Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Catpalooza

Morning nap after a hard night's work in the barn. Twenty-eight degrees calls for a little support from your friends. How many cats do people see? I'll post a captioned version later.



Jingle sheep

Just in case you aren't already in a holiday mood.






Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter light cat

Batman, the feral tomcat, enjoying a spot of sun inside the unfinished chicken shed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The next big thing

Livestock and poop management go together like night follows day.

Yep, yet another hill to add to the learning curve. I have gained such an appreciation for the guys who design, build, and manage human sewage treatment plants. Truly.

But this post is about livestock poop.

On the positive side, at the very least we can agree that livestock poop is relatively inoffensive. It is afterall basically semi-digested plant material. Not like dog or cat poop at all. On the other hand, even the smallest pony generates mountains more poop than the average dog, nevermind cat. So what to do with it all?

There are the standard methods practiced by folks in my area. These mostly involve ways of distributing the poop as a fertilizer for plants. Either people spread it on their own fields and gardens, or they compost it and give or sell it to the community. I admire the people who manage to get the community to pay money for it. Really. Well done, I say.

There are also the more traditional uses of it that people in other parts of the world still practice. Turning it into fuel bricks. Turning it into building bricks. Both of these seem worthwhile practices in the spirit of recycling and permaculture, but both are heavy duty labor intensive practices. Given the amount of physical labor required to care for the livestock in the first place, either practice is unrealistic at Tyche's Run. Besides, what would one build? Seriously.

I've also read about more modern heating systems that run on poop. If you can get the stuff to compost anearobically, it will give off enough energy to heat a building. The cost of these systems is comparable to a traditional furnace (um, don't quote me on that -- it's been a while since I read up on the topic.) Regardless, my house already has a perfectly good furnace, so replacing it with an anearobic digester model really isn't in the cards. Though, I admit, I'd love to kiss goodbye to my propane supplier. Sorry, I'm converting my furnace to poop.  Who wouldn't love to say that?

Anyway, I thought that pretty much covered the options for poop use.

Then I found this.

That's right -- poo paper! Paper made from recycled poop.

Now, we're talking. How great an idea is this?! Paper made from the pulped fiber in livestock poop.

This fits right into the big picture fiber plans here at Tyche's Run.  Yet another source of fiber for your artisan needs.

And I'm only half kidding. ;-)

I'm just wondering though -- exactly how bad does a pot of boiling horse poop smell?


Friday, December 6, 2013

Weaving update

Yes, I'm still working on my first weaving project. 

One afternoon a week I make my way to the arts center downtown and stake out the little loom by the door to the supply room. 

When I started I had a vision in my head of a scarf I would make. Subtle, elegant. One color warp, one color weft. A simple twill. 

Cough cough. 

I let go of that vision about half an hour after I started the actual task of weaving. 

Ha ha. I couldn't bear the suspense. The same pattern over and over and over for six feet? Seventy-two long inches. How long would that take? How long exactly would I have to wait to try another pattern?  How many weeks? At this once a week rate? Months? 

So, I cheated. Well, lets just say I changed my vision. :) 

Instead I embraced the joy of improvisation.

I started out varying the colors.  Some combinations were better than others. 


















Then the patterns.  Some patterns worked better than others. 


















I think I blushed like a little kid when one of the senior weavers complemented my undulating twill. 
























I'm not sure how much more warp I have to go. Maybe a foot or two. It's going to be a wild, crazy, sampler kinda scarf. A little of this, a little of that. Doesn't matter, I'm sure I'm going to love it no matter what. I'm also sure I can't WAIT to try a different loom with more harnesses and more pattern possibilities. Woot.

And weaving's not even the only fiber thing going on. 

More later. :)



Monday, December 2, 2013

It's a boy!

Yes, that's right folks. It only took me 5 months to figure out that Thing 1 and Thing 2 are roosters. No, no. No excuses. It's true. I'm an idiot. It never once occurred to me. Not once.

I noticed their outrageous size.

Did that clue me in? No.

