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Monday, April 28, 2014


It is that time of year; finally. Will has been collecting sugar maple sap for the past few weeks when the weather conditions have been right. It has to be "warm" during the day and get below freezing at night for the sap to flow in the trees, and run out the spiles into the collecting buckets. At some point, we accumulate enough that triggers the Wildebeast's instinct to fire up the evaporating pan. (I think we probably run out of storage space for more sap). We like our syrup dark and extra maple-y so when the pan cooks down, Will adds more sap to it and on and on until he's cooked down "enough" to can.

Then, it gets brought into the house to be cooked down to the thick syrup. We do this for a couple of reasons; it is easier to watch to make sure it doesn't burn or boil over, and it is usually dark by the time we get to this stage. When it has reached the correct temperature and desired thickness it is run through a filter to capture the sediment (called niter which tastes like icky fine sand) and canned.

This batch ended up being a pint shy of 2 and 1/2 gallons. I think there is 120 gallons of sap to be cooked down out there. The ratio of sap to syrup is typically 40 gallons of sap for every gallon of syrup, so that gives us another three gallons. The forecast isn't showing any nights below freezing this week so this could be the end...


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Elle's Lambs!

Yesterday morning, during what feels like our normal April snow shower, Elle gave birth to twins.

 It was cold and wet so they needed to be brought into the house to be dried off. I picked the little ram first because he was the least active of the two.

 It took about 15 minutes with the hair dryer (I've had that thing since high school- which was a very long time ago....) to get him completely dry.  He seemed to enjoy it and stood still for a long time.

   Of Course, it is always good to sit on a warm lap while you are getting some attention.

   Will sacrificed an older sweat shirt so we could put little coats on them to keep the chill out.  The kitties were very interested in this whole process.

   Next came the rambunctious ewe!  Her markings were a little surprising to say the least. Mull carries spots and has the black (yuglet) eye patches, but the body markings were what really surprised me (Flecket).

   She did not want to stand still for the drying, but was willing to sit on my lap.

Even her tummy has spots!

 Modeling her new coat with approving stares from the peanut gallery.

 Out with Mom.

Why are the rams always so bloody cute???  He has this patch of longer hair on his head that is really funny, and those wee white marks on his face contribute to his all over adorable-ness.

Blow drying them disturbed their lock structure somewhat so it was difficult to evaluate their fleece.
 They are definitely soft, and appear to have the coat that Mull had when he was born, which was less than thrilling at the time, but ended up butter soft a few weeks later.  Hopefully, they will follow suit!

Still waiting on Gaia.

"Be patient woman!  Good things come to those who wait."
(Ya, but she looks likes she's going to 'splode...)

Thursday, April 24, 2014


This is what happens when a shepherd is waiting for lambs to arrive. There are little bits of paper scattered about with probabilities based on known genetic information and patterns of inheritence...whiling away the time and dreaming of what might be while your ewes stubbornly refuse to yield! :) Gaia is at the waddling stage now. Her belly and udder are so large she is having issues walking with dignity. She ran for a short bit yesterday which had us in stitches.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daisy's Lamb

Daisy, our 1/2 Cormo and 1/2 Shetland ewe, had her lamb this morning. She is a sweet black ewe lamb with some splashes of white on her head.

She is 25% Cormo and 75% Shetland and she should have a fabulous fleece if her parents are any indication! I was thinking she might end up white, but a black lamb helps figure out her mothers genetics and you can't have too much black wool.

Mother Daughter portrait. I'm thinking she should have a flower name, like her mother. Prim(-ula), Violet, Lily? I need to research black flowers..... Two ewes left to go....


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Still waiting on lambs.....I strongly suspect Gaia could go today based on her behavior. It is rather drizzly and grey out today.

Lila made these sweet roll creations at her friends house yesterday. The egg is baked right along with the pastry and it was quite good. We had them for breakfast this morning.

These are the eggs we colored yesterday. They always turn out a little "off color" because we use the eggs from our flock of which very few are white; these were cream, pale brown and blue-green.

I'm hoping the rain will stop soon...need to clean out some bunny cages and it is much more fun in the sunshine! Today Will is also boiling down sap and adding rainwater to the mix takes it a little longer! Someday we will have a roof over the evaporator. :)



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maya's Lamb

Today Maya gave birth to a strapping ram lamb with big horn buds. He looks to be a black gulmoget. He is very cute but I'm not sure he has quite got the hang of nursing yet....every time he lays down his mother tries to get him up and push him to her udder, but he doesn't look skinny at all so maybe she is just anxious!

Fortunately it isn't snowing and it isn't too cold.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lamb Watch!

