Tag Archives: weather

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

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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Filed under Birds, gardening, Satisfaction, Weather

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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Filed under Aging, community, Family, Friendship, gardening, Healing, Life is a cycle, Satisfaction, sheep, Weather

Weaving outdoors on antique Dutch loom

May 8, 2013

I had no idea I’d let this blog lapse for so long! This is due to receiving my mother-in-law’s mother’s loom, a rigid-heddle style from the Netherlands, which her mother had woven scarves on during WW II to help support the family during Hitler’s occupation of Holland. I won’t go into all that. You can read up on the “War Resistor’s Museum” in Amsterdam, and get an accurate picture of what their lives were like during those years of hunger and fear.

The loom occupies my mind. I’ve searched for pictures and instructions on how to use this loom from European search sites, and found nearly nothing. I found one picture that vaguely resembled my loom, but no instructions, no helpful You-Tube videos, to my sorrow. My friend, Louise, who learned to spin in a workshop here last winter, helped me get it set up and warped, and has given me further suggestions and web links along the way. She also suggested I begin to attend the Triangle Weavers in Chapel Hill, which is an inspiring group of  talented weavers.

This evening I decided I was going to follow through on something I’ve wanted to try since I first received the loom: use my own home-spun yarn to warp the loom and make a Nova Scotia tartan table runner for myself. I knew it would take up considerable space to warp the loom, so decided to put the card table outside (thanks, Dirk, for moving the table for me) and used the railing on the deck ramp as my warping peg. That worked out well for two hours, until my back was breaking, and the mosquitoes had come out, and weren’t responding to the Permanone. I came in to turn on water to make tea, picked up my camera, and as I opened the door to return to the deck I heard raindrops falling! I grabbed the big yellow raincoat we use to splash down to the barn to feed the sheep in nasty weather, and draped the card table and loom with it, moving the table right against the railing, covering that, too. I came back in, poured the tea, and heard thunder! Went out again with my beach umbrella furled, bungee-corded it to the railing, tipped it for maximum coverage, and ran back in.

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I had no idea weaving called for such fortitude. Spinning is so relaxing–just lean back and wool flows to the bobbin with little effort. Weaving is another story. I played Nova Scotia jigs and reels of Natalie & Buddy MacMaster and Kendra MacGillivray as I warped the loom, walking back and forth, back and forth, taking a few dance steps from long-ago classes in Irish folk dancing. I pulled out long lengths of yarn to reach around the “warp peg” and back, and got tangled in the rose bush, which is heavily leaved out and budding now. Yarn got hooked in the buckle of my Birkinstock, dog ran by a few times, cats stayed inside the house, simplifying things greatly. Cardinals, wrens, woodpeckers, nuthatches came for their evening meal, while I walked back and forth. As I trimmed the knots to an even length, I tossed the ends into the rose bush for the birds to weave nests with. When it got dark, the birds disappeared. And an hour later, I gave up, too.

I’ll attach pictures of this evening’s adventure, and another picture of a small project I completed recently. I am using a great deal of my handspun yarn, and old sock yarn, also, as I find patterns I can make on this old loom, a treasure, indeed.

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Filed under Birds, cats, dogs and cats, Dutch loom, Family, Gaelic music, Homespun yarn, Netherlands, spinning workshops, Weather, Weaving