Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fence Fixed.....Finally!

Jack Russel mama and puppies up for adoption at the Humane Society of Monroe County!
You gotta admit, they are cute!  Pure bred and puppies will be able to go to new homes in a couple weeksMama is 6 years old.

Yes, I was finally able to get Sam to commit a couple hours to help me fix a stretch of fence that was in bad need of repair.  It is only one such stretch, but it has been needing repair for a long time and it seems every time I would tell him "ok we are doing this on" whatever day, it would rain or something would come up.  In order to replace fence, the old fence has to come off.  The biggest problem with this is that while we can close gates to keep alpacas where they need to be, there is good ol' Buck to deal with.  So before I could tear down fence, I had to "Buck-proof" all the gates where he would normally just squeeze through.  I used cattle panels and wired up old fencing to thwart him.  Boy, he was NOT happy when he realized he could not get over to where I was working! So now that this stretch is done, we need to purchase more fencing and start on other replacement.  This fence was 12 years old and we put up inexpensive fencing to start off with as our budget was limited.  Lesson learned, pay more up front or buy fencing twice.  

In addition to fencing repairs, one of the chores on my spring/summer list will be to re-oil all our buildings and board fences.  When Sam built our alpaca barn and 3-sided sheds, he used rough sawn poplar boards.  He saves all our used motor oil and we use that as a preservative on the buildings.  In the past, we have had our boys do this fun chore, but this time, I guess it will be me.  I have 1 barn and 3 sheds and a few hundred feet of board fence to do.  Need to start soon before it gets too hot!  I am sure I will add to my list before too long.

It has been cooler this week.  It rained all day Saturday and I went shopping.  It was one of those epic shopping days where I actually found everything I was looking for!  I won't bore you with the details.  So Sunday it was dry but cool, which was good for working outdoors.  Last night it started to rain and was still raining this morning.

Here are young wet alpacas who have just all been allowed together in the same pasture.  They have all crammed into one side of the shed to eat.  Silly things!  3 of these are the boys who were gelded (neutered/castrated) almost 2 weeks agoI deemed they were well-behaved enough to be put in with females.  They had not really been showing any signs of obnoxious male behavior prior to gelding or I would not have put them all together. 

As you can see, we have not started shearing yet and I am glad because the temps have been so up and down.  Of course pretty soon it will just get hot, I am sure.  I am busy planning whose fleece will go into yarn, etc already.  I need to get yarn fleeces shorn first once we start so I can drop those off at the Great Lakes Fiber Show Memorial Day weekend.

Meanwhile, I have been continuing with my yarn dyeing.  I got another batch done up this week and it came out gorgeous (new drying rack:  successful shopping trip Saturday!).  I love the blues and white together. 
 I finally got last week's batch re-skeined.  It just looks nicer in the skein if the colors are not left in patches.  It's hard to explain, but here's how it looks now
 The colors are actually darker and more saturated than they look in this photo.  I used outdoor lighting, but it was very bright out.  The colors are rich jewel tones.

And here is the colorwork hat I did up with the hand-spun alpaca/silk yarn I dyed a couple weeks back.  It came out really nice.  It 's a slouchy hat which is hard to tell from this photo but I did not have a model.  I love how it came out.  I wish I had more of that yarn to dye!!
I have started a knitting project to donate to the Country Store at our big Humane Society fund-raiser, which is a Longaberger Basket Bingo on June 23.  I saw this kit and thought it would be perfect for a HS fund-raiser:   

PS, I have raffle tickets for Longaberger planters for sale!  $1 each or 6 for $5.  All proceeds will help the animals : )

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bees, Morels, Yarn, Heavy Equipment

Ginger in the upper hayfield
We are definitely into the busy season here on the farm.  The days are longer and warmer and we are spending many more hours outdoors, which makes all of us happy.  We are not really indoor folks.  Our weather has actually been dryer than we would like.  We are never happy are we?  But we have lettuce planted and we are waiting for the asparagus to produce more than just a few spears at a time.  We did have a nice gentle soaking rain on Saturday.  We could use that type of precipitation every 3rd day or so.


Everyone has been enjoying the nice weather, including this guy, who Sam spotted sunning himself on a tree bark shelf just off the road up to the pond.  he's a pretty good sized black snake and harmless unless you are a rodent or slow-moving bird.  I like having these guys around.  

I traveled to the other side of the state on Monday to help out with my niece and nephews while my brother and his wife were out of the country.  My mother is staying with the kids, but they have soccer and baseball and need to be in too many places at once, so I thought I'd help out.  While I was away, our bees arrived and had to be picked up in Woodsfield (last year I traveled 3 hours each way to pick them up, this was better), so Sam picked them up for me and put them in his workshop until I returned home on Tuesday afternoon.  You should have heard the buzzing in that workshop!  Here is how the bees are packaged.

