Sunday, September 30, 2007

Old "friends"

Yesterday morning I turned out all the sheep and lambs out together. None of the four who traveled to OFFF and back have shown any sign of illness, and I want to get Brava and Bella separated from Braveheart, so I figured they could all get acquainted/reacquainted where there is enough room to move around if anyone got cantankerous. It was interesting to me that the only two who really scuffled were Rechel and Dinah, my original two Shetlands who came here from the same farm. You'd think these two would have the least amount of differences to work out, but they acted more like old enemies instead of old friends. Bella stayed close to mom Rechel during all this; Rechel was the aggressor. Braveheart watched with interest -- perhaps head-butting stirred something within? -- but Bella chased him away when he got too close.
(Notice the mud in the photo? Weatherwise we have moved abruptly from Indian Summer to November. My sister arrived Friday for a visit, and it's supposed to rain ALL week!)

There's been some discussion on the Yahoo Shetland list lately about whether or not bottle lambs make good moms -- or flock sires. The concensus seems yes on the former, provided the lamb wasn't rejected or abandoned by a bad mother, and no on the latter because they usually become too tame to have proper respect for humans. Aggressive Shetland rams are not usually appreciated or tolerated, but aggressive Shetland ewes, as in those with fierce mothering instincts, are very much appreciated. Some argue that when we select only for mild-mannered rams, we may also be selecting against those fiercely good mothers. If that's true, it makes sense to keep the aggressive ewes and cull or wether the aggressive rams.

Rechel is a fiercely good mother. She lambed by herself, was extremely attentive to her twins, and, I suspect, even tried to steal Dinah's ram lamb at birth. (Later, she tried repeatedly to kill him.) Since she's only had ewe lambs, I don't know if her "aggression" would be passed on as "bad temperament" in ram lambs. I am diligently trying to find homes from her and Bella and possibly even Dinah so I can bring in some ewes with polled genetics, so I may never know!

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Harvest moon

It feels like someone flipped a switch. It was summer; now it's autumn. The air has taken on a crisp quality to go with the apples that are coming on. The horses are getting fuzzy; the flies are getting "sticky." The sun is rising noticeably later, and retiring noticeably earlier. This week Braveheart started acting like a "man," and leaves started turning on Boulderneigh.
The garden is still producing and the flowers are still blooming, but I know those pleasures will soon be coming to an end.
Polarfleece, jackets and sweaters have a new appeal. I guess my timing is perfect; I finished my second mini-cardigan this week -- and it fits! I chose to forego the buttons and button holes; I have yet to decide whether I'm going to add some kind of closure. I wore it like this today, and enjoyed it very much.The brown I used as a contrast color is slightly different than on the first one, but it will still coordinate with the brown moleskin skirt I plan to wear with it. (The delayed shutter on my inexpensive digital camera is pretty nifty!)

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

OFFF, the aftermath

You would think that someone who DIDN'T sell any sheep and DIDN'T sell any fleeces would keep her pocketbook closed. And I DIDN'T have much time to shop. So how DID I manage to find all these wonderful fibers to bring home to spin??? In order of discovery, there's 16 oz. of picked turquoise kid mohair, seven +/-2 oz. packages of the softest and most intriguing green 70% superwash merino/30% non-superwash alpaca top (a mistake at the mill that resulted in a VERY attractive price), a pound of black-dyed domestic wool roving that is quite soft and very lustrous (I thought this and the turquoise mohair plied together would be gorgeous), and a 14 oz. bump of natural-colored rambouillet that I want to overdye before spinning.
I had wanted to look for some cute sheepy decorating and gifty items, but didn't see many in my dashes by the vendors' tents and through the two buildings. And when you weigh "luscious fiber to spin and knit" against "cute sheepy items to dust," guess which one wins out? :-)

Besides, I hope to have cute sheepy items I DON'T have to dust in some months. The four sheep I took to OFFF are in after-show quarantine together until next weekend, and yesterday morning Braveheart showed great interest in Rechel -- the first such interest I've seen him demonstrate. Just as soon as I'm sure no one caught any nasties at OFFF, Braveheart will get to meet Valentine and Dinah as well, and Brava and Bella will get pulled out -- hopefully before any buns get started in THEIR ovens!

