Thursday, April 20, 2017

Everything is Blooming and We Say Goodbye

Luca and Rowdy 2012
I love this photo of these 2 dogs when they were young and healthy.  Sadly, last week I got an early morning call from my mother and I drove across the state to be with her as she said her last goodbye to Luca, her companion of 13 years.  Luca spent a lot of time here with us on the farm both when my mom was traveling and also when she was here to visit.  He loved swimming in the pond and running in the fields and woods.  He was a year older than Rowdy and he will be missed.  His ashes will be interred here on the farm up by the pond he loved so much.  Rest easy, Luca.

I also said goodbye to our foster dog, Boomer.  My brother's family has moved into an apartment which will allow them to have their dogs while they are having a house built.  I am pretty sure that Grover misses his buddy Boomer.  And while I am happy to have a 2 dog house again, Boomer will always be a welcome visitor.
Since my last post, Grover and I attended an agility trial in Columbus, Ohio for 2 days.  We had some really good runs, though only 2 of the 5 were qualifying runs.  Both were Jumpers with Weaves (JWW), so we got some points toward our goal of a MACH and no double Qs, but we did get our MXJ title, which is a Masters JWW title.  

Tomorrow Grover and I are off bright and early to Zanesville for 3 days of trialing.  This will be our club's last trial until fall, though I have plans for other trials, no worries there.

Everything is greening up outside.  Flowering trees have been in bloom for the last week or so.  Redbuds, apples, peaches, dogwoods, everywhere we look on the farm something is blooming.  I love it.  Sam has been morel hunting for the last couple weeks and has had a great deal of success recently.  This is the batch he picked last evening.  He has already dried 2 quarts in the dehydrator.  We love having them dried in the pantry.  As they age, they get a wonderful earthy smell and I take them from the jar and crumble them up into soups and sauces.  They don't really need to be reconstituted when I use them that way.  Of course, we also use them fresh as I did last night.

I make this pasta dish with chicken breast, fresh basil (or frozen basil cubes this time of year), home dried tomatoes, fresh garlic and artichoke hearts.  I use some chicken broth and white wine and last night I added fresh morels and fresh ramps, which is a plant that grows wild here this time of year.  The root is a bulb that tastes like a cross between onion and garlic and the leaves can be put in salads or cut up and used in a dish like this similar to spinach.  The greens have a spicy flavor and Sam made pesto with them last week which was very good.  I topped this pasta with goat cheese just before serving.  Yum.

Which reminds me that last week after the trial, my sister-in-law and her kids came for a visit.  We had a great time.  Sunday was very warm and sunny and we took a walk to the beaver pond and also up to our pond and then ended the day with a fire and weenie and marshmallow roast.  The next day we went to Ohio University in Athens (from which my son Sam graduated 10 years ago) and took a tour as my niece is thinking of attending there.  It was a gorgeous day and there were students enjoying the weather everywhere we looked.  Jill and the kids headed for home early Tuesday morning.  We really had a nice visit.

 Another sign of spring is a tom turkey, or gobbler, strutting his stuff for the hens.  I got this shot  while he was distracted and before the dogs realized the turkeys were there in the hayfield.  It was about 6:15 in the evening.  I have seen a lot of turkeys this spring.  The 17 year cicadas of last spring are being given credit for an increase in the turkey population.  They emerged around the time the mama turkeys were probably having to find food for their new broods.  And they did not have to look far to find cicadas.

 The flooring is done in my studio and I have painted the window and door trim and I just had to take my rug out and get a photo of it in place.  It seems small, but there is nothing else in the studio at this time, which should change soon.  Sam will be cutting the baseboards and I will need to paint them, but then the interior is pretty much finished and I can start moving things in!  We still have exterior work to do including staining the siding and putting up bat strips, gutters and downspouts, and railing on the deck.  I am looking forward to moving my loom and sewing machine and other fiber-y stuff into my own dedicated space.  Maybe next time I post there will have been progress.

