Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fall is in the Air

It may be 90 degrees out there right now, but the days are getting shorter and have gone from summer's dark green to the golds of early fall.  There is a constant insect hum and it just feels different.  
Plus Labor Day is now in the past.  We had our annual Labor Day party and I was astonished at how many little kids were here.  We had more babies and toddlers than I have ever seen before and older kids were in the minority.  I got to meet the newest member of the family, my niece's baby boy Blake, born in July.  He's a big handsome boy and seems a very content baby.

There were a lot of people here on Saturday.  So much food.  I am always afraid there won't be enough and there is always too much.  Unfortunately by the time I thought to get my camera out, it was getting dark.

 Cornhole is always fun.

Some of the vehicles by which people arrived.

The weather was hot but good on Saturday but the rain moved in early Sunday morning and stuck around all day.  It did not keep a couple of visiting teenage boys and my niece's husband from enjoying the zip line at the pond, however.

And of course there was dog play

Grover made a new friend who was about his age, but much larger.

And this is how a dog looks when there is no room for him in the ATV coming home from the pond in the mud and he runs along behind (much to his disgust)

So by the time everyone went home on Monday, I was wiped out and I think Grover was as well.  We were both a little off at agility class on Tuesday night, but we should recover soon.  

Here are a couple shots from around the farm this morning.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

End of Summer Busy-ness

The timber harvesting should be coming to an end soon.  Some very large oaks and an ash were cut this week, a couple exceeding 3' in diameter.

I feel badly that Grover seems to be hogging the spotlight anymore.  Rowdy is still along with us all the time, he is just not as agile as he used to be.  He had an acunpuncture session last week, which did seem to help a good bit for a few days.  We will try it again for a few sessions next month, but until we return from our trip to Oregon, there is just no time, which sounds bad, but the clinic is over an hour drive each way and the treatment is a good 45 minutes.  We shall see how it works out.

This will be a brief post.  I have so much going on and not nearly enough time for all of it.  I am getting ready for lots of house guests this weekend.  This will be our 17th Labor Day weekend on the farm and for every one of those weekends we have had a number of my family members come to stay.  It is a highlight of the summer and of the year.  On Saturday we also invite the neighbors and friends and acquaintances to come over for a cookout.  We never know who will show up.  This year is  kind of hard because I have always loved having my niece and nephews here and they are now living in the Phoenix area and well, the drive is a bit long.  However, my older niece (other brother's daughter) who was with us on the first ever Labor Day, plans to be here with her husband and their 5 week old baby boy, Blake.  The newest generation continues the tradition!  I look forward to seeing him getting muddy and wet and dirty and exhausted in the next several years. 

My tomatoes are really just beginning to come ripe.  It is so late.  But is has been a cool summer.  I actually purchased a half bushel of roma tomatoes last week and canned 7 quarts.  The rest of them are being added to some of our own tomatoes and going into a progressive tomato sauce that is in the fridge right now.  Not sure when it will get canned.  Friday?  Monday?  

Otherwise, I put a coat of Kilz on the ceiling and walls  of the guest house living room this week.  Ugh, I used the oil based stuff to cover soot discoloration and it was no fun.  I still have paint speckles all over me.  Mom is supposed to arrive today and work on getting that room painted before the weekend.  

I have some fiber projects that I did not have room for last week, so since I am short on other material this week, photo-wise, I will post those today.

I started and finished a cowl called Zuzu's Petals
It is a quick knit and I did it with some leftover yarn from a shawl I knit a couple years ago.  The yarn is a commercial gradient that came in several little skeins that shift gradually from one color to the next.  It came out pretty.

The other is one I am really pleased with so far.  This is a sweater I am knitting from my own alpaca/wool yarn that I had commercially spun at Morningstar Fiber Mill.  I then hand-dyed it. To the right is the front of the sweater.  Because this is a hand-dyed variegated tonal yarn, I am knitting with 2 skeins at a time.  The reason for this is that sometimes, even though the yarn was all dyed in the same pot, there can be color variation from skein to skein.  If I knit one row with one skein and the second row with the other skein, I can keep it from being glaringly obvious if this is the case. I am more than happy with how this yarn dyed up as well as how it is knitting.  I hope to acquire another nice wool fleece or 2 soon to have more of this blend done up.  I should be able to do so at either the Wool Gathering or at NY Sheep and Wool in Rhinebeck later in October.

This will be a long sleeved henley style pullover sweater.  It has a lace pattern on the back.  I hope you are able to see that in the photo to the left.  The pattern is

Happy Labor Day and End of Summer to you!



