Thursday, March 8, 2018

Oops, February Got Away From Me.

Apples is always happy to see me!
I guess that's what happens when one is busy.  All of a sudden I realize that February is over and I have done only one post.  I have excuses.

A week after my last post, I flew out to Oregon to visit my son and daughter-in-law and attend a baby shower being given for their baby boy who is expected in about 7 weeks.  It was a really nice shower and Ian and Michelle should be well set up for their little one when he arrives.

I had woven a baby blanket in Portland Timbers colors using a cotton and linen yarn, so it should be nice for a spring baby.  Easy care as well.  

I also gave them a little sleeper and some bibs I sewed.  I also got them a "co-sleeper" which is a bassinet that sits right alongside their bed and keeps baby within reach, but not in the bed with them.  

My visit was very nice and I even walked to the yarn shop in town, about 1.7 miles each way, on Friday while they were working and bought nothing if you can believe that.  Saturday was the shower in Portland and then we did some shopping and met some friends of theirs for dinner.  It was 10 pm by the time we got back to Corvallis.  

Ian took me to a wildlife refuge on Sunday morning where he had recently taken some great photos of a bald eagle harassing a huge flock of ducks.  We saw lots of ducks, but no eagles put in an appearance, sadly.  But it was nice anyway.  

Monday we headed back to Portland in the early afternoon for some shopping and to drop me at my airport hotel for my flight home Tuesday morning.  We had time to go to the one place I wanted to go, which was the Pendleton Wool Mill Outlet Store   
I had heard of weavers acquiring blanket selvedges there to weave rag rugs with and wanted to acquire some for myself because it just sounded really neat. Well they had huge bins of bags of these in all colors!  It was so hard to choose, but  Ian is a big fan of Pendleton wool products and I had promised him a rug, so I let him choose the colors.  These selvedges are the edges they cut off the woolen fabric before they full and bind the edges of the blankets.  So they are strips of fabric with raw edges up to 6' long in the colors of the blankets.  They sell them by the pound.  These selvedges Ian chose are from the National Parks series of blankets that Pendleton has done.  The National Parks are very close to Ian's heart.

 This bag contains some Crater Lake and also some Grand Canyon colors.  It weighs 14 pounds.  I had to be very creative in packaging it to check through for my flight home.  I prefer to fly on Southwest and one reason is because I can check up to 2 bags at no additional charge.  This was my second bag.  Thanks to a vacuum seal bag and a lot of duct tape my selvedges got home with no problem. I got a lot of remarks on my unusual package, however.

I look forward to weaving this, but first have to finish the current project on my loom.  I have 2 more trips to Oregon planned in the near future and I will likely be back at the Mill outlet.  It was amazing.  You can buy remnants of wool fabrics by the pound or you can purchase their various wool fabrics by the yard.  They have some yarns on cones and all kinds of things I never had a chance to really look at.  It was overwhelming.  And Ian and Michelle thought it was wonderful, too, so it's not just for crafters.  I recommend a visit if you are in Portland.

Before I left for Oregon, our weather really warmed up, effectively putting a halt on the maple syrup production.  It was still quite warm when I got home, but has since gotten quite a bit colder.  There was a little bit of a sap run yesterday, but not enough to warrant firing up the evaporator.  Sam will check again today and see if he can run one last batch tomorrow.  I hope so because this is the second year in a row we will have had an extremely poor season with little production.  I think we have about 2 gallons of finished syrup right now.  Another gallon would be nice.  But there are no guarantees when you are at the mercy of the weather.

Grover and I are off to Zanesville for a weekend of bar-hopping on Friday.  And then we are going to Youngstown Ohio for the next weekend.  We have not done agility 2 weekends in a row before.  They are both 2 day trials.  We are getting closer to that MACH goal, so we may enter a few more trials when time allows.  It's getting very exciting.
I bought a chair for my studio at Ikea last month.  I had been wanting a chair and as soon as I saw this I knew it was the perfect one.  I have a computer/desk type chair already, but this is much nicer to sit in and look through magazines and books.  Grover likes it too.  Rowdy remains happy with the rug.


