Saturday, January 31, 2009


Wilmer made it through several hours of surgery on Thursday. I've been with him the last two days & nights at Shriners & got home this morning. I did not get much sleep but he's the guy who has had quite a time. His surgeries were extensive & he is now in long leg casts. It is amazing to see how long his legs are when straightened out & to admire his feet now both facing forward. He has received extraordinary care & I must confess that the small kindnesses the nurses extended to me when I was most sleep-deprived made so much difference in my ability to continue to try to comfort him.

It was a pleasant distraction to help Eric unload chicken feed & to clean & sort eggs today. The chickens are laying just a bit more each day as the daylight hours lengthen. I'd mentioned all of the pretty white pullet eggs from the Buff Minorcas a while back. Now the other young hens are beginning to start their first laying & I am getting lots of adorable little eggs in various shades of brown. All of this indicates that we should have an excellent egg season!

Pig Update: The pigs got a healthy little treat this evening as I cooked up four dozen eggs for the two of them to share. They simply love that treat!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sesame Street

I never realized how amusing Sesame Street can be. Katy, our baby, just turned 19 & we really didn't watch much of it when the three children were small. I think it was only on once a day & not really part of our routine. Wilmer, our little guy from Honduras, thinks it is hysterical. I have been sitting with him while he laughs at some running joke about a camera. I am not sure what exactly is going on as I've used a little of this time to keep running out of the room to do house chores. Since Wilmer is so into the program, I am using it to have him help me with my Spanish. He keeps trying to tell me in English what is going on but I keep asking him for the Spanish words. He spells them for me & laughs when I try to pronounce them.

We are still going non-stop. Wilmer's appointment at Shriners Friday was great. He got lots of attention & they explained step-by-step with real equipment what would happen to him before his surgery. Because we do most of our own vet care, I have IV tubing, syringes & lots of other cool doctor stuff here so he has been coaching me through what will happen when I go to the hospital. He has measured the angles of my knees & feet dozens of times & has taped an IV tube to me repeatedly. I am thinking by now he must be fairly comfortable with the whole process - as long as they let him be the doctor!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Too busy to blog.....

Little Wilmer from Honduras is taking lots & lots of time. He is a sweetheart but needs steady attention & supervision. Today is the first day I've even been able to walk to the back of the farm in a week. I am missing that but realize the importance of what we are doing so cannot mind it terribly. Thanks goodness Al, Glen & Eric have gladly picked up my slack. Katy also came home to join us at Friday's Shriners appointment & play with Wilmer some over the weekend.

Wilmer went to Winthrop University on Monday & got to go swimming at their indoor pool with Katy. He'd been insisting that he could swim in our pool, even with the ice on it. Indoors just seemed like a better plan!

Pig Update: The pigs are eating well & growing. They've been enjoying a little more variety in their diet as I've been sending out scrambled eggs & they've been playing with/eating ears of dried corn that came from Country Boys when they did the after-Halloween clean up.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Even busier...

Wilmer is a non-stop little guy! He can scoot all over the house & has quickly learned to open everything including the front door. He thinks it is funny to let the dogs & cats in & out but not all of them should be in or out. We've hung a set of sleigh bells on the front door so we know when he sneaks over to open the door. Since he demands such diligent care, I have seen very little of the farm lately. When the ground was frozen we made a few quick trips out in his wheelchair which allowed me to gather a few eggs or check on one of the older goats. Fortunately Al & Eric have kept up with the farm.

We've had two days where the nighttime temperature was in the teens. Several duck eggs were frozen & split longways each morning but the majority were fine. Hay consumption easily doubled for the two cold days.

Pig Update: The pig stall got a good cleaning today. They are meticulous about only using the bathroom in one corner so the job is not too complex but certainly needs to be regularly handled. These "institutional" Clemson pigs are not nearly as social as the small-farm ones we've gotten in the past. They are very high strung & everything seems to scare them. They are eating well but the pig with the lame leg has not gotten any better. Fortunately, he has only his brother for food competition. He'd be in sad shape in a larger group.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Busy, busy

Blogging may be slowing down as we received Wilmer, the delightful young man from Honduras, on Thursday. We spent 4 hours at Shriners' so that he could be evaluated. It is a wonderful place & Wilmer was a happy patient who was quite cooperative. He got lots of attention including a few x-rays & a neat motion study where he was wired up & videoed to assess his gait.

