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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.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Above Freezing!

For the first time in two weeks, we're above freezing and it felt positively balmy. I dressed in only three layers while doing my farm chores and was on the tractor and in the elements for almost three hours. A round bale of hay had to be set out for the mares and Dandy, water checked, minerals replinshed, food for sheep and horses and a vet visit. It helped the wind wasn't blowing; that always adds to my grief as well as to the wind chill factor.

I finished knitting and delivered my hat for the Lions auction at end of February. Last year they raised $11,000 for various charities in the town and county. One of these years, I'll find someone in town who will let me watch the televised auction; we have satellite and can't receive any local coverage at all. That's one thing about makes rural people even more isolated and cut off from the community. When I do go into town, I enjoy catching up on community events by spending a few extra minutes chatting at the post office, library and feed store.

I'm finishing up a purple wool shawl and a varigated blue rayon scarf, both for me. After that, I'll finish hand quilting my quilt, weaving my rag rug and, maybe, finish that sweater I started years ago.

Over the weekend, Thistle Cove Farm had a bit of excitement. Jon Lohman, of the VA Folklife Program, and his photographer, Morgan, came for a visit. I'm afraid both gents were icicles; it never got above twenty degrees F and with a wind, was probably around zero or below. Jon, just about frozen stiff, graciously stood for a photo with me and Abigail.
They wanted to take photos of Linda W., my apprentice, and me as Apprentice and Master in Traditional Fiber Arts. The Folklife Program has been in existence five years and it's an honor to have been chosen...the first Fiber Artist and the first person working with animals/sheep. It validates what I've spent these last dozen years doing and it gives recognition to all of us who are spending their days and time shepherding and farming.

Sophie Shetland, one of my favorite ewes, is helping Morgan with his camera. Sophie is a great hand to help.
Linda spent some of her time using the Elbe picker on some washed Shetland fleece.
It was a delightful and blessed day...all of us enjoyed the company, the animals, the work, the day. Jon and Morgan kept commenting on the that they meant the lack of city noise. We rarely listen to the radio (only when there's a basketball game Dave can't watch on t.v.) and spend about 3 to 5 hours a week watching television. I need to be able to hear what the animals are telling me...are they stressed, anxious, calm, peaceful and I can't hear their voices when there's the noise of a radio or television.
Time for supper so thanks for visiting, the gift of your time is greatly appreciated.
Grateful heart ~
*warmer weather
*good health
*wonderful friends
*home made bread
*home made toasted coconut chess pie
*a good night's sleep

Monday, February 05, 2007


Weather report is calling for tonight to be the coldest one thus far...somewhere around zero with wind chills of minus fifteen degrees F.

Now Wait Just a Doggone Minute!
Isn't that the weather report for last night? I think so...
I moved horses around today, made sure everyone has shelter, food and water. When it's this cold, shelter is a necessity. My neighbor seems to think I pamper my animals and he's, probably, right but, like Dave points out, "my animals, my money, my time" so it's all right to "pamper" them with shelter, warm water and fresh hay. Odd, but I never thought of those things as pampering; I've always thought of those things as necessities.
Grateful heart:
*Dave...he takes care of his women and when you look up the words "steadfast, honorable, faithful" in the dictionary, there's his picture

*Stephanie - beloved beautiful sister who has more talents than she can use in one lifetime
*Steve - beloved handsome brother who has a depth of soul unmatched

*Godly parents - Jim & Gladys who preach the love of Christ every day of their lives...sometimes they even use words

*honest work both to earn my keep and to increase life's enjoyment

*winter - even Earth must have her sleep

Sunday, February 04, 2007


It is, as Daddy and Mother like to say, blue blazes cold! We've had snow and more snow and, with the wind chill tonight, it will be around 15 degrees below zero F. All the horses have indoor shelter and the sheep are on the hill, backs to the wind and cozy in their woolen coats.

These trees are in our back pasture; the one in the foreground is a Summer Rambo apple and the two in the background are wild cherries. The Summer Rambo is in process of expiring and every year I think this might be the last apples it gives us. It takes spring and summer and sometimes the autum as well to grow a hard, crisp apple. My favorite kind. Every year I say, "this is the year I'll plant more apple trees" but, thus far, I've only planted a Granny Smith. The Granny Smith is about five years old and it's giving a bountiful harvest...enough to eat, give to the animals and enough for pies for home and sharing. This spring I hope to plant some more trees - a Summer Rambo, Cox's Pippin and a slew of other heritage apples.

Wild cherry trees give shade to the animals but I've got to be diligent that no branches die. If a branch dies, I have to saw it off immediately as the dead leaves give off arsenic which will kill animals and humans alike. I've often thought the farm offers enough tales to write a thousand mystery books.

