Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Holly and Ivy's New Look

I have had folks ask me to post 'before and after' photos when I clip one of my Angoras.  Many visitors to KSFF commented about how 'huge' the bunnies were, and I assured them they would look much smaller after their coat was taken off.   So here goes:

Here is Holly before

And after. 

The transformation wasn't as dramatic as in the past, because Miss Holly has put on a little weight since her last clip!  (She's always been a good eater)  

Then I pulled Ivy out.  I determined that she is a 'plucker' instead of a 'clipper.'  She was trailing strings of wool behind her in the cage, so I was going to pluck her around the edges I knew were molting and ready to come off.  As I plucked,  a lot more than that seemed loose, so I was going all over her, and getting a lot of wool.  Then I saw a flash of pink, and turned her around and pushed her top wool back ..........   

There was a large patch of completely bare skin!  I mean bare-nekkid - not even peach fuzz!!  I was only taking off the wool that was already loose, so it wasn't like I was overdoing it.   I would have freaked out, except I remembered someone asking about something like this on one of the Angora Yahoo Groups I belong to.  They told him it was OK, that the wool would grow back in fine. 

At least I think that's what they told him ......

OK, maybe I am freaking out a little bit.  

Ivy seems happy, but I'm afraid to touch her now...  (what if it doesn't grow back and I have to knit her little angora coats?  If I take her out to play in the playpen, I'd have to put sunscreen on her!)


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Darned Robins!

I love to see robins when we have endured a long, gray winter.  When I see them I know Spring is coming!  This time of year.......not so much.

My garden has been doing so well so far this year.  With everyone complaining about all the rain this Spring, I kept my mouth shut, because it has been a blessing for me.  Plants on the deck in containers drain the excess water, and the garden slopes slightly, both back to front and from side to side, so I haven't had any mud or drainage issues there either. But most of all - no watering!   Living in the city, chlorine and fluoride-laden water is not the greatest for the plants, and I have to pay for water!   Since my water bill has doubled or tripled in the last year anyway (has nothing to do with usage) I don't want to make it any higher.

I was afraid it couldn't last, and early last week I came out to find my squash plants and nasturtiums pulled out or clipped off.  I know crows and starlings also like to amuse themselves by pulling up seedlings, but I caught Robins in the act yesterday.  They also took their destructive little beaks to my Yarrow, Dill and one of my Roma Tomatoes - clipped the growing tip right off.   

I had all my Comfrey seeds germinate.  I didn't need a dozen plants, so I took a few seedlings to KSFF last weekend to give away.  Then I used a few more to make a (tiny) poultice when I dropped a piece of cement garden edging on my bare foot! (another story) That left me with two seedlings, which went into the new bed I prepared for them. Then the Robins hit!   'Tore one of the seedlings out, and not even to eat it, but just to leave on the ground.  They do that a lot and it makes me so mad.  The seedling still seemed green, and only a little wilted, so I stuck it back in the ground, since it was overcast, cool and rainy.   But they did it again!  Same seedling, pulled out and left on top of the ground the next day.  Grrrrrrrrr!  I stuck it in the ground again, and put a plastic bottle 'cap' over it to keep the birds away.    Several days later, I have....

This!   It may be tattered, but it has a growing tip/center that is green and growing!  Take that birds! 

I've been trying some 'companion planting' this year.  I've read up a lot on what plants go well together, what plants will repel bugs or diseases if planted near the plants I want to thrive.  So far, so good.   I have seen very little bug damage so far, unlike last year, when some of my plants were more holes than plants.  It's early in the growing season though......   

Here is one example.  Borage planted with strawberries is supposed to improve both the borage and the strawberry yield and flavor.   This is 3 plants of an everbearing strawberry variety.  They are huge, healthy, covered with blossoms and I've picked 2 pretty flavorful berries from them so far.    The borage is so big and healthy I have kept taking the leaves off one side so they won't cover/ shade the strawberry plants.  It's the same on my other container of June-bearing berries.    

I really wish this photo had come out better.  When I went outside yesterday morning, there had been a heavy dew, and everything was spangled with dew drops - including these strawberry leaves with crystal at the edge of every scallop. 

The pinks and blues of early Spring are lovely, but when summer comes, give me colors that sizzle! 

