Sunday, December 30, 2012

After Christmas

Since the storm last week it's never really stopped snowing.  Some days just a little, yesterday another 7 inches for us.  We now have an amount that proves it's actually winter.

There was a lot of wind with the snow yesterday and we have this funky snow stalactite hanging ominously off the eaves right by the side door.
Speaking of the side door, this little chrysalis appeared one day late last fall in the metal doorframe of the sliding screen door.  The picture doesn't do it justice - it's quite elegant and even ornate with little points and bumps on it - and the picture doesn't show it but there is the thinnest, finest strand of fiber you can barely see that's working like a guy wire or belt and helping hold it in place.  How the heck did he throw out a strand of something from INside the case?  Anyway, I've become quite protective of "him" and take care not to knock him off with a careless hand on the doorframe.  It's in kind of a dangerous place what with going in and out ten times a day, but there's no danger of using the screen door so if we can keep from being clumsy for a few more months I hope to see what kind of butterfly comes out in the spring.
And with Christmas past and gifts given I can post a couple of other things that went to new owners.
An alpaca scarf I spun and knit.  I looked through a book of stitches till I found one that was A. easy and B. I liked the look of.  I figured out how many pattern repeats would give me the width I wanted and just knit till the yarn was gone.
And then this scarf came from the guild's "stash stew" fiber and was the lot that I got back for what I put in.  The pattern is basically The False Entrelac pattern from Ravelry.
So I had two items to knit for Christmas and they both got done in time.  And since Christmas I've assimilated 90% of gifts received and. written. thank. you. notes.  This is a big one for me.  I'm always grateful for gifts, but usually hideously slow to send a written thank you.  Finally.....did it right.  There is still some clutter laying around.....I mean, how can you pick up bags when Dexter HAS to sit in them?
Holly says......
As long as we HAVE snow you should come out and play with me.

 Who can resist dog logic?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

From Festive to Fierce

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday's snow was fun and pretty.  Then the wind picked up at night, the temps dropped and more snow fell.  Power went out at 1:30 AM prompting Andy to make a trek outside and across the yard to the generator.  (Thank you, Mr. Generator.).  It was off till 7:30-ish, back on for an hour then went off again.  More generator usage.  Then it came on around lunch time.

We like to joke that this kind of weather keeps the riff-raff off our hill.

The view was equally bleak from the door of the sheep barn.
The wind worked snow into every crack and crevice and blew it in the open barn doors so that many of the sheep had a coating on their backs even inside.  They really didn't mind at all, but I don't like that it will make the bedding damp.  It drifted quite a bit too around the house and buildings so that getting from here to there became a tiresome trudge. 
Holly was a little happier with this kind of snow.
Whazzat?!  Is that one of them there riff-raffs?
Hoping for quieter weather tomorrow.  Still have last minute shopping to do!

Friday, December 21, 2012

How Festive!

It wasn't seeming very Christmasy until today.  Having been above freezing everything was the brown and tired green of pre-winter, then we graduated to mud.  Today we woke to some real snow.

Everything is totally coated with a wet sticky snow which is very pretty.  Unfortunately, being the shortest day of the year and also under heavy clouds it's a dreary day otherwise.  There isn't any wind to speak of so the snow is all staying on the branches.

It's heavy enough to weigh down flexible branches and make graceful arches on a boring hedge.

Holly seems to be listening to the snow fall.  Being just a little wet and slushy it does make a faint hissing noise as it lands.
Dexter is happy to stay indoors and vulture from atop the grandfather clock.
  All this excitement over snow.  Meh.
I'm very close to being done with collecting presents for Christmas.  Just a few things yet to find.  I've made several things too, but can't blog most of them for fear the recipient will see them.  Here's one thing I painted which is going to someone who isn't likely to see it, so I'll risk it.
I can't claim originality - I copied it off an old Christmas card - but I do like the way it turned out.  After Christmas I'll post a few other things I did.  It takes me so long to complete a project that no one is in danger of finding constant homemade gifts tiresome!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Free at Last, Free at Last!

The big rams have been released from the Gladiator Pit.

