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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve Day

The last day of 2005 found me using the tractor to set out round hay for the mares, gelding and weanling and one for the younger stallion. It's a beautiful day, sunny, around mid 40's F but with a stiff wind blowing. Still, a grand day to be outside especially as I was wrapped up like a babe in swaddling clothes. I'm ending this year with the same respiratory infection I've had for months but at least I believe I'm on the mend. I feel better anyway.

Dave and I went to town to get some free Christmas trees. I feed the non-sprayed green color trees to the sheep who think they are candy. This makes six I've given them and the first three trees are almost bare of needles. The wooly fleeces are just lovely; most are at least 4 or 5 inches in length and the gray ones have silvery highlights that catch the light in a pleasing way. I'm so pleased with the sheep and the fleeces they grow; they are such a loving flock and respond well to good food, sweet water and tender care.

We're having a quiet day and evening; Dave is making corned beef and cabbage with black eyed peas. I believe he's hedging his bets and trying to cover all his bases. We'll have a smidgen of sherry or B&B to toast the New Year but probably earlier than it actually arrives. My attitude is I've stayed up late to welcome in many a New Year and it arrived with, or without, my help. That's good sleeping time I'm wasting waiting for what will happen anyway.

I have every intention of choosing more time for knitting, spinning, weaving, enjoying my husband, home, animals, family and friends. I hope to make wiser choices and to know more quickly when I've choosen poorly; to work more with the horses, to play more with the sheep, dogs and cats; to laugh more frequently, play harder and appreciate the blessings and gifts I'm given. I want to travel more with Dave, to make and build more and better memories. In short, to try and make the most of the time and the life I've been given. Oh, and to finally figure out how to include photos in my blog!

Happy New Year; my prayer for one and all is

May the Worst of 2006
Be from the Best of 2005

Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Year End

My Dad has always said if one is living right, then there's no need to make resolutions at year end/beginning. He's probably right and I've never made New Year's Resolutions but this change from 05 to 06 might be different. Since starting this blog, I find I don't make the time to journal with regular frequency. And, in turn, find myself wondering if I don't make the time then why should I continue. The answer is because I do enjoy keeping a blog or a journal. I like the accountability, seeing my thoughts in black and white, knowing that, sometimes, others find my words and thoughts useful to them as well. Like so much of life, it's simply making choices and then sticking with them. I want to make the promise to me that I'm worth taking the time to, frequently, write in this blog. To visit the blogs of friends who, through their writing and photographs, help keep me centered. Leslie at is one such site and a visit to her blog is a treasure worth sharing.

As we approach the end of this year, I've made lots of changes...the largest one being to downsize my life. My urban friends want to know how is that possible, when I already have downsized far more than some of them are able. What I am doing is thus: instead of adding to my life; I'm taking away, I'm paring down to the essence or at least closer to the essence. I've stopped doing so much volunteer work that takes me out of our home and off the farm. My volunteer work now consists of knitting for family, friends and charity or weaving a rag rug for someone's floor. The Komi Kids Yarn Project is still a special project and I want to learn to knit slippers for service men/women. The Round the Mountain Southwest VA Artisans Network is special also, but I want to keep my projects, my life, manageable and easier to handle.

I'll still make lists; there's no way, at least I don't think there's any way, I can live my life without lists and get anything accomplished. For me, lists are mini-goals to keep me on track. Dave and I find ourselves wondering when we last had the house painted or when were the air filters last changed. I'm resolved to start, and keep, a house book that will aid us in taking better care of what God has entrusted to us. I've kept records for the animals but the humans and the house are in need of update.

For years I've felt there was beauty and, yes, even glory, in the plain things of home life and I want to spend more time in pursuit of those beautiful, simple things. When I sip a beverage in our sun room in the early mornings, I watch the sun break over the valley and across the sheep and horses as they wander our pasture. My hands are busy with knitting or the Good Book and my eyes wander to the knitting or book and back to the large windows. I'm daily reminded of the beauty in our world and how much of a blessing it is to have such a visual feast. Somehow, it's a bit easier to confess to God those sins of commission and omission when His beauty and largess is spread before me. It's easier to forgive, although does one ever forget?, the hurts caused to one by others, as well as the hurts caused.

Does it sometimes take you time, lots and lots of time, to reach a point where you're able, or even willing, to ask forgiveness of either someone or God? Sometimes I find giving forgiveness is easy, quick even and other times the hurt festers until it ruptures into pain so great only God can hold it all.

In this year to come, what will I do with my life? What changes will I make? How will I grow? Where will I go and with whom? How will I worship and where?

I thought of those questions as Dave and I sat watching The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of the Narnia books made into a movie. I saw the "original" BBC production which was brought to the USA by PBS in the early 1990's. Both are equally stupendous and do a respectable job to, what I believe is the intent of C. S. Lewis' books. He was such an incredible writer, depths upon depths of levels of meanings in his work. If you've never read The Screwtape Letters, read it as soon as possible for it's another, seemingly simple, tome.

Perhaps the questions are the result of advanced middle age and not just the years' end. Perhaps the questions are the result of wondering too much, of living my life in such beautiful silence. We rarely have the television on or even the radio. I believe silence is the ultimate white noise and my spirit craves it as much as the flesh needs food.

Even so, this year has had its share of gifts and blessings; of joys and sorrows; of friendships given and taken away. As this year ends and the next looms, I'm reminded of Psalm 65:11 "You crown the year with Your goodness." As long as I/we rest in His hands, we rest well and peacefully even in the midst of trials and tribulations, knowing the joy of the Lord is our strength. And frankly, it's His strength upon which I rely because my own strength is ebbing far too quickly.

Tempus Fugit

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Geese Overhead

The dogs and I take about three walks a day, not including the outside time for chores - feeding, mucking the barn, topping off water troughs, tending to the animals, etc. We've gotten used to our daily walks and I enjoy watching the dogs snuffle out ground hog holes, rabbit warrens, scatter voles and ground squirrels. I especially like watching them when they catch a scent and, with heads lifted high, their noses follow the scent on the wind. I try to smell what they are smelling but to no avail; my nose simply isn't as good.

Thistle Cove Farm is situated at the lower end of a valley, Ward's Cove, where it splays out into a widening sort of 'V'. Our field of vision is clear and goes for miles, from one end of the valley to the other, from one side to the other. We're surrounded by the Clinch Mountain range and outside our kitchen window is Morris Knob, the tallest point in the County. Morris Knob is about 3,400 feet while Mount Rogers is the tallest point in VA and is something over 5,000 feet.

I've stood in the front yard, arms held to either side, and been either snowed upon or rained upon, from fingertip to fingertip as the weather moves down the valley. There are many days we'll sit in the sunroom and watch the storm move from the west to the east. We'll see sheets of rain or snow moving slowly but surely from a distance, closer into our field of vision and then encompass the house as the storm passes by. (Remember that old hymn? It's one of my favorites.)

