Saturday, February 21, 2009

The hook and Alpaca top.

The crochet hook entered my life when Irene (aka WonderWanda on Ravelry) sat beside me hooking a lovely coffee cosy. It must have stuck in my mind, as when I'd spun some 2007 dyed fleece (formerly residing in the attic) , it eventually became a coffee cosy too.

My coffee cosy - more like coffee armor then sweet pot clothing Irene made.

This came about after Roseann at our knitting group showed me how to do some crochet stitches and a week later showed me some more as did Muriel. Even if they felt like it, they did not whack me on the knuckles for my ungainly fumbling and were very patient - which was good as I felt like my hands were two big shovels.
Armed with these stitches, I kept trying trying with my nobbeldy, splitty yarn (which I named February Sky - as I've seen some lovely blue and pink skies round here lately
This part has 3 stitch high "loops" - other parts have 2 or 1 and yet others have none.

I don't know the crochet lingo at all yet but I suppose it will seep in eventually.

I also have no knowledge of what hooks size to use with which wool etc - while I have some idea of that stuff with respect to knitting.

I think evenness and regularity may be much admired in the crochet world - and maybe would become so for me with time. Currently, I'm still attracted by the "nutty brown bread" type of yarn - as opposed to the "processed white sliced" or even the " baguette" type.

I'm currently working on a highly processed but very lovely bit of Alpaca top. It's actually blonde colored and soft as cotton wool. Spinning it from the top, even when it's split into slivers, does result in a pretty hairy yarn though - delicate though the hairs may be. This was solved by spinning it from the fold which worked beautifully. Looking forward to seeing how it plies. Must take some photos when OH returns with the "good" still camera - not that I resent him having a bit of fun without me - no , not at all.

OH returned camera - I have great respect for photographers now. This shot doesn't do the yarn justice - but it's the best I can do for now.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sheep in the garden

Ah Shucks - an electric net!
What you lookin at?
Side lawn after sheep and mower - did a nice job.
Getting down to work.
Two days ago, decided to let the sheep have a feast on the side lawn . Good for them and for the long damp grass. Did this with the help of Huddie and a electric netting.Cornered as they were, it seemed a good time to worm and anti-flue them. This was a bit of a circus as the battery had to be disconnected for a short time to move them to a pen set up nearby and they of course took the opportunity to maraud round the garden, taking a swipe at any interesting growth as they went (like the new azaelias) . Not too much damage though and they are now moved to the front lawn to top that.

They are all now down in the rough pasture again - a relief for the dogs who developed a phobia of the electric net. As the days get longer, the girls get their concentrate supplement later and later - until it's being given fairly late in the evening - a good thing as the later they get the grub, the more likely they are to lamb during the day - or so I'm told by many sources.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

blend, blend, blend and rams and crochet

Thinking of connecting my drum carder to a 1/4 HP motor, if I can do it without ruining it. Been blending fleece of 2 colors and it takes time - especially when there are lots of noils in it. This is 2007 fleece, sheared in fear, washed in haste and bunged in the attic. Used this to experiment with dying - then found I really liked some of the yarn the blends produced - so have to keep at it. Will add a picture sometime - I hope.

Rams were moved today as they've been in a small paddock for over a week and I think they need a change of scene and some vegetative variety.
 Easy enough to move the ewes out of the lower pasture - hardly needed Huddie as they are addicted to concentrate and go anywhere to get some.

 However, the wether is even more addicted - and rushes for me is he thinks I have some. He's not aggressive in the usual sense but he could bundle into me and knock me over pretty easily so it was a delicate matter of drawing him (followed by the ram) across the upper pasture towards the lower pasture without getting him going at speed. Huddie hung about the edges of this enterprise so I could call him to me if I got crowded, yet get behind the ram if he turned back, while Oisin lay behind a fence on one side, effectively cutting off half of that pasture.  (I don't involve Oisin in the finer details these days but use him as a brute force, lurking at the periphery and occasionally bring him in to set the ovines right if they get snotty with Huddie.) 

