Cotswold Sheep

There are literally thousands of sheep breeds in the world, but many of them are small in number and on the verge of extinction. It’s hard to choose a favorite because each has unique characteristics which have been developed over many, sometimes over hundreds of years, that makes them suited to particular purposes and environments. However, one of my favourite is the Cotswold breed.

Cotswold Ewe

Cotswold Ewe

Cotswold sheep are a rare, heritage breed in Canada. Their ability to maintain a good carcass size on less grain and produce an amazing fleece, makes the breed highly desirable for small farm flocks.

Body weight: Rams: 115 – 130 Kg Ewes: 80 – 100 Kg
Fleece: 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inches) in length, and weighing 6 to 9 Kg (13 to 20 lbs)
Cotswold sheep are polled (hornless) with black hooves.

Even though by today’s standards in the sheep industry, Cotswold are considered a fairly slow growing sheep, they have many valuable attributes such as,

Cotswold fleece locks

Cotswold fleece locks

– easily birthing hardy lambs that have small heads,
– good growth on less grain,
– generally a calm, gentle nature making them easy to handle,
– a large finished carcass size, with meat that has a mild flavour regardless of age,
– a fleece that is highly valued by fibre crafters and artisans, nicknamed the ‘Golden Fleece Breed’, Cotswold wool is exceedingly strong and lustrous. It hangs in long, ringlet locks, and attains 8 to 12 inches of growth in a year.

One of the oldest breeds of sheep, it is unknown whether the Cotswold breed was named after the Cotswold Hills where they were found or alternatively, the hills were named after the Cotswold sheep that were already there.

I am particularly excited and proud to announce the birth this past spring, of twin Cotswold ewe lambs, both of whom carry the coloured gene but one of which has a unique and unusual colour to her fleece. We call the colour blue. We are very excited to see how she will grow out and if her colour stays true. I imagine there will be some competition from fibre crafters to get a chance to create something amazing from her fleece, if it does grow to be as wonderful as it seems so far.

Bonnie Blu

Bonnie Blu

Her sister has a pure white and lustrous fleece, but as a full sister she also carries the coloured gene so has the potential to have offspring with the blue colour. Well worth protecting and breeding for the future.

At this time there are less than 300 Cotswold registered in Canada.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

Roasted Leg of Lamb

Easy, uncomplicated, hearty food is the norm in lots of farm kitchens.
Here’s a simple recipe I use for roasting a leg of lamb. Something my family has had many times over the years on cold rainy evenings.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

Ingredients
1/4 cup light oil (olive, sunflower, vegetable oil)
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons basil
1 tablespoon thyme
1 (8 pound) leg of lamb, boned and butterflied to a more or less even thickness
1 lemon, juiced

Directions

1. Mix oil, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and thyme; spread paste on both sides of the lamb and let stand for an hour until meat comes to room temperature.
2. Adjust oven rack to upper or upper-middle position (depending on lamb’s thickness) and preheat broiler on high for at least 10 minutes.
3. Place lamb, cut side up, on a large wire rack set over a foil-lined roasting pan. Broil, moving pan so entire surface browns evenly, about 8 minutes. Turn lamb over; continue to broil until well browned on the other side, about 8 minutes longer. Turn off broiler, remove lamb from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the lamb; return it to the oven. Roast for a total of 50 minutes to 1 hour, until thermometer registers a rosy-pink 140 degrees.
5. As soon as lamb comes out of the oven, squeeze on lemon juice. Carve, slicing across the grain when possible. Arrange on a platter, drizzle with accumulated juices, and serve.

You can fill out the meal with your choice of vegetables.
I usually wash some root vegetables but leave the skin on, like potatoes, carrots and beets, cut in half or in large 2″ chunks and place around the roast as it is in the oven for that last hour. Scooping them out when a knife easily penetrates the skin and placing all together in a big serving bowl.
There’s also usually enough drippings to make gravy as well. Just add a cup or two of water to the pan and bring to a boil, slowly stirring in a rue of corn starch and water until it thickens. Yum!

