Friday, May 30, 2014

They're Here!

It's that time of year again, a time when a dog just needs a cool place to lay down for a few minutes.

As I wrote last week, I was awaiting the arrival of 2 alpaca crias, the arrival (or not) of which  would determine whether I would be able to attend the Great Lakes Fiber Show, since Sam was out of town.  I was planning to leave mid-day on Friday for the show and when I went out to the maternity pasture on Wednesday morning around 6:40 am, this is what I found.  Hooray!  An unassisted birth of a healthy female cria.  She was still flat on the ground with the fetal membranes intact when I discovered her, so I missed the event by only minutes.  Within 2 hours, she was up, nursing and running around and I was able to leave for the office by 10 am confident that all was well.......yet still hoping for cria #2.  My greatest hope at this point was that cria #2 would arrive by Thursday evening, or at the very latest early on Friday morning.  Alas, this was not to be.

Friday dawned and no cria.  I had left a message for my friend Tari on Thursday evening saying I was likely not going to make it to the show and for her to go ahead without me. She and I had discussed this on Tuesday.  Being a sheep and goat farmer herself, she was more than understanding.  So I did my normal chores and prepared to go to the office on Friday, all the while hoping for a cria to arrive and allow me to keep my plans to attend the festival.  It did not happen.  So I went to the office instead.

To make a long story short, after coming home from the office on Friday evening and seeing 3 adult alpacas and 1 cria in the pasture as usual, I began doing things around the house.  An hour or so after I arrived home, I chanced to look out to the pasture, and beheld a second cria!  Of course I dropped what I was doing and went to see what was going on.  The cria was up, dry and attempting to nurse.  The placenta was nearby and looked fairly fresh, so I determined the cria was probably about 2 hours old.  She had likely been laying flat in the long grass when I drove by and did a visual assessment of her mother an hour or so earlier.  So, both crias arrived, but not in time for me to go to the festival.  I had already cancelled my dog sitter and besides, there was a lot of work to do around the farm anyway.  

Here is Tempest's cria at 2 days old


And Dulci's cria at 6 days old

Both crias were sired by Opus One, or Opi, who is a rose grey color.  Neither one really takes after daddy, do they?  Grey is hard to breed for.


But I got 2 happy, Hoppy-Skippy crias and that's what matters.  They are enjoying each other, racing around the pasture, kicking up their heels.  Both mothers are wonderful, protective and patient.  There will be other fiber festivals.

So I spent a lot of time Saturday and also Sunday working in the garden. I weeded and got all my tomatoes and peppers and squash and herbs plantedThen it rained this week and I must weed again.  On Sunday I also opened up the bee hive for an inspection and found a lot of capped brood in the bottom box and saw the queen in the top box.  This weekend I will put a third box on the hive as they seem to be using the space they have to its potential.  Another thing I did this week, speaking of bees, is sow some buckwheat in 2 plots Sam had tilled up for me for this purpose.  Buckwheat is a good ground cover that will bloom hopefully mid-summer and provide a nectar flow for the bees at that time.  They will make a dark honey from it.  I hope it works.

Sam arrived home very early Sunday morning and we now have a freezer full of pike and walleye.  I love fish, so that is wonderful.  We will be having some walleye tonight.  Sam spent the first couple days home at the office and then on Wednesday he worked on laying tile in the guest house kitchen.  I think about 75 to 80% of the tile is laid but as he said, he is down to where there is a lot of cutting involved, but he hopes to finish up this coming week.  I think it is looking great.

The weather forecast for this weekend is about as nice as one could wish for, especially when one needs to make hay, so that is what we will be doing.  Sam is home mowing today and we hope to get everything baled on Sunday.  The highs are supposed to be around 80 with plenty of sunshine and low humidity, which is about perfect.

