Friday, July 31, 2015

Two Full Moons In The Same Month

Last night the full moon rose early, high in the still light sky.  I sat out for a good while watching it and enjoying the cool (for a change) evening air, smuggly plotting how I'd get a perfect shot the next day.  Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the ISS (International Space Station) went whizzing across the night sky.

This evening it was completely dark (?!?) when the moon finally crested Stella's hill - not ideal for a good moon shot.  Tim was trying to finish mowing the upper paddock, so I tried for a picture of that. I like this one of him coming up the hill to the barn best - lots of bugs for our bats :-).  One of the fall full moons is called the Harvest Moon.  Maybe this is the Mowing Moon ;-).

It's actually a blue moon.  And while it looks tiny in this picture, in real life it was HUGE and I couldn't figure out a way to capture that at all.  I love watching the moon all month long, but I especially love a full moon.  Two full moons in one month is a special treat.  I hope everyone enjoyed it.

You might think my favorite blue moon song is Blue Moon of Kentucky, but it's actually Once In A Very Blue Moon, sung by Nanci Griffith.  The best version is from one of my favorite albums, One Fair Summer Evening.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Assigned Seats

Casper Belly is always sleeping with her mom, Emily.  Hershey is always by the big fan.  Murphy is always near the big fan.  I predict next year he makes a move to unseat Hershey.  Try to help me remember that.  That's Allie peeking in the front.

Poor Buddy.  That wall can't be that comfortable, even with an ear pillow.

Here's the odd(est) one, Woolliam.  Woolliam never sleeps outside.  Never.  He sleeps in the inside stall in the back corner.  For years that's his spot and no one ever challenges him.  Or if they have, they've never won.  Even though I know he wouldn't be out here if he wasn't so hot, I think he's adorable sleeping on his straw pillow.  No one sleeps like Woolliam.  No one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Yarn Along - What's Next With All That Colorful Wool?

There are a ton of pictures with this post, but there could have been more :-o.  I love my basket of Renny wool!  I almost hate to disturb it to start spinning.  But I also can't wait to start spinning either. It's complicated ;-).  Let's back up a few days and get caught up.

A week and a half ago Miss B and I dyed Renny's light 2015 locks and the dark gray 2011 roving for the sweater body dark green.  Well, we thought we'd dyed it dark enough green. When it dried, I carded a sample, spun it, loved how it spun...but thought it still looked a little too Christmas-y, so I over-dyed it even darker.

I took a bunch of pictures, but honestly, more than one picture is more than enough.  The locks on the right are were the light gray.  The darker green on the left was the dark gray roving.  The green on the right is still pretty bright, but when it's blended with the darker/blacker green, it should be perfect. 

This is the green Sheepmom and I dyed.  I used the drum carder because I wanted to be able to run half of the bundle and then the other half and then pull it into strips, mix them together to make two new batts, then strip those two, mix them together one more time and run two new batts that hopefully are pretty darn evenly blended.

Here are the strips.  You can see how they are still fairly variegated.

This is the light green, but shows how I pull the batts into strips, draft them out thinner and then re-run them through the carder.

The rose before carding.  I've fluffed all the locks so I know they are ready to run.

The blue was fun because of all the different grays showing through in the beginning.  Some spinners might embrace those differences and spin it like that, but let's not get crazy here.  Baby steps! ;-)

I'd planned for the blue to be a sky background, but it also matches my favorite blue flower, borage.

Look at yellow and rose zinneas :-).

And sweet Kate who thinks this wool stuff is all. very. boring.  I added this picture because of Kate, but also because it was taken while the sun was behind some clouds.  The colors show a little darker than real life, but the shades are pretty close.

These are pretty close too, but not quite real life either.  Somewhere between the two...  The darker green roving roll on top of the bottom right green shows the difference between the sweater body and the patterning green.  The brighter green is going to be perfect for the pattern work and body yarn will be a bit subdued, just the way I want it :-).  Now on to the knitted swatch.

