Thursday, January 31, 2008

Willow's Rest, Locks of Love, and Other Musings....

It occurred to me that folks may wonder "Why Willow's Rest?" Well, I wanted a farm name that honored the dog who basically led me into all this and that's Willow, the border collie whose photo graces the top of this blog. I got Willow through rescue, and my main plan for her was to be my jogging partner, a service she performed admirably. Another rescue followed (gee, if you have one border collie, why not have two?), and next thing I know someone suggested that I try my dogs on stock. Willow ended up being my first trial dog, and it's her I credit with all that followed, including finally being able to get my own sheep and all the working dogs that followed her. Willow is nearly 11 now and retired from stockwork. Her main job is being boss of everyone else, a job she takes quite seriously.

So back to the farm name. I knew it had to have Willow in it to honor Willow (and it doesn't hurt that the weeping willow is my favorite tree) and then I just needed to add something that made sense with her name. I thought about a lot of things that evoked a sense of farm and farming, but none were really pleasing to my ear. Then I remembered a neighbor we had growing up. She didn't have a farm, but had a lovely house overlooking the Potomac River, and to get to it, you had to cross a swinging footbridge. The sign at the turn in the driveway that went past our farm and led to her place was "Dauphin's Landing." Somehow that led me to Willow's Rest, which has multiple meanings for me. To me the farm is a relaxing place to be, and working with livestock is a peaceful pastime. The farm is where I can rest from the manic world--it's a balm to mind, body, and soul. And though I hate to think about it, I expect Willow, who is certainly in her golden years, will die on the farm and be laid to rest here. So Willow's Rest it is and always will be, no matter where we are physically, this place or another one on down the line....

And thinking of Becky's "Pay it Forward" challenge, I'd like to issue a challenge of sorts myself. I can't really take credit for coming up with this idea, but I am following through on it, so that counts for something! I was at the office a couple of weeks ago when my co-worker Cheryl Groves walked in. I commented on how long her hair has gotten, and she said "I'm growing it out so I can donate it to Locks of Love."

After that brief conversation, I couldn't get the idea our of my mind. I spoke to a friend of mine about it and she told me of a male co-worker of hers that grows his hair long and donates it every year. I figured something was prodding me in this direction, so I went to the Locks of Love website and read what they were all about and how I could donate.

Locks of Love makes hair prostheses for children with medical hair loss. Diagnosis doesn't matter--if the child has lost hair as the result of a medical condition, Locks of Love will produce a prosthesis for them. Way back when I used to work for the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association in Washington, DC, the association established a program called "Look Good, Feel Better" that was designed to help cancer patients deal with the changes brought about by radiation and chemotherapy. We all know that mental outlook can really affect both the coping and healing process, and it seemed logical that finding ways to help women look their best at such a trying time could only help. And clearly it did! So I am already a believer in the value of this sort of thing.

And today's the day I am donating my hair to Locks of Love. My hair has not been cut, short of trimming now and again, since I was a junior in college, some 25 years ago. I have kept it long all these years because it's just an easy way to deal with it--pull it back in a ponytail or french braid and it's out of the way! So this is a huge thing for me. My hair does not look good short, and never has. But in all honesty, most people don't really know what it looks like long, either, because it's almost always pulled back in some fashion.

My challenge to anyone who has hair long enough to donate to Locks of Love or a similar organization is to do it! It's a donation that won't cost you much in terms of actual dollars (just the cost of a haircut) but that will bring untold joy to some person whose medical condition has left him or her without hair. Looking at it that way, I really can't see a reason not to give away my hair. I hope others who might read this will think the same thing. I will post before and after photos later this week.

Last evening while treating sheep hooves, I decided to take my new little Flip camcorder out and try taping the pups working. While it wasn't a complete disaster, I did discover that I'm not so great at working a youngster and wielding a camcorder--even a tiny one--with any great effectiveness. I think it would be fine with a trained dog, but with the youngsters I found that I really do have to have my mind completely on what they're doing and not on trying to catch it on "tape" too. The part where Pip pushed the sheep onto me, which pushed me into the temporary catch pen, which then collapsed under our collective weight did make me laugh, although I wasn't laughing last night (and of course the little microphone caught very nicely all the blue language I used). If I figure out a way to edit out the cursing at the end, I'll post it somewhere for folks to see.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Impatiently Awaiting Lambs....

Wow, what a busy weekend. On Saturday I went up to Mary's to help her crutch, vaccinate, and trim hooves on her tunis ewes. Olivia was there with her boyfriend, JW. Olivia is such a piece of work, but she sure helps make the time fly. When she heard that I had two rams' heads that needed the horns removed, she jumped at the chance to help do it, so Mary and I sent her and JW with Jimmy and Tony to do the job. I now have two sets of horns hanging in the rafters of the garage. They'll stay there till fall when I will take them to Dan King so he can use them to make shepherd's crooks. I went looking for a corner computer desk in the evening but didn't have any luck. I did stop by Kebab and Curry for dinner, so the evening wasn't an entire waste--the lamb rogan josh is spectacular!

