Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Redneck Woman

I've had a succession of vehicles in my driving career. A VW Squareback was the first. Then followed a couple VW Buses, a Toyota pickup, 4 or 5 Dodge/Plymouth minivans, and the latest, a PT cruiser. You can tell... I'm a real performance gear head. hah!

The PT has a 5 speed manual transmission, great gas mileage and a lot of room for its size. I got it when my last minivan died and I had to have a car **now** to get to work and school. It was in the midst of finishing my dissertation, and I had no time to go car "shopping". That led to my first internet car search and transaction. Wow! If you hate car shopping like I do, this was great. I contacted the dealership by email and their internet price was "no haggle" $500 above invoice, and the 2004's were deeply discounted. I went in and selected the car. We were out of there with the new PT in just over an hour. That was 3 years ago.

The PT took us camping, it went to dog shows, it carried home Costco shelves, 8' 2x4's and 2x6's, 20 bag lots of alfalfa pellets, bales of hay, and even took Electra to the vet - haltered but loose. Unfortunately, carrying one bale of hay at a time isn't very efficient, and even I was a bit chagrined at carrying a sheep loose in my car.

Today, I traded the PT in for a Truck.

I'd been looking for a truck for several months. Originally, I thought a van would be better, but came around when the vans I looked at were just as high off the ground as a truck. I even went into a dealership where they pulled every sleazy car sales tactic in the book on me. I'm still fuming at them. So I surfed. Dealer inventories, AutoTrader, ebay Motors, Little Nickel. I drove through another dealer's lot, but couldn't bring myself to stop when I saw the vulture salesmen standing around waiting.

Last week, I thought I'd found The Truck on craigslist. It was a 3/4 ton Silverado long bed with lots of power goodies and set up for towing a trailer. I must've been too late, as the guy never answered my email.

In the middle of all this looking, I'd gone through my insurance company's car buying service. They listed a new 2006 Silverado, bare bones "Classic" truck with a $6000 dealer incentive discount - total around $14K, so I contacted the nearest USAA Chevy dealer probably a month ago. Turns out, it is near impossible to find a 2006 Silverado "Classic" work truck. I gave the internet sales manager my "wish list" for a truck - Work Truck, V-8, Long bed, Towing Package, under 50k miles, KBB or lower price.

He sent an email this morning:

2001 Silverado – White – 2WD – V8 – Regular Cab – 21,000 miles - $10,750

wow. He sent photos:

A 2001 with 21,000 miles??? It sure looked good in the photos.

How many sheep do you think could fit in here? They'd have nice footing on the cushy mat! I helped one gal load up a show string of 8 Jacobs in her pickup with canopy very similar to this.

And inside - little to no wear and tear! With 21,000 miles, you wouldn't expect much. That's much less than my 2004 PT Cruiser!

Well, I changed my plans for the day, scooped out Pete (the PT), and drove to South Tacoma. The Truck looked just as good as its photos and drove great. P1 was already my favorite country station! They stood by the price (with a little reminding....), and later in the week will be doing a bed liner and adding a trailer brake controller. I put The Truck on my VISA card and drove it home.

I have to say it was sad leaving Pete there. It was a really fun car to drive. My preference is for a manual transmission, and it was the closest thing to "sporty" that I've owned. The Truck, though, matches my current lifestyle much more closely. Boots with sheep poo on the bottom, tattered down vest, wooly hat, bits of hay and straw caught in my hair, blue jeans with mud on the hem.

Now I just need to put a shotgun rack in the back window, add some camo seat covers and stick on my bumper sticker: "A Lady with a Gun Has More Fun" ;-)

- Franna

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Lazy" Days of Fall

Every time I go out to visit with the sheep, it's so relaxing. It's pretty quiet in the sheep pens. The weekly moves are discontinued, no one needs halter training, all the tags are in for the year, and the sheep mostly lay around the feeding area.

