Saturday, March 31, 2007

March going out with a sizzle

March is definitely the month for daffodils in our area. Here are some varieties besides the sunny standard yellow ones that are blooming on our place. (The first one, Tahiti, is one of my favorites.)

Daffodils are as bright as little suns, but that's not what I'm referring to in the title. Today in church Brian was singing along with us in praise service, but since he didn't know the words he just pursed his little lips and "made a joyful noise unto the Lord." Of COURSE I had to whip out my ever-present digital camera and take a photo.
Later, during the sermon, I noticed an odd smell, the smell of something getting hot that shouldn't be. Rick noticed it, too. When we were ushered out at the end of the service, I noticed my purse smelled bad as well. In the foyer I put my hand under my purse to shift my armful, and noticed it was warm. First I thought I'd had it sitting on top of some cables for the A/V equipment nearby and wondered if the cables were overheating. Then I thought of my camera, and whipped it out of the side pocket. Sure enough -- a corner of my camera was MELTING!!! I said something to Rick and ran outside. I retrieved my memory card and then we examined it. Apparently it had developed a short. When I wondered aloud if it still might be able to take pictures, Rick dropped it on the concrete and said, "There, NOW it can't." (I guess he was afraid that in my frugality I would use something unsafe.) I am bummed....

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Love a good mystery?

It has been interesting to get more experienced breeders' input on Valentine's color change. Granted, they are all going from photos, as none of them has seen my sheared sheep or her fleece in person, but their opinions vary a LOT. Well, their opinions on how to "define" her color varies, that is; regardless of its proper definition, everyone agrees that it is beautiful. :-)

Here are a couple more photos for consideration, comparing a lock of Valentine's fleece with a washed lock of Dinah's. The first shows them from the side; the second shows them from the cut ends. (The luster in Val's fleece causes it to "glitter" in the photos.)
Linda Wendelboe, one of the creators of the Shetland Sheep Information site (see link for "A wonderful source of information...') emailed me the following [my comments in brackets]: "From the look of her sheared, I would say that she is now heavily iset - meaning that there are a lot of white fibres in her fleece - more white than brown. The best way to check this is to take a fleece sample of several locks and separate it into the different colours you find. If the majority of those fibres have no colour (white), then I would say heavy iset, or to give it another name, early age grey. If the majority of those fibres are actually taupe or beige [that's what they look like to me], then I would say she is one of the mystery sheep that we don't know the genetic mechanism for. She is still probably AaAaBbBb [that means she is genetically a solid brown sheep] but would have something else going on. From the looks of her face and legs, she is not MmMm [that's genetic talk for a color modifier gene]."

So there you have it on good authority; Val is a mystery sheep.

Now to go skirt Rechel's fleece. As a grey sheep (meaning a black sheep with the Agouti gene) she's no mystery, but still produces an interesting and lovely fleece, the crimpiest of the bunch!

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Trying not to let the turkey get me down....

Right now I've got a LOT of irons in the fire. I won't bore you with the details; let's just say I'm trying not to panic over what-all needs to get done in the next week. Today's to-do list was long, but I thought I could manage to get through it if I kept my nose to the grindstone, as my mother would say.

The first half of the day went okay. Even got to see a wild turkey along the road on my way to a late-morning appointment.I thought of the sighting as a special little treat at the time, but now I'm thinking she was just there to warn me that I wasn't gonna get to soar with the eagles today.

Brian and I were back home eating lunch when Rick called. His truck had suddenly died as he was driving down the road, and he needed me to come give him a tow. Okay, I thought. Here's a chance to be a cheerful helpmate and practice being flexible. So off Brian and I went to rescue Daddy.

Well, Daddy didn't JUST want a tow. He wanted me to stick around while he put a new alternator in (slow going, with an extra run to town for tools), and then use my truck to charge his battery and jump-start his truck (his vet truck is a big F-350 diesel, and it takes something like my pulling truck to provide enough juice). When it was all said and done, four precious, irretrievable hours had passed.

