Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Reading Stack

A while ago, my cyber-friend, Sharon, of Sage Creek Farm, had an entry on her "In Stitches" blog about the number of books in her "pile" waiting to be read. I told her that I had one as well and thought it would be fun to share what is in the stack waiting for me to sit still long enough (without drifting off or "resting" my eyes) to enjoy them.
The top two books have gone back to their owner, Lois Moore, of Stonehaven Farm, who left them in my care last month. Lois makes her way through Flagstaff about once a month on her way to Tuba City to service the hospital there as part of their radiology team. While the traveling is rough on her and her hubby, Brook, I have the pleasure of talking sheep, watching her knit, and sharing good food each time she heads this way.

Sharon has retired recently and is a fellow spinner/weaver/fiber person. She and her husband, Ian, have a few Shetland sheep as well. As we are in the same age group, we've found we have a lot in common, especially a fondness for good books. Well,'s the stack. I did not include all the periodicals like Spin-Off, Handwoven, Black Sheep Newsletter, etc. It's a good thing too, as I'm sure the stack would have been way too tall.

Right now I'm finishing up Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.

OK...What's in YOUR stack to read?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Things have been perking right along here. We finally got the tree decorated! Usually, we put the tree up for a few days before we decorate it so the cats can get their ya-yas out. There's always a battle to see who reigns supreme for the choice spot under the tree. This was also the first Christmas we had a tree since acquiring Daisy May and her boys, Mooch and Rascal. I don't know how long the tree will stay soon as I finished they were all over it batting at the ornaments and tasting the tinsel.
Of course, what would a shepherdess' tree be without a few "fiber" ornaments? A wheel, drop spindle, shuttle and niddy-noddy along with a few sheep ornaments.

You can catch a glimpse of one of the cats under the tree. This is always the "primo spot" for any cat once the tree goes up. Must be the wool tree-skirt.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree. This glass ornament was one of my mother's.
May all of you have a wonder-filled Holiday Season - from all of us at Sheep Thrills Farm!

Friday, December 18, 2009

News Flash!

Originally uploaded by kelly42
We interrupt this "Sheepy Business" to bring you very exciting news from New Zealand...

Yesterday, our granddaughter, Gwen, walked! By herself! She will be turning one year old next week. She is every bit her mother's daughter (and father's, too) being as precocious as Kelly was. Little do K & R know, but their world is going to get a lot busier as well as those eyes in the back of the head need to be up and running now.

We grandparents are simply over the moon at this new development! Go Gwen!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

And Then It Snowed

Yes, in-deedy-do...we got snow. I know both The Weather Channel and the US Weather Service put out statements that Flagstaff received 24 inches of snow in this storm, but here at Oleo Acres (one of the West's cheaper spreads), we got 30 inches of snow. And it came in sideways.
Now, I have to say that because we live closer to the Mogollon Rim (pronounced Mug-gee-yone) we usually do receive more snow than the other areas around Flagstaff. This can be a good thing in spring and summer when you really need some moisture for your garden and trees, but it tends to bite one in the bee-hind come winter. After living in this area for over 20 years I have come to the conclusion that "it ain't for wimps", as one old-timer put it.
Arizona is beautiful in very many ways, but can also turn very deadly on you if you don't prepare yourself. This storm came at the height of elk hunting season. It didn't even dawn on us until after the storm moved on and the first reports started coming in to the Sheriff's Office and Search and Rescue...hunters got caught stuck, out in the forest and cut off from any hope of getting out the way they got in. One poor hunter from the Phoenix area, up with a buddy hunting, was killed when a Ponderosa pine snapped in half and fell on their tent, killing him instantly. It missed the other guy completely. Other hunters who could make phone calls on their cells were escorted out of the forest by Search and Rescue or by helicopter.
That said, and the wondering of why they were out in the woods when they knew a storm was coming (Darwinian to my mind), the aftermath is very beautiful. Here's a few pictures from around the place, but I have to say I cheated. I took the photos from the windows, warm inside the house while doing so. It was -10 F when I took the photos.

Over the barn roof to the road beyond.

Looking toward the barn from the sunroom.

The bridge in the pasture going over the stream. This stream is a very rare thing in Arizona. We're very lucky to have it as the grasses along it are green for three seasons.

The beginnings of the dreaded "Killer Icicles". Thoughts of the movie, "A Christmas Story" come to mind when I see these.