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, September 24, 2007

OFFF, part three

So, no ribbons for my sheep. But when I arrived Sunday morning, one of the breeders said, "Congratulations! One of your fleeces did really well!" When I had time to make it over to the fleece exhibits, I saw that indeed, Valentine's coated six-month clip had won Reserve Champion Shetland fleece!
The judge's comments were: "Beautiful color, represents the Shetland breed nicely, long staple, very clean." Valentine's spring clip got a blue ribbon, and Dinah's coated six-month clip got a red ribbon. That last one seemed strange, because her uncoated spring clip got a blue and sold for a good price at Shepherds Extravaganza. Go figure. Anyway, this time none of my fleeces sold, probably because there was a parking lot fleece sale going on outside. That's okay; I'm going to wash that award-winning fleece just as soon as I can and start spinning it from the locks!

Rick and Brian showed up during the yearling ewe class. Rick was on emergency duty for the county and had to leave to check a colicking horse after a bit, but not before getting asked to do some veterinary work at OFFF. One of the Shetland breeders had a ram lamb who tore his lower lip and gums; Rick stitched that up. Then the owner of a Lincoln ram tracked him down and asked him to look at the ram's inflamed eyes. Here is Rick working on the the pony, er, I mean, Lincoln ram!
After Rick and Brian left, one of my horse friends showed up with an acquaintance, surprising me. We walked around the grounds a short while together. They were both amazed at the size of the show -- and how much fun they had "at a SHEEP show"! My red-headed friend scored a new earring and a beautiful sweater made from alpaca in "her" (autumnal) colors.

The best part of attending these events, whether you show are not, is getting together with other Shetland people. They are some of the nicest folks! I've already mentioned that I couldn't have participated without their help. Shown below prepping her sheep is Lynne Deshler of Cedar Haven Farm, who volunteered to watch over my babies and provide for their needs. Below that is her husband Tom, who always brings his hammered dulcimer and provides the most beautiful background music. I really like Lynne's display, too. She has felted various colors of Shetland wool around the wooden supports that hold photos of her sheep and loose skeins of Shetland yarn.
Here's a parting candid shot I caught of a tiny tot and her very patient bunny. She kept trying to stuff it up her shirt -- I think she liked its soft fur tickling her tummy!

That's it for now from . . .

Sunday, September 23, 2007

OFFF, part two

As I made my way toward OFFF this morning, I drove right by the launch site of these hot air balloons. I often see them in the sky on still early mornings, but never close enough for a good picture. If I had been driving my car instead of a pick-up towing a three-horse trailer, I would have pulled over for some better shots!

When I arrived at the show grounds, I got to work picking hay and straw out of Braveheart's, Brava's, and Bella's fleeces. Shetland classes were to start promptly at 9:00 with ram lambs, so I had to have everyone ready to shuttle back and forth to the show ring.

Said show ring was inadequate in size for the number of sheep showing in most of the Shetland classes. There were 21 ram lambs in Braveheart's class! He was the smallest boy there, but stood like a trooper and enjoyed all the attention I had time to give him while the judge worked his way through the class. When he came to Braveheart, the judge said, "Well, this little guy won't ever have to worry about his horns growing into his head." Bingo! That's one of the many good points about polled stock!

This handsome young ram won the class; we left without a ribbon (as did 16 others).

After seven yearling rams were evaluated and champion and reserve champion rams were recognized, it was time for ewe lambs. This time 33 of us crowded into the small ring with our little sheep!!! Like Braveheart, Brava mostly enjoyed getting lots of attention while we waited. Again, we left without a ribbon; the striking black and white girl who won went on to win Champion Shetland Ewe and Champion Classic Breeds Ewe.
I grabbed Bella and back to the ring I went for yearling ewes. "Only" 22 showed up (35 had been entered!). All our homework paid off in a mostly well-behaved Bella. Once again we left the ring without a ribbon, but I was thrilled for my dear friend Lois, whose horned ewe Fantasie won the class (she was later named Reserve Champion Shetland Ewe).
I didn't hear who won best flock, because I was scrambling to decide which of my three to take back into the ring for the Best Fleece class. I ended up taking both lambs that direction, but after someone observed that this judge seemed to prefer the double-coated fleeces, I tied Braveheart up and used Brava. The judge said all the sheep entered had very nice fleeces; the winner was the ram lamb who had won his class.

More tomorrow from . . .

