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Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Forward to the New Year

The end of the year has brought a couple of snowfalls, the most recent this past Saturday  morning, where we awoke to a good 4" on the ground and snow still coming down.  It looks so peaceful

The snow seems to muffle the sounds, or maybe it is just that early on a snowy  morning there is little extraneous noise, and the quiet is wonderful.   The dogs and I enjoyed our walk down the road to feed the alpacas. 



 We also had to go up and uncover the entrance to the new beehive so the bees can come and go as needed.



The hive entrance is only about 4" off the ground and the bees actually do need to be able to leave the hive in the winter on "cleansing flights".  Yes, even bees have to poop.  And they don't like to do it in their home. 





Sam's idea of playing in the snow is a little different than mine.  Probably more constructive as well.

With cold temps and snow on the ground, it has been good weather to stay inside by the fire and knit.  I got all my Christmas knitting done and have been working on a sweater for myself.  I could not post n\my Christmas photos prior to sending them out, but now I can.

 I made 3 of these orange and white hats for my 2 nephews and one for my brother.  And Sam saw me knitting them and said that he would like one, but in Ohio State colors (and I had thought my holiday knitting was done!).  So I made this one for him




He said he did not need his name on his.

I also made socks for my sister-in-law (below) as well as another pair for my son Ian's girlfriend.  All my Christmas knitting has been done with "superwash" wool yarn, which is wool that has been treated so it can be machine washed without shrinking.  It just makes it easier for the recipients of gifts not to have something they have to hand wash.




The snowy weather kept my mother from driving over here the day after Christmas, so instead, I plan to go visit her tomorrow (Jan 1) and stay for a few days.  Fingers are crossed that the weather does not interfere with plans once again.

On the 8th of January, very late, our younger son, Sam/Zac/Satchmo arrives at the Pittsburgh airport from Yosemite.  The lodge he works at closes for the month of January and so we are delighted to have him come home for a couple weeks, though I know he will be off to various other locations in Ohio to visit college friends.  It has been almost 3 years since he was home last!  Rowdy will be so happy to see him.  So will Carter.  Have I mentioned that Carter is happy to see everyone?  

There are other things to look forward to in 2013 and maybe I will write about upcoming events in my next post.  Until then, Happy New Year!
This yarn needs dyeing!!
 

Endings Aren't Always Happy

Apache  1984- Dec 28, 2012
We have come to the end of another year and I feel I have come to the end of an era.  This past Friday, we lost our beloved equine companion and friend, Apache, after almost 20 years together.  For some time, he has had trouble getting up, especially if he is on his left side.  He did better with joint supplements that I put on his feed every evening, but I think I knew that eventually that would just not be enough.  I won't go into details here because it was an ordeal that I will not easily forget, but suffice it to say, somehow, during the early morning hours of the 28th, Apache got lost.  How, I'll never know.  My guess is he was up in the pasture and was chased or scared into the woods  and found himself 1/2 a mile from home, thankfully in a place he could be seen by a passing car.  When discovered, he was down and had been for hours.  He is now buried on the farm next to us, which is where he was found.  I wrote a post about Apache in the past, which you can read here:
http://straightforkfarm.blogspot.com/2010/07/meet-apache.html 

Some day, I may get another horse, but now is not the time.  Apache, I miss you.

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Frost, Fiber, a Festival, Friends




This is why I have a mudroom!

I missed posting last week.  I had one of those days where I had not slept well the night before and I just couldn't get my mind in gear to think about it.  Not only that, but our weather had been grey and drizzly and dreary, so I had no photos to share.  

We have had rain.  Lots of rain in fact.  Enough that the pond has gone from being down almost 2 feet to flowing out the overflow pipe.  Carter is somewhat fascinated with the pond.  He always goes out on the end of the diving board and peers down into the water.   We are trying to discourage the dogs from actually getting wet.  I am sure the water is quite cold, despite the warm December weather.

We have also had some very cold, bright frosty mornings.  Personally, I love these mornings.  I love being out in them.  Everything sparkles with frost and each stem and blade of grass is coated with tiny crystals.  

 You can tell it has been oddly warm by the green leaves on the multiflora roses.  