I'm going to blame it on the turkey; I don't have to live with her.

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One down, three to go

There it is, 4 lb. 3 oz. of Valentine's fleece, skirted, bagged, and ready to go to the Shepherd's Extravaganza, a fleece show/sale in April. Val was the first to be sheared, and, I suspect, had the most second cuts (the clippers didn't glide over her like they did the others). Since she surprised me so with her color change, I wanted to get "up close and personal" with her fleece first.

When I spread it out on the skirting "table," Brian thought it looked like the bearskin rug he saw at a neighbors'! I guess it is a bit reminiscent of a grizzly's pelt....

This photo shows the marked color change her fleece underwent. It changed gradually, though; her fleece is not banded. Neither does it look iset, particularly; the light fibers appear to be silvery beige, not white.

Although I've asked more experienced shepherds their opinions and spent quite a bit of time looking at photos and descriptions on the Shetland Sheep Information site, I'm still not sure what to call her color. She doesn't appear to have the agouti (Ag) gene which causes fading (Rechel and Bella are both black sheep with the Ag gene); neither does she appear to be a modified color. What I DO know is that her fleece is gorgeous, and I can't wait to process and spin the parts I skirted out and kept!

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Coated cuties

I have to admit that deciding to coat my girls was an aesthetic sacrifice, for I LOVE looking at my Shetlands in all their fleecy splendor. But it's no sacrifice to coat them right after shearing, because that is when they look their, well, most odd. (If I could find the time to do some clean-up trimming, they would look less like aliens....) Here they are on Sunday morning, wearing their Rocky Sheep Suits. (Can you see how soiled Bella's is already, after only two days?)
They were quite amusing when turned out to pasture for the first time after being sheared and coated. As they jumped and bucked, it dawned on me that they were acting less like frolicking sheep and more like young horses just saddled and girthed for the first time. I do think they were trying to rid themselves of their wraps!

Yesterday we worked on finishing the fence in the bottom lot, which is basically a patch of woodland. Don't know yet if we will use it for sheep or horses; there is a lot of fern to dig up before we can use it for the girls. In addition to the wildflowers (from top to bottom, below: Oregon grape, a close-up of an unidentified little blossom, and the native maple's flowers), we saw quite a bit of poison oak. (It's coming back after the previous property owner's goats cleaned it out; I hope the sheep will do the same.) After working around it I washed all our clothes and we scrubbed up good in the shower; so far, no one has a rash.

That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shearing day report

When Troy arrived Thursday afternoon, everyone lined up in their full-fleeced glory to see what was going on. Little did they know....
Valentine was first on the chopping block.What contortions they must endure!
And when she was done, my lovely latte-colored sheep turned out to be, well, more milk than coffee! (What color IS she now?)
Next came Bella, who, for all her sheep-kite behavior, was the most subdued during shearing.Not a very flattering picture, but it shows that under that very fluffy hoggett fleece is a pudgy little girl! She definitely wins the "Alien Award," for most unrecognizable sheep after shearing.
Third to go was Dinah.She, too, looked substantial under her fleece!
Last to be sheared was my single-coated Rechel. This girl has lovely, crimpy fleece; I'm anxious to see how it will do at the show and sale.Another well-fed Shetland!
All were finished within an hour. That is the upside of having a professional do it. The downside is the stress of watching someone manhandle my "babies," and the sharpness of a professional's tools. Yes, he drew blood on two of them. :-( Brian always gets distressed at the sight of blood (especially his own), and when he noticed the slice on Dinah he said, "Uh oh! Uh oh!" Then, "You're not a very good shearer, because you did that." (Tact is not a skill of the young!) But the girls are done, everyone is okay, and four bags of fleece are awaiting my ministrations so I can send them off to the Shepherds Extravaganza, an April show and sale in Washington.

