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


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.

Geez, Don't DO That!

Being an outdoor kitty is a hazardous life.  While barn cats are often thought of as being super disposable (grrr) ours are not.  They all came here as drop-offs or wanderers and we've been able to accommodate everyone as they've appeared over the years.  Newcomers blend into the social structure with little problem and come to use the lower barn as home base.  Any new cat that shows up gets neutered immediately, receives yearly vaccinations, have dry food available daily, go to the vet when needed, and get petted every day. They range all over the farm - barns, out buildings, fields, pastures, woods, where ever they want to go - and put a dent in the rodent population which we are glad of. We don't want to use poison if at all possible. While we've had as many as seven,  at the moment we have only two "functioning" barn cats (Chloe and Clem),  geriatric Natasha who rarely pokes her nose out the back door of the barn, and Kittin who is now the wool shop cat because of getting hit by a car last year.

Chloe and Clem hunt a lot and feed themselves probably more than we even know.  Still, they usually check in at chore time to get some fresh kibble and some petting.  Sometimes one will miss one chore session but is back at the next feeding or seen strolling around the farm randomly during the day.

We saw both Chloe and Clem Friday night.  Saturday AM Chloe wasn't in but we didn't think much of it.  Saturday night I realized I hadn't seen her all day.  Andy didn't recall seeing her out and about either and he went and checked the big Morton building in case she had gotten shut in by accident.  No Chloe.  Well, it was an awfully hot day and maybe she was just cool and comfy somewhere and we'd see her in the morning.

Sunday morning, no Chloe.  Now I was getting really worried.  Cats have a reputation of being aloof and independent but as friendly and domesticated as ours are it was not normal for her to not check in for this long. We walked the ditches, thinking maybe she had been killed by a car.  Nothing but some empty Red Bull cans and beef jerky wrappers.  (grrr, again).  We don't have any open wells or cisterns, no exposed chemicals, no poisoned rodents staggering around, no buildings or vehicles to be shut in...  No Chloe on Monday.  We went through all the buildings, climbed into the rafters to look at the top of the hay mows, wandered through the tall weeds around the corn cribs, fence lines, backside of buildings, calling and listening for a meow.  A dead or hiding cat could be nearly impossible to find.

A dozen ugly scenarios ran through my head.  She got caught and eaten by one of our too bold coyotes.  A big owl, like the one that likely took the rat off the lawn last winter, caught and ate her.  The fisher came back and got her.  She got attacked by a coyote/owl/fisher but got away and hid and is slowly dying.  Or rolled by a car and is now holed up somewhere, dying.  Or got beaten up badly by a feral tom cat (there are a few around) and is holed up, dying. Has been secretly developing diabetes/kidney failure/heart issues and is holed up somewhere, dying. See the pattern?  It was awful to not know what had happened.

I'm ready to write her obituary and this morning she comes strolling into the barn.  No injuries, no scruffy fur, no sniffles or weepy eyes, full belly.......

"What a nice day.  This cooler weather is lovely."

But the sun is nice too....mmmmm...<rub, rub, roll>..... makes me feel like a kitten."

Where the h*&@ have you been??

"There's no need to take a tone with me.  Call it a midlife crisis.  I went walkabout.  You wouldn't understand."

"No midlife crisis here, no sir, I'll be right here for kibble any time you're handing it out."

Give your sister a talking to, Clem.  We don't wan to do that again.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Morning Commute

The drought here wears on.  Since the second week of May we've had less than 1.0 inch of rain.  The only things green now are the trees and the thistles.  :-/

The sheep are in the south pasture again.  Stuff they left last time looks interesting now.  We've also started to feed hay in the barn feeders at night so they have something to munch on if it's too hot to graze much during the day or pickings are too sparse.  It's leftover hay from last year.... we'd really like not to dip into this year's hay since it doesn't look like second cutting is going to happen.  We should have juuuussst enough of the first cutting to get us through a normal winter.

