Wednesday, March 31, 2010
But I can honestly say that I had a lot more fun getting rid of stuff than I thought I would. Moving things out always feels to me like I am literally losing weight myself. Guess all this junk does drag you down after a while. The difference was that it wasn't just getting dropped off somewhere, where I often feel as if I am giving up on it. Here's my rejects, hope you can do something with them... Instead, it was a joy to see the things go on to new homes where they were so much more appreciated, needed and wanted than here. Our old stuff got a new lease on life, and we got to watch it happen!
Good for it. Good for us. And good for our basement.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
And just in the nick of time, too. I was able to wear it all day today to combat the cold, blustery rain! It is the perfect bundle-up-to-stay-warm fit, and at the end of the day it was a pretty quick and easy knit, relatively speaking.
Project details: #77 Vine Lace Top Down Cardigan, in Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky, color deep charcoal M-06, size large (because I couldn't get gauge -- yeah, that's the reason), minus the patch pockets (which were very cute but for some reason didn't fit on my sweater in the appointed spot).
Monday, March 29, 2010
Saturday I took an absolutely fantastic spinning workshop with Nelda Davis, a local spinning guru. Even better, my mom and friend Chris were in the class with me, plus three other lovely women, so it was a fantastically enjoyable day all the way around. My knowledge of sheep breeds, wool characteristics and fiber preperation is starting to come together and gel in a way that helped me to understand a great deal of what Nelda was talking about (truly, the woman is a fount of spinning and wool knowledge). It was one of those classes where a developing skill gets the tools it needs to expand into the next level of accomplishment, and my mind was spinning (sorry) with the possibilities on the way home.
It was also, thanks to my family, a lovely day off from the stress of the animals these days. Stress is a relative term, mind you, and more refers to the intensive level of management that we have going on right now. We have four different groups (rams, non-pregnant ewes, pregnant ewes, lactating ewes) and every one requires a different level of care. I found myself having to give detailed instructions at various points in the day (a representative set: "OK, now you let out Clover and Henrietta because the frost is off the grass, give them hay but no grain. Pick out the barn, let Farrah and her lambs out of the jug, give her hay and grain, keep Hermione and her lambs in the jug, no grain but alfalfa hay is fine today.") Even though I was miles away and very involved in something else, I found myself checking my watch reflexively and calculating how long until the bottle baby's next feeding.
So when I came home and was going through my mail, it was somewhat of a jerk back to a long-ago reality to find my NJ lawyer's registration and a magazine entitled "100 Top NJ Super-Lawyers," or something along those lines. The latter was chock-full of perfectly coiffed lawyers in dark suits, posing in front of law books and trying to look knowledgeable and trustworthy. Somewhere out there is a picture or two of me in the exact same stance, looking quite a bit younger and with no hay bits in my hair. It struck me, not for the first time, how far away that world is from the one I am in right now. As college tuition is looming on the not-too-distant horizon, it is undoubtedly a world I will have to rejoin someday. But I was perfectly content yesterday to mark off "still retired" on my lawyer's registration form, and put it in the mail before heading back to the barn for the next feeding.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
On Monday, we noticed that the smallest triplet was a little hunched over, a little bit tottery, just not quite as sprightly as the others. We offered a bottle of goat colostrum, to see if he just wasn't getting enough to eat, and sure enough he sucked it right down. A few hours later, the same result... he was nursing off his dam the entire time but it seems that he's the loser in the competition-for-the-nipple event that takes place every time she stands up. All three are in the mix in this picture and I can't really tell who's winning.
Thanks to the advice of super-helpful Coopworth mentors Pam and Nina, we have instituted a nightly weigh-in. (Most of these photos were taken by Terzo, as my hands tend to be full, and so you are viewing an almost-six-year-old's perspective. May help to explain some of the angles, such as the one below where he cropped out the scale that we were using to suspend the lamb sling, making it look like some sort of bizarre lamb airlift ritual.)
The first night (Tuesday) confirmed that he was having trouble keeping up -- he had lost a whopping pound off his 9 lb birthweight, while the other two had gained a pound. By then we were feeding him regularly and he was getting used to the routine, running up to us and trying to suck our kneecaps every time we entered the pen.
