Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's the Holiday Season

Yes, I guess it is official, now that Thanksgiving is behind us the Shopping Season is in full swing.  I must admit that in the last several years, mostly since my sons have grown and moved across the country, I have had somewhat of a scrooge-like attitude toward the Christmas season.  I really can't get into decorating for just Sam and myself and as for shopping, I will admit I love to be able to do most of it from the comfort of my own home.  I can remember years ago making a last minute Christmas Eve dash to the mall and circling the parking lot looking for an available space.  Never again!    

Thanksgiving was at Mom's as usual.  Our crowd was smaller this year as none of our Michigan relatives attended.  They decided that they needed to stay and give thanks closer to home since my cousins' father has been through a bout of cancer and is now in remission.  I think it was the right thing to do, though I missed them terribly.    On Friday, we had dinner at my brother Larry's.  He has been adding a timber-frame addition to his house.  He has done all the work of shaping the beams and pegs by hand and has had some help with the raising of the massive frame.  It is under roof but still needs work and is impressive nonetheless.

On Saturday, prior to driving home, we stopped outside Cincinnati and picked up Carter!
 Carter is about a year old.  He is an Aussie like Rowdy, though nowhere near as fluffy.  He is red merle and white with one blue eye and one blue/green eye.  His eyes almost glow when he looks at you, which is often.  Lots of eye contact with this guy.  We are slowly introducing him to the farm, which means cats, dogs, alpacas, horse and of course chickens (of which we still have 3).  He does not have the fixation on things Lacy had and it is easy to divert his attention from things.  I plan to get him into an obedience class.  It will be good for both of us.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I could use it too.

 This is a difficult time to bring a new dog home due to it being gun season for deer.  That means a lot of traffic on our unpaved road and no walks in the woods.  And no new dogs off leash.  But we have been getting some miles in on the roads every day.  Last week, we sat in the dining room and watched this doe come down the hill behind the house to the creek, which is dry there.  I am sure she was looking for water, and had she turned the other way and gone up the creek, she would have found it in only about 100 feet.  But she eventually went back up the hill and into the woods.
Here is a shot of the pond similar to the one I took last month when there were still leaves on the trees.  We have had no snow yet.  The weather remains rather warm during the day and very dry.  We really still need rain.

The alpacas are now eating more hay and there is ice on the water buckets in the morning.  I have not yet resorted to getting out the heated buckets, though we have plugged in the heater on the automatic waterer in the main barn.  That is more to keep the mechanism from freezing than the water.  It is fed by a rather small metal tube that freezes  easily.  Plus it is not as much of an energy hog as the heated buckets.

Just a shot of some fuzzy weeds up near the pond with the afternoon sunlight highlighting them.

I have 2 rugs woven on my loom and need to do the third yet today.  Then I can tie the fringes on them and have them ready for the Christmas Festival in Woodsfield a week from Saturday.  I think this is the 4th or 5th year for this festival and I enjoy doing it.  It is only one day and we set up in the Courthouse.  I get to see lots of folks I don't see much of the rest of the year and it gives me a chance to sell some alpaca products.

Speaking of which, here is a pair of fingerless mitts I made from some handspun yarn.  The yarn was made from some roving I had done up in a 3-way swirl earlier this year.  It is one fleece dyed in 2 colors and some left natural.  Scroll to the end of this post   for a photo of the roving.

I had to go to the bank this morning and I finally got a photo of my favorite sign in town to post.  We have a lot of Amish in our county and almost all the stores have a hitching rail, but I just love this sign.  Maybe they should put a poop bag dispenser up like they have in some parks!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Weather Roller Coaster

The cold frosty mornings seem to bring out the energy in the crias.  Some times the adults even join in.  I never seem to have the camera at just the right moment to capture all the action.

We have really had some weather variation this week.   Once again the weekend was wonderful with blue skies and high temps in the low 70's.  Perfect outdoor weather.  I even sat outside on the deck and knitted on Christmas gifts for a while on Saturday.  I had to drag a chair out since I had stored away the deck furniture last weekend.  It never fails!  Monday the cold front came in bringing rain and much cooler temps.  These last couple mornings I have woken up to low 20's and heavy frost as you can see from my early morning photos. To the right here you can just see the sun starting to light up the trees on the west ridge as it comes up over the ridge on the east.  

 Look at these faces.  What a pair.  That's Star on the left and Buck on the right.  