I noticed Thing 1's striking resemblance to his father.

Did that clue me in? Nope.

I noticed their chest bumping play every morning. 

Did that clue me in? Not a chance.

I noticed their expulsion by their original flock -  not just once - but EVERY tree-climbing, chick-fetching night for five months.

Did that clue me in? Of course not.

No, no. Thing 2 had to stand at my feet and spell it out in all his cockadoodle glory and STILL my first reaction was to look over my shoulder for Toaster.

Sigh.

Some farmer I am.

(There may or may not be a video here to see. I'm having trouble with blogger. Note the photobombing cat in the background if you can see. )
video   
















Sunday, November 24, 2013

Houston, we have a little problem

Three stalls, four ponies.

I had planned to move the large ponies -- Josie, Annie, and Shadow -- into the three stalls at the back of the barn on the new property. These are the stalls immediately adjacent to the big pasture where they can go out to graze. This would save me a lot of time walking them back and forth and since they are the only ponies I am comfortable putting out on grass for any length of time, it seemed ideal. The rest of the little ponies would stay in the big barn with the drylot paddocks. That was the plan anyhow.

Then Zeus and Sammy arrived. (Maybe at some point, I'll explain why we have all these ponies...eh,  some other day.) Anyway, Zeus is also a large pony. After the additional quarantine of the two newbies in the back barn, I started putting the four big guys out in the pastures together. It's gone alright. Zeus loves Josie and plays hard with Shadow, though he doesn't like Annie much. The feeling seems to be mutual. They're both a little possessive of Josie.

Personally, I think that Annie has earned her ownership. All but a few of our ponies went through the auction system, a very unpleasant kill lot and quarantine, before landing with us. Annie and Josie went through it together. Even after coming to us, Annie and Josie went through several additional boarding situations together before coming to our property. So, like I said they are tight.

I've puzzled about how to squeeze one extra stall into the back barn, but it's just not going to happen this season. So I had resigned myself to moving Zeus into the big barn and walking him back and forth every day. I was going to make the move yesterday, when it was time to come in.

The best laid plans...

I forgot to prep the old guys for the move. Doh. This is ironic considering how much effort I generally put into managing these guys, including exactly this sort of thing. Sigh. But I did forget, and when it came time to bring everybody in last night, as the sun was setting, and the clock was ticking, and I had to go get the 12-year-old at a friend's house, Josie did not want to stay in her new stall. Shadow did not want to stay in his new stall. Shadow did not want to be separated from Josie. Zeus would not be separated from Josie. Annie did not want Zeus anywhere near either Annie or Josie.

Zeus has had little to no handling experience as far as I can tell, so this became a serious issue very quickly. Among other things, the stall area in the back barn has giant stalls, but a tiny aisle (maybe 8 feet wide) and I nearly got trampled by Zeus several times before I started making on-the-fly executive changes.

1) Zeus stays where he's been.
2) Josie stays.
3) Shadow stays.
4) Annie goes back to the big barn.

Poor Annie. She got split off for one reason only -- because she is the most easily handled horse.

So, back to the big barn she went. She called. She paced. Some hay and some grain in her familiar stall helped settle her down. Sammy, the new mini, went into Josie's old stall next to Annie, so at least she didn't have to contend with Zeus.

This morning as soon as I finished feeding the big barn, I walked Annie back out to the big pasture. She knew exactly where she was going. When I let her loose, she headed straight around to the back of the barn and she didn't stop until she found Josie's window. Not sure what the solution here is.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Shadowfax's new friend

Shadowfax played halter tag all afternoon with recent arrival and new bff - Zeus. We're exhausted. 

I caught both of these scenes with my cell phone, just minutes apart.  It was that kind of day. Windy, cold, snowy, and just a little bit melodramatic. 


   


Friday, November 22, 2013

Goats in coats

Marthajones and Rosetyler are ready for tomorrow's cold front. How cute is that? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cat vs. Goat

One of the things I do like about the new house is its size. For all the charm of the old farmhouse, it was tiny. The new house is much bigger. It has less character, but there are a couple of badly needed extra rooms for keeping things out of the reach of critters and children.

