withalittlehelp from my friends…

Let me just say that you know you’ve got some real good friends when they take a day away from the demands of their own very busy farm and make the trek to your farm to shear your sheep for you. Before they shear their own flock

Let me just say that I am seriously indebted to those dear friends…IMGP1489Thanks to Paul and Robin and the Hill and Hollow shearing team, my lovely Shetlands are packing around a whole lot less wool this evening than they were this morning. A few of the ladies are almost unrecognizable to me now that their distinctive fleeces have been sheared away. I even think the ewes don’t quite recognize one another! And now some of the lambs that were born early in the lambing season look like giants when they stand next to their dainty mamas. IMGP1486Last year, I sheared my own small flock with hand shears. It was a fairly long-winded process for me, and a little hard on the back, but one that I enjoyed very much. This year, though, I have added a few more sheep to the medley and well… here’s the news… I’m pregnant. Maybe I forgot to mention that. So to think about hunkering down over the sheep for their parlor time, and to think about how my already expanding body (the fourth baby does that to a woman) would feel after the shearing process… well, my aging self is learning her limits. I think that it was in the same breath I told Robin that I was pregnant I also asked if they would please, please shear for me this year. We joked that the whole reason I got pregnant again was to have the leverage to guilt-trip them into shearing my sheep… heeheehee. (It worked!)IMGP1476What a truly lovely day it was. The weather was nearly perfect, the sheep were mostly well-behaved, and I got the gift of spending time with some of my most favorite people in the world. And my sheep are shorn. That’s my perfect image of the perfect baby shower. What a lucky lady I am.IMGP1467Now, would you look at this pile of wool!!! Baby #4 will have no shortage of woolen garments to wear, I can assure you! IMGP1484

 

lunar & eclipse

IMGP0784On Saturday morning we had plans to head to Nashville to share some of our egg abundance with our devoted customers there. Eric and I don’t like to be in a rush, so we got up a little early so we could still sit and have our morning coffee together before heading out for chores and then getting ourselves and the kiddos ready for a trip to the city. In those early morning hours, the full moon was on her decent toward the horizon, and in the quiet candlelit cabin we watched out the window as the earth’s shadow started creeping across the illuminated face of the moon. We watched until the moon dropped below the treeline, beyond our unobstructed view. Then we headed up the hill to get our chores done a little early and with the hopes of being able to watch the lunar eclipse just a little bit longer. I went about with my milking as Eric advanced the livestock into their next paddock. When I was about halfway finished, Eric was near enough to speak to me without hollering and asked “Did you see your new lambs?” 

WHAT!!!IMGP0794

Enter Lunar and Eclipse. Two small but healthy ram lambs and the first of my Shetland lambs to be born this spring. They quietly slid into existence with the power of that full moon and lunar eclipse, at the dawn of a gorgeous spring day. I can’t think of a better start to the lambing season than that. Of the ten Shetland ewes that I acquired from Pairodox Farm (www.pairodox.wordpress.com, hyperlink still not working…) last fall, two of them were already bred. I’ve been watching those two ewes for a couple of weeks now, but with wool sheep in full fleece it is really hard to see anything other than wool! Good luck getting a view of a swollen udder or anything like that! IMGP0733And then this morning, once again while milking the cow, I noticed the second of the expectant Shetland ewes off by herself and showing signs of labor. I finished up my milking and got a little closer to the ewe, but not close enough to make her feel nervous, and watched. Eric finished up his chores and joined me to observe the ewe. We decided she was doing just fine and left to go eat some breakfast. After breakfast we went back up to the pasture and Chloe was still without lambs by her side and clearly laboring hard. We are “low intervention” when it comes to our livestock, but will certainly get involved in assisting a lambing or calving when necessary. We decided I should go and get some supplies just in case. By the time I got back on the scene, though, I could see Chloe with her head down and actively cleaning up a little black lamb. Whew. I was starting to get a stress headache at the thought of something going wrong with my favorite ewe (I know, I know. I shouldn’t have favorites) but she did her work just fine. We watched the second lamb be born and were witness to those magical first moments of life and the bonding of a special ewe to her offspring. Her lambs were quite big and I think she was just having to work especially hard to bring them into the world. Two strong and healthy ewe lambs. Hooray!IMGP0814Once it was obvious mama and lambies were doing just fine, Eric and Ira eventually drifted off to other chores and mushroom hunting. But I couldn’t pull myself away from the pasture… one of my favorite places to be anyway, but especially when there are lambs! I sat in the grass, taking in all of the sights and sounds of spring, and felt so peaceful and thankful.

Now, the rest of my Shetlands are not due to start their lambing until May but in just a matter of days, our big flock of Katahdins will begin lambing. Oh, boy, will that be fun! I’m not sure there is anything in the world as joyful to watch, or anything that says “spring” as much as a whole gaggle of bounding lambs in the bright green grass. IMGP0813

like sardines

IMG_8441Twelve and a half hours of non-stop driving. In the dark of the night. In the rain. With three kids and all cargo in the back seat of the truck. And the added bonus of ten (yes, ten) Shetland ewes and lambs in the bed of the truck. Sound like fun?

Maybe fun isn’t the right word to describe what Eric and I felt when we were hurtling down the highway, packed in like sardines, driving in the rainy darkness (at least it wasn’t snow), with our precious children sleeping fitfully in their seats, and a load of sheep to boot. Maybe stressful might be a more fitting description of our circumstances.

Mind you, the entire scene was self-inflicted. We traveled to Pennsylvania for the Thanksgiving holiday to visit Eric’s family. His sister, Hannah, lives with her partner on an incredibly bountiful farm, Village Acres Farm, which was the destination of our journey. Shortly after arriving, the food started flowing. It never really stopped flowing, either, for the entire two and a half days we were visiting. Mercy, we ate like kings and queens. All of Eric’s siblings and his father were able to come for the gathering so that itself was a pretty rare occurrence. So to then be loaded to the gills with farm raised bounty and goodness… wow. IMG_8442So, the sheep came into this equation because Hannah knows a whole slew of farming folks in PA. Some friends of hers, at Pairodox Farm, were selling their flock of Shetlands and she had the notion that I might be interested in some (and that it might be a good excuse for my family to make the trek to PA!) My niece, who is quite a skilled knitter and spinner, was interested in increasing the size of her flock, too. So she spent time selecting the sheep for both of our flocks. She did a fine job of it, too. I am so pleased with these new sheep, I find myself looking for excuses to go up to the pasture! IMG_8443So, long story short, we made the journey… safely arriving at the farm just before sunrise on Monday. Our plan was to stop at a hotel for a rest somewhere along the way home, but the temperatures were in the low sixties… too hot for the wool bearing critters that were packed in the back of the truck to sit still and not have the air movement around them. So we pushed on through. Eric did all of the driving, bless him. I know he loves me because he wasn’t feeling too thrilled with the idea of more mouths to feed on the farm just as winter is setting in… but he made a major and loving sacrifice for me and my crazy obsession with wool. But now that he sees just how beautiful this little flock of mine is, I think he’s a tad obsessed, too. The shepherd in him just can’t resist. Now, if I can just get a sweater made for him from some of that luscious wool, then I can give him a giant, warm, fuzzy, heartfelt thank you.10733590_10205395566712492_4437547705002951676_o{And a big thank you to Hannah, Debra, Chandler, and Owen for such a wonderful visit and for helping fuel my fire for wool. And thanks to the folks at Pairodox Farm for their care in raising such exquisite sheep!}