Hidden Bend Retreat, Romney West Virginia

Romney, WV

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Astronomy Pictures

One of the great things about living here in the mountains is the dark skies for Astronomy. Here are a few screen grabs that I've taken in the past few year. These were taken using a Mallincam Extreme video camera that is specifically created for astronomy. The images are shown on a TV monitor and can also be captured on a computer, these are the images from the computer and while impressive, not nearly as good as what you see on the TV monitor.

Most times when I'm using the camera, I also broadcast the images on the NightskiesNetwork where on a given night, you may have multiple people showing their live images from around the world. You can use chat windows to talk with each other and have had some really interesting conversations. Many times, viewers without telescopes or cameras will ask you to move to an object they've wanted to see. Here's a link:


Dumbbell Nebula

Orion Nebula

Ring Nebula

Andromeda Galaxy

Triangulum Galaxy
Sculptor Galaxy
Flame & Horsehead Nebulas
 This last image is from a couple of years ago when the Asteroid YU255 was visible. Not overly impressive to look at, the story behind the image is interesting. This is a capture from a broadcast on NightskiesNetwork where at one point, over 175 people were watching the broadcast. There were people from North America, Europe, and Australia watching. I was getting coordinates on where the asteroid would be visible in a few minutes time from someone in Canada, I'd enter the data in my telescope mount, then set the camera to record and see what we got. I was able to capture short shots of the asteroid as it moved quickly through the field of view a number of times and the "applause" on the chat channel would break out when a capture appeared that had caught the asteroid. Really amazing how the technology has changed in the last 10 years for home astronomy.
YU255 Asteroid

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Peg Loom Rugs

We recently bought a peg loom to use for weaving rugs and wall hangings. It's a really simple device, literally a board with some evenly spaced holes and dowels. Ours is called an American Peg Loom and they're made at an alpaca farm in Virginia near Ruckersville.

 We used rug yarn made from the fleece from our alpacas, we used the "seconds" from all of the boys and mixed it in to one batch, then had the yarn made. The alpaca fiber is spun around a cotton core to give yarn that is about 1/4" in diameter. Seconds are the fleece that comes from an alpacas neck, legs, and other areas outside the blanket which is the prime fiber. The fiber is the back and sides and the blanket and seconds are usually kept separate at shearing. The nice thing about rug yarn is that you can use virtually any fleece you have as the core provides the strength and stability for the yarn while the fleece is just wrapped around the core. We had our yarn made at a local fiber mill called Capon Bridge Fiber Works. They did a nice job and can process fiber to any stage fro batts to roving to finished yarns or material. They also have capability to make felt out of all of the scrap yarn that falls out along each step in the processing.

Here's the rug after about 15 minutes of weaving. You can see that weaving is basically just running the yarn between and around each of the dowels, then doing the same in the opposite direction. The trick is the warp yarn that is a long piece of yarn or other string that is about the length of your finished object. This warp yarn is attached to the dowels and then after the rug yarn  or weft yarn is added around the dowels, the warp is pulled up allowing your rug to slide down on to the warp. Sounds more complicated than it is.

Just getting started

Here's the rug a bit further along laid on the table to show the warp yarns that are strung through the rug and coming out to the left. Eventually, the warp threads are tied to each other to hold the weft yarns in place. Then the rug can be washed to allow it to felt a bit so the yarns stick together and give the rug a bit more structure.
A bit further along

Donna is stretching the rug to make sure it's the right shape and size before we tie off the ends. You can see the variation in the color of the rug that came from mixing the fleece of our alpacas all together. Plan is to make a couple of these and use them in our kitchen. Took us about 2 hours to make the rug and next year, we'll probably use a bit more of our fleece for this type of yarn as we really like using this loom.

No, she's not praying.

Deago decided that this would be a good time to try out the rug.

Deago approves

Morning on the Mountain

Donna and I really like to spend some time outside in the morning by the fire. Great time for a cup of coffee and to read the newspapers or many magazines that seem to pile up. We don't have access to local paper delivery here so we usually read a couple of papers and news sites on our Ipads. Here are some pictures from the fall. Some mornings we have the dogs out with us and other mornings we'll let the alpacas in to roam around.

Donna studies her magazine
 Fall colors still in evidence for these two pictures.
From the deck looking towards Romney

Alpacas out of the barn
 In this picture, you can see a metal roof we've added on the side of the alpaca barn, we were in the process of adding sides as well and we'll use this for hay storage. Hope to be able to get about 100 bales on site that will last us nearly 8 or 9 months.
Nice fire!

