Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas Mitts

Well, it wasn't pretty at the end, but I did finish all the fingerless mitts for my daughters-in-law, grand-daughters, step-daughter and the girlfriend of my stepson. (I finished the last one around 3:00 AM! Next time I should start a little sooner-you think?) Anyway, I'm really happy that I decided to give each of them something handmade and though it's trite to say, I hope they realize there was love knitted into every stitch.

So here's the line-up, as best as I can recall:

Top row-starting on the left-(1)Maine Morning Mitts from "The Knitter's Book of Yarn" in my own handspun, hand-dyed yarn---(2)Fingerless Mitts from page 7 Interweave Knits Fall 2005, made with Cascade Pastaza (love this yarn-it's 50/50 llama and wool)---(3)more Maine Morning Mitts made with an odd Malabrigo skein from the stash---(4)the famous "Dashing" from the Spring 2007 Knitty made with Noro Cashmere Island

Bottom Row-(5)Braided Cable mitts found on Ravelry made with Briar Rose---(6)Axel Fingerless Mitts pattern can be found on Ravelry made with Debbie Bliss Soho---(7)another Axel made with Tahki-Stacy Charles Taos---(8)yet another pair of Maine Morning Mitts from something in my stash (I've not been able to find the band-will keep looking)

There are still two pair not delivered to the intended recipients which I will try to remember to show and tell later.

(I love the colors in this pair.)

I suppose it's time to start thinking about next Christmas since I sort of mentioned to the male family members that next year would be their year. Yikes!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from sheep dreams at Tanglewood Farm to all who visit us here. We send you our warmest wishes for a wonderful and blessed Christmas and a joyful New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Tis the season of too much

At this point, I have had too much sugar, too much caffeine, too much food (in general), too much rushing around, been in too much traffic (and I haven't even been near a mall), and had too little sleep. I tried really hard this year to stay on top of preparations for the holidays, but here I am, on the evening of December 23rd, with not one present wrapped and the tree has just lights and no ornaments. (I'm starting to like the tree with only lights, but I will get it decorated tomorrow.) As for wrapping the presents...........well, that will get done tomorrow too. I have finished all the baking and candy making, delivering goodie bags and shopping. (I'm still knitting...just a little more to go on that.)

Why is it so hard to keep the holidays simple? I struggle with the difference between my idealized version and reality. I seem to be inching closer to a handmade celebration, but with eight grandchildren ranging in age from 11 months to 19 years, it's not totally realistic. I am happy to be buying books for all of them this year and that seems nearly as worthy as handmade. I know I'm not alone in wanting this time of year to be less stressful, more meaningful; less about stuff, more about time with the people who are dear to me; less noise, more quiet time for reflection on the year nearly past and the new year ahead. How do we support each other in an effort to accomplish this? Is there a 12 step program or a support group out there to help me? If anyone knows, please tell me!
***Those are the famous "Wicked Good Gingersnaps" that we love. I never even liked gingersnaps until I tasted these. You can find the recipe here on my friend Lindy's blog. I highly recommend them!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis the season for school programs

Is there anything sweeter than an 8 year old boy wearing a halo and singing during his school Christmas program? Well, maybe his baby brother, who just couldn't stay awake through the whole thing!

Of course, being the "Nana" of Preston (the 8 year old) and Parker (11 months old), I couldn't possibily choose.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Tis the season for sharing

At least, that's what the ewe lambs think. Of course, they think it's fine to share all the time. That is, they like to share in what belongs to everyone else. These silly little girls have their own hay, spread out in the field where they won't get it in their fleeces as they eat. So is that where they focus their attention during this morning's feeding? Of course not. They decided to all come up into the shed and share Strawberry and Pippi's hay....from a hanging feeder......where they can spread the joy of eating hay all over each other.

Strawberry and Pippi are not feeling the joy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


One of the many barn dramas that happen here on a daily basis is the stand-off between Holly and Hannah (the Pyrenees) and the peafowl and chickens. Somewhere along the line the feathered critters discovered the joys of eating dog food, so they're always on the lookout for a few morsels. If I happen to spill even one nugget while filling the dog's bowls, a feathered someone is on it in a flash.
Sort of like this. (Sorry about the blur, but they move fast when dog food is involved.)