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hay Time

Yes it was that time again this past weekend.  Mow hay, ted hay, rake hay, bale hay, pick up hay, stack hay in barn.  A lot of hot itchy work, though not nearly as hot this year as it has been in the past.  Grover went with me to ted the hay and he graciously posed on the tractor.  The problem with that though was he wanted to ride with me on the tractor and there is just no room on this tractor for a person and a dog.  So he went back to the house and came to check on me every half hour or so.

 The tedder is pulled behind the tractor after the hay has had some time to dry and it basically fluffs it and turns it so the hay underneath gets dry as well.  In the photo, you can see the untedded hay on the right in narrow rows and the hay that has been done is more spread out.   Our first cutting on this field was done late, so we did not get as much off the field as we usually do, but still had about 300 bales to stack in the loft on Saturday.

 That along with the 100 or so bales from the other fields we did a couple weeks ago should get us through the winter.

It certainly feels like late summer out there.  The insects are keeping up a steady background noise and the unmowed fields are coming alive with new color.

The iron weed (purple) is blooming and the golden rod is just starting to bloom.  Nothing likes the iron weed, not even cattle will eat it and the bees don't like it.  But the bees do like the goldenrod, so it provides a fall nectar flow for them. 

The Queen Ann's Lace is everywhere.  This reminded me of a snowflake. 

And this Jewel Weed is prolific along the creek and fence lines.  I have been told that this is a wonderful remedy for poison ivy, though the orange variety is more potent, so I will be harvesting some and making an ointment to keep on hand to try next time I am afflicted.  I hope it does work.  


All summer, when hiking in the woods, one must be on alert for spider webs across the path.  I need to identify this arachnid which spins its webs in openings (such as a path) that have overhanging trees.  You can see the spider on the right in the photo.  The webs are usually right at face height and most unpleasant to walk into, especially if you think the spider might now be in your hair.  These seem to become more numerous toward fall.  They are easier to see in the morning when the webs are outlined with dewdrops and glow in the sunshine.

To avoid having webs across our faces and spiders in our hair, we generally use a web-catcher when we walk.  This simply entails breaking off a leafy branch and waving it in front of us as we walk.  It's kind of a pain, but so much better than walking through a spider web every 50 yards!

Here's my webcatcher.

Grover and I are still enjoying our agility classes and now we are thinking of entering a trial.  Unfortunately, with my busy fall schedule, our first opportunity to do so will be in November.  Or maybe that is not unfortunate, because it gives us a couple more months to prepare!  This week Sam and I constructed a Teeter, since Grover needs some work on that obstacle.  It is helping to work with him at home on it.

I'm not sure what else we can fit in our yard.
Maybe this weekend I can get Sam to man the camera and get some video of Grover and me running our little course.  

Tomorrow, Rowdy and I have an appointment with a vet in St Clairsville who does acupuncture on dogs.  The laser treatments are helping, but not as much as I would like, so this is the next step.  I am also wondering if an orthopedic specialist could clean up that knee.  Tomorrow's appointment should be interesting

My poor garden is pathetic.  My tomatoes are just not ripening  and what is left of my corn is spindly, but growing ears.  I think our weather has not been hot and sunny enough for the tomatoes to do well down here in our hollow.

This post is so full of photos that I will wait until next week to show you my new knitting projects.  A quick overview of my fall schedule:

Labor Day weekend, our yearly party.
We have a trip to Portland, OR planned to visit our kids.
I will be a vendor at the Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs Ohio with my alpaca yarns and fiber the 19th and 20th of September.  
I will be bringing mom's dog home with me to keep while she takes her tour group to Italy.  Then in October I am hosting a Dye Day for my spinning guild on the farm on Saturday the 4th.
On the 17th I am heading out to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival at Rhinebeck with a couple girlfriends to do some shopping and have some fun.  
The following weekend is my 35th high school reunion in the Cincinnati area.  So, a busy couple months ahead!

I will say that our crias are growing and thriving. Here is Tempest's Sonata:


Thursday, August 7, 2014

And it is August........

I didn't do too badly with Rowdy's summer haircut, did I?  My groomer moved away and I decided to purchase clippers and clip Rowdy myself.  That way I can clip him more than once over the summer and will not clip him down to the skin.  I have to admit, it has taken me since May to get him done all the way.  But he looks good and we can control the matting caused by his being constantly wet.