   I still have the napkins on my small loom at home, though I am almost finished with the third of six, so close to halfway done.  At the office, I have some fine cotton in a natural color on the big loom.  I am doing about 5 yards of this lacy pattern which will become new valances for my dining room windows.  This is something else that is new to me.  I will weave the yardage and then cut it into 2 pieces and sew hems and rod pockets.  The weaving will take some time, especially since I am usually in the office only 2 days a week.  If I can weave a yard each day I am at the office, it will be well into May before I am ready to start sewing.  I just hope I did my math well and am weaving enough to account for shrinkage, which there will be with 100% cotton.  I think I did.  We will certainly find out.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Definitely Springtime

Yes, it is definitely spring.  The weather has been cold and rainy and grey one day and then warm and sunny the next.  The grass has become almost blindingly green as it is only in springtime, and the little wildflowers are starting to pop out in the woods and along the roadsides.  Daffodils are blooming and when it is warm, I can't seem to stay inside.  That being said, I have planted a few things, some new blueberry bushes, which I tried to grow once before and they got lost in the weeds and eventually were accidentally weed-whacked.  I won't allow that to happen this time.  I have a lot more time to devote to gardening now that I have so many less animals to take care of.  I planted a new rhubarb plant, which I had also planted before which suffered the same fate as the blueberries, though it did last a little longer.  And I put in some more asparagus.  I keep looking for little asparagus spears to starting poking up....

I am now a little more than half done with the syrup clean-up.  All the bucket lids and the sap pan are cleaned, along with about 1/2 the buckets.  This job has to be done outside and I can't avoid getting wet doing it, so I do require warm sunny weather which is why it takes so long.  I decided that this year's clean up was not worth the small amount of syrup we produced.  Let's hope for a better year next year.

One of our small population of barn cats, all of which are spayed/neutered, disappeared last fall. Timmy came here from the Humane Society as unadoptable because he was terrified of people.  After 3 weeks in our barn he was the friendliest cat we had. But while I see that our barn cats are fed every day and get medical treatment when necessary, they are free to come and go as they please and sometimes they don't come home.  Now it seems that Timmy's replacement has come along and this kitten looks very much like him.  This little guy just showed up.  We started catching fleeting glimpses of a half-grown cat around the place and then last week he started coming out of hiding in the barn when I would put the cat food out every morning.  I really don't want another cat, but he/she is here and I will feed him/her as long as he/she is around.  I would guess this cat is 4 to 5 months old and I have been able to pet him briefly as he eats.  I sit and talk to him while he is eating and touch him just a little to get him used to me.  He will need to be handled enough to be taken in to be spayed or neutered.  My biggest fear is that this is a she not a he and will have kittens before I can tame her enough to get her in.  I do not want to add to the population of unwanted cats.  Wish me luck.  Since I don't know if this is a Timmy or a Tammi, I have dubbed him TimTam for now.

This past Sunday morning as I sat at my computer drinking coffee around 8 am, there was a boom, similar to thunder, and the whole house shook briefly.  It kind of freaked me out a little, but it was so quick, I didn't think too much about it until later, when I found out it was an earthquake, centered about 3 miles away.  3.0 magnitude, which I understand is fairly minor, for which I am grateful.  Considering there are several deep-well fracking sites close to us right now, there is a good chance that that is the cause.  Disturbing.

In other news, Grover and I are heading to Columbus on Friday for an agility trial.  The trial is 3 days, but we will only be attending on Friday and Saturday.  This is a new venue for us and I am really looking forward to it.  We have only trialed 3 days so far in 2017, but we are entered in 2 more 3 day trials coming up, one this month and one in May and I am looking at several this summer.  Wish us clean runs!

Sam is working on putting in the laminate flooring in my weaving studio.  I think it will be fabulous, especially with my wonderful hand woven alpaca rug, which I finished this past week.  I am so happy with how it turned out, and I have enough of the dyed yarns left to make another rug that size.  

The finished rug is 6' X 43" .  I can't wait to see how it looks in the studio!



I finished the lace shawl I was knitting.  It came out gorgeous.  The yarn is hand spun by me, but I did not do the dyeing.  These are most definitely my colors, however and the shawl was fun to knit.  The "wingspan" of this is about the same as my wingspan, so it is a very nice size.  Now if only I had someplace to wear it!  The yarn is wool and silk and bamboo with some sparkle and while they are hard to see, there are beads as well.  Love it.


I have also finished weaving some hand/kitchen towels on my small loom.  I wove 4 towels, but I got to keep one for me since it had a couple little mistakes in it.  These 3 are for sale at the Monroe Arts Center.  I was very pleased with how they turned out.  They are about 18" X 28".  

