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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 Knitty.com.   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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Still in Winter's Grip

I don't think the dogs know what to make of this snow dog in the front yard.

Yes, we have had more snow and more below zero temps and more frozen pipes.  I checked my Syrup Journal from last year and we tapped trees on Feb. 19th. By this time a year ago, we were experiencing 45 to 50 degree highs. Not every day, but on several days.   I don't think we have been above freezing for more than a day or 2 in the past 2 weeks, so tapping trees has not even been considered.  Sam did all that work on our new sugar shack and has yet to put it into use.  Maybe this coming week we will be able to tap some trees and collect some sap. 

The good news is that I was able to try out my snowshoes!  However, I found it was easier to walk up to the pond in the tracks left by Sam's trip up and back with the buggy than to use the snowshoes.  The snow was wet and heavy and every step picked up snow on the snowshoe that was then flung off as I walked.  Good exercise,  I am sure.  But so is walking uphill in snowy buggy tracks.

I missed posting a couple of weeks this month.  That was due to the fact that I flew out to Arizona to visit my brother's family.  My mom and her sister (photo on left)

had a house rented for the month and my cousin and I made arrangements to both be there at the same time with our moms.  We had a great time.  We went out to eat, we went to a farmer's market, we went out to eat again, we went hiking, I went horseback riding, Tracey and I spent some time lounging at the pool, we spent time at my brother and sister-in-law's house, we went to my niece's soccer game and nephews' football games.  And I think we went out to eat......

The weather was quite nice, fabulous in fact.  Sunny and warm enough to sit by the pool during the day, though the pool wasn't heated so it was rather cool for swimming.  The nights were cool enough for a light jacket, or in my case a handknit shawl when we went out (to eat).  I really really enjoyed the time I spent with everyone, since I usually see them all at Thanksgiving and that did not happen this year.  

 Here are a couple of photos I took on a sunrise hike at Santan Mountains Regional Park, just a few miles from my brother's house.  This is also where I went horseback riding and is a fabulous park.  

So then I came back to 10 degrees with a wind chill below zero and a snow covered car at the Columbus airport.  I still say there really is no place like home.

Grover and I went to agility class last night.  Of course there has been no working on our outdoor stuff at home, but I have been working with trying to get him to stop jumping on me, which has become a problem in the ring, and it seems to be working.  Time will tell.  He was better last night at class.  One of the other women and her husband made me a set of weave pole bases and poles and brought them last night, so we now have weave poles that can be moved without a tape measure and 2# sledge hammer and spray paint!   Now if only the snow will melt so we can use them.  Grover and I also attended a trial since my last post.  We ran in both novice jumpers with weaves and novice standard both days of the trial and we Q'd in novice standard on Saturday.  Since my goal was to get at least one Q, I was happy.  We only need one more Q in novice standard to move up to Open, but we still have not Q'd in jumpers.  We have a trial March 7 & 8, so maybe we will get a jumper's Q that weekend.





I finished a lot of knitting projects, or at least everything I had on my needles, since last I posted.  I finished my cabled sweater (I need a better photo), 








a hat I made for brother Mike, who was actually in Phoenix when I got there, but who returned to Ohio the next day and

 a pair of socks I started Thanksgiving weekend with yarn I purchased when Mom and I were visiting my aunt and cousin last June in Michigan.  These socks were my travel project:



And of course I have cast on a new sweater project and a scarf/shawl and something that will be a surprise for someone who may read this.  So for now that's all I'll say.

I'll leave off now with a photo of some very snowy 'pacas enjoying their hay.  In case you think it is cruel to feed them outside, there is also a hay feeder under cover at which they could be eating.  They do not seem to mind the snow and often sleep outside in it.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's Still Winter, But Spring is Not That Far Off!

That's what I tell myself, anyway.  I always feel putting January behind us is a big deal.  I find the last week of January and the first week of February are usually the coldest weeks of the winter and if we are going to have frozen pipes and other issues, this is usually when that happens.  It is plenty cold right now, but we got the negative F temps much earlier.  Instead, we have had snow, then rain, then freezing again, which makes for difficult navigation around our place.  We get ice built up in places that just do not thaw because the sun does not hit them.  Like right in front of the alpaca barn.
 This is the north side of the barn and the ice sheet is about 20' wide here.  I had to take hay over there yesterday and I discovered that the Buggy does not steer well or stop well on ice.  Big surprise!  Can you see Grover in the driver's seat?   His favorite place to be.






This is the road between our house and the guest house.  This was yesterday morning and we got a good bit of sun in the afternoon and it thawed out for the most part, but there is still a bit of ice to watch for.



Sam has made good progress on the sugar shack.  Notice the large covered vent on the roof.  Since producing maple syrup requires boiling down about 40 gallons of sap to end up with 1 gallon of finished syrup, that means an awful lot of water is going up into the air in the form of steam.  You really want that to continue on up and out of your building.  This is another reason one does not boil sap in one's kitchenWe still have a lot of nice dry pine left from last year that we will be feeding into the evaporator for hours on end.  I enjoy the process.  We will also be using this time to clean out more of the underbrush around the pond.  We get a little more done every year.

Upcoming:  Grover and I have our third agility trial this weekend!  I feel we have come a long way, even though our practice time has been limited to class time due to weather since  December.  So maybe we will have a qualifying run.  We will have 4 shots at it and I think we ought to be able to do it.  

Also, a week from today I am flying off to Phoenix to see my brother and his family, so unless I get enough material to post on Tuesday, I won't post until I get back.  I hope to  spend some quality family time and get in some good warm weather outdoor activity as well.  My camera will definitely be packed along.




