Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

New Additions to the Library July 2, 2016

I recently added three new books to my fiber library that I am so excited about I just had to share.

First is the book Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions by Donna Druchunas and June L. Hall.  First off, can I get a WOW just for the book itself.  Beautifully bound, well photographed and high-quality printing makes this book stand out amongst knitting books in general.  Now I’m a sucker for a knitting book that isn’t all just patterns.  I find that often the stories shared in them are just as inspiring as the patterns.  As far as I am concerned, Lithuanian Knitting sets the standard for the “Not just a knitting pattern book”  genre.  The writing is excellent as well as the selected patterns.  I cannot suggest this book strongly enough if you are interested in the history and the continuing relevance of knitting in a country known for its knitting traditions.  Get it, you won’t be disappointed.

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The second book is Icelandic Handknits by Hélène Magnússon.  This is another beautifully presented book with excellent photography and lovely printing and binding.  There isn’t as much introduction to this book, but I love the little stories within the patterns spread throughout the book.  Reading this one has made me even more excited about my very short time in Iceland in the autumn.

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The final book that I have added to my library is The Book of Haps edited by Kate Davies and Jen Arnall-Culliford.  I’m rather a big fan of most things Shetlandic, so when I saw that this book was coming out, I decided I really must get it.  It starts with a brief history of shawls and haps and how the terminology changed throughout the years.  It then moves on to patterns for various types of haps inspired by the various locations of the pattern writers.  Every single pattern is beautiful in its own way.  Some weave WAY off the path of what you would consider a “hap”, but all the patterns are completely wearable and totally lovely.

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The Great Sheep Drive: Part Five-Homecoming May 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 7:55 pm
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We are down the road from Kadoka by the time the clock read six am.  The sheep had their water removed (it would spill all over) and another half-bale of hay given to them.  South Dakota went by very quickly thanks in part to their eighty mph speed limit on the interstates.  We crossed the Missouri river and stopped there for a break.

pt5-1After the Missouri, the land quickly becomes less wild, more domesticated.  The vistas of buttes and exposed strata of rock morphs into orderly fields of grains and tidy farmsteads surrounded by windbreaks.  The further East we travel, the darker the just-planted soil becomes.  The ditches become greener and the trees more numerous.

We cross over into Southern Minnesota around mid morning.  It is here, when the land becomes distinctly more like home, that I start musing about hefting.  Hefting is a term that applies to sheep that are naturally bonded to the place where they were born.  You can take a hefted sheep away from its place and it will always try to return.  The most famous hefted sheep is the Herdwick.  Shepherds there don’t need to worry about their sheep wandering too far away as they really sincerely don’t like to be away from home.  I’m starting to wonder if there are hefted humans too.  As we moved further into territory like home I began to feel more at ease.  I was nearly giddy by the time I pulled into the driveway.

C backed the trailer up to the gate (I may be ok driving the rig by now but I am still NOT ok backing it) and then we went and checked the paddock for any problems.  There were only a few and they were all quickly taken care of.  We grabbed some more people to help unload them.  As we all waited, C opened the back gate.  At first they didn’t seem to want to come out but eventually the thought of freedom won and in ones and twos they came out of the trailer.  And then stop.  And immediately put their heads down and start to eat like they have never had a meal in their lives.  We didn’t have any trouble with them trying to bolt or anything, rather they wouldn’t move probably not realizing that there was more like that in their paddock!

I can’t really blame the sheep.  Where they were born and raised is very dry.  Even C was kind of taken with the sheer amount of GREEN that we have here right now.  I’m sure the sheep thought that they had died and gone to heaven!

C really needed to leave as she really wanted to get back to the ranch.  We loaded her up with canned goodies and bottles of honey and sent her on her way.

The sheep have already found a favorite spot to hang-out.  It is in a corner where two buildings meet so it is both sunny and out of the wind.  I have been watching them closely for signs of bloat or diarrhea as they did have a rather drastic change in diet.  But so far, they have all been good.   They even seem to be getting used to me checking on them repeatedly.  And taking lots of pictures.  LOTS of pictures.  I think I keep taking pictures of them because it is so hard for me to believe that they are actually here.

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I cannot thank all of the people who helped to make this happen enough.  Deb for introducing me to C, my parents for supporting me even if they might think me a bit nuts, all the people who work with C who put in the time and effort to allow this newbie shepherd her own flock.  My boyfriend, Joel, for helping me do the heavy lifting.  To my friends who offered support and advice.  And most of all to C for her generosity and her time.  Thank you.

 

The Great Sheep Drive: Part Three-The Ranch

I awoke this morning to the sound of honking geese.  They were flying low near the window of the bedroom I had been sleeping in.

