I wish I spoke chicken.

I wish I spoke chicken. These three -- Jellybean (boy), Beatrice (Boy), and Sally (girl) -- are buddies. They hang out together all the time and seem to be at the bottom of the pecking order. They wait for everybody else to go outside and then jump down to gobble up food. It's interesting to see a hen who hangs out with two roos, and they seem to leave her alone. (She lays, so it's not like she's not fertile.) As far as roosters go, they pretty good boys. 
I've put them in the barn with Charlie (who is still mostly featherless on her back and who gets harassed by Red) and Iris (who's in there as company for Charlie). Even bedraggled Charlie is higher in the pecking order than these guys, so I'm hoping it'll be a peaceful mix. Charlie has shown *some* progress with her feather growth, so I'm hoping she'll return to normal eventually and will be able to re-join the rest of the flock.

I wish I spoke chicken. These three — Jellybean (boy), Beatrice (Boy), and Sally (girl) — are buddies. They hang out together all the time and seem to be at the bottom of the pecking order. They wait for everybody else to go outside and then jump down to gobble up food. It’s interesting to see a hen who hangs out with two roos, and they seem to leave her alone. (She lays, so it’s not like she’s not fertile.) As far as roosters go, they pretty good boys.
I’ve put them in the barn with Charlie (who is still mostly featherless on her back and who gets harassed by Red) and Iris (who’s in there as company for Charlie). Even bedraggled Charlie is higher in the pecking order than these guys, so I’m hoping it’ll be a peaceful mix. Charlie has shown *some* progress with her feather growth, so I’m hoping she’ll return to normal eventually and will be able to re-join the rest of the flock. #twelve22org

Bunny Boys

We love our bunnies! They’re still a little shy, but that’s okay. They’re slowly warming up to us, and while it would be fun if they were super cuddly, I’m not too bothered if they decide to keep their distance most of the time. As long as I can groom them and collect the wool! The novelty hasn’t worn off for the girls yet, and M gets a kick out of feeding them a piece of kale and trying to get them to hold still for a pet.

Litter box training has gone amazingly well. There are always a scattering of droppings on their ground floor in the morning, but almost everything goes in their litter box — and they’ve not left a single wet patch anywhere outside the box. So now when they come out, they’re allowed access to the full family room. The photo of Birch and the doll’s stroller above gives you a good sense of how big they are. Like living Muppets!

They’re so curious about everything, especially the cats and dogs. That introduction/integration is something else that’s been much easier than I expected. It really helps that the bunnies are the biggest of the crowd! I’ve been cautious about Beany hanging out around the rabbits, but she seems to know her limits. If anything, I’ve gotten the sense that she wants the bunnies to play with her. I’ve still had to preemptively stop that, as cats and bunnies don’t really play the same way! But Bear-Bear loves to go in the bunnies’ house to sniff around, and they don’t even pause what they’re doing to keep an eye on her. Any time a rabbit hops toward one of the cats or dogs, it’s the cat or dog that suddenly gets nervous and has to move away!

Making Yarn

I was recently given a raw fleece (the shorn wool off a sheep) to do with as I pleased. So I washed it, carded it, spun it, dyed it, and plied it. I’ve been borrowing a friend’s spinning wheel, and this is only the second skein of yarn that I’ve spun, so I’m really happy with how it came out. I love making things from scratch — and the challenge of going back as far in the process as possible — so the only thing better would have been making yarn from the wool of my own sheep! Someday, maybe…

The first photo shows 2oz of carded wool, and each of the singles in the second photo were about 2oz, as well. I dyed them separately (using regular food coloring and citric acid and the microwave — I’ve used that method with a lot of success on wool, silk, and our own chicken feathers) and then plied them together to make a self-striping, sort of variegated-y yarn.

