Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hummmm -- do I feel a blog coming on?

The Spin-List is a fun and fascinating place. Always an interesting discussion, lots of ideas, suggestions, stories and tidbits of information. Frequently I save little items that tempt a response, like this one:
"I've gotten a lot of names of places [for processing] as well as information that I was not aware of (skirting the fleece). Boy it's not as easy as I thought. Perhaps I will hire my children to help skirt the fleece, or I will just buy roving. "
I wonder if this person also complains about how expensive "real" roving is. I sure hope not.

Another person opined:
"Vegans are not *supposed* to use ANY animal produce
which includes wool so we should stick to plant/ manmade fibers......."
Man-made -- as in petroleum based? Really? And do you know what is required to manufacture some of the newer fibers from trees, corn, milk, bananas, bamboo and seaweed?

While someone else proclaimed:
I'm a Christian; under grace, all things are for my use; therefore, without let or hindrance, I use all things."

Now that scares the spit out of me.

Discussions involving so-called "vegan" spinning", tend to push my buttons on many levels.
While it helps to be informed (where does my fiber come from? How is it raised? How is it processed?) it seems to me that it is also vital to be pro-active instead of reactive. Instead of vetoing something that you don't like, take that extra step and make the effort to support those things that you feel are right and good. Know where your dollars go, and make choices that will help to keep local and sustainable businesses alive. (Notice I didn't use the words "natural" or "organic." That's a lecture for another day. (ggg)) Without your support, they may not be around for long, and then no one will have a choice.

There are definitely as many opinions out there as there are spinners, but it all comes down to a great quote that I saw on a bumper sticker in Tucson:
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, March 16, 1927 - March 26, 2003)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

cogKNITive Fun and More

Holy cow, this year is simply ZOOOMing by.

In late September, our Kangal "teenager" Tank (2.5 years old now) blew his cruciate ligament, and so went under the knife just as Yollie had done twice in 2007. He was not a happy camper:
Buzzy Tank on the way home (top) and Staples galore

Resting the hated collar on a chair.

Despite a variety of no-chew collars, he ended up having his cast removed after less than a week. It is hard to keep a 155-pound dog immobilized and entertained. Staples were taken out a little later, but we are still going through the rehab process. He is walking well now, and we're up to a mile twice a day, hoping all the while that the other knee stays strong, and that mine don't go in the meantime.

Our little rig in front of a Tehachipe art train

Shortly after surgery, we were invited to attend the first ever cogKNITive sock event in Tehachapi, CA, so we loaded trailer, dog and kennel and off we went. It was a great weekend, with wonderful people and a dedicated staff.

Their logo and our "Sock Sheep."

We attended as vendors, but the class offerings were wonderfully tempting, and so inspiring that folks literally filled the hallways and common areas spinning and knitting for the entire day. Lots of people tried out the Navajo spindle for the first time, while Tank kept a watchful eye on the proceedings from his spot in our "booth."

This month we drove up to WeFF (Western Fiber Festival) in Torrance - sans dog - and had an even busier day. Whew, what a stimulating and busy place!

A good chance to practice keeping my head attached. Thanks to all of the patient people who waited for me to find stuff, show stuff, and write stuff up. And especially to those people who were good enough to tell me what and how much they bought afterward when I realized that I had not put any numbers on their credit card receipts!

Well, the shearer has come and gone again, another 100 pounds of wool and llama have been delivered to Shari at Morro Fleece Works for processing, and summer is AT LAST pretty much behind us. Cool and crisp days give hope that we may yet see some fall - maybe even winter? - weather.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The ants come marching ...

The Ants Go Marching One By One is a children's song set to the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

The posted lyrics read:

The ants go marching one by one. Hoora, hoora!

The ants go marching one by one. Hoora, hoora!

The ants go marching one by one, the little one stopped to suck on his thumb,

And they all went marching, down to get of the rain. (BOO- BOOM!)

The ants go marching two by two. Hoora, hoora!

The ants go marching two by two. Hoora, hoora!

The ants go marching two by two, the little one stopped to tie up his shoe,

And they all went marching, down to get of the rain. (BOO- BOOM!)

The ants go marching three by three. Hoora, hoora!

The ants go marching three by three. Hoora, hoora!

The ants go marching three by three, the little one stopped to climb a tree,

And they all went marching, down to get of the rain. (BOO- BOOM!)

The ants go marching four by four. Hoora, hoora!

