Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Okay, I give.......

I've had my comeuppance! The weatherman actually called it right this time and we've had all he predicted and more. Yesterday was freezing rain all day and by evening we had about an inch of ice coating all surfaces. Just getting back and forth to the barn was a death defying act. This morning we woke up to big, fat snowflakes coming down on top of all that ice. So now we are listening to the sounds of tree limbs snapping and trees going down all over the place. Thankfully, we have not lost our electricity, yet. That's a miracle because where we live has rural power lines running through trees all over the countryside.

When the weather is confining, my favorite thing to do is cook (and knit, of course). Yesterday afternoon I baked Ina's chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing and then for dinner last night we had Ina's spinach pie (can't find a link for that---it's from her first cookbook "Barefoot Contessa Cookbook"). Sounds like all Ina, all the time around here! Her cookbooks are my favorites of all the ones I own (and believe me, I have many----I'm a wee bit obsessive about buying cookbooks). I've never cooked anything from her books that didn't turn out great.

Thankfully, we were able to get all the animals inside the barn yesterday, so they all had shelter from the worst of the storm. I'm afraid they will all be stir-crazy by the time the ice melts enough for them to be able to safely walk outside. My husband has already reached the stir-crazy stage. He's so accustomed to being out and about making house calls every day. He hasn't been able to settle down since he discovered that we are probably not going to be able to leave the farm for the rest of the week. He's facing the monumental task of chain sawing all the trees that have gone down on our farm lane. Ah, the joys of the country life!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Good morning from the girls.....

Be sure your sound is turned on for just a little sample of the greeting I get from the donkey girls, morning and evening, when I go to the barn. Of course, what they are saying is---"bring the hay-bring the hay-right now!" I love to hear them braying like that, especially when they both get going at the same time. It's as if they are harmonizing to their own special song! (it's a good thing we have no close neighbors)

I was going to title this post Blue Monday because this luscious roving is just out of the dye bath. Everyone who knows me will look at this and not believe I did it! I'm not a blue person at all and never wear blue, but I have been working on dyeing some new stuff for my Etsy shop and do know that lots of people love blue. I think this is going to spin up beautifully and it's probably a good thing it's a color I won't be tempted to keep for myself.

I'm off to the grocery and post office. The weather forecast is for snow, ice, freezing rain----all of it in the next few days. I'll believe it when it happens. If it were not for needing to provide appropriate shelter for the animals, I think I might not watch the weather forecasters. They get everyone so worked up about the possibilities and then most of the time (it seems) nothing happens. But, just in case, I'm off to stock up on a few necessities.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Looking back

Today has been a day for looking back, in several ways. This is the one year anniversary of when I wrote my very first post and sheep dreams began. I was very timid about posting anything and had to virtually force myself to begin and then I didn't tell anyone about it (not even my husband or my best friend). I think I finally mentioned it to Susan Anderson and she was so encouraging and supportive, I gradually became confident enough to tell others. Now, I enjoy thinking of things to write about and having the blog has certainly changed how often I take pictures (the camera goes everywhere with me). I just want to say to anyone out there reading sheep dreams----thanks so much for spending time here. I am honored that you visit. I really appreciate getting comments and love the idea that I am somehow communing with people I may never actually meet, but never-the-less feel a connection to. I hope to become a better, more interesting blogger and photographer in the coming year.

Another way I have been looking back today is some time spent going through boxes up in the barn loft. After I fed all the animals this morning, I went looking for a box of wine glasses I bought to use for our wedding (50 really cheap ones!). That was over ten years ago and I haven't had the need to serve wine to that many people since! A friend of mine is having a party and wanted to borrow them. I did find the glasses, but also a lot of other stuff. Unfortunately, the birds that nest in the top of the barn have caused considerable damage to some things and a lot will need to be thrown away. I did find most of the parts to an antique walking wheel. I had replacement parts made for the wheel some years ago and will need to excavate further to unearth the miner's head and spindle (which is the part you actually spin with). I found baby books, picture albums, bank statements from 12 years ago (!) and also a Lopi sweater in progress, knitted up as far as the armholes, with no moth damage (which is unbelievable considering the shape of some other yarn I found), complete with knitting needles still in place, the pattern and the yarn needed to finish it. This thing has got to be at least 25 years old. I recently read on another blog that Icelandic sweaters are coming back into vogue, so I guess I'm set with this discovery!

It's a beautiful day here with temperatures in the upper 40's. It seems almost balmy compared to what we've been experiencing lately. It was great to take my time with feeding and barn chores this morning, instead of hustling around as fast as I could to get out of the cold. It's a nice little respite before the next storm system heads our way.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thinking green

I guess without realizing it, I'm looking for spring already. After reading Susan's post last night, with those too cute knitted chickens pictured on the green grass (from last summer) and her comment on how wonderful the grass looked, I decided to throw some roving into the turkey roaster and dye up some green fiber. I turned the roaster off before going to bed and couldn't wait to drain the exhaust water this morning. I hung it out on the outside line to drip, as I always do and the next time I checked, there were icicles hanging from it! I think that means it won't be spring for quite a while. It's now drying on the sunroom floor and I can't wait for it to dry enough to spin some into bright green yarn.
Just a gratuitous picture (or two) of Miss Pippi, taken in the barn this morning. You can see that she is really growing.

