Friday, May 30, 2008

Wisconsin Signs

I spent the last couple of days in Wisconsin with far flung friends, and these signs make me laugh or cheer.

Found in a parking structure in downtown Madison. Not funny, until you turn 45 degrees to the adjacent wall and see this.

Who puts a tornado shelter in an area prone to flooding? You might not get blown away, but you might drown!

Apparently you do not need to obey all other yield signs.

This one makes me cheer. Preferential parking for hybrids or car pools. We were four people in a Prius, so qualified on both counts. Woohoo!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Freshly shorn

Yesterday I realized what a freshly shorn alpaca reminds me of. The sculptures of A. Giacometti.

I summoned the energy to snap a few photos last evening. The light was incredible. Check out Pizazz. He is glowing.

I let them out into the yard to eat (mow!), and Aries promptly laid down to eat. Maybe he was cold?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shearing Day

My shearing crew (sister and BIL and 5 year old nephew, he was great at holding the fiber bags for us!) just left. The roofer (the uninjured one) came and helped for a couple of hours too. We got the whole herd done. A huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

We started around 8:45 or so, and finished around 4:30, pretty much working straight through. A professional shearer would be apalled at that rate, but I sort of skirt as I go, and am not a professional shearer. Wait until you see the pictures, you will laugh. Sorry, but I'm too tired to go find my camera to download the ones we took. I don't think we got any after shots yet. I don't have the energy to go do that either.

It is a good kind of exhaustion though. The exhaustion of a hard day's work. Yep, feels good.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I love them. Especially when you can get them free from Freecycle(like I did these) or for a buck a piece at an auction.

I built this fence yesterday for nothing but a couple of hours of my time. It is just a corner designed to block the view of the compost pile/junk pile from the house and driveway. I know that the boards aren't all going the same way. I thought it would look better to have the height halfway the same, than to have the boards all going the same direction.

Even the boards that I used to tie the pallets together were free.

I put a little arrow so you can see what I'm talking about. The roofer was going to put these in the dumpster, but I saved them. Yay, less for the landfill! The boards still had nails in them, so I didn't even have to buy nails, they were free too!

That's Tieck up there, by the way. She was posing as Queen of the Dirt Pile while I was snapping these.

I can't tell you how tickled I am by this fence. One man's garbage is another's treasure, and all that.

The debate raging in my mind now is: Do I paint it?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Red sky at night

Taken last night within a few minutes of each other. All straight out of the camera, no photoshopping. It fascinates me how the sky changes in just a few minutes.

(First ones looking west/northwest, last one looking south/southwest)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Adventure Never Ends

The day started out like any other. While Mom slept, I made a beret. She liked the purple one, and kept putting it on her head, so I did a blue one for her.

This one is wool and silk, no alpaca. What a difference that made in the felting! This one took much longer to make.

I did some dyeing.

Can you believe I was out of blues and purples? I have been doing some carding/blending.

Then, I looked out the kitchen window. The herd was bunched in one corner of the pasture, looking at something. Wait, there was something stuck in the fence. I grabbed my camera and went to investigate.

How did it manage that? I figure it must have been running away from something, and got caught. I first grabbed it behind the ears so it couldn't turn around and bite me. I don't like getting bit by wild animals of any kind, let alone a rabbit. ("It's got fangs! Run away, run away!") Then I gently got the hips loose, and let it go. It promptly ran through the fence with no problem.

Fiber fanatic that I am, I gathered the fur that the rabbit had rubbed off in its panic, and spun it up.

It didn't go far, but it was fun to experiment.

Then, when I walked back into the house after taking the yarn photo, I saw an indigo bunting at the feeder. It flew away as I took the shot. Dang! After uploading the photos though, I found it flying off the frame. What a beautiful color!

Yep, just another day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Purple Beret

My first attempt at making a beret. Or a hat of any kind actually, using wet felting methods. This is 100% alpaca, from Peach Boy.

A friend issued the challenge. Or maybe I just took it as a challenge, anyway this is what I came up with. Now he won't freeze his head off when he's carving. Speaking of which, go see some of his work. This one shows some of his stone carving, and this some of his mosaic work. Gorgeous, yes?

Monday, May 19, 2008

A new roof

Big Daddy says,"Wake up! The roofer is coming!"

Yep, new roof going on the house starting today. Can I afford it? No, but I also can't afford to not do it.

Luckily, my roofer is flexible with the payment terms, and is willing to barter. His wife will be getting a new shawl, and fresh eggs, and a lot of nice compost for their garden. I'll also take care of their dogs when they go on vacation.

Edited to Add: Woohoo! In tearing off the old roof, the roofer found out that only one section of the roof did not have sheathing. So most of that pile on the right can go back, and the labor time also went down significantly. Yeehaw! Maybe I will get it paid off in this lifetime! Everybody do the peasant dance of joy!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Birds

It is an absolutely glorious day here, and Mom and I were outside enjoying it. I was getting my hands dirty in the garden, and Mom was walking about.

