Archive for the ‘Weaving’ Category

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.

Woven Words

March 10, 2013

Years ago, I had the idea to use a bar code generator to create stripes in woven goods. I finally did it, and I’m pretty thrilled with the results!

There are a lot of free bar code generators available online, so I found one I liked and typed in what I wanted to say. I then traced the code straight off the computer screen and figured out how wide each stripe was. This is a judgement call, so I can’t be positive that they say exactly what I intended when woven up (the bar code reader on my phone has a hard time reading the stripes when they are woven. I’ll try to get it to read the warp only next time I set a bunch up). But I know what was intended, so I will market them as that word or phrase.

Remember all the yarns I got from Laura?red wine and purple cotton blue greens yellows and brown cottonsThey are becoming dish towels. I also had some cotton ric rac cones that are compatible with some of the colors, so I used it for weft on some of the towels.

I set up the first 3 warps (“Believe”, “Laugh” and “Love”), and then discovered that the little Dundas loom that I bought several months ago needs a LOT of work before I can weave on it. Luckily, when I was venting to Laura, she offered me the use of her little Dorset loom, and even delivered it on one of her trips in my direction. So I was up and running.

It has been a long time since I warped a loom, and it has been a bit of a challenge. Each warp I set up was supposed to give me 6 dish towels and room to play a little. The first one gave me 5 and a short towel that I played with different treadlings on (so it will be mine). Finally, after building a raddle and figuring out what I’ve been doing wrong, I did get 6 towels out of the third warp.

believe This is “Believe”, the first set that I did. I took these in with me to my mom’s church knitting group, and the whole set even got blessed by her priest.

Then came “Laugh”. laugh in white,

and “Love” Love

Every towel in each set has a different color of weft, so even though they are all related, they look completely different. Here’s the whole group, ready to be hemmed.

towels washed and dried

They’ve all been through the washer and dryer, and I’m doing the hemming by hand. The plan is to have them all finished by the last Saturday of March, when I will have a booth at the High Desert Wool Growers Fiber Market Day. I still need to design and make labels to sew in while I’m hemming, and some hang tags to attach so folks that are gifted one will know the story, so the work isn’t done yet. But I can’t wait to get back to the loom and make up some more towels, and some scarfs, and I’m even thinking of weaving some fabric to make myself a vest to wear to the fiber festivals I vend at. So many ideas, so little time!


More Miracles

February 15, 2013

Navid is doing well. Conformation wise, he is a hot mess (leg issues), but I am hopeful that many of them are caused by his mother’s lack of movement during her pregnancy. I have seen some improvements during the last week, but even if I wasn’t going to wether him, he would never be a show stopper.

Last Sunday was scheduled for a spin-in at Correy’s house. She had texted me on Saturday, saying that the yearling Nubian/Nigerian doe had kidded, but the kid wasn’t viable. When walking the doe across one of her pens, her bottle lamb had nursed on the doe and the doe had seemed to accept it. Correy wanted the goat gone and offered her to me. I figured I had nothing to lose. Even if she wouldn’t accept Navid (or visa-versa, since he had never nursed on anything but the bottle), I could at least milk her and add that to his bottles. So Sunday, she came home with me. Meet Myrtle (she didn’t really have a name before coming here, and she strikes me as a “Myrtle”):


She got put in the barn with Ashe, and Maeve got released from barn duty. You would have thought that Maeve had been locked up for months instead of just a few days; she totally ignored the hay and proceeded to spend an hour or more bouncing around the pen. Even the lambs stopped their races to watch her. I started a routine of milking Myrtle twice a day. She hadn’t been hand milked before, so I wasn’t getting a ton out of her. The few times I tried putting Navid on her, he didn’t get the idea that there was anything good under there, and spent so much time fighting me that it was frustrating for all of us.

Then, late Thursday night, I quit thinking like a person, and started thinking like a lamb. I started feeding him his bottle under the goat. I placed the bottle between her back legs, so he was nursing on it right next to her udder. The 3rd time we did this, he slipped off the bottle briefly and found a teat. He didn’t suck long (nursing off a bottle is much easier than the real thing), but it was something. This morning, I helped him find the udder before I offered him the bottle. He chugged away on one side, then wanted the bottle (but only took about 3 ounces, instead of the 6-8 that he has been taking).

