Sunday, December 28, 2014

There and back again.

It's the 28th December and we're all well and very quiet this morning at Womerlippi Mansion. Little Roo and her mom are sleeping off a poor night's sleep. This was somewhat self-inflicted on Aimee's part. She determined that this was going to be The Night when Roo would finally sleep by herself in her bedside crib (co-sleeper being the technical term). This didn't seem like too much to ask, but resulted in an awful lot of crying.

Still, no cloud without a silver lining, and the silver lining for me is that I've been able to read the entire online Observer, catch up on all my FaceBook and email, and even peruse my blog stats. All good things will come to an end of course, and it remains to be seen which one of my girls will be in the worst mood when they finally rise, but for the moment all is quiet.

A good time to catch up on the Farm Blog.

Since I last posted we've performed our annual Visitation of the Relatives. This filial observance is quite the logistical performance, requiring a 1,300 mile road trip. Traveling with a four-month old baby proved easier than expected and indeed we drove the route in double-quick time, mostly because we skipped a lot of coffee and pee stops because stopping would wake the baby. The trusty Camry was faultless except for a wonky trunk latch, which I'll have to fix.

Grandma and grandad and great-grandma and all the aunties and uncles were very pleased to see Roo, so my mission was accomplished.

Of course, this is just the American side of Roo's family, so an even greater logistical process will one day be required to go visit the British side. That, however can all wait for the time being.

Roo of course got lots of presents from the in-laws. She was, as befits a four-month old, totally ignorant of any notion that this was Christmas and these were Christmas presents, so Aimee and I were spared having to worry about Santa. Here's one of her favorites, a jack-in-the-box that is actually a stuffed frog. It launches quite nicely. Roo liked to see the frog's eyes poking out of the box. She was more blasé about the jumping.

In other news, my Lister engine rebuild ended in partial disaster. I'd gotten the engine running well and had ordered the trailer and diesel caddy required to make a more formal portable generator set-up, and was working on the connection to the building, a standard 220-volt two-pole locking plug and cut-off switch arrangement. Following US routine electrical procedure, I wired the cut-off switch red to red, black to black, and white and copper to ground. But of course, this is only routine in the main breaker panel, not is subsidiary ppanels and certainly not to one leg of a three-leg generator stator coil. The white cable from a three-leg 220 volt generator stator is just as hot as the black and red ones. So I shorted out my genny.

This would have been fine if I hadn't actually started the motor, but I did, and let it run for a couple of minutes while I tried to figure out why it was running so rough. Of course it was the shorted leg, not the motor, that was causing the rough running, and thus I burned up my generator. Once I realized what I'd done, I ran the usual diode, continuity and "megger" checks, and traced the fault to a burned rotor coil, causing leakage to ground. (I purchased a Chinese-made knock-off of a Hitachi type grinder megger to do these checks and was actually quite pleased with the unit when it showed up.) J ust slightly unwinding the rotor coil and testing further suggested that the leakage might be limited to the transition connections between the four subsidiary coils, and thus relatively easily fixed. I might yet go down this route, or even rewind the whole coil, but for now I'm trying to sell the motor by itself, as that represents my best chance of getting some value out of my investment of time and money. Lister-Petter diesels are needed for lots of different kinds of equipment needed by Maine businesses, including some cat tractors and many brands of rock screeners, so I do expect to sell it for a good price. I'll still double my money. Here's the motor with the genny disassembled:

A more successful project was the new wind turbine for our friends Brent and Erin. The turbine head used was a new Maine-made Pika, connected as a battery-charging turbine to Brent and Erin's existing off-grid solar electrical system, where it would make up for the relatively poor sunshine Maine gets in the winter.

This was a beta test install for Pika, and we're all interested in the results. I'm particularly interested in the reliability. Pika claims up to five years without maintenance, which I think is probably an industry best for small wind turbines if it pans out.

The college donated a used six-inch, forty meter NRG Systems anemometer tower to Brent and Erin in return for the right to visit the turbine and use it in training. Brent, Erin and I trimmed it to a 100-footer, Pika sent a crew to assemble the head to our tower, then we raised it successfully in one day.

This project was being planned at the college at the end of the semester, but because of various delays (on Pika's end, not ours) slopped over into our break, meaning that SEM students were not available to participate in the work.