The geese are here and have been for a while. Today about 60 of them crossed the valley coming from the north and headed south. Their wild calls could be heard before they could be seen and I stopped in the center of the road, training my ear to the direction I could hear them. It took a few seconds but they eventually cleared the top of the mountain, at the lower northern end of the valley and headed my way. They crossed immediately over my head and it was AMAZING! This has happened many times but it always catches me breathless. To have such crystal clear silence (from human made noise anyway) that I can hear the thrump, thrump, thrump of geese wings as they beat their way across the sky. I stood on the road and tried to imitate the sound and the closest I could come was by opening my mouth, closing off my throat with the back of my tongue and breathing heavily through my nose. No mean feat, either! It's like hearing their heart beats or what I imagine it would be like. Their wings are in almost perfect unison, one with another, and the thrump, thrump, thrump is a wild and free sound.

There have been mornings when I've looked out the window and seen a flock of geese resting in our side pasture. Usually, a little after daybreak they begin to talk and stroll amongst themselves and, in a little bit, they, with no sign I can see, lift off and turn into the wind. The horses and sheep don't seem to mind and everyone gives each other space and time to do and be themselves.

It's almost time for me to start loading up the bird feeders. During the worst of winter, the birds will eat three to six pounds of seed a day. We enjoy feeding the songbirds but have gotten used to having "uninvited guests" show up to eat. Some birds, red wing blackbirds come to mind, as do starlings, are like hoards of locust. They swoop in, frightening off the smaller songbirds and then stuff themselves silly. We've had as many as 1,000 red wing blackbirds in our yard and they are fun to watch. They will gather as a crowd and fly in huge numbers back and forth, back and forth against the sky. I can hear their wings as they ply their acrobatics. It's as if they know they are putting on a show and take joy in swooping hither and yon.

We keep a hedge, of sorts, right at the bird feeder. We want some ground cover for both birds and rabbits. I know, I know we're silly people. But we do enjoy providing for even the least of God's creatures as long as they are rabbits and birds. I must admit I don't enjoy rats or possums or raccoons and would like them to stick to the woods or at least the neighbor's barns.

We've had frost, several mornings this week, and the crisp air has been a treat. I'm getting closer to wearing a flannel nightgown at night but will wait a few weeks to put flannel sheets on the bed. Our bedroom is the farthermost from the heat source and, in the dead of winter, will hover around 48 to 50 degrees. Dave thinks that's outrageous but I think it's cozy. After all, why have woolen blankets and mattress pads, flannel sheets and down comforters if not to stave off a chill? Not to mention dogs...when it's the dead of winter the dogs like to climb on the bed to assist in staying warm. I never knew what a Three Dog Night was until we moved to the mountains. We've had several such nights and usually in one spell of winter.

Our oil tank is full, our propane tanks topped off and we've wood in the barn for the wood stove. We're headed into winter with every intent of staying warm and toasty. The coffee pot and tea kettle stay at the ready and, sometimes, I'll make a treat of hot spiced tea or hot chocolate to go with our homemade shortbread or pie. I enjoy baking and usually have something home made to eat for breakfast, tea or a before bedtime snack. Actually though...the best time to have a home made baked snack and a hot beverage is while watching the birds at the feeder. Their happy song reflects the happiness on "this" side of the window and, for that moment, all is good and fair and kind here at Thistle Cove Farm.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mid-October 2005

The calendar may say autumn but we've yet to have a frost. It's a good thing because even though I'm assured of autumn coming this year, I'm still not prepared. It's been a hectic time and compounded by a nagging sinus infection and/or allergies. I've never had allergies and am still not quite sure if I've got them now. Folks who do have allergies, assure me I've got all the right symptoms but I rail against the idea. Being sick is *such* a waste of time and I suppose I bring it on myself by doing too much, not resting enough nor eating correctly. But, gosh, if I'd known I was going to get sick, I would have had more fun getting to this point!

Leslie Shelor - - and I spent a wonderful weekend in Richmond, VA at the 63rd National Folk Festival. We demonstrated fiber arts, both of us spinning on Saxony spinning wheels; she on a hand crafted Rick Reeves and I on the Volkswagen of wheels, the Ashford Elizabeth. Leslie has *much* more faith than I; my Reeves wheel was left at home; I only chanced injury to my Ashford. The Festival committee expected crowds in excess of 100,000 but wet weather kept the numbers down to 70,000. Perhaps the wet weather kept crowd numbers to a minimum. At any rate, please visit Leslie’s blog for more information and photos! She’s such a high and low-tech geek…I’m totally envious!

We stayed with my long time friend Mary Lois and had, almost, too much fun. Mary Lois and I have a wonderful shared history and I always, always enjoy sharing her company with like-minded friends. She’s also the new, proud owner of a small acreage farm in Charlotte County, VA. I’m hoping she joins the Virginias’ Women in Agriculture group at . We’re dedicated to assisting female small acreage farmers in Virginia but anyone, living anywhere, of either gender, is welcome to join. Mary Lois also has a delightful beagle named Lucy who is a total love bug and adores company as well.

Diana Blackburn - - put together a fabulous booth for 'Round the Mountain Southwest Virginia Artisan's Network group where Leslie and I demonstrated. Diana is a vivacious woman, full of great ideas, energy and God's own grace. All who have met and worked with her have enjoyed her professionalism and companionship. The 'Round the Mountain SWVAAN exists to promote and coordinate the efforts of artisans much like the Handmade in America group in western North Carolina. Many times, many ways has such an effort been attempted before but it's taken this particular steering committee and Diana to bring the idea to fruition. Woody & Jackie Crenshaw, Floyd, VA put together an incredible slide show using photos of southwest VA scenery and artisans as well as a brochure that highlighted same. Thanks all for the great job in making everyone look good.

Some folks who are in the Lost Arts Guild: Charlie Butcher - luthier (musical instrument maker), Bud Thompson - ironworks (courtn' candles, Celtic crosses, etc.), Brenda Hash - fillet crochet (Lord's Prayer, etc.), Ica Smith - old timey dolls, Leslie Shelor - fiber arts and works, Lura Cormier - fiber arts and works, Richard Vogel - woodworks (wooden hay rakes, benches, etc.), Joey Thompson - leather roping saddles & tack and Sandra (me) fiber arts and works. All these artisans are represented, here, at The Blue Ewe, the farm store at Thistle Cove Farm.

