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Thursday, February 4, 2016

January is Behind Us.

I am finally able to access my photos I took with my phone in Oregon last month.  So here I am with my 2 sons, Ian and Sam/Zac/Satchmo in front of one of the waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park, which is where Ian and Michelle will get married in just 4 months.  



And here are the bride and groom to be.  The park is gorgeous and I hope I get to do the whole 10 falls hike, which is about 7 miles, when I return for the wedding.  I will be sure to take my camera and not depend on my phone as the resolution is not so great.  But I think the photos are nice anyway.

  



Ian took this photo the next day from a park on top of a mountain in Portland.  That is Mt Hood in the background.  It was a lovely day. 





All our snow melted this past week.  It was unseasonably warm for several days and on Sunday the sun was shining and it was 60 degrees.  Wow.  The dogs and I went up to the pond and I spent a couple hours with the chainsaw and the brushcutter clearing out the briars and undergrowth on one side of the pavilion.  We have one side done and it is parklike with just the big trees and no brush and Sam can get in with the tractor and mow it.  It is our goal to do this all around the pond.  Here is what it looks like prior to clearing it out.
 




And afterwards



Sam will go in here with the tractor and push those larger downed logs down to the burn pile next to the pond, which looked like this after my work on Sunday.  I added to it on Tuesday, but did not take a new photo.  It is easily twice that size now.




Most likely this pile will get burned while we are cooking down maple sap.  Still wondering how the weather will affect that....


I finished the dyeing for my big weaving project this week.  I still need to spin a skein of black alpaca because what I tried to dye just did not work out.  In hindsight, it was silly to try to dye black when I have some lovely black fleeces in the summer kitchen just waiting to be processed.....I think I will be skirting fiber this weekend to send to the mill for processing.  But I have already washed what I need to spin for this project and will start carding it this weekend.  I only need about 4 oz.  

I had a tiny bit of dye left in the pot when I decided my skeins were dark enough, so I took an extra skein and dyed it to exhaust the dye and I got this:


It came out gorgeous and I can hardly wait to knit a small project with it.  When I say exhaust the dye, what I mean is use up every bit of color in the pot.  The dye molecules "strike" the fiber, kind of like iron filings jumping onto a magnet (we all did that in science class, right?).  The heat and the acid in the dyebath are what make the color stick permanently to the fiber.  So if you exhaust your dyebath, there will be no color left in your pot, just clear water when you remove the fiber.  In this case, I did not let all the color in the pot grab onto my original skeins of yarn because I did not want them any darker, so I pulled them out while there was still just a little color in the pot.  Then I hung this skein over a big spoon handle and let just the ends down into the pot for a few minutes before dropping it in all the way,  So I have kind of a gradient skein.  Dyeing is fun.  I like to experiment sometimes like this.  The best part is if I do not like what I get, I can overdye the yarn with another color and get something completely different and possibly awesome.  Too bad we can't fix all our mistakes so easily! 


Last but not least, I finished the binding on the grey rug.  It is a couple inches longer than the white one, which I dropped off at the Arts Center last week.  I will probably take this one in there as well.  The Monroe Artists have their big annual show in April and if I have some rugs for sale during the show I may sell another one or two.  I think I sold 9 rugs through the Arts Center last year, which is pretty good.  It pays for more yarn to be processed which means my fiber shed will not be as full!

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Trip to Portland and A Big Snow

I flew to Portland OR on the 18th of this month to spend some time with my 2 sons and my daughter-in-law-to-be.  I took photos, but only on my phone, which fell out of my pocket in the shuttle from my hotel to the airport on Saturday morning and has not yet made it to Ohio.  At least it was recovered and my son has picked it up and will send it to me.

But we had such a nice visit.  It was rainy the first couple days I was there, but then on Thursday which was when we went to the wedding venue, Silver Falls State Park, it was just overcast and around 50 degrees.  We got in a short hike and a picnic and got to go to the actual site where the wedding will be held and Michelle made notes and looked for just the right place to hold the ceremony and we discussed the rehearsal dinner and other details.  June is still over 4 months away, but it will be here before we know it.  

Friday was actually bright and sunny and about 60 degrees in Portland, while here in eastern Ohio, we were getting walloped with snow.  I was concerned about my return flight into Pittsburgh via Chicago, but I did not need to be.  Chicago had almost no snow and Pittsburgh had only about 3 to 4".  By the time I arrived at around 4 pm on Saturday, the roads were clear and there were no delays or other issues for my trip.  However, there was 14" of snow on the ground at home!  The farther south I drove from the airport toward home, the more snow there was. 

