Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Chilly Busy Week

Sunday, I rested mostly, Monday, we put up two fences and I carded some wool, Tuesday, I looked for fabric for a new couch John is building for the cabin, and I went to the Frontier Culture Museum, to look at fences to protect small trees and gave the sheep one of their monthly supplements, Wednesday, I did bookwork for the farm business, lined up my shearer for April, and renewed my business license, Today, I met with our bookkeeper to finish tax preparation, notified our regional Agritourism program about our April farm event and considered fabric for the couch and Tomorrow, I hope to spin some wool to send off to a friend to knit a special hat, order foam for the couch, and update our website, and Saturday, we are going to Charlottesville to have a birthday lunch with Lyndy and look at a discount fabric place for a better price on fabric for the cushions I am making.  What a week.

It sounds like I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but actually I am moving slowly and deliberately (like sheep) and enjoying each day (except the bookwork stuff).  I keep thinking I am going to catch up but I guess that is not really possible SO I just make lists and try to accomplish one or two things each day between hanging out with the sheep and other regular day to day activities.

It was work putting up the fence but it is always interesting to watch the sheep watch us.  Tuesday was cold but I always love going to the museum and meeting new animals and getting ideas.

a hurdle fence for many uses

 taking dimensions

first black Tunis sheep I have ever seen

this cute little goat kept slipping under the fence

It has been chilly all week but not so cold if you keep busy.  Too bad we don't have warm
natural coats to keep us warm but then we wouldn't want to sit by the wood stove to spin which is what I really want to do Tomorrow.

Happy birthday coming up Peter.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


55 pounds is what the fiber weighed in at.  After the wool consultation, I decided maybe I should have it all come back as yarn.  Taking in to consideration the waste that will not turn into yarn, I was told that there would be approximately 140- 4 ounce skeins.

I really liked the mill and the people.  The young woman that runs it has 30 or 40 sheep of her own and especially likes long wooled sheep so she appreciated the wool from Cabin Spring Farm.  She will be easy to work with and gave me some good ideas and says she will help through all phases of the process.  What a good feeling that gives me.  AND if I change my mind before November, and want some of it processed differently, that is O.K.

I came back home the next day and washed a bunch of fleece that was too short or too dirty to take to PA.  Then I got the rest sorted and ready to wash.  Yes, there is still much wool here but not so much that it is overwhelming like it was.  It is just so freeing to unload the holding shelf.  So many sheep farmers have a barn full of bags of fleece in the grease and I was beginning to see myself starting down that path.

Now I can turn my attention to the more creative aspects of wool production.  I decided to spin some orange and red locks and batting that I dyed a couple of weeks ago.  I really like the way it came out and for the first time I wanted to give yarn a name.  I call this yarn "fire dance".

 I need to "unload" more than 55 pounds of fiber.  I also need to unload 15 pounds of personal poundage.  I have been working on this for a few weeks now but seem to be stuck after loosing a few initial pounds.  The last 3 Saturdays (my weigh day) I have weighed the exact same weight.  The strange thing is, last week, when I was trying to get a rough idea of how much wool I had, I would weigh myself with a large bag of wool on the bathroom scale and then weigh just me and subtract.  Every time I stepped on the scale alone I weighed a different weight, weird.

Today, at my journey group, I realized that I also need to "unload" some thought forms.  Sometimes, I confuse busyness and chaos with productivity.  NOT the SAME.  This week I will strive to be quietly, peacefully, productive.  Chaos will merge with the order of the night sky.  I am inspired to spin some midnight blue yarn.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What To Do With So Much Wool

O.K. it is time; I am going to have some of the excess fleece here processed to make room for the new fleece in 2 months.  I am excited to take this step BUT I can't make up my mind how I want it to be processed.

When I started "growing fleece", I decided I wanted to do the whole process, from sheep to product here on the farm for a couple of years and then decided which parts of the wool process I enjoyed and what I could let someone else do.  I found I pretty much enjoy every part but I just can't keep up so I made the decision to take some fleece to a fiber mill in PA and let them process it.  I spent all day looking over and sorting fleece.  I want some to come back as yarn but I would love to have some batts  to spin and felt.  And then there is always quilt batting or mattress pads or other bedding .  So many decisions!

