Category Archives: dogs

Rhode Island “Spring”

It’s been a busy year as we learn to be Rhode Islanders! Sorry y’all for the delay in posts, but you can see what you missed by checking on Facebook. I’ll copy some of those posts here so you can follow our transmogrification from North Carolinians to Rhode Islanders.

March 14  It’s Pi day, my engineer tells me, so I mixed crust, he opened cans, I added brandy for flavor.

Dirk w pies 3:17 Nice treat after shoveling—4 in of VERY heavy Slush! If this had stayed snow we’d be having more to move… It’s been raining the past 3 hrs., making mush. I was wet through after 40″ out there. Crocuses & snowdrops had somewhat recovered yesterday, now under snow again. Inside the house, under a grow light, vegetables for our future garden are thriving–such a lovely contrast!

Snow back yard 3:17

Seedlings 3:17

Snow again, sticky, perfect for a snow man, & school’s out.
Here are two of five little cape/shawls I’ve made from Dirk’s mother’s left-behind sock yarn left-overs. Some have gone to friends, the rest to church for their prayer shawl program.

Interfaith Vigil at Holocaust Memorial in Providence on March 5. All our Rhode Island elected senators, representatives and Governor Raimondo as well as rabbis, immans & pastors and 300 or more people from our state were there. It was a large crowd, in spite of the temperature about 10 degrees by wind chill, which had already started to thin by the time we made a united circle around the central stone, Rabbi Aaron played and sang some rousing songs, and we placed  our own small stones there to say, “Never again–we remember.” What a strange world this is, for there to be bomb threats at Jewish temples and community center/schools in Rhode Island, where Roger Williams came specifically to form a colony with religious freedom. RW is on top of this tower.

Feb. 23– Our first crocuses are in bloom six weeks later than we saw them in NC. Such a treat to see an actual sign of spring. Dirk is wearing his new argyle sweater from our own wool. This project took about 5 months, including spinning the yarn. Only the orange is commercial. I’ve started cleaning up flower beds, including stems of last year’s flower heads, now completely empty of seed. Just hung up another bird house. I need to find seed for veggies that mature in a short season. So disappointing last year that bell peppers & Cherokee red tomatoes had to be picked green and small the day the killing frost was due. Suggestions?

Maeve and Emily enjoy the daily walks Dirk takes with them. Sometimes I go (when I’m not updating my blog!) or vacuuming up pet fur. He recently met a neighbor around the corner with chickens and more eggs than she needs. He dropped off the empty egg box with some of my Almost Lost dish cloths (thanks, Katie Verna) for which she was thankful and gave him another dozen eggs! Finally I’ve found someone with chickens to whom I can give egg boxes to recycle them.

Dirk's argyle; walking dogs 2:17

Emily is slowing down, and at 12, for a Great Pyrenees, I guess it’s time. She was barking at about 1 a.m. last night, so I let her out. She slipped on the icy deck and did a belly flop, and no foot found anything to grip. She looked at me so mournfully, those sad eyes, so embarrassed… as though I had made this situation happen. I brought out a throw rug and rolled her back and forth to get it under her for traction, and she popped up and took off. She loves to patrol all around the fenced  half-acre back yard at night, just like she did in our sheep pastures in her early years. I know we have a fox–my nature camera took his picture. I’ve seen deer, turkeys, smelled skunk, and my neighbor has muskrats, mink in her wetland back yard garden area–and then the perpetual vermin, coyotes, are everywhere. No one in this neighborhood has seen fisher cats yet, thank goodness. Those cousins to hyenas or badgers are a real threat. My hosta is never eaten by deer, in contrast to my friends’ gardes–I guess the dogs keep them away, which is great!

This is an afghan I made for a friend we left behind in NC, mostly from yarn Dirk’s mother left-behind. She died in Oct., and his father boxed up all her yarn and patterns and sent them along. I used her pattern in his argyle sweater. Both the “dog patch,” and the “sheep patch” are from my homespun yarn.  There’s a pocket in the center of the yellow square the right size for a cell phone or anything else that’s small that might fall out of her recliner or wheel chair. (She was delighted with that feature 🙂 These socks are from commercial superwash wool, cozy in winter, and I’ll wear them for St. Patrick’s Day. And last but not least, this is a picture of our church in Wickford, from the side, the First Baptist Church of Wickford. It’s lovely inside also, the glass still the wavy old 200-year old windows. I wish we could fill it up Sundays… We’ve made lots of friends there.

