Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Full Day

Yesterday was a full day. After Chrissie picked up the kids and after Mim left, Ian asked me if I felt like driving over to the marsh to see if the yellow-headed blackbirds are here yet.

And they are. They are big and they are noisy. These are just the first to arrive. As the marsh greens up, all sorts of birds come in.

We got drawn away from the marsh when we saw wild horses behind a vacant house. This is a new herd. BLM came in and rounded up the horses last year, so it's been a while since we've seen any. My brother doesn't think they all that neat - just feral animals who fight a lot.

We drove out to see if we could get closer - trespassing it's called. This was it.

While Mim and I waited the hour for the wool to mordant, we skirted George's fleece from last year. I have avoided it because it's so fully of VM vegetative matter. We ended up dividing the fleece into three parts, front, middle and end. That way I can take it in smaller batches and it will be less overwhelming.

I realized today that I didn't get to look at the fleece, though it did seem pretty when we skirted it yesterday. I pulled out these locks when I got home from work today. I'm not sure if I'll remove the tips or now. I'm looking forward to washing these locks and see how it spins up.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Babysitting, Part II

We took a walk this morning after breakfast while we waited for Mommy. Allie is rearranging rocks. She decided to make them more pretty.

This is the beautiful rock that she wanted me to have.

Papa joined us at the end of the walk. He had plenty of company -including our neighbor's enthusiastic black lab, Sammi.

After Mommy collected the kidlets, Mim and I mordanted skeins for the guild dye day in two weeks. I know so little about this process but we followed the instructions from "North American Dye Plants" by Anne Bliss. We used alum, along with cream of tartar - the other mordants are just too scary.


I drove in the 35 miles yesterday afternoon to pick up two of our grandkids. Mama Chris is belly dancing this weekend at a regional event, and daddy Mikeal is fencing in California. It's rare that I make our beautiful drive at my own leisure so I took my camera to catch some of the pictures that I have wanted, but never left the house in time to capture. This is right before the cattle guard and the California State line.

And because I wasn't in a huge hurry home, I pulled into the Shoe Tree. The kids were thrilled and asked a million bajillion questions, mostly, why do people put their shoes in the tree?

You have to click for big to see the unbelievable variety of shoes that people have taken the time to hang here. I had a pair that I was saving to hang on it, but they got disappeared. I walked all over Washington, D.C. in them, to the point that I wore through the soles. That they aren't on the Shoe Tree is only a technicality in my mind.

Driving north from Reno to Susanville, California, you will see a sign - oh, about 13 miles north of the Hallelujah Junction - that says Red Rock Road. We live five miles from there, but we live just inside the Nevada state line. We are in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and very much in the high desert.

I took this after we turned onto Red Rock Road. The kids were terribly worried because I stopped right in the middle of the road and took several shots. They aren't used to rural roads. I'm on it - it's mine. Well, not my attitude, but common.

One grandson.....

One granddaughter....

Friday, April 27, 2007


I have embarked on the defragmentation and liberation of yarn imprisoned in the form of shapeless, oversized sweaters knitted years ago when that was the style. It seemed so simple when I thought of it, but I can tell you now, it's a chore to frog a sweater. This is my first one I tackled, a sweater I knitted for Ian from commercial yarn before I was a spinner. Buster chewed holes in the sweater when he was a puppy so it seemed a likely candidate.

I sit on the deck while unraveling so the bits that would be a mess in the house can be recovered by birds for their nests. I have the back and one sleeve left to deconstruct but since we're going on a trip next week, I think I'll start a project with what I already have recovered. I'm thinking cardigan, with shaping.

I decided this morning that this sweater will be my next victim. It has all the shaping of a table cloth. It's been years since I've worn it, but it won me a blue ribbon from Judith MacKenzie at the Black Sheep Gathering. My friend Jen and had split a Merino fleece from Terry Mendenhall and sent it off for processing. It came back as very kneppy roving, and Jen ended up giving me her half in frustration. It was a struggle to spin, but I am proud of the three-ply yarn that I was able to produce.

It occurs to me that I could cut and sew a new sweater from this one. So many commercial sweaters are made that way, but I made this yarn, one bobbin at a time. There will be no cutting and sewing here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Guard Llamas

I'm home today with bronchitis, and probably should have been home yesterday too. I poured a cup of coffee this morning and stepped to the window, just to look. I was surprised to see the llamas focused intently, which usually means that what they see they don't like. The sheep came racing behind them in a kind of we-wanna-see-too action.

I walked over, trying to see their target when Zephie started sounding an alarm. She kept sounding it for several minutes, even stepping into the corner of her fence to face the menace. Two stray dogs had wandered into our neighbor's yard, a yellow lab and a German shepherd. I've never seen them before and we were all happy to see them go. Livestock loss comes more often from dogs than coyotes and once again I'm glad to have our fence, even if it does mean we have more rabbits than anyone else. It's a coyote-free zone. The llama alarm is hard to describe, rather a cross between the braying of a donkey and the last wheezing gasps of an car engine when it's been turned off but is still motoring. I've only heard them sound it for dogs.

