Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Puppy School

Milly and Sheba are really growing. They are eating us out of house and home..literally! Not only do they go through their dog food like crazy, they have actually been eating our house! For some reason, they have decided that they really like chewing up the posts that are holding up our porch. They also like peeling the paint off the house and eating that! Other than that, they are really sweet puppies, and very smart. Especially Sheba. Milly is more of a "princess". It's like she knows she has a higher breeding than Sheba does! She definately has the conformation and hair of a show-quality OES (Old English Sheepdog, aka "Bob"). She has several champions in her pedigree. But, where Sheba lacks in breeding and conformation, and hair quality, she certainly makes up for in drive and attentiveness.
Milly was head-butted in the ribs one day by Cocoa (one of our ewes), so now she is afraid of the sheep. In fact, she seems to be afraid of just about everything. But Sheba has no fear. We heard a coyote the other morning and it sounded like he was right out in the yard. The dogs were barking and carrying on like mad. I looked out but couldn't see anything. So Greg got his flashlight and went outside to check it out. The dogs went out with him. Sheba ran straight out to the barn, barking all the way. Milly stayed back at the house and waited for Greg and Sheba to take care the intruder!
Last week, while Greg was in Italy, both dogs became hyper-vigilant. They drove me nuts! They barked at every little sound and movement. I don't know if they were "protecting" me, or if they thought Greg was coming home. They were even barking at birds chirping outside. They really went crazy when the guineas sounded their alarm. They don't normally pay that much attention to the fowl sounds, and seem to have stopped doing now that Greg is home. But, while he was away, it was a different story.
I have been working on their obedience training. They both will follow the "sit" command very well, although Milly sometimes seems to think she doesn't have to if she doesn't want to. They will both also "come" on command (again, Milly sometimes decides to ignore it if she has something more important to do). So, now we have been working on "stay". Of course, with two of them, it took a little bit of work to get the idea across, but they acually seemed to have it figured out by the end of the first day. We worked on it all week, and Greg was quite impressed when he got home. Of course, Milly occassionally needs a reminder that she is supposed to stay until I call her!

Their favorite thing is when we all go out for a hike over the land. At first they were afraid of the hay bales laying out on the pastures. But now that they have become accustomed to them, they will chase each-other and play "tag" all around them. Sheba is a master at the art of chase and has figured out that the hay bales are a great concealer, letting her double back on Milly and play "hide-and-seek. They are so funny to watch. Sheba is really very good at figuring out how to make the game more fun. And she is faster than Milly. If she doesn't want to be caught, Milly is not catching her!
Sheba is turning out to be a great farm dog. She has no fear, is attentive, and a ready and willing student. I think she will not lack confidence in working with the sheep. While Milly is smart, and basically a good dog, she will have to earn her keep by producing show-quality puppies, I'm afraid!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Underwater Basket Weaving, 101

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was talked into demonstrating basket weaving at the up-coming Jamesport "Heritage Days" festival. Well, I have finally finished the first little basket. It's a bit on the rough side, compared to the baskets I've made in the past using pre-prepared, bought reed. I guess I should say it is "rustic"!

These first two photos are of my little basket under construction. Lashing is done and first ribs are in place and it is ready to weave.

And here it is completed. Well, it still needs a few finishing touches, but I will let it dry out completely before I finish filling in those few little spaces that need it.

I have to say, using the willow is a lot harder on the fingers than using bought reed. I don't know if it is because I haven't made a basket in so long or what, but I don't remember my fingers ever being so raw and sore before. However, I must also say that I am especially pleased with the end results. There is just something very rewarding about having cut the materials from my own tree off my own land and seeing it go from some willow branches and twigs to a useful product.
I am debating about selling this little basket. I really need to get some made for the festival...but don't think I can part with my very first one!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hay, Hay, Hay!

