Friday, January 28, 2011

Jeremy's First Socks

Just thought I'd post this...

I finished these in record time, starting them only two days ago.
Feelin' pretty good about them too.

Safe Space Kit funding

I don't generally get political, or even that opinionated on my blog, but this seems worth the few clicks it takes to help out. If GLSEN received funding for their project, they would provide kits to 10,000 schools that would help educate staff and assist schools in providing safe, understanding and bully-free zones for LGBT youth.

Knitting two socks on two sets of double pointed needles

Yes, you read that correctly.

There has been a lot of hype over the past few years about knitting multiple things at the same time on circular knitting needles. Two socks on one circular needle, Two socks on two circular needles, two hats, two sweater sleeves, two tea cozies... I'm fascinated by the idea, but I own no circular needles that would work for this. I decided to remedy this by stopping at a craft shop the other day, and it turns out they don't carry any sock-sized circular needles at all. Ever. Lame!

So I begrudgingly figured what the heck. I bought another pair of size three double pointed needles and went home to do things my own way. I really do hate knitting one sock and then trying to decipher my notes to figure out what I did the first time in order to replicate it for the second sock. It's a pain, writing the notes is a pain, admitting defeat and embracing two very different socks is a pain...

Two days ago I began knitting two socks, on two separate sets of needles. I knitted the cuff, 8 rows K2P1 rib, and then I knitted the other cuff, 8 rows K2P1 rib. I knitted the ankle 4.5" and then knitted the other ankle... etc. Not only do I have an easier time making two similar socks (note I didn't say "identical"), but I just finished turning the heels of the socks and it's far more satisfying to have two done than one. When I finish the first sock, it will simply be a matter of decreasing for the second toe, kitchener stitching and Hooray! Two socks!

You can keep your "new and improved" methods for now. I don't mind owning a few duplicate sets of sock needles if that's what I have access to. Okay, okay. I'll probably get around to purchasing those circular needles at some point...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sheep in the Snow

Ingrid looking statuesque and regal.

We've been hit with another snow storm, but this one is more a gentle blanketing than a harried attack. The snow has been falling in large fluffy clumps for hours, and at times you can barely see the trees in the windbreak out front. As the dusk wrapped the snowy world in blue, I set down my knitting and ventured out with my camera (battery finally recharged) to put the sheep in for the night.

My fuzzy Icelandic beasts generally stay under cover when it's snowy, but usually the snow is more of a pelting fury, accompanied by howling winds out of the North. This evening it is quiet, and a cozy warm 28°F so the sheep have been lolling around in the barnyard, allowing themselves to be gently coated in powdery snow, iced like fuzzy little cookies....

what? I've been in front of the fire for too long... :)

This last photo is proof for Laura and Rick over at Queso Cabeza that Ingrid
is really learning to trust me, and readily takes treats from my hands now :)

There's a certain Slant of light,

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons --
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes --

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are --

None may teach it -- Any --
'Tis the Seal Despair --
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air --

When it comes, the Landscape listens --
Shadows -- hold their breath --
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death --
Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Improv Recipe: Baked Apples

I thought in order to embrace the warm cozy feeling in the house this morning I would share a few photos of the current events. Harrison is snuggled up with our collie mix, Basil, I have just finished putting a button back on Jeremy's coat, and we have baked apples to enjoy for breakfast.

While chatting online with my mother earlier I had this strange lightning-strike urge to make baked apples. What's strange is that I've never baked apples before, and even more strange is that I've never even eaten a baked apple before! I quickly googled a few recipes and after scanning them a bit I decided this is ridiculous, how hard can a baked apple be?

I quickly scanned my cupboards for whatever seemed appropriate and within fifteen minutes, Jeremy and I were sitting down to steaming hot, crispy baked apples! Success? Definitely.

A Very Vague Recipe for Baked Apples

  • 1 Apple
  • a bit of cold, hard butter (tablespoonish?) cut into small bits
  • dollop of preserves (I used apricot - could substitute maple or apple butter!)
  • handful of cereal (I used granola, but I'd expect anything would be good!)
  • sprinkling of flour
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • cinnamon to taste
  • maple syrup to taste
  • (a teensy bit of brown sugar if you like things sweet)

Halve your apple and dig out the core out of both halves with a spoon to create a hole for the filling (you can adjust the size of this hole to your liking!) Then use lemon juice to roughly coat any exposed area of apple. This adds a great tartness and helps it crisp and brown a bit later.

