Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nosey Josey and the Mouse

For those of you who have never had chickens this story may not seem believable but I assure you, it happen right before my eyes.

I had gone out to the barn at lunchtime to see if the sheep had enough water and some hay to munch on. After filling waterers, I decided to open the feed room and grab just a few handfuls of hay as the sheep keep telling me that my DH doesn't feed them enough. Of course, my sheep would tell that to any and all who even get close enough to hear them, but that's another story. :)

After I gave out treats and hay, I was getting ready to close the feed room door when I heard a high-pitched "Eek, eek, eek!" I look down at the mousetrap we usually keep set and sure enough, there was a young mouse with its leg caught in the trap. I didn't have my reaching device my DH got me after surgery so I could pick up things off the floor, so I kept my back straight and reached down to pick up the trap. (See, Family...I'm trying to be good!) I thought I would kindly "whack" the mouse to put it out of its misery but as I tried to do this gracefully, the mouse came loose and dropped from the trap in my hand to the ground below.

Little did I know that the Queen of the Barnyard herself, Nosey Josey, was right by my side watching...and waiting for just the right time. No sooner had the mouse hit the ground than Josey grabbed it and started "whacking" it herself! This drew the attention of the other hens and all came running to see what Josey had gotten, and they didn't have.

Well, Josey took off - 'round and 'round the barnyard she went, clutching the mouse tightly while trying to escape the others and keep this treasure to herself. The others, having the pea-sized brains and short attention span that chickens do, stopped dead in their tracks when they discovered uneaten scratch-seeds they had leftover from this morning. Unbelievably, they started eating the scratch grains while Josey ran past me to a safe place in the barnyard.

Incredibly, Josey had killed the mouse and now laid it on the ground in front of her. Then - I kid you not! - she took the mouse by the head and swallowed it whole, just like a snake. I was astounded at this sight. No, it's not that I'm squeamish at all and I have seen my flock of chickens share baby birds that have fallen out of the nest, bugs of all sorts, and even small snakes. But I had never seen a chicken eat a mouse, whole, head-first, tail and all. All I could think of, saying it to myself, was "Eew!"
I must remind myself to always carry my cellphone to the barn from now on...if I ever fall I know, from what I saw today, I'll be done for sure! There will only be pieces of me left after the chickens get through with my poor body.

But then again...maybe I should let the chickens in the feed room more often and do away with the traps. (?)

Shhhh...don't tell Bran Josey stole one of his mice...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Surprise to Warm My Heart!

Thursday afternoon, when making my way to our mailbox, I spied something on our steps. It was a small-ish package. Normally, our regular mailman places packages on our steps if he knows I'm home and the weather is good. It saves him from carrying packages down to our door - above and beyond for a rural route delivery although lately he has been carrying the larger boxes to the door, knowing I can't lift them.
I could not even imagine what I was in store for! The box was from a fellow Shetland sheep breeder who lives in Upstate New York. Yes, folks...New York has much more to offer than just "New York"...but I digress, for now. I opened the package and in it was a half-pint jar of Melanie's home made strawberry jam (from New York strawberries) and a pint of Melanie's farm/home made New York State Maple Syrup made from her very own Sugar Maple trees! Along with the two yummy-I-may-not-share-with-anyone treats was the nicest Get Well card from herself. She'll never know just how much she made my day!

You see, I was made (born) in Upstate New York. ;) And, I went to one of the State University of New York's upstate campuses for my degree as well. So...really good things come from Upstate New York! :) And I have really enjoyed reading Melanie's blog because I know of what she speaks...not only about common trials and tribulations of living the country life, but when she describes areas she's been to, I actually know where they are! This makes reading her entries even more enjoyable - much like I love to read my daughter's blog about her escapades in New Zealand as I actually know where things are whe she describes them. Thank you, Melanie...from the bottom of another Upstate person's heart! You have given me a real treat!

And that brings to mind all of the other Shetland sheep breeder/friends I have made...these people are some of the nicest, caring people I have ever met or chatted with. They may not know you very well, or very personally, but have your barn burn down with all your hay, or have surgery that lays you up for months and these people are there for you! Just like family. In fact, I am a very big believer that your "family" is really the people you surround yourself with. And between my family (both closely related and added branches to our "Tree"), and my very dear friends both close by and far away, and the new friends I have made over the past few years of raising Shetland sheep, plus others I have made friends with through common ground, I consider myself very fortunate. Very fortunate indeed.

