Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sheep shuffle

That's what I started today - shuffling the sheep around so everyone can get acquainted with Valentine without ganging up on her. Lois (Valentine's breeder) suggested the following when the quarantine period was over: take Bella out and put in one of the other ladies for awhile, then take that one out and put the other one in, so Valentine can get acquainted with them one at a time on "her" turf. So this morning, Bella went out to the pasture with Dinah, and Rechel went in with Valentine. It worked well. Being in unfamiliar surroundings Rechel was less focused on Valentine, and I've seen no "ramming" - only a couple shoves.

Meanwhile, in the pasture.... Dinah took issue with her "new" companion, squaring off right away to ram Bella. Bella met her head-on nearly every time, so I wasn't too worried for Bella's safety. Her head is hard and the rest of her is padded with thick fleece at least nine inches long. They settled down after awhile.

To end January's posts, I'm including photos of flowers that bloom this month on our place. There is something in bloom here most of the year, so I'm going to use my blog to document what blooms when. The first photo is of sarcacocca, a lovely evergreen shrub that bears inconspicuous but highly fragrant flowers and does well in the complete shade on the north side of our house. The second photo is of snowdrops, little winter bulbs planted by a previous owner that survived the demolition, dirt work, and construction involved with replacing our old trailer with a house - gotta love tenacious beauty!

That's it for now . . .

Monday, January 29, 2007

The fiber is calling...

Today some white-gold metallic thread I bought on eBay arrived. I plan to ply it with some of my Shetland yarn for "fancy stuff." I think a felted handbag out of my first dye job (below) with the added metallic would be fun . . .
but I'm getting ahead of myself. But before I go back behind myself, or on top of myself, or wherever I'm supposed to be instead of ahead of myself, I must also mention that this great eBay seller, memc82/Fiber Options, also threw in a bonus ball of natural cotton flannel yarn that is just yummy and begs to be knitted into something.(There are 1.1 lbs of the metallic and 6 3/4 oz of the cotton.)

On the Yahoo Spinning Group list, I've been introduced to an idea for using the small quantities of yarn I will spin from each of the fiber surprises my friend Kathy sent me, along with the samples of Blue Texel that came with Louie Two, the rooing I plucked from Rechel last year and any other wonderful little bits of fiber that come my way in a special fashion.

And that big Blue-faced Leicester/Romney cross fleece my farrier gave me is begging to be washed and explored - as soon as I finish carding up the rest of Dinah's fleece. I've decided to shear on March 22 unless we're unseasonably cold then (that's the next appointment I have with our farrier, who is also a shearer), so more fiber is coming!

Too bad life gets in the way of my fiber addiction. Would using ALL my waking time to spin and knit feel like enough time, though? Maybe not - especially at my proficiency level! So it continues to be relegated to its "proper" spot, low on the list after I take care of all the "priorities" of family, home, business, and farm. Well . . . after taking care of MOST of my priorities, anyway. :-)

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Such a week

I'm ready for a new week, a different week . . . a less stressful week! Bella has jumped out of the quarantine pen twice, and tried so many other times that I was afraid she would hurt herself. I thought I had catastrophic computer problems (it turned out they were not, but in getting the problems I DID have fixed, I gained other software issues that I still haven't resolved). A track hoe has been hard at work in the once-forested lot on our south side, an unhappy reminder we are getting hemmed in and losing our quiet country atmosphere. This morning when I went to the barn to do chores, Bella and Valentine were BOTH out, and this afternoon when I got home from church they were out again, demonstrating that "temporary" isn't good enough when it comes to sheep quarters.

BUT (You know what "but" means, don't you? It means "disregard everything I just said." Test it and see!) . . . this week has had its blessings, as always. Bella HASN'T hurt herself. I'm only out $20 for the work on my computer AND I have a laptop I can use in the meantime. We're enjoying some glorious weather after the cold, snow, and ice earlier in the month. Wonderful friends enrich my life. Brian has a great, new violin teacher. Valentine continues to be the sweetest thing on four legs around here. And there are many, many more blessings too numerous to list. Thank-you, Lord!

