Monday, March 30, 2009

Looking back Sunday -

Looking back only a year ago, March 29 found us in the middle of a huge snow storm, determined to get to Monroe, WA, where we went to Gretchen's Wool Mill to take some of our fleeces for processing.

Gretchen showed us all around her lovely little farm, where she and her husband raise East Fresian Dairy Sheep. They are large, friendly sheep that often have triplets or even more.

Undeterred by the snow, The Shepherd had the back of the truck filled with carefully skirted fleeces.

Here is a picture of Gretchen's magic mill - the bats that she produces are very nice and easy to process for spinning.

And by the time we got back home, the snow was almost gone. We will have more fleeces for Gretchen to wash and card up from this year's shearing. Two are already sold - one for my spinner guild's sheep to shawl next summer and one for the upcoming spring Youth Fair here in the county. One, maybe two he will skirt up and take to Eugene next June and see if we can beat last year's Blue Ribbon with a Best of Show.

Friday, March 27, 2009

They're here! They're FINALLY here!

Whew, finally! The Shepherd has been on pins and needles all day - 2 hour checks then 1 hour checks - We didn't even go on our regular Friday night date - dinner and grocery shopping (I tried a new Chinese take out restaurant on the way home - blech - they won't be there long)

Then finally at 10:30 p.m. just before he was going to head for bed, he went out to check one more time.

I was working on an essay - nice and cozy with a freshly baked cookie in my hand -

Bang, bang on the window - Oh, oh, that must mean babies - run to the bathroom & go before you hit that cold night air, put another jacket on under the coat - don't want those two chiropractic appointments to get ruined by a frozen back (*that's a whole nother story - began a week ago by just bending over to dry off my feet - ouch)

By the time I got out there, Luna and The Shepherd had the first one pretty much cleaned off - then plop, out came this one -

Oh, man, they are BOTH rams. It's hard not to be disappointed, as they are both healthy, but 8 out of the last 9 lambs born here have been of the male persuasion. Something's gotta give here soon. Maybe Pearl will have a couple of girls.

Look at the belt on that little guy - we might call him Galloway (like the belted cows)

Whew - that being born stuff is hard work!

How much do you weigh little guy? Boy #1 was 5.5 lbs and boy #2 was 4.5 lbs. They both got a good drink of milk before I came in - The Shepherd stayed out for a few moments longer to button things up.

Yes, Luna, they are very handsome - and will probably get you to run off some of that excess baby weight that you've been packing, while you chase them up and down the pasture.

She was very attentive and talking to them all the time. I think she is going to be a good mom.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Still Waiting - but soon....

No, you're not a daddy, yet! But soon, hopefully - The Shepherd is out on a one-hour check-in right now. Oh, nope, he's back...still no babies.

We're still playing the waiting game - jealous of those who have new lambs - anxious to get back to a full night's sleep! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Music, Music, Music (part two)

You know the old saying – It’s not what you know, but who you know – Sometimes that is right on the dot.

Sunday March 8 there was a concert at our friend Nancy's Farm. Several years ago, Nancy bought this farm out in the county and it had a big old three car garage attached to the house. One day right after she bought the place, while she was wandering around in the ReStore, our local recycle & reuse building products store, she found a wooden dance floor that had been taken up from a studio in rgw Seattle area. Turns out it was just the right size for to put down in her big garage (did I mention she is a musician in a Balkan folk band and loves to folk dance?) Voila’ – instant dance floor – and a splendid setting for “house concerts”.

The concert that day was Cindy Mangsen and Steve Gillette. Well, Cindy’s CD Voices, a recording in a trio with Anne Hills and Priscilla Herdman is one of my all time favorite CDs. When Nancy told me about the concert, and said "Come early and have lunch with us" – I knew that was not an event to be missed. Lunch with “us” meant lunch with Steve and Cindy, plus a few other friends. Wow – I don’t mean to sound like a country bumpkin here, but it was hard not to be “star struck”

Having only heard Cindy on the Voices CD, hearing her and Steve in person is a whole ‘nother thing – what great musicians – Cindy plays concertina, guitar, banjo, and probably a couple of other instruments that she didn’t have along with her – and she plays them well. All the nice words about them on their bio (click on the link above) are true. The only disappointing thing about the day was the weather and it SNOWED like crazy – then the sun came out and the snow went away, but not, I’m sure, before it scared a lot of people into turning back and going home. Steve and Cindy have been to Nancy’s Farm before (I believe Cindy has family in the area) so, I’m sure they will be back – and I’ll be there to hear them! (the nice picture is from their web site - I can't believe I forgot to take my camera!)

