Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A February jewel almost missed

First, the explanation. This time of year we don't use the front door and walkway much. Most of the time we go in and out of the house through the garage, where we park our vehicles. But late this afternoon we were almost out of firewood, so I took the wheelbarrow out to the woodshed to get a load. And there, tucked beside a small boulder in a flower bed bordering the front walk, were these petite iris.
You can see a trace of snow in the photo; it snowed off and on all day without accumulating anything to speak of. Sure was pretty to watch, though!
Inside, I was dealing with white stuff of a different kind. I've been carding and spinning Dinah's fleece as I've had time, and am getting down to the wool with the most vegetable matter (VM, as the fibery folk call it). Someone on the Yahoo spinning list said she puts her fleece in the dryer on the air fluff setting to get a lot of the VM out, so I decided to give it a try.
It didn't look much different to me before and after -- still lots of junk, but the lint trap looked like this each of the three times I emptied it during the air fluffing. Obviously it did SOME good!
That's it for now at . . .

Like a lion

While it is still possible for March to come in like a lamb, February is doing its best to go out like a lion. A somewhat weak and feeble old lion, but still roaring as best he can.

Yesterday we woke up to big, fat snowflakes blowing sideways on a strong wind. If the temp had been a few degrees lower, it would have been a blizzard! Instead it was just windy, cold and sloppy most of the day. But we did get our reward -
Today we woke up to an inch or more of snow, even though my iris think it's spring.
This shot was taken on my way home from Amity this morning, looking up at the backside of the hill we live on. Notice the valley is green but there is snow above 500 feet. That's fairly common here in the winter.
The only new flowers to bloom on our place this month were the crocus. I planted some at the front of the house under a little Japanese maple. The yellow ones bloom first, and continue through the arrival of the white ones. The purple crocus bloom last, and by then the yellow ones are looking pretty shabby. I posted a shot of a purple crocus bud in the snow earlier in February; here are the yellow and white crocus which came first. (And yes, there ARE a few blossoms on the candytuft, but they do that all winter so they don't count. When they REALLY bloom, I'll include them!)
That's it for now at . . .

Monday, February 26, 2007


Valentine has been complaining vigorously about being cooped up, and I promised her I'd turn her and Rechel out at the first opportunity. Even though it's muddy and sloppy out, it is not actively raining today, so I decided to make good on my promise. While I dished up a pan of wet cob (rolled corn/oats/barley with molasses) to lead them to pasture instead of haltering them, Valentine danced around on her hind legs in anticipation of her favorite treat. But once I opened the gate, the girls lost ALL interest in food -- it was PLAYTIME !

First it was "Queens of the Hill" on the gravel pile outside their pen,
then Valentine wanted to play "Hide and Seek,"
then the girls ran footraces and held "sheep pogo" contests (really hard to get a good shot of those).

I finally put the pan down to lure them over, thinking once they got a taste of sweet feed they'd follow me to the pasture.
Valentine did, but Rechel wanted to play "tag."
Eventually I cornered her, and she joined Valentine in the pasture to dine on fir branchlets.

That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A sheepy little surprise!

No, not a Shetland lamb; I've got to wait three more long months(!) for lambing at Boulderneigh. My sheepy surprise came in a little brown box and was waiting on the front porch when I got home yesterday. At the bottom of the shipping label it said, "Michelle, saw this and couldn't resist - love you!" Hmmm, what could it be and who could it be from? Since it was from King Arthur Flour I suspected my sister, since she likes their products. Sure enough, on the packing slip inside, she was identified as the purchaser. And what did she send?
A cute, two-part, sheepy "food form"! While suggestions for use include pancakes, cakes, pizza, marshmallow treats and gelatin, I imagine I will use it mostly for cookies, being the cookie monster that I am. The body form is 5 1/4 inches across, so it will make BIG cookies. I'm going to try it with the head cut out of the body, a head cut out and placed on top of the body, and a linzer-style sandwich cookie with a complete body on the bottom and a body with the head cut out on top (with the jam filling showing through the cut-out), dusted with powdered sugar. Don't know WHEN I'll find time to do all these, but I'm salivating already! If you have a really good rolled-dough cookie recipe that you think would be worthy of such special treatment, send me the recipe, okay?

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

On being a music widow, or the story behind our weekend guest

Talk about bringing back memories. This was, from left, Rick (my DH), Kevin and Junior today at church; three guys who haven't played together in 25 years.