This doesn't bother me too much because a) we have visiting rights and b) the tower will have to be lowered for maintenance in the future and students can help with that. There are a number of local turbines where we get called in to help, and we also have our small training tower on campus, so missing the original installation of this particular turbine was not such a big deal.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Some stills from the past couple weeks...

... because we're still way too busy to post any writing!

Bloody-mouthed sheep? man-eaters?

Nope. Beet-eaters. Not to be confused with Beefeaters

Looking at the "baby in the bathroom" mirror. Roo loves this baby.

Makes me think she'll be very pleased the day she actually meets a real other baby for the first time.

Sleeping soundly in the kitchen rocker...

... gives daddy a chance to have a good solid breakfast!


The Land Rover with its new Canadian snowplow. This works well for moving snow and I'm pleased with it, although it's a little flimsy and doesn't like to be driven on regular roads. Even though it has a lift mechanism -- unlike some "personal" snow plows -- and a chain hitch designed to secure the plow for regular driving, the whole attachment sticks out too far in front, providing way too much leverage, and it bounces wildly if you hit a bump.

Showing the snowplow mounting. It's bolted to the front leaf-spring mounts and welded to the bottom of the front bumper.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

With a great roar...

... and a rather volcanic outburst of black smoke and soot and even solid fragments of carbon that had been lodged in the muffler, my massive Lister-Petter TS3 genset came to life Saturday. It took about half a bottle of starter fluid -- note to self, buy more starter fluid -- but after a short while the injectors bled through and were primed and then it ran just fine all on its own, putting out 117 volts at each pole of the three-wire connector.

Well within the tolerances to run this old house the next time we get a four-day power cut.

Here's the home movie I took of the second start-up. This one lacked some of the drama, but I wasn't going to be futzing around with a camera if it exploded during the first attempt.

All said and done, I was fairly pleased with this result. It's been a while since I got this deep into an engine project, and it was fun to dust off mt skills.

There remains a little work to do on the Lister. It clearly needs a new muffler, for which we'll adapt a cheap bit of car muffler from the parts store. There's the small matter of a new oil pressure switch to replace the one I managed to burn out while trying to sort out the electrics the other week. And I ordered a large external fuel tank, one that comes on wheels, so we can take just the tank and not the whole genset to the gas station to fill up. And it needs wiring and connectors to connect it to our power distribution panel the next time we get a big outage. 

I haven't decided where to put it yet, either. It really needs it's own permanent shed, some distance away from the main house in case of fire, but I may also just find a good solid secondhand trailer and fit it to that, after which it will be possible to move it to other places around here that may need power.

As the most recent power emergency showed, there just aren't enough generators in the county when the power goes out. Most of our public buildings were closed, and eleven public schools were completely dark, and even some of those that had standby-generators couldn't get them running, because some key experienced people had recently retired. If I fit this big genset to a trailer, it may one day be of some help at someone else's house or for some other useful purpose.

In other mechanical news, our big "new" Nissan four-door pick-em up truck needs a starter motor. At least, I think it does, and will have to change out the starter motor before I know for sure. It has the dreaded no-crank, no start condition on cold mornings, until I hit it with the 200 amp starter, then it goes just fine. The rest of the day, it takes one or more turns of the key. This beast has the same Nippon Denso starter that the Camry had, the one where the copper contacts wear out after a while, producing these kinds of symptoms. But a bad neutral safety switch will do pretty much the same. I ordered a reconditioned starter, and will soon find out which one of the two possible causes it is.

I'm just hoping the starter arrives before the next snowstorm, but it's not looking good.

As for baby Roo, things are pretty swell there most of the time. Aimee is still very sore from sleeping with her own personal parasite more or less firmly attached all night, but Roo is getting better and better at entertaining herself and us. She has begun to "talk", by which we mean coo repeatedly, having "conversations" with us. She also now likes her baby gym, and can entertain herself there for anything up to a half-hour.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Some belated visuals

Here's another image of the big storm that knocked out power to about a quarter to a third of the state a few weeks ago. You can see why this particularly wet and sticky type of snow brought down so many trees.

Here's the Land Rover workhorse with the new snowplow safely attached and ready for the next big storm.