 Once the sun comes up and hits the fields and buildings the frost will disappear.  The alpacas do not seem to mind the cold.  I can usually tell where they have spent the night by the ovals of unfrosted ground in the pasture, created by warm, kushed alpaca bodies.


The Christmas Festival went quite well.  I sold a lot of my Made in USA Alpaca Socks.  I send 5 pounds of fiber to a fiber pool in New England along with some money, and they send me a dozen pairs of socks.  I have been doing this ever since the Fiber Pool started and the products have been getting nicer and nicer.  I usually only get socks, though they have lots of other products available. 

This past Friday, my friend Tari and I went to Apple Creek Ohio to Morningstar Fiber Mill and picked up my latest batch of 100% alpaca yarn.  I have about 11 pounds in 46 skeins of sport weight.  It is white and just screaming to be dyed!  I also dropped off another 9 pounds of fiber to be spun into a 3-ply worsted weight yarn.  While in the area, Tari and I also went to Wooster and visited Calla Lily Yarn and Gifts.
www.callalilyyarn.com/   While I go to Wooster every Memorial Day weekend to attend the Great Lakes Fiber Show, I have never made it to this yarn shop and so we made the trip.  It is a very nice shop with a good selection of yarn.  The owner even seemed as though she might possibly be interested in carrying some hand-dyed alpaca yarn.  Hmmmm.....  It was just fun to spend a day with Tari and we stopped at some bulk food stores in Amish country and had lunch out and talked about kids and dogs and gardening and knitting and spinning and..................

In other news, we have finalized travel plans for younger son, Sam/Zac to fly home in January.  He will be here for 2 weeks, though I am sure he will be borrowing a car and taking off to visit college buddies for part of that time.  But it will be so good to see him.  Older son Ian, has completed his first semester at Portland Community College and has made the dean's list.  I am immensely proud that  he is taking this on, though not surprised that he is doing so well.

Christmas knitting is finished!  All of the projects were small and could be finished in a period of a couple days or so and I tried to alternate them with a few days of my personal knitting on my shawl or on this sweater I have started.  It is kind of a blue spruce color and the yarn is a commercial blend of 50/50 merino wool and alpaca.  So far I am very happy with the progress on it.

  Carter is doing very well.  I am thinking of removing the dog crate from the living room as he really hates it and has now been left alone for up to 8 hours (with Rowdy) uncrated and  does very well.  Some dogs like their crates, it is a safe den for them to retreat to, but not so with Carter.  He resists going into it, though he settles after a few minutes.  



 He is thoroughly enjoying the life of a farm dog.  He is still kept on a lead most of the time around the chickens, but he really doesn't seem to care about them.



I am still not able to get him to "pose" for a photo, so most pictures I get of him are of him coming toward me.  His coloring also makes it hard to get a good picture as the white seems to get over-exposed.  We will work on it.  I have been spoiled by taking photos of Rowdy.  He is an excellent photo subject.



And aren't these girls cute?  This is Mayhem and Caley taking advantage of the fact that all the adults are in the barn eating grain to be the first at the newly filled hay feeder.  They are almost 3 months old now and will hopefully start eating grain themselves soon.  They all figure it out in their own time.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's All About Carter

Well, Ok, it's not ALL about Carter, but he has kept my hands busy the last week and I have not been able to take any outdoor photos.  Acclimating a new dog into our routine is something I take seriously because I want the dog to succeed and become a good member of our family.  Bringing him home the week of deer season did not help.  Our schedule was crazy and there was much more traffic than usual on our little unpaved road and there were lots of guys with guns in the woods.  That all ended on Sunday and we have since been able to take some walks and allow Carter some off-leash time.  We have also been perfecting our two -dog two-flippy flopper sessions in the yard.  I throw Carter's first and then fire Rowdy's off in a slightly different direction.  So fun, especially when they both leap and catch.
                                                                                   

And of course, there is indoor play as well.  

In my experience, a tired dog is a good, happy dog.


This Saturday will be the Christmas Festival in Woodsfield.  I will have a booth set up in the courthouse along with many other crafters and will have yarn, rugs, socks and other alpaca products for sale.  I usually take my spinning wheel along in case I have time to spin.  The very first year I had LOTS of time to spin, but the festival has kind of caught on and lots of local folks attend, as well as some of the people who are staying in town and working on gas and oil leases, etc.  

