Lots Of Pictures Of Lambs And A Little Bit Of Writing

The lambs came in. Seven of ’em so far, all gambling along. All four hooves and two ears intact.

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There was one lamb who had to be bottle fed. The lamb is ram, a black ram. He came out long and lanky from a short and stout ewe. The ewe is part Icelandic, which has a lot to do with her build. Being short means that the large bag that she has from the excess amount of milk is only about four inches off the ground. Now let me explain a bit about the things I have come to learn about lambs and how they are as firstborns. Lambs, like all mammals
I know of, are driven by the need to eat. They instinctively know to look for their mothers tit (when you talk like a farmer you are supposed to be able to say – and type – that word without giggling, or so I’ve been told). Knowing this they usually manage to eat within mere hours of being outside of the womb. The time varies based on the conditions of the environment. I saw one lamb that got separated from her mother in the morning before Grandpa and I got out to let out the rest of the sheep. The lamb started on a search for her mom, she needed to be fed. The lamb started out by nuzzling at the grown ewe’s udders around her. The ewes knew it wasn’t their baby and so didn’t feel any maternal instinct towards it. Their reaction to the obtrusive lamb was to head butt her away from them. Grandpa Larry and I walked in on the sounds of a crying lamb and baahing ewes. Our eyes were met by a scene that looked much like a basketball game, with the lamb playing the part of the ball being bouncec around. This would be an example of the wrong conditions. That lamb was lost and had we not walked in, and had the lamb’s mother continued to be remiss in finding – and protecting – her young, the lamb may not have survived. As it was Grandpa got a hold of the lamb by the front legs and carried it slowly into the front barn, luring the real mother to come forward. She followed him into the new pen. A seperate pen is made for each new mother and lamb to avoid that unhealthy attention from the other ewes that I just wrote about. Being in a seperate pen also seems to help the mom feel comfortable, and when she feels comfortable she is better able to give attention to her lamb. That brings me back to my other story, the bottlefed ram.

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The bottlefed ram is tall and his mother is short and her tits were just a little bit off the ground when she gave birth. This wouldn’t be a problem usually, because the lamb, no matter what size, would know to kneel down to feed, but this ram doesn’t seem to have figured that out. We didn’t know this at first. What alerted Grandpa and I to this conundrum was the crying of the lamb. He was unhappy and after some observation we noticed that her bag was very, very, full. More observation led us to conclude this was due to the lamb not milking her. Well maybe he didn’t know what to do, maybe we just had to show him. Some energy was put into leading him to his mothers tit where we observed that he wouldn’t get his head dow to feed. Grandpa thought we could show him by helping to kneel, so that was attempted. The lamb didn’t go for that. He didn’t want to kneel. We figured we had shown him so maybe he would try on his own soon enough. We let him be and went about the day. Later, when we checked on the sheep again, we saw the Icelandic’s bag was more swelled, he was still balling, and when he stood to feed he still wasn’t kneeling down. We decided to show him how again, to no avail. I was put in charge of leading his head to the tit while Grandpa held the, now, very tender, ewe. We knew her udder was tender before, but the fuller it got the worse it felt. The longer the lamb didn’t feed the more the mama wouldn’t want him to because it hurt too much. Anyway, Grandpa held her and I led his mouth to her tit, and he didn’t take. I wondered if his mouth wasn’t opening so I gave him my finger and he sucked on that just fine, so I led him back to his mama but his little mouth wouldn’t latch. I told Grandpa and asked if maybe her tit was to big for his mouth because it was so swelled. That appeared to be the problem. The next solution was to milk her. Maybe she had an infection that had plugged her up, something called mastitis, and that’s why he wasn’t feeding, or maybe that wasn’t it and he just couldn’t latch on. That’s what we would find out by milking her.

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The milking implements were gathered; a harness, bottle and container for catching the sustaining liquid. Dad came to hrlp and we gathered around to help Grandpa milk. The harness was put on the unhappy ewe and the milking was to commence. I was given the job of standing back and holding the lamb. We all agreed this was the best job and I was in no hurry to exchange it with anyone else. The little lamb reacted by crying, but soon he grew accustomed to me and switched to sniffing me in a vain search for milk. He snuffled and snorted and then he found my hand and latched onto a finger. Having a baby lamb suck on one’s finger is simultaneously charming and disturbing. The lamb was happy though, so I figured that was all that mattered.

Quick interruption, in the time I have been typing this there have been two new lambs born. That puts the count up to nine

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Anyway, I sat with the little black ram. Meanwhile, back on the other side of the pen, not a foot away, kneeled my grandfather. He had tied up the ewe and backed her into the corner inorder to get her still enough to milk. This sounded oh-so-simple when he first told me the plan, but I realized exactly how difficult a task it was once he started. That sheep did not want to give milk, and she most certainly did not want to give it to a grown, human, male that was putting it in a jar. The ewe was kicking like crazy. Grandpa was struggling with Icelandic while I was holding her sweet son. Dad came over to aid the process and eventually the two boys were able to get enough milk to start on feeding the lamb. Grandpa took hold of the lamb and handed me the bottle.

Bottle feeding a lamb isn’t my idea of a good time. But it is a good time anyway. Welll, sort of.

