Archive for the ‘Challenge’ Category

Dreaming for the Future

January 8, 2014

The wind is howling outside, throwing frozen rain against the side of the house. Inside after doing chores, I am warmed by the old fence posts I cut this afternoon with the chain saw. The wood pile is long gone, so I am scavenging wood off the farm now. Luckily, there is enough, for now at least. I am resourceful if nothing else.

A blustery day is the perfect time to gather the seed catalogs and to start dreaming. I would love to have an abundant garden, but living in the High Desert makes that a challenge in the best of years. Still, I am starting with a good base. Fairy God-daughter gifted all her Fairy Godmothers with an enormous quantity of seeds left over at her work last fall, so there are only a few holes that need to be filled in. And the dreaming is the best part of gardening! No weeding, no hungry insects or loose chickens to prey on the tender plants, no weather to contend with. Just the beautiful pictures of ripe produce, promises of the bounty that could be mine. Even an over-abundance of zucchini isn’t a scary idea at this time of year. Bring on the vine ripened tomatoes, tender carrots and beets smelling of fresh dirt, peas and green beans waiting to be steamed lightly and enjoyed. Luckily, I just put a lamb shoulder roast in the oven to cook with some of the bounty of potatoes from Rainshadow Organic’s generosity and a few carrots, onions and a bit of oven-roasted garlic from the freezer, so all the dreaming will be well fed in an hour or so.

I also dream of planting an orchard. I love fruit. Even as a child, during the season I would forego spending my allowance on candy in deference to fresh cherries. I have planted several fruit trees over the years, but gave up when Sweetie kept insisting on using the weed whacker around them (he girdled and killed at least 10 trees). I have one lone sour cherry tree that survived the carnage, having lost apples, peaches, pears, apricots and the sweet cherries. I have never gotten any cherries from it but remain hopeful. It bloomed well last year, but we had a cold spell immediately afterwards. I keep thinking I should move it to try to find a place where it will be happier but probably I never will. I am going to be more aggressive about pruning it this spring, to get rid of the abundance of dead wood that it has (which is destined for the smoker).cherry blossoms close

I look at blogs of gardeners in warmer climes and envy them their early springs and long summers. In cleaning out the barn (which hadn’t been done in a few years, and has yielded some lovely compost), I have created some new garden beds. I think that they will be devoted to growing squashes this summer. I have 3 kinds of pumpkins to play with, and several other including summer and winter types, plus a couple of ornamental gourds. A girl can dream, right? All the existing beds will be well fertilized as well. I am ready to get my gardening mojo back after a lull of the last few years.

I do need to report a successful foray into the making of hard cheese! It isn’t finished yet, since it needs to age for at least a couple of months, and it won’t win any beauty contests. I jerry-rigged a press using the steamer basket of my Revereware. The sloped sides of the steamer means that my cheese isn’t pretty, and the sides aren’t pressed as well as the middle. A little chunk broke off when I turned it (all right, I helped it escape into my mouth!) and it already tastes like cheddar! I am super excited about the possibilities. The goat girls are all showing signs of definitely being pregnant, so in a few months I will need to step up my cheese-making efforts. Hard cheese is the best way to preserve milk, at least as far as I’m concerned. I have an idea for a better press , but hadn’t solidified my ideas when this one was ready. I also made ricotta from the cheddar whey with some very interesting results. It didn’t make nearly as much (12 ounces vs the 1+ pound I got from the mozzarella whey), and the texture is much finer, making a smoother ricotta. I don’t think I’ll notice a difference when it’s cooked, though. pressed cheese

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New Kids on the Block in the New Year

January 4, 2014

I am not sorry to put 2013 in my rear-view mirror. I know that I am up to the challenges that life throws my way, but I am tired of doing it. If I were not such an eternal optimist, I would have curled up in a ball. Not saying I didn’t do that a bit, but for the most part I kept on dealing with reality.

So what made 2013 so hard, you might ask. Lack of work was huge (and continues to be, at the moment). It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to keep me busy. I have never understood folks that can’t find things to do to keep themselves amused. And with the animals and property to care for, there is never a shortage of chores that need doing. But with no paying job, that means no money coming in to take care of those things that require something other than physical labor. I am continuing to look, but am getting very tired of hearing that I am over-qualified. I have never understood why an employer would not want to hire the most qualified person they can get for the money they are offering.

