Monday, February 22, 2016

The Routine

This time of year, when the sheep are fed indoors, chores become a structured routine and boy, do the sheep learn it!  While Andy starts mixing up the grain ration (everyone gets some now even though nobody's bred because the hay isn't the greatest) I go through each pen and pull the leftover hay stems out of the feeders and scatter them for bedding.  The pens with youngsters and old grannies and special cases, like Snubby, get better quality hay but also get grain too.  By the time I move on to the next group Andy is doling out grain and putting hay in the feeders.  We have the flock broken into five groups based on age and body condition and it just makes things less of a madhouse to have smaller groups contained so there isn't a huge stampede when the grain goes down.

The largest group is made up of the biggest, most robust adults and we shoo them outside entirely while servicing their area.

"C'mon, stop lollygagging!  We've been out here five minutes already!"

Fawn:  "I don't think she's really trying - she's just standing there."   
Salsa:  "Yeah.  I sense no urgency at all!"

Snowflake:  "I will stare at you with my yellow sheep eyes.  It's bound to make you move faster!"

And when the bail on the bucket falls and makes a clink sound can practically hear the collective gasp of anticipation.

Clem was keeping one of the inside groups company.

"I'll just sniff this cat for a minute.  Ahhh, I can feel the tension falling away............"

"We've tried an intervention - it didn't work.  She's a cataholic.  So sad to see right in broad daylight.  Before breakfast, even."

And then the morning feed gets distributed.

"She'll be back.  She always comes back.  They can't resist me."

And that's about as exciting as it gets here in winter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Snow and Coyotes

We received about eight inches Tuesday of the wettest, heaviest, sloppiest snow and ice mix you could imagine.  Power went out around 9 AM and Andy fired up the generator.  They missed the projected 11:45 restoration time, ditto the 1:45 time and finally got it going again around 3 PM.  That lasted all of half an hour and it went out again until 5:30.  A quarter inch of ice accumulated on everything and then snow stuck on top of that so I'm sure fallen wires and/or trees played into it.

Most of the culverts are frozen and the ditches filled with snow from the plow so water turned the snow to slush and started creeping across the road in many places.  Judging by the river of slush in the diversion ditches in the pasture it was a fine day to stay home.

Tuesday, just after midnight and before the snow started to fall, we were woken up by Holly barking.  She normally only barks when someone pulls in the driveway or there is a cat fight within earshot.  She is The Enforcer around the cats - if anybody starts to mix it up she is right there, putting a stop to it.  Anyway, it wasn't cats making her bark, it was coyotes.  Even with the windows closed and latched for winter they were loud and close.

We have a very tolerant attitude toward the local coyotes.  If they don't bother us, we don't bother them.  To date there has not been any problem with them, partly because we don't leave the sheep out at night.  Also playing into their good behavior is the concept that you learn what to catch and eat from your momma and if you aren't taught to take sheep (or goats, or calves or whatever) that you won't go after them unless you are really in dire straits for food and start looking at novel prey.  Moral - if the pack in your area isn't bothering you, don't kill them 'just in case' because another pack will move in and they may be very well versed in killing sheep.

It's a reasonable arguement in the light of day but on a dark winter night the howling was raising the hair on the back of my neck so I went out to make sure everything was OK and scare the coyote away.  In my sleep-addled mind the smart thing to do was make a lot of noise so I grabbed a cookie sheet out of the dish drainer and the scoop from the grain bucket on the porch and sallied forth down the road making a big racket. (Remember the cockney cook in the kitchen while everyone was singing the Spam Song on Monty Python and screaming "Shut Uuuuupp!  Everybody shut uuuupppp!"?  Yeah, it was like that.)   He did stop and after checking both barns (the sheep were fine although the ewes weren't thrilled about the banging I had been doing) I went back to bed.

About 2 AM this morning the same thing - close and loud howling and Holly barking.  This time Andy got up and went out to check the situation.  He reported back that the sheep were all fine, very unconcerned, and he could see where three large sets of prints came out of the field just on the far side of our north outbuilding (his sawmill), crossed the road to the sheep barn side, milled around the north end of the barn peeing on tufts of grass, went south in the road right past our mailbox and barn door, jumped the ditch back onto the house side of the road and went along the ram pasture fenceline toward the woods.  This may be a routine for them as there have been other mornings where we see prints the size of Holly's and she is all worked up smelling the mailbox post, but the howling was a new feature of the visit.  We decided that just to be safe we'd make a barrier across the ram's open doorway so they'd be in the barn for the winter and not have access to the outside and the outside wouldn't have access to them.

