Sunday 31 May 2009

A Weekend of Dyeing

With the sunny weather I've been busy dying alpaca rovings and drying them outside on the clothes horse, the fibre has fluffed up really nicely. I do enjoy drying fibre outside and because it can be really windy where we live, it doesn't happen very often. The reason for the mad dyeing this weekend is that later in the week Paul the tiler is arriving to tile the kitchen and utility room, so they will both be out of action for nearly a week!!!!!!!!!!!
I've also been busy in the veg garden, the last of the sprouts have been planted out along with the red cabbage plants. The area where the other beds are to go, the grass has been sprayed and is now ready to be rotovated. Just waiting for Scooby to arrive with the tractor and plough, who hopefully will call this coming week.
As Woolfest is now only 4 week away, the details of the stall etc arrived this weekend and as usual I'm in row H sharing a double stand with Phillippa (Wheeldale Woolcrafts). So if you are coming to Woolfest, come and say "Hello"

Monday 25 May 2009

What do you do with your old mineral lick buckets?

Drill a few holes in the bottom and use them as pots to grow my tomatoes in!
I'm going to get some cheap cat litter trays to stand the buckets in for ease of watering, but I can get 12 tubs in the greenhouse, filled with growbag compost. Much easier to manage. The tomatoes in the picture are Banana Cream and Vintage Wine.

Blue Tongue Vaccination & ear tagging

Sunday has for some time been ear marked as the day we vaccinated all the sheep and lambs (as the youngest is now 4 weeks old), against Blue Tongue, as well as ear tag the lambs, in a hope that we can match lambs to ewes.
The original plan had been to separate all the lambs from the ewes, vaccinate, weigh and ear tag them. Let them go and see which ewe they went to. But as always the sheep had other ideas. In the end Tim caught the lambs, I jabbed and gave them all nice blue ear rings, in the form of ear tags and then put them into the lamb weigh to record their weights. This is where Mrs R.V became know as the Mad Scribing Woman, as she had the clip board, recording all ear tag numbers, weights and hopefully which lamb belonged to which ewe. It sort of worked. Once we had done all 36 lambs, we had a break as Phillippa arrived to help out.
Whilst injecting and weighing the ewes we noticed that Brazil was starting to "rue" her fleece, so we kept her back and Phillippa and I very carefully peeled her fleece back, only occasionally having to snip away at the fleece in one or two areas. As you can see below she looks a different sheep and because the fleece is "rued" it leave a very short covering of fleece on the sheep, so she won't be as cold as if she'd been sheared in the conventional way. A couple of the other Shetlands are starting to "rue", so I shall watch them carefully to see if I'm able to peel off their fleeces

After lunch we took the spare Blue Tongue Vaccine over to Phillippa's to inject her 7 sheep. Whilst her sheep were penned up she took the opportunity to get the shearer to come and give her small flock a quick hair cut. I wrapped the fleeces and I have to say her Cheviot X fleece is beautiful. This was followed by an excellent tea sat out in the garden. It finished off a hectic day very nicely.
With regards to the ewe's weights, I did a comparison of what the ewes weighed just before we put the tup in, back in November, to what they weigh now, after lambing and I'm pleased to say that all have put on weight, on average 4kgs. Only Missy is down on her November weight, but we suspected that when she went down with twin lamb disease. Even old Lucy has stayed the same weight. It just goes to prove how much that extra feed has helped the ewes through the winter, and now that we have a good supply of grass, they should continue to gain some weight. This is when good record keeping comes into it's own

