Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Biggest West Virginia Gathering in a While!

Tuesday was the day for the big get-together of Robinsons and Robinson-attachments in Renick at White Oak Farm. What a crowd! There were 35 of us. Not everybody could be there, but we had almost everyone!
The weather was perfection. May in West Virginia is breezy, sunny, lovely, flowery. The kids had a ball outside. We set up tables and chairs and ate in the fresh air.
My parents, who started it all:
We brought our puppies. Beau has enjoyed himself.
Adam, Jo Ann, William
We have a new generation of family now, and this made this particular time more precious than ever before.
Corran, Marshall
This front porch swing has seen the holding and loving of many a baby over the years.
Alynn, Faith, Beorn
This darling boy with his head of curls and amazing eye-lashes is 18 months old.
Ahhh -- the wonder of a new baby. All the lady-folks were mesmerized.
Baby Beorn
College kids, full of life and fun. Peter and Sam have been doing that kind of laid-back driving-round-the-country that only college boys can do, and having so much fun doing it.
Peter, Sam, Ben, Hannah
Menfolk hanging out:
Jonathan, Max
Julia saw I was taking a picture, and she put her head down in despair.
Julia, Patience
So many cousins, so many jokes, so many hugs, so many memories
Hannah, Adam, Aleya, Justice, Nathan, Julia
I've been watching these two grow up for many years, with a sense of wonder and thanks for the lovely young women they're becoming.
Hannah, Kesse
The shade trees out front have become a favorite place to sit.
Hannah, Courage, Alynn, Jo Ann and others
We set up the food line in the farm selling shed. We had hotdogs, barbeque, baked corn, baked beans, slaw, lemonade, and several fabulous desserts
My dear brother and his wonderful wife:
DeVona and Marshall
Here are the five girls, five of my very favorite humans on earth. I'm so very thankful for them all. I don't have any sisters, and they have truly filled this void in my heart. All those years ago, we were young, having babies, keeping in touch. Now we are sitting back and watching our kids do all those same things.
Alynn, MK, Faith, DeVona, Anne
Adam took a nap or two.
These two are adorable -- young, in love, perfect for each other, two little babies
Jonathan, Kyrie
The little bitty takes a grassy nap
Getting some lovin' from the great-aunt:
These two buddies had a grand time with swords and such in the farm yard.
Courage, Abraham
And some people climbed trees ~
Mother/Daughter time
Hannah, Anne
Lots of grass-sitting:
Liberty, Katie holding Beorn, Kyrie, Jonathan
Left-over chocolate cake is tempting.
Kesse, Patience
Even with a crowd of 35 to feed, Anne doesn't forget flowers on the table.
These two have formed a tight bond in the past two days!
Katie, Beorn
Max and Marshall took a walk out to the apple orchard for a chat.
Later in the afternoon some of us drove down to the Greenbrier River for a walk along the river trail, an old railroad bed.

My feet wore out on me, and I headed back to the car.
I found the strangest tree along the walk. Look at these leaves! Don't they look rather terrifying?
And as if that weren't enough fun, after the river trail we headed to Anne's daddy's farm for a little star-gazing. He has lovely views from some hills, with nice dark skies. What a view, eh?
We waited for the sunset. We saw Jupiter and Venus, but we wanted to see Mercury near the horizon just as the sliver of a 20-hour moon was appearing. But the clouds prevented it.
Anne ~
A fun day was enjoyed by everyone.
Hannah, Tom, Jonathan, Katie, Patience, Julia, Kesse
Goodnight from West Virginia.


Yes, it was yummy. This French toast was made with Adam's crusty white bread. The egg wash had milk, some cinnamon, allspice. Those are fresh-from-the-farm strawberries, and blueberries from my brother and sister-in-law's farm, last summer. However, I must confess, with me it's all about the butter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sheep-Shearing at White Oak Farm

Between Anna's graduation and Philip's wedding, we're spending a few days visiting my family in West Virginia. My parents and my three brothers and their families all live in the state.
My brother Max and his wife Anne have owned a beautiful farm in the Greenbrier Valley for over twenty years. It's a pick-your-own blueberry farm, but they have sheep, cows, chickens, other berries, and a huge garden too. Yesterday was sheep-shearing day, and Max let me document the event.
That's his ewe Oregon in the middle with her two lambs, both ewes also.
Max and daughter Hannah herded the three into the barn.
Last year Max lost lots of ewes to coyotes, which was very sad. Oregon was young and quite skittish, and was able to avoid the coyotes, and at last he put her in with his milk cow, which protected her. With two ewe lambs, he may be able to build up his numbers again if he chooses.
They separated the babies from Oregon.
Then Max firmly wrestled Oregon and got her sitting down, leaning against his legs. She's strong and determined, but once you get her secure she doesn't fight too much.
Each year their family names the baby lambs based on a letter of the alphabet -- A's for the first year, etc. Oregon was born in the "O" year. This year is "R," so Max has been tending, birthing, and shearing sheep for 18 years.
He trims Oregon's belly first. He uses electric clippers. Years ago he used hand clippers (like the old days). He's not nearly so fast as the shearers at the state fair in Lewisburg, but I'm pretty impressed with his skills!

The babies peek through, wondering what's happening with mama.
Oregon didn't like it much, but she didn't complain. She breathed heavily through the procedure, which took about 20 minutes. Sometimes the electric clippers would nip her, and she would bleed, but she never made the slightest yip. It gives tangible meaning to Isaiah's words about Jesus as he approached his death on the cross: "As a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth."
Her belly's looking cooler. I couldn't help thinking she must feel better as every inch of heavy fleece was removed.
Hannah was constantly securing Oregon's head -- every single second -- so Max could safely use the clippers. Sometimes she had to sit on the sheep's head to keep her down.
The babies watched and listened, and "baaaaaahed" quite a bit.
Poor little things.
After the belly was done, Max got Oregon on her right side and started working on her legs and side, going back to front, up to her spine. Carefully, gently.
Isn't this funny looking? Remember the old joke about how to sculpt a statue of an elephant? You chisel away everything from the block of stone that isn't an elephant? This sheep-shearing looks rather like cutting away everything that's not a sheep.
There on the top of her leg, you see one little spot where the clippers nipped her.
"Baaaaaaah!" Actually, that doesn't quite communicate the sound they make. It's more like "BLEEEEEHHHHHHH!"
Max works toward her head, which makes Oregon more nervous, which makes Hannah work harder to hold her down.
Many photos were like this: Max and Hannah and arms and legs and wriggling sheep.
Max sprayed something called Blu-Kote on each little wound to make it heal. That's the can in his hand.
After finishing the first side, they wrangled Oregon over to do the second side. Look at that big fleece!
The neck. How trusting must an animal be to let a human buzz around her jugular with those clippers? I find the relationship between farmer and animal to be a mysterious one.
The fleece is nearly off.

Hannah kept a strong grip on Oregon's head.

One final squirt of Blu-Kote
And there she is! Ready for another summer, and a new year of fleece-growing!
Here's a look inside the downstairs of Max's barn.
And then he turned the ewe and lambs back out into the sunshine and damp West Virginia fields. I'll share more photos of the farm in the next post, but here's a glimpse of some of his blueberry fields.