Sunday 26 October 2008

Magazine feature and fibre sales

Last week I got an email from Simply Knitting magazine to say that they had read my blog and that it is to be featured in their next edition. Looking on their web site, it's very nice to see what they have written and if you are reading this because of the feature in this mag, "welcome", and I hope you find my "random jottings" interesting, informative and a little bit amusing.
Chris who has bought fleece from me as well as helped at shearing time, rang to ask if I had any fibre she could take, for me, to her monthly guild meeting. So on Saturday afternoon, we were both "rooting" through my processed fibre for her to take. I didn't want to over load her, but at the same time not send enough. I packed her off with some batts of Corridale fleece and alpaca rovings. She rang earlier this evening to say that she'd sold 10 batts of corridale and a couple bags of alpaca. I'm very pleased with that and I will be sending some more fibre, with Chris, to their December meeting.

Weekend of Hobbits

We picked the Hobbits up on Friday night rather than they coming home with me on the train as I'd had to go to Birmingham and arrived back into York too late to make the train connections home with 2 tired 6 and 8 year old boys.
But on Saturday they were up and about bright and early. After a quick trip to the butchers, for some stewing steak as the Hobbits had requested "Uncle Tim's special stew" for tea, they helped put hay out for the sheep and Alpacas, and whilst I put out the extra feed for the ewes, checked the animal's water buckets to make sure the everyone had plenty of water.
Youngest Hobbit is doing a treasure hunt with Beevers, so he had a list of things to find (fir cone, red leaf, spiky leaf, twig, small pebble and a feather). We found most things very quickly, apart from the feather and a quick phone call to a friend meant that he had everything.
The afternoon was spent making ginger biscuits, for Uncle Tim and dog biscuits, for Holly & Deefa, and being Hobbits, the dog biscuits had to be tasted!!!! (The biscuits are a mix of tuna, salmon, pilchards, eggs, oats, sunflower seeds and flower, so nothing nasty in them).
The stew, at tea time, was eaten with great gusto, partly down to being out doors and lots of things to do and because it was so tasty.
Sunday morning, after the helping feed and check waters again, they did some "magic dyeing". They enjoy squirting the 3 dyes (red, yellow & blue) onto the wet fleece to see what colours are created, and once "cooked" for 30 mins, turning the fleece out into the sink to be rinsed, it's always interesting to see what colours they have made.
My sister and brother in law (Hobbits parents) arrived for lunch and to take the Hobbits home. The house is very quiet and 2 very tired dogs are snoozing on the sofas, it's hard work having KD here as well as the Hobbits.
Not sure what's happening next week as the clocks went back this weekend and it takes a while to get used to the fact that the dark nights are suddenly here.

Why is no job simple!!!!!!

This week the Resident Vandal and KD have been with us. The main jobs on the list of "Things to Do", was the to fit 2 new gates and repair some old fencing.
Well they started fitting the additional gate in the field that currently holds the ram lambs. Between our fields we have "races" or "cow walks" which make moving the sheep so much easier. We've realised that when we are moving sheep to the lambing barn, once the hurdles are up one race is out of action, so by adding this additional gate, we are no longer limited moving sheep. No matter how well you plan fencing layouts, you always miss something. The second gate, is at the side of my new shed, so I'm able to get into my main veg plot without having to walk the long way round, but if we want, during the winter months, we can run sheep in this area, after putting hurdles around the deep beds to stop the sheep eating the veg.
These two jobs went pretty well to plan, then they hit the problems, replacing the fencing, was initially just going to be, replace the wire. Well after Tim had taking out 100+ staples holding the wire to the posts, it became apparent that the wire had been holding the posts in place and not the other way round, so all the posts had to be replaced. They got that done on Wednesday and were walking back to the house, when they noticed one of the ram lambs had it's head through the wire, when it pulled it's head back there was a large hole in the wire. On closer examination of this stretch of wire revealed that it was rotten and with very little effort the sheep could escape and more worryingly Holly could get in amongst the sheep.
So Thursday, Friday and some of Saturday was spent repairing this run of fencing. It took longer because they had to go back to where the wire joined the "stretcher" post, so to repair 12 feet of wire, meant replacing nearly 50ft if wire as well as some posts.
I have to admit the fencing looks good and you realise how bad it was beforehand, but it has meant that the repairing of the fencing on the common land has been put back to another day.
One thing that has been better than planned has been the weather, it has been very windy at times, but the forecasted rain has not arrived. One other thing that got done this week was the "dagging out" and toe clipping of the ram lambs. Dagging out is not a pleasant job, but it has to be done and despite my best efforts, they need doing again!!!!! Oh deep joy!!!!!!

