gallery for a showing during May.  Conversations lead to the possibility of a solo show at a later date, and an ask for a display a few pieces of my felting at a gallery and gift shop at the nearby resort town.  As a sideline, because that’s how visits go, it also netted a conversation on pros and cons of self publishing a book.  

Feeling very intrigued I hastened my way home and along the drive passed a silver car, which, unbeknownst to me, contained visitors who were headed to our place.  A phone call to check on directions revealed that we had just passed each other.  Nancy, Ruth and Mavis were making the trip out to the ranch to look at  fleeces.  The visit was fast but oh so fruitful as we conversed with one another over sheep's wool and deepened our appreciation of fibre, artwork, land and the places we live.  To my sheer delight, Nancy loves to work with natural dyes - there is future collaborations there for sure.
The ladies were soon on their way, with two fleeces and a piece of felted artwork in hand, and after a change of clothes I was back out on pasture, looking over green hills littered with ewes and this years lambs. It is so curious to me that woven throughout the entire day was the thread of every piece and person being connected, and I marvelled at how good it (I) felt.  So my creative path shall continue because this day duly screamed that creativity is one of the pieces that make up this whole of a life. It may just be that creating artwork and sharing written words is a piece of far more importance than I’ve admitted if only because it’s a tad scary to keep up with oneself when the self finally admits to a purpose it cannot deny.   

The Days Saving Grace

It was our turn for cold and wet weather and from the start of the morning yesterday I was sure we were in for a dreary day of lambing all around.  Rain showers during lambing are not much to be concerned about, but colder temperatures and wind, along with rain that doesn’t let up, is trouble. 

Disturbing new lambs in cool, wet weather isn’t necessary so I elected to leave them alone even though it puts me behind with tagging and ringing.  One can always catch lambs at a later date, even if you have to change your process to do so, but new lambs have only a limited time to get a belly full of warm milk and settled next to mom for warmth.  As I traveled the pasture I could see ewes and lambs had done just that, minus one lamb who had not.  Much better to leave them alone then. 

The days saving grace was the rain was light, the temps stayed above zero and we had a few hours of sunshine reprieve mid afternoon.  Just what young lambs born into this day needed.  I took this next photo because the sunshine was so wonderful and needed, I did not pay any attention to the church in the background as it’s a couple miles away as the crow flies, more than three miles by trail and road.  I did not even see the church while taking photos so it was a surprise to see the church in the photo on the computer - the days saving grace indeed.  

Two lambs were brought in to the milk pail, and two died.  It feels like we got through by the skin of our teeth but skin of our teeth or no it’s a welcome and satisfying feeling.  The wind remains with us, however, this evening was a golden one, full of brilliant sunshine and running lambs. 

Weighing the Odds

I’m still here, there are lambs popping up all over, and with fitting in another half mile of fencing work and looking after a handful of bottle lambs the days have been very full. 

The grass is slow growing this Spring so the ewes are eating faster than the previous grazed piece of lambing pasture recovers.  Moving them forward off the lambing pasture means they get better grass while the other paddock rests.

The next paddock forward is a full quarter section in size with an old but useless cross fence dividing it.  Allen decided we should get the next half mile of new fencing up so the ewes would still be on a smaller parcel of land for the sake of lambing, and there is no deterring Allen once he decides on a project for the day. (This way the flock is on a very manageable 80 acres rather then 160).  In hindsight perhaps Allen knew something without knowing he knew it, because windy, wet weather has also arrived and this next piece of pasture has a long stretch of bush to shelter in. 

I opened the gate yesterday and left it for the ewes to find on their own and follow the greener grass to the next piece, which they did about mid afternoon. Plenty of ewes with newer lambs hung back meaning the flock is spread out for 24 hours or so, increasing the predator risk and work for the guardian dogs.  I still didn’t think it was worth pushing them to travel too soon, as they have access to shelter as well if needed.  That’s kinda of how it feels a lot of the time during pasture lambing, you’re always weighing the odds of weather and predator and deciding which to take a chance with that day.  Hopefully you come out on the winning side.

