Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's a Long One This Week as we Welcome in Summer!

We still have 6 of these pups available for adoption!  7 weeks old, pure labs.
Ok, it has seriously been an incredibly busy week.  These weeks in summertime make up for the slow-sit-by-the-woodburner weeks in January!

First, Friday started off the long holiday weekend with 90 degree temps, which hung around until Tuesday, so it was blazingly hot, the kind of weather where the activity of choice is sitting on the deck in the shade sipping a cold beverage.  Or maybe even staying in the air conditioning.   We did turn our a/c on.  It was nice to walk from 95 degrees into a 73 degree house on occasion.

Our first priority has been getting the alpacas all shorn.  We started at about 9:45 on Saturday and Sam and I sheared 13 alpacas by 4 pm, with a 1 hour break for lunch (thanks to neighbor Judy).  Hot, dirty, itchy work.  We sheared until we just couldn't stand to do another.  As of today, we have everyone in the main barn done and there are 11 left to do.  Our plan is to get them done this Saturday.

After shearing, it was decided that the pond was the best place to be.  We met some of our neighbors up at the pond and did some zip-lining to cool off.  I think some adult beverages were enjoyed as well.

Sunday I went to the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster.  I arrived around 10:15 am and the first order of business was to drop off my 16# bag of fleece to Morningstar Fiber Mill. It will be made into 2 ply sport weight white yarn.  I had some items on my shopping list, so I bought some rug warp in red and blue (m-i-l has requested a patriotic alpaca rug.  Need to dye rug yarn) and some other goodies including a hand made pottery honey jar (in blue!) which I love.  I love hand made pottery anything.  And of course I had the obligatory lamb sandwich for lunch.  Oh, and my skein of yarn took 4th out of about 8 entries.  Not bad.  I have to admit the first place entry was well-deserving.  Wish I had photographed it.

Then, I took my dyeing class.  Very fun and informative.  The instructor was Kimber Baldwin of Fiber Optic yarns  We mixed dyes and each participant was given two skeins of yarn to dye in their own colorway.  Now remember, it is 90+ degrees and this building had big fans, but no a/c.   It was HOT!  But I did learn some things and the printed materials that came with the class will be of use to me in my own dyeing endeavors.  Plus, I now have 2 more skeins of yarn.  These are "superwash" merino yarns, which means they are machine washable fine wool and each skein is big enough to make a pair of socks or a small shawl. 

Here are my skeins, drying at home.  Surprise...Purple!!  And I did one which was completely outside my usual color preferences.  I do like it.

I arrived home at about 7 pm and Sam was helping the neighbors put their hay in.  So I changed my clothes and went over and helped.  They helped us the previous weekend, so we help them.  

Monday, again, very hot.  We sheared a couple more alpacas in the evening and took the dogs for a walk.

Tuesday, it poured rain in the morning.  We needed it.  I had a bee meeting on Tuesday evening and I completely forgot to take my camera, which I am upset about.  It was a very cool meeting.  We met at a farm just outside town where there was a hive of wild bees in a hollow log.  The idea was to "capture" the hive.  The log was about 2.5 feet long and about 18" in diameter.  A year or so ago, one of the local beekeepers had capped off both ends of the log by nailing a piece of wood over one end and a bucket lid over the other.  There was a big knot hole in the log where the bees could come and go.   There are some pretty experienced beekeepers in our group and they did all the work while the rest of us observed.  The bees were quite calm through all  this and no one was stung.  I was amazed.  First, the guys leveled off a stump close by.  Then, they removed the wood covering one end of the log.  They then screwed a larger piece of board over that end and carefully lifted the whole log and moved it so it was now standing on the end with the new board on it on the leveled stump.  They then screwed the whole thing down to the stump through the new board.  Remember, there is a knot-hole in this log which has not been covered up, so the bees can still come and go from the log.  Once the log was in place, now standing upright as opposed to laying down as it had been,  the bucket lid, which is attached to what is now the top of the log, is removed.  This is replaced with a board that has a 6" X 6" hole cut in the center.  This board is screwed down to the top of the log.  Then, a bee box similar to this one

was placed onto the board with the cut-out hole in the center.  The board acts as the bottom of the bee box and the box has frames in it.  The idea is that the bees will move up into the box as the log becomes full of comb and brood and the beekeeper can now place additional boxes on top as the colony grows and can easily harvest honey, or he can remove the boxes once the queen has moved up into them and start a second  colony from the one that was in the log.  I so wish I had photos.  The whole thing was fascinating to me.  Hmmm, I need to go weed-eat around my hives.  I hate weed-eating!

