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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Winter surprises, frozen dyed wool, and kitty entertainment

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I’m working on a curtain for our new home, and needed some bright green yarn. I went looking through my dye pot-stash with various colors of dye, late last evening. After I’d plied the mohair I intended to dye it spring green. But I had none 😦  I measured enough of the color green I did have into the hot water, dipped in the Bombyx silk I’ll use to wrap some of the yellow yarn as the green begins, but the color appeared to be too dark for my design. Plan B: I picked up about 1/4 lb. of white Shetland from Vanity Fair’s shearing last spring, put that in the dye pot, added some vinegar and let it simmer, almost, for about a half-hour. Since it was 11 p.m., so I just turned off the heat and the vent fan, left the pot covered, and this morning, continued the process, rinsing out the soapy, dirty water, since I washed the fleece in the same operation, and put cream rinse in the last rinse, when the water was clear. Then, on auto-pilot, I took the wet wool outside and spread it out flat on an old window screen where it could dry, where the sun will hit it pretty soon. As I rinsed my equipment and cleaned up the sink, I found a little more green wool, so brought it out to dry with the rest. When it touched the screen it immediately froze to it!! I forgot–it’s 20 degrees out there! This is one of the delightful winter days when it is brisk and snappy. Note the ice on the screen where the wool had been before I picked up the end and rolled it up. Maybe it will dry faster open to the air in a large donut… It’s wet, so even in the wind it won’t blow away. My pretty green wool is a big ice cube! The ice is still on the deck from our freezing rain of two nights ago, the birdbath has to be tipped over and the ice knocked free to put water in it again at least twice a day. The pansies have shriveled up to little dark-green humps, the lovely kale which I should have harvested at Christmas, is in about the same shape. The onions are visible, but only about two inches is peeking up straight–the rest of the leaves are flat on the garden dirt, partly covered by autumn leaves. Spring onion omelets will just have to wait. However, in NC, when it gets warmer again, in a week or two, the crocuses will bloom as will the pansies, and my garden will come back to life.

Time to shift gears–that wool won’t be available to spin for some time, and I’m still searching for the right dye color.

The next task today is to warp my loom to start a throw rug in the log cabin pattern. I haven’t done this pattern before, but a good friend, also a weaver, assures me it’s not difficult. I looked it up in two of my books last evening, and it looks possible. I turned on the little robo-vacuum to pick up the fluff from the spinning I’d been doing the past two days, preparing the mohair to dye. In the meantime, the robot-vacuum buzzed around tidying, while I pulled out the card table, loom, shuttles, and other necessary bits of equipment to warp my rigid heddle loom. While I was setting up my work space, Boots, our charming two year-old rescued stray cat, was entertaining himself chasing the robo-vac around, cuffing at it, leaping in the air when it came to his toes, crawling under the cedar chest to see what the machine was finding under there that he might have missed. I appreciate the little machine picking up some of the fuzzies for me while I do other things, but it had not occurred to me what a very entertaining bit of hardware it would be for my cats!

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Filed under Birds, cats, Dutch loom, Dying wool, gardening, Homespun yarn, knitting, sheep, spinning, Weather, Weaving

Autumn Sunset near New Hill

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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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Filed under Birds, dogs, gardening, Life is a cycle, Satisfaction, sheep, Weather, wildlife

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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Filed under Aging, dogs, Family, Healing, Health, Thanksgiving, Vacation

American Indian bead work

 

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June 3, 2013

We’re off on a 2-week trip to places north, and cooler, and out of this heavy, damp air loaded with my nemesis: mold and pollens. First day we visited a museum in WV’s Charleston, and I took pictures of some beautiful Fenton glass, which one of my daughters used to love to collect. There’s an immense Czech crystal chandelier in the center of the Capitol dome, which is worth a walk to visit.

In a museum at Niagra Falls we saw Iroquois Indian beading on slippers, a purse, and other things. Now I’m learning to do some Lithuanian bead work, I was amazed with the extremely fine beads and the sophisticated use of color and deisign. Somehow, it’s not “overdone,” looks beautiful without being “over the top.” What an art. I wonder whether there are Native Americans teaching that craft these days? If so, please speak up and tell me where to sign up!

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Roses

 

 

 

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IMG_1269May 22, 2013

I stand in a cloud of roses, the fragrance delightful, cutting roses for new bushes for my daughter, for a bouquet for a neighbor recovering from shoulder surgery, for myself in the kitchen, and the spent blooms filled 1/2 bucket for the sheep. It’s been raining, and the rose has burst forth this week, and is now my joyful annual waterfall of blooms. After I cut all those flowers, it looks as full of blooms as it had before I started. Amazing, such abundance.

As I pick, I see buds with outer petals beginning to curl out, just about to burst forth, the ones just flowered with the yellow stamens inside and a cloud of fragrance, the wilting ones, the ragged ones chewed on by squirrels who didn’t like the taste, the wilted ones with petals raining down, and the rose hips, flowers gone, stamens brown and dry, as their blooming time is done.

The long stems with only one bloom, with 7 leaves on the stem, are the strongest. Those I cut to dip in root starter for a new bush for my daughter. I hope at least one will survive. I put 6-7 in a container to bring up the road with me in 2 weeks. The wide open blooms smell lovely, and I imbibe their fragrance as I move among the blooms on a bush taller than I am, and wider than the span of my arms. If you were an ancient royal family and wanted a “natural” border around your property, this would do it! In just a few years it would be an impenetrable barrier to anyone who tried to enter. Even a sheep or goat would get caught in the thorns.

Wilted blossoms get clipped, and dropped in my bucket for the sheep to feast on this evening. Dirk got stampeded by our two sheep this evening as he approached the barn. Their sense of smell for good greens is fantastic. They knew what he had in that bucket long before he got to the barn! They immediately dug in to the feast of rose blossoms and leaves, and the lovely hips with all the vitamin C we also desire for jam. Except I’m not into making jam.

Are we not like roses, as it says in the Bible, that they last only a short time but are lovely in their time, and when they go by, they nourish the ground, and linger in our memories, pictures of them appearing in cards I print for special occasions all year. My roses will first perfume my deck and kitchen, then nourish my sheep, and later, the vegetable garden, where all the barn compost goes eventually. A time for everything… to bloom, to wilt, and to nourish, and round and round…

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