But my biggest challenge was the one that went on for way too long – no running water. My home runs on a cistern. Just before Thanksgiving, it ran dry. When it refilled a few days later, I could not get the pump to hold a prime and run. Yikes! This coincided with a deep freeze that gave us some of the coldest temperatures the area had experienced in a very long time (down to -30!). I spent several weeks bringing home jugs of water from my Mom’s house, and accessing cistern water for the animals via bucket brigade. That is a workout that I am not eager to repeat, but at least I was up to the work. Just call me Pioneer Woman. Just after the Solstice, a friend’s boyfriend came over and got the pump figured out. Yay! I filled the animals waterers, and went off to celebrate with a soak at the Turkish tub.

But of course, that was too easy. When I got home from my soak, we discovered that there was a major leak under the house. So the pump got turned off again, and I went into major denial. I am not afraid of plumbing repairs, mind you, but I had a severe case of the “I don’t wanna’s”. Luckily, my friend offered up her boyfriend again, and a few days later he came back. There was a major break in the metal pipe that ran from the hot water heater to the kitchen sink. He ended up cutting out the old pipe and replacing it. Yes, I could have done it, but it was so nice to be taken care of! The only down side was how much water emptied out of the cistern during the 6 or so hours that the leak went undetected, but time will remedy that.

I know that in much of the world having no running water is the norm. In the grand scheme of things, being without was merely an inconvenience. I am lucky that my Mom lives close enough that I could go over to her house to fill up all my jugs and take a hot shower. Being in an old mobile, I long ago developed the habit of entering winter with at least 15 gallons of jugged water in the house to guard against those times when the pipes freeze for a day or 2. At least I had a roof over my head, and enough wood to battle the cold. My ordeal made me even more thankful for what I do have, and on a quest to figure out what I can do to help those that don’t. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of being homeless with children in the winter around here.

The New Year has started well. A local farm, Rainshadow Organics, was also hit hard by the deep freeze, which hit their stored potatoes. Rather than seeing it as a complete loss, they invited the public to join them on January 1st to go through the potatoes, sorting out the rotten ones and taking home as many free potatoes as you could carry. These were several beautiful heirloom varieties, and I made the drive out and joined the crowd. Folks were also invited to help sort out spuds that would be donated to local food banks. This is my loot, after I had given away several pounds to friends and family. I don’t know that any will survive to be planted in the spring, but I will be ordering some different varieties to grow.

potatoes from Rainshadow Organics

After I got more potatoes than I could really carry, I went off to gather up 9 gallons (yes, gallons) of raw cow’s milk that had not been picked up from the dairy. No sense in letting it go to waste, so I am playing at cheese again. I have already made mozzarella and ricotta, trying a little different method for each, and now I am ready to try my hand at cheddar and jack. It is nice to have such a quantity to work with, but a bit daunting too. I am being good about keeping notes on what works, which I think will be even more important with the hard cheeses since they have to age for so long before you can taste them.

Yesterday I went to Laura’s. I took her potatoes and cheese and picked up the newest flock members (the “New Kids” referred to in the title) – ducks. A mutual friend was disbanding his farm, and she had collected 13 ducks from him. They are mostly Runner crosses, which makes them a little odd looking, but the females should be laying soon. After doing a bit of research online, I got one of her Muscovy males (the white duck below) to try my hand at breeding moulard ducks for the freezer. We thought we had sorted out 4 females for me to bring home, but in talking with their original owner last night it turns out that the big, beautiful black is also a male. I don’t want the girls to have the option of breeding with him, so I will be separating him out of the group in the next day or so. They are all a little skittish right now, what with 2 major moves in as many days, so I will give them a little time to settle down. I am very excited about having duck eggs to work with, especially for pasta making. Yum!new ducks

I have also made a decision about recreating the shawl that was stolen last summer. I’ve been working on some commission spinning this fall, and talked the woman into letting me do a yarn with silk noil added in. It turned out very pretty so I made up some for me too. I am doing one ply of the black alpaca/black American top/dyed silk noil and one of the American top, both spun very thin. This is a very dense yarn, so I’m not getting the yardage that I’d hoped for, but I think it will be spectacular knit up. This was the last yarn I made in 2013, about 350 yards. Since I will need about 2000 yards, I have quite a bit of spinning left to do! I’d like to get it done in time for Fair, so I have my work cut out for me. I’m hoping I have enough of the black alpaca left (fingers crossed). black alpaca silk lace

