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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sad to See October Drawing to a Close

Happy Dog

Yes, it's hard to think November will be here in just a few days.  Our fall has been so disappointing, weather-wise.  This week the weather was all over the place.  We had sunshine and warm temps and we have had rain and I even had to scrape my windshield one morning, although we have yet to have a hard frost.  Usually we have had one by now.  Ladybugs are coming into the house, but not yet in droves.  That generally happens following the first good frost.  Maybe we will be lucky this year and they will go elsewhere.  

I have been keeping busy with trying to get some of my alpacas bred so we will have crias next year.  As mentioned before, I have been concerned about my new male's ability to get the job done consistently and next week will tell me a lot.  So far, I have used him with 7 females and 4 of those have been non-receptive to him 2 weeks in a row, which is a good sign.  If they continue to be non-receptive, they are likely pregnant and I will schedule the vet to come out to do ultrasounds.  But I need to have several girls to ultrasound in order for it to be cost-effective to have the vet come out.  

I also took one of my females, Miracle, over to MacArthur, Ohio to be bred to a very nice male on a farm over there.  His name is Electric Mayhem and I purchased a breeding to him through the "herdsire silent auction" at the Ohio Alpacafest last November.  The breeding was donated, so my fee goes to the Ohio Alapca Breeder's Association.  Here is a link to Mayhem's information
http://www.alpacanation.com/herdsires/03_viewherdsire.asp?name=30329  He is a very nice male with great fiber characteristics and rare coloring and I think he and Miracle will produce a nice cria next year.  Fingers crossed that the breeding took.  I did what is known as  a "drive by" breeding where I take my female home with me and test her receptivity or (hopefully) lack thereof with my own male.  I also took another female, Kadienne, back to my friend Becky's to re-breed to Glacier this week.  Kadi, as we call her, had a nice female cria by Glacier in late August.  I'd like to have another one just like her next fall.  Saturday, I plan to take Brooklynn, the dam of the little black male born a couple weeks ago, to another friend's farm and breed her to this nice male:  http://www.alpacanation.com/herdsires/03_viewherdsire.asp?name=39395  So, if all these breedings result in pregnancies, I will have quite a cria crop next fall.  



Here is a shot of our males in their pasture on a nice sunny evening this week as the dogs and I were finishing up our walk. 



You can see that most of the leaves are off the trees down here in our hollow.  It makes the woods a little brighter on sunny afternoons, but we have not had enough of those lately to suit me.





The other morning, Apache had his head over the fence and was communing with the dogs and alpacas.  But of course when I went out on the deck with my camera he had to turn to see what I was up to.  I think he was checking out their hay situation.  The hay on the other side of the fence is always better, you know.



My father-in-law bought this dual-fuel 15 passenger van a few months back and it barely fits into our garage re-fueling station.  I drove it to work for the first time yesterday and it actually drives very nicely.  I may need to steal it and turn it into the new 'Paca Van.  It would be much nicer for hauling 1 or 2 alpacas around than having to hook up my trailer to my gasoline powered truck which only gets about 12 mpg while towing.  But a pick-up is a pretty essential piece of equipment on a a farm, so it will have to work for now.  

I am still working on my thank you gift cowl and will get a photo of it once it is done, which should be in the next day or so.  I want to mail it off soon.  Other than that, I have not had much time for fibery stuff.  I have decided to sign up to be a vendor at another Fiber Festival in the spring.  It is in Troy Ohio and so I can stay at Mom's again and not have the expense of a hotel room.  Having to stay in a hotel for two nights really eats into any profit one might make.  I am also going to be having a booth at our local Christmas Festival again this year where we set up in the county courthouse.  It is a one day event and is good for selling socks and other finished items.  I need to knit up some hats and mittens, etc.   It is only a little over a month away!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chicago and the Rain is Back!

Sometimes Ginger has a hard time getting up in the morning
Well we did enjoy a few days of nice weather, but we had rain and wind last night and now our temperature is only in the 40's!  So much for a lovely fall this year.  Maybe next year.

This past weekend I met my cousin Tracey in Chicago for a girls' weekend.  The weather was good, cool and windy (big surprise there, huh?) but no rain until Sunday morning which was when I was heading for the airport anyway.  We had a great view of Navy Pier from our room in the Sheraton but found Navy Pier to be disappointing.

It is likely nicer to visit in the summer.  We ate and drank well and I can recommend "Yolk" as a great breakfast destination if you want endless choices, including such things as "Red Velvet French Toast" which sounded more like dessert to me!  For a wonderful dinner, Roy's which specializes in "Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine" was excellent, but the Hawaiian Martini (vodka and a splash of pineapple juice) at $11.95 is really not worth it.  Tasty, but not $11.95 tasty. 

