Monday, August 31, 2009

Better Than Dunkin Donuts

I like to take a cup of coffee out to the barn in the morning. I drink part of it on the way up there (to keep it from spilling ;-) and finish it after everyone's been brought in, turned out, fed, watered, back scratched, ears rubbed...

This morning I had some fine company. Hank and I sat out by the fence and watched the sheep go about their morning business. When I finished most of my coffee, I sat the mug down for Hank.

"What's this?"


"So you drink this stuff?"

"Mmmm - coffee" (Doesn't that look like a smile?)

And a Macro Monday find on the way in. If you view the picture this way, it looks like that fourth leaf is hiding, but if you turn it 90 degrees to the left, it looks like it's shouting "Me! Me! I'm here! See?"

A little good luck for everyone this morning.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Black Stallion And Flame

You may have noticed the two horses in the background yesterday. Handy and Gato. They appeared to be calmly watching with interest as the sheep parade through, but mostly they were engaged in an epic battle of what I call "face fighting". That would be where you are pretty much too lazy to run around and therefore stand next to each other, do some trash talking and try to bite each others noses.

Of course it always helps if you have an audience.

"Hey, she's got her camera. Let's show her how tough we really are!"

"See, I'll reach up and punch you right in the mouth..."

"Yeah? Well, I'll rear up and come at you like a spider monkey!"

"Well my spins look better because I have a beautiful tail!"

"Yeah? Well, the black stallion doesn't need a fancy tail..."

" smack you right in the mouth with it!"

See? This is what I have to live with. (A favorite Dunham quote courtesy of City Boy and Janbaby, who should really come down for labor day weekend! ;-)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In The Dog House

Miss Ewenice - the only sheep out there who has a legitimate excuse for not liking dogs.

First let me own up to not having a "normal" flock of sheep. We have old sheep and young sheep, wild sheep and couch potatoes, pet sheep and bottle lambs, outgoing and confident sheep, sheep that worry about things, sheep that don't, sheep that take care of other sheep, sheep that only take care of themselves, sheep that are smarter than me and some that we suspect have just as much wool inside their head as on top.

This is a flock that even a mature, well schooled, ready-to-go guardian dog would have trouble moving into. We knew that. We tried to explain it to Hank. We tried to explain it to Graham Lamb and Keebler. We've tried to explain it to the rest of the sheep. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do that? Just sit everyone down and have a meeting. Bring coffee and donuts. Maybe a dog bone. Hash it all out.

The way I wrote the sentences above explains the problem. "Hank", "GL and Keebs", the "rest of the sheep". In a nutshell, Keebler and GL, being bottle raised, aren't fitting in well with the rest of the sheep. Keebs is shy and gets his feelings hurt. GL, on the other hand, is not, but got in trouble by "trying a little too hard" to be friends with everyone. The rest of the sheep had never met a dog they liked, so weren't too excited to meet Hank.

So Hank found that the only sheep that did like him were the two boys. He was looking for a new family and they fit the bill. In my novice eyes, that seemed okay. By protecting them he was, by default, protecting everyone and I thought eventually they'd all figure it out and la-la-la, life would be happy. However, lately I've caught Hank protecting "his" sheep from the rest of the sheep. This is a problem. We are working on it and have help and I'm hopeful this story will have a happy ending, but tell that to a bunch of unhappy sheep.

I usually approach the "Hank has us penned in the little lot" problem by lecturing everyone about getting along and shooshing them past him into the big field. I'd heard Hank barking last night and went out to check and caught him yelling at them about something. He stopped, everything settled down and seemed fine and I went to back to the house. They hadn't forgotten though and were not moving this morning. I finally locked him in the barn lot.

Click to biggify and see him peeking through the gate.

"Hey, where are all my sheep going?"

Hank, you've scared them all again and they don't want to live with you. And I know you are excited about getting breakfast, but now you're scaring Keebler by bouncing around too much. He's "sensitive" and needs a slightly different approach.

The sheep looking back at me is Henrietta. I've been going out in the evenings with a box of vanilla wafers and having cookie parties with everyone. It's amazing how well everyone (except the few really scared sheep) behaves when there are cookies involved.

The other night I didn't have any cookies with me, but went out anyway. I sat down on the ground near the main flock. Keebs, GL and Hank all came up and sat with me. The rest of the sheep eyed me suspiciously from a distance. Finally Henri walked over to me. I tried to scratch her back (her second favorite treat), but she wasn't interested. She stayed long enough to see there were no cookies, turned around, walked back to the rest of the sheep, told them there were no cookies and they all walked away.

It's a tough crowd.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Grass Is Always Greener...

Actually, it's never been greener heading into September. Still, there's something about the light that speaks strongly of fall. Can you see it? One day the sky looks like summer and the next day I'm starting to second guess our hay supply.

I can't help but think we are in for a doozy this winter. Something seems different this year. On the other hand though, we've never headed into fall with this much grass on the ground. This time last year we were already feeding out winter hay and a lot of it.

