Friday, May 30, 2014

When the Sun Comes Out

We had a nice, mostly sunny day today so we wanted to do outside work as much as possible.  I've been dyeing some Cotswold and this is the first day I could lay it out on the concrete side porch to dry. 

Yes, the color du jour is GREEN.  Actually there are several shades of green in there but it doesn't show up well from farther away.  There's a good amount of your basic medium green.....

....some that's more of a blue spruce type of green......

....  and some locks are either kind of acid green.....

......or a dark green like seaweed.  I think the yarn you could spin from this when it's roving will be lovely with subtle color shifts that will give it depth.  We'll see.

One reason the wool can be laid out to dry here is that we sacrificed the hedge.  Yes, while it was nice for many many years the time had come - parts of it had died out leaving big gaps.  I also had a hard time keeping it in check.  That was a lot of time with pruning shears!  Also, in the semi-near future we're going to have to address the fact that the concrete porch slab is tilting toward the house and running all rainwater right onto the foudation.  The concrete has to come up.  NOT a job we're looking forward to and not going to happen right away (unless there's a crisis - please, no!) and the hedge would have to come out at that point anyway.  Andy took it down right at ground level with the chain saw so we can mow over that area.  I'll sure miss the perfume of the blossoms.  Sigh.

The fields are still too wet to plow (we're skipping corn but would like to put in oats) so Andy got started on cleaning up the mess left from having the two middle silos taken down.  He used the back blade on the tractor to smooth out the ruts and now can work with the tractor to ferry away the short towers of compacted silage left behind.

This will take a lot of loads with the dump trailer as there is probably 50 tons between the two.

Thank Heavens for hydraulics or we'd be out there with pitchforks slinging it onto the wagon one teensy smidgen at a time.

Check out the giant allium!  They are just coming into full bloom.

I love a plant that thrives with neglect.

Lots of little stars making perfect spheres. 

Dexter says,

"I can't believe they won't let me be an outside cat.  It's so depressing.....enough to make you bang your head against the wall... until you fall asleep."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pasture Perfect

Finally, finally we are having decent spring weather and the grass is growing as it should.  It's been a late spring in our area and even two days ago it was pouring rain and 46 degrees.  We decided not to try to plant any corn this year.  Our growing season is short anyway due to our elevation for most of the varieties of field corn.  We need a type that will reach maturity (dry ears for picking) in 72-76 days.  More that 80 days and it's a real gamble whether it will mature before frost kills the plant.  Since we're already starting out cold and wet and couldn't get the ground fitted for planting up to this point it's really slim odds that we'd ever make it this year.  So, the seed and fertilizer can sit in storage until next spring.  Thankfully we have enough corn in the cribs that the sheep will have all they need for the next 18 months or so.

The pastures have finally come on fully and the ewes with lambs can be out all day.  We let them out after chores are done and the sun has had a chance to dry the grass and hopefully drive any parasite larva off the foliage and down toward the ground.  There's a morning parade and some lamb is always a bit dim and gets behind the gate inside until Andy shoos them out. 

I took the next video about 10 days ago and if you look at the hills there isn't that much difference in the foliage on the trees.  The majority of them are still barely begining to leaf out.  (And I have no idea what that buzzing noise halfway through the video is. Signals from the mother ship, maybe.)
We still have the unbred animals separated from the ewe and lamb flock just because it works out well space-wise.  We've begun letting them have pasture out the back side of the barn for half an hour morning and late afternoon to let them become acclimated to fresh forage again.  I've been going out then with Peanut and she's taken to grazing much more easily than Flopsy did last year
"I'm gonna EAT dis ting."
"And dis ting too."
"And DIS ting!"
We invested in some new snow fence as a temporary barrier to keep the sheep from traipsing all over the pasture.  The area at the back of the barn tends to get trampled rather than eaten as they rush out to see where the Very Best Spot in the field is.  I do have electronet and use it carefully but we find the snow fence to make a good visual barrier and is effective physically too.  It also gives us peace of mind that we aren't going to find some horrible entanglement situation.  It's not as easy to erect or move but we like it.
The nice lush grass is eyeball high.
Fortune has grown into a pretty young lady Cotswold.  I know - heresy! - I've taken off all the dreadlocks from the Cotswolds.  I know it's their "look" but the reality is that we had some alfalfa with burdock in it and everyone's forelock was a trashed mess so we buzzed them off at shearing and they can all start over.
She noticed Peanut....
....but wasn't particularly interested and walked on by.
Daisy on the other hand gave her a good smell-over but was very kind and didn't get bossy.
Snubby was making the most of it.  She has trouble getting her nose in the feeder so we let her have a slice of alfalfa morning and night in a small pen.  She loves it but of course grass is better!
They got rained on the other day and the wool has grown back enough that you can really see the curls coming out on the Cotswolds.
Daffodil at 12 is currently the oldest flock member.  Made it to another grass season, old girl!
It's a pretty good life when your nose is in young clover.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Like a Hole in the Head

