Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Do We Really Know About Anyone Else?

Last evening, when I came home after dark, I stopped to close the chicken door. I found the chickens roosting on the chicken ladder-- somehow the door had gotten closed. I tried to open the door thinking then they would wake up and walk in and hop on their roost. They were tight up against the door and I had to take them one my one and put them in through the big door. Each one squawked loudly but didn't wake the others. I even had to pick up the rooster. Even when I put them in the coop they stood there half asleep trying to figure out what they were suppose to do. I didn't know chickens slept so soundly.

Most of the time, when I am anywhere near the barnyard, the sheep and Beau come to see what I am up to and try to psyche me into giving them treats-- or so it seems. Maybe they are just curious. It is amazing how well I have gotten to know them and how sometimes I think I know what they are thinking (or am I projecting, Karen). Maybe they really do live in the minute and are just looking my way.

Anyway, we have built a relationship where we interact (mostly peacefully) and anticipate each others moves and get to know what is desirable for the other. But then, we carry it further and think we know what is best for others and begin to "direct" the encounters. Or, we don't know WHY an animal, or person for that matter, does what they do and think only how that affects us.

O.K., this is where the kids would all be waving their hands wildly. I have worked many years with kids and I tell them up front that if I get to rambling and start philosophising to do something to bring me back.

Tomorrow, we are having a party here so I can watch interactions among people and try not to think I really know anything about them.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Home for Christmas

Just before the summit of Sandstone Mt.(almost 3000 ft.) on Interstate 64 Lyndy's car motor stopped. We got towed to Beckley WV where we spent about 3 hours figuring out our options. We ended up renting a car and driving the 2 hours back to Lexington. That was yesterday. Today we drove up to Beckley to return the car.

It took a few days to figure out who was going to feed the animals- when, while we were gone-- it took a few minutes to cancel all the plans. Again, I wonder what the animals thought with neighbors coming over to check out the routine and then we are back in a different car.

Oh well, we are home and happy and the animals seem a bit happier with some of the snow melted. They were able to journey to the far end of the pasture today. It is suppose to snow for the next 3 days so I hope they spend the night tonight roaming.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Beau's Birthday and Thor Moves On

Yesterday was Beau's birthday. In the morning I was preoccupied getting Thor ready to go for a ride and getting all the others enough hay for the day since we have 5 inches of snow on the ground and I was going to be away all day. I forgot to wish Beau a happy birthday until I was headed back to the house around 9:30 last night after giving them more hay.

I think Beau got a pretty good birthday present though. Thor went back to the previous farm he had been living at.

Thor was a good breeder (or at least it seemed so-- we will see in April). After the excitement was over, and somewhat during, he became too dominant and began butting the ewes in a way that wasn't safe. He butted Beau but Beau learned to stay out of his way. He just didn't fit in here so I arranged for him to go back and received some fleece (CVM and Cormo) in exchange.

The woman at the other farm felt badly that it didn't work out and gave me the fleece and said she would rent me a smaller ram if I wished next fall. So all in all things worked out for the best if we get a few lambs next spring.

Lyndy asked if Thor seemed happy to see the other woman or sad to leave me. Well, I will put it this way--- The other woman offered him some grain and he didn't look back.

Last night, when I returned to my flock, I did notice Thor's absence. He had been separated for nearly two weeks but was always at the gate as in the picture. It seems so peaceful without him and definitely less to think about and less to feel guilty about because he could not go out with the girls and Beau.

Sheep are not pets--at least not mine. They are farm animals that go from here to there and probably don't mind in the least as long as there is plenty to eat. I will miss them I am sure but that is life on a farm.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Away in a Manger waiting for Baby Jesus

I put my manger up today, except for Baby Jesus who will be place in Christmas Day (or probably 2 days before since we are most likely going away for Christmas). Notice how many sheep in the scene. John says I need at least one more.

Sheep are really important to the Christmas story. I only added 3 in above -- the one on the far left with the black face Karen gave me a few weeks ago and the one on the far right my mother-in-law sent me about the same time. The one from John's mother has been in the family quite awhile ( I think it is from Aunt May). Anyway, like I said, one can never have too many sheep in the Christmas story.

