The week that was

Never even got close to creating a blog post this past week.  Budget crunch time in my school district, so there were budget and board meetings to attend.  Very exhausting and very tough times.  I am still hoping that I have a job next year, even if it isn’t full time.  But on the brighter side, I really think we have shed our long johns for good!  Well, at least until next fall.  The day has been gorgeous and bright.  Can’t get enough of it, but I see that the black flies have joined us so that battle begins afresh.

Bear and Tesser sitting on John's lap, many years ago

Our sweet Bear is still here, but she is winding down her time with us.  She sat outside most of the day enjoying the air and the sun.  She is still on her pain pills and she seems fine on that front, but is slowing down more each day.  My biggest wish is that she will just close her eyes one of these nights and not wake up.  Tesser knows things are not right and has changed her daily patterns as well.  She doesn’t spend time with Bear on her blanket anymore.  I guess they know.

Soap part 2

Today we helped out at another shearing in the area and when I got home at noontime I decided it was time to cut the soap.  After 48 hours it was looking and smelling very lovely in the molds out in the mudroom.  It had done its thing with the cooling and felt smooth and firm, but not brittle and hard as rock.

Loaf of 2 day old soap

The parchment paper had crinkled a bit in the corners, but it wasn’t too bad when I unmolded the logs. I think next time I will go back to using butcher paper to line the molds instead, it doesn’t get so mushy. Then I got out my nifty, handy-dandy log cutter.  I love this implement!  The molds are made specifically to fit with the

Using the cutter

cutter and you can choose how thick to make the bars.  It all worked out very nicely.  (I have a fondness for the crinkly-cutter, as you can see).  So now we cure it for at least 3 weeks.  It smells wonderful, and I know that you shouldn’t use it at this stage, but when I washed up after handling the bars, my hands felt wonderful!

I ordered these lovely molds from Creekside Soaps.  It is definitely not the only place you can find the wood molds online, but these are handmade and just beautiful.  I love them!

Bars ready for curing

Soapy Thursday

Lavender oatmeal goat milk bars

Yesterday was soap day.  I have not made any in quite awhile and our friend Chris wanted to come by and help out.   I keep about 10 half gallons of goat milk in the freezer for the winter and projects like this.  I had intended to be making soap at least once a month during this time, but things conspired to keep that from happening.

Everything was laid out and ready to go.  All the ingredients and implements.  Chris came over and we got to work (although not before we had some coffee and some treats that Chris brought along with her!).  While the lye/goat milk solution was cooling and the oils were warming, I got out the trusty stick blender in its white case.  Hmm.  Everything is in the box except the part we desperately need to blend the mix.    John, Chris and I began to go through the cabinets and the drawers like crazy people!  It was definitely not coming to light.  In the dim recesses of my memory I can picture the stick part of the blender on the drain board and the rest of the unit in its box.

The elusive stick end of the stick blender... still can't find ours!

I can also recall thinking that this part of it needed to dry thoroughly before popping it into its case.  Sigh.  Another implement separated.  I hate it when that happens :*(

Well, Chris and I talked about doing this by hand and agreed that maybe we would call our friend Pam and see if we could borrow her blender.  So Pam came to our rescue and Chris drove over to get it.  The lye solution was still not quite cool enough when Chris returned so we had some more coffee and then got to blending!  I am always amazed at how magically the oils and the lye/milk mixture come together.  We did have a little debate on whether or not we had reached “trace;”  but in the end we decided to go for it.   I usually add oatmeal to our soaps and this time was no different.  I let Chris choose the essential oil, so we have a nice batch of Rosemary oatmeal goodness!

Soap in its molds lined with parchment paper

It is looking lovely in the wooden molds and I can hardly wait to cut it!

Bear update

Bear in one of the more recent snows

Bear is doing a little better on her new meds and has perked up considerably since we had her to the vet last Saturday.  She seems to be more alert and taking more pleasure in things, so hopefully she is as comfortable as we can make her.  We took her to the vet this morning to have more bloodwork done, and we have ruled out anything like Lymes’ disease or heartworm (although I am diligent about the heartworm pills, so that one would have really shocked me).  She remains on her heart medication and some pain medication and is more actively eating her kibble.  For now, that’s about all we can ask!

Vacation clean-up

John and the tractor and all that good compost!

A clear day was made for working in the paddocks!  I had a fibery field trip day yesterday with some of my spinning friends and it was a beautiful day as well.  But today we had scheduled to get the tractor into the paddocks and get some of the buildup of mud, poop and straw out of there.  John has been going into the lower paddock where we have the yearling ewes and unbred ewes as he can get in, and one day at work last week I did get a slightly crazed call from him that at least one of the ewes had helped herself out of there while he had the fence open.  So I played fence guardian.  Norma and Jingle the donkey were the two most insistent in getting out where there might be something more exciting.  We ended up taking Jingle out altogether, and I just had to keep herding Norma back in until she was tired of the game and went into the greenhouse for an afternoon siesta.  After that I got to get some cleanup done in the milking greenhouse and we just left the fence open and John must have taken at least a ton of manure out of there.

