Summer Dew Point

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let It Snow?

Well, we made it. The trip home was mostly clear, and very beautiful, until we got off the interstate and headed up Hwy 60 at Worthington. Still beautiful, but the roads got steadily worse. And when we got onto the county road, it got interesting. Drivable, but snow packed in some places and ice in others. As we headed north, the snow got deeper and deeper. When we hit Storden, MN, we got a little nervous. If they had that much, how deep was ours going to be?
Frosted Pine Tree
Frosted pine trees in Rapid City.

Frosted Prairies in South Dakota
Frosted prairies in South Dakota.

Minnesota Interstate Windbreak
Interstate windbreak in Minnesota.

Heron Lake Snow
County road at Heron Lake, MN.

Storden Snow
Storden, MN snow.
Well, as hoped, Charlie, our road maintenance man had taken his BIG Pay Loader and cleaned out our driveway and the yard area. But unfortunately, he had done that on Sunday, and by Monday afternoon, it had drifted shut. We could not get in the driveway. Days like this are the reason most people raised in the north carry “survival” gear. And along with our insulated coveralls, packs, hats, scarves and heavy gloves; this year we had new snowshoes and poles in the car, courtesy of Cabalas and a used sporting store in Rapid City. So Hubby geared up and headed down the driveway on his snowshoes to check the house. The yard and the driveway by the house were fine, but 2/3 of the driveway was impassible for our car. Hubby shoed back up the hill and
we headed to Sister Connie’s for the night. Happy puppies and warm soup awaited us.Pay Loader
The Big Pay Loader.
Then yesterday morning with -2 degrees temperature and a heavy south wind, we came back to the house and both of us shoed in. It was not as fun as normal snowshoeing, because of the extreme cold. But we made with only some very cold fingers. Hubby started blowing snow to open the cat house and look for 2 missing cats (I will talk about that tomorrow), Charlie’s son came and redid the drive, and Hubby walked back up the drive to get the car. We got the car unloaded and headed back to Connie’s to get the dogs. Then went to Storden for the mail, Westbrook for milk, back to Connie’s for items forgotten, then got home and snuggled into a warm house. By the time all that was done, Hubby was too tired to finish blowing snow. So today he plans to blow a path to the barn to get out the tractor and front end loader. Then he can clean some more paths so we can get around to different buildings and the animals can get around the yard better.

Usually, if we are home when it snows, Hubby can get a jump start on cleaning off the drive and the yard. However, with this much snow, I don’t think he could have kept up with it. We can’t get an accurate depth reading, but we have somewhere between 25-30 inches, depending on where you measure.

We had a wonderful time in Rapid with the folks for Christmas, but we are glad to be back home, and thankful we made it safely. Now we just have to worry about Daughter Brook, who is driving home today….AND IT IS SNOWING AGAIN.
Winter Sky
The beauty of winter skies…one of the many reasons we live here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Blessings

Over the river (the Missouri) and to the woods (the Black Hills) for Christmas 2009. We made it a day before Snowstorm of the Century (as some were calling it) blew in. And we are still here. The storm totals at home are over 23 inches. There is not as much snow here, but the wind has made the trip back to Minnesota impossible right now. Hubby and I are waiting for a calmer Monday to trek across South Dakota. By then the man that plows our township roads will hopefully be able to get into our place and plow us out. I’d really rather not walk in ¼ mile in 20+ inches of snow. And that doesn’t include the drifting.

But while we are here, we had a wonderful Christmas with my parents. And daughter Brook with granddaughter Erin made it in to town for a short Christmas Eve. They had to hurry back to her other family 20 miles away before Interstate 90 was closed. So they are also spending extra time in South Dakota.

Now we are enjoying staying in a beautiful apartment, swimming and hot tubbing, playing Skip-Bo and of course…..eating. I'll share photos when I get home to my computer.

We were blessed this Christmas to be able to spend the holidays with our parents and that our whole family was somewhere safe from the storm. I hope your holidays were happy and safe too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Early Christmas

My Christmas present from Hubby is here! And I am so excited.