Now I have to decide what to make with it! There’s about 215-225yds in the finished skein, which is enough for something small, and I’ve decided I want a cowl. I looked at about a hundred different patterns before settling on a simple, not-too-delicate lace, but I started doubting myself when I began knitting it up. It’s a very lofty yarn (light and fluffy), and I’m not sure it will have enough drape to pull off a lace pattern. I think the colors would look really cool in a linen-stitch pattern, so I’m trying to talk myself into row after row of moving the yarn back and forth (*K1, Sl1 wyif* repeat until forever). I think it would really suit the yarn, though. Decisions!

Bunnies!

We added two new members to the clan yesterday, a pair of young angora rabbits! I named them Birch and Aspen, as they’re hard to tell apart at a glance. (Both the photos above are Aspen, but Birch looks more or less the same.) They’re big boys!

I’ve wanted rabbits for years and years but, for some reason, have never made the plunge. But I’ve been thinking about having a small fiber farm for a while now, and getting two angora bunnies is like dipping my toe into those waters. I’ve done so much reading on what they need and rabbit behavior, etc — it’s hard to believe they’re finally here! And they’re so big and fluffy that it’s like watching two stuffed animals come to life.

I’m sure it will be a while before I collect enough wool to spin, but I’ll make sure to show you when I do!

LOL, I didn’t think this

LOL, I didn't think this through! The chair legs are wider at the "top", so the yarn wouldn't slide off. I had to undo one leg so I could free the yarn. The good news: there's about 240yds here, enough to actually make something (small) with. I've already spun the second single, so now I just have to wind that into a hank, dye them, wind them back into balls, ply them, then wind them up one last time. I'm rethinking that "just".

LOL, I didn’t think this through! The chair legs are wider at the “top”, so the yarn wouldn’t slide off. I had to undo one leg so I could free the yarn. The good news: there’s about 240yds here, enough to actually make something (small) with. I’ve already spun the second single, so now I just have to wind that into a hank, dye them, wind them back into balls, ply them, then wind them up one last time. I’m rethinking that “just”. #twelve22org

We’re Okay!

Sorry to have gone missing for so long. So much of my day is kid-focused, and that means that a lot of it isn’t mine to share. So I struggle to find the inspiration to post. I post a lot on Instagram, and I’m going to start sharing non-kid photos on my public account. You don’t need to have an Instagram account of your own to look at it, though if you do, certainly feel free to “follow” me! I’m going to look into how to get the Instagram posts to show up here automatically, too.

Most recently, I packed the girls up in suitcases, and we flew over to Scotland to visit Rob in his “new” house (he’s had it for a few years, actually). Those kids are troopers! They quickly adjusted to the time difference both ways, and they were stars with all the traveling. F hit 16mos while we were there — that’s her looming over a sleeping M in the last photo — and M will turn four next week. Has anybody ever noticed how quickly kids grow up? All those photos above are from Scotland, by the way.

We returned to leaves on the ground and a garden that had succumb to a hard frost. The chickens are all getting bigger (except the buff hens, who are going through a molt), and the dogs and cats are happy we’re home again. And I’m preparing for a new addition to the family — of the smaller-than-a-breadbox animal variety. I’ll leave you hanging in suspense as to what that could be, but they should be here before the end of the month.

I’ve been teaching myself to spin (yarn), and I recently had a chance to card wool from a fleece I cleaned, and I’m currently spinning that. It’s fun to learn a new skill, even though spinning feels like trying to pat my head and rub my tummy (while doing a couple of other things, besides). I’ve also been felting a fair bit recently, as well as dyeing various fibers. And I’ve tackled a big office (the bedroom we use as a home office, that is) reorganization in order to give myself more room to store all this stuff and sew, etc.

Okay, I’m off with my hammer now, to try to figure out how to make Instagram fit into the blog.

