Monday, February 28, 2011

Does it Make a Difference?

What is the first thing you notice in this picture taken this morning?

February is Black History Month and I remember that before I started finding sheep to come live here I asked many shepherds if white sheep got along with black sheep. Many said no many articles said the same. Some said different breeds would separate to graze some said it depends.

So here is what I have found . . .

Personality weighs heavier than color or breed. Generally, all the sheep here intermingle and get along great but there are some personality clashes. Hildegard does not like Charlotte to eat next to her but anyone else is O.K. Hildegard and Mira have differences of opinion on some matters but in both cases I don't think it is a color thing. After all Sarah and Annie are brown and Hildegard gets along fine with them and Mira is a Black Cotswold but very light in color.

Amelia, the other White Cotswold, gets along with everyone but then she is of a younger generation. It is interesting to note patterns in grazing and eating.

And then there is the chickens. Most of the time when the chickens are riding the sheep, the white chickens are on the white sheep and the brown chickens are on the brown sheep but... I think that is just a coincidence or who is closer to the fence the chickens want to go over. The chickens can all go over the fence but they are lazy and prefer to use a sheep or go out when the gate is open.

Again, I wonder if the sheep know what color they are and the chickens for that matter. Beau is brown and white and seems to like everyone the same.

It will be interesting to see how things change when the lambs come.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I have a sheep mentor -- like most people I guess. Actually, I have two but the one I have mentioned a few times who lives nearby, thinks differently on some aspects. So today, I talked to my mentor who thinks like me but lives 3 hours away.

We probably talked for close to an hour and now my confidence is lifted for the lambing season. There are so many different view points out there from books, sheep farmers, articles, symposiums, you name it, and then one's head starts spinning. I think the best approach for getting new information I can use, is to find someone who thinks like I do about other things, and then approach the new topics. This mentor I found through the place where I buy sheep feed and minerals.

First there is the nutritional information (amounts and timing), then the list of what to have on hand when the girls are ready, what to do and what Not to do, and of course the "what ifs". It is alot to take in because the idea is to be ready for anything but the reality is "sheep have been lambing for thousands of years and they know what to do". One of the things stressed by my mentor today was to stand back and give the ewes and lambs the space and time they need.

We also talked bout shearing today. I learned a new approach that I think might work better for Mira. Mira is my tough baby as I am sure I have mentioned before. The picture that formed in my mind when my friend was explaining makes me smile. You tie the sheep to a fence and just start at the back and roll the fleece forward like a rug. We'll see. Anyway, I love my new bigger feeling of confidence thanks to my sheep mentor and her generous gift of her time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Veriditas= green truth- the healing power of nature. Today it has been raining most of the day and suddenly there is the observance of an abundance of new green growth. So sweet like the fuzz on a newborn's head. There have been little hints of Spring's coming but today it is like God took a paint brush filled with all shades of green water color and drew it across a winter scene sketched in ink. I am especially excited for the sheep and Beau as soon they will have all the fresh green grass they can eat.

But today is special. NOW is the promise that healing is coming. Hope, anticipation, new life. I can't remember exactly how I was introduced to Hildegard of Bingen and her veriditas- I think through a book about healing gardens. It was many years ago but I do remember the profound effect the word had on me.

I have read parts of several books about the life of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a very amazing woman and she is who Hildegard is named after. Is that bad to name a sheep after someone so incredible?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gifts from Here and Near

I remember the first time I spun yarn from fleece instead of buying it at a store. Then there was the first egg that never sat in a carton in its life. Last week I had syrup that didn't come out of a syrup bottle and several glasses of maple sap straight from the tree. Simple gifts but EXTRAORDINARY!

On the way back from returning the maple syrup evaporator, Karen and I were talking about how blessed we are to have so much Fresh Local Food and other products available to us. We returned the evaporator to the woman who loaned it to us and gave her a quart of syrup. She said that was too generous and insisted we take a pint of her honey. Many people around here have hives and many sell honey but I have not seen local beeswax for sale. I asked our new friend about it and she through in a slab of beeswax.

