Friday, March 01, 2024

March madness





I almost titled this post "Sloppy Spring." It's been wet and grey and cold for days; the ground (including the arena) is saturated and squishy; the covered chicken run alternates between a river, a lake, and a swampland. Ugh. Then yesterday afternoon the snow flurries started, and continued off and on through the night. Nothing stuck, though, until after 8:00 this morning. It's melted now (adding to the slop), but we could get more of the same over the next few nights/mornings. Stereotypical weather for lambing, but none of my girls are close to that yet; I know, because I felt them all up this morning. For some reason, poor Blaise was very lame in her right rear leg/hip. I suspect she got roughed up by someone. I fed her a couple crumbled molasses-rich horse cookies to boost her energy and will check on her again later.

We're very thankful to still have some firewood left to keep the house comfortable. Hay supplies are good, too. The ewes, of course, are getting regular pasture time; without that I would probably run out of sheep hay before this year's crop is in. Having them out as much as possible also keeps the Sheep Sheraton from getting disgusting as quickly, and can't help but contribute to the health of ewes and their eventual offspring. It's hard not to be impatient; I want to see what's 'cooking'!

I'll have to wait for these beauties, too; I'm not digging a hole in the mud to plant them yet. Gotta love Costco's prices – and plants that the deer leave alone! I must admit, though, that I've seen very few deer — and NO mice — in quite some time. Interesting, especially about the mice.

That's it for the first day of March from . . .

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Udderly absent

Boop (and her lost twin) were born two years ago on March 4. Based on the lack of udder development, I don't think Boop or any of the other bred ewes will be lambing close to that date. Hopefully no one 'blossoms' quickly after that, as I don't think my MIL would be at all understanding of me begging out of photographing her wedding on the 8th. But like the weather and nearly everything else, que sera sera.

Speaking of blossoms, three mild, sunny days sprang some spring flowers. I also brought 'spring' inside, stuffing some cuttings from pruning the flowering plum into a vase and adding warm water. In the background, you can see the blooms on my wee orchid.








Last week I finally fulled my latest two rugs. They fluffed up wonderfully, being 100% wool. I like them both; time will tell if they get gifted or not. What to weave next? I wound all the remaining naturally-dyed yarn into balls to see what I have; the smaller pile on the left is finer gauge than the rest. I could use natural wool yarn to warp again, but am thinking about using black cotton yarn for more contrast, and also weaving a rug with the variated cotton. One of my weaving friends has convinced me to wind enough yarn to have a dummy warp; it sounds like a marvelous time-saving tool!






I've made progress spinning both my "Pink Grapefruit" and "Bay Breeze" into singles, but neither are likely to be finished by the end of the month. That's okay; there's no deadline. 😉

That's it for likely the last post of February from . . .

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Babe Watch

Now that 'keeping an eye on the sheep' has become a rather obsessive pastime, I decided I'd better figure out the parameters of lambing season. Blog to the rescue. I recorded putting the breeding groups together on September 20, and Bijou attempted breeding Bridget right away. Gulp; that means lambing could begin any day now! I also recorded that Boop was bred several times on my birthday, which means lambing could continue into mid-April.
Broadway

Boop

Bridget


For the record, I'm not seeing any imminent signs of lambing; no udders are forming yet (in other words, none of them would make the cut for that infamous lifeguard crew on TV). Bridget (third photo), as always, is very woolly which obscures the view. At the least I need to trim her nether regions – or I could just shear her. The boys are all losing their throat wool, so I should check them for roo-ability. And before harvesting any fleece I need to collect fleece samples from everyone to send off for micron testing. Ah, Spring; the Shetland shepherd's busiest season!

Speaking of 'spring,' Brian has a cold (the cookies and brownies I baked for Valentine's Day probably didn't help), the horses are shedding, and my MIL's wedding is coming up in less than three weeks. The first of the daffodils (in the upper pasture) will unfurl this week, and the eggs keep coming. This morning I caught the hens during 'rush hour':






I left them to it while I took care of the horses and sheep, and when I came back, I collected two eggs and paused to video Spangle making cute noises:

I cut my latest weaving project off the loom today and knotted the fringe. I have lots more natural wool yarn for warp, but don't love what I have left of the natural dyed wool yarn for weft. I need to lay it all out and ponder my options; I might overdye some.



I've also started – gasp! – a second spinning project. Blame Ravelry; the Jenkins group is spinning variations of the 2024 Color of the Year, "Peach Fuzz," and I found this Inglenook "Pink Grapefruit" Polwarth in my stash. Starting this means I won't get my 'denim' project spun and plied by the end of the month, but I'm hoping to finish the singles.


In other crafting news, a nearby shop is advertising a wire-wrapping class on March 3. I really want to get back to wire-wrapping my beach-combing finds but desperately need a refresher, so I signed up in hopes the teacher is open to helping me with my technique rather than just the planned pendant.

My creative juices haven't run this strong in a long time; it's rather exciting. What's next – pulling out my oil paints, or getting back to stained glass???

Wonders never cease at . . .

