Monday, July 27, 2009


Goldie was the sheep we got to be a companion for Odetta.
Does anyone else appreciate the irony that we just went out and got companion sheep for our companion sheep?

Friday, July 24, 2009

A little-known side-effect of keeping sheep

They give you gray hair. Seriously.
I was checking email at 9:30pm when I heard a commotion out the window. It's totally dark out there, so I listened a bit longer, didn't hear anything, and went back to reading.
Then Goldie started blatting her distress call. And the new little ones started blatting. Only... their blatts weren't coming from the pen.
The only flashlight I could find was my little clip-on LED light. I grabbed it and ran out into the darkness. (Madman is out visiting his best friend, so I'm by myself here.)
Both the younglings were out in the driveway. In the dark. Crying.
Now the last time we had a sheep out, we had a devil of a time getting her back in. Even though we'd had her for several weeks at that point, she wasn't used to us yet and wouldn't come when we called.
We just got these two yesterday! I was near tears. I figured I had a near-zilch chance of getting hold of them, especially since it was dark and the LED made a really weird light. A scary light...
But I lucked out. These two are so friendly that Merlin came running up to me immediately. I hoisted him back up over the fence and into the pen. Then while I was trying to coax Onyx to me, she leaped in by herself - which showed me where the fence had drooped and let them escape in the first place.
I did what emergency fence repairs I could manage, then staggered back into the house, wobbly-kneed with relief.
All's quiet out there now.
I need a beer.

And now for something completely different...

Just to please AnnaMarie, and because she asked so nicely.
I've never done a meme before. And I need something different to take my mind off life for a bit.

1. What time did you get up this morning?
Woke up at slightly before dawn to the sound of sheep blatting. Sheep just outside your bedroom window will do that. We may be able to throw out the alarm clock altogether.

2. How do you like your steak?
Rare. Off the grill. Meat + Fire. I may have been a barbarian in a previous life.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Oh, my. The Fisher King. In 1991. I hadn't realized it had been that long since I went to the movies...

4. What is your favorite TV show?
No TV, but I do watch House and Bones on the computer.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Still in Vermont, but a little further north. And deeper in the woods.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
Home Made White Toast - I'm not much for eating breakfast.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?
No favorite, really. I pretty much like everything.

8. What foods do you dislike?
I loathe lima beans. Truly loathe. And bleu cheese. And turnips.

9. Favorite place to eat?
My own kitchen. I love to cook. Though the King Buffet in my Dad's hometown is a great place to go - lots and lots of Chinese dishes.

10. Favorite dressing?
Ranch, without question. Sometimes I don't even need the salad...

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?
A Subaru Forrester that usually smells of hay. And occasionally of sheep poop...

12. What are your favorite clothes?
Jeans and t-shirt in summer, jeans and sweatshirt in winter.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
I want to go back to Scotland and spend more time there this time. Three days wasn't enough. (AnnaMarie's answer to this one made me cry...)

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
1/2 Full. And sometimes I'll talk myself into seeing it as 3/4 full.

15. Where would you want to retire?
Right here. I'm looking forward to having more knitting time.

16. Favorite time of day?
All day long.

17. Where were you born?
Topeka, Kansas. Yes, I am a Flatlander.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?
My answer is the same as AnnaMarie's: Chicken TV right after you pop a plateful of table scraps into the midst of the flock.

19. Who do you think will not tag you back?
I don't tag so don't expect folks to tag back.

20. Person you expect to tag you back first?
Same answer.

21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?
I'm pretty nosy, so just about anybody.

22. Bird watcher?
I'll watch them if they come to me, but I won't chase them. Though I used to enjoy sitting out in the yard with my grandfather watching birds - he knew a lot about birds.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Oh, night, for sure. In the morning, my eyes may be open, but the brain isn't necessarily switched on.

24. Do you have any pets?
One little cat. And the sheep. The chickens and rabbits are more livestock than pets. And we're down to one fish in the aquarium.

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share?
I'll just skip this one, may I?

26. What did you want to be when you were little?
A major-league baseball player. But I'm old enough that in my day girls weren't allowed to play in Little League. I also wanted to be a singer - unfortunately I can't carry a tune in a bucket...

27. What is your best childhood memory?
Building an airplane with my brother. Out of scrap lumber. We're lucky it was so heavy - if we could have gotten it up onto the shed roof like we'd planned, we would have launched ourselves in it.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?
Cat person. I like small dogs, though - they're just oddly-behaved cats.

29. Are you married?
Yes! Eleven years next week.

30. Always wear your seat belt?
Of course! Though when the state passed the seatbelt law, I was sorely tempted to unhook it everytime I saw a cop. And possibly make finger gestures. Luckily I am a model of self-control.

