Archive for February, 2012

Warm Weather Wishes

February 29, 2012

Last Friday was a gorgeous day. 60+ degrees, sunny (but a bit breezy). I got some long put off chores done. Not as much as I would have liked, but as much as the back would allow. Even made a dump run. I don’t see the point in paying for weekly trash pickup, which runs about $30/month, when I can go to the dump myself. After much experimentation I have found that the mini van will hold about 300 pounds of bagged trash, which only costs me $11. Only have to do it once or twice a year normally, so it’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. I think it used to be a lot more fun when we were actually tossing things over the lip of the pit. Something really satisfying about sending that bag flying. A couple of years ago, our landfill built a huge building that you now drive into and put things on the concrete floor (throwing is discouraged). Not nearly as much fun, but more stuff gets recycled, since there are folks there going through things as soon as you pull away. Kid the Younger cleaned his bedroom majorly when he was home for christmas, so there was quite a bit more than usual, plus in thinking back I don’t think I made a dump run at all last year. Only got about half of the pile dealt with, but I figured I could finish up on Saturday.

I should have known better. Saturday, I woke to this: 4 inches of snow on the ground, more falling, wind blowing hard enough that the snow was moving sideways through the air. Didn’t look like it was going to end anytime soon.

I went to fix a pot of coffee, and returned to my chair by the window 5 minutes later. Clouds broken up, sunny, no wind.

Our weather is nothing but fickle, but if given a choice I’d rather have the sunny warm days back. At least until the ewes have lambed and the babies are ready to deal with a bit of cold. This batch of snow mostly melted on Sunday, then we got about 5 inches more on Monday, and we’re supposed to get up to 6 more inches of snow tonite.

I really shouldn’t complain. I know we need the moisture, and the weather has been pretty darn nice most of this winter. The constant wind is what gets to me most. There isn’t much to stop or divert the wind where I am, and when the local weatherman says that we’re getting gusts up to 25 mph, I’m getting 40+. And I live in an old mobile home with minimal insulation. The windows are all single pane, and it’s interesting to watch the glass flex in the wind.  Our first storm in this house my sweetie kept waking me up all night long, asking if the sounds were normal (he’d never lived in a mobile before). It was kind of funny, but I don’t think he ever really got used to it.

The ewes are getting bigger by the minute. A couple of them tend to get friendlier as they get closer to lambing, so I’d say I’ve got a week to 10 days to go. Eartha is one of those. As a lamb, she loved having me scratch her chest, to the point that she would melt in a heap in my lap if I scratched long enough. As an adult, she wants very little to do with me (unless I have a treat, of course). Except when she is nearly done cooking her lambs. then, she’s willing to stand for scratches all day long, if I were so inclined. Friday evening when I as feeding I was feeling udders (a good way to assess how soon lambs may be arriving). Most of the ewes move away when I reach between their back legs. Eartha just stood there, arching her back a little bit (like she would for a lamb). Funny girl! She’s not terrible happy in this picture, hence the down ears(she was really hoping for some grain, but I was very mean. She’s sulking a bit at this point). The second picture gives a hint at her big belly (that’s her in the front, and Marge in the back. . The ewe in the middle is Ashe, one of the ones I’m still not sure about. If she’s pregnant she isn’t due for a while. Inesh was in with the ewes for a couple of months, so he could have caught her and Bridget at a much later date. Or they may have missed this year. 

These are the 3 youngest ewes that will be lambing this year. The CVM ewe is Kay, and this will be her first time lambing. Irene (on the far right) has lambed once before but lost the lambs, and Ida Lynn (the only sheep who has ever insisted on a middle name) has lambed a couple of times and is an excellent mommy. Ida Lynn and Kay are half sisters (same mom), and Ida Lynn and Irene are half sisters (same dad). Before I got the program that I use to keep track of the sheep pedigrees I used my family tree program, and it used to confuse the heck out of it. All the relationships were way closer than it was comfortable with, plus it was always questioning me on the ages of the parents (are you SURE she had a baby when she was only 2?? Used to make me laugh every time). I’m hoping for some color out of all these girls. Kay’s dad was a spotted reverse badger, and Ida Lynn and Irene both come from colored backgrounds. No way to predict, so I’ll just have to be patient. Hate being patient! There aren’t any bad colors, but I’m a sucker for spots. One of Irene’s lambs was spotted, so the potential is there. The imagining is fun, but nothing ‘s better than snuggling actual lambs. Can’t wait!!

