Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21. At last. Again

Its December 21st. The ancient holiday celebration that signals both end and beginning. The winter solstice.

I have long contemplated the fact that nearly every religion, culture, and people have a designated holiday near this time. The timeless need of humankind for a symbol of hope in the midst of darkness.

The end is near. (this is a short post.)

Think about it. And then, whatever your choice, celebrate. Whether the Festival of Lights, walk a labyrinth lighted with candles, or gathered with family in awe of the new born Christ child, give thanks.

Tomorrow the sun will rise once more, and the light will begin its increase once more.

The adventure begins again. Live it well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yes! We are yet still Alive!

Too long. Too long I have waited. Waited for the time when I had just a little more time. But it did not come. And I did not blog.

But time did come. And it passed me by. The hours, and days and weeks slid quietly by, and now a year is ending. But not that I haven't noticed. Just because I did not blog did not mean I was doing nothing.

In the weeks since I last posted, much has taken place.

In November a table of needle'ers each poked out a picture of a snowman of choice. What excellent students they were.

Rhetts 35th birthday marked 11-11-11. It was an event. But the young and old left before the real fun began and the cops showed up. Who would have guessed a neighbor would object to fun on the deck in Nov. Around 11 they said.

The Thanksgiving table was full of food and family. This year there were 3 small faces to join the circle. Much eating and feeding and napping and play. And it will only get better.

The Artitudes show came and went. Snowed out the last day again this year. Sales for me were acceptable, nothing more. Something needs to change. But I'm not in charge.

The first significant snow covered the ground, and we enjoyed the fresh white beauty. Then we shoveled the walks, and plowed the driveway. And got the grain wagon stuck in the snow because of a blowout. But we borrowed a spare, and all was well.

6 lovely ladies spent a Sunday afternoon dyeing scarves. We banded and tied, dribbled and dropped, felted a bit and microwaved. A good time was had by all, and each left with a grin and a wooly warm colorful scarf.

The not-keeping ewe lambs went to their new home in Iowa. The leased buck returned home. The rams returned to their own pen to themselves. Hopefully there will be little feet hit the ground in a few months. Should be lots of them this year.

In the meantime, thoughts have been turning to the bags of wool still on the shelf, and the hope of more to soon come. Time for a clearance sale!

And the ewes are ready for the coming cold winter. These in their sporty camouflage suits to keep their lovely white wool fresh and clean. Our first year of both black and white fleeces that are nearly veggie free. Can hardly wait.

So whats with the tomatoes? Well, better late than never. I took these pics back in Oct, with the intention of a report on our experiment with heirloom tomatoes. And after all that waiting (all summer) I'm not about to let a good picture go to waste.

Don found some plants left over at the end of the planting season, so we decided to give them a try. Here are the results: strictly our opinion.

they are, from top left clockwise: Boxcar Willie, Cherokee purple, Wisconsin 55, and Caspian Pink. Production may have not been a reliable test, as they were rather shaded, and they did get a very late start.

We did a taste test. I love tomatoes. Don avoids them, but is still looking for one he may like.

Boxcar Willie - rather large, ribbed fruit, much air in seed cavity (hollow). Taste unremarkable.

Cherokee Purple -medium round blackish fruit, meaty, with few seeds. Meaty is the operative word. Inside looks like rare cooked meat. Taste was bland to disgusting. The more you ate, the more disgusting it got. Possibly the texture that didn't help.

Wisconsin 55 - med/small round fruit, meaty with few developed seeds. Taste was pretty standard. Best production of the lot - there was more than 3.

Caspian pink - Yellow outside, with pinkish streaks inside. Pretty flesh. Few seeds. Little to no taste.

If you can't tell by now, we were not impressed. Quite similar to our past ventures with the heirlooms. There is likely a reason why they are no longer produced. Taste varies from the standards, but really, if it takes a 1/2 acre to grow enough to do anything with, whats the point. With the exception of the Wisconsin55, the plants averaged 3 fruits each. The Wisconsin at least had a good bucket full of potential little ones, which just didn't make it before frost. We may try those again, as they are short day, and possibly good for the early market if they get put out in time.

If I never see another black/purple tomato, that will suit me just fine.

Red and green. So the tomato talk is really still in season. But Christmas is but a few days away. It will pass without much notice here, as Don is working and the kids are all at the inlaws this year. But then Braydon will come for a stay. Followed by other seasonal visitors, and then the family will all be here for a Christmas/New Years combined.

The toys are retrieved and carefully cleaned. The sheets on beds and crib are freshly washed. The lights are on, and the fire is warm. All is calm, all is bright. Ready for a relaxing, quiet silent night.

Welcome Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

All in a dogs day

The old saying goes 'Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning'. Not sure it holds true, but I still notice, and the sunrises have been spectacular.

About 10 minutes later. Still nice. But getting noticeably later every day.

In just a few days, the tide has turned. Rather, the trees. Last Sunday it was hot - 86 degrees. Which is REALLY hot for late October. We sweat our way through some garden cleanup work, and finally stopped before we were really done. While we discussed and cussed at the fabric mulch which refused to come up this year (something different WILL be tried next year), I remarked at the contrast of the trees - some already bare, and the oaks still bright green. Well, 4 days later, they are about half turned. Interesting how each tree is slightly different, but predictable in color each year. One yellow, a couple more orange, and one usually quite red. Genetic diversity is great.

With the cooler weather, and earlier darkness, Dolly has taken to asking to go to bed earlier also. But with that, her winter night rounds have resumed. Which gets her into trouble occasionally.

But first - the rat story. We knew we had a resident in the garage for several weeks. I noticed one day that there were potatoes being moved, and Dolly had taken to spending as much time as possible lying in front of the garage fridge, staring intently at some unknown occupant. Then one day I noticed a pile of potatoes and small sweet potatoes stacked in the crack beside the refrigerator and the counter. I declared war. I wasn't sure what it was, but it had to go. (At least I knew it wasn't a snake, because they don't move potatoes.)

We backed the van out,pulled out the fridge, and proceeded to dig the veggies out. There must have been 25 lbs. Really. And a good share were packed into the drip pan and around the motor. Rotten. Now we knew how he could survive in the garage with no water. It was bad. Really bad. Thank you Don. He could handle it - he works with hogs.

Once the food supply and hiding place was gone, the critter moved. To under the hood of the van. Once again, I declared he had to go. Dolly was wearing her teeth and nails down on the front tire. So one pleasent afternoon I slowly backed the van out of the garage, and quickly shut the door. Dolly said he was still under the van. She sat and watched, while we suited dressed some of the girls who were 'neked' again. About the time we finished, there was a scramble, firece growling, and a yelp. I ran to see. Good dog Dolly. She had the critter on the lawn held tightly under her paws, but it was clearly not going anywhere. Poor Dolly had blood running out of her nose, and was not pleased when I took the sleek, fat light brown rat away from her, wrapped it in plastic, and Don deposited it where she couldnt retive it again. So, we laughed, we now had a 'Rat terrier' as well as a sheep dog. Dolly still checks the garage every chance she gets, but no more rats. (Very glad her shots are up to date)

So, when she goes to the kennel at night, she makes a 'round of the barnyard, checking for any out of place life forms. Occasionally there is a scramble in the leaves, and some doggy mumbling. But one night, there was more.

She lit out from the house at full speed, and I knew something was up. by the time I got to the yard gate, she was barking and growling. But the slope by the drive, there arose such a chatter - actually more like screaming. They were out by the bales, in the darkest part of the yard of course, and there was no moon. The caterwauling and growls was not letting up. I ran back into the house, yelling for Don to come quick. No answer - but he had been at he back door when went out. I went further into the house yelling like a banshee, to which he finally murmured 'What? ' Like I do that sort of thing all the time. sheesh. Anyway, we grabbed flashlights, and ran out. I was a little alarmed when it was deathly quiet. Then I saw Dolly slinking past the garage, headed toward the house.

