Aren't the colors of Rylie lovely?  I can hardly wait to get started on the shawl we will be making in April's mystery knit along.  Michelle Hunter created the pattern and will be posting the clues for each week's work on Thursdays in April.  (The first post will be on Thursday, April 3.)  Each week we will get directions for that week's work.  Michelle's patterns are great--she shares tricks and techniques and supports them with videos on u-tube.   
Rylie yarn is 50% baby alpaca, 25% mulberry silk and 25% linen, with 274 yards in a 100 gram ball.  
I will be setting up a time, probably on Friday or Saturday, for extra help or just to work together.

Last night we went home hoping to find all the snow and ice ---gone!  Bu no, our outbuildings all face north and the snow and ice was still there with a layer of water on top.  This morning when we went out, the water was black ice and it was slicker then it has been all winter.  We positively looked like a miniature olympic layout.  We have (hopefully with the rain we can soon change this to had) ice for skating--and we don't even have to go to the pond, a beautiful bob sled run (the trail the geese and ducks use to walk up and down the hill to and from the pond turned into a sheet of ice, looking all the world like a bob sled run, and whoa to the animal that tries to walk up or down it) jumps and all sorts of other features.  The poor birds aren't even able to walk around.  They take a few steps and then start sliding, winding up with their web feet going out at angles and sitting on their backsides.  So, they fly back and forth to the pond and when they land, well they look like the skiers and snow boarders that blow it.  In a way it is funny, but really it isn't.  It would be so easy for them to get seriously hurt.  
The alpacas are doing fine--they mostly hang out in their shed eating hay--although they were out cavorting yesterday.  Since their field was covered with ice and snow, I doubt they did much eating, they just enjoyed the sun and warm weather.
And, what about us, sliding around out in the barnyard trying to do the chores?  Believe me it isn't a pretty site!  So, we hope for a warm rain that melts our snow and ice.  It would be nice to be rid of what we have before the next shot cold weather.  And, the good news is that every day, we get closer to spring!

I have always wondered where the term duckpins (as the pins used in duckpin bowling are called) came from.  After some time and effort on the computer, I thought I would have some worthwhile information to share with you.  But, I don't.  All the sites were pretty uniform--having discussions about where duckpin bowling originated--Baltimore or some place in Pennsylvania.  That is not my interest--I don't care!
The picture to the right is of some of our black ducks walking up the hill from the pond.  (The white ones don't show up too well.)  Walking up the hill has turned into a monumental task for these birds.  I don't know how they do it!  The snow is deep, but icy on top, so presumably they don't sink down below the surface.  Never the less, the effort must be tremendous.  Can you imagine how horrible it would be if our legs were 1-2 feet  long with major swim fins on our feet and we had to move around in snow and slippery ice like this?  What must it be like for these birds?   How hard walking up this hill must be for these little creatures?  An interesting fact is that when they walk they wobble about (even when there is no snow or ice) looking a little like a duckpin that was hit, but doesn't fall down--you know, the top of the pin moves from side to side and in circles that get ever smaller before it rights itself.  During the process you hold your breath wondering if they will fall down--of course if you are bowling you want them to fall down if they are your pins.  Do you suppose that is where duckpins got their name?

We are so tired of staying in here and having to eat hay every day!  We want fresh green grass and to run and play in our pasture!

(Don't believe everything they write here!  They can play in their pasture every day--they just don't seem to be crazy about the deep snow.  Their  tracks indicate they go to the gate, look around and head back to the barn! )

I had every intention of taking a picture of this goose's nest every other day so we could all watch as she set up her nest and count the number of eggs in it.  BUT, she had other ideas.  I went out last week and she had pulled all the down off her breast and packed it around her eggs.  I knew then she had started sitting--but it is way too early and way too cold.  The nest is in the chicken house, so it is a little warmer, but it is still too cold.  Normally,  the geese start sitting around March 17, so this is very unusual, especially since the weather is so cold.  Well, she is on her nest now so we will see.  She gets off in the morning to get a drink and something to eat and then she is back.  Every morning the gander comes in and they talk (honk) to each other, then she settles down to her day, and night on the nest.  We'll see what happens.

