Sewing Victory!

I decided that since the temperature wasn’t going to get very high and it was going to rain all weekend I could justify dedicating the entire weekend to sewing.

I’m so glad I did – it’s been glorious!

The first project I worked on was a dress I had started last summer for Oona and figured I had better finish before it was too small!

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The pattern is Oliver & S’s “Family Reunion”.

I don’t remember where the fabric is from, unfortunately.  I bought it quite awhile ago.

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The only modifications I made to the pattern are that I did not add little decorative  buttons on the front tab , and I did not topstitch the hem.

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I had to fight my sewing machine to get the automatic buttonhole feature working properly.  It took two needle changes, a cleaning out of the bobbin casing (lots of lint!) and a change of thread.  Sometimes it’s just fussy things like that.

The buttons on this are vintage ones that were my grandmother’s.  They match perfectly, don’t they?

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I just adore this fabric!

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She wore it all day and wouldn’t even remove it for bedtime.

I’ve moved on to my next projects: The Lady Skater Dress in a red cotton and The Renfrew shirt in a blue Ponte de Roma knit (its a poly/rayon blend I normally wouldn’t go for, but it’s very nice and drapey.

I have plenty of Harney and Sons tea to fortify me (and Neve made chocolate chip cookies), so hopefully I will have progress photos soon!

 

Snow Day Pretzels

Yesterday we got a late-season snow day.  It wasn’t a whole lot: maybe 4 or so inches before it was all said and done, but it was a sloppy, wet snow that mixed in with the already-present mud and was just……..meh.

I am still optimistic, however, that all of the polar-vortexing and snow that we’ve had this winter will make this summer’s bug population less than explosive.

But back to yesterday’s snow.

I spent extra time out with the ewes in the morning, making sure they had enough good hay and a little extra grain.  I wanted to be sure no one was shivering or hunchy-looking from the wet snow.  They continue to look fine, though, and if the weather continues to be dry I may just put them back in with everyone else today or tomorrow.

Once I was back in the house it was clear that everyone’s motivation to do any school work was below zero.  Neve and Oona were playing nicely and quietly by the fire (and that in itself is so unusual I was loathe to interrupt it).  Emily was reading. I just wanted to knit and catch up on The Walking Dead.

In the end, Emily watched some video lectures from The Khan Academy and the younger girls and I made soft pretzels (hooray for home ec!).

Because who doesn’t love a nice, warm soft pretzel on a cold and snowy day?

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The recipe we used comes from Sweet Paul Magazine and can be found HERE.

It’s one of the easiest and quickest pretzel recipes I’ve tried.

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The dough consists of water, yeast, brown sugar and flour. It sits for 45 minutes after mixing, and then it gets rolled out.

The raw pretzels get bathed in boiling water with baking soda for ten seconds and then sprinkled with salt and baked.

Simple!

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This is the third time we’ve made them, and they’re always a hit.

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Afterwards I parked myself in the chair by the fire with my knitting (and Gulliver, who insisted on being on top of me all day) and enjoyed the view from inside for a change.

All The Naked Ladies

Yesterday our friend Emily came down to shear the ewes in advance of lambing.  I’ve been around for lambings done with wool still on and with wool removed, and I can tell you I FAR prefer them to be sheared before they lamb.  It makes it soooo much easier to see what’s going on, and much cleaner as well, without all that dirty wool hanging over their back ends.

What I love about Emily is she not only shears them; she clips their hooves and gives me an idea of how healthy she thinks they are.  Susan and I were  happy to hear (and see!) that they all look great, and she thinks all but two are bred. Emily handles countless flocks of sheep all through the year, so her opinion carries a lot of weight around here.

The rest of the flock will be sheared at the big shearing party on April 5; we didn’t want to move the ewes to the park that far into their pregnancies, though.

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It was chilly when we went out at 8, but sunny, and bright.

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We stuffed them into the mini barn the day before so they wouldn’t get wet in the rain; and I do mean they were stuffed in there.

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As the wool came off, however, they had so much more room!  It’s amazing how much less space they take up when they’ve been shorn.

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They’ve been getting extra grain and hay so they stay warm.  I elected to keep them near the barn since we’ve got snow today, but they are happily munching their hay and chewing their cud, more or less oblivious to the white stuff.

If you’re wondering, Emily wrote up an excellent post about shearing sheep and cold weather HERE.

 

SnowPatrick’s Day

For our 18th wedding anniversary, Paul and I got a snow day.

We had all been thinking we might be done with winter (especially with the first day of spring in just a few days!), but nope!

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The nice part was that Paul’s office closed, and even though he was still working, he got to be home for the day.

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And it WAS a very pretty day.  It was my favorite kind of snow; the kind that sticks onto every part of the trees and weighs them down (I know, this is bad for the trees and power lines, etc).  This is the kind of snow we wish for in December but never seem to get.

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Left to right: duck, goose, chicken.   The snow didn’t slow down any of them.

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Nor did it slow down Lucy or stop her stream-loving adventures.    This is how you know these dogs are built to withstand extreme weather.  She enjoys the stream no matter the weather (or the snakes, to my extreme concern).  In the summer, her favorite thing to do is lie in one of the shallower spots all day and stay wet, occasionally splashing at the minnows and tadpoles.