... etc.>>

Well, this time of year we are totally inundated, and I wish more than anything that they would climb a tree or stop to suck their thumbs -- if ants have thumbs. Right now, they are marching here by the tens of thousands. They may be after the rain, as the above suggests, but rain will not be due here for several more months, so they must make do with the cat food, the dog food, the eggs, anything in the kitchen or in the house or the garbage or in the surrounding half-mile.

The cat would make periodic pilgrimages inside to cry at us when his food bowl was totally over-run. The dogs' food would remain uneaten - by them - while the ants feasted. But when I found myself waking up several times a night to pick ants out of my ears, off of my face and out of my eyes, I finally realized that we had a serious problem.

Since we live in the country, I tend to adopt a live-and-let-live philosophy whenever possible; I despise the idea of using poisons of any sort. Ground squirrels and rabbits pretty much have free rein. Bugs enjoy the fruits of our garden pretty much at will. But enough is enough. When I can't sleep, the war has begun.

I dug out a recipe that I had used in years past, and prepared a snack for our little friends.

Measure 2 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons of boric acid, and one cup of water into a pan and boil for several minutes to make a syrup. I put a few cotton balls in jar lids, soaked them with the syrup, and let things be. In about three days the ants were gone. That nest had been dessicated. Unfortunately, every few feet there seems to be a new tribe, so we are now working our way around the house. Boric acid does not seem to be very toxic, and no one else in the household seems to be interested in it, so ... so far, so good. We'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 22, 2009


It has taken me a few months to bring this to post, but this piece is:
In loving memory of Karabey
4/3/04 to 6/20/09

Sired by ASLAN (Herkul and Sultan) born to MELEK (Panter and Duman)
Breeder: Salim B. Yilmaz
Owner: Kathy Gluesenkamp/Lambert

At 16 weeks Karabey was taken to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, for a full work-up and was diagnosed with probable cerebellar /vestibular disease (unknown cause) along with other skeletal, neurological and systemic abnormalities (congenital hydrocephalus and distemper not ruled out) and given less than two years to live.

After a full and loving life, he was euthanized at 5 years 2 months of age, due to severe congestive heart failure, skeletal abnormalities, neuralgic deficits and cardiac insufficiency. He had an amazingly full life.

Karabey at 3 months

Handsome as an adult

One of the gang, Karabey continued to enjoy life far beyond given expectancies.
The dark pup in the background is our Turkish import Yollie, who was dyed black in order to expedite her trip from Turkey. She has since had surgery on both knees, and is now a lovely, natural blond.

Karabey (left) was the role model's during our stressful week-long fire evacuation.

Farewell, dark lord.

Karabey was one of the gentlest and kindest souls that I have ever known, in any corporeal form, and I hope that he finds peace and rebirth quickly. It is also my fondest hope that I might meet his reborn soul sometime before I die.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Goat by Any Other Name

Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species in the world, having been been used for their meat, milk, hair, and skins in many cultures and in many countries.

Chivo, chevon, cabrito, chèvre or mutton: no matter what you call it, goat meat is eaten around the world because it is lean and delicious. I have had it in Mexico and Texas, and figured it couldn't be all THAT hard to make meal-sized portions out of our late kid. Another day-long learning experience. Eventually, I ended up with several pounds of stew meat, some loin pieces, LOTS of bones for the dogs, and - amazingly enough - four legs.

A beautiful blog featuring pictures and recipes to make you drool is Masa Assassin -- and he knows about Talones, too!

My favorites are too numerous to mention, but old-style pot roast, with potatoes, carrot, onions and peas is outstanding, as well as virtually every other lamb recipe you have ever tried.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lunching With Wolves, Part 2

Friday morning dawned quietly, but then rapidly picked up speed as a friend of one of my sons called to see if he and wife and child could drop by to see the place and say hi. We had met before he went to Iraq, I like them very much, so was happy to invite them over. Besides -- as I recalled, Jubal was a big, strapping Texas fella, and I knew that would come in handy.

We fed them some fresh strawberry shortcake, chortled the baby and chatted a bit, and then offhandedly asked if they wanted to see the animals and, oh, by the way, would he be willing to help out with moving a few? Yes? Oh good!

We first moved four ram lambs from the ewes' pen down to the boys' enclosure at the bottom of the property. Stuffing the little buggers into kennels in the back of the Escape was a piece of cake.