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After that I was given the job of feeding the lamb and helping to calm the ewe as Grandpa milked. She was never pleased by the process, but it was necessary. Not only did we need to milk to feed the little ram, but the ewe also needed the pressure relieved. What started out as charming became a frustrating reality after a couple of days. It was hard to watch the young lamb not catch on to what it had to do to survive while the rest of the lambs were growing and becoming wiser. The mother had become the only mother who wasn’t feeding. It is hard to watch a mother fail to perform her maternal duties. I wondered why instinct and Mother Nature didn’t kick in to help the two four legged creatures figure out life.

After the third day of bottlefeeding Grandma and I left to run errands after chores. Grandpa decided something had to be done so him and Dad came up with the plan to build a stanchion. When Grandma and I got home I got to see this newly built contraption. They had already tested it once and the ewe, boxed in without a place to run, had stood to be milked. This made the stanchion a success, and the boys were quite pleased. We went out to check on the sheep again at 9:30 PM knowing the lamb had to eat again. This time I got to see the stanchion put to work. It was a real strugle to get the ewe into it, but once she was in she was in. Dad had built a platform around the stanchion so it was up off the ground and then made a step up for the Ewe where she stood. The idea was that if the lamb wanted to drink he could climb upon the platform and reach his mama’s udder because she was raised up. Dad thought maybe we should test this theory so he asked if I would put the lamb up to her tit as Grandpa milked the other one. By this time the lamb had grown attached to me, or rather, he had grown attached to my coat. The smell of the coat had become synonymous with milk in his mind. He loved that coat. He had taken to coming up to me and reaching his head to any low hanging bit and giving a suck. It didn’t result in any sustenance but that didn’t seem to bother him much. Well, since I was the human he was the most attached to (literally) I new it was my shivic duty to get that lamb to its mama. The little guy was hesitant at first. He actually ran away from me a couple times which was good because it means he had a self preservation instinct and the energy to act upon it. I finally got a hold of him and carried him over to his mother. I kneeled down beside the stanchion and pointed his head where his mouth had to go. After many minutes of struggling the lamb finally latched where it was supposed to, and after he figured out that he could get milk he started sucking. What a magical sound.

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After a good long period of siting holding the lamb I stood to find a suprise that he had left behind from his behind. “Oh shit,” I said. But that’s farming for you.

I have mentioned before that my grandma is a wiz with the fiber. She has been teaching me how to spin.

Hold on, I just have to let you know that in the time that I have been typing this another lamb was born and one of the twins from a different ewe was rejected by its mothr and is now deceased. That leaves the count at nine.

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Yes, so Grandma has been teaching me to spin on some of the wool that she got off one of her sheep. She carded it (that means combed it out and cleaned up the crap), and then dyed it. She used sawdust from a tree to color it a light red/ deep pink color, it is sort of like a violet red color. She handed it to me with a drop spindle after tshowing me what to do. After a lot of trial and error I spun a good 100 yards of it. I plyed (meaning I double spun it for strength) it into 50 yards, and now I have to figure out what project to use it in. Right now I’m finishing up a pair of mittens for my cousin. She has been a spinner for along time and we have been talking a bit about my spinning. I have been told by other spinners that she is very talented and that she often spins without even looking at her spinning wheel. I haven’t been around her much while she has been spinning but I don’t doubt it. She is a great little knitter for sure, and it was her yarn that I used in the hat I knit up for Dad, it was definitely good quality. My cousin is a year younger than me so I am coming a little late to the spinning game, but I strive to be as good as her. She was taught by the best, and now I am being taught by them too. My grandma and aunts are all very talented so I am sure that if I catch on I might get good too.

Quick update: there are two more lambs. The count is now up to eleven.

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In the last post I wrote I mentioned the new shirt I purchased at Goodwill. The perfectly flowery shirt that I am looking forward to wearing. I have to save it for warmer temps so I have only worn it once in public, but soon that shall change. I booked my flight back to California where the weather is hot. I’m headed back to Little Wing and riding weather. I’m planning on riding the motorcycle to the north. My original plan to go through Texas is suspended for the time being. If I can, I want to go backup through Colorado and maybe hit near the Tetons in Wyoming. I don’t know for sure but it is what I’m looking at. My flight takes off Tuesday afternoon from South Dakota and I should be back in California Wednesday morning. I will give it a good month of tour, from April to May, and check out all the things I haven’t seen. I am coming to understand that I have the rest of my life to check out the world, and for now coming back to check out Minnesota can suit me. I am very excited that I will be riding again. I know Little Wing is probably in need of a good ride too.

But now here’s a picture of me in my new favorite shirt.

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I think March came in like a lamb, but I think it is going out like a lamb too, but from what I’m learning lamb’s can come in any which way they want. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes they are stubborn or fast. They are always soft though. Wooly, warm, and full of shit, just like life.

No, that is a very stretched analogy.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have loved the hell out of helping with lambing, but I will love riding just as much. March was what it was regardless of the critter it embodied. April will be what it will be and I am going to enjoy the hell out of it. We never know when it will all be gone, or the ride will be over. We never know when the months will continue passing without us. What we do know is what we have now.

I have the presence of three fantastic grandparents and some pretty sweet sheep right now. After March turns into April I will have the gift of riding again . Who knows what will come next? I don’t, and I don’t mind.

I think I should sign off now. I don’t know what comes next, but I do know I should get out to the barn.

