Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Year

I just realized: This blog is one year old now!

Looking back, I can't believe all the stuff that has happened in just one short year. It was a very difficult time, perhaps the hardest year of my life so far, but we hung in there, and I learned so much. So now it's time to look back on some of my accomplishments:

  • I learned how to write a blog. And though my readership numbers are not huge, the blog has had visitors from at least 49 states and 65 countries, on every continent except Antartica!
  • I sold 11 horses, more than 30 sheep, dozens of fleeces, plus a few sheep pelts, skulls, and horns.
  • I learned how to sell on Ebay, and made several thousand dollars selling some of my valuables to help us buy hay for the animals.
  • I learned how to negotiate trades (sheep for horses, horses for sheep, horses for services, sheep for services) and how to negotiate sales (deposits, payment plans, shipping arrangements, what extras are or are not included in the sale price). I even negotiated an excellent situation with free board and professional training for my stallion, in exchange for free breedings to him.
  • I gained a lot more experience working with young horses of widely varying personality types.
  • I helped and/or watched the delivery of dozens of lambs.
  • I learned a lot of new things about veterinary care of livestock and pets (wounds, sicknesses, birthing challenges, broken legs, poisonous snake bites, maggots, parasite control).
  • I got my first 3 paying jobs designing websites for people.
  • I got a year older (could be worse), got through another year of marriage (still going strong), got a year closer to having our credit cards paid off (whoo-hoo!), and got another year closer to having our sheep flock reach its "certified Scrapie free" status (not a huge deal, but nice).
  • I made a lot of tough decisions, faced worry, heartbreak, fear, indecision, disappointment, and anger... and still retained some semblance of sanity and humor (most days!).

So, what's ahead for the year to come?

  • I want to keep learning and improving the farm, of course.
  • I want to keep working on getting our finances back under control after the financial disaster that the horse situation has caused.
  • All the stress of the past year or two led me to eat for emotional reasons, and I gained a lot of weight, which has made me feel unhealthy and tired. I want to get slim and fit again. I have a plan to lose 1 lb. per week for the next year. I started in late June, and have lost 7 lbs so far without "dieting" or exercising more---just by making more conscious food choices. I don't expect that all the coming weeks of weight loss will be as easy as these past few, but that's okay, I'm tired of being tired and heavy. I'm ready to be "the real me" again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Crossroads, Chapter 2

Back in November, you may recall that I posted an entry about National Novel Writing Month. I had intended to participate, and even posted the first draft of Chapter 1 of my novel, Crossroads. But too many things came up that month, and I ended up not having the time to continue.

Since then, several of my readers have asked whether I ever wrote any more of the novel, and whether I would post some more of it here.

Things have been busy, so I have had almost no time for writing, but I do have a little bit more done. It may be months between excerpts, but if you readers continue to nag me every now and then, I'll try to keep posting them from time to time.

If you want to read from the beginning, Chapter 1 is posted here.

Below is the first draft of Chapter 2.


The next thing I remember, I was waking up in a hospital room. Even before I opened my eyes, I knew I wasn’t in my own bed. The room smelled of disinfectant and, in some peculiar way, sunshine. Distantly, I heard the sound of an intercom paging doctor somebody and the whisper of footsteps passing in the hall. A faint, almost-inaudible electronic hum hissed from the room’s fluorescent lights. Near the head of my bed, some kind of medical device beeped regularly.

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was a cheerful ceramic pot of yellow chrysanthemums blooming on a small table by the window. I smiled faintly. Flowers. That explained the summery smell. But the bright wash of afternoon sunlight hurt my eyes, so I turned away from the window.

There, her long, lean limbs folded to fit into the confines of a hideous rose-colored paisley armchair, a young black woman sat flipping through the pages of Vogue. Her hair was tightly braided in a crown across the top of her head. Her high, smooth cheekbones and angular jaw made her look as if she had just stepped out of a magazine cover or emerged from an engraving on an ancient coin.