Here's the plow attachment. It was bolted right on to the two five-eighths frame-to-leaf spring bolts, one on each side, then welded directly to the bumper. Then we welded the adjustments on the hitch solid. The only way this is coming off is to cut it off with the welder or a gas torch, but the bumper can be ground back down to the original without too much damage. The bumper is slightly bent in any case, and already has the winch welded directly on, so it's not like I'm worried about maintaining that right-off-the assembly line kind of originality. Maybe one day I could afford to have that kind of Rover, but for right now, we need to get some work out of this one.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Last work week before Turkey Day

The fall weather has finally begun to turn to winter. Almost all the leaves are gone, the only ones remaining being those of the beeches, and some apples, whose leaves were seemingly frozen in place by the cold snap that came with the power outage.

We've had another small snowstorm, which underscored all the snow-related items on my pre-winter honey-do list.

Unfortunately for that list, baby-holding and baby-sitting duties were preventing me from getting to a lot of it. Aimee can't look after the baby 24/7, so I need to take over for several hours each day. These duties usually come in stints of an hour or so at a time, except on the days when Aimee must teach, in which cases I have Roo for up to four hours.

In either case, I now understand how impossible it is to do the kind of household and mechanical maintenance I do while holding or otherwise tending a baby. I do love my baby daughter and like being with her, and have even gotten used to the screaming, but I need long periods of uninterrupted time to solve mechanical or household problems properly. It can take several hours just to make a diagnosis, let along fix something. If you have to stop every half-hour to check on baby, your train of thought is naturally broken. This time of year we get only seven to eight hours useful daylight, compounding the problem.

So it was with some frustration that I found myself out in my workshop yesterday at 5am assembling a snowplow. This unit, which is now attached to the Land Rover, is supposed to save me from the long hours I spend with my butt frozen to the hard metal seat of the tractor. Not only will it shift snow faster, I'll be able to work in the warm. Once it had arrived by freight truck Thursday, I was determined to have it ready as soon as possible, certainly for the next big storm.

I was able to get the assembly completed by 7.30 am, then I raced off the Belfast to get the hitch receiver I needed to mount it to the front of the Rover, returning by 8.30, by which time Aimee was getting up with Roo. But that was all the time I could reasonable expect to have without interruptions, and indeed Aimee was planning to leave Roo with me all day to go shopping, essentially eliminating all thought of further progress.

Some difficult marital discussion ensued. Aimee is pretty worn down by breast-feeding and by the uncomfortable sleeping position Roo forces on her. She'll sleep most of the night, for which we're grateful, but needs to be attached to Aimee for a good part of the time to do so, making her stiff and sore. Aimee was naturally looking forward to a bit of a break while shopping, leaving me with "the package."

But, with the tractor also in need of a fan belt, we didn't have any reliable way to plow snow, and a small storm is due even by Monday. The greenhouse needed to be sealed up for the winter, and the banking needed fastened around the house to stop the pipes from freezing. A host of other winterization tasks remained undone that I normally would have done by this time of year. I was fairly frustrated by all these undone tasks and could also see that stuff would start to break soon, if most of it wasn't done.

The upshot was, Aimee decided to take Roo with her shopping. I then stayed by myself and was able to concentrate and plan. I completed the mounting of the snowplow by noon, which went easily enough once I got over the fact that I'd have to cut into a brand new $140 hitch receiver with the cut-off saw and weld it directly to the Rover's front bumper.

Then I replaced the fan belt in the tractor. Fan belts are usually easy, but the radiator had to come out for this one, taking around an hour and twenty.

Then the greenhouse, then the banking around the house. Then the yard still needed some things to be picked up. By 2.30 pm when the girls returned, happy enough despite the unplanned outing for Roo,  I'd been on my feet for 9 hours, racing through all this as quickly as I could, with only a cup of coffee and a pecan roll at 4.30 am to succor me.

Poor puss.

But I was able to declare victory over the list.

The only things I haven't done which I wanted to do was to spray underseal on Aimee's new car, and winterize the auto lift. There's also some de-icer cable I wanted to fit to the kitchen roof, but it's way too late for that and has been for some weeks. The car will have to do without underseal for a year. It's a Toyota, and essentially new, so it ought not rust right away. The auto lift needs a coat of Fluid Film to keep freeze-thaw action from causing damage. I expect I can find a moment to slap some on there today, between stints of baby-care duty. And of course we still only have the 3kW generator available to use in a power outage, not my 18kW Lister Petter "sleek green beauty", which is rebuilt but needs a fuel tank and perhaps some new injectors to start. But at least we have one to use.

