Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Right Around the Corner!

With Christmas fast approaching and Hanukkah already underway, I have been struggling to balance making new creations and meeting mailing deadlines. Just yesterday I spent several hours either traveling into town to our local post office or on the phone to a USPS branch in Orlando trying to track down an order that had been lost between here and there. I finally gave up and sent out another four skeins of our black baby alpaca fingering weight yarn. You know the one that I had blended with pearl infused rose fiber. It's a lovely yarn and the order was to be a Hanukkah gift. My customer was understandably miffed with the postal service (not with me, thank heavens) and I felt obligated to make it right and deal with the claims department of the USPS later. Sometimes running a small business here on the farm can be a bit stressful.

Speaking of stress, I only have about 2/3 of my shopping done. Since we are splitting our time between here and Florida this year I think that the last 1/3 of my shopping will be gift cards. There was no time to make any of my own gifts this year because much of my knitting was being sold in the shop. These fingerless mitts have been a popular gift.

One day in early October, as I was idly surfing through Etsy, I discovered these cute little felted pumpkins. Thinking that they would make a great tablescape for my girls luncheon I decided to teach myself how to needle felt. One thing led to another and I found and became enamored of felted Swedish Tomten or Christmas gnomes. I have made them in sizes ranging from 3" to 10." I have table decoration size and  tree ornaments and all of them seem to sell out quickly. I'll be creating some more smaller ones this afternoon after I finish the chunky eternity scarf that I started yesterday. Me thinks that I have too many irons in the fire at one time and maybe that is contributing to my stress levels;-)

There's one other item on my plate right now, too. A really big one. One cold, cold day last January when Rich went out in the pre-dawn to feed the alpacas, he noticed that one of the girls was missing. Puzzled, he went out closer to the fence dividing the boy pastures from the girls where he saw a splotch of white in the field where our very black Mocha resided. Somehow, old Took, technically Mocha's grandmother, had gotten into his pasture overnight. She was ready to return to the girl side of the fence and he was contentedly grazing with a very smug look on his face. We had her tested a few months later and the pregnancy test was positive. So now 11 1/2 months later we are on the lookout for the arrival of a new cria. 

For the past week, Tookie has been showing all of the signs of imminent delivery. She spends an awful lot of her time laying around the barn and the pasture. Our biggest worry is that she will deliver when there is no one around to dry off the baby. In this cold weather it could cause the little one to suffer from hypothermia and die. Rich has hung partitions in the barn to eliminate drafts and we have heat lamps in position to switch on when it arrives. He also dug out cria coats in three different sizes.

I am checking the pasture every hour or so and each time I need to leave to go to the store or for an appointment I worry until I am home again. But with alpacas being pregnant for so long it is not unusual for them to deliver two weeks early or two weeks late. Took has a history of being on time and delivering a bit late in the day. They almost always deliver during daylight hours. This is an adaptation to the fact that they are indigenous to the high mountain planes of Peru. If they delivered after dark the cria would almost certainly die because they don't lick their babies dry. The baby is up and walking around and nursing within minutes of birth. 

So out here on the farm more than just Christmas is right around the corner and we are more than excited about all of it!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Way Back in October

I wrote this one after our annual family reunion and just haven't published it until now. Here it is:


