Progress report

A good decision

We gave up on shearing this week….snow and more snow, damp fleeces and frigid temperatures predicted for the end of the week. Our wonderful shearer (Clint Goodwin) has agreed to change his schedule and will come to shear our flock on the 16th and 17th of March.

We will have to deal with a certain amount of difficulty in March as the sheep will be further into the “rise” (beginning to shed their fleeces) by then, but this is a problem that we will deal with. We are only sorry that Clint will have to deal with it too.

After we made the decision to postpone,  the sun came out for a while. But soon wintery weather reappeared, and this plus the promise of too-cold-for-naked-sheep-bodies temperatures made us know that this was the right decision.

It appears that all of our friends who help at shearing time will be able to come in March; it should be much more comfortable to skirt and pack up fleeces then!

This morning first thing, it was blowing snow sideways! We are not shearing! We feel smug.

I would like to show you a few photos of our world in the past couple of days, but for some reason, my blog program won’t add them.

But this one should give you the general idea. Suffice it to say, it isn’t exactly shearing weather!

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Just a little breathing room…please?

The time since my last working trip to AZ in March, and the upcoming one (just one week away) has been filled with lambing and catchingup on farm chores. Lambing was intense this year (all of it happened in a week, and most of it in 5 days). I will put up some lamb photos soon, and give some lambing stats.

The lambs were pretty thrilling this year, except for the surfeit of boys (2 to 1 rams/ewes)!

There are lots of patterned lambs; to tease you a bit, these are Jiggs best friends in the lamb group (Flute Celeste’s and Spats’ ram/ewe twins):

And of course, next time, there will be more stories about Jiggs Himself.

Here is his namesake…a little look into the past for those of you who might remember the comic strip “Bringing up Father”.

After lambing was over and I had some rest time, I began getting ready to go away again…but not to AZ. We just got home from what proved to be a 5 day trip (one day traveling each way and 3 days there) to Central Oregon. After lambing, I had to organize roving and yarn and fleeces and sheep and all that was needed for a display at the Small Farmer’s Journal Auction & Swap-Meet.

This event occurs each April, and last year moved from Sisters, OR to the fairgrounds at Madras. The new site is perfect and the feeling was that of a country fair. We had a vendors’ booth again this year, having missed the past two years…but now we are committed to lambing early enough to be there every year.

We had a grand time! We chatted with spinners and knitters and weavers…saw some old friends, and met some new ones. I did my best to addict new spinners; sent them away with drop spindles and soft Shetland roving to spin. We fed knitters stashes with our yarn, and the trusty Schacht Matchless gave confidence to some folks who had wheels that they were struggling with for one reason or another.

This trip I got to see my dear Scout again (all grown up into a lovely young woman)…she came by each day (when she had time away from the auction) for a refresher on drop spindling and on knitting. It was amazing to see…she didn’t need much refreshing! Her body remembered both skills after a 3 years lapse! No telling what she will be doing by the time we come back next year….

And as a plus, I got in some good knitting time on Brook’s Gansey sweater…it has been a LONG process, but I am about one hour from finishing now. Woo hoo!!! I will post a photo of the Finished Object next time. Better get on with the knitting!

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Getting there……

Lilka continues to try to eat, but she just isn’t consistently eating enough roughage. It is a difficult in-between time; she is too well to tolerate spending the day in her pen when the others are outside. Besides fretting and stressing herself, she is strong enough now to jump out and has tried almost successfully. I am still giving her thiamine and B-vitamins, and feeding her twice a day, helping her get enough hay into her mouth. I am also still giving her gruel made with oatmeal and the rumen/bloat remedy recipe  that Linda Doane gave me years ago. In case it will be useful to someone else with an ill sheep, I will put the recipe at the end of this post.

I am also giving her huge amounts of probiotics before she goes out in the morning and after she comes in and at bedtime, but I feel that there isn’t enough roughage going in all day to support the bacteria. Our USDA vet (who always is interested in talking sheep physiology with me) told me once that the 1/2 life of the rumen bacteria without nutritional support is 30 minutes! (just to be clear….every thirty minutes 1/2 of the bacterial culture dies if there isn’t enough material in the rumen for it to thrive on.)

