Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Grazing Time

The sheep are finally able to get out and graze around the yard now that the grass is growing well.  I put a halter on Darla so I can lead her out.  The sheep normally just follow me (and my grain bucket) to their new fenced area, but Darla is the leader and sometimes she decides she'd rather find her own grazing spot.  After several times of her leading the sheep in the wrong direction, I've started putting a halter on her so I can keep her with me.  Works like a charm!

The lambs found the wagon (hooked to the garden tractor) to be a great play thing!  They had a blast playing in it. They had a fun time with their lamby shenanigans, enjoying the nice evening.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Violet Jelly

Every year for 5 years I've picked violet blossoms so I could make violet jelly. Every year I put them in a jar in the fridge, and every year I procrastinated so badly that the flowers would wilt and have to be tossed.

Not this year!  The kids and I picked blossoms on Sunday and made jelly on Sunday. Yay!  I followed this recipe for jelly.  We used about 2.5 cups of blossoms, and poured 2.5 cups of boiling water over them.  They sat for a while (probably 10 minutes?) until the water was dark blue.

Kylee took the pictures for this post.

Then we added the lemon juice and watched the liquid turn to a lovely purple color.

Then we added the liquid to the pot, and the packet of pectin.  Then we stirred until it boiled, and let it boil for 1 minute.

Lovely pose, Devin.

Once it boiled for 1 minute, we added the sugar, returned it to a boil and let it boil for 1 minute.

 Then we ladled it into prepared jars, and processed in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

It's very pretty!!  And it has a really nice delicate grape flavor.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ready to Knit

 This morning Devin and Kylee helped me wind the alpaca yarn I spun around my makeshift niddy noddy (the back of a chair).  I calculated approximately 120 yards of yarn.  Then I soaked it in water to set the twist, and hung it to dry.

I was so excited after it dried. It is so soft and fluffy!  I love the colors, and can't wait to knit it up into something special.  Thank goodness for Ravelry. I was able to find this Aquafire pattern, and I think it'll be perfect for the yarn.  I'm hoping to have it knitted up before this weekend, because I want to wear it to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


 Buford and Kiki spent some time snuggling on the couch.

 The Easter Bunny came!  (am I late posting, or what)
 I had a birthday and the kids made me a nice banner and card.

 David and I built a set of steps for our deck.

Buford found a yummy treat.  He found a dried out tail that fell off a lamb.  He had fun playing with it until mean old mom took it away.
 Devin's peach tree is blooming and so pretty!
 The cover crop in the garden is growing like crazy.  I planted it over the asparagus bed last fall, then realized I can't see if asparagus are coming up or not!   So I've been pulling it out and feeding it to the animals.  They love it!

 Some bird has tried to make a nest in the chicken coop roof.
 And a Carolina Wren made a nest in the sheep shelter. She has 6 or 7 eggs in there!

The sheep mowed the front yard this weekend.  They did a pretty good job.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Porch Posts

We finally, finally finished painting the pillars on the porch.  What seemed like an easy job turned into a pretty difficult one.  There were so many layers of old paint on those pillars, and we had to use several methods to try to clean them off.  A combo of paint stripper, sand paper, paint scrapers, and some sort of drill attachment with a metal brush.   It finally worked, and we got it as smooth as possible before we repainted.  Then we re-caulked the seams and put 3 coats of paint on the pillars.  It looks much better!

Next up we'd like to repaint the porch floor (where it's blue) and replace the light.  Oh, and I'd like to either replace the storm door or at least paint it white.  Baby steps!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

My First Navajo Ply

I spun my first najavo plied yarn the other day, and wanted to share pictures.  I found some really lovely alpaca fiber in my stash, and it has such pretty colors I wanted to try to keep them separate.  Navajo plying, or chain plying, is a way to take a single (single strand of yarn) and ply it back on itself to create a 3 ply yarn.  The standard way of plying would put 2 singles (or more) together, and you'd end up with a barber pole effect with the colors.  Navajo plying gives you a 3 ply with gradual color changes.  

I tried separating by color...white, blue, and tan.

I had a little bit of trouble with my singles wanting to kink up on themselves, so there are a few little pigtails like in the picture below.

Now I need to wind it into a hank and wash it, then decide what to knit with it!

A friend sent me this video, by Sarah Anderson.  She has a very calm, gentle way of plying and it her video makes it easy to understand and learn.  I just picked up one of her books at the library, called The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs, and I think this would be a great one to own.  I've only looked through it briefly, but I can see there are so many great pictures and descriptions.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shearing Day

Friday was shearing day!  I love shearing day.  It's just exciting and even though I've seen sheep sheared hundreds of times, I still love watching.   I used to shear my sheep myself, but lately I've learned it's better to spend the money to have them done than to stress out my bad back.  

I had to keep the sheep in the barn overnight before shearing, because we got some rain and wet sheep are no good for shearing.  Right before the shearer came, I put them in a jug so they'd be easy to catch.  It's not polite to keep your shearer waiting while you run around after loose sheep.  

The shearing itself didn't take long at all.  

And then the girls and their lambs went back outside.  The lambs always get confused when they don't recognize their moms.  After a while they all got it sorted out.  

Then I skirted the fleeces. I don't bother keeping the Southdown fleeces, since they're typically very short.  I do keep Barley and Bean's fleeces though. They're my Romney/Southdown girls, and they have pretty decent natural colored fleeces.

Here is Barley's fleece layed out for skirting (removing the nasty bits, like around the neck and legs).

Barley's fleece has pretty decent crimp (wave) I think.  I think I've got several years' worth of fleeces of hers.  I'm still planning on processing them myself, unless I find a decent mill where I can send them.  That'd be much faster....

Bean's fleece seems pretty decent too.

I better get busy washing, carding, and spinning!

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