I long for the good old days. You remember them - those days last week. Those days when it was a balmy 20 degrees. I want them back.
Today it has already warmed up to -6. And we're heading for a high of -2. Yippee.
It's an "I can't put my arms down" kind of day: two pairs of socks, two layers of long underwear, snowpants, Carhartts, alpaca scarf, wool hat, mittens, heat packs in the mittens, and stunning, figure-flattering bulky turtleneck sweaters.
But at least the sun is shining. And Spring is around the corner.
Well, maybe it's around the corner and down the block a bit, but it will get here.
In the meantime, we have water buckets to break the ice out of.
And animals to feed.
The goats have made quick work of their Christmas trees.
This was the what a tree looks like on the day its given to the goats.
And this is what that same tree looks like today.
My goats are efficient, to say the least. The ultimate recyclers.
This very cold weather does have some good news attached to it. The cold will kill a ton of parasites that overwinter in the ground, meaning less worming in the Spring. That's a positive.
And on below zero days, we look for any positives we can.
There are a lot of you out there that are looking out for our bees, and I thank you very much.
Over the past few days, I've received numerous copies of this picture via e-mails, texts, Facebook and Pinterest.
I think I even got a copy by Carrier pigeon. It's a pretty reminder of the simple things you can do to help the bees.
Bees are responsible for pollinating one third of our food supply. When you enjoy almonds, blueberries, apples, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, squash, watermelon, oranges, melons or strawberries (just to name a few plants), you can thank the bees.
If you garden at all, even a single potted plant on your front porch, January is the time to start thinking about the bees. There are so many flowers out there that you can plant that will give the bees an important source of pollen and nectar. Get the seed catalogs out and start planning.
If you really want to go all out, you can plant an entire bee garden.
One of the plants the bees at the farm like the most is lavender.
In early Summer, the lavender in our herb garden is loaded with bees. Not only is that good for our honey supply,
but we can also harvest an abundent supply of lavender.
So grab a cup of tea, sit by the fire to watch it snow and think Spring planting. The bees and I will thank you.
Honey Bee Facts:
-- they can fly three to five miles from their hive to collect nectar and pollen.
-- a bee will visit between 50 to 100 individual flowers to collect pollen during one flight.
-- a full hive of bees (approx. 10,000 - 30,000 bees) will fly more than 40,000 miles to collect one pound of honey.
-- male bees do not have a stringer. They have one job and one job only and that is to mate with the queen. After they have done their job, they die.
-- the average worker bee produces only about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. All worker bees are female.
-- worker bees will sting, but only if they feel threatened and are defending their hive and honey. Once they sting, they die.
-- during the Winter, bees live off of stored honey in the hive. Most of the bees die off in the previous Fall, leaving a small cluster in the hive to keep the queen alive until Spring.
By now, you may have heard that its cold out there. Not only cold, but sub-zero cold with wind chills in the penguin range.
You could look at that and be miserable, counting down the days until Spring. Or, you could look at it as an opportunity to hunker down and do some serious knitting. I've gone with the "hunker down and knit" method of coping.
My latest knitting obsession is the Gap-tastic cowl, which is a available as a free pattern download if you are on Ravelry.
(photo by Jen Geigley www.heyjenrenee.com)
First, I made a smaller, thinner, hand-spun version out of some beautiful, hand-dyed 100% alpaca roving from Midwest Fiber Co. I like the thinner version for me because I can wear it inside my coat.
But my daughter wanted a big, chunky, long cowl.
So version two was knit up.
This one was knit with Wool-Ease Thick & Quick yarn. Yes, it was a stretch for me to go with a commercial yarn, and a partially acrylic one at that.
But it's going to college with its owner so there is a good chance it could get left behind in a classroom, a coffee shop, or maybe even the library. I won't feel quite so bad if it gets left behind vs. some of our own yarn.
Version three is on the needles now, made with our own 100% alpaca yarn in worsted weight, fresh from the mill. I doubled up on the yarn to make it more chunky and it is creating a nice, heathered look.