For instance, Charlie.

Charlie is one of our California cats. Born on the streets of San Francisco, he lives indoors now and spends his days harassing his sister and sleeping in the sun. He's never met a goat, but boy would he like too. I left a baggie of Riversong's fleece on the kitchen counter the other day after her spinal tap and he went nuts. It was better than catnip.

So I keep the fleeces and the fiber stuff locked up in their own room, unless I'm actively working on something and carrying it around with me -- like the yarn I spun up from Donnanoble's first fleece this week. I haven't gotten very far with it, but I'm pretty impatient, so I decided to knit up the tiny bit I'd done, just to see, you know?

I put it down on the kitchen counter next to me this morning while I had my coffee. Just for a second.

Charlie's pretty fast for a couch potato. I really should know better.






Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spa day

I thought I had figured out the shearing thing. Back in September I contacted a shearer from a local family well-known for their skills and experience. He agreed to do my little flock (2 sheep plus the 6 goats) the next time he was in the neighborhood. He said he'd call. I said I'd wait. And wait I did. And waited and waited and waited.

Last week I decided my wait muscles were plum wore out. Winter's practically here and my little flock is going to freeze their naked tushes right off if we delay any longer. So, I went to TSC and bought a pair of clippers. Holy moly those suckers are expensive. But then, so is my time and my peace of mind. All the other Pygora owners I know shear their own flocks, so why shouldn't I, right? It'll save me some money, plus I won't have to chase around for a shearer every time the need arises.

The good news is, I have successfully sheared four of the six goats. This is definitely doable.

The bad news is that now my back muscles are plum wore out, right along with my wait muscles. Oy vey. Shearing is Hard.Frickin.Work.

The other good news is that the fleeces, 5 months post the last shearing, are gorgeous and, woohoo, clean. Of the four so far, only one has had any matting, and even that was pretty minimal.  

The other bad news is that, no surprise, I am a lousy shearer. Lots of second cuts. But I still got some spectacular useable fiber, and traversed a good sizeable chunk of the learning curve, so I'm not complaining.

Surprisingly, Rosetyler didn't complain too much either.

Rose: Just a little off the sides please.

Me: Like this Rose? 

Rose: I can't bear to look.

Rose: Just pass me a robe. 

Their winter blankets are in the mail.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A new game


Boomerang's favorite pastime in the new house is to retrieve clothes from the laundry hamper. 
Self-taught, of course. Thanks Boom. I'll take that now. How do I teach him to wash and fold?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Updates from the farm

In the spirit of journaling, and so I don't have to keep relearning the same things over and over, here are some updates and lessons from the past year. This is gonna be long.

Coaxed to come down
Thing 1 and Thing 2 in their tree
1. Thing 1 and Thing 2. Our first home-grown chicks. Offspring of our first flock. Hatched in late May. Raised entirely by Whitney. Picked on mercilessly by aunties Shasta and Santa Cruz. These two are huge. As of the first of November, they were about twice as big as any other hen in their flock, yet very clearly at the bottom of the pecking order. They also continued to refuse to go into their coop at night. Every evening, for five full months, after the other chickens of Flock One had retired for the evening I went out to the chicken yard and pulled these two out of the big chicken tree and carried, chased, or otherwise encouraged them to go in the coop.  No more. With winter knocking on the door, I called time on these two. No more climbing the chicken tree to bring them in (I know, I know, I'm slow to adapt.) As of a few days ago, they are now officially members of Flock Two. I locked them in with the second flock for three days. I'm hoping they'll get the message and forego the tree. We'll see. It may take more than three days.

