Sunday, July 13, 2014

Up, down and all around

(look closely and you'll see Aslan keeping watch)
Well, it might appear that I've fallen into a deep, dark hole somewhere, but appearances can be deceiving.  Things actually seem to be looking up around here, though there have definitely been some ups and downs.  I'm finally off the prednisone (fingers crossed) and that jumping-out-of-my-skin sensation is starting to go away (and possibly my chipmunk cheeks will return to normal soon!).

(my nuno felted, eco-printed scarf)
I'm late getting to this, but I promised a short recap of a fabulous eco-printing/dyeing class I took with Nicola Brown the weekend after the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival.  Nicola is so much fun to take workshops from that I'd sign up, even if I learned nothing, but learn something, I did!  The eco-printing workshop had me nuno felting a scarf (which I've avoided for years and years, because I was sure I wouldn't like it - go figure).  After the nuno felting,  Nicola demonstrated how to eco-print designs on the scarf.  We used a variety of plant material - certain types of leaves, flowers, even tea leaves, all dipped in rusty water, of all things, and it was thrilling to remove our creations from the dye pots and unroll them to reveal the patterns.  It's a bit mysterious and unpredictable and that's part of what makes it so appealing to me.  There don't seem to be a lot of hard and fast rules, which is even better.  I find myself being drawn more and more to natural dyeing and have been reading up on plant material I might gather here on the farm and down in our creek.  There have to be some mushrooms out there that will give color and I'm letting all the pokeberries grow sky high in hopes of harvesting them for dyeing. All those avocados I've been using to incorporate healthy fats into my diet .... bingo!  Avocado skins and pits are great for dyeing.  I don't consider myself an artist in any sense of the word, but I do love creating functional items and eco-printing allows for just enough creativity to be fun, but not intimidating. It's quite likely Nicola will be back in this part of the world next May to teach some workshops, so keep an eye out for announcements (I'll keep you posted here) and sign up for a fun learning experience.  If you're up for travel, you might find her in Ireland, where she lives, Portugal (where she just finished teaching), California, Ohio or other locations here in the US.
 
(a partial collection of the class projects)
The lambs are growing, growing and eating voraciously - about 60 pounds every day at this point.  That means I need to order feed every single week.  I'm grateful that the fine folks at Woodford Feed deliver and the guys will dump out those feed bags right into my feed bins.  I need all the help I can get these days!  Midgie and Phaedra are still as friendly as ever and a few of the others want quick scratches, but most of them are content to eat their grain and get back outside to their pasture.  The pastures are starting to look a little thin around here because we haven't had rain in weeks.  I'm hoping that before the weekend is over we'll receive some soaking rains to green things up a bit and give the lambs fresh growth to graze on.

(I'm greeted with this when I go to the barn-that's Phaedra front and center and Midgie behind her head)
(and then it's belly-up-to-the-bar, or feeder, in this case!)
What else is happening around here?  This weekend we were finally able to get the alpaca boys and llama sheared.  Usually, I trailer them over to my friend Lindy's farm.  Her shearing day was way back in April and back then I was physically unable to handle getting all my animals in the trailer and hauling them over.  I've worried so much about the alpaca boys having all that fleece in hot weather, but have kept a big fan available for them and have sprayed them down with water on the hottest of days.  They seem to have done just fine, in spite of my worry.  I am really relieved to have that off my to-do list.

(Strawberry on the shearing mat)

 Meanwhile, this guy keeps watch over everything that goes on here!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Gloom, despair and agony on me

This is her sad face - she's been the cry-baby of the bunch  :-(
 That's the tune around here right now.  Not me, so much (well, maybe a little), but unhappy lambs are singing the woe-is-me tune all day long.  After taking a hard look at the ewes, I decided some of them needed to be separated last week.  Especially those girls who've been raising triplets completely on their own.  Even with heavy feed supplement and the fact that the lambs are eating creep feed now, some of the girls were looking just a little puny.  The rest of the adult ewes came out this past weekend and now they've all retired to the big pastures with the ewes I did not breed this year, who are looking plenty robust, since they didn't raise any lambs.  This is one of those red letter days on the farm calendar that marks a turning point in the year.  Lambing season is officially over!


It's hot now, close to 90 today.  Ugh!  I've been basically put under house-arrest and have orders to not stress myself and no strenuous activities, so I'm staying in the house and studio, keeping myself busy with a little sewing, reading and knitting. When Alicia Paulson first introduced us to her Miss Maggie, I was immediately smitten and ordered the kit right away.  As with everything Alicia does, the kit was beautifully put together and packaged - really, almost too pretty to open up.  I let it sit for a long time before I got the nerve to start.  I have one more boot to sew together and need to finish knitting her little capelet before I can call her complete.  I'm not happy with my blanket stitching at all, but can see that I will improve if I keep at it, which is exactly why I ordered Miss Phyllis Mouse and Miss Juniper Kitty when Alicia released the newest kits not long ago.  It's cuteness overload and I'm not even going to try rationalizing why I feel so inclined to make little stuffed animals, who wear dresses, boots, cowls and leg warmers. 

