Friday, March 30, 2007

Too Bad It Can't Be Shipped Overseas...

This first picture is for my daughter. One of the things we love after a really, really good Mexican dinner (like the ones at El Charro in Tucson) is Fried Ice Cream. I couldn't believe my eyes when grocery shopping this week. I love Breyers Vanilla ice cream, but right next to it - on sale, mind you - was this new limited edition of Fried Ice Cream flavor ice cream.
Not wanting to cause anyone else in the family to come to any harm, I volunteered to step up and do the right thing. I would test this new flavor lest it cause distress to one of my loved ones. (And if you believe this load of sheep beans, I have a slightly used bridge in Lake Havasu to sell you!)
While this ice cream really wasn't "The Real Thing" it was a very nice change from my normal vanilla with hot fudge sauce all over it. I don't think I would have it as a steady diet, but I sure would suggest a nice scoop after the aforementioned Mexican meal. My only suggestion to Breyers would be to have more of a vanilla taste to the ice cream and more defined swirls of cinnamon. The crispy pieces of tostadas also added a nice crunch. If you get a chance to try it, by all means do, but just keep in mind that the real stuff is better. :)
To the right is a picture of the white Romney fleece I bought from Rebecca at Shepherds Hill Farm in Iowa. Rebecca is a fellow Shetland breeder who also has some Romney sheep in her flock. This fleece is from a ewe called Esther and was grown under a coat to keep it clean. The picture doesn't do it justice. It is beautiful! I will try to post more about this fleece another time. I can hardly wait to start spinning it!
This last picture is "The View of My Lap from My Perspective"...here you see both Max and Ziggy in thier usual positions while I watch TV in the evening. If you think this is funny, you should see it when I have a third across my lap as well. And people wonder why I have trouble walking at times. :) There are some evenings when I wish I had a James Bond ejector button installed on the arm of the chair that with one push would send smaller occupants in the chair, not flying, but maybe boosted off the chair. I can only imagine what would happen if someone were to yell "Fire!". Please disregard the cat toys all over the floor. They're worse than two year olds at times.
And today my DH made it back, safe and sound, from his trip to Las Vegas. Tomorrow we plan on attending the local Home Show where I'm sure we'll pick up more ideas of ways to spend all those hours of free time we have. (I'm being a tad sarcastic here as we really have more projects to do around here than we have time for.) Sunday, he'll be off again for a week. I just remind him that the longer he's away, the longer the Honey-Do List becomes. Heeheehee!
The funny thing about my DH and these trips: I think that I will get so much done while he's gone only to find I haven't gotten anything done, or been side-tracked by something. What's really scarey is that it takes so little to get me to that side-tracked state, then I forget what the heck I was going to do in the first place. Of course this is where I should blame my "Brain Farts" on the medications I've had to take lately but I'm afraid I've been using that as an excuse for too long now.

I must think of something else to blame it on...oh, look....an old copy of Spin-Off....and here's an article about growing your own dye plants...gee, if I start seeds now.............who were we talkin' about?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stretching Things Thin (I wish)!

I have not been posting with regularity lately due to something taking over my life...almost completely, it seems.
As some of you Dear Readers, relatives, and friends know, I had been having problems for almost a year with pain traveling from my lower back shooting down through my left leg. (Gee, that should be a movie..."My Left Leg...sequel to "My Left Foot") Anyway...I digress...
I finally gave up after trying all the tricks and "treats" I've learned through the past 15 years as a chronic pain person: TENS unit, stretching, exercises, pain meds, etc. Actually, I went through the whole lot of them with the same results each time. It wasn't working. About the time our fellow shepherd and friend John (Marietta Shetlands...see Tina's blog "A Blip on the Radar" link listed) was having problems with his back and going into back surgery, I was facing the same thing.
I have been dodging this ball for years now. I know I have severe degeneration in the spine in two places, but I ain't ready to go - no way, no how! The alternative has been back into Physical Therapy or Physio. You can still see the claw marks in the carpeting as I dragged myself into the PT office, stopping briefly only to notice the Ortho/PT/Sports Medicine Complex has added espresso stations on each floor. Did I mention that I did not want to go? :)
Well, after getting a great Therapist I was put on spinal traction treatments a few times a week. First, I spend some time on a very heated, moist hotpack to relax all the muscles around the spine, then on goes the traction gear and the machine makes sure I have the proper tension for the amount of time needed. It is amazing to feel the spine actually seeming to take a deep breath. OK, well we all know how our bodies and gravity get along with each other as we get older, right? (wink, wink) This contraption actually helps to reverse that if only for a short while.
The therapist explained to me that as the muscles relax and the spine eases up, the cartilage and "gel" within the discs between the vertebrae actually softens and goes into a more "normal" position, relieving any areas around nerve branches from the spinal column. But, (there's always a "but" isn't there?) one key trick is after the machine shuts off and the spine starts to compress a bit before you get up, you lie on the table for about 5 minutes. During those minutes the spine will actually try to go into a correct position without having to fight gravity to do it. I wish they had told me this years ago for my neck traction device I use at home. It makes a BIG difference!
Now I have to admit that when I'm done and walking down to the first floor Jitters coffee bar, I do notice a bit of pain, but it's not like the terrible pain. By the time I sit in the car, it's gone. What it is is everything settling in again but with the spine in correct alignment.
By the next day, I usually have some of the original pain again, but nothing like it was. So, there's talk of a home device for me to continue this thereby dodging that bullet again. That works for me!
So, you'll have to excuse me for not posting more regularly right now. I promise I will try to get some new pics up soon. The sheep are shorn and naturally, it's snowing.