My smile widened. “Eb!” My throat felt strange, and my voice came out as a cracked whisper.

She dropped the magazine and rushed to my side. “Keri? Oh my god, you’re awake!”

I licked my lips and tried again to speak. “You look like an African princess with your hair like that. Trust you to be perfectly coiffed even at my deathbed.”

To my surprise, her eyes welled up with tears. “Don’t say that. You’re going to be fine. The doctors all say—”

Clumsily, I petted her hand. “Joking, Eb. I was joking. What the hell happened? I have a headache the size of Alaska.”

Before she could answer, a broad-shouldered man appeared in the doorway behind her. “Hey babe. It’s three o’clock. Ready to go?”

She didn’t even turn. “Devon, get the doctor. She’s awake!” Obediently, his broad shoulders disappeared into the hall.

“A new man in your life?” I raised an eyebrow. “Do tell.”

She dragged the ugly pink chair closer so she could sit next to the bed. “What, Devon? No, he’s not new. We’ve been going out for—” She stopped suddenly, covering her pause by fumbling with a pitcher that was sitting on the bedside table. “Are you thirsty? I can get you some water.” Pouring too quickly, she spilled a little on the table, then thumped the pitcher back into place and stretched the brimming glass in my direction.

I tried to sit up, but a sudden blaze of pain roared through my limbs and I sank back again, gasping. “Ebony Clara Matthews, what is going on? I know I’m in the hospital, but how did I get here? What happened to me?”

She let the proffered glass sink slowly to her lap, where she gazed into it as if it contained the answers to my questions. “I was about to say that Devon and I have been going out for a month and a half. I met him at that party I went to the night you had your accident. Keri, you’ve been in a coma for six weeks.”

A posse of doctors and nurses charged into the room, and for the next few minutes I was surrounded by strangers poking, prodding, shining lights in my eyes, and asking me things like who was president and could I wiggle my toes. My body was full of mysterious aches that everyone seemed more familiar with than I, judging by how accurately they prodded in just those exact places.

I bore it for as long as I could, but eventually I’d had enough. “Look, I’m fine. I remember my name. I know what year it is. My fingers and toes are all fully functional. Can you give me some privacy to talk with my friend, and do the rest of this later?”

In the six weeks I’d been unconscious, they’d apparently gotten used to me being pliable and inanimate, because now when I resisted, they goggled at me as if they didn’t understand.

“Get out,” I suggested, as helpfully as possible.

It was Devon who came to my rescue. Six foot three and broad as a quarterback in a stylish suit, he tucked his hands beneath the elbows of a couple of the doctors and ushered them out of the room. “Thank you all so much, but this is Miss Cook’s roommate and I’m Miss Cook’s lawyer. We need a few moments to speak with my client, if you don’t mind.”

When they were gone, a blissful quiet settled on the room once more. Devon shut the door, and both he and Ebony came and sat next to my bed, somehow managing to look happy and worried at the same time.

“Lawyer?” I surveyed Devon from the top of his conservative, hundred-dollar haircut to his tasteful designer shoes. His dark eyes were inscrutable and his too-straight teeth impossibly white against his cafĂ©-au-lait skin, but the hint of a dimple that flashed beside his mouth when he smiled suggested there might be a warm personality beneath the power-suit exterior. “I have a lawyer now?”

Ebony leaned forward. “He’s just been helping out while you were… gone. I asked him to. There’s been a lot of paperwork, between the medical forms, the accident reports from the crash, the insurance claims, and now the settlement offer from the railroad.”

“I am sorry.” Devon’s voice was smooth as dark chocolate, his elocution clearly honed by years of practice. A voice trained to wring the heartstrings of juries and judges alike. “If you would prefer to be represented by someone else now that you are… yourself again, I will be glad to turn over all the paperwork.”

“But there’s no need to think about any of that today,” Eb added. “We’re just so happy you’re okay.”