I called her into the house and light to check her out. She was nervous and shaking, and there was blood around her mouth. But she soon settled down, and seemed ok. After a bit we took her out on a leash, and checked around the barn. The ewes were huddled in the far corner of the lot, but came toward us. We found nothing, so we left Dolly safely in the kennel, and went back inside. Dolly barked several times during the night, and of course I heard.

The next morning, Don came in and announced he had found the screamer - there was a young coon lying out by the garage. Dead, thanks to Dolly. She can quit this moving up in size business. And so, now she is also officially a 'Coon Dog'. Stick to the Sheep, please Dolly.

But the bucks are out, and things are going seasonally well. So until more news 'happens'. We're off to take lambs to the sale in Columbus. Less mouths to feed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We fall down, we get up......

Well, we do. Or at least we always have so far. But not if you are a leaf. And the leaves are falling. Down, for the most part. Except for the occasional passing corn leaf. The windy days of late have heralded the coming of the harvest season now in full swing. The corn stalks that seemed to turn white over night this year have shed their leaves, and now stand naked except for the sagging heavy ears, shivering in the foggy chill or the morning. The leaves blanket the ground now. Except for now and then in the afternoon breeze, when, dried by the weakening sun, a current picks a stray leaf and hurls it toward an unknown foe. I see them pass my window, sometimes arrow straight, sometimes curling and whirling, tumbling in the driving wind. And later I retrieve them from the shrubs and fence, limp and heavy with dew once again come morning. And time marks off yet another day, and week, and month.

We have begun the preparations. The garden is done, the harvest sorted, stacked, and stored. A good size stack of wood now darkens part of the view out my window. Chimney checked? Check. The wagon is filled with corn, and the hay bales stand in covered rows like giant sausages.
I looked up this morning, and it was October. 16th. (sigh). The almost-too-warm days are over. The 'F' word has been heard in the forecast. (freeze). But that's ok. I guess. The second blanket was pulled up without hesitation last night, and savored.

Don even took some 'vacation'. Yeah sure. Last year we actually went somewhere. This year, it was back to a working vacation. But we did get some things done, including renting a bobcat, and an attempt to clean the barn. It was only partially successful, but whats done is done. Since the grass is still growing and the crops in the field, the excavations got piled for the time being.

The lambs had a great time playing atop 'Mt. Sheepoopee' while it was there. But it was clear it was not going to last, so it got moved to the other pile. Sorry, lambs.
The whole mess will hopefully be spread on the garden, pasture, and fields before winter really sets in. (Sorry about the evil eyes. I'm blaming the lighting.)

Meanwhile, the sure sign of the season have been spotted. My mate and partner is usually quiet, often dozing in his chair. Recently however, he has been overtaken by spurts of thoughts and inspirations. His clipboard is at hand, and often I notice him flipping between pages, and making notes in margins. Why? You may wonder, as did I.

Of course - its breeding season. And one mark of a true shepherd is the careful selection of pairings of the flock. The amateur little realizes the complexity of the task. There is much to consider. Body type, condition, color, lineage, fleece and more. There must be planning before procreation.

And the sun sets sooooo much earlier these days. But its still kind of nice watching it.

And the last rose of summer literally blooms by the back gate.

But all is well. The promises of spring are hidden in the muffled shuffle of leaves underfoot, but if you pause and listen, you can hear them. The thoughts of a warm fire and wool sweaters, the gentle click of knitting needles and snow falling on yet green grass may materialize sooner than we think. But bring it on. Seasons change, and so must we. I'm up for a long winters nap. Meanwhile, I can still smell the roses.

And if by chance like the leaves we fall, we'll help each other up.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wait for me.....

Wait for me....

.....I can't keep up. Recently time has caught me unaware. I seem to be marking the calendar off in weeks rather than days. Something tells me the condition could be age related, but if so, then why does it seems to be happening to others much younger than I? I keep meaning to work some down time into my day. A few meaningful thoughts in the quiet of the morning. A deep breath, and slow exhale during those times when I'm impatiently waiting on others. I hate it even more when I let others seemingly waste MY time.

The Equinox even came and passed without ceremony this year. The days marking the changing of the seasons are special to me. For me they serve as a cultural recognition of the progression of natural life. "For Everything there is a Season"... I think it helps keep human kind on track, especially in an age where so many don't have access to the life cycles in their everyday lives. The artificial means of sports seasons and educational institutions have been altered and extended to the point where they no longer are distinctive. Here on the farm, we can't help but notice. The cool evenings command the wool blankets return to the bed (the closing of windows is delayed as long as possible). The tomatoes have set at last, but now refuse to ripen. The threat of frost has already prompted the harvest of the sweet potatoes, which was probably a good thing, as we got them before the voles did more damage. And the last crop of the season was good this year.

The sounds of September are heard daily. The tapping of acorns as they drop on the tin roof of the lamb shed, and the occasional flapping and squawking of the blackbirds as they gather, and swoop down into a chosen tree, darkening the sky in a fluid motion, raising memories of 'The Birds'. Also heard is the occasional 'thud', a hollow echo unique to the season. The rams are rutting. Hormones rule in the cool.

We have added new members to the flock, and now we have a whole new flock. Turkeys. No, I'm not disparaging the ewes. (Who are now all dressed- hopefully in their final attire for the winter, and their fleece condition was noted - impressive)

No, the flock that has been frequenting the pasture, the lane, and even the barnyard are wild turkeys. They are fun to watch, but oh so stupid. They have provided entertainment many mornings as they pace the fences, time after time, until they finally remember they can easily fly over. By the next morning (or fence), they have forgotten, and the pageant is repeated.

Dolly has developed a liking to herding the new flock. She wasn't sure at first. I think she was afraid she would get in trouble. But after a little encouragement, she decided it was great sport.

So last Monday, 5 lovely ladies came rolling in, and we spent the lovely fall day dyeing in the sun. Well, ok, so actually in the shop, in the microwave, but the effect was the same. We ate Epicurean, with the assortment of foods they had brought. We told some 'girl' stories, and laughed. They painted, dabbled, cooked and rinsed. And then we posed in front of some of the days dyeing on the clothesline. And then they took home the tassels and scarves and yarn, now sporting the colors of the season. They have told me they had a good time, which was all I had really hoped for, and are ready to do it again.

I did - today. I dyed some of my new wool I got at Pendeltons, and can't wait to get started on some of the projects already inspired. Better get to it. Just hope time slows just a bit so I can catch up.

Autumn marks the end of the growing season for most, and is met with regret. But I have come to see it more of a relief. A chance to pause in the midst of harvest to acknowledge the fruits of labor. And be glad.

In a matter of days, the crops have gone brown. But I see them not as dead, but done. Well done. I can only hope the same will someday be said of me.

Here's hoping I can at least do better with my posting, now that the evenings are shorter, and outside chores require completion earlier. Maybe I can catch a few sun rises and sets for motivation.

Happy Harvesting to all.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garden update - it's in decline

There are signs of change everywhere. The predictable sequence of blooms and fruits are running their course once again. Wether more influenced by the suddenly cool of the mornings or the shortening of the days, the plant life here on the farm is signaling a seasonal change in wardrobe is soon to come.

The hydrangea continues to bloom, and the tiny butterflies continue their fluttery swarming as the blossoms are equally persistently emerge, now showing more pink and salmon, and with a fragrance that permeates the yard on a still evening.

