Thursday, July 19, 2012

Good Inside Weather

It has been hot and humid.  The type of weather where you just want to stay inside and lounge in the air conditioning. Due to that, this week's post will be heavy on fiber-y content.

Laci has been making herself at home, as you can see.  Rowdy seems quite pleased to have a companion who will play with him like he likes to play.

 This is what generally is going on when I am having my coffee in the morning.  The only problem right now is that Laci went to the vet and was spayed yesterday, so play, swimming, and off leash activities are highly curtailed  (forbidden) for the next week or 10 days.  Explaining this to two rambunctious Australian Shepherds is not easy.  Therefore, Laci is here at the office with me today where I can keep an eye on her and not worry about Rowdy running her over.  We will have to avoid the pond on our walks this week.  

Saturday Sam and I attended a party at our neighbors' down the road.  They were celebrating their 25th anniversary and roasted a pig and had lots of good food.  Volleyball, cornhole and, later in the evening, cards were enjoyed.  There were a lot of people there.  I think a good time was had by all.

I missed another party that my niece and her soon to be husband were throwing over in Toledo.  It's 4 hours each way to get there and I just didn't think it could be done without spending the night, so I decided not to go.  The party was a housewarming and a wedding shower in one.  Since I could not go, I sent a gift basket with mom that  I had done up that had some handwoven kitchen towels, a pint of maple syrup, and one jar each of raspberry and strawberry jam.  All from right here on the farm.  Hopefully in the future, honey will be added.  I was very pleased with how these towels came out.

Monday I dyed up my red rug yarn.  So the next plan is to warp up the loom with red, white and blue warp.  I have to sit down and work out  a pattern of stripes or blocks.   Once I get that figured out, it won't take long to get going.

Tuesday I canned a batch of pickled beets from the garden.  I think I will have one more small batch yet to do.  I also dug up all our garlic.  The garlic we put in in the fall definitely did better than the garlic we put in this spring.  We still got quite a bit and some of the bulbs are huge!  They are the elephant garlic I got from my spinning guild friend, JoAnn.  I need to get more from her this year and plant even more.  It's SO good!

Sam ate our first ripe tomato from the garden yesterday, and while we have lots and lots of green tomatoes, it looks like it may be a while before any more ripen up.  We are trying to remember to water the garden in the evenings since there has been almost no rain (tho we did get some last night).  Sam dug up our potatoes since the plants had dried up and we have enjoyed those little new potatoes.  Our squash plants are getting pretty dry as well and are not near an easy source of water.  They have lots of squash on them, so hopefully they will make it despite the drought.

I have had some knitting time and have one sock finished and the second about 1/2 done.  

I am very happy with the color and the pattern and will enjoy wearing these once the weather gets cooler!  

I have decided to "frog" the yellow mystery shawl.  Frog is knitting lingo for "Rip-it, rip-it" or unraveling knitted work.  I was somewhat disappointed with the clues for the shawl since they did not really change very much and once the last clue came out and I looked at other peoples' finished shawls, I decided I really didn't like it very much and would never wear it.  it almost looks like a capelet.  Here is a link to someone's finished project:  
There are a lot of beautiful patterns I could use the yarn for instead.

I am also starting to plan for my next fiber show, which is a month away.  I put together a few alpaca sampler packs yesterday.  Each one has 4 different colors of alpaca fiber that is carded and ready to spin, a total of 4 oz of fiber.  I ordered some nice plastic drawstring bags that work really nicely for this. 


My post is likely to be late next week.  My mother and I are going to Shipshewana, IN and meeting my aunt and my cousin there for a girls' outing.  There is a huge flea market there on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and we have reservations to stay at a  B&B where my sister-in-law and her friends have stayed a few times.  It has been 13 years or so since the last time I went and it is nice because my aunt and cousin live in Michigan so this is kind of in between, though a longer drive for us.  I enjoy spending time with my cousin.  She is the closest I have to a sister and even though there is 10 years between us, it doesn't matter now that we are adults.  You may remember that she and I went to Chicago together last October.  I am very much looking forward to this trip!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Comings & Goings......

Maybe "goings" should have come first in my post title.  Our sweet old friend Ginger succumbed to illness and came to trail's end on Saturday.  I am sure the excessive heat was an indirect factor in her departure, but it really was only a matter of time.  Ginger joined our family 4 1/2 short years ago when she was brought into the no-kill shelter where I volunteer and was deemed "too old" to adopt.  Her age at that time was given to be 15, but I suspect she was actually a few years younger, like maybe 12.  

