Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eyes and Weeds and Travel, Among Other Things

We are still having timber harvested and this is a huge oak log that comes up to my hip at the widest point.  I know it is sad to see huge trees like this cut down, but it helps to manage the forest and allows younger trees to grow.  

I traveled to Michigan this past week to visit my aunt and my cousin.  I met my mother in Toledo and we also visited my niece (who is 8+ months pregnant) and her husband, which was very nice.  We left Mom's car with them, which cut out an extra 7 hours of driving for me (to Mom's and back).  Had a great time in the Leelanau Penninsula of Michigan, which is famous for the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and where my aunt and family have had a condo for about 20 years.   Our weather was mostly very cool and overcast, but we still had a lovely sunset or 2 from the deck.

Prior to leaving, just after our Tuesday night agility class, I let the dogs out around 10:30 as usual and Grover obviously tangled with a raccoon.  He lost a good bit of skin around his eye and also on the inside of his upper right front leg.  On first glance, it looked really nasty, but both injuries were only flesh wounds and now are healing up nicely.  But it did give me a fright when I first saw it!

 Then, on Thursday morning as I was doing my chores prior to my anticipated 1 pm departure for Michigan, I was horrified to see that my oldest alpaca, Chiquita, had sustained an eye injury sometime since I had fed her the previous day.  I was able to determine that something very sharp had gone completely through the eyelid and torn the lining of the upper lid.  It looked absolutely horrible and had drained all down the side of her face.  I called the vet, who was available to come right away (this never happens).  She put some green stain in the eye to see if there was damage to the eye, which was extremely little, just a slight scratch.  Then she injected a long-lasting antibiotic into the upper eyelid, which is much preferable to attempting to apply ointment several times a day (especially as I was leaving all this for Sam to deal with).
 As of this morning, the eyelid is still swollen as you can see (left eye) and you can see a big scab where the foreign object punctured the lid.  But I tell you. this looks 100 times better than it did a week ago!

In 15 years of raising alpacas, I will have to say that eye problems have been probably the most common injury.  It may have a lot to do with how large those eyes are and that they protrude a good bit.  The most common injuries have been scratches, most likely from a head being thrust into a pile of hay.  But I have had 2 alpacas who had to have an eye removed, one from what the vet determined was a blunt force trauma causing the iris to rupture, most likely from a kick from a pasturemate, and the other was a cria with some kind of nerve disorder that caused him to be unable to close that one eye.  I generally keep antibiotic opthalmic ointment on hand and can  medicate minor scratches without veterinary intervention, but this one of Chiquita's was not one of those.  I used to be really squeamish about eyes (and many other things), but I seem to have gotten over that.

So while I was away, the weeds crept in and took over my garden.  Seriously, it rained a lot while I was away.  My rain gauge had almost 4" in it, but I don't know how long ago I last emptied it, probably a couple weeks ago.  But that is still a lot of rain!  My little herb garden is doing well, though I accidently pulled up my oregano while weeding.  I have basil, parsley, cilantro, thyme and 1 tomato plant and all are doing quite well.

Remember I re-planted my corn and it is coming up, but something is eating it from underground.  There are long tunnels right along the rows and there is no corn coming up over those tunnels.  But there is still some corn coming up.  It is hard to see since I have not yet been able to weed it, but it is there!

And my buckwheat is beginning to bloom.  It is also about 18" tall now!  According to my internet research, the buckweat should continue to bloom all summer, providing nectar for the bees.  It does say the nectar is only available in the morning, so bees might be grumpy if I open the hive in the afternoon.  Interesting.

 The blooms are not yet open.  Here is a close up.

Another plant the bees love is getting ready to bloom in the same field.  I was once told it was called orange butterfly weed, so that is what I call it and it is very orange.  I think it is lovely.

Its blooms are not yet open either, but very soon.  There was quite a lot of this, but it was growing where we tilled for the buckwheat, so I'm not sure how much there will be this summer.

I started a new knitting project before I left for Michigan because I figured I needed something that required no real thought and concentration.  This scarf/shawl was just the thing.  It is hard to see but there is sparkle in that green and purple yarn.  I love it!  The pattern is called Trillian   and is a long narrow triangle with and eyelet pattern on 2 sides.  Very easy mindless car knitting.

