Saturday, June 27, 2015

The High Points

Another week has galloped past.  I swear there's a Doppler effect for time - I see the week right ahead, feel like I'm all ready to pack every day with productivity, then - bam - it's gone by, trailing a lingering list of  "oh yeah, I was going to get those finished up, and I thought for sure that would get done, I did do part of this....".  Here's some of what went on.

Dyeing wool.  This is Salmon which goes into a colorway of ours that is depleted - Twilight Time.  I know - not very 'twilight/dim/end of day' feeling, is it?  The other colors will mute it, honest.

The annual fabric sale at the Gunlocke outlet store was a good opportunity for me (and lots of other people, apparently!) to take advantage of truly garage sale caliber prices on bolts of high-end upholstery fabric, real leather, faux leather and other odds and ends.

The shorter rolls were on the shelves, the longer rolls - some over my head - were standing against the walls.

The office furniture was all on sale too.  New but humdrum items like metal file cabinets, but also tables, chairs, sofas, lecterns, cabinets, bookcases, etc.

The fabric was selling for $1 a yard but you had to take the whole bolt as it was, some large, some only a few yards still rolled on.  On the other hand, they didn't actually measure the yardage, just low balled the likely figure.  I bought one bolt for the quoted $30 when the roll clearly said fifty-six yards!  For less than $50 I bought three coordinating fabrics that are destined to be the new backdrop and table coverings for my vendor booth at fiber festivals.  After all these years my 'look' will be cohesive!  (Some assembly required.  Heh.)

If I'd had a brain in my head I would have looked for fabric to reupholster our aging living room couch.  Oh well, next time.

Early in the week the honey bees swarmed again!  Or, it may have been the first swarm taking another try at actually leaving.  I've heard that sometimes a swarm changes its collective mind and goes back to the home hive to try again in the near future.  Maybe the queen has to go back and check that the stove's off or something.  But this hive seems big enough that it could really have put out two broods.  Either way, it was a good day to swarm.

They pretty quickly clustered on a lower branch.
Just a couple of hours later they had gone.  And two days later I looked out the window just in time to see another swarm from who-knows-where roll through the yard headed south.  Amazing.
We've been trimming hooves in the yearling and geriatric group.  We can't do it all in one go - doing the math we have 47 animals in that bunch which means 188 cloven hooves or 376 actual toes to clip.  We're about one-third done.
And today while running errands I rescued a kitten.  Reader's Digest condensed version:  Pouring rain, miraculously unhurt in the center turning lane of a busy town road, male, 5-6 weeks old, tests negative for Feline Leukemia and FIV, has one eye ruptured from infection and which will be blind so have ointment for that, very scared but ensconced in Holly's puppy crate pending acceptance at the Finger Lakes SPCA for eventual adoption.   Do not. need. another. cat.   Sigh.  (The eye should resolve on its own the vet says, and scar into safe uselessness but hopefully not need to be surgically removed.)
Guess who's taken over guardianship?
"Good grief, something else for me to be in charge of!"

What a good girl.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

More Wet

Another inch of rain.

That's not fog, just straight down hard rain.  I know there are folks in other parts of the country who would give their eye teeth for it but it's a problem for us.  We're getting seriously twitchy about not having made any dry hay yet.  Not one bale.  Not only is the grass getting way overripe, but it's starting to go down under the rains and will be hard to cut.  

The next morning was chilly and foggy.  The sheep made 'the morning commute' at a speed reasonable for the road conditions.  ;-)

You can hear Stewart and George still close by - they were standing at my feet while everyone trooped away into the fog so of course I had to go walk them out to pasture.  They finally went ahead of me and are the last ones going down the trail in the next clip and catch up to George's brother on the trail.

The weather worked itself into rain again, and then did eventually clear off later in the day.  The tree swallows were very busy around their nest box in the rose bush.  I'm sure they are feeding youngsters.  Mom (or Dad) was peeking out at me.

The sun finally shone and the woods breathed out a thin fog that hung over the ram's pasture.

We could see the thunderhead moving away from us that had given us the day's rain.

For the first time this summer we had a really outstanding sunset.

Red sky at night.....  we'll see.  I think at this point just a plain day that doesn't rain will be delightful.

