Friday, February 5, 2016

Random Friday

I'm going to drop all pretense of making a post with a story or plot.  Just assume this is the Reader's Digest Condensed Version (boy, did I just date myself) of the longer narrative and at least we'll get caught up.

We've separated the ewes into groups according to age and body type (and changed up some coats again).  Youngsters and geriatrics are getting a grain ration and the rest of the flock is too, but in smaller portions.   Dividing them into pens is safer (nobody gets trampled in a grain-induced stampede) although it does make for a bit more work on our parts.  The weather has been helpful in that most days the water will run and we don't have to schlep it with buckets.  Astonishing!  The hay is not the best quality due to conditions last summer preventing us from cutting it when it should have been, but an unattended bale is apparently plenty yummy.

I've been working with the shearing from last year and got a new color back from Acorn Works - Tropical Seas -  and am very pleased with it.

I've started dyeing for another 3-way color combo.  This part is going to be a dark plum-purple.  The dye broke into red areas and dark blue areas and the overhead lighting exaggerates the contrast.... blah blah blah.... it looks nicer in real life.

Quilt batting returned from Zeilinger's Mill.  This is the odds and ends from lots of fleeces that didn't look good enough to go into roving.  It can function as quilt batting or be used for felting or even spinning.  It's very free from VM and I think it would felt well, making a blank canvas to do cool things with.

I skirted a couple of nice Cotswold fleeces that were still here - gray Gilly......

....and white Louise.

They both sold quickly on Facebook.  Yes, typical of the way I do things I'm firmly planted on the back side of the social media wave and have only just put Nistock Farms on Facebook.  Man, there's a lot of buttons, icons, doodads and nooks and crannies over there.....  Anyway, please stop over and "Like" our page.

I also skirted Crazy Cocoa Puff's fleece and that's still available if anyone is needing a gray fleece with variable crimp and texture!  It was a coated fleece so it's totally free of VM but has a split personality in grade and type.  Got multiple projects?  This fleece is ADHD and can multitask - maybe a sweater for you, a fulled tote bag and a saddle pad for your horse?  Just shoot me an email for details if interested.  robin AT nistockfarms DOT com.

I finally finished spinning the last of Mr. Bill's fleece and hope to start plying the two giant bobbins.

We had a streak of crazy warm weather that let us get to the woods to take down a few more trees.  Andy needs them for an order of grade stakes for a surveyor.  There was no snow.  Not one drop!  Bizarre, but at least in a useful sort of way.

Popeye has grown into a sleek big cat and is back to his normal sassy self after being "tutored" in December.  I rescued him in June so he's probably about 10 months old now.  His left eye still looks like a marble and likely always will but it doesn't bother him and doesn't weep so it's no big deal.... at least for an indoor cat.  He can't judge distance for beans which would be a hardship outside.

This morning it snowed about an inch so it looks wintery again.  Holly was thrilled.  She likes a little snow if there's sun.

Looks like good weather to take a walk and plan the next task.  Always better with a dog!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Like a House Dropping on You From Above

Mayhem just off our side patio without us ever knowing.

Rat tracks coming out of a gap from our basement, sidles past the trunk of a locust and off into the yard. Going foraging in the tall weeds, I suppose, and then coming home.....   Um.......

Did NOT make it home.  Bushwhacked in the dark of night.

A swoop from behind (tail and feet touch snow) and a couple flapping hops...

A large feathered wing brushed here while Mr (or Mrs.) Owl mantled the catch and made sure he wasn't just merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Then he/she seems to have turned and hopped to the side and organized the catch for transit?  Or just swallowed it mostly whole?  There were just a few drops of blood and no fur so it either went down the hatch intact or was taken elsewhere.

At first I thought the owl had been sitting on top of the bobbed trunk of the locust tree but judging from the angle it flew in from I'm guessing he/she hunted from the top of the electric pole by the road instead.  Still, I'm glad we left as much tree as we did since it also does make a good perch.

Thank you, good owl of the north, for ridding us of a basement rat!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

But Of Course

We're planning to put coats on some of the Cotswolds tomorrow, check eye scores and weights one last time before going into winter and probably separate the oldest ewes into a group that can get a ration of grain once a day.  To that end I gathered a few sheep coats that needing mending, set up the sewing machine and realized I didn't have the scissors handy.  A two minute search ensued and when I came back into the room.......

Dexter and Calvin, ready to help.

Cats.  You can depend on them to appear when you least need their assistance.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Starting The Year With Three Days Of Cleaning

Did you think I meant the house?!?!