Sunday 19 October 2008

Chutney, ewes and a surprise visit from Oz

As the tomatoes in my greenhouses are not turning red very fast, and as we've already had one mild frost, I decided to make some green tomato chutney and piccalilli. I made 10lbs of chutney last night, it's not set as much as I would like, but it's still o.k. More of a dipping sauce than a thick chutney, and then this morning I made 4lbs of piccalilli, that seems to be setting a lot better, though the last jar looks more like a yellow pouring sauce with seeds in than anything else. We shall see what it's like. These were 2 new recipes I was trying as I've put my tried and trusted chutney and piccalilli recipes in a "safe place" and now can't find them!!!!!!
With us borrowing a Jacob Ram this year we took some time do look and and decide which ewes are to go to which ram. We've 21 ewes to cover this year and we didn't want to over or under use either Hector or the Jacob ram. In the end it's worked out with Hector covering 10 ewes (Amy, Amber, Beatirx, Berniece, Carolyn, Cicely, Layla, Lilly, Lucy and May) and the Jacob ram covering the remaining 11 ewes (Abbi, Allium, Anya, Asriadne, Brazil, CA1, Carmen, Cassy, Missy, winky, Yellow Neck). The two surprises in the list are Lucy, the sister or Lottie, who died earlier this year, and Winky. We didn't put Winky to the ram last year as the year before she had a phantom pregnancy, but she is looking so well this year that we thought we'd give her another go, also with Lucy, she still got most of her teeth and is looking well, so we'll mate her again. With our original ewes getting on in years, in subsequent years I think we will only mate them every other year, so that they have time to recover from each lambing.
This morning, whilst we were feeding the sheep, Tim's cousin, Graeme, from Oz rang to say that he and his wife, Verity, would be in the area and wondered if we would like to meet for coffee? So this afternoon they arrived, and we had a great time chatting to them, catching up on family gossip, Graeme's mum, Sylvia, and Tim's mum, Millie, were sisters, and it's over 30 years since Graeme was last in England. They are spending 3 weeks in the UK visiting family, friends and the "must see" places, followed by 3 weeks in Europe before flying back to Oz. There Christmas newsletter is going to be a very interesting read this year.
Tomorrow the Resident Vandal arrives with KD for the week. Some fencing work and putting in 2 new gates are on the list of jobs to do. Will let you know how they get on!!!!!!!!

A busy week for Tim, a not such good one for me

After a great weekend last weekend I woke up on Monday morning with a aching head and face, so after a trip to the Drs, it turns out I've had a sinus infection. A course of antibiotics seems to have cleared things up nicely and it will be back to work on Monday for me.
Tim on the other hand has been very busy. He spent a day shredding all the small branches that are no use for the wood pile, from the tree(s) we had removed a the weekend. The question was, what does he do with all the shreddings?
Simple.... He's built some steps up a steep bank at the side of the house and filled in the steps with the shreddings. This bank leads to a really dead area of land which when we bought the property was described as an "orchard". It was full of conifers, 2 reasonable apple trees and 3 very sick plum trees. We've since cleared out most of the conifers and all of the plum trees, the apple trees do produce some sort of a crop, which we leave for the birds and other wild life to eat as this area had been so difficult to get down to. Now Tim has created these steps, it will make it easier to get down to and then we will be able to start and tackle the nettles and brambles!!!!!
The shed is now completely finished, with hooks to hang all my tools and staging in place to store my pots etc. So yesterday I got all my gardening "stuff" gathered up and put away. I also had a good look at what I've got and had a bit of a clear out of some of my old tools. The shed now looks very tidy, with all my tools hung up, plant pots in place. All I need now is a nice comfy chair, something to brew a cup of tea on and my radio to listen to Test Match special and I'll be well away............