Which reminds me, they are once again drilling within earshot of our place and are working on preparing a drill pad within  sight of our place as well.  

I have finished up the rugs that I started before Thanksgiving. I removed them from the loom last week and tied the fringes over the last couple days.  I am pleased with how they came out.  

 The one on the left is a little short because the yarn I used was a little thinner than the yarn on the other 2.  I can't just measure the length of the rugs on the loom when I am doing color changes, I have to count the number of "pics" or passes of the yarn.  The rug yarn is rather rustic, so it varies in thickness sometimes and I should have taken that into account on that dark rug and added a few more pics.  But it is fine.  These rugs will be available for sale at the festival.

I also finished up a couple more small gift projects.  A neck warmer with alpaca yarn that I spun from fiber I had made into roving and then dyed.  Love how the colors came out.  I only had a small amount of this yarn and this project was perfect.

 And for an even smaller amount of yarn, I knitted up a quick headband.  This is the same yarn as the mitts I posted about last week, I believe.



Sam and I really have no special plans for the holidays.  We will go to his folks' on Christmas and I figure my  mom will come to visit the  next day or so.  She has to get around to visit all 3 of her kids and generally spends Christmas morning with my younger brother who still has young children at home.  I miss those days.  I am pretty much finished with holiday shopping.  I did most of it online.  Everything should be arriving in a few days so I can ship things off to the west coast.

My sons will be spending the holidays in Portland and Yosemite.  However, younger son, Sam/Zac, is planning to be home for a couple weeks in January.  He is the sous chef at Evergreen Lodge  www.evergreenlodge.com  
just outside Yosemite and they close for the month of January every year.  Last year, both sons were working at the Grand Canyon on the south rim and were not able to get any time off.  I am looking forward to Zac's visit as I have not seen him since August last year at Tahoe. By the way, I highly recommend Evergreen Lodge if you ever plan to visit Yosemite.  It is nicely located and the cabins are wonderful as is the restaurant.  It is not cheap, but it is California!  I look forward to visiting there again hopefully this year.

After Zac's visit, we will be pretty close to February and I have a trip to Florida planned.  Will be driving down with my sister-in-law Jill and joining my mother, aunt and cousin, Tracey.  When I get home from that jaunt, it will be maple syrup season.  I hope we have better weather for the sap run this year.  Once syrup season is over, we will be into spring in no time.  We really have not even had winter yet here, although my thermometer registered 19 degrees this morning when I got up!



 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's the Holiday Season

Yes, I guess it is official, now that Thanksgiving is behind us the Shopping Season is in full swing.  I must admit that in the last several years, mostly since my sons have grown and moved across the country, I have had somewhat of a scrooge-like attitude toward the Christmas season.  I really can't get into decorating for just Sam and myself and as for shopping, I will admit I love to be able to do most of it from the comfort of my own home.  I can remember years ago making a last minute Christmas Eve dash to the mall and circling the parking lot looking for an available space.  Never again!    

Thanksgiving was at Mom's as usual.  Our crowd was smaller this year as none of our Michigan relatives attended.  They decided that they needed to stay and give thanks closer to home since my cousins' father has been through a bout of cancer and is now in remission.  I think it was the right thing to do, though I missed them terribly.    On Friday, we had dinner at my brother Larry's.  He has been adding a timber-frame addition to his house.  He has done all the work of shaping the beams and pegs by hand and has had some help with the raising of the massive frame.  It is under roof but still needs work and is impressive nonetheless.

On Saturday, prior to driving home, we stopped outside Cincinnati and picked up Carter!
 Carter is about a year old.  He is an Aussie like Rowdy, though nowhere near as fluffy.  He is red merle and white with one blue eye and one blue/green eye.  His eyes almost glow when he looks at you, which is often.  Lots of eye contact with this guy.  We are slowly introducing him to the farm, which means cats, dogs, alpacas, horse and of course chickens (of which we still have 3).  He does not have the fixation on things Lacy had and it is easy to divert his attention from things.  I plan to get him into an obedience class.  It will be good for both of us.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I could use it too.