There was a full moon when I arrived home, so of course Sam and the dogs and I bundled up and went for a walk down the road.   The snow was too deep to venture off the road, but it was still spectacularly beautiful.  Sunday morning I had to go up and dig the fronts of the bee hives out of the snow so they could go out if they needed to.  I have some old hay bales stacked behind the hives to block some of the wind from the west but the hive entrances are at the bottom and they were thoroughly covered up.  The bees seem to be doing okay so far.  I have been feeding them on a regular basis and I just hope to get them through the winter so they can build up in the spring and maybe I can get a honey harvest this year.


 This is not the biggest snowfall we have had.  We had 22" over President's Day weekend in 2003 (I think that was the year).  Sam gets the tractor out and plows pathways between the buildings to make it easier to walk from place to place.  Here is the path from the chicken coop over to the alpaca barn.  





 And from the mud room door over to the footbridge.

Yesterday, Tuesday, it got well above freezing all day so much of the snow has already melted.  
 

But it was pretty while it lasted.

 
Since I got home from my trip, I have gotten back to work on the sweater I started in December.  I did not take it with me because it was too big to easily carry along (I took a pair of mittens instead) and work on on the plane.  I have now finished the cabled part of the body of the sweater and have moved on the ribbed lower edge.




This is the back.  That's a lot of cables!  I do like this type of knitting that keeps my mind engaged, though there is a time and place for knitting one does not have to think about as well (like on a plane).  



 
I also sewed the bindings on one of the rugs I took off the loom before my trip.  Hopefully I will get the other one done in the next few days. 




This one is white alpaca yarn for the weft and I think there are 5 different colors in the warp.  The other rug is the same except using grey alpaca rug yarn.  So my big loom is empty right now and I am not sure what will be on it next.  By March, I plan to have a big project on it, something I can hopefully enter in the Monroe Artists' Art Show in April.  That gives me a month to plan and weave another rug or two.  


 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

They're Gone


On Saturday morning Sam and I loaded 12 of our alpacas onto a trailer and sent them to Tennessee.  The barn seems so empty.  But all went well and they arrived at their new home safely.  I hope they do well there.  

Meanwhile, I still have the big dogs out there guarding their 3 senior female alpacas and the 2 boys down the road.  I'd like to find a new home for the dogs, but I want to see if I can get some weight off Star first.  I think now that there won't be 20 alpacas to clean up after I may finally be successful at that.  Both dogs vacuum up any little scrap of feed that hits the floor.

Our weather took quite a turn on Tuesday.  The photo above is the view of the state highway from my office window in late morning.  There was barely a dusting of snow when I left home and by the time it stopped snowing about 2 pm, I think there was about 5 to 6" here in Woodsfield.  The temperatures also dropped overnight and we had a low of -6 on Wednesday morning with frozen pipes (as usual).  I spent a lot of time with a hairdryer on Wednesday thawing them out.  

Not much else is new.  I am leaving Monday to go to Portland for 5 days so I wanted to be sure to get a quick post up before then.  Over the weekend I did some dyeing:

My 2 lightest colors are a bit too close.  I may have to dye another skein.  Otherwise I am pleased with how this came out.  It is warp for a big project.

Speaking of warp, just today I finished the weaving on 2 alpaca rugs and took them off the loom.  I used color in the warp and then did solid white and solid grey for the weft.  These weave up very quickly with soild color weft, no cutting and measuring for stripes required.


Check out my hat I knit for my trip to Portland next week:

I just finished it and I plan to put a big pompom on top, even though I am not usually a pompom kind of girl.  This is a free pattern on Ravlery,  the baa-ble hat
and I used leftovers from other projects to knit it.  It was very quick. 

  See, the hat is knit with some of the same yarn as the sweater I am wearing today!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Happy 2016!

A brand New Year has arrived once again.  I know already that there are changes in store for this year and time will tell what we will make of those changes.

The first change is that 12 of my 17 alpacas are due to be loaded onto a trailer in just 3 days to make a trip to their new home in Tennessee.  We have had alpacas here on the farm since 1999, starting with only 3 and having over 50 for quite some time.  Over the last 3 years or so we have slowly reduced to less than 25, and then to 17 this past September.  I always said that 25 was kind of the magic number:  more than 25 was work, less than 25 was enjoyable.  It is gratifying to know that one of those first 3 alpacas to inhabit our farm will be one of the 5 remaining.  
  