Then we caught Bubba, a huge rambouillet-cross ram, and led him back up to a pen where we added four of his favorite fine-wool ladies. By this time we were all breathing a bit hard, but we had just two more to go: the ailing ewe and a yearling goat who had been on my must-go list ever since she first started screaming at all hours of the day and night. They were to go to the wolves. Catching and loading them took just about all the juice we had, and left us all sweaty and panting. Jubal seemed, well, jubilant, and we were unspeakably happy to have his help for the morning. They left to continue their journey north, and we headed south to the knackers.

Talone's Meat Market doesn't look like it has changed much, if at all, in the past 60 or 70 years. With a small yet well-respected meat market in the front, the old slaughter house sits on several acres of undisturbed history in the middle of Escondido. In the back are clean cement pens of live hogs, goats and sheep with a few rebel roosters strutting in the back lots. A sign points to a small office where one goes to transact business. The usual question is, "How many pieces?" But for the wolf-bound ewe, we didn't want pieces, we just needed her to be dead. This was a difficult thing to explain, but eventually I managed to convey the idea. Pointer finger to the head, drop the thumb, just dead. "Nada mas." OK, fine, $20 anyway.

However, as we were discussing this, I began to wonder why we would feed a lovely, milk and grass-fed goat to the wolves when we could very well enjoy it ourselves. So when the question came, "How many pieces?" I thought a minute, pictured the smallish goat, and said, "Two." He shrugged; $40.

The animals were off loaded and led up a series of ramps and into the dark interior. The ewe was calm and submissive, even ready, while the goat dug in her heels, screaming and protesting every inch. By the time she finally disappeared into the building I was wondering if the wolf center would consider just throwing her into the pen alive and letting us watch the wolves eat her. After adding up the sleepless nights for the past year, we would have almost paid to see that. But as it was, the ensuing silence was payment enough.

After an hour or so, one of the fellas came out with a wheelbarrow containing the body of the ewe and several large, blue plastic bags. We loaded everything back into the car and headed off for Julian.

Although we were much later than anticipated, one of the kind people at the non-profit California Wolf Center waited for us. The facility is wonderfully isolated, perfect for its guests. We unloaded the ewe into their freezer, and then enjoyed an amazing up-close (well, through two much-appreciated chain link fences) visit with some of the wolves in residence.

Some of the wolves are scheduled for release in Arizona soon, so they will not be fed any domestic animals. But the others will enjoy the lamb, goat, horse, beef and chicken from the freezer. I think we were of particular interest to the Mexican Gray Wolves (which are normally very shy) because we were standing up wind of them, and had spent the last 3 hours wrestling sheep and waiting at the slaughter house. Several made repeat "drive-by" visits to check us out.

It had been a long, tiring and eminently fascinating day, so when we got home I just put the bags of goat into the spare fridge without paying much attention. I would deal with them later. Boy, would I.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lunching with Wolves, Part 1

Well, it wasn't exactly lunching. In fact, I don't think we had time for any lunch at all that day, but hopefully the wolves did.

This adventure started when we realized shortly after shearing last weekend that one of our older ewes was going to have to be put down. I called the vet, then looked to see what was left in our checking account and became instantly, doubly depressed. It costs well over $100 to have the vet visit and put an animal down, then another $100 to have the disposal people come pick up the body. And this old gal, though aged, was full of vigor, not at all like Gwendolynn. Definitely not a plastic bag candidate. With the firm belief that there had to be a better (cheaper, easier) way, I sat down and started calling around.

County animal control said yes, they took in animals for euthanasia, was I interested in "after-care"? "No thank you," I said, "just disposal." She asked what kind of pet it was, and I told her that it was a sheep.
"Is it already dead?!" she asked with some alarm.
"No," I said with measured words, "I just need it dead."
There was a pause, before she told me abruptly that they did not accept livestock, but would happily give me the number for the pet mortuary where they sent their animals. I told her I didn't think that was a realistic possibility and asked, "What about road kill? What do you do with those animals?"
They contracted out for that, and she gave me the number of the livestock disposal people, which I already had.
"Do those go to the pet mortuary?" I asked the disposal people.
"No, they go to the landfill." OK -- now we're getting somewhere! What about the landfill?

Unfortunately, there is no real landfill in these parts, and the number she gave me was for the local "transfer station" where trash trucks disgorge their daily pick-ups. The guy there said they could take maybe a dead bird or a rat, but definitely not a sheep. Actually, I knew this already, because once I had tried to load a dead ram into our trash can for pick-up and got a nasty note and a stern warning: "NO DEAD ANIMALS" Plus, then had to go dig a HUGE hole and bury a very smelly, very heavy, by then long-dead ram.

