Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgivng Week

Thanksgiving means driving across Ohio to my mom's in Dayton.  We leave on Thursday morning and return home on Saturday.  Since we take our dogs with us, the day prior to Thanksgiving means it is Dog Bath Day.  Doesn't Rowdy look just thrilled? 

And doesn't he look smaller when he is all wet?  

He also hates being away from home.  He hates being on a leash, which he must tolerate while in the suburbs.  The only place he likes as much as home is the farm where we board the dogs when we are away.  He loves it there so much I am afraid one day he won't want to come home.  But on the other hand, that makes it easier for me to be away.  

He tries to make himself small and invisible when he is uncomfortable.

At least he has not had a chance to get dirty, so maybe mom won't mind him on the window seat in the kitchen with me.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  All my family is together, except my two west coast sons.  My mom.  Her sister and her 2 kids and spouses and dogs (3).  My two brothers and their spouses and kids (5).  And Sam and me and our dogs (2).  Can't forget mom's dog!  We had a lot of dogs this year.  Mom has convinced my brother, Larry, to leave his huge yellow lab, who is only 2 and rather exuberant, home.  They only live 20 minutes away, unlike the rest of us.  

I have a lot to be thankful for.  Most days I am very aware of just how fortunate I am.  

Things are about to change where we live.  I am worried about how much change there will be.  We are very remote and live on an unpaved road and I can take long walks and often do not get passed by even one vehicle.  However, big oil and gas drilling is coming into the area.  One of the first wells into the Utica shale is being drilled only 3 miles from our farm.  I can hear it as a distant roar most of the time, especially early in the morning.  The drill is huge and is lit up like a carnival ride at night.  It can be seen from the highest ridge on our farm, above the pond.  

I hope that the peace in our little holler will not be ruined by future well sites, but from all I hear, change is in the air.  Time will tell.

I have written in past weeks about breeding season on the farm.  Tomorrow the vet is scheduled to come and do ultrasounds. I have 10 girls to ultrasound.  All were still testing positive for pregnancy when a male was brought in, as of yesterday.  

This coming Saturday is the Christmas Festival and parade in our county seat, Woodsfield, which is where our Real Estate business is located.  They open up the courthouse and small businesses and local crafters can purchase booth space.  This way businesses who do not have shops in town can participate without being outdoors.  I have been busy using up single skeins of yarn by making small items to sell.  I will also have my hand woven rugs and my made in USA alpaca socks and yarns for sale.  I try not to sell imported alpaca items, but the teddy bears are a big hit and so I have to have those for sale.  They also make nice door prizes as they are 1 size fits all.  

 So far, I have made a pair of mittens, a headband, and 2 hats.  I made the scarf earlier this fall.  I have to admit, the green hat is NOT alpaca.  I had that skein of yarn and I am pretty sure it is wool, but I cannot for the life of me remember where the fiber came from!  I am sure it was a roving I saw and just had to buy to spin.  It sure is my colors.  The hat need buttons on it, but I am having a hard time finding the right ones.  Today I plan to start some fingerless mitts out of a skein of the very first commercial yarn I had done up.  I found it tucked away in a bag in a closet and must have put it there with a project in mind, but who knows what?

I'm looking forward to having the festival behind me so I can do some more weaving and spinning.  And of course Christmas is just around the corner.  Followed by January, which will allow for a lot of fiber-nating time!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mid-November Already?

Trouble X 3 
I know, I missed my blog post last week.  I came down with a cold about 2 weeks ago and it hit me really hard last week and I honestly could not motivate myself to get my brain in gear and come up with a post or even any photos.  I am still not over it, but I would say about 90% better.  

November pasture
November has been a fairly nice month so far.  We enjoyed (as well as I could with my cold) a gorgeous true Indian Summer of 70 degree days and blue skies the first week and then, while it has not been so warm, the dry weather continued until a couple days ago, when November really showed itself.   I got my garlic planted and covered it and the asparagus bed with a mulch of moldy hay and composted 'paca poo.  Took some nice walks with the dogs and Rowdy was even in the pond a couple times.  Of course, daylight savings time ended which means it is now dark by 6 pm and on the days I come to the office we no longer get our walks in.