I don’t make resolutions for the New Year, but I do set goals. So my goals for 2014 are:

  • Continue my weight loss/get healthier campaign. I am very happy that I have managed to maintain my weight through the holidays. Didn’t lose any more, but I didn’t put any back on either, so I count that as a win.
  • Blog more often. I compose wonderful posts in my head as I’m doing other things, but then I get in front of the computer and do other things. I admire folks that blog every day or so, but that isn’t me. Once a month is too little though, so I will just say “more often”.
  • Make more art. I have tons of art supplies that sit unused, and I need to stop that. It doesn’t have to be great art (and I’m pretty sure I can promise that it won’t be), but I need to get over the idea that it needs to be. I started this morning. Don’t count on seeing any of it shared here, unless I get really brave.
  • Sew more. Again, I have tons of supplies that sit unused. Even if I just make a pile of quilts to donate to the homeless shelter, it would be good to clear out some of the stash.

What are your goals for the coming year?

newyear

 

 

November is Over?

November 30, 2013

Where does the time go? I have every intention of posting at least weekly, then I turn around and a month has gone by. It’s not that I don’t think about it. I compose wonderful blog posts in my head, as I’m driving or when I’m getting ready for bed, but somehow they just stay in my mind. Good intentions don’t count for much, do they? Oh well, it is what it is.

Not that there’s much to share with anyone these days. I’m still looking for work (I am so tired of hearing that I’m either over-qualified or don’t have the necessary skills for the jobs I apply for!).  Finances are becoming very challenging as a result, but I am working hard to stay positive that things will work out in the long run. It’s hard to do some days, but so far I am managing for the most part.

I did the “30 Days of Thankfulness” thing again this year. Especially when times are hard, I find that it is helpful to make myself recognize that I have a lot to be thankful for.  Some days have been a struggle, but I do know that I am very lucky in many, many ways.

  • Day 1 – I am thankful that my back is stronger than it was this time last year. I wish it was stronger, so I could get more things done, but I am thankful for the improvements that have happened.
  • Day 2 – I am thankful for all the “extra” kids in my life, and that they choose to include me as a spare mom even though we are not related by blood. I love them all!
  • Day 3 – I am thankful that I have the skills and ability to feed and clothe myself, and I am thankful that I live in a time and place where I can choose to let others do the necessary work.
  • Day 4 – I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, when so many do not. It may not be the house of my dreams, but it keeps me warm and dry.
  • Day 5 – I am thankful that I am an optimist by nature. Some days that trait comes in really helpful in my efforts to keep moving forward.
  • Day 6 – I am thankful for my Mom’s good health.
  • Day 7 – I am thankful for old treasures rediscovered as I worked in my bedroom, and the strength to let some stuff go.
  • Day 8 – I am thankful that I know that the depression lies.
  • Day 9 – I am thankful for my spinning group. I always come away from our meetings feeling inspired and appreciated, which is a really good combination.
  • Day 10 – I am thankful for my friends, both the ones that I see and talk to often, and the ones that I see rarely (or have never met in real life). I am blessed to have so many people who truly care about me!
  • Day 11 – I am thankful for my supportive sisters.
  • Day 12 – I am thankful for the animals that share my life and let me share theirs. They help me retain some semblance of sanity, and help to keep me fed and clothed.
  • Day 13 – I am thankful that, as dysfunctional as my family may be, we would never qualify to be on Dr. Phil.
  • Day 14 – I am thankful that I am able to string more than three words together at a time, usually with all the words correctly spelled and with proper punctuation. I recognize that these are not skills that all possess.
  • Day 15 – I am thankful that I am still young at heart (even if my body doesn’t always agree).
  • Day 16 – I am thankful for friends that can make me laugh, and good food shared with them.
  • Day 17 – I am thankful for snow up in the mountains (where it belongs), and sunshine while I do chores.
  • Day 18 – I am thankful for nights of peaceful slumber and sweet dreams.
  • Day 19 – I am thankful for rainbows, especially on dark, dreary days like this.
  • Day 20 – I am thankful for my children. They have brought me so much love and happiness, and have taught me so much. I am very proud of all 3 of them!
  • Day 21 – I am thankful for the sun on my back as I scythe cut grass to feed the sheep.
  • Day 22 – I am thankful for my ability to teach others to knit and spin. Love spreading the addiction!
  • Day 23 – I am thankful that Daughter’s friends have continued her traditional “Friends Thanksgiving”. I wish I could be there this year.
  • Day 24 – I am thankful for my wood stove, which warms the house so well on these cold days.
  • Day 25 – I am thankful for the apple trees I am growing from sprouted seeds found in an apple this summer. They make me smile at possibilities.
  • Day 26 – I am thankful that I am able to distract myself when things aren’t going well.
  • Day 27 – I am thankful that my pantry is still well enough stocked that I can have a normal Thanksgiving tomorrow. Pies are in the oven now.
  • Day 28 – I am thankful for the loved ones sharing Thanksgiving with me, and for those that aren’t.
  • Day 29 – I am thankful that I was able to totally avoid the idiot that didn’t even see my van when he pulled his car out from the stop sign. Damn my cloaking device, and thank goodness for good reflexes and working brakes!
  • Day 30 – I am thankful for the potential that the future holds. Fingers crossed that all the new changes are positive ones.

