Heron returned after many months of absence. I have always felt heron to be my spirit guide, so I am particularly thoughtful of his return on this particular day.
I haven't written in quite awhile. This being the last day of the year, I find I am reflecting on the seeming uneven balance of 2013--so many losses, in particular-- and encouraging myself to celebrate the wonder of living in mountain beauty and being surrounded by extraordinary people and creatures.
Some images to share as I feel my gratitude...
Each day different, each day extraordinary.
The joy of hiking on our own property, with Alyssa and Dave.
Harvesting our first, lone apricot from our tree.
Gene and Tyler planting the "legendary" meteor cherry tree. (Must hear the story in person...)
Where Gene and I spotted the otters on our birthday bike ride in November.
Josh with new lambs at Standing Stone farm in Ashland, where he works. Our lives entwine!
and Freya, our special gift of 2013, a delightful surprise. Though not yet fully tamed, we touch noses when I go out to check on sheep and she has been introducing herself to the sheep recently. We look forward to many wonderful years with Nella and Freya.
May 2014 bring joy for everyone!
Every nook and cranny on the farm needs work. Constantly. Old, fix-it areas, new project areas. And there is never enough time, and the decision of where to start is rarely clear. Sometimes, the inspiration comes from elsewhere.
Three weeks ago I went to Fiber Fusion in Chico, for fiber inspiration (and a few goodies). This wonderful loom was set up at the entrance to the booths.
When I left to drive home, the weaving was partway done. I was inspired to do a garden loom at home. With wood cutting, sheep and llama tending, fleece washing, and house chores, I haven't yet gotten to it. I'm still inspired, though, and I did revive the nouveau rustic garden I had started with finds from the sheep pasture.
Not exactly Sunset Magazine, but it amuses me, and amazes me that all this stuff was left by predecessors to the farm.
Note the madder plants (for dyeing) in the background. The next thing on my to-do list: harvest roots for dyeing. My feeble indigo plants, the ones that survived squirrel and turkey attacks, did not survive the 19-degree temperatures these past few mornings, so I will have to wait another year for blue. Hope to have my garden loom up before then...
I loathe dusting; it is a never-ending chore, and with high winds and wildfire or woodstove smoke it's impossible to keep up with.
But...I love watching llamas take dust baths.
This is a common sight during the summer months. However, I was stunned to see this action from one-week-old Freya, yesterday:
Note the not-so-white neck now. And that's Zuri, born in April, in the background for size comparison with Freya.
I've also been watching the interactions between Nella and Freya. Considerable nuzzling going on...
Nella is very protective of her cria, yet she allows her to explore. Freya has been checking out the fences and racing across the paddock, back to the comfort of mom.
You can see how light Freya's one blue eye is from this angle. By the way, we named her "Freya" after the Norse goddess of love and beauty and the source of the day name "Friday" (she was born on Friday the 13th, and 13 is a lucky goddess number).
Another fun thing to watch is how llamas get themselves down. It's called "kushing" in llamas and is similar to how the sheep get down.
Tilting the head back and looking rather smug. Freya mastered this on day one.
Family portrait :-)
Things seemed settled on the farm; it was perfectly safe for me to drive to Graeagle for a knitting day at Woolly Notions, even though it was Friday the 13th.
I had a relaxing time, starting a new knitting project and visiting with the regulars at the shop. The drive both ways was beautiful and inspiring. My first clue anything was amiss was glancing up the hill as I drove past, noticing that the sheep were in a different paddock than we had let them into in the morning. I thought perhaps they had found an opening in the fence.
I expected to find Gene napping or reading the newspaper when I got home about 3:00, but he was in the driveway when I pulled up and said, "You need to come here and see this." I walked toward the pasture, thinking perhaps some wild critter was in there. Then, a flash of white beside Nella...
This little cria (baby llama) is only a few hours old. She (I think it is female, haven't checked) has one blue eye and one brown. I am just now learning about BEW (blue-eyed white) llamas on the internet. We had no idea Nella was pregnant, and I also just learned that llama gestation is 11 and a half months! I just thought she was a big llama!
Gene had quite the day, witnessing the birth and calling the vet to come make sure this little cria was okay. And the sheep were startled as well.
The cria is nursing here, and Nella is none too pleased with these curious sheep. Notice her ears in the back position. I didn't get a picture, but she did a mild spit/hiss at them.
Welcome to Four Winds Farm, little cria!
I've spent at least an hour a day for a week scouring the pasture for broken bits of glass and rusted stuff. Always finding more than my pockets or hands can carry, I am astounded that there's ever more to find.
Do you see what I see? Look closely near the center of the picture.
Maybe this one is easier to spot. Broken glass and rusty nails and old tractor parts and even horseshoes!
