Thursday, August 30, 2007

Animals on a Summer Day

I am lucky enough to live right next door to a field that's home to two gorgeous horses. I look out my kitchen window and there they are, just 30 feet away. I don't have to feed them or groom them or pay for any vet bills. When I walk down to get the paper in the morning, I say good morning and they come over for a pet.

I keep thinking I'll see one horn coming from is forehead!

The sheep I do own and have to feed but they don't have vet bills. I take care of most of their ailments or I call Super Vet, Annie, who's not a real vet, but can do most anything for a sheep or cow. This is my oldest ewe, Brambles, a Jacob with the standard four horns. Jacobs are a skittish breed but she'll eat out my hand but with sidelong glances and a stomp of the foot first.

This is Annie's cow, Marble, I believe. She's a sweetie, with huge brown eyes and long eyelashes that she batts at you and you just fall in love.
This being the last weekend of summer I wanted to share this poem. It's from Peacock Pie and was published in 1913.
'Summer Evening'
The sandy cat by the Farmer's chair
Mews at his knee for dainty fare.
Old Rover in his moss-greened house
Mumbles a bone, and barks at a mouse
In the dewy fields the cattle lie
Chewing the cud 'neath a fading sky.
Dobbin at manger pulls his hay,
Gone is another summer's day.

Goody bye to another summer.

Tough Day in the Trough

The Trough is a beautiful straight section of the South Branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia. We kayaked it with some friends, Mary and Mike, on a hot, sunny day last weekend. It was a great day to be on the river, splashing water on ourselves or stopping to take a dip in the bathtub temperature water. There were only a couple sections that were 'white water', with most of the river looking like the photo above, still, and glass like, but still with a bit of current. It took us four pleasant hours, including a restful stop on a pebbled beach for lunch. Mary said the last time they paddled this section it took them 2 hours because it was just below flood stage.

There were massive boulders jutting out of the river.

Mary and Mike taking it easy on a hot summer day.

Cliffs arose on both sides for most of the 7 miles of the Trough. A bald eagle flew right over us, riding the currents of the wind as we rode the current of the water.
After loading the boats up, we drove back to Mary and Mike's cabin in the woods where we prepared a delicious apre paddle meal of grilled veggies and turkey burgers and for dessert we gathered around a big fire and made s'mores. Can it get any better than this?!

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Sheep Go To Greener Pastures

Saturday was moving day for my two rams, Pip and Knickers, and two ewes, Violabelle and Maybelle. My pastures need to have not so many sheep on them and also the nights are getting cooler so I'm afraid the rams will get ALL the ewes preggers. The sheep are in the back of the truck, looking sheepish. They don't particularly like riding in any vehicle, especially one with slippery footing.

But here they are delivered safely to their new field. They jumped off the truck, kicked up their heels and went "Yippeee, fresh grass!"

The farm next door has a flock of sheep that was watching the goings on and were quite interested in the new neighbors. They were a bit skeptical but later on I came to check on everyone and both parties were as close to each fence as possible.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Plenty of Painters

My friend, Francisco, and his crew of house painters traveled with me to Cumberland to scrape and paint all the windows of our Cumberland house. That's Louis, Orlando and Francisco in the front and Wilson in the back. They spent 3 days and did a splendid job on the windows which look brand new. In my typical ADD way, I kept distracting them with my own agenda. "Hey, let's put up the shade triangle in the back, help me move the bed upstairs, can we bring the porch swing down form the attic?" But they insisted on finishing whatever task they were on first. Jeesh! But we did get everything done. They were all up by 6:00 (luckily I'm an early riser too) and they were out on the ladders by 6:15. I had to put a stop to that though because the ladders make a lot of noise and I don't think everyone in the neighborhood is up at 6:00 a.m. I let them start by 7:00 and made them drink coffee in the mean time.

