Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Precioussssss

What's more useful than a magic ring that grants invisibility?  If you have livestock it's second cutting hay.


A streak of hot and dry weather (OK, we could say the streak started in early June) gave us the chance to grab what little second cutting hay was available. The two fields that are grass and alfalfa mix were the only ones that had growth enough to even consider.  The volume was minimal because of the drought but with days getting shorter and dew getting heavier we knew it was probably a 'now or never' situation.   Andy raked the windrows into triples and they were still unimpressive.


These two fields yielded around 1800 bales of first cutting.  We expect the second cutting to be about half that as the grass component doesn't grow back as robustly as the alfalfa.  But with the drought supressing the plants we ended up with a grand total of 290 bales from the two fields and we're happy we got that.

We'll be doling that out by the teaspoonful this winter to the geriatrics and anybody that feels poorly for some reason.  Thankfully the first cutting was of good quality and should be very adequate for the bulk of the flock on winter maintenance.

Precious it is, and we loves it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Motivation

Sheep have gotten an undeserved reputation for being stupid.  They are NOT stupid.  They do make very bad snap decisions sometimes, but given normal circumstances they learn quickly - very quickly if there's food involved.  Animals in general like routine and when something yummy is involved they learn what to do in one go and you can then set your watch by their behavior.

When the flock was in the barn eating hay last month because of the drought we started giving a small grain ration to make up for the mediocre hay quality.  Once we started turning them out we decided to keep giving a bit of grain in the evening to encourage them to queue up at the gate and come in smartly rather than wandering around the pasture they pass through to get back in.  It's really just a dusting in the feeders but sheep don't worry about how much is there - there is NONE, or there is SOME.  That's all the motivation they need.

They know when they'll be let in and come back from the lowest pasture to hang around and be handy.



Once a bottle lamb, always a bottle lamb.  "My" kids hear our voices and wonder why they can't just come in this little back door.  It would be so much faster.

 Snubby

Stewart Little

Sheep that were never bottle babies consider our appearance at the back door with more suspicion.  This colored Cotswold is particularly uncertain about our motives.

"She's staring at us.  Why is she staring at us??  This can't be good!"

But when it's time to come in for grain hesitancy goes out the window!  (I have no idea what those loud buzzing noises are on the video - they didn't occur in real life - must be the mothership trying to contact me again.)


That's Nibbles and Kandy bringing up the rear.  Somebody has to be last.  They are both old enough that they do. not. run.  But don't worry, there was plenty of space at the feeders so they surely got a mouthful or two.

I have to admit, I show the same enthusiasm when eating at a really good buffet.  ;-)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Certain Something

Who is he?

Any beverage is improved by the addition of a few of his hairs.

Fleas won't jump on him because they know they're not worthy.

Jeans and a Tshirt become formal wear with his fur all over them.

Zen gardeners study his litterbox for design inspiration.

He is......

"Stay furry, my friends!"

.....the most interesting cat in the world.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August In A Nutshell

The days of August have gone too quickly.  This month is like the Sunday night of summer - September is the mental break between summer and fall seasons.  The weather may stay just as warm (for a while) but all those years of going to school has branded my brain with the thought that summer's over on September first.

So what was the bulk of August like?

We had drought that made us bring the sheep in off pasture for four weeks.  They complained but did well on the hay and small grain ration we gave them.  The weather threatened many times but it was just so dry the storms couldn't form.  We had lots of interesting skies.

There's a tiny bit of rainbow near the horizon.


Ominous, no?  But we barely got a sprinkle out of it.


Rain finally did begin to fall and the landscape became green again.  It was startling after so much brown and tan.  Today we just started turning the flock out for a short period.  We'll have to be careful not to let them overdo.  The grass is as lush and tender as it ever is in May.  Just like having a second spring!


The personnel from the Ag building at the county fair asked me to demo spinning again so I had a pleasant four-hour shift actually spinning something for the fun of it.  I had another rainbow batt from a guild project in the stash and I didn't weigh it before starting but I did just nicely finish it in the four hours.  I already have a skein of this that I plied with a silver thread for a slightly sparkly yarn that preserves the color shift.  I now have this one and I think one more bobbin like that which will need plying the same way.  I have no clue what I'm going to do with it but I'll have enough!


While I was spinning I enjoyed watching what other people were doing in the building.  This man had lots of different 'pioneer' type items and demonstrated flint knapping (note to self - learn to do this.  Might be handy in the zombie apocalypse and it does have a certain 'gee whiz' factor to it) and making turkey calls using turkey leg bones.  He had a whole bunch of them and was teaching kids how to produce the call.


 This boy caught onto it pretty fast and practiced a long time, then went and signed up at the DEC booth for the Turkey Calling Contest.  You can't get much more rural than that.


