Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hay is in the Barn

Grover likes to try to scare the male alpacas by jumping up and down and barking at them while holding onto the gate.  It's quite comical.  As you can see, they are not frightened in the least.......

Yes, second cutting hay is in the barn.  Though we have not cut our upper hayfield, which yields only a fraction of what the lower field produces.  We may cut it later in August to give it more time to grow.
Saturday was hay day.  Sam got the field mostly raked on Friday, and he made sure our baler was going to work properly, so on Saturday morning everything was just waiting for the dew to dry.

 I always want to get photos while things are in progress, but I never seem to have the time.  I really blew it this year, though because we had all kinds of folks show up to help.  It was incredible!  I really could have taken some pictures, but I just did not think about it.  And at one point we had the trailer stacked about 7 bales high.  We guess we have about 300 bales, which is a good amount to get us through the winter.  No one ever keeps count.  I think the baler actually has a counter on it, but I don't think it works, which is fine.  If something on the baler has to not work, I prefer it to be the counter!

Our garden is doing all right now that the rain has let up.  I do think I need to water it at this point though.  Our corn is over my head and has little silky ears on it and the pumpkins and squash are taking over.  I canned a small batch of pickled beets and need to do more tomorrow.  The tomatoes are starting to ripen, but there just aren't as many as there should be.  We do have a couple of pepper plants that have lots of peppers.  I dug up my garlic and was disappointed in how little I got.  I think this year I need to purchase some new bulbs to plant. We have harvested some onions and we have little carrots about ready.

Our  8 hens have suddenly discovered their ability to free range and are making themselves at home.  I caught them on the deck the other day, which I really don't appreciate.  They crap everywhere.....we are up to getting 6 eggs a day though.  

Poor Rowdy.  On Tuesday I left a wheel barrow in a place it does not belong and Rowdy ran into it in the dark while he and Grover were trying to surprise an unwary cat outside the barn.  It was about 10:30, after Grover and I returned from agility class and I went  out to shut the chickens in for the night and the dogs took off running like they often do, hoping in vain to find a cat to chase (they make so much noise and the cats are onto them).  I heard the crash of the wheelbarrow and then silence and Rowdy came running to me with blood all over the side of his face and his eye shut.  It was much less serious than it looked at first and once I got him to quit pawing at it, it looked much better.  The eye itself is fine, the skin is just split open beneath it.  Rather gruesome looking.

My cousin Matt is here visiting from Michigan.  He had business in Columbus on Monday and then in Pittsburgh on Friday, so he decided to stop in and see us in between.  He and Sam are out for their second day of golf today and a good bit of homebrew has been imbibed and there has been some shooting going on.  Guy stuff.  Matt is only 6 weeks older than our older son, Ian.  He is my cousin Tracey's younger brother and he and his wife Julia are expecting their first baby in November.  Very exciting.  Especially since my aunt will be getting her very first grandchild.  She has been waiting a long time.

Otherwise, I expect a quiet weekend this weekend.  Then next weekend, the 8th and 9th, Grover and I have a trial in Dayton, so we will be heading over to Mom's on the 7th for that.  I am looking forward to it.  It will be our first trial where we are in Excellent Standard both days.  We are still having issues with weave poles and I am moving the poles around in the practice area every day or two to help Grover get used to seeing them in different locations all the time.  Let's say I do not expect to be getting any Q's in standard for a while.  I do look forward to some challenging courses, though.  Maybe.....


I finished a couple of projects in the last week.  First was the scarf on my small loom.  It came out very pretty and was a quick project start to finish.  It has a commercial tencel yarn (I think tencel is the same as rayon), which is shiny and bright, as the warp and handspun alpaca/angora as the weft.  I think the grey handspun really needed the colorful warp.

And I finished this lace cowl with beads.  I have had this yarn for several years and it is very fine lace-weight.  I also had the beads, which go very well with the yarn.  Another quick project.  It will be nice to wear around my neck in the fall.  It will add some warmth, but will have the sparkle of the beads to dress it up.  


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finally a Break in the Rain

Dew damp crias.  They really are white, but they love a good roll in the dust .  I think the one on the right is B'Nita's cria and the bigger one on the left is Trillium's.  They are joined at the hip.  

