Thursday, August 29, 2013

few words

It has been super hard for me to blog this summer. In fact, as may be increasingly obvious to anyone who has had any sort of interaction with me, it has been super hard for me to do much of anything this summer. We received difficult news about someone very near and dear to us early in the season, and it has had me in a funk most of the time, the sort of funk where everyday things seem kinda pointless, because why bother if the world is going to act like this? I want to rage and scream and cry, but instead have ended up in an ineffective stupor.

I feel self-indulgent even talking about my reaction because it is not without a degree of selfishness. My story is nowhere near as difficult as hers, though certainly her struggles are deeply felt by all of us that love her and have been honored and blessed to have her in our lives all these years. But my reaction is what it is, and it has become futile for me to deny it. Part of me argues, what kind of person would I be if I did?

So today I only have to offer these few explanatory words for those who have wondered and been worried. If you are so inclined, a prayer for comfort and healing for her would be appreciated. At this point, I myself don't have too much else to offer.

Monday, August 26, 2013

blown glass

The vase arrived at my mother's house today, as promised, almost exactly one week after creation.

The deep cobalt blue was impossible to see when the glass was hot. To make sense of the perspective in the photo: the vase is resting on a very clean glass coffee table!

As she noted, the vase looks even nicer with flowers in it, but it is the rare vase that doesn't.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

ballpark dogs

No, not that kind of dog... though as usual my boys managed to down an impressive number of them.

Tonight it was "dogs allowed" night at our local AA baseball stadium. Luckily we had no idea ahead of time, because there's no way I would have agreed to take Dusty, and there's no way I wanted to listen to them whine and beg for the two plus hours prior to the game and then be super grumpy and pout the entire game when I didn't cave.

They had to content themselves with enjoying all the other dogs, seemingly every breed and shape and size under the sun, and making asides about how much fun Dusty would be having if he were there. Personally I think Dusty would have been having a nervous breakdown if he were there, because he isn't used to being too many places other than the farm, but I guess we will never know.

Because this was a rescheduled game for us, we weren't in our usual seats. I had spotted the older couple in front of us from a distance during prior games. They always seem to be there so I am guessing they are season ticket holders.

The husband has a scorecard notebook that he keeps for every game. He had left his seat at one point in the game and his wife grabbed up the book and started noting the stats when play resumed. It was lovely to see her caring about something that is obviously very important to him.

She is usually busy knitting away. Today I had the chance to find out what she is always working on: baby blankets. She said she gives one to any of the players' wives or ballpark staff that has a baby that year. If she has no takers in a given year, she donates the blanket to the Christmas giving tree at her church... and starts again at the beginning of the next season.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

guinness is good for ewe

The entire time that sick ewe was in our care, the slogan of medical interns everywhere kept ringing in my mind:

Keep 'em alive 'til seven oh five*

In my case, it was "keep her alive 'til Monday at five," when the owners were due to return. And I am happy to report that we did.

Now that we made it through safely, I need to back up and tell last week's story, when she was really in bad shape. I was afraid of jinxing our efforts if I told it too early.

Last Sunday, I got a call from my friend, telling me about the ewe. I hadn't heard too much about her to that point, but they were at their wits' end with treating the parasitic infection, because their run-a-day wormer (Cydectin) wasn't touching the problem. I advised them to pull out the big gun (for us), levimasole, which they hadn't done at that point because the owner of the sheep (not them) was afraid it would make her sterile. I pointed out that she would definitely be sterile if she were dead, and so they went ahead.

Worm problem, solved.

Eating problem, not so much. Despite the resolution of her worm and maggot problems, the ewe refused to do anything but stand hunched over in a corner, staring out the ground. Grain, hay, pasture: nothing tempted her. She was scary-level skin and bones.

When we went to the farm on Monday night for feeding instructions and witnessed her misery, something stirred in the deep recesses of my brain. The next morning, I called my friend to tell her about a recent article in Sheep! magazine, which talked about the restorative properties of giving ailing sheep beer to stimulate their appetite.

You read that right. Beer.

My friend started doing research of her own, and somehow ended up in an online chat with a British sheep farmer. He confirmed that it is a common practice in Britain, though it must be done carefully. He advised her on method (drench syringe, but watch the foam) and dosing (two full syringes twice per day, until she starts to eat on her own).

She was texting me during the chat. The Backyard Sheep book I recently reviewed also mentioned the practice, which was the first time I had heard of it, and specified a dark lager for best results. The sheep farmer had also mentioned lager.

