Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Apparently It's Going to Be a Good Year

Because this must be a good omen, don't you think?


This makes me giggle every time I think about it.  Thanks, Camaj Fibers, for having a smart marketing department that made my day!

Happy 2015, everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Fortnight Recap

'Fortnight' sounds so much classier than 'two weeks'.  I'm always impressed to see other people blog daily or almost daily and make meaningful, interesting posts to boot.  Two weeks of gray weather here hasn't helped and we haven't been doing anything especially photogenic on the farming front.  I did manage to get some wool ready and sent it off for processing.

Another run of Ferns and Moss......

And some natural colors - white Bunny and Gooseberry and two shades of gray - Tux and Mojito.
I skeined, washed, dyed and reskeined the last of the 3-ply sportweight Cotswold yarn I had milled earlier in the year.
We had a great spinning guild meeting with a fibery Secret Santa gift exchange wherein you bring nice spinning fiber wrapped in a festive manner and then you get to pick a gift based solely on which packaging strikes your fancy.  Some participants employ the reverse psychology method and go for the plainest wrapper they can think of, but all fiber is super yummy and selected by a spinner for a spinner so there are no losers!   Some stealing is allowed and the most coveted boxes changed hands several times until all was settled.
I wish I'd taken a picture of the sparkly batts I made on the big drum carder as contribution.  Duh.  :-(
But I received two lovely coils of hand dyed BFL roving in two slightly different blue colorways.  Yay!  Even the bag is fun - the pattern is knit stitches!

And while Christmas preparations have kept us busy we can always count on the routine of daily chores to keep us focused.
Kittin has grown into a very pretty kitty.  She's also growing into a rather spherical shaped kitty.  This will no doubt change when winter is over and she ventures out and about more.  She's a bit of a couch barn potato in snowy weather. ;-)

She's also become enamored of the sheep and likes to have them breathe on her and give neck nibbles.

The sheep really didn't like me taking a video.  I guess they thought that if I was standing still looking at them I must be Plotting Something so they kind of each decided one by one that they had somewhere else to be.

Alexi says.....
"I just don't know what she sees in those sheep.  She should be out hunting mouses.  Kids these days..... into some crazy stuff."
Best wishes for everyone to do whatever you're 'into' this holiday season!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunny, With a Chance of Naps

After yesterday's ice, rain and overall dreariness a full day of sunshine felt like an early Christmas present!  It was still cold, never getting above 25 degrees but if you're a sheep wearing wool it doesn't matter a bit. 

The big rams have settled down quickly and we released them into a larger pen since they didn't seem to be in danger of damaging each other.... at least, no more than usual.  After all, they ARE rams and will butt heads just for the fun of it.  Except for some token swearing and shoving (them, not us) at chore time they are pretty mellow.  Cotswolds Ike and Ian are using the old wall-pillow.

Isadore and young Nigel are still snacking.

Nigel carries a color gene and has a heavy but silky handling fleece that I really like.  The curls are large but well defined and not coarse feeling.   He's registered in the more recent Cotswold Breeders Association which recognizes purebred colored Cotswolds.   I'm looking forward to some pretty colored lambs from him in the spring.

He ripped out his flock tag last fall and I will replace it next time we're catching everyone to do some task or other.  There is no danger of mistaking him for anyone else as the other rams are all older and/or tagged.

"That's right - I'm ME!"
Our other yearling Cotswold is Neville.  He's in the original Cotswold registry (American Cotswold Record Association) which doesn't allow any color so he will only ever produce white lambs.

His fleece is quite different from Nigel's in that the curls are very small and tight - 'pencil curls' or Shirley Temple curls as I call them.  His fleece is also lustrous and on the fine end of breed standard.  I plan to have samples from these two guys' fleeces micron tested this spring just to see where they stand.
Curls over his shoulders.....

Closer up from the side...

The sun comes in the big door of the ewes' barn for most of the afternoon.  It's a grand place to sit and rest if you're a sheep.

The bred ewes are still in a separate area so they can get a small grain ration and also not have to put up with the frisky unbred animals pushing and shoving at feeding time.

"Why, thank you.  I am far too dignified for such things - unless pushing will get me somewhere."
"I"m not pushy, I"m just an innocent liddle lambie.  Mostly."
Peanut was really liking the sunshine....

And some polite company......

