Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Successful Wool Gathering

Aren't they beautiful?  Except for Grover being full of burrs and with one ear inside out.  It kind of reminds me of a photo of younger son, Sam/Zac/Satchmo taken at my brother Larry's wedding reception.  It was later in the evening and he was the ring bearer and his shirt was untucked on one side, his bow tie hanging askew and I think his cummerbund was undone.  He was posing with the bride, Jill.  He was 5.  I'll have to find that photo and post.  It really is adorable.  Thinking about it makes me kind of teary......

So, yes, the Wool Gathering.  I had a fabulous weekend.  It started off a bit wet.  I arrived at the venue around 4:30 pm to set up and just about the time I finished with set up and headed to Mom's house the skies opened up and it rained cats, dogs and alpacas!  It really came down.  Since the vendors are set up in huge tents, I had set up my display stuff, but had left all my products in their plastic containers.  The festival opened at 10 am and I knew I would have plenty of time to get everything out and on display the next morning and this way I would not have to worry about covering things.  I'm glad I did it that way.  Here is how my booth looked.  I was so pleased with my new banner.  It worked perfectly on top of my display.  I also had signs done up to put on top of my yarn trees which worked quite nicely.  One of the biggest issues at this festival is the lighting.  You can see how the red tent affects the color of everything.  But the weather was nice enough that I rolled up the side of the tent and encouraged customers to take yarn and fiber out in the daylight to look at the true colors.  
My 2 ply alpaca yarn sold very well, but I sold only 1 skein of the 3 ply.  I am not sure if it is due to the colors, or the fact that the skeins have less yardage but the same weight for the same price or what.  But this has helped me to decide that my next batch of yarn will be the 2 ply again.

Here are some wheels that the vendor next to me had for sale and for testing out.

 Here is another view of the inside of the tent looking one way.  I think I was about mid-way down the tent.  These tents are huge.  There were 112 booths inside the tents.  I had 1 booth, but many vendors, like Susan's Fiber Shop (next to me) and Fiber Optic (across from me) will use 2 spaces.  There are 3 of these tents at the festival and there are also outside spaces for vendors to bring their own canopies or tents.


Here are a couple shots outside from Sunday afternoon.  As you can see, the weather improved greatly as the weekend progressed and by Sunday it was wonderful, though Saturday was good as well, just not as sunny.  And of course in addition to the fiber shopping, there are herding dog demos and there are sheep and alpacas to look at and pet and there is a pumpkin patch and rides for the kids and I was told there was even a car show going on.  I have no first hand knowledge of many of these things because I was too busy to get out except for important things like potty breaks and ice cream and food.  I had a great pulled pork sandwich on Sunday that came with home made potato chips.  It was wonderful and less than $6I am a sucker for home made fries and chips and these were excellent.

A downside (?) to being so busy is that I did not even get into the other 2 tents to shop!  My only real goal shopping-wise was to acquire a nice crimpy wool fleece to blend with my alpaca into either yarn or roving.  I was able to get that as the vendor I purchased from 2 years ago was only 3 booths down from me.  Handy.  So I spent relatively little money.  All in all it was great fun.  I met and talked to dozens of great people and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  My check is in the mail for my space for next year.

So now I can start to tackle all those fleeces I have in my studio.  I need to send some off for yarn and some for roving and I may do some different things,  we'll have to see.  I also need to send some off for more socks.  I won't be doing another festival until the Christmas Festival in our local town in early December and there I sell more finished items.  But once in a while, I will sell some yarn at that.  Unfortunately, the Harvest Festival I have attended the last 10 years or more is not happening this year.  I am not sure why.  I think it was just people not agreeing.  The same thing has happened with the Soakum Festival my spinning guild always attends this coming weekend.  It is not happening this year and I think it is a real shame.  So I am left with a couple of open weekends which is fine with me.  

As for fibery stuff, well this whole post is about fibery stuff isn't it?  At the Wool Gathering I spent time working on a wool tunic I started back in the spring.  It is just easy, no-brain knitting, so I could work on it and talk to people at the same time.  I got a lot done on it, maybe 5 or 6 inches. This is the front.  It has a kangaroo pocket.  The back is already finished.

