Friday, December 29, 2006

Year-end inventory

This is the glorious sight that greeted me this morning out our bedroom window - well, as much of the glorious sight that my digital camera can capture!

It has been cold for this side of those mountains, but nothing like my sweet Valentine is experiencing. Lois sent me this photo of her in a Christmas email; what nice fleece she must be growing! I'm working on getting a quarantine pen set up from which Valentine can see the other sheep.

I didn't get as many scarves knitted for Christmas presents as I would have liked; in fact, I have a couple still on the needles and a few other projects that I must do soon for friends returning from Fiji in January. But I sat down and counted up how many I HAVE made since I started knitting in September, and the tally wasn't too bad for a beginner with a lot of other irons in the fire -- 13 scarves and one hat! I've been stockpiling some yarn and fiber for future projects (have to watch that; I hear there's a real danger of becoming a "stashaholic"), and spinning when I have time. As soon as I finish the specific projects on my to-do list, I want to try dying with Kool-Aid, complete the sweater sampler (from The Sweater Workshop), and try my hand at socks (with a simple tube-sock pattern from the same book). How DO some people have time to get bored?

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Raining diamonds

We woke up yesterday to a third morning of freezing fog. The fairy dust is pretty, but the gray does start to wear on you after awhile. During the day it started to rain, a very cold rain that didn't melt the fairy dust but rather added a diamond coating to it (but blessedly not to the roads).

I left the sheep out for awhile, and then brought the sodden things in. My friend Lois talks about "self-cleaning" sheep who get wet from the elements and then shake the VM (vegetable matter) out of their fleeces along with the moisture. Apparently my sheep missed that session in sheep school, because they just get wet and sorry-looking.

Today dawned clear and sunny, after a night of heavy showers that eventually washed away all the fairy dust and diamonds. Ah, I don't realize how much I miss the sun until I see it again! That and a couple nights of decent sleep without coughing put me in a positive, energetic mood. I think the sheep appreciated the sunshine, too. Here come Rechel and Bella for their share of attention...
while Dinah discovers that Brian's touch is just as nice as mine is...
...and likes it so much she gives him a kiss!

Oh, just so you know - it's raining again.

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, December 18, 2006

Freezing fog and wacky woolies

The frost fairy was busy last night, sprinkling frisky-frosty fairy dust on everything. The weatherman said it was freezing fog, but he has no imagination!

When dusk began to fall, I ventured into the cold to bring the sheep in. My first hint that the fairy dust had affected them was the alfalfa pellets lingering in one of the feed pans. The girls didn't eat all their candy??? Hmmm. I walked toward their fold, expecting them to follow me as usual. The thought crossed my mind that if they hadn't finished their morning pellets in the pasture, perhaps they wouldn't come running into the pen with me for their evening pellets, but the thought was interrupted by odd scrambling sounds on the gravel behind me. I looked in time to see Dinah sproinging stiff-legged down the driveway, then squaring off as if to spar with Rechel. I laughed, and she turned tail and sproinged back up the driveway. Now, Bella still bounces sometimes, but my mature ladies are usually more sedate - and I have NEVER seen Dinah so wired! I decided to run up to the house to get my camera, and then wondered if I'd ever get them back to their quarters. They wouldn't follow or be herded (I was wishing for a good Border Collie at that point), and were acting totally weird.

Deciding to bet on the tried and true, I scooted down to the barn, measured out fresh pellets, and shook the cans. Thankfully they all dashed in, although still not acting quite like themselves. That frisky-frosty fairy dust is powerful stuff, eh, Dinah?

That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It was a dark and stormy night....

One of our Northwest storms blew in Thursday, with high winds and heavy rain. These storms are a recipe for power outages, as branches break free and tree roots in saturated soil give up the fight and crash down on power lines - and sometimes on buildings and cars. We have some big Douglasfir trees along the south edge of our property, made more vulnerable this year by logging right next door. I prayed that none would come down on our farm buildings, housing our camper, horse trailer, sheep and horses. The electricity (and the trees) held all day, and when Rick got home we decided to all take showers or baths, just in case. I managed to get my hair dried just before the lights flickered and went out.

Having lived in this area for 13 years before building this house, we made use of our experience when designing it and included wood heat along with our heat pump, and a generator feed in our fuse box. So after the power went out Thursday night, Rick set up the generator outside and hooked it up for the first time. (In the one other significant outage we've had, our power was back on within 24 hours and some friends of ours were in the dark for five days, so we let them use our generator.) Well, the electrician didn't do his job very well. We had agreed that the refrigerator, freezer, well pump, woodburning insert blower, and an outlet should be on the generator feed. Instead, we got the frig, freezer, and Brian's bedroom and bathroom - AND it was wired backwards so the electricity would backfeed and run the hot water heater unless we switched it off! Well, that's not quite correct. For whatever reason the well pump didn't work the first time we ran the generator, but after lending it to a generator-less neighbor for a few hours, it ran the well pump when we hooked it up again. Ah, flushing toilets!

Nothing crashed at our house during the stormy night, and we stayed warm enough with the wood heat even without the blower. I had errands to run in town the next day, so we ate a hot lunch while there. Even in town, where there is more shelter from the wind, there was a lot of damage visible.

We spent another evening in quiet candlelight. Saturday morning we got up early so we could get everything done and get ready for church on time. I am proud to say that I can take an adequate "bucket shower" using less than two gallons of water! I pulled some things out of the freezer and cupboard so we could stay for potluck and enjoy another hot meal. When we got home Saturday afternoon, our power had been restored.

These episodes always make me reflect on how blessed - no - how SPOILED we are by all our modern conveniences and utilities. I know there are many in other parts of the world who do not have such things, or even access to clean water or adequate (much less HOT) food. As another way to look at it, my little sheepies have life better than many people in the world today! May we never take it for granted, or forget to share our comparative wealth.

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sheep kite

Yesterday was the only dry day in the forecast, so I wanted to get the girls out to their little pasture. Usually I carry a pan of alfalfa pellets and they follow me eagerly, but I decided a leading refresher was in order, and got out the halters and leads. After an initial flurry of scurrying in the sheep fold, dear Dinah stood in front of me to be haltered. Rechel was next. But Bella, bold little lover and cookie eater that she usually is, was acting like I had walked in with a 12-foot boa constrictor wrapped around me. She was practically bouncing off the walls! After tying up the ewes I had to tackle Bella in a corner to halter her. Then she proceeded to act like a sheep kite on the end of the lead. The only reason I didn't have to DRAG her to the pasture gate was that she wanted to stay with the ewes, and they were walking politely behind me.

When we got to the pasture, I looped Bella's lead over a fence post so I could work with her some more and let the ladies go. You'd never know Bella had many leading lessons last summer by the way she was ricocheting around at the end of the lead line! Shetlands are supposed to be quite smart and retain their lessons well. I'm worried Bella may be, well, operating a few pellets shy of a pile! She's also a very LOUD sheep, often "yelling" at me when I'm standing right there in front of her. Think the traits are related?

Anyway, she calmed down SLIGHTLY after a bit. I decided to leave her very snug (note to self: order bigger size) halter on her so we could have another leading lesson when it was time to go back to the fold. I never would have been able to catch her in the pasture without the halter already on. Obviously, Bella and I need to spend some more "quality" time together - especially if I hope to show her to any advantage next year!

That's it for now at . . .