I decided she needed to end her days on a couch, not in a cold kennel at a shelter, and so she came home with me right before Christmas.  She immediately decided that Sam was everything a dog could want in a human companion and attached herself to him.  She followed him everywhere those first 2 or 3 years.  I even remember going up to take Sam some water(or beer) in August when he was mowing a hayfield and him asking me to please take Ginger home with me in the truck because she was following in the tractor's wake in 90 degree heat as he circled the field over and over.  

Of course when I brought her home, then 2 1/2 year old Rowdy thought he had a new companion and tried very hard to get her to play with him.  He outweighed petite Ginger by 20 pounds and his type of play is very physical.  Not long after she moved in with us, she had had enough one evening, and she pinned him to the couch and drew blood on him!  I pulled her off him and when I thought she had calmed down I let her go and within seconds, she had him pinned once again.  I think I held onto her longer that time.  After that, they would still play on occasion, but Rowdy always seemed to know his limits with her.

Ginger always  liked being outside and she had a bed on the front porch.  Of course, she was always welcome in the house as well.  She enjoyed our 2 mile daily walks until the end, though she was suffering from some arthritis in one elbow and so often this year Rowdy and I would sneak off without her.  Since she had lost most of her hearing, this was not that difficult.  She loved riding in the car and preferred to stand on the front seat with her paws up on the dashboard, watching out the windshield, making little noseprints on the glass.

In all, although she liked to bark and liked to be stinky, we enjoyed the time we had with her.  And I truly believe that she was happy to live out her golden years with us.  Rest Peacefully Ginger.

Back to less sad news.  Other leavings included 7 alpacas who used to belong to a boarder who were loaded up Thursday evening for a trip to their new farm in Michigan.  This puts my current alpaca herd at just over 50% of the size it was 4 months ago!  It is hard to believe how much more quickly I get chores done now.

 Speaking of chores, our power was not back on until this past Monday, July 9th at around 10:45 am.  That makes almost 10 days with no electric except that from our generator and in the hottest weather we have had for years.  Our generator runs our water pump for our well, but we have no generator at the guest house and several of the alpacas depend on that well for their water.  So, I was hauling 20 gallons of water to them every morning.  I am glad there were fewer alpacas in those 2 fields than there had been 2 weeks ago.  The one pasture behind the house is usually watered from a spring that is piped into a trough, but that went dry several days ago due to lack of rain.  Ergo, more water had to be hauled.  Glad I have my little truck and my co-pilot to help out!

Another side effect of no power for so long was that all natural gas was need to power our generator.  When our vehicles ran out of natural gas, we were once again driving on gasoline.  Sam was not happy when he had to pull into a gas station and fuel up.

The lack of rain has also caused the water level in the pond to drop. At its highest, the water level is at the 3rd step down from the top on the dock ladder.  The steps are about 1 foot apart, so you can see, the water is down over a foot.  It will take a lot of rain at this point to bring it back up.

We also need rain if we are to get a good second cutting hay crop at the end of August.  Having fewer alpacas than last year, this is not a crucial, but it would be nice not to have to purchase hay.  And if we have to purchase hay, so will many other people and that will drive the prices way up.  Our hayfields are full of red clover in full bloom right now.  I have not gotten close enough to see if the bees are taking advantage of this or not.

And yes, "comings" was part of my post title.  On Friday, I picked up a "fossie" or foster Aussie and brought her home.  She is about a year old and answers to "Laci".  She is close to Rowdy's height, but nowhere near his weight.  Will she become a permanent family member?  Well, she DOES seem to like playing with Rowdy, despite the weight difference.  Maybe her being so much younger than him is a point in her favor in that respect.  She needs to learn not to chase chickens or cars, but we are working on that. 

Nothing new on the fiber front this week.  It was rather too hot to do much knitting this past weekend, but I have gotten some rows done on my mystery shawl.  Into the 4th clue now.  I need to dye some more rug yarn and warp up the loom with red white and blue warp. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Power's OUT and it's HOT!

We all agree, Rowdy, it's HOT
As of right now, our power at  home has been out for almost 6 full daysOnly once has it been out longer, which happens to have been 14 years ago this week, when we moved into our house.  it was out the first 9 days we lived there, due to severe storms that rolled through the area the day before we moved in. We may be on track to beat that 9 day record, if rumors are correct that it may be Monday or Tuesday before a crew is in our area.

