Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Still in Winter's Grip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

End of January! Lots of Nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January Thaw = MUD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's more detail on the white one.

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cold, Frosty, and Grey

These cardinals waiting their turn at the feeder are about the only spots of color out there these days.  It has been dreary and grey, except for this past Tuesday when the sun shone but the temperatures were still in the 20's.  So I have not been out and about with the camera too much.

The chickens hate this weather and have stayed in their coop for the most part.  However, yesterday a couple ventured out and over into the yard and left proof of their outing in their tracks on the footbridge heading back to the coop for the night.  If we don't collect the eggs in a timely fashion, we end up with frozen eggs.   One day this week, I collected 4 eggs that all made a soft "pop"  when I picked them up, so they were taken in and scrambled up for the chickens to eat the next morning.  I also have a heated water bowl in the coop.  It is a plastic bowl that  holds about a half gallon of water and has a heating element enclosed in the bottom of it.  The cats have one of these as well.  Anyway, I picked it up off the floor of the chicken house one morning this week to empty and re-fill it and 2 mice scurried away.  They had been in the little space under the bowl enjoying the warmth of the heater!  They are lucky the chickens did not get them.

Agility classes resumed this week.  They were supposed to start last week, but were cancelled due to bad weather.  I must say I was very happy to go back.  We have missed it.  What's new is now we are working with the full set of 12 weave poles.  As novices, we only do 6 at trial, and I think maybe we had done 8 or 10 in our last couple of classes and had been working with 8 at home, but this was Grover's first try at 12.  He did fabulous!  But really, he can't count right?  So he just weaves until there are no more poles in sight.  He was a bit wound up, as were most of the dogs in class.  There has been no outside practice either since right after Christmas and the December trial.  Our next trial is in a little over 3 weeks.  Let's hope we do real well and get a "Q".  I will be happy with one.  So will Rowdy because then Grover brings him a toy.

 As I mentioned, we had a sunny day on Tuesday.  It felt good to be out in the sunshine and we had a nice walk.  Even when it is below freezing on a sunny day, the snow and ice on the road will melt.  As the dogs trot along they fling this dirty melt-water up onto the long hair on their legs and bellies with each step.  And then, since it is below freezing, this freezes into an icy muddy fringe.  And when we come inside, it melts.  I brought the dogs in and shut them in the mud room, and Grover lay here by the door waiting for me to come let him out.  The 2 marks to the right are his front legs and the larger blob behind is his chest area.   Yeah, he may have required a hosing down in the bathtub after this, especially since it was agility class day and I couldn't put him in the new truck like that!

I have had a lot if indoor time.  I re-warped my new loom for more kitchen towels.  I just tied onto the warp from the first towels I wove, which was not as easy as I had hoped.  But I got it eventually and should get 4 more towels out of this. I plan to keep some of these for me, as I have no hand-woven towels!  My shuttles sitting on top of the loom look kind of like little wooden shoes, don't they?

Here are the first towels I wove on this loom, first project in fact.  They were given to my mother and my mother-in-law for Christmas.

I also wove potholders for Christmas gifts using loom waste I had saved from towels I made in past years.  I then gave those to the people who had the coordinating towels.

 And I have made great progress on the sweater I ripped out at the beginning of the month and re-started.  I have finished the body of the sweater and have started the first sleeve.  It also has a hood, so I still have some work to do on it.  I would like to have it finished by the end of the month.

This is the bottom of the back of the sweater, showing some of the cable details.

 This is my world at chore time this morning.  It just LOOKS cold, doesn't it?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Can it Be 2015? Seems Like Just Yesterday We Were All Freaked Out Over Y2K!

This morning when I did chores, it was -5 F outside.  Whiskers seem to develop frost quickly in that weather.  Read on for another frosty whiskery face, which I had intended for the top photo, but somehow, this face always wins out.

Yes, minus five and only one week into January!  Brrrrrrr!  I can deal with it if I bundle up properly.  Or sit by the woodburner.  I've been sitting and knitting a lot this week.

I rung in the New Year at Mom's in Dayton, where she "dragged" me to not one but two parties on New Year's Eve.  I wasn't too lively as I had only the day before flown from Columbus to Minneapolis and then driven to Dayton in our new truck.  So I was up at 6 am to go to the airport, and left the dealership with the truck around 2:30 (3:30 my time).  I got all the way through Wisconsin in extremely cold weather, filled the truck with natural gas at a station just south of Madison, and stopped for the night a couple hours into Illinois, before driving to Dayton the next day.  The truck is great.  I can plug in all my devices, phone, MP3, GPS at once.  Audio books make long drives so much easier!  Anyway, I arrived home on Friday afternoon after just about 1000 miles on the road.  The truck does not quite fit in the garage.  Of course in the photo above, it is in the bay that has the CNG compressor in it, so it can't go in too far.  But the side mirrors only clear the doors by inches.  I have some history with side mirrors, a truck (our Chevy), and garage doors, so I will power down the window and fold in the mirror whenever I drive this truck into the garage.  

