06 December 2007

"You need to come take a look at Bob..."

After dinner tonight The Reluctant Farmer got his boots on and said, "You need to come take a look at Bob. He has a lump on his neck: I didn't get a good look at it when I saw him earlier but you better check ... bring a flash light." The dogs do get tangled in barbed wire fences every so often, and it wouldn't be the first time we had a puppy with an infected scrape.

So, I got a flash light and my parka and my boots, and we headed outside. The dogs came trotting over to us when we reached the shed, and I quickly grabbed Bob's collar. I felt around, but didn't feel any matted fur or anything. The Reluctant Farmer felt around the opposite side and said, "Oh, here, it's right here ...."

... and from under Bob's collar, he pulled a silver ring.

"Will you marry me?"

I grinned.

I also said yes.

The ring's a temporary placeholder: he had seen some pretty ones on line but since he was going into town today he decided to just pick something out at a jewelry store in town. After visiting six different places and finding nothing in my size (nothing at all ... I have very tiny fingers), he settled on a plain silver band from Walmart as a placeholder.

We did just find the perfect long-term band online, and it should be on it's way from Ireland in short order.

The wedding will be in Canmore on May 17, 2008.

Marriage: I've finally found the person I want to annoy for the rest of my life.

02 December 2007

Windows: warmth and cold, both

Big windows are a wonderful thing in terms of passive solar gain. The big windows on the south side of the house absorb a lot of sunshine during the day, and provide us with lots of free light and heat.

However, at night, they leak cold like you wouldn't believe.

The white sheer drapes that filter the blinding daytime sun don't really keep the cold at bay once the sun goes down.

So, today I hauled up the serger, the sewing machine, and a stash of fabric from the crawl space and proceeded to make the first of several window quilts. A window quilt is just what it sounds like: a quilt (complete with filling to make it warm) that fits inside your window.

The first part of the adventure was to create something to hang the quilt from: I had a long length of inch-and-five-sixteenths doweling, so I created supports for each end of the dowel and mounted those inside the window frame (our windows have deep frames, so there's lots of room in there). That gave me a long rod that won't bend or bow under the weight of the window quilt, and it's positioned inside the frame so there won't be any room for drafts to leak out the sides.

Then it was time to make the quilt. I wasn't very energetic or creative with this one ... it's just a series of strips of fabric sewn to each other, no fancy patterns, nothing particularly interesting. I did manage to use up some interesting scraps (bits cut from the bottoms of another set of curtains, and some blue paisely fabric that was never going to be made into anything in particular, as well as some lovely quilting cotton that I had purchased in a fit of insanity when I thought I might actually make a fancy quilt). The middle layer is some cotton quilt batting, also found in my stash, and the backing is a pale green sheet that had no mate. All of the layers were hastily stitched together, and a few experiments were done in an effort to find the best way to hang the completed quilt from the rod. It turns out that a strip of fabric sewn to the top of the quilt in such a way as to form a pocket for the dowel rod is the best way to mount these things in my windows - particularly if you can manage to make the strip wide enough to leave a bit of a 'topper' above the dowel rod, filling in the gap between the top of the curtain and the top of the window.

So, we have one window that is much warmer than the others tonight, and others will follow in their turn. I'm thinking of denim for the one in The Boy's room...

28 November 2007

Winter cold, tea and wool

Yep, winter has arrived. We have snow on the ground and temperatures between -15 and -20 most days, cooler at night. The stock tank heater has been installed, we've gone through nearly three bales of hay already, and the trucks are complaining about starting on chilly mornings ... as am I. Somehow I always have much less energy in the winter - the darkness and chill seems to drain me of strength.

Still, a mug of tea for the drive to town does wonders to improve one's morning, I have discovered, as does the heated seat warmer that Princess Girl and Dinosaur Boy gave to me as thanks for chauffeuring them to and from school.

In the evenings, I like to do my spinning or knitting, as the warmth of the wool is somehow warming to more than just my hands. I have done more experimentation with Kool-Aid and wool dyeing, and have managed to come up with a neat variegated skein of greens, browns and beiges that reminds me of Vancouver Island, as well as more pink (no matter how hard I try, things seem to end up shockingly pink).

I've been knitting up some new projects, too: I found a lovely set of fingerless gloves and a beautiful cabled sweater to make from some lovely blue wool that my parents brought back for me from a trip they took to PEI a few years back. It's been waiting for just the right pattern to come along, and so far, I'm pleased with how it looks!

I think I'll go work on it some more right now, in fact.

08 November 2007

The beginnings of winter

Winter is officially on the way ... we have snow on the ground and frost in the air. We got our hay delivered just in time!

Construction on the addition continues, the electrical installation is nearly complete which means insulation will be up next. Once windows and insulation are in place, we can turn the heat on ... and once the heat goes on, some of the things that are crammed into this tiny space can be shifted over to the addition and we'll have a bit more breathing room! It is lovely to have everyone together, though, so it's worth the hassle and crowding.

I've been doing a bit of spinning, a bit of knitting, and some reading - I finally finished the last Harry Potter book. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire series: the Harry Potter tales manage to look the pain and sorrow of loss straight in the eye, and they inspire faith and courage in the midst of difficult times. It may be that the sheer intensity of the emotions in the stories resonates with me, but whatever it is, I come away from the books with a sense of gratitude for all that life has given me.

Ah, books are a wonderful thing. In fact, I think I'll go turn on my audiobook (the current one is a story of a spoiled prince stranded in the jungle where, in the course of his travels, he learns to be a real human being) and see if I can get a few more rounds knitted on my other mitten.

Check out www.audible.com - I'll bet they have a story for you, too!

30 October 2007

"How do you learn to do all this stuff?"

My Aunt Sharon asked that question today.

I was always a city girl, as she knows, and now, here I am: living in the country, building sheep shelters and fence line feeders, shearing sheep and spinning wool. The Reluctant Farmer is a computer geek like me ... but at least he grew up in small town Saskatchewan, and had relatives who did a bit of farming. He, at least, knows how to fire a rifle. :)

Back to the original question: How do you learn to do all this stuff? The answer is: with a lot of help.

I have done a lot of reading: books like Barnyard in Your Backyard, The Western Canadian Sheep Producer's Manual, magazines like Mother Earth News and Countryside Magazine, and an awful lot of web surfing. One of the best resources is the wonderful online community at Homesteading Today, where you can ask even the most clueless of questions and get answers from generous folks who have been there, done that. There are people there who will patiently explain how to build a fence so it won't fall over, ease your anxiety the first time one of your ewes is in labour and you have no idea what to do, or talk you through the steps of handspinning even if you're not sure which end of the spindle to hold.

