Thursday, January 31, 2008

People Say The Nicest Things...

I was wonderfully surprised by Leigh for nominating me for this blogger award! I feel very humbled to have someone, whose blog I enjoy reading as well as learn a lot from, chose STF for this! Thank you, Leigh! From the bottom of my heart.
As Leigh herself states in her blog:
"Awards...are encouraging. Plus, they always include a number of links to new blogs that are interesting, informative, and inspirational to read. The "You Make My Day Award" is exactly that. Awarded to blogs that give "inspiration and happiness" it is encouraging to receive, and easy to pass on."

It's so nice to see things like this come along. Oh, not the getting it necessarily, but acknowledgement of something positive, for once. We all have our pluses and minuses in life, but something that focuses on the positive is always a welcomed thing. At least it should be. I know there are "Pay It Forward" memes going around the blog-world now, but shouldn't we do nice things for people "just because"? One of the things I enjoy most in life is doing something nice, kind, etc. for someone else. Even for someone I have never met.
We all use our blogs to vent, blow off steam, etc. (well, you get the idea)... Now, at the mid-life fifty-plus something age I try to choose not to voice the negative, if at all possible. That doesn't mean I don't have anything negative in my life. What it means is I try to concentrate on what the positives are. Willingly. So does Leigh. I know I've gotten to the point in my life where I know somethings aren't worth the effort. What's that saying? "Life is too short to drink bad wine."

So, thank you, Leigh, for your vote of confidence in me. I shall try to live up to it without getting into too much trouble. :)

As part of this it is requested that I pass on blogs I feel are positive or inspiring. This is hard as I don't spend great amounts of time each day reading blogs on the computer. There are many good reads in BlogWorld. These are some of my favorites I would like to pass this award on to:

- A Blip On The Radar (Tina's blog - even if you check it out only on a Tuesday when Tina lists Three Beautiful Things.)
- A Shepherd's Voice (Nancy Krohn's photos are beautiful!)
- Shepherd Chik's Musings (Becca's great posts are informative and the occassional cartoon is great for lifting spirits up!)
- Musings from Fairlight Farm (Tammy's astute observations about her sheep and animals are heartwarming)
- Our Wee Farm (Melanie's musings from Upstate NY where great Maple Syrup grows on trees!)
- Boulderneigh (Michelle's accounts of her animals and family)
- Creative Pop-Offs (The "other person" of the same name and probable cousin by marriage!...let's hope our families can keep the two of us straight!)
- Stonehaven Farm Blog (Lois' account of her mountain farm and all their creatures they share it with - including working draft horses!)
Last but not in the least:
-SteamedPuddings (My daughter's blog! Need a mother say more? She takes beautiful photos when she's in the artistic mood as well as accounts of her life as PhD candidate in New Zealand. You go, Girl!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Can You Say "Brrr..."?

I thought I would post a few pictures to illustrate why I haven't been spending too much time outdoors lately. The storms that hit California yesterday are pelting us today. I took these pictures during a lull in the activity this morning. Above is a photo of the field behind our property starting to flood. We got snow and a mix of snow and freezing rain during most of the weekend. The air temperatures were warmish, in the 34 F range, but all of this fell on 12 inches of compacted old snow and a layer of ice.
This is the stream beginning to make its way through our pasture. I had noticed a big, black "dot" out in the field beyond this morning. On closer scrutiny it was clear it was a Bald Eagle. He was sitting out on the ice, hunkered down against the weather. When I first saw one do this I thought it to be ill, but AZ Game & Fish assured me that they just do this during bad weather at times. If it had been me, I would have found some refuge in a tree or canyon nearby, not out in the middle of it all.

And the snow blew in sideways sticking itself to everything. The one bad thing is that we discovered we have an ice dam on the north side of our roof between the office and our bedroom. We've had some leakage inside the house because of it. The past few storms have just been too much for our comfy house to handle, but we won't be able to determine what's really in need of repair until we get warm weather and snow melt. Our house is well insulated so this may take a while. Plus, neither of us is inclined to venture out on the steepest part of the roof two stories off the ground. This is a time when common sense dictates actions.

And below is the weather vane. Standing steadfast in the wind ready for the next barrage of weather coming up the draw. I guess you can tell that a spinner lives here, can't you? ;-)

It's almost time to button the sheep up in the barn and make sure everyone has nice, dry feed for the night. Even Skittles relented and went inside last evening. Usually he stays out in all weather, guarding his tire-toy. Maybe he is smarter than he acts...

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Keep the Gold...