The lighter green in the middle was the original sweater body green - a bit too light (again, not quite real life colors, but you can get an idea).  The yarn spun beautifully, like butter - very exciting!  The dark green on the left is the new darker dark green.  Again, very easy to spin.  

As usual, here's where the plot thickens.  On both samples, while the yarn looked good, it didn't feel quite as good, especially knitted.  It wasn't over-spun (too tightly spun), but spun semi-worsted (my "go-to" spinning style), it didn't have much stretch or bounce to it.  I (and my hands) really prefer something a little stretchy and smooshy.

I'm not sure if you can tell by the picture, but the yarn on the right is different.  I spun it using a modified long draw (my second favorite spinning style).  Explaining the difference between the two styles will have to be a subject for another day, especially since I'm doing neither "by the book".  Just suffice to say I like look and feel of the fluffier, airier, fuzzier yarn on the right, so I'm glad I sampled it first. 

So when am I going to start spinning?  Soon.  I hope.  I've set some work goals for myself first that I'm trying to hold my feet to the fire for.  The weather is also holding me back. While it's so miserably hot that my sheep chores are increased (when they are usually not - summer should be an "easy" season) the continuing rain is keeping the grass and weeds growing (when everything is usually dying back).  

I spend the entire day with sweat pouring off my face,  running down my arms, hands, butt (which does NOT seems to be sweating off ?!?).  I can't go sit down inside without taking a shower, but if I'm just turning around to go back outside, why bother...  You can see how wool yarn might keep getting set aside.  Especially when I enjoy the basket as it is so well, too.

*     *      *       *       *

I did actually read a book this past week.  An actual paper book.  A hard cover even!  There was an obituary recently in one of my favorite sheep magazines, The Shepherd, that shared a poem:

 A Sheep Farmer's Prayer by Margaret Duncan Brown*. 

Heaven won't be so lonely,
If what I hope is true.

If a little lamb of God is there,
Or some old friendly ewe.

In those celestial pastures,
Beside still waters deep.

May the eternal future find me,
With a little bunch of sheep.

*Beginning in 1918, Margaret Duncan Brown ranched alone for 47 years in Colorado's Elk River Valley.  Her diaries were the basis of her 1982 book, Shepherdess of Elk River Valley.

A friend and I had to go look her up and what we found made us both immediately search for a copy of her book.  It was very, very good.  If you look for a copy, try to find one with the dust jacket.  The story on the flaps was one of the very best sheep stories I've read.  It's inside the book as well, so don't panic if you can't find a complete one.

Joining in with Ginny...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What To Do About The Beloved Barn Quilt, I Mean Bat House

In giving folks directions to our farm, I always say "Look for the big black tobacco barn with a barn quilt."  Now it's a barely black barn and the barn quilt is starting to disintegrate :-(.  It used to be just me and Saint Tim discussing the situation.  Now everyone asks about it.

While it may seem rude to think of friends, family, and yes, complete strangers ragging on a quilt hanging on someone else's barn, it's actually more of a curiosity than a complaint.  The bottom of the quilt is 40' in the air.  Yes, what ARE we going to do?

We hired a tree service with a huge bucket truck to hang it in September of 2007.  It was a big job. He'd have to come back out to take it down.  I'd have to re-paint a new quilt and that was a big job as well.  We'd have to coordinate all that with getting the barn re-painted, which is...another big job. And then we have to hire Mr. Clifford to come back out to hang the new quilt. And then the plot thickens.

The other morning, dark and early, the day we dyed Renny's wool, I was up at the barn dividing her fleece and setting out what amounts I wanted to dye.  Around 6:00 I noticed some swooping and fluttering out front and some weird chirping noises.  The bats!

We've hosted a (sadly) very small bat community since we've lived here.  At best count the most bats we've had is probably five.  For the last couple of years I've only regularly seen two I think. I've assumed they lived in the barn, but I've never seen them or any signs.

