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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pond Invaders!!

With deer season ended, I could once again hike in the woods and up to the pond on our farm.  The pond is located almost a mile from the house and it is uphill most of the way.  It is a man made pond we had put in 5 years ago and it is a run-off pond, meaning that it is filled from a couple of streams that are formed from rain and snow-melt run off, so no spring or creek flows into it.  We stocked it with  fish and Sam likes to throw a line in it on a summer evening when he and the dogs and I stop by there on our daily hikes.  Imagine my surprise last Thursday when, as the dogs and I approached the pond for the first time in over a week at about 3 pm, I saw several things bobbing around in the water. 
At first I thought birds, but as I got closer I realized I was seeing sleek heads.  Five of them.  Beaver was my first thought since we have been observing the beaver habitat which is about a mile and half from our pond.  But no, I remembered Sam had told me that a neighbor had seen otters in another pond nearby and that he hoped they did not find our pond.  And once I got close, I realized that yes, these are otters.  North American River Otters to be exact.  Capable of eating lots of fish.  Every day.  


I cursed myself for not having my camera with me, but it had been gloomy and overcast when we left the house.  The otters were much more worried about the dogs running along the bank staring at them than they were about me quietly watching them swim about in our small pond.  However, it did not take Grover long to discover the fine aroma of otter crap and to think that maybe that would make a nice doggie cologne, so I headed back to the house.  By the time I got home, the sun had come out, so I grabbed the camera and headed back to the pond in the "buggy" with Grover riding shotgun.  I was able to get several photos, but could not get all 5 otters in the same photo.

Sam was not happy to hear the news and he went up to the pond very early on Friday morning to encourage the critters to move on. But whether it was the presence of the dogs and me the day before, or there being no fish left for them to eat, they seemed to be gone.  They did leave nasty smelling otter poop all over the dock and around the pond.  Sam and his brother both agree that there are probably no fish left in our pond.  Those guys could have been there several days and as I said, it is not a large pond.  And yes, Grover has had to have an unplanned bath!    I will admit it was rather a thrill to see these animals so close to home in the wild.  Now if only I could arrive at the beaver pond at the right time to see them....

Otherwise, not much new.  Christmas is next week and then right after Christmas Grover and I are entered in our second agility trial.  It is in Zanesville Ohio again and is Saturday and Sunday.  We are entered both days, so we will be staying in a hotel in Zanesville Saturday night instead of driving back and forth.  Our weather has not been real conducive to getting out and practicing, but we manage every few days.  Unfortunately, our weave poles are just pounded into the ground and the ground is so soft that after each run through, they are all crooked.  But we work with what we have.  Classes are suspended for the month of December, but will resume in January.

I have a reservation to fly to Minneapolis on the 30th to pick up a new natural gas powered truck that we are buying and drive it home.  This really is not the best planning, flying into Minneapolis via Chicago in the winter.  What can go wrong??

A couple days ago, I caught our rooster enjoying the porch swing.  I think he has a beer hidden behind his back, I'm not sure......





Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All's Quiet.....

I say all is quiet, but that's because there is a lot behind us now.  For instance, this past weekend, I had a dinner for the Humane Society to attend on Friday evening, then I was at the Woodsfield Christmas Festival all day on Saturday and on Sunday I went to Parkersburg for the POTC Christmas party.  And last week was gun season for deer here in Ohio, which means that I came to work an extra day so Sam could be out with the rest of the guys.  It was a miserable week weatherwise, with lots of rain, so the hunting was not very successful.

 




The Christmas festival seemed well attended despite the rain.  I sold a lot of alpaca socks and not much else, but that's ok.  I set up some of my yarn and of course had my rugs for sale, including these 2 new ones I finished up last week, but don't usually expect to sell that stuff.  I really like the way these rugs came out.  One is 42" long and the other is 45" long.  Both 28" wide.  I plan to start measuring out warp for more rugs today.  I am still debating what I will do colorwise however.






For the POTC party, we did a gift exchange and since it is a dog club, most gifts were dog related.  I knit a hat with a paw print design and made up a gift bag with a dog toy, a dog drying towel and a canvas basket with dog embroidery on it.  I hit Home Goods on Black Friday and got great deals.  