While I was in the hospital, it was the Shetland Sheep-people who broke the hospital's record for the number of get-well wishes sent to one person in one stay at the hospital. When the volunteer who had been bringing all the wishes up to my room told me that I just smiled. And friends who sent flowers and cards and called have made this recovery easier for me than it could have been.

So, I wish to say thank you both to Melanie, and to ALL of you...my dear Friends & Family. It's because of your support that I am 3 months ahead of "normal" in my recovery. I couldn't have done it without all of you!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rainbows

Here are a couple of pictures of the beautiful rainbows we had the day before yesterday. You can just make out in this first picture that I was treated to a double rainbow! Actually, we often get double ones here. Our Monsoons have started and with the tremendous thunderstorms that move through this area rapidly, we get many opportunities to have this phenomenon occur. Some are much brighter than others, depending on the light intensity and time of day.The camera really didn't capture just how colorful this rainbow was. And this was the first rainbow(s) of this season. I hope to see many more before the rains end.

Also, we got 2 inches of rain yesterday! Very slowly, our creek is coming back to life as the water filters down from the mountain into the marshy area that makes up the field behind our pasture.

How wonderful it was to lie in bed last night and hear the rain softly pattering on the roof. And the grass no longer crunches beneath my feet, but now bends and recovers with the new-found moisture from the earth.
I realize that the smell of rain is really the smell of life returning to the world around me. The red dragonfly I saw hovering over the newly filled pond told me so...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Making Progress On All Fronts

I will try to have my DH transfer the photos from his camera and computer over to mine of the absolutely beautiful rainbows we've had here lately! Today was the first day we actually got some Monsoon rain - about 30 minutes of it! Yay! Our creek has completely dried up and now has cracks that I can only assume lead to China as they look so very deep.

The sheep love having the creek bed dry. It has become a runway for them to play in - zooming up and down the dry bed as fast as they can, ducking under the bridge as they go. While it's really great to see them having so much fun, I really hope by next week it will have some water in it again. I can hear them now, "Curses! Foiled again!"! :) Ah, well...c'est la vie, Sheep.

We are now at over a week after weaning and separating the male lambs from their mothers. Blessa was kept with the other girls as I noticed Lacey was already weaning her off by kicking her away when Blessa tried to nurse. The wailing and whining has just about stopped as the boys have found other things in life to occupy themselves with...mainly doing "boy" things like chasing each other and knocking heads together.

I have been making daily trips to the barn to check water for everyone. I go slowly and have promised not to let the sheep bowl me over, although they did all remember me and knew exactly which pocket to check for the cookie supply. I must say I've missed doing shepherd-chores. I'm sure my DH would love for me to take over, but I can't...yet.

Which brings me to an update Apres Surgery...things are going fine. I had my first appointment with the surgeon complete with x-rays showing four inch and a half screws on either side of my spine with a cage-sort-of-thing through which bone will grow, fusing the two vertebrae together. Most of my pain is either gone or manageable with pain meds. And next week I start Physical Therapy. So we're "Systems Go" and thoughts are that in three months everything will be back to "normal", whatever that may be.


I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to sit in the pasture with the sheep again, passing out the occassional cookie while I'm there. Hang on guys...just a little while longer...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thank You, Franna!

I found a wonderfully delightful surprise in today's mail. There was an envelope from a fellow Shetland breeder friend of mine, Franna ! There was a nice Get Well card along with a really cute "sheepy" book titled, "Sheep Thrills". Franna, thank you so very much for thinking of me! I enjoyed both the card and the little book - which was quite a hoot (and very true in its sheepy-wisdom. And most of all thank you for thinking of me. :)
Franna and I are both interested in using our sheeps' milk for making cheese. My surgery squashed that idea for me this summer, but Franna has been milking her sheep and making things like yogurt and cheese with it as well as the odd bowl of cereal with sheeps' milk on it. Way to go, Franna! And I am paying attention to what she's been going through with the trial and tribulations of milking her sheep so I might avoid the same pitfalls next season. I've just got to find some of the shepps' milk cheese recipes I have and share them with her.

