Sheep Shearing

May 8, 2014

I helped my mother with her sheep not too long ago. I worked alongside Christian, Mom’s hired hand. Jim Schaefer, the sheep shearer, and mom herself. Before we could start shearing of we needed to get them in the prepared place. Mom had long since mustered the sheep into the corral when Dad, Nathan, and I arrived, so we helped herd them across the road into the hay barn that was open to the south, for which were thankful later during shearing because it let in a nice cool breeze the whole two days we sheared.Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (10)

Before we got the sheep lined up, Jim had to set up his equipment and Mom had set up a sort of makeshift corral in order to separate the white sheep from the black because we put the respective colored fleeces in their own bags for sale. I would arrive later with the back up generator and a barrel to throw the poopy wool into and by the time I had arrived, Jim had sheared half bags worth of sheep’s wool. Christian’s job had been to stuff the fleeces into the bag, but I took over his job and he bounced back and forth to help Mom and me. (Mom was sorting and keeping the sheep lined up in the race for shearing.) what my job entailed was waiting for Jim to shear off the belly wool and I’d throw it onto a special pile for the belly wool (the black belly wool wasn’t sorted as such; it sells along with the good colored wool). The second step involved taking the wool with poopy clumps tangled up in it and throwing it into the rubbish barrel I had brought up for that very purpose, although, when Christian wasn’t sorting sheep, he’d throw them in for me because he had gloves on. Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (3) - Copy

When Jim was almost done shearing a sheep, I’d start rolling the fleece up under itself so when I held it up so it  wouldn’t fall apart on me. When Jim finally sheared the sheep clean, I’d gather it up and go toss it in a bag.

Let me tell you about how this bag business is set up. The bag itself is nearly eight feet tall and narrow with a width of a foot. Jim brought along a structure to hold the bag that consisted of a ladder connected to a hopper that the bag goes on which, in turn, is connected to a panel that is wired onto a hastily-built corral panel of dubious integrity. You climb up the ladder and shove the fleece into it and then you jump into the bag and start stomping on it so we could get as many fleeces as we could in the bag because Jim had only brought six bags with him. Although I would suggest only jumping in there when it is four fleeces full, because it’s hard enough as it is getting out of there as it is nearly impossible without once fleece in there. I also suggest using a stick of something to press the first three down because when I land down into the bag to shove it, the ladder slid away and I became trapped with the upper half of my body in the bag with the hoop pinning me against the panel. Thankfully, they were able to hear my cries for help over the radio and got me out of there. Jim got a good laugh out that!

There were times when jumping down into the bag that I’d forget to raise my arms high enough and I knocked them against the hoop going down and let me tell you, getting out of a narrow, eight-foot bag, while only using your arms that were hurting like heck wasn’t half as funny as it sounds. Needless to say, I didn’t forget but one or thrice.Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (9) - Copy

Pizza for lunch was a welcoming break to say the least. Cutting the sheep’s tails short proved interesting because Jim kept forgetting to hold onto every other sheep that needed its tail snipped; it was funny the first few times, but the novelty wore off rather quickly. After all of the shearing and snipping had been done, we moved the sheep and their lambs back across the road, leaving only the wethers slated for butcher and the rams behind to take up to the old homestead. We then began the arduous task of rolling the five and a half bags (one filled up halfway) to Jim’s pickup. It took two of us to stack all of the bags up on there and after that we loaded up Jim’s equipment and wished him on his merry way.

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Two days of handling sheep fleece had made my hands all soft and ‘lotionally’ that weeks afterwards they were still like a babe’s bum and relieved that we were done with the sheep.

Stories by Dallas – May 2014

Fences, Water tanks, and Corrals

What do farmers and ranchers do when they aren’t directly handling their stock?  To be sure maintenance of the infrastructure is at the top of the list!  Today was another day of such for me.  Dallas went with me, so with his help, we were able to accomplish more than twice what I can accomplish alone in the same amount of time.  Today was drizzly and muddy, but the temperature was mid-50s so that’s a good day to work outside.

It takes at least an hour to gather the materials and tools, plus loading a small bit of hay from the hayloft I’m cleaning out on the Buckman farm to haul up to my cows, fuel up, and head north.  The drive is about 35 minutes when the weather is good.  

We had a stretch of hi-tensile electric wire to repair which had been hit by deer and the wire had pulled through a gripple rendering this part of interior paddock fence completely useless.  So, the end post brace was reset and the wires reattached as well as patching the broken part.  All wires restretched with a gripple tensioning tool, then with the gate shut, electricity flowed freely to make the fence ‘hot.’

