Friday, April 25, 2008

Demented Bird Attack!

We don't have any forsythia here but I have always loved seeing its burst of yellow flowers in spring. The other day driving home we came around the corner and there in a wonderful blaze of color was this huge mound of golden flowers. I drive this way often and seeing that forsythia in bloom was breathtaking!

You can just see the roof of the house behind. I was standing beside the mound and it was half again as tall as I was! It was so neat being surrounded by all that color!

In the same planting were several rhododendrons. I think they are the purple ones but will have to go back for more pictures when they flower. The buds were thick and full, ready to go as soon as they get a little bigger.

It was late afternoon and the sun was low over the mountain. Everything had that lazy day, dusty look. The temperature had gotten up to around 80 for the first time and everything seemed ready for the cooler temperature of evening. We had snow only a week before and some of it was still left here and there in the shadier spots. It takes us a while to adjust. Kind of hard going from winter to summer with just a day or two of spring.

On my walk earlier in the afternoon I saw other signs of spring - Pussywillows fuzzed out next to a neighbor's driveway and little green leaves at the side of another's garage.

What more could you ask for taking a springtime walk up the road? Well, there is one more thing I will share with you today - Tuesday evening we heard "peepers" for the first time!

Oh, yes - I almost forgot - the demented bird attack! There has been a robin pecking at the attic window. He would peck and then jump back into the spruce tree, then he'd repeat his performance. There used to be a nest up in that window so at first we thought he might be working to repair that nest of build a new one. That was the first day. For a week we would be wakened in the early hours to his banging away repeatedly on this window. It was surprising how loud it was.

A few days ago he began his interrupted flight cycle on the top of the bedroom window. He has done this every morning. No nest building at all. He is just flying at the glass and beating his wings against it. Then he sits on a pine bough doing his heavy breathing before attacking the window again, and again, and again. I wanted to catch him with the camera but when I got up to get it in the next room he hid. Last night I set the camera on the night table. This morning I jumped out of bed, hit the ready button and stood waiting for the next attack. It never came.

When I went in after breakfast to make the bed he was doing his act again. The camera was still there. I hid behind the lamp camera on and focused on the window glass where he usually hit and flapped. That crazy bird flew to the back window, flapped at it once and then disappeared into the pine tree once more. Bad enough he is waking us up every morning (before the sheep) but worse that he is adding insult to injury.

There were numerous accounts of birds, namely robins, doing this and being caught on film by others who had posted online. Is this a mating ritual? Where are the females that he is trying to impress? Our neighbor across the road said he has a robin waking him up in the morning doing the same routine. He said he thinks it is an old girlfriend coming back to give him grief. So what excuse does our bird have?

This morning I put some mail in the box and heard a racket in the trees across the road. Two male robins were having one heck of an argument and getting into quite a flap flying from tree to tree and pecking at each other. Didn't look like either one was winning. Where are the females to whip them into shape and keep them busy when you need a little sleep?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sheepfest Brings Spring At Last!

Saturday dawned sunny and clear, perfect weather for the 14th Annual Sheepfest! Lily and Hunter were lured up into the barn Friday evening for dinner so that we could load them right into the trailer in the morning and not have to run around the back yard after them. They were not too sure about making the trip but settled down once at the park in their pen.

The shearer, Jeff Jordan, arrived and had already begun shearing the early arrivals by the time I arrived at 8AM. The hall was buzzing with activity as the New Country School folks set about getting the food ready on the stage and the vendor/demonstrators added the finishing touches to their displays. Cones had to be set out, signs had to be put into position, cars had to be moved once unloaded.

It was busy all day! I never even got over to the pavilion to watch the shearing and get some good pictures until the last sheep was half sheared! His name is Romeo, a merino ram. Jeff handled him deftly and soon he was as free of fleece as all the others. First path of the shears goes down the middle. The next cuts clear the belly and the legs before Jeff rolls him over to clear the fleece on his back. Romeo didn't seem to mind too much. he has been through this process before. Being a merino he has lots of folds and wrinkles in his skin so it takes a little more time to shear his fleece.
It is pretty amazing that a shearer can shear a fleece in a matter of a few minutes. Jeff takes more time because these sheep are from a spinner's flock and he makes long smooth cuts with the shears.

