Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Has Arrived and We Are STILL Trying to Get Ready!

But maybe you can tell from this photo that the new chimney liner is installed and the woodburner is crankin' out the heat!  

Yes, despite the fact that we have free gas from our oil and gas wells, we really like the wood heat when the winter cold sets in.  Our house, being 100+ years old and having gas from its own wells, was never insulated.  Sam did insulate our attic after we moved in, but that's about the extent of it.  In addition to no insulation, we did not have a furnace either when we bought the house.  It was heated with several ancient gas space heaters, which we used until we added on our mud room addition in 2006.  At that time, we installed a furnace, but mostly when we run it, the downstairs is cold and the bedroom upstairs is hot, especially because the thermostat is downstairs.  We installed the woodburner our second year in this house because with well gas, one never knows when it might freeze up or get a hole in a line and when it does, you can't just call the gas company to come fix it.  You ARE the gas company.  Or more specifically, Sam is the gas company (and yes there is a joke in there somewhere).  The wood burner went in as a back up heat source for when (if) the gas goes out, which it generally does at some point during January when our useage is high and the pressure drops.  But we also found that the woodburner put out a much steadier, warmer radiant heat.  It keeps the living room warm and also keeps the furnace from kicking on as often, which in turn, keeps the bedroom upstairs at a much cooler temperature.  We prefer to have a cooler bedroom and use a nice alpaca blanket!

I can give a little more information on the oil and gas wells, but Sam is the one who handles all those details and he definitely knows more than I do, such as how many barrels of oil we produce a year.  I can assure you, however, that the Middle East does not have to worry about us taking over their oil business!  On our 197 acres, we have (I think) 5 or 6 wells.  Our house is supplied by 2 wells which produce both oil and natural gas and we own the wells outright, which means we have to maintain them if we want them to produce.  They are old wells, and do not produce a lot, but we sell a couple tankfuls of oil off every year and of course the house is heated, as is Sam's garage workshop and my soon to be studio.  Once a week the wells must be pumped.  Salt water must be pumped out of the well and then the oil must be pumped into a holding tank (or maybe it is the oil first, water second, I'm not sure, this is Sam's area).  Natural gas is a by prodcut of the oil and if we do not pump the oil and water out of the wells, the pressure will eventually drop.  

There are 2 wells on our property which are leased, so we do not have to maintain those, nor do we get the oil that comes from them.  We do get a royalty from any oil and gas sold and we get the right to free gas to 1 dwelling.  This is where part of the gas for our guest house comes from. Some of it also comes from another well we have.  

So getting the new chimney liner installed was an important part of getting ready for winter.  We also like to put heavy duty plastic wrap (it comes in rolls that painters use for protective coverings) across the overhang on our barn.  It turns the 8' wide overhang into a more protected shelter for the alpacas and keeps the wind and blowing snow out.  This was supposed to be done the same day we were scheduled to replace 130' of fencing last month and was of course the only day it rained in November!!  Saturday, it WILL get done.  The fencing will probably have to wait for spring, yet again. 

I attended our local Christmas Festival this past Saturday and took alpaca products to sell.  My biggest seller by far was my alpaca socks that I have made right here in the US.  I send my fiber in to a fiber "pool" where they put everyone's fiber together and have products made.  I just have to send in so many pounds of fiber and so much $$ and I get a dozen pairs of socks.  This is a much less expensive way of getting socks than having my own fiber spun into yarn and then knitted into socks.  They do it in much larger quantities this way and it is much more cost effective.  I sell the socks for $13 a pair and I sold a dozen pairs Saturday.  I have more!  I also sold the lacey mitts I made.  I thought they came out cute and they were one of the first items I sold. 
 I took my rugs to sell, but unfortunately did not sell any.  To be honest, though, lower ticket items do sell much more easily at these functions.
Fingerless Mitts, hand-dyed, spun and knit
I have all the rugs priced at $50 except 1 which ended up a bit shorter than I wanted (miscalculation) and it is $40.  Here are the rugs all lined up on my love seat. The 3 on the right had side are the most recent ones and are 24" wide by roughly 36" long, though the second 1 in is a little shorter.  The farthest left is 30" by 36" or so and the second from the left is the one that is $40. It is 30" wide and I think only about 30" long.  Reminds me of a horse blanket.

Here's another photo of the second batch.

So right now I really don't have anything in the works.  I need to make some neck cowls and of course I will warp up the loom again probably next week for 3 more rugs.   Last night I joined the dogs and cats in front of the woodburner and carded some fiber while I watched a silly movie.  Thoroughly enjoyable!

Drum carder on stand, Rowdy, Lucky & Tigger in front of woodstove
I use the drum carder to prepare fiber for spinning.  It cards it into nice smooth batts a little over an ounce each.  I am working on some chocolate brown right now.  To theright is the carder with some fiber on it which is being put through for the second time.  I am running this fiber through 3 times.  It is "combed " between the large drum and the "licker in" drum and then I peel the finished batt off the large drum and it is ready to spin.  

                                                                                         I also just recieved a whole box  of Spin-off entries for the   Missouri alpaca show which I believe will be held in March, so I have to get those all done before we go on our anniversary trip in late January.   You may remember I did a post on judging a Spin-off probably back in April.  There are 118 entries in this one,   so I will be kept busy the next month or so!                       
 The shelter has also been keeping me busy.  We have adoption days this weekend for the dozen or so cats we still have and the Puppy-Mill Poms will be heading out to a rescue in Canada this weekend.  They are taking all 5, even the old blind guy.  I hope they will find wonderful caring homes.  Every dog deserves a nice warm home, even if they don't get it until they are older.  Old dogs can be so wonderful.  I know we have never once regretted bringing Ginger into our family.  So all of you reading this, keep that in mind.  If you get a chance to do something nice for an old dog, it really is worth it.

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."  Mark Twain


  1. I am so jealous of your carder! Don't you love how there is always something alpaca to do. Life is never boring :)


  2. Hi Cara,

    A carder is a wonderful thing, but I still send out lots of fiber to be made into roving. I think it took me well over 2 hours of TV watching time to card 1# 4 oz of fiber.
    And you are right. Life is never boring.