 This is a difficult time to bring a new dog home due to it being gun season for deer.  That means a lot of traffic on our unpaved road and no walks in the woods.  And no new dogs off leash.  But we have been getting some miles in on the roads every day.  Last week, we sat in the dining room and watched this doe come down the hill behind the house to the creek, which is dry there.  I am sure she was looking for water, and had she turned the other way and gone up the creek, she would have found it in only about 100 feet.  But she eventually went back up the hill and into the woods.
 
Here is a shot of the pond similar to the one I took last month when there were still leaves on the trees.  We have had no snow yet.  The weather remains rather warm during the day and very dry.  We really still need rain.








The alpacas are now eating more hay and there is ice on the water buckets in the morning.  I have not yet resorted to getting out the heated buckets, though we have plugged in the heater on the automatic waterer in the main barn.  That is more to keep the mechanism from freezing than the water.  It is fed by a rather small metal tube that freezes  easily.  Plus it is not as much of an energy hog as the heated buckets.



Just a shot of some fuzzy weeds up near the pond with the afternoon sunlight highlighting them.

I have 2 rugs woven on my loom and need to do the third yet today.  Then I can tie the fringes on them and have them ready for the Christmas Festival in Woodsfield a week from Saturday.  I think this is the 4th or 5th year for this festival and I enjoy doing it.  It is only one day and we set up in the Courthouse.  I get to see lots of folks I don't see much of the rest of the year and it gives me a chance to sell some alpaca products.

Speaking of which, here is a pair of fingerless mitts I made from some handspun yarn.  The yarn was made from some roving I had done up in a 3-way swirl earlier this year.  It is one fleece dyed in 2 colors and some left natural.  Scroll to the end of this post
http://www.straightforkfarm.blogspot.com/2012/02/im-always-up-to-my-knees-in-something.html   for a photo of the roving.

I had to go to the bank this morning and I finally got a photo of my favorite sign in town to post.  We have a lot of Amish in our county and almost all the stores have a hitching rail, but I just love this sign.  Maybe they should put a poop bag dispenser up like they have in some parks!

 
 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Weather Roller Coaster

The cold frosty mornings seem to bring out the energy in the crias.  Some times the adults even join in.  I never seem to have the camera at just the right moment to capture all the action.

We have really had some weather variation this week.   Once again the weekend was wonderful with blue skies and high temps in the low 70's.  Perfect outdoor weather.  I even sat outside on the deck and knitted on Christmas gifts for a while on Saturday.  I had to drag a chair out since I had stored away the deck furniture last weekend.  It never fails!  Monday the cold front came in bringing rain and much cooler temps.  These last couple mornings I have woken up to low 20's and heavy frost as you can see from my early morning photos. To the right here you can just see the sun starting to light up the trees on the west ridge as it comes up over the ridge on the east.  




 Look at these faces.  What a pair.  That's Star on the left and Buck on the right.  

On Friday, an AT&T technician came to the  house to fix a problem we had reported the previous week.  He had to replace a box on the outside of the house where the line comes into the house.  I'm not sure how it works, but now we no longer have a 25' phone cord running out the window and both phone jacks and the internet work again.  He and I got to talking about many things and it came up that he was wanting to have some blankets woven from alpaca and he had been looking for some fleece.  He was here from Michigan to help out in the area and he  just happened to be sent to an alpaca farm.  Well we loaded up his van with fleeces and I got some money in my pocket.  He said he would send me pictures of the blankets once they were done.  I hope he does.  But I sold him a lot of my prime skirted fleeces that I had earmarked for yarn or roving.  Now I guess I don't need to worry about sending that stuff off, and honestly, I made as much money as I would have if I had sent it off, paid for shipping and processing and then sold the finished product. 

I am still waiting to hear my 16# of fiber I sent off in May to be spun into yarn is ready.  It should be soon.  Meanwhile, Christmas knitting continues.  I think I am down to my last item.  My loom is fully warped and I have one rug woven on it.  2 to go.   Here to the right you can see the finished rug wound onto the lower beam and the warp waiting to be woven is across the top.  I did my warp in 4 colors and the first rug is all white with a matching color block/strip at each end.  I have not got the other 2 patterns I will do planned out yet, though I do have an idea for the one I will do today.