We have some new additions (I know I am totally crazy) to our alpaca herd.  Some good friends are dispersing their herd and I have taken in 4.  One actually came from here and 2  of her daughters came as well, along with a simply gorgeous rose grey male.  He is just old enough to start breeding and has incredible genetics and super fine fleece, so I may use him this spring.  His name is Opus One or "Opie" for short.  I plan to clip a sample of his fleece to have tested to give us a idea of how fine it really is.  I don't really breed for grey here, so I don't know if we will keep him or sell or trade him.  There's no rush.

With the nice weather, I spent some time with the camera in the pasture one day.  To the left are our 2 fall crias, Accoyo Laci (white) and Inigo Montoya (black) along with Miracle's cria from May, Stormwatch (fawn).  Stormwatch is ready to wean from his mama, but since I just drove her 2.5 hours each way for a breeding 3 weeks ago, I haven't wanted to stress her yet by removing her  "baby".  I will likely do that this weekend.  I have some moving around of alpacas to do and Sam will be here to help. 

Ok, since Laci's mom, Kadi, is not the nicest alpaca on the farm (she will spit at me as soon as look at me) I don't feel bad about posting this totally unflattering shot of her sitting with her head in the hay feeder chewing on a mouthful of hay.  This is her favorite position in the barn.  That is the look I usually get from her, no matter what I am doing.  She hates me when I give her a shot and she hates me when I feed her.  Equal opportunity hater.  And this girl can SPIT.   I hope her daughter turns out sweeter.

I have mentioned in past posts about our male, Lightning, who we acquired last fall.  With no pregnancies from him last spring, I have been worried about his ability to got the job done.  This Monday, I did another behavior-testing on all the females he bred this fall.  It looks like he may have several offspring by this time next year.  My next step is to have the vet out to do ultrasounds for confirmation.  Females can show a false postive upon behavior-testing and even blood testing if they ovulate but the egg is not fertilized and their body does not re-cycle properly.  Ultrasound is really the only way to be sure that there is indeed a fetus present and even with ultrasound it can be difficult to verify if the pregnancy is not far enough (<30 days) or too far (>60 days) along.  I plan to make my appointment for the week following Thanksgiving.

Sam has run electricity to the chicken coop so I can use a heater for their water and have a light on if I choose in the winter to increase egg production.  We are actually kind of looking forward to getting less than a dozen eggs a day.  But with holiday baking, I am sellin' 'em as fast as the girls are layin' 'em, so no worries.  This hen spent a good bit of time in Apache's hay feeder the other day, but I never found an egg.  I wonder if  Apache has taken a liking to eggs?

Speaking of Apache, Sam and I were late coming home this past Monday and 'Pache did not get fed on time, so he went under the wire fence and helped himself to the alpaca feed over by the garage, which is kept in a plastic garbage can outside the pasture gate.  In response to this, I have plugged in the electric fencer once again.  I sure hope I don't forget I have it plugged in......I HATE that.

All the projects I have been working on lately are gift projects, so I will have to wait and post photos post gift -season.  Except I will post this photo of some beanies I made of hand-spun, hand-dyed alpaca.  I sent them off in a care package to my boys and Michelle today and was told they should arrive on Saturday.  We'll see if any of them read my blog and go check their PO box!  I made 2 of these last spring, but I wanted to make 1 for each and the weather got warm, so I figured I would make the 3rd one this fall.  I had planned to make one for another of the Those That Kill (TTK) band members, but he moved to Minnesota, so the band is no longer together.  Of course, living at the Boundary Waters in Minnesota for the winter, Ryan might need an alpaca beanie (and socks and long underwear and anything else you can make of alpaca!).  If the guys think he needs one, I will make one.

And by the way, some friends of mine (who gave me Cheetah years ago) have a Pyr about to have puppies.  Anyone want one??  They will be free to good homes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November Brings Good Weather!