I can also post some of my secret knitting because most of it was for my niece's baby and I gave her the gifts this past week.  So here is a little sweater I made for him out of machine washable fine wool.

And the baby blanket I made from a cotton acrylic blend, also machine washable.  Important with baby items.


And finally, a shot of Lake Michigan from Pierce Stocking National Park Scenic Drive


Monday, June 16, 2014

Long Summer Days

Pretty cute aren't they?  They are getting big.  It's so nice that there are 2 of them.  All young animals need someone their own age to play with!

My week last week was kind of off kilter, so I didn't get around to posting.  My husband and his dad attend an auction together the second Tuesday of each month, which means I go in to our office on Tuesday instead of Thursday that week and it throws off my timing sometimes.  That's my excuse anyway.

The sky is light now until after 9 pm, even down here in the hollow and I love it.  Though I do get tired because we don't even sit down to eat dinner until at least 8 o'clock these days.  Sam likes to get in some time on tractor even after work and our dog walk doesn't usually occur until at least 6 pm, sometimes later (it's cooler then anyway).  There is so much mowing to do when you have 200 acres, even when most of it is trees.  If you don't keep it mowed, the fields and trails you do have open will become overgrown with weeds and sumac and multi-flora roses in no time.
On Wednesday, Rowdy went with me to the office and on the way back from getting him a laser treatment on his bad knee, we stopped at a local Amish farm and acquired some wonderful strawberries.

So that means on Thursday (since I wasn't at the office)  I spent most of the day canning 2 batches of jam and made 2 wonderful pies, one of which went with me to my spinning guild meeting that night.  Sam and I ate the other one.

I've been trying to be more diligent about my garden work.  We do not use round up or any other herbicides on our garden.  I just don't think it is healthy, so weeds occur and must be pulled or hoed by hand.  Last time I posted I said that I had had trouble with some of my seeds not coming up, so this week I acquired more seeds and replanted corn and squash and also planted some pumpkins.  My second row of lettuce is coming up, the beets are doing great, as are the tomatoes and I have some pepper plants, which something is eating.


 So for right now, I have the weeds about under control, but I am leaving on Thursday to go to Michigan with my mom and visit my aunt and my cousin, so I am sure I will have my work cut out for me when I return.

My bees seem to be doing well.  I was in the hive yesterday and while I did not see the queen, her handiwork was evident in lots of brood (little baby bee larvae in various stages).  The buckwheat is growing well and will hopefully provide a nectar flow for the bees in a few more weeks.  

 The flooring in the guest house kitchen is done!  I sealed the grout on Saturday.  We plan to go pick up some baseboard materials later today and once everything is trimmed out, it will be ready for cabinetry.  It is looking really good. 

Grover and I continue to enjoy agility classes and are into our second 8 week session.  The instructor complimented us on how well he is doing last week.  I guess our short practice sessions every day help.  Sometimes several times a day.  Here is what my yard looks like these days (until Sam mows).  I have 3 jumps I made and 4 poles for learning weaving.  Not the kind of weaving I usually do.

Remember the Sock Circle I was involved in?  I finally got my completed socks back!  Aren't they cool?  I love the colors.  So I knit the toes and then mailed them off and 6 other knitters each added about 2" of knitting to each sock and I knit on socks for them.  It was fun.  I think I would do it again.  

And then there was my hand-knit beaded  lace shawl that I finished in April.  It is so pretty and I  just love it, but I gave it away.  I gave it to my sister-in-law, Jill last weekend.  She and my brother and their 3 kids just moved to Phoenix AZ and I visited them just before they left.  I decided Jill would have more opportunity to wear the shawl like it should be worn than I will.  I have had a hard time with their leaving Ohio because now I have both my sons in Portland and my youngest niece and nephews in Arizona and I won't get to spend much time with any of them.  But sometimes change has to come and I know it was time for them to make a big change. 

