Thursday, January 28, 2010

True Friends

There is a saying "You get where you are by the people you know" or something like that. What I believe is that I wouldn't be doing what I am today if it weren't for my true friends.

When I came back to knitting after several years of putting it aside to raise kids (the people kind), I would not have been able to pick it up again and go forward without the help of my true friend Kathleen. In those days I was always working on three projects at a time because I would make a mistake I couldn't fix on the first one, put it down, make a mistake on the second one, put it down, make a mistake on the third, and then give them all to Kathleen to fix. She didn't seem to mind at all in fact she was always jovial about it. Eventually, I could fix most of my mistakes but I do still ask her knitting questions when we talk (from a distance) now.

When we decided to move to Virginia and buy a place with some land I started thinking about raising sheep. My true friend, Rosemary, encouraged me and started talking like it was really going to happen instead of being just a dream. When she comes down now we have spinnathons and talk about sheep breeds.

Now that I have 6 sheep and a llama my true friend, Karen, reminds me we can do or find out how to do everything we need to for our animals. Besides that Karen comes over and helps me rassle sheep and trim hooves or do whatever we need to do. John helps me when I need him but the reason he loves my girls and Beau is that when it is going to get long or dirty, Karen arrives. And she does it all with a smile (see picture). We trimmed 28 hooves yesterday.

Kathleen, Rosemary, and Karen are also very confident and productive people and they build my confidence and encourage my creativity and productivity. I have many more true friends which I will mention later when their time comes up but I don't like long blogs.

Tomorrow is my sisters trip and I am so excited. My three sisters are also true friends and we have an incredible time when we get together. The mud has pretty much dried up, the barn is clean, hooves are trimmed, and John is going to feed Beau and the girls their hay. It will be very nice to have three days without hay in my hair and down my neck.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spinning yarn

I usually make my own rovings from fleece using my hand carder or my neighbor's drum carder but here I will show the process of making yarn from professionally prepared roving that Marcus gave me.


Last week was a great week. I felt like I accomplished many things - I did not, however, produce any new fiber art per se. Now with that admitted I will tell you why that didn't bother me (last week). The highlight of last week, in regard to my 6 sheep and llama, was that for the first time since they all came to live with me I felt like a shepherdess. It was the beginning of last week when we STILL had snow over 97% of the pasture (5 weeks of snow cover). There were tiny patches of grass peeking through the snow at the far end of the pasture and I decided it was time to lead my flock across the great white expanse and show them grass did still exist right there in their pasture. I had just given them their morning hay and fresh water and cleaned up a little around the barn when I mentioned to them that perhaps we should go exploring. I started off and to my amazement they left their hay and followed me. I had no hay on me or treats of any kind- just me. It felt really good. When we got to the far end of the pasture they looked for anything they could find to nibble on but it was pretty sparse. We stayed a short time and then I told them they could stay longer but I was going back to do a few more errands. They stayed a few minutes longer and then caught up with me and we all returned to the barn. Later that day they started exploring more on their own and seemed elated as more and more grass emerged from the snow cover.

Another morning, as I headed down to the barn, I noticed some tree lichen under the big trees on the way. It was as if it had rained lichen overnight- it was clean, rubberly wet, and in abundance. I collected it and knew what my next fiber art would be.

Yet another day, I turned the roving Marcus had given me into some lustrous yarn. (see future blog)

Some weeks seem to be filled with chaotic thoughts and ideas but last week seemed to flow and somehow intermesh and, as my friend in the quilt shop reminded me yesterday, after ideas float around for awhile they eventually find order and come to fruition. Maybe this will be the week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's hard to wait even when you get older

I went to see my friend Marcus yesterday. Marcus sold me my first two sheep. He is the procurer and caretaker of all the animals at the Frontier Culture Museum about 35 miles north of here. The Museum is a really cool place where they have reassembled old houses shipped over from the old world in pieces. They also have a couple of frontier homes from this country disassembled and reassembled. There are appropriate cows, pigs, sheep, chickens etc. on each site. My first two sheep are Cotswold so they came from the English site.

From time to time I go up and talk to Marcus about chickens, sheep, geese and all to get his opinion on breeds and see what is new. Yesterday he tried to talk me into taking some pigs home. I was especially looking at some Tunis lambs and found one I really wanted to bring home. However, John has this idea that it is good to bring two sheep at a time so they have a buddy to hang out with when things are scarry or lonely or whatever. It is a GREAT idea and has worked well for us and especially the sheep. I could have brought home two BUT I am also looking at another breed and two by two adds up quickly.