By Tuesday the weather had cooled appreciably.  It is now back to normal late May temps and this weekend they are actually forecasting lower than normal temperatures.  Perfect for finishing up alpaca shearing!  

And of course throughout the week, Sam has been mowing like crazy to keep the weeds at bay around the creek and buildings.  He put up some cattle panels in the garden to use to tie the tomato plants up to.  The lettuce is doing well.


Our next big project will be replacing this:

And this:

I am ashamed to admit that these are actually sections of fence which are containing our 8 male alpacas.  Barely.  I think the weeds and creek on the other side of the fence are what is actually keeping them in!  

So, Sam has been putting up a temporary fence of cattle panels in the back yard at the guest house and the plan is to move the guys into the back yard while we tear down and replace several hundred feet of fencing.  

I think Sam is kind of looking forward to letting the boys mow the yard for him for a few days as well!  

Our big hayfield was mowed and baled this week by our neighbors up on the ridge.  They round bale it for their cattle since we cannot possibly use all that first cutting.  I love how the big bales look sitting in the field in the morning light.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fiber Festivals, Shearing, Skirting: It's a Fuzzy Life!

Any water, any where.  Rowdy appreciates that Larry, our township trustee just recently improved this cooling off opportunity where the creek runs under the road.

But he is not the only one who takes advantage of water to cool off.

This alpaca loves the pool.  I was hoping she would sit down for me to take a photo, but she seemed to think I was up to no good and refused to oblige.  You can see she does spend time sitting in the water by the mud on her belly.  The pool needs to be removed at least a day before we shear this bunch.

This past weekend was the Upper Valley Fiber Festival in Troy Ohio, which you may recall I have spent a lot of time preparing for.  

 My booth looked good and was spacious.  I had a nice variety of yarns and rovings along with rugs and some lovely quilted project bags made by my mom.  Unfortunately, the fesitval was very small and sparsely attended, though I did make a few sales.  This festival has been around for only 4 or 5 years, I believe and it is very hard to get something like this off the ground and running.  The problem is that if you don't have lots of vendors you won't get lots of buyers.  Then the vendors decide not to come back and it kind of just fizzles. I can't help but think that the fact that the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster is held the weekend following this is also detrimental to the success of this show.  Many people will choose one or the other and the GLFS is about 3 times the size and well-established.  The folks who did attend the festival were great and I talked to some really nice people, including some readers of this blog who grew up here in Monroe County and now live in Troy, Ohio.  It was nice to meet you Melissa and Doug....stop by next time you are in the area.

Now I have never attempted to promote something like this, but I would have liked to see some local news channels there on Saturday, or local radio or something.  Usually media  likes to do little features of things happening in the area that are free for people to go to.  I will have to think long and hard about attending this again next year.  At least I got to spend some quality family time.  Also, I have lots of product ready to go for the next show I go to, which I don't even have on the calendar.  I won't be at the Wool Gathering this year because my niece is getting married that weekend. 

So, while I was away, Sam had the help of the neighbors putting in our first cutting of hay.  Apache will eat again this winter!  Our other neighbors, who do the first cutting off our 4 acre creek bottom hayfield and round bale it for their cattle, were out this week mowing.  I expect to see round bales in this field today or tomorrow.

 Shearing has really not moved along.  We have had such a bad time with the improperly sharpened blades for our shears that we kind of gave up after taking an hour to shear 2 alpacas on Monday.  The good news is that our newly sharpened blades arrived in yesterday's mail and we can get back to it tomorrow.  The bad news is it is supposed to be in the 90's all weekend.  That makes for hot sweaty alpacas (and people).  But we really need to make some progress. 

We loaded our 4 geldings and 1 weanling male onto a trailer early Wednesday morning for their trip to their new home in Tennessee.  Their new owners arrived late Tuesday night after a horrible travel day and spent the night in our guest house.  It would have been nice had they arrived earlier as they had planned so we could have had more time to spend with them, but sometimes plans just don't go as we hope.  

So Saturday is shearing day and Sunday I head off to the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, OH.  I am taking a class called "The Chemistry of Dyeing" on Sunday afternoon and plan to do a little shopping prior to the class.  I also have 16# of skirted white alpaca fiber to  drop off to Morning Star Fiber Mill to have made into yarn.  That's a big bag of hair!

I also sent my skein of lace weight alpaca bamboo yarn to the show with my friend Tari (remember her?  She did the Wool Gathering with me in Sept) to enter into the skein competition there.  Tari is vending at this show and will be there all weekend and skeins have to be there for judging by noon Saturday, so she is dropping it off for me and I will pick it up Sunday after my class.  I entered it in the UVFF competition, but there were very few entries and it took second place behind a fluffy white wool yarn.  In this show, it will be judged against other fine yarns. 