The curiosity has been killing me and here they were, flying in after a busy night!  I quick stepped it out into the driveway to watch.  They swooped and rose and swooped and circled in front of me. Definitely more than two but they were so quick I couldn't keep track. Then one would whoosh and disappear.  More swooping and then whoosh, another gone.  Where were they going?

Up under the barn quilt!  No wonder they weren't using the bat house we'd hung on the side of the barn.  They were already installed in the barn quilt bat house out front.  Now I definitely don't want to take the quilt down and I'm leery of even painting the front of the barn.  I need to get up with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife to see if they can figure out what kind of bats we have and if they will migrate for the winter.  Until then, we're just going to stay shabby.

Of course, now I'm obsessed with seeing the bats come in and out.  I haven't made any more pre-dawn trips to the barn, but I know I will.  First I wanted to see them fly out!  I set myself up the other night with a concrete block chair on the utility trailer aka spaceship.  Camera at the ready. And I waited.

While I waited, here's the back field before the hay was cut.  Complete with the all too familiar thunderheads building.

Graham and Daniel through the barn portal.  I took some pictures of Liddy and Blossom and Lila through the new shop windows portal, but they were pretty uninspiring.  

So I waited.  And the sun set.  Notice the difference in light between the first and last pictures? And I waited some more, watching very carefully.  And then all the bats were flying around and I didn't see a single one come out.  The end.  

Monday, July 27, 2015


Liddy hangs out used to hang out with her aunties almost all the time. She'd come out into the aisleway to eat lamb cereal twice a day and hang out with me while I did  morning and evening chores, but she'd been happy to go back to her endless salad bar and cushy fence plank bed.

Saturday morning I was putting together a metal stand that I could set the Del Boca Vista Annex fan up on to maybe get a little more air flowing into the rest of the barn aisle.  I asked Liddy if she'd like to come out and help.  She did.

Halfway through I had to make a quick run to the house help a friend with something on the computer.  While I was there I decided to grab some lunch.  As I walked back to the barn almost an hour later...I remembered that Liddy was loose in the barn!  I took off running, fearing the worst - pillaged bags of wool, chewed off flowers, lamb level electric cords :-o.

Not to worry I got lucky.  Most sheep would have ransacked the entire place.  Liddy?

"I love when the fan blows my ears back!"

She spent the rest of the afternoon there, cuddled up next to her favorite bag of hay.  I had to use a Cheerio bribe to get her back to Blossom and Lila.  Now every time I'm in the barn, she's yelling to come out - not to see me, but her beloved fan.

This might be my toughest weaning yet!

In case you missed these on Twitter:

Spud is feeling much better.  Whew!  We sheared the bellies of Hershey, Woolliam and Murphy over the weekend and that seems to be helping them.  We added another fan to the middle stall and the open aisleway and extra water tank has been a popular addition.  Other than keeping plenty of salt set out, there's not much else we can do.  I hate summer :-/.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hay There!

After almost two months now of hearing nothing but farm ATVs buzzing around, the tractors are all out in full force.  It's a great sound.  We have finally had a couple days of sunny, dry weather and everyone's helping everyone get their mostly first cutting of hay off the fields.  What a crazy summer!

Our back field is approximately five acres.  We've kept it mowed regularly since we moved here and other than a small rocky drainage area, it's become a beautiful, nearly weed free field.  Now that we only have two horses, it's mostly sitting idle until it cools off enough that Kate and I can put the sheep on a forced march out there.  We offered it to a neighbor up the road.

This is how things work around here, and why we love being part of our really nice neighborhood. Kurt cut the hay (he's the one with the cows who are going to eat the hay).  Stella's grandson Matthew is tedding for him in this picture and another neighbor, Phillip, came later in the afternoon yesterday to bale.  Maisie watched from the shady barn ;-).

"I wonder if that's all for me?"