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A study in contrasts

We're enjoying some winter sunshine here after the morning fog burned off!
Brian and I were down at the barn before lunch, so I went in to visit Valentine and Bella. Bella was in one of her "sheep-kite" moods, but I didn't hold it against her too much. Yesterday Brian had gone in to visit, and I learned (by asking, when I saw the girls looking frightened) that he had been chasing them around the pen a bit. So today I sat on a bucket and talked quietly while petting Valentine and extending a hand to Bella. But when I got up to leave, Bella rocketed to the back of the enclosure where the half-wall is the lowest and leaped, getting high-centered for a moment but landing on the outside.
Slow and steady wins the race I told myself as I followed Bella back and forth between the pasture and the quarantine pen, hoping she'd go in the open sheepfold (vacated by Dinah and Bella, who were in the pasture) or in the open barn door where I could catch her. Eventually, she entered the little "blind alley" walkway Rick created in their pen (he's in the process of turning this into the permanent sheepfold), and I caught her there.

What a difference this little "sheep rodeo" was compared to what happened earlier! This morning while I was doing chores, I entered the quarantine pen with Valentine's and Bella's alfalfa pellets. Apparently I didn't get the gate latched behind me and it swung open. Bella was intent on gobbling all the pellets and didn't notice, but Valentine strolled out. When I realized what happened I called to her, but she had already walked into the barn (something the other three sheep are skittish about doing). By the time I'd exited the pen and latched the gate, Valentine had strolled back up towards me. So I opened the gate for her and she walked right back in as nicely as you please.

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Shetland ambassador

The snow is mostly gone after the rain last night and slightly warmer temperatures, so this afternoon I haltered Bella and Valentine for a "walk about." Valentine has figured out where the people live around here, so she jumps up to look over the short wall of her quarters whenever someone comes or leaves.

Don't the girls look nice in their color-coordinated halters and leads? I decided I prefer halters that blend into those pretty Shetland faces, rather than going with a contrasting "farm color." (I'll have to do something different with white sheep.)

Our friends with the two adopted daughters from Fiji drove up, so I led the sheepy girls up to the house to meet everyone. Nileshni is afraid of most animals and watched from a distance, but Karishma was willing to come closer. Bella was being a bit of a sheep kite (as usual), but Valentine stood with calm politeness. What could Karishma do but fall in love - just as I have - with this very special Shetland?

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dying to spin

Yes, I have been - dying to spin and dying to spin! When Rick picked up Friday's mail on his way home, there was a parcel notice from the post office. Suspecting it to be the used Louet S10 I had purchased off eBay, I impatiently waited for Tuesday to arrive so I could pick it up. Then, of course, the roads were treacherous and my truck's 4x4 hubs wouldn't lock in and by the time Rick picked me up to deposit payroll taxes there wasn't time for a side trip to Amity (the clinic is in McMinnville). Wednesday I was determined to make the trip (Rick got the truck's hubs to lock), but waited until after lunch to give the ice on the roads as much chance to thaw as possible. In the meantime I busied myself with clients' jobs, household jobs, and some carding. (My friend Kathy LeFevre had made copies of some instructional DVDs for me, which taught me the right way to card - what a difference!) When I weighed my bag of "cloud" and saw I had five-plus ounces, which is what my bobbins hold, I decided to take the plunge and dye a batch. So out came the second-hand crockpot and my assorted packets of Kool-Aid, and in went the wet wool and chosen colors - Blastin' Berry Cherry, Berry Blue, and Grape. (I only used one packet of grape, in the middle, so it kinda got lost.)

In due time, off we went to the post office to pick up - YES! - a box from The Netherlands! Considering it held a spinning wheel AND skeinwinder, it wasn't that big; but of course it was all dissembled. All I had time to do last night was gaze at the carefully wrapped parts and contemplate with happy surprise the three baggies of sample wool included.

Today I put "Louie 2" together. Although used, the wheel is beautiful, and nicer in every way than my S17, which is an inexpensive kit version Louet. (Anyone want to buy an inexpensive wheel?) The skeinwinder is new, a prototype made by the Louet dealers from whom I bought the wheel.

