Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Bottle Lamb

The Bottle Lamb

It’s been several years since we raised a bottle lamb, usually I give them to someone else because of the trouble they are. they are time consuming, expensive, and often end in heartbreak either because they don’t make it or they do not thrive.

This year I made an exception. We had an unusual number of lambs that needed assistance, some that could remain with their mothers but just needed a little more nutrition, and 2 that have had to be on the bottle full time. One, the mother died and the other the mom didn’t have much milk. The first has acclimated to being a sheep, maybe because it was able to be with it’s mother for a longer period, and had learned to “bum” off other moms when it’s mother passed. The other however spent the first several weeks in our kitchen in a playpen, and now has no concept that it is a sheep.

For starters, she WILL NOT stay in the field with other sheep. I occasionally have resorted to penning her in the dog kennel for her own safety, although there is no forage there and it can only be for very short periods of time. She is still on the bottle, even though she is old enough to no longer need it, very much like a child “needing” their bottle for bed, or their binky for comfort. So if I open the back door for any reason, she may scoot in the house, complaining loudly of her neglect. When I work outside she follows me around. Even if she had been in the field she will find a way to be with me, no matter how many times I plug the newest escape hole.

I have decreased her number of bottles a day, and diluted the amount of powdered replacement in the formula. As I sit here in the house on the computer, she is currently wandering around the outside baaing her loudest in protest, much like a dog barking to be let in. She wakes us up, she trips us up, cars slow down along the road to see her loose in the yard.

Please be a sheep, I say.  Stay with your buddies, I say. Stay in the field, I say. Eat the grass, I say. You are not a dog, I say. And what does the lamb say? BAAA!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Advertures of the Young Men from Snowy Mountain

It's finally spring time in the mountains: the trees are budding, there is enough grass to turn out the sheep and horses, lambs are skipping around ringing their bells joyously, and the chickens are scouring the yard and fields for the emerging bugs. It has been an unusually hard and discouraging winter, but now things are looking up.

One of the delights of the improving weather is we get to go trail riding again. Last Sunday we did the old fashioned Sunday drive. (Anyone else do those anymore? We extravagantly used almost a whole tank of gas!) We explored new areas to trailer the horses and ride in National forest. We have great plans for weekly rides and at least one overnight camping ride this summer.

Yesterday, I took the adventurous Bowman brothers on one of the as yet unexplored but mapped trails.  They unanimously agreed it was the best trail ride of their lives, but I must admit it would not be for the faint of heart! The trail was broad and grassy, perfect for riding, except for the fallen trees. Some were perfect for jumping, others could be stepped over or pushed through, but several were either too large, to low to go under, to high to go over, so like the old children's song, have to go around. And that's when the adventures started.

The trail was cut into the side of the mountain so leaving the trail required either going up the slope to the right, or down the slope to the left, and we tried both ways depending on the scope of the terrain and the number of trees down. This is the kind of riding that turns riders great and horses dependable. The children learned to keep their heels down so as not to go over the downward travelling horses' heads, and to lean forward and grab some mane and just trust your horse to find its way on the way back up. At one point I returned over the obstacle to take the reins of the obstinate pony and lead her over a jumbled pile of trees and brush; she was not taking her young rider's command to follow the others. I still appreciate a pony that thinks for herself, especially when ridden by such daredevils as my grandsons, but in this case we had all crossed the obstacle in question and she needed to come along. Later when a discussion between the two of them developed over leaving the trail down a steep incline, she was willing to obey.

Finally, after a little over 2 miles of this, the trail ahead became almost impassible because of the number of trees and the slopes to the side steeper both up and down. As it was becoming later in the day we decided to turn for the trailer and try again later in the season, after the trees might be cleared. That meant we had to traverse the trail in return, and we found that some of the uphills that were steep coming, seemed very steep downhills on the return trip. At one point boys were loudly exclaiming in excitment as horses tucked their butts and slid down the hillside. Just as much fun as any roller coaster! In the truck on the way home I reminded them of the movie excerpt from 'Man from Snowy River', and told them they are the 'Young Men from Snowy Mountain.'

As we neared the end of the trail, the youngest,(on the bratty pony) confidently announced that at least he hadn't fallen off this time. Now, I am not what I consider a superstitous person, but even I won't make statements like that while I am still mounted. I warned him of that danger, and shortly afterwards his pony took him under a low hanging branch and he was brushed right off! He just laughed and said, at least he didn't get hurt. I had already dismounted several times checking things and clearing brush and I told him that he had to mount by himself, that from now on that was going to be the requirement for anyone trail riding with me; they have to be able to mount alone. That was enough encentive and he scrambled up the side of that pony like a squirrel up a  tree.

