Holiday Greetings to ewe all from the Shenandoah Valley…
December 1997…

It’s been an interesting third year for us here on the farm… we’ve spent the year settling into our new house, slowly but surely finishing the interior details. At long last, Elizabeth has her spinning and weaving rooms set up and is beginning to get back into the groove with those activities… which included hosting the local spinner’s group this month! Ron has spent a fair amount of time this year building the kitchen and china cabinets. Of course, before he could start that effort, we had to get his woodworking shop set up and on-line. A number of furniture projects along with finishing the master bath suite are in the queue for the coming year.

We’ve definitely decided not to embark on second careers as house builders. Once was quite enough. Elizabeth still has difficulty realizing that we actually built the house ourselves, although as Ron slides into the Jacuzzi, to relieve his aches and pains, he has no trouble believing it at all!

Elizabeth started working part time for the Lexington Chamber of Commerce this past spring, just as lambs started arriving and we soon had a barn full. We experienced our first real problems with lambing this year.Ron, the Twerp and Mary LuAnn One of our favorite ewes, pregnant with quadruplet lambs, came down with a rare malady, which caused excessive accumulation of ambiotic fluid. Despite an emergency caesarian section performed right in the barn; we lost her and four beautiful lambs. We also lost two other ewe lambs, one stillborn and another to cold temperature… we purposefully lamb in the spring to avoid the cold winter weather, but this year, in mid-April, we had a 16 night when one of our ewes decided to deliver her triplets. At 11pm, mother and lambs were fine, but by 2am, the smallest, a ewe lamb, was gone. Ron ended up bottle feeding one of the remaining two ram lambs, which thereafter followed him around the place like a shadow. Fortunately, we were able to find a good home for the "twerp," as we called him, since Ron was determined not to send him to market! In spite of the troubles, we were pleased that Big Ed, our Stud ram, maintained his 200% breeding record for lamb yield for the second year… let’s go for three in a row, Ed!

A major project this year involved clear-cutting another dozen acres for additional pasture. The logger is done, what remains is to get the area under cultivation and start building fences. This summer’s drought caused a shortage of pasture for grazing and there were almost no second cuttings of hay in the county, so feed was a major problem. With the additional pasture we should be better able to withstand another dry season.

Adam & friend Joker

Adam and friend Joker… at Whitmore Farm, before his accident.

Ron fetched Adam for a visit this summer and we were all having a great time until he took a fall from the sheep barn loft. It was a scary experience to say the least, with the rescue squad first response team on the scene in short order. Adam ended up with two hairline fractures of the vertebrae in his neck and spent about four months in an upper body brace. He had the brace removed just before Thanksgiving, and we truly were thankful this year, since it could have been so much worse. Adam started kindergarten this Fall, and having the brace really hampered his ability to interact with his new classmates, but he’s doing much better now and is back in the groove, including sledding down his backyard hill in Leominster!

We enjoyed visits from many friends this year… several spent some time with us, while others just dropped in for day visits. Mark and Jill Lyons and their boys spent the night with us in April. Gailen always enjoys their visits because they also bring along their Golden Retriever, Rory. Tom and Pat Gluszczak spent a few days with us in late April, following a visit with their son in Pennsylvania. Tom managed to get some hard to find deck lights for us and brought those along. Skip and Marilyn Sandison stopped by in July on their way home from a trip to Tennessee… Marilyn had a car full of plants she had picked up along the way, and left some day lilies with Elizabeth to start her octagon garden!

Elizabeth and the two Evelyns

Elizabeth with EB and EOD, the view is from our deck!

The Two Evelyns (Brown and O’Donnell) returned, spending a few days with us in late October. Earlier, Carl and Elaine Wickstrom also came back for another week of work helping Ron build a chicken house for our "sea of bantams," as Elaine dubbed our collection of 85 plus chickens. Of course, Gailen enjoyed their visit because their Labrador retriever, Nellie, came along too.  Those two had a great week, including romps with Gailen’s six puppies! Yes, her first litter was born in August and as of this writing, we still have all six of the boys in residence! Ron can’t bring himself to get rid of any of them, although we are beginning to advertise. He enjoys his daily walks with the full entourage in tow and the pups, which are now nearly as big as their mother, love to romp through the woods.