I also took part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I had a hard time getting going with the story that insisted it wanted to be written this year, and for most of the month I was way behind. But I managed to catch up last night, and finished this morning. I will admit that it is a pile of random words, not a cohesive story by any stretch of the imagination. I bounced from chapter to chapter, character to character, never really getting to the point at all. But since the point of NaNo is to get 50,000 words on the page, I can say I managed that. Not pretty words, though I do think I got some nice descriptions going from time to time. I don’t know if it appeals to me enough to go back in later and edit it. I do enjoy the exercise though, and think it’s something that everyone should try at least once. And I can proudly say that Kid the Elder blew it out of the water, writing over 100,000 words this month (his top 8 days alone added up to over 50K!).

Thanksgiving was nice, but quiet. It was me & Mom, Kid the Elder & his wife, and her dad & brother. We do it at Mom’s house, but we do most of the cooking. I did the turkey (home-grown, 21 pounder), stuffing, gravy, rolls and pies (peach and pumpkin). I decided on the rolls last second on Wednesday night and threw together a dough that sat out covered on the washer overnight. They were spectacular, light and fluffy, with just a hint of a sourdough flavor, which I think could only have gotten better if I’d had more time. For the pie crusts, I used Erica‘s suggestion to use a different alcohol in the traditional vodka pie crust. Why had this never occurred to me before?? I can’t use vodka in anything, since I am massively allergic to it (I know, I’m weird!) So, since I had bourbon on hand from the bourbon apple butter I made this summer, I used that. Wonderful! It wasn’t identifiable as bourbon, but it added a very subtle spicy note to the crust, and the crusts were very flaky. I’m thinking of possibilities now; tequila for a key lime pie maybe, or a spiced rum maybe for a pear pie. I didn’t get any pictures of the feast before we started, but none of us walked away from the table hungry. Mom did a chopped Brussels sprouts saute, Kid the Elder made mashed potatoes enhanced with my oven roasted garlic, and DIL’s dad brought his baked beans. I always cook at my house and transport things to Mom’s when they are done. She doesn’t care for the smell of roasting turkey (I come by my weird honestly), so when it’s done cooking I whip up the gravy and drive on over. Luckily, she lives just a few miles away, and even though I totally forgot the stuffing at home and had to call Kid the Elder to bring it over, the turkey was still warm when we finally ate an hour later than originally planned. It works for us. She isn’t stuck with all of the mess, and neither am I. Kid the Younger is working a new job and didn’t make it home for this holiday. In fact he had to work on Thanksgiving day. Am I the only one who hates the idea of Black Friday spreading in to Thursday? I doubt that I am, but I’m afraid that the big box stores really don’t care what we think, and they offer enough good deals that folks think they can’t afford to miss, that the idea of having one day dedicate to spending time with your family is a goner. I used to love getting up really early on Black Friday and having my shopping list all ready to go. But when they moved the start times back to midnight or earlier I gave up. I didn’t even look at the ads this year.

I’ll leave you with an old picture of Maggie. I lost her this week (listeriosis). She’s not the only one that’s gone. It’s been a rough month.Maggie close up

Ongoing Changes

October 24, 2013

Life is change. I know that, but that doesn’t mean that I always appreciate it. Over the years I’ve had too many changes imposed on me, with no say in the matter and while I can work with necessary change, change simply for the sake of change irks me. At my old job, they would often shift our desks around simply because they could, and I always objected.

