Wow, it seems that no matter how hard I try, I just don't manage to keep up with this blog all that well. Last week was a really busy week as I was trying to finalize all the text for the magazine so we could go to press on Monday. Then on Friday, after looking at the first layout, we decided we needed to add pages, so what was supposed to be a relatively light (workwise) week this week is again busy with layout reviews and the like. Oh well, that's the way it goes in publishing!
Last night Mary and I took Laura out for a belated birthday dinner. Man, a person needs to get in line to get time with that girl! My mouth had been watering for Kabob & Curry all day! Mary and I stopped by Pet Supplies Plus, so Laura got the restaurant ahead of us. They are closed on Mondays. How could we have forgotten? What a bummer. So we ended up at an Indian restaurant on Tate Street. The food was as good as that at K&C, so all was not lost. We even brought in the cake Mary made and had a proper birthday celebration.
Bye Bye, Cell!
Verizon is my cell service provider, and I've been happy with their service. Just a couple of months ago I became eligible for a new phone on their "new in two" plan. I went to the local Verizon store because I have a hard time figuring out if I'll like certain features just by viewing online. I looked at one phone that was "hardened" against hard use (and misuse) and briefly considered it, but the extra built-in protection made it bulkier than I wanted. Well, maybe I should have trusted the fact that I'm hard on phones and gone ahead and bought that armored phone. Had I done so, I'd probably still have a working phone right now. Yep, just last week I was talking on the phone and filling a stock tank and accidentally dropped the phone--not into the tank, but onto the ground where I had just dumped the water. I snatched it up quickly, and other than some grit in the hinge, it seemed to be fine. Well, this morning I really did a number on the poor thing. I generally just shove my phone in my back pocket (main reason for not wanting that bulkier armored phone). I was tending to a sick lamb this morning and had gotten a bit dirty, so when I came in the back door, I just stripped off and dropped everything in the wash and walked into the kitchen. After putting on some clean clothes, I suddenly wondered where my cell phone was. Oh no! You guessed it! Having a nice soak in the washing machine. While it withstood the dunk in the mud puddle, the washing machine was just too much for it. Now I have to get myself a new phone. Bah!
The Butcher, or How Do You Know What You Want When You Haven't a Clue?
And this leads us to the next part of the story. This morning I loaded two ewes on the trailer (with Mary's help as I'm still not the greatest at backing a trailer) to take to the butcher. These ewes are going to my sisters, both of whom wanted to buy a sheep to eat.
I have had a few sheep butchered to eat myself, but generally just get chops, leg steaks, stew meat, and the like (with the "leftovers" going to the dogs). I've never been real clear on what exactly I could get and so have just stuck with the tried-and-true. Enter my sisters, who want to make intelligent choices about what they'll get from their sheep. Because I can't be terribly helpful in that regard, I sent them several Web sites that explain the various cuts and what parts of the sheep they come from.
And confusion reigned!
Most such Web sites show you every possible cut that you could get from one area of the sheep, say the shoulder or ribs. What they don't tell you is how much you can expect from each primal cut. Can you get a shoulder roast and shoulder as stew meat? Why do most charts show both legs, but only one shoulder? A sheep has two shoulders, but only one shoulder roast? Ribs can come as racks, roasts, chops, crown roasts, and any number of other cuts. So if you get a rack, presumably from one side, can you still get chops from the other? These are the sorts of questions my sisters were grappling with last night when I finally sent them an e-mail at 11 saying "I'm going to bed. I'm heading out for the butcher at 7 a.m. If I don't have your lists, you'll be at my mercy for the meat selection you get back." I had lists this morning, but they also still had a lot of questions. They did end up asking for a few cuts I have never gotten, so it will be interesting to see what we get in the end!
