Friday, July 29, 2016

I Believe We Are Officially On The Map

This is the second year for our purple martin house.  The first year we only had light interest from what I'm assuming were local juveniles, late in the season.  This spring we had a pair that moved in and raised two clutches.  Up until a couple weeks ago, we'd regularly have eight or so martins living here.

When the martins are hanging around, the noise is incredible.  When they decide to pick up and leave, they pick up and leave...and it gets very quiet.  It got very quiet last week.  And then a couple days later the chattering was back and I saw 20 martins sitting on the power lines.  And a day or so later they left.

Next thing I knew, 20 more martins were buzzing around.  And then they left.  And today there were 22 on the wire (and maybe even more in this picture now that I look closely).  I guess we meet approval and have become an official stop on the migration tour.  

I love that :-D.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Bellwether

The most frequently asked question we get from visitors to the farm is "Why does that sheep (Andy) wear a bell?"  

That's a very good question (they all are!).  I originally put bells on Petunia and Graham.  I picked Petunia because I knew she liked bling.  I picked Graham because, well, I had a feeling the bell might be a bit irritating to most sheep and if I was going to irritate one, it might as well be Graham.  Bless his heart, I think he loved it.

The bells started out just for fun.  I loved hearing the tinkling bells on sheep at a friend's farm. Turned out, having Graham belled was actually quite helpful because you could always hear where he was and usually quickly figure out what he was up to.  It wasn't uncommon to hear him out grazing in the middle of the night.  

One night I heard two bells and was surprised to find the whole flock out.  Up until that point, I'd believed the majority of the flock (aka everyone except Graham ;-) stayed in for the night. Without the bells, I might still think the kids were all safely tucked into bed each night.

Another reason I think the bells are helpful is the difference in sounds they make and what that might mean.  Tinkle tinkle tinkle - moving around grazing quietly.  RING RING RING - they are running.  Running could mean just racing back to the barn, but it could also mean something was chasing them.  We can hear them from the house...if it would just cool down enough that we could open the windows :-o.

I was sitting out on the porch this morning surrounded by fog.  I could see the martin house, but not much further.  One lone sheep was grazing down by the creek, Blossom.  Normally one sheep out by itself would be a red flag, but not Baba.  She frequently marches to her own drum.

Do you see her?

I was surprised though that no other sheep were headed down the hill to join her.  Seemed plenty light enough.  And then I heard it, Andy's bell.  Where was he...  I had to listen for a few seconds and then pegged him out in the lower small paddock.  They were out there and I just couldn't see them
 From Wikipedia: A bellwether is one that leads or indicates trends.  
The term is derived from the Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading his flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be noted by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight.

You'll have to listen carefully, but it's there.  More towards the end, but I love hearing the doves and other birds waking up while I wait.  It's Andy, wearing Graham's bell.

Do you see them?

Interestingly, I'm not the only one listening for Andy's bell.  The other night I was walking in the front field with Bullwinkle, Kate, Tilly, Hank and Comby.  It was pretty dark and we were about halfway up the far hill when a group of late grazers (trying to beat the heat) meandered down to the creek.  Bullwinkle heard Andy's bell and took off running.  

Bullwinkle loves Andy and I think Andy considers him a funny kid brother.  They play fight at the water trough almost nightly.  Bullwinkle jumps on the wooden shade cover, which puts him right at Andy's level and they taunt each other and butt heads.  When he got down to Andy that night, he looked back at me excitedly, "Andy's here!  Look, Andy's here!"  

I wouldn't be surprised if Hank listened for the bells as well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Post A Picture Of Your [Dog]

A little change up for the blogging rule - "If you don't have anything else to post, put up a picture of your cat."

I cropped this down so Kate was centered.  But I wanted to leave as much of the sheep showing as possible.  Which makes the picture too narrow.  And I've been working on this for about 20 minutes. I am obviously too tired to be making photo decisions.  The heat and humidity is wearing me (and everyone else) down.