Narragansett wavesDirk & Judy, trop storm, Pt. Judy

This is one of the special things about living in this area. Narragansett Pier is right here, with the large beach and sea wall. Here you see a snow bank pushed up after one of the storms, and the lovely breakers rolling in toward the breakwater. I can be there in ten minutes, any time I want to watch the water roll in at high tide, which is invigorating! People walk their dogs on the beach all winter, parking is free until May or so. This was one of the big reasons why we moved north, to be this close to the salt water. The lower picture was taken during a tropical storm which turned out to be only lots of wind, at Point Judith Light, where the Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. My pulmonary Doc was right–my asthma does like the salt air!

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Almost Heaven, Wickford, RI…

Michaela, assis. gardener Emily & Maeve by deck garden July 4 LaFayette Band concert on the beach Lafayette Concert Band; Dirk over crutches

July 30, 2015

Two and one-half months in Wickford, RI! Finally this 90 yr. old house with a rather grown-up yard, is becoming an orderly place.

I’m just inside after two hours of digging to plant only two perennials! Purgatory Road is nearby, as is a village called “Hardscrapple.” These names now have great significance to me. In this two hours I collected over a gallon of rocks, and another gallon of sod, some of which is now in the bottom of the garden. I have a bright spot of golden black-eyed Susans (never could get those to grow in NC) and scarlet bee balm. I’ve selected perennials to entice my neighbors’ bees over here to fertilize my cucumbers, tomatoes, sugar peas and peppers.

The temperature here today was 84, and in NC, a steamy 91. Locals here think this weather is intolerably humid, but not to a new transplant from two days’ drive south of here. We haven’t needed A/C. Fans do the trick, plus strategically opening windows in the eve., keeping all fans going. It’s wonderful, waking to a cool house. When the temperature is the same in and out, I close the windows, and this old house stays cool. I hope it will do equally well come winter.

Dirk walks the dogs while I trim, cultivate, water, and plan what trees to delete, or how many branches that grow over the garage or shade the gardens. A magnificent maple tree reigns over the east side of the lawn. Turkeys (four large, seven small) graze bugs from the back yard and I gather long fluffy, striped feathers in the morning. Maeve, the Aussie, plops down on the deck, leaning over he top step, just watching them. Emily, the Great Pyrenees and guardian, eventually allows her curiosity to get the best of her, and creeps across the lawn, quiet and hesitant, to see what these odd intruders are. Ma Turkey fluffs and fans her tail, doubling her size, and Emily stops, uncertain. The turkeys vaporize into the woods. She then tentatively examines their trail, walking where they walked, sniffing. Then, satisfied they pose no threat, pops up her head and trots back up to the deck as if to tell Maeve and me, “See, maybe I have no sheep to protect, but I can still protect you!”

She’s less certain about the scrappy sea gulls that hang out in the evening at Duffy’s Grille, near-by. They have to check out our yard for food, of course. The dogs prefer to duck, rather than fight. Emily once chased a gull that had grabbed her bone, but when the gull fought back, Emily thought better of it and backed off, her bone sailing into the trees. I wonder what the gull did with it—drop it on a breakwater?

My pot garden is giving us vegetables, and next year will be in the ground, instead. All the kitchen compost goes into the gardens, and we’re now finding the occasional earthworm. I do miss the sheep manure—a much faster way to enrich a garden.

Through our church, I found two teens who want to work for a little extra money helping us around the yard. They have been a great help, and I now have two small gardens, one with perennials, and one with plants I brought from NC. I have three kinds of tea, a “beauty bush,” and a holly there, and will add more in time. The tea I planted here last fall is still there, but not doing well, since it’s in the shade. Soon I’ll move it, but I still have things in pots to plant first. One of the teens took the hedge trimmer to the front privet hedge, and it looks much better. When the trimmer hit the extension cord, it shorted out the circuit, and ended their two hours of work here in any case. Dirk worked on it today, too, so now it’s nearly done. “More to go,” as always. I guess if we were going to name our new house, it would be something like that. There’s no end to poison ivy, although there’s much less, “weed-maples” that have shot up everywhere and are smothering themselves, and other interesting weeds that are obviously invasive, whatever they are, among them bittersweet, which is pulling down a tree in the back yard. It responds well to pruning, plus Round-Up on the cut stump, as I learned in a NC Forestry workshop.

