Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mending Fences, Spring Break, and More

Life has been crazy, but in a good way.  I did not post last week as I had a houseful of family all week, but let me back up and start with the weekend prior to that.

Grover and I ran in our first 5K together.  It was a benefit for a local shelter for dogs, cats, etc.  There were a lot of dogs there and we really had fun.  I talked to so many people who were intrigued by Grover's looks and mesmerizing eyes.  And we did fabulous in the race, coming in third in my age category (out of 14) in 30:03.  This was a great time considering Grover took a poop break at about 1.4 miles which I stopped to bag!  Here we are at the finish line.  We have another 5K in about 3 1/2 weeks.  We need to get under the 30 minute mark this time, Grover!

Then family arrived.  First my mother with my niece and nephew in tow.  She was only able to stay a couple days, but she and I managed to get the kitchen walls painted in her house.  Next comes the flooring.   

The same day my mother left (leaving niece and nephew), my brother, his wife and their youngest child arrived along with their 2 dogs.  For the next 3 days, the weather was perfect and everyone had a wonderful time.  There was dirt- and mini-bike riding, dog walking, dogs swimming in the pond, shooting, eating, drinking and just a darn good time.  It was so hard to see them all leave on Saturday to go back home to western Ohio.  They are going to be leaving Ohio and embarking on a new life in Phoenix, AZ once the kids are done with school, so this was a very special time for all of us.

And since they left, things have been back to "normal".  On Monday, I used the tractor to scoop out one side of the overhang on the alpaca barn.  There was a good 2 or 3 years worth of build up in there, mostly hay, but some poop as well.  It was packed about 2' deep.  I still have the other side to do, but I will have to tear down some fencing to get to it.  You can see in the photo where Buck and Star are in the cleaned out side and to the left, the side that still needs scooped.  I can't believe how deep it was!

I also started some fence mending on Monday.  We have a creek that runs through our property.  A lot of our pastures border this creek, which means we have had to build fences on a creek bank.  We always leave a good 2 or 3 feet between the fence and the creek, to facilitate weed removal, etc.  Each year, that space gets narrower and narrower as the creek banks erode.  This is how my fence looked in one of our pastures that has no animals in it currently.  6 posts were literally laying in the water.  I had to hook a logging chain to one of the posts and pull the whole fence up onto the bank with the tractor.  So then I dug 5 new post holes and re-set the posts, discarding the old fencing as it needed to be replaced anyway.  In this same pasture (where the fence was in need of replacing because it was cheap fence and it lasted its 12 years), a deer was run into the fence last week by a predator of some kind, and tore loose 2 sections of fencing.  So yesterday, I tore down the rest of the old fencing and all the fence on that side of the field will be replaced. The deer was killed, by the way, and mostly consumed by the time we found it.

And while I was working on repairing fences, the alpacas were enjoying the day in true alpaca fashion.... sunbathing.  It is about time to start getting the fiber off these critters.  Possibly this weekend.

 As far as fiber-y stuff goes, I did not get a lot accomplished while I had a house full of people and dogs.  I did finish up the next round of the traveling socks, however, once everyone left.  I have to say I think these are the prettiest ones I have had to work on.  I did do a little spinning on the back deck on Sunday afternoon as well.

I will close with a few photos I have taken around the farm in the past couple of weeks.

These 3 are part of the old oil well pumping station that is up on a high point on the farm.  These 2 pieces are about 15' apart and they used to work together to pump several wells.  
There are pieces of old belts and lots of old heavy duty cable that ran from this machinery to each well. The big link in this chain is about a foot long. I don't think nature will ever be able to quite reclaim all of this.

 I love that this fence post has a heart on it.

And I love how this walnut firewood, which is left from the timber we had harvested in February, looks all in a stack next to the house. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring Has Sprung!

Morning pasture
Yes, it seems to finally be here.  It has been good outdoor weather most of the week, though a little cooler than last week and we have had some rain.  The rain, followed by the sunshine, just makes the green pop out everywhere.  I love it.  Unfortunately the first things that leaf out and turn green are the multi-flora roses.  They are an introduced species, I believe originally brought in to be used as natural fencing.  Which they are good at.  But they are very invasive and will take over a hayfield, creeping in slowly from the edges. They can get very large and formidable.  They grow long whip-like branches with thorns that are quite painful. 
We spend a lot of time trying to eradicate them.  They seem to have a life of their own and as I cut one part, another long whip will attack or stick to my clothing.  This is work best done in winter when one can wear heavy coveralls.  In a few weeks, the roses will bloom briefly all over the woods and give off a lovely fragrance.  Its not worth it.

Another pest however departs the first week of April.  At least they depart from my house and move back outside where they belong.  This would be the dreaded Asian Ladybug  which I have been vacuuming up by the thousands from my walls, windows and floors since they moved in in October.  I am glad to see the end of them.  I can now sit in bed once again and read with a light on without being dive bombed.  Have I mentioned I hate them?  And whoever introduced them to the US....