Then, today, I came out of the wool shop at five of noon to come in for lunch and hear a coyote, loud and close.  I look to the south and there he stands, plain as can be, on the open ground between our house and the neighbor's.  Really????  Holly wasn't having any of it and started yelling at him. (I should have zoomed the camera - he's a dark speck just to the right of the roof of the lawn swing on the line just between the clean snow and standing weeds).

The crack you hear right at the end of the video is Andy firing off a round.  I didn't know he was at the side porch and planned to kick up snow right in front of the coyote to scare him.  It was coincidence that I hit Stop just as he fired.  If I had kept filming you would have seen the coyote wheel and bound into the woods.  We walked up to check if he had been hit or not.  His reaction was so violent to the shot that Andy thought he might have actually nailed him and we don't want to let any animal suffer.  Turned out to have been a clean miss but the bullet must have literally flown between his legs and plowed into the snow just a foot or so behind him.  We could see the slice of its path in the snow and there was no blood, just a scramble of tracks and then big bounding leaps which we followed into the woods a good ways to be sure.  We hadn't intended to take a walk in the woods, what with ice covered branches occasionally falling, but it was pretty.

In the afternoon we used a sixteen foot gate to span the open doorway to the ram's pen and then attached sheets of plywood so it's a solid barrier to five feet and another foot or so of gate above that.  Is it predator proof?  Probably not to a serious, determined one.  But it's definately predator resistant.  There have been no tracks in the pasture or the ram's small yard but we both feel better with a bigger physical barrier between the boys and the great outdoors than two wire fences.

While we've not had any problems with the resident coyotes we never know when that might change.  This might be a new alpha male staking out his territory or pack boundaries have changed and now we're the place where they yell about it.  Whatever, coming out at NOON within sight of two houses, a barking dog and people (I'm sure he must have seen and heard me, too) is too much.  I hope the cocky bugger got the scare of his life and chooses to go elsewhere or at least be quiet about marking this part of his territory.

Good Holly.  You really told him.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It Be Cold

In the 40s last week, below zero today.  :-/

We did have clear skies all day so that was cheerful.  In the morning there was a halo around the sun from ice in the air.  (OK, it wasn't early morning and I had to block the sun with something tall - one of the trees).

It was the coldest in the barn that it's been all winter.

There's a gap in the concrete next to this post and even through the bedding pack the ground underneath was breathing out warmer, damper air which created ice crystals on the post.

Large but delicate plates and fronds of frost.

And some of the sheep had frost collected on their nose whiskers just from breathing.


Even sitting in the sun, Clem looks peeved with the temperature.

We moved old Natasha up to the shop with Kittin day before yesterday when it was clear that the temps were going to drop this much.  Being short haired and old she just can't take the cold.  Hopefully we'll shift her back down in a week or so when things warm up.

Holly was more than happy to come in and warm up after PM chores.

May we all be as comfy-cozy at the end of the day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Yarn Along - The Guild KAL - 5.0

This does not mean I've made five of the KnitALong item - it means that I've started it Five Times.  Good grief.

Even though we're a spinning guild we have a lot of members who knit.  It kind of goes with the territory. Either you're a knitter who decides you must make yarn or you're a spinner who concludes that you need a way to use up the vast stash of handspun that's accumulated.  A KnitALong is a fine way for everyone (who wants to) to participate in a group effort that's fun, maybe educational in that you have a new stitch or two to learn, inspirational (in that we all make the same thing but all are different and hopefully wonderful), and it has the added benefit of providing material for a display at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.  This year the chosen item is the Noro Woven Stitch Shawl.

I've never used two colors in knitting before but grasp the concept that they should contrast while still looking nice together.  Uh-huh.  OK, head to the vast stash of sample skeins left from batches and batches of roving that is long gone.  Find a bunch of colors that look like they would play well together and get started.  The skeins are each small and my plan is to switch to a similar color whenever I run out of Color #1 or Color #2. I have various shades of red, purple, blue and they should work together.

KAL 1.0 - All is going along reasonably well until about the twentieth row when I realize the two yarns I'm using really don't contrast much at all.  They look different in balls but knitted together they just kind of blur together. OK, it's early - rip it out and start over.

KAL 2.0 - Choose a much different color for Color #2 and start again.  About twenty rows in come to the realization that the two colors hate each other.  They don't just clash, there was spitting and hair pulling.  Off the needles and rip it out.  This is a learning experience, right?

KAL 3.0 - I decide to stop trying to make the reds and blues work together and go with a yellow/orange shade for Color #2 that looks nice but it seems thinner than Color #1.  Grab another ball of an almost identical shade yellow/orange and make the brilliant decision to knit the two strands together as one.  That lasts about ten rows until I can't ignore the fact that now Color #2 is way too bulky and it looks like crap. Rip it all out.

