Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Molasses, Turpentine, and Linseed Oil

Juliette de Bairacli Levy, in her book The Complete Herbal Handbook For Farm And Stable, says molasses is the best tonic food for sheep and linseed oil the best general medicine. Sometimes you have to mix in a little turpentine. And then there are the herbs.

I am really enjoying reading and rereading parts of her book and it is amazing that after a few reads, my reaction to turpentine is Oh sure, that makes sense instead of WHAT!!!

Tomorrow, I am going to see my local herbalist to make a few tinctures, pick up an herb order of herbs to deter moths, and ask her to read a paragraph in the book. She also is part of the local chapter of the native plant society. She and others are coming out to the farm Saturday to make some suggestions on plantings in a few areas. One thing I want to do is plant a hedgerow in the pasture.

It was such a beautiful day today, that I started clearing the area that I want to add to the area behind the garage/barn. After reading the herbal book, I look forward to making this area available to the sheep and Beau with its blackberries, wineberries, wild roses, wild garlic, and more. I cut some of the wild rose back and threw a piece over the fence. Gretta and Zorra found it and started munching. It kept getting stuck on one or the other of them and then got transferred to Mary in the middle and then back to Zora and she got upset with it and took off. The sheep eat the small branches but Beau seems to just like the new leaves. I would love to let them back there now but I think that would be a major mistake as wooly as they are now.

As with everything with the animals, I think I am going to have to take it slowly and see what works.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Abrasive Water

One of my least favorite farm chores is cleaning out the water trough. I know I have mentioned it before. It gets green algae that is hard to get completely off since I don't want to use bleach.

Since it has been so wet and muddy from the snow melt, I didn't want to add to the mud by dumping the water from the trough so I waited as long as I could. When I scrub out the trough the water gets so green that I can't see how I am doing so I have to dump and then rinse. I hate to bring over more water from a rain barrel and go through the process again, so today I used snow to scrub. Interesting, "Abrasive Water". It really worked a lot better. Too bad snow isn't around more often.

I have been spreading sand (remember the over estimate from the sandbag project?) around the barnyard to help with the mud and it occurred to me that sand is very abrasive and might work as well. Make a note: use sand to clean the trough.

As a writer, as I see and do things, I think about these things in terms of there interest for written material and the language to use. I am sure Karen is more keenly aware of all subtle smells and tastes after making so many varieties of goat cheese and wine. As we walked across the Washington and Lee Campus tonight, John stopped to touch and knock on a gigantic column to see how it was put together and what it was made of. Gail probably looks at life from more angles than most considering the gazillion photographs she has taken. I would love to see life with the complexity that I imagine Lyndy sees it.
I have probably told the story of giving my mom water colors for her birthday when she was bored in her last years. She said she wasn't a painter but I told her even if she didn't actually paint she could look at things as if she was going to paint them and see things differently than she ever had. That is the extra we get out of the physical things we do.

I wonder if others think my choice of things to write about is weird.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sheep Munching in the Barn on a Winter's Evening

Finally got snow-- about 6" but it compressed quickly and almost completely melted today. Once again it is MUDDY so I have been feeding the sheep and Beau their hay in the barn so they aren't standing in inches of mud while they eat.

This evening I took the hay in the wheelbarrow and some of the animals were eating out of the wheelbarrow so I hung out for awhile so I could move the wheelbarrow out again. I could have just pushed it out with them eating out of it but sometimes I need excuses to hang out with the gang. So I rested my head on the half wall in the barn, closed my eyes, and listen to them munch.
I was trying to think how to describe the sound and the best that I could come up with was--- somewhere between a cascading brook in the winter or early spring and a horse drawn carriage clopping down a country road in the winter. Definitely a winter sound.

In trying to come up with the right language, I think about the book Cathy W gave me to read. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. One of the characters is a 12 year old girl who says some very profound things that I wish I could quote but it is too hard to find the passages again and there are many. In any case one is about language. Back to the sound of sheep munching in the barn on a winter's evening, it is not enough to say it was peaceful or relaxing.

Beau was eating too but he eats much more quietly than the sheep.

Tomorrow, I will try to spread some sand in with the mud so we can go back to eating by the fence. The sound and feel is not the same but the job is easier.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Day of Many Hats and Unfurling Possibilities

I walked out the door this morning wearing my business woman hat. I had a 9:30 meeting at the visitor center to talk about marketing strategies for the farm and fiber business. I found out I have archaic ideas about how to grow the business. I guess I knew that, but I didn't realize the possibilities available. Overwhelming.

After the meeting, I called a friend about an herb order. I am ordering some herbs to keep moths out of fleeces. We also talked about ordering medicinal herbs in a few months after I do some more research. A switch to my farm research hat.