There are ideas all around us, too: I find myself slowing down to check out people's farm layouts, looking to see if there are features they have that would work for us. The fenceline feeder we have was inspired primarily by a plan I found online, but the thing that gave me the push I needed to actually build it was a farm not far from here that has something similar for their sheep. Seeing one in action made it really easy to imagine how well it would work here.

We also have a wonderful real world community, particularly our 4-H families. Everyone has shown great patience in helping a city girl learn how to do simple things like order the right amount of hay for the winter, catch a chicken, or trim a sheep's hooves. I'm sure many have laughed at our efforts ... but they've at least been gracious enough to do it when we can't hear them, and really, everyone has been very encouraging. After all, everybody learns somehow ... and not all of us grew up on farms. The 4-H kids did think it was pretty funny that I hadn't ever ridden in a tractor, and that I had no idea what it meant when someone said they were "graining their steer" (turns out it's like carb-loading: feeding a young lots of grain so he'd grow), but they seem to think it's pretty fun to teach a grownup how to do things.

Our 4-H leaders are a great help, too: our previous sheep leader taught us how to give a sheep an injection, loaned us equipment, and even gave The Boy bottle lambs to raise. She's always available if we have questions or need help - when we had a ewe with a troublesome delivery, she and her son dropped everything and came right over, and called in a local sheep expert when the problem turned out to be more substantial than it had appeared.

Other families have shared hay bales with us when we ran low, described methods of tightening fence wire or building gates, and told us where to find good deals on feed. We've had lots of construction help from neighbours, and we are tremendously grateful for all of it.

Hopefully, someday, we'll be able to give back to our community too.

The rest ... well, the 4-H motto is "Learn to do by doing", and that is really what we do. We try things, and they don't always work very well, so we tweak and try something different. Standing out in the pasture this past spring it became really clear where the hay ought to have been stored, and where the fences should have been, and where a fenceline feeder should go.

It's a long journey from city girl to shepherd, but I'm getting there, a little at a time ... and with a lot of help along the way.

28 October 2007

This is what a septic tank looks like

Ever wonder what a septic tank looks like?

Well, here is the one that the Reluctant Farmer's house is connected to.

Now you know. :)

Hay and Happy Sheep

We got our hay delivered today, and the sheep are very happy about this!

The pasture grass has been getting awfully sparse and brown, given that fall is well underway. Some friends from 4-H grow hay and straw (and deliver it!) so we bought a load from them which should hopefully last us most of the winter. The bales came on a big flat bed truck that lifts up, sliding the round bales out in a neat row. The bales had to be dropped off in the road, as the truck couldn't get up into the area where we plan to store the bales. This wasn't a problem, as The Reluctant Farmer used the bobcat with it's fork attachments to move the bales to their proper storage place, right near the fence line feeder. He's had lots of practice with the bobcat lately, and is getting quite proficient. He spent much of today moving a pile of dirt left over from the excavation of the basement and getting everything levelled out by the house. It looks great, and it's nice to have something approximating a yard at long last.

The sheep were thrilled to have hay to eat: the new ones recognized the sight of round bales and were right up by the feeder, waiting to be fed! As The Reluctant Farmer hauled bales from the road to the storage location, I took the strings off one of the bales and filled up the fence line feeder (you have no idea how relieved I was to see that my friends use baling twine rather than that horrible netting ... twine can be cut and pulled off much more easily than the netting, which gets embedded in the outer layer of hay and freezes in place come winter, when round bales are challenging enough to deal with on their own).

The fence line feeder was one of the summer's big jobs, and I'm very glad that we took the time to make it and to plan for more convenient hay storage. A little bit of planning can eliminate a lot of work: last year, we had round bales stored some distance from where the sheep were fed, and we had only a small makeshift feeder to put hay in. This meant a lot of extra work, unloading hay from the bales onto a tarp, pulling it to where the sheep were fed, and filling the little feeder twice a day (more often when it was really cold). The fenceline feeder allows all fifteen sheep easy access to the hay, and holds enough to last for at least a couple of days even in the coldest weather. The feeder is about three feet high and two feet deep along a full 32' run of fence. It takes a little while to get it filled up, but once it's full, it should last awhile. In addition, the hay is stored just a few feet away, making it easy to unwrap a bale and fork hay directly from the bale into the feeder. At minus twenty, even a few steps can seem like a long way!

Our load today included three bales of straw. The sheep snack on straw, but it's primary use is as wonderfully warm bedding that also helps keep fleeces in good condition. The Reluctant Farmer drove the bobcat into the pasture with one full bale on the forks and dropped it off by the sheep shelter. I filled the shelter with nice fresh straw, and spread the rest of the bale out wherever the ground has the potential to become a muddy mess. A layer of straw goes a long way to preventing the mud from becoming unmanageable - after all, bricks are made from straw and mud!

The chicken coop got a bit of a renovation today as well, with new perches and a nice deep layer of straw on the floor. As the weather cools down, the chickens will spend more time indoors and the straw will help keep them toasty warm, as well as providing a clean base for the inevitable messiness of a coop. Lately they've been laying eggs anywhere but in the coop, so I'm hoping the addition of a nice fresh layer of straw in the nesting boxes will entice them into cooperation. I only have six eggs in the fridge, this is almost cause for alarm. :)

20 October 2007

Fibre Day

Today was an entire day dedicated to playing with fibre. How much fun is that, eh?

Princess Girl 'helped' me most of the day, which was quite entertaining.

I ordered some lovely black Corriedale wool awhile back, and was awaiting the arrival of the drum carder before doing much with it. Well, the drum carder is here, so it's time to play! Black sheep usually have wool in a few different shades - this particular fleece has everything from chocolate brown/black to mocha brown to gray, and when it's all carded together it makes for a beautiful heathered black look. I can't wait to see the resulting yarn!.

While we were playing with the drum carder, we dug out the Kool-Aid dyed wool that we did back in the summer, teased the locks open with the dog comb (you have to loosen them up a bit before putting the wool in), and ran the purple stuff through the carder. It wasn't very nice wool to begin with, so even after drum carding it's kinda slubby and weird, but it spun up into an interesting thick/thin/slubby yarn that Princess Girl would like made into a scarf. She helped with the entire process: dying the wool, getting it ready for the carder, and spinning. (Okay, her 'help' in spinning consisted of sitting beside me and playing with two little plastic ponies in the batts of fibre, but hey, she was there for all of it!). I cast on a few stitches of the spun singles and will get that scarf made up quickly - weird slubby yarn tends to look reasonably good when done up in garter stitch on really big needles. And it goes quickly!

