Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring is Burtsting Out

There are myriads of daffodils in bloom on my neighbor's property, so I took the pups up this morning and photographed them amongst the flowers.  I call this one Daffy Dogs.

My gosh, things are just popping out.  We had very warm weather over then weekend, and then some rain and a cold front, so this morning we actually had a very light frost. These tulips did not appreciate it.

The woods are starting to green up and the grass in the hayfield is tall enough to ripple in the wind, which we have had plenty of.

 Here you can see the trees starting to leaf out and the hay in the foreground of the pasture which is being enjoyed by the older girls and the mothers of the two weanlings.

There are buds on this vine growing on the gate. 

 And on the peach tree.

Grover and I attended our dog club's last trial until September this past weekend.  We only went on Friday and Sunday, though it was a 3 day trial.  This way I did not have to stay in a hotel and I got some work done outside on Saturday.  We had a very successful weekend.  We ran both days in Novice Jumpers with Weaves and Q'd and got first place both days.  These were our first Qs in jumpers and now we need one more to move up to the Open Jumpers classWe also ran in Open Standard both days, and while I was very pleased with our run on Friday, we had a couple of errors and did not qualify.  However, on Sunday, not only did we qualify, but we took first place in our class.  And there were quite a few 20" dogs entered.  Since our club is not hosting another trial until September, I will hopefully be attending some trials at other venues over the summer.  That is my plan anyway.  I'd like to do one a month.

On Saturday, in addition to planting lettuce in the garden and tomatoes and herbs in pots inside and finishing up the painting on the front windows,  I moved my agility equipment out of the way so Sam could cut down a few more of the pine trees that are in that field.  When we bought this place in '98, this little area was chock full of white pines, which I think were intended to be Christmas trees.  But they had not been cut or pruned and were so big that there was no space between them.  We cleared out most of them to use the space as pasture and over the years we have cut down more as they have grown bigger and bigger.

Sam will split this wood up into small pieces for us to use in the maple syrup evaporator.  But first I have to get out and cut all the limbs off and move them to a place where we can burn them.  Then I think we plan to finally rent a stump grinder and get rid of these 3 stumps as well as the ones left from the last time we harvested trees.  Then I can hopefully keep my agility area mowed.

This week I also replaced all the "heddles" on my big loom.  I decided since I would be threading hand-spun alpaca through the holes in the center of these heddles I would rather have nice smooth new ones than the old rather dirty flat steel heddles.  Look how nice and shiny those are!  And I can slide them across the bars with one finger.  So nice.

Here you can see the difference between the new heddles on the left and the old ones on the right.  I just this morning finished putting the loom back together and hopefully next week I will start to put the warp on the loom for my alpaca blanket.

 In the meantime, I am knitting a little shrug/cardigan that my mother requested.  It is the Abria  sweater and I am doing the cropped version and using a natural colored cotton/ silk yarn.  I hope Mom will like it.  She wants it to go with a dress she plans to wear to a wedding in June. 

My yarn is ready to be picked up at the mill, so I plan to make a trip up there this coming Monday.  Then I will be getting out the dyepots!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Short Post this Week

I have not had time to get out with my camera, so I have almost no photos, which makes for a boring post.  But there you have it.....

I am delighted to say that my alpaca rug that I entered into the local art show took first place in textiles and 3D!  Its a shame that the 2 are grouped together, because I don't know how the judge decides between totally different mediums.  I am glad I am not the one who has to decide.  I am very pleased and even more so that not only did I get first place, but this rug and another one I had for sale at the Art Center both sold!  The Monroe Arts Center has art from member artists on display for sale and is open 3 days a week for people to stop in and see what our local artists are doing.  By the way, that is my father-in-law's "junk" cat sculpture to the left of my rug.  Talk about keeping it in the family, my mother-in-law also had several paintings entered in the show!