Now we have been married almost thirty years; second marriage for both. And I am sure it is the same for other couples that have been married awhile, the idea of a surprise Christmas gift is non existent. Not only do we have most of what we need, we also have most of what we want. And what we wanted 6 months ago may no longer apply.

So as usual at this time of year it is “What do you want for Christmas?” “Nothing” or "Let’s just give it to the kids”. But this year Hubby was paying attention when I was wishing for more knitting needles. He said he wanted to give me a gift certificate to “that yarn place you always buy from”. I have two favorites for yarn. The Purple Iris in Marshall, MN and Knit Picks on line. And Knit Picks has the needles I like. So Hubby gave me some money to spend as I pleased. This is what I got.

Yarn, needles and a new book.

The yarn is lace weight Shimmering Bayou. The needles are sizes 5-8 Harmony wood interchangeable tips with 2 extra cables. And the book is “A Gathering of Lace” by Meg Swanson. I have never done lace knitting before, but have fallen in love with the looks of it. So I purchased the “Folk Shawls” by Cheryl Oberle a couple of months ago, and now this book. And I WILL learn to knit lace; I am determined. I started with a simple shawl pattern for a gift (the Drop-Stitch Shawl) which is almost done. Next I am going to do the Wool Peddler’s Shawl out of Cheryl Oberle’s book. I already have the beautiful red wool to do this.

Then I figure I will be ready to knit a shawl for myself. And I have changed my mind (a prerogative that Hubby is always puzzled by). My wonderful Maple wool that I have been spinning will be used for the Highland Triangle Shawl from "Folk Shawls".
Brandied Peaches
Maple's natural and peach dyed 2 ply.

I have about 400 yards of Maple’s wool plied and ready to go. I think I’ll need about another 600 yards, which I will start spinning on after the holidays.

And what did Hubby get? With age comes tired eyes. And he was having trouble hitting the target with his 22 rifle. A scope was what he wanted and so a scope was what he got. And he is very happy. As am I. No surprises, no strange gifts that you have to politely smile over, no gifts that you can’t use; all equals less stress for the holidays. I am always trying to find ways to reduce stress. And for me, fiber and fiber tools are better than jewelry.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bob's Unhappy Adventure

What is it about certain animals that grab your heart? I’ve had a lot of pets in my lifetime; dogs, cats, fish, a hamster and even a bantam chicken. I have loved them all, but always one a little bit more than another. I actually had trouble starting this blog. Just thinking about some of those favorites that have been long gone put me in a funk for a couple of days. The death of some of my pets was expected, or sometimes best for the animal, and a lot have been sudden and devastating. But the passing of some, no matter how logical or right or necessary, is hard to take.

But this is not about all the loved pets that have gone out of my life. This blog is about Bob.

What do we know about Bob? We know he is not a feral cat; way to easy to approach. We know that he is not a barn raised cat; he wants to be too close to me and in the house. We know he was hurt at some point, possibly being thrown from a car; his tail is damaged, probably broken part way down, and he has trouble running with weak back legs. We are pretty sure he’s not too bright; couldn’t figure out how to use the cat door into the cat house. And…. I know that he has beautiful pale green eyes and a cute speckled nose, he is affectionate, and loves me almost as much as food.

And we now know that even though he is still a tom, he is not much of a fighter. Right after I had written about him last time, Bob and our neutered cat Pickles got into what I think was a “king of the hill” fight.


And Bob lost. He ended up with punctures on his back. The holes got slightly infected so we cleaned them and used some antibacterial cream for cats and dogs (we get a lot of little scrapes here) on the wound. It looked great. For about a week. Then the day of Thanksgiving (why do emergencies always happen on holidays), we noticed that his back was swelling and he would not let Hubby touch it. He did let me look at it, but with a lot of complaining. Black Friday arrived and we called the vet. The swelling had increased to the size of a golf ball. Our vet got us in that afternoon, so Bob got his first (at least first for us) car ride in a crate. Now Bob is a fairly big boy, 10 pounds and still filling out. So he was uncomfortable in our cat crate. But he only cried until we got in the car and started talking. It seems that he was not as scared knowing we were there (see, not a barn or feral cat). He was very well behaved in the vet waiting room, and even though scared, he was very good in the examining room. His real trouble started when the vet suggested that the wound be flushed out.