 I did cast something on for myself on Mother's Day.  It is called the Hitofude Cardigan  and is an open front lace sweater in very fine yarn that will be great for cool summer evenings or air-conditioned places.  In purple of course.  I bought several skeins of this yarn last year and just keep using it.  This is going very slowly right now due to all the other knitting I have been trying to get done.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Must Be Summer, It's Hay Time

Grover actually posed very nicely for me in front of John's irises while they were in full bloom.  Handsome boy!

This past weekend was hay time.  First cutting hay, which we do not feed to the alpacas.  They eat second cutting, which is less stemmy and generally yields less hay per acre weight-wise, because it does not grow as tall.  But if you don't make first cutting hay, you do not get second cutting hay.  Since my horse is gone, we prefer to sell the first cutting and even better is if someone buys it out of the field, which  means they come with their truck and trailer and load it and haul it off without us ever having to stack it in the barn.  It's a good deal for everyone, since we sell it at a discounted price.  And this is what we did.  

Sam mowed the hay on Friday while I was at the office, so you don't get to see the big green tractor.  The hay needs to dry in the sunshine before baling.  Hay that does not get to dry enough prior to baling has a tendency to mold and is not suitable for feeding.  It can also ferment, which creates heat inside the tightly packed bales, and I understand this has been the cause of more than one barn fire.  So if any bales are not entirely dry, they need to be stored where air can get to them, not stacked tightly.    On Saturday, Sam "teds" the hay, which is a process using a machine behind that tractor that kind of stirs up and flips the hay over, allowing for more timely drying.  I don't have a photo of this either......

Then, prior to baling on Sunday, the rake goes onto the tractor and the hay is raked

into windrows, 


ready for the baler to come along and scoop it up and pack it into bales

You may notice that most of our equipment looks rather old and well-used.  The only new piece of equipment we have is that Kubota tractor, which was new 12 years or so ago.  Everything else has come from an auction.  Sam keeps it all in the best condition he can because new farm equipment is incredibly expensive.  Our baler makes square bales (which are actually more rectangular) as opposed to the huge round bales many farmers make.  We have discussed acquiring a round baler, and we may one of these days, but it is a minimum of about $3K.  Ya gotta make alotta hay to pay that sucker off!

My garden is not doing as well as I would like.  A) I have not had as much time to weed as I would like and we've had rain, so there ARE weeds, and B) I purchased seeds at a local feed store and a lot of it is simply not coming up.  I planted a whole row of Romaine lettuce and none of it came up.  I have planted 3 rows of corn and I am only finding a few lonely corn plants emerging.  I planted 5 hills of butternut squash (about 6 seeds to a hill) and I can find only 3 plants.  3.  Not 3 per hill.  3.  So I think I better go get some more seed and re-plant.  The seeds are dated for this year, so I don't know what the problem is.  They were marked as organic.  Who knows.  My beets are doing great and ready to be seriously thinned.  We have had salads from our Mesclun blend (with beet tops added in) and I have planted more of that.


On the other hand, I was delighted to find this morning that the buckwheat I sowed 9 days ago is coming up gloriously!  Hopefully this will be a nice nectar supply for the bees in just a few weeks.

I am also happy to report that the 2 crias are thriving and are a joy to watch romp around the pasture with each other.  In the photo below, the little black cria has just been spit at by Auntie Miracle for some alpaca infraction.  Kids of all species need to be taught their manners.

Sam has finished laying the tile in the guest house and it looks wonderful.  It has yet to be grouted, so I will wait and post a photo when the grouting is done.  He also installed a new side door, which was desperately needed.  I still need to get a second coat of paint on the trim, but hay making got in the way and then it rained.

Grover and I are having fun with our agility training.  I wish I had some photos to share, but I just can't take pictures while dog-handling.  My hands are busy with treats and giving direction.  Some day maybe I will get Sam to come to class with me and maybe he can get some photos.

All my knitting is still secret knitting that I don't want to post on here yet.  Soon.

Look how patiently my boys are waiting to go somewhere.  Anywhere.  This is how they always sit.  Grover has to be in the center and once we get moving he stands up and puts his front paws on the dashboard and does his best imitation of a hood ornament, or as Sam said, just like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic:  He's the king of his world!