Friday, January 25, 2013

(blog)party animals


We've been to our first Blog Party!  What a total blast!
Maybe just need...a little...nap......


What??  Sleeping??  Who's minding the Giveaway?!
You kids have no sense of responsibility! None whatsoever!
Why, in MY day..."

Shhhh, big goat.
Not to worry, little goats.
It's all under control.

The Giveaway is up and running til the end of January,  and everyone, everywhere is welcome to enter!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

winter greens

(see what I did there?)

It was chilly when I went outside for morning chores today; 0°F (-18°C), but the wind had dropped, so it was really very pleasant.  Last night it was bitter and blowing, but when I did a final check on water buckets, I found the goats had chosen to remain in the paddock with open-ended shelters rather than move into the snug barn.
There is much to be said for cashmere underwear!
So, the goats are fine with the cold.  And the hens? They have feathers, yes, but they spend their waking hours awfully close to frozen ground.  And they are barefoot!  Still, nothing stops them in their busy puttering and muttering.  If the snow is deep, they follow my tracks to the goat barn or the paddock.  In fact, they seem to take Winter right in stride. 

Some chicken-owners say their hens will not step foot out of the coop if there is snow on the ground.  My hens must be made of sterner stuff, or else they have places to go and are willing to face some snow to get to those places, I don't know.
Certainly they have their own little universe going on out there.  During the day I will suddenly discover them scratching through the bedding in the goat barn.  Or I look out the window to see them trundling along single-file toward the paddock, where they have a secret clubhouse under my workshop.

Really, I have no idea what goes on under there.  

There is about 14 inches between the ground and the floorboards of the workshop.  I am no longer limber enough to get bellydown on the ground without a very good reason.  Crashing the Secret Chicken Clubhouse to find out what they are doing down there is not a very good reason.


One thing I know for sure they are not doing: scratching and pecking for bugs and fresh bits of greenery.  Because there just aren't any.

For about 7 months of the year, these hens supplement their diet (fresh water, organic layer pellets, organic barley, organic kitchen scraps) with no help from me.  All day long they are free to wander within a vast (on a chicken scale) fenced area, and except for the time they spend snoozing in the sun, they are endlessly scratching and pecking, scratching and pecking.

Now the earth is frozen solid.  The only hen-level "greenery" looks like this:

Not a lot of "green" to glean.  Hmmmm....I have an idea!

Hey chooks!  Who wants sprouts?

"I do!  But only me, none of the other hens care for any sprouts.
So stop shouting about sprouts!
Meet me behind the Poultry Palace in 5 minutes.  Bring the sprouts!"

I've been sprouting green lentils for the hens this winter, and find it's a simple way to provide a little fresh greenery at minimal expense or effort.

Maybe you'd like to try it too?  Here's what I've been doing.

Start with ~1/8 cup dried green lentils in a quart Mason jar.  Cover the lentils with water to soak overnight.  Add a lid that will keep the lentils in but let water flow through.

In the past I've used cheesecloth and a canning ring, but now I use a rubberband and a scrap of the rubbery stuff that keeps scatter rugs from sliding or glasses from getting broken in the cupboard.  The bigger holes make rinsing and draining the mason jars a snap!

After soaking overnight, drain.  Rinse and drain daily, and keep the jar in a darkish place til the roots appear.

Once the roots are growing, rinse and drain several times daily, gently shaking the sprouts apart if they are clumping together.   Keep the jar in a place that gets some sunlight.

Here's what they look like when the roots and the stems are growing and first leafy growth is beginning; perhaps 3 days.  The whole jar takes on a greenish hue.

At this point, my hens will eat them but I like to wait til they are a couple of days older, with more lovely green.  I've been starting a fresh jar every other day, for an overlapping and steady supply.  If I overdo it and have a surplus, I'll store the extra sprouts in the fridge - so far, that hasn't happened.

This isn't a big component of my hens' diet.  I want them to eat it all right up, and I want everyone to have a share.  One big handful, well scattered, has been working out nicely every day.
I've experimented with a couple of other types of seed, but have not been impressed with the results.

I wanted to try a monocot, because the hens eat a lot of grasses in the summertime.  This is organic barley, same volume of seed, started at the same time as the lentils above.  The barley was sprouting, but slowly, and I felt concerned about the possibility of mold or bacteria that might be harmful to the hens.
I also tried some flax seeds, with a similar result.
I don't know if there is a real risk of mold/bacteria, but don't care to take a chance, especially when the lentils are so easy.

I'll continue to try other kinds of seeds, though, when I have other organics available.
Do you raise sprouts for your hens?  Or for other critters, such as yourself?  Please add your input in the comments, or send me an email!  This is the first season I've experimented with sprouting for the chooks, and I'd love to learn from others' experiences!