Doesn't the very name make you feel good on these cold, snowy days--radiant orchid--fantastic, I am warmer already.  Radiant makes me think of the sun.  Maybe lying on a beach somewhere or sitting in the shade of a tree or on a porch sipping lemonade.  Lemonade? Ahh, the life!  And then you add orchid and immediately think of the tropics.  Hot humid jungles with beautiful orchids growing in the tops of tall trees.  What a great color for this time of year!  Just don't look out the window! 
Why are we talking about radiant orchid?  Because it is Pantone's  2014 color of the year.  The pictures are supposed to show the magical tones of purple, orchid, magenta and pink, but for some reason some of the radiant orchid showed up as pink.  Those undertones show through, I suppose.

Pantone's description of Radiant Orchid is  as follows:  
"Radiant Orchid blooms with confidence and magical warmth that intrigues the eye and sparks the imagination. It is an expressive, creative and embracing purple—one that draws you in with its beguiling charm. A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great joy, love and health."  

WOW!  And it turns out even better, radiant orchid is one of my favorite colors!
And, the picture below, well its back to ice and reality!

For more information on Radiant Orchid see http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/author/ferrebeekeeper/. Click on January 3, 2014 to go straight to the blog, The Color of 2014.

The cold weather is back with a vengeance and the birds are suffering--at least it seems so to me.  Our geese and ducks spend nights down on the pond and as you can see the pond is ice covered except for a small patch in the center.  We keep our fountain on to try to keep if from freezing solid.  It is  tremendous protection against coyotes and other hungry wild animals (like bobcats) that might fancy a goose or duck dinner.

Every morning the waterfowl come up to the barnyard for their food and warm water.  The last few mornings they have had ice frozen in their feathers.  It is so bad that they tinkle (like the glass on a chandelier when rattled by a breeze or ice cubes in a cold drink).  They seem hungrier than normal and we have upped their food by about 3 times to make sure they have enough to stay warm.  This morning, in addition to the geese and ducks making pigs of themselves over the warm water, a hen  jumped in and was wading.  It must have been terrible on her feet when she jumped out. 

Paris is still hanging around!  She has a tremendous strategy for keeping warm and sneaking food.  She moves in under a goose, burrows in between its legs, under its belly.  Then she sticks her head in the trough under the goose's neck to eat.  She stays warm (all protected by goose down and feathers), safe (any predator has to go through the goose first giving her time to escape), and gets all the food she wants (the goose bullies its way into the feeder and she profits from it).

A  goose has a nest in the chicken house with three eggs in it.  So far they haven't frozen.  She seems to realize, as do most of the ducks and geese,  that the chicken house is reasonably warm.  This morning instead of a line of chickens coming out, there was a long line of ducks and geese going in for a quick respite before breakfast.  The waterfowl will go in for food or a quick warm up, but they don't like being shut in the house.  It seems strange to me, but then again I don't have lovely warm and waterproof down and feathers!  (The Canada goose in the picture is LG, the other is a Pilgrim gander.)

Is this Paris?  Many of you may remember several years ago a Canada goose arrived at our farm in the company of a little mallard duck.  They lived happily at our pond for a couple of weeks and seemed to be a pair.  There was a lot of head bobbing, they swam together and the goose protected the little duck.  One day a group of mallard ducks landed and stayed awhile, but when they left,  the little Mallard duck left with them.  The Canada goose flew off with them, he circled the field and then came back to our pond. He was devastated.  We named him LG for Lonely Goose, or Loony Goose, or Lost Goose.  It didn't matter which meaning was attributed to the initials--LG.  After a couple of days the little mallard came back.  LG took care of her and everything seemed to be as it had been:  they head bobbed at each other, swam together and he protected her.  After a few weeks a group of mallard drakes flew in.  The little mallard duck flirted with them, oh she flirted and flirted.  Finally she took off with them.  LG was so upset!  It was funny to watch him.  After a week or two the little duck came back.  We named her Paris.  LG was furious with her.  If she got close to him, he would thump her.  One time I saw him grab her by the neck and beat her head back and forth on the ground.  Finally another mallard drake came to the pond and Paris took off with him.  It has been about 4 years since we have had any mallard ducks at our pond.  However, last week we heard a strange duck voice out in the barnyard--actually up in the shed--which turned out to be a mallard duck.  She has been at our house for a week now.  She seems to know all the other birds and they seem to tolerate her--that is except LG.  He gives her a stiff shoulder or tries to run her off when she gets close to him.  She is smaller than our domestic ducks and much smaller than our geese.  She cuts under them to get at the food and acts like she has always lived at our house.  She was even in the shed with me this morning.  Is this the old Paris back?  If so, it has been at least 4 years.  How long do ducks live?  In the wild, I thought maybe a couple of years.  I will have to do some research to see.  Geese can live 30-40 years and other birds have long lifespans so who knows--maybe I can find out on wickipedia.

