24 August 2008

The Small Picture

Hi gang. How've you been? We've had a busy summer here at Tuppinz. It's been two years since we moved here, and we still haven't made a dent in the junk the former owners dumped hid "forgot" when they left.

Let's just say they might not have had the best environmental policies. Between the paint and chemical cans, and the 30 (so far) tires we've cleared, we're having to pay quite a chunk of change for someone to sort through it and for appropriate disposal.

When we left our last house, it was clean and tidy, the lawn was mowed, and we didn't steal all the lightbulbs when we moved out. Just sayin'...

I learned an important lesson from the previous owners: when people advertise how "religious" they are, it just might be because they're compensating for guilt in the ethics department. Then again, they might just not care about lying, if it helps them achieve their goals.

No, it hasn't been an easy time thus far. The move, Chef Jeff's new job, and the serious illnesses and subsequent deaths of my father, our three dogs, and our cat were not made more tolerable by (to mention just a few things): a bathtub that leaks through the kitchen ceiling; constant seepage in the cellar; incorrect and potentially dangerous wiring and plumbing; laundry and bathroom pipes that freeze solid in the winter; and a bedroom that never gets above 45° during snow season despite $500-per-month propane heating bills. Top it all off by discovering structural defects due to an undisclosed fire and "reconstruction" they did themselves, and it leads one to believe that the last folks here had never heard the phrase, "sins of omission."

Why didn't we hire a home inspector, you ask? Actually, we did. Now that was money well spent. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard the seemingly endless stream of repairmen say, "It'd be cheaper to tear the house down and rebuild, than to fix all that's wrong with it," and one even asked, "Did the inspector actually see the house before filling out his report?" Apparently any schmuck can become a "home inspector." Next time (well, there will not be a next time, but if there were,) I'd hire an actual general contractor. Those that can, do, as they say... those that can't apparently hang out a shingle and pretend they're qualified to give advice.

So there it is: Hobby Farm Mistake No. 1 - the Big Kahuna of them all: believing that, because we're honest, other people are, too. Well, just because someone has the letters of an accreditation organization next to their name, or their parent was a minister, or they attended a Bible college, or they teach vacation Bible school and paint sayings about the Lord on their kitchen wall, doesn't make them honest. Silly us, the naive city people getting taken in by the "honest" country folk. Won't happen again, I can tell you. We can learn to use the tractor, take care of the animals and the land, and give vaccinations or trim hooves from books (and we have!)... but getting royally robbed is one lesson that can only be learned by living through it. I wouldn't wish the experience on my worst enemies (which, now that I think about it, would be those who did it to us. Better give me a second to re-think that... Nah, you know me better than that. I have faith in karma. Wonder if they'll be coming back as slugs...)

Despite the various "surprises" that awaited us in this house, (which have caused me significant stress and sorrow though I try to keep it from you all, as this is supposed to be a positive blog), I hope I'm still the kind of person who "uses her powers for good." That's one less victory for the Dark Side, so poo on them.

But I have met many truly good, moral, generous, inspirational, and kind people since moving here, so there is still hope in my little world!

I believe the animals' energy is helping to clear some of the bad residual karma from the farm. There's nothing like a happy bunch of animals thankful that they didn't end up at market to cheer a place up. When we're outside, it's actually pleasant here. One sign that our respect for the land is paying off - this gorgeous Antheraea polyphemus moth caterpillar I found the other day:

I'm continually amazed at the striking coloring of the Nigerian dwarf kids. Pansy's Elfine (Jeff calls her Elephant) is still the tiniest goat of all, but fun-loving and just as naughty as her sister and cousins. The little ones give me palpitations by slipping out of the paddock gate and hollering for their mamas, who obviously can't follow. No, it's too much work for them to go out to the pasture to graze - they'd rather be in the shade, nibbling on pine or willow, while screaming for the other goats to join them. Of course, the other goats, furious that they can neither taste the goodies nor go out to pasture without the babies, bellow right back.

If you've never heard baby goats' calls, let's just say that there's probably a reason the little ones are called kids - imagine a cranky newborn human, but ten times the decibel level. Sometimes, we even get an echo here in the valley. It's not fun at vaccination time.

I'll be glad when they're a little bigger and can't slip through the gate any longer.

Sitka is Elephant's Elfine's half-sister, and she, too, gets her amazing color patterns from her father, Dexter - that is him behind her, and Sitka's sister, Sequoia, just behind him. He was wethered under sedation by our vet, so now can spend the remainder of his life living with his family and the other goats.

Elfine was the last of the kids to be born here, as we can't bear to send any of these intelligent creatures off to unknown futures, and certainly can't afford to keep more than the 24 we have! So much for the goat breeding idea... but goats are truly good for the soul. There's nothing to bring a smile to your face like a goat's antics!

Believe it or not, I have gotten some knitting done the past couple of months. When I think of the amount of knitting and spinning and dyeing and creating I did before moving here, it seems unbelievable. You fiberartists thinking of getting sheep - don't say I didn't warn you, if you're not careful what you wish for! Most days I can't even fit in a shower, much less fiber time.