Next, I went to the dentist in my personal cap. Good checkup and when I asked if we could extend the time between checkups the hygienist readily agreed, so I went up the street and bought a doughnut to celebrate.

Then I ran around collecting some things I need for the ladies fiber adventure, here Sunday.

At one of the stops I put on my congregational care chair hat and bought 10 cards to keep on hand for upcoming needs. A woman in our congregation put me on to a good place to get cards 2/$1 and nice cards too.

Before returning home, I had to go by the middle school and give one of my previous students her knitting back. Looks like I might not be wearing my school teacher's hat for awhile because many students chose jr. police academy workshop over tapestry weaving and felting workshop for the spring session. Oh well, can't wear hats in school anyway.

I checked the mailbox on returning home and found the book I ordered and have been waiting for. It had been raining all day and still was, so I read a bit before going into the house. The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable--back on with my farm research hat-- such exciting possibilities to explore.

Time then, to feed the animals and me. A quick on and off with my straw hat, and now I sit with my writer's chapeau cocked a bit forward.

I would love to don my sombrero and call it the end of this day but two more quick changes.

I need to be, my daughter's mama and shoot her off a quick good morning email (it is 7:30 A.M. in India right now), and say good night to my husband when he gets home from work.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day

Well, John didn't kiss them, but he did talk to the sheep and we finished the rest of the hooves today. Good thing to do on Valentines Day. You know someone loves you when they hold seven sheep for you, even when their feet are cold ( John's not the sheep). It feels so good to be done for awhile.

This afternoon, I went over to my friend Naomi's farm. She has around 520 hooves at her farm not counting the dogs. She has a lot of rock on her property though, so she doesn't have to worry about hooves so much. Her next major job, which has just begun, will be moving 300+ sheep around from place to place. Fortunately, most of the lambs will be gone before they need too much done on them (accept for baby shots).

I know Karen is anxiously awaiting her kids but, as cute as they are, I am glad we have no lambs due this spring. I have fencing to do and pasture that needs to be restored before we have any more hooves to trim and mouths to feed, here. Plus I still have to find homes for 3 mouths and 12 hooves. Maybe next year, when Cabin Spring Farm sheep get famous and everyone wants their lambs.

Lyndy is in India-- I must remember to ask her if she has seen any sheep there. She called to say Happy Valentines Day but I was probably asleep when she left the message (10 hour time difference). She was going to see the Taj Mahal on Valentines Day. What can I say- We lead different lives.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chit Chatting Away

Karen helped me trim hooves today. It took longer than usual because they were overdue for a trim and much had to come off, but it was very pleasant.

I was dreading the chore because I tried last week. The hooves were so hard I gave up in frustration and thought maybe I just wasn't strong enough. Today, the hooves were softer and manageable. But something else was different too. This time Karen was helping and we were chit chatting. The sheep seemed to be more relaxed just hanging out eavesdropping on our conversation. We were talking about how animals read our emotions and know when we are not confident or know when we are afraid.

I went over to a friends house on Monday to watch a professional shear her sheep. This shearer flips the sheep and moves them around so easily that the sheep actually look like they are enjoying themselves. They are so calm and relaxed-- but so is he. When I flip sheep I get very anxious and so do they.

But the good news is, that by periodically watching a professional flip sheep one picks up some little tips that help. Today, I applied what I saw and it was definitely easier. We were even able to flip Mira! Then, with my good friend Karen there kissing them, they relaxed and I relaxed feeling confident. The rest was idol conversation, eavesdropping, and bits of hooves flying. Zora was so interested in what was going on, that she kept getting hit by flying hooves trimmings.

Kind of reminded me of Beau getting his hooves trimmed last Friday. Instead of the attention being focused on Beau, the vet and I chatted and took Beau's attention off himself.

Now if I can just get John to chit chat and kiss the sheep..........

Thanks Karen.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jerry, Jim, and Joe

In the last four months, Rockbridge County has lost Jerry, Jim, and Joe among others. These three were a small, but important part of my life.

Jerry was the manager of our recycling center. He read everything and listened to the radio religiously. He was a man of much knowledge, many facts, and endless stories. One never knew what they were going to learn, any given day, when they took their cans and bottles to the recycle at the dump. He was born here but spent many years in New England so didn't appear as a southerner . He could tell you all that was wrong in the world but was a supreme optimist. Jerry was loved by all.

Jim was our next door neighbor, just over the hill. He was probably the first person we met here. Our property was carved out of theirs several years ago for good friends of theirs. We didn't get to know Jim too well because not too long after we came here he fell and then started the slow process of dementia and lived in a nursing home because Kitty couldn't care for him. We did have conversations at the summer neighborhood dinners, at the cupola by their pond before that, but most of what I knew about Jim was learned from hundreds of stories over these four years here.