The RI Spinners’ Guild went to Foster, RI,’s Old Home Week, and I had the privilege of sitting down with Earl Hopkins and hearing family stories about my Jordan and Boswell cousins, while his granddaughter (part-owner of Shady Acres Restaurant, where my father ate for many years) served up strawberry shortcake for the benefit of the Baptist Church. That was such a treat! Finally I’m back in home country. Dirk and I wandered the Town Green, checked out the 4-H sheep of many different breeds, the many food stands from a variety of local churches, grange, Masons, and others. It was a fine two days! Oh, and we ate clam cakes and “chow-dah!”

Dirk is playing French Horn in both the LaFayette Community Band in Wickford, and in the South County Band in Wakefield. As a result, we have two concerts a week to attend, sitting by the water in both places, and I visit with friends whose spouses are also in band. I’ve been bringing Emily, the Pyr’s, brushed fur and a drop spindle from a lapis bead along, and have now one large ball of washed, plied yarn completed, and am working on the next. The concert season ends in a couple weeks, so I’d better keep spinning, since her fur production is ahead of my ability to spin it all so far! She’s getting combed regularly, as is Maeve, so even though we need to vacuum daily, most of it is captured in bags awaiting spinning. There are also Tues. eve. concerts on the Wickford Town Wharf, which are eclectic—I much prefer Dirk’s bands! But the spinning comes along in any case. It’s delightful to be comfortable sitting outside at a concert in the early evening. A NC friend said it sounds like Heaven—and, you know, it’s close!

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First six months without sheep; preparing to move north

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

June, 2014 to Jan., 2015

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

This morning I captured a chipping sparrow away from Boots and Liam, and released it to the suet block. It shook itself and flew off, thank goodness. The two rescued stray cats run between my legs, or walk under Emily, the Pyr’s stomach, and move out the door with her. If I haven’t succeeded in re-homing them before we move, they may die on RI Rt. 1, which runs right in front of our home there.

Those who keep carnivores as pets need to be prepared to deal with carcasses of helpless small creatures pets consider their rightful prey. Last week it was a possum in the garage, probably after dog food—the 20-pound bags were tossed all around but not spilled…The dogs got the poor thing. Liam the cat had slipped out at midnight when I took the dogs out for their last walk, so I left the garage door ajar. Fortunately the possum didn’t come through the doggie door into the house! Life seems so complicated sometimes. Was the possum dead, or playing possum? I waited an hour to pick it up, then left it in the hole uncovered the rest of the day, dogs inside, to be sure it wasn’t going to just walk away, which I have seen them do. Not this time. A couple days before that I opened the back door to feed the birds and found remains of a squirrel on the rug, and a mouse a couple days later.

Woke this am. to find a raccoon “treed” in the firethorn on the back deck. Two dogs in the yard provides high risk for the night visitors… Maeve, our Aussie, has killed two raccoons this past summer, and is the best-rabies-immunized dog in the neighborhood. When I called for help, hoping NC Wildlife would come and trap the raccoons and take them somewhere, the employee advised me to take in the bird seed at night to discourage their coming here, and after two weeks, that did work. They don’t move raccoons, since they might be incubating rabies. I, of all people, should know that. I did a Masters’ paper on wildlife rabies, costs to NC when it got here, and oral rabies vaccine for wild things to control rabies exposures to pets and people. Nights are quieter in the house, too, since Emily barks with great volume and enthusiasm at possums or raccoons on the deck in the night. She’s shut in, but we have doors with windows to the floor, and she keeps watch. It’s her job, in her mind, to protect us from wild things who invade her territory. She’s done a great job of it over the years, also. We’ve never had coyotes in our pasture, killing our lambs or sheep, as many of my friends have suffered. Large farms require multiple Great Pyrenees or similar guardian dogs, to keep predators out.