There are 3 pounds of bees in there.   In the center of the box there is a can of sugar water and a cage with the queen in it.  The queen has to be taken out and left in the cage and placed in the hive box before the rest of the bees are put in.  In this photo, the queen cage is suspended between two of the frames that the bees will build their comb on.  She has some attendant bees in the cage with her and you can see several bees on the outside of the cage.  All the bees will be drawn to her.  There is a candy plug in the bottom of the cage and over the next day or so the worker bees will eat through that plug and release the queen so she can begin to lay eggs and increase the population.

So here I am after placing the queen cage into the hive, dumping the rest of the bees in.  The bees are very non-aggressive at this point because they have nothing to defend.  Once they have drawn out comb and are taking care of brood (eggs, larvae) and storing away food, they will be much more likely to sting in defense of their home and family.  At this point you will notice there is only one small box for the hive.  I will be adding boxes to this as the number of bees grows and they require more room.  Eventually there will probably be 4 more boxes stacked on top of this one.  Hopefully one will be full of honey for me.

Unfortunately the noise you hear in the background of the video is caused by the heavy equipment that is preparing the drilling pad for the next batch of deep gas/oil wells that are going in just across the road.  The green at the bottom is our hayfield, then there is a creek and you can see the big track hoe flattening off the top of the hill.  The noise is going on pretty much all day.  It used to be so quiet here.   When they are done with this pad, they will start on one on the property to the southeast  of us.  It will be noisy for a while.  

Sam has been on his yearly spring search for morels.  It is either too early or else it is just not going to be a good year.  He has found quite a few, but they are few and far between.  

I have dyed 2 batches of my yarn.  I have 36 skeins, so I will be doing 6 batches of 6 skeins each.  The first one came out a little pinker than I planned.  Need to make my colors more saturated next time.  No worries, while it is not my favorite color scheme, someone will love it.

Batch number 2 is more to my liking colorwise.  I have not re-skeined it and it is still on the drying rack 5 days after dyeing.  I'll get to it soon, I hope.

                                  I also finished the hat I was knitting from the yarns I dyed and posted about last week, but I forgot to photograph it, so I will be sure to do so for next week.  This post is getting rather long anyway.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fiber, Fiber and more Fiber!!

Rowdy has graciously allowed me to sit on the swing with him after our hike Saturday
We have had some beautiful sunny weather this week, though it has been cooler, more like April should be.  

It has been pretty much all about fiber this week, though I did finish getting my bee boxes and frames ready for the arrival of my package of bees.  Good thing, too because I will be picking them up on Monday.   Here are the boxes with some of the frames in them so you can get an idea.  Of course there is also a bottom board and an inner and outer cover which are not on here.  These 2 boxes and 20 frames will be fine to start the bees out, but I (by this I mean Sam) need to get a couple more boxes built before too long because the hopeful idea is that the the 10,000 bees in my 3 pound package will multiply into 4 times that many in just a few months.  This hive will go up close to the existing top bar hive near our little orchard.  

I have been diligently working on fibery stuff most of the week.  The big news is I received 8+ pounds of lovely white 100% alpaca sport weight yarn  back from the processor on Thursday.

 It is sitting in a bag waiting for me to dye it.  I am always kind of afraid to dye it at first because I am worried I will make it ugly.  I don't know why I worry.  Maybe it is because I have so much $$ invested in this yarn. It was processed at Flaggy Meadows in Kentucky because my usual processor was too busy to guarantee I would have it in time.  While it is lovely yarn (I sent lovely fiber) the cost was significantly more in the end than my usual processor, so I will likely go back to the other mill I have used in the past.


So, while I have not delved into the bag of yarn to dye, I did do up my last batch of 50/50 alpaca/cormo-corridaleX roving.  At first, I hated how it came out, but the more I look at it the more I like it.  I have 4 pounds of this roving dyed in 4 different colorways.  I still have many pounds of 100% alpaca roving I can dye as well as the yarn.  The festival is a little over 5 weeks away.

I got a book from the library which is full of hat patterns and I just loved one colorwork pattern.  I  happened to have some leftover skeins of alpaca/silk handspun yarn that I had spun for a sweater.  I had never dyed this yarn because I always spin more than I need.  So I split the yarn up Saturday into 5 small skeins and did a solar dyeing experiment.

  Unfortunately, it was not very warm on Saturday, though it was a brilliantly sunny day, so I ended up simmering the jars in a water bath on top of the stove later in the day.  I then hung them on my swing to dry (did you notice them in the top photo?)

And later I skeined them up.  I have to admit, I think the colors are wonderful and look especially vibrant in the sunshineI have started knitting the hat, but don't have it photographed yet.


