Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Time and space two years on

Today, as far as I can figure, is the second anniversary of Tyche's Run, the blog.

Some might say I've barely made it, dragging over the two-year mark with a limp and a wheeze.

Yes, things are getting a little crowded here - in both space and time.

Still, I blunder ahead.

More critters, more fiber, more mistakes, no doubt, to come.

Happy anniversary to us. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Goodbye Cain

Cain in better days, before he broke his leg. 

In the end, I couldn't stop his long slow slide downhill. He passed overnight. 

Goodbye fella. Run free and strong. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The beauty shot

Who are you calling AWOL?

Oh, that would be me.


I don't know how everybody else keeps blogging through thick and thin and holidays too.

I aspire.

That's all I can say.

Let me just say that I have put the time to good use.

We had family visit over the break. My eldest brother brought me his newly-replaced truck. All the way from California. Another brother flew out to LA from his place down south to help drive the truck back to the midwest.

Lucky me.

Sometimes it still pays to be the baby sister.

And luck didn't stop with a truck.

I'd completely misplaced the knowledge that eldest brother, as a professional LA movie biz lighting technician, could help me take photographs for my probably-eventually-sometime-to-be Etsy shop.


He spent the better part of two days helping me figure out the best way to do it given my existing setup, which was pretty much nothing but windows and natural light.

Let me also say, he HATED my little Nikon D5100. Absolutely hated it. Without the manual (oh please, why would I have the manual readily accessible?), it was hard for him to gain good enough control over the settings, so he spent a lot of time working on simple things like getting the exposure right. Annoying to him, but it did make me feel a little better. I thought it was just me.


At least the big picture finally clicked. I get it now. I understand why I was getting great shots sometimes and lousy ones other times, even though I thought I was doing the same thing.  There are still a lot of kinks to work out. And obviously a lot of shots to take, but here are some of our efforts. Most of these were taken by big brother.

I should also say, I'm not planning on selling yarn, but that's mostly what I had on hand.

Starting with the easier fibers.

The whites pretty much shoot themselves. I can mess them up, but not as quickly as I can mess up the darker fiber shots.

This is an artsy shot of lopi from Emily the Icelandic. Lopi is yarn that has the tog (long outer coat) and thel (fine undercoat) of the Icelandic fleece mixed together. Icelandic has a lot more luster than I expected. This yarn was eeeeeasy to spin. Very fun to work with. The photo was taken in front of a window with lots of indirect sunlight. 

Here's a rustic shot of the same yarn. Shot outside on an overcast afternoon. 

These are washed Bluefaced Leicester lamb locks shot under natural, indirect light against the sliding glass door in the kitchen with the pasture in the background. The door faces east. This was taken late morning I think. (This is not from one of my lambs. It's from an older sister of theirs.)

These are the same Bluefaced Leicester locks shot with the same backdrop (the glass door with the pasture in the distance), but now the morning sun was coming up directly behind the locks. It's lovely and dramatic, but the locks are not that golden in real life. No, it's true, in real life the locks don't actually glow. ;)

It was a little bit harder to shoot silver than it was the white. This is a single ply lightweight yarn from the silver parts of Clementine's lamb fleece. Again, this shot is a dramatic, artsy shot, but the next one captures the color better. The first was shot in front of the glass door with the sun directly behind it. The silver Lincoln doesn't glow the way the white BFL did, but it's still a nice shot.  The more accurate second photo was actually taken with brother's iPhone, at night, under the kitchen lights.

Next up are Johnny Blue's lamb curls. It was considerably harder to get a decent picture of these than either of the previous two samples. When the shot had pretty light (the sun coming through the glass door), the color was all wrong. These look a sort of dark blonde.

In fact, they are medium to dark gray, with brown tips, as here, with indirect light.

They are lovely, long, and super soft, and probably a bit too frizzy to make for a good product shot. Now that I think about it, I can't remember having seen too many photographs of gray fiber that really wowed me. And I look at lots and lots of fiber photos. (Obsessed much? Yeah, maybe a little.)

Anyway, gray is hard.

Brown is also hard. 

