Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Note From the Present

Here it is, August 29. The end of summer is inevitably nigh. (yes, Laura, archaic word, is it not?). The sun sets sooner, the nights are cooler and yesterday morning I could see my breath! And there are still things I want to tell you about from the summer but soon, it will be everlastingly too late and unseasonal. But today, I have a note from the present.

I have never lived alone. Its true. I left my family of 12 (pre-twins when it would be come a family of 14) just 11 days after the 10th child was born to live with my dad's cousin's family of 8 while I went to University at BYU. I left BYU to get married. Although that only lasted 3 years, by the time I was 22 and I had a 1 year old. And that was that. The window for living alone for me had passed until the other end of my life. And because I homeschool my children and we run our own business from home, I am alone very infrequently.

Although I am an extrovert and I enjoy being around people and being busy, this is such a constant in my life that being alone is truly golden to me. This weekend, Dean is playing in Revelstoke and Rhiannon had a sleepover birthday party. Although Drew did find his way home to sleep sometime in the night, my evening was spent totally alone.

So what did I do? I cleaned the kitchen. It was Saturday Night and I cleaned the kitchen which had been in a state of disarray since Sarah, Kyle, Adriel and Sloan ate breakfast there... on Thursday morning. The frying pans from the baked apple pancakes were still on the table on hotplates although there was no danger of burning the table.... As I organized everything, the mound beside the sink grew to momentous proportions. I played Fleetwood Mac music that I have downloaded to my ipod and deleted stuff I didn't like (almost everything pre-Lindsay Buckingham), fed all the animals and got them all tucked in for the night. Then I heated up some falafel and made myself a wrap with tziki that Eryn and I made and fresh tomatoes and cucumber from the garden. I took it along with some cherry tomatoes upstairs and watched "The Soloist" which I hadn't seen before. And then I went to bed and read a little of Mitch Album's latest book, "Have a Little Faith" and went to sleep with ear plugs in so I couldn't hear the stupid dogs from next door.

When I am alone like that, I find it so peaceful and I am able to really be right in the moment and be aware of the moment at the same time. Like when I am walking back from the coop, I like the effect of my music spilling out onto the porch and into the evening - my happiness, my quiet joy. I notice the light as the sun sets. And when there is no music playing, I notice the stillness around me. Like right now. I have 2 1/2 hours left of my own time before I go and get Rhiannon...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life and Death on the Farm

Its something you have to accept but it is never easy. There have been some accidental deaths on the farm. It turned out that Eclipse was not just one huge baby. Hours after I had even written that post, his mother gave birth to a still born ewelamb. She was small and not fully developed like Draga's stillborn last year. I buried her and thought that was the end of it. But hours after that, Brida was struggling with what I thought was the afterbirth when I left for dance class. But when I came back there was another dead lamb in the lambing pen. Another black ewe lamb who she had given birth to breach. She had obviously been alive when the whole birth process began but a lamb cannot survive a breach birth due to the umbilical chord breaking and the nose not being out. She was a good size. I was very sad to discover her but even sadder that I had not known and that Brida had had to push out a large lamb in the breach position. Her vulva was swollen and very sore. It is a testament to her fortitude that she managed to give birth this way and survive. So I buried her, too. Brida had triplets, not one huge baby. But only one huge baby survived. We grieved, we buried them.

This spring, I bought a nanking cherry tree and planted it over the graves of Freya and Bjorn. She loved nanking cherries. And when little Lifa was born, I celebrated her return.

I worry over my sheep, listen to there sounds, checking for health and distress. When Zeus barks furiously in the night, I get up to check if there is really a bear in the pen (so far there never has been). I feel gratified when the sheep shearer tells me what good health they are in - especially when he says that he would have never guessed that Brida could look so good (he had shorn her in her previous life as Princessa at Pineridge Icelandics).

Then it is with sadness that I call the guy to come and slaughter the first lamb to survive on my farm. And I lead him easily (because he is so tame and even tempered) to the slaughter. My heart was in my throat that day that Basil met his end. I brought him into this world, I looked after him, I loved him and then I had him killed. It was hard. And I think it supposed to be hard. I take life to eat - we all do. Even if we eat only plants - they were alive once, too. And I, too am in the circle of life and will one day be food for plants. On this day I am reminded of my place. Reminded to be thoughtful of what I take to live.

