The Land of Goodbyes

I’ve been pretty quiet here for a few weeks. It’s been pretty fair to say that we’ve taken a few gut punches recently and I’ve not really been ready to talk about it; in fact I haven’t really wanted to talk much at all. But, I’m feeling like I can at least dip a toe back into life and try to see how to move forward and how to keep going while still trying to come to terms with reality.

This past weekend we had to bury our grumpy old man, Gulliver. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and I certainly wasn’t prepared with how hard it would hit me. Certainly he was getting old, but not that old. Looking back, though, I can see that the last year he was clearly much slower, much more subdued. He spent the vast majority of his time curled up in the laundry, not really wanting to interact. I’d try to make him come downstairs and sit on someone’s lap, or at least curl up on the couch and be around the family, but he’d inevitably and slowly hobble back up the stairs to the relative dark and comfort of the dirty clothes. Eventually I put a gate up so he wouldn’t keep making this retreat and we could actually keep an eye on him. I also knew he must be developing arthritis, since the stairs seemed to bother him now.

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He was happy to have a lap most days, but you could tell he just wanted to go off on his own.

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On Saturday he passed away at home, next to Paul, quietly. He simply stopped breathing, and that was that. If nothing else, I am glad he was home, warm and dry, and not alone.

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We used to joke that he was going to live forever because he was such a mean little thing sometimes. There’s no one in this house he hasn’t bitten at least once. Nevertheless, I’m going to miss the little booger, quite a lot.

Unfortunately, his loss is a rather “insult to injury” situation, because there is even more bad news.

On Monday the 14th of this month, Cini wandered out for his early morning pee and never returned.

We’ve spent countless hours trudging in the rain and mud through numerous yards, woods, drainage ditches, creeks, storm drains, and neighborhoods. I’ve driven all over the county, even to spots that I know deep down he’d never make it to on his own, with his bad hips. I’ve posted all over the internet. I’ve had conversations about him with everyone I’ve come into contact with who lives locally. I’ve called the shelters. It’s as if he simply vanished. It’s eerily similar to how Gulliver tried so hard to be off on his own, and many friends have said it seems like he probably did just that. I am having a hard time accepting that. True, he was very old for a dog of his size and breed. He was having trouble getting around and he was getting skinnier and skinnier despite being fed more and more. He just didn’t seem close to death’s door…..but then again neither did Gulliver. It’s been a bitter pill to swallow, and truthfully, I keep spitting it out. It’s been two weeks and I am still looking for him every day. Still hoping against hope.

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The only thing I’ve been able to do to offer myself any real comfort is simply doubling down on the affection and treats for the remaining dogs. It helps, but it doesn’t fill that hole.

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Honestly I don’t think I will ever stop looking. Not knowing is very, very difficult.

It feels very quiet and lonely in the house lately. We’ve put up a tree and decorated, and soon I will unabashedly throw myself into Christmas. For the moment, though, I am not through with my grief, and I have more walks to take through the woods before I can come out and fully join the world again.

Cats and Drinks

This weekend I had the house to myself while Paul and the girls were visiting family in New York.  Maddie came down and we went and had lunch with our friend Kim before heading to our friend Heather’s bridal shower.  We made candle centerpieces for the wedding while the host served us hot buttered rum. Um…Heather? I’m gonna need that recipe.😀

When I wasn’t cleaning or spinning wool, or snuggling kitties (had them ALLLL to myself!) I was making some yummies for holiday consumption.

First was a pineapple-infused mandarin vodka for book club.

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I got a large mason jar from Michael’s – big enough to hold 750ml of vodka – and chopped up some fresh pineapple. I covered it with a whole bottle of Absolut Mandarin, and it gets to sit for two weeks now. I can’t wait!

The second thing I knew I needed to make is Alton Brown’s Eggnog. This one will sit for a month or so – or until after Thanksgiving anyway.

The only change I made was accidental – I left out the rum.

BUT.

I taste-tested before bottling it (it made a little more than 2 quarts) and it was delicious. I can tell after aging for a bit that it will be transcendent. I may have to buy some more bottles and make more!

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Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised; you really can’t go wrong with Alton Brown!

Now that we find ourselves so close to Turkey Day I encourage you to try the eggnog if that’s up your alley. I’ll be poring over my recipes and planning and shopping for the big meal the nest few days.  Although we don’t have anyone coming (or at least, no one’s mentioned anything yet) I’ll still make a mountain of food. We gots to have our leftovers, yo!

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“Did someone say turkey?”

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“Mmmmmmmmm turkey!”

 

Breeding Season Begins!

Early this morning, before the sun had risen, and the kids were still sleeping in their candy comas, Emily came and delivered a very handsome little ram.  It was too dark for pictures, so I went out a little later to check on how everyone was adjusting.

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It had been maybe three hours since the new addition, but it seemed like the rest of the flock was more concerned with making sure they consumed enough hay than worrying about the intentions of the new guy.

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Carina was even hoping for more grain.