The Broccoli is still alive and making a valiant effort. But not much yet. The Peppers show signs of blight, but are coming out of it a bit, and we will have some of all 5 kinds. Too bad they just don't seem to sell, but the daughters in law don't mind that. The eggplant is also coming around, and we have hopes of at least a few lasagnas.

The cucumbers have held up very well in this years heat, and have been our cash crop for sure. They have produced countless pounds of long green fruits, so we can't be critical of the yellow and brown spots that are beginning to dot their leaves, and even a few that have withered. The tomatoes, however, are pathetic. They are producing a few finally, but only a few, and the quality is poor at best. I have consoled myself with the facts that others have faced the same challenges of weather and blight, and willingly accepted the task of disposing of the less than perfect produce personally. The bacon is in the fridge.

The Green beans also failed this year. They seem to believe they are flowers - they bloom and bloom, but no beans. I replanted twice, and there is a bit of hope, but no promises.

The single row of zinnias stand guard in a cheery row as they have for many years. They even beat out most of the foxtail this year.

Oh - and the Ground Cherries. Our experiment of the season. The seed came as a bonus in our seed order. And the description was so promising - 'highly productive', 'drought tolerant', and 'papery skinned fruits with a strawberry flavor' made them sound like a sure market attraction. I always had heard of ground cherries, growing up in the sand hills, and had even thought those cute little lantern things that grew among the puncture vine at the cemetery could have been cherries, though I was told repeatedly to never eat them because they were poisonous. (and being a member of the nightshade family, who knows). We were told stories from those who should know about childhood memories of the wonderful fruits, and the pies and jam they produced. So we planted them along with the other seeds, and set them out when the frosts had past.

The plants, though slow growing, thrived. At least some of them. We carefully watched as the predicted blooms transformed into tiny green buds, which became papery covered fruits which looked much like their cousins tomatillos. And finally, they began to turn yellow. And we tried them. Too soon. Still green, they tasted more like really bad peas. So we watched and waited until at last they were papery dry, and pale tan. I carefully pealed back the delicate skin, and a golden yellow berry with a faint pink blush seemed promising...... and failed. I kept trying them, hoping as with many crops, the produce would improve. It didn't. Of all I sampled, (though most of the fruits were already inhabited with tiny worms - eeeew!) in only one did I detect a faint hint of strawberry. Don gave up sooner, declaring them a disgusting disappointment long before I. We took samples to our Farmers market vendor neighbors, who validated his judgment.

The papery 'lanterns' are cute all right. We finally realized that when they were truly ripe, they picked themselves, falling into neat little nests below the snakey vines. (Yes, the tangle of vines are striped in green, resembling a tangle of garter snakes. That took a little getting used to) And we sampled them again, just in case. Nope. Still nasty, but the worms seemed to love them even more. They will not be taking up garden space next year.

And so the season is beginning to show its age. Even the flowers color is bolder. The zinnias and Black eyed Susans herald the sunflowers and goldenrod and sumac soon to come into their own. The vibrant colors of fall emerge loudly, demanding their place in the sun be noticed in the fields of green fast fading to tan and brown. So goes the cycle. It's all good. And though with the passing of each year I find myself just a bit further along in the cycle myself, I have no regrets. The best of the harvest is yet to come.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday afternoon

Its a beautiful day here. After the incessant heat and humidity of July, a cool pleasant start to August is almost too good to be true. A little unsettling even. But not to be pondered today. The highly productive plans have been set aside. The sunshine and gentle breeze are calling. So what to do? The fluttering outside the office window caught my attention. Time to check it out.

The bush happy resides at the corner of the house, in clear view from the window where I sit at the computer, the flower garden and patio just beyond. I have been noticing the movement, the dark fluttering, for several days. On closer inspection, I discovered it to be butterflies. Very small, dark butterflies cover the blossoms. Other insects share the sweet nectar. bumble bees, large flies, and a few larger orange and black butterflies stop for moments, and then are gone. But the tiny ones seems to stay, or at least only move short distances at a time. Their dark wings nearly the same size and the creamy pinkish petals, it appears as if the flower spikes themselves are exchanging grayish petals, from one column to another.

The sun is warm and glowing on petals and wings.

Then, camera in hand, Dolly and I went for a walk.

We went to visit the new girls. Four Romney ewe lambs are the latest addition to the Ewe And Us flock. Labeled 'cute' by the head flockmaster, they are indeed. Their wool is already 4 or 5 inches long, and although probably too coarse for my needle felting, I look forward to sampling their fleeces for spinning. They will be good company to the Coopworths in the spinning fleece production line.

Then we said 'hi' to the keeper pen. Well, I did. Dolly had gotten bored, and was of exploring. The girls here (oh - sorry - and 2 boys) were just hanging out, also enjoying the cooler weather.

As were the other lambs, in the generous shade of the Mulberry and Oak trees.

And we checked out the garden progress (and decline) The flowers are doing well. The rest of the garden I will leave for another post.

So now maybe its time to sit here in the garden with the butterflies. Yeah sure. There is still work to do.

Tomorrow maybe.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sweet Corn memories

It's here. It came Thursday morning. I was in the garden picking cucumbers when I heard the truck coming. I went up to the garage as a puzzled Dale (the UPS guy) announced "You've got a big one". "I've been expecting it," I replied.

It took an effort to get it out of the box. And it is impressive. Big all right. Maybe not as tall as I imagined, but a work of art in itself. 'Not a cup', Don keeps protesting. I don't care. I've waited and worked a long time for something like this, and I'm going to enjoy its presence atop the piano every day it's here.

Meanwhile, life seems some days as if we were living roles from a soap opera - "All my Children of the Corn." maybe. Or, "As the Corn Grows." The weather, seasonal activities and daily chores have left everyone a little tired, cranky, and a bit corny. The heat and humidity continue, and with no real relief in the forecast, some of us have resorted to submission to the corn. There must be a kernel of truth in here somewhere. Kindly lend me your ear. Too much drama?

Last Tuesday, the garden corn patch was declared 'ready'. So on that chosen day, we participated in the annual ritual of the corn. Don picked the majority of the ears on the 2 west rows. It nearly filled 2 feed bags, which was enough for the evening. Supper hit the table early, and by the time the pot was boiling, the sounds of shucks being ripped from the ears had ceased.

Don took his usual place in the processing line, moving the corn from blanching pot to the cooling sink, then on to the drainer. I do the cutting. It wasn't long before the needed motion came back to me. And a wave of nostalgia overcame me.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who remembers the days of childhood of 'putting up corn'. It was a signpost of summer, a forecast in itself that even though the days were hot and humid, relief was not far off, as the nights would soon be cooling. That the County Fair was likely only days away, and school would be right after.

It was often a social affair. Seldom was there not a newly married, new to the community, or otherwise 'cornless' acquaintance not to be invited to join in the affair. All it took was a couple more bags of corn to be brought in from the field. Always a BYOK affair. (bring your own knife)

The older children were always expected to help. The youngest carried ears to and fro. Once you were tall enough to see into the pot, you moved up to Blancher. After that, to Bagger. Only the adults were allowed to do the cutting. Especially my mother, who for as long as I can remember, never used a common knife.

I remember it clearly to this day - the white plastic stand with the single blade sucurely suspended above the small platform. A genuine original 'corn cutter', bought long before me, so it was told, at some county or State Fair. Others scoffed at it, but any who witnessed the simple contraption in my mothers hands were awed. I was. She had a talent with that thing. (Which we were NEVER to touch) A 9 in ear was separated into golden kernels and pale soft cob with 6 deft strokes. Eight, if it was a big one. I was always drawn in to watch and listen. The action was simple. Stroke, turn, stroke, turn. Repeat as necessary. The sharp thin blade sang. Pbbbbbth, thump, Pbbbbbth, thump, pbbbbth, thump, pbbbbbth, and a mmmmpth of the empty cob in the bucket.