It can snow two feet tomorrow if it wants, and the power could be out for a week if it likes. We'll still be fine.

For today, Aimee needs to have a rest. I can take Roo on my Sunday rounds, to get gas and local milk and cream for the week, and to a buddy's house to look at a wind turbine for him, to help diagnose some layout problems with the tower. She usually sleeps through that kind of thing.

Hopefully there'll be a Steeler's game to watch too. Maybe Roo will even let us watch it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Update: fourth day without power

This is a Great Farm record. We get lots of outages, of course, but this has been the longest for many years. Apparently there were still 9,000 folks without power in our county, so we're not the only ones. We did talk to a CMP assessment crew last night. They were running lines in a van and on foot, using maps and a GPS to help strategize the use of the linesmen and tree crews. I expect that means we won't have to wait very much longer.

Our almost-brand new generator now has something like forty or fifty hours on the clock and has begun using oil! Not a great thing, considering it carries only 0.9 of a quart to begin. That's a very small amount of oil for such a lot of work. It's a good thing we rest it for several hours a day.

As a result of having the genny, all our food is still good, including the two freezers packed full of farm produce. It may be that the very hard frost we got on Monday night got quite a bit of the fall garden produce, though. We'll see when the snow melts. It's just possible that the snow cover kept the potatoes and carrots, still underground, from freezing hard.

We're hopeful for the power to be turned back on today. We can manage indefinitely, as long as the genny holds out. But our elderly neighbor is beginning to get tired of things, especially as she needs to use oxygen. Another neighbor had no heat for a while.

Luckily, we've been able to rearrange our schedules somewhat so I can be home more to run the generator. It takes several good pulls on the pull-cord to start it, and when cold it likes a spritz of starter fluid. Then there's the oil to check and the gas bottles to exchange. Aimee is not fond of this kind of futzing with heavy technology at the best of times -- stuff with engines and pull cords and wotnot seems to drive her up the wall if it is not "plug-and-play."

The most annoying thing, for both of us, has been the failure of both of our carbon monoxide and propane leak detectors. Apparently, neither one was designed for long outages. The batteries wear out very quickly without 110 volts, and then the units start squawking.

This is very annoying, since the time I'm most worried about carbon monoxide poisoning and propane leaks is when I'm running a propane generator for fifteen hours a day! The company, Kidde, is a very good brand, but they clearly didn't think this one through.

With a babe in arms, Aimee's even less fond of such nuisances and added dangers, and I'm not particularly happy about it all either. But, I expect she now sees the point of all my endless prepping and strategizing about power and other household back-up systems. Considering we do have a nine-week old, and that an awful lot of our neighbors are in similarly uncomfortable situations, we have nothing to complain about. We're warm and safe enough, and that's the main thing.

One outcome of this particular power emergency is that I've changed my plans for the big diesel generator. I'm going to refurbish it for use here, not as a WVO demo. The relative weakness of our small propane genny is now quite apparent. It's too small to run the whole house, noisy, runs out of fuel too quickly, and is hard to start. With the huge diesel one, we wouldn't have to worry about engine lubricating oil, or fuel supply, assuming a large-enough tank full of diesel, and we'd be able to run everything in the house including the dryer. It would probably be easier for Aimee to handle, too, since it would have an electrical starter.

Heck, if it were legal to do so, in a situation like this with the roadside breaker to our small hamlet of five homes popped, I could even feed back through the CMP transformers and lines to feed the other four Great Farm homes. If our one house can manage with 3.5kW, the larger generator, at 18 kW, would be enough capacity for all four houses, with some to spare. Unfortunately, I don't think it's legal to set up one's own ad-hoc micro grid like that. But it should be.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Snowed in and power out!

Welcome to winter in Maine. It's only the 2nd of November and we'll already snowed in and cut off from power. There's been no sign of the town plow, so the road is under a foot or so, and the power is out in ours and lots of other small towns all over the state.

No matter. We don't have to go anywhere, except to work tomorrow, and we may even get a snow day. And we have a brand new propane generator. Actually, it's three years old already, but this is only its second time of using and it has less than ten hours on the clock.

Here's the wifely car, under a good eight inches. She laughed at me for putting the snow tires on last week, said it was too early.

And here's the genny, throbbing away. It's just a little noisy in the house. Quieter than the Kitchen Aid mixer!