This was a big ah-ha moment for me to say the least…I began to see the sheep as a walking bacterial culture. The rumen bacteria are not only necessary to break down their feed into useable nutrients, but to synthesize many of the vitamins (most particularly thiamine) that the sheep absolutely must have in order to survive. If the rumen is unhealthy, and it isn’t attended to, the sheep will die.

So I have developed a working relationship with Lilka’s rumen….and believe that I can stubbornly sustain her life until it finally kicks in. Please let today be the day that she keeps her mouth full just like this!

PS: Three hours later, now 10:00 AM….Lilka is lying in the sun chewing her cud!!!!

Rumen/Bloat Remedy…thanks to Linda Doane.

1 qt. warm water

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 cup Karo syrup

1/2 cup corn oil

1 raw egg

1/2 cup yogurt (or more)

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Spring does indeed follow winter….

I am in my motel room in Flagstaff, about to fly home tomorrow…joy of joys! And within the next week, all of our ewes will lamb! (the one true sign of of a shepherd’s spring).

But in Tuba City this morning (on the first official day) and my eyes and my nose met Spring full force…absolute heaven:

And the next time I come to AZ, I am driving instead of flying from Phoenix to Tuba City. The desert will be blooming then!

Winter is truly on its way out! On my last trip, only a month ago, it was really truly winter! There is NO WAY to ever catch up everything that I would like to share…but here is a brief photo reprise of that trip.

My flight from Phoenix to Flagstaff was cancelled because Flagstaff was buried in snow and I had to rent a car and drive in order to get to work on Monday morning. Coming toward Flagstaff, at Camp Verde, a lovely rainbow heralded the rain….that soon became snow (and disastrous road conditions nearer to Flagstaff):

Even Tuba City (where winter usually brings cold but little snow) was white that week!

That trip I was working in Tuba City for two weeks, and the in between weekend (when the weather had moderated), I headed down to Flagstaff and had a wonderful visit with Kathy and Ralph…and met all their wonderful cats (here is Kathy with Daisy Mae and her son Mooch…rescue cats that NEVER want to look back):

I was knitting a winter hat for myself (forgot to bring mine)…and Ziggy kept me company and guarded my knitting when I got up.

Not only did I get a cat-fix but a sheep-fix as well. Kathy took me to meet her sheep and we bundled up against the cold…as we were leaving, Ole (the official greeter) asked could he please come into the house too….he is desperately miserable out there with those sheep!!!

I did finish the winter hat; it kept me toasty warm and I liked the results…lots of increases above the rolled brim to make it tam-like, and at the top, an extra purl stitch and purl-2-tog to make the decreases stand up more.

Flagstaff winters are much like ours in Pine Valley, so I felt right at home, but coming back the next week to our own mountains was thrilling…I watching the Wallowas growing on the horizon as I traveled from Baker City to Halfway. So familiar…so beautiful to my eyes.

But now, even in all its beauty, I am ready to bid good-bye to winter….and welcome spring!

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Catching up…part 2

More musing on winter…..

Unfortunately the snow did not continue past the first week of January. But the past two days have brought us a little bit (2 or 3″); hopefully more in the mountains.

No Michelle….the sheep were not buried like our cars! Those little feet make myriad paths in their winter pens, and we try to stomp out what they don’t get.

Here is what it looks like at the beginning:

The lambs love the snow! And I often see snowy backs in the mornings, knowing that some of them prefer to sleep out even though they have the choice of straw-bedded shelter; so toasty in all that wool.

But here is a photo from last year, showing what the pens look like after a few days
(I love feeding on clean snow):

The snow in the horse’s feeding corral is a real blessing:

But like last year, there is a down-side to this much snow; the snowload always threatens to collapse the roofs of some of the things which can’t be undercover (at least not yet). Brook did the sheep trailer and the camper; I volunteered for the horse trailer….and afterward took several doses of arnica. My old bones came out unscathed!

As I think about another two weeks away next month (working in AZ once more), I treasure each moment here. I always do, but being away from home makes me even more grateful for my blessings.

It is such a joy to see the smiling face of my best friend in the world every day…

And to be with our four-footed family.

More catching up to come….

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More stay-at-home sheep

This year we were bringing yearling rams to the OR Flock & Fiber Festival. We have never traveled to a show with yearling boys in the fall when hormones were rising…but the ones who were coming were all calm respectful fellows and I thought that the trailer space would allow for three.