August is here already.  Wow.  It has never really felt like summer so far.  It has been cool, with nights generally into the mid 50's and even a couple into the upper 40's!  Lots of rain.  I have to say it has not been good for the garden.  The tomatoes like hot sunny weather and we just have not had it. So I have my very first tomatoes starting to come ripe.  Our corn has done miserably, mainly due to the mole that tunneled under it and ate the seed I planted before it ever even came up.  I do have a few cornstalks, but they are not as tall as I am, so hopes are not good.  Time will tell if we get a few ears off them.  Oddly enough, my asparagus patch is producing.  Squash is doing well.  I don't plant summer squash as we don't eat that much of it.  But we love winter squash and this year we have only planted butternut, as that is our favorite.

I also planted some pumpkins and there is one growing and several blossoms on the vines.  I need to plant some lettuce.  As soon as I can till up where the spring lettuce was.  

 Our 2 crias are doing very well.  Growing like weeds.  I love to watch them play together.  They are 2 1/2 months old now and have easily doubled in size since birth.  Adorable, aren't they?

 August means hay time on the farm. Yesterday Sam mowed the 2 smaller fields so we should be baling tomorrow (Friday) or Saturday.  Then we have to watch for a good window with no rain so we can do the main 4 acre field that produces all the hay our alpacas need for the winter.  Last year's is almost gone.  It is a lot of work.

 But there is playtime, too.  Grover and I are into our 3rd 8 week session of agility classes and loving it.  Since we started the 3rd session, the dogs have been introduced to all the obstacles and we now have all the dogs, large and small, in one group and we are running courses of up to 7 obstacles at a time.  I added a tunnel to our yard and am making plans to build a teeter, which Grover is somewhat hesitant about because he doesn't like the way it BANGS down when he goes across it.  He is doing wonderfully with the weave poles and we have added 2 more to make 8 altogetherHe loves the tunnel and so does Rowdy.  I may have to  move my course to the other side of the house where there is more room.  I just like this location because it is shaded.

 It was even mentioned at class this past week that some of the class participants may be thinking of  trialing with their dogs this fall.  I do not think we will be doing that since I have overbooked my fall already, but I would like to go spend a day at least at a trial, observing and possibly helping out.  I just hope the timing works.

And in my down time, I have finished a couple of knitting projects, a scarf called Trillian  that I started right before my Michigan trip.  I love the colors and the sparkly yarn

And the other project I finished was one I started on Mother's Day and it is a lacey open front cardigan made in a light sock-weight yarn.  It is perfect over a tank top in air conditioning.

It is called Hitofude  .  I know, more purple.  I bought 5 skeins of this yarn on sale last year and so far have knit 2 pairs of socks for gifts and now this little cardigan out of it.  I still have one entire skein and a partial skein left.  

Since August is  here it is time to think about Labor Day weekend, which in the 16 years we have been on this farm, has become a tradition of family and neighbors aall getting togetherSo know if you are reading this you are invited.  It will be quieter this year as my brother and sister-in-law and their 3 kids and 2 dogs are now living in Arizona and they will not be here.  I will really, really miss having those kids here.  But the new generation has arrived and we are hoping my niece and her husband and their new baby, Blake, born 3 weeks ago, will be here.  Time marches on and brings change. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer is Flashing By

This is how Grover rides in the Honda Pioneer, also known as "the buggy".  He loves to ride in it, but insists on standing with hind feet on the seat and front feet on the dashboard, with his ears blowing in the breeze.  Obviously, I was not moving very fast when I took this photo since I can't really drive and shoot at the same time.  Rowdy gets the passenger seat and is more than happy to sit on the seat.  Things get a little crowded when Sam joins us.  Sometimes Grover will hop into the bed then.  Not always.

I dug up our garlic this week.  With the continual rain, the weeds were rampant, so I first used the weed trimmer around the perimeter, cutting down the last of the asparagus as well as weeds.  Oddly enough, I found about 5 new stalks of asparagus, which I brought home and put into pasta salad.  I did not expect to see new asparagus in late July, but it has been cool and rainy.  I will check for more later.  But the garlic did well and I think we will have enough to get us through til next year.  For now it is hanging in the summer kitchen to dry out.  Some bulbs will be set aside for replanting in October.

I also checked in on the bees on Sunday.  The hive is strong, lots of baby bees in various stages and honey being made and stored.  I gave them a 5th box with new foundation to draw into comb.  I had to pull all the wax from most of the frames that were in the hive that died over the winter and get rid of it.  It had dead bees and stuff in it that was just unpleasant, so I put new wax foundation into those frames.  The buckwheat seems to be done flowering for now, but I think it will flower again.  It has definitely gone to seed.  

If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can see the clusters of brown buckwheat grains under the flowers.  I think I would have to gather a lot of these to make a batch of pancakes!  

Another crop on our farm this year was put in by my neighbor's grandson:  corn.

