Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

Missing In Action No More

July 11, 2014

Getting used to working again has been rougher than I imagined, especially because I am now working the graveyard shift. The hours are midnight to 8 a.m., which actually work really well when you are also trying to run a small farm. The biggest challenge is sleeping while trying to have something resembling a life. As with many things in my life, this is a work in progress. But there is much to share and catch up on, so let’s go!

When they offered me the job back in late April, I had let them  know that there were a couple of long weekends in June that I would need off. One, of course, was Black Sheep Gathering (more on that later). The other was planned by Kid the Younger as my birthday present. He sent me down to Southern California to visit with Sweetie’s sister and her little family. I have talked about getting there for ages, but it never quite made it to the top of the To-Do list. No more excuses! I drove over to his place in Eugene on the last Thursday of May and he drove me up to the airport in Portland and off I went. Sistah collected me at LAX way past her bed time and I finally got to see their sweet little house, complete with guest house. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the bounty of hand-knit stuffed animals my Wonder Niece had decorated my bed with! All were created by her; she goes to a Waldorf school and at the tender age of 9 is already a wonderful little knitter and a budding spinner. My traveling projects were a pair of socks and my Golding spindle with the yarn I am making for a wedding shawl. When WN asked if she could try my spindle I said sure, figuring I’d take off what she spun since it needed to match what I was doing. A quick lesson in how to handle combed locks and she was off and spinning like a champ. I really can’t tell where my single leaves off and hers starts, so it will all be incorporated into the shawl.  India spinning for Liz shawl

Huntington garden

My spectacular Sistah

my refuge

The patio where I spent a great deal of time relaxing

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

view from lunch

The view from our lunch table

I had a wonderfully relaxing time. Sistah and I visited the Huntington Gardens on Friday, walking about 3 1/2 miles. I was threatened by a bunch of teenage geese when I wanted to use the bench they were sitting by, but I won the battle of wills. We did a whirlwind tour of the artwork too. Saturday we visited a local yarn shop so WN could pick out some yarn that I could make her a pair of socks from. Sunday some other cousins were in town, so we had a mini family reunion and I finished off the day swimming in their pool. Monday I was headed back home, via a quick trip up to the Griffith Observatory (closed for the day) and then lunch at the beach. All in all, a perfect vacation! I must have come home looking refreshed, because for about 2 weeks afterwards all the store clerks I dealt with called me “Miss” instead of the usual “Ma’am”.  The trip home was a bit stressful; my plane was an hour late leaving LA and then hit head winds, so I was a bit late to work that night, but it couldn’t dampen my spirits. Southern California has a special place in my heart. I was born in San Diego and finished high school in La Habra. It was nice to be back for a visit. The back yard was perfect; orange trees all along one side, the pool glistening, a Meyer lemon tree against the side of the guest house. We could not have ordered better weather. Even the smog I remember from when I lived there is (mostly) a thing of the past.

While I was off relaxing surrounded by love, Kid the Younger, his Fiancée, and their roommate came and worked on my house! I came home to a much cleaner kitchen and dining room. I have found a few things missing, but their efforts were greatly appreciated.

Before I left, one of the brown ducks had indeed escaped again from the pen, and when I found where she was hiding I discovered an established nest. The weather had warmed up enough for her to be successful if she persisted, so I gave her a chance. The nest was in the middle of an old roll of chicken wire, so I hoped that she would escape being noticed by any possible predators long enough to hatch out her brood. After 30 days, she presented me with 6 healthy ducklings first duckling Here they are a month later, growing fast. I set up a nursery area in the corner of the duck pen using my skirting racks.  growing up 7214 I have since released them into the general duck population, since I needed the panels for a nursery area for the Muscovy in with the chickens. Yesterday she hatched out 8 of her own. muscovy babies

Black Sheep Gathering was wonderful as always, with a few bothers. The Romeldale show went well, as did the Spinner’s Lead. There were, however some rather disturbing reports from both the wool show and a class. I have not been able yet to track down which teacher it was, but apparently the people taking the class were told that the CVM breed came about when the wagon trains came across the country and allowed their sheep to breed with the Big Horn Sheep. Yikes! And the wool judge (Judith MacKenzie) wanted to perpetuate the myth that CVMs and Romeldales are 2 separate breeds and  any fleeces labeled with both names should be disqualified from the purebred class. It’s bad enough that many judges want to say that fine wools are tender because they will break if handled too roughly, but it is very harmful when a supposed expert doesn’t even have the facts straight. Next year we are hoping to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the breed, with special demonstrations and classes, and I’d love it if all the entries in the Spinner’s Lead were made from Romeldale yarn (there will be a special prize for the best one that is).

One very nice thing that I have discovered is that, since the kids are still nursing, I can forego milking for several days without any real drop in production. Even being gone for almost a week didn’t make a real effect. It is nice to be able to take a break now and then. And with a trip to the State Fair coming up towards the end of August, weaning will be put off for a while yet.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but it will come to me later. I’m hoping to check in again soon. Until then, stay well!