Toaster and his free range hens
2. Flock Two. This is the flock that came from the Amish hatchery this past spring. Five orpingtons, two brahmas, a jersey giant, a copper marans and two blue marans (including 1 rooster). This flock, led by the infamous Paris, is now free range -- by demand. Flock 1 pretty much stays in the chicken yard all day. Flock 2 sneaks out first thing in the morning and roams freely all day. They do come home at night, so I don't try to block the ranging. The vintage nesting box goes mostly unused. I find their eggs all over the barn -- in the haycart, in the goat pen, everywhere. The blue copper marans rooster -- Toaster by name, Chuckie by association -- has grown up to be beautiful, but much reviled. The sound of his footsteps over my shoulder haunt my dreams. If I could train him to attack only intruders, I'd leave him out 24/7 and call him an LGD. Sadly, he considers me an intruder. He's the first and only animal I've ever owned that I truly dislike. Because of Toaster, I will probably not let any hens go broody again, so as to avoid more roosters. Chicken birth control is the lesson here.

3. The thorns from hell.  No one had a good solution for dealing with thorny honey locust trees. In fact, I got the distinct impression that no one who knew anything about farming or homesteading or livestock or well, life in general, would ever be daft enough to buy a property filled with honey locusts. Yep, I get that now. Over the past year, I have tried two different solutions to this problem. One was to simply cut a locust down. Um, yep, unequivocal mistake. It is very hard to clean up a downed tree with killer thorns. A lot of it is still on the ground and blocking prime paddock area for the little mares.  The second solution, tried on the two big trees in the big mares' paddock was to simply break all the thorns off that I could reach, up to about 7 feet off the ground. It was a boatload of thorns to remove, but only a couple of hours of easy work and in the end, I had two large, smooth-barked shade trees out in the paddock that kept the girls cool and breezy during the summer and caused no harm. A few thorns tried to grow back, especially on the younger of the two trees, but they were soft, pliable, and easily plucked off as I passed by doing other things. The back fields on the old farm property are filled with old locusts trees. They will all get the shearing treatment when the time comes. I call this learning experience a success.

Wild grapes
4.  Wild grapes.  Well, I've gone around and around about this one. First I mistook them for kudzu (which apparently doesn't yet, but may soon, grow this far north). Then I recognized their grapeness and rejoiced. Then they matured into something only the birds would eat - nasty, bitter, little pips of grapes -  and I shook my head and sighed. Like the honey locusts, grapes, too, are all over the old farm property and will have to go eventually. The best cases are the locust trees entirely shrouded in heavy ropes of grape vines. Talk about  no-go zones.


Do orchids go to seed?
5. The little flower that resembled an orange tiger lily turned out to be a wild orchid. I know this because I carefully walked, mowed, and worked around it all summer, waiting to see what it would do. Definitely an orchid. Orchids apparently grow wild around these parts, like the grapes. I am enchanted by the idea of orchids growing wild on my property, though I brace myself for whatever lesson comes next. What exactly -- poisonous? Invasive? Turn into locust trees their second year? We'll see.


Clem and Johnny Blue
enjoying the new pasture.
6. Clementine. Clem's the little ewe lamb we got in the spring. She nearly died when we first brought her home. The stress of weaning and  moving, combined with too much grain and not enough forage, led to an explosion of worms and ulcers. Her groans were pitiful, but the vets took good care of her and she recovered. She does love her grain though and will refuse forage in its favor. Late in the summer she started groaning again, so I wormed her, gave her antacids again for a couple of weeks, backed her off to only a few pellets of grain a day and added probiotics to her diet. This seems to help. Lesson here? Taking care of sheep can be tricky.

If you squint you can see where River is missing fleece
on her back from the spinal tap.
7. Riversong. We nearly lost Riversong to meningeal worms recently. It started out as a little weakness in her hind end. I treated with copper and selenium. I dewormed. Nothing seemed to help. When I came home from work one afternoon and found her down, I raced her to the emergency clinic at the vet school, where the vet gathered all the students around and walked them through the diagnostics, including blood, fecals, urinalysis and a spinal tap. She suspected meningeal worms all along. All the vets were very sober. "What a cute goat -- oh, no, not the worm." Like Clem, Riversong nearly died. Fortunately, the worms had not ascended to her brain yet (ugh) and with some super strong dewormer and anti-inflammatory meds, she made a come back. She is now pretty much recovered and as beautiful as ever. Meningeal worms, I now know, are spread in deer feces and there is nothing you can do about it, except deworm prophylactically. This is confusing to me, because in the case of Clem, the ewe lamb, the same vet clinic told me NOT to worm prophylactically because of worm resistance. Lesson here? Taking care of goats can be tricky. Also, I really shouldn't wait until an animal is down to take them in. Thankfully, River is still with us.