One water tank had lost its plug, so a couple days ago, I had to get creative and twisted a plug of hay and forced it through the hole.  Incredibly, this worked perfectly!  Absolutely no water came through.  However, I did replace the hay with the proper plug today.

It was still not quite dark, so we unloaded the polywire reel and some step in posts at the Bowyer barn (i’ll set them up next trip up), then went round the block (Cotton Road is FAR too muddy right now) to tie 2 inch by 3 inch welded wire 3 foot fence to four gates in the corral in preparation for mustering the sheep (hopefully tomorrow – weather permitting) and sorting off the ewe lambs I don’t want to get bred.

Even though it was all but dark, I wanted to get more steel posts pulled up and old barbed wire rolled up from around the old horse pond (small pond dug by horses way back in the old days).  So we managed about 7 posts and one strip of wire before the wind shifted and the rain started in serious and it was just flat out dark, dark, dark.   It’s a 35-40 minute drive home in the Gator, so we headed out.

The Art of Writing

A man once said that a writer was the only sort of person that he knew of that thought that he could accomplish more by doing nothing. In this I am not exempt, for more often enough when I would make any attempt at writing down a story, I would find myself staring down at a blank piece of paper, twiddling a pencil between my fingers, uncertainty plaguing my mind as I sought to create an epic that will survive the ages. This isn’t always a result of writers block, but rather a fear of, for lack of a better term, making it impalpable. To write it down would be to write it on stone, because when it’s all floating up in your head you can change it however you want it from adventure to romance to mystery to who knows what, but when you write it down it’s almost like it’s unchangeable. Even when you know that you can just start-up a new draft, there’s still a strange feeling of wrongness about it. Also it can just be hard to put your story into words. You can see it easily enough in your mind’s eye and go through the scenes as you please, but when you write it down you have to be descriptive, ascribing colourful details that bring your story to life, but too much detail and reading it will seem more like a chore having to bog through rather than a luxury, but neither can be lacking in detail and thus making your characters and story boring and engaging, unless, of course, you were trying to make a character or place strange and unknowable by purposely making it vague. Simply put you must moderate your detail to the context of the scene or character or even story. Take for example, if you were to write an adventure, you would add greater detail, an action scene, or if you were writing a children’s book you would write in detail the adorableness of a squirrel or caterpillar or kitten, and if you were writing a trashy romance novel you would write in detail about… trashy… romance… stuff. Anyway, I hope this blog entry will provide some insight into writing.

Dallas Powell

Music is More than Fun!

Not surprisingly, music has shown itself to be helpful in learning once again.    In fact, of my three children, Dallas, who has just turned 21 and was diagnosed with Aspergers just last year, but started vocal and piano lessons at 14, showed the most marked improvement, not only in vocal skills, but in problem solving, speech enunciation, concentration, focus, and memory enhancement. (an upgraded WordPress would allow some pretty cool home music performances on here!)  I regret not having started them all on piano and vocal lessons much earlier in life, but no use wallowing in guilt about something that cannot be changed.  However, if our experience will encourage anyone to consider such lessons for their children, starting as soon as possible, that’d be keen.  Formal lessons to start wouldn’t be necessary.  Just sing, clap, tap your toes with your children – you’ll have loads of fun, too!  As they progress, introduce more complicated rhythms and/or a foreign language fun song as well.  Those brain synapses will be stretching and growing all over!  Whether you are a home, government, or private educator – put some music in those young lives!  It’ll last a lifetime!

Nathan (in Yellow coat) as a student in Les Miserable performance by Carousel Productions, Macon, MO in March 2014.  Photo by Kelly Lewis Photography
Nathan (in Yellow coat) as a student in Les Miserable performance by Carousel Productions, Macon, MO in March 2014. Photo by Kelly Lewis Photography

Speech therapy?!   Try SING therapy!

A Musical Fix for U.S. Schools – an essay by Ms Joanne Lipman for the Wall Street Journal  This essay, once again, explains the importance of music in our lives. Sadly, government and some private schools put this on the chopping block far too often.

Jessica performing at the piano at Central Methodist University her freshman year - 2010 - SAI music fraternity annual recital in Linn Memorial United Methodist Church.
Jessica performing at the piano at Central Methodist University her sophomore year – 2010 – SAI music fraternity annual recital in Linn Memorial United Methodist Church.

