Friday, November 30, 2007

A rare November

This week the weatherman has been saying that snow could fall in the Portland area tomorrow. In commenting on any earlier chances, he said that snow has fallen in Portland (I think the airport is the "official" location) only five times in the last 50 years. Well, Mr. Weatherman, it may not be snowing at the airport, but this is what it looks like at my house this morning!The deer and the boy don't seem to mind, but I'm thinking snow would feel awfully cold on tender puppy paws.

Since today starts the open advertising weekend on the Yahoo Shetland list and I am ever the optimist, I took my camera to the barn this morning for fresh photos of Bella. Above is her fleece at mid-side -- wow! It has density, crimp, luster, nice handle -- and at least a 7" staple! (I happen to think that's a good thing. :-) I could easily lust after that fiber, but have to remind myself that I have her lamb fleece. Besides, my husband is getting mighty edgy about the number of sheep we may have come spring if Braveheart does his job (he and Valentine mated last night, so that makes two girls covered for sure). I NEED to sell this girl before lambing begins!!!
That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This will come as no surprise to my mother

I spent most of my childhood dreaming of horses, playing with toy horses, drawing horses, reading about horses, and pretending to BE a horse. Now we know why.

You're a Horse!

Versatile, powerful, and true, you have quite a reputation for hard
work and a certain unbridled spirit. Many look up to you as an example of what
people can really become, though somewhere deep down, you admit to feeling a little
bit broken. You hate racing, but are still exceptionally good at it. Beware broken
legs, dog food, and glue. If your name is Ed, you do a surprising amount of

Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

That's it for now from . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Russell in rehab

If your horse is going to be out of commission for awhile, this is the time for it. The holidays with the attendant decorating, shopping, partying, and family visits – not to mention a new puppy coming soon; when WOULD I find time to ride? (Actually, I DO find a little time to ride another's horse, as a favor for a friend who is herself out of commission.)

Russell has had white line disease, the equine equivalent of toenail fungus, for over a year now. We managed it as best we could through last winter and the following show season, but decided that in October we would pull his shoes and get aggressive about eliminating it completely. That meant trimming away all the affected hoof, leaving him without enough support to do much more than work at a walk on soft ground until he grows out some healthy foot. Rick got many "hints" that while Russell was out of work would be a perfect time to check out some other areas of concern. Eventually Rick got around to doing that, finding an old suspensory ligament injury in his right hind (probably there when I got him, contributing to his struggle to stay comfortable in his back), and a large, new suspensory ligament injury in his left front. He's treating them both with extracorporeal shock wave therapy, one of the best modalities for soft tissue injuries like these and a benefit of being married to a vet who has the equipment. (Rick may not want to be bothered once he gets home, but the care is top-notch and free when I can get it!)

Right now Russell isn't even home. For performance horses with these types of injuries, Rick recommends shock wave combined with work on an underwater treadmill, available at a rehab facility owned by one of his clients. Said client owes Rick some money and her husband was just laid off from his job, so Rick offered to do a trade to benefit me, Russell AND the client. This combination should help Russell heal faster and make him stronger than ever, so I was thrilled. We dropped him off last Friday on our way to look at the puppies.
Yesterday Russell was introduced to the "pool." Since I had to take my sister to the airport early this morning and Bald Peak is kind of on my way home, I called to see if I could stop by. Michelle (owner of Bald Peak) said that would be great, since getting a horse in the second day is often the hardest. It was good to see my big handsome horse (and assure him that I hadn't sold him off and left his life), and I was able to help get him in the pool and experience the moving treadmill for the first time. He scrambled a bit both going down the ramp and coming up the other side, but overall he did well.Every horse is groomed beforehand and rinsed off afterwards.When Russell comes home, he'll be fit AND clean!

That's it for now from . . .

