Sunday, December 31, 2006

Party Like It's 2007!

Here is Europa the Cat after partying on the Little Pink Sock all evening! Her cat-atonic state reminds me to remind all of you to have a very Happy, and Safe, New Year!

And she adds to "Party like it's 2007!" :)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Handspinners' Reminder


This is a reminder to all my handspinner-friends of Scottish or Viking descent to be sure to have empty bobbins and drop the drive-band off the spinning wheels on New Year's Eve.
For my non-handspinning friends I offer this explanation:
There is a Scottish/Norse fairy witch in charge of aiding handspinners with ability and skill in these matters. Her name is Gyre Carline. However, if she visits your home on New Year's Eve and finds unfinished work on you wheel(s) she will be kind enough to finish it for you, but she will curse you for the coming year for being lazy.
So, this is intended for those of us who eat black-eyed peas, herring, pork, light bayberry candles (burned to the socket will bring wealth, health and money to the pocket), etc., and do whatever we can to improve our chances and luck in the coming year.
While I am not really a superstitious sort, I believe I will not tempt Fate...so I will be leaving my wheels and bobbins empty this year...while I light my bayberry candles, if you please. ;)

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Tis The Season...


I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!
I hope each and every one of you are blessed with family and friends, good food, fond memories, and most of all, Peace. Sometimes "Peace" need not be a world-wide thing, but the peace within our own hearts and souls.

And remember, when God sent an angel to announce the birth of His Son, it was the SHEPHERDS the angel told first! Angels have a very good sense of priority, don't they? :-)

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Sad Note...

Today, Ralph left for California to attend the funeral of his step-mother, Hideko. She passed quietly and peacefully on Monday. While Hideko had been very sick for a very long time, it still came as a shock when I received the call from my father-in-law.
Although we didn't communicate much by way of the mails or even phone, Hideko and I came to have great respect and fondness for each other. I will always remember her astonishment at my slinging a 25 lb. bag of rice on my shoulder as we were shopping in Little Tokyo in LA. I tried to explain that (at that time) it really was nothing as I had been known to sling hay bales and feed bags when I was younger and not to worry, just where did she want it? She stood there, almost dumbfounded at a woman doing that sort of thing. I never mentioned that one of my cousins on The Island called me "Powerful Katrinka" because I would be out in the hayfields with everyone else. This was nothing.
Hediko taught me to stop and see the loveliness of cherry blossoms...how to enjoy a cup of REAL tea...and what French pastries were. She introduced me to her Japanese culture explaining its subtleties with patience and grace. She also introduced some of the wonderful foods of Japan always taking the time to explain things to me if I asked questions. I will never eat sushi without thinking of her. She would laugh at my refusal to eat the little freeze dried fish she ate as snacks as I explained that I never ate anything that was staring at me and that they looked too similar to the treats I gave the cats.
And what impressed me most is that Hideko was so wise about how hard a woman truely works in life. She always worked outside the home but also knew that a woman's job wasn't over after punching the time clock...just moving into all that it took to keep a family going with cooking, cleaning, and caring for everyone else.
Whenever we would visit, money would somehow find its way into my pocket or wallet and she would make me promise that I would spend it on myself only explaining that it was not to be used for anyone else or for necessities. Once $300.00 was put into my pocket and a whisper in the ear, "Play this in the slot machines when you go to Vegas. Not the five-cent machines either. Play the dollar machines. Have some fun."
I will miss her. She leaves a hole in all the lives she touched. As I sit here trying to condense a life into a few words I find it impossible to acknowledge the complexity of her life. She encouraged everyone she knew and mentored many people of all races and colors. Later in life she took up piano lessons stating there were always new things to learn - something I have believed in all my life. Common ground with the two of us. Mutual respect. I always teased her about using her dog's wagging tail as a metronome. Yes, I will miss her.

I never had the courage to play the dollar slots in Las Vegas. But the next time I go, I will...in memory of Hideko. I only hope she's there to see it and bring me luck.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Who Would Have Thought?




You Belong in New Zealand



Good on ya, mate

You're the best looking one of the bunch

Though you're often forgotten...

You're quite proud of who you are


I did this test on a whim...and couldn't believe the answer! Is this fate or what?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Miffle Mik Mok"


OK...I'll admit it...I am a "Mutts" comic strip fan! This year, I noticed on their website (www.muttscomics.com) there was a "Little Pink Sock" just like the one that the strip's hero, Mooch, loves more than anything else in the world. It's Mooch's security blanket much like the one Linus has in the Peanuts strip. Well, upon visiting the "Little Pink Sock Shop" there it was...THE Little Pink Sock.
Now, we have six cats sharing our abode with us and I'll admit that they have indeed trained me very well. My first thought was that this sock couldn't be anything any better than any other "sock" toy for a cat. Boy, was I ever wrong.
No sooner had the package arrived with it's catnip-luxury-toy-that-I-can't-believe-I-ordered-and-fell-for-it contents than I had five cats climbing all over the box and dancing around it, hopping from leg to leg and jumping up and down. The only reason Zuzu wasn't with the others was that, since going blind, while she could definitely smell it, she couldn't really zero-in on where I was in time to join the rest of the Mob.
I could not move fast enough to please them. They were about to attack me when the scissors finally worked allowing me to extract the contents with a flourish. I had cats on the box, cats in the box and cats trying to climb up my leg to get to the package containing this wonderful, intoxicating, cat-joy thing!
Luckily the package contained two of the pink socks. I had been planning on saving one for Christmas but since I relish peaceful sleep and living the rest of my life at MY leisure I decided that for my own health, I had to give up the entire contents of the package - both Little Pink Socks.
What followed was a cacophony of cat sounds that reminded me of some back alley in a city rather than my living room floor. The din was punctuated by sounds of drooling and slobbering the likes of which I have never heard before. Luckily, attentions were directed towards the "Marvelous Toy(s)" and not in my direction. I made my escape and ran out to the barn for some peace and quiet with the sheep.
Upon my return I was treated to the sight of six cats on the living room floor, totally stoned. Cats that normally would not be caught dead next to each other lay blissfully unaware of who was next to them. Purring was rampant and loud. I, gingerly, took my seat in my recliner hoping I wouldn't be noticed. Then I realized that it wouldn't have mattered if the whole house had caved in. They were in Cat-Heaven and all was right with the world.
Proof is in the picture as here is Shadow with THE Little Pink Sock. What you can't see are all the others all laid out on the floor...
So, check out the Mutts site. Maybe your "Mooch" needs his own "Little Pink Sock" and you can even view the original strip about Mooch and his "Miffle Mik Mok".
But be warned...I think I heard one of them say something about "munchies"! ;-)

And be very afraid...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To Ram, Or Not To Ram?