I am very grateful to that vet for having the foresight to ask us to go to the waiting room. I didn’t see what happened, but I heard it all. Bob was screaming with pain and fear and anger all at the same time. I was in the waiting room almost in tears. The vet had told us this was the only thing to do, unless we wanted Bob knocked out to deal with the wound, in which case he would have had to stay in the clinic over the weekend. I knew he would be unhappy there, so I opted for the flushing. As I heard him crying, I changed my mind, but too late. They were finally finished. Now most of you that have had children or beloved pets know how I felt in that waiting room, hearing him cry and not being able to help him. I felt, oh I don’t know how to describe it, except broken hearted. Even thinking about it now hurts. And Bob? Poor Bob was so scared that he did the 3 Ps in his crate; pooped, peed and puked.
Checking out the shop
Bob checking out my shop in the cat house (note the shaved back).

Anyway, time heals all. Right? So Bob is home, with a shaved back and 3 weeks of antibiotics. We felt so badly for him, Hubby told me to get yet another heated cat bed, and he has been moved into the cat house (as close to the lap of luxury that Hubby will allow). Then we put a towel over the cat door so Bob can go in and out. He just can’t grasp the mechanics of the plastic flap. And we will leave the barn to the feral cats, with a big dish of food and beds in the hay.
Bob's Getting Better
Bob today.

So for now all is well, except our checkbook. Any grants available to take care of abandoned cats? And hopefully Bob’s next trip to the vet will only be for neutering and a tail dock. But then ….that will be another Unhappy Adventure for him.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Just Some Things

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did. Joining us was Daughter Brook, Granddaughter Erin, Sister Connie and her husband Norm. The food and company were great. Then Brook and Erin spent most of the weekend here (they only live 45 miles away). While Hubby messed around outside and Erin read, Brook and I crafted some Christmas gifts for her. I can’t tell you what we worked on, because some of the recipients read this blog. But I think they will all enjoy the final product. We also got to see one of my nieces; Connie’s daughter and her husband from Seattle. We don’t get to see them too often, so we really enjoyed it.

Let’s see…..oh yes. They are finally done harvesting around us. Last night was the last of the combines, working into the wee hours of the morning across the road from us. When we woke up this morning, they were gone. And the farmer that does the land to the east, south and west of us got the field chiseled yesterday. So Hubby was out this morning dragging the driveway (it’s a ¼ mile long) and fixing up the mess they make with the HUGH machinery. That should be that last time he’ll need to do it until next spring.
Harvest is Done

Harvest is done.

I think Minnesota’s topsy turvey weather has straightened out. We had snow the day before Thanksgiving, which took a couple of days to thaw. Today is in the 50s, but the cold is coming in tonight. So winter is on the way. Hubby and I even took some time to check out the new fancy snowshoes online today (ours are old wooden ones). We are (at least I am) looking forward to some snow. I love snowshoeing. And we have all this land around us that we can use including our grove. Last year, there was so much snow in the grove that we were snowshoeing up in the top branches of some of the trees. That’s an eerie feeling. I bet we scared a few squirrels out of hibernation. And of course, nothing looks the same from 10 feet up, so I’m glad we only have 3 acres of trees. You can’t get lost in that.
Last year’s snow.

Hubby wants me to tell you…. He got his deer after days of sitting and watching does go by. A good sized buck that has blessed our freezer with hamburger, steaks and sausage. No, I didn’t take his photo. I’ll just say he was beautiful in life and leave him with some dignity.

And now, an update on Bob. Well, I’ll wait until later to write about it. I don’t want to make this blog too long. I’ll just say, Bob had an adventure…and it wasn’t the best….. But he’s fine now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Gray Minnesota Day

It’s been a little bit since I last blogged. Bob is fine. Thanks to everyone that asked.

This morning I am looking out the window at gray and brown, a bleak winter picture with high winds. But yesterday morning I saw another beautiful sunrise. Our sunsets are hidden by the grove, but the sunrises can take your breath away.

