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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all a happy new year filled with health, happiness and many blessings.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meet Our Newest Addition!

Wednesday I posted a teaser photo of our newest addition to the family. Everyone, meet Kodiak, our toy parti poodle! My sweet little girl, Gigi, went to The Rainbow Bridge on 4/1/11, just over a month shy of her 11th birthday. She was my BFF and I miss her terribly. She was a black toy poodle. I searched for months and months and months before I finally found her. I knew what I wanted but nobody had a black female toy poodle in our area. We got River, our standard poodle, a year ago but he immediately bonded with my husband. I adore him (the dog...well, I adore my hubby, too, but I'm talking about River here) and he likes me, too, but he is a Daddy's boy. And, I miss having a little dog sleeping with us in bed, snuggling and cuddling.

For months now I have been drooling over the parti poodles on Facebook bred by Bonnie at Dream Time Poodles in New Mexico. We finally made the decision to add one of her puppies to our family. It was between a sable male and this black and white male. I knew I wanted a male because our Australian Shepherd can be really "bitchy" (as in nasty female dog attitude) towards other female dogs. I kept coming back to photos of this puppy, named Larrikin or Larry at the time. Something about him kept drawing me back to him so we decided to get him.

We have named him Kodiak or Kodi for short. His sire's "call name" is Kobi so we thought this would be very appropriate. Kobi's registered name is Cowboy's Silver Ace and he is a UKC Champion and OMG what a stunning dog he is! He is a silver and white parti poodle and Kodiak should fade out from the black to silver as he ages. Their markings and color patterns are very similar so Kodi should look a lot like his sire when he's a little older.

Here are photos of Cowboy's Silver Ace aka Kobi (his sire)

And here is Kodiak

Is he a chip off the ol' block or what?!

Not only is he a real "looker", he is an absolute sweetheart, too.

Here Kodi is checking out the rabbit on our deck.

Thank you for visiting our blog. I am trying to do a better job of posting more often. Now that summer is over and I'm indoors more, I should have a better chance of sticking to my "promise"!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back to Work!

I was going to share the details of the rest of my crappy summer but decided against sharing all the gory details. Long story short, we took a day off and went to a nearby hot springs and sat in the river for a couple of hours. Apparently I had an allergic reaction and a severe sunburn on my legs even after using SPF 40 lotion. This resulted in second degree burns on the lower portion of my left leg. I have heard that severe burns are extremely painful but have never experienced it until now. Wow. I have experienced sunburn before but never to this extent. It had to be a combination of the sun and a sensitivity to something. I was unable to walk for days because every time I got out of bed and the blood rushed into my lower legs, my legs would cramp up to the point where the pain was excruciating and I couldn't possibly put weight on my left leg. After several days of diuretics to reduce the incredible swelling, bed rest (thank goodness for my little DVD player so I could watch movies in bed!) and lots of homemade cream slathered generously on my legs, I was able to walk at least short distances without pain. The left leg peeled twice. The first peel was in huge wet sheets. The skin underneath was purple and developed a brown crust that was difficult to remove. I ended up using a shower puff and some cream soap to remove the dead skin a little each day in the shower. Never again will I repeat this experience!!

The ankle is still sore but healing. My legs have a few scars and discolored areas on them from the burns but  I am back to doing chores twice daily. Thank goodness for my fabulous husband who picked up my chores for weeks in addition to starting a new job the first part of September. This man even carried me to the bathroom in the morning because I was in so much pain I couldn't even use crutches to get from the bed to the bathroom. I don't know what I would do without him! He is my hero.

And, I'm back to work doing fiber art. I just recently started to spin again but will share those yarns in another post. I want to try to do a better job of making more frequent posts on the blog.

A couple of months ago, I found a pattern online for a circular shawl. The author said it was taken from an antique pattern of her grandmother's and translated. However, the translated pattern had a lot of errors or directions that made no sense. So, I figured out how to make something similar and then decided to do something completely different based on the same concept. I ended up making a circular shawl that folds back into a collar. I started out working the shawl in a complete circle. Then, when it got big enough to be folded in half through the center and pulled around the shoulders, I started working only half the stitches and worked back and forth rather than in the round. I'm still working on typing up the pattern so I can share it. It is so much easier to actually DO the work than to document it. Who knew?! LOL

Here is the first shawl that I made. The shawl started with a skein of Kauni 100% wool Effect yarn (Effektgarn) from Denmark in the "EX" colorway in shades of rust, purple, deep orange and golden green. As the shawl progressed, several other yarns were used in coordinating colors that lightened as the shawl grew in size. The additional yarns consist of some 100% bamboo yarn, some wool/bamboo yarn and some 50/50 merino/silk yarn.