My friend and Bluff Country Skittles former owner, Nancy K., has just had a sobering incident with regards to her "boys" at her place. Nancy came home to find a couple of the boys battling it out over their respective harems with a "Winner takes all!" gusto adding fuel to the fire. Her fences were broken and heads were bloodied by the time she was able to separate the combatants to their respective pens. I'm sure Nancy had pictures of roast mutton with mint sauce whilst mending her fences in freezing weather. :)
To those who are not especially "Sheep Savvy", male sheep that are usually docile during the rest of the year can become very temperamental, to say the least, during the breeding season.
I remember back to when we first moved here - there was a young man driving a VW Bug out to the "wilds" to watch elk during the middle of the rutting season. One bull elk found the Bug to his total dislike and proceeded to absolutely destroy the bug. It was totalled and the young man barely got out before being crunched himself. That type of behavior illustrates how those raging male hormones can take over an animal's way of thinking. It's the same with sheep. You never turn your back on a ram...never.
Skittles, while still a gentleman, has also exhibited aggressive behavior during this breeding season. And I've noticed that his attention has now turned from the girls to his ball and post. It could be that the girls have settled and are now "with lambs", or are not in season this week. Since they have grown tired of Skittles attempts to court them, Skittles has been seen grunting at and licking his post and ball. Frustration, I'm sure. Most rams have a nice number of ladies to address. This year, Skit has just the two. It must be maddening for him. All those hormones and nothing to do with them but bat that stupid ball around!
You don't HAVE to have a ram for sheep breeding. Modern technology has come to the aid of the small farmer and, for a sum, you can have a technician come to your place and choose the sire of your lambs from a catalog. The tech will then surgically deposit said ram's donation to your cause in your chosen ewe and there you have it...Bob's your Uncle! No need for watching those tirades and rants. No need of super-fencing or big sticks and buckets of water. Hmmm...
And in breeding animals we must always keep in mind why we are breeding them in the first place. It is my belief that, when breeding sheep, a ram must exhibit something really special to be kept as a breeding animal. I am a believer that 90+% of all male lambs need to be wethered unless they are near-to-perfect of that particular breeds' ideal animal or have some other outstanding quality. And no amount of beauty will make up for a bad temperment. The trick is to know WHEN to wether the ram lambs. Do it right after they are born and you risk losing great genetics. IF that's your goal. If fleece is your goal, wethering allows all the lamb's energies to go into wool production. And wethers make good pets as well as no problems with temperment during the "Season of Raging Hormones". Of course, if you're breeding animals, you need to see what you've got before decisions are made.
The key is you really have to think about what you want. I know Nancy has developed some really great bloodlines. And I know that she now needs to consider other things in her life. I applaud her for making great decisions both in her breeding programs and now, with selling her great rams. It was a decision that took a great deal of soul searching and courage to make. And I can sure understand her not wanting to deal with rams.
As for Sheep Thrills Farm...we'll see what kind of lambs Mr. Skit throws this next spring. I'm sure we'll have nice ones and I will have decisions to make about whom to keep and who needs to be sold. And I will watch Skit during the year to make sure he's still a gentleman. I'm sure he has nothing to worry about.
In fact, I think I heard him ask me to take him for a walk since the girls were no longer receptive to his masculine charms. Or was that just the wind I heard? ;-) In either case I think I'll wait until I'm sure his hormone level is back to a normal tolerance. But I still will not turn my back on him...ever.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sheepcicles

Here he is, Himself...standing outside in the 15 F weather this morning! What a test for the Shetland breed! As you can tell, we had some snow and very cold temperatures around here lately. I, myself, wore three layers of clothing to go out and feed this morning, but then, I don't have a thick wool coat either. :) (Well, I DO have a wool coat, but it's long and formal and hanging in the closet)
And here is Amanda looking at me with pleading eyes saying, "Hey, it wasn't like this in Washington State! What's the Deal? I thought Arizona was warmer than this!" I hate to tell poor Amanda but tonight will see dangerous wind chills below 0 F, so they may have to spend the night in the barn - whether Skittles likes it or not.

I've had a couple of people ask me about why I have the sheep and what I plan on doing with them. Well, as a spinner and weaver, most of what these sheep produce will end up on my wheels and loom. I plan on making Ralph a throw from his buddy, Colin's, fleece. And I can see a few other things for the family in the works. (Must keep the knitters in NZ happy! Ha, ha!) And I have a waiting list for fleece and lambs this next year. Of course, this all brings to mind about not counting chickens (or sheep) 'til they hatch.
The sheep are also great physical therapy for me. I have to get up and out to feed and care for them. But they are also small enough for me to handle. This makes some of my doctors happy I'm sure...I am not sitting stewing over aches and pains but actually moving around. That being said, I still count on my feed store to deliver and stack the feed and hay for me as that is just too much for these bones to handle. :) All in all, there are many advantages to having these critters around. The down side is that we have to find people to feed and water them if we wish to travel. I still think we come out ahead. :)

I also have to confess of a very supporting husband in all of this. Spouses that help us with our dreams are often overlooked in the scheme of things. I really appreciate all the help I get from mine.
And sometimes, dreams are more fun and fullfilled when shared. Even when they're shared with someone who might not understand them, but supports them anyway.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ta Da!

For those of you on the "Skittles Watch", this is to confirm that he did indeed pass his final quarantine exam with flying colors! He is now in with Lacey and Amanda! Or is it that they are in with him?
Yesterday the Vet did confirm that both girls were, ahem, "ready" for a visit from Skittles so this morning, bright and early (but after two cups of coffee) young ewes and Colin were separated into another pen, gates were opened and here is proof of "The Introduction"!
There was quite a bit of chasing each other round-and-round with no immediate actions by any party although everyone was indeed interested in everyone else. ;-) Now just because the girls might be "In The Mood" for a visit from Skittles does not mean that something will happen this month. We may have missed our prime window of opportunity. But there's always next month.
We are so glad that Skit is now in with other sheep. I had to remember that the poor guy was separated all summer before he made his way out West, then had to spend six weeks in limbo here until he was fit and ready to be in with other sheep. He could see and smell and talk to the others, but this has been the first he's been able to actually be with other sheep. I am so happy he can now be a "real" sheep again.
His attention can now be on his "harem". Thank Heavens! I thought his poor ball and post would succumb to his frustrations!
I wonder if I will have to find a new walking buddy now? Hmmmm....

Just For Funnies...




You Are a Hunter Soul



You are driven and ambitious - totally self motiviated to succeed

Actively working to acheive what you want, you are skillful in many areas.

You are a natural predator with strong instincts ... and more than a little demanding.

You are creative, energetic, and an extremely powerful force.



An outdoors person, you like animals and relate to them better than people.

You tend to have an explosive personality, but also a good sense of humor.

People sometimes see you as arrogant or a know it all.

You tend to be a bit of a loner, though you hate to be alone.



Souls you are most compatible with: Seeker Soul and Peacemaker Soul

Well, this one nailed me, I confess...Then again, no one is perfect. Or ARE they? ;-)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's Almost Time!

This is Lacey, one of the two girls I will be putting in with Skittles next weekend. Lacey is one of the sweetist sheep I have ever known. If she were a dog and could come in the house, she would think she was in heaven. Lacey's got a wonderful personality and passes it on to her lambs. My DH's Best Buddy, Colin, is one of Lacey's lambs as is his sister, Loretta. The three of them are the first to meet me, the first to check out my pockets for "cookies" and the first to lay their heads in my lap for some attention. I hope she'll pass on her friendly traits again next spring.
And this is Amanda. Amanda is a bit more stand-offish. She'll wait on the sidelines to see IF I'm handing out anything good before she makes her way over to me. I have noticed that her daughter, Ailee, was the same way at first. Now Ailee will refuse her breakfast of yummy hay to first see if I have anything good in my hand or pocket. Amanda is a large ewe, as far as Shetlands go. But this time of year it's hard to tell what anyone looks like as they are all balls of fleece on four little legs. :) Both girls are now batting their long eyelashes at Skittles every morning trying to out-do each other. It will be interesting to see how they all get along and just how long it will take 'til the girls lose interest in Skit...ahem, another way of saying they won't be needing him any longer. ;)
The days have been nice here at Sheep Thrills, aka Oleo Acres - one of the cheaper spreads. The days are sunny and being at our high elevation means that even when it's 49 F you start sweating due to the strength of the sun. But as soon as that sun goes behind the mountain, cold descends rapidly and you find you must have a sweatshirt and a jacket on. Soon, a wool hat will be needed as well.
The chickens "rooming" in with the sheep right now are almost finished with their molting. The sheep are bothered by feathers in their water and each morning I try to clean out what the chooks have shed out the night before. This is the first year in a very long time that I have not put a light on a night to keep egg production up and running. I think the hens deserve a rest. I would hate to give birth every day throughout the year without getting a break. They are getting older and most places would have them in a soup pot by now, but they have served us well and deserve the rest and re-coop-eration.
I'll hate it if I have to buy eggs at the store to supplement our supply during the holidays. My DH will too, as I will stand for half an hour checking each carton making exclaimations as to the sizes and quality of each one. Oh well...What we all wouldn't do for our animals, right?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Which Season Are You?




You Belong in Fall



Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...

You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings

Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you

This was shamelessly "Borrowed" from my firend Tina's blog. And it was right...I love the Fall! This is my favorite season. It's always been that way as I remember when I was a kid walking through fields of dry stubble watching pheasants and deer. And I love the cold rains as well. :)
So, I have to ask...What Season Are You?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

When?

