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.