Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

On behalf of all of us here at Sheep Thrills Farm, have a very Happy New Year!

May you all have a year filled with peace, health, and happiness...and may your wishes and dreams come true!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cold! And The Gift...

Posted by Picasa
It's been very cold lately...too cold to go out and play with the wonderful present I received from my DH. My Other-Half gave me a wonderful camera! I have been drooling over a Nikon D40x for the longest time...even checking out multiple places online for any "deals" I could find that would fit into my budget. No such luck. Skunked every time. Bah, Humbug!

Then, on Christmas Day, said Wonderful Husband gave me presents such as a really nice camera bag that could be placed on a belt, keeping both hands free for using a camera...a second larger bag for keeping the camera, lens, filters, etc. I should have seen it coming, shouldn't I?

Then, there it was...the last box. By the time he placed the last present in my lap, I was heady with the scent of a favorite and very expensive perfume he had also given me...this last item was a bit heavier than the others. When I opened it, I couldn't believe my eyes! There was the camera...for one of the few times in my life, I was speechless. Dumbfounded. I can now take all sorts of photos including ones of the sheep in action as this camera has a very rapid recovery between shots. Being raised on 35mm cameras with a father who had a darkroom in many of the places we lived in spoiled me to digital cameras who took their own sweet time to recover after taking a shot, letting good shots get away while I was waiting for it to be ready to go again.

So, now I just need a day where I can get outside without dangerous wind chills to start using this Marvelous Toy.

Thank you, Honey...for believing in me as well as encouraging me. If I didn't say "Thank you" when I opened the box, it was because I had to wait for the tears to clear from my eyes and my voice to come back. You're wonderful!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

As We Shepherds Say In The Southwest...

Fleece Navidad!

We hope each and every one of you have a Wonderful Holiday Season and a New Year filled with Peace, Health,Prosperity, Joy, and Friendship!!!

May this next year of 2008 bring you nothing but happiness!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Night Before Christmas In New Zealand

A few days ago I received this version of "The Night Before Christmas" from our family in New Zealand. I always have to remind myself that, while we are very cold and have snow, the branch of the Family Tree in New Zealand is running around with their shorts on, having barbeque, and enjoying the first part of their spring/summer.
I've been to NZ in the early part of December. I always had to remind myself that the Christmas decorations adorning stores and shops was not out-of-place...rather it was me who was backwards on my seasons.

Today my family celebrates Christmas least the part in New Zealand. Actually, it's rather nice to have it last two days!

Enjoy a Down Under take on Christmas Eve:

The Night Before Christmas - Kiwi-Style:

'Twas the night before Christmas,and all round the bach
Not a possum was stirring, not one could we catch.
We'd left on the table a meat pie and beer,
In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here.

We children were snuggled up in our bunk beds,
While dreams of pavlova danced in our heads;
And Mum in her nightie and Dad in his shorts,
Had just settled down to watch TV sports

When outside the bach such a hoo-ha arose,
I woke up at once from my wonderful doze.
I ran straight to the sliding door, looking about,
Jumped out on the deck and let out a shout!

The fairy lights Dad had strung up around the door
Let me see everything down to the shore.
And what did I see, when I took a peep?
But a miniature tractor and eight tiny sheep,

With a little old driver and his dog on his knee.
I knew at once who this joker might be.
He patted his dog and in a voice not unkind,
Cried "Good on ya, boy! Now GIT IN BEHIND!

"Now Flossy! Now Fluffy! Now Shaun and Shane!
On, Bossy! On Buffy! On Jason and Wayne!
Up that red tree, to the top of the bach!
But mind you don't trample the vegetable patch".

So up on the roof those sheep quickly flew,
With the tractor of toys, Santa and his dog too.
As my sister awoke and I turned around,
In through the window he came with a bound.

He wore a black singlet and little white shorts,
And stuck on his feet were gumboots of course;
A sackful of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a postie just opening his pack.

His eyes-bright as paua shell-oh,how they twinkled!
Like an old tuatara, his skin was all wrinkled!
He had a wide face and a round, fat tummy,
That looked like he'd eaten lots that was yummy.

He spoke not a word, but got down on one knee,
And placed a cricket set under the tree,
A present for Sis, one for Dad, one for Mum,
Then he turned and he winked and held up his thumb.

He jumped on his tractor, to his dog gave a whistle,
And away they all flew as fast as a missile.
I called out "Thanks" as he flew past the gate.
He called back: "Kia ora to all … and good on ya mate"

I think Santa has a great idea! He must be using Shetland sheep...our little sheep who can do it all!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How It Was At Our House Before...

One of our relatives in New Zealand sent this little video to me. I had not seen it, but understand that it's been out on "The Web" for a while. This is exactly how it was in our bedroom, each morning, before we installed a gate to keep the cats out of the bedroom.
Although we had no baseball bats at hand for the wee creatures who allow us to share this house with them, it reminds me of just how it used to be each and every morning.

I hope you enjoy this...