Another Minnesota Sunrise

Another Minnesota sunrise.

I will stay in the house today, for several reasons. 1. The combines are harvesting and there is DUST, CORN DUST and MORE DUST in the wind. So bad for the allergies. 2. It is cold…well not cold like Minnesota can get cold…but with the high winds and 50 degree temperature, it gets cold to me. I keep blaming it on blood thinners, but maybe I am just a wimp. 3. Hubby is out hunting in the grove; deer season here in Minnesota. So the dogs and I will stay in, bake bread, frog a couple of sweaters, and keep quiet.

For years I have been very vocal about my feelings on hunting. I have always accepted that Hubby hunted, but I never wanted to eat the results. I was a Bambi lover. But I also have always stated that if I was hungry enough, I would shoot Bambi myself. Well….we aren’t that hungry, but the economy has cut down on the meat in our freezer, and a buck would fill it up. I have started eating buffalo, so I figure that some deer mixed with that or hamburger won’t taste too bad. It’s sad how my principles go out the window for food. What does that say about me?

Sister Connie and I just got back from a quick trip to St. Joe, Missouri. We went to meet our brother’s fiancĂ©. And I will have to say…I will be very glad to call her a sister. Donna is a wonderful woman, and what’s even better, she makes my brother’s eyes sparkle. We haven’t seen Charles that happy for a very long time. Thank you Donna. Welcome to the family.

Charles and Donna at the River
Charles and Donna at the Missouri River.

On the way down to St. Joe, Connie took me to the
Steamboat Bertrand Museum. For all the Archaeology friends out there that haven’t seen it, I’ll show photos later. Renee….Now I know what you mean about Museum Quality and Quality Museums. WOW.

We also saw the
Patee House Museum, the Pony Express Museum and the Jesse James House. Can you tell we all like history? I was impressed with the Patee House; wished the Pony Express Museum had more; and not as impressed with the Jesse James House. But its Renee’s fault…she taught me how exhibits should be done, so I look at all museums with a critic’s eye.

Missouri River at Sunset
Sunset on the Missouri River.

I liked St. Joe. Beautiful old buildings, nice people. And the roses are still blooming there. But I was surprised and disappointed. We were told St. Joe has about 80,000 fiber shops were found, not one! What’s up with that?

Friday, October 30, 2009

What About Bob?

There are some things that make me very angry: someone abusing children; people who cheat the government, system and other people by lying or omission; and anyone who will abuse an animal. And because I want to save all abused animals, most of the pets I have had over the years have come from animal shelters, rescues and drop-offs. And we now have another one.

ANOTHER DROP-OFF! “Bob” as in “What About Bob?” is a skinny, worm infested young tom cat that showed up this week. Hubby makes a lot of noise about getting rid of the feral cats that wander through from time to time, but Bob is no feral cat. As scared as he was, he was hungrier; and allowed me to touch him while he was dining in the dumpster. So I coaxed him into the barn where Hubby (softie) had put a dish of cat food for the ferals that pass by. Any domestic cat knows the old “shake the food dish” trick. Bob responded and started eating immediately. As he was eating he allowed me to pet him, and then pick him up to move him. He then cuddled up on my lap. These are not the actions of a wild cat. And the fact that he was not at all scared of our 3 dogs finally convinced me. So far he isn’t purring and you can tell he hasn’t groomed himself for awhile, indicating stress….as if I couldn’t see for myself.

It is evident someone decided they didn’t want Bob. Or they couldn’t find him a home or maybe instead of paying to neuter him, they just sent him on his way. Whatever the reason, the action was cruel. Some fools feel that turning them loose is allowing them to “run free and wild”. Bull! If an abandoned animal can’t find someone to “adopt” them, they will most likely die in a horrible way.