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

MM – October 05, 2014

I am sorry that I have not been able to write anything for awhile, however, I did loose most of September from being in the hospital and although I am home now, I am still very weak physically and will take some time to build muscle and get my immune system working again. I have to be careful for the next couple of months not to expose myself to too many germs or I will get very sick as I don’t have a lot of resilience to fight things off.

About the middle of August I lost most of my hair. I still have these wispy pieces that need to be cut off so I wont look like some mad professor but for all intents and purposes I am bald now and wondering how long will it take to grow back?

In order to facilitate the next phase of treatment I booked a room at the Cancer Lodge near the hospital and the out patients unit called the BMT Day Care. I was advised that the Lodge had a nurse on staff and could help keep an eye on me as an out patient during the treatment. However, I found that they were not of much help at all and it turned out the only advantage was its convenient location near the hospital.

My Stem Cells

My Stem Cells

At the end of August I went in for the Hickman line catheter insertion, which went well. It is treated like a surgical procedure but they only use freezing in the areas they cut to insert the catheter. It really didn’t hurt and once the freezing was gone I didn’t feel the catheter inside me but the concept still bothers me as being very invasive and I was glad when it came out but that wasn’t for over a month. The removal involved just pulling the line out so it was simple and only hurt a little.

The next day, through the Hickman Line, I received the 8 hour treatment of chemotherapy. Melphalan. The following day, (I was already feeling the nausea), I received the stem cells back that had been collected earlier in the month.

I was required to go to the BMT Day Care every other day to be monitored and for symptom management. However, I immediately started to vomit every couple of hours and have diarrhea (caused by the Melphalan). All of this vomiting and diarrhea causes the body to loose fluids and become dehydrated. Along with the fluids the body looses a lot of essential nutrients including potassium and magnesium which is crucial for kidney function. I couldn`t possibly drink enough or keep down all the pills they wanted me to take to help control the symptoms, as a result, I became critical very quickly. They had to admit me to hospital and give me the meds through the Hickman. I still experienced about 10 days of vomiting and extreme diarrhea before the meds were able to slow it down and give me a break from the racking heaves. By this time the muscles in my entire mid section, front & back, were sore to the touch.

I can understand now. why they prefer the Hickman Line, as I wouldn’t have wanted to be poked for all the blood they were drawing or have IV’s for all the medications they were putting into me, all at one time. I also acquired a Walker during this time to help support me while I was walking and give me a place to sit when I became short of breath, because I became so weak I could hardly hold myself up.

Another week saw me recovering to the point where I no longer vomited at all, although I still had nausea and some diarrhea, I looked like I was on the way to recovery so they discharged me from hospital and I went back to the Cancer Lodge for a couple of days before I went home.

Everything seemed to be going along fine at first, although the nausea was still present, I was taking the pills and then after I was home for a couple of days, I vomited again. the next day I vomited three times and then it started again in earnest every couple of hours, the diarrhea, too! By the time I went back to BMT Day Care, I was in bad shape but they pumped me full of fluids and I felt OK, so I went home again, had a nice dinner and by ten that night started vomiting again.

By morning I could hardly move and had to beg a ride from my neighbour, ( for a 2 hour round trip on a Saturday), to the hospital and the BMT Day Care. I had already called the Day Care in advance and they just took one look at me and admitted me back to hospital. It took another couple of days to get the vomiting to stop and several more days to stop the diarrhea. This time they were not discharging me until all my symptoms were gone, including the nausea, so I spent another 2 weeks in hospital.

I had the Hickman line taken out last week. Finally. I hope that is an indication I am passed the worst of this chemotherapy treatment. I have some more Doctors appointments and blood work to get done this month. And if I have any say, I believe this is last of the chemotherapy treatment I will ever get. I will be looking into some alternative treatments in future.