Here they are withe B'Nita.  For some reason these 3 lingered in the pasture when everyone else came in for morning grain.

We have a nice forecast for dry weather through Sunday.  4 days of 0% chance of precipitation.  According to the local weather man, the last time that happened was late May and we have had 15" of rain since then.  Wow, that's a lot of rain.
So everyone around here is mowing hay, Sam included.  Never have we done second cutting in July before!  He mowed Tuesday night and with a few days of dry sunny weather with low humidity, the hay should be good and dry when we bale on Saturday.  This will be square baled for the alpacas, which means a hard day's work on Saturday, picking it up and stacking it in the barn.  Not my favorite job, but so satisfying once finished.

You can see just how green everything still is.Usually by the end of July, things are pretty dry and brown.  Our garden has really suffered from too much rain and too little sun.  The tomato plants look terrible and I don't expect a great crop.  Sadly.  The corn looks good however.  The beets are small and I have usually harvested them by this time, but I am giving them some more time.  Same with the garlic.  And the weeds are impossible to control with this much rain.  I fear it will not be a bumper year for garden produce.

The new chicks are still not producing a lot of eggs.  We have gotten 3 eggs the last couple of days.  While they are not laying at full capacity yet, they are getting a little braver and ranging farther from the coop.  It does not hurt that the creek, which is between their coop and the our yard, finally dried up (which usually happens in early June).  I am sure there are wonderful yummy things in that newly dry creek bed that appeal to a chicken.  Again, note the lush greenery, which needs mowing again.

Grover and I started a new 8 week session at agility class.  We are in a much larger class of 8 dogs or so (we have had only 2 in our class, including us, for the last 8 weeks) and have a different instructor.  There is a brand new beginner class that started this week which is why we have been moved around.  I look forward to getting input from Diana, who was one of my instructors for the first several months.  Grover and I have our next trial in just over 2 weeks in Dayton.  We will be taking advantage of the free accommodations at Mom's house once again.  I don't think she minds.

I finished the lace shawl with beads I was knitting from a gradient handspun.  I am not thrilled with the yarn as the colors were not what I hoped and I did not get enough of the darker color in.  But it is pretty, though very large.  I goes quite well with the petunias in my hanging basket, doesn't it?

I started a new knitting project this week.  I saw this pattern for a lace cowl with beads online and loved it.  I had both the yarn and the beads in my "stash", so was able to cast on right away once I finished the shawl.  I bought the yarn in 2010 and started a project with it and it just was not working out, so it has languished in a basket for all this time.  This will be a great fall wardrobe piece.

And, I have a new weaving project on my small loom.  I purchased some colorful tencel yarn, which is soft and shiny, at Rhinebeck last fall to use as warp with another yarn that had been in my stash a long time.  Since April 2009, in fact. It is a grey handspun blend of alpaca and angora.  I have over 800 yards of this yarn, but only 525 yards of the tencel, so I am weaving a scarf and will have enough of the alpaca/angora for another project.  I really think this color combination will look nice.

And once the rain stopped, I finally got around to finishing up the scraping and painting of the second barn door.  But there are no less than 6 more doors on that barn that need re-painting.  And 4 of them are HUGE.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away.....

Yes, the blanket is entirely finished!  Over this past weekend, I twisted all the fringes and then I (gulp) threw the blanket in the washing machine to "full" it.  Y'know when you accidentally put a good wool sweater in the washer and it comes out 3 sizes smaller and much thicker?  That is essentially fulling, though uncontrolled.  Fulling makes all those individual threads grab ahold of each other and become cohesive.  I put the blanket in the washing machine with very warm water and Dawn dish liquid and agitated it for about 6 minutes, checking it every couple of minutes.  Then I rinsed without agitation a couple of times and spun the water out.  As you may be able to tell in the photo above, the individual colors fulled at different rates.  The brown fulled the fastest and the white the slowest.  That's why the bottom edge is so uneven.  But that is what happens when different fleeces are used.  I'm OK with that.
 Here is a close up of part of the blanket before fulling           >>>>>>>>>

And here is after fulling


It is fuzzier and not as easy to  see the individual threads.  And it is gloriously soft!  I can see myself snuggled under it on the couch this coming winter.