Also, both of these ewes were shorn in late April, so their fleeces are at a very nice length (karakuls have a long-stapled wool that needs to be shorn twice a year) for a rug of some sort. Because it's not the best time of year to be dealing with salting pelts, I nearly considered not bothering to ask for them, but since I'm planning to get a freezer soon and the neighbors say they have space in their freezer at the moment, I decided to go ahead and get the skins. When I pick them up I'll decide whether to start the salting process or just roll 'em up and freeze them for later processing. And that gets me back to my poor cell phone. You have to pick up pelts the day of butchering and I left my cell number with them, so they could call when the pelts were ready for me to pick up. Once my phone was officially declared dead, I had to call Chaudhry back with that information. As soon as I said who I was, the girl said "They won't be butchered till tomorrow" in a tone that implied a bit of aggravation at my not paying attention to the fact that she had told me that very thing this morning. Then I told her the sad story of my cell phone and that I needed to give her an alternate number at which I could be reached. She laughed and told me that she's gone through three phones this month--all phone deaths the result of being dropped in one sort of liquid or another. At least I'm not alone. But I have to wonder if the cell phone companies don't deliberately make the phones overly "porous" so that if they take a dunk they pretty much die immediately. More profits that way....
Raven has been on rest for a week because of an apparent soft-tissue injury. That's the problem with the young, enthusiastic, and not-quite-trained--they tend to be a little too "balls to the wall" sometimes, with occasional injurious results. I kept her on crate rest last week and through the weekend and she improved enough that I felt safe taking her out for a brief lesson on Monday. Pip has been on rest after surgery and was released to go back to work on Monday, so I used him to first corner the hair sheep in one of the paddocks so I could treat the ewe damaged by Twist (!) on Saturday and then push them out into the unfenced pasture so I could work them with Raven. At first she seemed to have forgotten what an outrun was, and I had to stop her several times for attempting to cross, largely from not engaging her brain as she was so excited to be working again. Once we got past that initial excitement, we got a few nice little outruns in, and some decent fetches, with her actually controlling her pace a bit better. I finished off our 10-minute lesson with a tiny bit of driving. She finds the idea of driving a bit confusing, but we did get a few steps in each time we tried. The good news is that she came off the field sound and remained sound even after rest.
Once we were done working the "Holsteins," I took Pip back into the paddock and got him to push the karakul lambs out into the pasture so they could graze for a while along with the hair sheep. The little sick lamb opted to go out with the rest, but was very slow (I have since confined her for her own sake and have done everything I know to do to try and turn her around. She's still hanging in there--what an incredible will to live). Pip was very patient with her, hanging back and jollying her along like a good boy. This from the dog who prefers to be an alligator when something's lagging (heeling is his thing), so I give him credit for recognizing that the lamb wasn't being difficult but just couldn't go any faster.
I had a busy weekend, to say the least. Darci and a friend of hers came up on Saturday and we worked dogs. Darci's friend had an 8-month-old that had never seen sheep, so I took him into the round pen and he was definitely keen to work. He was also very much one-sided, but overall if his owner wanted to pursue stockdog training with him, I think he'd manage pretty well with that youngster.
Because I had to run by the vet's office to pick up some meds, I was forced to make a stop at Homeland Creamery. Okay, I had an enabler with me; otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. While there, I called Mary to see if they wanted any ice cream or milk and she had me get both ice cream and chocolate milk for Tony. I had been all set to ignore the chocolate milk, but once I snagged a half-gallon for them, I had to get one for me too. Boy was it worth it. I'm am husbanding that bottle of milk because chocolate milk, especially straight from the dairy, isn't something I get very often. Yum!
Sunday morning, Mary and Tony came over to work dogs. Tony opted to work my crazy woolies. I tried holding them (with corn) for him, but they still were inclined to run over me rather than stand and wait for the dog to get there. Granted, the dog in question was Blurr, who could probably unsettle even the most stolid sheep! We worked young dogs on the hair sheep in the main pasture. There's no sense in working them on the wool sheep at this point as it would just turn ugly. The trained dogs can handle them well enough, but they're still a bit too challenging for the youngsters.