We were thrilled tonight to see that he gained a whole pound, and is hopping along with his brother and sister (though he still lies on top of them, we suspect for warmth.) Luckily he is still nursing off his mom, and so I don't feel compelled to run out there for a middle of the night feeding as I do for lambs that are completely on their own. Doesn't save me tonight, though, as we have another ewe thinking about going into labor
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
It was a bit of a long convoluted installation, but the good news is that (1) I will not bore you with the details; and (2) it was finally finished last Friday afternoon with the new gas cooktop being hooked up. Just in time to cook for the shearing crew on Sunday, thank goodness! I think we had around 25 people for brunch, plus the crew of teenagers the night before, so it would have been pretty ugly without it.
Oh, you want to see what it looks like? (click on the pictures if you want to see them bigger)
We are very very pleased with how it turned out. Little hard to tell from the pictures, but the quartz countertops match the already-existing backsplash, cabinets, walls, floors, stone fireplace, etc. etc. absolutely perfectly and are supposedly indestructable. Even better, they hide crumbs and water rings masterfully. And OF COURSE I had to clean off tons of junk, already, so we could take a picture.
We will be back to our regular programming tomorrow, with (hopefully) lots of cute baby lamb pictures if the subjects cooperate.
Monday, March 22, 2010
We knew that Farrah was due today, and suspected that the stress of shearing might cause her to go into labor a day early. Sure enough, a few hours after we finished yesterday she was staring into the corner of the shed with a far away look in her eye. One of our frequent checks revealed a water sac hanging out and we knew that it was go time. The first lamb was a slightly complicated nose-first delivery (you want to see the front feet first with the nose resting on the legs, a la superman) but my LSH was a champ and managed to fish one front leg and then the rest of her out -- even with a sizeable audience watching. The pressure was definitely on.
As we tried to get her up and nursing, which took quite a while, my LSH moved over to the ewe to strip out the waxy plug in her teats to make it easier for the lamb to get her first drink. He was standing behind the ewe, and was promptly rewarded with a gush of amniotic fluid into his left boot. We looked at each other and knew that could only mean one thing (well, besides a wet and somewhat icky foot)... another lamb, which also needed a bit of help as he only had one leg instead of both in front of him. He was a bit smaller, so a little easier to get out, but as we were cleaning him off we noticed more hooves peeking out. At this point we were in shock but the ewe seemed to take it all in stride.
We and she managed to get them all out, cleaned off, and (eventually) nursing. Took a while, and we are still not out of the woods with regard to making sure that everyone is getting enough to eat. At least Farrah seems to understand that she has three and she is pretty even-handed with her attention; many ewes cannot count beyond two. We are grateful for her genius sheep arithmetic ability.
The grand total was one ewe and two rams, and the names seem to be Jasmine, Jet and Joker -- it's "J" year, in case you can't figure that out. Jasmine, on the bottom in the picture above, is the spitting image of her father as a lamb, with the exact same white ears, throat and belly. Joker, the lamb on the top, was the last one out, because the joke was definitely on us when we saw that third set of hooves.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Hoyt his usual amazing job, plus tutored a new shearer in the art of removing wool well.
We had two extra boys on hand from the 4-H club. They were amazingly helpful and made our day so much easier with their ability to catch and move animals around. They may become an indispensible part of the day...
... much like our own personal chapter of the ISPSPP,* who were pleased to enjoy an upgrade in conditions from their usual cramped quarters in the barn to the driveway instead. What a beautiful day we had, especially in contrast to last weekend.
And now I am so tired just thinking about all we did that my update on our little surprise will have to wait for tomorrow.
* International Society of Professional Sheep Poop Pickers
Friday, March 19, 2010
(What, did you think the ambulance coming was the interesting bit?)
The office got a little backed up with patients while my LSH dealt with the emergent situation, and so the parking lot got backed up too. For some reason, three separate state trooper cars arrived while the ambulance was still here (must have been a slow policing day), and now the lot and driveway were full to overflowing. One of the state troopers backed into our front field to turn around -- the field that is damp at the best of times, but right now is positively soaking -- he failed to notice the standing water, and... yep, you guessed it. Stuck.
Thank goodness for that tow rope we keep in the truck! (A little hard to tell here, as I was hiding behind the grass to take the picture like some crazed undercover spy, but the police car on the left is pulling out the car on the right.)
It could have been worse. The office manager stopped one of the troopers just before he pushed his co-worker further back into the field. Now, even I know that it doesn't make sense unless you want to have a burial at mud for the car! Look at the standing water behind the ruts -- what did they think going further back would accomplish?