 All went well until the last 1/3 of the pasture transfer when Dopey (the wether) got up a lot of speed rushing towards me. I ended up running at full tilt through the gates before dumping the last of the nuts on the ground for them. Boy can he move when he wants to! Unburdened by any concern other than food, he is a free spirit. (Where did I read "friends don't give friends wethers" ?). In his favor though, he is a great one for being first to undergo any nasty treatment being meted out to the flock and he is a pal to the ram - who would get depressed if left all alone 10 months of the year.

Got to learn some crochet last night (Thanks KnitT girl)! Never did it before and it's very interesting - the way it builds up. Had a good teacher though - clear and non-abusive :). Clear because she knows how to do it so well herself. Makes lovely things. As do all the Knit T ladies.
OH came along and watched last nights soccer match (Ireland V Georgia) - a success. last week he watched rugby (Ireland V france) - also a success. He's 2 for 2 - wonder what he'll get to see next week?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sod busting and Dog Combed fleece

Dog Comb
This little dog comb is really great for preparing long or short fleece fibers.

The name on it is "Rixy's - cost 4 euro.

The long, silver spikey side combed out this short fiber, which was dyed in after-wash in the oven (along with the dinner) and then combed into a long sliver,

These longer locks (about 6") were combed and the long fibers kept together while the short ones left behind were turned into rolags for woolen.

Nice open parallel locks after combing

More of the same.
Sod Busting
The weather god read my post yesterday - and just to show me, dumped some snow on us in the early morning. Huddie brought the news - being covered in wet snow.
However, it soon cleared and the sun came out so no further excuse to avoid replanting three fruit trees.
Just for my own record and (for others if needed) I'm going to describe how to sod bust without bending the back at all. Involves using a small half-moon- shaped edger (does not have to be almost total rust like mine).
Every time I go to do stuff that's done only periodically, I waste a lot of time getting it wrong before remembering the right way. To avoid this, I'm going to write myself some tips from time to time (interesting to see if this helps as the memory fades).
Use the edger to make a 4 x 4 square then use it again inside the square to cut it in 4. Wiggle it to loosen the edges.
Plunge a fork diagonally into one 1/4 and lift the sod out. (May need to plunge it again at a different angle to loosen it all).
Step on the sod and pull the fork out. This is the trick that it bendless.

Seems obvious but it's not unusual to see persons round her on hunkers trying to pull the sod up off the ground or off the end of the fork with the hands.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Beautiful day

Show-off in the hall:

Despite the cold it was beautiful here today.

The "Lake effect" I'm told.

The little green cardi did it's job - thanks Fluffie!More fundtional than a looker I suppose, but so very warm!

The ovines got their snack as usual and I tried to get a photo of Fluffie during the excitement. She has evaded me quite a lot and when I once thought I'd get a good one, she turned up covered in hawthorne briars and seeds. Mabe this time:

Yes, that's her - of course she turned her behind to me.

I dyed you green :).

Frekkie is more oblidging.

Did you know you are a rug, gloves and hats?

This Easycare is very forward!

Doesn't seem to miss the wool though.

Moved three small apple trees , a lyme tree and planted the little christmas tree which was in a pot this year. Realised this needed doing as the sheep gnawed the bark again this year despite my efforts with chickwire etc. Needed to be placed nearer the house anyway - so this beautiful winter weather left no excuse as there was no rain and the soil was easy to dig. Three more to do tomrrow - not by my own labour alone of course, OH had a big hand in this. Seems boyant due to Ireland-France rugby match result - a good time to strike with a list of chores :).

Ah the poor ram and weather - being forgotten as usual once their part is played - so I'll just put a photo of them in too.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Your needles - pick up and pick up again

