Tuesday, July 27, 2010

They asked for it

The heat is unrelenting and ongoing around here and nearly everyone else I know is dealing with the same thing. I've actually gotten tired of hearing myself complain about it!! So, anyway, in the continuing search to find ways to keep my animals from suffering too much, I have resorted to catering to their every request. I just happened to see this kiddie pool on sale at our local K-Mart and decided it was worth it, if it only worked once. Not surprisingly, the alpacas were a little leery at first. (Maybe it's all those brightly colored fish swimming around on the outside!) I think the sides might be just a tad too high for them to feel comfortable stepping over, but, nonetheless, they did finally get in and thrash around enough to empty most of the water out onto the ground. I only paid $10 for this beauty (the pool-not the alpacas), so it was not much of an investment and once I started putting the water in it, I made up my mind that I'd use it myself, if they didn't take to it. In fact, I've seriously considered going back to get another one just for me!

Friday, July 23, 2010

New duds for the dudes

The big boys finally got some new coats a few days ago. I am really pleased with how their fleeces are looking underneath those coats. Ollie and Mr. Lucky are sparkling clean and Mr. Lucky's fleece is black, black, black. No sun bleached tips for him this year. Buddy is not currently wearing one, but I finally got one big enough to fit him and now I'm just waiting for a good rain to clean him up a little before he dons it. Putting these coats on the whole flock is a sizable investment for me and I've been buying them a few at a time. Each animal will require several different sizes within the space of one year's fleece growing cycle, so the cost really adds up. My concern about having the sheep wear the coats was that it might be more stressful during hot weather, but so far, my observation has been that if anything, the black sheep are staying a little cooler and the white sheep don't seem to be bothered by them at all. I'm already thinking about those beautiful fleeces and the colors I will dye them (or not).

The life of a shepherd is so cyclical. I think that's one of the aspects of this life I love best. Spending time with the flock is an every day event for me, but certain times of the year require more energy than others. Lambing season is the most time consuming, but also the most rewarding. Summer requires extra vigilance to keep everyone healthy. Fall brings breeding season and decision making about which ram to breed to which ewes. Winter means feeding and barn work several times a day.

Sometimes it seems as though life on the farm is all about looking ahead. We're always planning for the next breeding, the next shearing, the next lambing. In some ways, the ability to keep looking ahead is a gift because it helps prevent getting completely depressed when things inevitably go awry. The day to day work does sometimes get me down, but when the paycheck is beautiful fleeces and sweet lambs, it's reason enough to keep going. Mike and I talk a lot about learning to "enjoy the moment" and it's often a struggle for me to slow down long enough to do that. Maybe if I keep on practicing, I'll finally get the hang of it.

I hope your weekend is full of enjoying the moments.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I am the perpetual student

and hope to remain so. There's nothing quite like taking a class or two to get me feeling creative again. This past weekend, Mike and I drove up to Chicago for a little get-away time. As we were walking out the door on Thursday afternoon, I might have been heard to say, "It's just not worth it! It's too stressful to leave the farm and the animals. We might as well stay home." I'm so glad we didn't give up on going. I took some classes at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Festival (and did just a little retail therapy). Friday's class was with Franklin Habit (that's Franklin doing a demo-and wearing a lace trimmed night cap!) and I can tell you he is just as entertaining in person as he is on his blog and in his book. Not only was the class enjoyable, but I learned a lot. We knit a miniature Tomten jacket, using Elizabeth Zimmerman's instructions, which had been adapted by Franklin. When completed, mine will fit an American Girl doll. If I could just finish up my Shepherd's Jacket and my Einstein Jacket, I might be tempted to cast on for a grown-up size Tomten. It's so cleverly designed, as are all of EZ's patterns. Franklin is a HUGE Elizabeth fan. When I told him I had actually known Elizabeth, he nearly swooned! (It's true----and to prove it, I have a big picture of myself with Elizabeth and Meg that was taken at knitting camp many, many years ago. I'm going to frame it and hang it in the new studio.)

At the end of the class, I asked Franklin what we might have to do to get him to teach at our very own Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, next May. His answer was, "Just ask me!" So, anyone out there interested in taking a class from Franklin? I can highly recommend it.