On Friday, an AT&T technician came to the  house to fix a problem we had reported the previous week.  He had to replace a box on the outside of the house where the line comes into the house.  I'm not sure how it works, but now we no longer have a 25' phone cord running out the window and both phone jacks and the internet work again.  He and I got to talking about many things and it came up that he was wanting to have some blankets woven from alpaca and he had been looking for some fleece.  He was here from Michigan to help out in the area and he  just happened to be sent to an alpaca farm.  Well we loaded up his van with fleeces and I got some money in my pocket.  He said he would send me pictures of the blankets once they were done.  I hope he does.  But I sold him a lot of my prime skirted fleeces that I had earmarked for yarn or roving.  Now I guess I don't need to worry about sending that stuff off, and honestly, I made as much money as I would have if I had sent it off, paid for shipping and processing and then sold the finished product. 

I am still waiting to hear my 16# of fiber I sent off in May to be spun into yarn is ready.  It should be soon.  Meanwhile, Christmas knitting continues.  I think I am down to my last item.  My loom is fully warped and I have one rug woven on it.  2 to go.   Here to the right you can see the finished rug wound onto the lower beam and the warp waiting to be woven is across the top.  I did my warp in 4 colors and the first rug is all white with a matching color block/strip at each end.  I have not got the other 2 patterns I will do planned out yet, though I do have an idea for the one I will do today.

 This photo is looking down through the warp at the finished rug rolled onto the beam.  Once I do up the pattern I plan to weave, the actual weaving of each rug takes only a couple hours.  Once all 3 rugs are woven, I still have to take them off the loom and cut them apart and finish the ends of each rug, either by sewing the binding or tying fringes.  That part takes about as long at the weaving!

I may not post next week as it will be Thanksgiving, so our schedule will be way off.  As usual, we will spend Thanksgiving day with my family in Dayton and the next day is usually shopping at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield Ohio.  It has kind of become a tradition.  They have a fantastic selection of beer and wine, among other things.  My brother Larry usually purchases fresh seafood there and then he cooks it up for us at his house.  He is a wonderful cook.  So Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who may be reading this!

trees in November

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Getting Ready for Winter

Watching for squirrels
Yes, it is really time to finish up winter preparations.  The squirrels have been incredibly busy and there seem to be so many of them.  Sam attributes this to higher survival rates due to last winter being so mild.  Whatever the cause, Rowdy is kept on his toes.  Most of the squirrels easily elude him by racing up a tree and then leaping from tree to tree while he watches in frustration.  

Looking wintry
This past weekend I relented and put my deck chairs and cushions away in the barn for the winter.  This is admitting that  deck weather is over until next spring and I hate to do it.  Of course now the forecast for this coming weekend is wonderful with highs supposed to be in the mid-60's.  But that will be short -lived.  Yesterday and this morning, we had lows in the lower 20's. 

Sam lit the woodburner on Sunday.  Yesterday I covered all the firewood we have so far with tarps.  We unfortunately did not do so prior to all the rain we got from Hurricane Sandy, so we are lucky the power was not knocked out or we would have had to deal with wet wood.  Our furnace does not run on our generator

We also replaced a broken door on the horsebarn.  Things still needing done include putting up plastic sheeting across the overhang on the south side of the alpaca barn and getting in more firewood.  This weekend will likely be a good time to get some things like that done.

Tom the cat perched high up in the loft.

The hay is stacked high in the lofts, although it seems to me like there is not enough.  I have to remind myself that I have half the alpacas I had last winter, so I only need half the hay!


Yesterday was the first sunny day we have had since before Sandy.  It was so nice.  Rowdy and I took advantage of the weather and went hiking over at Lamping Homestead.  I love a sunny fall day.  The temperature was right around 50 and so it was very comfortable to hike in a tee-shirt and hoody (orange of course since bow season is in and we were on public land).  It is such a nice hike.  There are stands of pines and also hardwood and beech forest.  At one point, I was walking along through noisy oak leaves that were ankle deep.  It is impossible to be quiet with so many dry, crunchy leaves on the ground.  Even chipmunks and squirrels sound like large animals this time of year.  We startled 2 flocks of turkeys up into the trees.


 The photo to the left is of what used to be a large stand of pine trees near the lake and picnic area at Lamping Homestead.  Most of these pines were snapped off like matchsticks when the derecho storm came through on June 29th.  

 I saw this fine fellow on the side of the road coming home from Lamping and was able to get a photo before he melted away into the underbrush.  The photo does not do him justice since I took it through the truck window.  Beautiful fox.

I am waiting to hear from the mill that my yarn is ready to be picked up.  I'm trying to decide if I should take more fiber to be spun.  I have plenty ready to go.  I would like to get a heavier weight done up possibly.  I also got 3 dozen socks from the New England Fiber Pool.  So if anyone is looking for American made alpaca socks, I have them.  They are really wonderfully made.  $15 a pair plus shipping.

My loom is warped and ready for weaving.  May start that today.  I have a good 4 weeks until the Christmas Festival in town and want to have these rugs done by then.

