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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fence & Oil Well Repairs & Maple Syrup

Doesn't Buck look sad?  He always lays with his paws curled under like this.  It reminds me of a cat.

Yes, Saturday was the day Sam and I finally were able to repair the corner of the fence where Buck was squeezing his 110 pound body out through an 8" hole.  One of these days I will get a video of him sqeezing through the bars on a tube gate between pastures.  We have to keep fence wired to gates that are on the perimeters.  This seems to be a Pyrenees thing, because Star seems incapable of figuring it out.  She's not very smart, though.

But, I digress.  Here is our nice new corner.  Believe it or not, there was a tree about 6inches in diameter right up against the corner post that we had to cut down in order to wrap the fence around it.  That post has been there almost 12 years.  We also had to tear out some old barbed wire fencing which used to keep the former owner's cattle out of this field as it used to be a hayfield.  When we built the fence in 2000, we built it inside the old barbwire fence, but now many of the posts are rotten and the barb wire has become a hazard.  It can be nasty stuff to deal with.  By the end of the job, I was trying to remember when I'd had my last tetanus shot.  Ah yes, 2005, the year Rowdy was a mouthy puppy.  


After the fence building, the dogs and I enjoyed a walk.  




 Rowdy is actually trying to herd Luca in the hayfield, but they were both having a great time.  In fact, this whole week has been almost free of precipitation.  Much of the mud has dried out.  And the temperatures have been above 40 during the day.  Quite nice.


We set out about 24 taps in maple trees Sunday and Monday.  I was able to cook off a small batch (6 3.5 gallon buckets yielding almost 2 quarts of finished syrup) on Tuesday, but I think it has been too warm at night for the sap to run and Sam only collected 2 1/2 buckets of it yesterday.  I hope we can collect enough to run another batch tomorrow or Saturday.  It is forecast to turn colder by Saturday.  Here is a link to a post a year ago showing our syrup making.  It's funny because Buck is also at the top of this post.  He is the little while fuzz ball sitting on the ground.  How things change in a year! http://straightforkfarm.blogspot.com/2011/02/february-is-galloping-to-close.html


We also had to have one of our oil wells "pulled" this week.  We have been on the waiting list for the guys with the pulling rig to come out for a couple months and they finally did.  Basically, there was no oil coming up when Sam was running the pump, so that usually means there is a hole or something somewhere and you need to pull all the tubing and rods out of the well and replace whatever is causing the problem.  We have had to have this done more than once since we have had these wells.  It isn't cheap, but it is part of the maintenance of the wells.  
The good news is that the well is now pumping oil again.  It will probably take 2 years for it to pay for its own repair.




 We have started allowing the alpacas out on the pastures for a day at a time.  It makes them very happy and helps us to save on hay, which is getting to be in short supply.  We are going to have to acquire some somewhere soon.

This also helps to keep the barn clean!  This morning I spread a nice thin layer of clean sawdust on the floor and no one was in my 
way!




Now for fibery stuff.  As I sat at the syrup evaporator Tuesday, I worked on a mitten for a friend of mine.  I forgot to photograph it, so I will show that next week.  It is in 2 colors of hand-spun alpaca.  She has big hands (she is 6' tall), so I had her try it on yesterday and it is a perfect fit  so far.  Whew!

I finished bobbin 1 of the lace weight alpaca/bamboo yarn.  4 whole ounces in about 3 weeks.  I hope to be quicker with the second 4 ounces.  We'll see.

I also have 1 rug woven on my loom and hope to weave the second one today so I can free up the loom for another project.  Pics next week!

So there we have it, we have come to:

THE END!
 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Back To Real Life!

This is how a hot dog cools off in February!
Yes, we have left the swamps of Florida behind and are back to everyday life in Ohio in February.  We woke Saturday morning to a beautiful 3" snowfall, which has actually been our biggest snow of the season to dateWe have had loads of precipitation, but the temperatures have been so warm that it has almost all been in the form of RAIN.  I would prefer some snow and frozen ground to the mud.  But, I will deal with what we get and count the days until spring.  It seems to be within our grasp now, it really does.

 Meanwhile, I have a mud room to contain muddy dogs until they can be toweled off with "dog towels".  My mother's dog, Luca, does NOT like being shut in the mud room.  Rowdy does not care.




Here is how nice the snow looked out the back door on Saturday.




And I love sitting at my dining room table watching the birds at the bird feeders on the maple tree.  





We get lots of cardinals, always in pairs.  At least 2 different species of woodpecker visit the feeder as well as lots of nuthatches and titmice.  



I love the contrast of the bright red cardinals against the snow as they sit in the surrounding trees waiting for their turn at the feeders.  


Along with the snow we got some really cold temps.  It was 4 degrees outside Sunday morning when I came downstairs to start the day.  Needless to say, my outdoor chore of fence mending got put on hold.  This Saturday it is supposed to be in the upper 40's and no rain!