Here's what's been greeting me lately when I go out to the barn early in the morning...a frosty Skittles (note the shade of the post)guarding his "toy" and waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Poor Skit. All he does is wait for his opportunity to finally meet the girls who are batting their eyes at him.
I must say he is one of the nicest rams I have ever seen. While I'm sure he'd love nothing more than to have his fence disappear and make a mad dash to the pasture with the ladies, he minds his manners.
I haven't been posting lately as not only am I trying to put the kitchen back together again (Where DID I get all this stuff? and What am I going to do with it all!) and have been cleaning out the barn in anticipation of Skit's rooming with Lacey and Amanda, but I have had the latest "bug" going around Flagstaff. I know right where I got it too...the grocery store. Have you noticed that everyone and anyone who is harboring germs goes to the market to share them? I try to dodge around all the coughing and hacking I hear, knowing full well that by the time I've passed the "Typhoid Mary", the germs have passed me with lightening speed and have already reached the farthest corners of the store. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
And here I thought I was fine because it's harder to hit a moving target. ;-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We're Almost There!

Well, here is the kitchen with the new Corian countertops installed! Finally! We are now owners of a working kitchen sink again for which I am very grateful as I was tired of trying to do dishes in the bathroom sink. :)
We still have a bit more to do....Tomorrow sees a repairman for my brand new, out-of-the-carton Bosch dishwasher that doesn't work yet, and we have the crown moulding as well as the toe-kicks to put in place. Yes, there is water TO the dishwasher, but the dishwasher refuses to do anything but hum. At least it's all warranty covered. It was disappointing to say the least. It's been over 14 years since I had a dishwasher and I was so looking forward to having one. Oh, well...se la vie!

As for the sheep, they are all doing well. I have caught Skittles looking longingly at the ewes. Methinks a young ram's fancy is turning to thoughts of lusty behavior with them as there is a definite glint in his eye when he looks their way. He's got a couple of weeks to go before he finally gets his wish. Next week will see the "Division of the Flock" as the older ewes will be separated out and their feed increased to "flush" them for better chances of twin lambs next spring.
I've decided not to breed the young ewes, if at all possible and Skittles doesn't jump the fencing. In nature, they would be fair game, but I am leaning on letting them finish growing before they become moms themselves. They can watch their mums with new lambs next spring and get a wee bit of an idea as to what's expected.

And our weather is turning bitterly cold as tonight sees temperatures dip into the teens for our lows. Today was also very windy and rainy. But as I took out the trash this evening, I could see fog developing in the low area behind the house. I love fog. I used to love riding my horse in the fog and had a ball in the dull quiet it brings with it. Maybe it's something going way far back in my roots that calls to me when I see fog rolling in. Now let's see...where DID I put my Druid robe and the black chicken? Or maybe it's just time to go howl at the moon.
Either way, it seems to be fitting for the approach of Halloween. ;-)

Friday, October 20, 2006

30 Years and Counting...

Today is our 30th Wedding Anniversary. At first I was tempted to just think of it as another anniversary, another day, as we both have been through quite a bit this year. Highlights include a trip to New Zealand and our daughter's wedding, a wonderful visit from our New Zealand Family and "The Kids" here in Arizona, getting the sheep I'd been planning on for a year and making accomodations for them, a massive kitchen remodel we did ourselves, a whirlwind trip to Wyoming to pick up our ram, Skittles...and all the little things in life that happen while you're making other plans.
I am reminded on this day of what a wonderful person I married. In this day and age of everything happening at a blurred rate we have steadfastly remained a couple - something not easily done as those who have lived with one person for a long time can attest to. There's a lot of give and take. Sometimes you have to give and sometimes, even though it makes you uncomfortable, you have to take and lean on your "Other Half". There are times when one is a kite, soaring above everything just floating from place to place on the wind. And there are times when one can be an anchor, remaining grounded and solid. Sometimes you are the kite. Sometimes the anchor. But you have to remember that if it weren't for the kite the anchor would remain mired in the earth never seeing the light of day. And kite would just fly away and be torn to shreds by the wind if it were not for the anchor keeping it grounded. The trick is to realize who you are.
So, while we may not be off on an adventure to mark this date (no...no cruises or fancy dinners, or expensive gifts), we both know in our hearts that today is indeed special. It makes you very aware of all you've gone through together - the good and the bad, the up days and the days you wonder why you ever got married in the first place.
Life is a series of choices. I can feel good in that there's one time I know I made the right one.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Skittles and the Marvelous Toy

>Here's a recent picture of Skittles with his new favorite thing...The Marvelous Toy. I found the "horse ball" at our local feed store and Ralph installed it, at first, on a 4x4 redwood post, which Skittle demolished the first day. Note well that now the ball is attached to a heavy 6x6 pressure treated - HEAVY - post. (Did I mention it was heavy?) And while Skit hasn't demolished this one, I must admit it does remind one of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I guess it's the "Leaning Tower of Sheep". He loves it. He guards it. He rubs his forehead and horns all over it and every once and a while you can hear the "thonk" of him just beating the ever-loving life out of that poor ball. Better the ball than me. :-)
And as soon as he saw someone with a camera, being as well trained by Nancy K. as a fashion model on a Paris runway, he got up, came over, and posed for a photo-op. What a ham!
We are both enjoying Skittles. He's so very mellow and well-mannered. He walks around the place with me and is a gem on a lead. Better than most dogs I see. He'll even walk to the mailbox and see what's going on as traffic goes by the house.
And yesterday afternoon we had a nice surprise. Ralph's mother, Sadie, and her sister, Tommie, came from Nevada for a quick trip to see us. We had a great visit even though they left early this morning to head back to Nevada. Tommie is a very interesting person and we don't get to see her too often. She's a quilter and a painter (and makes great peanut brittle)and gives the best hugs. My only problem was I was having so much fun with talking to them that I forgot to even pick up the camera and take a few snaps. It must've been that flu shot I had.
Well, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. ;-)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Know, I Know...

This is Ziggy, our "Sumo-Kitty", weighing in at 10 kilos. (Sounds better than 22 lbs. doesn't it?) Zig and my friend, Nancy K., have reminded me that I need to update this blog. And they're right....
We have been extremely busy with getting little things done in the kitchen in preparation for our counter tops to be installed on the 23rd. I can hardly wait to start cooking real meals again! We are getting very tired of Take-Away and Microwave Meals and I'm sure they're not very good for our health.
And I have been recovering from the mad dash to get Skittles, the Ram, here. Whenever I travel and particularly when there is a change of altitude involved, I flare up to where I can hardly move for about three days. It just goes with the arthritis and the Fibro, so I have come to expect to do "Light Duty" on those days.
This time, however, our getting back coincided with a big change in the weather. It was like adding "insult to injury" as my mother used to say. And yes, I am finally coming out of that as well. So it's time to get back into the swing of things! :)
Skittles has decided that he definitely wants to be outside. This morning when I opened up that end of the barn I found myself staring, eyeball to eyeball, with Mr. Skittles. He had managed to tear out the hardware Ralph used to mount the pen into the cinderblock wall. Oh, it can be repaired, but I took this as Skit saying, "Listen! I was in a barn all darned summer long and I'm NOT going to stay in here unless it's snowing! OK?"
The thing was...I couldn't help from laughing as all the chickens were squawking at Skit with their little chicken-eyes bugging out! Skit must've just gotten out as nothing was really damaged and only the chicken feeder had been tipped over. But the look on the chickens' faces was priceless and gave me a good chuckle to start the day with.
I can't blame him for wanting out either. And for some reason, he's really bonded with me, not overly chummy but respectful. But I know he needs a friend in with him, or some ladies in there to keep him occupied. He'll just have to wait until his quarantine is over and it's time for a turn in with the girls.
And Ziggy has been following me all around the house today just purring away for the pure joy of it. He's been my Best Buddy today.
He doesn't even mind if smell a little, just a little, like a sheep. :)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Help! I'm Being Held Prisoner In Arizona! - But Wait A Minute...There Are Ladies Here!