But since I didn’t make it to OFFF, two of the yearlings (Gyasi and Callum) won’t be seen anywhere but here on our blog or on our farm (at least for a while)…unless some wise sheep show organizer decides that classes for mature animals should be created.

Gyasi (sired by Robin Goodfellow) was given this name as he is the “beloved child” of our dear departed Guro….she doted on him, kept him by her side constantly. She must have known how special he was. Gyasi has grown up to be the kindest, most polite young ram we have. Sweet-tempered and friendly but never pushy, always respectful, and completely trusting.

Callum (son of Baltazar and Dodge Cascadia) was to go with me too..He was born with a solid moorit fleece, and no apparent pattern (aside from being a solid Aa/Aa). But in the last few months, Callum has developed interesting facial markings, with teardrops initially, which now have spread somewhat. At first I was wondering if he could carry the English Blue pattern (one not necessarily related to color), but he has none of the variations in body fleece color. So he remains an enigma…but a beautiful one. He was for sale, but by the time that he developed the tear-drops, we had already taken him off the sales list (his fleece convinced us that he should stay). Needless to say, Callum will be in our breeding line next year.

There are two very promising ram-lambs who were to show….This is Loki, born of a golden cross from two fine-fleeced parents (Nicolas X Moonstruck). His fleece has the exquisite silkiness that I love, and as his parents are now retired from breeding, Loki will stay here to carry those lines.

The second ram-lamb is Matteus, who is a friendly but a respectful young fellow. He gets much less attention than he would like and is gently pushed away fairly hard for me to do, but necessary. Matteus is a half-brother to Loki, and they are very alike, although Matteus has a super-dense single-coated fleece, and Loki’s is a bit longer.

Stay tuned…this weekend is the SSS&T (Shetland Sheep Sales & Trade) on the Shetland Breeder’s List. More sheep-photos to come!

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No journey for us…

We were planning (have been planning for a long time) to go Canby, OR to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival this weekend. I had careful photos of and halter trained (mostly) the sheep who were going with us. Organized the display, packed everything necessary for the two-day show, and was all ready to load up the trailer.

But yesterday, the electrical system on our truck malfunctioned in a dangerous way: The brake lights came on randomly and intermittently, even without the key in the ignition. And when the trailer was hooked up to the truck, and the light circuit became activated, the trailer brakes came on…locking up so that we couldn’t move.

We didn’t have time to be sure that the problem was solved, and couldn’t risk traveling 7 hours to the other side of the state with the possibility of the trailer braking suddenly and without warning. So the sheep who were going to show, those who were going along for the “ride”, and those who were for sale all are staying home…as am I.

I was so excited about this particular event…usually showing is the necessary price that I pay to be there with my Shetland clan, but this time I really did want to be there in the ring. Ah well, it wasn’t to be…

And here I am with all the photos I took…and no one will see them if I don’t post them here!

I am totally in love with Beata (Sula’s last-ever lamb…and such a gift). Her name means “blessing” and that she is:

And of course, there is Grace (our darling)…
She must be the one that they were thinking of when they wrote:

“There was a little girl who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good, she was very very good,
And when she was bad, she was horrid!

Grace gets in the middle of everyone else’s halter-training (SHE doesn’t need training), leaps/clambers over sheep panels when she is excluded, and climbs the barn loft stairs and flings herself off just for the fun of it!

And then there was Solveig, who is such an elegant princess. She is curious and friendly at heart, but does draw the line… “please don’t touch my fleece”):

This little sweetheart was/is for sale…she was a triplet by our Willym and out of beautiful Hope (a Nicolas daughter). She is a gorgeous little girl, should be going to the perfect home. We are retaining too many ewe-lambs this year; otherwise I wouldn’t think of selling Anja.:

One of these little gulmoget girls was perhaps going to be sold; I couldn’t decide which…or if!
(Is THAT why the truck cancelled my trip? Indecision? Or so that I didn’t have to sell any of the three ewe-lambs????)

Siri is a fawn gulmoget and Helga a musket gulmoget.

I will post photos of the boys who didn’t go to Canby tomorrow…sigh.

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Inside the “event horizon”…

“An event horizon is a boundary in spacetime, an area surrounding a black hole…light emitted from inside the horizon can never reach the observer, and anything that passes through the horizon from the observer’s side disappears.”

