Category Archives: gardening

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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Preparing for First R I Christmas

 

Chr cookies & Dirk

Here comes Santa

Dec. 19, 2015

Today my daughter in Raleigh gains another year. She has chosen not to be with us most of the past 10 years, which feels like a sad ache in my heart. Her son, our only grandchild, is now 11, and we cherished the visit we had together just before we moved away, the first time we’d seen him for five years. At Christmas it’s hard, focusing on today and the here and now, with the awareness of our missing family, but not allowing it to overcome our joyful “todays.”

Our daughter in Connecticut is near-by, and a regular part of our lives in Rhode Island.  She gained a year on Thanksgiving, and I’m amazed that my children are adults! We’ll be with her for Christmas, and are looking forward to that visit. Her m-i-l is in the hospital, mending a broken bone, so our Christmas will now take a different shape, because she will be in rehab, getting her walking back to a secure place before she can go home.

We had hosted Thanksgiving here for my daughter and her husband and his parents. I’m glad we shared the long visit before his mother was hospitalized. That was the second Thanksgiving dinner, the first, shared it with a friend from church who is also in choir. Now I use turkey a couple times a week in various creative ways! I think I won’t do turkey for Christmas this year…

I’ve baked gingerbread men for the third time, plus PA Dutch sand tarts this week, and they will quickly disappear, as we share them with friends and neighbors. As I cut them out, Dirk decorates them, so it doesn’t take as long. I remember the cookie-baking get-togethers we used to have with my NC daughter and friends, a separate table set up for decorations so the small children could decorate cookies while one mother watched the oven, and all of us cut out cookies and brushed them with Dirk’s “egg wash,” so the colored sugar stays put. I think they ate as many decorations as we used on the cookies, but that’s part of the fun. I missed my CT daughter on those occasions, but choosing a job in a distant place brings that sort of sadness.

I sit here in our new home in Rhode Island, listening to the traffic out front on Route 1, smelling the bayberry candle, enjoying the glimmer of the candles in the windows, the lights that wind up the bannister to the upstairs, the stockings hanging under the mantle, the reflection of the tree lights, and enjoying the taste of the gingerbread cookies with almonds as decorations, nicely roasted in the oven.

I gave hand-spun knitted mittens to my gardening neighbor across the street, and hat and mittens to my cousin out west. Dirk has hand-spun socks from a sheep we both knew and nurtured for about 15 years, and I have two new pairs of socks, one from Leah, the white Romney on our business card, and one partly her fleece, partly mohair from Cindy the goat. I’ve since returned to spinning, to replace what I’m using.

Dirk on the horn

The past month has been bursting with music, as I attended about eight concerts between Dirk’s two community bands: LaFayette and Wakefield Concert bands; and we both sing in the church choir, which also has instrumental music at this time of year. The choir director was glad to have us join her, with Dirk and his French Horn, too.  I love every minute of it! My quilting friend, whose husband is also in the two bands, comes to most of the concerts, but she leaves her quilting at home for these inside concerts. In summer, I spun with the drop spindle, and she hemmed her quilted lap blankets for charity as we listened to the music at two outside concerts a week, sitting by the two harbors.

At church, I learned to make a wreath. The call went out for women to gather bringing greens. I trimmed the holly and rhododendron away from the house, bundled it in a bed sheet, as I used to do for the sweet treats for the sheep—sweet gum, tulip poplar and honeysuckle. Never before had the old sheet contained poisonous branches. But the sheep are no longer here. I kept them away from such noxious bushes when we had the flock. I also helped a neighbor saw off a bayberry branch and a holly, so her pathways in her large garden were open again. The tips of the branches came to the church for the wreaths, along with a bundle of red berries from another of her bushes. The doors at church all have wreaths or sprays, and we had a later meeting to create arrangements of greens with the left-overs to bring home. I’ve knitted tiny socks to hang on such an arrangement or the tree, and given some to our neighbors and some friends. Those hang sefely low down on our tree, for the cats to enjoy the tree in their own way.

The newest cats, the two strays who appeared in our neighborhood in NC about four years ago, are no longer kittens, so for the first time are not pulling down the tinsel and knocking the unbreakable ornaments around the room. The older cats gaze at the tree, then take their usual nap in a chair. The dogs investigated the tree, wondering what it was doing inside the house, then went back to ignoring it, also. A kitten does make Christmas more fun.

