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I’ve been away at a Knitters Retreat at Mount Saviour Monastery for the last 5 days. We shared projects, enjoyed wonderful food, fellowship, were able to pray with the monks often, go for walks and more.

As it is Martin Luther King’s day today,  in this morning’s homily Fr. Joseph Gabriel talked about Martin Luther King and what we learned from him..

– that kindness and compassion takes more courage than violence

– to live out our dreams rather than our fears

The image shows the view from the guest house where I was staying. I captured the image from the window near the table where I was enjoying a cup of tea.

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Many helpers made it easy to bring in hundreds of sheep for shearing day tomorrow at Mt. Saviour Monastery.

For the last few weeks I’ve been checking on the progress of new lambs whenever I go to the monastery.  Sometimes there were only a few ewes and lambs in the pens, other times there were many.  Last I heard there were close to 200 new lambs and lambing season was just over.  Granddaughter Jessica went with me one day and took most of these photos.

Ewe with twins
Ewe with triplets
Jess says this is her favorite photo. Br Pierre carrying a lamb.
A ewe not sure where she wants to go and looking for her baby
How to coax a ewe to go where you want her… carry her lamb so she’ll follow.
Ewes trying to sort out which lamb is which. Somehow they manage.
Lamb peeking through the pen
Took this photo of a very sleepy lamb with my phone.  It kept trying to look at us but couldn’t keep his eyes open.

As requested, here are some photos and notes on weekend events at Mt Saviour Monastery..

The weekend weather was warm but not unbearably so. Quite a few people came to help the brothers for the weekend event.

Herding the sheep involved the brothers, many helpers of all ages, a tractor, a 4 wheeler, donkeys, llama, and of course the sheep! Convincing 200 or so sheep and their lambs that they need to head in the direction we want them to so that they can be confined is not an easy thing to do. When I left there were still a few stragglers. I don’t know that I was very helpful but I did get to take a few photos.

Saturday I arrived at the monastery just a little before the shearer and his crew. Three guild members arrived a short while later and we set up our spinning wheels for spinning demos. I spent most of day skirting fleeces with several others. We took a break at noon for Sext and then lunch. The shearers worked so quickly and efficiently that the sheep were all done by None at 3 pm!

Photos…
Kids heading out on the tractor.
Guard donkey.
Main flock coming in.
Poodle with the ewes. She is the ring leader when it comes to breaking out so she was moved to her own pen.
Holding area.
One of the shearing working quickly.
Spinners.
A donkey being lead back to his pasture. Something about this photo I really like.

Not only have I neglected updating this blog, I’ve also neglected the guild blog and my studio blog. There just wasn’t much time for sitting down to work on updates. I’m working on them now!

Some of the photos posted here were taken with my phone camera as my camera is a bit too large to carry with me at times… those photos are blurry….sorry! Maybe I should ask for a small digital camera for my birthday… hmmm?
   

May Day signals the start of serious garden work for me. I like to devote as much time as possible to the garden in May so that I can have all the heaviest work before the heat and humidity of summer arrives. Sounds like a plan, right? Unfortunately, spring did not cooperate. Like weather everywhere, we had unseasonable weather, too cold one day, too hot another, too much rain… etc.. A lot of things that normally get done in May did not get done and I’m a bit behind, enough that a veggie garden will not be started, I’m devoting my time to perennial or self seeding plants.   

Guild Meeting happened on May 3rd – because the fellowship hall at the church was being used, we met in one of the smaller rooms upstairs. The room was fine for the number of guild members that showed up, but not many of us considered the fact that we’d have to carry things upstairs…. Better planning if this happens again. Easier to carry drop spindles and knitting up stairs, than spinning wheels, looms and library inventory..

Mother’s Day went well. For the first time in 4 years I got to spend a good part of the day with a special grandson, what more could I ask for?

Bringing in the Sheep happened on May 23rd at the monastery. I’d planned to help, but arrived just as the last of the sheep were going into the barn. I blame my tardiness on the new perennial garden, Chamberlain Acres, that is way to close to my home. I’d stopped to look at what they had and lost track of time. I can see this place is going to be a problem for me, I have a hard time resisting perennials, particularly from a local business. Anyway, last year it took longer to bring in all the sheep so I really thought I’d be there in time to help get the stragglers in. I was teased about my good timing when I arrived.. Oops!