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He’s a rather timid, but gorgeous Blue-Faced Leicester. Timid is good; it means he won’t be aggressive, or a bully. Sometimes that happens with rams, especially if they were bottle babies. A timid but sweet ram will have nice babies.

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Sabine on duty. She made sure to sniff each and every inch of our new visitor before relaxing back into her spot in the hay.

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Before he arrived, we made sure we were stocked for winter. I always rest easier when I see this out front.  I’ve been giving the ewes extra grain for awhile trying to get them ready for breeding, and since I’m not putting them back on grass until spring, I love that we have a strong supply of the best hay for them.

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In other news, these two have been seen together quite a lot lately. Flapjack still hangs with the pigs and takes his regular meals with them, but now Zydeco has joined them. The farmyard and its social life seem to be more complex and changeable than I previously realized.

Now everyone cross your fingers and hope our sweet temporary ram gets the job done!

 

Walkway Over the Hudson

On Sunday my stepmother suggested we head over to the Walkway Over the Hudson, an old rail bridge re-purposed into a pedestrian walkway over the Hudson River. I’d been wanting to see it for quite some time, and since we could bring their new dog, Bindi, as well as my stepbrother and niece, I was all in.

The Hudson Valley really is a breathtaking place. So much of it speaks directly to my heart; a few days spent in the land of my youth is like a healing balm for my soul.

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Though the leaves weren’t yet at peak, they were far more colorful than what we’d left behind in Virginia.

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Sweet little Bindi. She’s an 8 month-old Red Heeler, and the friendliest little thing you’ll ever meet.

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Normally I have a fear of bridges that span bodies of water; the walkway didn’t bother me one bit, though.

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Those leaves!!!

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After we hiked over the bridge and back, dad came with the kids and I on a short trip down memory lane past one of our old houses, and on down to Kingston Point Beach and Hasbrouck Park to see the view.

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The old Hutton brick factory.

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Heart-shaped brick!

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Neve took lots of pictures of the gulls.

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This is the view from my parents’ condo. The kids are mad jealous.

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As for me, I’m mad jealous of this tree. I’d love one just like it in my front yard.

Now that we are home the kids are sad to see the leaves here aren’t very colorful (to be fair, we usually are a few weeks behind here with our leaves) and are ready to move back north. I’m feeling refreshed and revived and connected with my family again. Tomorrow it’s back to school and the normal routines, but I’m hoping my bubble of contentedness lasts for awhile longer.

 

Rhinebeck 2016

Once again, we had a whirlwind weekend in New York attending the annual Sheep & Wool Festival and visiting family.

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I loved these little felted guys!

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I think these little yetis were my favorite thing this year.

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I really wish this hadn’t come out blurry. This llama really liked my dad!

In completely unrelated news, all three girls agree we need either another llama or an alpaca.

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A Herdy! They had Herdwick sheep there!!! Isn’t she gorgeous?

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The Peruvian folk band, in their usual spot.

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Love this Angora goat!

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We didn’t buy a whole lot this year; Neve was saving for other things she wanted, and Emily and Oona and I had trouble deciding among all pf the amazing things for sale! (though if I hadn’t had such a long drive home I just might have bought an Angora rabbit!)

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I did manage to snag some lovely dyed roving to play with, though! This one is a Cormo/Silk blend.

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The yellow/green/orange Blue Faced Leicester reminds me of the mixed vegetables from childhood that came frozen in a block.

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This purple and red blend is Finnsheep.

Oona and Emily each got yarn and hats, but I was unable to photograph them before they took off with them, eager to start their own projects!

Lastly, these lovelies are now mine:

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I can’t wait to get to work with all of my new toys!

 

 

All the Pretty Ladies

The flock has been perkier and happier lately with the cooler weather, and who can blame them? Even the dogs seem more content, now that the flies are dying off and they don’t need to burrow into the mud like pigs to escape the heat.

I was tempted to move everyone out to the back pasture a few weeks ago, considering it is full now of beautiful green grass, but decided that with winter coming I’d keep them out front to make it easier to keep their water fresh and unfrozen, being closer to the house.

There’s also another reason I am keeping them in the smaller paddock for the winter and waiting for spring to move them to fresh pasture: lambing.

Yes!

Our amazing shearer Emily is bringing me a loaner ram soon so we can enjoy babies in the spring!  The ram is a gorgeous Blue-Faced Leicester, and I’m thrilled to mate him to our Border Leicester ewes, since I’d like some fleeces for hand-spinning.

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Carina here has a beautiful fleece. I can’t wait to see how a lam from her will turn out.

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They were NOT having any of my picture-taking shenanigans. They saw me in their paddock with an object in my hand and surely that MUST mean feeding time?

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Basil decided that if I didn’t have real food, he’d nibble on my shirt instead and prevent me from getting a decent picture of him.

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The bow before the pounce. He and Sabine are always happy to be pushy for ear and belly scratches, or to follow you around the field trying to put their noses in inappropriate places. I’m still trying to beef Orzo up a bit, and it’s just barely starting to be noticeable. He’s really growing into quite a handsome guy, just like his father. Now if only we could cure his fence-hopping wanderlust!