I bought Cindy’s new CD Cat Tales - and here, again, I’ll quote from their web site: “Imagine!! Ten wonderful songs about cats! Besides Cindy's own most requested, "Rudy's Big Adventure," based on the true story of the cat who got his head stuck in the garbage disposal and lived to bask in fame and glory, there are songs from Cheryl Wheeler, Buddy Mondlock, Les Barker, Nancy White, Grant Livingston, The Berrymans and others. No cats were injured in the production of this fine recording. Songs include; Meow, Open That Can, The Cats of the Coliseum, Rudy's Big Adventure, The Familiar, Our Cats, Guide Cats for the Blind, My Pretty Kitty, Le Chat Gris, and The Dog of Time.” The song “Rudy’s Big Adventure” – does the term “ROFLMAO” mean anything to you? Well – it applies to this song – Like cats – Like folk songs? This CD belongs in your collection, hands down.

Could the Musical Month Of March get any better – Yeah –

The next weekend, my old friend Curtis called to say that he & his wife were celebrating the 30th anniversary of his business, Interconnect Systems on March 19th, with a Chamber “Business to Business – After Hours” event and they wanted to make sure that The Shepherd and I knew about it. They were having their friends and Gypsy Jazz band supreme PEARL D’JANGO as the entertainment for the evening. Started in 1994 in the Seattle area, the band has had a few incarnations, but several of the members are still the same – Their CD’s (they have nine of them) have been on the jazz charts top 40’s lists, they are heard regularly on National Public Radio and the guys in the band are just the nicest -

(These pictures were taken two years ago in August the first time The Shepherd & I heard the band out at Curtis & Felicity's when they had a party at their home with Pearl Jango as entertainment. What a good idea)

Does it get any better than that?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it does – tune in later this week to see what happens when I shoot for the moon...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Music, Music, Music (part one)

WoW! With so much happening here at the farm in the past couple of weeks, I haven’t had a chance to tell you about all the music that’s been happening in our lives lately. Music - I don't think I could live without it - after singing professionally for 21 years, I have begun to realize that I miss the connection to my soul that I get when I sing. Plus, I have lost a lot of the strength and range that I had. So, I've turned off the talk radio in my car - well mostly - and have put the CD's back on -

We are extremely lucky to have this wonderful venue in Bellingham called the Mt. Baker Theatre. Located in downtown Bellingham's it is the largest performing arts facility of its kind north of Seattle. A beautifully restored 1927 architectural treasure, it is listed on the register of National Historic Places. The theatre is dedicated to showcasing some of the best live performing artists (we are situated about half way between Vancouver BC and Seattle so it is a quick and easy stop for a lot of top flight performers) It draws its audiences from all over the North Puget Sound area and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

They have a series of a dozen or more shows each year and many of them are sponsored or underwritten by different people or companies in the community which allows them to have affordable ticket prices ($40 and under for most shows) They also have “memberships” to the foundation and for the $40 membership that I have, we get first notice of shows, priority ticketing, and a couple of passes to the Director’s Receptions that they hold before each big name show- a little dessert reception where the performers speak. The theater has been renovated / rejuvenated several times in the past 30 years – most recently they added fire protection and upgraded the electrical and the sound systems. (this nice picture copywrite Mt. Baker Theatre)

We try to get tickets to three or four shows every year and as luck would have it, three of the shows we chose this year were in March. Our first show, on Sunday the 1st was Sweet Honey in the Rock, the internationally renowned a cappella ensemble made up of five women plus another member who signs the entire show. They sing "blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, Hip Hop, ancient lullabies, and jazz improvisation". They are occasionally accompanied by hand percussion instruments, and "produce a sound filled with soulful harmonies and intricate rhythms."

In 2008 “Sweet Honey” celebrated their 35th anniversary – They have won two Grammy’s and been nominated for numerous others. In February of this year, they were invited by President & Mrs. Obama to perform at the White House for Black History month – (even the performers were in awe of that!) Because they have an “onboard” translator for the deaf and hearing impaired, their concerts are a welcoming place for these folks. We were sitting amidst a group of these concert goers and they were having such a great time - My recommendation if you ever have an opportunity to see Sweet Honey in the Rock – GO, the music is joyous, the company will be diverse and exciting. You won’t regret it. (this nice picture copywrite by Sweet Honey in the Rock - what a gorgeous bunch of women, huh?)