I have been working on a sweater for the grandbaby.  I am making it in the 12 month size so  he can wear it next year.  It looks big to me.  It still needs some some assembly and I bought some really cute buttons for it.  It should be finished soon.

I am almost done warping my small loom for a couple of new linen bread bags.  I think I posted a year ago about the linen bread bag incident wherein Grover ate right through a handwoven linen bread bag to get at the loaf of homemade bread inside.  The bag was fairly fresh off the loom and I was devastated.  It was not repairable, but I still have the remnants and may make something small from them someday.  So I decided to try a different pattern and make a new one.  I resolve to keep this one out of reach of Grover!

I don't know if I shared photos of these scarves I finished in January.  They are both on the same warp but using different weft and the same pattern.  There was not enough color contrast in the first one I did for the pattern to show.  However, I love how the second one turned out.  These are both 6' long by about 8" wide.  I will be listing them in my etsy shop, just in time for spring.

I think that's it for now.  There are signs of spring everywhere, though there are snow flurries today.  Apples is shedding, the peepers have been peeping and there are leaf buds on the lilac bush.  It won't be long now.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sugaring Time Again

Pretty Apples!

Tomorrow we will be halfway through February!  Truly a reason to celebrate.  It won't be long before the peepers are singing in the frog pond up above the house.  Meanwhile, the weather continues its crazy ups and downs.  


I arrived home Sunday evening from an agility trial with Grover and it was in the 50s and the backyard looked like this.

When I got up Monday morning, it looked like this.  We must have had 2" of rain followed by 3" of wet heavy beautiful snow.  I did not expect it at all.

Grover and I had a successful agility trial.  We were 50/50 Qs and NQs.  Fortunately 2 of the Qs earned us our 16th double Q.  4 more to go and we will start really counting points to get to 750.  We are at 492 as of this trial.  One of the dogs who was in Grover's and my beginning agility class, T-Bo, a Sheltie, earned his MACH this weekend.  I missed his MACH run because I was working in the other ring, but it was still fun to be there with him and his handlers.  And very exciting since he and Grover started at the same time.  We will be trialing again the second and third weekends in March.


Sam tapped trees on the 3rd of February.  The weather forecast had looked favorable for the sap to run, but as we all know forecasts are often incorrect and can change and indeed, it never warmed up enough until this past weekend.  


But Sam collected 11  3-gallon buckets of sap on Sunday, so I ran the first batch through yesterday all day.  I also added in another 3 buckets that I collected in the afternoon.  I was very pleased with the finished syrup we produced, though I wish there had been more of it.  I got 2 quarts from all that sap.  It represents about 12 hours of feeding the fire and stove-top finishing.  Hopefully the next run will have better sugar content.

 If you look closely you can see the steam rising from the evaporator in the sugar shack.  We have a bench seat from our old van in the shack and it is pretty comfortable, though I had a hard time getting warm yesterday.  It was around 32 degrees in the morning and never got above 40 all day.  

Monday afternoon
The sugar shack is at the pond which is almost a mile from the house.  Half of that distance is on an unpaved farm road which is all uphill.  And boy was it a sloppy mess yesterday!  So we try not to have to run back and forth to the house too much.  We do have an outhouse up by the pond. It can be seen on the other side of the pond in this photo.   I am glad I do not have to use an outhouse every day!

Monday morning

I do like syrup season.  First of all, I love the syrup and second, it comes at the tail end of winter, so spring is not far behind.


  Our maple grove (or sugar bush as it is often referred to) is on the side and top of a high ridge.  The photo of Grover with the sap bucket in the background was taken at the ridgetop.  It is one of the highest places on our farm and it is beautiful, especially in winter when one can see the surrounding terrain.  But one of the sad things we have noted in the last couple of years is that the Emerald Ash Borer has finally made it to our area and we have many, many trees which are showing signs of infestation.  I am told that the damage we see on the outside of the tree is actually done by woodpeckers which are going after the insects which are in the tree.  Sam has cut down some of these trees to try to see if any of the lumber is salvageable and others are just becoming firewood.  Our understanding is that these insects may wipe out most of the ash trees.  The EAB is an invasive species from Asia, as are the "ladybugs" which infest my house every fall looking for a place to overwinter.  They have been really bad this year....

