Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting ready

What a weekend! We had a week of rain, topped off by a monsoon on Thursday night. Though I didn't suffer through having a house flooded (we are way up on a hill, thank goodness), parts of our farm lane were damaged and the creek crossing just washed away. Our farm lane is lovely, very picturesque, but challenging, to say the least. It turns in sharply from the paved road, drops down a hill, through the creek and then up a hill on the other side and it's a quarter of a mile long. In the years since we moved here, we've had thousands of dollars worth of grading and gravel work done and we still end up losing parts of it every year (sometimes more than once). Mike has figured out a way to use a tractor with a grader blade to maintain and repair most of the damage. This time was not so easy, mainly because Mike has not been here for the last few days. He has been on a hiking trip in the Smokies, and while I am confident enough on the tractor to mow the fields, I am not adept at using the grader blade. So, I have been having a little "alone time" here at home. I love being here on the farm (see Oh Joy! blog post), but knowing I couldn't leave if I wanted to puts things in a little different light.

Actually, it's been fine because I have used the time to start preparing for the Kentucky Wool Festival that will be happening this coming weekend. At this very moment, I'm really glad that no one can come in to the farm because my house looks like a wool explosion has taken place. I've been dyeing roving and yarn and spinning and weighing and pricing and just generally making one glorious mess. (I am so looking forward to having a studio/work space where I can keep all my supplies and equipment together and can leave work in progress. Construction is supposed to start in about a month.....but that's a topic for later.) I'll be sharing a space with Sylvia Yawn of Shepherd's Place Farm (sadly, no website) and hope to see many fiber enthusiast while I am there.
This business of dyeing roving and yarn in colors that other people might want to buy is somewhat challenging for me. I'm an autumn person and rusty reds, olivey greens, browns and muted golds are what I go for every time. So, I'm having to stretch myself a little here to come up with some different palettes. Otherwise, I could end up bringing everything I take to sell right back home with me! (Which, if it's all in my colors, wouldn't be such a bad thing!)

Friday, September 25, 2009


When I agreed to take in an orphan lamb many, many (many)years ago, I had no earthly idea of the path I was stepping out onto. Looking back, I don't think I had much of an idea about anything at that point in my life! I had three young boys, one nearly four, one nine and the oldest 11 years old. I lived on a small farm and had the horses I had dreamed of my whole city childhood. That first lamb, Sheba (I know, I know, so predictable), was a Suffolk/Hampshire crossbred and she came to me at the tender age of one day old. I knew nothing about sheep and I mean nothing! It's a miracle she lived through all my learning experiences. (In fact, she lived to be seventeen years old.) I loved her in a way that was completely different from my affection for my horses, dogs and cats. When she was two years old, I took her to a neighbor's farm to be bred. Five months later, Sheba had her first lamb and that was it. I was hooked. I knew I didn't want to raise sheep for meat, but the idea of raising a wool breed and actually using the wool was so appealing. It was a life changing decision for me. I have involved myself in many activities during my adult, tennis, (anyone out there need a practically brand new pair of ice skates?) just to name a few. None of them worked for me. It's been the sheep and fiber related activities that have been the one constant and the point I'm trying to get to (in my usual round-about way) is that the friends I've made, because I raise sheep, are the true blessing.

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I lost a ewe who was very special to me last year. Pauladeen was bottle baby, mine from the moment of her birth. She was such a funny, quirky personality and I still miss her. Not long after Pauladeen's death, my friend, Lindy (locolindy), gave me a plaque she had painted with a likeness of Pauladeen and it was captioned "In my heaven, let there be sheep". Just this past weekend, Sara (thecrazysheeplady), gave me a wonderful needle felted sheep she had crafted to look like Pauladeen and she even created it from some of Pauladeen's last fleece. (Just writing this makes me tear up.) Who could ask for more caring, wonderful friends? Not me, for sure!
So, in spite of the fact that you've just been told a big chunk of my life story, my real objective here is to say thank you, thank you, thank you to my "sheep friends" for being so thoughtful. (And, how lucky am I that my thoughtful sheep friends are also very talented?)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The boy can't help it