Combine the cereal/grain, flour and cinnamon. Toss with bits of hard butter. I think I added a teensy bit of brown sugar here too, but depending on your maple syrup you really don't need it.

Place a decent sized dollop of preserves in the hole. If the stem from the core made an actual hole through the apple, this dollop should help seal the hole to keep the melting butter from escaping.

Fill the rest of the holes with the cereal mixture, heaping it well over the top of the apple halves, and place apples in a microwave and oven safe dish. Dress with maple syrup to taste.

Add a half inch of water in the bottom of the dish to help steam the apples while heating. Heat in microwave on high for 4-6 minutes, until butter is melted and cereal mixture looks moist (no crumbly flour on top).

Remove from microwave and place in toaster oven. Toast on high, and check. Depending on your taste, they may need to be toasted for slightly longer. You can do the toasting in an oven as well (400ºF, 10 minutes or so), but it's not as energy efficient.

Serve and enjoy!
Makes 2 servings.

If you're serving this as a dessert, you could add a dollop of vanilla icecream, or unsweetened whipped cream.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Suggested Garden and Farm Blogs

My job as a horseback riding instructor means that on a winter-weekly basis I have contact with 25+ students. Nearly all of these students attend school with other kids their age, and the ones that are home-schooled actually all have parents who are school teachers. This huge web of social contact brings a lot of stories, laughs and fun times. We have a great community, and nearly all of my students know each other either through exposure at the barn or through other local organizations. We're closely knit, and oddly enough (especially with the amount of estrogen in this equation) there is very little drama and gossip. The huge drawback to this close community comes once or twice a year when various flu-seasons are upon us, and this is certainly the time of year for mid-winter head colds! I knew it was coming. Every day, at least one student would cancel, or even come to their lesson feeling less than well. I tried to wash well, to not touch my face, but to be polite and professional I had to restrain myself from running away whenever a child started sniffling.

Yesterday began with a tickle.

Today I intend to stay in my wool union suit, tucked into a ball of fleece blankets by the fire. I'm a wimp when it comes to the first day or so of being sick. I'm sure tomorrow I'll be exerting myself beyond good measure, hauling wood and working horses again. Today, however, I reserve the right to be a whiney grouch.

In the process of doing nothing today, I have managed to find a few great new blogs to follow, as well as the few I've already been following. I figured it might be a good day to share them in case anyone else is stuck in a ball of blankets with a box of tissues.

  • Chiot's Run is by far my favorite blog at the moment. It's author, Susy, is from Ohio and she is a fantastic writer and photographer. The best part about this blog is that Susy is in the same gardening zone as I am and she gets much of the same weather, so many of her posts I can directly relate to.

  • Fast Grow the Weeds is another localish blog that I follow regularly. El doesn't update as often as she used to, but when she does it's usually worth the wait. She raises goats, makes cheese, and has built a beautiful outdoor oven. Her blog is full of wonderful photographs as well.

  • Mack Hill Farm is a blog from New Hampshire, local to my parents in Keene. Again, it's nice to read about things I can relate to. I read here to find out just what the weather has been up to in the fickle area of southern NH. Mack Hill also raises Icelandic Sheep, as well as several other species, and I have chatted a bit with Lisa over there to learn more about the wonderful species of sheep that I have involved myself with.

  • Plants on Deck is the last of my staple favorites. It is full of wonderful accounts of container gardening for the urban gardener. Since there is a lot of area here where the soil is questionable, I have used this blog as inspiration to container garden - especially when it comes to planting in 5 gallon buckets!

  • Gardening to Preserve is a blog I discovered this morning. I've read quite a bit of it and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The blog is full of recipes for pickling and preserves (hence the name) as well as garden plans and more. There is even an entry about making your own yogurt which really grabbed my attention!

  • Small Wonder Farm is another one I discovered today. I love the crazy pink layout, and while the entries tend to be short they're full of photographs. Maybe I'm just short-attention-spanned, but I really do like to see colorful photographs in a blog.

