Monday, November 30, 2009

Once a year

I am 56 years old today. I don't tend to talk about my birthday but my dear friends and family remind me each and every year just the same! I could write a book about my years so far, but who has time, so much to do still, so much to learn, so much to live! Here I was with my two older brothers, I was happy!

Here I am after high school graduation. I could write a number of chapters between age 3 and age 18. It wasn't all good or easy. That is what builds a good life though. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At this point in time I was on the way to adult life with solid footing under me, thanks to the love of my family and friends. I chose this little gravestone when we took the photos....little did I know I would ever have my own flock one day!

I am a happy, thankful woman today. With a beautiful family, a flockful of loving sheep, regular work and the love of friends and family. That's what it is all about, that love. This me and Jack with our dear Faith and the love of her life.

And here I am not too long ago, photography by Marti Stone My life is still opening, evolving and challenging. One of my favorite quotes that came from the book Fortitude by Hugh Walpole is "It's not life that really matters, it's the courage you bring to it."

And today, among other special gifts I received this pastel of me and Ashley, done by our dear friend and shepherdess, Katie. You can see the photo in the prior post. She is so talented, so special. What a special gift she gave me today!

Thanks for stopping by...I'll raise a glass to you tonight!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Celebrate the harvest!

Ashley and me; thankfulness in a huge nutshell.

Marti Stone Photographer

As we celebrate Thanksgiving remember that in 1621 the Colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an Autumn harvest feast which has come to be an American tradition evermore. May you enjoy the bounty and be thankful for the blessings in your lives.

And if you want to test your knowledge of the Thanksgiving tradition click


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bea and Neville

Our November mornings have been simply beautiful this month. We get a hard frost overnight and come morning all is coated in a soft white yielding to the sun's warming rays. My morning field walk with Sidney captures fall palettes so rich with color.

Bea and Neville rose up in the frosty morning. Yet another capture in the night. A lamb or two, for sure, come spring.

My beautiful Bea, the leader sheep, strong breed genetics. She is the queen of the flock for protecting and guarding. Nothing misses her wary eye.

Bea and Neville spent more than a day together moving about the field, grazing, resting and creating.

Second and third from the right, they spent the afternoon with the others, enjoying yet another lovely late fall day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Della's day

Neville and Della found each other....and it was a beautiful sight. I walked out to the field to do morning chores and found them rising up together in the frosty field, separate from the flock, together. It was stunning to see them in the early sunshine, oblivious to routine. They tumbled down to join the rest of the breeding group for breakfast, together.

They had the most lovely mating...and I know I tend to be pretty personal about my sheep and their comings and goings. But this is also the beauty of watching over a small flock of sheep. I get the opportunity to be up close and personal with them.

Later in the morning, while the other sheep settled down for some digesting, well, Della and Neville danced.

And they spent the afternoon like this. It was truly the most lovely mating I have witnessed. I adore Della. We brought her to our farm last summer and I have not regreted one lovely moment of her presence.

This love affair is short lived...maybe until tomorrow morning. But even so, life is sweet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let the games begin

Breeding time has begun at Long Ridge Farm! The weather has been quite nice for November. It's been reasonably dry and not too cold and frosty. We had the remnants of Ida yesterday which left things pretty soggy but that has passed and we are in for another nice dry stretch. Neville is a handsome CVM ram from our sister farm, Crooked Fence Farm in Putney, VT. We drove over and picked him up on Thursday. Our farms are just about opposite each other across the Connecticut River, but because there is not a bridge handy it takes about 25 minutes to drive up to Westminster Bridge, cross in to VT and then down the Vt side of the river. Coming home, Neville rode very nicely, taking in the scenery and the farm smells along the way. We pulled the truck into the field and he popped out picture perfect! He looked around and then he saw them. A flock of ewes awaiting.

Meet and greet is always a flurry while everyone smells everyone. It's quite a dance really.

No one was particularly interested in Neville but he had his eye on Charlotte right off. At first she wasn't interested at all. This is her first breeding. But I went to check on them in a few hours and he was all over her, snickering and ultimately mounting her, over and over.

This is a familiar, not so handsome, but awfully funny look during breeding season. Neville has just gotten a scent from one of the ewes and is smelling it on his lips to determine how ready the ewe is to breed.

While he was working away at all this stuff he needs to do, the ewes decided they needed to eat.

Here is a group of ewes pretty much telling it like it is is...nope we're not ready! Meanwhile out of view, Neville continued to romance Charlotte.

They finally settled down overnight and in the morning Neville turned his eye to Memphis, Charlotte's dam. And by midday they were like one big happy family, sort of!

I am already excited to see what the breeding will bring forth. I am hoping Della, our white Romeldale, will give one beautiful white ewe lamb!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Nine lives

Whenever you see a flock of sheep at the door upon arrival with the deer in the headlight look, something is amiss. I came down to do chores and as usual, let the hens out first. As I glanced over at the barn lot, I saw Ashley, flat out on the ground. She looked dead. I raced into the barn out and into the lot. Of course everyone scurried as I flew through the barn. And that made Ashley start to kick her legs. She was alive! I got ahold of her and helped her to her feet. I massaged her legs and hips, gave her some loving words and let her recover while I got the rest of the flock fed. As before, she had laid down at a bad angle, and in this case,when she wanted to get up she was facing an upward slope and couldn't get her legs under her.

This is the third time we have found her this way, one time earlier this summer on pasture. Ashley is old now, 14, and we are very mindful of this in all aspects. We treat her daily with grain to give her extra energy and fat. She gets her own place to eat. Darned spoiled, really! Here she is, coming around.

What is always amazing to me is how the other sheep will come by to check on her afterward. I have never seen them when the sheep is cast, as it's named. When I get there the rest of the flock is not near her at all, they almost appear scared. So when she arises once again, one by one they respectfully come and touch noses and smell her face. Fascinating. Here is Georgia, checking in.

Within 20 minutes Ashley was back to eating and doing what sheep do. Later in the morning I was pleased to see her laying in the field, chewing cud, all systems normal.

Crystal is the only other sheep this has happened to for us, but it is a real concern for all sheep and shepherds. Within a matter of an hour, if not on their feet, the sheep will die. I was just grateful that this time, once again, I arrived in time.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Tricked and treated

Early on a shepherd learns how to use trickery to get the natty tasks done. We don't have border collies to do the task of round-up so we use treats to lure them into the barn where we can take care of tasks from de-worming, hoof trimming, coat changes to vet calls. We have a well trained flock and so the task of trickery is easy. They are weak when it comes to a good treat like an alfalfa cube or an apple slice! This weekend a few of the sheep were bursting their coats. They have a fleece growth spurt this time of year. During morning chores I scanned the barn and like the judge at a dog show I pulled out 5 sheep to the winner's circle that needed to be tricked into the inner barn for new coats. Trinity was certainly she is, new coat going on. Look at the difference between the coated fleece and the weathered fleece at her neck/head and tail end! Stunning fleece it is.

That's the fun part of coat changes. I get to check the growth and staple length, see the crimp, make sure the fleece is uniform. And then just sink my fingers into it! Here are a couple shots of Georgia. Look at those spots! And her fleece is looking mighty fine also. But without her coat on, she too looks like it is a "new coat".

After they were set free, I tossed a few apple slices into the field and any of the sheep smart enough came to the gate for a handout. Here is Jackie, game and ready.

Yes, indeed! Please, please, please.

Pawing the gate for just another slice.

I took to the pasture to do a few handouts and here comes Peach for hers.

Treats are the best reward!