And thank you, Val...for sharing!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Visitors From The Frozen North

Coming back from the barn this morning, I heard what sounded like one of the Mallard ducks with a bad head cold. The voice was deeper and more of a "honk" than a "quack". It was such a different sound that it made me stop and look up and around at the field behind our place. There, in a small patch of open water, were Canadian Geese! What a treat! (Click on photos to enlarge)
We do get the odd delta formation of these geese through here in the fall. Nothing like the massive migrations we used to see living in Kansas, or up in the Great Lakes when I was a kid. This was a real treat! Poor things must be saying something like, "Gee, Martha, I thought Arizona was going to be warmer than this. I'm all for heading farther south. How does Mexico sound to you?"
I had walked out into the snow in our pasture to try to get a better photo of our visitors. It was still pretty cold but the sun had come up, starting to warm up the earth again. I stood there watching the birds to see if they would stand up for a better picture. It was then I noticed the other beauty in the morning light...the sound of water still running in the stream, the sunlight bouncing off the snow, turning it into a field of glistening diamonds before my feet. As cold as it was, the stream was still running under the snow and ice. It hadn't frozen up solid.
On my way back towards the house I heard a shuffle from the direction of the barn, then silence. There were the small band of sheep I had just put out for their morning meal. They had all stopped eating and were looking at me. In the hush of the morning I thought I heard our wether Colin saying to the others, "Hey, guys! Guys! Mom's got a camera with her...everybody look her way and say, 'Grass'!"

There's another storm coming tonight, Guys...better get a move on down towards the south.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"It's The Cheese, Gromit!" -or- Black Sheep Creamery Aid

I've been meaning to get this post out for the past two days. Friends who belong to NW Shetland Sheep have been auctioning off all sorts of neat fiber-things to raise money for the Gregory Family in Washington State. The Gregory's run Black Sheep Creamery but were virtually wiped out when the Chehalis River flooded a couple of weeks ago. I can not imagine what these people have gone through. They lost most of there sheep: ewes pregnant for their summer milking, every ram or ram lamb was drowned...well, I could go on. They managed to find 23 ewes post-flood, one under a pile of dead sheep.
Shetland sheep people, and sheep people in general, are a very giving, generous lot. I count myself blessed to be one of them. And I applaud these people for helping others in great need. What they are doing is one of the most unselfish things a person can do...they are giving from their hearts to help others in need without thought of getting anything in return. Bless them all! So if you are in the market for something for a Fiberholic for the up-coming holidays, please peruse the auction. Some of us are giving money directly to the Gregory's and there's information about that to at this site: Black Sheep Creamery Benefit Auction

And as I was in our local health foods store, I noticed the above cheeses! Yes, Kelly, there really is a Wallace and Gromit Wenslydale! There is the picture to prove it. :) Actually, they had some really nice sheep's milk cheeses in stock. If you get the chance to try some, do. Sheep's milk cheeses are wonderful!

Do you hear that, girls? Mom's gonna fire up the milker this next spring...fair warning!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just Too Worn Out...

Last night was a night I rarely have to endure. I was cold and could not get warm. It probably was because I have spent the past five days or so in and out, wet and dry...and not even from doing any Christmas shopping! I could not get matter what I tried. I finally had enough layers for my top parts to warm back into the living, but my legs stayed stiff and cold, and achy. I spied many cat bodies in front of the woodburner. Aha! Thinking that they were almost rendered completely into piles of cat-goo, the same would work for me, I stood by the woodburning stove until I thought my jeans were going to self-ignite, it was so hot. I now know what an ironing board feels like. And that didn't even work! I was afraid to stand there any longer lest I become a pale impression of a human torch.

Now, even though they work hard and have kept on going, in truth my barn jeans are just shadows of their former selves. Oh, there's enough material there to cover pieces-parts admirably, but in reality - they are a wisp of their former selves. The sad thing is they are just now getting that lived-in-more-comfortable-than-your-favorite-shoes feel to them. There are times, however, I wonder if it's just sheep suint (from Websters Dictionary: suint: dried perspiration of sheep deposited in the wool and rich in potassium salts) and chicken poo that are holding them together...along with the odd splotch of paint adorning them from our last painting attempt. They have served me well...until now.

This morning I remembered my favorite winter undergarments. I had ordered a set of Merino wool, lace-weight, beautiful cream-colored, winter under-garments! They are as soft as Sea Island cotton but can keep you warm even if they get wet, which can be a problem if you are carrying buckets of warm water out to sheep each morning. They have been the best investment I have made with regards to clothing. If I slosh water down my leg I still stay warm. They are lightweight but oh-so warm...truly a godsend for anyone having to be outside with our temperatures.

Not to sound bizarre...I mean who really goes around extolling the virtues of knitted under-things? But these will make a difference between still enjoying my sheep, or hurrying through morning chores because I'm freezing. I can keep warm enough to take some time to still enjoy myself. Yes, I still do enjoy being outside with the sheep and around the barn, even in the middle of winter.