I knitted this "Dark Side" hat for the 8 year old boy who lives down the road.  It has Tie-fighters on it also around the top, which cannot be seen in this photo.  I used a favorite hat pattern and borrowed the storm trooper chart from another project on and then graphed out the tie-fighters myself.  Son Zac was here while I was working on this and he now wants a Death Star hat...I'll have to see what I can do.

I also started something new to me, band-weaving.  This uses a small loom called an Inkle loom, one of which Mom gave me for Christmas.

This one I have started may end up as a guitar strap.  That is the intention anyway.  But I can also weave dog leashes and collars and belts and other types of straps or bands.  Because I don't already have enough things to do!  This has been quite a learning experience so far.  It is very different from weaving on a traditional loom, but it is also portable and it is fun.

Next week I am off to Oregon!  I am going out to attend the baby shower being given for my son and daughter-in-law.  I have not seen them since August and I am really looking forward to spending some time with them.  When I get home from Oregon, February will be almost over!  And then spring will arrive.....

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Crazy Weather Roller Coaster Ride

I guess I should expect crazy weather ups and downs in January.  I think it happens every year.  We have had temperatures as low as -10F and as high as 60F.  I'll take the 60 degree days anytime, thank you.  At least our kitchen drain is finally thawed out.  We had to use buckets and dump the water out the back door for almost a month.  Yesterday it thawed.  Cause for celebration!

Our younger son is visiting from California this week.  He finds himself unemployed at this time due to the closure of the restaurant where he had been sous chef for the last 18 months or so.  He expects to be back at work this coming month.  We bought him a ticket to fly home and it has been a nice visit.  

We have had snow, then thaw, then snow again.  The chickens really hate the snow, but after being literally cooped up for 2 weeks, they ventured out on a warm sunny day.  I think they were dismayed at being unable to find anything to eat.  A couple of them got "stranded" in a grassy place under a tree when it was time to go in for the night.  It was like they were on a grassy island surrounded by snow and they didn't know what to do.  I picked them up and carried them to the coop.  They are silly and amusing birds.

 I also made an icicle sculpture off the back deck by breaking large icicles off the roof and dropping them into a snow pile.  That one was a good 5' long.  

And then everything thawed (except the water line) and the bees came out.  That was good to see.  I was wondering if they had survived the sub-zero temps.  They still have a couple of months to go before I will be sure they have made it through.  


And I got some photos on a couple of hikes to the beaver pond.  This first one is of the back side of the pond.  The water between Grover and me is covering what used to be our trail.  The dam has been expanded a good bit.

On the second hike, with son Sam, we stayed on the road side and I took a photo of some of the work the beavers have done below the road.  I have been expecting that large cherry tree to fall for weeks.  It just amazes me what these animals are capable of and I love that I can watch what they are doing.  I just wish I could see them more than a quick glimpse once a year or so.  

 Sam likes to have a project to keep him busy in the winter.  This year he decided to turn the one huge bathroom at Mom's house/guest house/man cave into 2 bathrooms.  We have discussed this in the past and we renovated the bathroom shortly after purchasing the property in 2000 (?).  But we were on a budget and we did what needed to be done and just left the rest alone.  In the last couple months Sam has put up all new drywall and has split the room into 2 and made a doorway into what was a closet in one bedroom and that bedroom will now have and ensuite bath with shower.

 It is small, but functional. The other bathroom will have new ceramic tile flooring and a new vanity which will be a little bigger than the one that was in there, as the smaller vanity is now in the new bathroom.  It is also getting a new toilet.  This has been kept under wraps until now, but I thought I'd post it since the new bathroom is almost finished.  It needs some molding around the ceiling and a toilet seat, shower door and towel rack, etc.  