But Bob got lucky. We need another cat to handle the mice in Hubby’s tractor barn. So he gets to stay. He will be neutered and vaccinated as soon as we can get the money together and I’ll go to town on Monday for worm medicine. His food dish will always be full (just in case he can’t hunt) and he has already laid claim to the warm nest we made for him in the hay.
So welcome Bob. I hope you will be happy here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back to Normal

Well, Carissa has gone home. And it is quiet and lonely. I hope she had as much fun as we did. She did want me to post that “Grandpa played 12 hands of Skip-bo before he got ANY points”. I won one game, Carissa won one game and Granddaughter Erin won one game. Guess who lost big-time?

Carissa did get enough wool spun so I can crochet her a small table mat. She really loved spinning and I hope she will continue with it.

hand spinning,spinning wheel
Spinning away.

First Wool
Carissa’s first wool.

So today I am taking it easy: finishing up my I-Cord hat, starting a friend’s graduation gift and possibly combing some of Maple’s peach fleece. The sun is shining and the temperature is in the low 50’s.
Blue and Red,autumn,fall,maple leaves
Look at all that blue sky!

Unfortunately the south wind is “a bit breezy” so it’s not as warm as I had hoped. I wanted to spend some time outside because we have had so little enjoyable weather lately. Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wonderful Granddaughter

We have been having such a good time this week. Oldest granddaughter Carissa has come for a visit. She is eighteen and taking a short break before starting college in January. Her focus right now is to find a career that will allow her to work with children. What she really wants is Occupational Therapy, but says she is concerned about the math. However, after spending this time with her, I think she can do just about anything she sets her mind to. We are so very proud of her.
Cards with Grandpa

A hot game of Skip-Bo.

It’s been so much fun teaching her to spin (she is really catching on and DETERMINED), going shopping in Mankato, or listening to her yelling with Grandpa while watching their show “Survivor”. I can’t stand that show so it’s nice that Hubby has someone to share his excitement with. Yesterday, while it was snowing and raining, we made bread, practiced spinning, played cards and watched favorite TV shows.
Ren Adoration

Pure adoration from Ren.

Playing with Noah
Intense play with Noah.

Granddaughter and Gracie
Carissa and Gracie sharing a moment.

All the animals love Carissa too. And she is a cat person, so Gracie is in her glory, getting extra petting. It is too bad that the weather has been so awful. She and Grandpa finally gave up waiting for clear weather and took their walk through the grove in cold and drizzle.

Carissa is a remarkable young woman and we have had a wonderful time getting to know her. We will miss her very much when she goes home.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Good Day

Yesterday was a very good day. It started out with an actual sunrise. We couldn’t believe it. We haven’t seen the sun for what feels like weeks. And it stayed all day. No gray clouds, no rain, no mist and no fog. It was almost blinding. The wind blew, but that is just helping to dry out the wet fields.
Sun and Shadows
Sun peaking through the trees.

I decided I didn’t want to waste such a day, so I hauled buckets of water out to my shop, aka “the cat house”. My shop is a closed off room in a small garage that we use to store the snow blower and lawn tractor. It also houses the cat’s food, heated beds, and heated water bowl.
Shop Door
Shop door and the covered cat beds.

They have a pet door so they can come and go as they please. In the summer, they only go in to eat. However, in the winter, they can be found most of the time sleeping in the heated beds and getting fat. Anyway….

I started a fire in the stove (I have a wood stove, wash tubs and a ringer washer in the shop) and set the water to heating. I tried some jar dyeing on a Corriedale roving that I had.
Shades of Blue
Shades of blue. This didn’t work like I wanted.

Then I tried a new method of dyeing fleece that I had read about. I dyed some of Maple’s fleece while I was washing it. I put soap, vinegar and the dye in warm water. Then I added the dirty fleece and stoked the fire. I let it heat up and keep it hot for about 20 minutes, took out the fleece, drained the water and then rinsed the same way. When I left the shop last night , it was draining and it looked great. This morning it looks like it came clean with 1 wash and 1 rinse. And the color is stunning.
Peach Maple
A gorgeous shade of peach.

I wanted a peach to comb into some of her natural color and think it is going to be beautiful. I found a shawl pattern to make for myself with Maple’s wool, and hope the peach blend will add an extra zing to it. And I did get to comb a lot more of the fleece that had already been washed. Now there is more to spin.

