Monday, January 30, 2023

Our Run In Shed Got A Run In Shed

...and of course another a couple more Maisie stories ;-).

The original side shed, now referred to as "the outside stall" was added to the barn in 2009.  I can't remember when we added the shade cloth to the door openings, probably that first summer, but we used them for several years and they did help cut the hot afternoon sun some and slowed a bit of the rain and weather.  

The shade cloths at first just hung down and blew in the breeze.  It was nice to have the breeze, but then there was less shade, so next we anchored the tarps out like an awning so we could have shade and breeze.  I can't remember how long we did that, but at some point we switched the shade cloth to heavy canvas and built a slightly more substantial awning.

Now for the Maisie stories...and, no, she didn't beat anyone up this time.  

"I really didn't mean nothin' by it, I swear!"

We knew the building crew was going to be here within a day or two depending on weather.  When I saw the forecast for cold and blowing snow, I figured it would be day two.  I was completely surprised to see the trucks rolling in before dawn on day one.  

Luckily I was already up at the Wool House that morning and was able to hurry over to turn on all the barn lights and reassure the sheep that everything was okay and that aliens hadn't landed or the police weren't raiding the place looking for naughty sheep.  

I could hear Maisie calling me before I even got out the door.  "Momma!  Mommmma!"  Interestingly, Baba also called out for me.  Baba does talk some, but usually regarding wanting food or to have a gate she can go get more food.  Baba may not be quite as independent as she would like everyone to believe.

Okay, let's look again at the picture above.  If you notice Baba and Short Round are bee lining it out to the yard to graze once the builders left and I opened their gate.  Maisie came out of the barn, hung a left and headed straight for the side field.

They all eventually followed her, but mostly only to eat grass.  Maisie, however, was more interested in inspecting the demolition of the old shed...

...and thoroughly inspecting the construction of the new shed.

I really would love to know what she's thinking...most of the time.

The various tarps were very helpful for many years and I'm proud my idea for providing some extra shade held up for so long, but I'm thrilled with the new permanent shed.  I'm also happy the steel roof was salvaged from a home repair back in the fall. If they ever dry out, the old canvas tarps will get folded up and set aside for reuse as well.

Taken back in the late summer of 2020, this remains one of my favorite pictures.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Sheep Tales...Or The Sheep With The Tail

"I didn't mean nothin' by it, I swear!"

I got sick Monday afternoon.  I'm not sure with what, but it was not. fun.  I managed to get the early evening chores done, but by the night check there was no way I was making it back to the barn, so Tim did his best to cover for me.

Rocky and Jared go into Del Boca Vista to eat dinner and then move back into the barn aisle for the night.  I explained to Tim that Rocky's vision is not good anymore, especially at night, and how I thought he'd best be able to work around that to move them inside.

Of course some trouble makers, realizing that a substitute was in the barn, took advantage of him.  He did the best he could to sort it all out and he thought he had everyone where they were supposed to be. He doled out some extra hay for the oldies, blocked the front exit so Rocky couldn't go wandering in the middle of the night and get lost, helped Spud get up and called it a night.

The next morning he went back up to the barn, fed some more hay, said everyone was okay and that he thought they'd be fine until later in the morning.  My neighbor came over a few hours later and did another light feeding.  I managed to drive my car to the barn around lunchtime and immediately knew something wasn't right.

Rocky was nowhere in sight (he was fine). Krista was locked in the aisleway with the oldies and was complaining loudly.  Maggie was stuck on the wrong side as well.  Baba hollered to let me know she wasn't happy either and as I shuffled into the barn, Maisie jumped up, raced over and commenced to whaling on me.

I took punches, head butts and bites (yes, she bites) and the more I tried to get away from her, the worse she chased me.  "Things. were. wrong. and. you. weren't. here. to. fix. them!!!"  

"Maisie, honey, I was sick and couldn't do it."  


The hits continued and I started putting sheep in between us thinking she'd eventually settle down and she finally did, but it was by far the craziest experience (in a long line of crazy experiences with Maisie) I've ever had.  I wasn't actually scared, but I was a bit concerned and I also felt sorry for her because she was obviously very upset.

