Over the weekend, snow was forecast for today, which is my usual full shepherding day, so I hatched a plan to take advantage of the somewhat nicer weather Sunday. (Today's forecast is now for heavy rain-we might get as much as another inch, so my decision was definitely the right one!)
We'll try to go down Brian's Track (named after Brian Fish, who discovered the old track when he was bulldozing gorse for me several years ago), and down the old highway. Assuming the flock is where I'm expecting them, at the southwest end of the White Gum Grazing Area. There are several pockets of long grass in among the gorse cover that I'd like to let the flock graze.
Sunshine makes all the difference. Today's forecast was much the same as last Monday's, but this was a much more pleasant circuit. As you might guess from my roundabout track to the sheep this morning, I had a lovely idea for a completely different circuit than the one we did. The sheep foiled me by placing themselves nearly at the gate into the highway reserve, so off we went, to repeat last week's trek.
Another 1 and ½ inches of rain this week has left us all quite soggy, until last night, that is, when a -4C (25F) frost put an ice coating on all that wet ground. The sun is shining, but the thermometer has not yet thawed past freezing and there is a nasty "lazy" wind blowing (too lazy to go around you, so it goes right through!).
Don't get too excited about the word "droving": the old highway boundary is only about a kilometre long. Nevertheless, it felt like a most adventuresome day, as we had to traverse several tricky spots to get to our destination. I found the flock at the top of the hill, in their usual favourite spot.
It wasn't a proper shepherding day today, though I did do the first part on foot. It's time to move from the Racecourse Grazing Area up the hill to the White Gum Grazing Area, so we did a sort of "farewell" graze in the Racecourse on the way. The sheep were happy enough to follow me out of the first paddock, but refused the water jump twice before Albert, bless him, led them across to me.
Ok, someone in the flock is sneaking around on Facebook. They spent the entire day yesterday in the Stud Paddock, which is where I was planning to take them today. (I mentioned this at the end of my post on Monday.) Though the idea of telepathy has also crossed my mind, the explanation is probably as simple, and encouraging as this: I'm apparently anticipating what the sheep need and want, and they in turn are getting better at moving through the landscape to find it on their own.
Ok, this is one of the many cultural challenges I didn't even know I was facing when I moved to Australia: first, having a Queen at all; second, not being a republic (really??), and third, the liberties that are taken with the Queen's Birthday holiday, which is on a different day in almost every state, none of which correspond to her real birthday on April 21.
The sheep are now in the Racecourse Grazing area, and the next few days are forecast to bring heavy rain--as much as 60 mm (2 and ½ inches) if we're lucky. But as you know, I wimp out of shepherding when it's really awful weather, so I'd like to give the flock something a bit special today.
Another white frost today. I wish I were going shepherding, as it promises to be as nice as yesterday. Instead, I'm heading up to Campbell Town in my role of second assistant wool steward to help tally scores and arrange fleeces. The C'Town Show is the longest continually running agricultural show in the southern hemisphere, and is great fun. The Show runs tomorrow and Saturday, and is well worth a visit.
I love a white frost. It transforms everyday small beauties into things magical. A fence line becomes the frame for a tapestry of abandoned cobwebs. Old Man Willow no longer looks sad, but rather regal in his hoarfrost coat. To add to the frosty beauty of the morning, my pair of swans (well, I like to think they are the ones who've nested on Swan Lake before) were visiting Old Man Willow's water hole.
A long, cold day. The sun only came out briefly about 2 pm, and there was a chilly southwesterly wind all day. As usual, it was ok when I was moving, but really, really cold when I stopped. I had my bivouac bag with me, but the sheep didn't choose to have a mid-day rest. At one point, I thought they were settling, and I starting looking for a sheltered, level spot to put my bivvy bag.
I haven't seen the flock move into the Lucerne Reserve on their own, so I'm assuming I'll find them somewhere in the middle of the Basin. The forecast wind is westerly, so depending on how miserable it is I may or may not have trouble moving them down the hill into Old Cabin. If that all goes well, I'll take them on our usual circuit around the perimeter of the paddock, and from there into the Lucerne Reserve.
The morning started with a gorgeous sunrise, and a -2C (28F) frost--our first proper frost of winter. Although it's only forecast to be 10C (42F) with sunshine and light winds I'm hoping for a lovely morning circuit. However, more rough weather is on the way, interfering with my shepherding schedule, so I've decided to move the flock to the northeastern end of the Basin Grazing Area today.
I love my full-day circuits. I think it's because the length of time, with only the animals and the landscape around me, lets me enter a different part of myself. It's restful and timeless, in the sense of no deadlines other than organic ones, like hunger or fatigue. I hear and see so much: birdsong, wind in the she-oaks, the sound of an eagle's wings as he lands in a tree near me, the chatter of a fairy wren family, the sound of sheep eating.
I cheated and looked to see where the sheep were yesterday evening when I ran the dogs, so I'm assuming I know where they'll be this morning. There's lots more forage in the Back Gully Reserve, so we'll take another trip there today, unless the flock completely fools me and ends up on the northeastern end of the Grazing Area, in which case we'll go for the Lucerne Reserve.
Even I am not foolhardy enough to brave today's forecast: 12C (44F), 10mm (½ inch) of rain, and the real kicker, 50 kph (30 mph) winds. Happily, I got the dogs run just before it started bucketing down rain.