Well, as most of you know, I'm Canadian. Canada Day is celebrated on July 1 each year. It's not unlike July 4 here in the USA. We have fireworks and outdoor concerts and barbecues and all that great stuff that comes with summer and celebrations. It is a celebration of the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North America Act, which united Canada as a single country of four provinces. In Canada, the establishment of the country is also known as Confederation.
In celebration of the day, I thought I'd offer some facts about Canada that you might, or might not, know.
1. Canada is the second largest country in the world (Russia is the largest). 2. Canada and the USA share the world's longest common border. 3. Canada is made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories. The provinces and territories are similar to states. 4. Canada has two official languages - French and English. That doesn't mean that all Canadians speak French! It is spoken widely in the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, and to a lesser extent in other provinces and territories. 5. Canada is named after an Iroquois word, "kanata," which means village or settlement.
I was born in the province of Quebec, but lived most of my life in the province of Nova Scotia. I also spent 11 years of my life in the province of Ontario. I love Canada dearly - after all, it is my homeland. I miss certain things about it that are in some ways intangible and difficult to describe. Most of all, I miss family and friends.
For me, being Canadian is a part of who I am and it defines certain things about me. That said, I believe that it doesn't really matter where one is born and where one lives one's life. What matters most is what one makes of one's life, and how one contributes to the lives of others. I could have been born in any country in the world, and I would still be, at the core, the same person that I am now. I embrace all cultures, all people, and all countries for their own strengths and weaknesses. I do not believe that there is a "greatest country in the world" because all countries have their own remarkable qualities and their own failings.
I live in the USA for now, but that doesn't mean I will always live here. Part of me would love to return to Canada. Part of me would love a new adventure in a different country. New Zealand appeals to me, but since I have dual citizenship with the UK, I could also live and work anywhere in Europe. How about a villa in Tuscany?! I'm open to adventure, but I try to remain realistic as well. Who knows what the future holds!
Best wishes to my homeland and all family and friends in Canada for a wonderful Canada Day!
Well, to be honest, they're not all from the garden. Some are from the coop!
Today I made 6 egg custards and a flan pie from a surfeit of eggs brought to us by our lovely hens. Kelly loves egg custard and flan, so these will disappear quickly! i generally use the bantam eggs in baked custards at a ratio of 2 bantam eggs per 1 standard egg. It uses up the little eggs easily and quickly.
Personally, I like to eat them with fresh fruit. Today, I picked fresh red currants from the garden. They are one of my favorites! I like to make jelly with the red currants, but they are also quite lovely fresh, sprinkled around the flan or on top of a custard. I have black currants and white currants that will soon be ready for picking too! You can see the currants in the tub in the picture. I still need to take them off their stems. We also picked our second batch of garlic scapes. Usually Kelly cuts them up and purees them with softened butter, then freezes that into logs. It makes great garlic butter. Garlic scapes are the flower stalk of the garlic plant. Generally, in order to allow the garlic bulb (under the soil) to maximize its size, you cut the flower off so that the plant focuses its energy in the root, not the flower. They make these unusual curly stems, and the flavor of them is garlicky, but milder than the bulb. Garlic is very good for us, even though it's not one of my favorites really. I eat it anyway. I do think that the garlic scapes are lovely to look at! I also finished plying some yarn that I had spun. The orange/turquoise is a seacell and merino blend, while the buff is an alpaca and merino blend. I'm quite pleased with how this one came out. Of course, I can't finish up without a mention of the little white bundle under my desk. What is it? Look closer! It's Marshmallow!! She's doing wonderfully well and has gained a whole pound! She is now over 5 pounds of fleecy delight. Hooray! She has also adapted well to her sanitary routine of being diapered. It saves a lot of clean up and she seems perfectly comfortable. Whew! Have a great week!
When we decided to have sheep, we hoped that all lambings would go well, of course. I think every shepherd hopes for that. Sometimes, there can be trouble with the delivery. Sometimes, there's just too much of a good thing! That's what happened yesterday on Whispering Acres. Our final pregnant ewe, Buttercup, gave birth to quadruplets! Woah! That's a whole lot of lambs! Sadly, one of them died, so we were left with triplets. When I got home after work yesterday, one of the three was not doing too well. She was laying in the field, very lethargic, panting in the heat despite having shelter, and just not doing very well. I think she kind of called to me.
