Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Friday, December 10, 2010

Customer Service is NOT dead!

I just wanted to write a quick note about one of the best experiences I have ever had with any company.


I know, the name is interesting isn't it?  It all started last year, when somehow, in my internet wanderings, I came upon this:

What is it??!!

Is it a Christmas ornament? no. 
Is it that little ball that jumps from word to word on the karaoke screen? no.
Spaceship? nope.

It is only the most fabulous winter toy for a deaf dog with a "play ball" obsession.  It is called the Meteorlight K-9 LED Dog Ball.  It is a basically indestructible rubber ball with an LED light inside.  so it lights up at night!!! (well it lights up during the day too, but it is a little less dramatic...)

We got the Disc-O color, which is the one that cycles through all the colors- so very cool.  The other big bonus is that it fits right into the Chuck-it ball launcher.  (if you don't know what that is, you either don't have a dog that likes to fetch or you don't mind slobber hands)

So... Awesome Possum.  My husband threw and threw it, Bear dog could always find it because it glows. (since Bear dog is deaf, if he can't see where it went, you have a 20 minute search for the toy on your hands...)  Everything was ducky, except... Bear is what they call a "power chewer".  He has destroyed everything that he can get in his mouth.  I don't think it is intentional, just another dimension of his obsession.  So there he is running back, in the dark, just a colorful light bounding our way- and the light goes off, and comes on and goes off and then kind of stutters on ... Hmmm. weird.

As a little background, to turn on the Disc-O light, you have to really (and I mean REALLY) mash on the plug that contains it.  I can't do it unless I push it on a table corner - it is that tough.  I imagine a more "normal" dog would never be able to turn it on and off, but that little boy of ours is a pain in the butt, obsessive, special.

Anyway, when he destroyed the light last year I made an email comment to the company through their website, explaining what had happened and how much we loved the toy, even though it couldn't stand up to Bear Jaw.  I wasn't at all upset, just wanted to let them know our experience.  They immediately contacted me back and sent 2 free replacement balls!  yes- that's right- 2-free! Because they believe in their products.

My husband made a slight modification to the plug, hoping to keep Bear from being able to operate the switch. It worked moderately well, but Bear's chewing gum behavior eventually killed both LEDs... ho hum, no light ball for the boy.

This year, while shopping for some option (maybe a glow in the dark, with no electronics) I was inevitably drawn back to the Meteorlight- it really is that cool.  I posted another comment to the company explaining that we loved it and wished it were appropriate for our dog.  Once again, they contacted me with an offer to replace the ball for free with any of their other LED products!! I gave them a couple of suggestions for bear-proofing that we had thought of and we arrived at a mutually acceptable resolution for this winter.

I am Wowed by this company- so friendly, so on the ball (no pun intended!) and so willing to work with a customer- simply fantastic.  So, check out their website- they have all kinds of cool stuff there, even an astronaut pen - like from the Seinfeld episode, "Take the pen!, No, I couldn't, Take it!" (although this is the Inka Pen you can still write upside down)

and here is a picture of the destroyer sweet little boy all this work has been for:

Bear boy
I know, right?  He doesn't look like he could chew the crap out of anything...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Bison are here! The Bison are here!

Well, really they have been here for almost 3 weeks...

I have been hoping to get better photos of them, but this is what I have and it seems better than waiting!

Bison herd in our holding pen!
 We have 7 total in our little herd: 
1 yearling bull, 2 yearling heifers and 4 heifer calves (sooooooo cute with their little horns!). 

All in all it has been pretty uneventful, which is good, and way more fun than I even imagined it would be.

We were very concerned that they would be frightened and storm around and run through the fences with smoke coming out of their nostrils and fire in their eyes.  Um... not so much. 

We kept them in our round pen (covered with landscape fabric so they couldn't see out and be terrified of trees, dogs?, squirrels? ... I don't even know what, but we protected them from it!  so the photo above was taken by me, laying on the freezing cold snow, and holding my camera under the bottom rung of our pen- yes anything for a photo!

