Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hank The Wonder Dog - In Living Color

Hangin' with his posse.

"What's that clicking sound?"

Don't worry about it Hank, just keep smiling :-).

Hank The Wonder Dog

Of course, putting that out there in writing is a surefire way to get burned, but it's an interesting story I thought everyone might enjoy...

This morning just before I got up I heard Hank bark a couple times. He only barks if he needs to (which is a huge relief) and if it's just a warning type bark, I've learned to trust he has things under control.

He barked again.

And again.

At that point I always go check. I stuck my head out the side door where I could see the sheep field. Everyone was grazing peacefully. Hmmm.

He was still barking though and it sounded like he was not with them. Better go look.

I walk out the back door, heading for the barn, Hank is still barking. What do I see? Keebler and Graham Lamb. In the gardens. With Hank sitting with them, barking at the idiot in the house (who didn't latch the gate well enough) to come out and do something. Anything. A little help here?

I knew the boys would follow me in for their morning grain, but Hank looked like while he was out here, he might get a better look at his surroundings. Uh oh.

I've gotten him to the point I can quietly approach him and he'll let me scratch his ears. I haven't tried to catch him though and walking on a leash is completely out of the question. However, we started whistling to him when we feed him, even if he's right there. Not sure how we thought of the brilliant idea, but I whistled to him this morning and he came running.

He probably wouldn't have let those two boys get too far away from him anyway.

Sorry for no picture. I'll try to get a new one of Hank and his posse and post it later.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sky Weaving

Check this out!

Cloud warp and weft, weaving a beautiful sunset over the new wool house the other night.

I wish I were weaving, but I can't even find my loom at this point.

If you look closely you can sort of see some weaving paraphernalia. If I could just get in the door.

Here are a couple pictures I found on my camera card this morning. I had hoped to do a 'sleeping with the sheeps' post, but was never happy with any of my pictures and really, coffee was more important at the time. Now, though, they make me laugh.

Keebs, looking like a little snuggle bunny.

Graham Lamb: "Hey lady! I could use a cup of coffee myself! And some cereal while you're at it! When are ya getting up? Are you getting up now?"

Usually Graham wasn't standing at the foot of my bed. I mostly woke up to those big ears and nose right in my face. Sort of like a cat. Graham is a complete character.

Hank is doing a great job. Keebs and Graham are his favorite sheep, which is good because those two are probably the most vulnerable as they have no fear of anything. Still, I kind of miss sleeping with them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Bella Sinclair Award

Michelle from Boulderneigh sent me the Bella Sinclair Award. Michelle explains it best...
"The history behind it is powerfully emotional. The designer Ces said, "I designed this award to celebrate art in the blogs and to honor the value of friendship, sisterhood, sharing and caring. It is to be awarded to the gifted, accomplished, eloquent and talented blogger whose friendship and influence inspire us to do our best. That I named it after Bella Sinclair is because she epitomizes all of these things. She is an inspiration to many of us." (If you click on the Bella link, you will learn of the great tragedy in her life, and hopefully count and recount the blessings in your own.)"
The story is powerful and the artwork outstanding. Definitely out of my league, but I so enjoyed visiting them and being further inspired to always do my best.

Or pass the buck to the flowers painting out at our native plant pond.

I don't often "accept" awards. I'm not sure I truly deserve them and I worry about passing them along. Usually they are art awards or kindness awards and I am always truly flattered. Picking just five (the usual number) fellow bloggers to pass it along is stressful. We are all artists in our own way or we wouldn't be taking the time to keep our online journals and I have been fortunate to have only come across kind people along my way.

Go visit Ces and Bella Sinclair and Michelle. And be inspired. And continue doing your very best. We all enjoy your art and your friendship, sisterhood (and brotherhood), sharing and caring.

Pass it along.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Stills - Toys - Le Tour de Fleece

Thankfully I was able to use some of my favorite toys to complete my Tour de Fleece challenge. It was a photo finish (for both challenges) and I can't precisely weigh it, but I'm counting it a "win" and collecting my Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey).

I knew exactly what I wanted to spin for the tour this year and really, could I have chosen anything but Punkin yarn to christen the new wool house? I've had such a busy summer though that I picked an amount that I knew I'd have no trouble completing - one and one half pounds of worsted weight yarn. No sweat.

Until everything that happened, happened.

And there I was treadling my toes off, burning the midnight lanolin last night.

And again early this morning.

I have no precise way to weigh my singles - the scale is still packed away - but I tend to spin 4 ounce bobbins using my WooLee Winder (special gear driven spinning bobbins that wind the yarn on very evenly).

And the three pound box is half empty.

So a big thanks to my Jensen spinning wheel.

And Lazy Kate (a toy that holds up to three bobbins for plying yarn).

And to Punkin. Who would probably be really surprised to know that I'd saved his last shearing for so many years (until I felt like I was "good enough" to spin it) and had a whole flock of sheep now and a guardian dog and a wool house almost ready to open to the public. Or not. I always knew he had complete confidence in me.