31. Been in a car accident?
Yes. Seriously off the road in a blizzard. The universe rescued me - four men, all strangers to each other, stopped and helped. They formed a team, winched my car back up onto the road, made sure the car and I were both okay, then one of them had me follow him into town so he'd know I was all right. I've always tried to help people out where I can - and now even more so.

32. Any pet peeves?
Can't stand liars.

33. Favorite pizza toppings?
Bacon. And mushrooms.

34. Favorite Flower?
Used to be lilacs, but now I think it's lupines.

35. Favorite ice cream?
I'm Lactose-intolerant. I just don't like ice cream enough to bother with it.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant?
Not a big fan of fast food.

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test?
Once. I didn't even get my license until I was 41. The first time I took the test I got locked in the "Oh, man!" Syndrome - where you're so busy saying "Oh, man!" over one mistake that you make another. I may have set a record for number of points taken off.

38. From whom did you get your last email?

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
If I had a credit card, it would be Keepsake Quilting. Serious fabric addiction.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?
Bought 2 sheep instead of 1?

41. Like your job?

42. Broccoli?

43. What was your favorite vacation?
Any of the canoe camping trips we've taken on the Saco River in Maine. Haven't gone for a couple of years now, though.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?
My husband.

45. What are you listening to right now?
Sheep. Of course.

46. What is your favorite color?
Purple keeps grabbing me.

47. How many tattoos do you have?

48. How many are you tagging for this quiz?
Not gonna.

49. What time did you finish this quiz?
11:21 am.

There ya go, AM!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Get right back on that horse...

Though our grief at losing Odetta was huge, Goldie's was boundless. For the first time in her life, she was alone. Flockless. Abandoned. Bereft.
She paced and paced, crying endlessly for her lost friend. She blatted until she was hoarse, and kept right on blatting.
Something had to be done, before she lost her mind. Or we lost ours, watching her.
We made some phone calls. "We need a sheep. Any sheep. If you don't have any to sell, could you rent us one?"
The nice lady we bought Goldie from came to our rescue. She had two little wethers, one black and one cream and brown, last spring's lambs, that we could pick one from.
"Is now a good time?" She told us to come on up.
So off we tootled in my little Forrester, to get a sheep to ease some broken hearts.
I thought we would end up with the black one (after all, owning a black Shetland was our heart's desire), but when we went up to the fence to look at them, the little cream and brown guy came running up to us, as if he'd been waiting all his life for us to show up.
It was love at first sight. He was so sweet and so friendly - just the sort of influence we needed for our skittish little Goldie.
Here he is in the back of the Forrester:

But wait. See something in the left side of that last picture?

The nice lady overheard me commenting to Madman that I was definitely happy with the one we'd picked, but it was funny that we weren't ending up with the black one. We got to talking with her, and explained that the whole reason we'd gotten the sheep in the first place was because we'd seen an ad for a black Shetland ewe. She had a black ewe lamb that she hadn't thought about selling - it had come up to the fence to be fussed over, too, while we were petting our little guy. One thing led to another. We somehow went from asking her to please call us if she decided to sell, to loading the little gal into the car.
We went for one sheep, and came home with two.
First here's our new little guy - we named him Merlin.
Who could resist that face? His fleece is all shades of cream and brown, with some gray thrown in just for fun. And though he's only a few months old, the fleece is already 4" long. He's a fluffy fluffy boy castrato.

And he has cute little horns growing!

And here's our new little girl. We're calling her Onyx. Though not as fluffy as Merlin, she's still pretty fuzzy. She's actually 3/4 Shetland and 1/4 Cotswold, though she has the look of the Shetland.
Here's our new flock.

Goldie still occasionally whacks them with her head - "You're not Odetta!!" - but we think they'll settle in together over the next few days.

We'll all continue to miss Odetta - I especially miss her kisses - but the new babies will help our hearts to heal.
At least Goldie has stopped crying. Madman and I are working on it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Will this hellacious summer never end?

Yesterday, we lost Madman's beloved grandfather. The man was the perfect combination of sweet and mischievous. I met him when M and I first became "an item", and I knew then that I was on the right track. Madman is a great deal like his grandfather, both in looks and outlook. Treasures, both of them. Gramp will be sorely missed.

Today, we lost Odetta.
Grief on top of grief. On top of grief.
Too much.

