Thursday, March 27, 2014

Still Waitin'.......

Rowdy's favorite snooze spot in my loom room at the office
I wonder when spring will arrive.  And then I remember that this is how March is every year.  Those little teasers of warm weather that last a day or so and then WHAM, back to highs in the lower 30's.  I think it is hard to remember from year to year that March is unpredictable because we are so anxious for spring and warm weather.  I know it will get here.  I do. As a matter of fact, it is supposed to be in the 60's within the next few days.  April arrives on Tuesday.

But really, Saturday was great here.  Not exactly warm, but warm enough that I spent most of the day outside cleaning buckets and maple taps.  I have a few buckets that are still up at the pond to do, as well as the sap pan, but other than Saturday, the weather has not been conducive to washing things outside.  What has been great is the fact that we can now walk the dogs later in the day.  Last night I got home from the office around 5:30, had a bite to eat and then the dogs and I got in a good 3 mile walk in daylight.  We explored some new to us trails on the neighbor's property which adjoins ours.  It's really cool that there are several of us whose properties all adjoin and add up to about 400 acres.  And since all the guys like to ride 4-wheelers, they make trails, as does Sam, and everyone uses them.  Including me and my dogs.  Sam and I and our dogs are the only ones who walk, though.  Speaking of dogs, I think Grover and I will be starting agility classes this coming week in Parkersburg.  This is where we did obedience last year.

On the farm, not much has changed.  The alpacas are so tired of eating hay that they abandon full hay feeders in favor of picking what little green they can find.  This morning, as I opened a gate to let them on a different field:

I don't see any green out there, but they seem to. 

Last week I mentioned that the big drilling rig had been removed from the well pad up above our hayfield and it was quiet.  That did not last long.  All kinds of equipment has been moved in and the noise has escalated.  It sounds like jet engines going.  I am glad there is a hill between our house and the well site.  It helps to deaden the sound a bit. I have to say my curiousity is piqued and I would love to know exactly what is going on up there.  I need to go up by the pond with binoculars before the trees leaf out.

Sam's work on the kitchen is coming along.  He got all the drywall hung and has started the tape/mud/sand repeat...process.  He used the moisture resistant drywall which is why it is green.

 There is now insulation in those exterior walls which I hope will keep some of the flying wildlife from getting in: wasps and asian beetles.  Time will tell.

I have been keeping busy on the fiber front.  On Sunday I went to a baby shower for a family friend in Columbus with my mom.  I took a pair of handspun handknit alpaca baby booties as my gift.  I wish I had thought to take a photo, but I did not.  They were a big hit with the mother to be. 

 Here is another photo of the sweater I finished last week.  I would say Grover likes the sweater, but no, that is what he does no matter what I wear.  We need to work on that.  

I have mentioned a lace shawl I am knitting.  It is called Snow Angel

 This is a close up shot of the detail.  I am about a third to halfway done with it.  I thought those beads would show up a little more than they do.  

I received my next pair of socks in the mail a couple days ago.  This is round 4.  I have not finished them yet, so will photograph next week.
I have also been spinning some fawn alpaca for the big woven blanket project, for which I will be spinning for the next year I think.  I have about a pound and a half of this fawn to spin and I am less than 3 oz in.  Ugh.  Beige.  Not very inspiring.  And I still have about 10 oz of it to card!  Once I get that carded, I have a brown fleece I have to wash.  I already spun a black fleece and I have white on the wheel here at my office.  I so enjoy spinning more when it is bright, fun colors.  But this is spinning for a purpose and even it will be easier once I can do it on the back deck!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's Spring: Officially, But it Doesn't Feel Like It!

 Rowdy and Grover were camera-shy this week, so instead you are seeing my work from last weekend, which included the last boil down of sap into pure maple syrup and canning homemade chicken stock.

We did a boil down on Saturday and got 2 gallons of syrup.  Sunday was cold and Monday was bright and sunny and fairly warm, but the sap buckets were no more than a quarter full on any of the taps, so I decided to go ahead and pull the taps Monday afternoon.  The weather has been so unpredictable, warm one day, cold the next.  We may have been able to get enough for another batch, but the sap starts to turn yellow this time of year and we want to gather enough sap in a day or 2 to run a batch, not hold it for several days.  It starts to spoil if it gets warm.  We ended up with about 7 gallons finished, which I bottled in pints and 1/2 pints and will sell at festivals.  So even though we got a late start due to weather, we didn't do too badly.  Last year we produced 10 gallons.

As I said it was cold again Sunday and we awoke to a dusting of snow again on Monday morning.  Since then it has been warm, then cold and rainy and warm and today it is just cold again.  Last week I took some pictures of these neat ice "stalactites" in the creek.  I haven't ever seen them like that

Things are still kind of quiet on the farm.  We are just waiting for warm weather so we can get out and start working in the garden, catch up on barn clean-up and spread a year's worth of manureAs it is now, Sam is still cutting firewood because the wood burner is still going 24 hours a day.  I am also researching sheep breeds with the intention of eventually getting a few sheep.  I have a couple breeds in mind and hope to learn more about them.
Sam is also spending a lot of time on the kitchen at Mom's house down the road.  My mom does not live there, but she bought the house to stay in when she visited us and it is used as a guest house and is a great place for family to stay when they visit.  It had a lot of necessary updates shortly after purchase, but some things had to wait.  The kitchen was functional, but barely.  So 10+ years later, it is getting its "facelift".  

