Fall Colors and Dogs

I haven’t taken the dogs Across the Road much lately. I need to take the time to do that for them and for me. Here are some photos from a few days ago.

DSC_5826        Leaves are turning color and falling.

DSC_5829                                                           They will be gone soon.

DSC_5843              The black walnut leaves are already gone. Or maybe this is one of the trees that is dead. I think the drought took it’s toll on some of these.

DSC_5881             The view looking southeast.

DSC_5860               Ginny’s ball was cracked and even with the “Chuckit” I couldn’t throw it very far.DSC_5876             Rusty runs after Ginny every time she goes for the ball. Then he runs back with her but he doesn’t always keep up with her now.

DSC_5890                 There were sunflowers in one of these fields and there were lots of seeds dropped on the road at harvest time. Now they are all sprouting.

DSC_5891                                                            This is Ginny while I was on the ground trying to take seedling emergence photos.

DSC_5892                                                                So you know that she put the ball right under my camera.

DSC_5897             Ginny, do you know that broken tennis balls don’t float? She spent time looking for it after she had taken it into the canal.

DSC_5913                       Back at my driveway there were beautiful leaves to photograph. A wild grape vine.


DSC_5917             Walnut tree.

Happy fall!


Touring the Castle in Napa Valley

Last week we spent a few days in Napa as the guests of Dan’s former co-workers. On Tuesday we went on a hike northeast of Calistoga. It was a rainy Wednesday and we spent part of the afternoon on a tour of the Castello di Amorosa Winery.

IMG_3415             The Castle was designed by Dario Sattui who modeled it after European 13th Century castles that fascinated him.

IMG_3343               His blog tells about the evolution of his plan and the construction. The original plan in 1993 was for 8500 square feet, but by the time the Castle was complete in 2007, it was 136,000 square feet with 107 rooms and eight levels, four of which are below ground.IMG_3350            Sattui brought builders, brick-workers, and others from Europe and shipped containers full of old bricks, doors, hardware, and all kinds of other building materials that had been sourced from old castles in Europe. IMG_3345              Although my first thought when I heard about this place was that I would the resent pretentiousness of spending this much money and “showing off”, but this is a fascinating place and it is very cool to visit it. IMG_3352             The Great Hall.IMG_3353          There is an authentic 13th century fireplace at the end of the Great Hall. The guide told us that those two chairs are “authentic replicas”–they were left behind by a movie company who used this setting.IMG_3360            Dan noticed all of the iron work. All of it, including the bolts and nails was hand made. IMG_3409                Stone is all hand-chiseled.


IMG_3359            After walking through some of those ground-level rooms we saw the equipment that is used in modern wine-making.IMG_3363

IMG_3374             But then we went downstairs into the lower levels.IMG_3373         There are 900 feet of caves in four levels.


IMG_3389            This barrel room is constructed with impressive brick Roman cross-vaulted ceilings.IMG_3392             Barrel tasting in the barrel room.IMG_3394                  I will admit here that I am not a wine drinker. Dan and I were both more interested in the tour than the wine tasting but we stayed for that too. There were only about a dozen of us and the guide-turned-wine-expert poured about 8 or 9 different wines to sample.IMG_3395                  I finally found a wine that I liked…IMG_3401                 … and I’ll admit that it’s sweet and a little fizzy so I might as well just buy fizzy juice at Safeway, right?  IMG_3410             Leaving the castle. This door reminds me of the one in the Wizard of Oz moviewhere the wizard opens the little panel to look through at Dorothy.IMG_3406             View from the Castle to the hills where we hiked the day before.

After leaving we headed back down the valley. Someone had suggested a tour or a stop at the CIA. My first thought was that would be interesting since I read a lot of suspense/intrigue books, but a CIA headquarters in Napa? It didn’t take me too long to get the context–Culinary Institute of America. I had driven by this for years, first as the Christian Brothers Winery, but had never gone in.

IMG_3416                   I took one photo and then my phone died. So this is it–one of hundreds of odd corkscrews and other wine related gadgets. You know, the feet are some of the few parts of the butcher lambs that aren’t used at this time. Could this be in my future?

Table Rock Hike

Dan and I spent a few nights in Napa last week. It was strange to stay overnight somewhere when we live so close, but the time-share stay was a retirement gift from his co-workers and it was a great opportunity for us to go do some of those things that are “in our own backyard” that we don’t take time to do otherwise.

The weather outlook for Tuesday was dry so we decided to find a place to hike. Many of the state and county parks in the area are closed due to the recent horrific fires. But we found a trail that was unaffected by the Tubbs Fire. We had breakfast in Calistoga and then drove up Hwy. 29 towards Mt. St. Helena.