I have been working on my hand-dyed alpaca/bamboo batts I wrote about in January.  I am spinning it so fine, though that I have managed to get through only about 2 1/2 ounces out of 8.  And its not because I'm not working on it.  It's just really slow going.  

Here's the 3-way swirl roving I started spinning up at guild last week.  It is so cool, when the bobbin is spinning, the yarn on the bobbin appears blue.  But you can see the separate colors here.

I have also almost finished warping my loom for a couple more rugs.  I'm using a 2 color warp this time and will experiment with weaving a sort of checkerboard rug.  We'll see.

And I finally got around to doing some dyeing!  So much fun.  I even had a turquoise streak on my cheek when Sam came home Tuesday night.  I dyed some of the gorgeous roving I just got back from Zeilingers.  It is 50 % alpaca and 50% cormo/corriedale wool.  Very nice.  I dyed a pound using 4 colors, black, silver grey, turquoise and golden ochre.






This is how it looks after the color is applied, but before it is wrapped and the color is "smooshed" into the fibers, like in the photo below.   Then, heat is added.  I used a microwave for this batch.






And finally it is hung on my heated towel rack to dry.  The first batch I did I think I used too much dye and the colors kind of ran together and it looks very green (bottom left on the rack), but the next 3 batches I am quite happy with.  I would have liked the turquoise to be more concentrated, but I will note that in the notebook I keep and use more dye next time.



 
 So that's what I've been up to in the week since I returned from Florida.  Mom and her sister are still enjoying the warm Florida weather and have had family and friends coming and going.  My cousin, Tracey, arrived last night and I wish I could be there with her.  We always have a great time together.  We will plan better next time!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm Always Up to My Knees in Something!

This week it was the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve in south Florida.  orchidswamp.org

Honestly I had every intention of posting last Thursday from Florida, but time just got away from me and really, who wants to be on the internet when you could be enjoying a brief period of warm weather in an otherwise bleak winter?  

I was staying with my mom and her sister on Manasota Key on the west coast of Florida.  It is pleasantly undeveloped and quiet.  Yes, it is Florida.  Just a half mile down the beach (or road if one preferred) was Stump Pass State Park http://www.floridastateparks.org/stumppass/  which had a nice nature trail which Sam and I hiked more than once.  From it we viewed



 at least 2 bald eagles, once in the same tree while one consumed a fish.






                                                                   several ospreys





 
        Many Pelicans     








                  An armadillo                    






                                                                a tortoise



And numerous herons, egrets, gulls, sandpipers, sandcrabs.    It was just a wonderful place to take a walk and see what one could see.  

I did spend a couple hours sitting on the beach, but that was about all.  Of course while I was sitting, I was knitting.  I finished that second sock! I am actually wearing them as I write this.

My Aunt, Elaine and my mom, Pat in the swamp buggy
The highlight of the trip however, was a trip to the Fakahatchee Swamp.  A good family friend who moved to Florida after retirement has gotten every involved in the preservation of this beautiful area adjacent to the Big Cypress National Preserve of the everglades.  He was happy to take us on a private guided tour into the swamp on Monday.  Sam and I went but my mother and her sister elected not to temp the gators and stayed in the truck while we ventured up to our mid-thighs at times into the tannin-tinted waters of the cypress swamp.  It is an incredibly beautiful world of cypress trees, ferns, airplants, cutgrass and much more.  It is the only place on earth some very rare orchids thrive and while we saw about 7 varieties, only 2 or 3 were in bloom while we were there.

    



This is the Dingey Orchid.  The tiny flowers form a cluster no larger than a ping pong ball and you will certainly miss them without a knowledgeable guide to point them out.






      Here is Sam with our friend Tom (in blue) and our guide, Bill, whose passion for and knowledge about this wilderness is incredible.


Of course, there is also animal life in the swamp as well and we observed a water moccasin, many types of birds, including these ibis

                                                                                                     
 


and a gator, though happily we did not see him until we were back up on dry land.  


                                                                                          Our weather was nice, though not really sunny.  And it only rained once!  Now, we are back to real life and enjoying a cold but sunny day here in SE Ohio.  At least it is cold enough that the mud has frozen.   I think maybe this weekend we should think about tapping a  maple tree or two to see what is happening there.  It has been so warm this winter I wonder if the sap run will be affected.

3-Way Swirl Roving

Tonight is my monthly spinning guild meeting.  I will be spinning some of my 3-way swirl roving a the meeting.  I am still working on the hand-carded alpaca/bamboo, but I do not want to drag my big Reeves wheel to the meeting, so I will take my more portable Schacht wheel like usual.  

I also received back some alpaca/ wool roving I had done up at Zeilinger's. I can't believe how fast I got it back.  It looks wonderful and I see dyeing in my near future!