Monday, February 28, 2011

For Man Nor Beast

After last summer's drought, I guess I'm still a little sore. We've had so much rain lately that we've taken to digging small ditches around the barn lot to try to direct it elsewhere.

The shearers are in town this week. At least Dianne's womanned up and accepted the blame for this latest deluge ;-).

The sprouts in the green house are happy though. If we'd had a "normal" Kentucky winter, we'd have had tons of lettuce throughout.

Next year...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

And Stood There Amazed

Every morning a Great Blue Heron flies onto our farm. He (or she) clocks in back at the big pond, works all day, clocks out in the evening and heads home. They look kind of pterodactyl-y and sound, well, kind of pterodactyl-y and he frequently calls out as he leaves. This is a highlight of my day and why there is an odd looking bird flying across our web banner.

We've looked and looked and studied maps, asked around... We've yet to find where our heron lives, but they are everywhere. Almost every pond in Harrison County can claim its own pterodactyl. They are hiding around here somewhere and surely (but maybe not) on the nearby Licking River.

Saint Tim, rapidly becoming the "old man of the river", has formulated a new theory and is planning a spring paddle to explore an area we've yet to look. In the meantime, look what I found on the way to pick up Marcel the other day. This is near the border of Scott and Woodford Counties.

Carefully hidden from the main road.

A rookery.

I crossed the creek at the Weisenberger Mill, drove up the hill and there it was. Just what we've been looking for. Maybe finding rookeries is like finding four leaf clovers. Now that I've found my first...

I love old Sycamore trees, beautiful throughout the winter without their leaves. Click to biggify. There are Canada Geese down below enjoying the recent flooding. A bird paradise. And a nice way to spend a Saturday morning.

The south fork of the Elkhorn Creek. The Heron rookery is around the bend (look to the upper left).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Farm Friends Friday - A Sample For My Very First Farm Friend

Now that all the Punkin yarn has been spun and I've stewed and stewed on what to make with it, I've settled on a weaving project. A small throw. I toyed with adding in some gray Jacob stripes to pad my yardage a bit - sort of tying in the old with the new - but realized Punkin didn't really like any of the new sheep when they moved in (because he obviously wasn't a sheep... ;-) and therefore probably wouldn't like to share me with them even in a blanket.

Just as in knitting, you should sample in weaving as well. Especially when it's an irreplaceable yarn. I didn't have any Punkin yarn to spare, so I dug through my stash and found something very similar - some beautiful Shetland I'd spun from a roving sample from Michelle at Boulderneigh. My main concern was how I'd like a white on white pattern. This would be perfect.

My favorite pattern book is the classic A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Davison, commonly refered to as "the Davison book". I picked this pattern - one I'm always drawn to when I'm turning pages.

Because I think it's fun, I did a short draw down - marking the pattern as it would weave off using graph paper. This later came in handy as I started weaving because as the pattern changed, I ended up with a unusual float (one warp yarn traveling over several weft yarns) that I thought could not be right, but sure enough when I checked the draw down, it was correct.

The best part of weaving is watching the pattern start to develop.

Here is the finished sample, just off the loom. I wove this on my Baby Mac, but the Punkin throw will be woven on the big Macomber loom, which sadly has not been used one time since moving to the wool house. What?!?

If you look back at the just off the loom shot, you can probably tell that the fabric is sort of stiff, not something you'd want to drape around your shoulders. That's because even more than a knitted piece isn't truly finished until it's been properly blocked, woven fabric isn't finished until it's been fulled.

In this case, I took my tiny sample and soaked it in a pitcher of hot, soapy water. After it soaked for awhile I added a lid and shook the container to agitate, sort of like a washing machine. I stopped every 30 seconds to check my progress - you can always add 30 more seconds, but you can't take them away if you go too far. I ended up shaking a total of 2 minutes.

I was worried if it shrank down and fuzzed up too much that the pattern would lose it's soft definition, so I stopped maybe just a little short. Maybe not. I've got the sample sitting on the kitchen counter and I play with study it almost every time I walk past.

I love the subtle pattern. Sometimes you can barely see it, from other angles, dead obvious.

I also used two different fringe options. I think I like the messy loose fringe best. What would you choose?

For more Farm Friends Friday stories...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Woman Who Runs (After) Coyotes

No pictures, but I'll try to paint it for you. It took years to convince me to get a LGD or a LPD (livestock protection dog as we are supposed to call them now). You couldn't convince me NOT to have one now.

While I was feeding tonight, around 7:00, a group of coyotes came up and took to yipping and howling right behind our driving arena. You know the arena - looks like a small paddock (probably a better name for it now) right past the tiny catch lot behind the barn. Close. Hank had just started eating, but immediately raced back there yelling at the top of his lungs.

For a split second I was dumbfounded - we've never heard them that close - but then I ran out yelling too. As I sprinted through the arena (I can still get it if I have to :-D) in the pitch black, I gave a brief thought to the intelligence of running towards a pack of coyotes. A very brief thought. I know something would have to kill Hank before he'd let anything happen to me. It's humbling.

Of course, long before I got there they heard Hank coming and took off. I opened the back gate anyway and told him to go get 'em. Not that he needs any reminders, but any time I think I have an opportunity to reinforce good behavior, I do. When he was young, yeah maybe. Now? He's got it. With confidence.

If that wasn't a big enough rush, I turned around to see all the sheep had followed me into the dark arena, towards yelling Hank and yipping coyotes. This is unusual. Normal procedure is to run for the barn. Which I think is where they are safest so I clapped my hands and yelled for them to go back. Talk about humbling. My sheep knew there was big danger and where did they want to be? With me.