And I already have the next project on that small loom.

These will be napkins in 100% cotton in a pinwheel pattern.  I plan to make 6 of them and I don't know if I will keep them or put them up for sale.  I guess I will decide when they are finished.

I am also planning my next project on the big loom.  I will be weaving valances for the 2 windows in my dining room.  I have some lacy valances on them now that are really old and very discolored as I discovered when I took them down to measure last week.  Washing did not really help.  These windows are on either side of the main entry to our house and since I will be getting a brand new door soon (!) I think new window treatments are in order as well.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017


According to the calendar, spring is here.  The peeper frogs have been announcing that it is spring for several weeks now, however.  Last night as I was returning home from agility class in Parkersburg with Grover, I stopped the truck beside the beaver pond and lowered my window to get the full effect of their chorus.  It was more like a cacophony!  The noise was nearly deafening.  There must be thousands of little spring frogs in that wetland the beavers have created.
I had a beaver sighting a couple of weeks ago.  It was the evening after a series of huge storms came though, leaving our yard looking like this.  I walked the dogs to the beaver pond at dusk and there was a beaver sitting on a felled tree right above the creek.  He knew I was there before I knew he was there and fortunately the dogs never knew he was there.  While I watched he slipped very quietly into the water on the far side of the tree and made almost no ripple.  That was it.  It made me happy though.  

Since the last post I wrote was dedicated to the losses of Chiquita and Buck, I am quite behind on what has been happening in my world.  So maple syrup season has ended.  It was a very poor season for us, with only about 2 gallons of finished syrup produced.  And the second gallon has an odd flavor, which I don't find very pleasing.  I think it was too warm and the trees were probably starting to bud and I have heard that that will affect the flavor.  So we will have no syrup for sale this year, sadly.  Hopefully next year will be better.

Grover and I attended 1 day of our club's March trial in Zanesville.  We had a family event for the second day of the trial which took precedence, so we had to pass on Sunday.  Saturday was a great day for us though.  We got our first Q in Premier Standard, which requires more difficult handling skills than Masters Standard.  It was only our second time running this class and I was quite happy we Q'd.  It is always the first class in the morning and to be honest, I have been signing up for it to use it as a warm-up run since it does not qualify for our Double Q's needed for a MACH.  I know, complicated.  So we Q'd in that, then we no Q'd in Master's Standard (of course that's the one that counts toward our Double Q!) and then we also Q'd in Masters Jumpers.  So we got 2 Q's out of 3.  Not a bad day at all.  Grover and I will be attending a trial in Columbus on April 7 & 8.  A new venue for us.  And then our club's final trial of the "season" in Zanesville is April 21, 22 & 23.  

 While spring is here and with it, daylight savings time, it really hasn't been nice enough to do a lot outside.  There is a lot to do.  I have to clean all the sap buckets and taps and tubing and store away.  There is a mess in the yard left from the flooding a couple of weeks ago and all my agility stuff needs to be gotten out and set back up and  ready for practice.  At this time of year it seems everywhere I look on the farm there is something that needs to be done and I get anxious to get at it.  And the long days of being outside will be here soon, but for now, I am taking advantage of the weather to get some inside stuff done.  I just took 4 towels off my small loom.  They are all one color warp and then each one has a different color weft.  I also finished weaving and sewing some linen bread bags and I finished the hems on 2 rugs I took off the big loom a couple of weeks ago or more.

 I had dyed the orange and red rug yarn for the orange striped rug and I was so pleased with how it came out that I decided to do a similar rug for my weaving studio.  It will be larger, about 3.5' X 6' when finished, which is as wide as I can weave on my loom.  It will use natural white and black alpaca rug yarn and will be striped with turquoise and purple, to match my studio, which I have also painted in the last week.

 I plan to paint the trim purple and there are 2 walls in the turquoise and 2 in the butternut squash yellow color.    I first dyed my purple yarn, which came out a little darker than I wanted it to, but it will be fine.  I need half as much of it as I do the turquoise and I am very pleased with how the turquoise came out. 