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It began with a horse called Mojo

Two years ago I thought I had a buyer for my horse and was looking for my next young prospect to train and compete up the levels in dressage. Responding to an ad about a promising youngster, I went out to see Mojo, a Thoroughbred/Friesian cross. When Brian and I arrived at the stable where Mojo was boarded, we were greeted by this handsome fellow -- Jack. Not only was he a real looker, but he didn't bark, was attentive without being neurotic, and he gently played fetch with my not-quite-four-year-old son the entire time we were there. Before we left, Mojo's owner asked Brian if he would like to see some puppies, and she showed us a litter of Jack's and a blue merle female. She herself had one of Jack's sons at home, and she couldn't say enough about what nice dogs they are (the owner has been breeding this line for 25 years).
Fast forward two years to losing Rosie and pondering what to get for our next canine companion. Rick and I discussed what we wanted, and agreed that a good playmate for Brian was high on our wish list. We both also had a slight preference for a male. But beyond that, we couldn't seem to agree on what kind of dog that should be. Into my mind drifted the memory of Jack. But how to inquire if he was still around and siring puppies? I never had the name or number of his owner, just that of Mojo's owner, which I was pretty sure I purged when I ended up keeping my horse Russell. I couldn't even remember how I got to the stable, as it was "over the river and through the woods" into unfamiliar territory over an hour away. But the idea wouldn't leave, so I searched my email archives. There, to my surprise, I found a single saved email from Mojo's owner. Hardly daring hope that she still had the same email addy, I sent out my strange message, telling her how I had come to look at a horse she had for sale two years ago and was impressed by the dog at the stable she didn't own and wondered if she had a name and number for the stable so I could find out if that dog was still be around and producing offspring since we had just lost our dog (yes, I was breathless!) Lo and behold, she emailed me back!

"Hi Michelle, I'm still here! And is your timing good. I just talked to Kelly, the owner of 'Jack' the male Aussie you referred to. They just had two litters earlier this month. One with the same female who had pups when you were there and another litter days before with a black and white female (non-registered). So in total there are 10 pups at Kelly's. I think she said three of the non-reg. pups are spoken for, but the rest will be ready the first couple of weeks in Dec."

I was so excited -- the perfect dog for boy and farm! Now, if I could just get Rick to go meet Jack and see what a wonderful dog he is, I was sure he would agree that these Aussies were different than the majority of those we had met or known. I told him about the dogs and got the negative reaction I expected; but he did say he'd think about it. Still, waiting is agony, so when Rick took Brian with him on calls a couple days later, my sister and I jumped in the car for a quick road trip to see the pups ourselves. Jack was his same perfect self. My sister loved the blue merle female, but Calli, the black and white female with the border collie looks, appealed to me far more.
Her pups, only being two weeks old, were hard to evaluate beyond sex and color. There was a red and white male, a black and white male, and a black tricolor male; Kelly said the latter was reserved.
C-r-a-w-l forward another four weeks to last Friday. Rick had finally consented to go look at the dogs (in his mind, agreeing to go look was agreeing to get one). It turned out that the black and white male was the one that was reserved, so we chose the black tricolor. I suggested Jackson as a name since without handsome, gentleman Jack I never would have considered an Aussie, and Brian likes my idea. Now Brian and I are impatiently waiting until next Sunday, when we can bring Jackson home. Brian is crossing the days off on a homemade calendar of sorts and wanting to "play Jackson," with him being the puppy and me being the human. He also keeps telling Rick and me that we need to get our OWN dog, because this one is going to be HIS dog. And truly, this may be the best birthday present Brian will ever receive! (We are picking up Jackson four days before Brian's 6th birthday.) I DO hope he'll be willing to share once Jackson comes home, but at any rate I will have early mornings and late evenings when Brian is in bed for "puppy love." :-)

I hope you enjoyed "the story of Jackson," which of course is only just beginning. It has all worked out, as Moya Brennan sings, "In His Perfect Time."

That's it for now at "not dogless for long" . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sheep hanky-panky!