Tug of War Elizabeth and lend lease chickens!
Tug of war with Ron, Mac, Roy versus Gailen. The puppies have grown a bit … Elizabeth and ‘lend-lease’ chicks!

Speaking of chickens… we have a new ‘lend lease’ chicken program here on the farm. Frequently, friends who are grandparents bring their grandchildren to visit the farm and we give them a box full of bantam chicks to take home and care for, for the week! We always tell them that we won’t be upset if some of the chicks don’t make it back to the farm. But so far they’ve all come home to roost, so to speak, and the youngsters really seem to enjoy being chicken farmers for a week!

During our Thanksgiving visit with Eva and her family in Massachusetts, we had the opportunity to spend an enjoyable evening with old friends, Ernie and Vera Schlichter who we hadn’t seen in a while. We also had dinner with Carl and Elaine to belatedly celebrate the completion of the great chicken coop, as well as to toast their recent Worcester real estate coup! Elizabeth managed to stock up with some mohair and other fine wool goodies from Reba at the Fiber Loft in Harvard - as if we don’t have enough wool!

Elizabeth and young friends, Kenny and KaitlenWhich brings us back to Big Ed, the object of our first competitive outing as shepherds this past May. We entered his fleece in the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, where it took a third place out of over fifty entries in his class. The judge told the audience that Ed’s fleece would have taken a first at any other show, but had a bit too much chaff (hay and straw) for the hand spinner emphasis of the Maryland show. Elizabeth was on cloud nine.

Gone fishin'!

Catfish for dinner… Adam wasn’t too sure when he watched Ron cleaning them, but managed to put a few away at the dinner table.

Hunting season is wrapping up for another year. Here in the valley it is a passion for many folks and we always enjoy the fruits of their efforts. Our new freezer is full of venison and lamb. The father of a friend spent a week with us during the first week of the season, "roughing" it in our bunkhouse… he thought that he could get used to hot showers and the short walks to the hunting ground. A bit different from the national forest hunting he was accustomed to. A fair sized black bear was taken not more than a few yards from our east boundary line… Ron had seen bear tracks around our new pond last winter, but we had never sighted the bear itself. Thus far, Ron has settled for fishing!

Tractor Wrangling!Here is Ron, the Head Tractor Wrangler, certifying a young visitor as an ‘Official Tractor Operator!’ I believe that Kaitlin’s grandfather warned, "She’s a little lady and won’t be interested in such tomboy things." Ron issues a signed certificate to each "successful" driver.

Alex, who is still working in Richmond, comes by often and Ron always saves those onerous character building tasks, such as splitting a half cord of firewood or moving a ton or two of stone, for those visits. Thankfully, Alex is a good sport about it and pitches in. Andrea is still in Colorado with Hasbro, and we haven’t seen her this year. She did manage a visit with Eva and her family in Leominster when she flew east for a Hasbro meeting held in Providence, Rhode Island.

Below, some vista perspectives from Saville Hill Farm…

 

 

 

 

 

Morning mist, a view from our deck… sunrise paints the mountain topsand the sunset paints the clouds.

Elizabeth still asks, “Will we ever just take this for granted?” So far, we don’t think so!  Eva sent us a note with a sentiment that is a variation on Ron’s favorite poem by Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken."

Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

- Muriel Strode -

Eva also gave us a very special early Christmas present with the news that our second grandchild is on the way – debut this summer! 

It should be evident to most of you that we are still having a great time here on the farm… some ups, some downs, but absolutely no regrets! And for those of you who haven’t yet, come visit a couple of sheep farmers some time!

 

Best wishes for the holiday season and for the coming new year!

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