Oh, well...that's March in Northern Arizona for you! :)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Shearing Day at Sheep Thrills!

This past Thursday was Shearing Day here at Sheep Thrills Farm. I found only one person here in Northern Arizona who was willing to come and shear six sheep. When I began asking around to see if anyone knew of anyone who did shear sheep, I was always told "Well, no. If you find someone, please let us/we/them know! We need one too!" Here you see Lisa and Colin. Lisa is a very nice young lady who usually does shearing for people who show market lambs. Market lambs are shown usually without fleece so their conformation and condition can be shown to their best advantage. Wool is just a nasty thing to be delt with and not of much value, usually. The Shetlands at Sheep Thrills Farm were Lisa's first wool breed sheep.
Usually, when sheep are shorn for their wool a shearer will set them on their bums, take an "opening blow" down the belly with the shears and do a "dance" that ends up with a complete fleece on the clean floor and a naked sheep. The fleece is then carried to a table where it is thrown open much the same as a sheet on a bed. At that point the nasty bits of wool in the fleece, usually areound the edges are removed: barnyard windchimes (also called tags. These are bits of wool from the back end loaded with clumps of manure.), short belly wool or face wool, or any other low grade area of the fleece. The fleece is then rolled up and put in a wool sack or bag with the others. Everything depends on how well the fleece is taken off and how clean its kept.
I found myself a bit disappointed as this was not the way Lisa shears. She had the sheep stand and she sheared each sheep starting at the back end, working forward, but not keeping the fleece in one piece - usually breaking it apart at some point to make it drag less on the sheep's skin at the area she was working on. Each sheep took about an hour. She did a very good job on getting the fleece off right down to the skin, but I would have preferred having ended up with a fleece in one piece. I'm not sure I will be able to tell what's what when I go to skirt or grade each bag of fleece I have.
Here's Lisa starting in on Colin's bum (rear). I will have to say that she was very good with each sheep. The only one we really ahd any problems with was the first one, Skittles. He did not want to stand for anything, much less two women making him take off his coat! It's taken him two days to get over it as he was extremely pissed off, butting anything and everything in his path whether it be a wall, a post...even his buddy Colin and he even tried to take it out on me until I bowled him over and sat on his shoulder for a while explaining to him that he did not act that way to me. He got the message, loud and clear...you don't rumple the shepherd or you can become mutton-chops! :)
You can just see by the look on his face in this picture, he was not a "Happy Camper"! It's more like a "How could you do this to me?" look.
And to the right here's Colin after his go with Lisa. The only thing I kept thinking was how much my sheep had shrunk!


Lacey and Loretta waiting for "That Other Person" to leave.(Photo at left)











And this last photo to the right is me trying to apologize for everything I put them through.


Actually things were OK on the clipping front...only one sheep was cut during the shearing - Ailee had the clippers cut into an area of her neck where she had some loose skin. She was the only one in our little flock with skin that loose in that area. I have noticed that there are a few places where someone got a little "Razor Burn", but all in all, everyone seems to be fine.
And I have to admit, Lisa was very eager to learn this other end of the sheep business (no pun intended). She had never realized that the wool was that important a by-product of the sheep industry. I took her into the house when it came time to pay her ($10/head) to show her a bit of woolcombing and spinning. She was astounded that the wool she had taken for granted for so many years was very useful and wanted. After mentioning to her the "other" way of shearing, Lisa admitted that she really wanted to learn that way of shearing, possibly going to a shearing school to learn this way of shearing for wool as she was finding out that there were more people in this area who needed sheep sheared but weren't interested in showing market lambs.

