Lambing is officially here!

March 22, 2012

I don’t quite get why I’m having trouble with photos. Yesterday I did a post with three photos. I hit publish and all the photos disappeared along with a lot of the text. I’ll have to work on that.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Katherine Jacob had an 8-1/2 pound ram lamb, large for a jacob.  And today, Cordelia Coopworth had a 12 pound ram lamb, black, not all that huge for a coopworth, but not small either.  So, it’s underway. AND, it is still very warm out, way more warm than it should be, but at least they were shorn on Tuesday (and waited until afterwards to have lambs!) and they have the shed which stays reasonably cool, compared to out in the sun.  They are tending to spend most of the middle of the day, when it’s warm, in the shed, resting.  There’s a little breeze now and they’ve started to come out to pick up some hay to eat.  At 7 or so, I’ll shut them in for the night.


First lamb

March 21, 2012

Well, the lambs decided to wait until after shearing, for which I am grateful. Went out this morning to find Katherine in labor, bubble coming out of back, then broken:







Shearing Day

March 20, 2012

At long last shearing day has come.  I’ve been hoping the girls didn’t lamb until afterwards.  Well, they didn’t.  And the shearing is finished.  Whicih means…

I got up at 4;30 a.m., mixed up the dough for the cinnamon rolls, and while it rose for the first time, took a bit of a nap.  Then up, breakfast, dressed, turn out dough, roll out, cut up, put to rise a second time, set table, make coffee, get soup from freezer and “decant” into pots, turn on simmer to thaw and cook.  Lucas arrives.  Out to the shed, corral the sheep in a small pen for shearing, set up skirting table, set up shearing board, get hoof trimmers ready, get out hay and put it on the pasture for post shearing. (They will be hungry!) Go into the house, put cinnamon rolls in oven to cook, get out CDT vaccine, needles, syringes, get out sandwiches, wipes, cards and pen, plastic bags for the fleeces.  Everything down to the shed.  Come back inside.  Vicky arrives. Check cinnamon rolls, not quite ready. Oops 9 a.m., Kay, Ann, Cally, and Suzie arrive, and lo and behold, Gwen, the fantastic shearer, and ON TIME!  Yes!  And RoAnne a few minutes later. Cinnamon rolls out of the oven, flipped onto trays, distributed to everyone to eat warm. Candace calls from the other side of the Sea of Mud. John takes the ferry (4 wheel drive truck) to pick them up, along with George’s puppy.  And, after some conversation about the Sea of Mud which all navigated, we head down, some with coffee, some with rolls, to begin.  Gwen sets up her shearing machine, and Lucas grabs a sheep. We’re off!  First the white coopworths, then the other two coopworths, and then the smaller jacobs.

Here is a photo of Gwen shearing Cordelia Coopworth.

The Sea of Mud continues…

March 19, 2012

Last night as my husband was “ferrying” guests across the “mudflats” that are called Plains Rd., I thought of the parting of the Red Sea and the scholarly interpretation/translation/correction: it was not the Red Sea the Israelites crossed but the Sea of Reeds, similar to our mudflats, it seems.  They could walk across it, just as John has several times to retrieve his car at the neighbors to go somewhere, but cars, and armored vehicles with big heavy horses just couldn’t do it, and there was no AAA to get them out, so the Israelites got across and the Egyptians all had mudbaths. How beautiful their skin must have been afterwards!  Compensation for letting the Israelites get away.  I’ll bet Pharoah was not impressed.

So, our mudflats continue to amaze us. THe thaw has been so fast and so early that despite the truckloads of rocks (not stones or gravel, mind you, 2″ in diameter rocks!) they pour on the road, and the grading they have done several times, there are still ruts in the road close to a foot deep surrounded by muck, mud, slippery, nasty, difficult to navigate stuff.