 


I am really pleased with the finished hat and plan to make myself one with the same colors, but reversed, after all the holiday knitting is done, which it mostly is!  




 I also have a sweater I started that I allow myself to work on a little bit once I finish a holiday project.  Lots of cables.  I'm using a commercial alpaca/wool blend yarn, Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which I made a sweater from a couple years ago that I wear all the time. 



Christmas is only a couple weeks away now.  I have sent off a box to my brother's family in Arizona and still have to put together the box for my boys and Michelle out in Oregon.  I should probably send a little something to my new grand-nephew in Toledo also. 


Rowdy is back on the meloxicam and it just does wonders for him.  We are trying it every other day to see how that works out and it seems to be working pretty well.  Dr. Dyce, the orthopedist, recommended having blood work done in January to check for liver issues and I will certainly be doing that.  I broke out 2 brand new flippy floppers and they are hanging inside the mud room door and they are getting some good use.  I throw to the right for Grover and to the left for Rowdy and usually they each go for their own.  Sometimes, they go for the same one but Grover is faster, so he is most often the victor in those cases.  Sam is the best thrower and Rowdy will often refuse to go unless Sam throws for him.  Sam can throw it low flat and fast and Rowdy chases and does not have to jump for those.  Really cool to watch. 

Here's another interesting fungus.  I need to put the zoom lens on my camera and try to get a better photo.  This is up high on a tree on a fairly steep bank above the road.  I love it because it looks like a flower in bloom, a rose or a peony.  If we get a sunny day soon I will try to get a better shot.

Monday, December 1, 2014

1st Trial and Thanksgiving Behind Us

I think when all is said and done, that Grover and I had a successful first agility trial.  Had anyone asked me on Friday evening, I may not have thought so.  But we entered on Friday and then again on Sunday because I thought we (Grover in particular) needed to spend some time getting used to totally new surroundings and experiences.  I was right.  If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you may already have read this post about Friday, but since I print all my blog posts to book form at the end of each year, I want to include this here:

Ok, in case anyone is wondering how we did at our first trial yesterday, here goes. Our first run in jumps with weaves was great. It was at around 10 am and Grover and I both did really well, tho he knocked down a bar which is an automatic dq. But otherwise I was really happy with how we did. BUT, ever since Grover has been with us, he has refused to pee in strange places. Despite being taken outside 4 times during the day, he never so much as lifted his leg. Not once. I should have known. Really, I should have. Our second run was novice standard which came around 3 pm. So Grover has not peed since we left the house at around 6:20 am. You can see where this is going right? I was sure we were going to do great. The course was something we could do. I was sure we had it. Or would at least get through it. First jump was the tire. No problem, but before we even got to the second jump, Grover was off sniffing around at the wall of the ring. Totally unresponsive to me calling and calling him. So not like him. This was clue #2 that trouble was coming. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, I got his attention and he seemed ok, for a while, went over and greeted one of the people who sit in the ring to replace knocked down bars, but came back to me and we continued. I was flustered by now. He did the teeter and table fine. I think he missed a weave pole, but we continued.
He did the tunnel and I forgot which obstacle was next, but we figured it out and he did the chute ok, and then it was on to the dog walk and after that there was only one jump, I think. Never got there. Instead of running happily up the ramp on the dog walk like he normally does, he went to the left of it, hiked his leg and peed on it. Yup. Right on the dog walk. It was so nice. A guy brought me a bucket of cleaning stuff and the judge stood there and watched me clean the ramp of the dog walk and the turf underneath while one of my instructors held Grover on his leash. Uh huh. Pretty humiliating. My first reaction was I wanted to cry and never come back. But I had the whole car ride home to think about it (really) and I was already finding the humor in once I stopped at McD’s for a latte for me and plain hamburger for the GroverGator. And really once it is all said, the worst has happened, right? Right? Tomorrow, we go back but are only doing the novice standard. I am working in the ring in some earlier classes, so he will get to spend some time in his crate before our class. Somehow, I need to get him to pee before we go into the ring!