This shawl is called "Fall Fantasy" and is available in my ArtFire store. 

I decided to make another shawl using yarns from my personal stash. I have been collecting and spinning handspun yarns for my  personal collection in shades of purples and teal greens. 

Here is the shawl I made for myself. Someone suggested that it reminded them of purple mountain majesty, which I think is the perfect name for this piece! It is so soft and warm and luxurious - I feel so special when I wear it!

Here is Purple Mountain Majesty

And another shawl that I made using the same design only I didn't make it quite as long so it is more of a capelette than a true shawl. This stunning shawl/capelette was hand crocheted using wool and cotton yarns in blues and greens and wool yarn space dyed in blues and white.

Here is Waterfall

 Waterfall is also available for sale in my ArtFire store.

Its so good to be back to work again! More later on other happenings in the studio.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Things are still crazy around here!

In my last post I apologized for not blogging lately because things had been crazy around here. Well, they got crazier.

Hubby went on a little vacation back to Illinois to attend his 40th high school reunion, which actually included any and all who graduated from the school. He drove back, leaving on July 4th and got back on July 9th. I was extremely nervous about him leaving me here alone at the ranch because of all the wildfires. He debated not going but since the Waldo Canyon fire was contained and Ute Pass was open again, and because his younger sister was flying into DIA to drive back with him, he decided to go ahead and make the trip as planned. I spent all day July 4th cleaning up and loading our crates and carriers into our stock trailer so that if something happened I could at least get our small animals (dogs, cats, dwarf goats, chickens and rabbits) safely into crates and evacuated. I wasn't sure how one person was going to do it, but I wanted to at least have everything in one place and ready to go if needed. That afternoon it started to rain for the first time in months. And it rained every day while he was gone! So that took away the worry about wildfires and I actually enjoyed having some "alone time". We both work from home so we spend a lot of time together, although most of the time he is on phone calls all day long. But it was nice being able to eat what I wanted to, when I wanted to, or just not eat at all, without having to think about what to make for meals, etc.

We got notice that a load of hay was going to be delivered the day he got back from vacation so I encouraged him to get home as early in the day as possible. He surprised me by coming home at 7:30 in the morning after driving through the night to get back. I had spent several days moving pallets, locating and washing tarps and then folding them and putting them in the stock trailer, pulling weeds from the area we planned to stack and tarp the hay, etc.  He slept for a few hours and when I saw it starting to cloud up, I woke him up and told him we needed to get started moving hay. We got everything moved, stacked and tarped just as the rain started to fall. 22.5 tons of hay - 75% of what we ordered to last us for an entire year. We decided that we needed to buy enough hay for an entire year rather than buy-as-you-go like we usually do. And it was gorgeous hay - grass/alfalfa mix that was nice and green and very fragrant. You know you're a rancher when you stand at the kitchen sink and breathe deep of the smell of hay wafting through the kitchen window! Unfortunately, I think they baled the hay damp because we are seeing some signs of mold in some of the bales, but at least we have the hay here and have it tarped for the winter so it should be suitable for feeding even by next spring. We were supposed to get another partial load of hay a week later but the guy selling the hay said they ran out because one of the growers sold out to someone in Nebraska (probably at a higher price than we were paying.) We were buying the hay in bulk with several friends and the ranch brokering and handling the deal had a contract with the guy for something like 300 tons of hay. So, everyone had to frantically scramble to find another source of hay. Due to the drought throughout the country this summer, hay is in very short supply in many places, including Colorado and the surrounding states. Another friend of mine is a hay broker and he had already been setting aside some bales for me so we were able to get enough for another month or two and I just need to find enough for a couple more months and we should be good. It feels good to have at least several months worth sitting here already though!

Our clothes dryer quit working a few months ago. We bought the washer and dryer new several years ago and I was surprised when I went to pull the clothes out and they were still quite damp. Hubby hasn't had time yet to trouble-shoot it to find out what is wrong, so my folks had an old clothes line they were no longer using and they gave it to us. I put it through the umbrella hole in the table on the deck and have been hanging laundry out to dry. I then tumble the clothes for 10 minutes in the dryer (it tumbles but doesn't heat) to help soften them up some. For some reason we get all cranky when our underdrawers are stiff as a board. LOL