KAL 4.0 - Start again.  Stick with the yellow/orange for Color #2 and see that it isn't really that much thinner than Color #1 and seems to be looking OK. Everything goes reasonably well although I have to look at the YouTube video of M1R and M1L each and every time I get to that stitch.  Oh well, I'll remember it someday.  In the meantime I'm making progress. Time to change colors again...... why are the strands on two different ends of the knitting?? Somewhere I read the pattern wrong and either skipped a row or purled two rows.....  $*&%!!

KAL 5.0 - Start over.  It can't be this hard.  Concentrate.  No distractions.  Read each and every row and tick it off when done.  (And still watch the videos over and over and over....)

The progress thus far.....

It's due in June and I *may* have it done by then.  :-/

Have you heard of Ginny's Yarn Along?  Knitting and reading are two pursuits that so many of us enjoy and linking up through her weekly post is a way we can share what we're currently doing, gain some inspiration and perhaps find the next project or title to look forward to.  While this shawl is apparently pushing my brain cells to the max, I am enjoying listening to audio books while I work in the wool shop skirting and dyeing.  I discovered I can download books from the library for free!  Woot!  Right now I'm on a Nicholas Sparks kick. As usual, I'm riding the backside of anything popular and he's written a bunch of books but I've only just found him.   I finished The Longest Ride and am now deep into The Lucky One.  The first one especially had some lovely moments, I'm not sure yet about the second one, but so far they are a satisfying accompaniment to work - popcorn for the mind, so to speak.

To join in with Ginny.....

I hope to have made progress by next week.  FORWARD progress......  (mumble, mumble)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Random Friday

I'm going to drop all pretense of making a post with a story or plot.  Just assume this is the Reader's Digest Condensed Version (boy, did I just date myself) of the longer narrative and at least we'll get caught up.

We've separated the ewes into groups according to age and body type (and changed up some coats again).  Youngsters and geriatrics are getting a grain ration and the rest of the flock is too, but in smaller portions.   Dividing them into pens is safer (nobody gets trampled in a grain-induced stampede) although it does make for a bit more work on our parts.  The weather has been helpful in that most days the water will run and we don't have to schlep it with buckets.  Astonishing!  The hay is not the best quality due to conditions last summer preventing us from cutting it when it should have been, but an unattended bale is apparently plenty yummy.

I've been working with the shearing from last year and got a new color back from Acorn Works - Tropical Seas -  and am very pleased with it.

I've started dyeing for another 3-way color combo.  This part is going to be a dark plum-purple.  The dye broke into red areas and dark blue areas and the overhead lighting exaggerates the contrast.... blah blah blah.... it looks nicer in real life.

Quilt batting returned from Zeilinger's Mill.  This is the odds and ends from lots of fleeces that didn't look good enough to go into roving.  It can function as quilt batting or be used for felting or even spinning.  It's very free from VM and I think it would felt well, making a blank canvas to do cool things with.

I skirted a couple of nice Cotswold fleeces that were still here - gray Gilly......

....and white Louise.

They both sold quickly on Facebook.  Yes, typical of the way I do things I'm firmly planted on the back side of the social media wave and have only just put Nistock Farms on Facebook.  Man, there's a lot of buttons, icons, doodads and nooks and crannies over there.....  Anyway, please stop over and "Like" our page.

I also skirted Crazy Cocoa Puff's fleece and that's still available if anyone is needing a gray fleece with variable crimp and texture!  It was a coated fleece so it's totally free of VM but has a split personality in grade and type.  Got multiple projects?  This fleece is ADHD and can multitask - maybe a sweater for you, a fulled tote bag and a saddle pad for your horse?  Just shoot me an email for details if interested.  robin AT nistockfarms DOT com.

I finally finished spinning the last of Mr. Bill's fleece and hope to start plying the two giant bobbins.

We had a streak of crazy warm weather that let us get to the woods to take down a few more trees.  Andy needs them for an order of grade stakes for a surveyor.  There was no snow.  Not one drop!  Bizarre, but at least in a useful sort of way.

Popeye has grown into a sleek big cat and is back to his normal sassy self after being "tutored" in December.  I rescued him in June so he's probably about 10 months old now.  His left eye still looks like a marble and likely always will but it doesn't bother him and doesn't weep so it's no big deal.... at least for an indoor cat.  He can't judge distance for beans which would be a hardship outside.

This morning it snowed about an inch so it looks wintery again.  Holly was thrilled.  She likes a little snow if there's sun.

Looks like good weather to take a walk and plan the next task.  Always better with a dog!