That is where we seem to have spent our last two weeks!

There were intense days getting ready for, and an equal number of days picking up the threads of our lives after a very special event: Cycle Oregon came to visit in Halfway! The population of our little valley exploded…about 1200 souls live here in normal times, but during those two days, we were joined by around 2700 traveling with Cycle Oregon!!! It was a mind-bending experience….after they left, it was hard to fathom that many people had actually been here.


The folks who do this ride come from all over the world; they are supported by an amazing infrastructure while they bicycle from 50 to 80 miles/day. Meals and camping accommodations are included as well as bike and body maintenance….

During their visit, Halfway and Cycle Oregon collaborated for food, music and dancing, and local artists and artisans here in Halfway village gathered as an Art in the Park event. I didn’t think to take a photo of our little tent, but we were there too. We met lots of wonderful folks, exchanged stories and the cyclists bought mementoes of their visit from all of us.

We sold out of my Gansey hats and I have orders for more. The throws made from our Shetland wool were admired, and some of them went to new homes. And we sold yarn and spinning kits (drop spindle & 4 colors of roving)…there are a few cyclists now doing a new kind of “spinning”!

The second day, Pine Valley farms and craft studios were open for visits;
we offered a farm / wool tour:

and an open house at Brook’s guitar workshop:

By now, we have worked our way back to almost normal, but soon the “hecticity” of getting ready for Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival may drop me inside the “event horizon” again!

I am here, just invisible….

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Telling some “yarns”

Well, the Tour de Fleece is over now, and a considerable amount of fiber has been spun. Although the volume of yarn produced was not immense, the spinning was so good for me. Lots of insights into my way of being…what is important, and what is merely busy-ness. The good news is that this process promises to change my routines, and I think that I will once again be spinning at least a little bit every day.

Right at the beginning, I found that I had not broken my habit of putting spinning off until I have done all the things that I wanted/needed to accomplish in any given day. I have never learned to schedule peaceful times into the day; it seems that I feel that spinning and knitting are pleasures that I have to earn. So I often found myself spinning last thing in the evening.

I spun from fiber that I had in the house, and didn’t even get into the bin of this & that in the wool storage room. I did find that my stash was larger than I had thought…but no real surprise there. Usually I have enough of our own Shetland to keep me spinning (my personal Shetland stash is not small either!) So most of what I hoard are “other-brand” fibers, and now I am picking away at these tantalizing goodies. Many hours of spinning to be done….

I am very pleased that I did get through 3 colors of the roving that I bought last year from Liz Lovick at Northern Lace…made from the wool of our sheep’s cousins, the North Ronaldsays. These are other Northern Short-tail sheep whose claim to fame is that for much of the year, their diets consist of seaweed blown onto the shores of North Ronaldsay Island in the Orkneys.


Their wool is principally double-coated, but in processing, the longer stronger fibers are removed, resulting in a soft fine roving. This moorit roving JUST fit on the bobbin of my Jensen wheel. I pushed it a bit, and crammed every possible last wisp of fiber on.


I had already spun a medium grey, and double plied it, but these three Tour de Fleece colors wanted to be spun as a thick and thin singles….so I honored the fiber’s notion of how it should be spun. Whatever the case, I am happy with the results. One of the lighter skeins is a silver grey, the other a light fawn (although this doesn’t show up well in the photo).


Most recently I found myself spinning this multi-stripe mohair roving. It is a newer addition to my stash, but indeed it qualified as “stash” and intrigued me…I wanted to see how the colors flowed:


The fiber came as rolags, each one containing 6 colors, and were to be predrafted, with the intent of the producer that the resulting yarn would be distinctly striped. But I found that my predrafted balls of roving didn’t open as well as I would have liked, and there was some mixing if colors. Maybe I should have drafted the roving thinner, but I believe that if I had it to do again, I would spin directly from the rolags.

The colors were not entirely distinct, perhaps due to my less than obsessive predrafting, and so I spun a singles yarn to give the best chance of stripes.


I love the jewel-like tones, very similar to the colors in the sari silk yarn. Since I seldom spin toward a given project, I will enjoy just looking at the yarns for a while; eventually a knitting or weaving project will seem just right.


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