I have no new knitting, spinning or weaving I can show off this week, so here are a couple photos from evening on the farm.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Running & Weaving & Dyeing & Waiting

My trusty running partner, Grover, and I ran the Rails to Trails 5K in Barnesville, Ohio this past Saturday in chilly 40 degree temperatures.  We did very well, in my opinion.  Though the official results have not yet been posted with times, we beat our last 5K run by over a minute and got 2nd in our age category.  The photographer actually got a lot of good shots of us.  It is much easier to find my photos among all the others if I just look for Grover.  He did NOT stop to poop this time!

Sam is off fishing in Canada and I am going crazy with so much stuff to do this time of year.  Why did I say he could go?  Saturday was the race and I also had a real estate appointment in the afternoon.  Sunday was gorgeous and I spent most of the day (after worming all the alpacas) working in the garden.  I weeded the lettuce and beets and I planted corn and lots of tomato plants.  I still have more to plant, tomatoes, peppers, squash and I have no idea when that will get done.  I also had to check on the bees Sunday afternoon and am happy to report that I saw lots of little bee larvae and saw the queen and the bees were very docile and busy bringing in pollen and nectar.  

I am at the office all week while Sam is away and I have some rugs about finished on the loom that I am working on between phone calls and appointments.  This is a new to me method where I use the warp to determine the color shading of the rug.  I am using all white alpaca yarn and the warp is brown and white and it is making a pattern, which will be reversed on the other side of the rug.  I did the first of the two rugs using brown yarn.  Warping challenged me, but I am enjoying the weaving and eager to see the final result.

Since I last wrote, I have also dyed 3 more batches of yarn.  I still have a couple batches worth to dye, but I am just not going to get to it this week.  Ain't happenin'.  I am pretty pleased with what I did. This is 100% alpaca and I have dyed this colorway before.  I call it John's Iris because the color is so reminiscent of the blooms on the irises that are actually in the background of these yarn photos, though they have yet to bloom this year.  The iris was given to me a few years ago by my brother's best friend, John, who died in a tragic accident about 3 months later.  Love this deep purple tonal.

Then I dyed some of my alpaca/wool blend.  I was going for kind of a camo look and I had to overdye it because I was not happy with the first result, so I tied a couple knots in each skein to prevent dye take-up (kind of like Tie-dyeing) and immersed the skeins in a dark green dye bath.  I am pleased with the final outcome.

And for the last batch I stepped out of my personal color comfort zone and went for bright and happy.  I think I got it.  It makes me think of spring crocuses and sunshine.  This is also 100% alpaca.

 And now for the waiting.......I am supposed to leave Friday for the Great Lakes Fiber Show with my friend Tari.  That is why I have been dyeing yarn like crazy.  B  U  T, I have 2 alpacas who are not being cooperative in giving birth to their first crias.  I know I do know better.  I know that spring crias in particular can take as long as a full year to arrive, but may arrive in only 11 months.  In other words, cria births cannot be predicted by any calendar.    I have been doing this for 15 years after all.  I have had a 370 day gestation and I have had a somewhat successful 302 day gestation (this did require intensive care at Ohio State's Veterinary Hospital). If these crias are not here and doing well by Friday morning, I will not be going to the fiber show.  I have someone coming to stay at the farm and take care of the dogs and feed everyone, but I cannot in good conscious expect her to attend to the (possible) births of crias.  I may stay home from the festival and the crias may not arrive for another week to ten days.  Fortunately Tari is a farmer who has sheep and dairy goats and she understands the unpredictability of birthing.  Cross your fingers for me that I will have babies on the ground in 48 hours.  I really wanna go have fun this weekend!

I finished the last 2" of the last pair of socks in the sock circle.  I mailed these off to the originating knitter last Friday and I expect I will get my own socks back shortly. I can hardly wait to see how they look (and fit!).

Ok, I will sign off with something that is so bizarre it is cool.  This is how they have been trimming trees on power right of ways around here.  

That is a helicopter with saw blades hanging underneath!  Kind of lends a new meaning to the term "chopper" doesn't it?  I wonder if you need to be good at video games to sit in a helicopter and cut tree branches?



Thursday, May 8, 2014

Shearing & Bees & Beautiful Things......

