Monday, August 31, 2009

Winding down

I love the kind of weather we've been having lately. It's been quite cool for the end of August. Today it's in the low 70's and tonight's forecast is for low 50's. There's a certain slant of light that accompanies the change of seasons here in Kentucky. One afternoon you look up and the sky is deep blue and the air is so clear. Everything comes into sharp contrast after the steamy days of summer. I'm sure we'll have more hot, muggy days before autumn is here to stay, but I'm enjoying every moment of this coolness.

The weekend went by in a blur, as it always does. We stayed on the farm all day Saturday and most of Sunday, working in the garden (which is pretty much lost in the weeds at this point), mowing, doing some chores with the lambs and lots of outdoor clean-up and maintenance. One thing about living on the farm is that the to-do list never, ever ends. Sunday afternoon, we packed a small cooler, the Sunday paper and my knitting and took the boat to the end of the road for a few hours on the river. It was so quiet and calm. We saw a few people fishing, but otherwise had the river to ourselves. Nearly as soon as we were underway down river, we hit something and broke the propeller on the motor. Instead of hauling out and coming right back home, we decided to drop anchor and just relax for a while. Forced relaxation is about the only way we can seem to stop working!

Heading back home, we came to our farm lane and look who was there to greet us! Remember this girl? Once again, there were two of them, but one ran off into the woods as soon as we came in sight. This one was just as before, curious and nonchalant about us as long as we didn't make any sudden movements. I was so happy for Mike get to see the foxes for himself.

I'm knitting on Christmas gifts for the grandchildren. It's a little less than four months from now and I need to get more disciplined about finishing things. Maybe I can get some pictures on here soon, just to prove that I really have been knitting and that this blog is still trying to be about fiber (at least occasionally!).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Boy's club (or Wally's World)

Oh look! Wally has been allowed to join the "Boy's Club". After being shunned by his mother* and wandering looking lost and lonesome for a few weeks, the juvenile boys have invited him along on their scouting expeditions. This is a good thing for him, but not necessarily a good thing for us. Three peacocks on the front porch = some rather large "gifts" left behind.

Seriously folks, this situation has gotten completely out of hand. I'll be placing an ad on craig's list soon to find these boys some new homes!

"What are you lookin' at?"

*By the way, it turns out that the reason Wally's mom decided to put him out on his own is that she is now sitting on a nest of five eggs. Just what we need.......more pea chicks.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Large immoveable objects.....

We've had some (wonderful) unusual weather for August the last few days. It's been cool and cloudy, as opposed to very hot and sunny. On days when it is really overcast and cool, the sheep will often be found scattered around, snuggled down and snoozing in the fields. These adult ewes looked like boulders strewn around the field on Saturday morning. Sometimes when I see them sleeping like this, I have to yell or clap my hands, just to see if they lift their heads or wiggle their ears, to reassure myself that they are alive!

At the risk of being perceived as just another blogging, bragging grandmother (who me?), this story was in the Lexington Herald-Leader in the Inside/Out section on Saturday. These boys put their gardening grandmother to shame.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What the heck is a CVM?

Good question! CVM stands for California Variegated Mutant and it's a sheep. No, really! CVM's are Romeldale sheep with certain markings and fleece characteristics. All CVM's are Romeldales, but not all Romeldales are CVM's. You can read all about it here.

I have been on a mission to improve the fineness and softness of my fleeces for some time. I had Romney sheep for many, many years and loved their personalities and fleeces. I have noticed that more and more spinners are looking for really soft fleeces and so, a few years ago, I added Bluefaced Leicesters to my flock. After getting fleeces that weighed 10-12 pounds or more from my Romneys, it was a shock to see how small the BFL fleeces were. For the last several years, I have been cross-breeding the two to produce the fleece type I wanted. I now have a group of ewes I'm really happy with in terms of personalities and fleece characteristics. After doing much research, I decided that using a CVM/Romeldale ram on those ewes should produce more color and compliment the fleece type I already had. The CVM/Romeldale breed is classified as a critically rare breed and, to do my part in promoting the breed, I also bought two ewe lambs in order to have purebred CVM/Romeldale lambs born here. I am so excited about this adventure, I can hardly wait for lambing to start! (I'm sure someone will remind me I said this, when I start complaining about how tired I am, come spring!)

I began corresponding with Chris Spitzer of Yellow Creek Cottage Farm months ago and finally settled on a small starter flock to bring to Kentucky. We now have two ewe lambs and one CVM/Romeldale ram lamb and one moorit Romeldale ram lamb. Chris did a terrific job of putting together a combination of genetics that should give me what I am hoping to produce.

The lambs made the trip just fine, even though it was about 90 degrees for most of the 5 hour drive. I am so impressed with the calm, sweet personality of these boys and girls. Mike was not home yet, so I had no help getting them out of the back of the truck. I backed the truck up to their pen, stacked a few hay bales by the tailgate and opened the back of the pen in the truck. They hopped down and went into the pen, as if they had been trained! Their first night here, when I went to check on them at bedtime, I sat down in the middle of their pen and they all came right up to me and ate a little snack right out of my hands. I love these little guys already!
I haven't come up with any names for these babies yet. Anyone have any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Michigan Fiber Fest

A friend and I left here on Friday and drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan, stopping there overnight to visit and have dinner with my friend's sister and her family. They had prepared a fabulous dinner of Indian food to share with us. It was a wonderful evening of food and conversation.