The rain has continued, though we have had some decent weather.  Sunday was about as nice a day as we've had in a while.  So I took an opportunity and had Sam drive me to the top of the ridge on Wayne National at about 8:15 pm and I hiked the 1/2 mile down to the beaver pond with my camera and zoom lens and a camp chair at dusk.  Much to my dismay, I did not see any beaver activity.  I did see a duck and was serenaded by a fabulous chorus of frogs, but no beavers.  I sat quietly until it was too dark for photos anyway, but wanted to hike out before it got too dark to avoid the ever expanding marsh that has been created by the beavers' dams and incessant rain.    Halfway home along the road, I was able to walk up very quietly on a buck grazing just a few yards off the road.  But it was way too dark to get his photo.  I was surprised at how close I was able to get.  It is hard to be quiet on a gravel road in hiking boots.  I will try again to get some photos of the beavers. 

 Chiquita, our 16 year old alpaca, took advantage of a rare bit of sunshine to do some sunbathing.  You can see just how green everything still is.

 And a stray sunbeam shone in through a barn window and illuminated this spider's spinning skills

Otherwise, I managed to get some weed abatement done in the garden and things are looking good.  I should have beets ready for canning soon.  The corn is waist high and there are lots of little green tomatoes.  I cleared out the lettuce and need to plant some more.  Onions and garlic look like they will be ready soon and the squash and pumpkins are in bloom.  And the carrots need thinned.  
The new chickens started laying last week, or at least 2 of them did.  We are getting 2 eggs a day now and all the hens are coming into the chicken coop at night without Rowdy's chicken-herding assistance.  We still have all 8.  They are not ranging far from the coop yet.  I think they have yet to elect a leader.

In addition to my blanket, I finished a sweater I started late last winter, which I had set aside when spring arrived.  All it needed was the sleeves and a drawstring cord for the neck.  This is a commercial 100% wool yarn which is machine washable (though I have yet to wash it).  It is nice and warm and fits quite well, but it is too warm to model it for photos yet.  I also finished my purple beaded shawl, but that has to be blocked before I post any finished photos.  It is soaking today and I will block it this evening.  

Rowdy is dreaming of how nice it would be to ruck up that blanket and sleep on it. I just know it!


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Now for Some Down Time

Grover at his happiest:  the center of attention!

This will be short because I have mostly been on the road and have had very little time on the farm.

My mother, my brother and his family arrived on July 1st for a short visit.  We had a great time with the kids at the pond, diving, swimming and zip-lining.  Adult beverages and snacks were enjoyed by the older folks.  The visit was too short, with them having to leave the next day for other obligational visits during their short trip to Ohio from Arizona.  I also left that day headed to an agility trial in Pennsylvania with Grover.  It was a 3 day trial and we did fairly well, except we have developed a problem with weave poles in trial.  I have to figure out how to remedy that.  We did get one Q, in Standard Open, which moved us up to Excellent.  This means we get NO more mistakes.  We have to get it all right the first time if we want to Q.  We may be there a while, and that's ok.  We came so close to a Q in Open Jumpers, but I screwed it up by cheering just a bit before Grover cleared that last jump.  He pulled up and knocked the bar.  Lesson learned.  Our next trial is in Dayton on the 8th and 9th of August.

I got home Sunday afternoon and headed over to Dayton on Monday to go to Kings Island with Larry's family and my cousin, Tracey, who came down from Michigan just to see them.  I wish I could say I had a good time, but I guess my roller coaster riding days are over, as I rode 3 right away and spent the rest of the day with a terrible case of vertigo.  I will say that the folks in first aid at Kings Island are very nice and one hears some interesting things laying in there all day.  I really kept thinking it would pass, but it never did.  I felt much better after getting back to mom's and sleeping for a while and was able to drive home on Wednesday.
Today, I am at the office and I have just taken my alpaca blanket off the loom!  Here it is at the halfway point a week and a half ago and here it is now.

