Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy hour on the farm

(Mr. Bates loves his dinner!)
Well, it's not that kind of happy hour.  There are no festive drinks involved, but rather the "happy" refers to how the sheep react to feeding time.  It's a once or twice a day (depending on time of year and weather) highlight of the day for the creatures who live here.  When the sun is getting low in the sky, the sheep start keeping a sharp eye out for me.  As soon as I leave the house or studio and start toward the barn, they come running.  We've had a spell of dry weather and they've been out on pasture, instead of being brought into the barn in the evenings.  That means I load the hay bales on my trusty cart and deliver dinner to them.

A few days ago,  as I was spreading the hay flakes out, Mrs Patmore (yes, she's one of those Downton Abbey girls and got that name because of her less than svelte figure!), surprised me by jumping up into the hay cart.  In all my years of keeping sheep, I've never had one who would willing get up on anything with wheels.  She was quite nonchalant about it and it took considerable effort on my part to get her to jump out.  Luckily the front of the cart comes off because there's no way she could have turned around.  As it was, I had to finally push her out.  Just one more occasion of nearly daily surprises around here.

(Lady Edith-on the right) thought maybe she was missing something good)
 Christmas is less than a week away and though I am not quite ready, I am nearly there. We have simplified our holiday season so much these last few years.  I no longer decorate every room in the house and it seems I'm leaving more and more decorations packed away each year, but the decorations that are out are ones that have special meaning.

(Check out those snazzy red heels!)

I know I've been absent a lot around here lately but a new year is coming and I've got PLANS!  There will be a blog anniversary, a sweet little book giveaway (with maybe some bonus yarn thrown in), some knitting projects to show and several other things I've been thinking about for awhile.  So, don't give up on me.  I'm planning to be here on a much more regular basis in the very near future.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Headed this way

(Quite a different picture than the earlier snow scene and the one we'll have tomorrow morning.)
"They" are saying it's coming our way.  Right now it's raining buckets and it's supposed to turn to sleet, ice and eventually snow.  I can handle all of that except the ice.  Please, please don't give us an ice storm!  It's been so warm here the last few days (mid 60's) that I was actually thinking about mowing the grass in the area in front of the studio one last time!  Needless to say, that won't be happening now.

I was reading Heather's blog this morning and have been thinking about her plan to do Christmas knitting in July.  I need to adopt that plan because I'm in failure mode right now.  It's looking pretty bleak for there being completed items inside the boxes by Christmas.  Why, when we know Christmas comes at the same time every year, is it so hard to judge how much actual knitting time is needed to finish gift knitting?  I'm almost always too optimistic about what I can accomplish in a given amount of time.  I'm thinking I'll put a reminder to myself on my 2014 calendar.....big red letters on the first of July Start Christmas Knitting Now!  We'll see how that goes.

Earlier than usual this evening, I put down more fresh bedding and brought everyone back into the barn for the night.  I'd made them all go out for a little while earlier in the day and now they are all walking around like big wet sponges.  Of course, now is when they want to get all up close with me!  I needed dry jeans by the time everyone was tucked into their pens and happily eating hay.  I'll admit that one of my favorite parts of shepherding is having everyone cozied up inside and peacefully munching on sweet smelling hay.  I love to sit down in the pen with them and give face scratches to the ones who will come over for a little one on one attention from me.  I love that.

(Good eaters, every one!)
(Rowdy and his girls-he doesn't know it yet, but tonight is his last chance to get the job done.)
Three of those girls with Rowdy have been bred by him (that's the red crayon marks on their rumps) and I'm hoping the rest were bred by the Wensleydale (who was not wearing a marking harness).  We are now up to a May 1st lambing date and I don't want to go any further into warm weather,  so tomorrow Rowdy goes back in with Buddy.  Neither of them will be thrilled about that!

I'm planning on bringing in the Christmas tree this weekend and maybe a little baking is in order.  It seems like we're a little short on Christmas spirit around here and I want to change that!!  I'm hoping for a snowy (not icy) weekend.  And, I want to know if everyone else has finished their Christmas knitting already.  Tell me, please!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Let the wild rumpus start!

That, of course, is from "Where the Wild Things Are", a children's book by Maurice Sendak, but it totally applies to this week at our house.  Right now, it's more likely to be let the wild mess begin as I am in the throes of preparations for Thanksgiving dinner.  We're going to be a little smaller this year because one son and his family are away and my oldest grand-daughter has moved far, far away to California.  It makes me sad to not have all of our family around the table, but I do understand that things can't always stay the same, no matter if I don't want the changes. Older family members pass away, babies grow up and begin to have their own lives and every year brings a little different experience to our holiday traditions.