My brother from Oklahoma is here for the weekend staying at Sister Connie’s house. He and Connie’s husband came over in the afternoon. Hubby and the boys had a football party and watched the Vikings win again. Since they were occupied, I cranked up the music in my shop and I had the best time singing and combing wool. It’s scary what makes you happy, isn’t it?

And although the wind was howling outside, with the new windows we didn’t hear it in the house. No rattling windows, no extra cold drafts blowing through.

Old vs new

New and Old.

OK, I admit it. The new windows were a good move. Next year….. new siding?

PS. As I post this, the clouds are back. The gray is back and rain is on the way. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is New Better than Old?

Today we get new windows! I am excited and I am sad. This house was built in 1910 and we have the original windows in. With the wavy glass and ornate hardware. We even had the ropes and weights until last year. Hubby took them out to try to insulate against the cold. It helped, but not enough. So today the new windows will be put in.

I guess the problem is: I love antiques, old houses and the idea of them. And I hate to see the past get pushed aside so carelessly. But I also hate being cold; hate the heating bills; hate not being able to see out the frosted winter windows.

So logic won out over sentiment. And thanks to some help from the west, we are getting sixteen new windows today. They don't have the beautiful wood on them; in fact they are white PLASTIC frames. But they are insulated, don't have the second and third storm window covering them and can be cleaned from the inside.

I'll mourn the old windows.....while seeing the view out my window soooo much better. In this case, I guess new is better than old. (Sigh!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall? at Anniversary Grove

It had started to look like fall here. Although most of the trees still had leaves, they were starting to turn various shades of yellow and brown. There are no beautiful red leaves here. Well, there weren’t any. Since we moved in, I have been steadily planting some bushes and small trees that hopefully will give me either bloom in the spring or color in the fall. Anyway… I went out in the grove, looking for some color. It was hard to find good photos in the rain.

Little red maple
My little red maple.

Wood vine in a flower garden.

south trail
The south trail in our grove.

In the last 3 weeks, we have had gray days and 6 inches of rain. Then 1 day of sunshine…..AND THEN…

Frost on the Corn
Frost on the corn.

Snow on Corn
And now snow.

We all know this weather is way too early. And most of us are feeling pretty grumpy about it. Where are our beautiful October days, with the sun on golden leaves and the crisp clear nights? Now most of the leaves are frozen, brown and dropping fast. And there is a lot of worry for the farmers. Most in our area have not gotten their soybeans out yet. I’m afraid a lot of them will lose their crop. Hopefully the corn will be alright.

So what does a Minnesotan do on days like this? Well…Sister Connie and I went to visit a wonderful woman and her beautiful Shetland sheep. We drove 2 ½ hours in the rain to Hamburg. Gail from Little Red Oak Farm was so sweet to allow us to spend the day with her. We talked sheep and wool, apples, cooking, families and just about everything. We met some of her California relatives. Then she made a very tasty chili, egg bread and zucchini bread for lunch. After that we all spent some time sitting out in the pasture in the rain, getting to know her ewes. One of which is Maple, who gave me the beautiful fleece I am now spinning. Connie and I both reserved fleeces for next spring and left with apples and fleece in the car. I hope to be able to go back again soon, when the weather is a little better.

Next I spent time reorganizing my craft room and stringing my loom for a new project.

Rayon Chenille Warp

That’s Magic sitting on the loom, guarding it from the smelly Asian beetles.

Since my disastrous life lesson on the last project, I have decided to try Rayon Chenille. It is very soft and drapey (is that a word?). And hopefully it will be stronger than the last warp.

I finished knitting a hat, tried it on, and found it was too big. So I pulled it out and am starting over again. I am working on knitting the second sock for my daughter and knitting an afghan with some alpaca I got from Knit Picks. I researched the internet and found a shawl pattern that I am going to try using Maple’s wool. Then I started teaching Daughter Brook to can. She now has a winter’s supply of marinara sauce. Hubby and I spent the only nice day we’ve had in weeks outside, cleaning up for winter, putting away the garden art, empting the pond and all things necessary to get ready for snow. Guess that was a good idea. I put away the light jackets, took out hats and scarves, and found Hubby’s favorite winter bibs. Guess that was a good idea too. And I canceled a trip to Rapid to visit the heart doctor, parents and friends. Good idea? I don’t know….but it’s STILL snowing.