Sunday was much better.  My biggest goal was of course to get Grover to relieve himself in an appropriate place, which was accomplished by walking him around outside multiple times.  Sam and my in-laws showed up about an hour before it was Grover's and my turn in the ring and I think they enjoyed watching the class prior to ours.  It is entertaining after all.  I was SO nervous as our time to run got closer and closer.  Much more nervous than I had been on Friday.  However, with his bladder empty, Grover was attentive to me as he always is and we did great.  He went into the tunnel the wrong way and I re-sent him and he did just great after that, hitting his weave poles perfectly, until I confused him at the A-Frame and he missed that.  But I turned him around (after he jumped on me in protest) and got him onto it and we finished the course with no more problems, with a score of 90, which is a qualifying score!  We also got 3rd place.   We are entered in our next trial the end of this month, Dec 27 and 28 and will be running in both jumps with weaves and standard novice both days.  It is at the same facility in Zanesville.




 Here is a look at the ring for the excellent standard class (I think, I don't really remember) taken from the out gate area.      










And on the other side of the gate is where a lot of the handlers and dogs spend their time waiting for their turn. 








 We had a stretch of very warm weather last week, I think it was around 70 degrees on Tuesday, and on Monday we had extremely high winds.  And when you live in a place with lots of trees, high winds often mean trees falling, and frequently they fall on things.  We had been watching this tree for some time but it was in a place on a steep creek bank where  we could not get to it and we knew whether Sam cut it down or it fell down it would fall on our fence.  And it did.  







On Wednesday, Sam got the top part of the tree cut up for firewood and was able to pull the fence back into shape.  I think he had to replace one post, which isn't bad.  


 
Then is was off to my mom's for  Thanksgiving, which I admit is my favorite holiday.  It was somewhat quiet this year, with just Sam and myself, Mom, my brother Mike and his wife Jean and their daughter, Krista with her husband Paul and baby boy Blake.  A neighbor of Mom's also joined us, since she had no plans for the day.  I last saw Blake over Labor Day weekend and he is now 4 months old and seems to be a happy content baby.  Its funny to think of my younger brother as a grandpa!  

We avoided the post-Thanksgiving craziness for the most part,but did go to a brand new Field and Stream store right on I-75 on Friday, mostly because it was a handy place to meet a woman driving up from Kentucky to buy the loom I had listed for sale on Ravelry.  That worked out really well.  Then Mom and Sam and I had a nice dinner at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, which is an historic inn, Ohio's oldest according to their menu.  Sam had wanted to go there and I had not been there in many many years.  It was very nice.  Saturday, we drove back home.  

This week is gun season for deer, and today the weather is miserable.  My weekend ahead will be hectic, as I have a dinner for the Humane Society volunteers on Friday night, the annual Christmas Festival in Woodsfield on Saturday, where I will be set up in the courthouse again, and then the Christmas party for the dog club (Parkersburg Obedience Training Club) on Sunday.  Grover and I have agility class tomorrow night like usual, but then there is a hiatus on classes until January.  I just hope the weather allows Grover and I to keep practicing outside  the rest of the month. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Anticipation

Grover, fresh from last night's bath.  Of course he had to be bathed since tomorrow, Friday the 21st, is our debut agility trial!  I don't know how we will do, I just hope we don't mess up too badly.  I hope I don't trip over Grover or my own 2 feet.  We are running in 2 classes on Friday and 1 on Sunday.  Each course will have about 15 jumps/obstacles and I will have 8 minutes prior to the class to walk the course and memorize it and plan where I will make turns, etc.  In class we have done up to 9 or 10 obstacles and sometimes it takes us a couple times through to get it right.  And we will be in a place Grover has never been before.  Lots of distractions (and people to jump on, probably including the judge).  I am looking forward to it, despite what I write.

