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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Now it FEELS Like Fall!



Ian, Rowdy & Lacy

Yes, it is feeling more and more like fall.  We have had 2 mornings this week where the temps were only in the mid-30's when I got up!  I refuse to put on coveralls in September.

That is elder son, Ian, pictured above with the dogs.  We had such a nice visit with him and he is now back in Portland, OR.  We so enjoy the brief times we spend with our sons and this visit was no exception.  He seems happy with his life and is making some  big changes, as in going back to further his education, and we are proud of what a nice person he has become.  Hopefully it won't be another full year before we see him again.

I took Ian to the airport in Pittsburgh on Thursday instead of going to work and then I went to the office on Friday while Sam went with his brother to North Carolina to pick up a new truck his brother was buying.  So no one was home most of the day on Friday.  I had been relocating my soon-to-deliver alpaca moms to a different pasture close to the house because we had had some issues last year with Buck, the Pyrenees, being "inappropriate" with newborn crias.  As in he was licking them.  And licking them.....and licking them.  The thing is, their mothers do not see Buck as a threat and the newborn babies are not strong enough to get away from him.  I had one more female to move and decided to wait until the next day to move her since she was still a week away from 11 months.  I should have moved her.  When I got home at 6 pm, this is what I found.

A premature cria who had been licked raw on his backside.  Poor little tyke.  As if that was not bad enough, his ears are floppy (as you can see) and his ligaments in his front legs are so loose his knees are backwards.  He is also down in the pasterns (walking on his ankles).  These are all fairly typical signs of prematurity and they all resolve with time.

 He was nice and strong and up and nursing and had been able to escape the ministrations of Buck by the time I found him.  He is also very nice looking, fleece-wise.  So he and his mama got moved immediately.

Today, almost a week later, he is doing much better and is romping around the pasture with the female cria who was born the previous week.




Doesn't he look better??





Here is Tunita and her cria who is almost 2 weeks old now and looked a week old at birth.  We still have 3 crias due imminently, and yes, the 3 moms to be are no longer in with Buck!


The weather has been fairly nice.  Mostly dry, but some rain yesterday and today.  It is warmer now than it was earlier in the week despite the rain.  We do need the rain.  It has continued to be drier than normal.  It is getting dark much earlier, so we are eating our evening meal by 7 pm now instead of at 9.  We are changing over to more hearty winter fare, like venison stew with potatoes from the garden and homemade chicken corn chowder.  I tend to cook on the grill as much as possible in the summer to avoid heating up the kitchen and so it is nice to go back to those "comfort foods".  



The leaves are just starting to change on the big maples in the yard.









 The cooler weather does not keep the dogs out of the pond, however, though we have put away the zip-line pulley and the inflatable lounger.   I had to take this photo of Rowdy after a swim to show how wonderfully crimpy his fur is when wet.  Isn't it pretty?



Lacy is still with us, though she is listed as up for adoption on our shelter site and also on an Australian Shepherd Rescue site.  I hope I can find her a good home soon.  It is hard knowing she has to go.









 On Monday this week we had the county beekeeper's group out here to the farm to see our top bar hive, which was the first hive we started  http://www.straightforkfarm.blogspot.com/2011/05/bees-crias-soonchickens.html  in April last year.  Most of our local beekeepers, who are all vastly more experienced than I am, had never seen a top bar hive before, so were very interested in its construction and the combs the bees were making.  Of course, I also got great hints on preparing my hives better for winter so I was more than happy to have everyone here.  There is so much I don't know and need to learn.  So let's hope both my hives make it through the winter.

So does anyone else out there have a dog who likes to sleep on the stairs?  This is one of Rowdy's favorite spots to sit and to sleep.  He can see out the window next to the front door from this spot halfway up the stairs.  It's his way of keeping an eye on vehicles going up and down our road.

September Pond
I have not gotten in much knitting or spinning time lately.  At the office I have been slogging my way through my on-line continuing ed class.  This weekend my spinning guild is going to be demonstrating again at the Soakum Festival in Caldwell, Ohio and I hope to participate in that on Sunday.  I don't have a project I am eager to start or work on, so I just haven't started anything, except a 12" afghan square for a group swap.  Not very inspiring.  Once I finish my continuing ed, I plan to get the rug loom warped up again.

