Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shepherd or Sheep Farmer revisited

No, I am not giving up blogging, it has just been awhile. I was talking to a friend the other day, about journaling and recording information, and I was saying I could do neither for any length of time but for some reason I have been able to blog for more than two years. Blogging really has been a way to keep track of when I did what and how things (understanding and attitudes) have changed over that time.

I think I am getting this sheep farming thing. I decided I should call myself a sheep farmer rather than a shepherd though I would rather be a shepherd sometimes. I earlier went along with my, nephew's definition (see http://6sheepandallama.blogspot.com/2011/05/shepherd-or-sheep-farmer.html ) that a shepherd leads his sheep and a sheep farmer has a dog that moves sheep by nipping at their heels, but now I have a different definition. I think a shepherd hangs out with his/her sheep and communes with them and a sheep farmer just moves them around to do things to them or for them. Lately, it seems that I am just feeding them or getting them water and today I have to get a couple of them in for a check (grooming). Mostly, I think, it has been the mud thing or just not great weather, that has kept me from hanging out more. A couple of days have been great but I have had other things I needed to do. I keep dreaming of those great days when we all hang out in the delightful sun and gently breeze.

Yes, I can get those things done that need to get done, so I am a pretty good sheep farmer. I am getting better and faster at trimming hooves but don't seem to get it done as often as I should. I don't panic about things like I used to, like limping sheep. No, they aren't all going around limping. It is just that this week 2 were limping slightly, at different times. I think part of it is the uneven hard mud. Also, I think sheep and chickens just get stepped on sometimes or twist an ankle for whatever reason. Anyway, I am going to check out a few feet today just to see how they look.

I used to even worry that I was giving too much hay or not enough. I have come to realize it isn't all that critical and they will let me know if it is not enough. The biggest problem is if they get too much grain and that certainly isn't the case around here.

Whether I am a sheep farmer or a shepherd I have really gotten to know my sheep better and they, me. Most of them trust me. And sometimes when I am hanging out at a fence, Mira or Zorra, or Charlotte or Amelia will come over just to get a good rub.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Raining again and the mud keeps getting deeper. It is especially bad in front of the hay feeders and by the gate; probably 2" plus.

I just came in from putting out more hay. The sheep were up by the barn and Beau was in his new favorite spot in the shelter behind the garage/barn. It was SO muddy I considered feeding the sheep up at the barn in the wall hay feeders and big round bucket but then I thought about how that is more crowded and everyone gets hay all over them and it is harder for me to do, so I put it in the hay feeders by the fence where the mud is 2" deep.

Beau went to get hay and I closed the gate which meant he couldn't go back to his favorite spot tonight. On the way back up to the house I felt bad because I thought about how it is probably wet in parts of the barn again, though I did clean up and put down more new straw a couple of days ago. But Beau really likes the new spot. The problem is, for some reason I feel like the area behind the garage/barn isn't as secure. And with him in one area and the sheep in the other I don't feel like he can be as tuned in to two spots. But on the other hand, he is in what I feel is the more vulnerable area so nothing will get by him.

Also, as I was leaving the barnyard, Beau was looking for a special treat. (but he almost always is) I didn't give him a treat because he gets way more than the sheep and then I feel guilty about that. AND Beau needs his hooves trimmed and I can't do it. I have been meaning to call the vet and ask for someone to come out but don't know if I can make an appointment for the day after the next time we have 3 days in a row without rain.

I keep telling myself that they are farm animals and if they lay on hard cold ground when soft warm dry straw is available they are not suffering with a little rain and MUD.

Back at the house, after the long guilt ridden trek, John greets me with "how are the kids" and I proceed to spill out all my feelings of guilt. He listens and then says they are all fine when Beau is in his special area. I then feel guilty again and say I should go down and open the gate again and John says, "tomorrow". Somehow, that one little word makes the guilt dissolve and I begin to relax for the evening.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Nuts, I guess I'm not going to get rich selling wild Hickory Nuts.

We have several Hickory trees on the farm. When I decided it was time to rake up all the nuts that had been underfoot so long, I decided to look up hickory nuts and see what I could do with them. What I read, said, you have to gather them quickly before the squirrels get them all. It went on to say, if the squirrels didn't eat them they are probably bitter. I had to rake them up anyway, so what did I have to lose? Time, that's what.

It was a beautiful day a few weeks ago. A great day to get some exercise raking. My new Christmas present (the red thing up front) made it easy to scoop up nuts from the piles but a lot of twigs and other stuff got picked up also so there was a bit of sorting to be done. Like I said though, it was a beautiful day and one of my favorite areas on the farm.

Here is the bounty before sorting.

Then I stored the sorted nuts in the garage/barn to dry thoroughly before opening.

