Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blogger Comment Posting Issue

I've been relegated to silence since Friday morning.

Blogger posted here that they are working on fixing the issue.  There has been no update since then.

I found a discussion forum here about the issue.  Blogger is still referencing the above link with no updates.

Within the discussion forum I saw instructions to clear cookies which didn't seem to help.  However someone recommended unchecking the "keep me logged in" box which did help me.

Supposedly this is a temporary solution, but at least I'm no longer silent.  :-)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Doormat? Nope. Awesome Dog Toy

Earlier this year I was sitting out on the back stoop watching our new puppies.  I didn't want to bring any of my yarn projects outside to where they might decide it would be a fun chew toy.  So I thought the baling twine doormat that Dutch Hollow did a while back would be a good puppy-sitting project.

The twine is a single-ply polypropylene material... aka plarn.  It's basically a waste product that we have in endless supply.  So I decided it would not a big deal to me if the puppies wanted to help.  Which of course they did.

I had been using a J hook which I think is too small for the twine.  Both Dutch Hollow and Voie de Vie suggested I try a S (super honking big) hook.  So I finished off the current strand with my J hook and gave the girls the ugliness.

They don't care that it's ugly and even Frieda wanted to play with the new toy.

I think the girls are happy.  :-)

Of course, I will start the Doormat project again because I NEED to replace the glued down carpet on the back stoop.  Blech.

I love being able to incorporate fiber (even if it's plarn), puppies and alpacas all in one post along with reusing something that we would otherwise throw away.  :-D

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!  If you're keeping track, that's one down and six to go

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I have said for years that I hate shopping, but I went shopping recently and had a great time.

This got me thinking about why.  It was an afternoon of walking around a small town downtown and looking in shops without any real purpose.  I was with my BFF, so the company was good.  :-)

The shops were local, independent and full of unique items.  All of which I enjoyed.

So why do I think I hate shopping?

I hate shopping for undergarments, swimsuits and cars.  I hate shopping at the mall.  I hate walking around with a bunch of other people looking at things that are the same as everywhere else.

I do love shopping at the Feed Store, Farmers Markets, and Fiber Shows.  I enjoy shopping for yarn, roving and books.  I love shopping at kitchen stores and plant nurseries.  So I guess I better re-evaluate my thoughts.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Some of the Trees in our Garden

Earlier this year we planted two small pine trees and one even smaller maple tree.

I am happy to report they are all showing new growth.

I am cautiously optimistic about the maple.  She's tiny and had a tough go at first, but even she has a bit of new growth as well.

We didn't have many apple blossoms this year so I think it's a good year to prune this tree.

Finally, the climbing tree has leafed out.  :-)

Have I mentioned that I love this time of year?  :-)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Too Many Projects

My last  three  projects have taken a lot of time and energy to complete, so I haven't been feeling inspired to start anything new lately.  Which is fine since I have way too many WIPs.  Some are snoozing, some are actually in work and some barely count as being started.  Regardless, I would like to have all of them completed or dispatched before I dive into the host of interesting items on my To Do List.

A quick look at my Ravelry page doesn't show much in work, but the reality is it's way more than the 2-3 projects that I feel most comfortable with.

Spinning Black Huacaya Batts of Wonder

My feet get too cold to spend much time spinning in the winter.  Yes, I suppose I should knit myself a pair of socks or slippers, but I haven't yet.  So I have only spent a few minutes spinning here and there over the last several months.  Which has me about half-way complete with the Black Huacaya Batts of Wonder.

Technically it's not winter anymore, but we have had a mostly cold and rainy spring.  I finally gave up and turned the heat back on yesterday.  So I suspect I won't be spinning much for a while.

Spin Tibetan Mastiff

When last I wrote about the TM fur, I had just finished carding it.  I am looking forward to spinning it.  I suppose this is why spinners have many wheels... I'm afraid though.  If I had more than one wheel, I would definitely have too many spinning projects in process.  It's a good thing our Breeder isn't in a hurry for this yarn.

Recycled Wool Nightcap

I have been quietly working on this hat when I need a little mindless activity.  I still have a ways to go and will have a zillion ends to weave in when I get there.