Ever the helpful sort, he asked why I didn't just shoot it and bury it myself. By now, several hours into this hopeless search, my patience was dwindling. "Because I am a fat, 65-year old lady with arthritis and the ground is like concrete!" He mulled this over for a minute, then gave me the number for the REAL dump, somewhere down near the border.

The woman who answered the phone there was very kind and sympathetic, but allowed as how they couldn't take dead animals either. Then she started to say something, reconsidered, and finally said, "I don't know how you feel about this, but..." I am sure she could hear my little heart screaming, "Yes? Yes, but what??!"
"Well, there is a place in Julian that takes dead animals to feed their wolves." And before she spread her wings to take off to heaven, she gave me the number.

The California Wolf Center is located 4 miles south of the little mining/apple/tourist town of Julian, California, and about an hour and a half from here. The wonderful people there confirmed the fact they did indeed take dead livestock, providing it was not killed with chemicals and was already dead. They sounded happy, and said they would even drive out to get it -- sometime in the next week or two. Unfortunately, we needed to move things along, so I said we would be happy to deliver the sheep to them ... that Friday, two days hence.

The next morning the vet came out to confirm that the sheep was not in any way infectious, and I got online to ask local livestock folks about the next step and received a tip about a "custom slaughtering" place halfway between here and Julian. Zounds, a plan falling into place!
From then on, it was just a matter of ironing out the details.

Yeah, right.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Garden Euphoria

It is curious to me, when or if I stop to think about it, how someone who can care for and nurture animals with pretty near infinite patience (and a fair amount of success) has absolutely no ability to grow plants. And it is not for lack of trying. I have spent half of my life trying to have a garden of one sort or another, but usually my animal endeavors, children, work, climate, pests, and general forgetfulness spell doom from the first immersion of tiny seed into soil.

Our "garden" from the past few years was a weed patch, surrounded by gray, broken picket fence panels. Most people thought we were trying to replicate a Gothic cemetery. While we have probably the richest compost pile in the county, the main stumbling block was moving the compost to where we needed it. Then my husband got his little tractor going, and hope sprang anew.

We tore down the old fences, weeded the whole patch, extended two of the three raised beds, and then set about moving in scoop after scoop of llama compost and dirt from the goat pens.

What little fella doesn't like to play in the sand box?

Of course we all had our own ideas of just how things should be done, including the job forman, Ms. Mad Hen. Still, it turned out to be an amazingly pleasant, cooperative and (we all hope) productive bit of work.

Mad Hen spent the entire day worrying about the garden.

In a few days, we actually had plants in the ground. Most of our plants come from vendors at the farmers' market, but there are some seeds in the ground as well. The two upper beds contain everal kinds of squash and cucumbers, both gold and red beets, various colors of chard and lettuce, a few Cherokee tomatoes (more to come), a row of yard-long bean plants, and some left-over herbs that somehow managed to survive years of neglect in the lower bed. Herbs are in a big herb pot, plus smaller outposts (outpots?) around the place.

So far, so good.

The picket panels keep the dogs out (they love to dig in the cool, moist ground), and chicken wire keeps the rabbits at bay. Ground squirrels still sometimes go up and over the fences, but so far that predation gas been fairly light. Next week the eggplant should be ready to transplant, and we hope to add a few new kinds of tomatoes and peppers. Hopefully staggering the planting will result in a more continuous crop... do you think?

I have a few adult pima cotton plants, and am working on sprouting some colored ones. Next thing in the ground will be my dye plant seeds:
True Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria)
Common Agrimony (agrimonia Eupatoria)
Tansey (Tanacetum vulgare)
Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria Kelwayi)
False Saffron (Carthamus tinctorius)
Madder (Rubia tinctoria)
Cosmos (sulphureus Bright Lights and Klondyke Sunny Red) will go in my big "planter tubs" (old bath tubs no longer needed for watering livestock.

Maybe woad and Dyer's Knotweed, if I can find any more room, but more than likely they will have to wait until next year.

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.
~Author Unknown

Let's hope that works out. Cheers!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Pups

Tank, our big Kangal Dog "puppy," turns two today. He tips the scale at nearly 150 pounds, but has the mind of a two month old .