Still working pretty exclusively on Christmas gifts as far as my knitting goes.  I have 2 1/2 done and am working on the 4th.  Does that make sense?  I hope to have these all done by Thanksgiving and then have time to knit a couple small items before the Christmas Festival.  I hope I'm not trying to undertake too much. 

I have sent in my check to reserve a booth space at an event in April in Youngstown, OH.  It is called the "Knitter's Fantasy" and is a one day event with classes and a yarn market.   I was invited to attend as a vendor and am looking forward to it, though it is a long way off yet.  Youngstown is (like everything else) about 2 hours away.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

What a Change a Week Can Bring!

Time to snuggle up with a warm friend.
 We have gone from 80 degrees and sunny to day #6 of grey cold drizzly wet weather.  I really should not complain, after all we were well under normal rainfall amounts for most of the year and many, many people are suffering much much more  from Hurricane Sandy.  Our forecast kept changing.  It called for snow, then rain, then high winds.  We have really only gotten the rain and it has not even been that heavy, except for periods Monday night.  Being on the Ohio West Virginia border, we were in kind of a flux area where no one really knew what to expect from Sandy.  It started to rain on Saturday and has not stopped since.  At least our pond has come up about 8" according to Sam.  When I was up there Monday, it was still down almost 2 feet.  With the rain has come the cold.  We even had a dusting of thick, wet snow on Tuesday morning, but it did not last.  I am very thankful that we were not affected very much by this storm and my heart goes out to those who have lost so much.

I spent the weekend in Dayton with my mother (who was supposed to fly to Italy via JFK on Tuesday....needless to say, she is still in Ohio) and had a wonderful time.  Had dinner Friday night with some high school friends and crashed a fundraiser on Saturday where my younger brother was performing with the Pink Flamingos, a band he as been with for 15 years and which I have never been to see.  All the performances are private gigs and most are not local to us.  He even performed in Paris in April this year.  This gig was in Covington, KY and I attended with my mom and my sister-in-law, Jill.  It really was great fun.

Before I left, I was able to get some photos of our fall crias in the sunshine. They are really doing well.

Here is the first born, a female.  Her dam is SHR Tunita and her sire is Sancha's White Lightning.  She was born 9-14-12 and looked like she was a week old already.  She is still the largest by far.  I have yet to come up with a name for her.

Next is the only male we had this fall.  His dam is Straightfork Margarita and he is also sired by Sancha's White Lightning.  You may remember him as the cria who was licked by Buck, the Great Pyrenees, until his back end was raw before I found him.  He was born 9-21-12.  He is a very nice looking cria.  Nicer fleece-wise than the little female above.  He also still needs a name.

This is Miraculous Mayhem.  She was born 9-29-12 and her dam is Straightfork Miracle.  She was sired by a male from another farm, CCNF Electric Mayhem.  She is much darker in color than both her parents and is just a lovely little girl.  We will be calling her Mayhem.

And the last to come along on 10-5-12 is beautiful little Caley.  Her dam is 3BR Peg, who has been part of our herd and a personal favorite of mine since 1999.  This is Peg's 10th cria, I believe.  Caley's sire is also Sancha's White Lightning.  Caley is not actually white.  She has some very faint color to her fleece.  I am extremely pleased with this cria and will likely retire her mama now that I have a daughter of hers to keep.
 So those are our babies for this year.  Nice looking bunch.  

And of course, that leads to thinking about next year's crias.  I have chosen to breed only 6 females this fall. That means we will have many females who are being left "open" or unbred.

If you look at this photo, you can see Lightning breeding a female on the other side of the fence.  Remember, alpacas breed in a sitting position.  There are 3 females sitting on this side of the fence patiently waiting their turn.  You can also see Peg standing around the corner watching and waiting.   All of these females are responding to hormones in their bodies that are telling them it is time to breed.  Otherwise, they would be as far from this scene as possible.  None of these 4 females are on the breeding schedule for this fall.  The 6 I have chosen to breed, B'Nita, Miracle, Aurora, Dulcinea, Tempest and Michelina have all been bred and will be behavior-tested tomorrow.

I am in the midst of warping my loom at the office for 3 rugs.  By this time next week, they will be well under way.  I will have a booth at our local Christmas festival again this year (Dec 8) so am trying to get some things ready for that.

I have been knitting on nothing lately but Christmas gifts, so I really can't post any photos right now.  All the gifts I am working on are small and don't take much time.  I have finished 2 and have 3 to go.  My plan is to do one per week and so far I am right on schedule.  I still have my shawl on the needles, but it is waiting for me to have time to get to it and I have a pair of socks that I have been working on as well.  I usually don't have so many things going at once!

I'm not sure what these 2 girls were arguing about out in the pasture, but they had a nice spit fight while I was out taking cria photos!