Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Morning lessons

Sometimes we are given our lessons with a "clue-by-four" and other times we get gentle hints.

This morning I have been blessed with three easy lessons -

1. Chock your trailer tires like you mean it - even if you think the ground is flat! The two-by-four that I had under the wheel held the trailer - just - now there are cinder blocks between the wheels.

2. Modern refridgerators were not made to fit through homemade stone building doors. Hmm, still not sure where this one is going - do we build a shed for the fridge?

3. Tie panels on the the trailer one at a time - that way, when you are taking them off, you can do it by yourself without having the whole stack fall on your head!

The trailer stayed put, the fridge did not get stuck and the panels did not fall - gentle reminders to think about what I am doing.

May you be blessed with easy lessons today!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Homeward Bound

My dog just answered a question that has been tugging at the edges of my brain for a week or so...

The last few days has been a frenzy of packing and sorting and trying to keep a business going smoothly while moving farm, business and family more than a thousand miles.

I was packing orders to ship, or trying to, as I had just moved my desk into the kitchen. I had spent more than an hour or to trying to get the desk, all the boxes that belong to it and all the paraphenalia that goes with it organized, sorted and packed neatly. All the books, fibers and other inventory that we store in the office was already in neatly labeled boxes in the truck.

Good thing they were labeled!

Already I had been out to the truck, in 70 mile per hour winds, three times, to get books, fibers or tools that were needed to fill orders. My brain was keeping up a steady patter of background thinking - wondering about which coat to wear to town and whether or not we would find the mailbox after the wind quit.

I looked at the packing slip for the next order and saw it was another book that was in the truck. Wearily, I heard myself sigh.

"I'm so tired of this," my brain said, "I just want to go home."

My mind heard this comment and everything stopped as I examined it. What did I mean, "Go Home?" The picture that came to mind was my jean jacket, hanging on the wall and my clogs under it. I missed them - they are in our camper, Midas, in Arkansas.

But Arkansas isn't home yet, it is two campers on a beautiful piece of a friend's land and a rented store. If anything, this farm here in Colorado should be what my mind thinks of as home, I've lived in this valley longer than I have lived anywhere in my whole life - and in this house second longest. But I don't know if this house ever has been home.

What is home?

As an Army brat, that is a question that has occupied a great deal of my life. Longing for home, looking for home, dreaming of home.... and I'm still not sure how to define the concept. I thought it meant roots and a place where you stayed, forever, but I have never been able to find that.

I thought it meant community - friends, family and relationships that you nurture and who care for you. I am blessed with that, many-fold, but I haven't found a home in it. My friends and family are in many different times and locations. We bring each other lots of joy, but nothing that I can define as home.

My brain gave me a hint, my snugly jean jacket and easy to put on clogs - Comfort and tools that fit right. But this afternoon, Quigley gave me my answer.

We are in Arkansas now and are unloading the truck and trailer. Boxes, and boxes, carried into the store. Shawn brought in the heavy parts of my desk. I brought in the desk top and settled it on the ends. As I was adjusting the sides, Quigley crawled under the desk, stretched out and sighed contentedly. He was home!

Then I realized - Home is where ever you can be comfortable and with the ones you love (human or otherwise) - whether it is the back of a van in the Louisiana swamp, under a desk in the Arkansas Ozarks or in a grove of trees on the Colorado Plains. Home is a moment of relaxation, a soft blanket and warm socks.

Home, sigh.... I am home.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Who's training who?

My critters find me very easy to train. I've been aware of this for years. When I am working with horses or other performance animals, I have to be very careful that we are progressing on my agenda - along with theirs!

For example, our little pug cross, Scraps, is on pain medicine for a torn ligament right now. The vet said the pills taste good and she should eat them fine. The first two, she did. Then she spit it out. I wrapped her pill in a hot dog. She ate it. Then this morning, she ate the hot dog, spit the pill out and expectantly looked at me. Obviously, I was supposed to wrap another hot dog around the pill.

At that point, I realized her scheme and force fed her the pill. She has a bit of a weight problem, too. She does not need extra hot dogs. I have one very unhappy little dog! She was sure she had her human much better trained than that.

Sometimes I don't even realize the ways they change my behaviour. My Aussie will come up and sit next to me. If I don't go into auto-pet the dog mode, he will rumble. Rarely any more does he have to escalate to a full "YIP" to get me to automatically start stroking him with a hand or foot.

Shawn laughed at me the other morning when he came into the office. It took me a minute to figure out why. His cat, Halfie, likes to sit in my office chair. She gets very upset and subversive if I move her. She will jump on my lap, rub on my computer and make a general pest of herself. But, if I just leave her in the chair and type over her, life is good.