After putting Louie 2 together, I had to decide where to put him. Louie rests in a storage space away from little meddling fingers, but there isn't really room in there for Louie 2, too. I eyed the dormer window nook in my office. It's a cozy little space; when we built the house I thought it would make a nifty reading nook someday. Now it looked like the perfect spot to spin, out of the way, with lots of available light day or night. But since Emma lives at the front of that space, I could imagine the "novelty yarn" I would be spinning, with little feathers and bits of birdfood debris in it. After a moment's thought, I ran downstairs to get a pillowcase to use as a cover. Too small. So I grabbed an old bedsheet, pulled out my Featherweight, and sewed up a quick cover for Louie 2, sans skeinwinder. Voila!

I wanted to initiate my "new" wheel today with my freshly dyed wool, but the wool isn't dry yet. Haven't really had time to spin anyway. So Louie 2 sits tucked back behind the antique display case in the window nook, waiting for our first tryst.

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Making tracks

After freezing rain and then some more snow this morning, the fog moved in, making the day feel very "leaden." I'm essentially stuck at home, with my car in the shop and my 4x4 pickup refusing to lock into all-wheel drive. (Rick came home this afternoon to take Brian and me to town, because I had to deposit payroll taxes today.) While walking back to the house after trying to get my truck to cooperate, I noticed that the animals are still making tracks, even if I'm not.

The birds and squirrels have been busy making tracks to the feeder, trying to keep warm no doubt.

Rosie only makes tracks when she REALLY needs to go potty.

I didn't see any deer tracks, which is amazing, since those "meadow rats" are thick around here. Maybe for once they are off foraging on someone else's landscaping and pasture.

That's it for now at snowy . . .

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ah, togetherness!

Well, it sounded good anyway. Since Valentine's quarantine is over, for all practical purposes, I decided to put all the girls together in the pasture this sunny, cold afternoon. Rechel and Dinah had been out since first thing this morning; after lunch, I added Valentine and Bella. (Note to the uninitiated: they really aren't all off-white!)
At first, the situation looked good. (I didn't realize sheep sniff, well, THERE, to get acquainted, just like dogs!) Everyone was calm, and Valentine was clearly happy to be with a "flock" and exploring more of Boulderneigh.
Then, without warning, Rechel rammed Valentine from behind - twice! I was close enough, when she hit her a third time, in the side, to clobber Rechel, and she seemed to get the message. But then I left the pasture to get something, and when I returned, Dinah and Rechel were both after her, ramming her at every chance. That was it; I put Valentine and Bella back in their quarters to protect "the expectant one." (Although Bella has been acting like a lap sheep while in the quarantine pen with Valentine, I had left her halter on "just in case," and it was a good thing. Once back with her mother, Bella acted like a wild thing again.)

We'll have to work on introductions carefully. In the meantime, here's a parting shot of Valentine's lustrous fleece, followed by a shot of Dinah's for comparison. I have really enjoyed working with Dinah's fleece (my first); but look at the shine in Valentine's! Yum!

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So much for quarantine!

Boy, adding a new sheep at Boulderneigh is giving me lots of fodder for this blog! I just came back from putting Valentine and Bella back in their pen. Brian had gone outside, then ran back in a bit later saying he couldn't see Bella or the new sheep in their pen anywhere. Since he had looked from a distance, I thought maybe they were laying down and he just hadn't seen them in the straw, but I dutifully followed to check out his alarm. Sure enough, they (I'm SURE it was Bella, as she's the pushy one!) had pushed on the dog kennel panels at the front to create a gap next to the barn and escaped. Of course, Bella headed straight to her mom and Valentine followed, so there they all were, separated by only wire panels. No wonder it had gotten nice and quiet down there!

When I first saw how Rick had set up the front of the quarantine pen I thought, "That would never work for the 'three musketeers,' but it will probably be fine for Valentine," knowing how much the three push on their gates just in CASE someone forgot to latch it. But in my state of worry over Valentine's stress this morning, it didn't enter my mind again. So I've got a rope strung across, tying the top of kennel panel to the side post of the structure so it can't be pushed away again, until Rick can drive a t-post or two. Also gave Valentine and Bella each a dose of Probios, which I was planning to do today anyway.

