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Christmas Ewe by Ron

Christmas... 2001

Winter officially begins tomorrow... and as we sit here in the studio, it is blowing a gale outside.  We are scheduled to make a run up to Northern Virginia today to deliver a loom to a customer preparing a surprise for his wife on Christmas morning.  Somehow though, as we are well into our eighth year here on the farm, it doesn't seem quite like Christmas hereabouts.  Everyone is still a bit taken aback by the events of September 11th and although the houses along the road between here and town are brightly decorated, we can't quite seem to get into the holiday spirit.

Elizabeth tending her flock... that's her just to the right!After much work this spring, and with a great deal of help from our son-in-law Vlad (who brought the Mician clan down for Easter), as well as son Alex and grandson Adam, Ron finally got the southwest pastures ready for the flock.  This involved cutting hundreds of cedar trees and dragging them off the hill, chopping the multi-flora bushes and locust shrubs and finally mowing the fields.  It turned out to be a timely accomplishment since with the extremely dry  summer, the upper pastures faded quickly.  We are still grazing the flock on the new fields and should continue through January.  Everyday on the pasture is two or three bales of hay and fifty pounds of grain less that we need to feed!  If you look really close, you will see Elizabeth tending her flock on one of the new hillside pastures!  What a view, heh?

 

How do you think Gina will look with a purple finger?With the gang all here at Easter, we had egg dyeing and hunts and would you believe it, Alex managed to dye an Easter egg for the first time in his life!  A neglected childhood, I suppose.  Eva, the chief cook and egg dyer for the event figured that just one more glass of wine and the colors would be perfect! 

Later in the month,  Alex brought his scout troop over for their annual spring weekend campout here on the farm. The highlight was a venison stew chuck wagon style cookout on Saturday night, courtesy of Ron. Everyone enjoyed the evening with seconds and thirds serving as complements to the chef.  Last year, one of the troop leaders had slipped away with Ron's Dutch oven hot lid stick (unbeknownst to Ron) and returned with it this year, suitably engraved and with a fine finish for the master chef.  Thanks, Bill!

 

Is it hot enough for s'mores, yet?Elizabeth headed for Annapolis later in the summer for a  rendezvous with Eva and her family at Great Grandma's house.  A four generation photo marked the event before the kids were on their way to Orlando and a trip to "you know where."  On the return trip, they stopped in for a few days here on the farm before heading home, north to Massachusetts.  Over a roaring camp fire, one evening, we made s'mores, which stuck to the chins about as good as they tasted!  Adam took on some of the mowing chores driving Grand dad's new John Deere mower, and both he and Gina helped Grandma shepherd and feed the sheep.

 

We managed to get Elizabeth's Octagon Garden off to a good start this year.  Moving many yards of top soil, mixed with some of the good sheep stuff from shoveling out the barn, around the gazebo. Throw in half-a-ton of pelleted gypsum, ten or so huge bales of peat coupled with a long afternoon of roto-tilling and Walla!  Instant ornamental garden plot.  Alex came over and helped Ron build a wide stair path leading down from the driveway to the gazebo entrance and Steady progress on Elizabeth's Octagon Garden...Ron followed that up with another of his hand-laid curved stone retaining walls.  Elizabeth had been nurturing some plants, including some day lilies brought with us from Massachusetts, in a small plot near the bee hives, so we were able to move them into the new digs.  A few trips to local nurseries and we had the basics in place.  Ron has been fretting about his Japanese maple.  This is his second try at getting one of those expensive beauties to take hold.  We can hardly wait until spring to see how it looks with everything bursting out in bloom.  Believe it or not, we still have a few hundred tulip and crocus bulbs to plant!  It has been like summer here until just a week or so ago.

Carl and Elaine arrived here in September, a bit early this year, on their way to Oklahoma to see their brand new granddaughter, Abigail. She had, with no consideration for the plans of her elders, decided to arrive a month or so early!  Sort of a Good news, Bad news situation.  In anticipation of the imminent arrival, Elizabeth had a blanket warped onto one of her looms and was planning to finish it at a leisurely pace, having, for once, gotten a jump on things.  Abigail, a real sweetheart...No such luck, as she had a rush to finish in time for Carl and Elaine to take it with them as they headed west!  Ron has always said that babies in general were, well... not very cute (to put it kindly), but Abigail, as you can see here, is a real doll: cozy in her new blanket! 

