Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Moving forward

(Rainy days are adding green to our world)
 The farm is waking up these days, even without the presence of my precious baby lambs in the barn and pastures.  The ewes are happy that we have green grass and if we could just get the temperature to moderate a little, it would be so great.  I've planted a few things out in the garden, which have promptly been eaten by what I'm guessing is a rabbit.  Without our dear Holly here to patrol, the night creatures have moved right in.  I guess we are going to need to drag the electric fence out early and maybe put row covers over things in order to harvest fresh greens anytime soon.  I sure hope rabbits don't like asparagus because it should be coming up soon and it will break my heart to not enjoy our yearly asparagus bounty.

The morning that Holly died was also alpaca and llama shearing day.  The alpaca boys, along with Strawberry and Pippi got to ride over to Seldom Scene Farm for their yearly do.  It's always a big relief to have all the shearing over with for the year.  I've been trying to decide whether I'm going to keep the alpaca boys or sell them.  One day I think keep and the next day I think sell.  I'm trying hard to simplify the routine around here and having multiple species always makes things a little more complicated.  On the other hand, I do love having those alpaca fleeces to blend with my sheep fleeces.  So, back and forth I go.  No matter what, Strawberry and Pippi (the llamas) will stay because they get along beautifully with the sheep and are used to being part of the ewe flock.

I've been working along preparing for the natural dye workshop to be held here at the farm next week.  I'm really excited about hosting this event.  Dagmar is so knowledgeable and having three full days of hands-on instruction is going to teach us all so much.  At the conclusion of the workshop, each participant will go home with 75 (!) mini-skeins that we will have dyed during the three days.  Each of those mini-skeins will be tagged with the "recipe" for recreating the color and will be a resource we can use forever.

Of course, because it's spring time on the farm, I'll probably be out mowing until hours before the start of the workshop.  Fast growing green grass is a blessing and a curse in the spring.  By the time I finish mowing a round, it's time to start all over again!  We've had some wonderful sunny days this week and now the rain has arrived again.  I swear I can see things growing right before my eyes.  There is something wonderful about the arrival of a new season.  For me, it's a sign of new opportunity combined with the comfort of tried and true activities.  I love autumn best of all, but spring might be next.  I love planting the garden (though I'm not so crazy about tending to it in the heat of July and August) and shedding the coats, boots and woolen hats. I enjoy bringing the pots out of the greenhouse and putting them back around the koi pond on the terrace and eating dinner on the screened porch.  These are all things that happen year after year, but somehow seem new and exciting at the change of the season.

And speaking of new and exciting, we've had a new addition to the MacDonald clan this week.  Just yesterday afternoon,  Mike's son, Taylor and his wife, Crimson welcomed their son, Atticus Euclid MacDonald, into the world.  We're so excited about having a new baby in the family.  Though Mike has been more than willing to embrace my eight grandchildren as his own, this is his first official grandchild ..... and the one who will carry on the MacDonald name.  We can't wait to start teaching him about life on the farm!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


My husband has a favorite saying in answer to whatever is plaguing me at any given moment.  "Oh well, it's always something".  Sometimes it's funny and sometimes not.  Yesterday was one of those days when it was not.  We received a call from a neighbor early yesterday morning, telling us that there was a dog on the side of the road that looked like it could be one of our Pyrenees.  It was our weird, sweet Holly.  The past few years she's gotten progressively more fearful of storms and it seemed as though nothing we tried seemed to calm or comfort her.  Usually, she would run off and hide and show up the next day, looking as though she had been through hell.  Monday night we had one of the most dramatic storms I can remember in a long time. So much thunder, lightning and heavy rain and it went on forever.  Holly had obviously started running and just kept going because she was 1 1/2 miles from home.  At some point, she must have run out into the road and been hit.  Holly had been here five years and I wrote about her arrival here.  We don't know what her life experiences were before she arrived here.  She had a quirky personality and clearly preferred her sheep to hanging out with humans (which is exactly how it should be for a dog who's been bred to protect livestock).  She's been a wonderful guardian for our animals - always sweet and kind with the ewes and lambs, never playing rough or chasing them.  We are going to miss her so very much.  We still have Aslan and are most likely going to need to start a new puppy soon, though it's difficult to even think about that at the moment.  It's all part of that ever-present cycle of life and death here on the farm.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Going green

Finally, it's going green here in central Kentucky.  We had a little spell of rain and warm weather last week and the grass and trees and bushes are waking up.  Seeing the sheep grazing happily on tender grass and the tiny leaves emerging on the pecan trees in the yard was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating week.  Looking back through posts from years past, we usually have poppies, peonies, viburnum and lilacs blooming by now, but this year we are way behind.  I'm hoping this means that we'll have a long, lovely spring that lasts well into June before the summer heat and humidity come to stay.

(My big bottle baby, Buddy)
It's an awfully quiet spring here at Tanglewood with no lambs to enjoy.  With the exception of a year or two when I chose not the breed the ewes, I've never had a spring without lambs in my shepherding life.  Mr. Bates was either too young for the job or else he was sterile.  In any case, we will never know because we castrated him last weekend, so he's now a wether.  Why would we do that?  Mr. Bates has a gorgeous fleece (he's half Wensleydale and has so much luster, I swear he sparkles!) and I wanted to keep him, but he was developing a bit of an "attitude".  I can't keep any animal around here if they are not trust-worthy and he was starting to make me feel uneasy.  All that testosterone was making him a bit of a punk less than agreeable to have around.  So, now that he's a wether, he should mellow out and start being a nicer boy.  He and Buddy are together right now, so he has the perfect roll model for becoming a true gentleman.  In another four or five weeks he and Buddy can join the girls out in the big pasture and they'll hopefully be one big happy family for the rest of the summer.

