Friday, October 7, 2011

Make new friends

The first thing that Newton did upon arriving at the farm (after getting his ears taped so that he grows up to have proper Bouvier ears) was to look for a friend. The first animal he met was BC, the barn cat.

A few sniffs, a few exploratory mouthings and a reprimanding swat or two...
and now they both watch for each other, firm friends.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wearing wool

Sock models (from left to right) Dawn, Alice, Becca, Dave, Glen

I just finished reading Sheepish a wonderful book by Catherine Friend. She writes about all the wonderful qualities of wool; things I have known but forgotten. Qualities like the fact that wet wool still keeps you warm, in fact, wet wool fibers actually give off heat. And the fact that the bacteria that make cotton, nylon and polyester clothing stink after a single days wear, don’t survive in wool. Or the fact that some wools, like Merino, can be spun and knit into undergarments as fine and easy to wear as cotton or the man-made fibers.

On our annual canoe trip this fall, I wore a wool tshirt. After four days of paddling and portaging, it still didn’t smell bad, unlike the cotton long sleeved shirt that I wore over it. I had to wash the cotton shirt twice in the lake. The merino shirt won’t last forever like a polyester one, but it feels much better against my skin and doesn’t smell.

I wore my wool socks under sandals. We portaged five or six times on most days, jumping out of the canoe, clambering through the shallows to shore, carrying our gear across the portage and then stepping into the water again to reload the canoe. My feet and socks were wet most of the time, but my feet were only cold when I took my socks off.

Catherine found several American companies that use American wool and I found several more. Try Ramblers Way Farm, Wigwam Socks, Pendelton, Smartwool and Ibex, or even better, knit something yourself.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


When our daughters, Amber and Laurel, were young, we sent them out to check the flock, to make sure that none of the ewes had their heads stuck in the fence and that the waterers were full. We asked their help when moving the sheep from one pasture to another, or when, heaven forbid, the flock escaped from their pasture to explore the hayfield or the road to town.

Once the kids graduated and left home, herding the sheep became more of a challenge. I have insanely frustrating memories of trying to coach neighbor kids how to herd sheep as we were herding the sheep, or even worse, to coach them over the phone from 600 miles away. “Stand here and don’t let any sheep past you,” we’d say. Or after the flock had flowed around them, “stand here and wave your arms and shout when they come toward you.” Or even “walk down the drive way and try to look as if you are as fat as the driveway.”

We talked for years about getting a herd dog. Most of the herd dogs I’ve watched take their owners directions much better than Dave takes mine (or, for that matter, than I take his). We even tried to teach Strider, our dog before Carly, how to herd. He should have been able to learn, his breed herds – cattle especially. But we failed. It was undoubtedly our fault, as he was an intelligent dog. We did teach him to pull hay bales on a sled to the next pasture, but he decided it was too much work and finally just lay down in the snow. (See, I said he was an intelligent dog.)

Now we have another chance. After a dogless year we bought a puppy, a cute, fuzzy Bouvier de Flandres. We have pledged to each other that we will train this dog, both in normal dog skills like not biting, not eating the furniture (or wool), and urinating and defecating outdoors, and in the extra skill of sheep herding.

So far, we are batting zero for four. But our grandsons, Kieran and Jasper, haven’t learned to herd sheep yet either. We’ll give all three of them a little more time and a lot more training. I fully expect to have three wonderful sheep herders by next summer.