Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Was That Crazy, Or What?

Our January thaw was amazing.  Temperatures were in the 50s and all the snow melted except for some small hard strips hiding in ditches and under overhanging pine boughs.  I watched our driveway change from a tilted ice rink to a normal patch of stone you could safely walk across again.

This break in the winter weather afforded us the chance to do some outdoor work we didn't imagine we'd get to, such as cleaning the concrete yard between the sheep barn and feed bunk. The sheep drag an awful lot of bedding out the two doors as they walk back and forth to the 'picnic table area' and of course leave lots of sheep berries out there too.  We scrape that area clean daily in above-freezing weather but once we get snow that sticks around there's no good way to do it.  That area becomes a trampled glacier of frozen manure and bedding. It's not slippery for the sheep but on warm days the surface thaws enough to make it sloppy and unpleasant to walk through.  Usually it's there until spring but this year....

For the internal combustion engine and hydraulics, we thank thee!

It was forecast to fall below freezing at night so we scattered some Sure Foot (a brand of barn calcite) on the wet concrete.  Pro tip - use this around your house, garage and yard in place of 'ice melt' products.  It's completely non-toxic to animals, birds, fish, plants and bees.  Find it in places like Tractor Supply or other feed stores.  It's usually cheaper than other material meant to make ice safe, too.  The down sides are that it comes in 80 lbs bags (so eat your Wheaties before shopping) and it does track into the house on shoes and paws.  It's ground stone so not friendly with hard flooring but it sweeps up easily.

Another day we went to the woods to augment the firewood supply.  Usually that's a move of desperation in January but with no snow it was just another fall-ish day. Andy managed to take down at least a dozen moribund ash trees which is about the only species that burns well without curing.  Holly was thrilled.

"A walk in the woods?  Heck, yes!"

Once they were down Andy pulls them out into the field to dismember.  It's safer than using the chainsaw with brush and whippy saplings underfoot and around you.

Despite the lack of snow the day presented other challenges.  Fortunately it was only this one wheel that found a soft spot.  Andy was able to back up and get away from the area without further problems.

The field next to the woods was put into soybeans last year by the fellow who rents land from us.  He never did harvest them last fall, due to the heavy rains I suppose.  They seem to be standing OK and not deteriorating but the fields are floating now, so they may end up a loss.  That would be a shame.  Someone has made use of them, though.  It's out of focus but some enterprising chipmunk or red squirrel has packed soybeans into the cavity of this damaged sapling at about chest height.

Other woodsy critters were taking food out of the trees rather than putting it in.  Here a woodpecker has made a neat rectangular hole (bit hard to see but take my word for it) which is a hallmark of a pileated woodpecker.

Being in the woods is thirsty work and Holly tiptoed into this puddle of ice water for a drink.

"Wild water is the best!  Lots of flavor!"

Makes me shiver just to think of putting my feet in it.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January Doldrums

Winter makes me lose any blogging mojo I have.  Things are mostly gray and cold, days are short, chores are very routine and work in the wool shop slows due to holidays, year end book work and trying to catch up on neglected indoor tasks.  You can only say 'fed the sheep and skirted a fleece' so many ways.  ;-)

I tend to feel like Dexter - brace against something and sleep till spring.

But we do accomplish things every day even if it feels like we're just treading water. Here are a few occasions noteworthy enough that I took pictures.

I finished two scarves for Christmas presents.  As both have finally been presented as gifts I can show them. Both came to me as fiber during the guild's Christmas exchange (different years and they have been in the stash) and both have Blue Faced Leicester as a major component although they are from different producers. The fiber was nice to spin and the projects were simple and quick.  I used a simple pull-through pattern I grabbed off Ravelry - the Noro Keyhole Scarf.

We had a belated but fun Christmas dinner at Julie and Red's and Holly never wants to go home.  She has two perfectly good beds at home she rarely sleeps on and stuffed toys that she walks over and here she looks like the poor rescue dog finding warmth and safety for the first time in her life.  I guess most kids think their friends have cooler parents and better stuff.

The sheep welcomed some short but sunny days and napped in the barn doorway after filling up at the hay feeders.

And we were finally able to get every sheep into a jacket.  We ended up buying from both Rocky Sheep Company and The Wool Tinker.  Both brands are of good quality and the sizes alternate, with Rocky Sheep running odd sizes (37, 39, 41, etc. inches) and Wool Tinker being even (38, 40, 42, etc.).  Between the two everyone has a coat that fits... at least for a few weeks.  We'll have to change up many of them between now and shearing.  Buying the extra coats was a considerable investment but being able to market all the fleeces as coated will be worth it and save me time in the long run during skirting.

And what's better during the cold, dull winter but a little more cat sniffing?

Holly sez....

"I've sniffed enough cats today.  I'd rather go chase that squirrel.....except he 's way over there through the deep snow.....but if he comes over here he's dead!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


That was fast!  The makeover is done and our website is back in action!  Take a look and let us know what you think.  If you should find any broken links or dysfunction please shoot us an email, PM or leave a comment here so we can fix it.  The site should display properly on all platforms including mobile devices.  

When I realized our Windows Vista operating system wasn't going to get updates from Explorer or Chrome anymore it became clear we needed a new computer. Lots of sites were becoming unavailable with any browser or displayed so strangely they were unusable.  Problem was, our old site was built and edited on software that would not be compatible with the newer operating systems.   So a new site that could be managed on a new computer was necessary.  Darn that fast-moving technology!

Giant thanks to the oh-so-patient Scott at DSD Webworks for creating the site in 2003 and now updating it. We can't say enough good things about his technical abilities, eye for good design and patience when it comes to someone (OK... it's me) who's more comfortable working with animals than computers.

Here's hoping it lasts as long as we do!!

We Temporarily Interrupt This Program

In case anyone has tried to reach our website in the last 24 hours, don't worry - we haven't gone away or dropped off the face of the earth.  Our trusty website, in operation since 2003 (!) has been getting a much-needed update and yesterday our webmaster began the process of turning each 'under construction' page into a functional model that the world can find.  Our web address will remain the same and we should be back online very soon!

Stay tuned!