Meanwhile, at 2 a.m. this morning, I was awakened by a pack of coyotes seemingly across the road on the meadow behine the neighbor’s house (or closer?) singing some drinking song or another (I didn’t recognize it or I would have sung along.).  I put Lizzie’s leash on her, turned on all the outside lights, grabbed the “searchlight” and went onto the porch, where Lizzie proceded to bark constantly for 10 minutes until she was satisfied there was no more threat, while I shined the searchlight down by the sheep and around the woods and toward the road. No bright lights (eyes) anywhere, except on the sheep, who seemed relatively unconcerned, so I’m guessing the coyotes weren’t all that near.  However, I spent the rest of the night listening, half asleep in case they came back.  But all is well.  Hopefully, they will have gotten the hint that this area is taken.

It is disturbing to hear packs of coyotes at this time of year.  I’m thinking this is more proof that they’ve interbred with the grey wolves.  For coyotes, I’m told, are solitary animals and hunt by themselves, until Fall , when the mama takes her litter hunting to teach them how, and then kicks them out to find their own territory, after a month of family reunions and all night bashes.  So, now, they are hunting in packs, wolflike behaviour. Does that also mean that they will now jump OVER fences?  Coyotes traditionally burrow under fences. I don’t think wolves feel that restriction.  That’s somewhat scary.  I trust the electronetting, but if they are of a notion to launch themselves in the air and jump the four foot high fence, no sheep are safe.  Let’s hope they don’t.

Today is day 146 from the day the rams went in.  That means the lambs could come anytime.  I am hoping they hold off at least until Gwen has shorn them tomorrow morning.  Right now expecially the coopworths are so dirty underneath!  I don’t want lambs sucking on poopy “tags” instead of teats. If they hold off, tomorrow there will only be nice clean milk machines to drink from.

I’m almost ready for shearing. The soups are made.  I just brought in a chicken to roast to make chicken salad with later today.  I have to boil eggs for egg salad.  I have three little chores relative to actual shearing: carrying shearing board, skirting table and extra garbage pail to join the other two for legs for the shearing table, down to the shed.  And I’m determined to make cinnamon buns that will be ready for the second rising at bedtime, and will do so very slowly in the frig overnight, so I can bake them in the morning, warm for when people arrive.  Other than that, I guess I’m ready.

Dinner last night worked well, despite the guests having to be ferried, in the back of the truck, like sheep, from the corner and back.  They were good natured about it, and since no one around here actually dresses up for dinner, it wasn’t a hardship particularly getting into the truck.  The sauerbraten was great. I bought a chuck roast, grass fed, from the Lebanon Co-op, and it was great.  (I didn’t have a roast large enough in the freezer, and the one from the co-op was boned, tied, and fat-less, and very tasty.)  This morning I had one of the two leftover kartoffelkloesse with a bit of gravy, cold, for breakfast.  It was as good as those cold pizza slices left on the windowsill overnight in college, eaten for breakfast…maybe even better.  And the pies were great, if I do say so myself, even though I kind of overcooked the crust on the lemon one, but that wasn’t my fault, really, it wasn’t: I was talking to Donald on the phone and he was giving me a description of all his lambs and I got distracted.

Sheep are fed (they don’t know it but this is it until after shearing in the a.m.).  Possible thundershowers later today, they are saying. I will lock them in the shed the minute it is looking possible.  And they will stay in there overnight. For good measure and a good night’s sleep, I’ll barricade them in with green gates turned on end, so no coyote can get in even if they do jump the fence…which they won’t, right?  From here on in, they’ll be locked in at night, so that if a lamb is born it can’t wander far from it’s mother. It means very rarely two mothers both lambing at the same time, get their lambs mixed up, but that’s only happened once, so I’m not going to worry about it.

I agreed to do a wedding in August yesterday. I’m not sure how I feel about it.  I haven’t done one in years. I love weddings.  But this was a strange sort of transaction on Sunday morning.  I will call the bride today and see about setting up a time the three of us can talk about all this.  Then I’ll feel better. Right now, they are total strangers, I know nothing about them. When I had a parish, I wouldn’t agree to do the wedding until we’d had an initial talk, made sure we were on the same page, etc.  In time…

Surrounded by a sea of mud!