 This photo is looking down through the warp at the finished rug rolled onto the beam.  Once I do up the pattern I plan to weave, the actual weaving of each rug takes only a couple hours.  Once all 3 rugs are woven, I still have to take them off the loom and cut them apart and finish the ends of each rug, either by sewing the binding or tying fringes.  That part takes about as long at the weaving!

I may not post next week as it will be Thanksgiving, so our schedule will be way off.  As usual, we will spend Thanksgiving day with my family in Dayton and the next day is usually shopping at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield Ohio.  http://www.junglejims.com/  It has kind of become a tradition.  They have a fantastic selection of beer and wine, among other things.  My brother Larry usually purchases fresh seafood there and then he cooks it up for us at his house.  He is a wonderful cook.  So Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who may be reading this!

trees in November
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Getting Ready for Winter

Watching for squirrels
Yes, it is really time to finish up winter preparations.  The squirrels have been incredibly busy and there seem to be so many of them.  Sam attributes this to higher survival rates due to last winter being so mild.  Whatever the cause, Rowdy is kept on his toes.  Most of the squirrels easily elude him by racing up a tree and then leaping from tree to tree while he watches in frustration.  

Looking wintry
This past weekend I relented and put my deck chairs and cushions away in the barn for the winter.  This is admitting that  deck weather is over until next spring and I hate to do it.  Of course now the forecast for this coming weekend is wonderful with highs supposed to be in the mid-60's.  But that will be short -lived.  Yesterday and this morning, we had lows in the lower 20's. 

Sam lit the woodburner on Sunday.  Yesterday I covered all the firewood we have so far with tarps.  We unfortunately did not do so prior to all the rain we got from Hurricane Sandy, so we are lucky the power was not knocked out or we would have had to deal with wet wood.  Our furnace does not run on our generator

We also replaced a broken door on the horsebarn.  Things still needing done include putting up plastic sheeting across the overhang on the south side of the alpaca barn and getting in more firewood.  This weekend will likely be a good time to get some things like that done.

Tom the cat perched high up in the loft.

The hay is stacked high in the lofts, although it seems to me like there is not enough.  I have to remind myself that I have half the alpacas I had last winter, so I only need half the hay!

 









Yesterday was the first sunny day we have had since before Sandy.  It was so nice.  Rowdy and I took advantage of the weather and went hiking over at Lamping Homestead.  I love a sunny fall day.  The temperature was right around 50 and so it was very comfortable to hike in a tee-shirt and hoody (orange of course since bow season is in and we were on public land).  It is such a nice hike.  There are stands of pines and also hardwood and beech forest.  At one point, I was walking along through noisy oak leaves that were ankle deep.  It is impossible to be quiet with so many dry, crunchy leaves on the ground.  Even chipmunks and squirrels sound like large animals this time of year.  We startled 2 flocks of turkeys up into the trees.

 


 The photo to the left is of what used to be a large stand of pine trees near the lake and picnic area at Lamping Homestead.  Most of these pines were snapped off like matchsticks when the derecho storm came through on June 29th.  




 I saw this fine fellow on the side of the road coming home from Lamping and was able to get a photo before he melted away into the underbrush.  The photo does not do him justice since I took it through the truck window.  Beautiful fox.


I am waiting to hear from the mill that my yarn is ready to be picked up.  I'm trying to decide if I should take more fiber to be spun.  I have plenty ready to go.  I would like to get a heavier weight done up possibly.  I also got 3 dozen socks from the New England Fiber Pool.  So if anyone is looking for American made alpaca socks, I have them.  They are really wonderfully made.  $15 a pair plus shipping.

My loom is warped and ready for weaving.  May start that today.  I have a good 4 weeks until the Christmas Festival in town and want to have these rugs done by then.

Still working pretty exclusively on Christmas gifts as far as my knitting goes.  I have 2 1/2 done and am working on the 4th.  Does that make sense?  I hope to have these all done by Thanksgiving and then have time to knit a couple small items before the Christmas Festival.  I hope I'm not trying to undertake too much. 

I have sent in my check to reserve a booth space at an event in April in Youngstown, OH.  It is called the "Knitter's Fantasy" and is a one day event with classes and a yarn market. 
http://www.northcoastknitting.org/a-knitters-fantasy.html   I was invited to attend as a vendor and am looking forward to it, though it is a long way off yet.  Youngstown is (like everything else) about 2 hours away.