This afternoon, when I went out for his noon bottle, both Myrtle and Navid were out of the barn. I caught her, intending to put her back in. Instead, I tied her to the barn and showed him where to go again. This time he nursed on both sides, and when I let her loose he followed her. I sat on the edge of the tub and she came over to see me. I pushed him back towards her and he latched on and nursed a couple of more times. Success! Two hours later when I went out to check, they were laying next to each other in the sun, and he followed her over when she came to see if I had anything good. I provided a little direction again, and made sure he nursed.

Navid and Myrtle

When I went out to feed this evening, he somehow ended up next door in the boys pen, much to Puff (the alpaca)’s consternation. He started crying, since he couldn’t figure out how to get back, and she ran over, calling to him. While I sat in with Ashe letting her eat her grain and hay pellets, I saw him figure things out on his own. A bottle baby no more! This is huge; no more round the clock feedings. Of course, I just bought a new bag of milk replacer, but that will store until the next time I need it. Of course, with at least one cooperative goat, I hopefully will not need it (but it’s good to have on hand, in case).

And in more good news, Ashe is working on getting her feet back under herself. She got her rear end up briefly yesterday (trying to avoid her antibiotic shot). Keeping my fingers crossed for her too. Her new companion in the barn is Millie (one of last year’s lambs), who is not impressed with this whole idea. She is the least friendly of the ewe lambs last year, so the confinement will give me a chance to give her some special treats and see if the way to her heart is through her stomach.

All in all, a good couple of days! Pictures of weaving next time, I promise.

Busy Ewes

January 31, 2013

At least my loss of sleep is being rewarded!

Kays lamb Kay was waiting for me in the barn when I went out to feed Sunday afternoon, presenting me with 2 little hooves and a nose. Soon a tiny little lamb (less than 5 pounds) was on the ground, and Kay settled down to her dinner. The lamb was a long time standing, so I tube fed her to make sure she got some colostrum.  This became a recurring theme with Nellie. She was unsteady on her feet, and to add to the confusion, Kay has more than 2 teats. In fact, she has 4, only 2 of which actually work. Plus, poor Nell’s suck reflex was not the greatest. It took her 46 hours to figure out that all that good stuff I was putting in her tummy actually could be had on demand direct from mom. 46 hours of me going out every 3-4 hours round the clock to tube her. Worth the patience and perseverance, since she is nursing like a champ now.

In the meantime, Fraija went into labor late Sunday night (actually early Monday morning). She was escorted into the barn and with a little help soon was nursing a healthy boy. I hit the hay about 5 am and set the alarm for 9 am. When I went out to feed Nell again, Fraija had delivered another lamb. I had seen her pass the afterbirth after the first lamb, so this was a bit of a surprise. Meet Nelson and Nora:

Fraijas twins again Nelson has lots of small dark grey spots all over his body. Nora is also spotted, especially on her back legs. On one hip, the spots are black. On the other they are much larger, and brown. Talk about multi-colored!

Yesterday morning, Ida Lynn had a strapping white ram lamb by her side when I went out about 9 am. He is a bruiser, already broader than the older lambs. And it looks like he will be horned as well. I’ve named him Ned:

Ned and Ida Lynn

Finally, this afternoon when I went out to feed, I could see that Marge had a lamb by her side. To everyone’s disgust, I held off on feeding until they were both in the barn out of harm’s way. She is a lovely tall CVM ewe lamb. Mom Marge is ok with colored lambs as long as she doesn’t also have a white lamb (yes, sheep have prejudices too!). I haven’t named her yet.