“Wait. Go back a second.” Everything was moving so quickly, and my mind was having a hard time keeping up. “What crash? What settlement? What does the railroad have to do with anything? I lost control and skidded into the ditch, that’s all. I was trying to find a phone to call a tow truck. How did I end up here?”

They glanced at each other. Ebony frowned and took my hand. “Honey, your car is totaled. I saw it. There’s nothing left but a twisted wreck of metal. They’re mostly healed now, so maybe you can’t tell, but you had seventeen broken bones and a punctured lung. They say you died three times in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. You had four surgeries before they would even let me in to see you, and when they finally did, I didn’t recognize you. I thought they’d brought me to the wrong room, that it was all some kind of mistake, that’s how badly you were banged up.”

“I don’t understand. What happened to me?”

Ebony drew her hand back and laid it beside the other one in her lap. Fingers slightly curved, palms turned upwards, they looked like two small, helpless animals. When she spoke, she had to force the words out. “You drove your car into an oncoming train. The engineer who was driving the train said you accelerated into him, there was nothing he could do. He said it looked like you did it on purpose.”

The color seemed to drain out of the room. “That’s impossible,” I whispered. “Why would I do something so idiotic?” Neither of them replied and neither of them would look me in the eye. Finally, the answer dawned on my. “Oh my god. You think I tried to kill myself. Why? Ebony, why would you think that?”

“I don’t know. You were so sad lately, so closed off. I just thought—”

“My parents died, Eb. I’m allowed to be sad about it. That doesn’t mean I want to kill myself.”

“I just thought there must have been something else going on,” she said miserably. “You were preoccupied all the time, talking to yourself, staying up until all hours of the night. I thought I was a bad friend not to have seen the signs.”

“You weren’t a bad friend. There were no signs. I was just working on trying to find my birth parents, and I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to get my hopes up until I found a lead.” This time, despite my protesting body, I did sit up in bed. “Oh crap! While I was unconscious, did I get any phone calls or messages from someone named Margery Greenacre?”

Ebony shook her head. “I don’t think so. Why? Is it important?”

“She was the lady I was on my way to see that night. She said she knows who my parents are, but she wouldn’t tell me anything more over the phone. She sounded really urgent that I come see her right away, and I never showed up. She’s going to think I blew her off.”

“Take it easy, I'm sure she'll understand. If you like, I'll call her for you and explain. And when you're feeling better, you can—”

But my mind was already wrestling with the next memory. This one was blurrier, less certain, but I forced it to the surface. As it came clear, a hot splinter of pain darted like a flicker of lightning behind my right eye. “The girl! That night, there was a little girl with long red hair, she saw the whole thing.”

Ebony's brows puckered, and she glanced at Devon, but he just gave a little shrug. Her lips tightened, and when she turned back to me, her eyes brimmed with pity. “There was no one, Keri. No witnesses except for the guy driving the train. Believe me, the police investigated. And then the railroad company investigated. Everyone was hoping for a witness they could question. But it's a pretty rural area, with no houses nearby. It was late at night and pouring rain. There was no one out there.”

Why was she arguing with me about this? “I'm telling you, there was. She was standing in the road, in the rain. I think there was a dog. I almost didn't see her. I swerved, and that's how I ended up in the ditch.”

She stroked my hand, her touch light and cool. “Honey, it's all right. We don't have to talk about this now. We're not judging you, and we're here for you, whatever you need. We only want to help.”

I blinked stupidly at her, uncomprehending. It took several seconds before I understood: She thought I had made up the little girl, either consciously or unconsciously, so I wouldn't have to admit that I had attempted suicide. Every word I said to the contrary would just support her theory that I was deep in denial.

I sighed. If even Ebony, the friend who knew me best in all the world, believed such a thing, I had a feeling my recovery period was going to be a lot more painful and tedious than just rebuilding my atrophied muscles and re-knitting broken bones.

