Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ice Storm & Rainbows

The dogs have 4 wheel drive and fare better on the ice than we do!

As I feared, my Bee Class was canceled for this past Saturday due to bad weather.  I would not have made it to class had it not been canceled anyway.  It is just disappointing because now the final class will be held the first Saturday in Feb, and I will be out of town and unable to attend.  So this coming Saturday will be my final class.

Our ice storm that came in late Friday night and into Saturday morning was much less severe than it could have been.  We got about a 1/4 inch of ice and most of it was in the form of little ice balls that remind me of those Slurpees we used to get at convenience stores.  So walking was very crunchy and only dangerous on surfaces where the snow had been compacted by cars driving over it.  So the roads were terrible, but our power did not go out and no tree limbs came down.  The animals, horse, alpacas and chickens all pretty much stayed inside on Saturday however.

The hay in the outside hay feeder is like little haycicles.  

As is the grass in the pasture

By Sunday, the sun came out and the temps went up to the 50's and everything thawed.   On Monday, we had periods of rain and sun with lots of wind.  I saw 2 rainbows Monday afternoon and was able to get a photo of the first one as I stepped out onto the front porch.  The second one was over our guest house later that afternoon as the dogs and I went by on our walk.  I did not have my camera.

This week has just been crazy. weather-wise.  Sun, wind, ice, warm days and now once again, relentless torrents of rain.  I think today's rainfall is predicted to be measured in inches.  This means more mud and more poop to scoop in the barn.  Even in winter, I am generally able to keep up with the scooping outside the barn, but this year, it has just not been possible.  The ground has not frozen and the mud and poop are impossible to separate. 

Dogs have to be toweled off every time they come inside from chores or a walk.  I am thankful for my mud room!

I finished knitting the starlight scarf out of the merino/bamboo that I spun from the roving I purchased at the Wool Gathering.  I wanted to add beads to it, but could not figure out how to get them in where I wanted them, so I gave up on the beads.  It came out rather nicely.

  It is hard to get a good photo of.  I guess I should have modeled it and had Sam take a picture.  

Now I am working on the second sock.  Remember that from a few weeks ago?  I should have that completed by next week's post.  I have a friend I promised mittens to, so I think that will be the next project on the needles.

I also finished spinning the Neon Frog yarn for my niece's grandmother.  I actually like it.  It is bright, but has some nice color variation.  This is one of 2 skeins and this one has just about 200 yards, so there should be close to 400 yards altogether.

I have not had much time to spin on the alpaca bamboo batts I did up last week.  I will get to it one of these days.

Here at the office I have measured out warp for 2 rugs.  Just have to get it on the loom.  Might start on that today.  We'll see how the day goes.

Monday I am off to Florida with my mother and her sister.  They have a house rented for the month of February and I will be helping to drive down and then staying a few days.  So next week's post should be from there.  Think it will be raining? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's Definitely Been Indoor Weather

Dobby the House Elf
Are those not the funniest ears you've ever seen?  And those huge eyes and long pointy nose!  House elf indeed!

It is January.  No doubt.  That's what the calendar says.  The weather however, is all over the place.  One day it is 11 degrees in the morning when I get up and the next day it is 49.  It has been a weird winter thus far.

It has been good for indoor projects.  Outdoors, the animals are just getting by.  Twice a day I slog out through the mud and give them fresh food and scoop up what needs scooped.  We had a minor crisis when the Nelson automatic waterer stopped working during the coldest days earlier this week.  Since about 30 alpacas and 2 dogs depend on this for their water, it makes for a touchy situation when it stops workingI have to find another way to keep unfrozen water available for everyone.  Fortunately, Sam was able to take the waterer apart and replace a filter and clean out several years worth of mouse turds and it is once again working.  We've had that for at least 10 years and it has been very low maintenance.  Well worth the $350  we paid for it.  

So back to the indoor activities.  I use this time of year to get in as much fibery fun as I can since in a few short months I will be spending a lot of my time outdoors.  I wove a baby blanket on  my big loom here at the office and this week I finally hemmed it and washed it.  While not perfect, I am pleased.  It is wrapped and ready to drop off.  Blue and white for a baby boy.  I must add that this is NOT alpaca.  It is a machine washable cotton blend.  Baby items need to be easy maintenace.


I am still working on the neon green yarn on my frame wheel.  But I got sidetracked by another project this week.  I took 6 ounces of rose grey fleece from this guy and put it in my dye pot and dyed 1/3 lilac, 1/3 sky blue and 1/3 teal.  I got very muted colors as expected.  I separated the colors once the fiber was dry and made 2 1 oz batts of each color on my drum carder

While carding the teal fiber, I added in a little green sparkly fiber, seen in the photo to the right.  Not a lot, just a little.  The white fiber you see is bamboo.  