And hear I was, 50 years later, my hands now pressing the ears to the blade, but the song of the kernels the same. I clearly heard my mothers words 'You're cooking it.' and, 'Change the water - this ears still hot'. But wait - it was my voice, and directed at my mate. And, I have a new cutter. Mine is orange, and I'm not sure if the 'improved' design really is.

Times past, a good corn day's count would be 50, 100, or even 150 bags in the freezer. Ours was 25. But we don't eat that much corn these days.

But my thoughts were a bit disturbing. Will the next generation remember the corn? I'm not sure my own children do, and that would be partially my fault. Because in the name of sanity and convenience, we altered the service. When the kids were small, and no help was available, Don and I had to compromise the ritual. He would stop at the donated field one afternoon after work, and the corn filled bags would come home. Corn shucked, and kitchen readied, the blanching pot would be ready by dusk as the little ones were put to bed. Then the cutting would begin, hopefully as the evening breeze from the open window cooled the kitchen as we worked into the night. The system worked well, but I question it now. Did they miss something?

Maybe I can make it up with the next generation. It won't be long until Braydon and Aurora, and then Harper will be old enough to carry the corn. Then tall enough to be a 'Blancher'. And know the irresistible temptation of the golden kernels clinging to each other in rows and clumps, slyly eaten at will until the nausea sets in. And they can count the bags, all full and flat and yellow with the goodness of the corn. I look forward to that Grand -mothering day.

So regardless of the sweat soaked shirts and muddy boots, the corn grows on. And we all in Nebraska become the children of the corn. And yes, there are still the east rows of the corn.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

thank goodness for high clouds

I've been putting off the blog long enough. Waiting for some things to happen while others pass by undocumented is not making the most of time, which is passing way too quickly these days. So, while I don't have any pictures this time, I will catch up on a few things anyway.

It's hot. And going to be that way for several days they say. Remembering stretches of time past when it was hotter is no comfort, although they are many. Most memorable is the summer I sent all 3 kids to camp the same week, and was so looking forward to the promise of a productive week alone to work on innumerable projects. Instead, I spent most of the week in a darkened house with closed blinds, doing nothing that could not be accomplished while lying under the ceiling fan, or with face turned into the wind - of the fan. It was over 100 every day that week. don't know if its been that bad since. So we best not complain, as it's ONLY 92 at the moment. Just wish there wasn't straw to be put in the barn, and hay to unload. But that's life in summer, in Nebraska, on the farm. You either learn to live with it, or die. This afternoons thin layer of high clouds cuts the sun just a bit, and are very welcome.

Things have been busy here. - There I go saying that again. Is it still a reason, or has it become an excuse? Oh well, when its this hot, nothing much matters but if the last person refilled the ice cube tray.

Really though. My persistence paid off, and I was notified that the 'PeeWee's' (see pic previous post) won the Black Sheep Cup for Fiber Arts at the Oregon show! For any who aren't aware, thats a REALLY big deal. The 'cup' is now on its way to me, and I get to 'love it' for a year before I send it back. But, my name on the plaque will stay with it forever. Never did I think when I first learned of the show back when it was started in the '70's that one day my name would be on it. Thats an ego booster, for sure.

The new shipment of sheep suits arrived, and we got the girls dressed before the heat descended. Of course, 24 hours later, a couple had managed to walk out of them, despite the ugly little balls tied at the shoulder to make them smaller. Come on, girls, grow some more wool would ya! They will fit fine in a few weeks. Or months. The little ones we got for the lambs fit fine, so of course they will soon be too small. And re-fitting suits is not a pleasant job for either of us. Make that none of us. But we are convinced that its worth it in the end with all of that nice clean wool.

The garden has been yielding according to the rains. I made the mistake of not checking the zucchini for 48 hours, and we had to haul away the crop with the wagon. Not fit for sale, but the ewes were delighted. Still had tubs full of cucumbers and zucchini for sale at market this week. Don was grumbling while loading them up, thinking many would be brought back home to meet the same fate as the giants. Surprisingly enough, the buyers were still in a frenzy for fresh picked produce, and after giving a few 'bonus' ones to the last 2 buyers, we came home with only 5 deformed cucumbers and a couple zucchini to eat. Of course, we sold a lot of potatoes, herbs, onions, and other stuff as well. Don is now a believer.

Well, I took what few things I had to the quilt center yesterday, so I better get back to the dye and needle. I do enjoy my time felting in the sunroom, under the ceiling fan, and looking out on the roses in bloom, and the cone flowers glowing hot pink against the picket fence, watching the grass and corn grow literally before my eyes. Oh! there's another idea! got to go...

Keep the hose handy for those needing a cool down.

Pictures of the trophy are promised when it gets here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Solstice and beyond

June 21, last Tuesday, was the summer solstice. Which in more recent years, has always been one of my favorite days of the year, although I'm not even sure why. I think it has something to do with my ties to the land, and the affinity to light and the season of productivity and the abundance of green. And this year, it was a Birth day.

I finished painting the nursery and installing the accompaniments on Monday.

And on Tuesday, the Solstice, little Harper Christena McClure joined the clan, rounding out the extended family to one child each for each of our kids. The table will be just a bit more crowded, but there will always be room. Grandma even has enough high chairs!

We have now marked 2 farmers markets for the season, and are off to a good start. This week we nearly sold out, although the amount was still small, but we had the first cucumbers, and they were the first to go. There are promises of a better selection each week.

We even had some interesting customers. A couple from India, who had to ask about some of the vegetables they were not familiar with. The rhubarb proved a bit hard to explain. They were excited to learn about the market, and enthusiastic about the fresh batch of strawberry jam. I predict they will be back next week.

It's been an unusual summer again this year. Temperature has been up and down to the extremes. Rainfall abundant, but welcome here. (Not so much 40 miles east on the Missouri river, where levees continue to breach, and the farmland is covered) The garden seems almost confused, growing in spurts and then stalling during the cool spells. But overall it is doing well, and there will soon be beans and zucchini to supplement the supper and market tables.

The late lambs have been weaned. Their mothers were dressed when they were sorted off, and presented a seasonal dilemma - we ran out of suits! So a head count was made, sizes estimated, and an order sent off for more. We resisted this far, but finally have given in to the fact that they will just have to be 'changed' sometime in the fall. We're getting smaller ones for the summer. They just walk out of them if their suits are too big, and the temporary alterations we tried last year just didn't work. Sorry Don. (He has to put their feet in, while I hold their heads.)

And the event of the weekend - we had our own private (and unwelcome) 'Trailing of the sheep here last night.

It started off well enough. We had a lovely simple supper of chicken tenders sauteed with new red potatoes and snow peas. After the news, Don headed out to get the sheep in, and put up a temporary fence to divide the pasture. I finished up some business (about sheep suits), and suddenly had that 'sheepy' feeling - that something wasn't right. I went to the front door to see a trail of sheep galloping down the road - headed north.

I headed out down the steps, calling for Don, who was no where in sight. I checked, but didn't see him in the pasture. I called again, getting concerned, as I thought I heard a distant answer over the bellowing sheep. He and the dog were on the road, just out of sight behind the windbreak. I trotted down the driveway, trying to assess what was happening, and to determine if the bark of orders I heard in the distance were for Dolly or me. I finally made them out to be "Bring the truck!". I'm not sure what the neighbors heard.

