Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn colors..............

The leaves are turning color quickly this year. I think our foliage season is going to be short but gorgeous. We have had little sun the last few days, but when it is shining, the variations of colors are lovely. Some areas are changing slower than others, especially areas that do not get as much sun such as our driveway. Below are a few foliage photos.
Our daily walk to the bus
A forest path
We made a quick trip to Home Depot yesterday for supplies. Below are photos of Sebago Lake which we pass on our way.
Sebago Lake foliage

Beautiful colors at Sebago Lake, Maine

The sun tried to make an appearance early yesterday morning. As it came up the sky was very pink and angry looking. It didn't last long but it was beautiful.

Early morning sunrise

More signs of winters approach. We had a small group of Canandian Geese fly over heading south this morning as we went to the barn to do chores. Of course, I left my camera in the house so you will have to take my word for it :) They were low enough that I could hear the beating of their wings. They are such beautiful creatures. We will see thousands of them before they finish migrating south.

Have a great day!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Lazy Birthday Sunday ~

Hurricane Kyle has been steadily moving up the east coast heading for Maine and dumping several inches of rain on us in the last three days. The downeast coast is going to take the brunt of the storm with 70 to 80 mph wind gusts and the heaviest rain. It's been a good long while since Maine has seen a hurricane. We are thankful that this one is mild mannered and won't hang around for long. September has been a rainy month. Hopefully October will bring a beautiful, long Indian summer. I love the colors of the turning leaves and fall flowers - Asters, mums, flowering kale, etc. We always have a display at the fair and this one sits in the front of our barn

Today is my 40ish birthday and my family treated me to a trip to the LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine. It's a fairly short trip from our home that we make once or twice a year. This weekend was the annual hunting/fishing expo with guest speakers, product reps, etc. The place was packed! Freeport is always busy 365 days a year. Even during a blizzard the shops are open and have customers. We all enjoyed seeing the new product lines and everyone made a purchase or two for the upcoming hunting/winter season. We ended the trip at Buck's Naked BBQ - some of the best BBQ eating in the Northeast. Yum!! It was a lovely way to spend a dreary, rainy day. I do realize just how lucky I am :)

LL Bean Flagship store, Freeport, ME

As I continue with winter preparations, I'm trimming my sheep flock by a few more head and I have these two handsome shetland ram lambs for sale. Both are registerable with the North American Shetland Sheep Association. Horns on both are looking terrific and the fleece on both of them is gorgeous. If anyone is interested, please let me know. I'd love to find them both great homes. The sire of these two looks just like them and his fleece is a gorgeous copper color and as soft as butter.

Tylerfarm's Towhee
Tylerfarm's Woody

Thanks for visiting - I hope you all had a nice weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn happenings.........

Common Ground Country Fair logo for 2008

Shane and I had a great time at the fair but it's wonderful to be home!!!! I'm still dealing with "jet lag" for lack of a better term but finally have enough energy to post. We returned late sunday evening from a four day stay at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine. If you ever have the chance to attend, you will be happy that you did. It definitely is an educational adventure in sustainable living. I've attended for many, many years and learn so much every time I'm there.

We have a booth in the Maine Fiber Farms tent. All of the vendors in this tent have some kind of fiber animals and everything in their booth are items created from their farms. It's a wonderful assortment of folks and it's always fun to connect with friends you only see once or twice a year.
I hurried like a mad woman to get all the yarn died, the soap felted, sheepskins, and gourds ready and everything else packed for three weeks before we left. The weather was grand. Cool and sunny. Perfect weather for selling wool and warm weather items. The biggest turnout ever - almost 60,000 people in three days! I came home with empty supply boxes. Yippeeeeeee. I do have a small amount of yarn that I will sell on-line or at the farmer's market. I will use some for christmas gifts as well. A successful weekend all around for everyone.

Autumn has definitely arrived in the Northeast and the harvest is slowly coming to an end. We have had several hard frost and the growing season is pretty much over. The winter squash has been picked and is now stored in wooden boxes in our crawl space basement. The temp is perfect and we should eat fresh squash for a long time to come. Yesterday Tom and I harvested our kennebec potatoes and our sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes did very well and I will definitely plant more next year. Next week we hope to have time to pick apples and can applesauce. The last on the list is to pick and can our shell beans. It will be nice to put the gardens to rest for the winter season.