I had completed hand-spun socks for my husband (don’t tell him—I’ve tucked them away until Christmas), and needed a next project. When I cleaned out my three-drawer small plastic file in which I store samples for class, as well as “exotics”—silk, bamboo/corn/soy synthetic silk, angora from Elaina at Avillon Farms and from Sheryl Wicklund, from their fluffy bunnies, “Angelina” which sparkles in various hues, and makes an interesting addition when spinning wool. I even found some cotton, my least favorite to spin, but I need to demonstrate when I teach a workshop; the takli spindle has never been unwound, after at least 10 years!. In the process of tidying, I found some Wensleydale wool combed top, and started to spin it so as to decrease my stash. After the first day, I learned my daughter’s mother-in-law had fallen and was in the hospital, so I set aside spinning, and went to get some washable acrylic for a lap robe for her. In our Twisted Theads Book Club meeting at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh a couple years ago, the featured book was Yuhas’ Knitting from the Inside Out. The dahlia lap robe/baby blanket from that book is lovely, and I’ve nearly finished it in less than a week, even with cookies and cards to do. I’ll take a picture when it’s done.

Pat's lap robe

Some women have been coming over to knit on Tuesday mornings. A neighbor had put a sock in her closet eight years ago because she forgot what to do next. She’s now finished the pair and bought yarn for another. Another lady, a waitress nearby, saw me knitting a baby sweater when we were eating there, and wanted to know how to do that. She comes when work allows. I’d hoped to gather a near-by circle of fiber crafters, and it’s beginning—I’m happy! Another woman who plays in the So. County band, has started gathering spinners from the near-by area to join her at the new yarn shop in Wakefield: Two Dots. We’ll meet there again soon.

Santa arrived in Wickford by boat, just like in Holland! I shouldn’t be surprised, with all this water around, and a great many boats. The police boat must be one of the only ones, except the regular fishing boats, that aren’t already “shrink-wrapped” for winter in dry dock—well, and the flotilla of kayacks escorting Santa and the harbormaster! Driving by the harbor, all those dry-docked, shrink-wrapped, boats look like huge, angular snowballs, all in a row, sleeping through the winter.

I just finished a tapestry-weaving class with Jan Austin from our Rhode Island Weaving Guild. I’ll spend more time practicing the craft after the holidays are over. My Dutch rigid-heddle loom is a good size for tapestry, and I made a couple neat bits of art during the class.

I’m moving my Eastern Star membership to a lodge near our new home. My daughter is also in Eastern Star, and is Mother Advisor to the Rainbow Girls in eastern CT. I’ve been able to help her with some of the activities, sewing days being one. I’d sewn for my daughters when they were small, and have continued to sew. Two of the mothers made dresses for themselves for formal occasions, and plan to continue sewing for their daughters now they know how to read a pattern, lay it out, measure, etc. It was rewarding to watch the women learn techniques needed to made a dress fit properly. I’m also amazed and proud at how quickly my daughter has learned a leadership role in both organizations.

The sun is nearly at the horizon, and I realze the shortest day of the year is only a couple days away. I am getting tired of it being nearly dark at four p.m., and look forward to warmer weather and long sunny days again. I’m not complaining—it’s been in the 60’s for a good part of December! Paperwhites are blooming inside now, and daffodils and hycinths are shooting up on my plant shelf in a west window. These fragrant blooms make the winter a great deal more pleasant inside. Two people have given me amyrillis plants. One is blooming, and the other will be when this one fades. What beautiful blooms to brighten winter days. We’ve listened to three versions of “A Christmas Carol” on TV already (Jean-Luc — Patrick Stewart, is my favorite Scrooge) and have saved some other favorite programs to watch at a later time. I’m listening to Mitch Albon’s The First Phone Call from Heaven. Just finished his The Timekeeper  on library books on CD—delightful way to spend a cold and windy afternoon. The fall weather has been like in NC—in the 60’s—until today, when we’ve suddenly entered winter. The deck had an ice slick over it this morning, making putting out bird seed a chancy business! And now, back to knitting…

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First frost tonite!