This is the week.....Maya is due tomorrow (based on an observed breeding), and Elle, Gaia and Daisy were put in with Mull at a back date which puts them due anytime from this week forward.  Gaia looks ready to pop and her udder grows noticeably bigger by the day.  Who will go first?  Maya or Gaia (They rhyme.). They are all definitely pregnant....we tipped Daisy to trim her toes and around her udder (she is half Cormo and REALLY wooly, hence the need for a trim) and she is bagging up too!  Oh dear...I have meetings away the next two days so I'm hoping they can hold off until Friday.  Not to mention we are back in the single digits tonight, with even more snow due Thursday.  This feels like the longest winter ever...but lambing presses on.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Spring" Project

From April through the end of September, the Erickson Center for the Arts in Curtis is running an exhibit called "Americana Medley" which features metal working, basket weaving, quilting, spinning, metal and textile weaving. I offered to house my Harrisville floor loom there for the exhibit and to weave on it throughout the summer.

This means I needed to come up with a project. I was originally thinking lace woven table runners but when push came to shove I hadn't ordered the materials in time to get the loom up and going. I remembered I had 3.25 pounds of Polwarth wool and silk sport weight yarn so decided to weave a couple of shawls.

But what colors? When in doubt, choose your favorites! I hand dyed seven skeins of yarn- five in varying shades of green and two in shades of blue and purple. My original idea was to use the green as the warp and then weave one shawl with green also as the weft and one shawl using the blue and purple as the weft. The day I dyed was a sunny, albeit cold, day so the first drying leg was on the deck.

Since I am a beginning weaver (though I've owned this loom for about five years!), I still need help in the mysterious ritual of warping. My friend Jane, who is a remarkable woman on many fronts, came over to help wind the warp and to dress the loom. We managed to wind the warp on and only break three ends! We took turns threading the heddles (and fixing a buggered up patch of mis-threading which meant adding 14 temporary heddles-thank the gods you can cheat!) and the warp is all wound on.

I'm excited about the looks like fine strands of kelp when looking at it in the right light. I'm not so sure about using the purple and blue yarn as weft sounded good at first with all the jewel tones but I can't imagine what it will really look like so I will weave a sample. If I don't like it I just need to dye one more skein of the green in order to weave two shawls in the "solid" green shade.

The pattern is going to be a Bronson Lace, so it will be a light open weave. I'm excited to get going on it!

Yesterday I had breakfast at the Sweetwater Cafe in Marquette after an overnight meeting. This was the first time I'd eaten there and I arrived a half an hour earlier than the rest of the party. I'm normally not someone who is comfortable sitting alone in a restaurant but I had my knitting, needed caffeine, and I hate hotel rooms so I headed over. I was DELIGHTED I had done this because I was able to savor the decor without distraction for a whole half hour sipping tea. The cafe features a revolving weaving exhibit every six months from the local Marquette Yarnwinders Fiber Guild. I love the peace flags and it would be a great project using weaving samples.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lamb and Weather updates

Well things are beginning to look up for us in the EUP.  We've had a couple of days that have hit fifty and the snow is rotting.  The ducks are having the time of their lives in all the puddles and mud!  The downside is you can't walk anywhere in the yard without snowshoes, and the aged and senile Waters has had to be rescued a couple of times when he has walked off the trodden path.

Kim and her sweet brother are doing very well!  They are bouncing around and giving their mother fits.

 As you can see, Kim is growing quite well.  The sock sweater used to fit all the way down to her rump, and the leg holes had to be enlarged.  This was the last day she wore her sweater; I felt with the nasty storm we were getting she would benefit by wearing it but she doesn't need it anymore.

This guy is a serious sweetheart.  He bounds over for pats, while Kim needs to be coaxed over.

 Bouncing and pats take a lot out of a lamb so there must be recharge time.

This is Soay; she was one of Deja's twin lambs from last year (not the bottle fed one).  
She was always very shy but you could tell she wanted to be patted really.  This past weekend she finally, finally let me scratch her brisket and chin....and then she couldn't get enough!  Both she and her sister Eigg are miniature versions of their Shaela dam.  I almost sold Soay last year, but something told me to hang on to her and I'm glad I did because she has a fabulous fleece!  And a winning smile too.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A day out on the Big Town

We thought perhaps we should spend one day away from home during the kids spring break, and at their request, after doing our farm chores and the neighbors farm chores (which were made more complicated by the escaping of three cows into the barn interior where they processed to cover every surface with cow shit and eat all the grain) headed out to the children's museum in Marquette where they spent a couple of hours running around like banshees. The second kid treat of the day was the movie "Peabody and Sherman" which was pretty decent, though wouldn't have me running out to watch it a second time.

My favorite part of the day was lunch! We ate at "the Wild Rover", an Irish styled pub. I had a plate of Scotch eggs (which I shared with my family and in thought with John Gray), Poutine with fried cheese curds, and a pint of Guinness. Eight hours later and I'm still stuffed. Home again just as the last bit of light was leaving the sky. Kids are in bed and Will and I may settle down with a glass of Elderberry/plum wine a neighbor traded us for eggs. It is rather puckery but tasty!

Tomorrow onward to the Erickson Center for the Arts where I am helping set up a display of American Folk Art- my Harrisford four shaft loom is there and Jane and I have been dressing her in readiness for some shawl weaving I will be doing here and there throughout the summer. I will post some photos of the warp we put on the is polwath & silk and I hand painted it in shades of green.