 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What a Change a Week Can Bring!

Time to snuggle up with a warm friend.
 We have gone from 80 degrees and sunny to day #6 of grey cold drizzly wet weather.  I really should not complain, after all we were well under normal rainfall amounts for most of the year and many, many people are suffering much much more  from Hurricane Sandy.  Our forecast kept changing.  It called for snow, then rain, then high winds.  We have really only gotten the rain and it has not even been that heavy, except for periods Monday night.  Being on the Ohio West Virginia border, we were in kind of a flux area where no one really knew what to expect from Sandy.  It started to rain on Saturday and has not stopped since.  At least our pond has come up about 8" according to Sam.  When I was up there Monday, it was still down almost 2 feet.  With the rain has come the cold.  We even had a dusting of thick, wet snow on Tuesday morning, but it did not last.  I am very thankful that we were not affected very much by this storm and my heart goes out to those who have lost so much.

I spent the weekend in Dayton with my mother (who was supposed to fly to Italy via JFK on Tuesday....needless to say, she is still in Ohio) and had a wonderful time.  Had dinner Friday night with some high school friends and crashed a fundraiser on Saturday where my younger brother was performing with the Pink Flamingos, a band he as been with for 15 years and which I have never been to see.  All the performances are private gigs and most are not local to us.  He even performed in Paris in April this year.  This gig was in Covington, KY and I attended with my mom and my sister-in-law, Jill.  It really was great fun.

Before I left, I was able to get some photos of our fall crias in the sunshine. They are really doing well.





Here is the first born, a female.  Her dam is SHR Tunita and her sire is Sancha's White Lightning.  She was born 9-14-12 and looked like she was a week old already.  She is still the largest by far.  I have yet to come up with a name for her.








Next is the only male we had this fall.  His dam is Straightfork Margarita and he is also sired by Sancha's White Lightning.  You may remember him as the cria who was licked by Buck, the Great Pyrenees, until his back end was raw before I found him.  He was born 9-21-12.  He is a very nice looking cria.  Nicer fleece-wise than the little female above.  He also still needs a name.









This is Miraculous Mayhem.  She was born 9-29-12 and her dam is Straightfork Miracle.  She was sired by a male from another farm, CCNF Electric Mayhem.  She is much darker in color than both her parents and is just a lovely little girl.  We will be calling her Mayhem.




And the last to come along on 10-5-12 is beautiful little Caley.  Her dam is 3BR Peg, who has been part of our herd and a personal favorite of mine since 1999.  This is Peg's 10th cria, I believe.  Caley's sire is also Sancha's White Lightning.  Caley is not actually white.  She has some very faint color to her fleece.  I am extremely pleased with this cria and will likely retire her mama now that I have a daughter of hers to keep.
 So those are our babies for this year.  Nice looking bunch.  

And of course, that leads to thinking about next year's crias.  I have chosen to breed only 6 females this fall. That means we will have many females who are being left "open" or unbred.

If you look at this photo, you can see Lightning breeding a female on the other side of the fence.  Remember, alpacas breed in a sitting position.  There are 3 females sitting on this side of the fence patiently waiting their turn.  You can also see Peg standing around the corner watching and waiting.   All of these females are responding to hormones in their bodies that are telling them it is time to breed.  Otherwise, they would be as far from this scene as possible.  None of these 4 females are on the breeding schedule for this fall.  The 6 I have chosen to breed, B'Nita, Miracle, Aurora, Dulcinea, Tempest and Michelina have all been bred and will be behavior-tested tomorrow.

I am in the midst of warping my loom at the office for 3 rugs.  By this time next week, they will be well under way.  I will have a booth at our local Christmas festival again this year (Dec 8) so am trying to get some things ready for that.

I have been knitting on nothing lately but Christmas gifts, so I really can't post any photos right now.  All the gifts I am working on are small and don't take much time.  I have finished 2 and have 3 to go.  My plan is to do one per week and so far I am right on schedule.  I still have my shawl on the needles, but it is waiting for me to have time to get to it and I have a pair of socks that I have been working on as well.  I usually don't have so many things going at once!




I'm not sure what these 2 girls were arguing about out in the pasture, but they had a nice spit fight while I was out taking cria photos!