Here are three shots of the same alpaca skein. (Fiber from a friend, not one of my guys.) In real life it's a beautiful brown with red undertones and lots of luster. None of these shots capture that. We...well, brother worked and worked on this one and couldn't get the exposure quite right with my Nikon. The first two were outside under cloudy skies and both are badly over-exposed and look nothing like the real thing. The third one comes closer but still lacks the spark of the real deal. 


This next pic was from one of the last sets of shots he took before he went back to LA. By this time, he'd gone to the hardware store and gotten me a couple of daylight floods to use indoors. 

Yowza. :)

That's the real deal.

And then there was black.

Yes, we spent ninety percent of our time working on photographing yarn from the Black Welsh.

Oy. I'll never get those hours back. ;)

But, I must back up a minute.  When I went to pick up the Black Welsh flock in June, the previous owner actually dug a couple of fleeces from the spring shearing out of his barn. I don't know who they're from, but they're nice. They have very dense, very black, though somewhat short, locks with reddish tips. Exotic looking. So I washed some up with the intention of listing it on Etsy.

Once clean though, I discovered dander in the locks and decided I should comb some to make sure the dander will come out.

It does thankfully. Quite easily.

Of course, once combed up, I had to give it a spin.


Just to see.


And that's how I ended up with a hundred yards of single ply Black Welsh yarn. It's super lustery, and a tiny bit coarse. I think it would make a lovely sweater.

Ironically, as our pictures got progressively better, I can see the flaws in my spinning more and more clearly. In this case, the yarn's somewhat overspun. That's from me, pretty novice spinner, working with a shorter staple than my skills can really support. Some day. I'm sure other spinners out there could do better. A nice soft twist would be lovely.

Anyway, I won't bore any of you, or me, further with all the terrible, terrible shots we took of the Black Welsh. Big brother never gave up though and in the end, he got these. You can just barely see the hint of red flecks in the first one. That's pretty accurate. And that's Clementine's silver yarn in the second picture. I like them both.

And so ended my spontaneous, whirlwind adventure in professional tabletop photography. Hopefully, I can hang on to some of the things I learned.

And finally, back to the barn -- a picture just for fun -- Johnny Blue and his harem of goat ladies -- in easy black and white.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Little buddy

Last time I updated on Jethro, the littlest Black Welsh ram, he was still hanging out with mama. But, the Black Welsh ewes, including Jezebel, have moved on and left this year's lambs to fend for themselves.

Jethro has found the next best thing.

Yep, Abel -- just another Black Welsh ewe, but bigger.

What? He's not Welsh? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poor Abel

The alpaca boys are both thrilled to be back out in the field. They spent a lot of their confinement staring out the window of their stall quietly humming through their frustration. I felt badly for both of them, but Abel especially. Cain stood to gain a healthy leg and a future from the ordeal, but poor able-bodied Abel got nothing out of it but the dubious satisfaction of a brotherly sacrifice well grudgingly made.

Now they're free to wander and browse at will and seem quite content. Alpacas are a lot like goats. They love to nibble on the low-hanging branches of the trees in the pasture. There are a number of crabapples out there and every one of them is bare from the ground to the tops of the alpacas' heads. With the grass turning steadily browner, the boys have turned to searching for any stray crabapples that may have been overlooked by Rowan and Zephyr, both of whom are not only older, but unfortunately taller than the boys.

But even here, Abel just can't win. All that three-legged stall rest seems to have given Cain an edge. His back legs are stronger than ever.

Cain: Do you see any? I don't see any.

Abel: Oo Oo, right here, I found one.

Cain: Well, hey wait a minute, brother. What about these up here? There are lots up here.
Abel: Wait what...how'd you...what?

Abel: This is just. not. fair.

Abel: Brothers. Phfttttt.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Then what happened?

I think it's fair to say that 2014 kinda got away from me. It's time for some wrap up.

This could take a while. I'll post pictures later.

1. Remember the organic cotton I planted in May?  I was so hyped to grow my own green and brown cotton. Um, yeah. Total fail. The plants never got more than 12 inches tall. And those were the big ones.

2. On the other hand, some beautiful sunflowers turned up outside the fence of the front pasture. Where did those come from? Oh yeah, I scattered the seeds early on in the season and then forgot about them. Only 5 or 6 survived the mowing cause, yeah, I forgot they were there (fail), but the survivors were lovely (score.)