I peek out the windows to look and the first thing that I notice are the mountains.  I’d not been able to see them the previous evening/early morning when I had arrived as it had been quite dark out.  I opened the door of the room and there, in a set of picture windows, were more mountains.  I know that they are not revolutionary to anyone who lives near them but to start your day off in a place so completely different (read: non-mountainous) and to wake-up the next day in the mountains, well, it will get your attention.

After getting dressed I headed outside where it was crisp but not cold and clear as can be (to me at least).  C finds me and offers me breakfast.  After eating we go off to tour the ranch (I nearly wrote farm. This is NOT a farm. It is a ranch.)  She takes me out to where some of her crew is taking the wethers and unbred ewes and a camper for the shepherd out to a new camp where they will spend a good chunk of the summer.  There is sagebrush everywhere with rocks littering the surface of the soil between clumps of grass.  The dogs are working hard at keeping the sheep from stopping to much on grass they travel.  We leave the caravan as it starts to go through an underpass that looks like a giant culvert under the interstate.

We then go to meet my future sheep.  They are in a pasture with a long, low log shed.  They quickly shy away from us and hide in the dark shed.  We shoo them out so that I can take a good look at them in the bright, mountain light.  Most of them are yearling ewes, but there are 3 wethers as well, their little horns and bigger size giving them away. They are an assortment of colors and patterns.  They gaze back at me with a combination of fear and curiosity as I start to try to decide which four not to take back to Iowa with me.  They are an assortment of colors and patterns and I know that the choice will not be easy.

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C then walks me around the ranch, showing me the pasture where the ewes with the youngest lambs are being kept.  She also shows me her lambing jugs and how they paint mark the lambs to make sure that the correct mother ends up with right lambs.  She explains the numbering system that they use and how they keep records of all the lambs.  We end-up in the pasture with the ewes and the slightly older lambs.

Quite honestly, I’ve not seen this many sheep since I left England over two years ago.  I’d forgotten the cacophony of a field full of bleating ewes and frantically baa-ing lambs.  And the colors!  Everything from a white body with a white face to a completely, coal-black sheep to a lamb with a creamy underbelly with a black topside was to be found in that field.

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We then walked down to the pasture where the rams were kept, well away from any possible female companionship.  There are only a few males that service the entire ranch, though the line-up does change periodically.  They were handsome and not at all aggressive towards us.

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C also showed me the traditional shepherd’s trailer that she has restored.  It is cosy and quite able to be heated with a simple wood stove in the corner.

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After lunch we started making plans for the great sheep drive.  It was decided that we would do it in two days rather than one (it would have been a LONG day).  We checked the weather and road conditions and started talking about all that needed to be done still.

We went back up to check on the camp being made, actually going through the giant culvert/underpass in C’s car.  There was and old timbered grainery/cabin that we passed on the way to camp that fascinated me.

We knew we were close to camp when we spotted the sheep grazing under the watchful eye of the livestock guardian dogs.  The small camper was parked on a small piece of flat land amongst some pines.  A small solar array was set next to it to give the shepherd at least a little electricity.  The location boasted a lovely view and smelled of fresh-cut pines.

After going back down, my future sheep were rounded up and driven across the road using Emma the collie.  Emma is a very good dog who sometimes really likes to be naughty.  She would drive the sheep perfectly to where she was supposed to have them only to scatter them and drive them back the way they came just so that she could do it all again.  To say that she is fun to watch work would be a massive understatement!

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We finally get the animals across the street and into a small pen with a chute where I am to pick out the four that won’t be coming to Iowa with me.  Since they are pretty crowded in the pen and I had just watched them all run, I didn’t worry too much about physical condition.  One had some pinkeye that was being treated so we pulled that one.  That left three to choose.  I ended-up going purely on what I liked color wise.  I figure that these are animals that I am going to have for many years, I should really like them right from the start.  So into the pen with the pinkeye animal went a red one (it’s a hard color to match to), a black one (that had some red in its fleece, unlike the pure blacks still in the pen), and an off-white one with a black face.  There was nothing wrong with the last three, I just needed to pick four!  It wasn’t easy and I am still trying not to second guess myself.

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These are the four that stayed home.

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The selection process

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What I saw when I was choosing sheep.

We then took my flock (it seems so strange to write that) across the road again to a pen where it would be easy to load them in the morning.  The sheep were watched curiously by the ranch horses as they were given some hay for the night.

C and I then went to dinner in the tiny town of Wolf Creek where we met with her office manager to finalize the paperwork for the sheep to be transferred into my name as well as legally driven through five different states.  It was a little overwhelming to have all the different numbers and what they were for explained to me.  I think that the ladies could see that and gave me some time to ask questions so that until I felt confident about what I was doing.  At least for a few minutes:-)

After a beautiful drive home through an amazing canyon, both C and I were ready for bed, knowing that the next several days were going to be quite long ones.