I've got blueberries!   I plan to pick up some tulle in the next day or two to wrap the plant and keep the birds away.  There are a couple of clusters this size.   I may harvest all of  a palmful, but it is nice to find my plant ("Duke" variety) is self-fertile as billed, and that I can grow blueberries on my micro-farm, in a container! 

Healthy, and yummy chard.

I still don't have my beans and eggplant in, and now the problem is the heat.  It is HOT out there, and I don't do heat well.  I have to dig out a big clump of Black-Eyed Susans before I plant though.  I missed my opportunity to get out early the last two mornings, so I'll try this evening or tomorrow.  I've got a few seedlings that still aren't quite big enough for the garden, but once I get the beans and eggplant in, that will be most everything done. 

Until next time from Wren Cottage......

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another One Behind Us

Another KY Sheep and Fiber Festival has come and gone.  I'm tired, sore and my allergies are doing a number on me, but overall it seemed to have been a great success!

I was in the livestock area this year, and liked it much better in many respects.  Since I was there to promote Angora Rabbits as a luxury fiber source and the 'ideal' livestock for the Urban Farmer, it made more sense.  I think people accepted the rabbits in that way more too, seeing them right there with sheep, alpacas and goats.  It was a great spot - the side entrance to the tent was on one side of me, and the front entrance on the other - we couldn't be missed!   My posters were a little worse for the wear after getting soaked with rain last year, but I used them anyway.  They were more accessible to people and they actually looked at them and read them this time.

Truffle and Holly went with me the first day.  They were a big hit and a few people even remembered them from last year.  We had a nice breeze, but when it got really warm in the late afternoon I made some ice packs for them to lay on.  We were "on show" non-stop from before 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  People were already around the booth before 9, and I heard "There she is!" and kids ran up to me wanting to pet bunnies even while I was carrying them to the table from the car!  

I didn't take fiber, and in the end I was glad.  Being in the livestock tent rather than with the vendors, some people asked about yarn and roving, but not like last year.   LOTS were interested in starting in Angoras though!!!  I gave out all my handouts and most of my cards the first day.   I was talking so much, I didn't touch my wheel the first day, and wouldn't have wanted to deal with money.  It was too hectic. 

 Susan Anderson  was our special guest the first day. She held a workshop, then in the afternoon, had a book signing of her newest book.  She was set up all of 15 feet from me but it took a long time before I got a moment to run over to meet her and have her sign my book.  She was so great.   As nice a person as you can imagine and "real," she is just the kind of woman who would be your next door neighbor, or in in your knitting group.   She even supported our vendors by shopping a little before she left the first day, and coming back the next day before her plane left, to shop for a few hours more!    

Ivy and Niko went the second day.   Probably the most asked question I got was about plucking the rabbits - could I hold them in my lap and spin right off them?   Ivy has such a strange coat.  The top is lovely and silky, but barely grows (she's nearly 2 and I've only sheared her on top once, right after I got her at 4 months).  She has a 'petticoat' that does grow, along with her belly wool, and it can be plucked.  Since she is my only 'plucker,' I decided to take her.   It was cooler, with a good breeze, so they were fine.

There were all kinds of fiber animals represented: 

There were BIG sheep (Wensleydale) ....  


And little sheep (the famous Lila lamby) ....... 

There were Alpacas....

Llamas ......

and goats with BIG horns!

But the most fun were all the babies! 

sleeping babies .......  (the second one is Luna)

eating babies......

and babies with looooong necks!

One of the disadvantages of being a "vendor" is there is almost no time to shop!  Well, maybe my bank account thinks that's a good thing.  It was so busy I had a hard time getting in even one meal the first day.  The second day had a MUCH lighter crowd, (we'll have to work on that) so I did get to do a little shopping.  I only went to a few booths, because I was too busy trying to get feedback from the vendors ("are you happy with everything?  Anything we could do better next year?)   I got lots of enthusiasm, and no real complaints - just some suggestions. I didn't get any photos of the vendors at all, so you will just have to visit the  Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival website and/or on Facebook for those.

All I bought was a pound of Cormo fleece I thought I might try blending with my Angora for some super-soft yarn, and some BFL roving dyed in luscious shades of pink, raspberry, orange, purple and olive. 

