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Monday, April 29, 2013

Ponyo Soup and other oddities

On those days I just don't know what to make for dinner, Ponyo Soup is a favorite request.

Haven't seen "Ponyo" the movie? It is a lovely Japanese anime movie by studio Ghibli that Disney has somehow picked up the rights to distribute. It is very sweet and the mum in the movie makes this soup that is basically doctored up ramen noodles. Good in a pinch!

Busy this past week and into this week as well.... Had a relaxing and productive weekend doing chores around the farm. Spent a few hours at the field down the road where the alpacas will spend the summer trying to figure out where their pasture fencing should be placed.

This is a screen shot from Google Earth. If I was smart and knew how to draw on the photo I would do so but I'm not and you will have to figure it out verbally instead of visually. The top of the photo is north (handy eh?). We will fence in two fields which may be further split up. The first will be on the west side of the photo adjacent to the tree line and between it and the island of trees. It will be approximately two acres. There would be afternoon shade there in the summer.

See that finger running from the east side through the center? That is a depression in the field where there is a bit of a draw and it is slightly wet in the spring and the trees are apples and crabapples. The property owners would love to have animals in there to graze because haying equipment can't get in there and the grass "goes to waste" there. That area is approximately 5 acres. Bought three rolls of field fence today and need to pick up a bunch of posts and then we will start fencing in the west pasture splitting up both labor and funding. We still need to pick up a couple of portable shelters too. We also may be able to buy the hay off of this land if we can arrange the haying...checking into that.

We are on lamb watch! First possible lambing date is this Friday so I've spent much time looking at sheep vulvas wondering who goes first.....excited! In the midst of lambs the alpaca shearer comes (May 10th) which should be an adventure as we've no idea what to expect. Then the sheep shearer comes the end of the month and hopefully everyone is done lambing.

Busy work week too; climate change conference three days this week in Sault Ste. Marie (Michigan side), downstate today, and off part of Friday to take Mr. Gingerpants to the vet for a urine culture (oh joy).


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The CSA Movement Goes Fiber

I had this post on the farm's Facebook page today.....I'm pretty excited that they included our farm on this map! It is a really interesting article too.
"Just wanted to let you know that, a nationwide directory of yarn places and events, is running a feature article today on CSA fiber farms, and Spinner's End is included on our nationwide map (see link at end of article):

Have a great day!"

The CSA Movement Goes Fiber: Buying a Share of the Shearing

kindred  spirit farm csa
Materials from Kindred Spirit Farm, Spring Valley, MN

So in my last few posts, I’ve been talking about my longing to connect with the animal behind the yarn. I’ve been researching alpaca shows, shearing festivals and farm tours as ways to do this. I’ve found lots of wonderful events along the way, but the events come and go, and my longing for alpaca continues. Well, yesterday, I came across something that may just provide city and suburban dwellers like myself a more permanent fix–participation in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) fiber farm.

Many of you are probably familiar with the CSA movement in food. Typically, a farmer offers “shares” in his harvest in the late winter or early spring. The money raised through the sale of shares helps the farmer plant, cultivate and harvest his crop. Once the crops are harvested, the shareholder is given a share of the produce. For the consumer, it is a way to eat fresh and local, and to support area farmers. There are over 600 CSAs in the US .

Recently, the CSA movement has begun to take hold with fiber farmers. It works on the same principle. Shares are offered prior to spring or fall shearing. After the shearing or “clip”, share holders receive a portion of the fiber- either in its raw form, or as processed batts, roving, or yarn.  Additional perks often involve an invitation to shearing day, family farm visits, and the opportunity to help out on the farm.

Although the specifics vary from farm to farm, a share generally costs between $100 and $200 and buys you a percentage of the clip. At Juniper Moon Farm in Palmyra, Virginia, a share costs $175. The number of shareholders is limited so that each one gets a “bountiful” supply. After the shearing, the fleece is sent to a mill and made into yarn, then divided among the shareholders. Spinners can opt to receive a “spinner’s share” in roving rather than yarn.

At some farms, shareholders can identify the specific animal and type of product they want. At Creekside Acres Farm, in Pleasant Valley, NY, investors can buy  “sponsored” shares for $50 more than the standard share, and choose a specific animal for their fleece.

Mike has made a terrific Yarn and Fiber CSA Map for us, with information about each farm and a link to their websites. There are 41 yarn and fiber CSAs across the country. See if there’s one near you!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Color Therapy

I've been doing some colorful dyeing to chase away the blues....

 This colorway I am calling "Lake Superior".
 The colors reminded me of Lake Superior on a hot bright summer's day;
 When the lake is so inviting that you just have to have a little dip....

...and you come up in varying shades of blue with your veins popping from the cold.

This colorway is "spring flowers"

 because April snow showers bring May flowers...
 Or so we are hoping.

Because if we don't have hope, we have eternal winter!

These colorful braids of fine Merino Wool are available in my Etsy shop. 
There are four ounces per braid.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Hedwig came to us from the Luce County Animals Shelter in 2001,
where she was abandoned as a youngish cat.  
We got her soon after the death of our big fat fluffy Aggie who was an endearing calico lap cat, who loved to sneeze thick green cat snot on the walls and legs of the table.
I was hoping to get another lap cat, and I was disappointed, because that was not Hedwig's way.

 Lila and Hedwig both at crawling stage

Both of them always liked boxes!

 Hedwig loved to lay on top of everything; backpacks....

Nice clean carded wool....

Imported expensive wool....

 Sometimes it is good to be inside too.

