Friday, May 21, 2010

If I Were Organized, It Would Help

This is what the sidewalk in front of my porch looks like as of this morning. It should have looked like this as of a few weeks ago. This is always the way it is when I am getting ready for a show. The MA Sheep and Wool is next Saturday and Sunday, with set up for us on Friday. I will be gone tomorrow afternoon and Sunday to attend a memorial service back where I grew up. Nick will man the trenches here. That leaves me with four to five days of dyeing after today.

Today I dyed ten pounds of alpaca/silk DK yarn, ten pounds of Bluefaced Leicester superwash worsted weight, a kilo of merino lace, and a kilo of merino/bamboo fingering.

Here's some superwash perking away.

Here is alpaca/silk and lace weight drying in the dining room. I dyed four batches in two colorways today, some of each yarn in each color.

These yarns were both dyed with the same dye in approximately the same concentration. It always amazes me how different fibers absorb color in entirely different ways despite starting out approximately the same shade naturally. This is another area in which I wish I was more organized. I keep a dye book, but not as religiously as I ought.

Yet, I did dye about twenty-five pounds of stuff today, and managed to spend two and a half hours a Fred's spinning. I also did the chores- twice. I just finished cooking and eating dinner.
Maybe I should give myself a break.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Love My Rodents

Chipmunks enchant me. I've loved them since I was a child, when they would eat out of my hands. We have quite a few here, of which this is the most immune to fear of people. He appears from under the porch to survey the territory from the safety of the concrete Boston's head.

Then he moves to the shield of the dachshund foot scraper,

until he's certain there are no foes about,

at which point he emerges to forage in the forest of bird feeders provided for his attention. Those photos will arrive here in time.

Right now, I have to get going to continue preparations for the MA Sheep and Wool, which is over Memorial Day weekend in Cummington, MA, before I begin singing yet another refrain of, "Too much, too little, too late..."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Udderly Amazing

This is Luna. She is the granddaughter of the first goat we got when we arrived here. We lost both her mother and grandmother to meningeal worm within a year. That is a story for another day. Luna was born early in 2007. She stays with our Angoras, and we'd hoped that she'd provide us with milk for at least part of the year She has been in with a buck each winter for the whole winter and has never kidded. We assumed she was barren, as she'd never gotten pregnant. The other day I went to do chores. She always greets us by planting her front feet on the gate to the pen. Lo and behold! I noticed this on Monday when I went down:

Is that an udder I spy? Amazing! She's looked fat for the past few months, but she's tricked us for the two prior years. Her udder was the size of a peach on Monday, but is the size of a grapefruit today. With luck you'll be seeing photos of a kid or two sometime in the next few weeks.

Till then, have another viewing. You have no idea how long it took to get this shot. Milking her should be a real challenge, as she's three and a half and never freshened before. Also, she was bred to an Angora buck. What might the result of that be? I haven't a clue.
I also want to thank Karin for telling me how to spread my photos throughout my post in a more seemly fashion. I love friends.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Thirty some odd years ago during a visit to my parents, I mentioned the profusion of violets that were in our yard at home. My father, who was a character I'm sure you'll hear more of, leapt up, rummaged through a cupboard, and with a flourish presented me the boat you see pictured. When asked what it was, he responded that it was a European violet boat.
I took it home and went into the yard with my then toddler son. We picked many violets. If you look closely, you'll see that the boat has 34 holes. From the beginning, the goal was to put 20 violet stems into each hole, which entails picking 680 violets, plus leaves to go around the edges. Some years the violet stems are too thick, so you only need 500 or so. This rite takes from two to three hours each year, dependent on the the number of children involved, their ability to focus, and my own stamina in relation to said children.
First with my son, then adding my daughter, eventually passing the torch to my granddaughters, this year I found myself with no one to join me. I thought to forgo the experience. This left me feeling sad, so Saturday I decided to fill the boat on my own, about a week later than usual.
As I picked... and picked... and picked, I let my mind wander through the many years of violets. Laughing children. Annoyed children. Dogs and kittens following us around the yard, tumbling through the greenery. Kids rolling their eyes at each other when they thought I wasn't looking, yet picking to humour their mother's whim. The wondrous year when an often recalcitrant fifteen-year-old daughter came home for the weekend and suddenly appeared before her distracted, overworked mother, holding out an already-filled boat, a smile in her eyes. Last year, with my four-year-old granddaughter, who didn't quite get the point, but- what the heck!
Maybe next year Kaia or Yzzi will be around to learn the method of leaving long stems, of not pulling the plants out.
In any case, I think I'll be out picking violets. My father would approve.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fridays are for spinning