This photo doesn't do it justice.  BFL luster just makes the colors glow.

When I look at the photos of the booths on Facebook today , I think "Oh!  I missed that one ...and that one ....  There are some things I'm already regretting  not getting - like the lovely felted bowls (including some nesting ones!) by Tanglewood Farms   (Dianne is Luna lamby's "Mom")   She had great colors on her her yarns - really got some nice results on her dyeing.

Shortly before it was time to close down on Sunday, we got word that "some weather" was coming, and we could break down and pack up if we wanted to.  Mine took very little time, so I tried to help elsewhere, but I don't know if I was help or just in the way. :P   I took halters in the pens to round up Dianne's lambs, and Luna walked right over and stuck her head in!!  I guess she was ready to go!  The other lambs - not so much.   I chased and tried to corner them for a minute or two, but then stopped because I didn't want to stress them. But when I saw Dianne doing "sheep wrangler" all over them, maybe that wouldn't have been a problem!?!   Ya' just never know.  About then the skies opened up and it 'came a flood,'     It was wild for a few minutes with wind, thunder, lightning, and trying to load up in a deluge.  Then, about the time everything was loaded.......it stopped. 

What an end to the second annual Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival.  

We'll see you next year!!! 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Derby Day in the Garden

 There is no rain (yet), but it is overcast and the temp is mild.  A great day for working in the garden!

I created two new small planting places this morning:

This place at the foot of the deck stairs has always been soggy.   The downspout is on that side of the house, and the way the yard drains, water would always run this way and some would collect here.   I've read that Comfrey likes the wet, so one or two plants will go in here.   Today is rabbit pan clean-out day, so I will just dump buckets of poo there.   

I have a theory.... a couple of rains wash any urine out of the poo, and (I think) also kills weeds and grass underneath.  Call it the lazy-girl's method of 'lasagna' or compost gardening.   I have also read this spring that some folks don't like the cardboard base that one is supposed to start the lasagna layering with.  They say it doesn't break down fast enough.  My 'big' bed is doing well with the dump-and-leave-it method, so I'm going to see how it does here. That is a very pretty pink-flowering geranium you see under the steps.  If it starts to look like it is being shaded out or overwhelmed by the Comfrey, I'll move it.

This is the corner where I planted my German Pink tomatoes last summer, and they loved it there.  This year, instead of them having to fight for space between the rose and the compost pile, I moved the pile over a couple of feet, and will plant in the compost left behind.  The cement edging used to go all the way around the big bed, but I thought it was ugly, and changed that to fieldstone.  Frugality is winning out this year, so I hauled it out again and made some practical and weed-wacker proof, if not attractive edging for the new planting areas.     

These have to go - out of the big bed anyway, but they are just too pretty to get rid of, so I think I can fit them in on the other side of the rose from the tomatoes.  When you are an urban farmer, it's all about using all the space you have, no matter how tiny! 

This nice low-growing shrub that I can't remember the name of, has the sweetest white flowers.  It roots anywhere the branches touch the ground, so I have it several places, including the bed across the front of the house.   I like the way it adds to the potager feel, so it will stay.   You can't see it on the rose in the background here, but they are crammed with buds, as are all three of my roses in the backyard. Some are ready to burst open: 

As for the vegetables and herbs, I added a couple more chard plants.  I like it better than spinach, and they  can be used interchangeably.    I planted the Roma tomatoes and jalapenos, cut back the Feverfew by about half and harvested an armload of Lemon Balm to dry.  The Feverfew isn't good dried, but always used fresh, so it just went to the compost pile. With all the rain though, it was about to take over the garden. 

I need to get another stake, then I will plant a pole-bean tee-pee (is tipi pc now?) with eggplants at the base. There hasn't been one big planting orgy this year.  Everything has sort of trickled in.  But it's only early May and there should be plenty of time.   The oregano could be harvested.  It's higher than it looks here - about 2 feet.  It needs to be clipped before it flowers.  I might be able to get 2 (or more?) harvests this year.     


Well it's off to Tractor Supply for some feed and bedding for the chickies.....I want to get back in time to watch the 137th running of the Derby!  I picked a couple of 20-1 shots in the office pool this year, and with no outstanding favorite, I'll just cheer for the winner, whoever it is!