Jessica was very active in the music department through college, having received a vocal scholarship and was involved with the Chorale group and Conservatory Singers choir.  Now graduated, spring of 2013, she teaches Kindergarten at The American School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where she also volunteers to direct the high school honor choir.  She continues to practice piano when she has time.  Dallas hasn’t put his musical skills to work yet, except to enjoy singing and making a joyful noise unto Yahweh!   His voice is well-suited for baritone parts.  He started out not even being able to hear a note on the piano and matching the pitch!  Nathan continues vocal lessons locally and last winter was involved with Carousel Productions in Macon, Missouri.  The six performances were sold out!  Though he had initially been rejected at his audition for singing parts, he showed up and did so much better during practices, that he eventually landed FOUR small parts in the productions.  Les Misérables has always been one of our favourite shows, so it was especially sweet that he was able to participate.

Shabbat Shalom!

Runaway Gator!

As past stories of people breaking their legs trying to do the very thing I plan to do are flashing through my memory banks,  I jump in anyway and although it hurt like the devil with bruising and bumping abounding, (once I stomped the brake and stopped, the pain from those bumps came pouring into my nervous system and I had to stop and let it pass before moving on), I managed not to break anything – praise Yah!

The John Deere Gator has suicide doors and thankfully, when I exited the machine to shut the gate, I had left the driver’s side door open.  This at least gave me the opportunity to jump in as it picked up speed heading down hill towards trees and a deep ditch.  Running as fast as a 52 year old out of shape woman can, I caught up with it and a bit ahead so I could dive in through the open door.  Remember with suicide doors I have to plan to jump be in front of the door, then adjust speed so I end up going the opposite direction to land in the seat of the forward moving Gator.

Needless to say, the lesson from this week is to ALWAYS set the parking brake.  ALWAYS!

Shabbat Shalom!

Dreading this last week – at first

Well, to put it into perspective, there are people suffering far worse than me, but it was annoying to have a car reserved and paid for, but after being shuttled from the rail station to Arnold Clark car hire in Aberdeen, my cc won’t go through! What?! I couldn’t get on the internet anywhere except about a mile (2 miles on the sidewalk packing our luggage!) to a mall for free wi-fi. I contacted the lady at the Arnold Clark main headquarters and she got through to the branch and worked it out! So instead of driving away about 1pm – we left about 3:30p! With Nathan‘s navigating, we manoeuvered the multiple roundabouts and managed to stay on the A96 to Inverurie. Found a couple of sites (standing stones) there before needing to head to our hotel in Monymusk. Nine miles and 20 minutes later, we pulled up to a lovely place, Grant Arms Hotel – the receptionist didn’t have our reservation, (she found it later), but put us into a nice room and asked if we would like reservations for supper. Absolutely! and thank you! we hadn’t had anything to eat except for a shared small bag of chips since 5pm the night before. Not like we were going to starve of course, but some of us get grumpy with no food or water for 24 hours. Come to find out, we are the only guests at the hotel tonight! Supper and service were superb and dining room was packed! Little wonder!  Pretty much raining all day.  

Okay, we are in trouble – my Visa has suddenly stopped working all together – we will run out of cash. Now I understand why people carry more than one credit card!  Have never had this problem before.  After discovering that the post office in Monymusk couldn’t exchange my US dollars for Stirling, Nathan and I drove back to Kenmay and exchanged enough to pay for our meal and hotel charges at Grant Arms Hotel as well as for the next night if need be.  Then it was past time to leave.

Well, we are all good again by Monday afternoon, Jim McIntyre at the Bank of Brookfield-Purdin, transferred money out of our bank account to pay my VISA card so we don’t have to sleep in the car for the remainder of the trip!  My bad, for not increasing the limit for this trip – didn’t even think about it since usually I have most of it all paid before we leave home.  We are traveling more by the seat of our pants this time.  We feel much better now – stress was horrible for these past two days.  Thought we might have to start cleaning rooms and washing dishes!  This week is going much better now!  The people at Grant Arms were very understanding and supportive.

Even though it is pouring down rain this morning (6th) , but we were determined to find the monument and battlefield of the Battle of Harlaw.  The monument was built in 1911 – 500 years after the battle and is located north a bit of Inverurie, so we did some back tracking to get there.  The plan, of course, was to do this yesterday, but with all the delays, it just didn’t happen.

