Thursday, August 28, 2008

I just want to knit.......


I love that little phase at the top of Susan Anderson's blog. Yesterday during our Wednesday knitting group, we all said it at least once in the course of the afternoon's conversation. It's so true. All of us admitted to wanting to abandon all the "have-to" things on our to-do lists and just sit somewhere and knit. And we all look forward to this knitting group now, as not just a social time, but one in which we can knit (guilt-free) the whole time without anyone needing something from us or feeling as though we should get up and get some work done! I think about it when I wake up in the morning....when can I squeeze in some knitting time? All day long, I am thinking about when I can take some time to knit a few rows. One of us is going on a six hour road trip soon and she can't wait to get in the car, so she can knit the whole time. And the rest of us are so envious! What is it that makes it so appealing? For me, I think, a lot of the satisfaction comes from the creative process. But that said, on a daily basis, it is the meditative aspect that appeals to me most. My husband says he thinks I have become a wee bit obsessive about knitting (okay, he didn't say "wee bit"---just the obsessive part). My answer is that there are so many worse things to be obsessive about, he should be happy I've settled on knitting!

When I was teaching knitting, primarily the beginning sock class, as the students were struggling along with that first little sock, I would tell them that very soon they would enjoy knitting socks so much they would be carrying sock knitting in the car and hoping to get as many red lights as possible, just so they could knit a few stitches while they waited for it to turn green! And I loved it when they would return some time later and admit that they now had stoplight knitting in their cars. Just think how much more patient we would all be with each other, if we only had a little stoplight knitting to help us!

Anyway, that little hat above was my most recent stoplight knitting. It's a prototype for a simple hat kit with some bulky yarn I've been spinning and dyeing. I'm having fun coming up with plenty of bright colors and a super easy pattern for some instant gratification knitting. So, do you have stoplight knitting?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If three's a crowd, what's this?


This is some kind of peafowl pile-up! Last night I went to the barn around 10 pm, to make sure the door to the chicken pen had been fastened and this is what I saw. Of course, I didn't have a camera with me and I was too tired to think about coming back to the house, then back to the barn in hopes of getting the picture. I did remember to take the camera tonight. Poor Mrs. Dandy. She's been teaching her chicks to roost the last few evenings and this is what she has accomplished so far. These guys and/or girls are getting pretty big, but they still need their mama to comfort them as they go to sleep. It's hard to see in the picture, but there are two chicks under one wing, one chick under the other wing and one chick up on her back. Being a mom is such hard work sometimes and getting the little ones tucked in for the night is enough to wear a mother out. They are still in a divided off section of the chicken yard and we will all be happy when they can come out and be free to roam. Mrs. Dandy is very protective of her chicks and terrorizes the chickens if they even look her way, so they'll be especially relieved to be rid of her.

We've been thinking that it may be time to let Mr. Dandy out of confinement. The garden is winding down (not the tomatoes!) and there is probably enough to share, if he decides to start raiding it again. He has been moulting and has lost all of his beautiful tail feathers, though the new ones are already starting to grow. I need to do some research on peafowl management because I'm not sure how he will react to the chicks.

I have been doing lots of dyeing and spinning and have two small knitting projects finished, which I will try to get pictures of soon. As usual, I have so many projects on the needles and am so close to having several of them finished. If I could just have a few days of doing nothing but knitting, but that doesn't seem to be in my future for awhile. I'm looking forward to cooler weather and even some long, rainy days when I can be guilt-free (almost) about staying indoors and knitting. I have such a hard time allowing myself to knit during the day. There always seems to be so much to do and I keep thinking, if I can just get caught up (I know...it will never happen). How do you fit in knitting time?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Life goes on....

Ahhh well, life does go on, thank goodness. Thank you to all who emailed and commented. I appreciate your good wishes and they did cheer me up. Pauladeen was special to me and I am grateful you all allowed me to mourn a little for her publicly.

Life on the farm does not stop for mourning or anything else. Animals still need to be fed and watered, new things are happening and there are challenges to be met. The new chickens have decided to start laying (a little sooner than I was expecting) and that is a welcome addition to our food supply. I found the first chocolate colored egg on the floor of the chicken pen, but by the next day the hen had figured out she should lay inside the nest box. (I imagine that the hens are somewhat surprised when that first egg pops out!) And guess which box she chose? Right, the same one the old chickens laid their eggs in. What is it about that one particular box? Wish I knew. The Cuckoo Maran hens are the ones that lay the chocolate colored eggs. I've always had brown egg layers (along with the Araucana's bluish-greenish ones), but have never seen eggs as dark as these.