It's still a nice picture of Kate though.  There's also a fun video of her on my Instagram feed.  She's no dummy.  I think I probably need to join her :-).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yarn Along - Popcorn Pee Pee Pants

One of the fun things about "the Tour" is how the "race" follows the actual Tour de France race. We take rest days when the cyclists do and on the "mountain days" we pick something extra challenging to do or try.  This year I decided to try to spin some sock yarn.

It hit me earlier this year that PPPP (Popcorn Pee Pee Pants) is 11 (!).  How on earth did that happen? If you don't already know, PPPP is the lamb on the bookmarks we hand out at festivals and include when we ship online orders. I looked back and found this recount.  How funny :-).

Like most all of our fleeces, she's kind of a mess.  

Like all most of our fleeces, she cleans up quite nicely.

PP is a Border Cheviot.  Border Cheviots have a down (the area, not like feathers) type fleece - very medium in length and softness.  At 11, she's not as soft as she once was.  Well, maybe pretty close to the same softness, but now getting more hair and kemp fibers mixed in.  

The combs did an exceptional job pulling all that and any hay chaff...out and if you put your hand on top of this pile and gently push down, it feels exactly like if you let dish washing detergent foam way up and pushed down on that. 

Miss B was over and she worked on a scarf she is making from some yarn she picked up at the Yarn Swap.  

And Yarn Swappers will recognize these socks as well.  She's making the rest of us look bad been busy!

Tilly, always busy as well ;-).

Meanwhile back in the Wool House...  This is ridiculous.  Not so much the lack of dusting (that's normal), but the fact that my wheels all have so much dust and cobwebs to boot!  Sadly, also normal now it seems.  Ridiculous.

All cleaned up and oiled and happy to be spinning :-).

At first I thought I'd over spun and over plied my sample.  It's also spun pretty well worsted (combed top, all the fibers are same length and direction and smooth) and it didn't have any stretch or bounce left to it.  Didn't panic though and gave it a quick soak in some hot water and once it dried it was back to what I'd hoped for.

The yarn wraps at 18 wraps per inch and I knit this small sample on size 2 needles and got 6 1/2 stitches to the inch.  I like the thickness and I like that it's a 3 ply, which makes the yarn more round and cushy.  I'm not a thin sock person.  I think I'll continue the sample on with a size 1 needle just for curiosity.  And then to pick a pattern.  

I just finished the most recent No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book.  I'm all read up on that series. Hopefully he's writing another.  Any suggestions for something fun?

Oops, almost forgot to include this.  From near the end of The Woman Who Walked In Sunshine (No. 1 Ladies D. A.) "In this hot weather a sleep in the afternoon is always a good idea."  Yes ma'am! ;-)

Joining in with Ginny...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The [Sheep] Days Of Summer

The Dog Days of Summer -

1. The sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11. 

2. A period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.

The Sheep Days of Summer (or Fall or Winter or Spring) - Equinox Farm

1.  Every day.

It has been super hot and humid this summer.  Every day.  More days in the 90s than not. I hate summer.  At least we've had decent rain up to this point, but I think we are headed for a hot, dry spell  :-(.  I really hate that.  I've been trying to keep everything rolling, but I'm about to embrace my inner sheep and just hibernate until fall.


Annabelly always looks sleepy.  Heidi is just scratching her face on the mineral box.  The Jacobs can handle the heat better than the others.

Nobody naps like Baba (Blossom).  

Miss Allie, Elizabeth's daughter.

Rebecca Boone

Liddy and Maisie, both using the ole gate pillow.

Petunia, using the ole straw pillow.

And waking up with bed head ;-).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday Spinning

I left my Tour de Fleece goals pretty loosey goosey.  While spinning every day would have been ideal, I figured that getting anything done was better than what had been getting done.  I've washed several fleeces, wove the Daniel scarf, prepped some lamb fleece, spun a couple of small skeins.  Today I wanted to clock some mileage.  

I'm not sure why I grabbed Henri, but I'm glad I did.  I love spinning Jacob fiber and hers has always been a fun spin.  She had an almost silky fleece that practically spun itself.  I recently got Kate Davies' Book of Haps and decided Henri would make a nice hap.  Of course, half the fun is deciding which one...and spinning the yarn.