Ameliapond all cleaned up
8. Fleeces. In the spring, I had the goats' fleeces sheared for the first time. Some alpaca shearers came to do it. It was not a pretty scene. The goats were dirty and matted. The shearers were befuddled by their goatness and very slow. Time being as short as it has been this year, I've only just started cleaning the fleeces up. What's not matted is beautiful. My weaving teacher has helped out, by showing me how to wash and spin the locks without having to card everything. She is a long time wool person and was skeptical that these goat hybrids would be anything other than itchy mohair. Well, 10 minutes with Donnanoble's fleece seemed to change her mind. More like long staple cashmere than mohair. Sweeeeet.

My first weaving project
9. Weaving. Woohoo! What else can I say? I see some spectacular Pygora/wool scarves in my future, but that update will have to wait. When I finish my first and current project (which has evolved into a scarf of 5% intent, 95% exploration) I'll post it, but I only get to work on it 3 hrs a week, so it could be a while.







Friday, November 8, 2013

And then the lights went out

Wednesday evening the 12-year-old and I were across the road at the stables. The child was riding, I was just hanging around shooting the breeze. At this point, everyone had heard the story of our presumed lurker and our spooky night checks. One of the other boarders brought my friend a wildlife camera with a motion detector to capture any late night visitors. We hooked it up, but nobody really expected to see anything interesting.

The barn was busy. Lots of people. Lots of talk. Lots of good vibes. There had been no mysterious events for at least three or four days, so my friend decided she was no longer spooked. She said she'd come over with me if I wanted, but she was ok alone. Even though I'd spent the afternoon replacing burnt out bulbs around the outside of my property and was feeling more optimistic, inside I'm thinking, 'Sure you're ok -- you have a barn full of people who will likely still be here at night check time. I, on the other hand, will return across the road to brave the dark alone and will certainly be snared, tortured and left for dead by our creepy intruder.'

Still, pride is a powerful thing. I'm tough, right? I turned her offer down.

So I dragged the 12-year-old along to keep me company for an early night check.

(The child, who, by the way, is strangely unmoved by any of the goings on.)

We startled a deer in the backyard on our way out to the back barn. An actual deer, lurking perhaps, but not sinister. Nothing untoward happened in our rounds and we were back in the house by 8:30. By 9:00, the 12-year-old headed to bed, and with all my barn chores done, I was looking forward to a couple of  uninterrupted hours of work online. Not bad, really.

It had, I should mention, been another blustery sort of day. The wind blew strong all day. Outdoor pots and lose debris got knocked over and blown around. There was no sun, and later, no moon or stars. More chilly, damp, windy fall weather. A perfect night to stay in and get some stuff done.

And then the lights went out.

Pitch-frickin-black.

All the lights that I so painstakingly found, replaced, left on, or added over the past few days, darkened in an instant.

I'm telling you, I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

I would be lying if I said my first thought wasn't that someone had cut the power. Thank you, Hollywood, for planting those seeds in my poor head. At least, back in the pioneer days, nobody had to contend with images of Norman Bates in their head when they headed out to the barn at night.

I called my friend. Our house sits on a little rise above the road. I can see 5 or 6 properties up and down the road from my front door. I could tell that the whole street was out. Her property, on the other hand, sits at the bottom of the hill and faces back into the woods. She can't see anybody else on the road. Turned out most of the crowd had long since gone home. She was there with just two other people when the lights went out. They were freaked out. (Ah, payback.) She was relieved to hear it wasn't just her place.

