Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Most mornings I go to the barn to feed and then do various chores and spend time with and observing all the animals. There are lots of mini-dramas happening all around. I caught a little stand-off in the back barnyard yesterday morning that reminded how far you can go if you have confidence in yourself. Sadie is a barn kitten who came home with me from my son's house a few months ago. She is one of the sweetest kittens I have ever been around and she is a tiny, little thing. She and her companion, Oliver (who came home with me a few weeks later----I know, am I a sucker or what?), have settled right in to their role of working barn cats (in training). Oliver is a bit timid around people, but fearless around the animals and, though I didn't realize it until yesterday morning, Sadie is not lacking in confidence either. Sadie was in the back barnyard, playing with a feather she'd found on the ground and suddenly all three alpaca boys were surrounding her. Earlier I had seen one of the boys go after Oliver, so I thought maybe I should go out and rescue Sadie before she got hurt. She did not need my help, thank you very much! As soon as one of these guys put their nose down to smell her, she would give them a whack with her paw. The amazing thing is they backed off! There's a lesson there for all of us.
Today is the picture perfect autumn day in Kentucky. It has been quite cool at night this week, in fact, down in the 20's, and we've been able to have a fire in the fireplace several evenings. I love that--the sight, the smell and the sound of a real wood fire. It's one of the the things I like best about cold weather. It looks to be a perfect weekend here in Kentucky. I hope it is the same where ever you are.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weekend Fun

Ah, the weekend....where did it go? Time always goes at fast speed for me and especially when I'm having fun. And I did have fun this past weekend. Saturday morning at 6 am, Sara, Kim and I met in the parking lot at Meijer and, after a breakfast fast food drive-through, we were on the way to the Southeastern Animal and Fiber Fair (SAFF) just outside Asheville, North Carolina. The 4 1/2 hours down passed quickly for me, but I will admit that all I did was sit and knit and talk. Sara ended up driving the whole time, both ways, so I got more knitting time than I was expecting. Once it was daylight, the drive was beautiful. There were many colorful trees, unlike here at home where the drought has turned everything brown.

SAFF was much as I remembered it from the last time I went, years ago. Although it did seem to have a bigger commercial area, I thought the fiber animal show looked smaller. There didn't seem to be as many sheep competing, but there was a fairly large contingent of alpacas. It is certainly not in the league of Maryland or Rhinebeck, but it was a nice outing on a beautiful fall day.

One of the best things about the trip, for me, was going in to downtown Asheville, visiting a terrific yarn store and eating dinner at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Seed. The yarn store was Purl's Yarn Emporium and it was chock full of great yarns and books. I loved the eclectic decor and comfortable places to hang out. Even better was the attitude of the sales staff---so friendly and helpful. Dinner at The Laughing Seed was an experience in fabulous food and all you could hope for in good service. I would definitely recommend both places to anyone traveling in the area.

Since I didn't do any driving, I did do some knitting. Did I finish up any of the many projects I took with me? Why no! I cast on for a new project, but one I've been wanting to make for a long time. I am knitting Eric's Glovelets from Green Mountain Spinnery I have had the pattern forever and am embarrassed to admit that I had not actually read to comments describing the pattern. I assumed Eric was a man and the glovelets were man sized, but I liked the design so much I was intending to change the pattern to fit me. Turns out, Eric is a designer and musician (woman) who lives somewhere close to the Spinnery. I have finished the first glovelet and am working on the second one. It's a pretty quick knit and would be great for Christmas presents. The baby cable pattern keeps it interesting and I am loving the mossy green tweed. I'm using 2 balls of Rowan Scottish Tweed DK (color # SH015) that I found in a sale bin on my last trip to Cincinnati. (It looks as though it will take about 1 1/2 balls.) I did lengthen them enough so that they came further down my fingers and if I knit another pair, I will make the thumb smaller. These are likely to become my every day mitts this winter.

Friday, October 24, 2008

New job skills

I have a new job skill to add to my resume of very specific, but not so useful skills. BIRD WRANGLER (definition-someone who spends way too much time during her day trying to get peafowl off the top of the barn roof, off the front porch, off the hay feeders, off, off, off........of, you name it, they've been on it.) It looks as though they have finally figured out the roosting deal and, as you can see, are all cozy up there with mom. We've never had peafowl chicks before(except Mr. and Mrs. Dandy, who were kept in with the chickens until they were adults), so their behaviour is pretty interesting to me. Frankly, I'm amazed at how Mrs. Dandy is still being such a watchful and protective mother.
Today we had blessed rain all day long. This is the first good soaking rain in about three months. The picture shows the creek crossing we drive through every time we leave or come home. For many months it has been barely there, but today it is flowing again. I never, ever have a clean car for more than a few hours because of driving on a gravel farm lane and through the creek.

