Friday, August 31, 2007

Fiberly pursuits

I finally finished spinning, plying and skeining the wonderful "Black Forest Truffle" Corriedale roving; I got 528 yards from slightly less than 8 oz. The photo doesn't really show all the yummy colors in this tweedy yarn.

So, with the Corriedale roving (thanks again, Arianie!) off the wheel, I'm finally diving into the big Romney/Border Leicester ram fleece my farrier gave me. I'm flicking the washed (but not very clean) locks and making my first attempt at a bulkier single (which I will probably dye and make into a bulky two-ply yarn). This is STRONG fiber, very different than anything else I've spun so far (like I have vast experience.... ;-). There is a LOT of it, so there's plenty to play with.
And I'm nearly done with the mini-cardigan! I just have to add the contrasting trim around the front and neck, seam up the sleeves, and sew on three big buttons. I think I will really like this sweater IF it's not too short in the body. I have a high-waisted moleskin skirt that matches the darker contrast yarn; they should look sharp together. I sure I'll use this fun pattern (from "Fitted Knits" by Stefanie Japel, on the Lion Brand website courtesy of North Light Books) again; I really like all the shaping. Hmm, that bulky yarn I'm planning to spin from the fleece above might work nicely....
That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Can't make heads nor tails of it

Which photo shows more contentment: Brava's face in a "hand pillow," or Braveheart's wagging tail? While waiting for the farrier to show up yesterday, I sat with the lambies for a nice, long lovefest. It was great!

I have been counting my blessings that this Arizona sheep "deal" turned out so well. After all, I made the decision on very short notice, with limited information and only a few emailed photos to go by. Brava's bite is less than ideal (I'm hoping it looks better once her adult teeth come in), but I really like everything else about them both.

If only I could find equally great arrangements to get some polled stock here from the Midwest! Several breeders have animals I would love to add to my tiny flock. But how would I choose? Would I be able to resist adding more than my facilities could support? Hmmm, maybe it's a GOOD thing no one is coming this way and offering reasonable fees to haul sheep!

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back-to-school time

With our first show approaching, I decided it was high time Boulderneigh Bella returned to her lessons today. And this was no lightweight, draw-a-pretty-picture-showing-what-you-did-this-summer-first-day-back-in-school; oh no. After reading about the amazing transformation in Daphne's attitude after shepherd Franna's intensive session of handling, I decided to review every lesson she's ever had. I caught her, haltered her, led her in and out of the barn, led her up the driveway to the house to get her picture taken, made her stand, squatted and stood over and over again until she stopped trying to bolt when I "got bigger," pushed her up the mounting block onto the sheep stand, gave her a pedicure, trimmed off the icky wool on her backside, and hosed her off to encourage a more natural lock structure in her fleece. (For an encore, I shoveled out the deep end of the sheep fold.) Whew! I think if I repeat the leading and standing lessons a couple times a week between now and OFFF, she won't embarrass me too much!

Now if only someone would buy her and her dam so I could make room for more polled genetics in my flock....
That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Marketing plans

The Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival is just four weeks away. I've sent in my form and fees for the sheep show, and will probably send in a raw fiber entry form as well. Even though Boulderneigh Shetland Sheep is a miniscule breeding operation, I want to put my best foot forward. I'm going to order a banner, and am thinking about designing a brochure that will contain my contact information, general information about Shetland sheep, and some specific information on the various horned and polled genetics present in the breed. This is because I imagine my Braveheart boy with his tiny scurs will generate some questions. I'll have to run my copy by Juliann Budde, who understands polled genetics ever so much more than I; I don't want to mis-inform folks!

I've been casting about for possible poll-carrier additions to my flock in the event that Bella and Rechel sell. Unfortunately, I'm a long way from the other breeders who are focusing on polled Shetlands. I've heard of a number of ewes here in the Northwest who have thrown scurred ram lambs, indicating that the dams carry a poll gene. Some of them have been culled because of it, others have been kept for the wonderful ewe lambs they produce (in spite of those scurred ram lambs who inevitably get culled). I have a couple leads on sheep available now, as well as lambs that are planned for next spring (some through AI semen from Roban Dillon, a scurred UK ram who has an excellent production record, shown below as a yearling).While the search has kept my mind busy, I am not in a hurry. I am still committed to keeping my number of ewes at four, so if neither Bella nor Rechel sells, Bella will be pulled to keep Brava company when Braveheart joins Valentine, Dinah and Rechel for breeding season. I am at peace with that prospect.

