Archive for April, 2007

April showers, again…

April 30, 2007

It’s been a showery month, but I guess the rhyme exists because April is famous for showers, so why should I complain. At least at the end of this month it’s been RAIN showers instead of all the snow showers (and storms) we in the first part of April.

I haven’t been out walking much because the weather has not been cooperating, but last week one day I did go out, with trusty little pocket camera, and took this photo of Mt. Ascutney from about l/2 mile from my house, where I was walking on our dirt road.dsc00191-medium-web-view.jpg

You can just barely see that the green of the meadow is starting to show through the brown remains of last year’s grass. In the few days since I took this photo, much progress has been made, though the grass isn’t as high as I’d like it. Still, there’s two more days before the sheep need to go out on pasture, so maybe by then…sometimes in Spring, the grass grows more than an inch a day, so there’s still a possibility that there will be six inches by Wednesday, when the sheep hit the grass, right? Dream on!

Last night instead of sleeping, I pondered the movie we had watched the night before, “Magdalene Sisters”, set in Ireland in 1964, about unwed mothers and other women considered “loose” or”likely to become loose if left to their own devices”, who were incarcerated in these 10 asylums all over Ireland, and did laundry, lived a strict life of repentance for their sins or potential sins…the documentary on the DVD suggested that there were about 30,000 women incarcerated in these places between 1900 and 1964, when the movie was set. What I was pondering, however, was what set of circumstances sets the scene for the particular ways in which a culture relates to the institutional church. It seems to me (but what do I know?) that Italy, for example, has a very different relationship to Roman Catholicism than Ireland does (or perhaps “did” is a better term.) What are the differences? Well, I don’t think the Roman Empire conquered Ireland or established themselves there…but they had in England, yet the church developed very differently on that island neighbor, cousin to Ireland. England was very gung ho Catholic Church all it’s centuries before the current one(s), but never very happy with Roman dominance, either sacred or secular, so it did its own brand of Catholicism, formalized with the break in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Both Ireland and England were very earth religion-y, goddess-y, Celtic in nature. Hmm..what about Scotland: the Romans stopped short of the Picts, Scotland was never colonized by Rome, either, but when the Reformation took root, the Reform Tradition took root in Scotland, with a gusto. Ireland was dominated by England for centuries, that’s for sure, and maybe the RC church gave them hope in that time of cruel domination, and so, they clung to it…no idea. But it does seem, in reading, that Ireland has a particular and unique relationship with Roman Catholicism not present in other cultures…perhaps a love/hate relationship, I don’t know. There certainly are the Celtic influences. But there is such a thing about sins, and particularly sexual sins, which seem to weigh in heavily in Irish culture, novels, etc, more so than in the literature of other countries…or am I imagining this. Any thoughts out there in blogland?

Anyway, it’s a rainy day, and the sheep are now fed. Half of them decided to eat in the shed, and several brave ones decided that rain or not, outside was nicer than inside.

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Dead center is Elnora, who is eleven, and skinny as a rail: she feeds her twins a LOT, never suggesting to them that she’s tired, or they could eat hay and give her a break. She is the one ewe that I DO wean the lambs from at three months, or she’d still be feeding them all from all the years of twins, I’m sure! She’s just a girl who cain’t say no.

To the left is Isabelle and the one little shetland ram lamb from this year, Hamish. (We were watching “Monarch of the Glen” and Hamish Clark plays one of the characters, Duncan…it seemed to fit.) The lambs are all growing (sure wish the grass would grow as quickly!). Wow, suddenly it has gotten VERY dark out. What a cloud cover. I can’t see Hawk Mountain out the front window, nor Ascutney out the side window. Too much rain and clouds up in the sky.

Well, today’s the day I have to order meat chickens, figuring back from when Ray, the portable chicken killing man can come with his travelling butcher shop/slaughter house, and do in 50 chickens and a dozen turkeys this fall, and ordering the chicks to arrive 11 weeks before, roughly. And Ian Stewart, a fellow writer for Black Sheep Newsletter is arriving at noon for a quick visit. I haven’t seen him for a couple of years…lots to catch up on. He spends his life travelling around the world, farm sitting and such. He will be here in June, while we go to Ireland to take care of the sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens, poults and chicks, not to mention cats, dog, and maybe even mother in law! He’s a very knowledgeable and interesting character who spent the first part of his life as a sheep rancher in New Zealand.

I look forward to May 1 tomorrow, and am inspired by Jo at Celtic Memories to do something special to celebrate May Day/Beltaine. Don’t think I’ll go out in the woods with a strange and attractive male or two or three to celebrate in the old way, but perhaps I can hug a tree or two and take a walk in the woods. Maybe there’ll be some wildflowers in bloom, though I think it’s probably just a mite too early up here in snowland.