We finished our ride pumped to do it again! I am interested to see how much improvement in their riding will be evident when they have their next ring lesson. (Congratulations to the Bowman Brothers, 11, 9, and 7 for tackling trails some adults would decline!)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

 I was at care group last night and shared a story from my past, which I then mentioned on my facebook page because I was reminded that I need to tell that story more, and give God the glory for what He has done in my life. I was further appalled that my children have responded to that post with remarks that I have never told them the story. So here it is in detail.

When I was 13 I took a fall from a pony on the frozen ground right on my tail bone. I guess the fall resulted in compressed vertebra so over the next few years my back pain worsened. It slowed me down, not enough to quit riding and working in the barn, but that lifestyle made the back pain flare up continually. I wore a back brace for riding and barn work, uncomfortable and hot and I know I often snuck it off because it interfered with my riding. By the time I was 16 my back pain had worsened to the point that I was going to the chiropractor 3 times a week, on excessive pain medication and missing much school. The chiropractor visits helped immensely, but I still used painkillers to continue to function, especially in order to ride. I remember competing at a Pony Club National Rally in Lake Placid NY and both my horse (borrowed) and I were on the same pain medication, one not usually prescribed for humans because of it's dangerous side effects. I remember the night before the first phase of the competition doubling both of our doses (illegally), but I was not going to let my team down.

Several years later (maybe like 10) I was married with 2 children and attending a church conference in Indiana, PA (Celebration, for those who know). My back was so bad that I could not lean over and tie my shoe laces; my oldest son Gabriel had to do it for me. I moved very carefully so as not to strain or twist and fall down with pain. One evening meeting there was a man with the gift of healing who called for anyone wanting healing to come down to the front. We were in the gymnasium of Indiana University of PA and climbing up and down the bleachers did not stop me from responding. I knew God could heal me, but I had been dealing with the pain for so long I wondered if He would.

Now some of you may be a bit uncomfortable with the next portion of this story, but this is exactly what happened. More then a 100 people were down in front and the man was just walking along, going from one person to the next and placing his hand on their foreheads. The assistants had laid the wrestling mats on the ground behind us, and would stand behind each person as the man prayed for them, for when he prayed the Holy Spirit would overcome them and they would pass out. I remember thinking as he approached me, what do I do? I was not sure how this being "slain" in the Spirit worked! Like I needed to have it all figured out! I remember the man praying for the person next to me, then stepping in front of me and reaching his hand to my forehead. I do not know whether he actually touched me, for the next thing I remember was coming to, lying on the mat, with a blanket laid over me. As my consciousness returned, helpers helped me up, and there was no pain!!!

It has been almost 30 years since this has occurred and I have never had a re-occurrence of that excruciating pain. Yes, I can still have muscle aches form overdoing it, like anyone else, but not the debilitating, tear producing, limiting pain of my teen years.

What would my life be like without God's healing touch? I ride horses all the time; I work on the farm; I lift feed sacks and hay bales, tackle sheep to vaccinate and pull lambs, shovel snow and manure. It is clear to me that without God's healing touch, I could not be farming, I could not have the active life style I so enjoy. My children would not have had the life they did growing up, or my grandchildren the experiences we have now.

I am so sorry that I have not given God the glory He deserves for the blessings in my life. He not only provides for my salvation, but for the good life I have here on this earth. With such a testimony there is no doubt in my heart that God is who He is: powerful, good, caring. May my testimony encourage you too.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

90 Day Challenge

I know this is not my usual type of post, but I just started a 90 Day Challenge and I am very excited. You have got to hear about this.

The other day I was riding my horse in my dressage saddle and I discovered that the saddle was no longer as comfortable for me as for my horse. Yes, I still could sit deep and still, hold my leg on him to balance him at the canter(he wants to break out of it all the time). The uncomfortable part was that my fat belly rubbed against the pommel of the saddle. Now I have always maintained that I will muddle along with pain and inconvenience as long as it doesn't effect my riding. At least that's what I told the orthopedic surgeon who looked at my knee MRI. Once it makes riding uncomfortable, then it's time to do something.