He is 12 years old & fascinated with electronics so when I buckled him in the car & went to load his wheelchair, he checked out buttons & knobs on the dashboard. Fortunately, I had the car keys in my pocket. It was a brisk 40 degrees but he insisted on putting the window up & down until I managed to catch him off guard while the window was up & hit the safety lock. He was puzzled that the window would not go down as we were zipping down the interstate but was soon too busy looking at passing traffic to care.

He is bilingual so we had a good time on the way home as he helped me brush up on my high school Spanish. He properly pronounced and spelled the names of all of the colors until I got them right.

When I opened his car door at the house, three of the dogs stuck their heads in to greet him. Lila is a huge Anatolian Shepherd, Tootsie is our midsized abandoned black mutt & Madison is the howling beagle. Wilmer grinned from ear to ear & buried his face in Lila's neck. I was surprised simply because when we kept Marcdaile, the beautiful little 3 year old from Haiti, she was initially scared of the dogs & eventually only got to where she wanted one at a time around on her terms. But Wilmer was right at home.

The boys were still cleaning up brush from the power company's trimming so had a fire going in the front pasture. Wilmer was interested in what they were doing but also anxious to see the house. Glen, our oldest, carried him in & set him in the living room. He was quickly at the phone, television tuner & everything with buttons to push. He did not seem to mind when I asked him to stop, simply returning to cuddle the dogs who had followed us into the house.

After a few minutes in the house, Wilmer informed me that he wanted to see the boys. I put his coat back on, told him to wait at the door & went to get his wheelchair from the car. I was hoisting the chair out of the back of the car when Glen called out that Wilmer was coming. He had pushed the door open & was shuffling over the door sill & down the front step. I called for him to wait & he stopped. I quickly dragged the wheelchair across the front lawn & to the steps to load him in. I pushed him as far as the concrete drive & then he happily wheeled up & down while watching Glen & Eric toss brush on the fire. He spoke & waved, they spoke & waved, he listened to his CD player for a bit & then spoke & waved some more. Each time the boys would drop what they were doing, call him by name & wave. After ten minutes he decided he was cold so I brought his wheelchair to the door, toted him back in & let him play.

This "going out to see the boys" went on about three more times. On one of the trips into the house, Wilmer spotted an old baseball by a door & asked for it. He had already demonstrated at Shriners' that he has quite an arm on him. He spent one of our waiting periods pitching a stuffed duck at the three of us who'd accompanied him to the hospital. I knew based on his strength & enthusiasm that he had no business with a baseball in the house so promised we would buy him a ball later.

Now I am rushing to finish the blog as I hear him stirring. Dinner was good & he is a great eater. We did go in to town to buy him a soft soccer ball, a few other balls & a big bin to store his things in just so the cats don't sleep in them or the dogs don't nose through them. He wanted a red bin & was ecstatic that it was his. Mr. Potter pushed the wheelchair in the store & I pushed the cart. Wilmer kept reaching back to cling to Al's arm, cheerfully shouting at us as mommy & daddy. When we got home, we put his red bin by his bed, packed his things in it & he was content.

Before bed, Wilmer & Eric, our 21 year old, shut all the doors down the hall & spent a lot of time batting the soccer ball up & down the hall. Finally Wilmer admitted he was tired, brushed his teeth & went to bed at about 9:00. We put his bed in the dining room so that he does not have to go up & down stairs to use the bathroom. I closed the shades, left a small light on for him in the kitchen & never heard another peep until I heard him take himself to the bathroom at about 5 a.m. & then shuffle back to bed.

