Friday, 31 May 2013

Busman's Holiday

After a week of cold and wet, it's nice to have a change in the weather. As it is, I spent part of yesterday at work moving flats stored under tables, because they were going moldy from the cold wet conditions.

Monday and Tuesday, however, were just about perfect - dry and sunny and not too hot. I had the two days off, by request, because Monday was the annual shearing day at L'Ourse Qui Danse. Busman's holiday indeed - I traded in a job where I'm on my feet all day for a shearing bee where I'm...on my feet all day. It makes for a long day (8 am when we arrived, and dusk when we left) but it's great fun, great people - and great food, as it's a potluck lunch and supper. (Wish I'd taken a picture of the spread). Most of the team has been at shearing before, so it goes smoothly. A whole system in place and a (superhuman) shearer, and all 21 animals got shorn and skirted before supper.

A couple of the younger guys were in charge of catching and moving alpacas. For the ones in the further barn, they have an enclosure of scaffold and snow fence which gets pulled to the shearing site, and works very well. We stopped skirting to watch the parade go by.

They use the same contraption to bring them back again - except this year, one of the alpacas, Cayenne, refused to wait, and bolted back to her barn the minute she was done being shorn. All we saw was a streak of brown, followed a minute afterwards by a guy in hot pursuit.

The boys turn the alpaca over to Tom the shearer and his team. They strap and hold the alpacas in position on the table, while Tom shears and calls the rough grade (quality) of each section. While the animals are down, they also get pedicures and shots.

One person is in charge of collecting the shorn fleece, and turning it and its rough grade over to Johanne (the boss) and her sister. They sort and pack it into bags labeled with the animal's name, grade, and the year, plus keep samples out for their records, and the mill.

The bagged fleece comes to the skirting team (that's my group!), who have lots to do:
weigh and record quantity of each grade, and record color, texture, staple length, lustre, crimp, and guard hair presence in the first-quality fleece,

then pick hay, second cuts, and off-texture bits out of the fleece. (And ooh and aah over the texture, of course).

We get supervised, because sorting's an important job, and because there's a lot of temptation to just take the fleece home and roll in it. Chantal's dog and Johanne's cat are on duty here. 

And at the end of the day, we had a studio filled with bags of fibre!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Gloves and Gardening

I'm still in what a friend referred to as 'alpaca purgatory', knitting-wise. Which is to say that I'm still knitting beige and brown alpaca for Johanne. Two pair of gloves blocked on my day off yesterday, and right now I've got a hat on the needles that has the same pattern as the beige pair.

Don't think I spent all of my day off playing with yarn, though! It was decent weather, so I was out in the garden for part of it. A friend from class dropped by in the afternoon with some spare plants she had started - a yellow pepper, an eggplant, and a couple parsley. I traded her a slip from the gooseberry bush and one from the currant bush. With rain expected a few days this week, I got the new plants in the ground, plus did a bit of edging and pruning, and picked up the grass clippings for the compost. The lettuce and the beets are up in the veg patch, the beans are just coming up, and possibly the carrots - only it's hard to tell those from weeds until the second set of leaves come in!

I also spent more time than I'd like squishing green worms on the roses. Sigh. That time of year again. The buds are filling out nicely, though, and if we have good weather, I may even have my first rose out this week!

Monday, 13 May 2013

What Not To Wear - Garden Edition, and Farewell Ash Trees

I know I was complaining about the gnomes at work...but it can get worse. There are some pretty questionable ideas about garden decoration in this area that I kind of wanted to share. (I will apologize if these happen to belong to anyone reading this...)

Don't know if I mentioned before, but my neighbours managed to acquire light-up flamingos and tulips. Yeah.

Down the road a piece, one also finds the following:

A random tiny toadstool, about to dive off a rock.

A collection of garden statuary that looks to be the outdoor equivalent of dollar-store kitsch figurines.

And a polar bear in the middle of a yard where all the plants grow in concrete-edged circles...
Sometimes I feel like an intervention might be in order.

I took pictures of the ash trees lining my street. This is probably their last week.

Probably they've been there as long as the buildings here have. But they've been doing badly - only a few branches are leafing out this year, and what with the emerald ash borer beetle around, they've been marked for removal.

The other side of the street is already cut, and looks bare.

I'll miss the classic canopy overhead - it'll take years before the replacement trees get big enough to look shady and substantial.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Hi-ho, hi-ho...

...It's off to work I go! Actually, scratch that. The last thing I want is that song stuck in my head, given that there are several shelves at work devoted to lawn ornaments. Someone thought bobble-head garden gnomes might be a real cute idea, if you can believe it.

Two days of 'official' work now - full-time from here through July. Mostly so far it's been a round of unpacking and placing plants, trying to help customers, and watering. But a few impressions so far:

- It's a long day when you have a 9 hour shift, and close to 3 hours of travel every day.

- It's really true what our nursery plants prof said - plants (especially shrubs) dry out really fast in the garden centre. The watering is almost a full-time job in itself, and this is just a Canadian Tire, not even a commercial nursery. We do have some sprinklers, but not everything is covered.

- Different CT stores get plants from different sources, and decide on their type and quantity. And this store has some neat stuff. A variegated plectranthus, which I hadn't seen, for instance, and a little euphorbia like the 'Diamond Frost' cultivar for hanging baskets, but with leaves that are burgundy-black with a green edge. Also a whole rack of native Ontario plants in biodegradable pots. Tropicals will be coming later too. Mother's Day shopping will be very easy.

- I'm a little surprised (but happy) that wearing my steel-toes and walking for 8-9h per day is not giving me blisters or making my feet too tired.

- I am super-impressed at how well people working there know locations. I'm still at the 'well, I think it's a row or so away from the shovels and things' stage. Most everyone else is at the 'oh, that's in aisle 23' stage - even for things not in their department. I have a lot to learn.

- Oh, and evidently work can sap your brain. I took my knitting on the bus, finished the hand and one finger of the glove on the needles...THEN remembered that the reason I had put it down a few days ago was that it was a right-hand glove - and I already had a right-hand glove done. It was the left I needed. Now I have to rip back to the base of the thumb and move the gusset...tomorrow. Bed calls, since I have an 8-5 shift tomorrow, and that means getting up at 5:30.