Sunday, September 9, 2018

Wrapping Up August

I know it is September, and it has been over a month since my last post, but it has been a crazy month of so much going on.  So I will do a post now, September 9th, dealing with the last 3 weeks of August and hopefully follow in a couple days with the beginning of September.

So to start off, Grover and I were about to head off to Niles Ohio for 3 days of agility when last I posted.  We needed 60 points to earn our MACH (Master Agility Championship).  From my lack of posting, one could conclude that we did not get our 60 points.  And we did  not.  However, we did get 42 points over the 3 days and one more QQ, so we now need only 18 points.  In just 4 days, we will be going to our club's September trial in Zanesville, which is a 3 day trial. 18 points should be easy.  We should get our MACH.  I will be so excited and nervous that I could totally screw us up all weekend.  But my plan is to  get that MACH!

 The carpet is in in the guest house.  It is amazing what fresh paint and carpet can do for a house, not to mention new drywall, a new bathroom, etc, etc.  It looks wonderful!

Once all that was finished, there was some time to concentrate on my kitchen.  The counters were in, but I needed to paint and do the tile backsplash.


Paint first, of course.  And of course all this was going on in the middle of canning season. My color scheme is completely different now and I really like it.

 Next, the backsplash went in.  This was my very first tiling job and I did pretty well, I think.  The only problem was I came up a little short on grout, so while I had plans of being finished prior to Labor Day, I had to wait until afterward to acquire additional grout to finish the back corner, but it was good enough to have house guests.

I am so pleased with the outcome.  Considering I had no clue what I even wanted when I went to look at countertops, it has all come together quite nicely.  I still need to do something with the flooring, but I just have not had time to deal with that.  Maybe soon, though September and October are looking pretty crazy busy as well.

The garden has come along well.  Except for my squash and pumpkins which have done horribly.  I usually have an abundance of those.  My pumpkin plants just died.  And my squash plants are not producing well at all.  I am placing some of the blame on the garden being totally underwater at least twice early on .  That and lack of good fertilizer.  I will fix that next year for sure.  I have canned marinara sauce, Sam has dried tomatoes, I have made pesto and basil ice cubes.  I canned a batch of peach jam and 8 pints of peaches that I picked from Sam's parents' tree.  Like I said, we have been keeping busy.

 Sam has gotten a really important project underway: the new bridge.  He decided to go with one bridge that could be driven across and he put it where the old footbridge was.  It is on hold right now while he figures out the next step, but it needs to be cemented before October.  The creek needs to be dry when that happens.  But for now, it is usable.  which is really nice.

Sam and I also attended the annual Mountaineer Brewfest in Wheeling on the 18th of August.  As a member of the Wheeling Alers Homebrew club, Sam is kind of expected to help out as a volunteer and I like to go along and volunteer as well.  What a tough volunteer job!  It is always a great time.  I manned the Alers booth for several hours and then went on to pour beer for one of the many West Virginia craft brewers who were there.  It was a lot of fun once again.  That's me with a couple of the "Alers".

In nature news, I have been keeping my eyes open on my walks for Monarch butterfly caterpillars.  I have seen no less than 16 of them in the 6 weeks.  All different sizes.  This guy here to the right is almost large enough to "pupate", or make a chrysalis and become a butterfly. 

And then there is this tiny little fellow, who still needs to consume a lot of milkweed leaves.  I have even had Sam detour with the ATV for several weeks to avoid running over a patch of milkweed in which I have found several caterpillars .

I was also surprised by a black snake that moved into a small organizing bin in a cupboard in my barn.  It was all curled up in a very small space for about 4 days and then departed, leaving behind a 5' skin.  I really didn't think that snake was that large!  

The skin on the left is the one from the snake in the barn.  Sam found the other in a granary down by the guest house.  Black snakes are numerous around here and eat lots of little pests, like mice and birds who nest in barn rafters and crap everywhere.  I like black snakes.  

However, I do not like critters who eat my chickens!  In August, we lost 4 hens to hawks and a raccoon.  The raccoon actually got into the coop at night and killed and consumed one hen.  The rest just disappeared from the yard during the day leaving nothing behind but a pile of feathers.  The raccoon has been dealt with.  The hawks are more difficult to control.  So by September 1st, we were down to 6 laying hens and one old hen.  Very sad.  These hens were less than a year and half old and had lots of laying time ahead.  I have not decided yet whether to replace them. 