 

 

Advertisements

Staying Optimistic

March 12, 2014

Another catch up post. While I am doing better at posting regularly (3 times in January!), I need to get better about not letting so much time go by undocumented. More for myself than anyone else. I like looking back and seeing that I have made progress, even if at times it is just baby steps. I think a lot about posting, but then let inertia take over.

First, I want to report on two books that you might want to look into. My friend Leigh published a book about setting up her homestead. I love her blog; I appreciate that she doesn’t hide the failures that we all encounter as we work towards self-sufficiency. The other one is by my friend Rachael. Pack Up The Moon is her latest book. A fellow NaNo participant (and knitter), Rachael took the plunge a few years ago and has become a Real Author. Now, I am not a girly-girl and don’t normally watch chick flicks or read romance novels, but Rachael’s books are different, and I highly recommend them. I want to meet her characters for coffee and some knitting time, if you know what I mean. You can’t go wrong with either of these books (or both!).

I’ve been reading a lot of new-to-me blogs lately. When I find someone who’s writing I like, I go back to the beginning of their blog and binge-read my way to the present. It sometimes takes a while to get near enough to the present to be able to comment, but I like looking at their whole journey. It is frustrating that many of the ones that really touch me seem to cut back on the amount of time they spend blogging (a few are now taking longer than even me to post new stuff!). I have found some wonderful new recipes to play with, and a few new patterns to try when I get bored.

It has been a challenging winter. If I were not by nature an optimist, I’m not sure that I would still be breathing, and there have been moments when even doing that have seemed almost too much to handle. Yet even in the darkest minutes, I know that I have much to be grateful for, and I know that life will get better. And so I wait for the darkness to brighten, and trust that it will. There have been some bright moments lately, so I’m hoping they are the beginning of the improvements. Kid the Younger has been accepted to graduate school (Bowling Green State University, in Ohio. That is so far away!). Daughter-In-Law had her SSDI hearing (fingers crossed for a positive outcome, soon). An Extra Daughter announced her engagement, which means I need to get started on a wedding shawl for her.

My lambing season was a total bust. Midge presented me with a darling horned son, who unfortunately got smooshed in one of the shelters during one of our nastiest snow storms. Eartha came down with pregnancy toxemia, and despite my best efforts (and a valiant struggle on her part) I lost both her and the twin ewe lambs she delivered much too early. In all, I have lost 11 animals since October, and each one hurts.

But the goat girls are due soon. Udders are filling, and I have felt the kids bumping against their mothers sides. Soon I will be drowning in fresh milk and kids will be hopping everywhere, and those are good things.

Clara rear March 7

Cloe March 7

Myrtle March 7

I got the new milking area set up last night and tried it out this morning. I moved the picnic table out of the little sheltered area that Sweetie built (he always called it the Pergola) and Kid the Elder helped me move a large window over to serve as a wind break on the mountain side (where most of the wind comes from). It won’t be perfect and may need some more work to shield us from the weather, but I won’t be sitting on the ground in the rain to milk this year. I moved my fitting stand in for the goats to stand on, and I have the picnic bench to sit on. I may work on a better neck gate but I’ve cobbled one together to get us started. This morning I took all  girls out on leads (much to the upset of all the sheep in that pen). Two got to graze while I worked with the third. On the stand they got a handful of grain while I brushed them out a bit and handled udders. Cloe is not at all convinced that I should be touching her There, but she is very food oriented so tolerated it. Myrtle and Clara were both pretty blase about the whole thing. I want them all to get into the routine of coming out in the morning before they kid. After the kids are well started I will start locking them away from their mamas at night so that I can milk in the mornings, and think it will be easier on everyone if I start going through the motions now. Today it was just brushing, but tomorrow I will trim a few hooves. No sense wasting the time on the stand. I’ll make a decision about twice a day milking after I wean the babies. It will depend on how much milk I’m getting with once a day, and the job hunt also.

I have had a couple of interviews, and hopefully one (or more) of them will materialize into actual job offers. As much as I love being at home, the stress of having no income is overwhelming. I am tired to the core of being told that I am over-qualified, and really want to be able to use my talents for financial gain. And the idea of having a little money to spend on a splurge would be nice too. A hair-cut and a movie would be wonderful!

Living Frugally

January 20, 2014

fru·gal

: careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to : using money or supplies in a very careful way

: simple and plain

(according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

From a very young age, my mother called me frugal. I always hated the word as a child, equating it in my mind with being cheap. I am not cheap! It was only over time that I came to appreciate the label for what it truly is. And mom was right, I am frugal. I spend money on good things but I am not wasteful, and I am a simple, plain woman. I don’t use makeup (except on very special, rare occasions), I don’t fuss over haircuts or clothing, I can count how many pairs of shoes I own on one hand (to Daughter’s great despair). I save things for future use, I use things up, I re-purpose things. I always have, even as a child.

It wasn’t behavior that I was taught. My parents were well-to-do, and my dad spent money like there was no tomorrow. No one picked up a dinner tab if he was at the table (I almost had to come to blows with him when I wanted it to be my treat, even if he had agreed before dinner). I saved my allowance for special purchases, hidden between the pages of books in my room that my sister pilfered on a regular basis.

