Sheep and Dogs Three

We are having no end to water bowl trouble this winter, a sure sign that the two we have need to be replaced. That work cannot happen until the ground  thaws out completely, which is a little ways off yet. Until then we’ll have to manage as best we can which is a bit painful when the temperatures run deep into the minus twenties centigrade. 

The ewes still take to walk about’s around the pastures whenever the weather warms. It seems remarkable to me that they find any appeal to being out there and that they are finding something worth nibbling on. When they venture to the east pasture we have a view of them from the yard and I can step outside of the shop/house and take a photo. This photo is terribly deceiving though. 

By our eyesight that barn is just a wee black dot, and only if you know where to look will you see it, but the camera makes it appear as though it’s in the back of the pasture. I assure you it is not. This next photo is more like what we see when we look out. This photo was taken from the window of my future studio space in the new house. I won’t tire of this view anytime soon. 

Lily, one of our intact females, is in heat so she is (unhappily) confined for the time being. Since returning from the sheep industry symposium I am pondering, in particular, about breeding guardian dogs, and in general, about land, sheep and dogs and the connecting and blending of it all into a way of life that has relevance to one’s Self because there is one thing I take away from every industry meeting I attend; I am not interested in an agriculture that is solely about maximizing production. There are some long and heavy thoughts spinning round in my head so I am thankful to have the sheep, dogs and prairie land to remind me of what I am seeking.  

This is Oakley, watching the horizon for any sign of movement indicating investigation is needed. He doesn't stay there for long before nesting in the hay. The ewes are immediately to his right just out of the plane of the photo. The scene with the sheep in it presents a very different feeling than this solo-dog photo does but I didn't take any photos of it that way.

I’ll be off line for a few days. I am going to take an extended (and spontaneous) weekend trip to visit a good friend I have not seen for many, many months. A friend that needs no pre-explanation of who I am. Another avenue for grounding myself and discovering what it is I really stand for again.

Sheep and Dogs Two

Stopping in for a quick post. The photo is of Zeus, taken earlier in the winter with the eastern morning light just rising. Since we sorted groups of ewes for breeding he has set up shop with the non-breeding cull ewe/replacement ewe lamb group.

Meetings and a sheep industry symposium absorbed much of my time the last few days. The highlight of the event was listening to Louise Liebenberg talk about livestock guardian dogs and ranching with predators

Louise and I (and several other people equally fascinated with what she had to say) had an opportunity to meet one another and visit afterward. As a fellow enthusiast of working dogs this was a real treat and I thoroughly appreciated her take on raising/breeding dogs and her willingness to share. We have very similar ideas on working dogs, and Louise has a depth of knowledge that comes with many years of experience and with breeding her Sarplaninac’s. 

Predator Friendly Ranching is her blog and it is so, so worth checking out. 

Studio View Two

That piece of wool felting that was on the studio table most recently. This is it, right side up this time. 

I nicknamed it The Three Sisters while working on it. It is 16 x 24 inches, needle felted with wool from Clun Forest cross bred sheep, Merino, Romney, and an unknown source. This piece went through four-five re-starts. Original start was a single ewe lying in tall grass and then it became this as I laid the wool out but could not get the grass look I was after. 

Not laying enough fibre down on the first layer came back to haunt me near the end which has happened often. I have no practical reason to be cautious with the fibre, I’m pretty sure I won’t run out here, yet I play cautious every time. Gosh that’s odd. I’ll play with letting that habit go on the next piece. 

Today I rolled the piece up and stored it away for now. That sounds a bit callous but truthfully I need to be done looking at this one because my nature is to keep playing with the details and I think it really needs to stop here. When I pull it out again I’ll see it anew and probably love it again - the perfect time to sell it. 

Sheep and Dog One

There is a satisfying moment after putting feed out for the flock and seeing the ewes busy with eating. Hearing the noises of the ewes shuffling and jostling and watching the guardian dogs claiming the deepest spot of hay to nest in. It is a kind feeling mixed with a bit of relief that feeding went smoothly and an appreciation that we have taken care of a lot of animals for another day. Both of these are the permission to move onto the other parts of our day. There is the same feeling throughout the grazing season but it comes at random moments, rather than with the routine of daily feeding of hay. 

I like to stop and hold onto the moment if I can, even if it lasts only briefly before the next task sweeps it away. I have many photographs that when I look at them I can remember that it was one of those moments of joy I paused for.

