Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm comin' in!

So, I have decided to change things up a bit this year. Normally I do a couple of craft shows early in the year; the first one is always at the end of February, and then one in March, one in April and then the outdoor Freight House Farmers' Market starts the first weekend in May and runs through the end of October. I wanted to cut back on the craft shows; I'm not giving them up all together, but just rearranging things a bit so that my income is more consistent and things are not so frantic in the fall, thus making me less crazy during the busy Craft show husband would argue that my special kind of crazy has nothing to do with the craft shows...I digress. I have a plan. What I have decided to do is to start selling at the farmers' market right away...I actually started last week....sorry that I did not inform you of my plans in a more timely you are caught up. You may be wondering if I have lost my mind. A farmers' market in January, in Iowa? Why, yes, my friends, we have an INDOOR market here. I will certainly miss being outside all summer long, but when I weighed it out, there were just too many positives to pass up the chance to move inside. And I do have a pretty nice view of the outside from my space inside.
I bought myself a sweet little refrigerator off of Craigslist for my eggs (don't you just love Craigslist....minus the murder thing, of course, but still..). No more schlepping coolers full of ice and trying to maintain the proper temperature when it's 90 degrees outside in August. No more trying to hold onto a canopy that decides that it wants to fly with the wind. No more setting up and tearing down every day.  I set up my booth inside, I bring fresh eggs and baked goods every Saturday and Tuesday and bring home whatever is left, and done!
You may be wondering: what can you get at a farmers' market in the dead of winter?
Well...almost anything you can get in the summer. Of course, this time of year most of the produce is not I mentioned, it's January, in Iowa..but it's still colorful and yummy.

There are lots of baked goods. Including my own cookies, Salted Nut Rolls and jam....which I neglected to photograph.

Handmade soaps.
 And pasta.
Olive oils.
 And local honey.
I love these repurposed wool items.
...especially these adorable little birds. I need a whole flock of the chickens that she makes for my Christmas tree next year.
Beside my normal wares of handspun yarn, eggs, baked goods, salted nut rolls and handmade clay figurines, I am partnering with my friend Lori, from Sommarang Farm in Wisconsin, to sell her roving and raw fleece at market.
 Come on, spinners, you know you want some!
Also, you may find my friend Cassie from Farm Genevieve in a booth next to me soon, she will be selling her handspun yarn, hooked rugs and other fiber art. We are just going to have a little fiber fiesta going on down there every Saturday and Tuesday.......but not this Tuesday,

 "Potentially Historic Snowstorm Expected through Wednesday
Two rounds of snow will affect eastern Iowa, northwest Illinois and northeast Missouri early this week.

 A major winter storm system will begin to impact the region late Tuesday morning into Wednesday, with the heaviest snowfall expected from midday Tuesday through about daybreak Wednesday. Snowfall  amounts of 10 to 16 inches are possible. To the southeast, totals of 16 to 20 inches are possible. In addition to the high snowfall totals, winds will increase to 20 to 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph from Tuesday night into Wednesday resulting in considerable blowing and drifting snow, especially in open and rural areas. Visibilities will likely be reduced in whiteout conditions and snow drifts may reach several feet high.

Putting the two events together, 60 hour snowfall totals ending at 6 pm Wednesday will range from 7 to 23 inches from northwest to southeast. Some of these totals will approach historic events for both 24 hour snowfalls and storm total snowfalls. For more information on local snowfall records, see the latest public information statement here.

Frigid temperatures will surge in behind the storm with wind chill values mainly between 0° and -25° from Wednesday morning through early Friday."

OK then...I am guessing that the groundhog is not even going to come out of hibernation on Wednesday, let alone see his shadow! Stay warm, my friends!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Big mamas.