I don't remember when I did this, but found one ball of singles already finished.  Can't beat that. Now to look back through the blog to see if there's a note about when I spun that.  Surely not last year's Tour de Fleece...right?  Oh, good grief, it was :-/.

Pretty Henri

This was her last fleece (2015) and it has some quite a bit of VM (vegetable matter) mixed in. Too much to think about selling it...and I doubt I would have anyway.  She was a favorite sheep and much missed.  I'll love having a cozy memento.

Henri had gotten too feeble to make the trek in and out of the Del Boca Vista annex this summer and this has not been a summer you could weather out in the little shed.  Yeesh, it's been hot!

*      *       *       *      *

Bullwinkle got himself in all sorts of trouble today and now the Unit is in danger of being called the BRS (Bullwinkle Retrieval System).  Pictures on Instagram, but also shared to Twitter and case you aren't already following his adventures.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Things We Do For Our Kids

One of the many things we love about our farm is actually not on our farm. Well, not all the time at least ;-).  Some of the traffic going up and down the lane is folks going to town.  Most of the traffic going up and down the lane is neighbors.

Neighbors checking on neighbors, stopping in to help neighbors, picking on neighbors...and at the end of the day, just riding around visiting.  The vehicle of choice is what has become affectionately known around here as a "Unit".

Need to take that bale of nasty, moldy hay that had wintered in the baler over to the neighbor to see how she likes her hay?  You take your Unit.  Haha, very funny ;-).  Note Bullwinkle up front. 

Stopping by at the end of the day.  Bullwinkle jumps right in.  No pictures of the John Deere gator though because that neighbor won't let Bullwinkle near it!  Oh, the inhumanity ;-o.

Bullwinkle took one ride and now he is a Unit Junkie.

So Saint Tim finally caved and got him his very own Unit.  This picture is from a friend who happened to see Tim driving home from the big city last night.  What are the odds!

Bullwinkle jumped right in and off to the neighbors we go!

I think this picture is funny not only because of the expression on BW's face, but the angle of the house (?) and Hank trotting by making his rounds, working while we go out to play.  He would not think riding around in the Unit was at all fun.

I think this picture is a scream.  Headed down the road with your sheep.  As you do.  Tilly loves the Unit!

It was really too hot for the dogs to be with us, especially in the back, but Kate was not going to let us leave her behind.  She loves the Unit, too.

As does Stella.  We went back to check on her grandkids (the five new calves).  We got a tiny bit of mud on the new (to us) Unit and were having a laugh about what Tim would have to say. Not to worry, we got a big storm last night and there's not a spec of mud left on it.  But several tree limbs are down and will need cleaned up today.  

Good thing we got a Unit ;-D.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Yarn Along - The Daniel Scarf

When my mother passed away this winter I inherited her weaving loom, a (now) vintage Leclerc table loom and floor stand.  I don't remember her weaving with it, but she had a good collection of weaving books and some leftover yarn, so she must have made a good run at it at some point.

Daniel's 2015 fleece went to A Yarn Well Spun last year (and 2016 this year) and she had a run of yarn spun from it.  I picked up a couple lovely undyed skeins at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival in May and as the Tour rolled around, I decided to combine it with the loom and put both to good use.

The finished scarf.

Before fulling/blocking - you know, my favorite part ;-).  

Notice how you can see each individual strand?  How almost rough it looks?  Woven cloth is not finished until it's been "fulled".  Fulling is done (at least here) in the washing machine and involves hot(tish) water, soap and a few seconds (30 this time) of machine agitation.

Notice how much softer and fuzzier and comfy it looks now?  The yarn all melded together?  You should be able to click to biggify.  Isn't that fun?

I used a fairly simple diamond twill pattern that you can only see from certain angles. Interestingly, from some angles the fabric looks like light brown and white, not just light brown.  I love that because Daniel has a few faint stripes of white mixed into his brown body, too :-).

Some mandatory blocking (where you size it and even out any uneven spots) pictures.  I used the house porch this time, but I'm going to move back to the Wool House porch next time because the table height (an actual table ;-) is more comfortable up there.  