I turned around and trotted back for the truck, impressing myself that I didn't struggle much with the stick shift feature. As I approached the road, about half the flock passed the driveway, headed south, with Don and Dolly close behind, all of them panting heavily in the heavy humid air. Don jumped into the drivers seat, and I called for Dolly, who by now believed she was in deep trouble, and headed sheepishly to the yard. Luckily, the group didn't go far, and soon were headed back to the yard, where Dolly now lay at her post at the gate. Don and I headed north on an empty road.

They hadn't quite made it to the stop sign, not that we believe they can read. They were split in the ditches. We passed them without incident, and Don jumped out, and they politely turned and headed for home. He followed on the outskirts, and I was glad it was him who was slipping, half running through the waist high corn. Once back up on the road, they slowed, and Don gratefully joined me back in the truck. Panting heavily, they had slowed to a walk by the time they reached the lane, and seemed almost glad to turn in.

Once all safely corralled, Dolly, Don and I stood dripping at the hydrant to catch our breath. When all were breathing normally, I dared ask, 'What happened there?'

'Jumper' was out. He had opened the gate to let her back in, and as he was getting them in, left it open. But then he called for the dog. And she came. But instead of going around the ewes as she usually does, she came straight at him, and the ewes responded. They ran ahead of her, straight out the gate, and headed down the road on the run. (I almost wish I would have caught that part - Don yelling to 'Go around them', with dog and sheep and him all on a dead run. Well, maybe not). "It was my fault," he admitted. "I should have kept the dog with me." Dolly stopped slinking after awhile. We hope she figured out she wasn't being blamed.

We had a good laugh when I told him my version. Fortunately our close neighbors are elderly and don't hear well, although they did have company. But, after all these years, they are probably not alarmed by the bleating, beeping, and barking of a occasional sheep stampede.

So goes the life of the shepherd. Sometimes, they go astray. Would they have come home, if we left them alone? They have before. But last night, I think it may have taken awhile. Life out there in the wild is looking pretty green right now.

I guess its pretty green for all of us.

Happy trails to all. Bask in the light.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


We have attended the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival for the last 2 years. This year, we decided we would go all out. We joined the Iowa Association last fall, so now we are 'one of them'. I was on the books to teach a needle felting class at the festival. We had an ad in the booklet. Then we signed up to take Natural Colored Sheep for the Hall of Breeds, and have a booth to go with it.

So, we called the Chore Boy, bought Dolly a new bone to help her pass the time alone in the kennel, and otherwise made arrangements. I even made up some special 'sheep' oriented pieces. (Which mostly sold).

We sheared the Corriedale ram at the last minute (well, the night before), so we could show his fleece. Good call, as it won 2nd in the show. I happened to be walking by just as the judge was making his comments on it, and he was very complimentary. We will be keeping him. I, on the other hand, will be more watchful and insistent on getting those covers changed in a timely manner.

I'm not sure which factor was the deciding one - my husband's frugality, or the recent rise of gas prices. Whichever, he announced one day that we would be taking the van. "But the sheep!" I protested. "We have to take sheep." No problem. He figured 3 lambs would easily fit in the back of the van.

I had my doubts. He exuded confidence. And in he end, he won. And it worked.

I had to condense my things (literally), to make it all fit, but the fleeces and wool squished down pretty well. Once again, I was glad felt doesn't break. There was even room for the jar of air freshener on the side. (Which was appreciated later). Note - in the future if such travel is planned, said traveling sheep will not be fed prior to departure.

When we arrived on the festival grounds, I went in to the office to check in. When i came out of the building, there was Don with the back of the van open. And we had already been noticed. One of the Board members was waiting to take a picture. "I won't show your license plate," he said enthusiastically, as if that helped. But he then admitted he had done it himself many times over the years, much to his families' dismay. We shepherds are a practical lot

The lambs were settled in to their accommodations, which were quite nice. They were soon joined by their neighbors the Royal Whites, The Lincolns, and the Romneys. The Shetlands, Jacobs, some CVM's, and others were there too.

The booth was set up across the aisle from the sheep. It got a fair amount of attention, and we were happy we even sold some fleeces.

I taught the class, and had some talented students who caught on quickly, and had some nice work to show for the afternoon.

We took turns staying with the booth while the other walked around. I talked a long while with the guy who makes drum carders. We exchanged stories with our 'neighbor' with the Royal Whites from Wisconsin, and got a hearty invitation to the Wisconsin Festival. (which is tempting).

We joined with others for the Lamb Feast, (#2 of 3 meals in a row featuring lamb) which included entertainment, local wine, lamb appetizers, seconds if you dared, and topped off with home made ice cream. (Burp)

Sunday was a little slow, but gave us time to enjoy the day, including the Border Collie puppies and the trainer, complete with ducks. Then late in the afternoon, we collected our things, helped the others load up and said our goodbyes for another year.

We loaded the lambs back into the van, not quite so crowed this time, and headed west. The sight of sand bagged buildings as we came through Council Bluffs was a bit disturbing. We are grateful we chose the higher ground.

And then we were all safely home again. (and the blog erased the picture that was once here).

So all told, it was a good weekend. Sales are secondary to the experience of new friends, refreshed focus and sense of direction. It was especially good to find there are others who share our views of the land and life, and have chosen a similar path, and at a similar stage of their lives.

Thursday was the first Farmers Market for the season. We had a few things - a few Strawberries, onions, lettuce and spinach, a 3 coveted cucumbers, (which were sold the first 2 minutes) and some snap peas. And of course I felt obligated to make the first batch of cinnamon rolls. Not very many vendors showed up, nor customers for that matter, but we still had enough sales to make it worth the trip to town. Since then, the garden has been growing visibly over night, and blooms and baby eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and more are clinging to their connection to mothering earth. There will be more for next weeks market.

And now, I must be off to the next project - the strawberries are cleaned, measured, and waiting in the bowl. The jars are sparkling clean, and sanitized. Sugar awaits. It's time to Jam.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Memorial Day

Last week was Memorial Day. Actually, for me, it was memorial all right. All week, for life just keeps on happen'nin.

It was 'my year' to go to Comstock. I actually looked forward to it. Last time it was my turn, we went to the services for the first time in many many years, and afterward to the community dinner. (One of the 2 events that take place in the town every year). I had an enjoyable time seeing old classmates and neighbors for the first time in a very long time, and learned a good deal of some missing family history. So we did the same this year.

Some things were the same. Like the wind. I don't recall ever being on top of that hill when the wind wasn't blowing, but it was stronger than usual. Standing was difficult, and standing still impossible, even for the color guard, who were surprisingly young. As I listened to the service, I could'nt help but scan the scattering of bodies swaying in the wind. And, to note the tell tale signs of being back in the rural community I once called home. The lady in the battered long ago reclaimed lawn chair, which sported a carefully woven replacement seat back featuring a bucking horse. The bare legs of the girls, respectfully dressed in cotton skirts and flip flops - not plain, but decorated. One leg bravely bore a nasty burn, obvious evidence of a close encounter of the ATV sort. And, when I found myself a bit offended by the ultra -conservative Christian biased message of the local Pastor, I was reminded once more that while this was where I came from, I must have come a very long way. You can go home again, but for some, a visit is long enough.

Three years did make a difference. Some of the names I recognized were not put to faces, but rather now engraved on the stones. My parents generation are once more in community there on the windy hill overlooking the valley where they raised cattle and corn and kids.

I did discover another piece of family history which I find quite interesting. I had remembered from 3 years ago reading my Great Uncle's Obituary, and that it said something about him being a member of the Woodmen. I found a metal marker by his gravestone, and it did not appear to be military, so I wondered if it could be from the Woodmen. I asked my 'source' at dinner, but she knew nothing. But, it turns out, it was. She brought back a book of history of the town just as we were leaving, and there was the story of the Woodmen's Wescott Camp in Comstock. The story of the building they built there, and the businesses it housed, and the fire that burned it to the ground in an hour and a half in 1915. But, the interesting part of the story is that my son now works for the same Modern Woodmen. 105 years and 3 generations later, there are a number of Woodmen in the family.