Since the pasture isn't green and yummy the trek out of the barn in the morning is a sedate affair and the girls were easily distracted by me standing by the fence.

If anybody knows a good rain dance we'd sure appreciate you doing one on our behalf.

Friday, July 15, 2016

So Long, And Thanks For All The Hay

The yearly sojourn to Kentucky to visit Sara and all the people and animals at Equinox Farm was modified from a car trip to a truck trip.  Not having any lambs this year, and so no new faces to join that flock, we were going to go in Julie's vehicle as it's easier to maneuver and better on gas.  But then an email arrived asking if I had any crossbred rams who would like to go live in Kentucky and be put to "work" (wink, wink).
As a matter of fact.....

I ran the idea past Rocky and Jared and they agreed that while they liked it here just fine they really didn't want to live out their days being celibate.  They are both half Cotswold, built well with nice fleece, and could have a very nice life siring commercial lambs and hopefully improving wool too.  We had the vet out to do paperwork, rigged up the gridwork that fits within the truck cap, arranged space for the spare tire which doesn't hang beneath the truck anymore because the screw thingy that held it up rusted out....grrr...., filled empty jugs with 'home water' and off we went.

The boys rode like old pros. We really appreciate rams that are quiet by nature and handled enough that a sudden trip like this isn't a rodeo.

We offered water at every stop (four) and at one Quik Fill there was this great old car next to us.  Guesses?

Yep, a Rambler.  Not sure if it was from when they were still made by Nash or afterward when American Motors picked up the brand.  If I had a million dollars I'd fill a garage with old cars just to pet and admire them.  Old cars have class!   :-)

The trip went well and the boys were installed in their new place before the end of the day.  They have a nice roomy space in the barn to acclimate.  The barnyard has some grass but not a lot and that's good - they are essentially eating standing hay here because of the drought. Sudden unlimited grazing on lush pasture would not be a good thing.

They have never seen a dog except Holly and we were a little concerned that they'd be scared.  Not to worry.  The guard dogs are very sweet and the rams were totally unconcerned.

Really, really unconcerned.  Rocky was getting his ear washed and I expected the dog's tongue to come out the other side the way he was working.  Or maybe the dog was whispering to him.

"Ppsspppssssppspssppsss.   Don't worry, I'll take care of you here."

It was good to stretch after the drive (11 hours) and we had a lovely look around at the farm where the boys would be living.  Besides the sheep flock and guard dogs there were herding dogs, chickens, guinea hens, peacocks and a nice orange cat.

One of the fields with the bulk of the flock on pasture there.  The boys are going to think they've died and gone to heaven.

Here's a cool structure.  It's a cistern to catch water coming off the barn roof.  A previous owner of the property dismantled the piping system which could supply water troughs around the farm.  Seems monumentally dumb to me to render it inoperative but maybe it wasn't holding water anymore.  After I got back home it dawned on me that I'd seen that brickwork before.  That Sara!

The boys never made a peep when we left and I'm sure they're happy there.  Now to wait for lamb pictures!

The next day featured a gathering/yarn swap at the farm which turned into a spin-in/knit-in in the barn alley.  How great is that?  Big fun was had by all and spinning and knitting help was there in spades.  

Bullwinkle went on walkabout toward the end and seemed intent on finding something edible  learning to spin.

He immediately understood the value of a Woolee Winder and checked them out on both a castle wheel and an e-spinner.

He inspected the actual yarn and declared it a fine job.

I'm not a morning person but the front porch is so inviting....

Sunday included a church service and then the afternoon was spent with the amazing Sara taking video of me as I walked through the use of our skein winders, teasing boards, blending boards and Quad Kate.  It will be a while before those get posted as I have a lot of cutting and splicing to do.  There's a darn good reason I got a C- in public speaking in college.  :-/

Monday came all too soon.  The sun wasn't quite up yet but the sheep were grazing right by the driveway.