It might be another lamb.

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Getting It Down Pat (Happy Belated St. Patties Day)

I don’t have a story to tell. The problem is I have many many stories to tell. I don’t know where to start. Do I start with the black birds that are flying back for spring and filling the tops of the tree in the early morning, or do I start with the way the sunlight shines off the old 46 Chevy that graces the yard in all its rusted glory? Do I tell you about the way 80° in South Dakota feels different then 80° in California, or do I tell you the way that hearing John Denver sing Sunshine on My Shoulders makes me cry every time? Do I tell you about the way that Queenie, the oldest horse on the farm, whinnies good morning to me every day, but backs away from my hand in the afternoon, or the lack of lambs that the sheep are having? What do I say? What do I tell you, my audience?

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Buster and Queenie in the background.

I don’t know. I guess I will start off by telling you about my new shirt.

The last few months I have been free of mundane choices. My life has been filled with excitement and adventure, and the big questions like where to next? What route? What road? Who should I meet next? When is the next meal and cupa tea? The questions that I’ve had to answer, the decisions I’ve had to make, have been engaging and worthwhile. I don’t posses much clothing as of late. I have three jeans to chose from. I wear one of them specifically on days filled with grunge. I have six shirts to choose from, all of them specifically chosen for certain temperatures so the day chooses them, not me. This has made my clothing choice easy and allowed me to redirect that energy towards more positive, enlightening things, like what route? What road? I had forgotten that buying a new shirt is like a renewing of the spirit. A new piece of good apparel to slip on and make your own is a like creating a whole new statement about who a person  wants to be seen as. I bought a shirt yesterday. A second hand shirt from Goodwill that I fell in love with. An airy tunic with big beautiful flowers on it. A shirt that has me feeling like spring. It has me feeling like a barefoot walk on a hot day or a roadtrip through a green landscape. It is interesting how that happens. I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, the feeling of comfort and enjoyment from a piece of clothing. Do others see a certain shirt and know it is the one the same way I do? This feeling that I get from a new shirt is the same feeling I get when I finally figure out what to type up. Sometimes a story catches my imagination and I know I have to go write it down. Other times I get so many of them, I get overwhelmed. Like having a closet full of nice shirts, which story do I choose?

Grandma found some old paint. Some old tempura paint that is marked with brands I am not familiar with. They are tempura and I believe they are child grade paints. Most tempura is for children, or at least it isn’t the same grade as acrylics or oils. I use tempura, but I also use house paint and crayons on a regular basis too. The majority of tempura is reserved for kindergarten painting or cheap paints for festivals and such. Well, anyway, I like it. I haven’t read the date on the old paint Grandma found, but I did look through the contents of the box. I found that some of the paints rattled the raspy cry of bygone paint. Others didn’t rattle so much and when opened they were sticky to the touch. I am considering the chances of having some good old tempura paint to use in the next few days versus the alternative of it all being rotten when I actually examine it thoroughly. I am not sure, but it is an interesting find nonetheless.

An interesting piece of history.

We have been finding those a lot as of late, those interesting pieces of history. Grandma and I went to clean up the old house. It is attached to the new house by way of the garage abd is a heated farmhouse built in the 1880’s. It was the first house that my grandparents lived in when they moved to the farm in the 1980’s. The new house was built after they had bought the land and old house. They hired a contractor and the contractor hired Dad. So Dad got his first construction job on his mom’s and step-dad’s land through a third party builder. That in itself is a bit of history. This house was the first that he cut his building teeth on before going on to build the home my sister and I would grow up in a decade later. Cleaning the old house was history too. Not just the history from the original owners, but also the history that is stored in the boxes that fill the old house. Grandma found a drawer of paperwork that had bussiness cards from her grandpa and dad. She also found some of her bussiness cards from the 70’s too. We discussed her grandfather and father who owned a shared real estate and insurance agency. In the drawer there were old letters from customers regarding debts and payments. There was an old map of Watertown, SD, not dated but clearly from the start of the 20th century. We also spent the day vacuuming up flys and dusting shelves,  but the best part was the silence. When all the machines were shut off and Grandma could tell me all about her dad and grandfathers bussiness. When she could point out the portraits on the wall and tell me about her great grandparents and the history stemming from their lineage.

Besides cleaning the old house we are all putting our hands to cleaning up the garage. To do so the old granary had to be cleaned out and rearranged, then the garage became the next endeavor. Dad is insulating and wiring and putting shelves up. Grandpa is cleaning out boxes and rearranging tools. Grandma is sorting paperwork and old glass bottles and jars. I am standing on the sidelines and watching, mostly. Sometimes Dad will have me saw something or help him lift a heavy object. Sometimes Grandpa will have me be a gofer, and sometimes Grandma will have me come look at something interesting. My favorite part is the looking. We have found old school pictures of Dad and his brother and sisters. There is paperwork with cursive writing samples from my family, and old school notebooks with Grandma’s doodles. There are books and  playing cards from different generations. Dust from previous residences on toys and newspaper articles fill the air. We found a box of old fishing lures made by my great grandfather and old tools from his shop. It is like a treasure hunt that comes with more value than silver or gold. When we finish in the garage Grandpa and I go do chores.

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Old cards from my Dad's childhood.

