Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A child's perspective

I love to look at life from a child's perspective.

Charlie's granddaughter did this picture.

A young friend of mine did this one.

It is hard to draw sheep and llamas and I am truly appreciative. I have not attempted to draw or paint the flock yet. I shall start to observe them from an artistic point of view.

We went to a movie last night and it was dark when we returned. I went down to close the chickens in after the potential dinner time for skunk, opossums, and raccoons. They were all there but then this morning, when I went up to the barn, Beau smelled like a skunk. Was the skunk after the chickens and Beau stepped in or did Beau just frighten a skunk somewhere else in the pasture?

The chickens don't like to come in until just before dark but I am not always here then. It is hard to talk them in to going in much before 7:00. When I want to go somewhere before they go in I am really taking a chance on their well being.

I could buy an automatic chicken door closer online for around $200. but I find it hard to rationalize that expense when I am not selling chickens or even eggs.

Beau and the sheep like to graze the pasture at night so Beau isn't always near the coop. The chickens are farm animals, not pets, so I feel like I should just do the best I can and not worry too much-- but that is hard. Maybe it just takes more time.

What would the child's perspective be? I remember one incident a few years ago when I was working with 3rd and 4th graders in a garden club at school. We had a courtyard garden and a few students had gone out to start working in the garden while I was detained by something or someone. Later I found out a few of the students had been unkind to one or two others. When I asked them what a good solution would be to knowing what is going on in the courtyard they thought we should install hidden cameras to monitor the courtyard. Would that be the suggested intervention for this issue? Should Beau have a split screen monitor? Maybe a booby trap for unwanted guests. Any other ideas out there? Ask your young friends and report back.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Yesterday, I was talking to one of my good friends who is coming to visit for a few days. She is driving close to 14 hours to see me. I was trying to get an idea of what she might like to do while she is here. She said she wanted the visit to be low-key--- she was just coming to see me. I think trimming hooves might be considered low-key but I am not sure about snake proofing; I guess that depends on if we see the snake in the process.

When we were talking, all I could think of was spending time in the rivers and creeks because it was SO hot. Then last night, a cool breeze came up out of the north and drove out the humidity so today's 91 degrees feels much better than yesterday's. Beau has been taking alot of dust baths to cool of. The sheep and chickens have been finding the tree area cooler than the barn it seems. At least the evenings are still tolerable and I love to go down and hang out with the critters around 5:00.

For yesterday's happy hour I took strawberries to share. Beau wasn't interested but the chickens were ecstatic. Sarah, my fruit and veggie sheep came down in time to get the last one. Today I want to see if they will eat the pumpkin/zucchini that got big when I wasn't looking. Karen says any squash is good if you cook it long enough. I would add --- and if you combine it with butter or better yet chocolate.

Looking forward to a low-key few days. Actually, most days now are low-key.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer time and the living is BUSY

I feel like I have been away but I haven't been. Just busy I guess. It has been a GREAT week.

Went to a large gathering of women, involved with fiber in some way or other, on Monday night. Some of us were spinning and I, once again, picked up some great tips from fellow spinners.
Tuesday night my youngest sister, Jane and her oldest daughter, Carley, arrived for a brief two nights no days visit. Carley is looking at colleges and we hope she picks UVA. Wednesday night more than a dozen lady friends helped welcome in summer here with frozen margaritas, and lots of laughs. And Thursday was drumming and later the Thursday night races at Valley Slot Car track.

On Wednesday night all the ladies wanted to go down to visit Beau, the sheep, and the chickens. They also got to see our resident large black snake as it made its way through the chicken coop. (chickens were in the barn at the time) I am not sure what I am going to do about the snake yet. Beau doesn't seem to see it as a threat. Black snakes keep down the population of mice and copper head snakes on the farm so they are, in important ways, an asset but I don't want them in the coop when there are chickens present. My drumming friend says in Africa they have some herbal concoction they put around areas to keep the snakes out. Must try to get more info. If anyone out there knows what to use let me know.

Two good friends arriving Sunday for a few day visit so maybe it will be a good time to trim hooves or charm snakes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living in the NOW enhanced by yesterday and tomorrow

I try to live in the present but reflect on the past and future. I think of it like learning music or anything else--most of the time I am practicing what I am currently working on though sometimes I am challenged to learn knew stuff that someday will be old stuff. And always, with music, it in nice to play old favorites you know well.

This week I have been thinking about our farm in a similar way. We have been here two years now. I am working hard every day (with Adam's help many days) trying to connect the dots to get this special place more balanced and inter meshed.

When we first came I used to spend hours gazing at the (at that time future) pasture actually visualizing the sheep grazing. The sheep and Beau have been here a year now and when I watch them grazing in the pasture it looks just the same. It is like they have always been here. Some times now I walk around thinking about what additional areas they may be grazing in a year from now (when there will be new lambs) but I try to stay focused on improving the current pasture most of the time.