We were told that we should flag all the fencing so that they could see the boundaries and not feel like they were home, home on the range.  So we did.  I am not sure if that is what is keeping them in, but it sure looks festive!!!

They really have fit right into our little ranch, the horses were actually more upset than they were once everyone was out and about in their respective pastures.  And of course, sheep and goats don't give a crap about much of anything, as long as there is hay to eat.

Against better judgment, I named everyone, but I can't really tell one from the other, so it is kind of a non-issue.

some bison reality:
  1. No, you don't getta pet 'em.
  2. No, I will not be brushing them to collect fiber to spin and selling high dollar bison yarn
  3. Boys and girls have horns
  4. They may be wild animals, but that doesn't mean they don't like to sleep on nice thick bedding (in this case hay they haven't eaten)
  5. They really don't care if you call them bison or buffalo, as long as you are feeding them while you are doing it.
 Well that's their story for now.  Hopefully I will motivate myself to take some more pictures this weekend and post them next week!

One more photo, from the pen at the ranch where we got them.  Can you see the fire in her eye?

Friday, November 19, 2010


Yes, well it seems I fell off the earth here with my critter blogs... could be the snow, or the short days and dark, dark nights.  It could be that we went to visit my sister in sunny So. Cal for her birthday (yay!), but really I think it all boils down to one issue: LAZY!!  It's ok though, because this is for fun, right?  Oh but Sister's birthday gives me a reason to post a photo:
So, okay, truthfully this was her gift last year, but I just saw this photo pop up on my screen saver today and thought- ohhh... that is pretty.  I wove it on my 8 shaft table loom and the pattern has the unlikely name of Worst twill (Worst being someone's name, not a description...)

I have all these fabulous ideas of stuff I want to write about, unfortunately inspiration strikes at inopportune times, like in the shower, in the car, walking between my office and the photo copy machine and then promptly flees my mind, like the fleeting snow of early winter.  However, I did want to mention that I have just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver (if you click on the title it will take you to the website about this book) Yes, Yes, I know- it came out 3 years ago- Where HAVE I been?  I loved it!  (and on this same note- How come no one ever told me about Wendell Berry?  How have I lived this long and never, not once, read his work?-- Jayber Crow coming from the library next week!!)

I just made the mistake of going to Amazon to read the reviews of A,V, M... I am always most interested in the one stars.  It occurs to me that some people can't stand for anyone to be successful.  The book chronicles one year of the Kingsolver family trying to eat locally and raise a majority of their food.  The one starrers were obsessed with the fact that the author did not detail any failures on their farm.  Um... ok, this is not a "how-to" book showing you all the ins and outs of how to garden or raise poultry, it is a memoir, an autobiography of sorts that chronicles one year (one year) of raising food.  Are the authors not allowed to have a good year?  We garden, farm, raise food and yes there are always set backs, dilemmas, disasters, but my overall feeling is not "this is impossibly difficult".  I think if I were to write about my experiences it would have the same "Polly Anna" blush as Kingsolver's book.

Well, hopping down from the soap box now, I just wanted to share a book for a nice winter read.

I will be back soon with more critter photos, because the photos are what I love best about the writing!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Critter Tour- Part Three!

Oh my beautiful, beautiful Greta...  such luxurious, silken white locks you have.

This is my "wild sheep".  As soft and beautiful as she is, she is also very flighty, skittish, um... she has a strong sense of self-preservation. When I go in to feed, she is always watching me, like I might all of a sudden leap onto her and start devouring her.  She is Navajo Churro crossed with Icelandic. I told that to a sheep person one time and they just asked Why?

I don't know why- I bought her with my original small flock of various "primitive" types- but I do love her fleece.  and her crazy personality!  She is a jumper (not, thankfully, of fences) but when I open the pen gate to let everyone out to graze, this girl jumps past me (five feet off the ground!) before she goes bounding off to nibble grass with everyone else. Very cute and endearing when you are ready for it, when you are in the flight path- not so much...