The other big news I have this week is that I FINISHED the spinning for the blanket I plan to weave!  I washed it all and hung it out to dry on Sunday.  There are over 5500 yards of 100% alpaca 2-ply yarn in 4 colors:  white, fawn, brown and black.  I looked at past blog posts and determined that I was spinning for this in June of 2013.  It is a long time, but considering that except for the white yarn, which I spun from some fleeces I had processed into roving (ready to spin fiber), the rest was hand prepped with either hand carders (black) or on the drum carder ( brown and fawn).  I am very pleased with how this yarn came out.  It is gratifying to take all that yarn (we're talking 3 miles of yarn here) and put it in to wash and see the magic that occurs.  Carding and spinning forces the fibers to be somewhat straight and compacted, but once water is added, they return to their original state as much as possible, which means they fluff up and become lofty.  And for alpaca, this yarn was no exception.  It is beautiful. I just hope I don't ruin it when I put it on the loom.  When will that be? Maybe I will start next week. I have purchased new "heddles" for my loom which I think will be kinder to the yarn than the old flat metal heddles that were on there and so right now my loom is in pieces  getting cleaned up and ready for new hardware.  More on that next week.

Upcoming:  this Friday and Sunday, Grover and I will be in Zanesville at our 5th agility trial.  We are still in the Novice class in Jumpers with Weaves (JWW) so this weekend's goal is to Q in that at least once.  We have not Q'd at all in JWW.  We have moved up in standard to the Open class and since our first attempt at that was a complete fail, I would just like to get a couple good runs in there.

Also, my yarn is ready for pick-up at Morningstar Fiber Mill, so I need to plan a trip up there so I can get to dyeing for the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster over Memorial Day weekend.  I will NOT miss it this year.

And this coming Tuesday, I am taking Rowdy back to the Veterinary hospital at Ohio State for a re-check on his right hock joint.  If anything it is more swollen than when he went in in November and his activity level has dropped off again despite the medication.  He will be 10 on April 30th, and he still has several years ahead of him and I want his quality of life to be good, not marginal.  He will not be happy unless he can be active.  As it is, he wants to catch the flippy flopper and chase squirrels and swim in the pond and it is hard to try to limit these acitivites.

By my calculations, we could have 2 crias due sometime in the next month or so.  I do not have exact breeding dates, which is different than in the past, so we'll see how that works out.  Also, soon it will be time to get out the shears.  We have 21 alpacas to shear this year.  I think we did 22 last year.  So much easier than 50!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Outdoor Time Begins!

Grover loves to be the center of attention
We have had some glorious spring weather this week as well as storms and torrential rains.  But our weekend was beautiful.  I decided to start off Sunday by moving some alpacas around.  I had spent time Saturday doing maintenance on the 3-sided run-in building in the small pasture across from the guest house, as well as clearing some of the brush off the fences on that field.  The grass is growing nicely and last year's crias  are now over 10 months old and yet to be weaned.  The best way to do this is to move the mamas out of sight and out of mind (well not really out of mind).  So I moved Dulcinea and Tempest along with my two oldest girls, Peg and Chiquita, and Miracle all down to the summer pasture.  The two "weaners" are doing fine.  There is some whining going on, but they will be just fine and their mothers can put some weight back on.

It was a gorgeous morning and I really needed to update my website so I went out to take alpaca photos.  I have no good way to latch the barn door from the inside, so it wasn't long before Rowdy opened the door and he and Grover joined me with the alpacas and the LGDs in the back pasture.  Rowdy and Grover are generally not allowed in the alpaca fields as Rowdy has a very hard time controlling his strong (untrained) herding instinct.  But he was much more interested in dog play.  So this happened:

And this:
And this:


The body language here is too funny

I truly think a good time was had by all.  You can be sure that Rowdy was the instigator of all mischief, and I had a hard time limiting this to the 5 photos here.

In addition to moving alpacas, I moved some of my agility equipment around into a different configuration and I got my deck furniture (or most of it) out of the barn.  I hosed pounds of mud off the buggy (and Sam said the neighbors gave him a hard time about not knowing it was him without all the mud) and Sam has been cleaning out the garage.  That is a chore that has needed doing in a big way.

We have had rain and thunderstorms daily since Tuesday.  Last night it seemed one thunderstorm after another rolled through all night and dawn brought torrential rain.  When I went out to do chores, the water was almost up to the level of the big bridge.  When I came out of the alpaca barn 15 minutes later, it looked like this

Grover thought about crossing here but wisely changed his mind.  Though to be honest, I am somewhat reluctant to cross the footbridge when the water is racing under it from edge to edge.  It is a little unsettling.  

