Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gnats in my toothbrush and other joys of living with a stubborn man...

My husband insists he is incapable of peeing in a toilet at night when the lights are off. He also insists that if the bathroom light is off when he goes to bed, he cannot turn it on and have his eyes adjust in time to hit the toilet.

So, his solution is to leave the bathroom light on all night.

The problem with this, other than the electric bill and frequent changing of the bulb, are the bugs that are drawn to the only light in the house from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

My personal problem with this are the kamikaze flying insects that kill themselves on the only light bulb in the bathroom and who fall down into and around the sink all night. Every morning, I am greeted with a sink full of dead bugs.

After brushing my teeth only to discover a gnat stuck in my toothbrush, I moved the toothbrush holder from directly beneith the light, but it is a bit inconvenient to go all the way across the bathroom to find it when it's time to brush. I guess I could put a plastic bag over it...

Or, I could get up and turn off the light after he goes to bed....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Progress on sheep training

Tom will actually come when I call him (most of the time) and always when I shake the tin with the cookies in it. Here he is with his head almost in my lap. You can see the burrs on his cheeks and head. I pick a few every time I go in with them.

I have discovered he loves to have his chest scratched and almost swoons when I hit the right spot. Little by little, I'm getting the burry things out of his fleece.

Jerry remains a bit standoffish but he is coming in closer and closer for a cookie or two and when his guard is down, he has let me scratch him a bit under the jaw once or twice. He has also butted my hand a couple of times. I can see he is quite a character.

Here is Jerry pretending like he doesn't want another cookie.
And Jerry trying to avoid the camera. Don't you love his brown legs?

Here he is hiding behind Tom.

Chicken Dumping

Apparently, in addition to folks dumping their unwanted cats and dogs on the properties of other folks in the country who seem to have animal friendly homes, we now have a new phenomenon called "chicken dumping."

Both Ken and I were out doing various errands yesterday morning. I came home to find a peeping box on the porch. Inside were six 3 or 4 day old chicks. Most appear to be some sort of brown chicken, another is yellow and appears that it might turn into a white chicken. We don't know how to tell yet if they are male or female.

In any case, I got down Maggie's old dog crate and put in a little straw and gave them water. I took some of the adult chicken scratch, a little laying mash and some couscous and ground it all up in my coffee grinder and made chick food. Their enclosure stared out with cardboard around the edges so they could not escape through the bars, but last night this was changed to duct tape as the cardboard fell off and they did, in fact, try to squeeze through.

What is weird is we can't figure out who would have left 6 tiny chicks on our front porch.

Our older chickens have no interest, whatsoever, in the new babies. We hope they will reach pullet size soon and can be let out to roam like these two. But Ken wants to make sure they roost in the old chicken coop and not on the front porch like these two.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Burry bad

The boys have been here a week now. When I got home from work yesterday evening I went into the enclosure and called to them. Tom immediately answered with a "Maaaa" and came over to see me.

He wanted his animal crackers. Jerry tagged along and came fairly close, but he is still not sure about this whole human interaction thing. He is starting to realize, however, that Tom is getting more cookies, so he is almost taking the cookie from my fingers but not quite. I think another day or so... we will see.

But both lambs are COVERED in hitch hikers! Those little round and triangular shaped things that jump onto anything fuzzy that goes past.

The other day we had a sheep rodeo and caught both lambs, put them into harnesses and removed a lot of the hitch hikers but many remained and yesterday, I noted that everywhere we combed was once again covered. This is very bad for their fiber future and I'm going to have to figure out what plant is providing these culprits, remove them ALL and then get the boys to stand quietly and let me pick those dag gone things out of their fleeces. Yuck!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

More lamb pictures

Jerry looking a little worried...

Here is Tom (the light one) and Jerry (the brown one) trying to hide from me behind their house and the cooler.

Here is a picture of their "house". The dividing line between enclosures runs down the middle of the greenhouse frame. There are two washpans (now water troughs) because there will be a house and water on each enclosure. Ken still plans to build the second house next week. He was one 2X4 short.

Here is a picture from the back door of my house. You can see there is plenty shade as well as lots of stuff for the lambs to eat.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tour de Fleece

I think I'm going to give this a try this year. I just have to decide what to spin. Two weeks... hmm. I wonder if I could actually process and spin all of my White Shetland Fleece?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Finding the right technique

I bought a large (actually, huge) white Shetland fleece at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. The card inside the bag said it was 6.5 pounds. And it was. This is a picture of about half of it after washing. It lost some weight in the washing and I think about 4 pounds remain. It is unusual to get this large a fleece from a shetland, I think.

It was filthy. But sheep do live outside and shetland does not respond well to being a coated animal as the fleece felts under the coat.

Here is a picture of the fleece on my kitchen floor. The white stuff at the bottom is after washing and drying. The stuff on top is the raw fleece. It still looks a little yellow because I took it indoors without a flash. But you get a good idea of the contrast of before and after scouring.

While I was washing the fleece and putting the clean stuff out on a screen on the front porch to dry, my husband asked me when I was going to wash "that brown thing on the kitchen floor." I told him that this lovely, shiney, soft as a cloud white stuff on the screen WAS the brown thing on the floor. He did not believe me until he watched me start to wash a new clump of it.

Now, this fleece is not pure white (most Shetland is not pure one-color), but it has a few dark grey hairs running through it. This is a close up picture.

Click on it to make it bigger and you will probably be able to see the odd grey hairs running through it. I could pluck them all out, but I've decided to leave them in for the sake of time as they are not coarse.

The part around the neck (where the most vegetable matter is, of course), is also the most grey. It is also the most soft. Go figure. Unfortunately, due to the ton of hay bits in it, I may not be able to save much of it.

But I'm delighted with this fleece. It's dual coated, meaning there are very, very long hairs. Some as long as 13 inches... no kidding, we measured. And the undercoat which is so very soft, rivals some merino I've felt. The staple length of the undercoat averages about 6 inches.

So this is where finding the right technique comes in. At first I ran a few handfuls through my drum carder and test spun it on a drop spindle. It was very neppy and difficult to draft. The staple is simply too long for my drum carder and the fibers were breaking because of the tangling. So I dug out the combs. It worked but I lost a lot of the undercoat to the combs and when I forced the issue and tried to recover the shorter, softer undercoat, I ended up with more vm than I wanted.

I finally sat down with the flicker and a piece of leather for my leg. By holding the tips of the locks, I could flick out the shorter, softer undercoat. I then flipped the lock around the flicked the tips. These I laid in a flat basket all going the same direction. Then I returned to the flicker and pulled out the undercoat and flicked it again. This second and sometimes third flicking, removed the vm and saved the majority of the undercoat. I tossed this wonderfuly white fluff

into another basket and worked until I had both baskets full. The trash went into a bag that I will use for making wet and needle felted items later. The very trashy stuff (too vm caked for use in anything) went out in the yard for the birds.

I'm actually spinning two different yarns from this fleece. The outer coat is being spun worsted and fairly fine. I will probably end up with sock weight yarn. I may save back some of these long locks and see if I can spin it even finer and get some lace weight from it.

The baby fine undercoat is being spun woolen style from the clouds of flicked fibers. Pardon my blurry picture. I did not have my glasses on when I tried to focus.

This is going to end up being dk weight I think but might be a tad bit thicker. It's very lofty and springy and even Ken admits it's very, very soft. I have a co-worker who is expecting a baby, and I want to knit a baby sweater. I need about 400 yards. This might end up in that project.