Monday, July 23, 2012

Before Fiber Christmas In July

This coming weekend I will once again be a vendor at Fiber Christmas in July in Kellyville, Oklahoma.  This will be our third year to participate.  Kate Lowder, of Lowder Colour Farms, puts on a fantastic show each year, and it draws quite the crowd of fiber folk from all over the place.  I am very excited this year because we will have all new display pieces for our booth.  Stan and I have been working hard building and painting, and the kids have pitched in and helped, too. 

I have more roving and yarn to take to the show than ever before - over 80 rovings and 40+ handspun yarns.  I was disappointed with my booth last year, it looked very empty and sad in my opinion, so this year I am making sure it is full to the max! 

I have been cranking along on the sock machine, too!  It is a blast to play with!  On my 5th attempt, I finally turned out a perfect sock.  Woo-Hoo!  I plan to take the little beast with me to the show for others to play with.

I am really proud of this machine.  I bought it back before Christmas off of ebay.  It was a dirty, grimey mess.  I spent hours cleaning off the years of grease and grime, and was well rewarded for my efforts.  It even had an amazing coat of paint under it all! 


Monday, July 9, 2012

Goodbye, Dear Friend

This past weekend was one of the hardest in my life.  I had to make the decision to have my dear sweet Lily Belle put to sleep.  She is now resting peacefully up on the hillside under an oak tree where my husband and sons prepared a very nice place for her. 

Now, I am not going to carry on and mourn like I have lost a child, but she was a member of the family.  More importantly, she was the mama's dog.  Eleven years ago we were able to able to make the transition from rent houses to a house of our own, so I could finally have an inside dog.  Hubby had long ago learned to say "okay, honey, if that is what you want."  I took off alone to the Humane Society to find a cute little snuggly lap dog.  Unfortunately, all of the small dogs had signs on the cage door that either said "Doesn't do well with children" (we have three), "Doesn't get along with cats" (we had one), or it was just plain ugly.  Sorry, there really are ugly dogs.  So I asked to go to the back and just walk through all of the big dogs.  I did not want a large dog because we already had two cattle dogs outside.  But, it couldn't hurt to look - there might be a puppy, and those are small!  Anyway, I was walking through the rows and rows of concrete block pens just looking.  All of the dogs were barking, whining, and jumping against the chain link gates to their pens, the noise was deafening.  I walked down the last row, and right near the end I walked past a pen where the dog was just sitting there.  I didn't think much of it, and headed for the door.  I hadn't seen the puppy I had pictured in my mind to come home with us, and I didn't want an adult dog.  Just as I reached for the door handle to leave, it dawned on me.  That dog was just sitting there.  It wasn't barking, it wasn't begging for attention, it was just sitting.  I decided it must be sick, so I would go back and check before I notified the front desk.  Back through the roar, all the way to the last row, and there that dog still sat.  It looked to be a basset mix, golden in color, long bodied, with short stubby legs that turned out where it sat.  Big. Brown. Eyes. I stared, it stared.  I tried to call it to the front of the pen, and it acted like it wanted to come, but was afraid.  Those eyes. 

I'm a sucker.  So I went to the front and asked about the sad dog with the big brown eyes.  They said she had been found wandering in a parking lot, covered in ticks.  She was very timid, but sweet.  So, sucker that I am, I asked to meet her.  They brought her to the visiting room and she hid in the opposite corner under a bench.  I sat down on the floor and called to her.  She wouldn't come.  For about 30 minutes I sat in the floor and just talked to her in a soft voice.  Finally, she slowly crept over and sat nearer.  Then a little nearer.  When I first reached to pet her, she flinched like I was going to hit her.  It broke my heart.  For the next half hour, I petted and scratched, and she sat still and let me.  But she was big, and an adult, and so shy, and we had three small kiddos.  This would never work, I told myself.  So, reluctantly, I got up and left.

I told my husband about her when we got home.  I couldn't quit thinking about her, so the next day we loaded up the children and headed back to see how she would behave around them.  When they brought her in the visiting room, she immediately hid behind my legs.  My legs!  Not in the corner.  She let me pet her, and slowly warmed up to my husband, but wouldn't let the kids pet her.  We decided she was not really the right fit for us, so we left.  I felt sorry for her, and on the way out I gave the front desk half of her adoption fee, hoping that would help another, more suited family, choose that sweet girl.

It was the middle of July, and so very hot.  That evening the power went out.  All over the region.  Thankfully, we got ours back quickly.  But much of the region did not.  The next night we were watching the news, and they did a story about how the Humane Society was struggling to keep the animals cool.  They were asking for fans and generators to run them.  I couldn't stand thinking of that golden girl with the big brown eyes suffering in that heat.  She was so quiet, she wouldn't get the attention the noise-makers would.   They were not allowing any adoptions because they could not do background checks without electricity, but as soon as the power was back on, I made a bee-line up there and she came home with me. 

