Monday, July 28, 2008

and we're back

The rental house in Vermont was a boy paradise. Kind of like camping, only we had a beautiful cottage instead of a tent. (Thank goodness, given all the rain we got during the week.)

Witness the first day's activities.

6:30 am:


7:54 am:


9:08 am (no joke, but the water was warm):

alex nate eli

10:20 am:

11:12 am:

Repeat all week long, when it wasn't raining.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

stage one

I know the actual Tour guys are on stage 13 or 15 or something. I just finished my first. Eight ounces of Coopworth roving, washed to set the twist and dried on the front porch plant hanger.

IMG_2724 IMG_2733

I ended up with a fairly even and fine (for me) yarn of 14 wpi (wraps per inch), so a sport weight. It is slightly underspun, but it should still work for bulky-ish socks.

This took two weeks of more-or-less concentrated spinning. I am in awe of anyone who manages to spin enough wool for a sweater. The Yarn Harlot, who is making amazing progress on the Tour de Fleece, recently provided much food for thought about spinning, and the days when everything was handspun. If my family relied on me for the sails for their fishing boat, we would really be in trouble.

I spent a few hours this morning working out my next project and ended up organizing and weeding my fiber stash in the process. Isn’t that what everyone does just before they go on vacation?

(In the process, I found a long-missing shawl pin that I have been looking for since I misplaced it almost 2 years ago. I love serendipity!)

Thanks to Heidi’s most excellent suggestion, I am going to work on my spindling skills, using yet more Coopworth.

The white is from Pam Child at Hatchtown Farm; the natural colored is Regina Malsbary’s pin-drafted roving, from Turtle Creek Farm. The spindle is your basic learning-variety Schacht. Rumor has it that certain well-known spindle makers put Coopworth in their beginner’s kits, because it is so easy to spindle.

I am trying, as much as possible, to game the spindle experience in my favor. My first attempt involved Merino combed top. Let’s just say it was not a positive experience, and leave it at that.

Friday, July 18, 2008

done deal


My poor LSH. It looks like an indoor cat may be in his future after all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

update on many fronts

1 (and most important at the moment): Sir Charles is doing much better. He has stopped vomiting, much to the relief of both me and the carpeting. We are limiting his food and water intake to help his digestive system get back on track, and he has definitely perked up.

The diagnosis was: he ate a hot dog. You must understand that Charlie is a garbage hound of epic proportions. He has eaten, among other things:

  • an entire pepper and pepperoni pizza,
  • a blueberry pie,
  • a rotisserie chicken carcass,
  • the contents of our kitchen garbage (on numerous occasions when we forgot to shut the pantry door),
  • easter chocolate bunnies,
  • baby diapers....

You get the picture. He has never suffered the slightest consequence of this gross gluttony.

I guess age takes its toll on all of us.

2: Midge is on the mend as well and worming her way into the hearts of all but my LSH, who is resisting mightily.

3: The spinning is back on track after fair week, and I am plying the Coopworth roving.

With any luck I will be able to finish and wash the skeins tomorrow.

Funnily enough, my family is now avidly watching the Tour de France. We have never watched it before, and it has nothing to do with my participation in the Tour de Fleece, but everyone is addicted. It is great to spin to! What a brilliant idea.

Even though we don't get the most basic rules of the competition. After a week, the boys were still working out the significance of the yellow jersey.

4: We have ripe tomatoes in our garden!!!!

These are a heirloom variety (I think Amish Paste, but it's too dark to go out and check the marker) which we picked up at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival this year.

I know it sounds odd, buying plants at a sheep festival. But this farm is great! Very healthy starts of heirloom varieties at reasonable prices. I plan to get all my tomatoes from them next year, despite the slight difficulties with keeping the plants alive while camping.

(Mrs. C., I haven't forgotten your request. I will try to get a picture of the garden tomorrow.)

I diced them along with fresh bell pepper, sliced fresh basil leaves very thin, and added the lot to a cheap store-bought sauce. (We are out of the homemade sauce we canned last year. When boys can tell the difference, and request the homemade, you know you are onto something good).

Cooked for a little bit with some basic dried herbs, topped with parmesan and here's the result:


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

all creatures great and small

I read this book when I was a kid, and it made a big impression on me. In fact, "veterinarian" was my career plan for a long time (pretty much until I failed calculus in my first semester of college).

