Thursday, December 26, 2013

Away and AWAY

Recently, I left town AGAIN.  Seems like I have been "away" much more frequently this fall, (and now winter), than all the rest of the year.  I am very thankful we can go away (even at short notice), due to the fact that we have a wonderful farm sitter.  Thank you Cathy!

It is important to get away, from time to time, in order to see things from a different perspective.  Driving through the countryside in the winter, I see scenes I want to weave.  I see the colors I need and I wonder what will bring me these colors.  I know that one that will be very important is Hickory red.

Last summer the kids at one session of fiber camp, wanted to dye some wool with some natural dyes.  R wanted to know what color hickory nuts would produce so I suggested he throw some in a small stainless bowl.  We didn't have enough to dye with so the bowl just sat on the counter in the fiber shed for awhile.  The color that resulted was a beautiful red brown, the color of much of the under story in the winter woods.

Now that the autumn nuts and berries are gone I may experiment with some barks and lichens.  This autumn there were very few acorns, walnuts, and hickory nuts.  The information out, is that it has to do with the wet spring and summer.  Don't know, but it brought the bears down from the hills looking for food.  I hope that they got enough to eat before  their winter hibernation.

Another topic that I pondered while gone, was winter fertilizing.  I now have a good plan and will just wait for the right weather to finish the fencing so I can start rotation of the flock and fertilizing behind them.  I wonder how many others have similar thoughts this Christmas season.

We also got to test a new product from the AWAY wearable art collection; a Beachglass glove.  I gave one to Lyndy and to Jen ( the two most devoted beachglass collectors I know).  So here they are on Christmas Day on a beach on Lake Erie.

They gave me a preliminary report and some tips for further development of the gloves.  Thanks Lyndy and Jen.

It was cold in Ohio and the only gloves I had brought along were some farm gloves which were starting to wear thin.  I also realized I need to knit myself a new winter hat, just like the shoemaker story I guess.  Now I am back so I guess I have some more spinning and knitting to do.  And fencing and collecting of dye stuff and ........

We had a wonderful Christmas and I hope all out there reading this, did too.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Scramble of Weather

It was a cold and windy morning........ and I woke up and looked out the window to see sheep up by the house.

I quickly got up, threw on some clothes, and went out to make sure everyone was accounted for.  I counted 9 sheep and a llama and decided to check on the chickens too since it was cold and very windy.  The chickens wouldn't leave the barn so I brought a little grain to them.  When I opened the closet to get some sheep minerals, I saw a rabbit huddled in the corner.

Generally sheep don't like wind.  They don't mind cold or snow (if it is not too deep) but wind will usually head them to the barn.  I guess the gate blown open was just too enticing.  They did graze in the lea of the house. (is that how you say it?)

I love to see the change of seasons and the differences the different weather types bring.   Even in a dusting of snow, the chickens don't like to run around out side.  If they do go out or back to the barn you get to see how far a chicken really can fly.

I like the scramble of weather we have been having, too.  Today, is delightful, up to 42 degrees already and sunny.   It makes it easier, dealing with the cold, knowing we can get a hum dinger of a day, anytime.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Decking the Barn with Greens and Garland

I finally got the wreath up on the barn, an important part of decorating for Christmas.

First, I had to make the wreath at Boxerwood last Saturday.
Jay helped me with the base which is made from a large bittersweet or similar type vine.  Then, I tucked in  some beautiful greens and thought to myself, "That wasn't so hard".  But then out of nowhere, came a young girl (this happens a lot at Boxerwood).  She asked me what I was doing and I told her I was making a wreath for the animals' barn.  I explained, there were sheep, a llama, and chickens that would enjoy the wreath.  She just looked at me and said that I should make it for the birds too.  O.K. I thought and headed inside to where all the great garland stuff was.  There were cranberries and popcorn and dried pineapple and raisins (brown and golden) and mangos and other good stuff.  Some people were making symmetric garlands and I knew I didn't have the patience for that, so I basically did what I usually do; closed my eyes and grabbed whatever.  Even with that approach, it was taking too long, so I put gaps.  Finally, an hour later, it was done and it looked even more beautiful.

