Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Positive Attitude

In the face of record low temperatures and snowfall predictions for the last week in February I am trying very hard to keep a positive attitude. I saw a robin the other day. Spring can't be far behind I tell myself. Seed catalogs have been showing up in the mailbox for the past month; another sign of preparation for springtime. Then the memory of crocus and daffodils sprouting in the garden last February brings me back to earth. There is nothing like that outside right now and no sign of spring blossoms anytime soon.

And then again, forcing myself to think positively, I have completed several knitting projects this winter. The ice and deep snow in our driveway and on our country back road have so often prevented me from hopping into the car to go shopping or visiting friends that I have spent the inside knitting or spinning. The result of this is a larger than usual output of knitted clothing for me and mine.

Before Christmas, I finished  a pair of socks for each granddaughter:

Olivia's socks are the Froot Loop pattern by Khristi Geraci that I found on I  knit them from Knit Picks Stroll hand painted sock yarn in the legwarmer colorway.

Zaidee's socks are the Maple Leaves pattern from 2-at-a-time Socks book by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. I knit these in the same Stroll hand painted sock yarn in the juicebox colorway. Zaidee is nine years old and very tall for her age and has already outgrown her socks which means that my daughter, Susie, has a new pair of hand-knitted socks! I will need to get to work on another pair for Z.

I made a rather intricate shawl in a beautiful Brown Sheep Company turquoise magic Lanaloft worsted wool that I picked up at the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair that was held in Wooster last fall. The shawl is called Braided Glory by Deby Lake and I was taken by the woven panel in the front of the shawl that makes it a slip over rather than a wrap around. I don't usually wear shawls but I made an exception for this one.

The Sand Dunes socks by Phyll Lagerman I made for myself out of another Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn.  This time I chose the Stroll Tweed in North Pole Heather, a beautiful icy light blue. I think that it makes the socks look more like waves than sand dunes. Either way I have a warm, comfy pair of socks.

Our niece just had another beautiful baby girl so of course I had to whip up a pair of baby socks using the left over yarn from Olivia and my socks and send them off to little Brynlee, the newest addition to the family.
This pattern was another from Ravelry. It's called Lise-Loten pikkkuiset sukat by Paula Loukola. This may become my go-to pattern for babies from now on. It was fun to knit.

I only wish that I had my yarns from my own animals but though I sent them to a mill in Pennsylvania last October I still do not have them back! I think that I will try another mill here in Ohio for this year's crop of fleece. Shearing time is coming up on the last weekend in April and that's not very far away really. This will be little Asterius and Brutus's first time on the shearing floor and we need to be working with them at home, haltering them up and leading them around the pasture. It will make it so much easier when it comes time to transport them to a central shearing location not far from here.

Asterius has developed a lush, crimpy and very fine baby fleece that would make lovely fingering yarn. I was a bit worried about Brutus's fleece development when his mama, Firenze, died before he was fully weaned, but I needn't have. He has developed a full, crimpy fine baby fleece in a rich carmel brown color.

All of the animals have spent too much time in the barn and are beginning to feel cooped up. They don't mind the bitter cold weather that has had their human friends running for cover, but the animals don't really like the high winds and so stay inside on those days. Yesterday was a milder day with less wind and they all ventured out into the pasture. The two little boys love to romp and wrestle in the snow.

Yesterday even Leezza was feeling frisky and engaged in a little neck wrestling with Brutus.

Callie lurked about inside the barn and outside while I snapped pictures of the herd. The alpacas aren't afraid of her anymore and while they don't actually like her they tolerate her presence. The two little ones, Brutus and Asterius, are very curious about her and will actually come up to the fence where Callie is poking about. The three animals go nose to nose through the fence sniffing each other out and all is well until Callie barks and sends the little boys running off into the pasture!

All the while that the mamas and babies played in their pasture, our little man, Nikko, laid contentedly in his patch of sun near the gate watching the action next door. Very soon he will have company in the "stud" pasture as first Asterius and later Brutus will be joining him. It is about time to wean Asterius and as soon as Brutus puts on a few more inches in height and a few more pounds he will need to be in with the big boys, too.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snow Shoveling, Starving Rabbits and Peanutbutter Cheesecake

To Whom it May Concern:

No more snow, PLEASE!

Last night we had 3-4 more inches of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. This morning our county and all of the surrounding counties had a level 3 snow emergency. After Rich and his brother, Danny spent over an hour clearing away the snow in our driveway this morning, the temperature has risen to over 30 degrees and it's still climbing. The remaining snow and ice on the walkways and driveway is melting off and the meteorologists are predicting rain in the coming days. Even with the warm up, the piles of snow left around the driveway from previous clean ups won't melt until June at the earliest.

While Rich shoveled the pasture gates and barn doors clear, Danny took the tractor into the main pasture area to clear out a playground for the mamas and babies. The alpacas don't like to walk on the crusty, icy kind of snow that had built up in the pasture. They have bipartite feet with pads, similar to a dog's, and a large toenail on each part. The icy build up must hurt those soft pads.

