Saturday, August 27, 2016

August In A Nutshell

The days of August have gone too quickly.  This month is like the Sunday night of summer - September is the mental break between summer and fall seasons.  The weather may stay just as warm (for a while) but all those years of going to school has branded my brain with the thought that summer's over on September first.

So what was the bulk of August like?

We had drought that made us bring the sheep in off pasture for four weeks.  They complained but did well on the hay and small grain ration we gave them.  The weather threatened many times but it was just so dry the storms couldn't form.  We had lots of interesting skies.

There's a tiny bit of rainbow near the horizon.

Ominous, no?  But we barely got a sprinkle out of it.

Rain finally did begin to fall and the landscape became green again.  It was startling after so much brown and tan.  Today we just started turning the flock out for a short period.  We'll have to be careful not to let them overdo.  The grass is as lush and tender as it ever is in May.  Just like having a second spring!

The personnel from the Ag building at the county fair asked me to demo spinning again so I had a pleasant four-hour shift actually spinning something for the fun of it.  I had another rainbow batt from a guild project in the stash and I didn't weigh it before starting but I did just nicely finish it in the four hours.  I already have a skein of this that I plied with a silver thread for a slightly sparkly yarn that preserves the color shift.  I now have this one and I think one more bobbin like that which will need plying the same way.  I have no clue what I'm going to do with it but I'll have enough!

While I was spinning I enjoyed watching what other people were doing in the building.  This man had lots of different 'pioneer' type items and demonstrated flint knapping (note to self - learn to do this.  Might be handy in the zombie apocalypse and it does have a certain 'gee whiz' factor to it) and making turkey calls using turkey leg bones.  He had a whole bunch of them and was teaching kids how to produce the call.

 This boy caught onto it pretty fast and practiced a long time, then went and signed up at the DEC booth for the Turkey Calling Contest.  You can't get much more rural than that.

There is a display of glass milk bottles from local dairies, now all long gone.  They represent a lot of people making a living.  I dimly remember our family getting milk delivered to the door when I was very small.  The milkman always came very early and put the bottles in the small metal cooler at the front door.  The paper caps were yellow around the rim and white in the center with writing but I don't remember the name and was too young to read anyway.

After spinning I always go and get a root beer float and then walk around some.  Most buildings don't want food or drink brought inside so I wander the blacksmith area and antique tractor display.  This machine caught my eye.  Guesses?  The shovel shaped part slides under the soil and lifts the crop up to where the spinning tines can separate it from the dirt.  OK, that pretty much gives it away.

A horse drawn potato digger.  Apparently Corning had a functioning foundry.  A google search shows the digger advertised in The Rural New Yorker in 1910.

I like the simple but efficient design.  You can't feed the country's population with such equipment now but at the time I'm sure the purchaser was thrilled with such a sturdy labor saving device.

I have done a little bit more spinning.  This small skein was spun from a demo batt I made on a blending board.  The batt was pretty wild looking but the skein is more domesticated. 

And I spun up a sample skein of a new colorway that will be making its debut at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival - "Autumn Blaze".  It's a hotter color than the picture suggests - more orange and yellow.

The power company, NYSEG (New York State Electric and Gas), came through doing a yearly check of the electric poles and discovered some alarming posts in the sheep pasture.

Yikes.  These are slated to be replaced, perhaps this week.  Amazingly, they are the original poles which were placed when electricity reached the farm - in 1946. They have served their purpose well and deserve retirement.  The cross arms all rotted off in the 1980s and the wires were then attached directly to the poles but the wires and poles themselves never failed, even in the big ice storm of 1993.  NYSEG would have liked to relocate the power line to the roadside.  We gave it considerable thought and decided we wanted them left down in the field.  Andy already has to work around a few poles and guy wires up the road and they are a huge annoyance.  Also, the distance between poles will be shorter due to new regulations (never mind that the current spacing seems to have worked well here since 1946) and a pole would have had to be placed essentially at the road in front of the sawmill/tractor shed plus the wires would stretch over the front lawn and become a focal point no matter how you tried to ignore them.  Of all the many many times the power has gone out here it's never been because of a problem with 'our' poles - it's been up the road where the poles are by the road and scrub trees grow up and cause problems.  That will never happen here as long as we're around.  I'll give the company credit for being very nice and polite about us not wanting them moved.  They said it was our choice and they never gave us any argument when we said we wanted them left in the field.

Any ornithologists out there?  We've been having a nocturnal bird of some kind calling off and on for a couple of weeks.  Here's a recording of it taken a few nights ago while he was likely sitting on the electric pole in the yard.  You might need to turn up the sound a little.  Ignore the video - I was trying to hold the phone down so the camera light wouldn't scare it off while I recorded.  I wish 'audio only' was a setting in the camera function.  Oh well. 