I couldn't imagine what she had gone through, these past six weeks, thinking that I had crashed the car on purpose and wondering if she could somehow have done something to prevent it. All those weeks of guilt and worry---and anger too, I'm sure, wondering how I could do such a thing instead of just coming to her for help. Somehow, I would have to rebuild her trust in me and re-knit the bond we'd shared. Somehow I'd have to convince her I was telling the truth.

It never occurred to me for a second that she might be right.

A Sad Loss

On July 15, the Icelandic sheep community lost a great friend and mentor. Susan Briggs of Tongue River Farm passed away from leukemia, which she had been battling for several years.

Although I only met her once in person, she is the reason I am raising Icelandics sheep today. It was a photograph of her beautiful ram, MacBeth (shown below) that made me decide that Icelandics were the breed for me, and in the years I waited to finally buy my farm, I visited Susan's website frequently to educate myself and to dream of the day I would have a flock of my own.

Three of my first six sheep were from Susan's farm, and I'm proud to say that I still have 3 MacBeth daughters---as well as several grandsons and granddaughters---in my flock.

Thank you, Susan, for helping to make my farming dream come true.

On the Mend

I think my little sick lamb, Ultra, is on the mend. She is still so very thin, I don't know how she has survived this long. But she is slowly regaining her appetite, and she walks around now, taking an interest in what's going on around her, instead of just lying on the ground in misery all the time.

She was well enough that I put her back in with the other lambs for a couple of days, thinking that she might be getting lonely in her special pen. But last night when she saw me she started yelling for me. I opened the gate and she followed me right out, clearly no longer wanting to be with the other lambs.

So I put her back in her own private pen, so that she can have as much food as she wants to eat, with no competition from the other lambs. I think that it is taking a while for her rumen to start functioning again, because she will only eat a little bit at a time.

But she is eating, walking, and expressing her opinions about her situation. So I take that as a good sign.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Latest Batch of Good News

It's been a busy week. This time of year, July and August, are the hardest for the sheep because of the heat and the parasites, so it's always a time of worry for me. Plus our finances are getting very tight again, which is another source of worry.

But I've had several bits of good news lately, which I'm quite happy about:

1. On Sunday, the mare (Callista) that I sent to my trainer was sold. Hurray! So that's one fewer horse I have to worry about and a few thousand dollars coming in to help pay bills. Now I only have 2 more horses left on my sales list, and I have 3 different buyers interested in one of those.

2. Both of the clients I'm designing web sites for have needed work done right away, and both of them had added complications come up suddenly that created more work for me. But I have had more time available lately to actually WORK on the two sites, so I've been making rapid progress, which feels good.

3. My stallion has now made enough progress in his training that he is being ridden by a 14 year old girl. This speaks volumes about what a wonderful temperament he has!

He also just had his wolf teeth pulled, which will make him more comfortable wearing the bridle. And all of his mares have recently tested "in foal" except one, whom he will be rebreeding this week. Between a busy training schedule and a busy breeding schedule, he has had a lot going on in his life this summer, which is great for him. He loves both his jobs!

4. Although this time of year always brings challenges with the sheep's parasite loads and heat stress, in looking back over my worming records I discovered that one of the ram lambs I'm keeping (Umber) has shown extremely good parasite resistance, with near-perfect FAMACHA scores and ZERO worming.

Since he is also our largest lamb of the year and is a cross between my best fleece ewe and my best meat ram, the fact that he is so parasite resistant as well makes him incredibly valuable to my future breeding program. Especially since he is unrelated to Nicholai, who is my other extremely parasite-resistant ram.

Between these two, the new ram I'm getting this summer (who I know to be highly parasite resistant), and the possibility of another new-ram purchase next year that I have already lined up, I should be able to start making some excellent progress on my goal of breeding for parasite resistance without sacrificing meat conformation.

In another few generations, perhaps July and August won't be a time to worry about the sheep at all anymore!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Sigh of Relief

As if I don't have enough worries trying to keep this farm going, recently a few of my sheep started developing abscesses that looked suspiciously like CL (caseous lymphadenitis), which is a contagious, incurable disease.