Greta is the sheep that nearly killed me.  Well that is really an exaggeration, she merely dumped me and almost broke my nose.  And it was entirely my fault (ok, so maybe not entirely but I am the one with the BIG BRAIN and the opposable thumbs).  This is what happened:

We had finished shearing everyone else. Greta is usually last because she is the most difficult to trick into the holding cell pen.  We got her in there, I put her little sheepy halter on and led her out to our shearing stand.  Lead is kind of the wrong word for it- barely contained a jumping, hopping, bounding bundle of sheep wool is more accurate. 

She settled right down once her head was secured in the stand and all went well, until it was time to take her out on the grass to do her belly.  As a horse owner, I know better than to stand directly in the path of travel, but I thought "she's just a sheep" and she DID NOT want to come out on the grass. Sooo... I got in front of her and gave a mighty tug on her lead.  Yes, you all know what happened.  She broke free of her frozen posture and bowled me over at the knees, face first into the ground.  A little shocking.  But, in my defense, I never let go of her!

My husband grabbed her lead, told me to go in the house and make sure I was OK.  He told me later that Greta continued jumping up at the end of her lead- her feet head high to him (and he stands nearly 6 feet!).  He was able to finish shearing her without my help and all I suffered from was a bloody nose.

and a little embarrassment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Critter Tour- Part Two

Mortimer- the Wonder Goat!

Yes, I know, he’s adorable.

Rather than follow any type of logical order, I am going from our oldest sheep to our youngest goat!  He’s just so stinkin’ cute, I couldn’t wait to write about him and share his picture.

We got baby Mortimer from some friends of ours who have a milk goat doe.  Mortimer was her buck kid from this Spring.  Being a boy doesn’t bode well for a dairy animal, especially when your mom is the only other goat!  We went over to visit one day and he followed us everywhere.  When I finally sat down on a log, he climbed right up in my lap and fell asleep…  Needless to say, even though we did not NEED another goat, we had to have this sweetie-pie.

Luckily his former owners were delighted to have a new home for him, especially once he was weaned and started jumping up on the propane tank, parked cars and head butting everything that moved.  We went to get him in our 2000 Plymouth Neon.  He rode in the back seat like he had been doing it his whole life.

Back in the small ruminant pen, he got picked on a lot since he was the new guy and little to boot.  So to make sure he got enough to eat, we devised this system for him:

He is up on top of the goat/sheep house.  Being the youngest and most agile amongst old, fat, lazy sheep has its advantages!

He grew up with free roam at his first home and still likes to come out and visit with us and help in any way (pulling down flower stalks through the fence, knocking over buckets of tools, even trying to get up on the food tables when we let him out during our annual Weaving Group potluck!)

He is a pure delight and I highly recommend a goat, if you have the inclination to own a farm animal!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Critter Tour- Part One

I had so much fun writing about BDR, that I decided to do a series of posts detailing all of our ranch critters. And since I was touted as blogging about fibery things in the Sandpoint Fiberarts Guild newsletter, I thought I would start with a tour of the small ruminant pen! (for our purposes that means sheep and goats)


My first subject is ol’ Spot. She is a Jacob sheep and as near as we can figure is between 9 and 10 years old. She is the matriarch of our small fiber herd and uses those spear-like horns to boss the others around.

My husband and I adore Spot. She is very people oriented, likes to be scratched in all those itchy spots that a sheep just can’t reach and (my personal favorite) lets out the loudest, most pathetic bleat if her people walk by without stopping to love on her. She opens her mouth wide enough to put a softball in there…

Here is another photo of her, with fleece:

And after shearing:

Yes, she is a little embarrassed… but much cooler! and don't her horns look even more impressive?!