Things around here are changing too. Some of it is good and necessary. Some of it is annoying. I will spare you pictures of the crap-tastic pallet and recycled wood fence I built by the pole barn. One of the neighbors (I’m assuming the idiot next door) had complained to the County, even though nothing had changed in over 12 years. I have a feeling that he thought that after Sweetie passed I would sell off and move, and when that didn’t happen he decided to stir the pot. I got a letter from the County about 18 months ago, with a “solid waste” complaint. When I called to ask about it, I was told that the dead cars in the yard had to be removed, and my pile of trash bags. I don’t have regular trash service; I just make a dump run as needed and it was about time for another. So, dump run accomplished and dead cars removed (3 sedans and 2 pickups), I went about my normal life. Until early this summer, when the Sheriff showed up with a summons. He informed me that I would have to pass inspection, which would have been good information to have from the get-go. Again, I asked for specifics on what needed to be done to make them happy. This time I was told that there was too much “stuff” on my front porch, and that would need to be cleaned off. What an adventure that was! After going almost 30 years without being stung by anything, I was stung by paper wasps 5 times. Each reaction was worse than the one before, so now I’m a little paranoid about being stung again. I called for my inspection.  The County guy ignored everything I had already done, and decided that my pole barn needed to be completely cleaned out, or a sight-obscuring fence needed to be built. Argh! How hard would it have been to tell me that in the beginning. It was now the heat of summer, and I was unwilling to risk any more wasp stings. Luckily, I was able to convince him that I needed an extension until we got enough cool weather to quiet the wasps down, and I was able to get enough of a fence built to appease him.

Once that was out of the way, I started looking at my front porch. A hole had developed in the decking at the top of the stairs, and I obtained enough decking to replace all of the floor. Unfortunately, it has developed into a much more complicated job. After looking at it carefully, I’m not sure how the porch is still standing. Turns out, there is no real structure under it, only piles of wood that are holding the deck up in places. The posts that hold up the front end of the roof over the porch aren’t even attached to the porch, just resting on it! So that means that I will need to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it from the ground up. Times like this are when I miss my dad; he would have been a big help in doing the job right. Oh well, at least he trained me well.

The freezer will be getting new residents in a couple of days. In early September one of the feed stores I deal with got in a bunch of chicks. I got 40 Cornish cross chicks to raise and share with Laura. I brooded them in half of the barn, then moved them all outside to a spare pen. Up until last week I’d done a great job, without a single loss. In a week, I have lost 5 of them. It is frustrating to put all the work and food into them and lose them so close to the end, but the remaining ones are looking mighty tasty. They take their trip to the butcher on Saturday, so hopefully they’ll all last that long. I know other producers can have losses up to 30%, so mine aren’t too bad in the grand scheme, but it’s hard losing them this late in the game.line up at the buffet

I’ve been working at the carder too. I’m slogging my way slowly through the commission alpaca fleeces, washing fleeces while the weather is being cooperative. As a break from all the natural color, I carded up some rainbow batts from some leftover Romney cross fleece.  I did each of the colors separately, adding in some sparkle.Individual colors

Then I split them up and thinned things down for another trip through the carder. Ready for final carding

I’m really happy with how these turned out. They are very cheerful in person. Three of them are being bartered for a Christmas present, but the other 6 will be sold if I can resist spinning them up myself. The pictures don’t do them justice.Finished batts Twisted close up

I’ve been knitting on socks. I had started these yellow ones quite some time ago, with the intention of doing some infinity cables on the legs. They had been on the needles too long, and I was having problems wrapping my addled brain around the cables, so I just finished them off plain so I could free up the needles. Then I jumped in to knitting a pair off fairly quickly, as barter for my massage therapist. Didn’t get them done in time for her last visit, but she’ll be back soon and I’ll have this pair done. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the yarn she left for me so I can get another pair started too. We haven’t worked out an exchange rate yet, but I need to get to work on Christmas knitting too.  finished plain Becky sock