Here is the litter with patient mom, Zerrin, shortly after birth, 4/9/07

We took some pictures to send to his birthday brothers and sisters:

Tank thought it was going to be just another day in the goat pen, trying to look relaxed under Daisy's withering suspicion. That is until we invited the goats into HIS pen.

They wandered around for a while, checked out the empty swimming pool, and generally entertained themselves.

This gave Tank and the others a chance to check out Eddie, which is what he really wanted for his birthday. Aunt Daisy (the black angora in picture #2) generally won't let Tank near the baby.

When all was done and the goat friends returned to their pen, he was one happy fella.

Friday, April 3, 2009

15 Minutes of Fame

Well, it is more like 15 words, but still...
We recently read this nice little mention in San Diego Magazine:

To Market, To Market
Spring offers the perfect invitation to sample the bounty of our local farmers’ markets. From Vista to Little Italy, we take you to the region’s best outdoor markets, each boasting its own distinct flavor. Disclaimer: You may never want to step into a chain supermarket again.
By Adam Elder and Julia Beeson Polloreno | Photographs by Ramona D'Viola
Vista Farmers' Market

Saturday, 7:45-11 a.m. County Courthouse (325 South Melrose Drive)

The longest-running farmers’ market in the county (starting in 1981), the Vista market has a devoted following of patrons who make a visit their Saturday-morning ritual. It’s a one-stop shop with offerings that range from Jackie’s Jams to beef jerky. Within the maze of booths, you’ll find locally harvested macadamia nuts, handmade soaps from Beauty & the Bath, fresh bread from Sadie Rose, gourmet items from San Marcos–based T&H Prime Meats & Sausage and bright yellow sunflowers bursting from white buckets. Schaner Farms brings fresh citrus and oversized gourds, Gaytan Farms sells an array of vegetables, and Oakes Knoll Ranch offers Dancey tangerines and extra-large Haas avocados. One unique offering comes courtesy of Rancho Borrego Negro, a Fallbrook outfit that sells homegrown and handspun wool yarns. At this booth, a woman spins wool into yarn as onlookers pause to watch; also posted are photos of local sheep for sale, presumably belonging to the proprietor.

My only regret is that I too-quickly logged on to San Diego Magazine's web page to add a comment thanking them for the kind review and also to give a plug for the local Bonsall Farmers' Market, where we go ever Sunday and which we have been supporting since their very first day. I say "too-quickly" because shortly after I left the notice on line, I received this totally unrelated email:
The Bonsall Education Foundation and Bonsall Farmers' Market have come to a decision as a group to discontinue our relationship with you as one of our market vendors effective immediately. There have been several serious instances where we deem your conduct to be unprofessional. Such conduct seriously undermines the well-being of the market. We are disappointed that our business relationship didn?t work out. We wish you the best of luck in the future.>>

Further attempts at communication or to find out more details have remained unanswered, so I am quite as confused as you are. At any rate, I am unable to alter the comment online (which is probably a good thing!) but have since found the lovely little Leucadia/Encinitas Farmers' Market, so that is how we now spend our Sundays. We are finding it infinitely more pleasurable and profitable. If you are in the county on Sunday, stop by and see us:Leucadia/Encinitas Market 10am-2pm; Union St and Vulcan St. (Ecke Elementary).

Ah, April

True to the old homily, March went out like a lamb and April has arrived with the faintest suggestion of showers. The weeds are growing like, well, weeds, and the sheep have been moved from pasture to pasture to take advantage of the green bounty. Now all that remain are the invasive and inedible thistles, which taunt me daily to get a shovel and get down there to dig them out before they go to seed.

Mazie, our elderly Angora goat, has been standing down in the bottom corner of the goat pen, far away from the crowd. It is a nice, sandy spot in the shade of high bushes, but still, we feared that her time was drawing near. I grew a little hopeful when she moved closer up the hill to lie in the sun yesterday, and then last night we found this:

Yollie watches Mazie and the new one.

I don't think Yollie (Kangal on duty in the goat pen) even noticed the birth until we walked over, then she quickly moved to inspect the newborn and help clean it. Too bad it's a boy, because I was all set to call the kid April. Now I think he must be named Oedipus, because our pygora buck was taken out of the girls pen a loooong time ago, and the only males remaining were her twin boys from last year. Obviously one of them was quite precocious.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Eggs and Bunnies and Wheels Left Behind

I have been spending idle moments felting some of my dyed, carded wool around plastic eggs and knitting little bunnies, hopefully to sell at the weekend markets. I call the eggs "Rare and Exotic Sheep Eggs -- colorful eggs from contented sheep," and display them in a cozy nest of curly Wensleydale locks. They are fun to make, if a bit time consuming, since they are wet felted around masking tape-covered plastic eggs.