Jan., 2015
A New Year, and still recovering from the surgical repair of damage done in the accident last April. I guess healing always takes longer than they lead you to expect.

We’ll move to RI in the summer, so we’re going through cupboards and closets, as well as boxes in the garage, to see what we’ve stashed, and wondering why we kept these things! I’m donating a great many things to friends who will use them, or organizations who will—for example wallpaper rolls from houses dating back 45 years—perfectly fine to use on a loom to keep the threads from tangling. I’m keeping a little of each to remember, and I’ll use it in weaving in the future, also. Common Thread in Sanford is a weaving workshop with many women volunteering to spend some mornings at donated looms, making rugs, tote bags, dish towels, table runners, place mats, etc., for sale both in the shop and at craft shows far and wide. Proceeds go to womens’ support organizations, such as Interact. They also compete in the Lee County Fair, have a wall full of prize ribbons, and the prize money also goes back into the organization. My box of old wallpaper will go there, since each loom requires a roll of wallpaper, and it wears out eventually, of course.

I’m spinning up great amounts of wool that is not from my best fleeces, just to condense the amount of bulk somewhat. Yarn takes much less space than wool. I’ve started an afghan for us to keep this time, which will have sheep and Australian Shepherd dogs (in their own fur) knitted in with the design. I’m still hoping to find a Great Pyrenees dog pattern to knit in, but so far, no luck. There is no hurry with this project. If we were not moving, I’d be aiming to have it ready to compete in the Carolina FiberFest in early April, but we’ll probably be very busy then, as moving time will be getting near, so I don’t plan to enter anything this year. I will be there to watch the sheep dog herding demonstration, and sit and spin with my friends in the Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild circle, however.

The pasture seems so empty and still, the fences covered with stilt grass, sheltering birds over winter. Emily, the Pyr, goes out to the back pasture every day on patrol, as she always has, keeping an eye on what predators may be threatening her acres. We miss the sheep, but our arthritic joints do not. Each year it got harder to clear gutters so water could run away from the barn, to trim hooves, move hay and grain down the hill to the barn, and keep things down there relatively tidy. It was great exercise, and that we do miss. Walking the dogs a mile up the road has to do now as a substitute, and the dogs enjoy it as much as we do. Emily used to live in the pasture only, unless the sheep were up grazing in the yard, when she came, also. Now she can explore the neighborhood, on a leash of course, but she loves reading the signs night critters have left along the road and on the woods trails we walk with them. We’re wondering where in RI we’ll find the same opportunity to walk with the dogs in the woods—we’ll have time later to look, but it will be much colder in winter there.

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Suzie, our first lamb and 17 yr. old sheep, is gone

Our last two sheep, Suzie aged 17, born here; Vanity a Shetland "loaner" here for past 1 1/2 yr.

Our last two sheep, Suzie aged 17, born here; Vanity a Shetland “loaner” here for past 1 1/2 yr.

 

Vanity's new home, on a farm with llamas and Shetland sheep

Vanity’s new home, on a farm with llamas and Shetland sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2014

Vanity’s not baaing with anxiety yet, but she’s looking around for Suzie. Our first lamb, Suzie, born on our farm 17 years ago, is gone, leaving us without sheep. We called the vet early this morning. Suzie had been struggling for hours to get up and had rubbed the wool off her leg joints, the barn floor scraped clear of hay, and she still couldn’t stand. When I helped her get her feet under her, she’d fall when I let go. I helped her get her back legs under her and propped her so she wouldn’t fall again. She wanted to stand, and stand she did, right until the very end. She had an abundant last meal of all her favorite greens: three quarts or more of rose leaves, honeysuckle, catnip, mint tea, violets and strawberry leaves, until she just couldn’t hold any more. The vet put Suzie down while she was standing, because that’s how Suzie wanted it. Now the pasture gate is wide open, and the pasture is empty. Suzie is safe now- no more fears of not being able to get up and run, a basic need for a sheep. We hated to see her struggle, so gave her peace. And now we’re off to the woodland cemetery to lay her to rest.