Think green thoughts today!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday, Monday

I can't believe it's Monday already. The weekend was chock-full and I wish I could have slowed things down and savored it all more. Friday evening was the beginning of my spinning guild's annual retreat. We have, for many, many years gone to Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, a restored Shaker village, that's only about 25 minutes from my farm. We have rented a restored house on the outskirts of the village and spent the weekend, spinning, knitting, eating (a lot!), laughing and talking. We look forward to it all year. This year Shakertown informed us that they were closing the houses at the edge of the village for the winter, due to the costs involved in keeping them heated all winter. We ended up renting a vacation house at a nearby lake and it worked beautifully. Well, except for the part where I got lost trying to find the place in the pitch black of night and was rescued by a lovely woman who pulled up beside me while I was trying to get a signal on my cell phone to call for help with the directions. She put down her window and said, "Oh hi, it's another Subaru driver, can I help you?" (We were both driving Subaru Foresters) Is that not funny? I thought it was great and she really did help me get to where I was supposed to be going. Anyway, I spent Friday night there and had to leave the next morning right after breakfast. We had gotten tickets with friends to see "Prairie Home Companion" in Louisville on Saturday evening. If you ever get a chance to go to a live show, do it. It is so much fun to see it all happen. Afterwards we had dinner at the Sealbach Hotel, a beautiful historic place in downtown Louisville. We got home just before midnight. Sunday I had to be in Lexington by noon for a meeting, then I cooked dinner for my son and daughter-in-law who just had the new baby and delivered it to them in Richmond (about an hour away). As I was leaving their house to drive home, the roads starting icing up and by the time I got to our little country roads, it was treacherous. I felt as though I had been on a long, long journey by the time I pulled into the farm lane.

We had a few inches of snow on the ground this morning and it was beautiful. I'm certainly not going to complain about it. I know many other bloggers are probably sick to death of having so much snow where they live. I having been wishing for more snow and less rain!

Here's a picture of Buddy I took last Friday, right after he had been allowed to rejoin the group of last year's lambs. Doesn't he look like he's smiling? He has stopped moping around and is acting completely normal now that he is back with "his people", so to speak. The funny thing that happened right after this was that Teeny (little bitty and spoiled, I guess) came up to him and challenged him. Put her ears back, lowered her head and was going to butt him! I broke that up and hope that was the end of it.

Today has been catch-up with barn work, laundry and housework, but tomorrow I plan some knitting time on a new project while I watch the inauguration ceremony. It's a hopeful time for all of us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Best buds (everybody needs a friend)

Last spring, when Holly decided to come live with our sheep, Hannah was not happy----at all. She spent the better part of several weeks barking at Holly every time she came near. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what her problem was. Sure, Holly was the new kid, but she was so obviously just like Hannah (though not as big then). And, at that point in time, we still had our ancient old Abby and ancient old Buddy (aka Hannibal) was still here too. All Great Pyrenees dogs and all here to protect the sheep. Abby was the first Pyrenees we got when we bought the farm and decided to get sheep. (I raised sheep for many years in my "past life", but after a divorce and sale of my farm, I had been living in town for several years before I met Mike.) Abby and those first five sheep lived here at the farm for more than a year before we got married and moved to the country. Back then, I drove to the farm every day to feed and check on the dog, sheep and horses. Abby grew up to be a wonderful guardian, very strongly bonded to her sheep and not that concerned with where we were or what we were doing. After a few years we decided to get another dog and bought Hannah from a local shepherd and Pyrenees breeder. Hannah has never been a great guardian---just average. She likes hanging around us more than I would prefer, probably because we were living here and outside a lot when she was a puppy. This winter, with the two old dogs dead and gone, Hannah has finally decided she likes Holly. They are nearly always together and I believe Hannah is finally comfortable with her role as a guardian. It's all well and good to have a job to do, but having a friend around to help sure makes it better!

Buddy (the former ram) is finally starting to perk up. He has been mad at us and not feeling himself since his life changing surgery. I think mostly he is lonely for the other sheep. Sheep are not solitary animals. They are flocking animals and are happiest when surrounded by their own kind. This weekend I am going to put him back in with the ewe lambs (all his half sisters) and that should make him feel a lot better.
Though I spend more time alone than most women I know, I feel fortunate to have so many knitting friends, sheep friends and spinning friends from my past and current life to hang out with when I need the companionship of my own kind!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Handspun on view

My friend, Mary, sent me this picture yesterday. She knit this scarf for a friend of hers for Christmas and I absolutely love it (and apparently the recipient does too). This is exactly how I imagined my thick and thin handspun singles being used. Mary says it is a variation of The Eleventh Hour Scarf that is on The Purlbee post from December 19th (a great source of free patterns). With Mary's permission this is what she did: using size 17 needles, hold two strands together and cast on 11 stitches. It's knit in moss stitch (knit 1, purl 1 across the row) with fringe attached on each end and she used about 150 yards of each yarn. The finished scarf is 6 1/2" x 68" (not including fringe). I really love the look of my bulky handspun in moss stitch. I've knit several items from it using garter stitch, but I think I like this moss stitch look even better. Thanks so much, Mary, for sharing. It makes me feel so good to see something wonderful made from my own yarn!