So, based on yesterday's activity level, I'm imagining I will have little time to sit at the computer, having to devote my occasional moments of calm to regular farm chores. But it is all good & it looks like Wilmer will be quite a blessing to us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Making Preparations

We are preparing for two different events. The first is the arrival of Wilmer, a young fellow from Honduras who will be joining us for at least two weeks prior to his surgery at Shriners' Hospital. We know very little about him at this point except that he has been a sweetheart to his host family in Atlanta. I will meet him tomorrow & am excited!

We are also getting ready for the cold weather that is forecast. Mr. Potter had already put a new round bale in each pasture at the beginning of the week so everyone has a good supply of hay. We've filled water troughs to the top & will do so again tomorrow once the temperature is above freezing. Most of our troughs are filled with hoses so we drain those before a freeze. That way, once the day warms a little, we can use the hose again without trying to blow long tube-shaped ice cubes out of it. That is fairly amusing but takes too long when I just want to fill a trough & move on to other chores.

The last thing we did this evening was to move Bart & Leo into the stable where they can stay warmer. Bart, the adorable fellow looking into the camera in the photo, is our crippled sheep. He came down with grass tetany almost two years ago as a lamb. We managed to nurse him through the initial total paralysis that less than 1% of sheep survive. Many would have thought the time, effort & expense was ridiculous but we could not NOT do it - that is just how we are. Because of his residual paralysis, he must be helped to stand each morning & I often give him an extra little boost after a daytime rest. Sometimes he can manage to get himself up if he has not been down for long but we do find him every morning to help him. When he sleeps, he has to lay all the way over on his side with his legs sticking out. Most sheep sleep with their legs curled under him but Bart's do not quite bend like that. I am fearful with the predicted cold weather that he won't be able to keep his legs warm so he's now in the barn along with little Leo.

Moving Bart all the way to the barn was interesting as he has never had a rope around his neck or walked on a lead. But it was dark & I was in a hurry so decided to grab a lead rope, loop it back on itself for a makeshift collar & try to walk him to the stable. When I first looped the rope over his head, he backed up & looked startled. He dug his feet in when I began to gently tug him. Mr. Potter was walking by me with one of the cans of kitchen scrap from the Hyatt & reminded me to be patient. I asked what he had in the can that might speed the process. He came up with a few "fresh from the morning breakfast buffet" pancakes that looked good as new. I had Bart's attention after the first nibble & he trotted all the way back to the stable just a few feet behind me. So not only is he warm for the night but he has learned a new discipline - walking on a lead while following a pancake!

Pig Update: I checked on the pigs throughout the day & filled their water. They have decided that they can eat pig chow without having to wait for their eggs which is good as I'd fed extra eggs to the dogs this morning & didn't have a lot to go on pig chow. I had also flipped them a few ears of dried corn throughout the day. Those were all stripped clean in the corner of their stall. They have laid out their living arrangements which is pretty common for pigs. They sleep in the same place & always use the bathroom in the corner farthest from their bed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Odds & Ends

Much of the day was spent working on bits & pieces of little chores. I picked at a little bit of newly-washed fleece that I'll be using for a residency in a few weeks. I finished spinning another ball of white yarn but did not get out to dye it as it was just a little cold to work comfortably in the stable without turning on the heat & I wasn't excited about doing that when dyeing can wait.

I wound off half a dozen 4 ounce balls of white yarn that we will be using for a knitting class tomorrow. I am excited about this as the teacher will be leading the students as they each knit a white wool scarf. At the end of the 3 week class, I will bring in all the supplies & we will dye their scarves. I just love the dyeing process!

The boys kept a fire going outside much of the day as they are still cleaning branches that were left behind when the electric company trimmed trees. Although the tree company offered to chip the branches, we asked them to leave them as is because the goats LOVE to eat the pine needles & bark off of them. Again, I will remind you that these are very well fed animals but relish variety in their diet. Now that the branches are bare remnants, they can be burned.

Each day I am getting just a few more chicken eggs. And I had another little pullet egg from the Buff Minorcas! The ducks & chickens are plucking away at their straw bales in the chicken yard. Once they pull enough straw out that the bales become very unsteady mushroom shapes, we'll have to knock the bales over so that a bird doesn't die when a bale collapses on it. It would certainly be a shame for the birds to have worked so hard just to end up killing themselves.