I will try to get some photos of the sheep to post in the next few days. It was too cold to even want to try to hold the camera today. Plus, the sheep would not leave the barn. Walk in that snow?? Who? Us? Nope. Not us. Go find some other sheep to get out in this snow.

...oh...and while you're at it, we'd appreciate your placing our feed trays in here. We'll leave the empty trays outside the door for you to carry away.
Just what I needed...sheep demanding Room Service and special delivery. Who do they think I am anyway...Pizza Hut?

Note: This morning, 11 Dec., you may have seen on Good Morning America, Gerry Blair from our Sheriff's Dept. stating that almost 50 hunters and hikers have been rescued from the forests in our area. Both my DH, who works with Gerry, and I both thought the same thing - how many have they NOT found...yet?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Raven's Gift

As most of you know, I have a friend - a feathered friend. A friend watching over me as I go about my shepherdess duties about the place. His name is Bran (pronounced "Brawn") after the Celtic god responsible for ferrying souls to the afterlife as well as being the trickster, along with Loki.
Bran became close to me early in 2005. I noticed him hanging around the barn on the winter mornings. Then one day, I realized he was scooping up the mice I trapped the night before in the barn after I threw them on top of the crusted snows. Not long after that I started placing the mice on a post, watching to see of the raven would take them. And take them he did...along with other offerings like the cracked eggs the hens had been careless with, or the odd leftover from the dinner the night before.
Out of these offerings came something else I never dreamed of. The more I watched him, the more he watched me. In the spring and summers Bran would hang around and actually "talk" to me. It finally dawned on me that he was repeating the same sounds over and over to me, then waiting. One day, I answered back, repeating the same tones as best I could. And so it began. I became a student as well as a friend and provider.
Over the past years we've become even closer. If I go get the mail, or garden in the summer, I can hear the voice of a raven I have come to know as well as picking his voice out from the other ravens in the area. When I have the time after barn chores, I will sit on the stoop of the feed room, watching and waiting, for my friend to show up. I usually don't have to wait long before he flies in taking roost on the fencepost or the barn roof.
Our friendship has been growing as we both have moved from mutual respect on to actually enjoying each others company. Or at least I think he likes my company. Two springs ago, Bran floored me with something I never would have thought of.
I had a ewe with a retained placenta after she delivered a very large, single ram lamb. Throughout the night I was to give her shots to encourage the placenta to pass. I was so tired when I was out to give her the last injection at 2:30 a.m. But as I headed from the barn to the back door of the house, I realized there was a "whooshing" noise just above my head. In the darkness of the night with the light from the back door reflecting off his black feathers, there was Bran, flying less than 10 ft. from my head, escorting me to the back door. As I got there I turned and said "Thank you for looking out for me, Bran. Have a good sleep. It's OK can go home." Off he went uttering an almost purring sound from his throat. It's amazing. Ravens don't fly at night but here he was, protecting me and seeing me home in the darkness.
Last week I had another amazing exchange with Bran. He was walking around in the barnyard amongst the sheep and chickens watching me go about my duties as well as making sure an offering was left for him on "his post". I had two cracked eggs that day. After placing them on the top of the post, I watched as he came and took one in his beak. He then flew over the property fence-line to the field behind us and ate the egg leisurely as I fed the sheep and put the chickens in for the evening. Soon, he was back for the second egg. As he sat on the fence, talking to me, and before he took the remaining egg, he stopped and looked at me. I guess he sensed I wasn't too much myself. I was coming down with a massive cold and really didn't feel like spending more time than I needed in the cold weather that day. I looked at him as he approached the remaining egg, then said, "OK, Bran. You get all these eggs and treats. Well, what's in it for me? What do I get?" He looked at me and off he flew, egg in mouth, towards the direction of the trees across the road.
The next morning was cold and windy. I was later than usual out to the barn as I just didn't want to deal with the wind in my face early in the morning. As I approached the barn I saw Bran walking in and out amongst the sheep chatting with them as he walked. He spied me coming and flew to one of the fenceposts, watching me approach with what I can only say looked like a huge grin on his face.

And there, on the top of the post where I place the mice, eggs and treats for him, was a bone. He looked at the bone, then looked at me. I knew what it was. This bone, this thing that was obviously dug up from somewhere due to the dirt on it, was a gift. A gift for me.
I took this treasure, this gift, making sure I thanked Bran profusely for thinking of me.

