Monday, August 29, 2011

The Summer of Tomatoes

This year's garden was really about experimentation.  It is my first garden at our new place.  It is also the first time I've kept a garden in Colorado.  The thing I wanted to experiment with most was tomatoes.

We use a lot of tomato sauce around here which means we have been sending a lot of metal cans to the recycling plant.

I had learned to can last year, so this year I wanted to try tomatoes.  I planted 9 roma tomato plants and 1 heirloom tomato plant.

I found a few resources and gave it a shot a couple weeks ago.  I just made the sauce and did not can it since it resulted in such a small amount.  It was pretty tasty though.

This time around I picked 11 lbs 5 ounces on Sunday and added that to the 4 lbs 6 ounces that we had left over from the previous couple of weeks.

I peeled the tomatoes by blanching in boiling water until the skins split then moving them to cold water.  I put all of the tomatoes to my stock pot.

It's a good thing I didn't have more tomatoes, I think this is the limit of my pot.  I boiled them down, smashing and stirring often.  :-)

Since these tomatoes were destined for canning jars, I tried to remove the seeds by pushing the sauce through a strainer.  It didn't work very well, so a food mill may be going on my To Acquire List.

I prepared the jars as recommended for water-bath canning, added the sauce and lemon juice and put the filled jars in the "canner."

The final result is 6 Pint-sized jars and a little extra that Hubba will be turning into delicious salsa.  :-)

We also enjoyed a Caprese Salad yesterday with the Heirloom Tomatoes, Homegrown Basil and Fresh Mozzarella.

I will have many more tomatoes over the coming weeks.  I'm thinking about drying some, but need to find out if the tomatoes should be peeled first.  I hope not.

Hubba thinks this whole tomato growing effort is funny because I'm not a huge fan of raw tomatoes.  But I am a huge fan of cooked tomato sauce... marinara sauce, salsa, enchilada sauce, tomato soup.  Yep, I'm a huge fan of all of those.  :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Alpacamundo: Two Weeks Late

We continue to check on Frieda and Daisy.  We're watching intently and catching them for an exam every few days.

Our Pregnant Girls: Daisy, Frieda and Kocoa

The last exam on Thursday revealed their tendons are starting to soften. All this really means is that they are progressing, it doesn't give any real clue to the actual delivery date until the tendons go completely soft and don't feel present at all. When that happens, the cria is imminent.

Frieda's belly is getting bigger, but her waist is still apparent

The tendons I'm speaking about go from the base of the tail to the hip bone. I don't know the actual name, and I'm not planning on making a drawing or taking a photo. But just like in human mothers, tendons loosen to allow the baby to pass.

The tendons are starting to feel fuzzy. If that makes sense? Normally they feel very defined, like a bone. The tendon is still very apparent but just feels fuzzy around the edges.

Their bellies are quite firm and getting bigger. They're also cushing on their haunches more and laying with their legs to the side.

Daisy cushed on her haunches

A couple of friends have reassured me that maidens always go long, so I'm doing my best to be patient.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: WIP List Vanquished

Last May I listed seven items that were on my WIP List.  I complained that it was too many and that I wanted the list completed or dispatched before I started anything new.

With the exception of the Paco-Vicuna that I started spinning during during the Tour de Fleece and washing some Rocky Mountain Goat, I held to my word.  :-)

Spinning Black Huacaya Batts of Wonder - Complete

In a surprise (even to myself) this is complete.

I spun one bobbin prior to the Tour de Fleece, half of the second bobbin during the Tour de Fleece and the second half of the second bobbin since the Tour de Fleece concluded.  Then, I apparently hit a whole new level in my spinning and spun two bobbins in two days.

I'm all of a sudden spinning a much better yarn, faster.  The last bobbin only had one small bit that was over spun.  :-)

The final result is four skeins for a total of 850.5 yards and 17.25 ounces.

All four skeins have had a bath and are now drying.  Yay!

Spin Tibetan Mastiff - Complete

I spun this up during the Tour de Fleece and sent the yarn off to our breeder.  She loves it and is bringing more fur when she's at a nearby dog show in a few weeks.  :-)

Recycled Wool Nightcap - Complete

I resolved the hugeness by sending it through the washer and dryer with a load of towels.  It felted and shrunk and is now quite soft and nearly fits.