Another big event for 2016 will be the wedding of my older son, Ian, to his partner of 7 years, Michelle.  The wedding will be in June in Oregon and I am looking forward to it.  In fact, I am flying to Portland in just under 2 weeks to spend some time with them and with younger son Sam/Zac/Satchmo who will be visiting Portland while the lodge at Yosemite is closed for 6 weeks.  I will get to hear about wedding plans and hopefully see the venue and meet some of Michelle's family.  

In late summer son Ian and his new wife will hopefully move from Portland to Corvalis OR  so Ian can finally begin the Forestry program at Oregon State.  He will have established his residency in Oregon by then, which he was denied this past year. 

So those are a few things on the agenda besides the usual happenings.  Tonight Grover and I start back to agility class.  We have been moved to a Wednesday night class at 8 pm, which means I will not get home until after 10 pm.  I am looking forward to getting back to class.  The weather has not been really conducive to practicing outside.  Our next trial is in mid February.

Mom was here for several days between Christmas and New Year's.  We made a trip up to Amish country together so I could take her to the Zinck's Fabric Outlet that Tari and I have been to a couple of times.  I think Mom was overwhelmed at the selection.  It was a lot of fun.

 



Our weather has been a typical roller coaster ride.  60's before Christmas and then two nights ago we were down to 5 degrees.  On Monday, when the dogs and I left the house for our walk, it looked like this:



The temperature was in the mid-20's and the sun was shining, but we had had snow squalls on and off all day.  





We did the loop up to the pond and by the time we left the pond, it was clouding up and starting to snow again.


By the time we got back down to the road, it looked like this:






And poor Rowdy looked like this:








I had to put my camera inside my pullover to keep it dry. 

Today, it was 9 degrees when I got up and the sun is shining brightly.  January in Ohio!

I made a few Christmas gifts this fall which I did not post due to their gift status, so here are some finished projects:

Socks for Mom
Socks for Jill
























Table runners for Mom and Mary
That's about it for Christmas gift projects.  I am in the process of warping my rug loom for a couple of colorful alpaca rugs.    And I am almost done with the shawl I wrote about in my last post.  Hopefully I can finish it today.

In the meantime, I cast on a sweater that I am very excited about.  It will be a big cabled coat-like sweater and I am making it in some yarn I have wanted to use for some time and found a great sale on right before Christmas.  I may have bought enough for 2 sweaters in 2 colors.  But here is my progress on 
 Citadel




This will be the 3rd sweater I have knit by this designer.  I just love her patterns.  The shawl I plan to finish today is also by her.  I just purchased an ebook collection of new patterns by her, which has this sweater, the shawl and at least one other sweater I want to knit.  

The Authentic Collection, by Joji Locatelli 

So this and weaving rugs should keep me busy through the next couple of months until we get to maple syrup season.  We will have to wait and see what the weather brings us in the meantime.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2 Days Until Christmas and it is 60+ Degrees in Ohio

Some dogs have a hard life....not mine, though.  I wish they all had a comfy warm place to sleep.
 
It's true.  We are forecast to have highs near 70 in Ohio today.  I believe the old record was 62 degrees for this date back in 1957.  We had some rain the last couple of days and the overnight temperatures over the weekend were in the 20's, but now the forecast is showing highs in the 60's the next several days.  No white Christmas here.  I'm ok with that.  It does mean a lot of mud though, here on the farm.

Since my last post, I have traveled to Grand Rapids Michigan with my mother to visit our family there.  My cousin, who is 6 weeks older than my older son, and his wife had a baby in early December.  This is me with little Easton.  This is the first grandchild for my aunt, who is my mother's younger sister, and she is so happy to finally be a Nana.  I am happy for everyone.  It is wonderful to have another new baby in the family.  