And I told you that so I could tell you this. While out hanging up laundry on the "solar dryer" (I love saying that...LOL), I heard screaming from one of the llama pastures. I had slipped on some flimsy little leather sandals to go hang out the laundry but decided to go see what the ruckus was about. As I got closer, I saw that one of my four year old male llamas had pinned one of my yearling llamas to the ground and was beating him up. The yearling llama is one of my Grand Champions...I freaked out. I grabbed a crop out of the tack shed on my way up the hill and then leaned over the fence and tapped the four year old llama on the back of the neck. He jumped up and moved away from the yearling male. I climbed through the gate into the corner pen and was going to let my two yearling males into that pen with the weanling males. As I was trying to get the panels open to let them in, the four year old llama body slammed the yearling llama into the panels. I stepped forward quickly to tap him with the crop again and heard a snap as my foot rolled and I fell to the side. I wondered what the snapping sound was. Once I stood up again, I noticed a rock sticking partially out of the ground and realized that I must have stepped on that. As I stepped out on my left foot, I felt a searing pain in my entire left foot and ankle. I looked down and saw a huge bubble forming on top of my foot. Uh oh...that can't be good, I thought as I was still struggling to get the panels open to let the yearlings in. The two yearlings ran into the corner pen the second I got the panels open enough for them. I got the panels secured again and hobbled back to the house. By the time I got into the house, my foot was throbbing and my ankle was screaming at me. Hubby was in the kitchen making himself something for lunch when I came through the back door, crying. He asked me what was wrong and I told him I thought maybe I had broken my foot. He looked at it and told me it didn't look good ( kidding...ya think?!) I sat down in the recliner and put my foot up on the foot stool as he put a bag of ice on it. The weight of the ice just about sent me into orbit. After about 15 minutes we decided we should go to the urgent clinic in Cripple Creek and have the foot and ankle x-rayed. When we got there, I was the ONLY patient so I was seen immediately. X-rays were taken and sent via computer to their main hospital in Colorado Springs. Within a half hour the x-rays had been read and results had been emailed back to the clinic. No breaks! Whew... but a really bad sprain. Due to thoracic outlet syndrome in my left shoulder and a previously dislocated right shoulder and carpal tunnel pain in both wrists, crutches are a bit of a challenge for me. Let's just say I suck at using them. But, when you can't put any weight on your foot, what else can you do?!

Fortunately, the llamas weren't hurt during their tussle. And, for that, I'm happy. But I would have been happier if I hadn't been injured when I went to break things up!

I married the best man ever. Okay, go ahead and argue with me, tell me that your man is better...I'd actually love to hear stories about how your partner is "da bomb"! Anyway, I digress... Hubby has been doing my twice daily ranch chores for weeks. On top of working a full time job. But, he took an early retirement package from the company he was working for and his last day was August 31st. More later on the fun day we planned at our favorite mountain spot - Mt Princeton hot springs! All we wanted was ONE day of "fun in the sun". And it didn't turn out well...but I'll tell you that story later since this one is already much longer than I planned.

Here are a couple of photos of the boys responsible for my "demise" this summer.

The four year old - Split Rock Ashes In the Snow aka Hot Shot

And the yearling - Wheatfield's Spencer

I'm a bit peeved that I didn't get a chance to do any training or shearing after my injury. I have also not been able to spin since July 23rd. And I really have missed spending time with all my animals. I'm back doing chores this week, and doing morning chores by myself with help from hubby at evening chores. But, like I said, more later on the next chapter of "the crappiest summer in recent memory".

Friday, June 29, 2012

Its been crazy around here...

I apologize for not posting much lately. Things have been crazy around here.

In late May our son-in-law hurt his back at work and ended up in ER via ambulance. Three days later our son broke his leg and ankle in two places while jumping on the trampoline with his stepson. Our SIL is now back to work on light duty after a month off with PT on a regular basis. Our son had surgery 10 days after he broke his leg. They put in a plate and 6 screws. He is healing nicely.

Over Memorial Day weekend we attended a llama show. It was so much fun seeing all our llama friends again! We took River, our Standard Poodle, with us and had him stay in our tack stall. He was a real trooper that weekend!

We sheared all the llamas that we took to the show. I've posted pictures of all of them previously but the most dramatic change was Midnight Phoenix.

Here is how he looked before shearing.

And here is how he looked after shearing. WOW!

He looks so much taller and more athletic after shearing!

On Father's Day we went to South Park to hot air balloon. This has been a tradition for us for several years now. DH used to crew for a balloonist and worked as one of the launch directors each year at the Colorado Springs Balloonist Festival every Labor Day weekend. High winds this Father's Day didn't allow us to fly. We enjoyed breakfast with our friends and then came back home to feed the critters before heading down the mountain to Colorado Springs. While visiting with my Dad that afternoon, we had the TV on and saw an alert that there was a wildfire in Lake George (which is a few miles to the northwest of our ranch). At the time, they reported that the fire was 2-4 acres in size. No big deal. Within a half hour, they were reporting that the fire had grown to over 100 acres. A bit more of a concern. We decided we should head back up the mountain, just in case. When we left, we could see smoke billowing over the mountain already. By the time we got to Woodland Park, we could really see the smoke.

