Friday, January 30, 2009


Okay, okay, I know after we returned from Florida earlier in the month I listed many things I would miss if I lived there..... but this?

We have had one heck of an ice storm here in central Kentucky! The storm started on Monday night and we managed to hold our power until the worst of it Wednesday morning. I hoped that it would be temporary but it is looking like we may be without electricity for a long time (the current forecast from Bluegrass Energy is 5-15 days!).This is what our nearly half-mile long driveway looked like in it's worst place on Wednesday morning while the freezing rain was still coming:Without Paul home (he was contending with a string of cancelled flights while trying to get back from Washington, D.C.), I would have been at wit's end if it weren't for our new resident and friend in our cabin, Danna. It turns out that Danna has her very own chainsaw and knows how to use it! She lived in S. Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and was without power for 6 weeks- her chainsaw was compliments of FEMA. What a woman!

We cleared the driveway, started fires in the our fireplaces, gathered supplies, and then I pouted around for a while saying to myself, "You are tough, you are NOT getting soft, you are NOT a princess." Truly, those were my thoughts and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, having restless kids at home and praying for Paul to get here safely. To complicate matters, our new farm help couldn't get here (and now has to take off for the next week for personal reasons), and when we have no electricity it also means no water since we're on a well and have cisterns at the barns. At least our phones are working again after two days of being out.

Thankfully, Paul got home safely and spent yesterday as resident hero, problem-solving our water challenges at the barns and getting generator power to the house. I concentrated on caring for the animals, brought out all of our alpaca blankets, and told myself, "Yes, we CAN do this, I am not a wussy."

I have figured out a few things about myself in this decade of my life, namely that I don't like stress and change and don't handle it well... for about 1-2 days. Then I try to ADAPT (my word of the year, remember?) and think positive. Also, I am reminding myself that we have it SOOOO much better than so many people, the elderly and some with many small children, that are holed up in cold homes all over our area. I am not feeling sorry for myself any more.Besides, this storm has left incredible beauty behind, along with the damage. I'll have other images to share as I can get internet, here are a few, though they don't do it justice. I hope that wherever you are, you're warm and safe. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weather "Event"

I couldn't figure out why our dog Munchie kept scratching at the door at 1 AM... then I realized it wasn't him but Mother Nature trying to get my attention. She was throwing down snow, rain and sleet all at once, and it was bouncing at the patio door and windows all night long! Would you believe that it hit 60 degrees here last Friday? We always say if you don't like the weather in Kentucky, just wait a little while....Most of our animals have shelter, but the alpacas and dogs are pretty content outside. It is amazing how the ice doesn't melt on the alpaca's backs since they are so well insulated. The kids helped me feed because our helper couldn't make it on the slick roads, and Robert enjoyed sledding down the icy hills. Being the worrier I am (I take after my Mom that way), I'm preparing for the worst... a power outage like we had after the 2003 ice storm, and Paul is out of town like he was then.
It's currently raining pretty hard and icicles are forming everywhere.
Oh well, the chores are done, I've got bread rising, Mirian has just baked some of her special chocolate chip "tortillas", and Robert has a friend over. We have lots of rations, candles, and firewood. I'm finishing up some more scarves, and with lots of knitting I'm pretty content inside our warm home rather than out in this:
Be careful out there, my friends. Pin It Now!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Maine Mitts for Me!

Last weekend before heading off to my spinning retreat, I went through some of my fiber stash and discovered some lovely Bluefaced Leicester hand-dyed roving and some yarn I had already spun from it. I purchased the fiber at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival the only year I had the good fortune of attending, perhaps in 2005? The yarn was sold by Firesong, and I remember all of their colors being stunning.
I enjoy working with alpaca most of all, but it is nice to work with other fibers from time to time. BFL wool is relatively soft, hard-wearing, and has really pretty luster. The yarn that I had already spun was fairly bulky and uneven, but I felt that it would be good for that pattern I love, Maine Morning Mitts! I spun a skein last weekend that will perhaps become a hat or scarf, my spinning was so much better the second time around.

These mitts will be nice to wear tomorrow morning when we finish up on the alpaca's routine herd health (worming injections and trimming toenails)! It's nice to have warm wrists and hands but to have my fingers free for fine motor tasks.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Making Time....

This morning I was looking at my to-do list and wondering if I have time to go to my Wednesday afternoon knitting group. I have made attending this little get-together a priority (for my own sanity), but sometimes a bit of guilt creeps in.... I've been swamped here at the farm and have found that a certain daughter is pushing my buttons again. In addition, I certainly haven't made time to exercise regularly as I hoped.