For a little while the chickens have a waterfront property

Sam has been working on repairing my loom by using a metal plate.  However, he put it on the wrong side of the post and where it is it interferes with the handle that tightens the warp when I advance it, so he will need to relocate it to the other side of the post.  Once that is done, I think it will work just fine.  I finished spinning the last of the the white yarn for my alpaca blanket and I am now working on the very last skein, about 2 additional ounces of a fawn color.  Once that is spun and plied, I will wash all the yarn and hang it outside to dry and then I will be ready to start measuring warp.  I added up all the yardage so far and I have over 5000 yards spun.  I started spinning it in the fall of 2013, so it has been a while in the spinning.  This blanket should be about 72" X 50" when woven and wet finished.  I have never done something on this scale before, so I hope it goes well.  I'd rather it not become a dog bed.  But then again, I don't know how I will keep that from happening!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Means New Beginnings

I have said before that April 1 is really like the beginning of the new year for us because that's when we get outside and start living mostly outdoors again.  Signs of spring are abundant.  In addition to daffodils coming up  on the neighbor's property, Sam has been out on the tractors.

The last 4 years we lived in Indiana, I was a travel agent at a great agency in north Indianapolis.  One of the other agents was an older lady who had a son about my age who farmed about 1000 acres, some theirs and some leased.  I always remember her saying she knew when spring was close because Scott would be out moving all the equipment around in preparation for planting season.  We don't have nearly as much "stuff" to move around, but Sam has been busy.

Two places are tilled for the garden, as well as the potato patch.  This is our usual garden spot, but it is in a place that does not get much sun, due to a steep bank just on the other side of the creek on the left out of frame in this photo.

So we decided to move the sun loving tomatoes and probably peppers to a place that gets more sun.

 There is a water spigot right here and this area sadly no longer houses a horse, so it can be re-purposed.  The biggest problem will be keeping the chickens out of it.  It is within sight of their yard and something will have to be done to prevent their snacking on tomatoes.  I am thinking hotwire.  I think I can rig something up.  My dogs will have to learn about electric fences, I guess.

Another sign of spring is that Sam has spread a year's worth of piled up alpaca poop on the hayfield.  Look at all that bare ground!  Needless to say that with all this dirt being turned and poop being spread, our chickens have been having a hayday.  Or wormday.  

Sam got all this work done while I was at agility class on Tuesday night and at the office yesterday.  He said that now that the poop is spread there is only one more dreaded spring chore to get done:  shearing.  We will do that closer to the end of the month or even early May.  

This month is the Monroe Artists' annual spring art show.  I finished this lace shawl and entered it in the textiles division.  The yarn is my own millspun yarn that I hand dyed.  I knit up this shawl, which I have knit twice before, because it seems to embody spring to me, as does this yarn.  It came out as lovely as I envisioned.  Another reason I knit this is to showcase the yarn.  I have 7 skeins of this left for sale and will be vending at the Great Lakes Fiber Show Memorial Day weekend in Wooster Ohio.  I find that yarn sells much better if people see it in a project.  This was a color combination I did that is really outside my color comfort zone, but I do love it in this application. 

 The pattern is a free pattern from  Blossoms By the Brook 
It is a quick, fairly easy lace pattern and I recommend it.

I also entered one of my alpaca rugs.  Next month is the photography show, and I have several entries planned for that.

Speaking of rugs, I started weaving on my "too short for another rug" warp using scraps I have been accumulating over the last 4 years of rug weaving.  This won't be very big, but it sure is fun to just grab a random scrap and weave it in.  Or at least it was until my loom broke.

I never noticed that this post had been repaired by someone in the past  until it came apart yesterday.  Obviously whoever did it, whenever they did it, did a good job, but it now needs repaired again.  I am not sure if I have posted here that this loom has been dated to the 1940's or even earlier.  It was made before the manufacturer started engraving the date of manufacture on the loom.  That just makes it more awesome to me.  We will have her fixed up in no time, I am sure.  We will either get a replacement  post from the manufacturer, who still makes these looms today, or use metal plates and screws. I prefer the replacement post if the cost is reasonable. 

Here's the scrap weaving in progress.  There is even a red stripe, which can't be seen at this point, but otherwise, it is all natural colors.  I figure I may have another 10" before I can weave no further. 

Easter is this weekend and in 2 weeks Grover and I have our next agility trial in Zanesville.  Also upcoming is another trip to OSU's vet clinic for Rowdy to see the orthopedist again.  I'm just not seeing as much improvement as I hoped to see.  I just made an appointment for him on April 23rd, one week before his 10th birthday.