Once home from Chi-Town, I had Monday and Tuesday  to get some outdoors work done before the rain returned.  I admit I was able to finally get some of those holes in the barn floor filled in!  2 loader scoops of  lime screenings and 3 80 pound bags of Sackrete and lots of shoveling, raking and scooping really helped the situation.  Those 80 pound bags are about more than I can handle.  There is one bag left, but it is on the floor in the garage and I am NOT picking that sucker up!  The other 3 were stacked and I loaded them into the loader on the tractor.  Put the loader bucket directly over the wheelbarrow and open the bags and dump them in.  I love my front end loader!

 



Wednesday morning, the rain was back and there was a beautiful rainbow in the west as I did chores early in the morning.  My camera was in the house, but the rainbow  stayed around long enough for me to dash inside and get it and take some photos.  *Sigh*  you can see most of the leaves are off the trees already.



I hate to say it, but I think the southern end of this rainbow is right where they are drilling that first well into the Utica Shale about 3 miles from our place.  I know a lot of folks who are certainly hoping so.



This is Timmy, our newest barn cat.  He came into the shelter this past summer with his mama and while she was very friendly, Timmy was not.  He was basically feral and hated being handled and would hide whenever volunteers came into the shelter.  We figured he would be impossible to adopt out, so once he was old enough to be neutered, I offered to make him a barn cat.  

When I bring a new cat into the barn, they stay in a large dog crate for several days to get accustomed to the surroundings and the other cats and yet feel somewhat safe.  I figured when I let Timmy out that would be the last I would see of him.  Well honestly, he has become such a nice boy!  Every time I go out to the barn he is underfoot and up in my face, purring and wanting petted.  Maybe he just hated the shelter.  I don't know.  But he is doing great and getting along with the rest of the crew.  I'm glad.

 Here's most of the rest of the crew at morning feeding.  The black and white next to Timmy is Cami, short for Camilla, who I found eating garbage next to my burn barrel in April.  She is now sleek, fat and spayed.  Behind her is Chuck, short for Charles (we are not that formal and I didn't name him!).  He also came from the shelter.  The gorgeous grey is Grayson, also from the shelter.  Stubby is not present at this feeding.  He is an old fellow I have had for many years and he was not a youngster when I got him.  He lost part of his tail a few years ago, hence the moniker Stubby.  I think I called him Tabby prior to that.

I have been working on my lace shawl.  It doesn't photograph well at this point,  I need to pin it out and see if I can't get a decent pic.  I am putting it aside to work on a special Thank You gift, which will only take a few days.  I had to spin up some yarn for that.  I am using a lovely "rose grey" fleece, which is kind of like a grey with brown in it.  Much prettier than it sounds.  It is a very rare color of alpaca and alpacas that are this color can sometimes appear to be almost lavender in color.

 I am also spinning up some alpaca/silk blend yarn.  Unfortunately in the photo, you cannot see the shine of the silk.  I am just using some alpaca roving and adding in the combed silk as I spin it.  I plan to spin several skeins of this and then dye it.  The alpaca and silk should take the dye slightly differently and the silk will add shine.  It should be very nice.  It will be a while before I get to the dyeing stage, though.
 This is on my wheel at the office and we have not been at all busy lately due to the Utica and Margellus shale drilling craze in our county.  I have lots of spinning time.


My two sons and Michelle, Ian's girlfriend, are now residents on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  I believe they start work today.  I would really like to visit them while they are there, but I don't know if we will get the chance.  Time will tell.
 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wow, it Finally Stopped Raining!

Ginger, the Pied Piper
Oh and when it stopped, it got really nice!  We were due for it!  Isn't that cute how the chickens are following Ginger?  Every day when I let them out, they follow us across the bridge.  I just happened to have my camera and was able to get this shot.  The chickens have free range of the farm and they often roam quite a way from the chicken coop.  Yesterday, I was getting hay out of they hay loft and there were several chickens hanging out in the hay loft on the opposite side of the barn (the one with very little hay in it).  It had been raining and I guess they were looking for bugs in the hay.  With the nice weather this past weekend, I had been leaving my sliding glass door from the deck into the dining room open 18" or so.  We have no screen doorI was repairing fence and came into the house for something and you guessed it, there was a chicken in the kitchen!  She was not happy and I could tell she had been trying to get out the window above the sink as she had knocked things into the sink.  I was able to pick her up and put her outside.  Silly  chick-chick!