It didn't take long until Lily Belle was well adjusted to our household.  She only had one accident in the house before she was house-trained.  She went from a scrawny 39 pounds at adoption, to over 60 pounds the first year.  She was happy, healthy, and while she loved our family, she was devoted to me.  Lily was never 10 feet from me when I was home. If I changed rooms, so did she.  She slept on her yellow blanket on my side of the bed every night.  She always got the last bite of everything I ate.  She had to stay in a huge crate when we were not home because she apparently had seperation anxiety and would drag our belongings from all over the house into the living room if she was left alone.  Years and years went by, and she slowly aged.  Her golden face turned white, and she began gaining a little more weight because of slowing down.  We often called her a speed bump because she liked to sleep right in the main walkways of the house.   Her teeth began to wear down, and she slept more and more.  About three weeks ago, I noticed she was having to go outside way too often, and was wetting multiple times when she was out.  My never-has-an-accident house dog began standing up from a nap and losing control of her bladder.  So I took her to the vet, and found out she had bladder stones.  The options were either surgery or try a medicine based cure.  She had been with us for eleven years, and I know was at least two years old when we got her, at the minimum she was thirteen.  Probably more like fourteen or fifteen.  So I opted for the much less expensive medicine.  Several years earlier we had nearly lost Lily because she had a terrible time coming out from under anesthesia, so I was very concerned she would not come out of the surgery. 

Lily got better.  She quit having accidents in the house, but was still needing to go outside much more often than usual.  Last Wednesday, I took her out, and she ignored me when I tried to get her to come back in the house.  So I went up on the hill to fuss at her.  Then I saw it.  She was passing a lot of blood.  I went cold.  Maybe it was a one time thing.  Next trip outside I watched again and the same thing happened.  I knew it wasn't related, but the next morning I called the vet and asked if it could be the bladder stones clearing up?  Is this normal? Please?  But it wasn't.  My normally sedentary dog was wandering aimlessly around the house, panting.  She couldn't get still.  She began needing to go outside every couple of hours, and having accidents in the house again.  So I sat the children down and talked to them.  Lily had been part of their lives for as long as they could remember.  Even though we live on a farm and lose animals regularly, this was different and was going to be hard.  I went to bed Thursday night crying and petting my girl, who was, as always, by my side of the bed, but panting hard.  She had accidents Thursday during the night, and by Friday morning, I had mostly made up my mind.  She had several more accidents.  It broke my heart.  I knew what had to be done.  I called the vet, and about 2:30 Friday afternoon, Lily Belle laid down on her blanket on the back porch and went off to sleep forever, hearing mama tell her how much she was loved and always would be.  Our dear vet prayed with us, and it was over. My sweet brown eyed girl was gone. 

I am crying as I type this.  I have missed her every time I turn around this weekend.  I can't bear to put her food dish away or fold up her towel in her pen.  I don't want to vacuum because her fur is all over the house.  I will likely have reminders of her on my black pants forever, and I am smiling through my tears because of that.  I cried when we came home from church yesterday because she wasn't there to let out.  Her yellow blanket that she always slept on is gone from my side of the bed because we wrapped her in it.  I convinced our shepherd mix, Gracie, to sleep on my side last night, but it isn't the same.  She doesn't snore, Lily did.  I look up and still expect to see her just a few feet from me, and I checked under my recliner before I put it down for her, out of habit.  I told the kids to take all three, I mean two, dogs outside.  My heart hurts.

 I will miss her for a long time.  She was my dog. Goodbye, Lily Belle.  Mama loves you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sure is hot!  We have just barely started July here in Arkansas, and already we have tolerated 10 days that topped out over 100 degrees.  Rain would sure be nice, too.  I am glad we already have our hay in the barn for the year. 

I thought you might like to meet a couple of my favorite animals.

This is Daisy, our Jersey milk cow and Huey, who thinks I am his mama.  Huey is a Border Leicester/Shetland wether.  His mama is Naomi, my favorite animal on the farm.  When she gave birth this year, Huey was born first.  One of the sheep dogs apparently thought Huey belonged to her, so she attacked Naomi as she was cleaning the baby up.  After she had the second one, she abandoned Huey, so we wound up raising him.  Now he follows us everywhere, and even loves to ride in the truck - up front in mama's lap, of course.

A couple of years ago, when my oldest son hit the teen years and began inhaling food, I started noticing how much milk and butter we were going through.  I mentioned it to my husband, and we added it up and realized we could feed a milk cow for less than I was spending at the grocery store on dairy products.  The added bonus was the calf would be destined for the freezer each year (but not this year's calf - she is a beauty!).  Daisy has lived with us since she was 5 months old.  We use a small home milking machine each night to milk her, and here is what is usually in our fridge:

I have learned to make butter and yogurt, and am learning to make cheese - not  lot of success in that area yet.  I have figured out the fastest and easiest way to make butter is to shake the cream in a jar for about 10 minutes.  The butter forms almost like magic!  We don't use near the cream that Daisy produces, so much of it stays in the fridge until it gets good and thick, then it goes to the chickens.  We call it "chicken candy".  If they were large enough, they would knock me over when they saw a jar in my hand!

Speaking of chickens, this is Gonzo. 

He loves to eat grain out of my hand. He also likes grasshoppers and other various bugs my 12 year old catches for him to dine on.

Gonzo is an Araucana rooster.  He has just learned to crow.  Isn't he handsome?

And this one was just too funny not to include.  Remember I mentioned the sheep dogs?  Well, hubby gave one of them, Ginger, a haircut.  Scarlett is waiting until we make a trip to town before she gets her haircut.  Apparently Ginger's fur dulled the blades, so we have to get another set.

Almost looks like Scarlett is saying "Who are you?"  It is hard to believe there isn't more dog than that under all that fur. 

By the way - there are more fleeces for sale on the Diamond B website , and new dyed fiber in the Etsy shop.  July contest has started in the FIX group on Ravelry , with this month's prizes being good sized boxes of fibery goodness.  Any purchase from the participating shops earns you an entry, and there is no limit to the number of entries each month!  Come join us!

Till next time!