"You all come back now, hear?"

"And bring some more of those jerky treats?"

We'll for sure be back!  Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

And Then It Stopped Raining

Remember May?  Wet, cold May?  One extreme follows another they say, and that proved true for June.  For the first time ever we were able to cut and bale all our first cutting hay - in JUNE - without it getting rained on.

Andy would cut enough hay to fill the five wagons in a go and we worked day by day to cut, ted, rake, bale and unload one field after another.

It got hot as well as dry.  We had some pretty sunsets but the clouds never carried rain.

Then we started trying to work even faster because the standing hay was actually shrinking - drying out as it stood and losing volume.  You can see the landscape has turned from green around the edges to just dried out tan.  Unless we get some decent rain there won't be a second cutting which would be a big problem.

Thank goodness for the kicker on the baler.  Pulling bales from the chute with a hay hook was a lot easier 30 years ago.  :-/

The sheep spend parts of the day searching the pasture for forage and other chunks of time hanging out in the shade behind the barn.  So far no one is coming in hungry but we've started putting some leftover hay from last year in the feeders at night so there's something to work on if they feel empty.  They are pretty grimy, though.  Lanolin + dust = grungy wool.  When it does start raining again they are going to find themselves locked out in it.
Pretty soon we'll have to turn them back into the south pasture that they've been in once already but there isn't much new there.  The plants are mostly ankle high except for seed heads that are taller and it has the pale gray-green shade of really dry plants.
Still, the sheep have nothing to do all day except meander around looking so they will find enough until it rains again.  
Bale count is 4488.  With no lambs this year it's possible that we could squeak by without a second cutting especially if it rains normally and the pastures regrow as they should.  Theoretically we could keep the flock on pasture into November. 
If anybody knows a good rain dance........

Friday, July 1, 2016


Not us - it's the tractor.  Andy noticed it leaking calcium and starting to get soft out in the field and managed to limp it home before it went flat.  Always easier to fix a tire in the yard rather than out in the wild.

We're lucky to have garage not too far away that specializes in tires and particularly in repair of ag equipment tires.  It takes some special equipment, materials and knowledge to deal with those. The rear tires, fully loaded with calcium, weigh about 800 lbs each.  Even deflated they can squash you like a bug if they get away from you.  Having told them what size tire needed attention they came with the truck fully equipped and a spare tube in case ours was not fixable.

The specialized truck includes a pump, hose and tank to hold the calcium chloride solution the tire is loaded with (plus more to spare if we had lost a lot), an air compressor and hoses for the air inflation part of the job, and all kinds of big wrenches, bars, mallets and the like.

First they had to pump out the remaining liquid and air, then the tire was loosened and spun half off the rim so they could get the tube out.  Then they had to reinflate the tube to see where the leak was.  And there it is - right where the rim would contact a repair, so that likely wouldn't hold.  It was decided that a new tube was needed and having been told the tire size they had the right one with them.

The new tube gets pushed up into the tire, then the tire gets rolled back onto the rim.  The pail in the foreground has a slippery, pasty soapy material that the tire edge is slathered with so things will slide better.  The big bar he's holding has a flattened end and no doubt made specifically for this purpose.

It's a two man job.  The tire dealer's helper gets the tire started and holds it in place and then the other man levers a section back onto the rim.  If the helper didn't hold it the tire would perpetually slide back off one side rather than stretch to roll onto the rim.

Walking it onto the last section at the bottom.

Once the tube and tire are in their proper places the calcium chloride is pumped back in and then the tube is inflated the rest of the way with air.

Thankfully it only took an hour or so and then Andy was up and running again.  Good thing - this is the main tractor we bale with!

And now, just because we need something prettier than tractor tires....our rose, in full bloom.  It's 'William Baffin' from the Hudson Bay rose series.  It thrives on neglect and can take drought and hard soil.  Perfect for us!!

Here's to things that are self motivated and tough!