This morning, I brought everyone up so they were either in the barn, or had shelter under one of the shed roofs. I know that is a little over-protective, but because it is going to get cold tonight, I didn't want them to be wet and cold. The sheep, especially, can handle the cold and usually prefer to be outside, but not if they are wet. The Bluefaced Leicester fleeces part right down the middle of their backs in the rain and they seem miserable. So, in they came and settled right down for an afternoon of snoozing with the sound of the rain on the metal roof of the barn. I love hearing the sound of the rain and of the animals quietly resting. It inspired me to stay in my work room in the barn and spin up some roving I recently dyed. I'm in the process of taking pictures and setting up a shop on Etsy. (I need to develop actual useful skills for this.) I have only been selling my yarns and roving locally, but Susan Anderson has given me the encouragement I needed to extend myself a little and see what happens.

I have spent the last hour or so sorting through knitting projects to take on the road tomorrow. I'm meeting two friends at 6 am and we are driving to the Southeastern Animal and Fiber Fair, just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Driving down and back----tomorrow. That's 9 hours of road knitting time. Actually, since there are three of us, and if we take equal turns at driving, it is 6 hours of knitting time, give or take a little for eating and other necessities. I am definitely up for a little road trip. I was so disappointed to miss Rhinebeck this year, but am planning on next year already. So, I've settled on socks, a scarf, a nearly finished sweater and there's the outside possibility I may cast on for some mitts. Well, you know, I might get tired of working on just one thing. It's good to be prepared!
Wherever you are, have a great weekend. I'll be back soon with a full report on SAFF.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pippi plays peek-a-boo

She's growing, our girl. The last time I tried to pick her up, it was a bit of a struggle. I love watching her interact with all the other animals. She's pretty confident and that's what we want her to be. Around here it works out better if everyone is pretty much bomb-proof and, if they are born here, it usually works out that way. We have so many different animals here to be exposed to and there is always something causing a ruckus, so most get used to a lot going on right from the get-go. Anyway, we think she is pretty cute and are really enjoying her. Ever notice how a baby of any sort just grabs your attention? I think that is one of the best things about being on the farm. New life happening all around. Of course, the down side is that animals grow old, or get sick and die, but even that is a life lesson. The cycle of life continues.

Weird looking eyes on those sheep. They don't actually look blue like that..more like a goldish brown. That ewe on the right is one we call "Crazy-Eyes". She was really, really sick about 6 weeks ago and did her best to die on us. Somehow we pulled her through, but she still has those wild looking eyes! (If you are a Larry David fan--"Curb Your Enthusiasm"--, you may remember a show with a character called Crazy Eyes---not quite the same!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday is Wash Day

You can just tell how much happier and more comfortable all the animals are now that it is cooler. (Actually, I am too!) On Saturday we wormed the adult ewes and selected the ones we wanted to breed. We put the marking harness on the only male still here and put him in with them. I kept one ram lamb because he was bottle raised, very sweet, easily handled and his fleece was gorgeous. (That's it in the above picture. I can't wait to spin some of it, but shearing won't happen until early March.) My original intention was to wether him, but we managed to not get that done in a timely fashion. You know how it is with the shoemaker's children? Well, that sometimes works for the veterinarian's animals, too. (Wethering is the same as neutering in a male cat or dog.) Just lately I decided to try breeding him to some of the older Romney ewes to get a few replacement ewes with finer, softer fleeces. The marking harness is a contraption that straps onto the ram so there is a wax crayon positioned on his chest. Whenever he mounts a ewe to breed her, it makes a mark on her rump. I check the ewes every morning and if one has been marked, I write it down on the calendar and the estimated due date. We change the crayon color every two weeks (this time of year, the ewes cycle about every 17 days until they become pregnant) and that tells me if a ewe is getting re-bred. It is a pretty efficient way to keep track of times to be especially alert for a ewe to give birth. It's not foolproof, but usually works. The ram's name is Whitey, though he''ll probably end up being called "Buddy" because that is the name most of our rams end up being called. (All I can say is that my husband named him. My mother-in-law tells me that when he was a child, he and his brother had pets named Whitey and Blackie, so he is staying true to form.)