We've had blessed rain here at Thistle Cove Farm and are most exceedingly grateful. The dust has been tamped down, the pastures are greening a last time before autumn sets in and I'm busy readying the farm for winter. Windows need to be sealed, barns need to be repaired, equipment needs to have a last oil change, etc. and shelter prepared for all the animals. Even though the Curly horses and sheep don't need locking in a barn stall (and indeed will do poorly if kept sequestered there) they all need run-in shelter. They all need a bit of shelter from the wind for it's the wind that causes the most damage. The wind will strip all warmth and do severe damage, especially when paired with rain, icy rain or sleet. Everyone needs to have a space they can seek protection from the wind and the elements. I try to have two separate spaces for the largest group so they can split up. If I don't the more aggressive/assertive mares will push the lesser mares out into the weather. Even with curly coats and an extra layer of fat they may still get cold and that's a bad thing. I've already begun setting out round hay bales to start them into winter with some flesh on their bones. In addition to being hypoallergic, Curly horses are also easy keepers and it's walking a tight rope to see they get just enough, and not too much, food. Too much food is just as bad as too little.

Another friend, Dotsie B., is the brain behind the National Association of Baby Boomer Women - - and if you were born between 1946 and 1964 you need check her out. If you weren’t born between those years, you need to see what you’re missing.

The Queen of humor is found at . Georgia in Alabama is coming to visit me in Virginia…I find that’s a scream but then, I’m easily amused. She and her friend, Nancy, are going to Book ‘Em - An Innovative Book Fair as in Buy a Book and Stop a Crook in Waynesboro, VA later this month. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll want to visit for more information. I believe they will meet Dotsie at Book ‘Em as well…ya’ll have a ton of fun now, ya hear.

This seems to be a day for information dispersal so I might as well admit, I’m now a “smurf”. I had some two-ply, worsted weight white wool yarn at the festival and, for my own and the crowd’s amusement, I dyed it Kool Aid Berry Blast Blue. Today, I decided it needed to be a deeper blue so I dumped in some more Berry Blast Blue. Folks, it pays to have one’s mind on the business at hand. I casually stirred the whole “mess” with my right hand as opposed to using my dedicated dyeing wooden spoon. Yep, my right hand now looks like either the paw of a “smurf” or someone who’s laid out in a pine box. Let’s face it, neither is appealing.

Ah, but laughter at oneself is a gift given by God and He allows me many, many opportunities to freely avail myself of His generosity. You have the same opportunity; here’s hoping you make frequent use of it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Riding the Wind Currents

The dogs and I take early morning walks to survey the valley, our pastures and listen to bird song, cattle lowing, sheep bleating and the murmurings of horses. We usually are privileged to watch various bird species soar on the currents of blowing wind. Recently, a pair of golden eagles called to each other as they soared and played. They played rather lazily, using their wings, only occasionally, to push themselves up so they could drift down again. There have been times we've watched hawks and, more frequently, turkey vultures, do the same aerial acrobatics. As the birds soar and drift they tend to allow themselves to follow the wind currents. It may take five or even ten minutes but, eventually, they will drift from my eye sight leaving only their haunting calls to come back to my waiting ears. I've noticed they use this time of riding the wind currents as playtime and rarely have I seen one use this time as hunting time. Even the birds of the air seem to know there is a time for every season.

It's been dry, no rain for more than six weeks, and is still hot even though we've reached our first frost date of September 15th with no temperature dip of less than low 40's. Winter still seems a long way away but we're due a difficult winter and the wooly worms and nut harvest bears me out. The corn harvest, used for cattle silage, has been sparse and, in some fields, so thin the standing stalks of corn may be counted individually.

We've put up dry hay, God's own gift to us, and we have bought more hay. We're ready for a hard winter if and when it arrives. Three dozen sheep and almost a dozen horses have to be fed this winter and, as you might imagine, the colder and snowier the winter, the more the animals eat. Our pastures are now so dry and barren, I've already begun setting out round hay bales. The animals are eating some of the hay bales but seem to realize winter is coming and would rather continue to peck at the dry and dusty piddling pieces of grass than eat dry hay. Perhaps some bit of green still resides in the pasture grasses and the animals sense they need this green to tide them over a cold, long winter.

Earlier in September I testified to members of the VA Senate Ag Committee. Earlier this year, in February, House Bill 2903 was up for a vote by the Senate Ag Committee. If passed, it would have then gone to the VA General Assembly to be voted upon. While I might be persuaded the intent of the bill was good, the wording of the bill was clumsy and, had it passed, could/would have resulted in the demise of farming in the Commonwealth. One notable passage said farmers could no longer conduct commerce across state line. When I pointed out the *meaning* and *intent* were diametrically in opposition, I was told, several times, "Well, let the bill pass AS IT'S WRITTEN (emphasis mine) and we can change it later." To which I replied, "sign a blank check for me and I'll let you know later how much money I got when I cashed it."

Funny how none of us were greatly amused. Suffice it to say, the bill was killed in Committee and those same non-farmers are, once again, attempting to dictate to those of us who are farmers, how to run our farming business. This bill is coming before the Senate Ag Committee again in January; stay tuned for more details and how you can help. This February past, so many folks, farmers and non-farmer's alike, were in opposition and *said so* both in e-mails, snail mails and telephone calls that the Senate Ag Committees' phone lines "crashed". I was told so many calls went into their phone lines, their system became overloaded and just couldn't handle the volume. Also, every members' answer service was completely full of "vote NO" messages.

A lesson to us all...never think *one* person can't make a difference for it's only one person who ever does make a difference.

September has been a month of extreme pleasures and horrific losses.

Jim, my Dad, celebrated his 77th birthday in good health and looking forward to his 53rd wedding anniversary with his wife, my mother, Gladys. That wonderful event is in October and we'll celebrate Mom's birthday as well that month.

The Roanoke NoSo Knit was this month and is always, always a time of quiet pleasure for me. Sue, Rae, Tere and their team work wonders and so many people enjoy the fruits of their labor. Many, many thanks Sue, Rae, Tere and all of you who are the cause of so much enjoyment!

In September, Matt, my sister's step-son, was killed in a truck crash. Matt was a delightful twenty-one year old young man, full of promise and good manners and hope for the future of us all. He was just graduated, in June, cum laude from Averett College on a four year athletic scholarship. His death devastated entire communities both at home and at school and more than 600 people attended his funeral. Matt, we miss both you and the promise that was you and a piece of our lives and our love have been snuffed out as well.

The end of September draws hurriedly near. I'm on my second round of antibiotics for a sinus infection that got its start because of the dry, dusty weather. No matter the weather, the animals need tending to, feeding, watering. Some young men from the feed store, brothers James and Roger, helped me vet the sheep this month. They caught and I gave shots, de-worming medication and trimmed feet. It's a dirty, huge job and we ate dust in great quantities, although watching James catch a sheep, is worth the price of admission. He was trained correctly and catches a sheep with little stress to the animal. "Of course," he likes to tell me, "catching your sheep is easy because you work with them so much and they are pets." James also commented on the beauty, thickness and quality of their fleeces. My sheep were just sheared the third Saturday in April and already their fleeces have grown around four inches. Because I like to keep stress levels down in my little flock, they reward me with incredible fleeces. Although there is this one little lamb who has the top side of his fleece worn down a bit. It looks like he's been scrunching under a fence somewhere and his fleece isn't as nice as the rest of the lambs. There's always a black sheep some where, going some place he's not supposed to, eh?

