Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Running of the Llamas

Every fall in the town of Hammond Wisconsin thousand of people line the street and place bets on which llama will run down the street the fastest.

Spark and Marceline signed up to be in one of the four races this year.  

Spark won his race and was in the final race where he took third place over all.  He was in first place almost the whole way and got edged out in the last minute by a large white llama and a little alpaca that both got a burst of energy at the last second.  Not all llamas are runners.  The ones who win are ones who want to be leaders and do everything they can to make sure no other llama is in front of them.  Marceline went because she is the only llama we have with that trait.  The rest of them are happy to followers.

Right before the race Spark was asked by a group of old women bikers if Marceline could wear a handkerchief with their logo on it.  Marceline was proud to represent them!  

After the race Spark was even asked for autographs.  We are already looking forward to next year and I think their might even be a bit of training that goes on before hand. 

Greedy Panhandling Chickens

When we bring out cracked corn or kitchen treats for the chickens and guineas we yell "CHICKENS" and they all come running.  But now instead of waiting to be called for their treats, they just come right up to the dinning room door to look for them.

The guineas just roost on the deck rails so that they don't miss anything.  It has almost gotten to the point where we can't go outside without being surrounded by chickens.  The man who came to fill our fuel oil tank for the winter forgot to bring a wrench to get the top off. Dad left him by the pipe to find one of our wrenches and when he came back the guy was standing there surrounded by demanding birds.  He managed to stammer to Dad that they might be hungry.  Leaving the wrench, Dad went back to get a bucket of corn to throw out and save the delivery man.

The guineas are a beautiful bird until you get to their head.  They are in the coop for the night here and they were not happy that I was taking their picture with a flash.  Going to the coop at night is a weird thing we have not been able to figure out.  At some undisclosed time, no matter what they are doing, even eating, the chickens and the guineas all just start running to the coop and hop in.

Even the dog isn't safe isn't safe from those greedy gals.  She goes out to go potty and they run over and surround her.  It is hard to do your business with so many eyes watching you.  She is pretty quick out there now so she can get done and be heading back to the house before they can get to her.

Renaissance Festival

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Happy 14th Birthday Spark!!!

He could hardly wait to open his gifts so he tore into them as soon as he got up.  Dancer gave him the big boxes of Raisin Bran and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  We don't have boxed cereal very often so he was super excited to get them.  He also got a pair of wind pants, a video game and a Zelda book.

Marble birthday cake.

Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Bob came for lunch.  We had his favorite potato and corn soup.

His bed is really in bad shape so Grandma Pat and Grandpa Jerry got him a new bed.  A bed in a box.  Opening this thing was the crazy.  The mattress is rolled up in this box.  It took five of us to get it out and we laughed like mad men.

You unroll it and then take it out of its bag.  After it lays on the floor for a while, it puffs up into a mattress.

All I can say is that it is amazing what they can get into a box!

We finished off the birthday with a non fire and hot dogs.  

Escape Goat

The smarter a goat is the more trouble they get into.  Jamal keeps us hopping on fence repair because if there is one little loose spot he is out of the fence and down to the swamp.  Every few days he finds a new way to escape the corral and often it takes us several days to see where he gets out because not only is he smart, he is sneaky.  We can watch and watch and watch him and as soon as we give up he slips out of  the corral.  

On this day he tangled with a burdock bush and in turn got his beard tangled.

Instead of trying to comb the burrs out Dancer just took the scissor and cut his beard off.  We teased  that without his beard he looked like a little kid goat and was no longer a manly man.  

Now Nico, he is a manly man.  

The Great Worm Rescue

Dancer and I walked after it was raining and spent a good portion of the time rescuing worms from drying up on the road.  I know there are literally millions in the ground and saving a few won't matter.  I still can't walk by them though because I think of the story of the starfish where the person is throwing them back in the ocean from the beach. Someone says he is wasting his time because there are so many and he isn't even putting a dent in the numbers on the sand.  He in return says, it matters to the ones I throw back.  So, now on top of everything else, I have worm guilt.

Llama Fiber Day

 We have the most awesome llama club ever with a leader who is full of energy to plan all these fabulous activity days for us.  For this event we were learning all about fiber and what to do with it.  Llama owner can be an odd bunch when it comes to fiber.  Most of us have bag after bag of raw fiber in our garages that we don't know what to do with.  So we either need to learn what to do with it or hook up with someone who does.

Using a drop spindle is something I have been wanting to learn how to do. The people who do it make it look so easy so why aren't we making skein after skein of beautiful llama yarn.  Well, because it really isn't easy.  

We finally did manage to make some yarn on our spindles.  It was thin and then then lumpy and then thick and so on.  The lady who taught the class, who made perfect usable yarn, applauded all our efforts anyway so we walked away thinking there might be hope for us yet.

Dad or Uncle Si?

Felting soap.  This was by far my favorite activity of the day and we have made several more out of our llamas fleece.  

Dancer in her non-aerobic spinning class.  Actually I think if you were able to get the wheel really going you could have a pretty good calf workout.  This proved to be as hard as the drop spindle.

Dancer felted Minnesota.  This has since died as it got let sitting out somewhere and the cats killed one night when we were sleeping.  They just go crazy over llama fiber.

