Saturday, August 28, 2010

Where Has August Gone?!

Rowdy says "Hay!" from the top of the hayloft.  We have about 1000 bales of hay in the barn, so he scales the bales on the floor and accesses the loft that way.  I think he is hoping to find one of the barn cats napping!

It has been over 2 weeks since I posted.  That means we've either been very busy, or been away.  In this case it is both.  Our 2 grown sons live and work at a lodge at Yosemite National Park in California and we just spent a week visiting them there.  They have been there for about 2 1/2 years, and we do not see them very often.  They are living the good life.  When not working, they enjoy hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, swimming in hidden river pools and more.  They also have a small band and were able to perform for us our first night at the lodge.  Our sons are the one in the center, Ian, and the left, Zac.  The other band member is their friend Ryan, who also works at the lodge.

We miss seeing our boys often, with them being so far away, but we are happy that they are doing what they want since they are not tied down in any way.  
We did some hiking and swimming while we were there (who could not enjoy swimming someplace that looks like this, the water really is emerald colored, and there are no other people around!):   

and then spent our last night in San Francisco, where we went out to dinner and then to a baseball game where the Giants unfortunately thoroughly beat my son's favorite team, the visiting Cincinnati Reds.

It is a great feeling to have that barn stacked to the rafters with hay, especially since Labor Day is not yet here.  Speaking of Labor Day, we are preparing the farm for our annual Labor Day party.  This will be our 12th party.  We started it the very first year we lived here and have only missed one year, which was last year, due to some health problems I have been experiencing.  This year it is back on.  We generally fill the guest house with my family members from out of town and their friends and then we invite neighbors, clients, friends and whomever we think might like to join us for Saturday afternoon.  We cook, drink, play cornhole and volleyball and just have a lot of fun.  People bring their kids and dogs and kind of come and go all afternoon and evening.  It really is a great way to make us get the place all cleaned up at least once a year!  We look forward to it.

Our garden has been taken over by our acorn and butternut squash plants!  They have engulfed the tomatoes and the basil.  They have spread well beyond the usual garden boundaries.  I have never seen the like of it before.  The good part is that we will have tons of squash to freeze, so we will be having yummy soups and squash with butter and brown sugar all winter.  Too bad the tomatoes aren't doing as well!

I also weeded out the asparagus bed again this weekend.  We have poison ivy at one end which I try really hard to avoid because I am so allergic to it.  I have a few itchy spots, but think I managed to escape too much of an outbreak.  Next spring, we should be able to enjoy plenty of asparagus.  It will be the third season since we planted it and it is doing very well.

Just before we left for our vacation, Sam and the neighbors (what would we do without them?) erected a windmill atop the picnic pavillion at the pond.  It is attached to a bubbler by a long hose and will aerate the pond with wind power.  It looks really cool, but we have not yet been able to actually view it in operation.  It must be similar to that watched pot that never boils!

There is not much going on with the alpacas at this time.  We bred 9 females last fall, so should be having 9 crias between the beginning of September and the end of October.  The gestation period for alpacas averages 11 1/2 months, but they are all different every year and can go from 11 months to a full year, or shorter or longer.  They like to keep us guessing.  So, when each pregnant female hits the 11 month mark, we start to watch her daily for signs of impending delivery.  We call this "Cria Watch".  Usually I can tell when an alpaca goes into labor by her behavior.  They often hum excessively, get up and down, roll or lie on their sides.  But, they can also exhibit any of these behaviors from the discomfort of late term pregnancy, so sometimes they fool me.  Our first girl goes on cria watch on September 5th.  This will be her first cria and she has been quite crabby the duration of her pregnancy.  We'll see when she delivers.  

I have just found out about a fiber festival in West Virginia, a couple hours away.  It is the weekend after Labor Day and is being hosted by an alpaca organization in West Virginia.  I have decided to attend it and will be taking a pen of alpacas to try to sell and also will have a vendor booth to sell my yarns, rovings and hand-made items.  The neat think is this is not just alpacas, it is for all fiber animals, so maybe it will be well attended by knitters, crocheters and spinners.  I hope so.  I will take my camera and get some photos to share.  The Festival is called the "Wild 'n' Wooly Fiber Festival" and is in Reedsville WV, near Morgantown.  Here is a link to their web page:
I hope to begin to do more of these kind of festivals as I get more of my fiber processed every year.  Plus, they are just a lot of fun.

