Monday, October 27, 2014

rainy or not

Autumn continues!

Between recent days of rain and strong wind, there has been the welcome gift of dazzling sun. Clever Piper does not waste an opportunity to bask in the doorway of the screenporch, at a comfortable distance above the saturated ground:

On such sunny days, the few remaining garden plants can be pulled up, and either added to one of next year's garden beds or shared out amongst the goats and hens.

Rainy Day Projects have been getting more attention. Some are routine indoor tasks, like housework (seriously necessary at this point, I'm embarrassed to admit), and, more happily, a little more WIPCrackAway knitting:

But some Rainy Day Projects can be tackled in the sheds or barn. Which is nice, because I can't even see the housework from there.

Months ago, I found the tangled pieces of a garden cart at the dump. My plan was simply to salvage the wheels and axle, then take the remaining odds and ends back to the dump. But once home, I realized many of the metal frame pieces were semi-attached. Maybe...I could rebuild an entire cart?

All summer, I've been using a sadly rusted-out wheelbarrow (lined with plastic feedbags, which actually turned out to be fabulous carriers for loose materials going to the VRB!) and postponing the garden cart project, which had all the earmarks of an endeavor that would require multiple unplanned trips to a hardware store and possibly a lumberyard.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to admit that the tangle of parts was a bit intimidating, and rather than waste a lot of time trying (and ultimately failing) to reconstruct something, I should simply bite the bullet and buy a new, heavyduty wheelbarrow.

I wish I had taken this step sooner!

well, have you bought a wheelbarrow lately?

I looked at a few ordinary wheelbarrows. Nothing special.
The prices averaged two hundred dollars.
For a wheelbarrow.
I didn't even get as far as looking to see if they were made in Not China, which is usually my first step in shopping.

The very next rainy day, I completely dismantled the tangle of garden cart pieces, and started the process of trying to cobble together something useful. I may not succeed, but there is now a pretty strong incentive to try. Here in Goat World, $200 = 40 bales of hay.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


It's here.

First, there were small indicatons.

But now, it's hard to miss.

Even from a distance.

Even if you don't look right at it.

I love Autumn, I do.

I wish it would go on and on and on.

Because as much as I try to be in the moment,
every now and then - 
like today, when I was sweeping rain out of the barn
and suddenly thought, "soon this will be snow"...

every now and then - 
like yesterday, stacking stovewood,
when I suddenly thought of the armloads
I'll soon be carrying in, after chores, day after frigid day...

well, every now and then, for just a moment,
I think of the coming Winter
with something less than a joyful heart.

I know it's coming,
and I hope I will love it.

But I know I love Autumn.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Sock Story

These socks - or as they later became known, Those Socks, or even Those Strangely Cursed and Wretched Socks - have been haunting me since 2010.

These socks - which were already the third version of an experiment - were my Portable Project during a much-anticipated long weekend of enjoyable and interesting research (on a boat, on the ocean: previously, two of my favorite places to be). Unfortunately, the weekend turned out to be not very enjoyable and not even very interesting - and that is really saying something, because I am quite good at being interested in all sorts of things.

The experience was a grim sort of personal watershed for me. When I was (finally, exhaustedly, gratefully) back on shore, I had to admit: my standards for a minimum level of physical comfort had shifted. In fact, I'm not sure I really had such standards earlier in my life. Previously, physically challenging was Good, rustic was Good, tough was Good. And I still don't need luxury or frills. But I do need to be able to move freely, to stretch fully, to rest quietly in a mostly painless position.

Quite a few nebulous lifelong dreams of future work opportunities, distant travel, and physical adventure died that weekend.

Ah, well. These things happen.

Back to the socks!

At some point on the boat, trying to focus my mind by knitting - which can be quite a useful meditative tool, am I right, knitters? - the stitch count was suddenly off by one.
No problem, just pull out the error and carry on, yes?

No. The lace stitches were tricky to get back on the needles. Row after row was lost. The project bag was finally stashed away, safe from the rain dripping through the deck and onto my bunk via a dangling light bulb, to await later repair.

Do your clothes become imbued with associations? Whether the socks had become permanently tainted by the weekend, or whether they had simply been cursed by a passing troll, I don't know, but they resisted all subsequent efforts to get them back on track. And the part that had been properly knitted looked quite nice! So I also couldn't bring myself to rip them out and repurpose the yarn.


Enter the WIPCrackAway KAL!

One week ago, bolstered by the completion of my first WIPCrackAway project...

The Forgotten Orange Leaves of 2012...DONE!

...I tackled these damned wretched red socks again.

And 7 days later, after one final and incomprehensible kitchenering glitch that meant ripping out and redoing both toes (?!), I cast off and declared these socks DONE.
I have never felt more relieved to be finished with a knitting project. Whew.

And onward!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

approaching the bench

Remember when the new goat barn was built this past Spring? I quickly put together a little bench to provide cubbyholes (in a choice of sizes) for Lily's and LeShodu's kids who would be arriving soon.

