As I hinted the last blogpost, the baby chicks have hatched. The timing was less than ideal. Having baby chicks hatching the day I'm packing for a show, was not in the plan. Let alone leaving young chicks for my Dad to look after. Chick 6 in particular gave us all some nervous moments.
Hatching started on Monday
I went to bed and there were 2 eggs that had tiny cracks.
And woke up to this
Chicks 3 and 4 followed with very little fuss.
Eggs 5 and 6 however, did not proceed so smoothly. By Wednesday morning however, with the help of a little warm water to raise the humidity of the shell, and soften it, we had chick number 5. Leaving us with egg 6, the chick was definitely alive in there, when you held the egg to your ear you could hear tapping. Come Thursday morning it had finally made a crack in the shell. By then however, Mummy Chicken had decided enough was enough and had taken the hatched chicks off in search of food. Luckily we had broody chickens to spare so the egg went under a surrogate for a few more hours. By mid afternoon it was out, but surrogate decided she was none to keen on it, and original Mum wasn't in the mood to let it recover from hatching either. So one very cold chick ended up being tucked down my bra to warm up. Mum and I ended up cuddling it for the first few hours of life, until the chickens went to sleep that night and I could tuck it back underneath her.
Friday morning I left for Wonderwool, not felling very hopeful for poor chick 6, however it's stilll with us. Definitely a little worse for wear after it's traumatic entrance to the world, but it's eating. It's feet are unfortunately curled up, it can apparently happen when the chick is trapped in the egg for too long, it wobbles about the place, but can run around with it's brothers and sisters. Some people try to splint them, but the legs and feet of bantam chicks are tiny, and in our set up any splint would probably fall off very quickly.
They're now out and about in the cage underneath their house. Mummy chicken is finding them lots of lovely things to eat. Gwen is back to being besotted with the babies.
She spends hours staring at them, and any hint of walking up to see the chicks is accompanied by a big black dog!
Chick 6 now looks like this. In total there are 3 who I think are Polish/Pekin crosses, 2 are black, and 1 is a yellowy-grey. The other 3 are pure Pekin, 2 are black and yellow, and one is brown and yellow. It will be very interesting to see what colour adult feathers they all develop.
I had a great time at Wonderwool, and will have lots of work to do before Woolfest in 2 months time. Many thanks to those of you who came by the stall. There will start to be new things in the shpo in the next couple of weeks. I'm taking a few days off from dyeing, partly to do some admin, but also beacuse I need a bit of a break. I hope you'll think it will be worth the wait!
That's what it feel like anyway!
All of this, everything I need for the stall at Wonderwool, stock, display stands, boxes, cloths, all ended up in here.
Otis is packed completely full, floor to ceiling of stuff. There was a slight nervous moment when I wasn't certain if it would all fit...
And thankfully it didn't rain, in fact I am rather warm and sticky, slightly cooler temperatures would be nice for tomorrow when I have to do the entire process in reverse.
Those of you who follow me on twitter, or are members of the Ravelry group will know that my baby chickens are hatching, there will be pictures when I get back, as they deserve a post written when I'm capable of coherent thought, prepare for an overload of cute fluffiness, even teenage boys have appparently been reduced to soppiness by the sight of them!
I woke up this morning, put the kettle on and drew the curtains.
A small colourful round object was sat in the middle of the drive. I went out and picked it up, looked up the drive, and spotted more of them...
There was a trail of woolly eggs, leading me up the drive.
The trail went past the bee hives, and shed storing the equipment, then took a left through the orchard.
I had to move the eggs off the bench so I could sit down for a rest, I should have had my mug of tea before venturing out!
The Woolly Bunny had evidently worked her magic in the apple trees as well.
The bunny had even been to visit the chickens, I tried asking Frooome what she looked like, but he was keeping very close beaked.
The trail then led down the steps, past the "bus stop"/Hawaian Beach House, and across the drive.
Through the arch, and down in to the vegetable garden.
Somehow she got inside the polytunnel, and took a close look at the Peach tree.
Finally the trail led up the steps, and in to the dyeing caravan. Where magically all the stock for Wonderwool had appeared.
don't think much of her stacking and organising though...
In reality my eggs are giant balls of British BFL pencil roving, that will be on the stall at Wonderwool. I bought a test quantity a few months ago, as I wanted to see how it dyed, and wether the dyeing would make the fibre too hard to spin. I was really pleased with the result, despite being such a thin strip of fibre the drafting is easy, and I love the subtle variegated effects I can acheive. You could also knit straight from the ball using chunky needles, each ball is apparoximately 130m, here's a link to a Ravelry pattern search for that weight yarn, and yardage, there are over 500 patterns in the database!
I dye the fibre in giant skeins, which would be a nightmare to work from, so my Dad has very kindly spent the past few weeks winding them in to balls so that they're ready to use. There's at least 200g in each ball, and they will be £18 each. If you can't make it to Wonderwool, then fear not, there is more base fibre in stock, I will be dyeing some for the online shop very soon.
