Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This Is What A Problem Looks Like

If you look in the dictionary under 'problem' you will see this picture.

This is the Multnomah shawl I've been working on.  It's on schedule to be a Christmas present.  We will not talk about what year it was supposed to be done for, only that this year it will actually reach the recipient.  The yarn is some of my handspun done from a wool and bamboo blend I bought at Rhinebeck some years ago.  The midnight purple is way out of my normal color box but will look super with my aunt's silver hair.  (She's not hooked to the interwebs - no danger of a spoiler.)  As I knit along on it I realized I wasn't going to have enough yarn to do another section of the curvy lace part but that's OK since she is very petite.

I finished the pattern repeat for the last time, knit a row of plain knitting just to give it a "done with that part" look and then I looked at the remaining yarn.  Hmm...  Do I have enough to do another row of plain knitting and then bind off?  I think so.  I mean, that is still a substantial little ball of yarn.  So I knit another row.  OK, the shawl looks nice that way, good choice.... but the ball is smaller than I'd like.  Well, it's probably enough.  I only have to get across the shawl one. more. time.  Of course, you are supposed to bind off loosely.....

If became apparent very soon that there was not enough.  No where NEAR enough.  What was I thinking?  See that sad little strand of loose yarn?  That's what I have left that was supposed to bind off alllll those stitches still on the cable.  In what universe was that pathetic bit of yarn supposed to yield enough yardage to bind off a shawl bottom??  Crap.  So now there's a decision to be made.  I could tink the binding back to the corner and THEN tink back a whole row of knitting so I can proceed forward with the bind off.  That sounds about as much fun as setting my hair on fire and putting it out with a hammer.  Or, I could find a yarn in the ridiculous ample stash of handspun that is close enough to what I have that the binding off row doesn't look too obviously different. 

Well, that's not going to happen.  The darkest thing I had in the stash is this mocha brown and while the lighter raspberry singles might work to pick out the original fiber's highlights I need a dark purple or even a black to run with it.  No gots.

I suppose I could deliberately bind off with a contrasting color and say I planned it that way to draw one's eye to the few rows of curvy lace.  I mentally ran through ROYGBIV, picked a few possible candidates and tried to imagine what would work.  Everything seemed to scream "you made a stupid mistake and putting one of us in the last row isn't going to fool anyone and will, in fact, make the shawl look like the dog's dinner."


There is one other option.  I can take the shawl with me to The Fiber Festival of New England this weekend and find either similar colored fiber to spin, a small skein of yarn that's close to what I need or at least something that will work with that pale raspberry singles.  And..... I still have the option of tinking back, unappealing as it is. 

On the upside, pawing through the stash brought to light some yarn that I had forgotten that might make a nice ruffled scarf.......assuming the skeins are big enough :-/

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Looking Good

Sunday we finished readying the new pens for sheep, divided the ewes into their groups and introduced the rams late in the afternoon.

So far everything is working very well.  We have automatic waterers in most pens.  We only have to carry buckets to three groups and they are the smallest and so have the least water consumption.  I like these black water troughs from Tractor Supply.  They are large enough to allow 2-3 animals to drink at once but fairly shallow so if it gets dirty and needs cleaning it's not a big job.  Andy built an elevated platform for each trough so it wouldn't get bedding kicked into it.  The edges of the box come up a couple of inches so the trough can't get pushed off if the sheep crowd it.  We've found that they like to chew on the hoses sometimes - recreational destruction - so the hoses are shrouded in flexible plastic drainage pipe to keep sheep lips off.  Nugget, on the left, is bummed that we took all the fun out of it and it's just....water.  Most of the lambs are in the big "non-breeding" group which includes all adult ewes who aren't being bred for various reasons but we put this pen to use housing some of the smaller lambs who we want to make sure get enough to eat and don't get bossed around by the big ewes.  That's Daisy standing up front and center, Fortune a little blurry to the right and Fawn partially hidden on the bottom left.

A bit better view of Fortune.

She looks thin here but she's not, it's just the camera angle.  I can't get into the pen with them without being nearly trampled with affection which is great fun but not when you're trying to take pictures.

And little Snubby who is doing just fine although she always has something to say - loudly - about every situation.  I caught her chewing - not flattering - and had the shutter speed so slow to catch the light that things are a bit blurry.

Flopsy.  Her ears swivel independently like a cartoon animal and she's getting cute brown freckles on her nose.