As my brother points out, my life has twisted in such a way that I have ended up as a de facto vet anyway.

We currently have two animals in the sick bay, in addition to one of the sheep who I had to treat in the field yesterday. (The chicken who was losing her back feathers just finished up her treatment and seems to be on the mend.)

This is Midge, one of the barn kittens born in May.

She has been sneezing off and on, but when I found her on Sunday she was laying in the barn, not caring about much of anything. She didn't put up too much fuss when I picked her up (a bad sign for a barn kitten) and I could feel the wheeze in her chest.

She is in the basement ward, getting antibiotics and food that she doesn't have to fight for. She is on the mend, judging how squirmy she is getting when I hold her.

This guy, however, is not doing well at all and I am very worried.

Charlie is our faithful farm dog, of indeterminate age. He hasn't eaten for the last 36 hours, and he is throwing up every few hours, in a very loud and dramatic fashion. It was so bad last night that we finally put him in the basement ward too, so we could get some sleep.

Then he started to bark.

He has slept under our bed since he came to the farm 6 years ago. He saw no reason why that changed last night. I finally gave up and took my pillow and a comforter downstairs, and slept next to him on top of a couple of lawn chair cushions.

Of course, he did not throw up once. The kitten could see me, however, and cried off and on all night.

Needless to say, I am a little stiff and tired this morning. I am calling the real vet in as soon as I can.

Monday, July 14, 2008

let it rain

Before we owned a farm, I never realized how important rain was, or how much time I would spend worrying about it.

Too much, too hard. Too early, too little. Too late.

I always loved a good rainy day. I chalk it up to my formative years spent in London. If you didn't appreciate a good rainy day there, then you were doomed to be unhappy a lot of the time.

But now rain has taken on a whole new meaning, when our plants and animals depend upon it. I somehow missed the memo about the rain due today (I blame the fair), and I woke up to the soft gentle patter with a feeling of relief and deep gratitude. This summer has been awfully dry so far, the kind of dry that makes me scream at TV screen when the weather forecasters say things like "it's another gorgeous dry day out there, not a rain cloud in sight!"

Don't they know our grass is getting crispy and we have lost two raspberry plants so far, with a blueberry bush in the final death throes?

Secondo is going to be a bit disappointed that the birthday party he is due to attend at the local baseball park will probably be rained out. That's OK. I'm sure it will be rescheduled.

Let it rain. Blessed, blessed rain.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

chicken surprise

My apologies for the lack of posts, but with getting ready for the fair and going to the fair this week, there wasn't much time to blog.

As a matter of fact, there wasn't much time to do anything else but those two activities.

We set up a sheep beauty parlor in the barn, and washed and trimmed and clipped and cut until our arms and backs ached. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures. I was the chief sheep hiney washer, and it took up a lot of time. (Sheep don't use a lot of toilet paper.) Plus I didn't want to touch the camera or pretty much anything while I was carrying out my assigned duties.

But everyone was ready to go on fair day, and so we loaded the trailer bright and early.


There was lots and lots of sheep showing.

first place friendship

terzo show

And helping out with the fleece show.
fleece show
(A huge thank you to Laurie and Val, who ran the fleece show while I raced back and forth to the show ring.)

And just having fun in the children's ag display section.

But the biggest surprise of the day was the chicken show. We had been asked to bring along some chickens for the display, so we tossed a couple into a pen and took them over. (Read: mom went out and caught the chickens and put them into a pen. The boys were a little afraid of them and didn't want to touch them.)

The chicken show organizers persuaded Primo that he wanted to show his chickens. A few days before the show, a very attractive college-age 4H girl showed him how to hold the chicken, and various parts of a chicken, and the proper way to show a chicken. Needless to say, he was pretty attentive.

But we were all shocked when he won the best showmanship award for chicken showing.

Which meant, at this particular show, that he was automatically entered into the Showmanship Round Robin. The best showmanship winner from each species show brought their animals to the ring, and they switched from animal to animal as the judge quizzed them on that particular species.

He had to show a meat goat:

And a dairy goat:

And a sheep (not a big stretch for him, though he got the question about sheep gestation wrong):

But he was really nervous about the cow. He knew this particular cow. He had seen her at her farm just two weeks ago climbing the walls of her pen when we simply walked into the barn. But she had calmed down a bit, and was on her best behavior.