Today is Sunday, a good day for observing the Sabbath and is always a good day for reflection...what have I done right this week, what could I have done better, what plans do I have for the upcoming week. Hurricanes' Katrina and Rita have brought us no rain and, with the rest of the country, even the world perhaps...?, our family anxiously watched the news. We wept with those who wept, we rejoiced with those who rejoiced and wondered at the meaning of it all.

Sunday is a day for me to ride the currents of the wind; to pause and reflect; to focus, primarily, on giving thanks. To know that no matter how far I may drift, I'm never out of eye sight of God and His provisions. His love is always as close and as sheltering as the east is from the west. There is no place I can, nor want to, run and hide from His love. As the Psalmist said, "His shelter over me is love" and that's enough to carry me whether the wind blows or not.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

So many of our sayings have their roots in agriculture...making hay while the sun shines, broadcast seeds and...memory fails me right now for more. Yesterday we made hay, all the while racing against the storm that threatened to overshadow us and ruin the hay. Hay that's been rained upon is good only for cattle or sheep or other four stomached animals...but not equines. Hay that's put up wet can mold and this can be a cause of severe ill ness or even death in horses.

The usual run of events is cut hay one day, kick or fluff it the next and bale it the next. Kicking or fluffing hay means to flip it over causing the dry top side to be underneath the, now on top, wetter hay that was next to the ground. At Thistle Cove Farm, we usually have the first cutting in July and it's put up into round bales which weigh around eleven hundred pounds each. These round bales are moved by use of the tractor and a spear; very dangerous but I go really, really slowly, take my time and use all precautions. The second cutting is put up into square, actually rectangle, bales which can weigh anywhere from sixty-five to seventy-five to one hundred pounds. It all depends upon how the baler is set. Yesterday the baler was set to a minimum of seventy-five pounds and around three and a half to four feet in length. All of which means, I'd better increase my time at Curves from three days a week to five! These bales have to be hand handled; this winter, I'll have to carry them the length of the hay loft, drop them to the ground below and then life and load them into my Workhorse to be distributed to the animals. It's a lot like cutting firewood...I get warmed a lot because the hay is handled many times prior to be eaten by the horses and sheep.

It was a l-o-n-g day yesterday and very stressful. The hurricane, Katrina, is supposed to send us some wet thunderstorms. There's also a storm coming down from the lakes so we spent the afternoon and evening racing against the rain. God was so good in that He held the rain at bay and we put up DRY hay! Thank you, God! Yes, I'm one of "those people" who believe in prayer, but, more importantly, I believe God hears my/our prayers. I kept reminding Him of how He had stilled the storm for the disciples and how He's the same yesterday, today and forever. Yes, it was more for my account than His but my memory is such a poor servant, it helps me keep life in perspective.

We put up hay on shares as well as share our barn space and the young folks worked like Trojans yesterday. I don't swing hay bales anymore but will drive the tractor, pulling the wagon, to collect hay bales to be stored in the barn. I make sure everyone who wants to eat, has a hot meal at the end of our day. I cooked and fed in two shifts yesterday; the first group eating around seven p.m. and the second around eleven p.m. I'd rather have more food than too little food and, while the table didn't look like the tables I remember from childhood, I still managed to put on a good feed, as they say. Folks ate sliced cantaloupe, sliced tomatoes, corn, green beans with bacon, baked potatoes and onions, chicken sausage, kielbasa sausage, Brunswick stew, home made biscuits, sweet tea, lemonade and homemade apple pie. Never let it be said anyone walks away from *my* table and is still hungry! --grinning at my own silly self here-- My female kith and kin would have my hide for such an egregious sin.

We had a bit of mist but no rain; when I went to the farmers' market this morning, I found they had had a downpour resulting in standing water. All this only twenty miles up the road. It's a small farmers' market but I like buying locally and from folks I know. The sweet corn was picked only minutes before I bought it and will be nice served with butter beans. The red and yellow tomatoes are sweet when served with just a touch of sea salt. The market was smaller this morning because of the rain but I chatted with folks and enjoyed the outing.

I stopped by the library and picked up some books on tape, some hard backed books and bought some paper back books from the sale table. I'll listen to the books on tape while I weave my rag run or knit. The hard back books I'll read whilst ensconced on the chaise lounge on the back porch. I'm taking two whole days off...OH JOY! I'm taking today off because I had close to a twenty hour day yesterday and my "old bones" need a wee bit more recovery time than they used to need. I'll take tomorrow, Sunday, off because I keep the Sabbath and only do that work which is necessary. That means feeding the animals, going to church and doing whatever emergency work crops up, if any.

When we first moved to the farm, I didn't observe the Sabbath, I'd go to church in the morning and then come home and in physical labor. It took me years and a Bible study on the Andy Griffith series, to realize people keep the Sabbath for a very good reason. It's impossible to work seven days a week for any length of time and not pay the price. The price is usually sickness or illness or accident or the family suffers due to impatience, grouchiness, churlishness, pettiness and the like. I believe I'm a better person for keeping the Sabbath; Dave agrees with me and we both enjoy a day of rest and relaxation.

By having a day, or two, of R&R I can hit the floor Monday at a run. I can enter my work week refreshed and relaxed, ready to do the work God sets before me. Without sacrificing today, I'm already looking forward to Monday.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Summer is slowing

Each morning the fog lies heavy, so heavy that we can only see a few yards before the white mist obliterates all. I've heard there's a correlation between the number of fogs in August and the number of snows to follow. If that's the case, we're up to 25 snows and counting. We've had fog every morning this month and that's not unusual. Temperatures are dropping as well and the 50 degree F nights make for pleasant sleeping. Day temps are still in the high 80's but that's bearable knowing that night brings coolness.

Last weekend we had a covered dish dinner for my nephew who is home from the Air Force. Seeing the man he's becoming, the self confidence and assurance he possesses, makes me think our country is the poorer for not having a draft. So many young people seem to be adrift, without any direction, so angry and bitter. I was raised with a strong work ethic and, while it's true I've fought being a work-a-holic in my day, it's also true I've never been bored. I'm blessed in that I've got meaningful work in my life and one of my daily prayers is "Please God, give me the strength to do the work you've set before me."

Can one have a life worth living without having meaningful work? I don't think so. I believe work is a gift and meaningful which gives us joy and pleasure and a reason for also a blessing.

