Thursday, May 28, 2009

He Came From Outer Space

Okay, Smoochie loves to smile and I was lucky enough to catch this mug yesterday looking up at me. I can't begin to describe the sound effects that go along with this grin but suffice to say they are joyful and plentiful. Gene and I have always referred to the dogs as aliens. They swing between being extremely in tuned with us and their surroundings and then swing to the "What was he/she thinking?" moments. That's Pogo and Charlotte being polite on the floor while Smooch is trying to get me to pick him up.

It is certainly spring in Oregon, a very short one too in which every single bush,tree and wildflower is showing it's stuff. The hills in the valley are purple with vetch and lupins and I mean purple rides over the green like a bright haze. The wild roses are blooming along Highway 66, the dogwoods are putting on their show and very nice up here glowing in the sea of dense evergreens. Wild lilies, trillium and something that looks like Solomon's Seal is blooming, even the Oregon Grape is putting on a bright yellow show. Wild strawberries are peeking out here and there too. Here is some of it.

On other news, the windows have arrived!!! Now, we just need to get them in. I want to move the Murphy Loom out there once it's been enclosed. I can't think of anything more relaxing than watching the season's offerings while weaving on my much loved Murphy.

I have rescheduled my trip. Gene is doing really well, up and active but still on some Advil when his back gets tired. I'm heading to MA on June 2nd so things have gone back to hyper speed. Smoochie, Dennett and Miss Bea have all been victims of my less than impressive summer clip job, but they are cool and clean and don't know that I would flunk out of any grooming competition in heartbeat. Gene even got a summer clip. Heads are easier than wiggly dogs and certainly than kicking bleating goats!

I have two prayer flags woven on the warp and a few more to do. I might have time today to finish the weaving. Not sure how it will go.

 Over Memorial day weekend I had time to put a few rides on the various steeds and had a wonderful time on all. Such a good group of horses. I marvel at their talents and kindness. Nick I took on a walk, like I did when he was a baby. We leave on a lead rope and once past the farm proper I let him off leash so to speak. He can graze while I walk and always follows. In fact if I get out of sight he comes racing to where I am and usually gets a treat for his efforts. None of my horses are as tuned in to me being lead mare as he is.  Out on a trail Cooper will stay close but around home, that wise old bird knows just where he is and if the grass is good I can walk alone. ;-)

The sock has come along slowly, but the heel turn has been done and now we're knitting towards the toe. I am loving this yarn.

 These are also for my Dad but another pair will be started in a different color for my Mom and she too has requested a cashmere scarf! Once the flags are off when I'm back, Ill do up some wonderful confection for her. I have cashmere on order already.

Lest you think I have dropped the ball on shopping, I haven't! I did miss the great sale at Web-sters due to Gene's injury but found some interesting cotton ribbon yarn when I poked through the store yesterday.

  Filatura Di Crosa Malva 85% cotton and 15% polymide. I can see this woven up as a couple of colorful summer wraps. The colors sucked me right in. I love that they run in a linear fashion instead of a variegated way.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Few Little Goodies

Never let it be said that adversity keeps me from shopping! ;-) 

Gene is up and about, moving slower than usual and still tender, but he's up more than resting and weaning off the pain meds except at bedtime.  He was able to conduct training last night for the volunteer fire department he's chief of. It was good for all our spirits. Mine because he was out from under foot for a few hours and his most likely for the same reason.

I took myself down to town in my own car (which is running like a top), for just a fun shopping excursion. Honey buns and silk pieces, a great book,  and some patterns that I think will lend themselves well to woven fabric. 

My dear friend Kris also had some Harrisville Shetland wool that she was purging from her weaving stash for me as a gift.

 The roving came from Cindie at eweniquely ewe. I fell in love with the colors and when I didn't make it to guild meeting she mailed it off to me. I've been draping it about and petting it for a bit before I break into it for spinning. 

Honey buns and silk are for more prayer flags. It's nice to have a varied selection of fabrics for them. I redid the too narrow warp, making it wider and a higher sett. I've done a bit of weaving playing around with some ideas before  I start in earnest a few flags. 