The other big news, which is closer to home for me, is that I have a deposit check from a man who is buying 12 of my remaining 17 alpacas.  I have been wanting to make things simpler, especially since my sons live so far away, and this will definitely make things a little easier.  But is is so hard to think about having only 5 alpacas out there after having had them for almost 17 years.  The ones who are staying are Chiquita, 17 years old,  Peg and Bodhi who will both be 17 in the spring, Truffel, who doesn't belong to me and is getting up there in age and Lightning, our white male.  The buyer does not want a male.  So mostly seniors who deserve to stay here and be buried here.  The rest of the herd will be leaving for Tennessee in January.  This weekend, Sam and I need to microchip 8 of them and Monday the vet is coming to do health certificates to make them legal to be imported into Tennessee.  It is hard to say what might come along to live in our soon to be empty pastures.  I had planned to get some sheep, but with traveling to the west coast a couple times a year, spending time with my mom in western Ohio and going to agility trials, I think it will be easier to just buy lamb and wool as needed.  



 And speaking of trials, at our last trial, which was in November, Grover earned his Open Jumpers title.  I am very pleased to say that at our most recent trial this past weekend, Grover Q'd both days in Excellent  Jumpers!  He got 2nd place on Saturday and 1st place (only 20" ex dog who Q'd) on Sunday.  I was thrilled at his Q on Saturday and amazed when we did it again on Sunday.  So he needs 1 more Excellent Jumpers Q to move up to the Masters level.  Our standard runs, while respectable, were not good enough to Q (weave pole issues again).  I was not UNhappy with those runs, but we can do better.  We have only 1 Q so far in Excellent Standard, so need 2 more qualifying runs to move up to Masters in that.  Our next trial is mid-February.  We will start back to class in January.  
 




Look what I got in the mail last week.  33 pounds of rug yarn in 4 different colors.  This should keep me busy weaving rugs for months to come.  And I still have a lot of fiber in storage that can become more rug yarn.  I am planning a new rug warp and may start to count it out today.





Last post I mentioned waiting for parts for my loom.  They arrived shortly thereafter and I was able to start (and finish) my weaving project.  Here it is on the loom.  It has since been removed, but needs to be washed and hemmed.  More photos next post.  I am very pleased with this project.



My shawl is coming along nicely.  I am now using the second color and need to finish a large mesh panel with it before I move on to color number 3.  Considering I really did not like the colors of either of these 2 yarns, I think they work well together and I just love how this is coming out.  


Yesterday the dogs and I walked to the beaver pond in the afternoon.  After 2 days of rain, it is quite full.  There is plenty of sign of beaver activity, but no sightings of beavers.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beautiful Weather is Hanging Around

After some rain last week, we have enjoyed some truly fabulous weather for early December.  Blue skies and temperatures up into the 50's.  No complaints here.  We have had no measurable snow so far.  There was a very light dusting one morning last week on the deck, but it did not even stick on the grass, as the ground was too warm.  This nice weather is supposed to continue into the coming weekend, I believe.  However, I will be traveling to Michigan with my mother to visit family and meet my brand new second cousin.  I am looking forward to that and I hope the weather stays nice for our trip.  I'd prefer not to have to drive 7 hours in snow coming home.

This past Saturday I had a booth at the local Christmas Festival in Woodsfield.  It was a very successful day and I sold all 5 pairs of those fingerless mitts I made.  I guess I need to have a couple more than that for next year.  I wish I could be disciplined enough to make a pair  a month.  I think I will try for that.  

Then on Monday, I went to the Christmas Party for POTC, the Parkersburg Obedience Training Club.  There was also an award ceremony, and Grover and I got a plaque with title tags to hang on it.  I have yet to put everything together.  NA  is Novice Agility,  NAJ is Novice Agility Jumpers, and OA is Open Agility.  We have since earned our Open Agility Jumpers, but we will not get that award tag until next year (and hopefully some more).  Our next trial is a little over a week away.  

Otherwise I have not been too busy.  I've been getting my Christmas preparations underway, but there is just not that much to do.  I don't shop much any more.  I've had a rather Grinch-ish attitude about Christmas since my boys both moved out west.  I just cannot get excited about it.

 

I finished the socks I have been working on for Sam.  I'm glad they are done.  I am not a huge fan of knitting socks.  I like to wear them, but otherwise I find the knitting somewhat tedious.  Its a good thing they don't take too long.  These came out quite nice.  


 

I have a couple of other things I am looking forward to knitting, one of which will be a big project, a sweater that is more like a coat.  And a 3 color shawl I just started.  I am using some yarn I had in my stash.  Th yellow color I think is downright ugly.  I bought it in a kit a couple years ago and did not know exactly what the color would be.  It is an UGH in my book, but I think it will go nicely with the 2 other colors.  I'm not overly fond of the green either.  Sometimes when you order yarn online the colors are just different in real life than on a computer screen.  However, I love the variegated.  I won that from a podcast contest.  

