Thursday, September 30, 2010


One of my all time favorite lessons to teach to kids is "possibilities" It is usually a Spring lesson using seeds or a fall lesson using three foot tall brussel sprout plants loaded with brussel sprouts. Ah, what one seed planted can bring forth.

Last year I wanted to have many Marigold plants in my new vegetable garden so I planted hundreds of seeds in cardboard flats; all kinds-- yellow, orange, variegated, tall, small, tiny.
The year before I had had problems growing Marigolds is three different places. Last year was a repeat. I think maybe 3 or 4 plants germinated. So I put those few plants in my garden and last fall I had a few large plants with an abundance of bright orange blossoms.

This Spring I planted summer annuals in large pots along the back of the house and included 3 large pots of Marigolds. Two of them did nothing but one came in thickly with few blossoms. I planted none in the vegetable garden this year but early summer, when Adam and I were weeding, we came across a few plants that came up on their own from the previous years seed. We made sure they had a little space and voila!

I am looking forward to dyeing with some of them. Possibly, a nice pair of orange socks.

Plant a seed and watch what grows. Think of all the seeds we have all planted (in the ground or in some one's mind). Sometimes we receive immediate gratification. Sometimes it takes a few years or more to see what develops. Sometimes, knockout ORANGE and other times a glint of green. Think of all the POSSIBILITIES and keep on planting.

Speaking of possibilities, the lady with the ram is back from vacation and I am going to bring a ram here to live. Stay tuned. I could possibly have 19 sheep and a llama come next Spring.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making Life Easier?

It is a great feeling when you do something simple that makes your life SO much easier. Check out my new old gate. It used to reside at the end of our driveway doing nothing. Now look at it. And I gave it a new paint job.

Yesterday, I disassembled the chicken wire and step in post fence- gate. It was ridiculous, especially when it didn't rain for awhile and the ground got to hard to step it in. Mira got halfway under it grazing on the greener grass on the other side and Beau and Amelia stepped out when I forgot to close it.

This afternoon 20 corral panels should be delivered which will replace the temporary electric strand fencing which surrounded the extra grazing area behind the big red gate. This will be the new home for a ram or rental ram (still haven't heard back from the lady with the ram who was on vacation).

With the three days of soaking rain we got, my job of setting T-posts for the panels should not be too hard. I am really looking forward to it, I think.

If a ram comes to live here, he would stay in the new area and have the girls over for visits then he could be in with Beau and the girls until March. If babies start arriving in March he would have to go back to the new area until the lambs grow a bit (seems rams don't understand how to be around lambs). Then all depends on the sexes here next summer.

The next level in sheep farming--Sound like fun?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Boy Was I Wrong

I couldn't get the turkey "dance" of yesterday out of my head all day. So I googled turkeys dancing - nothing, turkeys wrapping necks- bunch of cooking stuff, and finally as I was reading more about turkeys it was mentioned that they wrap their necks sometimes when they are fighting over a lady or ladies. Fighting? Come on-- it was so graceful and it looked like they loved each other. Check it out.

Besides the two I was watching were the same size and no one was "winning". Neither were loosing feathers. And I could almost hear the song in the video.

Makes me wonder-- if these turkeys I saw yesterday were "fighting" maybe when John's chickens look like they are fighting they are really "dancing".

Give me sheep and a llama any day. Once in awhile Beau nibbles one of the sheep's ears a little to keep them in line and occasionally there is a little head butting amongst the sheep but all in all they are all pretty well behaved and get along well.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I am Scrambling while the Turkeys Dance

A few minutes ago, I was walking up from the barn with my head now contemplating whether I should ask John if we can eat his chickens when I heard a deep "cluck". I looked up and NO, I didn't see a giant chicken following me, I saw two huge wild turkeys over by the orchard "dancing".

I am not sure of the dance- it looked part waltz and part rumba. It was beautiful!!! They wrapped their necks first one way and then the other. They kissed a few times and moved their bodies as one. They could have won ANY dance contest with their grace.

I wished Karen was here with her video camera. I tried to quietly head to the house for my still camera but alas they slowly walked off toward the woods.

If one of them hadn't "clucked" I would have missed the whole dance with my head down- deep in thought. I usually make it a practice to walk between the house and barn with my pearl strand connected to the heavens holding my head high but the chickens are getting the best of me.