  • Green Zebra Market Garden is the last of my shared blogs that I discovered today. The author posts a lot of craft centered entries. I haven't delved quite as deeply into this one yet, but so far it seems worth reading regularly!

I admit I borrowed photos from each of these blogs to show a bit of what they're like. If anyone has problems with me posting their photos, please let me know and I will remove them immediately!

What blogs do you regularly follow? Do you prefer instructional blogs, opinion-based blogs or news blogs? Do you personally blog?

Monday, January 24, 2011

A new start for an old horse, sheep in the sun, and a wooly craft

This weekend was absolutely frigid! Jeremy had a comic book event to attend in East Lansing, so I went with him and used this opportunity to visit my friends at Roheryn Farms mere minutes from there. I currently have three horses boarded at Roheryn, on sort of a horsey-vacation for the winter since my lesson program shrinks so drastically during the winter. Two of the horses were active lesson horses, the third, Esme, has basically been stored at Roheryn for the last year. Esme is a very intense horse who, a little over a year ago, was rearing under saddle despite having good teeth and a sound back. I tried several training tactics with her and finally made the decision to sell her. Unfortunately in Michigan the horse market is floundering so terribly that in the end I couldn't even find a home for her for the asking price of $200. I had a few offers, but never from anyone I trusted, and a few from people I outwardly don't trust. I decided to just give it a rest, and I let her sit in a field and get fat for a few months. This weekend I decided it was time to give her a shot again. She is fat, out of shape and her feet are pretty long, but I figured if it went badly I'd know it was time to send her to a horse rescue as I can't afford to keep a non-working horse much longer. Lo and behold, Esme was perfect! We worked for nearly 45 minutes in walk and trot, and she was completely soft, balanced and very receptive to correction which was a huge problem before. I've decided it may be time to bring her back down to Plymouth to see if I can get her working under saddle again. If I can, she'll go back into advanced lessons very very lightly.

Minya says "OMG that's the spot!" while being brushed by Heather. You can't quite see the beauty of her conformation here, especially because she is shoving her back at Heather to be scratched, and she's butt-high, but trust me- she's stunning.

While I was at Roheryn, I visited with Lauren and Heather Shelley's adorable foal who is nearing yearling status. Roheryn's Minya is an adorable bay Arabian filly who has been an incredible improvement on both her Sire and her Dam. It's so much fun to watch her grow, and while she has inherited some of her mother's stubborn personality (that danged mare once bolted after refusing to walk past a puddle and dragged me, running for dear life, for more than 100 yards) she is learning her boundaries and being exposed to lots of things to desensitize her.

Yesterday it was sunny and chilly: Not much warmer than Saturday, and the sheep nestled into their hay and straw, tucked up like little fuzzballs in the low southerly sunshine.

I love to watch them bed down midday in the sun. I always worry when I don't see them right away when I pass their field. Everyone I've spoken to has told me that Icelandics are fantastic at getting out of fences, so naturally I take a second gander if I don't immediately see everybody. They're nearly always sun bathing though, and they always seem irritated when I spoil their afternoon naps. I wonder if I'll ever get comfortable enough to stop checking on them multiple times a day... If I do, that will no doubt be the day they escape... :)

These cold days have been the perfect excuse for me to stay inside and knit. I've been meaning to pick up knitting again but it always seems like there is something else to do. Instead of garden planning however, this weekend I began a pair of simple wool socks. I have yet to finish a pair of socks. I have a few singles, but never a pair. This morning I am determined to finish this pair. (Please disregard the fuzzies all over our couch cushions, haha.)

I'm excited to be able to make my own socks. I like socks to have a tight foot, and I'm not using a pattern, so I can modify my socks however I like.