We put Danielle in with the lambs.  Having had a stroke or two and being ten years old this year we thought she would benefit from minimal competition. She has a perpetual slight head tilt and doesn't turn to the right worth beans.  I think she has a lot of character in her face, kind of like Bette Davis after her stroke (and I mean that kindly and respectfully to both parties).  Interestingly, she and Snubby have struck up a friendship.  Animals.  They know.

Next to the lambs we penned Ian and eleven Cotswold ewes.  He's behaving himself very well.  We were a bit concerned that he might lust after the lambs but apparently the older girls are keeping him plenty occupied.  Wouldn't you know he'd turn his head just as I took the picture.

We're trying three ram lambs with small groups this year.  They are all taking to the task with enthusiasm.  This is Nigel, trying to convince Lovey she's in heat.  He is from a colored mom so should give me some colored Cotswold lambs from at least some of these colored ewes.  His fleece is showing good curl and really nice luster.  Ian is doing the heavy lifting this year with the other colored and color-carrying Cotswolds.  It's too many for a lamb to manage but if he does give me some colored lambs he'll be promoted next year and have a group of about twenty.

"Do you mind?!  This is hard enough without an audience.  Sheesh."
"Whatever, kid.  Just don't mess up my curls."
This is Neville.  He's auditioning to take Lucky's place in a year or so.  He's built nicer than the picture suggests and has good curls with a very small britch area.  He's been working the ladies like a pro, so he's got at least one talent.  Heh.
Everybody should have a job they're good at.  ;-)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Building

Breeding season for the flock has finally arrived.  While our plan is to breed fewer ewes than last year (OK, it was almost 80.  Clearly I was delusional and the only thing that saved the situation was that many ewes only had singles.  I won't play that particular version of Russian Roulette again!) we still felt the need for more floor space to reduce crowding.

Short of building an addition onto the barn - NOT going to happen and if it did it would be because I would be living in it - the only direction to go was deeper into the main part of the dairy barn which we've been using for hay storage.  The project actually got started last spring.  If we had had a repeat of 2012's drought we would have had to have the whole flock in the barn again and there just wouldn't be room.  Thankfully the weather and pastures provided the flock with abundant forage so the task was set aside as more pressing things came to the fore.

The approach of breeding season and the multiple rams we use brought the need for the extra space back to the top of the priority list.

Andy is a wonder. In the past two weeks he has cemented in the gutter and built a space 24' by 32' that can be divided into two sections.  All the lumber came from trees from our woods that he ran over the sawmill to get the material he needed.  He also had to replace the long flourescent lights in that part of the barn with new fixtures and incandescent/halogen bulbs.  We have some early-version CFLs in other areas and hate-hate-hate them....but they're paid for so we're going to use them till they die, which can't be soon enough.  The new lights are a hundred times better but it's still wonky to take photos so apologies in advance for the quality.

The center panel is removable.  We decided to try using the same metal gridwork for this divider as we use for the hay feeders.  It's very strong but lighter in weight than a similar panel made all of wood.  If there are any drawbacks to the design I'm sure we'll discover them.  The large posts sticking up are set in the concrete that fills the old gutter and help anchor and stabilize everything.  I told Andy he ought to use a chainsaw and carve them into sheep totem poles.  I got "a look" for my suggestion ;-)

The panel bolts into place rather than working on hinges.  If we need to have groups separated we don't want to trust the latch of a hinged gate to keep them apart.....

The hay feeder is the same design as we've done previously and we added an upper board to keep chaff from falling down on the sheep's heads and necks.  And.....drumroll...... Andy built swinging gates in strategic places to manage traffic flow.  Seen above, the gate is folded back flush to the front of the pen.
Swung open, it shunts the sheep to the left and toward the open gate of the pen which in turn blocks the alleyway and gives a sheep no choices about taking a more scenic route.  It's a given that they would do that.  (Pardon the pile of debris - it will get picked up before any sheepies head this way.)
Since he was in full building mode, Andy also made two other gates down in the older section of the barn which function to make an alley between the east and west sections of the barn. They are folded back flat to the feeders when not needed....

....but swing and latch to make a quick conduit between the two areas.  Gone are the days of having to go find 2 sheets of plywood or four small lamb jug panels to make a passage.  Woot!

Tomorrow we have some finishing up to do and then the ewes have to be divided.  Later in the afternoon when they've settled in a bit we'll bring the rams down and put each in with his harem. 