Pig Update: The two were not very interested in their pig chow today so I tried wetting it. They still turned up their noses. I came in the house, fried up a dozen duck eggs & sent those out with the boys. They reported the pigs enthusiastically tore in to them. I really don't mind spoiling them.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Spinning in the Rain

This yarn started out as white wool that I spun in a fairly thin yarn. I wound it into a tight center-pull ball & then took it out to my dyeing workshop in the stable where I plopped it into a pot filled halfway with turquoise dye, shot some red dye in with a hypodermic needle & syringe, steamed for an hour, flipped the whole thing upside down, filled the pot again with lime green dye & steamed some more.

Ordinarily I would wait at least overnight so that ball could begin to dye before I pull out the spinning wheel again & twist it into a two-ply yarn but I was so curious to see what had happened deep inside the ball where not all of the dye would have penetrated & where the red was shot in that I decided to ply it wet. When spinning wet yarn, the process flings water in a steady stream to the right, left, top & bottom of the wheel (I am speaking from experience...) so I didn't think it was wise to do that in the living room. It was drizzling & chilly but I hauled my wheel, chair, yarn & towel outside where I spent half an hour plying this yarn together. And I am simply thrilled with the finished colors. The red ran through the fiber into a nice pink. Where the turquoise & lime overlapped the green is gorgeous. And there were still little streaks of white wool where the dye did not penetrate at the core of the ball. Because I plied by pulling from both ends of the yarn ball, the colors were fairly evenly distributed. And the wool is just as soft & plush as it can be!

Pig Update: The pigs have decided that they can adjust to their new home. After their initial 24 hour hunger strike (well, really just nibbling which is a hunger strike for a pig), they have decided that they like the commercial pig starter but that the leftover mashed potatoes made with real potatoes, cream, asiago cheese & garlic really hit the spot. Ordinarily I would use those great leftovers for us but I wanted to give the pigs a treat.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It all has to start somewhere

The adorable white egg in the photo is the first pullet egg from our Buff Minorcas. They are the gorgeous golden chickens that we started last summer. Since it takes about 28 weeks before a hen starts to lay, we were expecting something in the next few weeks. I found this little cutie in the chicken house that the Buffs have adopted for their own. Even though the door is always open & they can come & go as they please, all two dozen roost there each evening & many prefer to hang out there on blustery or chilly days. I found this little egg in one of the duck nest boxes which is down on the ground. I'll be curious to see how many pullet eggs we get over the next few weeks as their little egg-producing systems kick in. And before long the eggs will be a nice size. Won't they make a pretty white contrast with the pink, brown, green & blue eggs in the cartons?

The First Pigs are In

We picked up the first two pigs this afternoon. These came from Clemson but only after we'd checked that they'd changed their breeding program. We got some awful stock about four years ago, had friends with similar experiences & haven't used them since but thought we'd give them a try after learning that they'd changed the program. Unfortunately, one of the pigs came with a very obvious old injury to the hind leg. We've left a message with the program director. The pig is limping and its hindquarters are assymetrical but that is something we were not able to see as the gentleman loading simply transferred the piglets from his small cage to ours. The pigs do seem to otherwise be healthy & were curious about their new stall. We're starting with about 95 pounds of piglets so we'll see how they grow.

I worked on a nice skein of natural colored wool yarn made of carded "leftovers". There was so much that when I plied the skein, it would harldly fit on the bobbin of my wheel. I am trying very hard to spin regularly so am going upstairs now to start some white wool.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I tried to spend much of today finishing up a few spinning projects. I actually finished more than the skeins in the photo but the rest are hanging in the bathroom drying after their final wash. The thing I realized after I laid out these skeins for the photo is that each was produced with a slightly different dyeing or spinning method. One skein was spun as white wool. The yarn was then wound into a ball, one half of the ball was dyed & then the other & the yarn was finished by plying the two ends of the ball together. One skein was started at Kyle's studio as I carded together about five colors of Coopworth wool locks that I'd dyed the week before. That was a filthy fleece that I forgot I had. It was so shiny & soft that I soaked it lots, washed it, picked lots of hay out & decided to throw it in the dye vat. That yarn was spun multicolored as I randomly carded handfuls & then plied back on itself. And the final yarn was spun of brightly dyed Merino wool that I spun in long segments of color then plied with a nice brown strand of alpaca.