Studio View 1

I have decided to take the leap and felt a couple of wool rugs for the upcoming house. I debated the idea given how much work this will be but I think I’ll regret not doing so more than I’ll regret the project when I’m part way through and wondering how I ever thought I could do it. The land, the sheep, the dogs - these are where the art ideas comes from and the creating of that art and writing of words is a huge piece of how I decipher this land and livestock life. Somehow all of that boils down to how befitting it will be to have felted wool rugs, grown by the sheep and made by the hands that live here, to place in the new house. 

I haven’t started felting the rug project yet but I have started washing the wool I'm going to need for it. Meanwhile I am working on other pieces and thought I’d let you in on where all this creative making of things takes place and begin to bridge the gap in sharing of artwork this past year. The rugs (and others) will take shape in my current work space which looks like this.

In the shop-house the only separate room is the mechanical room which is also where the bathroom is and the single, wee kitchen sink. The remaining space is all one big living area. I have this corner of it and I write (both pen on paper style and typing on the laptop) at the small desk against the wall. The felted artwork hanging above are works in progress/near completion. I hang them to have a look at while deciding if they're done or not. 

I needle felt and draw on a drafting table which can be adjusted and angled to alleviate bending over a flat surface. I love this table - it will move with me into the new house.

Yes, the piece of felting on it at the moment is upside down. I always turn my work up side down at some point in the progress of it because doing so changes the perspective which is a helpful thing to be reminded of now and then.  

Enter January 2018

Each new years day I find myself noticing the ordinary occurrences of the day and wishing the year to be filled with more of the same or similar. I can’t recall waking up and intending to do this but rather I discover I’m doing it as I wind through the day. I quite like it. It is as though the ordinary moments have been highlighted, and it just feels okay to notice my world in this way. Maybe it’s a spin off of living a relatively quite life in a rural setting; I’m not sure. Maybe it does’t matter; if I end up in a city life one day I hope I can do the same noticing of ordinary moments on each new years day. 

Here are a few of today's (extra)ordinary moments I wish to have more of in the upcoming year. 

Rising early and sitting in a dark shop-house with one lamp lighting the desk where I write. Allen still asleep and the sounds of a snoring dog nearby. A cozy setting but tough and necessary slugging as I attempt to write a few hundred words that I hope will go into the making of a book one day. A continuation of this would be a great year indeed. 

After sitting at the kitchen table for some time, working on flock records, I stretched out on the couch to relieve a knot in my shoulder. BJ was already nestled in her favourite corner spot. Coyote Mic followed me to the couch and upon my ever so slight indication that she could hop up, nestled in along my side. Peace, warmth and a nap with a dog nets a deep acceptance that the manner in which I love these dogs is okay. 

The main ewe flock traveled from their hay feed over to the edge of the yard today, digging in the snow for who knows what is left of the lawn. We seldom get to watch sheep from our house such is the layout of the yard. I stood at the window, sipping hot tea and watching sheep in the sun and snow. They looked the picture of health, their fleeces tight and the bright sun shining on them. When we see the sheep every day we don’t always see them in this way. 

Bundled up to the n-th degree I hustle outside to catch up with Allen who has already fed the first five guardian dogs. We walk to the next paddock together and with just a few words between us take care the other two dogs and check the last group of animals before dark. Partners in creating this life, partners in living it.  

I powered through a needle felting piece that went through four restarts. Another wintery hour spent creating - creating with wool to boot. There is such a soft yet urgent synergy in creating with wool that I cannot explain and being able to create  as a means to share is something that is still quite extraordinary for me. 

May you also have many gifted moments in your day and throughout your year. Life is good, cheers to 2018. 


Maybe I should not have mentioned the water bowls in the last post. One of them froze up on Boxing Day. But lets not let that be the focus of this post. Life will always have its frozen water bowls but the general sentiment that life is good, and full of good things is one I’m allowing to prevail. That’s a nice sentiment to be cultivating as we head into a new year. 

We were working on the new house today. Putting 4 x 8 foot sheets of osb down in the loft area, this osb is the start of the floor in the loft. Building a house is a lot of grunt work but throughout the process there have been different pieces of it that make either one of us excited again and help us to soldier on. Seeing progress on the floor upstairs is one of those pieces for me. 

The loft area has an east facing shed dormer and this cozy space will be turned into a creative den for me. There is no staircase to the loft built yet so the way up is still by ladder but now there is a subfloor so I can sit and take in the tremendous view of the prairie land and let gratitude sink in.

As we worked on the floor I glanced down at this scene and was captivated by its warmth and somehow zen-full nature. I interrupted Allen to ask for his phone (I seldom have mine on me) and grabbed a photo. These are right up there among my favorite photo memories of this house build. 

Look how big his shadow is :-) 
Before now it hadn't occurred to either of us how well the Kelpies match the house. 

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