Saturday, December 31, 2011

Crystal Bridges

View over the museum from the drive in loop

I don't think I'll ever complain about our OFC entrance again.

Chrome tree at the entrance.
Looking from the restaurant to the 20th Century art gallery.
 We finally made it to Crystal Bridges yesterday. We had tried to get tickets for November, but  were glad to get them for Dec. 30, when my folks could go with us. Kathy Fielder and JB joined our group.

At 2:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, it was very crowded. Shawn and my dad parked three parking lots away, the parking garage and front two lots were full.

The entrance from the drive around and drop off loop or from the parking garage strikes me as strange. Everybody comes in through the elevator tower to the front lobby. It's not an inviting first look. I'm not sure that is the way they have planned for the future? Much of the museum is still under construction.

What was open is fantastic and it is well worth the visit.

I want to go back in two years, in the spring, when all the elaborate landscaping has a chance to mature. I want to go on a day when it is raining hard. I think that rain will showcase this architecture. Winter sunlight cannot do the soaring shapes and concrete terraces justice.
Cool interpretive displays making art accessible.
These need to be played up more in their advertising.
This cool room was empty.

The galleries were centered inside the "mothership",
a way to protect and display the art, while having the incredible architecture.

Dramatic outdoor sculpture with indoor viewing space.
Connecting the inside and outside.

Reading nooks with Nooks (Ok, Shawn says they
 are really i-pads), comfortable couches and lots of art books.

More indoor/outdoor collaboration

And lots of famous, real and incredible art, including this
Andrew Wyeth painting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hoop houses for sheep shelters

You need 4 t-posts;
2 8-ft. 2X4's;
 2 16-ft heavy duty cattle panels;
1 9X12 heavy duty tarp
1 4X8 sheet of plywood
 We raise Jacob sheep, colored angora goats and commercial cross dairy goats on 5 acres in the rural Ozarks.

We've been raising sheep and goats since 1982. We keep our flocks small, breed for the very best and attempt to improve our land and remain sustainable.

It rains a decent amount here. Our yearly average is in the 50-inch range. In fact, all our weather is mostly middlin'. Four good solid seasons with a good range of all weather possibilities. However, we do have infrequent wind. I'm not sure how the hoop houses would hold up in an area with constant wind.

Pound the t-posts in a rectangle so that the 2X4's fit inside
the posts and the plywood sets on top of the boards
 at the back.
So, our flocks need a bit more shelter than the woodlot provides and we do not have a barn. We try to use rotational grazing on our 1/2 acre paddocks with a plan to improve the forage quality. That's a long range plan.

To go along with this, we build shelters that we call hoop houses. They are simple to put up, taking only about 1/2 hour with two of us if we have all the materials ready. They are comfortable shelter for four of our small breed sheep or goats. If we have more than 4 animals in a pen, we build 2 or more hoop houses, side-by-side. Then we can use the V between the two shelters for a hay feeder.

Bend the two cattle panels and lift them to fit between the
two boards.
The cost for each of these hoop houses runs about $100.

 2 Cattle Panels @ $25 ea. = $50.00
4 t-posts @ $4.00 ea.        = $16.00
2 2X4's @ $4.00 ea.         = $8.00
1 Sheet plywood @$12.00=$12.00
1 tarp @ $15.00               = $15.00

Stretch the tarp over the panels. We need air circulation here,
so we leave the gaps at the bottom.
 Kitty is our construction foreman.

Tie the tarp to the panels at the grommets with baling twine.
Tie the panels to the t-posts where there is no tarp,
to keep them from blowing away. Dapper Dan and Kitty
check the quality of construction.
We usually leave them in place for a season, about 6 months. We bed them with straw, and feed hay in the shelters, letting the bedding build up to keep the animals dry. You can see the old pad of bedding and manure to the left of the new hoop house we are building. This will grow forage grasses from the hay seeds next spring.

This process works well for our flock management.
Tie the cattle panels together with baling twine.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sisters, seeds and heritage roses

I was just finishing trimming up my nutmeg scented geranium and enjoying the delicious, spicy aroma on my hands, when the coffee pot finished perking and I decided I wanted to sit down, write this blog post and drink a cuppa joe. We've been having a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. My parents are visiting from Colorado and we've been talking about family history and travels.

