Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yarn and more

I finally got my first skein of angora done.  It was a blend of angora and Corriedale wool.  I don't have scales to measure exactly, but I would guess it was roughly 30% to 40% angora to wool.  I used hand cards for this.  I have fine fiber cards, but just used my regular ones, and it worked out fine.  I used the clipped angora, and since there were 3 or 4 lengths of coat in each 'lock,' I thought the shortest pieces would act like second cuts and pop out, but they didn't.  How much it will pill remains to be seen.  It was surprisingly easy to spin - because of the wool, I would imagine - and seemed similar to alpaca in the way it spun up.  I don't have a photo of the skein, but if I take one, I will add it later.  Not much to see at this point, just a light gray skein of yarn, but it is soft!   I could tell just as I held it while spinning, that it will be warm.  I spun it as fine as I could, and I normally spin pretty fine.  I found a lace scarf pattern that is supposed to be good for beginners, and thought I might use it for that.  This first spinning will stay natural gray, I think - plenty of time for dyeing later. 

Shearing vs plucking experiment:  Holly's  (the clipped one)  coat is growing in very, very dense, but at times I think to myself, "but it isn't soft....' (relatively speaking-I'm sure it's just my imagination).  Ivy (plucked) is very silky soft, but her coat has lost a lot of it's density, naturally, since plucking removed 1/4 to 1/3 of her coat, depending on how many she was growing in when her baby coat began to molt.   I haven't decided what to do in the future, but especially since the clipped wool spun up so nicely, and clipping is so easy..........I haven't thought about clipping Ivy down at this point, though.  It's too cold, and I want to see if I can get more length on it.  

Holly and Ivy are still loving their pets and ear rubs, but still hating going in and out of the cage.  I don't know where I would put it, but I may also have to resort to a grooming table.  They are far more interested in exploring and wadding up the towel I have them on, rather than be content to sit still for grooming.   And easing them onto their rump to tip them back enough to get the belly brushed - fu'get about it!!   Holly pulled a naughty one last night!  I had been petting her and touched her toy to move it so I could reach her better, when she growled, lunged and tried to bite me.  She did it twice, so I said NO!, took her toy away, closed the cage and left the room.  Later after she had calmed down, I came back, gave her the toy back and stroked her a while and she was fine.  Everything I am reading says this is hormonal, that pet rabbits should be spayed or neutered, but not to let any vet who is not a rabbit expert touch your bun.  I'm sure my vet is no rabbit expert, and I don't know if I want the expense of that anyway, so - since rabbits are supposed to be able to be trained, to some extent, I'll try to temper the hormones with that.   My bunny girls are funny, sweet when they want to be, but placid - they're not.  (can you say Diva?)

I'm searching for other Angora owners in KY, and think I may have found a couple, but none of them show, which is why they don't join the clubs or show up on member's lists.  Still, it will be fun to meet local rabbit people.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Bunnies Settle In

I realized looking at today's date, that I have not had 'the girls' for a month yet.  It seems a lot longer than that - in a good way.  Everyone is getting along fine, and their personalities are beginning to come out.   They love broccoli stems and hay (I give treats every 2 - 3 days) but don't care for carrots much.  One - I didn't figure out who - pushed her carrot out of the cage a few times, Until I realized she didn't want it.  

Here is a photo of Holly a few days after being sheared:

She seemed very happy to be rid of all that hair, even though I keep the house cool, and the room they are in is cooler still.  She eats and drinks very well - like a piglet.   They both have toys in their cages and if she hears me beginning to get up in the morning she will take her plastic baby keys and scrape them back forth (like a prisoner rattling the bars with a tin cup).  If I don't come and feed her right away, she THUMPS, to get my attention!

This is Ivy, with her half on - half off coat.  I sheared one and I am plucking one to see what the difference might be from a spinning perspective.
She is a little quieter, but is still the naughtier of the two.   I put resting boards in their cages (you can see it in the above photo)  - Holly uses hers to lay on, Ivy pees on hers.  Holly goes in pretty much one spot, making her a good candidate for litter training, but I think the litter box - even special ones for rabbits - take up too much room in the cage, so I probably will leave things as they are.  Ivy goes any and everywhere.

But, Ivy has a special friend.  My only boy kitty (yes, he's neutered), Ciaran, wuuuuuuvs his Ivy:
He grooms her face and ears every time I take her out to groom her, and she seems to love it.  He does the same with Holly, but not as much.