So I am home now and feeling tired. I am still dealing with Neuropathy in my feet. I have a ways to go yet for recovery. As I said in the intro paragraph, I need to take some time now to rebuild my body and be careful of exposure to germs but I have survived and am getting better!

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

MM – August 07, 2014

Money woes… still worrying over where the money is coming from but the recent tests all went well. I have been advised that I have an excellent chance of surviving with this disease for at least 10 years and possibly as much as 20 years and with the progress that has been made in the last decade who knows what advances will be discovered given time! Test results showed that the rest of my organs and body functions are all in great shape, if it wasn’t for the damage now caused by cancer, I could have lived to be a hundred.

One of the side effects from taking the Bortezomib is Neuropathy (damage to the nerves in the extremities, fingers, toes and such) I am experiencing this side effect and it’s one of the reasons the Doctor reduced the chemo treatment from twice a week to once a week. Unfortunately, it came back worse than ever in July. Both of my feet up to the ankles have the sensation of tingling and mild pain and across the top of my feet at the base of my toes is tender and feels like the area is bruised, although there is no visual sign of bruising. The soles of my feet feel like I am walking on tender puff balls, although there is no visual sign of swelling. The sensation regularly goes up the back of my legs, from the calves to my knees as well.The Doctor has stopped the treatment and has advised me to stop doing so much walking and to keep off my feet as much as possible or I may have permanent damage. This is all well and good, but I still have to get about to all these tests and appointments and I can’t afford to drive everywhere.

Stem Cell Separator machine

Stem Cell Separator machine

I have taken the G-CSF injections, (I self injected to save on the repeated trips to the hospital and monopolizing nursing staff that have far more important demands on their time over a long weekend). Although, I did suffer a couple of days of associated bone pain and headaches, not really headaches as much as my skull hurt, very weird sensation. But I did end up with a migraine one of those days.

For the most part, the preparations outlined in my previous blog went along great with only needing 1 full day of being hooked up to the 2 – IV lines for Stem Cell collection. Everything went so well they were able to collect enough stem cells with just 6 hours of being hooked up to the separator. I was so relieved to not have to go back and be re-hooked up for another day to that machine.

I panicked for a bit because I had to arrange for a volunteer driver to get me back and forth to the hospital for the collection, even though I had called and made the request several days in advance, apparently no one was available. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but at the last minute it was covered by two of the BC Cancer Agency Volunteer Drivers. This is such a needed and wonderful service, done by some very caring individuals. But I find arranging all these details very demanding on my limited energy and when they fall through I find it hard to cope. The stress from all of these combined worries is unbelievable.

Looking forward to a much needed ‘break’ from hospitals for a few days before the next and more challenging part of this proceedure, which is the upcoming pre-Hickman Line insertion blood work, Hickman Line catheter insertion, 8 hour Chemotherapy treatment and then the actual Stem Cell Transplant, which is when they give the stem cells just collected back to me. They advise the first month will be the most incapacitating time for me during recovery. So I will use this ‘break’ as best I can to prepare in advance for when I can’t do things easily for myself, such as cooking/freezing pre-made meals and cleaning away as many household germs as possible.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

The Wonderful and Amazing Advantages to Mulching

When I first started to garden professionally, many many years ago, 🙂 I became obsessed with the perfectly clean, weed free, garden bed, edged in neatly trimmed boxwood hedges or framed with lovely planks of raw wood. All arranged in a very neat geometric pattern, with connecting pathways made out of traditional materials and all very formal.
Wow! Absolutely gorgeous to behold for that one moment when everything is done and there’s not a weed in sight.

But… what a lot of work!

When I look back on what I was able to accomplish given this penchant for achieving perfection, I have amazed many but none as much as myself. However, as the toll of all that labour over the years has taken its effect on my poor, ageing and abused body. I have found myself not visualizing the perfectly formed, symmetrical garden anymore, but rather thinking on how much bounty can I achieve without breaking my back and being bed ridden for weeks in recovery from too many hours spent bent in the same position while performing that never ending chore of weeding. As a result, I have taken more and more interest in the various forms of mulching, that perfect garden cover that provides heat and frost protection, significantly reduces or eliminates the need to weed, minimizes watering and conditions the soil, all at the same time!