Who knows, maybe the white noise will help Roo sleep later.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lister engine rebuild, part 1

I tore down the top end this morning, between stints on baby care duty. This is what I found:

This is what the number two cylinder head looked like (above)...

... while this is the number one cylinder head. Notice the difference in carbon deposits in the (smaller) exhaust valve holes.

I think this genset was overdue for its thousand hour decoke, is all. Everything else checks out. The cylinder walls don't have a single score on them, and you can still see the factory-made honing marks.

So, assuming we can hack this, and I'm sure I can, we just bought a generator worth several thousand dollars for only $400.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Eight weeks tomorrow!

Here's Ernie the English Shepherd doing his shepherd-dog thing, guarding the house and watching for Roo. He loves her like she was his own baby. I'm sure he would get a pretty good bite of anyone that laid a hand to her.

Our precious wee mite will be eight weeks old tomorrow, and we seem to be settling into the role of parents well enough. Aimee is having it harder than I, mostly because breastfeeding is time-consuming and keeps you in one spot. She's off to do the shopping and get a massage, a new treat for her, although probably also a necessity.

One important trick we discovered early on is that Roo falls asleep to the sound of white noise, especially machinery. The Kitchen Aid mixer is the best, but lots of other things have worked, from cars and trucks, through the drill press, to the new 3D printer in my workshop at college.

Accordingly, I recorded the mixer to my Mac laptop and play it in a loop whenever and wherever we need her to "go down." Here's the set-up, Roo in the rocker and the computer playing the mixer noise. Brings new meaning to the old phrase "mix tape."

Although there's way too much to do still, it's hard to get much done around here with weekends pretty much solid child care from front to back. We essentially have to plan out household and farm chores ahead of time, taking each others' plans and needs into account, and prioritizing. Even so, I've managed to find time to run the fat lambs to the butchers, deliver the meat, winterize the cars, clean up the yard, and put about half of the garden to bed. I'm waiting for a good solid hard frost for the potato harvest, then the rest can go to bed too.

Here's the underside of the Nissan pick-em up truck, getting what will be an annual coat of fluid film.

And her's a new investment, a diesel generator set built on an old British Lister Petter TS3 diesel. This cost $400 off Maine Craigslist. I got up at four this morning to drive up to Greenville to get it, leaving Aimee to look after Roo by herself for a short while. Turns out, when you have a baby and want to go dickering, you have to go early if you can, so you can get back to do your share of baby watching.

I'm looking forward to getting this beast running. It's 18KW, which is too much really for this house, but if we ever decide to build again, especially if we build off-grid, this will be ideal for running heavy duty farm machinery and shop tools. It can also be run off biodiesel and waste vegetable oil, like the grease cars the students use to build at the college in the early 2000s. I've been wanting to try a Lister grease-generator conversion for years.

The garden is still pretty to look at in places. The marigolds we planted to keep the flea beetles off the brassicas have done their work and then some, then decided to give us one final show.

Even Roo likes a walk in the veggie patch. Daddy is lousy at baby-selfies, though. Don't drop her!

Finally, here's Shawn doing his thing. The two at the front are breed ewes. Shawn is at the back, trying to keep up.

All in all, a very active late fall.

Snow will come soon, though, and I'm not ready yet. I need a few good days.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Six weeks old!

It's been hard to write for the blog lately. For one, there isn't as much time. In particular, we're up all hours of the night, and so my previously much-cherished and peaceful early mornings from 4am to sheep-feeding time are now more likely to be spent in bed trying to get another hour in, or at least enough sleep that I can get through the workday without sleeping at my desk or, worse, on my feet in front of a class.

We've been lucky, though. Our little bundle of joy does actually sleep through the night already. Not all the way through the night, but enough of it. The only problem is that she has to be latched on to Mom to do so. This makes Aimee achy from not being able to turn over, and of course she's missing out on REM sleep.

Even so, farm life goes on, and if these days aren't all to be a blur, some record must be kept. I find myself going back over the blog several times a year to find out when it was that we did such-and-such a thing, or which sheep gave birth to which lamb, and so on. The value of having a diary has been well-proven over the years. And, of course, family members and friends all over the world want to know what is happening here in Maine.

So what has happened around here, other than our daughter is now six weeks old and beginning to grab Mommy's hair and make "social smiles", all earth-shaking news in itself, at least to the proud and sleep-deprived parents?