Let's see, what else did we do? We washed some of the wool from my Cola, the Icelandic/Southdown lamb - and had our first unanticipated felting. I should've known better - Icelandic is finicky for felting, but I wanted it to dry quickly so I put it in the washer just to spin out the water. I've done this before with Southdown, which is almost entirely resistant to felting, but it's clearly a very bad idea for something as fussy as Icelandic! So ... we now know that Icelandic/Southdown fleece felts beautifully. Ah well, it wasn't the whole batch of fleece, so we washed up some more and laid it out very, very carefully on the drying racks. The good news is that the stuff from the washer wasn't a complete loss - I was able to rescue quite a bit and card that up into big fluffy (very fluffy!) batts.

I've been very interested to see how the crossbreed fibre spins up, so I can make my breeding plans appropriately. After all, if a particular cross yields yukky wool, we're not gonna want to breed more of them, this is a handspinner's flock! So, on to the experiement: the resulting singles are rather fuzzy ... this wool is like the thel part of Icelandic wool (the soft inner stuff) with hardly any of the tog fibres (the guard hairs). Now if I could spin a nice loose single on my wheel, I bet it'd be beautiful, but I'm not that good yet. I'll see what it turns out like after plying and setting the twist. Hmm, maybe I'll try spinning some on the drop spindle ... I can get loosely spun singles that way, but can't quite do that with the wheel yet.

Speaking of plying and setting twist, last night I spun up a second bobbin of purebred Icelandic (from the rovings I got done at the mill) and plyed that up. Today I washed and whacked it*, and it's drying on the racks with the raw fleece. It ended up as a 9 WPI** bulky yarn, which is waiting for me to decide on a use. I may see if I am able to spin up enough to make something larger (shawl? sweater, even? I certainly have lots and lots of roving...), but I'm still very new to spinning, so it'll be interesting to see if I can recreate that 9 WPI on the next bobbins.

So... after a day of playing with wool, I have a box by my wheel containing several batts of Southdown fibre (which doesn't spin up so well thanks to my less-than-ideal-shearing, but the batts are still good for pillows and quilts), a couple of batts of black Corriedale (that I cannot wait to spin!), some pink KoolAid dyed commercial wool batting (which we ran through the drumcarder just to open it up a bit), and a few batts of some 'mystery sheep fleece' that was a gift from my sister back when I lived in the city. I wish I knew what kind of sheep it was, because the wool is wonderful! And I have a ball of purple slubby weird yarn that is on it's way to becoming a scarf, and a third of a bobbin's worth of Icelandic/Southdown singles.

Whew. What a day! We sure had fun, though.

And I bet a few of you learned some wool processing terminology out of the adventure, too!

* washed and whacked: this is that 'setting the twist' thing mentioned earlier - after the wool is spun and plyed, you wash it one more time ... this relaxes the fibres a bit, and then as it is almost dry, you whack it on the floor a few times to felt the fibres together ever so slightly ... this sets the twist in the yarn so it doesn't unwind or go all fuzzy later in it's life

**WPI = Wraps per Inch, a measurement used to identify the thickness of handspun wool

18 October 2007

Fibre Night

We had one amazing fibre night!

The drum carder arrived: a gift from The Reluctant Farmer. A drum carder allows me to take wool from the sheep (washed first) and run it through the carder to make batts, which are then useful for things like quilt filling or as raw material for spinning. This takes the place of hand carders and is much, much, much faster and produces far better 'stuff'. We tested it out! You can see Princess Girl wearing one end result on her head, Dinosaur Boy wearing one as a Santa Beard, and The Boy holding someof the raw material in his hands. I have the tool used to pull the finished batts off of the carder, it's a wicked sharp thing.

The wool I sent out for processing also came back from the mill yesterday: I had sent in wool from Natalie and Brownie (the Icelandic ewes) and some of the wool from the pile of Columbia and Hampshire "junk wool" given to me by a friend. My goodness, did it ever turn out nice! I spun up some of the Icelandic and it is soft and fuzzy and beautiful. I also tried spinning some of the Southdown wool (Jack's fleece) that we carded up on the drum carder, and although it's a bit on the slubby side (due in no small part to my crummy shearing job) it is quite serviceable and much better than what I can do with hand carders.

The kids had fun helping me, too, as you can see .... so all in all, it was a fun night. :)

15 October 2007

Construction Update

Well, the roof is on and felted, and the metal roof installation starts tomorrow. The Reluctant Farmer figures we may have the house all closed in by the end of the week, or maybe early next week. Windows should arrive Wednesday, the same day the septic tank gets installed, plumbers will be in for Wednesday and Thursday, and the permanent power should be hooked up by the end of the week.

It's really neat to see how the whole building will look when it's all completed, the shape is clear now. It's going to be a nice place for us all to live!

Pictures will be posted shortly. :)

26 September 2007

New sheep

These lovely sheep (and one additional blackfaced sheep, who was not interested in posing for the photo) were delivered today!

The blackfaced sheep are Hampshires, and the white one is a Columbia. They are both breeds that originated in England, and are not too far removed from the Southdown sheep (Jack, our smaller ram and father of all of last year's lambs, is a Southdown). Although these breeds are not primarily known for their wool, they do produce nice fleece that makes excellent hats and mitts and quilt batting. Combined with the finer Icelandic wool, we are on our way to developing a really interesting handspinner's flock.

In addition, these three sheep are already proven mamas who produce good sturdy lambs, and so they should be good additions to our little flock. Here, everyone needs to produce good fibre to sustain my ever-expanding addiction to spinning, knitting and all things wooly, but good meat lambs are also essential from a financial standpoint: I hope to be able to earn enough money from lamb sales to at least pay for the winter hay!

Coloured yarn, with help from the kids

Princess Girl and Dinosaur Boy helped me soak some wool in KoolAid a couple of weekends back ...

... and now I've spun the coloured wool into yarn, plied it and washed it, and it's all ready for knitting.

Here are the littler kids with their dad, showing off the results of our work.

It'll be made into some surprises that will show up at Christmas time ... you'll have to come back then to find out what this wool will become!

Construction update

It's been awhile since a construction update was posted, but construction has indeed been progressing!

The basement has all the in-floor heating in place: insulation, tubing, and the concrete floor! Earlier this week the cork flooring was purchased for the downstairs - there is a clearance store in town that had some very pretty stuff on for a very low price, and it'll be just fine downstairs. The selection for upstairs is a bit more specific, but this is beautiful cork and will make a very nice surface to play on in the basement.

The most exciting part, to me, is the work on the 'bridge' between the two houses. The siding from my house has been removed where the two buildings will join, and the joists placed between the two buildings on pilings (sunk 8 feet in the ground using a rented auger and The Reluctant Farmer's new bobcat). The underside of the bridge is finished, and the walls are in place, so you can clearly see how it will all look when it's done. Trusses are being built on the ground and will be installed this week, so it'll be a real hallway then!