The Great Pyrenees are pretty much all about their job, which is protecting the livestock. Getting them to focus on their food long enough to actually eat it is a bit of a challenge. Often, when they are eating they'll hear something (or think they do) and out they go to investigate, leaving their food bowls sitting there. Sometimes they don't come back to finish their meal....just leave it there to be eaten by the birds, or by a certain corgi (who is sometimes referred to as a food slut or worse!). I'm trying a little psychology to see if they can be tricked into finishing their food. They are usually in or around the barn in the mornings, so I've been placing their food bowls next to them and watching as the birds start circling. Holly and Hannah have decided they don't want the birds eating out of their bowls, so we are having daily stare downs and occasionally an actual warning growl or two. ** Having the peafowl hanging around seems to motivate the dogs to clean their plates, so to speak!

Hannah is saying, "Go ahead, make my day!"

**No birds of any kind have ever been damaged during these dramas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Much knitting

So very much knitting, I'm drowning in it. Remember way back in January when I had that great idea to start on my Christmas knitting for this year? Well, something happened to my resolve along the way. It just seemed so far in the future back in the summer and I was focused on knitting for myself (so thoughtless of me). I'm paying the price for my lazy attitude right now. My right hand is locked up in a "holding the knitting needle" position. Just kidding, but it might be before (if) I cross the finish line.

The adults in our family don't really give each other gifts anymore. Instead we pool our money and donate to the Heifer Organization. I love the way Heifer enables people to raise their standard of living and be self-sufficient. There are eight grandchildren now and that does take some thought and effort to come up with something they will like. Most of the grandkids are getting gifts I've ordered on line, so I'm keeping my pledge to not go near the mall. So, what's all the knitting about, you ask? I decided recently that I wanted to give all the girls and women in the family some little hand-knit thing (it will probably be the guy's turn next year). So, after spending way too much time on Ravelry, I think I have come up with the perfect gift. I can't do a show and tell at the moment, but certainly will take some pictures before I wrap everything. I'm so excited about doing this and I'm praying I can get it all done in time. I love the idea of a handmade Christmas and one of these years I'm going to pull off doing the whole shebang handmade! (Everyone needs a goal, right?)

And I'll take this over the mall any day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

All together now

This week it has been all about the boys. Last Sunday we took Ollie out of the ewe flock and put him in with the other two rams. It's a bit touchy when they get back together after breeding season. In order to keep them from injuring each other, they have to be contained in a very small space.....small enough that they can't back up and gain momentum to get in a good whack at each other. Sometimes it takes a few days for them to settle down and stop trying to beat each other up. The first afternoon we put a few hay bales in the pen to slow them down even more, but Ollie discovered that he could climb up on the bales and jump over the side of the pen. (I could just imagine him saying, "That's it. I'm outta here!!") So, my next idea was to put two plastic garbage cans in the pen with them. Although they were still pushing and shoving each other a little, there was no more head butting. On the second day, I opened the pen up and gave them a little more room and by the third day they were allowed to go out in the field. Now they are best buds again.

Notice the shoulder to shoulder positions at the feeder. Sure they're friends again, but there's no sense letting the other guy have an advantage at mealtime. Also, notice all that hay on Mr. Lucky's back. After all the work to keep their fleeces clean and this is what they do. Hopefully, most of that will blow off.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Warm and woolly wishes

Has anyone else noticed that there seems to be a lot of wool around this Christmas? (And no, I don't mean just at my house. My house always has a lot of wool around!) I keep seeing lots of cute felted ornaments, tree skirts, stockings and other Christmas decorations in all the catalogs that show up in my mailbox. About a month ago I spied a few wool felt ornaments hanging amongst the glittery and gaudy on a rack at Home Goods. I was thrilled to find them and promptly bought them. When I read the attached label I was even more glad I had brought them home with me. They are Fair Trade Holiday handmade ornaments and I love the sweet simplicity of them. For the next few weeks, every time I had a chance, I checked the rack at Homegoods and managed to come up with a nice little collection of ornaments, one or two at a time. Last week I found some different ones at the Good Foods Co-op in Lexington and added a few more. I've put them all on a little iron tree that came from Smith & Hawken years ago and set it in the middle of our kitchen table, where I can see them all the time. Later this week I intend to get our big tree and maybe we will get it into the house sometime over the weekend. For the time being though, I'm enjoying looking at these bright, cheerful, simple little ornaments.

