Friday, October 30, 2009

On the job

The boy has been put to work and, so far, he seems to know what he's doing. Ollie, the new CVM ram lamb who came home with me back in August is now doing what he was meant to do. I worked through the ewes on Wednesday, giving worm medication, trimming feet (and trimming a little off the backside there). When I finished with the ladies, I did the same for Ollie (except for the backside trimming), strapped the marking harness on him and turned him in with the group.

Miss Bossy tried to push him around some, but he mainly ignored her and checked everyone out. Yesterday morning, when I went to the barn, I noticed he had marked one of the ewes during the night. (And, see what a gentleman he is, still keeping her company. Look closely and you'll see a little of the yellow crayon mark on her rump.) So assuming all goes as planned, we should have our first lambs appearing around March 23rd!

I have really been enjoying the temperament of the CVM's. They went through a bit of a shy stage for a while, but have all turned into calm, friendly boys and girls. I can hardly wait to see what kind of fleeces will come from the combination of BFL/Romney ewes crossed with a CVM ram. It just has to be good!

It's the anticipation and optimism that keeps us shepherds going year after year (even though many of us vow at the end of lambing that we are never, ever, ever going through it again!).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For real

This time I have literally been to the mountain top. It may seem as though I've been a bit of a gad-about lately, but to be honest, this is the only "vacation" kind of trip I've taken in quite a while. Mike and I almost never are able to have time away together, but we managed to take three nights for a short trip to North Carolina. The first night we stayed outside Asheville so I could take a class at SAFF from Rita Buchanan on Saturday morning. Rita is a long-time hero of mine, someone I've admired since way, way back when I first learned to spin. (We're talking close to 30 years!) She's written many books, many, many articles for Spin-Off and other Interweave Press publications, and served as an editor there for years. I'm not sure when I first got to know her, but she's a fabulous teacher (so clear and encouraging) and one of the nicest people you would ever want to know. Over the years she has spun several fleeces that came from my sheep and during the workshop she reminisced about a fleece from a Romney ram I owned long ago. "Bull" was named after that character on a television program called "Night Court" (sit-com from many years ago), because he was so laid back.....virtually bomb-proof. He was one of my all-time favorites and I was so flattered that she actually remember his fleece.

That's Rita after our class. She's holding a skein of yarn, which she said was not perfect (couldn't prove it by me). The vest she was wearing was knit from the same yarn, which she spun and dyed many years ago. Her point in showing it to us was that, though the skein had some irregularities, the vest had been worn many years and no one (except herself) had ever looked at it and pointed out the thick places and the thin places. She said that she had quit trying to be such a perfectionist and was just enjoying the process and the results. Words of wisdom for us all.

Rita gave me the courage to tackle knitting gloves for the first time because of her pattern that appeared in the original "Homespun, Handknit". I love that little book....I'm on my third copy. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be available from Interweave anymore and Amazon has a new copy for $155 ! What's up with that? Until finding Rita's glove pattern, I didn't think I would ever even try to knit a pair; it just seemed impossible, but her clear, concise instructions made knitting gloves easy.

The picture at the beginning of this post is from the terrace at Snowbird Mountain Lodge and it is one of my favorite places in the whole world. We left Asheville right after my class and headed for this spot, which is on top of Snowbird Mountain right outside Robbinsville, North Carolina. The Lodge has an interesting history, but the best part about it is the oh so peaceful atmosphere. There are no televisions, no phones in the rooms, and the big gathering room/lobby has a fire going in the fireplace almost all of the time. The big room is filled with comfy chairs and squishy leather sofas and the bookcases lining the walls are filled with books you can borrow to read anytime you like. And then, there's the food. So, so, so good! This trip, for the first time, I managed to pace myself and didn't leave there vowing to never eat again! Mike spent the day on Sunday hiking in Joyce Kilmer woods, which is nearby. The above picture might give you an idea of how I spent my day. My justification was that I almost never have a day when I don't have to do barn chores, cook meals, clean and/or just generally work at all the tasks that need attention when you live on a farm. I did a little spinning in our room, took a nice, long bath (with no distractions or interruptions!) and then claimed a prime knitting spot on the sofa in front of the fireplace. I was so relaxed, I almost took a nap. (Those who know me could tell you this would be an earth shattering event.)

So, now we are back to our real world, with somewhat of a thud. Our corgi girl, Ivy, has hurt her back and can hardly get around and this morning we found one of the yearling ewes dead in the field. We don't know what happened to her. I heard the Pyrenees barking a lot last night from the gateway into the farthest field and this morning, I found them both lying beside the body, guarding her, I suppose, to keep the coyotes from coming in for a feast.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To the mountain top

I've been there. It was all I'd hoped it would be and then some. I'm talking about Rhinebeck, of course. Rhinebeck is what every fiber festival wants to be when it grows up! It's in a beautiful location and has fabulous vendors, wonderful food and some of the nicest, most pleasant people you would ever hope to be around. I did my share of supporting the vendors and I saw many, many more things I would have liked to buy, but I ran out of money and room in my suitcase. (Did you know that having a suitcase 4 pounds over the 50 pound limit will cost you an extra $90.00? I didn't, which led to my having to open my suitcase on the floor in front of the Delta ticket counter and start pulling things out until I got the weight down to 50 pounds! Talk about losing your dignity.) Fortunately, I was able to stuff my carry-on, plus enlist my friend, Teresa, to carry on another bag for me.

(This is not what was in my suitcase, but I would have been perfectly happy if it had been!)

The only complaint I can muster about Rhinebeck is that I wasn't able to discover just what the heck was "Artichoke French" and the line for the chicken pot pies was so long (I'm talking hours!), that I never got a taste of one.