I have not done anything with the bees this week except work on weed removal around the hives.  I plan to start building more frames this coming week and need Sam to build me a couple more boxes.  We don't need them just yet, but a friend (Tari's husband) said his hives have already swarmed once this year, so I want to be prepared.  Need to work on that.

Poor old Ginger, if Rowdy isn't trying to eat her food, it's someone else!  Ornery chickens!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Off to the Upper Valley Fiber Festival

Rowdy in the Peonies
Yet another shot of Rowdy in the flowers.  But the peonies are blooming and they can only be improved by Rowdy's presence among them.

And yes, I am off to the fiber festival, but not until tomorrow.  However, I have been busy tagging items and loading my car.  Sam and I decided it would cost no more to drive the Honda CRV than it would to drive the pick-up, even with the natural gas in the pick-up since I would only get one way on the natural gas (not even all the way) and then I would be on gasoline driving home.  The problem was, could I get everything into the Honda?  

 Here is a shot looking into the rear passenger side door of the CRV.  The biggest item I have to take is a 5' shelf unit and you can see, it made it.  The nice thing is, the roving and yarn etc are soft items and can be squeezed in just about anywhere, which they are.  I don't have to take a table as one is provided with the booth rental.  I think one table will suffice.  I have my yarn tree and my rug rack and shelf unit.  So one table is fine. 

I still have my front seat empty and I hope to have room for my spinning wheel along with my small suitcase.  There is a spin-in type event at the festival, but hopefully I will be too busy to participate.  My mother has been busy making quilted project bags  to sell and she is planning to meet me tomorrow to help set up and she will attend with me Saturday.  Not sure about Sunday.  I am looking forward to the weekend.

We got some more shearing done Saturday.  Some friends came over to help out.  Unfortunately, we have had trouble with some of the blades for our shears.  They were improperly sharpened (long story) and improperly sharpened blades make shearing very difficult.  They just don't cut right and the animals look ragged instead of smooth.  So we are holding off on shearing more until we get combs and cutters back that are correctly sharpened.  I am dropping some off tomorrow on my way to Troy.  We do have about 1/3 of the alpacas shorn.  Can you spot the shorn ones?

These 5 males were some of the first shorn since they are sold and are going to Tennessee next week.  That's Yosemite Sam in the foreground.  A couple years ago all my crias got Yosemite inspired names due to the fact that both my sons were living there at the time and we had just visited.  Of course, our son, Sam, is now back there.  He does not care for that moniker, however.

Tuesday I added a new box to the bee hive.  The original box was incredibly full of very busy bees and as the hive grows, they need room to expand so they got their second box  this week.  I always take the camera up with me when I go to get into the hive, but then I find my hands are too busy to take any pics while I have the hive open.  I guess I need Sam to go with me next time so you can see into the hive.  It is really intere"sting"!  We need to use the weedeater around the hives, but Sam wants to be wearing the bee jacket when he does that.  He did do quite a bit of mowing yesterday close to the hives, but not too close.

This is the field close to the hive.  The fence on the right of the photo encloses the male alpacas' pasture and the fence on the left encloses our small orchard we are trying to start.  The bee hives are around the corner by the orchard.  

Speaking of mowing, Sam is planning to mow hay today.  The forecast is perfect for it.  The only problem is , it will be ready to bale either Saturday or Sunday and I will not be there to help get it out of the fields and into the barn.  Wait, is that really a problem?  Not for me I guess.  It really is hot, itchy work and is best suited for teen-age boys.  But we no longer have any!

Sunday was Mother's Day and I got phone calls from both the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.  That's all I need, just a phone call and I am happy.  Both boys sound good.  Ian and his girlfriend, Michelle, will be departing the Grand Canyon next week and making their way north to Portland Oregon with stops in Las Vegas,  Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, among others.  They are looking forward to the move.  Sam/Zac is enjoying being back at Yosemite and says there are a lot of climbers working at the lodge this year, so he is in good company.  His girlfriend Maria likes it there as well.

Here are the rugs I took off my loom last week.  They are now fringed and ready to go on the rug rack at the festival this weekend.  I really like how they came out.  

I finished the socks I was working on last week and am happy with them.  Now I am back to work on the dog and cat satchel for the Country Store at our Basket Bingo next month.  I am working on the front flap of the bag which has the actual dog/cat pattern on it.  It is knit "in the round" and then cut when finished so it will be flat.