For the most part they have settled their post-breeding-season differences in the safety of a small space so while there was some minor head butting and shoving they mostly were just glad to be out of the barn and nibbling grass.  There is blessed little to eat in this small lot closest to the barn but we wanted to keep our eyes on everyone for a few hours just in case someone went postal and caused a problem.
It's a lovely day here and they spent a lot of time slowly circling the small pasture enjoying the air and freedom. 

You'd think they would be so sick of each other that they would spread out but they initially stayed in one large or two smaller groups and pushed each other around.  After a few hours, though, they drifted apart and tried to find something worth eating.
Tomorrow they can go out into a large pasture where there is a little more to eat.  They are getting hay at night when they come in so they don't really have to go out and make a living, but until the weather closes in for real they can go through the motions if it makes them happy.
That's it, guys.  This is your routine for the next ten months. 
Could be worse.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Eskimo Summer

We had a very pretty sunrise.

This is the thermometer on the north side of the house at mid-afternoon.  Since this is December 4th I figure this weather is definately of a magnitude higher than mere Indian Summer.

The sheep are too warm.  That Andy is too warm.  Holly is too warm.  I am Not Cold. (OK, I'm wearing a sweatshirt and flannel lined jeans but in my defense I was dressed the same way in September).
The little dandelion and I are going to celebrate the day!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You Realize.......

.......that you might be spending a little too much time in the barn when your cousin tells you her daughter and husband are expecing a baby next year and you say......

"Oh my gosh, congratulations!  That's such great news!  I didn't even know she was trying to get bred!"


Oy, I think I have to brush up on my people skills before I start mingling with humans again during the upcoming Christmas season.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Aannnnddd........Yer Outta Here!

Today marked the end of breeding season for the flock.  The die is cast and now we just have to wait and see how everyone did.  It took all morning but was accomplished without mishap.  I needed to put a new coat on both BB and Tux, push the ram lambs into one area while we set up really sturdy barriers, moved some gates...stuff like that.  When putting rams back together after breeding season you have to confine them to a very small area so they're less likely to hurt each other seriously.  If they have room to back up and get a run at each other somebody can end up dead from a broken neck.  In a small area they can only shove and thump each other in the side.

We pulled the rams from their groups and tied them in the trailer for the move back to the upper barns.  We brought in all the other rams who didn't get used this year and got them settled in the smaller pen, then led in the other boys.  We moved Mr. Bill and Tux down to the ewe barn since they are both wethers.  The big rams would pound on them in the small "get re-acquainted" pen and the ram lambs would have just pestered them endlessly so they get to live with the girls for awhile.  Hopefully the big rams will soon work out the pecking order and we can give them more room.

The ewes were interested when the guys were taken out, but nobody seemed too sad.

"When he first got here last month I thought he was the greatest thing since baled alfalfa, but honestly now I don't know what I saw in him.  He was fun for awhile, but I can't say I'm sorry to see him go."

Ouch.  Kinda harsh, there, Sprinkles.  Sheep girls are so fickle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When a Shepherd Passes On

Yesterday I said good-bye to an elderly lady - ninety -  who had sheep as a youngster and never stopped being a shepherd at heart even though there had been no flock in her life for a long time.  She was from my home town (that is, spot in the country - there was no 'town') and had the challenging but rich life you'd expect of someone living through the past ninety decades.  With difficulty she was able to visit our sheep two years ago with her great grandchild and she actually shed tears of happiness to be back in a barn hearing sheep and smelling sheep and petting sheep. 

Since none of her family has any rural connections anymore, I went to calling hours and did what one does for a shepherd - put locks of wool in her hands. That way the saints at Heaven's gate understand immediately why church services were sometimes missed and Sundays labored through - because you were a shepherd tending your flock - and they let you enter without question.

And that's what you do for a Shepherd.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

May you have a gathering of family and friends........

And a sunny spot to snooze in after eating.......
And an unhurried time to reflect and be thankful.......
Get up and go shopping?  NOW??  You've got to be kidding.  That's just wrong.  Even a sheep knows today isn't about buying stuff.  Sheeesh.
Have a wonderful day at your house.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Top Ten Things...... discover while cleaning the house.