While I am still working on the frogged and re-knit cabled cardigan sweater, I did finish the handspun gradient cowl I posted about last week.  I'm really happy with how it turned out and I think Sam even did a great job of taking some photographs!  You can see more about the project here :  Cathy's willow cowl








 




I also finished the bindings on the 2 rugs I took off the loom last week.  I am so happy with these!  They really turned out well.  I am just going to tie new warp onto what is left on the loom from these and use the same pattern to do a couple more.  The warp on these was black and white and I will change it to brown and white for the next rugs.








As usual, Grover is waiting to go for a ride.  What he is really waiting for is spring when we will fold down the windshield and he can once again ride with his paws on the dashboard and his ears streaming back in the wind.

 

This (now) empty bird nest is up in the barn rafters.  These clever birds "feathered" their nest with alpaca fiber and chicken feathers!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

End of January! Lots of Nature.

This past weekend we woke up to a few inches of heavy wet snow.  When the snow coats everything like this it is so pretty.



 And as the dogs and I walked down the road to do our morning chores the wind was coming through and making brief mini white-outs as it blew the snow off the tree branches.


I spent Saturday finishing up extracting honey from my empty hive.  I got almost 4 gallons of honey.  I really prefer to extract honey when I can do it outside.  And when it is warmer.  The honey doesn't come free from the comb nearly as well when it is cooler.  

And Sam got another deer for us over the weekend as well, which is good because bow season is over at the end of this month and we really needed some more meat in the freezer.  So Monday I filled my canner with venison.  

Speaking of wildlife, I had the good fortune to finally see one of the beavers that have dammed up the creek on Wayne National  Forest that I walk by several times a week!  I observed ripples in the pond and stopped to just watch for a few minutes and the first thing I saw of the beaver was its tail sticking straight up out of the water.  Then it climbed up onto the bank and began gnawing on a sapling.  It was at the far side of the pond from us so I did not get a real good look and I did not have my camera so no photos.  It also froze when Grover barked at it and became almost invisible.  But at least I have finally seen one!  

I also found a possum curled up in one of my cat beds in the barn.  All I could see through the little opening in the plastic tote was fur, and not cat fur.  It did not move when I poked it with a stick, so I hauled it outside and opened the lid.  The possum had been injured by something and had crawled in there to die.  Very strange.

And as I was starting this post, Sam called me and said he had seen another otter in the pond this morning while he was up there working on the sugar shack.  This just does not bode well for the fish in our little pond.  

We have lots of things coming up in our near future.  This Saturday Sam and I are once again  attending the Columbus Winter Beerfest.  We have our hotel room booked and will have a nice dinner beforehand and then will sample many craft beers at this event at the convention center.  This will be our 3rd year attending, though the first year I was the designated driver for Sam and son Sam/Zac/Satchmo and we drove home after the event.  I prefer staying in Columbus and being able to partake of the offerings on tap!

Then next weekend, Grover and I are entered in our 3rd agility trial, once again in Zanesville.  We will be staying overnight again, especially since we will be in the first class on Sunday morning.   And then on the 11th, I fly to Phoenix to spend a week with my brother and his family, my mom, my aunt and my cousin.  Can't wait to see them all!  Sam gets to stay here and hold down the fort.

 I started a new knitting project this week, a cowl that I am knitting with a gradient handspun yarn that I spun last year some time from a commercial merino wool/bamboo blend.  I need a couple easy projects to take on my travels, and this fits the bill.  I am still working on my sweater and have started the hood, but it is really too large at this point to carry along.  I still have a pair of socks on the needles as well.


I will end with some snowy vistas and some funny faces:





Thursday, January 22, 2015

January Thaw = MUD

This will be a fairly brief post because I have had little opportunity to take photos.  For the most part the weather continues to be grey and dreary, except for Sunday which is when I got a couple photos of Sam's progress on the sugar shack.   Maple season will be upon us before too long and he is  working to get this finished so we can sit inside while we feed the evaporator.   


The fire in the evaporator will keep the shack nice and warm and dry.  There will be a large roof vent to allow the steam to escape.


We have had a thaw this week, which means lots and lots of mud, which is why the camera has stayed inside even when I do go out and walk dogs.  The dogs have had to be hosed down in the bath tub on several occasions, which they hate.  But they just get SO muddy!

The bad news is that because it warmed up I decided I really needed to check my bee hive.  When it is cold, you can check the status to a certain extent by putting your ear up against the hive and thumping on it.  This should result in an angry buzzing from inside.  The last few times I had done this, I heard no buzzing so I was not surprised to find no bees at home.  What happened?  I have no idea.  There was a layer of dead bees on the bottom of the hive, but not a hive's worth of dead bees.  There was little to no sign of any brood (larva, eggs, etc) and there were many many frames of capped honey.  In fact, I have extracted 3 gallons of honey so far and still have a few frames to go.  So, they did not freeze and they did not starve.  I don't think bees abandon a hive full of honey.  My best guess is that something happened to the queen a few weeks back and the rest of the hive just died out with no bees to replace them.  So I am struggling with whether or not to try again.  If I am going to do so, I need to order some bees somewhere soon.

Otherwise, things are pretty status quo here.  Grover and I are back at agility class but have been unable to practice here at home.  We have a trial coming up the first weekend in February, which is a little over 2 weeks away.  Grover is doing 12 weave poles in class pretty well, but he will still be doing 6 in trials until he gets his novice titles and moves up.  It may take a while.







I just took 2 rugs off my big loom here at the office.  I love how they came out.  The white one is 45 inches long and the brown is 41 inches, exclusive of the binding.  





Here's more detail on the white one.

I am still knitting away on the sweater I ripped out earlier this month and re-started.  I am almost done with the second sleeve and then I need to do the hood and the button band.  I hope to have it done before I go to visit my brother's family in Phoenix in mid-February.  Not that I will need an alpaca/wool sweater there.  Or maybe I will at night.