Being frugal is very helpful now.  While I am sometimes at a loss to figure out how the electric or phone bills will be paid when there is no money coming in, I am resourceful and they do get paid. The house is reasonably warm, and I eat well. The universe provides what I truly need, if not the things that I would like. I am grateful, happy even, living my frugal life.

Two things this week make my point very well. Kid the Younger, Fiancée and Roommate came over for the weekend last week. While it meant giving up going to my spinning group and seeing friends, those were easy sacrifices. I pulled a chicken out of the freezer and mom & I planned a feast. Main course covered, she did sides and I cruised the web for a new dessert to try out using what I had on hand. Came up with a Pineapple-Banana Cake which will definitely get more play around here! Pineapple from the pantry, eggs from the chickens, bananas from the freezer. It is not overly sweet, which I really like, and it lasts for days (not that it really had a chance to). The glaze is pineapple juice and powdered sugar. Mom and I discussed some possible modifications to the recipe to change it up a bit.

pineapple banana cake finished  Ready to roast

This is the chicken before it went in the oven (forgot to take an after picture, oops). Very simple roast chicken, salt & pepper, fresh rosemary from mom’s garden, a couple of leftover lemons in the cavity. We ate a lot of it that night, and I left several slices for mom. I made several meals off the meat over the next few days, and then the carcass was used to make soup which will feed me for several days also. The pantry supplied all the spices and goodies I need to make a filling soup: a can of chicken meat, one of tomatoes, potatoes from the Free Potato Day, carrots from the fridge, onions. Simple, plain fare, but filling and satisfying.

My other example isn’t pretty, at least to start with. I love my hand-knit socks, but I am not easy on them. I tend to wear just socks on my feet in the house during the cold months. I should use slippers to save wear and tear on them, but I don’t. Sadly, this is the result. Sock repair reason to fix I have worn huge holes into the feet of both socks. I don’t know how to darn holes (it’s on my list of things to figure out). Yet the legs and heels of the socks are fine, and I have the leftover yarn (there’s that frugal thing again). So I cut off the toes of both socks, picked up stitches, and am in the process of reknitting the toes. Faster than knitting the socks all over. I’ll have to weave in a couple of ends (no biggie), and my socks will be useful again. As an added bonus, it has freed my mind from the fear that has been keeping me from completing my vest which has stalled out over the idea of cutting the steek. Yay!

Sock repair ready to pick upSock repair stitches picked up

Up until today the weather has been lovely. Today, we are a foggy, cold mess. I am thankful that there is little need to be outside today, other than chores this afternoon. No lambs or kids yet, though bellies are swelling. I finally sealed up the hole that Myrtle was getting out through. Fencing is always a challenge with a thinking goat. She’s still looking for a new way to escape, silly girl.

New Kids on the Block in the New Year

January 4, 2014

I am not sorry to put 2013 in my rear-view mirror. I know that I am up to the challenges that life throws my way, but I am tired of doing it. If I were not such an eternal optimist, I would have curled up in a ball. Not saying I didn’t do that a bit, but for the most part I kept on dealing with reality.

So what made 2013 so hard, you might ask. Lack of work was huge (and continues to be, at the moment). It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to keep me busy. I have never understood folks that can’t find things to do to keep themselves amused. And with the animals and property to care for, there is never a shortage of chores that need doing. But with no paying job, that means no money coming in to take care of those things that require something other than physical labor. I am continuing to look, but am getting very tired of hearing that I am over-qualified. I have never understood why an employer would not want to hire the most qualified person they can get for the money they are offering.

But my biggest challenge was the one that went on for way too long – no running water. My home runs on a cistern. Just before Thanksgiving, it ran dry. When it refilled a few days later, I could not get the pump to hold a prime and run. Yikes! This coincided with a deep freeze that gave us some of the coldest temperatures the area had experienced in a very long time (down to -30!). I spent several weeks bringing home jugs of water from my Mom’s house, and accessing cistern water for the animals via bucket brigade. That is a workout that I am not eager to repeat, but at least I was up to the work. Just call me Pioneer Woman. Just after the Solstice, a friend’s boyfriend came over and got the pump figured out. Yay! I filled the animals waterers, and went off to celebrate with a soak at the Turkish tub.

But of course, that was too easy. When I got home from my soak, we discovered that there was a major leak under the house. So the pump got turned off again, and I went into major denial. I am not afraid of plumbing repairs, mind you, but I had a severe case of the “I don’t wanna’s”. Luckily, my friend offered up her boyfriend again, and a few days later he came back. There was a major break in the metal pipe that ran from the hot water heater to the kitchen sink. He ended up cutting out the old pipe and replacing it. Yes, I could have done it, but it was so nice to be taken care of! The only down side was how much water emptied out of the cistern during the 6 or so hours that the leak went undetected, but time will remedy that.