The leader of our club has about 20 llamas and everyone grabbed one and took it for a walk.

Dad took out Diego. Diego likes to be the boss and do his own thing so Dad calls him Diablo. 

Spark took out this little cutie, Gracie.  

The kids also learned how to dye fiber and they made a batch of yellow and purple.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Make Char Cloth

Char Cloth

Trying to start a fire with a spark from flint and steel can be pretty challenging.  It's hard to catch a spark and hard to work it into an ember.  An age old way of doing this is to use char cloth, Here's how to make some!

Cut some 100% cotton cloth into small squares, these are about 2"x2"and put them into a small tin or can, something fireproof.

Punch a small hole in the top of the can.  This lets gasses out, but not enough oxygen in to make fire in the can.

Heat the can on a fire.  This is a camp stove, but any fire will do.  This step should be done outside as it is pretty smokey.  You are "burning " the cloth without oxygen similar to how wood becomes charcoal.  The gas escaping the tin will burn and that's OK, it's methane gas.  Heat until it stops smoking then remove to cool.

Launch some sparks onto the char cloth and you will see small red glowing areas.  Gather up the the char cloth and the materials you mean to start on fire (here it's wood shavings from the pencil sharpener and newspaper).  

Blow and blow and blow on the bundle, the char cloth becomes redder and hotter as the embers grow. Careful...

The bundle will burst into flame!!!  We were doing this project really late at night and didn't want to have a bonfire so Dancer just set it into the barbecue grill.  To make a fire, set your bundle down and put small sticks, leaves, etc on it  Continue to blow on it and soon you'll have a raging fire

Festival of the Voyager - Fur Trading Post

Helmets Required were on the road again, this time to learn about fur trading.  Here they are donning the fancy headwear of the time.  The fancy hats of the time were all made with felted animal fur from North America.  Any of the hats here would cost several years pay for an average person.  They are a good looking bunch!

We have been to a lot of pioneer exhibits but not fur trading so we learned a lot on our tour.  Here we are in an Indian winter house.  Brrr, the wind had to be just howling through the walls of these houses, I am surprised they all didn't catch their death of cold and not make it to the spring.  All we had to contend with that day was mosquitoes so thick we almost had to swim through them. 

Dinner was a tailing gating sandwich party.

Until the howling wind and driving rain arrived and then we moved it inside.  Of course as soon as we were done eating the deluge stopped.

We went back into the festival for the dance where lots of people we wearing costumes, including loin cloths!   The kids did some dancing, some of the dances were so fast thy were just a blur! It was a great evening watching them dance and wondering (and hoping!) if the loin cloth wearers had something on underneath.

Frugal Chicken Feeder

As the chicken are getting bigger they are eating more and more.  Chickens are a messy bunch, scratching and kicking their food everywhere and wasting a lot of it.  Dad made this feeder for free.  He took scrap wood and made a base with a lip that went all the way around it and didn't leave much room on the sides for scratching.  He cut notches out the bottom on two sides of a plastic litter pail so gravity can pull the feed down and they can't get to it all at once.  It has a nice top that keeps the feed dry and the chickens from pooping in it.  At the time he made this it would hold enough for about two days worth of feed so we only had to feed them every other day.  A win win for everyone.

What a Day!


Helmets Required took to the banks of the Mississippi for some fishing and lunch.  Lots of people hang out down there and have fires so we just go down, find a fire pit and start up our own.  This day we made hot dogs.  There is something about cooking food over a river fire that makes it so much more tasty.

Dancer caught a couple red horses.  It is thrilling to pull these big fish in.  

The boys climbed up and down the banks and over the rocks they don't usually fish.  The river is still quite high making the banks much narrower than usual.

Dancer and I went for a walk when we got home from fishing.  We were just about back home when we heard a cat meowing.  It sounded like a big cat that might be in trouble so Dancer started to call to it, after all it is odd for a cat to meow and meow and meow from the woods.  She kept calling and it didn't sound like the cat was getting any closer and we really started to wonder if it was caught in a trap or something.  She called a few more times and this little tiny cat, I would be surprised it it was even a pound and a half, came racing up the ditch towards us.  It must have been lost in there and it took a while to find its way to Dancer's voice.  It was more than happy to have Dancer scoop it up and carry it home.  When we got it home it made itself right at home, so it was obviously domesticated.  We called our one neighbor that sort of lived by where we picked it up but it wasn't theirs.  A couple days later we saw a little one just like it that had been hit on the road so there there most have been a litter that was dropped off.  The cat acted right away like this living arrangement is going to work for it long term so now we have Chicklet.

With all the excitement of a new kitten we found that it had gotten dark out but the chores hadn't been done yet.  Spark ran out to do chores so he could get back in quickly and some how fell down hurting his leg.  This sent us to the ER to have it check out.  

He came home with this and crutches with the instructions to follow up on Monday.  There was no evidence of a break but when dealing with growth plates they said it can take a while for these things to show up on X-rays.  He spent a few days on the crutch and it kept feeling a little better every day so we skipped the follow up.  A couple weeks later and he was as good as new.

It was a long day that ended in the wee hours of the morning after sitting in ER.  I was happy to fall into bed, there had been enough excitement for one day.