The cutting is called "steeking" which is a technique I have never used before.  The first time you cut your knitted project is very nerve-wracking as it brings to mind unraveling sweatersI will be cutting on the right side of the knitting where you see the kind of checkerboard pattern.  I won't likely have this done by next week, but I will let you know how it goes. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shearing Time is Here Again!

Poor Rowdy.....I HATE to have to have him clipped down, but he has such a heavy coat and he loves to be in the water and he never really dries out.  So, he begins to mat and he is redolent of mildew.  Time for a haircut.  He always seems depressed the first 2 or 3 days following his trip to the groomer, but then I think he is happier.   And he will be gorgeous again by fall (with no matting!)

A trailer load of hay is a playground for chickens
Things are starting to get crazy busy.  Saturday we went to the farm of an alpaca friend who has had to disperse her herd after 10 years.  She kept her alpacas on her son's farm and he decided it was time to sell, so Ann had to have all the alpacas out and the place cleaned up by this past Monday.  We bought her leftover hay and anything else she still had that she and/or her alpaca buyers did not want.  So we came home with a load of hay and some fencing and lots of fence posts and some buckets and fans and other miscellany.   I am sure it was hard for her to part with her animals, but now she will have more time for other things and she definitely plans to continue her "fibery" pursuits. 

Sunday we started shearing.  We always like to start out with a few just to make sure we have everything we need and have the barn arranged to suit the purpose.  We only sheared 6, which was a good start.  We will likely plan to devote this Saturday to shearing, so anyone reading this who wants to come, we'll start once the dew is off the alpacas, usually around 1 pm.    I have no shearing photos yet because my hands are kept too busy to take pics when it is just Sam and me.  I did get 4 of the 6 fleeces skirted on Monday.  Need to have my yarn fleeces ready to go to the mill Memorial Day weekend.

Bee update:  the new hive seems to be doing all right, despite my novice efforts to do the right thing.  I did get stung for the first time this week.  There is a feeder attached to the front of the hive which consists of a mason jar on a base.  I put sugar water in this to make it less effort for the new hive to feed themselves.  Well I thought I could just swap out the empty jar for a full jar early Friday morning without disturbing the bees so I did not put on my bee jacket.  I was wrong.  I got stung once, right above the right eye.  Ouch.  Lesson learned.  By the way, I do keep an epi-pen on hand.  It had been so long since I was stung by a honey bee, since I was a child, I am sure.  Living in the country I get nailed on a regular basis by wasps and yellow jackets and hornets, but not usually honey bees. I will be  more careful from now on.  Probably this weekend I will be adding another box and more frames to the hive to give them room for expansion.

We get some funny eggs from time to time, but this is the first time we have ever gotten one like this!  So small!  I never realized how different eggs can be, different colors and even shapes.  Some will have soft leathery shells which break when they are laid.  My whole experience with eggs was usually supermarket eggs.  Let me just say that these are much more interesting.

We had some asparagus from our asparagus patch the other day.  I'm not sure if the weird weather has affected it or if our patch is still in the beginning stages (3rd year?), but we aren't getting a lot.  Maybe it is still too early.  I need to research it a little.  We also have lots of garlic coming up and lettuce and potatoes.  Beets and squash are planted but not yet up.  Some tomato and pepper plants are in.  I need to get some basil going.

Once again we had torrents of rain Monday night and the creek was raging Tuesday morning.  The alpaca barn was also full of water.  Ugh.  That happens when you build  at the bottom of a hill.  No matter how much time you spend ditching, etc, eventually the water comes in.  You can keep it out for a while, but nature always prevails.  Just more work for me. 

The fiber festival I at which I am a vendor is in less than 2 weeks!  I am pretty well ready, I just need to make sure everything is tagged and I have all my "stuff" together.  here are the 6 "colorways" I have done up in 100% Ohio grown alpaca yarn.  I have 6 skeins of each color for 3 dozen skeins total.  Plus I have lots of dyed and natural colored roving, more yarns and of course rugs. 

 I just took 3 rugs off the loom today and am very pleased with them.  I need to cut them apart and tie/twist the fringes sometime in the next week.  The fringe is more time consuming (tedious) than the weaving it sometimes seems.

 Here are 2 of the rugs.  

I place  cardboard between them on the loom to measure out the correct amount of warp to make the fringes. 