"Almost Lost" dishclothsDirk cutting brush
IMG_2563

October 17, 2015

It’s been a long time and a lot of yard work since last I wrote in this blog. Now that the big rush to beat the cold has walked right up to the line, I think—I HOPE—I’m ready to let go of my garden, inherited from Sue, the wife of the previous owner, now in Heaven, and let the garden sleep. Sometimes I talk with her about her plants, which I’m now nurturing, and I hope she approves of my moving things to areas with more sun, since the trees keep growing taller. I haven’t seen any butterflies for quite a while, although honey bees and bumble bees are around daily. Japanese Dogwood has dropped its bumpy pink nickel-sized fruit, and the bees are all over it. My buttefly/honey bee garden has thrived, even in limited sun, and I hope it will come up in spring. The bees are enjoying the hummingbird feeders, so I’ve left them up until the bees go to bed for the winter, too. I know Dick, our neighbor who sells lovely honey from his hives, won’t mind if they have a little extra sugar. I did as I had planned:  when walking the dogs, when they did “no. 2,” I buried it and planted clover seed over and around the area, so I hope in spring, to see little surprise clover patches all around, beside the roads. I saved that clover seed for that express purpose, when I gave away all the left-over rye grass and vetch seed I’d use twice a year to enhance the sheep pasture, to my shepherd-friends!

I miss the security of having an endless supply of manure for my gardens, to mulch things over winter, as well as to keep weeds down in summer. Weeds aren’t such a problem here, since the soil is so poor—sand and rocks, mostly. We’ve been composting all summer, kitchen scraps go right into the flower beds, and Dirk has a small mountain of grass clippings that he keeps turning. I’m actually finding the occasional earthworm, a sign of progress. Yesterday, walking along the Town Beach, I kicked the seaweed, and realized with a shock that I now had all the mulch I wanted! If it was good enough for my Irish ancestors, to fertilize their fields, it’s good enough for me! I had a bucket in the car, so filled that one and brought it home. Today, running right up to the frost threat, I filled three more buckets with seaweed from the beach, where the high tide leaves a line of it. Dirk kindly carried most of it to the car for me—it was pretty light, since it hasn’t rained the past couple days, and it was four hours after high tide. Now when I walk around my bee garden, rose bushes, and Beauty Berry, I smell the tang of the sea 🙂  I hope the cozy blanket will shelter things that haven’t had much time to establish a good root system yet. As a final touch, I swept and raked up several buckets of leaves and dumped those over the most vulnerable plants, inside their small fenced-enclosures. Now I can only hope. Who knew I’d be trading sheep manure for seaweed!

I dug up the iris in two beds over the past month and re-planted it in new beds, with lots of space for it to spread out. I’ve moved my small piece of my great-grandmother Jordan’s peony, which my Dad had moved to Robert Jordan’s yard for safe keeping at least 30 years ago, to a sunny spot. Two of Sue’s peonies, which are competing with shade and tree roots, have also moved to that more sunny flower bed. Today I planted the last plant waiting for me to figure out where to put it—a red rose bush. I needed to move some lilies to do that, so about half of those are in a new garden, also, and mulched with sea weed. After two cold nights, it will get warmer for a week, and I can add a layer of leaves for winter. I’ve covered my flower garden, hoping for that extra week of color. Today I bought some crocus, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs for the spring garden, as well as paper whites to force inside.

I have lots of pots to tend over winter. We picked up some shelves today to stand in a sunny west window. Rosemary, lavender, catnip as well as some flowers are in pots to enjoy. I planted basil seeds around the edge of the rosemary, so maybe I’ll have basil sprouts, along with the pot of oregano which is inside now. I have a bowl of meadow mint tea, trimmed from the plant after dark, while I balanced a spotlight between my knees, to wash and store in the freezer for pitchers of delicious tea over winter. After I picked it, I covered the bed in seaweed, and a bucket of leaves. I’ll put the frozen mint tea leaves beside the bag of frozen basil, to brighten up dreary winter days to come.Since I picked some of the catnip and let the cats all share it, I’m now hearing yowling and scuffling of cats drugged on their favorite herb. I have a catnip plant in a pot, alongside some sprouted corn (they eat the leaves like it was grass) but I doubt it’ll last until Christmas, the way the cats are enjoying it!

Yesterday and today were the Senior Center Bazaar, where a great many people strolled through buying gifts for their family and friends. Our knitting group’s one large area had taken in over $700 the first day, double last year’s earnings! The more knitters there are donating items, the more variety there is, and this is a group of around 30 women, so they had a great many neat creations. My dozen pairs of mittens were all gone but two pairs when I left yesterday! I had also done eight of the “Almost Forgotten Dishcloths,” (thanks, Katie Verna for the pattern!) and some of those went, also. Since I was gardening today, racing to beat the frost, I don’t know the final tally yet.

Our organist/choir director had shoulder surgery recently, and is on the mend, while we sing with a sub. director, who is very skillful, also. Dirk and I miss our a cappella congregational singing of some rousing hymns in the Mennonite tradition. The choir director said she’d like to see our hymnal sometime, and now that she’s mostly resting, we’re bringing her one of her own next week. I’m looking forward to a small hymn-sing as we sing her some of our favorite hymns, and leave her a list of more, along with her own book. I’ve had the sort of sad process of paging through the hymnal making a list of our favorite hymns. I do miss our old church, although we’re very much enjoying our new one, as well.