I still have some trimming to do of places hard for Lisa to reach with the shears.

But there's one more thing that became obvious...that sneaky Amanda...you know, that "shy" ewe? Well, that "shy" Amanda is going to be the first one to lamb by the looks of her "bag" (udder)! She's way ahead of Lacey.

Maybe I should change her name to "Sneaky Pete"...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Eye in the Sky -or- Big Sheep is Watching!

You are being watched! IF you're in our barn, that is. The little black bubble you see in the middle of this photo is our new "Sheep-Cam" for "Sheep-O-Vision" in the house. With lambing coming up, my thoughts turned to how would I be able to check on the ewes in the lambing jugs in the barn without really disturbing them when they begin labor.

My DH came to the rescue! He recycled an old camera system that was due for the garbage into a monitoring system for me to be able to watch the sheep from the comfort of the house! The extra cable you see in the upper right is for when and if we decide to include the ram's side of the barn as well at a later date.
In this second photo, you can barely see where he dug a trench for the cable from the barn to the house. Here he's installing the cable from the ground up into the house itself. This blue conduit, which my DH calls "Smurf Tube" will protect the cable from the elements and is paintable, so it will actually blend into the house - that is whenever I find where the paint can went with the touch-up paint.

I can't believe how hard he worked at this job! He rented a trencher from the Rent-All in town, hauled it out here, and dug the trench to bury this cable. This was no easy task - every time the trencher hit a rock it would stop. Every time a stone caught up in the chain drive of the actual cutter, it would stop. The trencher itself was a real piece of you-know-what and because of that, a job which would have taken about an hour took four hours! And I was of little help as I couldn't really lift anything or run the machine. (Although I did manage to trip over both my own feet and the trench taking a nasty fall backwards.)

I am in awe of this man, who has, on occassion, forgotten or overlooked my birthday but will drop everything to do something to make my life easier. Now I also know that part of this is that he enjoyed putting the system in and watching the sheep from the Home Office himself - trencher aside. But I will have to watch what I say from now on as I remember making an obscure comment about wouldn't it be nice to be able to see the sheep in the barn without having to be in the barn...that maybe someday I would be able to afford to put in a fancy monitoring system. Well, Voila! There it was! Bob's your uncle!
And here you see the monitor on my desk, next to my computer. I am sorry about the flash, but you get an idea of what it looks like. I will be dividing the back area (from this aspect) into two lambing jugs, one for each of the two ewes we have "incubating" this year's lamb crop. Now I realize that this monitor will not take the place of physically going in and looking at the ewes during labor when they may show signs of distress or a non-normal presentation of the lamb being born. But it will be a nice tool to use in checking to see if and when a ewe starts her labor. This is true especially for Mountain Niche Amanda, as Amanda is our "shy" ewe. She will not do anything but watch us. Although she has begun to eat in front of us, she was notorious for not letting either one of us see her and Mr. Skittles doing anything other than standing. While poor Skittles was doing everything but standing on his head, if Amanda saw a human even thinking about viewing her activities everything would come to a grinding halt.


Well, have we got news for you, Amanda! :-)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Don't Adjust Your Volume - or - We Control The Horizontal & the Vertical

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog! My wonderful daughter, knowing that STF was growing and would soon require an actual website presence, started setting an actual webite up! I was totally speechless.
Now, I shouldn't be, really. My daughter excells at all this computer-stuff and to me, is nothing short of a computer-goddess when it comes to assisting we lesser mortals when we screw up,...er, have problems with our computers. She is forever reminding me that I really didn't lose anything..."yes Mom, it IS still in your computer and not in Outer Space."
I truely admire my daughter. While we are too much alike at times, she leaves me standing in the dust when it comes to some things. This is one of them. And I can not say enough about how proud I am of her.
Mothers want their children to surpass themselves in life. We want better things for them. For them to have a better life. To give their children the tools to deal with situations in their lives and come out on top. I have always wished for my daughter to be better than I could ever hope to be. My wishes have been full-filled. I see myself in her sometimes, but mostly I see her as the young woman she has come to be in her own right. She's capable, caring, intelligent, out-going...well, I could go on for pages.

And yes, this is my daughter, Kelly, in her new office in New Zealand.

Thank you, Kelly...Thank you for this wonderful surprise and all the encouragement you've given me in this "sheepy" adventure. You don't know how much it means to me. And thank you for all the times you've had to walk me through something on the computer...as well as for all the times you've been very patient, explaining things to me...even for the 27th time.