The Simple Scarf - Frogged

I never really made it much past what this photo shows because I had re-started several times as I showed the ladies at the office how to do different things.  I still like the idea of having a simple red scarf around, but this one isn't going to happen any time soon.

A Baling Twine Doormat Dog Toy - Modified and Completed

The original was given to the puppies to play with in May.  It was subsequently tossed out after Noodle's emergency surgery.  This was not the reason for the surgery, but I did not want it to become the reason for a second surgery.

I have since found a S (super honking big) hook and plan to start the Doormat again.  Although I will make a swatch, because the hook really is super honking big.

A Blanket - Frogged

I decided to frog this blanket.  I think the needles are a little small for the yarn.  Another half or whole size up would be better.  Also, I recently realized that I don't have enough yarn on hand to complete this blanket and frankly, I don't love the yarn enough to buy more.

The Twitter Knit Along Shawl - Completed

As I said last week, I'm pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.  My mistakes are there and visible, but not so visible that the garment is un-usable.  :-)

Spindling Paco-Vicuna - Completed

This was not on my list last May when I said I wouldn't start anything new, but I needed a fiber to travel with during the Tour de Fleece and wanted to work from a roving.  The final result is 1 ounce of Paco-Vicuna at 120 yards.

It's interesting to realize that this has really been a traveling project.  I have spun this at home, at a park, in the airport, on an airplane, in a hotel, at a friends house and at the office.

Processing Raw Rocky Mountain Goat - in progress

This is a new project as well.  I will tell more about how it came into my life another time since I haven't spent much time working on it yet.

Elevation Profile Scarf - in progress

I was a good girl and did not cast this on until after the Traveling Woman was in the block and there was literally nothing on my needles. :-)

So here's the score:
  • Began - May 20, 2011
    • 7 Projects in Work
  • Ended - August 26, 2011
    • 6 Completed Projects
    • 2 Frogged Projects
    • 2 Projects in Work
Now I'm off to check out the other Fiber Arts Friday posts and do my best to keep the WIP's at a small number. :-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Alpacamundo: Still Watching

The first cria watch for 2011 is still in progress.

Both Daisy and Frieda are first time moms.  I'm not sure they still count as Maidens since I am confident they are pregnant.  But they haven't given birth, so they're not officially Dams... yet.

They are both currently one week overdue.

Frieda and Daisy's round bellies with Kocoa in the background

I don't think this is cause for alarm, but it was cause for me to modify my plans so I could work from home again this week.

Breeders set the due date in different ways.  Personally, I don't go through the effort of pulling out the Julien Day Calendar to set a precise due date since it's a guess anyway.  I look at the first breeding date, count back two weeks and set that date as the due date for the following year.  Since alpacas are pregnant for approximately 11.5 months (349 days).

The official opinion from a local vet is 335 days, give or take a month (305 to 365 days).  Our range has been between 336 and 368 days, with most falling between day 344 and 356.

We are currently on days 355 and 356.

Trust me, I don't just know this stuff.  I am very good friends with Excel and reasonably skilled at keeping notes.  :-)

Both of these girls are first-timers so we have no basis for how long they "usually" take.

Anyway, we continue to watch their behavior and they continue to look uncomfortable.  We give them an exam every couple of days in hopes of having a clue as to when the magic day will be.

Hopefully these cria show up soon.  I'm anxious to meet them.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Accidental Publisher

I'm blaming it on the Mercury Retrograde, but I (yes, I did it) accidentally published an incoherent brain-dump.

It has been returned to the draft list, but I suppose if you are on RSS or an email feed, you may have access to a peak at my process... and know that I really want a vacation right now and am thinking about Alpacamundo's upcoming anniversary.  :-)

I'm actually surprised that this is the first time I've accidentally published something.  Especially since I do most of my brain-dumping (read: journaling) in Blogger instead of a notebook these days.