Winter squash ready for storage

We are starting our winter preparations. Sheep and goats need to be sheared and three cord of wood needs to be stacked in the wood shed. We are raking acorns for the pigs and they are plentiful this year. I'm hoping that's not a sign of the type of winter we are going to have. We need to clean out all of the gardens and all the leftovers go to the pigs as well.

My DH is home on vacation this coming week and we are installing a new woodstove in our livingroom. Should be a fun project :)

Fall colors

This isn't a great photo but our trees are changing colors quickly and the foliage is beautiful. We lost our sun today as a tropical storm is making it's way up the coast and is supposed to dump 4 inches of rain on us by saturday evening. We sure didn't need that! I hope to have better foliage photos to share in the days to come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blue Hubbard squash

Blue Hubbard squash (curcubita maxima)
For those who asked, here's a few tid bits about the Blue Hubbard squash pictured on my last blog post.

This is an old time favorite variety of winter squash. The flesh is bright orange, fine textured with a sweet, nutty flavor. It is reported to be delicious in pies or cut into serving size pieces and baked or steamed. The hard, blue-gray shell helps these keep for long periods in storage. They average from 10 to 40lbs. I've read many different ways to cut these squash from using a hatchet to putting them in a bag and dropping them from a roof top. My neighbor who is an old-time farmer recommended I use an axe for the biggest ones. My Mom told me she used to use her butcher knife and a hammer. Yikes....I'm thinking chopping these things up could be dangerous!

They are a long season squash requiring at least 110 days to maturity. It is recommended to wait to plant these seeds in the spring until the weather has warmed considerably and all danger of frost has passed, which means at least the 1st week of June for me. You can start them inside a greenhouse or home to get a head start. I can tell you the leaves on these plants are huge. Some of the vines are 30 feet long so these squash take up a lot of room in a garden.

You should harvest them before frost, leaving a portion of them stem on them. Cure them in a warm area for ten days or so and then store in a dry area between 45 and 55 degrees. My crawlspace basement will work perfectly for this. I'm hoping to have squash all winter long this year.
The New England variety of Blue Hubbard squash was introduced in 1909 by the Gregory Seed company. I read that this particular squash was said to have been brought to Massachusetts in the late 1700's. It's definitely been around awhile. I also read that it can be acclimated to a short growing season as long as certain directions are followed. If it can grow and mature here, it should grow well anywhere :)

hand dyed yarns

I've gotten most of the finn yarn dyed. I've been very happy with all of the colors so far. We had thundershowers move through today and I knew it wouldn't be a good drying day so I spent the day felting soap and going through show boxes. Only 9 days until I leave for the fair and I'm really starting to get nervous that I won't have everything done!

These beauties are taking over my center vegetable garden. They are the loveliest shade of yellow and they are hardy for sure. Any ideas what they are? I did not plant these........one must have come in with another plant and established itself. They have a white tuber that can be pulled up easy when they are small. Once they get tall, and these are about 5 to 6 feet tall, it's almost impossible to pull them up. I dug most of them out this spring and my goodness, they have filled back in and doubled over the summer. I'd love to dig them up and plant them along our boundary line. They would make a beautiful hedgerow.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Preparing for the rain................

It's been incredibly hot......90's yesterday. 80's today. Everything is drying up. We really need rain and according to the weather folks, we are going to get some. Tropical Storm Hannah is heading up the east coast and bringing with it several inches of rain and strong winds. It should reach us by tomorrow afternoon and the heaviest rains late tomorrow night. It's a quick mover and should be out of here by sunday afternoon. Anywhere that faces south has been closed or covered to protect it from the rain. Some places tend to get muddy quickly especially around the manure pile so I pushed that way back with the tractor and turned the big compost pile. Most of the day was spent doing chores so I didn't have time to dye yarn today. Here's a photo of yesterday's colors.
I love this Avacado green and the variations that we get as the dye pot is exhausted. The gray was a new color this year and I like it. It looks very nice with the garnet behind it. I hope to have time to do more on sunday afternoon.