"Lazy" is misleading, though. "On the list" are putting the breeding groups together, preparing for LAI, arranging for driveway, water, septic and electricity at ERN, shearing a few more animals, foot care for the flock, cleaning out the barns, getting hay stored for the winter, spreading hog fuel and gravel in the muddy spots, daily feeding and water, sending fleeces out to customers and for processing, fibery projects and getting to know my new loom. Club activities: running the agility trials in 2 weeks, getting the Gotland association registry up and running, finding willing candidates for the Labrador Retriever club Board, and pre-planning for the 2010 Welsh Springer National Specialty. All too often, at the bottom of the list is spending time with the dogs, doing dishes and laundry - ugh! I know why those last two are at the bottom of the list.

Whew! I think I'll go sit with the ewes for a while, then play with Clifford. ...after all, I'm Retired. :-)

- Franna

Monday, October 15, 2007

Me and My Dawg

One of the PNWWSSC members took photos at last weekend's agility trials. She caught Clifford and I getting ready for one of our runs:

...and wild-eyed coming out of the ring!

Agility really gets the blood running in both human and canine!
- Franna
...and Clifford - AKC and Int Ch. Briarbanc Brych Red Dog, RE, OA, NAJ

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Reverse Dominoes

Remember the child's game - the black wooden blocks with various numbers of white dots on each side? You matched up the same number dots with another domino and continued until no more moves were possible. Well, if you stood dominoes end up in a line and push the end one over, the whole line falls in succession as each topples onto its neighbor. Fancy lines of dominoes can be made where one falls on two and sets off a double line of toppling pieces.

My last post was all about Thursday. Thursday was "go get it" day. The hay was bought, the alfalfa and grain were bought, two sheep had been processed and quartered. Friday morning started out bright and early. By 2:00 pm I needed to start the setup for the agility trial. To do that, the sheep needed to be fed. None of the hay or grain was unloaded - so to feed the sheep I had to unload the bags of feed from the truck. Well, the trailer was still attached to the truck, so I couldn't get to the rear to unload the bags of feed. The trailer first needed to be unhitched. Rain was forecast, and the trailer isn't water tight, so the hay needed to come out before the trailer was unhitched.

Reverse dominoes - in order to feed the sheep, the truck has to be unloaded, to unload the truck, the trailer has to come off, to take the trailer off, the hay has to come out. Soooooo, position the trailer, unload the 18 bales - near 1 ton of hay - park and unhitch the trailer, back the truck up to the garage again, unload the 2200 lbs of feed, finally, put feed in the garbage cans and feed the sheep! Sheep are happy. Shepherd is bushed... but not done.

Now the pelts need to be spread out so they can cure/dry, and the "sheep-in-a-box" need to be cut up. It isn't too difficult to cut up a quartered sheep, but it does take time. The legs were boned, much of the loin boned, ribs cut up, shoulder boned and put in freezer bags. Darn it! Out of freezer bags and out of time! The second sheep-in-a-box gets frozen in quarters.

Loading the truck and setup for the agility trial took the rest of the day, including picking up one of the judges at the airport. The agility trials went well - very busy, and I even got to run my own dog, Clifford. He finished his Open Agility title and qualified 2 times for another title. :-) Clifford is shown below bursting out of the "closed tunnel" obstacle. The agility trials were 2 days of constant motion. Building courses, working the rings, fixing spaghetti, seeing to unending details, and running Clifford in 6 classes!

Monday found us not resting but packing up to drive to Hillsboro, Oregon, one of the Portland suburbs. The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. held its 2007 National Specialty there. The events included a Hunt Test, Tracking Test, 2 Agility Trials, Rally Trials, Obedience Trials, Sweepstakes and Conformation show. Dave and I were the Agility judges for this year and we had a BLAST! I've had Labradors since 1971, and it was a real treat to judge all Labs in the agility trials. The forecast rain and wind mostly bypassed us and the weather was remarkably pleasant. People enjoyed the courses, and I got to watch the show on Thursday and Friday, finally some time to sit and rest my feet!

I got home to the usual status note from the farm sitter. Among the news of everything going well was an aside saying that she really didn't appreciate opening the garage door to see the ram's head looking at her. ... hmmmmm, guess I didn't quite get to taking it "out back" to get defleshed.