The yarn I'm using is a wonderful blended wool from The Shearer's Yarn in New Hampshire. I picked it up from a store in Keene while visiting my parents earlier this year. It has more lanolin than most processed yarns and I love to knit with slightly greasy yarn so this was what drew me to it. High lanolin content also makes for good boot socks. My next project will be another pair of socks, this one in a wool/alpaca blend I picked up from a great little yarn shop in Holland, MI called Friends of Wool. Then, after this, I plan to make a thrummed hat out of some handspun wool that I spun a few years ago from roving I picked up in Maine while passing a road-side stand. It was talking to the owner of this stand that drove me to get my own mini flock. She managed her small plot of stony, rocky land and was able to keep several tens of sheep on great pasture through very careful rotation. I was able to learn a lot just by chatting with her, and she really made the possibility of getting my own sheep "real" for me.

Right, this house is cold! I've got to tend to the wood stove, and then back to knitting!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Difference Sunshine Can Make

When I went to start the fire this morning I realized I'd forgotten to empty the ash bin and so I was forced to venture out to scatter our wood ash on a couple of the raised veggie beds that had high acidity due to the peat that I added last fall. It's hard to believe there are raised beds under that snow!

This is the first year I've used ash in the garden. I'll have to start collecting it somewhere (dry) to use after the thaw once I can take more PH readings around the yard. I worry I might use it too liberally and over-alkalinize (not a real word!) my soil.

The pre-sunrise air this morning was a frigid 4º and staring out into the yard from the porch I couldn't help but feel dread in the pit of my stomach at the chill cold that I was about to venture into. The grey cast over everything in site, and the dull, stale snow seemed to be more bleak than usual as I glared out at it.

As the sun peaked over the hill however, the world bloomed into color and the stale snow reflected a sort of warmth across the orchard. I had to stop and photograph the sun hitting various plants, including this evil, evil burdock which lies in wait near the edge of the summer sheep pasture. Don't worry, I will destroy it once it breaks dormancy.

The ducks were particularly wimpy this morning, refusing to leave their net-covered run after I let them out of their coop. Our ducks are finally in their new feathers, and I can no longer tell the difference between them at all without approaching them. Fleur still lets me get close enough to pet her, and Neville is still the most paranoid. By process of elimination I can figure out who's who in the rest of the flock.

Quite the opposite are the sheep. I wish I'd had my camera with me last night when I went to put them in for the night. Gertrude and the ram were standing under cover, and Ingrid was picking over the hay remnants out in the snow, completely blanketed in a thick crust of icy white. It was adorable.

I managed to run some errands today. I ran to the store to get what I need to complete my craft swap with my mother at the end of this month. I also picked up some cedar boards for seed starting trays as inspired by Chiot's Run's photos of trays she purchased on Etsy. My last stop was to the Salem-South Lyon District Library to finally get my library card. I visited Plymouth District Library earlier in the week only to be thwarted by a sneaky township line.

From Salem, I picked up four books. "The Perfect Pumpkin" by Gail Damerow, "Chicken Coops" by Judy Pangman, "Raised-Bed Vegetable Gardening Made Simple" by Raymond Nones, and "The Good Woodcutter's Guide" by Dave Johnson. I figure these will keep me busy for a little while at least. I can't wait to get to Plymouth's library, now that I have my card, to borrow their book on maple sugaring, but that is a trip for another day.

(Also, did you know that radishes interplanted with cucurbitae and allowed to bolt will deter cucumber beetles??? I'm so excited!)

Does anybody out there use their own wood ash in the garden? Do you use it to temper acid soil, or to supply trace minerals?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A few photos to update

Jeremy and I cut almost a whole cord of wood yesterday, which for us is pretty fantastic. We're big-time newbies to wood, but we've been given access to the fallen ash trees around the house of the barn manager and so we've got a lot of work ahead of us!

After cutting our wood, I came home and put on my new slippers! I bought these with a gift certificate from my mother-and-step-father-inlaw at REI and they're great! They're smartwool (I bought them on sale) and very durable, as well as warm and wooly inside. The best part is that they're machine washable.

Basil is so bummed to have to stay indoors while Connor plays outside. I've decided that walking Basil after she's been cooped up is like trying to walk a unicorn on a leash. She leaps, bucks, squeaks, spins, flips... it's amazing!