Of course I called to you, you silly lady. My Mummy wasn't doing her job! What do you expect?! And you call yourself a shepherdess. Pffft....just let me sleep, would you please? I brought her inside to give her a bottle of prepared colostrum, since the powdered colostrum substitute I have says to feed that for the first 24 hours before moving on to lamb milk replacer. Sure enough, she hungrily took to the bottle. She had a little rest and seemed much better after that, much to my relief. So, I decided to keep her in for the night. She slept by my bedside in a little basket.
My own bed! Thank you for the blankie! It's soooo comfy! I think her mom was having trouble caring for 3 lambs since she's a first time mom. For the sake of all of them, I decided it was best to keep her as a bottle lamb. She is the smallest of the 3, and the other two were much more aggressive with their Mom's udder, so she was getting left out.
Well no kidding. I'm barely as big as your foot! I had trouble with my brother and sister. They were awfully pushy. You, on the other hand, are a pushover! Marshmallow has a bottle every 2 to 3 hours now, although soon she will be able to manage 4 to 5 hours. She went to work with me today because Kelly was busy and unable to keep up with the feedings today. Really, we shouldn't have animals at work, but it was important to give her a good start. My colleagues were delighted to host her for the day, and she was very quiet and well behaved, despite a steady stream of visitors.
Marshmallow! What kind of a name is that? You're not going to eat me are you? I can't imagine... I had to pick up some diapers on the way to work to ensure there were no "accidents" on the carpet! She is now sporting "Pampers Snuggables Sensitive" for up to 10 lb babies. I make a small adaptation to them so that her tail can stick out.
Yeah, this is pretty embarassing you know. If the other lambs see me.....wait a second....what is this stuff I'm smelling, it smells familiar....like me! Why is it these weird colours? What kind of sheep are these anyway? They are even more quiet than me! This afternoon when I got home from work, I had a little snooze because last night I had to get up for bottle feedings, and the night before I had been awake for hours due to tremendous thunderstorms. She slept beside me curled up in a little ball. She has me hooked around her little hoof. Really, sometimes, I swear she's talking to me!
I am afraid to ask what this contraption is. But it kind of smells like me too, but different. This is very odd. I'm going to have to do some more investigation. I'm not sure if I trust you yet. Hey lady! Where's my bottle?!Ummm...gotta go!
I love fruit - nearly all kinds of fruit, although I'm not all that excited about lychees, but hey, we can't all be perfect. In order to indulge myself, I have planted a "home orchard" of sorts. Really, it's quite a big home orchard. In fact, I now have 60 fruit trees planted, mostly dwarf and semi-dwarf and a few standards. So, I now have a wide array of cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, quince, apriums and pluots.
Last year, I planted several apple trees, a couple of cherry trees, and pears. Here's what is happening this year with those trees! (I'm so excited!)
Here are some Burbank dwarf plums! These are Stanley prune plums. Montmorency sour cherries (I ate one, ohhhh so good!) These are Cortland apples Some Honeycrisp apples too! And here is a baby Bartlett pear!! I think it's wonderful to be able to grow and pick my own fruit trees. I can't wait for the coming years when I will see how they all progress and what kind of fruit yields I can get even here in chilly Iowa! Well, I mean in winter. Right now, it's sticky hot out!
In addition, I have rhubarb, black currants, red currants, white currants, pink currants, raspberries, blackberries, lingonberries, honeyberries, gooseberries, not to mention grapes. I'll have to do posts on some of those as the summer progresses.
So, what's up with the "cream" part of this blog post title? Well, as I was out there photographing my young fruits, I couldn't help but notice the antics of little Cream Puff, our 4-way-cross lamb, as she cavorted around the sheep pasture. Oh, she's a firecracker! Here she goes! Bounce! Oh yeah! She's a jumper lamb! See her fly!! This is her flight platform. Sometimes she looks like she will just take off! Other lambs walk. She bounces. So, after all that lambie excitement, there I was, all ready to go back in the house, and I turned to look back as I walked, and then I saw her. Yup, you know who....always wanting to be in the spotlight! LUNA!!! What are you doing out of your pasture fencing, young lady?