Looking forward to more relaxing time coming in the next several weeks!
- Franna

Thursday, October 04, 2007

...and sometimes planned

Somehow they seem to know. Winter had been sucking up to me for several weeks. Maybe he was just mellowing out. I've had other sheep turn around and become friendly right after "the decision" was made. Winter has one bad horn, and Tori had mastitis. We have other, nicer sheep who live on. (Tori hasn't been sucking up - she's just wild.) They were "on my list" for weeks and just kept getting put off.

Photo of Winter last spring. This horn is the one that grew flat against his cheek. We don't need a white ram with a bad horn and average fleece.

Here's Tori - so full of promise as a lamb, and a very well conformed Shetland. She panics when she's cornered and jumps fences, had mastitis this spring and her wool isn't as fine as I'd like. She's making room for nicer Shetlands.

Today was a whirlwind day. We were out of hay; we were out of alfalfa pellets; we were out of grain; and the grass isn't that abundant any more. The pasture lane is full of mud, so the hay delivery truck can't get to the hay barn. The next 6 days are going to be full of agility trials. I'm Chairman of two trials on Saturday and Sunday, then judging on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the Labrador Retriever Club's National Specialty. This is the season for cutting down to winter numbers, which means sheep must go. That was the setup for today.

First off (after Starbucks :-) I went to the grain mill for alfalfa, sheep, and laying pellets - we save about $2 per 50 lb bag by going a few miles to the mill in Tacoma. They loaded up the truck with 2200 lb of feed in 50# bags. I stopped at the local ethnic butcher on the way home to see if they had room in their schedule to process 2 sheep for us. If I could get back with the sheep within the hour, they could. Home again to pick up the trailer, Winter and Tori, salt and plastic bags for pelts, tarp for hay.

There is something a little unsettling about haltering a sheep and leading it to slaughter. Winter and Tori led right up to the door. Not long after, I salted their pelts and carried them out in boxes. They lived well, and died quickly and humanely.

Then, on to the feed store where we'd ordered 10 tons of hay. They are supposed to deliver the hay. We ordered and paid for the hay on Friday. On Sunday, it started to rain. It's been raining since, making mud in front of the barn. DH spread gravel in front of the barn with the tractor. That helped in front of the barn, but made slippery, muddy tracks where the tractor drove. So, we'll pick up hay as needed until they can get it delivered. Today I picked up 18 bales. Now, the truck is filled with 2200 lbs of feed, two "sheep in a box", 2 salted pelts, 18 bales of hay and one ram head. Of course, I had to stop at the grocery store on the way home to get ingredients for spaghetti dinner at the Agility trial on Saturday.

Have you followed all of this?
Feed Mill
Meat Processor
Feed Store
Grocery Store

...then unpack it all and make spaghetti sauce and print out all the information needed for the agility trial setup tomorrow.

...and finish the last of the braided fleece tugs for agility prizes.

Oh... and post this new blog. :-)

Retirement is so relaxing. :-P

- Franna

Monday, October 01, 2007

With Life on the Farm comes...

...yes, Death. Sometimes by design, sometimes not. In this case, it was not.

EverRanch Silver 4/3/07 - 9/29/07
EverRanch Silver was one of our Gotland/Finn ewe lambs. She was the least friendly of the Gotland lambs, with perhaps the nicest fleece. She had been plagued with an on again, off again cough for several weeks. We'd been systematically treating it with different medications, trying to find the key, and never quite eliminating it. During all this, Silver appeared relatively healthy, with a good appetite, decent weight, good color, good pellets, normal temperature, and plenty of spunk.
Yesterday, she didn't come up for "dinner". We found her under the big maple tree, already stiff and cold. Awwwwwwww......
I know I should have done a post-exam on her, but I just couldn't steel myself to the task. Was it parasites??? Did our alpaca gelding smother her??? Was it toxic plants??? How could we have prevented her death???? I like happy ending stories. This one was not happy. It ended with me shearing the gorgeous fleece off her cold, stiff body. I'm not sure why - just to get some return? That sounds pretty cold-hearted. I don't think I can spin her fleece, beautiful as it is. I'd always think of that poor stiff little body that I somehow failed.
Rest in peace, Silver.
- Franna