Thursday, August 27, 2009

Where a love affair began

The Oregon State Fair doesn't open to the public until tomorrow, but the Shetland sheep classes were today. The time commitment is a big one - six full days - so only four breeders were there (actually, three breeders and the sister of one with her own prefix, in order to get the numbers). One of them, Wally Rutledge, is the man I bought my first two Shetlands from after meeting him and his sheep at the State Fair four years ago, so Wally and the State Fair are near and dear to my heart.

Brian and I helped Wally pick fleeces in preparation for showing:
Brian made a new friend (who he wanted to bring home, of course!):
And we helped show sheep, too. Wally made a clean sweep of first and second places/Champion and Reserve Champion in all his classes, earning him the Premier Shetland Exhibitor banner:

The judge, as is unfortunately so common, rewarded the biggest sheep over the smaller sheep, although his observations about fleeces and conformation were sound. I don't think my sheep would have done well there, but I came home with a renewed appreciation for what I have in my own pastures. And that was worth the price of admission!

Actually, we didn't have to pay admission since the fair hadn't officially started. We get to go for free again as a family next Tuesday, when Rick is the official fair vet. I imagine that will be a full, fun, exhausting day!

That's it for now from . . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When blue; do!

Another day dawns.

Not that I have much choice in the matter; like I said, there always seems to be too much to do around here. Even though I might LIKE to curl up and pull the covers over my head (going to sleep was my preferred way of dealing with depression in college), that's not an option when you have a busy boy and hungry animals and needy clients and producing garden and - well, you get the picture.

Yesterday, Brian wanted to lead his sheep around for some grazing time, so I got Browning out of the ram lot for him.Ah, a boy and his Shetland. :-) Took the opportunity to snap a shot of Browning's mid-side fleece; he got that lovely crimp from his daddy Braveheart (you can click to biggify):Now THAT'S a chocolate sheep! And below is Braveheart's fleece (he's a vanilla sheep :-). It may not be real fine, but it has beautiful character:(Commercial plug: roving from Braveheart's spring shearing is still available for sale.)

After this little "fleece fix," I soldiered on through some clients' jobs and then rode my horse. That went well, which always helps. Next, Brian and I ran some errands in Salem. On our way out of town Brian asked if we could stop at the Riverfront Carousel. We got him a punchcard for Christmas a couple years ago that he hasn't used much, so I obliged. All the pretty horses going 'round and 'round is a joyful sight....
On the way home we stopped to get a box of peaches from the neighbor who has a small orchard of "Canadian Harmony" freestones; I'll get more next week. For supper I sliced two up and poured a little fat-free half-and-half over them; heaven on my tongue!
That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This little clematis is planted at the top of the bed by the stairs that lead down to the barn (if you go that way rather than down the driveway). It's tucked behind the garbage bin (which gives it afternoon shade) so you don't even see it when you step out the garage door, but its little purple-blue bells please me no end when I come back up the steps, especially during this rather colorless time of year.This is the first year it has grown and flowered so well; the "meadow rats" usually ravage it repeatedly and some years it hasn't gotten to blossom at all. Maybe Jackson is slowly convincing the deer that they are not welcome to dine here.
It is a grey day, and cool. I love the coolness, but the flat grey sky reflects my mood. Rick commented on my "flatness" last night; was that causative? Because I hadn't really been feeling that bad, I didn't think. Or had I? There is no time for navel-gazing around here; too much to do. Too much to do . . . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

Done spun

My second eight-ounce skein (approx. 790 yds, two-ply) of 100% alpaca.

I have to admit that I still love this white alpaca and the resulting yarn, even after spinning a pound of it. I think I'm ready for a color break, but there is a part of me that wants to dive into the third eight-ounce installment. I can be very goal-driven, and I still have 1 3/4 pounds to spin for the alpaca farm owner before I've delivered on my end of the trade. Plus, part of me is afraid of not getting a similar grist if I take a break with a different fiber. We'll see; I'll let you know.

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chocolate, sheep

I'd say those two things were the focus of Franna's visit yesterday, although she may not have known it at the time! Franna made a trip from her home in Enumclaw, WA clear down to Grants Pass, OR to deliver sheep and pick up a sheep and a couple guardian dogs for their new place. She has wanted to get a hands-on look at Blackberry to see if leasing him this season would fit into her flock goals, so she made time to stop by. I love it when fellow shepherds stop by! It gives me the impetus to remove coats and examine fleeces more closely, not to mention having someone else's input. We looked at everyone. Blackberry's fleece is looking very nice, with a very fine crimp. Braveheart always amazes with his bold crimp from front to back and top to bottom; even his tail is crimpy!
Having this particular shepherd stop by also gave me the chance to give her her homemade Pay It Forward gifts. What do you make for a spinner and knitter par excellence? She had asked for the pattern for the little sheepie bead pins I made, so of course I had to make her some of those instead of giving her the pattern.What else? Chocolate! Franna loves chocolate but is allergic to soy; unfortunately soy is in a lot of chocolate. But I found a fudge recipe from Alton Brown's Good Eats that didn't contain soy in any form, and made that the night before.I don't know what went wrong because I thought I followed the recipe exactly, but it ended up being chocolate hard candy instead of smooth and creamy fudge. Phooey. So on Friday before she arrived, I made some soy-free Fudgy Mocha Brownies, which turned out MUCH better. These were definitely worth the calories!
So, it was a lovely day with a nice visit with a fellow shepherd, sheep schmoozing, and the second to last Pay It Forward obligation crossed off the list. (The last one is in progress.) Oh, and I finished plying the second eight ounces of white alpaca, too! Tonight I'll skein it off the bobbin, and maybe even get it washed. Woot!