3. Josie, the ornery appaloosa who broke her foot in a fit of pique, healed. Even the vet was surprised, And it only took 6 or 7, maybe 8?, weeks on stall rest. Oh, what a long 6 or 8 weeks those were. Nonetheless, Josie is now back in with her buddies, Annie and Shadow, and all seem pretty content.

4. Cain, the mutt alpaca who broke his leg, is also healed and on his way back to normalcy, or so it seems. Again, stall rest, stall rest, and more stall rest, along with a well-placed sling. He's a little gimpy, but who wouldn't be if their leg were bent and tied at the knee for 6 weeks? He's walking and putting weight on the leg. Score. As a bonus, the vets gelded him and his brother Abel while they were at the vet school. Double score. Abel is SO ready to be out and about.

5. I buried Cricket and his angel kitty together under a flowering crabapple tree in the back pasture.

6. The surviving BFL lambs -- there are eight of them -- are isolated and doing well in a detached garage shed in the front yard. They were all sheared last week, except for Bumblebee and Firefly who obligingly shed their fleeces several weeks ago. The shearing revealed far too many pointy bones on all of them. Their only job now is to eat and eat and eat. They are doing this well.

7. Deleted for the sake of litigation 7/7/16. :/

8. A fantastic, stupendous, stunning, and infinitely comforting hedge was strategically planted along the property line between my yard and the nasty neighbor. This involved a lot of awkward tiptoeing around on my part. The property line, though a couple hundred feet from my front door, is practically in their garage. I felt like a trespasser every time I moved the watering hose. Currently the trees are five feet tall and only a couple wide. But they're green giant arborvitae, so starting next spring they should grow and grow and grow, creating a solid green wall that blocks my view of the neighbor and, even better, her view of me.

9. Shadowfax, the POA who normally shares a paddock with Josie and Annie, was temporarily housed with Thyme and the minis. One of those little guys -- I'm thinking either Thyme or Jesse -- ripped Shadowfax' upper lip completely open, right up the middle. OMG. It was gross. The vet, bless her heart, came right out and stitched him back together. He now has a lovely hairlip. If he could speak, he'd lisp.

10. After 8 (maybe 9?) years of blissful twoness, Chief and Jesse, the mini half-brothers from across the road, got a divorce. Chief just walked out. Very gradually, over the course of the summer he started hanging out with Mama P and Tigerlily. Now, he lives with them in their stall. It's a little tight, but that's what they asked for, so that's what I've given them. I gotta say, Chief and Tigerlily look like a matched set. They're cute. Must be kismet.

11. Chief's defection left Jesse as the odd man out, so he started hanging out with Thyme, the feral pony and Tyche, Thyme's daughter. This transition has not gone as smoothly. Jesse is a pain (just ask Chief). Jesse seems to be trying to expel Tyche from the family. Thyme is pretty protective though and not one to be messed with. The other morning I walked into the barn to find the two - Thyme and Jesse - trying to kill each other. Jesse is half Thyme's size, but he just would.not.stop. When I finally got the barn door open, they raced outside and did a couple of laps around the paddock, then went back to eating side by side. Tyche keeps her mom between her and Jesse at all times now. I'm keeping an eye on all of them. It's a good thing Jesse is so small.

12. Sammy, the little mini who arrived with Zeus, developed heaves. The first signs were there last fall when he arrived at Tyche's Run, but over the summer it got bad. Fortunately, he responded well to simply soaking his hay. I am not looking forward to doing this in January and February, but it is what it is.

13. Tortellini, the sweet and shy feral cat, and mother of Fettucini, died quite unexpectedly one night in July. I never did figure out why. She seemed in excellent health, but die she did.

14. Batman, the outdoor feral tomcat who lived alternately on our farm and at the farm across the road, followed me into the farmhouse for food one morning in late winter and also died. His death was not surprising. He was a mess. The surprise was that he'd managed to live as long and as well as he had as a feral. Eight years at least. I miss seeing him stroll up the drive at mealtimes, but I must say I am relieved that he will not be fathering any more kittens.

15. We lost our first chicken over the summer as well. Sierra disappeared one evening just before sunset. Again, no real idea what happened. Somebody or something took her I suppose.