It feels as if we've made it over winter's great hump. The few birds that are around are singing their sweetest songs, and I saw/heard a mystery warbler yesterday in it's winter garb. Of course there was no hope of identifying it while it's dressed in drab browns and greys, but the sight was enough to lift my spirits. We are more than halfway through the cold season. I am allowed to be excited for spring, even if it is weeks and weeks away.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Puppy Toes and Winter Woes

Well, Michigan pulled a u-turn yesterday and warmed up to a bizarre and misty 39°. It was like the world around me was tossing and turning in it's wintery nap. Birds were singing songs reserved for spring, melted snow was pouring off the house and the horses were sweaty and hot after just minimal work. I'll admit there was a part of me that reveled in pretending it was early spring, despite knowing that today's high would plummet back into the teens.

With the strange weather came lots and lots of ice. The puppies love to play in the snow every morning and it never occurred to me that the snow would be icy when I took them out. We played for a while in the drippy, slushy, icy mess and then headed back up to the house. When Jeremy got up, he too took the dogs out but quickly returned. Basil had cut herself on (what we think was) the ice and was bleeding pretty badly. When we got her in the house and settled down, I found she had sliced into the pad on the back of her leg where the dew claw is. It was cut cleanly, and after a trip to the local drug store I managed to get it cleaned and bandaged. The location was a tough one, and I'm sure there was no way a vet could have stitched it so we settled for a soak in betadine and an application of EMT.

At first, we put the E-collar on her but it was obvious that she was pretty depressed by it and after a series of sighs and puppy-dog-eyes I took the collar off on a trial run. She quickly began to nibble on her bandage so I had to put it back on. Poor babe.

In the middle of the night, however, she discovered a way to get the collar off and I found her this morning, happily tromping around the house, bandage completely untouched. She hasn't touched it yet, so we're thinking that unless we have to leave her for any reason we will let her be collar free.

According to some reading I've done, an injury like this should heal in a week and a half. After only a night of healing time though it had a nice healthy scab across the wound and was looking very un-irritated. Until she heals, however, she is on leash arrest, and for a collie/german shepherd this is a huge bummer.

It wasn't until after we got Basil all bandaged up and the floor scrubbed that I realized there were new bloody paw prints appearing all over the kitchen floor! The source? Poor Connor. He has one toenail that he split and had to have partially removed a few years ago, and he had torn it off again. That darned ice! I soaked his foot in betadine and it had stopped bleeding in a matter of minutes. I can't believe my puppies are so well behaved. I administered a quick, harsh word when he licked it the first time, and he hasn't touched it since.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Grandfather's Nose

After reading and commenting on the daily blogpost over at Chiot's Run I thought I would post something similar here. Chiot's Run posted photos of her nieces and nephew playing in the snow, and talked about favorite seasonal memories.

My favorite seasonal memory is of my my grandfather. We would visit my grandparents every Christmas when I was a kid, and it was common for us to all go on a family walk after a very prompt noon lunch. My aunts would come, as would my parents, and my grandparents. My mother would tote my brother along for a while but often he would end up trailing behind with my grandmother and myself. We would hike up through the woods or across the corn fields, and as a kid I was always trying desperately to catch up. Hopping through the snow, and frequently complaining early-on of being tired (often rescued by my grandmother who would turn back with my brother and myself).

It is by sheer luck that I stumbled across this photo of my mother and aunt going for a walk at my grandparents' old house.

My grandfather would always be up ahead with my mother and her sisters. He was the leader, the real outdoorsy one, briskly walking while managing to relish in the forest around him. Any time I could catch up to them they would hush me because they were watching for birds. They taught me the various winter woodpeckers, the silly songbirds that neglected to migrate, and the seasonal visiters like the Junco.

My very specific favorite memory is that my grandfather, due the cold and nose-hair-freezing temperatures, would always have this little drip of frozen snot at the end of his nose. He had a very rounded sort of old-man-type nose, but something about it's shape leant to the gathering of snot and condensation at the tip in a perfect little droplet.

Sometimes he would quickly blow through his mouth and the drip would fly off into the unknown, but within moments it would be back again. It never grossed me out, it just amazed me that he was always so caught up in what he was doing, whether it was bird watching, testing the ice on the skating pond, or walking to the track to exercise his race horses, that he would never wipe it away. I understand now that the gesture would have been futile; his nose would have produced another droplet for him to wipe within moments.