...and we humans think we're so smart. I, for one, know I have a very, very special friend. No bones about it. ;-)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

From all of us here at Sheep Thrills Farm, we wish you all a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!!!
And to all our troops serving in the military around the world, thank you for serving! In our eyes, you are heroes - each and every one of you!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

First, I Moved The Sheep... the far end of the pasture in two makeshift pens. I made sure the sheep would be safe, but also that they really couldn't see what was about to happen just on the other side of the barn.
Earlier this year our neighbor decided to sell her place to our county and the Parks & Rec Department. They were very interested in adding the land, which has part of the wetlands stream running through it, to the land they owned behind our houses. The large field has springs and is the last sheet wetlands in Arizona. Our neighbor, a divorcee my age, had bought the house from one of her children, using it to restart her life again. With the economy taking a downturn, she was feeling the pinch of how much her mortgage would eat up her paychecks...paychecks now shrinking with her hours being reduced to save money. The house needed a lot of repair and work - much more than she could do herself or afford to have someone else do for her.
Earlier this summer we were approached by Parks & Rec and our local fire department, Highlands Fire District, to let us know the house was scheduled to be burned (after other measures were done such as asbestos abatement, land was to be shaped behind the house into a retention berm for retaining any runoff from the fire so as not to contaminate the watershed). While the idea of having a house go up in flames right next door didn't set too well, both my DH and I know how important this training could be for our fire department. If they would be considerate of a few things we requested, sure...we were all for this being used as a training event for firemen.
"Why are we all way over here? And why are all those silly chickens running around like chickens with their heads cut off?"

Safety for the sheep, chickens, and our property was of utmost importance for me (and my DH). The last thing I wanted was my barn going up in flames with my winter's supply of hay and feed! I was assured things would be protected with firemen assigned to specifically watch our property to prevent any and all damage to our place. Well, OK...but...
I was informed that I shouldn't worry...or they would be replacing everything if something happened.
I moved the sheep and chickens anyway.
Above, the house with boarded up windows and most everything removed inside to just leave a shell of its former self. We got a tour in a briefing the day before the burn.
Signs of a fire started in the main floor bathroom. The firemen had training inside the house on dealing with a smoke-filled situation and how to find their way out of thick smoke before the main fire was started.
A bit more smoke with some ladder work.

The fire beginning in earnest. It was amazing that the actual fire took the house down in less than half an hour.

My DH, Ralph, on the roof of the barn taking video of the whole process. The smoke actually got thick enough to roust him from his loft to join the rest of we mere mortals on the ground. I got a thick blast of it when I was checking to make sure all the chickens were out of the barn. I found a few stragglers who would not leave the barn for anything. As the smoke was too bad to argue with them, I left them to either smarten-up or be chicken dinner. Their choice.

More smoke. I couldn't help but think of all the firemen as boys with infatuation with fire. Probably a leftover thought from watching both my brother keeping the campfires flaming when we were kids and my hubby doing the same thing during other family camping trips. Guys and fire.

The roof fully engulfed in fire now. The heat was intense, even upwind. This is the point where we had very thick smoke at the barn and Ralph had to abandon ship from the roof.

Totally engulfed in flames. The whole burn took less than half an hour from start to finish.

Cooling off the flames on the side of the house facing our barn. This is the point that was scary as debris, mostly just flakes of burnt carbon, were lifted into the air by the heat and flames of the fire. There were even firemen from the Fuels Reduction Team stationed in the pasture behind our places to make sure browned, dry grasses weren't set alight. That was my big concern....our grasses are so dry now it would have only taken one unseen spark for a field fire. Luckily, everyone was really on top of things. Professionals all!

All that's left of the house. The foundation and rubble will be removed by a contractor and the ground shaped and hydro seeded. It will blend in with the rest of the vegetation by next year.
Way back in the Dark Ages, when I did investigations for the US Army on Fort Hood, I did a few fire/arson investigations. That was back when there were no special fire investigators. What I saw and knew then came back to me as I stood there watching how fast this fire took this house. Although there were no furnishings inside the house, this illustrates just how fast a fire can take a structure - set or not. It is something to really respect.