After a few days of rain, we got some nice weather and I decided it was time to put it up.  I got the 10' step ladder and headed for the barn.  The animals fled the scene but then returned because they were curious.  I grabbed the, much heavier than I remembered, wreath and hiked up the ladder, but when I got as far up as I wanted to go, I was 2 inches too short, or my fingers were.  I thought about what I would break if I fell off the ladder and decided I didn't want to break anything.

I remembered I had left space in the hay loft of the barn so that I could open the door and hang a wreath that way but the wreath was too heavy and big so that didn't work either.  I finally decided to ask for help.  I walked back to the garage with the story and John's immediate reply was, "Good, you still need me."  He dropped what he was doing and we headed back to the barn.  What a GOOD guy.  John is more than 2 inches taller and he has longer fingers, so the job was easy for him.

Now, when you fumble around as much as I did and when in the end, someone else is doing the hanging of the wreath, you don't worry about what falls off and which way is up, you just say Thank You.  Cher was raising her nose as if she was wondering what it was she was smelling but no one else seemed to notice when all was done.  I think it looks cheery.  "Deck the Barn with Greens and Garland, FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA, LA, LA."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Extending the Grazing Season

I finally figured out how to do a video on YouTube, watch it full screen.

The sheep have a GOOD memory.  I opened the gate and out they ran up toward the house.  Cher hesitated, and looked around as if to say, "Are we suppose to go out this way."  This was a first for her, if you don't count the time last week she snuck out when I was bringing the little tractor into the barnyard.  That time it was just her and she didn't go very far.  It was a beautiful day and everyone was good.  Of course I went through the "don't get vines all over you,  don't eat the bark on the fruit trees, don't eat too fast, don't .........  the whole way up to the barn.

When I was working in the fiber shed they were right outside the windows.

When it was time to go back the sheep were ready but Cher had moved to the front yard and didn't want to leave.  So the sheep and I went to get her and I circled around behind Cher and pointed for her to go back.  She agreed and ran back with the sheep following her.  Too bad I didn't have the camera going then.  

A fine day with a new routine, at least for Cher. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Buttery Tips

The fleeces we washed the other day came out beautiful.  One was Norma Jean's and the other Gretta's.  They are both Cotswold/CVM crosses.  I was curious about other people having this crossbreed of sheep living at their farm so I googled to see what I could find.

They are both fairly rare breeds so one would think to find a cross of these breeds would be unusual.  Except, if a farm was raising rare breeds, these two would likely be present.  And then if there was a cold autumn with not much to do, well ................

I found a site right away and they were selling fleece.  Here is the description, "natural creamy white with buttery tips".

It always amuses to see the words people use to describe things.  Especially if they are for sale.  My recent favorites, mountain blueberry and cherry orchard yogurt that I bought John the other day.  I wonder if the blueberries were really from the mountains.  I guess you can't just say blueberry or it wouldn't be as appealing.  Buttery certainly sounds good, but really, buttery tipped fleece?

Here is a picture of Norma Jean. Can you see her buttery tips?

And where do the buttery tips come from?  Not sure.  Just damaged ends I guess, could be from getting dirty or sun bleached.  That doesn't sound as inviting though if you are trying to sell the fleece.  

All this talk about words-- Norma Jean could care less, she doesn't waste time thinking about such trivial stuff.  You can see what she thinks is important, the hay not the sun hitting her and giving her her buttery tips. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013


A fun and productive day.  We started the fire and filled the pot with water.  While the water was heating, we picked out some bits of vegetation in the wool.

 Then, into bags and into the hot water.

Put the lid on to keep the heat in and make sure the fire is just right.

After 20- 30 minutes, we took the fleeces out and put them into the wheelbarrow with clean hot water to rinse.

The wool dried over night on some towels on the drying rack.

More wonderful fleece to process, Yay and THANKS TO ALL

Some of the pictures were curtesy of  Alessandra.