Chickens, Chickens, Everywhere

Where did the last month go? We’ve been busy with chickens, among other things. I had been fretting about our rooster-to-hen ratio (the roosters get aggressive with the hens if there are too few hens to go around) — even with rehoming one of our roos to a friend’s flock who needed a leader, that still left me with Red and the two surprise boys from this spring’s chicks. And only eight girls. So when Rita went broody AGAIN, I quickly placed an order for some Black Sex-Link pullets. The breed is a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks, and the chicks can be told apart (male vs female) at hatching, based on feather color. Rita took right to her adopted babies and has been an excellent mother the past three weeks. They’re living in the mini-coop but come out during the day, so I’m hoping they’ll integrate into the rest of the flock fairly seamlessly.

What else? The garden is looking nice — the other day, we picked a load of cucumbers, the first few cherry tomatoes, and I dug up a small potato plant that had already died back. And the broccoli is ready for picking! Our second round of strawberries is ripening, but we’re fighting the slugs for them. The raspberries were amazing this year, but they’re more or less done now. I gave the girls a pail with raspberries the other day, and they fed them all to the chickens! I guess that’s how you know they’ve had their fill of berries for the season.

We picked up a set of the IKEA “Perler” beads (they’re a bit lighter weight than real Perler beads, but they’re also cheaper!), and M loves them. We sit together at the big table and work on them together, which I think is a big part of the draw. And I finished the floors downstairs! I still have a few bits to do (quarter-round in the girls’ rooms, painting the big window in the family room, gluing down transition strips), but the floors themselves are down, which is a big relief. They — along with painting all the trim white — really transformed the lower level. It feels so clean and fresh now!

Garden 2017, Part Three

Wow, lots of growth in the garden since my last update! (Here’s part one and part two.) I’m liking the layout this year, and I can heartily recommend DeWitt landscape fabric. This is NOT a sponsored post — we just have some tenacious weeds out here, and spending money on good landscape fabric has turned out to be very much worth it!

Looking at the top photo, on the left (the row with mulch) I’ve got some perennial plants — my rhubarb, two new blueberry bushes, and herbs. Then several broccoli plants toward the back. At the very back are cantaloupes. They’re flowering right now, but the plants are still really tiny, so who knows if we’ll get anything. The second row has bell peppers, more broccoli, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Third row is onions, carrots, lettuce, beans, corn, and cabbages. The bean seeds I had were pretty old, and only two of them came up! And our local nursery doesn’t have bean seeds anymore. I wanted to grow bush beans this year, but I think it’ll have to be pole beans instead, as I can actually get some of those. The corn is flint corn, for milling and using as cornmeal. I haven’t tried that before, so our twelve stalks will be an experiment. M is very into the process of growing food (she still talks about her mini potato harvest from her indoor plant!), and I think she’d find it cool to make something like cornbread from corn we grew ourselves. The fourth row is all potatoes.

We also have a big raspberry patch (off to the front right) and strawberries in the back right corner. And two plum trees, both of which need to be tied up straight — you can tell which way the wind blows most often! There are actually a few little plums on my Toka tree, which I wasn’t expecting; I planted the other tree after the Toka had finished flowering, but I guess it must have self-pollinated. Fingers crossed that nothing will steal our plums before we get to them! I also, at the front of the garden, have a mystery tree. It was a sucker that grew up from the rootstock of a plum tree that died. I don’t know what they tend to graft plums onto — different plums? Apple trees? If it keeps growing, we’ll find out!

Projects

My project list feels particularly never-ending at the moment. Especially with the floors — I only have my bedroom left to do, but then I have to paint, cut, and install all the quarter-round along the baseboards. And I still have to paint the big window in the family room (my least favorite painting project). Once the floors are 100% finished, everything is back in its place, and I can consider that project over and done with, I won’t know what to do with myself! (The answer is the million other projects on my list.)

Yesterday, I quickly knocked out this floor bed, which is just a modified IKEA bed frame. I cut the legs down and changed the headboard a little. There’s still more I’d like to do (add slats to the headboard and make rails for the side), but I’ve got a while before F will be sleeping in there, anyway. It’s been a big attraction for both the girls so far. F likes to lie down on it, and it would be interesting to see what would happen if I put her there for a nap — but on the other hand, I like it better when she sleeps!