And it showed how professional each and every firefighter was in handling this situation. We never really think of these professionals unless we have a need for them. They aren't seen everyday as police are when they are on patrol. Firefighters kind of get the short end of the stick when it comes to PR. This whole situation made me stop and realize just how much we count on these people...
...and how much respect they deserve.

...and we now have a new view out the sunroom windows! :)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

It's That Time Again

It's that time of year again. Or rather it's been that way for a while here. Time for turning the ram (or ram lamb in our case) in with the girls and let Nature take its course.
"What the heck is going on at the barn? And most importantly, why aren't we wethers invited?"
And here he is himself, Jehovah-Jireh's Loki. This youngster is the sire for next year's lamb crop - er, um...provided he figured out what he's supposed to actually do with the girls. I have seen him try to court the girls off and on, but not I haven't actually witnessed Loki and any of the ladies "in action", so to speak.
Loki is the result of AI breeding. (Artificial Insemination) His sire, Island Skeld, is quite a nice looking and very well-bred ram. All of Skeld's F1 lambs (the first offspring resulting from an AI breeding) are white, like Loki. But when I started looking at the F2 generation, I saw lots of spots and colors showing up. We may have white, or some very interesting colors this spring. As most shepherds will tell you, lambing is very much like Christmas can be very surprised at the outcome as well as excited in anticipation of what you might get.
Three of the girls in the Breeding Group: Loretta, Amanda, and Ailee.

Lacey must be gone walkabout or in the barn finishing up what everyone else left in the feed pans this morning. Lacey was the first ewe I placed in with Loki. I'll need to start watching her next month for signs of impending birth if she settled soon after they were penned together.
I'm not really used to having breeding spread out this way - a ewe every week until they were all in with the ram. Loki was supposed to come with another ram lamb his age, but for some reason that didn't happen. I needed to put him in with other sheep for company but the wethers would have really bashed him as he was so young and small at the time. Lacey is the sweetest ewe I have as well as the smallest so I decided she should be the first to meet Loki. She's both protected him as if he was her lamb and also become smitten with him as her paramour. She thinks I was looking at something else, but I saw her batting those big brown eyes at this little Hunk-O-Ram. ;-)
Lacey early last year after shearing.

So, c'mon guys and gals...I've missed having lambs around and I know you girls have too. Who knows what we'll get? I'm not sure, but I can hardly wait for spring and lambing. :)
...and we have a growing list of people wanting Sheep Thrills Farm sheep. Time to get to work, Loki!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Off On A Walk

Part of my DH's post-surgery rehab is to walk. The only caveat is that he is to walk on flat trails or in places such as the grocery store or the mall. We're lucky in that just a short way from Oleo Acres is a really nice place to get out in the fresh air, view the locals in their habitats, get some sun, and still keep to flat trails. It's called the Kachina Wetlands Project, completed a few years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers as a way to utilize reclaimed water. It's a beautiful area with great views of the San Francisco Peaks.
I thought you might like to come along:
A view of the Peaks. Mt. Humphrey's (the peak on the left) is the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 ft. We live at 7,000 ft. just south of the town of Flagstaff, at the base of the Peaks.
Our recent snow was melting fast on the south face of Humphrey's Peak. You can see the clusters of golden aspens gracing the slopes.
As we walked along, groups of Juncos flew out in front of us as if to lead the way. This one stayed long enough in the rushes for me to get a shot of him.
Looking northwards to Mt. Elden where all the TV, radio and various communication towers are set. The day before this, snow covered Elden as if someone had dusted it with powdered sugar. It used to be totally covered with pines and aspens but a huge forest fire claimed it. It is recovering, but slowly on this side. Many people hike the trail up Elden. You have to keep aware as well as keep your dogs on a leash as there are wild things watching you. It's not unusual to hear reports of mountain lion and bear watching hikers. Hikers must be yummy, eh?
The ducks you see on this pond usually stay throughout the year except for sessions of bad weather or complete freezes of the water in these ponds. There are large lakes nearby where waterfowl retreat until smaller ponds re-open at thaw. Part of the ponds were still frozen and unavailable to the ducks. They stuck to the open waters on this day.
I love seeing the cattails and rushes here. I may have to give using them in basket making a try. Try as I might, I can't seem to get the cattails established along the banks of our creek in the pasture. While our grasses get pretty tall and afford the waterfowl refuge, it would be nice to have a patch of cattails as well.
Another view across one of the ponds. You wouldn't know it, but there's a gated community just on the other side of the trees. (Our hoity-toity neighbors) Clearly the people who live in that community adhere to the "Good fences make good neighbors" policy. When that community, and its golf course, were built, many wildlife trails and habitats were destroyed in the process. We used to see way more fox, turkey, mule deer, elk, and bears and lions before they built. I still hear turkey when I'm down at the barn, but now it's the turkeys a neighbor down the road is raising, not the wary wild birds that used to come through.
And while we were walking we spied a flash from a dark colored animal we had flushed from its hiding place. At first we thought it was a fox, but it turned out to be a cat.
A very large cat! (This taken with my telephoto lens at quite a distance)