 I was a little surprised today when I noticed that the "Lamb Watch" button on this blog was down to 70 days. Just a little over two months until lambies are due! I have so much to do before lambs start arriving. Maybe if I updated my blog more often I would have noticed sooner and would be more aware of what is going on in my life. And YOU, my dear readers, really need to do a better job of keeping me informed; somebody needs to keep track of me, I certainly can't do it on my own...seriously, it takes a village.
Anyway, 70 days? Can you believe it? Average gestation is about 147 days so we are more than halfway there! Since we are at the midpoint of pregnancy (yarn manufacturing), I thought it might be fun to take some pictures of the girls and see if we can guess who is, and who isn't. As I said, I thought it might be fun, that was my intention. But, being that my girls decided to be sooo cooperative, the photo shoot was a bit more of a challenge, and much less productive, than I originally anticipated. 
"Whatcha doin?"
"Whatcha doin?"

"Whatcha doin, huh? Huh? Whatcha doin?"

"Lemme help, lemme help, please, please, please?"
Clearly, this wasn't going to work, perhaps another strategy was in order. I decided to stand on the other side of the fence in an attempt to get a few pictures.

I was only able to get a couple of shots in which the girls weren't stuffing their faces with food, or being playfully chased by Ande, the llama.
 Later, when I got a chance to look through the pictures, something, or rather, someone, caught my attention. Yeah, the big ole belly on the left-Willow. I think the only reason I got a shot of her is because, with that gut, she isn't moving too quickly these days.
Granted, Willow is my longest-fleeced ewe, so some of her size can be attributed to that.....some of it, but, seriously?

With two months left to go?
Here's the thing, Willow almost always has a single lamb. She had a set of twins once, but I don't remember her being this...ummmm...shall we say... 'robust' this early on in her pregnancy. I have no idea what's in there!

" I'm not telling."

I only got pictures of two of the other ewes. Halley is first runner-up in the voluptuous belly contest; she most likely will have twins, as this is her second lambing.
I am really hoping that one of my favorite spotted ewes, Luna, is bred. She is a two-year-old and was not bred last year, so if the mission was accomplished this will be her first lambing. I did see some romance occurring on the morning that the rent-a-ram was packing his bags to go home-perhaps a good-bye fling, but that is no guarantee that she settled and I really, really want a lamb from her.

She has amazing fleece and beautiful conformation.

 Her fleece is exactly what I am trying to produce; fine, crimpy, single-coat and with good length. Her fleece is about 5 1/2 to 6 inches when stretched out. BOING!
I guess Miss Luna will keep us guessing for a while longer as to whether or not I will get that fluffy little lamb from her.
I will try to update you on the rest of the girls soon, hopefully with less assistance from my very helpful friends.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Barn secrets revealed!

So, it was  minus 13 degrees with a minus 32 wind chill when I did my morning calisthenics, A.K.A. barn chores.  Who needs a gym membership when you can walk out your door wearing 20 pounds of extra clothing, climb over fences (because the gates are frozen), carry multiple buckets of water to fill waterers who's heating elements can't handle such frigid temperatures, all while fighting your way through snowdrifts covered with a layer of ice? Much more fun than running on a treadmill next to some guy in sweaty gym shorts.....hmmm.....6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

It has been a strange winter and we have had more than our share of cold and snow, but a couple of days ago, when it was warm out... a balmy 20 degrees, we got a bit of wet, heavy snow that helped me answer a couple of questions that had been tormenting me. One thing that was still puzzling me was the mystery of who killed Blue-ster Rooster back in December. It's not like I have been lying awake at night, pondering about it, plotting my revenge....OK, maybe there has been a little revenge plotting...but mainly I wanted to know who the culprit was in order to keep the rest of the flock safe. I couldn't figure it out, until the wet snow last week revealed the secret.
Winding along the chicken run...

Back and forth along the tracks!