As a society, we seem to have lost our pride in a job well done. We no longer give our employer a full days work in exchange for an agreed upon wage. We've forgotten that, for a good many of us, we *do* have a choice. Change is difficult and sometimes overwhelming but most of us have the power to make changes in our lives that will turn us topsy turvy. What we lack is the courage to make those changes.

School has started as has my class at Concord University. I teach Tourism Promotions and have about a dozen students this semester. I try and make them understand how vital it is for them to find the work that will enrich their lives; that will allow them to bloom and blossom as periennals and not as annuals. Life is for the long haul, I hope, and I want life in my years as well as years in my life.

Erma Bombeck once said (paraphrased) when she died she wanted to stand in Heaven, before God, empty handed, and say, "I haven't brought anything back; I used it all up." What an incredible life well lived!

Each day we touch the lives of others, either in a positive or in a negative way. I want God to say to me just like the Knight said in the Indiana Jones movie, "You chose wisely."

I challenge you...each and every time you leave your home, pay a total stranger a compliment. If circumstances prevent you from leaving your home you can still play. Tell the clerk at the grocery store you appreciate her patience. Tell the auto mechanic "thank you for doing such a good job on my car." Give the person on the other end of the telephone line a nice compliment. Tell someone, anyone something least once a day. Cast your good bread upon the waters; treat others the way you'd like to be treated; put out good karma.

Don't pay it back; pass it forward and make it something that will cause people to remember you kindly...if not in total surprise. Then, reap the benefits of choosing, and acting, wisely.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

R&R and the speed of life

Last night I was so pleased to be able to take the time to sit down and update my blog. Folks who update on a daily basis have my utmost admiration! It's not such an onerous job but it does take time from an already crowded schedule. So, I updated, was quite pleased with the results I must say, hit the submit button and **CRASH**...lost everything including my sanity. Ah well...such is life.

Dave and I have just returned from a vacation to San Francisco, northern California and southern Oregon. One highlight was salmon fishing on the Rogue River where Dave caught a thirty-two pound salmon and I a ten pound salmon. They took Dave's photo and gave him a "30 pound club" pen for his hat; they let me watch.

We walked the hills of SF until we were both exhausted but walked through China Town and had some dim sum for lunch. On a street corner, a woman was hawking her family's restaurant so we followed her and ate lunch. The food was good and we enjoyed the little break. We saw the Golden Gate Bridge, before the fog set in, the rock that's called Alcatraz, which looks forboding and forlorn, and the usual street party happenings at Fisherman's Wharf and Gheradelli Square. We wanted to ride the street cars but the waiting line was several hundred people long...our desire was outdistanced by our common sense. We hailed a cab instead.

We took Dave's GPS which was a stress reducer and time saver. I drove and he navigated and we made out just fine. I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, going and coming, and that was fun. We headed to Petaluma where Knitterly Yarn Shop is located with great staff and selection. They gave us a short cut to #1 Highway which is the Coastal Highway and that was one of our primary "tourism destinations". The Coastal Highway goes up the coast with breathtaking scenery of both the Pacific Ocean and the dramatic cliffs that hug the ocean. We eventually made our way through the Redwood Forest and that was awe inspiring. As high as the eye can see and the neck can crane the trees go up, up, up, up. My God is an awesome God.

Grants Pass is where Dave spent his early years and we saw the house where he remembers living. He called his sister and mother, back on the East Coast, and they tripped down memory lane. The Grants Pass Farmers' Market is the oldest in southern Oregon and just filled with fabulous food, hand made crafts and a white woman with dreadlocks singing her folk song heart out. That was a sight...a white woman with dreadlocks singing folks songs. It seemed a bit incongruous to me but she did have a lovely voice. Away from the ocean the heat was dreadful! It was supposed to be around 100 that day and one farmer told me, "oh but it's a dry heat." hot isn't hot if you're not sweating. Trust me, it was still hot but the only difference between East Coast heat and West Coast heat is I wasn't stewing in my juices.

Back to the coast where we enjoyed lovely cool temps, lots of fog and, at the Albion River Inn a fire in the fireplace if we were awake. How lovely is the overlooks where the Albion River enters the Pacific Ocean and the scenery is breathtaking! We did some major rest and relaxation and our entertainment was reading, knitting or simply gazing out the window. No televisions available; those ARI folks have their priorities straight.

The Mendocino Yarn Shop is, quite simply, fabulous. The owner is a truly delightful woman who is very free with her knowledge, her time and her self. She was moving next door into a larger building and was having a sale in the old shop. What Bliss! To find a yarn shop having a major sale...some serious burning was done of the the old credit cards and I was happy to do it. I found a copy of a Mission Falls pattern book I didn't have; Mags K. is the Mission Falls designer and probably my favorite. I enjoy looking at her patterns as much as I enjoy knitting them. If anyone knows her, please pass along the compliment...her work is terrific.

On the flight out, we were stranded in Charlotte, NC airport for five hours but I wasn't bored. I always take my knitting,...along with the TSA page that says knitting needles are allowed...and I sat in the main terminal, in a rocking chair, and whiled away the hours. I met three other knitters, one of whom I had read about in a earlier issue of Spin-Off Magazine. It was a charming and delightful way to pass time while waiting for our new flight connection.

We've been home a few days, have settled back into a routine and are happy to be here. Vacation is most heartily recommended, especially those that are longer than a long weekend. Three days are nice but, somehow, don't quite give the same amount of stress reduction as does a longer vacation. For the next few months we'll eat smoked salmon and relive our fishing adventures. Last night we had a supper of warmed smoked salmon over a bed of mesculin greens with dried cherries and a vinaigrette dressing. It was worthy of being served in a restaurant!

Time is approaching for school to start, craft festivals to begin and autumn is coming. It seems almost too soon we're getting ready for cooler and colder weather, long johns, boots and woolens. I did take a lot of photos and did buy a lot of post cards while on vacation so will have those to remind me of good times.

Now if I could just figure out *how* to get photos on this blog!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Rain....blessed rain!

The drought is over and rain is heaven's gift to the thirsty land. We've actually got water standing in the pastures; not that it's been a hard rain but rather it's been a constant rain. I adore the rain, whether doing my farm chores or sitting on the back porch just waching the animals and the rain.

Today, the air has been so humid it depletes my energy...what a lovely reason for porch sitting! But, depleated energy leaves little strength left over for even the simple act of breathing. At times I must concentrate on drawing in a breath deep, and, after holding it for a moment or two, release it slowly, carefully so as not to give in to the vertigo of a quick release.

It seems the most joyous of life's moments are like a deep breath. Compelling, fulfilling but ephemeral and, all too soon, a memory destined to fade all too quickly.