And yes, it's a simple, straight, rectangular woven scarf (as opposed to, say, a fancy, curvy knitted lace shawl), but any time I put wool and a measuring stick together, you know there are going to be pins involved. Lots of pins.  An insane amount of pins.  I LOVE to block :-).

The cats are all pretty much self blocking these days.  No pins required.

My latest favorite spider, doing a little spinning and weaving above the red bench.  You'll need to biggify to see her.  She's quite pretty.

After several (!) disappointing book downloads, I was luckily reminded that you can never go wrong with a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book, so enjoyed my weaving listening to the latest from Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni.  

I had a pleasant surprise in the mailbox over the weekend, too. Shepherds and Shepherding by Jonathon Brown.  It's packed full of historical shepherding information and pictures and I'm thoroughly enjoying that as well.

Joining in with Ginny...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Weekend Wrap Up

Whew!  It's been a bit of a whirlwind.  We had friends in camped out in the house and Wool House and one night had 13 people here for dinner.  Luckily the weather cooled off a bit and the porch was pleasant and everyone was comfortable, even crabby me ;-).

We had a small, but great group for the yarn swap and spin in on Saturday.  I actually sat down and spun some and enjoyed visiting with everyone :-).  There was a bit of selling and a bit of swapping.  I gave a short spindle lesson and a very short weaving lesson and there was a lot of knitting help given all around.  Fiber folks are just the best.

The Tour de Fleece rides on.  I'm still working on my woven scarf, pushing to finish today.  Now that things are hopefully settling back down for a bit, I plan to really clock some "mileage".  The rest of the group has been inspiring as usual.

The Young Eagle - well, I hope all is well.  He came down to eat breakfast on Sunday and that was the last 'for sure' sighting :-/.  I think the timing was normal for "moving on", but it seems odd/worrisome to break it off that abruptly.

There has been no sign of a tragic ending though and the yard is so full of similar aged fledglings that maybe he just assimilated back into bird world.  I'm trying to not be too sad.  It's hard.  I really loved that silly bird.  He/she was a gift.

Thanks for the video, Robin.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bring Out Your Wool, Yarn, Books, Used Equipment, Spinning Wheels, Cookies...

Don't forget about the Yarn Sale/Swap Meet/Open Farm Day this 
Saturday from 10:00 until 3:00!

Come out and meet the sheep (and dogs, cats, horses, chickens, birds...), talk sheep "til your eyes glaze over", catch up on your Tour de Fleece spinning (or whatever project you are working on), do a little shopping, selling or trading (fiber related only, please) or just hang out with Jester, Ford and Emily in the breezy barn aisle.

If you are interested in learning about spinning, knitting, weaving or probably most any fiber craft, this would be a perfect opportunity.  Interested in learning about different breeds of sheep, their wool, how to care for them...Robin and I both love to "talk sheep" :-).  Interested in learning how to run a tractor or weed eater?  Yet another Perfect Opportunity - just kidding ;-).

We have plenty of space and cool breeze (and if we run out, the tack room is cool, the Wool House porch and neighboring trees are shaded and pretty cool and the Wool House itself is air conditioned. Jester might even share his fan.  Or not.

Everyone seemed pretty excited about the PB&J offer (my kind of crowd!), so I'll have that and a big bag of apples and a cooler full of water.  Considered it a shepherd's lunch!  I do know some shepherds that can put out a fancier spread than that...but this will the "realistic shepherd's lunch" ;-). Feel free to bring your own.  

"Will there be cookies?"

I'm sure there will be.  Or maybe some tortilla chips, saltines or Cheerios... :-)

Just a head's up - we'll be sharing the barn with Del Boca Vista.  They come in the aisleway when it gets too hot and humid in their little shed.  Keep in mind that these three sheep are quite elderly and not in the best shape.  We love them anyway and as long as they are happy and want to stick around, they can.  

If you have any questions or need directions, just drop me an email.  If you are planning on coming and want to advertise what you'll be bringing to swap or sell, you can do so in the comments or send me an email and I'll post it for you.  