And, someone else asked me what I've been reading lately since I've had so much time on my hands. Right now I am reading a book sent to me by my daughter in New Zealand about the history of sheep in New Zealand. It's very interesting!The other books in this picture are next..."The Dogs of Bedlam Farm" and "Cotton", which is a history of the cotton fiber. I also have a book sent to me by my friend, Tina, called "Scarlet Feather" by Maeve Binchy, which I may read after I'm through with the NZ sheep book. (And thanks again, Tina!)

I am still in the s-l-o-w area of my recuperation...mainly this means sitting and reading, or walking, leaving the work about the place to my DH to do. Next Tuesday I get x-rays and have an appointment with the surgeon to track my progress. I'm hoping I will be allowed to do more, but will follow his instructions as I wouldn't want this to drag out longer than it should. Yes, I'm being good. ;)

One thing about this time of year is that I have been hearing about all the great gardens friends have so I thought I might share a recipe I have for those who have one too many zucchini and don't know what to do with them. It came to me from my dear friend, Kathleen. We met while we were both living in Germany and we've kept in touch ever since. She and her husband now live in Oregon so we hope to get to see them when we head that way on a trip someday.


Vegetarian Pie

2 - Tomatoes
2 - Small Zucchini
1 Small Onion
1 or 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced or crushed
2 Eggs
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 teas Basil
1/8 teas Oregano
1/4 teas Tabasco
1/2 Tbsp Minced Parsley
1 Tbsp Honey
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated
1 - 9 inch Unbaked Pie Crust

Slice tomatoes, slice zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, mince the onion and garlic, beat the eggs.

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft and clear. Add the zucchini and simmer/saute until tender. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, Tabasco, parsley, & honey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a few minutes, then remove from heat.

Spoon the vegetable mixture into the pie shell. Briefly saute the sliced tomatoes in the same pan until they soften, then arrange cooked sliced tomatoes decoratively on top of zucchini mixture. Pour the beaten egg mixture over the vegetables (I sometimes add cream or milk to the eggs when I beat them), and sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until set and browned. We serve warm slices of this with sour cream and salsa on top. Yummy!

Enjoy! And Esse Gut!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bidin' My Time...and Trying to be Good

I still have a week to go before I see the surgeon for my first post-surgery appointment. But I have found that time is really going very s-l-o-w-l-y when you're not allowed to do much. Oh, don't get me wrong...I've loved catching up on my reading, but I haven't been allowed to bend, or pick up anything. You never really realize just how much you do bend or twist your spine until you're told not to. My DH has been a gem doing everything I can't and also helping me to remember things like not to bend over to pet a cat. He's OK, but it's driving me nuts! (Which he says is a short way to go - yuck, yuck)

I haven't been able to spin, or do laundry, or reach down to give one of the wee beasties a pet, let alone do anything with the sheep. I know this will pass. I know if I'm good now, I will be able to do these things soon. It's just when you're anxious to get moving and can't it's very frustrating. But I have given my word to the Dr., my DH and family, and all of my friends that I will NOT over-do and will do as I'm told...for now.

One thing I do accomplish is walk. That is the most important thing to do with this sort of spin surgery...walk. Now that it's been very warm and the Monsoons are starting to form, I have taken to walking about a mile to a mile and a half each morning. And it's been lovely! I can walk without any pain other than normal post-surgery pain/discomfort - no feelings as if someone were driving an iron spike up my spine with each step as before the surgery. It's wonderful! I can't imagine why I put it off for so long. But I have only been allowed to walk on the more level areas around our place making my routes somewhat limiting. I'm hoping that after next week I will have healed enough to start on some of the hill-ish trails instead of the roadsides where I now travel. Even from the shoulders of the road I've been treated to all sorts of birds and flora of this area. The roadside was absolutely alive with finches this morning - all singing merrily before the hot part of the day sets in.

