Thursday, June 25, 2015

I Can't Believe July is Almost Here

Here are the newest farm residents.  I picked up these 8 pullets a week ago and they have spent most of the week inside the chicken coop.They are slowly spending more and more time in their little enclosure and tomorrow I may open the gate and see if they will venture out of their yard.  The outside world is very new to them I am sure and frightening.   They are not laying eggs yet and I fear I will run out of eggs long before they start. 

We have continued to have a lot of rain.  Last Saturday we attended a graduation party at our neighbor's place and while it started out dry, once the rain started, it was hard and relentless.  It did not seem to hinder the party, as there was a huge homemade slip n slide enjoyed by kids and adults alike, myself included, and volleyball was even played in a downpour in standing water.  This unfortunately resulted in a casualty:  the grad's dad broke an ankle.  But it was a great party.  

  Sunday was Father's Day, and we spent a quiet day at home.  Sam picked a couple gallons of raspberries and I made a pie.  The berries are wonderful this year, due to all the rain, I think.    I also made raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, which we took turns churning on the deck after we had cocktails at the pond with the dogs and before we enjoyed a steak dinner.

It was fabulous ice cream.  I found the recipe on line:

raspberry ice cream with dark chocolate chips   somewhat labor intensive, but we agreed it was the creamiest ice cream we've had.  Maybe because it had 3 eggs in it and lots of heavy cream and 1/2 and 1/2 (I had no milk).  

The pond is quite full thanks to all the rain and the dogs do love to retrieve sticks.  As you can see, Grover gets into the pond well before the stick even hits the water.

 We always have to throw for Grover first, or he would abandon his stick and go for Rowdy's. 
We still need to get the zip line going.  It needs a new grip on one side of the handlebar.

 I finished one of my summer projects!  I purchased upholstery fabric when Tari and I went to Amish country back in April with which to recover my dining room chairs.  I've had this dining room furniture since the early '90's and will probably always have it.  I recovered the chairs once after we moved to the farm, but they really needed to be recovered again and have the foam replaced.  What a difference!  I really like the new fabric and I got 8 yards for only $2 a yard at Zink's.  I recovered the 4 chairs, but I also have a bench cushion that needs to be re-done, so that will be next.  But no great rush on that.  I think I'll make that an August project.

 I am making progress on my alpaca blanket.  As of now I am about a third of the way finished with it.  It is coming out nicely, as far as I can tell.  I hope to get to the halfway point today.  The center will be narrow black and fawn stripes like you see on the right edge (which is actually the fold or center) We will see how that goes.  It is fairly slow going.

Upcoming:  Craziness, that's all I can say.  My brother's family is coming from Phoenix for a visit to Ohio next week.  They plan to come to the farm for one night next Wednesday.  Then they have plans to visit friends and relatives in western Ohio and go to Kings Island (an amusement park very close to where I grew up and at which I actually worked briefly when I was in high school) the following Tuesday.  Grover and I have a dog trial in Pennsylvania on Friday, Saturday and Sunday right after they are here at the farm, then I plan to head over to Dayton on Monday and go to Kings Island with them on Tuesday.  My cousin is coming down from Michigan as well, which kind of made up my mind as to whether I would go over there or not. So the first week of July is just going to be crazy for me.  

 Here's some cria-cuteness for you.  B'Nita's cria is always dirtier than Trillium's cria.  They stick together all the time.  When I took these photos, their mothers were both in the barn and they were just off in the field with last year's 2 crias, hanging out.  Typical kids!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer on the Farm (Almost)

If one wants to be technical, summer does not arrive until the solstice, 2 days hence.  But in my mind, it is already summer.  However, we have had an incredible amount of rain.  May was actually quite dry, but June has changed that.  I know on Thursday (yesterday) there was 4" in my rain gauge and I am pretty sure I emptied that a week or so ago.  I think we got 2" on Wednesday alone.  So as you can see, there is plenty of water in the creek where Rowdy usually stops to cool off on our walks.  This spot was not much more than a trickle in May and now Rowdy can cool both sides at once.
I managed to get out last Thursday and mow all the pastures and finish up the weed-abatement between the alpaca field and the creek.  I usually do that over 3 days.  It takes about 3 tanks of gasoline in the brush-cutter and each tank is about 45 minutes of work, so I spread it out.  And it looks so nice once it is finished.  You can see water in the creek down in the right hand corner.  That was bone dry last Thursday.  I was walking in it.