Meanwhile, I try to keep myself busy with other projects. I’ve been working to get ready for Fiber Market Day, and ideas are flowing freely. Now if I can make them all happen before the end of March…

Quick Trip

February 21, 2012

I made the decision Thursday to make a quick trip to the valley to visit Kid the Younger. The ewes are getting bigger every day, and it won’t be too long before I will need to be here for them while they lamb, and the weather looked like it was going to cooperate, so over the mountains I went.

It was a fairly quiet visit. We went hot-tubbing with some of his friends late Friday night (he didn’t get off work until 8 pm). Saturday we went to the movies (Lady in Black, still not sure how much I liked it) and out to dinner, then I came home Sunday.

It always amazes me how different everything is on the other side of the mountains. I didn’t think to take pictures while I was out walking around, so these were all taken from the car on the drive home, but they work.

 This was the view out my window when I had to stop for the trucks just finishing cleaning a mudslide off the road. Even in February, the west side of the mountains is green, green, green.

 This is near the summit (Santiam Pass). The road was just wet and rainy when I went over on Friday, so this is all new snow. It’s been a pretty dry winter. We used to drive this road all the time (sweetie’s parents lived in Salem), and there have been times that the snow on the sides of the road was higher than the roof of the full-size van I used to drive.

And this is the view closer to home, in an area that does not get irrigated. This is considered a “high desert”; minimal rainfall and some pretty impressive winds make for not a lot of growth Apply water and if it can stand the no guaranteed frost free period, it’ll grow. Challenging when it comes to home gardening, but lots of hay gets grown around here.

I got some knitting done while I was gone. Made the first test run through a pattern I designed on the fly. I’ll knit it once more from the directions I typed up to make sure it really works, take some pictures, and hopefully release it on Ravelry by the end of the week.

And I managed to finish spinning the 2 ounce batt of Midge (CVM)/alpaca/silk. I took the wheel instead of knitting to my mom’s knitting group Thursday afternoon (it’s her church group) and did a little show & tell with the things I’ve finished lately. They mostly knit prayer shawls, and most are tentative knitters at best, so I like to show them what else is possible. Most of them had not seen anyone spin before, so there were a lot of questions asked and answered. Ended up with 430 yards of 2-ply lace weight. It’s pretty yummy. I’m going to make up more of these batts before Fiber Market Day, so I’ll leave this a skein until them, but then I’ll have to come up with a special project for it.

Pattern Progress & A Rant

February 13, 2012

I bit the bullet and bought a program that will hopefully help me sell knitting patterns that I write. I found it on Ravelry, and I am very impressed. It lets you design patterns either by charting (and it will automatically write out the directions), or you can write out the directions (and it will automatically chart the stitches). You can save them as a pdf, which means you can sell online copies rather than having to print them out and mail hard copies.

So now begins the fun of transcribing all my scribbles into the program, then a few test knitters to proof things. I’m not looking to make a million dollars (though wouldn’t that be nice?), but it would be good to cover at least part of the beasties hay bill.

 This will be the first one up.

Now my rant. A couple of things have gone into me feeling that I need to say something about loose dogs. Leigh posted about having a neighbor’s dog on her property chasing her animals (I commented, but tried to keep my comment brief). A friend posted on Facebook about being upset over getting a ticket because her dog escaped and was running loose, and was very upset that I thought the cop was right. And I came home Saturday afternoon after spending a lovely couple of hours at spinning. As I got out of the car, I noticed my black kitty Burt moving quickly and low to the ground, obviously trying to get out of harm’s way. By the side of the house was a loose dog, nose to the ground. I hollered. I have a voice that can cover some ground, and he started moving off. I grabbed my sheep crook on the way, just to make sure I could get his attention (or protect myself, if it came to that). The ewes were agitated as we moved past them, so he probably spent some time barking at them earlier. It took quite some time to convince him that I meant business, and we covered most of my property in the process.