My warm and woolly wishes are to simplify our Christmas celebration this year. I want so much to have less stress and more time to enjoy my family and friends.

That's what I'd really like for Christmas. How about you?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What does it mean?

Yes, it truly is winter here in Kentucky. Last night the temperature was down in the 20's and this morning we woke up to a dusting of snow. Then, as I was walking into the barn for morning chores, I spied this!

What does it mean when the forsythia bushes are blooming on December 5th?

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's official

Yesterday morning I loaded a bale of hay into my little cart, took it out into the field where the ewe lambs have been grazing and gave them their first taste of hay since last spring. Last year, because of the drought, I started feeding hay in September, which is much earlier than usual. Luckily for us, this past summer and fall have been unusually wet and the grass has continued to grow and stay green. In fact, the pasture where the alpaca boys and ram lambs are hanging out still has abundant grazing, but the little girls have been on "slim pickin's" land. As you can see by Teeny's expression, they were sooo happy to munch right into it.

Starting to feed hay basically doubles my barn chore time and is a sign that winter is officially here. There are plenty of mornings when it is cold or wet (or worse...cold and wet) and I don't want to leave the warmth of the house to go to the barn for morning chores. Nearly always a funny thing happens once I actually get there. I end up staying out much longer than I need to or even intend. I interact with the animals a lot more during the winter because I see them up close at least twice a day and that's a good thing for all of us. We all slow down and socialize a bit. You can see that Pippi is still her sweet, sociable self and is still coming to give sniffs and nuzzles when she sees me.

Tomorrow will officially mark the end of the breeding season here at Tanglewood Farm. Ollie has bred all but one of the ewes who have been pastured with him and none of them have recycled. One of the CVM ewe lambs has apparently not cycled in the three weeks since I put them into the breeding group and I've decided to give her a pass until next year. If she got bred at this point, she would be much later than the rest of the flock and would be lambing in early May, which I really don't want. Of course, taking Ollie away from the ewes means he will go back in with the other two rams and that can sometimes be traumatic. I'll write a post next week about how we handle putting the rams back together after breeding season.

I hope you all have just the kind of weekend you want and I'm hoping mine will be the right combination of productive and relaxing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

In recovery

After a long holiday weekend, I think all of us here at sheep dreams are still in recovery mode. The last of the turkey was made into turkey hash over the weekend and the cranberry relish dish is finally empty. I'm not sad to see it all go. I feel as though I should go on some kind of cleansing fast for a week or two!

Holly and Hannah have been working hard at night lately and they spend their days sleeping on the mulch pile or out in the fields with the sheep. It's deer hunting season here in Kentucky and though we do not give permission for anyone to hunt our land, we have evidence that poachers come onto the back of the farm. The sound of gunshot upsets both of the dogs, so it is even more of a nuisance when hunters trespass. This time of year, I just hope and pray that all of our animals will get through another hunting season without being mistaken for a deer.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Yesterday was such a blur.....a happy blur of being surrounded by the ones I love. I spent many hours preparing for the day and then, before I knew it, it was over. Today, the day after Thanksgiving, I am feeling especially grateful for the abundance in my life. My sons, daughters-in-law, step-son and his significant other, grandchildren and mother-in-law were all gathered here at our home yesterday......two tables filled with adults and children. It's always a lively, noisy occasion when we are all together. (Although I'm noticing that as the grandchildren get a little older the noise level decreases somewhat!) I know that I am blessed to live this life and I am so thankful.

Reading Anne Hanson's blog this morning, I felt that giving to someone else might be the best way to show gratitude for all that I have, so I followed the link to p/hop (pennies per hour of pleasure---a wonderful, imaginative way of raising funds for Doctors Without Borders), downloaded the pattern for the Stripey Beanie and donated toward the cause. Doctors Without Borders is such a worthy cause and I am happy to support them in some small way. If you can spare a little something today might be an especially meaningful time to contribute.