March 15, 2012

It’s a very good thing we have a 4 wheel drive truck!  The road north of our house, which leads to the state highway, is nasty: foot deep ruts, mud from side to side.  I’ve been using the truck the last two days, as has JOhn. The roads have gotten worse, not better. So, this morning, on his way to a dental cleaning, he decides, despite my caution that he would get stuck (doesn’t require a brain surgeon to realize that foot deep ruts across the whole road and a corolla don’t equal driving forward!), to take the corolla. He wouldn’t listen to reason, he who thinks reason and logic are the be all and end all…ah, testosterone: when it hits, it will not bear challenge.  So, of course, 10 minutes later he is tromping up onto the porch (no surprise here!) with the corolla stuck in the middle of the road. If the road WAS negoiable by four wheel drive trucks, it is now blocked not only by mud but by a corolla.  There might be enough room to get through…if you don’t slide into the corolla in doing so.  Anyway, the good news is that this one tow will have paid for our AAA dues for the last two or three years!  (Towing is expensive!)  He’s out there now waiting for them, to make sure they tow toward the house and not in the other direction, which would leave the car stranded.  And my guess is, we’ll be using the truck this afternoon when we go out to meet friends for lunch.

That’s his challenge for the morning. Mine is also a dirty challenge: Lizzie the Monster, it seems, in love with rolling in wild animal poop (Margaret never did this!!!) stinks to high heaven like a forest bathroom, so it’s bath time, something she hates. And actually, since she doesn’t do stairs, it’s shower time, something she hates even more.  But I’ll fill up some buckets with water, put them in the shower, put her in, get in myself, after removing my clothes, and scrub her up. Meanwhile, I will put her bed in the washer.  Not a process, altogether, that I enjoy.  But it has to be done. She is a real Smellarella!

I hope you all out there in blogland have a less mud-encrusted/poop encrusted day.

What an amazing actress!

March 12, 2012

Last night we went to see “The Iron Lady” which has returned to a local theater after Meryl Streep won best actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Now, I have to tell you, I have very little interest in the life of Margaret Thatcher.  BUT, to see Meryl portray her at 40, 60, and 80; to see her change the way she held herself, walked, even wrote at the various ages; to see her portray the various symptoms and stages of dementia with grace and dignity: the fear of losing one’s mind, the joy of the “return” of loved ones long gone, the confusion, the denial…all things I saw in my mother in law not so many years ago…she is one great actress.  The film itself did nothing for me, but her character study was remarkable and well worth the price of admission. I’m glad we went to see it.

Our time at the Red Lion was lovely, despite having learned when we arrived that they now close the dining room on Mondays and Tuesdays. Had they told us that when we reserved, we would have waited a day. The time we went could easily have been changed.  It was a great disappointment to not dress for dinner, which would have looked ridiculous in the tavern. They tried to make it up to us. The chef sent salads out to us which we hadn’t ordered, but of course, it was full of stuff we wouldn’t eat so we sent them back. He offered to sent appetizers, and I had to explain to the server that we didn’t like all that fancy food, came to the place primarily because a)we could dress for dinner without feeling like freaks (might as well rub it in, huh?) and b) because although the chef could keep up with any chef in the world in terms of creative, herby, saucy, food, he, of all of them had the decency and smarts to realize that some people liked plain food and always included one or two plain meals on the menu…so please thank him for us, but we really don’t want all the fancy foods! We don’t like them.  Hopefully, we didn’t hurt his feelings but there is no point in wasting all that “good” food.  Despite the disappointment, we had a lovely time.  And we can dress up for dinner net year, assuming we are still alive and mobile, and at this point, I have no reason to believe we won’t be.