Look at that grin! He is so happy to be free of his winter coat and looking forward to spending the next few months relieved of its weight! It isn't often we see a sheep grin - but they do now and then and we are lucky to catch it with the camera.
After it was all over Romeo just lay there resting for a while. Maybe he was enjoying the day, the smell of the new grass, the trip to a new place, the sound of the water rushing over the dam. Who knows - he just seemed to be very happy and content. He was all relaxed while he had his hooves clipped, too.

Next his fleece was tossed onto the skirting table where the crew spread it out and removed the soiled areas and got it bagged, weighed and ready for the processor.

Meanwhile back in the hall things hadn't slowed down a bit. People were coming in right up through the last hour to see all the things going on there. The booths were as colorful and varied as in past years and there were many lovely fibers and beautiful finished items - kits, mittens, hats, scarves, slippers and sweaters. Visitors could see felting, spinning and color blending and more. They could find a wide variety of roving and yarns from wool, alpaca, angora, mohair, silk and assorted blends.

And happy people everywhere!

These are just a few of the demonstrators - Janet Conner, Diane Knowlen and Lucy Rogers. It is great that they were still smiling at the end of the day!

It was a day full of sights and sounds, color and texture, friendship and laughter. For some it was a long day. Aidan didn't quite make it all the way through, but we all had a great time!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Getting Ready

It won't be long now! Two more days and the sheep will begin arriving at the park for their shearing day. We went down there this morning to check the snow. There is still some left but with the sunshine we have been having it should be all gone by Saturday except for some piles in the shadows.

This is the park. You can see the pavilion with its green roof and open sides. The pens will be down in front of the pavilion so the wranglers can move the sheep easily from truck or trailer to pen to shearer. There will be plenty of room for everyone to see the action. The skirting table will be under there, too, and the fleece sale.

Michelle DeLucia and Julie Libby will be heading up the skirting crew and have those fleeces in good order in no time. What a good opportunity for people to learn a lot about fleece in a very short time. After an hour doing this job you know a lot more about what makes a good fleece. How many times have I seen spinners oohing and aahing over a fleece, especially a dark one, until the fleece is 'thrown' over the skirting table and they see all the VM (vegetable matter) in it. Come meet these capable women, join in and learn. You will be grateful for the experience when you next go looking for a fleece to buy.

Julie and Michelle and a really big skirted fleece!

You'll meet lots of sheep at the Sheepfest, lots of people and learn all kinds of things about fleece and the ways you can use wool and other animal fibers. All of us who are involved in this event are getting excited and those who come every year are getting excited, too. It is just a great way to spend the third Saturday in April! Come on down!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Green, Green - It's GREEN They Say!

Wow! Can up believe it? There is actually something GREEN growing in our yard! I looked out the window Saturday morning and saw these brave little chives rising up out of the pine needles in the old pot under the spruce tree! I was delighted!

You can really see a difference outside now - the paths are getting wider every day and we don't get wet feet going out to get the mail any more. I can put the better rug back in the front hall because we don't need to wipe our feet so much!

We took a walk up the road just listening to the birds. They are back! We have had a robin thinking of building a nest in the upstairs window. He wakes up up pecking at the glass in the morning. I wonder if the robins think the nest in the birch tree that has been wearing a snow hat the last few months is just too weather worn. It is nice to see them again, the chickadees, too. They have been swooping around the yard all week. There will be a lot of branches and leaves to rake up out there. Still a bit wet out on the 'lawn' to do much in the way of yard work. Think I'll let it dry out a bit more.

Look what else we found! More shoots! These are day lilies but we found some iris breaking through the leaves and pine needles, too! They aren't too green yet - give them a few more sunny days.

One of the best things about the walk was hearing the water running under the snow along both sides of the road. You really know that spring is here when you hear that sound. The sun was pouring through the trees dappling the snow and the open patches of ground. There were green things poking up here and there and rushing water making little waterfalls and creating tunnels under the ice. The mosses on the trees and rocks looked so GREEN! The woods were alive with bird song.

