Friday, December 16, 2016

Winter Wardrobe

One of the our seasonal tasks is coating the sheep once full time hay feeding starts in late fall.  We were lucky this year with the weather and were able to keep the flock out on pasture up until deer season began.  Because our feeders are designed to minimize chaff contamination we held off a bit more to get other things done and the fleeces didn't suffer but we finally took the time to get at it.  It's not a fast job that we can do in one day, it's more of a process.

Having washed and mended all the coats after the spring shearing (OK, the washing and mending dragged through the summer and into fall) we pulled them back out of storage and put them in piles by size from smallest to largest.  Then we started penning small groups of sheep and put coats on all the non-Cotswolds first.  Their fleeces are such that chaff falls in and stays in so getting them coated first was the priority.

Minnie and Flower in their clean clothes.  

Coating the non-Cots took us a full day.  Handling each ewe was a chance to trim hooves if needed, clip off a felty lump from under a chin, check eye scores and body condition, and then put on the coat.  Sometimes the size that looked right was too big or too small so we'd switch..... it took a while.  

When we did another round of coats a few days later it became apparent that we were going to run out of sizes 37 to 41.  We had decided to coat all the sheep in the flock this year.  The Cotswolds that we coated last year did fine with no felting and minimal distortion of their curl character so we're going all in this year and doing everybody.  The cleanliness makes for a better product and it's easier for me to get a fleece skirted, too.  It was no surprise we would need more of some sizes but you don't know for sure which ones until you get into it.  We've been using Rocky Sheep Suits for years and will continue to do so but they are behind in production right now so while our order of sizes 37 and 39 and 41 is in their queue I also went over to The Wool Tinker and ordered intermediate sizes 38 and 40.  I hope to see them this coming week.  

Right now the Cotswolds are still quite clean but just sitting in the bedding will attract contamination when your friends drop hay bits on you or walk by and kick bedding on you.

So while we wait for coats to arrive the sheep go about their winter routine - walking back and forth from one side of the barn to the other, checking to be sure there isn't some better hay somewhere that they're missing out on.

And of course doing some recreational cat sniffing whenever the opportunity arises, in this case it's Clem passing through on his way to the sunny ledge above the hay manger.

The ventilation fan isn't really this loud - guess the phone just has a good microphone.

Hopefully we've ordered enough of all the sizes to get the job done this time.  And in a month we'll be changing everyone up a size to accommodate the growing fleece.  I hope we catch a warm spell by then!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Walking By The Woods

...on a snowy evening.  So quiet all you can hear is the snow falling.

Holly's more enthused about snow than I am but knowing I was headed home made it almost pleasant.  If only I could hold on to that peaceful, snow globe feeling all winter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Wait For It.....

"Mom's so busy this time of year that it just doesn't pay to stand around waiting for her to put something in my Kong.  But I'm patient.  I can wait...lying down and comfy........ sigh....."

Don't let her fool you - she's not nearly as neglected as she makes out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Yarn Along - Yarn Carnage

First, a bit of good news. The blue roving I had been working on is spun and plied.  It was a painted roving and I tried to split it into equal strips so I could match up the colors when they were plied.... It seems to have worked for the most part.  It came to 190 yards of 2 ply and I like it lots.  I'm working on the more somber shades of blue and purple now.

Next, a reassurance that the Yarn referred to in the title was no. where. near. any of the fiber or yarn or roving or anything that we have for sale.  This debacle happened in the house, in a bedroom, in a cupboard that housed only a part of my personal, spun-loong-ago (and ignored) stash.   To say I'm disgusted with myself is an understatement.  It's also a sad commentary on my housecleaning skills but there is some redemption to be had in that department at the end of this story.  Fiber people out there have already guessed......moths.  (Picture the figure in The Scream)

Family was coming to visit for a weekend and I needed to return a bedroom to its intended purpose (instead of catch-all/storage room).  With the door shut against feline mischief the room had received minimal attention for *coughyearscough*. Approaching the cabinet I saw a little white coccoon on the floor under the door......nooooooo......   I won't repeat the X rated language I used but between that and the vacuum cleaner nothing came out of that room alive.

Everything got hauled outside and assessed.  Anything with angora in it was a total loss and went into the trash.  Since those skeins were disintegrating as I touched them it was a sad but easy decision.  Other skeins seemed to have been ignored but the majority had varying amounts of damage.  They all got shaken out, retied where necessary and washed.

Some seem to have escaped damage completely.

The rest are sad.  I *should* probably toss them but I can't quite bring myself to since I know there is some good sound yarn in there.  Sorting it out will be my self-imposed penance for having let it get damaged, I guess.  I'm especially upset about the camel/silk skeins, the llama/Border Leicester and the 2+ pounds of purple/pink which was an early satisfying dye experiment.

Now that I know the yarn is inert and de-bugged I can store it PROPERLY and plan some projects to use it.  I'm thinking fulled items, maybe some rug hooking and incorporating the shortest pieces into decoration on felted wool balls.

The best news on the whole situation is that I now have a pristine bedroom for guests and I can finally reach and maybe USE my loom again!  I'll have to teach myself all over again but I'm looking forward to getting back to it.