That's how much we needed another cat.  However, people who drop off cats at farms aren't the type to ask first.  So...... meet "Kittin".

We haven't had a calico in all the time we've been married.  Although male calicos do occur, this one turns out to be a female - nature's kitten factory.

"Hey, I resent that.  We just do what we're good at."
Although she doesn't seek petting she is very talkative and doesn't mind being stroked but is leery of the other cats who so far have only hissed at her and not stooped to fisticuffs.  I'm sure they'll come to an understanding sooner or later. She doesn't mind attention from Holly too much but did swat at her when Holly got too thorough with The Big SmellOver.  
As soon as we could get our hands on her and stuff her in a carrier transport her to the vet we had her tested for Feline Leukemia and when she tested negative we proceeded with vaccinations and then a spay.  I finally returned old Natasha to the barn after her winter stay in the wool shed and kept Kittin there so I could watch her.  She took to kibble and the cat pan just fine.  The one little stitch just came out today and she also came back to the barn.
Ivan says,
"Kids these days!  When I was her age we had to walk ourselves to the vet.... uphill both ways through snow over your whiskers.....and we had to catch our own food.....mice had fangs back then and spines in their fur like porkypines.   No such thing as cat litter.....if you wanted to scratch in the sand you had to go find yourself an anthill.....and another thing -   <grumble, grumble>...."

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Shepherd's Market

Saturday was the Shepherd's Market gathering.  It was the first great weather day we've had and everyone was in a happy mood.  We're fortunate to be able to use the common areas of a large Methodist church so the ceiling is high and the room is bright with natural light.  Several spinning guild members took advantage of the chairs in the middle of the room and enjoyed some time at their wheels while surrounded by friends and fiber.

The bags of roving in the photo below are all done with natural dyes.  The green is weld over indigo.  I don't remember what was used for the other colors.  Besides roving from their own flocks the vendors also had dye plants ready for the garden, equipment for spinning/weaving/other fiber arts, finished goods, buttons, beads, jewelry, handmade soaps and lotions, yarn, maple syrup, knitting patterns and kits..... for a smallish festival there was a great variety of goods.

The next vendor over - Heart'sEase Icelandics - prefers to showcase their wares in natural colors. 

There were angora bunnies for sale and also doing their part to demo spinning by sitting quietly on a lap while they were plucked and spun.  This little blue-eyed white bun was determined to be Somewhere Else.  I've always been surprised that angora rabbits seemed content to sit quietly in their travel cubicles at festivals even with the top open.  Not this one!  They finally had to put the lid on his cage to keep him in.

There was a great variety of lovely yarn, much of it having been dyed by hand.  This is some yummy yarn from Stone Edge Fibers in Phelps, NY.

Thanks to the fine efforts of Diane from Acorn Works I had five new rovings in my booth.  Left to right they are:  Briquette - dyed Cotswold, Beautiful Blue - dyed Cotswold, Wood Smoke - natural color mix of many breeds, Plum Lovely - dyed Cotswold, and Sirius Black - natural color Cotswold lamb (75%) and black alpaca (25%).  Yes, they are really all this shiny. 

