Monday, June 30, 2008

All God's creatures

Yesterday morning I was up early (allergies) and checked my email, only to learn my dear friend Lois' sad, sad news. I thought of how special each of the creatures are that God has created, and how attached I am to each of those He has entrusted to our care here at Boulderneigh. I decided then to commemorate each of them in this post, as sort of a tribute to Lucy, the humans who loved her, and the God who created her (and loved her, too).

First, there's Emma, my little office companion, who was right there with me when I read about Lucy.

When I headed out to do chores, Oreo met me at the house, something she doesn't often do. It's hard to get good photos of Oreo; she's either rubbing against me or leaving.

I put Braveheart in his pocket pasture (no photos of him, but you saw plenty of him at BSG), turned the ewes and lambs out for salad, and tried to get some good candids of them. Bevin came right up for lovin'; everyone else was too busy eating to smile for the camera. (They ran when the horses spooked them.)

Next I fed and watered the chickens. They are hard to get good photos of, too.

Then I cleaned the horse stalls, gave "prisoner" Russell his hay and turned Sam and Ollie out on pasture. (Good news on the "Muscle-Man" front: last night Rick ultrasounded him, treated him with shock wave for the third and final time, and gave me the go-ahead to start riding again at the walk.)

Jackson, of course, was my constant companion during all of the above. My little digital camera is not good at action shots, but Jackson obligingly flopped down in the lawn on our way back to the house so I could include him in this tribute.

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, June 27, 2008

Showing sheep

A sheep show is a curious affair to the uninitiated. There are lots of sheep, of course, and all things related to sheep and fiber. My sister - one of the uninitiated - noticed a definite "look" to most of the people. Call it weathered or "earthy;" she confided that some of them looked like they slept with their sheep. (Truth be told, a lot of them probably had on occasion!) It also helps to be deaf. Especially at the shows early in the season, where there are lots of little lambs far, far from home. I don't care if they are weaned or not, they still want their mamas! The noise doesn't bother me too much, as Valentine has pretty much played on that nerve until it's dead. "Baaaaah!," she yells at me every morning and evening. "BAAAAH!!!" Motherhood does that to some of us....

Shetlands are usually shown with halters and lead ropes, which is very helpful if you're not a midget. But when your sheep is supposed to be standing still and showing off all its assets, you have to get down on its level or bend wa-a-ay over. (Wardrobe note: don't wear shirts that gape in front or back - unless, of course, you're the kind of woman who LIKES to show off all her assets, the judge is a man, and the sheep you're showing is less than perfect!)

Black Sheep Gathering limits each breeder to two animals per class, and even with that, the classes were good-sized. There were ten yearling rams, 23 ram lambs, 18 yearling ewes, and 21 ewe lambs from 12 different farms in their respective classes (in addition to classes for ram lamb pairs, ewe lamb pairs and young flock, plus champion ram and champion ewe). I showed Braveheart in yearling rams and Blizz and Bluster in ram lambs and ram lamb pairs (thanks to Franna Pitt's help!). That's me in the bright-blue shirt (chosen specifically for its non-gaping qualities!), and Franna in the white sweatshirt.Bluster, the ram lamb I handled, discovered he lu-u-uved being scratched during his classes, so his stance is one of a sheep trying to melt into a puddle of bliss. Many thanks to my sister who was snapping pictures while I was otherwise occupied!

Congratulations to Susie Sizemore of Misty View Farm on her champion ram (in back), and Marybeth Bullington of Shady Oaks Shetlands on her reserve champion ram!
Marybeth Bullington of Shady Oaks Shetlands was very happy with her winning ewe lamb, who went on to win Champion Shetland Ewe, with Lynne Deschler of Cedar Haven Farm taking Reserve Champion honors.
Misty View Farm also had the top young flock.
For a sheep lover and fiberholic, a sheep show is a wonderful place to be. That's why you'll see me at the State Fair and Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, even if I'm not showing Boulderneigh sheep!

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's cherry season!

Yesterday morning while jogging I got my first taste of this season's crop - yum! These are Royal Anns; the main variety grown commercially here.

It's strawberry season, too. While my in-laws were visiting, they took Brian and picked about five gallons of strawberries; we ate close to half and froze the rest. Last night Rick brought home 15 lbs. of fresh sliced strawberries he had ordered from a fundraiser, and we put most of those in the freezer as well. They go so well in frozen fruit salad along with peaches and blueberries; we like that with warm homemade muffins as a light supper.

