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Christmas Ewe by Ron

Christmas... 2000

It will be a white Christmas this year... our first in some time as we begin our seventh year on the farm!  As I am writing this note, I can look out from the window here in the studio and see the mountains fully cloaked in white. Below the deck, cardinals, juncos and chickadees are frantically gathering up the sunflower seeds that we have scattered on the ground:  each one a better forecaster of the coming snowfall than the AccuWeather folks!  Gailen, Ron, Mac and HarleyThis season finds us both in reasonably good health... a few creaking joints in response to the recent cold spell but no serious problems.  Elizabeth is still favoring her ankle, compliments of a ‘love tap’ from Big Ed that sent her tumbling to the ground in the barn a few weeks back.  The ewes are bred and contentedly chewing their cud in the barn.   Ron added yet another Border Collie, Harley, to the menagerie, bringing our canine total to six.  Weather permitting, he and Ron run the girls out of the barn into the pasture for some fresh air and exercise, although in their expectant state they prefer the sedentary life, lounging in the barn.

Our favorite ewe , Number 36, and friend.Kevin Ford, our shearer, who hails from Massachusetts, will return once again in February to shear the ewes prior to lambing time in March.  Last February, a photographer from the Roanoke Times spent shearing day here with us and we ended with a published picture of Gailen, a.k.a. ‘Momma Dog,’ intently watching as Kevin relieved one of the flock of her fleece.  Dora, our cosmopolitan guard girl, is still doing yeoman duty protecting the place from all intrusive critters, large and small... she is quite adept at snagging rabbits, squirrels and ground hogs and the hunters claim that we have the best deer population hereabouts because she keeps the coyotes at bay!  In March,  Elizabeth ventured forth again to do a stint for the Wool Grower's Association at the Lexington Home and Garden Show, spinning the day away and talking to folks interested in sheep, wool and the fiber arts.  Ron, who has limited patience for such affairs, provided stevedore service as we packed off with a goodly part of the studio for the day.

BottleBabiesIn mid-April, we held our second Open House here at the farm and studio.  Among the attendees were many youngsters, a local day care center group as well as our son Alex's Boy Scout troop from Richmond. The youngsters enjoyed getting up close and personal with the sheep and bottle-baby lambs and the scouts, who camped overnight atop Saville Hill, finished a service project requirement by cleaning up the old grave yard at the top.   Coyote WatchThis was a project that Ron had been intending to get done for some time so, in thanks, he cooked up a ‘chuck wagon’ style dinner for the scouts that evening.  At the end of the month, Don and Betty MacDonald paid us a return visit bringing along their granddaughter Emily who came especially to visit the ewes and their nursing newborn lambs.  The following weekend, Elizabeth and Ron made their annual trek to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, reciprocating as guests of the MacDonald's, who live not too far away from the festival site.  Ron and Don enjoyed rehashing the olden golden days at Bendix!  Later in May we entered another float in the Effinger Memorial Day Parade, once again taking first place thanks to Dora, the star of our Coyote Watch theme, “Good job, Miss D!”

In June, Elizabeth and two other fiber friends ventured off to Cincinnati, Ohio to take in Convergence 2000,  the Handweaver's Guild of America biannual conference.  She came home re-inspired to the extent that she convinced Ron that she needed a larger loom.  Thus, a new fifty inch loom now sits in the center of her weaving studio!  At the Rockbridge County Fair in July, Elizabeth entered several items and came away with the Best in Show ribbon for her handwoven linen scarf plus several first place ribbons for other category items.  She was quite pleased.  In the woodworking department, Ron made Elizabeth a triangular loom complete with an easel stand from some of our homegrown walnut. It is beautiful and Elizabeth has already put it to good use making triangular shawls.