Our next tickets were for a concert called “Guitar Blues” on March 7. Three leading blues guitarists have spent the past two months on tour and swept through town with this one night gig. They included (this info is from the Mt. Baker web site – easiest way to tell you who they are, since blues guitar is not part of my music collection):

"Jorma Kaukonen – The leading practitioner and teacher of fingerstyle guitar, one of the most highly respected interpreters of American roots music, blues, and Americana, and at the forefront of popular rock-and-roll. Jorma is a Grammy nominee for his highly acclaimed "Blue Country Heart." Along with the other members of Jefferson Airplane, Jorma was a 1996 inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ruthie Foster – A Texas singer/songwriter whose blend of gospel, blues, folk and soul has drawn comparisons to Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading. Her latest CD, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, charted in the top 15 albums on Billboard's Blues chart, and is in the top 25 and still rising on Amazon's music sales chart.

Robben Ford – One of the premiere electric guitarists today, particularly known for his blues playing as well as his ability to be comfortable in a variety of musical contexts. Chosen by George Harrison for his Dark Horse tour (Harrison's only solo tour), Robben has also toured or recorded with numerous music greats including Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Phil Lesh, Little Feat, Michael McDonald, and KISS. "

They each did a set individually then came together at the end. I enjoyed Ruthie most of all – she is an amazing singer and musician - I'd have been happy to have her do the whole concert! Jorma was OK, and my appreciation for Robben Ford was, how do I put it? – minimal at best. (actually, I could have gone out and sat in the foyer and it still would have been too loud and raucous), but, you know what, The Shepherd really enjoyed this concert – he’s a blues kind of guy - and I know he has gone to some concerts where he didn’t have much appreciation for the genre of music that I enjoy – so all in all, it evens out.

Next on the line up – “Cat Tales” and Gypsy Jazz -

Hrumph -

Well, I spent two hours tonight putting together a post all about the some of the music that we've seen in the past month. For who knows whatever reason, I decided to do it on a Word document instead of on Blogger. And, for whatever reason, I didn't think to "name" the document until I was all done - I NEVER do that - it's one of my hard and fast "rules" but, while I was (finally) saving it, "Word" crashed and dumped the whole thing - I looked and looked, with no named document, there was simply nothing to recover except one paragraph in the clipboard - big whooopee. Rats - (actually I said a few choice other words that won't be repeated here in case I have innocent readers...)

So, in lieu of that post, here is Luna, big as a house (The Shepherd had been threatening to get a skateboard to put under her belly - poor short legged little thing) He says that if you watch closely you can see little lamby elbows trying to poke their way out. She doesn't look very pleased, does she. Come on, girl - have those babies so we can get back to life in general.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Making a fashion statement

Here is Moni, returned from her stay at the hospital. She was very glad to be home, with familiar tasting hay and her girlfriends all peering over the sides of the pen she was in.

She has continued to improve. (I understand that she was "pronging" around the pasture this afternoon) I never did clearly understand what the problem was- I know there was a lot of afterbirth that had to be removed (ick) after the death of the twins. The staff and Dr.s at Kulshan Vet in Lynden are just the best. They even sent The Shepherd a very caring sympathy note after he'd had Buddy put down and the loss of the twins on the same day.

Actually the coats and shirts all came off last Friday - the weather man was calling for rain, and since these garments were all of man made fabrics, we didn't want the sheepies to get wet and then chilled - making things worse. So Friday evening when I got home from work, The Shepherd was just finishing his "sheep laundry" and standing there laughing - it seems that he had missed this lable in the coat that H.B. was wearing - MacBaaaa - The perfect manufacturer for the clothing of the well dressed ram, now, don't you think?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

No matter where you go, there you are...

Like the old Johnny Cash song says -

I've been every where, man,

Take it from me - Paradise isn't paradise if it's 104 degrees and there are no trade winds - even the locals were complaining...

The views were often filled with condos and hotels -

I've been to Chinatown in San Francisco, Vancouver, Victoria and I've been to China...

We've seen the trees that reach to the sky and are older than the hills

We've crossed the deserts bare,

And breathed the mountain air...