The other day, the day it got up to 80°, Dad prepared a tree to be chopped down. Grandpa and I stood on the ground and watched as he climbed up the tree. I stood on the ladder and handed him up the trimmers and saws before going back down. Dad sawed off a bunch of branches and when he tossed them down I piled them up. I didn’t do much work compared to what Dad was doing, but I got it done. I did manage to wack myself in the face once with one of the branches. It was more like a log with a few branches sticking out. When I went to grab it I didn’t realize how many branches were still tangled in the tree. I gave it a good hard yank causing the branches to wip out and thwack me on the cheek. It took a second for me to realize there was a sting to it because it initially just made me numb. It left just a small, thumbprint sized, bruise. Not bad for a day working in the woods, or, ahem, the one tree in South Dakota. The bruise goes well with my new shirt anyhow so I’m not worried.

After I got over the sting I continued working. Dad and Grandpa think the tree is going to get cut down because it is too close to the house and is rubbing on the roof. It was to windy on that day to do anything about it so Dad just got it all trimmed up. As he did that Grandpa went to go get the rope that were going to tie around the tree to direct it which direction to fall (preferably away from the house). All Grandpa had for rope was a couplr lariats. He used to be cattle farmer and he knew how to ride horse pretty well, he still does but he doesn’t do it as much. He gave me a lesson on roping and I watched. I tried it, but I was clearly not a roper quite yet. When Dad finished up in the tree I climbed up with the lariat and hung it as high up as I could reach. Then when Dad came back from his coffee break he got back in the tree and tied the rope where he wanted it. That was it for the day. We had done what we could. Grandpa got the tractor with the loader and grabbed all the piles of brush.  He made a pile down by the dry slew and there has been talk of a bonfire soon. I am hoping so.

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The fire prodding stick.

In the area where we were working on trimming the tree there were weeds scattered all around. A certain weed with burrs kept finding purchase on my clothing. Dad told me that it is called burdock and it is a sign of good fortune. First he told me that it is where the idea for velcro came from, and then he told me that it is said to be a sign of new friends. He said if a person leaves it attached to their clothing it means they will make new friends throughout the day. I don’t know if that’s true but I do know it leaves slivers. I unattached hundreds of the buggers, and chose to take my chances relying on my charm rather than a weed when making new friends.

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Good morning.

Like I said, I have been helping with chores. Grandpa gets up early in the morning and I follow him. We get the food for the barn cats and grab the banana peels and other food scraps for the sheep and chickens. I put on my mucky snowboots and Grandpa slides on his over shoes. We get the grain for the horses and we head out to the yard. If I remembered to bring my camera with I try to capture a few pictures of the rising sun, and then I pet the horses while Grandpa feeds them grain from the bucket. We check the live trap for the predator that has taken a liking to the chickens.

Grandma and Grandpa had four roosters in a chicken coop with 17 hens. They didn’t need that many roosters. They only needed one in the coop and so the other three found themselves in a separate shed. The three in the seperate shed lived with the gueneas for a bit, but eventually the guenea hens decided to move along to the sheep barn and leave the roosters behind. After this seperation something big happened, there was a plot twist in this rather mundane story. A predator of some sort snuck into the rooster coop and made all three of the foul disappear. The only evidence of the creatures existence were the feathers and a distant memory. There was no blood and there were no body parts, until. Until the day there was.

Grandpa and Dad had set out a live trap right after the incident. Two weeks went by without a sign of the hunter. The trap was moved from inside the coop to outside and a few days later the morning was met by newly scattered feathers outside the coop. Opening the door revealed a munched on set of wings and a couple chicken feet. The culprit had struck again. There was a fresh dugout under the door and the inside of the coop looked like a massacre. The immediate fear was that a new chicken had been killed but after further sleuthing Grandpa, Dad, and myself concluded that it had been an old kill. Dad looked around while I took pictures. He discovered a board missing at the base of the wall. It lead to an eight inch tall crawlspace under the floor of the adjoining barn. In this space there were dead chickens. Roosters to be exact. Whatever had murdered the chickens hadn’t slunk off with them, it had instead made a den in their old home and had turned it into a pantry. After these findings the live trap got moved back into the coop and baited with chicken legs and some old lamb liver. So far the culprit hasn’t been caught, but we check it every morning. This morning we were met by a friendly face when we looked into the shed. The barn cat, Goldie, was staring out at us from behind the bars of the trap. He was mewwing quite folornly, clearing not enjoing the night he had spent incarcerated. We let him out and reset the trap, then we went on about the rest of the chores.

After feeding grain to the horses, and checking the trap, we bring the cat food out to the barn cats. I give a little to both of them. There are two barn cats, Goldie and Checkers. Checkers is the female and she likes me a lot more than Goldie does. It took her awhile, but now she lets me pet her when I bring breakfast while Goldie insists on running every time he spots me. The barn cats aren’t the only cats on the farm though. There is also an indoor cat. Her name is Dumpster Kitty. We shorten that up and call her DK. I have a special bond with her since we share the same intials. She loves me and often sleeps on my feet at night.

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Dumpster Kitty on cat nip. In this picture she is playing under my chair at the kitchen table. She is using the legs and brackets on the chair as a jungle gym while waiting for the right moment to swat my feet.