That's it, FOR NOW, at . . .

What a difference a night makes

This morning I awoke to the faint sound of Valentine's voice - and a couple inches of new snow on the ground with more falling.
Valentine was indeed crying with loneliness. She could hear the other girls, and even see them if she stood in one corner of her pen, but was distressed at being all by herself in a strange place. I quickly did chores so I could sit with her for awhile. She quietly stood close and gave me sheepy kisses, happily taking proffered animal cookies. I think if I let her in the house with me she would be just fine!

But as soon as I left to go to the house, the crying resumed. Rick heard her as he was getting ready to leave, and was genuinely concerned about her stress level and the deleterious effect it could have on her health and pregnancy. We decided Valentine's health and pregnancy were more at risk if she stayed alone than Bella's health would be if I put her in with Valentine, so that's what I did. (There isn't a more conscientious shepherd around than Lois, so I'm really not worried about exposing Bella to any health risks.) Bless her fickle little heart, Bella let me catch and halter her without ado (I think she was distracted by Valentine's cries). Valentine seemed relieved to have another sheep join her. (As you can see, I got the hay feeder done!)
Actually, I think this will be a multi-faceted blessing. Bella has never been separated from her mother, and needs to be weaned emotionally. Since she's younger and a bit smaller, I won't worry about Bella being rough on Valentine, and maybe they'll even become buddies before Dinah and Rechel are introduced. It gave me a much-needed chance to trim Bella's hooves. Even after that "trauma," Bella actually sought my attention (I was the only familiar being in the pen!), so this will be an opportunity to bond more with her. And since no one's windows are open this time of year, all the yelling back and forth between the girls isn't TOO obnoxious (I hope!).

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's Valentine's Day!

Yes, Valentine came home to Boulderneigh tonight; a sweet treat for me and hopefully not TOO stressful for her and the little lamblets she's carrying! Brook and Lois Moore brought her over from their farm in the far NE corner of the state to Canby, where I picked her up this evening. She is such a love! Even though Lois said she acted quite stressed about being isolated in the back of their truck all day, when Lois and I crawled in to say hi and fit her new brown halter to her, she decided that things where finally okay enough to eat some hay. When I got her home and she saw that there were sheep nearby, she settled into her quarantine quarters immediately and started eating hay again. It isn't easy to get a photo in near darkness, but I managed. Isn't she beautiful? :-)

Let me back up to this morning. My good husband stayed home long enough to set up a dandy quarantine quarters for Valentine in the new lean-to, putting metal part way up on the north side to provide shelter but not block all the fresh air and light.The front and back of the pen are more temporary, consisting of a hog panel and two sections of a dog kennel. Here it is bedded with straw and ready for Valentine's arrival (except for a hay feeder, which I still need to complete).

Many thanks to the Moores for raising such a sweet and beautiful Shetland, and bringing her all the way across the state for me!

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, January 08, 2007

My Little Emerald (for Kathy)

My Little Emerald (Emma, for short) is a peach-faced lovebird I bought from a breeder as an unweaned baby 17 years ago. She (well, probably "he" since Emma has never laid an egg) has been a fun, cheery little companion ever since. No, she doesn't talk (although she used to perfectly imitate the beep of the microwave we used to have!), but she likes attention and will chirp back when I talk to her. I've always left Emma's wings unclipped so I could let her out of her cage to fly around. Gotta watch the papers and books, though -- lovebirds LOVE to "hole punch" paper!

This winter Emma had a health crisis of some sort, rendering her less coordinated and unable to fly. I took her to an avian vet who examined her, exclaimed over her age (apparently pet lovebirds live an average of 4-6 years, even though they CAN live to 30), pronounced her healthy in every other way, but had no answers. Since then, she seems to have completely lost her sight, suggesting a brain tumor or other neurologic problem that's progressing. Still, she's eating well and is so comfortable with her cage environs that very few people would notice anything. It's sad that she can no longer come out and fly about, but she's still a beautiful little emerald of a bird, so as long as she's not in distress, I will continue to be blessed by her presence.

