Saturday, August 31, 2013

The best time of year is coming!

I love Fall, and by the looks of my pumpkins, it's almost here! The sugar pie pumpkins ended up really small this year, and there are only about 1 per plant (so maybe 7 in total?), but I'm hoping to get at least a pie and a couple of loaves of bread out of them.

The acorn squash on the other hand, they are out of control. This one here is almost the size of my head, and every time I lift up a leaf I see a new squash growing. I'm pretty sure anyone who comes to our house this fall will leave with an acorn squash and a dozen eggs.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tour De Fleece 2013 Finish Line!

Tour De Fleece is a way for fiber arts fanatics to feel like they're part of something big, like the Tour De France. Only for us, it's less about sweating and cycling great distances and more about spinning lots of awesome yarn.

This year I didn't spin as often as I had hoped, the tour always seems to fall when I'm on vacation or have visitors, but I did manage to spin up a few yarns and some fibers I've had in my stash for way to long.

My final tally: 4552 yards and 2.37 pounds spun. Not to shabby.

I spun whenever I could, even out in the chicken yard. 

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: boucle made of superfine merino, bamboo, and Fleece Artist kid mohair, fingering weight superwash BFL (2 skeins), aran weight 2-ply made of superfine merino, bamboo, and angelina, a super bulky extreme thick and thin polwarth single, and a super duper huge and bulky 2-ply alpaca.

And just so you understand just how big that alpaca yarn is, here is my moderately cooperative model, Bomber. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fiber Arts Cruise

I've been on quite a few fiber arts vacations, but I'm pretty sure my most recent trip, the Friends and Fiberworks Fantasy Fiber Arts Knitting Cruise to the Bahamas was one of the most elaborate. I was fortunate enough to get trapped on a boat with 3 of my favorite fibers artists; Esther of Jazzturtle Creations, Liz of Reckless Knitting, and Vithard of Vithard Nordic Knitting for 5 days.

From left to right: Liz, Me, Vithard, Esther

The at sea days were filled with classes, cocktails, knitting, eating, and hot tubs. It was pretty awesome. I mean, where else do you get to take a fiber prep class with Esther and have a fruity blended drink in your hand the whole time?

Our workstation at the end of class. 

Knitting with Vithard after a dip in the hot tub. 

We really did take our knitting everywhere, even to the fancy "Captain's Dinner". This is a great shot, click on it to make it bigger. 

Liz and I had a blast together on excursions in Nassau and Freeport, snorkeling and touring around, and our time in Charleston, SC was almost more fun than the cruise. That city is so fun, colorful, and full of history. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to visit a southern city with lots of charm.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy Hens

I realized I never introduced the newest members of our farm family! How rude. Back in June I got really impatient waiting for eggs. The chicks were still a couple of months away from laying and July was the month of family visitors. How could I let my family visit the farm without providing them with farm fresh eggs?!

I realized I just couldn't, so I kept my eye on Craigslist for already laying hens and just happened to luck out and find someone less than 5 miles away from me who was selling White Leghorn/Production Red x hens. If you know anything about Montana then you know that it was a miracle! No one ever lives that close to you and has what you want. They call it Big Sky Country for a reason. Your neighbors could be 20 miles away, let alone someone who posted a Craigslist ad for chickens.

We decided to bring home 5 hens and per the recommendation of every article online, including one written on Backyard Chickens, we put them in quarantine in the horse stall in the back of the property. Most articles recommend a month long quarantine to watch for disease and any other problems that might be passed on to your existing flock.

Happy new hens in "quarantine". 

I, of course, was impatient and only waited a week to start the introduction process. I wanted to integrate the flock before I went on vacation so I knew that everyone was getting along and the people keeping an eye on them wouldn't have to deal with the "pecking order" getting a little to rough.

I treated them all for mites just in case and then put the two flocks where they could see each other, but not have full contact with each other. The first few days were hard because our rooster Jinx kept biting the new hens combs and making them bleed. I had to put an extra barrier of chicken wire between them so he couldn't get his whole head through the fence. None of the other chickens seemed to have a problem so I had to wait it out until Jinx calmed down. After a few days I removed the extra chicken wire and let them get closer, and then a few more days later I removed the barrier fence all together and let them free range together.