 You can see that in the center, which is where the fold was, I have some places I need to weave in ends where the warp threads broke.  I realized what was breaking these threads (because only these broke) was that the fishing line I had threaded with them to help make my fold more stable was squeezing the opening in the reed, which was abrading those threads.  I also still have to twist the fringe on the ends and "wet finish" the blanket.  This means I will put it in the washing machine and monitor it carefully so that it "fulls" a little bit and locks all those individual threads together and makes them a little fluffy.  I will take up close before and after photos to post.  Over all, I am pleased with the outcome.  This was a big project and it is not perfect, but I overcame some issues and got it done and it is lovely!

I finished some spinning last week as well, before all the craziness started.  I got about 780 yards of really nice merino/bamboo/silk/sparkle yarn from a batt I bought last fall at Rhinebeck.

It was 5.2 oz and looked like this  >>>>

And now it looks like this  


 I am quite pleased with how it came out, but have no idea what I will do with it.  Into the stash it will go for now and I will come up with a plan at a later date. 

I am finishing up a few things, sweater sleeves, my purple beaded shawl, and a pair of socks.  My looms are empty.  But not for long.

Maybe by next week it will be dry enough to get some new cria photos.  Let's hope so.  I think we are all tired of the rain around here!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I Can't Believe July is Almost Here

Here are the newest farm residents.  I picked up these 8 pullets a week ago and they have spent most of the week inside the chicken coop.They are slowly spending more and more time in their little enclosure and tomorrow I may open the gate and see if they will venture out of their yard.  The outside world is very new to them I am sure and frightening.   They are not laying eggs yet and I fear I will run out of eggs long before they start. 

We have continued to have a lot of rain.  Last Saturday we attended a graduation party at our neighbor's place and while it started out dry, once the rain started, it was hard and relentless.  It did not seem to hinder the party, as there was a huge homemade slip n slide enjoyed by kids and adults alike, myself included, and volleyball was even played in a downpour in standing water.  This unfortunately resulted in a casualty:  the grad's dad broke an ankle.  But it was a great party.  

  Sunday was Father's Day, and we spent a quiet day at home.  Sam picked a couple gallons of raspberries and I made a pie.  The berries are wonderful this year, due to all the rain, I think.    I also made raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, which we took turns churning on the deck after we had cocktails at the pond with the dogs and before we enjoyed a steak dinner.

It was fabulous ice cream.  I found the recipe on line:

raspberry ice cream with dark chocolate chips   somewhat labor intensive, but we agreed it was the creamiest ice cream we've had.  Maybe because it had 3 eggs in it and lots of heavy cream and 1/2 and 1/2 (I had no milk).  

The pond is quite full thanks to all the rain and the dogs do love to retrieve sticks.  As you can see, Grover gets into the pond well before the stick even hits the water.

 We always have to throw for Grover first, or he would abandon his stick and go for Rowdy's. 
We still need to get the zip line going.  It needs a new grip on one side of the handlebar.

 I finished one of my summer projects!  I purchased upholstery fabric when Tari and I went to Amish country back in April with which to recover my dining room chairs.  I've had this dining room furniture since the early '90's and will probably always have it.  I recovered the chairs once after we moved to the farm, but they really needed to be recovered again and have the foam replaced.  What a difference!  I really like the new fabric and I got 8 yards for only $2 a yard at Zink's.  I recovered the 4 chairs, but I also have a bench cushion that needs to be re-done, so that will be next.  But no great rush on that.  I think I'll make that an August project.

 I am making progress on my alpaca blanket.  As of now I am about a third of the way finished with it.  It is coming out nicely, as far as I can tell.  I hope to get to the halfway point today.  The center will be narrow black and fawn stripes like you see on the right edge (which is actually the fold or center) We will see how that goes.  It is fairly slow going.

Upcoming:  Craziness, that's all I can say.  My brother's family is coming from Phoenix for a visit to Ohio next week.  They plan to come to the farm for one night next Wednesday.  Then they have plans to visit friends and relatives in western Ohio and go to Kings Island (an amusement park very close to where I grew up and at which I actually worked briefly when I was in high school) the following Tuesday.  Grover and I have a dog trial in Pennsylvania on Friday, Saturday and Sunday right after they are here at the farm, then I plan to head over to Dayton on Monday and go to Kings Island with them on Tuesday.  My cousin is coming down from Michigan as well, which kind of made up my mind as to whether I would go over there or not. So the first week of July is just going to be crazy for me.  