By the time we got to Divide (7 miles west of Woodland Park) we saw this

We drove all the way to Florissant (8 miles past Divide) to get a better look at the fire. The smoke there was very thick and dark. It pretty much obscured the sun from view.

After we got back home, we logged onto our computers to monitor the situation. I read that certain areas were being evacuated and others were on pre-evacuation notice. I called a friend who lives in one of the areas and left a message for her. She called me back a short while later saying the Sheriff had just knocked on her door and told her she had an hour to an hour and a half to pack up what she could and get out. We grabbed one of our animal crates, hooked up our stock trailer to the truck and headed to her house. We got into the subdivision just seconds before the Sheriff closed the road! By the time we got to her house, she told us the wind had changed direction and they had a little more time to get packed and out. Another friend was there, helping to load cats into crates and we helped get them all into her vehicle. We loaded several boxes and bins of clothing, files, etc. into our truck and trailer and headed back to our place so we could get our animals fed. By this time it was already dark so we did chores with headlamps on. This was the Springer fire. It is now fully contained and some of those crews moved on  to the next wildfire - the Waldo Canyon Fire.

In the week after the Springer Fire started, 20 small fires were started around our county by an arsonist. Needless to say, residents were as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers! The arsonist is still at large. 

Last Saturday, June 23rd, we headed down the mountain again to attend the birthday party for our stepgrandson in Colorado Springs. As we drove down Ute Pass, we saw a plume of smoke coming from an area called Waldo Canyon which is an extremely popular hiking trail in the area. By the time we got down out of the pass, the fire was sending up huge plumes of billowing smoke. We stayed at our son's house for a little while and watched the smoke and flames growing by leaps and bounds. We decided that we had better head back home before the road closed and we were unable to get back up the mountain. We heard that the line of traffic was bumper to bumper so we headed south out of Colorado Springs, then west and then back north to our ranch. This was about a 40 miles detour but virtually no traffic so we got home much faster than if we would have taken our normal route.

We could see the smoke from our ranch when we got home on Saturday. The mountain you see in this photo off to the right of the smoke is Pikes Peak.

Here is a map showing the progress of the fire through Wednesday, June 27th. 

As you can see, on June 26th, the fire exploded (yellow area). The winds changed late in the afternoon that day and the fire roared over the ridge and down the mountain into neighborhoods on the northwest side of Colorado Springs. had a live stream video in place starting Saturday afternoon and they were reporting 24/7 on the status of the fire. I sat here and watched in horror as that fire raced into neighborhoods as residents were fleeing the area. All I could do was gasp and cry. I will never forgot those images and can only begin to imagine how terrified the people fleeing the area were.

Last night, some people were allowed back into their homes. At the same time that some mandatory evacuations were lifted, other residents attended a private meeting to discover the fate of their homes. 346 homes were destroyed on June 26th. Last night, officials discovered human remains in one of the burned down houses. Other people are still missing but they aren't sure whether those people are on vacation or if there will be more bodies discovered in the burned areas.

A beloved attraction on the west side of Colorado Springs was lost that day. Flying W Ranch was burned to the ground. They did manage to evacuate all employees and saved some of their antiques. They plan to rebuild at some point in the future. They were celebrating their 60th year in business this year. Devastating.

Here is a photo that I took from one of our pastures on June 26th. I had been watching the progress of the fire on the live stream video on, looking at the live video on the top of Pikes Peak on their cog railway website and monitoring the various cameras on I saw the wind change direction that afternoon and knew it was going to pose some significant problems for the firefighters.

Here are various photos that I captured that day from the cog railway cam.
The first photo is at 3:20 PM

The next photo is at 4 PM
The next photo is at 4:42 PM - Note that the winds have shifted and is now blowing the smoke from the fire to the right (east) (winds shifted due to thunderstorm activity in the area, causing 65 mph winds)

The next photo is at 5:34 PM - this is when the fire was roaring east over ridges and down into Colorado Springs' northwest neighborhoods.

Here is a photo from today at Noon. Things are much better today although the smoke here is worse than prior days (not sure why).

My parents and both of my kids and their families live in Colorado Springs. My son lives in the south central part of town but my parents and my daughter live in the southwest part of town so both have packed essential items in case they have to evacuate.