The book, Designing Woven Fabric by Janet Phillips has been on back order for a while and it brightened up my week when I got the call from Web-sters that it had finally arrived. The book is an intense study of twill fabrics and is just loaded with ideas and color photos. Each fabric has a clear draft and Ms. Phillips goes into detail about the design inspiration and process. It is an expensive book at $59.95 but for me at least I am finding it worth the cost. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cashmere for Father

Isn't that what every Dad wants in June??? The manly cashmere scarf did come off the loom and get finished, just in time to make the package out with the House Mouse Mat. No sense in Omar and Foxy not having their mat! I think I'll have to make a couple more as both Jack and Rodger thought it was just wonderful to sleep and knead on respectively. I have yarn to do a couple more of course. :-)
The scarf was done at a much tighter set than the light lavender one, 15epi and the blue stripes are actually lace weight alpaca. I love those soft sand and sea colors. Again I used fishing line as the selvage edge with good results. Next trip into town I will pick up more as I only bought small rolls of it to try. 

I am casting around for another project to put on the Barbara V loom. Haven't decided on anything at the moment. Ideas anyone?

Thank you all for your thoughts and well wishes for Gene. He is up and moving about, although slowly and in short bouts. He is able to work at his computer on and off and at the bench for longer periods every day but it is still quite sore and requires a fair amount of rest. I'm sure the meds make him tired too. Nurse Pogo has been with him just about round the clock.

I have a warp wound on for a few more prayer flags. These will be smaller ones as I want to try a couple of things. In my distracted state I should have made the warp a bit bigger as I wanted to do a closer sett, but must have gotten sidetracked in thought when I was measuring it out. It still needs to be threaded and sleyed but I will weave it as is.

Puck is still slinking around, I catch glimpses of him here and there. Juno has been leaving gifts for me in the barn. Mostly bird and chipmunk parts. They do catch mice but rarely do I find evidence. I will say since I've had the two cats I have not had any evidence of mice either in the tack room or the barn proper. Horses Boo and Cooper are down to their slick summer coats with the other 3 not far behind. 
The goatie girls are roaming about getting the first good spring browse. I see them off in all directions.  Sylvie wears a bell on her collar so I can hear them once in a while racing past the house. The dogs do too and love nothing more than streaming out the side door to the pen to bark at them. Thank god we don't have close neighbors!

Monday, May 18, 2009

No Fool Like An Old Fool

Well, I should have more time on my hands than expected to blog, weave and fill that role I've always wanted to play of Nurse Ratchet.

On a lovely sunny day last week Gene felt the need to get one last paragliding flight in before I left for Massachusetts. No problem, I was tied up with an appointment with an equine nutritionist ( think feed smarter not higher cost). The car was at the spa all fixed and ready to be paid for and picked up, so husband paid for it and grabbed the keys on his way out to the flying site. We could pick it up at our leisure during the weekend.
All well and good until he nose dived crashed on take off, causing a compression fracture to one of the lumbar vertebrae. He managed to drive himself to the hospital where they so kindly put him up for the night. Of course I didn't know any of this until a call just around dark. I was expecting him to be asking if he could pick up dinner. HA! 
Well he made it home the next day on his own power, a friend zoomed me down to Ashland so I could pick up my own car once I had the only set of keys in hand and got some much needed shopping done after the patient was put to bed. The trip has been put on hold until his back heals. Estimates say 4-6 weeks before being back to 100%.

As disappointing and annoying as this all is I am grateful it is what it is.  It could have been so much worse. I have never been behind this hobby of his. As dangerous as horseback riding is, it doesn't come close to paragliding and at 51, I am oh so careful about where,when and how I ride. If one of my horses is off and cranky I'll gladly play the chicken, get off or go home as there is always another day. I am not the adrenaline junkie my husband is that's for sure! :-) I have been eyeing that paragliding wing and I am sure I could turn it into a very nice tent.....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bare Naked Ladies

Well, I may have been spinning a lot of wheels this week but the girls have been shorn of their heavy ( and dirty ) winter locks. All except Dolly who wasn't feeling well beginning of the week so I decided to do her over the warmer weekend. This is my first time using an actual pair of shears to do this job, previously I had had to use scissors. Predictably, it isn't the best job, but no one lost skin and there are only two very small nicks to report.

The fleece is not worth saving. We have to leave it on so long in the spring due to weather that by the time I do feel safe about clipping the girls, they are well into shedding and matting that shed into the fleece.
I don't think I've ever introduced the girls in an official manner. The two blacks are Sylvie and Cece, the two white/cream girls are Dolly and Taffy (mother & daughter) and the silver is Nancy, who is Sylvie's mother.

 What a funny bunch of girls they are too and very hard to snap photos of. They follow their shepherdess (me) closely and when they spread out to graze they do so with me as the sun. In other words, I can get great pics of goatie butts but the minute I move they all come running back to me.

 They are allowed to run loose during the day and stick pretty darn close to home, always within sight of the horse paddock. If something startles them, they run back to the paddock, either theirs or the horses. Where ever they go, they go en mass.