The crias are doing well.  No photos of them this week.  They were kind of muddy.  If we get good weather this week (not in the forecast), I'll go see if I can get some action shots of them.

Grover and I attended our first trial in about 7 weeks this past weekend.  It was in Sharonville Ohio, very close to where I lived during my high school years.  We did well, Q-ing in both Open Standard and Novice Jumpers on Saturday.  That moved us up to Open Jumpers on Sunday and we failed to Q at all on Sunday.  Just  for fun, here is the map of our Open Standard course on Saturday (that we did Q on).  I have drawn in arrows to show more clearly the path we had to run.  We get the map shortly before we get to "walk" the course, which we do for 8 minutes.  Each time we go into the ring, the course is different.  We do not get to practice it with our dogs.  They see the course for the first time when we enter the ring at our turn to run.  Several of my high school friends and my mother showed up to cheer Grover and me on.  It was a lot of fun.   Our next trial is in Pennsylvania over the 4th of July weekend.  It will be our first 3 day trial.

I'm a little concerned about my bees right now.  The hive on the right, which is the stronger of the 2, is exhibiting this "bearding" behavior, and I don't know if it is due to the wet humid weather or if they are planning to swarm.  I made sure they had another box to move into and I still need to get another box on the other hive.  I am sure the excessive rainfall is inhibiting normal bee life.  However, the butterfly weed is starting  to bloom and the bees seem to like it pretty well.  We also have a lot of white clover which seems to love the rain and it is full of bees every day.

Yesterday I picked up 8 new pullets, which are young hens.  They should start to lay eggs in the next 3 weeks or so.  No photos of them yet as I just put them in the coop at 6 pm last night and they had not emerged into their enclosure when I left today.  In the past I have found that these young hens who come from huge production farms have usually not been on grass before, so it takes a little while.  I will keep them confined to the chicken yard for about a week before I allow them to free range.  This way they will know where "home" is and return there to roost every night.  I always get more hens than I want to have because it seems there is always some loss at the beginning.

I have finally started the actual weaving on my alpaca blanket.  There have been some challenges along the way,  but I have managed to overcome them for the most part and have gotten 4 inches or so woven.  This is "doubleweave" which means that there is a fold, which is on the right hand side where the stripes are, and the finished blanket will be twice as wide as what you see here, which is about 29".  One challenge I have is that the alpaca yarn is very fuzzy and it has a tendency to stick to itself, which can be disastrous.  So, when I step on a treadle to open a "shed", I need to make sure the yarn hasn't stuck to itself:

If it does, it creates a bad shed, which means there is not enough of an opening to put the shuttle (which holds the yarn I am weaving with) through cleanly.  You can see what I mean on the left

I cannot see the shed from where I sit, so if you look carefully you can see on the far end of the loom a mirror propped on a chair.  I can look in the mirror everytime I step on a treadle to see if my shed is clean.  If it is not, there are things I can do to make it better before I throw my shuttle. 

A clean shed looks like this  >>>>>>

I am also using a product that is meant to help untangle children's hair prior to combing to help keep the yarn from sticking to itself.  After all, my yarn is basically hair, right?  This product comes in a spray bottle and I just occasionally spritz the yarn with it.  It seems to be helping, so I'm goin' with it.  I'm just so glad to finally be weaving this blanket!  It has been so long in the works.  And check out the cool weaving bench Sam made for me on a rainy day (see rain can be  a good thing).  I need to sand and finish it, but wanted to "test drive" it first.