I want my mom back. I want Gramp back. I want my little black Shetland back.
Too much.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Chicken-Style

Way back in Olden Times, (specifically, last winter) one of our little red hens got her toes seriously frost-bitten in one of the more bitter cold spells. Since the other chickens picked on her toes (both literally and figuratively) and were generally mean to her, we shifted her into the old chicken coop to recuperate. She had it all to herself, with a little yard of her own, fenced inside the main chicken yard. Once she got away from those vicious bitches the other hens, she seemed quite happy. Her toes healed, her feathers grew back. Life was good.
We took to calling her Little Miss No-Toes. (I once called her Stubby in Madman's presence. "Oh, don't call her that!" he said. "You'll hurt her feelings!")
Now, in the main chicken yard, there were the 15 other hens and 2 roosters. The big rooster literally ruled the roost. All the hens were his, all the food was his to dispense, the sky was his, the air was his.
The little rooster skulked around, trying to stay out of the King's view, sneaking up on the occasional hen when the Big Guy wasn't looking.
As Winter turned to Spring, I noticed that more and more often, when I got home from work, Little Miss No-Toes would be out in her little yard, and Little Rooster would be all alone in his. They seemed to be having one of those So-Near-and-Yet-So-Far courtships, with the chicken wire fence between them. They always seemed to be chatting, with through-the-eyelashes glances at each other. It seemed kind of sweet. "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou?"
Then one day, we got home from work, and discovered that Little Rooster had burrowed under the fence to join his True Love in her little pen. We laughed, watching him strut around with his "flock" - he'd finally found a world where he could be the Big Guy.
We let them stay that way a few days, but eventually they both had to rejoin the main flock. We had other hens who needed the "Infirmary." A lot of them had lost a lot of feathers due to the attentions of the roosters - saddle feathers from the 'treading' and neck feathers from the grabbing-with-the-beak-to-hold-them-still.
So, one night we snuck Little Miss No-Toes and Little Rooster back into the main coop while everyone was sleeping. (Chickens are not terribly bright. If they wake up with new chickens sleeping next to them, they really have a hard time puzzling out whether they know those chickens or not. Seriously.) Since they'd been in adjoining pens, and not really out of each other's sight, we didn't anticipate any problems with reintegrating them with the main flock.
What we hadn't considered was Little Rooster's new attitude. He had him a flock. "I iz a Man!" He strutted. In front of the Big Rooster. In the Big Rooster's coop.
"Yo, Little Man," said the Big Rooster. "I don't think so..."
And he thumped the little guy. Soundly. Very soundly.
And in the following month, we finally noticed something that we should have noticed a long time ago. It wasn't the big rooster who had been damaging the hens, as we had thought. We realized that he is actually very gentle with the girls.
It was the Little Guy who was hurting them. He was always in such a hurry to 'get a little action' when the Big Guy wasn't looking, that he was pulling out feathers and being rather violent about the whole thing.
Little bastard.
We had him for supper. With gravy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mangofeet's First Law of the Universe

If you spend more than 5 minutes with Norma, you will cast on a red scarf.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good food, good friends, good times

(Yeah, a pretty prosaic title, when you consider how much fun I had...)

My favorite way to spend an afternoon is with my good friend, AnnaMarie, knitting and spinning and talking (and eating! In addition to all her other talents, she's an expert at tasty!), so yesterday I braved the monsoon rains and headed up to visit.
The only thing better than an afternoon with AnnaMarie is an afternoon with AnnaMarie and Norma...
I don't know if I contributed much to the conversation - I got so fascinated listening to those two that I might have forgotten how to talk. And I was laughing so hard that I was only capable of a word or two now and then, anyway.
I took my wheel along (I had planned to take only my knitting, but when I opened the car door, the wheel hopped in and stuck its head out the window in joy. How could I refuse?) and finished the singles of the lovely sparkly purple batts AM had invented for me. Luckily I brought my lazy kate along, just in case, so I got most of the plying done, too.
Of course the picture doesn't do the yarn justice. Lovely dark and light purple, with sparkles.
I'm in love with this yarn. I've got 300 yards of (roughly) sportweight. (I was trying for worsted. Still having trouble with the thick yarn...)
Must get more batts...
Maybe green next time. Or red.
Life can't all be purple...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Uh oh. The Tomatillos are Blooming.

Only a foot tall and blooming already. Considering they're going to get at least 5 feet taller... and bushy... and covered in blooms... and fruit...
Okey, dokey. Salsa for everybody!

I was going to call this post "Can't post! Spinning!" ala our Team Crankypants Fearless Leader (Go Team Crankypants! Phhhhlllllbbbbttttt!!!) but spinning isn't all that's going on around here.

We're only moments mere days away from picking peas! We check them about every hour or so. "Are they peas, yet?" "No." "Are they peas, yet?" "No."

And there are tomatoes forming in the hoophouse. Only eleventy skillion years till they're ripe... Luckily time flashes by at a breath-taking rate.