"What? I'm busy....eating..." "I'm just picking up the mess from when you unloaded the hay from the trailer." Luna has picked up the habit of squeezing out of the cattle panel fencing, going for little foraging walks, checking out the chickens and ducks, and then going back into the pasture with the other goats. She doesn't run away, she just goes on walkabout. "I can't believe you put me back with the other goats. I was HELPING you clean the yard! Besides, you NEVER feature me on your blog any more. My fan base demands my appearance!" Sven says "See Mom, see how well behaved I am? I'm nothing like that naughty little goat! And I have beautiful horns too. I am the future herdsire! Worship me!!"
This past weekend, Kelly and I spent much of our time at the Iowa Sheep & Wool Festival that was held in Adel, Iowa. We packed an awful lot into two days, but it was worth every minute.
It was difficult to choose from all the classes and workshops available, but here is some of what we did...
We both attended a class in parasite resistance and strategic deworming of sheep.
Kelly attended a FAMACHA class and received his certification (FAMACHA is a technique of determining the worm load in an animal by comparing the color of its inner eyelid to a chart, thus determining if it should be dewormed or not)
We both went to the "hall of breeds" exhibit to see all the different sheep varieties
Kelly had a great time learning from the shearer after a demonstration of shearing
Claire attended the "adding pizzazz to your yarn" class (I'll blog about that separately)
Kelly attended a workshop on learning to judge sheep
Claire visited the fiber vendors far too many times, but there were so many lovely things to touch and look at and buy!
We met Jill from Blue Gate Farms in person! She's lots of fun and we really enjoyed spending time with her on Sunday afternoon!
Kelly ate lamb burgers, lamb jerky and a lamb bratwurst. Claire didn't.
Claire attended the "Spinning Woolen & Worsted Techniques" class
I thought I'd give a little more detail about the spinning woolen and worsted class, because it was very interesting for me as a fairly new spinner, and I certainly learned a lot. For those who are not spinners, let me just preface this discussion by saying that when you spin yarn, the fiber that is spun is held in your hands, and your foot spins the wheel. The spinning of the wheel makes the fibers twist together, and the twisted fibers are pulled through the "orifice" of the wheel and wound onto the bobbin.
We started the class with raw Romney fleece. We learned to flick card (for those who didn't already know how) the fibers to open out the tips and make the fibers align together. Then, we took those fibers and spun them in the way that most spinners use, keeping our hands fairly close to the orifice and smoothing down the fibers as we spun, thus making what is referred to as a "worsted" yarn. In the picture below, the middle skein of brown yarn is that worsted yarn which I made from the raw fleece.The top skein in the picture above is a semi-worsted yarn. The difference between it, and the worsted yarn that we first made, is that the semi-worsted is made from wool roving. In roving, the fibers are somewhat meshed together, so that they are not all aligned in the same direction. We used a white Corriedale roving for that skein. Here is the closer picture of the semi-worsted skein on the bottom of the picture below, next to....something awful looking! That awful looking stuff is my first attempt at true "woolen" yarn. The difference between spinning a woolen yarn is that you use what's called a "long draw" technique, which means that your hands are a long way from the spinning wheel orifice, and you do not touch and smooth down the fibers as you spin. So you're holding this hunk of fiber a long way away from the wheel and letting the spin travel up the line and just pinching near the top. This is not easy, my friends! That is why my above sample looks like something one of my chickens got into. How embarassing. Clearly, I need more practice with this technique! I think I need to "pre-draft" the fiber more before doing it again. Most of us in the class came to this realization - it is difficult to spin woolen without considerable pre-drafting. Pre-drafting means stretching out the fibers before you start to spin with them. The same corriedale roving was used for the woolen skein.Finally, we did a semi-woolen skein. In that case, we prepared the fiber as one would do for worsted (made all the fibers line up by flicking out the locks of raw fleece) but we spun as one would do for the woolen technique using the long draw. I actually really liked the yarn that I spun using that technique. You can see it in the picture below - it's the bottom skein. It has more texture to it and a more interesting character. The point of woolen yarns is that there is more air space spun into them and that should, in theory create a warmer yarn because it has more air pockets to hold warm air, such as in a hat or scarf, against the body. I will be trying some more work on semi-woolen yarns in future. So, to summarize... Worsted yarn - align fibers, use short draw, smoothing of fibers as spun Semi-worsted yarn - not aligned fibers, use short draw, smoothing of fibers as spun Semi-woolen yarn - aligned fibers, use long draw, no smoothing of fibers as spun Woolen yarn - not aligned fibers, use long draw, no smoothing of fibers as spun
One of my upcoming blog posts will cover the yarns I made in the "Adding Pizzazz to Your Yarn" class, featuring Flash, soy silk, merino, tussah, and more!