They both HATE being taken out and put in their cages.  Speaking softly, moving slowly,  petting and stroking first, if I make any movement like I am going to pick one of them up .......oh MY!  Growling, lunging, trying to BITE!    SUCH a FUSS!   Once I have them safely and firmly in my arms, it's like ....'oh, this isn't so bad. '  They love being out - and then hate going back in again! 

Any time I open their cage - even if they have been clammoring for food, they will run over to the door, crouch down and put their heads out and close their eyes, waiting for pets and ear rubs, which they would let me do forever, I think.   Sometimes I think about other rabbits - kept outside, no toys, no stimulation, and I'm glad I could give these guys a pet home.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Maybe it's in the genes.

Earlier this year, I began to do some geneological research on my mother's side of the family.  A few of us had done some on Dad's side (from Ohio), but we didn't know much about Mom's Kentucky relatives except a few hints and legends.  What I found was at times fascinating and at others, appalling.  My mother was very proud of being Irish ........but we're not, I found.  Not a drop.  Like many or most of the settlers in this part of the country, we are Scots-Irish, Scots who came to the New World via Ireland.  One of the heartwarming things I found while doing the research was this:

This is Rebecca Witten Graham's spinning wheel.

Rebecca Witten Graham was my 4th Great-Grandmother.  She was born in 1775 in Virginia, married John Graham in 1803, and moved to what is now Floyd County (in present-day Emma) KY in 1805.  She died in 1843.  The wheel was passed down from mother to daughter, and several generations later, with no more daughters to inherit, it is on loan and display in the Samuel May House in Prestonsburg, KY.  

The title of this post notwithstanding, that Rebecca had a spinning wheel is no surprise - everyone had to spin then, or they had no cloth!  But still, I like to think I am carrying on some family heritage when I sit down at my wheel and spin, seven generations later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

new photos

My new header photo is from the day I spent at the KY Horse Park two weeks ago with Michelle and her family.  Aren't they a lovely family!?!   (Mr. Cool trying not to smile.....cracks me up) 

I told Michelle she needed to change the photo of herself on her blog, because she is MUCH prettier in person than her photo would lead you to believe!  

It was a great time and glorious weather to boot!   Michelle did such a good job telling of her time here in Central Kentucky, so I won't attempt to do that again except to say whenever you are ready to come back, we will 'make you very welcome!' 

Friday, November 27, 2009

My first 'livestock'

It's official.  My 'urban farm'now has 'livestock.'  Last weekend I went to Lancaster, Ohio to meet  Lisa, a breeder of beautiful French and Satin Angora rabbits, to pick up two black does I had bought from her.   My girls are gorgeous, and sweet most of the time.  We had a lovely time in Lancaster, at a rabbit show there.  I was shocked to see so many people.  I had no idea there were so many people interested in rabbits.  It was such a nice day (in late November!!), the Angora people had set up their grooming area outside, so we sat around and talked, got to know one another.  As usually happens when I meet other folks I have 'met' on  blogs, it was very easy to get aquainted.  We already had a lot in common, we all spin, knit, love animals .....   I also got some lessons in rabbit grooming and husbandry. Everyone did very well in the show which made the mood even more jovial.  Congratulations, guys!!

Now that I'm able to tell them apart, I'm working on names for the girls (to the shock of some friends who love the naming process, and can't believe they're still nameless).  The girls come from a litter that were all named after poisonous plants!!  Their brother "Somerhill Nightshade" did very well at the show!  I'm thinking of Holly and Ivy (both toxic plants) since it's fairly near Christmas, and I've always loved the name Ivy (sorry if I steal it, Dianne) or Jasmine and Violet.  Jasmine (Carolina Jasmine/Jessamine) is toxic, Violets are not, but one of the girls is a little more 'blue' in color, while the other is a little more silver.  Sometimes they are naughty bunnies, like flicking water at me to get my attention (yes I made sure they weren't peeing!) so 'Stinker and Brat' might be more appropriate!  ha - ha.  Opinions, anybody?

They get along fine with the cats.  There wasn't a hiss, not a growl from the felines when I brought the bunnies in - unlike the pandemonium that ensued when I brought each of the two newest cats home.  I have been putting them on a towel on the bed to groom them, and both bunnies have been nose to nose with 3 of my 4 cats, and no one has blinked an eye.