Life has been busy this week, but not so busy as to make me ignore the beauty that spring brings.  I do find beauty in all seasons and I don't think I would be happy living where we did not see an obvious change.  Grover is posed on a moss covered rock and behind him is a rock wall and the face of it is covered with wild trillium.  

On the same walk, we waded through acres of these beautiful tiny blue and white wildflowers.  It almost looked like it had snowed.  Incredible.

On Saturday and Sunday, Sam and I got started shearing our 21 alpacas.  By end of day Sunday, we had only 6 to go.  We still have 6 to go.  Possibly tomorrow evening we will knock those 6 out and be done.    Saturday we sheared everyone I wanted to move to other fields.  We now have 4 older girls down the road across from the guest house.  Left to right we have Peg, who will be 15 in June and came to us as a weanling, Chiquita Margarita, who is 15 and also came to us as a weanling.  She was one of the first 3 alpacas we purchased.  And Tunita.  I believe she is 12 and we have had her about 10 years.  Peg and Chiquita are retired and will live out their lives here.  Tunita could still have a cria or two if someone would like to buy her.  We also moved 3 females to the garage pasture on Saturday.  Two of them are pregnant and showing signs of delivering soon.  Both are over 11 months along and they could deliver today or wait another 3 weeks.  Alpacas are so unpredictable in that respect.  I am hoping for happy hoppy skippy babies, as last fall's losses were devasting to me.

Here are our 4 males: Eclipse, Opi & Bodhi, (Lightning is hiding) in the barn awaiting their turn on the shearing table on Sunday.  I brought them down the road 1/4 mile from their pasture and shut them in and vacuumed them off.  


Here they are with me post shearing, preparing to go back down the road to their pasture.  On the left is Bodhi, who is now 15.  He has been with us since he was a yearling.  Eclipse was born here and has his butt to the camera, Opi is the youngest (grey) and Lightning is again hiding (behind me)

And here we go.  They don't seem too eager to leave the land of females for their bachelor digs down the road.    As you can see, we will need to be doing some mowing soon.  My horse used to keep all this grass pretty short.  He is missed.

 On Monday I picked up my 3 pound package of bees, but I waited until Tuesday to install them in the hive.  The weather was much warmer and nicer.  The box to the left is the package the bees come in.  It is screened on 2 sides and has a round hole in the top for a feeder can of sugar syrup.  You can see many bees on top of this box as it is difficult to make sure every bee gets shaken into the hive.  I leave the package box sitting next to the hive and the bees usually all move inside by the next morning.  I hope this hive thrives and we do not have as cold a winter as this past one.  I won't be getting much of a honey harvest this year, if I get any.  The bees need to build up their colony.

 Another beautiful thing:  asparagus!  What a treat.  Right from the asparagus patch to the steamer and the table.  I think I need to put in more plants.  My asparagus bed just does not seem to be spreading like I thought it would.  We eat it as fast as it grows.

I think this is pretty beautiful also.  This is a 5 skein batch of my alpaca/wool blend yarn that I dyed this week.  I am so happy with it.  I want to knit a sweater using this yarn, but I had already dyed some for that purpose.  I may have to change to this color.  I like it better.  We'll see.  Memorial Day weekend and the Great Lakes Fiber Show are going to be here before I know it and I still have a lot of yarn to dye.  I may not get it all doneBut that's ok.  There is A Wool Gathering to look forward to in September.

Here is round 6 of the Traveling Sock Round Robin.  I should be receiving round 7 in the mail any day now and that will be the last round.  I will finish those socks and mail them to their owner. The toes I knit in January and mailed out will come back to me with the rest of each sock completed by 7 knitters all over the US.  This has been so much fun.

One of my very favorite things  is being able to eat outside on our deck.  Sam and I manage to sit down to our evening meal together just about every day and have done so since we were first married.  It was always important to us to have that time as a family.  We still do it when we all get together and I treasure those times.  Even when it is just us two.


Friday, May 2, 2014

April's Showers Have Colored Everything Green!