It's either the additional layer of clothing, or boarding an Air New Zealand jet with a Shetland sheep under each arm, the rest following behind. I don't think they'd like me bringing these friends along...come to think of it...Do Shetland sheep wear Merino under all that wool in Wintertime? ;-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shots of the Past Few Days - or - Can I Put My Gloves Back On Now?

I thought I would share a few photos from the past five days here at Sheep Thrills Farm, aka "Oleo Acres - One of the Cheaper Spreads". We started off last Friday with very cold rains. I kept watching the water level rising in the back half of our small pasture. While it was disturbing me, some of the locals found it to be delightful. Silly ducks!
Before we knew it, by Saturday morning our stream had indeed flooded its banks. And it continued to rise. These next couple of photos were taken as the stream was receding from flooding the lower end of our sheep pens near the barn. Whether or not they wanted to go in, I made sure all sheep were in the barn on Saturday night.
The picture above shows the stream receding, but in the lower right you will see two railroad ties, heavy things that they are, side-by-side. The force of this little bit of flooding was enough to float one of the ties up out of the ground and lay it beside one further down. I was glad to see this was all it had done, as a few years ago, I had to don waders and use a lasso to capture ALL of the RR ties with major flooding we had at that time.
The only problem, other than our dwindling hay amount as stated in the previsou post, was that the rain was so very cold. Shetland sheep are well known for their ability to thrive in adverse conditions, but we had winds driving this cold rain into the fleece of the adult sheep, who were outside at the start of all of this. I took off a glove and checked Skittles fleece deep down next to his skin. The wet hadn't gotten that far, but it was just a matter of time. I mainly did it as a convenience for myself - I really didn't want to be out in this stuff nursing a sick, shivering sheep back to health.
Here's a shot of our deck. Tea on the deck anyone?

And it looks like I won't be planting any cold season vegetables any time soon.
I did turn the sheep out for a while each day. After putting everyone in for the night, I happened to see that Skittles had broken trail over to his (darned) tire-toy, just to make sure it was still there as I had promised him.
By yesterday evening the sun had started to try and make an appearance again. This last photo was about 4:30 p.m., MST. You can see we're in the shadow of the mountain, chilling down rapidly, but across the field behind us and the Interstate, rays of the sun made it through.

This morning looked as if we were going to get another 24 inches of snow. I decided at 7:30 a.m. I would have a cup of coffee before going out to the barn. The Weather Channel on TV said we were at 2 F, but I know darned well we were below 0F here. I noticed on the Sheep-O-Vision that the sheep were still sleeping or calmly chewing their cuds. Everyone was fine. Except me...I knew I was going to have to put on layers and layers of clothing to brave the cold to feed and water everyone.

That's OK...I still wouldn't trade them for anything! Well,...maybe a ticket to New Zealand...No, I think I'll stay. It was fun to see the lambs' reactions to their first real snow. I wouldn't miss that for anything. You know how it is with us shepherds! ;-)

But Shadow would like to know why I've been changing clothes in the basement...exchanging dry clothes for wet clothes. Well, Shad...YOU go out and shovel if you want to find out why! :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Some Men Just Bring Flowers...

...but my wonderful, dear Hubby brought me a bale of hay today! Hay, you say? Yes...bless his lil 'ol heart - HAY!

This past weekend we had terrible winds and blowing rain. I didn't want to even chance on trying to pick up a few bales from the feed store and get them home, unloaded and stacked in the feed room in the barn without getting them soaking wet. Our original forecast was for the freezing rains/sleet/snow to end by Monday morning, so I thought I would wait until today to go into town with the truck. Wrong!
We woke up with four more inches of snow on top of the six compacted layers of snow we had yesterday. When I checked The Weather Channel, I saw a Winter Storm Watch for our area. OK, so it's a "watch" and not a "warning"...maybe later in the day it'll be good enough to go into town, switch vehicles and get the hay. When I sat down to have lunch I thought this plan would work. Well, no sooner than I had finished my lunch when our momentary sunny skies turned slowly to white-out conditions. First the sun disappeared, then the soft snowfall became much more opaque in nature.

As the snow got thicker, I thought I should go out and shovel the walk again. I have found that by removing snow every three inches or so I make less heavy lifting for myself. I really don't mind shovelling the walk. It's when I have to shovel out to the barn I curse at winter. And now I learned we were in a true "Storm Warning" for our area. I even heard accumulations of 16 more inches possible. I hadn't gotten halfway through the length of the walk when I saw a black truck pull into the driveway. At first I thought it was someone stopping to ask for help, but as I cleared the snow off my glasses I realized that my DH was home early and headed down the driveway to the barn. He had used the snowblower on our garden tractor to make a path to the barn over the weekend. Now it came in handy as the snow was too deep in the pasture to gt the truck near the barn. Instead, I got the wheelbarrow out, we loaded the bale of hay he had covered in plastic to keep dry, and as he made tracks up the driveway in the truck to park up next to my car, I schlepped the bale into the barn. (No...I didn't lift it, but used the force of tipping the wheelbarrow up to the stoop of the feedroom to flip the bale into the barn. All I had to do was re-arrange its placement.)