#10    You must be getting older because being down on your knees all day to vacuum under funiture makes you feel like Tonya Harding's boyfriend took a club to them. 

#9      Judging from the number of cobwebs you sucked out of corners you shouldn't have seen so much as a fruitfly in the house all year.  (You did have a fruitfly plague, though, in September due largely to those two forgotten tomatoes in a plastic bag in the utility room sink.  Yeesh.)

#8      An upright, dusty drinking glass standing behind the couch.  What the......?

#7      A stitch marker under same couch.  Go check your project.

#6    Judging from the knickknacks the cats have knocked over you should seriously consider redecorating using anvils and bricks.

#5    Cat and dog hair....... so. much. fur.

#4   If you ever have the misfortune to get murdered, don't do it in a spinner's house.  There will be no "A-ha" moment when they find 'a fiber!' that leads to the prime suspect in a few days.  They will instead take years just to ID all the crap lifted from the crime scene. 

#3    Eight cat toys under the furniture.

#2    Electronics are made of sterner stuff than you've been lead to believe since they've been functioning just fine swathed in a coccoon of dust.

And the Number One thing you'll discover while cleaning house........

Sunlight through the bottle of blue window cleaner makes pretty, wiggling
SPARKLIES-SPARKLIES-SPARLKIES on the floor for your cat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sittin' on the Bench

This year for breeding season I used fewer rams than usual.  This was due partly to needing more floor space for the spring lambs who are still here, and also because Lucky got a large group of ewes that other years I had split between two rams.  So, keeping the bench warm this season are (left to right):  BB (foreground), Ian, Ike, Jared, Tux, Isaac and Mr. Bill.

They spend the days as they did all summer - sitting under the edge of the woods or slowly strolling the length of the pasture grazing as they go.  Grass is getting pretty well picked over and we offer hay when they come in at night in case they aren't satisfied.  Once in a while someone will get moody and they all have to shove each other around and butt heads, but mostly they seem happy to loaf around with no responsibilities this year.
Mr. Bill and Tux are wethers, so they don't feel like they're missing a thing anyway.  BB was going to be a wether, but ended up having a tough summer (he's apparently very susceptible to the blood-sucking stronglyle Haemonchus) fighting anemia so we didn't dare subject him to castration.   By fall, when he was doing better there wasn't really a reason to neuter him since he was always going to be living in the bachelor barn anyway.  He's very sweet tempered and not a problem at all.  Really, all the rams here are very good except Isaac who is not aggressive to people but can channel his freaky, wild animal side in a split second when you want to catch him for any reason.
I don't know what anyone would complain about.  We have good grub and a nice place to sleep and get pets every day - what more could there be?

Well, Bill, it's like this.........oh never mind.  Get one of the boys to explain it to you.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Frosty Morning

We've had some nice weather lately - bright sun all day and clear nights with an amazing show of stars.  I would hate to live somewhere with so much artificial light at night that you can't see stars.  As the earth cools each night the ground is covered with a very heavy frost by morning, making a pretty fuzz of ice crystals on everything.

Even mundane brown apple leaves look exotic for a brief time.
The dry weather has also finally allowed Andy to get serious about picking corn.  He's been chomping at the bit and the slow speed our antiquated equipment works at adds an element of uncertainty to the task - will the weather stay dry long enough to get it all done in one stretch of days or will it end up being periodically too wet and spread the picking over weeks?  The ground is pretty wet as it is and he got good and stuck the first day as evidenced by the mud on the tires.
Besides that, things have been going pretty well, although slowly by modern standards.  The fellow who rents acreage from us combined 80 acres of corn in less than a day.  Andy can manage 4 loads a day with diligent running (including time to unload and move the elevator from bin to bin as needed) and will need 12-14 days to get our 18 acres done, barring serious break downs.  (If anyone knows where we can obtain a New Idea 323 1-row corn picker to have for parts we'd love to know!!)  Fast or slow, it's money in the bank, so to speak, once it's in the crib since you can feed it or sell it as needed.  This crib, another like it and part of a third will be full by the time we're done.
In other news, I finished dyeing a batch of gray wool (parts from various Cotswold fleeces and Mr. Lincoln's fleece) and handed it off to Acorn Works at guild yesterday.  I was trying to replace Wine Country, but I decided to put more red into the dyebath.  The previous incarnation of WC was pretty but was more plum color than wine.  I love the way the wool came out this time.  There was some lighter gray and some darker and you can really see the difference.  The pale gray came out a pinker purple.
The dark gray came out more mulberry.  Some locks were nearly black to start with and they will tone it down even more when carded into the finished roving.  Can't wait to see it back!
Thanksgiving is looming approaching quickly - I guess I'd better stop playing with wool and break out some cleaning supplies to try making the house look like it's not being lived in by a colony of badgers.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Nose of a Warrior