 I finished a project of my own this week that has been a while in the making.  This sweater is knit from yarn I handspun from the fiber of one of our alpacas that was blended with some Shetland wool I purchased at a festival a couple of years ago.  I made Sam a sweater with the same yarn blend last year.  So now we have sort of matching sweaters.  The yarn for both was spun on the wheel that is behind me in the photo.  This sweater came out well.  It is supposed to be oversized and comfortable and it is.  I think I will get a lot of use out of it.

Saturday morning I take son Sam back to the airport for his return to California.  Then the following weekend Grover and I will once again be bar-hopping at our club's agility trial in Zanesville and a couple weeks after that I head to Oregon for a baby shower.  And somewhere in there we will be tapping trees and making maple syrup.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Deep Freeze Continues & A Loss

It seems the only thing better than laying in the snow is enjoying a frozen pony turd while doing so....

Yes, we continue to experience a very cold January.  I know, January is always cold.  But we have had numerous mornings this month where we have awakened to sub-zero temperatures.  It has been a constant chore to keep pipes from freezing and keep the house warm.  We still have our upstairs closed off as well as our big sliding glass door.  Our kitchen drain has been frozen for 2 weeks now, which is inconvenient to say the least.  We had a thaw a week ago during which we had torrential rains overnight, about 2" and then 2 days later, we were hit with a fairly major snowstorm.  Thankfully the power stayed on.  We got another 2 or 3 inches of snow this past Tuesday.  We are supposed to go above freezing again for the weekend.  

The animals are doing okay.  The chickens have been shut in for a week again.  That coop gets so gross when they are shut in for days at a time. Ick.  I was able to scoop it out last week when we had a thaw, but now it needs to be done again.

Unfortunately, we lost our oldest alpaca, Bodhi over the weekend.  He would have been 19 in April, so he had a good long life for an alpaca.  He had lost so much weight and it was just his time.  He arrived here on our farm when he was about a year and half old and he sired lots of crias in his day.  He was probably one of the friendlier of the alpacas and I had a soft spot in my heart for him, but it was his time.  RIP old friend.

Apples now has a whole barn pen to herself.  I could put her in with the remaining 2 female alpacas, but they seem fine the way they are.  Peg, the alpaca on the right in this photo is the last of my original alpacas.  She will be 19 in June.  So far, none of my alpacas have made it to 19.  Truffel, the other one, is 13 or 14 I think.  She has a rather unpleasant personality and likes to spit.  Another reason to let Apples have her own space.


Grover and I attended a 2 day agility trial this past weekend (we got to our hotel the night before and just before the big storm started) near Columbus.  We had a great weekend.  We were entered in 3 runs per day and we Q'd in all but our very first run!  So we earned QQ14 and QQ15 toward our goal of 20.  Unfortunately, we have only 476 of the 750 speed points we also need, so once we get all our QQs, we will still need about 150 points, by my calculations.  But we'll get there.  I am so proud of my little rescue Aussie!   Our next agility trial is Feb 10 & 11.

An upcoming event here on the farm is maple syrup season.  Last year was very poor because we had a warm winter and it got warm very early and pretty much stayed warm.  For good syrup production we need cold nights and days just above freezing.  We usually tap trees around Valentine's Day, but if we get a warm snap earlier than that this year, Sam will likely go ahead and tap early.  I had no syrup for sale this past year.  Syrup season is fun, though by the time it is over I am happy to no longer spend all day feeding the fire under the evaporator.

I also have some travel coming up.  There is a baby shower for our expected grandson in February.  It is in Portland, Oregon and I have made plans to attend.  I have to admit I do want to see my daughter-in-law with her baby on board.  It will seem so much more real then and maybe I'll even get to feel the baby kick.  

Next Friday our son Zac is arriving from California for a week long visit.  I have to admit I bribed him to come by purchasing the airfare and also by getting a pony.  It has been a year since we last saw him and I also admit to playing the Rowdy card again as well.  We got Rowdy as a puppy the summer before Zac left for college and they do have a bond.  Rowdy will be 13 in April and he has health issues, so I know Zac will be happy to spend time with the old dog again.

I have nothing new to post about on the fiber front.  I have some secret projects working and the sweater I started in October or November.  It should be finished in the next week or so.  I have not really been able to do anything in my studio as we had to shut off the heat out there for a few days when our gas dipped extremely low, so that loom is empty.  I am counting down the days until spring!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy 2018! Brrrrrrrr!!