 This is way up in what used to be horse pasture and its purpose is as a food plot to attract deer.  It is field corn, not sweet corn.  I think he has also planted turnips and clover.  He also has several trail cameras up to see what will be attracted.  I like to know where those are so I can avoid them on my walks.  

Grover and I have now completed 16 weeks of agility classes.  We are enjoying it.  He gets very excited when I tell him it is time to go to dog class and he likes to practice in the yard.  We are up to working on 6 weave poles out of the ultimate 12.  He is doing pretty well and I set up my tripod yesterday in the yard to get a short video of us practicing.


Turn your volume down if you don't want to hear my high-pitched encouragement to Grover through the poles.  I do not know how to edit video, so you will see a false start at the beginning.  The dog must always enter with the first pole to his left shoulder in order to be correct.  This is one of the hardest things for dogs to learn and we started with 2 poles, then added 2 more and now we are up to 6.  We are still doing 6 in class, so I will add more when the instructor says we will add more.  Last night in class, we did a sequence starting with a jump, then the weave poles and then into a tunnel.  Then we did jump, weave, tunnel and back through the weave poles coming out of the tunnel.  That one was tricky.  

I didn't post last week.  Just didn't have enough photos and content.  My mom visited and she and I spent a good bit of time organizing the new kitchen, figuring out what to put where, etc.  And then on Sunday before she headed for home, Sam's parents came over and I cooked beer can chicken on the grill and we had a nice dinner on the deck.

As for fiber-y stuff, I finished spinning a bobbin (approximately 4 oz) of fawn alpaca singles for the blanket project.  It is not very inspiring spinning and now I need to do another one to ply it with.  That will give me a pound of 2-ply fawn to add to the black I have done and the white I am still working on.  I plan to do some brown as well, so 4 colors in all.  

Have not started or finished anything else, though I should have my lace-y purple cardigan off the needles today.  I sure hope so.  I will be able to make good use of it yet this summer and it will be perfect for early fall.

We have had a lot of thunderstorms this past week.  Monday morning, I looked out the back door to see this incredible lighting.  This was about 7:30 am.  I have not edited it at all.  It was gorgeous!  There are a couple places (just above the alpaca barn and then up to the right) where the sun coming up (which would be to the extreme left in this photo) was touching the treetops on the hill and lighting them up.

And here is a shot of a "teazel" just beginning to bloom, looking down on it from above.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hops & Summer Camp & Spinning & Weaving

The boys are enjoying the cool comfort of the ceramic tile floor in the mostly complete kitchen (is anything really ever completely complete?)!  So look at that view and then look at this one:

 Same kitchen as it was when the property was purchased 12 or so years ago.  It went from that look to this one:

And actually had a couple re-paintings prior to its new incarnation.

Here is the other side of the room

A bit of an improvement, wouldn't you agree?

Sam actually brewed his first batch of beer in the new kitchen this past weekend while I was away.  And speaking of beer, here are a few photos of this year's hop crop.

 The hops are a perennial and they like to climb.  These are the first ones he planted and they do very well in this spot.

The other batch of vines is growing in a field and Sam rigged up guy wires for the plants to climb.  These don't seem to be as prolific.  They are also several different varieties, so that may explain the smaller vines.  I don't know.  These hop cones will soon be picked and Sam will dry them and freeze what he doesn't use right away for use in future batches of home brewed beer.
I traveled to eastern Maryland this past weekend to attend a knitting summer camp hosted by the Twinset Designs Podcast  which is an audio podcast I listen to hosted by twin sisters.  They put together a retreat at a rather rustic summer camp Ramblewood Resort which was attended by myself and about 14 others.  It really was great fun.  It went from Friday through Sunday and we had campfires at night and lounged in the pool during the day and learned some new crafts, such as Tablet Weaving.  Everyone brought snacks and drinks to share (there was a huge cooler FULL of beer and wine and other wonderful stuff that we all shared) and we had our meals in the camp dining hall.  The meals were not standard camp fare.  The owner takes pride in serving locally produced food whenever possible and it shows.  I look forward to attending again next year.

So I've had a bit of fibery time.  I managed to finish spinning and plying 625 yards of fawn alpaca which is part of the ongoing woven blanket project.  I need about another 600 or so yards of this color before I move on to dark brown.

In last week's post I said I had been spinning at the festival in town and I worked on the same fiber at my spinning guild last Thursday.  It has black and grey alpaca and about a 1/3 of the fiber in the roving was dyed in a dark teal color.

I also warped my small loom for some gift weaving.  It was fairly quick to warp because it is only 9" wide and I am used to projects that are much wider.  The weaving will also go fairly fast and it is fun so far.  I am anxious to get back to it!