Now that the work of spinning is done, I'll do the hard part which is to label & price the yarns for sale. I've had so many folks at the Saturday Market want to buy my handspun that I've decided I'd best start stocking up over the winter so I'm ready for May. And one of my biggest problems with doing a label is that rather than just putting on yardage & fiber content, I'd be happy to tell all about the particular sheep or goat that provided me with the fiber. I also have a hard time with pricing. I realize that there is great value in handcrafting, I am just so tickled at people's interest in my work (which hardly seems like "work" to me) that I tend to underprice it. But as long as the sheep are being fed, I guess it works out.

Mr. Potter stopped at the feed store on his way home from work today to pick up 50 pounds of pig starter. We're picking up two piglets tomorrow afternoon. Not only will they be a nice addition to the freezer in several months, we know from past experience that they should provide plenty of amusing stories. One of the funniest things we've discovered about pigs is that they are very conspiratorial (is that a word?). By that I mean that if one pig can figure out how to get a gate open, he will hold it open for everyone in the pen. So let the stories begin!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Tree

The rain let up this morning & then was followed by wind that just continued to pick up throughout the day. They mentioned 45 mph gusts on the noon news. I was out in the barnyard for the third time today when I realized that Amy, one of the Anatolian shepherds, was in a part of the pasture where a huge dead pine tree overhangs. This tree split last year & started to fall but did not completely break free. It also hung in another tree. The break in the tree is a good fifteen feet above the ground, the pine is firmly wedged in the living tree & is not in a position where we are excited about trying to get it down. Ironically, a few weeks ago the gentlemen clearing the lines for the power company came by, took a look at it & told Mr. Potter something along the lines of "Yup, you got yourself a problem there." And they are the professionals.

So as I walked to the barnyard, I heard the pine creaking very loudly. It often creaks in wind but this was a long, higher pitched noise. Since there is nothing I can do about the tree, I felt I should do something about the animals on the ground. I pulled everyone out of that pasture & shut the gate. The tree may come down but hopefully only damage fencing, not creatures.

I was working in the old barn when I heard a strange tree-moving noise. I stepped out in time to hear a huge crack. As I turned my head to look at the tree, I caught sight of one of the neighbor's pines moving. It groaned one more time, listed to one side & broke into three pieces as it fell to the ground. It landed with an explosion as rotted pieces of wood shot through the air. And it landed on its own side of the fence! For the split second that it took for it to fall, I began planning how I would move the livestock to another pasture until the smashed fencing could be repaired. But the wind was blowing just right so that fencing & animals were safe.

I gathered eggs & returned to the house to finish making vegetable soup for dinner. We laugh about it being vegetable soup as I always start with about four pounds of nice strip steak to season the pot. Then I add tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, onions, corn, beans & lots of spices. Soup just seemed perfect as the temperature dropped throughout the day. I'd just gotten a new shipment of dill from Penzey's so we had soup, dill bread & sharp Amish Swiss cheese for dinner.

I'll scrub up the day's eggs in a little while & call it a day. I am pleased that we are getting just a few more chicken eggs each day as the daylight increases. Before long we should be back to full production.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Muck & Cauliflower

We are loving the rain! We've had an inch & a quarter so far & more to come. Now the livestock doesn't quite appreciate the gravity of the past few years of drought so they mostly just stand around & mope on days like today. I put on the mucking boots & rejoice.