Poor Wally. He is by turns funny, sad, ridiculous and endearing (sometimes all in the space of a few short minutes). Yesterday he walked down from the barn and spent most of the afternoon on the terrace, outside the sunroom door. Right away he saw another young peacock, who appeared to be just his size, looking at him from the door to the sunroom. He didn't much care for the way the bird was staring at him, so he flew up against the glass and had a little scuffle with the guy. The other bird was tougher than he thought! After that, he spent nearly an hour straightening his feathers, grooming and trying to ignore that bird who seemed to be looking at him every time he glanced that way. You could almost see Wally's little brain cells working away, trying to figure out what to do about the situation. Of course, in the end, since Wally is a peacock and peacocks don't have much going on in the way of brain cells, he lost interest and wandered back to the barn.

Just another day of exciting events here on the farm!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall-ish Friday

We awoke this morning to a soft, slow rain dripping down through the trees and it made me want to snuggle down in the covers and stay awhile. Alas, that is rarely allowed around here. I love rainy days, so I didn't really mind getting up. All the animals were quiet, except for the roosters, who were having a crowing competition. The sheep love this cooler weather and were out in the rain, grazing contentedly.

Back to those roosters----we have two right now. They both were part of the clutch that hatched back in the spring. Remember these? They are Cochin bantams and both quite handsome, but we don't need two, so Sara has graciously offered to take one of them and a companion bantam hen. I have been worried they might start squabbling, but, other than the crowing competition, they don't seem to pay much attention to each other. It's possible that being raised with bigger, standard size hens has kept them in their places, so to speak. The Black Australorp hens are at least twice as big as these boys.

We are in a transition time here at Tanglewood Farm. It's not time to divide the ewes and put the rams in, yet, though I have been considering which ewes should be bred to which ram. I'm thinking that mid-October is plenty soon enough to start breeding. I don't want to have lambs born before the middle of March. Been there, done that, don't need to do it again (at least not on purpose!).

I'm off tomorrow on an adventure to check out "A Wool Gathering" in Yellow Springs, Ohio. They have an impressive list of vendors and at least one of them will surely have something I really, really need. And don't forget that tomorrow is World Wide Spin in Public Day. Thatcrazysheeplady and I are hauling our wheels along, so we can do just that. Hope you have as great a weekend as I'm planning on having!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Oh Joy!

Autumn Joy, that is. I love it and look forward to this time every year when it starts to take on that wonderful rusty-red color that signals fall is coming soon. Fall is my very favorite season and, with the exception of my husband's ragweed allergy, I love everything about it. The light, the cooler temperatures, the plants that are blooming, the shorter days and longer nights, the food and the change of clothing are just some of the things I look forward to all summer. In some ways, I am like the animals I raise. They seem rejuvinated now. The lambs and yearlings are not spending quite so much time snoozing in the shade during the day and, when I go out to feed them in the evenings, they act almost giddy------jumping and running, doing that boing-boing thing they do when they are having fun.

Earlier today, I was trying to catch up on reading some of my favorite blogs, I read a post on Anne Hanson's Knitspot, where she used the phase her "old bathrobe sweater". That phrase refers perfectly to one of the sweaters I have on the needles at the moment. (And it's one I intend to finish knitting this week! There, I said it and hope that will keep me motivated, or shamed, into actually doing it.) I found the pattern in a 2005 Debbie Bliss book called "Home-27 Handknits for Living". Most of the patterns are what I would call homegoods: afghans, pillows, washcloths and such, but there are a few cozy sweaters, mittens, scarves and socks that are the kinds of things I love to wear. Truthfully, I could happily knit everything in the book and there aren't many books out there I can say that about (though on Amazon it has gotten decidedly mixed reviews). I'm using Malabrigo Worsted yarn in the #173 Stonechat colorway and it is a joy to knit with. It's next to the skin soft and the color is perfect for this time of year. It even reminds me of my Autumn Joy sedums. (I'm knitting both sleeves at the same time, so I really don't have much more to do.)