We got our first measurable snow this week, about 4".  I'm waiting for enough to get out my new snowshoes.

 The alpacas and big dogs don't seem to mind the cold.  They all have lots of fur/fleece.  I did put a coat on Bodhi this morning.  He was shivering.  This photo was around 8:20 this morning.  You can just see the sun hitting the hills looking south.  It has not gotten into the valley yet.

Some of the water pipes in the house were frozen.  No surprise there.  It seems to happen whenever the temps fall below zero.  What did surprise me was that the water was still running into the trough at the boys' pasture.  The water comes a long way under a field in a pipe from a spring and I was happy to see it still running fairly strong this morning despite the cold.

I warped my rug loom in the last week or so of December and started a rug on it.  With my trip last week, I have not had much time to weave.   I did totally rip out the sweater I started knitting in November.  I had the whole body of it done and it was just going to be too tight, so I decided to start it over.  Sometimes things just work out that way.  

Meanwhile, here are some of the Christmas gifts I made over the last several months:

Yoga socks for sister-in-law Jill

Socks for Mom

Fingerless mitts for Ian, Michelle and Sam/Zac/SatchmoThese were super fun and quick to knit and I think they were a hit with the "kids".

More next week.

And here is that other frosty face I promised.  Worth the wait, right?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Time

After what seemed like (I think it really was) weeks of gloomy weather, we enjoyed a couple of days of beautiful sunshine this week.  And with it, some warm temps.  I think it is supposed to be in the 60's today, much too warm to have a white Christmas tomorrow.

1990 or 1991
Tomorrow is indeed Christmas.  I will be glad when the barrage of Christmas shopping commercials are over.  I am glad I don't actually have to deal with the traffic and everything else that goes along with the craziness of the commercialized holiday season.  Or maybe I would enjoy it more if I could participate.  I just don't think so.  I will enjoy going to Sam's folks' tomorrow for our annual Christmas dinner.  Its always nice to see our niece and I think she will be there.  Its just not the same once the kids are grown and moved away.  

Grover and I are entered in our second agility trial this weekend.  It is again at the Fieldhouse in Zanesville and it is just Saturday and Sunday this time.  We are running in both novice standard and novice jumpers both days.  We will be staying overnight instead of driving back and forth.  I am not as nervous this time as the first time, at least not yet.  We have had the opportunity to practice some this week, which is good.  The ground is really soft, though, so our weave poles are leaning every which way after each run through.  I'm looking forward to getting back to classes in a couple of weeks.

 Sam and I went over and checked out the beaver pond on Sunday.  It has really expanded.  They have dammed the creek in 3 places and what used to be a field is slowly becoming a marsh.  This is on Wayne National Forest and there is really nothing close by that could be damaged, so hopefully these critters will be allowed to live there in peace.  

I am fascinated by what they are doing and one of these days I will get to see them.  I think I will need to sneak up without dogs, however.  

The otters have moved on.  I think they left the pond within 24 hours of when I discovered them.  We won't know for a while if we still have any fish.  I would think a few might have been overlooked.  

 Sam is building us a sugar shack to enclose our syrup evaporator so that we will be able to sit inside while we cook down sap in just a couple of months.  It's always been under the shelter, but just at the edge so we could have a chimney, and it was ok, but not wind and rainproof.  Having an enclosed shelter will keep us nice and warm.

Here's another view of the pond.  If you look closely you can see the Utica shale drill rig in the center of the photo.  This is the one that is to the south of us and is being drilled under us right now.  There is another one that is to the west which they are done drilling, but it can still be seen from the pond in the winter. 

I have finished my first project on my new loom, and I will post photos next time.  It is a bit different from my rug loom and from the loom I sold, so it has taken a little getting used to, but I do really like it.  I have my rug loom warped and ready to start some new rugs on.  I will be starting on one today.  I have had people come out to the farm the last 2 Saturdays and purchase yarn, which is really nice.  Now if I could only sell a few more rugs.  I love weaving them.  

I used some of my yarn to knit a cowl recently as a sample.   This is natural white and some kettle dyed teal in 3-ply 100% alpaca.  

I likely will not post again until 2015.  On Tuesday, I am flying to Minneapolis and will be picked up at the airport and taken to a Dodge dealership to take possession of our new dual-fuel pick-up truck.  I will then drive home and I hope to stop and see some friends in Indiana and also stop at Mom's in Dayton for a day or 2.  I really hope the weather is good, considering I am flying through Chicago and then driving from Minneapolis.  At least I will have 4 wheel drive. 

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Great Year in 2015!