 Here's a shot of the progress on the beaded shawl I posted about a few weeks back.  I am into the lace patterning and the second ball of yarn.  I am almost at the point where I have to decide if I need to do another repeat of the lace pattern or just move on.  I want to use as much of the yarn as I can, but on the other hand, if I make the shawl larger, do I run the risk of running out of yarn before I am finished?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hay's Done (for now)

Yes, Sam has successfully finished baling his first round bales.  He says he likes that a lot better than the square bales we will still be making in late August.  I do too.  He did these while I was at work and I never had to lift anything.  The equipment does all the hard labor.  

He told me how many bales he got, but I don't remember, so I'm going with 28.  Now we need to find someone who wants to buy them.  They don't stay pretty and green for very long, but they will still be green on the inside.

The crias are doing well.  This is Trillium and her cria.  This is Trillium's first cria and she is not growing as fast at B'Nita's cria.  Truthfully, B'nita's cria is growing better than Trillium did as a cria.  Trillium was B'Nita's first cria.  B'Nita seems to be much more attentive to this cria than she was with Trillium, as well, more protective.  And Trillium is somewhat so-so about the whole thing.  This cria of Trillium's is going to have some spectacular fleece.  It is kinky and "popcorny" looking already.  She's a nice looking girl.

Here is B'Nita's cria, whom I have already named B'Tina, or Tina for short.  She has a different type of fleece so far from her half-sister/nieceIt has more of a silky look to it.  She is dew-damp in this photo, so it is hard to tell what her fleece really looks like.  She is nice, but I think Trillium's little girl is the nicer of the two.  Time will tell.  I plan to take the clippers to both of these crias and remove the tips from their blanket areas next week.  This will give them a better fleece at shearing time next year, with less hay and other vegetable matter stuck to it.

<   Tina  


                      Trillium's cria  >

Sunday morning, after I finished chores and Sam finished pumping the oil wells, a truly dreaded job was undertaken.  We butchered our 5 remaining hens.  They were over 2 years old and we were only getting 1 or maybe 2 eggs a day from them.  I had ordered 8 pullets (young hens just about to start laying), which I will be picking up next week.  I will be away this coming weekend and I wanted Sam's help with the nastier bits (ie the killing), so I decided to get the job done this weekend.  I have done this only one time before and it was almost 2 years ago, so I watched a few YouTube videos.  The cleaning of the first one took a little while, but after that we had a system going and it went pretty well.  It's not easy to do, but it is practical.  2 of the chickens went into the freezer and 3 went into the stock pot on Monday morning and I have 9 1/2 quarts of nice chicken stock, most of which I canned (only 7 quarts fit in my canner).
Tonight I will make some noodles with some of our eggs and I will make chicken and noodles to have with some salad from our garden.

Speaking of the garden, we got some rain this week and the tomato plants really seemed to enjoy it

They are actually starting to look like something now.  Unfortunately, the weeds also enjoyed the rain and just popped up overnight.  I can see some weeding in my future.  Probably tomorrow.

I also checked in on the bees on Sunday.  They are about ready to have additional boxes added to the hives.  They are thriving and busy.  There has been a lot of white clover in bloom in various places, like my agility training area and the boys' pasture which is adjacent to the beehives, and it has been humming with bee activity.  Although I hated to do it, I mowed my agility area because I was worried about being stung while practicing. 