Joe was my friend Naomi's husband. Most of what I know about sheep, I learned from Naomi and Joe. Most of the times I would see Joe, was at a shepherd's symposium, a parasite workshop or some such thing, or the county fair. When I'd go out to see what was happening at their farm or go to ask a question, Joe was always there doing something with sheep. Naomi is the woman of vast knowledge about all the agricultural scene and on the boards of important organizations but Joe was her right hand guy.

Joe was as laid back as Jerry was activated and Jim was somewhere in between. I will miss all three. Makes me wonder what folks will say I did to make a difference in this place when I am gone. Hope I have a little time left because I have great plans if life goes on.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Polite LLama

We have a very polite llama living here at Cabin Spring Farm. That is what the vet said after he trimmed Beau's hooves yesterday.

We are so fortunate to have veterinarian doctors that make house calls to trim llama hooves in addition to emergency care. I think Doctor H. loves to make house calls. We were standing in the cool of the morning, he and Beau and I, and he was telling me how much he likes our view. He told me he hunts deer at our neighbors to the west. Chit Chat and then we all walked into the barnyard and he trimmed Beau's hooves and then told us Beau was the most polite llama he had ever met.

I was very nervous in anticipation of the event. Beau hates having his hooves trimmed almost as much as being sheared, or so I thought. So, I carefully planned how we were going to do it. I have been training Beau to be less sensitive to touch on the face and neck but we haven't gotten to the rest of him yet. I haven't had a halter on him in over 6 months. I wanted to do that and have some positive experiences before we had to halter him for treatment. I just hadn't gotten there yet but I guess the desensitization has worked because it was nothing to but the halter on and adjust it yesterday. I put the halter on before the vet came and took Beau for a nice short walk.

I had nightmares about Beau remembering the last time he had a halter on; when he got sheared and had his dreds cut. I was afraid he would spit at me and make his angry cry when I put the halter on. I was also afraid he would embarrass me in front of the vet by not letting me near him and make the vet think I have no control of my animals. Where does that come from? But alas he stood there and didn't complain. Of course it goes without mentioning that he was eating treats.

Even though it all went smoothly, I was glad I got up early and was able to have that quality time with Beau before the vet came and we could meet him outside the barnyard and have that nice little cool morning chat before the business at hand.

I am not saying Beau didn't get up and down a few times when the doc was trimming, but he didn't scream at us or spit. All in all, a very positive experience. Now, I want to take Beau on more walks.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spring Either Way or Happy Groundhog Day

I didn't see any of our resident groundhogs today. Haven't seen them in a long while. I guess it doesn't matter though; if this is Winter it doesn't matter when Spring comes.

Definitely felt like Spring today. I was talking to a friend this morning and we were talking about how now that we aren't 30 anymore timing is different. That is how she put it. It is like you never know when you are going to have surges of energy and when something is going to take months to complete. Major surge today with lots of spring cleaning. I had the refrigerator cleaned before 11 A.M. and a couple of loads of laundry done. I cleared off and dusted my night table, took the sheets off our bed, and headed out for my project for the day (cleaning out the shed and finding new places for things). It was the perfect day for dragging everything out. Looked like it was going to rain a couple of times but then the wind would come up and it would blow over.

Later, I went to a staff meeting at the middle school, for the after school program I am involved with, and then off to knitting workshop. When I came home, I gave the animals more hay, let a chicken in the gate that got stuck outside the fence, put away a few things in the garage/barn, came up to the house and put the sheets in the dryer, made dinner, vacuumed behind the bed, and put the clean sheets on. And now I sit down to blog.

I have SO many projects but since I am not 30, and I can't expect to have too many days like today in a row, I am going to hire some help. Time to invest, Dad.

Many years ago, I was out to lunch with Dad and he was talking about leaving me some money when he died and I think he was kind of wondering what I would do with it. I told him I didn't need any money. I wish I had told him that I was going to use the money to hire someone to help me put up some fencing for sheep when I had a farm a decade + later. Dad was all about investing. I knew, a couple of years after Mom and Dad died, that I would invest some of the money, though not the way Dad did, and use some to travel (to honor who Mom was). Of course, if I wasn't married to a very successful and wonderful guy, the money would be long gone on living expenses. But since I am married to John, I am going to invest in our farm and my fiber business.

It is a good time to hire local help to stimulate the economy. And when I get some of the projects, that roll around in my head at 3 A.M., done- I can sleep better and maybe even take a vacation. Thanks Mom and Dad and John.