At the market my husband loves to sit there and spin out wild stories about how our sheep first use their wool to build cozy little nests, hidden in the tall grass of the field, then secretly lay their eggs. He talks about how difficult it is to find them, because the sheep are really very smart and clever, and then goes on to tell about the teeny little baby sheep that might hatch from the eggs if the buyer takes very good care of them.

This seems to delight most children and some adults, as do the bunnies who are featured in a nest of pale green Wensleydale locks, getting ready to nibble on an organic carrot. I have knitted them a time or two over the years, but finally purchased the pattern from Jackie at Heart's Ease and asked her if it was ok to try to sell them... the operative word being "try." She was very supportive, and quite helpful, with lots of good ideas for next year, and asked that I give credit to her for the pattern.

To my surprise, several people stopped and wrote down the address for the pattern
, but not one even looked at the handspun yarn for sale, which would have made very cute bunnies if I do say so myself. So far only one dear little girl came rushing back after closing on Saturday, handed me money that had been squished in her fist, and then spent many anguished minutes trying to pick her bunny. I reassured her that she had selected the absolute best.

I thought that I had heard practically all of the possible comments and quips on spinners and spinning (including the rather ancient little old fellow who would stop and serenade me with "There's an Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor" three or four times each morning), but the fella who exclaimed, "See what she's doing? She's making hair wigs!" to his equally clueless girl pal this morning was definitely something new.

Also new and different were the two high school boys wearing football jerseys who marched over to my rack of sheepskins and demanded to know "What are these -- placemats?" I explained that they were sheepskins, and they paused only a beat before they pointed to my wheel and asked "Do you make them on that thing?"

If people actually know what a spinning wheel is, one comment that seems to be de rigure is "Oh, my ---- [fill in the blank: grandma, mother, aunt, etc.] had one of those but I never saw her use it." I have heard this so many times, that it makes me very curious about what has happened to the hundreds, if not thouands, of unused, cast-aside spinning wheels.

Today a lady paused briefly to see what I was doing, then tossed off dismissively, "I used to do that." After a brief pause, she added, "I even used to have my own SHEEP."
Well, now, isn't that interesting. So I just had to ask, "What happened to your wheel?"
"Oh," she answered, "when I moved out from Minnnesota it didn't get packed."

All day that has bothered me. How could you not take your spinning wheel?!!! My 36" wheel was one of the few things (besides eight dogs and a cat) that we took when we were evacuated from the fires. Did her poor little wheel make it as far as the front porch, only to be overlooked by the movers? Did they leave it out in the yard, alone, in the rain? Or maybe it was left in the attic, whimpering to itself as it leaned to look out a tiny, dusty window pane and saw the truck motor off down the drive?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Working Like a Dog

Well, yes, we did just shear a dozen fiber goats, but that isn't the reference I intended. I was thinking about the different jobs that our dogs do; what's involved, and whether or not they see it as work.

Making the rounds on some of the fiber and sheep internet lists is a wonderful video of some really skilled border collies working flocks to produce -- as the tag line says -- some amazing art.

Our 10-year-old border collie feels deprived if not allowed to be with the stock, and will run 'till her tongue hangs in the dirt if something exciting is going on. On the other hand, Sevi, one of our Kangal Dog flock guardians, is totally blase' and generally sleeps on the job. (below)
She appears to be oblivious to anything going on, but actually is quite alert. She likes to sleep at the top of the hill, where she can see all around, and will stand to get a better view if need be.

Sevi on alert. Note that the ewe is looking, too.

The sheep hardly look up, and seldom even stop chewing. The day I took these pictures, I was amazed to see her charge down the hill like a runaway freight train when she spotted a strange dog on the other side of the fence, and even more amazed to see that the sheep barely turned a hair when she roared past.
That white speck in the bottom of the pasture is Sevi, barking her warning at a would-be intruder. You can see that the grazing flock barely moved, when one would expect them to scatter to the winds at her sudden intrusion. At night her warning roars will be backed up by the other six dogs chiming in, which has been enough to keep livestock safe and sound for many years.

Several times a month Sevi and I will visit a library or a school or a retirement home, where she falls easily into her other "job," that of a therapy dog for Love on a Leash. Below Sevi listens while a young lady reads to her.