 Dolly and Taffy are the sweetest of the 5, Sylvie is queen bee and can be a little haughty with everyone. She will challenge the horses but to date, she has never challenged me although she has thought about it. She challenges by rearing up and lunging forward to butt heads as is typical of goats. Thankfully none of the goats have horns. Cece is my bull in the china shop and if she thinks you have a bit of food for her, look out, she'll come barreling into you in excitement. Nancy is always polite and a little distant. Goats, I think, are one of Mother Nature's little jokes on the universe. They are into and on everything. They crawl on Bob the tractor, they will hop in the back of the Subaru or truck while you are unloading stuff, they will be endlessly helpful while trying to cut firewood or doing yard work. We have to lock them up when we fell trees around here.
They have tried to follow me on a trail ride or two and once, friends came up in their beautiful soft top Audi 2 seater sports car and I looked out to see a goat on their roof....YIKES! Thank god no damage was done as I would not want to have to replace it. Goats are curious and smart and have the capacity to get into all sorts of trouble. They certainly liven up the farm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hyper-Time and Murphy's Law

Hyper-time is the phenomenon that when you get closer to an event, time goes by faster.  Murphy's Law of course is the addition of monkey wrenches into what otherwise might be something well planned. So it has been these last few days on the farm.
The car is wanting another spa treatment, this time with the transmission experts, the large animal vet took up a fair amount of one day, a sick goat on another day and a few other minor unplanned events scattered here and there.
I am heading out for 3 weeks on the 21st and struggling to get everything orderly and easy to manage for Gene. Feeding instructions written out, medications split and put into daily trays for 3 weeks, the barn organized, some meals put up for him etc.
The goats need to be sheared down and a couple of the dogs before I leave. Oh, and flea treatments for both dogs and cats. Bunches of little things that I do in the normal course of a weekly planning need to all happen at once. The fact that I hate flying ramps up all the anxiety of the week or so before. I certainly won't be watching Snakes on a Plane!
There has been very little weaving going on, the cashmere scarf is almost ready to come off the loom and I was such a hopeful person I have another warp ready, but it isn't happening until I come back. 
The sock knitting will travel with me on the plane, the in progress sweater will also come but packed in the luggage.
I should get one more blog in before I head out. Should.....;-)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Does This Blanket Make My Butt Look Big?

It was such a nice spring day I trotted (literally) one of the male models (Cooper) out for a ride.

 We did our training trail, which is a long winding up hill climb for the first half and then a fairly steep set of trails down on the going home leg. Not a lot of wildlife visible but then again, the middle of the day with bells jingling and hooves clip-clopping along usually clears just about everyone out of the path long before we see them.

 Early mornings are best for wildlife viewing. Mid afternoons in summer prove to be wildlife loafing times.  We did have a grand time at the beginning of the ride by startling Puck out of his hiding place, Cooper was game for a little sprint but we lost him quickly as we stayed on the trail.
I did remember the camera and while pics aren't great you get an hint of the beautiful wild places we get to travel.

 The snowy ridge in the background of some of the pics is still monument area in fact along one of those ridges runs the Pacific Crest Trail. We've been poking around places below there regularly, but it is early in the riding season, neither one of us in shape for those climbs and honestly, it's really really wilderness out there and I prefer to let the baby bears get bigger, and everyone get a little more meat on them from the long winter.  That way a chubby horse and rider won't look so tempting! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

House Mouse Mat

Say that three times fast!

I just couldn't resist knitting this up for my folks two new kittens, Omar and Foxy. It's been years since they had a kitten in the house let alone two feline youngsters. From what I hear this is quite an energetic duo. Quite the contrast with the 18 and 15 year old's that passed earlier in the year. At least I won't have Sophie giving me the evil stare for two days. She liked to sleep on the guest room bed at night and I guess I was a terrible imposition. She would warm up though and all in all was a very sweet cat. She would have liked this warm woolly mat to sleep on I know.

The pattern came out of this wonderfully fun book, Pet Projects The Animal Knits Bible by Sally Muir & Joanna Osborne.

 Not only does it have some very nice patterns for dogs and cats, but also a hamster hut, a turtle tent, some horsey things and  water lilies knitted from plastic bags to name a few. This book has moved up to one of my favorites. The writing is quite witty and at $17.95 retail a bargain too.

