Monday, September 29, 2008

Meet the boys

These three handsome alpaca boys are the latest addition to the menagerie here at Tanglewood Farm. The last several years I have been breeding for softer fleeces on my sheep and these boys are going to contribute some beautiful fiber to blend with those fleeces. The black one is "Stormy", the fawn is "Prophet" and the white is "Prince". I think they have been a little culture shocked since their arrival here. They came from Seldom Scene Farm , which is a beautifully manicured alpaca farm at the other end of our county. Except for the Great Pyrenees, which they are familiar with, not much else here looks like home to them. The first shock was the donkeys, but then the donkeys were pretty shocked too! Then the lambs ran into the barn to check them out and the peacock flew up on the feeders in front of them. I can only imagine what they must have thought (probably something like thinking they had landed at the funny farm). They have settled right in and we have already been practicing walking on a lead. The boys went into the back barnyard this morning and will be kept there and inside at night until they know for sure that inside the barn is where they will get fed.

Despite being desperate for rain, we had a beautiful weekend. Somehow when it finally cools down and the light becomes so clear, it makes everything look better. We live about one mile from a public boat ramp to the Kentucky River and we took advantage of the nice weather to put the boat in both Saturday and Sunday. We practically had the river to ourselves and we enjoyed just cruising along looking at the scenery. The water temperature is already in the 60's so there won't be any more swimming this year, but we hope to have just a few more outings before the boat is put away for the winter.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Colors of Fall

Today it is finally Fall! We have been sweltering around here, with mid to upper 80's (and no rain----I know you're sick of me saying that). Tonight it is supposed to go down into the 40's and I love, love, love it. Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the colors, wearing wool sweaters and socks, getting to have a fire in the fireplace again, the smell of the leaves, cooking chili and warm soups-----all of it. Yesterday as I was hanging these skeins outside to dry, I noticed that they were all my favorite colors.....and the colors of Fall. Most of our trees are just turning brown and dropping their leaves early, so I may have to put these skeins back out on the line occasionally to substitute for colorful leaves.

Our little Wednesday knitting group is having an impromptu knit-along. We all fell in love with this Debbie Bliss pattern in her new Luxury Collection book. It is the "Julie" cardigan and it's a classic. Everyone else is making it in Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed, but I'm using just plain Donegal Aran Tweed (still working from the stash accumulated during my yarn store days). I'm using color number 281114, which can only be described as a greenish-brownish-goldish tweed that I love. This sweater will be a great throw-on-over-anything kind of thing.

Hope wherever you are, you're going to have a great Fall weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yet another hat

Not long ago, Jared, at brooklyntweed put a free pattern for his "Turn A Square" hat on his blog. I literally dropped what I was doing and went in search of some appropriate handspun from the "wall of wool" in my studio. I knew I had plenty of leftover bits of Noro Kureyon (doesn't everyone?) to use for the striping. I found the colors I wanted, then when I was well into the knitting, discovered I was going to run out of the handspun before I finished. I started cheating on the stripes, making the Kureyon ones bigger. Then, as luck would have it, found another little ball of the handspun, so just reverted back to the original pattern. In the end, it didn't really matter. I really like how the hat turned out. It is very masculine looking, but I can see that using more feminine colors would make the hat equally appealing. There was just enough going on with this hat to keep me interested in finishing. The only problem was there was no one around to model it while I played photographer! It was a quick and fun knitting project.

If you haven't read brooklyntweed, be sure to check it out. His projects really appeal to my sensibilities: classic, not fussy and, of course, lots of tweed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Festival time

This past weekend was the Midway Fall Festival and for the first time in a long time, I set up with some handspun, hand dyed yarn, my spinning wheel and a few lambs came along just for the fun of it. I shared a space with my friend, Lindy (Seldom Scene Alpaca Farm) and spent the two days demonstrating spinning and answering questions like, "Are these (the lambs) the babies of those (the alpacas)?" Seriously! The lambs and alpacas always draw a crowd. I forget that these animals are not a part of everyday life for most people, but being in public with them sure does remind me. Teeny was one of the lambs who went this weekend and she is definitely a ham. She loves being petted and doesn't even seem to mind when the some of the little kids don't know anything else to do but throw hay on her head! At one point, I went into the sheep pen to give them fresh water, and while my back was turned, Teeny decided to go for a walk. She was strolling up the street, much to the delight of everyone watching her, when I discovered she was gone! She just wanted a little look-around!

Here are the latest pictures of our new girl. She is a feisty little thing already and has plenty of attitude for such a little one!
It didn't actually feel much like fall this past weekend. In fact, it was hot and we still have had no rain. All of our pastures are completely dried up. You can see in the latest pictures of Pippi and Strawberry that there is a small circle of green where we have watered, trying to save some trees, and everything else is crispy brown (which is great for fried chicken, but not so much for grass). I know the rain will eventually come, but apparently there is none in the near future for us. (Yes, that blob on the ground is Buster. He's definitely back to feeling like his old self!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September surprise!

