Friday, January 30, 2009

snow play

The only thing better than playing in the snow, seems to be playing in the snow with a puppy.





And to my mind at least, the only thing better than kids playing outside, is a puppy too tired to get into trouble.



As anyone who has spent any amount of time with my third son can attest, he is an inveterate thumbsucker. Regardless of the event or location, he is bound to be plugged in at some point, with his yellow "snuggie" firmly clutched in the other hand. Looking through our family pictures, I was struck by how many feature him sucking his thumb. It is an accurate reflection of how devoted he is to the practice.

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We went to the dentist yesterday, and he had bad news for Terzo. All that thumbsucking is causing his teeth to shift, and he needs to stop as soon as possible. Terzo accepted the news calmly, and agreed that he would give up the thumb. He came back home and proudly announced to Primo that he was stopping, and then absentmindedly popped his thumb in his mouth just after making the pronouncement.

It's a very ingrained habit, but he was genuinely making the effort -- until bedtime. He settled down with his snuggie and I started reading a book, and his thumb automatically made its way into his mouth. I reminded him to take it out, and he smiled at me, and then the ENORMITY of what he was being asked to do hit him right between the eyes. His face crumpled and he started to sob with genuine grief and loss.

Poor kid! I am more than sympathetic. I was an unrepentant thumbsucker to the (gulp!) ripe old age of eight. I was fortunate to escape orthodonture, but he won't be so lucky. It's the thumb or $3000 -- ask Primo how I know the cost. Sorry bud, the thumb loses.

Monday, January 26, 2009


In my oh-so-humble opinion, a hoarfrost is one of the most beautiful, magical natural events, with amazing powers of transformation. We were graced with one last Monday morning.*

Primo was the first one up, as usual, and the first one to take the camera out, though he didn't venture far beyond the back door. It was a little too dark to see the hoarfrost clearly.

Secondo got dressed a little while later and toured the farm as the sun was coming up.


The day never got very bright, and my attempts reflect the lurking grey snow sky.


The boys spent the morning cleaning off the pond, which was frozen solid, and then skated to their hearts' content with their friends and Dusty. (Dusty added an extreme element to the hockey game by forming his own team with his own rules: he chased and tackled players, guarded the goals, and stole the puck indiscriminately. Of course, I have no pictures.)

The sky finally released the snow in the late afternoon, but it was a disappointment: just enough to cover up the ice again, but not enough to postpone school the next day. Luckily, we didn't need to plow...


*In blogging, as with everything else my life, I am about 7.3 days behind at this point. It is a vast improvement on the 21+ days I was running on about two weeks ago.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Every so often, the lion and the lamb manage to lie down together.


One of them isn't overly thrilled about it. I'll let you work out which one it is from the expression on his face. Hint: it's the one who looks like I am forcing him to be there...

p.s. Blogger insists that I am posting this on 1/18. In fact, it is 1/23.

spring in my step

We are not 100% positive -- indeed, true confirmation will only arrive in the form of delivered lambs -- but we are pretty sure that at least three of our ewes are pregnant. This was not a foregone conclusion, as our ram did a very poor job. In fact, he did such a poor job that he was fired and turned into sausage. (A ram might have a great job description, but the consequences of failure are pretty dire.)

I had steeled myself against his failure. As much as lambing is a lot of cold hard work and worry, it is also a lot of joy and fun as the unknown is revealed. I was more than a little bummed at the thought of no lambies bouncing around our farm this year. Nothing says spring like a group of lambs having lamb races and sproinging around the pasture.

But it seems that he managed to catch at least three girls, and our best guess is that we will have a few of these, come mid-February:


I can't wait! (Feel free to remind me of this state of excited anticipation when I start whining about the 2 am barn-check shift in about three weeks...)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

on call

Today, my main job was to "assist" the electrician (read: manning the circuit breaker and making supply runs to the hardware store) to get our outdoor plugs working today -- we could not de-ice the water for our sheep in the back pasture due to an electrical issue. My LSH had spent the weekend unsuccessfully, and a bit dangerously, trying to figure it out.* We had reached a bit of a crisis point. It is no fun hauling water all the way back there, and it was a zero sum game trying to provide enough for the sheep before it froze.

Then the call came: a ewe just had triplets (actually, quadruplets, but one was stillborn; this is extremely rare in sheep). No one was at home due to work; could I please go take a look and assist family members who had driven out to help? As soon as the electrician was done, I pulled on my work coat and boots and headed over. After much towelling off little jet-black lambs, and milking out colostrum to make sure all the babies got some (I would be a failure as a milkmaid), and a little stomach tube feeding (I really really hate doing this, it makes me nervous beyond belief), and clipping and dipping umbilical cords, and making sure the littlest ewe stopped shaking and shivering, I headed home. Dusty was exceptionally interested in all the colostrum and other fascinating smells all over my jeans.

