Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back to the Top of the Weather Roller Coaster...

Yes, on Tuesday Grover was wading in the creek following our afternoon walk.  It was 70 degrees with sunshine and a strong breeze from the west.  I took full advantage and took the camera along with me.  But, it being January, I knew this would not be around long and as I write this on Thursday I am looking out the window at a snow flurry adding to the light snow cover on the ground.  

I was reading a post on a forum on yesterday and the writer was worrying about wishing the days away with waiting for upcoming events.  I have come to the point in my life where I believe that sometimes the greatest joys are having things to look forward to.  I love the 
anticipation often as much as I like the event itself.  I think life would indeed be less pleasurable without something in the future to think about.

So today, I am looking forward to several things.  The first being the start of maple syrup season which it seems will coincide with the second, my trip to Florida.  And following those 2 events, SPRING will be here.  That's enough to anticipate for now.  I will move on to new things once those are in the past.

I try to be mostly postive on this blog and not write of some of the down sides of raising animals on a farm, but often things happen.  This past fall we lost 2 crias, 1 was premature and hypothermic and the other was a breech birth, fully assisted by me.  And of course we have lost our old friend Apache as well.  Last week, we lost one of our fall crias, the only male, to what I can only surmise was a parasite called meningeal worm.  I have written in the past that we use an injectable wormer on a monthly basis to keep this parasite from killing our alpacas.  We have had alpacas for 14 years now and this is my first loss to this worm.  The alpaca is not a natural host to this worm, the whitetail deer is.  When it gets into the alpaca, it travels into the spinal meninges and causes inflamation and paralysis.  I usually start crias on the wormer at about 1 month of age and that was the case with this cria.  He had a dose in November and I will admit I was a week late with my worming in December.  No other animals are symptomatic.  I can only guess that because he was small and my dose was late in December, the worms were able to gain a hold and do major damage.  He was able to get up onto his front knees, but his rear was totally paralyzed.  We kept him and his mom in a stall for several days, but he regained no use of his back end.  He was eating and was bright and alert, but was sitting in his own filth and after 4 days we made the decision to put him down.  As it happened, the herd was once again due for their worming injections, so despite the fact that it was only 8 degrees Saturday morning, I took off my gloves in the barns and wormed everyone right on time.  Hopefully this will be our first and last experience with this worm.


Grover is doing SO well with the chickens.  He will walk among them off leash and do his best to ignore them.  If he thinks about giving chase, Elvis the rooster puts him straight in no time.  The chickens really enjoyed the warm sunny day also.  They were all over the yard, scratching and looking for any bug or worm that might show its head.  We are getting up to 6 eggs a day now.


The bees also took advantage of the sunshine and warm weather.  Both hives were very active which is a great sign.  This Saturday I plan to attend a Honeybee Expo in Parkersburg,WV all dayI am looking forward to it.  I signed up for 4 seminars.  I still have so much to learn!

Here are 2 of the barn cats, Cami and Thomas.  I am sure they got outside when it was warm and sunny as well, but they are careful to stay inside while Rowdy is out and about.  He loves a good cat chase.

I finished spinning my gradient yarn for the Spin-Along on Ravlery.  I absolutely love how it came out!  I got about 570 yards (pre-washing) from 4 oz of roving.  That is a nice fine yarn and  I have no idea what it will become yet.
Here it is drying by the fire.  Once it is wet, the wool plumps up and becomes "lofty" so I am sure it loses some length in the process.  Aren't those colors incredible?  This was dyed by Kimber Baldwin of Fiber Optic yarns.  She is the dyer who taught the class I took at the Great Lakes Fiber Show back in May.  I can recommend her products!

I also finished knitting the Ice Queen lace cowl for a friend of mine.  Please pardon the photo.  I can't for the life of me take a decent photo of myself.   I don't know how people do it!

 The cowl is black alpaca/silk blend and there are red and purple glass seed beads throughout.  I have a red one of these I made for myself and my friend asked me to make her one.  The beading is a lot of work!

Below is another photo.  Black is so hard to photograph.

I still have a shawl and some just-started socks on the needles, but I plan to start a quick better-late-than-never birthday gift for older son Ian, whose birthday was last week.  Also hoping to get my loom warped soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Deep Freeze

This would be a cold bath!
We went from  50 degree weather last weekend to single digit lows and highs in the teens during the day this week.  It's January in Ohio.

Our visit with our son has ended.  He flew to Portland OR yesterday and is spending a week with our other son, Ian, and his girlfriend, Michelle.  It was hard to drop him off at the airport in the pre-dawn cold yesterday, but he has his life now and we are only a part of it.  I think it means you have been successful at raising your children when they are independent and happy with what they are doing.  That doesn't mean I don't miss having them closer, though.

