Sunday, September 16, 2007

Anybody Wanna Do Some Dyeing?

It bothers me to waste stuff. So when I have an abundance of something, if I can't save it or put it to use, I am determined to share. This year we have an abundance of butternuts off the trees on our farm. More than I ever remember having in all the years we have lived here. I use them for natural dyeing; they give a nice, coffee brown color on natural wool, and are pretty easy to use.

So does anybody out there want to try some? I will mail you a box with enough butternuts for at least a two skein batch and instructions. All I ask is that you post your results on your blog, or e-mail me to let me know how it came out. Of course, you're not obligated to dye yarn, but that's up to you. Mind you, if you were to send me some dye plant stuffs from your corner of the world that I could play with, I wouldn't mail them back, but you DON'T HAVE TO.

Today, in between bouts of cooking, I dyed with some goldenrod flowers and got the nice pale yellow on the right. The honey color on the left is red onion skins. What fun!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fox Hunt

When I type the words, it brings to mind the genteel, pretty picture of steeds and hounds, bounding across an English countryside laced with manicured hedges and the call of a brass horn...(it's just a mental picture, actually I don't think chasing down a fox with a troup of dogs and humans is sport, fair, or even nice, but...)

But like so many other things, on our farm the reality does not come close to the vision.

As it is with the fox. Or foxes, to be accurate. There is a mother and her single, surviving pup, now pretty grown up. I say surviving, because grey foxes usually have litters of 2-4, and we have no proof of demise, but just assumed.

They ate Speedy. Speedy, for those who do not know, was a bantam rooster we hatched on the farm, and despite his fiesty and sometimes aggressive personality, he was my buddy. So we do not like these foxes. And although they have helped us curb the rabbit population, I would prefer nibbled veggies to losing our poultry pals.

So, we are hunting the foxes. We all would prefer to catch them and move them to the state land three miles down the road, but this has proved harder than we would like.

1st Attempt: Bait the trap with a rotisserie chicken wing and wait.

Although the right color, not exactly what we were hoping for.

2nd attempt: Try a piece of the chicken skin.

Some sneaky little creature dug underneath the trap, and removed the skin by pulling it through the bottom. It's the right intelligence, but not the outcome we were hoping for.

3rd Attempt: DH thinks we should use apples, since we have watched the foxes eat the windfalls, I think apples are too available, and opt for an egg.

At dusk, we checked the trap, and DH reported the egg was gone. So either this Einstein really did go in for the apples, which lay by the dozens all around, or it went something like this:

Rocky: Hey, what's that over there?

Rascal: Dunno, let's go check it out.

Rocky: Why don't you go in it?
Rascal: Why don't YOU do it?
Rocky: What? You chicken?
Rascal: OK, fine. Watch me.


Rascal: Hey! Get me out of here! You made me go in...don't leave me!
Rocky: Cool your jets, I'll dig you out. Wait till I tell the boys about this one...

Rascal: Shut up and dig, man!

Rocky: Sorry pal, but I'm not getting anywhere. What did you go in there for in the first place?
Rascal: Shut up.

4th Attempt: Bait the trap with cat food. We have also seen the foxes eating the cat food.

Just the distance of the photo should tell you what we caught this time, in case you can't tell...Needless to say, this one did not end with the same happy outcome as the others. (Animal Lovers: We are open to any tips on how to empty a live trap of a skunk without necessitating extensive bathing in tomato juice and driving to work with all the windows open...short of that, it was "Hello to Mister .22")

5th Attempt: (Still waiting for the trap to air out...)

Meanwhile...another puzzle.

Several weeks ago we found the feathery remains of something on the lawn. Too many feathers for it to have been a close call, or happy ending, and pretty much the look of a raptor kill. But the feathers were all a light grey, covered with polka dots of white. I was stumped.

This morning, as I went back up to the house for Mister .22, I found a carcass in the middle of the path.

The size of one of our laying hens, at first I thought that's what it was. Thankfully, none of ours match the description, and frankly no chicken I've ever seen has the grey and polka dot I'm thinking young guinea hen? Any thoughts? Before you tell me to check the head, there was none.

And if anyone wants to weigh in on the predator...

BTW- none of our neighbors have guinea fowl. At least none of our neighbors within "several blocks". So that just makes the whole thing even more strange. So it goes around here...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fair Results

About time I get around to this, but life has been so busy lately that every time I sit down to start, I literally fall asleep in the chair. Sad, no?

The Schaghticoke Fair has come and went, and well, the big news is Madison and her chickens...

Her little Buff Brahma Bantam hen, Buff, took the grand prize. Best Bird in the entire Open Class and Show. Beat out every other chicken, and more impressively, beat out the Big Three. The Big Three refers to these older gentlemen that are the epitome in poultry culture around here, and they have been trading this honor back and forth for over ten years. It's come to be expected, by they and us alike, that one of them will raise the prize winning chicken and walk away with the honors. So it was rather jaw-dropping when the 10-year-old marches in and walks away with the top slot. For them, anyway. We were too busy grinning.

Of course, there were a lot of the usual blue ribbons in the 4-H barn, for her veggies, and this one for a tie-dyed shirt (thank you Uncle Richard!):

And even though all the ribbons were nice, the thing she loved the most was the chicken trophy she won for showmanship. Which, for the inexperienced, is when the kids have to take a chicken, and before a judge and the throngs of folks traversing the Poulty Barn, handle the bird, showing various features, answer questions about poultry raising and poutry trivia, and of course, keep the featured bird from taking off and freaking out the crowd as it runs around looking for any means of escape, or shitting on your clean pants. This year, Madison managed all of it. Not so lucky for some of the other kids....but that's what keeps the audience coming back!

Just so her little head didn't get too swollen out of whack, I paraded her through the Arts and Crafts Barn and Mommy's blue ribbon for hand-knit socks. Balance in all things, right? I took her through about 14 times. She reminded me each time that I had won only one ribbon. She has a chicken trophy. (Sigh)