Now I feel I can make it through the storm comfortably. My sheep will eat well and not be on short hay rations. I do also feed pelleted alfalfa along with a bit of grain this time of year, but a vet we know stated to us once that eating good hay keep these animals warmer and more comfortable than all the concentrated rations in the world. Our problem is the hay hasn't been of good quality of late. This is something we have to deal with here in Arizona. Grass hay is shipped in from out of state as most hayfields here are alfalfa.
This is something I had to get used to when we first moved here and had our horses. Back where I grew up, alfalfa hay was used for dairy cattle, not horses or sheep. They got good grass hay. I guess here in Arizona land is too expensive for a crop of "just grass". Whoever baled the hay we're getting now waited way too long to cut the hay. I see dead grasses when I open bales, not the good green I should be seeing. When I went back out to the barn to get animals in and fed I had to laugh. There was Skittles, standing next to his tire-toy, guarding it, looking at me as if to plead that I save it from the snow - which might make it melt and therefore be gone. I had to actually tell him it would be OK to leave it there overnight. The girls knew better. They had seen me bring the hay in. Now they just wanted out of the weather and into the barn...but only IF a meal is served!

OK, you go for the night. At least you know when to come in out of the weather, which is more than I can say for a ram who talks to his tire-toy! I promise it'll be there in the morning, Skit. Really...

Random thought for the day: Why is it we drive on Parkways, but park on driveways?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Even The Big Guy Wanted In!

I woke up this morning to rain and high winds, plus it was so dark I thought my DH had left early and the alarm hadn't gone off. Not so. It was dark due to the weather. By the time I got dressed, had that all-important first coffee in the morning, and headed out to the barn the rain was coming in sideways. I wondered how Skittles and the girls were fairing outside in their loafing shed.

When I got to the barn area, I found the girls to be in the loafing shed quietly chewing their cuds and gazing up at me as if to say, "What's wrong with you this morning?" Skittles was at his tire, guarding it as if the wind were going to blow it away. With all the rain, the now soft ground gave the post and tire a definite lean. Note to self: Next spring remove said "marvelous toy", use concrete around the base when properly righted and let concrete cure well before letting him have at it again. I felt of his fleece and noted that the wind had driven the rain very close to his skin. I didn't want him to chill, so I moved the young sheep to the end area of the barn by the chickens and put Skit and the Girls into the end of the barn we use for lambing jugs. I kept one of the barn shutters open for good ventilation, gave them hay and their grain, and made sure I turned on the camera to watch them. This will give his fleece a chance to dry out a bit before all this wet turns to snow this afternoon. As I write this blog entry, I am watching Skit herding the girls from one end of the pen to the other, stopping to single out Ailee as I believe she may not have settled yet and is coming into season.

Since everyone seems to have settled in for a bit, this gives me a chance to re-stoke the fire in the woodburner and have something warm to drink. I was totally wet by the time I came in. Barn coat, sweatshirt, and t-shirt all damp, I've set up a drying rack by the fire to dry everything out before I go out again to move sheep-people around again. By this afternoon Skit and his harem will be dry enough to weather the snow. Shetland sheep are known for their hardiness and ability to withstand rough climate conditions. Their fleece is thick and warm. Many a time I have seen them standing out in a snowstorm with six inches of snow on their backs. They do much better than we humans under similar conditions. We must rely on GoreTex and Thinsulate. Maybe all we really need is a good wool coat. :)
But it's the driving wind with rain that can stress a sheep. Wool will still insulate when it's wet, but why stress the animal when I can let them get in to dry a bit while we wait for the 40 mph winds to die down? Of course, most other rams are not obsessed with tire-toys. They'd be in the dry, wind free loafing shed with the others.

Ziggy's got the best idea...a nice warm fire, some meditation, and a snack every now and then.

Move over, Zig. Let me warm up here by the fire with you. Gee, Zig, did you ever think of getting a job as a pillow?

UPDATE: As of 4:50 pm, MST, we have had to put all sheep in the barn as flooding of our stream has come up to the bottom of the pens near the barn. With the help of my DH, we were able to get "The Chicken Side" ready for sheep. Half of this area is sheep quarters anyway, but we needed to remove some feeders to make room for the larger sheep. DH tried to get the camera working on that end, but to no avail. Something best suited for a nice dry day instead. We are in both a Flood Warning and Wind Advisory for the early evening hours. I will try to post again tomorrow with pictures.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Post for Tammy - or - Pardon The Dust on My Wheel

Tammy at Fairlight Farm had recently acquired a spinning wheel which turned out to be a double-drive wheel. While these wheels look like they have two drivebands transferring the energy from the movement of the wheel to the flyer assembly, it is, in fact, one band that crosses over itself. I had tried to send some photos to Tammy via email, but alas, we both must not have been holding our tongues correctly as nothing would work getting information back and forth. Hence the subject of this post. So just bear with us, please, Dear Readers....