 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honey Harvest, A Wedding & Sad News



Tunita's Cria, born 9-14-12 


Yes, we have a cria.  A female from SHR Tunita (dam) and Sancha's White Lightning (sire).  She is big and healthy and was already up enjoying the sunshine when I discovered her Friday morning around 10:30.  That's the way we like it, uh huh.

But things have not been so smooth since I last posted.  It has been a while and I will blame it on general busy-ness as well as the fact that I have to get in 30 hours of continuing ed for Real Estate before Oct 23.  I can do it on-line, but it takes up lots of my computer time here at the office.  I am 1/3 done.  In addition, my elder son, Ian has been visiting since last Wednesday and we were out of town over this past weekend to attend the wedding of my niece, Krista.  So life has been kind of in a turmoil.

Our first cria of the year actually arrived very early on Sept 8th.  It was pouring rain and she was deposited in the most nasty wet place in the barn at least an hour before I got outside and she was 2 weeks early.  She was incredibly filthy, so much so that I actually took her into the house and put her in the tub and washed her.  This was also to hopefully warm her a bit.    Despite my best efforts over most of the day Saturday, she never was strong enough to stand or nurse and we lost her on Sunday afternoon.  The combination of prematurity and hypothermia (she did not register on the digital thermometer at first temp taking) was just too much.  Very sad.  She was from probably my nicest female, B'Nita and was also sired by White Lightning.  

That Sunday was a beautiful day.  I had decided it was time to harvest some of our honey.  So Sam came with me up to the hive to take photos.
 



 Since this is a new hive and I do not have a proper extractor, I decided to take only 3 frames of capped honey.  Here I have opened the top box and am starting to remove frames.





When the bees have the honey at the right ratio of water to sugar, they "cap" the cells off with wax.  The first frame I removed was only partially full of capped honey.  In the photo, the top 2/3 of the frame is capped and the lower part is not yet ready to cap, so we do not want that frame.  The uncapped honey is too liquid and will not keep properly.  So I replace that frame and remove another looking for fully capped frames.




Once I get a frame which is fully capped on both sides, I brush the bees off it (I really don't want to take any more home than I have to) and I place the frame into the blue tote you can see and put the lid on it to keep the bees from flying in to try to "save" their honeyI replace the full frames I have removed with empty frames.  I took 3 frames, though had I had an extractor (which makes the job much easier) I could have taken most of the frames in the top box, or "super",



Here are the 3 capped frames, ready to be taken to the house to have the honey harvested from them.  Note that there are a few bees in the box, but not too many.


Once home, I brush off the bees outside prior to taking the 3 frames into the kitchen.



Each frame full of honey weighed in at about 6.5 pounds and I believe empty frames were half  a pound each.

Since I do not have an extractor, I had to use the "crush and strain" method of extraction.  To do this, I used a spatula to scrape all the wax and honey out of the frame into a pan 


and then I crush up all the wax with a potato masher.  Once I have done that, I pour it all into a mesh straining bag over a clean 4 gallon bucket, place a clean piece of glass on top and put it out in the sun.  The glass does double duty of keeping bugs out of the honey as well as acting as a solar warmer to make the honey flow a little better.  I left this all day to get as much of the honey out of the wax as possible.  The photo below was actually taken the next day after I had already poured the extracted honey into jars.  I had left some wax in a sieve overnight to let the honey drip out of it and now that honey is being put through the finer strainer cloth.





From 3 frames of capped honey, I ended up with a total of 3.5 quarts of honey.  It is a lovely dark honey and has wonderful flavor.  



The other sad news I have to report is that at some time while I was working on harvesting my honey, Lacy slipped out the door unknown to me and killed 3 of my chickens.  It is with a heavy heart that I made the decision that she needs to be re-homed.  I have worked with her for over 2 months now and she is just fixated on those chickens and our lifestyle does not allow for a dog we have to keep tied at all times when near the house.  I would rather find her a place where she does not have the temptation of chickens than resort to keeping her tied or possibly trying to use a shock collar on her.  It really is a shame.   She is such a nice dog and I should be able to find her a good chicken-less home, preferable with another dog to play with.  She does LOVE other dogs.
 






Thursday, September 6, 2012

It May Not Be Official, But it IS Fall



 Actually, it really doesn't feel at all fall-like yet, but it will soon.