I finished the 25" of plain black knitting I was working on last week for the satchel for the Humane Society fund raiser so I rewarded myself by starting on my second sockI should finish it up in the next couple days and then I need to address another part of the satchel.  This will be more interesting because it will have a pattern and keep my attention better!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Moving Into May

Timmy & Chuck
These 2 cats are always together.  I have a big folding table just behind this dutch door and it has the old cushion from my deck swing on it.  A favorite place to hang out and watch Rowdy.  Once Rowdy goes in the house, they can be over the door and off doing "cat things".  Both these guys came here from the shelter.  Timmy was so unfriendly we thought we would never see him once he was turned loose.  Nope, he has become quite the friendly fellow.

Last Friday, I dyed 2 batches of yarn.  Unfortunately I downloaded the photos onto my home computer and deleted them from my camera, so no pics of those today.  But I did do my last batch on Tuesday, which came out very purple.  I have dyed this colorway before and I don't remember it coming out so dark purple.  It can be seen 3/4 of the way down in this post 
next to the green on the drying rack.  I think it may be that I had 4 skeins in the dye bath last fall and only 3 in the dye bath Monday, so there was actually more color for each skein to pick up.  

 I am still pleased with how this came out.  These skeins weigh less than the ones I was working with last fall and using the same amount of dye for less yarn will result in more saturated color.  Makes sense when I think about it!

I now have 3 dozen hand-dyed skeins done for my show in just over 2 weeks, plus a few left from last fall's show.  Next week I will have more info on all my show "goodies"!

Sunday was gorgeous. Perfect outdoor day.  Sam took me up to the top of the hill on the 4-wheeler and dropped me off with my chainsaw and I worked my way across my trail on Wayne National Forest, clearing the trail of downed trees.  I only left one that I did not feel I was up to cutting.  Rowdy accompanied me and we met Sam at the other end of the trail so I would not have to carry the chainsaw the 3/4 mile home.  I wish there was a way to get a mower up  on the trail, but it is too steep and too narrow in many places.  It would be a huge chore with a weed-wacker!  After that, we also worked on cutting up one of the trees in our top field and stacked it for next winter's firewood.
Monday was a special day.  It was Rowdy's 7th birthday and he got his own bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with Beggin' Strips (he LOVES those things).  I can't believe he has been with us so long.  Happy Birthday Rowdy.

I know Easter is over, but I think I have discovered the origin of the Easter Egg Hunt.
Now that spring is here, my chickens are no longer satisfied to lay their eggs in the nest boxes in the chicken house.  I realized egg production had dropped off, so the other day I stalked a hen as she flew over the chicken yard fence and headed for the horse barn.   I had to be sneaky so she would not deviate from her course and what I found was 4 eggs in a nest right in front of the door to Apache's stall!  Now I go through this door every night when I give him his grain and I had not noticed this nest.  To be fair, it is a dark narrow aisle and I don't usually turn the light on this time of year.  But really, I must have stepped over this nest.  So, since I know the location of this nest, I want to make sure the hens who use it don't relocate it (which will result in another egg hunt).  I threw away 2 eggs, kept the warm one (fresh from the hen) and marked the remaining egg with a sharpie and left it in the nest.  This way, the hens will still use the nest and I will know which egg is the old one.  Silly chickens!

It has been an interesting week weather-wise.  We have gone from very cool to very warm, as is usual.  Of course these temperature extremes were brought in by storm fronts, or maybe it is the other way around.

 We had some rain Monday night, but Tuesday night, it rained hard all night and this is what I woke up to Wednesday morning.

My rain gauge is broken, but from my dye roaster still sitting on the back deck, I am guessing we got at least 2 inches of rain.  It's actually kind of scary to cross the foot bridge when the water is up this high because what you can't see from photos is that the water is rushing at a high rate of speed.  It is incredibly loud and there is generally a lot of debris going by.  But it goes back down rather quickly.  All this water is certainly in the Ohio River by now, which is only about 20 miles away as the crow flies.  

24 hours later, this is how the creek looks.  In 2 weeks, it will likely be dry until fall.

I have finished knitting one sock with some wool superwash yarn I bought (you can wash these in the washing machine).  The pattern is from a book I bought that has 17 sock patterns in it.  My goal is to knit 4 new pairs of socks this year.  I think I can do that.  I need socks.  I love hand-knitted socks.  

I have to finish the boring part of the bag I linked to last week (plain black knitting for 25") before I will allow myself to cast on for sock 2.  I have 4 inches to go!

No spinning got done this week and I have 1 rug done on my loom and am waiting for a new tool before I weave the other 2.  I am hoping it will come soon.  I will post about that next week.

I try to always have my camera with me.  This morning, it once again came in handy when I stopped to take a photo of the traffic I had to pass on the road on my way to work.  These are a couple of my neighbors, enjoying a morning ride.

 I don't think most people get to see this on their morning commute.  It sure put a smile on my face!