Tonight(Tuesday night) I went to the barn around 10 pm for my last round of checking on everyone. I probably don't need to do it at this point, but it makes me feel better if I know they are all in their appointed places. Strawberry, our llama, was standing at the doorway of the barn, "talking" to me, acting as though she wanted something. I had noticed Holly was out in the field with her, instead of with the lambs, as she usually is at that time of night, and I thought it was a little strange. I glimpsed something behind Strawberry, so went over for a closer look. And there she was! At long last, Strawberry has had another cria, and for the first time ever, we finally have a girl! We have waited a long time for her. Strawberry has had several unsuccessful breedings over the last 4 or 5 years and we had come to the conclusion that there would be no more crias. Last year, my friend, Lindy, let us bring her llama stud here to our farm and keep him with Strawberry in hopes that pasture breeding would be more successful than our previous "scheduled appointment" breedings. The last time we saw them together, I wrote it down on the calendar that Strawberry would be due in late August. I thought she had acted pregnant, but when the time came and went, I decided I must have been wrong. Strawberry just had her own time-table for when and where it would happen. Even though I have been home all day, I missed it. I find it so interesting that Holly was there in the field with her, watching over things until one of the humans finally showed up to take over!

The picture is not so great, but you can see how tiny she is and how different her markings are from her mother. In the next few days I will get some outdoor shots that will show her off a little better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's for lunch?

This time of year, it is usually BLT....and sometimes that's what's for breakfast and dinner, too! It's my favorite sandwich all the time, but right now, when the tomatoes are in the last of their glory days, I feel the need to eat as many as I can. Lot's of Hellman's mayonnaise (I have switched to Light Hellman's, if that helps excuse the excess) and some of those tiny kosher dill pickles and I couldn't want for anything better! Like most people, I can't stand winter tomatoes. They are a poor imitation of the real thing. I have found that I can get by with cherry or grape tomatoes for salads during the "off-season". Those seem to have a ripe taste closer to my garden tomatoes. I understand that commercial growers have to grow varieties that will store and ship well, but for my money, I'd rather just wait for truly ripe homegrown tomatoes. I've been freezing Roma tomatoes every week and now should have enough stocked up to use in chili and soup for most of the winter. (which probably seems a little silly, given the reasonable cost of canned tomatoes these days, but it makes me feel good to know I have done it)

We were hammered by wind from hurricane Ike yesterday. The weather report said there were gusts up to 75 mph and it looks like it around here. Our yard is full of broken limbs and we lost a few trees on the farm lane and in the pastures. The one thing that would have made it all worthwhile would have been a good, soaking rain, but we didn't get a drop. It's been at least 7-8 weeks since we've had a decent rain and we are about to dry up and blow away. (This is probably my payback for all that complaining about rain back during the winter! Does it always have to be feast or famine?)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A whole new wardrobe

Well, finally some finished projects to show. Practically a whole new wardrobe. I've knit two new sweaters, a skirt and a pair of jeans. No, really, I knit some jeans! Aren't these just the cutest things you have ever seen? You may have guessed that these are not exactly people size, though I would certainly love to have some that fit me. Especially, that green turtleneck. It looks like a sweater I could live in all winter (that is, if we actually have winter this year). On second thought, maybe not that stripey little skirt. I wouldn't ever wear anything with stripes going in that direction! But, it would look really good on someone tiny, say, my 4 year old grand-daughter! These patterns all came from this this book which contains some of the cutest baby knitting projects around. (And don't you just love those tiny clothes pins?)

I've been obsessed with knitting little bitty things, whenever I'm not working on my Einstein Coat (which has gotten so big it needs a chair of it's own whenever I am knitting on it). I'm on the first sleeve now and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I may actually finish the thing in time to wear it this year!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Like moths to the flame

What is it about fire that draws us closer? And even when it is too hot to be close, why do we want to sit and stare until there is nothing left but embers? We have a tradition (or is it a ritual?) here at the farm. Whenever the grandchildren are here, whether it is just them for an overnight visit or a big family get-together, we have to have the bonfire. A few years ago, we had some fallen limbs to clean up and on a whim, set up a fire pit and let the grandchildren toast marshmallows. The yard surrounding the farmhouse is full of big, old pecan trees that shed branches all the time, so there's always a stack waiting to be burned. One thing I have noticed is that all the adults want to go out for the bonfire too, so it isn't just the kids who are drawn to it. The adults tend to sit or stand around and talk, all the while staring into the flames. It is the kids who are obsessed with feeding the fire, though. They cannot stay away from it. It is a magnet that draws them in. I'm sure there must be some primordial instinct that makes us circle around the fire, if not for warmth, for a sense of security.

We've had temperatures in the 90's all week until today and it finally has cooled off a little (80's) and we got a few drops of rain. We are parched here. The fields are brown--even the weeds have stopped growing, so even a little bit of rain is very welcome. I was thinking this morning how nice it will be to be enjoying the fireplaces soon. Can you tell that I have had enough summer for a while? Autumn is my favorite time of year and I'm really ready for it and all it brings with it.