16. A few days before Sierra disappeared, something attacked Tweedledum, one of our beautiful Brahma hens. I walked into the barn one morning to find loose feathers everywhere and a semi-naked Tweedledum acting like a trauma victim. She walked upright like a penguin though she wasn't egg bound and her breathing was labored. I was sure she would die. Her flock mates harassed and attacked her at every opportunity until I finally separated her. She spent about two months in a cage in the farmhouse (ugh, there is a good reason chickens don't live inside, yuck.) On nice days, when it wasn't too hot, I'd bring her out and let her hang out in the goat paddock, away from the other chickens. Every evening at dusk, she'd run up to me and ask to be taken back inside. By the end of the summer, she seemed to have regained enough health to go back to the barn permanently, so I reintroduced her to her flock. That was one slow process, but she has finally (now in November) fully reintegrated. I still don't know what happened, but it was satisfying to give her the chance to recover and watch her succeed. And I now have a very soft spot for the chicken who for a brief while would run up to me like a puppy begging to be picked up.

17. The goat boys are doing extremely well. I did manage to keep them free of all the lamb problems. All three have spectacular fleeces. At some point I'll post some pictures. And can I just say, BFL/Pygora yarn. You heard it here first. There won't be any baby goats this year though. Too much going on sheep wise...

18. The Black Welsh are also doing well. There probably will be lambs. Black Welsh/ Lincoln lambs I'm hoping. Black and curly! We'll have to wait and see.

19. We are finally getting a truck. Yay. It only took a few days of shopping last year to realize I couldn't afford a truck anytime soon, so I dropped it. But one of my brothers, out in LA, just bought a new truck and is gifting me his old one. Um, I think that make us a real farm. Yep. He's going to drive it out over Thanksgiving. It's a 2000 Ford. Here's praying that it survives the trip.

20. Spinning and weaving have both taken back seats to animal health these several months (see above.) Nonetheless, I do have several projects in the works, including a beautiful BFL yarn from Bumblebee, a new linen and horsehair (Tigerlily and Jesse) sofa pillow weaving project and a throw blanket in huck lace at the studio downtown. The blanket was supposed to use Popcorn Pee Pee Pants handspun yarn for the weft, but at the last minute, I couldn't bear to use the yarn I'd spun. The blanket just didn't seem good enough. So I still have PPPP yarn looking for a project.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

An angel for Cricket

On Wednesday morning, I took Cricket down to the vet school. Of all the little guys, he seemed to have bounced back the least from the problems over the summer. On top of the ongoing parasite problems, he now had a fever and refused to eat. The vets treated everything they could think of but he didn't respond to anything. On Friday afternoon they sent tests out for mineral analyses and a viral disease called Blue Tongue. Those will come back next week.

Later, on Wednesday night, I took in a tiny kitten from a local barn. Earlier in the week a friend had put out an urgent call for a home for this little one. They said the mother cat kept dumping her in the woods. The barn where she was born has constant litters. By all accounts the birth rate and kitten mortality rate there are about equal. I don't know. I don't know why the owner doesn't just get the adults fixed.

Anyway, nobody stepped up, so on Wednesday night, despite a vow to never take another cat, I agreed to take the kitten home. I was told she was about 8 weeks old. She was a beautiful little girl.

We never got a chance to name her. She died in my hands, just after midnight on Friday night. I'm sure she could not have been even 4 weeks old. I'm sorry she never got to grow up to run and play and chase bugs.

The call from the vet came Saturday morning. Cricket never got much of a chance either. He also died sometime during the night Friday.

I like to think they went together.

Cricket was my first real farm loss and I'm taking it hard. It helps a little to imagine he has a tiny nameless angel with him on his journey.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Anybody remember Zeus?

He went across the road for a trial training stint in August.

And never came home.

Here's the 13-year-old taking him over a small jump for the first time yesterday.  Well, part of him anyway. A lesson student on a humongus Clydesdale trotted across my view just as they launched.

Still, it makes the point I think. Zeusie (yeah, that's what happens when you're a pony in a stable full of off-the-track-thoroughbreds) is doing well.

He and the child are having the time of their lives.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bumblebee update

Bumblebee is coming along now.