One of my very favorite books is "Sisters, Seeds and Cedars" by Sarah Fountain. The book is made up of the correspondence between two sisters, Cornelia and Clara from 1850 to 1928. Starting in Alabama, where Cornelia stays, the letters share their life through Clara's move to Arkansas. They discuss family visits, births, deaths and the trivia of normal lives. At one point, Clara asks Cornelia to send her a cutting of Grandma's rose, next time Daddy comes up this way. I love old fashioned cottage roses, with strong scent and big rose hips. I imagine that's the type of rose that Clara wanted.

Rose is the 2012 Herb of the Year, designated by the International Herb Association. I want to find the right heritage rose to plant on the fence  where we stack hay. That space should keep it safe from the critters while it is getting established. Roses tend to get out of hand in Arkansas, but we have goats to keep it in line if it starts to grow out of bounds.

In a quick google search, there is a lot of info out there on heritage roses. This blog in particular caught my interest. So far, this is the rose I want, a Zephirine Drouhin, a French rose from the late 1800's. But, I have a lot more research to do and several months before I need to order my roses. And I am out of coffee, and I have a gorgeous purple wool and silk wrap on the loom that I want to finish weaving today.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the sheep at Laffing Horse Farm

Boomer greets his girls

Laffing Horse Fiona, one of Boomer's new ladies.

/Boomer puts the moves on Laffing Horse Finesse.
My christmas ram, Boomer, has settled in. It's a bit fast, but he is very healthy and has recovered from his cross-country journey just fine. He came directly from an extremely well kept herd and being the very tail end of breeding season - Boomer has his girls.
He is quite the gentleman, but did go right to work. His flock consists of Fiona, Finesse, Greta, Gypsum and George, who will be his constant companion.
Since we started allowing ourselves to keep special wethers, we assign them flock jobs. Bones and Mouse are the peace-keepers in the main flock, Nibbles is Dan's companion and George now belongs with Boomer.
Its was so sweet last night, and I didn't get a pic of it - my folks are here from Colorado for Christmas. My mom sat out on the back porch to keep me company while I did chores. Boomer and George came up to check her out. She started petting Boomer and pretty soon he laid right down next to her. A rare treat of sheepie company from a pretty special ram. My Christmas sheep Boomer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Living Nativity

 The small hamlet of Mountain View, Arkansas, which I now call home, never ceases to amaze me.

This tiny town, with a population of about 2,800, is pretty isolated in the Ozark hills. 
Mountain View is not on the way to anywhere. 
But it is a delightful place to go out of your way to get to.

The Living Nativity in the Pickin' Park in
Mountain View, Arkansas.

And the Angel spoke to Mary.

The shepherds tend their flock of one patient Demi-sheep.

Whiskey and Tango the donkey's watch over Mary and Joseph
 and the baby, while Jackie Martin's wee goat plays in the stable.

During the holiday season, there is Caroling in the Caverns, a whole host of Christmas cantatas and performance, the Christmas Feast at the Ozark Folk Center and this year, a wonderful living nativity performance in the Pick'n Park downtown.

I took sheep for the shepherds. Demi enjoyed her performance the first night and Mr. Bones and George shared the billing the second night. They got petted and fussed over and even shared a few sugar cookies.

It's a wonderful life!