For months now, I've been immersed in reacquainting myself with all things Outlander.  I read the first book more than 20 years ago and as soon as I heard the news about that book being made into a television series (premiering August 9th!! on Starz), I immediately downloaded the audiobooks from Audible and listened to all of the books in the series, including the newest one that was released on June 10th.  It's been pretty much all Outlander all the time.  I love Audible because I can download to my iPhone, plug in and get on with what I'm doing, all the while listening.  Outlander books kept me company on the drive to New Hampshire and made the time pass quickly.  Anyway,  I needed an Outlander break for a bit and decided to actually sit and read a real, hard cover book for a change.  I read Heather Ross' memoir, "How to Catch a Frog".  Heather is a fabric designer, blogger and author and her book describes her childhood in rural Vermont.  Each chapter ends with a little project, some crafts, some activities.  My admiration for Heather has grown immensely since reading her book.  It's a testament to her resilience and creative talent that she's overcome what I see as quite a lot of disadvantage.  I'd be interested in hearing from any of you who have read the book and what your opinion might be.


What else?  I finished the handwork on my Squam Sweetest Tunic, designed by Cal Patch.  I love it and one of my most favorite parts is the lining I chose for the pockets and yoke.  The print fabric is actually a Heather Ross design.  I loved the colors, especially with the chambray I had chosen for my tunic.  I'm much too conservative to wear a whole garment made from something so boldly patterned, but love having the pattern just barely peeking out.  I can see myself making a bunch of these tunics out of denim, linen, corduroy and lining the pockets and yokes with fun patterns.  If you don't have Cal's book, "Design-It-Yourself Clothes" or taken any of her Creativebug classes, you should!  She makes sewing simple and fun.  This tunic is actually a set of rectangles, with a few simple modifications (the neck shaping on this one).  That's it - rectangles.  No pattern pieces or complicated directions.  It's genius.  Depending on your fabric choice, Cal even recommends tearing your fabric, so that you are sure to have the grain-line straight.


I've cast on two new knitting projects, which I'm very excited about, both being knit with wonderful Brooklyn Tweed.  Have I told you lately how much I love that whole company?  The colors have me completely hooked and their design aesthetic is so appealing.  I also love the fact that they used a "mature woman" to model some of the designs in the Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 7 collection. (I believe her name is Cindy Joseph - I know you would recognize her beautiful long, silver hair.)   One of those projects may make an appearance here in the not too distant future, but the other one ... let's just say, I'm hoping it will be finished in time for Rhinebeck!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Squam

(View from the screened porch)
First, my apologies, for this post will be full of expostulations on just how wonderful a trip to Squam can be.  I know, I've been there, done that before, but it cannot be helped.  Here goes for the third time.

 Regular readers here know that I had one heck of a late winter and spring.  I was ill and didn't know why and carrying out the simplest of tasks left me in pain, shaky and depressed.  Once the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis was finally reached and treatment began, things started to get better.  It's going to be awhile before medication levels are adjusted to keep me in remission, but I do feel my life is getting back on track.  Going to Squam was just about the best way in the world I could have jump-started getting back to the life that I love. 

I feel as though I have a very bad case of ADHD today.  I'm inspired to do everything ..... all at once.  I've pulled out the Brooklyn Tweed yarn I purchased from Jared Flood himself at the Squam Art Fair, then found some shetland for a full size Hap Shawl, ala Gudrun Johnston, excavated a big pile from the fabric stash for several more Cal Patch tunics, looked at (and drooled over) Elizabeth Benotti's ceramics on etsy, read facebook postings from my cabin mates, downloaded the newest Outlander book from Audible and on it goes.  I am on fire with inspiration to DO something.  The problem is narrowing it down to one or maybe two things!

