Archive for the ‘Spinning’ Category

Missing In Action No More

July 11, 2014

Getting used to working again has been rougher than I imagined, especially because I am now working the graveyard shift. The hours are midnight to 8 a.m., which actually work really well when you are also trying to run a small farm. The biggest challenge is sleeping while trying to have something resembling a life. As with many things in my life, this is a work in progress. But there is much to share and catch up on, so let’s go!

When they offered me the job back in late April, I had let them  know that there were a couple of long weekends in June that I would need off. One, of course, was Black Sheep Gathering (more on that later). The other was planned by Kid the Younger as my birthday present. He sent me down to Southern California to visit with Sweetie’s sister and her little family. I have talked about getting there for ages, but it never quite made it to the top of the To-Do list. No more excuses! I drove over to his place in Eugene on the last Thursday of May and he drove me up to the airport in Portland and off I went. Sistah collected me at LAX way past her bed time and I finally got to see their sweet little house, complete with guest house. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the bounty of hand-knit stuffed animals my Wonder Niece had decorated my bed with! All were created by her; she goes to a Waldorf school and at the tender age of 9 is already a wonderful little knitter and a budding spinner. My traveling projects were a pair of socks and my Golding spindle with the yarn I am making for a wedding shawl. When WN asked if she could try my spindle I said sure, figuring I’d take off what she spun since it needed to match what I was doing. A quick lesson in how to handle combed locks and she was off and spinning like a champ. I really can’t tell where my single leaves off and hers starts, so it will all be incorporated into the shawl.  India spinning for Liz shawl

Huntington garden

My spectacular Sistah

my refuge

The patio where I spent a great deal of time relaxing

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

view from lunch

The view from our lunch table

I had a wonderfully relaxing time. Sistah and I visited the Huntington Gardens on Friday, walking about 3 1/2 miles. I was threatened by a bunch of teenage geese when I wanted to use the bench they were sitting by, but I won the battle of wills. We did a whirlwind tour of the artwork too. Saturday we visited a local yarn shop so WN could pick out some yarn that I could make her a pair of socks from. Sunday some other cousins were in town, so we had a mini family reunion and I finished off the day swimming in their pool. Monday I was headed back home, via a quick trip up to the Griffith Observatory (closed for the day) and then lunch at the beach. All in all, a perfect vacation! I must have come home looking refreshed, because for about 2 weeks afterwards all the store clerks I dealt with called me “Miss” instead of the usual “Ma’am”.  The trip home was a bit stressful; my plane was an hour late leaving LA and then hit head winds, so I was a bit late to work that night, but it couldn’t dampen my spirits. Southern California has a special place in my heart. I was born in San Diego and finished high school in La Habra. It was nice to be back for a visit. The back yard was perfect; orange trees all along one side, the pool glistening, a Meyer lemon tree against the side of the guest house. We could not have ordered better weather. Even the smog I remember from when I lived there is (mostly) a thing of the past.

While I was off relaxing surrounded by love, Kid the Younger, his Fiancée, and their roommate came and worked on my house! I came home to a much cleaner kitchen and dining room. I have found a few things missing, but their efforts were greatly appreciated.

Before I left, one of the brown ducks had indeed escaped again from the pen, and when I found where she was hiding I discovered an established nest. The weather had warmed up enough for her to be successful if she persisted, so I gave her a chance. The nest was in the middle of an old roll of chicken wire, so I hoped that she would escape being noticed by any possible predators long enough to hatch out her brood. After 30 days, she presented me with 6 healthy ducklings first duckling Here they are a month later, growing fast. I set up a nursery area in the corner of the duck pen using my skirting racks.  growing up 7214 I have since released them into the general duck population, since I needed the panels for a nursery area for the Muscovy in with the chickens. Yesterday she hatched out 8 of her own. muscovy babies