So it is time to do something about this extra weight that I carry around on front of me like a backwards fanny pack. (yes, this is here for the benefit of my daughters who bemoan the fact that I still sometimes do wear a fanny pack-how embarrassing for them).

Hence the 90 Day Challenge:
My goal is to lose 20 pounds-harder then 10 which was off last year around this time, but still attainable. In the course of this lighter 20 pounds, I also plan to drop a pants size by taking inches off this offensive belly.  If in addition, I feel better about myself, have more energy and can encourage others to enter this challenge with me so they too can have these benefits, all the better.

So let me invite you to join me. Check out my web site. Watch the video. Give me a call or drop me a message. Let's tackle our health future

Friday, April 19, 2013

Belling the Lambs

Another year of lambing is over for the most part. Now sheep have gone out on the mountain, eating the new spring grass and easing the squeeze on my pocketbook from buying hay all winter. Of course, there is the ever present danger of predators on the mountain. We have an abundace of coyotes, bears, bobcats, ealges, and even mountoin lions, no matter what the DNR says; I have seen one.

 A  few years ago the farmer to the south and the one across the road stopped running sheep because of the coyote problem. DNR has a predator control officer who willingly comes out to diagnosis your problem, "yep, you have a coyote problem." He will put poison collars on the lambs, which does not save that lamb, but it will be the last lamb that coyote will ever kill. However, while a workable solution, you must lose several lambs before getting help, and by then so much of your hard work has gone to feeding your enemy.
We have tried guardian dogs, donkeys, llamas, and now bells. We still have a donkey, who would rather live with the horses. Our last llama has died and we have the alpaca but I am not sure how that will work yet. We are on our forth year using bells and for the dollar, it has worked the best.

I noticed that when we put the poison collars on the lambs, the coyotes quit killing them. Not because they had died, but for some reason they no longer even made the attempt to attack. So I thought that if I put bells on the lambs it might have the same effect. The DNR man told me it might work for a while, until the coyotes realized it was a dinner bell. I tried just the same, with great success. Now instead of losing nearly half the lamb flock, I may lose none, or only one or two.

The first year I bought harness bells and took them to a tack store and had the Amishman help me fix them to elastic collars. It worked marvelously and when the lambs ran across the mountain face behind the house, it sounded like Santa's sleigh was arriving. The next year I was able to reuse some of the collars but some were lost or stretched out too much. I bought the smallest cow  bells from my friendly farm store and easily attached them to the collars by stringing them on the elastic and sewing the elastic closed. Then I moved to cutting the elastic longer and just knotting it shut. With the bigger bells, it sounded like the salvation army had set up shop on the mountain side and were ringing for all they were worth.

This year I needed to replace a few collars and add some more, having a larger lamb crop then in past years. I bought all the bells the friendly farm store had in stock and still was short. I asked my son to bring some home from across the mountain in the valley where he worked. He prompted me to order form the computer. Of course! Today's' age. Unfortunately, no one carried the little bells I had been using, but the larger ones used at sport's events were much cheaper. I thought to give it a try and ordered red ones, believing they would be easier to locate if a lamb lost one.

So all lambs are belled. The larger ones make me think that we have a football game going in the back field. However, since all of the types of bells are now represented, I feel more like sitting on the swing and listening to the bell choir sounding over the mountainside.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Life with Daddy, part 1

In the last little while I have had friends lose their Dads or their Dads have fallen ill, sometimes seriously. As I walk through those times with my friends and try to offer words of wisdom and condolences, I am reminded of my Dad,his great personality, his giving nature,his mischievous heart, and his wisdom. I would like to share some of that with you, to remind you to cherish your
Dad or his memory, and to reminisce for myself.

My Dad passed more than 24 years ago and while the ache is not always present, there are times with I miss him just as acutely. Other times when the pain is not as sharp, but the sorrow is still present, especially as I wonder what he would say about my life, the decisions I have made, and his grandchildren.

Several years ago I was speaking with my sister about my relationships with others growing up, and she made the remark that I had not had many friends because Daddy was my best friend. What a remarkable concept. I loved going with my Dad on his appointments, even if I had to sit in the car with a book until he had finished. Because I was the tail end of the children in my family, sometimes it was as if I was an only child. Dad was older and had more time(and money)to lavish on me. Remarkedly enough, I don’t believe I was spoiled. I remember a girlfriend's mom telling me one day that she never heard a child say thank you so many times. I also remember Dad taking me shopping for horse equipment and asking me, “do you need this?” I tried not to be too greedy, for he was generous. One time it was a rain sheet for the horse. None of my friends had something so extravagant, even the wealthier ones. Finally he asked me if I had it would I use it. Of course, and was glad to have it to cover me and my horse while waiting for my turn to jump at the competitions. It wasn’t long until others had rain sheets as well.