We've seen the holy -

And the wholly incredible -

Of travel, we've had our share -

I've been to London, Paris, Vienna, Florence, Rome, Athens, Delphi, Germany, Mexico, Disneyland, San Diego, here and there -

But as Jane Austen said:

"Ah! There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort."

Right on, Jane, right on.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Violets in the chilly spring

Sometimes at church we do "secret pals" - you know the plan - send little treats, pretty cards, fun things to your secret pal over the one or two months time, then have a party and discover who everyone's secret pals were - it is quite fun - to shop for your secret pal, and at times like today, to have a special treat delivered to your office.

One of the lockshop guys walked into my office carrying a little pink gift bag. "Someone brought this for you" he said.

Inside was a little green straw basket holding a little pot of purple violets, (which are now adorning my desk) , a little card indicating it was from my "SP" and this sweet little poem from a book "Sing Song, a Nursery Rhyme Book" written before 1873!

"Oh wind, where have you been, that you blow so sweet?
Among the violets which blossom at your feet.

The honeysuckle waits for summer and for heat,
But violets in the chilly spring make the turf so sweet. "

Thank you to my secret pal - it was a bright spot in my day, and a reminder that even in these coldest of days, that spring will come.

MONI Update - The Shepherd brought her home from the hospital in her new green sweatshirt - she was very glad to see her girlfriends and proceeded to eat and eat. But we're not out of the woods yet - because it's so cold, and because Moni is confined to a small pen in the barn sp he can give her medication, the rest of the girls have also been locked in the barn (he also didn't want Moni to freak when everyone else left the barn for the pasture). They're not too happy about it, but I guess that's life when you're a sheep. They'll get out tomorrow - it's supposed to get up in the high 40's and be sunny all day. Yeah!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Baby, it's COLD outside!

New York, you can keep your "haute couture" - here on the farm, we have "oat couture"

The temps are supposed to hit lows in the teens tonight with an Arctic blast moving down from Canada. The Shepherd went shopping at Value Village this afternoon - Since it is not supposed to rain, he went with heavy fleeces (ironic...) H.B.'s new coat fits him like a glove.

We think that he thinks he's got casts on his front legs because he walks all stiff legged, but he seems to appreciate the warmth of his new duds as he snoozes in the late afternoon sun.

Like any teenaged boy, Taylor wasn't too sure about his new sweater, but he seems to have gotten used to it pretty quickly.

It was snowing a blizzard this a.m. when it was time for me to leave for work. Since snow equals no work for The Shepherd/Landscaper, he played Chauffeur and took me to work. I was glad for the ride - cars were slipping and sliding all over the place!

Hey Danny - you look pretty good in red.

Pearl and Luna got Ladies size M - The Shepherd said he thought the M should stand for Maternity - they are pretty snug around those bumpy bellies.

The girls are locked in the barn with the heat lamp on tonight - he said they looked pretty comfortable when he went out before bed.

Even in the few minutes that I've been writing the temperature has dropped a few degrees and the wind is picking up. I'm really glad that he decided to do this.

The shepherd resisted the little pink hoodie that said "Princess" on the front for Miss Violet.

The funniest part about his shopping trip was explaining to the ever helpful sales clerk that he wasn't buying clothes for his daughters but for his sheepie girls. I'd love to have heard the coversations that brought up this afternoon.

I think Jewell looks kind of like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, don't you?

Moni update:
Moni is still in the hospital. (cha-ching) They were going to "turn off" her IV's over night in hopes that her body will start normal functions again, if that makes any sense. It sounded like her rumen system had shut down too, so they have given her something to get that back up and running.

The shepherd drove there this a.m. in the blizzard to take her some of our hay, as she wasn't eating. Everyone agreed that leaving her there overnight was safest considering the weather. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Well, it is a neighborhood legend that when we have lambs in the front pasture, it stops traffic. I'm sure that these two running around in their new sweaters will give everyone a good chuckle on their way to work in the morning.

Looking back Sunday

Looking back to March 8, 2006 - the dafs were up and blooming - they are a few weeks away this year - it snowed around the county today - big fat fluffy flakes - that were gone in an hour - but the temp is 32 degrees out right now and it's supposed to get colder tomorrow.

Sheep update: The Shepherd took Moni into the vet today (cha-ching) - apparently she had developed some kind of magnesium/calcium toxicity - they almost lost her and the vets said that if the lambs had lived and started nursing, the toll on her system would have been so great and we probably would have lost her then.