I quickly isolated the affected sheep, and spent $90 to have one of the abscesses tested. It took a week to get the results, and I worried all the while. If it WAS CL, I would have to cull any sheep that had it, and I'd have to spend a small fortune getting the whole flock tested.

Any sheep that tested positive would have to be culled, and if this year's lambs were affected, I would lose out on all my sales income for the year, because I would never knowingly sell infected sheep to another breeder.

But now the results are back, and we can breathe a sigh of relief: Our vet says the abscesses are NOT CL, just simple, non-infectious, non-contagious sebaceous growths.

What a relief, both for me and for the affected sheep, who are now delighted to be released from their quarantine and back with the rest of the flock.

Sick Lamb

The hard part of raising livestock is that sometimes they become, well, dead stock. You do what you can, of course, to keep them all healthy, but unfortunately, sickness and death is as integral a part of the cycle as mating and birth. The best you can do is try to keep the mortality rate to a minimum.

That's what I'm trying to do right now with a lamb I have that's sick. To make things even more difficult, this is the friendliest lamb I've ever had. Bottle-fed lambs are often extra friendly, but this lamb was never bottle fed. She just decided when she was born that she loves people as much as she loves sheep.

She's been thin but vigorous for quite a while, and while she has been wormed as needed, given booster shots of selenium, and doses of my sheep drench, she just never seemed to have as much of an appetite as the other lambs. She would rather spend her time snuggling with the people and getting petted than eating grain or alfalfa.

I worried about her a little bit because she wasn't as fat as I would like her to be, but as long as she was vigorous, I figured that maybe her thinness was just a factor of her Leadersheep bloodlines (Leadersheep are usually quite narrow in their builds).

But recently, she's started getting lethargic. I wormed her and gave her another Bo-Se shot, but that night it rained and hailed, and the next morning I found that she had gone off and isolated herself in the woods, the way sheep often do when they are ready to die. She had a mild fever, and looked like she was heading into a bout of pneumonia.

I brought her inside and started all the other treatments I could think of. I gave her a vitamin B shot to bolster her energy, a Naxcel shot for the pneumonia, ProBios to help her digestion, and an oral dose of "Baby Lamb Strength" liquid, which has several other vitamins in it, plus fat for calories.

She lay on my living room floor all afternoon, panting in obvious discomfort. I was prepared for her to die. But late in the afternoon, she stood up, peed on the floor, and looked a little more cheerful. When I left to do the evening chores, she BAAAAAed after me, so I took that to mean that she was feeling well enough to be let back out with the other sheep.

So now, she and her mom are in a separate pen, where they can be together without any competition, but can still see all the other sheep so they don't feel isolated. The lamb is still very lethargic and uncomfortable, so she is not out of the woods yet. But so far she's hanging in there, and has enough strength to walk around a little bit.

So, with a little luck and perseverance, maybe she will survive.

Weaning the Lambs

After my fun weekend with my gal-pals was over, it was time to worm and vaccinate all the sheep, and to wean the lambs. With the help of Ken and our improved catch-pen setup, this went relatively smoothly.

With all the supplemental food we've been giving the sheep over the past month, most of them have shot from "a little too thin" right past "good condition" and have headed straight on to "verging on tubby."

So it will be a good thing for the ewes to have their babies weaned, so we can take them off all that extra feed and let them gradually come back to their ideal weights. And the rams, who are doing no work at all this time of year, definitely don't need any more extra feed. They already waddle when they walk!

Normally, I don't wean my lambs. I just let them self-wean when they are ready. The process is pretty much complete by the time I separate the rams from the ewes in early September. But this year, most of my sheep buyers are ready to take their animals in July, a full 2 months earlier than usual, which is great for me---I get the money sooner and have fewer animals to feed for the rest of the summer. So that means, all the babies have to be weaned now.