The bridge is going to be wonderful: it is 10x8, wide enough to house the washer/dryer and the freezer, making them easily accessible from either house, and still leave plenty of room to walk. It's got two windows to let in light, and the floor provides a channel for pipes and wiring to run between the two buildings.

The rumor is that roof trusses for the house will be delivered Friday, but we'll believe that when we see it. It'll be great to have it roofed in, though - the tarp that's on it won't hold up to much more wind and weather, and we don't want the inside all wet!

09 September 2007

A dream come true for The Reluctant Farmer

The Reluctant Farmer has been wishing for a Land Cruiser for a long time now. His Hilux Surf was the 'entry point': it was cool, it was a Toyota, it was good for off-roading ... but it wasn't a Cruiser.

A little while ago, a beautiful 1991 imported Land Cruiser, in great shape, came available.

Saturday, we drove 3.5 hours south to pick it up. :)

It rumbles when it drives, like an old 1960s muscle car.

It runs on diesel, which is cheaper than gasoline by about 10c/L, on average.

The lower body panels are covered in the same stuff as the inside of my truck bed liner: rust-free and chip-resistant.

It's got a heavy duty roof rack, and extra lights that are so bright that you can see *anything* on the road in front of you.

It has .... *cruise control*. Very cool.

And ...

The center console, between the driver's and passenger's seats, has a built in cooler. You can put a couple of cans of Coke and a bottle or two of water in there, hit the 'cool' button, and have chilled beverages, while you drive!

How neat is that?

A very productive day

This morning we headed up to Gram and Grandpa's house to help with the sod: their yard is finally landscaped, and wow, does it ever look big with the sod in place! We all got dirty and muddy constructing a green patchwork quilt in the yard, but the final result is lovely. Gram made a great meal for us when we were done, so we headed back home tired, happy, and full.

Back at Apple Jack Creek, The Reluctant Farmer fired up the bobcat and pushed some fence posts into place with the bucket (he's been wanting to try that - pounding posts with a steel post pounder gets old really, really fast), and then recruited The Boy and myself to get the last bit of vapor barrier sticky stuff on the outside of his foundation. Indoors, The Boy did a couple of loads of wash, packed up for camp (his class is going to an outdoor education camp this week), and was generally useful in running errands for the activities happening outside.

Late in the afternoon, The Reluctant Farmer drove the bobcat around the yard, pushing dirt down around the foundation and working on the backfill. That job can't be finished completely until the windows are in, but it sure is nice to have some of the piles of dirt flattened out!

Meanwhile, Bruce the ram was up on the trimming stand for shearing. He wasn't really happy about being there, crosstied to a couple of fence posts and unable to go anywhere, nor was he thrilled about the snipping noises he kept hearing. Still, I did manage to get a year and a half's worth of fleece trimmed off, and without a single cut on either sheep or shearer!

I did leave Bruce with a fair bit of wool covering, as winter is coming on quickly and he won't have time to grow a nice long coat before the cold weather arrives. He looks really goofy - I haven't yet figured out how to trim a sheep smoothly *and* get no second cuts in the fleece, so whenever I shear, the sheep end up resembling those foam egg crate mattress toppers with lots of hills and valleys ... at least for a few days, after which the wool seems to fluff itself back up into some semblance of decency. I really should take a shearing course. My priority lies in getting useable fleece from the sheep, rather than in leaving them as pretty as possible ... so far, they are (temporarily) quite ugly and I have nice fleece, so I guess it's working!

Bruce has lovely wool - I will be spinning some of it tonight. I weighed the box of fleece when I was done: 7 lbs of wool! That should keep me occupied for a little while.

06 September 2007

A day at the river

Last weekend was the 'last weekend of summer', and Saturday was a beautiful warm day.

The Reluctant Farmer, The Boy and I headed down to the provincial park nearby, where there is a nice shallow river to play in. People often ride down it in canoes, dinghies or even inflatable swimming pools, following the current and enjoying the view.

We went and played in the water for the day, enjoying the sunshine, splashing in the water, and relishing every single joyous moment together.

Drop Spindles

My Auntie Sharon is interested in drop spindles, so I thought I'd provide a brief explanation of how they work.

Wool is made into yarn by twisting it: as it twists, the little fibres in the wool grab onto each other and hold on for dear life, making the yarn nice and strong. The trick to making yarn, then, is to find a way to keep it twisting while you feed in fibres a bit at a time.

With a spinning wheel, which you've probably seen at some time, the wheel itself keeps turning around, keeping the twist coming into the strand of yarn, and also winding the yarn onto a bobbin.

The older method - ancient, in fact - is a drop spindle. A drop spindle is a stick with a weight of some kind, sort of like a spinning top with a really long stem. The item on the right of this picture that vaguely resembles a mushroom cap on top of a long pencil is a drop spindle.
To spin with this, you wind some fibre around the long stem, pass it up over the 'mushroom cap' and under the hook that is centered on the spindle, then start the top spinning. This twists the loose fibre that is held between your hands and the top of the spindle, which gradually becomes yarn as it twists. Once you have a decent length of yarn spun up, you stop the spindle from spinning around, wind the yarn around the stem of the spindle, and start again.
Women have used tools like this to prepare fibre since before Bible times. When you use a drop spindle, you develop an entirely new appreciation for the generations of women who spun fibre in this way, then wove fabric from their yarn and sewed that fabric into garments to clothe their families. It is no wonder that most people made do with just one or two robes - it would have taken weeks of effort to create a single garment!

You can get lots of information about hand spinning (on drop spindles and wheels) here, including videos you can watch.
If you would like to try it out, you can find 'beginner spinning kits' with simple drop spindles and samples of fibre on ebay, or at your local fibre shop (any place that sells spinning wheels will carry these as well).

Princess Girl falls in love with fibre

Princess Girl and Dinosaur Boy are here three nights a week, and it has become routine that every evening, they ask to watch me spin wool. Believe it or not, it would be a huge disappointment for them if I didn't spin while they have their bedtime story! I am sure this will fade in time, but at the moment, the kids are fascinated by transformation of bunches of messy fibre to smooth, shiny wool.

Tuesday night, Princess Girl really wanted to help me. I put a stool beside my spinning chair as she wanted to "sit right aside you here", then I gave her a handful of fleece and a comb (one of the less pointy and pokey ones). She very studiously combed out the ends of the locks, then handed the teased fibres to me to put on my hand cards and make into rolags. She sat there while I spun, wonderingly holding the bits of fibre in her hands, and watching the pedal go up and down and the wheel go round and round, and yarn wind onto the bobbin.

Last night, she helped me knit.

