Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very wonderful and peaceful Christmas. I'll be back soon with a few comments about my long silence!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Happier Days

Here is Bud. Bud came to live with us one month ago today. When I ran into my good friend Victoria Huff the day after Abby died, she reminded me that there might be a wonderful dog out there somewhere, waiting to be rescued. I went home and began searching for the Border Collie rescue groups.

I found Sweet Border Collie Rescue at Glen Highland Farm. This organization is the life work of Lillie Goodrich along with her husband and co-founder, John Andersen. Since its inception, they have placed almost 1000 Border Collies. E-mails flew back and forth; Lillie selected several candidates, drove an hour and a half to the farm of Warren Mick, a herding dog trainer, and had each dog evaluated with actual sheep to determine herding potential.

Bud was the shining star among the herding candidates. Two days later we drove to Glen Highland Farm, located just outside Oneonta NY, along with our little Silky Terrier Spike so that we could all meet. Bud and Spike hit it off immediately and we began the journey home.

Bud is a treasure. Sweet, playful, attentive, grateful, comes when called, adapted quickly to the invisible fence, truly penitent- every time- when caught swiping food off the counter, devoted. He made many friends at my booth at the WEBS tent sale two weeks ago and charms all he meets when he visits my mother with me at Linda Manor, a local nursing home. He has stolen my heart.

It's hard to imagine that his first family gave him up! Sadly, this happens too often with Border Collies. Many people are charmed by the intelligence and playfulness of the breed, buy a puppy and then are overwhelmed when the herding instinct kicks in and they find that their sweet pup is chasing the kids and nipping at their legs. Although Bud negotiates that balance between good manners and herding instinct gracefully, at some point during his puppyhood the circumstances of his first family changed and he was crated constantly for the five months prior to being relinquished to rescue.

The Glen Highland Farm site is a wealth of information on the Border Collie mind, rescue in general, canine health and nutrition, programs bringing inner city kids and dogs in need of friends together, seminars, success stories about BC's finding meaningful work in keeping golf courses clear of Canada Geese, and profiles of adoption candidates. If you are as inspired by this organization as I am, please consider making a financial contribution. A donor has offered to match every donation dollar up to $15,000! This is a worthy cause for anyone who loves to wear or work with wool. There needs to be a role for Border Collies in this culture. Maintaining a pool of herding dog talent is part of the infrastructure that keeps sheep on our hillsides and local wool available.

Bud is just over one year old and it is still early for him to work sheep. He and I will be heading to Greenfield MA in a couple of days for our first lesson in working with sheep with trainer Denise Leonard. I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Remembering Abby

Abby passed away very early this morning. She was 3/4 Border Collie and 1/4 Australian Shepherd, eight years old, and had the sweetest disposition of any dog I've ever had. Although not well-trained in herding sheep she was still very useful to me when caring for my flock and I'll miss her dearly, both as a friend and as an assistant.

In late March I noticed that Abby seemed a little less enthusiastic and her appetite wasn't up to par. We were away the first week of April and the friend caring for her reported that she hardly ate a thing. That trend continued, she lost weight, grew weak, looked anemic (gums and inner eyelids), developed labored breathing, and lay around all day. I don't know if there's a connection, but her beautiful coat changed: not as flowing, and brown hair started growing along her spine where she had always been blue merle. She remained sweet- can you see it in her eyes? This photo was taken three days ago before she was taken to a nearby veterinary hospital for an ultrasound.

Abby was found to have pancreatitis and treatment was begun (pain medications, tests, re hydration with IV fluids, fresh frozen plasma). We visited her yesterday evening and found her no better; I knew, just being with her, that her outlook was poor. Her breathing was even more labored and she was ill at ease. I asked the staff to let the veterinarian know that I wished to discuss taking Abby home.

A call came at 2:30 am. Chest films indicated that her lungs had extensive cancer, probably part of the process that had started destroying her pancreas. They had placed her on oxygen and it was time to decide how to proceed. We drove to the hospital; Abby seemed more like herself, giving us a slow wag of the tail when she saw us. The oxygen had probably provided enough pep for her to be acting more like herself. She lay down quietly on a blanket and we sat on the floor with her. I told her how wonderful she had been, how she'd help me with the sheepies. Then, as the vet helped her slip away, she gave me one last kiss.

Abby never really understood what toys were for but she did have a little stuffed, earless and bedraggled Lambie that she would sometimes seek out and deliver graciously to my lap. Lambie is now nestled with Abby in a blanket, under the apple tree in the backyard in which Abby spent eight contented years.

