Thursday, November 28, 2013

Be Happy, Be Thankful!

As if I didn't have enough to be thankful for, John Lillo, the absolute  best tech guy and long time good friend, got my blog up and running this morning after literally hours and hours of work. A personal note: I can't thank you enough, John. The next step is to get the website up and running in order to advertise animals for sale and then to set up an Etsy account to sell our yarns, rovings and fleeces.

This morning, while I was prepping the turkey and making the dressing for tomorrow (our family celebration of thanks) Rich was outside putting up Christmas decorations. Usually he does this chore on the day after Thanksgiving but due to extenuating circumstances the family dinner had to be scheduled for the day after. As usual, it is always cold and windy or rainy when he does this chore and Rich always says something like, "I'll just put up the lights on the fence," or something similar. Then once he gets started he finishes the entire task. We're working out in the little red shop after lunch today. We will be serving dinner to twenty or so relatives out there tomorrow and it needs to be rearranged a bit. Rich's grandma's old wood stove will be fired up and used to do part of the cooking for dinner and will also keep the building cozy and warm.
The canvas tarp roof over Mr. and Mrs. Snowman was partially ripped away in the huge storm we had a couple of weeks ago. Somehow, I don't think they will mind. They are still smiling. We made them a few years ago and they survive the winters very well. Mr. Snowman is as tall as Rich and Mrs. is about my height. That was intentional. They are lit at night. (By a spotlight and not internally from strong spirits!)

Inside, the only decorating up so far is the Winter village over the kitchen cabinets. We put those up last weekend mainly because I was doing a tornado of cleaning before the holidays. It seemed an auspicious time to take advantage of Rich's height to take down the everyday decor and put up the village. Besides, I like to look at the lighted village in the evenings while I'm knitting from my perch on the sofa. It makes me smile.

Out in the pasture the herd adjusted quickly to Leezza's return. She and Mango are buddies again. They usually pal around during the day as they are grazing and at night they sleep near each other. It has been so cold at night lately that we decided to put Firenze's coat on her. Her fleece is not as lush as it was when she was younger and we worry that she will be too cold. She looks so stylish in her red coat which contrasts nicely with her black fleece. Last year she tried to scratch it off against the fence but this year she seems to appreciate it. We also put Brutus's coat on and he seems to have no problem with it.

I made Brutus's coat out of one of Rich's old jackets and it's already too small for him. He shouldn't need it much longer anyway since he's growing at a more rapid pace now. I often catch sight of him with his little head dodged underneath his mama, so he's nursing frequently. He is also one of the first to the trough when Rich distributes their food in the morning and can often be found nibbling hay from the feeder.

I really do have so much to be thankful for. Wonderful husband, kids and grandkids; good friends and family; surrounded by contented alpacas and a dog, all super stress relievers; a cozy little farmhouse; a full stomach and a website that works! What more could a girl want?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Leezza's Back!

Our beautiful Leezza finally came home this morning after two months at Amy J's Homestead for breeding. After several attempts to breed her with Amy's handsome male,  Salute, we are hoping that she is successfully bred. We will know for sure next October!

Antonio's Alianza Salute

When we released Leezza into the pasture the others rushed up to greet her and sniff around a bit. It had been so long but the two little boys seemed to recognize their summertime playmate at once and wanted to romp with her. Leezza, now a mature young lady, wanted none of it and gently back kicked little Brutus in warning. Asterius, however, was more persistent in his attempts to play so he received a hearty spit from Leezza. Both backed off.

Nikko made several enthusiastic attempts to jump up on the top fence rail, seeking Leezza's attention and finally gave up when she indicated that she clearly preferred the company of her girlfriends. Took actually leaped up joyfully after sniffing her old friend and clung close to Leezza's side. Mango, on the other hand, seemed indifferent. Maybe she's still a little miffed at her old buddy for leaving her to cope with the two little males on her own. Mango doesn't really enjoy playing in the pasture with the kids like Leezza used to do.

As we left the herd to get reacquainted a light snow began swirling around in the wind that lifted the flags on the porch. Today we are flying the Ohio State block "O" alongside the red, white, and blue, as is our custom on game days. Rich and I retired into the house to watch the game against the Indiana Hoosiers and to, frankly, pig out on chips and strong drinks as we cheer on our Buckeyes.