(And I've already had a couple of people ask me what happened to the blog. But don't worry...they found the link.)

I just wish I were there to give you a big hug for doing this for me...you know, there...in New Zealand...where it's almost fall...and there's the sea and the seafood...and you and Kiwiman and the cats...and it's green...not to mention all the sheep!

Hmmm.....now where'd I put that Passport? ;-)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Hit Squad -or- Where's the Mouse?

Here are Iley and Seamus checking out the corner of the barn where the chickens have their nest boxes. As soon as they were let loose in the barn, they both went immediately to the corner where we believe the mice were living. Bill and his daughter, Katie, and I were waiting for Ralph to come with a drill to unscrew the the anchors to the boxes. As soon as he arrived and the boxes were moveable, we took the boxes out...and mice went everywhere!


Iley got so excited before we moved the boxes she kept climbing into the one closest to the corner where the mice were living.

Here are both dogs busy at work. Mice ran everywhere to try to get away. Big ones, little ones and in-between ones! All sizes and shapes...It was an entire nest of the little buggers. No sooner than a mouse would try to run under us and towards safety when Iley would zoom! after it, kill it, then return to find more mice. Both dogs were so speedy all we could do was watch. Incredible! Only one mouse made it to safety by running straight up the wall into a crack between the framing and the cinder block. I'll set a few traps around tonight in this area and in the feed room just to make sure it doesn't come back.
It was fascinating to watch these dogs go after these mice. I know they are bred for this, but I'm still very impressed. And I don't mean that just because I know both dogs. (I try to bring them some "cookies" each time I need to pick something up from Melanie and Bill for the cats.)

And finally, with a job well done, Seamus enjoyed "killing" a ball out in the paddock. It was an old ball that the sheep had only kicked around once or twice. The minute Seamus saw it he gleefully grabbed hold and "had a ball" with it, literally.
I wish I had taken pictures of the dogs and Skittles. Both dogs tried to sniff noses with Skit, but it became obvious by Skit's ramming the fence that he was not impressed with the dogs.

But , I'm so impressed with the dogs! They were wonderful and I thank Bill and Katie for bringing them over to help rid us of this problem. The only thing I forgot to do that I meant to do was get a couple of pictures of Bill and Katie. I'm sorry, Guys!
Maybe next time I'll remember. This time I was just too amazed by how fast and hard these dogs worked.

They are welcome here anytime! (And so are Bill and Katie!) :-)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Taking a Break

I haven't posted for the past couple of days mostly due to a big flare-up that I have had. I was minding my own business, shopping at Target, when all of a sudden the muscles and nerves in my lower back and left leg literally seized up - making it very hard to move.
Two days of muscle relaxants, pain meds, and nerve pain meds have started to set things right again. Of course, with that kind of "cocktail" as soon as I sit down anywhere, I fall asleep! :) I don't know if it's the drugs that are helping or the sleeping! Either way, I'm on the mend. But I still made sure that either Ralph is home or I have a cell phone with me at the barn. My chickens bear a resemblance to the "Chinaman's" pigs on HBO's "Deadwood" - if I fall, they will make sure I leave no trace behind.

Mouse Count: Kathy - 30+, Mice - 1 (Past 10 days) The one mouse was caught, but it and the trap are no where to be found.

Tomorrow friends of ours are bringing their two Jack Russel terriers over to aid me in the elimination of mice in the barn. Yes, I've put a contract out and called in a "Hit Squad"! One of the terriers, named Iley, loves to hunt mice. She's really a sweet dog, too. We have tracked down the mice to underneath the nest boxes for the chickens. Under the barn is probably an old tunnel dug by the ground squirrels we have around here. We're all of one mind in that mice have probably used this tunnel as home for the winter, hence my mouse count.
Our barn has cinderblock and frame walls, but a ground floor. The floor can be both good and bad as most things are in life. It dries up well and fast but I have had various ground-dwellers coming up in the stalls or feed room at times. Someday, when I'm rich, I will have a cement floor put in the feed room, at the least.

And I promise I will take pictures of the dog(s) at work. I'm hoping that once we move the nest boxes, the mice will scatter or try to go to ground and Iley will do her best. She owes me. I bring her, and her "big brother" Seamus (who is all muscle) dog cookies every time I see them. Let's hope Iley and Seamus will put an end to the mouse problem.

But, I'm making sure of two things: The first is that I don't have any loose pant legs for mice to run up. The second is that both Iley and Seamus don't give me kisses afterwards! Keep your fingers crossed!