The New Year came in with sub-zero temperatures here in Ohio.  We have been dealing with frozen pipes, frozen gas (natural gas that heats our house) and frozen water for the animals.  It was down to -10 degrees F on Tuesday morning.  Our gas pressure has been dropping, likely because moisture in the lines is freezing up and causing blockage, so we have been doing whatever we can to preserve gas.  This included closing off the opening to the upstairs of the house as well as covering the 8' sliding glass door with foam insulation panels.  Not pretty, but it sure does help.

We will leave these in place as long as we need to.  I do miss being able to sit at the table (hey no judgement on the messy table!) and watch the birds at the feeder, though.

And getting up and down the stairs is interesting.  Grover can just shove the panel up with his nose and slide under.  But last night I wasn't quick enough following him up and he leaped onto the panel from above and broke it in half.  I was underneath trying to hold it up and laughing for all I was worth.

So in the morning the first thing I do is check to see if any water pipes are frozen, then load the wood stove, then make the coffee and feed the dogs.  We have another couple of days before we have a thaw and we will be below zero again the next couple of mornings.  
Yesterday Apples was shivering in -9 temps and I was wishing I had a blanket that would fit her.  I knew Apache's old blanket would be way too large.  When I mentioned this to Sam he said he had bought some horse blankets a couple years back at an auction for about $4 because no one else wanted them.  I wasn't expecting them to be as nice as they are!  One of them fit Apples just about perfectly.
Bodhi and Peg, the two 18 year old alpacas, have had their coats on since Sunday night.  I am glad to have this blanket for Apples.  Really, who would pass up 3 horse blankets in great shape for $4?  Thankfully no one in my family!

Grover and I attended an agility trial this past weekend in Zanesville.  It was a two day trial and we had 4 runs on Saturday and 2 on Sunday.  Our only qualifying run on Saturday was our first one, Premier standard.  Our other 3 runs were not disastrous, but we made mistakes and didn't qualify.  On Sunday, we no Q'd in standard.  Grover dropped a bar when I pulled off too soon to make a turn at the next jump, but he got all his contacts and did a great job.  We ended the day with a Q in jumpers:  JWW Q
So all in all not a bad weekend, especially since practice time has been almost non-existent.  Our next trial is the weekend of Jan 13 & 14 at Incredipaws in Pataskala, Ohio.

Now that Christmas is past, I can post photos of things I made for gifts this year:
 A family of socks in Portland Timbers colors for Ian, Michelle and baby-to-be!

Socks for my mom:

                                                                                                     And a hat for Tony


I also made another sheep hat for the friend of a friend.

And that was it for gift knitting this year.  It was enough.

I have now gotten back to work on my sweater knit with handspun alpaca/shetland yarn.  I love this so far.  I am now working on the second sleeve.   

And one day a couple weeks ago I over-dyed some batts I had made a couple years ago using some alpaca  and silk which I had dyed before carding.  I have never been happy with how they turned out and so I decided to over dye them with a gunmetal blue.  I just rolled them up and immersed them in water and poured on the dye and simmered til the dye exhausted.  I am SO happy with how they turned out!  

 There is also some "firestar" blended in, which is a sparkly substance.  I love spinning this and have spun up one entire batt, about 2 oz so far.  I have 3 more batts.  It is so nice to spin something sparkly and colorful after all that BROWN for the sweater.  Not to mention the tactile feel of the silk as it goes through my fingers.  This will have to be something lacy when I finish spinning and plying it.  That may take a while.  But January is perfect for spinning and knitting by the fire.

Grover and I got in a short walk this morning.  It was a balmy 16 degrees and snowing lightly.  Grover has perfect snowy woods camouflage, don't you agree?


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Apples Has Arrived and the Year is Quickly Coming to a Close.