Marges lamb

All this action makes for some shuffling. My barn isn’t very big to begin with (only 8′ by 16′), and it’s made even smaller by the fact that I’ve partitioned half of it off for Ashe (the ewe who is down) and whoever her companion is (Kay and Nell at the moment). The other half can hold 2 lambing jugs (3 if I am very creative). I like to keep a ewe and her lamb(s) in the barn for at least 24 hours, until I can make sure that the lambs have figured out how to nurse well and the ewe is not likely to lose them in the pen. I also take advantage of the close quarters to try to handle the lambs a bit, so they can figure out that I am ok no matter what mama may say. This handling works better with some lambs than others. Norma Jean is perfectly comfortable being picked up and carried around, and will fall asleep in my lap at the drop of a hat, but I’m pretty sure that Ned wants little else to do with me now that he is out of the barn. That’s ok, since I’m hoping that he will be worth keeping a ram.

snuggling with Aunt Ashe Ashe is proving to be quite the baby sitter. Norma Jean climbs through the fence to get back in the barn to snooze in comfort, and Nell is willing to share the snuggle rights next to the warm auntie. You can really see the size difference here. Yes, Norma Jean is 6 days older, but she weighs about 4 times what Nellie does. Hopefully, now that she has figured out nursing Nell will catch up somewhat.

So far the count is 7 lambs (6 surviving), of which 4 are girls. Still to lamb are Faith, Ashe and Irene for sure. Amber is still a maybe, as are the goats. Unfortunately, it looks like Eartha may have lost her pregnancy. She was developing an udder back in December, but last time I felt it was gone. I hope she will prove me wrong, but I am not hopeful at this point.

Hopefully next time I will have some weaving to report. I’ve been planning some warps. Time to dig out the warping board and get to work!

Progress Is Good

October 20, 2012

I’m making good progress on the Eartha & Etta sweater. The body is done, and last night I picked up stitches for both sleeves. It will be a nice, light weight sweater, and at this rate I should be done in less than a week! There is more variation in color than I noticed in the skeins. Not objectionable to me but it might bother someone else. Maybe it helps that I know the animals that it came from. I’m already mentally making plans for my “Ode to Neville” vest, based on the sweater that Neville Longbottom wore in the last Harry Potter movie.  There are several gorgeous sweaters in the HP movies, but this one really caught my eye. I’m leaning towards a double-knit Fair Isle vest, which would be reversible, but nothing is set in stone yet. Of course, I should be setting my sights on Christmas knitting for those on my gift list. We’ll see.

I made some major enhancements to the stash last week. Laura had commented the other day that she has decided that she hates weaving with 8/2 cotton. Of course, she made that decision after she had purchased a bunch of it. She made me a deal I couldn’t refuse and I relieved her of it. 16 pounds of it! Very pretty colors, and I am looking forward to weaving a bunch of kitchen towels. I’m playing with bar code generators online to come up with stripes that actually say something.


I woke last Sunday to a lamb crying. When I finally looked out the window, I could see Mary all by herself in the movable pen. Yep, the rest of the little girls were out. Clara had gotten out several times on Saturday, so I had already put her in the barn pen by herself after I gave the little girls their wormer. When I went out, she was in with the boys! I haltered Mary and moved her over to the big pen, then got all the little girls in with her. Clara put herself back in with her buddies. Since I was outside already, I decided to get everyone resettled. That meant worming the boys before I could put the big girls in with the little girls. The catch pens I set up using my welded wire panels worked great. Even Midge didn’t freak out. The big girls and I had a bit of a disagreement about which direction they were supposed to head when I opened up their gate, but the crook & I were able to get them going right. Love it when things work right without any major headaches! And it does make feeding easier now that the weather is turning nastier.

The turkeys only have a month to go. Their date with the butcher is just 2 days before Thanksgiving. While growing them up in the barn was easier and less messy than having them in the house, they aren’t as friendly as last year’s birds were. Not a problem with these guys since I’m not keeping anyone, but something to possibly consider next year since I’m hoping to get heritage birds and keep a breeding trio. Decisions, decisions.

Finding Five

February 5, 2012

Yeah, yeah, I know. Calm down. The idea of posting this often probably isn’t going to stick with me. But I’m feeling a little better, so just enjoy it!