In these pictures, you can see that the drive band runs in two grooves in the flyer assembly, one in the groove on the bobbin where you spin, the other on separate whorls. The difference between the two placements actually creates the twist in the spinning and a brake system of sorts to control just how fast the spun yarn winds on to the bobbin.

These photos are to illustrate to Tammy a few items we were talking about over the phone.

This last picture is of the Table of this wheel and the wooden screw which adjusts its tensioning. This Tension Screw actually is adjusted at the very front of the wheel. Some wheels have a wooden nut underneath the flyer assembly (Mother of All) which have to be loosened to be able to turn the tension screw, others just have this screw.
The Table is the main body of the wheel upon which uprights for the wheel, and the flyer assembly, sit. The driveband is a belt that transfers power from the turning wheel over to the whorls and flyer to power the twist when you spin. After all, a spinning wheel is a wooden machine.

So, there you have it....a post that's really an email hoping it will help a fellow spinner get better acquainted with her "new" wheel. I got excited when Tammy asked if anyone could help her with the driveband. If I had only been close enough, we could have had her wheel up and running in about five minutes. Thank Heavens for phones and computers - when they work right and messages don't go off into oblivion.

Best of luck, Tammy! I can hardly wait to see a post on your blog about your handspun yarn! :) (Just don't look at the dust all over this wheel! Hmm...I'll have to talk to the person who's supposed to be dusting around here. Oh, wait...that would be me, wouldn't it?)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wet Mountain Saturday -or- Too Bad It Isn't Snow

Don't ever let anyone try to fool you by saying that Arizona doesn't get any rain. As the above photograph of the lower portion of our inner paddock area shows, we were what a racetrack might call "sloppy" this past Saturday. The small pen you see is for the young ram lambs who were wethered about a month ago. They were not Happy Campers when I left them in the barn Saturday. Nor would they listen when I told them it was for their own good.
We have come to view storms like the one we just had much in the same way people living along the Nile view its flooding...with mixed blessings. Living on one of the few places in Arizona to actually have a stream flowing through a pasture, we have to visualize these periods of wet as a replenishment sorely needed by all manner of plant life here. Maybe I should amend that statement to include bird and animal life as well. Ducks returned to the stream and open areas both on our property and our neighbor's. I really enjoy listening to them "laugh" in the mornings. I, myself, have to chuckle - it almost sounds as if they are auditioning for the duck in Groucho Marx's old TV show. I wonder if any of them has a mustache and cigar as I make my way from the house to the barn.
This old bridge is in desperate need of replacement. I keep reminding my DH it is dangerous to cross now, unless you're walking along the point where the beams underneath support you. The ram lambs love the creek and the bridge. All throughout the day they play their version of Billy Goat's Gruff, or vie for the position of "troll" by knocking each other senseless, one starting out on either side of the creek and meeting in the middle. It gives me a headache to watch them. Each time they "clunk" together resounds in the air. You can almost feel the ground reverberate sound transformed into mini-quakes. The muscles in my shoulders are sore in empathy for their little necks and foreheads making me glad not to be a sheep.

And remember the discovery of elk hoofprints in my previous post? Well, here you see the findings when I took time to look further into the Visitation. We had nursed this little Blue Spruce since we moved into this house in 1992. The former owner had planted a very small potted Christmas spruce near the deck. When we moved the driveway over we moved the spruce as well. It was growing into a beautiful little tree as well as giving refuge to all sorts of birds as well as the occassional gopher snake. When I found it I felt like drying. Around the base of the once beautiful tree were all the torn off branches. The elk didn't eat those, but instead tore the precious inner bark off. I noticed the elk had also stripped a young aspen across the driveway as well. While part of me knows they, too, need food just like I do...but they don't need to eat my trees when there's still graze to be had in the field behind us! Maybe there's a way to make the elk pay for their damages as I know our state's fish and game department won't reimburse anyone for their damages....

All I need to do is rearrange a few items then there would be plenty of room in the freezer for their "payment"! ;-)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Something Wicked(ly) Big This Way Comes...

I had a strange feeling when I went out to the barn this morning. A few things seemed a bit out of place...a flower pot on the front deck was knocked off the decking, some pieces of the woodpile's pine logs had rolled off the pile, and when I got to the barn, the sheep were absolutely quiet. That in itself was unusual. Normally I would have a chorus of bleating sheep demanding I hurry up and feed them. Not so this morning. Everyone was quiet and behaved just as nice as you please.
On my way back towards the house I started to look around and was able to discern that something had visited us last night. There is a quarter placed next to a large elk-print. An elk had walked down the driveway from the street down to the barn and out to the vacant field beside our place.
It must have been seeking refuge as this is the middle of elk hunting season here. Years ago we would have been allowed to actually shoot a weapon here, but with the encroachment of town-proper we have now become a no-shoot-zone. With more population there is more of a chance of someone getting hurt, or so the county fathers believe. In reality, I would love to be able to shoot a coyote or loose dog (like the ones who killed my neighbors pet cat last month while she was sitting on her own stoop!) threatening my livestock. While I believe everything has the right to live and breathe in this world, if it chances to cross my boundary line and threaten my animals, it's fair game, in my humble opinion. But, I digress...
This elk was a loner. The picture really doesn't do the print justice. The driveway is a combination of volcanic cinders and stones and you have to "hit" it just right to leave a well defined print. I will have to keep watch to see if there are prints following the elk, as this too is a possibility. We do have cougar and bear here. When game moves through, so do the hunters and not all of them are two footed.