This is not an unusual event. When you become a shepherd, you become part of a tightly-knit group of people who, for the most part, operate under the radar. It is really amazing to me, however, how we pretty much all know each other, and each other's stock... to the extent that when our sheep got loose soon after we got them, a call was put out to a local well-known shepherdess (cough (Laurie) cough) who knew immediately where those sheep belonged. This owner described the ewe to me in a few words, and I knew exactly who had lambed.

I am also amazed by how everyone steps up to the plate for everyone else, and lends a hand when necessary. Next time, it will be my turn. Given the relative oddity that owning stock has become, I cannot begin to express the peace of mind this affords. So to all those shepherds who have done the same for me in the past: a heartfelt THANK YOU.

* At one particularly tense moment, as he was testing wires, I happened to call him and his phone vibrated in his pocket. He jumped ten feet in the air, thinking he had electrocuted himself.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I am home by myself.

This rarely happens.

Outside, there is that wonderful peaceful quiet that happens when it snows. Inside, there is the lovely peaceful quiet that happens when there are no boys at home and my LSH's office is closed.

This rarely happens, let alone at the same time.

I had great grand plans to get all the ironing done, and catch up on the farm paperwork, and clean off my desk, and a few more things. Instead, I am off to enjoy complete power over the remote control, and knitting with my feet up.

This is off the scale.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

two dog family

My family had dogs when I was small, but after an unfortunate Irish Setter episode, we settled into cats. It made more sense in our small townhouse in London, while we lived there, and we discovered what every cat owner knows: cats are fairly easy to have around. They learn the litter box routine quickly, they don't need to be walked in the cold and rain, and they are perfectly self-sufficient if left for a few days by themselves. In fact, sometimes they don't even seem to notice when they are left by themselves.

Soon after my LSH and I married, my parents turned over Adelaide, a tiny brown Burmese and the only kitten we had kept (at my begging) from a few litters of Burmese. Adelaide seemed a little lonely, especially while my LSH and I worked and studied for long long hours in graduate school, so my LSH gave me Annie, an Abyssinian cross, for our first anniversary (hence her name). As if I needed any more proof that he loved me, this second kitten provided it: my LSH came from an exclusively dog-owning line of people, who all thought he was a little nuts to have TWO cats in the house.

We went along with our two cats for quite some time, through several moves and new jobs and three babies. But when we moved to this place, which was more remote than anything either of us were used to, I insisted on a dog to act as an extra set of eyes and ears. We found Charlie, an adult rescue, on Petfinder. His adoption story will have to wait for another day, but we found that we liked having a dog around. He is a good watchdog and he carefully patrols the farm. Since my LSH works from home, letting him out wasn't a big deal. He and the cats lived in relative harmony for quite a few years, until the cats passed away and he was left by himself for a while.

But not for too long. Midge wormed her way into the family this summer. She annoyed him by chasing his feathery tail, and surprising him around corners, and trying to eat his food. Good dog that he is, he put up with it but maybe became a little more grumpy and withdrawn in his old dog ways.

And then Dusty entered his life.


Dusty tries to make him play at every turn, jumps on his back when Charlie is trying to pee, steals his food (making much more of a dent in the bowl than Midge ever did), and just generally drives him batty. Charlie alternates between snarling at Dusty to "quit it" and hiding behind me to get away from him. And yet... and yet... Charlie is definitely perkier now that Dusty is around. (He has to be, just to keep an eye out for the puppy's approach.) He is spending less time under our bed upstairs and more time with the family. He is even getting back at Dusty in subtle ways, by stealing his puppy chew toys and stashing them in his under-bed cave. He has even taken up chewing rawhide bones, something that he NEVER did before. (He steals them from Dusty once Dusty has gotten them nice and softened up.)

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All in all, Dusty has been really good for Charlie, but I accept the fact that Charlie probably doesn't agree with me.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

happy new year one and all. Here at the farm we spent a quiet day working a little, resting a lot, and relaxing together, the last of which we don't seem to do nearly often enough.

The rabbit was insulated for the winter. (Yes, we're a little behind on that chore, but he doesn't mind the cold weather nearly as much as the hot.)

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The sheep were fed and the puppy was introduced to the joys of chasing a soccer ball.

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Once we were back inside, away from the bitter wind, we lit a fire, popped some popcorn and had a board game extravaganza.

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We really, really, really need to do this sort of thing more often. Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution. I vowed I wasn't going to make any (especially concerning more regular blog posts; no need to set myself up for failure so quickly), but I think this might be a goal worth working toward.