I will continue to spin the remaining Punkin roving and then ply the first with the last... to try and end up with even skeins of two ply yarn which will then be knit into a special sweater. Pattern as yet to be determined.

For more Sunday Stills...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sunday Stills...On A Thursday

Two weeks ago the Sunday Stills photography challenge was textures. I was thrilled. How much better could it get for a sheep "shooter". Two weeks ago, at this point, seems like a long, long time ago.

Sitting out with the sheep these last few days though watching Hank figure out his job, has given me some opportunities to capture a little texture...of the curly Cotswold variety.

Rebecca Boone has the coolest 'do and beautiful curls to boot.

Woolliam. I'm not sure if this is his head end or his butt end. Frequently happens in real life as well ;-).

Buddy's foot. I like his pants legs, socks and shoes and the mix of rock and hay underneath.

Headed out to the wool house to treadle away on my Tour de Fleece Challenge. It too is about two weeks behind :-o.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Picnic With The Pup

We moved everybody out into a slightly larger paddock this evening. Everyone seemed to be getting along "okay" (those Jacobs are a tough bunch), but just to be safe, we brought our dinner out to the barn.

We all still have a lot to learn, but we are really impressed with Hank. Everything we've had to "tell" him, he's only had to hear once. Of course he's still a puppy and we are still expecting some puppy problems for the next few months, but so far, so good.

The instincts of working dogs are fascinating.

Monday, July 20, 2009

To Serve And Protect

There are many options available to try to keep your livestock safe from predators. As the sleeping in the barn every night method is starting to get old (and isn't foolproof either), we've been desperately searching for our top choice, a good guardian dog.

Ideally, as the coyote(s) have come back within 50 yards of the barn at least twice now, we need a mature, ready to go to work dog (with big teeth!). We have not been able to find that. We feel pretty good with who we did find though.

Meet Hank (peeking out behind Buddy).

Hank is an eight month old Pyrenees/Maremma cross. He was born in a goat barn and has lived with those goats his whole life. He's not so sure about our sheep. Well, I should say he's not so sure of a few of our sheep. While he tries to be friendly, wagging his tail and kissing their noses, a few of our sheep have not returned the gesture. I think he appreciates his safety gate.

I have spent most of the day hanging out at the barn watching his every interaction. I'm impressed with his good humor towards sheep that try even my patience. I've also enjoyed watching our sheep interact with each other. I was not aware of what a jerk Peabody is and Crazy Esther might be old and feeble, but if she ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

And I already knew how sweet Emily and her baby Caspar Belly (aka Spooky Tooth) are.

And dear old Miss Ewenice. Is there anyone who naps as beautifully? (I wish that gate bar wasn't framing the bottom :-/.) She was very depressed after she lost her baby girl. We all were. We still are.

But, as I watch Hank following (or trying to) his sheep out of the barn this evening, I feel a little hope for the future safety of our flock...and will appreciate his help.

That's Keebler and Graham Lamb in the doorway, by the way. I can't believe how big they are. Keebler can't believe I'm making him live with "sheep".

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Bees Knees

Stella called the other night "Hey, you want to get into something?"

"Um, maybe." (I'm not quite as good a friend ;-)

"There's a bee swarm just up the road."

"Oh, okay. Call over there in the morning and see if it's still there. If it is, I'll see if we have enough parts to put together another hive."

8:00 a.m. the next day, "It's still there."

"Okay, I'll pick you up in a few minutes."

I feel sort of like the ghost busters movie when we get these calls. This is the third swarm we've heard about this year and I'm getting pretty good at throwing my equipment together. This swarm was about a mile and a half away and just six feet up in an easily accessible tree. A gift.

We decided to try the white sheet method and see if we could talk the bees into just walking right in. We set the hive box a few feet away from the tree, draped a white sheet from the tree to the front of the hive and then I scooped up a cupful of bees and dumped them into the the top. I took another scoop and dumped them in the front. A few headed in the opening!

That went so well I scooped up some more bees, dumped them on the sheet and next thing you know, they were all marching in. Textbook style. A couple ratchet straps to hold it together and some paper to block the entrance/exit and down the road we all went.

Amazing, eh?

(We switched bottom boards when we got home - that's the old one leaning in front to give the stragglers a ramp back in.)

We put this hive up at Stella's, behind her cute little red yard barn that her grandson Jason built last year. She's read some of my favorite bee books (A Book of Bees, A Country Year, The Secret Life of Bees) and is looking forward to cooking (sugar syrup) for thousands of new hungry mouths.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Wheels Are Turning

My friend Susan (who gave me the awesome studio bench/table) starts every bike ride by stepping on her elevated left bike pedal and as the bike takes off, swings into the seat. I have tried to do this - it's quite a cool looking trick - but "natural athlete" has never followed my name. I've got to do it now though because I'm going to need every trick in the book to catch up with the Tour de Fleece.