DK loves me, and I am growing on Checkers,  but Goldie doesn’t care for me much. Regardless, I feed them all. After feeding the cats we check on the sheep. We see if any of the ewes have had their babies, and they haven’t. Grandpa will go get the grain bucket to feed the sheep and I will toss the banana peels out for them to eat. The barn gets opened and we let the sheep out and then we go check on the chickens. We feed them and make sure they have water. We open up the laying box to get ready for the eggs that the hens will drop throughout the daylight hours. After all the light stuff is done we go out to pitch hay to the horses and alfalfa to the sheep.

I hadn’t ever pitched hay before so Grandpa had to show me how. It takes a certain stab and twist inorder to pick up all the hay that one wants to pick up and then deposit it all into the right spot. It is a new technique that I look forward to using in the coming years, I guess we shall see. Grandpa Larry will have me turned into a regular farmer if I ever get the roping right.

After all those chores are done we go eat breakfast. If I remembered to carry my camera along I try to capture as many photos as possible. The rest of the day isn’t quite so planned out. Like I said,  I help out where I can,  but the truth is I don’t have much to offer. I enjoy the memories so I am taking photographs and writing inorder to recollect it all.

It is all so very interesting. A new thing happens everyday on a farm. What specific story does one pick out to write about? But what can I say, a new thing happens everyday in life, what does one pick to write about? Which shirt do I buy,  which shirt do I wear? What story do I write? What story do I publish. Well, I guess I will just have to answer those questions later.

Have a good day audience.

Marching And Skipping Along

I haven’t been posting as many pictures and I wish to remedy that. We shall start with a few shots of the Danish Folk School that I went to at the start of this month when I attended the fiber fair. It was beautiful and worthy of photographs.

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A picture taken at the wrong time as can be observed by the shadows. Whatever, the building is beautiful and I feel that makes up for it.

If you look to the top of the building you can see the parapet. I somehow found myself up there in my tour of the building. Actually it wasn’t that happenstance, I sort of aimed for that destination. I got to the third floor expecting the stairs to the topmost level to be barred off and hidden from the public eye. Instead they were just waiting there, inviting a person to make their way to the top. It was just four steps to a landing and then a ladder that lead the rest of the way up to the trapdoor. I climbed up and pushed on the trapdoor and, to my shock, it opened up. The trapdoor lead into — what looked like — an old janitors closet. There was no siding on the wall, just the bare brick with some patches of innocent graffiti. The floor was plywood placed over timbers, and there was a spot where the timbers were visible because the plywood had either been peeled up or never put down. There were a couple of cumpled pop cans on the floor so I could tell I wasn’t the first one to be up here without permission. There was another ladder leading to yet another trapdoor, and I assumed that was the door to the roof. I was certain that door would be locked, but I decided to try it anyway. I climbed this second ladder and reached up with my hands to push on the door. Once again I was filled with surprise as the door shifted and  my eyes caught a glimpse of snow from the small crack that my efforts had made visible. I also feelt a small chill as the cold, outside air, breezed in. I was filled with excitement while I considered the thrill of this new secret I had found. I remember considering what a rebel I was and enjoying that thought, because in general (not to ruin my image or anything) I’m not that much  a rebel. Or atleast I don’t usually go places I am not supposed to go. Had there been a sign saying “No Entry” I probably wouldn’t have tried it. As it was I was cold and I knew I needed a jacket before venturing further. I climbed down the ladder and made my way back to the first trapdoor, reversing my course. I tryed to do this as quietly as possible. I steeled myself to face whatever, or whomever, was waiting at the bottom of the steps. I didn’t want to be caught, but most of all I didn’t want my secret to be found out before I got to find out more about it myself. I opened the trapdoor, certain I would be met with peering eyes, but instead I was met with nothing, except for the ladder I had climbed up, the landing, and the stairs that took me back to the unexciting third floor. I went back downstairs and wandered around with my camera for awhile. I got very few good pictures, but I saw a lot of cool stuff.

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I put on my coat and went outside to capture photos of the sunset. It was practically impossible because I was in Minnesota and everywhere I pointed the camera (especially in the western direction where the sunset was at) there were trees. I did see  typical Minnesotan fire hydrant though so I caught a picture of that.

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A typical Minnesotan fire hydrant is generally red and white, see?

I decided that now was the perfect time to go and explore my secret again. I had my coat on the sun was setting, I wasn’t getting a good photograph at ground level so maybe the tall parapett would do me better. I walked back into the Danish Folk School and made my way back to third floor. I climbed the ladder, opened the trapdoor and climbed the second ladder. Camera in pocket, I pushed on the second trapdoor and found that it wasn’t hinged, it was like a lid on a box, it came right off. I slid it off to the side and I climbed through the hole it left. The parapett was brick and I was pleased to see that it was exactly like any castle I had ever imagined. This, my first parapett, did not dissapoint. I crawled onto the roof and slid the trapdoor over to keep the chill out of the building. When I stood up I could see the sunset better than I had anywhere else. I felt like a queen.