I sat on the deck in the sun this afternoon, spinning and reading, which seems surreal. I drove home from work this past Sunday in snow so heavy that I didn't stop to close the gate. Today I need sunscreen.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Final Dye Day Report

These are the last two bumps of roving that I needed to spin up from our dye day in Grass Valley last month. I'm not bothering to show you the one on the right as yarn - it's yellow. Yes, I've learned my lesson about yellow.

The blues bump on the left was more rewarding. I had spun another skein similar to this, but this has no yellow - *no* yellow.

I think the skein is nice and certainly will contrast well with the many yellows I seem to have produced from that session. I thought that I had left a lot of white space when I was dropping dye, but I'd like to try it again with even more white space, and perhaps a wider range of colors in between the white.

This is my final haul. I'm pretty happy and ready to start a project hat. I love the locks in my basket, but I'm holding off on working them up as Amy and I are presenting a program at the library next month. I think they will be nice to display. We're not quite sure what the program will be so we have called it From Sheep to Shawl. The general idea is to cover the steps from fleece to garment. I think we'll have fun.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Buster's Cat

This is Buster. This is Buster's cat Charlie. Buster did not chose to be adopted by Charlie - he was chosen. Charlie loves his dog. I'm not so sure the feeling is mutual, although Buster gives his cat a lick (pretaste?) every now and then.

Charlie has also decided to be Buster's bunkmate, a begrudging arrangement - Buster does his best to ignore the intrusion. For a dog whose instincts are to eat rabbits, birds and small cats, I find his tolerance remarkable. Maybe Charlie knows more about Buster than I do.

I know that cats aren't supposed to eat dog food, though the cat and the dogs all get Iams dry food. Perhaps Charlie can't tell the difference. Since we got Charlie as a small kitten, I wonder if he has bonded with Buster to the point he thinks he's a dog. Is that possible? I'll never let Charlie outside because I'm quite sure Eddie would eat him given the opportunity and no question the coyotes would love to meet Charlie. It's hard work to keep a cat indoors who doesn't want to be a cat who lives indoors.

I had a gazillion things to do in town today and when I got home, I plunked my junk on the counter, while chatting with Ian. I walked back around the counter and almost tripped over these guys. They had greeted me, and happy that their owners were home and soothed by our voices, they were over and out. My camera was a plunked-on-the-counter article so I couldn't resist another picture of Buster being tortured by his cat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday morning I took my camera when I walked the dogs because I wanted to share a picture of the blooming desert peach. Unfortunately my battery was low so I decided I would just take my camera again today with a freshly charged battery and take the same picture. You would never be the wiser.

This is what I woke to this morning. That little hillock is a coyote rabbit trap. You can't see my dogs but they're down at the fence, barking viciously at the coyotes. The coyotes work in twos, from left to right. One goes over the top and the other traverses along the ridge. It works every time. The coyote that stays in sight urges the rabbit to run for his life, right up and over the ridge to the other waiting coyote. Soon we'll see them work in threes as this the time when they start training their pups to hunt. They don't even put a dent into the rabbit population.

I can't see the coyotes unless they move, they just blend in so well. And even if I've spotted one, it's easy for me to lose sight. Usually my dogs come back to the door after the excitement is over, but not today. About fifteen minutes later I happened to look out the window and see my dogs down there, looking to give some coyotes a piece of their minds and probably some other body parts. I called them back and they minded me instantly, raced all the way back up the hill, back through the gate and into the house. After more than ten years of German Shorthair Pointers, I'm always amazed at how well these boys mind.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spinning the Dye Day Rovings

I think the fun of dyeing in the roving is the discovery of how the colors work up into a yarn.

Even during the spinning, until it's plied, I don't what the yarn will look like. And actually the yarn may look like something completely different when it's worked up.

I was so excited when this skein was done. Notice the little piece in front of skein - little boast here. I guessed so closely how much to put on each bobbin - that little piece is all that was left on the remaining bobbin. I went right up to my workroom and basket of one-balls to see what I could put together for a hat and found the answer was nothing. The base colors we used in the dye workshop didn't harmonize with the colors that I have been using, so I keep on spinning - like I wouldn't anyway.

While there's too much yellow here to be what I had intended, I still think it's going to make up into a nice yarn. The green just got subsumed.