We seem to have gone straight from dry fall weather to coverall/heated bucket weather here.  Mind you, that is not a complaint.  Because in doing so, we have detoured around MUD season.  I prefer nicely frozen ground to mud, as do the alpacas.  When it is rainy and muddy, they spend most of their time in the barn and that means lots of scooping.  And even after scooping, the barn floor is a nasty mess.  Notice I said "detour" around mud season.  It is way too early to think we will miss it altogether.  In fact, I think it will arrive just in time for Thanksgiving next week.  But for now, with daytime highs only around freezing, I have also had to plug in the heater for the automatic waterer, which is always smelly until the summer's accumulation of mouse droppings on the heating element burn off, and pull out the heated buckets for the boys.  The heated buckets are always a challenge because most of them look alike and some of them do not work.  The only way to find out if they work is to plug them in, fill them with water, and see if they are frozen the next day.  If I have something with me with which to cut the cords off the non-working buckets, I do so and then they become regular buckets.  But most of the time I don't have a tool with me to do that and the bucket gets put back in the building and the next year, when faced with a stack of buckets, I go through the process all over again.  You'd think I would learn.  I also had to put a coat on Bodhi, the butt farthest to the right in the photo above.  He is 15 and the cold really seems to get to him these days.  He just does not produce the incredibly dense fiber he used to.  

Tonight is the second meeting of the Monroe Arts Council's Fiber Arts and Textiles group.  I need to do a short presentation at that (which is why Grover got bathed last night instead of tonight).  I will be doing that on different ways to do knitting in the round.  I still need to finish preparing for that.   All the knitting I have been doing has been Christmas gift knitting, so I won't be posting about it for some time.  I did, however, get 2 more rugs off my rug loom, though I still have to finish the hems on them and I warped my new loom for the first time.  It was a bit different from the other looms I have, so I had to work a few things out and have not yet started to weave on it, so we will see how that all goes soon.

Very much looking forward to Thanksgiving a week from today.  Sam and the dogs and I will travel to Dayton to my mom's.  We will be joined there by my brother Mike, his wife Jean and daughter, Krista, with her husband Paul and baby Blake.  I think that is it this year.  We are used to a whole house full of people on Thanksgiving and it is just going to be weird to have less than 10 people.  The rest of the family is in Michigan, Phoenix and of course Portland.  Life is change.  

Rowdy took his last dose of meloxicam this morning.  He stays off it for a week and I need to e-mail the orthopedic vet at OSU and let him know how he is doing.  Then we will take it from there.  Rowdy has done so well on this.  He and Grover and I played with tennis balls in the house last night.  No more "Stairball", but we can play fetch on the flat.



 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

No Surgery!

Rowdy and Grover jumped tandem through the tire on Sunday!
Rowdy and I had our appointment last week at Ohio State's Veterinary Hospital where we met with an orthopedic specialist.  It was a long day, especially for Rowdy, who is not a very social dog.  He was taken into the depths of the clinic around 11:30 and I did not see him again until 5 pm.  X-rays were taken, joint fluid was extracted and analyzed, and he was thoroughly examined.  While there is significant damage to the hock joint from osteoarthritis, likely resulting from trauma (car incident 6 years ago), surgery is not indicated at this time.  We are trying him on meloxicam, another NSAID which supposedly has less incidence of liver side effects, for 2 weeks.  Then we take him off for a week and see how he does.  Let me tell you, I noticed a difference within 24 hours.  He is like his old self.  He plays with Grover and no longer moves from place to place and lays down.  I will have bloodwork done after he has been on it a while and see how it looks.  There are other options yet before surgery, so my fingers are crossed and double crossed!

Grover's and my first agility trial is coming up so quickly!  It is less than 2 weeks away now.  We are doing 2 runs on Friday and staying home Saturday and doing 1 run on Sunday.  I have since sent in my entry for the December trial, which is also in Zanesville on Dec 27 and 28, and we will be doing 2 runs each day at that trial.  I am excited, but also very nervous.  I made a new tire  for the tire jump yesterday and have moved the home course (again) to a larger space, which was the maternity pasture this summer.  I just have to watch for tree stumps.  I now have the tunnel, tire, teeter, 4 jumps and 8 weave poles.  I think this year's Christmas list will be mostly agility equipment.  Grover and I even did a demo for my mother's book club on Sunday.  So we had 8 women standing in the field with us applauding and Grover did just fine.  Good practice for the trial.  I just know he will go over and greet the judge in true Grover fashion. 



