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Today is Alpaca shearing day in the local area.  That meant we got up at 6:00 and loaded Machu and Picchu into a truck and drove them to one of the centralized locations for shearing.  Loading isn't as easy as it sounds.  They know what is coming and try to stay at home as hard as they can.  The situation wasn't helped by all the mud from the rain last night, not to mention that it is a big step into the truck even when we had a semi-loading dock for them to use (actually the foundation to a tiny greenhouse we are building). It is amazing how hard they can put on the brakes--lying down is tried and true. Poor Mack had to heave and heft while I applied tension to the leads.  We got them loaded, and as you can see by the photos, they are back home sheared.  Getting them back in their field was not a struggle, they could hardly wait.  The only problem is I got some mud (and alpaca smell) on my work clothes.  Ah well, that is the way it goes.  They feel better--the heat was stressing them and we don't have to go through this for another year.  That is Picchu in the top picture and Machu in the bottom.

 
 
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Guess what arrived yesterday!  The new summer Noro knitting magazine and then today up drives the FedEx man with the new summer Interweave Knits.  Talk about overdose.  These two magazines will do it for you.  They are both absolutely lovely.  The Interweave knits is packed with beautiful summer projects--not just one, two, or even three, but a whole magazine full.  Lets just take the cover  of Interweave-- a beautiful summer pullover called Kayleen made with Jupiter Moon Sabine.  There must be 6 projects I want to start today!  No, eight, I just counted them and that is just in Interweave.  They really out did themselves this time.   I think if I were a dog I would be drooling.  Is there such a thing as overdosing on "wanting to knit too many things."  My mind has a "stomach" for collecting way more patterns and yarn then my poor little fingers can crank out.  Oh, but I want them--the patterns and the yarn!  It means re-organizing my stash, so I can slip these new things in.  And wait, I haven't even discussed the Noro magazine.  It has lovely items also.  They are probably a bit more artistic--but the colors--and textures--Oh my!  I have to add one, two, three.  I don't think it is humanly possible--I will have to study and prioritize.  Darn!

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This is a picture (not a very good one) of my completed Michelle Hunter/Skacel April mystery knit along--the Hole Story.  What is there not to love about this shawl?  I love the yarn, the pattern and just everything about it. I blocked it using my favorite lavender detergent so it even smells good. This was my favorite of the Hunter/Skacel mystery KALs, and I have done at least one project from every one.  

 
 
Monday the duck and goose nests were all pretty much static.  All the prospective mothers were pretty laid back.  They got off their nests to eat and I was able to do the morning and evening chores.  On Tuesday when the mothers jumped off their nests for breakfast, I heard an egg peeping in one of the tire nests. (Eggs start talking to their mothers a day or so before they hatch, so you can have some pretty noisy eggs.  It is a strange effect.)  Wednesday, brought changes, Mommy didn't get off the nest, but was standing in it doing something.  There was a tiny wet black thing wriggling in the bottom of the nest.  I couldn't see well enough to tell what it was.  On Thursday morning there were two new little goslings--one male and one female.  On Thursday evening we had to move the tire the nest was in so the little goslings could get out to get food and water.  I told Mack to be sure to wear gauntlets and goggles because I expected the mothers wouldn't like us messing around.  He shrugged me off, saying he didn't need them.  Well, if he didn't need them neither did I.  So, out I went without them.  Well guess what--that mama goose grabbed my right wrist and hung on for life while she flogged me with her wings.  It hurt quite a bit and now I have a bloody, ugly sore place on my wrist and some nasty bruises.  OOOOO, those geese were upset.  We got the tire out!  Every time we go out to check on them, the little ones are eating and drinking and growing!  It is so hard to imagine how 30 days can make such a difference in an egg.  Those little guys are so cute with their down and rubbery beaks and feet.  No, don't try to hold them or even get close to them or you will pay!  Am I angry, no, not at all.  The geese were being good mothers and taking care of their babies.  I was being stupid!  No, there are no pictures of the babies.  That wasn't possible, at least not yet.  I don't want any more welts and I don't want to have to go out and buy a new camera!  Th pictures of nests have no babies in them.  Oh, yes, by the way, there were new goslings in another tire nest this morning!
 
