Thursday, March 26, 2015

Must Be Spring......

Because dogs are in the pond.

And finally, the spring peepers are peeping!  Last night around 6 pm I walked up past a little cat-tail filled frog pond which is on the hill above the house, and can be heard from the house.  Up close to it, the sound was almost deafening!  SO many peepers, peeping their little hearts out.  Celebrating spring, peeper fashion.

I have also seen some tiny yellow wildflowers along the side of the road, and we've had a couple days in the 60's.  And 60 degrees is enough for dogs to want to swim. 

Otherwise, we are kind of in a holding pattern around here.  Just waiting for the weather to be warm enough to start the outside spring work.  We have garden planting, alpaca shearing, bee preparation, yarn dyeing, and possibly a couple new crias to watch for.  As well as cleaning up the yard and around the house and the rest of our daily chores.  I still have to finish cleaning the maple syrup stuff:  the pan and the bucket lids are on the back deck waiting for it to be warm enough on a day I am home to get outside and scrub them.  Waiting, patiently waiting.......

 Meanwhile, I am knitting on a sweater.  It won't be done in time to wear this year, I hope.  

And I finished the towels I took off my small loom well over a month ago.  I had sewing machine issues and had to order a new part. I have kept a couple of these for myself and the other 2 are for sale in the gift shop at the Monroe Arts Center.

My mathematical skills (or lack thereof) failed me on my rugs.  I finished up rug #1 and realized there is not enough warp left to weave another rug.  I am more than a bit irritated with myself.  But I will use some of the plentiful scraps of rug yarn I have and just make a chair pad or dog crate pad or something.  What makes me even more nervous about this is that I am starting a project on my small loom for which I am totally "winging" the pattern and I hope my calculations will be better.  I am always learning.

The Monroe Artist's April Art Show starts next week and I plan to enter a rug and a shawl into the textiles category.  Then they are having a photography show in May and I am entering a few photos in that as well.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is it Spring Yet? Is it Spring Yet?

Well the snow is gone (for good?  We can hope) and the agility toys have come out of the building and are set up.  A sure sign of spring!  That and the roller coaster of temperatures.  We had 70 degrees on Monday afternoon and 17 degrees Tuesday morning.  Our forecast for the weekend calls for mid-50's to 60's (Saturday) and around freezing overnight.  March it is.

We ran another batch of syrup on Saturday and our total of finished syrup for the season is just around 4 gallons.  I have a gallon put away for our use and have sold another 5 quarts already.  I still have a couple quarts and several pints to sell.  Sam pulled the taps on Sunday, the 15th and I was grateful for warm temps on Monday because I scrubbed out 40 buckets and cleaned 39 taps with tubing to store away until next year.  The sap pan has not been brought down for cleaning yet.  We had a decent yield considering the late start.

I acquired a couple new items for my home agility course.  You may have noted the yellow tunnel in the top photo.  I was trying to get the boys to pose inside it, but no luck.  My other acquisition was a full set of weave poles, which you can see in this photo.  There are 12 and they do not need to be driven into the ground!  The base is 2 flat metal pieces with pegs that the poles sit on and I can pick them up and move them in a matter on a minute or 2, instead of the way I had to do it when I had poles that had to go into the ground.  So currently my equipment consists of weave poles, 2 tunnels, a teeter, a tire jump and 4 single jumps.  I plan to build a double jump next, I think.  

Another new acquisition is for the farm.  Sam purchased a round baler yesterday.  We have a neighbor who used to put in the first cutting of hay on our big hayfield in round bales and he kept those for his cattle and helped us out with mowing for our second cutting, which we put up in small square bales for the alpacas.  Last year he had some personal issues which kept him from getting to our hayfield for quite a while which affected our second cutting yield, and we decided we probably needed to bale and sell the first cutting ourselves.  Sam found a baler locally on Craig's List and now it is in our field. 

 We will need our big Deutz tractor to run this baler.  It's too much for our little Kubota.  Here's my very favorite part of this baler so far:  

Maybe I should not find this funny, but really, look at those illustrations and try NOT to laugh.  

I have a lot going on in my fiber-y world.  On Friday, I drove up to Apple Creek Ohio and dropped off 50 pounds of raw  alpaca and wool fiber to be made into an alpaca/wool yarn and rug yarn.  I may have come home with this:

 It is a lovely bump of wool rug yarn in purples (surprise!) and greys and some red.  It should be enough to weave one rug.  They sold it to me at the cost of producing it since it was done with waste from other projects.  How could I turn that down?  

I do have more rugs working on my big loom here at the office.  I should have them done by next week and then I will decide which rug I will enter in the spring art show put on every April by the Monroe Arts Council.  2 years ago I entered a handspun shawl which took first place and a perfect score in the textiles division.  

Last year I did not get my s**t together to enter anything.  So this year I plan to enter a rug and this:

It is a small knitted shawl using some of my own hand-dyed alpaca yarn in a colorway that just screams SPRING to me.  I have knit this shawl 2 other times and it is quick and simple.  It is a free pattern on   I believe it is from the spring/summer 2012 issue.  