I love seeing my neighbor's cows up on this hilltop
Everything is incredibly, vibrantly green.  The woods are carpeted in green once again and the wildflowers are everywhere.  I am amazed when I walk at how green everything really is.  Now if it would just warm up a bit.....

Other signs of spring include asparagus coming up in the asparagus bed, millions of little tadpoles along the shore of the pond, hostas coming up in the flower beds and my tulips in full bloom.  In my garden, the lettuce and beets I planted a couple weeks ago are also popping up and I can hardly wait to have fresh salad greens.  I confess I have already tested a couple stalks of asparagus straight from the garden.  Can't let those first ones wait around for more to be ready to pick or they'll be beyond their prime!

Our plans of getting alpacas shorn early this year have not materialized.  The weather has been too rainy.  And wet alpacas simply cannot be shorn.  So we are waiting to start.  I did prepare the barn this morning for shearing.  Most of the dividers in our barn are moveable so we can rearrange space to suit whatever our needs may be, so I moved panels away from the built in shearing table so that we can walk around it, which we need to be able to do.  It gives the alpacas a bit less indoor space, but they really don't need it this time of year.  I hope to get started on that chore this weekend.  We have 21 to shear, 2 of which are due to have crias imminently.


I have gotten 3 batches of yarn dyed in the last week.  This is some of my 100% alpaca 2-ply sport weight yarn.

 These 3 are all "colorways" I have dyed previously and have sold well at festivals.  I keep good notes so I can come close to reproducing a color I like.  But there is always some variation.  Each one of these batches is 8 skeins of 300 yards each.  I still have 3 more batches of this yarn to dye and I am not sure what colors I will use.  I will likely try something newI also have about 20 skeins of an alpaca/wool blend to dye and I will probably do that in 5 skein batches.

Grover and I had a great time at our agility class this week.  We got to put a couple obstacles together and let him run it as fast as he could.  He really got into it and was quite revved up.  I think he likes it.  I have to put a couple jumps together here at home so we can practice.  Grover is not the only one who has things to learn.  

 Work continues on the kitchen down the road.  Sam has really been working hard.  He has jacked up the floor a bit and used some leveler  and has installed the backing board for the tile, which we picked up at Home Depot this week.  You can kind of see what it will look like.  I think it will look great.  We also purchased a new side entry door, as the one that is on the house has never been very functional.  A good wind would blow it open if it was not wedged shut with a screw in the jamb.  And Sam had a horse blanket in front of it all winter to keep out as much of the draft as possible.  I even got someone to come and pick up the old sink and haul it away and they gave me $30.  Pretty good deal if ya ask me!


Sam also put up new fence to replace the old fencing I tore down.  He is so handy to have around.  So whenever we get some of the older girls shorn, they will be moved down the road onto really lush pasture.  And I won't have to worry about them falling into the creek.

Meanwhile, the fracking (hydraulic fracturing) continues on the well site above our hayfield.  This shot is from our alpaca field at the main barn and shows our neighbor's house and the red beyond is the run in shed across the road from the guest house.  Amazingly, they seem to take Sundays off, but otherwise the noise reminds me of diesel engines idling in European train stations.  Rome. Constantly.  And that's how it sounds at my house, 1/2 a mile away.  I can't imagine what it sounds like up on the well site.

So I finished the shawl I have been working on.  It took me most of a week to do the bind-off (last row) alone, but it is SO worth it. It is spectacular.  I love it.  I need to get some photos of it being worn.  I don't think of myself as a girly-girl, but I sure do love lace and beads around my shoulders.  Now if only I had someplace to wear it.  

I have now started knitting some baby items.  I knit a baby blanket once about 8 years ago, but have not knit anything other than booties since then.  I have a couple babies to knit for right now and am making some fun things that I won't post about here, just in case.  But that will be the majority of my knitting for now.  Well I also have the last couple rounds of the traveling socks to work on and I will probably start a summer lacy sweater.  I'm also warping up my loom at the office for some rugs using a new to me pattern.  Time, I need more time........

This is Grand Design posing for me in the morning a few days ago.