This morning when I took the breeding group out to their lot, I noticed Braveheart, with nose out and neck extended, pursuing Dinah. She was NOT impressed. But after I finished chores and was heading up to the house, I noticed that she was standing still while he appeared to be romancing her, nosing (licking? I was too far away to tell) about her head and neck. Then he proceeded to try and mount the WRONG END. Great, I thought. With that level of ineptitude there will be no lambs for me next spring! Then he made me feel a bit better by trying again at the right end, but he only mounted for a split second. He's going to have to do better than that to sire anything, but at least I have finally witnessed real interest and some effort. There is hope!

The above reminds me of a calligraphed quote from John Barth hanging on my office/studio wall. "My feeling about technique in art is that it has about the same value as technique in lovemaking. Heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so does heartless skill; but what you want is passionate virtuosity."

Next up, with a nod to Paul Harvey: the REST of the (puppy) story!

That's it for now from . . .

Addendum: Tonight when I brought the sheep in, Braveheart's head was bloody. He knocked off both tiny scurs sometime today; one was bleeding down the side of his face. Dinah had slight bloody smudges on her neck and head from his amorous attentions. What a mess!

Friday, November 23, 2007

A quick update

Yes, we looked at puppies today, and YES, we chose one! Since this little Australian Shepherd is just six weeks old, we will wait until December 2 to pick him up. Brian has already made himself a "count-down sheet" so he can cross off each day until we can go get the pup. Oh, and said pup will likely be named Jackson (since he is Jack's son). As soon as I have time I will tell you the whole story of how this dog came to be our chosen. For now, "an-ti-ci-pa-a-tion is making us wait."

That's it for now from . . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A cloudburst, really

-- of blessings, that is! After getting back from our trip and before shopping for replacement yarn of some sort, I posted a message on the Spinning list to see if anyone had some comparable, affordable homespun they would be willing to destash for my friend's gift. Among the responses I got was an off-list email from Tammy Ward, a fellow Shetland shepherd and Spinning list member. She had some lovely mill-dyed blue Shetland roving, and she offered to spin double the amount of yarn needed AND send me some roving to spin when I have time, if I would knit her mother-in-law a shawl as well! How does one respond to an offer so generous? Well, I said yes, of course, and I will be thanking her forEVER! She sent me the following photo of the first batch of yarn she finished; it looks remarkably like the yarn I left on the plane. Once the yarn arrives, I will be knitting every spare minute, doing my best to finish two gifts by Christmas. It will be a welcome task. I haven't managed to start a project since the trip, but I do believe I feel my knitting mojo revving back up.
In fact, my latest yarn is washed and dried, so I plan to cast on a small project today sometime. I'm calling this colorway "Rich Woodgrain." (Oooh, I feel like a REAL fiber artist, using the word "colorway" and naming my homespun and everything! hee!)
Pictured below is another special token of love and understanding given to me by a friend after Rosie's death. On the card is a photo that friend took of Rosie and Brian a few years ago; such a photogenic pair....
On the subject of dogs, the ice dam of Rick's resistance has dislodged, and we are going to start looking on Friday. My heart is suddenly lighter; my mood has magically lifted from grey to pastels of hope and anticipation. Brace yourselves to be inundated with photos and news of our next furry family member!

Happy Thanksgiving, from . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

Showers of blessings

It has been raining here, a lot. Typical for this time of year, though. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees; between the leaves and the mud, venturing off the graveled areas can be a pretty slippery proposition. That's part of the reason I leave the sheep in during the rainiest of weather -- the mud. This morning when I approached the sheep fold to feed, Brava was springing about like a giant piece of chocolate-brown popcorn; the poor, pent-up thing!