"Ask him if he means dark lager like Guinness," I texted.

He did indeed, he confirmed.

So that's how my friend found herself feeding Guinness beer to a sheep. As I may have mentioned once or twice, taking on farming as a profession means that you are opening yourself to all sorts of strange possibilities.

The even stranger part: it worked like a charm. 

The ewe got her first dose at 10 am, and the second one that night. After the second dose, she was clearly enjoying her medicine, and roused herself enough to pick at the fresh hay in front of her. The last dose was given the next morning, only 24 hours later. She didn't need any after that. She started to eat her grain like a champ, and didn't look back.

All the resources we read cautioned against using beer in the case of a sheep with bloat, because adding carbonation to a rumen already having gas problems is obviously a bad idea. But for a sheep who is off their feed for any other problem, it is a strong consideration. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it with my own eyes. But as of this post, she is still alive, still eating, and no doubt still wondering when she is getting her next dose of Guinness.

*Seven am is the magical hour when an army of more experienced residents and doctors descend upon a teaching hospital. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

yarn bombing

Back to Wheaton Village, because I forgot to talk about the yarn bombing! My mom and I noticed something was up in the first five minutes, when we caught sight of the front of the general store.

If we had come in the main gate, it would have been more obvious.

There was even a sign of explanation.

Again, if we had the chance to explore further, we may have found even more, but what we could see was wonderfully bright and creative.


Tree trunk (and another lamppost).

My favorite was this web at the entrance gazebo—stunning!—but there was also a hat on one of the glass cloches that I thought was wonderfully clever. Hurry, there are a few more days left in August for you to see the creativity for yourself! If you go, please check out the Museum of American Glass and let me know what you thought.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

glass blowing

Today we celebrated my mom's birthday. Yes, the one that she had all the way back at the beginning of July. This was the first date that the entire family was free for our planned activity. Well, not the entire family—we had to make do without Primo, who was still at his cross country camp this morning.

Our destination was the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center in deepest South Jersey. We didn't get to explore it too much, unfortunately, but it is chock-full of neat things to see and do. The lanterns made from old metal containers are just one example of many!

These glass cloches in a field of wildflowers were also quite stunning. As I said, I wished we had the time to explore the grounds more. Our visit was complicated by a huge display of antique fire equipment and trucks, from all over the eastern seaboard. Although the trucks were interesting, it made it difficult to see all the grounds had to offer.

The primary craft of Wheaton Village is glass blowing. This section of the state was once the site of a vibrant glass industry. Unfortunately it is mostly gone but Wheaton Arts keeps the tradition alive with extensive glass blowing facilities utilized by various artisans. While we were there, a pair of craftspeople were hard at work making beautiful glass pumpkins in assorted colors and styles.

After a lovely picnic lunch (the grounds are perfect for this, with plenty of tables and seating) it was time for the main event: my mom was going to make her own glass-blown vase.

The teacher was excellent: he clearly loved teaching and he was quite good at it. He explained each step of the process in great detail but let the student do all of the work.

Even the actual glass blowing, which as it turns out (at least according to my mother) is quite difficult, like blowing up a very heavy balloon.

The finished vase had to stay there so it could be cooled down properly in a special oven. As he explained to us: if you let it sit out and cool on its own, the outside cools down much too quickly and the hot glass on the inside, which is still expanding, will shatter the outside.

The vase will be mailed to her in about a week, and I will share the finish result as soon as I see it. We highly recommend a session! The cost was quite reasonable for hands-on personalized instruction, and it looked like such fun that we all wanted to try it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

sheep sitting

One of the hardest things about owning livestock, by far, is the difficulty getting away from them. Dogs and cats, no problem. Pet sitters can be found. Kennels can be booked.

But there are no kennels for cows and chickens, and very few sitters that can deal with sheep and goats.

We have been blessed, for years, with a wonderful family friend that stays at our house and watches all the assorted pets and livestock with which we have afflicted her. She was a family friend long before we got the farm, and amazingly, she still remains a friend. We have heeded her warnings that she draws the line at reptiles though. Quite honestly, so do I, but her opinion far outweighes my own in standing with my family, and thanks to her, reptile-free we have stayed.

One of the advantages of 4-H, at least in a livestock club, is making connections with others who have the same concerns and considerations. Which has led, this long weekend, to our farm-sitting for good friends while they are taking a much-needed and much-overdue family vacation.