Black Sheep Gathering was wonderful as always, with a few bothers. The Romeldale show went well, as did the Spinner’s Lead. There were, however some rather disturbing reports from both the wool show and a class. I have not been able yet to track down which teacher it was, but apparently the people taking the class were told that the CVM breed came about when the wagon trains came across the country and allowed their sheep to breed with the Big Horn Sheep. Yikes! And the wool judge (Judith MacKenzie) wanted to perpetuate the myth that CVMs and Romeldales are 2 separate breeds and  any fleeces labeled with both names should be disqualified from the purebred class. It’s bad enough that many judges want to say that fine wools are tender because they will break if handled too roughly, but it is very harmful when a supposed expert doesn’t even have the facts straight. Next year we are hoping to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the breed, with special demonstrations and classes, and I’d love it if all the entries in the Spinner’s Lead were made from Romeldale yarn (there will be a special prize for the best one that is).

One very nice thing that I have discovered is that, since the kids are still nursing, I can forego milking for several days without any real drop in production. Even being gone for almost a week didn’t make a real effect. It is nice to be able to take a break now and then. And with a trip to the State Fair coming up towards the end of August, weaning will be put off for a while yet.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but it will come to me later. I’m hoping to check in again soon. Until then, stay well!

 

 

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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

 

 

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!

 

 

Paying Attention to the Little Details

August 26, 2013

We all get caught up in the day-to-day banality of our lives and let the little details slip by unnoticed. It’s one of the things about spending time with little kids that I miss, their ability to be completely absorbed by some minor aspect of life, and it’s something I try to do at least occasionally. I had the opportunity to be reminded about this a couple of times in the last week, and I’m glad I slowed down enough to pay attention.

The first detail caught my eye as I rounded the front corner of the house, headed to turning on the hose so I could fill water troughs. The mound of dirt got my attention first, then I noticed the hole. That is my daughter-in-law’s hand for scale. After much reflection, I think a neighbor dog must have done the damage. The cats don’t normally dig like that to go after a rodent, and I have seen no evidence of anything living in or near the hole. Guess I’d better fill it in before I twist an ankle in it.new hole

 My spinning wheel (a Schacht Matchless) has been having some issues lately. That led to my 2nd little detail. I needed a screwdriver to work with, and grabbed this little brass one that Sweetie’s dad had given me several years ago. I have always enjoyed using it, but never really paid attention to it until this week. screwdriver There was a little noise when I used it, a slight rattle. Instead of ignoring it (as I must have in the past), I investigated. And I love what I found. Not one, not two screwdriver2, not three, screwdriver4 but four screwdrivers,  screwdriver4all nestled together like one of those Russian dolls. I love it! The biggest is about 6 inches long, and the tiny little one is just over an inch. I’ve always loved good tools, and this one just moved up a notch in my favorites list. And with its help and a little TLC, the Matchless is back to behaving beautifully, and I am finishing up the last of the Merlin blend yarn that I started during the Tour de Fleece.

I have gotten a few farm chores done also, including shearing three sheep. Manny and Meriadoc went from shaggy boys to nearly naked. I love their colors, but I still need to really look at their fleeces and assess the quality. I did discover that I messed up when I banded Meriadoc and only caught one of his testicles. This would explain some of his behaviors (very pushy with his pen mates, and occasionally head bashing wood panels). He has never shown any inclination towards being aggressive towards people, so if he stays here I will probably leave things as they are.Manny yearling face onMeriadoc yearling face onManny and Meriadoc shorn

I also sheared the old lady of the flock, Bridget. At 13 years old this spring, she has earned the right to retire, especially since she gave me such a nice replacement ewe lamb this year. I think she looks pretty good for such an aged sheep, and she is now doing “Ashe duty” and getting some grain as a reward. Bridget after shearing 2013

Speaking of Ashe, she is doing well. I am trying to hold her weight steady where it is now (don’t want her getting too fat), and she and Bridget have full run of the barn pen.  She is fairly mobile, even if she does look funny getting around. I hope that she will regain some more flexibility in her front legs, for comforts sake, but she seems content. As I’ve said all along, as long as she is willing to keep up the fight, so am I. Her lamb, Navid, is doing well also, and is a friendly little guy, always ready for a chin scritch.