Speaking of chocolate brown, I was able to get the spinning I finished yesterday plied this morning. I decided to add a fine gold thread since my overdying turned out so subtle, even though my first reaction to this idea was that the brown was too "casual" for the gold. But I think it turned out just right. :-) Another big thank-you to Beth for the fibery prize to her blog contest!
Last week when we got back from our trip, an unexpected package from another "blog friend" was waiting at the post office. Opening it in my car, I started with the enclosed letter -- and quickly decided to save everything for later when I had time to read, savor, and maybe cry. Tammy had sent me tender condolences about Rosie, along with three tiny porcelain bulldogs, all packed in roving from her beloved Dorset sheep Gracie. It was a most meaningful gift from someone who understands my heart on many levels.
God's blessings are indeed abundant. Even during tough times, He sends sunbeams of love to keep me going -- through things like the beauty in nature, the thoughtfulness of friends, little "windfalls," scripture and song. He also reminds me that while He feels my pain and frustration over losing my dog, my horse (who is out of commission for the time being) and my knitting, I have life pretty good. "You're right, Lord, I do. But I STILL really want a dog...NOW."

That's it for now from . . .

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Itch scratched, beast tamed

I've been itching to spin lately. It's been at least two weeks, what with the trip to Kentucky and the requisite busy-ness on either side, and the itch was really getting to me. I woke up at 5:30 this morning to answer nature's call, and then contemplated creeping up the stairs to spin. Instead, I waited until this afternoon when Rick went on a call and took Brian. I had enough time to finish the chocolate roving that Beth sent to me -- WHEE! I tried to get "artsy" with this fiber, with limited success. As you can see by following the link, Beth gave me three bumps. I spun two of them up rather thick and loose, overdyed the third with tamarind and grape Kool-Aid (I wanted to use red but found I didn't have any good red flavors in my stash; I've since remedied that) and spun it much finer. I'm planning to ply the thicker single with two strands of the thinner single (using both ends of a center-pull ball) to make a warm scarf for a friend.
Recently a new spinner with a Louet asked for advice from the Yahoo Spinning list. Her wheel was pulling in the yarn aggressively, as bobbin-lead Louets can, and she was frustrated. She was told to lace the yarn back and forth between the left and right hooks until the bobbin was half full. I have read this advice before, but have never tried it -- don't ask me why, as I, too, have been frustrated with the strong pull of my Louets. Well, the first time my fine single separated today, I decided to try it. Magic! No more pulling! Louie and Louie Two have never really been "beasts," but it is nice to have a way to make them better behaved when needed. :-)

That's it for now from . . .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The good, the bad and the ugly

Well, we've been to the other side of the country and back. In some ways, it felt like we went halfway around the world, ending up in another culture and almost another language! We went to Kentucky so Rick could attend some high-tech horse vet meetings in Lexington, "the northern-most city of the South." We took a little extra time to do some sightseeing in the area, and then stopped in Nebraska on our way home to see family.

The Good. It was BEAUTIFUL in Bluegrass Country. Plenty of autumn color; unique dry-set stone fences; historic architecture; vast, manicured horse farms without compare. In fact, there are horses EVERYWHERE there, real and decorative -- quite a place to be for someone who has been "horse crazy" since birth! I had been to Kentucky once as a child and visited some of the farms, including the one where Man O'War was buried. Now, he and other equine stars are stabled, buried and/or memorialized at the Kentucky Horse Park, the home of the International Museum of the Horse. It would have been nice to have several more days to see the sights, especially those connected to Rick's family tree, which goes back to Daniel Boone.
It was also good to see family. I grew up with tons of cousins, and even though I didn't get to see them that often, they were FAMILY. Brian only has four cousins, all older, three of whom live outside of Lincoln. He had great fun playing with them. We also "walked down memory lane," driving by the home Rick grew up in, getting donuts at a favorite old bakery and visiting our alma mater, where Rick's dad taught biology until his death. Rick's sister made me a German Chocolate Cake (from scratch, the ONLY kind worth the calories) for my birthday, and we celebrated Christmas early.
The Bad. Before we left on our trip, Brian came down with a bad cold; do you know how much fun it is to travel with a sick, cranky kid? (I caught it one day into our trip.) Still, I got some knitting done on the eastbound plane. After a long day of travel, we fell into bed at an interim hotel for the night, but didn't get much sleep because of Brian's coughing. The next morning we packed up to continue the drive to Lexington. It was then that I discovered I had left my knitting bag ON THE PLANE! I was disbelieving>frantic>desperate>heartsick. Being a man and wanting to "fix it," Rick was all for taking me to the nearby Wal-Mart Supercenter to replace everything, not understanding that 9mm Addi Turbos and eight ounces of homespun cannot be satisfactorily replaced by what Wally-World carries. I called Northwest's baggage claims number only to hear that carry-on items are not cataloged or stored. I called the airport baggage claims center numerous times over the next several days, but my bag was never turned in. The thought of my one-of-a-kind gift-in-progress thrown in the trash somewhere was agonizing....