And later in the day, I was in our local Target waiting for some prescriptions to be refilled. Now, I will admit I can get myself into trouble poking around a store with time on my hands...I had downed my Caramel Macchiato (plus two extra shots of espresso) and was picking up a few items while I was there. When I was finished shopping, I was cutting through the food section to get back over to the pharmacy when what did I spy in the Wine Isle??? A bottle, on sale, of "Barking Sheep" wine!!!! I don't really drink much and then usually I stick to NZ wines but I got such a chuckle out of this label I had to bring it home. The label states they have a website at:!
Isn't that a hoot?!!! ;-)

OK, dear SIL...there's a label for you! I'll bet they don't have one like this in New Zealand!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reflections and Giving Thanks

I believe Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. For me, it reminds me to take time from all the business of Life, slow down, and really think about what's important in my life. When I take this time to reflect I find so many positive things to be grateful for.

-I have been married to the same man for 31 years. While we have our moments of frustration with each other as all married couples do, they are few and far between. I find I still miss him when he has to go out of town and look forward to spending more years with him. (Although I AM going on a cruise to Alaska if he wants to come or not!) The poor man got stuck with a "Fiber Person" and "Frustrated Farmer"...the are times he deserves a medal.

-I have a wonderful daughter and son-in-law. They compliment each other so well, each one compensating for the other's shortcomings and brightening each other, leaving room for growth without over-shadowing each other. It is a pleasure to watch them when they're together.

-My extended family are a great group of individuals! Whenever support is needed, they are there. I only wish I wasn't so far away from family. (My brother lives in New Jersey, cousins on Washington Island in Wisconsin, and there's the branch in New Zealand, too...)

-I have a nice house to live in, food to eat, and fairly good health (without counting the back surgery this year) arthritis, etc. not withstanding.

-And I have my four-footed friends. I love them all. They are always there when you really need a friend...even the sheep will come over, rest their head in my lap and look at me as if to say, "'The Dr. is: IN'...just talk, I'll listen." The cats have been there when others haven't keeping me company throughout the day. Even with cleaning cat boxes, barns, carpets from old cats with feeble bladders, furballs, foot trims, shearing and fence animals have added more to my life than they have taken.

-And friends. I count each friend as a Blessing. You can't pick your family, but friends can become more family than someone related by blood. And not only friends who live close whom I see often, but also friends far away whom I talk to over the computer, by phone or mail. I may not have many diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, but I have a life bejeweled by friends who add their own sparkle to my world.

In short, I have quite a bit to be thankful for. And I thank the Day for telling me to slow take stock and listen to all in my life that's good.

And may all of you reading this have a blessed Thanksgiving. I know mine is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hey, Ewe! Who's yo Daddy?

Yes,'s THAT time of year again! All the promises are over and the hormones are running rampant. About all I do this time of year is stay out of the way and let Skittles do his job. ;-) I had been promising him that he would get twice as many girls this year. The poor guy thought I was tormenting him on purpose, I'm sure. But no, I just wanted lambs coming in the middle to late April next year. Most of our bad weather is over with and fly season hasn't started - perfect weather for being born. That is except if it turns out like last year when we had terrible winds out of the NE and straight into the ewes end of the barn.

Hmmmm...Amanda is trying to figure out what this black, swingy-thing is and why Skittles doesn't want to share it with anyone. I thought I heard her say it really didn't taste like anything she wanted to eat, but would still lick on it if need be. Silly girl! Don't let Skit see you messing with his tire swing, Amanda...he's very possessive of it. You've been warned.

It was about this time I thought I heard Skit say, "Darn it, Amanda! Take off that stupid coaty-thing! It's getting in MY way!" Poor Amanda.