I am starting the countdown to shearing and lambing. I’ve gotten all my lambing supplies together. For awhile I couldn’t find the rubber bands and applicator for castrating, which I don’t do often, but when it’s needed, it’s needed…but I found it in the barn, rusted, so I guess I’ll need to get a new applicator when I’m at the grain store next week.  Everything else is there. I do need to stop at the vet and get some needles for CDT shots.  I made three great vats of soup which are now in the freezer, for it is the custom that all at shearing are invited for lunch, and so far, that’s 12.  I still have sandwiches, bread, dessert to make, but can’t do that until the day before.

AND, on Sunday, six people are coming for sauerbraten and kartoffelkloesse (second time this year!)  So, today, I have to stop and get a chuck roast and put it in the marinade, where it has to stay for five days before cooking it.  As you can see, it will be a busy week cooking. AND I still have 1-1/2 pounds of roving to spin before the 20th, to keep to my discipline of having to give away any fiber that is not spun by shearing!  I don’t think it will be a problem to finish before the 20th.

The weather here is rather insane, in the 60’s, they say, for the next 10 days or so.  And as of today, no rain for the five days before shearing. THat would be great if it really happens. I wouldn’t have to shut the sheep in the barn and have them eat over each other, meaning hay in the fleeces.  We shall see. Usually, there is rain 2 or 3 days before shearing, so they are in the shed for those days until shearing.

Today, I go to help Lasell with shearing for the afternoon. Saturday, Vicky and I go to help Lise with her shearing. Tis the season. Enjoy the sunshine. I have to find a short sleeved shirt and dress in layers for this afternoon, I think!


Off to see the wizard…

March 6, 2012

…well, maybe not the wizard, but it is time for our annual birthday getaway to the Red Lion Inn, in Stockbridge, Mass., one of the only places left that we’ve found with marvelous high end food, BUT at least one if not two PLAINISH meals on the menu for people who don’t like their food sauced and herbed to death, and one of the only places we’ve found where if you feel like “dressing” for dinner (which I always feel like doing when going out especially, but also at home, if only…), you don’t feel like a freak, for there are other people there who are “dressed” for dinner.  There are also people there who are reasonably casually dressed, but it is clearly a dining room, not a kitchen table sort of place!

The farm sitters arrive today, and we’re off, just overnight, but it always seems like a magic sort of time to us both.  Stockbridge is so uncommercial: there’s not much to do but walk around and see the lovely houses (and the one ugly mustard yellow one), sit in the common room by the fire and read or listen to the person playing the piano, going to the exercise room (what???NOT!) or, in inclement weather, walking the very old and wide halls of the place looking at the paintings on the walls and the curios in all the various china cupboards which line the five floors of halls.  And of course, there’s the hats in the gift shop…but then I’d have to buy another hat  box, for all five of mine are filled!  Imagine having five hat boxes full of hats to wear with dress up clothes in this day and age. Surely, I’m a throw back to some other age.

It is three degrees this morning.  By Thursday it is supposed to be 63.  Don’t you just love March?  Shearing season starts next week, with Lasell’s on Monday, Lise’s on Saturday, and mine the following Tuesday.  Then, it’s a small space for breathing, (hopefully more than one minute, as they start to be due to lamb on shearing day!) and lambing begins.  I’ve checked out all the lambing supplies. Aside from the rubber bands and banding instrument, which I’ve apparently stored in a good safe place somewhere, all is ready.  I had thought I’d have had time to clip their toenails (okay, okay, not the right terminology, but that makes absolutley no difference in how their toenails are clipped!) and give them their booster CDT’s but the occasion just hasn’t presented itself so I guess it will wait at this point til Gwen comes.  At this stage of pregnancy, she is so much more gentle at “uprighting” them than I am, and that is important, in terms of not disturbing their babies or making them uncomfortable and/or disturbing their insides so much that they decide to lamb early. (Two weeks early with lambing isn’t like two weeks early for people. The lambs really aren’t ready to come out yet!)