My rug loom is naked right now.  I will get to work on that next week.  I want to try something new.......My small loom at home is ready to weave on, BUT I need some parts for the loom to make all 10 treadles functional and I cannot proceed with my project until I get them.  They are on order.  I was hoping I could finish the project that is on the loom before Christmas, but I don't think it will happen.  It has been one of those things.  I had hoped to have this project done by Thanksgiving, but one of the yarn colors was back-ordered and took forever to get, so then I warped for my first ever 8-shaft project, and I don't have enough treadle ties, which never occurred to me until I wanted to start weaving.  Ah well.

 






So that's about it for this week.  I will finish with some photos of late fall on the farm





 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mild Weather Continues into December

A culvert down near the beaver pond got washed out and they brought in gravel to repair it and closed the road for a few days.  Not long ago, Rowdy would have been right up here beside Grover, but despite everything we do, he is just painful most of the time.  He still enjoys life, just at a slower pace.

Since last I posted we have managed to stay busy.  Grover and I attended a 3 day trial in Zanesville last weekend, right before Thanksgiving.  This marked our one year anniversary of trialing.  Grover earned his Open Jumpers With Weaves title on Friday, so we moved up to Excellent in Jumpers.  We did not get any other Q's that weekend, but I considered all our runs to be successful.  The weave poles were done perfectly 50% of the time, which is ok, but we still need to work on that.  We have no classes in December, but I went to the building to practice anyway when we normally would have had class this week and plan to go once a week if weather permits the rest of the month.  It has been rather wet to practice outside.  We have another trial, a 2 day trial, the 19th and 20th  of December.

Sam got a very large 8 point buck on the evening of the 16th with his crossbow.  The deer was large but definitely not a trophy rack.  Sam got over 100 pounds of meat off the deer which has been frozen and canned and shared with Sam's mom and dad.  We had decided earlier this year that we would like to learn to tan a hide with the brains of the deer.  So Sam saved the hide, which is huge, and worked on it and we now have a tanned hide, though it is stiffer than we would like.  Sam's brother says he should have started with a smaller hide.  But this is what we have.  Sam is already planning better ways of doing the next one.

And this week is gun season for deer in Ohio, so I have come to the office an extra day so far so that Sam can hunt with the local "gang".  We would like one more deer for the freezer and I know Sam's mom and dad would like some more venison as well.

Thanksgiving was last week.  We drove to Dayton with the dogs on Thanksgiving morning.  I baked pies and bread the day before, including a pumpkin pie with my homegrown pumpkin.  It was yummy.  I also took along the finished runner that Mom had commissioned for her entryway.  It looks wonderful on her new hardwood floors.  I was so pleased when I took it off the loom and the finished measurement was 9'4" X 30".  There is math involved in weaving and things like take-up (once the rug is no longer under tension on the loom, it can lose up to 20% of its length) to consider.  I was going for a 9' runner and I can be mathematically challenged, but I checked and re-checked and was really quite pleased with the finished rug.





 



I also finished the last of the warp on my small loom.  This was supposed to be a sample, but came out as a full towel, though smaller than the other 2 more colorful towels.  I have to say this one is my favorite of the 3 I did.

I also finished a quick gift knit, which I will post a photo of next time and another final pair of mitts for sale at this week's Christmas Festival in 2 days.



This pair of mitts is from some more really old handspun.  The first time Tari and I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival was in 2003 and I bought a lovely jacob fleece there.  Jacob Sheep   (click for photo) are interesting as they are 2 colored, being white with big spots of black or varying shades of brown.  They can also have up to 6 horns!  This was a lovely fleece, soft and crimpy, and I blended it with alpaca and spun it.  I have a pair of socks from this blend as does Sam.  I came across a nice ball of leftover yarn and the mitts are very nice.  That makes 5 pairs I have ready for sale at the festival.

A really cool thing:  Sam and I have had salad and also pizza with arugula from greens that are under our little hoop cold frame!  It has been so nice to go out and cut fresh lettuce in late November.  We may finish it up tonight because while it is not freezing, it is not really growing much anymore.  But to have fresh lettuce from the garden in December in Ohio is a treat!  A salad should go nicely with marinated seared venison loin.