At this time of year, rams who are normally placid, even downright sweet, turn in to demons on four legs with only one thing on their minds. Nothing will stop them in this Seasonal Drive of theirs either - or at least I should mention that you need really good fencing to make sure they stay in an area YOU want them to stay in. Many a shepherd has gone out to check sheep only to find rams not where they were supposed to be. I have known rams to go through electric fencing, welded wire fencing, well...just about any type of fencing in the need to carry out their mission in life. And a shpherd knows not to place his or herself between a ram and his ewes. In the heat of passion that's asking for it. Yup. Cruisin' for a bruisin' unless you're prepared to deal with a protective ram concerned that you're going to take unsettled ewes (non-pregnant ewes).
Now, any time of year you should not turn your back on a ram. But especially now when they have first been put in with their chosen girls one needs a sharp eye and a good shepherd's crook. Maybe even fast feet too! LOL In watching Skittles with his girls these past few days I find myself thinking about how much Mother Nature intended these creatures to succeed as a species in this world. Sheep are suspicious by nature with a great sense of "Fight or Flight" (mostly flight). They are also fast on their feet as many a winded shepherd might experience once or twice in their lives. And with good feed timed right, you can usually get a 200% lamb crop making sheep productive even for small farms. You can wear them, pet them, milk them...and yes, even eat them. No wonder we've been teamed up with sheep for hundreds of years and more.

Yes, I hear you, Skit...grunting and groaning like WhiteFang and Blacktooth talking to Soupy Sales back in the 50s. Just 6 weeks you'll be begging me to put you back in with the boys when you've got 4 pregnant "wives" on your hooves. I'll remind asked for it!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Never Long Enough...

As you have been able to tell, lately we've been uber-busy with a visit from our daughter and her husband. I know they were here just last year but when you have relatives living halfway around the world, every visit becomes a cherished time knowing that the visit is never really long enough. The Kids arrived on Halloween and stayed until this past Friday. After some time at home we all went to Las Vegas where they caught a plane for San Francisco, soon to head towards home again. I happened to catch this photo of them on the Monorail as we were traveling from one end of the Strip to the other. (Gee...I wonder where the red in my DD's hair came from???)
We had a great time with them. It always seems that after kids leave home and find their own paths in this world that visits are either too long or not long enough. I usually am a believer in the wisdom of Ben Franklin about fish and guests, but as I've gotten older I find that visits with good family and good friends are not long enough at times. Such as this visit with the Kids. We had a ball!
One of the neat places to see in LV is the Conservatory at the Bellagio. Four times a year they change the displays. When we arrived to walk through it on this trip, the theme was Fall's Bounty with giant baskets of apples, a Wood Man or Green Man depending on your culture, and a moving Cider Mill. It was breathtaking as always. The photos of the mill wheel don't do it justice. Both Kelly and I stood there, both seeing the composition of the moving wheel amongst the timbers and plants as amazing - and both of us disappointed that a mere photo could not do it justice.

I realize as I write this that I'm exhausted, but very happy. The past ten days have been so busy I don't think my feet hit the ground, nor did my bee-hind stay in a chair for any length of time to recover. Ross and Kelly were our last visitors for this year. Soon, we'll be shutting up and doing indoor winter things. I know by January I'll be wishing for another visitor to brighten up the days. I will have to coax my orchids to bloom for some "excitement" in January and February as I can't afford a trip to summer in New Zealand just quite yet. :)

Soon it will be time for Skittles to be let in with the girls for another breeding season. Placecards will have to be engraved for this affair, I'm sure. Colin will go in with his half sister to keep her company this year. The three "Bonzo Brothers" - Shaun, Sven & Ole - have all been wethered and will be together until we can find two of them new fiber/pet homes. And life will return to normal around Sheep Thrills Farm....

that is, IF I can remember what "normal" is....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Look What Followed Me Home! ...and other assorted things

Normally when I read the morning paper, I don't bother to read the classified section. For some reason two days ago, I started glancing through it and found something catching my eye. A local person was divesting herself of all of her fibercraft accouterments including a small loom, a spinning wheel, and various yarns and equipment. Well, all that morning that ad nagged at me. By lunchtime I couldn't take it any longer and called the number listed.

I made arrangements to view the collection after the seller got home from work that day. The loom was very old and in not-great-shape. Had she not wanted $400.00 for it I might have considered it and loved taking it apart, cleaning it, and trying to put it back together better than what I saw in front of me. It was a very old Harrisville 22-inch floor loom that might have been nice to use for placemats. But it was just too much money.
Her yarn stash was admirable. It covered her couch as well as two or three chairs and contained a wonderful assortment of very artistic yarns. Tempting, but I have my own stash to work through.
And so I moved on to the spinning wheel. I saw before me an earlier version of my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel. It was made probably late 60s or very early 70s, stained with a dark walnut finish, and very dusty. I tried the treadle and watched the actual wheel - it was a bit "off", not quite as true as my Ashford's wheel, but the driveband was not jumping off the wheel with use. I looked over it very closely then asked its owner THE question: "How much are you selling the wheel for?"
At first she didn't mention a price, trying to talk about the wheel as if it was fresh off the line today. I pointed out the differences between her wheel and the new versions. I could see on her face that she realized that I knew my wheels. She then asked me, "Would $50 be OK?"

Apparently, it was OK. :)

Now I have a wheel to lend out to students or take with me to demonstrations to entice passers-by to sit and try. After bringing it home, cleaning it up and oiling it, it spins like a new wheel. It will have a definite place and job to do. And I am delighted to give it a good home.
And here is a picture of Tina with my DH. I have been waiting for Tina to post about visiting Mr. Skittles (but she's been busy). Here's proof that he will actually accept cookies from total strangers! ;-) Actually, he really liked both Tina and John. We really enjoyed their visit with us and do hope they will visit again! We even promised them to meet at Balck Sheep Gathering in '08.