This is what my living room and front hall look like right now. I've turned them into drying rooms for wool! Thank goodness I have a husband who tolerates this kind of foolishness.

I'm in the midst of washing fleeces right now and that's the only reason I forced myself back inside for a while today. I'm getting ready to take some fleeces to the mill to be carded into roving and I like to wash them myself, rather than have the mill do it. Ohio Valley Natural Fibers is about 2 hours from me and I like to make an appointment and take my fleeces for processing and bring them home the same day. I usually take my spinning wheel or some knitting and just hang out while the fleeces are being done, although sometimes I drop the wool off and drive on in to Cincinnati and make a Trader Joe's run! (Sadly, we have no Trader Joe's in Lexington.)

So, I've spilled out onto the screened porch and guess I'll have to quit for today. I don't think I can get away with spreading wet fleece on the kitchen floor!

Hope you are having great fall weather wherever you are and can get outside and enjoy it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bird brains

....or lack thereof, as may be the case with these peachicks. When I went to the barn to feed this morning, I only saw one peachick walking around with the mother. I searched high and low, walked the fields, accused poor Holly of bad deeds and finally gave up. I had just let the chicks out of the dog kennel three days ago and had been watching them closely to see that they stayed close to the hen. Mrs. Dandy is pretty vocal and aggressive if anything seems to get too close to the chicks, so I thought, given their size, they were ready for freedom and life around the barn instead of being contained in a 12 x 12 dog kennel. I know, given the size of their little peachick heads, there can't be much gray matter contained in there. When I finally looked up---I mean really up, there they were......huddled way up there on the barn roof in the pouring rain. They looked completely miserable, but there's not much I could do, except hope they fly down sometime soon. At least now I don't have to worry that they are not strong enough to fly up in the rafters of the barn to roost with the adults at night......that is, if they can figure out that they need to be inside the barn to fly up to the roost.

We have finally, finally gotten a nice, slow rain this morning and the temperature has cooled down significantly, which is such a relief. We need to have at least a little real fall weather before winter sets in around here. I keep hearing all these folk methods for predicting a bad winter. There's the woolly worm theory and the number of berries on the holly trees and how thick the animals coats are getting. I don't know about any of them being true, but (and I may live to regret saying this) I hope we are in for a real winter, with the ground frozen and some appreciable amounts of snow. I say, "Bring it on!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No frost on the pumpkin, yet

No frost just yet, but it is a little cooler and definitely looking like fall. I get really strong nesting urges when the weather cools and want to clean and organize the house and cook and bake lots of warm, hearty foods. I sort of skipped over the cleaning and organizing part and went straight to the pantry to get out the ingredients when I found this recipe. I don't know where it came from originally, but it looked like something for fall, so I made it for the first time this week. It is scribbled on a 3 X 5 card, so there is no telling where I got it. This pumpkin coffee cake is so good, we ate it at breakfast, lunch and dinner! (I would have called it a "snack cake" rather than coffee cake, but either way, the recipe is a keeper.) Next time, I will bake it in mini-loaf pans and freeze most of it. That just might slow us down a little bit!

PUMPKIN COFFEE CAKE Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)-toast these after you have chopped them

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup white or yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup pumpkin puree

1 cup dried cranberries
3 Tbs raw sugar

Mix eggs, canola, sour cream and pumpkin in a large bowl. Combine group of dry ingredients and add to egg mixture. Stir until ingredients are just incorporated. Stir in cranberries and 2/3 cup nuts. (I baked mine in a 10 X 12 pan, but loaf pans or even muffin tins would work, I think. Just keep an eye on the time. ) Sprinkle 1/3 cup nuts and raw sugar on top and bake for 30-35 minutes. Hope you like it as much as we did!
(These are the mini's I baked this evening. Any guesses as to whether they make it to the freezer or not? HINT: my husband has decided to brew a pot of decaf coffee as I am writing this--wonder why?)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

And a good time was had by all......