I had a request earlier this year for a felting class. Since I was getting one ready for Iowa, I decided a 'run through' wouldn't hurt, so I lined it up, and put out the word to a couple places.

On Wed, the 4 ladies came. the morning was filled with wool talk and wet felting. Then the afternoon was spent in the sunroom needle felting.

The ladies seemed to have enjoyable day, and had some nice things done (or almost) to take home with them. And, they have already requested another class.

To complete the week, Sat morning I packed up the 'guys' and took them to the post office. The 'guys' being this years entries to the Black Sheep Gathering Show in Oregon.

The Boy and the lamb was an experiment in larger pieces using heavier armature. It worked. He stands 16 in. tall, and actually stands!

The picture was also somewhat of an adventure. The background is hand painted wool flannel, needle felted over the top, and I made the frame from wool fabric. Will be interesting to see the comments.

I got a little over enthused with size this year. I had even PURCHASED a box to send them in, as I had nothing that was big enough. That should have been a clue. Much to my surprise, the clerk looked a bit scared when she gave me the cost to send it Priority. $48.00. I declined, and after a few more exchanges split the box, adjusted the packaging, and sent it parcel, which I could afford. I was encouraged when the gal that takes the mail in entries remembered me from last year and was 'excited' that I was sending entries. Now waiting for it to get there.

And, in the meantime, I'm frantically needling and tagging and packing for Iowa. Which will be next weeks report. Plus, next Thurs is the first Farmers market of the season. Till then, hope you can all stay on the green side of the fence.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Promises of Summer

It's finally here. Maybe. Summer that is. Just came in from a round of mowing. Got to get out and do it quick while the sun shines. And, despite the nice breeze, and it's only about 75 F, I actually got hot. At least in the sun. But its really a very nice day, and the Iris, Spirea, and the first of the poppies are enjoying the sun.

Time is sliding by so fast. I realized this week that the Iowa weekend is approaching, and I haven't taken very good pictures of the sheep yet. I need one for the photo contest. Might as well participate to the fullest while we're there. so I was looking through my collection, and found this one thats kind of cute. Titled "Pleeeease Ma-Maaaaa?" It might do.

Otherwise, I have been very busy, and its not looking like it will let up until after Iowa. Painting for Rhett and Renee. Another small job to take care of. Entries for The Black Sheep Gathering Show. Felting class. Company. Memorial day trip to Comstock. (It's my year.) Then the nursery painting and other items to finish. All the while felting and dyeing as fast as I can. And then the Quilt Center calls for more! But I'm not complaining. Its all good.

Meet the newest of the 'Ewes'. I had a call awhile back from someone I knew who was getting out of the sheep business. My gain. We got the new colored buck we really needed, plus some bonus ewes and lambs. This is one of the ewe lambs, and as soon as we get her changed into a larger suit, she will fit right into the flock.

Need to get out in the garden yet today. Have some New Zealand spinach seed soaking, and rows are ready for it. Have to plan ahead again this year. So far we have managed to get things in before the rain comes. Is wet again, after the 3 in or more, but at least its not flooding here. And the world didn't end either. So we're all still here, and happy for it.

Back to the mowing, and a glass of tea on the freshly cleaned porch for a reward. All welcome to stop by and join me sometime. Welcome summertime.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Its Mothers Day

Here it is Mothers Day. Already. I'm afraid that this is going to be one of those years when spring lasts about 4 days.

After so much cold rain, cloudy, gloomy days, the calendar said it was spring, but it didn't feel like it. It even frosted pretty hard on Easter Morning, and I was shivering with the apricot tree. But, there is good news. We have been working frantically in the yard and garden the last few days. The grass is growing. The ewes have been on pasture for a week or so. The yard has been mowed twice. (which is good news for the rams and yearling ewes, who get the clippings). All has been fertilized in hopes of even faster growth. (the bank account is hoping for a good grass season with the recent price of corn and hay).

The garden is showing signs of green in the form of onion tops, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, and peas (which something/body keeps nibbling off!). The first harvest of asparagus and rhubarb has been savored. The first plantings of corn, melons, and beans are in the ground, and will soon be joined by the lanky tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs that are crowded under the grow light in the sun room. And most promising are the fragile white blooms that have emerged on the pear and apple trees, and less obvious huddled under the strawberry leaves. And yes, despite the late frosts, there will be apricots.

The flocks outside the library window are pink and purple, (the creeping kind), and the peony buds are poking up from the leafy mounds. time to pause for another deep breath, and take in the moment before it passes.

Since it is Mothers Day, I could launch into an expose' about motherhood, but it has probably all been said before. And, some things told are never heard. They will experience it for themselves, and only then will they understand.

Ruby's lamb didn't make it. But others did. At last count, the live lamb count was somewhere around 75. With one last holdout yet to lamb. Yes, there is always one.

Last week, we sent the last 3 fat lambs to market. And while the truck was going, we sent 2 of the yearling black rams and grandpa Polypay with them. They didn't make us rich, but brought enough. And thats 6 less mouths to feed. And, I have the fleece.

I need to take pictures of the lambs and blooms, but I have been doing some spring house cleaning (literally), and just havent had the time. Plus, the wind has been blowing so hard some days the sheep won't even come out from behind the barn. But for this post, I have to include a Dolly update. I finally took a picture of her wound, closed up almost, but before the hair grew back to cover it. That was a couple weeks ago, and now she has been declared healed and covered enough that she can once again go naked! We were worried about the scar getting sun burned, but that seems to be solved. With luck, the memory for all of us will fade along with the wicked scar. Not likely to be forgotten though.

On to new and ongoing projects. Painting basement and nursery. Mowing and felting and sewing, and sowing. Here's hoping the fruit sets for all of you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The rest of the day - report 5 days later.

Well, its been a busy weekend. After my last post, things continued pretty much as expected. As it turned out, the events with the ewes were , indeed, prophetical. The black yearling who tried to claim the lambs was Ruby - the first born black lamb last year - and she now has a daughter, born later that day. And, the crossbred ewe finally has twins of her own to care for, also born later the same day.

In a sad, but real form, the twins didn't fare as well. Their mother never had any interest in them. Despite all efforts, mothering instinct just sometimes isnt there. I could go into a rant on the similarities of yearling ewes to teenage human mothers, but I won't waste the time. One twin didn't make it, and the other is struggling. Or maybe it was a bad day to be born. Ruby's little one is not well either. She appears to be premature. Very small, with hardly any wool, which is a usual sign they were born too early. She's weak, but holding on. Some sunshine and warmer, dryer weather has been ordered by the flock master. Some of the other lambs could use it too.

However, the older lambs seem to be doing well. Count is now around 75, with 4 or 5 yet to lamb. Now we are hoping for regular rains and sun to make the grass grow.

Baby shower - as requested, a picture of the cake. Keep in mind that my cake philosophy is make it cute, but make it quick. They're just going to eat it. It was good. And Baby Girl McClure has lots of cute things to welcome her home - two months from tomorrow!

So that's it for now. Have much to do before an art show May 1. And the yard and garden are beginning to beckon.

Here's to blue skies and sunshine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Its April 15th

Well, here it is. April is half over, and I am behind again. At least mainly just on my blog posts, and not everything else. But I have missed some prime subject matter, so I'll have to try to catch up.

