Archive for April, 2009

New Faces at Sheep Thrills

He talked me into it.
This last week I had to cull one of our older bantam hens. She had a tumor in an inappropriate place (I won’t go into details as they are somewhat gross) and it was time to let her go.
After coming in from feeding and telling the HHWB (Hired-Hand-With-Benefits) the news, I just shook my head. All of them are getting older, I stated, then went on to recount how this one’s eggs were not high quality any more, or that one’s almost quit laying except if the moon is in the right phase and I’m standing on my head. Then I couldn’t believe what came out of the HHWB’s mouth….Maybe we should get a few replacements? Maybe it would stimulate the older girls to have some younger ones around? Just a few? This from the man who is all for “downsizing” around Oleo Acres this year.
We had read in the newspaper that the feed store would only have chicks available for this weekend…with a two for one sale to clear out the remainders of the Spring Chick Days. Well, OK…we wanted to go out for breakfast so why don’t we just go and look to see what breeds they have in? Famous last words as you can see from the photos below:…

We came home with two Jersey Giants, two Brown Leghorns, and two Rhode Island Reds – all pullets. 🙂
Years ago, I had a small egg business here with just over 70 laying hens of various breeds. I have also bred and shown both Speckled Sussex and true Ameraucanas. But all that chicken dander finally got to my asthma, so after some rumination I decided to just have enough hens for us and a few friends.That’s worked out fine, but now it was either get more chickens or give up having farm fresh eggs. Shudder the thought.
The HHWB has seen me many times stand in front of the egg department at local grocery stores for the better part of 30 minutes inspecting eggs in cartons. Yup. I’m that picky about what we eat. Plus, I know when you see a carton of eggs with some of the eggs “pointy side up”, it means the dozen has been manipulated by store help – taking the broken ones out and replacing them from other cartons to make a dozen of salable eggs. A clear sign of someone tampering with those eggs. I won’t bore you here with thoughts about all the cracked eggs I find either.

Long story short…we now have a few replacements on-deck. Maybe you older gals better take notice. I hear Campbell’s is looking for a few “retired” layers for a soup they’re working on…


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As you view Auckland from other various parts of the harbor (see previous posts re: New Zealand), you notice a towering, impressive building gracing its skyline. That’s the Sky City Sky Tower. A trip up the Sky Tower offers you 360 degree views of not only Auckland and its suburbs, but even farther views – on clear days.
I share with you now some of those views for you armchair travelers. The blue-tint of the photos comes from the tinted glass of the View Deck windows. You will also see that the day we were there wasn’t too clear a day. It had been misting on and off that day. Enjoy!

The Bay Bridge linking north and south sides of the harbor and cutting many miles of driving to get from one side to the other.

Looking past Devonport on to Rangitoto Island, remnants of a volcanic eruption 600 years ago witnessed by local Maoris. We’ve actually taken a ferry over, ridden in a guided tour-tram as well as trekked to the summit of the remaining volcanic cone. The landscape is amazing with its volcanic lava rock outcroppings and areas where you could see where the lava had flowed down into the sea.
Other various views of downtown Auckland as well as “the Burbs”:

If you follow the link above, you’ll be taken to the Sky Tower site with all the information on the Sky Tower itself. What always dumbfounds me is that people actually bungee jump off this blasted tower. During a previous visit to the Tower we were treated to the sudden appearance of a man in an orange jumpsuit dangling outside of the windows of the Observation Deck for just a moment before plummeting downward with the giant rubber band around his ankles. Craziness.

About the only thing we didn’t see from the Tower was the Travelocity Roaming Gnome…but then “The Amazing Race” people weren’t there that day. 😉

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Maybe ’93 to 17 April 2009

We lost our buddy and friend, Max today. He had been in declining health but took an extreme turn for the worse these last ten days. He wasn’t eating much, drinking lots of water, as well as showing signs of pain. It was hard, but we let him go…peacefully.

Max came to our house in the spring of 2001. Years before, he had been abandoned at the farm of a person who worked at the Sheriff’s Dept. with Ralph. She said that was around the early ’90s. In 2001 she was moving from that place into town and since we were good with cats would we take him? It was soon obvious that before he was abandoned, he had been abused.
It took years for Max to start warming up to us. He would hide under beds or blankets to stay safe until evenings when he thought it safe to come out. It was apparent to us that a man had hurt him as he ran from any man in the house, even if that man just wanted to be friends.
After a while, Max started to enjoy lying next to me in bed or in my chair when I watched TV. He was such a sweet soul.
These past few days I had wished that he would drift off to sleep, dreaming of the happiest he’d ever been, then let go of his frail body that was failing his gentle soul.
Rest well, dear Maxi-Cat. I pray that someday our souls will meet again and leap for joy at each other’s sight.