I also started a new sweater for another Knit-Along on Ravelry.  It is a summery short sleeved sweater  and has cables and mesh panels.  I bought the yarn at SSK and I know it is fall in Ohio and I am knitting a spring sweater, but that's how it is.  In October, I will resume my Holiday knitting.  That's only  a few days away.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Another Summer Fades Away and Some Sadness

Mom is off on a trip to Italy, so Luca is with us for a few weeks.  We now have a 3 dog walk.  Rowdy is making sure I'm coming.

I had a bad deja vu this past Sunday evening.  Last fall I wrote in this post
about losing Truffel's cria because the cria was presenting into the birth canal ass-end first, which is all wrong.  Last week I wrote about my 2 girls who were due to deliver early October but could deliver at any time, being the way alpacas are.  I noticed my fawn female, Miracle, acting distressed Sunday evening about 7 pm.   She was flat out on her side in the field.  Had it been a nice sunny day, that would not have alarmed me as they love to sun bathe.  But on a cool day at dusk, it is not normal alpaca behavior.  So I went to check her out.  She had swelling and discharge from the birth canal.  She was definitely in labor.  But 7 pm is a bad time for labor and I needed to do a quick check.  Unbelievably, I found a tail in the birth canal.  Dystocias are rare in alpacas.  In 14 years the only cria we lost to dystocia (improper positioning) was the breech cria from Truffel last year.  Our other 2 dystocias were just front legs back ,which require assistance, but are usually doable.  2 breech presentations in 1 year?  Unfortunately, Miracle may have been in labor all day, but I was not home.  Had I noticed her distress earlier, it may have been easier to pull the cria.  As it was, I worked on her for a good 10 to 15 minutes and was not able to pull the legs around.  There seemed to be no room in there to work.  I finally conceded defeat and called the vet, who I had called earlier, and asked her to come.  Then I gave Miracle a rest while I waited for her to arrive.  The vet was here within about 1/2 and hour.  She is a new vet, small and confident.  She got both hands in there and had 1 foot out fairly quickly, but struggled with the second leg.  Once it was out, it was pretty easy to pull the cria. He was dead of course.  Poor Miracle.  What an ordeal.  She seems to be pretty much back to normal 4 days post trauma, though.  They recover so much more quickly than we do.  

So, only one cria left and as I said last week, I am not that optimistic about this one.  Micki is very small (belly-wise) for being 10 1/2 months along as usual for her and her track record is very bad.  Maybe I will be surprised.  But then we will have a lone cria with no one to play with. 

In other news, the chickens are doing well.  Still getting only 1 egg a day.  We are down to 7 hens, though.  We had one who I called the "errant chicken" as she refused to come in to the coop to roost at night and I would find her waiting to get into the chicken yard each morning.  Well she has been missing for 48 hours now so I am sure some predator had an easy meal.  Once a hen goes to roost for the night, they are basically like sitting ducks and anything can just pick them off.  I am surprised she lasted as long as she did.  I have no idea where she was roosting.

I canned another batch of tomato sauce this week and picked the last of our corn.  The ears were all small and weren't going to get any bigger, so I prepared those for the freezer.  It was only 18 ears so it wasn't much, but I have 2 bags of frozen sweet corn for our favorite chicken corn chowder.  Yumm!  Another good thing about fall weather, homemade soup.
My squash plants are dying back and I have read I need to leave the squash out in the garden even after the plants are dead to harden before bringing them in for storage.  So I will be leaving them out as long as I can before frost.  I did make some really yummy squash soup last week.

Monday was a gloriously beautiful day and I had set time set aside to get into the bee hives and see how they are doing and maybe take some honey off.  I got into the new hive first, the top bar over by the garden.  This hive is not doing well.  I don't know if it is because of the location or what, but they have literally NO honey.  They have comb drawn out, but no honey stores.  This is not good in mid-September.  So I gave them some 2-1 sugar/water and will feed them again either tomorrow or Monday.  I don't hold out much hope of them surviving the winter and if they do not, I am done with the top bar hive.  On the other hand, the Langstroth hive up by the orchard, from which I have harvested about 6 gallons of honey this year, seemed to be doing fine.  I wanted to remove one of the 6 boxes to consolidate them for winter, and I did so.  I removed 4 frames that were basically empty of anything except comb, and 5 frames that were full or partially full of capped honey.  They had lots of partially full frames to finish filling with goldenrod nectar.  There were less bees in the hive and they were surprisingly docile.  I hope this hive survives winter again.  
 I got about another gallon of honey this time.  I did a taste test with this honey and the earlier honey I had harvested and the difference is remarkable.  The early honey is very flowery in flavor, very complex, I am sure due to the spring fruit blossoms and variety of wildflowers.  While this late summer honey is good, it is just not as intensely flavorful.   Here are the frames I extracted honey from.  The bees are busy cleaning every leftover drop of honey from them and then I will store them away for next year.