There is a display of glass milk bottles from local dairies, now all long gone.  They represent a lot of people making a living.  I dimly remember our family getting milk delivered to the door when I was very small.  The milkman always came very early and put the bottles in the small metal cooler at the front door.  The paper caps were yellow around the rim and white in the center with writing but I don't remember the name and was too young to read anyway.


After spinning I always go and get a root beer float and then walk around some.  Most buildings don't want food or drink brought inside so I wander the blacksmith area and antique tractor display.  This machine caught my eye.  Guesses?  The shovel shaped part slides under the soil and lifts the crop up to where the spinning tines can separate it from the dirt.  OK, that pretty much gives it away.


A horse drawn potato digger.  Apparently Corning had a functioning foundry.  A google search shows the digger advertised in The Rural New Yorker in 1910.


I like the simple but efficient design.  You can't feed the country's population with such equipment now but at the time I'm sure the purchaser was thrilled with such a sturdy labor saving device.


I have done a little bit more spinning.  This small skein was spun from a demo batt I made on a blending board.  The batt was pretty wild looking but the skein is more domesticated. 


And I spun up a sample skein of a new colorway that will be making its debut at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival - "Autumn Blaze".  It's a hotter color than the picture suggests - more orange and yellow.


The power company, NYSEG (New York State Electric and Gas), came through doing a yearly check of the electric poles and discovered some alarming posts in the sheep pasture.



Yikes.  These are slated to be replaced, perhaps this week.  Amazingly, they are the original poles which were placed when electricity reached the farm - in 1946. They have served their purpose well and deserve retirement.  The cross arms all rotted off in the 1980s and the wires were then attached directly to the poles but the wires and poles themselves never failed, even in the big ice storm of 1993.  NYSEG would have liked to relocate the power line to the roadside.  We gave it considerable thought and decided we wanted them left down in the field.  Andy already has to work around a few poles and guy wires up the road and they are a huge annoyance.  Also, the distance between poles will be shorter due to new regulations (never mind that the current spacing seems to have worked well here since 1946) and a pole would have had to be placed essentially at the road in front of the sawmill/tractor shed plus the wires would stretch over the front lawn and become a focal point no matter how you tried to ignore them.  Of all the many many times the power has gone out here it's never been because of a problem with 'our' poles - it's been up the road where the poles are by the road and scrub trees grow up and cause problems.  That will never happen here as long as we're around.  I'll give the company credit for being very nice and polite about us not wanting them moved.  They said it was our choice and they never gave us any argument when we said we wanted them left in the field.

Any ornithologists out there?  We've been having a nocturnal bird of some kind calling off and on for a couple of weeks.  Here's a recording of it taken a few nights ago while he was likely sitting on the electric pole in the yard.  You might need to turn up the sound a little.  Ignore the video - I was trying to hold the phone down so the camera light wouldn't scare it off while I recorded.  I wish 'audio only' was a setting in the camera function.  Oh well. 


I'm guessing it's a juvenile owl of some variety but don't know for sure. I recognize most of the owl species' adult calls - the cadence of their hoots is distinctive - but this is a squawk.  I consulted my trusty Roger Tory Peterson field guide but didn't find any mention of squawking.  I did like the description of a short eared owl's call - an emphatic sneezy bark - and I thought our bird might be that but then I found the Macaulay Library of bird calls and their short eared owl doesn't sound like our bird.  I had plenty of opportunity to memorize this call.  The stupid freaking bird majestic creature was as regular as a metronome, calling every 8 to 12 seconds from about 1:30 AM to 3:00 AM.

I shouldn't complain - it's better than gunfire, car alarms, music from the neighbors, heavy traffic and lots of other sounds people have to deal with when they're trying to sleep.  


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Yarn Along (A Day Late) - Goodbye July

The drought continued on through the end of July and into the beginning of August.  We switched the sheep over to the pastures that lie to the south of the barn and let them have free range over it all to try and stretch their time outside.  We did finally get one day that gave us a half inch of rain and some misty conditions that lingered into the next morning.  It felt like a monsoon after such a length of days without rain.  As there was no lightning with the rain we locked the sheep out in the pasture so they'd get a decent bath.  It made a huge difference!


I usually carry beet pulp pellets in my pocket as treats and Peanut hung back hoping for another serving as everyone else trooped out to the field.  I told her I'd give her more later and she then followed the flock.


It's almost foggy enough to lose sight of them in the tall brown grass.


The mist also showed lots of spider webs in the flower bed.  These are sheet weaver spiders and they are quite abundant this year!


This one is a high achiever!


 I can imagine this web as the setting for some children's story about a spider, since it looks very home-y and inviting.  If you're a spider.....otherwise I guess it's more like a Brothers Grimm children's story.


The owl hasn't been hanging around much lately, at least not during daylight when the birds would alert us, but I did find a calling card in the grass.  I just love the tawny, rusty colors.