I know that in much of the world having no running water is the norm. In the grand scheme of things, being without was merely an inconvenience. I am lucky that my Mom lives close enough that I could go over to her house to fill up all my jugs and take a hot shower. Being in an old mobile, I long ago developed the habit of entering winter with at least 15 gallons of jugged water in the house to guard against those times when the pipes freeze for a day or 2. At least I had a roof over my head, and enough wood to battle the cold. My ordeal made me even more thankful for what I do have, and on a quest to figure out what I can do to help those that don’t. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of being homeless with children in the winter around here.

The New Year has started well. A local farm, Rainshadow Organics, was also hit hard by the deep freeze, which hit their stored potatoes. Rather than seeing it as a complete loss, they invited the public to join them on January 1st to go through the potatoes, sorting out the rotten ones and taking home as many free potatoes as you could carry. These were several beautiful heirloom varieties, and I made the drive out and joined the crowd. Folks were also invited to help sort out spuds that would be donated to local food banks. This is my loot, after I had given away several pounds to friends and family. I don’t know that any will survive to be planted in the spring, but I will be ordering some different varieties to grow.

potatoes from Rainshadow Organics

After I got more potatoes than I could really carry, I went off to gather up 9 gallons (yes, gallons) of raw cow’s milk that had not been picked up from the dairy. No sense in letting it go to waste, so I am playing at cheese again. I have already made mozzarella and ricotta, trying a little different method for each, and now I am ready to try my hand at cheddar and jack. It is nice to have such a quantity to work with, but a bit daunting too. I am being good about keeping notes on what works, which I think will be even more important with the hard cheeses since they have to age for so long before you can taste them.

Yesterday I went to Laura’s. I took her potatoes and cheese and picked up the newest flock members (the “New Kids” referred to in the title) – ducks. A mutual friend was disbanding his farm, and she had collected 13 ducks from him. They are mostly Runner crosses, which makes them a little odd looking, but the females should be laying soon. After doing a bit of research online, I got one of her Muscovy males (the white duck below) to try my hand at breeding moulard ducks for the freezer. We thought we had sorted out 4 females for me to bring home, but in talking with their original owner last night it turns out that the big, beautiful black is also a male. I don’t want the girls to have the option of breeding with him, so I will be separating him out of the group in the next day or so. They are all a little skittish right now, what with 2 major moves in as many days, so I will give them a little time to settle down. I am very excited about having duck eggs to work with, especially for pasta making. Yum!new ducks

I have also made a decision about recreating the shawl that was stolen last summer. I’ve been working on some commission spinning this fall, and talked the woman into letting me do a yarn with silk noil added in. It turned out very pretty so I made up some for me too. I am doing one ply of the black alpaca/black American top/dyed silk noil and one of the American top, both spun very thin. This is a very dense yarn, so I’m not getting the yardage that I’d hoped for, but I think it will be spectacular knit up. This was the last yarn I made in 2013, about 350 yards. Since I will need about 2000 yards, I have quite a bit of spinning left to do! I’d like to get it done in time for Fair, so I have my work cut out for me. I’m hoping I have enough of the black alpaca left (fingers crossed). black alpaca silk lace

I don’t make resolutions for the New Year, but I do set goals. So my goals for 2014 are:

  • Continue my weight loss/get healthier campaign. I am very happy that I have managed to maintain my weight through the holidays. Didn’t lose any more, but I didn’t put any back on either, so I count that as a win.
  • Blog more often. I compose wonderful posts in my head as I’m doing other things, but then I get in front of the computer and do other things. I admire folks that blog every day or so, but that isn’t me. Once a month is too little though, so I will just say “more often”.
  • Make more art. I have tons of art supplies that sit unused, and I need to stop that. It doesn’t have to be great art (and I’m pretty sure I can promise that it won’t be), but I need to get over the idea that it needs to be. I started this morning. Don’t count on seeing any of it shared here, unless I get really brave.
  • Sew more. Again, I have tons of supplies that sit unused. Even if I just make a pile of quilts to donate to the homeless shelter, it would be good to clear out some of the stash.

What are your goals for the coming year?

newyear

 

 

Paying Attention to the Little Details

August 26, 2013

We all get caught up in the day-to-day banality of our lives and let the little details slip by unnoticed. It’s one of the things about spending time with little kids that I miss, their ability to be completely absorbed by some minor aspect of life, and it’s something I try to do at least occasionally. I had the opportunity to be reminded about this a couple of times in the last week, and I’m glad I slowed down enough to pay attention.