I have been very kindly awarded a couple of blog awards and have been remiss in blogging about them and thanking those who bestowed them upon me.
Jenny Holden of "Wandering Gecko" gave me the "Honest Scrap" award! So, (sorry Jenny) I find this really funny....when I first visited Jenny's blog, in her profile, she had her job listed as something like "Water Vole Officer" and now she has it listed as "Beaver Trial Field Officer." I mean, how do you keep a straight face when someone asks you what you do, and you have to say "Oh, well, I'm a water vole officer." This, for some reason, makes me collapse into a fit of giggles. I envision her standing at a vole crossroads, saying "I'm sorry Mr. Vole, but you didn't stop and look both ways. I'm going to have to issue you a citation!" In all seriousness, I think it's wonderful that she is doing such a badly needed job in the role of ecology of small mammals. If I had that job, I should think I would get so excited at the sight of a water vole that I would track it all day and forget where I was. Thank you Jenny, for introducing me to your world, and your sheep, of course!
Back to the award....Honest Scrap Award rules:"When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it (done), including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim (done), and link back to said person so everyone knows he or she is real (done). Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have 7 friends. Show the 7 random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with “Honest Weblog.” Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon. List at least ten honest things about yourself. Then, pass it on! "
Wow, Here are my 7 "victims" of the Honest Weblog award, who are "brilliant in content or design," in no particular order... 1. Lola Nova - because she is always brilliant in her crafty designs and I love her blog! 2. Earthenwitch - she always makes me laugh, and that's brilliant! 3. Blue Gate Farm - because they promote sustainable farming, and that in itself is brilliant! 4. Disapproving Rabbits - seriously, brilliant rabbit photos and very funny quotes! 5. Color & Texture - brilliant knitter & crocheter. Really. I am so jealous! 6. Apifera Farm - Katherine is a brilliant artist and wonderful writer. 7. Split Rock Ranch- because I bought a llama fleece from her today, but also because she's wonderfully crafty with her fleeces and is a brilliant fiber blending artist!
And here are my ten honest things about myself: 1. I sleep with a stuffed kangaroo named Lurvig. It bothers me if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't find him. Sometimes I have to turn the light on and find him. 2. I am a perfectionist about most things and I hate making mistakes. 3. I am a terrible housekeeper. 4. I have a secret (well, not anymore) fear of being hit by a meteorite. 5. I force myself to eat salad because I know it's good for me but I'm really not a big fan of it. 6. I have an emergency chocolate stash in my work filing cabinet. 7. When I was a child, I used to like the taste of Elmer's white glue. 8. I am terrified of flying and I tremble uncontrollably when seated in a plane. 9. I always wanted to be 6 foot tall but I am 2 inches short of that. 10. I am drawn to red sports cars, which are entirely impractical when I live on a dirt road.
Brenda at Split Rock Ranch (whom I awarded up above!) gave me the "Kreativ Blogger" award! Brenda is far more creative than I am, and is a fiber artist extraordinaire. She has a wonderful herd of llamas and they have gorgeous fleeces. She has fleeces for sale on her Etsy shop - you should check them out! She also has a great fiber of the month club (I'm a member!) and some lovely yarns and rovings in her Etsy shop.
So, I'm supposed to list sever favorite things, and then award the Kreativ Blogger award to seven blogs. Here we go!