The stretch of wonderful weather allowed for many outdoor activities.  Last Friday, I went to my friend Tari's house so we could do some dyeing using natural indigo.   Tari is the friend I went to the Wool Gathering with and she is one of the women who helped me learn to spin 11 years ago.  She is very much into natural dyeing and many other homesteading  activities.  On their farm, she and her husband grow a very large garden and can much of their year's food.  Tari has dairy goats and makes wonderful cheese as well as soap.  They have chickens and bees and sheep and Tari has border collies and trains them to herd.  

We started off with one dye bath that produces the blue indigo dye, but the plant had flowered and we were unable to get any blue dye from it.  So, we picked woad leaves and Tari made a "tea" with those and we eventually got our blue dye.  You can see the blue-green foam on the top of the dye bath.



 Once the dye bath is ready, we immerse wetted skeins of yarn into the dye for just a few minutes.  I was using white alpaca, of course, and Tari had a skein of wool she had previously dyed with golden rod for a very vibrant yellow.  



 

To the right is my alpaca in the dye pot.  It looks yellow, doesn't it?  But you can still see the blue bubbles on the surface of the solution.  With indigo, the fiber color does not turn blue until it is exposed to oxygen.  So, as you lift the skeins from the dye bath, they "magically" change color!



Here are those same 2 skeins after being lifted into the air.

 And below is Tari's yellow skein being lifted out of the pot.  If you look, you can still see the yellow at the lower part of the skein.  This skein turned out to be a beautiful lime green color.  









 



We just had a lot of fun that day, sitting on the porch spinning while our dye "tea" brewed and sampling some of Tari's wonderful chevre goat cheese and drinking freshly pressed cider.  Life doesn't get much better in my opinion!




Saturday, Sam and I had planned to go up to Medina Ohio, about 2 1/2 hours north, to attend a large alapca auction.  We have always wanted to attend this auction, but usually are busy that weekend.  Well this year, we weren't busy, so decided to attend.  But, the weather forecast for the weekend was so good that we just could not tolerate the idea of 5 hours in the car and several more hours inside  when there was so much needing done at home.  The wonderful weather was just begging for outside work and activities.


So instead of being wined and dined at an alpaca auction, I knocked a couple more items off my "to do before winter" list.  I replaced the frost free hydrant in the pasture across the road from the "guest" house and I replaced about 50' of fencing in one corner of the pasture next to the garage where we had been replacing fence a couple years ago and ran out of fencing before we ran out of fence that needed replaced.  Took me this long to get to it!  

We also took advantage of the 80 degree sunny weather to go up to the pond and haul out the trampoline float.  This of course required someone getting in the water and I just knew that "someone" would be me.  And if I was getting into 65 degree water, I was doing it in style with one last run on the zip line.  So that is what I did.

You can see how the rain has brought the pond level right up to maximum.  This time last year, the pond was down 2 feet.  This time last month it was down 14".  What gorgeous day it was!  Blue sky and colorful fall leaves.

Sam also mowed our big hay field for the third time.  It really grew with all the rain, but we still did not get a lot off it.  And we just did not have the required hours of sun to get it thoroughly dry, so we got about 34 bales of heavy hay off it.  I don't know that it will amount to anything.  It will depend on whether it molds.  If it gets moldy due to moisture in the bales, it will be no good at all.  But it was an experiment.

Tomorrow I head off to Chicago to meet up with my cousin Tracey, who lives in Grand Rapids Michigan.  We just decided we needed to get together since many years we only see each other at Thanksgiving.  We met in Chicago once before and our mothers (who are sisters) went with us.  This year, it is just us and we plan to eat and drink and walk and shop and maybe hit a museum or a show.  Not really sure yet.  I think the weather is supposed to be cool and windy.  Imagine that, wind in Chicago.  As long as there is no snow!

Here is a photo of our newest cria and his dam, Brooklynn.  I guess he is our last for the year.  I am pretty sure Elli, the last one due is not actually pregnant.  She is so large it is hard to tell, but I examined her pretty well the other day and I can feel no fetal parts through her abdomen.  Usually you can feel a bony protuberance such as a knee or elbow or something.  We will not be having any crias in spring either it seems.  The male I acquired last fall did not do his job and all the girls I bred him to last spring are still open. I am giving him another chance this fall as he is 3 years old now.  I'll know  how things stand in a couple weeks.  Keeping my fingers crossed that he was just immature and that he will now be functioning as required!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's Fall!