As for that retail therapy......you know I can't pass up a chance to buy some Briar Rose yarn. I think Chris (the owner/dyer extraordinaire) is one of the nicest people on this earth and I don't think I've ever seen any colorway of her yarn that I didn't absolutely love. Of course, I'm so predictable, the yarn I bought is me all over the place!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We are so (not) cool

Trying to stay cool has been a full time job around the farm lately. We did have a bit of a break over the weekend, but the weather forecast shows us heading back into the mid-90's in the next few days. We all have our ways of coping, as best we can. The animals move as little as possible during the daylight hours and do their grazing at night. There are four fans running in the barn right now and that is where they hang out during the day. Last week, I kept noticing that the automatic waterer that's shared by the llama/alpaca pen and the lamb's pen was filthy every evening when I brought the lambs in for the night. Sheep do not like dirty water and will not drink from it. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. The alpacas were cooling themselves by putting their feet in the waterer and splashing water all over the place. Yesterday I found a tub that we used before the waterers were installed and pulled it into the back barnyard. I filled it full of water and stood back to watch. Prince, who is the boldest one of the herd, stepped right in and tried his best to figure out a way to lay down. Failing that, he stood in it and splashed water until the tub was nearly empty. Next thing I know, they'll be requesting a swimming pool!

Holly moves around all day looking for a cool place to catch a nap before her night-shift begins. The cemetery rock is a favorite spot because it's shady all day and I'm sure the rock feels cool on her stomach. Plus, it's a great vantage spot for keeping an eye out for any predators. An elderly woman who grew up in the big log cabin that stood on our house site (before it burned down), told us about all the different people buried on that spot. They were her ancestors and she had a story for each of them. When we bought the farm, there was only evidence of one grave marker, so when this huge rock came up out of the ground when our farm road was rebuilt, we decided to use it to mark the cemetery. The rock forms a natural seat and is a great imaginary stage or boat or mountain for the grandkids (and a wonderful observation platform for Holly).
I hate to wish my life away, but I'm already dreaming of cool autumn days and nights. Hope you are staying cool, wherever you are!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

So happy together

I keep coming up with these blog titles that are phases from songs....don't know where they are coming from. Then, I walk around for days with the song going on and on and on in my mind. Anyway, the title of that Beatles song (and later by the Turtles) is what I thought of when I saw these guys a few mornings ago. It wasn't that long ago that Mr. Lucky and Ollie were pushing, shoving, head butting and generally trying to dominate. On shearing day, I decided to put Buddy in with them and that changed the whole dynamic. It's not that Buddy is a more aggressive boy. He's been wethered and is really just a big baby. He is bigger than they are, but I think it's just his mellow attitude that has influenced them. Now they are all best buds! Don't they look sweet?

It's hot, hot, hot here, but so is the whole right side of the country, so I'm not telling you anything new. The combination of the heat and not having internet for three days (yes, again!) has made me not want to be outside at all. Of course, I have to be outside to take care of the animals, and, unfortunately for them, they have to be outside all the time. I went to Lowe's today and bought another huge barn fan to put on the alpacas and llamas. I'm worried about getting everyone through this week.

If you are out and about tomorrow (in the predicted 97 degree heat), come on by Henry Clay's home, on Richmond Road. They are having Ashland's Country Life Festival and Olive and I will be there. I'll be demonstrating spinning wool (I know!) and Olive will be wearing wool and, well, .............just being Olive. The hours are from 10 am to 2 pm. Please be sure to bring a cool breeze along with you!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hail, hail

the gang's all here........in the barn.......jockeying for position in front of the big fan. There is a smaller fan hanging on the side of the pen and the runner-up gets that one!

It was so stinking hot here last week. High heat and high humidity make for miserable animals (and me!). Early in the week, I started bringing the group of boys (alpacas and sheep), plus Strawberry and Finn, into the barn first thing in the morning and turning on the fans. The sheep boys make a bee-line for the big fan and settle themselves in for the duration. The alpacas and llamas stay scattered about and they all spend the day snoozing away. When the sun goes down, I let them all out into the pasture for the night, so they can graze. The ewes and lambs are kept in the driveway lot during the night, to make it easier for Holly to guard them, and I let them into the big pasture early in the morning. They graze early, then find a shady spot and sleep all day. As soon as the sun starts going down, they are up and eating. Musical pastures is the name of the game around here in the summer. Some in, some out and then some out and some in! It's like brackets on each end of my day to get everyone in the spot where they will be most comfortable.
Thank goodness we are getting a break from all that heat. It is wonderful today. Low 80"s. It's one of those days when I can say there is no place else on earth I would rather live than right here. (Might not have been my answer last week!)