How exciting for us. The hay has finally been cut and baled. We have spent the whole summer frustrated by the fact that we bought this beautiful farm, and we couldn't even SEE the land, let alone get out on it and enjoy it. But now we can. Greg has been down to the pond several times to throw a few lines in. And I hiked down to gather some willow vines. I could tell I haven't hiked all summer, because I was really out of puff by the time I got back up to the house! I am so anxious to start hiking again.
We also drove the truck out to shut the gates (after they finished haying they left everything open). We saw a few spots where the fences will need to be fixed up a bit before we put anything out there (Greg's hoping to get some cows by next year).
I thought I'd take this opportunity to post some pictures of the farm when we first moved here at the end of March.

This is me, right after we moved in. I'm standing on the bridge that spans the north end of the large pond seen in the first photo.
This is a view of that same pond, taken from the deck before Greg tore down the old chicken house. It was an eyesore that blocked the view of the pond, so it had to go!

Here you see a view of the east side of the old barn. As you can see, we have a lot of work to do to get this place up to snuff.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Frogs, Dogs and Apple Pie!

Wow! It has been a busy couple of weeks. Where do I begin? I guess I'll start with the frogs! In an earlier installment, I talked about all the bugs and stuff we were encountering. I mentioned that it was a bit like being in Ancient Egypt with its plagues! Well, last week we were invaded by frogs! No joke! We had them in the bathtub, the bathroom sink, climbing the walls, the doors, the windows! They had these funny little suction cups on their feet which allowed them to climb. The dogs would go nuts when they'd see one. Greg stepped on one in the middle of the night on his way back to bed from a trip to the bathroom one night. Whenever I'd come across one, I'd grab a tissue or something, carefully pick it up, take it outside and release it. I haven't seen any for a few days, so maybe the invasion is over!

We have been letting the puppies run around free outside lately. They absolutely LOVE going out there. They just run and run. And, since the hay has FINALLY been cut and baled, they now have the run of the pastures, too. They barked at the bales at first, as if they were startled by these alien things that suddenly appeared out of nowhere when they weren't looking! They often come back to us covered in burrs. Sheba was the first to get into them. She came to me with the hair over her eyes all matted with them. It was so bad that her eye was completely covered. I tried clipping enough off so that she could see, but once she could, she kept pulling her head away whenever I got close to her eye with the scissors. Greg was finally able to get them out with a brush...but she was quite a sight while they were still in there!

Our red apple tree has produced quite a lot of apples. Last week I put up 12 pints of sauce, 8 pints of butter, 6 qts of pie filling, plus an extra-large apple pie. There are probably that many apples still left on the tree. I think we will pick it clean tomorrow, then I will do up the rest of the apples next week.

I took my first spinning lesson this week. Marva Ann Ross from Jamesport, MO is teaching me. She has also loaned me a GORGEOUS spinning wheel. It is made from a walnut tree off of her property by a well-known spinning wheel maker. I really didn't want to bring it home, but she said, "You won't learn to spin if you don't practice. And you can't practice if you don't have a spinning wheel." So she buckled it into the front passenger seat of the pick up and I nervously drove it home. I kept it in the bathroom the first night. The second night I left it in the bedroom at the foot of the bed, but I kept waking up and thinking the dogs were chewing on it! I checked it all over the next morning, and that night it went back in the bathroom for the night! Needless to say, I slept much better that night!

Marva also sent me home with some tomatoes and hot peppers from her garden, and two bags of concord grapes from her orchard. I have spent the past few days making homemade spaghetti sauce, salsa and grape jam! Oh, and after mentioning that, now that the hay was cut, I wanted to get down to the pond to cut some willow branches and try making some willow baskets, she talked me into setting up a table next to her at the Jamesport "Heritage Days" festival at the end of the month. She'll be spinning, and I'll be making baskets. I told her I wasn't even sure if I could get enough made to sell, but she thought I should do it anyway! I did get down to the pond this morning and cut some willow. I formed 7 rims and 4 handles, plus have quite a good pile of weavers cut. I am feeling pretty happy with the rims and maybe this will work out okay after all! I'm anxious to get one made to see how it comes out. If I make small ones, I might be able to get quite a few made. We'll see!