Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Le Tour de Fleece

Summer is flying by. It's already time for the Tour de Fleece. Are you ready?

I've decided that my challenge this year is to actually spin every day the Tour de France rides, only taking the two designated rest days off (July 12th and July 21st) and spinning something difficult on July 22nd for the toughest mountain stage. This is following the main Tour de Fleece group on Ravelry.

I'm not super Raverly savvy, but I decided to start a Wild Card group for anyone who'd like to join in. We are Team My Favorite Sheep.

This TDF group is open to anyone who has a favorite sheep, wishes they had a favorite sheep or didn’t even know you could have a favorite sheep. While we’d prefer your Tour de Fleece challenge is spinning wool, we’ll still let you join in if your challenge involves spinning other fibers…but might make you sing a silly sheep song to prove you are worthy of ‘sociating with Miss Ewenice and her Punkin’s Patch friends at Equinox Farm ;-).

Your challenge should be a true personal challenge of any level and anyone completing their challenge will be entered in a drawing for a special needle felted Miss Ewenice sheep at the end of the tour.

Enjoy the ride!

If you'd like to sign up through Ravelry, you'll need to join...if you haven't already. It's fun and an amazing online community. Search the groups for "Tour de Fleece", then look for "Wild Card Teams" in the "fresh discussion threads". After you click on Wild Card Teams there, look for the blue box that says "wildcardteams" on the next page and click that.

Near the bottom of the list you'll find "Team My Favorite Sheep". Click there. You can actually join as many groups as you'd like and there are some funny sounding ones on there. When you get to the "discussion board" of Team My Favorite Sheep, click "reply" to the first discussion thread and let us know what you will be working on.

If you'd like to join in, but don't want to get sucked into started with Ravelry, you can just drop me an email or leave a comment here stating what your challenge is going to be, keep us all posted as you go if you'd like (I'll try to figure out how to maintain a linked list) and I'll enter you in the Miss Ewenice drawing at the end.

By spinning every day (why on earth am I not already doing that?!?) I should be able to easily complete the Jester colors - white, medium gray and dark gray - and have time to reward myself with my neighbor's Clun Forest roving.

Feel free to copy this "button" for your blog. I know there are ways to actually create a button that automatically links, but I'm not quite that tech-y, so you'll have to just do your best and if someone wants to "fix" it, that would be great.

Let me know if I'm not making any sense or if you have any questions. Please feel free to join in and have some crazy sheep fun! This will be my third Tour de Fleece and I've thoroughly enjoyed every year and feel like it's really improved my spinning.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Expensive New Filter

Also known as walking out into the heat and humidity with your camera that's been inside in the air conditioning.

Some geranium cuttings in the greenhouse. Love the color!

They are getting ready to replace some porch pansies. I hate to toss them when they are done blooming and it takes me weeks to get the nerve up.

Flowers have feelings too.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Stills - History

This should be fun - can be anything over 60 years old, people, places or things, or even events replicating over 60 years old…

I don't have actual dates on these, but as they belonged to my great grandfather, who I don't remember ever meeting, I think they count for history. According to my father...
As I remember it my grandfather, Edward, got the piano when I was about eight years old. He only played by ear. He sang with the Shrine "Chanters" that did concerts for various groups, I guess. I assume that he got the guitar at about the same period. The piano, then, would be about 63 years old.

Now my beloved piano.

I feel like this vintage Kay Acoustic Archtop guitar belongs more to the piano than me. In my own little fantasy world, they are old friends and were glad to be reunited here. Some day I'll learn to play it and claim it as a friend of mine as well.

I like the lines upon lines upon lines...all to make a joyful noise.

For more historical Sunday Stills...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Kids On The Block

We drove down to Franklin, Kentucky, yesterday to look at some Jacob sheep. Blue Ewe Jacobs is, as far as I know, the only other flock of Jacobs in Kentucky. And now they are moving to Wisconsin :-/. We were glad to finally meet them though and look at their lovely sheep and were excited to bring home two lilac weanlings.

I love the look on Hank's face. "Hi! My name's Hank. What's yours? Are you coming to live here? Do you like dogs? Um, you don't eat dog food, do you? There's a creek out front. Do you like to go exploring? Sometimes we go out back and there are some bees out there. Do you like bees? This is B. Willard and Sherman. They're about your age. Are you all going to play together?..."

While I realize that a quarantine pen that allows everyone to touch noses is not really a quarantine pen, in this heat, this is the best we can do. And if I thought there was anything to really be concerned about bringing a new sheep on the farm, they wouldn't be coming on the farm on the first place...