With two minutes left in the first quarter, the Buckeyes are not disappointing us. They have already racked up 14 points (to Indiana's zero). OH---IO!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Random Thoughts on November and Holiday Preparation

After spending the weekend down in the big city with the kids and grand kids I have come to the conclusion that no one down there reads  this blog. My own daughter didn't realize that I had been hurt by an alpaca determined to mate a few weeks ago and that I am still hobbling around on a bum knee. Occasionally Olivia sees one of my Facebook posts but that's about it. They have no idea how busy we country bumpkins can be. I think that's partly our fault since we halt normal operations when the kids come up here for a visit. Those visits are so few and far between that I don't like to be distracted with farm work or even travel for the purpose of entertainment, e.g. going out to dinner or shopping. I'd rather cook for them so that we can all sit around and just enjoy each other's company. Apparently they perceive this as idleness and boredom.

Anyway, that led me to the conclusion that I could post all of my Christmas gifts for them on my blog. They would never know what I'm getting them because they never read it! So here is the knitted throw I am making for Olivia. She knows what I am making and even what color it is because she showed me a picture of a knitted alpaca throw in a catalog about a month ago. Said throw was almost $400 and she suggested that she would like it for her newly decorated room. I even found a washable, part alpaca yarn, Martha Stewart's Alpaca Blend on the Lion Brand website that would be suitable for a teenager's room and let her pick the color. The throw is about one-half way finished and is coming out beautifully.

Next week is Thanksgiving and this year I volunteered to do the Kirgis family dinner. Of course,  our kids are included and that's why we're having it on Friday instead of the actual holiday. That's when they could make it. I am not as stressed out as I usually get over this. Maybe it's because I'm not teaching full time and so in the back of my mind I know that I have plenty of day time hours to prepare for the meal. In the past, if I did any early preparation it had to be in the evening after school. I am an early morning person by nature and so I am not at my best in the evening after a long day at work. I'm liking this semi-retirement thing.

I hope the holiday weekend is as beautiful and sunny as today. It's crisp outside but not windy like the past few days. Even the alpacas have spend the entire day out in the pasture grazing on the sparse grass that's left over after the freeze. I couldn't resist snapping some pictures.

Asterius, Mango and mama Took

Even little Brutus seemed to be invigorated by the lovely autumn weather. He wandered away from his mama, Firenze, and made a couple attempts at playing with Asterius who is usually a little bit of a bully.

They neck wrestled for a little while and when Asterius started getting a little too rambunctious, I was pleased to see little Brutus look over his shoulder and fire off a couple of warning spits in his buddy's face. I had some concerns lately when normally feisty Brutus seemed to be timidly retreating behind his mama whenever Asterius got too rough. I'm glad to see that he is fighting back.
Asterius recoils from little Brutus warning spit.
Taking the spit seriously, Asterius retreated and decided to check out Callie who was sitting near the fence enjoying a moment of contemplative solitude in the sunshine. I'm sure the dog was debating whether she could sneak out into the field to sniff out some wild critters.

Callie, contemplating a break for the field.
All the while, Sir Nikko was watching this horseplay from the other side of the fence. I'm sure he would have liked to join in the fun. Nikko, I'm sure, thinks that the grass is always greener in the other pasture.

Nikko looks on as the little boys wrestle
The grass is greener in the next pasture.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

11-12-13 Snow!

Overnight the temperature dropped into the high twenties and the light rain that started at about 8 p.m. turned into snow. This morning we awoke to the first measurable snowfall of the season and two hour school delays because of the light coating of pebbly ice on the back roads.
"The frost is on the punkin" to quote poet James Whitcomb Riley. I would guess we had about 1/2" more or less. I haven't heard the official stats yet. The icy stuff is gone from the road and somewhere around here someone is harvesting corn in the snow, because a tractor pulling a wagon load of corn has made a couple of passes by the house going at a pretty good clip. Earlier, I bundled up and ventured out to the barn to take a few cute pictures of alpacas in the snow. I spend almost half an hour out there and they apparently weren't in the mood to be cute. First, I had to literally chase them out of the barn where they stood looking hopefully at me, clearly wanting a sweet feed snack.