The first detail caught my eye as I rounded the front corner of the house, headed to turning on the hose so I could fill water troughs. The mound of dirt got my attention first, then I noticed the hole. That is my daughter-in-law’s hand for scale. After much reflection, I think a neighbor dog must have done the damage. The cats don’t normally dig like that to go after a rodent, and I have seen no evidence of anything living in or near the hole. Guess I’d better fill it in before I twist an ankle in it.new hole

 My spinning wheel (a Schacht Matchless) has been having some issues lately. That led to my 2nd little detail. I needed a screwdriver to work with, and grabbed this little brass one that Sweetie’s dad had given me several years ago. I have always enjoyed using it, but never really paid attention to it until this week. screwdriver There was a little noise when I used it, a slight rattle. Instead of ignoring it (as I must have in the past), I investigated. And I love what I found. Not one, not two screwdriver2, not three, screwdriver4 but four screwdrivers,  screwdriver4all nestled together like one of those Russian dolls. I love it! The biggest is about 6 inches long, and the tiny little one is just over an inch. I’ve always loved good tools, and this one just moved up a notch in my favorites list. And with its help and a little TLC, the Matchless is back to behaving beautifully, and I am finishing up the last of the Merlin blend yarn that I started during the Tour de Fleece.

I have gotten a few farm chores done also, including shearing three sheep. Manny and Meriadoc went from shaggy boys to nearly naked. I love their colors, but I still need to really look at their fleeces and assess the quality. I did discover that I messed up when I banded Meriadoc and only caught one of his testicles. This would explain some of his behaviors (very pushy with his pen mates, and occasionally head bashing wood panels). He has never shown any inclination towards being aggressive towards people, so if he stays here I will probably leave things as they are.Manny yearling face onMeriadoc yearling face onManny and Meriadoc shorn

I also sheared the old lady of the flock, Bridget. At 13 years old this spring, she has earned the right to retire, especially since she gave me such a nice replacement ewe lamb this year. I think she looks pretty good for such an aged sheep, and she is now doing “Ashe duty” and getting some grain as a reward. Bridget after shearing 2013

Speaking of Ashe, she is doing well. I am trying to hold her weight steady where it is now (don’t want her getting too fat), and she and Bridget have full run of the barn pen.  She is fairly mobile, even if she does look funny getting around. I hope that she will regain some more flexibility in her front legs, for comforts sake, but she seems content. As I’ve said all along, as long as she is willing to keep up the fight, so am I. Her lamb, Navid, is doing well also, and is a friendly little guy, always ready for a chin scritch.

Navid face on

I am getting ready for State Fair later this week. My mom has never been, and since I will be judging the Angora goats in their inaugural showing this year we are going to make the trip over the mountains together. I have booked a hotel room so that we can relax a bit after seeing all there is to see. Should be fun; I always enjoyed taking the kids to the Fair as an “end of summer” treat. Then next month, we will be enjoying the circus. Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey are coming to our local fairgrounds, so Kid the Younger and Fiancee are coming over to go with mom & me.

No word on my missing shawl yet, but the response I have gotten online has been wonderful. My picture has been shared all over the world, so whoever took it will not be able to wear it in public without being spotted. I have made peace with the fact that it is gone, and will dig out the book so I can make myself another one (in a different color so I don’t get accosted wearing it out!). Someone shared how a shawl of theirs made it home 6 months after being taken, so I won’t give up hope, I just won’t waste any energy thinking nasty thoughts about the person who took it. I prefer to fill my life with positive thoughts and actions. Not always possible, but I try.

 

Over Fair

August 5, 2013

I enjoy going to and showing at our county fair. Most years I actually show at ours and the next county over, but this year money is a bit tighter and I confined myself to just my home county (I will go visit the other one). It it an enormous amount of work getting everything in and set up, but I am very passionate about sharing my animals and my crafts with the public. When we are not showing or taking care of the beasties, we are usually in the sheep barn spinning. I am usually one of the first people in the barn in the morning and almost always the last one out at night.

This year, my friend Correy brought in some brand new lambs, born the day before fair started. Her rams escaped 5 months ago and 2 of her ewes had babies as a result. They were absolutely adorable, and a crowd favorite for sure. I hadn’t used up all the pens assigned to me, so they were at the end of that row, close to where we were sitting. It was fun watching “Lamb TV” all week. My sheep did fine in the show (we had Romeldale classes finally), and I got plenty of spinning done. The cheese I wanted to enter didn’t happen, but there is always next year.

Unfortunately, my fair experience this week was marred on Saturday night by some heartless person. I had brought in a few of my hand-knit shawls to display in the barn. While I was talking to folks, someone helped themselves to my big red Neibling. I could not have missed the theft by more than 5 minutes. I am hoping that it was grabbed by a little kid and I will get it back as soon as the parents realize, but I know that this is not terribly likely. I filed a police report immediately and told them the value ($1,000. One cop said “That’s a lot of yarn”, to which I replied “No, that’s a lot of time and talent”). I have posted the picture on Facebook, Craigslist and Ravelry (I figure the more eyes looking the better). I am heart-sick, more over the fact that someone would take it than over the loss of the shawl. I can knit another one, and from my notes on Ravelry I even know about how long it will take.  Of the 3 shawls, it was the one I could most afford (emotionally) to lose. But it also is the shawl that I wear most often and that I have gotten the most compliments on. I will not let this experience ruin my trust in the basic good nature of most people, but I am not likely to bring my hand-knits back for display in public again, and that is sad because I love sharing what I do. So please, keep your eyes open, on the off-chance that it shows up in your neck of the woods and can be brought home where it belongs.Neibling

The Ups and Downs of Baby Watch

January 21, 2013

First the bad news: my first lamb of 2013 didn’t make it. It is always sad when something like this happens. I pretty sure I know what happened, and hopefully he will be the only one. As we say, sometimes a new life looks around and figures out what they came back as (“I’m a sheep? What the heck!”) and hits the re-do button.