I know they are stressed out over the lack of rain, but I have been giving them plenty to drink and dumping the dirty water where they can scratch for bugs. They are being nasty to me and each other lunging out and pecking or sneaking up from behind. It is not just the rooster any more.

The other day I was telling Karen that there is a lesson in this for me. Something about being strong, brave and a protectorate like a shepherd while maintaining a peaceful nurturing calm. I hope I learn the lesson soon. The turkeys were probably a hint-- I will go look it up in my book.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Weaving is something I haven't done too much of but I appreciate it immensely. The reason I haven't is that it can be pretty complex and time consuming. I wonder how long the weaver of this web took to complete her masterpiece.

I have spent hours watching ants go from here to there but I haven't spent much time watching spiders build webs. There are probably videos to watch- maybe I will. I would love to understand how it all comes together.

A very good friend use to make things on a big loom. She still has the the loom but I don't think she has woven for a while. Most people I know who weave, weave rugs which aren't quite so time consuming. I weave very small items-- use to weave on an inkle loom back in the 70s. Now I weave even smaller and without a loom.

In a couple of weeks the grape arbor/ tapestry loom should be done. That should be fun.

One good thing about weaving is that you can easily weave with 1 ply yarn which saves a great deal of spinning time and usually saves on materials also. I believe that spiders weave with 1 ply but I am not certain. I think I really must take the time to watch.

I think if I were a spider my web would look more like this. I really appreciate the first one but it looks very delicate and intricate and I don't think I would have the patience. The second looks like it was thrown together but still remains magnificent. The first one actually looks more like it was crocheted or knitted.

At any rate it is always good to observe natural things when planning a piece of art like Andy Goldsworthy (see link on Andy Goldsworthy blog.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Looking for a "some other day"

.04 inches is what the Weather Channel website says we have had in precipitation for the month of September. No one is even thinking about rain or expecting rain for the rest of the month though the forecast shows a slight possibility. I went into the local grocery store for a few things, this afternoon, and thought as I came out "looks like rain". I was expecting to walk out into an oven but it was indeed raining and it felt a bit cooler than when I went in. As I took the cart down to the cart corral, I saw a woman come out of the store under an umbrella. I asked myself 2 questions-One, how did this woman have an umbrella with her and two, why was she under it. She must have a goat personality instead of a sheep personalty.

My good friend who raises goats said hers always take cover when it rains. I wonder if this applies even with .o4 of an inch. Today may have added .01 to that total for September, maybe less.

My least favorite job on the farm is filling water barrels when they don't get filled with rainwater. I have to use 4 hoses, push them through two fences, and then go through a gate around the corner of the pasture to pull all the hoses uphill to fill the 2 barrels. Another reason to love rain. At least it is not uphill both ways so reversing the process is not so bad when I am done. Actually I do have to haul one of the hoses uphill both ways because it is the hose I use for the vegetable garden (how many hoses can a person have?).

Today I was teaching 6th graders about the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We did an activity where we explore contaminants that get into our local creeks and rivers and end up in the Chesapeake Bay. One of the favorite topics, as you may have guessed, is cattle peeing and pooping in the creeks. How many hoses would you need to water 100 head of cattle? That's why farmers let their cattle in the rivers. The state of Virginia will pay farmers to fence their cattle out and also pay to pump water up to watering troughs and such from another water source on the property such as a well. That is what I need. Unfortunately, I don't have a creek on the property that has any water to fence the sheep out of.

It may be time for another RAIN DANCE!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rent a Ram

Gone are the days you need to have a lot of possessions. Now you can rent just about ANYTHING. Having a party--rent tables, plates and silverware. Turning over a garden--rent a rototiller. Many people rent skis, ice skates, and such. On vacation-- rent a car. If you want to race at Valley Slot Car you can rent a slot car. Yup, just about anything. You can even rent rams.

It is convenient to be able to rent when you just need something occasionally. Especially when you are not real particular about the size or condition of what you are renting. I am not sure a ram falls into this category.

I am not saying all rental stuff is of a lesser quality. Sometimes you get a rental car at an airport that has less than a hundred miles on it. It may not be your favorite color but it has all the necessities, usually GPS (which I don't have), and smells like a new car.

So if you are in the market for a ram (as I am) you might want to check out the rentals before you buy. That way you can save yourself quite a bit of trouble and send him home when you no longer need him. Only problem is you might have a hard time finding the breed you want, the color you want, the temperament you want, etc.etc. but you might get lucky.