A week of dyeing and wrapping

I duly ordered the extra fibre from my supplier on Monday and it arrived in a large box on Wednesday. So every night this week (and for a few more weeks to come) I've been dyeing 500gms of the alpaca tops/rovings. I may not seem a lot, but over the week it's 2 - 3 kgs and then I've had to ball and label it all. Thankfully this weekend, the Resident Vandal and partner (now known as the mad scribing woman), were here for the weekend. Whilst RV and Tim got on with some concreting on Saturday, we balled and labelled the 4kgs of camel, 1kg of salmon pink, dusky pink and rainbow dyed alpaca tops. The dining table had a huge wall of fibre on it as we piled the balls of tops onto it. Some bright spark did suggest that we play "Fleece Jengo" with the wall as a fun way of packing it into their respective bags!!!!!! Still need to dye another kilo of purple, hot pink, and moss green (if I can remember the recipe) as well as 4kgs of rainbow and it's only 35 days to Woolfest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday 17 May 2009

Great day at Stocksfield Guild Fibre Day

Phillippa and I left early on Saturday morning with the truck very well packed with brightly coloured fibre, for a 2 hour drive to Stocksfield Community Hall. When we arrived a small army of ladies helped us unpack the truck and made us both a warm drink. We hardly seemed to get our fibre out on the stall when we were surrounded by a hoard of ladies wanting to buy. Just before lunch we seemed to have a lull and we were able to draw breath and have a bit of a look round at the other stalls. Fellow smallholders Richard and Steph were there, so I was able to have a quick chat and find out the latest on their new calf "Tommy" as in "Little White Bull" fame, and his mum. I also had a good look at the interesting yarns the Threshing Barn had bought and two of the guild ladies were waring amazing lacy knitted scarves, the yarn being spun on a drop spindle. Drop spindling is a skill I'm determined to master, one day!!!!
By 3 o'clock both our fibre stocks had been greatly decreased, I'm so glad I took Phillippa's advice and dyed another kilo of Rainbow alpaca roving, and we were absolutely shattered.
Packing the truck to go home took very little time and we have an invite to go back next year.
Sat in our kitchen at 6 o'clock last night we both suddenly realised that Woolfest is 6 weeks away and we both have greatly reduced fibre stocks. We are going to be "mad dyeing women" over the next few weeks. But before I can start dyeing, first thing tomorrow morning I will be ringing my fibre supplier for 11kgs of Alpaca tops, 4kgs of camel tops and some Yak down, followed by some very busy evenings over a dye pot.
Despite the extra work going to Stocksfield has created, it was such great fun and that's what selling fibre is all about, if I didn't want the extra work, I wouldn't work on selling my fibre.
Next weekend is the Bank Holiday, the Resident Vandal will be here to help us ear tag the lambs and Blue Tongue all the sheep.

He was only meant to take the shelves out!!!!!!!!!

As we had got some new bookcases for the room we call the "office", the shelving units we had been using to store books and other stuff on, one is to go into the garage, the other into the under stairs cupboard, with a little modification, which Tim did. On Monday he was to take the selves out of the under stairs cupboard. An easy job!!!!!!
At lunchtime on Monday Tim rang me to say that the selves were out, but in the process the render had come off the walls and he was now in the process of taking it off the other wall, so that he could replaster the walls!!!!!! How he intended to do that, he was unsure, but he was going to think about it!!!!
By Friday, he'd dry lined the cupboard, using the plasterboard left over from the renovation work we've had done, and on Saturday he was going to start to skim the walls. But by then his left hand was aching quite badly so he's been resting it over the weekend. He's hoping to get it all finished this week, but to be honest, I'm not worried if it takes a little longer as he needs to work to the pace that his hand will allow.
To his credit Tim has done a good job with the plasterboard, especially patching it all up and considering what happened 5 months ago, it's amazing that he's been able to do it at all.
Latest update on Tim's hand is that he's now been discharged from the Hand Therapist, or as Tim says "The Hand Terrorist has expelled him!!! It's now down to him to keep doing the exercises and keep using it (I don't think she meant plastering), and we see the consultant again at the beginning of July.

