Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BRrrrrr, It's Cold!

Rowdy and Tigger are making the best of the cold weather in front of the wood stove.  

I am still plugging along with the Spin-Off for the Missouri alpaca show.  I plan to have it done and in the mail back to the coordinator by Tuesday the 18th.  I'm getting there.  Meanwhile, I have not had much time to work on things I'd like to work on, like finishing up the bindings on my rugs and painting my downstairs bathroom, for which I purchased paint around Thanksgiving time!

Sam bought us a new car a few weeks back.  It is a dual-fuel car and runs on compressed natural gas and gasoline.  So we are now (or I should say Sam is) working on installing a compressor so that we can park the car in the garage and hook it up and fill it with gas from our wells.  The compressor is on its way here from California as I write this, but its installation has required that Sam run a new gas line over to the garage since the compressor has to be inside and easily convenient to the car and have a source of electricity.  So I came home the other day to  this.
 This is a backhoe dug trench from the back deck through the yard to the corner of the garage.  I have to cross it every time I go to the weanling pasture to feed, but it's not hard to remember it's there!

I think if this works out well, we will have other natural gas vehicles in our future.  The nice thing is, they are relatively inexpensive to purchase used as the availability of compressed natural gas is very limited.  That's a shame because it it much cheaper than gasoline.

Sam also cut the window opening in my studio.  We just used part of a window that we already had  from when we remodeled the house and it's not real big, nor does it open, but its purpose is light, not air at this point.  I had purchased a nice stained glass of running horses a couple years ago and it fits in the window perfectly!  I still have a lot to do before the studio is done, but I won't have time until next month to really get any work done out there.
January is a pretty quiet month around the farm as far as the animals go, mostly limited to feeding and scooping and the monthly worming (boy was it hard taking my gloves off to vaccinate 53 'pacas this past Sunday morning!).  February is quiet as well except we will hopefully be tapping trees for sap again.  This will be only our second year of maple syrup production and we hope to produce enough to sell a little bit.  We are going to set up our evaporator up near the pond, which is close to where the trees are we are using.  We have already put in a supply of wood, but I am sure much more will be needed to keep a hot fire going for 12 hours or so at a time on boil days.  I will get to put my new chainsaw into action!  The wood is stored under the pavilion at the pond and you can see the cement block we bought last summer at an auction to build the new evaporator with.                                                      
 Our pond is still down almost 2 feet.  The current snowfall we have should remedy that when it thaws.   The open area you see in the photo is where the windmill powered aerator bubbles up.

 I have managed to finish up 1 of 2 skeins of yarn for Michelle.  It is pretty cool, I think, but I forgot to take a photo, so maybe you can see it next week.  I also finished up a pair of mittens I started way back in November and realized partway through mitten #2 that I was going to run out of my hand-dyed variegated yarn.  So since it was multi-colored anyway, I went through my "stash" and found another hand-spun hand-dyed yarn I could use and I think it looks ok.  The white is my mill-spun yarn.

Keeping warm has been work.  The cap on the new chimney liner we put in managed to get  clogged with creosote and the whole house filled with smoke.  Last night and this morning Sam took the woodburner out and cleaned the chimney and climbed up onto the icy snowy roof to clean the cap as well.  Kind of a tense job requiring ropes tied to tractors and treesfor him to hold onto.  We were burning some elm that I think was not dry enough and hence the problem.  Dry wood only from here on out!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in 2011!

Check out what I got for Christmas!  It just goes to show a girl should NEVER tell her husband she wants to learn to use the chainsaw.  Next think ya know, he's buying one in her size!

Seriously though, it is nice to have one that is smaller than either of the ones Sam uses.  I don't plan to be cutting down any trees, but it will be nice not to have to rely on Sam when a tree is down on a fence or across a path.  Plus, I got him a MOP for Christmas! 

So it is now  2011.  Do you prefer to say Twenty Eleven or Two thousand eleven?  I myself prefer the latter.  twenty eleven sounds goofy to me.

After a downright frigid December, 2011 has arrived with very warm temps and rain.  Of course to the alpaca farmer this means MUD and suddenly thawed POOP!  Two of my least favorite things.  It's kind of nice when the ground is frozen because all the mess is also frozen and I have better things to do than chip at frozen poop with a shovel, so my theory is that it will still be there once it thaws out.  Boy do I regret it then!  This is when I am thankful to have lots of sawdust to spread in the barn to sop up the wet stuff which was previously frozen. 