Ambassador Boomer

Almost the whole way home, the driving rain continued. We stopped very few times on the last leg of the trip home. At one point, I think it was in Wynne, Arkansas, we pulled into the Wendy's drive through. Boomer peered out the passenger window of the PT Cruiser at the drive through attendant.
"What's that?" she asked as she looked out to tell Shawn the total for our meal.
Shawn rolled down Boomer's window so the sheep and human could study each other. He explained that Boomer was a rare Jacob Sheep. The rest of the crew gathered around the window.
"Is he for Christmas?" one asked in a tone that implied Christmas dinner.
Shawn laughed and replied, "In a manner of speaking, he's her Christmas present. He's not for dinner, he's our new breeding ram."
"You have more of them!"  she exclaimed.
Then someone hustled the crew back to work and we got on our way with our very excellent burgers and fries. It's been years since I've eaten at a Wendy's and I very rarely eat beef. Wendy's food is better than I remember.
When we'd stopped the night before at a Subway, my usual fast-food stomping ground, I took Boomer out to walk him, try to get him to drink and let him eat some grass on the median. A man came out of the store next to the Subway with a huge smile on his face. He explained he had been a shepherd in Guatemala and had grown up raising sheep. He asked if he could pet Boomer and they shared a nice introduction.
Then another man walked across the parking lot and asked, "Can I take a picture of your goat."
From where he was crouched by Boomer's head, the first man replied, "He is a SHEEP!" and then he looked at me. I smiled back. It was so nice to have someone else make that correction for a change.
We all shared a comfortable few minutes of education, photographs and camaraderie before we loaded Boomer back in the car and got on our way.
When we got back to Mountain View it was 5:15. I was supposed to be a the living Nativity in the picking park with sheep at 5:30. I stopped to explain to the show leader that I might be a few minute late. Carl know about our trip to Georgia for our new ram and wanted to visit the famous Boomer. I thought about using Boomer in the nativity, but when I saw his travel weary face in the car as he let Carl pet his head, I knew he needed to be home.
We pulled into the driveway, and with the three humans working in concert, we quickly moved the wild ewes and Dan-man into the small sheep run next to the horse run, grabbed George from the main flock and put him with Boomer in the pen next to the house. Then Lena and I grabbed Demi, our remaining Icelandic ewe and Shawn and I went back to the park. I made it at five-past-six. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Boomer at Wayne and Leesa's

Lisa feeds Boomer breakfast in the kitchen

Boomer fits right in with the antique sideboard and Nativity.
 When we arrived at Wayne and Leesa's last night, they said it was fine to bring Boomer in to their beautiful big log cabin. They built this wonderful working house themselves back in the late 1970's.

I really didn't want to bring a ram into someone else's house, especially an unknown ram into a house full of beautiful antiques. So Boomer spent the night in the car. We left the windows partly down, so he had ventilation and he had a bale of hay and a bucket of water.

This morning it was pouring rain. Not something new for this trip. I think the sound of the rain on the roof of our very comfortable room helped me sleep in until after 6 a.m.

Leesa and I went outside and haltered Boomer to take him for a walk. He doesn't like the halter. He was too busy fussing at the thing on his face to eat or drink. She again said it was fine to bring Boomer in the house. So, we did.

He was good and calm and very careful with his horns.But the halter was still bothering him. After checking things out, I took off his halter and Leesa fed him some grain and got him to at least dip his muzzle in the water. Boomer was a very well behaved, prim and proper house sheep.

Leesa's dad makes birdhouses and she has done
 this really cute Christmas display of them on the
 mantle of  their massive fireplace
 We had a wonderful breakfast and enjoyed talking brooms and craft shows with fellow crafts people before heading out in the rain. It is such a blessing to have such wonderful friends.

Now we're on the road to home. Stay tuned for more "Travels with Boomer".

Shawn and Wayne discuss broom design as we try to wait
 for a break in the rain.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Boomer - or - What did you do on Christmas vacation?

My wonderful man, Shawn, who will drive me
all the way to Georgia for a sheep.

What Shawn's been driving through for most of the last day.

The Canoe Lake Farm Jacob flock. Boomer's folks.
 I can't say it enough. I am so blessed. Blessed to live in the wonderful paradise of Mountain View, Arkansas. Blessed to work for Arkansas State Parks at the Ozark Folk Center. Blessed to have wonderful friends and a fantastic family. And, blessed to share my life with a dear man who, among other things, gets me what ever I want for Christmas.

My wants have ranged from a chain saw, to sheep fence, to Baltic amber, to a new ram for our Jacob Sheep flock. Which is why poor Shawn has been driving through pouring rain for much of the last day, so we could pick up Canoe Lake Sonic Boom, "Boomer", just outside of Atlanta, Georgia..

Canoe Lake Farm is beautiful and the sheep they raise are wonderful Jacobs.Owners Scott and Cathy Brown have been great to work with. Scott had all the papers ready when we arrived and Boomer put up in the barn. Boomer was nice and dry, a real plus as it's been raining hard all day.