Last night and this morning I took photos of Bevin, Bryden and Blizz to update my ads on the NASSA Sales Site. The boys will be "neutralized" soon, so will be available as fiber pets/ecologically-friendly lawnmowers. Bevin, shown in the top three photos, is a beautiful, friendly, square little ewe with a soft, consistent fleece and lots of wool on her poll and cheeks. Whether she and her twin Bryden stay moorit or turn fawn like their dam Valentine remains to be seen. You can't lose with either color!

That's it for now . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

She ain't seen nothin' yet!

Leza, the processor I chose, was very complimentary about how nice my fleeces are. She said a lot of the Shetland fleeces she gets in are not that soft. Of course, this is music to a breeder's and spinner's ear - but she ain't seen nothin' yet!

The two fleeces I didn't take to her, partly for lack of time to carefully skirt them, are Braveheart's and Brava's lamb fleeces, my two softest and crimpiest fleeces by far. Yesterday I transferred them both to clean bags as the ones they were in had gotten very dusty and snagged sitting in the barn-shed. Here is Brava's:
Now I'm thinking of trying my hand at washing and hand-picking them, then taking them to From Barn to Yarn for Leza to card into roving. I am already contemplating making the trip to Boring to hand-pick my other fleeces when she gets them washed (it would save me $2.00/lb.), so I could take them then. If she thought my other fleeces were nice, she's going to FLIP over these. Do you think she'd be impressed enough to process them for free, just for the privilege of fondling them? No?

Speaking of lamb fleeces, I have decided which of my three boys I want to keep as Braveheart's eunuch friend. Blizz was never in the running since I already have a grey fleece in my ewe flock; I've been waffling between Browning and Bryden, the two rich, dark moorit boys. When I got back from BSG I did a blind touch test, feeling both without looking to see who was who. Browning won on that point. Then I looked inside both fleeces. That quickly settled it. Bryden's is nice, but Browning's fleece made me want to dive in - it looks like melted dark chocolate! This is as good as I can capture on camera:
I think Bryden and his twin, Bevin, may turn out fawn like their dam Valentine. Lois brought a sample of Valentine's lamb fleece to BSG for me; she was moorit as a lamb, but not dark-chocolate. I absolutely love Valentine's silvery taupe fleece, but don't need TWO fawns. There's not room at Boulderneigh for a Shetland in every "flavor;" it's nice to have as much variety as possible!

Last night I stayed in the fold with the sheep for quite a while, something I haven't done in too long. I introduced the youngest three lambs to a halter and lead, then rubbed them each into a trance afterwards. After that my original two Shetlands, Dinah and Rechel, came up for some attention, and we had a love-fest. My soul was fed.

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scratching an itch


Being at Black Sheep Gathering and seeing spinning wheels all over the place, as well as all that yummy fiber on and off the sheep, gave me a bad itch to spin. I also want to use up some of my so-far modest stash so I can play with my own roving once it is processed. Today I had my first chance. Brian was invited to a neighbor boy's for a play date - so I had a play date with the above eye candy! Allena sent me three bumps as a prize for a contest on her Spindle And Wheel blog; this morning I got one spun up. This soft, pretty stuff is telling me it wants to be my first real lace project, maybe the scarf Allena designed and I've been drooling over ever since (click on the link to see; it's gorgeous!).

Now on to some happy sheep.When I got home Sunday evening, Rechel was reunited with Blizz. Since I didn't have a chance to wean her boys off properly, I'm sure she was quite uncomfortable for three days, and I was happy to let Blizz relieve the pressure and any chance of mastitis. I was afraid he was going to pop, though, from the amount of milk he guzzled in about ten minutes!
Braveheart was turned out into a new "pocket-pasture" Rick finished preparing while we were gone; he, too, was a fat and happy camper!

Finally, I got an email from Suzanne this morning letting me know that Blanche arrived safe and sound late last night after a long day of travel (she flew from Portland to Houston to Anchorage, thanks to the craziness of the airlines). Hurray!

Oh, in case you're wondering, I am going to do a report on the Shetland show at BSG, just as soon as my sister sends me the photos she took while I was showing my boys. Or I may do two posts, one with the photos I took, and a second one when my sister's disk arrives. That will break up the number of photos for those of you on dial-up.