In the mean time, I read up on opening hickories without shattering them, since I heard it was quite difficult. Lots of great stories about opening hickories later, I decided the picture on a Mother Earth News site would be my best hope. It showed a bullseye on the nut.

The accounts reminded me of opening quahogs. There is that one sweet spot- that if you get it down you have a valuable skill that could earn you some good money.

Today, was the day to find out what I had. I actually did pretty good opening a few but alas they were bitter. One you could taste a hint of that nut taste but others were just bitter. When you get that taste in your mouth it is difficult to try another and get an accurate account, so I waited and drank some water and waited a while longer.

Then, I remembered my solution for getting rid of a bitter taste. I discovered the means a few years ago when I was taking astragalus and - what was the other herb, Eliza?

I got out my good chocolate and it worked its wonder, but alas the next bite of hickory and Yuck.

I think I am going to become one of Velma's and Roxie's best friends. They are Karens pigs. Karen tells me they can crack the nuts and eat the whole shattered mess (shell and all) and they supposedly love them. Maybe Karen and I will eat the chocolate while we watch them.

The whole process was not really a waste of time. I did get the lawn cleaned up. I did get practice opening the nuts for next year when I find some Shag Bark Hickory trees. And I did get to eat some chocolate.

Tomorrow, I think I will try a few walnuts.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Fine Day with Family

One of my brothers came for a spontaneous visit yesterday and brought 2 of my great nieces along, one 7 and the other 3.

This morning it was 18 degrees and I didn't get up until 8:00 because I was dreaming and planning at 2 A.M. again. When I got up the older niece was fully dressed and on the way out the door to go with John to let the chickens out. She was hauling 2 buckets of water. They let the chickens out, gave water and hay to the sheep and Beau, and realized there was no chicken feed in the barn because we ran out yesterday. John knew I had gotten new so K. pushed the wheelbarrow up to the van and John put the new bag in. Then K. pushed the wheelbarrow with 50 lbs. of chicken feed all the way back down to the garage/barn and gave the chickens some food.
When they came back up we decided to have eggs for breakfast and only had 4 at the house. When I said I would go down and check at the barn K. wanted to do it alone. We went together because the chickens are still laying in the closet in the barn and I didn't think she could do the ring latch. She could do it, did it, and wished there was more to do. On the way back up to the house, the 3rd time for K., she asked if she could mow the lawn.

She didn't want to leave when the time came. She wanted to stay at least for another night so she could feed the animals.

K. also learned to knit while she was here. She picked it up very quickly. Now she just has to learn to arrange the work at the end of each row before she starts the new stitches. Her sister S. plays and sings sweet little songs all day. She kind of latched onto John. They both did, actually.

I had a birthday massage scheduled for today that I didn't want to cancel so I left the girls to the guys and went on my merry way. What a fine day indeed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We Are Who We Are

Today, after many years of planning on learning how to knit by the Continental method, I finally did. Thanks M. See what comes from listening. M. is the student who yesterday told me she needed to learn to knit left-handed and that was that.

So I googled left-handed knitting and learned some interesting things and had some good laughs. Several peopled suggested lefties learn to knit by the Continental method because you hold the yarn in your left hand but don't need to translate every pattern. I also practiced true left handed knitting but boy is that awkward. Two articles I read, suggested everyone learn several methods, including ones they make up. One of the funniest things I read was on the subject of the question I get more than any other, "what do you do when you get all the stitches off one needle and on to the other?" The writer just taught herself to knit backwards because she thought that was what everyone did. It never occurred to her to switch hands. I love it, now I want to try that -- boggles my mind thinking about it but maybe it won't be too bad. I guess many do it for short rows and special projects. If I had pushed M. to learn right handed knitting I would have missed so much.

It rained all day today so about 3 I decided to take the animals treats. I discovered I had two too many animals. No, no extra bodies they just decided to hang out under the shelter behind the garage/barn and I guess it was a little tight so Charlotte and Jumpin Jack were hanging out in the regular barn alone. Part of the regular barn gets wet on the ground from water coming down slope. The shelter, behind the garage/barn, has a raised cement floor with dry straw on top. Guess I have to move excavation around the barn up on the priority list. Later, when I went down to close the chicken coop and red gate, I was worried they would be split up again but they were all up at the barn, I guess, anyway not in the shelter.

It is always so interesting to me to see how a topic comes up in one part of my life and then is repeated elsewhere a day or two later. At sauna this afternoon, the topic came up about child rearing and different peoples approaches. Some were talking about the "because I said so" approach and Peggy and I couldn't remember ever saying that. Lyndy, correct me if I am wrong.