I always loved the children's service on Christmas Eve in Chatham with half of the youngest children dressed up as sheep. It was always interesting to see how the moms made the costumes from year to year.

Not too far from here, there is a group that not only does a living manger but a whole town of Bethlehem. I haven't seen it yet but I am sure there are several sheep. I wonder what those sheep think of all that production.

I often wonder what the sheep and Beau think about things. They seem happy enough here. I can't imagine taking them places like to be in a play.

Anyway, however you look at it sheep are an important part of Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Blog Family

Two days short of a year of blogging!!! 136 blogs. Thanks Gail and Karen for talking me into this. It has been helpful looking back to see when something happened or when I did what or just for laughs and to see how much I have learned over the past year.

Many bloggers will tell you they do it to chronicle something; they are doing it for themselves. I am sure that is true but at some point I think most become curious about who reads their blog. Periodically, when talking to a good friend or family member, there will be a comment about how they are enjoying my blog. The first thought that comes to mind is "people are reading my blog".

Awhile back, Karen told me how to track readers so I know people are reading my blog but not who. I know that last month there were 360 hits from the United States, 19 from Israel, 5 from the UK, 5 from Russia, 3 from Germany, 2 from Canada, 2 from Latvia, 1 from the United Arab Emirates, 1 from Croatia, and 1 from India. I fantasize that there is a little old woman in Latvia who has been a sheep farmer all her life that has a great great grand daughter, who reads english, who reads her great great grandma my blog. I fantasize that they both laugh over my inexperienced farm techniques and they tell their neighbors and they all have a good laugh. If I start getting many more hits from Latvia, I will know it is true.

Often, when I google sheep topics, I will get a site that is in a foreign language but fortunately most are from Australia so I can mostly read them. Who knew that blogging would be a lesson in geography.

It is interesting to see which blogs get the most hits. I think the one about dyeing with pokeweed berries is the all time winner--followed by turkeys dancing and body language.

Anyway, to all of you out there, thanks for reading and thanks for your comments and especially to the farmers out there-- thanks for the tips.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I was remembering the TV show " The Price is Right" and how, at one time in the long running show, Bob Barker used to go into the audience and ask for people to come up with unusual items in their pockets or purses. If they could come up with, say a 1958 penny or a paperclip, or whatever, they got to be a contestant. I was fantasizing that I was in the audience and Bob was looking for an egg and of course I had one in my pocket so I was going to get to be a contestant.

I always have eggs in my pockets. By the time I get back from the barn or coop I have forgotten the egg(s) and later I will be walking in town or picking up groceries at Kroger and I will put my hands in my pockets and feel the egg(s). If it is at Kroger I sometimes fantasize that a security guard will walk up to me and ask me to empty my pockets and there will be the egg(s).

Last Sunday, I came in from the barn and slipped my green sweatshirt off over my head and plop plop two eggs hit the floor. Later in the day I did the same thing. Plop plop another 2 eggs almost in the same place on the floor. John's response was, "at least they didn't break in your pocket".

Today, I was wearing the same green sweatshirt and collected 2 eggs but this time one smooshed in my pocket before I got back to the house. I think it was probably when I was on the ladder putting the Christmas wreath on the barn.

It was a beautiful day, today; cool but sunny so I let the sheep out and watched them from my portable greenhouse with a Christmas tree in it. It isn't decorated, I just picked the Christmas tree up in the eurovan on Tuesday and it smells so good I can't bring myself to take it out so I drive around with it.

At home my greenhouse is a good place to knit or make Christmas lists or write Christmas cards. I was fantasizing all my friends opening Christmas cards with a picture of 6 sheep and a llama and 6 chickens and a ram on the front.

Not this year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Snowman and Candy Canes

My friend Karen inspired me with her last blog. (see link to Holes in my Jeans) Here is my version of a cold day activity in the country. It is practice for using tools and techniques.