I'll try to take you along again, if you like. Our Flagstaff Urban Trail System has now connected up with the trails in the Kachina Wetlands. We know where they connect, but haven't explored there yet as some of the trails are a wee bit more rugged. Maybe next time.
Anybody want to come along? :-D

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween...

...from all of us at Sheep Thrills Farm. Pharaoh Ziggy commands it and we must obey!

"Look into my eyes. You are all getting sleepy. Very, very sleepy. What's that, Mom? Oh, OK. Ahem...You're getting very sheepy...sheepy..."
"Now can I get out of this hat, Mom?"
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy 60th Birthday to my Hubby!

I would like to wish my dear husband and "Other Half" a very, very Happy Birthday! Today, he turns 60.
Partying is very limited, however, as he is really having to take things slow after his recent surgery to repair a 10-inch incisional hernia where his spleen was removed earlier this year. He got to have the 32 staples (stitches) removed yesterday. WooHoo! We had planned on trying to take a trip during this recovery period but I don't think that may happen. It seems like appointments and schedules keep interfering. Traveling may have to wait until he's sleeping a bit better and not so sore.
I know that these blogs, or at least mine, tend to center around the author's life and viewpoints. But in reality, my husband is always there to lend a hand with the operation of my farming/livestock endeavors. Whether he agrees with what I do or not, he's still there to support me and my dreams - not an easy task in itself as I tend to be very independent and stubborn. (Who, me?) Ralph's the unsung hero here at Oleo Acres.

Here's to you, Hon...may the next 60 years be even better. A very Happy Birthday to you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Goodbye, Ole... a good boy and remember, you're a Sheep Thrills Farm sheep. Do your job and represent us, and the Shetland breed, well!
Ole as a yearling

Yes, Ole has found a new, wonderful home with Mayleen. Mayleen is a grad student at Northern Arizona University doing work in sustainable agriculture. She is researching local, small-scale agricultural producers to learn more about the challenges and rewards of their pursuits and has a particular interest in livestock issues as well as a love of Shetland sheep!
Mayleen moved to Flagstaff from Maine where, among other animals, she had a pet Shetland ram. She had come over to interview me about the sheep. As we stood at the barn, the sheep introducing themselves graciously, she spotted the pen where two black wethers paced the fence line looking longingly for some of the attention the others were receiving. I explained to Mayleen that Ole was up for sale but his brother was in the pen to keep him company. As she started giving Ole scratches and the beloved brisket-rubs, I could see Ole looking into her eyes. He had become a puddle of wool as she hit all those spots he couldn't reach to scratch. He was putty in her hands.
That evening I received an email thanking me for my time with the interview and...was Ole available still? She wanted to buy him. She really missed having a Shetland. It was fate. :)
Yes, I replied with another email. He's yours. So, last Friday, Mayleen and her daughter, Maia, came to pick him up. Mayleen doesn't have any other sheep (yet) but does have two horses sharing Ole's area. He's inside a pen, but the horses live right next to him and have their heads hanging over to visit with him all day long. She'll keep an eye on him to see if he develops any signs of depression, but so far he's been fine and settled right in. I suspect he's loving all the attention he's getting now...much more than I could have given him.
I drove over today to get a nice picture of Mayleen and Maia with Ole, but the wind was blowing so badly (as it does on the east side of Flagstaff) that the two of them got blasted in the face with cinder dust and dirt.
All dust aside, here are a couple of pictures of Mayleen and her new Sheep-BFF:

Looks like True Love to me. May you both have a very long, loving and wonder-filled relationsheep!
... Make us proud, Ole! We know you can do it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Pay The Ransom...