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Shaken, not seared

Late yesterday afternoon, I went down to give the horses a late lunch and let the ewes back into the fold. I noticed that the henhouse light hadn't come on yet, even though it seemed dark enough for the light sensor to kick in. Obviously not. I flipped the barn light on, got the horse hay served, then went to the tack room to get Chuckie a scoop of kitty kibble and got no response to that light switch. Hmmm. Further checking revealed that the sheep fold and barn aisle lights worked; machine shed lights and the outlet powering the Ram-ada Inn and henhouse lights did not. I walked back to the house to check the breaker boxes, figuring that a breaker tripped, but there was no breaker labeled "Barn" in either of them. Oh yeah; there are breaker boxes down at the barn, the old one in the original structure that predated us, and the one we installed in the attached machine shed when we built it. So I walked back down and checked those; again nothing was tripped. However, I thought I detected a faint 'hot plastic' smell near the old original one, and the edges of the plastic handle of one breaker looked slightly melted. I called Rick and described everything, telling him I thought he'd better make checking it out a priority as soon as he got home. In the meantime, he told me to flip all the breakers in both boxes to "Off," which I did. By this time it was dark, so I did chores with a headlamp.

What Rick discovered when he got home and checked out the situation was chilling. First of all, there is no master switch for the electric line to the barn; it's all hot, all the time. Rick removed the cover of the old breaker box, and there was even more heat damage on the inside. With an insulated screwdriver he managed to disconnect everything, but still had two (separated) hot wires and no caps that would fit them. Supply sources were closed for the day; what to do? I suggested moving horses, sheep, tractor, and horse trailer, or calling a couple neighbors to see if they had caps. The first neighbor had none; the second neighbor did, saying, "'Someone' had me get extras." Yeah; that same 'Someone' kept a near-catastrophic breaker box from sparking a barn fire – for years.
the old breaker box is just inside that white door

It was foggy this morning, and as I gazed down at our barn complex and all that it houses, I thought how easily it could have been shrouded in smoke and flames. That thought has made me slightly breathless all day – and thankful; so very, very thankful.

No need to hide now, Sanson!

The sarcacocca on the north side of the house is perfuming the air:


I've started weaving another rug:

Thanking God, not lucky stars, at . . .

Friday, February 09, 2024

Setting the stage, act two

Got a tiny bite from the 'cleaning bug' again. This time the budding daffodils prompted me to tackle the island bed, cleaning out dead grass and weeds, pruning what I could reach of the flowering plum, and cutting out a volunteer English walnut. It looks much tidier than it did, in fact than it has in some years, thanks to Rick spraying it last year. I'm not a fan of chemicals, but it did kill the grass that had nearly choked out the daffodils. Now the ones that remain can shine. (That bright green patch on the right side are other flowering bulbs that have never been impressive; they look like the white and yellow ones in the photo below but much more sparse and inconspicuous.)

The hens have been more productive this week than I have. Spring must be in the air (or day length), because after weeks of one, two, or rarely, three eggs a day, they've given me four eggs two days and five eggs another! And just when my two most frequent egg customers are on vacation. Oh well; eggs keep and I have a big fridge.

Rick and I both had medical appointments this week, his an MRI on his problematic shoulder and mine to determine the advisability of further diagnostics (the answer was 'yes'). Brian brought home a new toy which may bode more medical appointments. He says he got a steal of a deal and it doesn't work yet, but when he still owes us money (among other issues), such an acquisition doesn't increase our confidence in his good judgement.

I haven't gotten my loom warped for the next rug yet. I had to switch back to winding the natural wool for warp as I didn't have enough of the three colors; they will now be the weft. I bought some more long stick shuttles so the rug should go fast once the warp is ready.

You know it's the spring after a breeding season when I stare intently at certain ewes, looking for telltale signs of pregnancy and approaching delivery. None of the latter yet, but I imagine I am seeing the former in all four ewes who were put with ram lambs last fall. The last two to convince me are first-timers Broadway and Boop. The other morning they slept in, something they haven't done before, and Broadway (left) showed a noticeable bulge. So tick-tock, the clock is ticking! Now the question is, will lambing work out so I can go on the annual church women's retreat at the coast Easter weekend?

That's it for this week at . . .

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Moving on to February

This self-imposed weekly posting schedule is working well for me. Without it, I would probably lapse for weeks, thinking I had nothing new to post, as indeed is the case. But this blog is my journal as much as it is sharing with those of you interested enough to follow and comment, and songs with multiple verses are still enjoyable. So here is this week's verse!

The latest rug has been cut off the loom, ends finished and fringe trimmed; it has yet to be fulled. I love everything about it, and may very well keep it, but who knows? I might like the next one even better! I've started winding the warp for the next rug I have in mind, but may not have enough of the three colors of yarn I chose. If not, I'll formulate another plan.


There has been another flurry of 'domesticity,' finally pushed to the top of the list by this little explosion of black fleece from Bijou's coat. What started as a couple of little holes merged into a big hole, and the only coats I had that would fit Bijou were in the mending pile. So I got out my Featherweight and went to work last Sunday, making 11 coats serviceable again before I ran out of thread on the 12th. I've now got more thread and will probably do another mending marathon tomorrow; I have a LOT of sidelined sheep suits!

The constant rain has abated, and we've actually seen the sun a few times this week. One day while I was riding Stella in the arena, a neighbor sent a text message to all of us on our gravel lane, "Look at the lenticular cloud on Mt. Hood!" I couldn't see my favorite mountain from the arena, so was glad when the neighbor followed up his words with the photo below:

Inside the house, all the buds have opened on my wee orchid:
While it is often true that the cobbler's children have no shoes, this week my veterinarian husband has been quick to grant my requests. Stella continues to be a very tense, hot horse, and although part of that is in her genes, I want to be sure there are no other causative agents.  So yesterday Rick checked her teeth, which needed to be 'floated' (removing sharp points that develop from the side-to-side motion of chewing) and we started her on a daily hormone treatment that sometimes helps mares settle down.

Happy Sabbath morning from . . .