Navid face on

I am getting ready for State Fair later this week. My mom has never been, and since I will be judging the Angora goats in their inaugural showing this year we are going to make the trip over the mountains together. I have booked a hotel room so that we can relax a bit after seeing all there is to see. Should be fun; I always enjoyed taking the kids to the Fair as an “end of summer” treat. Then next month, we will be enjoying the circus. Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey are coming to our local fairgrounds, so Kid the Younger and Fiancee are coming over to go with mom & me.

No word on my missing shawl yet, but the response I have gotten online has been wonderful. My picture has been shared all over the world, so whoever took it will not be able to wear it in public without being spotted. I have made peace with the fact that it is gone, and will dig out the book so I can make myself another one (in a different color so I don’t get accosted wearing it out!). Someone shared how a shawl of theirs made it home 6 months after being taken, so I won’t give up hope, I just won’t waste any energy thinking nasty thoughts about the person who took it. I prefer to fill my life with positive thoughts and actions. Not always possible, but I try.

 

Over Fair

August 5, 2013

I enjoy going to and showing at our county fair. Most years I actually show at ours and the next county over, but this year money is a bit tighter and I confined myself to just my home county (I will go visit the other one). It it an enormous amount of work getting everything in and set up, but I am very passionate about sharing my animals and my crafts with the public. When we are not showing or taking care of the beasties, we are usually in the sheep barn spinning. I am usually one of the first people in the barn in the morning and almost always the last one out at night.

This year, my friend Correy brought in some brand new lambs, born the day before fair started. Her rams escaped 5 months ago and 2 of her ewes had babies as a result. They were absolutely adorable, and a crowd favorite for sure. I hadn’t used up all the pens assigned to me, so they were at the end of that row, close to where we were sitting. It was fun watching “Lamb TV” all week. My sheep did fine in the show (we had Romeldale classes finally), and I got plenty of spinning done. The cheese I wanted to enter didn’t happen, but there is always next year.

Unfortunately, my fair experience this week was marred on Saturday night by some heartless person. I had brought in a few of my hand-knit shawls to display in the barn. While I was talking to folks, someone helped themselves to my big red Neibling. I could not have missed the theft by more than 5 minutes. I am hoping that it was grabbed by a little kid and I will get it back as soon as the parents realize, but I know that this is not terribly likely. I filed a police report immediately and told them the value ($1,000. One cop said “That’s a lot of yarn”, to which I replied “No, that’s a lot of time and talent”). I have posted the picture on Facebook, Craigslist and Ravelry (I figure the more eyes looking the better). I am heart-sick, more over the fact that someone would take it than over the loss of the shawl. I can knit another one, and from my notes on Ravelry I even know about how long it will take.  Of the 3 shawls, it was the one I could most afford (emotionally) to lose. But it also is the shawl that I wear most often and that I have gotten the most compliments on. I will not let this experience ruin my trust in the basic good nature of most people, but I am not likely to bring my hand-knits back for display in public again, and that is sad because I love sharing what I do. So please, keep your eyes open, on the off-chance that it shows up in your neck of the woods and can be brought home where it belongs.Neibling

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!

Dealing With Death

April 24, 2013

Not the cheeriest of titles, I know. But this time of year, that is where my mind goes. Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of my beautiful Daughter’s passing, and in less than a month it will be the 4th anniversary of Sweetie’s passing also. For most folks, spring marks the beginning of things. For me, it marks ends. The passage of time has not made it easier, and I am a mess a lot of the time though I do a decent job of hiding it from most folks.

It is also an unfortunate fact that, as a farmer, I have to deal with death more often than most people do. It is simply a part of the life that I have chosen. I know that some people don’t want to think about the more unpleasant parts of my life style, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you choose not to read this post. I promise to get back to happier subjects next time.

Some years are worse than others. A few years ago, I grew to dread going out to feed, as it seemed that more often than not there would be a dead animal to deal with. Lambs dropped like flies, it seemed, and ewes too.