Boomer is young and nervous, but he let me halter him. He likes to eat treats out of your hand, which will do him well in our flock of treat-beggers. We scooped him into the car and headed back to Atlanta. It's heading on to 5:00 p.m. Georgia time and Boomer's settling as we drive. I've given him a few handsful of grain and Shawn and I are munching whole grain cheese-its. We have Johnny Cash on Pandora.

Rush-hour traffic in Atlanta is 14 lanes wide of stop and go. (There's a whole 'nother blog post there about lifestyle choices.) I do love to visit cities.

Our wonderful broom making friends, Leesa and Wayne Thompson have offered us their hospitality again tonight and it looks like we'll stop.there.about 9:00. 

Boomer is still not sure that sheep are meant to ride in cars.

Traveling down memory lane in Alabama

I graduated from JO Johnson High School in May of 1979. My folks gave me a horse trailer for a graduation present. As soon as I graduated, I loaded up my worldly goods and moved to Colorado. And I haven't been back to Alabama until today.

J O Johnson High School 
It was an interesting trip back in time. The glimpse of the rockets at the Air and Space museum brought tears to my eyes and a thrilled gasp from Shawn, who was driving. Huntsville is a whole lot bigger than I remembered, or maybe it's grown a bit in the last 32 years. It's also a whole lot more agrarian than I ever realized. I was fascinated with how memory works when I remembered street names and found my way from my old high school to our old house. We only lived there two years, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find any thing or recognize it. I did.

I remember sitting on the concrete under the white pillars in front of the school with Lisa Hilburn after she'd drank so much carrot juice the palms of her hands were turning orange. I remember running on the track to the left of the school in the early mornings. I remember high centering somebody's vw bug on the dividers in the parking lot. I remember getting to go up on the roof to see a fly-by of the new space shuttle piggy-backed on a 747.
Our old house on Wayne Court.
  I remember walking to school in the mornings and the smell or the little farm along the walk way...

Which got me thinking about memory paths and life choices. That's a lot longer thought train than one blog post!

However, I realized that the relative of Miss Melody's who I portray as a living history character, based on her diary, Miss Martha Mills, moved from Lancaster County Georgia to Stone County Arkansas in 1859. This is the path we are taking. To see this land, quickly through a car window, and imagine a group of young families making this journey by wagon and on foot... it adds to the depth and realism with which I can share Miss Martha's memories.

Now I really should help Shawn navigate. He'd been driving through a pouring rain for several hours. We are about 29 miles from Canoe Lake Farm and our new herdsire.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The times we live in

It's about 7:30 at night. We are cruising down the highway somewhere in Mississippi or north Alabama, listening to indie rock on Pandora radio, following directions from our GPS, enjoying the sultry night air on this winter solstice eve and each other's company. I'm writing this blog post and feeling totally amazed at this wonderful life we lead.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More modern sheep tales

This story starts somewhere back in the beginnings of this blog - or maybe way before that. When we started with Jacob Sheep, we gathered flock members from two flocks out of Colorado, Broken O and Rising Sun. We also purchased a flock out of Texas. We selected sheep that were healthy, had good wool and were true to Jacob type. Natural selection helped keep our herd's mothering ability, ease of breeding and lambing and parasite resistance.
We had good luck showing fleeces at Estes Park, Taos, Soldier Hollow and Farmington. In 2006 we took Grand Champion Natural Colored Farm Flock, Reserve Grand Champion Ewe and many other ribbons at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. We picked, bred and raised great sheep. 
When we moved to Arkansas, we sold most of our sheep. We kept 32, and discovered that was too many for our new land. So we sold many of our top ewes.
But we still kept a good ram, Beetle juice and several good ewes, including our first Jacob ewe, Thyme. In the course of things, Thyme had Basil and Basil had Dapper Dan, our current herdsire. Dan is the sweetest ram we've ever had. I have pics of goat kids riding on his back. He is also beautiful, shears a gorgeous fleece every year and  puts very nice babies on the ground. Even after this summer's sell down, we have his daughters Finesse, Fiona, Gobi, Guthrie, Gypsum as well as his mother, grandmother and sister Clementine in the flock. We need a new ram.
In October, I started looking. I wanted a registered 4-horned ram. There were several nice ones available. I wanted East Coast bloodlines, as our flock was western based. I was trying to figure out how to get transport for Unzicker Ike, when I found he was returning to his flock of origin. During the Sheep to Shawl competition at OFC  I started corresponding with Cathy Brown at Canoe Lake Farm in Georgia. She had a nice ram lamb that fit what I was wanting. His name is Canoe Lake Sonic Boom or "Boomer". I took his picture to the Sheep to Shawl and everybody agreed he was nice.
Boomer went on to show at SAFF . He came in mid-way in his class. Pretty good for a little guy who was about a month younger than the rest of his class.
My sales at shows and in the gallery were good this fall. Many of my fleecewoven rugs have new homes and I've sold more handspun shawls this year than ever before. 
Shawn set a goal for the Christmas Showcase show in Little Rock. If we reached that goal, he said, he'd buy me my new ram for Christmas. We reached it, and tomorrow morning we are leaving for Atlanta. I'll post pics and keep you updated here. 
Tomorrow night we are staying with our wonderful friends Wayne and Leesa Thompson in Leighton, Alabama. Shawn will get to see some of the north Alabama hills that I grew up in. Fun travels, fun memories - all for the love of sheep.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sheep returns