Now, I understand that dogs get loose sometimes. But all too often, folks (especially out here in the country) don’t spend near enough time training their dogs to stay home. They open the door and let Fido out to amuse himself, sometimes all day long. A single dog can be a problem. Two or more dogs is a pack, and they can be downright dangerous. I have friends whose flocks have been devastated by dog attacks. While I have not had to deal with dogs getting in with my sheep, the dogs don’t have to actually bite to cause damage. A single incident of a strange dog barking at them can cause a break in the fleece, ruining it for that year. Ewes can lose pregnancies up to a month later. And I have suffered those kinds of losses due to a neighbor, who one year had 2 large dogs that liked to stand on opposite sides of one of my pens barking at the animals in the pen. I spent a lot of time talking to sheriff deputies. Every single deputy that came out patted his holster and told me I could shoot the dog that was on my property (I already knew that). Nothing changed, until one morning when instead of running home when I yelled, one of the dogs charged me (he finally backed down after scaring the crap out of me). I went in to the sheriff’s office, and the deputy that day asked if I had talked to me neighbor about his dogs. Nope, last time I talked to him he was waving a rifle in my face (one of the reasons I didn’t want to shoot his dogs. Not someone I want to start a shooting war with. This guy is nuts). Well, the sheriff ripped up the ticket the first deputy had me sign (since he hadn’t witnessed the dog on my property), and went and delivered a new ticket to the neighbor, as well as what I gather was a very forceful lecture (he came by my place when he was done next door). Dogs were gone that afternoon. I lost 6 lambs to those stupid dogs (the ewes aborted because of the stress).

Before we moved out here we had several chickens (Easter chicks that didn’t realize that Easter chicks usually die). We heard a commotion one night in the coop, and actually watched a dog run out of their fenced area and run next door and jump into a pickup (his owner was visiting our neighbor). When confronted with the evidence (2 dead birds and blood on his dog’s muzzle), his response was that his dog would never kill a chicken because he was a hunting dog. Huh? He did the right thing and paid for the birds, but my kids learned a hard lesson that night.

I’ve got nothing against dogs, but I have real problems with folks that refuse to take responsibility. Dogs need to be trained. They need to know what their boundaries are. Discipline is not a bad word. And I think every dog should know the command “Go home”, so that if they do leave your property I can send them back without risking life and limb chasing them away. In a perfect world I could afford to put up a predator-tight perimeter fence. The local wild predators don’t bother me or my beasties (knock wood that will continue). Why can’t I expect people to keep their domesticated predators from harming us also?

Necessary Evils

February 8, 2012

Yesterday the weather and I finally synched up and I was able to start burning. Now, for folks that don’t farm in certain areas, the idea of setting fire to your own property may seem like a weird thing to do. Here, as in many farming areas, it is a necessary evil. Yes, it adds smoke to the air quality. But for a lot of farmers it is the only economical way of dealing with field stubble. Unfortunately, last summer my finances and body did not cooperate, and a lot of the property did not get mowed nearly as much as it should have. The grass and weeds are all dried out and need to be dealt with before spring comes and things start growing again.

I am a firm believer in control burns, heavy emphasis on the “control” part. Since I am working alone and slowly, I want to make sure that the burn doesn’t get away from me and cause damage. I have lost things because the evil neighbor on one side sets his burns and lets them get going to a point where he cannot control the flames. I need to make major repairs to one of my animal sheds because of him. I move slowly and protect things as much as possible. Around trees and structures I will light and snuff out several times, clearing areas so that I can then move farther away and set fires that can burn up to the cleared areas more quickly.

It is interesting how some things burn quickly and fiercely as soon as flame is applied, and some only burn as long as the flame is directly on them. A lot of what grows here is very much appreciated by the beasties when it is young and actively growing, but as it matures they turn their noses up at the same vegetation. So burn it must.

My back didn’t hold out as long as I’d hoped, but I got a start. The front part of the driveway got done. I’ve got a long way to go, since I’ve got 5 acres and about 80% of it needs this treatment. I’d like to think I got about 1/4 acre done, but I may be overly optimistic. Oh well, baby steps in all things.