Summer kitchen soon-to-be Fiber Studio
The warm weather also means I was able to finish painting the shelves in my soon-to-be fiber studio.  I may have mentioned previously that I am renovating what was once a summer kitchen into a studio.  Actually, it was a summer kitchen when we moved here 12 1/2 years ago and then it became a catch-all, mostly filled with bags of alpaca fiber waiting to be skirted, sold or processed.  I spent a whole weekend cleaning it out and going through all the fiber and deciding what would become rug yarn and what would be sold to spinners, etc. 

This little building sits just outside our kitchen door and the studio part of it is about 10 X 12.  The far left side is actually an outhouse Sam added on a couple years after we moved in.  It is right above the line to the septic tank and since we had only 1 bathroom, it seemed handy to have a second.  It flushes and everything.  It is "seasonal" however.  But it is great not to have to go into the house in the summer when you are outside working and have muddy shoes on and nature calls.  

Anyway, back to the studio.  2 walls inside were lined with shelves which the former owners used for canned good storage (there was NO storage in my kitchen when we bought the place).  These shelves were narrow, about 8" wide.  Not good for storing fleeces, etc.  So, I tore out the shelves along the long wall and moved them over in front of the shelves on the 10' wall and while there is a gap between the 2, I now have shelves that are almost 20" deep.  Perfect for fleece storage!
Under construction
I have also put up 1" foam insulation on 2 walls and put it in as a drop ceiling after Sam installed 2  6" X6" pine beams.  I will be able to put pegs or nails in the beams and hang small baskets or herbs or whatever.  And they hold up the insulationOnce Sam puts in a small window in the front (where the wreath is in the photo) I will insulate the front wall as well and then I plan to use old barn siding as panelling on the front and back walls.    Sam has already put in a small gas heater for me.  I haven't really decided what to do with the floor yet. 

I will have room in here to skirt fleeces and I will move my drum carder out here, as well as a lot of my fiber tools which currently share the sunporch on the front of the house with the winter's firewood.  My wheels will stay in the house.  I would like to put in a countertop on hinges that I can use when I am dyeing so I don't have to make such a mess in my kitchen, and maybe even a small microwave.  The possibilities are limited only by the 10' X 12' space!!

Krista with Tigger:  I can't believe I still have this cat!
Speaking of dyeing, I had a nice visit after Christmas from my mother and she brought along my 2 nieces.  Krista, my brother Mike's daughter is in college and likes getting away at the farm.  Haley, is 11 and is my brother Larry's daughter and this was only the second time she has been here without her parents.  We are both hoping she can come for a longer visit this summer.  

To further the efforts of all fiber-holics to keep the addiction alive, I introduced Haley to  dyeing and then felting.  I had some carded batts of 75% alpaca/25% blue faced leicester (breed of sheep) and I had her pick 4 colors of dye and away we went!  
Haley with her dyed batts

After the batts were dyed, Haley felted around a bar of goat's milk soap and I sent her home with the rest of her batts and a few bars of my friend Tari's homemade goat soap.  It was  a great, fun, easy and clean project.  Awesome to do with kids.

Haley with her felted soap.
Haley's color choices were so good I decided to use the leftover dyes to dye some of the same batts to spin some sock yarn for Michelle, Ian's girlfriend.  I had sent her a skein of my white mill-spun yarn for Christmas and she said she wanted to use it for socks.  I told her it was probably not a good choice since it was a very soft 2-ply and it would wear through in the heels and toes in no time.  So I told her I would spin her up a 3-ply sock yarn and she said she likes jewel colors.  I had hoped for more green, but ya just never know how these colors will come out!   This is the single prior to plying.  I have a pair of socks made from this blend and they are wonderful!  I hope Michelle likes the yarn.  

I have also been weaving more rugs.  I have 2 finished on the loom and enough warp to do one more before I take them off the loom.  I think the next one will be a 3' X 5' in black and grey and white for my computer room which has a gorgeous hickory hardwood floor made and installed by Sam from a tree on our own property.  

Happy New Year to All!