Rowdy loves a good game of "Squash Bomb" with an unripened butternut!
3 days into November and I think we have had some of the nicest weather of the fall.  It has been great for getting outside and getting things done and just enjoying the sunshine.  Rowdy and I went over to Lamping Homestead, which is part of Wayne National Forest that is about 5 miles from our house, on Tuesday and did the 3.5 mile loop trail.  It is nice to see the changes since the leaves came off the trees.  We have been getting over there about once a month.  Maybe next time there will be snow.   This is such a beautiful area and we usually have it almost to ourselves.  A true hidden treasure in the Ohio Hills.

If you have a farm, you pretty much have to have a barn.  When we bought our farm over 13 years ago, this is the barn that was here.  Of course, we have made changes:  a new roof to replace the leaky one, an overhang on one end to store equipment under, and paint.  The barn was weathered-grey when we moved here and one of our first jobs, after putting up fence and fixing up stalls to move our horses in, was a coat of paint.  

 It was nice having 2 strong sons to help out with scraping and painting.  This is older son, Ian, looking happier than I am sure he was.  

The barn has 3 parts to it.  There are 2 end areas which have hay lofts above them, and the center area, which has big doors on each side, is open clear to the roof so large equipment like tractors can go through.  You can see in the above photo that one end is for the horses (though we only have 1 now) and the other is the tack/cat room. 

I spent a good bit of time in the barn on Sunday and Monday, cleaning Apache's 2 stalls out down to the rubber mats in preparation of re-bedding them for winter.  He will spend more time indoors when the weather gets bad, so he likes a nice deep bed of sawdust.  Because of the set-up of this barn, when we moved in, we made one end into 2 stalls for the horses and to get to the second stall, you have to go through the first from outside.  There is a sliding door between the 2 stalls.  Now since it is only Apache, the sliding door is always open and he has the use of both stalls.  This barn was obviously used for milking cows at some time and the stanchions are still in the tack room end, behind a wall.  I took out the ones in the horse end.

 The ceiling is lower  in the tack end of the barn and it is somewhat smaller.  The cats can come and go through a pipe which used to allow cow manure to be hosed out of a trough in the cement floor.  

I am not sure how old this barn is.  I was told the upper part was relocated from another site and placed atop the cinder-block walls.  Unfortunately, whoever did this only set the block walls on a 6" foundation, which is resulting in the barn gradually sinking on one end, the horse end.  This has caused ever-widening cracks in the block wall and we can no long close the double doors that lead into the horse stalls.

 These cracks were not visible 13 years ago.  We had some barn experts out a a while back to give us an estimate on repair.  It seems they would have to jack up the whole building and put piers underneath it.  The cost was extravagant.  We decided we could just rebuild when this barn falls down and save money.  We hope it will stand for many more years, though.  

The door below goes from the center part of the barn into the tack room.  The screen door keeps the cats safe from Rowdy's invasions.  The drum holds diesel fuel for the tractors.  The ladders go up into the hay loft and there is another set on the other side.  I would have had SUCH fun in this barn when I was a kid.  At one point, Sam had a large wooden beam going from one loft across the center of the barn to the other loft.  He was using this to pull the motor out of an old Allis Chalmers tractor we had.  Wouldn't you know I caught my brother Larry walking across it like a balance beam on his first visit here!   

The former owners also put in hay on this farm and inside the center part of the barn, the tallies they kept of how many bales they put up in the loft are still there, penciled in  next to the door.   '82 was a good year.


  I have finished my thank you gift for my cousin's in-laws and will mail the package out today.  Here is the cowl I made for Jo, Tracey's mother in law.  I hope she likes it.  I have a couple of cowls and I wear them indoors and out all winter long.  They are so warm and soft and can go with so many things.  I am sending a pair of alpaca socks (not hand knit) for f-i-l and a pint of our homemade maple syrup they can both enjoy.

And speaking of pints, my husband outdid himself with this wild raspberry homebrew.  Look at the gorgeous color on that!  Even the foam has a reddish tint to it and let me tell you, it tastes as good as it looks!