I expected to have to sit out with them all day and play interference but I was pleasantly surprised when they all happily clucked and scratched and foraged together like they'd been together all along. And the best part- we started getting eggs a day after bringing the new hens home!

In the beginning of August we did unfortunately loose one of the young hens, Kiwi, to an infection of her vent (I think she had what is called "gleet", only google it if you want to see really gross pictures) when she was coming into lay. She developed the infection while I was away and by the time I was home it was to infected to treat. It was very sad, but she needed to be put down, and there was a chance that she had a problem with her reproductive system that never could have been helped.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gardening Efforts

I really wish that springtime lasted longer. Before I had much time to think it was summer, the weather was hot, and what starters I had managed to start needed to be in the ground.

We ended up fighting with weeds constantly and ran out of time to plant much in the big garden space in the front of the property, so I crammed as many plants in an old burn pile dirt patch as I could. I know I overcrowded the squash, but that hasn't stopped the zucchini, cucumbers, acorn squash, sugar pumpkins and butternut squash from spreading over every inch of space available. The funniest thing about it all- zucchini and cucumber are Brian's least favorite vegetables and they turned out to be the most plentiful this season. I even had to tear out the cucumber plants early because I couldn't use them all and couldn't find anyone to take the extras (they all had their own to deal with or didn't like making pickles).

June 23, 2013

I went away for 10 days in July, right as the plants started producing, and told the neighbors to eat whatever they wanted from the garden. They couldn't have picked much because this is what I came home to! 

And here is the garden on August 3, 2013. We've made a few changes since; pulled out some unproductive plants and let the others take over. Some mystery squash seeds I got from a coworker of Brian's ended up being acorn squash, so now I have 8 acorn squash plants. That is way more than 2 people need! We will have plenty to share. 

My gardening efforts this year were definitely less than I had expected, and maybe I did in fact bite off more than I could chew. But, considering I didn't fertilize, occasionally let the weeds take over, and sometimes would forget to water, the garden did pretty darn well- and it's not winter squash season quite yet.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Pattern- Juncture

By Brittany Wilson

1 US #13/9mm straight needles
1 M, 9mm crochet hook

- Tapestry needle
- 3 1” round buttons or larger (I used 1.25”)
- Thread

Bulky Hand Spun Yarn- 5-7 WPI, 50 yards minimum. The samples are knit in an alpaca blend 2-ply yarn.

 10 sts/14 rows = 4" in stockinette stitch

Height: 5.5” minimum
Width: 18” minimum


CO- Cast On     STS- Stitches     BO- Bind Off
YO- Yarn Over   RS- Right Side  WS- Wrong Side
CDD- Central Double Decrease   K- Knit

Central Double Decrease: Slip two stitches together knitwise, knit the third stitch, and then slip the two stitches that you slipped over the stitch that you just knit.

Sizing: This pattern is easily customizable and can really be made into whichever size you’d like. The samples are the following sizes:
18” long cowl used 50 yards
24” long cowl used 70 yards 

CO- Cast On     
STS- Stitches     
BO- Bind Off
YO- Yarn Over   
RS- Right Side  
WS- Wrong Side
CDD- Central Double Decrease   K- Knit


Create Button Loops:
Using 9mm hook and leaving long tail chain 8 sts. Check to make sure that the loop is the correct size for the buttons. Adjust the number of chained stitches if needed. Break yarn leaving enough tail to secure the loop onto your knitted piece. Pull end through last chain stitch to secure. Tie the two ends together to create a loop. Make 3 of these loops and set them aside until finishing time.

Main Cowl Body:
CO 19 STS using Long-Tail CO
Row 1 (RS): K1, YO, K7, CDD, K7, YO, K1
Row 2 (WS): K All STS

Work for 18”, or desired length, and BO on a WS row.

Sew your 3 buttons onto the pointy ends of the cowl, two on one edge and 1 on the other. Sew your loops on the opposite edge from your button, so that one loop lines up with 1 button. See photo.