The only really exciting thing about the strange, early winter weather is that the adorable (NOT) little Asian beetles are having a hard time finding our house in the cold and snow. Maybe they have found a new habitat. One can only hope.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Maple is not White

Today I am looking out the window, watching the leaves fall. This part of Minnesota is right on schedule this year with the Equinox. Autumn comes and the leaves start falling. Our ash tree is always the first to go, and this year she is almost empty already. Next the box elders, with yellow leaves and brown seeds. With a good wind, coming this afternoon, they will be empty too. Our American elms, mulberries and buckthorn are the last to go. I haven’t been down to the black willows to see how they are fairing. It’s too depressing. In a horrible wind storm last month, we lost the biggest and probably oldest of our black willows. We knew it was just a matter of time, but it is still hard to see something that tall and stately fall. Fortunately we had taken some branches this spring and have gotten 5 sapling black willows from him. So he will live on in our grove. It probably seems strange to some of you that we give personalities to our trees. But they are living things and when you spend as much time with them as we do; you start to think of them as family.

I want to share some promised photos with a blog friend. You might remember me talking about the Shetland fleece I got from Little Red Oak Farm. When perusing the Shetland blogs this spring, I ran across Gail’s. And feel head over heels in love with her little ewe Maple. I was lucky enough to get Maple’s fleece and have finally had time to work on it. And I promised Gail photos. So all you non-spinners please bear with me.

Looking at a photo of Maple, you would think the fleece was grayish brown. Nope. Cleaned up, Hubby said, “Oh, it’s just white.” But there is white and then there is white.
Not all White is White
White is not always white.
All you out there that spend hours going over paint chips know that there is no such thing as “just white”. There’s bisque, buff, cream, ecru, mushroom, oatmeal, biscuit, beige, lait, milk toast….and the list goes on forever. So I will try to describe this in my own way.
On the Combs
On the combs.
The combed wool has a sheen or luster to it that I have not ever seen on other wool. Is this a trait of Shetland or is it just Maple?
Nested and ready to spin.
The color is a warm, soft oatmeal (Yes, Renee, I can hear you laughing from here. But that’s just the way I’d write it up). And the waste that I have taken off the combs to be carded later is more of a mottled mushroom.
Ready to card
To be carded later.
I am more than pleased with this fleece. I am excited. I can’t wait to spin it up and knit something. So Gail, please, please, can I reserve Maples fleece for next year?

Then quickly, here’s a photo of the BFL, re-dyed and plied with the natural color.
I have to tell you, I am not impressed with this wool. I have heard such good things about BFL, but this yarn, to me, is course and stiff. Now, I bought the roving off line a couple of years ago, and have no idea of the origin. So is it 100% or is it blended? I don’t know. Next year I will get a fleece from a breeder that stands behind their wool, and try it one more time. But now I have to try to figure out something to do with this yarn. Any ideas?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Life's Lesson #..??

How many life lessons have I had? Oh, who knows.... Too many to count and some I don't want to share. But I will share this one with all the Majacraft spinners out there. I had wondered why I couldn’t find a lot of info on dyeing the spun yarn directly on the bobbins. Now I know. The beautiful rust colored bobbins that I showed you yesterday have been put on a niddy noddy. Majacraft Dyeing Lesson #1: The yarn does not dry very well on the bobbins. Majacraft Dyeing Lesson #2: The color does not, I repeat, does NOT go all the way through the yarn. So it is only dyed on the surface. Now this could be cool, if that’s what you wanted. But I wanted rust yarn to ply with gray. Not rusty gray yuck...

Ugly Yarn
What a disappointment.

And finally, Majacraft Dyeing Lesson #3: Have enough dye powder to re-dye, or better yet, just dye when the fiber is in a skein, as roving, or as locks. Perhaps Majacraft should take that off of their list of features. It doesn’t work. But I have nothing bad to say about the spinning of my Belle. I still love this spinning wheel.

