Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cleaning up and Putting up

Early morning out the back door.

Summer is always a busy time for outdoor work, but late August we kick it up a notch.  We always have a party Labor Day weekend and we invite friends and relatives from all over to come to the farm and many stay for the whole weekend.  This is good incentive for us to get everything cleaned up and replace broken boards on the bridges and just make the place look nice.  I think Sam said he ran almost an entire gallon of gas through the weed-eater yesterday!  I have done a bit of that myself.  

It is also when so many of the things we grow in the garden are ready to pick and preserve.  On Sunday, we picked 2 large plastic totes full of apples ( I got to climb up in the tree....I still love to climb trees) and when I arrived home from the office yesterday I found Sam preparing to press cider.  Our cider press is something I am sure Sam acquired at an auction and fixed up to be useable, as is the grinder.  So it is old stuff and runs totally on man-power.  First, the apples have to be sliced up.  I was in time to help with this chore.  Then, they are put through the grinder, which looks like this  >>>>>>>>>>
and here is the inside of it.  It is like 2 big intermeshed gears that turn and crush the apple slices as they pass through and drop into a bucket. 

Then they all go into the cider press

which has a flat piece of wood on the top which is slowly and laboriously cranked down with a metal rod in the hole on the top of the crank apparatus (I have NO idea what to call it) as you walk in a circle around the press and the cider comes out the spout at the bottom into a bucket.  This is very hard to turn.  Between Sam and myself, but mostly Sam, we had about 7 hours in this chore and produced 4 1/2 gallons of cider.

Sam is talking about picking more apples and making more cider, but I have no idea when we will find the time.  Maybe this weekend.

On Tuesday, I canned 5 1/2 quarts of tomato sauce.  Everything in it, except for the olive oil I sauteed the onions in, came right from the backyard:  tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh basil, oregano and parsley.  Sadly I don't think I will have enough tomatoes to make another batch due to the poor tomato crop this year, but we will enjoy what we have.

This morning, I picked some peppers and pickled them.  In past years I have canned them, but they get mushy in the canning process and Sam does not like them then.  I don't care for them at all, but he loves them on salads and pizza and sandwiches.  So this year we decided to try just pickling them and refrigerating them.  We'll see how they turn out done up that way.  I only did a quart and it took very little time.

Tomorrow I plan to go and pick peaches and can those as well.

Today Sam and I went to the county fair for the livestock sale and purchased our yearly lamb.  It was nice to be able to purchase from the daughter of an acquaintance of mine.  It doesn't always work out that way, but it did this year.

And that's really about it for this week.  I have started to warp my small loom at home for some really brightly colored towels, but its not far enough along yet to look like anything.  My time has been somewhat limited for fiber stuff.  It may just be that way the next couple of weeks.  My schedule is very full up through the Wool Gathering in about 4 weeks.  But that's ok.  I know it will all go by way too fast!

This tomato plant in my herb garden does not seem to have suffered from the wet weather, but the tomatoes on it are not yet ripe.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Garden Harvest

We had some interesting lighting last evening just as Sam and the dogs and I came up out of the woods into the hayfield by the pond.  Be sure to click on this photo to enlarge it.  It's pretty neat.


I have been busy this week putting up the produce we have grown to save it to eat when the days are not so warm.  We do not plant a lot of corn, but it  has done very well this year and I picked 2 1/2 dozen ears and froze them in the right amount to use in chicken corn chowder this winter, a favorite of ours.  We have been eating lots of corn on the cob and still have quite a bit we need to eat.  We like to soak the corn in water in the husk and then put it on the gas grill for about 20 minutes.  It steams the corn in the husk and is wonderful!  

 Sam went to do an appraisal on a property close to us which is a second home for a family from northern Ohio.  There are 3 apple trees and a peach tree loaded with fruit and the owner told us to have at it and take whatever we want.  We picked a bucket of apples on Sunday and will go back and check on the peaches and get more apples once all are ripe.  I made and froze a gallon of applesauce on Monday.  And I made apple dumplings and home made vanilla ice cream on Sunday.  These apples were not quite sweet enough for that, but the applesauce is wonderful.

The tomatoes are not doing really well.  We had way too much rain in June and July, over 15",  and as they start to ripen, the tomatoes are getting rotten spots.  I have a pot of progressive sauce in the fridge, but I am not optimistic about having a lot to can.  We did have one of Sam's favorite meals last week, spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce.  I only fix it a couple times each fresh tomato season as it is labor intensive, but oh so good.  It has a lot of fresh basil in it and our basil did not seem to like the wet weather either.  *Sigh*

It is time to plant lettuce for fall and of course the winter squash and pumpkins seem to be thriving.  Can't wait to get into those!  