We got rain yesterday and the day before. It was only brief yesterday but a bit heavier for maybe almost an hour the day before, so at least we aren't as dry and hot as we were earlier in the week. We haven't had significant rainfall for weeks and weeks and weeks.

If you're the praying type, please consider praying for rain for Colorado (there are numerous wildfires around the state right now) Prayers for comfort and peace for those affected by this fire would also be wonderful.

I will share more later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Poodle Project - Part Deux

The second part of The Poodle Project is to spin 9.8 oz of white poodle fur from Alli. This is a custom spinning project for a customer.

I start out with hand skirting and sorting the fiber, picking out the second cuts (short bits of hair that are unsuitable for spinning)

I hand pick the fiber open and load it onto a flick carder

I then transfer the fiber from the flick carder to a fine toothed hand card and smooth the fiber out so that it is all laying in the same direction.

In the photo above, the flick carder is in the upper left, a slicker brush is in the upper right and the fine tooth hand card is at the bottom. I load up as much fiber as I want on the hand card. See how smooth the fiber looks? It doesn't look like there is that much on the hand card but wait until you see how it grows after I take it off the card!

Here is how the fiber looks while I'm taking it off the hand card.

And here is how it looks after it is off the hand card.

The top section is thicker than the bottom section. I gently split the rolag in half lengthwise for spinning.

This rolag weighs 0.4 oz (that's 4/10 or four-tenths of an ounce)

I then start spinning the fiber with my Van Eaton spinning wheel.

And here is how the singles yarn looks after spinning.

I will spin about 1.5 to 2 ounces of fiber onto two bobbins, giving me a total of 3 to 4 oz total when I ply those two bobbins together. I will then put the bobbins on a "lazy kate" and ply them on the wheel, going the opposite direction to ply them. This creates a strong, balanced two-ply yarn. I will then soak the skeins to wash them and to set the twist and hang them to dry.

At 0.4 to 0.5 oz per rolag, that means I will need to hand card 20 to 25 rolags to complete the project (9.8 oz of fiber to process/card for spinning).

So, you can see that the process is very labor intensive. I don't even want to figure out how much I make an hour - I'm certain it is less than half of minimum wage! But, I love the process and I love watching the bag of fiber transform into lovely soft, lofty yarn under my hands and before my eyes. I just love the creative process of working with fiber and spinning it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Poodle Project

I recently accepted a custom spinning job which I have dubbed "The Poodle Project".

The customer sent over a pound of black poodle fur and about 3/4 of a pound of white poodle fur.

Here is how the fiber looked when I got it.

I decided to start with the black poodle fiber first. I carded it on my Ashford fine cloth hand crank drum carder into batts.

The batts didn't draft very well so I tried washing the fiber. It felts very easily! I finally settled on hand picking the fiber open and carding it on my Louet Jr roving carder, which has longer teeth on the cloth. I then hand carded the fiber that I pulled off the licker-in drum on the carder. The hand carded rolags spun the easiest of all the different ways I prepared the fiber.

Here are the finished skeins of yarn.

I was hoping for a DK weight yarn but ended up with a worsted weight. I was planning on more yardage but because of the way the fiber spun up, worsted weight was the lightest I could manage. It has gorgeous texture to it and is very soft. The customer wants a sweater/vest knitted or crocheted with this yarn - it should be gorgeous!

Later I'll share the white portion of The Poodle Project. I took more photos of the various steps involved in spinning it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday River!

Our standard poodle puppy, River Runner, is one year old today!

Here is River with his littermates

Here is River as a puppy

And here is River enjoying his first snow

Here is River last October

Here is River yesterday morning

And here is River after his first professional grooming/clipping

River and Pippin (our YorkiePoo) are best buddies. Thank goodness we have Pippin to play with River! After River came home from his grooming appointment, Pippin didn't know at first who he was!

We like the look of the long haired River best but he was already getting so hot that we decided to have him clipped short for the summer. We'll let his fur grow and have him clipped again next Spring. In between now and then, I hope he'll let me keep his face shaved short. With the fuzzy face, he soaks up a TON of water when he drinks and then dribbles it everywhere. I think he was dribbling more water than he drank recently. We had to keep a mop handy so we wouldn't slip and fall on the wet floors.

I had the groomer save the fur that she clipped off River yesterday. She gave me a huge bag of black poodle fur! I weighed it after I got it home and it weighs over 2 pounds (including the weight of the bag) Wow! I recently finished spinning just over a pound of black poodle fur for a customer and the yarn turned out fabulous. I'll share pics in another post. I can't wait to spin River's fur and make something out of the yarn!