Plus she was tied up to the ring, and he didn't have to hold her.

We came home, unloaded the animals and fleeces and food, and pretty much collapsed. This picture pretty much sums it up:

Monday, July 7, 2008

fair frenzy

This week marks the beginning of madness, farm-style: it's a fair week.

We can't claim to have a fair on the scale of the Ohio State Fair, which my family used to participate in when I was a kid living in Columbus. My mom sewed, cooked, and baked like a mad woman, while my dad gardened and canned. My brother and I were pros at modeling our outfits on the fair catwalk. Here he is in his prize-winning train conductor outfit. (He is going to kill me for this, but it's his fault for scanning in the picture and giving it to me on a CD.)

And to be fair, for your viewing pleasure: a picture of me in the first-place outfit sewn by my mom, circa 1974 or so. Check out those shoes! And who the heck trimmed my bangs so darn crooked?

My kids have apparently inherited this gene. Around 4:30 pm today, they (plus an extra, who is spending a few days here) decided to get their exhibits ready for our local fair, including baked goods. My kitchen looks like a bag of flour exploded in it.

They managed a pretty good haul, considering they did it in 2 hours:
OK, so the skein is mine. But the rest is all them. The tomatoes are for a "biggest green tomato" contest. Primo and Secondo are neck and neck with 8+ ounce tomatoes.

Terzo put together an entry for the "cut flower" division:
Secondo made his famous coffee cake, from his great-grandmother's recipe (yes, it stuck a little coming out of the pan -- hopefully the judge won't notice):

He also entered a zucchini in the "seeds to supper" program. Every year, the fair organizers give out seeds to the school kids, and award a prize to the kid who grows the biggest zucchini by fair time. He was a little late getting his seeds planted this year, so the biggest one he produced was a measly 2 lb 12 oz.

Last year, his weighed over 8 lb. He was beaten by a 15 lb zucchini, so he is pessimistic about his chances this year.

Primo put together a basket of vegetables from our garden.

The judge last year claimed our veggies were too perfect to come from any place but Shoprite, so we didn't place. Primo tucked a note in the basket this year, noting that all of them were grown in our local garden. Check out the carrot, which looks like it is in dire need of the facilities.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

tour de fleece '08

This fancy new button on my sidebar is testament that I have signed on to yet another commitment:

But this one is for me. I needed a kick in the butt to find time to spin. It's one of those things that I love to do, and want to do more of, but never seem to find the time. I figured the focus provided by the Tour de Fleece would help. I am setting my challenges one at a time, rather than a bunch of things that might plow me under.

First up is this dyed Coopworth roving I bought from Martha McGrath of Deer Run Sheep Farm, from the American Coopworth Registry booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool. (Volunteering in the booth gave me plenty of time to find a few things to add to my own stash.)


I have two purposes for this roving: as a sock yarn, so I am spinning it finer and tighter than my normal yarn, and as a display yarn at Rhinebeck this fall, hence the colors. I usually do not choose yarn in these colors. Blues, purples, pinks... those are more my speed. But I am loving seeing the sunny bright colors as they play out on the bobbin.

Here is the first one done, with apologies for the slight lack of focus. (I still haven't figured out how to get close up shots with this darn camera).


Unfortunately I am going to have to drop out of the Tour early, due to vacation plans. As much as I would love to sit and spin here:


...I know there will be absolutely no room for my non-folding wheel in a vacation loaded van.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

black gold

Found by my LSH while he was mowing the front yard last week: a patch of wild black raspberries. I waded out yesterday morning in knee high farm boots, jeans and a long-sleeved shirt to get what the birds had missed. (I think I sweated off three pounds in the process.) We ended up with this haul, plus a few strawberries from our garden that Terzo had missed.


We supplemented it with blueberries and strawberries to make a Berry Cobbler.

The recipe is my mom's. It is dead easy and very quick, but produces a spectacular summer dessert that is fantastic with vanilla ice cream.

Fruit Cobbler
Toss 3 cups fresh fruit with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Separately, blend 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 6 tablespoons butter in a food processor until crumbly. Remove a cup of the mixture and toss it with the fruit. Spray the bottom of a pie dish with cooking spray and put the fruit mixture in. Beat 1 egg, and add it to the remainder of the mixture in the food processor. Blend thoroughly, and then spoon over the top of the fruit. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, until top is golden brown with a hard crust.