Sitting beside me on the couch, she held the two balls of hand spun yarn from which I am knitting a scarf, and unwound wool for me as I needed it. At one point, she laid the two strands of yarn across her lap and, giggling, said "I have a wool seat belt!" She seems to find the texture of the yarn incredibly mysterious, holding the balls of wool and exclaiming over the softness.

She is most certainly a princess ... but you know, princesses of old were expected to spin wool and do their needlework, that's what ladies did! Perhaps there is hope for her yet. :)

02 September 2007

Playing in the dirt

The Reluctant Farmer handed me the keys to his new toy today ... and I dug up some dirt and dumped it by the house. Then I levelled it out, and spun around and levelled part of the driveway.

Wow, this thing is cool!

Hmphm. Princess indeed.

30 August 2007

Blue Mittens, as requested

My sister asked for a picture of the county-fair-ribbon-winning blue mitts, so here it is!

A pair of mitts made from loosely spun singles, done on the drop spindle from commercially prepared (and beautifully dyed!) roving - a gift from my very cool aunt in Ontario. :)

They are too small for me, but fit The Boy perfectly. They're his for the winter ... which is coming much too soon!

The Reluctant Farmer gets serious about construction

The Reluctant Farmer has gotten serious about construction!

This is his new toy. :)

Okay, it's not a toy, it's a skid steer. It has a smooth bucket for scooping and dumping gravel (the current task), a bucket with teeth for moving dirt (another of the upcoming tasks), and forks (which will be perfect for moving round bales of hay).

The smooth bucket will also work for clearing snow from the driveway.
How did this manage to show up at Apple Jack Creek? Well, a neighbour recommended someone nearby who had digging equipment that could clear out the muck and mud from around the foundation. Digger Man cleared away the muck and mentioned that he just happened to have a skid steer for sale ... so The Reluctant Farmer and our Contractor Guy went to check it out. The next day, this sweet little John Deere was delivered and immediately put to work.

Construction has made some substantial progress in the last few weeks. The moat has been drained, the sticky membrane attached to the foundation, and weeping tile put in place. The inspector was out today, and is happy with what he sees, so we are good to go.

19 August 2007

Fibre successes at the fair

I entered this picture in the "Photograph of a hobby or collection" category and won second place:

I also entered a pair of mittens made from the blue roving my aunt sent me, spun up on the drop spindle into loose singles then knitted into mitts. They took third place, after two very beautiful pair of patterend mitts. That was exciting!

Best of all, though, was the entry in the "general crafts" category (the catch-all 'stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else' grouping). I entered a skein of yarn spun from Brownie's fleece (hand shorn, carded, spun, plied and washed!) and it took ... first place! How exciting!

The Reluctant Farmer wins a ribbon at the fair

The Reluctant Farmer entered his first fair competition today, and he won a third place ribbon!

He entered this photograph in the "Volunteers at work" category. It was titled, "The Dads, house construction volunteers".

A weekend at the county fair

This weekend was our local county fair, and this year was the first year we could really participate in the events.

Friday night is the big Tractor Pull - which I haven't ever actually seen, as that night our 4-H club works the concession booth. It's one of our best fundraising events, and wow, were we ever busy this year! I managed to pause long enough to drink one can of pop between 5:30 and 11:00, when we finally shut the doors. What a great night!

The Reluctant Farmer brought Princess Girl and Dinosaur Boy to the fair, and we all spent Friday night in the motorhome on the fairgrounds. It wasn't really a *quiet* evening, but we did eventually all get to sleep, and we were ready for the parade in the morning. The kids think the parade is just wonderful, as at the country parade the people throw candy to the spectators. This isn't done in the city anymore, as it is deemed a liability ... but in the country you can still have this kind of old-fashioned fun. There were people on horses, miniature donkeys, and kids on bikes ... and a tired, costumed goat that was handed off to me as he was too worn out to finish the route!

Saturday afternoon The Reluctant Farmer and his kids headed back to the city for one last trip to their old house. This weekend marks the beginning of our new combined family: the house in the city passes to it's new owner on Tuesday, and our transition to one household is just about complete. Of course, it'll all be much more comfortable once the addition is finished, but in the interim, many of The Reluctant Farmer's things are in storage, and we will manage to fit everyone into the house and motorhome until construction is complete.

Back at the fair, The Boy and I were busy with the pet show Saturday afternoon. I volunteered for handing out prizes and getting the kids and their pets into the ring, and The Boy showed his various animals. My favourite category this year was the "pet and owner lookalike" competition: there were two girls with their pet cats, and The Boy and Duggan, our beagle. The Boy told the judge, "I have short hair, he has short hair. I have big ears, he has big ears. I'm dirty, he's dirty!" Apparently the judge agreed, and The Boy took first prize in that category. :) His pet bunny also won first place, and he received a wonderful package of bunny treats from one of the show sponsors.

We didn't have many entrants in the sheep show, just The Boy and I - meaning we were competing against each other! I showed Cola, one of the last set of lambs born here this year (the one with one black ear). The Boy showed his 4-H lamb, Cherub, and the judge placed Cola first and Cherub second. I was really excited to win a ribbon: The Boy gets to compete all the time in 4-H events, but this was my very first time showing a sheep, and I took first place! Okay, so I was only competing against my own kid (who took second, yay!) but still.

The last event of the fair was the bench show. There are a wide variety of categories to enter: everthing from flower arrangements and vegetables from your garden to artwork done in class and photographs. We entered in every category we could think of, just for the fun of it all!
A dozen of our free range farm eggs won second place! That was eggciting. :)

The Boy brought home a first place ribbon for some artwork he did at school, and a grand total of four second place ribbons and six third place ribbons! His photograph of Gram Picking Berries was one of his third place winners ...

and his photo of Little Red took second place:

The winter scene that The Boy photographed for Grandpa was a third place winner, too:

13 August 2007

Country Fair Season

It's country fair season!

This past weekend, The Reluctant Farmer & I were at a friend's wedding (a beautiful ceremony followed by an amazing feast - which is what you get with a Ukrainian bride and a German groom - and an evening of dancing that my feet are still recovering from). While we were off at the wedding, The Boy went to Gram and Grandpa's house and entered his crafts in the local fair.
His crafts brought home some ribbons: participation for his artwork from school, second place for the Christmas stocking he sewed at a 4-H event, and first place for his birdhouse!

Our local fair is this weekend, and we'll be entering a few things there ... further bulletins after the results are in!

09 August 2007

What a fibre addict does when she has an evening to herself

I was all alone the other night, so I sat down and skirted a fleece.

Translator's note: 'skirting' a fleece means getting the yukky bits off - pulling the straw and hay and burrs and seeds and yukky wool out, and leaving just the nice clean stuff behind.

I am sending some of the fleeces out to be processed, and the mill will be happier (and able to produce a better finished product) if the worst of the mess is cleaned up before I send the wool to them.