Monday, June 15, 2015

So Soggy

We have avoided the worst of the rain so far.  About ten miles from us they had five inches fall yesterday.  We felt fortunate to only receive 1.75, although we did get another half inch just the day before so the lawn and pastures are a sodden mess.  We are getting mighty twitchy about not yet making any hay but until this weather pattern changes there is no point even thinking about it.

The only pleasant aspect was that there was no lightening nor hard wind, just a straight down warm rain. The sheep would troop in, wet, wait until it let up and then head back out.  By the time they reached the far reaches of the pasture it started to rain again.  They really wouldn't have been wetter if they had just stayed out in it but only a latched gate would have convinced them.  ;-)

The wisps of fog coming out of the woods melted into the low cloud ceiling and made for a moody sort of view.

The lambs weren't thrilled with being out, but if mom stayed out then they did too.

Snubby was one of the intrepid ones who stayed out most of the day.  She was so waterlogged her curls hung straight.

The yearlings and geriatrics are still separated from the main flock and go to a different pasture which is working out pretty well.  There's no way we could bale a pasture for hay as we have done before so they might as well be working on two pastures at once.  The other two will end up being clipped back and mulching itself.  By the time it works to get them out there the grass would be older and tougher than they will want so we'll brush hog it back and by the time they need to go there it will be regrown.  Every year is different.

Here they are coming back in for the night.  The diversion ditch was still running a good amount of water and most of them jumped it rather than wade although it wasn't deep, just wide.  They weren't thrilled with me standing there holding the camera which is why they acted so spooky.  Anything unusual is likely Not Good if you're a sheep.

Stewart Little and his 'brothers' were happy to see me though.

"I'd be happier if I were dry."

"Us too.  My wool is wet.  Is your wool wet?"

"Yes.  Top side, bottom side, and everything in between.  Hmpf."

Wet is temporary, but of course you can't tell them that.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time To Go

Yesterday our 'tree bees' sent a young swarm out into the world.  Andy just happened to see them getting organized in the crab apple a few feet from the old locust.

They were very self-absorbed and really didn't pose any danger to us but I didn't want to disturb them. They fill up on honey before they leave their old hive and that's what sustains them while they are looking for a new home and getting it set up.  They didn't need to waste energy because of me being overly nosey.  It seemed to be a healthy sized colony although there were so many bees still going in and out of the home tree that you could hardly see a difference.

We called someone who keeps bees to see if he wanted to come and collect the swarm but he couldn't come until after work.  We checked on them periodically through the afternoon and after about three hours discovered that they had abruptly left for parts unknown.  I wish I had seen what direction they headed away in. I would guess that the scouts had found a suitable place not too awfully far away and that would be great. Less time exposed and homeless means they should go into the new situation as strong as can be.

Good luck, young bees!  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Life's Messy - Clean it Up

That was the slogan of some paper towel brand many years ago.  If only some messes were that easily taken care of.

The pillars of silage left behind when the Mennonite folks took down two of our silos were still here this spring - sadly, no magic snow fairies whisked them away during the winter.  Andy was able to remove some of it with the tractor bucket last year but the concrete staves still embedded in the ground were reinforced with metal rods which would puncture a tractor tire faster than you could say "Oh, $*%&$!" if you ventured over them.  We needed something with a longer reach.

Thankfully, the neighbor who installs fence also does backhoe work and was available (due to heavy rain making a swamp of the fence job he was working) to come and dig the old silage out and load it on the dump wagon so Andy could then discard it at the edge of the woods. It will rot down quickly - the loads he took there last summer were already hardly noticeable.  What a pleasure to see the big job be done so quickly and with such a masterful hand!

There was two days worth of digging here.  It was amazing that the silage in the very bottom was still pleasant to smell.  I don't know if animals would have wanted it but it was a nice surprise to us that it wasn't foul to work around.   You can see how far down he was reaching - that void will have to be filled and the ground graded and seeded. 

When he was done he loaded himself back on the trailer.  It made me think of a hen settling herself down on a nest - careful approach, shimmy a little to get just right, settle down.... ahhhh.  (I have no idea what those buzzing sounds partway through are - maybe that mothership trying to contact me again.)