The barn looms empty down the hill, as it was before we got our first sheep, 18 good years ago. We miss Suzie and Vanity, and our lives with sheep. Since Suzie was 17, very old for a ewe, she showed that we took good care of her, as we did our other sheep.

I keep thinking I haven’t checked Suzie for a while and look out toward the barn, see the open gate, and remember. One evening, at dusk, I thought I saw the white spot on Suzie’s nose, saw her gazing at me from the barn door, where she liked to stand and look out across the pasture. It must have been the way the light reflected off a leaf, actually, but I’d like to think she had come back by to visit us. I teared up, wishing I could go down the hill and bring her a ginger snap, and scratch around her ears.

Our sheep guardian, Emily the Great Pyrenees, will begin obedience exercises. The deer will continue to eat the rye grass, clover and vetch I had planted, and our night visitors, possums and raccoons, will have to watch out before leaving the trees to eat our bird feed. Emily, the Pyr, just had a bath and pedicure and now smells like a house dog.  She and Maeve, the Aussie, can sleep together under the stars tonight, for the first time. For six years, they’ve been friends through the fence, because an Australian Shepherd cannot mingle with sheep. She would have run them to death. As Emily the Pyr showed us, when deer were eating the rye grass I’d planted for the sheep, one ruminant is about the same as another. She didn’t chase sheep, and she was not about to chase deer, either.

Sheryl, a spinning guild member who has had sheep for about a year, has brought Vanity home to join her Shetlands. Vanity was a companion “loaner” sheep from Elaina, another guild member who has a large flock of Shetlands, who had decided not to breed Vanity again, since her mothering skills left a lot to be desired. Vanity kept Suzie company for the past one-and-a-half years, since one sheep, alone, is usually an anxious and lonely sheep. Vanity will be Sheryl’s first white sheep, happily running with the brown wethers in her new home. Dirk and I went through the barn and set aside a couple boxes of sheep supplies and tools that will come in handy for Sheryl. I dropped them off at their farm the next day, after a guild meeting nearby, an hour from our home. Vanity’s remarkably comfortable around huge llamas! She seems to love the company of her new flock, and I’m delighted she has such a loving new farm to call her own.

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Autumn Sunset near New Hill

IMG_1212

Winter sunset through pines

Winter sunset through pines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden light reflects off the rufous breasts of the titmouses, off the white coats of the chickadees, and lights up the goldfinches. The pine trunks reflect the gold, and the pine needles, way up in the air, illuminate all the pine cones I’ll be picking up in the yard for the next couple years. A red-breasted woodpecker and the cardinals have come out to have some nuts and sunflower seed, in spite of my sitting near-by. Gold dignifies even the wings of the huge vultures flying low overhead, coming in for their landing in tops of the golden pine trees, rustling and flapping into the branches, high above the corner of our sheep pasture. I want to hold this four o’clock sun right there, bathing the world in its blessing.

I see some golden leaves that the slippery elms and oaks still hold, sprinkling gradually down to my back deck and to last summer’s garden. The gold reflects on my rain gauge, nestled in against the pansies, empty and awaiting the next rain. It reflects across the clear-cut, far in back of our woods, lighting up the weeds and bare trunks across the creek, back-lighting which sets off the bare, lofty, oak, maple, slippery elm, and tulip poplar branches, contrasting from the dense upper story of pine, and the vast tangerine and aqua sky. The giant oak at the far west corner of the pasture still holds some golden leaves at the topmost branches, which the sheep eat as they fall, also the acorns the tree drops for them. Sheep especially enjoy the tulip poplar and sweet gum leaves, which mostly are now dry, but they still enjoy the flavor. I’m thankful that we’ve gone around the edge of the pasture, outside the fence, and cut down all the choke-cherry trees, whose yellow leaves can kill sheep. A shining trail of ice stretches out behind a plane high in the sky, and the afternoon is so quiet that I can hear it roaring its passengers right by RDU, perhaps heading north to Washington or beyond.

Maeve, our Aussie, is on guard against squirrels, (one of her favorite command words, and favorite sprints). I know she once caught one–I was a witness. I hope I’m not again such a witness.