Most Fridays a number of us gather to spin and knit at Fred's, officially known as Roaster's Whim, a wonderful coffee shop in Dunham Hollow, NY. We're there from 1:30 till about 5, anywhere from five to twenty of us. We're called the Heritage Spinners The ambiance is wonderful, the coffee terrific. Baked good are available, too. What more could we want? A yard to sit in on lovely days? Check. A fireplace AND a wood stove? Check. We love it there.
Today I noticed that three of us were spinning fiber from the same place: Buckwheat Bridge Angoras . It's the farm our first Maremma came from. Sara and Dan have Angora goats, cormo sheep, and process all their fiber in a solar mill. It's a wonderful place. They sell kid mohair/cormo blend roving that's out of this world. It's the one thing I'm sure to buy at Cummington and Rhinebeck, though unfortunately they won't be at Cummington this year. I indulged at NH Sheep and Wool for that very reason. They also spin yarn and knit socks.
We love them and you would,too. Find them at a festival near you.
I haven't yet figured out how to insert a link, but in theory you should be transferred to the Buckwheat Bridge website if you click on the title of this post. We'll see.
Didn't work. Go to I'll learn
Post Script: Thanks to Melanie, I learned to link!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Beginning the Animal Cavalcade

There are lots of animals here at Sliver Moon. I'll begin with the Maremmas. Shortly after we moved here, I purchased a female puppy from Sara and Dan at Buckwheat Bridge Angoras. She is the dog draped around my neck in the photo to the right. I'd never had a Livestock Guardian Dog before, and raising her through adolescence was a trip and a half. As a puppy, she regularly pulled on the fleeces of my Angora goats. Unfortunately, after they were shorn that spring, she repeatedly tore their skin with her milk teeth. They weren't scared of her, but Super Glue became my ally. I took to keeping a bottle in the barn.
As Phoebe grew, she became fast friends with our pony Nellie. They chased each other all over the pasture, often with Phoebe latched to Nellie's tail. They did have occasional bouts of adversity, which resulted in small tears in Nellie's nose and episodes of limping on Phoebe's part. Mostly, they were buddies.
When Phoebe matured, she was a great dog, attentive to her duties in keeping the coyotes at bay, yet gentle with my grandchildren. She was sweet, and followed us around the barnyard, leaning against us whenever we paused.
Last spring around this time she was diagnosed with an encephalitis of unknown origin. We had her on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, all to no avail. In three weeks she deteriorated from a gentle, loving dog to a seizuring, circling shadow of her former self. The last morning, I carried her to the car to return to the vet- no small feat, as she weighed about 95 pounds. She began seizuring on the way. By the time we got to the vet, she appeared to be partially blind and was attacking anything within reach, including me. I had her bite a towel, at which point I was able to muzzle her. Her temperature was over 106, and she died shortly thereafter.
Nick and I were heartbroken. I loathed going to the barn to do chores. The pony was depressed, and quickly ran to fat and foundered. She spent all of last summer with a grazing muzzle, eating only hay soaked in water per the vet's instruction. It took months for her to get better.
I began looking for a new Maremma after a few weeks, both to act as guardian and to fill the gaping space her death had left in the barn. Maremmas are a great breed, but there aren't a lot of them, and come most often at a price that was beyond our reach. At the end of August, I was contacted by someone I'd spoken to earlier in the summer. He had one pup left, and we were able to purchase her.
So now we have Phoebe the Second. I don't normally name dogs the same, but somehow this seemed fitting. She was four months old on arrival. That's her pictured at the top of the blog, taken about two weeks ago. She's been a bit less trouble as a puppy than the original, possibly because the sheep and goats had their fleeces during her milk tooth stage. She's developed a particular affinity for Eric, one of the alpacas. They play- she pulls his tail, he alarm calls, she stares at him. He waits for her to do it again. It's as though she considers him her personal squeak toy, and he concurs. I hope to get a video someday. They also sleep together.
She's had big shoes to fill, and that has taken her some time. The original Phoebe came to us at six weeks old. She bonded with everyone and everything quickly. The present Phoebe arrived at four months. She was unsure of herself and wasn't sure we were "her" people. That has changed over the course of the winter. She is delighted to see us, proud of her charges, and has begun her guard barking when the coyotes roam.
It feels like home again.
Post Script: The puppy on the top above is the first Phoebe on her first day here. The Phoebe on the bottom is our present dog upon arrival.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Do It!

This is what my mother said my battle cry was as a small child. I have been waiting for someone to guide me through the throes of setting up a blog. As I am approaching 60, I decided the time to wait is over.
Since my ID on Ravelry is kaytenspin, I decided a twist on that would do for a blog name. Here I plan to share the idles and idols of my days, and my reflections on life. I wish all of us luck in weathering my acclimatization to blogging. More soon!