Please forgive my mistake... and maybe say a little prayer that I am able to take a proper vacation soon.  ;-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Hay has been Put Up

There are two events that cause me to do a deep clean on my barn...  Shearing Day and Hay Delivery Day.

We keep the barn pretty well swept and organized, but when it comes to these two events, the barn gets re-organized and completely swept out.  Yesterday was no different.

I decided when I had to buy hay in April that from now on I would plan to buy a year's supply in August/September.  This is the time when the quality and prices are best.  It's good to know that I can buy hay in the winter if the need arises, but it's always better to get what you want when it's at it's peak.

I was down to two bales of hay and less than one bale of alfalfa... about a week's supply.  So I was thrilled that the Feed Store was able to deliver on Friday.

The nice boys brought their fully-loaded flat-bed and stacked it all for us.  It took them only about an hour to unload and stack 122 big-small bales (90 lbs each) of Timothy Grass and 50 small bales (65 lbs each) of Alfalfa.

The girls were happy to see there was plenty of food available for the coming winter.

Of course I am happy too.  A fully-stocked barn makes for a happy farmer.  :-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: The Traveling Woman is Finished!

I had thought about putting this in my WIP List Wrap Up, but I figured since she's caused me so much grief over the last 19 months, she deserved her very own I'm Finished post...

The end-weaving didn't take much time since there was only a little over 3 skeins used.  Which was awesome after the major weaving-in I did for the Recycled Wool Nightcap.

This was my first time blocking.  Can you believe it?  I've been a serious knitter for more than 3 years and have managed to not have to block anything... until now.  I figure it's just a matter of soaking, squeezing, stretching, pinning and then waiting for it to dry.  So I rummaged thru my sewing supplies for pins and the blocking began...

At first glance, it doesn't look too bad.  But closer inspection reveals three zig-zags on the left and...

left side

and only two zig-zags on the right along with a group of tear-drops in the middle.

right side

There's also a weird little pool of yarn to the right of the peak in the lowest section of lace.  So honestly, it isn't as bad as I expected.

It only took at day or so to dry.  So here she is, all finished.  :-)

The elation associated with taking the shawl out of the block is something I haven't experienced before.  Wow! No wonder people like blocking.

I love how it flows and drapes now.  So much prettier than when it was on the needles.

So overall, I guess I'm happy.  It definitely looks better than I expected, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to make any more lace for a while though.  ;-)

With that, my WIP List is essentially complete.  I say essentially because the Black Huacaya Batts of Wonder are still in progress and having no projects on the needles is not something I want to experience for very long.  ;-)

As you know, today is Fiber Arts Friday and there is always something interesting to see.  So please head over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and check everyone else out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tomato Sauce

Seven pounds of homegrown tomatoes

yields 4 cups of homemade tomato sauce.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Traveling Woman is Finished, Almost

The Traveling Woman has been bound-off!

I had enough yarn to complete it.... barely.

I can not tell you how relieved I am to have this off the needles.  All that's left is to weave in the ends and block it.  So once I get it stretched out, I'll be able to see the reality of my mistakes.  :-/

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!  Please head over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see all of the wonderfulness everyone else has been up to.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Harvesting Tomatoes

The Tomato Harvest is ramping up.  I'm hoping that next weekend I will find myself in the middle of a Tomato Sauce Making and Canning binge.  ;-)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Traveling Woman Shawl

I started the Traveling Woman Shawl as part of a Twitter Knit Along way back in January 2010.  I knew it was above my skill level at the time but the Twitterinos were very helpful.  I was able to make a lot of progress but alas, my lack of skill caught up with me and I shelved this project back in March 2010.

I finally picked it back up at the end of June right before the Tour de Fleece started, aka 15 months later.

I enjoyed knitting Chart A and was happy.  The pattern was making sense to me and going well.

Now that I'm on Chart B, I am unhappy.  I have 5 rows to go and my yarn supply is dwindling.  I'm not certain I have enough to finish the pattern, but frankly I've decided that I don't care.

I don't like Chart B.  I don't know if it's the formatting, my splitty yarn, the lace or the fact that I can't talk and knit without making a mistake or getting lost, but I am not enjoying it.  I don't feel like I'm reading the stitches right, but when I hold the work up, it looks ok.  So who knows?  Maybe it's fine.

