Thursday, November 29, 2012

Barbara Kingsolver - Kentuckian

A few nights ago,  my friend Lindy and I went to our local Joseph-Beth Booksellers to hear Barbara Kingsolver speak about her latest book,  Flight Behavior.  I've only read the first two chapters (there wasn't much reading time over the Thanksgiving holiday),  but I can already recommend it.  The characters are so well developed and they seem like people I might possibly know (or at least know of).

She was everything I could have hoped for in someone who is famous and from Kentucky. (Sometimes I get a bit of a complex when I see how Kentucky is most often represented on screen and in print.)  She grew up not far from here and, though she now lives in southwestern Virginia,  seems proud to claim her Kentucky roots.  After reading several selections from the book and taking questions from the audience,  she settled down behind a table and began autographing books for the huge crowd of people who had shown up to see her.  I already owned the book (and all of her other books) but I bought another copy,  as it was the required admission to see her.  As I waited in line to have my book signed,  I was struck by how gracious she was with everyone.  She didn't seem to be in a hurry and took the time to speak with everyone.  When it was my turn,  I asked the question I had wanted to ask during the question and answer part of the evening,  but had deemed a little too off-topic for nearly everyone else in the audience.  I asked her about her sheep.  I'd read somewhere (finally remembered it was in an interview in the latest issue of Vogue Knitting) that she had sheep on her farm in Virginia now and I was curious to know if she was really a "fiber" person.  Barbara Kingsolver raises Icelandic sheep.  She told me that she's not really into hand-spinning,  but loves to knit and is very interested in yarn design.  It was a lovely (short) conversation and I would liked to have been in a situation where I could pull up a chair and have a nice long chat about sheep and fiber and yarn.  Alas,  though she seemed in no hurry at all,  I began to feel guilty about all the people in line behind me,  so after giving her the name of Echoview Fiber Mill (they processed my fiber into yarn this year),  I walked away so happy to have had the opportunity to chat with her.

Don't you just love when someone you've admired from a distance turns out to be even nicer than you could imagine? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


This is a pretty good picture of what has been going on around here - in the barn,  in the fields and in the house, too.  (I have no explanation for why some of these girls are inclined to climb up on the hay feeders like that.  It's as though having it at face-level is just not enough.  They have to bury their face in it!)  Eating,  eating and more eating.  I'm thinking a fast or some kind of detox might be just the ticket until Christmas.  Of course,  who am I kidding?  That will never happen.

(We are nothing, if not enthusiastic about mealtime around here!)
I'm feeling guilty for not having written a beautiful, poetic post expressing how thankful I am.  It's not that I'm ungrateful.  Believe me,  I know how blessed I am to live the life I live.  It's a life I could only dream about as a child and one that certainly seemed an impossible dream.  My problem seems to be that I can't settle down to write that kind of post when I'm so busy actually living my dream life.  Do you know what I mean?  That's where I've been for the past week and a half.  There were so many well written expressions of thankfulness all over the blog-world and here - nothing!  A wonderful young woman I met at Squam last June (hi there, Laura-Lynn) has been writing daily posts of gratitude on Facebook and it has inspired me to make an effort each day to be thankful for some specific thing in my life.  How do you remind yourself to be grateful in the rush of living?

(Aslan giving me the stare-down while waiting for his food)

Friday, November 16, 2012

That time of year ...

I know what you're thinking,  but no I'm not referring to that time of year.  (You know - the holidays and all.)  I'm referring to the time of year for the annual pilgrimage to NAILE.  Tuesday dawned frosty and foggy here at home by the river,  but once the sun was up it was crisp and clear.  It was a perfect day to hit the road early in order to arrive in Louisville in time to see the wool show being judged at the North American International Livestock Exposition.

There was a time in my life (though it's getting harder and harder to remember) when I bred purebred sheep and showed them at various shows around the country.  I do remember that it took a tremendous amount of energy and not a little amount of money!  I'm not interested in investing either of those things these days.  I love keeping my sheep here on the farm,  out grazing in the fields where they naturally belong.   The North American is a prestigious show,  really considered the biggest of the big,  so it's a great opportunity to see lots of different breeds in a short amount of time.   (Of course,  there's always the risk that looking will lead to bringing home a new addition ... which I did not.)  I'm really happy with my own sheep these days.  It's taken me years to get the combination of fleece type and temperament I have now and I'm more than willing to put my efforts into maintaining that.  But still,  I always enjoy looking at sheep and I'm certainly not above scoping out some new livestock equipment.  Anyway, here's a quick view of some of the sights of the day. 