That's it for now from . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Still here

Contrails and clouds in the evening sky

So, Rick is off to San Fran for a Friday/Sunday conference (International Society for Equine Locomotor Pathology; this one's on hock problems). I always think of how much I want to get done when the cat's away, but end up getting less done on my "extras" list because I'm doing ALL the chores and taking care of Brian without a relief pitcher. I do hope I can finish plying the second eight ounces of alpaca I'm working on and get it skeined and washed for delivery next week. THEN I will allow myself some "reward spinning" - perhaps those sparkly Peeper batts from Farm Witch?

Tomorrow a breeder interested in leasing Blackberry for the season is stopping by, and after her visit I will have photos to share - not necessarily of woolies!

Must run down and do chores right now. I followed your advice and put Lucille in a pen within the chicken yard during the day, moving it inside the coop at night. With more space and firmer ground (her hospital room/dog crate was lined with straw) her limp seems somewhat improved, but I have to keep a lid on her x-pen or she escapes over the top, only to be attacked. You'd think she'd learn to be content with a barrier between her and the others to keep her safe, but no.

That's it for now from . . .

Monday, August 17, 2009

A new exercise partner?

This morning Brian wanted to go for a walk. Fine by me; I need the exercise and I'm hard pressed to find the time away from my husband and son to do it. To my surprise, Brian not only kept up for the two miles but kept me jogging at least half the time; those long legs are serving him well. :-) By the time we got back, Jackson was dragging; THAT'S never happened before, either!

Although record-breaking heat is supposedly returning this week, it was quite pleasant out, with lots of beautiful things to see - and eat. These blackberries along our gravel road were delicious:
Someone's apples and pears are looking fine:
I doubt these berries are edible, but they sure are pretty:
As are the wildflowers:That last one was growing in among the blackberries; clearly a member of the nightshade family. We even found a Stellar's jay feather, although I couldn't get a photo that does its brilliant blue any justice:
For those of you interested in my dressage training log/blog, it's up now here. It may not be of much general interest, but I think it will help me as Russell and I get back into a regular "dance routine."

Yesterday I downloaded some system updates on my computer, and Google has been treating me very strangely ever since. It won't let me comment on other blogs, and for awhile it was telling me I wasn't following any blogs. Oh, to reverse the update; doncha just love technology?

That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The zucchini does it again!

Friday I was lamenting to my friend and neighbor about my pathetic dearth of zucchini this year. Only one of my hills germinated, and took four or five weeks to do it, so the only producing plant we've had is the start Rick bought along with the tomatoes. And I use the word "producing" loosely, as it has only given us three mediocre fruits, leaving us wanting for the main ingredient in several of our favorite summer recipes. A neighbor who usually plies us with his garden's bounty hasn't called once, and I refuse to buy zucchini. (You know what that would mean, don't you? They say you must not have any friends if you have to buy zucchini....) The week my family was here my sister and her husband spent the first half of the week in Medford to attend a wedding and see my BIL's family. One day she called me and asked, "You need some zucchini, right?" She thought it would be a joke, me the country-living, garden-tending sister and all. When I said, "YES! I am in desperate need of zucchini!" she burst out laughing, but then offered to bring some from her father-in-law's garden. Big suckers that they were, they still made wonderful zucchini patties and chocolate-cherry zucchini bread.

After my friend left Friday, I figured I'd check in on the garden, as I hadn't been out to pick anything for a week. I checked the zucchini first, and was amazed to find FIVE lovely, good-sized zucchini between the two plants! I picked three and promptly used two to make a zucchini tomato salad for a potluck we were invited to; I'll saute the third with onions and garlic for pasta tonight. Everything else looked good, too. Amazing what one decent rainfall will do. There has to be more to rain than just moisture, because you can water till the cows come home and it will never do for plants what an equal amount of moisture falling as rain does. Besides the zucchini I picked tomatoes, a bell pepper and harvested a nice little bucket of red potatoes from the two volunteer plants that came up this year.They were just erupting from the ground; is this common? I have only planted them one other time; Rick is not excited about devoting garden space to potatoes, since they aren't his favorite food. But they are a staple that I use in lots of recipes, so we might as well grow them as buy them. Look out next year!Yummy little winter squash are setting on nicely.

An English cuke is looking good; a pickling cuke is ready to pick.

The bell peppers aren't big, but they are prolific this year!

I need to go out and pick these purple and wax beans today.

That's how are garden grows at . . .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sheep shots

Many Shetland shepherds have lamented the fact that it is difficult to get good shots of friendly sheep. But there are ways.... I took these when I was in our arena with Russell, and Dinah, particularly, isn't at all sure that giant animal is safe. (In fact, I have to watch that she doesn't panic and start racing back and forth from one end of the long pocket pasture along the arena to the other. The chubby thing could have a heart attack doing that!) Makes for good, alert expressions - even if the background isn't scenic! Doesn't Blackberry have a beautiful head? Unfortunately, Dinah doesn't think much of him. She isn't cycling yet, so why should she?

Speaking of friendly sheep, check out some of the latest photos of Beau and Boo. Aren't they living the life of Riley?
That's it for now from . . .