The Simple Scarf

I'm using this yarn to teach the ladies at the office how to knit.  I didn't really intend to make a scarf, but I like this yarn and think a simple red scarf is good to have around.  Of course, it's been ripped out and re-knitted several times, so I'm not entirely sure this scarf will actually happen.

A Baling Twine Doormat

I haven't posted about this project yet.  Mostly because the photos look like poo but also because I haven't made much progress.  I think I need a larger hook and the puppies have decided it's super fun to play with, so I may let it go and start again.

A Blanket

I haven't posted about this project either.  It was started as something to do mindlessly, but the Recycled Wool Nightcap has taken over that role.  I'm not entirely in love with it.  I may frog this one but I don't have any other plans for the yarn, so languish it does.

The Twitter Knit Along Shawl

I shelved this project in March 2010, that's more than a year ago.  I'm not really a shawl kind of person, but I joined in because of the skills this project could teach.  I reached an extreme level of frustration with 3 sessions of ripping back, culminating with the near-miss of a complete rip out.  I think with the extra year of experience I now have, I should be successful with the lace portion.  I do have a couple of recipients in mind, so I would like to finish it.  But it has become my Everest, so I need to make sure I am in the right frame of mind before I pick this one up again.

So this is my way too long list of WIPs.  I can't really call it the result of Fiber ADD, because I am only actively working on a couple of items.  But I don't like having such a large list of incomplete projects.  Especially since I have several other projects in progress.  But this is Fiber Arts Friday, not Day Job Friday, nor Gardening Friday, nor Alpaca Farm Infrastructure Friday, nor Home Improvement Friday, nor... so be sure to head over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see what the others have been up to.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Garden Progress

Well, I'm not sure how it's going.

We have had very cool and rainy weather since we planted our garden.

Some of the chiles and tomatoes have flowers.  Some of the other seedlings don't look too good, but others look great.

I know that's how it goes.  Gardening is all about experimentation and this is a first year garden in an entirely new state.

The good news is that the herbs are hanging in there, the baby pears are getting bigger and we have teeny, tiny plums.  :-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shearing Day - 2011

We sheared our alpacas last weekend.

My camera was there.  However it was quite lonely on the table and did not get any shots of the herd or the shearing process.

It was a cool day and has been overcast and rainy ever since.  The alpacas have been a bit chilly, but are doing well.

I have been practicing giving our alpacas a Stove Pipe Leg.  I think it looks nice and I was able to give it to one of our girls last year.  This year her leg fiber was felted.  So I decided to shear the remaining legs close so that the fiber can be usable next year.

I wonder if anyone else has had this issue or has a preference on the Stove Pipe Legs?

Monday, May 16, 2011

LGD: Rewards and Distractions

I realize it's been a while since I've posted about our Livestock Guardian Puppies.

They have been growing like crazy, getting their big girl teeth and have graduated to big girl collars.  It's interesting to remember that when they first came to live with us, they could walk under The Alpaca Dog without crouching.  Now they are nearly as big as he is.

Since we like having well behaved dogs and we knew our girls would quickly grow from cute fuzzy puppies into big dogs, we have been training them with a simple system of rewards and distractions from the beginning.
  • When they do something we like or something we ask them to do, they are swiftly rewarded.
  • When they are doing something we don't want them to do, we distract them with something we prefer they do or play with.
  • We reserve the word "No" for very few situations.
Our theory is, that if you're always using the word "No" then it has no meaning when you really need it.

So when they come when called or they pee/poop where they are supposed to, they get a treat or we make a big deal about how good they are.  When they are chewing on a tree or flower pot we distract them with a toy or carrot.  But when they are digging or chasing the alpacas we give them a loud NO! Then give them a toy to play with.  Personally, I think the same method works with people. ;-)

The puppies have been spending a lot more time with the alpacas recently too.  We have been leaving them in the corrals for extended periods of time.  Which has given them the opportunity to protect the alpacas when a neighbor's dog got loose and came over for a visit.  They did a great job!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Composting Dog Poo?

Re-post: The original along with the comments were lost during maintenance issues this week.