Inesh after Malcolm napping in a sunbeam  at KelliesThe first picture is Inesh just after I sheared him before breeding season a couple of  years ago. He is the father of all of last year’s lambs. Next is Malcolm as a lamb, then Merlin.

Since November, I have lost him and my other big ram, Kirk. They had been fussing with each other for a while, and I can only surmise that they caused each other some internal damage since they died within a week of each other. This month, I lost both Merlin (last year’s bottle lamb) and his twin Malcolm. Fine in the morning, dead when I went to feed in the afternoon. In reviewing my books, I have had problems with all of their mother’s lambs.

So, what does one do with a dead animal? I have always chosen to treat them with respect. Used to be, they would go into the ground here, with a pile of rocks on top to keep them from being too attractive to the neighborhood dogs. We have quite the graveyard in the back, including Kid the Younger’s horse (thanks to a good-hearted acquaintance with a backhoe).  My back, however, no longer makes it easy for me to dig that big a hole. So now I take a drive out to federal land and lay them to rest there. It is a solemn undertaking. No radio, my thoughts centered on the animal in the back of the van, words said in thanks to all they have given me. Their body goes back to nature, and I am always amazed at how quickly that happens. Within a month or less, there is little left but bones and fiber.

Most areas do not have an easy, inexpensive way to deal with animals that have passed. There used to be a rendering plant locally, but it closed due to new neighbors complaining about the smells (which were there before they built their fancy houses). The landfill does not knowingly take livestock. Some friends compost or burn dead animals, some donate them to zoos or places that keep large cats or wolves. It is a fact that all of us have to face, that none living survive forever. I am glad that I am able to honor my animals contributions to my life respectfully. I just hope that I don’t have to do it again soon.

On to happier subjects. Fiber Market Day went well and several of the bar code towels went to new homes. Last week, I did a new-to-me show, sharing a booth with Laura at the Small Farm Journal Fair. It is interesting how different things sell at different shows. I sold several of the silk scarves I’d dyed a few years ago, as well as some batts and finished items. We did a lot of demo-ing, and I took Myrtle and Naveed as pr animals. It was a fun show, but being on for 4 days straight was almost more than my poor introvert brain could handle. In addition, on the last day of the show I spent the morning at another venue teaching beginning drop spinning. Sunday I spent recuperating, so exhausted I could barely follow the tv show I was trying to watch.

I took advantage of the fact that I would be gone for most of the day during the show to wean the lambs (that way I miss most of the drama and noise). Naveed was the last to get weaned since he was at the show with me. When we got home, Myrtle joined the other 2 goats in with the wethers, while Naveed went back in the main pen with Ashe and the other lambs. Starting Sunday morning, I have been transitioning Myrtle to a milk goat. It is so nice to have fresh milk for my morning coffee! It has been slow going making the switch, but she gave me 8 ounces yesterday morning and 6 in the evening (as compared to 4 ounces each time the day before). I’ve got a jar of milk in the fridge that I am letting sit for a while to see if I can separate the cream off and make a little butter. Wish me luck! Making cheese will probably have to wait for next year, when I will hopefully be milking all 3 of the goats. All in all, I am very happy with my progress so far. Myrtle has a nice little udder for a first timer, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for Clara and Cloe.

Ashe is doing well, working really hard at getting up. I opened up the barn now that it’s just her and the lambs, and she gets herself outside to enjoy the sun. She still can’t straighten her front legs all the way, so she looks strange, but she can get herself a drink of water on her own and her spirit is unbelievable. She is putting on weight and eating like a horse. Even if she never recovers completely she is an inspiration, and she will be auntie to the lambs as long as she chooses to stick around.

Next up on my to-do list is getting all the stuff I didn’t sell listed on Etsy, so keep checking back there if you are interested in any of the bar code towels, batts or hand-dyed top & yarn.

Surprise!