I made the cubbies just one foot deep, so the mamagoats would be able to reach in and easily touch their babies.
They do that a lot.

Like this:

Campion and Azalea were newborn and barely dry in the above picture.
Not long after, here they are, sharing the smaller cubby:

When all four kids were a little older, I added a foot of depth to the bench. That way, even the bigger goats could rest on top, and the youngsters could still snuggle up underneath.

When I put the rolled flooring down last week, I had to first dismantle and remove the bench. Then I had to figure out a way to rebuild a new and improved bench without nailing anything to the floor. Putting holes though the rolled flooring would negate its purpose, which is to keep moisture away from the wood beneath.

I decided to try a series of rectangular brackets, tied to the wall. It's another 2-foot-deep bench, but a few inches higher. And it's longer this time, going all the way across one side of the barn: 114.25 inches long, to be exact:

 I was so pleased when this board fit into place!
When you trim up a 10-foot board, you really want to get it right the first time. 

Of course, I had some help with the measuring and cutting.
From Azalea and Campion:

Also Tsuga:

Once the Quality Control crew were persuaded to leave the barn, I started putting all the pieces together as quickly as I could. Which is really not quickly at all. In fact, I'm a bit of a plodder. But a cheerful plodder! Very happy to be getting on with this task.

It was coming together nicely when the sky suddenly became ominously dark, and the goats began to ask when The Staff would be opening the barn again. I attached the top and left some of the cubby "walls" for another day.
Maybe with the bigger cubbies the goats won't even need dividers? Maybe they will be peaceful neighbors?

We live in hope.

Heavy rains did come last night, and it has rained all day long today.
It is a gloomy, stuffy, mucky sort of day.
A nice day to be indoors.
I have been soaked to the skin several times.
The goats, however, have been quite cozy.
Here is a random goatcam snap:

That's Azalea and Lily and Campion atop the bench, with Vinca and Dara tucked under. (LeShodu is not in the picture because she was in the front half of the stall, eating hay and celebrating her feelings of superiority and power after pushing poor Tsuga out the door to seek shelter in the Chalet.) There has been a lot of shuffling around, and at one point I saw LeShodu laying across the front of a cubby with both her kids snugged into it, just the way she used to (try to) contain them when they were babies.

So, there's one little project nearly done and already functional! Hmmm. I think if I had a motto it would be "nearly done and already functional." If anyone can tell me how to write that in Latin, I will start working on a crest and a coat of arms. Heh.

Meanwhile, it's time for evening chores. 
Once more into the muddy, mucky breech!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

great ribs

What a week this past week has been. Lots of driving, lots of sitting, lots of talking to many people, lots of spending. I had only one day entirely at home - last Thursday - and like today, that was outdoor work from morning til evening, non-stop. Was that the night I fell asleep at 6:15? Not really could have been any night this week.

One thing I've been working on: the barn reorganization that will take us through the Winter and well into Spring. It requires emptying the barn completely, which means I can only work on it when the goats can be locked out of the upper paddock. It is more than a one-day project. (I admit I originally thought I could do it in a day, but I was totally, laughably wrong.) So I must make the barn goat-functional at the end of each day, only to dismantle it again at the start of the next work session. It's not a very satisfying way to approach a project: doing and undoing, redoing and undoing.

I have to remind myself - over and over and over - to stay focused on what needs to be done right now, instead of fretting about non-linear progressIt's a sort of meditative practice. With tools.

Some things I bought this week: 300 pounds of grain. 8 bags of dried apricots, 8 bags of roasted almonds. 50 pounds of nails. A haircut. Flooring designed for use in a garage, to cover the wooden floor in the goatbarn.

It's an expensive experiment, and now that the flooring is finally in place, I'm worried that it may be too slippery to be safe. I am watching carefully, and hoping we all get used to it before anyone sprains an ankle, either through Big Goat fisticuffs, or Little Goat playing around, or Humans being clumsy.

Hey! You kids quit running in the house!


There's also a brand new little construction project I've been planning for quite a while. Today, I hired someone else - someone with power tools - to do the actual building, while I fetched and carried and did other outdoor tasks within shouting distance.

As a result of this brilliant strategy, that little construction project is nearly finished! Pictures coming soon; I was a bit too tired tonight. In fact, I've already crept into bed, accompanied by two heating pads. But when I heard my whiny brain beginning a list of things that ache ("oh, my back...ow, my knees...oooh, my shoulder...") I decided to focus instead on what doesn't hurt. After a brief inventory, I settled on my ribs. My ribs feel great!

If it's a nice day tomorrow, I'm going to take a break for a couple of hours, pack a picnic lunch (including a pocketful of bikkies for Piper) and head down to the pond. Piper worked hard supervising today. She deserves some quality relaxation (or racing around) time.

