Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Day with Urban Farm Magazine

First, I must apologize.  Apologize to my "rabbit fancy" friends and acquaintances that have owned, cared for, bred and shown rabbits for years, and really paid their dues. 

A couple of months ago I got an e-mail asking me if I would be willing to be video-ed clipping one of my rabbits for Urban Farm Magazine.  They are a member of the Hobby Farms  family of magazines.  They are going to run an article in an upcoming issue about keeping rabbits in an urban or suburban setting, and the video will appear on their website as an accompaniment to the article.  They picked me because their offices are here in Lexington, and I had communicated with them about coming to the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival last May, and mentioned that I have Angoras.  In other words, I was what they had available.  I didn't say anything about it, because I wanted to wait to see if it actually happened.  The date was firmed up a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday, I spent a delightful hour with Lisa and Rachel of Urban Farm Magazine, in Lisa's back yard .

It was a glorious day, sunny and temperature just right.  They had a table set up and I just clipped and talked about Angoras for an hour.  They will edit it down to about 5 minutes for the website.  I took Truffle to clip, and Holly to show how sometimes a coat will grow out at all different rates.  She has a patch on her back that is partly 1/2 inch and unchanged since the last time I clipped her in May, with some 1 inch patches of black outer coat (guard hair) and a very thick, long 'petticoat' of coat that could be clipped now.  Both of them behaved well - at the shoot.  Holly saw me get the transport cages out this morning, and she knew.   She bit me when I reached in the cage to take her out.  (I didn't tell them that)  Truffle was a trooper, but was embarrassingly more matted than I thought he was, given that I had been working on him regularly for over a week. Some of the wool came off in hunks, not wispy, floaty, locks.  It was apparent a week or two ago that his coat was going, and I have found that he really begins to mat then. It wasn't a real complete job - his belly wool was short and didn't need clipped but I went through the motions.

By the end, both of the girls seemed considerably more interested in Angoras than at the beginning, and they said they have gotten lots of positive feedback when they posted on Facebook that they would be doing an article about keeping rabbits. Terrific!  I really want to see Angoras grow in popularity here.  The author of the article is from California and will give an overview of the pluses of rabbit keeping - fiber, meat, manure/fertilizer - but the breed she keeps are not fiber rabbits.

So, if you go online to see the video later this fall, be merciful.  I couldn't say everything in an hour, much less the edited 5 minutes, and I just hope that as a relative newbie rabbit owner, I didn't say anything that was flat-out incorrect!

Monday, September 27, 2010

at the Auction this week

I didn't intend to go at all. (but of course I did)  Then I wasn't going to bid on anything (but of course I did)
I got a couple more Ball jars with zinc lids.  Pints this time, for storing dried herbs from the garden.  I also got a kerosene lamp converted to an electric that is cute and just needs a shade.  My real find was this though,

It's a pewter chamberstick, a Colonial Williamsburg reproduction made by Steiff.  No one else was interested because it appeared to have been dropped, and had a little dent in the candle cup.  I don't care about that, and thought I got a real bargain. 

In the 'ones that got away'  catagory, I went to a different auction a couple of weeks ago, specifically to bid on an antique standing skein winder.  The arm assembly was a tad wobbly where it attached to the stand, but it was beautiful.  I was way out of my league there, though, and it sold for more than twice the amount I could pay.  As it happened, I ended up in the "pay" line (I did get one hand blown goblet for $5) next to the guy that bought it.  Of course he had no idea what it was - they had advertised it as a Flax Wheel.  He has his Aunt's spinning wheel, which just sits, for decoration.   The winder was going to do the same.  When I told him I would have used it, as a valuable piece of equipment, he just smiled.  Grrrrr....   What a waste. 

They had 4 spinning wheels there that day, 2 that had all their parts, and 2 that didn't.  One huge 'walking' wheel sold for less than $100, and you could have stepped right up to it and started spinning.

Can you tell there's not much 'urban farming' going on at Wren Cottage right now?   The Angora bunnie boys will be getting clipped soon, and I'll try to post some 'before' and 'after' pictures. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

The WEG and my love affair with horses

The World Equestrian Games (WEG) open here tomorrow.  It is a pretty big deal for us, and the area has been constructing, remodelling and sprucing up for over a year to get ready!   I won't be attending as the tickets are so pricy, and a plan for volunteering through a charity didn't pan out.

It would be interesting to see, though.  There will be jumping, cross country, dressage, endurance, reining, and even vaulting (a sport I didn't know existed before this).

I attended a Continuing Ed class this week at one of the nicer hotels here.  As I walked to the conference room, I passed many athletic looking people in their spandex britches, intently talking with other people (coaches?) each in a different language unknown to me. But, as we passed each other in the hall, each one would smile, then slowly and carefully greet me with "good morning."  It was so cool!

My passion for horses goes way back. I was the typical horse-crazy little girl. I even had a horse (grade) of my own briefly at age 15, and had all the usual bumps and tumbles trying to learn to ride (I never did, due to very poor balance and sensory integration issues) but a particularly traumatic fall made me lose my nerve, and that brought an end to that.  The mare happily went back to her original owners.

 My true love though is Arabian horses.  To me there is almost no other breed.  At some point in my central-Ohio-based teens, I attended the Ohio State Fair and wandered into one of the horse show classes.  The horses were mostly smallish, mostly gray, very beautiful, and had exquisite heads. I was in love with the Arabian horse.  I found out later that one of the early and most important importers of Arabian horses to the United States was Roger Selby of ......Portsmouth, Ohio!