So, while this is not much fun, considering high temperatures have been in the 90's for a week and are forecast to continue to be so for several more days, it is not as bad as it could be if we did not have a whole house generator that runs on the natural gas from our wells.  That being said, things like central a/c take incredible amounts of power and other things like water pumps and freezers are more critical, so the a/c is not functioning.  

The cause of this outage was a very fast moving storm that blew through here about 6 pm Friday evening.  I guess it had really strong winds judging by the damage it caused, but we are very protected down in our "holler" and had no damage at all near the house.  Up on the rigdes, it is a whole different story.  2 of neighbors had trees on top of their homes.  Many many trees are just snapped off like these up by our hayfield.  

Sam had come home and then gone out to a neighbor's place right before this came through.  He literally could not get home.  He said trees were falling in front of him and behind him on the road and were bent almost parallel to the ground from the wind.  After detouring several times, we called me from his cell phone and had me head out in the little truck with a couple of chainsaws to try to meet him.  I had to stop and cut one tree off the road while rain was coming down and  the thunder was rumbling and the wind was blowing, but then after getting past that tree I could not get the chainsaw started again so had to climb over 2 more trees carrying a chainsaw to get to where Sam was in the car on the far side.  Above is how that section of road looks almost a week later.  We finally got home, very wet and missing a side mirror on the little truck (it got knocked off as I drove over a downed tree in the road).  Our power has been out ever since.  According to reports I have seen on the news, this is the largest outage local power companies have ever experienced and since we are at the very end of a line and serviced by a small power co-op, we aren't exactly top priority.  

 With the heat, our lettuce is about done in the garden.  Everything else is pretty dry.  We were watering the garden regularly until the power went out.  The beets are almost ready for picking and pickling and the tomato plants are doing pretty wellI think some of my garlic looks  ready to dig up also.

We tried something new with the tomatoes this year.  We put cattle panels in behind them instead of using stakes and tying them up.  Every morning (or almost) I spend a few minutes weaving the plants through the gridwork of the cattle panels and it seems to be working pretty well.   The romas are so bushy that they are kind of difficult, but the rest are growing right up the panels.  Very tidy.  

Our yard has been chock full of white clover.  There has been little rain, so Sam did not mow last week and the bees have been very busy in the clover.  I guess it should not be surprising then that I was actually stung walking through my yard in flip flops on Saturday!  That is the first time since I was a kid that I have been randomly stung by a bee.  I guess I scooped her up with the toe of my flip flop and she ended up between my big toe and second toe and zapped me on the inside of the big toe.  Yikes!  I WON"T be walking through clover in flip flops anymore.

 So then I had another interesting bee encounter one evening after our dog walk as Sam and I sat on the deck (we shut off the generator so we could enjoy sitting outside) with our margaritas.  A lone honey bee came over and after buzzing around my foot for a while, decided to walk around on my heel and ankle for a good 5 minutes.  She seemed to be interested in something on my ankle and after zooming in on the picture Sam took I see something red on my heel and I don't know if I walked through something on our walk that was appealing to bees or what.  But she spent a great deal of time investigating before flying off and I remarked to Sam that 2 years ago there is no way I would have sat quietly while a bee explored my bare ankle.

On Friday, before the storm came up, I had done up a dyepot of blue dye to dye some of my rug yarn.  I have had a request for a red white and blue rug, so I need to dye some red and blue.  I think the blue came out quite well, but I have not been able to dye the red since I do not want to heat up the kitchen by simmering 3 gallons of dye for 2 hours.  I will wait until I have a/c again to do that.

I have also taken a weaving project off the loom, just today, but will write about that in a future post.  

I finished up my first sock I started last week and have been working on my  mystery shawl knit-along.  It is quite nice so far.  Can't wait to see what it looks like when it is done.  I received clue 3 yesterday so this photo is only clues 1 and 2 and 1 row of clue 3.

I should have taken this picture outside in better lighting because it really is a pretty buttery yellow with peach tones and my beads are an iridescent peach color as well.

With so many trees having been broken off by the incredible force of the winds that came through on Friday, I was happy to see that one of my favorite trees is still standing, despite all odds.  This old beech stands along the road where I went to find Sam and it always amazes me that a tree you can actually see through continues to survive year after year.