The whole flock got checked, and we wormed those who needed it. And everybody got their annual CD&T shot. Most shepherds give the pregnant ewes this shot a few weeks before lambing to ensure maximum resistance gets passed to the lambs in the colostrum. But so far I prefer to do all the vaccines---lambs and moms---at the same time.

Up until this year, my flock was small enough that if I vaccinated the lambs and ewes separately, I'd be wasting most of a bottle of vaccine each time. This year, the flock is large enough that this isn't the case, so I may switch to the more conventional vaccine schedule in the future.

The babies will all get their booster vaccine---along with their ear tattoos for the registry and their ear tags for the Scrapie program---in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, they have to get used to being without Mom.

The first night they were apart, both moms and babies cried all night long (I should know, my bedroom window faces the sheep paddocks). Not only were they upset to be separated, but two thunderstorms rolled through that night, a mild one at dusk, and a rip-roaring one at 2:00 a.m. that included lots of VERY bright, scary lightning and about 1/2 hour of hail.

Now that a few days have passed, the lambs and moms are starting to get the hang of the new routine. The lambs can go off and graze in their pasture and the moms can go off and graze in theirs. They can still come together and visit each other through the paddock fence if they want to, but no nursing anymore.

The one possible problem from weaning time was that one of the lambs managed to squeeze through the other paddock gate into Glory's paddock, where we only noticed when Glory started running around trying to trample him. We rushed over there and got him out, but apparently Glory had managed to knock him in the head with one of her hooves, as he was bleeding around one of his horns.

The horn didn't seem to be knocked loose, and the blood quickly dried. The lamb is subdued today, so I'm keeping my eye on him, but here's hoping all he has is a (very understandable) headache.

Naughty Glory!

And speaking of naughty horses, over in the other paddock, Grace decided she was going to disassemble part of the barn. Her run-in shed is actually a bay in the barn with a wide opening and a small section of wall blocking part of the opening.

One of our previous horses already kicked that small section of wall and jarred it loose, and Ken had not yet figured out a sturdy enough way to repair it. Only recently he had said that since it was not a supporting wall, maybe it would be easier just to tear that section out rather than trying to repair it in a way that would be horse proof.

So Grace took him at his word. I heard a terrible creaking/scraping sound out there, and when I went to investigate, there was Grace deliberately rubbing and pushing against that little section of wall until the post was off its support and all the boards were starting to come loose.

Fortunately, she didn't hurt herself, and it only took Ken a few minutes to finish the disassembling that she had started. Now the whole front of the bay is open. Let's hope Grace doesn't find something else more important to break now!

How to Make Cherry Cordial (Part 3)

So, this weekend when my friends were here, we tasted the Cherry Cordial I made recently. Since I posted the recipe here on the blog, I thought I'd post the results here too, since my recipes are always a work in progress, and subject to revision.

Having sampled the results, my opinion is that the cordial was delicious, but definitely NOT cherry flavored. The couple of cinnamon sticks FAR outweighed the fresh cherries, so this turned out to be a sweet, luscious cinnamon cordial with a mild cherry background to keep the cinnamon flavor from getting too prominent and bitter.

Would I make this recipe again? Yes, definitely. But I might not bother to use my precious hand-picked, straight-off-the-tree cherries to do it. Since you can't taste them much anyway, frozen cherries would have been easier.

With this, my third attempt at making a cherry cordial, and my third failure to get anything that truly captured the wonderful flavor of fresh cherries, I'm going to have to conclude that cherries, like strawberries, just don't translate into cordial making in a way that maintains their full flavor. Like strawberries, the cherries seem to get weaker, milder, and a tad insipid... tasting a bit like fruit punch.

But, as this cinnamon cordial demonstrates, they can still be lovely bases to help highlight other ingredients.

A Weekend With the Girls

Because I'm not going to have a vacation this year---time and money just won't permit---I arranged to have a Girls Weekend here on the farm. A lot of my friends had scheduling conflicts, so it ended up being just myself, Nyxana, Heather, and of course Ken.