The sheep come out to check out my mysterious behavior. The familiar "rip, rip" of sheep tearing grass has been replaced by "crunch, crunch" of acorns they find. Shyla and her ram lamb, Sherpa, are finding some here. About all that is left in the pasture in the late summer is turkey mullein, which is toxic to sheep, though Ariel and Zuri, below, are managing to nibble something tasty from underneath the plants. The last heavy rains, last week, have started some green shoots, but they won't grow much before being covered with snow. The sheep will have to wait until April for luscious, fresh grasses.
Meanwhile, I'll continue to stroll and scour for dangerous junk. Some of my finds in the pasture clearly suggest a story, a history of this land. I wonder at the leavings of tools and machinery, rotting and rusting, waiting to be tripped upon by humans or injure sheep feet. We have been a thoughtless species, in too much of a hurry to take care of things properly, desecrating this sacred earth. Occasional findings of obsidian treasures, though, tells me that Maidu lived here before these rusted leavings, and I believe they treasured this land, as do I.
Yes, it does.
It's both thrilling and terrifying living at the edge of the woods. At night, there are spooky howls and chirps and twig-snappings: predators afoot in the forest. Last night I heard a new unfamiliar sound and went to investigate at the window. I saw the boys (the rams) all standing in an alert group facing the back fence. It was just dusk, and I could follow their gaze and spotted a bear by the back fence. Or was it inside the fence? I watched, along with the rams, until it was too dark to make out anything but their white wool. I assumed the bear ambled on.
This morning, Gene and I walked along the fence, shovels in hand (just in case) and checked for evidence. There's a well-worn bear path along the north side.
This fresh scat looks like the bear was into some berries, unlike the first picture (also fresh) that indicated an apple meal from our neighbor's orchard. Hey, perhaps there might be some lucrative promise to a new career: investigative scat photographer.
The fence looked undisturbed all around, but I may have spotted the bear running up the hill, as it saw us poking around. Hope he/she stays away tonight!
Just when a calm sets in, a pastoral scene of sheep serenity and blue skies, the heart receives another blow. Our sweet guardian llama, Lily, died Wednesday evening. Even knowing that she was declining, even expecting her not to last much longer with her tortured, arthritic falter, the grief is vivid.
From her arrival at the farm, she knew her job and was a diligent guardian. She would sound that strange llama alarm whenever anything was amiss. Even when our neighbors were babysitting benign, miniature donkeys, she sounded that alarm. Anything to keep her sheep charges safe.
The sheep were comfortable with her right away, too. I wish I had a picture of her reaching her long neck down and sniffing each new lamb, greeting and accepting them as part of her flock. The lambs would even climb on her back to nap.
Lily would hang out in the sheep shed when it was too windy or rainy or snowy, often having "sleepovers" with the sheep.
Yet she certainly didn't mind the snow.
She was never friendly with us, never seemed to get over an early fear of humans, from long before we had her. Yet we couldn't help having a deep affection for her. She was steadfast, ornery, magnificent and sweet. We will miss you, Lily.
Some sheep chores are hard on the body, and some are hard on the heart. Not wanting to have surprise lambs in January, we moved our young ram lamb, Jolt, with a wether buddy, Rowdy, out of the ewes' area into the lambing shed area. Hopefully, Jolt will be finding a good home, with someone who wants a gorgeous, lilac ram. For now, he is old enough to need to be away from temptation. Both lambs were easy to move, spent their first half hour in the new area thinking they were at summer camp with a private buffet, and then realized what had happened.
It broke my heart to see their forlorn faces and not be able to explain to them why we were doing this.
The moms, too, took awhile to notice their babies were gone, but then began to express concern. Ayita, Jolt's mom, looked to me for an explanation.
Ariel began to hear Rowdy's desperate cries,
went into the shed to call him home,
and expressed her grief to the others for the rest of the afternoon.
They will all be fine in a day or two, but my motherly empathy kicks in during this time each year.
Woke up a tad after four this morning to a significant jolt of the bed. Three more rumbles and I was checking on the computer: 3.4, 3.6, 2.6, 2.2 all within 6 miles of here.
This was after a surprisingly deep sleep of vivid dreaming, after an evening of thunder and lightning strikes that set off 3 significant fires across the valley from us, to the northeast and southeast. This one, above Arlington Road, was the second one I spotted.
And this one appears to be above North Valley Road, near Stampfli Lane or Diamond Mountain Road.
My compulsive fascination throughout the evening with this alarming power of nature was further astonished by the contrast of an elegant rainbow (look right).
Fire season is a perpetual threat, lurking in my subconscious and reminding me to be vigilant, as well as grateful for the natural beauty I am privileged to share here. Fire and earthquakes--what spiritual lessons of these elements are presenting themselves?