Halfie knows who really runs the Common Threads office!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chinook wind

Yesterday morning, about 3 am, a chinook wind came whooshing across the prairie.
I had been thinking for about the last month that the only thing that was going to get rid of all this snow was either a good rain, or a good chinook. So, it is the wind to the rescue. Funny, I rarely think of wind as a saviour - usually I grumble and gripe about it.

In less than 24 hours of blowing wet warmth (well, warm is relative, but it is above freezing!), our driveway has turned from white ice to slippery, sloppy mud; The snow drifts around the goat barn have gone from 4-foot ramps to 3-feet of slush; and suddenly everything from grain cans to roasting pans is appearing from under the 8 week old blanket of white.

I should be excited - after all, this is what I've been wishing would happen for about a month and a half. But, I do wish the timing had been better!

Robin and Summer are coming to the farm to help me pack this weekend. We were/are going to load all the appliances, beds and sheep fencing into the horse trailer for Shawn's next haul to Arkansas. Now, I hate to gripe, but how do you haul a refridgerator 60 feet through foot deep mud?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kids and cold

Erie had her kids this afternoon. One huge boy, one bitty boy and a stillborn.

Normally, (whatever that is!) our average temperature this time of year is 38 degrees. It gets down in the 20's at night, maybe the teens, and up in the 50's during the day.

Over the years, (since 1987!) I have found that I like to kid out the goats in February. The weather is usually pretty nice and dry and comfortable for being in the barn at all hours of the day and night.

Well, this year is not normal - not by a long shot. It has only gotten above freezing three days this month and it has been below zero most nights. Today it did almost get up to freezing. It was bright and sunny. And now, at almost 10:00 p.m. it is back down to minus three - that's 3 degrees below zero.

Our barn is generally warm and comfortable, but it isn't heated. I put a heat lamp in there, but the little goats were still not thriving, and heat lamps scare me because of their fire potential.

So, Lena and I build a big, crackling fire in the stove in the workshop, built a little pen out of pallets, bedding it with junk wool and several old blankets and brought Erie and her boys into the workshop.

I just went out to stoke the shop fire and check on everybody. Yampa is close, but I think still a few days off. Erie's little boys are up and toddling and happy. They are getting the faucets figured out and they think their soft bed is super to sleep on. Erie is warm, but worried. In spite of the fact that she has been driving everyone out of the barn with dragon yowls all day - she doesn't like being alone. I left her a radio, perhaps that will help, a bit.

If I were a little less tired, a little less worn out by dealing with all this cold and ice and snow, then I'd stay out there with her tonight. It would be nice and peaceful to sort and pack, and Shawn is on the road, so I am lonely, too. But I am tired, so I've set the alarm for midnight, to check on everybody, and I'm going to curl up in my soft feather bed and listen to the radio...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thought trains and pogo sticks

Do you ever loose your train of thought?
I do, frequently. And my life can be chaotic enough to loose a whole, great big, long train - along with its tracks!
When I examined it, I realized my thoughts are not like trains. They are not predictable, following set tracks and schedules. They are not big and strong, blowing their whistle as they blast through my mind. No, often I can track them, but it is more like following bunnies through the snow.

"The snow, there wasn't much last night because it is too cold. Seven below, in fact right now at 5:00 am. The goats who are due are even being friendly and sleeping in a huddle in the barn, even though Erie is so close she really can't stand to have any one touching her. They say the high today is supposed to be 15 degrees. None of this ice and snow is going to melt at that rate. I could start a fire in the shop and work out there today, but really, I have a lot of office work that needs doing. How are we going to get the fencing panels dug out of the snow drifts so we can take them to Arkansas? Does Shawn have everything he needs to leave for this mornings trip? I should check the spare tire situation.... Ah, the house is so warm after checking on the goats."

That was the basic trail of thought as I went out to check the goat barn this morning. You can track these thoughts. They leave a trail. But, sometimes, my brain confounds even me. Especially when it is in creative mode, my thoughts are very random. It's like my mind is excited and is on a pogo stick.

Great ideas for a new rug, must draw weaving drafts ^!^!^ dogs, need bath ^!^!^! Do we have frozen peaches^!^!^Would that blue wool look good on a felted stress ball^!^!^Need to call my mom^!^!^What are the horses up to?

And so on. I am usually up and working when my brain is hopping around like that, but if I am ever here writing and you really cannot follow the post - now you'll understand.