Whenever he was outdoors he was focused beyond caring about the drip of snot precariously perched at the tip of his Harrison-nose. I can still picture his knit red hat, folded up to balance at the back of his head in a way I always associate with fishermen. Of course the hat on the back of his head comes to mind quickly, as his agile pace often left me a few paces behind. He always walked with balance and assurance and I would try, in my grouchy-little-kid-way, to mimick in order to seem like I was less of a wimp. Even today I find myself mimicking his poise in an effort to trick myself into believe I am as nimble in the snow as he was.

He was and is an intense and astounding rolemodel, and has shaped me immensely, and I am eternally grateful to have known him.

Who are/were the rolemodels in your life and how have they shaped you? Did they shape you more as a child, or do they continue to influence you?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cutting Firewood

Until yesterday, Jeremy and I had been getting firewood from our close friends over at Roheryn Farms. They'd been awesome enough to share their felled maples with us as a wedding gift and we have heated our house thus far using their wood. Unfortunately the last few trees that have been available have been difficult for us to burn. They heat their house (it's open, loft style) with their fireplace and due the the high oxygen access the wood was no problem for them. Our house is heated with our wood stove, so heating with a wood that requires quite a bit of oxygen is pretty much out of the question. The wood seems dry and seasoned, but refuses to catch and burn for long.

On a bit of a calculated whim, Jeremy and I went out yesterday and bought a chainsaw. We owned a Poulan a couple of years ago and the thing never worked right. Ever. The chain would run constantly, even when Idling and even with the idle adjusted. Eventually I decided the machine scared the crap out of me and lost interest in it. It wasn't until we were down to a days worth of wood that I realized we could take our savings (previously geared toward buying a Wii fit - but what's more fit than cutting wood?) and buy a new one that was a better brand and likely not as scarily possessed.

I researched a few brands, and asked several seasoned farm-type-folk and it seems like in our area the Husqvarnas are really the top of the home-owner chain saw brands. So we bought a mid-level Husqvarna and tromped out to the horse farm where an ash tree fell two years ago and stood, propped against it's other previously fallen mate. It seemed perfect to test the new toy on since it had been down for at least two years, dead for longer (a victim of the emerald ash borer) and it was propped the whole time above the ground to keep it from rotting. There are a LOT of ash trees like this out in the woods, but this one was actually in my horses' field so I figured it would be worthwhile to pull it out of there (though they really do enjoy chewing on it during the winter).

We made quick work of the easy stuff, cutting 12-18 inch lengths for the wood stove. I had opted for the 16" arm on the chainsaw rather than the 18". Initially I'd planned on the longer arm, but after discovering that the 18" was roughly seven pounds heavier than the 16" I decided it was worth it to buy one that was easy to use rather than more versatile. If we ever really need a big one we'll invest in the Farm Boss or just rent one. I know myself well enough to know that if I buy one that is heavy and difficult to use, it'll just sit on a shelf and I'll buy wood. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sheep-3, Hay Barn-0

The ram's nose is covered in hay chaff, and he is a happy boy.

So the sheep got into the hay barn again yesterday, numbering their mischievous-expeditions at three now. I am always amazed at how quickly they can demolish a bay of hay. Not eat it, per say, just stomp and tramp and tromp it until it's barely recognizable. They know now when they hear me coming that if they're in the hay barn they'd better hightail it out of there. It's funny to see them hop over one another to escape the haybarn as I roar at them and flail my arms.

Of course after chasing them out of the barn they're content to nibble on the hay I gave them in their feeder.

One of the bonuses to living in the country is that even if your neighbors do see you they tend not to judge, or if they do, who cares? They're country neighbors. I've been known to run outside in my union suit to grab firewood, to chase down predators in nothing but my small clothes, and to even on occasion take winter water to my ducks in my bare feet. I don't mind if they judge me. I could use a little judgment in my life.

The badgerface ram is still small next to Ingrid, but he's catching up!

I was looking at photographs of when the sheep first arrived, this morning. The size difference between the ram and ewe lambs and Ingrid was really comical. Now, while Ingrid is still beastly next to them, they at least look like they're the same breed! I can't wait for lambing season this spring. Almost equally as exciting, I can't wait for shearing season!