There wasn't much we could do for each other. My flashlight was missing. My stockpile of candles and matches was still in the other house.

I was enormously relieved that I had already done night check. Cause let me just admit right now -- if I hadn't already done the chores, I can't say for sure that those ponies would not have had a long, hungry night.

Nothing left to do, so I went to bed.

Sometime during the night, the lights came back on.

Now all is good here in the Midwest, no thanks to Hollywood.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Of Hitchcock and Halloween

If life sometimes imitates art, this week has been a bad remake of a Hitchcock movie. Gloomy, blustering days. Rain and wind and rotting leaves. Halloween. And a prowler in the neighborhood. Ugh.

About a week ago, I set out for the back barn to do night check on the two ponies living there. The back barn, which is the barn in the pastures of the new property, is set far off from the house. Way out. In the dark. Nestled up against the overgrown brush at the rear of our old property next door. The last owners didn't use this barn for anything but their lawnmower, so it didn't matter to them that the security light on the front doesn't work.

Anyway, I came around the corner of the house in the dark with my flashlight swinging in my hand. The light caught something tall and white in the brush. Just for a second. I moved the light back and it was gone. It happened so fast, I couldn't really see what it was, so I told myself it was a deer. Afterall, what else could it have been back there? Yeah, that's what I told myself. But I was sufficiently creeped out that I couldn't approach the barn.

This was a predicament -- I had to feed the ponies. I couldn't just wait for morning. So, I did what any good American would do. I went back to the house, got in my car, and drove the few hundred feet to the barn. With the car lights burning and the keys pinging in the ignition, I ran into the barn, threw the ponies some hay, slopped some water into their buckets and scrammed. The next day, same thing. My reaction to a deer in the trees seemed extreme, even to me. Within a couple of days, I was telling friends the story of my silly reaction to a deer and feeling a bit more settled.

Halloween came. The wind blew and rain poured down. I raced to dig out years of dirt and muck around the back barn just so I could close the barn's doors against that tropical storm that barreled through the Midwest last week. A pack of coyotes caught something in the back pasture at 4 in the morning and I found myself fully dressed and yelling into the gloom off the patio before I was even completely awake. The wind blew some more. The sun hid.

Still, every night I went out to the back barn to check the two ponies there and then circled around to the new barn to finish up the rest of the ponies, the sheep, the goats, the cats. To get to the new barn  (the one I built myself last fall) from the new house (the one we just bought and moved into) I have two choices. I can cut through the 20 foot deep wooded boundary between the two properties -- I removed a 10 foot section of the old wire fence and carved out a small footpath leading to the back door of the new barn. Or I can drive. Down the new driveway, out to the road, 400 ft down the road, up the old driveway to the front door of the barn. Mostly I chose the car.

Then four nights ago, I was just lying down to sleep, when my phone rang. It was my friend across the street with the horse stable. Her voice was weird. It took me a few minutes to really tune in. It was late. She was alone. She was going down to do her own night check when she caught sight of someone entering her barn. Yet there were no cars in the driveway. We don't live anywhere that people could legitimately arrive on foot. She was terrified and she couldn't bring herself to go in the barn. Like me though, she had to feed the horses. So I got dressed and went over to help. We searched her barn. We found no one hiding. Nothing amiss. We finished up without a problem and convinced ourselves that whatever she thought she'd seen, it was just the wind playing tricks.

One of her staff arrived first thing the next morning. The staffer heard someone come in and leave the barn while she was busy in the feed room. The staffer called out, but no one answered. She assumed it was my friend. But it wasn't. Again, no car in the driveway. Then they found a horse blanket spread out in the middle of the tack room floor, as though someone had slept there. We had just searched that tack room at night check the night before. There was no horse blanket on the floor.

That was the first night we traded night check support. She came and helped me with my last feedings, then I followed her back across the road and helped her with hers.