Shearing day at Mt Saviour Monastery

 

 

is held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. This year it was on May 24th. I went to watch for a while and to see if they needed help with skirting, came home with a Scottish Blackface fleece and another fleece that is either a Greyface or BFL fleece. The Scottish Blackface fleece will be used to make a hooked rug. No plans for the other fleece yet…. And no photos of this year’s shearing, I forgot to take my camera. I did take photos last year , there is a link to that post on the Monastery Wool project page  

Mom’s Birthday, May 25th is when I plant special things like Dahlias, in her memory. No Dahlias this year, but I did add a few new things. And as if on cue, the dragonflies have returned, zipping around the garden as I work, constantly reminding me of Mom working alongside me in the garden.

Memorial Day – It felt odd to have this on the 26th when the 31st was actually the next weekend. I normally go to the ceremony that is held at Woodlawn National Cemetery after the parade. This year I stayed home and was surprised to find out that a ceremony and gun salute is also done at the cemetery down the street. How have I missed knowing that?

 

A Wedding was the perfect way to end the month. On May 31, a special niece was married. The wedding was at St Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo. The old cathedral is beautiful and large, a perfect place to have a wedding. My niece Tanya had a maid of honor but no bridesmaids, choosing instead to have several teenage boys, including her 3 sons, as part of the wedding party. At the start of the ceremony, each boy presented her with a flower which she used to form her bouquet. As usual there were many smiles and also a few tears, particularly when hugging some of the elderly family members we haven’t see in a long time. My aunt cried when she saw Dad, which got her daughter going, which got my brother-and-sister in law going and they all got me going… Sigh… And as the bride and groom, Tanya and Dennis, walked down the isle after the ceremony, Tanya reached over and pulled Dad out of the pew and had him walk out with them.

Since the last update, we’ve gone from early spring to  summer… going from cold and mushy to very warm weather. 

I signed up granddaughter Jess for softball once again this year and after a little confusion with her being on the wrong team with older girls, we have her on the right team and I have been taking her to practices.  I am very willing to take her to her ball games and cheer her on… but… don’t you think there ought to be a law against practice on Friday nights? We made one Friday practice and missed the other.

Spring gardening weather has arrived. Actually, these past two weeks have felt more like summer, forcing everything to grow very quickly, not good for spring bulbs that normally last weeks.  The beautiful Yoshino cherry trees in our garden went from bare branches to lots of blooms in just a week.  They lack the usual soft pink color and instead look white. The weeping cherry is a pale pink this year.  I don’t know if the lack of color is due to the sudden heat or what, but they still look very pretty.  Occasionally someone walking or driving by will slow down to gaze up at the trees or enjoy the sensation of cherry blossoms showers on a breezy day. Most garden work right now is cleaning out beds, mulching, organizing tools, trimming branches, vines, anchoring trellises and so on. 

The April guild meeting went really well.  We focused on weaving and Br. Pierre from Mt. Saviour Monastery was our guest speaker.  Check out the guild blog to see photos of the meeting.

Along with everything else, I’ve been spending a lot of time around sheep, or talking about sheep, or working with sheep fleeces. 

I spent a day at a  Rebel Acres Farm, to help skirt fleeces on shearing day. Patty’s sheep are East Fresian, Romney, BFL, Tunis, and some mixes.  She had invited the boy scouts to help, having the extra hands on this day allowed her to spend a lot of time teaching the boys all about the sheep.  

Sheep waiting to be shorn… 

Lamb waiting for mom. By his color, I’m guessing he is a Tunis lamb.

  

Shearing 

 

Sue and I skirting a fleece

   

I also went to Amazing grace farms to see their new Jacob lambs..  I forgot to take photos!    

And where I see sheep most often is at Mt Saviour Monastery, where I go to chapel. These photos were taken at the monastery before or after service, or stopping by to visit lambs, or the gift shop or just to go for a walk.

This photo show rams and their guardian in a field. Taken with my phone camera, the photo is blurry, but you can see the donkey takes his job seriously, watching me carefully.

Newborn lamb still a little wobbly on its legs. I believe this is a Scottish Blackface lamb or a greyface lamb.

Poodle and her triplets.  Although I’ve been spinning Poodle’s fleece, I had never seen her up close, somehow missed seeing her even on shearing day last year.  She is a BFL and the only colored sheep at the monastery.

During one of the visits to the lambing pens, we got to witness two ewes, each one thinking two lambs were hers.  With a little help Br. Pierre was able to pen both ewes with the lambs and then quickly slip out the ewe that hadn’t had lambs yet.    She was put in a pen far from the lambs since she was due to lamb soon, but she was not happy about it.  She made quite the racket till I leaned close and flashed my camera, startling her enough that she calmed down and stop trying to get to the lambs.