It was not always this way. For a long time I think we were mostly a source of bewilderment for them. Sheep are not dumb and they knew we were, as new shepherds, suspect. I remember losing a wether to bladder stones our first year and the looks on their faces as I stood there next to him. They knew I'd let them down. That I'd treated him for bloat and didn't have a clue. Those are awful lessons to learn and they reinforced it well. I couldn't return their stares.

Tonight they ran away from their safe barn, out into the scary black night, towards danger, following their shepherd. It feels so cool to finally feel that I can say that. And even though I (and probably they too) know I'll continue to make mistakes, I feel honored they feel that way about me.

As I leave the barn each night I say "Everyone take care of each other." And when I think about Hank and Ewenice and Renny and Buddy and Ewen and Miss Emily and all her babies and grandbabies and even the darn near useless barn cats and stupid chickens, I think we're all doing a pretty good job.

I'll end by telling you that as soon as Hank rushed out to save everyone's life, Graham ran over and ate all his dog food. Truthfully, he probably didn't even make the big arena run because he was eating Hank's food. You gotta love him ;-).

Everyone take care of each other.

Sunday Stills - Old Churches And Graveyards

Well, I could have done a better job with some of these pictures, but when you wait until Saturday afternoon to start your Sunday Stills assignment, you sometimes add in an extra challenge, in this case, bad timing with the sun. I think the interesting subjects on a friend's farm can provide some cover for me though.

Normally you'd hear sheep off in the distance, but today just these horses. Like most places in central Kentucky, horses played a big role in the history of this farm in North Middletown, once the home of one of the foundation American Saddlebred stallions, Bourbon King.

When our friends moved out here several years ago all that remained of the horse cemetery was a big pile of tombstones pushed up into a pile against a tree. In an effort to preserve the little remaining history, they had the stones built into a dry stack stone fence.

I noticed there were some neat fossils in the fence stones, so I tried to find a good one for Ed's dad. And technically I suppose these are some of the earth's very oldest cemeteries.

I also found some hidden treasures, mostly acorns and walnuts and hidey holes, but also this bright white piece of quartz. Wonder who put it there...

Look at this tiny nest.

There is also a very old (pre-Civil War) people cemetery, guarded by these fabulous old trees. I believe they are burr oaks and a shagbark hickory although I couldn't find any verification pics of a shagbark hickory this big (!).

Vandals had littered the stone wall and gravestones with nut shells, but it felt like a happy place. A close knit family of trees and squirrels and rocks and birds.

And while I frequently talk to trees, I seldom find any big enough to hug. Standing next to these giants is as good a' old church as any I believe. I used one of those high tech stone wall/burr oak nut cap tripods and the self-timer to capture this.

For more Sunday Stills...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Logan River Wrap Knitalong - Part Two

I love to sit with our sheep so I walked out, picked a sunny spot and leaned against the fence. Hank came over, flopped down on my legs and rolled around a bit doing the silly dog. After a few tummy rubs he went back to work and sat just off to my right where he could keep an eye on everything.

Including Mia, who'd come over to make sure I'd worked my cables correctly.

As soon as Keebler got close to the knitting bag though, he jumped up, ran over and chased him away.

"Don't. Touch. That!"

"You too B. Willard."

"Get back!"

"Sherman! You go over there and stay over there!"

And then he lay down between the sheep and my knitting.

I am not making this up.

Most folks have LGDs. I apparently have a KGD (knitting guardian dog).

And around here, I believe that's not a bad thing to have.

Logan River Wrap Knitalong - Part One

This started as a simple post to chronicle the Logan River Wrap Knitalong - aka Janbaby picked out a fun pattern and I invited myself to knit along ;-). I decided to use some of our millspun yarn and cast on during Open Shop Thursday. It was warm enough that Stella and I sat out on the porch.

Janbaby is working the complete shawl (and probably has it halfway done by now). I shortened the pattern to make a scarf (so I'd have some hope of finishing it before next winter). My friend Mistene suggested swapping the direction of one of the cables running up the side border - good idea - and I'm loving the deliberate drop stitches part.

I'd received this darling knitting bag for Christmas and it was perfect for this project. I was so impressed with it's usefulness (and cuteness) I decided to take a few pictures.

Room for a couple big balls of yarn. Matching inside pockets. Beautifully constructed.

With a loop on the bottom if you want to anchor your bag with a chair leg on the floor.

But the button handles on the top are my favorite feature. If you remember another project bag in the not so distant past, you'll know why a bag that attaches to a fixed object like a chair might be an important.

I knitted along a little yesterday afternoon too and as the sun started to set it got chilly on the porch so I grabbed my bag and headed out to the sheep field, parked myself in a sunny spot and got ready to take some progress pictures. As usual, I didn't have a clue where this story would go.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Farm Friends Friday - Twilight

Evening is my favorite time of day. Everything quiets down, the wind lays, the sheep all come into the barn lot, mill about nibbling on hay and finding just the right spot to lie down, the chickens check back in from work release...

Last night as I walked up to the barn.

Looked a bit like a horse board game all evenly spaced out like that.

These were all taken at the same time. It didn't get progressively darker. Well, it did, but not in the span of five minutes. You know what I mean.

I was playing with the shutter speed to see how best to balance the horses in the field without washing out the brightness of the moon. The top pictures are what it really looked like.

I got some better moon shots, but I love the leaf in view on this one.

Feels like fall.

Which is my favorite time of the year.

Do you crazy summer loving folks like the middle of the day best?

For more Farm Friends Friday...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Four And Twenty Blackbirds

I heard these birds in the house through closed doors and windows.

A cacophony!

That's one of my favorite words. Cacophony.

And just like that... one big woosh...

...they were gone.

And it was quiet.


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