My classically-trained, guitar-playing, bluegrass-loving guy and I started dating in April, 1981, at college in Lincoln, NE. That summer I worked as a wrangler at a youth camp. One of the staff members there played mandolin, so I introduced him to Rick. Charlie, in turn, introduced Rick to banjo player Kevin. Then they met Junior, another guitar player, and were eventually joined by bass player Bruce. These guys became the Down Home Boys. Due to lack of funds, Junior had to leave college that school year and return home to Hawaii; the group eventually added another guitar player and lost track of Junior. They put on quite a few concerts and went on several small, church-related tours; some of Rick's fondest college memories are of the times he spent with the Down Home Boys. I remember hours spent listening to the guys work on their repetoire and sometimes singing along.

The Down Home Boys continued another year after Rick and I left for vet school, then dissolved. "Real life" scattered everyone and kept them busy for the next 20 years. Then our alma mater invited the Down Home Boys to do a concert for Alumni Weekend, April, 2004. They jumped at the chance, and started dreaming of making reunions a regular occurrence. They got together for another concert in April of 2005 and hope to do more, even though Bruce is now struggling with Parkinson's. For today's mini-reunion, Rick got Kevin to fly up from California and Junior, who shocked us by resurfacing a few years ago here in our neck of the woods, to drive over from Milwaukee (OR) to help him with the praise service. They practiced last night, led the praise service this morning in church, jammed together this afternoon, and will play for both services tomorrow morning at Junior's church. They are having a ball. Being a "music widow" for the weekend is a small price to pay to give my husband this joy!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, February 23, 2007

Snow surprise

Woke up after a deliciously sound sleep to a light dusting of snow this morning, much to my surprise. Perhaps it was forecast, but who has time to watch the news?!? The last time I heard a weatherperson, s/he was saying the snow level wouldn't drop this low. Oh well; it's all gone now.

It was so nice to go to the barn this morning and do chores again. I hadn't been down there since gravel was delivered; we're going to use this to level up the front of the sheep pen. When that's done, the flock can unite! In the meantime, a layer of gravel has converted the walkway on the right to a useable access instead of a muddy otter slide.

Like Lauren, whose blog I enjoy, I find that taking care of my critters is soothing to the soul. I don't volunteer to do chores in the evening, too, because I have other things I MUST do sometime, and if my husband is going to insist on keeping two horses that he hardly ever rides, HE can scoop at least half the POOP! (Ahem. Excuse me. Now, back to the zen of chore-doing.) I loved on the cats and one pair of sheep, turned the other two girls out (Rick didn't get to that the two mornings he did chores), gave my horse his weekly glucosamine shot, and basked in the quietude. It would have been lovely to stay longer, but a little boy and lot of graphics and housework needed my attention.

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, February 22, 2007

All cooped up

That's how I feel -- me, my horse, and my sheep! I've been busy running Karishma to and from the bus and Nileshni to and from the doctor, and there's been time for little else. My husband, my house, my horse, my hobbies -- oh yes, and my clients! -- have been neglected, and I'm trying hard not to pout. After all, I'm doing unto others what I hope someone would do for me, if I needed it. And Rick has been great about helping out any way he can (how DO single parents do it???)

My friend picked her girls up tonight -- after an old college buddy of Rick's arrived for the weekend. The girls come back next Tuesday and stay until Thursday. THEN I'm going to say "ta-ta" to my guys and check into a luxurious spa with great food, invigorating exercise programs, and three massages a day for a week.... Oh, excuse me. I dozed off there for a blissful, oblivious second. Must have been dreaming of winning the lottery!

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sunshine and rain

Saturday was beautiful, the only sunny day in the forecast. We took advantage of it and took Brian to his favorite park, Discovery Park in McMinnville, after church. There were no parks like this when I was a kid!

Sunday the clouds moved in, and last night it started raining in earnest. I like to hear the rain running through the gutters while I'm snuggled between our flannel sheets at night; some people pay big bucks for water features to provide that sound!

Around here, people pay "big" bucks for the sound of espresso steaming. There are independent espresso stands on every other corner it seems, along with the chains (Dutch Bros. outnumber Starbucks around here). Here is the stand in the tiny town of Amity, where I stopped in this rainy morning after Karishma got on the bus (Karishma and Nileshni are staying with us this week). A hot drink does hit the spot in cold, damp weather!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, February 16, 2007

Stealing moments for beauty

I love clouds. Not the flat gray ceiling sort of clouds, of which we get plenty, but interesting clouds with lots of light play -- of which, fortunately, we also get plenty. Usually, I don't think photographs do clouds justice, but this one captured some of the beauty and drama that caught my eye this week.

I "stole" some time this afternoon to skein my first "fancy" yarn, and I'm TICKLED with it! This is 5 1/2 ounces of my white Dinah's wool, dyed with Kool-Aid and plied with itself, along an 1/8 ounce of fine white-gold thread. I plan to make a felted handbag with it, so I'm thinking I probably don't need to wash the skein first. Since we have two teenagers staying with us for another week (they came Wednesday evening), "stealable" time is very hard to come by; this may have to satisfy me for awhile!