I have spent some time clearing the brush along the creek bank.  This time of year when the creek is dry, I can get down in it and clear both sides and the creek bed itself.  I wear muck boots just in case I disturb a snake, which is a real possibility.  It is a lot of work, about 4 tankfuls of gas in the brush trimmer (I only do one tankful a day which takes 45 minutes), but it sure looks nice once it is finished.


 2 nights ago we got a deluge of rain, over 3" after 3 weeks with no rain, and the creek ran again for about 18 hours and then was dry again.

Here's another photo from our walk last night.  I noticed this fungus a couple days ago and last night it had really opened up.  It is growing on a downed tree in the woods, so it was rather dark, but it is actually this color.  It is the same color as cheese popcorn or Cheetos.  I love seeing these vibrant colors in nature. Who ever thought fungi could be so colorful?

I have a kind of secret knitting project on my needles and a secret weaving project on my loom.  I don't like to post those because I never know which family members do or do not read this blog.  But I did knit a pair of little mitts from leftover yarn last week.  It is my own alpaca/wool hand-dyed yarn and these will be for sale at a festival.  They sell really well and I should make a dozen pairs, but I never seem to think of it in time.  Maybe I can make 4 more pairs by the Christmas Festival.  There, now that I have it in print, I may actually follow through.

Obviously the chickens were finding something tasty on the mower when Sam quit mowing last night.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Trials and Tribulations

Rowdy was being his typical photogenic self this morning.   


Speaking of Rowdy, the laceration under his eye is almost healed up, just as I thought it would be.  He just has a line where there is no hair.  I am very relieved it has healed so well and I will NEVER leave a wheelbarrow where it does not belong again.  

So, our trial this past weekend was fraught with tribulation.  I was in Dayton, in a new place and pretty much in a new level in standard, since we had only had one run in excellent previous to this trial.  So maybe my nerves contributed to our crummy showing.  Maybe.  Probably.  Though another contributing factor was likely the fact that Grover really had had no exercise since Thursday evening, or at least exercise like he is accustomed to having.  Anyway, our first run on Saturday was around 12:30 pm and it was pretty much a disaster, debacle, whatever.  It all went off the rails at the weave poles and then Grover bounced off the table a couple times and went to investigate the judge as he was giving us our table count.  The dog has to jump up onto the table and stay while the judge counts down slowly from 5.....The judge was pretty close by and counting loudly.  Yeah, we need to practice that.  We were redeemed in open jumpers, though, later that afternoon, with a qualifying run and a first place .  Our first leg of our open jumpers title.   Sunday's X Std run was better than Saturday's but no Q.  And Sunday's jumpers was as bad as Saturday's std.

 <<<< This is our Excellent Standard course from Sunday.  I have marked the obstacles, except the jumps, and put in arrows to make it easier to see what sequence we had to follow.  As a handler, I have 8 minutes, along with everyone else, to walk the course and memorize it and plan how I will run it.  My dog will not see it until we are called into the ring for our turn.  There were 20 obstacles in this course.  At the excellent level, we are allowed no mistakes.  Grover and I are not at the no mistakes level just yet.  But we'll work on it.

We will be enjoying the first corn from our garden this evening, along with BLTs with tomatoes from our garden.  We have managed to keep the raccoons from returning,  so far.  I hope they continue to stay away.  I think Sam and I will be eating a lot of corn in the next week or so.  Can't let it go to waste and I'm not sure there is enough to freeze.  

Meanwhile, the squash and pumpkins are taking over.  They have grown through the fences into the agility practice field.  I thought this squash flower along with the weeds and huge squash leaves was pretty.

Cria shenanigans.  Always cute.  This is Trillium's cria.  She continues to nurse from both her mother and her great-grandmother.  She's a pistol.

Here are the 5 girls in the pasture across from the guest house.  They have an acre and an 8' X 16' run in building for shelter.  Can you notice that the floor in this building is spotless?  These girls have not fouled this building in years.  The 3 males have a building a little bigger than this and it looks like a pit toilet and smells like one, despite constant scooping.  That's why they will never get moved into this pasture.  Once someone starts eliminating in the building, they will all do it.  

The only project I have finished in the past week is this pair of socks.  I have a pair of fingerless mitts on the needles now using yarn leftover from a sweater I knit from my alpaca/wool handdyed yarn.  I need to knit up several pairs of mitts if I can before winter.  They sell quite well at the Christmas Festival and are very quick to knit.  I am also in the process of warping my big loom for a gift project, so I'll share that when I can.

Upcoming events for Sept: our Annual Labor Day weekend party, which will be at the farm on Saturday Sept 5 starting around 3 pm.  If you are reading this, you are invited.  On Sept 6th, Sam leaves for a hunting trip in Idaho.  On the12th and 13th, Grover and I have a trial in Zanesville.  On Sept 19th and 20th, I will be a vendor at the Wool Gathering    in
Yellow Springs Ohio.  Looks like September will be a busy month for me.  