This Squam was chock-full of fun and motivation to resume my crafting ways.  The Sweetest Tunic class with Cal Patch was great.  Cal designs the cutest, simple little garments, that are a snap to sew up and even easier to wear.  The tunic design is made of rectangles and is really easy to customize.  It's the perfect summer outfit and even better in the winter, layered over jeans or leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt.  I need to hem mine (I'm one of those class members who's having so much fun, I don't quite finish in the allotted time) and then I'll post a picture.  My fabric stash is comprised mainly of linen and cottons and I can see plenty more of these tops being made.  (You can find directions for Cal's designs in her book,  "Design It Yourself Clothes")


Gudrun taught the Hap Shawl class, which, because she is actually from the Shetland Islands, was wonderfully appropriate.  She told us a great deal about the history and traditions that go along with Hap shawls. I'm not much of a lace person myself (either in the wearing or the knitting), but the simple lace pattern, Old Shale, or Feather and Fan, that makes up the edging of her shawl is just right for me.  We knit mini-versions in class and I really want to make a full size one now.  Our new friend, Mary Jane Mucklestone and Gudrun are hosting a trip to the Shetland Isles in September and I would really love to go, but Mike and I are still hoping to go to Scotland in September, so the Shetland trip is definitely going on my want list for next year.

(Sun dappled, last minute picture outside the dining hall)
 Then, there were my cabin-mates.  I knew precisely one person in the cabin before Squam.  Laura-Lynn (bottom row on the left) is an irrepressible presence of happiness and I knew if she liked all these women, I surely would too.  And, did I ever.  I came home feeling as though I had added nine great women friends to my life. Though I was the only fiber farmer in the bunch, we all shared a love of knitting and crafting (and laughing).  My room-mate (I don't know who decides on room-mates, but they are genius) was a sweet, talented young woman from Minnesota and we got along famously.  I hope I never get too old to enjoy the company of people who are so much younger than me.  I'm convinced that continuing to make young friends, will help me stay younger in heart and mind.  Brienne is such a talented seamstress and knitter.  Check out her blog and her etsy shop.  I managed to snag a bag from her wares at the Squam Art Fair and I can tell you that it is beautifully made.

(Brienne and me)
I'm quite sure there was more laughter in our cabin than anywhere.  The nightly discussions around the fireplace or during afternoons spent on the screened porch ran the gamut from very serious to completely hilarious.  There was much sharing of crafting techniques, cocktail recipes and project inspirations.  There was even an Art Fair shopping Show and Tell on Saturday evening when we all got back to the cabin with our loot.

And now, it's back to the routine here on the farm.  My bottle lambs are Huge!  Just one week away from my babies (left in the care of my wonderful husband, who did a stellar job of keeping it all going) and they have turned into giants.  Weaning has started and they are not too happy with me at the moment.  I'll be back in a few days with a long over-due post on Nicola's eco-dyeing workshop and a completed Sweetest Tunic.

Til next year ....

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June scenes


At long last, I do believe we can call it summer here in the Bluegrass.  The farms around us are cutting and baling hay (and I'm ever so grateful we don't do that anymore) and I'm trying hard to catch up on the mowing.  The garden looks hopeless and I'm not sure if I'm physically going to be able to do much about it this year.  We've eaten our share of asparagus, enjoyed a short-lived strawberry crop (the peacock somehow missed the berries this year) and until I get the beds in better shape, there's not going to be much happening out there for a while.

(Jim Dandy's current favorite perch - the top of the greenhouse)
But first, I'm bound for Squam!  Last week the whole idea of making this trip was looking extremely doubtful.  I had a major rheumatoid arthritis "flare" and couldn't walk for several days.  So now I'm on a rather large dose of prednisone for the next several weeks and the doctors have assured me that I will be able to stay upright and do the walking required to make my way around the camp.  I'm so ready to experience being on the lake and seeing friends from my previous two years there.  This year I'm taking Cal Patch's sewing class, the Sweetest Tunic.  Last year it was the Squam Smock and I've loved wearing it.  Cal has really inspired me to get back into sewing.  The other class I'll be taking is the Hap Shawl with Gudron Johnston.  I've heard so many good things about Gudron's teaching (and she's a good friend of Mary Jane's, so she must be special).  I'm excited about both of these classes, but to be honest, they are the icing on the cake, as far as I'm concerned.  It's the whole atmosphere of Squam that I love best.  If you ever have the opportunity to experience Squam, I can highly recommend it.

(I love how they've picked a nice hard rock outcropping to lie down on)
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Midgie and Phaedra are going to keep Mike straight about the feeding schedule.  We had hoped that Mike could go along again, take his fishing kayak, and spend some time on the water, but our college student farm sitter has gotten a regular job and we didn't have anyone to watch the farm and care for the sheep. To make it more complicated, we still have 7 lambs getting two bottles each every day.  Mike has generously agreed to take care of the babies, so I can go to Squam without worrying. 

If you want a good report on the 2014 Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, please go read Mary Jane's blog post.  It sounds to me like she had a good time while she was here!  We loved having her and hope she'll come back again.

I'll be back soon with a report on Squam and on the fabulous eco-dyeing workshop I recently took from Nicola Brown.  Who knew eucalyptus leaves and rusty water could be so much fun?