Some day we will have an orchard where our two peach trees stand and the sheep and Beau will get to eat the drops. Two years ago this area was just-- more lawn to mow. But for now I talk to the two trees and compliment them on their fine growth. We weed under them and mulch with fine barn bedding and this is our reward.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Love My New Schedule

We were drumming on the front porch again yesterday and one of the bluebirds hung out on the end post to enjoy. Last week the male and the female stood there beak to beak for a long time listening. Yesterday it was just one of them. They never stay so long on that post except when we are drumming. Lamine says sometimes when he is playing at another friends home all the cows come to the fence. Next week we will have to go down near the barn to see how Beau and the girls like drumming.

It has been warm most of the past week and all the critters hang out most of the day in the barn or in the trees behind the barn. Yesterday, it was drier and there was a breeze which made a big difference. This morning was cooler and the sheep were loving it. They run and play games on cool mornings. This morning they were playing -- chase Amelia.

Many times, when it is cool and they are out grazing they all come running to greet me hoping for treats. This morning I allowed them treats giving them their worming herbs mixed in. Same chaos with the feed bowls and this morning the chickens were diving in as well. Usually Hildegard gets her first pick of the bowls and maybe someone else will share with her at first but then leave. This morning when this happened, the chickens all moved in to share with Hildegard (what a sight--it made me laugh) but as usual the camera was elsewhere. Maybe I should leave a small camera down at the barn.

Today is Adam's birthday so he is sleeping in to celebrate. With my number 1 farm hand absent it wasn't as easy to get motivated this morning but I did do a couple of small projects on my own. Now I will turn my attentions to washing fleece and spinning.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer dyeing garden

The five foot plant to the left of the prayer stone is elecampane

A close up of the first elecampane blossom to open

Yes, I brought home mostly natural colored sheep so I would have wonderful shades of black, brown, and grey yarns to knit with BUT I love the yellows and oranges of calendula, coreopsis, elecampane, and the rudbeckias. And we do have two white sheep living with us. Also I should be able to get some wonderful colors with Mira's fleece and even Sarah's and Annie's. Must consider all options.

Besides what else do I have to do except wash many more fleeces, and card and spin them. Each day I try to either wash a batch of fleece, card at least one drumful or spin an equivalent. All processes are going well but there is just SO MUCH fleece and with the equipment I am using I can only do relatively small batches at a time.

When my friend Kathleen was visiting a few weeks ago, she weeded the dyeing garden with me and reminded me of a book on natural dyeing that she had sent me a review of. She suggested I try to get the book through interlibrary loan which I did. It is a great book.

The book is Indigo, Madder, & Marigold by Trudy Van Stralen. The author lives in Canada on a beautiful old farm and has a great set up for processing large quantities of fleece at one time. She has huge stainless vats that she can fit fifty pounds of wool in. She heats the water over a wood fire. Now all of you who know me-- doesn't that sound like something I should have. I wonder if I could just use my hot tub. I will have to think about that.

I have been giving some fleece to friends so some time I should start hearing about what they have done with it and hopefully they will send pictures.

I think things are going pretty much as I would like them to. The most important thing at this point is just getting around thirty to forty pounds of fleece washed. The hot tub is sounding better all the time. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Mystery of the Pumpkin Zucchini

It was a dark and stormy night-- actually a sunny afternoon, when Charlie came over to tell me there were zucchinis on his pumpkin plants I gave him. I wouldn't believe him until he took me over to see and gave me this.

Well it does sort of look like a zucchini (except the for the shape) but how can this be?

The story begins back in the fall when Karen gave me some field pumpkins to give to Beau and the girls. Pumpkin seeds are good parasite control. Sara and Annie loved the pumpkins and would devour them except for the outer skin and some of the seed would be left as well. I threw the remains in the pile of bedding I raked from the barn and threw over the fence. Early this spring when I was getting ready to move the pile onto my garden, I noticed some pumpkin plants growing in the pile-- nothing else, just pumpkins. I planted some in one of my new gardens and gave some to Charlie. And now we both have zucchini plants? There were no zucchinis in the beginning of the story so where did they come from??

If anyone out there has any ideas about how this could be please let me know. Also if you have ever seen a zucchini that is this wide for its length I would like to know. This was Charlie's first but the second has the same proportions. Mine are just big enough to know they are shaped more like zucchini than pumpkin. And now that the plants are established you can see they are a bush squash rather than a rambler like pumpkin.

My next question is -- If we are propagating a new vegetable and all the plant scientists come to see and want to give us money - do I have to give Karen and James a cut?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Work must be something you want to run to

Wouldn't it be great if everyone was this excited to go to work. But then look who they work for.

Looks like Mira and Annie are making requests.

And they have great benefits. The other day when all were lounging one of the chickens was on Beau's back. Then three others ran over him to get to where they were going. Beau and the sheep are still in control though and the chickens know it. If you asked the chickens if they had any complaints they would say they don't get let out early enough and sometimes they are sent back to the coop before they want to go. Isn't that the way it always goes--the bureaucrats.

I have quit my away job. Same reason; I loved the clients I worked for but the people who made the decisions were going wacky. A good friend of mine said to me yesterday, "that kind of job was like walking into a blender (pretty graphic)". So now I am here at the farm everyday unless I choose to go elsewhere. I sleep better, I have more time to do fiber stuff, and I am more grounded and aware of my surroundings.

I have some evolving ideas about what I am going to do next. When they clarify -- I will share.