Well, we sold three breed ewes to an island farm Saturday. The farmers came with a nice big livestock trailer. They were pleasant and sensible, and the photos on their webpage and FaceBook page show some pretty good husbandry, and so we feel that these sheep will go to good homes.

The island farmers seem surprised at the large size of our sheep, given that they also keep Romneys.

It isn't the Corriedale blood. Corriedales are no larger than Romneys. Both are multi-purpose breeds, and look so similar they can be hard to tell apart. But since we grain our sheep daily all year, they grow out to the full potential of the breed.

They may have a ram for us next year, which would be nice. Little Roo might be old enough by then to enjoy a trip to an island. All in all we were pretty pleased with the deal.

Then yesterday the three fat lambs went to the butchers. By the end of the week they'll be lamb chops. Aimee was asked to help with the trailer-loading chore. This is a job she has avoided every year, mostly after giving up on me in frustration when I've struggled to load pigs, but I know she also feels sorry for the poor doomed critters.

This time she was so shocked at how difficult it can be to load multiple animals into our small home-made livestock trailer, she immediately acquiesced to our purchase of a "proper" one, much like the one the island farmers brought. This was a great day for me, because I've struggled for so many years. But the money we could set aside for farming has always been tight, and so we can't just spend it willy-nilly. I believed that if we could get by with a little home-made trailer, then we probably should.

A larger, purpose-built livestock trailer would transform my year, taking the two hardest jobs and making them easy. And the "new" (eleven years old) Nissan pick-em up truck will be able to draw such a trailer easily. One day, if we can find some more land around here, I'd like to have a proper piggery and more sheep, and so a bigger trailer would be needed.

Finally, Shaun the ram is also sold, the deposit in hand, and he will leave soon after he has completed his tupping rounds. He began yesterday and got off to a bad start. His notion was simply to run down the ewes when they wouldn't at first stand for him, a real "rough wooing." This of course will not work for him. He'll have to learn to be nicer. But he soon got tired, so this is the sort of behavior that is likely self-correcting.

All this sheep-selling leaves us with only seven ewes, of which five can and are being be bred to Shaun. (The remaining two are his sister and daughter, now seperated.) That's the fewest sheep we've had since our first sheep purchase all those years ago, and reflects our desire to have an easy winter, this first winter that we're a family of three.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sheep studies

The 2014 Captive Wildlife Care and Education first years came out to Womerlippi Acres yesterday, along with instructors Tom Aversa, Cheryl Frederick, and Meg Anderson, to learn all about sheep wrangling and sheep care. Watching from the sidelines and taking these pictures were baby Rhubarb and Aimee.

It was a fairly hectic day, but a good time was had by all, except possibly the sheep, who, however, are now all set for the winter, having had their hooves and dung tags trimmed, their FAMACHA® checks done, and their spiffy new USDA scrapie prevention ID tags attached.

All this made for a fast-moving day of college-level instruction and praxis in animal care.

I've written elsewhere in the blog about how important a set of lessons this is for these young students. Go check out the older pages for those ideas, here and here and here.

Here are the photos Aimee took:

First up, here's a fat Englishman telling Americans how to wrangle a sheep.


Learning the safety hold and how to trim the hooves


 A slightly insecure lamb. Need to get that lamb-butt on the ground.

Meg shows them how to trim.

 Not the textbook safety hold, but this was a well-behaved lamb.

 That one would make a nice Corriedale show lamb.

It's hard work. A lot of bending and grasping.

Meg has it all under control.

This one got away, and was only recaught after she went through the swampy puddle next to the compost heap. One student said that she nearly lost her cookies, the poor lambie was so gross after that. But that was in some ways what the instructors wanted out of the day -- all romantic notions of the world of animal care evaporated in one swell foop.

A very tolerant lamb.

This is the kind of concentration we want to see.

The full-on sheep service team in action.

 Getting down to details.


A brief moment of pain and then it's all over.

And again. All fourteen sheep needed this procedure.

A full-court press on a ram lamb.

Tom gives a lesson.

The safety hold is extremely effective. One relatively small person can hold a very large sheep in this position long enough to get a lot of work done.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Birth announcement.

Here is little Edana Quinn "Rhubarb" Womersley, aged less than one hour old, the photo taken in the recovery room of Operating Theatre # 1 at Waldo County General Hospital, Belfast, Maine, United States of America, around 4.00 pm on Sunday 31st August, 2014. The time of birth was 3.15pm. 

Little "Roo" was 8 lbs, 2 ounces, 20.5 inches long, and is already a very well-behaved baby.


This is a special baby to me of course, since I'm her daddy, but she's also a special baby because she's a survivor, on both her father's and mother's sides, of two particular families that have not recently been adequately fecund for their genes to proliferate, yet who, in my humble opinion, did far more than their fair share to protect British and American liberty and justice in the 20th and 21st centuries.

(I'm doing a lot of driving back and forth from the hospital and so I have time to think on who she is and why she very nearly didn't make it. It's a miracle of sorts.)

She is the daughter of Dr. Aimee Lynn Phillippi, who herself is the daughter of Richard "Dick" Phillippi, a Vietnam veteran who loves his family deeply and no doubt will love his grand-daughter just as much, but who has chronic lymphocytic leukemia as a result of Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. Her grandmother on her mom's side is Judy Phillippi, who was one of six brothers and sisters, but this is Judy's only precious granddaughter. Her great grandmother Miriam Summy is still alive, although ailing. She is by all accounts pleased as Punch and has told everyone in the retirement home. She had better live for a bit yet because she has stories to tell Roo, stories about farming and preaching and about being part of the Church of the Brethren, an important German-American Peace Church community. Miriam has written a book with all these stories, a copy of which will one day belong to little Roo.

Her father, writing this, is Dr. Michael William "Mick" Womersley, himself a six years veteran of the Royal Air Force, especially the RAF Mountain Rescue Service, of whom more than a dozen veterans have already sent their best wishes. She will one day meet some of them, and will always know that any of them will do just about anything for her if she ever had to ask.

She is the grand-daughter of Mary Jean (Watson) Womersley and Gordon Womersley, chocolate makers of Sheffield, England. Both died of Alzheimer's disease a couple of years ago, so neither lived quite long enough to see her, something her father will regret as long as he lives, but that couldn't be helped, mostly because of his own military service and chosen career, which meant that he would marry and father a child only very late in life, at 42 and 52 years' old, respectively.

There are three blood aunts and uncles, uncle Matthew and aunt Erin Phillippi and aunt Carol Womersley, as well as auntie Dee, a proper "Sheffield auntie", not a blood relative, but a real friend in need, who looked after her farm while she was busy being born. And there are quite a few great aunts and great uncles, especially great uncle Stanley Womersley and great aunt Barbara (Womersley) Laxton, the son and daughter of the Kinder Trespass veteran George William Womersley, and the brother of Hexam Abbey musician Ronald Womersley.

Her paternal grandfather Gordon was bombed out and evacuated during the Sheffield blitz in WWII. He served in the British military during the Korean War period, but was luckily not sent overseas. Her paternal grandmother also survived the Sheffield blitz. Grandma Jean did so almost as a single child, since her father, this little mite's paternal great grandfather, was serving in the British Army, first doing heavy rescue in London, then in D-Day preparations on Salisbury Plain. These were long years, but they came after Arthur's earlier three years WWI service in the trenches, as well as several more years Army service just to have a job during the Great Depression. Her paternal great grandfather was thus lucky to have survived WWI, and his wife Leticia (Jones) Watson, a Welsh farm girl from Pennal, near Machynlleth, only managed to have one child, another having died in childbirth during the emergency years. This meant, of course, that her grandma Jean and father Michael were lucky to ever live too. Her other paternal great grand-father was sent to Iraq, and was a Kinder Trespasser and amateur writer and artist, while her paternal great grandmother was a nurse for wounded WWI veterans.

There were also uncles and great uncles and various cousins in the RAF, and in the British Army. 

Grandma Jean's only living cousin Barrie Lockwood, himself an RAF veteran, survives and knows all these stories, and even has the pictures to prove it, pictures and stories that will one day belong to little Roo, since she's all that is left.


There are people all over the world who already know her and where she comes from and what her family has collectively managed to survive and do to get her to this point. She already has birthright citizenship of two of the greatest democracies on the planet, never mind the right of residence in any EU country.

And she has her very own farm to come home to soon, and live in while she grows and whenever she wants when she's grown up, and to inherit one day.

So she's already a lucky wee mite, isn't she.

Update, 9/2/2014 at 8pm. She's home! Wee Roo is in her pouch.