Juncoes snuggle under the canes of my mother’s rambling rose, eating millet and thistle seed in the shelter of the thicket. Cardinals contrast in a holiday way with the green leaves still on the rose bush. The birdbath is awaiting its next visitor, either bird, or Maeve, having a drink.

My fingers are getting cold, as the sun continues to descend, taking the golden light away with it, until tomorrow.

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Danger in dogs entering unfamiliar house; 17 staples fixed it :-(

IMG_2547June 6, 2013

Today I learned to check out a new home I’m visiting on vacation–especially to locate flights of stairs AND railings…

We arrived last evening at the Upper Peninusula in MI, and today my cousin, Bob, toured us all around Macinac Island–lovely day! The two dogs, his and ours, had been out in the yard all afternoon, and I went to let them in. They both had to come through the door at the same time, of course, Bob’s big German Short-haired hunting dog, and Maeve the Aussie. I stepped back as they both pushed the door in, and my toe encountered–nothing!! There’s a flight of steps down right in back of where the door opens, the light was out, we’d just gotten there last evening, and I had not been down those steps to find out there was a railing behind my back… Fortunately, the steps were carpeted, but the floor below was linolium over concrete 😦   Well, Dirk responded to my scream as I fell– the last thing I remember. About half-an-hour later I began to wake up in the ER. Bob had called 911 when Dirk’s hand was covered in blood, and I was unconscious. I can’t say enough for the ambulance crew and the Newberry, MI, hospital  and Dr. Vick, who promptly took care of me, including sending me off with a CD of the CT scans & other x-rays they’d taken, for my doctor at home. Also for my cousin, Bob’s patience with my unexpectedly sailing down his steps. He’s also sent his house insurance folks to talk with the hospital to deal with my co-pay, which is most generous, and unexpected. After all, I allowed the dogs to shove the door–wasn’t anyone’s fault, really, but makes me feel very klutzy and vulnerable.

I was very lucky to sustain only a cut requiring 17 staples in my scalp to close it, and a concussion that left my head swimming for the following week. If I had not been wearing a plastic clip to hold my hair up, it might not have been as bad. One of the teeth of the clip broke off on my skull. I went back to using my cane as a “third leg” for balance, and when my pain pills were nearly out, started supplementing with Irish Creame in my bedtime cocoa so I could sleep. Splitting headache that first week was no fun at all, nor the whiplash injury to my neck that prevented me lifting up my own head without using my hand to grip some hair to lift.  I still have a colorful bruise across my lower back 2 wk. later, and plenty of pain to go with it. But hey, I’m not paralyzed, did not get a subdural hematoma, broke no bones–I’m thankful it was no worse. We continued the vacation on schedule, but came home a day early to get the staples out at my own doctor’s office, and I’m declared well by the resident who removed them. I love vacation, but I guess I need to be a lot more careful about checking my environment!

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Black has died; Vanity Fair has arrived

We just buried Black at the country cemetery where half our flock now resides.

Dirk mowed the lower right quarter yesterday, and it smells like a sweet fresh hay field. Suzie probably went out there early this a.m., and Black, enticed by the fragrance of fresh greens, followed her. Dirk went out around 11 to check on them, and found Black, down, in that field, Black who never left the barn unless we herded him out to shade under cooler trees in this grueling hot weather. We got him on his feet and he took a few steps back toward the barn (he was lying in the sun by then). We got to the brick walk, and he went down again. I called the Paredes family across the street and 3 of them came over to help us lift him and carry him back into the barn using a tarp we’d slipped under him as a hammock. Within an hour or so, he had died. I put a ginger snap in the side of his mouth, and he just ignored it. I dribbled a few drops of water in his mouth and he pulled back, just breathing hard, not aware of much else. I scratched his head, around his ears, scratched him down the sides of his neck which he used to like, and told him what a great sheep he was. He was the lamb who found an azalea bush and ate some, and we nearly lost him at the age of six weeks. A whole day of hourly fluids syringed into his mouth, alternated with Neutradrench, very sweet and loaded with the B-vitamins, stress vitamins sheep need when they’re challenged, and by 4 p.m. he was grazing, and I knew he’d made it.