A very friendly lamb, loved being petted while Mom stamped her hoof in dissaproval. The other lamb in the pen was more typical of the lambs, staying close to mom, but this little guy with its tail wagging, following us as we walked around the outside of the pen, great temptaion to take it home.  

 

And…. this has nothing to do about sheep, but it does have something to do with critters.  The marks one of the Monastery Roads.  While on a walk uphill, I noticed something unusual and walked up to take a closer look.  I tried to take a photo with my cellphone but it just didn’t show up.  What I could see was a nest that looks like it is in one of Jesus’s hands.  I’ve seen birds build nests in unusual places, but this is first for me.

                                         

 

Rock Day, Saturday at the guild went well (will post more about that on the guild blog later on)  considering that the guild is only 2 months old. 

Sunday I was feeling a bit under the weather.

Monday’s appointment at the dentist didn’t go as well as expected, I’ll have to go back to be refitted for a crown.   It was a warm day but since I’d been summoned to jury duty the rest of the week I caught up on indoors chores.  Later that evening I called the court house to find out that I didn’t have to report for jury duty.  Yay!   We were expecting record breaking temps again on Tuesday and Wednesday and I’d have 4 whole free days to myself with nothing scheduled.   Top of my list was to bathe a dog or two and since there was no snow left in the yard, get in some yard work, go for long walks each day, let the dogs romp outdoors all day while I worked etc.

Tuesday…  we got into the high 60’s.   Unfortunately I was  feeling cruddy.    The closest thing to a dog getting bathed and outdoor work getting done was working on a couple of pounds of wool from Poodle, a monastery sheep.  I was able to soak, wash and dry it outdoors in the sun.  That little bit of work did me in.

Here is Poodle drying on the patio table.  Notice how green our grass is for January, normally it is buried under snow.

Here are sample skeins from monastery sheep.  Top to bottom Scottish Black-face,  BFL (Poodle), Grey-face (Scottish mule?)  Although the wool comes from uncoated sheep who forage, I think working to remove all the vm (vegetable) matter is worth it.    

Today, Wednesday is one of those days where if you don’t like the weather just wait a few minutes and it will change.   We have lots of rain, then sun, then rain, then windy, calm, thunder and so on.   It is very mild for January, feels like spring!

I snapped the photo of a double rainbow I noticed while letting the dog out.  How unusual to see a rainbow in January.  When I took the photo, the sun was shining through the clouds in some areas, but it was also raining and the wind tried to rip the door out of my hands…

Cough…  I’m off to have some hot tea with honey…

 

Nearby is a monastery.  Rather than go on and on about what an interesting and spiritual place this is, you can read about it here Mount Saviour Monastery.  I will say that regardless of where you come from, denomination, race, etc., the chapel is a wonderful place to sit and pray.  And the surrounding area with the sheep is very restful.  The photo is of a 14th century statue in the crypt.

While visiting last week, I saw a sign announcing the day they would be shearing their sheep.  So early on Saturday I drove to a friend’s house who is fortunate enough to live about a mile from the monastery and we walked uphill to the barn. 

 You know you’ve entered the Monastery grounds when you see a large crucifix on the side of the road, looks old and what you’d expect to find. I forgot to take a photo of it.  But, I did take a photo of what I saw next, part of an electric fence.  Not a very interesting photo, but it struck me that it was such a modern contrast to the old wood hand crafted crucifix and an example of the modern monastic life, some things done as they always have been, but others things done in a modern way.

 A view of the barn uphill in the distance, you can barely see a part of one of the Casas on the left. The Casas are where guests stay.

 A little bit closer …

Approaching the barn we could see lots of cars parked around it and people walking in and out of the barn and over to the chapel and gift shop.

 Inside the barn… Watching this gentleman working, it was easy to see he had a lot of experience with sheep. He worked very quickly, carefully, handling the sheep firmly but kindly so as not to injure them or cause them much stress.  A young woman was also shearing and while not quite as quick and neat as the man, she was pretty darn good.  Note:  I don’t know what most people envision when they think of a Monk.  When working with sheep, here they wear a type of coverall.  I noticed Bro. Bruno and Bro. Pierre wearing them and so I’m guessing that the man in coveralls in the photo below is a monk.