The weather in Nelsonville, Ohio  couldn't have been more cooperative for our annual family reunion at Lake Hope State Park this year. It was sunny, with high temperatures in the 70s each day and lows at night that were cool enough to be comfortable around the roaring campfire. Rich and I arrived Thursday afternoon with our pup, DeeDee, and a truck load of necessary gear and firewood. Pam and Jim were there to greet us, having arrived earlier in the day. Amy had only just pulled in ahead of us with Barbie and Riley  in tow. Anne, Drew and Laurie were there sporting their Florida tans, along with Steve Schieser who rode up from Columbus with them.
Thursday evening we enjoyed catching up over tapas and wine at Amy's cabin where she was assisted by Olivia and Laurie presenting us with a tasty spread. After tapas, Rich and Steve started the campfire that was to last all weekend. The early bird group sat around chatting and waiting to greet Matt and Jen who brought along niece, Addie, and nephew, Jackson. They were a late arrival because they had stayed to watch Mason's football game. Mason and Emmy, who is away at college, were unable to attend this year and we missed them. Olivia had to drive back to Ohio University late that evening because she had a morning class on Friday, after which she would be rejoining us at Lake Hope. Yay!
Early in the day on Friday, a couple of Jim's bike riding friends came up and went on an extended bike ride with Jim.  Friday afternoon after classes at Ohio State University, Kammie and one of her roommates, Lina, joined us for the rest of the weekend. It was great to see Kammie and be witness to all of the teasing that her dad was able to heap on her to make up for lost time. Matt is an expert at getting her goat and Kammie is such a cutie in her responses. I'm afraid that poor Lina has never seen quite as crazy a family as ours.
Amy made a short trip to the Lodge in the morning to try to get on their  wi-fi to do a little business. Later in the day, Laurie drove Amy, Jen,  Kammi,  Lina,  Riley and Barbie down to the Lodge just to look around in the gift shop and use the wi-fi  once more.  It seems that it is a bit of a tradition just to check out the lodge and see if anything has changed in our absence. The old lodge was destroyed by fire a few years ago and the one rebuilt in its place is beautifully rustic, reflecting the environment of the Zaleski national forest area.
Also arriving Friday was Ian and his long time buddy, Jesse. Although low key, Ian is always fun to have around the campfire. If you listen carefully, taciturn Ian has some great one-liners to add to the conversation and Jesse is the kind of guy who has never met a stranger. He can hold his own in our crowd! Once Drew and Rich get started with their "voices" we laugh until our sides hurt, or groan in disgust depending upon the nature of their comments!
Friday night was the annual food preparation competition; this year the category appetizers. Those of us who wished could prepare something to be judged by impartial judges. I forgot my elaborate puff pastry appetizer  and so had to compete with an improvised loaded tater-tot recipe. Amy had a great loaded baked potato dish. Ian and Drew each had a differently delicious Buffalo Chicken dip preparation. Jen made sausage pinwheels and Laurie entered a mini taco dish. Rich had a scrumptious, bacon wrapped spam chunks with honey-mustard drizzle recipe. Jen won with her pinwheels and Amy came in second with the potato skins. Rich got honorable mention with the bacon wrapped spam. Jim's friends were the impartial judges and did a great job. After the competition we celebrated Barbie's 40th birthday in our cabin where Annie and I had done a stealth job of decorating and Laurie had herded people one-by-one into the cabin evading Barbie's notice. We were able to surprise her with music and a huge chocolate cake! Afterward we all returned to the fire where we laughed heartily until late in the evening.
On Saturday morning, Ian and Jesse wandered off down to the lake to go kyaking and hiking for a couple of hours. Drew took a group down to the iron furnace area for the annual Lake Hope Fall Nature walk and bean soup lunch. Amy, Olivia, Jen and a few others that I can't remember took the dogs down to the lake for a swim. (the dogs, not the people!) Jen took Tybee, Amy walked Chili. Olivia took our DeeDee and she had the opportunity for her first ever swim. Olivia has the cutest videos of Dee leaping like one of our alpacas in the shallow water. Rich and I are going to have to take her down to our friend's house often for a swim in their pond. Before this weekend, DeeDee had suffering doggy anxiety since she had witnessed Callie being killed by a car. The vet had prescribed more socialization for her - with both people and other dogs. I think that the running and romping with her buddy, Chili, and the other dogs this weekend has been a great cure for her. Just about everyone in our group is a dog lover and so Dee got a lot of positive attention from humans and dogs alike. After we stopped in Nelsonville for breakfast, where we gave her a birthday sausage patty, (today is her first birthday) she slept all the way home. After running around and sniffing the grounds to make sure that nothing had changed in her absence, she  came inside and curled up on her pillow in the living room where she is still snoozing almost four hours later!
While everyone was strung out in different directions, Rich and I went into Nelsonville to check out the annual Smoked Meat Festival and Steve stayed behind to tend the fire. Intoxicated by the smell of smoking pork, beef and chicken, we strolled through town stopping only at the Nelsonville Emporium where they sell products from local artisans. I purchased another handmade mug to match the one I got last year. It's by a local artist named Dale who does lovely work. I like these mugs because they keep my coffee and tea hot and fit comfortably into my hands, warming them on cold winter mornings.
When we returned from Nelsonville, Rich prepped the pork loin and put it on the tri-pod over the open fire where he tended it the rest of the afternoon.  Amy had gone back to the Columbus area to Max's cross country meet and brought him back with her. He's sporting a knee high boot on his right food as he recovers from a stress fracture. He didn't run but went to the meet on the team bus to support his team mates. I was lucky to be able to sit between Olivia and Max at the fireside that evening. Since Amy's cabin was packed, Max spent the night in our extra room. Rich and I always enjoy spending time with our grandchildren.
This year Rich experimented with an apple upside-down cake cooked in a skillet over the open fire, along with his pork, potatoes and corn spoon bread. There were several positive comments on his experimental dessert but on the way home he was already revising the recipe for next year! Once again, on Saturday night we all gathered around the campfire to imbibe in our favorite beverages and politely converse. We never exactly solve the problem of world peace; ok, maybe we don't even try, but we do have fun.
True to form, Rich and I were the first to pack up and leave this morning. We awoke later than usual, around 7:30, because DeeDee was so tired from running with the pack this weekend, that she slept in, too! We tried to quietly take down all of the Halloween decoration and pack up our food leftovers and the assorted "comfort items" that I bring along, so that we wouldn't wake Max. I think he barely noticed when I knocked gently on his door and kissed him goodbye on his cheek.
Brother Jim heard us and came out to assist in the loading up. Matt  joined us shortly as did Amy who had to take Chili out for his morning constitutional. Chili and DeeDee had one last tussle before we left. Annie and Drew came out at the last minute to send us off and say good bye until Christmas when we will see them in Florida.

By nine o'clock the truck pulled out, fully loaded, Dee in the back seat, Rich at the wheel and me as the navigator (Who am I kidding? After I had my coffee I slept most of the way home). The ride home was uneventful. We unloaded and I've been doing laundry all afternoon. Rich went out to pick up a pizza for Sunday dinner to close out the weekend, and that's the end of another successful family reunion at Lake Hope State Park. Until next year, au revoir!

DeeDee and her buddy, Chili
Sorry for the long dry spell. Writer's block. I'll try to do better.