Gertrude's super-soft fleece puts the others' to shame!

Ingrid's fleece speaks of many years lambing, and she totally deserves to have a course fleece at eight years old. The ram's fleece is typical as well, not terribly soft, but not so course as to be discarded. Gertrude however has grown the softest fleece I've handled in a long while. It could just be that I'm out of practice, but even if that's the case I still cannot wait to run my hands through her freshly shorn fleece. It has spring, and a bit of crimp, while remaining soft and silky. In my opinion it's the perfect fleece for mid-layer garments. Not quite next-to-skin soft for the average non-wool-loving person, but definitely soft enough for garments for me! I love the scritch-scratch of wool on my skin, whether it leaves me a bit itchy or not. I love the smell of wool in the grease, clean or not, and I love love love to spin it that way! My hope is that my mother will be in town for shearing this spring. We may attempt it ourselves since I intend to keep the fleeces myself. Ingrid's may be mixed with something a bit less abrasive, but Gertrude's I intend to spin in-the-grease, on it's own, and for myself... mwahahaha

I couldn't help but post one final photo of Harrison curled up on a blanket last night. I have only seen three mice since he became official mouser, and they have all been in his mouth! He is a seriously fantastic mouser as we have had less than half the winter mouse problems this year than we have in previous years.

Winter Photographs

We've had quite a bit of snow over the past few days. It started with a dusting, but we're up to 8" now which is just enough to make photographing it worthwhile.

Pre Sunrise looking up toward the farmer's storage shed.

Post sunrise looking out into the orchard with the snow lining the tree boughs.

The puppies love to drag their toys into the orchard and lose them in the snow.
Spring will be like Christmas for them as the snow melts and they discover things lost for months.

There's nothing quite like a trail ride in a low point of a snow storm to make one truly appreciate the winter season.

Alas, my poor garden gloves (won over at Chiot's Run) lie patiently awaiting the spring.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Before the Sunrise

This past weekend I ran some extra-long horseback riding lessons (camp-style) for some students. They were given by their parents as Christmas gifts in most cases, and while it does help to have this kind of activity during the winter to keep us from having to eat ramen noodles all season, I was dreading spending that kind of time out in the cold.

It ended up being pretty awesome once we got going. I had hot cocoa for the kids and aside from an occasional complain-y kid with cold fingers or toes (and one who wore riding boots instead of winter boots) everything went very smoothly and the kids had a great time. I ended up spending eight hours at the farm on Saturday and another nine on Sunday, so today was going to be my sleep in day... except all of that physical activity from the weekend has reawakened my inner-earlybird, the part of me that usually hibernates this time of year. I am pretty sorely affected by the shortened days. Whether it's "SAD" or just Gardener's withdrawl, I have no idea, but I do know that I'll spend days sitting around, depressed by the thought of anything other than just sleeping off the winter like a bad hangover.

This morning I practically sprung from my bed. It as grey, and pre-sunrise, and I found myself stretching and preparing for a run without even thinking about it. Before I knew it I was running the trail around the orchard listening to Iron & Wine with Calexico (In the Reins). I was more energetic and motivated than I have been since mid-October, and I found myself even more energized after the run. I did morning chores with a skip in my step, and split the rest of the wood in our diminishing pile (we're getting another cord+ of unsplit this evening). It wasn't until I got back up to the house that I realized the sun wasn't even peaking over the trees yet.

After all of this I thought I'd come in a relax and write up a blogpost, but I still had energy so I decided it was time to reintroduce myself to yoga, something I haven't done since early college. After an hour of yoga, I find myself curled up to a fantastic fire, un-daunted by the tasks ahead of me today and considerably more positive than I've been in weeks.

Apparently staying active is the best way for me to fight Season Affective Disorder, or Gardener's Withdrawl, or whatever it is that brings me so thoroughly down this time of year. Plus, after the yoga, my back has been in less pain than it has in months (less even than when I was adjusted by my friend-the-chiropractor).

I'm hoping to start getting some more input on my blog here. According to my blogstats I have many, many lurkers :)

How do you stay occupied during the winter? How do you cope with shorter days and less sunlight?