He bought a group of horses from an important breeder in England - Lady Wentworth - who, along with her parents, brought the breed to their Crabbet Stud in Britain from Egypt, and elsewhere.

Lady Wentworth and her stallion Skowronek

Raffles was a son of the Crabbet foundation sire Skowronek, out of a Skowronek daughter, Rifala. Lady Wentworth deliberately chose an inbreeding cross in hopes of producing a suitable Arabian for crossing on Welsh ponies.  She partially succeeded, as Raffles only matured to be 13.3 hands, but he was never able to settle any mares in England and was thought to be sterile.

He was 'thrown in' as a free gift with a group of Arabians that Roger Selby imported into America in the late 30s.  After proper management,  Raffles successfully sired well over 100 foals.  I'm sure it was some of his offspring that stole my heart in the show ring that day. 
Raffles - slightly stretched.  A flat croup is not one of the Crabbet-based Arabian's strong points. 

As the early breeders died, Mrs. Bazy Tankersley of Al Marah Ranch bought up some of the most important foundation stock and continued the dedicated linebreeding.   In a 'full circle' kind of incident - Mrs. Tankersley provided the primary funds for building and opening the new permanent Arabian Horse exhibit that opened this Spring at the KY Horse Park.

When I saw my first Arabian in the early 60s, they were still pretty rare, and Crabbet breeding was THE thing.   They have fallen somewhat out of fashion now. (op ed: they are now breeding Arabians to be 17 hands with giraffe necks and looooooong backs and a trot with their knees up to their chin - if they want Saddlebreds, why don't they buy those!?)

Skowronek proved to be such a prepotent sire, and in the US his progeny were so intensively linebred to Raffles and Raseyn (a Skowronek son on the west coast) that the 'look' was cemented in - to the point that they can still be easily identified at a distance.  When I moved to Lexington in 1990, I took advantange of the many horse-related activities here, and picked up my 'horsey' interest again - albeit as a spectator.   One day at the Horse Park I saw a lovely, light gray mare in a paddock that I immediately knew as an Arabian, and from the 'Raffles" head, knew where she was from.  Sure enough, when she came to the fence for an ear scratch, her halter said "Al Marah (something or other).'

They are promising cooler weather beginning tomorrow.  Whether or not you get to the WEG, I hope you enjoy the break from the heat!   (now if we could just get some rain......)

Monday, September 6, 2010

End of Summer Wrap-up

With Labor Day weekend being the unofficial end of summer, it seems a good time to review my gardening efforts, a mixed bag, at best:

Tomatoes - the only thing that did well was the yellow pear salad tomato. I won't repeat the varieties I used this year. The heirloom paste tomato I used is the size of a cherry tomato, only oval.  The 2 plants bore fairly well, but since they are so small, not enough to do anything with.  I will go to tried-and-true Romas, and the German Pink I saved the seed for.

Potatoes - a complete failure and mystery. They grew like crazy, bloomed, died down, I waited 3 weeks, and then......not one potato.   I dumped the container out into the wheelbarrow and sifted through - nothing.  My only guess is the die-down was a blight, not the normal harvest signal.

Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts.  Broccoli did OK, but takes up so much room for one head each and some follow-up shoots, I don't know if it's worth repeating.  Brussells Sprouts are doing very well - it's a good thing I like them!  They say a light frost makes them sweeter, so I will be looking forward to these for a while yet.  Maybe only 2 plants instead of 4 next year.

Chard - great in a new location.  Doesn't grow as big in a pot as in the ground, but that's OK.

Eggplant - I found out if I prune the plants back by about 1/3 when growth stops, it will restart growth and give another flush of flowers and fruit.  I can't decide if I like the long, thin Japanese style or the more traditional bigger, rounder fruits.   Not bothered by bugs - a real plus!!
Green beans - I got enough of the 'Greasy Grit' beans for a couple of servings and I still have pods forming to save some seed, but I miss the sweet and tender bush beans too.  I may grow both next year.

Lima beans - forget it.

Onions - I had quite a lot, but none got larger than small-to-medium.  Some came out of the ground after a whole summer of growing, looking nearly the same as the set that went in.  I wasn't the only one, and read on a blog of someone else having the same problem.

Garlic - did great.  Plant LOTS MORE! 

Peppers - I got lots of jalapenos off one plant . Only had to buy a few more to have enough to can and dry. Maybe 2 plants next year?    Bell peppers - don't bother, or try in the ground.  Got a few smallish misshapen peppers off 2 plants.

Turnips and beets - didn't get big enough to harvest as babies before hot weather hit and ruined them.  I have re-planted some turnips for fall to see if they do any better.

Herbs - all did great, but who can't grow herbs?  I have enough dried to give some away as little gifts.  The basil LOVED the hot summer, and I got enough for 4 little zip-bags of pesto and 2 ice cube trays full of just chopped basil and olive oil - for throwing into soups, couscous, etc. It's still going, so  I'll let some of the rest go to seed for saving.  

Patty Pan sqash - the bugs got it, but try again next year

I had LOTS of bugs - my brassicas and beans were nearly more holes than plants, and I lost count of how many tomato hornworms I picked off the tomatoes (ick). Next year get more serious about companion planting and organic sprays (using things like oil, soap & baking soda) to try to control them early.

That my did YOUR garden grow?