Holly needed a hair cut....

Just in case you were in any doubt Holly needed a hair cut just look at the next two pics.

Yes it is me knitting on the sofa, it's a scarf I'm knitting from some hand spun Bowmont fleece plied with silk and then rainbow dyed.
This is what Holly looks like now.
From "Miss Fluffy" to "Skinny Min" in one morning.....

Sunday 12 October 2008

Shed building day and sweetcorn from the garden

Today when we got up it was still, fine and dry. Still is a rare occurrence here and though we had other things to do, we decided that we should build my shed, it's been treated with wood preservative, but we'd intended to build it next weekend. A quick check on next weekend's weather, rain and high winds, made it an easy decision to build the shed today.
Well we've spent all day building the shed. Tim has had to do some modifications to the roof struts, there were not enough of them, he's screwed the sides together rather than nail them, and as you will have seen in an earlier blog, a very substantial base to fit the shed on.
By the time it got dark, the shed is up and the roof is on, but Tim still has to put the felt on the roof, glaze the windows and fit the doors.
So hopefully next weekend I will be able to finally gather up my gardening tools and put them in one place, the shed.
Whilst we were building the shed, Holly and Deefa were with us and all I can say is that they are both absolutely exhausted as they spent most of the afternoon playing "tig".
Some of the sweetcorn in my veg plot had blown over, so I cooked the cobs for lunch, unfortunately not all of them were fully ripe, so hopefully in another week a few more will be ready to eat. There is nothing like sweetcorn freshly picked and then cooked. That's the only reason to grow it. Now that some of the sweetcorn has been removed, I've been able to dig over the area in readiness to plant the winter onions.
Nothing is planned for next week but no doubt there will be some job or other that will raise it's head over the coming week and become the number one priority. No doubt all be revealed in next 's blog.

An early morning hair appointment and tree removing

Deefa and Holly had a very early trip to the hair dressers (Anne) yesterday. They were originally booked in a couple of days before my birthday, but Anne was ill and so it was rearranged for yesterday. So 6.50am saw me taking both dogs for their 07.00 appointment. I picked them both up at 10.30 looking very neat and tidy and smelling very nice!!!! According to Mrs Hedge Laying Holland Deefa smealt like a poodle!!! Won't do his sheep cred any good.
As I arrived back the Hedge laying Hollands arrive to help up move a tree that had been blown over earlier in the year into the stream at the back of our house.
The lads ended up in the stream, which is not very deep, cutting up the tree, and us girls, on the bank putting the cut up tree in to the trailer. All I can say is that walking up and down a steep bank plays havoc with your knees and thigh muscles. We ended up with a trailer load of wood for our wood pile and for the Hedge laying Hollands several bags of logs of ash for their fire at home.
Whilst working in the stream Tim discovered that his wellingtons were porous, this is his second pair that now leak water. He bought a couple of cheap pairs of wellies, they are fine in dry conditions, but not when it's wet. Not much good here!!!!!!
As always at the end of the day we had a meal at our local pub, the Black Bull. It was as good and as filling as ever