Wow, what a day (and night) I had yesterday! The one and only Mason-Dixon Knitting duo was in town for a book signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers last night and I can honestly say they are just as charming, clever and funny in person as they are on their blog and in their books. And, best of all, they seem as down-to-earth and "normal" (if that can be said about any of us rabid knitters) as any of your friends----just as though you could sit down for an afternoon of knitting with them and feel really comfortable. They brought along a lot of the projects from the new book and all were truly gorgeous. I'm ready to cast on for a Fair Isle something. And maybe some mitered dishtowels and those Golightly rubber gloves are a must have---especially if I can perfect the modeling technique Ann used to show them off! We couldn't convince them to sing their hit song, but they did try the wigs on for us. All I can say is, YouTube doesn't do them justice.

To top off the evening, our little Wednesday knitting group got together for potluck and birthday cake (though, as the birthday person, I was not allowed to bring anything). It was an evening filled with so much laughter, I honestly think my ribs are sore today! (You might notice the kindness and consideration shown in the number of candles on the cake.) I have such great friends and I'm so grateful to be part of this group of women. Thanks to all of you for being so thoughtful. You all are the best.

(Beautiful orange roses courtesy of my wonderful husband. Thanks, honey!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The mulch man cometh.....

Those two big white lumps on top of the mulch pile are our ferocious (not really) guard dogs, Hannah and Holly. This is how I found them a few mornings ago when I was on my way to the barn to feed all the animals. I can only guess they had a busy night, barking and patrolling to keep everyone safe. They acted completely worn out! Now that the older dogs are gone, these girls have finally bonded and are spending more time together. All the Pyrenees I've ever owned have been sweet natured and though they look to be big, slow moving creatures, when they hear or see something they aren't sure about, they can spring into action. Generally speaking, they are somewhat standoff-ish to people they don't recognize and I suppose their very size intimidates a lot of people. The only reason we are able to have sheep and keep them alive is because of the dogs. We live just above the Kentucky river and there are miles of wooded cliff sides where the coyotes live and hunt. We hear them howling and yipping every night and it is very reassuring to hear Hannah and Holly barking out a warning to stay away.

That big pile of mulch (actually there are two that size) is the result of work being done to widen our country road. I asked the road engineer if I could have some of the mulch they make when they chip and shred tree branches. They were only too happy to dump it here because it is about 12 miles from the farm to the recycling center. These days we all think about how much gas it takes to go anywhere. I plan to use the mulch in the walkways between the raised beds in the garden, but still have a major clean-up ahead of me before I can do that.

It looks to be glorious weekend here and I plan to tackle some of those outside jobs I've been procrastinating doing.....and maybe, just maybe, try to squeeze in a little knitting time. Hope you have a great weekend.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Another weekend-another festival

Does this girl have an attitude or what? Pippi (sometimes known as Miss Priss) is so full of herself, she is about to burst. Obviously, she is growing fast and feeling more sure of herself. There is nothing like having a new baby around to keep things interesting.

I don't know about other places, but fall is festival time in Kentucky. Every weekend, there's a plethora of festivals to choose from----everything from sorghum to sheep and wool. On Saturday I drove to Falmouth, Kentucky to take part in a Sheep to Scarf demonstration at the Kentucky Sheep & Wool Festival. (I know, it is usually Sheep to Shawl, but our loom was small!) I was spinning, along with several other women I know, and everyone, but me, took a turn at the loom. Several had never even used a loom before, and learned on the spot. (I do know how to weave--have for about 20 years, but woke up with some weird pain under my right shoulder blade and decided not to aggravate it further by the repetitive motion weaving requires.) My friend, Sara, has taken on the challenge of turning the festival into something that actually has sheep and all things sheep represented there. This year there was a full tent of vendors and another with animals. I decided not to be a vendor this year, but may just give it a try next year.

Today it is back to the routine. Animals to be cared for, clothes to wash, house to straighten, vet client's records waiting to be filed, on and on. I cannot imagine how anyone can ever say they are bored. I need a day that lasts about 36 hours in order to do all I should do....not to mention having time to do what I want to do (not that I think for one moment I could last through a 36 hour day). As you can see, we are feeding our precious hay already. Normally, I would not be feeding hay until sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas and now I'm just hoping we have enough to make it through til spring. It's possible that if we ever get any rain, the grass will come back for a while. Supposedly we have our best chance in a long while later this week.

Meanwhile, get out in the sunshine, if you can, and have a good Monday.