Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Is there a draft in here, or is it just me?"

"And me?"
"And me?"
Well, it IS cold and foggy, but . . . .

In order to keep tabs on the upcoming blessed events, crutching the ewes was tops on my list of things to do today. Using our ancient livestock clippers without a suitable head made it slow going, but at least there is less wool now to get messy, and a little less obscuring the way to the milk bar. Dinah and Rechel weren't very cooperative, but first-timer Valentine stood better (haltered, as they all were) and nibbled hay, and stuck around for lovin' after I was done. Brava came up for her share of my attention, too; I think I need to call these two my "brown sugar girls," they are so sweet! Valentine isn't really bagging up yet, but her vulva and overall shape are changing, and I actually felt a lamb. Braveheart got his job done after all, even though he took his own sweet time doing it. Maybe my little polled ram didn't look masculine enough to suit my girls, and it took him awhile to convince them!

I have started my spinning "final exam," and I'm struggling. I finished the dark bluefaced leicester top (indistinguishable in the photo from the dark Romney on the bobbin), and pulled out the baggy of white Angora bunny. It didn't look like it was in roving form or anything, so I grabbed a handful to give it a try. And another try. And ANOTHER try. Since I haven't heard of anyone spinning Angora bunny all by itself, without blending it with another fiber first, I thought perhaps this was simply an exercise in frustration. So I shoved all the bits and pieces of "yarn," along with the wad of bunny fur, back in its baggy, and got out the sea island cotton roving. I KNOW some people spin cotton. Will I be one of them? I don't know; I made a bit more progress than with the bunny, but still struggled mightily to keep a strand of yarn going. Maybe I'll be better at it when I return to my wheel. The cotton is very interesting, silky-soft stuff, though!

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, March 29, 2008

More psycho weather

I took the three photos above yesterday - in the space of about half an hour. And it cycled through sunshine, clouds, blizzards - as well as some rain and hail - all day long!

This morning, there was another dusting of snow on the ground. By the time I headed on with Jackson for a jog, more was falling. The temperature was low enough that it was even sticking on the road.
This llama, like most fiber-growers, seemed perfectly comfortable.The rest of us are ready for more settled weather!

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, March 27, 2008

You take what comes

Above: yesterday.
Below: this morning.It's an odd spring in the Willamette Valley.

By the way, you see those daffodils on the far bank in the top photo? Years ago, someone planted the word "SPRING" in daffodil bulbs there. Through all the disruptions of moving out an old manufactured home, building a new house, tearing out old landscaping (mostly overgrown junipers and dying heather) and planting new things, those daffodils valiantly try to spell out the season every year. Some of the letters are still pretty obvious; others take some imagination. I've thought of filling in the gaps, but don't know what variety those are and if what I planted would bloom at the same time.

Yesterday Jackson graduated with honors from his beginner's obedience class. At five and a half months, he was the youngest and most solid of the small group; yes, I'm proud of him! After class, he got to play with Max, one of the other graduates; the two boys had a blast. I will continue to practice with Jackson, both to keep him a good citizen and in case I find the time to continue his education later, or possibly even show him.

This morning at 4:15 Rick's pager went off, heralding an emergency that required his attention. An hour later my own "pager" went off, as I heard Brian crying over the monitor (his room is at the other end of the house). Apparently his cold has brought about his very first ear infection, and the poor little guy was hurting. He's sleeping now, thanks to a dose of ibuprofen as per the advice from our insurance's RN Help Line. My day will be reshuffled accordingly.

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Surrounded by fiber and feathers

The upstairs bonus room in our house is my graphics office, internet cafe, fiber and spinning haven - and aviary. Here resides Emma, my 18-year-old peach-faced lovebird. After a undetermined health crisis over a year ago, she continues to do okay most of the time. Periodically, though, she seems to lose her equilibrium completely, which is quite distressing to both of us.

The chicks are also living up here, in a big box under the lamp on my desk until the Chicken Palace is done and they are bigger. The other day when I peeked in on them they were laying there like four limp noodles!

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, March 24, 2008

Progress on all fronts

The chicks are growing and changing fast, as birds are wont to do. Their little wing feathers are coming in; it's so cute when they stretch those little wings out over a leg! And the darkest chick (second from left) is definitely the Easter Egger, as she has poofy little cheeks.

Yesterday while I was at a horse show, Rick and Brian worked on a "chicken palace." They picked up four 10' chain link dog kennel panels (Rick said it wasn't much more than doing chicken wire and posts, and it would be moveable besides), and then Rick built a frame and solid floor for the chicken coop. Remember the little 8'x8' shed Braveheart and Brava used during quarantine? We always had in mind to make that a chicken coop, and that is what it is becoming.

At the horse (dressage) show I rode both my friend Debbie's horse and my own in Third Level Tests 2 and 3. Ivy was nervous and tense and didn't show off what she can do, but Russell exceeded my expectations. After his injuries and treatments and having the winter off, I approached this early show with caution, not schooling him a lot even though some movements that we would be doing at this level needed work. But he felt good, and blew me away with the best medium and extended trot work he has ever given me. I left the arena after the first test with tears in my eyes, I was so happy and thankful! I will share photos as soon as I get them from a friend....

In spinning, I finished up the light Gotland roving (at the front of the bobbin) and am working on my last wool sample from Kathy, a dark blue-face leicester combed top (in the baggy). After this all I have left from Kathy is what I consider my "final exam" -- some angora rabbit and some sea island cotton roving, both fibers that I have heard are more challenging than wool to spin.

No lambs yet (I have a feeling they will all hold off until April), but I now think I indeed have three expectant ewes! Just subtle clues, nothing concrete; this morning Valentine moved slower going out to pasture and looks a bit thicker. But those are definite changes. I can't wait to see what my sweet, beautiful Valentine produces!