(Of course, this also means that I have a great excuse to cast-on yet another project!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Understudly

Here at the farm, the understudy (or as we call it, the understudly) job is a pretty thankless one, unless the leading man can't perform. Fortunately for us (but not so much for Mr. Lucky) it is looking as though the leading man has lived up to his billing and is doing a great job. Ollie, the new CVM ram has been in with the ewes for a little less than a month now and has bred all of them, with the exception of one of the CVM ewe lambs. (I don't usually breed ewe lambs, but the CVM girls were born in December and January of last winter and about a week ago I decided they are mature enough now and moved them in with the breeding group. As soon as I'm sure they are both bred, they will go back in with the group of ewe lambs, so they can continue to be fed through the whole five months of gestation.)

In the meantime, poor Mr. Lucky spends his days gazing longingly through the fences and gates at the group of ewes that are pastured with Ollie. Mr. Lucky got his name because at the last minute we decided to keep him as a back-up ram. He's got a gorgeous fleece and a calm personality, so it's not a chore to have him around. Right now he is keeping company with the moorit ram lamb and the alpaca boys and he's wondering how someone named Mr. Lucky could be so unlucky!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Big Show

Earlier this week, Sara and I, took a little field trip to the North American International Livestock Exposition, which is held in Louisville, Kentucky every year at this time. It's funny because most people around here don't even know about it, but there are competitors from all over the United States. There are animals from as far away as Washington state and lots of places in between. It is the "Big Show" and quite an accomplishment to do well in the shows. The day was a little nostalgic for me because years ago, when I was younger and had much more energy, I took my sheep every year. It was hard work, but also fun because it gave me the chance to hang out with fellow Romney breeders from all over the U.S. It is a great opportunity to see a lot of different breeds of sheep all in the same place. The show had been underway for several days and a lot of the sheep were obviously tired.

There was a lot of napping going on................................

Plenty of mooching for snacks.......................

A few who looked as though they might have called a meeting to discuss a plan for escaping....

I had to laugh when we saw these sheep. Sara said, "I guess these must be the Princess Leia sheep breed". Pretty impressive, don't you think?
(By way of explanation-the coats and hoods are keeping them clean until they go into the show ring.)

It was a great little respite from the kind of schedules Sara and I usually keep on a normal (whatever that might be!) day on our farms. It served to remind me how glad I am to not still be out there hauling my sheep around to various shows. Life on the farm feels really good!

Sorry for such a picture heavy post, but here's one more of a sweet, smiling Romney girl. I would have loved to have brought her home with me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

ADD knitting

That's Attention Deficient (not deficit) Disorder knitting and that would be me in a nutshell right now (and, possibly all the time......just sayin). Since my blog banner does include the word knitting, I thought it might be nice to at least mention a few of the things I'm knitting on right now. No, I'm not finished with my Christmas knitting and, yes, I realize it's less than two weeks til Thanksgiving. I'm edging up to the panic line, but I'm not there yet.

These are just a few of the many, many, many projects I have on the needles. Some are for gifts, some have no designated receiver and some I will keep for myself. They are scattered between the house, my room in the barn and the car, which minimizes the impact of the total number (somewhat). No matter where I am, at any given moment I can gaze upon several. My problem seems to be lack of focus and being too easily motivated to start new projects as soon as I think of them.

Pictured here, almost a pair of Maine Morning Mitts, (from the "The Knitter's Book of Yarn" Clara Parkes) knitted in some handspun of mine. Love this pattern. I could make these over and over again (actually, I have). The other lump of knitting will be scarf, from a kit I bought at Rhinebeck from Orchard House Knits. I loved their display. It was soothing just to walk into the space.

Next, a real conglomeration of things. Back left, a hat that is so near finished, I'm ashamed to have you see the needles still stuck in the top of it (I think I couldn't find a tapestry needle at the moment I needed to get it off the needles. Why is it, no matter how many tapestry needles you have, you can't find one when you need it?) The hat is knit from some bulky, hand-dyed and handspun yarn of mine. That pumpkin orange thing is the body of a "Box-the-Compass Sweater", an Elizabeth Zimmerman-Meg Swansen pattern, (the sleeves are somewhere around here). It is a Christmas present and I need to get on it, pronto! In the front, a sock in some self-striping yarn, that I swore I was not going to buy any more of......it was the colors.......I couldn't help myself. That green and purple blob will be a simple shawl in some Noro sock yarn. I'm loving the look of it.