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Well, I felt like a queen until the wind got to me, then I got cold. I took a few pictures and then skidadled off the roof. Now that it was time to go down I found that the easy to open trapdoor was, infact, old and, in all probability, rarely used making it hard to close. The lid was harder to put back on the box, especially from below. At that point I had a few pangs of regret. I wrestled with the lid, trying to slip it into place, all the while worrying about the racket I was producing. I had visions of women opening the trapdoor, peaking upwards, and yelling at me for trespassingmon the parapett. I questioned the intelligence of the action; was the risk really worth the small satisfaction of a good chill and a few lousy pictures? I would never do it again, never ever, if I could just get that trapdoor lid back on the castle-like box with no one finding me out. And, then, the lid caught and it slid back into place. Just like that I was back to enjoying my secret, and the thrill of being where I ought not to be came back.  I imagined coming back to this place, eating dinner here. Maybe coming back and showing only my closet friend. Maybe I could get a pet and let it live up here during the three short days that I would be inhabiting this building. Maybe I would enjoy all the sunrises and sunsets from the brisk safety of the parapett. And, then, I was making my way down the first ladder after closing the other trapdoor, and by the time I reached the landing reality kicked in again. This wasn’t a castle, it was a Danish Folk School. That wasn’t a secret parapett, it was a well hidden closet with roof access. My adventure was really just a neat examination of architecture, not some rebellious epic that would lead to a life full of magical stories.

Ah well, at least I tried.

Speaking of magical stories, check out this picture.

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That orangegenie is in fact just the orange sunset shining through the smoke from that chimney. And that church isn’t on fire, that is just the lights interpreted by the stained glass. Cool though, huh? Makes me hungry for a citrus fruit.

I have other pictures.

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On Sunday we sheared the sheep at my grandma’s place. Actually, she hired someone to shear the sheep while I just stood by and held the gate. The men, my gramps and Dad, wrastled with the sheep to get them out to the shearer. Grandma sorted the wool as it came off the newly naked critters, and I stood by to assist and open and close the gate. There was one point where I failed to complete my task. Instead of opening and closing the gate I stepped over to grab a pile of freshly cut wool and hand it to Grandma. Meanwhile the boys had a hold on a particularly feisty older gal and as they struggled with that sheep the flopping gate made for the perfect getaway for a young yearling, that I have since coined Skippy. We watched this youngin bound out of the barn and make her way towards the outside sheep who were eagerly munching grain.

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Sheep don’t particularly like being sheared. In fact, if I were willing to make an assumption on their behalf, I would say they downright detest the whole bussiness. If one were to join on the fun and games, as I did, they might notice that the sheep generally have to be manhandled to get them to the point where they are sitting in the ‘barbers chair.’ Some (like myself) might imagine they would follow their herder like — excuse my pun — sheep, but that would be incorrect. I stood by the gate and watched Grandpa Larry reach for those stubborn gals and miss as the skittered away. He would attempt to herd them out of the makeshift pen we had set up for the day, into the second makeshift pen where they would then be hauled to the shearer. The sheep would not herd, they would scatter. It was not a job for the faint of heart. Dad was called in and then him and Grandpa Larry used a technique that involved coming in from different angles  and then grabbing on when they new they could. The safety of the sheep is one of the foremost thoughts, the other thought is the safety of the human. I think the biggest  thought on all of our minds, though, is the safety ofthe unborn lamb. All but one of the sheep that were sheared were female and of those females there may have been five or six that weren’t carrying. There are eighteen sheep in all. Grandma and Grandpa used to have a larger flock, but as life and a large farm have begun to not coincide the number has diminshed as they have been sold off or butchered. Anyway, this means the job was easier than it has been in previous years, but it still isn’t easy. Dealing with lifeforms, in any capacity, always makes a job more complicated

Back to Skippy, that sheep that ran off. Knowing that the cause of the loose lady was partly my fault for standing by the gate I volunteered to get her back in the barn. Nobody seemed very concerned about the sheep or my leaving to chase it in so I just did. Skippy is a black faced, black legged, white sheep. She is also very clever. I saw her standing amongst the other ewes eating the grain out of the feeders and I saw her see me.

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The ewes launched a coo and they a scattering occured. All the sheep had coupled up and to different groups. The only reason I was able to spot Skippy after this parting was the unsheared wool that remained on her hide. As clever as he was she didn’t seem to realize this and she ended up standing off in the corner of the small pasture with another yearling. I saw her and made a big circle around her to convince her of which way she wanted to head. Her and her partner caught on and made a run for it, as did the rest of the sheep. They reconfigured and as I launched another large circle they ran around the old chicken shed and up onto the manure pile and down again.

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The old chicken shed and manure pile a week before shearing.

Something I didn’t mention is the lack of snow around these parts. The northern areas have had a heatwave and this has lead to a mass melting of all the white stuff. The beginning of this post had pictures from when it was around -14° to 30. On Sunday it was warm, about 40° to 60°,  but it was only about the second or third day of this melt. This means that while the snow was melting the ground frost hadn’t yet got around to it. The top three inches of topsoil were filled with water though and this made for a wet mucky mess. Where ever there wasn’t a puddle there was slippery mud. And in the pasture that topsoil isn’t all topsoil. Meaning that when I was running, chasing after those sheep I was slipping, and nearly slidding, on a mix of mud and sogged up manure. No one ever said farming was easy… or that it smelt good.

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The old chicken shed and manure pile on shearing day. (Notice the puffy, woolen, clouds? The sky looked like a clean version of what Grandma was sorting on that day.)