This is what I have so far, I'm plying a yellow green now, and then I'll do the blue violet roving. I'm not going to launch any projects until I have them all done.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Karmic Christmas Present

This is a snippet of the gallery that hangs in our hall, photos received as presents we received this past Christmas. Ian's four children got together, hired a photographer and had their pictures taken on Seal Beach, where they grew up, wearing white and blue jeans, as seen on the left. My children hired a photographer and had their pictures taken on the UNR campus,where I worked when they were growing up, wearing white and blue jeans. They were totally unaware of what each other were doing. We just got the last one framed and now have them all hung. I call that karma.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's Still Sheep and Llamas

We've noticed that our black sheep George tends to hang out with the llamas. He eats with them and always seems to be where they are. I fished around on the Internet to see if that behavior is source of the term "black sheep," but I couldn't find anything that relates to term to animal behavior. It seems to be something coined for human behavior. George is an odd duck, a bit reticent, so perhaps he just hangs with llamas because he wants to hang with llamas. He's the one who comes to fence and rubs noses with Buster, our Queenie.

Here, on the other hand, here are the light sheep. Robbie is the dominant in this group. He won an award at the Lane County Fair in Eugene for best yearling lamb. He wasn't wethered until after the fair so has a wonderful set of horns. (To see them, click for big.) Our grandson Kiernan named him Robbie the Ram, (in Kiernan-speak that's Wobbie the Wam) because his daddy is a fan of the St. Louis Rams. Mim points out that he's actually Wobbie the Wetheu.

In the end, it's still sheep and llamas. What you see is our mama llama moving the sheep back to the shed. She lowers her head and walks their way and they run. They acted scared for their lives, but when they get there, they stop, wait for her to turn around and then follow her back. A woman who lives across the valley told me that she loves to watch our guys through her field glasses. They really are wonderful entertainment.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fickle , Fickle April

This was one day.

This was the next.

And this was the next. The morning of this photo, I drove 15 miles on ice to get to work.

Nevada is oh-so-fickle, especially in Spring. I did get stuck in Sacramento one September when the pass was closed because of snow - went over for a dinner. One never knows, does one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Center of Everything

I love to visit independent bookstores. For one thing, they tend to have displays of staff favorites. A couple of years ago, Amy, Eileen and I were at Lambtown USA and drove over to Davis for dinner and a walk around the town. Understand that Lambtown is in July in the San Juaquin Valley of California so we were looking for inside places to visit, and one of them was a bookstore who's name escapes me. I bought this book as a recommendation and recently read it for a second time.

It's a first novel and written in the bildungsromans genre, which is just about my favorite. It's the story of ten-year-old Evelyn Bucknow, who feels there is no place like home. On all the world maps she's ever seen, the United States has been smack dab in the middle, with Kansas in the middle of that - "I feel so lucky to live here, right in the center." Dazzled by visions of Ronald Reagan on the TV, the twinkle in his eye and his contention that "God put America between two oceans on purpose," Evelyn's youthful optimism is shaken by her young single mother Tina's inability to take control of her life. The story spans several years. As a teenage, Evelyn is influenced by a couple of liberal-minded teachers, one from New York and the other an introverted biology instructor intent on teaching evolution. With renewed faith in her scatterbrained but endearing mother and with college on the horizon, she begins to find her place in the social and political spectrum and to appreciate the vastness of the world that extends beyond Kansas. The story treads the line between adolescence and adulthood, insecurity and self-assurance, and offers a moving portrait of life in blue-collar middle America.

I loved this book and look forward to her next which is supposed to come out later this year - hope she's not a one-book wonder.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Family Easter

We had soaking rain on Friday and Saturday so our grandkids had to hunt for their Easter eggs indoors. Six of our seven grandkids were here for Easter, though only five are of the egg hunt age. In addition to our adolescent grandson, we have two adolescent step-kids, so the house was full, as it should be at Easter. I think I took a dozen shots and still wasn't able to get a good picture of them all. Who got the golden egg?

It was Elise! And was there much rejoicing? Apparently not so much. Before the rain they were able to run around outside and get really really really dirty and do a lot of hiding in the bushes, and did I mention get dirty? I think they liked that just as much as anything - maybe more than hiding eggs.
My huge worry was when Ian told me that our kids from Redding would be bringing their new puppy. I lost sleep. The puppy would eat our kitty Charlie, and worse, our Queensland Blue Heeler would eat their puppy. I didn't realize that they were bringing the Dog Whisperer.

Friday, April 06, 2007

First Blossoms

I didn't see any desert peach in blossom on my walk yesterday. Today I saw this one. Within days whole areas of our landscape will be pink as they explode into bloom. They are very fragrant, and the insects love their nectar.

If you think this looks like wild rose, it is a relative. Mim named her farm Desert Peach Farm after them. They're the harbinger of high desert spring and I'm always delighted when they finally show their colors.

If you don't want them growing in your yard, you have to remove them when they're immature. Look at the size of these thorns on a mature plant!

On the other hand, you have the dry creek that runs through our property and for which our place is named, Sage Creek Farm. Guess why we call it Sage Creek.