During lambing season I try to check on the ewes at least every 6 hours. The first few days I do this, they are very loud about my visit, sure that I am bringing some sort of snack with me. After a day or two, they settle down and mostly ignore me.  Since I tend to feed in the late afternoon, I take a walk out there at about 11 pm, 4 am (so I can still get a few hours of sleep before I get up for real) and 10 am. Last night when I made my 11 pm tour through the sheep pen, Bridget was pawing the loose hay in the barn and laying down, sure signs of early labor. I sat and watched for a while, but she was making slow progress. I figured she’d get down to business about 3 am. I went back out 3 times between 11 and 3, just to make sure that she wasn’t progressing faster than that. She is my oldest ewe (13 in April), and I didn’t want to miss any problems. Sure enough, at 3:12, there are toes pointing at me, and with a quick assist there was this:

Bridgets not even all the way out yet The lamb tried to stand before the umbilical cord was even broken! Mom cleaned her off (yes, a girl) and I made sure she latched on and had a good drink of milk before I went back inside. I tried to nap, but I’m not very good at that, so I went back out to make sure she could find things on her own at about 5:30 am, then off to bed for a couple of hours. My 10 am check was good. This is a much better picture of the newest addition

Bridgets ewe lamb Isn’t she a cutie? Worth the lost sleep.

Lambing season is hard. I don’t get to sleep through the night, and I’m not very good at napping, so I wander around in a daze a fair amount of the time. Because the ram was in with the ewes for an extended amount of time (mid-August to mid-October), lambing will be strung out over several weeks. There will be times when I’m pretty sure that no one else is imminent and I will take advantage. If I am wrong, there may be problems. It’s not that my sheep can’t deliver unassisted; they can. But when there is a problem, you are needed right then. I have lost lambs and ewes over the years by not being there, and it breaks my heart every time. Even with vigilance, there are losses. Shepherding is not for the weak of heart.

But there is a special kind of beauty in heading out in the cold, dark night to check on my sheep. The moon was so bright last night that I carried my flashlight without turning it on, watching my shadow walk along side me on the frozen ground. It was cold and breezy, but warmer than some times. There are times when the air is so cold and crisp that it makes your nose hairs feel crisp when you breathe. I am reminded in those moments of being a child in Norway, where we spent a year. We were told not to run for the bus if we were late in the winter time, so that we wouldn’t breath through our mouths and risk freezing out lungs. It being the olden days, the girls had to wear dresses, and I would wear 5 pairs of tights to try to keep my legs warm. When it got to -30, we could wear pants. So silly, that fashion and society would dictate that girls couldn’t dress warmly unless it got to a certain temperature. Every winter now, I think of that as I bundle up and step outside my back door. When there is snow on the ground, the moonlight makes it sparkle like diamonds sometimes, and I wish there was a way to capture that on film. I do have old pictures of hoar-frost that I took several years ago (on actual film, imagine that), and they are beautiful too but the weather that brings it is not my favorite – cold and humid is not a good combo to my mind.  But even the weather I don’t relish has an appeal to it, a beauty if I will only open my eyes and accept it for what it brings. I feel blessed that I am still able to do that.

Enough philosophy! I finished another prayer shawl for my mom’s church group. Hopefully I will get all the ends woven in tomorrow and get it blocked. I used up lots of leftover acrylic yarn that I’d gotten at the thrift store, alternating shades of orange with other colors. Mom thinks I should call it Joseph’s Coat, but I am leaning more towards Circus Whore. It is garish, but someone will love it. I also started playing with my felting needles again. I am working on a small bust of a slave man. The armature is leftovers from a commission spinning fleece, and I am applying moorit Romeldale for the skin.  Lots of stabbing (very therapeutic), adding layer upon layer to build up the features of his face. He is a long way  from done, but here he is so far:

a bit more progress

Surprise!

January 16, 2013

I spend a fair amount of time most days planning blog posts. And then life happens, and days and weeks go by with those ideas just floating around in my head.

Any way, yesterday when I went out to feed, the ewes were not happy with me. Instead of going and buying more corn, I spent the afternoon playing with Laura (more on that in a minute). So they are milling around, complaining loudly that they are starving, that hay just isn’t good enough, that they will keel over and die if I don’t have a bucket of corn for them. Silly girls. It had finally warmed up enough for the hose faucet to work, so I’ve stretched the hose out and am filling waterers while I can, which includes using a bucket to fill the tub in the barn. I am walking back and forth between the barn and the big tub when I spot …. (you ready for this?)… a lamb!