We now have some impressive ruts to add to our collection in that particular field. Do you think Governor Christie would be willing to find a little petty cash to fill it in? Nah, you're right, probably not even worth asking given the mood he's been in lately.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Today was one of those days. Note: I am not saying that every day out doing farm chores is like this. As a matter of fact, the vast majority are not. But this happened to be one, and I was even more pleased that I happened to recognize and enjoy it.
As soon as my littlest assistant got off the bus from kindergarten, we changed into chore clothes and headed out. We scrubbed and filled stock tanks, we emptied and restuffed hay racks, we trapped a cat (Operation Spay-a-Cat: Part Two is in full swing), we moved sheep up to where they needed to be, we took pictures of ourselves doing these mundane, but for today enjoyable, chores.
Once we successfully got the sheep into the small paddock by the barn, I paused to admire the sight of sheep peacefully grazing... and even took a picture...
... then realized, as I watched them grab greedily at the green grass, that we had a problem. As sparse as the grass was, it was still richer than the pasture they came from. Sheep, like cows and goats, are ruminants, which means among other things (1) they have four stomachs and (2) that digestive combination is wonderfully efficient in wringing every last bit of nutrition from a herbivoreous menu. As awesome as that system is, however, it does not cope well with sudden changes in diet, especially from dry dry hay to rich juicy grass. The bacterium in the gut can get a little overwrought and off-kilter as a result, and thus kill their host in a most short-sighted way. I had to move those sheep off that grass asap, and to a place where their only choice was to fill their bellies with hay so the grass could be introduced more gradually.
With the help of Dusty and my trusty small assistant, we finally managed to pen them into the paddock shed. The sheep were most resistant to this plan, and I couldn't blame them given how beautiful the weather was, but it sure beat the alternative.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
We haven't had sheep in the barn for many many months now, and it was well past time to get it cleaned out and spruced up for the new arrivals. Despite the torrential rains that were predicted this weekend, we couldn't wait any longer, and a (shockingly) willing and helpful crew made their way out there first thing Saturday morning. I had to run errands, so I deputized a photographer to document the cleaning out process for you. Though some of the pictures are a bit blurry, you still get the flavor of kid industriousness.
By far the best pictures were self-portraits of the photographer.
This one is my favorite... and I couldn't resist comparison between it and a picture taken about four years ago:
(That's Charlie the dog in the older picture. Now Charlie is so old that he doesn't even come out to the barn anymore, let alone climb up on the hay stack. Clearly better quality hay that year too!)
I am hoping to get the girls moved up tomorrow from the back pasture to the little paddock by the barn. The paddock was still a bit damp today, so I left them in their current digs for the moment. But it's time to start those 2 am barn checks again, and that is much easier to do when they are closer to the house. Not to mention safer for any lambs that are born in the barn instead of a wide open field.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The conversation with Secondo, helping Terzo with his basketball bracket, while my LSH and I cooked dinner:
Secondo: "Do you want Butler or Vanderblit?"
LSH and me, in unison: "Vander-BILT!"
Terzo (simultaneously): "Vanderblit! I want Vanderblit!"
Secondo: "OK, OK! Fine! Vanderbilt! Now, do you want Gong-gaza or Syracuse?"
Parental chorus: "Gon-ZAGA!"
And so and on so forth. Secondo's shirt is a hint as to who he picked to win it all.
Monday, March 15, 2010
At this point -- when our only sources of communication with the outside world were our cell phones -- I managed to somehow toss mine into the washing machine with a load of wet, muddy jeans. Yeah, I am really an asset in an emergency.
The rain put a temporary halt to my decluttering as I wasn't able to post things on the innernets or answer call inquiries, but I still managed to make pretty good progress last week:
- high chair (freecyle);
- five computer monitors* (free on craigslist);
- parts for Nutone blender removed in kitchen remodel free on craigslist);
- couches (free on craigslist);
- Little Tykes car (craigslist);
- Step 2 plastic kids table and chairs (craigslist);
- stereo receiver and dual cassetted player (freecycle);
- two small decorator tables (freecycle);
- two sets of kids sheets & matching comforter and valance (freecycle);
- pop-up baby tent (freecycle);
- baby bath toys (freecycle);
- wire hangers (freecycle);
- hiking backpack for baby (freecycle); and
- kids educational CDs.
A pretty good amount of stuff, overall. Not sure if I can beat the amount this week, since it is still raining here, but I will probably start again tomorrow. I am half-way through the month, and Terzo even noted that the basement is starting to look a little empty. Progress!
