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Christmas Ewe by Ron

Christmas 2002...

Winter arrived early and with a vengeance in the first week of December bringing us our first significant snowfall in quite some time... and after nearly two weeks, much of it is still on the ground.  It is hard to realize that we are well into our ninth year here on our little mountain top farm, yet, on the heels of ten days worth of frigid weather, there is a feel of New England in the air. Those cold and snowy New England days had seemed very far away, but the memories have come back with a rush.  Not too many visitors come venturing south to visit these days.  The drought in these parts had caused us great concern during the spring and summer but, thankfully, fall has brought a renewal of soaking rains and things are looking up once again.

The MacD's and We

Our good friends, Carl and Elaine Wickstrom did return for another week long getaway visit to the farm.  Carl keeps flirting with the notion of moving south to ‘Old Virginia,’ but isn't quite ready to make the move.  We wonder if the prospect of emptying out the attic at their Berlin homestead is the intimidating factor?

In May we made our annual pilgrimage to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  Ron helps out with the Border Collie sheep dog demonstration activity at the festival, while Elizabeth roams through the seemingly endless array of vendor booths and displays.  We also had arranged to meet with old friends, Don and Betty MacDonald, who came over to spend the afternoon visiting with us at the festival. 

Elizabeth's Octagon Garden

With much watering to combat the drought, Spring brought the debut of our perennial ornamental octagon garden.  Elizabeth had been anxiously waiting for the first brave shoots to poke their way out of the ground and the results were more than we had hoped for. Our thanks to the many friends who contributed to our colorful collection. It is a delight sitting in the gazebo on a warm summer evening, relaxing and enjoying the new blossoms that have emerged during the day.

In early Fall, we took in the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival and Sheep Dog Trials  and enjoyed meeting many new friends.  Elizabeth hauled most of her studio shop to the event and had a good weekend.  Ron spent most of his time watching the dog trials and chatting with Donald McCaig, a local dog trialing legend and author (Jacob’s Ladder, Nop’s Trials and Nop’s Hope, the latter two make great children’s reading).   Donald almost has Ron convinced to give trialing a go... perhaps in the spring!  Harley and Mac, who came along, enjoyed themselves as the beneficiaries of much attention from folks attending the trials and festival.

Harley, cooling off after working!

McCaig looks as though he just walked down from the Scottish Highlands, but in truth he is a refugee from New York’s Madison Avenue… a successful advertising writer who fled the rat race into the serenity of Virginia's Highland County in the mid-sixties and never looked back.  Ron spent time talking with him about shepherding, dogs and the rural lifestyle.  Competitive trialing is not Ron’s forte: rather, long walks through the woods with his dogs are more his style.  Harley is our all-around worker, who excitedly jumps each morning in anticipation of moving the flock, and would be the best candidate for trialing. Ron fears that Harley’s enthusiasm for herding the sheep would be diminished if it became “real work,” concerned that competitive stresses would dull the simple joy of it all for both of them!

Artist in Residence

Grandson Adam spent three weeks with us this summer... unfortunately, he didn’t share Ron’s enthusiasm for long walks of discovery in the woods.  He preferred mowing with the John Deere tractor or driving Grandma’s Pathfinder around the farm.  Rousting the wolf pack or horsing around with Dora were more his speed.  Adam entered an original art work in the Youth Division of the Rockbridge County Fair and came away with a blue ribbon!  He also managed to get his mother up close and personal with one of the flock… another major milestone.  Way to go, Adam! 

Dora Beast and Adam

The excitement in October revolved around Dora... guard dog extraordinaire!  She managed to tree a mother black bear and two good sized cubs in an oak tree in our front yard.  We had checked on her during the night as she was barking almost non-stop, but we didn’t realize her achievement until daybreak when Ron went out to bring her in for some much needed rest.  There were the ‘three bears,’ clinging atop a tall oak tree just fifty feet from the house, right where she had kept them all night:  one grumpy mama bear and two frightened cubs!  With Ron’s appearance and Dora in hand, the bears scurried down the tree and beat a hasty retreat!  Unfortunately, much too fast for camera retrieval.

Alex visits frequently throughout the year... always ready to lend a helping hand with those onerous tasks that always seem to populate Ron’s ‘to do’ list!  But Alex has taken a new job and will be relocating to the Pocono region of Pennsylvania, so we won’t be seeing quite as much of him during the coming year.  In August, Vlad, Eva and grand-daughter Gina joined us for a few days, to rendezvous with Adam prior to heading off to Williamsburg for a mini-vacation.  Time enough to catch the three faces of Gina!

Old Grumpy

Beguiling Gina

Little Angel


Another good year for us... although our bones tend to creak a little more with each passing season and the ebb and flow of life on the farm brings us up and down from time-to-time, but on balance, things always seem to work out well in the end.

We have each come across words penned by others that seem to perfectly reflect some of what we love about this place and lifestyle.  For Ron, two poems by Donald McCaig, “A Sheep Dog in Winter and “An Old Sheep Dog by the Fire.”  For Elizabeth, it is a parable entitled “Gift of the Old One, a story that touches close to home since we have two of our original brood ewes who, after having given us many good years of service, we have retired.  Finally, our Fall sunsets tell a story all their own... 

... what more can we say, except?


Have a great Holiday Season and a very Prosperous New Year!


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