This was no small dyeing feat as I had to dye 4 skeins of this turquoise and each skein was almost a pound and 40 yards.  Each skein needed to be dyed separately to allow for plenty of room in the dyepot, so I had to be very careful with my measurements and process to be sure they all came out the same color, which meant taking good notes.  I think I did a pretty good job.  I only had to dye 2 skeins of the purple.    I have 2 dyepots that are big enough to handle this job, so I did 2 at a time.  It is a long process, requiring most of a day from start to finish, though a lot of that time is just allowing the pots to come up to temperature and then cool down at the end.  And of course I end up with dye everywhere, though I try to be very careful.  I am glad this job is done!  Now for the weaving.  Once the loom is warped, it should go pretty quickly.

This will be a very different spring for us this year.  Shearing used to be a huge chore every spring, requiring days of work.  There were years we sheared more than 50 alpacas, and sometimes with no outside help, though we have had a lot of that over the years.  We would spread the job over several days and weeks and it was always so satisfying to throw those very last fleeces into the shed and clean the barn up for the final time.  It was hard dirty, sweaty, smelly work, but it was just part of our life as alpaca breeders.  Last year, we sheared only 5 alpacas and this year it will be only 3.  Sam says he wants to get them all done in one day.  I think we can manage.  And I lost my last hive of bees and I do not plan to get anymore.  I have come to the conclusion that while I like the bees, I just am not dedicated enough to do everything that really needs to be done to keep them healthy.  I like to hope that I have contributed to the population of wild honeybees with swarms from my hives over the last several years.  

So this spring, I will once again concentrate my efforts on the garden.  Our garden did so well last year and I hope to make it a success again this year.  And of course there will be hiking in the woods and dog agility and afternoons at the pond.  And mowing and making hay and all those things that make life on the farm so incredibly enjoyable and rewarding for me.  Bring it on!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

This is a Tough One....

Chiquita Margarita (10-18-98 to 3-9-17)
I had every intention of writing a post last Thursday when I came in to our office, but that morning, Chiquita was down in the pasture and unable to get up, even with help.  I had known the end was coming, but it is still hard to say goodbye.  Chiquita's teeth were worn down so much she was having trouble chewing her food and she had lost so much weight over the last few months.  She has always held a special place in my heart, being one of the original 3 alpacas we purchased in the spring of 1999.  She was sassy and had a bit of an attitude, but she produced 12 crias, 3 females and 9 males, in 12 years before we retired her in 2012.  Her first female cria, Promise, was even auctioned off at the Alpaca Owner's and Breeder's National Auction in Louisville KY in 2004.  Lots of alpacas came and went over the years, but Chiquita was one of my favorites, so she never left.  She earned her retirement and spent the last 4 years or so living a life of ease here on the farm.  She will be missed. 

Buck 12-10  to 3-10-17

But, it gets worse.  Just the next morning, I went out to feed the other 3 remaining alpacas and the dogs, Buck and Star.  Buck had had some facial swelling the day before and we had the vet come out to look at him.  She treated him for an allergic reaction and told us to keep an eye on it.  The swelling was down a lot Friday morning so I was happy.  He ate like he usually does and I left the barn feeling hopeful.  I never made it to the other barn to feed the cats because I heard the terrible sound of a dog screaming in pain and I turned and ran back to the barn, only to see Buck standing in the barn with his left hind leg dangling from the hip.  As was his habit, after eating he went into the girls' pen to clean up any food they dropped and then climbed through the wooden hay rack that separates them from the lone male alpaca, to clean up after him.  Somehow, he got that leg caught in the hay rack, I am sure.  I was able to get him to the vet within a couple hours where my worst fears were realized.  He had a spiral fracture of the femur, which would require surgery with metal plates and this could not be done locally, but would have to be done in Columbus and probably not until at least Monday.  I had already decided that surgery was not an option for a dog who had never spent a day in confinement in his life, and so I made the decision to euthanize him.  Buck was born in December of 2010, so was only a little over 6 years old. It is so hard to go out to the barn now and not see him.  I'm not sure if Star misses him or not.  She may in her own way, but they were not really close.  I will never have another Great Pyrenees, as much as I love them, I have lost too many, too soon.

It just seems right to end this post and leave it as a memorial to both Chiquita and Buck.  One who is deserving of her rest, and one who has gone to it too soon.  Rest easy my friends.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I Know It's Still February, But It Feels Like April!