Who wants to come play?

Monday, December 6, 2010


when we lived in neW ENGLAND (HERE WE GO AGAIN) WE HAD A THERMOMETER OUTSIDE THE KITCHEN WINDOW THAT CALCULATED what THE TEMPERATURE felt like with wind chill taken into consideration. Today, I am glad we no longer have that thermometer.

It was O.K. this morning first thing when I donned my new insulated overalls and went out to the barn. Not so windy-- but now UGH!! I just thought I would replace the broken rail so the animals could go back over to the cabin. By the time I had finished I was REALLY cold and it only took me a few minutes. The animals all came down to the gate to watch me and wanted to come over to help but I told them, "not today". When I was at the grocery store earlier I didn't notice the wind but here, up in the hills, it is Howling!

So most of the day I spun until I ran out of prepared fleece. I knitted a bit too. I neglected all house work-- too cold.

I did send an email to my _______[promotion person](what is her title? I'll have to ask Jen, my business consultant). Anyway, a fairly productive day but hopefully tomorrow will be sunny and better.

At least no one escaped today (at least not yet) I still have to go close the chicken door.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It is going to be a long winter

"Aren't you glad you have sheep so you can spend a cold winter day getting hay instead of watching football?" That is what my hay dealer said after he threw 22 bales of hay down from the top of a huge barn onto John's truck. I rearranged them to get 22 on the truck and yes I am glad I have sheep.

I hauled the hay home, put the truck in the garage/barn, grabbed one of my spinning wheels, and headed off to the new fiber guild meeting still covered in hay. After the great meeting I came home to check on the animals, give them hay, break the ice on the water and close the chicken door before John and I went to a dinner at the local community center.

As I was hauling water, Mira slipped out using Charlotte's escape plan of yesterday (and they say sheep are stupid). Not my sheep. I am getting pretty good at getting stray sheep back but in all the excitement I almost forgot to close the chicken door.

Speaking of chickens---here are pictures of the chickens when I opened their door this morning.

This one is probably the one I had to carry home last night. She would not leave the coop until later in the day when most of the snow had melted. I think we should rename her "chicken chicken".

It is going to be a long winter.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wandering in the first Snow of the Year.

The first real snow of the year. It is so beautiful. The pasture is becoming covered and the animals are wandering about and turning white. Wish I had my camera but John took it today. A good day for a cup of hot chocolate.

Tomorrow I am suppose to pick up a load of hay. Guess we may need it soon. It is amazing how green the grass still is.

It is very quiet this afternoon (the snow I guess) as I wander about the house looking at the fluttering snow out every window. The snow now covers the ground at dusk and it is time to close the chicken door.

The only escapee today was Charlotte as I went through the gate with ACV (apple cider vinegar) and grain. Thor didn't like Charlotte being outside when he wasn't, and he tried to go over the big secure fence. I think it is time to put a caster or wheel on big red as I have been opening and closing that gate alot lately.

Just got back from a trip to the barn. It was time for the chickens to be in but they weren't. They were starting to roost on Beau's stanchion so I wondered if their door was closed. It was not but there was snow covering the chicken ladder so I brushed it off. Eventually, 5 went in but one stayed roosting outside. I wonder if this is the one who sticks around the barnyard when the others are out and about (a chicken- chicken)? I picked her up and carried her home. It is the chickens' first real snow so I guess they have to figure it out.

There is no walk more beautiful than the walk from the barn to the house on a quiet snowy evening when all the animals are in the right place.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"It Takes Half a Day to do Anything"

A friend of ours is always saying, "It takes half a day to do anything". When we have gotten a slow start to the day, John has taken up the expression. Lately, it has taken me a half day to move sheep.

At least I started earlier today. Here is how today went. Let Beau and the sheep out around 1:30. I let them go into the new area since I haven't fixed the broken rail yet. I was involved in a new fiber project and the new area is in good site from where I was working in the house. Five minutes after I went back in I looked out to see Amelia outside of the designated area. Not sure how she got out, but she is my wanderer/explorer. The rest of the sheep didn't seem to pay any attention except Thor. One sheep out will usually go back-- two sheep out constitutes a sub flock. Thor jumped the fence. When Amelia picked up her head from grazing and started wandering and Thor was heading her way I decided it was time to take action.