 All the old paneling and wall board has been removed.  The picture above is the wall facing the road where the sink used to be.  As you can see there is no insulation.  So Sam is doing some re-wiring and then insulation will be added.  Note the upperleft had corner above the window.  See the lighter colored area?  Here's another shot of that.

Not all the wall board has been removed in this shot.  There are a couple big wasp nests and whatever that nest is.  Below is a close up of it.  I've never seen anything like it.  Hornets of some kind?  Hopefully insulation and drywall will help to keep some of nature outside where it belongs.  We have always had problems with wasps in this house.

In other news, the big drilling rig which was across the road on the hilltop overlooking our hayfield for 6 months has been removed.  This means they are done with the vertical drilling into the Utica shale and the next step is hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking".  Not sure when this will commence, but I understand it is very noisy, though not as time consuming as the drilling.  So for right now it is quiet when I step out the back door in the morning and the sky is not lit up with industrial lights.  

I posted a couple photos last month about the timber cutting on the property bordering ours.  I think they are done.  It looks like a bomb or 2 went off.  What a mess.  I hope it will look less awful when the leaves are out on the trees.

 At least then it will be harder to see.  It was so pretty down through here.  Not anymore.

I finished knitting a sweater this week.  This is a terrible photo because it is on the blocking mats.

It is just a comfy cardigan in a yarn I got on sale.  It is more of a purple red than the photo shows.  

Here also is round 3 of the sock round robin I am doing:

My contribution is the top part once again.  I did it in a pattern called 'Spring Forward" since we are all waiting anxiously for spring.  I have yet to receive round 4.  I expect it any day now.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More Snow, Then a Taste of Spring

Rowdy and Grover patiently wait while I boil sap.  Grover is not quite as patient as Rowdy.  Grover absolutely loves the Honda Pioneer.  He would be a great spokesdog for them.  If he even thinks we are going to go somewhere in it, he runs out to the barn and jumps in and waits.  Then he sits upright next to whoever is driving, with his nose pointed down the road and his ears streaming back in the wind.  Sometimes he even puts a front paw up on the gear shift.  Rowdy, as you can tell, is a little more laid back about the whole thing.

I don't know how, but somehow I have lost a whole week's worth of photos.  I know I downloaded them to our office computer last week, but I cannot find them anywhere.  And of course, I delete them from my camera as I download.  I usually go in every couple weeks and back everything up to a portable flash drive, but I had not yet done that.  It's weird and disturbing.  So this will be short on photographic content, which is sad because we had another good 4" snowfall of which I had photos.

So we had snow, then we had temps that dipped down to right at zero last Wednesday.  I must say we are all tired of that.  It was way too cold for sap to run, so our syrup production was nil.  Then, on Friday, the temperatures soared up into the 50's and the weekend was nice and spring-like.  Sap started to run and we ran a long boil-down and produced a little over 2 gallons and 1 quart of syrup from Friday into Sunday.  Yesterday, it was almost 60 and I collected 9 buckets of sap (or about 27 gallons).  Today I will check the sap when I get home and if we have more, which I am not sure of since it only got down to about 40 overnight and today it will be around 60 again, I will start the fire and get the 9 buckets into the evaporator and Sam will continue in the morning.  We can do this  with our new pan, which is nice.

While we have enjoyed wonderful springlike weather, tomorrow winter is scheduled to return and they are forecasting rain in the morning turning to snow in the afternoon and a 2" accumulation.  Have I mentioned I am OVER winter?  

 Last Thursday, before the weather got nice, Scott was out in the barn lot picking up the walnut logs he cut on our place to deliver to the buyer.  He has promised Sam that he will allow him to load a log or two before he is all done.  I will make sure I stand very far back!  

Scott cut several trees that are veneer quality and will go to a different buyer and bring much more money per log.

 The two with the orange marks are walnut veneer and the center log is actually a hickory that came down in a storm and we were hoping the buyer might like it for veneer, but he did not.  It will be sold, but just not for veneer.  Ax handles maybe.  Hickory is one of my personal favorite woods.  My kitchen cabinets are hickory and we have hickory flooring in our computer room.  That wood actually came from our farm and Sam made  and installed the flooring.  It is beautiful.

We decided some of the money from the sale of the timber should be put into the guest house since it really needs a lot of updating which equals a lot of money.  Mom replaced the roof on it in 2012, and the next big wish is to update the kitchen.  It has painted paneling and ancient linoleum that is nailed to the floor.   Sam started demolition on the paneling this past week, discovering that there was not a scrap of insulation in the exterior walls and that each piece of paneling was held on by 60 or so nails with wall board underneath.  

Sam has torn out all the interior walls now except the front wall, which will require cabinets and shelves and appliances to be moved.  

Mom and I shopped for ceramic tile over the weekend.  We love the look of natural slate, but were concerned with the maintenance of it in a kitchen, so we have chosen a tile that looks like slate but will be a more even  surface and won't need to be re-sealed every couple of years.  It will be a while before tile starts to go in.  Then of course, new cabinets, counters and more will be in order.

I am still knitting on the sweater I was working on in the last post.  I have also started to spin some fawn alpaca for the blanket project for which I still have a lot of spinning to do.  I washed the fleece last fall and have just gotten around to carding it on my drum carder in the last few weeks.  I need to get some photos for next week.  I also did my Round 2 socks in the Sock Round Robin.  My contribution is the grey speckled part.  Those are already in the hands of the next knitter and I received round number 3 in Saturday's mail and I plan to work on those the next day or two and send them on by the weekend.  I am really enjoying this.