We celebrated the birthday of one of our neighbors last week, and got to know neighbors all around us. It’s humbling to realize that they all live in homes built in the 1920’s by their grandparents! We’re definitely the new guys on the block. Having my mother’s family’s roots here helps me feel at home, however. I hope, as time goes by, to meet more of my distant cousins. One of the women at church is one of those, having an ancestor who married my ancestor in the late 1700’s. Small world! Our house was also built in the late 1920’s, so the age of the house is the same, but the family line is not.

Now the weather’s getting chilly, my warm-weather hand-spun, hand-knitted items are coming out. People keep petting my cria-alpaca shawl (thanks, Punky, for that windfall of unwanted alpaca!). I wore my purple sweater, last year’s NC State Fair first-prize, with wide cuffs of Elaina’s wool/mohair/angora roving which I spun—and people are petting that, too! There’s something special about spinning my own fiber. People who have only bought wool really don’t know there is such a difference between commercial yarn and the special long-staple, soft, hand-spun. It’s so soft, I can well understand people stroking it, smiling. They tell me about the wool they can’t wear because it’s itchy, and I wouldn’t wear that, either. Feels like steel wool. Sad that there’s not a different name for “wool” to indicate the soft kind. Well—I guess there is: “handspun,” as long as the fiber is evaluated before buying for fine and soft, long-staple wool.

I’ve been bringing my spinning wheel to the town dock in the late afternoons. Some women I know from the knitting group routinely go there to feed the ducks and visit until it starts getting dark. Amazing how early that suddenly has become! They used to sit there and relax until nine in the evening. I think as much about spinning with that group as I would about knitting, but the amazed look on peoples’ faces still tickles me. I’m getting some spinning done in good company, watching sail boats come and go, people sailing by on paddle boards and kayaks, and occasionally a visit by the harbormaster’s police boat. The tide comes and goes, boats rise and fall, water sparkles in the sun, wind blows my roving around, people come, sit and visit, and go again, and the world seems to spin just as it did before we moved to RI, except for the bonus of the salt air—oh, and seaweed!

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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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A cherished aging sheep, Suzie

3/26/14

Our oldest sheep, Suzie, is 17, and quite suddenly has started to slide. You can see her picture in the header of this page, in the red coat. Deborah is on the left–she died with arthritis and old age last year. I think Suzie’ll be gone within the week, and we’ll find a home for Vanity, the “companion sheep” my friend Elaina loaned us. She won’t breed her again, which is why she was “dispensable.” A lady in our spinning guild is just starting in sheep, has several angora rabbits and some alpacas, but does not plan to breed them, and she’ll take Vanity Fair (my shepherd friend chooses a category for sheep names each year, and this year it had been magazines… she may have a Playboy around 🙂 I’m glad to have a future home for Vanity, the companion, because they don’t do well at all alone—they need a flock. I’m looking at all the sheep-related things in the garage and will put them together to share with my friends. This will be a big transition for us, since for the past 18 yr. we’ve had sheep to care for, and to groom and fertilize our lawn and pasture. The deer will have a holiday out there, eating the rye grass, vetch and clover I’d planted for the sheep to graze. The dogs will now have a full two acres to ramble, and will enjoy the extra space, exercise, and night-time critters to chase.

Letter to a friend–

Hi, Laura (another shepherd),

I went out at midnight for a last check, to be sure Suzie didn’t have her legs tangled in the elastic loops at the back of her sheep coat (I’ll take it off when the nights aren’t so cold). I had her ginger snap, which she no longer eats from my hand, so I broke it up and put it in the feed dish. Emily the Pyr decided to eat the cookie—I shooed her out of the barn, and Vanity, the Shetland, took off at the same time. Poor old Suzie decided she was not going to stay in that barn alone, and high-tailed it right out of the barn and up the hill after Vanity, baaing all the way! She hasn’t moved that fast since I can remember!!  As soon as I was a little way up the hill, and they knew I wasn’t going to do anything unpleasant to them, they walked back into the barn again.

I wanted to thank you for mentioning Aspirin (ASA), and what a little pain med can do. I saw it happen when I worked Labor and Delivery:  a mother who was teeth-gritting determined to do natural childbirth, and her painful muscles couldn’t relax, so labor had stopped advancing the baby. She was persuaded by her husband, after I persuaded him, that just a small dose of pain med was not going to hurt mother or baby—and within 1/2 hr. she had her baby. She just needed that little bit of relief to relax her muscles and let Mother Nature take over. Suzie just needed that baby ASA today to feel a little better—I’m amazed! She wasn’t even limping on her bad front leg, just trotted right up the hill. I almost fell over!