A loud THUNK just made me jump!  Happily, it was not a(nother) big branch falling on the house.  It was a 12"-wide column of solid ice sliding out of a waterbucket that has been upended in the shower since this morning.  Tonight is predicted to be about 10 degrees colder than last night.  Good thing I have lots of water buckets in rotation!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

First party! Will my blog match my socks?

When it comes to trying something new, two things tend to move me from pondering action to taking action:

a deadline, and a project that doesn't seem overwhelming.

Good gracious.  That makes me sound like both a procrastinator and a slouch, doesn't it?  Rats.  Oh well.  Now you know the worst.  Onward!

For example: Although I could knit, I never imagined becoming a sock-knitter.  I liked the idea of knitting socks, in a romantic, tribute-to-Louisa-May sort of way, but really...those teensy stitches?  Those many skinny needles, waving around like a demented sea urchin? Those heels??

Then, I had a very specific reason to try to knit exactly one pair of socks, right away.  Small socks, for a little pair of feet.  An experiment.  Not overwhelming.

And it was such crazy fun!  I knitted five more pair, then moved on to real socks, for big feet.  And I began to wonder why it had taken me so long to get started in the first place.

During several years of reading and commenting on blogs, I've often thought of starting a blog.  But...why?  For whom?  In the immortal words of the Mock Turtle, "With what porpoise?"

Still, I thought about it...


This is my dog, Piper.  
Piper is a terrible procrastinator.
Mostly, Piper is a procrastinator about coming when she is called.

"I am NOT procrastinating!  I can't hear you calling!
I am BEHIND this TREE!!!"

So, aaaanyway.

It was the timing of two unrelated bloggy events that made me leap joyously off my Slouchy Fence of Procrastination and Overwhelmedness.

First, the lovely Vicki of Two Bags Full announced - fortunately for me, several months in advance! - that she would be hosting a non-commercial "Grow Your Blog Party."  It sounded like a lot of fun, especially for newbie bloggers.

And second, just a couple of weeks ago, after I'd been mulling for months about starting a blog so I could join Vicki's party, something happened.  Two of my favorite knitting bloggers, Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting, instituted a 15-Minute Lightening Round for their own blog posts.  Hilarity ensued, and I saw that it might be possible to blog in tiny little bits of time and have fun with it! first post was published a whopping four days ago, here (bear with me, please, this is my first blog post with linking and I'm kind of excited about it).  In that post I jotted down what I think this blog might become.  The jotted part may or may not be interesting, but I'll tell you what:
the goats are worth the click.

Because of other folks' blogs, I have developed valued friendships with people I may never meet in person, but who choose to share something with their readers that happens to be an important, or an unusual, or a just-plain-fun part of my life, too.  It's nice.  It's really nice.  And having my own blog to share already seems to make it much more of a 2-way street.  And who knows, maybe I will make more friends, and learn more things, and have lots and lots more fun!

And I'm beginning to wonder why it took me so long to get started.

"It's because you PROCRASTINATE.  Try to work on that, willyouplease?"


Friday, January 18, 2013

...and a giveaway!

As part of the "Grow Your Blog Party" hosted by Vicki at Two Bags Full, I'm having a very simple little celebratory giveaway.  

My first!  And the blog is only 4 days old!  I feel a little weepy.

Anyone can enter!

Just post a comment saying which of the two prizes you would like to win, and include a way to contact you (email, ravelry id, bloglink).  You don't have to have a blog, and you don't have to "follow" my blog (although of course that would be nice, but really, you don't have to!) One entry per person, please, and anonymous comments will not be entered.  Just email me at the address in my profile if you have any kind of problem posting.

Anyone can win, anywhere in the world!  

If you win, your prize will get an all-expenses-paid luxury trip in a series of mailbags, right to your very door!


There are two prizes, and I found both at the Snow Leopard Trust.

I love the Snow Leopard Trust.  They approach a complicated conservation problem in a culturally-sensitive, multi-faceted way, and they do it really, really well.  Animals, indigenous peoples, cultures, and habitats all benefit.  Love. Them.


Now the prizes!

First, this itsy-bitsy embroidered coin purse:

These little purses are made by women living in the Sagsai region of Mongolia.  The designs are traditional.

This one is 4" square, made of chocolate brown cotton and embroidered in turquoise and rich purple.  It is fully lined, and has a zipper across one entire end, and a little grab-loop.  I use mine for knitting notions, like stitch markers and point protectors.

