Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Officially Spring!

I think Rowdy's favorite part of the day that does not include food is our early morning walk.  It is easier on him than the longer afternoon walk, which he still goes along on. I can tell he hurts, but while it still makes him happy and he wants to go, he can go.

I used to try to do a blog post weekly, and I know I have not done so recently.  The tail end of winter is just not a great time to get out with the camera and since this is pretty much a photographic journal for me, I don't like to post when I have no photos.  Things may pick up here now that the weather is improving almost daily.  

Sam has already planted lettuce/arugula under the hoop frame in the garden and done some tilling.  The bees seem to be doing well and the next warm day we have when I am at home I need to open the hives and possibly add more space for them.  I am thankful we had a mild winter and they over-wintered all right.  I may get a honey harvest this year.

One of my recent projects was to build 3 wing jumps.  I needed to add a few jumps to our practice area and decided this was the way to go.  I enjoy building this stuff.

Here is Grover demonstrating his jumping skills.

In a little over a week, Grover and I are attending an all day agility seminar in Huntington WV.  I'm looking forward to it.  While we go to class every week, it will be nice to get input from another source.  It will also be good for Grover to experience a new facility.    Since last August, we have not run anywhere other than the club's practice building and the Fieldhouse in Zanesville.  I hope to go to some trials at other venues again this summer, and it will be nice for Grover to go someplace different prior to

Sam also built me a practice A-Frame, which I have been working on painting.  It is heavy, so once we get it out in the field, it likely won't move very often, but it will be nice to have.

I was just having fun with the camera yesterday, calling Grover through the weave poles.  Rowdy knew there were treats at the end, so he was running along.  

It looks like I will need to get out in my practice field with the mower before too long, doesn't it?  Our neighbors have already mowed.  I think it goes against all Sam believes in to mow before April 1st!  We'll see if he decided to mow the yard today while I am at work.  

I finished a  sweater a couple weeks back and never got any good photos of it until last week.  I absolutely love this sweater.  

I really don't have any projects going right now except a pair of socks, and that is nothing to get excited about, in my opinion.  I'll come up with something soon, I hope.  Meanwhile, I do have spinning ongoing, and a scarf on the small loom.  My big loom is empty and I am trying to decide what to put on it.  I think I may need to get some rugs going.

My son Ian's wedding is coming up in just over 2 months.  We have our airfare booked and I have bought my dress and some new boots and a jean jacket to go with it.  I still have some travel plans to make, but I know the time between now and then will just fly by.    I am really looking forward to the big event.  Both my brothers will be there, both my sons, my mom and Sam's mom and my aunt.  And my sister-in-law, niece and nephews, who I have not seen now in over a year.  It should be a great time.  That and Michelle becoming an "official" member of our family.  I wish everyone could attend, but it is a long way to travel and I understand some people just can't make it.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

It Was a Short Syrup Season

Sam pulled the taps this past weekend while I was away at trial.  We had run our last batch the previous Monday and then the temperatures soared into the 70's and the sap pretty much stopped running.  We got in 4 runs, and produced a total of just over 4 gallons on 38 taps.  I think next year we will set out more taps and therefore we can collect more sap while it runs and produce more.  We will have some syrup for sale, but not a lot.  The dogs enjoy hanging out while the sap boils down.  There is a lot for them to do up by the pond.  And of course for Grover there are never enough buggy rides.  

Here is where all our sap comes from.  There really are a lot more trees to tap, though not all the trees in this area are maples

In the fall of 2014 I marked a lot of trees.  They are much easier to identify when they have bright yellow leaves on them than when they are naked.  Those big M's kind of help, too.

The trees themselves are  well above the pond where the sugar shack is located.  We can get 9 buckets easily in the bed of the buggy but maneuvering on the hills in the mud, which is inevitable in March (unless it is icy) can be tricky.

Our syrup pan is a 2' X 3' divided pan we purchased a couple years ago.  It works quite well.

Sam retrofitted a stock pot as a pre-warmer with a built in filter that we just let run slowly into the evaporator pan and re-fill as needed.

My least favorite part of the whole set up is the fire box itself.  It needs some improvements and, while Sam did improve the door this year, it is still not easy to work with.  It needs a better closure system.  But it works.  

So now I just have all the buckets and taps to bleach and store away til next year.  That job will wait for a warm day because it just cannot be done inside.  