April 1, we had2 sets of triplets. No fooling. And, one of the six was black. As of today, we have 68 lambs on the ground, 14 of them colored. More than one visiting child/former resident has now looked out toward the barn and exclaimed 'Man there are a lot of lambs out there." True, we have never had this many before, but thats what you hope for when you neglect to cull the flock the summer before.

As any seasoned shepherd knows, the one predictable thing about sheep is their unpredictability. Proved right again. We haven't had any lambs in several days. It's been one of those times when you start resenting having to drag yourself out to the barn at inconvenient times to find nothing new yet again. The days have been warm, although often gray, but good lambing weather. But of course, the girls prefer to hang on to their little ones until they can be presented with drama and surprise.

Sure, there have been some that looked 'close' for weeks now. We've been watching. Especially the old crossbred ewe who has tried to claim others lambs every time one drops. We've watched as the bellies and bags continue to grow. But the only thing popping out are the peas and potatoes, and the spinach and the lettuce and beets out in the garden.

Last night, the wind was wicked, and it turned colder. Rain poured a good part of the night, and again this morning. New lambs yet? of course not.

Only the large limb left damaged by last summers storm was dangling from the tree. I have been nervous, listening to it creaking in even a light wind, knowing it was likely to fall. At least when it did, it fell away from the house, so the only thing it hit was the lilac bush.

So, I ventured out this morning thinking surely there would be lambs. Wrong. And at noon, still no signs of any action. 'What are they waiting for?' I voiced yet again. But no one heard me but Dolly.

- Oh and Dolly! An update - Good news. Today she got to go naked for the first time since the event. I stripped off her blue jacket, (you can add the velcro sound effects here) and she looked suspiciously at me when I didnt put another directly back on. I threw them both in the wash, and since she would be with me in the house all day, I let her go bare. I only had to admonish her once to cease with the licking. The wound has closed except for an inch or two, and that is scabbed over, almost ready to release. She has a wicked scar, but in time it should mostly cover with hair. We are happy for her, and we will all be glad when she can wear nothing but her own coat, and return to respectable Border Collie fashion, in natural black and white.

And the rain changed to snow. Still no lambs.

So, I decided while I was house bound, I would commence with the baking of cake. Cake for the Baby Shower on Sunday. But I had to change plans slightly. I was going to make the main cake pink and black and white, since it was the first 'Pink' themed shower. But alas my one strawberry cake mix was bad. So I changed to the Butter pecan instead. (I doubt anyone is going to complain, as I have a cake reputation).

I had just slid the pans into the oven and set the timer, and something out the window caught my eye. Sure enough, it was a newborn lamb staggering through the mud. I grabbed my coat and hat, and headed snatch the little fellow from the muck.

There was a din of bawling and bleating in the barn. The ewes were all excited, and were milling around inside and out. Only the crossbred ewe was paying any attention to the lambs - there were actually two, one hiding behind the open end of the barn door. A quick look told me they were not hers. A little thin ewe trailed evidence of motherhood, but she was oblivious. I carried the twins in to a jug, and a black yearling and the crossbred followed. This was going to take some sorting. And of course, the clock was ticking down on the cake in the oven.

No one was cooperating with me. (except the nurse ewes, who were alternately munching on straw and licking the lambs that were not theirs). I set up a panel, and tried to be patient to sift off the new mother in the direction of one of the lambs which I had placed in the corner. I dearly hoped that the burning cake I smelled was only my imagination. Finally, as the bellering quieted, the mother heard her lamb, and she moved closer. I jumped at the chance, and soon mother and babies were reunited, and the nurse ewes dismissed. I sped to the house.

Time is seldom percieved accurately in its passing, and thankfully this was the case. While the buzzer had sounded, and END glowed in red, the cake was fine. It is now cooling, black and white and tan colored goodness nestled together in the same pan.

And, although its still snowing, at least we don't have the closed roads and 5 ft drifts they have to the west. And, we need the moisture. Especially with all these lambs. The grass will hold just a little bit longer for all these mouths we feed.

April is half over. The taxes are filed. The temporary drought of lambs is over. On to spring. And new grand babies, and showers. And cake.

Sorry, no pictures today. A cake is enough.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

They're here!

The lambing has begun. Tuesday morning I heard Don leave for work. Or rather, I heard the sheep when he left. I figured there was something up because they are usually not that loud when just let out of the barn. So, when I did the first barn check that morning, there was a ewe and lamb in the first jug. Nothing else was going on, so I put Dolly in the kennel for the day, and went to town for nursery shopping with my daughter in law.

I drove in a terrible but brief rainstorm on the way home. Don and Dolly were in the house, where they had taken quick cover as the storm was hitting just as Don got home. He said he thought there were probably more lambs in the barn, but he hadn't taken time to look.

So, we both went out to check. Sure enough, numbers 2 and 3 had arrived. Both singles, a buck and a ewe, but BOTH BLACK! Well, one was spotted, as you can see. What cute little things lambs are, regardless of the color. And, like last year, the first ewe lamb of the season has a name. She has little black circles in the white around her mouth, so I started calling her Dimples. We'll see if it sticks.

Meanwhile, back at the house, other progress was made. Shortly after returning to the computer to post the pictures on FB,, Dolly emerged from her spot under the end table by Don's chair. She looked at me strangely, and shook violently in a wave like action typical of wet dogs, in a progression from head to tail. Then she blinked hard a couple of times, and rolled her eyes as if to say " What day is it? I need to get back to work." Which she promptly did. As if just waking up from her 5 day sleep, she wanted out. She watched Don finish chores. She laid at our feet while we ate. She moved back to her usual place in the office for her evening nap.

Wednesday morning, she was at the shop door waiting to be let out. She went on her usual morning rounds. Throughout the day, she followed me around the house, and occasionally wanted out to check the sheep. The afternoon visitor sent her into a frenzy. (She has always loved Kathy). She paced and fret because Don was late getting home, and then went with him to do chores. It was like magic - our dog was back. She goes back tomorrow to get the staples out if we think shes ready. I think SHE thinks she is. But she still hates her sporty blue coat.

Back to the lambs - the noon check today found a set of twins. White, but up and running. I put them in a jug with their mother, since 3 other ewes were trying to claim them. Maybe there will be more later today.

But at least its starting out to be a good season. Live lambs. Black lambs. And Dolly is back with us.

Monday, March 21, 2011


It didn't happen this year. March 19th has passed, and we had no lambs. For the past several years, the first lamb of the season has arrived on March 19. Never mind when they were due, they managed to arrive on the 19th. We thought we had something going. Apparently not. Instead, this year, it is now the 21st, and we are watching the woolly bellies ever expanding. I have empathy for the poor girls, hearing their grunts and groans, fully understanding how miserable they are. My daughter was 3 weeks overdue, and weighed 11 lbs because of it. Fortunately for humankind, they don't let that happen anymore. So, we begin the waiting game, and hope for larger numbers of lambs, and not just larger lambs.

Meanwhile, last week was eventful, and not in a good way. I was out on a paint job Wed, and shorty after 3:00 my phone rang. It was Don, and I knew it probably wasn't good. The tone of his voice confirmed it. "I have bad news." I somehow knew it was about Dolly.

It was. She had a terrible accident. The crescent shaped gash ran from just behind her elbow to almost the top of her back, with a second tear in between. Don rushed her to the vet, who also labeled it as 'terrible'. He worked for over an hour, sewing her up with uncounted stitches in three layers, and 33 staples to finish it off. She spent the night 'in hospital', and needless to say, I didn't sleep well.

The next morning, with a rock in my gut, I called to check on her. Doc answered the phone, and was upbeat. She was up and moving, eating and drinking, and apparently in good spirits. 'One tough dog' was her newly appointed title.