I have had a very strange summer. First, I was in my field in a place called "Minnesota" and then my human "Mom", Nancy, helped her friend, Kim, load me into a prison cell in the back of the thing that I've seen hay brought to the farm in. I was so scared! I've never been away from home and the thing started to move! All I knew was that I wanted out. The thing was moving me farther and farther away from my home. My mom was crying and she mentioned something about a place called "Arizona", whatever that was.
All I knew to do was bang on the walls of the little place I was put in. It was hard to stand 'cause the Thing that was moving me was moving very fast and bumping me all around. I banged, and banged, but it didn't help.
Later, the Thing stopped and I was put into a pen inside a place called a barn. I was by myself. I could smell that there were others here and I could hear them talking but I didn't know where I was or how to get home. I missed my pasture and the other guys. I couldn't figure out what was going on.
Summer was starting to change into Fall and the Kim-human feeding me came and put me in that Thing again and we started going a long way this time. At first I thought I was going home, Kim and another human called "Bob" kept the Thing moving day and night. I couldn't sleep. I kept banging on the Thing to see if I could get out, but I couldn't even dent it.
After a long time we stopped. I thought I would finally be set free but when the door of the Thing opened there were strange humans with Kim and Bob. One of them tried to feed me a cookie like Mom used to do but I didn't want it. She put something on my head and told me it was OK to come out. But I was more afraid of coming out into this very strange place. Then Bob and another human they called Ralph helped me out of the Thing. I thought I would be free, but they picked me up and put me right into another Thing! Then the human called Kathy gave me some water. I was so thirsty and I hadn't had anything to drink in a long while.
Soon, this Thing started to move again. I looked out and it sure didn't look like Minnesota any more. After a while, it got dark. We would stop for a short time and they would put something they called "gas" into the moving Thing. Kathy would try to give me water and food, but I wasn't too hungry...just tired and tired of being in the Thing.
Then, when it was very dark, we stopped for a longer period. Kathy and Ralph were still inside the moving thing, but they were quiet. Once and a while Kathy would check on me and make sure I had water and hay. I was so tired I laid down and slept.
After a bit they got ready to move again. But I was tired and wanted to sleep. It didn't matter. We started to move again.
It was dark and I couldn't see out of the Thing very well. I had good footing and was comfortable standing. Once and a while I would lay down. I wondered if this was going to be my life now.
When the sun came up, we stopped at a place Kathy said was Arizona. It was near a big pond. Kathy and Ralph said that we would soon be "home". And we started to move again. We weren't moving for too long a time before the Thing stopped and the humans were opening the back of the Thing and putting the halter on my head again. They said we were home.
I was so happy to get out of the Thing that I almost jumped over Ralph as he tried to lift me from the Thing! Soon, I was in a pasture again with green grass! It smelled wonderful, but I was so tired I didn't want to eat. Kathy walked me around for a bit then we headed for a barn I had never seen before.
And I could smell and hear other sheep! I wasn't alone! But Kathy put me in a pen by myself and explained that I had to stay there until the morning to rest. There were the funniest birds there. They called themselves "chickens" and they talked most of the night telling me about everything. A couple of them seemed OK, but some of them were just talking to hear themselves talk. There was a little rooster called "Slick" there just balbbering on and on about how he was the boss of everyone and everything. That was until he saw me. He got real quiet after that.
There was plenty of grass hay and I got a great sleep. In the morning, Kathy came and put that halter on me again and led me out into a pen just for me! She said I had to stay in quarantine for a while. I thought I was in Arizona, not Quarantine. But the nicest thing was that I could see other sheep! And I could talk to them and they could talk to me. It was far away though. There are two fences between us. I can only hope that someday we can all be together. I miss being with other sheep.
The sun is shining. I have lots of food and water and even toys to play with.
It's not Minnesota but maybe it will be a nice place to live. And Kathy says that someday my mom, Nancy, may come for a visit. Maybe they are friends. And I can see (and smell) that there are ewes here. Hmmm.
Maybe, just maybe, Arizona will turn out to be a nice home after all. I hope so.
-Skittles-

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Makin' Progress!

Yup...here are the first pictures of the new cabinets on the wall. Above the stove will go a combination microwave-hood-light piece of modern technology. And we still have to decide on what type of backsplash we want, but that can come later. By tomorrow evening I hope to have working cabinets again.
All the cabinets have to be installed as we have to have the measurements taken for our counter top. That will involve someone actually coming out to take the measurements and ordering it. Then as soon as the counter gets here, we'll have a sink in again as well.
I can hardly wait. I never realized just how much I did do in the kitchen until I didn't have one to work in. And I've missed cooking for us. Going out to eat once and a while is nice, but I do like to cook and have found myself missing it.
The sheep were thrilled as while I was concentrating on the kitchen today, they were able to stay all day in the pasture. I checked on them a few times as they are know for wanting to be in the barn for a "siesta" around noon. But, no, today they stayed out all day. Poor tired little sheepies...they'll sleep good tonight!
And I know two humans who'll sleep well too! ;-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging: Miss Zuzu

This is Zuzu. When my father retired to Arizona and bought a house way out in the country, he inherited the resident feral cat. That cat, later named Matilda, was the mother of Zuzu as well as her brothers, Socks and Scooter. The rest of the family have all gone on leaving Zuzu to continue. She is now well over 18 years old. As we speak, she is declining very rapidly and we don't expect her to be with us much longer.
When my father was moving from the country into town, he said he would either have to put Zuzu to sleep or leave her with the house to fend for herself. She was about four or five at that time and was truly an outdoor cat, spending days at a time out hunting in the fields around Dad's place. Now, I have to admit that Dad did know what strings to pull me around with as somehow Socks, Scooter, and Matilda had all eventually ended up with us. So I said "What's one more?" (Infamous last words) With that Dad scooped her up, put her in a carrier and she yowled the whole four hour drive home.
She spent the first two years acting like an incarcerated felon, hiding under blankets until no one looked and snuck out at night for food and water. Then one day, I was making a pork roast for dinner and lo and behold! She came into the kitchen, begging for some pork. From then on she spent her evenings with us in the living room. And she was well mannered except if we were having any type of "pig meat" - ham, bacon, or roast - she loved pork! And Fritos. Dad had "trained" her with Fritos Corn chips. I never did find out what he had "trained" her to do, except beg for corn chips.
All in all, she's been a really nice cat. Independent, you bet. But she still likes to snuggle under the blankets and sit on sunny windowsills. And she's very much the lady. I know that very soon, I will have a space she's left behind.
And as it is every time I lose an animal friend, the space may become filled, but it won't be the same. And I will miss her.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The One Who Really Runs The Barnyard

This is Josey. Her full name is "Nosey Josey". She's a three year old Speckled Sussex hen who keeps things in line around the barn and thinks she should stay in the house (not allowed) instead of in the barn with those "others".
I used to raise and show Speckled Sussex and true Ameraucana chickens. Before the sheep came I still had quite a few left. As I found out that chicken dust really gets my allergies going, I decided to reduce the number of hens I had and just keep a few for eggs and "pets". Well, I couldn't let Josey go. She's always like to sit in my lap and will even jump the fence to "help" Ralph work on his '53 Mercury, telling him exactly how she thinks things should be done.
She'll do the same with me. I have even caught her squawking at the sheep when she feels they've done something wrong. One of the ewe lambs loves to chase the chickens for fun...except she found out there's one who doesn't run but will stand her ground and firmly tell the up-start how the cow eats the cabbage and this is MY barnyard and don't you forget it.
She's definitely Snoopervisor material. And she knows it. That's the problem.
Way to go, Josey!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Houston, We Have Lift-Off!

Here is a picture of the new Bosch stove about where it will finally go. The gas was hooked up today and we just plugged it in to an existing outlet for a "test run". Our old electric stove is, sadly, been placed on the back deck, in the rain, awaiting either a new home or recycling.
I was holding out for a dual fuel unit until we saw this Bosch gas convection oven unit on sale. And it only took half an hour for me to figure out how to set the clock! :-)
Tomorrow is Electrical Day with Ralph and an electrician friend putting in new outlets. Most of the outlets that are to be wired are of over and under cabinet lighting. Cool. Just as long as the dishwasher gets installed and we can get the cabinets in soon. (We have to wait on some of this due to one cabinet lost during shipment and the pantry unit being crushed during shipment.)
We stopped early today to have dinner and watch the beginning of the new "Survivor" series. We must plan around good TV you know. ;-)
I feel as though I have been neglecting the sheep-folk here at "Oleo Acres" (One of the Cheaper Spreads), but we had rain most of the day today and they preferred to stay inside - to eat and sleep.
Must be nice...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Why I Haven't Been Posting...