I felt no need to follow Skippy and her pals up that manure pile or into the puddle surrounding said pile. Instead I opted for shouting and swearing and when they made there way off the pile I sprinted as best I could right for the center of the pack, knocking it in half. I got Skippy pushed off to my rightside, with hr2 small group, getting her closer to the barn. There were only about eight ewes that were sheared making for only nine in the pasture as I performed this chase. In the group that I had diverted to my right there were five ewes and the decided to lead me in a circle. As I chased them around one separated and I was left with four sheep, Skippy still being one of them. We had doubled back to my original starting point when I decide to up my game. My arms shot out to the sides as I hunkerd down a bit more to avoid slipping in the muck. I took up shouting again as I waved my arms and shuffled quickly from left to right, keeping all four sheep on the course to the barn. They began running from me and I felt the mud splatter up onto my person. I did my best to ignore the new accoutrements to my wardrobe as I sped up, keeping up the rear and herding them to the back of the barn. They arrived on the dry land of the straw covered shelter and seemed to realize what happened. When I reached the door to shut the gate they looked at me mournfully. Skippy was caught, Skippy wasn’t the beautiful martyr they thought her to be. This sheep was a true rebel, if she couldn’t avoid the barber then what sheep ever would? I saw these toughts run through their minds as my grin grew. I had no sympathy. I smelt like poop and I had just manged to herd a sheep in less than five minutes, I was pretty pleased with myself. I opened the door that seperated the back barn from the front barn where all the happenings were, and I announced my success. I was met with pleased looks, that lasted only seconds. My long lasting glow seemed to be a personal problem that these other busy farmers didn’t have much time for. I joined them, leaving the four ewes in the back barn for the time being, and I went back to my post — guarding the gate.

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Old Split Ear is a black sheep. She is probablythe nosiest which leads to her getting much more to eat. She is also the most pregnantest too, can you tell?

The rest of the shearing was uneventful except for the ram’s, Louis’, shearing. His nose flared and he fought hard. He seemed to exude ego as the shearer shaved his wool. If I were to allow my reading of his thoughts to be mentioned I might say that he looked absolutely put out, and irritated that he had to do this thing that was beneath him. I remember thinking that he appeared to be most angry that he had to do the same thing the ladies had done. That’s just me though. I could see the shearer struggle with Louis, but he didn’t allow that to ruin his job. He sheared him without a nick, and he maintained complete control, it was beautiful.

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When all the sheep in the front barn had been shaved it was Skippy’s turn. We opened the door seperating the two barns and after a short struggle Grandpa Larry and Dad had a good hold on the yearling. They delivered the stubborn ewe to the shearer where he completed his job for the day. When the shearer let loose of Skippy after all her wool was detached she made a run for it, again. As she exited the barn she lept into the air. Her feet were about three feet off the ground, and, had I reached my arm out, I would have been able to pet her shaved back as she was airborn. I have never seen a sheep jump that high, but just as quick as it happened she was grounded and out the door. That Skippy was ready to be done with us. I saw the awe of the sheep hanging around the barn and it seemed that Skippy should have no worry about her reputation. Those ladies knew she was a rebel, Skippy’s legacy will live on for at least a few years.. or day’s.. hours. Who knows? Only the sheep I guess.

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The sheep the morning after.

There are also horses here. My favorite picture of them was caught a few days after arriving in South Dakota. It was snowing on the day and I just couldn’t belive how lovely these old steeds looked.

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I am surrounded by proud steeds, magical castles, black sheep, and rebellious sheep that don’t follow, could my story get any better?

I  do not know the answer to that, all I know is that this is the oddest, most interesting, March I have probably ever lived through. And even though I’m not down South, this is the warmest March too.

Knit Picking The Purls Of Wisdom

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I look back on the pictures of the places I have been and I consider all the great things I feel I have experienced and I wonder how it is possible. I feel as though I am in a weird time warp. A few weeks ago I was traveling amongst blossoms and fruit. Smelling the salty sea air and sweating. Carefree.. Stone free to do as I pleased as Jimi (Hendrix that is) might say. Now I’m making myself at home with chickens and sheep. I am acting responsibly for all those involved in my life. I have to think about family and the fact that chores need to get done. Feels a bit like a time warp. I have been looking at the pictures I have yet to show off to my family and I am considering the odd thoughts that I have been having as of late. The thoughts about not finishing out the adventure. The thoughts that have come about because I came back North on an airplane and I left Little Wing behind. The thoughts that have made life’s occurrences seem like a determining factor in future plans. I don’t plan, but yet my mind is stuck in plan mode. It won’t just experience now. It insists on going through every scenario and possibility rather than living right now. I mean I can understand why. Being here raises a lot of questions. What do I do now that I am so near real life and real work? Real bills, real money, real job. Real broke, real cold, real sad. It is all real sad. Well I have been told that twenty-two is nowhere near the end, and that is probably true. Despite this I have noticed that all my thoughts tend towards planx and what it is I intend to do when my adventure is over.

I talked with my friend Dan the other day. I told him what was going on and how I was feeling and he repeated a point that he had read in one of his motorcycle adventure magazine’s. He told me he had thought of me when he read it. To paraphrase, the basic point was, an adventure is done for the person taking the adventure. It is a lone trek done for onesself and is completely separate from the people back home. I was puzzled by this statement. It seemed so obvious. We humans go and do things to make us happy while simultaneously doing no harm, right? That’s just what we do, adventure or not, right? So I asked Dan, “Isn’t that just life?”