Apples, the Welsh pony arrived on the farm about a week and half ago.  She is settling in well and I have to admit I am falling in love with her.  She is very sweet-natured and loves carrots and apples and scratches. She looks much more like a small horse than a pony but it is hard to get a feel for her true size without a person in the photo.  I have not yet ridden her since she arrived as I still don't have quite the right tack.  I need crucial things like reins for my bridle and a girth for my saddle.  I ordered a riding helmet for myself for Christmas.

She has quite a fuzzy winter coat on and she and Bodhi are getting used to each other.  She did kick at him when we was sniffing around her back end, but she was not mean and nasty about it.  It was definitely a warning however.  I have also seen him give her the "if you come any closer I will spit at you" body language.  But they seem to be getting along just fine. 

  I am concerned about Bodhi.  He will be 19 in April, but he has lost so much weight the last few months that I'm not sure he will last the winter.  He has had a good long life here and is pretty much at the maximum life expectancy for an alpaca.  We'll keep him around as long as he can move around and eat.  I have a coat I will put on him when it gets really cold.  He's always been a favorite of mine.

 Grover and I spend a lot of time walking in the woods.  Rowdy used to go with us and in fact was the catalyst for my getting out and walking in the woods on a regular basis years ago.  But he will be 13 in April and his arthritis is keeping him from enjoying walks, which I find incredibly sad.  Sometimes, though, like this morning, he surprises me and insists on going along.  I love to see him out in the woods sniffing and being a farm dog.  It brings joy to my heart.

Yesterday Grover and I went across Wayne National Forest to the beaver pond.  Along the way, he got the opportunity to practice agility again.

Sometimes I think it would be SO fun to set up an agility trail through the woods with jumps and logs to run across and climb and a tunnel to go through.  Maybe someday I will actually do it.  

The beavers have been incredibly busy this fall.  I think their family must have grown because  there are so many trees that have been felled or are in the process of being cut down. Yesterday we were on the back side of the pond where there are no large trees because almost all of what you will see in the following photos used to be neglected hayfield.  There was also an old house and some buildings until the government came in and removed all traces of them about 8 years ago.  I will try to get out soon on a nice day and take some photos from the road where it is easy to see where the beavers are gnawing through large trees.

 Where Grover is standing is the very back side of the marsh area created by the beavers.  In fact, the water to the extreme left is covering what used to be my walking path.  While I was taking these photos, I was being scolded by an agitated Kingfisher who was obviously unhappy Grover and I were there.  Back in November, I also saw a family of about 8 wood ducks on the pond .  I have never seen that type of duck in our area before and was delighted to see them.  They may have seen the pond as a nice resting place on their migration south.  They were quite lovely.

 Looking to the right from the above photo you can see across the marshy area to the slightly deeper part of the pond.  The beaver lodge is on the far side of this, somewhat centered in the photo.  From the road (which you can see going uphill at a slight angle) we can actually walk right to the beaver lodge.  No one has interfered with it in some time and it has been made larger and there is a nice big "pantry" of limbs in the water close by for easy winter access.  This area in my opinion has been enhanced by the presence of the beaver family and I only hope they are left in peace.  

Here are some small trees near the old house foundation that have been cut and taken for winter food storage.

This closeup is of a young tree probably about 3" in diameter.  You can easily see the teeth marks in the wood.  

I had pretty much finished up any gift knitting until yesterday when I decided I needed to make one more hat.  And then I have another hat promised for New Year's weekend.  Hats are quick.

Both my looms have had projects removed from them.  I finished weaving my Krokbragh sampler, which I love.
But look at all those ends I need to weave in.  This is 17" X 42".  It looks nice in front of the fireplace in our office, so it may end up there after I weave in ends.  Or it may become a bench pad or a pillow.  

And I took 2 scarves off my loom in the home studio.  I am in the process of twisting the fringes on the ends of both of them and then they will be done.  But here is how they looked on the loom.  The pattern is the same on both, but the second one is my favorite because the colors contrast enough for the detail to show well.  

 When I post next, it will be 2018.  There are a lot of changes coming for 2018.  The biggest of course being the arrival of our first grandchild, but our older son will be graduating from college as well as becoming a father, and Sam and I may see some changes in our own lives as well.  I'm looking forward to a great year.