Blizzard and Mia. Brother and sister, taking good care of each other.

See the brown spots? While all of our Jacobs fleeces look brown and white as they grow out, that's just their black spots sunbleaching to brown. A lilac starts out brown - see around Mia's eye? Their legs spots are brown too. Lilacs are not very common and we are excited to finally have a couple.

Technically, handsome Blizzard should have a full eye patch on his right eye, similar to his left, but as we aren't planning on breeding him, that's of no concern. I like the spot on his cheek. It matches his sister's.

Isn't she pretty and petite? Both have beautiful, super soft fleeces.

Welcome to Equinox Farm!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Center Of The Universe

You may have missed this in your grade school science classes. The center of the universe is not the sun, or the flat earth...

The center of the universe would actually be Graham Lamb. And by being the center of the universe you are entitled to many perks in life...such as always getting to sit right. in. front. of. the. fan. Every day. Reliable as the sun. Yeah, um, I don't know why you are always getting beat up, Grammie.

Even I don't get to sit there. And he eats my dog food too.

Poor old Esther. She's hanging in there in every way except her feet. We can't find a thing wrong with them and maybe it's actually arthritis in her ankles, but she's having a hard time getting around. I'm wondering if she could have some aspirin. Any thoughts?

Ewen McTeagle. My big baby. My dearest child. No question who his momma is. We are both miserable in this weather. I think standing in the hay manger is a good strategy. Close as possible to the fan. No one else can crowd you...

I know I'd be using that horn for something other than a back scratcher, Emily. Seems like Caspar Belly is old enough to go sleep somewhere else. Like the hay manger.

Too Busy Bees

I'm quite sure there is nothing more fun than layering on long britches, long sleeves, jackets, elbow length gloves and a big hat when it's 94 degrees with 85% humidity. The reward at the end though makes up for it. Mostly.

Stella and I extracted honey yesterday. Her tiny late summer swarm that I was sadly pretty sure wouldn't even make it through the winter has produced almost three gallons of honey already. From one shallow super. I had a medium (larger) super left from the fall and it didn't quite fill two gallons. Her bees filled every square inch of their honey frames. Mine were apparently watching too much tv.

To better illustrate this, imagine we each had two boxes of half-pint jars. My bees almost exactly filled the two boxes (24 jars). Stella's hard working bees filled her 24 jars, plus all the big jars in the above picture.

If you look carefully at the two small jars, can you see one is slightly darker? That's the fall honey - mostly summer wildflowers. Stella's early spring honey is lighter - probably a lot of honey locust. They are just now starting to work all the white clover. It will be interesting to see what that honey looks (and tastes) like. Yep, they all taste different.

So we are hoping everyone stays busy this summer and fills several more boxes for us. The (free loading) Frog Pond Honey Factory has joined forces with Stella's hives on the hill to become Too Busy Bees. Janbaby came up with the idea for our logo...but I haven't had time to sketch it out yet.

That's the thing about being too busy ;-).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sunday Stills - Go Low, Looking High

This first picture ties in with all the rest, but you'll probably have to look twice to see the connection. I probably wouldn't have even included it...except for that one small thing.

Looking up at Stella's re-swarmed bees. I had to use my flash to compensate for the bright background.

Stella's been watching those bees like a hawk, hoping for the best (that they'd stay put), but planning for the worst (that they'd re-swarm). Here she's readying the nuc box we hoped to get them in. They are in the cherry tree behind me. Our super farm sitter and good friend Barbara had come out to help me give Hank the Skank a bath. Little did she know what all she'd get into this afternoon. The pictures are great! Thanks :-).

The plan was to knock the branch swiftly on top of our trusty cardboard box and then pour the cluster of bees into the waiting nuc box. When the bees fell into the box, I almost dropped it they were so heavy.

So far, so good.

In they go.

Here I'm looking closely at the ground to make sure the queen didn't fall outside the box. As long as she landed in the box, everyone else will follow her.

Looks like she was in there. What a nice, orderly bunch of bees. We ended up chickening out (that five frame box was overflowing with bees and we wanted to be able to feed them) so went ahead and set them up in a full 10 frame box. Stella's got the sugar bar open for business and hopefully they'll stick around.

This might end up being one of my all time favorite pictures. Stella watching to make sure every last one of her bees was accounted for.

And something about it just begged to be converted to black and white.

So did you figure out what made the top picture fit with the rest?

For more Sunday Stills...