I will admit, fall is my favorite time of year.  I know, it is the precursor to winter, but I still love it.  I love the warm, clear sunny days and cool nights and the colors and the scents.  I love being outdoors and comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt.  So, what has happened to this fall?  It has been dreary and rainy, rainy, rainy.  The mud around the barns is reminiscent of early spring, not fall.  It would have been a good year to re-seed pastures, had we but known....Last week, the pond went from being down 14 inches to running over the spill-way in less than 48 hours after a 3" rainfall on Monday night.  The creek was even up into the chicken yard and over top of both bridges, judging from the debris left behind.

  This bridge will need some work before I drive a truck or tractor across it again!  It amazes me how quickly the creek comes up and how quickly it recedes once the rain stops.  Thankfully.

At least the rain has allowed for some indoor projects to be done.  I finally got my upstairs bathroom painted.  It is no longer "gaggy pink".  I don't know what I was thinking when I painted it that color.  I was thinking peach.  Well, I guess peach is just pink.  Maybe I can get a photo for next week.

The last weekend in September is the Soakum Festival in Caldwell, Ohio, which I wrote about here http://straightforkfarm.blogspot.com/2010/09/fraternal-reunion-soakum-festival-rug.html
I attended on Sunday and did some spinning, some chatting and a lot of eating.

This is the little cabin on the fairgrounds where we set up on the porch.  The weather was actually very nice for the festival.  I think the rain started later Sunday night.

We had about the same group on Sunday this year as last year, with the addition of Marlene, closest to the camera.  The others are JoAnn, Sally, Bill & Don.



 I took my rugs to the festival and needed a way to display them, so I came up with a simple rack which Sam helped me to makeIt folds and fits quite nicely in the back of my CRV.  You can see it on the left in the photo above.



This past weekend, which was downright cold and rainy, I sat outside at the Bethel Harvest Festival all weekend with a couple of my alpacas and some products for sale.  I usually get some spinning done on this weekend, but it was too muddy to even get my wheel out of the truck.  Plus, my fingers were too numb to spin.  I stayed fairly warm, though, with my hand-knit alpaca socks, flannel lined jeans, hand-knit alpaca/wool sweater, hand-knit alpaca neck warmer, and hand-knit fingerless alpaca mitts.  

 Looks dreary doesn't it?  And this was Sunday, which was the BETTER day, weatherwise.  It only rained part of Sunday.  It rained ALL of Saturday.  I have done this festival for years and never has it been so unpleasant.  But, I enjoyed the local atmosphere and people.  That's why I go.

 Now I have had some time to get out and enjoy the fall weather.  The dogs and I get our walks in whenever possible, sometimes even in the drizzle.  The wet weather has made for a lot of interesting fall mushrooms, which I am not used to seeing.  Generally it is too dry for mushrooms to do well this time of year.  I found these to be particularly pretty. 



There were quite a lot of them growing among the pine trees on Wayne National Forrest.  I don't recall ever seeing such colorful fungi before.


It is also easier to see other things now that many of the leaves have fallen.  For instance, here is something I have been walking under several times a week on my walks with the dogs and I never saw it until now.  




 It is easily the size of a football or a little larger and about 12 feet up right over the road.  There seems to be no activity around it at this time, but I am sure there was earlier in the season.  


Another interesting construction I found recently in the woods is this little tiny woven basket nest.  I don't know what kind of bird makes this little nest hanging from thin tree limbs, so if anyone reads this and knows, please tell me.






 I know it is not the greatest photo, but the nest itself would only hold something about as large as a golfball. 


I also got into our beehive this past week to check on the bees.  There are SO many bees!  But I was dismayed that while I found capped brood (eggs), I did not find capped honey, which means that the bees have probably been eating their stored honey already.  Most likely due to the rainy weather and lack of pollen.  This was discussed at our local bee meeting and many beekeepers are feeding their bees.  I think I need to start doing so as well.  I need to learn more about bee-keeping than I know now.

 I am lifting out a comb that is totally covered with bees in this photo.  I was amazed at how many bees are in this hive.  I hope they are able to survive the winter.  I may get another hive before spring and if I do, I will go with the standard bee hives because that is what I am learning most about at our local meetings.  I would really like to be successful at this.  Hopefully I can find a place to take some classes this winter.  


The weather is supposed to be taking a turn for the better this week and the forecast shows  upper 70's and sun for the next week.  Gosh I hope it's right!  Sam is even planning to mow our hayfield again and try to get in a third cutting off it.  With all the rain we've had the hay has grown like crazy and if we get enough dry weather, maybe we can get another 100 bales or so.  That would be great!
The End