There was some actual spinning today. In the new studio. And I didn't crumble into a pile of dust as I feared I might.

My TDF challenge is to spin 1 1/2 pounds of the long waiting Punkin fleece. Technically 1 1/2 pounds worsted weight yarn. However, at this point I'm just happy to actually be spinning anything (because there have been a couple days that I wasn't sure we hadn't built the new studio for naught) and I've decided this one is going to be just between me and Punkin.

Rather than be all technical and measured, I'm going to just relax and spin my comfort yarn - more of a heavy worsted weight with some thick and thin spots for interest - and enjoy hanging out with Punkin again for a little while. This is the last of his wool and I know he'd much rather I had some fun with it. Not that spinning accurately isn't fun, but you know what I mean.

I was playing around with taking some motion blurred pictures. It's probably just me, but this last picture makes me nervous - like it's full of tension or conflict - I guess the fast moving bobbin vs. the stationary maiden.

Is it just me?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Friends And Flowers

I should tell you what the bees are up to and where those flowers were found and how much I have enjoyed our day lilies this year, but I have nothing to say. I am wordless. I am so tired - physically, mentally, emotionally.

I appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers and hugs. I especially liked the idea of everyone giving their sheep (and cats and dogs and horses and chickens and family and friends...) an extra hug in honor of Lorna Doone-Buggy and everyone she touched.

Let's go do that. Every day.

And take a kleenex.

Even though none of them really care if you get snot on 'em.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Unwelcome Visitor

Lorna Doone-Buggy is gone. I am a complete failure as a shepherd. I knew better. Remember the night I slept in the barn because I didn't want to leave the flock in the unsecured front field while the paint dried on the fences? That's the same field I had the doodle bug living in. With an old, crippled ewe to protect her (not that I was apparently even thinking about that).

She was the toughest, sweetest, happiest, most loving (even when I had to give her horrible shots that made her fall on the ground they hurt so bad) lamb and was such a joy to be around. She and I played in the barn aisleway last night - she was just starting to feel good enough to jump and run. I completely let her down. Any idiot could have kept her safe.

I am so sorry.

I am assuming it was a coyote, but can't say for sure. We've had some neighbor dog issues, but usually dogs take down an entire group and don't eat what they kill. Ewenice doesn't have a mark on her.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Watch Out Aqua!

"Look - coming through the field!"

Uh oh - the barn skunk. While I'm fairly used to seeing him/her, this is Saint Tim's first sighting. He was mildly alarmed until I told him this was the time of night he/she was always out. So far, so good - we stay out of each others way...

Oh NO - watch out Handy!

While the lens I was using (in the fading light) really compresses everything front to back, it does not affect the side to side. The barn skunk is really that close.

The aqua reference is one of Saint Tim's favorite sayings. Any time I'm getting ready to do something stupid or dangerous, I get a "watch out Aqua." Does anyone recognize this?

More Working Hardly

There's nothing like a cat to make you really crabby when you are so busy you hardly get a chance to sit down.

The progression of Wiwi's day...

Actually, she doesn't make me crabby. She makes me smile. Wiwi's old and having some health issues, so I'm glad she's enjoying herself.

But, don't let her fool you. She did this when she was a young whipper snapper, too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Lover AND A Fighter

Poor little sweet Lorna Doone-Buggy. She has been so sick. Just when I think she's starting to look a little better, back down she slides. However, no matter how bad she feels, she's always had her chin up or her nose in the feed bucket (or tall clovers). Just the toughest little lamb I've ever seen.

Sunday morning I thought we were on a bad course. She was holding her head up and happy to see me, but breathing so gurgly, nose so snotty and not super interested in breakfast. With all the company here getting attached to her, I dreaded coming in for my own breakfast and having to tell everyone I thought she wasn't going to make it.

Her guardian angel must be working overtime. By evening she was up and tootling around and out grazing with Miss Ewenice and seems to be getting a little 'more betterer' every day. Maybe this 4th round of antibiotics is what she needed...or it might be the good care she's getting.

Ewenice has done such a good job with her adopted baby girl. Even during all the cool weather over the weekend, she only went out to graze in the early morning and late evening and never took little Doone-Buggy much past the little creek. I didn't think too much about it though until these last few days. It has really warmed back up again and look who's out in the heat of the midday sun this afternoon.

And look where they are!

Let me tell you (well, you can probably see ;-), nothing gets in the way of Ewenice eating. The fact that she limited her grazing until these last two days when her baby was feeling better really just amazes me. As most of our sheep spend the hottest part of the day in the shade, I'm not sure if Ewenice is just making up for lost time or if she knows her baby is finally able and needs to get out and eat lots of vitamin rich grass.

Either way, you'll never be able to convince me that animals aren't smart, don't feel, have compassion for others...

Thank you Miss Ewenice.


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