Better...... I guess.  It looks pretty naked and shabby with circa 1964 sheet metal and unpainted wood exposed for the world to see.  

Eeesh, it doesn't exactly enhance the look of the place but at least now Andy can reach the building to start to dismantle it.  First though he has to fill those craters left by the removal of the spoiled silage.  We have a very large mound of mixed stone left from the reclamation of the gas well drilling area and that will be put to good use here.  (Well, some of it - it's a very large pile).  But the silage is gone and that's a good thing.

One more chunk of a very big job done!

Saturday, June 6, 2015


The sun was out in a clear blue sky today and it was perfect weather......for October.  We're having night temps in the mid 40s and today it didn't pass 60 with a stiff wind from the north.  Crazy weather.  At least it was a good day to take some pictures.

The big rams are really enjoying the cool weather.  Usually the midday sun sends them lumbering to the shade under the trees.

Tonight they came into the barnyard and stood around in a small group as though trying to decide what to do next - go inside and sit down or graze a little more in the small barn paddock.

B.B., aka Mr. B.,  is starting to turn gray!

  Wee Little Guy isn't so wee anymore and actually looks pretty studly but he's still very sweet.

I let Castillo keep his "cool hair" and so far it's staying clean - no burrs or chaff.

I still need to replace Nigel's eartag but there's no confusing him with anyone else so it can wait until we give yearly vaccinations (which is on The List..... sigh.)  He has cool Cotswold hair!

Down in the lower barn Snubby is always good for a picture or two.

"Is that grain in that bucket right there?"

"I could really use a bite of  that...... just sayin' ."

The lambs are harder to take pictures of.  They either move too fast or head right for me and all I see is nose prints on the lens. 

This is Stewart Little, the smallest bottle lamb this year.  Yes, he's named..... you know what that means - he'll have to "give up a little something" in order to stay as a pet down in the ewe flock.

Aannnnddd  of course he has one very best friend.  He's got no mom, I can't very well take away his best friend....... (I'm turning into SUCH a sucker...)..... Last year it was Peanut and Popcorn..... have to think of another name..... (smacks forehead with hand).

Stewart Little on left, and.....??????

"Um.....let's call him....."

"......Late for dinner!  HAHAHAHAHA!"
Oh, you boys!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Big, Big Yarn

And now, for something completely different....... core spun rug yarn!   Wheeee!

Where did THAT come from?  In the course of skirting Cotswold fleeces for handspinners, fleece shows and sales, making roving and having knitting yarn milled I accumulated a big bag of britch wool.  Most fleeces had only a handful on each hind leg that was different enough in character - coarser, that is - that it needed to be pulled out for nicest results.  But what to do with it?  There was nothing wrong with the fiber - strong, clean, long - just coarser than the rest.  Mustn't throw away wool........

So, I had Gurdy Run Woolen Mill whip up a batch of core spun rug yarn.  Core spun is produced by wrapping fiber around a core yarn, in this case cotton yarn was used.  The Cotswold really shows its luster in this preparation which I hoped it would. 

 The yarn is big (2 wraps per inch) but it's not wrapped so tightly that it feels hard or wiry.  In some places it almost has a bit of 'poof' to it but the locks were all so long that there is no danger of it unwrapping or the core showing through.

This batch was all white wool (cream or ecru really - Cotswold has a slight butter color undertone to it) so of course I wanted to see how it would be to dye.  I skeined one bump of 100 yards (just shy of two pounds!) and experimented with red, brown, gold and salmon in a turkey roaster pan.  I'm really happy with the blended shades and I achieved good saturation everywhere although I did have to put on gloves and press the yarn down here and there to get dye to well up and cover white spots.

Well, now what?  It's a good quality item and I can have big fun dyeing it but I'll have to do a little R and D so that I can market it to best advantage.  Of course it's RUG yarn so it would be awesome to weave with, but weavers are a small percentage of the fiber artist community..... knitting though.... anyone can pick up knitting needles.... it would probably help a lot if I had some finished items to spark their inspiration.... hmmm....

That Andy whipped out a set of big double pointed needles for me to experiment with.

Ideas....... I has 'em!