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Boulderneigh Shetland Sheep, unveiled

Yesterday I took Rechel, Bella, Brava and Braveheart, plus three fleeces, to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. Fleeces I have shown one other time, but this is the first time Boulderneigh sheep have ventured into the public eye for scrutiny. I found my stalls, got my sheep unloaded, checked my fleeces in, and then finished setting up my area in the sheep barn.
I am really pleased with how my banner turned out, handsomely displayed in a frame made by my dear husband. I'm sticking with the blue/green color scheme that started with my blog, hence the plaid tablecloth. I even used a photo of that fabric as the background of my notebook cover sheet/flyer.
It was interesting to observe the sheep's reactions. Brava and Braveheart, my little "world travelers," acted like veterans, calmly taking everything in, eating right away, and chewing their cuds. Rechel and Bella, on the other hand, acted quite stressed. Rechel (in the coat) constantly looked to me for reassuring pets and scratches, and Bella even seemed to appreciate them. By the time I finally had to leave for the evening, though, they were acting more settled.
I am only able to participate in this event because of the generous and helpful Shetland community. I knew ahead of time that I would not make it to Canby at all today, and had to rely on others' willingness to watch over my sheep and keep them supplied with feed and fresh water. Tomorrow morning I will arrive bright and early to tend to their physical and emotional needs, and pick over their fleeces before the Shetland classes start with ram lambs at 9 a.m. Braveheart is the smallest ram lamb I saw there, so it will be interesting to see how the judge responds to him. He generated some curiousity among some of the Shetland breeders (all assumed he was a ewe at first glance because of his lack of horns), and I had a very positive discussion about polled genetics with a woman passerby who has kids in 4H.

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reunited and it feels so good

Yesterday I got a surge of grim determination and decided that Bill WOULD dance with me again. I had lost the end of my yarn awhile back, and could NOT find it again no matter what I tried. So I worked on the big Romney/Border Leicester fleece on my other wheel when I had time, and tried not to think about Bill. But I foresee new fiber in my future (Beth is sending me a fiber prize for winning her blog contest, and I just MIGHT find something to spin at the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival this weekend), so I really wanted to finish that mohair cloud, ply it with the waiting red Wensleydale singles, and free up Louie for a new experience. Anyway, I don't know if I found the lost end or created a new "end" by breaking the yarn, but I GOT AN END. And resumed doing the twist with Bill, finding it much easier after some time away. Funny how things work out.
Stayed tuned for lots of photos and news from OFFF in coming days! I'm heading over tomorrow with sheep and fleeces, and hope to make a good impression for Boulderneigh. If you're there, look for plaid!
That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Going over my "cute quota" for the day

Late last night Rick had to treat this little fluff-ball's mother for helping herself to WAY too much grain. He came home practically gushing about how cute this baby was, which is unusual for him. First thing this morning he needed to recheck the intemperate jenny, and since the miniature donkey farm is just up the road a couple miles, Brian and I rode with him.
This jenny and her three-day-old foal were in the same paddock as the patient and her foal. The mama wanted Brian's plum.
I could have taken these two home with me. The foal is sooo soft -- when she would hold still long enough to be touched! Most of the time she was running and bucking. Look closely (or click on the photo to "biggify"); you can see the friskiness in her eye. Isn't it amazing to think that just three days ago, she was wadded up inside her mother's uterus?

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, September 17, 2007


Sunday we harvested the first melons from our garden, and created this honeydew/cantaloupe/yellow watermelon combo. (I like the yellow watermelon best.) Tonight for supper we had corn on cob (although it didn't germinate well, what did come up is producing beautiful ears!), and our frequently-enjoyed pasta primavera with zucchini from the garden.There's a lot more stuff out there that needs picking; I'm not able to keep up!

On the knitting front, I'm almost finished with the torso in the main color of my second mini-cardigan. Once I get the length I want, it will be time to add the contrasting color at the bottom. I love how fast this pattern knits up!

In sheep news, I continue with preparations for the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. My three show sheep got rained on yesterday; hopefully their fleeces will dry completely by "show time." Bella is making steady improvement in her regular leading sessions. I'm working on creating and purchasing materials and compiling supplies. This week feels too short, and it's only Monday!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Biggest FO to date...

...and that's not necessarily a good thing, Martha. Today I seamed up the last sleeve on the mini-cardigan. Having tried it on before it was finished, I wasn't unprepared for the results: it's both too big and too small.
That is, the arms, which I added a few rows to, are a tad long, the torso, which I should have added some rows to, is too cropped, and it would take a better-endowed woman than I to fill it out.

I was going to wear this to church tomorrow, but have talked myself out of it. I don't have a shirt or blouse to wear under it that would look right with the skirt that it matches, and it only looks (kinda) like it fits me with my arms akimbo. Can't go around like that all morning, now can I?