But, I was just perusing the blogs I enjoy and caught up with Martha Stewart. I nearly took her blog off my list as it is of course more commercial than most, however I am finding that I enjoy a few minutes here and there of living vicariously through her! In the past month, she has posted about going to a wilderness spa retreat with her daughter in the Southwest, an island vacation in the Bahamas with friends, adopting some Himalayan cats from her local shelter, and riding her Fresian horses on a snowy afternoon (see that one here, MB and Marti Mu, hint, hint!). She posts tons of photos with each entry, many her own, so it doesn't have too much of a magazine feel.
Of course, Martha looks wonderful in all! It's easy to see why, since she has such an active life and does the things that she enjoys. I have read that she has a type-A personality and has worked for years and years obsessively on her career, but it doesn't appear that she is a total workaholic! Yes, she has tons of staff and no longer has children (or a husband) at home, but few could keep her schedule AND find time to do the things they love (and I would bet that like me she watches little to no television). On that note, I am feeling inspired to take a 20 minute walk in the cold with Munchie! (Photos here are from that walk...)
I had planned to write some reflections on the inauguration and have read many beautiful summaries, but I am unable to find many words..... WOW, that music, and the poem, and the benediction, and the SPEECH (oh yeah, and Michele's dress at the ball!) Let me just say simply that my heart is lightened and my mind is completely filled with optimism and pride when I consider the inauguration of Barack Obama.... God Bless America! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Spinning and Spiral Cowl

This past weekend's spinning retreat was a welcome break from lots of cold outdoor activities on the farm! Our local spinning guild has had an annual overnight get-together for as long as it's existed (over 25 years?), and I've now started to feel like one of the old-timers, having attended perhaps the past 15 years. We rented a lovely house on a lake, and I fully enjoyed the usual sharing of patterns, techniques, ideas, opinions, and wonderful home-cooked food. Our group is very diverse, but all are generous in their teaching and I have learned so much from these friends. It's fun to see the variety of projects and to learn about the different fibers that everyone enjoys. (The green fiber above is mohair that Sheri dyed and below is wool from Sylvia's sheep that she dyed for a coat).My goal was to spin my own alpaca yarn and knit a Spiral Cowl (the free pattern can be found here), and I completed all but the final touches over the weekend.
I wanted to make it for my new grey and red reversible alpaca coat, and it does look great with it (though that picture didn't turn out well). It was a very fun and fairly simply knit, and I have already cast on to do another in Noro silk garden yarn. The button (shown above) which gathers it closer for warmth is made from bone, and I'd been saving it for a special project since buying it in Alaska nearly 5 years ago. This was the first time I'd done a picot edging, and I loved it! Pin It Now!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wearing Alpaca!

Our farm helper gave notice last week and left two days earlier than planned, ironically leaving me to feed and do other chores on the two coldest days of the past eight years! But, no worries- I wear alpaca! Normally I get very cold feet, but my Extreme Alpaca Socks kept my toes toastie. I have heavier hats, but this one which is rather thin and lightweight kept my head as warm as can be. (Let me know if you're interested in purchasing warm alpaca clothing- I have some great specials going now!)I really shouldn't worry about the animals so much in this weather (-3 F this morning), as they are wearing alpaca, too, of course. In fact, they seemed quite happy with the frigid weather, especially when the sun came out. I take extra time to be sure that everyone is doing okay and we feed lots of extra hay. Digesting their hay is like burning a furnace and they will stay warmer as a result.A ready supply of water is critical, so I check each field's water source carefully. I did find three with frozen tanks and the water pump at our top barn wasn't working either. Flipping the breaker took care of two problems, and after calling our electrician (a very competent angel who came immediately), we identified a heating element problem in one automatic waterer. Those alpacas fortunately have another water source, and the problem will be fixed this morning.

I'm off this weekend for our annual spinning retreat, in which I get to take time to enjoy the company of friends as well as the sensation of alpaca fiber sliding through my fingers to the rhythm of the spinning wheel. Hopefully, I'll actually complete another warm garment. I feel very grateful to have such a nice group of women to enjoy this tradition with, as well as a wonderful family that understands my need for a break and the company of other people. Stay warm, everyone! Pin It Now!

Monday, January 12, 2009

For Sweethearts or other special people!

Today I needed to take our cria Belle to the veterinarian, one whom I hadn't seen in a while since she'd been on maternity leave. I was feeling badly that I didn't have a baby gift (I like giving baby alpaca handknit hats), but then it occurred to me that it might be nicer to give something to the new mom instead.
I had just completed this adorable knitted Sweetheart Washcloth that I saw on Susan B. Anderson's blog (she designed the pattern and you can purchase and download it there), and I wrapped it up with a nice soap and bath salts. The idea is one of many I have gotten from Susan's blog. She is such a wonderful and creative knitter with some awesome books to her credit including Itty-Bitty Hats: cute and cuddly caps to knit for babies and toddlers. She's also a mother of four and I am consistently inspired and awed by all of her neat projects and her generous spirit. There are some great tutorials on her site as well, and I have learned a lot reading her blog.

I knitted the first washcloth with yarn from my stash, including inexpensive Sugar and Cream dishcloth cotton that I bought a while ago at either Michael's or WalMart and nicer Crystal Palace cotton chenille. I thought that the crocheted edging in the chenille really set off the rest of the cloth. I haven't done crochet in years and I'm not sure I did it correctly (it's not identical to Susan's), but I liked the way it turned out nonetheless.I had to run into the store for something on my way back from the vet's, and I was awestruck by how much Valentine's merchandise was out already.... give me a break! I love LOVE, and I adore pink, red, white, hearts, flowers, ALL that mushy stuff! But.... somehow we're being waylaid yet again to buy, buy, and buy some more! I will do my best this year to keep holidays in the proper perspective, and particularly NOT to be manipulated into turning everything into a buying frenzy..... (or at least if you're going to give, TRY to make it handmade every once in a while).