And thank you for being a part of my life, adding to the richness of it with your love and trust. I will miss you.

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This beautiful cardigan and the matching set of booties were knitted by our son-in-law’s mother, Val. Isn’t it gorgeous? Val chose a laceweight yarn (hope I’m correct here, Val) to knit this for the new granddaughter, Gwen.
Val’s the kind of knitter who could look at you, holding an in-depth conversation, while knitting right along at Warp 9. Sigh. I am in awe of her talents.

I count our extended family in New Zealand as one of the blessings in my life. While everyone was a bit anxious at our first meeting years ago, we all hit it off straight away. I feel as if I have known Val and Hugo all my life. The private joke between Val and I is that both of our kids came home with foreigners. 🙂
Both Val and Hugo have been over to the States a couple of times. We have a ball when they visit even just doing simple things like visiting the sheep down at the barn or shopping at the local Kohl’s store where everyone seems to find at least one necessary or frivolous thing they needed. And Las Vegas will never be the same. wink, wink…
So, you see what I aspire to as I learn how to knit myself. No, I never learned although my mother, another knitter-extraordinaire in her own right, tried to teach me many times. I was the child who could not sit still indoors long enough to learn anything even remotely domestic. The knitting talent has jumped over me and landed in the capable hands of my daughter. Maybe, someday, with practice, I will be able to at least do a hat or two.

I just hope I’ll be able to keep my jaw from dropping while watching the two “real knitters” in the family. But, it’s like having the Mona Lisa hanging in front of you while you are stuck doing paint-by-number….

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Colin’s Boo-Boo

This past weekend, the Hired-Hand-With-Benefits was outside doing “manly” things about the place. I had put the wethers in a pen and let the ewes out to graze in the pasture. Since everything and everyone was “doing their own thing”, I thought I would take the opportunity to slip into town for some groceries. After getting back, I was putting the groceries away when the phone rang.
It was the DH calling me from his cell. He was down in the pen with the wethers and said I should come down to look at one of the boys. “Something isn’t right with him.”
Well, when I got down to the barn, the “something not right” was a torn shoulder! It seems that the DH, after handing out treats, thought the wethers would accept him working in their pen on a very windy day even though they had not really seen this guy since before his (the DH’s) surgery. That was months ago. Add in that very windy day and it was enough to spark freaked sheep running into the edges of fence panels. Our oldest wether, Colin, did just that.

As I took a good look at the shoulder, I could see that the skin was torn down to the muscle, but did not actually tear into any of the muscle. It’s flapping about was a signal that sutures were called for. Poor Colin was so upset I knew we’d never be able to hold him still enough for me to do the “evil deed”. After cleansing the wound and getting some sterile dressings on it to keep dirt out, I went in the house to call the vet’s service. Naturally, these things happen on a Sunday.

When the vet’s answering service picked up, I was told that they were instructed not to call him. OK, well, I’ll give you that the operator was young and sounded very inexperienced, but they could have at least told me why the vet was unreachable. Something didn’t sound quite right and very unlike Dr. Rob. Luckily, Rob’s office manager and assistant par excellence lives down the road from us. If Rob was out of town, Kim would know whom I could get to help with the shoulder issue. And…better yet…I know her cell phone number. 😉
As soon as I related what had happened here and before I could even begin to ask her if she knew of any other vet available to work on sheep, Kim offered to call Rob on his cell phone. Within minutes Rob called me telling me to bring Colin into the clinic for mending. Bless his heart! He had just come off the ski slopes on the last day our local ski resort was open.
So, my poor Colin was drugged into a stupor, hoisted onto the surgery table, draped and both sutured and stapled back together again. All the while Rob and I were chatting away about sheep-this and ski-that. Afterward, Rob gave Colin a tetanus booster and a dose of antibiotics. I was about to put Colin back down on the floor when Rob pointed out that one horn was a “bit too close for my liking. How about we trim him a bit while he’s sedated?” Go for it. Great idea. Rob looked him over and did everything but change the oil and filter. 🙂
Driving back home I thought about how important it is to have a good vet on our “Sheep Thrills Team”. I so appreciate all he does. Granted, this is how he makes a living and we did have a bill for the emergency services, but because we consider Rob and Kim as important members of our operation, they both give us respect as well as much needed help. Somehow, some way, I plan on thanking both of them for “being there”. It’s comforting to know they are there when I need the help – day or night…Sunday or weekday.