Grover and I are off this weekend to a trial in Sharonville, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati.  This is our first solo/away trial and also our first trial in  8 weeks, so while I am looking forward to it, I am nervous as well.  We need 1 Q in Jumpers to move up from Novice to the Open classWe have 1 leg of 3 in Open Standard and it would be nice to get a Q in that as well.  But this will be Grover's first experience at a trial in a new-to-us venue, so anything could happen.  Just please, no pottying in the ring!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Double Delivery

Trillium's cria (left) and B'Nita's cria (right) 5 days old
We have been raising alpacas for 16 years now and have had years where we had up to 8 crias (baby alpacas) born in a season.  Only once have we had 2 born on the same day.  Until last Friday.  And we only had 2 females this year who were pregnant.  Maybe it is because it was B'Nita and her daughter, Trillium, who were both pregnant by the same male. I don't know.  But I noticed Trillium, for whom this is her first cria, in labor early in the morning.  I do not usually expect first timers to progress and deliver quickly, and this time was no exception.  When I checked on her about 2 hours later, I was surprised to notice that B'Nita, pregnant with her third cria, also seemed to be in labor!  B'Nita delivered a 16.4 pound female cria around noon, and her daughter, Trillium, continued to labor until 3 pm, when she finally delivered a female cria just about exactly the same size, with assistance from me.  Trillium is a good bit smaller than her mother, so this cria was a very tight fit.  I prefer to see them a little smaller, especially for a first-timer.

Both mothers bonded right away with their crias, but the crias, as crias do, were looking in every available spot for a meal and I was worried about there being confusion as to which cria belonged to which mother.  I put each mother/cria pair in separate pens for the first night, just to reinforce the bonding and everything is grand.  Both are gaining weight and are healthy and active.  Mothers and daughters are still in a separate pasture from the rest of the herd, but I will put them all together when the crias are a week old.  I need to be sure they can defend themselves from Buck, who likes to lick crias excessively when they are newly born and unable to get away from him.  He means no harm, but he licked one or 2 raw in the past and I just like to keep him away from new babies.

We have been attempting for some time to see a window in the weather forecasts in which we would have 3 or 4 good days to mow, rake and bale hay.  We thought we had one, albeit a tight one, this week.  Our alpacas do better on second cutting hay, but in order to get a second cutting, the first cutting has to be done.  

  So despite slight chances of rain, Sam mowed hay on Sunday.  And then we watched the forecasts change and it got cold.  Monday dawned at 46 degrees and very overcast and it really never warmed up past the low 60's.  I tedded the big hayfield on Monday afternoon.  Tedding fluffs up the hay and helps it to dry more quickly.  And then it rained.  And Wednesday the sun never shone and the temperatures never got even to 70.  But Sam tedded again Tuesday evening and he said he thinks the hay will be fine, as long as we get some nice weather today (Wednesday).  We shall see.  We need to see how the new to us round baler is going to do.....The rain HAS been good for the garden.

Not much else new.  I am looking forward to my next trial which is about 10 days off.  I am also hoping to get some more work done on my blanket this week here at the office.  Also in the plans are knitting the sleeves on 2 sweaters which are complete except for the sleeves.  I finished the little cropped sweater I was knitting for mom and mailed that off to her this morning.  She needs it for a wedding the weekend I will be there for the trial, but I figured this way if it does not fit or she does not like it, she has time to acquire something else.  I also mailed off 2 boxes of fiber this morning. One is washed alpaca to be made into rug yarn for a custom rug for Mom.  She would like a 9' runner and I just did not have enough of one color on hand to accomplish that, but I did have lots of fiber I could get processed.  The other box was the shetland fleece I purchased at the Great Lakes Fiber Show along with 3.5 pounds of lovely brown/grey alpaca. I am having that blended into a roving that I hope to spin into yarn to make sweaters for Sam and myself.  I have a lot of grand plans, don't I? 

 And I finally got around to finishing the binding on the last rug I took off the loom.  It is 46" X 28".  I sold 2 more rugs this past week at the Monroe Arts Center, so I was kind of inspired to get this one finished.  I took 2 more rugs to the Arts Center to replace the one that sold.  I am keeping 3 rugs there on consignment and have now sold 4 since April.  I am surprised and quite pleased!  This will also inspire me to get that blanket that is almost on the loom finished so that my loom will be freed up for more rugs.  

Sometimes I have a hard time getting photos of crias.  They often are very curious about what I am doing......

And this is what I get!