I realize that all of the sheep, even the ones who don't outwardly show it, are very dependent on me. I'm not sure if Maisie was just extra angry because things had not gone exactly right and/or had inconvenienced her or maybe she was scared because she didn't know where I was.  

One thing is for certain, as we always say, watch out for "the sheep with the tail".

There's another tale from the tail coming, hopefully tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Cat Tales

I woke up around 4:00 this morning and could not get back to sleep.  I finally gave up and got up around 5:30.   As I was getting dressed I heard a tiny Possum meow.  And then another.  Not her normal "It's about time you got up to fix us some breakfast!", but more like Possum had fallen "in the well".  

What on earth??  I clicked on the light and saw nothing askew.  No furniture tipped over trapping her, no huge pile of laundry burying her...well, there may have been a huge pile of laundry, but it was in no way causing her troubled cries.  The only thing left was Bea's crate, but how would she get stuck on that.

She wasn't stuck on it.  She was stuck in it!  With Bea!  All night!  

I remembered Bea hesitating a moment before she went to bed last night, but I assumed it was because I'd changed her bedding to a blanket she'd not seen before.  Bea chooses to still sleep in her puppy crate and it's a cozy little cave.  Possum apparently thought so too.  

I never heard a peep until I got up, but now I'm wondering if Possum had been throwing darts at me half the night.  It's not a large crate, just barely big enough for Bea.  How they both made it through the night together is...well, let's just say I opened the door without stopping to try to take a picture...that I now kind of wish I had.

(Insert picture of grumpy Possum)

"Dis NOT my bed!"

Meanwhile, back last Sunday, poor not super athletically inclined Archie ended up with one of his back feet under one of Frankie's front feet.  It was a wreck and he ended up having to get five stitches in one of his toes, but he took it all in typical Archie fashion and amazingly he too seems no worse for the wear now that it's all over.  

Cats...  Mondays...

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Slow Motion Train Wreck

The weather turned warm and sunny on Tuesday so I took a break and sat out in the barn and knit for awhile.  I took this picture and thought it would make a nice blog shot to go with a group of progress pictures I'd saved up as I knit through December and half of January.

This is the sweater I'm making.  I thought it would look great with Jared's yarn and since I like to learn something new with each project, a zipper would be a fun (I hope) challenge.  There were some other fun(ny) challenges as I got started, such as the videos accompanying the pattern being in Danish, but I managed to muddle through.

The sweater starts at the top with a fold over collar and then carries on through the yoke and divides for the sleeves and body.  I checked my gauge several times over the first few inches and was spot on my gauge swatch, so I "knit on with confidence".

I knit several inches past the armholes and the set the body aside to go back and work on the sleeves for a bit.  As I started the first sleeve I thought it looked too big.  I measured it next to the B. Willard sweater and decided it was okay, so I kept knitting.  

As I approached the midpoint on the sleeve I again tested it with B. Willard and it was a hair bigger, but within a reasonable size.  I did check my gauge though and I was no longer "spot on".  Did I stop and re-evaluate things?  Heck no.  I finished that sleeve and the second one and then back to the body...and started running out of yarn.

I always spin two pounds for a sweater so I know I'll have more than enough for whatever I'm making. I've never used the whole two pounds, not even close.  Now I took the time to stop and re-evaluate things, actually pulled it off the needles and tried it on...and you know what happened next :'-(.

As I ripped back each skein, one by one, I looked for clues as to why I let this happen yet. again.  Why did I ignore the gauge when it stopped being "spot on" yet. again.  Why did my gauge change?  Were the skeins that different?  No, they all looked fine.

It took until this morning to remember that through cold December I'd tensioned my yarn around my little finger and that most of January had been so warm I used my summer tensioning and just carried it through my palm without a finger wrap and sure enough, that was about when the gauge changed.