I have had very little time to do much fiber work.  So everything that was under way in my last post is pretty much still being worked on.  Since Labor Day is now behind us and the weather has decided to cool off I have had some time to devote to those more leisurely pursuits.  I should have more on that soon.  Maybe I will wait to post again after the agility trial next weekend.  I hope to have big news by then!



Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August in Ohio

Our sweet Rowdy spends most of his time seeking out the coolest spots in the house.  I am sure he is dreaming of laying on the porch on a 10 degree F night.  Otherwise, his favorite time of day is mealtime.  He eats very well and is getting regular acupuncture to help with his arthritis.  He has more coat than he has ever had and since he doesn't swim in the pond anymore, it is staying relatively nice.  We cherish each day with him.

I think I don't have much to post about, and then I realize I really do.  August has arrived since my last post, but before that, Grover and I attended a 2 day agility trial in Dayton.  We are "chasing the MACH" as an agility friend put it.  We needed 72 points going into that trial and we came out still needing 60.  It was not our best trial.  Grover was NQd in standard both days by his reluctance/refusal to get on the table, of all things!  That was almost 2 weeks ago and tomorrow we leave for a 3 days weekend of agility in Niles, Ohio once again.  60 points is doable, but it will require us to be flawless.  Will we MACH this weekend?  I suppose anything can happen.  If not, there is always September in Zanesville.  

We have had an ongoing project at the guest house since January or thereabouts and it is about to be finished.  Labor Day weekend is a little over 3 weeks away and we will have lots of company.  The 2 bedrooms that needed drywall have been drywalled and all 3 bedrooms and the living room ceiling (which needed repair) have been painted.  Clean-up has commenced and carpet is scheduled to be installed Friday.  While I am away.  It will be like a new house.  I will post "after" photos next time.

In addition to that, I decided to re-do my kitchen, starting with countertops.  We remodeled our kitchen in 2002 and put in laminate countertops and an acrylic sink and they were getting pretty shabby.  So here's the before  >>>>>>>>>>

And the after :

I will be painting and putting up a mosaic tile backsplash.   Before Labor Day?  Maybe.  

Also keeping me busy has been the garden, though I have neglected it to get painting done.  We are now enjoying corn and tomatoes and peppers and cukes, along with fresh herbs. 

 The tomatoes are just starting to come on and many of the plants are as tall as I am.  Or taller.  I also harvested garlic this past week, though I am disappointed in how little I got.  We got a lot more last year and actually still have quite a bit, so I doubt we will run out.

This past weekend, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner of our first corn on the cob, grilled in the husk, along with bruschetta made with roma tomatoes, garlic and basil all grown right here, atop toasted homemade baguettes.  It really doesn't get much better.  Though the next night was just about as good with corn on the cob and BLTs with nice garden fresh tomatoes.  Yum.

While I was away the last weekend in July, Sam pushed the wooden remains of our 2 bridges  that were destroyed in May's flash flood into the now dry creek and burned them, along with the debris pile that was deposited in the wake of the flood.  It is amazing to see the wash out on both sides of where the bridge used to be.  I'm not sure what Sam's plans are on getting a new bridge put in.  He has also been really busy with the construction project at the guest house.  It will happen.

 In addition to everything else, I have managed to work on some fiber-y projects, though lack of air-conditioning in my studio limits my time out there to late evenings these days.

I have 2 more selvedge rugs off the loom and ready to be hemmed and then I will tie a new warp onto the ends of the old warp and weave a couple more in a different color.

I also have black and white tencel scarves on my smaller loom.

There will be 2 of these and I am not sure if I will add a third color into the second one or stick with black and white.  

I am also carding some batts of 60% alpaca and 40% silk.  Each batt is about 2 oz and I have done 5 of them and should have enough of this alpaca to card up 2 more.  I will probably spin that and then dye it.  Or will I dye it and then spin it?  I have not decided.

I also spun up about 4 ounces of some dyed roving I bought at a farm market in Grand Rapids Michigan a couple of years ago.  I spun it long draw and it went really quickly and made a nice lofty woolen yarn.  I think I have enough for mittens.  I also  have another "bump" of dyed roving in a different color from the same vendor that I am looking forward to spinning.

And the last thing I will post about today is a sweater I think I posted about before.  I have made a little progress, but not a lot (I can't imagine why!).

 I am at the point of just knitting in circles with thin grey yarn.  It will likely go to the agility trial with me this weekend for hotel room knitting.

I think that will do it for this post. I will end with a lovely photo of my very first sunflower bloom of the summer.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

And Now I Am Wishing for Rain.

