Flock Work, A Rare Video

Okay, I don't do this very often and it’s taken some doing but I managed to upload a few videos I took while moving the flock last week.  They're phone videos and my phone is a few years old so the quality is pretty low key. 

The first video is to give an idea of the area we’re in and what the Kelpie dogs do on a regular basis.  We’re about to start the gather of the flock; you can see a few sheep off on the right side. I want the dogs to go over the hills in search of more.   I have two dogs with me and am on foot.  Allen has two dogs with him and he is on the Ranger.  This is the send of the first dog, Cajun.  A moment later I send the second dog, BJ (her video isn't uploaded yet).  BJ works tighter and together she and I will begin moving sheep nearest us. Cajun is on his own, I trust him to search for and find sheep. 

A short time later we have the flock loosely bunched.  I’ve met up with Allen and Cajun is now with him.  BJ and I are still working and Coyote Mic has just been put on the ground.  This next video isn’t about the stock dog work but watch how Mic skirts the six guardian dogs she encounters.  Just a few minutes prior to this BJ met the guardian dogs as we approached the gathered flock.  Her approach to keeping the peace was to go soft for a few moments while passing the guardians and then go back to work (that video hasn't uploaded yet either).  Mic just gets around them as quick as she can, giving the guardians little time to worry about her.  BJ is on the far right moving up that wing, Mic starts out in the centre to pick up that ewe and lamb, then she'll work the left wing. Things are moving quite quickly right now, a little too quickly actually. 

Coyote Mic and BJ are still at work, I've caught up and the ewes have just discovered the gate is open for them and have picked up speed on their own account.  BJ and Mic are keeping everyone up at the rear. Listen to this one with your sound on, moving a large flock of ewes and lambs is a noisy affair.  It's unlikely the stock dogs will hear a command, they might hear a whistle. 

This move was about ¾ of a mile to the yard where we penned the flock for the night.  That video also not uploaded yet.

Solo Photo(s)

While watching the ewes graze yesterday morning.  Meadow brome seed heads and thistle plants are the fan favourites right now.  

She's in mid bite with a mouthful of seed, watching me watching her

She was snatching them up so quickly I was lucky to catch her

I wonder if it takes a bit to harden their lips to thistle each season

The Fibre Show, On The Other Side

So I came through the weekend of the fibre showcase feeling stretched as expected but also feeling pleasantly surprised and very encouraged.  

At first light it would seem that a sheep show and fibre showcase go hand in hand but that is not the case here.  It's only a small number of sheep producers in our province who have any care for the fibre their animals produce. Due to the low cost paid to the producer for wool, wool has taken on a perception of being a necessary cost of production that is never recovered, especially by large flock owners.  So around here, if you want to know about wool you talk with a fibre enthusiast. 

In this vein it was a pleasure to visit with the dozen other fibre lovers who came out to be part of the event by way of demonstrations and selling fibre wares.  We had weaving, spinning (wheel and drop spindle), knitting, felting (wet and dry), locker rug hooking, yarns, rovings…. It was a group of good and earthly people, with everyone encouraging each other’s success with that underlying knowledge that your success heightens theirs and vice versa.   

Sold (I needed half a dozen more of this popular piece) 
In terms of sales I did very well, hence being pleasantly surprised, but the other occurrence that startled me in an unexpected way was the response and feedback to the felting work whether people were purchasing or not.  Photographs are the only way I have of sharing my work online but seeing them for real seemed to draw people in.  People were curious and amazed; even the men were stopping by to have a look. 

I owe huge thanks to the ladies who took a chance and came out to be a part of this tidy showcase of fibre (I'm not sure they want their names published so I'll leave it there; they know who they are).  Collectively we did a fantastic job of displaying and promoting fibre, and of respecting each others work while we did so.  And I can’t forget my other ladies, who produce the fibre and set me on this path to begin with.

Taken last evening while bringing the flock home for this morning's job of sorting a couple ram lambs out.  There are at least a couple guardian dogs in there somewhere and Coyote Mic and BJ are the two kelpies in the rear.

BlackJack Rides Along

Ranch work is solitary so it frequently appeals to me to have a dog along.  Some days there isn’t much that we do in terms of working sheep but on those days we’re company for each other nonetheless.  More often though there are little bits and pieces to fill an evening with and these little bits and pieces that happen daily make life with these dogs that much richer.  

Take yesterday evening.  I took BlackJack along and first we stopped by the orphan lambs and did some training on them.  He’s definitely a lamb hunter but what I’ve been able to teach him while working lambs has been worth it.  

Afterward I always give BlackJack a squirt from the milk bottle (I’m only feeding milk to one of the orphan lambs so am using a bottle and not a milk pail).  

From there we drove out to pasture.  We did a short stretch of driving on ewes and lambs (the dog working the livestock at the rear; driving them forward). Everywhere you look there are ewes and lambs so the opportunity is all set up for us and it need only be a few moments at a time when a dog is learning. 

Next we made our way to the water bus. It needed to be refilled which meant pailing out the water in the tub trough first.  My other dog, Coyote Mic, taught BlackJack the joy of chasing water spray.  He chased water, I laughed at his craziness.  