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, August 24, 2007

State Fair report

After dropping Rick off at the Portland airport yesterday, Brian and I zipped down the interstate to see if we could make it to the Oregon State Fair in Salem in time for the Shetland judging. Happily, we did. There were lots of willing hands to help the four exhibitors show their animals, but Marybeth Bullington needed me in a few classes -- and Brian even got to show a lamb for her! I think ewe lamb Marissa liked Brian, and he did well for his first attempt. When Marissa placed second in her class of 19, Marybeth even let him keep the ribbon!
Marybeth's Shady Oaks Farm went on to win the Premier Shetland Exhibitor award for accumulating the most points. From the top, her sheep took top awards for Yearling Ram (who was also named Champion Ram), Ram Lamb, Yearling Ewe (who was also named Champion Ewe), Pairs (her yearlings, shown with the Premier Exhibitor banner), Young Flock, Get-of-Sire, and Flock -- WOW! (I think she won another class or two, but I didn't get photos of those.)

Congratulations also to exhibitors Tom and Tracy Livernois of McTavish Farm, Jack and Sandy Lyda of Honey Lane Farm, and young Quintin Kreth of Thunderhead Shetlands, all of whom brought quality stock and won some premium money.

I could see that my two lambs will be the small ones in their classes at OFFF, and quite a few judges seem favor the bigger Shetlands. But in listening to conversations among the breeders there yesterday (which echoed comments I've read on the Shetland lists, BTW), it is clear that some breeders think Shetlands are getting too big and don't plan to go along with that trend. May we find judges that reward quality over size!

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scat, cat!

Yes, that is a real mountain lion. Yes, I took that photo, and no, I didn't need a powerful telephoto lens to do it. (She WAS on the other side of a thick plexiglass window at the Oregon Zoo, however.)

There are cougars, or at least A cougar, right around Boulderneigh. There has been a flurry of sightings this summer, although not all of them I would consider reputable. I have heard no reports of attacks on humans, or loss of pets or livestock. Mountain lions are beautiful, magnificent animals, and the only natural predator for the swarms of black-tail deer in the area. Because they have that abundant food source, I'm not worried for myself or the horses. Brian and the sheep are more their size, but we do keep the sheep in from evening until morning and Brian doesn't play outside unsupervised -- reasonable measures to take since we choose to live in the country. I don't believe all animals for whom this is home should be ousted because I, a human, have arrived. If I don't like the neighbors, I shouldn't move to the neighborhood! (And yes, I know my attitude would change if one of the neighbors got nasty! But we pray that doesn't happen.)

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, August 20, 2007

Frog weather

Woke up to rain again this morning that continued for several hours. Lovely! Yesterday we transplanted a bunch of big scrubs from my neighbor's that were destined for a date with the bulldozer, so this is perfect weather to help them get established at Boulderneigh.

Last night I cast on a new project (another one for me!). No, I haven't quite finished the Lacy Shawl, because I ran out of yarn. I COULD have "made do" with a short shawl, but instead asked Becca if she had any more. She didn't, but said to send a sample and she could spin some. So here is the shawl while it waits for another couple ounces of yarn:
Apparently I am not susceptible to the "UFO (unfinished object) syndrome" that besets many knitters, so I didn't have anything sitting around to keep my fingers busy while waiting on Becca's yarn. A really cute mini cardigan pattern was included in the recent email I got from Lion Brand yarn, so I decided to tackle that. What fun it is to zip along with bulky yarn and big needles! This morning I just had to pick it up and add a couple more rows. It occurred to me then that the ends were not symetrical; strange that the pattern asked me to knit in front and back of the first stitch on even rows, but not in the last stitch. I decided I'd better look at the pattern again. Oops. It DOES say to knit in the front and back of the last stitch as well. So, rip-it, rip-it, rip-it. But I am happy to say that I cast back on and even passed where I was before frogging, before setting it aside to get some "real" work done today.
That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It actually rained!