For this job, I sat on a stool in the living room with a bag of sheep fleece dumped on the floor in a pile. I pulled lap-sized chunks of fleece from the pile, shook them to get anything loose to fall off, then removed smaller-things-that-weren't-wool by hand. I put the very best and cleanest wool into a box: this wool I'll process by hand, meaning I will card it on my hand carders, spin it (I like to spin 'in the grease', meaning before washing the natural lanolin out of the wool - it makes your hands really soft - and then wash the finished yarn). The "mostly clean" wool went into a box to go to the mill, and the yukkiest bits went into a pile that'll end up on the compost heap. It actually was a fairly pleasant experience: I listened to an audio book while I did it. When I finished, I hand carded some of the nice stuff and started spinning.

In fact, I think I'm gonna go clean another fleece tonight - I have a new audiobook on the go, and this is one of my last nights all alone in the house: The Boy is at summer camp, and the Reluctant Farmer is home in the city. In another week and a half or so, The Reluctant Farmer will be here full time, and Princess Girl and Dinosaur Boy too! It'll be nice to be closer to being settled, but the interim period (while the addition is still under construction and everyone is making do with the smaller space) will be ... interesting.

Yup, I'm gonna go clean fibre and enjoy the peace and quiet ... while it lasts. :)

29 July 2007

Grid power

As of yesterday, we have grid power.

As of today, we have grid power as our battery backup, so no more generator!

The Reluctant Farmer has had to do a lot of research and try out several different configurations to get all this working, but we are good to go. As someone told me today, there's nothing quite so handsome as a capable man. :D

As much as I would prefer to be completely off the grid, at this point, our solar and not-yet-installed wind power is just not enough to power a reasonably comfortable life, especially with doubling the size of the house. Still, the power bills will be lower than they'd be otherwise, and should there be a lengthy power outage, we still have enough from the sun to cover the basics.


23 July 2007

Construction on the North Wing

Construction on the North Wing continued last week. The Reluctant Farmer's parents came from Saskatchewan to help with the building, and my parents came over to assist as well.

As you can see, the dads got along famously! The moms helped out with meals and did some touring in the area, and the end of the week saw all the exterior walls up and sheathed, the interior walls all framed and in place, and the north wing ready for trusses.

Today's good news is that trusses can be ready in a month - woohoo!

The Reluctant Farmer spent today working on the temporary electrical box that will allow us to connect to the grid: grid power is cheaper than the gasoline required to run our backup generator, and the sun just isn't quite enough to power the house (especially not with the addition). It'll be wonderful not to need to fill up jerry cans every other day, and to have quiet evenings without the roar of the generator in the background. With the solar panels and wind generator (yes, that will be installed before too much longer) we will be much less reliant on grid power, but it will be awesome not to have to worry quite so much about running out of fuel on a dark, chilly day.

Experimenting with colour

You can do interesting things with KoolAid powder, wool, and sunshine.

Place wool in a zip lock bag with warm water and unsweetened KoolAid powder. Add a splash of vinegar. Mush the wool around in the coloured water, then set the bag out in the sun for the afternoon. Remove the wool, drain it, rinse it, and hang it to dry.

Voila, coloured wool!

For this experiment I used some washed fleece that I found lying around - I believe it came from the stash of miscellaneous fleeces that are in my shed outside. It's got some second cuts in it, so it wants to be spun up into something on the lumpy bumpy 'creative' side. (Second cuts are the little short bits of wool that you end up with when the shearer goes back over a section to get closer to the skin, somewhat analogous to the bits of hair that fall down your shirt when you get a haircut. They tend to make little lumps on the final spun yarn.)

I took the "strawberry kiwi" and spun it up into a reasonably lumpy thick-and-thin single, then spun up a very smooth thread from some commercially prepared white batting. The two plied together nicely to make a candy striped yarn that I'm attempting to make into ... something. Possibly a felted sunglasses/eyeglasses case, possibly a handbag ... I'll see what happens as I knit.

I carded the "cherry" and "grape" into fluffy bundles of fleece then spun them onto the same yarn, alternating colours. The end result is a fairly loosely spun pink-purple concoction that will probably also end up as some felted item. The openness of the spun wool should lend itself reasonably well to felting, and hey, at this point, it's all about the experiments.

Ahhh, I do love fibre.

Working on Gram and Grandpa's garage

Gram and Grandpa are building their garage, now that the weather dried up enough to get concrete poured and the walls put up.

On Sunday we went to help put the sheathing on the roof - we had a very productive (if extremely hot) work day. We got the whole thing done, nobody fell off the roof, and the worst injury was to my backside: I managed to stab a nail into my leg by sitting on the plastic bag of roofing nails as I attempted to scoot along the roof. Hey, at least it was clean - brand new nails aren't rusty or dirty. I got a nice bruise out of the deal though!

Here's a wonderful image of The Reluctant Farmer, posing for the camera. Handsome guy, eh?

20 July 2007

All colours, shapes and sizes

God makes lots of people in all colours, shapes and sizes.
He loves them very much and what we need to realize is
that calling people names because they're different is wrong.
Instead we need to look on them in love, and sing this song:

I can be your friend (la la la) I can be your friend
If your hair is red or yellow, we can have lunch, I'll share my Jell-o! ...

I do love Veggie-Tales. :)

This morning my company attended an annual breakfast hosted by Chrysalis, a local organization that assists people with a variety of disabilities to find their place in the larger community. While we were there, I noticed a young lady crossing the field: she used arm-brace crutches and had to wrestle her lower body with every step she took, but walk she did.

When I saw her, my first thought was that had my daughter Jessica's birth defects been less intense, my little girl might have grown up to be like her: earning every step with exhausting physical effort, leaning on metal crutches while dragging her reluctant legs forward. Jessica had a spinal column defect that would have created mobility problems and other challenges, had it been positioned lower on her spine. As it was, the Jessica's spine was damaged high on her neck and resulted in malformations in her brain. She could not have survived with the incomplete neural structures she was born with, so for her, it was a blessing that she was here only long enough to say hello and goodbye.

Still, had things been just a little different, I might have been taking my daughter to physiotherapy, doing exercises with her every day, fighting with her for every step. I might be thinking about things like wheelchair ramps and automatic doors when deciding where to eat out and where to shop, or dealing with the frustration of people not shovelling snow from their walks because we can't get through with a wheelchair or a kid on crutches. I might have had to rehearse explanataions of the assistive devices that become extensions of a damaged body, and forced to develop courteous responses for rude strangers - pointing out that just because a body or mind isn't as quick as yours doesn't mean the person inside that damaged body or slowed mind won't be hurt by cruel words or ignorant stares.