A lovely spring day!

April 24, 2007

Yesterday was not nice: 86 degrees…I don’t like that kind of heat.  But today, ah, today, 60 and breezy, clear, a few clouds.  I fertilized the yard around the house today…never got to the pasture.  That will happen in the morning.  And today and yesterday I worked on information for my website.  Friend, Katrina, is building me a lovely website.  I’ve gotten photos of all the sheep, listed sheep for sale, did a bunch of other stuff.  Poultry photos still pending, and maybe some stuff about fiber…It’s a lot of work. Check it out, if you have a chance: http://www.maplehilljacobs.com;  Then, I went to my spinning group and then picked up the half pig for me and half pig for Sue at the butcher’s. Now, I’ve been home 45 minutes, gotten the chicken in the oven, fed the sheep, collected eggs, checked email and blogs I like to follow, and am thinking a catnap before dinner and after dinner quilting group here (hmmm…guess I’d best bake something first.)  Busy but delightful day.

Spring is sprung!

April 22, 2007

the grass is riz…well, actually, the grass is starting to rise…I spend a lot of time watching it, since I’m rooting for it to grow to six inches before I run out of hay. It will have to do a lot of pretty impressive growing for that to happen…but this is Spring in Vermont, and it is within the realm of the possible, if not reasonable, that in six days it will be up high enough to support some initial grazing by the girls. That means I need to get out there this afternoon and spread some fertilizer (organic) on the lower meadow…easier to do before the fencing goes up and the girls go on it. I think it’s also a good day to drag a chicken tractor onto my garden and put some hens in it to begin the process of spring tilling. (I’m lazy: the hens do it for me, and along the way, eat out grubs and other nasties I really don’t want in the soil anyway. For this alone, not even counting the eggs, these hens are worth every penny I spend on grain!)

Spring in Vermont is a lovely time.,..first the grass will green up. Then the trees will begin to leaf out. I discovered after moving up here that there is a Spring “color” season, as well as a Fall one. The colors of the leafing out buds and trees include some vivid reds, but are mostly pastel orange, salmon, pink, yellow, and yellow-green. I never noticed this back in N.J., though I’m sure, to some extent, it was true there as well. Here the Spring color can be pretty spectacular. One day in a couple of weeks, as we drive over the Gulf Road to get to the “highway” (read paved road), we will hear, at the top of the hill, the first spring peepers. From that point on, more and more, early evenings, there will be a cacophony of lovely peeper music, and I go around outside singing, “Jeepers, creepers, where’d you get those peepers; gosh oh, gee whiz, where’d you get those frogs,” a variation on some silly 40’s or 50’s tune.

The lambs are very playful. I throw down a haybale and before I get the twine off it, they are on top, jumping on and off, onto the ground, onto each other, piling up. They run from the far end of the field into the shed, turn around and run back out, back and forth, over and over, with Margaret, outside the fence, running back and forth with them. She loves to play this game with them. They are at their most playful, early morning when mamas are eating (they disdain grain until about two months old, by which time there is very little grain indeed. By their third month, there is none, and they live on grass.) and just before dark, when they can be seen hurling their bodies into the air, spronging along on all fours, and generally, having a blast, followed along (or at least the little shetland ram) by a doting Granny Shetland, who won’t let him out of her sight. I’m sure he’s embarrassed: the other boys’ mothers let them play without following on their heels. I can almost hear him saying, “Mama, will you please tell Granny NOT to follow me all over the place, whining about how I’m gonna’ break a leg or something.” It is so funny to watch this grandmother: she defines overprotective s-mothering! Mama pretty much ignores her. My guess is Granny wouldn’t listen, anyway, if Mama told her to butt out!dsc00164-medium-web-view.jpg

Here they are, a few of them anyway, on a haybale. The bigger white ones are the two coopworth ram lambs, much heftier. (They grow with football player muscles; the jacobs, with swimmer muscles, so to speak.

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Here’s a few of the lambs in the shed with some mamas. I can sit out there and watch them for hours. It’s very relaxing, often amusing, and just plain fun. They so enjoy life. They really know how to play.  (Personally, I think Jesus was called Lamb of God, not because of sacrifice, but because he really knew how to play: live in the moment, relax, enjoy whatever one is doing, give what you’re doing your full attention, laugh a lot.  I think patriarchal types got into the sacrifice thing, but at the very least, that isn’t the whole picture!)