Ron, who believes that good neighbors lend helping hands, pitched in to help our dairy farm neighbors put up a new 200' x 48' x 18' equipment barn.   Sitting atop the beams, wrestling into place the fifty-foot wide trusses brought back memories of building our Octagon house.  The big difference was we only had twelve fifty-foot trusses, the dairy's barn had fifty-four!  Ron, thus inspired, and with some help from Alex, undertook a more modest addition to our own barn to house a shearing shed and storage bay for our haying equipment!

Romulus, Liz and RemusIn early summer, we received an unexpected e-mail inquiry wondering if we would like a couple of neutered buck goats, pets belonging to some folks in the next town over.  The goats were part of their menagerie and had grown a bit more than the owner’s young daughter could cope with.  One fellow had become a bit too aggressive and, how shall we put it, untidy!  Thus Elizabeth obtained Romulus and Remus, two white Cashmere goats.   It turns out that, as a kid, Romulus had not been quite as neutered as the owners had thought.  After a trip to our vet to remedy that situation, Romulus is far less aggressive, and we no longer call him ‘Puke Face,’ although Allen, our vet, says his clinic will never smell quite the same!  The goats follow us around like dogs and have the assignment to clear the weeds from the newly timber cut fields so we can make more pasture for the sheep.  Elizabeth hopes to get her first cashmere wool from them soon.   This frigid weather should induce a great crop of wool!

Near the end of July, we added a gazebo as the center piece of Elizabeth's octagon garden.  Garden GazeboThese blustery winter days frequently find us inside deciding what planting scheme to begin come spring.  In August, for the second year, we had a booth at the Rockbridge Community Festival where we met Bill and Betty McDermott who also had a booth there.   Bill is a scroll saw aficionado and artist who also has a long standing interest in Border Collie dogs.  He and Ron spent considerable time talking dogs, and subsequently, they came to visit us here at the farm.  Bill later sent us one of his intricate scroll sawed pieces: a medallion of an Indian on Horseback which fits nicely with our Southwest motif: some new friends who live not too far away near Lynchburg.

Ron bought a new Chevy pickup truck last spring and when the dealership discovered that he was a former Virginia Tech man, they threw in a pair of season football tickets.  Some we shared with friends including our vet, Allen Strecker, who is also a Tech graduate: sort of an atonement for Romulus smelling up his clinic!  In early October, we finally made it to the Tech-Temple Homecoming football game with Steve and Pat Dunlap, Ron’s friends from his Tech days and two other couples.  Later in the month, we made it to a night game against rival West Virginia.  Spectacular fireworks and a nationally televised game.  We sure did enjoy the tail-gating experience.  Steve's brother-in-law, Charlie, is an avid fan who attends every game, home and away, and goes all the way with fabulous tailgate dining!

The Sliding door Gang and DoraIn late October, Carl and Elaine Wickstrom arrived for another week of work and abuse: their fifth annual visit here to the farm.  Reckon that some folks are just plain slow learners!  Ron enlisted Carl’s help in building and installing a pair of 14' wide sliding doors for the new barn extension!  Come evenings much wine was consumed, to ease the aches and pains you understand, and a great time was had by all!  We continued our tradition with the third annual Society of Massachusetts Refugees dinner, joined by Harry and Amy Scheuer.

Elizabeth volunteered to work the polls during the recent presidential election.  This was definitely the year to do it.  After going through this process she is now an ‘expert’ on the election polling process and firmly believes that everyone should do this at least once in their life. You gain a much deeper appreciation for the whole process.  Originally, Ron had also volunteered to work, but it turns out to be a sun-up-to-sun-down commitment with no opportunity to leave the polling place, so one of us had to stay home to look after and feed the critters.  Later in the month, Ron Gardner, our hunting friend from Maryland, returned for a weeks long visit during deer hunting season, again helping to fill our freezer with venison for the winter.

On balance a pretty good year here in the valley, although we didn't see quite as many of our old friends as in years past.  To all of you, have a great Holiday season, a terrific New Year, and do come see us if you can!

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