This is the stack of cabinets in my dining room. The dining room is now in a corner of the living room. When we ordered the cabinets we were told it would take six weeks to get them. They were delivered to us in about two and a half weeks, catching us unprepared for their arrival.
>
This second picture is of the kitchen after we removed the old cabinets and sink today. (And Boy! Are we ever tired!)
> And this third picture is of the old kitchen, now in pieces, on the back deck off the dining room. Oy! You won't believe just how glad I am to see this pld kitchen go. The plumbing is now done and this next week will see the beginning fo the electrical work. After that and some wall patching we will begin to hang the new cabinets.
The cats are being pretty good about their world being turned upside down. You see, the contents from within the old cabinetry are stacked in milk crates all over the house...but mostly in the guest room and bath. The only one who has some problems is our Elder Cat, Zuzu, who at 18 1/2 has lost most of her sight in this last month. But she's being the Trooper that she is and making her way though the canyons of cabinets and boxes - yowling out if she gets lost so I can come find her and put her right again.
So, you see I haven't been sitting watching TV and eating bon-bons these past two weeks.
Oh, how I wish I could! ;-)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging...Max!


This is Max the Manx. Max has been living with us since 2001. He had been abandoned at the farm of a person who works with Ralph at the Sheriff's Dept. She was moving into town and wanted to know if we would give Max a home. Being the soft-hearted cat people we are, we said sure...
We found out after he arrived that Max had been abused at some point in his life. (Before he was abandoned) He spent the first two years with us under blankets and beds and generally hiding from everyone and anything. I worked up a relationship with Max using treats and brushing. But anytime Ralph tried, he would run. We think it was a man who abused Max.
Little by little we've gained his trust. And now, Max spends the evenings with me in my recliner, joined at my hip, and loving every moment! He is even beginning to tolerate other people in the house and especially liked one of our In-Laws, Hugo. I'm not sure if Hugo noticed it or not, but Max would watch Hugo intently - and not run when he tried petting him.
So, we are making progress these five years later. Max still won't sit with Ralph in Ralph's recliner, but he will sit with Ralph in MY recliner. (It must be a magical recliner!) And Max will sleep next to me in the bed at night. He and his buddy, Shadow, are glued right up next to me making it almost impossible to get out of bed in the middle of the night. All is fine except when they start a game of "Bitey-Chew" with each other and start squealing, on me, at 3 in the morning!
I'm glad we could provide Max with a warm, safe place to live.
I'm sure he doesn't realize that he's really given us a lot more in return.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Rainy Day in the Arizona Mountains!


Today was a great day and I got a lot done this morning - cleaning out the barn on the sheep's side and moving things around a bit in the feed room. As I was working I noticed that it wasn't quite as bright out as it had been when I started. When I finally took the time to look up from under the brim of my work-hat I saw pitch-black clouds headed my way.
Now, we've lived in Arizona long enough that I know if I see clouds that dark headed MY way, I'd better finish up what I'm doing quickly and either head for the house or stay in the barn. I opted for the house. No sooner did I get in and get some lunch made than it started to pour!
The picture above is out our front sunroom looking out towards the barn. I had sheets of water coming down the windowpane. But I can't really complain about any of the rain we've had this year as we've needed every drop we can get. Standing there looking out, I did wonder though...soon it won't be rain, but snow. And that our first frost date of September 15th is coming upon us very quickly.
Good thing the potatoes are ready for harvest!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Isn't It Friday Yet?

I know, I know...I've been very bad lately about not posting. We've had a couple of really busy weeks with sick cats, kitchen remodeling and my DH hasn't been feeling too well either. I remember when we lived in Germany the locals would talk about the "October Winds" and how they brought bad luck to everyone. So, they had parties to scare them off. Maybe I need to have a party! :)
Everyone is doing better, but one of the cats, Shadow, had a bad reaction to one of the medications the veterinarian prescribed for him. All of a sudden Shadow was acting like he'd had a full pot of coffee plus a few shots of Red Bull and an espresso on top of everything! He couldn't get settled down and was pacing or flopping from one side to another. Even the other cat members of the family were targeted as Shad would hiss and spit at anyone going near him including his best-buddy Max. He even hissed and spat at me when I would try to pet him or get him to calm down.
I knew the meds would work out of his system - confirmed by a night call to the vet - but nobody slept well with him walking all over the bed trying to find a comfortable spot to lay in. This included walking on my head at various times which became rather unnerving to me as I would just start to drift off and there he'd be. Poor guy!
The next day you could tell he was fine but very tired. I think he slept for about 8 hours straight.
So, we're back to a peaceable kingdom again...which means it's back to tearing apart the kitchen.
And that is a story for another time. ;)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Peaches, Rain & The Buddy System

This is what I did today...it was raining out (in buckets) and I had promised Ralph and Ross, our Son-in-Law, some peach jam. I couldn't be outside playing with the sheep and the peaches were calling my name.

As I made the jam, I keep trying to think of why I still did this. After all, it's just the two of us here - not counting the animals - and I could just as easily buy the jam instead of making it. The only answer I could come up with is that it's a Labor of Love. The pleasure I derive from it is not the peach jam itself, but the looks on the men in my life who love peach jam. So, this one's for you, Guys!

And for those who are wondering...Yes, Colin is doing just fine! He's feeling great and was outside palying in the fifteen minute break we got in the rain this afternoon...when his "Buddy" came home. Here's the two of them together...Now I just have to figure out how to get Ross' jam to New Zealand! ;)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Colin's Day Out..or...Boy, Do I Feel Like a Fool!

Today was the day that Ralph's buddy, Colin P. went to see the vet for a little "tweaking". Yes, Folks, Colin is now a wether! I loaded him up in the Spiffy Sheep Transport and off we went. Every once and a while I would hear Colin talking to all the vehicles we passed or passed us. We arrived at Dr. Rob's on time and I escorted him into the back of the office and popped him into a stainless steel cage for large dogs.
To keep him from bleating everyone to death I stayed with Colin during the whole operation. Dr. Rob figured out the medications and gave Colin a nice sedative and off (literally) we went. :) Not only did the Doc give him a sedative, but a local as well. And while he was immobilized Rob was kind enough to lance a cyst the little guy had developed at the site of his last booster shot AND remove an ear tag that had become lodged towards Colin's ear canal. The only thing that wasn't done was rotation of the hooves and an oil change.
As soon as he was awake and active we were on the road again headed for home. I had the option of putting Mr. C on an antibiotic and chose to do so as, in sheep, if there is one cyst they can develope cysts in other areas of the body as well making for a very sick sheep if you don't catch them. So, I opted to give him penicillan shots for 7 days.
Everything was going great until about 4 p.m. when I checked the "surgical site" and spied a puffy piece of something that didn't look like it was supposed to be there. Ralph got home and we decided to take Colin back over to the vet and have him take a look. BUT, before we left it was time for him to get his second dose of antibiotic.
I aimed for the muscle of his back leg (yes, Ross...in the Leg o'Lamb)...so far, so good. He moved a bit (Ralph was holding him) and "Bob's your Uncle" it was over. Except that Colin half crumbled from the shot and had trouble with that back leg. Come to find out, I had apparently given the shot very close or in the sciatic nerve. Oooo....not good.
So Dr. Rob gave Colin a shot of steroids to help the nerve settle down and with time he felt that the little lamb will be fine. This evening he was back to trying to walk on his joint instead of his foot, so I wrapped the foot and joint with bandage material to help the little guy keep it straight.
Now I feel like a fool. I know it was the luck of the draw to hit that nerve just so, but that doesn't stop me from feeling so badly about making this day worse for the little guy.
The surgical site was fine - just some fat poking through - - -
But I feel like I should be drummed out of the Sheep Corps. I hope Colin forgives me, but I don't think I have it in me to forgive myself.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Norman's Great Adventure Begins!