I tried to coax Amelia back to the flock but she wasn't ready to go back. I went down to get some grain and Sarah started to follow me along with Annie and Charlotte. When I looked back at the rest Amelia and Thor were back in with the rest of the sheep but I didn't see how they got there. When Sarah and her followers saw that I didn't have grain they decided to head back. When I got the grain they turned around, this time followed by Thor. They followed me into the little pasture so I dumped the grain in a bowl and hurried out closing the red gate behind me. Amelia and Mira decided to come see what was going on so I led them in through the barnyard gate and gave them a handful of grain. Hildegard and Beau were still out so I decided to open the gate between the two pastures and get them all in one or the other.

I guess sheep get smarter every day too. They made sure there was always sheep in both pastures or one in the middle of the gate so if Hildegard came in they would have a chance to get back out. I closed the gate with Thor, Charlotte, and the finns on one side and let Hildegard in the barnyard without Amelia or Mira leaving. That just left Beau who continued to graze nearby looking up occasionally to see how things were going. With all sheep in I opened the gate between the pastures again and waited for Thor and his group to join the others. I hid behind the garage again. Finally they all went off toward the barn and I closed the gate again and opened big red for Beau.

I feel like a football coach with a play book. Who's on the field-- what play shall we run. At least I got some good exercise but it took me half a day to move sheep and half a day to finish the fiber project.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It was Suppose to be Easy

This afternoon was suppose to be a short grazing time at the cabin for all the animals. The grass there is better than the pasture but if I leave both gates open they usually return to the big pasture on their own.

All went well for the first 3 minutes. Thor was a little rowdy but I thought he would settle down and graze peacefully. He didn't--he tried to go through the split rail fence that separates the cabin from the new area with the best grass, where they were a couple of days ago, but I knew he wouldn't fit. He wouldn't have if he hadn't broken the bottom rail.

After he went through, a few others followed so I opened the gate between the two areas so Beau wouldn't be separated from the sheep. Now in the lush grass area, I figured they wouldn't want to return to the big pasture but a little while later, as I was walking down to the lower gate, Sarah and Annie started to follow me and the rest of the sheep came along too. I led them through the barnyard to the gate into the little pasture (need a map yet?). And then everything stalled as one sheep stopped halfway through the gate. Thor started to come back so I closed the gate with 4 sheep in the little pasture and 3 in the big pasture. This would have been fine if Beau wasn't out running toward the house. After exploring a bit, he returned to the barnyard vicinity.

As dark approached, I thought Beau, being a guard llama, would want to be back in with the sheep but he was content just seeing them. I couldn't get close to him with a halter in my hand so that wasn't an option. Grain only worked until we got close to the gate. He wanted his freedom.

By this time it was really starting to get dark and cold was setting in. I was frazzled. And then it came to me. I would do what any smart farmer would do in my position-- I would call Karen (a warm and more experienced farmer).

I couldn't get all the sheep in the small pasture unless I got them into the big pasture and then got grain and put it all around in the bowls in the little pasture and then let them back in with chaos ensuing with Thor butting the other's and I was too tired for that. I would like to think that I would have thought of the obvious solution on my own if I had started the previous scenario, but I am not sure I would have.

The answer to the puzzler was--- to let the sheep from the little pasture into the big pasture now that the lower gate was closed. Then I could close that gate and open the big red gate for Beau to go into the little pasture on his own.

It also helped that once all the sheep were in big pasture I hid around the corner of the garage and they thought I had gone back to the house so they took off together back toward the barn. Once they were gone and the big red gate was wide open I got behind Beau and he ran through and then went back to the barn yard.

What's funny is-- I gave the chickens some grain and put them to bed a little early so I could go back to the house before dark and not have to come back out.

Can't wait until tomorrow now that I am just a little smarter.