The cashmere warp made it over to the loom and got spread in the raddle but that's about it. I was finishing up ears yesterday and sewing it all together. I finally got some socks on the needles after a long break. I have some camel and wool yarn that my Dad liked when he saw it. After starting and frogging it 3 times I put socks away for a while.
The yarn has no elasticity and each pattern I tried would stretch and then stay stretched. I found a lovely ball of yarn a few weeks ago that I think will be just as nice as the camel and has the appropriate spring and memory to make a nice sock. I'm using a pattern out of Cookie A's new book Sock Innovation, Cauchy is the pattern for those that might have the book. The yarn is Schoppel Wolle Zauberball in chocolate creme, although they have many other brighter colors. This yarn has very long color repeats and the sock they show on the label is quite lovely without all the business of the typical variegated yarn. Wool and nylon blend so you don't need a reinforcement yarn at heels and toes.

It has been raining for two plus days. Sunday morning the temps dropped and we had snow. I  had 4 out of 5 shivering cold horses. The guys are 75% into their summer slicks, the winter coat left is shedding and providing no insulation and they had been wet for about 24 hours when the snow started. Rather than blanket, since I don't have 4 anyway (and that in itself can be a royal mess), I brought another hay helping up. The boys got second breakfast! For grazing animals the act of digestion produces body heat. On a cold day you will see the horses backs producing steam into the air as they eat. It's a good thing and just what they needed to get them through. Yesterday during the heaviest rain they were all tucked into their shelter. Hungry but dry when they came down for their evening meal. Looks like nice weather is on the way but taking it's good sweet time about it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Muddy Models

Well, if it would ever stop raining I would get pics of the boys modeling their new saddle blankets, but since this is spring in Oregon that picture will have to wait. No doubt when the rain finally stops we will bypass spring all together and go directly to summer. It is one thing here it rarely is and that's humid. My sinuses kind of like the relief from the typical dry air, my hair, not so much. ;-)

The yarn softened beautifully in wet finishing. I soaked these blankets for about a half hour each in Kookaburra Wool Wash, my favorite for all woolens and fine washables.
Stuck them in the washer to spin out and waited patiently for them to dry. They are just right for my saddles and horses. I'm not a fan of over thick pads and these have a little cushioning but will mold to the horses back beautifully. My saddles have wonderful felt undersides and mostly I use a blanket to protect the saddle from sweat and help the horse stay cool by soaking up all that sweat on the back. 

 A properly placed saddle pad will have an inverted V over the withers (shoulders on the top) so that it isn't tightly laid across cause rubbing and chafing. By lifting the blanket with your hand once the saddle is set it also allows for some air flow. Saddles are built with a center channel underneath for just this purpose. Look for good wide ones! The blankets are pliable enough to allow easily for that "skooch" room and dense enough to hold it. As you can plainly see, one of the skeins of natural dark grey was a bit off. I didn't notice until I was into it and these being for me and not gift blankets, I let it go.

 It is in the endless center body of the blanket that will be under saddle. It also shows just how much these weft faced blankets use. The two dark stripes are one skein of heavy worsted weight yarn.

There is another cashmere scarf on the warping board, ready to be tied up and taken over to the Murphy loom. The knitting project is almost complete and pictures will be forthcoming PDQ.

I promised Gene I would make stuffed cabbage today, so sauce will have to get on the stove to cook early. The dogs will all come into the kitchen in hopes that there will be fallen treats. They are all SO helpful you know. 

Puck, being the smart little kitty he is, has saved himself from weathering this rainy period outside by hiding on top of the stack of hay in the barn. Yesterday morning I had to finally get up there before feeding to heave some bales down and we had a Home Alone moment. He booked down that stack lickety split. In the afternoon he was back. Starting up Bob was the catalyst for sending him out of hiding into parts unknown. No doubt he is there this morning too although I won't go searching. It's pouring rain and no need for him to get wet if he doesn't have to. I've dragged my feet enough getting out there to feed as it is. Time to get moving!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

And They're Off!