I also finished knitting a shawlette using some yarn I had in my "stash".  It was a quick knit and turned out beautifully and is going to be gifted so I will tell you next week who gets it.  I can't mail it out til after I go to my spinning guild meeting tomorrow night and show it off.  I wish the photo showed the gorgeous colors off better.  I had to take it indoors this morning and the lighting was not good.  It has so many colors in it.  The yarn is wool and Seacell, which is similar to silk but from seaweed.  Really.  It is so shiny.  

Next week:  Bees.  Soon:  Shearing.  


Thursday, April 5, 2012

So Much To Do!!

Yes, spring is surely here.  There is so much to do now.  I am still working on getting the new bee hive ready.  Sam has built the boxes and I need to paint them.  I ordered a wrong tool with which to finish up my frames, so I am waiting for the correct one to come in the mail so I can get that done.  I think tomorrow will be painting and frame finishing day.  Hopefully.  I want to be able to do the painting outside, so no rain.

Tuesday I spent some time over at the Humane Society Shelter (I have probably mentioned that I am a volunteer there) building a handrail up to the kennels.  Some genius put the kennels at the top of a hill making them all but inaccessible by two-leggers in the winter time.  So we put in some steps and then a hand rail.  

I am also working on preparing products for the Upper Valley Fiber Festival in a little over a month.  The really good news is that my yarn is done and should be on its way to me!  I sent it to a mill I have not used before as the one I normally use was too busy to get it to me in time.  The mill tells me the yarn is beautiful.  I sure hope so.  I will give them a plug next week if they are right.

So, I will have yarn to start dyeing very soon.  I dyed up another batch of my 50/50 alpaca/ wool roving this week.  Dyeing is not an exact science, at least for me.  And in this case I underestimated the power of green.  I was doing a combination pour on/kettle dye and I used TOO MUCH green with the first batch (my pot does not handle an entire pound of roving) and it came out a very intense green.  It was supposed to be more yellow with green areas.  So for the second batch, I really cut back on the green and it was still somewhat overpowering.  In the photo, the first batch is on the bottom of the dryer and the second is on the top.  


 This roving holds together very nicely so once it is fluffed up (the dyeing process compacts it), I am putting it into 2 oz braids that look nice and don't need to be bagged so potential buyers can feel the softness.  Here is last week's batch braided up.

I am also carding up batts of rose grey alpaca on my drum carder.  It is the same fiber I made my alpaca/bamboo yarn from, but it will not be dyed.  I will offer it in 1 oz batts.

Sam has been working on getting things ready to do some planting.  I think today he is putting in some potatoes and lettuce.  He is also planning to put in some sorghum.  He got some seeds from some local people who squeeze it and cook it down into molasses.  They told him if he grows it and brings it over after harvesting when they are doing theirs we can run it through their evaporator.  So, why not?  We also have asparagus spears coming up.  This should be our first year for a good crop. 

 Here are our 2 fall crias that we weaned a couple weeks ago.  The black one is Inigo Montoya, a little male and the female is Glacienne, or Laci for short.  She has been sold and is going to a new home in Georgia later this month.  They are doing well with weaning.

Apache is enjoying the spring grass.  He lost some weight over the winter and actually looks great.  He is still on a joint supplement and I have not seen him having difficulty getting back on his feet when he lays down, so that is really good.  He is 27 now and has been with me 19 years!  Hard to believe.  

There are wild flowers springing up everywhere.  Last year I learned that the fragile-looking white flowers that were blooming back in the woods along the creek among the fallen trees are Trilliums.  I understand they are fairly rare, but there are many of them in one area where we walk almost daily.  So delicate and pretty.

 I named one of our crias from last spring after them.  I will have to post her picture next week if I remember to get one.

Here are some wild turkeys in the hayfield.  They had to make a hasty exit once Rowdy saw them.  He loves to chase large birds, and yet he walks amongst our chickens and hardly gives them a second look.  

Speaking of chickens, the hawk has been back, but last time I saw him he was being chased off by a crow.  YES!  Go Crows!

I finished up and blocked the shawl I was working on last week.  It came out very pretty I think.  I plan to re-block it though.  Many people have blocked it with much more curvature on the top and I like the photos of how it drapes better that way. Aren't the colors great?  LOVE that purple on the lace edging!

This weekend is Easter and we will be going to Sam's parents' house on Sunday.  None of the kids are coming.  They are all grown up and have their own lives.  Our younger son, Sam, has left the Grand Canyon and is back at Yosemite at the lodge where he has worked before 

he seems to really love it there (Yosemite) and I can't blame him, it's beautiful.  Older son, Ian, is still at the Grand Canyon for another 7 weeks or so and then he and his girlfriend are off to Portland Oregon.  Younger son's plan is to move there as well in the fall.  We'll see how things go.  That's all Sam and I can do.  And plan to visit!