It looks like they got at least 16 or so big rolls.  So pretty.  They won't be here long.  Someone, maybe Kent, will come pick them up before they kill the grass underneath them.  I'll enjoy them while they are here.  The best part will be this winter when it's cold and snowy and we see his cows enjoying a little taste of summer and we'll enjoy knowing we, too, played a part in the neighborhood.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Baker's Dozen - Fresh From The Oven...Or At Least It Feels That Way

I've spent quite a bit of time in the barn this last week because the weather has been so hot and sooo humid that the sheep are not just miserable, but a couple are really struggling.  Sheep handle cold just fine.  It's the heat that will kill them, especially if they are a little, um, well padded insulated fat.

There are fans in all three areas, but the big barrel fan in the outside stall is the most popular.  And whoever manages to stake their claim to the primo spot in front of it (blocking all the air for everyone else) seems to keep it for the whole summer.  One year it was Graham.  Last year it was Daniel.  This year it's Hershey.

Emily and Casper Belly

Renny, dreaming of being a Liddy babysitter so she could get at all that different crazy lush grass.

And look who's out with "the main prison population".  Yep, that's Jester.  What a funny old guy. Occasionally he asks to go out, so I let him out.  This time he walked up to Woolliam, punched him in the head (I think they are actually friends, so more of a "guy thing") and then over to say hello to Emily, his adopted daughter.  Very sweet.  Now he's listening to Rebecca Boone go on and on about something and he's probably wishing he was back in the retirement paddock ;-).

Maisie is not one of the sheep that I'm most worried about (for a change!).  She seems to be handling the heat okay.  Part of that might be because her tummy is hairy, not woolly.  Bill, the sheep shearer, told me the best way to cool a sheep down is shear off their belly wool and wool around their neck. And if they are in real, immediate trouble, pour cool water over the back of their neck before you do anything else.

"That's nice, but I'd prefer just to drink my water."

Daniel is very hot, but he's trying to sleep it off.

B. Willard is sleeping like a beached whale.  He always does that.

He gave me a scare the other afternoon when I thought he wasn't breathing.  This is not the first time he's done that!

"Yeesh, lady, I keep telling you I'm fine!"

Poor Spud, stuck back there in the corner, has had the most trouble with the heat.  Since Jester seemed to be so much better just moving into the aisleway, I tried that with Spud.  I should have sheared him right then. I thought he seemed better in there, but the second day I realized he wasn't. By that point, even after I sheared him, he was not "right".

He was laying down too much and at odd times, walking stiff legged behind, keeping his back legs close together, having trouble getting his legs in position to lay down.  Luckily I have good sheep gurus and vets to call on and a quick diagnosis of heat stress was made.  

I didn't realize their muscles would "tie up" like a horse in situations like that.  We treated pretty aggressively with IV fluids, vitamins and minerals and anti-inflammatories and I think he's going to be okay.  He's still not 100%, but we have a cool(ish) day predicted for today and I'm hoping that will help.  I'm sorry, Spud :-/.

Baaxter's hot too, but he likes the opened up aisleway.  He's the one who'd been hogging the inside stall's fan, so everyone else likes that he's enjoying the open aisleway, too ;-).

I like this picture of PPPP...

...but I like the story in this one better - her head on the gate, the motion of the shade cloth.  Sadly, I let her be overexposed and by the time I fixed that the breeze disappeared.  The story of summer.  At least the rain has stopped for a few days.  Farmers all over are cutting and baling hay like mad!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Hard Life

"I remember when I used to sleep on the bed or the couch or at least on some nice fluffy towels."

"Maybe this board would be more comfortable."

"Remind me again why I have to sleep out here..."

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's An Epidemic!

Or maybe it's just cats ;-).

Raise your hand if you'd like to run out there and give him a tummy rub :-).

Miss B came over and we dyed half of the rest of Renny's light gray fleece yesterday.  In between laughing at silly Eli.

"It's not nice to laugh at cats."


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