Three days here would certainly help but I meant the barn.  The big fall clean out didn't have to happen in October because we didn't have to set up pens for breeding groups.  Adding uneaten hay stems from the mangers every day kept the bedding pack clean and lovely but it was getting pretty deep.  The delay (and outstanding weather) did allow Andy time to get all the firewood we need for the winter in the basement and near the outside boiler, so it was a worthwhile trade-off.

He did get the large eastern section of barn cleaned last week.  Over the last three days he's been able to clear the long, main part in thirds each day.  While working (about 5 hours each time), the sheep shared cozy quarters in the clean area and a small pen in the bunk where the Picnic Table is.

There was some "close talking" while they waited (Fuzz and Bacardi halfheartedly banging heads in the middle).

 "You saw that, did you?  Some girls just shouldn't be roommates."

And some watched Andy through the gate going back and forth with the skidsteer.

First he had to move the hanging fan.

Then he could get started.  Drive in, scoop as much as the bucket would hold, back alllll the way out, turn and pile the litter on the far side of the feedbunk.  He'll start taking it out with the spreader as soon as the temperatures moderate in a few days.

While he's been working during the day I've been in the wool shop getting some fleeces skirted.  Here's Gilly's fleece ready for our booth at Roc Day this coming Saturday.  She is a soft and supple gray Cotswold.  Although past middle aged and giving up a little length the locks are still 5+ inches long.

The big rams are officially off pasture now and getting just hay twice a day.  When we get deep into the real cold of winter we'll add a small grain ration so they don't lose condition.  The oldest boys are eight this year and if keeping a healthy weight is going to become a problem it will certainly show up when they are dealing with low temperatures.

So far, Neville the Cotswold (far right) seems to be handling the coat he wears without any webbing happening in the fleece.  I'm keeping my eye on it.

And true to our promise we turned Peanut out of her sick pen on New Year's Day (and put a coat on her too, since her fleece is so pretty and clean).  She's standing kind of weird here - came from one direction and trying to decide if she wants to go back that way or not - but there's no lameness and she spent some time the first day ripping back and forth with the lambs just for the fun of it.

"Here?  Or there?  What to do, what to do......"

Definately starting the year on a good note!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Aaaaaanndd.........There It Is

Later rather than sooner, but winter has arrived.

Eighteen degrees with a stiff wind.

"So, do you hoomans not like that?  It's OK to us sheeps."

Yeah, given enough wool..... we'll manage.  Sigh.

Friday, December 25, 2015

They Can't Take It Back

The current thinking is that we're going to pay later in an ugly way for the unseasonably warm weather this month, but nobody can take back the two months of non-winter that we (at least ME) have been enjoying in this area.  Tough on snow plow businesses and ski resorts but there's no snow or ice underfoot and the water lines in the barn don't freeze and we have the bedroom windows cracked open and coats are pretty much optional during chores so I'm not looking at this gift horse too closely.

Christmas presents have mostly been sent (still working a bit on one) including one Finished Object from the knitting needles:  a scarf of natural colored angora from handspun yarn that was some of my first, so it's been marinating in the stash for literally 20+ years.  It's for my 91 years young godmother and while she hasn't had need of it yet this year I'm sure it will get cold enough to be useful.

It's based pretty much on the Seafoam Scarf which was the popular knit a couple of years ago.  Typical of me to ride the backside of any knitting trend.  I'm pretty sure I have a thorough knowledge of yarn overs now.   ;-)

  The sheep seem to be enjoying the weather too.  They aren't too warm even in a heavy fleece and standing in the yard while we fill hay feeders inside must be pleasant or they'd migrate into the feed bunk in the shade.

Minnie in front, Macaroon behind and Salsa to the right looking this way.

Minnie and Fuzz - "Take your's nice out here."

And the nicest Christmas present is Peanut's progress.  We can't say 'Christmas Miracle' because it took a solid six weeks of medical attention and bandages but the deeper wound on her leg has finally closed.  Nice pink skin and no discernible lameness.

We're leaving the bandage off but will keep her penned for a while yet until the skin toughens up and reaches a sturdy, normal thickness that can withstand the inevitable bumps and scuffs from other sheep at the hay feeders.

"I is healed!"

"And I wants to go over THERE!"

Hang on Peanut, the new year is coming and I think your sentence will be up!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Can I Sleep Till the Solstice Passes?