Now, the day before when everyone was sucking down corn as fast as they could, I had walked around behind the ewes, feeling everyone’s udder, to get an idea of who might lamb when. Some are closer than others, but no one feels imminent. As compared to Faith, who is in the barn with Ashe, whose udder is full and has changed to a rich pink color which normally indicates impending babies. The lamb cozies up to Midge, who is still big as a house and whose udder was soft when I checked. She talks back to him and lets him nurse. He is dry and has obviously eaten already, so I pick him up and walk over to the barn. She follows. I open the barn gate, Faith comes out, and Midge and her son go in.

Midges lamb To add to the surprise, when I was snuggling him at midnite I’m pretty sure I felt horns. Both his parents are polled (no horns). Hmmm.

So what fun things was I doing with Laura, you ask? She had called me to see if I was available to go with her to pick up a Craigslist find (a small mangle for pressing her woven goods), and then she came back to the house to card some angora fluff she had gotten from a mutual friend. It was fun, and it will be great to see what she makes with the finished yarn.

I haven’t talked here about why Ashe is in the barn. She is Kid the Younger’s last remaining sheep from the flock that he had from being in 4-H, and I had held off on telling him she was having problems until he was here for his birthday. She has been down, unable to stand for over a month. There was one day where I was afraid she was checking out (she refused food and water), but other than that one day her attitude has been good. She is very skinny (she has always been thin), but eating and drinking well. I put her in the barn with a companion to provide her with as much comfort as I can. At first her companion was Eartha (who has always been my thinnest ewe). They got corn long before anyone else. After a few weeks of confinement, Eartha was getting a bit testy, so I let her out and brought in Faith, who seemed the closest to lambing (ha!). My other big surprise was finding out that, despite her illness, Ashe is still pregnant. She has never had a lamb that survived, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for her and the lamb.

Our weather has been miserable cold, not getting above freezing for days on end. This week is supposed to be back to normal. Living in an old (40 years old) mobile home, is a challenge in cold weather. If I am not careful (and sometimes even when I am), I have to deal with frozen pipes. It isn’t often that I have no water at all, though it has happened. Last week, I had water to my bathroom sink, but not that tub or toilet. The 2nd bathroom had water to the tub. The kitchen had cold water, but not hot. The hose bib was frozen shut. It makes doing things much more challenging. The toilet can be flushed, for example, but I have to manually refill the tank. Buckets of water have to be carried out to the animals so that they have something to drink (not enough snow on the ground for them to eat). It’s not quite pioneer living, but it’s as close as I want to get. I have no illusions about how hard life was in the “Good Old Days”. I laugh when someone tells me they’d like to go back and live at some time in the past. No thanks! I love my modern conveniences.

When I wasn’t dealing with wood and water, I’ve been knitting and spinning. I got the Christmas stocking fulled, finished one prayer shawl for my mom’s church group and started another, and finished the first pair of socks of the year:

Tony April Mara Matt Sue waste (this is about 70% of the ends I had from the Christmas stockings. The dime in the lower right corner is for scale) prayer shawl 1  Bias knit prayer shawl. The dark green is a bulky yarn, the cream is 3 strands of worsted weight.first socks of the year, mohair blend First socks of 2013, from a mohair blend yarn that I had in stash. There is enough yarn left for another pair.

In spinning, I have been working on some yarn spun from one of Faith’s old fleeces. I washed up some of the skirtings from her fleece using the directions in Margaret Stove’s “Spinning for Lace” dvd, and have been spinning them worsted from the locks. It is turning out very pretty, and with 2 spinning dates last weekend I’ve made a lot of progress on the bobbin. I am selecting locks to emphasize the color variations in the fleece.

Faith on St Distaff Day

I also took a couple of minutes to play with my new toy from Santa, a mandoline. Made quick work of some onions and potatoes for a tasty soup.

mandoline in boxmandeline ready to usemandelin cut onions This will get used a lot. Makes slicing so much faster (and uniform).

Hope you are staying warm (or cool, depending on where you are) and keeping busy. Talk at you soon.

It’s Official – My Kids Are The Best

January 5, 2013

Having survived the holidays, I did want to share that the kids outdid themselves with Christmas presents this year. Kid the Elder and his wife replaced my dying stove (one burner had a broken knob, and one had an intermittent short). Plus, it was at least 20 years old. The new one is used, but for the first time in over 20 years, I have a stove capable of self-cleaning (though I am not likely to use it, since it gets SO hot and I am in an old mobile home). It is wonderful to be able to cook on all burners again. It got installed the day after Christmas, being that I foiled the plan to install it while I slept Christmas Eve. I was sleeping in one of the comfy chairs in the living room, since I have been fighting a lung infection that prevented me from sleeping laying down for almost a week. The old one went to the dump as soon as this one was installed. No sense in putting it off while we had help.

new stove

Kid the Younger wasn’t able to come home for Christmas, but made it over a few days later for his birthday. Having a birthday so close to Christmas sucks, but I was well-trained by my dad, whose birthday was the 27th. The rules were simple – a joint present was not acceptable, and the birthday present could not be wrapped in Christmas paper. When Kid was younger we would forgo a birthday party in December for one later. Sometimes in January, but usually at the end of the school year, when we could invite the whole class over to run amok outside once filled with cake and ice cream. He way out did himself in the present department too – a ginormous gift card to Home Depot. He does know the way to his mama’s heart. I’m having as much fun figuring out what to do as I will actually spending it.

