Greetings from the Shepherd's Desk™

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Michele Wipplinger–Recollections on my Mentor

Winter-Spring 2012

From my desk, looking out across the back pasture, the view is awakening. It is late February. A crisp wind is aloft and the sun is slowly making its way higher and further east each day. The dark days of winter are behind us now. It wasn’t a typical winter here in New Hampshire. Since my last writing we had rain most of October and November and I thought it would bode well for a snowy winter. December came with more rain, above average temperatures and mud. It has continued this way right through January and February. Three months of March. On the one hand it has made the sheep’s loafing lot and keeping the area clean for them much easier. No snow to shovel away. On the other hand, I enjoy the snow. It makes the house warmer when it banks the foundation; and it brings energy to my day. I find snowfall inspiring.

The pups love snow romping as do Jack and I. Snow protects the gardens from wind and frost damage and now that maple sugaring is in full swing it will likely affect the sap volume the trees produce. Normally once it is good and cold from December to March and there is snow cover, as the warmer days come with below freezing nights the maple season is at its best. Presently we have an inch of snow in the areas where the sun doesn’t find its way this early. This year New Hampshire is flirting with an all-time record for no snowfall. It will be interesting to see as spring progresses to summer what affect the winter’s oddity may show.

We just received 10” of fresh snow. The landscape has returned momentarily to normal!

This is a quiet time on the farm and for my work. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day the routine is set and the days are short for working outside. I am not able to dye in my big pots outside as the hoses freeze so I tend to studio work that prepares me for the warmer days to come. I catch up on all the desk work that was set aside; evaluate my place and what my course will be for the year ahead.
This winter I started taking tenor saxophone lessons and have fallen in love with this crazy,
scrumptious instrument. The violin had been the instrument I had put energy toward but this autumn it lost its luster. Playing the tenor sax feels right. Its musical vibration brings a smile to my face and although completely challenged with mastering each learning step, I am equally drawn to practice each day. It is part of my daily routine and if I miss a session, the day is not quite right.

For most of March I will be in Australia visiting starting with a week-long intensive workshop in Melbourne with India Flint and then I will be traveling about seeing a very small portion of a very large continent. It is most exciting and I am thankful for the chance to go. Do check in as a “follower” on my blog and also “like” Long Ridge Farm on Facebook for postings here and there. Although online opportunities to post may be infrequent, I look forward to the remote settings and experience Australia will offer.

In June, I will be teaching dyeing with indigo in Indiana plus two workshops here on the farm, dyeing with Indigo and Woad. These classes are posted on the Events page. If dyeing with the only natural blue dye in the world is on your list to master, now is the time to join me. I will be growing Polygonum tinctoria and woad to use for the workshops and look forward to learning the process from seed to harvest.

I  will be discontinuing two of my CVM/Romeldale yarns this year and replace with two yarns that are more in keeping for my CVM/Romeldale fiber. They will be “coming out” for the NH Sheep and Wool Festival May 12th and 13th, 2012. Please take note of the new location for the show this year. It will be held at the Deerfield Fairgrounds in Deerfield, NH. Spread the word! There will be special additions to my online store and my booth at the shows so be sure to check online and visit me at the shows this year.

Both Kalie and Luna, have settled into their life here. The first year was pretty tense as they learned their way in the new world on the farm. Webster, our great big beautiful Chartreux cat, gives them both lots of guff and loves to wrestle and chase them about. Kalie is in charge of guarding and managing whatever crosses her path. Luna is in charge of making sure everyone is happy and smiling. They are both in charge of warding off all chipmunks, squirrels and other small mammals. Nothing goes missed between the two of them. Kalie has a regular habit of barking at the wind. We now accept the barking as an inherent trait as Shelties were bred to bark loud enough above the howling wind and ocean surf of the Shetland Isles to herd the sheep successfully. Owning a sheltie brings barking and for many this becomes the flaw owners cannot bear. We see it as healthy and genetically programmed. Both Luna and Kalie are pretty good herders for us. And yes, they bark the whole way while working.

Last spring Luna got into a pickle which you can read about here. Her overwhelming desire to play and love everything can work to her disadvantage. She presently is within “the cone” due to an allergy/irritation to her leg. She is starting her 5th week in the cone and although improving nicely it’s best to keep her occupied until the leg is completely healed. I must say, I have never owned a dog who took the cone in such stride as Luna. She can do everything as usual from running and chasing chipmunks, eating and drinking, grabbing her squeaky toys to just snuggling.

Sierra Exif JPEGWith deep sadness, we lost one of our oldest ewes, Jackie O last week. You can read the blog post here. It was swift and unforeseen. At the time I was desperate to save her but in looking back it wasn’t possible. It was her time and she did it with grace and class. Jackie was a daughter from sire, Dud, a great CVM/Romeldale line with all the classic markings and disposition, true to the breed. She gave us a great deal of joy, laughter, daily pleasure, was an easy lamber and a great mother. We had the gift of Jackie for her entire 10 years of life. She crept into our hearts and remains there in a very warm and loving way.

Despite the hard part of losing sheep, the years of being a part of their world is such a blessing. Now Jackie and the others before her are forever in our midst. It is of deep comfort to understand this.

Caring so much for my animals does not discount how I feel about my human friends and family, it merely adds threads to my woven history. My life is forever enriched. And for each loss my heart is etched a little more.

Take time to give love and attention to those who matter to you, no matter the form. Time is fleeting, life is a gift and sharing love soothes the tiny cracks of loss and softens the heart. For how could we know the depth of sadness death brings if we hadn’t felt the love while living?