I think there’s something wrong with me…

April 20, 2007

I must be missing a gene or chromosome or something…I just finished reading Jo’s posting at Celtic Memories. She’s heavily into something called sock madness, and once again, faced with lots of different patterns, I realized I just don’t DO new patterns unless the old ones cease to work. I have absolutely no curiosity about same. I use the same pattern over and over again on socks: it works…why bother with learning a new one? I have one pair of shoes, or rather several pairs of the SAME shoes in different colors: they are comfortable, the heel is the right size, I like their look: why bother going through all the pain of trying to find another type of shoe that will feel and look as good? I remember my mother rearranging the furniture by season, and putting up different curtains and drapes by season, and even re-painting the walls a different color every couple of years. (And then there was the time company was coming and she decided she hated the paint color in the stairwell, and spent the day painting the walls, and painting the risers each a different coordinating color.) To me, this seems like a colossal waste of good time I could be reading or walking or doing nothing or knitting. I arrange the furniture and there it stays for 10 years or more, moving it occasionally to clean underneath (very occasionally, truth be told!) My spinning group gets a teacher in to teach a NEW way to make a shawl: my response: the old way works fine; I don’t need to learn a new way.

Now I can rationalize and say that I’m simply content in myself and don’t need to change all the external details regularly in an attempt to compensate for some internal inadequacy. OR, I can say, “Boy, are you ever lazy!” Or a number of positions between those two on a continuum from health to unhealth. I always admired people who learned for learning’s sake. I generally learn for a reason, go at it with a vengeance until I have learned what I need to know to operate in the new place I’m going, be it a psychological or physical new place or set of conditions, and then, content with my lot, just “knit the same pair of socks over and over again.”

I’ve also never seen the advantage of going on scary rides that make you throw up at carnivals, watching scary and violent movies, bungee jumping, or skydiving. It’s hard enough to try new foods! (Or new ways of cooking old foods. Geez, I love the way it tastes the way I make it: why risk ruining a perfectly good taste experience, just to try something new. I like it the way it is…) So, what gene is missing? The wanderlust? The curiosity? The dissatisfaction? No idea…doesn’t generally bother me much, except when I read about things like Sock Madness, and wonder why I have no interest in competing at all…

Last Jacob lambs for the year!

April 18, 2007

This morning I went out to find Turtle, a yearling, bred for the first time, standing in her pen with twins, very small twins!  The ewe is 3-3/4 lb, the ram is 3-1/4 lb.  They are lovely, active, drinking, at least all appears fine!  Turtle’s line has small lambs, though this is a tad smaller than normal.  Hopefully, it won’t make a bit of difference.  Here’s a photo of the little ones with mama:

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A Busy day for lambs!

April 15, 2007

I went out yesterday morning to feed the sheep and found a shetland in labor. Called friend, Ian, as pre-planned, who wanted to see the birth, he got there an hour later, just as she was beginning to push. One cute little brown born ram lamb. When I part his fleece, I can see that he will be an oatmeal color, which is called mooskit. Fleece is lovely. Here’s his photo at 15 minutes old or so…I will have to take an updated one, as gooky baby lambs are not at their most beautiful.dsc00148-medium-web-view.jpg

Then, in the afternoon, Deirdre Jacob started looking a little weird. Every time I went to check on her. she appeared to be sitting and reading or polishing her nails, looking up at me as if to say, “Yeah, so, …go in the house and don’t worry. I don’t need you.” She was one of those wild sheep from the island off the coast of Maine, and humans are very scary to her. Though she sat there nonchalantly (is that a word?), the hay all around her was all messed up, as if she’d been nesting. But, I like to honor their wishes, so I went inside, and only checked every hour or so. Finally, at 5:45, she was pushing, so I put some green fence panels around her for privacy, and watched as she brought forth two little ram lambs, one with a yucky pink nose (we don’t like pink noses!) and one with a very strange crooked black patch which covers one side of his face, drifts into his nose, and then back, with the traditional white blaze off-side, and one small eyepatch on the other eye. Can’t see it in this photo…again, will have to update. But both seem to have nice fleeces. Problem, of course, is there aren’t as many calls for ramlambs as ewelambs for breeding stock: you only need ONE ram and a spare, in case he gets tired! So, it looks like this is the year I have lots of lamb for the freezer. Oh, you probably don’t want to hear that in the same posting as cute little lamb photos, right? It’s reality: I will give them a lovely, lavished upon life for six months, and then, they will be killed instantly, and eaten, and every time I take a bite, I will say, “Thank you, _____, (I always make sure I name them and know who I’m eating.) for giving your life so that I may live.”

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Hey, I did it!  I got two photos in the same post.  You can teach an old dog new tricks, once again proven!

Second most relaxing way…

April 13, 2007

…to have lambs born at your place (or mine, as the case may be) is what happened this afternoon. Waking from a little after lunch capnap, I heard the sheep caterwauling, so went out to see why, to find Ava, a yearling, pregnant with her first lamb, on the verge of delivering the lamb…put fence panels around her, and 10 minutes later, out popped a cute little 7-1/2 pound ewe lamb, with a somewhat deficient, but acceptable nose patch, and what turned out to be, after she was cleaned up (post this photo!) very nice fleece. In this picture, the lamb is out about 8 minutes, not yet quite walking but still on her way to find MILK! Hmmm…for some reason, uploads are temporarily disabled, so I’ll have to send the photo later!

