Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dierdre's New Bed

I sewed a bed for Dierdre last week. I stuffed it with old, worn-out clothes: Mark's clever idea. Mark and I think it's quite nice, but Dierdre won't use it. In fact, she won't even touch it unless we insist.

I guess she's never had a bed before.

I put it on the floor near our bed where she likes to sleep, and she laid in another spot that night. Mark wondered if she was avoiding it out of disinterest or out of courtesy. Maybe she thought it was ours, so she politely stayed off it.

Right now it's on the floor near my desk; so is Dierdre, about a foot from the dog bed. Oh, well.

We're gently encouraging her to use it, but if she really doesn't want to, we won't insist. Perhaps this winter she'll find it appealing.

Front and back of the new bed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Well, That Was Unexpected

The president of the Mountain Spinners and Weavers Guild in Prescott called me Sunday morning and said the president-elect, who was supposed to be installed in August, can't take the office. She asked if I would consider being guild president for the coming year. I think my response was, "Huh," (a la Malcolm Reynolds for any Firefly fans out there).

I was first VP for two years a while back, and I've been the newsletter editor for about three years. I had given no thought to being president, though.

But, yikes, I said yes. We had an emergency online election, and, guess what, I'm going to be president of the MSWG next month!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spiffed Up Website

I finally added a professional shopping cart to my website. Yay! It's going to take me a little while to get used to the new format, but I really like the features. It offers all sorts of shipping options to customers and actually calculates the shipping cost correctly all the time, unlike only occasionally as PayPal did. The "search" feature is cool, too.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sheep Depredation

Sheep love roses and rose bushes. Unfortunately. They destroyed one rose bush completely, but the one pictured below is holding its own with beautiful red roses above sheep level.

I picked up a broken juniper branch on the way home the other day. It was fresh and covered with needles. Mark set it aside with the intent of removing the greenery the next day and then cutting the branch into firewood-size pieces to season for next winter. The sheep saved him the trouble of stripping the needles.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sheep Shearing Pen

Nine sheep sheared; eleven to go. I'm getting there. I think each of the experienced (sheared in previous years) sheep think "Wow, I'm glad I'm not on that shearing stand, but...hmmm, I sure would like to get this 15 pounds or so of wool off me."

Below are pictures of my make-shift shearing pen. The pictures aren't great; it was closer to twilight than I realized when I took them, but you can get the idea.

I attached a couple of large 6-foot gates to create two sides of the enclosure. The third side is one wall of the barn. The final side is composed of three 3-foot gates. It's not elegant, but it works. I have to keep the other sheep away while I'm shearing. Although each and every one of them doesn't want to be on the shearing stand, half of them want to be petted while some other sheep is on it being sheared. That situation is very inconvenient.

The metal shearing stand has a head stanchion with a chain the loops behind the sheep's head to keep it stationary. Since this device is not foolproof, I also put a collar or halter on the sheep and fasten it with a leash to the shearing stand to prevent a fast getaway, in case the sheep decides to bolt. Such rebellions have been known to happen, resulting (before the leash and collar) in me chasing a partially-sheared sheep around until I finally catch him or her to finish the job. I bought a sheep halter (it came in only one size), but it turned out adult Cotswold rams' heads are too big for it. I need to find out if super-size sheep halters are available or if one made for another species would work. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know.

The shearing stand has a hydraulic hand jack attached. I can raise and lower it (and the sheep) to a comfortable shearing height.

Friday, July 1, 2011

How to Catch a Sheep--At Least Sometimes

Raising sheep is such a quiet, bucolic past time. You feed them and make sure they have plenty of water. You sit back and enjoy watching them graze. Until you have to catch them--then sheep raising can turn into a circus, and you get to play the role of clown and lion-tamer simultaneously.

Sheep are mighty agile creatures, and, wow, are they fast. Mark has suggested we try to get a couple rams recruited as football half-backs. Both of us, along with some of our family and friends, have become exhausted and bruised catching sheep. I've taken a spectacular spill or two, as well.

 I have learned some sheep-catching techniques over the years, though I've not been successful with all of them. I tried one of the methods Ron Parker suggests in his book The Sheep Book (which is a great book, by the way, and is available free online). He says, "If sheep refuse to cooperate, grab them around the chest under the front legs. As they try to run away from you they will walk into an upright position on their rear legs. Then just sit them down. Don’t you lift them up—let them do it." (p. 42) Well, so far the only animal I've successfully used that technique on was Rousseau, our yellow Lab. He was certainly surprised at the result!

The best method I've found so far is to catch one of the sheep's back legs and pull it away from the ground. I can certainly understand how a good shepherd's crook would help to do this, since you have to get pretty close to the sheep to grab a leg, and sheep seem to be psychic when it comes to knowing which individual I'm after. I'm lucky if I can get within 10 feet of the sheep I need, although everyone else seems to be content to hang out with me.

Once I get hold of the back leg, I need to be careful to avoid being kicked. Even though the sheep is balancing on three hooves, it still has enough balance to kick out with the leg I'm grasping. At this point, if I need to do something quick, such as giving an injection, I grab the front leg on the same side of the sheep as the back leg I'm holding (this task is not as easy as that sentence makes it sound) and topple the sheep to the ground. I then lean and/or sit on it while giving the injection.

If I want to shear the sheep and therefore need to place it in the shearing stand, I keep hold of the captured back leg and back the sheep up into the shearing pen and onto the stand. The sheep is so intent on the process of hopping backwards on three legs, it doesn't fight me much, and I can usually get it to the shearing stand with little stress to it or me. Then I get to shear, but that's another story.

Ah, yes, the peaceful pastoral life of a shepherd.