January 16, 2013

I spend a fair amount of time most days planning blog posts. And then life happens, and days and weeks go by with those ideas just floating around in my head.

Any way, yesterday when I went out to feed, the ewes were not happy with me. Instead of going and buying more corn, I spent the afternoon playing with Laura (more on that in a minute). So they are milling around, complaining loudly that they are starving, that hay just isn’t good enough, that they will keel over and die if I don’t have a bucket of corn for them. Silly girls. It had finally warmed up enough for the hose faucet to work, so I’ve stretched the hose out and am filling waterers while I can, which includes using a bucket to fill the tub in the barn. I am walking back and forth between the barn and the big tub when I spot …. (you ready for this?)… a lamb!

Now, the day before when everyone was sucking down corn as fast as they could, I had walked around behind the ewes, feeling everyone’s udder, to get an idea of who might lamb when. Some are closer than others, but no one feels imminent. As compared to Faith, who is in the barn with Ashe, whose udder is full and has changed to a rich pink color which normally indicates impending babies. The lamb cozies up to Midge, who is still big as a house and whose udder was soft when I checked. She talks back to him and lets him nurse. He is dry and has obviously eaten already, so I pick him up and walk over to the barn. She follows. I open the barn gate, Faith comes out, and Midge and her son go in.

Midges lamb To add to the surprise, when I was snuggling him at midnite I’m pretty sure I felt horns. Both his parents are polled (no horns). Hmmm.

So what fun things was I doing with Laura, you ask? She had called me to see if I was available to go with her to pick up a Craigslist find (a small mangle for pressing her woven goods), and then she came back to the house to card some angora fluff she had gotten from a mutual friend. It was fun, and it will be great to see what she makes with the finished yarn.

I haven’t talked here about why Ashe is in the barn. She is Kid the Younger’s last remaining sheep from the flock that he had from being in 4-H, and I had held off on telling him she was having problems until he was here for his birthday. She has been down, unable to stand for over a month. There was one day where I was afraid she was checking out (she refused food and water), but other than that one day her attitude has been good. She is very skinny (she has always been thin), but eating and drinking well. I put her in the barn with a companion to provide her with as much comfort as I can. At first her companion was Eartha (who has always been my thinnest ewe). They got corn long before anyone else. After a few weeks of confinement, Eartha was getting a bit testy, so I let her out and brought in Faith, who seemed the closest to lambing (ha!). My other big surprise was finding out that, despite her illness, Ashe is still pregnant. She has never had a lamb that survived, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for her and the lamb.

Our weather has been miserable cold, not getting above freezing for days on end. This week is supposed to be back to normal. Living in an old (40 years old) mobile home, is a challenge in cold weather. If I am not careful (and sometimes even when I am), I have to deal with frozen pipes. It isn’t often that I have no water at all, though it has happened. Last week, I had water to my bathroom sink, but not that tub or toilet. The 2nd bathroom had water to the tub. The kitchen had cold water, but not hot. The hose bib was frozen shut. It makes doing things much more challenging. The toilet can be flushed, for example, but I have to manually refill the tank. Buckets of water have to be carried out to the animals so that they have something to drink (not enough snow on the ground for them to eat). It’s not quite pioneer living, but it’s as close as I want to get. I have no illusions about how hard life was in the “Good Old Days”. I laugh when someone tells me they’d like to go back and live at some time in the past. No thanks! I love my modern conveniences.

When I wasn’t dealing with wood and water, I’ve been knitting and spinning. I got the Christmas stocking fulled, finished one prayer shawl for my mom’s church group and started another, and finished the first pair of socks of the year:

Tony April Mara Matt Sue waste (this is about 70% of the ends I had from the Christmas stockings. The dime in the lower right corner is for scale) prayer shawl 1  Bias knit prayer shawl. The dark green is a bulky yarn, the cream is 3 strands of worsted weight.first socks of the year, mohair blend First socks of 2013, from a mohair blend yarn that I had in stash. There is enough yarn left for another pair.