I recalculated my pattern size after making thorough notes on my yet. again. sweater sized gauge swatch and am ready to start over and "do it right".  It's never fun to rip out that much work, but it was even less fun to do it without being able to call Stella and hear her laugh about it :-/.

Knitting on, once again, with confidence.



Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Meanwhile Back In 2021...

I spun a sweater amount of Jared during the 2021 Tour de Fleece...and somehow never documented a single thing about that here on the blog.  Big J is one of my most favorite sheep of all time, but even if he wasn't, just spinning a sweater amount of yarn should have received some note.  Luckily I did take some pictures.

This is an important sweater.  I spent a couple of years trying to pick a perfect pattern.  I knew I wanted it to be big and bulky, like the sheep himself.  I wanted the yarn to reflect his substantial size, but soft comfort as well.  

As per my normal I divided out two pounds of roving into two ounce bundles and spun each bundle, wound it off into a ball, numbered it and spun the next bundle... I no longer remember why I have 17 balls and a plied skein here.  Some notes would have been helpful :-/.

After all the bundles have been spun, I weigh them with my small, super detailed scale and then rewind them into skeins and note the yardage of each.  From there they hit a spreadsheet and get paired up with another skein that best balances out any differences in thickness to hopefully have closely matching plied skeins in the end.

Possum apparently helped.  It was probably good Archie wasn't here yet as I doubt he'd have been, um,  helpful ;-).

I ended up having to borrow a wheel from a friend because my Hansen miniSpinner was not working correctly.  I like to spin singles on my Ashfold Joy and ply on a faster wheel with bigger bobbins. The Hansen has been my workhorse for many years, but this big Lendrum was a treat to use.  It's the Lancelot of spinning wheels :-D.

The finished yarn, washed and hanging out to dry.

Each skein has a tag with re-calculated yards per ounce measurements.  If there are any differences (which there sadly were a couple) I can then decide what skeins should be used where in my sweater.  I picked out the thinnest skein for the thick, doubled over collar and used the thickest for the two sleeves as they are not covered by the vest I wear most of the winter unless it's super cold.

Overall I was happy with my yarn.  It's big and bulky, soft and fuzzy - just like Jared :-).  I'm now probably 3/4 of the way through knitting my sweater.  Of course there have been the usual knitting issues that only an over over over thinker can torture everyone with.  That will be for the next post!

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Riding Off Into The Long Shadows

I originally intended for Frankie to be a riding horse.  I now can't remember why I decided to drive him that first year, but then I was having so much fun driving that I didn't really even think about riding anymore other than just on rare occasions, and now, what, four years have gone past?   

I'd be surprised if Frankie had had more than just a handful of rides when he was in rehab at New Vocations.  I've only gotten on him a couple times since he's been here.  He is definitely a green horse under saddle.

I had zero concerns about him not being a kind and careful mount, but I didn't want his first real experiences being ridden to be with an old, fat, out of shape, does she even remember how to ride partner who might do or not do something and cause him concern.

Leslie knew just where to send us for some expert help and we trailered over on Sunday for his first ride.  They both did such a good job that I felt confident getting on him myself at home yesterday.  We didn't do anything too exciting - just walked around the side field - but it was plenty exciting to me to be up on a horse again :-).

Frankie's still not 100% sure he likes this new job, but I think as his confidence grows he'll enjoy having something different to do and some new adventures to go on.  Rockstar-ing on!

Friday, January 6, 2023

Roc Day Eve

Tomorrow is Roc Day or Saint Distaff's Day, the day "all spinners go back to work" after the holidays.  It's basically a holiday in itself if you need an extra excuse to pull out a spindle or wheel.  I've picked out my spinning for the day.

I'll be spinning some California Red from one of my favorite local shepherdesses, Andrea from Morgandell Farm.  This is Patch and Levi :-).  

I'm hoping to spin off and on all day, but will definitely have my "butt in seat" between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon and 7:00 and 9:00 (eastern time) in the evening if anyone would like to join me via zoom to share some spinning, ask questions, talk sheep and wool...