I worked only Phoebe because Pip still needed to wait (doctor's orders), and the plan was really to get Mary and Tony time on different sheep at a different place, since I can work my dogs on my sheep any time I want. I was quite pleased with her, though. She drove nearly the length of the pasture with good push (which is saying something because the Holstein girls are rather heavy) and without hesitation or looking back, and was taking inside flanks quite nicely. She worked really, really well. That is, if you don't consider her apparent lack of a good stop. We even got in a couple of sheds at the end. Maybe I truly do have my old (pre-heat) Phoebe back!
By the time I was done working Phoebe and Tony and Blurr had worked on shedding too, Rachel and Gwyneth showed up for a visit. I decided to entertain everyone by showing off Lark's prowess herding my Rhode Island Red chicks. It's funny how some dogs just love working poultry and others won't look at them. Lark happens to love it, so her training session for the day was to move the eight month-old chicks around the yard for everyone's enjoyment. I need to get it on video, because she's pretty cute while she's at it.
Rachel and I took all the dogs for a nice long walk and then we called Laura to meet us for lunch. It was good to catch up, especially with Rachel, whom we don't get to see all that often anymore. Maybe Brian will get a teaching position out this way and they'll move closer, because gas prices alone are a big enough deterrent to visiting friends.
The Bum Ankle
Lacey, may she rest in peace, did a number of my ankle, and the pain made for difficult sleeping all last week. By this past weekend, the ankle was still swollen and several people told me I should get it X-rayed, since swelling that lasts more than a few days is indicative of something other than a sprain. On Saturday I had just about resolved to go back to the urgent care place on Monday for X-rays, but by Saturday night the ankle was significantly less painful, although still swollen. Sunday brought even more improvement. And now I'm just feeling twinges--granted they become more frequent as the day wears on--but it's as if there was some sort of magic healing that occurred over the weekend. Given how little those sheep that went to market brought me, it's just as well that I didn't have to fork over another co-pay for a second examination!
A Family Visit
As I mentioned above, my sisters are buying sheep from me. One of those sisters is currently here visiting from St. Louis. That's sort of what brought up the whole idea of butchering sheep. Jean had wanted to buy sheep from me last year, but we couldn't figure out a practical way to ship it to her in St. Louis. So it occurred to me when she headed out here for a visit that we could process a sheep and she could just take it back with her.
She started her vacation with some friends on the Eastern Shore whom she got to know well while she was working at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. She then headed to my sister Renee's place up in Madison. She'll head down here on Thursday and stay till Tuesday. On Friday we plan to do a group thing with Renee and her two youngest (13 and 16) and possibly even her oldest and his wife. We had oringinally thought about making a day trip to someplace like Grandfather Mountain (hitting a few wineries on the way, natch!) but have since reconsidered (party because of one of the kids' work schedules and partly because moving back the date we go to press with the magazine has mucked up at least part of this week for me) and will instead have Renee and the kids here to visit with all the critters and then take a picnic lunch to one of the state parks around here. At least the weather is supposed to be a little more amenable to outdoor activities later this week.
Don't even ask me when I'm planning to clean this house up for her visit!
I think that catches things up here. We are roasting in the heat and praying for rain. We have a chance for storms tomorrow and Thursday, and I sure hope we get them. We did get a shower on Saturday that gave us a quarter-inch, but we are down more than an inch for this month and more than 5 inches for the year. I've already stockpiled a bunch of round bales (and am also already feeding hay, which is why I'm shipping sheep out of here), but need to get more to be safe. I'm hoping we're getting enough rain to allow folks to get a second cutting, because I think I can get the whole second cutting from the same guy I got this first set of bales from. Keeping my fingers crossed....
I'll even try to get some pictures up here sometime soon. I just have no real desire to venture outside except for the most necessary of things. Of course, given that I have a sick lamb in need of regular care, I am forced to go out to the barn several times a day, but you won't pry me out of here for much else! Okay, I do still take the dogs for their walks on the "back 40," even though the heat is opressive and I break into a sweat just thinking about it. (It's all relative, though, because the thermostat is set at 80, so it's not as if it's all that cool in here, but it sure beats the heat and humidity that are on the other side of these walls!)