Have a bright and shiny day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mr. Duke's goat cheese dog bisuits and animal friends

I was making a batch of Mr. Duke's goat cheese dog biscuits tonight. They are all natural treats that our dogs prefer to any commercial dog cookie.

Of course, I was thinking of Mr. Duke, in who's honor the recipe was named. As I kneaded the soft, cold dough, I started thinking of other special animals who share their lives with me. My brain wandered as my hands squeezed and pushed.

We had the vet out to the farm yesterday morning to do health checks on everyone in preparation for the move to Arkansas. We've had to find new homes for many of our animals, there is just no way we could move the entire critter complement of the Laffing Horse Farm to Foxbriar. There are many wonderful stories of the animal's new homes and their adopted people, but those are for later posts.

Somewhat apologetically I said to our vet, as we crunched over the snow to the barn, "We went from ten horses to two - and they are both over twenty."
His reply was quick and understanding, "You'd be surprised at how often that happens."

He patted Fria and Nugget and told them how they deserved their retirement. Meanwhile, Rosemary, our mmama llama was humming with worry. What was that man doing in her barn!

Rosemary's humming didn't bother most of the animals, but Nilly, our little blind sheep is especially sensitive to tension. Nilly was born here on the Laffing Horse Farm. Her mum was one of our older ewes. She knew instantly that Nilly was special. She used her nose to teach Nilly to go up the step into the barn by bumping her. It took us humans longer to figure out what was going on. It was several months before we knew Nilly was blind.

Nilly danced her way into our hearts. Sometimes we sheepishly joke that we fuss more over the silly blind sheep than we do over the rest of the flock. But she is so special. Lambs are born to dance. The little ones bounce, bound, flip and twirl. It is pure joy to watch. But as they grow, they stop dancing. By the time they are six months old, they rarely dance. Grown sheep only dance on very rare occasions - for special food or when a storm is coming.

But Nilly dances all the time. I guess since she is blind, she never figured out that she was supposed to stop that silly behavior. She's five years old now, and it is a rare day that I am not gifted with a smile, courtesy of Nilly's dancing.

Well, Nilly was in the pen with Rosemary. She began bumping the llama on the legs, as Rosemary kept her eye on the vet. He smiled over at her and said, "Well, the llamas are plenty healthy."

Finally, Rosemary took her eyes off the strange man to look down at the silly sheep under her legs. She snuffled Nilly's ruff, reassuring herself and the blind sheep. As we walked out of the main barn, toward the dairy goat pen, I saw the blind sheep coax the mmama llama back to their flake of breakfast hay.

We are blessed that our days are filled with gifts and lessons from our animal friends. And they are blessed that our business allows us to keep them all well fed and cared for. I like to think that it all works out well for all of us.

And of course, the dogs think that humans do a pretty decent job of warming up the bed on these cold winter nights. The picture is Quigly-up-over, my Aussie, "straightening" the covers.

The dogs share our lives more directly than many of the other animals. Mr. Duke (remember the biscuits at the beginning of this post?) was one of the best of that noble species. His biscuits are available in our Common Threads fiber arts and more ebay store. The listing has the story of how these treats were created.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Laffing Horse Cheery Valentine Cookies

Laffing Horse Cheery Valentine Cookies, that's a much better title for a recipe than - "We were cleaning out the freezer and thought these might go together!"

While Shawn and I made the last trip to Arkansas, Lena did the oh-so-fun chore of cleaning out the freezer. Now the dogs are happily noshing on elk burger from 2000, road-kill cow roast from 2004, left-over goose from Christmas 2003 and all other manner of unidentifiable used-to-be-food stuffs. The chickens are enjoying freezer-burned peaches, corn, apple sauce and hot (hot!) chilies. They should have it all cleaned up off the snow in the next few days.

But there are all those things that are still good to eat, and yet won't really fit in the freezer on the fridge. Today I wanted cookies. So, I picked through the thawing items in the cooler and created these... eventually, the recipe will get around without this back story and sound much more appetizing. :-)

Laffing Horse Cheery Valentine Cookies

1 lb very dry goat cheese ricotta
1 c melted coconut oil
2 eggs
1 c sugar
1 tblspn baking powder
2 c whole wheat flour
2 c frozen pitted sweet cherries

Blend the goat cheese, coconut oil, eggs and sugar until creamy.
Stir the baking powder into the flour and add to the cheese mix.
Mix completely, it may take a few minutes and it will be somewhat chunky.
Add the cherries and stir just enough to spread them through the cookie dough.
Roll into teaspoon sized balls and bake on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I think this recipe made about 80 cookies, but Shawn ate them so fast I'm not sure :-)