While working in the wool shop lately I've listened to 'Fevre Dream'  (yes, that's the correct spelling) and now am into 'Windhaven', both by George R.R. Martin (he of 'Game of Thrones' fame).  Both are quite engaging.  'Fevre Dream' puts vampires on Mississippi steamboats (sounds goofy, but it works) and had a satisfying end.  'Windhaven' is rather like 'Dragonriders of Pern' without the dragons.  There's a good bit of social and political wrangling but it's not as dark and mean as the 'Game of Thrones' series and the story moves along at a good clip.  Two thumbs up if you'd like some popcorn for your mind while you're doing something mundane.

Joining in with Ginny......

Monday, November 21, 2016

With A Vengeance

It had to end sooner or later and when winter arrived it did so suddenly and in no uncertain terms.  Friday was sunny and about 70 degrees and the sheep were still enjoying pasture time although pickings out there were getting pretty slim and we had been feeding hay in the barn at night too.  You know the grass is pretty well gone when the flock spreads out in all the pastures and does a lot of walking (but the exercise is good for them).

A glowing pink sunrise.  The air itself looked pink - it was so pretty.

Meandering about.....

Clear, warm, dry fall days.  So rare.

Saturday started out sunny but the forecast was for deteriorating weather with snow by nightfall.  Gee, maybe it won't be that bad.

Ugh.  Sunday morning saw four inches of wet snow, icy roads and more coming.

Now the pastures are really, really, really done.

Andy had just finished picking corn and closed up the cribs on Friday.  WHEW!

The wind began to pick up and visibility dropped as the drifting began.

 The wind built up knife-edged banks right next to blown bare ground.

The sheep are cozy in the barn and we're cozy in the house.  After the beautiful fall the roaring wind and this sudden decent into winter makes things look pretty desolate out there.

Time to really be thankful!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Sky Above

I would hate to have to live in a city where the ambient night lighting is so bright you can't see stars or the Milky Way or the moon back lighting cloud banks.  This week the big show was the Super Moon, which to be accurate was more like a Super Duper Moon since we haven't seen the like since the mid 1940s.   We were lucky to have clear weather for it, and no city lights to dim the event.

I got a couple of nice pictures to remember it by.

And these - clouds? or alien jellyfish overlords drifting by to inspect their human herd?

OK, maybe I read too much science fiction when I was little.  ;-)

Monday, November 14, 2016

X Marks The Spot

I choose to believe this big X over the farm is like a rainbow, marking it as the best place to be, and not marking it as a target!  Yikes!

The leaves are coming off the trees fast now with mostly the rusty browns of oak and some yellow beech and maple still hanging on.  Basking in the late fall sun the landscape is still pretty and  the sheep are able to go out every day.

Wee Little Guy is showing the typical wrinkly ram nose the boys all get this time of year.

There is some grunting and head butting but for the most part they aren't being too crabby with each other right now and troop out in the morning in a lazy group.

The girls are more energetic in the morning and queue up at the gate, then spill out into the pasture.

Andy heads down to the lower gate to let them out into the north pastures.

They tend to follow the worn paths rather than walk through the grass.  Creatures of habit, we are.

Peanut always sees me no matter where I am in the barn or barnyard and now she's thinking maybe I'll come along out to pasture with the flock.

 "Aren't you coming?  It's going to be a good day."

I'd love to wander around out there with the girls but there's just too much to do.  I feel guilty disappointing her.  Eventually they decide to start on the middle pasture and she follows the flock.  I know she has friends out there but I still feel bad.

They disperse to the far end of the field and will work their way back as the morning goes on.

As evening chores approach they rest near the back of the barn and watch for us to let them back in for the night.  Full and comfy sheepies.

It's a pretty sweet November so far.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

International Hug a Sheep Day!............Was Yesterday

And I knew it was and hugged a lot of sheep but didn't get the post up until now.  Maybe we can think of it like the Twelve Days of Christmas and make it last.  After all, every day is a good day to hug some sheep!

Salsa got a hug.......

So Gem and Snubby had to get one too.

Two hugs at once.

And Peanut gets her own hug.

And Brick and the other boys get hugs too. if you didn't get to hug sheep yesterday you still have time - like sending a thank you card, it's never too late!

Saturday, October 29, 2016


The weather turned ugly Wednesday and we woke up to almost 2 inches of sloppy snow on Thursday.  That was bad enough but then it started to get freezing rain on top.

Since the trees still held a lot of leaves I was afraid for the really old apples in the backyard.  They were bowed but undamaged.

I have to be careful what I say.  Not half an hour after I said, "Gee, some tree is gonna come down on the power lines."............... the power went out.  The electric company still has not replaced our super old poles but they weren't the culprits - as usual it was a limb on a tree up the road that took out service for a grand total of 14 customers.  The battery on our generator wasn't up to snuff so Andy had to drive our old truck across the lawn to jump it.  The poor old truck is technically for sale and hasn't been on the road for a long time but it started right up.  The engine is good, mileage is ~ 120K and the interior is excellent but the body is rusting apart from all the road salt.  Bad enough that the towns use salt in the winter but the dirt roads are brined in the summer to keep the dust down.  Every time it rains the vehicles get a salt bath underneath.  :-(

Friday turned into a bright clear day, but cold!  We turned the sheep out into the south pastures for one last time.  How many days they can go out will depend on the weather and how fast they deplete the grass. We're supplementing with hay now but they are all studious grazers and will gnaw it to death if we let them.

And a great many leaves came down with the ice and snow.  All the pretty reds are gone leaving just some stubborn yellows and oaks that are still green.  Definately a foreshadowing of what's to come.