Once the three colors were carded, I then made layered batts by carding 1/4 oz teal, then 1/8 oz bamboo, 1/4 oz blue, 1/8 oz bamboo and then 1/4 oz lilac.  I now have 8 layered batts.

I got the bamboo in trade a while back and have never worked with it.  It is similar to silk, but not as "fly away", so easier to work with and no little wormies had to die.  So far I really like it. 

I started spinning this up last night and it is spinning beautifully.  I plan to spin it as fine as I can.  There are 2 lace patterns I have my eye on.  This is on my big Reeves Saxony 
wheel. Here is a link to a post with my wheels

I think this yarn will be gorgeous with some sparkle and shine and some color variation, but not too much.  

Tuesday, it poured rain all day and was in the mid-50's.  The creek was really up.  And there is mud everywhere.  

Yesterday, it was back below freezing all day  though the sun did shine for a while.  

Today, I stopped along the road on my way in and took photos of the cool icicles that form on the rocks every winter.  

 I am worried about getting to my Bee Class this Saturday morning.  The forecast is calling for freezing rain and sleet overnight Friday and into Saturday morning and Bee Class is 45 minutes away over twisty turny hilly state highways.  I guess we will have to wait and see.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

And Some Winter Weather Finally Arrives.....BBRRRR!!

Here is Rowdy at the base of what I call the big tree.  It is an immense poplar tree on our farm.  It has branches that are bigger than most of the surrounding trees.  As long as I own this farm, it will stand, unless it dies of natural causes. 

Here is another view with Sam's 'dozer in the foreground....and Ginger.

I am late with my post this week.  Various things kept me from coming into our office on Thursday and I had already downloaded all my pics to the office computer and erased them from my camera.  Yes, I DO erase photos from my camera weekly!  Sam needed to work on the dreaded quarterly taxes, so I got to stay home and enjoy the LOVELY weather!  I think it actually rained most of Thursday.  That rain changed over to snow around 11 pm.  That snow was blowing horizontally and from the east at 11 o'clock which was when I had to take foster dog Dobby outside for her final potty of the night.  Then the temps nose-dived and the wind really kicked up and Friday was just miserable!  Yesterday not much better.  Today, abundant sunshine!

But we did have nice warm temps to end the first week of 2012.  I took advantage of the 50-ish weather to do my monthly alpaca worming on Friday the 6th.  I can't wear gloves for this chore, so I like to do it on a day I won't get frostbitten fingers.  Of course it really takes as much prep time inside as it takes to actually give the shots.  We currently have 51 alpacas here and each one needs to be wormed monthly with an injectable wormer.  This is to prevent their succumbing to meningeal worm (or m-worm).  The monthly wormer is a prophylactic treatment, kind of like treating your dog monthly for heartworm.  Once they show symptoms, it is very difficult to have a good outcome, so get it before it can become a problem.  So for each alpaca, I write their name on a syringe and then draw up the proper dose.  I do this inside where it is nice and warm and I can watch TV.  

Here is Chiquita's all drawn up.  I then separate the syringes by pasture and head out.

With the main barn, since there are so many alpacas to do, I put the first 3 letters of their names on the end of the plunger so I can find individual animals' syringes easier.

With this method, it is fairly quick for me to shut 20 or so alpacas into a single 10 X 16 pen and I will grab a syringe, see whose name is on it, locate the victim and push through the crowd until I can stick her.  Often, they do not realize they are the intended alpaca until the needle goes in.  They are so crowded they can't easily evade me or run away.  Many I do not even have to restrain.  I can do all 30 animals in the main barn in about 30 minutes this way.  By myself.  Rowdy gets put on his cable outside for this procedure as he would get extremely agitated by this process.  He thinks it is his job to help and that kind of help is really no help at all.  It is always good to get this job done for another month.  It's not something I enjoy doing, but it has to be done.  I do usually get spit on at least once and frequently I will get a kick as well.  I have even been knocked on my ass in the poop on more than one occasion.  That is what barn clothes are for!

The pond actually got some ice on it.  The ring of open water is where the aerator is.  You can see the small circle of bubbles in the center which means the windmill on top of the pavilion is going around.  It's hard to tell that, though.

Sam also got out last weekend while the weather was nice and put the syrup evaporator back together for the most part.  In another month, we will be thinking of tapping trees.  There is a place up in the next county that I drive by on my way to Bee Class that  already has blue plastic tubing running from tree to tree.  They are thinking ahead as well.  Might as well do that kind of stuff when the sun is shining.

 The chimney still needs to be put on, but that can wait until closer to sugarin' time.  I think we will have plenty of wood.

I have taken the first baby blanket off the loom and it came out pretty good.  I will post a photo next week.  I still have one end to hem and I hope to do that today and then deliver it.  