We all went downtown to have lunch. That's Seal in between Francisco and Louis. They'd been in Cumberland for 3 days and hadn't seen much of the town. Cumberland has a charming downtown area with turn of the century brick buildings lining a pedestrian mall. Thursday is the Farmer's Market with live music and folks were dancing and everyone was having a great time. The weather was perfect, sunny and not so hot, with a nice breeze. Francisco was smitten with Cumberland and may be interested in opening a Salvadoran restaurant there. Yeah!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

UPS Makes My Day

We all love the UPS truck, and its driver, Joe. To me UPS mean Unsurpassed Pleasant Surprise. Joe always delivers good stuff; sculptures, art supplies, i-pods, books, yarn, yarn, yarn and even dog biscuits. Above Taz and Casey are awaiting their treats. In the door are four of my nine boxes of yarn. Joe was wrestling with the other five boxes in the back. He was quite happy to get rid of all that yarn as he could now move around. This was last Friday and I told him now I was going to have to dye yarn over the weekend. He said that he was ruining people's weekends all over the countryside, delivering furniture that had to be put together and other items that needed attention. We all know the sound of the UPS truck and I'm always disappointed when he buzzes right by my house.

This is the yarn before it's dyed, all white and boring.

In the dye pan with the colors cooking in.

And here it is drying in the sun with Knickers eating nearby.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'm a Dumb Farmer

I guess being in England for 5 months, living in a small flat in town has made me forget how to be a farmer. Or maybe I'm just a ditz. Last week I wanted to finally get around to spreading the pile dry manure in the veggie garden after the 103 degree temperature had dropped to a cool 88. I got out my trusty workhorse tiller (Atiller the Hun) that I've had for about 25 years. It has never failed to start even though I keep the same old gas in it, don't change the spark plug and let the grease pile up on the poor thing. Shameful, I know. I put a tad of gas in the carburetor, set the choke to high and pulled and pulled and pulled on the cord. No wonderful chugging noise. I finally gave up and walked away in disgust from the 'stupid' tiller. A couple days later I was determined to get the thing started or take it to someone who could fix it. Put more gas in the carburetor, pulled and pulled and still, no start. I backed up and noticed I had not put the lever to 'START'. Duh! Operator error. I did get the garden tilled and that soil looks so rich and dark. It's ready for me to plant the mesclun mix for a fall harvest.

Back in May, I arranged to have my field fertilized and seeded by Farmer Brad. He did it on a Monday, right before it was supposed to rain. Well, I had forgotten I had talked to Farmer Jack about spraying the field for an invasive plant that the sheep unfortunately don't eat (sedge). Wouldn't you know that Farmer Jack came to spray on Tuesday, the very next day that Farmer Brad had seeded?! Jeesh! But I think that the field did ok. It's not great because we haven't had much rain but the sheep aren't too thin and they're not eating the hay I put out.
Which reminds me. Last week I had the painters out here painting the house, power washing the decks and painting behind the barn. I had called Farmer Jay to deliver hay and he pulled into the field, dumped and stacked 100 bales of first cut hay against the back wall of the barn an hour BEFORE the guys were going to paint. My scheduling is bassackwards! I'm sticking with this farmer stuff though and am moving some sheep to a friends' pasture, rotating sheep off the back pasture and hopefully everything will turn out hunky dorey in the end.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Spin On

I used to spin a LOT. I started out spinning my sheep's wool, after the spring and fall shearing. I send off all the wool from their backs to be washed and carded in Michigan as it's just way too much for my little washing machine to handle. Also we don't have the water it takes to do a good job. About 6 weeks later I get bags and bags of fluffy roving back that's a joy to unpack. After all these years, it's still a wonder how the somewhat dirty locks on my girls can turn into magical white cotton candy-like fluff. I also mix the dark grey and the white to get this frosted roving that makes this subtle blend of natural colors.

As I was carrying the roving from the studio to the deck I noticed the birdbath base in the garden and thought with the roving on top it looks like the twist cone I got as a kid at the drive-in in my small town.

For years and years I used a Majacraft Suzie or Rose. I even sold them after I discovered them in a small workshop down a long country lane in New Zealand back in the 80's. I now use this Fricke electric wheel cuz I like to go FAST! I'm probably not burning as many calories while spinning but it leaves me more time to ride my bike so I guess it evens out. The wheel is portable as long as their's electricity nearby. I can take it outside on the deck and can go as far as my extension cord will allow.

I once took my boys out to the studio and said,"Pick any color you want and I'll make you a hat." There is a profusion of color in that studio but they both zeroed in on the grey and white handspun. So now I call this 'Guy Color'. I've made so many 'guy hats' and 'guy scarves', I've lost count. The boys have also lost plenty of the hats and scarves too, but I really think that they've given them away to friends. Forrest and Garrett receive many "Did that really come from the sheep on your farm?!" It is pretty cool that they wear part of their sheep on their heads.
Above is the finished skein and a finished scarf. Try not to lose this one guys!