Nyxana couldn't get here from Tennessee until Friday night, and had to leave again around Sunday noon, so our time together was pretty short. But we managed to have a good time and do a lot of fun activities during that time, including making a felted rug out of wool from my sheep.

Friday night, while waiting for Nyx to arrive, Ken, Heather, and I carded wool to for the rug while watching funny YouTube videos. When Nyx showed up, we put her straight to work too. We also had the first official Tasting of the Cordial.

Saturday morning, Heather (our early bird) got up before the rest of us and baked a fantastic batch blueberry scones, by far the best scones I've ever tasted, including the times I visited England and Scotland. Even better, she let me copy her recipe. Yum!

After breakfast, we had our Stuff Exchange. I've been cleaning out all the closets in the house and had a mess of cool stuff---clothes, jewelry, household items, decorations, etc.---I wanted to get rid of that was too good to just throw away, so it was mostly a "Stuff Giveaway" rather than an exchange.

But if we make this get-together an annual event, I hope other people will bring their stuff to exchange too. What could be more fun than a flea market where everything is free and the stuff is from friends who presumably share a lot of common interests with you?

Saturday afternoon, we crafted hand-made books, thanks to directions and materials that Heather brought, with some of my own craft materials added in. Ken and Nyxana had the best results. Partway through stitching the binding for mine, I realized I had started wrong, so I will need to start the stitching over before I can finish my book.

Saturday evening, while Ken made tasty burritos for supper, we girls laid out the wool for our felted rug: black wool with white overlay in the shape of the triple moon symbol (waxing moon, full moon, and waning moon).

Here's Nyxana, putting the finishing touches on the the moon design:

Then we turned on some music and had a good time pouring hot water and dish detergent onto the wool, then carefully stomping on it to begin the felting process. With soapy water on the plastic sheeting that was under the rug, the whole thing was very slippery, so we had to hold onto each other as we stomped, and we had to be careful because the moons kept sliding apart and needing to be repositioned.

After a while, everyone was getting tired and wanted to move on to some other activity, so we stopped even though the felting process wasn't complete.

Ken, Nyx, and I stayed up late on Saturday night talking, so we slept in on Sunday morning. But Heather, the early riser, got up early and made beautiful beaded necklaces for all of us, so we each have a memento of the weekend.

Since then, the rug has since been lying in the back yard waiting to be finished. It's felted enough to hold together lightly, but not enough to withstand any real pressure. I was going to wait until it was dry and then bring it inside to wait until I had time to finish it myself.

But it keeps raining here, so the rug has gotten a little bit of extra felting from Mother Nature in the form of rain and even one 2:00 a.m. hail storm!

Even though the rug is still soaking with last night's rain, and is laid across the back of our pickup truck to keep the sheep from walking (and peeing) on it, our cat Oliver Sudden knows a good rug when he sees it, and isn't about to let it go to waste:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kamikaze Cardinal

TAP-Bump! TAP-Bump!

What the heck is that noise?

It's a cardinal who has been repeatedly bashing himself against my library window for the past three days. I only figured out what the sound was yesterday. Since then, I tried several times to chase him away, but he always comes back, even when my cats are eagerly sitting below, waiting for him to knock himself unconscious so they can eat him.

Maybe he sees his reflection in the window and thinks he's defending his territory. But if that's what he thinks, he's pretty dumb, since there are lots of other cardinals around, and he doesn't seem to be throwing himself at them.

Yesterday, he did have a girlfriend in the tree with him, watching his kamikaze act. Maybe he's just trying to impress her with his great feats of strength and courage (not to mention stupidity). He's definitely looking a little worse for wear, with his feathers all tousled and a kind of glazed, crazy look in his eye.

Perhaps it would be better for the gene pool if this one DIDN'T reproduce.

You can see a short video clip of his act here.