She's plumping right up. This is easy to see now that she's naked. Personally, I think the fringe of curls around her rear-end does her no favors, but she stubbornly hangs on to them.

She's still quite small, as is Cricket. You can see just how small here. The other (so far) healthy and slightly older lambs tower over them. They're working on catching up though. 

Heads down, nose in grass. Not a moment to lose.

Bumblebee is absolutely dwarfed by Clementine. I don't think Clementine has stopped eating all summer, but this time last year, she was struggling as well. She was also weaned and sold off (to me) at 8 weeks. 

Never again.

Don't worry lady. You wait. This time next year, I'll be as big as her. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jethro still loves his mama

 Jethro, the littlest ram lamb, is about 4 months old now. 

It's hard to get good pictures of him and the other Black Welsh sheep, because, well, they're just so darn dark. 

Lately though, it's been really dry, so last night the light in the sheep barn burned bright. (Doesn't everyone have wonky barn lights like that?) 

The little guy was too exhausted to care and fell right asleep under the bright lights. Jezebel makes a soft pillow, no matter the light. 

Go away lady. I'm sleeping here. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Room to eat

I checked in on Cain and Abel yesterday. 
Cain's sling is now in place and he seemed comfortable enough. 
Abel was enjoying the luxury of eating in peace and quiet, unmolested by goats or sheep.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, two big bunk feeders were delivered. 
Here's hoping these will make feeding time a little less chaotic. 

I love this picture! 

I'll see if I can name them all from this angle. 

Starting with the white alpaca at the top left and going clockwise. Zephyr (alpaca), Rowan (alpaca), Devon (Icelandic), Emily (Icelandic), Bo Sheep (Shetland, um, mystery breed), Jethro (the littlest Black Welsh ram), Bumblebee (the naked Bluefaced Leicester), Hank (Black Welsh), Butterfly (Bluefaced Leicester), Ladybug (Bluefaced Leicester), Caterpillar (Bluefaced Leicester), Clementine (Lincoln), Grasshopper (Bluefaced Leicester), Manny (Bluefaced Leicester). 

So much fluffy goodness all in one place. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Good news for a change

After an unnecessary round of drama with a low-down, no-good an unreliable transporter who backed out at the 11th hour, I finally pulled up to the loading zone at the farm animal emergency room mid-morning yesterday in my realtor's free moving van bedded with straw carrying two precious packages -- Cain and his brother Abel.

Who says hauling an injured alpaca isn't a moving emergency?

As always, the folks at the vet school were great.

Cain was wheeled in on the equivalent of an alpaca gurney. (Um, vet folks? He'd been up and down on three legs all weekend, but ok....if you must.)

They did the requisite exam, took some blood in prep for surgery, and wheeled him down to radiology for new x-rays.

When he came out, the doctor (a new one I'd never met before) took me to a computer to show me the pics.

Well, lookie there.

The bone aligned itself over the weekend.

I was gobsmacked, as they say in England.

I really wish I had a copy of the updated x-rays to post. I hadn't thought it was possible.

Just like that, the plan shifted back to stall rest. This time though, the plan includes a) a sling - they're going to basically tie his leg to his torso, b) professional nursing - no wrestling by me to administer pain killers, and c) big gun deworming treatment for barberpole worms (ack! yes, Cain had a heavy load, though interestingly, Abel did not.)

So, Cain and Abel are going to hang out at the vet school for 1, maybe 2 weeks, until we are all comfortable with the progress being made. Then he will come home (in a luxuriously straw-bedded moving van) and continue on still more stall rest. At least a month in the sling according to the surgeon.

We were all happy to avoid the surgery and all the potential complications (and cough cough expenses) that come with it. In fact, they assured me that with the exception of horses, stall rest with or without a sling is the preferred treatment for farm animals, including cattle. They do just as well if allowed to mend on their own without intervention. Case in point, remember the poor reindeer I saw when I first took Bumblebee in for her ordeal 6 or 7 (?) weeks ago now? He's still there. They say he is finally improving after all his complications from surgery.

When Cain does come home it will be just in time for Josie, the appaloosa with the broken foot, to hand him the stall rest torch. She is very nearly well and should be allowed back out with her friends right about that time.

Like I said, good news all around.