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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It's Heating Up

Rowdy cooling off in the beaver pond
It is mid-May and the forecast for today is for a high of about 90 degrees.  That's pretty darn warm.  At least the leaves are all out on the trees for the most part and the shade will help to keep things a little cooler on the farm.

As is usual for this time of year, there is a lot to do.  May usually means planting the garden, shearing alpacas, and starting the long summer job of keeping things mowed, which includes doing the first cutting of hay.  I will admit the mowing is usually mostly Sam's job.  A lot of our property is not flat and he is much better handling that mowing than I am.  I am happy to mow the flat pastures,  which I started on yesterday.  Due to a warm wet spring the grass was incredibly thick in these pastures.  And the two I have left to mow will be even worse.  And this photo reminds me that there is a lot of weed clearing to do as well.

Alpaca shearing and haymaking will have to wait until Sam returns from a fishing trip he is supposed to leave for in two days.  There has been a lot of haymaking going on in the area though, and this week would have been perfect for it.  Hot and dry the next 2 days and the past 2.

I have gotten most of the gardens planted.  Though I need to buy some corn.  It's on my list for today.  This is the tomato and pepper garden.  I am trying something new and using old broken down cardboard boxes as a weed barrier.  It should act like mulch and hold in the moisture as well.  And it uses up what would otherwise be garbage.  The large green plant is parsley that came back from last year.


 In this garden I have lettuce, arugula and romaine all coming up, as well as beets.  The romaine to the right was planted last fall and over-wintered under a hoop cover.  It did really well with the mild winter we had.  I set  out some cucumbers yesterday that I started in pots and also planted butternut squash.  Corn will be at the far end and I'd like to get some pumpkins, though I may put them somewhere else entirely.  All this planting took up a good part of the last two days.

 Here are the beehives from the swarm (swarms?) we caught almost 2 weeks ago.  The nearer one is the huge clump that was hanging from the barn ceiling and they are doing really well.  The farther one is the box of bees that was in the barn which we relocated in the hope that it was a swarm with a queen.  I think it may be queenless.  It still has bees in it and there is some coming and going, but it does not act like it should.  Tomorrow I will open it up and look more closely at what is going on (or isn't).

Me and the agility dogs!
Grover and I went to an agility trial in the Cleveland area this past weekend.  It was a three day trial and we got all three of our jumper's runs, but only one standard run.  So we have one more Double Q toward our goal of 20.  We are up to 6 now and we managed to score 45 MACH points over the weekend, bringing our current total to 243 out of 750 needed.  By my calculations, we are almost 1/3 of the way there.  One more Double Q and we will pass the 1/3 mark, as long as we score at least 7 points.  We were with my friend and instructor, Sharon, and her three papillons.  We took advantage of the wonderful weather on Saturday and went to the beach with the dogs.  We also went on Friday, but the weather was overcast and windy. If you look carefully you can see the Cleveland skyline in the central background.  Our next trial(s) will be the 16th, 17th & 18th of June and we will be a two different venues that weekend.

  Check this out!  Sam and I moved my loom from upstairs in Rowdy's room AKA the guest room last week.  It seems so small in that large space and I have had time to actually sit out there and weave only once, but it was wonderful.  Rowdy took up residence on the rug and Grover sat in the doorway and kept and eye on things.  I still need to put in some shelving and have plans to hit Ikea in a few weeks since there is one right by where I will be for an agility trial. 



 I may have only spent a couple hours at the loom in my new space, but my sewing machine is in there as well and I did spend some time out there sewing one of my hand-woven valances for the dining room  I will admit I have not yet had time to sew the second one, but now that I have done one the second should be easier.  That's the theory anyway.  I am so pleased with how this turned out.  I hung it late in the day and I was disappointed that the pattern did not show, but wise Sam said he thought it would show much better in daylight with the light coming through it.  And wouldn't you know he was right!
 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Things Are Buzzing

May has arrived and there is so much to do all of a sudden.  Even since I took this photo, the woods have burst into leaf and the wildflowers are everywhere. 
The grass in the pastures is knee deep with only 3 alpacas to eat it, so I will be on the tractor mowing soon.  We had some extremely warm weather this past weekend and now it has turned around and feels much more seasonal.  But it is enough to make me start planting and preparing gardens.  

 The asparagus is coming on nicely and we enjoyed some last week sauteed in butter with ramps and morels.  The root bulbs of the ramps are minced and sauteed, then I added the asparagus and morels and when everything was nice and tender, I threw in some of the ramp leaves chopped up fairly fine.  Quite yummy.

I have planted some herbs outside in the herb garden and I may have to cover them overnight this weekend as we may get frost.  I have sunflowers  and cukes sprouted in pots on the back deck and am waiting for tomatoes and peppers to come up.  Lettuce, arugula and spinach are starting to come up in the garden and beets have been planted.  

Mom came to visit this weekend.  She brought the ashes of Luca, her Springer Spaniel, and we buried them up at the pond.  He loved that pond and I think it will be nice to think of him being there.  While Mom was here I took her out to the stalls in the horse barn, which have become a storage area, to show her the new front door Sam got to replace the ancient drafty one that is probably 50 years old, and we discovered that the barn was full of bees.  Honey bees.
There were bees in these bee boxes I had stacked in there last fall with intentions to deal with them this spring. 



There were bees clustered on the the window (this photo was taken after dark once they settled down).   There were what seemed like thousands of bees in the air, coming and going through the doorway.  This was on Sunday afternoon.  I was pretty sure it was a swarm of bees and that they had likely been attracted by the stacked hive boxes which still had frames of drawn comb, though no honey, in them.  

By Monday morning, this is what we had going on.  Those bees are not covering anything, that is a solid mass of bees hanging on the ceiling and support beam above the stall divider in the barn.  No doubt, this is a swarm.  So while Sam was at work on Monday, I prepared a hive box and when he arrived home we decided where to put the hive and then Sam stood on one side of the stall divider and held a box and I climbed up onto something on the other side so I could reach the bees and I brushed and scooped them into the box.  We then took them to the prepared hive box, into which I had placed frames with drawn comb and one with honey and some lemongrass oil, and I dumped them in.  Then we went back and scooped up some more bees and dumped them into the hive as well.  We will see if they stick around.

My dilemma is that there are STILL bees in that box in the barn and there is STILL a cluster of bees in the window. And during the day yesterday there were STILL large numbers of bees coming and going through the barn door. Is that a second swarm?  This evening I will delve into the box in the barn and see if we need to set up a second hive.  I really thought I was done with bees.  But it seems as though I am not yet meant to be finished with them.

On Friday, Grover and I have a private agility lesson over near Columbus.  I am excited about this and hope we can get some good input on things we need to work on.  I would like to do this monthly and have homework to do between lessons.  And then the next weekend, the 12th to the 14th, we are going to an agility trial in the Cleveland area.  This is a new venue for us and we are going with my friend/instructor from the Club, Sharon.  So next time I post I hope to have lots of good runs to share.

I am still working on the same two weaving projects.  The exciting news is that I have started to move things into my studio!  So far just my sewing machine table, drum carder table, and a plastic bin organizer with some of my weaving stuff in it.  Moving my loom from Rowdy's room will be a chore, even though it folds up, but maybe Sam and I can do that this weekend.  I am still trying to figure out storage and shelving, etc.  But it is every exciting.  

See the frog?
Grover among the Trillium










 

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

Spring!!

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.