Thursday, September 29, 2011

Past Tense

The camera is full of stuff that happened a few days ago (or more than a few) and it's past time to get caught up.

I dyed a lot of our Cotswold yarn for our booth at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival .

The festival went very well with nice weather and happy crowds.  Everyone loved the shawl my friend Amy made from some of my roving.  It's the LaLa Shawl we're going to do as a guild group-knit project and will exhibit them all next year at the 2012 festival.

Andy spent a lot of time explaining the features of the skein winder and swift that he made.  He had a lot of interest but no firm orders.....yet.

The bees are doing very well.  Many have adopted the hive with no qualms.

The majority of them have decided to remain in the tree, and in fact the little darlings actually pushed the steel wool out of the cracks we had jammed it in and made openings of the size that pleases them.  So I guess we have a bee tree.  The fall flowers have been blooming like crazy and providing them with fast and easy fixin's to make honey.  You can literally smell it around the tree. 

While we had a stretch of good weather we went to the woods and cut a lot of trees to go toward our winter firewood. We have wood-fired boilers for both the house and our two shops and between those two boilers we use about 60 facecord.  In a perfect world we'd have cut these last fall and let them season a year.  We used to do that, but got behind one year and can't seem to catch up.  The good news is that ash is one of the few species that will still burn and give off good BTUs when green and we have tons of it.  Many of the trees seem to be affected by Ash Decline and are dying, so it's not like we're cutting viable young growth. 

These are on the edge of the woods and surrounded by sprangly undergrowth that makes working with a chainsaw more dangerous than necessary.  I go along In Case Of Accidents.  He jokes that if going for help isn't likely to do any good, I can at least stay with him till he stops twitching.  Eeesh.  Funny, but not.   Unexpected things can happen and having another person along when he's cutting is a smart thing he always does.   Here Andy is starting to swamp out the area around this cluster of ash so he can work more safely.

He cut better than 20 trees in about an hour and a half.  Here's one just getting under motion.  Later he'll go back and pull them out with the big winch on the back of the tractor, drag them into the field where he can work more easily and cut the limb wood to length and block and split the trunk wood.

And while waiting for him to add more fuel to his chainsaw I found this at my feet.

A downy turkey feather.  We have a lot of them around, travelling in flocks through the tall grass looking for grasshoppers and in the woods for beech nuts and acorns and anything they can scratch up from the ground.  

"And that's the way it was."

And if you know who said that every night you're at least as old as I am :-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bee Tentatively Hopeful

Yesterday I left early to spend the day demonstrating hand spinning at the Benjamin Patterson Inn and Museum down in Corning.  This place is right in the heart of Corning near the Corning Glass Museum.  The Inn itself was built in 1796 and is original to the property but they have added some outbuildings over time. For a small site the museum is really comprehensive with dedicated docents and volunteers demonstrating period appropriate activities all year (lots of school field trips here) and especially on this weekend - the "Whingblinger".  I had everything I needed packed into tote bags except the camera.  :-(

But when I returned home I found the move-your-hive setup in place and apparently starting to work.

Step right up, nice new clean hive, no waiting.

Man, I hate these one-way streets!

The one-way wire funnel apparatus was working pretty well, letting bees out but confounding them when they tried to walk back in.  Many were going in and out of the new hive box in a normal, businesslike fashion so some of them appear to accept it.

The down side, which we kind of expected, is that the bees inside looked for other, easier ways to get out of the tree.  Any place bees were leaking out got plugged with a little wad of steel wool, the one thing bees can't push or chew their way through.  Ew, chewing steel wool - ugh.  The few small places above and below the original hole they chose as a front door were filled easily.  Then they started coming out the other side of the tree.  Andy and Nick reported that they were quite docile while bark was gently pulled loose to find where they were getting out.  Happily, nobody got stung.

Closing up the back door

Tonight just before dark we checked and found yet more places the bees were getting out.  We could actually feel warm damp air coming out of the cracks and it already smelled like honey!  We added quite a bit more steel wool everywhere we could find, and checked the wire mesh funnel on the other side to be sure there weren't any dead bees blocking it.  (There weren't).

I think tomorrow they will have a really hard time going anywhere but out the funnel, but we'll see.  We're hoping they don't get creative and go up and find a place we have to use a ladder to block.