As much fun as Rhinebeck was, it is always so great to come home. There is nothing like that feeling of turning into the farm lane and being home, regardless of whether I've been gone days or just a few hours. I've got a to-do list going that will take me the rest of the week to accomplish (if I'm lucky and if I stay on task....which is oh so hard for me). We're having gorgeous weather right now, so I'm out to spend some time with my own fiber sources (sheep, alpacas, llama) and some quality time on the mower.

*That top picture is of a huge billboard on the route to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. So Cute!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


And done in. Whew, that was a big job. The barn is so clean now, I don't want to let any of the animals into it! You know what they say about the best laid plans? Not much went as we planned, but in the end we managed to get it done before the weekend was over. The first trip out of the barn, the manure spreader broke! That was on Saturday and it took until Sunday morning to find someone who could come and weld it back together. By Sunday morning the bobcat had a flat tire.....more time to patch that. Finally, late morning on Sunday, we were able to get serious and we finally finished up around 9 pm Sunday evening. I don't think I have ever worked quite as hard, but it is so nice to have the barn clean and I got a really good workout in the process!

I spent several hours this afternoon putting the panels back up and setting up the pens the way I want them for the next few months. It was kinda like rearranging the furniture. (Put these panels over there and use a large gate to close off that, that doesn't work, need another panel and a smaller I have a smaller gate?.....where are the longer panels?) I"m close to putting the rams in with the ewes and wanted to have several pens with some separation between them, so we don't have rams head-butting each other through the panels. Actually, the adults won't be in the barn much at all for the next few months. Once I put the rams in, I will leave them out in the pastures. I like the bring the ewe lambs in to feed them a little every evening. I mainly do that to socialize with them. As adults they will be so much easier to manage if I have handled them a lot now while they are young. These lambs are so friendly, I can get them to pretty much follow me anywhere, especially if I have a little grain in the bucket ;-)

Even though it was raining, Sadie, the barn cat, is always ready to assume the supervisory position while I was moving the sheep around. Tiny as she is, she's convinced that she's the boss of the barn. Unfortunately for all of us, the peafowl seem to be ruling the roost right now (pun intended!).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Autumn rain

It has rained, off and on, since late last night. I love this kind of day, if I don't have to be out in it all the time. Unfortunately, some of the animals around here don't have much choice at the moment. The yearling ewes, Buddy (who is a wether now), the alpaca boys and Strawberry are in a field with no shed. All they have are the trees to provide some protection. If the weather was cold, I would bring them in so they could at least have the shelter of the sheds on the sides of the barn, but it is 65 degrees today and they are not suffering. Of course, looking at the alpaca boys, you'd think they were being tortured (and might I point out, they have chosen to hunker down in the middle of the field). Strawberry, on the other hand, is getting on with what she likes to do best....eating. (She's a girl after my own heart.)

As you can see, Strawberry has quite the baby belly now. I'm not exactly sure when she is due, because I can't remember when she started spitting off the male who was here to breed her. (A female llama does not ovulate until she is bred and once she is pregnant, she will spit at the male llama, if he tries to approach her.) I believe that she is due sometime around Christmas or early January. Once again, this is a case where the faintest record would be better than my fondest memory! I don't know why I didn't write down when I first observed her not being receptive. Good thing Strawberry is an experienced mother. I'm hoping for another appaloosa female cria. Wouldn't that make Pippi happy to have a sister who looks just like her? Pippi is quite the young lady now. She is still in with this year's ewe lambs and I'm loving the way she interacts with them.

Tomorrow is the big day......barn clean-out day!! (It's also my birthday, and sad as it might seem to some of you, getting the barn cleaned out is just the way I want to spend the day.) I'm so happy we are getting this done before cold weather. My friend, Teresa, made some wonderful minestrone soup that we will have for lunch tomorrow and a birthday cake with very unusual ingredients (another post). My friend, Mary, made a fabulous oatmeal cake (complete with one candle!) that we enjoyed at Wednesday knitting. What more could any woman ask for than to have a clean barn and such good friends (who are great cooks!)?

Hope you all have a productive and happy weekend. I know I'm going to.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Still learning

You know that saying that you can learn something every day, whether you want to or not? That's me, nearly everyday. Just the other morning, I stepped out the back door when I let Ivy (our corgi) out and something on the porch post caught my eye. It was a "walking stick" insect, but I honestly thought it was just a bit of a branch from a nearby bush. Imagine my surprise when I started to brush it off and it stood up and fought back!! Yikes! I don't think I had ever seen one of these creatures "up close and personal". Reading about them here, I discovered that some people keep them as pets. That would certainly be the low maintenance kind.

On the other hand, I seem to be attracted to the kind that require a little more work. This weekend, the plan is the use a Bobcat to scrape the barn floor completely clean and spread nice, clean dense grade rock all over the pens and the aisle way. I am unreasonably happy about this! (And, believe it or not, I can even think of a few other women I know who would have the same feelings.) So my weekend will be filled with manure and rocks! How about you?

Friday, October 2, 2009

You can find me here

Starting tomorrow (actually just a little later this morning!), I'll be in the big tent at the Kentucky Wool Festival in Falmouth, Kentucky with a great group of people who are all there because they love wool! Sara (thecrazysheeplady) has worked so hard to assemble the crafts people who will be demonstrating and selling their wares. I'll be sharing a space with Sylvia Yawn (Shepherd's Place Farm) and will be there all day Friday, Saturday morning and all day on Sunday. If you are out and about, stop by and say "hi".

As per my usual, I'm doing the "chicken with it's head cut off" thing. At this moment, I'm waiting for my oatmeal cookies to come out of the oven, so I can go to least for a few hours!

ps-I hear the fried apple pies are worth the trip!