Remember the old kid's song: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is Silver and the other, Gold"? I have a dear friend named Nancy whom I have known since before kindergarten. We lived next door to each other in Fort Wayne, first when my parents rented the house on Curdes, then later on when they bought said house. (We had lived in another part of town in between)
Nancy's father used to pull my teeth for me whenever I had a loose baby tooth. He would hang over the fence and tie a special knot around the tooth, then just gently pull. Out would pop the tooth, not hurting one bit. I was amazed.
We spent our time playing different games or coloring in books. Nancy would be using bright colors all over the page, while I would be there coloring inside the lines using colors that were "supposed" to be used. A foretelling of my Type A personality and penchant for facts, leaving creativity behind. Had I only known how much more beautiful life would be had I tried coloring outside the lines once and a while.
Through the years our families would meet up at times. We moved every few years and Nancy's family would be on "vacation", whatever that was. We had a ball seeing each other. And for many years we wrote each other, keeping up with the changes in our lives.
Somehow, about the time we both went to college, we lost touch...each of us going our own ways in life. I often thought about my friend and wondered where she was, what she was doing. It wasn't until the bloom of the Internet and computers that we were able to re-connect...after about 30 years of wondering.
Nancy is still creative. She does embroidery as a business, from her home. When I turned 50, there arrived a box with an embroidered apron announcing "Nifty, Nifty, Look Who's Fifty!" (Needless to say, Nancy...I wear that one in private...) I shouldn't have been too surprised when I found a box rubber banded to my mailbox one day shortly after New Year's. Inside was a tote Nancy had done for me.
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I encourage you to "click" on the photo to view a bigger version of the front of the tote. I can never say "Thank Ewe!" enough for taking both the time and a piece of herself to make this for me.

- I shall carry it with pride and remember that someone special still cares about me after all these years. She is Solid Gold...and a much better friend than I am... -

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shetland Shepherds...

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Another Shetland shepherd, a friend, lost one of her sheep this week. I stopped in to check her blog this evening to catch up on what had been going on with her. I have been fighting an infection and hadn't been up to sitting at the computer much as the medications I had been on had terrible side effects.

There, reading her blog, I found a beautiful tribute to a ewe that had served my friend well. By the time I finished reading, tears were falling from my face to the keyboard. The entry was a gracious account of the relationship these two had together. Not real close as a favored dog might be, but you could tell of the love and respect my friend has for this ewe who was 15 years old at her passing.

Shetland shepherds are different than most other sheep people I've known in my life. Most other people view sheep as a commodity to buy, to trade. Others I've known aren't really callous, by any means, towards their sheep, but they don't hold their animals in as high a regard as Shetland sheep people hold their sheep. There's something special about both these little, tough, intelligent sheep and the people who shepherd them. Most - and I've noticed even Shetland shepherds with very large flocks who don't necessarily have time with each sheep, each day - come to view these creatures more towards, for lack of a better word, "friends" rather than "livestock". More than one of them will make time to slow down and sit among their charges. It's not unheard of to have a sheep lie down next to its shepherd, even putting its head in the shepherd's lap. There's a bond there that goes beyond investment, wool, lambs, markets, feed rations. The bond is from heart to heart, soul to soul. Kindred spirits, I have come to believe.

My friend's ewe had loved apples. She knew when the old girl would not touch the favored treat that the end was near, so she made her as comfortable as possible in a warm, quiet place with plenty of bedding to comfort the gentle old one. By morning, the ewe had passed on to run in lush green pastures by cool brooks of sparkling water.

Tomorrow, I will take my sheep apples to honor both the memory of the old ewe, and my friend. And I will tell them of their bond and respect they had for each we cherish our own...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Benefit Auction #2

Our past floods here at Sheep Thrills Farm pale in comparison to the devastation left by the flooding in Washington State endured by the Gregory Family of Black Sheep Creamery. I can't imagine losing almost everything you have, especially most of a flock of sheep upon whom you depend for a living.

I would like to urge you, Dear Visitor, to go to the website WashingtonWool dot com and bid on one of the beautiful items donated by fiber enthusiasts and (Shetland) shepherd alike to raise money to help one of their own get back on their feet. As we all found out when Katrina hit New Orleans, flooding is not usually covered by insurance companies. And these people were not aware that their 100+ year old farm, which had never had any flooding occur in its history, would have a river rise so fast as to barely have time to get out of the house themselves.

The last auction raised $4,000.00 for Black Sheep Creamery. Let's make this one even better!
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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Yes, Sir, Yes, Sir...SIX Bags Full!

Above you see the six bags of fleece I sent off to be processed into rovings, ready for spinning! Yay! They arrived! I sent the fleeces off just before my back surgery last year. And I was delighted to see the return of the fleece in ready-to-spin form not only for me, but for a few people who have been patiently waiting for roving from my flock. Hooray! From top left, going clock-wise, we have: Amanda, Colin, Skittles, Lacey, Ailee and finally, Loretta.

For the past couple of days, I have been rolling the rovings into smaller balls making it easier for me to handle, store and meter out to customers. I was generally pleased with the rovings. Rolling them into the balls also gave me the opportunity to assess each sheep's fleece, making notes on each to enter into my flock records. Three of the fleeces were from lambs: Ailee, Colin and Loretta. Lambs' fleeces are the softest fleece you can get off a sheep. They really aren't great examples of what the sheep's fleece will be like as an adult. You really have to wait until the second shearing to get the true characteristic of each individual fleece. But lamb's fleece is so very soft and rolling the three lamb fleeces felt like rolling soft butter. They were truly delicious!