DSC_5384              The Robert Louis Stevenson State Park to the north of the highway is closed but the Table Rock trail is south of the highway.IMG_3323             The trail starts out in groves of oak, madrone, and bay trees. This area was damp from recent rain and the trees looked as though they were covered with green fur.

DSC_5417                                                                A new kind of fir fur tree?DSC_5394       Making things larger than life through the lens.


DSC_5389               As the trail descended the other side of the first ridge the vegetation seemed more typical of California chaparral. These are the seeds of the California Buckeye.DSC_5391              The California buckeye is one of the first deciduous trees to leaf out in the spring, but it also goes dormant and loses it’s leaves in late summer. Although the “nuts” may seem similar to chestnuts, these are toxic.

DSC_5410             The trail leads to the western end of a formation called the Palisades, volcanic rock that towers over the northern end of the Napa Valley.IMG_3318            That is the town of Calistoga down below. DSC_5400               We sat on the rocks known as Table Rock for quite awhile, soaking up the sun and watching birds and the beautiful sky. The fire missed this area, but not Mt. St. Helena in the background and the lower area along the highway.DSC_5407               As we sat on the rocks Dan noticed a Cal Fire plane flying around Mt. St. Helena and then saw it drop something–we wonder of that is seed to help stabilize the burned landscape.


Amaryllis and Her New Shoes

Amaryllis has laminitis and I’ve been struggling with her condition off and on for several years. I should have known better than to get a donkey as a guardian animal for sheep that graze irrigated pasture but I did not realize the risk. Donkeys can thrive in desert conditions and can easily put on weight under any other situation. That, along with a multitude of other related factors, puts them at risk for laminitis.

She had a flare-up in October. I think it was a result of breeding season. I had the sheep separated into several different breeding groups and Amaryllis was getting little bits of alfalfa from under the fence that she shared with one of the groups. Maybe that had nothing to do with it but I thought that it might have been the trigger.

IMG_2892               My regular vet was out of town and I called U.C. Davis. The equine vets came out and evaluated her. This radiograph shows that there is slight rotation of the bone, which should be parallel to the hoof wall, but the coffin bone has not dropped down to the sole, which can happen in severe cases. IMG_2899                 Temporary pain relief was provided by some cushy pads that were measured and then cut to fit.

IMG_2903                 A paste of betadyne and sugar was applied to help the foot dry out…

IMG_2902          …and then the pads were taped in place. IMG_2914            This was just to help cushion her feet until the farrier could get here for the next trim.IMG_2930             She was also prescribed a variety of medications to help with pain and weight loss, some of which I had used before.

This was a month ago. In the meantime I attended the Donkey Welfare Symposium at UC Davis. It was an excellent program but I came home more depressed about the whole situation. At home I was struggling with how little improvement I saw, even with all the medications.

The vet offered another idea–SoftRide boots. Those came today. They are an outer boot with a gel orthotics.

1711-donkey_shoes-1             The instructions said to wrap the foot with plastic wrap when you first try the orthotics so that you can send them back if they don’t fit. 1711-donkey_shoes-2           That is easier said than done. I got the plastic on the foot OK but by the time I had her standing on the orthotics they weren’t in exactly pristine condition anymore. 1711-donkey_shoes-3                  I decided that I’d just have to go for it and put the boots on.

IMG_3435          What an amazing difference they made. This is the first time I’ve seen Amaryllis walk without obvious pain in weeks if not months. I don’t know if this is a permanent fix, but at least she is more comfortable now and will maybe be able to get a little exercise–even if that is just me leading her around the corral every day.


The Fibershed Wool Symposium was last weekend in Pt. Reyes Station. This is one of my favorite events of the year but this year it was more special because I spent the night in nearby Inverness with other Fibershed friends and we had our second Northern CA Fibershed Coop Board meeting on Sunday. Following the meeting four of us went on an impromptu hike on Inverness Ridge.

IMG_3248            This local church was booked for any of the Fibershed group who wanted to spend the night after the long day at the Symposium.IMG_3259

IMG_3236                 It is a great place to stay for anyone traveling in that area.            IMG_3262            This was originally a house that was purchased from the Frick family in 1950 and turned into a church. There is a fascinating multi-level maze of rooms and halls and stairways. This view looks down from the third floor on what was originally the family’s living room.

IMG_3233                  I love this dining area, partly because the table is of the same era (at least from looking at some of it’s features) as the table that my mom bought and we still use, although this one is in much better shape than ours.

IMG_3264                  I stayed in this bedroom with five other women. There are several bedrooms with different numbers of beds. I think the place can accommodate 36 people.IMG_3238           When I got up on Sunday morning I decided to take a walk before our meeting and headed up a road I found behind the church.IMG_3255                  This is my kind of Sunday morning.IMG_3256


IMG_3246             The road I found led me back down to the main road and Tomales Bay.

It was after our meeting ended at about 1 that four of us set of for a hiking trail.

