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!