Holly hates rats.  She knows darn well that they are vermin and shouldn't be. in. the. barn.  Not surprisingly, we have some and this time of year more are coming in from the fields and trying to set up home in the sheep barn.  She likes to hunt mice, too, but that's always a fun happy game with wagging tail and if she finds a nest she chomps them down.  Yum!  Rats are different - show no mercy, make sure they're dead and you don't eat them.

As an aside, it's a good thing my pet rat, Cyrano De Bergerat, went to rodent heaven after a long life many years ago.  There would have been.....issues.... had he still been around.

So tonight at chore time one large rat made the fatal mistake of getting into the big metal feed bin where the sacks of grain sit until needed.  You'd think that SIX barn cats would be a deterrant........yeah, you'd think so, but apparently not so much.  Holly knew immediately he was in there.....could probably hear him breathing, Andy picked her up and set her in.  Rat pinball!  Despite evasive maneuvers Holly was on him with the focus of a laser.  He put up a good defense, but she emerged victorious.

And slightly perforated.

What a good, brave dog nose.
And got a well-deserved handful of kitty kibble (oh joy!) and a nap on her soft doggie bed as reward.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hunkered Down and Buttoned Up

We've done a lot of work in the last couple of weeks.  When you say "Three Day Eventing" most people think of pretty horses, talented riders and exciting action.  Around here it means we hauled sheep manure for three days.

The barn always needs cleaning prior to breeding season and even with the help of steel and hydraulics it takes 3 days to remove and haul summer's build-up.  The good news was that it was cool but mostly dry and the sheep could be shut out on pasture all day without worry.
That was the last pasture the girls are likely to see until next spring.  After another 3 days of handling the whole flock - weighing, deworming, changing coats, sending ewes to different pens to be paired up with certain rams (or to the non-breeding group) - they are now settled into harems and have nothing to do but eat, sleep and wait for the ram's attention.  Here they will stay until November 29th.  Taking the rams out on that day insures that the latest possible lambing date next spring will be a week prior to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  That will get all lambs and moms out of jugs and into mixing pens so Andy will have it easy while I'm gone.  HAHAHAHA.
I'm using five rams this year and have paired up all my colored Cotswolds and whites carrying color genes with one ram.  They are really at their prettiest now - nice long fleece with lots of character and not yet too trashy with hay.
Trashy?  I resent that!
Oh, you mean the HAY.  OK, I thought you were making a moral judgement there.
It's not trash, it's "accessorizing" the curls.
Haystems are all the rage.  They go with dark OR light colors.
Although they are nice and comfy inside, the sheep wouldn't really mind it outside even though it has started. to. snow.

Oh, I don't like the cold wet.  DEEP snow is OK for playing but not this kind.
I really, REALLY don't like this kind.
Me neither, Holly, but we'll just have to carry on.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October's Bright Blue Weather

This season is beautiful, but fleeting.  Temperatures are low enough that you need a jacket even on a sunny day.  The humidity is generally down and the sky is a deep but chilly blue.  It's good to go out and enjoy autumn as it's over all too quickly and the year moves toward the end.

The last bits of green pasture.........
The last brave flower.......
Milkweed seeds throwing themselves into the winds of fate..........
Critters headed into the corn rows to fatten up before winter......
The trees shouting the end to the growing season......

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
    Robert Frost