My Co-pilot in the Buggy
We have enjoyed a few days of nice weather in the last couple of weeks, along with some very hot weather.  Pretty typical for July in Ohio.  And of course the rain has let up.  I am now wishing every day for a nice soaking rain for my garden.  Again, fairly typical for July in Ohio.

My garden is not doing so well this year.  Everything was planted late, due to weather and travel, so much is behind where I think it usually is.  Something is decimating my corn.  I have lost about half of it now to something that is knocking the stalks down at night and chewing up the nowhere near ripe corn.  And my newly sprouted  lettuce and swiss chard seems to be under attack from bunnies.  The tomatoes are doing quite well however and I have a lot of green tomatoes on the vines.

The last two mornings when I have gone out to inspect the corn I have been amazed at the number of honeybees collecting pollen from the corn tassels.  Dozens of them.  It creates quite a loud buzzing just above one's head.

While I was out with the camera to photograph the bees, I was also able to get a quick shot  of a great blue heron flying over.  There are quite a few around, but you have to be in just the right place at the right time to get a photo.  They don't wait around.

In other nature news, this week Sam and I have seen some Monarch butterflies on our walks.  They used to be so plentiful, but now are rare it seems.  While picking blackberries at the pond 2 days ago, I spotted some milkweed on the back side of the dam and I was able to find 3 monarch caterpillars on two different plants, ranging in size from less than half an inch to well over an inch. 

 I did not have my camera, but went back yesterday to try to find them again.  Unfortunately, I was only able to find one and I think it was the smallest one because it was on the same leaf I had seen it on the day before.  It was no longer quite so small. however.  I hope the others were just being elusive and had not become dinner for a bird.

Last weekend Grover and I attended a 3 day agility trial.  We had a successful weekend, earning 2 Double Q's and 1 Jumper's Q for a total of 47 points.  We now need only 72 points for our MACH title.  We will be attending another 2 days of agility at the Dayton Dog Training Club this coming Saturday and Sunday.  Fingers crossed we earn some more points!

It has been too hot many days for me to spend much time in my studio, which has no air-conditioning, so I have not done as much as I would like.  I did finish weaving the two selvedge rugs and take them off the loom.  I just need to do the hems on them to call them finished.  I also warped my smaller loom for a couple of scarves in black and white tencel, which is a shiny rayon-type fiber that is nice to work with. 

 I also spun 2 bobbins of some prepared fiber I purchased last year at the Great Lakes Fiber Show,  It is a Merino wool Tencel blend and I am now plying the singles on the two bobbins together for a 2-ply yarn.  I really like how the singles look, but I am not sure if I will like the finished yarn as much since the colors will not be separate like they are in the singles.  I will likely weave with this yarn.

 I found this cute little sheep at an antique store in Oregon last month.  Isn't he cute?  He was only $10 and I am pretty sure he is handmade.  He's about 8"  long is is living on the antique cupboard in my studio.  I just love it.
I also ordered new countertops for my kitchen this past week, for which they are coming to measure in 2 days.  That means I need to clear off the countertops, so I have been purging and re-organizing some clutter and unused items in my kitchen.  It seems like a good time to do that.  I look forward to a new look in the kitchen as it has been 16 years since we put in the current cabinets and counters.  I am keeping my custom hickory cabinets, but exchanging laminate countertops for quartz in a totally different color scheme.  It is time for a new look.
Beautiful morning sky over the studio


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Respite From the Rain, But the Heat Has Arrived.

Grover posing atop Osage Orange log
The lights sticking up are at the end of the bridge
It does seem for now that the rain has stopped.  But first, it had one last hurrah the day after my last post.   We had a late afternoon downpour following another couple of days of rain.  The ground was just saturated and once the rain actually stopped, we watched as the creek continued to rise until our temporary bridge was completely submerged.  The water also knocked over the beams Sam had moved into place for construction of the new bridge  just a couple days before.  Fortunately, though several of the boards from the temporary bridge came loose and went zipping away with the current, I was able to retrieve and replace most of them once the water went back down the next day. 

Sam finally gave up waiting for the forecast to call for 3 or 4 dry days and he mowed hay a week ago.  It was promptly rained upon and he decided to just let it lie.  The weeds had pretty well taken over and it was way past prime time for quality hay.  This was the first time in 20 years of haymaking that we have lost a field of hay to rain. 