Next thing we will be looking for out there are the lady slippers. Just up the road we have a whole lot of the pink ones on both sides of the stone wall, but there are some lovely yellow ones not too far away along a back road on the end of the mountain. Last year the deer ate the tops of the plants so there were not as many flowers. We'll have to wait and see what lies under the snow for this year. It is nice to take a drive up through Evans Notch to look for more wildflowers. There are trilliums in abundance and clintonia, viburnum, rhodora and wood anenome. Sometimes we find Jack-in-the-pulpits, too.

Last week I took a photo of the hard buds forming on the maple tree out back of the house. One the walk back home we found maple buds just bursting to open up. They are a lovely red, not green at all - but they say SPRING just the same!

Friday night I went with some friends to see the Figures of Speech puppets. They did two shows, both very different. The first was a bittersweet Japanese tale using Bunraku puppets. The puppeteers wore black clothing and moved the heads, hands and legs of the puppets, each about three feet tall, in a most natural manner to tell the story. Next came a Chinese tale done with furry rat handpuppets and more contemporary speech patterns.
A friend who has collected interesting things from different parts of the world had a display of her Indonesian shadow puppets hanging on the wall panels. More of her collected puppets stood on tables below the panels. The workmanship and intricate details were wondeful to see.
Some were pretty scary looking characters but all were beautifully made. I would love to see a puppet show using them in their native cultural surroundings.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

You Are My Sunshine

Thursday was such a glorious day I just felt like these sunflowers. It got up to 60* and you could almost watch the snow shrinking back! We took a walk up the road and checked out the emerging stone walls and how much bare ground was showing. The gutters are gurgling with runoff and the spring streams are bubbling over the rocks, their waters headed for the lake. The border collies at the next house up were out in their pens. We always know when someone is walking down the road because they announce them quite vociferously.

This winter, however, they were not outside - too much snow. But they are back outside now eagerly checking out all who pass by their domain. Our neighbor was cleaning out her shed. It won't be long before we see her sheep sunning themselves by the fence. Our own sheep have ventured out into the sunshine but haven't really stayed out for any length of time. They are waiting for a larger dry space. Thursday they did come up the path to get their apples and pears. No way they would skip their treats!

Friday I hung up more Sheepfest posters while I was in town doing errands. I also ordered more hats, and a shirt for the shearer. We'll have a little surprise in the Sheepfest goods for sale this year but I'm not saying what that is - you'll just have to come and find out!

My socks have been sitting at the bottom of my knitting bag while I have been knitting many pairs of mitts. Each pair is of a different yarn and it is fun to see how the textures and colors knit up. Here are some of the first batch - all the same yarn but different colors. The pile still in the bag need to have their ends woven in before I take a picture of them. Some are Merino, some are wool and silk, wool and rayon, wool and cashmere, llama and silk, while others are made from Merino, silk and cashmere. Hard to choose which one I like best.

I've been knitting birthday presents, too. Using the same pattern with variations of yarn for body color and face and hooves these little lambs were knitting fun of an entirely different nature. For each one I have made a little pullover sweater. One was made from sock yarn on size #2 needles, another from worsted yarn on size #6, both smooth stockinette stitch. The third was a seed stitch pullover on size #7. They sure are happy little companions.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blue Sky, Smilin' at Me

It has been pretty chilly in the morning but the happy thought of the day is that the sun is shining and it will be a lot warmer in no time flat. We had a bit of rain Sunday night but the way I look at it - anything that takes the snow is fine with me.

Yesterday I was writing articles to send out about the Sheepfest and notifying sheep owners who have had their sheep sheared there before that we need to have them pre-register. The phone is ringing with more questions, people wondering if we'll still have the event because we still have so much snow. Every day the paths widen and we can even see the front steps now, and the bulkhead, and the whole driveway. I live in hope, what can I say?