This pattern has become much more about finishing than anything else.  Which makes knitting not fun.  Of course it's also been hot and humid and I'm knitting with alpaca... it IS summer by the way.  :-/

So, I'm gonna enjoy the cool morning with a cup of coffee, then check in with the fabulous Fiberistas over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder because you know, it IS Fiber Arts Friday.  :-)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nature has Other Plans

After my post yesterday, I had pretty much decided to breed Keyla and the younger girls in early September when the younger girls were ready.  I just wanted to do a little math first.

This morning however, I neglected to latch the boys' gate properly.

This isn't the match-up I had planned, since we have done this match-up before.  No worries though, Keyla and Bandit make nice babies.  Check out Eduardo and Apple.  :-)

So, assuming this breeding was successful, we should be expecting our first 2012 cria around the middle of July next year.

First Tomatoes!

I harvested the first little tomatoes from our garden a couple of days ago, along with acorn and spaghetti squash.  Yum!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Alpacamundo: Decisions

With cria due soon, it's time to make decisions about next year's and future breedings.

Big Thompson's Birthday last year with Daisy, Kocoa and Frieda saying Hello.

The decision of who to breed with who is pretty simple this year.  We will be breeding with three first-time herdsires.  Two of these boys were given an opportunity last year, but didn't quite know what was going on.  Now being a year older, they were very interested when I brought our open female around last Saturday.

The real decision we have is when.

We like to have our girls bred and therefore birthing around the same time.  This allows the cria to have friends to grow up with and wean together with.  Since alpacas are very social animals, this really makes it easier on everyone.  Them and us.

Daisy and Frieda are due mid-August which means they'll be ready to re-breed in early-September.  Kocoa is due mid-October and therefore ready to re-breed in early November.  Keyla is open and ready to breed now.

I originally thought we would wait and breed everyone when Kocoa is ready so we would have four cria at about the same time next year.  However, I've also been considering breeding who we can in early September.

I like the idea of having cria in late-summer rather than fall.  Especially since October is getting close to snow flying.  That way if the breedings don't take, we don't have to wait until nicer weather.

Of course, we don't have to wait.  Alpacas are like cats and can breed pretty-much anytime.  So it's really more about what works better for the human-folk and the human-folk don't like the idea of breeding and birthing in a snow storm.

The marathon season begins to ramp up in the fall which means Hubba travels more in the fall which means early-September breeding generally works better for us.

So the big reason why this decision is taking some time is that we potentially have the London Paralympics next year.  But we won't know for sure until October, at the earliest.

So, if we breed in early September, we could potentially have cria right before we leave for London, but very likely we will have to make arrangements for our late-term moms.  Of course we always make arrangements for our farm when we're away, I'd just rather not burden our normal sitter with cria-watch and neo-natal tasks.

On the other hand, if we wait until November, we will continually be having cria during our high-travel season and possibly with snow on the ground.

Of course I'll let you know what we decide.  In the meantime, our first round of cria-watch is in progress.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tomatoes are Turning Red!

We haven't had much rain and it's been very hot over the last couple of weeks which means many of my plants have been looking wilty.  So I've been giving each a good personal soak.

The sunflower is more than 5.5 feet tall and we continue to harvest yellow squash and zucchini.  In fact, there has been so much squash that I'm  not sure I can give any more away without alienating my friends.  ;-)  So I'm thinking about drying some.  The blanching and freezing that I did last year was not great and there's only so much zucchini bread that one can make.

I decided to put my weeding efforts elsewhere last week so my veggie garden is looking a little rough.

We planted 9 trees this past spring and put fencing around the smaller ones to protect them from teething puppies and lawn mowers.  I promise there is a pine tree behind that wall of weeds.

I weeded around each of the new trees then added a generous amount of alpaca manure.

Next up is the front flower garden.  Of course, I use the terms flower and garden loosely.

Hubba has been diligently weeding over the last few weeks.  Between the Mint  and Thistle this space has been a huge disaster area.  Seriously folks, please don't plant Mint anywhere except a container. Pleeeeaaase.