…just don’t do it again, Colin. …and why is it you always pick a Sunday to get yourself into these predicaments? It’s cats that have nine lives, Colin…not sheep. You and Ole are working on around your sixth lives about now, so just cut it out, will you? I’ve had way too much excitement lately. 😉

And for those of you who have wondered…yes, here’s the latest photo of my friend, Bran. (pronounced “brawn”) He is indeed here both morning and evenings when I feed, looking for some small treat or just to chat with me. I just wish my “Raven” was as good as his “People”. He is definitely trying to teach me phrases and I try, but I can tell I just don’t have the correct accent yet.

Thanks for being around and watching over me, Bran. It’s always comforting to know you’re here. But, no…I’m sorry…no mice right now. Would a hotdog be OK for now?
…Thanks, buddy!

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Yesterday, I received a call from our wonderful shearer, Penney. she was in the area and would it be possible to stop by tomorrow (Tuesday) to shear my sheep? I immediately said, “Yes!”! Penney had been stuck in Idaho during some nasty snowstorms but had made it home to southern Arizona with herself and some sheep she was transporting in tow. Now she was making a loop doing shearing jobs up in northern Arizona, hoping she could fit us in as she came through our area.
Penney is about the best shearer around these parts having not only shorn since she was 9, but was raised on a sheep ranch. She knows her stuff. I consider it a blessing that I have found someone who really cares about what she’s doing. She shears fiber animals for a living, not just as a side business. And you can tell that from the quality of her work and the way she treats the sheep.
So, I shuffled things aside and got ready for shearing today. She was a bit late arriving, but got right to work, shearing Skittles first. When Skit saw Penney, he immediately started to gently baa in his deep voice. He doesn’t do that for just anyone. He loves Penny and just stares at her with this smitten look on his face and makes goo-goo eyes at her all the while she wisks off his fleece. Penney could hang Skit up-side-down for all he cares, just as long as it’s her doing it.
We only have nine sheep now. Penney took her time, setting each one on his or her bum then caressed each one giving each a peck on the nose. You can tell she really loves her work. Not only shearing, Penney also checks their teeth and hooves, trimming feet if needed. Then the shearing begins. Last year she didn’t nick any of the 16 sheep we had. This year Amanda’s fleece was so dense that she did receive a nick as well as when Penney was trimming her feet, Amanda jerked causing Penney to cut a dew claw too short and it bled. We put blood-stop powder on it to control the bleeding and the shearing continued. that was the only sheep who sustained any sort of “trauma”.
It was a long day. After shearing we came inside the house to get out of the wind. Even though we set up in the barn, the wind kept changing directions and was very cold. Naturally, over coffee and tea we talked “sheep”.
Marilyn, our friend and farm-sitter, had come earlier to witness the shearing of a couple of sheep and to pick out a fleece for herself. It turned out she picked Ole’s fleece. As the day progressed Marilyn joined right in helping where she could by sweeping off the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood Penney was shearing on, or raking up the tags and skirtings (the mostly unusable parts of the fleece that are better off composted) as well as helping move the sheep in and out when needed. As she got ready to go home, Marilyn asked if she could buy Ole’s fleece from me and how much it was. I gave her a hug and said “Happy Birthday” and “Thank you for all your help today”. I knew that she had celebrated a birthday last week. Since my HHWB (the DH) had to be at work today, Marilyn’s help, even with the few sheep I have, was very welcomed. I was grateful for her staying and she found the whole process mesmerizing. After I hugged her I noticed she had tears in her eyes. She just couldn’t believe I would let her have Ole’s fleece. I just wanted her to know that her help was very welcomed by both Penney and I. Many hands make light work.
So now I have naked sheep. They look so small compared to the puffballs on toothpicks they usually look like before shearing. I find myself relieved. It’s done for another year. We can get on with other things now…like playing with all those beautiful fleeces. 🙂

And yes, Ole…it will grow back. And yes, Ole…you are still the cutest one and I love you, too… Just remember to stay in the barn tonight, Ole. It’s still cold at night and I think you’re going to need to buddy-up with the others for added warmth.
…and no, Ole…you can not come into the house with me…

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