Thank you so much. I know it won’t make a big difference in her length of life, perhaps, but it certainly seems to have made her feel a lot better today. I put a baby non-enteric ASA in a 5-cc syringe, pulled up 1 cc of water, it melted instantly, and just put it in her mouth, as you said. I followed it with a little bit of ginger snap with some molasses on it, which she chewed right up, but I had to push it in, of course. I can’t remember—can I give it every day, or only every other day? She certainly did respond to it 🙂

Blessings with your elderly animals—I know they get TLC galore at your farm,

Judy

P.S. I’m copying Sheryl, who will become Vanity’s “Mom,” eventually, because all these little sheep care tips come in so handy sometimes. Even after all these years, and having given ASA to arthritic sheep a few years back, I had forgotten.

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From inside a NC snowstorm of vast proportions

Feb. 12, 2014

Snow!! More snow than I can keep up with. I sweep my little pathways clear every hour or so to the bird feeding areas, but I’ve given up on the ramp on the deck. That snow is over a foot high and I can no longer push it with the broom. I tell myself that after the pending ice storm, to add insult to injury, the ice will be easier to remove from the walkways if I leave the snow alone. Dirk moved his car to the edge of the road, so if some emergency arose we could at least get the car in the road, although, since they probably won’t plow out here, I doubt we’d get very far. I have a full bucket of wood ashes to bring along in the car when we do need to go out. I’ve had around 100 birds only on the deck, all at once today: over a dozen cardinals at once, chipping, white throated and fox sparrows, a gold-crowned kinglet I accidentally found in a picture:  one of my “goldfinches”–I can’t identify the pine siskins, kinglets, various kinds of warblers–they look very much alike. Below the deck, as the sparrows toss the seed around, there is a second feeding area with another hundred birds there–many juncoes and sparrows.

I’m thankful for our woodstove. I have 2 bricks on top, warming up, so that if our power goes off tonite, at least we’ll have warm feet. We long ago replaced our electric range Imagewhen one element too many burned up, so we have the comfort of being able to cook on a “real” stove, rather than the tedious process of continually stoking the woodstove to eventually get a pot warm.

I baked apple oatmeal squares from the old Mennonite Cookbook, also some coconut-walnut squares. Both are very sweet, but after shoveling, they’re just right. Besides, if we lose power, we can have some of those sweets with our tea.

Dirk has the wood holder on the deck full and covered with a tarp, and a large pile of wood near the stove. I picked up a lawn-cart full of fallen branches, pine cones, etc., a couple days ago, and now I’m enjoying the warmth of this tinder, especially since some of the firewood is wet.

When you can see my car, bird droppings decorate roof and driver’s door and windshield. I noticed today a flower from the maple tree that shades my car in summer, floating in a bucket of water beside the raised bed. No wonder the birds are there. There must be bugs on the flowers–lunch for the birds, even in the snowImage.

The crocuses are big buds, but we haven’t had the warm temperatures to coax them to bloom yet–and now they’re buried under about 8 inches of snow, and it’s still rapidly coming down–about 2 inches an hour. Usually at this time, we’re turning over the vegetable garden, getting ready to plant peas. That’s not going to happen very soon.  Last year at this time we were eating spring onions from the garden, but this year it’s been so cold they’re lying green and flat along the ground.

I’m thankful for a warm home, and that I don’t have to depend on my garden for our survival. I have tomatoes, kale and figs in the freezer from last summer’s garden, but I do miss those onions.

And now I’ll go out and put more bird seed out, because in an hour they’ll all vanish into whatever snug sleeping quarters they’ve found around the woods. The food keeps them warm, and such harsh conditions as this demand support. I do wonder where my pine and purple finches have gone this winter. I haven’t seen a single one. I haven’t seen the woodpeckers today, either, nor the nuthatches, since early this morning before the snow fell.

Mrs. Wren is walking up and down the door frame when she’s not hopping into the various feeders. She’ll have a nest nearby before long. Last year I found her sitting on a nest in the top of a feed bag full of pine cones, waiting on the front porch for us to need them for starting the fire. I never used them, even after she fledged. And a year later when I realized nothing had touched that old nest, I dumped it all out, and there had been two nests, one on top of the other. I’m glad I waited.

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