Much of farm life seems to be a gamble. Maybe the longer grazing season will help offset a longer haying season. Maybe snow and ice will cover the remaining grass.

I heard geese flying overhead this morning. I'm hedging my bet with 50 extra bales of hay this year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Almost Missed Christmas!

Most mornings I step off the back porch and cut diagonally across the yard to go to the barn. This morning I walked straight down to the driveway - cup of coffee in one hand and a past prime tomato for the chickens in the other. As I walked past the leaning evergreen tree (that I am driving past in the previous post) I noticed all sorts of hay stuck in its branches, hanging just like tinsel on a Christmas tree.

My first thought was (keep in mind that was my first cup of coffee) did some sort of wind blow all that up there? Oh yeah, 200 bales of orchard grass/alfalfa mixed hay brushed through here over the weekend.

These two trees makes me smile. In my 'everything needs to be in a straight line and orderly' sort of world, I would not want this leaning tree wonking things up. However, it's a tree and therefore a friend and it can stay as long as it wants. It's grown that way to compensate for its neighbor's growth and I'd love to know how old these two are.

And no good Christmas tree would be without ornaments. This one is no exception - intricate spiderwebs fill its branches.

I love trying to capture spider webs. I love to watch the spiders create them. There is an opportunistic spider hanging out on our porch right now. Every night she builds an elaborate web right next to one of the lights.

It's always a beautiful web, bigger than a large dinner plate. I've taken to leaving the light off until her web is complete, as within seconds after it's been turned on, she has more dinner "guests" than she handle. Well, maybe not. She's incredibly fast, zooming from place to place, wrapping each insect within seconds, much like a calf roper at a rodeo.

"Wheee - what a ride!"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday Stills - The Open Road

I knew immediately what I wanted to do.


We have a wonderful, now retired, carriage horse, Handy. This beloved friend has been my partner for over 20 years now. As a gift we horse people are occasionally given, this honest old horse has taken me so many places, taught me so much, opened so many doors and brought joy to so many people...especially me.

Saint Tim

Keeping one ear cocked back towards me, as a good driving horse should, we headed down the road for the first time in over a year and a half.

While not a Sunday Still, I thought you might like to join us for a minute on the open road.

Saint Tim

Heading back to the barn. That's the new horse Gato in the distance. Amanda, his trainer, was out this morning for a lesson. I had been cleaning my very dusty harness. She noticed and mentioned that as a kid she used to work for someone with driving horses. Turns out a mutual friend - who had recently passed away.

I was humbled as I set the harness across Handy's back and quietly wept a little as I adjusted it to compensate for his aging and diminished size. I know the big red horse won't be with me forever.

This video is mostly for me, but you are welcome to watch if you'd like. It's shaky and pixelated and I wish I hadn't waited until he was old and been hanging out in the pasture for so long, but it's something I'll treasure.

Handy's enjoying his retirement, but I think he might have enjoyed...just a little...being the star for awhile again. Not too long though. I didn't hook him in the cross ties as I was hanging up the harness and came back from the tack room to see him heading out the back door. I gave him a pat and a big "thank you", rubbed out his sweat marks with my hand, pulled off his halter and let him go on.

Thank you, Saint Tim, for playing groom/navigator once again and for taking the pictures and videos.

For more Sunday Stills on the open road...

Sleepin' With His Peeps

I periodically peak around the corner of the barn to see what everyone's up to in the run in shed. I wished I'd had my camera yesterday. Hank was sleeping on his back with all four paws in the air. I snuck down to the house, hoping I'd get lucky, but he'd rolled over by the time I got back.

I like when his ears flop open. Iris' do that too when she sleeps. Maybe it's the only time those "working" dogs really relax.

Keebler, earlier in the week. He still does that cute head tilt when he looks at me. The fan hadn't been switched on yet, so I have no idea why he had so much straw all over.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Black And White

I washed the first of the soaking fleeces this morning. It hadn't soaked the full 5 days, but it did have the start of the infamous white film on top of the water. It was a Jacob lamb fleece and I got nervous. The Cotswold fleeces seem almost indestructible...and dirtier. Wasn't sure about the lamb fleece.

Here is what I started with the other day.

I strained it with the laundry basket (great idea!) and then spun it in the washing machine to remove as much funky water as possible. It was actually already pretty clean. So far, so good (and didn't think to take a picture).

I gave it one hot, soapy wash and it looked so good that I skipped the normal second wash and went straight to rinse. I still rinsed twice just because I'm a worrier and don't want any trace of soap left on the fiber.

This is where we ended up. Now that's pretty bright white, eh?

Here's my problem/question. It still feels pretty greasy. It's not dry yet, but I doubt that's going to make it feel better (could be wrong). So, if I still have to give it the full 4 runs through the washer and I'm not saving any soap (expense and pollution), is there any point?

I think what I need to do on the next one is split the fleece in half and process one half the old way and the other the new way and see what I think. It does seem a little cleaner, dirt-wise and I like that. I'll keep you posted.