After shearing, each girl got a new Rocky Sheep Suit to keep this year's fleece clean. (I didn't get photos, because I didn't want to wear Troy's patience too thin. He was already holding them for "after" shots, and helping me dress them.) In spite of measuring and remeasuring, I was off in my sizing. I had ordered four size C coats thinking they would fit all the girls now (with Bella's being too big), and four size D coats thinking they would fit the girls in full fleece. Well, Bella is wearing a size C without too much extra room, and the other three girls are in size D coats -- Dinah and Rechel just barely! Fortunately, another Shetland shepherd is happy to take the three too-small coats off my hands; now I have to turn around and order three bigger coats. Sure hope my fleeces sell to help pay for the coats! (Well, all except Valentine's. I'm going to price hers high, so maybe I'll get to play with it. The color variations in that fleece are SO lovely, and next year it will probably be nearly white.)

Shearing surprises: Valentine struggled, and Bella was compliant. Valentine's color. The plumpness of Bella, Dinah and Rechel. The lack of plumpness of Valentine, my only bred Shetland. That one has me wondering if I'll get any lambs at all this year. But it's still early; she has two more months before she's due....

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, March 24, 2007

While you are waiting on shearing photos... (adapted)

A cocky Department of Agriculture representative stopped at a farm and talked with an old shepherd. He told the shepherd, "I need to inspect your farm."

The old shepherd said "OK, but don't go in that field."

The Agriculture representative said, "I have the authority of the U.S. Government with me. See this card? I am allowed to go wherever I wish on agricultural land."

So the old shepherd went about his farm chores. Later, he heard loud screams and saw the Department of Agriculture rep running for the fence and close behind was the shepherd's prize ram. The ram was madder than a nest full of hornets and gaining on the rep at every step.

The old shepherd called out, "Show him your card!! Show him your card!!"

That's it for now at (ramless) . . .

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A snack for the shearer

Motivated by my little boy saying "I wish we had some cookies" and tomorrow's appointment with the farrier/shearer, I decided to bake tonight. Seemed the appropriate time to try out the food molds my sister sent me, so armed with an old family recipe from Tina, I got to work on a linzer-type construction of Goliath proportions.
(Sorry, that last sheep got lost in a snowstorm.)

Since one of these would make a small meal, I haven't tried one yet. Hope they are deemed worth the effort!

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Spring!

I just noticed on my desk calendar that today is the "official" first day of spring, so here's an "official" welcome:
Pictured is the big island flower bed in the middle of our circle driveway that you see as you approach the house. Today we purchased some new plants for this area, so it will be changing soon. Hopefully the meter post won't be so conspicuous and the Japanese maple will get some much-needed shade on its lower trunk from the additions. Rick also bought me three rhubarb plants to add to the garden -- yum!

These are the flowers on the "Tasmanian Tiger" euphorbia I planted in front of Brian's bedroom wall. These strange-looking relatives of the poinsettia have not once been sampled by the deer, so they get big points for that! Our local herd of "meadow rats" can make landscaping a real challenge. And just think how much more pasture we'd have for the horses and sheep if we weren't feeding all these!

That's it for now at . . .

What a coincidence!

What kind of yarn are you?

You are Shetland Wool. You are a traditional sort who can sometimes be a little on the harsh side. Though you look delicate you are tough as nails and prone to intricacies. Despite your acerbic ways you are widely respected and even revered.
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The reluctant shepherd (bless him!)

Getting sheep was not my husband's idea. In fact, he would probably say he was railroaded into it. (Well, we DID need a legitimate "farm use" project for tax purposes, and HE couldn't come up with a better idea!)

Rick has done his share of muttering and grumbling in the last year-plus, but he's also spent untold hours building fence and the new Shetland Sheraton, plus helping me with the sheep in other ways. Today we cleaned out the former fold so it could once again be used as an access to the arena. There was a LOT of accumulated straw, "sheep seeds" (I think I could convince some city kids that's what they are, don't you?), and hay to pitch in the ancient manure spreader to spread on the pasture.
As I was saying, my reluctant shepherd has come a long way since the girls' arrival. (I have even caught him PETTING the girls a time or two!) But after not being home to do evening chores most of last week, Rick had problems getting the sheep into the fold Friday night. Yesterday evening I visited my ailing friend Joan, and got home after dark. Rick had not yet done chores. Then the neighbor called, warning us about a pair of dogs they just chased off that night, the second time in two weeks. Rick promptly left the house to bring the sheep in and do chores, and I went upstairs to check my email. I happened to look out the window and see sheep running around in the dark, with Rick trying vainly to coax/herd them into the fold. I ran down to help, knowing his aggravation level would rise quickly. I got Dinah the chow-hound and Valentine the pet into the fold easily enough, but Rechel and Bella were thoroughly spooked. It took a LONG time to finally get those two penned, with Rick making pointed references to mutton.