Ode to Pasture Lambing Needle Felted

If you recall from a couple posts back I was working on a piece of felting.  Even though lambing time is busy I still steal time in the early hours of the morning for artwork and journaling; it’s just less time than can be had during winter.  Given that I don’t know what the day will bring out on pasture this morning spell is fast becoming my favourite part of the day (provided I don’t get sucked into face booking). 

Ode to Pasture Lambing

I wanted to do this piece as a sentiment for all those who pasture lamb (they’re aren’t many of us who do in our province as intensive operations and jug lambing become the norm). 

It’s roughly 10 x 12 inches. I like that you see what it is but are drawn in to looking further and your eye travels the piece to take it in.  It's showing a tad darker here than it is for real. I'll be sharing more progress photos on Facebook - but that will have to wait for tomorrow.  Sleep is needed. 

Triplet Quandary

The first set of triplets arrived a few days ago. Triplets are a bit of a quandary when pasture lambing as we feel the excitement of seeing triplets and yet we know the odds and what triplets mean.  We don’t get many sets, usually just a few each year; this isn’t a prolific flock and we don’t manage for it to be so. 

If there is another ewe lambing I’ll risk stealing a triplet and pawning it off but I have to be sure the second ewe only has a single and that she has lambed recently enough the two babes are equally fresh to her so that she can be convinced both are hers. 

This early in lambing the odds are slim, and indeed when these three were born there was no alternative.  I left all three with the ewe.  I came across them today and they’re doing alright.  There is always one lamb that is smaller and that’s the case here but mom is great with knowing she has three lambs and keeping them near and keeping them fed.  A small success thus far and that's what we build on.

Lambing Outtakes

At just a couple days old they can sure get around.  Amazing little gaffers really.  I don't think I ever do lambing time justice in the blog; there is so much to share but the days are so full it all runs together by the evening and my mind struggles to sort it out after a long day out doors.

When pasture lambing you learn pretty quick when to catch lambs and when to leave well enough alone and try later.  Too young and you'll put mom off the lambs, too old and you'll be sprinting to catch and scare half the flock.  You want a nice, calm catch and you want mom to know where her lambs are.  Today was a full day of new lambs.  A few ewes snorted and pressed my arms/hands while I held their lambs which sounds kind enough knowing they want their lambs, but momma ewes aren't being sweet about it, so I'm wary of them.  

I thought I could take my iPod shuffle and listen to music while I checked lambs but that only lasted one try.  Turns out I rely a good deal on listening to the ewes while I work, their sounds tell me where they are and what they might be up to and how panicked they're getting.  I am surprised by how much I rely on and know about the sounds of sheep.  I suppose it's a habit born of experience but never given thought to.  It's a skill I'm pleased to have honed.

Art and Writing As Downtime

I’m working on turning this scene into a piece of felted art. It is suited to lambing time and to Mother’s day today.  

I still make time for artwork and for writing, even if just for a stitch here and there. Those two activities are my down time and take me off my feet for a bit which is a good thing because I tend to go steady otherwise.  They also pull my mind away from the useless nitpicking it wants to do at this time. 

We're in the midst of ugly weather for lambing but are hopeful we're on the tail end of it.  Warmth and sunshine will be stellar.  The pace of lambing is still slow, and we've only lost one lamb though, a testament to the good mothering of the ewes.

Lambing Commences

…. and we’re underway.  Ten lambs born on this first day of lambing.  If I wasn’t ready for lambing before I need to be now.   

The ewes have moved to the lambing pasture (one quarter section, divided into two halves). Two portable water stations are being readied to move out.  The leg crook lies in the back of the ranger where it will be for the next six weeks (I use a leg crook to catch lambs).  I have tags for the female lambs, and paint spray for the males.  My lambing backpack contains the needed supplies (tags, tagger, castrating rings, elastrator tool, one can of paint marker, notebook, gloves (in case), rubber lamb puller, and dissection kit. 

This year I’ll be doing set stock lambing. I’m not doing drift lambing because I’m so done with handling electranetting and we can’t keep a good charge on it to make it useful.  So set stocking it is. With two paddocks plus pasture space, I’ll be able to shift groups out and hopefully keep the overflow to a minimum.  