To keep the record straight, their son watched my sons' pigs during our last two vacations (there are some things you just don't do to an old family friend), so it was waaayyyy past time for payback.

One of our charges is a very sick ewe. Her problems started with an overload of parasitic worms in her gut, and progressed to flystrike (flies laying eggs in her skin; when the maggots hatch, they start eating the live animal's flesh). She is not a happy camper, understandably so, but we are doing our best by her and praying like holy heck that she doesn't die on our watch.

Ignore the old lady wrinkles on my hands. The point is the purple dye, compliments of Woundkote, my go-to spray-on concoction for livestock skin lesions. Purple fingers are an easy giveaway that an ailing animal is in my jurisdiction. I am like that old lady in the Frank's Red Hot Sauce commercial: I put that #$&* on everything.

Unfortunately we found more maggots on her today. You know you are a hard-core livestock farmer when you can pick maggots off a sheep with your bare hands. I hit the lesions with all the purple dye I could muster, and have my purple-dyed fingers crossed for the best.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

baby birds, take one

Remember the purple martin birdhouse we put up again in May? It has been a full house since the moment it went back into place. Quite a few purple martins call it home, but barn swallows and tree swallows have also taken up residence. And true to their name, the barn swallows have nested in our barn for years now.

This year the fledglings have been hanging out en masse on our roof, both in the front and back. We have never noticed this before, but they are certainly more delightful than the roof visitors we had back in March.

As you can tell, Dusty hates turkey vultures, and barks like a maniac at the sky every time one dares to enter his air zone. He hasn't figured out that they don't have any reason to pay him the slightest bit of mind.

Back to much more attractive barn swallows: a few of them have been hanging out on the roof overhang right outside our bedroom window lately.

As soon as an adult swallow approaches they start fluttering their wings and doing their best impressions of a helpless baby bird.

The fly-by feedings are so quick, I couldn't capture one on film. The adult had already fed the baby on the left below and was already turning back for more bug hunting by the time my slow fingers snapped this shot.

Typical teenagers! They can obviously fly well enough to get themselves up there, but they are perfectly willing to play the helpless infants if it means their parents will spoonfeed them a meal.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

mad cows

Unfortunately we are still not 100% here. The biggest casualties have been Terzo's and my appetites. I keep hoping that it will all be worth it, I will end up five pounds lighter with very little effort on my part, but we all know that's not the way it works. No doubt I will put on three pounds because I have been unable to manage any exercise unless you count walking up the stairs to take a nap. Even knitting was beyond me until today.

Tonight we welcomed Primo back from a week of working as a volunteer counsellor at the 4-H camp. Much to his surprise, he loved it. It's the story of his life lately: an opportunity comes his way, he can't really see the point, we force him to do it, he has a great time.

Speaking of great times, I am having phenomenal fun beating him over the head with how parents always know best.

So back to the appetites: I had to serve the prodigal son a proper feast, so we ended up with hamburgers, Grandma's mac & cheese, and baked beans. Not at all nutritionally balanced, but I still can't think about vegetables, and all those foods are crowd-pleasers. Terzo and I avoided the baked beans, picked at the mac & cheese, and managed a few bites of hamburger each. When we were done, he volunteered to take our leftovers out to the pigs.

When he returned, he commented that the pigs sure loved hamburgers.

"Sure," my husband replied. "Who doesn't love hamburgers?"

Terzo didn't miss a beat.


(Apologies to anyone who saw this on FB but it was too good not to share here too.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

knitting in prison

No, not me. The explanation for my recent absence is a bit more mundane and involves the 4-H fair and a horrendous GI bug, both of which are finished, thank goodness.

Prisoners knitting in one of their classrooms, Sing Sing
From the Library of Congress website:
Prisoners knitting in Sing Sing, 1915

Instead, compliments of Filamenti, a fascinating article about a program for male inmates in a Brazilian prison. They have been taught to knit high fashion designs. In exchange, they receive a bit of extra money and one day off their time for every three days spent knitting.

Besides a reduction in their sentences, what else must they receive from this arrangement? The joy of creation, the soothing repetition of the needles, the satisfaction of work, the comfort of camraderie... The things all crafters receive from their tasks, despite the vastly different circumstances. The program has to make an enormous difference to the quality of their day-to-day lives. Can it possibly make a difference to them on a long-term basis?