If you could see her face a bit better, you would see that her eyes are nearly shut and that she is almost smiling. Soon she will gently melt to the floor, close her eyes, stretch out on her side and fall sound asleep. Her snoring isn't much of a problem, but we all have to move when she starts running in a dream.

Like the rest of us, I am pretty sure that dogs love having a job to do, and find satisfaction in doing it. At least these big guys sure do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Go West (or East, South or Midwest)

I don’t know if STITCHES West is THE best event of my year, but it is certainly one of the top five. It is always filled with joy and anxiety and stress and delight and a stunning amount of humility as I realize that I am a very small little fish in the enormous pond of knitters and fiber artists/addicts. It’s market is a thrilling extravaganza of fiber temptations, the classes are brain-bulging tests of concentration, memory and understanding, and the fiber-watching opportunities simply astound.

For the past half-dozen years I have spoiled myself with almost-annual pilgrimages to the Bay area in order to take a few classes, shop and dream at the market, ogle some beautiful knitting, and maybe have a room-service meal. For the past few years my daughter (below R, learning how to knit with a silk "hankie") has been able to meet me for a night and maybe a class, but this year she has a baby, in addition to her job, so I made time to visit grands before and after the convention.

Over the years I have enjoyed classes with Lily Chin, Chris Bylsma, Maggie Jackson (below L)

and many, many more excellent and inspiring teachers. This year I signed up for a class on Substituting Yarn, by Kellie Nuss, which was an excellent crash course in all things pattern and fiber related; a full day of spinning cotton on a charkha wheel, with Eileen Hallman; a class on making a needle-felted pet, with Sharon Costello; a refresher on spindle spinning with Merike Saarniit, and a market class on Knitting in Both Directions, or knitting back backwards. Yeah, that's it exactly -- brain twisting but interesting!

I had lunch with a friend from home, who also attended, and dropped in on the intarsia seminar, which was quite beyond me in all but the "gee whiz" respect. One experience that was totally new and fresh was being able to attend "preview" night at the market. This is the first evening of the convention, and is open only to students and teachers, so it is a great chance to actually talk with folks and take your time in a wonderfully uncrowded hall. With over 1200 booth spaces, this is a real luxury.

I was wandering around this wonderland in a total daze, when I finally stopped in at a very nice booth called Urban Fauna. It was chocked full of interesting stuff, and had beautiful skeins of handspun yarn done by various artists hanging on the back wall, so of course I had to go look. I stepped over a new Mach I spinning wheel, but on the way out stopped to watch as another lady sat down to try it out. I was surprised to find that it was made just 30 or 40 miles from where I live, and surprised again to learn that the lady trying it out was Eileen Hallman, the instructor for my charkha class the following day. I told her that I was looking forward to the class because I had a bag of brown cotton, given to me by an elderly gentleman at one of the farmer's markets that I wanted to learn to spin. Really? She wanted to know what city the market was in, and when I told her that it was a small little spot, she became very insistent on knowing the name. Vista, I told her, in northern San Diego county.

She stared at me with her mouth open, and said, "I know where it is; I used to live there. Those plants could be from my yard!!" We eagerly started reminiscing. I told her I had an old spinning friend who used to live on the same street; she not only knew her, but had learned to spin cotton there. And then the kicker. She looked at my name tag and muttered "Fallbrook ... I used to go spin with a group at someone's house there, but her name wasn't Lambert." "Yeah," I said, "I remarried." Well, to say we were both gobsmacked would not do it justice. It was a kick.

I brought my baggie of cotton to the class, bought a charkha book wheel from her (she owns and runs New World Textiles, in NC) and was so busy learning to use it that I forgot about the raw

The book charkha, opened (left) and white (Pima), green and "mauve" raw cotton (right).

brown cotton until break. At that point, Eileen picked up the bag and rushed over to hold it under a light. She did one of those comedy-skit double-takes -- looking at me, then the bag, then back to me again -- and finally said, "You don't know what you have here." I agreed, shaking then nodding my head: I had no clue. "This isn't brown cotton, she continued, "this is MAUVE cotton." She went on to tell me how rare it was, and even in Peru was becoming impossible to find , let alone export. "Are you sure you want to give me the whole bag?" she finally asked. I gave in to baser instincts, worried that my little supplier might never return to the market, and gave her half. But I think we both were quite happy, with our cotton and our discoveries.