Seven Favorite Things 1. Visits from my parents! They are a tremendous help here on the farm and bring me such joy when they come to visit the farm! 2. My farm animals! I never knew how wonderful it would be to have sheep, goats, llamas, chickens, ducks, and donkeys in my life! 3. Haagen Dazs Toasted Sesame Brittle Ice Cream. More please! 4. My garden. It is my peaceful place. 5. Springtime - because everything is new again. 6. Collecting eggs from my hens, it's a surprise every day! 7. Fiber! And more fiber! (I don't mean the edible kind)
Seven "Kreativ" Blogs! 1. Frolic 'n Fibers - I'm very envious of her fiber drying table here: http://frolicnfibers.blogspot.com/2009/03/fiber-arts-fridays-drying-and-picking.html 2. eXtreme Spinner - she has lovely fiber in her Etsy shop (I know because I've bought a lot of it!) and she's very creative indeed! 3. Mare at Moon & Stars Studio - an amazingly creative and talented woman with a heart of gold. 4. Corinne at Crosswinds Farm, because she is creative enough to understand my fiber addiction, and she has such an eye for photography. Look at her latest batch of pictures from her local farmers market! Wow! 5. Artstanding Stranger - a new blog to me (see below) but a great artist! Check it out! 6. Loess is More - Diane is another amazing photographer, and that makes her "Kreativ" in my books! Plus, she always makes me laugh too. Thanks Di! 7. Felted Treasures - such a wonderful array of felted items - a great blog for inspiration! Very Kreativ indeed!
Also, I had a special mention on "Artstanding Stranger" which is a really super creative blog that you should visit! I had not found her blog before, but she found mine! I'm so glad she did, because now I can visit hers. Diane has an interesting mix of art and philosophy on her blog. Her recent post mentioned that she learned from my blog about llamas jumping through hoops, and about the birth of lambs! Isn't that what it's all about - learning from others that we might never otherwise encounter in our daily lives. That is the treat of blogging. Thanks for your visit Diane!
I thought I'd do a bird blog - and for once it's not about my chickens or ducks! I'm very lucky to have a wooded area on my land, and that brings in lots of different bird species. I love to watch the birds, and I enjoy finding their nests and watching their young grow and fledge. I have 3 bluebird boxes, 2 of which are presently inhabited. One box had a bluebird family in it earlier this spring, but after they fledged, tree swallows moved in and now they have 4 eggs being "incubated" by mother swallow. The second box has a different swallow family in it. The movement and flight of the swallows is mesmerizing. I especially like to watch them when Kelly mows the lawn, because that seems to stir up the bugs from the grass. They follow behind the mower, diving and swooping in a bird ballet of sorts, getting all the tastiest insects I'm sure!
Of course, hummingbirds are a favorite of mine also, and here is one that I photographed earlier this week at my hummingbird feeder. It sits right outside my dining room window, so I can watch it when I eat (if I'm not eating in front of the computer!) They are such delicate little birds, but they pack a mean beak when there is another hummingbird around, and they will dive-bomb each other while trying to feed. It's hard to keep up with their antics sometimes! On the more docile side, we have quite a few chipping sparrows around here. Can you see the chipping sparrows in this picture? Nah, didn't think so. It's a bit of a trick question. This is my Jackmanii clematis, which mother sparrow decided was the perfect place for her nest. Indeed it was, because last year's chipping sparrow (maybe the same one?) tried a nest in 2 of my viburnum shrubs and in a juniper, and every time, the nest was either destroyed or the eggs broken. I'm not sure who the culprit was, but this time....success!! Now you can see the chipping sparrows in the clematis! There were four babies and they just fledged this weekend. What a sweet little family! If you go back to the first picture, you can actually see a little bit of the nest, just to the right of the single bloom on the bottom left side. She used a bit of shredded paper (from my chicken nest boxes) and the white shows the edge of the nest.
Today, I heard one of those unpleasant "thunk" sounds on a window in my dining area. I have some decals that are supposed to limit bird strikes, but sometimes they still hit a window. I ran outside to see if I could be of assistance. Sure enough, this female rose-breasted grosbeak was in need of some quiet time. I think she was so focused on the caterpillar in her mouth that she neglected to notice the window. I generally felt her wings and legs, etc, to ensure that I couldn't feel any breaks or things out of place, and then gently placed her in a little animal carry-crate with some water, in a quiet spot. I did take some photographs of her first, because it's such a treat to have a close-up experience with such a bird.