This evening was amusing. Mr. Potter had stopped at the Hyatt for their kitchen scraps. It was apparently a big "clean out the walk-in fridge" day as he had a good 250 pounds of perfectly animal-edible scrap (which they are kind enough to keep refrigerated until we pick it up!). In order to get the scrap back to the animals, Mr. Potter ties the large trash can to a moving dolly, tips it up & then wheels it back to a pasture. I keep a few steps ahead of him, opening gates as I go & quickly closing them behind. Today there was mud almost everywhere but especially at the gates where the animals had mulled around stirring up the mess. I walked ahead & opened the gates so that Mr. Potter could get a good running start & not get bogged down in the muddiest puddles. That worked just fine for the first trash can with Mr. Potter just slowing down & having to work a little harder in the deepest mud. The second trip did not go as well.

The second can weighed at least 150 pounds & the top was full of cauliflower stems. Mr. Potter shoved through the mud at the first gate & lagged a little at the second. I opened the third gate anticipating that the cows, goats & sheep would already be occupied with the contents of the first trash can & would ignore us for a moment. I was mistaken. Just as Mr. Potter reached the deepest section of mud in the middle of where the gates swing open, a dozen animals stampeded him. They immediately stopped the progress of the dolly which bogged down in the mud. Of course, the spryest of the goats felt they would have an advantage by jumping into the trash can. A few cauliflower stems toppled over the edge as the goats jumped at the can. The sheep shoved in to retrieve them from the mud as the goats tried to scale their backs to get a better shot at the goodies. Mind you, as all this is happening the other animals are calmly eating on the first batch of scraps that Mr. Potter had carefully spread at several places throughout the pasture so that EVERYONE could share....

Mr. Potter repositioned himself at the bogged down dolly & gave a yank to free it from the mud & the swarm of creatures. It heaved slowly to the right & toppled into the mud. Enough scrap tumbled out to shift all the animals to that side of the trash can. Mr. Potter tugged again on the dolly as I shoved the trash can to right it. With a nasty sucking sound the whole thing was uprighted again & freed from the mud. Mr. Potter tugged it on through the gate that I quickly closed behind him. Of course, as soon as the animals that had caused this mess saw that their goodies were getting away, they lost interest in what they had spilled. I waited to give Mr. Potter a bit of a head start through the pasture & then opened the gate to let the animals back into the pasture where they belong. The handful of scraps at the gate will be quickly eaten by chickens tomorrow when the sun comes up.

So we've had a good laugh for the evening, the animals are busily eating away, lots of perfectly good garbage did not go into a landfill & more rain is coming. We'll now have a cup of tea & feel like we've accomplished a little bit of something today.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Duck eggs

Every morning here is like an Easter egg hunt. The ducks are just hysterical in the way they lay their eggs everywhere. There are a few regular places that I find eggs as I walk in the chicken house. There are always two in the fancy built-to-specific-plan duck nest boxes. There are a few behind one of the big bins that holds chicken feed. And there may be one or two in the dust under a set of chicken nest boxes. Beyond that, they can be anywhere.

The ducks do the majority of their laying before 8 a.m. each day. Right now I'm bringing in about two dozen eggs a day as birds tend to lay less when the days are shorter. This morning half a dozen eggs looked as if they had been randomly slung across the mud in the chicken yard. I am so grateful for the rain but the ducks have such a good time playing in shallow puddles that I think they don't stop to get out of them before laying their eggs. Fortunately the eggs have a waxy, waterproof coating on them when they are laid so are usually fine once they've been washed. On occasion I find an egg that looks like it spent more than a brief time in the mud so that goes over the fence where the dogs happily retrieve it. I recall a farmer mentioning that eating raw eggs will kill a dog. When questioned further, he admitted that nutritionally the eggs are fine but that he grew up on a farm where they had to shoot a dog that got into the habit of eating eggs.... Since our dogs cannot get to most of the eggs, I am not afraid that I am teaching them to raid the hen house - they just know I fling an egg to them now & again.

The duck eggs have much thicker shells than chicken eggs. Just this week I managed to bounce a duck egg off of the back of a cow as I was throwing it to Regina, one of the Anatolian shepherds. It hit the ground, rolled half way down the hill & when Regina caught up with it she still had to chew it open to eat it.

