Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christmas Stockings

Three months until Christmas! Yikes, how did that happen? And why am I surprised by this date each and every year?

As usual, I had intended to have several Christmas presents started, and quite a few completed, by now. How many have I done? Hmm, um, well, one. I've got some great ideas for some gifts, though; now the question is can I (start and) finish them in time?

Speaking of Christmas, I want to show off three Aran Christmas stocking patterns that I'm quite proud of.

Each pattern is $3.95. If you want to download a PDF of any or all of them, go to my website's Knitting Patterns page.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I've decided to mention in my blog the books that I'm reading, so I thought I'd begin by sharing what I've read this summer.

Maureen Ash, The Alehouse Murders
Lorna Barrett, Murder is Binding
Rhys Bowen, Her Royal Spyness
Gordon Cotler, Artist's Proof
Linda Fairstein, Deadhouse and Hell Gate
Caroline Graham, Faithful unto Death
Ann Granger, Say It with Poison
Rebecca Hale, How to Wash a Cat
Lauren Haney, The Right Hand of Amon and A Face Turned Backward
Charlaine Harris, all the Sookie Stackhouse books except the one published this year (I've been on the library waiting list since June; I started out as 89th and have finally reached 3rd, so I'm almost there!)
Charlaine Harris, Shakespeare's Landlord
Bernard Knight, The Sanctuary Seeker and The Poisoned Chalice
Tim Myers, At Wick's End and Snuffed Out
Ellis Peters, The Raven in the Foregate
Anne Barclay Priest, Trafficking in Sheep
Michael Scott, The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

and I just finished tonight: Paul Doherty, The Horus Killings

Obviously, I like mysteries, but my tastes are pretty eclectic, including such genres as fantasy and historical fiction. I also enjoy memoirs, especially those on rural living.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How Many Knitting Needles Do You Own?

I needed a 24" size 7 circular knitting needle. That’s a common size; I use them all the time. But could I find a set? No-o-o. All I found in my knitting needle container was an empty size 7 package.

Where were they? Like I said, I use them a lot. OK, so that, of course, explains it. All my size 7 knitting needles are in projects, in bags, throughout the house. Hmmm. Maybe I should finish more of my knitting projects before starting a new one…no! When inspiration strikes, you need to follow it! I guess I just need to pursue it to its conclusion more often. Or else buy more knitting needles!

I’ve already done that, though. That’s why I have an undisclosed but significant number of them. At least they’re small and don’t take up much room, unlike my yarn stash…but that’s a subject for an entirely different post….

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Isn't he a beauty? Snowden is three years old and is very friendly. He kindly posed for photos without me even having to ask him.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ramses (Great Name for a Ram, Huh?)

I was late feeding the sheep this morning. I glanced out a window and saw all the sheep, except one, laying in front of the barn. Apollo, however, was standing in the shade of the cottonwood tree that lies about halfway between the barn and the house. He stood sentinel, unmoving, staring at the house as if willing me to come out and feed them. I don't know if the other sheep elected him as lookout or if he was just particulary hungry, but the sight was classic.

When I got to the barn, we went through the usual ritual. If the sheep are already in the barn, most stay there until I finish distributing hay, so they can avoid Dierdre as much as possible. A few of the rams always venture out, though, to start munching hay as soon as the first couple flakes hit the ground. Dierdre tries to herd them back into the barn, but they defy her and keep eating. The last few days I've noticed a new ram has joined this brave group: little Ramses. He's four months old and on the small side, but our intrepid eater is hanging out with big boys. This afternoon I took a couple pictures of Ramses that show how much smaller he is than the adult rams. In the second photo, Ramses' rear can be seen at the right side of the image. Just imagine that diminutive lamb pushing his way through to the hay, but he does it.

The white sheep at the front of the group, with the light glaring off of him, is Herbie. The small white lamb on the far right is Zenobia. The others, well, there are just too many woolly rumps to name them all!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Birds and the Bees

I don’t believe this. Seven years of raising and selling sheep, and I’ve never had such a ridiculous thing happen.

Last week a customer and her family came to the ranch to buy a ewe lamb. The sheep gathered around, especially the rams, and happily greeted the visitors. We discussed sheep raising, various traits specific to Cotswolds, etc. while we petted sheep, and my guests got to know them. My buyer spotted one gray/black ewe lamb, Bouidica, that particularly appealed to her. We coaxed all the sheep into the barn with some hay, so we could catch a couple of the lambs for a closer look.

It was pretty crowded in the barn: 25 sheep, six visitors, and me. One of the other ewe lambs walked by, so we caught it, and they looked her over but decided they liked Bouidica better. So, we searched the flock and spotted her. It took a bit of maneuvering, but one of the boys managed to catch her. We toppled her to the ground and looked at the quality of her wool. My customer decided that was the one she wanted, so a couple of her kids lugged the lamb to their van.

Everybody was happy (except maybe the lamb, who was in for a two-hour ride stuck in a dog crate).

The next morning the phone rang. My customer said guess what, Bouidica isn't Bouidica. She's a boy.

What! No, I couldn't believe it. I simply could not have overlooked that very important detail when we caught "Bouidica" to examine her wool before putting her in the van. True, the lambs in question are seven months old, so their wool is pretty long. Also true, young rams are not fully developed, so their "plumbing" is not near as obvious as that of adult rams. But still!

The buyer was very understanding--none of them had noticed the "problem" either. I told her I would figure out how to get the right lamb to her; since they are two hours away, it was going to take a bit of planning. However, she said they had been very impressed with my adult rams and had decided they wanted to keep him. They did, however, want to know who he was! Also, if he wasn't closely related to Zenobia (see previous posts), they would like to purchase her to breed the pair.