Ruth Stout is renowned for gardening into her 90’s, due to her ability to develop a garden with such rich, loose soil that she no longer tilled or weeded or did anything much other than shuffle over a bit of mulch, throw in a few seeds and let nature take it’s course. Ruth used a permanent mulch on the surface of the garden to maintain an on going composting process and in this way fed her garden soil while minimizing the weeds. Any weeds that did occasionally dare to show themselves, would get pulled and added to the decaying matter before it could set seeds. In this way, Ruth was getting an abundant harvest from minimal work. I would say she was definitely using her brains instead of her back. And since my back isn’t so great anymore, I have joined Ruth in her philosophy of less work with more results through the use of mulching.

However, I still plant my crops in loose rows and have a semblance of order in the garden. For example, my potatoes … first I clear the soil of any sizable weed remnants that may have occurred in the off season, then I lay a strip of 4 ft. wide black landscape fabric down over the soil, weighing the edges of the fabric down with some rocks that are laying around the pathways. The fabric, with holes cross cut about a foot apart down the center of it’s length, is porous, allowing water to go through to the soil but preventing light to penetrate. Also I can use it repeatedly for many seasons, so a worthwhile investment in my opinion. Then I place a seed potatoe in each of the holes and walk away. If I use 2 or more strips of fabric side by side I can plant along the edges where the two pieces meet as well.Mulching

Once the potatoe sprouts have started to poke through the holes, I mulch the surface of the fabric with hay or some other loose organic material, such as; straw, leaves, or canary grass. I do this so the black fabric doesn’t cook the potatoes if there is a really hot, sunny spell and because the combination of both mulches, fabric and hay, almost eliminates the need to water. I rarely use actual compost on the fabric surface, as I find the potatoes will grow too many leaves and only produce small potatoes due to the overabundance of nutrition from too much good compost.

When the potatoes start to die back I just lift the fabric, mulch and all, off the garden bed and pick the potatoes up that are laying on the ground underneath. I generally get about 200lbs of potatoes from 20 lbs of seed that way and never use a shovel or water or weed. Once I’m done picking up all those lovely potatoes, I flip the fabric, mulch and all right back onto the bed and leave it there until I’m ready to plant something again. Every time I do this, I have less and less weeds to contend with. If it is nearing winter time or the bed is expected to rest for an extended period of time without being planted , then I will pull the fabric out from under all that mulch, leaving the organic materials behind, in order to put the fabric away from the prolonged exposure to harsher weather elements and in this way prolong it’s life span. I’ve used the same fabric for 10 years so far.

This same method works really well for tomatoes, all the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.), pumpkins and any of the summer or winter squashes. I usually just use a hay mulch around my beets, carrots and beans, after they have sprouted, although the timing is important because if I wait too long then the weeds will sprout too and I’ll be back to weeding again before I can mulch.

I haven’t become quite as smart as Ruth, in that I still have not achieved a completely permanent mulch system but I’m working toward that.

Hmm… to get started you need about 8 inches of organic material such as old hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, sawdust, seedless weeds or any vegetable matter that rots, covering the existing soil surface. An equal amount of those same materials should be readily available to add to the garden regularly to keep the process going. Scatter a bit of green sand, now and then, along with maybe some other organic amendments, like crushed egg or oyster shells, kelp, or some compost made from kitchen scraps and if you can get it, composted animal manure and you’re on the way to a rich, loose soil base for your entire garden.

By the way, there are lots of references to Ruth Stout’s method of No Work Gardening techniques online. Well worth a Google.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

MM – July 15, 2014 & Financial Appeal

Well, this part of the waiting is over, as I have the schedule now, covering appointments for the next 6 weeks. Every day for the next 2 weeks I have back to back appointments for tests and meds in preparation for the Stem Cell Transplant. Not to overlook the fact that I still have little to no money so am struggling with limited government funding bureaucracy and day to day life things like the rent, house work, banking, credit card debt, groceries, etc. I am required to have home support during this procedure but am expected to pay for it out of pocket. Plus I am expected to pay costs for some of the meds. None of which is possible.