The little building needs to come down but that won't happen until warm weather. As it stands, it still offers a bit of wind break for the animals. Hopefully, we'll be able to build a run-in building in one of the lower pastures and that will give shelter.
I'm sitting both at the computer and my sewing table, sewing a scarf and a quilt. Weather has prevented me from going to quilting bee for two weeks and for church for three weeks. Church was called off one Sunday because of ice and the next two Sunday's I didn't want to travel icy roads. There are people who get out on icy roads but I'm not one of them. I've not been off the farm, other than one trip to the grocery, in several weeks. That grocery trip was made during the middle of the day on a warm day when the ice had melted. I don't think it ever got above freezing today.

Dave had a business trip to Princeton and stayed the night on Friday. That was a good choice as the weather turned really cold, snowy, icy, windy and it was dangerous on the roads. When using the Workhorse to carry hay to the animals, I slipped and slid all over the farm. I do my very best to be safe all the time but especially when Dave isn't here. I've had one episode when I spent an hour lying on the snow, too sick to move and feel no need to repeat that experience. We don't, usually, have to leave the farm during bad weather, so we don't. Other people have to be on the roads and we feel no need to add one more potential accident to the mix.

Dave's cousin, Kyle, was at the same meeting and afterward, came, with his fiance, Ruth Anne, to overnight with us at Thistle Cove Farm. I spent my time baking, cooking, cleaning...doing all those things one does to prepare for company.

Last night we had a lovely home made, from scratch mind you!, meal of kielbasa bean soup, bird seed bread, toasted coconut chess pies and shortbread - almond and tangerine. The food was wonderful! There are a lot of things in life I'm not good at doing but, as Dave's uncle likes to say, "one thing I can do is put together the groceries!"

On the sewing machine is a cotton scarf followed by a quilt. I have only a couple of seams left, the borders to sew and then it's ready to be pieced with the batting and bottom. That's a job to be done at the quilting bee as they have a giant table that will hold the quilt. Everyone gathers around the table and helps put the quilt shared is work halved while joy shared is joy doubled. Funny how that works, eh?

This is the view from our sunroom and where I spend a lot of time when I'm indoors. One of my spinning wheels is set up here, there's a gas burning fireplace, a cozy spot to read and knit and, very conveniently, located between the kitchen and lavatory. My to-do list is very long this week and there's a ton of work to be accomplished. I've got to move horses around tomorrow so everyone will have barn shelter for the next few weeks. If I take some time, do some moving around now, I'll save myself from having to do it every night. It takes a big chunk of time to do it every night because every morning everyone has to be re-arranged again. This has to be in order to keep the two stallions separated by a pasture; a fence alone isn't enough of a separation. So, tomorrow will see everyone in a new pasture and that will bring some squealing and fuss for an hour or two. Even the animals rail against change!

There are also fleeces to be boxed up and mailed to the processor; a lap quilt to be mailed to a wounded soldier; birthday package to Aunt Esther as well as several other envelopes, etc. Some weeks I feel like I, single handed, keep the US post office in business. I'm one who still sends hand written letters and cards in additions to snippits I find that I know will be of interest to someone somewhere. Let's face it, who doesn't get a thrill when they go to the mailbox and there's something other than junk mail or bills. A "real, live" letter or card hand addressed...what an absolute GIFT and you haven't even opened it yet! Glory Be!

I'm going to try and take this week one day at a time. I only pray I'm not attacked by several of them all at once.

Greatful heart:

*healthy family and animals
*warm home
*cozy beds
*enough food to eat and share
*projects on the knitting needles
*quilts cut out, ready to be put together and then given away