Today is the day that Mtn Niche Norman left us at Sheep Thrills Farm and went to live with Karen Clymer and her flock of Shetland "ladies". Karen has been without a ram for her girls for over two years and was just tickled to get Norman. Karen also shows sheep and as we were loading Norman into a carrier in the back of her van she mentioned that she'll be showing Norman in this year's Yavapai County Fair.
In these pictures Karen sent me when they arrived home, you see Norman becoming acquainted with some of his gals. Unfortunately, Karen said when the hay ran out the ladies started pestering Norman so much she had to take him and put him into a pen of other young sheep. Oh well, you know how these Blind Date situations go. Sometimes it just takes a little time for everyone to get used to each other. :)
I was happy Norman went to someone who really appreciates what a good looking animal he is and that he looks like he'll turn out to be an awesome ram when he gets a little older! Other than Karen, I had seven calls from people wanting Norman. After meeting Karen, I knew I made the right decision. I know he will be well taken care of and will have the chance to keep his bit of the genetic pool going.
And Ralph's "Little Buddy", Colin P. is in a pen by himself now. I put him in a jug (shepherd's term for a small pen) where he can see his mum, aunt, sister and cousin. Next week he has a visit to our veterinarian and after that visit he'll be able to be in the same pen as the ewes until Skittles arrives. Yup...Colin will be the official family pet sheep and will be spoiled and tended to and walked and fondled, but that's all he'll be able to do. Due to his horns coming in too close to his head he'll have to be wethered, or eaten...and we know that will never happen! :) He won't be able to breed but all he'll have to do is grow beautiful fleece, tag along with Ralph and keep Skittles company, living stress free. Hmmm...not a bad trade, Colin. Who said sheep were dumb? ;-)

*Note: Norman is the moorit (brown) sheep in the pictures.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Wishing I Could Do More...

These days when I feel like nothing is going as planned in my life, I am so reminded that out of kaos comes order...and hope!
I have had the luck to "meet" (if only via emails) and great group of people who are involved in raising these wonderful Shetland Sheep Creatures. These people encourage each other and are there when others need them.
A case in point is the dramatic loss Becky Utecht had. Upon returning from a fiber show, Becky was informed that their newly constructed pole barn with all the winter hay they just put up for their flock of Shetland sheep had, literally, gone up in smoke. A tremendous fire took all the hay and most of the barn - a total loss. Becky was facing having to sell off her flock with no hay to keep them fed this winter.
Then, by the Grace of God, a group who believe in putting their money and hearts where their mouths are stepped up and stepped in to help! With people like Kim Nikolai and Nancy Krohn and others I don't know setting things up - sheep were donated and auctioned off, photographic prints were put up for auction and various items were donated for auction to help raise money for Becky to keep her sheep. I have not seen this kind of support since Ralph and I were in the Military, except for our extended family in New Zealand. (Yes, I did indeed wear Army boots!) Most of these people are in the Minnesota Shetland Sheep Breeders Organization, but others as well made donations and supported efforts to raise money to help feed Becky's sheep. Kim N., Kim Kerley, Julie Chapman, Gail Former, and Beechtree Farms all donated lambs to help raise the money needed. And those who didn't have lambs or other items to donate, gave money if they could.
Becky, I hope you realize you've got some great friends where you are and across the miles. Just remember...it really isn't money...every dollar represents a hug from someone who believes in you.
Were we all so lucky...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why I Can't Spell


This is Shadow. When the house next door was a rental, the family living in it moved out suddenly abandoning two cats. One cat was adopted by a family across the road, but no one could get near Shadow.
He would hover around our barn and little by little he became used to the sound of my voice. Then, I started putting food out for him, especially when I saw him fighting crows for crusts of bread. He was thin and starving. It took a while but eventually we became friends. And now he is my "Best Bud"! If I go out the door he'll watch me from the windows and when I get into bed he's always ready to settle down with me for a while and insists on laying right up next to me.
It took over a year to get him used to being an indoor only cat. We have a very busy street running by our place. Over the years we've seen many animals hit on this street. When he was fending for himself we used to see Shadow run across the street in front of on-coming traffic. My heart would nearly stop when I saw him do that. We also have coyotes here that delight in an easy meal of people's pets and I just can't bear the thought of any of our family ending up as dinner. Hence, housecats.
One of the problems is that Shad insists on "helping" me do whatever I am doing whether it be getting dinner ready, having coffee, doing laundry, watering the plants, or sending an email - and that's the problem with my typos! He plunks himself down in front of the screen and I can't see what I'm doing.
So, if you see spelling mistakes please forgive us. It's just my Helper assisting me. I wouldn't trade my assistant for anything. I just wish he would SpellCheck. :)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I Won't Go...And You Can't Make Me!


This is Mountain Niche Norman. This is Norman throwing a hissy-fit during halter-breaking! (I believe this may be Position #2 according to Nancy K.) Norman is one of the lambs that came to us from Kim Kerley's Mountain Niche Farm in Washington and is a beautiful example of the quality of Shetland bred by Kim and her husband, Doug.
This lamb has good conformation, great horns, soft fleece and a nice personality. But the problem is that he is closely related to all the Shetlands here. While that is a problem for me, it is a blessing for Karen C. in Chino Valley, AZ. Karen has been in desperate need of a ram unrelated to her ewes. So, long story short, Norman is going to live with Karen and have the chance to be what he really should be - A Flock Sire.
I hate to see him go (and things aren't totally finalized yet) but you can't keep them all and it wouldn't be very fair of me to keep Norman. He has great potential and needs his own Harem. Here, he would just be hanging out in "The Ram Pen" unless I found him his own ewes.
So, the decision was made to let Norman move on, living up to his potential with Karen.
But...in the meantime, I knew I needed to work on his "Halter Etiquette". You can tell from the photo that Norman was in disagreement with me on this point. He promptly plopped down in the freshly cut weeds in the corral. He looks as though he rolled in them, which was Position #1, I believe.
Later in this session, Norman did actually lead and was rewarded. I used to think it was funny when you placed sheep on their bums to shear them. They believed they were dead, they couldn't move... Now I think it's hilarious when they first try a halter on and immediatley fall down and don't move. It's a precursor to the flopping, which comes after Position #2.
At any rate...Here's to Norman! I think he'll make a great Flock Sire. Karen's getting a really nice ram. And I will always remember him with fondness.

Best Laid Plans...Often Go Awry -or- Drop Back Six, And Punt!

I've been so excited about the prospect of Skittles coming to Arizona! He's an awesome ram and new Shetland blood is needed here in the SW area. After I bought Skittles from my friend, Nancy, Kim N. very generously offered to bring Skittles with her when she drove west to deliver two lambs to friends of hers near the Jackson, WY area. I can't say enough about how generous Kim is for this gesture! (These Shetland people have restored my faith in human-kind with all their generosity and caring about each other. I only hope that I can live up to the example they set.)
Well, Kim and I set a time last week to meet, me driving North and her making her way West. And it was a pleasure to have my dear husband, Ralph, with me on this "Road Trip". We had left early to go as far as Page, AZ, the night before Kim was to set out. That leg got us through most of the Navajo Reservation.
We left early the next morning and really had a nice time going through Utah's Southern area, looking in awe at some of the high desert sceanery and listening to Ralph's XM radio. It was all two lane roads, but we had very little traffic.
We even managed to drive through Zion National Park...yes, the road went through so we had to pay our $20 to drive through the park, but it was so worth it! It was phenominal! Absolutely breathtaking! We even commented that we were glad that we had to make this trip otherwise we might have overlooked this gem.
Finally we did make it to I15 and started, in earnest, to get to Wyoming before evening. We were almost half-way there when my cell phone rang and it was Kim...
Kim had taken her vehicle in to have the oil changed and a safety check before she took off with the back full of ovines when a crack in her differential was spotted. She was calling to say that she couldn't leave and wouldn't know if she could make the trip at all until the truck was fixed. Now, Kim is a very busy person and for her to take time to include my "Freeloader" along for this trip is above and beyond. But I was devastated! I was so very, very glad that Kim had discovered this problem BEFORE starting out - I wouldn't want to see her having ANY problems along the road, let alone truck problems. But I was disappointed. I was so hoping to get Skittles here and settled in. There was nothing to do but turn around and go home. We got back about 6 p.m.
And, with many emails back and forth, Kim thinks she may be willing to try to do the trip this next week and have another go at this. She's incredible! And Bless her heart! :)
So, if this trip does come to pass I need everyone's good thoughts headed our way for all of us to have safe trips - to "There And Back Again"!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Go ahead. Make my day!

