Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gardening Lessons Learned

My foray into vegetable gardening has not been a total bust this year.  We ate quite a lot of lettuce, and are currently eating purple beans.  I had a few cucumbers before the plants got run over by the squash plants.  I have several promising squash and an abundance of tomatoes...although they haven't turned red yet.  The little ones in the picture were ripened on my windowsill.  I'm not sure if the big ones will ripen, but they had pretty well overburdened their stalks and were sitting on the ground when I found them.  We'll see.

I've learned some lessons about vegetable gardening this year.

1.  It is possible to humanely evict a family of groundhogs that have made your garden their home, with the help of this neat battery-powered stake apparatus that chatters everytime the ground moves.

2.  It is best not to tell your neighbour where that new family of groundhogs in her garden came from all of a sudden and why.
3.  Plant half of the lettuce that you think you will need and plan for salads every night.
4.  Don't plant squash in your little 10 x 6 garden...you will end up with a jungle of squash plants.  Next year I will throw some seeds in the old manure pile and let them grow wild.
5.  Pick the beans sooner than later or they get tough.
6.  Pick the runner branches off of the tomatoe plants so that the stalks bearing flowers will grow big enough to support the tomatoes. (Who knew?  Now I do!).

Today, I baked a Blueberry Cake.  Delicious!

I rinsed out the alpaca fibre that I dyed yesterday.

I rinsed out the alpaca\merino blend lopi yarn that I dyed yesterday and then dyed some more.

And best of all...
I had a gentleman caller for lunch. (He brought his own).

Too cute, isn't he!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Today, I feel like sighing.

Selling some livestock is part of the business of farming.  This morning, I prepared to transport some alpacas, including the two cria born here in June and a llama buddy that has been on my farm for nine years to a new farm.

The females have been sold for quite a while, residing on my farm to birth out their cria or to be bred while their new owners made their new farm ready for them.

I'm happy that they are going to such a great home, where I know they will be cherished and properly cared for.  And as a bonus, the farm is very close and I hope to be invited over to see them once in a while.

I had no other cria born on the farm this year.  So I won't be seeing cria pronking and playing silly in the front pasture now.  Perhaps I will train myself not to keep looking out the window to watch them.


I guess you can't blame me for being a little sad to say goodbye.


I keep telling myself that I'm free of the responsibility of having little ones in the field.  And I won't have any cria to wean in late fall or halter train in the spring.


So...anyway....I'm expanding my repertoire of knitting techniques.  I've wanted to knit a hat pattern called 'In-Between Seasons Cap' by Cathy Campbell (find it on Ravelry), and had picked some lovely soft handspun of Alpaca\Polwarth wool blend in chocolate brown from my ever-growing stash.  The pattern uses twisted stitches and describes how to do a twL and twR stitch.  Apparently, I just could not compute.  I tried these stitches several times to no avail.


Youtube to the rescue!!!
I found the Knit Purl Hunter who described it perfectly.  This lady has a lot of valuable videos on her website.

I love the look of the cabled band.
Knitting with this handspun alpaca/wool blend is heaven.


I heard someone describe the difference between commercial yarn and handspun yarn as "the difference between store-bought bread and homebaked bread".    Love it.


So...tonight my family is going to the movies.  It wasn't my turn to pick.  We are going to see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes".   Really.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Something Old and Something New

There's a new piece of equipment at Misty Haven Alpacas.  Well, it isn't actually new.  In fact, this tractor is about 72 years old.  It's an Allis Chalmers B...we beleive from 1939 or 1940. 

My husband and daughter have made a new hobby out of this old tractor.  And it works!  Although it needs some adjusting and a few replacement parts, hubby has been cutting the back fields with it and hauling the manure spreader with it.

There is something amazing about motorized equipment that works 72 years after it came off of an assembly line.  Why is it that our cars seem to expire after 10 years maximum?

It's not just the admiration for the strength of the metal and the simplicity of the mechanics to last over seven decades.  I can't help looking at this tractor and try to imagine the farmer that bought it when it was brand new so many years ago.