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I thought this morning's sunrise, taken at the barn when I went down to do chores, would be a fitting image to share this weekend. You can see Mt. Hood peaking through the trees on the left.

Here is my first look at our new farm members:From lightest to darkest, Brian has dubbed them Abby, Samantha, Playful Rechel (two stripes on back), and Morgan (the Araucana/Easter Egger). Between Kathy and the internet, I've gotten a quick education on what Araucanas, Ameraucanas, and Easter Eggers are; although advertised as an Araucana, Morgan is very likely the latter.
We put them in a larger box today, and the change obviously wore them out!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wild weather - and a peeping surprise!

Last night as I came home from Salem, I did a double-take as I turned onto our gravel road. There was white stuff along the road! At first I thought it was hail, because it was raining sideways like someone was throwing buckets of water as I was leaving Costco. But Brian said, "Daddy said it was snowing like a blizzard when he came home to get his guitar." I know some of you are still suffering through winter-like conditions and I'm sorry, but snow on the first day of Spring in the Willamette Valley is crazy talk! These photos were taken after quite a bit had the dark....
Rick took Brian with him this afternoon so they could have some father/son time together. Rick often demonstrates the truth of Matthew 7:11 (about knowing how to give good gifts to your children), so it wasn't a big surprise to get a call from Rick saying he'd gotten Brian an Easter present. It WAS a surprise to learn that said gift was chicks! Rick and I have both had and like chickens and have talked about getting some off and on over the years, but Rick has always decided that we have too much to take care of already to add more creatures. Now, apparently, he's ready to prepare a chicken palace to house three Rhode Island Reds (Rick's favorites) and an Araucauna (I would have gone with four of these). Photos will be forthcoming!

Oh, and Brian has already come up with names for the girls: Abby, Playful Rachel, Morgan and Samantha.

That's it for now from . . .

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A yarn "high" - and low

On Monday I went to the post office to pick up some packages. I was expecting a couple - some shoes for Brian for a wedding he's going to be in next month and the recycled sari silk yarn I purchased on eBay to complete the Sonnet - but there was also a little surprise from my sister and a "mystery parcel" there as well. Not recognizing the name or address on the latter, I opened it and saw yarn - beautiful, even brown and purple yarn. I didn't remember any recent purchases of yarn other than the sari silk on eBay recently and was mystified until I found a folded piece of paper. It was a letter from Becky, one of my homemade PIF responders, telling me all about the yarn she had spun and died purple (yes, even the brown is overdyed purple), just for me! I was overwhelmed, not just by her thoughtfulness and generosity, but also by her amazing spinning - look at how even and perfect it is! The flash washes out the colors a bit, but shows detail. Hmm, now what to knit? The two colors look so nice together that I'd like to figure out a way to use them in one item, without resorting to horizontal stripes.
The thrill of Becky's unexpected gift was tempered with the reality of the newest batch of recycled sari silk yarn for the Sonnet that arrived the same day. The colors were okay; I picked the skein that best matched what I had going in the one sleeve, wound it into a ball, and proceeded to knit with it that night at a meeting. After a few rows, I realized it was NOT going to work. This newest yarn is MUCH finer than what I had been using, and not only did it look obviously different, the gauge was going to be off as well. I had to frog all I had done on the sleeve. At first I thought I could just knit a new gauge swatch, adjust my figures, and knit both sleeves from the finer yarn, but then I realized that the top of the sleeves would have more stitches than the sleeve openings in the body. No local yarn shop carries this stuff, and I won't know if what is on eBay will work until it gets here. As it is, I have 10 skeins of beautiful recycled silk yarn that won't work for my WIP. I could turn the Sonnet into a very heavy vest, but I don't wear vests much. What to do? I'm bummed!

A lemons-into-lemonade aside: If anyone knows of a lacy tunic pattern, let me know. I think this finer yarn would look neat knitted into such and worn over a camisole or blouse.

Oh, and Happy Spring, everyone!
That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A pregnant pause

Yep, I'm finally convinced I will have lambs, although I still don't know when. Sunday morning I felt the wee beginnings of an udder forming on Rechel, to go along with her suspiciously bulging sides (I didn't think it was obvious in my photo of the three ewes, but Lauren picked up on it). This morning I checked everyone's udder area again. To my surprise, Dinah is starting to make a bag, too! I saw Dinah bred on November 25; she should be five weeks out from lambing if that's the breeding that took. (Would she have allowed Braveheart's advances if she had settled earlier? Anyone out there know?) Below are top and side views of the two expectant ladies, Rechel first:
Valentine is still a mystery; she is as slab-sided and "flat-chested" as ever. She was covered on November 29; I suppose she could be carrying a single and not show a thing for several more weeks.

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spinning and knitting progress

I got the natural-colored Romney locks flicked and spun, and am ready to start on some off-white Gotland from the same flock of sheep that provided the wool for the cloaks in The Lord of the Rings movie. I think I'll get all the fibers Kathy sent on this bobbin, but it will be FULL. (Love you, big Louet S10 bobbins!)

Saturday night I reached the end of the recycled sari silk yarn that I had, and am waiting on another batch I won on eBay. The body of the Sonnet is done, and one sleeve is started. As you can see, there is a distinct color shift from the first three skeins on the left to the second three skeins on the right and the sleeve. I'm not exactly thrilled with that shift, but I think I can live with it. I just hope the lot that I bought on eBay isn't another color mix entirely!

Tomorrow: more revealing photos of the "ladies in waiting." No, you don't get any more hints until after the contest closes at midnight tonight! Just guess already (if you haven't)!

And here's a heartfelt nod to Patrick, Scottish missionary to Ireland and fellow Sabbath-keeper!

That's it for now at . . .