I also started spinning the roving my niece and I dyed right after Christmas when she visited.  I call this colorway "Neon-Frog"It really is bright green!  I have to admit, I re-dyed part of it to tone it down a little and I will be spinning that and plying with what you see here on my wheel.  It won't change it a lot, I just added a little darker color in places.  

 I have been to 2 of my 4 Bee classes so far.  I am quite enjoying them.  I am realizing that I have learned a good bit over the past year, but I am learning a lot of new stuff, which is why I am taking the classes.  Oddly enough, one of the women in the class is someone I have met at my spinning guild and she and her husband also have a few alpacas.  I have not see her at guild in some time and it has been nice to get reacquainted.  I am also meeting some other nice folks as well.  It is always fun to go somewhere where you meet people who have similar interests as you do. 

I also ordered another package of bees, to arrive in mid-April, so I need to have another hive ready by then.  My current hive was doing ok when I last checked, but that was before this recent deep cold weather.  I hope they will make it through the winter.  I think there were things I could have done in the fall to help them to do that, but I am only learning that now.  However, since I did not take any honey from them, I hope that they will have had enough honey stores to get by.  I will know in the spring. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The New Year is Upon Us

And we wonder why the vet says he needs to go on a diet! 

The New Year arrived rather quietly down on the creek.  Although we had guests from Lithuania staying in the guest house.  They are the family of Lee's wife, Viktorija (I am sure I spelled that wrong!) who  have been visiting for a couple of weeks and wanted to come and see the farm.  Lee and his wife live in the Dayton area, but are remodeling the old farmhouse they purchased this past year just up the hill from us.  Lee's grandfather is our closest neighbor.  So there was a New year's Eve party at Deb & Rick's party barn.  Poker, pool, ping pong and darts were enjoyed by all, along with the requisite beverages.  

Monday brought the first measurable snow of the season, though it was only about an inch.  It also brought very cold temperatures, with lows in the teens Monday and Tuesday night.   

The alpacas don't seem to mind this small amount of snow, but the chickens weren't very pleased about it.  It is funny to see their tracks all over the place, though.  

Apache has been on stall rest for almost 2 weeks now.  I removed the wrap from his foot on Saturday and started soaking the foot every day for about 15 minutes in warm water and Epsom salts.  He actually seems to like it.  Or maybe it is just the feed he eats while his foot soaks that he likes.  I am sure he must be tired of looking at the walls of his stall.  Tomorrow it is supposed to be almost 50 degrees, so I will probably let him out and see how he is doing on the foot.

I think  I mentioned last week that Sam had taken our truck in and had it fitted for natural gas.  Here is the tank that now resides behind the cab of the truck.

 My guess is that this truck will now get more use than it has gotten in the last 4 years or so.  We have only driven it when absolutely necessary since it has been so expensive to run at only about 15 mpg.  Once we got our Honda CRV we didn't even need it to get to the office on bad weather days anymore.  It seems to be getting about 150 miles to the tank before switching to gasoline, so that will be a significant savings.  

Our little foster dog has settled right in.  Here is Dobby the House Elf in her favorite spot on the loveseat (which she can get up on all by herself using the footstool) next to the woodstove.  She is going back to the vet on Tuesday for more X-Rays.  I think she is doing very well.

I need to get myself in gear and get some fleeces ready to send to the processor.  I need yarn and I have some roving I would like done.  It is hard to get motivated about preparing fleeces when it is so cold out.  This is when I wish I had a basement.  I have actually skirted fleeces in the mud room before and maybe I will do that again this weekend.

Saturday I go to my first "Bee Class" and then will drop by my spinning guild's get together to celebrate "Roc Day"  also known as St Distaff's Day:


Of course there was no such saint! St. Distaff's Day, the "first free day after Twelve-Eve Christmas," was a holiday of transition from Christmas revelries to the round of everyday work. It is suspected that St. Distaff was invented by the poet Herrick, who dedicated some lines to her:

Partly work and partly play
Ye must on St. Distaff's Day;
Give St. Distaffe all the right,
Then give Christmas sport goodnight;
And next morrow, everyone
To his own vocation.
Women did not spin during the twelve days of Christmas in old England and this was their day to get back to work.
They were not without their troubles, however, for the plowmen thought it sport to set fire to the flax and tow. Pails of water were kept handy and as fast as the farm hands started their fires, maidens put them out with liberal "bewashings." When the flax was scorched and men and maidens thoroughly drenched the day was properly observed. After that the farmwomen could spin without interruption.

This description of Roc Day  is from Blue Moon Fiber's website.  Our guild and many others use this day as an excuse to get together and enjoy each other's company and have fun and eat...of course.