And maybe it's time for out first trip to the apple orchard!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

festival, fiber, and goats

Thanks for all your good wishes for Sunday - the weather was perfect! The Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival was worth the long/short trip: lots of cashmere goats, lots of friendly folk, lots of yarn and clever fiber-y creations. A perfect opportunity to prepare an entire portfolio of images for you, my readers, right?

A hank of handspun in apricot and muted greens caught my eye right away, and I asked the vendor if she minded photographs. Not at all! she said. I turned on my camera, focused, pressed the shutter release, and nothing happened.

Because the memory chip was still in my laptop. At home.

So, I'm very sorry I can't do a fiber fair picture post. I feel like such a dunce...I finally went somewhere interesting, and I can't bring you along!

Tell me about it! Not only did I miss a fair
where I could have shown those crazy Border Collies
a thing or two...but today I had a BATH!

Since I couldn't take any pictures at the fair, I decided I'd better bring that hank of handspun home, and photograph it here:

It's cormo/merino and only 49 yards, so it may become an element of a larger piece of knitting: a brim on a plain hat, or cuffs on solid mittens, or an accent of some kind.
Or it may continue to function beautifully as a display:

Purty, no?

And just like that, as smoothly as
a pebble falling into water,
my Yarn Buying Moratorium has ended.

And I'm okay with that, because the knitting? It's back.
Remember the orange half-a-sock?
The first long-neglected project reactivated for the WIPCrackAway KAL?


I'm already on to the next WIP.


And now, instead of pictures of the goats at the show,
how about a couple of familiar goat faces?

Yesterday afternoon, I dragged my chaise to a sunny spot on the Upper West Side, to spend a little time snapping pictures of my gang browsing on a newly-fallen leaves.

An odd thump on the back of the chaise told me Campion was up to something, so I just leaned forward, held the camera over my head, pointed it backward, and clicked:

Don't mind me!

Campion is standing on his hind legs, front feet on the back of the chaise, mouthing the top.

Maybe this is why people think "goats can eat anything" and "goats eat tin cans." They don't. In fact, goats have specific dietary needs and can be extremely picky about their food. But they will explore just about everything with their mouths. And I do keep things out of reach that could be dangerous to ingest, like scraps of paper or plastic feed sacks, or bits of wire, just as you would for any animal.

In fact, despite considerable caution on my part,
Piper has found and ingested more noxious items
than all of my goats put together.

That's still no reason for a BATH. You overreacted!
And besides, I didn't "ingest" anything this time,
I just rolled in it!


Remember Dara?
When he saw me sitting in the chaise, he trotted right over.
So did the other three kids.

I told the kids that they must not jump up on the chair.
Three quickly returned to browsing, but Dara waited.
He was very quietly disappointed.
He didn't jump, but he waited, politely.

I relented, and said, "Okay, Dara, you can't jump up here, but I'll try to lift you. I don't know if I can, and I don't know if you'll fit on the chair. And if you do, you'll have to be perfectly still or get right down."

I don't know what I was thinking.

Dara is a big boy now.
And even though he was a very unusual baby,
it's been a long time since he could climb into my arms
and completely relax, chewing his cud and dozing.

Like this:

Dara, 6 July 2014


Dara, 6 October 2014

He sat perfectly still.
(Believe me: this is not something you'd have seen at the fair, even if I'd been able to take pictures of every goat there.)

Time passed, leaves fell. The sun went down. I don't know how long we would have been there if I hadn't eventually had to get up and start evening chores.

All my goats are individual characters, some easier than others to get along with. And at this point, I think all four of the 2014 babies are developing what I hope will be pleasant, sensible temperaments.

But Dara is...unique.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

rain today, sun tomorrow

That was the weekend weather prediction, and it's been raining non-stop since last night, so the forecasters certainly got that part right. Chores were a muddy mess this morning, and I am having a very hard time getting motivated to do anything. At all.

But I hope tomorrow's weather prediction is also true, because I've planned an exciting daytrip to the 26th Annual Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival in Tunbridge. Two shepherds on ravelry described this as a lovely fair, with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I've never been, but this year I decided to try because it's also the Cashmere Goat Association show.

It's a long drive for me these days - about 2.5 hours north of home. And since I'll be trying to get home before dark for chores, I may be spending nearly as much time on the road as at the fair. Couldn't be helped; a weekend holiday was not an option, as my wonderful critter caretaker is away.

I'm really looking forward to perusing a variety of cashmere goats from herds I've never seen. And just wandering around in the livestock barn and seeking treasures to bring home from the vendors booths.

Dear readers: have you ever been to this fair? Do you have any suggestions for "can't miss" vendors or "must see" exhibitors or "must eat" festival snacks?


Meanwhile, the rain is pouring down, and it's nearly dark at 4 in the afternoon. I'm going to start chores early, and do a few extra things tonight so the morning chores will be a bit quicker. I must be on the road just as the sun is peeping through the woods behind the paddock.