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Snap happy

I thought my digital camera quit today. First it clutched its lens a few times in distress, then shuddered (no, it wouldn't "shutter") and died. Of course, I continued life-saving measures long after I was sure it was a goner. Then, as sometimes happens, it came to with a twitch, and now seems none the worse for wear. I, however, am reminded of how much we take for granted until we almost lose them!

Can't take the weather for granted; it's too schizo. Today we've had rain, sun breaks, sleet, hail, snow and more sun breaks. The snow came down fast and furious for a bit but didn't stick; the sloppy hail (I call it "slail") did for awhile.
I managed to get out for a very short ride on Russell up and down the road in between precipitation; the arena is too sloppy wet to ride in. Then I sat on my stool in the sheep fold for some quality time with the girls. Bella's toes are looking a bit long, so I stuck the hoof nippers and her halter in my coat pockets, thinking that after some lovin' she'd be easy to slip a halter on for a trim. Well, Dinah and Rechel couldn't get enough petting and I had fun looking at their fleeces. Rechel's is quite crimpy but not extremely soft to handle; the crimps are almost "crispy." This photo was taken just behind her shoulder.
Dinah's fleece is already eight inches long at the same point, only seven months after shearing! I think she would easily give me two clips a year, and I do like working with her fleece.

As for Bella, I tell you that rascal can SMELL nylon! She never came up for love, staying behind the other girls' rumps the whole time. She's even decided she doesn't like animal cookies after all, so that was no incentive. (Dinah is my Cookie Monster.) I left the hoof trimming for another day, not being in the mood for "mutton-busting."

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Size matters!

Apparently the Stonehaven girls in Clarion's breeding group mistook him for a schoolboy. Since she hadn't seen much "activity" in Clarion's group, Lois went ahead and put a clean-up ram with them yesterday. She said the flirting began immediately, and Valentine was covered several times. Ewes in adjoining paddocks were even swooning over the "new man in town" - so a couple of them got to join in the fun as well!

Here is Baltazar, the ewes' desire and sire of my 2007 lambs.Lois says his fleece is "to die for" and he's a real gentleman. Baltazar does carry moorit, so I may still get brown babies, but I may also get blacks, which is what I thought I wanted when I first contacted Lois about ewes for sale.

Here is Meg, Baltazar's dam and one of Lois' favorite ewes. Sadly, she died this fall. Hopefully Baltazar and Valentine can do her memory justice with the offspring they produce.

So, we'll be looking for lambs at the end of May at Boulderneigh this year. "Anticipa-a-tion is making me wait"!

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

I can't believe I actually stayed up to welcome 2007. Rick and I found a New Year's Eve "Great Performances" special starring Garrison Keillor and a lot of great musical guests, so we watched that, and I knitted. Got a good start on one of the hats for my friend's adopted daughters from Fiji. I may actually finish it before they arrive next weekend!

Do you make New Year's resolutions? I really don't think of them as such, but I do resolve to do things. Like spend more "quality time" with God (I'm good at chatting with Him on the run, but my Best Friend deserves more than that), and fit daily exercise back into my routine. Unlike some people, I actually LIKE to exercise, but it still seems to get crowded out. Now that I'm "middle-aged," the consequences of not exercising regularly show up faster and uglier than ever before, so I WILL find time for it! The other thing I will do today, like nearly every other New Year's Day for the last 30+ years, is get on my horse. I figure that a year that starts from the back of a horse has got to be better than one that doesn't!

What are you looking forward to this year? On my list: the return of my best friend Pamela from Fiji; the arrival of sweet Valentine, and then her lambs; visits from family and friends; more fiber, spinning and knitting; showing my horse at Fourth Level (here's Russell and I showing at Third Level last year; isn't he handsome?).

What will you MISS in 2007? On my list: my Aunt Laurinda; my better-than-20/20 vision (I'm afraid glasses are looming after a Jan. 15 eye exam). I'm sure there will be other things, but you don't miss them 'til they're gone, right? So appreciate every single blessing in your life right now, while you have it. And remember, blessings come in many forms, not all of them pleasant!

That's it for now at . . .