The Kelpies have been doing a fair bit of work of late with vaccinating the flock, sorting the cull group, tucking the ewes up at night, sorting wethers from the rams so we have sheep to dog during the summer and so on. With all these tasks accomplished the work throughout lambing will mostly be comprised of training time and helping me when I’m in a bind with a ewe.  

And so we adjust; me, the sheep, the lgd's, the stock dogs.  My days are no longer my own but will cater to the ebb and flow of life and death that happens in a birthing season.  Emotionally, I'll go up and down right along with it, for how can I not, when I have this front row seat.

When You're Very Pregnant

It's good to get off your feet when you can.

The morning check of the ewes is very peaceful right now although this will change any day now.  I'm no more ready for lambing than last time I posted about it.  What will be, will be.

Rising or Not

"A ranch is a massive mix of possibility, potential and purpose and the rancher sits at the intersection of the three and by way of her choices rises up with it, or destroys it. ... "

After the length of winter but before the busy pace of summer, is when I feel deep connection to the land, most in awe of this place and its creatures, and aware of the impacts that will happen because we live here, because we put livestock on it.   

I am aware of the way the land and livestock are linked, the way the ecosystem thrives or shrinks because of what we do. The interplay between the choices we make, what the sheep do, what the dogs do, what the land gives and takes, boggles the mind.  This blog, continued attempts at writing a book, even my artwork stem from this interplay.  The whole of it leaves me feeling very big and very small at the same time. 

The more I witness humanity without nature the more I feel like I’m sitting on a gold mine.  A ranch is a massive mix of possibility, potential and purpose and the rancher sits at the intersection of the three and by way of her choices rises up with it, or destroys it.  Lately I’ve been asking myself if I am indeed rising with it or not. 

LGD artwork

The Babysitter 

Such a typical scene around here lately with two guardians dogs under a year of age.  I couldn't decide on the background, so have left it black for now.  As with all the pieces I share here, it is also for sale.  As for the price, that's always a tough thing to figure so I haven't decided on that either.
11 x 14

We Are About to Burst Into Spring

The tinge of green is emerging and will soon set the season off in all its glory as only the green of new growth can. Every day on our walks at least one of the kelpies stop for a roll in the dry grasses. These are not the rolIs in indescribable yuck (they do those too) but just rolls for the joy of rolling. I always wonder what draws them into it.

For us, this time means lambing is near. Funny thing about that this year, I’ve hardly given it a thought. I have what is needed for the start of lambing and am comfortable with that. I think I’ve crossed a threshold of years with birthing sheep to begin to get comfortable with the knowledge that lambing time is full of uncertainty. Or maybe it’s just the way the year is playing out. Either way beautiful things will happen and ugly things will happen and I will handle both.

A couple ewes have aborted already which is not uncommon given the number of sheep and thus higher chances of that happening. This weekend Allen and I will be vaccinating the ewes. We’re a titch late for any ewes who lamb early but vaccinations are important enough to get done regardless. Vaccinations are the one treatment protocol we do for the whole flock.

Lily in Recovery

Lily was in to the vet last Friday and we return again later this week.  The shoelaces have been replaced with stitches and staples to repair some internal tissue and close the wound.  There is a drain in her leg to allow it to seep.  With the amount of muscle missing there was no hope of repair, that cavity will heal with scar tissue now.    She will not have full potential of that leg but she’ll do just fine with what she does have.  

The healing of the wound is moving in the right direction and we’re keeping infection at bay so far.  She remains at the house with us for further recovery.  

When I took her for a walk this afternoon she headed toward the sheep paddock and prepared to jump the fence.  She’s not able to but in her mind she doesn’t know it yet.   

With Lily off duty we’re trying to convince the other dogs that they can stay on pasture with Oakley, Whiskey and the flock.  We think it’s Lily who drove them away before but are not sure if Whiskey was backing her up.  We have the opportunity to try and find out now. 

Ticks have begun to crawl about so from now on it will be a regular occurrence to check the dogs over.  We will treat them with repellent product if the ticks prove too much to keep up with by hand.

We completed a half mile of new pasture fence this weekend which limits the ewes to grazing on one quarter section.  This will aid in grass management and will ease the work of the guardian dogs.

Popular Posts