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First frost tonite!

"Almost Lost" dishclothsDirk cutting brush
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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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Spinning workshop, and Preparing to move away… March, 2015

Giving things away

Giving things away

I’ve been going through corners in the garage again this morning, combining things, deciding who to give things to.

Fire’s burning this a.m. in a cool rain—cozy. The fire wood is a lot of branches that have fallen in the woods, which I’ve dragged up for Dirk to saw, if they’re too big for me to break up. They make just as much warmth as  real firewood, and it’s free!

Tye, Mira, Sindry, Judy, Mineko

Tye, Mira, Sindry, Judy, Mineko

I had a spinning workshop the first weekend in March, with four students. The two who live near-by are already interested in joining the spinning guild, and one has bought a wheel (my Majacraft Suzie, one of my first and favorite wheels), and the other is shopping for one. It’s so rewarding to teach people to spin, and watch them get into the guild for ongoing inspiration and support in their new craft.

Our move to RI will be in about 1 1/2 months. I realize, as I give things away, that I’m drawing a line between what I used to do, used to be able to do (wallpapering, for example), and deciding which of my friends might use some of these old things. We don’t need to downsize, since the house is a similar size in RI, but I won’t have a garage beside the house to reach out and get things from. All those things have to go somewhere, and much of it will be in the basement, after I give away a good deal more. Going through old pictures, cards and letters—what a lot of people have sent me those over the years. I feel humbled, and wonder if I returned the favor. Twenty-three years of memories from this home I’m packaging in boxes, memories of activities of my now-adult children, of vacations, of a flock of sheep, of shepherd friends, and many years of assisting with shearing, mine and others’. Things I’ve given away, I’d held in my own care, gathering dust, in many cases. I’m feeling lighter knowing others now can use those things, which I had held on to, “just in case.” We’ve been careful and done without all these years, and I’ve watched others older and wiser than me, who had done likewise, and “aged out” at home, which is what we choose to do, also. Irene, who died at 90, was at home until her last month of life, when cancer, which none of her friends knew she had, brought her near-death. Hospice couldn’t help because she lived alone, so she went, briefly, to a horrible nursing home, and for the last 2 weeks, UNC’s cancer hospital, then to a Hospice home. She was comfortable those last 2 weeks, and I don’t think she was aware where she was or who was with her. If God is good, Dirk and I will be able to live in our North Kingstown home for the rest of our lives, also.

Making the home more simple, thanks to giving lots of things away, is a good way to prepare for that life, as we are older, I can’t climb the ladder to put up my own wallpaper now, so I’ll give away the equipment to someone who can do so. Letting go is hard, because I’m confronting my new, gradually increasing, loss of ability to do anything I chose to do. Now, I have to choose what I can do, how much of that I can do, and how much I need to let others do for me. That feels embarrassing, needing to ask for help, when I’ve always been the helper. I feel vulnerable and frightened. Letting go of things, I’m pondering how to let go of that attitude, also.

With that comes the fear that I won’t be able to find anyone to be my helper, and that eventually I won’t be able to afford to pay someone.  Since my income is fixed, and the cost of living constantly rises, in 15 years, I’ll have lost 1/2-3/4 of my income, just by the way the world works.I can’t advance the clock, to know how all this will work out, but I do know I’m moving to a cold place, equipped with lots of wool to make things with, to trade for services rendered, as much as I can. Instead of dollar amounts, I’ll need to put HOUR amounts on what I’ve made, and trade for services.(Wish me luck…) In the meantime, I sit in front of the wood stove, and relax in the warmth, and am thankful I can make things of beauty from my wool and mohair, remembering each sheep with their individual personalities, as I spin their wool.

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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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Filed under Aging, Birds, cats, community, Compromises, dogs, dogs and cats, Family, Friendship, gardening, Grief, Healing, Health, Homespun yarn, sheep, spinning, Weather, wildlife

Spinning workshop in May

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May 18-19, 2013

Another workshop, and three more spinners out in the world to enjoy creating with wool, alpaca, silk, or dog/cat hair. Add a little sparkle, some colorful mohair and your skein has some personality! I’ll put in a couple pictures for you, but you’d have to be here to really enjoy it. When someone said they were used to having music on all the time, I pulled out my iPhone and played music from some of my favorite Gaelic musicians from Nova Scotia, great for keeping the rhythm of a spinning wheel. You can see from the expressions of success and a skein of lovely fiber the products of the weekend: competence in an old skill which can be very relaxing, and a way to create lovely things no one has ever thought of before. They have an entry category at the NC State Fair for new spinners, a year or less. Maybe some of my new spinners will have skeins to enter in that competition this year. It would not be the first time 🙂 And all those handfuls of fluff that were blowing around the floor on Sunday evening, many of those will become birds’ nesting material, or mulch for flowers that need to have cool roots in spite of the steamy summers.

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Filed under Birds, community, dogs and cats, Friendship, Gaelic music, gardening, Homespun yarn, Life is a cycle, Satisfaction, sheep, spinning, spinning workshops, State Fair

Terri on Kromski, Deborah on Lendrum, Regan on Majacraft, spinning

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Feb. 8, 2013

We just hosted another enjoyable weekend spinning workshop. The weather was lovely, so we had good drying weather for fleeces and dyed fiber to dry outside. One of the new spinners brought along lots of Kool-Aid to use for dying wool, and created some lovely hand-painted creations which she later spun into designer yarn on her drop spindle. Each spinner designed a colorful batt (note the yarn they’re spinning in the picture) with an assortment of fibers and colors, and some angelina to add sparkle. They went home with a small skein spun on the drop spindle, and a much larger skein they spun on various spinning wheels during the weekend, including wool, alpaca, silk, and mohair, plus a little cotton, which is short and always a challenge at the very end of the weekend, so they can use their experience to work with it effectively. I consider the weekend a success when people find something they enjoy, whether it’s a certain wheel, or dying fiber with Kool-Aid, or learning how to make a puni of the cat or dog hair they bring along, and spin it into yarn. 

This week I bundled up and mailed two projects I just finished for friends in cold places. A good friend in PA will receive the shawl, and a cousin with recent health issues will receive the afghan. I enjoy having colorful and warm wool, mohair and (white shawl trim) Great Pyrenees fur to make yarn that will be cozy for friends and family. The weather will continue to be cold for a while (Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog, said so during our workshop) so I’ll continue to enjoy knitting warm woolies for my special family and friends.

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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