I checked my flock book and discovered they had Sophocles, one of Minerva's twins. Luckily, Zenobia is Jana's daughter and traces her lineage to a different line than Sophocles. So at the end of the month, when Zenobia is a little older, they are going to buy her (at a substantial discount as my apology for the mistake).

All's well that end's well, but I just don't believe I didn't notice....

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Great! A neighbor called this morning and asked if he could come over and clean my barn!

Well, okay, that’s not exactly what he said, but the result was the same. He asked if he could stop by for some sheep manure for his organic vegetable garden and orchard. He shoveled about two cubic yards of manure into his trailer and took it away, so he’s happy, I’m happy, and the sheep are happy. Ideal!

Now let’s get serious and talk about: The Advantages of Sheep Manure. (This phrase should be reverberating in your head in a deep baritone voice.)

Sheep manure contains more than twice as much nitrogen and potash as cow manure and 1 ½ times as much phosphorus. It doesn’t give off the sulfide odor of cow dung, and it doesn’t need to be aged, so it can go straight on to the garden.

And if you let the sheep into your garden after it's harvested, they can eat your unwanted plant remains AND manure the area as they graze. What more could you want?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Canine Work and Play

I think Dierdre, our dog, is as happy about sheep-feeding time as the sheep are--just for different reasons.

The sheep, obviously, think FOOD. But for Dierdre, it's work time which she loves!

She herds sheep, and she guards them (and me). The guarding she does throughout the day, whether outside where she can watch them or inside with me. However, for the herding part she needs the sheep and me to be together because she wants to show me how great a job she's doing. When she's working the sheep, she often stops to look at me, just to be sure I'm watching. If anyone else feeds them, she won't participate; she ignores the whole event. When I feed them, she MUST accompany me; if I leave her in the house, she barks and whines and creates a Dierdre-shaped slobber area on the sliding door.

I would say feeding the sheep is a bonding experience for Dierdre and me, except that we're already deeply attached. She's not co-dependent. She can happily spend the day outside on her own, as long as she knows I'm in the house or away from home. If I go outside, though, she has to go with me.

When we're outdoors, she stays close to me until she knows where we're going. The trouble is she wants to lead, so she keeps looking over her shoulder to make certain I'm still following which occasionally leads to her tripping over things. If I stay outside for awhile, she happily patrols the property, pesters sheep, races the fence line with the dog next door, etc, but she regularly returns to check on me.

If she's in the house, she must be near me (usually within six feet or less!). Mark simply has to see the dog to know what room I'm in.

And here's Dierdre recuperating after a typical sheep-feeding experience. Sometimes you just need to lay down while drinking your water!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What's in a Name?

Well, rather a lot, actually. I thinks names are important, and we decided we would follow a theme each year for naming the lambs.

Let me backtrack, though, to our first sheep. Mark and I both have M.A.'s in medieval history, so, not surprisingly, we decided to name our new sheep after illustrious medieval women.

The first two ewes we called Heloise and Juliana--after the 12th-century abbess Heloise of the Paraclete, famous lover of the theologian Abelard and Juliana of Liege, the 13th-century nun whose visions inspired the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi. The second set of ewes we named after Hildegard of Bingen, an abbess, writer, visionary, and composer in the 12th century and Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, a 10th-century Saxon playwright and poet. Below is a picture of Heloise.

We named Hrotsvit's ewe lamb Aurora. The name was not in keeping with our medieval theme, but it seemed appropriate for the first lamb born on our ranch. Hildegard gave birth to twins: Francesco and Clare, named for St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi.

The following year, we dubbed the lambs after ancient gods and goddesses, such as Freyja, Minerva, Hermes, and Persephone. We had more than four lambs, but you get the idea.

My mother does genealogy, so the next year we named lambs after some of my ancestors: Thirza, Mehetable, Bernhardt, and Crescenzia, to name a few.

In 2007, we chose names of mountains and mountain ranges, so we had Brenta, Selwyn, Ranier, Sierra, Annapurna, Humphrey, etc. We also had Saphira, named by the kids next door after the dragon in Eragon, since they helped save her life when her mother initially refused to nurse her.

The next year was trees and plants, including Clover, Shamrock, Juniper, Sequoia, and Ficus!

2009 brought us to herbs and spices: Parsley, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Basil, Coriander, Lavender, and Sassafrass. I couldn't decide on a name for the last lamb, an adorable white ram, until a friend suggested Herbie (because of herbs). He's now a year old and still adorable.

This year we selected names of famous people of antiquity, such as Octavian (the lamb was born on January 8), Romulus, Remus, Bouidica, Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Sappho, Sophocles, Zenobia, and Ramses.

Naming is such fun. Feel free to comment on this post and suggest a theme for next year!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Abundance of Wildlife

Late summer is certainly bringing out lots of wildlife. Quail, jackrabbits, cottontails, doves, and bluejays are everywhere.

We've been trying to figure out what it is about our place that appeals so greatly to quail; we see dozens of them every day. Quail ususally keep to the ground, but we've even seen a large group up in our peach tree. (I hate to lose some of the peaches to the birds, but, then again, they deserve a share.)

I spotted a quail perched atop our wood pile, elegantly profiled and looking regal. There were several others investigating under and around bits of wood, as well. I had to take the pictures through a window, and they didn't turn out very well, but they'll give you an idea of the scene. If you look closely at the third picture, you should see four quail.