Once the sheep are all organized for the duration we can get back to work!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Stills - Landscapes

For this week its all about wide open vistas, mountains, meadows, canyons, seascapes.ect... baiscally its a chance to showcase the land in which we live.
At this time of year we see heavy mist in the valley to the south east.  We call it Lake Wheeler since the hamlet of Wheeler lies down there and the mist looks like, well, a lake. 
But under other weather conditions you just see pretty layers of hills, each a little more pale than the one closer to you.
Every day is different.  The sheep have the best view on the farm.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Time Warp

OK, it's become pretty apparent that space time has been folded and we are now more than a month after the last post.  If I could figure out how to do it in the other direction I'd be rich.  (Not that I'd sell the secret, I'd just know which horses to bet on.  Heh.)

Anyway, we've been going at full speed and there's much to tell.  All good, just everyday busy-ness that keeps us hopping.

I did my yearly spinning demo at the Steuben county fair in Bath and at the Benjamin Patterson Inn in Corning.  It was a nice day with a good crowd.  The second floor consists of bedrooms furnished with period items and a large meeting hall that is now the home to the textile tool collection.  There is a handsome floor loom...

...and a corner with some antique wheels and other items.  This is where I set up.  During the rest of the year the inn hosts kids from the surrounding schools and they get to try their hands at carding and spindle spinning but I tend to be a "look at/ask questions of" demonstrator rather than a hands-on "try my wheel" sort of person.  My Louet doesn't pretend to be period but at least I can show comparative anatomy with the Ashford and the actual antiques.
While at the Inn I handed out lots of info for the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival which was following the next weekend. 

The first half of September was unseasonably hot, which I loved, but the critters were uncomfortable.  Even the honey bees that moved into our tree this spring decided to "sit out on the porch" rather than rest inside their hive tree.  The smell of honey was overpowering near the tree as they worked to fan and cure it in the heat.
Every morning started with mist rising from the area below the sheep pasture. 

The sheep enjoyed a lot of nice pasture and days spent moving at their own pace between grass and shade. And the Cotswold lambs were shorn.
Poor hungry creature.
They were getting pretty warm under all that wool.

Flopsy says.....
Shooooorrrrnnnn!   What's shooooorrrrrnnnn???
And all 50-ish of them found out that day.
We baled the rest of the second cutting hay.  It was a nail biter on the last day.  We could hear thunder from five miles away and see the wall of rain falling but the Good Lord made the wind keep it just to our south.  Rain fell as we literally were shutting the barn doors after backing in the wagons.  That put our total to somewhere just over 7200 bales of both hay and straw from the oats which we handled all ourselves.  Apparently we're not old yet.  Nice to know.
Among other things I did a lot of dyeing for the fiber festival.  I went with some hot fall colors.
And some that were more earthy.  I had been doing dip-dyeing in two different colors with overlap making a third, but I changed to casserole pans and like the multitude of shades much better.

The festival went well and I was tickled to have my friend Thecrazysheeplady come all the way from Punkin's Patch in  Kentucky to play.  It poured - poured - on Saturday but we had a great turn out nonetheless.  Sunday was even better, due in part to the Yarn Harlot being our special guest teacher/speaker for the weekend.  She also graciously agreed to stay over and give the committee members a special knitting class since we couldn't/wouldn't have been able to partake otherwise.  It was awesome fun - Knitting for Speed and Efficiency.  (My lack of skill improvement can only reflect on me, not her!)   I joined the 21st century and bought a smart phone so I could use a Square reader and take credit cards during the festival.  Both functioned well and the phone is proving to be much smarter than I am.
After that weekend of cold rain the leaves really changed color quickly and we had a week of "October's bright blue weather" in late September.  Utterly clear days and cold, clear nights.
We also put everyone over the scale to check weights, read eye scores and dewormed where necessary.  We sent five young Cotswolds to two different farms in Maine, and a nice colored crossbred and a white Cotswold to two different farms here in New York.  I've made several kettles of applesauce from the incredible crop in the backyard.  We've lost two branches off the ancient trees due to weight of the apples.  The mix of varieties makes the best. applesauce. ever. 
We've been to the woods several times to cut dead and dying ash for firewood.  Andy is also building another pen area in the lower barn, not for more sheep but just to give the ones we have more room.
And that about brings us up to date.  Of course I've left our a myriad of small things that have occured but those are the main points. 
I'll pledge to do better from here out!