Early Saturday morning we were on the road again, headed to Allegan for the Michigan Fiber Festival. The last time I made the trip was 5 or 6 years ago, and I was surprised to see that the festival had not grown in that time, but had actually gotten smaller. I don't know if the economy is the reason, but I was sad to see that. In spite of being smaller, with less vendors and fewer people, the quality of goods being offered was terrific. I certainly did my part in contributing to an economic recovery for the area's fiber people. Even though I raise a lot of fiber myself, I can't resist buying from others. I got several different kinds of roving to spin, some beautiful buttons, a small yarn swift, and because one of my favorite vendors, Briar Rose, was there, I had to indulge in a small amount of yarn and several patterns.

Chris, the owner of Briar Rose, has to be one of the most pleasant people I have ever met. She had to be exhausted from the Sock Summit, but observing her waiting on customers, you would never know it. I've visited her booth at many different festivals over the last several years and she always manages to make you feel as though she has all the time in the world and is enjoying every minute she spends helping you. I bought a beautiful rusty red skein of sock yarn (remember, sock yarn doesn't really count!) and the pattern for the Bricker socks, designed by Anne Hanson of Knitspot, plus I just may have happened to buy a few other skeins.
This trip was not really about going to the festival. It was really about going to pick up some sheep I made arrangements to buy several months ago. A new breed of sheep and a new adventure for Tanglewood Farm. More on this in the next day or so.............!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Out my window

We've been seeing this little family around for several months now. I took the picture through the screening on the porch last evening. We think the two standing together might be twins. They are young....still have their spots. The adult with them is surely their mother. They were all quite nervous, being so close to the house, I think. And the flies were causing them to stomp and twitch and flip their tails up and down. I would love to have gotten a better angle for the picture, but I was afraid to move for fear I would spook them. We see deer often here on the farm, but there is still something magical about observing them up close.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Four little surprises!

Never a dull, ordinary day around here. This morning when I went to the barn to let the lambs and chickens out, I kept hearing a little peeping noise. It took me a while to find it, but there, outside the chicken pen, was a tiny, lonely peafowl chick wandering around! I hadn't mentioned here that the juvenile peahen (her name is now in the Carter family, Mother Maybelle) has been sitting on a nest for the last month or so because I assumed it would come to nothing. (Mrs. Dandy didn't lay eggs her first year and was not successful at keeping chicks alive for several years.) Maybelle has been sitting on a nest high up in the hayloft, so I went up to see what the situation was up there. She was down on the floor of the loft and when I forced her to stand up, lo and behold, there were three more chicks under her wing! I put the chicks in a basket and lured Maybelle down the steps and into the dog kennel. So now, we are back at the beginning with chicks again! I still haven't figured out how that little bitty chick survived getting down from the loft. It's a long way down! (and then there is the possibility of a bird that small getting eaten by one of the cats!!)

(Sorry about the blurry picture. These little guys are not so good at posing for the camera.)

Hard to believe that chick could end up to be this in a few years. I think we may need to start placing a few of these guys into other farm homes. So, I'm off to the feed store to get chick starter (again!) before they close for the weekend.

Hope your weekend is full of good surprises.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

When my yarn takes a ride

That's right. I said, when my yarn takes a the car (or truck)...with me. This is a little known phenomenon among knitters, and especially spinners. We have bought or created a yarn that we just can't stop staring at and/or fondling. We want to look at it and be inspired. We admire it and wait for inspiration for the perfect project. For the longest time, I thought I was the only one who took my yarn for car rides, but I have finally gotten admissions from a few other spinners and knitters (those brave enough to own up to it!) that they do the same. This was a major relief for me. There for a while I thought I was alone in my obsession! Yesterday when I went to town for Wednesday knitting, there were three skeins of handspun along! That's a little unusual. Normally, there would only be one skein riding shotgun.

One of the best things about knitting, spinning and other fiber related activities is how, though many of us lead very diverse lives and have very different personalities, the love of fiber serves as a common thread (no pun intended) that helps us relate to one another. We are the ones who can't help touching the yarn in the shop, feeling the fleece on the animal, noticing the detail on someone's sweater or scarf. It's the tactile-ness that we share. Too bad everyone can't find a common thread that would allow them to "just get along" the way most spinners and knitters do.
The Tour de Fleece really got my spinning batteries charged up and I have been working on my stash steadily. That skein in the middle is the Bluefaced Leicester roving I dyed.....way back here. I'm finally getting it spun up and, though it doesn't "look" like the kind of colors I usually create, I'm liking it a lot.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Holly has become one of the most important members of the farm team around here. And to think that she just showed up here makes her all the more special. If you've been reading sheepdreams for a while, you may remember the beginning of her story here. I know I brag on her a lot, but she deserves every word of praise I can give her. Not only has she kept all of our animals safe from the coyotes who travel through every night, but she gets along famously with every other creature on the farm. (There was that little bit of immature chasing of the chickens, but, once she matured by a few months, all I had to do was catch her in the act and correct her by lowering my tone and raising the volume of my voice and that was the last of the poultry excitement.) Our other Pyrenees, Hannah, is a bit of a slacker sometimes, but Holly stays focused.

Except when it's naptime.