I don't know how much, as we don't have a rain gauge, but everything appears fairly saturated, even the ground under the big firs that stays dry when it only sprinkles. Hoping for more, I pulled Bella's coat off before turning the sheep out this morning. Here she is, looking like a big, dirty marshmallow:
The regular sheep "pasture" has a lot of trees, so I put them out in a small area we fenced off this summer. Here they would get full exposure to any more rain that fell AND get a bit of nice grass that's grown up. The end of the lambs' "pocket pasture" is visible beyond the girls; I figured when I turned the lambs out they could all get acquainted nose to nose without anyone getting bashed.
When I went out later to see how they were faring, THIS is what I found:
The girls had forced their way into the lambs' area, thoroughly trashing the wet ground with their cumulative 400 lbs. and 16 sharp hooves. And although things look calm enough in that photo, everyone was breathing pretty hard. Braveheart and Brava tried to run to me, but Valentine wouldn't let Brava by without a beating. I lifted Braveheart over the fence. After catching Brava and lifting her over (a little harder, both because she was more panicked and heavier), I put the lambs back into the safety of their quarantine pen. The big, fat meanies (yes, that includes YOU, Valentine!) were moved back into their grassy area and out of the mess they had made. The shepherd is NOT happy....

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Good morning, sunshine

Today was supposed to bring our first good chance for rain in many weeks, but again I think the clouds have forgotten that part of their job description. Besides rinsing the dust off everything and refreshing the flora, I was looking forward to some help getting Bella's fleece show-ready. She's been wearing a sheep suit since she was sheared on March 22, and while that makes for wonderfully clean spinning fiber, it doesn't make for that "pulled right out of the pasture" look Shetlands are supposed to sport in the show ring. I hoping just the right combination of time, moisture and "environmental character" (aka dirt and vegetable matter) will do it. I also hope she and her mother Rechel, who is going along to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival to be seen, will be purchased by someone who appreciates their light grey fleeces and spotted genetics. If not, Bella will be refitted for a coat and held out of the breeding group to keep Brava company this winter.

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, August 17, 2007

Let's hear it for the girls (and boys)!

I mentioned that at the last dressage show I entered, I got to watch Olympian Debbie McDonald compete on her young horse. She also brought her world-famous partner, Brentina, and did an exhibition Grand Prix freestyle. That I didn't get to watch, but a friend sent me this link of that freestyle this week. Small, fuzzy, partially obsured by a judge's stand, the ride still brought tears to my eyes. I went back and watched Andreas Helgstrand's freestyle on Blue Hors Matine right afterwards, and have to say I don't think Matine holds a candle to Brentina. Compare for yourself -- and enjoy!

A girlfriend and I took in yesterday's Brown Bag concert and then had lunch to celebrate her Aug. 14 birthday. We've been talking about doing something like this for years, just because, but haven't managed to until yesterday. Molly's Revenge, a great Celtic band, returned for the third year in a row; they are fantastic!The guy who plays the Celtic drum, flute, and bagpipes is as wired as any rock star; in the final set he jumps off the stage, jumps onto a picnic table, springs to a second picnic table, and jumps back on stage -- all while playing those pipes like a happy fiend! (Click on OysterFest 2005, then on Ballavanich Reel for a sample.)

Rosie got to go on the "girls' day out," too, and loved it. Before I had Brian I took her everywhere, and I know she misses it. It's a good day when you can make a friend and your dog happy!

That's it for now at . . .

The problem with modern technology...