This weather has been crazy!  The daily highs have been in the 60's since Friday.  As seen in the above photo, this is prime tree-tapping time for maple syrup production, which is at its peak when the days are above freezing and the nights drop below freezing.  Sam set out 39 taps a week ago today.  The photo shows part of our  "sugarbush" .  I also noticed in this photo, just to the left of Boomer the dog, a tree that has been affected by the emerald ash borer.  It is the tree that is the light color.  This winter is the first time I have seen the damage caused by this insect in our woods.  It seems it is now here and that is sad.  There are numerous ash trees on this hillside that have been attacked by this insect.  It appears as though the bark is being slowly peeled from the tree trunks.  Very sad.

I'll write more about maple season but first, I'll back up to right after my last post.  Grover and I headed out early on the morning of Feb 11 to attend our club's agility trial in Zanesville.  We had a good 2 days.  All our runs were good, but only one was good enough to get us a Q, so no Double Q's toward our eventual goal of a MACH.  Obviously we still have a lot to work on.  Notice he is not holding his "contacts" on the A-frame and dog walk.  He's getting them, but not holding, despite my asking him to wait.  At least he got on the table this run, which had been the cause of our No Q the day before.  So yesterday I took advantage of the good weather and "Mcguyvered" a table to practice on at home.  Grover is going to LOVE getting on the table before too long.

As I mentioned, Sam tapped trees a week ago.  I checked the buckets on Thursday and there was some sap in them but not much.  Friday Sam was out of town, so I was at the office all day and didn't get back to check the buckets until Saturday, at which time I collected 20 full buckets of maple sap.  It was bright and sunny following a fairly cold night.  I don't think we have EVER had that much sap at once.  That meant Sunday was "cook" day.  Sam started the evaporator in the sugar shack around 9 am and then I manned it for the next 12 hours.  We can add in one bucket of sap about every 1/2 hour and need to put wood on the fire about every 20 minutes or so to keep a good boil going.  In between doing these chores, I do sudoku puzzles, knit, work on clearing brush around the pond, or wander in the hayfield and woods with the dogs.  It is not a bad way to spend a day, especially when it is 60 + degrees and sunny.  We take the boiled down sap off the evaporator when there is only about an inch in the bottom and I finish it on the stove at home.  We carried home roughly 2 gallons of cooked down sap and I ended up with only about 1 gallon of finished syrup, which is disappointing from that much sap.  It means the sugar content was extremely low.  The sap has not really run since and the weather is forecast to stay warm for another 3 days, so we will see if we get another run.  I hope so.

The well pads around us have been very busy, lots of equipment noise and lights at night, which were very visible from the sugar shack up by the pond Sunday evening.  They have been working on water and gas pipelines just past the end of our property for some time.  These pipes are on our neighbor's hayfield and our property on the other side of the road goes down to where the red circle is.  That is where we cut back into the woods to go up to the pond the back way.  The dogs and I have just walked past some kind of temporary compressor station that was installed a month or so ago and there is a guy sitting there in a truck at all hours.  

 Here is a view from where we leave the road and head into the woods.  It is just kind of weird to have all this going on on our quiet little road.  But I think they will be finished soon and move on.  I'm not sure about that compressor, though.

Our winter has been mild.  Mild enough that we still have lettuce and arugula growing under our little hoop frame in the garden.  So last night I made a favorite for dinner:  
Grilled pizza with arugula   I made it with some of my canned romas, some frozen basil cubes and mozzarella and parmigiano regiano because that is what I had on hand.  It is SO good.  And so nice to have greens fresh from the garden in February.  It makes me anticipate planting season, which will be here soon.

                                                   Here is a photo of the lace shawl I am knitting from some handspun yarn.  I have really been enjoying this knit.  It has been going pretty quickly.  I am still working on my sweater.  I am on sleeve #2 and I plan to get that finished in the next day or so.  

Last post I wrote about my orange stripey rug and the mistake in it.  Well I decided to rip it out and re-weave it.  I have not yet ripped the rug apart, but the new warp is on the loom and will be ready to weave by tomorrow, so I think I will rip out the rug tonight.  I just couldn't see leaving it as it was and never doing anything with it.  So I will be re-doing it and making it a bit longer.