Please hug your dog. Monitor his or her health closely; your dog, like Abby may be a stoic and suffer without complaint. I think that Abby had a reasonably good life during her last few weeks, but I regret that her last 36 hours were spent in a hospital.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Undyeing Devotion

I have a very large amount of yarn, shorn from Massachusetts sheep and spun into off-white sportweight yarn at a Massachusetts spinning mill. Although I'm a devoted dyer, I think I can spare a little. I personally sorted fleeces for this project, choosing mostly down and medium fleeces, with some longwool fleeces to add strength and luster. Before spinning, nylon was blended into the fiber at 15% by weight. This yarn was spun from the fleeces of white sheep only at a grist that yields 93 yards per ounce, under minimal tension, AFTER DYEING. One skein is more than enough to knit a pair of men's socks in size large.

Each four ounce skein is $8.00; for the next few weeks I'll be lowering the price of four or more skeins to $6.00 each. Drop me an e-mail (sojournerdesign@gmail.com) if you'd like some skeins!

Friday, March 28, 2008

And the day after....

A damp drizzly cold day in Massachusetts, and the girls are dressed in only their skivvies! They've spent much of the day under cover.

Shearing Day

Just a few quick shots of yesterday's shearing. Most shearers use electric shears: in my opinion, awkward and noisy. Kevin is a blade shearer: he shears by hand without electricity. If a sheep struggles he very quietly and patiently reassures her. It's usually the friendly sheep who are the least cooperative; the ones that think that all humans are axe murderers usually relax once they know that the situation is out of their control!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gathering In the Sheep for Shearing

Just a quick post and a few shots- this is a hectic week.
My dog Abby and I rounded up the flock, who were contentedly sunbathing in the pasture on the other side of the brook, and brought them in to prepare for shearing.

It's best to confine sheep in a clean, dry spot the afternoon before shearing so that they're all collected when the shearer comes and their fleeces are free of moisture. Now they will bide their time, chewing their cud, until Kevin the shearer gets here in the morning.

Wish I could show more photos- I have some nice ones just taken- but the software is insisting on them being placed right next to each other and I don't have time to figure out why.

I've gathered twenty-one large plastic bags, a trash barrel in which the bags will be supported as they're stuffed with freshly-shorn fleeces, a broom to clean the shearing surface off between each sheep, and 21 cards to identify which fleece belongs to whom. Now it's time to shower and go buy provisions for tomorrow's lunch. Shearing is hard work, and it's always important to feed the shearer! Then on to my crochet class taught by Linda of Northampton Wools.

Monday, March 10, 2008

OK, this is one of the projects I've been working on lately: Evol-HUE-tion Yarn. Subtitled, Color Flowing Gracefully. Here is one of the skeins, dyed and wound into a center-pull ball so that the knitter can immediately start a pair using the two socks at a time method. Socks knit from this ball will begin with a magenta hue in the cuff or toe area that evolves through orange to a polite yellow hue around the instep, then back to magenta. More details about the yarn, as well as other colorways, on the Yarn page of my web site, here.

The sock, knit by Mary Alice Baker, is an example of a ball of Evol-HUE-tion with just one color change.

Two balls have sold since this post; there is one ball remaining of the Magenta/yellow colorway of Evol-HUE-tion yarn available at $25.00 per ball, and shipping will be free for the first Internet buyer.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

How Do I Do This?

Welcome to the first Blog entry for Sojourner Design! I am Diane Roeder, CES and CED (that's Chief Executive Shepherd and Chief Executive Dyer) at Sojourner Design which is the fiber part of Sojourner Sheep. If you don't know me, please feel free to visit my web site at www.sojournersheep.com.

My main goal in establishing this blog is to do a better job of bringing my fiber products to market. I've found that my web site never keeps up with what's going on in the dye lab and hope that the answer will be this blog.

Although I'm not much of a writer, a secondary goal is to create a commentary, whenever possible, about lif as the shepherd of a small flock of sheep. I hope to include photos and perhaps, eventually, videos clips.

OK, for starters and just to see how easy it is to post photos, I've just taken a photo of today's work in progress. It's a pound of roving dyed in two colors that gradually flow back and forth into each other: lime and teal. Not yet ready for market; there's more of that roving that I want to dye in the same manner.

But it's a good first photo because in the background you can see my chicken house (called Fort Apache) to the right, a few sheep loitering near the haylage bales, and the funky little trailer that I use for summer quarters for my chickens so that they can free-range over the entire property, moving to a fresh area every few days.

Further into the background is the hill. Although my sheep are now in their winter quarters and confined to the area right behind the house, during the summer months my flock rotates through fresh pastures extending up the hill and over about 17 acres on the hilltop. During those months I drive my little Honda 4-wheeler up the hill (you can see the road meandering its way) to care for them. More on that in a few months.

Well this worked very nicely and it's time to publish. I'll be back soon with photos of fiber items that are ready to go to new homes.