If you'd like a chunky, hand-knit cowl but don't know how to knit, the pattern's designer has a few other finished designs for sale on her Etsy site.
So Winter, bring it on. I can take it.
I have a hand-knit cowl.
I have a confession to make.
I steal Christmas trees.
Maybe steal isn't exactly the right word. Maybe "recycle" is a better way to say it.
That's it. I recycle other people's trees, under the cover of darkness, from their tree lawns.
But I do it for a good cause, so that makes it acceptable, right?
I do it for my beloved goats. They love Christmas trees. And if my goats love Christmas trees, then Christmas trees they shall have.
They love them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
They love them so much that sometimes they even wear them.
The problem is we have only one tree. And one lousy Christmas tree isn't enough to feed my crew of ravenous goats.
So I resort to stealing them off the tree lawns of neighbors and perfect strangers. And no, I don't look the least bit odd with a few "certified pre-owned" Christmas trees strapped to the top of my car the week after Christmas. Not odd at all.
In fact, as I write this, I see out of my office window that my unsuspecting neighbor has just deposited his Christmas tree on the tree lawn.
Come nighttime, that baby is mine.
The goats must be pretty tired of eating plain old hay every day, all Winter. The trees are a treat and they make the most of them, eating them down past the bark.
The sheep, being a little on the less advertureous side (I would never say dull), have no interest in Christmas trees.
They are happy they can eat their hay in peace without the goats butting in. Literally.
We get this question all the time: "What do you do in the Winter? You must have lots of free time."
I don't think the words free time and farm ever go together. No matter what season it is.
And while it's true that things slow down a bit, they never stop.
The animals still need to be fed twice a day.
It's nice to be greeted by the sheep and goats in the morning. They are really happy to see me. They come rushing out of their shed just to say hello. They must love me a lot.
Oh wait. They don't care about me one tiny bit. They just want to know if I'm the one that's going to feed them and break the ice out of their water buckets. Once they determine that's why I'm there, it's a mad rush back to the shed to be first in line for hay. So much for love.
The bee hives have to be wrapped to protect them from the cold wind. We lost a few hives to yellow jackets late in the Fall. Winter is the time to work on a solution to that problem so it doesn't happen again next year. Yellow jackets are evil.
Winter on the farm really isn't that bad. No flies. No mowing. No weeding. No bugs. And if we have a cold enough Winter, my favorite thing of all - no mud. Mud deserves a special place in Hell.
So we will enjoy the next few months.
It is a pretty, peaceful time of year. And I want you to remind me of that on a five below zero day with 20 mph winds.
We've been as busy as elves here at the farm.
Thursday, we packed up our soaps and honey and headed to the Carriage Barn at Lorain Metroparks Mill Hollow Reservation for their annual holiday craft show.
The Carriage Barn is a beautiful location for a craft show. Rustic. Lots of wood. A nice big fireplace. Heck with the craft show. The Carriage Barn would make a great house!
We took our new line of handmade soaps, flavored vinegars, body lotions, room sprays and bath soaking salts.
One of our favorite new items is our eco-friendly laundry soap. And yes, I do think laundry soap makes a nice Christmas gift.
It's something everyone can use ... and use up. A little of this soap goes a long way. You only need a heaping teaspoon per load, which means a jar will last you a long, long time. It comes several ways: in a quart mason jar with a wooden scoop; in a quart mason jar with this hand-stamped spoon; and in a refill sized coated paper bag.
All our products are available for sale at the farm store. Farm store hours for the rest of December are:
Wednesday, December 18 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Thursday, December 19 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday, December 21 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday, December 22 Noon - 5 p.m.
We will also be at the Avant-Garde Art & Craft Show tomorrow, December 15 in Solon from noon to 5 p.m.
Come on out and see us. I'm sure you'll find a gift for someone on your list - even if that someone is you.
It's snowing folks and the roads heading to the farm aren't good.
We're going to close the store for today but will be open Wednesday and Thursday, December 18 & 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, December 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, December 22 from noon to 5 p.m.