Rain was blowing sideways with gusts up to 60 mph – All these side roadways are very narrow and winding.  Plan on taking an hour to drive 30 miles.  Stunning drive from Inverurie to Braemar (again passing Monymusk)
So, on our stop at one of the parking places (i was just going to let cars behind me pass) it happened to be a VisitScotland info stop and we found out that the Queen is leaving her Scottish home at Balmoral tomorrow morning and that from 3p-7p, the road will be opened up to visit the grounds for that day only, then the bridge will be closed for repairs at until April.  We may go back up the road to do that tomorrow.

We are staying in a run-down hotel tonight, the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar – one can easily see that it was quite grand in its day.  Rich woodwork, ornate pillars, roaring fire in the huge fireplace in the expansive, coffered ceiling lobby.  But the rich carpets are threadbare and paint is chipping in rooms and hallways.  The bedrooms’ floors tilt hideously and the room furnishings would make a good bonfire.  However, there is a tour group which just arrived – about 45 or 50  of them – they are all in the dining chatting and having a grand time.  We just grabbed some stuff from the Co-op right next door and ate in our room.  Tonight, there is supposed to be singing entertainment of Gaelic and Scottish songs in the lobby which we can attend.  Probably set up for the tour group, but guess it’s open to all.  Looking forward to that.

Well, i didn’t sleep much at all last night, so getting pretty tired.  and i need to go back upstairs to plug in the computer – Wi-Fi only in the lobby here.
It absolutely poured all day yesterday and last night and we woke to a steady downpour.  There is flooding across a good bit of the country – especially where we are.  So what did we do?  We went back to the turnoff for Balmoral Castle and crossed over the highway to tour the Crathie Kirk built in 1895, then we drove to the Royal Lochnagar Distillery for a tour.   At long last it was 3 pm and we were able to get onto the grounds of Balmoral.  Nathan purchased a Harris Tweed billfold.  The old leather one he was using was in danger of allowing money to escape by accident!  Everything in the gift shop was 25% off, that was the purpose of opening the grounds today – reduce inventory – because the Balmoral bridge to get to the castle will be closed from now until April sometime.

The Queen left in the morning and the gift shop was open with deep discounts – the attendant said that technically there was no one to stop us walking round the castle, so we did, as did a few other folks. Today, the bridge to the grounds and castle is closed for repairs until April. Just a fluke that we happened to be here at this time. We think we saw the Queen leave – very low key – but one group of school children waved flags as the vehicles drove by – we didn’t actually see her, however.

  We walked around the grounds and castle, then headed this way.  The rain had stopped even before we left the castle, so the only stress of driving was the amount of water standing on the road!  Not to mention, the narrow, winding, and in some cases wavy pavement.  I met two huge trucks (like semis) on these roads and, honestly, it’s just too narrow, but we made it by despite they being at least a foot into my lane.  They couldn’t be over their side anymore or they’d be in the ditch or scraping the rock walls.
Our accommodation tonite in Forfar – the Zoar Guest House leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s clean, so we are alright with it.  Tough to find two nights accommodation here at least on short notice- there really is not enough good accommodation.
Sun is supposed to shine tomorrow and the 10th.  Hope so!

Sailing Island to Island

The Northlink Ferry ride from Lerwick to Kirkwall was much shorter (5 hrs) than the overnighter (12 1/2 hours) from Aberdeen to Lerwick, however since the boat ploughs through a considerable portion of the confluence of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, it is quite rough.  Even though no alcohol is consumed by our party, we staggered like drunken sailors down the aisles to the restaurant, holding on to handrails and posts – as did most everyone else.  Well, those who weren’t already well into their drinks or sick.  The boys were quite queasy and unable to eat supper – thankfully, they did not throw up!   But like many of the passengers, sat quietly in their seats and hoped it didn’t get worse.  Which it didn’t.  The rough ride only lasted about two hours, then it was smooth sailing again.  Then they were hungry – but the diner was closed by now.  We had snacks. With such late arrival and our accommodation some distance from the docks, I was concerned about how we were going to get there, so I had e-mailed a local taxi company, Craigies and they assured me that taxis are there, which was confirmed by the helpful lady at the Northlink Ferry desk when we picked up our boarding passes in Lerwick.  But above that, Craigies had a sign with my name on it – the driver was waiting for us at the docks!  What a delightful young man was our driver and though he’d never been to Woodwick Mill in Evie before, he found it straightaway.  Though our host did not meet us, he had already given us clear instructions and had the light on for easy access at what we discovered inside is a superior, well-fitted 2 bedroom apartment and next morning we stepped outside to jaw dropping views! Orkney Island here we come!

Faith, Family, Farm

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