Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lazy weekend

This was a very quiet weekend for me. Mike flew down to Florida to spend a few days with his mom and I was here on the farm alone (if that's even possible with so many critters). When the snow started coming down on Friday night, I knew I was going to take advantage of it and use my time alone to sit by the fire, do some knitting, spend some time (way too much) catching up on blog reading and generally take it easy. Except for doing twice a day barn chores and keeping everyone fed and sheltered, I've been doing as little as possible.
(Huckleberry's first snow bath!)
It was a frigid 4 degrees on Sunday morning. The animals don't seem to care at all. The rams and alpaca boys had snow covered backs, which tells me they bedded down outside during the snow storm, instead of going into their shed. Saturday morning when Huckleberry walked outside and got his very first glimpse of snow, he immediately went to his knees, then rolled over and took a snow bath! Isn't that amazing how their instincts kick in and they do something they couldn't have possibly been taught to do? Big sister, Pippi, is serving as a part-time baby entertainer now. The first week or so, Strawberry was very protective of little Huck, but I think now she's decided it's a good thing to have Pippi helping out. I think Pippi is happy to have someone to play with, even though she's such a big girl now. (Strawberry is a very serious kind of llama--no goofing around for her.)

(the babysitter)

I walked out to get the newspaper yesterday morning and found that the main road was completely clear. As is often the case, I'm snowed in, but the world is going along normally without me! (and that's okay by me)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Morning Chores

This time of year, the morning barn chores start to take a little longer. It's not as involved as when lambing is underway, but still takes some time. I try my best to avoid making any kind of appointment during morning hours because it's just too stressful (for me) to get everyone taken care of, get myself ready and then drive the minimum 45 minutes or so to get where I'm going on time.

Feeding time is serious business around here. You can be assured that I have everyone's attention when they see me heading for the barn. And you can also be sure that they all want their breakfast right now! Then, when everyone has their food, it is blessedly quiet, except for the sounds of munching.

If I had to choose my most important "tools" for the work I do around the barn, my little cart might be number one. It's a garden cart that neatly holds one bale of hay and because of the big wheels, it is easy to push around even with several hundred pounds loaded in it. I can load the hay bale, then push it from field to field to feed everyone (so much easier than carrying it). My "wardrobe" might be next. I love my Cabela boots (with the side zipper). They're comfortable, sturdy and waterproof. I've had several pairs and they last for years and years. They are by no means a fashion statement, but fashion has no place in my daily chores. Sara and I were commiserating on the unpleasant weather we've had so far this winter and both realized that we've worn our insulated bib overalls a lot this year, after not wearing them more than once or twice last winter. I know none of this seems "normal" to most people, but I've long since given up trying to pretend I live a normal life.

(no fashion statement here!)
All these different critters look to me for their food and care. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, but usually it feels as though they pay me back double in entertainment-not to mention their wonderful fiber. It's hard work, but rewarding, and a way of life I can recommend.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


And not just a small finished object either. I finally have something to show that is not a fingerless mitt or a hat! Back last fall sometime, I found this yarn and fell in love. It is Malabrigo (soft, soft, soft) and the color is Stonechat. I bought all ten skeins on the shelf, even though I had no idea what I was going to knit with it. (Well, you know how awful it would be to find the perfect project and be one skein short?) So, anyway, the light bulb came on one day when I remembered a sweater I had seen in this book. It's not exactly where you would expect to look for a sweater pattern, but there it was, nonetheless. I have been referring to this as my "bathrobe" sweater because it is just the kind of thing I like to put on first thing in the morning, even if I'm still in my nightgown.
My model is certainly more svelte than I am (and she has no shoulders!), but what do you do when you're the only one home and are ready for a photo shoot? (And by the way, I have enough yarn left over for several pairs of fingerless mitts and hats...maybe even a cowl!)
And while my model was patiently waiting for me to get everything adjusted, behind me was the usual farm "drama". Mr. Dandy was inspecting something (or maybe nothing) when along came a friend and he felt he needed to strut his stuff. As always, they were not impressed. I'm impressed with the color in those tail feathers. Aren't they gorgeous? He's growing them back out after moulting in the fall.
And what is that mess behind Mr. Dandy, you say? That is the project that is responsible for the endless days of rain we had this past week. Finally, work has begun on my studio!! I'm so excited about it. I keep telling myself, after waiting nearly 30 years for my own workspace, a few more days don't really matter. But, I sure wish it would quit raining and the sun would come out.