When I wrote about my Outcome Metrics earlier this week, Voie de Vie asked why I wasn't composting the dog poo.

My original response was I didn't think it was safe to compost into plant fertilizer because only the manure from herbivores can be used.  But I wasn't certain so I promised research it.

Now that I've had some time to think about it and do a little research, I know that theory is not entirely correct.

Both Chicken Manure and Bat Guano are excellent compost for plants.  Since Bats and Chickens enjoy a large amount of bugs as well as plants in their diet, they are considered omnivores not herbivores.

So since Dogs are carnivores, does that make a difference?

Certainly Dog Poo can be composted.  Who hasn't seen an old pile of dog poo decomposing along a trail that someone left behind?  So the real question is: Can Dog Poo be composted into something that is useful for fertilizing food bearing plants?

Here are the articles I found useful:

This article from Plantea.com provides instructions for making a composter out of an old trash can, like we did for our fruit and veggie compost.  Bury it in the ground and add septic tank starter and water.  The dog poo composts quickly with this method but should not be used in the garden.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, Dog (and Cat) Poo are a source of worms and parasites that can adversely affect human health.  You can read the details, but if you prefer not just take this gentle reminder to always wash your hands with soap and water.  However, Dog (and Cat) poo can be sterilized and composted into useful plant fertilizer if the heap exceeds 165 deg F (74 deg C) for at least 5 consecutive days.

This CityFarmer.org article was referenced in the Plantea.org article I listed first.  It suggests that composted dog poo is fine for ornamental plants but not for food bearing plants.  The testimonial is quite interesting.  He states he hasn't had to empty the composter in over 6 years.  If you wanted to use this method, the composter should be placed away from water and edible plants.

This article suggests dog poo can be used in a vermicomposting bin but should not be mixed with fruit or veggie scraps lest the worms revolt.  I'm not certain what a worm revolt would look like, but it can't be good.  It did mention that worm castings are a good fertilizer which is true for vegetarian worms.  However I did not see any references that indicate the health issues described in the UMN article are resolved.

Also HalfPint found this Dog Loo which looks like a commercial version of the in-ground composter described by CityFarmer and Plantea.

So it looks like Dog (and Cat) Poo can be turned into useful plant fertilizer if (and only if) you are able to ensure the appropriate temperature is reached and sustained during the composting process.

I am confident that our current composting process does not reach the required temperature.  If it does, it certainly is not maintained.  However, the in-ground composter is an interesting idea that will required more thought.

Thank you Voie de Vie.  I have enjoyed this little research project.  :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reaping the Benefits

Last fall I learned how to make and can apple sauce and butter from our very own apples.

Today, it is nearly gone and it has been delicious.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Alpacamundo: Weaning

It's been a while since I've had a gratuitous alpaca post.  Frankly it's because the alpacas are quietly growing their lovely fleece without much drama.  Although we did separate the crias and mommas earlier this month.

Big Thompson saying hello to his new neighbors
The crias are seven and eight months old and their mommas are a little thin.  So we put the crias with the little boys for the next two months.  Apple will return to live with the ladies when her momma is dry and Big Thompson will stay with the younger boys.

Big Thompson and Apple enjoying their new digs
It's been an uneventful weaning with the exception of a little pacing and whining on the crias' part.  The younger girls spent a few days waiting at the gate for the crias to come back, but the mommas have enjoyed their peace and quiet.

Noodle and Big Thompson looking at the girls across the way

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Good Response

My friend who "commissioned" the Quasi-Commissioned Hat gave it to his wife for Mother's Day yesterday.

He told me that she exclaimed, "I love it!"

That's the kind of response I like to get.  :-)

Outcome Metrics

I've been paying attention to how much trash and recycling gets put out each week.  It is what's called an Outcome Metric.  It's a result of living at our place each week.

This Outcome Metric has generally gotten smaller over the last few years.

I know you can't see the garbage, but essentially it fills the big bin up to about the level of the recycling bin. It's a couple of tall kitchen bags plus a week's worth of poo from three dogs.

Our garbage and recycling has gotten smaller because we've been more focused on the Driving Metrics.  As in being aware of the packaging when products are purchased.  The less we bring into the house means the less we have to send to Waste Management.