 

 There was a man standing near me taking lots of photos, smiling as he did.  By the way he was talking to the monks I could tell he knew them well.  Curious, I struck up a conversation with him and found out that the two teen girls in the photo are his daughters.  They travel from D.C.  every year for shearing weekend and other retreats.  The girls help every year and this year they were ‘throwing the sheep’, which basically means flipping them over onto their backs and sliding them over to the shearer to save him some work.  Behind the girls you can see more sheep waiting to be shorn, hundreds were done that day.  The sheep was herded into the barn the day before (the monks ride 4 wheelers ) avoiding a thunderstorm and wet sheep.  A lot of people come to help herding and shearing and so it goes very quickly.  

 A very large, shorn fleece on the skirting table.  All but a ewe named Poodle and a lamb, are white.  Poodle and the lamb are black.  While normally they send all the fleeces off to be processed and spun into yarn, batting and such, when I asked they were pleased to sell me a fleece or two for a workshop.   I picked out a large white fleece and asked for Poodle’s fleece to be set aside for me in case I missed her being shorn while taking a lunch break.

  Sure enough I missed Poodle being shorn. For some reason I thought Poodle was a ram and would be done last, but Poodle is a ewe.. duh…. And she was too far when I came back to get a close up shot of her. This was taken with the zoom feature on the camera and you still can barely see her.  She is the lone black sheep in the center of the photo.  What you don’t see in the photo is a glider  in the sky from the nearby national glider museum, a post for another day.

 

After the sheep are shorn, they are checked very carefully for any cuts or signs of illness and such.  They are then released and immediately go out to look for their lambs which have been waiting, impatiently and very noisily for their moms.   Here are a few waiting and behind them a Ewe is nursing her lambs.  We watched as she was released and ran right over to her lambs which looked to us, exactly like many of the other lambs.  While she knew exactly which lambs were hers, the lambs at first were not sure this was mom.

The matriarch of the sheep, an older ewe was creating quite a fuss.  Very upset that some of her flock was still in the barn, she would come in from the pasture and complain very loudly.  Every time she did so, all the lambs waiting for their moms would run to her and follow her also complaining, making for a lot of noise.  Eventually she would leave, still baa-ing loudly, calling the sheep to follow her.   I tried to take a photo of her, but she was pretty upset and moving faster than  I was.

 Here are the fleeces I brought back home with me.  The white is actually much larger than the dark fleece. When I unrolled the fleeces I could see that although Poodle looks black when shorn, her fleece is varying shades of gray.. very pretty.  The spinners that meet at my house regularly will be helping me skirt the fleeces a bit more, wash and process these fleeces so that they can experience the entire process from start to finish. 

Close up of fleeces…

   

Before coming home I stopped in the gift shop to pay for the fleeces… big mistake… I came home with a dvd about the monastery that received 3 Emmy award nominations and I came home with this painting.  An artist comes and paints scenes of everyday life here and donates them to the monastery.   This one I’ve named ‘The Good Shepherd’.  It is Brother Pierre, who is in charge of the sheep, in a winter scene, Poodle being the dark sheep.  Bro. Pierre is a small, slim but strong older man who physically reminds me a lot of my Dad. I saw this painting last week and when I saw it again this week, I knew it had to come home with me.  Not a traditional sheep scene, but I like it very much.  There is a little glare in the photo but you get an idea of the painting.

  

Yesterday I received two pkgs.. one was a trade pkg… a book titled The Knitted Rug. It has lots of nice patterns and ideas for rugs.

The other pkg was my Feet To Prayers pkg from Cary. Inside was a Helen Steiner Rice calendar. I love the quotes and nature scenes. My family will be pleased to see a calendar with something other than a dog theme. *G*

There was also my sock and pattern. Cary mentioned that the colors were not what she asked for when she ordered the yarn, but I really like the colors. I like greens in shades of celery, fern, sage, etc and this has quite a few in there with some soft earthy browns. A perfect match for my chartreuse cabled turtleneck top that for some reason hubby doesn’t like but I do. *ggg* The sock and yarn came in a little bag painted by Cary’s mom… I took the bag to the knitting group last night and the ladies wanted to know where they could get one. It is now my sock knitting bag.

There were a few other things, but I want to point out the card with the photo of pumpkins on it. That card was made by Theresa who will be selling her cards soon. She takes beautiful shots and I look forward to being able to purchase cards from her. I’m framing this one… just gorgeous! Thank you for everything Cary!

A shot of my dining room table. Does anyone else have a table that doesn’t get used for dining? At the moment this table has a little gold wire tree surrounded by little gifts I’ve received, cards, and all sorts of goodies and we keep adding more each day. I don’t know where I’m going to put this all when we have to use the table for dining.

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