Robin is packing her truck tonight and leaving at dawn tomorrow.  If there is something special you'd like her to bring from NY - prize winning fleeces, roving, sparkly colored roving, Cotswold yarn... let her know right away.  She's bringing two rams for The Training Center, so doesn't have a ton of room, but she's a pretty clever packer.

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Young Eagle - Updated

Just to keep things interesting around here, this fell out of a barn nest a couple Sundays ago.

He was in a sort of secure location, so I left him, hoping his mom would figure out what to do.

When she didn't and he started doing this...

...AND THIS! know what I did.

I couldn't figure out a way to put him back in the nest and he was far too young to be out in the world so I gave him some meal worms (that he gobbled up) picked him up, stuck him in a bucket with some hay, covered him with some netting and took him to the house.

We have two types of birds that aggravate the socks off us live in the barn - big annoying birds and small annoying birds.  I figured he was the small annoying variety, so looked up sparrows and what to feed them and a couple places mentioned dog foods that provided protein and he readily approved.

Fun fact, it only took about two days before he figured out the microwave (aka baba maker ;-) meant food and would start "baa-ing" just like the lambs do.  "Hurry UP, lady!"

I pulled one of the heated beds from the cat condo and set it under his bucket at night and that worked perfect to keep him warm, but not too warm.  After about a week, once his feathers started growing in, I picked up this awesome brooder box from a friend and moved him into it.  

I added some branches so he could practice perching and he grew and grew.

The first few days we had the cage on the house porch.  It was handy, but I worried that he wasn't getting to see other birds eating in real life. Then, on Saturday, he got super excited while I was feeding him - he liked to perch on the side of the bowl while I stuck clumps of dog food into his mouth - and he flew out the open door.

He flew (as Tim said, "like a wiffle ball") to the nearest tree, just out of reach.  Panicked and flew higher.  Wanted to come back down, but couldn't figure out how - up is easier than down apparently - so the next thing you know, yep, I'm up on the roof.

When I was getting his food ready, I'd say "cheep cheep" and he'd answer "cheeeep".  He'd also use that call to tell me when he was hungry.  I used "cheep cheep" and his "cheeep" to find him in the tree and eventually he was able to figure out how to land on the chimney where I was standing, I gave him some food and picked him up.  Whew!

Moving him to the Wool House porch was a great idea.  

Less (a little less at least) cat traffic, much more bird traffic, only one tree (that wasn't quite as TALL), morning sun (he's not an early riser and frequently would want to wait until 8:00 to really dig into breakfast) and afternoon shade.  

I put a feeder out front, scattered loose seed on the railing and in the birds came.  All sorts of sparrows, some his kind, some probably a little different.  They talked to him, he talked to them, I hope he watched them eating and drinking and yesterday afternoon I opened the door.

I felt pretty sure he'd fly around and then come back when he got hungry.  He did.  The plan was to feed him like that until evening and then lock him back up for the night, but then Tim mowed the lawn, scattering everyone, and I feared the worst.  "Cheep cheep?"  "Cheep cheep?"  No reply :-/.

This morning I headed out, hoping for the best, but again, no reply.  I didn't give up hope though because, remember, he's not "the early bird", and by 8:30 I'd found him!  All was well.  I tried to feed him again at lunch, but he wasn't interested, hopefully because he was full of bird seed and insects.

About an hour ago, when I came in to post these pictures (in the air conditioned house with the doors and windows closed) I heard a loud "cheeeep" outside.  Not uncommon because we have tons of these birds around.  "Cheeep".   Surely that's not him.  "Cheeep".  I'd better go check...and sure enough, he'd come to the house looking for me.  

"Hey lady, how about firing up that baba maker!"

I've never been so happy to see a little annoying bird.  I'll keep feeding him like that as long as he wants it, but hopefully he's well on his way.  At least he doesn't fly like a wiffle ball anymore ;-).

Tim named him The Young Eagle because I volunteer with the Young Eagle program at the Cynthiana Airport.  Perfect.

*      *       *       *       *

Saint Tim got a picture of him eating dinner tonight :-D.


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