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.  


  1. Funny you mentioned a milk man. My father was a milkman and delivered milk all over Southern California for three different dairies. He had a huge circle of keys and would even take the milk bottles into their houses and put them In the refrigerator. Those were his best customers, including the Carpinter family in Downey ca, (Karen Carpinter,s folks). That was a different world then.

  2. Spent a lot of time on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's web site, listening to lots of bird calls, but what it sounds like more than anything to me like a fox barking in the distance.

    Love what you have on your bobbin. I am such a coward when it comes to spinning colored yarns.

  3. It doesn't sound exactly like an Eastern Screech Owl but you could try for comparison.