On a better note: Hubby was watching the hummers and saw a little female trying desperately to get nectar from his silk flower art. So he quickly set up a new feeder, getting buzzed all the time and now she has her own. And she guards it diligently.

Silk Flower Hummer
Are we spoiling them? Of course.

And here’s a couple of photo’s of Hubby’s new obsession. Searching the grove for varieties of fungus. And he has found some beauties.

Orange and Yellow Mushroom
No, the photo is not upside down. This tiny mushroom is hanging from the log.

Dessert Plate Mushrooms
These are the size of dessert plates.

We have no idea what any of these are. But that doesn’t stop us enjoying their beauty. I wish you could come and explore the grove with us.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Week Gone

It’s been a good week. I’ve been too busy to write, but we have gotten so much done. And we actually had some time to relax yesterday.

The garden is almost done. I got the last of the tomatoes made into salsa and some more cucumbers pickled. Today I am going to make elderberry jelly, Hubby’s favorite minty plum jelly and raspberry jam. I have frozen lots of elderberries for friend Nancy to make wine with in the hopes that she’ll share (my wine room is still not ready to use). And I made a quart of raspberry coulis and froze; we’ll have a taste of summer for the winter. I think that’s all the canning I have done. With the days so busy, it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve done and when.

Then Hubby and I worked on the gazebo. The “rocks” were already in and we finished the edges with rocks from our grove. So we spent some enjoyable time searching out just the right ones and hauling them back up the hill to the yard. And while I am writing this I am waiting for him to come back from town with the sandkrete to mortar the rocks in. We should be able to use it in a couple of days. The first thing I want to do is light the little stove and some candles, and sit out there watching our hummingbirds finishing up for the day.

Gazebo floor.
The floor is done.

And speaking of the little guys, we were invaded this weekend. It must be migration time. We have been very busy trying to put up enough feeders to satisfy all the little ruby-throated wonders. But of course we don’t have anywhere near enough feeders. Now, I have seen lots of photos of one feeder with “hundreds” of birds eating. But at our house the rule is One Bird for One Feeder. I don’t know why ours are so greedy, but they are constantly trying to keep others away from THEIR feeder. And if you have two feeders placed close together, one poor hummingbird will try to defend them both. So yesterday was full of hummingbirds darting everywhere, chasing each other and dive-bombing us. They come right in your face, beating those tiny wings and chirping at you. It’s a good thing I can’t understand Hummer talk; I’m sure it wasn’t very polite.

Hummers on the clothes line.
They got so tired; they rested on the clothes line.

Humming bird
Can you see the second one coming in for a fight?

This weekend was Stitches, and I spent almost all day spinning. I got some of my black Icelandic plied and ready for the vest I am going to TRY to knit. Then I got another bobbin of the BFL done. I only have about 5 ounces of the original pound left to spin. But I ran out of bobbins on Belle. So yesterday I threw 2 of the bobbins in the dye pot along with some brown Finn locks. And I am very pleased with the color; pure Rust from Cushing’s acid dye. I plan on blending the Finn locks while combing, and plying the BFL with some of the natural gray. And now, finally, I will have time to wash, comb and spin “Maple”, the beautiful Shetland fleece I got from Gail at Little Red Oak Farm. After that will be the Targhee ram fleece from Cousin Mark in South Dakota. Then the fleeces will be done for the year. Gail, since things are slowing down, maybe it’s time to do a road trip to meet your “kids” and possibly pick out fleeces for next year. What do you think?

Black Icelandic for vest.

Black Icelandic.

Brown Finn dyed rust.
Brown Finn dyed rust.

Bluefaced Leicester dyed rust.

Bluefaced Leicester spun on Belle and dyed rust.

And lastly, we are so excited here. Our oldest granddaughter is coming for a visit from Michigan. Son John will drop her off on his way west for hunting and she’ll be with us for about 6 days. We are really looking forward to seeing them both, and to have her stay with us. She is taking a break before starting college next semester. And to top it off, she wants to try her hand at spinning. Does life get any better?