 Here's some cria-cuteness for you.  B'Nita's cria is always dirtier than Trillium's cria.  They stick together all the time.  When I took these photos, their mothers were both in the barn and they were just off in the field with last year's 2 crias, hanging out.  Typical kids!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer on the Farm (Almost)

If one wants to be technical, summer does not arrive until the solstice, 2 days hence.  But in my mind, it is already summer.  However, we have had an incredible amount of rain.  May was actually quite dry, but June has changed that.  I know on Thursday (yesterday) there was 4" in my rain gauge and I am pretty sure I emptied that a week or so ago.  I think we got 2" on Wednesday alone.  So as you can see, there is plenty of water in the creek where Rowdy usually stops to cool off on our walks.  This spot was not much more than a trickle in May and now Rowdy can cool both sides at once.
I managed to get out last Thursday and mow all the pastures and finish up the weed-abatement between the alpaca field and the creek.  I usually do that over 3 days.  It takes about 3 tanks of gasoline in the brush-cutter and each tank is about 45 minutes of work, so I spread it out.  And it looks so nice once it is finished.  You can see water in the creek down in the right hand corner.  That was bone dry last Thursday.  I was walking in it.

The crias are doing well.  No photos of them this week.  They were kind of muddy.  If we get good weather this week (not in the forecast), I'll go see if I can get some action shots of them.

Grover and I attended our first trial in about 7 weeks this past weekend.  It was in Sharonville Ohio, very close to where I lived during my high school years.  We did well, Q-ing in both Open Standard and Novice Jumpers on Saturday.  That moved us up to Open Jumpers on Sunday and we failed to Q at all on Sunday.  Just  for fun, here is the map of our Open Standard course on Saturday (that we did Q on).  I have drawn in arrows to show more clearly the path we had to run.  We get the map shortly before we get to "walk" the course, which we do for 8 minutes.  Each time we go into the ring, the course is different.  We do not get to practice it with our dogs.  They see the course for the first time when we enter the ring at our turn to run.  Several of my high school friends and my mother showed up to cheer Grover and me on.  It was a lot of fun.   Our next trial is in Pennsylvania over the 4th of July weekend.  It will be our first 3 day trial.

I'm a little concerned about my bees right now.  The hive on the right, which is the stronger of the 2, is exhibiting this "bearding" behavior, and I don't know if it is due to the wet humid weather or if they are planning to swarm.  I made sure they had another box to move into and I still need to get another box on the other hive.  I am sure the excessive rainfall is inhibiting normal bee life.  However, the butterfly weed is starting  to bloom and the bees seem to like it pretty well.  We also have a lot of white clover which seems to love the rain and it is full of bees every day.

Yesterday I picked up 8 new pullets, which are young hens.  They should start to lay eggs in the next 3 weeks or so.  No photos of them yet as I just put them in the coop at 6 pm last night and they had not emerged into their enclosure when I left today.  In the past I have found that these young hens who come from huge production farms have usually not been on grass before, so it takes a little while.  I will keep them confined to the chicken yard for about a week before I allow them to free range.  This way they will know where "home" is and return there to roost every night.  I always get more hens than I want to have because it seems there is always some loss at the beginning.

I have finally started the actual weaving on my alpaca blanket.  There have been some challenges along the way,  but I have managed to overcome them for the most part and have gotten 4 inches or so woven.  This is "doubleweave" which means that there is a fold, which is on the right hand side where the stripes are, and the finished blanket will be twice as wide as what you see here, which is about 29".  One challenge I have is that the alpaca yarn is very fuzzy and it has a tendency to stick to itself, which can be disastrous.  So, when I step on a treadle to open a "shed", I need to make sure the yarn hasn't stuck to itself:

If it does, it creates a bad shed, which means there is not enough of an opening to put the shuttle (which holds the yarn I am weaving with) through cleanly.  You can see what I mean on the left

I cannot see the shed from where I sit, so if you look carefully you can see on the far end of the loom a mirror propped on a chair.  I can look in the mirror everytime I step on a treadle to see if my shed is clean.  If it is not, there are things I can do to make it better before I throw my shuttle. 