The needle felting class was great fun, but I sort of complicated things by bringing pictures of my sheep instead of a dog or a cat. When she said, "All of you who are doing dogs sit on this side, and all of you who are doing cats sit on the other side," I knew I was in trouble. Still, I think I learned enough to be able to complete my 'omage to Gwendolynn ... one of these days.

Gwendolynn, immortalized in needle felt, from her own wool.

It was a wonderful three days that recharged my batteries and have given me a massive dose of enthusiasm.

And don't even get me started on the darling grand daughters!

Bay area babes: Lalima (6 months) and Kavina (9 months).

Next: Sheep eggs, etc.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday to Us

Happy Birthday, Misters Darwin and Lincoln

You guys have chalked up 200, I just 65; certainly no comparison in any respect. Still, I suppose that some words are in order to commemorate the completion of one’s 65th year on this planet, no matter how inconsequential they have been. Once you start hitting birthdays that sound like speed-limits, thoughts naturally tend toward death and impermanence, but mine seemed to be focused on killing.

I have killed countless things over the decades: dreams, ideas, and hopes as well as living creatures. Some were dispatched inadvertently, by accident, some carelessly or thoughtlessly, and some with premeditated, deadly intention. Gwendolyn’s death was one of these.

Gwendolyn ready for her close-up, or shearing

Gwendolyn was a beautiful white Wensleydale/Cotswold ewe that began her life in Colorado in 2002. Along with Wallit, the black Wensleydale/Cotswold ram we had purchased a few years earlier, she was to be the foundation of our new flock of luster longwools. She was friendly and charming, with the most wonderful spinning wool. After a year or two we bred her to Wallit, and in the spring she produced a big, black single ewe lamb that was named Precious, after the character in McCall Smith’s wonderful #1 Ladies Detective Agency books. Being an only child, she was everyone’s delight. Though we had other sheep and other lambs, she was the favorite.

When Precious was a few months old, and starting on solid food, she somehow ingested a piece of wire that was hidden in the hay, and died of peritonitis. It was a sad day for all of us. We had hopes or repeating the breeding the following year, but Wallit sickened and died before that could be achieved, so Gwendolyn was bred to another ram. The lambs were cute -- white twins, Gwynneth and Gwain -- but just not the same as our beloved Wensleydale cross.

Gwendolyn introduces Gwynneth (behind her) to one of the Kangal pups.

We took a year or two off from having lambs, but the springs were too quiet and the fields too empty without lambs bounding about, so last summer I bought another black Wensleydale ram and three lambs. They were shipped down from Oregon, and arrived after quite a long and arduous trip, but the ram was feeling well enough to get busy with all of the girls, including Gwendolyn.

Unfortunately, once that job was done, he focused primarily on eating, and on being the first in line, even if it meant bashing his ladies out of the way. Unfortunately, gentle Gwendolyn was one of his victims, and suffered injury to her hip, which left her severely lame. Still, we had hopes that she could carry her lamb(s) to term with proper care, so set her up in “the infirmary” (see the picture below under the Mattie story) and gave her daily special attention until one day last month she finally lambed. There was one huge lamb, dead in the sack, but another sprightly little black one happily bouncing about… and it was a girl! The good news was that Gwendolyn seemed to be feeling better (wouldn’t you?) and was dutifully standing so that the lamb could nurse. Such a good mom, such a lovely lamb. I should not have named her Precious, but I did.

The little family did surprisingly well. Despite the fact that Gwendolyn seemed to be growing steadily weaker, she could still stand when the baby wanted to nurse, and both ate like champs. We put them back in with the other sheep so that the lamb would have playmates, but Gwendolyn's increasing frailty and several days of icy rains led us to finally put her in a separate pen, so that she and the lamb would not be unduly jostled by the rest of the flock. It was just a day later that we found Gwendolyn collapsed on top of the still-warm body of her lamb, unable or unwilling to get up.

It was clear that the kindest thing would be to put her down, but I just could not do it on my birthday. Or the next day, or the next. Eventually I was ready, so husband and I went out to the sheep pen. He started digging a hole while I gave Gwendolynn some grain and thanked her for her life and her lambs and her wool. Then I gave her a good dose of Banophen, and put a bag over her head, holding her until she quit breathing.

We burried Gwendolyn with her lamb at her side, and only later did it occur to me that they both died the same way: smothered by someone who loved them.

Requiescat in pace et in amore.