(The former punk - Mr. Bates)
Have you checked out the workshops for the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival?  There are some terrific offerings - so much to learn, so little time.  I wish I could take a few classes, but I'll be there as a vendor and that will keep me plenty busy.  (I do hope to sneak in just a tiny bit of shopping.)  We've got lots of new features this year.  We're hosting a Farm-To-Table dinner on Saturday evening, more food vendors (gelato this year...yay!!), and a great selection of fiber and equipment vendors.  I promise, you'll be glad you came.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Reading matter(s)

Not long ago, I promised a post on some of my newest reading matter.  It's not so much books right now, but some terrific magazines that are entertaining me.  People who know me well will tell you that I always have a stack of the newest issues out on the table. 

For more years than I can even remember, British Country Living has been at the top of the stack.  It's one of those magazines that I keep years of back issues and cannot bring myself to get rid of.  Last year I started subscribing to Kinfolk, which has the most beautiful design aesthetic.  It really makes you want to step into the pages and become part of the scene being portrayed.  Another really great American magazine is Taproot.  The editor is none other than Amanda Soule (of Soulemama fame).  It's a wonderful combination of food, craft, photography, artwork and so much more.  Kinfolk and Taproot are my serenity magazines.  They are calming and thought provoking to look at (in the same way reading Soulemama first thing in the morning starts me off thinking about something Amanda has written). 

(The Simple Things)
Lately, I've discovered a few more British magazines.  Mollie Makes is about crafts and those who are making things.  The articles are mainly about craftspeople in Great Britain and it's fun to see what is happening there.  My newest favorite is The Simple Things.  The front of each issue declares: eating-growing-sharing-making-living-escaping.....which just about covers it all for me.  I love everything about this magazine (even the advertising is pleasing to look at!) and it's destined to be one of those that stays on my bookshelves.  Handmade Living is another British magazine that I think I'm going to like, though maybe not every issue.  I tend to pick up magazines at the bookstore until I'm sure it's one I don't want to miss each month.  The British magazines are pricey, no matter whether you subscribe or buy on a month by month basis, but I justify it by the hours of pleasant reading and looking I get from each copy.
(The Simple Things)

 I have a funny story (at least it's funny now-then, not so much).  Several months ago I decided to order a subscription online to The Simple Things.  It was a Friday afternoon and I filled out the form and submitted my debit card information and was declined.  What?  Wait a minute - it's a debit card, so I know the funds are there.  I tried several more times, with the same result.  So, then I tried with a credit card.  Once again, declined.  Frustrated and assuming it had something to do with the magazine's website,  I quit trying and went out to do evening chores.  Saturday, I stopped at the grocery for a few things and my debit card was declined!  Ack!  I ended up using my Shell gasoline credit card to pay for groceries.  So then, I stopped to get gas and my Shell card was declined!  When I got home, I tried getting into my bank accounts online and was declined there also.  By this point, I was frantic and sure someone had somehow hacked my banking information.  It took several days of phone calls to straighten up, but it turned out that someone in the fraud department (wherever that is) decided my purchasing something online from England was too unusual and that someone had stolen my card numbers.  So, they shut everything down - everything!  I was instructed to alert the fraud department from now on, whenever I intend to travel or make "unusual" purchases.  Considering the fact that I've made purchases from many places over the years, I found the whole thing ridiculous.  I appreciate the fact that they were supposedly trying to protect my money (though I'm pretty sure it was their own liability they were really concerned about), someone, somewhere got a little carried away.  It did make me think about how easily we can be separated from our own money when someone else is in control of it! 
(The Simple Things)
I'm not sure what the moral of the story is, unless it's to maybe keep a little cash on hand, just in case the "fraud department" becomes displeased with your buying habits!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And the winner is ....

It took me a little while to re-number the entries and then go back to double check myself.  There were some accidental duplicate comments and then my comment at the end that made the the blogger total off by a few numbers.  So, without further ado - selected comment number 127, which belonged to lulu!  I've sent off an email and hope to hear from you soon, lulu!!  Thank you all so much for participating in this little give-away.  Kristin has so many, many fans and I know it gladdens her heart to hear how much you all appreciate her talents.  Sometimes, when you live on a farm and spend a large part of your days wearing boots and barn clothes, finding time to be creative can be a real struggle.  The fact that Kristin is able to continually amaze us with her sense of style is a real testament to how hard she works.

A common theme in the comments was how much we are all looking forward to spring arriving in our parts of the country.  Everyone is craving color and I'm especially longing for green right now.  We have run out of hay already and had to buy another load to get us through.  The grass in the fields is definitely starting to show some green and, if we can get four or five days of warm sunshine, I'll probably be able to start complaining about the mowing :-)  Those of us who live in the country are obsessed with the weather,  especially if we have livestock or seasonal crops.  We have no control over it, but have to learn to adjust our plans according to the latest weather report.

That picture up there, of Mrs. Dandy and Jim Dandy (Junior) has nothing to do with anything in this post, obviously.  It just happened to be what I saw when I walked outside a few minutes ago.  Sitting on the side of the truck is not where we like to see them - for several obvious reasons, but there you have it.  One more thing I don't seem to be in control of around here!