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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.

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 - www.greenberry.blogspot.com - 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 www.virginiaswomeninagriculture@yahoogroups.com . 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 - www.roundthemountain.com - 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 - www.nabbw.com - 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 www.queenjawjaw.com . 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 www.bookemfoundation.org 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.