 
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Or, is it 26 geese?  In our case it is 26.  All of the poor girls are laying eggs like crazy. Right now there are eggs everywhere and there don't appear to be enough nesting sites--either that or they like to let someone else find the site, get it all fixed up and then steal it.  As a result we have horrific quarrels with lots of honking and feathers flying.  The male poultry are all fighting each other as well.   Some of the girls have settled down (you can tell when they get enough eggs and actually start sitting because they pull the down off their breasts and cover their eggs with it).  We have three geese on nests in the big chicken house,  one in the little chicken house, two in the brooding pen, two under the chicken house, one in a duck pen, one in the hay shed and two fighting over a lonely corner of the electric fence.  That poor nest has nothing going for it, no grass, no brush, no nothing, unless you count the electric wires on two sides.  There also appear to be geese building nests on top of the brush pile and in the fence rows.  They give themselves away when they come off the nest or as they are going back to it after an eating or swimming break.  When they leave they put their heads down and honk like mad as they run to the food bowl.  They  do the same on their way back to the nest.  It seems that they are really giving notice.  Each goose has one or two ganders protecting her and her nest site.  The goose in the shed has the best team.  She has LG and Shoe.  LG (the Canada goose that lives with us) is a fierce defender of his chosen goose.  Those with no nest sites yet  are so desperate it is sad.  Yesterday we found Rocky and his two hens running around out of their little chicken tractor.  The geese had opened both latches and were checking out the tractor as a nesting site.

 
 
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It seems that spring may finally be here, tentatively, but here!  The spring flowers are poking their leaves out of the mud (at least at my house, it seems that every blade of grass is gone) and the ducks and geese are laying their eggs everywhere.   The chicken house floor is covered with goose and duck eggs--a prospective mama goose was rolling them into a nest.  She was quite aggressive and ran at every other bird that came in with her wings outstretched and hissing viciously.  Unfortunately, it appears that the first goose with a nest in the chicken house will not be hatching any goslings.  It has been over 34 days and nothing has happened so I am very pessimistic.  We will give her a few more days, but she is losing interest.  Probably she know nothing will hatch.  Baby birds start peeping inside their shells a few days before they hatch and there may be no peeping.
Speaking of peeping, the real subject of this blog is spring peepers--the tiny tree frog Pseudacris crucifer, the common northern variety.  Yesterday evening for the first time this spring, we heard spring peepers, a sure sign of spring.  It was amazing that they emerged on the first day of spring.  I don't ever remember that happening before, usually we start hearing them late in February or early March.  They can take a little bit of freezing, but we generally don't get really cold weather or hard freezes once they emerge.  I looked them up this morning and discovered they are called crucifer because they have a dark mark that forms an x on their backs and crucifer means cross bearing.  It shouldn't be long now until we start finding tadpoles all over the place and in the meantime we can enjoy the spring singing.


 
 
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No, this isn't this year's gosling, but if everything goes well the first gosling should be arriving around March 17.  (We have our fingers crossed.  The mama has had lots of trials and tribulations, most particularly very cold weather.)  We have five nests going now, but three of them are having difficulties.  They have been being attacked by an o'possum.  The other day, the alpacas were running around their field in the weirdest way.  They had their heads down and looked for all the world like they were chasing something.  The binoculars and a trip outside showed the alpacas chasing an o'possum.  Unfortunately, they chased it into the equipment shed where at least three goose nests are hidden along with some chicken nests.  The next evening the o'possum was spotted in one of the nests  where he crunched down on at least 10 goose eggs.  It is a prime spot, though, and there are three geese fighting over it.  One of them is LG's girl.  He helps her drive out the other geese and I must say, he is vicious.  He stands on top of the poor goose in the nest and goes after her mercilessly.  He spits feathers everywhere and makes a vicious hissing noise while he is doing it.  Yesterday he was darting out from under the tractor and trying to keep us out of the shed as well.  Naughty boy, but then again, he is doing his job--he needs to go after the possum.  That would help all the birds and if he drove it out, make me very happy.

The little gosling in the picture above is little female.  We have Pilgrim geese and they are sex linked which means you can tell their sex by their color.  The little gosling has a gray beak, gray fuzz,  and hazel eyes so she is a female;  the males have orange beaks, yellow fuzz, and blue eyes.

 
 
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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.

 
 
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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!

 
 
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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?