She has beautiful golden yellow patches under her wings. After about an hour, I heard her begin to flap about in the box, and I took her outside and released her. She flew away with no problem whatsoever. I'm glad she had a safe place to rest and recover from her bump on the head! Maybe next time, she'll remember not to fly with her mouth full!
"Excuse me? Since when are you an expert in bird etiquette? Just leave me alone with my nectar, please. Geesh....humans...."
One of the reasons we decided to get llamas on our farm was because they are supposed to be good livestock guardians. That was a good thing for our goats and sheep! Another reason was because llamas produce lovely fiber (fibre, for my Canadian readers....I wish we could all just spell things the same way...)
Of course, in order to obtain the lovely fiber, one must shear one's llamas. This is a good thing to do in any event, because llamas with heavy fur coats are very uncomfortable in the summer in Iowa, where temperatures often hit the high 80s (that's 30s in Celsius, for my Canadian readers....I wish we could all just use the same scale!)
When our shearer came to do our sheep, we were unable to catch two of our llamas for him to shear. In addition, he told us that he didn't do llamas very often, but that he'd been told that llamas are very prone to depression and that if you shear more than a barrel cut on them, they can die from depression. I had not heard this, but not having time to look it up when he was here, I agreed to just do a barrel cut for now. I subsequently looked it up and asked some fellow llama owners, and nobody had heard of this llama death-by-depression phenomenon, so I decided that even the ones we had sheared needed some more taken off for their own comfort in the heat of summer.
So, while my parents were visiting last month, we decided to shear llamas. I only have hand shears so that's what I used. I think that hand shears are quieter and hopefully less likely to distress the llamas. Some were more receptive than others. Here you can see the hand shears - they are very sharp, indeed! More than anything, I was worried about the llamas making sudden movements and my jabbing them by mistake. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Rosco was very agreeable about the whole experience. He has lovely caramel brown colored (coloured) fleece, and a wonderful disposition. On the other end of the scale, we had Dolly. She was not in the least bit impressed with the proceedings. She wanted nothing to do with the shears and was only vaguely mollified with grain. We knew we had to get her sheared because her coat was so very heavy. Finally, we had to resort to trying to hobble her, so that she would lay down. We achieved this, but only briefly, because Kelly was holding her down while I was trying to shear, and with one immense surge of energy, she threw Kelly off, sending him flying, and I felt her start to move so I stepped back quickly with the shears, narrowly escaping stabbing her unintentionally. After that, we had to keep her partially hobbled by having one foot roped and off the ground, upsetting her balance, and keeping her tied to a tree. (No llamas were harmed in the making of this blog!!) This was not ideal at all, and for next year, Kelly is going to weld up a proper llama shearing stand like the ones we saw at the llama show we attended. I slowly worked down her body, taking off as much fleece in one piece as I could. In the end, here is how she looked. I didn't get as much as I'd wanted to, but she is probably OK for the summer. Kelly calls it the "bumpy cut" and says that everybody in the barnyard wants the bumpy. It's hard not to have it look that way when you're a beginner with hand shears. My hand was aching so much by the end of it all. Good thing it's only once a year!
The rest of the llamas fell somewhere between the Rosco and Dolly attitude, but they all got sheared!
Just so the other animals don't feel left out, here's Willow with baby Onyx, who has gradually lightened to a dark chocolate brown, rather than the black that he was when he was born. In my "spare time" I have completed this handspun yarn. I'm quite pleased with it! It's 2 ply merino, silk and an unknown wool blend. I love the colors (that's colours, for my Canadian readers...sigh...) and the touch is really bouncy. I am going to send it to a knitter friend to test it out in a "real life knitting situation" and we'll see how it goes. It's my 3rd yarn attempt since I got my Louet spinning wheel. Have a great week, everyone!
I'm a Canadian who moved back to Nova Scotia after having lived in Iowa for nearly 9 years. I came back for reasons that disintegrated, and am now trying to rebuild from the ground up. I do my best to live in harmony with the world around me. This is a blog about life, adventure, and the pursuit of self-sufficiency, and ultimately, happiness.