Have a lovely couple of days. Today, though frigid right now, is to go into the high 30’s and tomorrow, into the 50’s, which means mud, mud, puddles, melting snow and did I mention MUD?  Guess I’ll take boots.


A snowy day!

March 1, 2012

So, I’m going to try again at this photo thing.

Ah, this time it worked!  Here’s our house this morning, with the snow coning down.  It is still coming down, several hours later.

The sheep don’t mind the snow, if there’s some hay to eat!

The goats, on the other hand, don’t like to get their feet wet, and don’t like snow in their coats. They chose to stay in the shed today,

Finally! Winter is here!

March 1, 2012

Better late than never, I guess.  Winter is here!  We have about 8 inches so far, and the weather guy says we will have a slight respite and then some more snow…Well, I took some photos but for some reason I can’t seem to get them to upload.  Will try later.


SPA, etc.

February 29, 2012

So, my friend, Vicky, and I got back from SPA on Sunday at 5.  We had planned to go on Friday but bad weather was predicted, so we left on Thursday instead, staying Thursday night in a cheap motel, and moving to the Harraseeket Inn on Friday.  I think I liked the cheap motel better. At least it had hot water in the morning, which the Harraseeket was decidedly lacking in, not only in our room, but several others as well.  I have mixed feelings about SPA in general.  800 women, all over enthusiastic about fiber, so that they want to know if you spun the yarn, knit the sweater, how, when, where the fiber came from, etc.  gets old fast for me.  I understand they are enthused, but it is as if because they are at SPA, they have permission to ask way too many questions about stuff of total strangers.  The people we have sat with for the past two years, friends of Sherry’s, are perfectly nice people, but I don’t feel that I really know them, and I’m not good at casual, meaningless conversation, so I am probably more of a minus than a plus, in terms of their enjoying themselves, with a lump sitting in their midst silently glowering and wondering when she can possibly leave and retire to her room, so as to be relieved of being there and so to relieve them of the lump in their midst.  I’m not into shopping.  I hate outlets and find, in general, that they are filled with stuff they couldn’t sell at regular prices…for no one is going to sell stuff cheaper if they can sell it at regular prices!  The fiber market is filled with beautiful things, but I find it sad that out of all the vendors, perhaps two, maybe three, had New England fiber. The rest were commercial; people didn’t have animals; they imported fiber, probably from other countries, and hand painted them, which is okay, it is one world, after all, BUT I would like to have seen more local fiber.  We did stop at Friends’ Folly Farm on the way home, about 40 minutes north.  Pogo, who does my fiber processing for my jacob fiber, is an amazing person. Her shop is a yurt, which was fascinating, and she showed us around the mill, explaining how each machine worked. I dropped off a lot of fiber to be processed for Sue, and picked up my jacob, absolutely beautifully done. Pogo used to have a vendor space at SPA, selling her incomparable wool and mohair mix, dyed beautiful colors, but for some reason, she wasn’t invited back one year, and so one more local fiber artist is replaced with imported yarn.  It was lovely to see the folks from the Maine Island sheep there with their wool.  And there was a guy with alpaca fiber, which holds no interest for me, but at least it was New England fiber. And one more booth where the woman tending it THOUGHT the fiber was from local sheep, but didn’t know for sure; she was just tending the booth for a friend.  Anyway, Pogo’s was a real treat. So was a side trip out in the country five minutes from Freeport, to a farm shop called “Bessie’ Place” owned by two friends of Pogo’s, whereat I bought quite a few things, locally made or designed.

I’m thinking perhaps next year I’ll skip SPA.  I like having a weekend with no chores to do, no meals to make, able to just sit and knit and spin all weekend, but I’m thinking SPA isn’t doing it for me.  Having to make small talk with strangers I seem to have very little in common with is just too stressful.

It was good to see Vicky and Sherry and so many people enjoying themselves, however, even if it wasn’t my thing.