A favorite author is Jeanine McMullen, I try and read her books every year. She's an expat Aussie who bought a smallholding in Wales and her books are the tale of her farm journey. A Small Country Living, A Small Country Living Goes On and The Wind in the Ash Tree are so well written and I always laugh until I cry at some of her experiences. She loves her animals as much as I love mine and their personalities are as real to me as any human I've ever met. I would love to meet Ms McMullen, better yet in Wales over a cuppa and with one of her books in my hand. If any of you know her, please tell her I'm a great admirer.

Recently someone gave me a wonderful compliment... they said my writing reminded them of Gladys Tabor; what a kind comparison! She wrote so many books of her life at Stillmeadow; a 1950's Connecticut farm with so many memories put to paper, with accompanying photos.

She said, "We need time to dream, time to remember, and time to reach the infinite. Time to be." How true yet how many of us actually take that time? Tempus Fugit...but we're always so busy, going here and doing that...
I'm one of those people who have a small flock of rare Shetland, Romney and Merino sheep specifically for their fiber; not for their meat. They earn their keep by providing me with excellent quality fleeces which are then processed into blankets, yarn or hand crafted items. They also earn their keep by just being themselves and giving, unconditional, love on a daily basis. (Although I have noticed with some, their love seems directly related to the corn bucket.) Farming is my choice of lifestyle. It's how kith and kin lived in generations past. My family settled Appalachia more than 250 years ago and put down roots for mostly poorer in money, richer in living.

As a society, it seems we've exchange busyness for productivity and haven't even noticed we've sold our souls. We tell each other we're "just busy, busy, busy" but, really, don't have much to show for it except short tempers and crossness.

It's true I struggle to sell my limited collection of farm spun wool yarn
but I'd rather struggle at selling my yarn than at a two hour commute each
day. My commute is strolling down to the stables each morning and feeding the sheep and horses. Along the way, each one greets me and is most excited to see me coming. I've got time each day to play with the kittens, curry a horse and carry my knitting to the pasture...all because Dave and I have made choices to slow down, stop being so busy and enjoy life while we're living it. And, there's absolutely nothing like knitting with yarn from a sheep I know. It gives a circularity to life that suits me just fine.

So, while it's true time does fly, it flies more slowly when I allow it to sift through my fingers...when I take time to sit, to think, to be. I give myself permission to enjoy both my rest and my labor, to enjoy myself, my home, my family, my husband, my sieze the day.

Carpe Diem...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Independence Day 05

I truly appreciate the sacrifices of those who have made another Independence Day possible; many, many thanks. We spent the Holiday visiting Aunt Esther and other family members in WV. My brother and his wife have just purchased a 130 acre farm in Randolph County and they have become bona fide rural farm dwellers...welcome, I say...welcome! Country life is a great life even though some small luxuries such as ethnic food/restaurants, wonderful food markets and bookstores are given up in exchange. Fortunately, we live within a 90 minute drive of such luxuries and aren't disposed all that much. Our "local" city even has a yarn store...oh joy!

I adore gathering with whatever family and friends can make it to the cabin. We sit, talk, eat and I'm usually knitting as well and enjoy the good company of shared experiences, shared family, shared love. When Dave and I came home it was to attend the 25th wedding anniversary of friends; I also photographed that pleasant gathering. It was so delightful to just sit and listen to the laughter and talk of folks who gathered to celebrate Richard and Carlena. There were many children, toddlers and infants, who completed the circle of life.

Unfortunately, on Saturday morning before I left for the picnic, a kitten dodged under my foot while I was at the barn trying to feed everyone. I heard the yowl of anticipated kitten pain, jerked my foot upwards which threw my entire body off kilter. DOWN I went on the dirt barn floor with no one to share my misery nor help me to my feet. As I've aged, I've noticed falling is a more serious event. It just plain *jostles* me and seems to rattle my brains, my breathing, my center. It takes me a few moments to stagger to my feet, all the while managing to avoid bashing my head into the barn wall, and lean, gasping while clasping a post to lend some support. I stood there a bit trying to gathering myself, my thoughts, my center and then managed to finish feeding horses, sheep and cats.

We've had problems with feral cats moving into our barns and our beloved barn cats (Miss 91, Miss Kitty, Skunk, Leonetta and Hattie's Mother) don't care for the competition. Can't say as I blame them. I can't catch the wild things and don't have the heart to not feed them. When I go to the barn, they are waiting as if expecting me to run the gauntlet (which I do) and when I put my hand into the manger to gather up the food dishes, the dratted things swat and hiss at me. With the rabies count in this county up to eight animals, having feral barn cats is a *serious* matter. I've borrowd a have-a-heart trap and am trying to catch them to take them to the shelter. At least they will be given a peaceful end and I'll not have to worry about having to take rabies shots.

At first I thought my injuries would prevent me from attending Leslie's Crafts in the Meadows (please see Leslie's blog for more information and photos, but after keeping ice on my leg for more than three hours Saturday, I decided to try the two hour drive Sunday. I am SO glad I did! What a delightful day...her brother, Sammy Shelor, played bluegrass music with the Compton family, Lura of Friendship Farm ( had her tri-loom and a beautiful mohair shawl being woven upon it, Leslie was spinning and had her lovely crochet work displayed, her sister-in-law, Sue, displayed hand crafted gourds and some folks from the Appalachian Author's Guild were in attendance. It was a good first showing for all of us.

It was wonderful being in the company of friends who share fiber interests and I'm looking forward to August 13 when we do it all again.

Yesterday, the actual 4th of July, was spent quietly. I knitted a baby blanket and worked on my woven rag rug (started at the earlier mentioned craft show) and enjoyed a peaceful day. No matter which side of the political camp we make our beds, surely we can all agree to give a heartfelt thank you to our service men and women who ensure our freedoms. As we all know, freedom isn't free and the efforts and sacrifices of our military personnel are all gratefully appreciated.

While I'm expressing gratitude, let me give thanks to God for the bountiful rain we had today, Tuesday. Our patures have been so dry and the grass so brittle and I've been concerned about food supplies for my animals. We had a bit of rain last night as well and with the rain today, perhaps we might stave off a shortage of hay. I'm hopeful we'll get a second cutting of hay before frost sits in. It seems funny to be talking about frost but it's only a few weeks away; we'll have frost by September 15 some years.

I should have put some baby shampoo on the horses and if I'd known it was going to rain I would have. Shampoo makes it easier to brush the horses and also decreased the tangles in their manes and tails. They really enjoy being brushed; can't say as I blame them. How delightful to be fussed over; being fussed over is in short supply in this chilly world.

I hope someone fusses over you the most pleasant way imaginable, of course.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Time is Fleeting...Wear Purple Now!

Time is Fleeting - Wear Purple Now!