Right now we have an abundance of duck eggs as Saturday Market is over for the winter. I cook quite a few for the dogs but have decided to start cooking & freezing the extras for our pigs. We should have the first two in a week or so & then the next three by mid-February. I am funny about all of our animals' diets & love to give them a healthy variety. I know that commercial feed is specially formulated & that is not a debate I want to get into but I would hate to have to eat the same beige stuff out of the same bag every day of my life so try to treat the animals as I would like to be fed. We also find the ways animals approach different foods to be so entertaining! During pumpkin season, the sheep, goats or cows will begin by eating a hole in the side of a pumpkin & chewing away at the seeds & thickest part of the flesh. As the flesh gets stripped away, they will move onto another pumpkin. The chickens will come behind & work on that opened pumpkin until all that is left is the outer skin, now thin as a sheet of cardboard. Once the pumpkins are gone, the goats will come back & begin to eat away at those thin sheets. They are not eating so much out of hunger's sake as much as for variety. Of course, any food is also a lot more attractive if another animal is nearby & showing an interest in it.

One of the more comical food experiences we have had was when there were several coconuts in the scraps from the Hyatt. They were buried in the lettuces & other goodies so we didn't initially notice them. As the scrap pile dwindled, the coconuts were left on the ground. The chickens pulled off some of the hairy outer husk parts & rolled the coconuts around a good bit but finally lost interest. I split a coconut & drained the water inside over their chicken feed. They loved that! I put the broken pieces back on the ground & the chickens picked at them for a while but didn't make much headway so lost interest. I finally took a hammer & whacked all of the meat from the shell. I didn't want to choke the poor birds on big hunks so fed them to the sheep & goats who thought they were getting candy. Everyone had a treat of sorts & I was amused in the pasture for at least half an hour. Which certainly gives you insight into where a day goes around here!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Spinning & Pigs

We have had fleeces accumulating in the barn for some time. I've decided to tackle them & get as many spun into yarn as I can before I have a residency at a school in February. I love to sit & spin but before I can do that a fleece must be sorted through, washed & dried. I usually like to dye my fleece before spinning so that adds a few days to the getting-ready-to-spin process. I spent Saturday at my friend Kyle's studio in Greenville & managed to spin a whole bobbin full of new yarn from one of our fleeces. Now I just need to keep it up!

Each year as Saturday Market begins I am approached by customers asking if we raised pigs again over the winter. Our pork was always well received as we raised the pigs free range all around the farm, fed them a varied diet & sent them to be processed while they were still pleasantly lean. We haven't done that for the last two years because of a variety of factors including feed costs & time constraints. After yet another inquiry about pork from a friend, we've decided to go ahead & raise out a few pigs this winter. We'll start three Duroc/spotted cross piglets when they are weaned in February but may look for a few more to start right now. We are particular about where our piglets come from having had mixed experiences in the past. Looks like I'll spend some time this week pig hunting - but only on the phone. Hopefully we'll have sausage by June.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Some Mornings

This morning I finished spinning a bobbin of white Coopworth wool & decided to dye it as a ball & then ply it together. I plopped the ball into a bowl of hot water & headed out to the stable. I filled a saucepan halfway with cranberry dye, added the ball & put the whole thing on to steam. On the way back into the house, I lifted Bart, the crippled sheep, to his feet. I went back into the house & fried two dozen eggs for the pasture dogs. While I waited for my 45 minutes of steaming time to pass, I picked away at some wool I want to spin this evening. We had rain coming in so I noticed it getting grayer as I worked. I decided to head out a little before the 45 minutes were up so that I could feed the dogs before the rain started, kill a little time in the barn & then turn off my dyeing wool.

I poured the two dozen eggs over a bit of dog food, stirred it all up & headed out to find the three pasture dogs. Amy, a huge Anatolian shepherd, is easiest to find as she waits at the corner of the fence each morning. I think she hears me open the door to the house as she is always races to the same spot if it is still early in the day. She sits quietly until she can verify that I am carrying a feed bucket & then wags her tail, hops up & heads to the back of the old barn. Earlier when I'd come out with just a small stainless bowl holding a ball of yarn, she sat & watched me go by. This time she ran to the back door of the old barn where I let her into a stable to eat in peace.