Wiwi - who keeps herself sparkly black and white and looks like the princess and the pea sleeping on her new favorite kitty bed. The quilts (made by my grandmother) got piled up there the other day after our company left and she claimed them as hers. We just keep walking around her. We are apparently well trained.

Christine won the birthday book (please email me at thecrazysheeplady at gmail dot com with your mailing address :-).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday! me :-). No big party this year. Last year was fun, but whew!

So, just a little party - me, my cute little Wal-Mart (yes, I know...) pool, a good summer read.

What?!? Oh nooooooo....

Well, the raspberries won't let me down.

Nor the grapes. These are right by the pool, so when I get done with chores, I grab a cluster (or two), jump in the pool and float around feeling like a movie star...or something ;-).

And I'm traipsing around in the rain wearing my birthday boots. I've been wanting a pair of Blundstones, but as I only buy boots about once every 10 years, they've been in the queue awhile. I shouldn't have waited. They are wonderful!

What am I reading? Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. It's actually a re-read - just as good the second time and was a birthday gift last year from one of the original crazy sheep ladies around here who said as soon as she read it, she thought of me and ran down to the local bookstore and bought an extra copy. Now that's a great friend!

What else do I have planned? A riding lesson this afternoon if the rain doesn't throw us off (still, better than getting thrown off a horse ;-). Saint Tim is home safe and we are going to go into Lexington to donate blood this afternoon and then have dinner on the patio (covered) at one of our favorite restaurants, Azur.

So, since it's my birthday and I can do whatever I want and I like to give presents more than receiving them, I'm going to do a Three Bags Full give away. Leave a comment on a favorite thing* you've given someone on your birthday and I'll have Saint Tim draw a winner tomorrow. If at all possible, I'll find a copy at a local bookstore, but if not and you win and can't wait to read it, we'll go the Amazon route.

Happy Birthday!

And don't forget to give blood. It's important and not really that bad.

*Gifts don't have to be "things". They can be kind words, smiles, held doors, phone calls, prayers... Come on - jump in :-).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's Cookin' At The Wool House?

Not much. I wish Saint Tim would get home from his fishing trip. I'm getting tired of eating cereal ;-).

Actually, there is something cooking up there. I'm trying Judith MacKenzie McCuin's wool washing method I read about in the Fall 2008 Spin Off. If I can get my fleeces cleaner, with less water usage and few chemicals, I'm all for it!

I skirted the first fleece, dirty Woolliam. That should be a mighty fine test!

I dumped it from the skirting table into a laundry basket.

Carried the basket around the corner and set it down into a tub of cold water to ferment for several days. Using the laundry basket was my brilliant (I hope) idea, so as to not have to reach down in there to get the wool out later.

Back to the skirting table for two more. I'm not sure what I like better right now, the table or the ceiling fans.

I have a perfect place to set these soon to be really nasty smelling tubs. We'll keep the Woolliam picture handy to compare before and after.

Okay, let's return to the laundry basket shot. Did anyone catch Camouflage Comby up against the back wall?

Brushy is, of course, not far away. He was so zonked that I had to actually wake him up when it started raining.

Somebody just shoot me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

All Quiet On The Southern Front

I worked late out at the barn tonight and jumped in the pool on the way into the house. I floated around for awhile listening to all the night noises, watching heat lightning off in the distance while shooting stars flew through the sky overhead. I am so thankful. For everything.

Here's a little "post card". The screen is dark (I wish the stars would have shown up) so close your eyes and imagine. I was hoping maybe Hank would bark off in the distance, but all seems to be quiet...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Raindrops On Sunflowers - Macro Monday

Or something like that...

I'm not sure I'm getting the macro thing. So I get a couple pictures I like, as close up as my camera will focus.

The pollen in this first picture is what I was going for.

However, I like the picture better with the source of the pollen included. That's not a true macro though, is it?

Likewise this raindrop.

I wonder if I could enlarge this enough to see myself in there, taking the picture. I kind of like the thought of being inside a raindrop. (Definitely click to biggify - actually, the first one is clearer.)

Same time. Same tree. With flash.

I'm not a huge flash fan, but... I like it!

But is it a macro?

For more Monday Macros...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sunday Stills - Clouds

Well, I watched all week for a sheep shaped cloud. I mean, sheep look like clouds, surely a cloud could look like a sheep. Right? I'll probably see a perfect one on Monday. Sigh.

We've had some amazing storm clouds all summer, but mostly this week it's been the classic Simpson's cloud scene.

Some big sky our neighbors. If you click to biggify, you can see several gently rolling fields. Nice farm. Raises nice hay. Which we are always happy to see (and smell) stacked in our barn.

Clouds in the sky. Clouds on the ground.

I'm 5'8". I could not reach the top of this corn. And this was their "short" field. What a year.

I was trying for sunbeams, but what I really got was a cloud flower. Doesn't this look like the petals of a pansy?

And all's well that ends well. If you look carefully ;-).

For more Sunday Clouds...


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