And the other part of the tale is that we've discovered that this tree is really, really in bad shape and it's a wonder it hasn't split and fallen on the house and garage already.  Once the bee situation is rectified we'll have to seriously think about taking it down or be sorry in the next big wind or ice event.  And I really don't want to think about that.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dye Day

My cousin Carolyn is an excellent rug hooker.  When she took up the craft in earnest a few years ago, she phoned a family member and excitedly told them, "Guess what?  I'm a hooker and I'm hooking on a rug right now!"  Without missing a beat the person on the other end said, "You tell that husband of yours that if he's going to let you do that the least he can do is get you a decent mattress instead."  Funny people, my relatives.

Anyway, just as knitters eventually want to spin their own yarn, Carolyn wanted to dye her own rug fabric.  I have the equipment and space, she has the knowledge of what's desired, so we've teamed up to create dyed Dorr wool fabric for rug hooking (or any other craft it would work for). 

Eye of newt and tongue of dog........ oh wait, that's the other recipe.  I mean 1/8 tsp. Fushia and 1/16 tsp Lilac.

We dye a yard at a time and order a 15 yard bolt for each session, so there are lots of options to choose from.  The giant pile of color swatches on the corner of the table is a guide, but even with ultra precise dye measuring spoons (hard to call something that measures 1/128th of a teaspoon a spoon) we missed the mark on a couple of the pieces.  No matter - every color will appeal to someone, sometime.  And it was just fun to be so creative with someone who's so much fun.

The end result was a pile of pieces that she will take home, rinse again and dry, and label for sale at FLFF.

Five hours of fun in a pile

Who knew hooking could be such fun?

Friday, September 9, 2011

You Will Bee Amazed

I love honey bees.  Someday when I'm too old to wrestle with sheep I'll have a few hives, like Sara and Stella.  (Not that they are too old to wrestle sheep...well, Sara isn't anyway...)  In the meantime I enjoy them vicariously through friends.  Sometimes a swarm will come through our place and settle to rest where we can see it.  We call our bee friend, Nick, and he comes to collect them and start a new hive at his place.

He got this great big swarm 2 years ago.

Hey, are we lost?  Or just resting, or what?  What's the TomTom say?

OK, everybody into the pushing.... plenty of room...

That hive is still doing well at his place.

So last Sunday when I was away at the State Fair and called home, Andy told me to be careful when I came in as there was a small swarm of bees who had found a crack at the base of the old locust tree right by our front door and had moved in.  It was after dark when I got home, so they weren't visible and then it rained most of the week and I forgot to look for them.  Then today we had sun!  And there were the little group of bees going in and out, doing what bees do.

Dum-de-dum.  Home sweet home.

What fun, a little hive of bees in our tree.

Then, after lunch while we were deciding what the next highest priority job should get out attention, we heard a hum.  Then a buzz.  Then a roar.  If you've ever heard a swarm of bees passing by, you know the sound.  We looked out and saw this coming over the house from somewhere west of us.

Click to biggify

Roll out the welcome mat - the rest of the family just got here

They kept coming and coming - a truly huge swarm....and went straight to the tree and started going inside.  Clearly the little group had been scouts who liked the tree.  Maybe they couldn't get back to the hive for a few days because of the horrible wet weather.  Whatever the case, these guys came in with a purpose.

We're hoooo - oooommme!

While this is amazingly cool and we feel honored that they chose US to live with...the fact that they are literally 5 feet from our front door is a huge problem.  One allergic visitor, one naive dog, one collective crabby mood on the part of the bees, and we are in a world of hurt.  But what to do?  We will NOT do anything harmful to them, so the only option is to get them to move.  Enter Nick to the rescue.  Tomorrow he will come over very early, before the bees wake up, and make them an offer they can't refuse.  First he's going to install a one-way door on the tree - the bees will come out but they won't be able to get back in.  Next he's going to fit a nice new hive in the space between the porch railing and the tree so the hive opening is literally a few inches from the tree hole.  He's going to put some honeycomb and bee brood (unhatched bee babies) in the hive to help convince the bees that THIS is a great place to live with a built-in family to tend.  Theoretically, since the bees have only been in the tree for a few hours they should be willing to move into the hive box.  It might take a few weeks before they all abandon the tree and accept the hive box as home, but it should work.  The queen may or may not give up the tree.  It would be sad if she chose to stay there and dies, but if the whole rest of the swarm can be captured Nick will give them a new queen and they will continue on. 