And last, but not in the very least...a picture of the flowers my DH sent to me on our anniversary. The pictures I took of them do not do them justice. He usually sends red roses, but when these were delivered he said that their color was so stunning when he was picking them out that he thought these were the better choice.

Ya done good, Hon! Here's to the next 31 years!.....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Getting Blown Away!

I will try to get a new post up later, either today or tomorrow. We've been busy here...John & Tina have been visiting over the weekend. We had a great visit! (Ate too much and could hardly wiggle, but still managed a few visits down to the barn where John and Skittles chummed around a bit.)

Starting yesterday we have had winds of 60+ mph! The sheep were kept in the barn yesterday and today will have to be the same. The wind chill factor is terrible! Even with the wind blowing, I removed 1 inch thick ice from Skittles and Colin's water tank at 9 a.m.! And I darned near froze my nose trying to feed this morning. I felt like Marcell Marceau in his "Walking Against the Wind" bit trying to make it back to the house. Oi!

More later...I need a hot cup of coffee and to get a fire going to keep the heater from running constantly.

Monday, October 15, 2007

He's Baaaaawk!

While feeding the sheep and making sure everyone was buttoned up for the night this evening, I heard a very familiar, albeit longtime-not-heard, sound coming from behind me. "Hmm, hmm, clack. Hmm, hmm, clack."

It wasn't very loud. I think only someone who was familiar with the voice would have recognized it. As I slowly turned around I just had to smile. My old friend, Bran (pronounced "Brawn") was back! He disappeared just before I was to have surgery this past June. I would always ask my DH if he had seen him when he would come in from sheep and chicken chores. Nope. Not even a hint of a feather. He was gone all summer.

I suppose he was off doing Raven-things. He had brought both the Mrs. and the kids to see me shortly before he took off. I can only hope he and his family were "summering" somewhere nice. Were they on the beaches in the Virgin Islands? South America? Did he finally take them to Disneyland? I will have to ask my friend. Most likely he will not say a word about vacation, but instead ask if there have been any changes to the menu. Do I still serve animal cookies and eggs? What about the odd kitchen scrap? And are those freshly caught mice still on the menu? I will have to tell him that he'll have to discuss the mouse situation with Josie and Toadie.

I'm glad to see my friend again. I stood for awhile by the gate, himself on the nearby post, trying to mimic his soft call to me back to him as we've always done. He seemed pleased that I would remember what to say. And as I placed a few animal cookies where he usually ate them, I noticed he had brought the Mrs. with him again. She just looked puzzled at the both of us, at our strange conversation we had going. They stayed close by until I went towards the house to come in for the evening.

Goodnight, my friend. I am so glad to see you again! I'll see you in the morning...Winter hours now, Bran...let me have at least one cup of coffee before I have to come out and break ice.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Getting Ready

It's that time of year, isn't it? It's time here to put the garden to bed now that we've had killing frosts almost every night...time to watch the aspen leaves turning first gold, then brown, then flutter by in the breeze in order to make room for next year's leaves. So, too, it's time on the farm to see who stays, and who goes on to other herds of sheep.

Above are the three ram lambs who are now ready to go on to flocks of their own. Well, all except Shaun who won't be for sale for a while. But Sheep Thrills Sven and Sheep Thrills Ole are more than ready to go! Yesterday when I was working around the barn I was witness to the game of "Head Butting" between the ram lambs. I don't know if it was the wind yesterday or the chage of weather in the air, or just boys being boys. Shaun would back up and run full throttle towards Sven, who was doing the same thing on the opposite side of their pen. They met in the middle with a thonk! that shook the ground and gave me a headache just watching them. This went on for a bit until Sven, who by now was a wee bit unsteady on his legs, backed off and let Shaun win for this day. I had dreams last night of finding Sven prostrate on the ground dead. Thank heavens it was only a dream.

Apparently this demonstration of ramliness did not go unnoticed from their sire. Skit was rather upset with Shaun and the intensity of his attack against his half-brothers as he would bang his head on their pen fencing in what I could only attribute as anger at the roughness in the boys demeaner. I stood there, just thinking to myself but saying to no one in particular, "Too much testosterone."
Sheep Thrills Ole

Part of being any sort of livestock producer is that you have to let animals go...for what ever reason it may be. Whether it be new homes for breeding purposes, or off somewhere to eventually feed someone, it's a fact of life on a farm you have to steel yourself for. You can't keep them all. And some of them should not be allowed to pass on their genetics. Whatever the reason, as a breeder of any type of farm animal there comes a time when reality creeps into things and the decision is made to let some of your charges go on. And so it is here. I will do my best to find good homes for the boys. That's part of the job. And sometimes I just tell myself...

if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.