If it were spring and the barnyard wasn't COMPLETELY soggy and the grass was starting to grow and we weren't going through so much hay, and I had a little more fence and another small shelter I could have definately brought home those two sweeties but I guess it is best to wait a couple of weeks. It is time to think about rams and that is what complicates things.

So today I have to be content spinning some Tunis rovings that Marcus gave me to see how it is as yarn and think about that sweet Tunis lamb (# 0059) that was so friendly and definitely wanted to come home with me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Connections and Creativity

Ira Glass is one of my heroes. Telling stories, I believe, is one of the most important things there is to do. I saw the movie Imaginarium with Lyndy this afternoon. The hero in the movie at one point in the beginning said that if the stories ceased to be told then so too would the world cease to exist. With all the bloggers blogging I don't think we have to worry about the stories continuing.

I was looking for something on the net yesterday and as I was going from here to there who should pop up but Ira Glass, my hero, on one of those mini video things. So of course I watched it and it was about creativity blocks something that is always relevant to me. His remedy?-- When you don't think what you are doing is good enough do it more. Make yourself deadlines and just keep producing. So according to my hero, Ira, and taking into account who I am, I need to produce some sort of fiber art everyday or at least several times a week. After all why do I have 6 sheep and a llama?

On "The Story" with Dick Gordon on NPR Thursday before last, the subject was the Fat Cyclist. This guy started his blog to be accountable for trying to lose weight. At the end of each week he would weigh himself and record his weight on his blog for his friends to see. So I think maybe what I need to do is let everyone know what fiber art I have produced at the end of each week.

My neighbor Kitty, who produces great quantities of creative beauty, one day listened to me describe something I wanted to make and why I couldn't create it just yet because I didn't quite know how to do some part of it. She then looked at me and said "You have already failed if you haven't tried-- how could you fail any more than that" or at least something like that. So-- at the end of this week you will have an account of all the fiber art projects I have created or at least attempted for the week. Here Goes Ira.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Unexpected gifts

One of the things I want to do with the fleece from my 6 sheep and llama is dye some of it with gifts from Mother Nature. Recently I collected some lichen from our woods. It was a green ground lichen (that's not its name but lichen are like fungi and a few other things in that they are way too difficult to identify much of the time so I don't try). Anyway, when you collect anything like that in the wild the rule is take only about 1 % of any colony so you can understand that it takes awhile to collect properly. Then you dry it, crumble it, soak it a few days, and simmer it for a long time. While this has all been going on, your fleece or yarn or whatever has been soaking for a long time and then is heated to the same temperature of the dye bath before it can be added to the dye bath. Then you just have to keep simmering it until the color goes into the fiber. The lichen I collected turned a nice yellow goldy color. Different lichen, I am told, have a wide range of colors. Bark is another good dye stuff. I have been wanting to try some different barks and lichens but don't want to rip the bark off trees so again it is time to go searching in the woods for dead trees.

Today, both were brought to me on the back of Bemis's log truck when he delivered some wood. As I was making a pile of the pieces John was cutting, lo and behold, bark was falling off some of the wood and some had beautiful lichen. As it is all going to the wood pile I don't have to go by the 1 % rule. WOW what a gift. Thank you Mother Nature. Thank you Bemis.

Many years ago a woman I knew told me a beautiful story about unexpected gifts. She said that many times people pray to God for something but then forget to look for the gift, or go on in their life in a different direction and want something else. Many gifts from God are sent but never received, she went on, and eventually they are returned unopened. She said she thought God stockpiles them waiting to see where they can be sent. She told me if I was ever sad or depressed or just needed a little something in my life I should simply ask God to select and send one of those undelivered gifts, then watch for it and be thankful. Sounds right to me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Peace in the Barn

I love the peace in the barn! There is nothing like the sound of 6 sheep and a llama munching hay. That is the only sound you hear in the barn on a cold winter night.

When I had a small sailboat in Jack Knife Cove I used to like it when it rained so I would have to row out and bail the boat (not in the rain but after the rain). I know how that sounds but really it was SO peaceful. All you would hear then was halyards slapping masts and a few sea gulls. You might think it would be more peaceful sailing the boat but I didn't get to sail too often and there are always issues sailing anyway. Of course I could go out and sit on the boat without having to wait for a rain to make bailing necessary but I never did. Most of my friends thought I had a sailboat so I could go sailing but really it was to have something to bail out which brought a much needed time of amazing peace.

The other day out in the barn the memory of bailing my sailboat came to me and it seemed strange that two completely different places would have a VERY similar feel to them.