I don't mind the cold weather too much since I usually am dressed for it.  Below 20 degrees, though, it is pretty darn cold.  I have a thermometer in my bathroom that has the outdoor temperature on it so I can determine how many layers I will need before I get dressed each morning.  Anything below 30 requires 2 shirts and either wool or alpaca socks.  I can usually get by with 1 pair of socks, but 1 day this week I had wool AND alpaca on at the same time.  To venture outside for chores I then usually don a fleece neck gaiter, insulated bib coveralls, a quilted flannel zip-up hoodie, an alpaca earflap hat, thinsulate lined flip top mittens and my muck boots.  This is for barn chores.  For my daily dog walks, I prefer not to wear the coveralls since they are bulky and restrict movement somewhat.  Yesterday, though, I wore those.

The dogs still expect their walks despite the cold and in truth it is good for me to have them to make me get outside and get exercise every day as well.

The chickens seem to prefer not to spend as much time outside when it is so cold.  But they do venture out when it is nice and sunny.

Our egg production has not increased a lot yet, but it is January and the chickens' don't have as varied and good a diet.  We are getting 4 to 5 eggs a day right now.  These chickens are into their second year of laying and I think they start to taper off after that.  Time will tell.

Timmy the barn cat obviously has no fear of heights.  That board he is sitting on is a good 15' up.

This is pretty standard dog play as we make our way back to the house after morning chores.  GroverCarter is sometimes very annoying to Rowdy.  It is a good thing Rowdy is the larger and heavier of the two.  He is not as fast however.  But his teeth are bigger.

Here I am in the sweater I finished last week using Berocco Ultra Alpaca yarn which is 50/50 wool/ alpaca.  I have already worn the sweater twice.  I just love it.  It fits well and is nice and warm.  And I love the color.  

I am still working on the gradient fiber spin-along.  I am almost done spinning 2 bobbins of singles and hope to ply them into a 2-ply yarn this weekend.  Below is bobbin #2.  The blue is the last of it. 

Not much progress has been made on the beaded neck-warmer since I was busy with other things while my son was here, but here is a photo.  I need to finish it up and get to work on my next project for which I have been dyeing some hand-spun alpaca/wool yarn, but more on that later.

Stay warm!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Enjoying our Visit

We are certainly enjoying our visit with son Zac.  It has been almost 3 years since he was home and then it was a very short visit.  So this time we are grateful that he will be here for 2 weeks (another week to go).  You would think he would not want to col while he is on vacation, but I can't seem to keep him out of the kitchen!  Last night he cooked dinner for us and his grandparents.  Shepherd's pie with spinach salad and a rich chocolate dessert.  I also have lots of leftovers.

The guys had a great time at the Columbus BeerFest last Friday night.  I was designated driver and was oh so glad to pull into the driveway at 2:30 am!  Of course, a food stop at Denny's at midnight was required.  I now recall why I don't go there more than once every 3 or 4 years.

Our weekend was incredible....record warm temps up to about 70 degrees.  I spent most of Saturday outside cleaning up the yard and helped Sam a little with getting more firewood stacked close to the house.  Winter is not yet over, not by a long shot.

Of course, I had to check the beehives to see if there was activity due to the warm weather, which thankfully there was.  Both hives had bees coming and going and evidence of mid-winter "house-cleaning".  Bees have short lifespans and the bees who were very busily preparing for winter in the fall will not be around to see spring.  The queen will still be laying some eggs to replace the ones who die throughout the winter, but at a reduced rate.  The new generation of bees will dispose of the bodies of their predecessors outside the hive to keep things tidy inside.  Here you can see a bee hauling out a corpse, along with the remains of many other bees.

 All this activity means the hive is surviving, though we still have 2 months of cold winter weather ahead.  It is good to see this.

I hope to attend a beekeeper's expo in West Virginia in a couple of weeks.  It is a full day of workshops and vendors will be there.  If I order from them they will bring my order and I will have no shipping charges.  Need to shop for an extractor!

Grover/Carter and the chickens are getting along just fine.  I am told I missed his first encounter with the rooster.  I guess the rooster was not too pleased with  Carter's interest in him and chased him off.  That's what we needed!  Grover/Carter has been loose with the chickens now and he approaches them with curiosity, but does not chase or act aggressive.  I am very pleased.

The rooster, who we have named Elvis, is much larger than the hens.  He also seems to be fascinated with his reflection in our sliding glass door between the dining room and the deck and stands there and pecks at the reflection.  Maybe he thinks it is a rival rooster!  Egg production is not up much yet.  I think we got 1/2 a dozen one day, but usually 4 or so.  I figured that until everyone settles in it will be sporadic.

I need to get a photo of me in my sweater I finished last week, but I still need to wash and block it.  This weekend.  I am still working on my merino/silk fiber for the Spin-Along and have finished the first half and started the second half.  What I did was split the long strand of roving in half lengthwise and I weighed it to make sure each portion was 2 oz.  I am spinning each portion on a bobbin and then I will ply the 2 strands together for a 2-ply yarn.  I am sure there will be some color overlap, but if I can manage to spin a consistant  "grist" or diameter of yarn, it should keep the gradient colors true.  We shall see.  Here is the first 2 oz  almost finished.