"Time is fleeting and I'm not waiting to wear purple
Or red or kiwi or orange or magenta or any other color

I'll spend my time sitting under the sunflowers while the mares snuffle my hair and kittens play in my lap

Today I'll take my knitting to the pasture and chance a wet bottom when I sit on the ground
Samuel and Carly will nuzzle my pockets for treats of corn while the other sheep bleat at their boldness

My needles will lie quietly as I watch birds float on unseen columns of wind
The barn swallows and goldfinches and robins and even the buzzards will bring me joy on their outstretched wings

Tonight at midnight, the dogs and I will walk in the pasture
I'll whisper secrets to the horses and sheep
I'll look for falling stars and the big and little dipper and will nail Orion's belt with the north star

I'll drink good wine and strong beer and sweet water
I'll eat chocolate for breakfast and pastry for lunch
mix cream in my flavored coffee and turn up my nose at powdered milk and ill mannered people

Tomorrow I'll give compliments to perfect strangers and speak to people on the street just to watch their reactions as I grin at my silly self

I've worn hats for over thirty years and see no need to stop
I'll not waste happiness on tomorrow but spend it willy nilly today
Time is fleeting and I'm wearing purple now"

Sandra Bennett, copyright 2004

Friday, June 03, 2005

Cat Head Biscuits

How many hundreds of times have I watched my Grandmothers, Aunts and Mother’s hands deftly turn raw flour, shortening and buttermilk into biscuits? With the addition of a little sugar and vanilla that same mixture would turn into melt in my mouth sugar cookies.

In my earliest memories of Grandmother Hattie Gay’s kitchen I am seated on the 6’ long bench hand carved by Granddaddy, my elbows propped on the table, drinking in the sights and smells of Grandmother’s bustling endeavors. Grandmother made cat head biscuits...the kind of biscuits that would see a man through a day of cutting timber or laying railroad line. Her biscuits were huge, more like tomcat head size, and for a little girl of 3 or 4, required both hands just to lift them from plate to mouth.

She always had a churn of butter going so when those biscuits made their way out of the wood fired oven there was a mound of butter waiting to be slid between bottom and top. On special occasions she would have some black strap molasses heated on the stove, into which a pinch of baking soda had been whipped. Once the 'lasses foamed, the biscuits were torn apart and that hot ‘lasses poured over both sides. It was only when I was an adult that I heard the phrase that fit, “to die for”.

Aunt Bonnie’s hands could turn out a pan of cathead biscuits as well. She, like her mother, would use fresh ingredients, a wood fired oven and make the same miracle. Aunt Bonnie had the rolling pin that her Grandpa Samp had carved for his wife using a solid piece of poplar wood. Even so, Aunt Bonnie never actually rolled out the dough, but rather patted them into a round shape and took her tin can and cut out the biscuits. She said the more you worked the dough, the tougher the biscuit. The little leftover bits she would pull into a longish shape, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and tuck in the bread pan alongside the biscuits.

Mother doesn’t make cat head biscuits. She likes her biscuits a little less doughy and a little smaller. They taste just as good but, somehow, my eye and my mind are at war with each other. It just seems like such a waste of effort to butter and ‘lasses what should rightly, to my mind, be a ham biscuit biscuit. You know, one of those cute little biscuits made by beating the dough 300 or 400 times.

I, as you might imagine, make cat head biscuits. When Mother and Daddy visit, I do try to remember to make a couple of ham biscuit size biscuits but my hands reject the betrayal. It is always an argument to get my hands to pat out thinner dough in smaller sizes. Too often my hands are the victors and the loss is my mothers. When I bring the biscuits to the table, I see in her eyes a slight disappointment. Once again, I have failed her and we are each reminded of the differences between us.

My parents have a snapshot taken of me when I was 6. I stare defiantly into the camera and am wearing a cowgirl outfit complete with hat, boots and twin six shooters. I’m seated on a pony attached to a carousel and the owner had interrupted my daydreaming long enough for whom – Mother or Daddy? – to take my picture.

I always wanted to be a cowboy and live on a farm (never a ranch). I wanted to tend to animals, fix fences, work a garden but never hang curtains, vacuum rugs or wash dishes. On top of the betrayal of not wanting to be a “girly” girl I also made cat head biscuits.

My mother has often despaired of me over the years; but she and I are also alike in many ways. I share her tender heart toward animals, children and old people, her love of books (especially the Bible), putting up (canning) the garden every year and her dislike of wasting anything.

As importantly, I share her hands. Side by side the older and younger hands speak silently to decades of honest work, of loving play, of making a life for our families and ourselves. In her case, she tries to keep her nails manicured; I simply try to keep mine trimmed and clean. In the years I’ve lived on our farm, I’ve had nail polish on exactly one time but I do wear good gloves and that helps. Working with the sheep also helps as the lanolin works its way into my hands and, eventually, softens them somewhat.

I don’t think Mother understands my love of the farm, the mountains, my horses and sheep. She questions why I do the physical labor necessary to keep the farm going. My lifestyle puzzles her much, I imagine, as I did when she was trying to tame an unruly tomboy into a ribbon and lace little girl.

It is not in our physical looks that we are alike either. She is dark haired, brown-eyed and turns a lovely golden brown in the sun. I am her exact opposite; I am blond, green-eyed and sallow skinned. Rather it is in what lies below the surface that bonds us more tightly than death could separate. We are both strong women with strong opinions, strong likes and dislikes, strong love and hatreds. It is in our strengths that I find I am, after all, my Mother’s daughter. I look at our hands, Mom...our hands and our hearts.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Blackberry Winter

In the second chapter of the Song of Soloman, verses 11 & 12 it says, "For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."

Around here it's more the voice of the peepers at night while birds, sheep, horses, cattle, cats and dogs vie for attention during the day. Blackberry winter seems later this year but, at last, summer has arrived. We've seen the last of the cold until September and sheep have taken to the shade of the few trees located in the back pasture.

Blackberry winter is the cold snap/spell that comes after the warm spell that comes, usually, in May. It's sort of like Easter, doncha know? Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox. At any rate, summer has arrived and to be dealt with by dipping my straw hat in the horse trough and then placing it, still dripping, atop my head. The bandana gets the same treatment and then tied, still dripping, around my neck. Thus, making a farm fashion statement, I trudge through the heat of the day *if* I don't decide to take to the lounge chair on the back porch first.

After all attempts to save it, the lamb died and was buried here on the farm and the other sheep continue on, healthy and convinced they are being starved. It would be funny if some of them didn't waddle when they ran.

Memorial Weekend was spent in the company of family and friends where Dad was born and raised in WV. My family settled the Appalachian Mountains of, what is now West VA, in the mid 1700's and established themselves as farmers and shepherds. The Appalachian Mountains are home for me; I enjoy their age and beauty and the history and tradition that so many of us share. Mountain and country folk have a special talent for porch sitting and savoring the niceness of food, fellowship and story telling. Many a pleasant hour has been spent listening to the stories that bind us one to another as well as to these mountains.