Thank heavens we are having a winter thaw this weekend.  The cold was very conducive to knitting and to bird watching.  No, we didn't see a lot of wild birds, but our own birds have been the subject matter.

Merlot the peahen is training Mack beautifully.  She expects a fig newton every time she sees him.  She watches for him through the window and bobs her head up and down excitedly when she sees him.  The last few nights she has moved off her perch and onto his shoulder to eat her little treat.  She fluffs up her tail and the little feathers on top of her head  bob up and down.  These little feathers are like little circles on stalks an inch or so high.    I will try to get a picture of her showing off to post.

Yesterday, we had a particularly funny experience with a goose.  We always take warm water out to our birds in the cold weather and they always crowd around like office workers at a water cooler.  We usually have a couple of buckets, but yesterday, due to the extreme cold I got out some large rubber bowls in addition to the buckets.  I was afraid the ducks couldn't get enough water out of the buckets--the geese were crowding them something fierce.  One of the geese jumped into a bowl while Mack was pouring the water in.  It was all the world like she was taking a warm shower.  He poured the water gently over her and into the bowl.  She preened and fluffed her feathers and turned her head this way and that so that her eyes would get a nice rinse as well.  I don't think I have ever enjoyed a shower as much as she seemed to enjoy hers.  We were mean today and didn't put out the bowl of warm water--only the buckets.  Its warm enough today that they can go down to the pond.
No, even though it is the Christmas season, I am not writing of angel wings although they are probably flitting all around us.  I am writing of bird wings--specifically the wings of geese.  We were walking our dogs down below the dam of our pond when we heard wings beating--flap, flap, flap--dozens of pairs.  We looked up and our gaggle of Pilgrim geese (and the one lone Canada Goose, LG) were flying from the top of the hill where we feed them down to the pond.  They actually looked like their wild compatriots!  They were soaring and circling and letting us know in no uncertain terms that they could fly away if they chose to do so.  They circled around us a time or  two as they circumnavigated the pond, then turned east and landed, all facing the same direction.   Each landing is simply beautiful!  They change the orientation of their wings, tuck down their tails, spread out their wide web feet and land on their heels and then settle into the water.  A little V wake stretches behind each heel.  The landings are pretty quiet unless they get to close to each other which causes a bit of a rumpus.

 This is such a change of behavior for them.  They have been trundling up and down the hill all summer and fall because the goslings couldn't fly.  Now with the change in the weather and the winter solstice behind us, they are flying AND the males are starting to fight.  That also involves a beating of wings and loud honking.  The rest of the flock circles around and cheers on their favorites.  It is a noisy, rowdy show.  Sometimes other ganders will join in and 5 or 6 will be fighting at once.  They tend to grab each others necks, flap their wings and try to push their opponent over or out of the way.  The winner always stands up as tall as possible, flaps his wings to show how big  and strong he is while honking loudly.  When they are in the pond the ganders swim around with their tails in the air and a crook in their necks.   It seems to me that they are starting to get ready for spring and are showing off already.  
Note:  This is an older picture--no snow and only a few geese at the upper end of the pond.  It was my opinion at the time that LG was teaching our domestic geese to fly--now they all fly and all 42 of them make a considerable noise!