* I received a great tip about disposing of computer equipment, monitors, etc. Goodwill will take such items, which are normally very difficult to get rid of, and recycle them for no cost to you. Check with your local Goodwill or at Reconnect online to find your closest drop-off center.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
And the rain. Oh, the rain! We were just starting to dry out after the great melt, and then this hit us. The boys spent the morning cleaning out the barn (more on that in a day or two) and then Primo had a gig at another farm, to help that farmer clean out her barn. Of course, he was thrilled. Manual labor, his favorite.
I dropped him off, and was turning around in the farm's yard to head home, when I hit a bit of a snag. I was driving our F150 truck, and I love our truck, because it has three key things to recommend it: (1) it has a long bed, perfect for hauling hay or lumber or whatever; (2) it has an extended cab, so the family fits comfortably in it; and (3) it is paid off. The last one, of course, is its best feature.
It's biggest short-coming, however, is that it is not four-wheel drive. In fact, it is rear-wheel drive, so it doesn't handle muddy conditions too well. The instant I felt the tires start to slip, I knew I was in trouble. I tried to gently rock it back and forth to get some traction, but no dice. My back left wheel dug a rut one foot deep and four feet long before I knew it. I was well and truly stuck.
I sat contemplating my options for a few minutes, then realized I had no choice but to confess to Val (the farmer) and Primo and beg for help. I found them pretty quickly, we pulled out the tow rope in the truck (because this may have happened once or twice before, and not always when I was driving it) and she brought out her four-wheel drive truck to haul me out.
Still no luck.
At this point Val went in search of her tractor, and I had Primo call his dad just to let him know what was going on. I was surprised to hear Primo, in his basso profundo voice, assure his dad that "we could handle it." Now, I know that he was really talking about Val's ability to handle it, since I was the one that had gotten stuck in the first place. Still, it said something about his confidence in the abilities of two women and his teenage self.
After a bit, Val appeared around the corner of the barn. It was like the coming of the cavalry. The very slow, very (John Deere) green cavalry, but the cavalry all the same. We hooked up the tractor to the truck and popped it out with little problem once we had the big guns. She cautioned me to stay on the graveled driveway as I turned around and believe me, I wasn't going anywhere off that safe haven.
I managed to make it home with only one detour, and now we are staying put. The wind is whistling, the rain is blowing, but we are more or less dry and very warm. It is definitely the kind of night to hunker down and hope the sheep are warm enough with their fleeces and shed to protect them.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
We went from this:
To this, just yesterday morning:
(Yes, nature and children abhor a vacuum.)
I didn't think to check the new couch paperwork until after the old couches were gone. At which point I read the fine print stating that the new couch isn't guaranteed to be here until April 11. Gulp. A month without a couch in front of the TV.
I was feeling kinda stupid about not checking the paperwork before I agreed to list the couches for free, but then I received this e-mail from the people we gave the couches to (they were the first ones to respond to our e-mail, so we chose them on strictly equitable principles; they were in desperate need due to a fire and picked the couches up the same day):
Just wanted to thank you for the couches. We LOVE them and are so thankful. My daughter and our 100lb American Bulldog think they are very comfy. We have been having a very hard time lately dealing with losing all our things, more so pictures and special items we just can't replace lost in the fire. Things are really starting to look brighter for us and we are moving on. Your generosity means more to us right now than you could imagine. My daughter finally has a new place to call home and the smile on her face when she got home from school and saw the couches was purely priceless.
Clearly, the couches had discerned that their time with us was up, and they had a higher calling than our family room because someone needed them more. Kinda like the Mary Poppins of the furniture world.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
But he had an instant mental flash of this car, the one sitting in our driveway:
... and nearly had a heart attack.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I lost my internet/e-mail today and I have to admit, it nearly put me under. In my defense, I noticed a significant slowing this weekend as I was trying to post items on freecycle and craigslist, and the e-mails were having trouble downloading before the computer timed them out. By today, it was like dial-up covered in molasses (cable connection, I will never hate on you again) and the computer tech was finally called out to replace the router. So maybe I was a little tetchy to begin with about the whole thing not working. Or maybe I am just too dependent on my e-mail.
When I finally got back the connection tonight, I downloaded yet another bazillion e-mails about various items I had offered for sale (very few) or for free, just come and pick them up off my front porch. I have noticed a key difference between the two. With the latter group, there is not a lot of coddling required. They say they want the item, I give them the address, they come and take it off the front porch. Poof! things are gone on a flash. It's like magic.
The people who are thinking about buying things, on the other hand, require an inordinate amount of hand-holding.