Where I go, he goes, so after that he came along for another ride to refill the bus and then scouted for sheep while I hooked the trough and float back up again.  A sweet and comfortable evening; one woman, one dog. No fan fare, no one else to know about it.  Nothing else in the way, all worries momentarily forgotten because of the enjoyment of time, and place, and tasks done with a dog.

Fibre Stretches Me Out of My Comfort Zone

This upcoming weekend I head to a fibre show about an hour away.  It is a small fibre show just in its second year but we’ve picked up a few more artisans between the first year and this one.  I expect to meet up with a dozen fibre artisans and look forward to the shared ideas. 

Sometimes I catch myself feeling very torn, on one hand feeling that fibre and artwork have little to offer except that I like to do them so I do, but always as a secondary hobby.   On the other hand feeling like the art and the subject are an essential ingredient that adds perspective and without them I would lose my way, and so maybe they should have a front and centre role.  

I flip flop like this all the time but somehow continue to create either way, trying to find my way and all the while feeling very shy and tentative.  Going to a face-to-face, public fibre show will stretch my comfort zone.  This is one of the pieces I’ll pack up and take with me to display.  

Young Innocence
8 x 10 needle felted wool. Gallery wrapped over a canvas frame and ready to hang.

Kelpie String

When I walked past this dog for the first time, I did a double take because she looked so much like my dog Cajun.  For a split second my mind had to sort out the dog and the place.  That was back in March on my first 2017 trip to Montana.  Since then I’ve snooped into her history and sure enough there is a very probable connection.  

Her son, the red and tan dog below, bears the same self-important, slightly conceited look that both his mother and Cajun wear. His attitude seems to match it to a tee.

Kelpie Ike is a retired from work and hangs out at the ranch house throughout the day and Jill is the up and comer at 11 months of age. Jill and my dog BlackJack share some same dogs in their pedigree as well.

Ike waiting for company to join him on the porch


Over at the Burradoo ranch things were a little more chaotic with three new youngsters to catch up with.  All these characters are under a year of age and it took some doing to catch any still photos of them. 

This fellow came over from Australia 

Given how smoking hot it was we didn't put any dogs on livestock and I wasn't hanging around long enough to wait for cooler days. I thoroughly appreciate the connections to others who use their dogs for work and enjoy keeping tabs on these working dogs and hearing/seeing what skill sets they have. Dogs that are above average and beyond are getting tougher to find.  While there is zero plans to add more dogs to our pack anytime soon one can still do some legwork (i.e. dream) for the day when we’ll need to.  

Rested and Returned

I had a sufficiently restful time in Montana, not hurrying and not needing to be anywhere specific but choosing to visit the Miller ranch and then the Burradoo ranch; places, people and Kelpie dogs I know and love.  In between the two ranches I traveled the Lamar Valley and the Road to the Sun, going across the Bear Tooth pass. I did not take any of my dogs with me on this trip but had a good idea that I would find myself in the company of dogs nonetheless.  

Upon having a morning to myself on one of my first days at the Miller ranch, I collected Tanner (the fellow in the above photo) and went hiking up a long open draw in the hills.  While up there I took photos and I sat still, doing little else but pondering, Tanner content to lie nearby and watch for antelope and gophers.  Spread out in front of us is the thousands of acres that make up this ranch where this kelpie dog lives and works.  

The cattle have been moved to the lower grazing pastures at the base of the distant dark hills

How striking that the connection to this place and these people is the result of a dog.  And that I am welcomed with such openness and mutual understanding born out of a shared, soul-deep respect for animal and land that I can collect said dog as though he were my own, go for a hike across their land and feel so at ease with it all. 

I’ve long believed people have purposes but now I think places have a purpose as well and the land won’t settle until the people it needs show up to help serve its purpose.  When you visit places where the people and the place are aligned in their collective purpose you know you are in the midst of a special wonder. It tightens your breath a tad to be there among it all, and it strikes you in your heart to have to leave it behind.  No matter the duration, I think if a vacation does that, it is a vacation well spent. 

Elk resting and grazing near the ranch yard

One of several deer and fawns spotted along the way, reminding me so much of sheep

Last Minute Trip

Sorry to have dropped off from the blog.  I headed to the southwest corner of SK to visit with a friend  who was doing a clinic.  From there I decided to keep going south and do another trip into Montana.  I'm writing this from the porch of a ranch guest house after an incredible morning hiking in the hills with a resident kelpie dog, Tanner.  If I do nothing else in life but explore grassland hills with a dog or two it will have been a good life.  I am at home with these two beings.

There is a curious gopher nearby, whistling away at my presence in his space. Hayfields in the foreground with timber covered hills beyond - the hills explored this morning.  The only computer I have is my iPad as I don't wish to spend much time on the computer while I'm here.  Sharing photos from the camera will have to wait and future posts may be sporadic. We will catch up soon, until then I will be exploring and visiting where ever it strikes my fancy to go.

A Photo of Conversation

I took this photo on a calm evening during lambing.  I was playing with settings on the camera and and while it's a bit of an odd backdrop, it works, and I like the conversation that is happening, which I didn't know I captured.

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