Certainly there are weeks where there is more of both garbage and recycling than this photo shows but overall I'm pleased with how we're doing so far.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Planting a Proper Vegetable Garden

Last month we were finally able to prepare a garden space.

Supposedly we had our last freeze on Tuesday, so we spent the last couple of days planting.

It seemed like a good collection of plants in the back of the car, but somehow seems quite puny when placed next to the garden space.

We planted the rows wide enough for Hubba's chair to pass through so he can weed and harvest when I'm out of town.

We started with soaker hoses, but the water pressure ran out about half-way through the second hose.  So we took them out and opted for an old-fashioned broadcast waterer.

With the exception of tomatoes, we have only one or two plants of each variety so we don't have too much to eat as the plants ripen. Which means we have a long list of what was planted.

- Roma
- Black Krim

Winter Squash
- Spaghetti
- Acorn

Summer Squash
- Zucchini, Black Beauty
- Yellow Straightneck

- Jalapeno
- Green Chile
- Habanero
- Serrano
- Poblano

- Honeydew, Earli-dew
- Cantaloupe, Earlisweet

Cucumber, Straight Eight

Marigolds (Moonsong Deep Orange) to keep the bugs away.

- Rosemary
- Sweet Basil
- Thyme

- Sweet Corn, Peaches & Cream
- Beets, Ruby Queen
- Carrots, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White, Solar Yellow, Atomic Red and Scarlet Nantes
- Butternut Squash, Waltham

Fruit Trees
- Pear, Parker and D'Anjou
- Peach, Reliance
- Plum, Mount Royal and Pipestone
- Cherry, Montmorency

We're pretty tired from all of the planting.  It's a good kind of tired, especially since both of our pear trees have baby pears on them.  :-)

The last thing we did was add the maturity dates to my planner so we're prepared to make sauces and butters and such for canning and freezing and just plain enjoying.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: It is Finished!

Yes, it's true. I have (finally) finished my quasi-commissioned project. :-D

I am very happy with how it turned out and Thank Goodness because I'm not sure I have the heart to make this hat again... for a while anyway. ;-)

Last night I added up the time I spent over the last four months.  Normally I don't keep track, but since it was a specific request I thought it would be interesting to know exactly how much time it takes.

I learned it takes me about one hour to spin one ounce of roving.  So I spent a little over eight hours spinning for this project and I spent 63.5 hours total.  32 of which was spent on the final attempt.  At an hour here and 15 minutes there, that's a lot of time spent.  While it's not as much as it felt like, at minimum wage it sure puts a whole lot of perspective around the cost of home-made goods.

By the way, the model is a Teddy Bear made by my Grandmother nearly 30 years ago.  The hat is just a bit big for him, but he likes it that way.

The best news about this post is that the hat is on way to it's recipient. I hope she loves it.

It's Fiber Arts Friday, so please head over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and see what the others are up to.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


While I was doing my farm chores this morning.  It occurred to me how happy I am.

I mean, it didn't just occur to me.  It occurs every time I do farm chores.  I just love working on our farm.

This morning the weather was lovely and my time was flexible, so Hubba and I worked on one of those put-off-until-later chores.

Our farm isn't huge, but the list of things to do and fix is.  Sometimes it's overwhelming, especially since Hubba and I each travel a lot for our day jobs.

While we were having lunch later, he said something about how happy I am when we're working outside and how happy that makes him.  I told him it's true and that I had just been thinking the same thing.  Then I read this post on The Knitty Gritty Homestead, one of my more favorite blogs.

It's wonderful to know that others are out there doing the same thing.  People are building a more rural, sustainable life and making it happen one day at a time, in between all of the other things that need doing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Today is National Teacher Day.

As a product of public schools and state colleges, I would like to say that most of my teachers were great and a few made a huge difference.

I've had an amazing career and life so far. A big part is due to all of the teachers, professional and otherwise who spent time coaching and helping me understand "why." They probably don't really know how big of a difference they made.

For my teacher friends and family, you may not really know how much I admire you. You do an amazing job and our future is in your hands. For that, I am grateful.