Stay tuned for bee updates!  And if you come by to visit you might want to use the side door.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Signs and Portents

I know a red sky at night is supposed to be a sailor's delight with fair weather the next day, but what the heck does a lemon yellow sky precede?

The sky was really this color - solid heavy cloud cover in gorgeous brilliant yellow.  We've been having heavy rain all day courtesy of tropical storm Lee's remnants and this visual treat happened just as we were going in for supper.  I"m glad we got to enjoy it.

In other news, I got a box of roving from Zeilinger's today.  They are so nice to work with.  I sent this with the hope that it would be done in time for them to bring it with them on the truck to the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival.  They called to say they could do it, or even send it earlier.  I said I was torn - save some shipping money by having them bring it, or spend the UPS fee and have it earlier so I could spin samples of the new colors.  They offered to ship a pound of each as soon as it was done so I could spin it.  Minimum shipping cost but I have what I need - I can have my roving and spin it too!

Sssppiiiiinnnn  ...... Uusssssssss........

 The white and gray are both Cotswold.  The dark brown is crossbred lambs' wool.  I've put dyed silk with each in contrasting colors.  It's *supposed* to spin up and show blips of color.  I've started on the white and while I wish I'd added a little more color it's spinning like a dream.  And the gray feels soooo smooth and soft.  Whee!  I can spin some every night and I should get all three sample skeins plied and washed in time.

Homework that I really WANT to do!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer's End

The end of August doesn't always feel like the end of summer.  It's still hot and sunny, the grass and leaves are still green, flowers and gardens are still producing......but the clues are definately there that the season is changing.   If you're on schedule with your work it's not cause for alarm.  If you're behind you start hyperventilating into a paper bag.  Happily, we're pretty much where we should be for the date.  (Hey, statistically we were due!)

Remember that field of oats Andy put it?  They really ripened over the last week and the moisture meter said 11% so they were ready to be combined and put in the bin.

Literal 'amber waves of grain'.

We are fortunate that a fellow farmer a few roads over acquired an aged combine and agreed to cut our field in exchange for some hay for his cattle.  The man who did it last year was unavailable, so we were actually looking for a combine ourselves, but this is a much more sensible arrangement.

The cavalry coming over the hill!  (Sort of)

At this point I had to leave and take some boxes to the UPS depot.  I was only gone a bit over an hour, but when I came back he had gotten this far.  Notice the dust coming off the machine as the dry straw and grain get a thorough threshing.

Nearly done

We're as happy to have the nice clean straw to bed the sheep barn with as we are the grain. 

Another sign that summer is almost over is the NY state fair.  It runs for 12 days, with the last day being Labor Day.  Our tradition is for me to go up on the day of the Fleece Show with my entries and whatever friends are available, do a four hour stint in the Wool Building demonstrating spinning, and then spend a few hours seeing the sights with those friends.  Andy isn't a big fan of crowded venues...... or long drives (two hours each way)......or hot he's just as happy to wave a fond farewell as we trek off and he stays home to take care of things.  After spinning, we eat a bunch of good stuff, go through the animal barns........

Lucille makes a new friend.

..... and then check back at the Wool Building on the way out to see how the judging went.

Wheeee !

Those four with the big purple ribbons are Rocky (Cotswold/Border Leicester), Jazz (purebred Cotswold) , Ashes (another Cotswold/Border Leicester cross) and Cessna (CVM/Rambouillet and Border Leicester cross).  Yes, there were other fleeces there.  Yes, I'm VERY happy.  Yes, they are all for sale and will be at Finger Lakes Fiber Festival if they aren't bought by spinners at the fair.  The other four of the eight I entered took 1st or 2nd in their divisions, so I earned just about enough premium money to fill the truck with gas. 

Tomorrow is a work day in the barn - weighing and checking eye scores on all the ewes and ewe lambs - and Sunday I go back up to the fair to pick up the fleeces.  Then it's full steam ahead to get as much done as possible for Fiber Fest. 

So the technical end of summer doesn't mean much to the work load, but I think at least today is ended, too.

Pooped pets