I hope the sun is shining for you this weekend, wherever you are!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hello World!

Though it is a damp, gray day outside, today was Huckleberry's first time out in the big world. I've kept he and Strawberry inside the barn in the big pen during the day, gradually allowing Huck to get used to all the different animals and sounds around here. I was a little worried about putting him in with the ewe lambs because they are at that silly teenage stage. Those girls out-weigh him by a bunch and I didn't want him to get knocked over by their rowdiness. I needn't have worried. Yesterday morning when I went to the barn, the two CVM girls and Gabby (no surprise there) had managed to get into the llama pen and all were getting along famously.

I don't think I have ever had a more confident and sociable cria. Maybe it's because I was there at his birth and able to imprint him immediately or maybe it's just his sparkling personality! Of course, especially with a male llama, he will need to be managed in a way that doesn't allow him to become too pushy or aggressive toward people. Right now we are just enjoying watching him greet the world and make friends with all the other animals.

Of course, it helps to be able to grab a snack once in a while to keep the energy going!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Some smalls

I've been knitting a fair amount, off and on, since Christmas. Mostly, it's been small things that are easy to pick-up and put down and can be finished quickly. I've not been taxing my brain with anything complicated. I will say, I have been enjoying myself (and my right hand carpel tunnel pain has decreased considerably). It feels good to be taking things off the needles and adding to the stack of completed projects. Oh, I still have lots and lots of unfinished knitting languishing in baskets and bags, but for the moment I'm not stressing about them.

I keep a basket full of hats and mittens and a tub full of barn boots in all sizes for the grandchildren because whenever they are here they always want to go to the barn and/or the creek. Occasionally, one of the kids will take a liking to a particular hat and it will end up going home with them. I love it when that happens. It pleases me so much when they actually like something I've knitted enough to want to wear it. I hope having handknit hats, mittens, scarves and sweaters from their Nana will be a memory they keep long after I'm gone from this earth.

So, these are some of the newest additions to the basket. The chunky blue hat is a basic hat pattern knit from some of my own hand dyed, handspun thick and thin yarn. The other three are all the "Quarters Hat" that Kristin Nicholas designed. (You can buy the pattern at the linked page.) I cannot get enough of knitting this hat. I've knit a total of five Quarters hats so far and have more on the needles. This pattern is a great way to use up stash and I'm endlessly amused with picking out colors and types of yarn to combine. The pattern is designed with short rows and once you knit the first one, you can figure out how to adjust the number of cast-on stitches to adapt to most any weight of yarn. I used left over chunky handspun on one, the grey and white is some Patons 100% wool that I found at Michaels! (I know-I was really surprised at how nice it feels) and the multi-colored one is a combination of Kristin Nicholas' Julia yarn (really nice and it's soft enough to pass the kid non-itchy test!) and some Crystal Palace Taos from the stash. You should definitely add this to your to-do list. Just don't say I didn't warn you. They're like those old potato chip ads "betcha can't knit just one".

I'm off this afternoon (after a long, long list of errands to be completed) to my spinning group's annual retreat. We all look forward to this little get-away as a time of much spinning, much knitting, much laughing and way too much eating! So, I hope you have as great a weekend as I'm planning on.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's blue

Strawberry had her cria this afternoon, just after 1 pm, and it's wearing a blue coat. From that clue, you can surmise it's a boy. While I was really hoping that we might get lucky enough to have two girls in a row, I was not at all surprised by the boy. Out of the 6 crias we have had born here, Pippi is the only female. Do you suppose there's something in the water? Anyway, he's cute as can be (his markings and color are pretty much like his mom) and we think we may as well let him stay! I was here and able to take the blow dryer to him immediately and get his little quilted coat on, so he didn't get chilled or unduly stressed. He got up and nursed right away, so we're off to a good start. I don't have a name for him yet. If it had been a girl she would have been named after Strawberry's mother, Hollyberry. So, now what? It's hard to think of a boy name that includes "berry" in it. The last boy Strawberry had, we named Jazzberry.

Sorry about the dark, blurry pictures-barn light is not great for portraits!