 Tomorrow I leave for the Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs.  I am so looking forward to it.  I think the weather forecast looks favorable.  I had a new banner made up fpr my booth.  I had a 6' or 8' banner I used to use above my stalls at alpaca shows and it was just too big for these venues.  Plus, it focused more on the animals than the products.  This is 4' long and will sit atop my display since in most places I cannot hang a banner.  I am quite pleased with this.  My car is mostly packed and I have until 8 pm tomorrow night to set up.  I hope to leave by 2 since it is a 3 hour drive and I want to get through Columbus prior to rush hour.  I just hope I have a chance to do some shopping.  I want to buy a nice crimpy wool fleece to blend with some alpaca, maybe for yarn.  We'll see.  There are 3 tents full of yarn and fiber at the Wool Gathering.  I'll post more about it next week!

And last, I finished my Pinnate Cardigan.  It fits nicely and I even wore it to the office yesterday.  It is a wool/bamboo blend and is a drapey garment.  It has no closure on the front and I think I would like to get some kind of clasp to just pull it together at about bust level.  I think I will get a lot of wear out of this this fall and winter.  Isn't that a great fall color?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mostly Fiber This Week

It was still almost 90 degrees last night when the dogs and I took our daily hike so as usual, Rowdy found a "cool spot".  It has been HOT and muggy since Sunday and it is Wednesday as I write this.  I think a cold front is supposed to move through tomorrow and hopefully it will bring some rain as well.  I don't think we have had any rain since Aug 31 and I have lettuce in my garden which could use the rain.  

Speaking of the garden, Sam and I have been really enjoying our sweet corn.  The ears are small, but they are really good.  We hope to get a few more meals from it as there are still a lot of ears on the stalks.  Fingers crossed that the raccoons continue to stay away.  

I also tried something new to me that I heard about on a video podcast.  I did a "progressive" pot of tomato sauce.  Basically, instead of waiting for enough tomatoes to be ripe all at once (which never happens without many of them becoming overripe), I harvested whatever was at peak ripeness one day, tossed them in a big stock pot and cooked them down a bit, then refrigerated the whole pot.  2 days later, I repeated this, tossing the newly harvested tomatoes into the same pot and cooking everything some more.  I did this a 3rd time and the pot was full, so I seasoned with onion,  garlic, and fresh herbs , cooked it all down and then used a  hand-held "stick" blender to kind of homogenize it and then canned it.  I got 4 quarts and 1 pint and it tasted good before canning.  One quart did not seal, so we will probably have that tonight.  By the way, that hand held blender....awesome!  I had to acquire one and I wonder why I never had one before.

As alluded to by my post title this week, most of what I have for today has to do with fiber.  I am preparing for the Wool Gathering which is only 10 days away.  I have been working on some layered spinning batts and got them finished this week.  I had previously dyed and carded up some 100% alpaca in red and blue and carded in some purple "firestar" which is a sparkly synthetic fiber.  I also dyed about 1/2 a pound of 100% silk top, which is silk already prepared for spinning.  This was dyed in the 2 colors of red and blue mixed together, to make a variegated purple.

The next step was to put these elements together on my drum carder.  
I first put the blue on the drum carder in 2 layers with silk in between. 

Here is the blue with some of the purple silk being added.  Then another layer of silk before I started to add the red alpaca.

The red went on in 2 layers with another layer of silk in between.  I am not blending these together, it is just layered, like a sandwich.  Then I pull the whole thing off the carder and roll it up.  I did some with the blue outside and some with the red outside, but all are the same.  They are all about 2.2 to 2.4 oz.

Here is how the batt looks before rolling it up.  Blue on one side, red on the other and purples in between.  I have enough silk leftover to do a sample batt for myself and I need to do that and spin it before the festival next weekend.  I am looking forward to seeing how it looks spun up.