When I came in from playing pyromaniac, I spent quite a bit of time sending pictures from my phone to the computer and then organizing them on the ‘puter. It took some time, but again, was necessary in the long run. It was fun to clean things up and get them so I can find them again.

I’ve been spending some time thinking about one other necessary evil – money. Can’t get by without it. Food for me and the beasties, utilities, insurances, it all adds up. I’ve got my Etsy shop, and while I appreciate the folks that “like” my stuff, I still haven’t made any sales there and that is discouraging to say the least. I’ve got a couple of shows that I do where I do make sales, but I would very much like for the animals to at least pay their own way. I’d love it if they made enough for me to not have to work off the farm. I’ve made a Facebook page for the farm (Majora Acres, if you want to check it out), and I’m considering the logistics of setting up a fiber CSA.  Anyone want to adopt a sheep?

Finding Five

February 5, 2012

Yeah, yeah, I know. Calm down. The idea of posting this often probably isn’t going to stick with me. But I’m feeling a little better, so just enjoy it!

The Crazy Sheep Lady posted the other day about finding 5 minutes a day to accomplish something bigger over time. I “committed” to finding 5 more minutes for 3 things – spinning, cleaning the dining room so that I can actually move the big loom out here, and processing more on the carder. So far, I’m managing 2 out of the 3. The carder is still sitting idle, mostly because I need to make sure I’m able to concentrate when I’m using it (don’t want to risk losing anything). The spinning has been easier. I pull a strip off the batt I’m spinning off of and keep spinning until it’s done, which usually amounts to about 15-20 minutes. It’s a Romeldale (Midge), alpaca, silk blend that I did on the carder a couple of months ago. I’m spinning it lace weight, so it will take a while to fill up the bobbin, but I do like how it’s turning out. I want to make up a bunch of batts before Fiber Market Day, but I wanted to see how this worked up before I spent a bunch of time blending. I’m leaning towards adding more silk to the blend. Sorry about the out-of-focus pic, but it’s a tiny grey yarn.

For the dining room time, I actually set the timer. The first couple of days I quit after it went off (it’s not a race, and I don’t want to burn out before I get done). Today I reset it twice, and kept going after it went off the last time. Dealt with a few things I’ve been avoiding, like the bag my sweetie took to the hospital the last time he went. I was rewarded for my efforts with a ton of change (mostly quarters, yippie) and a crisp new 20-dollar bill. Plus, I re-found a warp I had purchased at a thrift store or garage sale for $1, 4 yards of irish linen. It’s not big, but will be fun to play with and can’t argue with that price tag!  Now, no one but me would see that I’ve made any progress at all on the room, but I can and that’s what counts. The finish line is still a long way off, but I’m making progress. No pictures until I’m done because it is such a disaster, sorry.

I’m off to enjoy the sunshine now. Enjoy your day!

Modeling Mom

February 4, 2012

Yesterday I spent the evening with my mom. She had called to let me know that she had made some white chili and invited me to come over at some point during the day to help myself to some. Instead, I went over a bit before I knew she’d be home from her volunteer job at her church and put gingerbread into the oven and I also brought over salad fixings. I also brought over several things for her to model so that I could get pictures of them. I’m thinking to put the shawls in my Etsy shop.

First up is the Neibling shawl. The first picture gives a good idea of how big this is. Mom is 5 foot tall. It is incredibly light but very warm. I did not block it hard, just wet it and spread it out on my bed. Stretched it would have been enormous!   

This is the Snowflake Peacock, a pattern available for free on Ravelry. It is listed as semi-circular but is actually about 3/4. The edging is very ruffly, and it was hard to block because of those 2 factors. I like it, but I don’t think I love it.   

This is the first shawl I designed. It was supposed to be circular, but I messed up the math, so it is very full. I want to re-block it to get more stretch in the outer edge. The yarn is mill spun from my wool, and it was intended to be for a raffle the breed association was doing at Oregon Flock & Fiber a few years ago but I didn’t finish it in time (so I donated a different shawl). I want to redo the pattern to get the math right, but over-all I’m pretty happy with it. All of the patterns are rose lace patterns. 