Here he is Himself...my husband's buddy. My DH was out at the barn today helping me with taking a picture of a ram lamb who needs a chance to be a Flock Sire (aka He's for Sale). Then guess who showed up? Mr. I'm-So-Cute! I have to laugh. This little guy, who's registered name is Mountain Niche Colin P, has become like a pet dog to my DH. Wherever he, or we, go Mr. ISC follows and is very intent on what we are doing. And if one of us decides to sit down for a break, he's right there with you and loves to put his head in your lap. As we gently scratch him behind his ear, or pick VM out of his fleece, you can see his eyelids start to droop and finally shut. He just loves to be with you.
Even the pet sheep I had as a teenager, Bessie, was not that mellow. She wore a dog collar and would accompany the horse and I on outings as well as earn her keep by mowing the weeds in my grandmother's woods. And I've known nice rams, friendly but on their terms...and rams that would be friends then turn on you during breeding season...and rams who, indeed, belong on the Food Chain. But I've never known one this mellow and laid back.
He just wants to be with you. He doesn't care if you got all your errands done or did well at work and got that promotion. All he wants is just to have you allow him into your "space" and share a bit of yourself with him. All he wants is a kind word and a bit of attention. It makes me wonder if that's all any of us really want in life. And it doesn't matter if you did your Pilates today or washed the truck. He doesn't care about any of that small stuff. He just wants to spend time with you.
All in all, not a bad friend to have around.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hail To The King! A Welcome to HRH Bluff Country Skittles!


As I write this, our new Senior Flock Sire, Bluff Country Skittles, is making his way Westward with his Interim Mum, Kim Nikolai (aka Kimberwood Shetlands)! He's "On Holiday" with Kim until she makes her journey towards Wyoming next week. We'll meet her in western WY to transfer Skittles to our vehicle, then it's the final leg to his new home here at Sheep Thrills.
Skittles comes to us from Nancy Krohn and her Bluff Country Shetlands in Minnesota. I have never met Nancy in person, but we've talked on the phone and emailed back and forth and I can say that she has come to become a friend to me and a kindred spirit. We share alot in common and I can hardly wait for her and her DH to come for a visit.
Nancy's breeding program is one to be admired and Skittles is a fine example of the quality Nancy has developed in her animals. Animals of this quality take a lot of hard work, perseverance toward a goal, and a little bit of luck and help from Mother Nature. I can't say enough about the quality of Shetland Sheep Nancy strives for. Her animals are known for their near-perfect conformation, temperment, fleece and now, HST - or Head, Socks, Tail spotting. While Skittles has greatly contributed to Nancy's breeding program, it was time for her to concentrate on her goals with another ram, Bluff Country Apocalypse. Paco is Skittles' son and a great example of Nancy's goals in the flesh. I can't say enough about her and I am glad to count her as a friend. And I can hardly wait to meet Kim, as well. I hope we'll have enough time to get to know each other and chat a bit. Kim is another breeder I admire with a wonderful flock of quality Shetlands. I can't say enough good things about a person who volunteers to assist another person get a good start on a flock just by giving "Himself" a ride and taking care of him along the way. I can only hope that one day I can repay this kindness!
Skittles will have a new harem to minister to this coming fall and the problem is: I can hardly wait for spring!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Weaning Day -or- "Who Are You? And What Have You Done With My Mother?!"


Today is weaning day! Oh, Boy! Actually, it went pretty smoothly for everyone this morning. I let all the sheep-tribe out into the pasture to have breakfast and when it became time to ease them into the barn for "Siesta", I quietly moved the lambs into pens at the other end of the barn. By the time the mom-sheep had turned around to look, it was all over.
All over but the baa-ing. And that hasn't been too bad. The ewe lambs have been actually very lady-like in their demeanor. The ram lambs did butt heads a bit to see who was "King of the Pen". And the moms banged on the wire on the pen enclosure a bit, but all settled down quite nicely. We'll have to see how tomorrow goes.
From now on, the ram lambs will be segregated by themselves. And later, the ewe lambs will re-join their mothers in the same enclosure and back out in the pasture together. This will happen just as soon as the mother-ewes dry up and no longer produce milk.
Then, hopefully, there will be peace until fall...when breeding season begins! But this time will be spent working with the ewes in halter breaking and getting them used to being handled. And finishing up quarters for our Senior Flock Ram, Bluff Country Skittles, to arrive later this month.
And I love every minute of it! :)

Friday, June 30, 2006

And Who Are You Lookin' At?



This is one of Amanda's twins. He is so radically different in personality than the ram lamb (DH's buddy) of Lacey's. He actually acts like a ram - kind of stand-offish and will get close on his terms only. You could say we have mutual respect for each other. Right now I'm trying to decide if he stays, or goes on to become a sire for someone else as he is related to all the other sheep I have. While he is Amanda's boy, Amanda and Lacey are half-sisters. (This is starting to sound like things I heard about when I was stationed in Alabama!) :)
He's got good conformation and looks like he will have some good horn.
Hmmmm...this may be a hard decision in some respects. But as every Shepherdess knows, you just can't keep them all!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I Can't Complain...

about rain, rain, rain! It has been WONDERFUL to have rain for three days in a row! We actually can turn the fans off and even pull up the wool blanket (Thanks again, Kelly & Ross!) by morning. It's great! You step outside and can smell that clean, fresh air filled with the scent of pines and aspens. I keep trying to tell my DH that, not only did he marry a farmer-type, but this "Person of Celtic Ancestry" actually likes rain and clouds and a break from the relentless sun we have here in the summer. Maybe it's because of the altitude and that it is so intense in the summertime. It's great for keeping our roads free of ice in the winter, but I'd much rather be in a forest or lush green pasture in the fog. :)
We are no longer on alert for the Brins Fire and will still keep fingers and toes crossed about fires caused by lightening strikes however. Our forests are all closed and hopefully that will cut down on the human caused fires.
Even the sheep have loved this weather. They've been bouncing all over the pasture during the breaks in the clouds today - chasing one another around and just having a ball. The "Moms", Lacey and Amanda are enjoying the times the lambs are off playing with each other. I'm sure they need the break and will almost be glad when weaning time arrives.
Everyone had a great time today...but I know what will come tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day when I will give everyone their vaccinations.
We'll see how high they jump after that! :)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Where's My Camera When I Need It?

For the past two days we have had rain! We have started our "Monsoon" weather patterns and are very grateful for every single drop we get, even the hail that sometimes comes with the storm.
Today has been the first day I was able to really take some time down at the barn. In fact, I sat on the step into the feed room and as I slowed down enough to enjoy the day, someone came up - very silently - and put their head in my lap. I had been watching the chickens out and about and did not hear the "Stealth Attack" by...you guessed it...Mr. Trouble! The little black ram who loves to be with people! Oh, he does enjoy the romp and stomp in the pasture and the good grass like all the other sheep, but if he sees me or my DH, he will make a point of coming over to get his chin scratched.
I have had to warn my DH not to get this little guy used to being scratched between the horns as that can encourage him to become a "basher" for attention. Not good behavior in a ram. Under the chin - OK; maybe even work up to a scratch behind the ears - but absolutely no attention to the horn area!
This little guy is just so sweet. I've never met a sheep like him. But then, maybe he's heard we have a freezer in the basement! ;)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Have Pen, Will Travel