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, June 23, 2008

Buying and selling at BSG

I didn't get a photo of my table, but above is my banner over my one little pen stuffed full of four sheep. Like I said in the last post, I was thrilled that Bluster was purchased by Thistledown Shetlands as a new flock sire, both because I'll be able to hear how he turns out AND because it gave Blizz and Bella more room in their half of the pen the rest of the weekend! Below is Bluster (left), moved in with Joyce's two ram lambs on Friday, waiting to go to his new home in Washington near Spokane.
On Sunday, I took Bella's coat off and walked her around the fairgrounds, in and out of the buildings. I really wanted to find a home for her, so I figured the best way to do that was to show her off! Her halter manners are wonderful, her fleece is nicer this year than it ever has been, and she did get admired and touched by several. A bit later, a Jacob sheep breeder came through the Shetland barn, saying she was really drawn to the breed. We got to talking and she mentioned that she noticed they tend to be friendly and even saw someone walking a Shetland around the grounds. Of course, I had to take her over to meet Bella, the Shetland she had seen on the leash, and she ended up buying her! I unfortunately neglected to get a photo of Bella before she headed off in a trailer with three Jacob sheep for her new home, but at least she got to travel like a sheep. These two little girls (not mine) were going on a 2 1/2-hour trip in a motorhome to their new residence. Using Depends was a clever solution - but will they ever live down the humiliation? :-)
Of course, I had to do a little shopping myself at BSG (no, I didn't buy any sheep!). I limited myself to some good hoof trimmers, a couple bars of soap and some pot scrubbers as gifts, a soap scraps bag, and some lovely midnight blue superwash merino/alpaca roving. The latter went beyond my self-imposed limit, thanks to a "10% off" postcard the vendor sent me. Last year at OFFF I bought from them about 14 oz. of the most beautiful heathery green roving, in the same superwash merino/alpaca blend. With my coupon I bought an equal amount of the midnight blue, which I plan to ply with the green to have enough yarn for a heavenly-soft garment.

Why did I restrict myself so? Because I took NINE fleeces to BSG, intent on finding a processor to turn them into roving! After talking to three different processors who all said they use a mechanical picker on Shetland, I met Leza at "From Barn to Yarn." When asked, she told me what I had been waiting to hear: "I prefer to hand-pick most Shetland, because the mechanical picker is just too hard on it." Roving from her will cost a little more (more than I made on the sheep I sold at BSG!), but I am hoping I will end up with a superior product to offer for sale and use myself.

This morning bright and early, I loaded Blanche into a crate and drove her to the Continental Airlines cargo office at the Portland International Airport. She should arrive in Anchorage, Alaska late tonight to add a splash of solid white to the Silveraurora flock. My sweet angel-faced lamb was a hard one to give up, but it does feel good to have half the sheep I need to sell moved on to good homes!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, June 20, 2008

BSG news bulletin

The Shetland classes ran this morning at Black Sheep Gathering. Didn't win any ribbons with my boys, but got a lot of compliments on them - and I sold Bluster! That was a real blessing, not just because I need to sell some sheep, but also because the four sheep I took were really crammed into the one pen I could get. With one less sheep, Blizz and Bella have more room in their half-pen (Braveheart is in the other half). Here's hoping two more sell before check-out time on Sunday afternoon!

Also, I got to meet to internet/blog friends for the first time - Laura (Becky, what's her last name?) and John and Tina Thomsen-Park. It's fun to meet those you've gotten to know on the computer, and find that they are every bit as nice in person! My sister came for the day as well (she's visiting her boyfriend in Medford), and took lots of photos for me while I was occupied with showing my boys. It was wonderful to have her company!

A full report with pictures is coming later. I'm home for the night and most of tomorrow, then drive back down tomorrow evening and stay until the sheep are released at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rio Caliente

Before heading off to BSG and loading my camera up with lots of photos of sheep and shepherds, I want to share some photos from my recent respite in Mexico. My mom, sister and I flew into Guadalajara on June 3 and spent the night there (at a Hilton, courtesy of my sister's generous sharing of points she had saved up!). The next morning we were driven out to Rio Caliente Spa, a lovely retreat hidden in an ancient caldera within the Bosque de la Primavera, a national forest about 20 kilometers from the big city. After checking in at the office (and signing up for our mud wraps, massages and other treatments!), we found our little cabin near the pools filled with water from the hot mineral springs that feed the river that runs through the resort.

As promised by the reviews we read, the staff were all wonderful, the food excellent, the lodgings clean and comfortable, and the surroundings as peaceful as anything on earth could be. (We were there during their slow season, and for most of the week there were only eight guests in a place that can accommodate 60-80.) Birds sang all day long, and frogs croaked at night. One of the resort's three horses was often on the grounds grazing on the irrigated lawn. The first four days I did little but bask in rest and relaxation and do some light reading, with some water aerobics and a hike thrown in to keep the food digesting and the blood circulating. The last three days I got up early each morning and went on a hike before planned outings; one to the largest market in the area, one to an area of nice shops and art galleries, and one to the partially restored ruins of a pre-Spanish civilization's center of worship.

I will be forever grateful to my mother, who treated us to this magical trip, and my husband and mother-in-law, who made it possible for me to get away. It was an adventure of a lifetime that I would never have been able to swing on my own, and I will treasure the memory of it always! I hope you enjoy the photos....