And there are peppers!
And basil! This plant is tucked into the tomato plants and is very happy. It was about 2 feet tall, until we voted to have pesto for supper tonight. It's slightly shorter now. And nakeder.

Madman has been harvesting poplar saplings for uses around the place. Here's the grape arbor he built last year. Underneath the arbor (and the plastic and the log...) is a very large stone that we use for a bench. (When it's not under a piece of plastic and a log.) It's about 2' by 2.5' by 8' - and is a pleasant place to sit in the summer, shaded by the apple tree and the grapevine.

Here's a view from the upper end of our garden, looking down over the beans, toward the squash and cucumber hills. Those posts are more of his saplings, set in to support our climbing green beans. (Johnny's Seeds Fortex) And, yes, those poles are overkill. They would support gorillas. Madman is very thorough.

Here's the same posts from the side. Notice anything odd about the closest post?

Here's a closer view.

Madman may have set that post when it was a little too green... It's growing.

And that sky? That's what we've been looking at for most of the spring and summer.
Not Blue.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tour de Fleece, Day Two

Really, I am spinning. But no pictures to prove it - every battery in the house is dead. I know because I tried Every. Single. Damn. One. of. Them.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tour de Fleece, Day One

Last night, as I was madly trying to finish off the plying of the last of the orange laceweight, so I could clear the bobbins for the Tour de Fleece, disaster struck.

The drivestring on my wheel finally gave up the ghost. Broke. Came unstrung. Went kerputt.

"Gorgonzola!" I shouted. "Mostaciolli! Frangiapane!" (That last one surprised me, since I don't even know how to pronounce it...)

Ten thousand pounds of fiber in the house, and not a bit of string to be had.
And a holiday weekend.

I was already going to be starting behind, since I had to work 9-5 today. The original plan involved finishing the orange last night, then maybe spinning my purple for a few minutes before leaving for work, and really digging in this evening when I got home.
Instead, I bought string at the store I work at (the evil of having to work today was thus balanced by the good of a store with string being open), made a new drivestring when I got home, and finally finally finished the orange.

I ended up with 1220 yards from a smidge over 7 ounces. (Is that good? I have no idea...)

So, here I am, as usual. A day late and a dollar short.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Almost Ready for Tour de Fleece

Almost done with the plying on the orange laceweight - I finished the last of the singles at AnnaMarie's yesterday. Then sat up waaaay too late last night trying to get the plying done. (Question for the Universe: Why do the singles never ever ever come out even? I'm going to have to do that Andean bracelet thing again. I'm not ept enough to do that Andean bracelet thing. It usually ends up that Anaconda bracelet thing. *sigh*)
And I was telling a story to AM yesterday, and she said "And you didn't post about it??"
So here it is.
I've previously mentioned that our sheep are afraid of the camera. What I've actually discovered is that they're afraid of shiny things. I bought them a nice shiny new feed bucket, thinking it would be easier for them to snack out of than the Cabot sour cream container we've been using.
They were terrified of that bucket. Wouldn't come anywhere near me. Scary shiny bucket. I finally had to go hide it.
So, Sunday, when I went to go feed them their evening snack, they were all jumpy and skittish and wouldn't come anywhere near me. No camera. No bucket. It was hurting my feelings. Now, at first, I thought it was just the fact that Madman had been bustling around all day with the garden tractor and his new weedwhacker (give a man a new weedwhacker and suddenly the world is just full of weeds...) That was a lot of new kinds of noises to throw at them. But I had thought they'd had plenty of time to calm down by then.
It didn't occur to me till days later what was really upsetting them.
That was the first time this year that I had worn shorts. They'd never seen me in shorts before.
They were afraid of my shiny white legs...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

North to Alaska Almost Canada

I was way overdue for a fiber-day, or any kind of relaxing day, for that matter. So this morning I packed up my Ashford Traditional and headed north for a visit with my favorite princess. We talked, we spun, we talked some more. She treated me to a most excellent lunch, including the dessert that almost killed Norma. (Strawberries, lemon-ginger muffin tops, some crazy balsamic magic, and whipped cream. Oh, my. I'm not a dessert person, but this one might have converted me...)
And OMG, I watched her making some of her stunning batts. Holy crap! The pictures she takes (and they are lovely pictures) come nowhere near doing these batts justice. I was just looking for a drumcarder lesson, and I got a close-up view of magic happening.
I may have to change my Tour de Fleece fiber plans. Or maybe just expand them. I now have more purple. Wonderfully gorgeous perfect purple. Ultimate purple. With whipped cream milk fiber and a cherry firestar on top.