Next, half a pair of Cabled Thumb Mitts (free pattern on the Misti Alpaca website). These are fun and the yarn looks and feels amazing. Unfortunately, I can't find the label. I'm thinking it might be Mountain Colors, but I'm not sure. Lastly, a scarf that I started yesterday afternoon (I know, I know). It's the Meandering Stripes from "Knitting New Scarves". I'm having so much fun knitting this and already I'm thinking how great it would look in some Noro Silk Garden (and I wouldn't have to keep switching yarns).

So, there you have it. I hope this makes you feel better! If not, just let me know and I'll add another installment of "Things on the Needles"!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Unlike my friend, Sara, I hardly ever find a four-leaf clover. Some people just seem to have a gift for seeing them. Instead of four-leaf clovers, I find feathers, feathers and more feathers. Do you suppose that could be considered lucky?

Friday, November 6, 2009


That's a one word description of the weather lately. This has been the one perfect week of fall weather and I have enjoyed it sooooo much! In fact, I'd go so far as to claim that all the inhabitants of Tanglewood Farm have had a pretty good week. Ollie has marked three ewes, Strawberry and Pippi are doing okay and everyone else is just doing their thing.

We've had the most amazing sunsets and moonrisings (if there is such a word). There are beautiful colors all around at this time of year and I wish the season could be stretched out just a little longer. (I'm feeling the "holidays" breathing down my neck.)

Tomorrow I'm taking my spinning wheel and going to Sara's new Wool House event and just generally planning on having a good, relaxing time all weekend. I hope you can do the same, whatever your plans.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mother daughter reunion

This morning I decided to bring Strawberry out of the field, where she has been with the alpaca boys all summer, and into the field where Pippi and the lambs are currently grazing. Strawberry needs to be fed a little better now that she is getting so far along in the pregnancy. It was not the happy reunion I was anticipating.

Pippi - "Oh Mommy, I'm so happy to see you. I've missed you so much!"

Strawberry - "Oh, hi kid. Uh......sorta nice to see you."

Pippi - "Look Ma, here are some of my friends. They're happy to see you, too!"

Strawberry - "Likewise, I'm sure......................not!"

Pippi - "Oh, Mommy, I'm so happy. We can spend all our time together now."

Strawberry - "Look kid, I hate to break it to you, but I'm busy carrying your little brother or sister around right now and I'm kinda tired........so I'm just going over here to take a little nap."

Pippi - "???????"

Needless to say, we are going through a little transition period right now. Pippi tries to get too close and Strawberry gives her the evil eye that basically says "I need my space". Pippi is confused and has her feelings hurt (though I may be reading more into it than I should). I'll give them a few days to work things out. I'm hoping Pippi will learn to back off and not invade her mother's personal space and Strawberry will lose a little of that attitude (which, in her defense, she has had to use on the alpaca boys all summer, just to keep them in line!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

On the job

The boy has been put to work and, so far, he seems to know what he's doing. Ollie, the new CVM ram lamb who came home with me back in August is now doing what he was meant to do. I worked through the ewes on Wednesday, giving worm medication, trimming feet (and trimming a little off the backside there). When I finished with the ladies, I did the same for Ollie (except for the backside trimming), strapped the marking harness on him and turned him in with the group.

Miss Bossy tried to push him around some, but he mainly ignored her and checked everyone out. Yesterday morning, when I went to the barn, I noticed he had marked one of the ewes during the night. (And, see what a gentleman he is, still keeping her company. Look closely and you'll see a little of the yellow crayon mark on her rump.) So assuming all goes as planned, we should have our first lambs appearing around March 23rd!

I have really been enjoying the temperament of the CVM's. They went through a bit of a shy stage for a while, but have all turned into calm, friendly boys and girls. I can hardly wait to see what kind of fleeces will come from the combination of BFL/Romney ewes crossed with a CVM ram. It just has to be good!

It's the anticipation and optimism that keeps us shepherds going year after year (even though many of us vow at the end of lambing that we are never, ever, ever going through it again!).