To join in, click the Wool House Crafters button at the upper right of your screen or you should be able to  follow this linkYou shouldn't need a password.  Give it a few seconds and I think it just prompts you to turn on your microphone and camera.  Once in I usually switch it to "gallery" view so I can see everyone and what they are working on.

I look forward to this day every year.  I traditionally spin on my Canadian Production Wheel, but I usually try to give everyone a bit of a go.  I'm also working on my Jared sweater, so I may take a break and do some knitting too.

Whatever you do, enjoy it :-).

Thursday, January 5, 2023

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas

I was gifted a beautiful witch hazel for my birthday several years ago.  I put it in a spot that I thought it would like and that it would add some color and dimension to the area. I was so excited about a super early blooming shrub for the bees...and two years in a row it got "pruned" by some naughty sheep :-/.

I finally got it secured effectively and it's alive and well and bloomed nicely last winter/early spring, but unless I remembered to walk over there to see it (which really shouldn't be that hard), I missed watching it.  The blooms are fun and I knew the bees would be happy to see them.

I toyed with moving it to a closer location, but decided it had be tortured enough so I headed to the nursery and bought a second witch hazel.  This one a native variety that would bloom in the early winter.  Tim "pruned" it with the hedge trimmers :-/.

Two good branches remained and even though it was just in it's first year here, they budded up and were just starting to open when the super cold hit.  I wasn't worried about the plant surviving, but I'd been so excited watching the blooms starting to pop out that I decided to try to save them in hopes they'd continue to bloom after the freeze.

I put a fence around it and filled it with straw and then added a clear plastic wool bag over the top.  I secured the bag with two heavy clamps and could not believe it rode out the crazy winds.  Once the cold broke I uncovered it, thought it looked not too bad and crossed my fingers.

It took several days to wake back up, but as the forecast ran into the 60s I was hopeful.  It's blooming!

I remember as I was planting it thinking what on earth would still be out and about to take advantage of it in December.  Bees don't fly at temps under 50 degrees.  December and January are usually below 50.  Not normally below 0...but let's not think about that.

As I was taking pictures, a hint of movement caught my eye.  A honey bee!  I thought just the honey bee, but when I downloaded the pictures I see a smaller wild bee in there as well.

Against all the odds, this tough little plant DID get to host a bee party this winter.  And I'm enjoying walking past it as I go back and forth to the barn.  But I will also be excited to walk over to the far side of the yard to hopefully see more partying bees in February :-).

* * * * *

For anyone interested in Roc Day or Saint Distaff's Day, I will be posting more about that tomorrow.  I wanted to get these pictures before they got buried in my photo files.  More blogging in 2023!

Tuesday, January 3, 2023


We had a nasty thunderstorm early this morning and then flooding rains most of the day.  I walked to the barn with a flashlight at 7:15 and wondered if the night was ever going to end.  

I went back to the house for breakfast and when I got ready to go back to the barn and do morning chores, I thought - for the very first time I can ever remember - that I wished I could just go back to bed.  I didn't, but I have pondered a couple times today if indeed I've never had that thought before.  I don't think I have.

Archie, of course, DID go back to bed ;-).

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy Ground Hog Day I Mean New Year

Something went wrong when I saved the year end photo slideshow yesterday and I didn't catch it until this morning...after I'd already posted it and deleted the "albums" where I store the month and year end photos on my phone.  Not to worry, I'd backed up all the pictures...just not in their albums.

What does this mean?  The pictures were all still there in the archives, so I could recreate the "memory".  They were just no longer in small(ish) curated I spent several hours this morning sorting through almost 4800 (!) photos from 2022.   

Interestingly the first "memory" cut out pretty much all of summer and early fall.  While I think eliminating those months is mostly a great idea except for maybe sweet corn and monarch butterflies, if I have to live through them, I'd like to remember them.

Luckily 2022 was a pretty good year here.  I'd have still recreated the year end review even if it hadn't been, but I'm incredibly thankful I wasn't sorting sad pictures.  

You can't have a year end review and leave Frankie, Fiona and baby Fritz out!  It was worth the trouble :-)


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