And a tape measure.  And fold-up scissors.  And you get the picture  ;)

The same embroidery colors are reversed on the other side.  Cute, no?
If you would like to win the embroidered coin purse, just shout out "coin purse!" in your comment.


The second prize is one of these felted wool eyeglass cases.  I couldn't choose one, so I got two, and now YOU have to choose.

(So glad that pressure is off!)

Each has a traditional Krygyz design embroidered on the front.  The back is solid felt in the same color as the front, either a nice camel tan or a rich dark grey.  They are about 7" by 3.5", are lined in soft cotton, and are open at one end.

If you would rather win an eyeglass case than a tiny embroidered coin purse, just say, "Tan case!" or "Grey case!" in your comment, and your name will be entered in the eyeglass case drawing.


Entries are open until midnight Eastern Time, Thursday, 31st January.
I will draw the winners and announce them on this blog
on Friday, the 1st of February.

Depending on the number of entries, the drawing will be done using either slips of paper in a hat (1 to 30 entries per prize) or a random number generator (31 to one billion entries).  It's up to you!

Thank you for visiting, and good luck  :)


altered perception

Snow sometimes alters our perception on a landscape-scale, when a blanket of deep snow conceals familiar landmarks in a way that can be delightfully disorienting.

Unless one is trying to get from Point A to Point B, in which case the disorientation may be slightly less than delightful.

Until a familiar tree or stone appears... 

...and instantly the entire landscape clicks into place again.


Snow can also transform tiny, familiar things into something
new and strange.

I admired this tall plant with its delicately balanced collection of loose snow for some time before I suddenly recognized it as an old friend;

one of the native asters whose flowers herald the arrival  of Autumn.

From now on, the Autumn asters will also remind me of Winter.


Thursday, January 17, 2013's winter again

Yesterday I woke sometime in the wee dark hours and opened the back door to breathe some crisp night air.  Do you do this?  I recommend it. It's the same sort of pleasure as burying your face in a pile of laundry fresh from the line.  Ahhhhhhhh!

I don't know why the falling snow was such a surprise.  It is January in New England, after all.

But...wasn't it only a couple of days ago I was working outside in shirtsleeves?

That was a glorious gift of a day - Spring in the middle of Winter! - and every creature felt it.  Chickadees were following me around like Disney birds.  The 9-month-old goats, now at an age where they are beginning to take themselves Rather Seriously, were bouncing around like popcorn.

Aha!  A warm, dry day = an unexpected opportunity to tackle neglected tasks that should have been done and dusted well before winter.  Must work quickly.  Can't expect warm weather to last, obviously.

Obviously.  But still, in the middle of the night, when the light from my open door fell on several inches of fresh snow and more falling, my first thought was, "What???"

My second thought was, "Rats, I wonder if I left any tools out."



Monday, January 14, 2013

Planting a seed

This is my first attempt at blogging, and it feels a lot like poking a seed down into the earth and hoping for growth to begin.

Several online "Blogging 101" resources offered the same advice: before starting a blog, one must define a purpose, identify an audience, and find a personal "blogging niche."  While I am sure this is very good advice, the fact is...

if I waited til I had all those things worked out, I'd never get started at all.

So I'm just going to give it a go.  And keep it very simple:

a place to post photographs, thoughts, and words that make me think,

and a place to record projects, creative endeavors, and some of the ordinary magic that seems to go on all around.


There will be fiber-stuff...

often knitting, but also dyeing with botanical materials, and the long, slow process of combing cashmere in the Spring, when the goats decide they are tired of their winter underwear.

I am Quinn on ravelry - here's my project page


There will be food-stuff...

growing, preserving and simple cooking.  Very simple cooking.   Shredding carrots for slaw is almost "cooking" in my book, and I did just that this morning:

But since I'm trying to expand my cooking skills just a tiny bit, I also experimented with homemade mayonnaise for the slaw.  Luscious!


Although I personally avoid New Years Resolutions (and the almost inevitable crash that tends to follow), I do have a few ideas for things I'd like to try in 2013.  I'd like to grow enough cabbage to make a years-worth of sauerkraut.  Then I'd like to make the sauerkraut.  I'd like to learn to properly clean my precious Singer Featherweight, inherited from its original owner, my Auntie Ruby.  And I'd like to learn to use even one of the many mysterious attachments that came with the machine.  I'd like to write for fun sometimes, instead of only for work...hence this blog.

So, if anyone is out there reading my First Post Ever:

Thank you so much for visiting and a very warm welcome!  As I begin to figure out the nuts & bolts of blogging, I will try to include all the useful tools I find so helpful on other peoples' blogs.  Suggestions are welcome.  I hope you will visit again and find improvements!

And meanwhile, please wish me luck :)