That was the good news... the baaaad news was  they brought along Jake, the Wickstrom family beast, to stay with us as they headed west.  The Jakester is a real character who is compelled to dig up everything anyone decides to put in the ground, including the dozens of day lilies that Carl and Elaine brought to us from their Golden Skep gardens!  Ron banished Jake to the barn with the rest of our boys... which was pretty much like Braer Rabbit saying, "Please don't throw me in the briar patch!"  Jake had a great time running with the boys (and Gailen and Dora) on the daily romps through the woods.  As a lab mix, he particularly enjoyed swimming in the ponds.  That is he enjoyed it after he figured out not to try drinking while swimming!  On his initial outing, Ron and Carl thought they might have to dive in and pull him out!

On their way back here on September 11th, a tragic and sad day, they noticed the truckers all pulling off the road and heard about the tragedy at the first rest stop they made.  Needless to say, spirits were a little grim when they arrived back here and we weren't in much of a mood for celebrating.  We skipped our annual dinner for the Society of Massachusetts Refugees and sat glued to the TV eager for news of the events.  It really is true, what they say about six degrees of separation.  We all knew of several folks who were involved.  We had acquaintances in both the Towers and the planes.  Some survived, some did not.  One survival story is an amazing tale, but what a tragedy that day was for the entire country.

 

Late in the summer, the transmission in the '92 pickup gave up the ghost... too many trailer loads of hay from the fields, not to mention the overload from towing the big Kubota tractor down from Massachusetts.  So we undertook installation of a new heavy duty transmission ourselves.  It was quite an education in the vernacular as Ron wrestled the new transmission into place with Elizabeth gingerly jacking the load up into place,Claire, Barrie and Ron with Harley, moving the flock down the hill... "Who's bright idea was this in the first place?"  One of his milder exclamations!  Ron has since vowed to empty the garage before undertaking any more vehicle maintenance... its too tough to roll a creeper on gravel!

As a reward for all the money saved by doing the job ourselves, Ron treated us to a new broadband satellite terminal for connecting to the internet!  He marvels at the fact the he has a complete satellite ground station for just a few hundred dollars... what an improvement over our very slow and noisy telephone connection!  Then, of course, we needed a computer upgrade...  hummmm!  Money saved...  what money saved?

Barrie and Claire Brozenske stopped by Persimmons, anyone?  Better than the store bought stuff!for a few days on their  sojourn south to Florida.  A recent Raytheon retiree, Barrie seems to have quickly re-adapted to the vagabond cruising life he and Claire enjoyed in their sailing days many years ago... before Raytheon,  albeit their new cruising style is far less rigorous and definitely more comfortable in a 33 foot Sea Breeze motor home!  We enjoyed their visit and Barrie was in his element when he discovered persimmons, ripe for the picking, in one of our pastures.  He had lots of help, as you can see, although there weren't too many left to carry up the hill!  Elizabeth subsequently gathered more and we have them in the freezer awaiting their return to these parts!  We are enjoying the periodic chronicles of their journey, sent out via e-mail, noting with some particular interest just how Barrie's dietary habits have changed since the days I recall at Raytheon.  Some friends have remarked that if not careful, he won't fit through the RV door before their journey is completed!  This spring they plan to continue west before heading back this way.

We, of course, couldn't let the year go by without adding some further expansion to the "barn!"  Ron Gardner... the patient hunter!So we added an extension to accommodate the dog kennels which had been blocking one end of the main bay.  One morning, Ron picked up his saw and cut one end out of the front bay and the next thing we were doing was hammering and sawing.  It is much nicer and more convenient to have the end of the main bay open.  We can actually drive straight through the barn again.  We also arranged things to allow us to slide the kennels out and gain access to the main pen for cleaning out using the tractor.  Its a much faster and less back breaking job now.

In November, Ron Gardner, our hunting friend from Maryland, returned for another week long visit during deer hunting season, once again helping to fill our freezer with venison for the winter.  Thanks, Ron, and also thanks to Patrick and Linda, our neighbors, who also contributed to the bounty!

Come on ma, just a little peck!One of Elizabeth's "killer rams" showing his aggressive nature... its hard to imagine that he was a triplet bottle baby just two short years ago.  He follows her around like a puppy... and that's what this is all about!

On balance another pretty good year for us 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 visit with us if you can!

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