Here are a couple of hats and half a pair of mittens I've done for Macuwita Sni. I've used STR in the Bunny Foo Foo and Pink Granite colorways combined together on the left hat. Bunny Foo Foo was used for the mitten and the hat on the right.

The hat pattern is from a recent Spin-Off magazine*. It claimed to enable the reader to make the hat using any gauge yarn. Unfortunately, no formulas (think Elizabeth Zimmermann percentage system) were provided - only two variations of the hat in two particular handspun yarns.

I finally got the formula figured out and now will be able to make the hat with any yarn. The flap nicely covers one's ears and the back of one's neck. In future, I will start the hat with seven or eight sections, as six just makes it too peaky. But I love that it's knit top-down! No casting on a bazillion stitches - by starting at the top, I can stop increasing at any time when the circumference is appropriate to the intended victim wearer.

As for the mitten, I was determined to learn to knit one from the fingertips up. It's that casting on a lot of stitches thing again... just hate that. I think it worked well - next time, I will try a round fingertip area, so that the mittens will fit well on either hand no matter where I choose to place the thumbs. With this one, I'm going to have to remember to make the next one with an opposite thumb. That's a mistake waiting to happen...

The blue yarn is EZ's "thumb trick" - I'll just remove it and knit around until I have a thumb. I hope.

I found the percentages for a patternless mitten in Knitting In The Nordic Tradition in a tiny diagram. Thank goodness - because they are not to be found in all of EZ!

Well, I know this will come as a shock to you (not!) but another abandoned cat has shown up. Jeff named him Squeaky II (Squeaky I showed up last year, and was adopted by our vet... I don't think we can pawn another feline off on her, so Squeaky II is here to stay.)

He's an extremely handsome and friendly boy, and has actually helped the other cats to get along a bit better by somehow evening out the teams. He's quite relaxed in his new surroundings, as you can see.

In exciting news, Miss Tikki's new (used) Circle Y Flex Tree saddle arrived, and it seems to fit her! I also got a great deal on a 100% wool 1" saddle pad, which will help keep her comfortable (that's not it in the photo, though.)

I had a setback on my SparkPeople healthy eating program (my own fault and I admit it!), so I won't be hopping on Miss Tiks any time soon, but we've been working on training and walking along the road to see how she does with cars (just fine!) so we're still making some progress. The exercise is beneficial for my fibro pain, if I don't overdo it.

The other donks received pressies as well - custom fly masks and booties from Linda Long. She stands behind her work 100% and is great to deal with.

Yeah, we bad!

Does anyone else get the feeling that Buffy the duck and 'Zola the Jacob ewe are having a good laugh at the donkeys' expense?

The ducks keep laying eggs outside the henhouse (fine by me - tho' duck eggs don't taste any different than hens', there is something about the idea of eating them that gives me the heebie jeebies.) We come across nests in unusual places, like beneath this white pine:

I'm careful to keep the dogs away, because the one time Emma got hold of a rotten duck egg, she hid it in her mouth until she was back indoors, and then popped it in the kitchen. That was not a good day on the farm...

We have a guinea hen on a nest in the pasture right now, so we're hoping that one of the other guineas is a male so that this one will actually hatch out the clutch and we'll have more tick-eating keets this fall. It is SO nice to be able to walk through the pasture without dozens of ticks latching on! Guinea fowl are the way to go!

Jeff and I are betting against each other about Eggbertina's gender. As s/he grows older, I swear I see saddle feathers - an indication that s/he may be a rooster. But s/he hasn't crowed (despite being twice as large as any of the other young chickens - but perhaps that's due to being house-hatched and hand-fed?) What do you think? Don't let the beard fool you - the only chickens with facial feathers around here are all girls.

There has been a decided chill in the air at night the past week - perfect sleeping weather. In my book, there is no more glorious season than fall, and I'm enjoying the beautiful sunsets we've been having lately:

Pic by Chef Jeff

Pic by Chef Jeff

May you be well and happy, my friends. Remember - no matter how many problems you have, there is always beauty to be found when living in the moment. Sometimes, it's more helpful (and hopeful) to see the small picture. Just don't forget to keep the camera with you!

* Anyone else getting a tidge irritated that Interweave continues to force subscribers to log on to their website for patterns, rather than including them in the magazine? Why not just go completely paperless, then?

16 August 2008

Mammoth Jackstock Jennet, Late Summer

Who knew there were such things as donkeys as big as horses, that one could ride?

Who knew they would be so calm and peaceful, so affectionate, so easygoing?

Who knew they would be excellent, gentle companions for sheep, keeping them safe from harm?

Who knew how one could fall so in love with such a wonderful beast?

I see Tikki and the little donkeys and the sheep at dusk, veiled in orange-purple light, and I feel as if my heart will break from the late-summer cricket-chirping second-by-second sun-setting of it all.