Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Did YOU Have for Lunch?

I'm hoping it was something in the rodent family.


This lovely was sunning herself (I'm going with "her") on our patio step, all stretched out and using the heat to help digest whatever she ate. She's big for a garter snake - about two and a half feet.  That's a pretty big bulge and there's a funny lump on the bottom - maybe a hind foot?  Snakes eat things head first so I'm not sure what prey would leave a bump showing.  I couldn't see if there was a matching bump on the other side.

 
I love the spandex aspect of her skin and it shows off some pretty, hidden colors.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July - boy, I've wished I had this ability!  ;-)
 
 
Her eye is a beautiful copper color.  For a snake that looks kind of dull at first glance she teaches a great lesson about looking more closely to see the loveliness in ordinary things.  The good Lord put beauty in every creation.....if you look.
 

 
I sure wish I could speak Parseltongue.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More Bees

Winter was really hard on a lot of honeybee hives, both wild and domesticated.  The swarm which took up residence in our locust tree last spring flourished all summer with lots of activity and a big population.  We never did see them send a swarm out which seemed kind of odd.  Maybe we missed it.  In any case we saw some housecleaning activity during one brief winter warm up but nothing when spring really arrived.  Sadly, they apparently perished.

Through the spring and early summer we'd see a few bees checking out the tree but nobody actually living there.  Some bees might have been neighbors who were robbing anything useful out of the old hive.  And they must have made note of the vacated area because yesterday we got this.....

 
Except for a little milling around the bees were all streaming into the tree.  BIG swarm.
 
Looks like we're back to taking a wide berth around the tree with the lawn mowing equipment.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Stills - The Letter B

Thought we would do a letter challenge this week, so things that start with the letter B.....
A "Big Girl Camera" - a Nikon D90.

Wheeeeee!
Bag of blue.....

.....wool roving.
Blueberries.


Bergamot.....

.... amongst the trefoil.

Burdock.

(Boooo!  Hissss!)
Bales.


Blooms.....

 
 
 
 
.....with bugs.....
 
 
 
a fly that's a honeybee mimic
A butterfly I didn't even know was there!  (bottom blossom).
 
 
 
And a real bee...honeybee, that is.
 
 
For more Sunday Stills........
 
 



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's That Time Again

Monday was weaning day for the ram lambs.  They are plenty old enough to be away from mom and the moms are ready to have them leave.  It took all day Monday to separate them from the main flock, move them in two trailerloads to the upper barn, bring back a group of yearling ewes who had been in the upper barn for lack of space in the lower barn around lambing, put down fresh bedding, scrub water tubs, stop for lunch, etc.  Oh, and we had rain.  Lots of rain with wind - that's a sheet of rain being whipped up over the barn roof like snow.

 
We kept the ram lambs locked in the pens in the upper barn overnight so they wouldn't somehow get into trouble with the big boys when we weren't around.  You never know - it pays to be careful.  Off and on all night we could hear the lambs calling and the ewes answering back.
 
In the morning we let them out to mix with the adult rams.  They were mildly curious about some of the more bold lambs but mostly they ignored them which is just what we wanted.  Everyone trooped out to pasture but without a routine or mom to tell them where to go and when to go there the little boys kind of wandered around in groups grazing and exploring and sometimes calling for their mothers. 
 

 
 
"I'm lost."
 
"Have you seen my mother?"
 
Everybody wanted to be in a group, but nobody wanted to be the leader of the group so there was a lot of aimless milling.....but it was a nice day.
 


"I'm not milling.  I'm going to sit right here until mom comes....or until I get bored.  Whichever comes first."
 

The lambs are growing quite well and should continue to gain on new (to them) pasture.  Here's a sturdy young Cotswold.

"Why are you taking a picture of my butt?  Weird-o!"
 
 
It's a nice place to be a sheep.
 
Last night we didn't hear a peep out of the moms or the lambs.  They've all adjusted that quickly.  I"m sure they would run back to each other if given the chance but neither group is pining. 
 
And now it's summer.
 


Friday, July 11, 2014

Fibery Friday

Long summer days are great for getting lots done.  I'm not a morning person at all - I'm wired to start hitting my stide around 2 PM and am most productive until dark or suppertime, whichever comes first.  This tendency is a bear to fight in the short winter days :-/

We've had fair weather for a change.  These clouds are neat - the one at top looks like a waterfall to me, complete with fine mist coming from the 'river'.


Three dry days means Andy can bale hay.  We took two loads off last night and two this morning so he had four empty wagons to work with.  The hay is more mature than we wanted but with the cool damp weather we've had it's hard to get any so we'll take all we can get.

 
 
I finished spinning my half of Pearl's last fleece and washed the skeins.  I've got 756 yards of a nice 2-ply yarn. 
 
  
I'm thinking of either a jacket or vest.  I'll have to poke around in some patterns I bookmarked on Ravelry to see which one I have enough yarn to complete.  I'm pretty sure I want to dye it as I'm not a good candidate to wear white.  I'll either get it dirty immediately or I'll look like I'm ready for the undertaker - I'm pale enough in winter as it is.  I'm waffling over a nice solid color or doing some casserole dyeing with multiple colors.  Then I'll have to worry about the colors making mud at the bottom of the dish or unexpected unpleasant pooling of colors when the item it knit.   Hmmmm......
 