Never fear. I have gifting ideas in mind for this beauty, and enough of the same yarn to cast on another with modifications to suit me and my frame. I really do like this project -- the yarn and buttons I used, the speed in which it knits up with bulky yarn and big needles, the increases and decreases that give it shape, and the shorter sleeves. May the education I gained on attempt #1 serve me well on #2!

That's it for now at . . .

Back in the game

Wednesday Rick surprised me by announcing that he bought us a family membership at our "Burg-of-Business" (not to be confused with our "Tiny-Town-of-Return-Address") Community Center so we could have access to the racquetball court. What a delightful surprise! I was introduced to racquetall in college and while I have never had ready access to a court, I LOVE to play; talk about fun exercise! It's probably been ten years since I picked up my racquet, but no matter. That same day we all went to the court and banged the ball around. Brian thought it was great fun, and Rick and I managed to get a bit of exercise in spite of playing with and around Brian. Rick said it was the first time he's seen me happy all week! (I don't get that, because I haven't been unhappy; I think he was just seeing me have FUN for the first time in awhile.) But I immediately got the bug to REALLY play, so yesterday I reserved the court, arranged for babysitting, and asked my DH out on a date. We played from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. and then got Jamocha shakes at Arbies to enjoy on the way home. My right hand and forearm are too tired and sore to manage a racquet immediately (and my middle-aged knees are complaining a bit, too), but I think having this membership is going to put a serious dent in my discretionary time and money (for babysitting). Hopefully it will also put a dent in my middle-aged "fluff"! (This blogger's header and "About Me" has given me a new mantra, or at least some motivation to get back into more regular exercise to go along with my sedentary hobbies of spinning and knitting.)

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Variety is the spice of life!

That's the platter of tomatoes I put on the table for lunch today. Isn't it colorful? I don't remember all the varieties we planted (and I am not crawling under the bushes to look at the tags even for YOU, dear readers!), but I think in the photo there are Lemon Boy, Early Girl, and Green Grape tomatoes along with a bigger red variety, red and gold cherry types, and a couple yellow pear tomatoes from a volunteer plant.

You gotta love those volunteer plants. Besides the impressive red dahlia in my island bed I've shown you before, another volunteer dahlia came up in the bed closest to the front door. It's a pretty little thing, but seems to have a self-image problem; all its flower heads are looking at the ground! (I had to get down with my elbows on the sidewalk to take its picture.) If it were my mom's flower she would tell it, "Stand up straight and look people in the eye!"
That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Finished and unfinished objects (FOs/UFOs)

Last night I finished this hat, my first experience with cotton yarn (discontinued Lion Brand Cotton Thick & Quick). I quickly decided I do not like to knit with cotton, at least bulky cotton. It feels stiff and unyielding -- "dead." But this hat is a gift for a relative that is allergic to anything but nylon and cotton, and I AM happy with how it turned out.

Hmm, what to cast on for next? Not having something on the needles to keep my fingers busy leaves me feeling fidgety. No, I still haven't done the finish work on the mini-cardigan; I need to seam up the sleeves, sew up a couple of extra buttonholes (oops), and sew on three buttons. But I also need something I can just "sit down and knit;" finish work isn't as fun and relaxing. But if I get busy, I could wear that mini-cardigan to church this week if it's cool enough.... Besides, I need to finish it to figure out how I'm going to modify the pattern before starting another one!

This morning we awoke to the cool and cloudy results of an "on-shore flow" that blew in last night, giving us a welcome respite from the unseasonable heat of the last few days. We all slept better for it.

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Brava's elusive tail

As the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival approaches, the first venue at which Boulderneigh will have a presence, I find myself looking over my three "show sheep" with a critical eye. Bella has good structure, but her fleece could be softer. Braveheart is about as perfect as a Shetland can be (in my humble opinion), but a judge may not regard his smaller size, scurs or UK-type fleece highly. I think Brava has a lovely fleece any way you cut it, her structure looks good, and she even has a proper bit of wool on her forehead,but her bite could be better and her tail . . . well, her tail is enigmatic. It is of an appropriate length and has a haired tip, but when viewed from behind, it is nearly impossible to see that she has one!
(EXCUSE me? I do, TOO, have a tail! See?)
If you want to see a perfect little fluke tail, just look at Braveheart. (And yes, things hanging below that perfect little tail have GROWN! Hopefully the girls will be impressed by that instead of noticing his lack of horns.)
That's it for now at . . .