One of the things I noted was whether or not each fleece had vegetable material in it or if it was fairly clean of bits of hay, seeds, etc. (See the previous post picture for an example of the debris sheep can have in a fleece) Some "vegetable matter, or vm", as it's called, is easily removed and most was picked out by me before I sent the fleeces in for processing. Some is terrible to deal with and it seems no matter how well you pick a fleece over before you send it off, there's always a few bits you miss. One thing I did notice in the fleeces of the adult sheep was that I had very small bits of vegetable matter from plants that are not native to my area. Remember, these were fleeces worn by the sheep since 2005, when I bought them. From Lacey and Amanda, I found some seed matter from the Pacific NW area, where they came from. And from Skittles' fleece, I saw just a few examples of a few seeds from Minnesota. As well as you pick over a fleece and the processing also eliminates most of the vm, there are a few bits that can still cling to the wool fibers. I have always been careful to dispose of any seed matter in the woodburning stove. I don't want to introduce any seeds of plants that might be considered weeds here in Arizona. My Master Gardner friends would drum me out of the group should I let loose some "noxious weed" in my area. LOL!

I had been rolling the rovings while watching a movie on TV. As I was working the phone rang. When I came back to my work, I found one of my "helpers", Pixel, had taken advantage of my absence to avail herself of a nice, soft, warm place to curl up in. I didn't have the heart to move her.

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Oh, well...I needed a coffee break anyway, didn't I Pixel?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hay Magnets? What's A Hay Magnet, Mom?

Before we had the big snow this past weekend, I had tried out the new camera a bit. Here are this year three little boys, aka "The Do-Da Brothers" during their breakfast time. I shudder every time I give them something to eat as they feel they must wear said meal on or about themselves, then be cleaned off of the offending tasty bits by a sibling later in the morning. I can only imagine these bits of hay are being saved as a snack for later in the morning.

It's not just the boys, either. I've noticed this tendency in other groups. The funny thing is that by the time I go out to feed in the evening, all these bits of dried green vegetable matter have disappeared. Gone. Totally gone. Then I get the big doe-eyed look from everyone as if I never feed them and they are starving.

I guess it's a good thing I don't listen to them pleading....They lie, they lie. :)
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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Just Hangin' Around...

I was taking some photos with the camera I received for Christmas and thought I would take a photo of skeins of yarn I had finished that were just hanging from a rod, minding their own business. The coin you see is a dime. The yarns are what I normally spin, a finer two-ply yarn. (You can "click" on the photo to see an enlarged representation.)

The yarn to the left is a New Zealand Romney, but the rest are Shetland yarns. Right now I am awaiting delivery of the processed fleeces our sheep generously gave us this past spring. I sent them off to be scoured (washed) and carded into what's called a roving. Each sheep's fleece was done separately so I should be able to assess each fleece for merits and faults. At least that's what I'm hoping for. I will only know when I get the box as to what I'll be able to do with each - and what type of yarn I will make from them. Some sheep's wool says "hat" and others might say "lace shawl" or "soft blanket". I won't know until they "speak" to me.
Some spinners spin fibers for a specific project, and others spin what they feel like spinning. I do both. Right now I'm working towards having a big enough stash to set the loom up for a couple of projects I have in mind.

So, you see...even though I may not be posting every may be that I am doing something else, Dear Reader. I'm not forgetting to post, I'm just enjoying doing something else once and a while. Especially on these snowy days...even housework is set aside in favor of a good book, or some time at a spinning wheel.

Instead of Carpe Diem, it should be Carpe Wool! *

*In "real" Latin, Carpe Diem would translate into "harvest the day", but it's become a popular translation to say "seize the day"...just a note from a four-year Latin student. :)

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Resolutions? Pass.

I never make resolutions. There is something too permanent about making a "resolution" each New Years and if there is one thing I have learned these many years, it's not to be too definitive about anything.

Oh, I don't mean this in the way of being unable to make a decision about something, but rather I've learned never to say "Never." or never presume to have anything written in stone. The Universe, God, The Force, The Great Spirit, Karma...all have a way of letting things come back and take a big chunk out of behinds when firm statements are made. When this happens to me I can hear the Universe laughing.

I remember saying I would never have sheep again. (Hear all that laughing in the background?) I find myself thinking why didn't I get sheep sooner than I did? And that's just one example of how making decisions and resolutions has a way of coming back to you...usually when you least expect it. So, instead of "resolutions" I make "goals". Goals that I can set for myself much in the way a goal for the farm would be made. I aim for the goals. Resolutions are better kept for governments being formed as in our Declaration of Independence. I'll settle for the more realistic venue of a few goals to aim for this next year. And it really doesn't matter what the goals are, but the fact that they all mainly deal with trying to be a better person. To do right and act accordingly.

So, pardon me if I don't list a bunch of "resolutions" here, Dear Reader. If there's one thing I've learned in life it's that Life changes. And you need to be flexible to be able to bend with those changes. Otherwise, you can get broken.

Remember, the only constant in life is change.
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