Tests include things like 24 hour urine collection, more blood work, (so far this month I have given up more than 20 vials of blood), Chest X-ray, ECG, MUGGA Scan of my heart, Lung function test, dental consultation, Pamidronate infusion (every month x 2 years), more blood work, meet the Cell separator doctor, get G-CSF (Nueprogen) injection script, prep Chemotherapy, start chemo tablets, start G-CSF injections (which means going to the hospital every day for 7 days), start more tablets for 7 days, more blood work, 2 full days of being hooked up to 2 IV lines for stem cell collection, pre-Hickman Line insertion blood work, Hickman Line catheter insertion, 8 hour Chemotherapy treatment, and then the Stem cell transplant.Hickman Line Catheter

In between all of this I have doctors appointments, kidney specialists and counseling, too. Some days I have as many as 5 appointments or they are 8 hours long and require I arrange for someone to drive me as I will not be capable of driving myself or taking public transit. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

The Oncologist scheduled me for 2 more chemo treatments before the required 14 day break necessary prior to Stem Cell collection on Aug 6 & 7. After which I will be having a heavy dose of Chemo that will wipe out my entire system, leaving me very sick and vulnerable to infection. Then they will ‘rescue me’ by giving the stem cells collected back to me, which will take about 6 months for my system to recover so long as all goes well and I don’t contract some additional illnesses or suffer more kidney damage/failure. stressing my system even more.

With the upcoming treatment and recovery time, the doctors say it puts me to next spring at the earliest before I can get back to working a wage earning job outside of the home. I am eligible to earn some money from home while on government assistance but so far I have not had any viable opportunities for real paid work come my way, that is not too physically or mentally demanding or time sensitive.

Meanwhile, I’ve pursed every opportunity suggested, filled out multiple financial assistance applications/forms but the on going stress of having no money and talking to collection agencies because I have no savings left and can’t work and there’s not enough government support to satisfy all the financial demands is depressing to say the least. I’m so tired. I just don’t know what else to do. I’m rather stuck, as I have always been able to rely on my self sufficiency to get by but these circumstances have limited my abilities, so I am now in a position where I have no choice but to humbly appeal to the good nature of others for help. I have a Pay Pal account or can accept Interact E Transfers, if you feel you can help me with either money to meet the immediate needs or potential work for during my recovery time, my email is cyntht@hotmail.com It’s an understatement to say any assistance will be greatly appreciated.
Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

MM – July 06, 2014

Waiting, waiting, waiting, …. to hear from the Bone Marrow Specialist and find out what the plan is for the stem cell collection and transplant. In some ways I am impatient to get making the arrangements necessary for this transplant to happen, because it may mean the cancer will go into recession and I can get back to a normal life sooner, but at the same time I am not looking forward to it. Been reading the binder they sent me full of information on the BMT process and the idea of having a catheter (Hickman Line Catheter) installed into my heart does not sound like a fun time to me and apparently it has to stay in for a while afterwards. Gives me the creeps and my mind is just repelled by the concept.

Meanwhile, I think I over did it with the house move on the weekend, as I was really sick again after the chemo treatment on Monday last week. Nauseous, diarrhea, vomiting, tingling and swelling in my feet, aching in the calves of both legs, headache. Didn’t feel like getting out of bed for 3 days and then took it real easy on day 4, just trying to eat something good so I could regain some energy. Feel Ok today but go back for my last treatment of this round tomorrow.

Am enjoying our new place, even though I haven’t been able to unpack everything due to being sick but just the same it feels better, a calmer place to be in. Cleaning and unpacking will happen given time, I’m sure. Can’t thank the folks that helped with moving day enough, sure was great to have some help!

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess