Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring is Burtsting Out

There are myriads of daffodils in bloom on my neighbor's property, so I took the pups up this morning and photographed them amongst the flowers.  I call this one Daffy Dogs.

My gosh, things are just popping out.  We had very warm weather over then weekend, and then some rain and a cold front, so this morning we actually had a very light frost. These tulips did not appreciate it.

The woods are starting to green up and the grass in the hayfield is tall enough to ripple in the wind, which we have had plenty of.

 Here you can see the trees starting to leaf out and the hay in the foreground of the pasture which is being enjoyed by the older girls and the mothers of the two weanlings.

There are buds on this vine growing on the gate. 

 And on the peach tree.

Grover and I attended our dog club's last trial until September this past weekend.  We only went on Friday and Sunday, though it was a 3 day trial.  This way I did not have to stay in a hotel and I got some work done outside on Saturday.  We had a very successful weekend.  We ran both days in Novice Jumpers with Weaves and Q'd and got first place both days.  These were our first Qs in jumpers and now we need one more to move up to the Open Jumpers classWe also ran in Open Standard both days, and while I was very pleased with our run on Friday, we had a couple of errors and did not qualify.  However, on Sunday, not only did we qualify, but we took first place in our class.  And there were quite a few 20" dogs entered.  Since our club is not hosting another trial until September, I will hopefully be attending some trials at other venues over the summer.  That is my plan anyway.  I'd like to do one a month.

On Saturday, in addition to planting lettuce in the garden and tomatoes and herbs in pots inside and finishing up the painting on the front windows,  I moved my agility equipment out of the way so Sam could cut down a few more of the pine trees that are in that field.  When we bought this place in '98, this little area was chock full of white pines, which I think were intended to be Christmas trees.  But they had not been cut or pruned and were so big that there was no space between them.  We cleared out most of them to use the space as pasture and over the years we have cut down more as they have grown bigger and bigger.

Sam will split this wood up into small pieces for us to use in the maple syrup evaporator.  But first I have to get out and cut all the limbs off and move them to a place where we can burn them.  Then I think we plan to finally rent a stump grinder and get rid of these 3 stumps as well as the ones left from the last time we harvested trees.  Then I can hopefully keep my agility area mowed.

This week I also replaced all the "heddles" on my big loom.  I decided since I would be threading hand-spun alpaca through the holes in the center of these heddles I would rather have nice smooth new ones than the old rather dirty flat steel heddles.  Look how nice and shiny those are!  And I can slide them across the bars with one finger.  So nice.

Here you can see the difference between the new heddles on the left and the old ones on the right.  I just this morning finished putting the loom back together and hopefully next week I will start to put the warp on the loom for my alpaca blanket.

 In the meantime, I am knitting a little shrug/cardigan that my mother requested.  It is the Abria  sweater and I am doing the cropped version and using a natural colored cotton/ silk yarn.  I hope Mom will like it.  She wants it to go with a dress she plans to wear to a wedding in June. 

My yarn is ready to be picked up at the mill, so I plan to make a trip up there this coming Monday.  Then I will be getting out the dyepots!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Short Post this Week

I have not had time to get out with my camera, so I have almost no photos, which makes for a boring post.  But there you have it.....

I am delighted to say that my alpaca rug that I entered into the local art show took first place in textiles and 3D!  Its a shame that the 2 are grouped together, because I don't know how the judge decides between totally different mediums.  I am glad I am not the one who has to decide.  I am very pleased and even more so that not only did I get first place, but this rug and another one I had for sale at the Art Center both sold!  The Monroe Arts Center has art from member artists on display for sale and is open 3 days a week for people to stop in and see what our local artists are doing.  By the way, that is my father-in-law's "junk" cat sculpture to the left of my rug.  Talk about keeping it in the family, my mother-in-law also had several paintings entered in the show!

The other big news I have this week is that I FINISHED the spinning for the blanket I plan to weave!  I washed it all and hung it out to dry on Sunday.  There are over 5500 yards of 100% alpaca 2-ply yarn in 4 colors:  white, fawn, brown and black.  I looked at past blog posts and determined that I was spinning for this in June of 2013.  It is a long time, but considering that except for the white yarn, which I spun from some fleeces I had processed into roving (ready to spin fiber), the rest was hand prepped with either hand carders (black) or on the drum carder ( brown and fawn).  I am very pleased with how this yarn came out.  It is gratifying to take all that yarn (we're talking 3 miles of yarn here) and put it in to wash and see the magic that occurs.  Carding and spinning forces the fibers to be somewhat straight and compacted, but once water is added, they return to their original state as much as possible, which means they fluff up and become lofty.  And for alpaca, this yarn was no exception.  It is beautiful. I just hope I don't ruin it when I put it on the loom.  When will that be? Maybe I will start next week. I have purchased new "heddles" for my loom which I think will be kinder to the yarn than the old flat metal heddles that were on there and so right now my loom is in pieces  getting cleaned up and ready for new hardware.  More on that next week.

Upcoming:  this Friday and Sunday, Grover and I will be in Zanesville at our 5th agility trial.  We are still in the Novice class in Jumpers with Weaves (JWW) so this weekend's goal is to Q in that at least once.  We have not Q'd at all in JWW.  We have moved up in standard to the Open class and since our first attempt at that was a complete fail, I would just like to get a couple good runs in there.

Also, my yarn is ready for pick-up at Morningstar Fiber Mill, so I need to plan a trip up there so I can get to dyeing for the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster over Memorial Day weekend.  I will NOT miss it this year.

And this coming Tuesday, I am taking Rowdy back to the Veterinary hospital at Ohio State for a re-check on his right hock joint.  If anything it is more swollen than when he went in in November and his activity level has dropped off again despite the medication.  He will be 10 on April 30th, and he still has several years ahead of him and I want his quality of life to be good, not marginal.  He will not be happy unless he can be active.  As it is, he wants to catch the flippy flopper and chase squirrels and swim in the pond and it is hard to try to limit these acitivites.

By my calculations, we could have 2 crias due sometime in the next month or so.  I do not have exact breeding dates, which is different than in the past, so we'll see how that works out.  Also, soon it will be time to get out the shears.  We have 21 alpacas to shear this year.  I think we did 22 last year.  So much easier than 50!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Outdoor Time Begins!

Grover loves to be the center of attention
We have had some glorious spring weather this week as well as storms and torrential rains.  But our weekend was beautiful.  I decided to start off Sunday by moving some alpacas around.  I had spent time Saturday doing maintenance on the 3-sided run-in building in the small pasture across from the guest house, as well as clearing some of the brush off the fences on that field.  The grass is growing nicely and last year's crias  are now over 10 months old and yet to be weaned.  The best way to do this is to move the mamas out of sight and out of mind (well not really out of mind).  So I moved Dulcinea and Tempest along with my two oldest girls, Peg and Chiquita, and Miracle all down to the summer pasture.  The two "weaners" are doing fine.  There is some whining going on, but they will be just fine and their mothers can put some weight back on.

It was a gorgeous morning and I really needed to update my website so I went out to take alpaca photos.  I have no good way to latch the barn door from the inside, so it wasn't long before Rowdy opened the door and he and Grover joined me with the alpacas and the LGDs in the back pasture.  Rowdy and Grover are generally not allowed in the alpaca fields as Rowdy has a very hard time controlling his strong (untrained) herding instinct.  But he was much more interested in dog play.  So this happened:

And this:
And this:


The body language here is too funny

I truly think a good time was had by all.  You can be sure that Rowdy was the instigator of all mischief, and I had a hard time limiting this to the 5 photos here.

In addition to moving alpacas, I moved some of my agility equipment around into a different configuration and I got my deck furniture (or most of it) out of the barn.  I hosed pounds of mud off the buggy (and Sam said the neighbors gave him a hard time about not knowing it was him without all the mud) and Sam has been cleaning out the garage.  That is a chore that has needed doing in a big way.

We have had rain and thunderstorms daily since Tuesday.  Last night it seemed one thunderstorm after another rolled through all night and dawn brought torrential rain.  When I went out to do chores, the water was almost up to the level of the big bridge.  When I came out of the alpaca barn 15 minutes later, it looked like this

Grover thought about crossing here but wisely changed his mind.  Though to be honest, I am somewhat reluctant to cross the footbridge when the water is racing under it from edge to edge.  It is a little unsettling.  

For a little while the chickens have a waterfront property

Sam has been working on repairing my loom by using a metal plate.  However, he put it on the wrong side of the post and where it is it interferes with the handle that tightens the warp when I advance it, so he will need to relocate it to the other side of the post.  Once that is done, I think it will work just fine.  I finished spinning the last of the the white yarn for my alpaca blanket and I am now working on the very last skein, about 2 additional ounces of a fawn color.  Once that is spun and plied, I will wash all the yarn and hang it outside to dry and then I will be ready to start measuring warp.  I added up all the yardage so far and I have over 5000 yards spun.  I started spinning it in the fall of 2013, so it has been a while in the spinning.  This blanket should be about 72" X 50" when woven and wet finished.  I have never done something on this scale before, so I hope it goes well.  I'd rather it not become a dog bed.  But then again, I don't know how I will keep that from happening!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Means New Beginnings

I have said before that April 1 is really like the beginning of the new year for us because that's when we get outside and start living mostly outdoors again.  Signs of spring are abundant.  In addition to daffodils coming up  on the neighbor's property, Sam has been out on the tractors.

The last 4 years we lived in Indiana, I was a travel agent at a great agency in north Indianapolis.  One of the other agents was an older lady who had a son about my age who farmed about 1000 acres, some theirs and some leased.  I always remember her saying she knew when spring was close because Scott would be out moving all the equipment around in preparation for planting season.  We don't have nearly as much "stuff" to move around, but Sam has been busy.

Two places are tilled for the garden, as well as the potato patch.  This is our usual garden spot, but it is in a place that does not get much sun, due to a steep bank just on the other side of the creek on the left out of frame in this photo.

So we decided to move the sun loving tomatoes and probably peppers to a place that gets more sun.

 There is a water spigot right here and this area sadly no longer houses a horse, so it can be re-purposed.  The biggest problem will be keeping the chickens out of it.  It is within sight of their yard and something will have to be done to prevent their snacking on tomatoes.  I am thinking hotwire.  I think I can rig something up.  My dogs will have to learn about electric fences, I guess.

Another sign of spring is that Sam has spread a year's worth of piled up alpaca poop on the hayfield.  Look at all that bare ground!  Needless to say that with all this dirt being turned and poop being spread, our chickens have been having a hayday.  Or wormday.  

Sam got all this work done while I was at agility class on Tuesday night and at the office yesterday.  He said that now that the poop is spread there is only one more dreaded spring chore to get done:  shearing.  We will do that closer to the end of the month or even early May.  

This month is the Monroe Artists' annual spring art show.  I finished this lace shawl and entered it in the textiles division.  The yarn is my own millspun yarn that I hand dyed.  I knit up this shawl, which I have knit twice before, because it seems to embody spring to me, as does this yarn.  It came out as lovely as I envisioned.  Another reason I knit this is to showcase the yarn.  I have 7 skeins of this left for sale and will be vending at the Great Lakes Fiber Show Memorial Day weekend in Wooster Ohio.  I find that yarn sells much better if people see it in a project.  This was a color combination I did that is really outside my color comfort zone, but I do love it in this application. 

 The pattern is a free pattern from  Blossoms By the Brook 
It is a quick, fairly easy lace pattern and I recommend it.

I also entered one of my alpaca rugs.  Next month is the photography show, and I have several entries planned for that.

Speaking of rugs, I started weaving on my "too short for another rug" warp using scraps I have been accumulating over the last 4 years of rug weaving.  This won't be very big, but it sure is fun to just grab a random scrap and weave it in.  Or at least it was until my loom broke.

I never noticed that this post had been repaired by someone in the past  until it came apart yesterday.  Obviously whoever did it, whenever they did it, did a good job, but it now needs repaired again.  I am not sure if I have posted here that this loom has been dated to the 1940's or even earlier.  It was made before the manufacturer started engraving the date of manufacture on the loom.  That just makes it more awesome to me.  We will have her fixed up in no time, I am sure.  We will either get a replacement  post from the manufacturer, who still makes these looms today, or use metal plates and screws. I prefer the replacement post if the cost is reasonable. 

Here's the scrap weaving in progress.  There is even a red stripe, which can't be seen at this point, but otherwise, it is all natural colors.  I figure I may have another 10" before I can weave no further. 

Easter is this weekend and in 2 weeks Grover and I have our next agility trial in Zanesville.  Also upcoming is another trip to OSU's vet clinic for Rowdy to see the orthopedist again.  I'm just not seeing as much improvement as I hoped to see.  I just made an appointment for him on April 23rd, one week before his 10th birthday.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Must Be Spring......

Because dogs are in the pond.

And finally, the spring peepers are peeping!  Last night around 6 pm I walked up past a little cat-tail filled frog pond which is on the hill above the house, and can be heard from the house.  Up close to it, the sound was almost deafening!  SO many peepers, peeping their little hearts out.  Celebrating spring, peeper fashion.

I have also seen some tiny yellow wildflowers along the side of the road, and we've had a couple days in the 60's.  And 60 degrees is enough for dogs to want to swim. 

Otherwise, we are kind of in a holding pattern around here.  Just waiting for the weather to be warm enough to start the outside spring work.  We have garden planting, alpaca shearing, bee preparation, yarn dyeing, and possibly a couple new crias to watch for.  As well as cleaning up the yard and around the house and the rest of our daily chores.  I still have to finish cleaning the maple syrup stuff:  the pan and the bucket lids are on the back deck waiting for it to be warm enough on a day I am home to get outside and scrub them.  Waiting, patiently waiting.......

 Meanwhile, I am knitting on a sweater.  It won't be done in time to wear this year, I hope.  

And I finished the towels I took off my small loom well over a month ago.  I had sewing machine issues and had to order a new part. I have kept a couple of these for myself and the other 2 are for sale in the gift shop at the Monroe Arts Center.

My mathematical skills (or lack thereof) failed me on my rugs.  I finished up rug #1 and realized there is not enough warp left to weave another rug.  I am more than a bit irritated with myself.  But I will use some of the plentiful scraps of rug yarn I have and just make a chair pad or dog crate pad or something.  What makes me even more nervous about this is that I am starting a project on my small loom for which I am totally "winging" the pattern and I hope my calculations will be better.  I am always learning.

The Monroe Artist's April Art Show starts next week and I plan to enter a rug and a shawl into the textiles category.  Then they are having a photography show in May and I am entering a few photos in that as well.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is it Spring Yet? Is it Spring Yet?

Well the snow is gone (for good?  We can hope) and the agility toys have come out of the building and are set up.  A sure sign of spring!  That and the roller coaster of temperatures.  We had 70 degrees on Monday afternoon and 17 degrees Tuesday morning.  Our forecast for the weekend calls for mid-50's to 60's (Saturday) and around freezing overnight.  March it is.

We ran another batch of syrup on Saturday and our total of finished syrup for the season is just around 4 gallons.  I have a gallon put away for our use and have sold another 5 quarts already.  I still have a couple quarts and several pints to sell.  Sam pulled the taps on Sunday, the 15th and I was grateful for warm temps on Monday because I scrubbed out 40 buckets and cleaned 39 taps with tubing to store away until next year.  The sap pan has not been brought down for cleaning yet.  We had a decent yield considering the late start.

I acquired a couple new items for my home agility course.  You may have noted the yellow tunnel in the top photo.  I was trying to get the boys to pose inside it, but no luck.  My other acquisition was a full set of weave poles, which you can see in this photo.  There are 12 and they do not need to be driven into the ground!  The base is 2 flat metal pieces with pegs that the poles sit on and I can pick them up and move them in a matter on a minute or 2, instead of the way I had to do it when I had poles that had to go into the ground.  So currently my equipment consists of weave poles, 2 tunnels, a teeter, a tire jump and 4 single jumps.  I plan to build a double jump next, I think.  

Another new acquisition is for the farm.  Sam purchased a round baler yesterday.  We have a neighbor who used to put in the first cutting of hay on our big hayfield in round bales and he kept those for his cattle and helped us out with mowing for our second cutting, which we put up in small square bales for the alpacas.  Last year he had some personal issues which kept him from getting to our hayfield for quite a while which affected our second cutting yield, and we decided we probably needed to bale and sell the first cutting ourselves.  Sam found a baler locally on Craig's List and now it is in our field. 

 We will need our big Deutz tractor to run this baler.  It's too much for our little Kubota.  Here's my very favorite part of this baler so far:  

Maybe I should not find this funny, but really, look at those illustrations and try NOT to laugh.  

I have a lot going on in my fiber-y world.  On Friday, I drove up to Apple Creek Ohio and dropped off 50 pounds of raw  alpaca and wool fiber to be made into an alpaca/wool yarn and rug yarn.  I may have come home with this:

 It is a lovely bump of wool rug yarn in purples (surprise!) and greys and some red.  It should be enough to weave one rug.  They sold it to me at the cost of producing it since it was done with waste from other projects.  How could I turn that down?  

I do have more rugs working on my big loom here at the office.  I should have them done by next week and then I will decide which rug I will enter in the spring art show put on every April by the Monroe Arts Council.  2 years ago I entered a handspun shawl which took first place and a perfect score in the textiles division.  

Last year I did not get my s**t together to enter anything.  So this year I plan to enter a rug and this:

It is a small knitted shawl using some of my own hand-dyed alpaca yarn in a colorway that just screams SPRING to me.  I have knit this shawl 2 other times and it is quick and simple.  It is a free pattern on   I believe it is from the spring/summer 2012 issue.  

 And now that these have been received by my niece, I can post a photo of the GrumpyBum Monster pants I knit for my great-nephew, Blake.  Aren't these adorable?  Someone posted a photo of them on Facebook and I had to find the pattern (its a freebie) and some yarn in my stash to make them right away.  SO cute!  They even fit for now. 

I guess that's about it for this week.  While I have seen my first robins of the season this week, I have yet to hear the spring peepers, though to be fair, between the snow melting and a day of 2 of steady rain, the sound of running water has drowned out most other sounds down here in our holler.  That is also a sign of spring's imminent arrival.  Fingers are crossed!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Post Delayed Due to SNOW!

Friday morning
Wednesday morning
Last Wednesday I was all prepared to come into the office on Thursday and write a post about weather and tapping trees.  I always post from the office because our internet connection there is so much better than at home.  It had poured rain Tuesday night and into Wednesday and our yard looked like this on Wednesday morning.  We were under a winter storm warning for Wed night into Thursday, but the "local" weather forecast was saying 2" to 4" for our area, and 5" to 8" down to the south where I attend agility classes.  I guess around 3 am Thursday, our power went out and when I woke up, we had 11" of fresh snow that had started out very heavy and wet and changed over to light snow as the temperatures dropped.  And the snow continued to fall for several hours, resulting in about a foot of snow.
Thursday morning

And beautiful snow it was.  It coated everything with a thick layer of white, which was gorgeous when the sun finally came out on Friday morning.  I took so many photos!
But, needless to say I stayed home on Thursday and we had no power, no internet, no gas.......

So our gas to heat the house and cook comes from gas and oil wells here on the farm.  It comes from the wells to a pressure tank near the horse barn and from there into the house and garage.  Since January  we have been having a problem with our gas pressure, resulting in it going out on occasion.  Sam suspects there is a leak in the line somewhere, but since we have probably half a mile of gas line which comes down through the woods and along the creek and is currently covered over by snow and has been since the beginning of January, there is not much we can do to repair it.  This makes it difficult because our highest gas usage this time of year is the furnace, so we have been trying to heat with the woodburner as much as possible.  But is has been a very cold winter with many nights dropping below zero (-19 was our coldest), so the furnace is needed.  We also have a back up generator that kicks on when our power goes out, which is several times a year, and it runs on the same natural gas.  We need this since we are on a water well and we have animals that need water regardless of whether we have electricity to power the water pump.  Needless to say, we did not have enough gas pressure to run the generator.  Our power was out for 36 hours, with the temperature overnight Thursday dropping to -8.  Our house got very cold, despite the woodburner (can't use the blower on it without power), water pipes froze (again), the animals' water all froze and we had to scoop water from the creek  and carry it to them.   But Friday dawned bright and sunny and the power came on around 3 pm resulting in only 1 broken pipe in the bathroom, which was fun and exciting. *sarcasm*

But in the meantime, we did get out and enjoy the snow.  Sam and I had gone out Sunday afternoon and set taps on the maple trees and Sam had collected about 9 buckets of sap on Wednesday, in the rain, and he wanted to boil our first sap in the new sugar shack, so he did that on Thursday.

The new set up is working out well, we are inside out of any weather and the evaporator keeps it quite warm.

Sam put a bench seat from our old conversion mini van in there and I hung some clothing hooks, and made a paper towel holder and we have a little end table.  All the comforts of home.  Yesterday, Monday the 9th, I spent 8 hours boiling sap up there and knitting and doing Sudoku puzzles and was quite comfortable.  

Of course last week while Sam was up there, the dogs and I hiked up in the falling snow.

And then Saturday, bright and early, Grover and I headed out to Zanesville for our 4th agility trial.  We had a fun weekend.  We missed Q-ing on both our Jumpers with Weaves runs, but just barely.  He just didn't get his weave poles on Saturday and he knocked down a bar on Sunday.  Otherwise, we worked well together.  So our April goal will be a Q in Jumpers!  But on Saturday, we had a first place run and got the 3rd leg of our Novice Standard title!  So Grover now has an AKC title, and a blue ribbon.

Here we are coming off the teeter in our title run.  We scored 100 on this run, though it took Grover two attempts on his weave pole entry, but otherwise we did great.  And we moved up to Open Standard for Sunday.  Let's just say I think it had been a long weekend for Grover and we will perform THAT better next month!  Hopefully the weather will improve enough to allow us to set up our equipment here at home and start to practice every day again.  C'mon spring!

That pretty much covers the major events of the last 2 weeks.  I have a lot of things up and coming as usual and have some fiber-y things going on, but this post is long enough, so I will get to that stuff next week.  I could post 50 photos of incredibly beautiful snow and blue skies, but that would take a lot of space and editing time. So here are just a couple more from early Friday morning as the sun was coming up over the ridge and lighting our valley.