It's wine making time

We used to make wine several years ago but with me working all over the country, we stopped. A couple of years ago we started again, firstly making sloe vodka and last year following a glut of bullaces (wild plums) we made a very enjoyable plum wine. Which according to one of our neighbours "was not a wine to start drinking standing up!!!!!".
This year my black current bush produced a 1lb of fruit, which is not enough to do anything with, so I put them in the freezer, and with the glut of blackberries around at the moment, I've got a gallon of black current and bramble wine fermenting away in the utility room.
Whilst Phillippa was here, after my birthday, she was lamenting that she and her mum had missed bramble picking season with moving to Scotland, so we spent a couple of hours on the common land, armed with buckets, picking brambles. Between us we picked 6lbs of brambles, enough for Phillippa to take some home to make jam, and for me to make a gallon of bramble wine, which again is fermenting away in the utility room.
Last week we cut back an elderberry bush, so I picked the ripe berries, a full 9lbs in all. The berries took some getting off the stalks, but after a few days fermenting in a bucket, we racked off the juice into a large fermenting vessel, which holds 5 gallons of wine, it's half full and bubbling away. The utility room smells very yeasty and you don't want to hang around in there for too long otherwise you could end up feeling very light headed!!!!!
None of the wine will be ready for at least a year................

Sunday 5 October 2008

A great week but with a disappointing Rare Breed Sale

Since my birthday party I've had a great week, the weather has been fine and I've got a few fleeces washed and carded. Just been out in the sun is a great boost to your well being, as well as walking the dogs every morning, though I'm not sure they would agree as I'm much stricter than Tim is on the way they should behave.
On Friday we took 18 ewes to the Rare Breed Sale at York in readiness for the sale on Saturday. We have decided to sell the Wiltshire Horns as we have found them very difficult to cope with on our land. They soon have "the runs" on fresh or wet grass, which to be honest with the Shetlands, we were not happy with. The way they "poo" is like having cattle on your land and the mess they make of the Shetland's fleeces is an image you do not want to see. It was a very hard drive over as we were driving into a head wind, but at least the girls were settled in. On Saturday we took Charlie the Wiltshire Horn Ram, which meant a very early start, leaving home at 06.30 to make a sale deadline of 09.00!!!
At the sale the Wiltshire's didn't do too badly, but the unregistered Shetland ewe lambs went of 4 or 5 guineas. By the time we had paid the entrance fee, inoculations and fuel to take them there we are our of pocket. This is the last time we will be taking lambs to this sale. We've now taken them to York for the last 3 years and the prices have got worse each year. So we are now seriously looking at getting a meat type tup to put to our girls, so that we can the meat direct, which we are having a lot more success at, especially the sale of mutton. I'll post details as and when we make the decision.
Anyway it's back to work for me tomorrow....................

Woolfest Preperation

As I said in an earlier blog, Phillippa stayed after my birthday until Tuesday and we spent the time doing fibery things. Phillippa had asked if she could use my motorised carder and had come armed with some fleeces, in fact several fleeces which we started working on, on Sunday afternoon. By Monday lunchtime we had carded 2 1/2 Swaledale fleeces, and as you can see from the photo, we ended up with a large pile of carded batts.
In return Phillippa helped me wash quite a few fleeces, which I'm now in the process of carding and dying in readiness for Woolfest. I know that Woolfest is not for another 8 months, but if I don't make a start preparing fleeces now, it will soon be here and I will have nothing ready.
The great thing about spending time with Phillippa is that we have been able to exchange ideas and ensure that neither of us is competing with the other. I'm not saying that competition is a bad thing, but if by doing something just slightly different, you are not treading on the others toes it does make life a little easier. You will have to come to Woolfest to see what we are both doing.....

Judge Deefa presiding...........

I'll leave you to decide if Deefa found the sheep guilty or not!!!!!!!

Friday 3 October 2008

If the sheep could see Deefa now......

I think he would loose all credibility with them!!!!

I'm prepping fleece for Woolfest and Deefa laid on the sofa beside me, so he's covered by a section of Carman's washed fleece. I'm breaking the fleece down into it's separate staples so that I can dye them. Deefa didn't snore much!!!!!