Each One Teach One...Or Nine

I spent the past week teaching a Sheep to Shawl class at the Living Arts and Science Center in downtown Lexington. I had a fun group of third to fifth graders and we started the week by unrolling a raw fleece, skirting off the icky stuff, dividing it up so everyone had a big chunk and then washing it.

Saint Tim made strainer buckets for everyone. Our bee friend Saint John saves beer cheese (so he's also our cheese friend ;-) buckets for me. If you drill holes in one and slip it inside another, they are handy for all sorts of projects where you need to strain water, soap, dye... They hold about a gallon and were perfect for a school setting. Thanks John!

Tuesday we took our washed wool and learned to card it and spin yarn using wooden drop spindles everyone made and painted to suit. Wednesday we made felt ropes (like thick puffy yarn) and then used Kool Aid to dye them and the yarn. Thursday we made simple cardboard looms and started weaving a mini shawl or rug. Friday, well, Friday was extra fun.

Sherman and B. Willard got to come to school.

B. Willard always just rolls with the punches. Anywhere, anything, anytime. Sherman, on the other hand, was a bit "b-willard"... until the ba-ba rolled out. Food solves all worries.

I had a talented group of kids. It was fun to watch each create their project(s). Good uses of color, texture, technique. I didn't assign any homework, but several wanted to take their spindles and looms home at night to work and came back each day with extra yarn and even finished "rugs". Fun!

On the last day one of the kids drew a (chaotic surprisingly realistic) picture of our farm for me. On the first day I had run a slide show of farm pictures while we were washing and this child remembered every animal...and even added some more. Cats and mice in the barn, check. Sheep and horses, check. Frogs, fish and turtles in the pond, check. Bees, check. Chickens, check. That sun looks right on, yelling at me, eh? ;-). And while we probably don't need any elephants, I can see how a good robot might really help out.

It was a fun week and a really neat experience and I'll probably do another session. If anyone is interested in teaching a workshop in their community, I would be happy to write up my "lesson plan".

Each one, teach one!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pollen Party

I liked the light filtering through the petals of this lily in our flower garden. I grabbed my camera and (of course) noticed something even cooler. A pollen party!

As always, click to biggify.

Doesn't that look fun?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hot Lazy Days Of...Spring?!?

Those poor boys. Their baby books are light in the photo department. Not because they aren't super cute and we haven't enjoyed hanging out together, making clover necklaces... The weather has been awful, the humid light ugly (this may be an inaccurate observation tainted by my extreme dislike hatred of heat and humidity), the boys are so friendly that any time I try to sit down and take pictures they come over and want their ears scratched, their backs scratched, a little lower to the left, now over to the right...

I also have had trouble getting pictures of B. Willard because he's black. I can't get good shots of Claire Bear either, for the same reason. I'm hoping to learn how to adjust for that at the photography workshop next month at Tanglewood Farm. She need two more people to fill the class and make it worth Gale Zucker's time to travel here from Connecticut. If you are interested in a fun weekend at a beautiful farm learning all sorts of photo and editing tips, please drop Dianne an email. You don't have to be a knitter. You could like flowers or horses or birds...

Nose to nose. Good (and cute) brothers.

Um, what are you all getting your noses into?

Seriously Buddy. You're all fighting over a thistle? You're actually going to eat a thistle?

I think Hank has the right idea. Watch from a distance.

From the looks of those sheep, I wouldn't get between them and any sort of food source.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dog Is My Co-Pilot

Saint Tim and I headed out for a quick paddle yesterday evening. RooRoo wants to go everywhere with us, so we decided to see what she thought about the river.

She took to it like a fish to...oh nevermind ;-).

Actually, I don't think she was too interested in wading in, but was happy to ride on the boat.

This loyal, adventuresome dog is still looking for a good home. Anyone need a co-pilot?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Weft Faced?

I first noticed the gate spider several weeks ago. Several. Wish I'd made a note. She'd woven a web in the top section of a gate that gets a lot of use and abuse and I felt bad every time I noticed she'd had to rebuild.

One day I noticed a couple somethings (stored meals? egg sacks?) woven in a chain and a few days later a couple more.

Would this be warp or weft faced?

The chain has grown to about 20. In a web that she has to rebuild at least two or three times a week. For several weeks.

That's a dedicated weaver.

Interestingly (as frequently happens when I take pictures), if you look to the right of the chain, there is another web within the web. I can't figure out if this is hers or if she's subletting.

Maybe it's her summer kitchen ;-).


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