The horse hobby was an expensive one. I got my first horse for Christmas at age 7. Before that I was the horse. My mom says I didn’t know kids were supposed to walk upright until I went to kindergarten. My family rode western and mostly just trail rode, until I convinced Dad to let me go to the riding part of girl scout camp. I wanted to return home when I saw there were no western saddles. Sometimes I wonder if Dad ever regretted forcing me to stay, for I came home from camp two weeks later vowing to learn to ride English and jump. That started the rounds of lessons, more expensive horses, Pony Club and competitions,the whole way up to national level.I remember the first horse my father bought me, he complained how much he had paid for “a gelding, not even registered! More than my sister’s registered mare!”  a few years later he was pleasantly surprised to find my riding had increased the horse’s value, at least until he realized he had to pay more for the next one as I moved up in the levels.

 After I was married and supporting my own horse habit, I began to realize even more how expensive it had been. One day while walking with my Dad through the woods, I thanked him for all he had made possible with my riding, admitting how expensive it had been. His response was this, “Who knows how inexpensive it was?” he was referring to how so many of my peers had gotten into trouble with boys, drugs and alcohol. He said he always knew where I was, what I was doing, and knew my horses were my priority. I dated a guy in high school. One day my Dad asked me if I was still planning to go to college. Of course, I told him. Well, he said, that young man is thinking marriage. I was incredulous. I was only a junior in high school. He was a senior. I had plans for my life. Shortly after that I broke that relationship, and at the end of his senior year he got married to someone else. My Dad’s wisdom and my passion for horses prevented me from making a lasting mistake.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Do you ever think of how much time and energy we put into waiting? As children we wait for school to let out, Christmas and birthdays and vacations to come. As adults we wait for things all the time, checks in the mail, vacations, and school to get back in session.

Seems to me that as a farmer, waiting is even more a part of life. After seeds are planted, we wait. We wait for them to sprout, to grow , to produce so we can harvest. We wait for the fruit of our planning when we wait for baby animals to be born. We wait for the weather to be right to make the hay; we wait for the parts to come for the tractor, hoping that the weather will still be right for hay making when they arrive. We wait for snow to melt, for rain to come, for sun to shine. We wait for mud to dry, grass to grow, corn to tassel, females to cycle, gestate and give birth, and for babies to nurse and grow.

We have things to do while we wait. We can prepare birthing areas; we can prepare equipment; we can prepare storage areas, fences, ground for planting, and hundreds of other things. But we can not prepare for waiting. It just is. There is nothing we can do to hurry things along, it is not in our control.

The weather will do what it does. We wait. The plants will grow at their own pace. We wait. The animals will birth when it is time. My grandmother said “the apple will drop when it is ready” when referring to waiting for babies. We just wait.

And sometimes we wait what seems like forever. Like children waiting for Christmas, or the end of a long car trip. Are we there yet? Right now we are waiting for a foal to be born. Almost every morning I get a call from someone. “Any baby yet?” It’s almost as bad as when I was pregnant with our children. Of course, like most everything in my life, they were late. The last little bit of waiting seems longer than the months before; as the end approaches the time seems to slow. This is an unplanned pregnancy of an older pony so there are more risks involved,so family and friends are even more anxious for the outcome. The pony belongs to little 6 year old Levi and he is excited and concerned. 

So what do we do while we wait. All the other chores that still need done. All of the things that we can do to prepare for a new baby: a safe and warm stall, kept clean, a supplement in the grain and more for mom to eat. Handle mom, especially in her udder area so she will not kick at a baby. And watch and wait. And pray.

How can we not pray? With everything that is out of our control, everything we wait for; how can we not know that God is controlling things? Everything we wait for and see come about is evidence of His provision and gift of life. It is a miracle unexplained by science, how a single seed of grain can be put into the ground and grow to produce many. How an egg and sperm can unite and divide into a multifaceted being of many unique cells. So we pray. For a healthy baby, a safe delivery, our own little miracle of life.

We are waiting. For spring, for a foal, for grass, for visitors coming, for the future whatever it may bring.