The Ugly. I took my laptop along to keep up with emails and all the blogs I enjoy visiting, but the only free internet I found on the entire trip was at the cheap hotel we stayed in the first night. NONE of the three airports in which we changed planes had free internet, nor did the fancy-shmancy Marriott resort we stayed in for Rick's meetings. What a rip-off for a high-end hotel to charge $12.95/day for internet access! I was not a happy customer -- of Marriott OR those airports!

You're right, Dorothy; there's no place like home. It's great to be back to our own bed, our regular routine, our critters, Oregon weather, and ready internet access. I really missed being able to keep up with all the news and nonsense on others' blogs, and be in easy email contact with all my long-distance friends. Now if I can just keep my head above water in the coming weeks of hectic holiday happenings!

That's it for now from . . .

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Moving from blue to a paler shade of grey

It has been hard to shake the blues since we had to put down Rosie nearly three weeks ago. Brian thinks I shouldn't still be sad; Rick is slightly more tactful but also thinks I'm taking her loss awfully hard. I'll admit it; the magnitude of my devastation over losing "Rosie-Posie-Puddin'-and-Pie" was shocking even to me. If I go at Mach 9, I function just fine, but in quieter moments, the sadness is still there like a lead blanket, ready to envelop me.

I want another "doggie love" in my life, yet I'm afraid no other doggie love will do. Rick and I have talked several times about what dog(s) may be in our future. While we haven't reached a consensus yet, it may be that we get another bulldog for indoors (we both love them) AND an outside dog for Brian to romp with (that will be the tough one to agree upon). After we get back from a week-long trip, we will begin looking in earnest. Actually, I've already done some looking (it's a long story; maybe I'll get to share it some day). I would love to add one of these beauties to our family, but so far, Rick is very resistant to the idea:
While I wait for the next four-footed family member to join us, I AM getting in some spinning and knitting; Christmas is approaching, after all! Above is a glimpse of what's on the needles at the moment; I intend to cast on at least one more project while we are traveling. What DID I do with myself before taking up knitting?

Right now the second largest of my Japanese maples is at its glorious peak. Today's fog and the flowering cherry behind it provide a perfect backdrop. I'm sure it will look much different when we get back.

That's it for now from . . .

Friday, November 02, 2007

We DO still have sheep here....

My little breeding group of (from top, yesterday at breakfast) Dinah, Valentine and Rechel along with Braveheart has been together for over a month now. They are enjoying the fall sunshine and falling maples leaves. I know it must be my imagination, but Rechel's tummy appears bigger already. Well, she IS the one I'm betting got bred first. When lambing season draws near, I will have to borrow an idea from Lauren and run another contest, this one based purely on luck so everyone has an equal chance at winning. I just pray I can find a home for Bella before then!

That's it for now from . . .

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Whose toes are THOSE???

They can't possibly be MY middle-aged toes, can they?

A dear friend whisked me off for lunch and then a surprise visit to a salon for manicures and pedicures this afternoon. Now, after whirlpooling, clipping, snipping, massaging, painting and hot-wax-dipping, my feet do not look or feel like my own. (My hands were not as dramatically transformed, through no fault of the nail technician.) I'm sure they will be rough, dry and neglected again in no time, but for the moment, "I'm too sexy for my toes, too sexy for my toes, too sexy...."

I wonder how my adorable little sheep would look with white daisies painted on THEIR hooves? Hee!

That's all the silliness for now at . . .