On the way through the barn, I came across Rudy, our OLD Great Pyrennes, sleeping in the corner. Rudy really knows how to sleep & gets lots of practice at it. He has grown deaf in his old age so that it is almost impossible to wake him without touching him - but then he startles so when I do reach down & touch him that it makes me feel bad. At least I had breakfast to offer him. He loves when I cook for him & jealously guards his bowl from the chickens by growling when they come near.

I went on to let Amy into her stall but noticed her regular feed bowl was missing. There was a large bucket overturned in the corner so I figured I'd just be sure that was clean & feed her in that. When I lifted the bucket, a bedraggled hen staggered out. Amy was startled but was also more interested in the food I had for her than the chicken. I quickly fed Amy & grabbed the hen. It was obvious she was not doing too well as most hens are not easily grabbed up. This one was a bit shocky, apparently having spent at least the night under the bucket. Most likely, she'd decided to roost up on the edge of the bucket & managed to flip the thing upside down on herself. We obviously raise the chickens for their egg production, not their high intelligence.

Although I had freed the hen, I didn't dare just put her back in with the rest of the chickens. Chickens are a lot like not-nice people in that they love to pick on the weakest. A chicken that is suffering at all can quickly be pecked to death. Instead, I carried this gal into the stable with me & set her on the floor. I went into the stall where I do my dyeing, turned off the pot & went back out to check on the hen. She was scratching away at the hay to root up little bits of grain. Looks like she'll make it but she can stay in the stable for a few more days.

On the way back from the stable I noticed that Leo, Mary's little orphaned lamb, was still in the exact spot he'd been all morning. It had started to a cold rain &, while sheep don't mind the rain, I certainly would have expected him to be up & about. I put down the bowl I'd carried the yarn to the stable in, walked into the pasture & picked up Leo. He is probably only at about 35 pounds so I slipped him over a shoulder so that I could open gates. I realized what his problem was - he had gotten separated from his regular group of little friends. I carried him through two gates until I got into the backyard where Bart had now wandered to. As soon as Leo saw Bart, he began to squirm in my arms. I set him down, they touched noses & then casually wandered over to the round bale to eat. Mind you, there was a lovely round bale in Leo's other pasture. He just didn't have his regular eating buddy with him. Little pitiful Leo & big crippled Bart are happily reunited so I can get on with my day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


After much encouragement & perhaps even nagging from others, it seems the time to start a blog. Of course, I had to tear myself away from fiber things to sit at the computer. I've decided to work on the stash & have been spinning up odds & ends of our wool & mohair that I've prepped & set aside. It started as I wanted to spin another skein of mohair curls to knit a scarf.

Most of the curls that I'd dyed earlier in the year were perfect for the task but I had several short ones that I began to pile up separately. And then I remembered that I had a bit of nicely dyed baby blue Tunis that was already carded & would look lovely with these blue, green & purple mohair bits so I carded them together, spun a simple yarn & began a hat. I simply scavenged around for more handspun to finish the hat which was knit in the round & done by the end of the day. I don't use a pattern, just cast on 60 stitches, knit for a while & then start decreases. Because I was using odds & ends of handspun, the different yarn textures are enough interest that I didn't feel obliged to do anything fancy with the knitting. Of course, I don't happen to have a picture of the finished hat but it did turn out nicely!

I had every intention of going to the stable to dye some more wool or mohair today but it was in the 20's this morning & then I got occupied with other things. Fortunately, I'd dyed some of Freckles' lovely white wool earlier in the week so spent part of the afternoon picking through blue, gold, copper & persimmon wool. I am joining my friend Kyle at Art & Light Gallery for first Friday so wanted something pretty to spin as we pass time. This wool & a huge bucket of mohair curls should keep me occupied for a bit.