It's not that they don't like snow, per se. Most of the time they sleep in a group right outside in the barnyard and in the morning we find them with snow or frost on their backs. Leezza and the younger ones actually like to roll in the freshly fallen, soft snow.

As Rich shoveled around Nikko's gate and cleared a path to his condo for the little man, Nikko curiously poked his nose into Rich's back and generally got in the way. His behavior is more amusing than bothersome and it made us laugh to see him follow the path of Rich's shovel and the flying snow as it was heaved over the fence.

Once Danny and Rich had finished working in the pasture we released the girls and babies from confinement in the barn. They rushed en mass into the pasture where they stood looking around in bewilderment. It didn't take long before Mango was trying to graze in the nubbins of grass that poked up through the remaining snow cover and the little boys, Asterius and Brutus, began wrestling in the snow. Happy animals!

Remember those cute little bunnies that Callie had been making a game of chasing?  I thought it was so endearing that they were hanging out with the concrete garden rabbit in my little hosta/peony garden. They are not so cute anymore. Not since last night when I discovered that they have eaten all of the bark off of our beautiful tree peony. We have been nursing that small shrub through cold winters and summer droughts for the past five years and it has provided us with more and more of the most beautiful, ruffled, pink blossoms every June. I find very little consolation in the fact that they are eating well in such a harsh winter and I very much doubt that the Japanese peony will survive the attack of the killer bunnies.

On a more positive note, I drove down and picked up our granddaughter, Olivia, on Friday because she had a scheduled day off school and had expressed a wish to come up and stay. Olivia, grandson, Max, and I shopped at the North Market for some gourmet ravioli to fix for our Valentine's Day dinner. We enjoy the shopping expedition and ate lunch at the market after which I dropped Max off at home and Olivia and I headed north. She had a new recipe for mini peanut butter cup cheese cakes that I helped her prepare for g-pa's dinner surprise. Yummy!

Olivia and I have been cooking and baking together since she was slightly over a year old and could sit on the counter or stand on a stool beside me in the kitchen. She enjoys finding and developing new recipes and serving them up to friends and family as much as I do and we always have a good time doing it. I am a lucky g-ma to have an almost sixteen-year-old granddaughter who still likes to spend time with me.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baking and Bunnies

Is it just me or does anyone else have the urge to bake something when the snow and cold keeps us inside? I have baked quite a few batches of cookies, muffins, cookie bars and bread. Today I said to myself, "Enough, already!" Even though I freeze most of each batch, that hasn't stopped either Rich or I from visiting the fridge and grabbing a snack now and then. Way too often, in fact. So, today I vowed not to bake for at least a month.

Saturday, I had an excuse to bake because we finally had that beer tasting party that had been cancelled before Christmas due to weather and many of our guests being ill. It was a small gathering of select friends and we had it out in the weaving studio, warmed by Rich's grandmother's old wood stove. Even though it was raining pitchforks and hammer handles we were cozy and warm inside. The menu consisted of a variety of mini appetizers, (baking again!) gourmet cheeses, crackers, chips and dips, and of course, beer. It was a beer tasting after all. Rich and I enjoyed this small gathering of like-minded friends, with the conversational sparring and laughter.

Last evening when we went out to tend to the alpacas we found them gathered in the pasture, looking towards the woods. When I followed their gaze I discovered that they were looking at a small herd of twelve or so deer grazing in the corn stubble about half way back to the woods. They seemed to be more interested in checking out the deer than they were in eating their nightly ration of sweet feed.

Except...Brutus. He initially ran out with the others to watch their rusine friends. (I learned a new word here and just had to use it. You know, bovine=cow, porcine=pig, ovine=sheep; well, rusine=deer. Forgive me, I am such a teacher!) But Brutus didn't stay long. He was more hungry than curious, so he ran back into the barn by himself to scarf up the food before the others could crowd him out.

Each of our animals has their own personality and I love them all, but I can't help it...I have a special place in my heart for Firenze's little boy. Brutus is a such a survivor and every time I see his fluffy, caramel-brown little body I just have the strongest urge to grab him and give him a big hug! You can't help but smile when he looks at you with that innocent expression and shiny, black eyes.

Callie has been living her own little drama during this snowy weather. It seems that a rabbit has been spending the winter months living under the porch on the front of the studio and it is driving Callie nuts. It is a very brave little bunny, evidenced by the tracks in the snow that often lead right up onto the front porch of the house!

When we go outside to retrieve the mail or do chores Callie goes into tracker mode and follows the freshest tracks in hopes of the prize. So far, the rabbit easily outruns her. In the evening, when Rich lets the dog out for the last time he switches on the porch light and checks the front yard first. Several times the bunny has been sitting at the end of the sidewalk by the driveway waiting, as if she/he knows what time it is. As Rich opens the storm door the rabbit takes off and Callie runs after her in hot pursuit. So far the Rabbit is winning and that's the way we would like it to continue. Callie is not quite the hunter her papa Gus was and for her the fun is in the chase.