“Exactly.”

Well, at the risk of sounding circular and existential (something I hesitate to do. Ha. Ha.), I guess that was the point. Dan and I discussed this further and then I went off to think about it. If the adventure is just like life then isn’t the adventure just life? And if that’s the case isn’t life just adventure?

If I question every moment of adventure and ask if I’m doing it right then which moment am I truly enjoying?

I have been told before that I think too much.

To change the subject a bit, I made a point for my birthday. My birthday was Sunday and the weekend of my birthday was spent at a fiber weekend with my grandma, two aunts, and cousin. As I have mentioned before my grandma owns the best little yarn shop on this side of the Mississippi (and I say that with very little bias). Since she has retired she has found enjoyment in keeping the shop and going to different fairs and events with some of her ware. As one person told me this weekend, I am a member of “a fiber dynasty,” and it might be true. I watched the women walk around the Danish Folk School that we were at in shawls, sweaters, and hats that they had made. Many of them had spun the yarn that they had used in the attire they donned. I do not yet know how to spin so I sat and knit while watching my cousin, aunt, and grandmother spin up fiber. I was working on Dad’s wool hat. I sat across from a woman named Malissa. She had short hair with two streaks of color in it. Orange and turquoise caught my eye whenever I looked towards her, and as I watched I saw her crochet up a piece with very similar colors. In just a few hours I got to see Malissa complete a complimentary hat to put on her head. Meanwhile, just across the aisle I spent all the three days at the fiber show finishing the ribbed hat Dad had requested. To be fair, crocheting is faster than knitting. And to be even fairer, ribbing takes longer than straight knitting. And now to make an excuse, I was busy chatting, laughing, goofing off, and completing a fair share of whining so I am not entirly sure I could have finished any faster, had I tried. Or not.

Anyway, back to my point. I made a point on my birthday. It took me a few days, but I finally completed it and shared it with Dad. I finished Dad’s hat. A heavy woolen hat that used many yards of chunky yarn. It was designed to be long so he could cuff it, and on the top Dad requested a point. Something that resembles a Robin Hood cap or a roosters comb, one or the other.

Dad always used to ask us “what’s your point?” and then, in reference to a classic Saturday Night Live skit, he would answer, “it’s on top of your head.”

Now you know where my bad sense of humor comes from.

As I was making this hat I thought of all the great jokes that would come out of it, that might have been the only thing that kept me going. My cousin was the gal who spun the yarn. My aunt had picked up a bag full of blocks of the fiber and asked my cousin to spin it. It is a beautiful mixture of color with greens and rust reds and that is what drew my aunts eyes. This bag of surplus yarn took my cousin a year to finish spinning. She brought it to many of the fiber fairs that she went to throughout the year so some of the women at the show we were at recognized it. It was infamous, its reputation proceeded it. This thick, chunky, yarn, made from a mix of silk and wool, had a name. Not the one I gave it, Olive and Pimentos, which I lovingly dubbed it when I starting the hat. Not the sweet name my grandma gave it in anticipation of marketing it, Faded Autumn. It had a name developed out of a resentment for its thick chunkiness that made it hard to spin and would eventually put blisters on my thumbs as I got further into the project. My cousin had learned to dislike the yarn and she had dubbed it Turkey Guts. That was the name I had to learn to live with during the three days in which I had to work with it. My resentment grew as the thick, chunky, yarn came together and stiffened and I began to understand the horrid name. Dad was ever so pleased though. One might have thought it was his birthday. I have to say that that may have been the best gift I ould have recieved anyway. I had the opportunity to hang with the fiber dynasty at a fiber fair for the first time. I had amproject to work on and I was able to make something that gave someone I loved sooo much happiness. Sometimes being selfless is the best gift one can get, especially when one is confused as to their meaning in life.

My meaning in life is to make warm comforts for grateful friends. That’s the point. Haha.

My cousin did tell me that no one ever knits her stuff and she is always to busy make stuff for other people to make stuff for herself so I decided I was going to knit her mittens. That is my current project. I’m loving all this giving.

It turns out my motorcycle jacket is damaged. I half wish I could just knit another one, unfortunately that seems unrealistic. The zipper was damaged a small amount before and I think the last crash resulted in more damage. Maybe it was the cold that finally did it in or maybe it was the layers of sweaters, or I guess it could have been a combination of the two. Whatever it was I have a zipper that doesn’t zip anymore. I also have a small hole in the mesh which I only observed recently. This means I need to pay to repair the jacket or purchase another before I get back on Little Wing.

It got up to atleast 38° here in South Dakota today. I saw someone riding their motorcycle. I thought of Little Wing.

I think this lack of assurity in life is nothing new. I know I have experienced it before and in all my talks with other humans it sounds pretty commonplace.Life right now is an adventure just as it was a few weeks ago. The difference between now and then was that I was in an unfamiliar place and I wasn’t dealing with the grief that comes with things like deaths in families. It is all a part of life.

I have been told before that I think too much, but if I didn’t think as much as I do I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

I’m twenty-two. It is warming up here in the North and I am surrounded by the people I love. That’s life.

That’s adventure.

That’s the point.

Maybe.