You can see some of the gradient color variation.  

I have done some knitting on the shawl I am making from the handspun lace yarn I did last winter, but am going to take a short break from that to knit a beaded lace neckwarmer requested by a friend.  I had to overdye some leftover commercial lace yarn I had since she wanted black.  It came out great and I am using leftover yarn, which is even better.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's a New Year

Watching Mom get ready for the office
Rowdy knows that when I do chores then come in and shower right away that I am going to the office and he gets very sulky.  Carter (who is slowly becoming known as Grover) is not yet worried about the situation.  

So its a brand new year and it will be interesting to see what it has in store for us.  2012 was not a bad year, but we had some losses that were hard to take.  That along with our real estate business taking a hard hit due to gas and oil drilling in our area (no one wants to sell until they see what is going to happen) made it a difficult year, but things could always be worse.  Maybe I should not have said that.

There is a lot to look forward to, though.  Why just tonight, younger son Sam/Zac/Satchmo (have I ever explained the name thing?  I will some time, I promise) will be arriving into the Pittsburgh airport at 11:30 pm if his flight is on time.  Since we are 2 hours from said airport, it will be the wee hours of Wednesday before we get home.  While I am not looking forward to the trip, I will be so happy to see Zac!  And since I am the one who booked his flight, I can't complain too much.  But he lives 3 1/2 hours from the closest airport, so I have to consider that.  

He will be with us 2 weeks and then it will be almost February.  February brings with it a trip to Florida for me (Sam has opted to pass this year) where my mom and her sister are renting a house.  I am driving down with my younger brother Larry's wife Jill and my cousin, Tracey is flying down from Michigan.  Sounds like fun to me!  Then, we will be into Maple Syrup season when I return.  Sam plans to tap sooner this year than last year and we hope for a better season weather-wise.  Need to produce some syrup to sell!

Not much planned for March as of yet, but I do my first Fiber festival of the year in April.  That would be the Knitter's Fantasy in Youngstown Ohio on April 6th.  It is a one day event and I very much hope to see a dear friend of mine who used to be in my spinning guild who moved to that area a couple years back

And then we are into spring!

But until then here is what the alpaca barn roof looks like.  All the snow is slowly sliding off.  I have knocked off the snow right above the door to reduce the likelihood of it coming down upon my head.  The other day I had to take a load of hay over to the barn and it was very cold and the little truck was being cantankerous and would not start, so I used the big truck.  Well, I could not back it in all the way due to its size and then I had to climb up in the bed to unload the foremost bales.  I managed to bump the gutter not once, but twice with my head, causing a small avalanche of snow to cascade down the back of my shirt each time.  BRRrrrrrrr!

You may recall that in June of 2011, a friend and I went to Amish country and brought home a truckload of chickens, only 3 of which I still have.  This friend is hoping to sell her farm and move and still had several of these hens left and she offered to sell them to me along with a rooster.  Yesterday, I went over and picked them up.  Yet another way that a large dog crate comes in handy on the farm.  There are 9 hens and rooster in the back of my CRV.  I kept thinking of Han Solo saying "What an interesting smell you've discovered, Princess" all the way home.  It was only about 15 minutes.
Now this rooster is a much larger bird than the hens.  He also had spurs on his legs which I can only conclude are for the purpose of defending his harem from rival roosters.  Ilaina told me I may want to remove those, so before I loosed him from the crate, I went after the poor guy with hoof trimmers.  Ilaina did not tell me there was a blood supply in the spurs, which are like 1 1/2" long thorny spikes.  And very tough.  They are still an inch long, but no longer have stiletto tips.

So I now have an even dozen hens and we might even be able to raise some chicks this spring, if any of the hens go "broody" and decide to sit on a nest.  The rooster really is a handsome fellow.

 The neighbors' dog was down in our yard this morning and Buck was expressing his displeasure with his presence.  I wish I knew what Buck and Star were expressing displeasure about very vocally at 5:30 this morning.  Whatever it was, they barked loud and long.   I thought maybe the rooster had crowed, but he was still on the roost 2 hours later when I finally ventured out.  

I am almost done with my sweater in 50/50 alpaca wool yarn.  I should finish it today or tomorrow.  I love it.  I can hardly wait to wear it.

 I am into podcasts and videocasts about knitting.  One of the videocasts I watch is having a "Spin-Along" and I decided to buy the roving to join in.  It is a gradient roving which starts as a light wine color and goes to purple to blue.  This is a 80/20 merino wool/silk blend and I have 4 oz of it to spin.  Here is the first ounce and a half or so spun up.  The videocast is found here: 

Have a great week all and stay warm!