(I spied this beautiful Cotswold fleece as soon as we walked in)
(So much gorgeous wool)
(The main event)                                Th
(Lunch time for some)
(Naptime for others)
(and some were just chillin')

Monday, November 12, 2012

Transition time

When I went up to the studio yesterday afternoon I found Carson listening to what this little lamb had to say.  Carson is just the best cat ever.  If you are thinking of a new pet, please consider adopting from the Friends of the Animals of Jessamine County.  They do such wonderful work and I personally know of many success stories concerning animals they've pulled out of shelters and placed in happy homes.  I have no idea what Carson's circumstances were before he came to live with us.  He was about 8 months old and pretty timid around other animals and people.  The only thing that seems to intimidate him now is our witchy female barn cat, Sadie.  She's maybe half his size and is only occasionally pleasant to him, but he's so laid back he usually gives her a look that says,  "What is your problem?"
The last few weeks have felt very much like a time of transition.  Summer is a (somewhat unpleasant) memory and winter is on the horizon (and I'll go on record as saying I really,  really hope we have a winter this year.)  Until today we've had a long stretch of nearly perfect fall weather.  I spent yesterday cleaning up the garden,  taking down the tomato cages and putting away hoses.  The last big rain and wind storm brought down most of the leaves and I need to get busy raking up the yard and putting all those leaves on the garden beds.  The animals have all been busy, busy during daylight hours,  searching,  scratching,  always on the lookout for an extra morsel of food.  They all get fed grain,  but you'd never know it the way they scurry around.  The Dandy family can often be seen together,  teaching the baby how to go about finding food.  He/she is the only surviving chick and gets plenty of supervision.   People ask me all the time about how noisy the peafowl are and at this time of year about the only thing I hear is the peep-peep-peep of the little one.  When Mr. Dandy has his full compliment of tail feathers he makes quite a lot of racket,  alerting us to any and all movement.  We're so accustomed to it now that we rarely even notice.  Once he sheds those feathers in the fall,  it's as though he becomes mute.  He rarely makes a sound.  I think he doesn't want to call attention to himself when his gorgeous feathers are gone.

I'm happy that the holidays are nearly here.  I've begun my Thanksgiving grocery shopping list and made plans for decorating the tables.  It's my favorite time of the year,  though I never do feel as though I'm quite prepared.  I love the decorating and cooking and having family all here at the farm.  Even with everything else that's going on,  I've managed to squeeze in a tiny bit of knitting and hope to get some decent photos to post soon.  As for Christmas knitting ..... I don't have much to say about that  :-(   How about all of you?  Finished already?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I believe it's going to be Mr. Bates

This is Olive's boy.  He's still waiting for his "Downton Abbey" name.  I'm thinking it might be Mr. Bates.  He has a kind face, don't you think?  He's been acting as the ram of the year for a few select ewes.  That red stain on his chest is from the marking harness he was wearing to help me determine when the 2013 lambs will be due.  The harness holds a wax crayon that marks the rump of the ewe as he mounts her.  I mark the date on the calendar and count forward 145 days.  That becomes the date to watch for new lambs.  It appears he's done his job,  so I pulled him out over the weekend and he's awaiting his appointment for "tutoring".  He's a lovely boy with a sweet temperament and a gorgeous fleece and I don't want to keep him around here as the solitary ram.  Sheep are flocking animals and they don't like to being alone.  We'll castrate him soon and after a brief period of recuperation and time for the testosterone to get out of his system,  he can go in with the little girls.  He's still a growing boy and needs to be getting some grain every day,  as they are.
(That face!)
(I have high hopes that Mr. Bates will pass this fleece along to his babies.)
Speaking of little girls,  I've finally remembered that I hinted at a near disasterous event that happened here at the farm while we were gone to Vermont in September.  It was Marilla .... my funny little bottle baby.  We'd only been away for a few days when I got a text from the farm sitter,  saying one of the ewe lambs was not eating normally.  The next text was that she was having convulsions.  By that point,  I had decided I was not supposed to ever leave the farm again because it seemed to invite tragedy.  Long story short,  we called Mike Griffitt (the closest veterinarian who still does farm calls)  and he came out to look at her.  (Because my husband Mike is a veterinarian,  we don't really have another vet who sees our animals and we were so grateful that he was willing to come out.)  She was unable to stand or walk and he couldn't figure out what the problem was but decided to try treating her with vitamins/minerals and a strong antibiotic.  I stayed up most of the night researching and while we never found anything conclusive,  we decided to put her on a modified treatment for meningeal worm.  It is fairly uncommon in sheep in our area,  but we have plenty of deer visiting our pastures and it can be a problem with the alpacas.  Honestly,  we felt we were probably not going to be able to save her and the treatment regime was a last resort.  Amazingly,  she showed a little improvement every day after that.  Thanks to diligence on the part of Sue,  our farm sitter,  Marilla was able to stand and even walk around a little by the time we returned home.  We still don't know what her mystery illness was.  It took her several weeks to return to "normal" (or as normal as she can be),  but now you'd never know she'd been close to death.  She's my miracle baby and more spoiled than ever.
(That's little Marilla all the way to the left)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Vogue Knitting Live 2012