The dogs and I went and checked out the beaver pond again yesterday.  It has really expanded.  Everywhere there are tree stumps that have been gnawed and cleaned of bark.  





And where it is not pond-like, it is very swampy.  Unfortunately our exploring was cut short by the dogs' discovery of a deer carcass, so I didn't find the dam which is obviously downstream of the first dam they built.  

As for fiber-y stuff, my knitting has been limited lately to Christmas gift-knitting, so I have no photos.  But I have finished off the hems on the 2 rugs I posted last time:


The hems are hand sewn instead of machine sewn and I am much happier with the result.  This white rug is 28"  X  42" 










and this black rug is  28"  X 35"












The loom is re-warped for 2 more rugs.  I am using a striped warp in gradiant colors and solid color weft.  The first one is a fawn weft and I am debating what color the second one will be.  It will be a shade of brown, I am just not sure if it will be a dark brown or a shade between the fawn and dark brown.  I will have to decide soon since the fawn one is almost finished.


Our weather has been typical of early November : warm and lovely one day and cold and damp the next.  We have enjoyed the 60's and plenty of sun the last 2 days and our highs are supposed to drop into the 30's by Thursday.  The dogs and I have been making the most of the nice weather when we can.  I just love fall.  

Check out this awesome fungi I noticed growing on the end of a cut log on our walk yesterday.  I do not think I have seen fungus in such a lovely blue and tan pallet before.  Love it!


 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Stretch of Warm Weather

Over the last several days, we have enjoyed warm sunny summer-like weather.  It would be called Indian Summer, I think, but doesn't the warm weather have to follow the first frost in order to be so named?  We really only experienced a light patchy frost after the warm weather.  Whatever you call it, I'll take it!

A couple weeks ago, the dogs and I discovered a beaver dam on part of Wayne National Forest where we hike regularly.  It was several days before we got back with the camera to check it out and the "pond" created by the dam had already expanded.  I used to be able to jump over this creek just below where the dam is now.  The dam is in the center of this photo and I am upstream looking toward it.



 And here is Rowdy belly deep in water near the dam on what used to be dry ground.  I would love to actually see the beavers, so I may have to go and sit quietly without the dogs one day and just watch.






From nature to technology, the drilling rig has been brought in and erected on the well pad adjacent to our property.   This is it as seen from our hayfield up near the pond.  According to Sam, this is 106' tall.  Over the next few months it will drill 4 or 5 vertical wells 8500 to 9000 feet deep, which will then be drilled horizontally using hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking".  Another of these well pads is visible up above our creek bottom hayfield, though that one has been complete since last spring and is mostly quiet now.  This one is a good mile from our house, so hopefully the noise will not be too bad.  You should see it lit up at night though!

On Tuesday I wormed all the alpacas and since I have to catch everyone in order to do so, I took the opportunity to move the 4 older females from the pasture across from the guest house back to the main barn.  So now I have 18 females in the main barn and the 4 males are still in their pasture, where they will stay for the winter.  This makes it easier on me, since I only have to move hay to 2 locations instead of 3.  I could move the males up to the garage pasture, but in truth, I like having to get out and walk down the road to feed them every morning, even when it is cold.  It motivates me to get some exercise.

 The crias are doing well.  They are both 5 months old now and getting big.  This is Dulci's cria.



And Tempest with her cria.  You can see how big she is.  She is bigger than Dulci's little girl, but not by a lot.  I have been debating what to do as far as weaning them.  I usually wean around 6 months, but that is the end of November and I would have to separate them from their mothers, which would necessitate moving alpcas around again .  I may just see if the mothers will wean the kids on their own.  If notw, they will be separated in the spring.