I also finished the sweater I have been working on.  Watch for photos of that next week.  I just set in the sleeves yesterday, so I have not had a chance to get photos done.

Somewhat new on the needles is a cowl using some of my own hand-dyed alpaca.  This will be knit like a scarf until it is about 4 feet long and then I will join the ends together to make an "infinity" scarf which will wrap twice around my neck.  This is so soft and I love the color.

On the farm, we are expecting 2 crias later this month.  Both Miracle and Micki were bred the last week of October last year and so will be 10 1/2 months along in just a few days.  That means that they could deliver anytime from now until the first week of November, though in our 14 years of alpaca births, fall crias are usually a somewhat shorter gestation than spring crias.  Almost 2 weeks shorter on average.  Why?  I have no idea.  Miracle is huge and this will be her 3rd cria.  Micki is not so huge and this will be her 4th.  Her track record for crias has not been good.  All 3 have been very small even at full term, and none have thrived.  The last one died within 48 hours.  So I don't hold out much hope and will likely not breed her again if this cria is not healthy.  It's a shame since Micki retains a very nice fleece  and I would like to carry those genetics on, but not the genetics for unthrifty crias.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Labor Day Weekend, Drilling, & September is Here

Nieces, Nephews & Dogs Ready to Go to the Pond!

I am certainly glad we don't have a party like this every weekend.  I am ready for some serious down time.  We had family staying at the farm all weekend and on Saturday we had lots of friends and neighbors over for a cookout and cornhole and general socializing.  Lots of fun.

We even had homebrew on tap.  

On Sunday, most of us headed up to the pond for some swimming and zip lining, while others (Sam & my brother Larry) worked on making cider from a truckload of apples brought over by friend Lee.

Sam is chopping up the apples (which Lee & Viktorija and I helped with later in the day while their 16 month old son played in the apple bin)

Larry is operating the crusher

Somehow I neglected to get a photo of the cider press.  In all, I think 10 gallons of cider was produced, and lots of apples were left for the deer.

Later that evening, a group of us enjoyed a "couple" bottles of wine on the deck at dusk along with cheese and Lithuanian chocolates (brought back by Viktorija and Lee from their recent visit) and after full dark we got the kids together and we lit and sent a dozen multi-colored paper "Trance Balloons" up into the night sky.  Great weekend.
Monday morning

I did not have a lot of time to keep up with news on the Rim Fire, but my son called on Saturday afternoon to say he was in Sonora, CA waiting to hear when he could move back to the lodge.  He said he was tired of moving around and camping and had had only 2 showers in the past week.  Updates from the lodge Facebook site say they plan to reopen soon.  Just waiting for roads to be opened.  I hope to hear more soon.

Our weather has been gorgeous.  It did rain on Saturday morning, but was clear and dry by 11 am.  The weekend was warm and muggy, but then a cold front came through and it has been around 80 for a high and dipping into the 50's at night.  

Another Saturday happening was the arrival of the big drilling rig on the drill pad just above our hayfield.  This is the big one that will drill over 8000 feet down into the Utica shale formation.  It is running pretty much 24 hours a day.  I think they will drill 6 wells on this pad before they move it to the next site.  Fortunately, even though we can see the drill from the flat just above our house, there is a hill between it and us that helps to deaden the sound a bit.  But there is a constant roar and the sound of back-up beepers on equipment at all hours.  I think we will be hearing this for some time.

The garden is still doing well.  We actually had corn the other day!  It could have done with a little more time on the stalk, but we got some before the raccoons did.  There is still a lot there.  We planted it really late, kind of as an afterthought.  It was so good.  I think we will have more tonight.  I am planning to can up some tomato sauce later this week using a new to me technique.  I'll let ya know how that goes later.  Meanwhile, Sam made salsa for our party and we have eaten some more acorn squash and I sent Mom home with squash as well.

I am ALMOST finished with the second sleeve of my sweater.  Hopefully next week I will have  a photo of the finished object, or FO as this is known in the knitting world, which is different from a UFO (UN finished object) or a WIP (work in progress).  I also plan to do work some more on the batts I am carding in preparation for the Wool Gathering, which is only a little over 2 weeks away.  I am really looking forward to that.