I have also found my hand cards. Sweetie had packed a tote that was on the front porch. In his normal fashion, there was not much rhyme or reason to the things in the tote. I found beads, a steak knife, a flashlight, my cards and an assortment of fleece bits. Most of the fleece was toast, but I played with the cards and some of the fleece that I indigo dyed back in late April. I made up batches that were pure undyed, pure dyed and 3:1 ratios (both directions). I’m thinking a new hat and matching gloves or mittens might be in order, but I haven’t settled on a pattern yet. I’m toying with the idea of doing some color work, but will see what I finally settle on. I do like to colors, and the progression. hand carded variation

The biggest change I’m undergoing right now, I suppose, is self-imposed. Back in late April, I changed my mindset about food. I have had issues with my weight most of my adult life. My weight had held steady for the last 20+ years, within 5 pounds. Didn’t seem to matter what I ate or how I exercised. I’ve always had a fairly good diet. I don’t eat candy, I love fruits and vegetables, I’m just an easy keeper. When I paid attention to how many calories I was taking in, I was holding steady at about 1200 calories a day (most indications are that I should have been losing at least 10 pounds a month at that input).  Until the last few years I wasn’t seeing any real negative issues. My cholesterol levels were fine, and my blood pressure was ok, and so I didn’t worry about my weight too much. Then, a couple of years ago, my bp sky rocketed. In early April, it went as high as 170/100. That is not a number I’m comfortable with. While a simple diuretic was able to control it, I now have no insurance and wanted a chemical free way of keeping it down.  In April, I moved to a mostly raw food diet. I tried doing a juice fast for 3 days, but my body quickly informed me that I needed protein. So I listened to my body. I juice once or twice a day, I can eat whatever I want (just not all of it). Before I dried Myrtle off (for breeding), I was using raw milk and making raw milk cheese. I’ve cut way back on the amount of carbs (bread, pasta, etc), but if I want them I can have a reasonable serving. So far, I’ve lost about 25 pounds, and more importantly, my blood pressure is back to normal! Even if my weight hadn’t changed at all, it would be worth the effort (little as it is) just to have my blood pressure back where it should be. I don’t feel like I’m dieting, which is huge (as any of you that struggle with your weight will understand). I still eat out occasionally, I’m cooking well. I’m not sure how I managed to reset my mind & my relationship with food, but this is one change I am thankful for. I’m not losing pounds quickly, which is fine since I couldn’t afford to replace my entire wardrobe all at once. But my clothes are fitting a bit better, and I’m getting a few compliments when I’m out in public, which never hurts the ego. Still a long way to go to get back down to what most would consider a “normal” weight, but I’m good with that. I may never get back to “normal”. I am more concentrated on feeling better, on making my body last as long as possible. I would like to enter my 60’s healthier than I am now, with less pain. I’ve got this!

 

 

Su-su-summer-Time

July 23, 2013

Anyone else remember that song? Sorry if I planted it in your ear…

Summer so far has been dry and hot, prime conditions for fires especially when we get thunderstorms. The local firefighters are getting more of a workout than I’d like, but are doing a great job.

I finished up the Tour de Fleece in good shape. I accomplished most of the goals I set, and my final counts were over 2 pounds and 1.7 miles of yarn created. I’m still working on the final 2 goals that didn’t get done (spinning the silk cap on the Golding spindle and the moorit Romeldale/alpaca/camel down/silk blend, which has been much slower coming together than I had hoped). The blend is turning out very pretty; the different shades of brown really add a lot of depth to the overall color.   And since I added in spinning up one of the braids that I dyed before Fiber Market Day, I would definitely put this year’s Tour in the Win column. Here’s the final picture I posted on Ravelry, summing up my Tour. Day 23 collage

Last week, Mom finally made the decision to let her old Bull Terrier Ruth cross the Rainbow Bridge. She had been going downhill for a while, but it is always a tough decision to make. Since 1978, Mom has owned 4 Bullies. Ruth was the oldest at 14 years, 7 months. She was born the day after my Dad passed away, and was the last remaining dog from her breeder. This is an older picture of her, but this is how I will always see her. She was a great dog and her passing will leave a big hole. Ruth

Our County Fair starts in a week. I have entered 2 of the yearling ewes, 2 of the ewe lambs and 2 of the ram lambs. I am also hoping to get a mozzarella finished up later this week to take in on Saturday. I hate that we have to do things like that so far in advance (fair doesn’t start until Wednesday).  It means a special trip, and things aren’t as fresh during fair as they possibly could be. Not as big a deal for art work and things like cheese, but flowers and baked goods suffer. Oh well, at least we finally managed to get a separate class for the Romeldales. I decided not to enter the goat girls, which turned out to be a very good decision since the goat barn was filled to capacity about 2 weeks before entries closed. If they have nice udders after they freshen next year I will consider showing them again, but there didn’t seem to be much point this time around. Myrtle unfortunately can’t be shown, since I can’t register her even as a grade goat (she is half Nigerian Dwarf, and grade goats have to be from only standard breeds).

