28 May 2007

A really cool present

My aunt from Ontario (who would be my grandfather Apple Jack's daughter, Dad's sister) sent me a really cool package today!

We used to go to this little town called Frankenmuth (in Michigan) for holidays sometimes. There is a wonderful German Village feel to the place, with a glockenspiel in the town square and a restaurant that serves bread on the table in these little plastic dome covered dishes. What I remember most is the Christmas shop - it's Christmas all year round there, and I have a few very special ornaments brought all the way from there - including one that my aunt got from my favourite shop for The Boy's first Christmas!

Apparently there is also a woolen mill there (I had no idea!) and my aunt picked up some of this lovely fiber for me. The colour is called "Ocean", and it has shades of green, gray and blue all blended together. It's deliciously soft and I'm all excited about working with it! The note says "I bought some blue for you so you can have a different colour to work with for a change ... and this stuff you don't have to work to prepare." Woohoo! Coloured, prepared fiber! Only another fiber nut would understand how happy this makes me.

Hmm ... what does this fiber want to be? A hat? A scarf? Mittens? Thrummed mittens? I'll have to play with it some more and listen to what it says. :) I think it probably wants to be a couple of things - for sure it wants to be thrummed mitts.

The package also included a variation on the thrummed mitten pattern that I had sent (along with some fleece from my pile of "wool waiting for a place to go") awhile back. My aunt has made far more progress than I have: I've got one mitt finished (and haven't started it's buddy yet) and she's managed to complete 3 mitts and evolve a new pattern! I'll have to give her pattern a try: maybe it is immune to that "second mitten syndrome" that mine is suffering from.

Yippeee! More fiber! Thanks Auntie Sharon!

20 May 2007

The Beep Barn

The Boy has always done 'rhyming slang', so Mom became Tom, Gram became Ham, and sheep became beep. Thanks to his creative speech, we have a "beep shelter".

Last summer we built a three sided shelter, which is generally sufficient for sheep even in nasty winds and winter weather - after all, they carry a big wool blanket with them wherever they go. We have more sheep now and the shelter was getting pretty crowded: when it rains, someone is always stuck outside.

With the addition of a few more fence posts, some more lumber from the scrap pile, and Union Guy's construction skills, we now have an expanded beep barn. It's still open, and it's not exactly your traditional barn structure, but it's a beep barn. The next task will be to add a fence and a gate so that we can pen everyone inside if need be.

I spent some time mucking out the winter straw that's packed down on the floor - and now I'm exhausted!

19 May 2007

New barn cats

We have new barn cats!

This is a good thing, since cats are ... well ... let's just say we need to resource for attrition around here. Our cat population fluctuates a fair bit what with coyotes, tom cats arguing over who is boss, and heavy equipment incidents.

Anyway, Diesel was looking pretty chubby earlier in the week, and then was looking skinnier today. The Boy went to the shed and heard lots of small noises, and sure enough, there in the corner, was Diesel with three kittens. A fourth didn't make it.

We're not yet sure who the father of the kittens is, but I'm thinking it might have been Ninja, as they are mostly black with white spots. We set them up with a wool-filled bed, and will let Diesel take care of them. One is definitely the runt, so hopefully that one will get what it needs and make it through the next little while ... guess we will find out!

Pretty neat.

09 May 2007

A home for Bob

I've had a few emails from a sheep producer a bit south of here who has a flock of 800 (eight hundred!) Barbados Blackbelly sheep. These are a hair breed: you don't shear them, they shed their hair every year all by themselves. Very cool looking animals, really good for meat, from what I have read. Anyway, these nice folks are in need of an additional guardian dog to help supervise all those sheep on a full quarter section of land (that's 160 acres, which is an awful lot of land). They have Maremma guardian dogs already who look after their flock - they lost one a year ago to a sudden and unexpected illness, and with all the coyotes, extra paws are welcome.

We've been emailing back and forth for awhile, exchanging details, talking about the possibilities ... and it is sounding like a really good home and job for Bob. The farm won't be finished with the chaos of lambing for another several weeks, but the current thinking is that when things calm down at their end, Bob will move south and take up a position with their flock. Something might shift between now and then, but I think this is how it'll go.

I was outside tonight doing some chores, and I sat down and hugged Bob hard for a few mintues. I love that big silly dog so much. I love it when he wags his tail so hard it thumps against my legs. I love it when he takes my sleeve in his mouth and tugs on it to show that he's happy to see me. I love it when he sees the truck come in the driveway and trots over to greet me as I climb out, waiting for me to scratch his head and say hello. I love watching him lie there on the hill in the sun, looking out over the sheep through his half-closed eyes. I will cry when he moves away.

Okay, okay, I cry even now when I think about it.

But I know it will be good to think of him lying on a hill in the middle of a 160 acres of land that is his to roam, watching over a big flock of sheep and working with two other dogs to chase off the coyotes and foxes and stray dogs.

Won't be the same without him, though.

07 May 2007


This weekend's adventure was fencing off a proper pasture for the sheep.

We've had heavy rains which have softened the ground, so it was the perfect time to pound in wooden fence posts. Of course, it's still a lot of work ... just ask Union Guy, who did most of the post pounding.

Our skills with fence posts and woven wire have improved dramatically, I must say. I suppose there is no teacher like experience! We now know to build good solid H's at the corners to brace against, to weave a t-post through the fencing and then pull against the post (rather than one of the fence wires), and to use the come-along pulling against the tow hook on the truck to tighten the fence, rather than the fence tightening ratchet pulling against a fence post. We also learned that wooden posts hold up much better than t-posts, so even though are harder to pound in, they are worth the effort! And, we learned a trick for getting them in the ground easier: first pound in a metal post, remove it, and put a wooden post in where it was.

In one day, we put in 22 wooden posts, six t-posts, and built 3 H's. We pulled, tightened, stapled and wired over 200 feet of woven wire fencing and we now have a large pasture for the sheep, who are enjoying the spring grass.

This is the first step to proper pasture management on Apple Jack Creek!

Of course, there are more than fifty more posts to be put in and another 500 feet or so of fencing to put up ... but this is a good start.

Paul Bunyan paid us a visit

Several trees were in the way.

Paul Bunyan showed up and looked after the problem.

(ok, it was Union Guy ... but he actually chopped a few of those down with the axe, not the chain saw!)