I have been trying to keep ahead of the weeds in the garden.  I do not use any herbicides or pesticides in my garden and therefore, I have weeds and bugs.  I am not convinced that Round up is not harmful to use in your garden and I don't use pesticides because it is detrimental to helpful insects, such as pollinators.  Things are doing well.  The corn is about waist high, we have lots of little green tomatoes and peppers, there are flowers on the cucumber and pumpkin vines and we have been eating lettuce and arugula.  I have been harvesting kale to put into my homemade dog food as well.  I planted Swiss chard for that same purpose, but I think there is a bunny who likes Swiss Chard out there.  I caught sight of it scurrying away one day.  So I planted more chard, hoping it will do better this time.  I plan to harvest some basil today and make pesto for dinner tonight.

We did our annual alpaca shearing on Sunday.  One alpaca.  Setting up and then cleaning up took longer than the actual shearing.  I remember the years we would spend days shearing and how ecstatic we were when we got down to that last one.  In those days, that was really cause for celebration.  It was hot, dirty, itchy, smelly work and never have we finished as late as we did this year.  Once shorn, I put Truffels the alpaca  into the same pasture and barn area as Apples the pony.  They are getting acclimated to each other and I will try to get a photo of them together soon.

This morning, as Grover and I went for our "morning mile" walk, we discovered that a large tree had fallen across the road overnight.  It was an osage orange tree, of which we have probably dozens that were planted many many years ago as a natural fenceline along the road.  They are a very slow growing tree with very hard yellow wood.  You can see the rich yellow color in the photo to the left.  The wood really is that yellow.  It makes wonderful firewood as it is incredibly dense and will burn slowly all night long. I am pretty sure the tree fell due to the excessive amounts of rain saturating the soil around its roots.  Sam and our township trustee and neighbor, Larry, cut it up.  Most of it will be used for firewood, but Sam kept the butt log to saw up on his sawmill and see if he can make something with the wood.  I requested a cutting board.  He said it would last forever.

The osage orange also makes a very good yellow dye for wool and alpaca.  I have used it before so I collected a gallon bag full of the chainsaw chips to use.  I will put the chips in an old pantyhose leg and use that like a tea bag in water to make the dye.  


Maybe I will use it to dye some of this 
fleece I washed the other day. There is nothing like a hot sunny day to get a fleece to dry quickly.

 Before it got so hot, I did get some things done in my studio.  I had both my looms "dressed" and in the same place at the same time.  Pendleton selvedge rugs on my rug loom and some cotton/linen kitchen towels on the smaller loom.  

The towels are now off the loom and finished.  I have another project planned for that loom, but it will have to wait for cooler weather as I have no air-conditioning in my studio.  The only cool time of day right now is early morning and I have to choose between outdoor work and studio work and since the outdoor work seems more important than the fun of studio work, I tend to do it first.

Here's another view of my studio.  One I just love.  The boys seem to enjoy being out there with me as much as I enjoy their presence.

Grover and I are going to have a new adventure this coming weekend.  We are going to go "Dock Diving".  At least I hope we are.  Grover loves to dive off the creek bank and the pond bank, but I am not sure what he will think about leaping into water he can see through.  But Dock Diving is coming to a town near us this weekend and I signed us up to try it out.  And I have only ever seen it on TV, so it will be fun to be there and see it in real life.  Hopefully a friend or two will show up and can video our attempts for posterity!

The weekend after that, Grover and I will be doing 3 days of agility in Niles (Youngstown), Ohio again.  We have not been to a trial since the first weekend in June, before our trip to Oregon.  We need to try to accumulate some points toward our MACH.   Next time I post, I should have an update on that.  Wish us luck!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Grandbaby & Graduate!

Wilder with his Nana and Papa

 Finally!  Sam and I both got to go and meet the beautiful grandbaby whose birth I missed by hours in early May.  His name is Wilder James Delmore Redding and he is just wonderful.

Since my last post, we have been busy on the farm.  Not as busy as we would like to be because we have had excess amounts of rain, which has kept us from cutting and baling hay and getting to work on replacing bridges that were washed out in last month's flood.  Sam should have done hay a month ago, but it is still standing in the field as we need at least 3 consecutive dry days in a row in order to have the hay dry properly and that still has not happened.  At this point Sam is debating whether to try to bale it or just cut it and let it lay.  That does not bode well for the second cutting.  

Unfortunately, the day before we left for Oregon we lost one of our 2 remaining alpacas.  Sadly she was the last of our original stock, and probably my favorite of all of them, Peg.  She came to us in 2000 from a farm on the Oregon coast and had many crias for us.  I think most of my photos from her are on old flash drives and I need to go through and find some to memorialize her with.  That will have to wait for my next post.  Peg would have turned 19 this week. We have only one alpaca left, Truffels, who will be 14 this fall.  She and Apples and Star are all that are left in the alpaca barn.