Friday, February 02, 2007

Knitting Pattern a Day Calendar 2007

Quite a few people have been enthralled about one of my patterns submitted to the 2007 Knitting Pattern a Day Calendar. It's the Februrary 1 submission, Samuel's Heart Red Scarf and submitted in honor of women's fight against heart disease. More women are felled by heart diseast in the USA than any other disease yet it doesn't receive as much attention as other diseases.
Samuel is Carly's son by Zacheous; Sophie is Carly's sister. As you might well imagine, all of those sheep are tame, extremely tame. They pass along family traits so even visitors to the farm are able to pick out the family resemblence. I don't mean their looks. I mean the way they react when they hear me calling or see me carrying a bucket of corn.
All I have to do is rattle some corn in a bucket and all the sheep come running...some more quickly than others. The older wethers will walk more sedately and I've learned to save back a few kernals for them. The younger ewes and wethers will run at a trot so sure they are they might miss a treat should they tarry.
Sophie, Carly and Samuel are some of the first to arrive. Polly and Sally, Merino twin ewes, are pushing for first place as well. It takes a stout heart to stand up to several hundred pounds of "hungry" sheep running at you full tilt boogy. Most of the sheep are about knee high and I'm always careful to protect my knees, bending them a bit so they can take a blow with greater ease and, hopefully, lack of injury.
The other family resemblence is the way they "ask" for corn. If the bucket isn't directly in front of their noses or, if the bucket was in front of their noses and then moved to another nose, each of them will paw my leg. They will continue pawing, with those sharp little hooves, until the bucket has returned to it's "rightful" position...just under their nose. It's amusing but it also hurts like the dickens and I've plenty of bruses to show for their impatience.
When possible, I use my animals to model my finished patterns. They don't mind and it adds a very real element that even a human model doesn't bring to the picture. I ask you...what better model for a wool scarf than the animal that produced the wool?
So, here's a photo of Samuel wearing "his" Heart Red Scarf. Please admire but don't borrow as my photos are copyrighted.
We're in the midst of a blizzard, everything is white, animals have gone to ground and we're all snuggled in for the night. My plans for tomorrow include baking some chess pies, shortbread, bird seed cheese bread, making some bean, garlic, kielbasa soup, wrapping some packages for mailing, taking some photos of the animals in the latest snowstorm, laundry, and getting the house ready for overnight guests. I'll manage to squeeze in barn chores twice during the day as well.
Someone once said, "write your plans in pencil and then give God the eraser".
If you want to make God laugh...tell Him your plans.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Farm life...and death

My small flock of rare and primitive breed Shetland, Romney, Merino and crossbred sheep constitute a closed flock. That means no one leaves to go to market or slaughter house, no one is sold, no other sheep come here. There's almost zero chance of disease striking the flock, death comes through old age or accident. Sheep are considered aged at around seven or eight years; my "lambs" will soon be three years old and some of the ewes and wethers (castrated males) are nine and ten.

All are pets, all are well loved, their lives and fleeces testimony to the excellent quality care, food and water given them. Some know their names and most all of them come when called expecting to receive a treat of corn, a batt of alfalfa hay, a rub on the head or kiss on the nose.

Two days ago I found one of them down...not a good thing. The shepherd's term is "cast", as in a "sheep is cast and can't get up". This boy had lain, only God knows how long, on the frozen ground and was pitiful in his struggle. I got the sled (some inner Voice telling me all those years ago to keep it as it would come in handy), put Hank on the sled and pulled him to the barn. Frances helped me and it took our combined efforts to haul Hank as he weighed two hundred pounds or more.

There, I rolled him over on a canvas tarp and propped him up against the barn wall. My concern was for "brain freeze". When a sheep spends a night, either a frozen night or with his/her head lying downhill, there's a chance the brain will freeze and not be able to tell the body what to do.

Oh, that's not very scientific but it is, in fact, what happens. I fed him syringe after syringe of warm Gatorade to get liquid, heat and electrolytes into his body. I massaged Hank's limbs, body and head, spoke gentle and encouraging words to him; the dogs licked his face. We all endeavored to give him reason to live.

Least you think he was frightened of the dogs licking his face, all the sheep are quite used to that and will stand still for the dogs to wash their faces. So, it was a nice thing for the dogs to do and Hank seemed to enjoy it, and it brought him a bit of comfort and warmth.

Even so, we're all terminal from the first breath drawn and Hank didn't make it; he was dead when I got to the barn yesterday morning. We all said good-bye and I decided not to clip his fleece. Usually, when a sheep dies, I clip them before I bury them. Silly me, I couldn't bring myself to clip Hank as it's cold, extremely cold. You're right...Hank wouldn't know as he's gone over the Rainbow Bridge but I would know and that was reason enough.

The Preacher said in Ecclesiastes 3: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die...". So, it was Hank's time to die and he lived a far better life here than he would have almost anywhere else on the planet. At the farm down the road, he would have been slaughtered by the time he was a yearling. In the animal world, males are superfluous as one male can service many females. Here, at Thistle Cove Farm, Hank was castrated and his life's purpose was producing fleece.

I know people who say animals, even our pets, won't be with us in Heaven. When I've asked how they know such a thing, they talk some nonsense (nonsense to me at least) about animals having no soul, only humans have a soul.

That seems both strange and rigid to me. Even as they are trying to impress upon me their views, I'm thinking it's not the animal that has no soul.

Shakespeare's Hamlet said, "There are more things, Horatio, in Heaven and Earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

And we may thank God for it.
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