However, this does not stop me from thoroughly enjoying eating him. We had the first lamb chops for supper last night along with pesto pasta salad, corn on the cob and a gooey dessert. Look at that - nice thick lamb chops. He weighed out at 63 lbs! More than twice what any of the others have been. I am so impressed. And grateful. Thank you, Basil! Last night we ate him with BBQ sauce, though....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Before That

Before that I had some of my favourite visitors. My brother, Doug, was in the middle of moving. He came to get our Dad's trailer that was left at my house and left 3 of his kids. His trip here actually involved a middle of the night rescue from a tire problem that needed towing on the tail end of the Coquihalla Connector about 50 km's out of Kelowna, in true Doug fashion. It just wouldn't be a visit from him without a little vehicular drama.

So I had 3 of his 7 children for the week. I had to keep up my 'fun-auntie' image so after I recovered from my lack of sleep, Eryn and I put on an action packed first weekend. It was cool that first Saturday so we headed for O'Keefe Ranch. As luck would have it, it was Cowboy Days with lots going on. We toured the ranch, took in some cowboy events, did some felting, rode some horses and visited all the usual spots.

Here they are in the bunk house where you can dress up in old clothes. They are purposely not smiling to make it more authentic.

We thought that Caleb looked like a certain figure from Mormon church history, if you know what I mean, with his longish hair and that blousey shirt.

Here are the other two in their get up.

And here is Rhiannon in the schoolhouse posing seriously in the desk. I am not sure who took this picture. Maybe she set it up herself...

We got to go on a tractor ride around the ranch. And then they each got a turn riding a horse. Those were tall horses! No pony rides, here!

For supper, we packed a cooler and headed down to Juniper Bay to cool off because it was no longer a cool day.

At my house there was lots of chick taming.

And music making.

And we even got a visit from some other cousins who happened to be in Penticton and came for a BBQ one evening.

We took in the Science Centre and the water park and we went to Kal Beach several times. I would say it was a successful visit and I think I managed to maintain my reputation.

Then on the following weekend, Doug and Delanie came back with the rest of the family and hung out. They got in a little beaching and then it got overcast and cool, as it often does when coastal people visit, somehow. And then Monday morning they packed up and were gone and it was soooooo quiet around here!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Start Here

It is dawn. I've been up for awhile. I woke up at 3am and decided it was time to do my taxes. They're done now and I'm watching Renauld and Eclipse play tag with Zeus. It is a game for boys only, I guess because the ewes and ewe lambs never participate. Its a funny game. Eclipse started playing as soon as he was steady enough on his feet to play - even then, he was knocked flying the first few times. Zeus has learned how to not play too rough. Wool doesn't get torn out of hides any more. But Renauld does occasionally have a sore on his head from a stray tooth - it doesn't seem to dissuade him, though. The rams are usually the instigators - they paw at Zeus when he is laying down. It used to be a four-way game with Basil, too. But Basil is gone. Well.... not gone really. He's still here - just in the freezer, so he can't play. But that's another blog post...

I can't believe it has been so long since I have blogged. It bugs me. Bethany's beautiful skins are always an inspiration - I feel duty bound to blog when she has gone to all that trouble! In my mind, I have written dozens of posts. Somehow they never made it onto here. I took the pictures and everything. I'm going to try to complete some of them but in the meantime, I'm starting here.

This is what I wanted to tell you about this week. Phil was here. (no not that Phil, thank goodness!) Philip Copping, the sheep shearer. I always mean to document it every time but somehow I get caught up in catching sheep and stuffing bags with wool and no pictures get taken. To be honest, he was halfway done before I remembered and ran and got Rhiannon's camera.

Here he is almost done Blue - one of Draga's twins - the first one to come out.

And here is Draga being relieved of her fleece. Its true that sheep do not especially enjoy the process of being shorn. But they sure like it afterwards and run and leap like lambs.

Here's Draga's sleek, new look. I always think she looks a bit like a holstein when she is shorn.

These are the piles of fleeces accumulating on the cleanly swept basketball court. The little black piles are the lambs and the big white one is Eirina's.

Eirina and her lamb, Lifa are pretty hard to tell apart now. Eirina is only a little bigger with slightly longer horns. She has been a super mom. However, on sheering day, her and Lifa spent the whole day looking for each other - standing only feet apart, baaing and baaing. Lifa baaed so much she was hoarse by the end of the day. They just did not recognize each other without their fleece. Silly sheep. When I put them in the pen at the end of the day, they finally figured it out.

Renauld is always the most dramatic. He is the best wool grower - he is bigger than the ewes and he doesn't have to grow babies and then feed them milk. He can put all his energy into wool, which he does fairly well. He is now full grown at just over 2 years old. The shearer says he weighs almost 200 lbs now.

Here he is without his fleece.

Now I need to sell two of these lambs before it is mating season. Want a black and white ewe lamb?