"Hi!  I'm just so glad to be here!  This place is great! Peanut's my friend! I'm just so happy!"
...and some NOT so polite company.

"Hey! I'm trying to get some sun here!"
"Sheesh.  OK, thank you."
"That's better....rrrrr....zzzzzz."
Wake me up when it's spring.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday and so I was happy to spend several hours spinning at the Fiber and Art Emporium where a good bit of our yarn and spinning fiber is offered for sale.  It's great to have a brick and mortar storefront available for me and a lot of other local people to display our wares.  The rug hooking aspect of the shop has really taken off and they now carry the largest selection of wool rug hooking fabric in this part of central New York.

There are an awful lot of talented people out there!  I really liked this wreath of paper flowers made by one of the vendors (yes, they hold classes on that).

Someone had hand puppets and was working on a presentation for the Christmas event in the park coming up later this month.  How stinkin' cute are these?  Baby birds in a nest and a porcupine!

A local caterer had supplied the shop with a super array of snacks and refreshments.  I don't know about the rest of Hammondsport but we were having a par-tay!  (Tip of the day - to keep apple slices on a platter from going brown dip them in a bowl of Seven Up.  Who knew?)
In other news.... we've had some pretty sunrises -

It was cold then - around 12 degrees in the barn and Natasha was suffering again so I moved her into the wool shop like last year.  I can totally sympathize with being cold and not being able to get warm no matter what you do unless you come inside.  She was very happy there although probably bored most of the day.  She was super chatty whenever I came in to do some wool work.  Holly does NOT snuggle with the cats - considers them to be way beneath her - but Natasha enjoyed some stealth snuggling when Holly succumbed to a nap.
And then it warmed up for one magical day and we had rain and a double rainbow!

Breeding season is over and the rams are back in the bachelor barn.  They are calming down quickly and we'll probably release them from close confinement in the next couple of days.  I've been washing and dyeing wool to make another run of Ferns and Moss roving and I need to dye more yarn for next week's Christmas on the Farm event.  ( week...yeah, I better get that dyed!)
And it IS that time of year, so when you're shopping for gifts remember to support your local businesses.  They appreciate it!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lookit, Mom, Lookit !!

Holly saw a junco picking grit off the dirt just outside the breezeway door.  She was fascinated watching him hop around and wanted to get him. so. bad.

 Can I has that leetle feathered mousie??
I would love him and hug him and squeeze him and bite him.  And call him George.
She is grim death on rodents and birds look like airborne mice to her.  There was a Chicken Incident a few years ago where someone's pet bantam lost some tail feathers here.  In fairness, Holly didn't go searching for the chicken - it had been riding in the cab of the truck with the kids (!) and they let it out.  No permanent damage done but had the oldest boy not been fleet of foot to the rescue..... eeesh.

Now if there was just a way to get all the pigeons around here in a room with her for 10 minutes.  ;-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Austerity Budget

Times are tough.  Our cats are reduced to sitting in "wish-it-was-a-box" boxes.

"Seriously?  This is the best you can do for me? "
Cheer up, Calvin.  Christmas IS coming.....Santa Claws might bring you something better.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Back To The Woods

It was starting to snow lightly when we finished morning chores but it wasn't enough to prevent Andy from cutting some more trees for firewood. Here he's already cut out the wedge from the leading side of the tree - that lets it tip in the direction you want it to fall - and now he's cutting the backside to release the mass and let gravity take over.  Where he stops and looks around the trunk he's checking to see that his chainsaw bar is aiming properly toward the inside angle of the wedge. Sorry the lighting is weird - the phone was more concerned with the light sky than the ground.

Holly went along of course - couldn't let her miss a good woods outing.  Since deer season starts Saturday (gun, that is - bow season has been going on for a while) we weren't sure who might be in the woods scouting around so we made her nice and visible.

She really doesn't mind wearing her vest.  She poked around in the leaves behind me for a while and when it became obvious that I was parked instead of going walkies she came and camped out at my feet.  As soon as the chips had settled she had to check out the downed trees.
This tree had a streak running down one side similar to the mark it might have had if it had been hit by lightening at some point.  Andy walked the length of it trying to decide if any part of it could be used as a log to saw into lumber and she followed him.  I tried to catch her running the length of the tree but she was too quick!  Once she started going onto the skinnier branches Andy lifted her down as he was afraid she'd fall off.