Potomac Eagle Train Trip

Last fall, Donna and I rode the local Potomac Eagle train through the Trough. The trip is about 3 1/2 hours and leaves from Romney and heads south along the South Branch of the Potomac River through an area known as the Trough, then stops and returns to Romney.

The train ride is known for it's scenic route and the chance to see Bald Eagles on most every trip. The eagles live and nest in the Trough area. The track is a little used portion of the railway so when eagles are spotted, the train will slow or even stop to allow you to take a look or get some good pictures. There is an open gondola car on most trips that you can ride in for about 30 to 45 minutes at a time. The rolling stock and engines are vintage and from all over the country, most from the 50' and 60's I believe.
From the gondola car as we head back to Romney

Our group in the private car
We went with a group of people from town that we've met through the owner of a local Jewelry and craft boutique called Anderson's Corner. There is also a branch of the store in Moorefield, WV. If you get out this way, please stop in and say hi. Patti Anderson is the owner and a really nice lady, very active in the community with charity work and working to promote the town all the time. Once in a while, she sponsors a trip for her customers, friends, etc. with an opportunity to buy discounted tickets for the trip. We had our own car for the trip, some nice refreshments and a beautiful day for it. We were right at the end of the foliage season, not quite as bright as a week or two earlier but still nice.
Nice view through the Trough

Nice bald eagle flying by

Bald eagle waiting for fish?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Alpaca Mowing Crew

 We like to let the alpacas in the yard to keep the grass/weeds down. These pictures are from October and you can see how their fleece has grown out since they were sheared in April. They'll have a nice, full coat for winter.

Gold, Hershey, Toby

Canoe Trip Through the Trough

The South Branch of the Potomac is only a few miles from us and offers some neat recreation and sight seeing. This post includes some pictures of an area of the river known as "The Trough". It's about 3 1/2 miles lone and has relatively steep and high (for east coast mountains) on both sides. No roads through the area and you access by floating through on canoes or on a train that passes through. Will put up a separate post for the train trip but if you're in the area, the train or canoe can be a lot of fun.

These pictures are from last July when my sister Patti and BIL Mark made a trip through the area. We had a great visit and nice float through the canyon. We rented canoes from the Trough General store and as part of their package, they take you about 4 miles down river with your canoes. You then float at your own pace back towards the store and land there. Took about 4 hours and we saw all kinds of weather- nice and sunny when we started, had a pouring rain storm that we could see following us up the river, and then back to warm again. We were on a week day and didn't see anyone else on the water while we made our way.

We did see some local wildlife, pictures aren't as good as we hoped but got a few shots. The big draw is to see bald eagles that live and next in the area. They say that you have 95% chance of seeing eagles as you go through. We were lucky because a train came through and caused a couple of the eagles to fly out over the river. Here are some shots of the trip/area.

Donna Leading the Way!
 Here's Donna leading the party as we're starting out. You can see how slow the water runs at many points to make this a nice and easy trip. No whitewater to deal with although there were a few spots where because of low water, we had to get out and float the canoe through some ankle deep water.

Dave supervising the trip
The second picture is looking back up towards the launching point.

Next is a shot of Patti and Mark as they make their way through an area of low water.
Patti and Mark through the rapids

Heron looking us over
Heron on his way

 The next picture shows a Heron we saw that was standing on the rocks as we went by. He was obviously not interested and took off over the river so I was able to get a picture of him flying.
Freight train startles the eagles

This picture shows a freight train as it came through the trough, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them. The last shot shows an eagle that took off from one of the trees that was near the train. I'll post some better shots of the eagle in a post about the train trip we took through the trough but did get at least this one.

A great day and lots of fun.
Eagle flying overhead

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Alpacas at the Door

I'm continuing to try to add some posts from last year that I never got around to completing. Here's a picture of the boys soon after they arrived at the house. We let them in the back yard and they do a nice job of keeping what little grass and weeds we have trimmed. They're also curious.

 Here they are peaking in the basement sliding door. They were attracted to the window at first by their reflections, not sure now if they're looking for the alpacas inside or just their normal curiosity. They sure look odd after they've been sheared.

Here's a picture of them in the back yard taken from the deck on the back of the house.

Dreamsicle Arrives

5/17/13 Sad news, it turns out the Dreamsicle had a fungal infection at some point in the past and it spread to his brain. We started noticing some small tremors and he was never able to gain any weight. He died on Mother's Day- very sad. We miss the little guy!