IMG_3294                                                     It is great when you find open space accessible to the public.IMG_3266

IMG_3270      Rebecca pointed out huckleberries which were still on the bushes, although the normal harvest season was over. I wouldn’t have known and would have avoided these unknown berries.

IMG_3265  Stephanie (wearing her handknit Jacob sweater) ate her share as did the rest of us.


IMG_3293            This is a much wetter area than where I usually find myself and there were still signs of the previous night’s rain.IMG_3276        Another testament to the dampness were the large slugs that we saw.IMG_3292             The view overlooking Tomales Bay. What a beautiful day we had!IMG_3278-2               As we were coming back down from the ridge that has a view of the ocean, another hiker   coming up the hill saw our silhouettes and offered to take our photo. This is the view that she saw.



What a great end to an inspiring weekend!


Ginny Herding Sheep

Ginny went to a Sheepherding lesson last week and wanted me to explain these pictures to you.

1711-Ginny-herd-1             Sheepdog Debbie sent her out to gather up the sheep.1711-Ginny-herd-2         Debbie’s sheep are pretty dog-broke because they are used to being moved by dogs.1711-Ginny-herd-3               So for a Border Collie like Ginny (or me) it’s not very hard to get them to move.1711-Ginny-herd-4                There were a couple who didn’t want to play the game though.

DSC_5273            Ginny moved the sheep toward the gate…DSC_5276          …and held them there while Sheepdog Debbie sorted a few out into the other field.DSC_5278            This is a pet sheep who is one of the ones who was standing near Debbie.

DSC_5280         Ginny looks pretty good here.

DSC_5282                  I think that I should go back to Sheepdog Debbie’s place and get to work with her sheep. They don’t have those nasty horns like ours do.

Loom With A View

I wrote two blog posts about setting up this show but then I moved on to other things. Now I’m getting to the show itself. I’m not thrilled with the photos I have taken at the Artery, but I am thrilled about the show and want to share it.

IMG_2919               As I said in one of the previous posts this theme started with the idea of using the old windows that were around here. As you enter the gallery you see the title and the Artist’s Statement. If you want to read that click here.

DSC_5142             This is the wall to the right…DSC_5144          …and these are some of the sheep.

DSC_5148                                                          More sheep.

DSC_5150   Continuing around the gallery there is this collection of photos. I used two of these six-pane windows to display photos and give a feel for the farm. These are not for sale because they are too rotten (people have asked) but some of the photos have been matted or framed and are for sale.

DSC_5157            This is the Solano Colors wall and the yarns are the 2017 locally grown yarns that are on my website. Don’t they take natural color beautifully? There are three examples of the natural dyestuffs–black walnuts, weeping willow leaves, and dried coreopsis flowers.

DSC_5161                                                                 If you look at the previous photo again you’ll see that the shawls and the yarn are hanging on what looks like bamboo. I decided to use the Arundo (an invasive species that grows on our north border and had big hollow stalks like bamboo) for hanging the pieces in the show. It was in keeping with the rest of the props (stuff found on the farm), I have an infinite supply of it, I could cut it to any size, and it is free. The perfect solution! Originally I had planned to use the Arundo for weaving, but I just didn’t get to it. On the morning I was to set up the show I got up early with a lot on my mind. I got out the loom that I had already warped for this and I wove this piece. It inspires me to do more because I think it is very cool.

DSC_5163                                                        Moving on around the room this is the next grouping. Those scarves were woven on a space-dyed warp that I dyed a few years ago and found in a box on the shelf. Do you see something hanging to the left?

DSC_5164                                                                  I wanted to do something interesting with the weeping willow branches after stripping the leaves for the dye pots. I tried weaving with them but I think I like this mobile best.

DSC_5106              The Sunflower wall is around the corner. These are rayon chenille scarves in the colors of the sunflower field that was Across the Road last summer. I didn’t just stick with the yellows and oranges of the flowers but included all the colors of the fields.DSC_5124                                                      Here is a closer view of the flower scarves.

DSC_5112                                                                  In addition to the window pane photo collage, I included this piece that is not for sale. I wove this years ago when we lived and worked on our family dairy.

DSC_5189                                                            This close-up includes my daughter carrying milk buckets, my sheep, and our pony.DSC_5131             Here is another farm photo collection.

IMG_2929            These ponchos and ruanas use the same yarns as the Solano Colors wall, but mostly in natural sheep colors. There are also a couple of handspun Jacob pieces here.

DSC_5138               Close up of a ruana.

DSC_5169             The display in the center of the room is really panels out of my sheep trailer. I used them to hang my blankets and some scarves.

IMG_2922           Here is an overall view of the room…

IMG_2939                      …and this is the table in the doorway when you come in.  The notebook is for visitors’ comments.  I’d love to see your comments as well.