A few days ago, I emailed a woman I know who has CVM sheep that I like the characteristics of. She is on vacation but emailed me back and said she has a ram for sale and will call me when she gets home. Will she rent me a ram? Don't know?

I am really getting excited about the next phase of sheep farming which is having lambs born on the farm but it is alot of responsibility. I am going to improve some of my fenceing and move a gate whether I rent a ram or bring one here to live so that will keep me busy until the woman gets back from vacation.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I am back from a 4 day camping and beach trip and I have new energy. It feels really good.

Today, I made a felt ball and plied some yarn-- two things I have been wanting to do for a while. It feels really good. I had to find a couple of things but then I realized I now know where all my fiber tools are and it feels really good.

The day before I left, I spun at a grandparents day celebration at a local nursing home. It was a very windy day so spinning was challenging but I taught a bunch of kids how to spin on a drop spindle and that was fun. In order to have the fiber demonstration and leave 2 hours later to go camping, I had to find things and get myself organized. That felt good too.

I am basically a very disorganized person until I have to appear, and BE, somewhat professional for a specific event or occasion. People who see me at these times think I know what I am doing. I don't care so much about being organized most of the time but when I can't find something I want to use I go crazy. So having all my fiber tools where I know where they are feels really good. It is amazing how much more can be accomplished.

Camping in the eurovan is really nice because I have done it many times so I keep many things in specific places. Some things permanently reside in the van. This time seemed really easy but that might be because I was camping with Lyndy and she IS an organized person. That makes me want to try a little harder.

We had a wonderful time on our vacation. We got sand in our toes, did sun salutations at a spectacular sun rise, climbed the tallest light house in the U.S., went body surfing, took a nap on the beach, consumed some fabulous seafood (Lyndy really knows how to pick eating estabs.), and most importantly spent abundant quality time together. That feels really good -- and winning at cards isn't bad either.

We saw no sheep or llamas on our vacation but a friend did call me on my cell phone to inquire as to whether I might be interested in some sheep that needed a new home. Always good to know your friends are looking out for your interests= it feels really good. AND

John, the sheep, and Beau were glad to see me when I got home and that too feels really good!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Ella was a local fiber person who died last year at a ripe old age. Today, her daughter had an estate sale at her home of Ella's fiber arts collection over years.

No notice in the paper- just word of mouth through the fiber community here, in the valley, and in a couple of cases out of state. The plan was to have some of the larger items like spinning wheels, looms, and a few other things bid on in silent auction fashion and the REST first come first dibs with donations accepted in a jar for what you thought things were worth.

I didn't know Ella so decided I should arrive a couple of hours after the sale began to let those who knew her collect special things that reminded them of their times with Ella. When I did arrive I meandered listening to the stories. I certainly wish I had known her.

So what was there? Ella was a spinner, a weaver- but it seemed in the casual sense ( rag rugs and such), and a felter to a lesser degree. What interested me most was her collection of samples of yarn she had dyed with native plants and some of her dyeing materials. And of course there were many books, magazines, and a file cabinet with patterns. All in all it was a little overwhelming.

I get overwhelmed easily so I made a series of trips through the room seeing what jumped out at me and others I knew and listening to the stories. Then, I would nibble on the snacks in another room, put my few treasures down, regroup and reenter the room containing Ella's life in fiber. One time through I found some rustic drop spindles, another time books and magazines, and then warp yarn and dyed bits of wool yarn.

The best part was people showing each other what they had collected and sharing and trading all around the stories. I think Ella would have loved to be there -- no rushing and squabbling, just wandering and exploring and wondering what some of the stuff was and how to use it.

One thing I learned about Ella was that she made notes about everything! All of her books or magazines had things underlined or written in the columns. All of her experimenting with colors were well documented ( plant material, mordant, time of year, location and more). I picked up pages of her notes.

I think her daughter was happy. Things went to people who knew her mom and shared the love of fiber for the most part. And those who didn't know her mom were excited about having the opportunity to know her through using her stuff. No dealers! And a gallon jar full of money.

I would have to live many many more years and devote my life to fiber to even get close to what Ella had collected. AND, I would have to have some place to keep things. Ella's studio was spacious and lovely and she had many friends who would spin and weave with her.

An exciting side is that people have gotten excited again about fiber and a list was started to form a fiber guild again or even play groups to dabble in fiber arts. I'm excited.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Chickens and the Eggs

I collected 10 eggs today and we only have 5 pullets. Look where I found 6 of them (age unknown so we had to toss them).