Okay, it's going to be one of THOSE posts. Today is the running of the Kentucky Derby.
If you like Mint Juleps ( bourbon, ice and mint) and big fancy hats, this day is tailor made for you. If you like horses, not so much of a good day. For years I have grumbled and griped about the horse racing industry. Not only the sheer waste of good horses, but the fact that they are simply running babies flat out, over and over again, from the time they are a mere 20 months old in some cases. There is no doubt Thoroughbreds are bred to run, and love it they do, but no matter the breed, horse physiology is the same. They mature from the ground up, slowly. Simply put, the bones have neither closed, beefed up or hardened by the time those barely 2 & 3 year old's hit the track. They feed them to grow fast, not grow well. Those with big dogs know the issues with too fast growth, the bone never gets dense it's spending so much time growing. Hence on racetracks all over the country horses shatter leg bones, you just don't hear about it. That's the obvious injury, there are a whole host of stress and tendon injuries that will plague an animal for life aside from breakage.
Those that make it off the track are usually bothered for life by bad legs, bad feet and at times, bad attitude. It isn't just the body that is immature. A few in the racing sport have stepped up to the plate and launched rescues for TB's and that is a wonderful thing. For every winner, hundreds if not thousands of horses are bred and raced hoping for a Derby winner, or even a stakes winner. Some make the switch into show jumping, a very few, others might make it into hunters or dressage but the percentage is very very small. Most are destroyed or end up in auctions, useless to themselves or anyone else. It's a sad dirty industry on many levels. There is nothing about racing that is done for the good of the horse. Since this is an equal opportunity blog, racing isn't the only horse related industry that puts terrible strains on their young stock. Quarter Horses in many of the western sports; reining, barrel racing, roping etc, start their babies way too young for those repetitive endeavors. Horses can turn on a dime, run very fast, jump very high and stay collected all on their own, the difference is they don't do it over and over and over again in pursuit of  "perfection". 
Why do they do it? Well, money. It costs a lot to keep a race horse and waiting until they are say 5 means that much more out of pocket, that much more risk holding onto an animal that may or may not pan out on the track. They might be a fraction faster too, since the frame is still immature and the muscle mass long and lean. Mostly it seems to be tradition since there sure isn't a lot of science that goes into starting a horse so young. They spend all that energy on trying to keep the animal sound once they have decided to run them as babies. 
For me, the winner of the races are the noble young equine athletes that manage to finish their race without injury.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day

The 1st of May has been celebrated by many but for me at least, I think of dancing and Maypoles. No dancing today outside, the promised rain has finally arrived.
Inside, I'll do my final loom dance on the saddle blankets. The hem is being woven and should finish up quickly today leaving time to weave in ends, hem and do the wet finishing. Since I am heading to MA for the annual lengthy visit with my parents I won't put a warp on the Barbara V until I come home. I will get pics of the models in their blankets though and post.

All sorts of fun stuff has arrived for future fibery goodness though. I was lucky enough to find a very good buy from a destash of lots of good tightly spun moth proofed wool in shades of orange for that rump rug. The blue is certainly bright! 

A new to me yarn has come home in the last week or so, which is being knitted up into a quick and very fun project. I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag on this one until it's done and I'm over half way with it. 
The yarn itself is grown and processed in Oregon by Imperial Stock Ranch and what got plopped into my basket is their "Lopi" style of yarn, a thick, bouncy and lightly spun single. 

 This isn't cashmere or merino but I am always attracted to a good sheepy wool and it's getting harder and harder to find. It is perfect for the project in hand.
Websters also is carrying another of their products, a not spun at all pencil roving and I am going to certainly pick some up for use as weft in a project or two. There is a good color range and they are very soft on the eyes and allow the nature of the wool to come through. The pinky peach ball is Nashua's Natural Focus Ecologie Wool which will also make it's appearance in the surprise project. 

On the farm front, finally after 3 years of struggling to shear the goats with scissors, I acquired a used pair of Oster shears. Yippeee! I need to change the blade out with one more suitable for doing goats instead of making cows pretty, but that's small potatoes compared to the cost of the shears themselves. Another score for craigslist!
Puck has been seen back on the farm. In fact I came around the corner and ruined what was probably a very nice cat nap in the sun for him. He's a very fast cat. 

It's also official that the deer have arrived. Our first band of 5 does tiptoed through the property on Wednesday morning. It looks like 4 yearlings and a mature doe, pretty typical to have a few first year maidens with a seasoned matron.

Trust me, although hard to see there is a deer in that picture. They are so skittery the first few weeks it's hard to catch them well. By June, I can go out and try to chase them away and they will just look at me like I'm nuts until I get within 20 feet. Then they may slowly move away. :-)
 The bucks will arrive in small bands also. Last year we had a spectacular group of three well pointed bucks, all big and robust and by fall, full of themselves. The yearling bucks seem to have it the hardest, no one wants them in their group. Too old to hang with the girls and too young to be allowed with the big boys. We had one that did like to spend time in the paddock with the horses and during the end of summer when it was very dry, my water tank provided for a lot more than 5 horses. We also had a doe with twins that would bed down in the late morning with her two babies in the upper paddock. It was not uncommon to see the horses sleeping not more than 30 feet away from Momma and babies and her hiding place for the fawns was  in some dense shrubs just outside the fence. The babies would dance around the horses in play, Imp even tried to get in on their games a few times that I saw.