Nothing has happened since then. No strange figures in the shadows. No bumps in the attic. But, the wind keeps blowing and the nights are d.a.r.k. We're seriously spooked. Last night was the third night of shared night checks with no end in sight. It takes twice as long to do night checks this way, but it's infinitely easier to navigate the dark with another soul for company.

Hitchcock is looking down on us chuckling, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tipping points

I've lost track. One minute, I was hanging on, doing fine, making slow steady progress with the farm and staying relatively on top of things. The next minute, not. I think the balance tipped the moment I signed the papers for the new property. That was an unbelievable four weeks ago. Time shifted and here it is -- the end of October. First, we spent at least a week without internet access. Then family came to visit and stayed for another week. Finally when the dust started to settle, Riversong, queen of the goats, nearly died from meningeal worms. (She's on the mend now and I am hopefully a wiser and somewhat more sober goat owner.)

I wish I had had the wherewithall to post throughout. A lot of great story material has come and gone. Like the tsunami in the basement the first night we slept in the new house. Or stranding my car out in the new pasture. Or the showdown with the Marans rooster, who was called Toaster, but who is now called Chuckie because of his resemblance to the creepy movie character of the same name.

Maybe I'll come back to these. In the meantime, here are some shots of our new place. The feel here could not be more different from the feel of the old farmstead next door. Big sky and long vistas here. Shady nooks and crannies next door. Just a few hundred feet apart.


















Thursday, September 26, 2013

Never say never

I spent my sophomore year in college as an exchange student in Sweden. I learned a lot of things, like Swedish, and how to folk dance, and what marzipan is. Most of these things I've forgotten, like Swedish, or never tried again, like folk dancing, or didn't really care for anyway, like marzipan. One of the things that DID stick with me though was knitting and an undying love of fiber.

This was back in the 80s. Remember the 80s? In the States, nobody knit. At least, not college kids. But in Sweden, everybody knit. Even the men knit. So, the Swedish college students taught the American college students how to knit. It was a little like the folk dancing. We thought it was quaint. I made one complete sweater while there. As I recall, I wasn't crazy about the sweater so I gave it to a friend.

Little did I know, that unlike the folk-dancing, the knitting would stick with me forever.  I loved being able to knit. Once back home I knit and knit and knit. By the time I finished college I'd made sweaters for everybody I knew. And I'd discovered yarn stores. Oh, be still my heart.

By the time I got to graduate school I was ready to branch out. I tried a few other crafts. I learned to throw (pottery). I spent hours and hours in the studio instead of the lab. My studies suffered, not surprisingly. By the time I hit upon the idea of weaving, I'd already dropped out of school, tried out two other career paths and somewhat reluctantly gone back to where I'd left off in school. My mother heard my weaving ideas with her usual tolerance, then suggested I get my life in order and my career secured before I tried to learn. I agreed to try.

That was 1991. If I'd realized how long it would take to get my life in order I never would have agreed.

All of which is the long way of saying, I am finally learning to weave. I went to my third class today and I have an actual project started on the loom.

Can you see me now Mom?





Thursday, September 19, 2013

Paris lays an egg

The other day I noticed that one of our Orpingtons was missing. We got five Orpington pullets from the hatchery back in April and until recently we couldn't tell one from the other. Then I got leg bands. Now, we know for a fact that the one who always lags behind is Chicken Blue (she of the blue leg band) and the one who disappears every morning is Paris, owner of the red band.

The first time I noticed Paris gone, I went searching for her and found her well out of the chicken yard, past Annie and Josie's paddock, behind the barn, in a tangle of weeds at the base of a collection of unused t-posts. She was laying an egg. I collected the egg and took the chicken, now clearly a hen, back to the chicken yard. I didn't trust her to find her way back on her own I guess.

The next day I didn't notice her disappear, but I did think to check behind the barn. I found another egg. The third day, same thing, another egg.

What surprises me is not that the chicken can get out of the chicken yard -- our fence is afterall more suggestion than actual barricade. It's a wonder any of the chickens stay in. No, what surprises me is that she leaves so deliberately, completes her mission, and then makes her way back in as though it never happened.