...I'm still here. It's just been a couple of crazy/odd/busy weeks around Oleo Acres. I have to admit that lately I haven't been on the computer much or when I have been "on", I haven't felt like being very creative.
This summer saw a couple of health problems pop up for both my Hired-Hand-With-Benefits and myself. My DH developed a HUGE incisional hernia requiring surgery which he underwent last Friday. Today he had an appointment with the surgeon to have the drain placed at the time of surgery removed. I remember thinking it was so much longer than I ever imagined as the surgeon snipped the stitches keeping it in place, then drew it out all the way. Eww! Unfortunately the stitches stay in until next week.
Now, my hubby has a GoreTex mesh patch (made here in Flagstaff) holding things together. Yes, it was that big. His original scar was about 8 inches long. Now it's about 10 inches long. Those of you who have seen the movie Total Recall might remember the character called "Quatto", a mutant being living in the stomach of a "host". We named the hernia Quatto.
Now Hizzoner has to strap on a "binder" to, in reality, hold things together and in place while his body knits tissue into this mesh. He calls it a girdle, but I've never seen any girdle look or act like this. Today the surgeon said Hizzoner could remove the binder for sleeping but if he needs to get up to go to the bathroom, to be sure to strap himself back in it. If it were me, I'd just wear it all the time. I hope he does. I don't think either one of us want to see him go through this again.

As for me, I was diagnosed in August with thyroid problems. the words "thyroid cancer" have been bantered about by a couple of doctors, but as things with the thyroid can be slow, I've had to wait and have occasional scans done to monitor the situation.
What I find strange, but logical, is that the function of the thyroid is totally different than this problem of fast growing, questionable nodule/growths'. You can have a beautifully functioning thyroid and still have masses and nodules in the tissue itself. Or, like me, you can have a thyroid that is waxing and waning, ready to give it up at the least suggestion along with other problems. At least I know why I've been having days where I have no energy what-so-ever.
I just wish my brain would stop thinking of all the things I want to do when my body just wants to make like a slug. For now I just have to wait for the next scan before decisions are made. One of the doctors said I would grow tired of waiting and just want it removed before something actually required surgery. At first I thought he was nuts for saying that. Now, I'm not so sure that he isn't spot-on.

And for those who have asked me, yes-in-deedy-do...Mr. Bran has returned! He came back about 10 days ago, with the Mrs., but no youngsters. Clearly the kids thought more of the summer place and decided to stay. But Bran is now on his regular routine, stopping by for an egg or a mouse from a trap, or the odd leftover hot dog.
Here's the proof:

I have to steps back to the house were a bit lighter after seeing my friend return. Summer just didn't seem the same without him watching over my comings and goings at the barn and in the garden. Thanks, Buddy.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Shadow Update

Thanks to all of you who were concerned about my BFF (best feline friend). Shadow is slowly getting a bit better. We still don't know what has caused all the sneezing. It could be allergies or a virus. Luckily, it has not progressed and there has been no temperature or sign of a fever. I have noticed that Shadow has been sleeping more than usual as well as enjoying the warmth of the woodburning stove in the evenings. Can't say as I blame him for that. Now that the temperatures are in the 20s F at night, those of us who are chronologically challenged here at Oleo Acres are moving a wee bit slower than we do in the summer.

All things considered, I think I'll take moving slower over hot summer anyday. Move over, cats...that wood fire does feel might good.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A V-E-T Visit for a Buddy

I thought I would get a quick post in while waiting for Dr. Bill to come to check out Shadow. Yesterday, Shadow spent a good deal of the day either sleeping or sneezing. A bit listless and "gurgle-y", I decided that having a good once-over by a v-e-t would be a good thing. I just don't need a respiratory infection spreading through our 7 cat household. Having two sniffling people here is bad enough.
Shadow is indeed just that, my shadow. As a kitten 14 or so years ago, he was delivered to the house next door, only to be abandoned when the renters moved out. No one wanted him, but he and I became great pals - and have remained so since he first came into the house. He didn't even hold my making him get a "Hoo-Ha-ectomy" against me. A true friend - to give up one's HooHas so you can be near someone. He's been glued to my hip ever since.
Shad is our official "Greeter". Liking most everyone, he loves meeting everyone who comes over, always showing a cheerful nature.
And even not feeling up to snuff today, he's sitting near me, purring. Little does he know that the Prisoner Transport Unit is about to come out of the basement so I can get him to Bill's van when he arrives. It's so windy and cold out today, I don't dare carry him up to the car area.