The others were under this gal.

I was afraid she was getting broody and she is so young. She was there for a long while but later was gone so I was able to collect the eggs. And then we find eggs like this.

Occasionally I find eggs with soft shells. No wonder free range eggs are so expensive.

On another gender, I am feeling much better about our resident rooster. I am following Richard Plamondons 3 rules (see Giving Peace a Chance). A couple of days ago I offered the chickens hands full of grain and was shocked at the reactions.

The first carefully took one piece of grain and ran off, the second would not eat out of my hand, the rooster looked me over top to bottom with much confusion and finally took one piece of grain and split. The second time I offered him some he declined. The chickens are afraid of me or at least don't trust me. I had no idea. But why shouldn't they feel that way after the way I have treated the rooster.

I have much to learn about chickens and eggs.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2 A.M.-- OR-- My Husband Loves Our Animals

At 2 A.M. this morning I awoke to John asking me where the coyote's howling was coming from. I heard the coyotes but they howl alot so I usually wake up enough to get an idea where they are and go back to sleep. I guess I was still half asleep when John was talking. As I sat up enough to get a direction, I said they were up towards Tilsons. John jumped out of bed so I got up too. By the time I had some shoes on he was out the door--by the time I got out the door he was coming out of the shop with a stick to scare off coyotes or defend us.

I was still waking up as I got to the gate of the pasture several paces behind my brave and concerned husband. We had brought flashlights with us and John was using his to scan the barn and pasture looking for the animals. I was using my headlight, directed down as not to bother the animals. I called to Beau and the sheep. John's flashlight found them all up at the highest point in the pasture which was where it sounded like the coyotes were howling from. They seemed to be grazing peacefully until Beau came to see what we were doing out in the pasture at 2 A.M. As John shined his flashlight on Beau, Beau took his guarding pose and snorted. We talked to Beau, John counted 6 sheep, and we headed back.

The night sky was brilliant. No moon-just STARS and a cool crisp breeze. 49 degrees and we were out in our pajamas counting sheep. It all seemed so peaceful to me. I was never concerned and wasn't sure what it was about this night that concerned John. Was it all the problems a friend was having with coyotes in her area of the county, was it a dream he had had? What ever it was, I followed -- grateful that John cared so much for the animals.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Giving Peace a Chance

I have been having on and off problems with John's rooster being aggressive. So I did what I always do when confronted with these kind of delemas --I googled. Very interesting results!!!

Back a few weeks ago, I came up with all kinds of "ways to let your rooster know you are the number 1 rooster." Some of the suggestions included: bombarding with tennis balls, shooting with a water pistol, and hold the rooster down. All power trip stuff. None of this spoke to me but I had to do something. There was one site that said you should feed the hens and keep the rooster back until they have eaten and not let him mount the hens in your presence. This was something I thought I could handle. More aggressive stuff but at least it didn't suggest out and out combat. All of the sites said if all your attempts fail it is time for chicken soup.

The last few days he has been acting out again. When he comes at me, he is so quick that I can't grab him to hold him down and I end up chasing him all over. So, I went back to the world wide web in search of a different approach, that would not end in chicken soup, like clicker training for roosters.

I didn't find any results for clicker training roosters but I did find a GREAT article at that really spoke to me. Richard Plamondon is a chicken farmer in Oregon who raises hundred of chickens on the land. He has a completely different approach.

"Rooster rules don’t apply to you, and this means that you are free to act in an un-rooster-like manner. You have options, and the most important option is to reject the roles that others project onto you. " Richard Plamondon

Plamondon has three rules for desensitizing an aggressive rooster. 1. Never fight them. 2. Don't scare them. 3. Feed them handfuls of grain. Using this approach over many years, he said, he only met one rooster he couldn't desensitize. In the article he asks-- what is the fighting going to look like to the neighbors and are you sure you can explain it to your kids? What DO Beau and the sheep think? (he deserves it OR is that crazy lady going to chase us around?)

Even if you don't have chickens, does all of this SOUND FAMILIAR? I wonder if we could get Mr. Plamondon to go to Washington?

I will leave you with one more piece of advice from the article and encourage you to read the article.

I remember an old farmer telling me once that, with livestock, the important thing is to think through the relationship. You’re supposed to be building a pleasant present and a better future.

I think I would leave out " ,with livestock,".