These short days really kick my butt.  All I want to do is eat and sleep.  My energy is at a low ebb just when I need to be doing Christmas things - decorating, cooking, making/buying/sending presents....  normally I'm a night person but as soon as it starts to get dark (that would be freakin' 4:30 in the afternoon) I start hoping it's close enough to bed time to go there.  Uh, no.  I know once the days start getting longer I'll feel more motivated.  So I will blame my recent lack of blog attention on the tilt of the earth and an attitude that makes a sloth look like a Type A personality by comparison.

Even so, we have been doing things, so let's get caught up.

We went to the woods several more times and Andy brought home enough wood to last both boilers through the winter.  He still needs to run the giant pile of pole wood over the buzz saw and the big blocks through the splitter but at least it's all right here handy.  This big ash is in the process of dying but we'll leave it alone because it's got lots of character and because it would be super dangerous to mess with!

The sheep have had a pleasant time without breeding groups and rams disrupting their routine and surroundings.  Even though we have good, quiet rams the whole flock is generally more restless when they are in the barn.  Just more motion and low-key disruption in the vibes. 

There's a lot of sitting around......

Which gives way to outright sleeping in the middle of the floor.

Most of the sheep are wearing coats now since we're feeding all hay.  I intend to try coating some of the Cotswolds this winter.  Their curls are just so pretty and awesome and while our feeders are a very good design they still get a little bit of fine trash down the back.  I'll keep an eagle eye out for any felting under the jackets.  We are utilizing the feeder out in the bunk which was built for a breeding group one year.   It's working very well to alleviate crowding at the indoor feeders.  We're calling it The Picnic Table.

I finally joined the rest of the world and got the farm on Facebook.  Oh. my. gosh.  Sooo many icons, buttons, settings, notifications.....  still fumbling my way around.  I'd love it if you'd Like our page.  I need to get a snappy link to it on the blog sidebar here.... add that to the list.....mumble, mumble.  I do like the immediacy of it and that you can just post a quick little thought or news item.  

The Christmas On The Farm craft/fiber show I attend in Phelps in early December was a good day's outing with a nice crowd.  I got a little Christmas shopping done too!

The following weekend was our spinning guild's December meeting in which we do an anonymous gift exchange (if you want to - it's not mandatory) of nice, ready-to-spin fiber.  One selects a gift from the pile based on which wrapping appeals to you.  Wouldn't you know, I was the first name picked!  And pulled this from the pile.

I was loving that needle felted chickadee on top but alas I didn't get to keep it.  'Stealing' is an option instead of picking from the pile on the table and this box had about 10 owners before we were done.  It was all good though - this pretty package came home with me and......

.....held this:  Into The Whirled blueface leicester roving in a colorway called Vegetable Medley.  Can't wait to spin it!  I already have someone's Christmas gift for next year in my mind.

Also at guild I showed off Andy's newest product - blending boards.  Here's a good video on how to use them.  These are fiber processing tools intermediate in size and capacity between hand cards and drum carders.  They are great for combining smallish lots of fiber which you can then spin or felt and are particularly useful for seeing how different fibers or colors will work together.  

Here's a sample I did in a few minutes using two different colors of Cotswold wool, some dyed silk and a little firestar fiber for extra shine.

When done, I pulled the fiber into thin roving and chained it lightly so it would hold its shape until I could spin it.  Soon as I get a couple of minutes.....

The boards were well received and both sold there that day.  He's ordered more of the blending cloth and will be making more in time for Roc Day in Ithaca on January 9 where I'll have a booth.  Once he's made more I'll take 'real' pictures and get them listed on the website.

We've started the 'big barn clean out' in the lower barn.  Andy got the east side done in a (long) day.  The sheep were a little crowded being all in the west side but it was only for a day.

I'm sorry to note that we lost Lucky last week.  He had been losing weight for some time despite all the extra measures one does for an older animal and we couldn't find a reason.  We knew we'd probably have to have him put down "at some point" before we got into deep cold winter but he sustained an injury that was going to be too hard to overcome so we had the vet out and he went gently from this world.  He was a well-behaved boy who came when called and we miss him.

In better news, Peanut continues to improve!  I finally dare speak positively about progress.  She's still penned and wears a light bandage but the wound on the outer surface of her leg has healed over and the bigger, deeper one on the inner surface is coming along very well.  There's still a raw wound but it's closing at a good pace and she has no lameness at all.  Whew!

Dexter and Popeye say

"You humans work too hard.  You should learn the value of a properly performed nap."

There's a skill I'd love to learn!