I made the decision not to enter the other local fair this year. I just can’t justify the added expense on my very limited budget this year. I will go and visit a time or 2. It was a hard decision to make. I enjoy the fairs, and I like showing at them.

My biggest news this summer is that I was contacted about judging Angora goats at the State Fair. Of course I said yes! I mailed back the contract this morning. Angoras haven’t been shown at the State Fair before, so they will be showing for ribbons only (no premium money this year). Mom has never been to the State Fair before, so I’m trying to talk her into going with me. My judging gig doesn’t start until 5 pm, so we could make a day of it. I think everyone should visit their State Fair at least once!

Going on Tour

June 30, 2013

Once again, I’m taking part in Ravelry’s Tour de Fleece. For those of you that don’t know about it, the Tour de Fleece is an opportunity for spinners to concentrate on their craft while the Tour de France is going on. You set your own goals, hopefully set yourself some challenges along the way (on the days the riders are mountain climbing), share pictures of your accomplishments, and have a chance at winning some lovely prizes. This year, I have offered up a prize from my Etsy shop.

My goals are pretty ambitious this year.

  1. I want to spin enough lace weight yarn from Merlin’s fleece for a spectacular lace shawl (pattern to still be determined). Merlin Day 1
  2. Blend the rest of his fleece with camel, alpaca, and silk (all shades of brown) and spin it up for a sweater. I still need to figure out the percentages, but I figure I will have at least 1 1/2 pounds of this.
  3. I am blending another fleece with the last of my own kid mohair and angora from a friend (69.4% CVM/14.4% mohair/16.2% angora). I’ve made the first pass through the carder with this, and plan on at least 2 more passes to blend the colors and fibers as completely as possible. There is a pound of this. It is amazing how much room it takes up at this stage. Here you can see the fibers filling the tote (wool at the bottom, kid mohair top left, bunny top right. Once I get the batts finished, I will twist them as I normally do and they will fill a single plastic shopping bag, as will the finished yarn. Air takes up a lot of space! romeldale bunny goat kid fluff
  4. I am finishing up a blue & purple roving I dyed a while back on my Golding spindle. Half is already spun up. Golding Day 1
  5. The other spindle project is a pink and purple silk cap, also dyed quite some time ago. It has been hanging around in my vendor booth for too long.
  6. For my challenge days, I want to create and spin a couple of art batts. I don’t get the appeal of art yarns, but I figure this will be a chance to stretch my boundaries and infuse a little more color into my Tour, which is pretty focused on natural colors.
  7. I am also hoping to make some head way on the gossamer merino/silk which has languished on the elec-spinner for way too long. It requires a lot of concentration to maintain the grist of this yarn, since a few extra fibers make such a huge difference when you’re only using about 20.

If I get done with all of those, I also have 7 alpaca fleeces that I am spinning on commission. There isn’t a huge rush on those, but they will be paying for my firewood this fall, so that is good incentive to get them finished! I’m still not positive how this woman found me (she was given my e-mail address by a yarn shop a few hundred miles away, in a city I’ve never visited), but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I enjoy commission spinning, once I can help my customer figure out exactly what they want in the way of yarn. Many knitters have no real understanding of the yarns that they work with, and it can be challenging to help them understand the possibilities when you are starting with raw fiber. Alpaca is a lovely fiber, but it has little to no memory, which can make knitting with it problematic. I will be trading out some of her fiber for wool, to give the yarn some recall, and we have discussed adding a bit of silk too. I would love to be able to make a living just spinning.

What else is happening, you ask? Well, Kid the Younger is now a college graduate! I am so incredibly proud of his accomplishment. He will be going on to graduate school, but this is a major step. His fiancée has been a huge support for him, and gifted him with a dozen bacon roses and a jar full of “life advice” from several friends and family members, which he read aloud at his graduation party. Many were funny and heart-felt, and he choked up when he got to the one I included from his big sister, “Dance Like No One is Watching”.