With some trepidation, I agreed to do a beginners spinning workshop with Stephanie (  ), Irene ( ) and   Nicola ( ) in the Arts Courthouse in Tinahealy Saturday last (Jan 31). As it turned out, I had 5 of the most pleasant and intelligent students and they were a pleasure to work with. 
One of my fears was that I had so many thoughts about what to do that I'd confuse the heck out of all and turn them off spinning, yarn and workshops for like.  Having done a rather intensive spinning week in the Lake District myself, I know how bleary your head can get after a load of new information is thrown at you - especially when you are trying to manoeuver a new peice of equipment at the same time. 
Anyway, I shaved my objectives down to a smaller list as follows: 1) They would all spin and ply a little of something on a spindle  2) They'd  see the spinning wheel in action, see how it relates to the spindle and have a go on it 3) I'd hammer in that it's all about drafting - the machines just help with that - an rid them of any mystique sometimes surrounding these activities. (The thing is great enough in itself - don't need no mystique).
Other things that might or might not go in at first pass included: the objectives of spinning a yarn i.e. to get a useable yarn that might fit into some pattern . That means aiming to produce something fairly consistent in size and twist the operative word being "aiming" - no need to worry at the outset there will be plenty of "character" like it or not ; where yarns come from illustrated by having some fleece around and the way yarns can differ depending on what the starting fibers were and also how it is handled and spun; the place of the hand carder and drum carding and the fun of blending colors.  And in the end, that almost anything can be spun if prepared for it.
What I should have spent more time on, I think, is how to manage the commercial tops etc. that people often buy - especially the nice, soft Merino. This got underdone as I don't think it's fair to begin spinners on these lovely fibers as it may take a bit more experience to spin them. So I used mainly my own rougher fleece as it catches easier and "wants" to spin. Didn't get to soaking the spun yarn so they could see how the plied fiber sets after wash and dry (which is also a nice experience) but I think there was enough going on as it was. Another thing, when I do this again, I'll use more prepared rolags as they are so much easier to spin (I'd forgotten that).
The atmosphere , with the knitting, felting, crocheting going on all at the same time was in a nice surrounding was pretty good indeed. Looking forward to another session on March 21st (now sheep - control yourselves!)

lamb crisis - over - for now

That rapscallion, Owen the Ram, got into the ewe's paddock last autumn for about an hour before I hooshed him out and surprise, surprise, a lamb gets born 150 days later  - GRRR.

I was taken unawares - dog tried his best to tell me what was happening but I didn't look in the right place i.e. take a torch to the dark pasture in the night and have a look so I didn't find the poor lamb until next morning. Neighbor says "That's sheep for ya"  but it should be "That's shepherds for ya" as it was my stupidity that let him crash the fence in the first place. So now I was jiggered - lambs not due to born until April - and hoping for twins at that (not likely if he hailed ewe for only an hour) - and I didn't know how many ewes he'd nailed. SO had to advance the pre-lambing routine i.e. bring them up to the nice, clean, saved grass near the house (to give the lambs a good start and to keep them away from the fox). I did this for 2 weeks - no more lambs I'm relieved to say - so they are all down in the lower, rougher but more varied pasture farther away. They've had their supplements (100 gm/day of kibble) for January and this will up to 200 gm/day for 1/2 february then gradually up to 600 gm by end March - depending on how much grass is left. Sort of back on schedule except 2/3 of my lambing paddock is all mucked up now. Will have to rake it off and apply the "goodness" to new plant beds I'm trying to set up. 
Silage bales have been hanging around since last Autumn - which was a nuisance as they occupy a small paddock I set up as part of my little pasture rotation and to accommodate the rams at times. I thought they were sold and would be taken but they went through their coffee, then cinnamon, then yucky smells in sequence and didn't move. I put the ewes in there for a spell, but when I saw one of them (known as Divine - a Leicester type cross) undoing and pulling off the plastic seals, I had to rush and put an electric net round it. Now, this net is needed in other places at other times so many net-moving operations had to happen over the past several months - a big pain in the A.
 I saw Ferim Factor on TG4 and I'd like to suggest electric net moving and replacing as a task for the young hopeful - would produce some amusing scenes and some "Bleeps" I'm sure.  On that theme, Thursday night has been Wellie night for us recently - with Feirm factor, the trio trying to live and work on a Victorian farm on BBC and ear to the ground - good stuff. But, I digress - the silage bales have departed :). A neighbor took them yesterday - three cheers!! and he was a lovely man to chat with too - always a bonus - and his wife knits - so maybe she will join the little knitting circle in Mullingar.
SO - all is well - or is it? About to go out an feed the hoodlums outside.