Sunday Laura came up and we started crutching my sheep. After working all day, we still had eight left, but by then it was around 4:30 and we were both beat. You can tell age is catching up when your back starts hurting from bending over to shear. I am grateful for the karakuls, since they have hair on their bellies rather than wool and so overall are easier to crutch then the tunis. I can say that I certainly slept well last night (as did Twist, who had the day-long job of holding sheep in the pen for us so we could catch them as we needed them).

The photos here were actually taken in September, but I don't have anything real recent, so these will have to do. You can see the nice color I have in my karakul flock, and of course my lovely redheads the tunis.

This evening I used Lark to gather the flock so I could pull the limpers into the round pen for treatment. Funny how sheep that seem quite lame when walking around the pasture suddenly regain all ability to walk normally when a dog appears! I did finally manage to sort them off and will keep them confined for this week so I can treat their feet and see if I get any improvement.
I'll finish with the crutching this coming weekend, and then all I'll have to do is sit back and wait for lambs to start arriving. The earliest date is February 23, so I still have a while yet. Still I'm getting anxious--I am so ready for lambs. Of course I have the second wave to look forward to in April, but for now I'll be happy to get the February/March group done. This is one time when working from home most of the time will be a real advantage. I'll be able to keep a close eye on everyone.

The other bit of good news I found out today was that there's a mill in New Jersey where we can send wool to have made into blankets. Jimmy would very much like a grey karakul blanket, but seeing as how thier wool is rug quality I think it would make for a very scratchy blanket indeed. I will see if the mill can't blend it with some of our tunis wool and perhaps make a sort of tweed pattern so it will still be grey, but perhaps a bit softer. Since it doesn't look like I'm going to have a lot of time for rugmaking, this will allow me to use the past year's wool before it's time to shear again.

On a completely unrelated note, my sister Jean from St. Louis sent me a little gift package today. There was a lovely CD of harp-guitar music, some cat earrings, and a lovely little scrimshaw cross. Also some raspberry chocolate drizzle and some chocolate-dipped altoids. But the best item of all was the little container of dark chocolate-covered ginger. Yum!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Spending Time

Time. It's one of those things we either don't have enough of or have too much of, but no matter which category you fall into, time keeps right on passing by. One of the things I love to do with my "spare" time is to read. I've been visiting the library (and the bookstore) and here's what I've read in the past month or so:

  • The Golden Compass: if you're a fantasy fan, you'll probably like this one (I haven't seen the movie yet, so can't compare

  • Three Bags Full: a whodunit in which a flock of sheep try to solve the murder of their shepherd

  • Still Life with Elephant: I guess you'd call this a romantic comedy--a woman who tends to "mishear" things discovers that her husband has had an affair and decides to go on an expedition to Africa to save an elephant, all with the idea of winning him back

  • Whitewash: a political/environmental thriller

  • Light on Snow: a father and daughter discover an abandoned baby left to die in the snow

  • Luncheon of the Boating Party: an account of the creation of Auguste Renoir's painting of the same name

If I'm reading a nonfiction book, I'll often read several fiction books at the same time. Right now, I'm reading both The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. To lighten that intellectual load a bit, I am also reading Coastliners, to be followed by Son of a Witch. I am a big fan of Joanne Harris (Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange) and so hope this current novel lives up to my expectations. As for Gregory Maguire, I don't think any of his subsequent novels topped Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister but I've enjoyed them all anyway. I also have Stephen R. Donaldson waiting in the wings, though I find the latest series a bit frustrating because I read the original so long ago that I have a hard time remembering the story!

Today I also tried out Becca's lamb and apple stew recipe. I found it quite tasty, despite the fact that I had to improvise a few ingredients. It turns out Jimmy's not real fond of cloves, so he wasn't as enthusiastic about it as I was. Oh well, more for me to eat!

Laura called this morning and made a comment about really wanting to go to the Derek Scrimgeour clinic at Carol Campion's in Connecticut. If she was hoping I'd talk some sense in to her, she was way, way wrong. Now we're both going (it's not till late October), and we've talked our friend Robin in to going too! It will be fun to see just how many dogs we can squeeze into Robin's van for the 10-hour trip up there, but any expedition is more fun when you're traveling with friends. I could enter only one dog, and I'm not sure which of my youngsters would benefit the most, so I plan to wait until closer to the time and see who has the greatest need (which could translate into the dog I've screwed up the most!).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Melting Snow

We don't often get snow here in central North Carolina, so it's a pleasure when we do. It snowed yesterday, and there's delight in watching the flakes swirl down out of the sky to settle softly on surfaces unaccustomed to being painted white. My hair looked like it was full of tiny diamonds, sparkling and ephemeral. Now yesterday's swirl of flakes is being replaced by a steady drip, drip as the sun works its destructive magic and turns the snow to it's basic form, water. Unfortunately, the drought has turned the yard to dirt, and the melting snow is turning the yard to mud. The poor dogs must be hosed off--brrrrr!--before being allowed in.

I should go out and do something productive, like vaccinate the sheep (lambing time draws near) or move hay, but there's something about this day that's just making me feel lazy.

I am ready for spring now, and wish to see lambs having their evening races in the fields. I still have a month to wait, though, before I can expect the first of the world's most adorable babies. In the meantime, there's plenty to do. Lambing pens to get ready, ewes to vaccinate and crutch, supplies to be gathered. So why am I sitting here watching the snow melt?