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The kids had a day of crafting and coloring pictures for school – mostly things they came up with themselves.  I tried putting on a documentary about the history of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day, but it very nearly put ALL of us to sleep.

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This leprechaun beard idea came from Pinterest (it’s just scraps of paper, rolled and glued onto a beard-shaped piece of paper).

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Dinner was perfect for the snowy, blustery weather – our traditional Steak, Guinness and Cheddar Pie.  Comfort food at its best!  Everyone loves this – even Oona!

And for dessert:

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A Guinness-Chocolate Cheesecake. I have to say, this was my first real attempt at cheesecake and I’m thrilled with how it came out. It makes me want to try a plain one.  The thing is, plain cheesecake (with a smidge of fresh fruit on top) is one of my favorite things on this planet, and I’m afraid if I make it I will EAT IT ALL.  And really, who needs that many calories? Not me!

We topped off the evening, as always, with Darby O’Gill and the Little People, and I worked on my Shepherd sweater by the fire.  All of that cabling being worked into a natural-colored wool just seemed so right to accompany the day’s theme.

I’d say it was the prefect way to close out winter, just in time to welcome spring.  I hope Mother Nature agrees.

 

The Very First Goat

Back in late 2009 I brought home my first goat, along with a llama, to add to my menagerie of chickens.  I wasn’t admitting to having a farming problem then, but the bug had surely bitten me, and once I started, there was no going back.

I had only planned on bringing home a llama that day; I had read they were excellent guard animals (HA!!!) that were preferable to dogs (no barking, cleaner poo).  Instead I fell in love with a small yearling doe and she came home along with Jerry.  In the car Emily decided we’d call her “Milkshakes”.

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In short order we had a small farm and learned our doe was a soon-to-be-mommy.  This was, incidentally, how I really met Susan.  I was inexperienced and terrified, and discovered that the well-known shepherd whose blog I read actually lived just up the road (the rest, as they say, is history!).

It’s taken me a week to work up to writing this post because I needed to get my head straight and not still be too emotional; I needed the telling of it to be therapeutic, and I think I’ve reached that place.  You see, we lost our infamous Milkshakes last weekend.

We don’t really know what exactly happened, or why.  One moment she was fine and bratty, the next she was not.  Animals like this can sometimes give you precious little to go on.  What was clear is that it was the end of an era, so to speak.  She was our “old reliable” in a way.  She never had the parasite problems we’ve struggled through with the rest of the flock, and she mothered like a dream.  It just didn’t seem possible she could leave us.  But, she had a great life surrounded by companions and all she could eat.

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This is the hardest part of animal husbandry.  As Susan always reminds me, if you have livestock, you’ll have deadstock.  It’s a fact, but it doesn’t make it a whole lot easier when you’re attached to your flock the way we are.  Every loss is hard; every loss shakes your resolve and confidence just a little bit. They’re like family, and if they hang around long enough, the loss is that much more keenly felt.

We’ll miss you, you crazy broad.  May you only know sunshine and the freshest green grass wherever you are.

 

Worming Day! (Part 1)

The beginning of this week was just extraordinary in its loveliness. We had wonderfully mild temperatures for several days in a row, and we all felt the itch to get outside and stay there.

It seemed like the perfect time for worming the flock.

Since it’s been a wonderfully cold winter, we’re pretty optimistic that parasite levels will be lower over the warmer months this year.  Even still, with most of our ewes likely bred we want to make sure they are not carrying an overload of them in their gut, as the hormones and stresses of pregnancy and lambing tends to exacerbate the condition, and then things just get ugly.

Now, worming has always been a bit of a tricky chore; you want to make sure you catch it early enough to be effective, but you don’t want to overtreat them and build up resistance to the drug. However, to our great relief, a miracle seems to have been discovered in the use of copper.  You give one dose of copper to each sheep roughly every 6 months and the parasites (hopefully) never build a resistance to it.  It simply makes the sheeps’ guts too inhospitable to the critters.

In the past when Susan and I would use copper we had to break out the scales and empty capsules and very carefully measure out copper particles.  You can imagine how excited we were earlier this winter when we discovered THESE over at Jeffers.

Hello easy coppering!

The only drawback to this is that I can’t seem to get a solid answer on whether or not we can copper our ewes that are bred.  We decided, therefor, to err on the side of caution, and the ladies all get a dose of the chemical wormer we’ve always used until after lambing.  All the boys and goats get copper.

So, with copper and wormer in hand (along with hoof clippers just in case) Neve and I set out into the winter pen to get down to some serious work.

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Neve’s a pretty big help for most of the flock; it gets a little more difficult with the big sheep like Alabama.  She is my shepherd-in-training though, and since she is responsible for evening feedings every day, they know her and trust her.

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Wren!

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We managed to get about half the flock taken care of, when Jerry and Alabama combined forces to knock the temporary fence panels over and everyone streamed out of the holding pen.  They knew better than to fall for coming into the worming pen again, so we had to knock off for the day.  We’ll finish the rest up on Saturday, and everyone who got copper should be satisfactorily protected until September.  If it works like it’s supposed to, Susan and I will be happy shepherds!