The chickens started doing their alarm call, and were eyeing the sky. I looked up, and in the distance saw five big birds chasing a hawk. It isn't unusual to see crows or black birds hazing a hawk, but these were birds were big! And white, with black on their wings. What??? I ran inside to get the camera, and by the time I got back outside, the hawk was gone, but the big birds were right overhead.

Pelicans! How cool is that? I've never seen pelicans here before.

I imagine they were just passing through, but I'm glad (and so are the chickens) that they chased the hawk off for me.

Thanks, pelicans! Come back any time.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Latest project

I signed up for an art show in my hometown in mid-June. I've been a little busy, trying to build up an inventory.

A few of the checkbook covers I've finished:

I've also done some spinning, but can't show that until the recipient gets it. Can't spoil the surprise now, can I?

I also made a prototype for a notepad cover.

It holds a little 3 by 5 notepad and pen. This one closes with a length of yarn wrapped around a vintage shell button.

I am also going to make a larger version big enough to hold a 4 by 6 wire-bound (on the top) notebook.

Preliminary preparations are being made for the Great Raccoon War of 08. My roofer has a young Redbone coonhound, as yet untrained. He (the roofer) brought Gunnar out yesterday to do some recon, but all young Gunnar was interested in was the llamas. He ventured into the pasture when we weren't looking. He thought he was going to scare them, but instead he came running out of the pasture, tail tucked as far under as it could go, long ears flapping in wind, and the whole herd hot on his heels. (Sorry for that unintended alliteration!) Wish I had a video of that!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Art of Alzheimer's

Have I mentioned that Mom loves looking at pictures of food? Well, she does. I bought her several cookbooks with lots of photographs, and food magazines. If there is something looking particularly appetizing to her, (chocolate and desserts are her favorites) she will tear it out of whatever magazine or cookbook to carry it around in her pocket to look at occasionally.

Or maybe she'll build a little shrine.

Empty soap container to hold the picture up, and a short row of carefully arranged pretzels.

I swear I feed her! Including chocolate and desserts!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Elusive Rhubarb Bar

Some may be on a quest to find the world's perfect chicken salad, while others are ready to embark on a cross-country tour to find the country's perfect burger. Me, I'm trying to duplicate the French Meadow Bakery's rhubarb bar.

Now, I've never tried just asking them for the recipe. (I wonder if that would work?) I just remember it as the perfect blend of sweet and tart and messy sticky goodness all wrapped up in a bar. I used to get them at their stand at the Mpls farmer's market on Lyndale under I-35. Cars whizzing by over head, the smell of polish sausage being grilled with peppers and onions in the air, the sound of Peruvian music from the band in the corner. Can you tell I miss the farmer's market?

Anyway, so the rhubarb is ready. I harvested a few stalks this morning, and set about on my quest.

I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe for the crust and topping, doubling it because I don't have a pan that size (8 by 8). I also used less butter than called for.

For the rhubarb filling, I chopped up the rhubarb above, and came out with about 4 cups. Put that in a saucepan with about 1 1/2 cups of sugar, about a tablespoon (maybe more? I didn't actually measure) of cornstarch, and just a little glug of water to get it going. I boiled that until it was thick (10-15 minutes?), then let it cool. Here you can see the pan on the stove, and in the meantime I mixed the other ingredients for the crust and topping.

As an aside, see that box of salt? It was purchased with the intention of using it to dye fiber using Wilton's cake decorating dyes. It hasn't made it to the dye pot.

Then I just assembled according to PW's intructions, baked it for 35 to 40 minutes, and came up with this.

It's close. Damn close. Maybe their version uses a different crust on the bottom, more like a pie crust? It's been 8 years since I had one, so I don't know exactly.

If I were a proper food stylist, I would have wiped the crumbs from the plate before taking the photo. Real life has crumbs.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


The orioles have arrived back and discovered the feeder I have out for them. The one on the pole I fill with nectar made from concentrate bought at the store.

I also put out some grape jelly on a yogurt cover. This happens to be jelly made from my vines. The orioles around here might be a little spoiled.

When I was taking these photos today I counted at least five flitting about. These are taken from inside the house, through the patio door. As I was standing there, one flew to the bush right next to the house and the door.

I think he was trying to do the oriole mind meld. You must bring fresh nectar. Fill the feeder with fresh nectar!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Freaky Egg!

So, I was out in the chicken coop the other day gathering eggs. I saw that the one nest had one in it, so without looking too closely, reached in to grab it.

I recoiled in horror. I didn't scream like a girl, but almost. What the heck was that? It was soft and spongy and cold.

It was an egg without a shell or a yolk. The regular one is on top, the no-shell one on the bottom.

I've never actually experienced this before, but I knew that it does happen, especially with chickens that are just coming into lay.