As for the caravan, if only the Easter bunny had magiked all that fibre, it's been lots of hard work over the last 2 months, in total I've dyed and carded well over 40kg of fibre. Once all the stock for Wonderwool is emptied out, the final bedroom is being stripped of it's bed, and some more shelves installed. It's always at it's worst just before a show as I have to put all the dyed stock somewhere, I'm hoping to bring very little of it back home!
Spring has definitely sprung around here. The daffodils have been out for a while now, and the trees and hedges are just starting to show hints of lime green fresh leaves.
The field behind our house belongs to the local farmer, it's been empty all winter, but a few weeks ago a small flock of sheep were moved in. They do scan the sheep to check which ones are in lamb, and these ones had all been identified as having twins.
Our local breed is the Welsh Mountain. It's definitely hill country round here, and you need a sheep that can survive harsh weather, with very little human input. The sheep spend most of their time up on the hills, and the grazing is poor quality so you need a lot of land for not many animals. You couldn't use the land for anything else though, so it's actually a pretty valuable part of our food production in the UK.
Come spring, the sheep are brought in to fields closer to the farms. Lambing usually happens around April, as by then the worst of the winter has passed, and the grass is growing again. The sheep lamb completely unassisted, every morning recently I've been looking out of the window and seeing more lambs bouncing around. The BBC hosts a lovely show called Lambing Live, filmed live in a sheep shed, during a week of lambing. There the sheep are usually having twins or more, and sometimes need assistance during birth. The lambs themselves need a bit more tlc during their first few days so they're kept inside.
No such luxury for the Welsh Mountains, they lamb outside, usually with single lambs. The grazing round here is poor, so twins usually grow a bit more slowly than the singletons who don't have to share their mother's resources. The farmers actually prefer single lambs to twins, very much not the case in a more lowland system.
The lambs are very curious about everything, they'll often stand and look at you through the fence, humans are still interesting, rather than creatures to avoid. Their Mums think differently though, and getting near them to take pictures is a definite challenge.
The lambs themselves spend lots of time either eating, playing or sleeping. The field is usually full of curled up bodies fast asleep.
It can be a bit disconcerting, as when you glance out of the window all you see are lambs that look very much like they're dead.
Get too close however, and a little head pops up, and the lamb runs off at great speed to find Mum.
And just to give you a sense of perspective, this looking down on our house from the sheep field. I think it give you a sense of just how steep the land here is. Last winter we had great fun sledging here, usually baling out well before the bottom as you build up quite a sense of speed!
We're having an informal Spin Along over in the Ravelry group, everyone's welcome, and you're not too late to join in.
There's lot's of great information being shared, and plenty of advice being given. One of the things that popped up was that a few people loved how batts looked, but were unsure about how to deal with them. Many spinners now learn using combed top, so getting the fibre as a giant rectangle can be a bit daunting.
I suggested that I could put together a video showing some tehcniques, and quite a few people seemed really keen to see it.
One afternoon later, and it's ready. So even if you've spun from batts before, there might be some new ideas to try out. As well as telling you how to split up the batt, I've also tried to say what sort of yarn the different methods will produce, and why you might want to use them in different circumstances. It's not the definitive list of how to spin from batts, and if you do it differently then please share how you do it, the lovely thing about this craft is that you never stop learning, and I love seeing new-to-me ideas.
Each section was done in a single take, and it was self filmed using my regular camera on a tripod. As a result it's not the highest quality production, however, it's free, and I think it's clear enough for you to get the idea.
We do own a proper video camera, I need to wrestle it back from my little brother. If you like this video, and can think of other things you'd like to see me demonstrate, then I'll have a go at filming them.
If you like looking at videos to learn new skills then there is a collection of tutorial videos right here on the Hilltop Cloud site, these are, in my opinion, amongst the better videos out there. Not every tutorial on You Tube is well filmed, and whilst I am a firm believer that there are no spinning police, there are several that really aren't the best method to use, and some, particularly drum carding ones, that are just wrong.
This is a really hard post to write, but I know Cav had a lot of fans on the blog, as someone in my Rav group commented, she was a special chicken, and many of you had been following her adventures since she was an egg.
Unfortunately Cav was knocked over on the road outside our house yesterday and killed. She didn't come home to bed last night, and despite hunting everywhere I couldn't find her, by then it was dark and bucketing it down. This morning I went out looking for her again, and spotted some feathers on the road. I went down to double check, and unforrtunately she had been hit by a car or lorry.
She was never the most intelligent chciken, and always tended to run around in a panic. Once she got on the road she never stood a chance, the road is busy, the vehicles travel past our house quickly, and she was hit on a bend. I would never want anyone to risk an accident that might result in human life being lost just to avoid a chicken.
That being said, I am desperately sad this morning. Cav was my favourite, from her speedy hatching, to the way she proudly laid her first egg out in the open, and her ability to work out when Mum was digging from the other end of the garden, she was full of character, and I will miss her.
So long Cav, you made every day a little bit brighter.