The girls were purchased specifically to provide me with lovely, soft, angora fiber (I looked it up and it can be 10 -12 microns).  I will probably blend it with wool most of the time.  They 'molt' periodically and can be 'plucked' or shorn with scissors.  I'm saving every scrap, though, and already have a small baggie full after a couple of grooming sessions.  Even 'waste' fiber can be felted. At the show, Annette told me I will be surprised at how much fiber will come off those 2 bunnies.   Bring it on!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Emergency Preparedness

I am definitely someone who believes in being prepared - as much as I am able - for emergencies. It started many years ago when I went through a blizzard. No power, no heat (gas furnace, but electric blower) no water (ditto - water well, but no way to pump it), no way to get back into town. BUT, there was some camping equipment - and that made all the difference.

Since then I have lived in places where the active and possible weather emergencies ranged from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, ice storms, drought and even earthquake. Besides weather emergencies, there are always other possibiliites, such as economic crunches. During an extended period of unemployment a few years ago, my full pantry allowed me peace of mind when money was too tight to go to the grocery.

It's just prudent to be prepared.

I'm not one of those 'a cave, a year's worth of freeze dried food, and a shotgun' types, but having said that, I do store and use freeze dried food, and find it very convenient. Being single, milk from the store usually goes bad before I finish it. A #10 can of freeze-dried milk can be made in small quantities, and lasts me a long time - at much less cost than store-bought. A handful of freeze dried broccoli and/or mushrooms can go into the couscous to boost flavor and nutrition.

(still no icon to add photos, but I'm going to try a link) My favorite place to buy freeze dried food is here:
Preparedness Pantry Blog

I store all kinds of food, have a well-stocked first aid kit, all the usual. I would be interested to know if any readers have similar interests, and what they do?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

still no photos

This really sucks. I do have things to say, but without photos, it's just not the same. I would like to introduce you to my 'family' of 4 cats, but I really NEED to show you their cute faces for you to appreciate them. I sure wish blogger would fix this!

Oh well, next weekend it's off to the Open House at Equinox Farm. I will write about that, photos or no photos!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ah - HA!

It's not just me. The icon I need to insert photos does not appear. It did once, for the Header photo, then disappeared. Apparently, lots of other people are having the same problem. I went to Blogger Help>Help Forum, and there are many entries - from July up to this week - of others with the same problem, and not getting any assistance from Blogger to fix it. Frustrating, but at least it's not just my incompetence. Whew.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What I did on vacation

As a person of (ahem) 'modest means,' I don't take vacations. This one started out to be semi-business for me, and when that fell through, the friend who agreed to go with me and I decided to go anyway. Destination....Amish country in northern Ohio. I am from Ohio originally, but farther south than where we were headed. We both wanted to get away and think about something besides work for a while.

After stowing our stuff in a motel in the nearest town of any size, we took off. First stop - Lehmans in Kidron OH.

Lehmans is famous among homesteaders, folks off-the-grid, and those with an admiration for old-fashioned ways and things. I've purchased several items out of their catalog over the years and have always wanted to go there. I must admit, it was a little different than I expected. Since they have been in business for many years, catering to a largely Amish clientelle, I thought it would be kind of an old, dusty, giant hardware store. It is anything but. It is huge, but newish, and geared to the 'visitor.' It was FULL of tourists at 10 a.m. on a weekday morning. It may not have been exactly as expected, but we still managed to spend a couple of hours there, and still didn't see everything! I bought a burner and lamp chimney to convert a canning jar into an oil lamp, some wicks for the oil lamps I already have, and some wooden spoons.

By then we were starving, so we headed up the road to Mt. Hope, to 'Mrs. Yoder's Country Kitchen.' (of COURSE it would be Mrs. YODER) The weather was dark, gray, rainy and COLD the whole time we were there, but the fall color was gorgeous. We so enjoyed the drive through rolling hills with tidy, neat, beautiful farms. Not many cars, but lots of Amish folks in their buggies - some also going to Mrs. Yoders for lunch, as it turned out. When we got to the restaurant, it was packed. We had to wait 20 minutes or more for a table, with at least 50 other people. It was worth it though. The food was plain and simple (of course) but wonderful. I asked our server and found out no, the business is not Amish-owned, but they employ large numbers of Amish people - about half the staff. All the food is LOCAL - the chickens (some of the best chicken I've ever had!) and the fruits and vegetables come from a local co-op of farmers, in season - like now. Mt. Hope seemed to be just an intersection with a few houses and businesses. This feed store was right across the street, and seemed to speak to me of the real spirit of the area, we tourists notwithstanding.

Following suggestions from a fellow blogger who lives in the area, we went on from there to Berlin, only slightly larger than Mt. Hope, but with quite a few shops - and traffic jams! The traffic was backed up a long way in either direction of the (only?) street light. We had already figured out the pattern - wide open spaces with beautiful scenery, and then - boom! Literally HUNDREDS of people all trying to park and cram into whatever site or shop we were also there to see.