My grandfather loved the large draft horses on his farm.  I have a favourite black and white photo of me standing in the field with my Papa and his huge horse, Pete.  I was about 4 years old and the top of my head was at Pete's mid-thigh.  I am wondering how my grandfather viewed the advent of the tractor on the farm.  Was he happy, did he view it as progress or did he know that it would lead to the demise of the working farm horse and thus the bond between farmer and his horse.

I have a few new yarns in my shop.  I had a new yarn done at Wellington Fibres in Elora, Ontario this year.  This is a fingering weight 2-ply yarn in a blend of 60% alpaca, 30% kid mohair and 10% fine wool.  I've created handspun in this blend for a shawl last year, and it's a beautifully soft blend that blooms with use.  I usually handdye my farm's yarns, but this year I asked the mill to dye some of the yarn.  I was very happy with the colours.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

If I Won a Million Dollars...

I do buy the odd lottery ticket.  Strangely, I often think to buy it when the jackpot sign outside the store says that the night's draw is some bizzare amount, like $44 million.  Then, after I buy the ticket, I pray I don't win 44 million.  Really - who needs that much stress?  Or that many long-lost cousins?

But every once in a while...usually on days when I wake up to the news about the economic debt crisis and then open my email to find a panic message from my financial advisor...I think about what I would do with $1 Million Dollars.  The fact that last week, not one but both of my part-time jobs ended, may have prompted me to think a little heavier about this.

1.  I have some debt.  I'd definitely pay that off.

2.  I'm thinking that I have some people to show my gratitude.  However, the people top on of that list, my father and my in-laws are doing what they want in life and I don't think extra money would make them enjoy it more.

3.  I need expensive repairs to my farm bridge.  I'd reconfigure my farmyard and put up a separate barn for the males.  Farming would be simpler and the barnyard more tranquil.

4.  I'd definitely hire a housecleaner.  Well, after I cleaned the house, that is.  I'd be too embarrassed to have some stranger see inside my fridge or my laundry room.

5.  I would hire who I needed to do all those house repairs that have been half-finished or totally neglected.  (But would I have to clean the house first?)

6.  I'd spend some money to hire a competent alpaca-knowledgeable farmhand for a few weeks of the year, and take my family away on some fun carefree vacations.  (Who am I kidding?...I have a teenage daughter...carefree? for who? Mom?)

7.  I'd donate money to my favorite charities and non-profits.  Community Living comes to mind, but I don't have to look far for valuable organizations that are doing important work.

8.  I'd spend my days writing, reading, spinning and well....creating.  Oh, maybe I'd even have a well equipped studio built for me and my artsy friends!

Hmmmmmm...when I started writing this post, I didn't think that I'd be able to come up with many items on my dream list.  Now the ideas are coming quicker and becoming grander.  Time to stop.

I realize that I likely won't ever have that cool $1 Million to throw at the items on the list.  However...

1.  My debt will get paid...sooner or later...likely later.

2.  I can let the people in my life know that I am grateful to them every day.

3.  My bridge will get repaired in time.  Farming is pretty simple already and usually the farmyard is tranquil.

4.  I choose to only invite friends over who vow to ignore my chaotic, messy house because it gives me more time for creative expression.

5.  If all the house repairs were done...what could I nag my husband about?

6.  I spent part of today sitting in a boat reading while my daughter fished and then went kayaking and swimming with her.  That was after a morning of spreading manure and doing spit-checks on the pregnant alpacas along with my hubby.  Okay, it may not be YOUR dream vacation, but it was a pretty good day.

7.  I may not be donating money to my favourite charities this year.  Someday, I will.

8.  I don't need a fancy, picture perfect studio to have my artsy friends over.  I've had a lot of fun-filled afternoons with my fibre-art friends in my kitchen and sunroom.  This will continue. 

I don't need $1 Million to read books or write stories or spin yarn or felt scarves or weave rugs or blend fibre or dye roving.  I need to give myself time...that's all!

I live a blessed life and have everything that I really need...and more.