I haven’t washed her 2010 fleece yet (it is taking awhile with 8 fleeces to clean!), but I had her fleece from last year milled into roving at the Going to the Sun Fiber Mill in Kalispell. It is a beautiful, soft grayish white.

Now all I need is the time to spin it all up!!!!

Next up:

Mortimer, the wonder goat!

Have a fleecy day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Farm life...

This is "BDR" aka

Big Damn Rooster.

He is a barred rock and king of the roost. I am guessing he weighs about 10 pounds, but who knows since you can't catch him!
We (meaning me, my husband and our hens) tolerate him because he protects our egg laying beauties. He even chased a coyote and made him drop his lunch (yes, one of our hens). He crows at all times of day and night and rubs the backs of the hens raw with his "loving attention", but you gotta love him anyway.

He has a little (and I mean that literally) competition from "Maxwell not so Smart", our other rooster. He is an Americana and strikingly beautiful, however he must be a little camera shy, as I looked through all of my photos and not one of him!! He got his name from his baby crow- it sounded exactly like the theme from Get Smart. The "not so" he earned by getting in the habit of running away from the coop at night, instead of going in with the others for night time safety...

What I really wanted to share was this photo:

A beautiful cup of calendula flowers. So lovely... sigh... I love the fall time, when the flowers are still blooming and it is not so hot. I harvest about 20 flower heads every week from my ramshackle garden. These are all volunteers and they are strong, healthy, beautiful, prolific, and (do I dare say?) Perfect.

I dry their petals and then I will use them in the soap I will make next month for Christmas (and all year!) gifting. A very satisfying endeavor, all the way around!!

Happy Weekend!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Protesting Perfection

Well... here it is. You might wonder what would provoke me to post this photo of me (after a hard day of office work, with hair that used to have bangs but is now somewhere "in between", holding a sign that reads "I'm too Awesome to be perfect.") the answer lies below:

Brene Brown (the beautiful author and Blog goddess of Ordinary Courage) is spearheading the "Perfect Protest". You should pop over and read about it and participate!! But first, of course, read this.

As I walked home last night, I pondered the meaning of perfection. And the distinction between striving for excellence and the pursuit of perfection.

I'll start with the premise that perfection is unattainable. To have a goal that is unattainable gives you permission to never try, to constantly bemoan that nothing ever works out, that you are incapable, worthless... As Brene says:
"Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight."

Excellence, on the other hand, is something you can accomplish in only one way- hard work and practice. If you give yourself permission to be a beginner, to be "not the best" then you have the chance to play and practice and get good at something. You can fly! (so to speak- don't go jumping off the carport roof.)

What is so alluring about perfect then? When I thought about perfection, what came to mind was this: a perfectly round, smooth, white sphere. and I thought what would I do if I found this perfect thing, laying here on the ground? I would pick it up and inspect it, turning it, thoroughly scrutinizing every inch of it. Why? I am looking for the imperfection, of course!! We do that to ourselves, each other, every situation- we scrutinize, analyze, ferret out the imperfection, so that we can proclaim "Aha! not perfect" What is the point of that? To make ourselves feel better (see, she isn't perfect either), to shield ourselves from new experiences (well, if I can't be a concert pianist the first time I sit down, forget it)? If you think about it, our imperfections are what make us unique. If I found a basket full of perfect white spheres, I wouldn't be able to tell them apart, they would be perfectly, well... perfectly boring!

I have battled that disapproving voice in my head for years. You know it- it's that little voice that pipes up when you get excited about doing something new. It says needly little things like
"you really think you can do that?"
"you know EVERYBODY else is better at that than you"
"Come on, you are too fat, old, short, tall, (insert your excuse here) to do that".

Some days I win the battle, some days, not so much. It's okay, another imperfection that I am willing to embrace :)

So, I challenge you. I challenge you to breathe deeply, look in that mirror and say "I am not perfect, and that is okay. In fact it is AWESOME!"

and post your not perfect picture. I did, double chins and all!!!