I also did some linen weaving the last couple of weeks.  Linen is a plant fiber from flax and it is very different from anything I have ever used in the past.  It has no elasticity at all and feels almost like horse tail hair.  This coarseness is compounded by "sizing" the warp before putting it on the loom.  I used liquid laundry starch for this.  I measured my warp into hanks or "chains" and dipped them in the starch solution and then let them dry.  It made the fiber very "crunchy" and hard on the hands for warping.  The reason to do this is to help protect the fibers from abrasion as they travel through the metal heddles and the metal reed.  The idea is to have a little breakage as possible.  While the linen is coarse prior to weaving, linen gets softer and softer with use and washing.  At last that is what I am told.  I will find out soon.  This was a learning experience and quite a challenge, though in the end I decided I am looking forward to more linen weaving.  This project is now off the loom and will become two bread bags once the fabric is washed and sewn.  I have always wanted a bag to keep homemade bread in and I can see these making nice gifts for my family and friends who also bake bread.  I should have finished photos next time I post.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

And Now It's February

A week into February and our winter continues to be incredibly mild.  In fact, we had 3 days this week where the temperatures were in the low 60's and the sun was shining.  Needless to say we managed to spend a good deal of time outside.  The dogs got walked, Grover and I did some practice in our agility field, Sam and I contemplated putting the new "roof" on the poly-shelter  (and even made some progress before Sam decided he needed to think about how we did this the first time).  We even had a thunderstorm come through very early yesterday morning, about 2:45 am.  The forecast for the coming week is still for warmer than usual weather and it concerns me as to what will happen with our maple syrup season.  We really need the nights to drop below freezing and the daytime weather to be above freezing, preferable with some sunshine.  

Saturday Sam couldn't resist taking his drone up to the hayfield by the pond and getting a look at what is happening on the well pad across the hollow from us.  There has been a lot of pipeline work down on our road and now there is a lot of equipment going back into the well pad, which has been quiet for some time now.  They have been fracking on a pad a couple miles away from us and we are wondering if this one is next on the schedule.  It looks like it could be.

 Sam also got a nice shot of the pond while he was at it.  He is next to the buggy out in the hayfield, just above center on the left side of the photo.  If you continued upward in the photo, where the trees start is where the hollow starts.  The well pad is on the next ridge over .   The red roof is our pavilion and maple sugar shack.

Until we tap trees, for syrup, there is not much going on on the farm.  Work continues on my studio.  The drywall work is in progress and I spent some time on Monday sanding walls.  It is nowhere near finished however.  The little gas heater Sam put in sure is keeping it warm, especially with as warm as it is outside.  But the warmth helps the drywall mud to dry which is a good thing.

The weekend before last, I did some dyeing.  I had warped my rug loom using brown and natural and red and orange cotton warp.  I wove one rug using natural colors which came out fairly well, but I decided I would like to add some color to the weft as well and I took some white rug yarn and the spools of warp cotton home to see what I could come up with.  I have to say I was quite pleased with the results.  So often, you can come close to what you want and other times, not at all.  But look at this! 

I don't think I could have gotten a closer color match.  And it even matches the cool mug my mom gave me for Christmas (which I LOVE).   I only dyed about 35 yards of each color, planning to use it with white in a striping pattern.  

I was quite pleased with how the rug came out, until I noticed a treadling error near the beginning.  I have not finished the rugs yet (cut them apart and sewn the bindings) as I am not sure what I will do with them.  I was also not happy with the way the stripes are in the warp.  I was following a simple draft in a book and I don't know if it was my error or if it was written that way.  I could live with that, but the treadling mistake in this rug is glaring to me.  I may just decide to rip it out and re-warp and re-weave because I really like the rug.  I chalk it up as a learning experience.


I also took my alpaca scarves off my small loom.  They came out alright.  I fulled them a bit and twisted the fringes, which I still need to tidy up.  I used my own yarn from my alpacas in natural and hand-dyed.  They are nice and soft.

I am still knitting on my stripey sweater.  I am about 3/4 of the way finished with the first sleeve.  I also shortened the sleeves on the sweater I had finished for Sam before my last post.  I had to undo all the seams and unravel a couple inches of each sleeve at the top and then re-seam.  I am glad I did.  It fits him much better now.

I also started knitting a lacey, beaded shawl from handspun, just because I love that kind of knitting.  I'll get some photos for my next post.