As I was checking on everything this afternoon, I snapped a few photos:

New pullets lounging in the shade of the woodshed

Pigs enjoying excess tomatoes and cucumbers

"The Hogs"

Blue hubbard squash growing over the duck house

I've never grown blue hubbard squash before. I had no idea how far the vines would spread, how many squash we would get or how big they would get! The vines have completely covered the duck house and the squashes are growing everywhere. There is a huge one that grew into the wire on the back of the duck house and just keeps on growing. Some of these things have got to weigh 25lbs already. I hope they ripen before the frost hits.

Squash everywhere!

Tomorrow is Farmer's Market day. I'm hoping the rain will hold off. We haven't missed a day since we started. Folks really look forward to it now. I know I do :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dye day.....

I pulled out my dye pots last night after dinner and sorted my entire box of wool dyes. I have a nice selection of colors and it's great fun choosing what colors to use. It seems my yarns never come out exactly the same from year to year using the same dyes and I always have a few surprises before I'm finished :)

Wool dye assortment

I normally use Cushing's Perfection Dyes which are an acid dye used for animal fibers. They are manufactured in Kennebunkport, Maine. The dyes are sold in these great little dark yellow envelopes containing a plastic bag with a measured amount of powdered dye inside. The instructions are right on the front of the envelope and are easy to follow. I went to the shop last year and it was so much fun buying dyes at the store. They have great wooden slotted shelves filled with these little packages of dyes. It was hard to choose which ones to buy....I wanted one of each! Lets just say I have plenty of dye to last me quite some time :)

I use just two dye pots and do small amounts so it takes me quite some time to dye all my yarn but I really enjoy it so I don't mind. Today we dyed 14 skeins. I love the colors Mom and I picked out and will set another two pots on the stove overnight. We are having beautiful weather and the yarn is drying quickly on the porch.

Once the dyed skeins are dry, I'll re-skein them so they are nice and fluffy. We tag them individually with our Tylerfarm tags and we sell them in old wooden apple boxes. It creates a nice display.

Wednesday's dye results

This old drying rack works great for drying the skeins. I found this rack at the local antique/junk shop (The chicken barn - someday I'll post about this place, it's great! ) for $6.00. It will hold about 30 skeins. It needs a new dowel but other than that in was in great shape.

Hopefully I'll have more dyed yarn photos to post tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An old family heirloom - a new family treasure

I am the proud new owner of this beautiful Great Wheel. It has no brand name, no signature, no date or identifying marks of any kind. It is a one of a kind, gorgeous piece of art that was handcrafted by a local craftsman. It is a combination of red oak and mahogany. The wheel itself is just two pieces. It has been oiled to perfection and smells wonderful. I was not looking for an additional spinning wheel. I have two Ashford wheels that I love and am very satisfied with. My Ashford Traveller is my wheel of choice when I have a chance to spin.

Ashford Traveller

It wasn't so much the look of the wheel that drew me to it but the history that goes with it. I'm not sure of it's age but I do know it was made locally and used by local families. I don't have all the facts as of yet but I am hoping to gather as much information as possible and compile them in a journal of sorts to keep with the wheel to pass on to my future generations. I am hoping to meet the couple who were the last owner's at some point. It really is a treasure and I feel so lucky to have become the new owner.

After minor repair work the wheel is in perfect working order. I purchased it with the intention of using it to spin on. I have never spun on a Great Wheel prior to today. It is very different from spinning on a conventional wheel. You stand at the wheel rather than sit on a chair or stool. I found I really enjoyed standing at the wheel. It's a very quiet, patient, process. I have it in front of my large picture window, overlooking the farm. A lovely place to stand and relax and I think spinning on this wheel would be a great stress reliever. I'm hoping once winter arrives, I'll fine more time to practice at it. I thought my beginning yarn would look like rope but much to my surprise, it wasn't half bad :)

My first attempt at spinning on the great wheel

Speaking of yarn, I picked up 75 skeins of our finn yarn from the processor last week. It is so soft and just has a wonderful feel to it. The dye pots are going on the stove and we will be busy until we have a rainbow of beautiful colors. Pictures of the finished products coming soon........

The gladiolas just keep coming :)