Andy completed a four day clean out of the lower barn.  It was quite overdue but first the skidsteer needed repair necessitating dismantling many components and installing new parts (which we were lucky to find considering how old it is), then the tractor needed some parts, and finally the manure spreader needed parts too!  And of course none of it was on a shelf somewhere - each thing had to be ordered and 'we can get it in tomorrow or Monday' which required extra trips to town.  Thankfully, the sheep were still on pasture during those 4 days so there wasn't any shuffling from pen to pen required.

But.

The rain we did get wasn't enough by any means to reverse the drought and so the flock was confined to the barn/barnyard/feedbunk complex and put on dry hay starting last weekend.  To say they weren't happy is to put it mildly.  The hay is leftover from last year - not unwholesome but tired and not as nutritious as it once was - but it will work as a maintenance diet since we aren't feeding lambs or moms needing to put condition back on.  Thank goodness we don't have a bunch of lambs to try and give really good nutrition to - we'd be buying something.  The sheep complained loud and long and ran to the gate anytime we went into the barn but after much grumbling and a few days time they settled into the new routine.  We hope it won't be more than a few weeks and that we don't have to dip into the new hay in August.  That is ALL needed for winter, especially since getting any second cutting is looking pretty iffy.

The old ewes get a separate pen where we can feed grain, alfalfa pellets and some of this year's hay on the ground so it's easy to eat.  They might have a couple of full mouths of teeth between them all.  :-/


We're using the 'picnic area' out in the feedbunk which gives more room for everyone.


And having more bodies outside and fewer inside keep the barn as airy and ventilated as possible when it's in the 90s as it is now.


While Andy did the grunt work in the lower barn I've kept plenty busy in the wool shop.  I've gotten out  over a dozen more reserved fleeces in the last few weeks as well as the occasional order for roving or a few pounds of raw Cotswold, and I've still managed to get fiber washed and dyed to send to the mill to be processed into roving.  This is going to be new batches of Wine Country, Blue Jeans and the black and white fiber is a combo of black alpaca and white Cotswold lamb which will give some pleasant shade of gray (I'm not real picky there - I'm sure it will be nice!).


There's been blessed little knitting going on here but I have been listening to books while I worked.  I've gotten through The Ridge which was interesting and had some plot twists I wasn't expecting.  Then I went to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and immediately followed it with the second book of the trilogy, Hollow City.  I'm loving this series!  The action is fast, the characters are interesting (besides the obvious peculiarities, like being invisible or having a swarm of bees live inside you) and the language is rich and satisfying.  I'm dying to listen to the third book but the library doesn't have it to download as an audio book yet.  Curses.   I'll have to see if it's available on CDs instead.  I must find out what happens!

Joining in with Ginny.....


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Yarn Along - This Is Actually Fun!

The Finger Lakes Fiber Festival is sponsored by the Genesee Valley Handspinners Guild.  Last year was the guild's 30th anniversary and to commemorate the occasion Amy the Fiber Goddess dyed BFL roving in three distinct multi-color colorways and all who wanted to participate received two ounces to spin any way they wished.  The small skeins were then displayed in the guild's booth at the festival last year.

This year's guild display is to be items made from those small skeins.  Can be anything and can include other yarn.  I spun my original two ounces a little soft and chunky so there really wasn't much yardage to work with.  Amy had some roving left so I grabbed another bag of the color I had last year (which turned out to be slightly different shades from the first roving but that's OK, it's all pretty) and even a bit more of a second colorway from a friend who didn't need all hers.

I had settled on a pattern some time ago and printed it out before I went to Kentucky to visit The Crazy Sheeplady.  I knew I'd need help making sure I understood what was written, and during the Summer Swap gathering an excellent knitter helped me figure it out.  (Thanks, kbdoolin!)

I'm liking it so much I want to go sit in random waiting rooms so I can knit and have people notice it!  ;-)


I love that there's no set stopping point - when you're out of yarn, you're done!

I've listened to a few audio books lately while driving and working.  I really liked two of them although they are world's apart in plot and style.  Across Five Aprils has apparently been around as long as I have ( ! ) but I hadn't stumbled over it.  I'm pleased to think there are tons of good 'old' books out there waiting for me to discover them.  The other one is much newer - Station Eleven - and is quite popular judging by the people in line ahead of me waiting to download it from the library so in this one tiny event I'm current with pop culture.

Joining in with Ginny....

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

See??

This is why I was fretting about an owl having nabbed Chloe.


A lovely, big great horned owl sitting right on the electric pole in the yard at dusk while robins and grackles swooped around squawking in alarm.  While I think an owl would have to be motivated by serious need to tackle an adult cat instead of smaller prey, I'm very sure they could dispatch one with a bit of effort.  

We'd never hurt an owl but I'm really, really glad Chloe is back so I don't have to look at this beauty with suspicion.