This coming weekend Grover and I will be at our first trial of the year.  It is our club's trial in Zanesville.  It is Saturday and Sunday and I am really looking forward to it.  Can we get another double Q?  Wouldn't that be nice!  Grover and I will head over to Dayton to visit with my mom and my brother and his family after the trial on Sunday.  I am looking forward to seeing everyone.

 Below is a photo of Grover and Boomer walking across a part of the beaver dam on Wayne National Forest on our walk this past Monday.  I was hoping to get the scale of the size of this feat of engineering these beavers have accomplished.  It is truly awesome.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It Sure Has Not Felt Like January....

No kidding, it was in the low 60's on both Saturday and Sunday.  Overcast, but mostly dry.  Needless to say, not much got done indoors either of those days.  On Saturday, Sam and I went out into the lower hayfield and played with the drone he got for Christmas.  He needed me to figure out how to work the video camera on it while he was flying it.  I must say  it is quite an impressive "toy".  It will be fun to see some drone footage of Grover and myself running an agility course once the weather improves.   

 Driving back to the house in the buggy, I spotted what I at first thought was a tree branch in the pasture across from Mom's house.  I said to Sam that that branch looked just like a couple of really large deer antler sheds, and since there are no trees in that pasture, a branch there would have been unlikely.  So we investigated and found these

 I wish I had used a yardstick to show the scale here.  The longest tine on the antler on the right is about 10" long.  Even though these are not at all symmetrical, these are from one deer.  He is known by the guys down here on the creek as "Big-Timer" and he has been around for many years and he has made it through yet another hunting season.  I had hoped to post a trail cam photo of him along with the shed photo, but I can't seem to access it.  Maybe next time.  So anyway, finding these sheds means that it is time for the bucks to be dropping their antlers and Sam went out the next day and found 3 more, one of which was also very large.  We have a big collection of sheds and I used to have them displayed on the fireplace mantel, but it got too hard to keep them cobweb free, so I recently boxed most of them up.  Now the mantel is acquiring new shed decor.

2 down

 Sam finished the drywall on the ceiling and on 2 walls of my studio last week.  If the weather had not been so nice last Saturday, he may have gotten the last 2 walls done as well, but that just isn't gonna happen if he can be outside.  I can't really blame him for that.  Good weather in January needs to be taken advantage of.

2 to go

 Once the drywall is up on the remaining 2 walls, the mudding and sanding has to be done.  Sam installed a gas heater, but we will likely change it out for one with a thermostat on it eventually.  It is amazing how warm it has stayed in there since the ceiling and insulation went in.  

Not much else has been going on on the farm this time of year.  The insurance adjuster came out and looked at the poly-shelter and we will be getting some money toward replacing the roof on that, which surprised us.  A new roof has been ordered.  Getting it up will be fun.

I finished knitting the sweater for Sam from handspun alpaca/shetland yarn.  The sleeves are too long, so I will be taking the sweater apart at the seams and shortening them a couple of inches and re-seaming soon.  I think I could have gotten by with knitting the smaller size, but as Sam said, he'd rather it be a little loose than too small and I agree.


I have made good progress on the striped sweater for myself using a commercial grey yarn and some of my hand-dyed alpaca.  I usually get plenty of knitting time in this time of year when it gets dark by dinner time.  I finish the dishes and turn on Jeopardy and get comfortable next to the woodstove, usually with a dog snuggled up next to me.

I am almost finished with the alpaca scarves on my small loom at home that I posted a photo of in my last blog post.  There is a Weave Along on a group on Ravelry for any project made of linen right now and I have never used linen before.  So I bought a kit to weave a couple of linen bread bags and that will likely be the next thing on the 8 shaft Compact loom at home.


I have started a couple of rugs on the big 4 shaft loom at the office.  I decided to use some color in the warp and see how the rugs turn out.  I should get 2 rugs from this warp.

Grover and I still have over 2 weeks until our next trial.  I have also been looking at trials scheduled in May, June, July and August.  We will be in Zanesville Feb, March and April, but then we have no more trials there until September.  Right now I hope to be in the Cleveland area in May, Cincinnati in June, Pittsburgh in July, and Dayton in August.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

We Welcome 2017

This old dog still loves the snow and cold.  I think he may have been a Husky in a former life.  