Last Wednesday, we bought a new alpaca, his name is Dreamsicle although we'll call him Dreamy most of the time. He's about 7 months old and looks to be an eating machine, his head has been in the hay trough most of the time since he arrived. He's considered a Light Fawn color, the name Dreamsicle is because he has a small, almost orange area of fleece on the back of his neck. It was more pronounced when he was a baby and the light color is a little wider now. He's in good health and we have him penned with our two smallest/youngest boys, Hershey and Toby. They seem to be getting along, a little bumping and pushing when let out to run a bit but normal for boys. Over the next few weeks, we'll slowly introduce him to the 3 larger boys but will most likely keep him separated for a while just because of the size differences. Here are a couple of pictures after he arrived and started to settle in. That's Toby behind him in the first picture and Hershey looking on in the second. Donna is getting ready to leave the small pen. She watches the boys like a hawk, we have a web cam mounted in the barn so we can check them when they are inside.

Here's one more picture of a little guy we saw at Bear Garden Farm called Pepe. He has beautiful fleece but has a problem with an open abcess on one of his legs. Vets are working it through and if his prognosis is good, we might think about bringing him here to Hidden Bend Retreat for some extra care. More later on his story. We love his coloring!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Alpacas are Here!

We brought home our 5 alpacas on May 4, we borrowed a small horse trailer and made the 40 minute trip from Bear Garden Farms in Capon Bridge, WV to our place. Here are a few pictures of the boys as they settle in. Hershey decided to take a dust bath not long after he got here. The second picture shows Waylon, Deago, and Jasmine eagerly watching the new arrivals. The alpacas had been sheared about 2 weeks prior to being brought here. There are 5, all boys. Their names are Delorean, Gold, Hershey, Toby, and Tuxedo. We had a sixth alpaca, Leo, as well that was too young to make the trip with others. He joined us a couple of months later in July but sadly, died on Labor Day- the vet was unable to determine the cause of death. He had some problems after he was born and had issues gaining weight but seemed to have turned the corner. We buried him on the hill below the pasture and Donna and I miss him. That's him in the last picture at Bear Garden the same day we brought the others home.

Hay for the Boys

Brought in the first load of hay for the alpacas today, we should be bringing them home in a few days (May 4). Alpacas can be very picky eaters when it comes to hay. These are mixed bales, mostly Orchard Grass which seems to be the grass of first choice. They like hay from the second cutting, it's softer than the first cutting we're told. We've found a local supplier for hay that looks like it will fill the bill.

Alpaca Barn Completed

Here are a couple more pictures of the alpaca barn, painted and ready for occupancy. We installed a StallSkin in the back half of the barn. This is a heavy fabric that is laid over a bed of small gravel. The fabric will allow moisture to wick through to the gravel below but should provide a nice, smooth surface for the boys to lay on, we'll see.

Barn Electric

I dug a trench for the electric line to the new barn and have the electric panel installed. Will be used for lights and for power to the electric fence wires. When we built the fence, we put two electric wires, one about 6" from the ground and the other at about 3' off the ground. These are on the outside where the alpacas won't be able to reach but will hopefully help with any predator that might try to get inside.

Rainbow over the Alpaca Barn

Couldn't resist sharing this picture of a rainbow off in the distance towards the town of Romney.

Alpaca Shearing

We spent a couple of days in April, 2012 at the local farm where we bought our alpacas. Terrie, at Bear Garden Farms, invites all the owners of the alpacas that are being boarded (agisted) at their farm or potential owners to help for the two days. There were over 120 alpacas sheared and it's quite the process. Everyone is assigned a job and the shearers are kept busy. Key to progress is keeping a fresh alpaca on the mat for the shearers so they are maximizing their production. The shearer, Matt Best, came in from New England and makes his rounds to multiple farms throughout the spring and summer.

Alpacas are usually sheared in the spring in this area of the country, this gives them some relief from the heat over the summer but gives the fleece time to grow back in for protection from the cold in the winter. The pictures show one of our alpacas, his name is Tuxedo, being sheared. What a difference once he's done!

Here is the fleece from Tuxedo on a skirting table at home. This is when the fiber is sorted and bits of dirt and vegetable manner are pulled out. The next picture is some of the fiber after it has been run through a carding machine and formed in to a batt. This aligns the fibers all in one direction to get it ready to be spun on the wheel in to yarn. The last picture shows some of the yarn that we're spinning on our spinning wheels.