A clean shed looks like this  >>>>>>

I am also using a product that is meant to help untangle children's hair prior to combing to help keep the yarn from sticking to itself.  After all, my yarn is basically hair, right?  This product comes in a spray bottle and I just occasionally spritz the yarn with it.  It seems to be helping, so I'm goin' with it.  I'm just so glad to finally be weaving this blanket!  It has been so long in the works.  And check out the cool weaving bench Sam made for me on a rainy day (see rain can be  a good thing).  I need to sand and finish it, but wanted to "test drive" it first.

 Here's a shot of the progress on the beaded shawl I posted about a few weeks back.  I am into the lace patterning and the second ball of yarn.  I am almost at the point where I have to decide if I need to do another repeat of the lace pattern or just move on.  I want to use as much of the yarn as I can, but on the other hand, if I make the shawl larger, do I run the risk of running out of yarn before I am finished?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hay's Done (for now)

Yes, Sam has successfully finished baling his first round bales.  He says he likes that a lot better than the square bales we will still be making in late August.  I do too.  He did these while I was at work and I never had to lift anything.  The equipment does all the hard labor.  

He told me how many bales he got, but I don't remember, so I'm going with 28.  Now we need to find someone who wants to buy them.  They don't stay pretty and green for very long, but they will still be green on the inside.

The crias are doing well.  This is Trillium and her cria.  This is Trillium's first cria and she is not growing as fast at B'Nita's cria.  Truthfully, B'nita's cria is growing better than Trillium did as a cria.  Trillium was B'Nita's first cria.  B'Nita seems to be much more attentive to this cria than she was with Trillium, as well, more protective.  And Trillium is somewhat so-so about the whole thing.  This cria of Trillium's is going to have some spectacular fleece.  It is kinky and "popcorny" looking already.  She's a nice looking girl.

Here is B'Nita's cria, whom I have already named B'Tina, or Tina for short.  She has a different type of fleece so far from her half-sister/nieceIt has more of a silky look to it.  She is dew-damp in this photo, so it is hard to tell what her fleece really looks like.  She is nice, but I think Trillium's little girl is the nicer of the two.  Time will tell.  I plan to take the clippers to both of these crias and remove the tips from their blanket areas next week.  This will give them a better fleece at shearing time next year, with less hay and other vegetable matter stuck to it.

<   Tina  


                      Trillium's cria  >

Sunday morning, after I finished chores and Sam finished pumping the oil wells, a truly dreaded job was undertaken.  We butchered our 5 remaining hens.  They were over 2 years old and we were only getting 1 or maybe 2 eggs a day from them.  I had ordered 8 pullets (young hens just about to start laying), which I will be picking up next week.  I will be away this coming weekend and I wanted Sam's help with the nastier bits (ie the killing), so I decided to get the job done this weekend.  I have done this only one time before and it was almost 2 years ago, so I watched a few YouTube videos.  The cleaning of the first one took a little while, but after that we had a system going and it went pretty well.  It's not easy to do, but it is practical.  2 of the chickens went into the freezer and 3 went into the stock pot on Monday morning and I have 9 1/2 quarts of nice chicken stock, most of which I canned (only 7 quarts fit in my canner).
Tonight I will make some noodles with some of our eggs and I will make chicken and noodles to have with some salad from our garden.

Speaking of the garden, we got some rain this week and the tomato plants really seemed to enjoy it

They are actually starting to look like something now.  Unfortunately, the weeds also enjoyed the rain and just popped up overnight.  I can see some weeding in my future.  Probably tomorrow.

I also checked in on the bees on Sunday.  They are about ready to have additional boxes added to the hives.  They are thriving and busy.  There has been a lot of white clover in bloom in various places, like my agility training area and the boys' pasture which is adjacent to the beehives, and it has been humming with bee activity.  Although I hated to do it, I mowed my agility area because I was worried about being stung while practicing. 

Grover and I are off this weekend to a trial in Sharonville, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati.  This is our first solo/away trial and also our first trial in  8 weeks, so while I am looking forward to it, I am nervous as well.  We need 1 Q in Jumpers to move up from Novice to the Open classWe have 1 leg of 3 in Open Standard and it would be nice to get a Q in that as well.  But this will be Grover's first experience at a trial in a new-to-us venue, so anything could happen.  Just please, no pottying in the ring!