...It's OK, Bud. You're just going to have to trust me that this will be for your own good. Let's hope you'll be on the mend soon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Case of the Missing Maraca

It was a cool morning as I arrived in the Living Room for Daywatch. Even before my first cuppa joe I noticed something was odd, wrong...out of place. Little did I know. I had walked right into the middle of a crime scene.
My partner was no where near as I arrived on the scene. I can only assume he was still in bed after a late night of film noir movies, popcorn, and a date with a hot bimbo. But that was his problem. My problem was staring me right in the face. No time for that cup of much needed fortitude. A crowd had gathered at the crime scene. It was time to go to work.
I knew that the owner of the item before me had reported it missing after getting back to New Zealand. She wasn't sure if it had been lost or stolen, only knowing it was missing. Little did she know of the high population of dreaded cat burglars in this area. As the crowd gathered, I wondered if the thief was hiding from me in its safety, trying to blend in and go unnoticed. I could feel eyes watching me approach the item in question. They had made a mistake. The culprit had left the item in plain sight or didn't have time to hide it again.
Donning gloves so as not to contaminate any evidence I picked up the precious item. Damn. No prints. Not even a tooth-mark anywhere to be had. This case was going to be hard.
I canvassed the area locals. No one was talking. If they knew who had pinched the goods, they weren't giving up the information. I looked into the faces surrounding "it". Eyes darted back and forth as if looking whom to pin the blame on. Paws pointed in all directions with looks of "He did it!" or "She was the one!".
This was going to be a hard case to solve. Below is a photo of the crime scene before all the triangulations were made and evidence bagged.

The maraca did not have one bit of evidence on it. No prints. No teeth marks. No DNA samples to be had. It was as if someone had taken it, hid it away, and now thought it safe to bring out into the open again. We'll have to hold "it" in the evidence drawer until the owner requests we send it on, or they come to pick it up. But for me, this case is not closed by any means.

It's just a matter of time. One day, whomever took the maraca from the child is going to make a mistake and lead me to them. Then an apprehension can be made...the case can be closed.
...all I have to do is wait.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Did She Say What I Think She Said?

Sven: "What did she say, Ole? Did she say we have to go?"
Ole: "Yup. That's what she said. She said that because I've been 'feisty' with the other wethers, I have to go. Well, OK...I guess I did try to take over when Skittles left, but Colin didn't push back, so I just took over. I think that was a mistake, Sven."
Sven: "Well, duh! Ya think? Geez, thanks for nothin', Bro! I sure hope I go to a fiber flock. I have the most wonderful black fleece."

Yes, it's been a hard decision, but the time has come for both Sven and Ole to find new homes. While Sven has stayed sweet and does have incredible fleece (may have to re-think him), Ole has become a little devil at times for unknown reasons. I should have tossed him in the trailer with Skit when he left to keep him company to Colorado, but I didn't think of it then. Naturally.
For some reason, Ole became very pushy for attention which slowly turned into bashing other sheep out of the way to get attention, to finally throwing his head into the Shepherdess when she didn't move fast enough to suit him during feeding. Mistake. Lethal mistake. He's got to go - one way or another. As my friend, Lois, states, "Life is too short to waste time and affection on bad wethers." She's right. Ole has to go.
Sven may be another matter, but he may go also. I got to thinking after advertising the boys on Craig's List that if I do sell both these boys, I won't have any black fleeces left in the flock. Both Colin and his sister, Loretta, are iset with more of a frosted black to their fleeces. Sven's is almost totally black. Ole, on the other hand, is turning iset as well, so why keep him?
Wethers usually have just one job on a sheep farm - to make fleece. Or to make meat. Since they aren't capable of breeding their lives tend to be shorter than those of breeding quality animals. If their fleeces go coarse for some reason, or they develop bad attitudes, they need to go elsewhere. Sometimes that "elsewhere" is the freezer. So, with limited space hard decisions must be made at times. One leaves that a better one might take his place.
Ole was wethered for being an "assertive" lamb. He would have made a very dangerous ram with that attitude. No matter what we did discipline-wise to him as a lamb, Ole insisted on being in the middle of everything. And if you had cookies in your pocket you better come forth with them or get butted. Wethering (the removal of testes in male sheep to render them sterile, for the non-shepherd readers) usually changes the personality to where that sheep can become a sedate, friendly, productive member of the flock. Wethers usually make great pets. And it has worked for these past years, but for some unknown reason, Ole started developing more aggressive behavior - way more aggressive behavior. He went over to the Dark Side.
This change might be due to different things, but I'm hoping that a change in location (i.e. different flcok or becoming a fiber pet) might be just what he needs. It's that or the freezer. "Life is too short to waste time and affection on bad wethers." And all manner of discipline has not been effective. (sigh)
So, if anyone reading this wants a wether...just contact me. ;)