(This is not downtown Nonesuch)
It was lovely.  The Palmer House Hilton is so elegant,  it's not like staying at any of the modern chain hotels. Teresa and I were lucky to receive an upgrade to our room (which was huge) and had the luxury of two bathrooms!  Simply amazing.  The hotel itself is so big that at times I felt as though a GPS would help.  The classrooms were down hallways with names and rooms with numbers and finding your way once in the morning was not necessarily a guarantee that you would find it again after lunch.  The lobby was full of knitters at all hours of the day and night and the marketplace was a busy,  busy place anytime I made my way there.

The best part,  by far,  was getting to participate in classes I have been wanting to take forever.  If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with Mary Jane Mucklestone sign up quickly and be prepared to learn a lot and have fun,  fun,  fun while you learn.  I've been interested in Fair Isle for a long time,  not necessarily to wear it,  but I admire the patterns and the rich history.  Mary Jane makes it all come alive.  It may take me a while to finish my little wrist warmers,  but I'm loving the process.

(Mary Jane's hat)

 Beth Brown-Reinsel taught the Gansey class and though I went in unprepared,  I learned so many of the techniques used in knitting traditional ganseys and,  again,  so much of the fascinating history.  I was unprepared because I left all my supplies for the class at home on the table in the studio.  I was quite diligent (for me) in getting prepared for my classes.  I did my homework and had prepared a two-gallon ziplock bag for each class I was taking.  I even made little checklists for each class and put everything needed in the bags.  Then,  I left that one bag out of the suitcase!  What can I say?
 Susan Anderson's Top-down Baby Sweater class was terrific.  Besides getting a chance to visit with
Susan,  I got a good start on the cutest little baby sweater.  She had a whole table full of her precious knitted toys and several variations of the baby sweater pattern.  Susan is so sweet and does such a good job of making everyone in the class feel comfortable and happy to be there.  She made the class fun and informative.

Of course,  besides the classes,  there was the Marketplace and it did not disappoint. I bought more than I intended,  but didn't go completely crazy.  I saw so many variations of the "Color Affection" shawlette walking around the hotel,  that I determined I needed to knit one too.  So,  I bought yarn for that.  I bought a few patterns,  some do-dads and a cute and simple cowl kit (It's the Fast and Fun Diagonal Cowl by Leslye Solomon, which I could not find anywhere on ravelry or elsewhere.  She owns Woolstock Yarn Shop in Glyndon, Maryland and I'll bet you could email them and get a copy.)  It's a quick, mindless sort of knit that's perfect for this time of year.  And .... I finally broke down and bought my first pair of Signature needles.  They are pricey,  but everyone I know who has them thinks they are the best.  They're still in the package ... I'm almost afraid to knit with them.  What if I love them?  I'm in big trouble then!

Sunday night we made the pilgrimage to Scoozi's and I had my longed-for plate of Butternut squash ravioli.  I broke with tradition and instead of the Caesar salad,  I had a delicious baby kale salad with roasted pears,  cranberries,  candied walnuts,  Gorgonzola cheese and lemon vinaigrette. Yum!

All in all,  it was a successful trip.  This week,  it's been playing catch-up.  My little sheepy girls missed me and seemed happy to have the regularly scheduled shepherd back with the feed buckets.  (Mike said that for the first few days,  whenever he went into the barn to feed them,  they acted as though he was there to kill them!)  Such spoiled babies.