I have a post ready to go, but Blogger keeps telling me there is an error with my links. I've used one of these links before in the exact same way, so I'm thinking Blogger has a bug. This week was apparently designed to test and build my patience level....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Where to start? The last couple days have been full of frustrations large and small. Monday afternoon my internet connection died. Consultations with the technicians by phone didn't resolve the problem by quitting time (theirs), and I had clients champing at their bits for projects which I needed to send to them via email. I couldn't be here Tuesday for a technician to come out, because I had a long-standing date with a friend and her daughter at the Oregon Zoo. Rather than being a relaxing outing, that ended up adding to the stress, as we inadvertently picked "$2 Tuesday" to attend, along with what seemed like half the population of the Portland Metro area -- in 90+ degree heat. It took an hour to drive there, and two hours to get in the gate.... This morning the technician arrived at 8:30. I needed to leave at 9:15 for an appointment, but figured 45 minutes would be sufficient time for whatever needed to be fixed. Wrong; I had to make several phone calls and reschedule twice to make it. But before leaving, while checking on the technician's progress on the outside of the house, something caught my eye under one of the firs near the house. Walking closer, I saw it was Ozzie, our old cat. I called to him, walked closer, and realized he was dead, even though he was stretched out on his side as if napping. I left for my appointment in a daze.

We got back this afternoon in time to regroup, then head to the Amity beauty shop for haircuts. I needed a trim, and Brian has been looking forward to his first crew cut. We walked in, only to be told our appointment was for yesterday. I was floored, and angry. No one called to save us a trip. Besides, I clearly remembered the phone call, and KNOW I made the appointment for today....

Then things started improving. I called my friend and neighbor about something else, and she asked if I was okay. When I summarized my last couple days, she volunteered to come over with her clippers and cut Brian's hair -- and she came bearing chocolate-espresso shortbread. Rick had a meeting tonight, so after I put my nearly-bald boy to bed and indulged in cookies-and-milk therapy, I sat down at my wheel for some spinning therapy. Then I went to the barn to do chores and calm my soul with some sheepy-love therapy (thanks, Brava!). Yes, my outlook has definitely improved, although sadness remains.

This is my favorite photo of Ozzie, taken probably 11 years ago. We brought him home more than 17 years ago, a spunky, self-assured older kitten who resembled an Ocelot, hence his name. Good-bye, you grumpy old man. Oreo is lonely. We're all going to miss you so.

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, August 13, 2007

How's the weather there?

I don't know what is causing this powdery pattern on some of the maple leaves, but I find it beautiful. We have maples along the south side of our little arena, so every time I school Russell I enjoy the "green and white lace" effect. The leaves at the top of the maples are yellowing, however, probably from drought stress.

Our weather this summer has been downright odd. Yesterday the high temperature (in Portland, where our news comes from) was 66, a record "low" high for August 12. Today it's back up in the 80s. After a few days of 80s, another cool, cloudy front comes in for Thursday. It has seesawed back and forth like this all summer. Unfortunately, none of the cool, cloudy fronts have brought anything in the form of rain. As I've said before, we're dry. I SHOULD be taking advantage of it. I have three fleeces to wash; they would dry wonderfully fast in this weather!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, August 10, 2007

Flowers -- and non-flowers -- of August

There's only one new face in August so far: this lovely peach gladiolus. This is the only stalk that survived the ravages of the "meadow rats."

I thought I would get to enjoy some daylilies this summer, as I planted nine pots of three different varieties recently. Besides providing all-summer color and evergreen foliage, daylilies are supposed to be deer-resistant; all in all, a very attractive set of attributes. The deer around here, though, view nearly every addition to the landscaping as a new selection in the salad bar. *Sigh*

At least the dahlias and marigolds are providing some color on the place.I guess I should stick with what works!

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Brava's turn in the spotlight

You didn't expect me to neglect the new girl, did you? While not the practically perfect little Shetland from head to tail that Braveheart is, I still think Brava is beautiful. And she's settling down nicely, which is so gratifying. It would REALLY thrill me if she turns out to be a poll carrier!

Here is Brava's fleece at shoulder, mid-side, flank, and topline.Brava's fleece shows some of that luster I am so fond of. I also like the variations of color, most obvious on her neck and shoulders. At first touch it feels softer than Braveheart's, but when I reach inside they feel about the same. I'm thinking that the initial difference in "hand" may be due to their different staple types. Brava's is longer and "tippier," Braveheart's is shorter and blockier.

That's it for now at . . .