It seems as though a fox has been frequenting our barnyard in search of a free meal. Ever since the rooster-eating incident the rest of the flock has been locked up tight at night, and there is electric fencing along the perimeter, so at least the girls are safe. It is still a bit nerve-wracking knowing that there is something prowling around trying to eat your friends. After mentioning the tracks to a neighbor, they commented that they had seen a large Red Fox sitting across the road from our place several times in the early morning hours....this may have been useful information a few weeks ago, but, whatever, mystery solved!
The other thing that had me baffled was the huge amount of barn cat food that we have been going through. We had a similar problem over the summer and it turned out that there was a  GIANT RAT  large opossum
that had been gorging itself on our dime. But this time I was leaning toward another suspect. I was pretty certain that it was an inside job. You may  remember a couple of months ago we acquired another barn cat. He was "gifted" to us by an anonymous donor (dumped at our farm). He was kind of small, and needy, and meowed constantly. Being that I have "Sucker" tattooed on my forehead, I felt sorry for him and we kept him..
                                                                       Earlier photo.
Well, Helios Maximus Manmonster has grown, and is less talkative than he used to be, but he sure likes to eat....a lot. The way the food was disappearing I was beginning to wonder if I could afford to continue feeding him.

"Nom, nom, nom!"
"I'm innocent I tell ya, innocent!"

I have witnessed, on many occasions, the fact that Manmonster does consume a disproportionate amount of  food compared to the other barn kitties. As it turns out though, in this instance I was misguided in my suspicions-he was falsely accused.
I found supporting evidence in the snow.

Opossum tracks all around the barn leading into the feed area. They' re baaack.Yet another one of the creepy little naked-tailed varmints has moved in and is taking advantage of the free buffet. I'm not sure what I am going to do about this breaking news, but I am certainly not going to feed that mangy critter for the rest of the winter! I have been putting the cats food away after evening chores. But, as cold as it is, I hate to take food away from the legitimate borders for the night just to banish the freeloader. I think I see a live trap in Mr. 'Possum's future!

"I told you I was framed!"

Mysteries solved!

Side note/off topic.
Some of you have sent me messages or emailed me because you were concerned about my lack of blogginess as of late-we are fine, not to worry, we have just been dealing with a lot of serious issues concerning our aging parents over the past couple months and I have been a bit preoccupied with that. Things are getting better and we are trying to get back to 'normal'.....or my twisted version of normal anyway. Thank-you for the kind thoughts : ). Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nancy goes to Iowa.

Well, here we are, only a week into 2011, and already I have been slacking on one of my New Year's resolutions: I will post more consistently on my blog.
 I am going to try to follow through on that one...really, I am....notice that I said, "try?"

The holidays are behind us, the tree and decorations have been packed away, our kids have gone back to their respective homes; Nicole and her husband, Andrew, back to California and our son, Justin, off to Navy bootcamp-yeah, bootcamp, that's a story for another post- things have been pretty quiet around here. So, when I got an email from my dear friend, Nancy Krohn, asking if I was up for a visit last week, I was very excited. Nancy is almost as nutty as I am and a visit from her was sure to liven things up. After giving her some minor clarifications on directions from her place, in Minnesota, to ours, in Iowa- "No, Nancy, Iowa is not to the 'right' of you...Iowa is...ummm, 'under' you" -she was on her way.
Nancy arrived at our house later that evening and my sister Marie came over as well. The three of us chatted, laughed and had a lovely time catching up. Nancy had to head home the next morning, so we had to cut the evening a bit short, but it was still a nice visit.
The next morning, it was time to introduce Nancy to the critters.
She met Daisy and Menemsha.

I think she was trying to steal my little spotty girl, Laurel, from me.

She also made friends with Holly. Holly just thought Nancy had cookies, but we won't tell Nancy that.

Then the rest of my attention-starved animals felt it necessary to molest my guest.

Emma even shared her Jolly Ball with Nancy....well..sort of shared.
Jordan shows Nancy the love...maybe too much love?
Nancy even took something home with her, but you will have to check her blog to see ; ).

One of my favorite things about raising Shetlands is the wonderful sheepie people that I have met over the years and the great friends that I have made along the way. Thanks for visiting, Nancy, and thanks for being a great friend!

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