I never had a chance last week to post.  I was incredibly busy preparing for our annual Labor Day Weekend party, which started in 1998 as a way for my family to come and see the farm we had recently purchased and relocated to.  It continued as a tradition and we invite neighbors, friends, work contacts, etc over for a cookout on Saturday and on Sunday it is usually just family relaxing and consuming leftovers.  We have had as many as 11 people staying over in the guest house, but this year there were only 8 down there and 2 at my house.  The Michigan contingent of my aunt, her friend, Mark and her son (my cousin) and his wife and their 2 pugs were unable to make it this year.  BUT, I will see them all (sans pugs) in about 9 days at my niece's wedding in Toledo.

So, with the remnants of Hurricane Isaac looming, we got incredibly lucky weather-wise.  It rained steadily for several hours Saturday morning, but gradually cleared off and by 5 pm or so, out came the volleyball net.  We had a lot of people coming and going all day and I think a good time was had by all.  Including the 5 dogs.  I had added some chicken wire to the top of my chicken yard fence in an attempt to keep them in and it worked pretty well.  I did not want to have to worry about dogs chasing chickens through the volleyball court.    There was enough trouble keeping dogs from eating the food which was nose height to an 80 pound Lab (my brother's) and keeping them out of the house as well. 

 


Sunday, we woke to torrential rainfall.  Really.  We were scheduled to go horseback riding at 11 am and that was cancelled, though around that time the rain ceased.  The creek was up and running.  Kids, dogs, running water, what a great combination!




After lighting the grill and eating more burgers, hot dogs and chicken, we loaded up and trekked to the pond.  5 dogs, 4 kids, 2 grandmothers and several others.  The kids swam and zip-lined and the dogs created typical chaos.  




Niece Haley is demonstrating the zip-line.  She and a friend she brought along also liberally painted themselves with mud.

Later Sunday night, we had 12 people and 5 dogs all in my living room watching (well the dogs were sleeping) The Hunger Games 

And on Monday, everyone left.  Wow, was it suddenly quiet.  

BUT, I won't have quiet for long.  So much is happening.  A huge surprise is that my elder son, Ian, is arriving next week from Portland Oregon to attend niece Krista's wedding.  I know it has been at least 2 years since he was home.  He is between jobs at the moment and is starting back to school in about 2 weeks, so he had some free time.  I am so thrilled!  I hope he and I will have some time to do some hiking.  He will be here for 8 days, but of course we will be in Toledo for the wedding for the weekend.  Sam and I are rethinking our travel plans and will try to get younger son, Sam/Zac/Satchmo to come home for a week or so instead of us traveling west this fall.  

As for other things going on, we are expecting 7 crias in the next 6 weeks.  First up is Tunita, the white alpaca in the photo to the left.  She is 11 months pregnant as of tomorrow and has had many crias and looks ready to drop at any time.  Alpaca gestation can vary greatly with 11 1/2 months being average, but anywhere from 325 days to 372 days is within normal limits.  Although going over a year is unusual,  372 is our farm's longest pregnancy to date.  Considering we start "cria watch" at about 325 days, it can be a LONG wait if they go a year or more!  Peg is the brown girl in the photo.  She has lived with us for all of her 13 years and is due with probably her 10th or 11th cria. I would have to check to be certain.  Probably her last.  We'll see.  I'd like a daughter from her.

Also, work will start soon on a new roof on the guest house.  The guest house is actually my mother's second house, which she purchased about 11 years ago so she would have a place to stay when she came to visit.  Long story short, it was in disrepair and the roof is now in dire need of replacement.  It won't be easy as there are some broken trusses that must be replaced.  We are having a green metal roof put on and will be bringing a peaked roof out over the front deck, which faces west and gets incredibly hot in the afternoons.




Here are some before photos of the front and rear of the house.  It is going to look SO different!!




 


I have managed to get some knitting done.  I'm not sure how.  I knit up a cropped lacey sweater to wear to the wedding next week.  No, it is NOT alpaca.  It is a cotton/modal (a type of rayon from beech trees) blend and is nice and shiny.  Maybe I can get someone to take my picture wearing it next weekend.  It is really pretty.  

I also started a pair of socks from some of the yarn I dyed in the workshop I took at the Great Lakes Fiber Show Memorial Day weekend.  I think they will be Halloween socks.  



 So I hope to post next week.  My son will be here by then, but I should have time and maybe there will be a cria photo or 2 .  

Meanwhile, here are some early morning shots of wildflowers and misty hills.