Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Butterflies Are Free to Fly"

I have always been fascinated by the whole caterpillar to butterfly process and have been casually eyeing the milkweed plants for monarch caterpillars. Several weeks ago, I found three of these:

I fed them fresh milkweed leaves as needed, until they became:

So far, two of them have hatched. I let them go out back. Here is one of the beautiful monarchs that emerged from their chrysalis:

I actually still have one caterpillar who is about done growing. I brought him in unintentionally. I must have had an egg on some of the milkweed that I brought in. They start out very tiny and grow very quickly. It amazes me that they can go from fat, stripey worm to a coccoon that is about half of their original size to beautiful orange, white and black "flying flower". And you can't really tell from my less than stellar photographs, but on the coccoon, there are several areas (the ridge in the top half of the chrysalis is one spot) that look like they are gilded with gold. It actually shines and looks metallic. I suppose if I read my butterfly book, it might tell me what it really is, but to me it looks like an insect version of a Faberge egg, all gold and glittery.
One week left of summer vacation, than back to school for Nicholas. Soon I will be posting pictures of the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, fall colors, sheep in full fleece. Although the daytime temperatures are still hot and two nights ago the nighttime temperatures were still too hot and sticky to sleep very comfortably in, we are starting to feel that cool down most nights, it's not quite so humid most days and it is starting to smell like fall. While I hate to see the long days go, and like the laid back schedule of "no school", I am not a fan of hot and humid, so much prefer the temperatures that are coming. Hope everyone is enjoying these last warm weeks before football weather is upon us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Harvest

Today's harvest - this is our first pepper, at least the first one that survived to "adulthood". We have already had several zucchini and summer squash and lots of little tomatoes. These are the first of the bigger ones. I can't find the seed packets, or I would tell you what they all were. There are standard grape tomatoes, but then we have yellow pear shaped tomatoes, not much bigger than the grapes. Also some smallish yellow tomatoes, some medium reds and the huge reds - maybe those are the Brandywines? I'm not much of a gardener - ask me about sheep - I can sound much more intelligent!

It is lovely being able to go out to our very own garden and pick things. Of course, if we didn't have chickens, there would be much more to pick! They seem to thrive on tomatoes! And I did notice a pretty big spider web out there yesterday. If the enormous garden spiders have moved into our tomatoes, this may be the last of the tomatoes that I harvest! I'll fight the chickens for the crop, but the spiders will win hands down!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sorting Sheep

Yesterday we sorted sheep. The "big, white sheep". The Shetlands run on their own schedule! It was the day that we pulled all of the ram lambs away from their moms and put them in their own pasture. Some of them were a bit old, but I only like to do this once in the heat of summer and the youngest are only about 3 months old. I really don't like to wean them much before then. We have some lambs who will still nurse, if their moms let them, and they are almost as big as mom!

Larry and Nicholas moving some of the sheep toward the chutes:

Larry muscles the sheep into the scale, if they don't go willingly, and this time, held onto them while I administered wormer (I pulled some muscles in my back a few days ago and have a hard time bending over, hanging on to a struggling sheep, while forcing medicine down their throats. No, no - it's not as awful as it seems. It's a small amount of liquid wormer - but they, like small children, do not always cooperate fully, so there is a bit of wrestling that goes on. But if we don't worm them, they die. And we only worm the animals that need it.) Nicholas helps with getting them into the chutes, lets them out into their appropriate group after weighing and worming and helps wherever else he is needed. I open and close the scale doors, record weights, determine who to worm and administer the meds.

More moving of sheep:

We were probably at it for about 4 hours, with one break in the middle - it gets very hot and buggy - and in the end, we only actually relocated about 30 sheep, but we had to sort through all of them (almost 100). And now the lambs have been wormed once more (and any of the skinnier ewes). Hopefully, we won't have to do much with them now until we take the lambs to market and put the breeding groups together this fall.
In fiber related news, I have once again signed up for the Mystery Stole. I signed up last year, but did not knit it. I was a bit hesitant, being new to knitting and never having knit any lace. But I followed everyone's posts and delighted in looking at everyone else's stole pictures. This year, I have several yarns to choose from and have purchased some beads. I am still swatching, so have not decided on the yarn or beads yet, but hope to actually knit it this year. I have done a small amount of lace knitting, although not with lace weight yarn - and I have never done beads before, so that should be interesting. It will probably take me years to finish it, so don't hold your breath, but I would like to attempt this this time around. Wish me luck!
Off to swatch some more and catch some of the Olympics - I am leaving politics out of it and cheering the American athletes on to victory!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Gardens and Yarn Stores

The herbs are going nuts in the garden - basil, cinnamon basil, two varieties of thyme, the cilantro is going to seed and we will soon have coriander.

The tomato patch looks like a jungle and the various squash and pumpkins are threatening to take over the tomato's territory.

I attribute the record growth to the beautiful raised beds that Larry built this spring and the abundant rabbit manure that he added to the bags of topsoil!
For yarn related content, I purchased the yarn below at Knit and Caboodle in St Charles, MO, when we were spending a long weekend in St Louis. The dark blue variegated is Trekking's Hand Art and the white with the blue spots is Claudia Hand Painted Yarn in the colorway Tea Cup. A very nice yarn store in the middle of the historic shopping district of St Charles - a beautiful shopping street full of brick buildings and lush gardens. We, unfortunately, did not get to spend much time there, as we were meeting family back in St Louis. But I fed my yarn fix for the weekend.
Back here in Wisconsin, I have just watched the Brewers lose to the Braves and the mosquitoes have not moved to the neighbors. But, on the up side, the 90 degree weather they were predicting a few days ago has not materialized, although it is a bit humid. I'm torn between wanting an early frost this fall to rid us of the mosquitoes and a late frost, so the hundreds of tomatoes that appear to be growing on our plants can be harvested. I can only eat so many green tomatoes!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Red Jersey

I have decided to award myself the red jersey in the Tour de Fleece. My goal was to spin every day (or almost every day) and, while I did spin more than I normally would in the heat of the summer, I did not spin as often as I had hoped. So, red jersey.

I did do a bit of knitting while we were out of town last weekend - but I am not a good "car knitter" - I have a tendency to want to watch the scenery go by or take a nap, but I did get a bit knit up on my son's red, white and blue socks. They are pictured here along with some of the oriental lilies that I plucked from my overgrown garden this morning. I am not a gardener to begin with, and this year the mosquitoes are about the size of my sheep, so I try to spend as little time outside as possible. Thankfully, my husband and son planted some tomatoes, peas, beets and squash early in the spring and I got a bunch of herbs in - before the mosquito crop hatched and before the weeds took over. Maybe some garden pics at a later date. Today the lilies and part of a sock will have to suffice!