Karen and I came back here and had a peanut butter and honey sandwich on the front steps with the temperature reading 68 degrees (it is February). The honey was some of the best I have ever had! We also had some potato chips made here in the Valley and apples from just over the Blue Ridge Mountains where I got my new fruit trees.

The last 5 or so gallons of sap we decided to drink and give to our animals instead of making into syrup. It is high in calcium and this last batch was even a little sweeter. The bucket was almost empty this morning.

Some of the best gifts are of service. Karen helped me trim hooves yesterday. Soon we will be shearing, kidding, and lambing.

This morning I woke and heard the latest gift--- Rain!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Getting Things Done

It is so great to be accomplishing things again! Today I finished cleaning up the barnyard and Thor's old pad. Took a couple wagon loads and a couple wheelbarrow loads to two piles; one for the garden later and the other a brush pile. It might finally rain tomorrow so I wanted to get it out before it got soggy.

After all the cleanup, I planted two new fruit trees. Hope it does rain-- I am ready.

It was nice hanging out with the animals again today. They seemed to enjoy the day too and didn't complain about the little tractor. I put the sheep where I wasn't working but the chickens wanted to be right where I was so they were dodging the tractor the whole time. I noticed one of the chickens lost alot of feathers on the back of her head and neck. Looked like something tried to grab her but she got away. I asked all the animals what happened but no one wanted to talk about it.

Hopefully, hooves will get trimmed tomorrow and then if it does rain I can shift my projects to working with the fleece inside. I haven't worked much with fleece lately because I got behind with outside projects when I got sick. One thing I did make, however, was a couple of felt filters for straining all the extraneous stuff out of our maple syrup. One of them came out looking pretty good and they both worked.

Yes, we made more maple syrup. We found an evaporator to borrow so the second time went great. Check out the whole process on Karen's blog [Holes in My Jeans (over on the right)].

John went to Ohio for a couple of days to see his mom and dad. Sometimes when he is away I leave stuff out and about and work on different things and put it all away just before he gets back. I am on a roll -- we'll see.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dancing With Sheep

Today I spent most of the day down with the animals YAY!! I was cleaning up an evaporator for our next go at maple sugarin.

I took the radio down to the garage/barn and we all listened to some good music. They all looked at me pretty strangely when I started dancing. Later, I let them go over to the cabin while I kept at grinding.

33 years in New England and I never made maple syrup. Now I am making maple syrup in Virginia--weird. Our syrup the other day came out really good but it just took way too long SO today I leased a homemade evaporator for a share of syrup. The guy we got it from made syrup a few times and then sorghum a few times but hasn't made either in a while so was glad to share his evaporator. There are some pretty funcky rigs in the county I think. Anyway, I got it cleaned up so tomorrow we will set it up and hopefully make some more great syrup.

That means another day away from the critters so I am glad we could spend some quality time together today. I took time out to clean the barn and coop and rake a little more of the barnyard. I couldn't believe how warm it got (68 degrees). It is still 58 at 8:45.

I am glad it is warm since I am planning on shearing the sheep in 2 weeks. They actually seemed like they were warm today. We were going to trim hooves tomorrow but with all the sap we have stored we need to do the sugarin tomorrow. We will do hooves the first of next week. I wish I could trim hooves and shear at the same time so I wouldn't have to bother the sheep twice but I don't want to wait two more weeks to do hooves and that would mean they would have to hold still even longer. My new expression I use alot is "you just do what you can do". As long as they know I love them and how could they not know after I danced for them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Closing In

I really miss hanging out with the sheep and Beau. I almost feel like I have been away. First, I was sick with the flu, then the weather wasn't that great for someone recovering from the flu, and then I just felt very tired. Sunday, the wind was really blowing (gusts must have been close to 50 miles an hour) and then today I spent 8 hours over at Karen's feeding a fire to make maple syrup.
Tomorrow hopefully will be a nice day so I can continue the barnyard cleanup I started a few days ago. I have been reading books and articles about getting ready for lambing and it makes you want to start cleaning. Kind of like when you are ready to deliver your own babes.

First get everything clean, then collect anything and everything I might need when the girls are ready to deliver. I feel like the first 4 months went by so quickly and I am afraid the last four weeks will fly by though Karen says the last weeks drag on.