Saturday saw us cleaning up about the Homestead as we realized during a community fire prevention meeting that we had, indeed, places around the property that needed some attention. Most of all, we hauled branches lost two winters ago when we had trees snap under a tremendous snow load. We had planned on burning them when we had appropriate weather conditions but never saw them. We also trimmed up the two Ponderosa Pines we have here after we were informed that it is better for the fire fighters to have all branches up to 10 feet from the ground removed to prevent ground fire up into the crowns of the trees. It was much needed work to be done and it was time we did it.
And thanks to our friend who owns the local feed store, we obtained a rack for the back of the pick-up truck with enough room to hold about six sheep and a bale of hay in front of it in the bed of the p/u. We wanted to build a truck rack like Kim's when she delivered the sheep, but realized that it was not feasible for us to have a rack as a permanent attachment to the truck. We just don't haul that many sheep around...yet. :) So, here's a picture, with my Other Half in it for a size comparison and Lacey and her ram lamb "modeling" the unit with a coaxing of a handful of grain.
Our thinking is that if we're prepared, we won't have to go anywhere!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Waiting Game

Today was the first day since the Brins Fire started in Oak Creek Canyon that I did not see smoke in the sky when I went out to let the sheep out of the barn this morning. Every morning this week has seen a column of thick grey and black smoke toward the southwest. The local news is filled with pictures of dry forests literally exploding in fireballs in terrain that you would think only a Mountain Goat could climb.
It's unnerving that it was just three weeks ago, we and our family from New Zealand were on that very road. Oak Creek Canyon is truly a gem in Arizona and a lush green spot when one grows tired of just Ponderosa pines or the white snows of winter.
Now we're playing the waiting game. Waiting to see if the fire crosses the only road through the canyon. Waiting to hear that people and pets have all evacuated that area. Waiting to see if any homes will be lost. Waiting to see if conditions change and we must evacuate our own home. Waiting.
We've certianly found out whom our true friends are as we've had many calls to see if we're OK, if we need any help, or to tell us we are welcome - sheep, cats and all - to find refuge at other's homes. Just the fact these people have called is calming. I have to explain that both myself and my DH were Army-trained to handle challanges and stresses like this and we are not only fine, but have things staged and ready to go should the need arise. It's almost like the old fire-horses hearing an alarm bell. It becomes second nature.
And when friends worry because we're in an area that can have such devastating forest fires and why don't we move, I respond with "Where to?" Each area of our country has it's own dangers: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding - the list goes on.
But I have faith that we are where we are supposed to be. And we'll deal with whatever comes our way.....as long as we can take the cats, the sheep, the chickens and maybe, just maybe..each other.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Brins Fire -or- Preparing to Move in a Hurry

About 12 miles from where we are located is the Brins Fire, raging into Oak Creek Canyon and headed towards us. I find myself having very mixed emotions about the chance that I may have to grab all that is valuable and unreplaceable to me. On one hand, I am not looking forward to pushing sheep into the back of the pick-up, cats into the car, and various boxes of photos, valuable papers, and any irreplaceable mementoes wherever they will fit.
When you take a good long, hard look at the accumulation of "stuff" we acquire on "The Road of Life" and have to make up your mind what to take, what to leave, you begin to realize how much "junk" we bring into our homes and lives and what is really important.
As I look around I make mental notes: leave the electronics, take the pictures of my daughter riding in "El Tour de Tucson" in her U of A Jersey. Take the picture of my late father, but leave his collection of model trains behind. I mentally recognize that memories take up no space except for that in the brain and the heart and are the most transportable possession I have. The day to day "stuff" can be replaced. And I realize that what is really important to me I carry with me already - in my heart.
But, I will still leave room for my husband, the cats and the sheep in the vehicles. :)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ralph's Little Best Buddy


Ralph's Little Best Buddy, originally uploaded by Kathryn52.

This is the same ram lamb as the two previous posts. I thought I would show my DH with his "Buddy" for those unaccustomed to Shetland Sheep to see the size of this 7 week old ram. This is my DH's favorite of the bunch.
I wonder if it is because this little guy has a mind of his own, or whether it's that the little guy has figured out that endearing oneself to a human lessens the chance of becoming dinner or being sold.
Could it be that he's the smartest one of all?

I'm A Bad Boy!


New Sheep3 008, originally uploaded by Kathryn52.

Here's our Little Stinker..Mr. I-Don't-Have-A-Name-Yet-But-I'm-Into-Everything! Everyone else manages to get a minimal of dust, dirt and hay on them on windy days, but not this guy! He plows through the hay, even when it's on the ground. And I think he does this just for funnies!
This is the same ram lamb who eats anything and everything and gets a tummy ache. Yup. You guessed it! This is the culprit of the previous entry.
It's actually funny to watch him...he thinks differently than all the other sheep. Almost "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"-ish if you please.
This is one individual who marches to adifferent drummer!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

And Little Lambs Eat Ivy.....

There's one in every crowd, or family. You know whom I mean...the kid that is the explorer, the daydreamer, or when the family is doing one thing, chooses to do another. I found out I have one of those today.
I caught one of the lambs who usually follows me around off by himself today, trying to eat the leaves off an upright honeysuckle tree. Now that in itself didn't astound me, but what I caught sight of was this little boy's bum with a couple of "dags" on it. (Dags are an accumulation of manure for those not quite farm-wize) Now this could be very normal, or a sign of somthing not quite right with the little guy and warrants at the least a closer look. Well, upon inspection the little guy showed signs of "scours", shepherdspeak for diarrhea. I had an idea that we might run into something like this from the stress of being shipped from Washington to Arizona and adjusting to new surroundings, so I really wasn't all that surprised...
I had been letting the sheep out into the pasture for a short while each day, increasing the length of each visit that they may slowly become accustomed to Arizona grasses and weeds. Yesterday, while my DH and I were cleaning out the aformentioned other half of the barn, the sheep were very merrily making their way across the pasture with looks of glee on their sheepy faces. And this little guy way tasting anything and everything he could find. More so than the others, who stuck close to their moms. This guy (who hasn't received a name yet) was in "Hog Heaven" and was totally enjoying his tastings. A bit of apple leaves here, a Siberian Elm there, some grasses down by the creek, and oh, Look! some dutch clover, and then there's this tasty weed! He was enthusiastic to say the least. Then today, the dreaded "scours". I can't say that I'm surprised that his exuberance resulted in an upset digestive system. In fact, I have a certain amount of empathy for his plight.
A quick look through my sheep library and input from some really nice and sharing shepherds in my Shetland Sheep Group and the little guy received doses of probiotics and Pepto Bismol. While most sheep would view the dosing of these treatments with indignity this little black ram had a strange look on his face after I dosed him. Almost as if to say, "Hey! Thanks for the sauce and the After-Dinner-Mint!"
Yup. Every family has one. And I believe I know who the one is in our family!

And to Fathers everywhere - those who are with us and those who look over our shoulders from somewhere beyond - A VERY HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Work, Play & My Other Half

My DH got me up and out of the house this morning before my coffee even had a chance to kick in. We were cleaning out the other half of our barn. That old horse stall had been transformed into an auto part storage facility and mouse hotel, but had become Prime Real Estate.
While the sheep have only been here for less than a week, we both realized that space where they are now (sharing quarters with the poultry in another stall) is way too small for their growing needs and before we know it, we willl need their current space for lambs being weaned from their mothers. There was only one option.
Moving these car parts (hoods, trunk lids, etc.) means alot to me. You see, my husband has been trying to restore a 1953 Mercury which had been owned by his Aunt Betty and he actually rode in as a child. And he's doing this restoration without benefit of being in a garage, or under any sort of cover like a carport. This space in the barn was highly prized for storage of these essential pieces to this project. And for him to decide that my sheep were in need of the space more than his car just astounds me. It reminds me that, even after 30 years, of the give-and-take that a marriage requires. But even more so, that the spouse who gives be appreciated by the spouse who takes. Sometimes you're "The Taker" and somethimes, "The Giver".
And I am so glad I took the time to appreciate all he's giving. I sure hope the sheep realize the same. :)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Beginning of Sheep Thrills!


New Sheep2 005, originally uploaded by Kathryn52.

From this small group: Lacey, and her two black lambs; and Amanda and her two moorit lambs, we will start Sheep Thrills Farm. These are Shetland sheep. They are small but they are very hardy and have great personalities as well as the soft wool they provide for warm clothing.