Well, since I'm on a pink streak, I'm going to show another Sushi kitten photo since most enjoyed the last one so much (don't worry, Sarah, this one isn't the least bit scary!) Pin It Now!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An ex-teacher has been reading my blog!

I have an official resolution after re-reading my last blog post. I am going to make a concerted effort to minimize the use of REALLY in my writing. TRULY, (not really), I am. In addition, early-morning posts will be re-read at least a few times before publishing to the web so as to improve the precision of my communication. My old English teachers would have cringed to see that I used REALLY an entire 3 times in the first sentence of my previous post...

Some creative blogs that I read have suggested that people should choose 1-3 words for the year that somehow describe or define who you are or what you want to be, or to set a goal... I hope that my word isn't "REALLY." I was thinking more along the lines of ..... adapt or inspire or optimism. In these quickly-changing times (both in the greater world and within a home with two teens), I choose ADAPT.

What will your word or words be? I want to know, really! (whoops)....

P.S. The photo is one of many I have of our housecat, Sushi, whom Mirian has always loved to dress up. He is incredibly tolerant of it and loves her the best as a result! I know it doesn't have anything to do with this blog post, but I think it's incredibly cute, don't you?

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

A funny early-morning tale

My husband and I really shouldn't talk in the morning until we're really awake.... I was telling him about how I was really bummed out to find a small carcass on the ground yesterday while feeding the adult female alpacas. He said, "yeah, I read about that on your blog." I told him I didn't write about it on my blog! He replied, "you mentioned something about a crocus." I laughed and told him that I'd mentioned that I like to see daffodils coming up. He said, "yeah, that's right, you saw a daffodil!" I told him that I just like daffodils, not that I'd seen one! I can only imagine our conversations once we really get old!

Anyway...... about that carcass! I examined it and all the while was feeling sad and racking my brain to think if one of the alpacas could have had an unseen stillbirth or, heaven forbid, birthed out in the open in the bitter weather and the cria had frozen. As I picked up the skull, the lower jaw appeared and revealed some very large canine teeth! I laughed in relief, as the carcass was most definitely not a cria but likely a raccon that our guardian dogs had captured trying to get into the feed or something! I don't figure anyone really wanted to see a picture.... Pin It Now!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Things I would miss if I lived in Florida

Chicken noodle or tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a bitter day
Spotting the first daffodils to raise their heads from a winter's sleep
My kid's rosy cheeks after they've been playing in the snow
Toasting marshmallows over the fire in our fireplace
Knitting and wearing warm alpaca and wool
New foals and alpaca crias in the fields

Cardinals against a backdrop of snow

Indian summer days on the river
Weeping cherries in bloom

The quiet of a fresh snow

Paths of wildflowers

Mushroom hunting

River pallisades

Fall leaves




How about you? What would you miss the most?
Although I really need to "detox" from holiday overeating and drinking, I've decided I'm going to start this week with exercise and next week with better eating (when all of the goodies are gone!) In that spirit, I'm giving you this Amish recipe for some true "comfort food", which my Mom gave me. (She also gave me the beautiful casserole dish I baked it in for Christmas, from Yellow Springs Pottery).


2 pounds ground beef, venison, pork, or a combination
1/2 chopped onion (I used a Georgia sweet vidalia this time, which was great!)

salt and pepper
3-4 cups egg noodles

shredded cheese (recipe calls for processed, but I used a low-fat shredded combo)

2 T. brown sugar (I used sorghum this time, much better!)

1 can tomato soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

Brown meat with onion. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Stir tomato soup and brown sugar or sorghum together with meat and onion mixture, season to taste. Mix cream of chicken soup with cooked egg noodles. Layer in a casserole dish with noodle mixture, then meats, then cheese and repeat.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Shells on the beach

We spent the last day of our trip with my friend Donna at Sanibel Island, known as one of the Shell Capitals of the World! I have always LOVED seashells, and it was fun to experience such a great shelly beach with Mirian for the first time, as she has a collector's soul as well.
As we scoured the beach for several hours, I felt like God had left us gifts at every turn- beautiful weather, the shore birds, mom and baby dolphins that swam along the shore so close we could have swum with them, and of course the shell gems on the beach, everywhere!
Thank you, God, also for helping us find Robert who had forgotten where our meeting spot was and walked many miles of beach looking for us while we were looking for him and trying not to panic!
It's been one year this week since Paul's mother passed away, and I thought about her so much since we stayed at his parent's condo. It was nice to hear Robert share so many good memories of her, especially that she taught him to swim since that was really important to her. One of my distinct memories of our last time with her here (shown with Robert in 2003), she was relaying to me how much she wished for us to adopt a daughter. As Robert and Mirian frollicked in the pool, I felt as if she was happily watching and I know that she'd be really happy for us to have such a sweet daughter and sister! Pin It Now!