While we were working I was watching the moms and babies in the upper paddock at their afternoon rest.  Too cute for words.  A lot of the babies have just begun to cud, and watching them lying next to their moms chewing away like they are miniature replicas made me smile.  After awhile the goats began to play around the rock, and the joint was jumping. It even got warm enough for me to get into a t-shirt instead of my turtleneck.  It didn’t last long, however, as the clouds came in and it got nasty and chilly.  And rain and sleet are forecast for tomorrow.  Yuck.

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Vacation begins on a low note

Our sweet Bear

We have known for awhile that our Lab, Bear, is getting old.  She has really slowed down, and has lost a lot of strength in her hind quarters over the past year or so.  When you are an 88 lb. dog and you are almost 13, losing weight and slowing down is just the way it goes in the normal progression of things.  So we have been watching her and in the past week or two she very suddenly has just dropped many pounds.  Barely gets up.  Doesn’t eat much.  We took her to the vet to see if we could get an idea of what’s going on and how to make the end of her life a quality one.  We are pleased that she has had such a great, long life.  We have been steeling ourselves for  the worst, but for now, we have gotten the gift of a little more time with her.

Our vets are wonderful and we agreed that we would treat her for her symptoms to make her more comfortable.  Pain meds, heart medication and some pred have already perked her up in the last 24 hours.  It’s a treat to see! She has enriched our lives immeasurably, so I guess we can just be thankful to have shared the time with her.   Any extra is a plus!

Peepers and vacation

Lambs enjoy the sun in the greenhouse door

The peepers really are here.  I know I noticed them earlier in the week, and as usual, they are giving me a big thrill.  It means a lot to hear them in the spring, as hopefully that indicates a warming trend!  Tonight and tomorrow night it’s supposed to go down below the 20F mark, so it might cramp their style, but at least it’s a sign that warmer days are ahead.

Tomorrow we begin our April break.  I definitely need to relax and hang out this week.  I have been run down now for awhile and can use the down time.  Our piggies were supposed to be coming on Sunday, but the farmer who breeds them had a glitch in his schedule so it will be a week or so before they arrive.  It gives us a little more time to get ready for them as well.  I can’t say that I am sorry. Lots of things lined up for the week, so I am hoping that we have some decent weather.  My fingers and toes are crossed for sure.

I had the opportunity to go to Augusta today to the annual “Reading Roundup” convention for library folk.  It was a wonderful day, and a great start to the vacation (had a chance to meet Andrew Clements, a fantastic children’s/young adult author).  Now I am relaxing for a few before going out to feed the bottle lamb boys and then head for bed.  Yay!

Cleaning up and moving on

So now that lambing and kidding is over, I think I can finally clean up the mess of supplies that were necessary to keep at our fingertips: this is what the whole end of our dining room table has looked like for the past month.  I am not an extremely organized person, but after awhile this can make even me nuts!

Mess of supplies for lambing time in residence on our dining room table

Post-lambing days

We have been recuperating and trying to get a little more sleep this past week after the lambing and kidding extravaganza.  Every afternoon as I am finishing chores I stay up with the sheep and goats and watch the babies and their antics.  While the moms are very focused on their dinner, the babies take the opportunity – while mom isn’t watching – to play on the big rock and run the “wave” back and forth across the top of the paddock (which is relatively mud-free).  It is very entertaining.  Better than cable tv!  These are some photos from the afternoon antics.  Thank goodness we are having more moderate temperatures.

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Beezus and Ramona tag

Beezus and Ramona (dark ewes) having a rest with Meadow looking over them

Sunday while I was working outside and waiting for SnowPea’s kids to arrive, I decided it was time to get our yearling ewes Beezus and Ramona out of the mom’s pen and in with the other unbred group.  They don’t really need the extra feed and it would also save some money.  Beezus and Ramona are ewes out of our Lucy, who is a daughter of Lucky, the ram that we used this year.  Lucy got bred this past fall but must never have settled, and it was probably a good thing, as she got bred by her father.  (I know that line breeding is valued in some quarters, but I am not a fan at this moment in time).  I have been hanging on to Beezus and Ramona, who are inseparable, intending to sell one of them when I could figure out which one I like better.  Not the easiest task in the world. I am leaning toward Beezus, but I have to check their fleeces again.

Anyhow, during the post-prandial naptime in the sun on Sunday afternoon I thought that it would be a great time to get a halter on at least one of the sisters and lead her into the next paddock.  So I got Ramona on the lead and unwillingly she let herself be led into the adjoining paddock.  (Their sheltered area in the greenhouse is separated by some green and galvanized grid panels, but they can see each other).  I was very pleased with myself for taking the opportunity to move one of them over.  And I had thoughts of moving the other one the next day.   I am sure that anyone can tell what’s coming next:  and yes, when I took a break and got back up to the paddock, there were Beezus and Ramona, side-by-side on the hill in the mama’s paddock, pleased as can be with each other!  I just can’t win.

Beezus and Ramona close-up: having a rest and a cud together