Now just one more baby Parker picture. These are his little feet wearing a pair of the "handknit by Nana" alpaca socks I pictured yesterday. (Don't you just love how they are able to be in this "frog legs" position?) And to give credit where credit is due, the alpaca roving I spun into this yarn came from Lindy at Seldom Scene Farm. There's a link to Lindy's blog on my sidebar (Loco Life of Lindy) and a link to her etsy store on her blog site. She has some incredibly soft alpaca yarn and roving. I am anxiously awaiting the first harvest of my own alpaca fleeces in just a few months and am thinking I will do some blending of the alpaca and the BFL fleeces to get a truly scrumptious spinning fiber.

Friday, January 9, 2009

This and that.............

How can it be Friday already? This week has gone way too fast, but some wonderful things have happened.

The biggest and best event was the birth of grand-baby #8 yesterday afternoon. He had a bit of a rough go of it in the beginning, but is doing just fine now. Mom and baby Parker will be spending some extra time in the hospital because of a last minute C-section delivery, but should get to go home on Sunday. I didn't get to hold him yesterday, but am going back this afternoon for a cuddle. There is nothing sweeter than that little baby head up against your cheek. (That's his big brother, Preston, watching through the nursery window while the nurse is helping Parker to stabilize.)

It is cold with bright sunshine here today, which is great because that means the mud resulting from all the rain and snow is frozen and not sloppy. I have a little routine when I go to the barn for morning feeding chores. First, feed the barn cats and then put out hay for all the different groups of sheep, lamas and alpacas, feed the chickens and then carry hay out to the donkeys. Sadie, our barn kitten, zips around in front of me to each different field and group of animals, as if she taking inventory. She is fearless around the other animals, even though all of them could crush her in an instant. She runs underneath them and then climbs up on the nearest fence post and tries to touch their heads if they come close enough. It really seems as though she is trying to communicate with them.
Finally, just a wee bit of knitting for the new baby. I knit these handspun, alpaca booties some time ago and am taking them to the hospital today. They seem impossibly tiny and will be outgrown in a flash, but I think they are so cute. I just couldn't resist knitting them. I used the pattern I came up with for my beginning sock knitting classes. I always had the class knit up a mini-sock, so they could get through all the steps and understand the anatomy of a sock. Talk about instant gratification--these little things are just perfect!

Hope all have a good weekend and that you can fit in some quality knitting time. I'm sure planning on that.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Buddy says........

"Ouch!" (Probably he said something much stronger than that, but I couldn't repeat that kind of language here.) Yesterday was the official end of Buddy's career as a ram. The above picture was taken during the surgery. The surgical drape over his eyes was to prevent them being scratched by the straw. The procedure is pretty straightforward and didn't take long at all. He was completely anesthetized, both general and local, so he didn't feel a thing......until he woke up. To say that he is mad at us today would be an understatement for sure. He runs when he sees us! And I don't blame him a bit. I just hope that as the soreness goes away, so will the unpleasant memories and then he will forgive us. He has been such a big pet, especially to me. He was bottle raised and would always come to the fence when he saw me outside and if I sit down near him, he comes to lay his head on my shoulder. I have been dreading the day, but, in order to keep him, he had to become a wether (same as a gelding horse). He has been in with the alpaca boys since he finished breeding the ewes, but has not been happy being away from his own kind. In 3-4 weeks he will be safe to put back in with either the ewes or the ewe lambs and that should settle him down. It is handy to have a husband who is a veterinarian at times like these. He says the procedure is the same as neutering a male cat and that Buddy will be back to his old self soon.

Nothing much else is happening here on the farm as we begin the new year. My first lambs aren't due until mid-March, so except for the twice daily feeding chores and routine barn work, it should be fairly calm for a while. Tomorrow will be a bit of a jolt back to reality when we have to get up early and the phone starts ringing with veterinary house-call clients. We've been staying up later and sleeping in an extra hour or so in the mornings.

In many ways, it's comforting to return to the routine. I remember when my sons were still at home, that first day back to school after the holidays usually found me exhausted and needing a little time alone in the house! I always look forward to the quiet of January and hope to get caught up on reading and knitting. I never do get caught up, but it is nice to think about the possibility. Our Wednesday knitting group has been on a little hiatus for the past two weeks and I'm really looking forward to getting together with everyone this week.

I have done a little knitting the last few days. I've finished a cute Lollipop Hat from "Knit One, Embellish Too" for the soon to arrive new grandson and a "Just Enough Ruffles" scarf came off the needles last night. I know there are hundreds of these scarves out there right now. I knit this one from Malabrigo and I love the way it feels. This yarn is certainly soft enough to be worn next to the skin.I'm this close to having several other projects finished and will try to muster the discipline (there's that word again) to finish them before casting on for anything else. I hope you are getting good knitting time to begin this new year.