It was snowing harder after he had been cutting for an hour but by that time he had dropped enough trees to keep himself busy for the next few days.
I was cold and looking forward to warming up with toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Take a Coat - Winter's Coming

A sheep coat, that is.  But they aren't for warmth - the sheep have that well in hand - they are for cleanliness of the wool.  Pastures have stopped growing and have been eaten down as short as we can allow - the plants need some reserve to survive the winter and start growing in spring.  Now that we have officially reached hay feeding season and pasturing is over the fleeces need protection from the dreaded VM (vegetable matter) that contaminates fleece and renders it undesireable to hand spinners.

We went through the flock yesterday to weigh and deworm as necessary and put coats on everyone that's not a Cotswold.  With our good hay feeders the Cots seem to be able to shake enough chaff out of their fleeces that the benefit of coating would be minimal compared to the extra effort and risk of felting under the coat.  The sheep coat 'closet' consists of four large Rubbermaid totes holding clean, laundered coats in sizes from little lamb to gigantic ram.  Some have been patched rather a lot.
The coats have a solid panel across the brisket and straps that go around the hind legs.  Slip it over a sheep's head and step their legs through the straps.  Voila - coated sheep.

The Cotswold lambs that were shorn early last month have already grown back a lot of wool and have no need of a coat for cleanliness or warmth.  (We did coat some shorn Cotswold yearlings last spring because they got chilly with NO wool).
Freckles:  "No fair!  Why can't we still run naked too?"
This was likely the last warmish sunny day we'll have for a long time.  The forecast now is for rain, dropping temperatures and then snow..... more snow.....cold.... etc.  The flock (except for breeding groups of course) spent the day eating and wandering from one area's hay feeders to another and just hanging out in the yard enjoying the sun and the view.

Peanut:  "Being outside is OK, but you get more scritches when you're inside."
Smart little sheep.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Off to the Woods

Getting in enough firewood for the year is always a big job.  In a perfect world there would be time in the summer to cut some now and then and by this time of year there would be plenty - maybe even some to start the following year's supply - and all Andy would have to do would be to get it stacked down cellar and out by the other boiler that heats our two shops. 

To date, we are not living in a perfect world. 

However, today was a perfect morning to get a bunch of trees on the ground so that's what we did.  Once they are on the ground Andy and I are both comfortable with him working alone to limb them out and get the logs home but the actual felling of trees is not something a person should ever do without another person present in case help should be needed.  Too much can go wrong even when you are careful and following the rules. 

Holly loves the woods.  She stays right near me while Andy is cutting but it's not because she's scared.  She actually does. not. care. when the trees creak and come crashing down.  Doesn't even flick an ear.  She just knows that until we're done she has to stay right at my feet.  Once he takes a break and I start walking around then she knows it's OK to explore the downed trees.  The first thing she does is hop up on a log and start walking it.  We never taught her this, she decided it was fun to do and will almost run the length of a tree.  Kids.

"Yep, Dad really killed this one."

Andy went to the truck to get the gas can.

"Where's he going??"
"He's coming back, right??  It's too nice out to go back home!"

But we weren't done yet and Andy did cut quite a few more trees.  (This was all ash that was in poor shape anyway).  He had quite a bit of work laid out by the time he stopped.

Despite all the trees and branches crashing down around it I noticed this lovely feather clinging to a low branch.  It's so downy and fringed that I'm thinking owl.
After Andy had cut enough trees to keep himself occupied for a while we went for a scouting walk down the hill to see where more likely firewood trees were located.  Basically, everywhere we went there were trees that could/should come out.  Sigh.  So much work that could be done.  A stand of trees is like a garden and while you don't want to make to too manicured it's best to take out trees that are dying or damaged so the healthy ones can do better. 
One fun part of the walk was a visit to the beaver pond.  It's literally just about at the farthest and least accessible corner of our property so we don't go there too often.

We didn't see the beavers but their paths up the bank and into the brush were muddy and well travelled so we know they're in there somewhere.
"Beebers?  Aren't those little wimpy things that make screechy noises?"
No, beavers are strong beefy critters with great big teeth that can chew down trees.  Apparently they are sometimes overly ambitious and chew down trees that are too big to cart off.


All in all it was a very pleasant and productive morning - probably some of the last nice weather we'll see this year.
And I brought that feather in to try to take better pictures of it to show how pretty it is.  I couldn't do it justice.



You do see some of the neatest things in the woods.