On the way to Berlin we stopped at Heini's Cheese and candy store (Heini's - I'm not kidding) and discovered .....bulk spices! We didn't get all that excited about the cheese or the candy, but when we discovered the spices.....! Large quantities of about anything you could think of, with prices lower than I could imagine. A cup-sized container of cinnamon - $1. A fist full of bay leaves - $1.20. Wow!

We stopped at the Country Primitive Store in Berlin, and also several other stores. Intimidating crowds (it WAS 'peak color' weekend) and a looming time crunch (everything in the area closes at 5!) sent us on down the road. We went to the last stop on our journey of recommendations - Walnut Creek Foods. Why drive 5 or 6 hours to go to a grocery store? Wonderful stuff and incredible prices! I bought half a cart full for $22 - including more spices: Cilantro, cinnamon sticks, cream of tartar (for home-made baking powder) sure-jell (for canning a recipe I found for apple pie filling), etc, Amish noodles in several sizes, locally grown potatoes...it was great.

Exhausted but satisfied with a wonderful day, we drove back to the hotel and crashed. The next say we headed back to a different world. It was a great time. With only a 3 days, including drive time, we only stopped at a few places, but saw a lot more we will put on the list for next time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

While I was away.....

I have been meaning to write, but.....

Since the last post I've had a (younger, more techno-savvy) co-worker show me how to hook my camera up to the computer to post photos. So, I will practice and see if I can come up with some soon.

I had my performance review at work today, and it was a good one!! What a relief! Those things nearly make me break out in hives!

Tomorrow - if the weather remains fine - I plan to go to Falmouth, KY to the Wool Fest. Maybe I can post some photos from there!?!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Harvest Time

I'm all about "urban farming." Since I can't live in the country, I do what I can in to live "rurally" in town. I live in a townhouse. I have a deck, and a small patch of yard in the back. Ten years ago when I moved here, I created a big flower garden, and I have always had lots of pots of flowers on the deck. Years later, the flower bed has been reduced to a more manageble size, most of the English roses and other perrenials I planted have died, and I have started filling in the bare spots and the deck pots with can't-fail herbs.

Last Spring, with the economic climate what it was (and largely still is) I tried to plant more edible things in the deck pots and garden. Overall, my deck and garden are more of a 'potager' now.

A 14"pot of green beans on the deck produced enough single servings over the growing season for at least 6 meals and a growth spurt last week allowed me to freeze a quart! The foliage is dying now so I took the last beans off today - make that 7 servings.

Another big pot gave me 2 eggplants (I had lots of blossoms but they did not set fruit-despite the bees and my attemps to hand-pollinate).

Although it is still warm here, we could have our first frost any time, so today I pulled up the basil plants - an armload - that I will make pesto from. I also harvested sage, rosemary and thyme, (no parsley, sorry) and oregano to dry. I already have LOTS of basil I dried throughout the summer. I still have carrots that I will pull after first frost (I'm told they are sweeter that way?) and I noticed some rose hips I will harvest later for tea. I cut and dried peppermint earlier for tea also.

I have Swiss Chard I planted in the spring that is taking off now that Autumn is upon us. I will plant some garlic later today, if it doesn't rain.

If I got serious about making every square inch and surface productive, I could do a lot more, but I also have the dreaded "townhome association" to deal with. Arrrrrgggh! I would love to have a few laying hens in a coop under the deck (it is supposedly legal in my town) but association rules trump city ordinances here, so I'm assuming it is out of the question.

There is something really primal about planting and harvesting, "putting things up" for the coming winter. I don't think I've done too badly, and it really feels good.

First blog

Well, I've done it. Joined all those others who "journal" publicly - who throw their thoughts out there for all to see. I remember when blogs first began, I couldn't see the point, and spoke pointedly about the ego of those who think others would care that much about what they think. Now, I'm hooked.

I have a number of interests, and as I discovered blogs - and the many people that follow them - who share those interests, I felt connected, informed, inspired......and finally had to jump in myself.

Unfortunately, I am techno-challenged, and my blog will be one of those boring text-only ones until I can learn how to take and post photos. I don't even know if my computer is capable of that, much less the user.

I recently saw the movie "Julie and Julia" and feel like "Julie" as she posted her first blog. Sending these words out into the web-sphere and wondering if anyone out there is interested in reading them is a little intimidating.

I may write about food, handspinning and other fiber arts, my pets, the farm and livestock I would love to have, even my religious beliefs at times, which some may consider esoteric. But this is who I am.