This time he is at the end of his long life, 13 years–over a hundred in human time. Dirk and I stood by for a while, but there was nothing we could do for him. I even put the fresh leaf from a rose I’d just cut in his mouth, but he didn’t know it was there. We laid him to rest soon after in our little woodland cemetery, where half our flock of sheep now lie.

Suzie, the Romney, now age 15 and spry, the first lamb born here, is baaing, going from one pasture corner to another (Dirk has been mowing stilt grass to allow that) and baaing some more, looking for another sheep. A sheep without other sheep is nothing. They need others like themselves to feel content and secure–not so different than people. Emily the Pyr doesn’t spook her one bit, but she does not qualify for a sheep in Suzie’s world.

Dirk and I have been harvesting ferns, branches, vines, rose leaves, raspberry leaves… all the invasive plants the sheep used to keep under control that are now running wild around the edges of our yard, so they get a bundle of greens every day, and the bicarb sits out there with the mineral salts with garlic & kelp. They prefer the greens to their feed and alfalfa, and they get a couple ginger snaps every evening, a special treat. Black was getting an ASA occasionally, since arthritis was his major problem–that and his 13 years, which I could not do much about but spoil him, which we did.

I had talked with Elaina months ago about a sheep or two she wasn’t going to breed again that she could let us “board” to keep Suzie company when the time came. We drove the 30 miles to church still grieving our loss. After church we drove to Efland to pick up Elaina’s five year-old white Shetland named Vanity Fair. She’s white, with a beautiful soft coat of wool, and she’s wearing a red halter. She’s failed as a breeder three times, so she was going to leave the place one way or another. Elaina lifted her into the car, with newspapers already padding the floor. She dozed between my knees in the back of the Prias all the way home.

Suzie knew we had another sheep here as soon as we opened the car. Even before we walked the Shetland around the car to head for the field, Suzie was making the little bleating sounds a mother sheep makes to a lamb: a  totally unexpected response–she’s never even been bred! She made that little wickering sound I heard Perquita, a special sheep who died at 17,  make when she was in labor, as we walked all the way down the driveway to the barnyard gate, Vanity Fair dancing around as far from us as she could get on her halter and line. Dirk had tied Emily to prevent further drama. They can get together through the gate and become acquainted. We, all four, walked down the hill to the barn. Suddenly Suzie wasn’t so sure she wanted to share her space with a stranger. We put down two feed dishes, there were two hay baskets already down with alfalfa ready to eat. Dirk divided up the green branches he had trimmed and put in a bucket of water earlier in the day, and I put some of the feed for Vanity Fair in both dishes, and some of ours in both. Suzie had been butting Vanity with her head, telling the newcomer her feed was Suzie’s, and Suzie’s feed was also Suzie’s–so the second dish. Now they went back and forth, eating out of both dishes. Dirk took some pictures which I emailed Elaina to let her know Vanity was safely installed in our barn.  Suzie at last check was lying down in a corner of the barn, and Vanity was near the gate, wondering if she could go home now. She’s accustomed to a flock of 20 or so, and she feels the solitude, also. Kelly, another friend, also has an older sheep to let us “board” as long as Suzie lives, so she won’t be alone, and then we can bring them back to their old homes. In an emergency situation, good friends are the best medicine ever.

Black was very arthritic, but other than that had never seen a vet, and didn’t have any other health problems–except 13 years. He was so sweet and gentle that when future spinners came for a weekend, I could always walk up to him for students to scratch around his ears and look at his beautiful soft, crimpy fleece. We’ll both really miss him, but are also glad he won’t suffer any longer with those arthritic joints.

Now maybe we can graze our sheep in the yard again. They were only up once last year, and about once or twice the year before that. Deborah and Black both were arthritic, and couldn’t get around very well.

Now the pasture is lively. Suzie loves to graze, and is out in the pasture most of the day now with Vanity around somewhere in the same quarter. Each of them is content knowing the other is there.

I feel comfortable that all’s well with a new population in the barn. I feel guilty that just losing Black, I’m also relieved to have a young sheep here again, like Black was once, to run around the pasture. I feel heavy with grief, and then I’m chuckling with joy, all in the same day. I’ll go to bed early this night.

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Filed under Aging, community, Compromises, dogs, Friendship, Grief, Healing, sheep, spinning workshops