My herb garden is ready for new plants.  I have some herbs started in a little tray on my kitchen windowsill.  

 I have run the tiller in the garden and plan to plant some lettuce and maybe some beets tomorrow.  I can hardly wait to have fresh lettuce for salads!

 This bucket is hanging in the male alpacas' building.  Can you see where a little wren has made a nest in it?  Under where the green baling twine is?  There are eggs in there and mama bird flies out every time I come to feed the boys.  This bucket was used when the water trough froze this winter.  It is a heated bucket when plugged in.  I'm not sure this is the smartest place to have a nest!


 See the bucket?  It is a nice dry spot, but easily bumped.  I guess I cannot yet put it away for the summer......

Work continues on the kitchen.  Sam finished the drywall and I primered the walls and re-painted the ceiling.  Mom plans to come next week and we will paint and then it will be time to do the tile flooring.

Grover and I have had 2 agility classes now.  The second one was more fun than the first.  I know I had fun and I think he did as well.  He and I will be running in a 5K this Saturday morning.  Looking forward to that!

No new fiber-y stuff this week.  Too much outdoor time.  Here are some photos of my world this morning!

A low flying plane  got the dogs' attention       

I love this willow tree behind my neighbor's barn.  It is starting to turn yellow green with new buds. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's The New Year

Grover is a handsome fellow!
Since living on the farm, I have always felt April 1st is like the beginning of the New Year.  Winter is hopefully behind us and it is time to be outside instead of curled on the couch next to the woodburner with spinning or knitting or a good book.  

So spring prep is under way.  I have bees arriving in less than 2 weeks, so I need to get my boxes and frames ready for that.  I hope to get the garden tilled  up when we get a dry day.  Lettuce can be planted in a week or two.   I belatedly sent all my combs and cutters for the alpaca shears out (I usually do that at then end of shearing and I just forgot) for sharpening.  Shearing season is near.  We have mountains of poop to spread on the hayfield.  I expect we will have 2 crias born to first time mothers sometime in May.  I have yarn to dye for the Great Lakes Fiber Show, which is at the end of May.  Oh, and Grover and I have just started a beginning agility class!  We've only had one class, so more on that later on. I have also registered for 2 5Ks in the next 6 weeks, which Grover will run with me. This is a great time of year.

 The tail end of March seemed to bring spring in with it.  We have had some lovely weather in the last week, though it has been rainy the last 2 days.  That is to be expected in spring.  It is guaranteeing that when we do get some sunshine and warmth again, everything will burst into color.   The alpacas were happy to spend a couple days enjoying the sunshine on a fresh pasture.  I only give them a day or two at a time on pastures this time of year.  Can you see the hints of green?

I did some dyeing this week.  I have some alpaca/wool blend yarn that I got back from MorningStar Fiber Mill in February and I have to admit, I plan to knit myself a sweater from it.  I do not have a lot, only 23 skeins of it.  My sweater will likely use 5 of those.  I experimented with immersion dyeing the skeins and then splattering them with other colors once they were dyed.  The results were not as colorful as I wanted, the purples are very subtle and I had hoped they would pop a bit more on the blue.  The greens are more visible.  But this was a test run and I think it will make a lovely sweater for me.  I have the rest of this yarn to dye as well as 48 or so skeins of 100% alpaca.  I need to find 2 or 3 really nice wool fleeces this year because I want to do more of the alpaca/wool blend yarn.  I think it has more practical uses.  

Here is round 4 of the Sock Circle.  I used a variegated green yarn and a free pattern on Ravelry called "Shamrock Sock" in honor of St Patrick's day.  I am considering knitting these socks for myself in the same yarn.  Cuz I have so much free time in the spring and summer. Right.

I also finished up my  Montana Tunic 

Or I should say almost finished. I need to weave in yarn ends and wash and block and sew on buttons.  It has been a long time in the knitting.  I had to buy another skein of yarn.  It used a good bit more yarn than the pattern called for.  I don't usually have that problem.  

Check out the buttons I made for it:

These are cut from a deer antler "shed"  We like to collect the antlers that the bucks shed in January and I chose one I thought I could get good buttons from and went at it with a hack saw.  There has to be an easier way!  It was also hard to get the darn thing in the bench vise I used to hold it while sawing.  And then it was difficult to hold the buttons to drill the holes.  I'd like to make more of these, but I have to find better tools.  These are about 1" in diameter.  I'm quite pleased with them.

Work continues on the kitchen in the guest house.  Sam says it will be ready for me to paint by this weekend.  The ceiling needs painted since when the new roof was put on there were a couple accidents with things going through the kitchen ceiling and those have been patched.  I will only be putting primer on the walls as Mom wants to paint it the same color the paneling was painted prior to the demolition.  She will be here in about 10 days and we will be discussing cabinets, etc.  But the floor tile has to go in first.  That won't be done before Mom visits!