What a face!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer is Flying By

What?  No photos of the dogs this week? So I thought I'd post Thomas the barn cat keeping an eye on things from a safe height in the hay loft.

Yes summer is streaming by at light speed it seems.  Our wet weather disappeared and now we are complaining that there is not enough rain.  Though as I write, we are getting some light rain, the first in weeks.  In the garden, the tomatoes are not thriving.  Too much rain early on and not enough sun was not ideal for them.  My beets were also small and I have harvested them all and they are pickled and canned, except for the last batch which was too small to can, so they are in a quart jar in the fridge.  They should be ok that way.  I dug up some carrots, which Grover helped himself to when I went inside to get my camera to photograph them.  He only took a couple and really enjoyed them. 

 The corn is doing fabulous.  It loved the wet weather followed by the dry sunny weather.  I just hope we can get it all harvested before the raccoons find it.  

Also doing well are the squash and pumpkins.  I only planted butternut squash this year because it keeps well and we love it.  It is kind of taking over, which is ok because there is room for it to do so.

There are some quite large ones and even one hanging on the fence.

I planted sugar pie pumpkins and there are a few of those, but not as many as the squash.  I hope to make pumpkin pie from my own pumpkins for Thanksgiving, if Mom doesn't mind.  Also pumpkin bread and Sam said something about pumpkin rolls, which I have never made.  They seem like too much work. I can make a cake that tastes just the same.

 Sam has been spending hours and hours getting this little Farmall tractor running.  He bought it a few years ago and it has been sitting in the granary down the road needing attention ever since.  But it has this nice belly mower, which will make much easier for me to mow my agility practice field.  It will turn oh so much more agile-ly than the Kubota with the bush hog on the rear!  The Farmall still has some issues, but it is in running order and I got to try it out on Sunday.  I love it!

Hopefully I won't have to pick everything up and move it now to mow.  It also helps that the rain has given us a break.  The grass is not growing anywhere near as fast.

Speaking of agility, Grover and I are off to a trial this weekend in Dayton, at the  

 Gem City Dog Obedience Club

Wish us luck!

I have something odd happening in my alpaca barn.  It mystifies and amazes me.  We had 2 crias born this spring, as I have posted.  Their mothers are B'Nita, born in 2008, and Trillium, a daughter of B'Nita's, born in 2011.  Both crias are doing well, especially Trillium's.  She is bigger than her pasturemate (the 2 are joined at the hip every time I look out there), though both are thriving.  Earlier this week, as I was cleaning the barn as I do every morning, I watched one of the crias nursing.  Then I did a double take because I realized the alpaca who was nursing the cria was neither B'Nita NOR Trillium.  In fact, it was Tunita, who is 13 years old and is the mother of B'nita, grandmother of Trillum!  Tunita's last cria is almost 3 years old and was sold last summer at almost 2 years of age.  The cria who was nursing was Trillium's cria, and she was spending enough time under there for me to conclude she must actually be getting something for her efforts.  Sure enough, when she finished and moved away, I got a hand under Tunita and was able to  express milk!  Now I have noticed that since I am not breeding all our alpacas anymore, they seem to be having odd hormonal swings.  Some of the females are actively mimicking male breeding behavior, right down to the orgling and mounting.  I wonder if this behavior is causing ovulation (alpacas are induced ovulators) and possibly false pregnancy in some of these girls.  I don't know what else would cause Tunita to start lactating and accepting a cria she did not give birth to.  I find it very interesting.  Whatever the cause, Tunita is producing milk and seems happy to be attending to a cria again.  She is a good sweet gentle alpaca who I had retired from breeding, but she has not retired from cria-rearing!

 I took advantage of last Saturday's fabulous hot sunny weather to wash a couple of fleeces and lay them out to dry.  This is 2 years of fleeces from Grand Design, a light fawn alpaca with very fine fiber.  This will be my next blanket project.  This one will be handspun and hand-dyed prior to weaving.  I hope to do this one a little faster than the last one, which took 2 years, start to finish, including the spinning.  I am hoping for a 1 year time frame.  I think I can do it.  It will be slightly smaller than the last one, not double-weave.

 I also finished a scarf I had started last February.  I have finished almost every project I had started since the first of the year.  One pair of socks left to go.  But no worries, I have lots of plans to keep my hands busy.

And by the way, Rowdy's face is healing up very nicely.  He went for a shock therapy treatment on his legs a couple days after the injury and the vet we see there said it could have been stitched and probably should have been, but I think in another week, there will be very little left to show of the injury, except maybe a spot where there is no hair.  Ah, both dogs are getting a bath tonight.  Grover because he has a trial this weekend, and Rowdy because he STINKS!

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!