Yes, it is 2017.  The time goes by so quickly the older I get.  I would love to be able to slow it down.  Even winter no longer drags like it did when I was younger.  I try to get some joy out of every day and usually I can.  Even if it is nothing more than sitting by the fire with a dog at my feet knitting or spinning.  

Since my last post, there have been some changes.  First, Grover and I ran in an agility trial hosted by our dog club in Zanesville on Friday and Saturday of New Year's weekend.  Unfortunately, we got NO Qs either day.  But our runs were good and it was just one little thing each run that kept us from qualifying, so I don't feel like it was a disaster at all.  I still had a good time and that's what matters.  Our next trial is the second weekend in February.  

The biggest change has been the addition of a foster dog to the family.  Boomer is a young dog, about a year old, who was adopted from a shelter in Phoenix last July by my brother and his family.  Last post I said that they were in transition, moving back to Ohio from Arizona, and in fact are already living in Ohio.  My sister-in-law and the kids are staying with her brother until the house in AZ sells.  My brother is traveling with the band he is part of and will be back and forth to AZ.  Boomer needed a place to stay and so he is on the farm with us for now.  He and Grover get along quite well, with Boomer following Grover everywhere.  Of course it got really cold here right after Boomer arrived, so I have been keeping some old cria coats on Boomer and he seems to be doing ok.  He's not one to miss a chance at a walk in the woods, despite high temps in the lower 20's.


Son Zac flew back to California last Thursday.  He was here for about 2 1/2 weeks and it really was a very nice visit.  It was sad to see him go, though I am sure he was ready to get back to his life out there.  We currently have no plans to travel west to see him or Ian at this time, which makes it harder to say goodbye.  But I am sure we will get out there sometime this year.  I would really like to get everyone back to Bend, Oregon again.  Another week in that gorgeous luxury "cabin" would be fabulous.  

My studio is now complete on the outside, except for stain and railing, which will have to wait for spring.  I installed insulation in the walls in December and Sam started putting in the ceiling.  Our neighbor generously loaned him a drywall lift to help with that project.  Unfortunately, the weather got too cold to comfortably work out there for several days, so Sam only got a few sheets up.  The forecast this week is for above normal temps, so maybe I can help him get the rest of the ceiling up this weekend.  Then we can turn on the heat and start on the walls.

As I said, it was extremely cold the last several days, with overnight temps down in single digits, which meant I had to thaw pipes a couple of mornings.  Our gas also froze up Monday night, dropping our gas pressure to about 2 pounds, which is below the minimum required to run a house comfortably.  Thank goodness for our wood-burner.  Yesterday, the weather changed and it is going to be much warmer the next few days.  With that weather change came some very strong gusty winds.  And those winds caused a bit of damage on the farm last night.

This is how the equipment storage structure that  we call the poly-shelter looked this morning.  Granted, we put this up in 2002 or 2003, so it has lasted a good long while.  There was a tear down the center of it that we noticed a few weeks ago that was about 2 feet long and apparently a huge gust of wind came through late yesterday afternoon and ripped it right in half.  Sam is talking about putting a metal roof on this instead of replacing the tarp-type roofing and if he does that, we may use some of the hoop structure to build a greenhouse.  But for now, I think Sam will be cutting up the torn heavy duty poly fabric and using it to cover some of the equipment we do not want left out unprotected all winter.  

The last 2 handknit Christmas gifts were given and so now I can post those.  2 more pairs of socks, the purple for my mother and the green for my sister-in-law.

I am continuing to work on the sweater for Sam from handspun alpaca/shetland and have only one sleeve left to go.  Then I need to seam it together and knit the neckband.  It may be done by my next post.  That would be good.  


I started a new sweater for myself after the first of the year.  I am using some of my hand dyed alpaca yarn along with a commercial wool yarn in a striping pattern.  The blue is my hand-dyed alpaca.  I love this color combination.   This photo is just a small sample "swatch" to see how the yarns will work together.

I am also back to weaving, now that I have my weaving space at home back.  I have some alpaca scarves on the loom there, using some natural colored yarn and some of my hand-dyed.  I have not used my commercially spun alpaca as the warp before, so this is experimental and I am learning as I go.    I have woven only about 6" of this so far.  

And no photo yet, but I am in the middle of putting a colorful warp on my big loom for more alpaca rugs.  I should have some progress on that next time I post.

Happy 2017!!