 
I also finally finished my Wingspan knitalong project. Everyone who wanted to participate was to turn their shawl in at the May guild meeting but I just didn't make it.  I'll get this in the mail next week.  All the shawls will be in a special display at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival in September.  It's always astounding to see how very different they all are from one another even though we all started with the same basic pattern.  I used some handspun sample skeins from my Cotswold rovings that I've had processed over the years. Might as well use them - the roving is gone so they don't match anything now.
 
 
 
I like the way it hangs on my shoulders although I should have made the triangles bigger.  It's more of a "statement" than my usual functional duds. ;-)
 


And today I got busy dyeing some silk sliver to use in the carded spinning batts I hope to stock in our booth at FLFF.  I don't have a firm plan about what colors are going with what wool roving, so I just got started and reached for colors as the mood struck me. 

 
 


What I don't use in batts can be sold alone as dyed silk to spin or blend. 

Holly had a big playdate with Angel and Brandy next door.  She got to play in the wading pool and even helped to chase Boo the cat up a tree.

"Heh, heh, heh....."
 
A busy day for everyone!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Off to a New Home

The lambs are growing fast and plenty old enough to leave mom.  These three youngsters are going to a great home where they'll be doted on and grow lovely fiber for their new mom.  Names have already been selected - Wendell, Knuckles and Delilah.  The boys were neutered here a couple of weeks ago and are healing up well. They left in style, in the back of a SUV fitted with a snazzy pet barrier.  This is meant for use with dogs but I like it very much for the lambs.  Smooth but sturdy, nothing to get caught on.  They were looking out the hatchback at the barn for the last time.


Bye, little guys.  Have a good life.

Wendell, looking a little yellow due to the tinted window.
 
Later I went out to check the water tub in the pasture the non-breeding group is in.  They have the area behind the barn which includes a nice stand of locust trees which provide great shade.  The slope is troublesome in very wet weather but today it was a nice place to rest.  They don't have to be crowded together but apparently the very best spot to stand in is at the corner of the barn where the breeze comes from two directions.  I think all the fleece types are represented here - white Cotswold, gray Cotswold, and crossbreds in white, gray, black and moorit.
 
 
Pearl's daughter Pretty has been rubbing her forehead on the snowfence.  It's coated in iron oxide paint which is thankfully non-toxic and does wear off quickly when it gets on wool. FYI, if you're looking for good old fashioned wood slat snow fence it's not called snow fence any more - it's 'erosion control fencing'.  I would never have thought of that if I was searching a catalog or website. 
 
"Whatever you call them, a fence is a nuisance.  Take 'em down, I say."
 
Pretty's fleece is really showing her Cotswold heritage.
 

 
I sure wish I could keep them all as clean until next year as they are right now!
 
 
 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Waste Not

 
"Use it up,
Wear it out.
Make it do
or do without."
 
That particular bit of wisdom was my Great Aunt Martha's favorite.  Born in 1892 she grew up in a time when waste was shameful (as well as stupid) and the need to be frugal was reinforced by the first and second World Wars.  I was small when I knew her but I liked that bit of rhyme and have always remembered it.
 
Processing wool through a carder to make roving always generates some waste - short and broken fibers that fall from the carding cloth and are discarded.  I've always been annoyed by the reality of having fiber that I've spent time skirting and washing and dyeing end up being thrown away even though it isn't a great quantity.  But no more!  I'm a bit slow on the uptake but have finally caught onto the thought of making dryer balls from the waste.
 
Behold!
 
 
I've asked Diane from Acorn Works to return my carder waste to me along with the good roving.  Thanks to a tutorial from Thecrazysheeplady I have turned several bags of fiber into dryer balls.  I made seventeen in the first go 'round and I have more fuzzy waste fiber yet to use. 
 

 
I had a little trouble keeping the size consistent and the bigger ones were a little too squishy so I got the bright idea of cinching them up with yarn and letting them have another wash cycle. Then I threw them all in the dryer to beat the fuzz and dust off them and round off the lumpy parts.  The yarn worked to help them tighten down but what I thought was a fun little pattern of yarny dashes ended up looking like the big cartoonishly obvious stitches that hold Frankenstein's head on.  Oh well, they are functional and turned my waste fiber into a useful item so I'm hooked.
 
Totally unrelated, we have cliff swallows nesting in one machine shed!
 

 
I love these little guys!  We have barn and tree swallows too so the flying insects had better watch out.  The barn swallows make a mud nest with a traditional cup shape, the tree swallows are cavity nesters and have camped out in one bird house in the big rose bush, but the cliff swallows don't settle for some simple nest - they make a mud structure that's totally enclosed with just a little entry hole.  And they were smart enough to settle in the one building that the cats frequent less than the others.  Coincidence or are they a bit smarter than the other species of swallow?  Maybe elaborate nest structures are correlated to intelligence?  Sounds like a thesis paper for someone.....
 
Speaking of building, I saw this paper wasp industriously gnawing on the wood door frame of my wool shed.  You can see from the parallel chew marks in the wood that this is a favorite place to come get building material. 
 
 
After scraping wood fibers from the board he mixes it with spit to make a pasty pellet and then carries it to the paper nest and applies it to the leading edge, using his jaws to shape it into a thin flat strip - building a sheet of paper one mouthful at a time. 
 
 
I'm always amazed by the abilities the good Lord gave all his creations, even the little ones.