You might be better able to see here that there is no shell.

In other sad news, I am now missing one pale pullet (waaaah, my little pullet that lived in the house for a while this winter regaining strength) and three roosters. The thing is, they are going missing during the day. I don't know if a hawk is getting them, or if there is a wily (rabid?)raccoon out and about in the daylight. The odd thing is that there is usually a little pile of feathers or something showing that there was a disturbance, but I have found nothing. I am about to declare the Great Raccoon War of 08.

I had too many roosters, and was going to offer them on Freecycle, so I'm not missing them terribly. They were mean to the hens, not like Big Daddy who knows how to treat a lady. I am sorry for the fear and pain I'm sure they suffered in their death, though. I didn't want them to go that way.

The remaining chickens aren't happy because I won't let them out of the coop until I figure out what is making them disappear. Poor things.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Quick Mom Story

Last night, close to midnight, I was trying to get Mom into the bathroom as part of the going to bed routine. (Mom, you have to go to bed because I'm tired doesn't work with her!) Finally, she's in the bathroom standing in front of the toilet, and throws something in it.

A small wad of alpaca fiber. Son of a bitch. I thought I had mumbled it quietly, as I was fishing the fiber from the toilet, but apparently not. Quite seriously, and innocently, Mom asks,"What kind of bitch?"

Friday, May 9, 2008


Blades arrived back yesterday all sharpened and shiny. Let the shearing begin!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not good

This is one of my attic vents. Either the raccoon was still in my attic when we put the plywood over the hole it had created in the roof, and tore apart the vent to get out, or it really wanted in the attic and tore it apart to get in.

Not good. Not good at all.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nikita and Wooly Bear: A Love Story

Nikita (right) is one of the first llamas to arrive here. Wooly Bear (left) the alpaca came here a couple of years later.

It was love at first sight. At least on Wooly Bear's part. Nikita is basically indifferent. Poor Wooly Bear, his love is unrequited.

He is her protector. If another animal gets too close, he is right there giving them what for. When she had a cria, he paced around like a worried daddy. (He is a gelding, so not the daddy.) He extended his protector status to the cria (Kiwi)too. He always tried to keep himself between me and Kiwi. As the cria grew, he (the cria) knew that he had a protector besides his Mom. One day I saw Kiwi go up to the biggest llama in the pasture and challenge her, nose up, ears back, like he was going to spit at her. She wasn't about to take that from the young whippersnapper, and rounded on him to put him in his place. He ran and stood behind Wooly Bear, and Wooly Bear protected him. Kiwi grew up knowing that he could always run to Wooly Bear, and so constantly bugged the other animals, then ran to Wolly Bear. Bully!

Wooly Bear is usually just a few steps away from Nikita. She moves a few steps to graze, he moves with her. She cushes to chew her cud, he cushes next to her. She heads to the poop pile, so does he.

The other day, I let them out into the yard to "mow the grass" for me. She moved to an area on one side of the house, and for some reason he didn't move with her. She ended up on one side of the house, he on the other. Pretty soon I saw him running up and down the driveway, looking all around, and humming in distress. Where is she, where is she? He finally spotted her, ran to her side, and fell back to grazing. All was right in his world again.

I will never willingly separate them. If I have to sell the animals, those two are a package deal.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The sora and other happenings

I was moving some stuff by the shed yesterday, and surprised this little bird. Although it has long legs, the body itself is smaller than a robin. I had never seen a bird like this before. It didn't fly away, just ran. We played ring around the shed several times before I could get even these crappy photos.

I found out it is a Sora, a seldom seen marsh bird. I do have marshes/lakes to the north of me, but I'm not sure how it found my shed. We have been having 20-40 mph winds, maybe it blew off course. It was hiding in my grape vine the last time I saw it, early evening yesterday. I sure hope it finds the way back to the lake.

The brown thrashers are back too. I heard one singing before dawn this morning. I love their song.

In other news, the hay field is coming in nicely, thanks to the rain we've been having. There doesn't appear to be any winter kill, only a little where the spring run-off stood for a while. I'm hoping for three good cuttings from it this year, now that it is established. Hay is expensive and in short supply, so I am very thankful for this field. So are the llamas!

The rhubarb is also growing well.

I sense a rhubarb crisp in a couple of weeks. Or maybe a pie, or maybe strawberry rhubarb jam. Or maybe all three, and more. Rhubarb, another spring delight!

Friday, May 2, 2008

More Experiments

I made a little needlebook to help me keep track of my needles and pins. I have to be very careful with them so Mom doesn't find them. I spent a good half hour this morning searching for two banana peels. I had set them on the counter, thinking that I would run them out to the compost pile in a minute. Then I went outside to do something, and left them in the house. When I came back, they were gone. Believe me, you don't want to let two banana peels stay just anywhere! I did find them, and they are now in their rightful spot.

I also experimented with checkbook covers. Well, one so far.