Then, once I got them out there the whole lot of them refused to leave the barnyard area. They just stood there looking at me then at Callie, my crazy dog, who was running up and down along the fence line.

Only three-month-old Asterius, who was feeling frisky, seemed to want to play. When he jumps on the back of his sister, Mango, or our queenie, Firenze, they both kick and spit in protest and he backs off.  His mama, Took, patiently puts up with it but won't give in and play so then he attacks little Brutus who is thirty pounds lighter and a month younger.

Brutus, also wants no part of Asterius's rough housing but is too small to fight back so he rushes to his mama's side and Firenze spits Asterius away from her baby. At this point, the little bully, Asterius, high tails it back to Took. He knows better than to tangle with Firenze when she's protecting Brutus!

So that's it, folks. No cute pictures today. Except for Asterius, they just weren't in the mood for snow play.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nostalgia and a New Jam

The past few days have been classic examples of November. The temperature has ranged from a low of  thirty-two degrees to a high in the fifties. One day it rained and another it was sunny and clear. Today reached a high of almost sixty and has alternated between cloudy and sunny. The soybeans have been harvested but the corn in the field to the west is still standing and rustling in the breeze.

Days like today tend to make me remember the Novembers when I was a girl and a young woman. My dad, brother, Steve, and dad's cousin, Norman, would gather at our house early in the morning before going out hunting. I mean 4:30 a.m. early! Dad would cook up a big breakfast and make so much noise that even those of us who were not going hunting would drag ourselves, grumbling,  out of bed to have coffee and breakfast with them. All three men have been dead for a long time now. This happy memory remains.

Around the farm, Rich has been preparing for the winter. The deck furniture is all stowed in the basement and the Halloween decorations have been taken down. The rest of the  fall display still remains and should last until the day after Thanksgiving when Rich does the Christmas decorations. The other day he was out splitting wood for the old wood stove out in the store.

A few years ago we heard through the country grapevine that the people who had purchased Rich's grandmother's wood stove were planning to sell it on E-bay. We contacted them right away and bought it from them; moved it into the store and installed it. Every Saturday during the fall and winter Rich goes out there early in the morning and fires up the stove. It heats up the store nicely and I can work out there weaving, painting and crafting. Often, Rich's brothers and dad will come out for a cup of coffee and whatever I'm baking in the oven that day. Last weekend he fired it up both Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday morning I baked snicker doodles to take to my class on Monday. College kids are still just big "kids" and love cookies, so I continued a tradition that I began when I first started teaching. Every year I bake cookies for each of my classes.

It seems appropriate that the old stove has been returned to the Homestead where Rich's grandmother, Elizabeth, used to cook for her family of eleven; nine kids and her husband! She cooked all of the family's meals, including bread, on this stove for many years until she got a modern electric stove. Even then she still did her weekly baking on the old wood stove.

The girls and boys in the herd are really enjoying these cooler days and nights. They spend quite a bit of time each day grazing in the pasture and enjoying the remaining sunny days of autumn. The two little boys, Asterius and Brutus, are growing at a steady rate. They are very hearty and active.

Mama Took, Brutus and Asterius

In the spirit of the season, I was inspired to create a new jam recipe this morning after I returned from voting. I have had this idea in my head for several weeks now to create a recipe for a spiced cranberry-orange marmalade. I was uncertain whether it would gel correctly but I decided to plunge right in and "just do it." The whole kitchen smelled like the holidays and, oh joy, it worked! Not only did it set right but it tastes like the holidays, too. Yummy!

I'll share this recipe with my jam-making friends, Nancy, Liz and Becky when we meet for lunch again soon. I am planning to serve this with the bread at the family Thanksgiving dinner out in the store. Rich and I are hosting twenty people this year; down about ten from the last time we hosted. 

After I was done cooking and cleaning up the jam mess I got inspired to put together an Italian meatball lasagna from this month's Food Channel magazine. I predict that Rich will be pleasantly surprised with my efforts in the kitchen today!