We did our traditional Christmas Eve dinner – tacos (been doing it since I was about 9) at my mom’s, but Christmas day was pretty laid back. Kid the Elder made coffee cake (another long-standing tradition, ever since he was old enough to run the stove with supervision).  He changes it up every year, playing with recipes.

I finally decided that it was time for new Christmas stockings. When I was pregnant with my eldest I started making stockings for my potential children. I was running on memory for how big mine was and had way over-estimated. So for many years, Santa has had to break the bank filling them. Now, Daughter is gone, as is Sweetie, and Kid the Younger has changed his name. I placed an order to KnitPicks in early November, dug out the knitting books, and started knitting in secret. I got them all finished (except for weaving in some ends on mine) on Christmas Eve, and they got hung just before I went to bed. They still need fulled, and I will post a better picture once that happens, but here they are in all their glory:

Christmas Stockings As you can see, there are 5 of them. Kid the Elder is blue, DIL is purple, Kid the Younger is red, his fiancée is green, and I am yellow. The kids all have their mates color alternated with white on the toes, and the toe of mine has all 4 of the others. Since I’d ordered yarn without having a plan, I cut it very close on the yellow. I have only a tiny little ball left of it, approximately 2 yards. I am very happy with how they turned out, and it won’t be hard to do more if I am ever blessed with grand-babies.

I also knit socks for both Kid the Younger and his fiancée, but I don’t have pictures of them yet. They are supposed to send me a picture as soon as they find a second.

The ewes are starting to bag up (develop udders), so lambs are on their way! It’s always exciting to see what I get in the way of new babies. I borrowed a ram from my friend Correy, so I have high hopes for structural improvements. It will be interesting to see if I get some fun color patterns. I’m a total sucker for spotted lambs, though it is unlikely that he carries spotting. Some of the ewes do, so there is a possibility. I still can’t tell if the goat girls are pregnant, though I did dream that one of them was.

My other big adventure was helping Laura do in her two big white turkeys. She had been putting it off for a while, and finally conceded that she needed the prompting of my being there to get them done. We started with the hen, who was almost small enough to carry. Laura did most of the work on her, with me mostly supervising and bracing the carcass to facilitate certain maneuvers. Before we broke for lunch and to warm up a bit, we walked the tom up to the where we were working (no way we were lifting  him up) and hung him up to bleed out. A hot cup of tea, a slice of homemade frittata, and a little sit down time were a nice break, before we went back out to finish the dirty work. We both worked on skinning him out, and pretty soon he joined his mate in the cold water bath in her front yard. They spent the night there before being boned out today. She will be making a lot of turkey sausage, and I may be smoking some of it. I’m pushing for one that includes dried apricot.

Hope you all had a nice holiday season, and are off to a good start in the New Year.

Truly Thankful

November 30, 2012

Last day of the month, and I have managed to find something to be thankful for every day this month. These are the last ones posted on Facebook:

  • Day 25 – I am thankful for the internet, which has connected me to so many new friends that I hope to meet for real. Thank you for sharing your lives and thoughts.
  • Day 26 – I am thankful that I live somewhere with seasons. I may not always enjoy the weather, but I do like having 4 seasons. Maybe just not all in one day.
  • Day 27 – I am thankful for my ancestors who passed on my love of working with fiber, even though I never met them.
  • Day 28 – I am thankful that I have people in my life who really understand me
  • Day 29 – I am thankful that I am comfortable in my own company. I know too many women who think they are whole only when they have a man in their life and settle for less than they deserve.
  • Day 30 – I am thankful that I have so much to be thankful for!

The last 4 1/2 years have been hard, I won’t kid anyone about that. I have lost so many special people and my job. Money is really tight. At the same time, I have so much to be thankful for. If we would all focus on the blessings in our lives instead of the negatives, we would all be so much happier.

I am sharing the picture of the bride from Montana with her shawl. She shared the picture of her and me on Facebook, so her she is in all her glory. She was Daughter’s roommate all through college and after, and very, very shawl-worthy. I am just so glad that it matched her dress so well (almost looks like I had seen the dress before hand and planned things. Nope, just lucky).

Rachel and me with shawl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, I do have to report that NaNo was a fail this year. I got to just over 17,000 words. I just couldn’t get anywhere with my story. I will keep plugging away at it, because I do think there is a story there, but it did not want to cooperate with the NaNo timeline.  Oh well, next year. I would encourage anyone thinking about it to take part. It is a very interesting self-challenge, and it continues to amaze me how much more creative I am in general during November when I am trying to put those 50,000 words done.

On the knitting front, I am still working on the uber:secret Christmas knitting, so no pictures of that. I just bought the latest issue of Interweave Knits, specifically for an article on knitting infinite cables. I would love to be able to knit a vest with my celtic knot ram. I may start with something easier, like this tree of life.celtictree2