I'm guessing it's a juvenile owl of some variety but don't know for sure. I recognize most of the owl species' adult calls - the cadence of their hoots is distinctive - but this is a squawk.  I consulted my trusty Roger Tory Peterson field guide but didn't find any mention of squawking.  I did like the description of a short eared owl's call - an emphatic sneezy bark - and I thought our bird might be that but then I found the Macaulay Library of bird calls and their short eared owl doesn't sound like our bird.  I had plenty of opportunity to memorize this call.  The stupid freaking bird majestic creature was as regular as a metronome, calling every 8 to 12 seconds from about 1:30 AM to 3:00 AM.

I shouldn't complain - it's better than gunfire, car alarms, music from the neighbors, heavy traffic and lots of other sounds people have to deal with when they're trying to sleep.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Yarn Along (A Day Late) - Goodbye July

The drought continued on through the end of July and into the beginning of August.  We switched the sheep over to the pastures that lie to the south of the barn and let them have free range over it all to try and stretch their time outside.  We did finally get one day that gave us a half inch of rain and some misty conditions that lingered into the next morning.  It felt like a monsoon after such a length of days without rain.  As there was no lightning with the rain we locked the sheep out in the pasture so they'd get a decent bath.  It made a huge difference!

I usually carry beet pulp pellets in my pocket as treats and Peanut hung back hoping for another serving as everyone else trooped out to the field.  I told her I'd give her more later and she then followed the flock.

It's almost foggy enough to lose sight of them in the tall brown grass.

The mist also showed lots of spider webs in the flower bed.  These are sheet weaver spiders and they are quite abundant this year!

This one is a high achiever!

 I can imagine this web as the setting for some children's story about a spider, since it looks very home-y and inviting.  If you're a spider.....otherwise I guess it's more like a Brothers Grimm children's story.

The owl hasn't been hanging around much lately, at least not during daylight when the birds would alert us, but I did find a calling card in the grass.  I just love the tawny, rusty colors.

Andy completed a four day clean out of the lower barn.  It was quite overdue but first the skidsteer needed repair necessitating dismantling many components and installing new parts (which we were lucky to find considering how old it is), then the tractor needed some parts, and finally the manure spreader needed parts too!  And of course none of it was on a shelf somewhere - each thing had to be ordered and 'we can get it in tomorrow or Monday' which required extra trips to town.  Thankfully, the sheep were still on pasture during those 4 days so there wasn't any shuffling from pen to pen required.


The rain we did get wasn't enough by any means to reverse the drought and so the flock was confined to the barn/barnyard/feedbunk complex and put on dry hay starting last weekend.  To say they weren't happy is to put it mildly.  The hay is leftover from last year - not unwholesome but tired and not as nutritious as it once was - but it will work as a maintenance diet since we aren't feeding lambs or moms needing to put condition back on.  Thank goodness we don't have a bunch of lambs to try and give really good nutrition to - we'd be buying something.  The sheep complained loud and long and ran to the gate anytime we went into the barn but after much grumbling and a few days time they settled into the new routine.  We hope it won't be more than a few weeks and that we don't have to dip into the new hay in August.  That is ALL needed for winter, especially since getting any second cutting is looking pretty iffy.

The old ewes get a separate pen where we can feed grain, alfalfa pellets and some of this year's hay on the ground so it's easy to eat.  They might have a couple of full mouths of teeth between them all.  :-/

We're using the 'picnic area' out in the feedbunk which gives more room for everyone.

And having more bodies outside and fewer inside keep the barn as airy and ventilated as possible when it's in the 90s as it is now.

While Andy did the grunt work in the lower barn I've kept plenty busy in the wool shop.  I've gotten out  over a dozen more reserved fleeces in the last few weeks as well as the occasional order for roving or a few pounds of raw Cotswold, and I've still managed to get fiber washed and dyed to send to the mill to be processed into roving.  This is going to be new batches of Wine Country, Blue Jeans and the black and white fiber is a combo of black alpaca and white Cotswold lamb which will give some pleasant shade of gray (I'm not real picky there - I'm sure it will be nice!).

There's been blessed little knitting going on here but I have been listening to books while I worked.  I've gotten through The Ridge which was interesting and had some plot twists I wasn't expecting.  Then I went to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and immediately followed it with the second book of the trilogy, Hollow City.  I'm loving this series!  The action is fast, the characters are interesting (besides the obvious peculiarities, like being invisible or having a swarm of bees live inside you) and the language is rich and satisfying.  I'm dying to listen to the third book but the library doesn't have it to download as an audio book yet.  Curses.   I'll have to see if it's available on CDs instead.  I must find out what happens!

Joining in with Ginny.....