Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pregnant Alpacas and Tomatoes Everywhere!

Where, oh, where did that lovely temperate weather of last week go? I loved it when it was in the high 70's with low humidity and blue, blue skies. I should have known that when the kids went back to school the hot, humid, summer weather would return. The great thing for my old colleagues this year is that the new school has finally opened and it is air conditioned. I'm happy for them.

Out here on the farm I feel awful for our pregnant girls. Mango and Took are hugely pregnant and suffering in this heat. They spend most of their days in the shade of the barn, sprawled out in front of the large barn fan, and I don't blame them. They just don't feel appearing in the pasture for my entertainment! Leezza, who is due three weeks after them is not as big and I'm starting to fear that she may have lost her baby. If she did then this will be the second year in a row that we thought she was pregnant and were disappointed. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

We turn on the sprinklers in the evening close to sundown and the animals seek relief by splashing around and laying right down on them. When Mango lays down on a sprinkler you can see her belly spreading around her. She and Took jockey for the prime spot where the sprinkler will hit their chest and under carriage.

Next week I will need to cancel any of my activities that would normally take me away from home and begin my "baby watch." Alpacas are pregnant for 11 1/2 months, give or take a week or two, and Mango, especially, looks like she should pop any time now.

I have finally finished the lovely, creamy, white, over sized scarf that I was making for myself out of the DK yarn from Mango's baby fleece.  I used the Misti Diagonal Rib Shawl, pattern by Sue Conway from Ravelry.com and added a picot edging. It is so soft and warm and I really am looking forward to cooler weather so that I can try it out. Most of my knitting projects are made for other people so it's nice to have one for myself.

The other day I began and am now over half finished with a lovely cowl Christmas gift project that will keep someone's neck warm when the January winds start to blow. This project is knitted up in the Heathered Mulberry worsted weight yarn that I had made from some of the white fleece from this year's shearing. Morning Star blended it for me with some pre-dyed merino fleece in a mix of garnet and rose quartz. This is one of the best selling yarns at the Tiffin Farmer's Market where we have had a stand this summer. I also bring along my wheel and do spinning demonstrations. Be sure to come on out to the farmer's market to visit with us and buy your produce. The next one is on Saturday, September 12th.

We are also participating in National Alpaca Farm Days on September 26 and 27. The farm will be open to all visitors from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. those days. If you visit on those days the store will be open and visitors will be able to enter the pasture and have an up close and personal experience with the alpacas. If we are lucky, there should be a new cria or two to entertain the kids. Check our Buckeye Star Alpacas Facebook page for more information in the coming weeks.

Now that we have alpaca pastures, Rich no longer has a large garden. He just doesn't have the time for that type of gardening. So in addition to the strawberry patch out where the old sawmill used to be we just put in a couple of cabbage plants and a few tomato plants. This year we had taken out some really old shrubbery behind our deck and instead of replacing it, I suggested to Rich that "we" (meaning Rich) should put the tomato plants in there. It was a perfect spot for a raised bed. We had two early cabbages before the tomatoes took over the space.

We planted one Roma plant and four Better Boys. About a week ago they slowly started to ripen.

Then a few days ago I started to find myself inundated with tomatoes. I have roasted and frozen several bags of Romas and frozen several bags of whole, cored Better Boys to use in soups and stews this winter. I search Yummly.com every day for new ideas for tomato dishes to serve with dinner. We have had rustic tomato tarte, tomato margharita pizza, corn-black bean-tomato salad; and the list goes on. Today I took a stab at canned tomato salsa. I just threw chopped tomatoes, roasted anaheim chilis, chopped onions and a bunch of other "stuff" into the pot and then followed the instructions in the Ball cook book for canning tomatoes. It's not too bad for a first try and it's a pretty color.

I've even been using a bowl of plump, shiny tomatoes as a centerpiece on the kitchen table!

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