Tomorrow I weigh it all to help in the decision making.  Then Wednesday we have a wool consultation in PA so I need to have some decisions made by then.  I have way more questions than answers but I keep telling myself it doesn't matter what I do with what I have because in two months I will have the shelf Lyndy emptied today, full again.  In the meantime, I have plenty of clean wool to card, comb, and spin and short fine wool to wash and felt.

The one thing I have decided is not to have any dyed.  Most of the fleece on the farm is shades of gray, cream, and brown, some light and some darker.  There are only 2 white sheep living here, but some of the lighter variegated fleece will take on some beautiful color too.  AND I like natural colors.  One of my main concerns is that the wool might get to blended.  I love the colors to just appear where they will and ply into still more variations.

 I am really looking forward to the consultation.  One can never be to educated (unless one is applying for a job at McDonalds).  When I start talking to another fiber person, I realize I have learned SO much in the last couple of years but boy is there a lot more to learn.

Spring Fiber Camp is coming soon but the batts and yarn won't be back until November (9 months).  Not to worry though because I still have plenty of wool to work with and if I want 2 or 3 pounds to knit a sweater, I just have to wait 2 months or make it out of several fleeces or fibers combined.

Yes, there are many decisions to make but having SO much wool is not such a bad problem to have.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow, Blue and Otherwise

Just as predicted, we woke up to a foot of snow.  Probably another 2" today.  It took a bit to get down to feed the animals.  I am glad it was a dry fluffy snow to begin with.  I was trying to figure out how I was going to open the gate.  I was getting ready to take off my snowshoes and climb over the gate (not an easy thing to do in snow pants and with mesh on the gate smaller than the rest of the fence), when John simply pushed it open far enough to squeeze through.  I am so glad John is back and glad we made it back before the storm.  This is NOT the kind of weather a farm sitter should have to deal with though I am sure Cathy and Sophie would have done fine.

Sheep like to eat snow and lie in it but they don't appreciate deep snow.  They can jump through it but it is an effort, especially with the extra winter weight.  Once we got to the hay and water trough, the rest wasn't really so bad.  All day I have been wondering how Karen made out with all of her animals.  They all have shelters but I think she should have a skimobile to get out to all of them.

I am glad I didn't tell my animals how easy they have it or it might have snowed another foot.

 I always like to look at blue holes in the snow.  I wonder if the sheep do.  I think they see color.  I wonder how many people googled "blue snow" today to see why it appears blue.  I did but all I remember is that most snow reflects back all visible color spectrums but in a hole some of the color gets trapped.  Something like that.

Hard to believe it is going to be 45 degrees tomorrow.  I wonder how much of the 14 inches we will lose.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Moving Weather Back and Forth

Emerald green river
A covered bridge
Ice faced blasted rock

White on white wind sentinels
Black and white on white
Cows standing in the snow
Red seed heads on sumac

Twinkling snow
A buried fence
8 foot ice cycles
Snow to the window

A bushy pony, a goat, a sheep
Together by the red barn

Animal tracks crossing train tracks
Visions of France's farmland
The whistle blows throughout

I took a train to Chicago on Sunday. (a story for another time)  The trip was surreal.   

I took some warm weather up with me and brought back some snow.  Funny how that works.  

 I was going to come home and tell the sheep and chickens they didn't know how good they have it, but then I heard the forecast... 8"-14" of snow on the way.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Another Round of Hoof Trimming

 A Good day to trim hoofs and Zora volunteered to be first.   Cathy offered a lap to rest against.  
Mira looks like she is really enjoying the special treatment.  It almost looks like she is smiling.

 Best buddies after hanging out together.  

Cathy brought along a friend from Newport News who was visiting for the day.   Michelle jumped right in to the sheep hugging.  Today, the girls seemed especially comfortable and relaxed (no struggling to get up).

Unfortunately we were wrestling 8-10 extra lbs.  with all the winter coats, and much larger sheep.  The next time the sheep get their hoofs done they will also need to be sheared.  A two for one wrestle.  

We were able to do 20 hoofs today.  That leaves 16 for tomorrow (hoofs, not sheep) with my next two volunteers.  The sheep still left to do are mostly lighter and smaller but also harder to trick into going where I want them.  If I can't get Annie I am going to start having nightmares about her hoofs growing and growing like the woman in the book The Midwife by Jennifer Worth.  That woman wore large mens boots because her toe nails were so long.

Anyway, Thanks to Cathy and Michelle I can check 5 sheep off the to do list.