Meanwhile, my bees seem to be doing quite well.  I opened the hives a week or so ago to feed them and they were a bit testy with me.  I changed their sugar water solution to  1:1 where I had been giving them 2:1 all winter.  They emptied their jars in a very short period of time.  I hope for some nice weather this weekend so I can get in and see what really needs to be done.  One hive has only 2 boxes on it and so I need to give them some more room shortly as I expect the population of both hives to increase rapidly very soon.  I would really like to get a honey harvest in a couple of months.

Grover and I attended a trial this past weekend.  We were nowhere near as successful as we were in February.  We only got 1 Q out of 5 runs and that was in a class we just started and are at Novice level in.  It is before our other classes on Saturday and I am really entering it to give Grover a chance to run off some of his "crazy" before our standard and jumpers runs.  Saturday was the best of our 2 days:  Grover dropped a bar in standard, but otherwise ran really well and then in jumpers, we had a gorgeous run going all the way to the very last jump, which he decided to run around instead of jumping over.  It was a fun course, but there was only a 25% Q rate for our class.  I was really disappointed and have no idea why he ran around the jump.  Maybe because he is a goof.  Who knows?  Sunday, our standard run was a total disaster and in jumpers Grover didn't finish his weave poles.  There's always next month.
I knitted a cowl and started a pair of socks during syrup season.  Small things that are easy to cart up to the pond with me and don't take of a lot of thought, though the cowl has a lace pattern.  But not a difficult one.   My spinning is going well and I should be able to start plying the first 9 ounces or so next week.  

 Sam got the tiller out yesterday and tilled the garden and planted lettuce under the hoop frame.  I've been thinking of starting some tomatoes and peppers and herbs inside, but I haven't had a lot of time in the last week to do so.  It's just nice to think about all these springtime activities, even though we are still 4 days away from the equinox.  Still, those little spring peepers have been peeping and we have set our clocks ahead to Daylight Savings Time.  I love it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We've Made It!

I always feel like getting through February and into March is a big deal.  The worst is behind us, right?  I can be hopeful despite the fact that perusing last year's Syrup Journal entries, I see the we had a low of -8 F on March 6th last year.  

February ended on a high note.  The 28th was sunny and 65 degrees.  I was cooking down sap for maple syrup again, as I had done the previous Sunday.  On the 21st, we put about 60 gallons of sap into the evaporator early in the morning and didn't get back to the house until after 8:30 pm.  I only finished off 3 quarts of syrup from that.  The photo above was taken by the light of our Coleman lantern with my phone, so it isn't very good, but you can see we have "all the comforts of home"  a couch (an old van seat) and dogs.

This week, we had only about 45 gallons of sap to put in the evaporator and started around the same time, but we were back at the house closer to  7 pm.  And I finished 4 quarts of syrup off from that run.  That means the sugar content in this run of sap was higher than that of last week's run.  That's a good thing.  

The crazy warm weather kind of put a stop to the sap run, the best conditions being below freezing at night and bright and sunny and above freezing during the day.  Hopefully this weekend we can get another boil in.  

Not much else going on around here.  The barn work is so much easier that I am having more time for things like housework (ugh) and knitting and spinning and weaving.  I actually finished my big sweater project on Monday and I washed it and it is now drying.  I will post photos once it is dry and I put buttons on it.  It came out great!  I posted a photo last time of a skein of yarn I had dyed to use up leftover dye in a dyepot and I am knitting a lacey cowl with that.  It has been nice to work on while tending the fire under the evaporator pan.  I also started a new pair of socks for me.  

I am happy to have started a new spinning project.  Last year at the Great Lakes Fiber Festival I purchased a gorgeous Shetland Wool fleece. I sent it off with Mayhem's 2015 fleece and had the 2 blended into a ready to spin roving which came out beautifully.

I have plenty of this roving to spin into yarn to knit Sam and myself each a sweater.  The yarn will match, but the sweaters will be different.  So I have started spinning for sweater yarn, and I am very happy with how this is spinning.  A nicely prepared fiber is a joy to spin and one that is not nice can be no fun at all.  I figure I need to spin about 4 pounds and hope to spin about 4 oz a week while the weather outside allows.

I spin while watching TV in the evening, and once we are staying outside until it gets dark at 9 pm or so, I won't be getting much spinning done.  That's ok, there's no rush.

I also started tearing out a closet in Rowdy's bedroom.  I decided I wanted to use that space for my sewing machine table and we have another closet in that room.  So both closets have been cleaned out and a lot of stuff has been disposed of in one way or another.  I may have quite a mess in Rowdy's room right now.  We are trying to figure out how to work around a problem with the ceiling in that closet that was probably caused by the chimney fire of 2010.  We'll figure it out.  

Winter Woods Fungi