In spinning, I have been working on some yarn spun from one of Faith’s old fleeces. I washed up some of the skirtings from her fleece using the directions in Margaret Stove’s “Spinning for Lace” dvd, and have been spinning them worsted from the locks. It is turning out very pretty, and with 2 spinning dates last weekend I’ve made a lot of progress on the bobbin. I am selecting locks to emphasize the color variations in the fleece.

Faith on St Distaff Day

I also took a couple of minutes to play with my new toy from Santa, a mandoline. Made quick work of some onions and potatoes for a tasty soup.

mandoline in boxmandeline ready to usemandelin cut onions This will get used a lot. Makes slicing so much faster (and uniform).

Hope you are staying warm (or cool, depending on where you are) and keeping busy. Talk at you soon.

First County Fair – Done

August 5, 2012

Home from my county fair. I’m exhausted and sore, but it was a good week. There are folks that I normally only get to see at this event, and it’s always fun to catch up with them and the ones that I get to see more often. I didn’t take any pictures while I was there (sorry) and this will be a short post because bed is calling my name.

I took both of the goats and 4 lambs (2 boys and 2 girls), plus some hand spun yarns and hand knit items, and I am happy with my results. In the sheep barn we had the same judge as last year. I didn’t show then, but I helped my friends show and kibitzed with the judge (we all do, if possible) and he remembered me from that. Last year he took a few of us out to breakfast after all the showing was done, but this year he brought his girlfriend instead, and he had told her all about us. She said we lived up to the hype. It will be fun to have him back in a few years now that we have him broke in.

One funny thing about showing the sheep was that I showed in one class, and my friend Correy (who has the same breed of sheep, except hers are much better animals) entered different classes. It worked out great, because that way I got to win too. She had entered hers as Natural Colored, and I had entered in Other Wool Breeds. The judge commented on it, and I told him it was because we didn’t have a breed class of our own. Manny ended up being Reserve Champion Ram, and Mary was Champion Ewe. He also commented a lot about how much he liked Maggie’s fleece, but he thought she had an issue with her back legs. One of Correy’s ewe lambs took overall champion ewe.

The goats showed the next day and while they didn’t do quite as well we all had fun and the goat people seemed to enjoy having us there. In their class, 6 of the 7 had the same father. Clover’s twin was second, Clover was 4th, and Clara was 6th. I relaxed and quit fussing about leg placement. Even Clover seemed to be enjoying all the attention, getting lots of petting from people walking by.

Of the hand knit items, I took in a pair of socks, baby booties and the Neibling shawl. The socks took 2nd in their class, and the other 2 both took blues. The hand spun yarns did well too. I took in skeins of alpaca, silk, mohair, and the tiny thread of merino/silk I shared last time. I wish the clerks were better about writing down the judges comments since the judging is closed to the public. I have no idea why the mohair didn’t place at all. The others all took blue ribbons in their classes, and I was thrilled to see that the merino/silk got a Superintendent’s Choice ribbon.

When we aren’t showing our animals and helping each other show theirs, we sit in the sheep barn and knit or spin. It’s a great opportunity to educate people walking through on the things we enjoy. It must be working because we had to correct a much smaller number of people this year (I am NOT sewing string on my spinning wheel!) It’s fun to see how different people react. Some are interested in the mechanics of the wheel, others are attracted to the fiber. We spend a lot of time repeating the information over and over, and I handed out lots of business cards to folks that expressed an interest in learning to spin or getting fiber. We also people watch and comment on the outfits that some of them think are acceptable. The first day we had a girl walk by with her friend. She was wearing a short dress and a back pack. The pack was making the back of the dress hike up, and it was already so high that we could see what color her panties were! Really, people, get a mirror and use it, or ask someone you trust to tell you how you look. I don’t want to see your under garments, see through probably isn’t a good idea, and if you’re a little over weight  tight clothes don’t do you any favors.

I get a little rest (starting with not setting my alarm tonite), and it all starts over next week at the fair for the next county over. It’s a more laid back affair, and I’m looking forward to it too.