The Crazy Sheep Lady posted the other day about finding 5 minutes a day to accomplish something bigger over time. I “committed” to finding 5 more minutes for 3 things – spinning, cleaning the dining room so that I can actually move the big loom out here, and processing more on the carder. So far, I’m managing 2 out of the 3. The carder is still sitting idle, mostly because I need to make sure I’m able to concentrate when I’m using it (don’t want to risk losing anything). The spinning has been easier. I pull a strip off the batt I’m spinning off of and keep spinning until it’s done, which usually amounts to about 15-20 minutes. It’s a Romeldale (Midge), alpaca, silk blend that I did on the carder a couple of months ago. I’m spinning it lace weight, so it will take a while to fill up the bobbin, but I do like how it’s turning out. I want to make up a bunch of batts before Fiber Market Day, but I wanted to see how this worked up before I spent a bunch of time blending. I’m leaning towards adding more silk to the blend. Sorry about the out-of-focus pic, but it’s a tiny grey yarn.

For the dining room time, I actually set the timer. The first couple of days I quit after it went off (it’s not a race, and I don’t want to burn out before I get done). Today I reset it twice, and kept going after it went off the last time. Dealt with a few things I’ve been avoiding, like the bag my sweetie took to the hospital the last time he went. I was rewarded for my efforts with a ton of change (mostly quarters, yippie) and a crisp new 20-dollar bill. Plus, I re-found a warp I had purchased at a thrift store or garage sale for $1, 4 yards of irish linen. It’s not big, but will be fun to play with and can’t argue with that price tag!  Now, no one but me would see that I’ve made any progress at all on the room, but I can and that’s what counts. The finish line is still a long way off, but I’m making progress. No pictures until I’m done because it is such a disaster, sorry.

I’m off to enjoy the sunshine now. Enjoy your day!


January 16, 2012

Thanks to those that reached out to me after my last post. I appreciate the effort, but even when it is really dark I’m ok. The Bloggess’s post just really hit home with me, and I felt that it was important to do what little I could to get the word out there that those of us that live with depression shouldn’t feel the need to hide it.

I am lucky that there isn’t much that keeps me from knitting. It is a major part of my life, and it helps to ground me. Even through all but the worst of my pain I can knit. If I can’t focus enough for lace, I can still knit socks. Since the first of the year, I have knit these:         

The blue ones will be for Kid the Eldest’s birthday next month, and the baby booties will be for the booth. Plus I’ve started another pair, which hopefully will be for me (doesn’t always work out that way, but I can try).

I also helped a friend with the bridal show held locally on Saturday. I had hoped to display a few shawls in a way that would let the brides know that they were available for sale, but the people running the show objected since my friend had not informed them that I would be doing that, so they were only used as display decorations. Still, they looked pretty, and getting ready for the show meant that I got the Niebling and the Snowflake Peacock blocked.

 That’s my alpaca shawl (Snowflake Peacock), and a couple of the old cameras that live at my house.

Before Kid the Younger went back to school he helped me take the christmas decorations back out to the barn and, even better, helped me move the dining table to the living room. Once I go through all the stuff that has lived under the table that will make room for my loom to move out here where it will actually get used, and the table is big enough to hold both the table looms and the carder. It’s a slow process, getting everything the way I want it, but I’m moving through everything. Slow and steady wins the race, right? The back bedroom where the loom is now is too cold to be comfortable in the winter, but it’ll make great storage space once I get it organized. Unfortunately, before he passed away, my sweetie just stuffed things in there. The closet is full of boxes, with more boxes in front of the closet doors. He bought the ugliest black plastic shelves possible, and crammed them full. Half finished projects were separated from their supplies and patterns, books have disappeared, my stash has been scattered. There was no method to his madness and it will be a major job to set it right. I’m looking forward to getting it done, but it’s not something that my back will let me work on quickly.

But I think that the best news is that at least some of the ewes appear to be pregnant. I’ve been crossing my fingers really hard, and held off saying anything until at least one of them started showing (am I the only one that appraises baby bellies?). These 2, Midge (CVM Romeldale on the left) and Marge (white Romeldale on the right) are definitely with lamb, so Inesh did his job. Hopefully I’m not fooling myself, and the rest of the ewes will start to show signs soon. The earliest I’ll get lambs is the end of February, and waiting is always the hardest part!