The reason I am thinking about this tonight is that John bought a new computer after dealing with a lot from the old one. So the last few HOURS I have been helping him set it up. UGH! We are done for tonight but it is aannnothher cold night and I am too tired to put all my warm clothes on and go down to the barn. I shouldn't have bought that 9 quart heated water bucket- then I would have to take water down to the barn tonight. Time to go to bed. Maybe I will dream of halyards slapping masts and 6 sheep and a llama munching hay.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Waiting for a Package

The UPS guy came today and I was really excited that the package I have been waiting for had arrived but it turned out to be hinges for John. I am hesitant to disclose what I am waiting for -for all of my family and friends will now be convinced that I am truly beyond hope.

O.K. I am waiting for a fecal egg count kit. But really if you read on you will understand. When raising sheep, the issue that stands far above the rest is worms or at least it is what is on all sheep farmers minds. So, there are many ways one can approach the issue but 98.9% of all sheep farmers rely on 2 or 3 chemical medications given at regular intervals not knowing if their sheep have worms or not. Now, as with many human medications such as antibiotics, the medications are no longer as effective as they once were because of over use. At the sheep symposium last year one of the speakers talked about this new approach to determine if sheep needed to be wormed before worming ( a real breakthrough). You look at the color under the sheep's eye lid. Then you compare it to a chart to determine if your sheep are likely to have an overload of worms. Sounds good doesn't it? But the problem is some people think it isn't too accurate or easy to use. So they continue giving the same over used chemical medication on a regular schedule not knowing what the worm load is. You are probably all wondering why the sheep farmers don't do a fecal egg count to see what the worm load is (like we all did when our kids ate dirt and got worms). The lab work cost too much to have a vet do it on a regular basis, sheep don't have health insurance, and farmers don't like to do it themselves.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there are many ways to treat sheep. But the problem is they all entail spending time. Time to research, time to educate yourself on safer better methods, time to carry out recommendations, time to evaluate your sheep and probably more time I am not aware of.

Why do so many humans do what they know is not best because what they know is better takes too much time or is too inconvenient? Comments welcome.

I will admit that I am among the many but not when it comes to my sheep.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"The best thing since sliced bread??"

It hasn't been above freezing for many days, snow is still covering the entire pasture, and I was hauling hot water several times a day down to the barn UNTIL yesterday when I finally decided I better go see what Tractor Supply had to offer to keep water from freezing. After running into my friend Karen and looking at all the options together, I finally decided on a blue 9 quart bucket with a plug coming out of the bottom. Karen had a few days earlier bought something similar which she liked. No weird heating element in the water with a dangly cord; just a simple blue bucket which is now sitting just inside the door of the barn with the cord running out between the sliding door and the barn wall. I was thinking this might be "the best thing since sliced bread"; no more late night and early morning trips to the barn with hot water, until I read Karen's blog this morning. There was a link to a web cam in Texas where you can watch a pregnant goat walk around her stall waiting to kid. Her woman human friend who feeds her and takes care of her can watch her progress from the warmth of her house (and so can 22,ooo some people around the world).

I always thought it was a little strange that people took pictures of their babies immediately after birth and emailed them around the world to family and friends. Will the web cam be next or is it already happening? I have to admit that I watched the web cam of the goat in Texas for probably 15 minutes. New life is AMAZING but what a perfect time for a little privacy.

I am thinking I might miss those late night trips to the barn with the light of the moon on the snow and the coziness of the barn at night. I may have to go down tonight just to make sure the new blue 9 quart bucket is doing its job.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Places for the New Year

Every January my mind starts thinking about moving things. I guess it is about wanting to see things in a new place for the new year. It is only the 3rd of January and already I have thought of new places for many things. Some of the changes have reasons of better organization or efficiency behind them but some of them are because I am my mother's daughter. When I was growing up, frequently I would come home from school and Mom would gather all us kids together and tell us it was time to rearrange the living room and we would all groan. Rearranging the living room consisted of moving a BIG HEAVY couch, a rather large coffee table, an assortment of smaller tables and lamps, and a GRAND piano. Sometimes the new plan was not fixed in Mom's mind and had to be tweaked a bit.
Today, out at the barn, I looked at things and moved one of the water bowls three times. In the end it was back to where it had been originally. The first move was to try to find a place to keep the water warmer so it would not freeze so quickly, the second move was to try to keep the water warmer so it would not freeze so quickly and be less likely to be knocked over, and the third move was to put it back where everyone expected it to be because it was getting dark and I wasn't sure if they could find it in the dark (the dumb sheep stories influence).

Guess I will stick to just moving things in the house and with what I have in mind this will make the 3rd or 4th [11 kids scenario] in 3 weeks.