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Snow, glorious snow!

April 12, 2007

This morning, before the snow started and before I got out to the sheep, probably around 5 a.m. Nell had twin two horned ram lambs with lovely fleeces.  This is the most relaxing way to have lambs: to go out and find them all cleaned off, mama and babies fine.  But, it’s not as much fun as watching the whole process.

The snow started at around 6 a.m., and we have 2-1/2 inches so far.  It is coming down fairly heavily at the moment, and is supposed to accumulate to something like 6-10 inches…it’s prettier than the flatland April showers, anyway.  Friends in Pa. are having rain, rain, rain…but I suppose that means they also have pasture, pasture, pasture, whereas…here, the grass doesn’t look like it’s ready to come up yet, still awaiting some warmth.  This snow is a snow sculptor’s dream: it packs readily, sticks beautifully.  I wish the grandkids were here, for we could make lots of snowpeople.  But alas, they are in N.J. with the rain.  Here’s Nell and boys:dsc00146-medium-web-view.jpg

Twins by the light of the moon!

April 10, 2007

Last night Elnora Jacob went into labor.  I found her scratching around (nesting) and all sunk in (dropped) and pushing while squatting (preliminary pushing) at 7 p.m. and thought to myself, “Okay, an hour and…” (forgetting that this is ELNORA here, and an hour is just not ever her schedule!)  She is circumspect: every little bit of fluid that comes out the rear has to be consumed, all evidence destroyed (in the wild, the smell of that birth fluid means easy prey!).  And she needs to rest, come over to me for back rubs, nest some more, rest some more…Finally at 11:30, worried (though I shouldn’t have been) I did a quick check to find two legs and a nose in the birth canal, so I went in the house for a cup of tea and another allergy pill (tree season).  Came out, she had a bubble out…more fluid, more lapping up; another bubble: more fluid, more lapping up; another bubble: more fluid, more lapping up.  (Could she be like me who had no fewer than four water sacks around the baby?  Doctor got a stick, broke one, said “Gottcha!…nooo–stab–gottcha, more water, …no….stab–gottcha, more water…no…stab…finally! EAch time Niagara Falls!)  Anyway, around 12:30, finally, she pushed out a BIG (for her: her usual is four pounds) 7-1/2 pound baby boy, too dark to sell for breeding stock; and a bit later, another 7-1/2 pounder, this time a girl, with a funky eyepatch (who knows; maybe she’ll turn out pretty?  I have my doubts!  Probably more freezer lamb.)  Anyway, I was in the house by 1 a.m., having watched both babies get up and nurse.  In bed by 1:10 a.m., slept til 6, thinking of going back to bed now, having done morning chores.  The second baby was politically incorrect, having pooped in her amniotic fluid, which means she was a lovely shade of yellow/brown when she came out. Mother was busy most of the night, trying to get her whitened up.  She’ll be wet for most of the day, while mother gets her totally clean.  Both babies were bouncing around this morning, and mama was famished.  Here’s a photo of the twins:

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Most holy, most happy, most joyous morning…

April 8, 2007

though it would be better, if I hadn’t awakened with a headache, a rather normal sort of situation for “tree season”.  The trees start blooming, my nose starts stuffing up, and I wake up headachy.  I’ve trained myself to do so, rather that wait until it’s a full blown sinus event, take an aspirin, sniff steam, renew my antihistimine, and sit up for 20 minutes…then I can go back to bed.  But this morning, it is Easter, resurrection time, time to both reflect that to conquer death you only have to die, and time to rejoice in LIFE itself, in all its forms.  This morning, particularly, in the form of a new little jacob ewe lamb born last night to Mimi Jacob at around 6:45 p.m.  The daughters of friends, and new sheep people, were visiting with parents and came to see the new lambs, delighted to find a ewe in labor when they arrived. We sat out in the shed at 35 degrees and falling, from 4 p.m. til 7 p.m. and Mimi obliged by having her baby right there in front of them, frequently turning so we could follow the action.  It was an amazing thing to see…it always is for me, and for them, a first time event.  By the end of the 3 hours, however, they were freezing cold.  Sitting quietly in the cold is not conducive to keeping warm, despite the extra jackets, warm old army blanket, extra mittens and Sorels (good to minus 40!)  Mother and daughter were doing just fine when I checked on them before bed.  I’m almost of a mind to go check again, but I think I’ll resist until morning!  New births are such a sign of Spring, despite the lingering snow…an Easter joy!  New baby is named Amanda.  Here she is, with Mamadsc00141-medium-web-view.jpg


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