I learned to love Hedwig, not because she was always underfoot and on my lap but because she was always there...somewhere where you least expected it (though it was easy to guess where she was if wool was out!)

Hedwig liked to sit on the bathroom scale.  She was ten pounds for a very long time, until she started to have renal failure and slowly began to lose weight.  

We thought a couple of weeks ago she was on her way out, but she rallied and got really excited about some new canned cat food.  She was fussy so she ate whatever she wanted, including the occasional dab of ice cream and turkey cotto salami.  She loved to clean out everyone's ice cream bowl!

Hedwig collapsed on Wednesday evening and I held her throughout the night so she wouldn't die alone. 
 She purred while I held her and when the kids gave her pats and kisses goodnight.  She didn't want to go though and after a few seizures at night she could only move her eyes but refused to die.  She and I went to our local vet where she was finally put out of her misery...and I was able to hold her the entire time.
She will always hold a special place in our memories, this cat who captured our aching hearts.

Sam has a funeral planned for spring...
he wants her to be buried under an apple tree so the blossoms can fall on top of her.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Back to "Normal"

Ginger came home on Satuday and life is slowly getting back to "normal" for him. He has a new expensive canned food diet which he isn't overfond of and some narcotics I had to sign my life away for which he also doesn't like. He does however appreciate getting back to work on his naps in the green chair.
He has been working hard to perfect these naps and over time I'm sure he with have it pegged.
After all, if you bother to do something you should give it your all.
"Bugger off and leave me alone! Quit following me to the litterbox to see if I've peed!
And WHERE are my crunchy cat kibbles???"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Saving Ginger

Ginger, our lovely fluffy cantankerous and singular cat, is not feeling well.  That is a bit of an understatement actually.  Ginger came to us in the spring of 2010 as a young stray.  You can read about his introduction into the household here.  Long story short, Lila asked Santa for a kitten for Christmas that year and it was serendipity that Ginger entered our lives when he did.  He is not a lap type of cat; he loves to play rough sinking his claws into your hand and giving you a bite and then licking you while purring.  He is very independent but will come looking for some love when he wants it or wants to share his.

Two days ago he was not feeling himself and was hiding in unusual places and yowling, crying piteously.  I assumed that on one of his soujourns he ate something he shouldn't have and thought maybe he would sleep it off.  Yesterday morning, he did seem improved in mood and was moving around a bit more.  But, when he walked he was all hunched up and in pain and I wondered if he had been hit by a car.  I said goodbye and went to work where I spent much of my time in a meeting.  As soon as it was over I called the vet who said to rush him in because it sounded like he had a blockage.  I zoomed home, collected the cat that Will kindly found and stuffed in the carrier for me, and rushed to the vets who was an hour and fifteen minutes away from my original location at work.

He didn't want to come out of the box and had to be pulled. As the vet pulled him out he peed....bloody urine.  She palpated his abdomen and felt a baseball sized full bladder and diagnosed a urinary obstruction likely caused by crystals precipitated in the urine and plugging the urethra.  She said when the bladder is fully blocked that death occurs within 72 hours due to the poisons in the system that aren't excreted through the urine.  She quickly outlined the options available:

1. IV fluids and a catheter for three days to drain the bladder and discourage crystal formation, and flush the nasty buildup of toxins out of his system.  $$$-$$$$
2.  Medications for pain and massaging the bladder to try and break loose the obstruction.  $$$ (and a whole lot of hell from the cat)
3. Euthanasia $$

The kicker was the statement that even if the first two options are successful, and that isn't guaranteed, there is a high likelyhood that it will reoccur.  He will have to be on a special diet low in magnesium with a low pH for the rest of his life; still not guaranteed to keep the crystals from reforming. There is the option of having surgery to remove the penis and give him a larger opening more like a female cat which would allow the crystals to pass through if the treatments don't work.  Evidently this is a common occurrence in male cats and many outdoor cats that have this condition merely crawl off somewhere and die.  Something to consider when choosing another housecat at some point.

So, faced with these choices and needing to make a decision, I promptly burst into tears in front of the vet who gave me a few minutes to compose myself and make a blubbering incoherent phone call to Will who was in a roomful of 20 kids at an afterschool gardening club.  Will has had an experience with a family cat 40 years ago who had this condition (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) and recovered so we decided to go with option one.  This decision was not made lightly, because we haven't won the lottery (and in fact are buying a new minivan this week that we desperately needed) but I couldn't imagine rationalizing an alternative decision to the kids, who hadn't been given the opportunity to see him before we rushed off.  They love him so much and he has become a part of our lives in the short three years we have had him.  I can't imagine how to put a dollar amount on that kind of love and I hope we aren't forced to do so soon.

(all the photos of Ginger are Lila's)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The grass is always greener.....

....when there isn't snow.
I've been reading about everyone roto-tilling their gardens and seeing photos of sheep grazing on green grass with lambs frolicking so thought I'd give you our stark reality.
You can see that we have made some melting progress; in fact there was even more ground showing last week until we received another eight inches of the stuff which has agonizingly slowly melted. There is an average of about 18 inches left out there. The sheep maternity ward has the largest bare spot because we shoveled that area out in order to get them in there. Most of what looks like bare ground where the alpacas and other assorted woolies are is waste hay and some of the material that was removed from the barn so we could get more hay in the back.
Speaking of hay, the Hay Guy delivered 200 of the 300 bales he promised us. I've left messages about the other 100 bales but haven't heard back so we may be winging it in a couple of months. I'm hoping for an early hay season this year. What he brought us is passable feed, but not the best which was hardly to be expected right now. The alpaca shearer is scheduled to come out May 10th....I hope the snow is gone by then.