I've been feeling like a bit of a dead-head lately (and not the Grateful kind, either). I've had too many things going on that have taken me away from the farm, too many days in a row. I'm not organized enough to be gone most of the day and come home to accomplish much of anything else. Are you able to do that? In talking with my women friends who are farmers like me, I have found a commonality in that we all really like staying on the farm all day and find it hard to leave. We seem to crave more "alone" time than most women and the more we stay at home, the more we want to stay at home on the farm. Maybe it's just that I never feel as though I have enough time to do what I need to do and still have time to do what I want to do. The idea of ever being bored at home is totally beyond my comprehension.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Hay Day

That's not an official holiday for most people, but around here we get really excited when it comes along. Yes, we are officially ready for the winter of 2009-10. Our hay was delivered not long ago and is safely stored in the barn loft, awaiting those cold, brown grass days, when the sheep will need it.

Up until two years ago, we raised our own hay and it was nearly always an exercise in frustration. My husband grew up on a farm and one of his favorite things to do is bale hay, but he works all week and trying to get hay at just the right stage for baling, only on the weekends, hardly ever worked out right. I finally convinced him that there were better ways for us to spend that time (I mean, it's not like there's nothing else to do around here!) And, one of the best parts of this arrangement? I don't have to help get the hay up into the loft!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Going to Gee's Bend

Well, I didn't physically go to Gee's Bend.........only in my imagination, inspired by an exhibit of some Gee's Bend quilts and by the two ladies who came to Lexington with the exhibit. Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway held the crowd at the Carnegie Center in thrall last evening with their stories and especially their songs. What a gift these women have! To just stand up in front of strangers and sing, loud and clear and beautifully of their faith and their lives. I can't imagine, ever in my lifetime, of being brave enough to do that! And then there were the quilts. Some of them were very much like abstract art and I'll confess right here to liking them much, much more than any abstract art I've ever seen. I know the need for their quilts originated in the grinding poverty Gee's Bend experienced during it's history. The women who made these quilts deserve all the more praise for being able to produce something so joyful to warm their families, in spite of their circumstances.

Please believe me that I am not, in any way, trying to romanticise how difficult life must have been for these women. I come from very humble ancestors. My maternal grandmother raised six children and lived her whole life without ever having an indoor bathroom. I know from hearing her stories that every day was hard work from sun-up til sun-down. I'm just saying, I admire the spirit of these women. And it makes me feel ashamed of all the times I have whined and complained about doing the laundry, running the vacuum, having to put the dishes in the dishwasher, for goodness sake.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Getting along

The new CVM girls have joined the "home girls" (the ones who were born here this past spring). I like to keep new arrivals in a sort of quarantine for a few weeks, just to make sure they have adjusted to the routine and are suffering no ill effects from being transported. Usually, when new sheep join the flock, there can be some pushing and shoving, a little jockeying around to show them who's the boss. There was none of that this time. The group took them right in and they all are acting as though they've been together always. It's so nice when everyone just gets along! The boys are still being kept separate, mainly because the little moorit ram has had some health issues. (He seems to be doing fine now.) I'm not planning on dividing everyone up and putting the rams to work until the end of October. It finally occurred to me that because I'm not showing my lambs in competition anymore, I don't have to put myself (or the ewes) through lambing in really cold weather. By the last of March or early April, when the ewes will be due to lamb, we'll have green grass and much more pleasant temperatures.

The CVM boys usually have company in the back barnyard, where they've been hanging out. The chickens can hardly contain themselves in the mornings. When I open their little door to the outside they bail out like parachuters jumping out of a plane! They love digging around in the barn and hunting through the grass for bugs. Frankly, they stay a lot happier and don't squabble amongst themselves as much when they can get out and expend some energy running around (sort of like little children!).

Do you have catalpa trees where you live? As children we called them cigar trees, just because of the way the seed pods look. (We thought we were particularly clever when we pretended to be smoking them!) Catalpa is an Indian word and the tree is sometimes called an Indian Bean tree. Why Jilly was doing this (whatever "this" is), I surely don't know. I've never seen any of the sheep pay attention to the catalpa tree before. They are messy, but interesting trees. They grow rather free form and in the early summer the blooms smell wonderful and the bees go crazy for them.

We are having the most glorious weather this week. It makes me worry a little that there will be some sort of retribution later!