 

The great sheep drive: Part Two-Denver Airport May 12, 2015

I made it to Denver with plenty of time to spare despite the fact that the pilot himself called it, “The longest ever flight from Des Moines to Denver!” We had been rerouted around bad weather and it added a significant amount of time in the air to our flight. In the Denver airport, I purchased a couple of postcards for some friends and then got some dinner. I found my gate and sat down to wait. Outside the gate windows it was grey and raining and I felt sorry for the ground crew working out in it.

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Our plane loaded on time, and that was the last thing that went right for the rest of the evening. It started snowing about the time we got on the plane. This meant that the plane was going to have to be de-iced. They decided to keep us at the gate to wait for the de-icing rather than have us out on the tarmac.

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Finally they decided it was our turn to get de-iced and we had just gotten backed out of the gate when the captain came on to tell us our left engine wasn’t turning on and we had to go back to the gate to get it fixed. All the while, the snowstorm is getting worse and worse outside the plane. So back to the gate we go, where a team of mechanics descend upon our poor little plane and manage to fix the problem. At this point we are already over an hour late. So, instead of celebrating by taking off, it starts snowing harder, fiercer. The queue at the de-icing area is quite long now and control doesn’t want us leaving our gate.

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Then, at some point, they decide that the line isn’t going to get any shorter so they decide to deplane us. It is just at this point that Denver International Airport is hit with a massive power surge plunging the whole facility into emergency-lit madness. Communications went down and they were not able to make the jet-way move. We kinda decide as a group that it is probably better to stay in the plane where there is light and heat than to go into the darkened airport. Eventually power is restored and we are allowed off the plane where we ravage the one place selling food and drinks still open in our concourse.

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I have been calling the person that is coming to get me in Helena all night with updates. At the point where I am pretty sure that we are going to be spending the night in the airport, the desk crew for our flight suddenly calls out that our flight needed to quickly get back on the plane. You have never seen a group hustle faster. We all get on the plane and go through all the pre-departure checklists and actually make it out to the de-icing area and start getting worked on. Then one of the de-icing trucks breaks down and it is snowing so hard that the other one can’t keep up with it. At this point it is nearly 11pm. I think that the captain is about ready to cry as he makes this announcement. But then, they send in the cavalry in the form of 3 more trucks. We finally get de-iced and take-off. We are over 4 hours late. I arrive in Helena at nearly 1 am and I manage to recognize the person there to pick me up straight away. Thankfully my drive to the ranch was quiet and I was quickly able to go to bed.

In spite of all of this, I really want to say a thank you to all the flight and ground crews that eventually got my flight in the air.  I have been in situations where anything that can go wrong did and I know how frustrating it can be.  However everyone with United maintained not just their professionalism but also their humor and that can mean all the difference between a frustrating experience and a horrible one.

 

2015 January 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 9:52 am
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I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions.  I’ve watched gyms become packed with fevered folks looking to lose those 10 pounds only to become ghost towns by March.  I’ve seen people tear themselves up trying to stop or change something about themselves and failing.

However, there are some things that I would like to try to do in the coming year.  I’m not making resolutions, those are rather more high pressure than I want to make.  Just some things I would like to try to do more of in the coming year.

~ Travel. Specifically, within Iowa and the Midwest.  I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around to world, I feel that it’s time for me to get to know my home again.  I would like to try to make a few weekend trips around the state.

~Volunteering. I feel that my home should be a better place because I am in it.  I would like to get involved with my local 4-H organization, do more within my guild, and generally use my talents more for my community.

~Clothing.  I want to try to not purchase any new clothing in 2015.  I would like to try to use-up or wear out as many of my current clothes as possible.  I want to become better at mending items as well as making them.

~Yarn, Fabric & Fiber.  I would like to try to use up as much stash as possible.  Trading and sharing for my sock yarn blanket is perfectly acceptable.  I also want to spin more in the coming year.

~Eat local.  I want to try to have as much of my food come from within the state of Iowa as possible in the coming year.  Maybe even from this farm.

So there’s my low-pressure list of things I would like to try this coming year!  What about you?  What would you like to try in the next 359 days?

 

The Eyes Have It August 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 1:10 pm
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OMG!!! February 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 10:17 am
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We’re FAMOUS!!!!!!

Again:-)

(Thanks to Tini for pointing this out for us.  This particular picture has really made the rounds.  I guess we really DO look happy [we were practically wallowing in fleece, how could we not be!])