I don't dare miss a day of picking zucchini and cucumbers and the tomato glut is on right now. I've been freezing a lot of the Roma tomatoes and passing out some of the rest whenever I can find anyone who will take some. Dinner tonight will be Tomato Pie, which is a recipe from my friend, Teresa. The only way to make it is with really fresh tomatoes, so now is the time to enjoy it. Here's the recipe. Hope you enjoy it.
Tomato Pie-
Ingredients-
1 pie crust
tomato slices
sweet onion
fresh basil
cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)
1 cup Hellman's Light mayonnaise
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Bake an empty pie crust and cool. Dip tomatoes in boiling water and peel, then slice and place on paper towels to drain for a few hours. Saute sweet onion slices in small amount of olive oil.

Layer tomato slices with onions and basil between (can also add crumbled bacon at this point). Top the pie with mixture of 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese.Bake at 425 degrees until browned and bubbly. Let set for 15-20 minutes before serving.

(This is how the pie looks before baking.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pauladeen-- February 1, 2004-August 17,2008


You know how sometimes things just seem to be so great, like you are finally getting a handle on things, getting on top of it or feeling somewhat in control? And then, wham-mo, when you are least expecting it something you don't want to face just pops up and forces itself on you. That happened today. We noticed Pauladeen was not with the other ewes, but was off by herself, down and uncomfortable looking. When I went to check on her----there it was, the awful prolapse, again. If you have read the accounts of lambing season here this year, you may remember that she prolapsed before lambing and we were able to sew her up and pull her through the lambing. She has prolapsed since then, a couple of times, and we have sewn her up again and yet again. It had gotten to the point where she was worried anytime we came near her. We were hoping that when her lambs were weaned and her hormone levels returned to normal, the problem would be solved. When I saw her this morning, I knew what needed to be done this time. We have tried everything we know to do and nothing is working. So, I made the hard, hard decision to let her go. It's the hardest decision I've had to make in a long while. She was my favorite, my special personality, the one and only Pauladeen. It breaks my heart to know she will not be at the gate to greet me anymore.

This is so strange because a friend of mine and I had just recently had a discussion about how we really didn't get very sentimental about our animals anymore. Both of us have been raising livestock for a long time and know the reality of life on the farm. Bad things happen, often in spite of herculean effects to prevent it. You just have to face facts and move on. And here I am, crying over Pauladeen and wishing, wishing, wishing I had not made the decision to breed her (which may or may not have prevented the prolapse).

Soon, I know I will be able to tell Pauladeen stories again, and not tear up. I have her daughter and she is sweet and personable and has her mom's great fleece. I will not ever breed her, in case she is genetically predisposed to prolapsing. I have Teeny, who is the new clown, funny and sweet, wants to be a constant companion to me. It has just now occurred to me that this post is related to the one just previous. It was not my plan to lose Pauladeen so soon, but there is Teeny waiting in the wings to be the new quirky personality here on the farm.....ready to step into Pauladeen's hoof-prints.
I've had enough life lessons for a while.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dog stories

video

I've been inspired by Sara, over at My Favorite Sheep, to try the short movie option on my camera. I didn't plan on it when it happened, but I saw this interaction between Buster and Holly and just thought it so typical of them, I wanted to capture it. Please pardon the poor quality and the jiggly nature of the movie. I was standing in the middle of the adult ewes that we had penned and were de-worming and they weren't so interested in standing still so I could play around with my camera (if your sound is turned on, the bells you hear are those the adult ewes wear).

Holly is still continuing to amaze me with her instinctual behavior. And now there is another twist to the story of her showing up here just when she did. A few months ago we had four Great Pyrenees........and now we only have two. The elderly male we had adopted last fall was already ill when he came to us, so our goal with him was to make him as comfortable as we could for the the time he had left and I think we succeeded. He seemed very happy to be with the other dogs and the sheep, and although he slept a lot, he still wanted to patrol and work when he felt up to it. When the weather got hot back in early summer, it was obvious that the time had come to let him go. Every breath became a struggle for him and we made the difficult decision to put him down. Luckily for all of us, he didn't have to be traumatized by loading him into the car to go to a veterinarian's office for his final moments. My husband, who is a small animal veterinarian who makes house calls, performs this service for someone nearly every week, but we've been fortunate to not have to make the decision very often ourselves. Buddy went very peacefully and we know we did the right thing, even though it was very sad.

Our original guard dog, Abby, has been with us for eleven years and was quite old by Pyrenees standards. She's been a wonderful, dedicated guardian for our sheep. About a month ago, she just disappeared. Here one day and gone the next. She would occasionally be out of sight for a day or two, but never longer than that, so the first few days, we weren't alarmed. Then, it turned into a week, then two and now about a month. These dogs are not terribly social, especially with strangers, so we don't think someone took her. She just wouldn't let anyone get close enough for that to happen. I've heard about dogs going off to die, but have never experienced it before.....and that is what we think may have happened. We have searched for her, but with 160 acres, there are many places she could go and not be found. I still expect to see her sleeping under the trees with the sheep or hear her familiar bark during the night. If that never happens (and at this point, I don't think it will), I want to think she went out and chose her spot and then peacefully went to sleep. It's just too hard to think about otherwise.