This family story is a bit fuzzy with the events having occured in the late 1800's. Granddaddy's daddy (this would be the Bennett side) had decided to move and, some say, uproot his family to travel, by foot, horseback and wagon, to a new homestead, some many miles and several counties, distant. Granddaddy's mother, his sisters and infant brother all traveled by horse drawn wagon, in the company of other folks in wagons. Most of the rest of the men and older boys (including Granddaddy who was a youngster) went by horseback and foot. Because the men could travel faster than a wagon, they went a longer route in order to buy supplies of sugar, salt, bolts of cloth, etc.

The wagon train had to cross a river that was swollen by flood waters. Usually, it was crossed at a safe place by locating a tree that had been uprooted and then lodged in a lower lying area. Great Grandmother found the tree and began the river crossing but didn't realize the tree had, again, been uprooted and moved further downstream. The wagon overturned and most cargo and all lives were lost.

When Granddaddy and Great Grandfather arrived at their new homestead it was to find seven coffins laid out with his mother, sisters and infant brother prepared for burial. Family lore also has it that Granddaddy's Grandmother was a Cherokee American Native, even a Chief's Daughter, but that knowledge, for certain, has been lost to time.

So many have gone on before; so great a cloud of witnesses. So many who have lived and loved and died in these mountains. We were cut off for so long by the very mountains we love and we've lost sight of so much knowledge and wisdom. So few of us pick ramps or branch lettuce in the spring or 'sang in the autumn. So much knowledge has been lost to us and, I believe, we're the poorer for the loss.

So, I plant a small kitchen garden, a few fruit trees and maybe a nut tree or two. I plant because I believe in a future where God's people will not only endure but triumph. I plant because I believe in a future where the stories will still matter and still be told.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

May Day

In the ten years we've lived at Thistle Cove Farm, I've slept in (without being sick) only a couple of times. And...every time I've slept in I've usually regretted it; this morning was no exception. It's been coolish and raining and perfect sleeping weather. Abigail, the Jack Russell, woke at pre-dawn because of a strange (as in doesn't belong to the farm) cat on the front porch. Nothing would do except for me to trudge downstairs and let Abbie (and now Shaddie, the Ridgeback) give chase. Grandma Gracie, our older Aussie Corgie mix, thought the whole thing silly and stayed put.

After a good chase, bathroom excursions and a drink of water we all trudged back upstairs where we claimed positions on the bed.

The next time our eyes sprung open it was 9:30 and animals all over the farm were screaming their discontent and telling the world of their immanent starvation due to nutritional needs not being met. To quiet your fears it should be mentioned that two years ago I paid our equine vet perfectly good money to stick his arm up a filly's rear end for a pregnancy check. Smudge, said filly, was growing and growing and growing...I feared she had gotten pregnant and, if so, should/could/would not have a baby at such a tender age herself. Of course, the vet was here on a day when so was half the valley...all men of course and all standing around as if they had nothing better to do than expect a good laugh at my expense.

And, without going into further detail, a good laugh was indeed had by almost all. Although I do admit it was some of the best money I've ever spent. I'm a person who believes life and death are in the hands of God and don't like my beliefs challenged by making stupid mistakes...although are there any other kind? So much of life is messy and, like most folks, I prefer it nice and neat in all the right compartments and a two year old pregnant filly is definitely the wrong compartment!

I'm pulling on clothes, can hear Dave talking to someone and then he runs upstairs to tell me I've got a lamb down. Our friend, JC, is at the back door and gives me the bad news...the lamb is down and stiff but still breathing; panting actually. I run to the pasture and find the lamb just as reported. The little fellow is stiff and, pardon the expression, dead weight. JC carries him to the front yard to put him under the shade of a tree and I head down the road to see Clinton, a neighbor who has been shepherding and farming all his life. He was born on a sheep and cattle farm and has forgotten more than I'll ever know. I find Clinton on his tractor in a back field and wait until he makes the turn to come back to me. While waiting I amuse myself by playing with cats, enjoying the beautiful day and praying. I say amuse myself by praying because if you've heard the expression..."if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans" you'll understand what I mean.

Clinton hears the symptoms, asks me a couple of questions and then says, "sounds like tetanus to me. Have you castrated recently?" Ummm...yes, last weekend and we cut, didn't band. We also gave all appropriate vaccinations at that time. Clinton tells me it's fairly unusual to have one get tetanus like this but it can and does happen. Even though it's never happened to one of my lambs before, it's happened now. At least that's our best guess and Clinton's worst guess is better than anything I know for sure.

I came home to give more shots in an attempt to save the lamb's life but it doesn't look good. I hate losing an animal even though I understand we, all of us, are terminal as soon as we draw that first breath. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. Still, it rankles me to lose to death. I don't like it and fight against it even though death is more certain than taxes.

The good news is the ewe with bad scours is turned out with her lamb and both are doing well. The kittens at the barn are eating well and seem to be adjusting to being weaned too early by their mother. Dave's foot is doing somewhat better, dogs are healthy, horses and rest of sheep are fine, I'm good...all in all I'll take it.

As the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3 said, "To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted..."

Nope, farm life is never static, rarely dull and always something happening at Thistle Cove Farm.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Spring @ Thistle Cove Farm

For such a low tech geek as I, this is a complete leap of faith...starting a blog! I'm more comfortable out in the pasture with my sheep and horses or sitting at the spinning wheel or loom than meandering my way around a computer.

Farm life is always interesting, seldom dull and never static. Such has been the case this week. It's been determined Dave does not have a broken foot (although it is the same foot the brown recluse bit him on last month - sigh) and, since learning this, he's been walking a bit less gingerly. He's still headed to Russia next month as a small business consultant and, hopefully, to help increase the flow of money by purchasing some delicious Orenburg shawls, hats and other offerings as they present themselves.

The Komi Kids Yarn Project was a huge success due to the assistance of so many people from around the world. The Children's Home in
Syktyvkar made many beautiful things from the natural fibers yarn we sent them. Those darling children recently sent me a hand crochet shawl they made as a thank you; please see our farm website - - for photos and the rest of the story.

Lambing is over this year and we had great success with a modicum of failures. I love seeing a pasture full of lambs playing and enjoying their young life; it greatly strengthens my faith in God and the order and design of the universe.

TCF Dan's Meri Scamp was born and he's a beauty! Scamp is a curly coated (sometimes a Curly horse can have a straight coat) American Curly horse with loud, pinto markings, a gaited step and the full knowledge he's special.

Today it's overcast again and the rain and cool temps continue; it's been an incredibly cool, rainy Spring. Kittens are calling for their breakfast, sheep are bleating their happiness at the weather and horses are calling my name. IOW, chores await.

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