Sundya was our spinning group's monthly meeting. There was a big turnout. I think everyone was anxious to be out and about, catching up with friends and discussing the range of fiber events already on the calendar and so much in our thoughts as we make our summer plans. The Sheepfest is the first, then NH Sheep & Wool. The first big Maine event is the Fiber Frolic in early June and then Pleasant Mountain Fiber Arts Workshops a couple of weeks later. Add a sprinkling of classes here and there and before summer has really gotten into full swing it is a busy time.

It will be a long time before I see flowers at my place so I am posting this photo from my friend's garden. We were so excited to see her crocuses and daffodils pushing their way up even through the snow cover. Soon enough they will be fully opened like these. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hello, Sunshine!

Wow, what a day! The sun and the wind will take a bite out of that snow! I was driving down Rte. 117 this morning and it was so much easier to negotiate the bumps and holes and ridges. The frost isn't that deep so this is one bonus for putting up with still having snow. The paths to the barn are down to grass for the most part and the sheep came out this morning for the first time. They don't care much for walking on ice. Little Micah, a neighbor, has been bringing them apples all winter and they came almost up to the back steps this morning. Here they are on their 'patio'. That's Lily on the left and Hunter on the right.

If this weather keeps up we might even have dry open ground to set up the sheep pens for the Sheepfest on the 19th. Last year we had that awful storm on Sunday and Monday, pouring rain on top of already heavy snow. We had to drag the sheep through it all up over the banks so they could be dry inside the barn as there was a river running underneath it. I never thought they would dry out in time for shearing on Saturday! Mother nature must have felt pretty sorry for us because by Thursday almost all the snow was gone and we had a perfect day for shearing! This year we're trying something different. The shearing is going to be across the road under the pavillion in the new Bicentennial Park. The plowed snow piles are so high next to the Arts Center that the alpacas could never get to the back bank so their fencing will be set up in the side lot where the sheep pens used to be although we may have to shovel out the corner by the front ramp where the rabbit booth sets up.
We still have plenty of snow out back. Each day we check to see how much of the garden fence posts are showing. The mountain still has lots of snow, too, but the important thing is that the buds are swelling! It won't be long before we will have 'naked' sheep munching new grass out back and we'll be checking the buds on the lilacs! Well, maybe we'll have to wait a bit for that...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Another beginning

I have been thinking about writing a blog for a while but there always seem to be so many things that need doing that I wasn't sure about starting something else, something that I would have to keep up so it wouldn't unravel.
It has been a year of going here and there, near and far, and so it seemed as good a time as any to begin something that would give roots to those wanderings whether they are of mind or of body, figment or Newton, so I could share those wanderings with anyone who would like to go along for the ride.
Already April, lots of snow still on the ground, and my thoughts skip over the calendar like a stone over the water, through spring, into summer, and on into fall. I am in the thick of planning the 14th Annual Denmark Sheepfest for Saturday April 19th, just a short time away. Will the snow be gone? Will there be plenty of sheep for the shearing? Will the sun shine and the visitors come? I just finished doing the new web site: so more people could see what a fun event this is. What a lot going on that day! It seems to have become the sign that spring has really come and is the kickoff event to the rest of the fiber season.
Back in January we were planning for the second Pleasant Mountain Fiber Arts weekend in June. Once that web site was redone with all the new information for 2008, and up and running, the registrations began to come in the mail. All is going well and I am looking forward to another great weekend of fiber classes.
Last month I taught a couple of classes in Portland and have more coming up in May. June also means Fiber Frolic. Lots to do to get ready. There are boxes of yarn and bags of roving waiting to go into the dyepots. It has been so cold and snowy that thoughts of hanging these out to dry have been far from my mind. There will be time when the sun shines and the grass is at least visible, the snow just a distant memory.
Soon I'll spend more time in the wood shop making tools, in the kitchen dreaming up new color ways, less time on the computer. Nights are spent knitting for the summer shows, my own socks left in the bottom of the bag on their needles. Even spinning has taken a back seat this winter. It has been easier to grab a knitting bag when going out than to wrestle with a wheel and bag of fiber on a dark snowy evening.
Still my mind is full of colors, planning new projects, and jumping from books I have read to things I want to do, following old paths and looking for new ones. A new beginning here to record the adventure of following the new season.