Honestly, there's nothing like a new baby (of just about any species) to liven things up. I suppose that's why I keep breeding my ewes. I love having those babies around. Usually, by the time lambing is finished, I'm so tired I'm planning on skipping a year or two, but when fall comes around I have forgotten what hard work it is and am already thinking about having new lambs to play with in the spring.

These are the little girls, looking in and wondering what all the fuss was about. That's Buddy in the middle there. I guess you could say he's kind of one of the girls, too (but, don't let him hear you!)

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Ain't no sunshine..."

That Bill Withers song has been stuck in my head since I went out to do the morning barn chores. There's certainly not been much in the way of sunshine around here lately. The above picture was taken around 10 am and that's all the sun we've had for the day. There's plenty of brightness from the snow(s) we've had since last Thursday morning. (I keep waking up in the middle of the night and thinking it's time to get up!) All the animals here don't seem to mind the cold. They all come equipped with warm, woolen coats. Even Jenny and Fannie are fuzzed up for the season.

We're playing that waiting game again. I finally found a calendar where I had written down what I think was the last time I saw Strawberry being bred, and if it's correct, her due date is this coming Thursday. I checked her this morning and she does have milk already, so I know we're getting close. My dilemma is that I'm afraid to be gone from the farm during the day because it is so darn cold right now. Llamas nearly always have their crias in the afternoon, which makes it easier to check on her periodically, but it definitely limits my time off the farm. (Of course, at the moment, our farm lane is icy enough that I don't want to even try driving on it.) I need to be able to put Strawberry and the cria inside in a clean, dry, freshly bedded pen, dry the cria off and get a coat on it ASAP. The good part about being farm-bound is that I'm taking advantage of it and knitting a lot. Show and tell coming soon!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Options-inside or outside

Today the preferred option would be to not go outside. Even the sheep are hanging around inside the barn today. There's a cold wind blowing and snow swirling about, and as that saying (sorta) goes, it's not a fit day out for man nor beast. The local weatherman is predicting lows in the single digits tonight. But, it is beautiful, looking out the windows toward that big oak tree in front of our farmhouse. Unfortunately, there's no automated livestock feeding facility here at Tanglewood Farm, someone will have to go out into the cold to feed all the animals. I feel a little guilty admitting that, for a change, it won't be me. I have been feeling a little under the weather (no pun intended--I promise) and Mike has taken over my barn chores for the day.

This is the best option of all. I've been spending my afternoon knitting in front of the fireplace and I'd be perfectly happy to stay right here until bedtime. There are a few small projects coming off the needles and I hope to be up and at it tomorrow and will take pictures when there is better light.

Monday, January 4, 2010

No way to begin

The new year has not begun well here at sheep dreams. This morning one of the Romeldale ram lambs (the one on the left--the moorit) I purchased back in the summer died. We don't know the cause yet, but will be waiting anxiously for the necropsy report to come back. He seemed fine on Saturday evening when I moved the boys into their night-time lot, but Sunday morning was standing listlessly by the fence. We brought him inside the barn, and since he had no obvious symptoms, treated him with several all purpose medicines and hoped for the best. Since I first brought him home, my husband (the veterinarian) has consistently observed that he thought there was something just not right about this ram. We did have some real problems with him in the beginning. He had several episodes of scouring and seemed not as energetic as the other ram lambs. Lately though, he had been full of energy---even to the point of chasing the alpaca boys and romping with the other rams. So, hopefully we'll get some answers when the final report comes from the diagnostic laboratory.

And this...........this is what it looks like when a mouse decides to die inside the wall of our house. Part of our house is quite old, nearly 100 years old actually. The parts of the house that we added when we moved here have secure foundations and no easy way for mice to get into the walls, but the old part is apparently not quite so mouse proof. It took my husband that many attempts to find the little stinker (and I mean that quite literally!). Yuck, yuck and more yuck. So now, to start the new year off, the entrance hall will get a fresh coat of paint.

I hesitated to write this post because it is nothing but bad news, but in the interest of presenting an honest portrait of our life on the farm, I decided to tell it like it is. Lots of good things happen here every day, week in and week out. Sometimes sad things happen. To live our lives here, connected with nature and interacting with our animals, we need to have the good outweigh the bad...............and mostly it does.