I list our state of NJ in the header and description; I get e-mails back asking if I am in Pennsylvania. (Not unless they've moved the Delaware River and I haven't heard about it.)
I list our town in the header and description; I am asked how far it is from their particular location. (Um, I dunno, does mapquest work the same both ways?)
The latest one really took the cake. Mind you, I am posting the listings in the central NJ group. A woman asked where our town was located; when I responded "central NJ" (duh?), her next e-mail said "Oh drat. I was hoping it was a typo and you were really in PA." Yes, because I clearly have no idea where I live.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
- cloth diapers and diaper covers (freecycle)
- french horn (person we borrowed it from two years ago)
- half-built K'nex set (kid in 4-H who loves K'nex)
- homeschool books and supplies (craigslist)
- cat toys and treats for cat we don't have any more (shelter)
- scanner (freecycle)
- five bags of bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts (craigslist)
- dog bed (freecycle)
(Geez, it seemed like a lot more as I was hauling it out...) This list does not count the pick-up bed full of trash that went to the dump, nor the trunk full of miscellaneous items that went to the church rummage sale.And the biggest one of all (which did not go to another home, but was pretty spectacular all the same):
That's right, all that pink countertop is done. And the kitchen now looks like this,
and we are eating a lot of take-out. Which of course is just fine by me, but my kids are finding themselves in the unanticipated position of actually missing my cooking.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Plus every so often, he actually manages to do something to help around here. This morning, I needed to catch two ewes to treat them. They were already bunched in the shed, so I brought Dusty in the pasture with me (I usually don't, now that they are pregnant, because he sometimes just can't resist chasing them around, and the combination of him chasing and me hollering for him to knock it off understandably unnerves the poor sheep). I told him to stay with me -- a very hard task for him because he is really, really tempted by all that tasty sheep poop -- then sat him at the opening of the shed and told him to stay, so the sheep would be discouraged from leaving the shed where I could easily catch them in the confined space. Amazingly enough, it worked. He was a little concerned that I was getting jostled around but he more or less stayed put and I was able to easily get my hands on both of them, no crook required. B.D. (Before Dog) that would have been impossible.
But he still manages to drive me nuts on a regular basis. Last week we got a call from one of our neighbors, and we don't have many, to let me know that Dusty was paying a visit to her place on a regular basis, no doubt to sample her dog's poop. (See a theme? Dusty has a one-track mind. Never met a pile of poop he didn't like.) She called him her little "collie-flower", and exclaimed over how gorgeous he was, but expressed concern because (1) she lives on a very busy county road, and she was afraid that he would wander just a bit too far and (2) he pooped on her front sidewalk. I offered to clean up after him, which she declined, but I was seething. At him, not her. His free range time has been drastically curtailed as a result, so we have lost the night patrol dog we thought we had -- and Charlie is too old to do it, at this point.
But how can I stay too mad at a dog that loves his boys as much as this one clearly does?
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
It's the Philadelphia Flower Show.
This year everyone really outdid themselves with the theme, Passport to the World. The globe on the hot air balloon above was made out of roses and pansies, and was the first thing you saw as you entered the hall.
There was a giraffe, with orchids for spots (Africa)...
And a sphagnum moss elephant (India), with different-colored lentils used to make the design on her blanket (thanks to my dad for that bit of trivia; he volunteers to lead tours every year, and hooks us up with tickets and the inside scoop on the exhibits, quite a nice benefit)...
A fabulous hot springs lizard worked in copper (New Zealand)...
Flamingos made of carnations (the rain forest)...
Calla lilies, frozen in blocks of ice (OK, not so spring-like, but too cool not to share)...
But two displays really stood out in my mind for creativity. The first consisted of multiple glass containers, suspended by fishing line from a square frame. Can you see the ocean, the beach and the snow-capped mountain? Simply stunning.
The second was made of shipping containers, those ugly things you see stacked by the thousands in Port Elizabeth. They were opened and filled with mirrors and flowers; you could even walk through two of them. (It was especially hard to get a good picture of this one due to the scale of the exhibit.)
And my favorite for entries by individuals... the pressed flower art. No more hobbies for me, but if I had a spare 100 hours in the day, this one would definitely be on the list. Look at the reflection of the building in the water
Even the little kids got in on it. This entry was made by a kid under age 10.
Hope you are seeing signs of spring in your own neighborhood! It's supposed to snow here tomorrow, but I'm not fooled. Spring has started its relentless march. And if you are in the neighborhood and can get to the Flower Show, don't miss it. It is the best one in years.