In the summer of 2007, after we had moved the sheep to Arkansas, we realized we did not have enough grass on Foxbriar to feed them all. A lady in Fox was looking for some sheep for her daughter to show in the county fair. We sold her a small starter flock that included our reserve champion 2006 National Western Stock Show ewe, Alice.
Yesterday, she called me. Her daughter had gone off to college. She only had a few descendants of the original flock left and she did not want to keep sheep anymore. Did we want them?
Well, their dams and sire were some of our best sheep...
This girl looks like she's a Corriander daughter.

 I can certainly tell this one is Alice's daughter.

So, these five ewes are now in the quarantine pen next to the house with Dan-man.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gift Show

I just decided I want to get my camera to take an in progress photo of the baby blue rectangular shawl I'm working on for a special order when the old kitty, Halfie, settled down on my lap. She was born in 1994, right after we moved into the house in Rocky Ford, Colorado. She is now a little tottery and has a hard time jumping up into a lap. So, I guess the picture will wait for either another day, or somebody else in the house to walk by and hand me my camera from out in the kitchen.
Lena came by and handed me my camera.
This mohair shawl is a different style than I usually weave.
 It's good to stretch boundaries every once in a while.
I've finished laundry loads for this week. One good thing about traveling frequently is that you can take everything out of the suitcase, wash it, and put it back in... I think that's the way it's going to be for the next few months.

Carolyn Higgins, the Ozark Folk Center Homespun Gift Shop manager, and I are headed to the Arkansas State Parks Gift Show at Degray Lake State Park this morning. I do enjoy trips down there and always find new things to photograph. We have many ideas and concepts to go over with our marketing manager and will enjoy getting to network with other gift shop people. We are also shopping for Made in Arkansas products. It is our goal to have everything in our shop made in Arkansas. Carolyn has done a great job with the consignment program, which goes a long way toward our made in Arkansas goal.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Update and a few quick stories

Blogs aren't for updates, that's what Facebook is for, but life's been such a whirlwind, I haven't been keeping up with either one.
Thus far, this winter has been - winter. We had our first iced-over water troughs on Dec. 1. This year's lambs are always fun to watch with that new experience.
Guthrie and Little brother were intrigued. They like to play with anything new. They would nuzzle the ice and then bounce back, shaking their heads. Then they'd put their muzzles together as if discussing this new phenomenon.
Greta just shook her head and walked off. She seems to take all changes as a personal insult.
Gobi hung back, she waited for her brother and Guthrie to figure it out.
Gypsum didn't care, she always assumes that the people will make the world right for her princess-self.
Then we had the first snow of the year this Tuesday, Dec. 6. It wasn't deep, but it is still hanging around. It's been pretty cold the last few days.

Our lives have been a whirlwind of farm chores, Ozark Folk Center events, Arkansas Craft Guild volunteering, Christmas Showcase preparing, weaving, carving, booth building, web site  design, broom tying, fiber dyeing, advertising proofing, mohair carding, crocheting, spinning... It's a fantastic, fascinating, ever entertaining mix... but I think we're all ready for a bit of a winter nap.