So after cleaning out and dismantling the old sheep fold, I thought I'd better bring the girls in and not leave it for him to do at chore-time tonight. Of course, for ME they basically filed in like good little sheepies, and lined up for their evening grain.
That's it for now at . . .

Friday, March 16, 2007

The vagaries of spinning

Yesterday I finished my latest spinning project, some commercial top (Bayberry colorway, I think) that was nearly my undoing. Once a fellow spinner showed me how to spin the slippery stuff from the fold, I had a grand ol' time with most to the 8 oz. I purchased. Then I hit the brick wall of spinning, and came to a screeching halt (brick walls do that to a person). So last week I arranged for a sitter, and made the short pilgrimage back to the spinner who originally helped me. She got me spinning again on some other fiber, but had a frustrating time with the top herself.

Wednesday night Rick worked late, so after putting Brian to bed and doing chores, I sat down with Louie to attempt the top again. Wouldn't you know it spun like a dream, with no troubles at all? Yesterday I plied (couldn't resist adding that white gold thread again) and skeined it. Left it on the skeinwinder overnight, because I really wanted to wind it into a ball immediately, but someone on the spinning list said I REALLY need to wash the skein first to set the twist. Oh, all right; so here is my big, fat, beautiful skein, ready to be washed. (Can you tell that skeining and unskeining is my LEAST favorite part of the whole process?)

What do you think I should knit from it? Brian says he wants a sweater (an as yet unacquired skill on my part). What do you think? Would it be too "girly" with that gold thread in it?

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fleece, flowers, food, and friends (an update)

I worked at Rick's clinic Monday morning, which meant an opportunity to wash fleece. No, not mine (yet), but the BFL/Romney cross ram fleece that my farrier/shearer gave me. So I got busy skirting it on Friday, figuring I need the practice before skirting my Shetland fleeces for the Shepherds Extravaganza. Do you think it's possible to get these straw-magnets in show shape??? (And do you think Bella REALLY has a tail in there somewhere?) about a big lump of fleece! I thought about weighing it, but decided to just dive in.This is very different wool than my girls grow!

Switching subjects, March in the Willamette Valley means a head-on charge into spring, with flowers everywhere. I'm only showing you what blooms on Boulderneigh, but we don't do too bad here. More daffodils...daphne odora, one of my favorite floral scents...the flowering plum tree...even the native shrubs and plants are getting into the act!

In another shift, fellow Shetland owner/blogger Tina has shared several recipes with me, and when I could not find a key ingredient for one of them, she surprised me by sending it via UPS! So I made a batch of Chocolate Coma Cookies for a meeting I had Monday night (with some left over for indulging in at home, of course). Kathy told me to take pictures, but I guess I'm just not FoodieFarmgirl enough. Staging food shots just doesn't turn my crank. I'd rather eat the subjects!

One last shift, for those of you who have asked. My friend Joan is comfortable and in good courage, although she is steadily growing weaker. Moving in with us out here in the country doesn't appear to be an option, because the drive would be inconvenient for both Hospice workers and her friends, most of whom are elderly. So either she will be moving into a care facility or we'll find a home health care worker to move in with her soon, in addition to Hospice care. The cancer wasn't discovered until quite advanced, and she doesn't want to endure any treatments for it after seeing her husband suffer through them. Her faith is strong, and she isn't afraid to go to "sleep" until Jesus comes.

That's it for now at . . .