It is starting to feel like fall is just around the corner, which it is.  The days are still hot, but the nights are pleasantly cool again and we sleep with the windows open and a blanket on the bed.  The weeds are in full color, which I am able to enjoy since I do not suffer from allergies.  I love the purples and yellows.  September and October are without doubt my favorite months of the year. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dye Day, Hay 2nd Cutting, & More

The hibiscus is in bloom, it must be August!

The past week or so has been busy as usual here on the farm.  Sam mowed 2nd cutting hay on Sunday the 1st because the weather forecast wasn't calling for rain until after midnight on Tuesday.  I tedded it Monday, which means I drove the tractor over the cut hay with an attachment on behind that stirs the hay up and turns it over and lets it dry more thoroughly and quickly.  We planned to rake and bale Tuesday, but the rain came and it rained pretty much all day Tuesday.  Wednesday we had a very intense thunderstorm with very high winds, lots of lightning and heavy rain in the early evening and our power went out until 10 am Thursday.  So much for the hay! 

But, Sam re-tedded it on Friday and it dried out and he raked and baled it Saturday afternoon.  It won't be as nice or nutritious, but at least it is not wasted.  We also had 300 bales delivered and stacked in the loft on Sunday and will be raking and baling the last field later today. It will be good to have it all in and stacked!  It is early this year.  It seems we are usually finishing up hay right before Labor Day.  Making hay is hot, dusty, itchy work (the hay seems to make its way into every article of clothing!), but the critters have to eat each winter.

This Saturday, one of our spinning guild members, JoAnn, hosted a "Dye Day" at her beautiful farm in Kipling Ohio.  I hope that if I live on my farm for another 20 years mine could look half as nice as JoAnns' with her beautiful perennial beds.  She has a nice picnic pavilion and the dyeing paraphernalia was  set up there and she also had a big tent, where the food table was set up and anyone who brought their spinning wheels could grab a chair and spin away.

The guild provided us with silk scarves and we dyed them in a rainbow of colors.  Here is Sue applying dye.  We soaked the scarves in vinegar water for 5 minutes, crumpled them up, applied dye with squirt bottles and then microwaved, yes microwaved, them for 1 minute to set the dye.  We then rinsed them and hung them to dry: 

 Look at those colors!  What a fun and easy project.  

Each guild member also brought their own fibers to dye.  This is just a "play day", a time for us to get together and make a mess and have fun.  I brought some spun yarn, some which was 50/50 alpaca and silk and another skein which was 75/25 alpaca and wool.  I also brought some carded batts I had done up, which are a blend of alpaca and wool.  Here are some of those batts in the process of being dyed.
The batts are dyed in a way similar to the scarves: soaked in water, dye is poured on, the fiber is sprayed with vinegar, wrapped in plastic and microwaved until heated through to set the dye.  You will note that vinegar is a common "ingredient" in the dyeing process and this is because we are using "acid dyes", which means the dyes need acid to react with the fiber.  Vinegar is the acid we use.
Here are 2 more of our guild members, Bill and Karen, both dyeing skeins of yarn.  Karen is doing the proper thing and wearing gloves to protect her hands from the dyes.  While the dyes are not harmful, they will leave one with colorful hands! 
And of course, no meeting of the Ohio Hills Spinners and Weavers Guild would be complete without food!  Here is our food table following the whirlwind of hungry spinners and dyers!  As usual, everything was great.  Loved that corn and bean salsa, Debbie!

Once I got home with my dyed yarns and batts and scarf, I washed them with a wool wash and hung out to dry.  Turned out pretty didn't they?  I am now spinning up the batts into what will be a 3-ply yarn to be used for socks.  Watch for the finished product next week.

Since we have been putting in hay, some work has been required to get the lofts ready for this year's hay.  So, while I was moving the 70 or so bales left from last year which I am still feeding to the alpacas, I was able to get a cute photo of some of our barn residents, snoozing away during the heat of the dayYes, those are bats, way up in the top of the loft.  This was only a few of them, but I love how they are all lined up with their little heads showing.  

Bats cute? I think so.  We have so many types of wildlife on our farm.  Many of these critters are a nuisance, such as racoons and possums.  They invade my barn and get into my feed bins and just generally make a mess.  There are coyotes, who might possible kill crias and barn cats if Cheetah was not around to keep them from coming too close.  The bats however, are helpful wildlife.  On summer evenings, they come out of the barn and swoop around eating thousands of mosquitoes and other insects.  I love to watch them just before it gets dark.  I will admit I do not care to be up in the loft when they are waking up!