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.

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