I thought about how easily it could have been my kid who needed the help of organizations like Chrysalis, and I was grateful to all the people who work so hard to ensure that our community welcomes people who come in unusual packages. And, I realized that I'm part of that community, too, and I vowed to be more open and welcoming to those who could so easily have been just like my kid, had things been just a little different.

Jell-0, anyone?

14 July 2007

Construction begins

We're ready ... construction begins in earnest this week!

The subfloor is in place, the moat around the foundation is slowly drying, we have gravel spread on the driveway, and the materials for framing have been delivered. The power poles are in, the temporary power box is set up, and the motorhome is parked and ready to accommodate the extra bodies that will be here to assist with the wall-raising!

The Reluctant Farmer's parents will be arriving Sunday to help for a week, and my parents will be coming over most days as well. We have a contractor coordinating the whole adventure, and we are looking at hot sunny weather all week.

Next job: moving the tools out of the bathroom so that it is safe for people who are unaccustomed to stepping over skill saws and cordless drills on the way to the loo!

Happy feet

My sister and her husband sent me an LLBean gift certificate for my birthday.

Look what I got!

09 July 2007

Fibre Progress

Here's the yarn so far:
Left to right...
The first fibre experiment on the wheel (which is a mix of fibre types and as a result wildly weird in terms of thickness, etc)
The blue commercially prepared roving from my aunt
Southdown and Columbia and Hampshire fibre, spun in the grease then washed
Icelandic fibre, washed and then spun (the last two skeins are the same stuff, I had too much to make into one skein!)
I have Icelandic in-the-grease on the bobbins right now

Sheep pictures

Thought it might be time to post some new sheep pictures.

The Icelandics have finished their spring fleece shedding, and no longer look like they have mange. This is Brownie, the ewe who lost her lambs this spring. She's in nice condition and her fleece is coming in beautifully.

This is Coca Cola, one of Natalie's twin lambs (the last lambs we had born here this year, on Maundy Thursday). She has that one black ear, and the rest of her is white. I can't wait to try spinning her fleece, it is silky soft and has lovely crimp to it. Ahhh, fibre. I am hopelessly addicted.

And last but not least, Bruce the ram. We're hoping to get some lambs from him this year. Look at those massive horns! Neat, eh?

(Tonight's entertainment is listening to the dogs chase the coyotes. There was a coyote in the field next to us, and the dogs took off after it in a hurry! The sheep are just grazing away in the pasture, completely unconcerned. You can just hear their thoughts ... "Oh yeah, coyotes. Whatever, the dogs will look after them.")

03 July 2007


Just have to show off...

This is the first spindle of singles spun from the lovely blue roving. I will do up two of these, then ply them together to make yarn. I'll use my drop spindle to make up the rest of what I need for my other mitten, then probably spin up what is left of that roving to make ... something! Maybe it wants to be a hat that matches the mitts, or maybe it will be socks. Yarn will tell you what it wants to be, but you may have to wait awhile until you can hear it.

Before spinning up this blue, I did make up two bobbins worth of singles from a variety of fibres and then plyed them together - the resulting looks pretty weird because of the varying thicknesses and fibres in use, but it was a good experiment. The battery died on the camera, though, so I can't show you what it looks like.

I think I'm going to spin some more now!

02 July 2007

A wheel!

I got a wheel for my birthday!

Yes, a real actual spinning wheel. I am such a lucky person, I just can't believe it. :)

The wheel in question is a Babe single treadle production model. I've been researching and drooling over spinning wheels since, oh, shortly after I figured out how to work my drop spindle, and now I have one of my very own. The Babe is often recommended as a a good starting model as they are about 1/3 the cost of a wooden wheel, and they spin smoothly and well.

I sat down today and really took some time to try things out: I tried different kinds of fibre from my stash, and discovered that it's true that each kind of fibre 'wants' to be spun differently. I also discovered that on the wheel, I get much tighter and more even singles than I do on the drop spindle. Those lovely blue mitts I'm working on make use of loosely spun singles, which come out quite easily on the drop spindle but are much trickier to do on the wheel (well, so far, I am a complete rookie at this after all).

I couldn't resist the experiment - I took some of that lovely blue fibre and have it going on the wheel. I'll spin up what I need to finish the other mitt on the drop spindle (I'm 1/3 of the way there, I was spinning some at the fair on the weekend) but I suspect that the remainder of that blue fibre will end up being spun into yarn on the wheel!

I have much more experimentation to do, but so far, I absolutely love wheel spinning. I am sure I'll continue with the drop spindle as well, but the speed of the wheel is just amazing. I have my first skein of 'experiment yarn' drying at the sink right now ... plying on the wheel is so stunningly easy, I'm sure I will be doing it a lot more often!

Aahh. Fibre. I've decided that I can probably be classified as a confirmed addict at this point. in fact, I think I'm going back to the wheel for a bit before bed. :)

Happy Canada Day, Happy Focus on 4-H, Happy Birthday!

We have had a BUSY weekend!

It's been a ton of fun, but wow, has it been busy.

The adventure began on Friday morning as The Reluctant Farmer and I headed off to pick up our new deluxe portable accommodation unit. This lovely motor home will be the extra living space we need while construction on the addition to the house is completed. It will also see plenty of use at livestock shows, the county fair, and some trips to cool places around the province. I've always wanted to visit the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta, but it's too far for a day trip and not quite worth a hotel stay ... this makes trips like that workable, even with 3 kids.

Friday afternoon we got things packed up and ready to go, as Focus on 4-H began Friday night. The next adventure was sheep transportation: our sheep normally travel in a really large dog crate in the back of the pickup, but the crate will only hold two (not too large) sheep at a time. We had three that had to get to the fair, and no plans to take the pickup. How does one solve a problem like that?

In this case, very creatively. The crate was stuffed into the motor home and then loaded with two sheep. The Boy climbed into the passenger seat in the front, and the smallest lamb was shoved in front of his feet! He held onto her halter and off we went. When we arrived, the traffic marshall took one look in the front seat and ran to open the gate so we could get unloaded!

Focus on 4-H is the regional wind up event for the year. There are kids there with horses, cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and crafts. Events go on all weekend, and most families camp on the grounds. We had a great time, and learned more about our sheep and about other animals.

We had sheep in costumes ...

Goats doing obstacle courses ...

And a window full of ribbons! (2012)

All in all it was a great time!