Fiber festivals are popping up all over.  Be sure to go investigate some near you.  You'll find a great array of supplies and finished goods and you'll be supporting local small businesses and farms.  And you never know - even if you don't go in the door as a 'fiber person' you may come home with a new hobby!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

What lovely weather we had today - perfect for getting Mom out of the house and having something good to eat.  Here's hoping moms everywhere were as happy as our ewes today.  We let them in to the Baby Pasture for the first time this spring.   (If the flock looks small it's because the unbred ewes haven't been integrated back in yet - hopefully in the next few days when time allows for some hoof trimming).

Peanut and I got to enjoy a little time outside in the sunshine.  What a treat!
Every day is mother's day when someone loves you.  :-)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Last Call

We finally were able to match up schedules and weather to get the last of the flock shorn.  These were the geriatric ladies, the rams and the yearling replacement ewes.  Just in time for some actual Warm Weather - upper 70s predicted for the rest of the week and the big guys in long wool would have been particularly uncomfortable.

The yearling girls were the worst.  They were shorn as 6 month old lambs but acted as though they had just come in off the range and never been handled.  You can see one blurry hind foot flailing around.  Sigh.

The big rams were a lot more docile although it took two people to make them fold and sit on their butts. I don't know how a shorter person would manage with these big guys - it's all he can do to reach down around the rump on the largest rams.  In case you're worried, that's not blood on the shearing board.  Somebody got a tiny little cut during shearing and we spritzed it liberally with Red Kote and then the sheep wiggled around and smeared it all over the plywood.
Jared and Rocky both filled a 33 gallon plastic trash bag to overflowing with their fleeces.  Tons of spinning there!
Today Andy is spreading fertilizer on the hay fields.  They are predicting a week of warmth and showers so he needs to get it on the fields before the alfalfa is tall enough to be damaged by tractor tires.  The ground only just got dry enough to run on without cutting ruts.  Sometimes it's a pretty small window of opportunity to get stuff done.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Over the Rainbow

This past weekend was the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  This event has become the largest such gathering in the US and 2014 was their 41st year.  Tell a fellow spinner or shepherd that you're "Going to Maryland" and they know you're on a working vacation - having huge fun and being inspired but also gathering contacts, ideas, making sales and purchases, and generally immersing yourself in all things fiber.  It's a magical weekend for sheep and fiber people.

Julie and I go down on Friday to get my fleece show entries in on time and then we wander around getting a sneak peek at the sheep and vendor booths.  Detailing all that can be seen at Maryland would take volumes but I did take a few pictures to show a tiny slice of the flavor the weekend offered.

Somebody yarn bombed the trees in the grassy yard where the sheep to shawl competition would be happening.

The art competitions are always swamped with talent.


Rug hooking.

Garments and textiles created by knitting, weaving, crochet, felting and combinations of techniques.  I regret I don't remember how this boa scarf was created but each little lock was secured to a backing of some kind.
And of course spinning.  This project basket was inspired by Beanie Baby, a Jacob sheep from Equinox Farm.

The vendors carry everything - - you could possibly need in supplies for your project or finished goods.

Literally tons of yarn.  Lots of sock yarn and kits to knit socks.  Many were whimsical.

Kits to make your own heirloom quilts.  These incorporate quilting, embroidery and needle felting.

Fun, decorative items all ready to take home and love forever (or give to someone else to love).

The sheep show had hundreds of entries in all breeds, colors and sizes.  I'm quite sure this heavily fleeced Corriedale later went on to win Supreme Fleeced Sheep of the show.

These Border Leicester youngsters were as interested in passersby as the people were with them.

And this four day old bottle baby won hearts everywhere she went.  When you have sheep circumstances like this just come with the territory.

I see I've barely scratched the surface of what the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival offers.  I didn't get to the fiber available, the processed fibers ready to be worked, the variety of yarn, the potted dye plants ready to put in your garden, the tools and equipment, jewelry, books, buttons and beads.......

Oh well, there's always next year!