Black Sheep Gathering was the following weekend, and despite being slower than normal coming out of my annual depressive state (which has ended about the first of June normally, but has drug on a lot longer this year) I managed to attend. If I hadn’t been the contact person for the Spinner’s Lead I might have bailed on the whole idea, but not showing up wasn’t really an option. Over all, I’m glad I went. I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of friends that are also going through things this spring, and I think that helped all of us to feel better. The Spinner’s Lead was a rousing success, and I need to write up an article about it for the next issue of the Black Sheep Newsletter this week. A couple of us will be revising the rules slightly for the future, to try to encourage more people to take part.

I need to get to work figuring out my entries for Fairs this summer. I’m still not entirely out of my funk, which makes planning for the summer a bit of a challenge, but I know that I will enjoy it when it happens. Sometimes getting out of my own way is the biggest challenge of all!

The Muse Spoke and I Jumped

June 5, 2012

I believe that we all have the ability to be creative in one way or another. However, as children there are constraints put on our creativity. “Color inside the lines”, we’re told. Especially as women, we are taught to take care of everyone else, and maybe if there’s any time or energy left we are allowed a few moments to take care of ourselves.

Listening to the Muse is important. It feeds our soul, recharges our batteries, nurtures us. Too many adults wait to have time or ignore this important aspect all together. It doesn’t matter what your creative outlet is. Singing, dancing, painting, writing, whatever. Figure out what is right for you and do it. Don’t wait for time, make time. If the kids are little, enlist them. Teach them to enjoy the things that make them happy. Buy good supplies; you are worth it! I’m not sure where or when I learned this lesson. It certainly wasn’t at home growing up. But by the time I had kids I knew that I had to create. How the Muse spoke to me has changed a bit over the years. I’ve sewn, quilted, painted, written a bit. Now I mostly spin, dye and knit. Ideas flit through my mind, and I try to jot them down if I can’t jump right in. More ideas than I can possibly accomplish in my lifetime, but that’s ok too.

Last Wednesday night the Muse spoke pretty forcefully. I tried to tell it there wouldn’t be time to finish a shawl before we left for Montana. After all, the re-do of the wedding shawl took 2 weeks to knit, and I had a pattern for it. The Muse insisted, so I pulled out a needle and cast on. This afternoon I finished the last point of the edging, and this is now blocking on my bed:  It’s not huge – about 66 inches across the top and 34 inches deep. Even looking at the picture makes me smile, and I’m glad the Muse was so insistent. I will happily wear it at the wedding. I’ve got 24 grams of yarn left, which I’m hoping will be enough to make a pair of short fingerless mitts for someone.

I forgot to share this picture of the third bargain amaryllis blooming last time I posted. Enjoy, and listen to your Muse!

Drawing Attention

March 6, 2012

Over at the Punkin’s Patch, thecrazysheeplady is hosting a Draw A Sheep Challenge. Not having nearly enough things on my to-do list, of course I jumped in with both feet. She got Lori Skoog (a retired art teacher) to post our first “lesson”, and we were encouraged to start with a blind contour drawing (no peeking at what you’re doing, no lifting the pencil off the paper). I sat down with a fresh pencil and paper this morning before coffee, and I came up with this: (warning – this ain’t pretty!)

 Scary, isn’t it!

So, I moved on to the modified contour. This time we can look, but still can’t lift the pencil off the paper. Still pretty scary looking, but a little more recognizable:

Screw it all, I want to make something I’m not afraid of in the dark! So I did this, which isn’t totally embarrassing:

The inspiration for this little attempt? One of last year’s lambs, a few hours after birth (since no one has gotten down to business yet this year). This was Ida Lynn’s little girl Lydia. I name alphabetically, so this year’s lambs will all have names starting with the letter M, and the honor of naming the first lamb of the year goes to my niece, who just celebrated her 7th birthday. When it shows up, the first lamb this year will either be Mary or Manny

Not much else to share today. The weather is being very fickle. It’s 60 one day, snowing the next. Sometimes both in the same day. It’s the time of year when I want to start gardening, but I know better. We’re months from semi-reliable weather. If the wind would pause for more than 10 minutes I might get something done outside, but maybe not. I’m hurting, and it’s hard to stay motivated when everything hurts. But I’m starting to put fibers aside for the Tour de Fleece, and I finished another pair of socks, so that’s something. Lamb news soon I hope!