We are who we are-- animal or human, no one should try to change us by my way of thinking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Doing Things Differently

The ordinary but orderly way to eat hay

John always likes to say, "it's the full moon" which could be true today, because yesterday was indeed a full moon. I sometimes wish it were just the moon and then I would just have to deal with a day or two a month.

Today, I had my after school knitting class; 6 middle schoolers. I think it was our 6th time together (though some have missed a time or two or three) and they pretty much have the knit stitch down, so I felt it was time to move on to the purl stitch. I took some great colorful small balls of yarn my friend Kathleen sent, and knit a base for each student to work from. I cast on 18 stitches on each so they could later become these great little hand puppets for refuge children (pattern also from Kathleen). Thank you Kathleen.

I got to school and found we were going to have to use a different room because of a pep club thing so right off the bat something was different. I carefully explained what we were going to do but immediately things went a rye . The first student told me she forgot how to knit and I said O.K., but then she told me she was left handed and couldn't knit right handed. We had the talk about left handed people learning to knit right handed so they could read patterns later, the first day. I asked her how she was doing the past couple of weeks and she said she had only been casting on.

She decided she wanted to learn how to knit left handed regardless of the future difficulties. So I honored her decision and told her I would brush up on my left handed knitting. Then there were the two students that wanted to sit on the table and knit. Next, was the student that only wanted to purl one row and that was it for knitting for her today. Another student only wanted to knit; no purling. She is a good knitter but she doesn't want to have anything to do with purling and I just don't get it. I sure hope Thursday goes a little better.

Later, back at the barnyard, I had animals that wanted to do things differently. They like to eat out of the wheelbarrow before I get the hay in the hay bin. Also, they wanted to eat on the back side of the hay bin which meant I had to go back later to close the red gate.

So shall I just be glad there is only one full moon a month and hope that that is what "different" is about or shall I consider that they are all giving me the opportunity to see things differently, honor differences, and see what I can learn from it all.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Planning Days

Rainy days are good planning days and today our mail carrier came up to the house with a package for me with a planning tool inside.

At Christmas time, I was talking to one of my brother-in-laws who makes really nice leather clipboards. He said he would make me one for a late birthday present and asked what size I wanted. I told him I liked legal size pads and today it came. Thanks Chuck it is beautiful.

Now, I can make many plans for 2012. I already started, but now it will be extra fun. What I really need though is a clipboard with a light in the clip somehow (will have to talk to Chuck about that) for all those ideas that come rushing to me at 3 A.M.

I am looking out the window at a beautiful raindrop bush. It is covered with drops like new shiny buds. Gail, do you have a picture of a droplet hanging from a branch? I love to look at the upside-down scene in them but I always forget why things are upside-down.

On the subject of cool things to take pictures of, part of the plans for the Cabin Spring Farm website, is to incorporate more pictures. I don't find images easy to work with on blogspot but I probably just need to spend more time figuring it out. I do have this blog on the header, so at least anyone who clicks on the blog can see more of what happens on the farm. Karen asked if I had a link from here to there and I don't think I ever actually did that so here it is. http://cabinspringfarm.com/

Tomorrow is suppose to be sunny and nice so I can continue planning sitting out in the sun. I wonder if a person makes different plans on a rainy day than a sunny day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Weather Outside- Frightful or Delightful

Its been really cold the last couple of days. Cold so that the water in rain barrels isn't available except for an hour sometime in the afternoon but if you aren't there then, forget it, you have to haul water from the house. But I can't complain, I have only had to haul water 3 times so far this winter.

The animals certainly aren't complaining about the weather. They have a warmish barn (at least they have soft straw to lay in) and they lay out on the hard ground dusted with snow. Beau, sometimes hangs out in the barn and John says, "he's no dummy", but last night he wasn't around. He didn't even come down when I put hay out. It makes me wonder what was more important - he is a guard llama, after all, and he has to watch the whole perimeter. On moon lit nights, some times we can see him laying in the middle of the pasture but last night was dark and cold.

The new year has arrived and I feel really good about new possibilities. On New Years day I was reminded by someone that it makes an important difference whether you talk about goals and plans or write them down. Therefore, I am going to make a conscious effort to write down my 2012 plans, for the farm in particular.

I am going to expand on the Cabin Spring Farm website. I will be planning 4 major farm events for the year-- 2 in the Spring, 1 the end of the summer, 1 for the Fall, and maybe a 5th for next winter. Also, farm tours, more fiber adventures, more fiber camps, and hopefully a want- to- be farmer visitor who wants to learn about farming via helping me on some special projects, as well as helping with standard chores. Where is this guy (or gal)?

I received a card, today, from a good friend who was complaining about no cold and no snow. She lives in northern Wisconsin, where the season people look forward to, is Winter. I think I am glad tomorrow is going to be warmer and hopefully sunnier so I can sit in the sun and make more plans.