Don brought her home that afternoon. I heard the familiar click of her toenails as she trotted in to see me. I was surprisingly well prepared for the sight. She looked good, other than the 2 zippers installed in the now hairless side. She even insisted on going out to watch Don do chores. But we soon saw there were problems ahead.

I knew the staples were going to itch. I didn't expect it so soon. The next morning I caught her starting to scratch and worse still, lick the wound. Or rather, to try to. She can't quite reach it. Which meant she was doubling up trying, which bent the flesh, pulling the staples even more. The were coming loose, and i knew we had to do something fast.

Off to the fabric stash. Some measurements, and experience with the sheep covers and clothing design came in handy again. The result was a jacket that covers the wound, has a soft replaceable pad inside, and protects from those nasty back feet toenails. But, being a Border Collie, of course she hates it. I tried to make it better by explaining to her that some working dogs wear coats as uniforms. She decided she could tolerate it. Maybe.

We left her alone for a few hours Sat. afternoon, and when we came home, she greeted us with a happy smile and wagging tail, and the coat thoroughly chewed and lying in the corner like a dead rat. It must have had worked better than I had imagined, because without it for just a short time, she had managed to lick or scratch out a few of the staples. It wasn't too bad, so we let it go. I will call the office today to see if they want or can do anything about it.

Otherwise, she seems to be doing fine. She eats, and moves normally. We don't agree that her new/old place to lay is under the table by Don's chair, as its a little hard to squeeze under. But, being a Border Collie, there's no sense arguing about it. She does spend a lot more time sleeping, but I consider that a good thing. If we say the 's' word (sheep) she's out the door in a flash, even if she tires easily, and is soon ready to go back in, even if chores aren't completely done. So we think shes on the road to recovery, even if it may be a long walk yet.

We still have no idea what or how it happened. We have played CSI, and gone over the whole farm looking for evidence, and found nothing. Vet said there was no indication that it was caused by a bite of another animal. That it was more likely a vertical piece of metal, but that she would have had to be moving at a high rate of speed for anything to cause that kind of damage. We can't find anything that fits, and with rain on the way, we may never know.

We are just grateful to a caring vet who took the time to save her, and even call later to check on her. And, for her. We are now not the only ones who know she is one tough dog.

I know she will soon be enjoying the new lambs, following close at our heels.

Good Dog, Dolly.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Calendar commands it.

I decided earlier today to forgo the pictures I previously planned to post, and include this happy Gal instead. a recent creation, I have grown rather fond of. One of those things I feel compelled to do without any planned use for; no real reason for 'being', yet here she be. She is know by the title of "Knit 'in Pearl". Guess I'm one of those old people still playing with dolls, or one so hard up they have to literally 'make their own friends.

This has always been one of my favorite days. Not a holiday, although it is my favorite (only)son-in-laws birthday - Happy Birthday Chris. It's not that likely to be noted for the weather (cloudy and cold wind today), any historical event (yet, anyway), or any other particular reason. I think i noticed that it was a commanding day when I was in about third grade. Probably part of a joke or something, and I just liked how it sounded - March forth! Very authoritarian. Matter of fact, not to be argued with. Not at all like later dates, like May, (rather questionable), or July, that makes you think of hot days, and lying around, but direct. And, as the years have past, I have come to think we should pay more attention to it.

After all, Spring is a mere 17 days away. We could have the first lamb in 15. What better sign than a new season is about to begin. And there is nothing more promising than spring. The days are already noticeably longer. A few reports have sprung up from the aware (or just anxious) that the crocus are about to emerge. And as fast as the days and weeks fall away, bigger and brighter blooms will soon follow.

So, it is fitting, I think, that we pause for a moment on this day, gather up our winter worn loins and take a symbolic step into a new growing season. I for one, have intentions of tilling and planting and tending new growth in several areas of my life. Some are given - like another grandchild, mileposts for the others. But some are more personal, just for me. I won't even name them, because that would make them more like resolutions, and those are for another time. And, growth is not always outward and seen. I hope I can summon up the persistence and energy it will take. At least I will try.

So I will go now, a scoff at the wind, and build a fire. And stare into the orange red glow of the embers as the daylight fades. And follow the un-intended command of the day, of March 4th.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shear Delight

Last weekend was shearing day. I actually have a number of pictures, but blogger is not cooperating today. I have found it very frustrating that I cannot post and add pictures where I want them. The result is that I have to write the post backwards, so I can get the pictures by the text where I want them. If anyone knows a better way, I wish they would tell me. I know I am tech challenged, but I also know others who have done the same thing. Oh well, I guess words will have to do for now.

I have been attempting - not terribly successfully - to catch up on business and personal stuff the last couple weeks since I canceled my paint job. The big ladder tried to make an escape on my last job. I caught it, but in the process pulled something in my shoulder, and despite home therapy, its still not right. I'm taking that to be a sign I am supposed to be working at home. Only problem is for every thing I get done, I think of 2 or 3 new things to do. And that covers products as well as chores. I hope the notes will keep me on track while I do the things that need doing now.

Nope. Still won't let me add a picture.

Shearing was good this year. Nice clean fleece. some colored ones from the yearlings. Lovely long staple locks from the Coopworth. I dutifully ignored the comments from the shearing floor. I have learned over thee years that its therapeutic for the shearer. Ranting about the ewes genealogy seems to have an analgesic effect on the sore spots. The severity of the words used is directly proportional to the kicking and threshing of the ewe. Plus the occasional bite. And, this year there were words directed to the borrowed equipment (breakdown of our own) when it would occasionally shut itself off by wrapping the cord around the shaft. I'm not sure who was to blame for that set up, and I didn't ask. But overall it was a rather non-eventful harvest, which is good.

I got a good picture of an example of how much difference a cover makes on the fleece. This one must have been pretty clean when we put them on, because there wasn't even any dirt. Marketing would be so much easier if they were all like this. Especially for the colored ones.

We emptied the shelves of last years fleeces we didn't want to keep. Mostly the uncovered ones. Those we bagged for the commercial market. Lucky Alex will be getting some nice wool.

So another season is under way. Next step will be to set up the barn before the little ones arrive. Which, according to custom is March 19. Even if they are not due by math calculations until the 23rd. We'll see if they do it again this year.

Maybe the other pictures will get posted next time. For now, its in the bag.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Signs of ......

Over the last few days, the snow has receded. The cat has taken to night runs across the floor in pursuit of unseen prey, and a couple times has considered going out. Dolly has spent more time out than in, choosing sunshine on the driveway over the bark-o-lounger. All sure signs that winter is waning.

Braydon is a year old, and I a year older. His birthday was significant, mine not so much. Yet both of us continue on the adventure of life learning. I hope he is enjoying our shared time as much as I am, and is gaining as much. I don't think it will be long until Aurora will be ready to be let in on the secret, and then one day the new one. I never really knew a Grandmother, so I hope I'm doing it right.

So many things to do and take care of this time of year. Lots of clean up work to be sure, but its of the more rewarding kind. Its the making ready for the new. Don's preferred reading material are the seed catalogs. The last dyeing day results were decidedly hues of the coming spring, but by unconscious choice. And Saturday is on the calendar as the turning point of spring - shearing day.

As usual, the first real thaw came a week too early, and the muddy lots make me cringe, but I console myself with the knowledge that the covers at least will ensure that at least some of the wool will be clean. Most likely more than I can use or even sell. But then, you never know. I am excited to see the first colored fleeces from the yearlings. I wonder how many chocolate colored things I can think of to make.

The quilt is Braydons. I waited until I could make something especially to suit him. He loves his friends on the farm, and now he can have them with him all the time. Happy Birthday big boy Braydon.