Spend today baking cookies and drinking hot cocoa. Decorate the tree. Do something inside, like knit.
We'll see you later in the week.
Recently, we had several great groups of rug hookers spend the day around the big oak table working on their rugs. It never fails to amaze me how creative people can be. Sure, everybody starts with a pattern, but the way the rug unfolds is never the same for two people.
For example, this snowman rug was originally shown in very dark, un-snowman-like colors. But Lauren decided she wanted a more traditional, snowman-like snowman, so she picked wool to get her the feel she was after.
This artist chose a proddy technique for the border -- certainly not the traditional finish.
And what's an artist to do when she can't decide how she wants to hook her Santa rug? The only logical answer is to hook it twice, two different ways.
There was much discussion around the table as to the finishing of this pumpkin rug. What type of border should it have -- I am anxiously awaiting the final decision, but I have no doubt it will be beautiful.
These artists are going the traditional route for their Santa and chicken rugs.
And I have decided to leave out a few design elements in the bee skep rug I am hooking.
If you look closely at the edges, you'll see the pattern calls for a zig-zag line all the way around. And while I think the addition of the zig-zag would look nice, it would probably kill me to hook it and cause the completion of the rug to be delayed even longer! So out goes the zig-zag and in goes plain background.
If you're new to rug hooking, or if you're just looking for a group to hook with, join us at our next open hooking day, Wednesday, December 11th between 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
I want you all to know that a miracle has occurred. An honest-to-goodness miracle.
I have finished a knitting project.
Sure it's a simple scarf/cowl that most normal knitters would have had finished in about two days. But I would say I'm not your normal knitter. In fact, I might be the world's slowest knitter.
I can put a project down and it can stay down for days, weeks even. I guess if I'm being totally honest, I'd have to say I can put it down for months.
Now don't get me wrong. I love to knit. And I certainly have more than my share of beautiful yarn at my disposal. What I don't have is time. Long, uninterrupted stretches of time that can be filled with knitting.
But this past week, I gave myself a talking to and said, "Sit down. Grab your knitting. FINISH SOMETHING! You have too many half-done projects hanging over your head!" Surprisingly, I listened to myself.
So out came the Fred and Michaelangelo yarn and one project moved from the To Do list to the Done list.
Fred and Michaelangelo are my two favorite goats and this yarn is 100% mohair.
Fred has gone on to live in greener pastures so this is the last of his yarn, making it all the more special. Fred deserved to have a project completed out of his yarn.
But something very odd happened while I was knitting.
The knitting "bug" bit and I can't/won't/don't want to stop knitting. I've moved on to another cowl called the North Market Neck Wrap.
I picked up this pattern a few months ago at Knitter's Merchantile in Columbus. The designer is local and every finished piece I picked up and admired at Knitter's Merchantile was from her. If you are a Ravelry member, you can find and purchase her patterns under the name NorthbrooKnits.
One day into my new project, and I'd say I'm moving along nicely.
This yarn is a blend of llama and merino and is super soft.
So this afternoon, I think I'll head out to the patio with my knitting and a radio to listen to the Cleveland Browns game (They are actually winning. Think I may have just cursed them putting that in writing!) and spend a few hours working on another project.
Two completed projects in one month. I might be becoming a knitting addict.
The bees were not happy today.
I thought this was close enough for picture taking.
It's late in the season. The bees are giving it their last ditch effort to collect pollen. They are serious and mean business and you had better stay out of their way.
It was a good day to take this sign seriously. I love the bees, but only on happy days. On angry days, somebody else can love 'em.
Today was a day to concentrate on the goats. Goats are never angry. Always curious, but never angry.
The alpacas were on the mellow side today as well.
They just wanted to hang out, eating grass. No anger here.
And while most of the farm is still green, the woods are beginning to show signs of fall.
I'm going to try to keep this day in my head so I can come back to it on those mushy, cold, muddy days of Winter.
Sunny. 70 degrees. Bright Blue Sky.
If you weren't an angry bee, it was a pretty nice day to be on the farm.