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, February 12, 2007

Lights. Camera. Action!

Well, actually it was action, camera, light, camera, with more action to come. Yesterday Rick make admirable progress on the sheep quarters. He replaced the dog kennel panels that composed the temporary front of the pen with a made-to-order gate. He stacked blocks (we need a few more) so we can build up the front of the pen with gravel to make it more level and eliminate the muddy approach. He installed a light and switch (well, the switch is just hanging for now).
He built a tray below the super-duper hay feeder he made for feeding pellets and to catch the hay "crumbs." He also tied up the dog kennels to the outer wall of the pen so I can easily swing them out to make a triangular enclosure to use as a "ram" pen or lamb jug. Between the hay feeder and the wall of the barn there is a nice little walkway to access the hay feeders which ends at a narrow door into the fold.
To the sheep it's probably just another "prison" (that's Valentine below enjoying pasture time while Rick worked on the pen yesterday), but I'm pretty excited about having such well-designed quarters to keep them sheltered and safe when necessary.
Soon the permanent sheep quarters will be finished and my little flock of four ewes will finally be together. We'll also have the covered breezeway between the horse/hay barn and the vehicle/equipment storage barn, the temporary sheep fold for the first year of Boulderneigh, available to access the arena.

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, February 09, 2007

Indoor beauty

Even when I'm too busy to "stop and smell the roses," my eyes still see the beauty around me as I'm dashing here and there. Even in the house - ESPECIALLY in the house, where we all spend a lot of our time - it is good to surround ourselves with things we find beautiful.

Our sunnier-than-usual January amplified the beauty in our house. Winter sun is always appreciated in Oregon, and has a softer quality than the brassy glare of summer. It streams through the southern windows into our master bedroom and bath, highlighting my favorite white/blue/silver color scheme.

In our great room, the main space of our house, there are many things I find beautiful, from the oak on the floor to the weathervane up near the ceiling to a peacock feather somewhere in between.

Up in my office, these little sheep not only grace the top of the little oak cabinet that houses part of my fiber stash, they are a constant reminder of the dear friend who gave them to me.

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The apron strings are definitely cut

This morning when I let Bella and Rechel out to take them to pasture, Bella took a detour by the quarantine pen before following her mother into the pasture for breakfast. Interesting, I thought. I closed the pasture gate after them but didn't latch it because I needed to clean and refill their water bucket. As I was filling the bucket I heard something and looked up to see Bella in front of the quarantine looking for a way in! She had pushed her way out of the pasture gate and left her mother for - who? Valentine? Dinah? Either way, it was apparent that the apron strings are cut and Bella got that message loud and clear yesterday morning when her formerly doting dam pummeled her.

As far as getting along, everyone is, so the next step is to put them all together. Lois suggested "ram-penning" them together for a few hours at first. After breeding groups are broken up, Lois daubs the rams' heads and tails with cheap cologne or vanilla and crams them like standing sardines into a tiny pen (shown below - with one more ram yet to add!). No one can "pack a punch" that way, and they HAVE to tolerate one another. She says it greatly cuts down on the fighting. Sounds good to me!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, February 02, 2007


Since both pairs of sheep were peacefully coexisting, I decided to make the second round of introductions this morning. Rechel went to pasture with her daughter, and Dinah joined Valentine in the quarantine pen for breakfast. Since Dinah is a chow-hound, I expected her to tuck into the alfalfa pellets like Rechel had, easing introductions.

Meanwhile, in the pasture.... Bella was delighted to be reunited with her mother. But to my shock and Bella's confusion, Rechel went after her as vigorously as Dinah had two days ago! Bella was too distressed to defend herself, and ended up off by herself crying pitifully.When she saw me, she looked through the fence as if begging me to fix things somehow. Annoying ditz that she sometimes is, my heart still ached for her.

When I finally tore my attention away from the drama in the pasture, I noticed that a haze of dust hung in the air of the quarantine pen, and both Dinah and Valentine were breathing hard. I entered the pen and sat down, and Valentine immediately hid behind me. Doesn't she look like she needs to be rescued?

Finally Valentine calmed down enough to eat some hay, and Dinah wanted her share of the attention. This is the blissful sheep that first made me fall in love with Shetlands!

By afternoon everyone seemed to have sorted things out, although Dinah and Valentine never did finish their pellets. Too much dust and straw mixed in, I think. Someone could probably make a good living as a sheep counselor if they could figure out how to help ovines sort out their difficulties with less violence; sheep seem to have more relationship troubles than people!

That's it for now at . . .