I can't imagine what it would have been like if the girls were delivering while I had the flu. Hopefully, I will be immune for the rest of this season. Anyway most everything I read says stay out of the way but be prepared to step in if need be. I am starting to get excited.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gaining Trust

Today, Sarah decided to trust me. Actually, I am not sure if she has trusted me for a little while but today will mark the beginning of a trusting relationship.

Sarah is one of the Finn sheep and though Finn sheep are characterized as being easy going friendly sheep, I have not known that to be true here. Sarah, and especially Annie, have always been skittish since coming here. I have felt, for a long while, that they might be happier living somewhere else but lately they have seemed a little different.

Sarah has been very curious of late. I always give Sarah and Annie more space when I walk around them and tell them when I am coming their way. Sarah and Annie are more interested in a larger diversity of food offerings. Sarah loves pickles (even before she became pregnant). In the winter when there are slim pickings in the main pasture, the sheep love to be offered anything fresh but only Sarah and occasionally Annie, actually eat the offerings. I think it is the special food that has opened Sarah up to giving me a chance. She has been seeking me out and coming close to see what I might have to offer.

I, on the other hand, have been playing the "what ever" game. Come on over if you want. Today, for whatever reason, we both looked at each other and I reached out and scratched her under her chin and ran my fingers along her nose and she didn't pull back. She seemed to enjoy the attention.

What is it that makes us decide to give someone a chance? What gets us to step outside our comfort zone and let someone get to know us? I don't know what it is but, in this case, I am glad Sarah took that step because she is the first ewe due and I think that will makes things easier if things get difficult. Annie is one of the last due so hopefully we will have time to get to know each other a little better.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yesterday Felt Like Mother's Day

I have been SICK since the last time I blogged. WIPED OUT! Yesterday, Lyndy came over to help me out.

She cleaned the chicken coop, raked out the barn, found some old eggs on top of the closet, took down the winter wreath, raked some of the barnyard, and helped refill the water barrel. AND she didn't just do it "good enough for now". She did everything like she was trying to get hired as a farm hand. Beau showed his appreciation by rolling in the new bedding in the barn but I am sure the others were appreciative as well.

We sat out in the sun and talked while the animals grazed nearby. I have barely been down to the barn the last few days and the animals haven't been able to come out because I haven't had the energy. One day they were so desperate they snuck out when John was taking in some hay but he got them back pretty quickly.

The best gift was her just being there and entertaining me and lifting my spirits. And she cleaned up the sour cream after it exploded on me, my vest on the chair and the floor. Thank you Lyndy -- you made me and the animals so much happier.

Today, Kevin Ford (the world renown blade shearer) is coming to shear sheep just over the hill. I have been waiting for this day to go watch and gain some tips. I have his book and I have seen him shear many times but this time I thought I could get to a next level. I have enough energy to get there but I don't know for how long. At least it looks like it is going to be another nice day-- not too cold.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gramma Hat

When John and I were visiting his mom and dad a few weeks ago, I noticed his mom was not wearing a hat and it was cold so I told her I would make her one. Here it is.

Awhile back I tried the felting over a beach ball trick. You lay fleece over a beach ball in different directions then put a stocking over to hold it in place. Then you bounce the beach ball in the shower into a pan of soapy hot water. Next you throw the whole thing in the dryer and dry it. When it comes out of the dryer you deflate the beach ball and end up with a hat shape kind of thing that you can modify.

I ended up with unevenness and holes and was originally going to turn it into something else but never got inspired so-- I took this mold, cut it a bit and needle felted some black alpaca on to it and made a brim and put on some embellishments and I think it came out pretty good. We mailed it yesterday. The best part is, it is very lightweight and soft and warm.

I just love it when things become something different than originally planned. A few weeks ago an experiment in sheet felting went awry and I was very disappointed at first. Then I saw how it could become something beautiful. It is still awaiting its new life but that is O.K.

Today, a friend came over to play with fiber and I made another attempt at sheet felting. This one failed big time also, but I am getting experience at not seeing failures as failures but rather a different kind of art form. This one has tremendous potential.

I think Amelia, Sarah and/or Annie will be proud to have Gramma wearing some of their last years fleece.