And, the Zombie scarf in all its glory! Mom had fun with this one, as you can see. This was a fun knit, and not bad for only going off a picture

  

I’m glad I spent the evening with her, and should do it more often. She’s always so happy when I show up and have dinner with her. We don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I know she tries to be supportive even if she doesn’t always succeed. Hard to believe she’s going to be 80 in a few months!

 

One Step Forward…

February 2, 2012

No, I haven’t totally disappeared off the face of the planet. Felt like it for a while there. It’s been a rough few weeks. Work called and “terminated my employment”. Why they think that term is somehow better than saying “You’re fired”, I’m not really sure. The reason – I’m not capable of coming back to work yet. I know for a fact that they have let others be on LOA for over 18 months, and I haven’t quite hit the 1 year mark, but whatever. I am not heart-broken about this, other than the obvious worries about money, but I’ll deal. The biggest headache is that the medical insurance I had through them says that they will pay for surgery for Kid the Younger, so I’m going to have to pay the COBRA charges to keep it for at least 3 months. It’ll be cheaper than any other alternative.

All that happened on a Monday. The Friday before I had gone in for a fasting blood draw requested by my regular doc, followed by a visit to the pain management specialist, who wanted me to start a new med (an anti-depressant that also gives pain relief). Since the last anti-depressant I tried made me suicidal (not a great side effect for an anti-depressant IMHO), I was reluctant. Friday night I got a call that said that the blood test should an issue with my liver function. Not massively concerned, since I’ve had that before, but I decided to hold off on the new med until I had a chance to talk to my doc. Then Monday evening, after all the hoopla with work, another call from my doc’s office saying that my vitamin D level was really low, and they wanted to start me on mega doses to bring that up. Now I really wanted to talk to my doc! Earliest I could get in was Thursday, so I held off on the new med until then. After a very nice long talk with my doc (LOVE that I never feel rushed there! We spent 20 minutes talking about work & Kid the Younger before we ever got to anything about me) it was decided that yes, I should try the new med. I will need to get 2 more blood draws, 1 in a month for the liver function and 1 in 3 months for the D (which could explain my fuzzy brain and some of the pain. Low “Normal” is 30, I’m at 10. She wants me at 50).

So after a trip to the pharmacy I took the new med at 1:30 pm. Almost immediately life sucked. I was nauseated and quickly turned into a zombie. Feeding the beasties that evening was an adventure since I could barely lift my feet to walk. I decided to hold off on the next pill until closer to bed time the next day. That gave me over 30 hours between pills. Turns out that was almost enough time to get back to near normal. Mind you, I’m on 1 pill a day when 4 pills is full dose. I took the med through the weekend, until I could call into the pain management specialist and let them know how bad it was for me. Nausea, stabbing headache and total zombie. Couldn’t drive anywhere. I didn’t even tell them about the tics I was starting to develop. Thank goodness, the nurse agreed that I could drop the drug (would have any way!), but I’m still waiting to hear back from them as to what we do now.

Three good things happened through all this. I finished another pair of socks:

   I was on the final few rows of these when I got the call from now ex-work. The cable pattern is from a sweater in an old issue of Interweave Knits. I reversed the cables on one sock, so they spiral opposite each other.

A few days before the journey through zombie land started a friend had posted a picture of an interesting scarf on Facebook. I had played around with how to do it, done the math and cast on before I took that 1st pill. Thank goodness it was pretty mindless knitting, cuz now I have my Zombie scarf:

 This is it just before I finished it. Still have to weave in lots of ends, but it was a fun knit.

The third (and I think the best) is that at least 8 of the 11 ewes appear pregnant! The other 3 may be, but I’m ok either way. It’ll be about a month until lambies, but I can’t wait. They will probably be too little for showing, being so late, but I may take them to fair anyway, to pad the numbers. Hopefully we’ll have enough breeders and animals to get classes of our own this year. I even dreamed about spotted lambs last night; we’ll see if I get any.

Today is Kid the Elder’s birthday. His 30th birthday, to be exact. Most days I don’t feel anywhere near old enough to have a kid that old! At least not until I walk! Then I feel old enough to have grand-children that old or older. Oh well, at least I can walk.