I may not post next week.  Not sure.  On Wednesday the 5th, Rowdy and I are seeing an orthopedic specialist at Ohio State's veterinary college about the swelling/arthritis in his right hock joint.  Depending on how that goes, he may undergo an arthrodesis surgery on Thursday, where they will basically fuse that joint so it will be permanently immobilized.  This will require leaving him at OSU for a couple nights and me driving back and forth a couple times.  I'm a little freaked out about it, it seems so drastic.  But if it allows him to be less painful for the rest of his life, it will be a good thing.  He is only 9 and should have 5 or 6 more years in him.  I hope.  Send good thoughts his way.  He's one in a million.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

RhineBeck! And it Feels More Like Novermber than October.....


I know, I should not complain about the weather, but it has been grey and gloomy and damp ever since I returned from my trip to New York for the Sheep & Wool Festival at Rhinebeck.  Wow, this was a festival to be experienced for sure.  Huge.  It was about a 10 hour drive and the 3 of us managed to chat just about the entire way out and back.  We don't all get together often.  I chose not to carry my camera into the festival, which I think was a wise decision because inside the buildings it was hard to move without bumping into people.  We speculated probably 40,000 people were at the fairgrounds on Saturday.  I cannot seem to find any official numbers anywhere, but goodness, it was crowded!  We shopped and ate and watched a herding dog demo and tasted wine and cheese and basically wore ourselves out.  I had arranged ahead of time to meet a lady from New Hampshire who was selling a loom I wanted to buy and I met her in the parking lot around noon and money and loom changed hands.  I am now the proud owner of a 24" Leclerc compact loon with 8 harnesses.  Half the weaving size of my rug loom, but twice the number of harnesses which means I can weave more intricate designs.  This loom will be kept at the house.  So I now have a 4 harness 24" loom for sale.  Anyone?



 Here is most of my "haul" from the festival.  Left to right is merino/tencel spinning fiber, 100% tencel yarn (hoping to be warp for a shawl), a spinning bat which has wool, silk and sparkle.  This will be fun because you just pull from the center as you spin and it changes colors.  And rug warp.  Not pictured is a bottle of Cabernet Franc from a local winery.  A personal favorite of mine.


Speaking of rugs, I just took my 2 latest off the loom:

 




Very pleased with how they came out.  I will likely be re-warping the rug loom next week .

This morning, as I was getting ready to come in to the office, Sam was playing chimney sweep on the roof (I can't think of this without hearing Dick Van Dyke singing in my head).  It's about time to think of lighting the wood stove and we wanted to be sure there was nothing obstructing the chimney.  We had a chimney fire a few years back and don't want to have that again:  chimney fire March 2010  






I am sure Sam hates being up on that roof more than I hate him being up there!


Sam and I were discussing just yesterday how abundant  nuts of all types seem to be this year, walnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, buckeyes, etc.  The squirrels are very busy storing them away, but they don't have to look far to find them.  I thought I would write a bit about the black walnuts, which are prolific here.  The trees are the last to leaf out in spring and the first to lose their leaves in fall it seems.



This year, they are loaded with nuts a bit smaller than a tennis ball and about the same color.  The nuts have a thick hull on them that is just full of tannins which will stain everything it touches a yellow brown color.  It makes the hulls excellent for natural dyeing, if you desire a brown result.  In order to use the walnuts, this hull must be removed, which is very messy, and then the nuts in their shells need to dry for a while.  I think I have dried them on a screen in a cool place about 3 weeks.  Then comes the hard part.  Black walnut shells are extremely hard.  I have yet to find an easy way to crack them.  Conventional nut-crackers do not work.  The best method I have found is a cement sidewalk and a hammer.  Then, you have to pick the pieces of nutmeat from the resulting mess of crushed shell.  Not fun and very time-consuming.  This, along with the fact that black walnuts are much more bitter than English walnuts, is why I really don't bother with them and I leave them to the squirrels.


Upcoming events: Tonight I am hosting the first meeting of the Fiber and Textile Arts Group as part of the Monroe Arts Council.  We are hoping this will become a monthly event for anyone who has an interest in any of the fiber and textile arts.  We will see how it goes. 
Saturday is my 35th high school reunion, for which I will travel over to the western side of the state.  Another weekend away from home.  But it will be fun to catch up with some old friends and spend some time with Mom.