Friday night, The Reluctant Farmer brought his kids (Princess Girl and Dinosaur Boy) to the fair, and for dinner at my parents' house (the fair was held in the same small town where they live, so this worked out perfectly). We celebrated my birthday (which is actually on Wednesday, but we're flexible) and had a great supper, cake, loot bags (graciously provided by Gram!) and ... presents! My parents got me a wonderful set of Crocs flip flops that are specially designed for aching feet (which I certainly have), and The Recluctant Farmer and the kids got me a real spinning wheel! How cool is that? More on that in a separate post. :)

Friday night all of us (TRF, myself, and all three kids) stayed in the motor home at the fair. The kids were really excited to be camping out. Saturday was taken up with fair activities, although in the afternoon TRF and his kids headed back to town. The Reluctant Farmer has had his house up for sale for awhile now, and had to staff an open house that afternoon and send his kids off to their mom's house for the rest of the weekend.

Sunday we had the fun competition classes for sheep and goats - the costume competition and sheep races. Sheep don't really "race" as well as you might think, even with a bucket of grain at the finish line. Goats are even more entertaining - we had a "goat on the lam" when one of the race participants jumped out of the race area and into the crowd!

Once those activities were over, the sheep were free to head on home so we packed up two in the back of the truck and brought them back to Apple Jack Creek. On the way, The Reluctant Farmer got a phone call from someone who was interested in his house, so he headed back to the city for a meeting and I spent the afternoon tidying up the disaster area we'd left behind in our haste to get to the fair. Some of the best news of the weekend is that his house sold for a good price, and with a posession date that fits the schedule quite nicely (mid to late August). The paperwork will all be finalized in a couple of days, but the deal is done, which is great news!

Sunday night Solar Neighbour had a party at his house for Canada Day and bought boxes upon boxes of fireworks to set off. The Boy got to help light explosive devices in the driveway, and we enjoyed a good hour of light and sound in the company of the folks who live in the area. It was a great way to celebrate Canada's birthday, even if we were very (very) tired this morning!

Today was the final day of the fair, so we headed back up to the fairgrounds where The Boy was participating in a fun 'bike and tractor rodeo'. We cleaned up our stalls and packed up our campsite, then headed back home to recover from all the fun. I actually slept for three hours this afternoon ... having that much fun wears a person out!

25 June 2007

From fibre to mitten

Remember that pretty blue roving my aunt sent me from Michigan?

It's now a very soft, very pretty ocean coloured mitten.

I am currently in the process of spinning up some more yarn so I can make the other one!

A new sheep, kinda

The Boy had a field trip today to the local historical museum, and brought me a souvenir.
(It's a little bar of soap, shaped like a sheep with a happy little smile.)

20 June 2007

Hot, then rainy, then hot, then rainy

The weather is doing it's usual early summer mish mash of hot days followed by thundershowers every evening.

The grass is gorgeous - knee high in the central pasture (we have *got* to finish the perimiter fencing and get the sheep in there, it's getting out of hand!) and everything is beautifully green.

However, the area around the base of the addition is filled with standing water and boot-sucking clay mud. We need a week of hot dry weather to even begin drying it out so that the weeping tile can be put in place.

Ah well, at least the subfloor is on and the sump pump installed so the interior is staying more or less dry.

14 June 2007

Concrete & Subfloor

The concrete is in and the subfloor started!

There'll be something of a lag while we wait for plans to be completed and lumber ordered and all that stuff, but pretty soon here we'll have a closed in basement.
Neat, eh?

09 June 2007

Achievement Day

At the end of the 4H season, kids with sheep and cattle show them at a big event known as "Achievement Day". The animals are shown in the ring (for those of you who haven't been to a livestock show, it's sort of like what happens at a dog show, only with bigger animals) and the kids are judged on the quality of the animal and on their showmanship skills.

Achievement Day is a big deal, starting the day before with preparation of the sheep for the show. The Boy spent several hours grooming his market lamb: you need to trim the fleece short so that the judge can see what's under there, otherwise it's like a bodybuilder competing in a big wool coat! This is a tough job involving hand shears and carders, but boy oh boy did that lamb look good when it was done!

His breeding ewe is being shown partially for her fleece (since we have a wool flock) so she didn't get as much trimming. It was a long hot afternoon for The Boy, but his animals looked great when he was done.

Monday morning we loaded sheep, kid, and supplies into the truck and headed to the fair grounds. Animals get unloaded into pens, then weighed, and then the waiting begins. The day is very long: we arrive at 7:30, do weigh-in around 9:00, then there's a starting parade at 10:00. There are so many animals to show that it can take a long time for your turn to arrive.

The Boy and his sheep did really well: his ewe lamb took third place (out of only three sheep, but they were very close) and he took third place in showmanship (out of seven kids) which was excellent considering this is the first time he's done anything like this. He was very pleased with the results and had a great time during the day. In the evening all the market lambs are sold at auction: his lamb was the lightest one there, weighing in at about half the size of the heaviest one! Still, he got $1.90/lb, which is quite respectable: the champion lamb sold for $2.25 and the average price at the auction for lamb was around $1.60. Some of the kids have a really hard time saying goodbye to their market animals, but The Boy handled it all very well. I think it stings a bit less when you have other sheep to go home to - lots of these kids purchase a lamb in January, raise it and play with it for a few months, then have to send it off to the butcher and go home to an empty sheep pen. Here, we have others to come home to, and his ewe lamb will be an ongoing project for the next two years.

03 June 2007

Union Guy gets a new name

As of today, Union Guy will be known as The Reluctant Farmer.

Why, you ask?

Because he has decided to become a permanent part of the Apple Jack Creek crew ... against what he frequently says is his better judgement. (I presume he's at least partly joking...)

Union Guy has two kids and a house in the city. His kids live with him half of the time, and the other half of the time they're with their mom. Union Guy and the kids' mom all get along quite well, and it seemed that the best plan was for everyone to stay in close physical proximity for the long term - school and extracurricular activities are a lot easier to arrange when everyone lives in the same neighbourhood (or at least neighbouring neighbourhoods).

This all made perfect sense.

Then, housing prices went through the roof.

Suddenly, The Reluctant Farmer's house in the city was worth close to twice what he paid for it. He could build an addition onto this house with the cash proceeds from his house sale, and be mortgage free. The costs of shuttling kids back and forth to town for school and soccer and swimming lessons would be nothing compared to the increased property taxes in town.

Besides, much as he hates to admit it, he misses me when he only gets to see me on weekends. With the cost of fuel being what it is, midweek trips stopped being economically viable quite awhile back, and although we are quite adept at virtual communication, it's just not the same as hangin' out in the same place.

We'd already determined some time ago that our partnership is a permanent arrangement, and it'll be appropriately formalized in the near future (stay tuned for details on that adventure).

A little while back the work on the addition to the house started:

This lovely pit will someday soon contain the foundation of a 1,000 sq foot addition housing three bedrooms, a bathroom, an extra kitchen and a living room. With a full basement for play space and media, we'll feel like we are living in the lap of luxury.

Stay tuned for updates on the next phase of construction at Apple Jack Creek!