Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Falling for Fall

I love the fall. It's actually my favorite time of the year, which is funny because I really don't enjoy the short, dark, cold days of winter that follow (except that winter does give me more time indoors for reading and other projects). But while it's fall, I find that I can put winter out of my mind and just soak in the cool days and the crisp nights. If it could be like fall year round, that would be fine with me. I love spring too, for the rebirth--flowers blooming, trees budding, lambs racing--but for some reason fall just speaks to me. It's the time of year when I could just drop everything, take a good book (or not), and go sit under a tree whose leaves are changing color and just forget the rest of the world, maybe just listen to the earth sounds around me and just be. Fall tends to make me reflective as well, although I don't think so much about the year that has just passed as about the world itself and my part in it. It's hard to explain, what fall does to me. But it's a good thing.

Sheepdog Trialing for a Fantastic Cause
First let me say that our Whistle for a Cure (Ovines Agains Ovarian Cancer) Sheepdog Trial was a great success and we raised a good amount of money for ovarian cancer research. If you want to read a full write up on the trial, head over to Robin's blog at http://shooflyfarm.blogspot.com/. And even though my youngsters performed pretty abysmally, I at least saw some gaping holes I need to work on, and there were a few bright moments too!

For me, the best part of the day was getting to take part in the double lift demo. I think Robin felt sorry for me after Pip and Phoebe's nursery run disasters and so asked me if I wanted to do the demo, but I'm glad anyway, because Twist and I have never actually done a real double lift. I was quite proud of the beautiful job Twist did, and it almost made up for the ugliness that was her two pups....

Larky Uodate
But let me back up a minute and tell you about Lark, since I've been incommunicado since last Thursday. (In my defense, I did come try to update everyone on Friday, but Blogger was being squirrelly and I couldn't get logged on and then the weekend just got away from me, and then you know how the real job can actually interfere with all the fun stuff, and here it is Tuesday before I could get back with an update.) Anyway, by Friday Lark seemed to be back to her old self. I was sorely tempted to run her at the trial, but not knowing what caused the problem in the first place I was hesitant to throw her back into work so quickly. I did let her push the sheep back up to the set out one time as I was walking back up after our P/N runs (added in at the last minute to try and make up some of the awfulness of our nursery morning). She seems perfectly back to normal now, running and playing as if nothing was ever amiss. I am suspicious that the root cause of the problem was her jumping through the barn window the night before and then trying to jump back through (it's much higher from the downhill barn side) and somehow twisting her back, which was exacerbated into a muscle spasm when she jumped off the bed the next morning. I'll never know for sure, but that's one thing I can control, and so I will keep her from doing that.

Apple Butter Time!
Dawn seemed to come much too early the Sunday after the trial, but this day was apple butter day, so there wasn't time to lay about in bed catching a few extra minutes of sleep--the apples were calling! Mary and Lou Ann had spent a good part of Saturday while the rest of us were trialing, peeling and coring McIntosh apples that Henry had brought back from his most recent trip to Wisconsin. By the time Mary, Tony, and I arrived at Henry and LouAnn's, they already had a fire going under the copper kettle and Henry was stirring big chunks of apples with a special wooden paddle. We pulled out chairs and took turns stirring the apples, adding wood to the fire, and cleaning the sides of the copper pot with a spatula, as the apples cooked down to a consistency that meant it was time to add all the extras that turn plain old apples into apple butter. Henry is in his mid-70s and has been making apple butter since he was a child, so while I watched what he did, I have to admit that it seemed more of an art than a science to what he added and how much. But I can attest to the fact that the end result was absolutely delicious!

Making apple butter can be hard work--the apples cooked in the copper kettle from before 9 a.m. till 2 p.m. and had to be stirred constantly during that time, but with five good friends working together, no one had to work themselves into blisters and we got to enjoy one another's company and some good conversation--about working dogs, farming, sheep, and just life in general.

When it came time to put the apple butter in jars, I think it really did help to have as many hands as we did. We were able to set up an assembly line, with one person continuing to stir, one dipping out the apple butter, another pouring it into the jars, another placing the lids, and another tightening the rings. And after we had used all the lids that were available, there was just enough apple butter left over for us to each have a piece of bread slathered in it's cinnamon and appley goodness. A great reward for a day well spent.

And since Tony's neighbor has a number of apple trees and no one to eat or cook with them, we plan to pick them this week and have another go at making apple butter this coming weekend. It's something to look forward to!

Farm Odds and Ends
This morning I finally removed my young ram lamb from his little lamb buddies and put him in the ram paddock with the older ram lambs. I put a wether in with him so he'd have a friend his own size. So far, no bullying has ensued, so perhaps all will be well.

I also need to take my two remaining tunis ewes down to Tony and Mary's so they can go in with their ram. I don't plan to breed much this year, but I'd like some tunis lambs, and I also plan to breed a select few karakuls. My little ram lamb that I like so much is just five months old, so I don't think I can expect him to cover but so many ewes anyway. I am trying to get a gorgeous ram out of Colorado, one that carries both of the bloodlines I don't already have in my flock, but transportation is always a problem. His owners can bring him to Rhinebeck in New York, but I've got to find transport from there, and so far I'm not having great luck. This is a short-eared ram that I'd like to breed to my short-eared ewes just to keep the trait going in the breed. It is quite rare and one of the old time karakuls breeders, whom I talked to at a show in May, encouraged me to continue the trait if I could....

The neighbors down the road have two labs that they allow to run loose. When I walked out this morning, I could see Maia standing at the fence all puffed up watching something along the road. Then I saw the yellow lab. The property across the road slopes off, so I could see anything else, but Maia could, and soon she charged the corner of the property, barking, and I saw the chocolate lab go bolting down the road. It's neat to watch Maia doing her job and to see how the flock has come to trust her judgment when she wants them to move to safety.

Yesterday, I was working at my computer and I kept hearing a chirping noise that sounded like a baby chick. I do have some chicks out there, the six little Dominiques that I got about a month ago, and I just wrote the noise off as coming from them. I was concentrating on my work and not paying really close attention anyway. But eventually the noise worked itself far enough into the recesses of my brain that something finally said to me, "that chirping is a much tinier noise than those Dom chicks would make." At that point, I happened to look out the window and saw something small and white near the chicken pen. Well, with all the rain, we have an abundance of various mushrooms and other fungi sprouting everywhere, so small and white didn't necessarily mean anything more than a mushroom. But then my brain put two (tiny chirping) and two (small white object) together and I decided I should investigate. Out the door I went to find my hen that looks like a Sebright with eight tiny chicks. Huh? I've been looking for eggs in the henhouse and not finding any. The chickens had been molting and they quit laying while they molt, so I suppose I justified the lack of eggs by reasoning that they were still molting. But here I had before me proof that they were indeed not only laying eggs, but brooding them as well. Just not in the chicken house. These little chickens have been so good about using their nest boxes. Now it seems I'm going to have to go searching out nests and eggs....


Samantha said...

I am glad Miss larky is better now.

I hadn't heard of Apple Butter, just googled it and it sounds really nice. Time consuming to make but i bet it tastes great.

Debbie P said...

what can I do to get you to bring me a jar of apple butter to Montpelier? I'll pay just about anything for good home cooked apple butter!
I LOVE the fall too.

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

LOL, chicken mommy? I love that, the only reason I want chickens again :)