I have really missed the sheep. With my DH back to work this week after taking some time off to help me recover, I do get to walk down to the barn at lunchtime to make sure everyone has fresh water. (And no, I do not carry or pull a hose around - we have it set where I can just turn on the faucet and fill the water-tank.) But I have to watch myself that the sheep don't bowl me over in the process. I can just hear them saying, "Oh, there you are! We've been wondering what happened to you. Please come back as The Man doesn't feed us as much as you do." I mention to Amanda that she will be totally svelte by the time I can take over again and won't it be nice for her to be that slim again. She just says "Humpf!" and walks off. Silly sheep.

I think the one who has had a harder time with my recovery than me is my buddy, Shadow. After the first night home from the hospital and trying to get pillows adjusted between and around my legs, plus turning over "log-roll" fashion to protect the back, I found that I could not cope with cats trying to lay all over me too. So, the cats were banished from the bedroom via the gate closing them out. The one most affected by this has been Shadow. He always, as in every night, would walk up towards my face and curl up in the crook of my arm to sleep. And every night he tries to slip past my DH to get up to that spot and settle in before he's noticed and removed. The other night he made it...Ralph had left the gate open just a wee bit too long and whoosh!...Shad was next to me before we could bat an eye. Ralph let him stay with me until he was finished with his shower, then the poor cat was unceremoniously booted out of the bedroom. He spent a good deal of the night sleeping on the other side of the gate, calling to me softly every once and a while letting me know he really wanted to be next to me.



I'm sorry, Shadow...soon, Buddy, soon...I miss you, too!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Not Quite Back in the Saddle...but Getting There!

Yes! It's me! :) I finally have it together enough to attempt a post.

First off, I wish to say a big "Thank You" to my daughter and my husband for posting to the blog to let everyone know what was going on. They have been so supportive! I don't know what I've done right to deserve such a nice family. Even our wonderful NZ Branch of the family tree was of great support just by calling to see how I was and how things were going. What a great family!

And to YOU...all my friends...the greetings and the cards and flowers have been wonderful. You will never know how touched I am at the out-pouring of care and support I have received from all of you.
While I was in the hospital, one of the volunteers who delivers flowers, the computer greetings, cards, gifts, etc. said to me that "we" had set a new record for the hospital! At no other time had any one patient received so many "Get Well Wishes" via their computer site. :) WooHoo! I just calmly mentioned that they just weren't used to Shetland sheep people - some of the most "wonderfulest" people around...along with family, etc. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

The surgery went very well, although the hospital stay could have been much better. I was so glad to get home last Friday - to my own bed, way-better food, and no one waking me up every two hours for something like vitals, or take these pills, etc. That's a whole other story. I have come to the conclusion that I just can see how anyone gets well in a hospital. ;) It did end up that the disc was so damaged that the neurosurgeon did have to remove it. Before the surgery, he mentioned that if it could be saved it would be. Ah, well...se la vie! Everything else went as he had planned.

And yes, the horrid pain down the backs of my legs and in the lower back is, in a word, gone! I do have pain from the procedure but that diminishes a bit each day so I can actually visualize becoming "normal" (whatever that is) down the road. The major pain that came with the surgery came from feeling like my legs had been used in some sort of "Pull the Turkey Wishbone" game like we do at Thanksgiving. It feels as if someone grabbed one leg, someone else the other leg...then there was a contest to see who could win. The pain and the muscle aches reminded me of an extreme case of muscle soreness as you would get from not having ridden a horse for years, then ridden one for 24 hours straight. Thank Heavens for medications is all I can say. ;)

I know my DH can hardly wait for me to be able to get back working with our little sheep again. It will be a very long time before I will be allowed to lift anything greater than 10 lbs., so he'll have to be on the job for a while still. He's learning how to be a shepherd the hard way: The Total Immersion Method of Sheepkeeping! :) Over breakfast this morning he told me that they won't come hear him yet - that they run as a herd around him when he's down there. I told him it's just because they are not used to him and soon, with the aid of cookies, they will come to trust him as they do me.

As I watched out the window yesterday at my wonderful husband leading Skittles back into the fold area, luring him with bits of cookies, I thought to myself....

I am so very grateful for these wonderful little sheep. I don't think I would have ever been able to go through all of this with "normal" sized sheep. :) And I am even more grateful for this wonderful man I married over 30 years ago and a caring daughter, too.
(And the wonderful friends I have as well!) ...I am truly blessed!