Friday, March 27, 2015

Zinnie’s Ball

Zinnie is obsessive about  playing ball (must be the border collie half of her.)  While I do chores she constantly  anticipates where my attention will be --at the hose bib filling buckets, in the barn getting grain, forking  soiled cow bedding into the compost  pile--  plops the slightly deflated basketball down in front of me, and demands I play with her.  I try to ignore her so she doesn't think she is the boss, but she is so darn persistent.  And cute.
After I finish chores, I usually relent and kick the ball for her to chase for a while, and then we walk the farm and check on the status everything.  She carries the ball along in case I can be persuaded to play some more.

This morning when we walked down to look at the pond, she accidentally dropped the ball and it rolled down the bank and out onto the very thin ice in the middle of the pond. It is probably no more than 4 feet deep out there, but I sure wasn't going after it, and I didn’t want Zinnie to try to get it either. I told her to leave it and we went back up to the house, but all day I worried she would remember her ball and fall through trying to retrieve it. It is very dear to her.

Tonight after chores I walked down to the pond and saw that the ice had totally melted and the ball had drifted to the shore. I called Zinnie and told her to get it. She was overjoyed and climbed carefully down the steep bank - but when she tried to nab the ball with her teeth, she accidentally nudged it with her long nose and it floated out to the middle of the pond. I had to tell her to leave it again. So disappointing. 

Heller Heaven for Sheep?

It is sheep-shearing day at the Heller farm down the road. I love seeing this annual very agrarian rite of spring. Here is a before and after shot.
“I don’t know if I am going to like this..."
The shearing of  the sheep is done assembly-line style. Mattsen gets the next sheep ready to shear
while the shearer  gives the current sheep a haircut. All of my photos of the shearer are pretty much a blur.  It only takes him a couple minutes to shear an entire sheep, he works so fast. Yet, gently - with very few nicks.  Fewer than I would get if I were shaving my legs.
Don puts the shorn fleece into the “Hicky-Do,” kind of a simple baler which compresses the fleece into a bag so they don’t take up so much space.
Fuzzy sheep waiting their turn.
Velvety sheep feeling much thinner, lighter and a bit chillier.
The black sheep, brown and multi-colored sheep are done last  so their wool can be kept separate.
Some of the lambs wait outside the barn gate bleating for their moms.
Darling lambs!  Born in February, so big and sturdy already.
Lambs in the spotlight.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Nine Inches of Fresh White

Yesterday’s snow kept up through the night and left us with about 9 inches of heavy white stuff. School was cancelled today.  It isn’t really cold out, but roads must be slippery and aren’t all plowed yet, and the wind is brisk.
This is the most picturesque kind of snow on the farm buildings and fences.
Look out below, LaFonda!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

First Snowstorm of Spring

Yesterday there was a tinge of green in the pasture; today there is a distinctly whitish cast to the landscape.  I have mixed feelings about this.  So eager for spring, but we need moisture and  I know the snow won’t last long. Plus, it is kind of a feeling of relief - I was feeling so  far behind!
Zinnie impatiently waiting for me to stop taking stupid snow photos and kick the ball for her.
This morning Rog repaired the hole in the granary siding created by Nutmeg trying to get at a rabbit two winters ago.  This little accomplishment makes me very happy.
When we walked down to check on the little pond, Zinnie and I startled two wild ducks swimming in it!  I was also surprised and didn't catch their photo in time, but you can see the ripples they left.

We may get up to 6 sloppy inches. A good excuse to hunker down and  catch up on some inside projects for a change.
Finally, a sweet shot of Lindsey, our weekend WWOOFer with Silkwood, the silkie hen. Thanks Lindsey, for your hard work pruning raspberries, organizing barn gear, pulling nails and  washing eggs!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Miscellaneous March

Hot and Heavy Metal

Saturday was my second spring taking a day-long welding class through Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota. The class is held at Custom Iron, a shop that specializes in creating elaborate spiral stairways and has plenty of space and all the  industrial toys a welding class needs.
Artist Kelly Ludeking, the instructor, telling us about the different types of welding helmets. After a quick group lesson in welding and safety, he guided each of us individually in achieving a decent weld, and we were off!
My friend Katherine had already taken the class 5 times and had no qualms about tackling an ambitious project - a partition wall for her patio.
Katherine’s finished partition.
I shared a welding station with Dale, who was building a large bottle tree. Kelly gave him advice for making sure it would not tip over once in the ground adorned with glass bottles.
Many students brought Pinterest ideas and metal scraps to inspire their projects--such as metal sofa springs to make garden flowers
and silverware for dragonflies and butterflies.
We had access to bins of metal scraps  to use in our creations.  Most of us created garden sculptures.
My first project was a large dancing woman figure (about 6 feet tall, not counting the 18-inch supports that poke into the ground). Custom Iron had a room full of  metal parts, either imperfect or left over from their commissions, that we could purchase at a minimal charge.  Their fancy metal scrollwork and curlicues suggested womanly curves to me.
Next, I  made this large mandala from  ornamental iron scraps, a variation on our Squash Blossom logo (you can never have too many squash blossom images!) It is about 4 feet in diameter and I originally thought it might be attached to our farm gate, but I kind of like how it looks hanging on the house.  I am contemplating  brushing it with color--butternut yellow on the central  flower and verde gris green on the leafy points.
I had also brought a couple of my welding tanks for making painted garden bells (here is a link to a post about bells I have made.)  When I originally got the old welding tanks from a welding supply in Bemidji,  I had a shop saw them in half for me and I was easily able to use the top half of the welding tanks for bells - the tank control apparatus created a hole through the top for  hanging the clappers and my welding friend Mike welded on hangers.  But the bottom half of the bells are solid, with no opening for  inserting a clanger,  and I still have a bunch of them. I asked Kelly if there was a way to drill a hole through the bottom so I could hang a clapper and he said he could weld a loop inside.  I cut a slice of a pipe on the band saw and here he is grasping it with a pliers, to reach inside and weld it to the end inside.
Here he is welding it - I don't know how he could see what he was doing, but it worked!

Then I  welded a scrap curlicue to create a hanger, and found another  smaller curlicue to link it to a support so it hangs freely. I will use an old window counterweight for the clapper. I think this will make an especially  beautiful garden bell when it is painted.

Thanks so much to Kelly, to Crossings and to Custom Iron for enabling us to learn to weld!  I cannot wait until I have my very own wire feed welder (hint, hint, Santa Claus!)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Barn Storming

1. It takes money to make money.
2. It takes chaos to make order.
3. It takes a little pain to get the weakness out and make strength.
We are putting all these rules to the test as we build our commercial kitchen.
Major mess.  And muscles, although you can’t see the muscles it took to saw and jackhammer out all this concrete to make way for the plumbing.
My muscleman. Tearing our walls...
and putting in windows. The first one is in, more to come. Stay tuned.