So, that leaves us with two Pyrenees. Hannah is a little more than five years old and does not have very strong guarding instincts. She will patrol and bark at night, but she would much rather be sleeping under the screened porch or in the hydrangea bushes beside the garage. She's very sweet and quite goofy at times, so she will live out her life here with us even though she does a less than stellar job.

And then came Holly into our lives. If not for Holly being here and working so well already, we would be beginning the process all over again with a 6 week old puppy and be a long way from giving our sheep the protection they need to survive here on this farm overlooking the Kentucky river. We hear the coyotes every night. We know when they are feeding their pups and when they are training them to hunt on their own. We share this land with them and are willing to co-exist as peacefully as possible. Having the guard dogs with the sheep keeps the coyotes away. Our dogs don't kill the coyotes. They just warn them and chase them away from the flock. At less than a year old, Holly has some big paw prints to fill and she is doing an admirable job already. This is not a time-table of events I would have planned for, but you know that old saying about how "life happens when you are busy making other plans". I'm prone to spending a lot of mental and physical energy trying to make things turn out "right" (not that they always do). I know there is a lesson somewhere in all this, probably meant just for me.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Making hay while the sun shines....



Not us...not this year. It's in the barn and we are prepared for winter (which seems a long way off), but someone else raised the hay this year and someone else put it in the barn loft. And all I can say is Hallelujah! My husband loves to bale hay (go figure!). I think it brings back fond memories of his childhood growing up on his grandparent's farm. Me? Not so much. I like it in the barn loft, smelling sweet and green, but I don't like being part of the team that gets it up there. I'm way over proving that I am a strong woman, and actually, I'm not so strong anymore---at least my back isn't. It's enough lifting for me to throw those bales down from the loft when I'm feeding the sheep during the winter. The main problem with us raising our own hay is that it is seldom ready to be baled on the weekend and that is the only time my husband is available. Every year there is this great rush to get it cut, dried to just the right stage and then baled and in the barn. It almost never works out the way it should. So, it is cause for celebration to see all those lovely, sweet-smelling bales stacked up there just waiting for cold weather.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Togetherness


I had to laugh when I walked into the chicken pen this morning. These two banty hens are some of the oldest and the only ones laying eggs right now. I guess the bigger hens have used up their allotment of eggs and now their main job seems to be just eating as much as they can! What you can't see in the picture is that these girls are surrounded by empty nest boxes. I'm not sure why, but this is the one box that seems to be favored by all the old hens. They all laid their eggs in this particular box, and if one of them happened to be broody and wanting to sit on the nest full time, why the rest would just climb in on top of her and lay their eggs anyway. It will be interesting to see what the new chickens do, once they start laying.

We've gotten so spoiled with having fresh eggs, I can't seem to make myself buy the ones in the grocery. In order to use the banty eggs in cooking, I measured them by weight and volume and discovered that two banty eggs equals one large regular egg. So we are just hanging on here, waiting for the new chickens to get with the program.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Living in the land of giants

Giant zucchini and cucumbers, that is. Honestly, I was just out in the garden picking two days before and look what I found yesterday. How is it possible for things to grow this big, so fast? I suppose I must have overlooked these, and we have had two days of rain (finally), so they just exploded. You're looking at chicken treats here. The next few mornings, when I feed the chickens, I'll cut these into big chunks and they will literally jump all over it (and I won't feel wasteful).

The green beans are in the picture for scale. There are many more beans to pick and they will need my attention soon. These were for dinner last night, along with some potatoes, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers (all veggies from the garden) and a roasted chicken (not from our flock). I've been using this roast chicken recipe for many, many years. It originally came from "At Home in the Country", a book written by Mary Emmerling (remember her from American Country fame?). It makes the best chicken and is so easy to prepare. Once you put the chicken in the oven, you have an hour and a half to get the rest of your meal together. I love it when everything doesn't have to be done at the last minute and at the same time.

ROAST CHICKEN-

Ingredients-1 4-5 lb whole chicken - 2 cloves of garlic - kosher salt - pepper - juice of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking pan with foil (or you'll be sorry!). Rinse chicken and pat dry. Salt and pepper the inside. Rub the halved garlic cloves over the skin, then place them inside the cavity. Pour lemon juice over the chicken and sprinkle kosher salt liberally over the skin. I usually tie the legs together with cotton twine. Roast uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes (or use a meat thermometer if you are unsure). Remove from oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. The skin will be crispy and the inside juicy and tender. Hope you like it!