Jethro Tull in the rain with my boys
Our trip to Oregon commenced with flight delays, as usual, which got us into Portland a good 2 hours late.  We stayed in Portland that night and the next as we were attending a Jethro Tull 50th Anniversary concert on Saturday with both our sons.  I picked up younger son, Sam/Zac/Satchmo at the airport Saturday morning and when I got back to the hotel, Ian and Michelle and baby Wilder were there to meet us.  

The next day we went to Corvallis after checking in to our airbnb accommodations near Independence, OR, about 20 minutes from Corvallis.  It was hard to find a place to stay in the Corvallis area because most of the hotels were booked due to the Oregon State commencement which we were there to attend.  We lucked out with the place we stayed.  It was built as a wildlife observatory on a hilltop on 50 acres and had spectacular views in all directions.  The owners were great and while we were there they were putting up 3 tipis that they are also going to rent through airbnb.  We could see them from our place.

We also watched a pair of owls hunting in the field below us and sheep being herded in another field a little ways  away.  The sunsets were spectacular and there was a hot tub on the roof so you could really enjoy them if that was what you wanted to do.  We made use of it only one evening and it wasn't the best sunset evening.  We will definitely stay here again if Ian and his family stay in Corvallis.

On Monday I had to drive younger son Sam back to the airport for his flight back to California because he had to work that night.  We were just glad he was able to come and attend the concert and meet his nephew.  We are so seldom all together as a family anymore.

Then on Tuesday evening, I had to go back to the airport yet again and pick up my mom, who would be with us the rest of the trip.

Very close to the Observatory was the Rogue Hop Farm and tasting room.  It was way out in the country and there were acres and acres and acres of hops.  We went there one day for lunch and some craft beer and to check out the hops, as Sam is an avid home brewer and also a hop grower.  It was a really fun place, though on a Thursday afternoon there was almost no one there.

We had a good week. We did some hiking, went out to a really nice dinner at a farm to table restaurant (and Ian cooked for us one night), and then Friday was the commencement dinner for the College of Forestry, which appropriately was held in a tent in the college's research forest.  


Ian and my Mom

I am proud to say Ian was awarded "Outstanding Senior" in his major, Recreation Resource Management.  I am a proud mom, indeed.

Graduation was the next day.  It was held in the football stadium and was a huge event, lasting about 3 hours. Ian and Michelle and Wilder came over to our place for a cookout later that afternoon.   It was a really nice day and I am so glad we were able to be there.

 I think I have mentioned in past posts that I had been working on a "secret" project.  That project was my very first quilt.  I saw a quilt kit that made me think of Ian and just had to buy it and give it a try.  I am very pleased with  how it came out.

It has a woodland theme and one of the fabrics is a topographical map.  The lumberjack applique even looks like Ian.  It was fun to make and I like how it turned out.  I don't know that I will become a quilter, but now I know I can do it if I want to.  

That was pretty much our trip in a nutshell.  We are enthralled with little Wilder and look forward very much to spending more time with him as he grows.  It would be nice if there were not so many miles between us, but at least we are in a place in life where we can go visit when we want to.  Ian has yet to find a job, and maybe his career will bring them a little closer to us, though they would really prefer to stay in the Pacific northwest.  However, they are willing to move if need be.  

My brother Larry and his two sons stayed here on the farm while we were away.  This was truly a twofold blessing as I think the stress of conventional boarding would be extremely detrimental to Rowdy's health  His special diet also requires a bit of preparation at mealtimes.  I felt so much better leaving him in his own home.  And Larry also got to spend quality time with his two sons.  So the animals were well cared for, my mind was at peace and Larry and the boys had a great time. 

We are home and have no big travel plans in the foreseeable future.  I do have some agility trials upcoming, but the soonest is mid-July.  Sam will be going to the Dayton area in a couple weeks to help my brother Larry with a rather large home-improvement project and right now he is trying to get bridges across the creek replaced.   Sam is using the I-beams that used to support the larger bridge to replace the foot bridge and he plans to use culvert and cement for the "drive-across" bridge.  It would help to get all this work done if it would just stop raining.  But I am afraid that when it stops, it will really stop and we will be dry until fall.  I would really like a good garden harvest this year.  Last year was too cool and wet resulting in a poor tomato and corn crop.  I am hoping for better this year.  Time will tell.