 And now that these have been received by my niece, I can post a photo of the GrumpyBum Monster pants I knit for my great-nephew, Blake.  Aren't these adorable?  Someone posted a photo of them on Facebook and I had to find the pattern (its a freebie) and some yarn in my stash to make them right away.  SO cute!  They even fit for now. 

I guess that's about it for this week.  While I have seen my first robins of the season this week, I have yet to hear the spring peepers, though to be fair, between the snow melting and a day of 2 of steady rain, the sound of running water has drowned out most other sounds down here in our holler.  That is also a sign of spring's imminent arrival.  Fingers are crossed!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Post Delayed Due to SNOW!

Friday morning
Wednesday morning
Last Wednesday I was all prepared to come into the office on Thursday and write a post about weather and tapping trees.  I always post from the office because our internet connection there is so much better than at home.  It had poured rain Tuesday night and into Wednesday and our yard looked like this on Wednesday morning.  We were under a winter storm warning for Wed night into Thursday, but the "local" weather forecast was saying 2" to 4" for our area, and 5" to 8" down to the south where I attend agility classes.  I guess around 3 am Thursday, our power went out and when I woke up, we had 11" of fresh snow that had started out very heavy and wet and changed over to light snow as the temperatures dropped.  And the snow continued to fall for several hours, resulting in about a foot of snow.
Thursday morning

And beautiful snow it was.  It coated everything with a thick layer of white, which was gorgeous when the sun finally came out on Friday morning.  I took so many photos!
But, needless to say I stayed home on Thursday and we had no power, no internet, no gas.......

So our gas to heat the house and cook comes from gas and oil wells here on the farm.  It comes from the wells to a pressure tank near the horse barn and from there into the house and garage.  Since January  we have been having a problem with our gas pressure, resulting in it going out on occasion.  Sam suspects there is a leak in the line somewhere, but since we have probably half a mile of gas line which comes down through the woods and along the creek and is currently covered over by snow and has been since the beginning of January, there is not much we can do to repair it.  This makes it difficult because our highest gas usage this time of year is the furnace, so we have been trying to heat with the woodburner as much as possible.  But is has been a very cold winter with many nights dropping below zero (-19 was our coldest), so the furnace is needed.  We also have a back up generator that kicks on when our power goes out, which is several times a year, and it runs on the same natural gas.  We need this since we are on a water well and we have animals that need water regardless of whether we have electricity to power the water pump.  Needless to say, we did not have enough gas pressure to run the generator.  Our power was out for 36 hours, with the temperature overnight Thursday dropping to -8.  Our house got very cold, despite the woodburner (can't use the blower on it without power), water pipes froze (again), the animals' water all froze and we had to scoop water from the creek  and carry it to them.   But Friday dawned bright and sunny and the power came on around 3 pm resulting in only 1 broken pipe in the bathroom, which was fun and exciting. *sarcasm*

But in the meantime, we did get out and enjoy the snow.  Sam and I had gone out Sunday afternoon and set taps on the maple trees and Sam had collected about 9 buckets of sap on Wednesday, in the rain, and he wanted to boil our first sap in the new sugar shack, so he did that on Thursday.

The new set up is working out well, we are inside out of any weather and the evaporator keeps it quite warm.

Sam put a bench seat from our old conversion mini van in there and I hung some clothing hooks, and made a paper towel holder and we have a little end table.  All the comforts of home.  Yesterday, Monday the 9th, I spent 8 hours boiling sap up there and knitting and doing Sudoku puzzles and was quite comfortable.  

Of course last week while Sam was up there, the dogs and I hiked up in the falling snow.

And then Saturday, bright and early, Grover and I headed out to Zanesville for our 4th agility trial.  We had a fun weekend.  We missed Q-ing on both our Jumpers with Weaves runs, but just barely.  He just didn't get his weave poles on Saturday and he knocked down a bar on Sunday.  Otherwise, we worked well together.  So our April goal will be a Q in Jumpers!  But on Saturday, we had a first place run and got the 3rd leg of our Novice Standard title!  So Grover now has an AKC title, and a blue ribbon.

Here we are coming off the teeter in our title run.  We scored 100 on this run, though it took Grover two attempts on his weave pole entry, but otherwise we did great.  And we moved up to Open Standard for Sunday.  Let's just say I think it had been a long weekend for Grover and we will perform THAT better next month!  Hopefully the weather will improve enough to allow us to set up our equipment here at home and start to practice every day again.  C'mon spring!

That pretty much covers the major events of the last 2 weeks.  I have a lot of things up and coming as usual and have some fiber-y things going on, but this post is long enough, so I will get to that stuff next week.  I could post 50 photos of incredibly beautiful snow and blue skies, but that would take a lot of space and editing time. So here are just a couple more from early Friday morning as the sun was coming up over the ridge and lighting our valley.