And below, you see just a sampling of what happens to me when I try to just relax to watch tv...that's L'il Rascal on my lap. "L'il" because he has a hero, an inspiration in his young life - "Uncle Rascal" of Rascal's World, for whom he was named. And some of you wonder why my laptop can't fit on my lap sometimes. ;-)

Just blame Rascal...and Daisy, and Pixel, and Mooch, and Shadow, and Ziggy, and Europa! (When my DH snapped this photo, three other cats had been in the chair with me just before he came in the room with the camera.) ...No wonder I can hardly move when I get up.
Maybe it's time to finally install that Ejector Button.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I Guess... just doesn't take much to entertain me anymore. Who would have thought I would be calling a new washing machine "sexy" and "exciting"? But, here I am, new washer freshly installed in the basement, and excited about the new technology. My poor dryer pales by comparison. I caught myself saying to Hizzoner, my DH, that I liked the washer so much I had wished we could have also gotten the dryer.
It all started about two weeks ago, just as Lois and Brook were making their way around the sites in Northern Arizona and staying at "Chez Sheep Thrills", I had one of those days. You know the ones...things happen in spades. Well, that day both the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner decided to up and die. Usually we are people who fix things rather than replace them, but I guess the deck was just stacked against us this time.
When I called the repair shop for appliances, the technician remembered our POS washer. He listened to my description knowing exactly what had happened - it was the transmission. And it would cost no less than $400.00 to replace it. No brainer. After all the problems I had with that machine, fixing it would have been throwing good money after bad. Better to put that amount towards a new one.
Then, the work really began! I checked advertisements, consumer sites, and feedback from other people as well as store after store for pricing information. I had thought of getting a new top-loading washing machine again. You know the ones...just like all the other ones I have known throughout my life starting with my mother's old washer with the wringer rollers on top. Then it hit me...why not take this opportunity to look into more efficient front loaders?
The only drawback I saw with the front loader (other than the expense) was how would I ever wash fleece again. Well, duh! Why not like I always did before I had a washer - in the sink, tub or laundry tub. Or I could send them off to be processed. Here in Arizona water is at a premium so sometimes it's actually cheaper to send the fleeces out anyway. The more I read and researched, the more it made sense.
So, front loader it was and after even more research on brands and cleaning abilities of different models, I settled on an LG Steam Washer. I had heard and read that some front loaders had a reputation of not getting clothes very clean, but this particular LG model has a great record for clean clothes and efficiency as well as ease of use and longevity. The 10-year warranty on the motor wasn't a bad thing either. :) After running some heavy loads through it today to see what it could really do with farm clothes and Hizzoner's grubby "I've-been-tinkering-with-the-'53 Merc" workclothes, I have to say I'm very impressed. Clean clothes without massive amounts of water.
Here she is:
And here's a close-up of the console. No more horrid buzzers for me. This one sings a nice melody, chiming cheerfully as the buttons are pushed.

So, maybe it IS true...old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. Or maybe at least with the aid of modern technology. I will see if this really does save on both water and energy.

Now, on to the vacuum!

Friday, September 04, 2009

What the Heck? The Shepherdess Mentioned There'd Be Girls In Here...

Hmm...that new Shepherdess said I might find another sheep in here. She said it might be a girl sheep. Is that like my mother? I miss my mother and sister.

OK...there's hay in here, but I sure don't see any other sheep!

Maybe over here? Nope. No sheep on this wall either.

I guess I'll just have to stand here and look cute. Boy, this being a flock ram isn't what it's cracked up to be.
Wait a minute! I smell something vaguely familiar. And someone is sticking their head through that little door the chickens go in and out of.

This might get interesting after all!