The Shepherd is concerned about bringing her home in the Arctic cold weather that has gripped our area. Hopefully he can devise some sort of coat situation for her.

Hopefully the weather doesn't get too bad tomorrow - I'm signed up for a crocheted hat class at my LYS tomorrow night. It sounds like it will be fun.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

It was one of Those days...

WARNING: This is a sad post - as always, life and death happen on a farm - sometimes simultaneously - sometimes, just the death part...

Yesterday was a sad day on the farm at Marietta Shetlands - The Shepherd normally gets up and feeds the sheep then comes in and has his breakfast. As the company he works for has cut back to four days a week, for right now, he has Friday's off, so he went back out after his morning oatmeal to check on the girls, especially Moni, our dark brown ewe, as she wasn't taking the cold very well, grinding her teeth and shivering - (he even put up the heat lamp).

What he found was Moni, with a dead ram lamb, and one more coming. It seemed to be coming normally, feet first and head in the right place, but it must have been in the birth canal too long, as, even though he assisted, it was also dead.

Moni seems OK - she passed the afterbirth yesterday afternoon and has been eating and moving around. He decided not to milk her colostrum (although we've never needed it, it would be good to have some in the freezer) so her milk wouldn't come in so much. He's still "on watch" with her, but today she is out in the pasture munching on grass - life goes on.

In Memory of Buddy -

Buddy was the wether that we had in with H.B. as his "buddy" - What we hadn't really noticed until about a month ago, was, that H.B. was not letting him eat and, in typical ram fashion, being kind of mean to his pasture mate.

But Buddy was a lover, not a fighter and often as not, he would just lay down so H.B. couldn't chase him - but sometimes he was still getting "pummeled".

The Shepherd had separated him out from H.B. but he didn't seem to be gaining any weight, and after shearing and the ultra cold weather that we've had the last few days, it seemed that there were other problems. As he was talking to the vet about Moni, they chatted about Buddy and decided that he would bring him in and they would put him down.

I suppose, in other times, on other farms, Buddy would have met his end on the farm and been cooked up for soup - Since neither one of us care for lamb, we have no small white packages in the freezer, and he rests in peace here.

After shearing, we also are wondering if Jewell is "with lambs" - hopefully there's one hiding in there - if not, it will be the end of a blood line because the ram she was in with, Danny and his newly shorn pasture mate, Taylor will be going to the auction soon - probably not this weekend as the weatherman keeps saying it is going to snow - looks like it might, but it's 41 degrees out right now.

So that's how our week ended. When you have a small flock, each animal is so valued. When you are a farmer, the value is in your harvest. When you are a shepherd, your harvest is in the spring when the lambs come. Essentially, we lost a quarter of our harvest.

We still have high hopes for Pearl and Luna who were bred to H.B. - they are looking pleasingly plump, and like their moms before them, getting pretty bitchy. They are several weeks off though - I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Hair today, gone today

Sinda has heard that the vishus sheeps were getting their furs clipped today - she has come out to snoopervise.

Life as you know it is about to end H.B. - you will suddenly be a scrawney looking rascal.

Whoa, I was right!

Our friend Margot came with her son William and daughter Emily, who is our goddaughter.

Marsha Adams has been shearing our sheep for many years. This was her last shearing for us. She is retiring. We are sorry to have this happen. She has become a good friend.

Margot is trying out her new video camera while the kids looked on.

It was really sweet, when Marsha was shearing Moni, who is very pregnant, she stopped and asked the kids if they would like to feel Moni's belly. She thought the baby/babies had been kicking at the sound of her shears - but they apparently had stopped - just soft and warm tummy to be felt.

While The Shepherd was otherwise distracted, our friend Diane, who had also come to watch, snuck into the feed bin and offered H.B. a little handful of sheep kibble. He gladly accepted - she now has a friend for life.

Marsha is showing off Violet's fleece. It is really beautiful and incredibly soft.

Eight fleeces - two of them are pre-sold. Pearl & Luna were just 6 month fleeces, so they were very small and will be combined with the rest of the white alpaca that we blended their fleeces with last fall. Taylor's fleece will be featured at the Spindrifter's Sheep to Shawl at the Skagit Highland Games in July and Moni's fleece was sold last fall at our spin-in.

Danny's fleece will be blended with an fawn colored alpaca cria fleece that he bought last fall from our vendor neighbor - they are very close in color and it should make for nice spinning.

Hope you enjoyed your little slice of a "day on the farm"