Sunday 10 May 2009

A very windy week

Not a lot has happened this week, I'm now back at work full time and so any jobs I need to do get done when I get home on an evening. Tim has managed to feed the sheep a couple of nights this week for me (due to a trip to Birmingham and London), all be it spread the feed along the floor rather than try and scoop it into the feed troughs, but who cares, the sheep have been fed. But it has been very windy here, and at time quite cold the ewes and their lambs have been keeping to the low areas in the paddocks.
Yesterday I had great plans of working in the veg garden, but a nasty migraine put paid to that, thankfully today I feel a whole lot better and we gave Fraya and Finn their second Heptovac injection and a drench of wormer. We also weighed them and over the past 7 weeks they have put on 10 and 11kgs respectively. We also moved last years ram lambs to the Alpaca's summer paddock as it needs eating down before Ghilli and Grommet move in, and as we had to move them past the barn, we took the opportunity to weigh them all. It's 2 months since we last weighed them and most have put on 8kgs with 3 putting on over 10kgs!! They are looking fit and well and so I shall be booking them into the abattoir at the end of this month. With weighing the sheep frequently we should be able to identify if we have another worm problem, as we did last year. But looking at the weights of last year's ram lambs, we should have some good lambs to go through the mart at the back end of this year/early next. Good for the old cash flow.
I did manage to spend some time in the veg garden planting out the dwarf french bean plants. Some of the potatoes are starting to show, so when I next cut the grass, I will cover them with the cuttings, also the beetroot, parsnip and onions are also starting to show. As a downside so are the weeds so I will have to get out their with my hoe.
It's going to be a busy week as I'm due to help out with Dave and Jo's farm club on Wednesday and then I need to get everything ready for Stocksfield on Saturday, as it will be an early start for myself and Phillippa that morning. Will let you all know how it went next week.

Monday 4 May 2009

Bank Holiday Weekend

It's been a typical bank holiday, weather wise, sun, wind and and today, rain.
On Saturday, we managed to get another deep bed in the area we now call the "Allotment"
The bed farthest away has been in since the autumn and is planted up with second early and salad potatoes. The bed at the front I rotovated to break up the grass and soil and have now stared to fork it over to take out the weeds in readiness to plant out the veg plants growing in the greenhouse.
You may just be able to see in the above photo, an area of grass that has been cut. This is where 4 more beds are to go. I've just got to rotovate the area. You may also have noticed that the beds are offset. The reason for this is when the next 4 beds are in, the allotment is to be fenced, so that the sheep can eat the grass around the outside of the veg beds, which means that the bed with the potatoes in is going to be right next to the fence, where as the one in front will have a path in front of the fence. So the back bed will have to be moved once the potatoes are dug out!!!!

As today was such a cold and windy day, I've split my time between doing the accounts for the year end to send to the "bean counter" and labelling up rovings for Woolfest in a couple of months time. This photo shows the bags of fleece/fibre all labelled up in readiness, stored in the old hayloft above the garage, my own fibre store area. I'm at the point of, "have I got enough stock" or "have I got too much" and "how on earth am I going to pack it all into the back of the truck"!!!!!!!!
I'm extending my range of rovings this year with the introduction of some baby camel rovings, which are so beautifully soft and fine, Corridale rovings, Shetland, Jacob and Blue Faced Leicester humbug rovings, as well as dying a load of alpaca rovings. So a whole load of new stuff for people to look at and and hopefully, buy!!!
On the 16th May I will be taking some of my fibre to the Tynedale Guild of WS&D Spinners Gathering with Phillippa of Wheeldale Woolcrafts, so hopefully I will see how my new lines sell.
Well that's another Bank Holiday gone, the next one is in 3 weeks time, let's hope we have a much warmer one.

New photos of the lambs

Since some of the lambs are getting on for a month old I thought I'd post a couple of photos taken today.
As you can see, one or two of the lambs are starting to turn brown from their original back colour
And some are beginning to look very big. The Jacob tup in with the Corridale ewes is looking like a good cross

But now look how big Frea and Finn are, one of our friends has christened them "The Cray Twins".