I have baked the cornbread and biscuits for the dressing, made the cranberry relish and gone over my list of things I have to have on hand.  There is no quick trip to the store for something forgotten when you live where I do.  Today the turkeys are brining, the giblets are simmering, the corn pudding is mixed and waiting in the refrigerator (I use the recipe from Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill) and the pecan pie is in the oven.  I think I'm doing a pretty good job of staying on task.  The last hour before it all goes on the table is the crazy-house part for me.  Luckily, I've got great daughters-in-law (and occasionally a son or two will wander through the kitchen) who will pitch in to make sure I don't leave something in the oven (not that I'm admitting that has ever happened - just sayin').

This was the scene as I came back from the barn this morning.  Glorious snow!  I love it so much.  It's quite cold here (in the 20's) and I'm wondering if we are indeed going to get that hard winter that people have been predicting .  It's a little early for snow in Kentucky and it did mean that I had to give a morning feeding of hay because the ground was covered.  Usually the sheep are out grazing all day and I have just begun feeding them a little in the evenings. The girls especially seemed to appreciate having breakfast served to them this morning, rather than having to find it for themselves.

The next few weeks will go by in a blur.  I hope we can all take tomorrow to slow down, enjoy family and friends and count our blessings.  All of us here at Tangewood Farm wish all of you the happiest of Thanksgivings.  May your day be filled with blessings and good company.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


We've had a long, warmish autumn here in the Bluegrass.  Weirdly so.  After a summer of rain just when we seemed to need it, things turned a little dry as summer drew to a close.  Consequently, we didn't have a lot of color and what we had seemed to be mostly yellow and gold.  Then came some dramatic wind storms, with broken branches and leaves stripped from the trees before they even turned and the boat cover ripped to shreds!.  A few days ago it was in the low 60's and when we awoke the next morning there was a magical dusting of snow!

Our visiting lover boy (the Wensleydale ram) is keeping me guessing as to whether he's doing the job or not.  The only ewe I've actually seen him breed is Gabby.  Gabby is what you'd call an "easy keeper" (translates to extra good eater and needs to lose some weight!), so I'm not sure if she'll even get pregnant.  I'm hoping he's doing all his romancing during the night-time.  The ewes cycle every 17 days and we are approaching the end of a complete cycle, at which time the ram will go home to begin the breeding program at Seldom Scene Farm.  I suppose our Rowdy boy will have a chance to prove himself with the ladies after that.

This time right before the holidays has seemed strangely rushed and stressful for me.  You know that feeling of being way, way behind before you ever get started?  Well, that's been me lately.  I've been a bit under the weather with (what I think is) a virus and plagued by poor sleep issues.  After a few visits to the doctor and while awaiting some tests results,  I've decided to just get on with it.  Too much to do to spend time moping around.

Though I have plenty of knitting going on, it mostly cannot be shown now.  What can be shown is knitting that should not be going on, but because I am weak and highly suggestible, I will show you my Lady Marple.  Not long ago, Amanda mentioned on her blog that she had begun knitting a Lady Marple .... and included the Ravelry link, which I, of course, went to straightway.  In turn, that sent me to the stash where there was just enough (I hope!) hand-dyed (by me), circa 2011 Sheep Dreams yarn in my very favorite semi-solid barn red colorway.  I am really enjoying this knitting.  I'm in a groove now with the simple lace pattern and can knit anywhere and anytime without having to think, which is sometimes just what I need.

And, because my life is nothing, if not color-coordinated, this is what I'm reading these days.  I heard Ann Patchett interviewed on Tom Ashbrook's program (On Point) on NPR not long ago and was intrigued by her latest book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.  It's a collection of non-fiction essays and it's so, so good.  I can highly recommend it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hello November

I can hardly believe November is well underway.  October was a blur and, after all my talk about slowing down and simplifying my life, I can only say that I failed spectacularly.  But, starting now - it's going to happen, right? 

I had lots of fun during October.  There were farm parties, fiber festivals and more fiber festivals and plenty of knitting time in the car, so I can't complain too much.  Right now though, I'm ready to settle in by the fireplace, do a little sewing, maybe work on some Christmas knitting and watch some more episodes of "Foyle's War".  (I can highly recommend the "Foyle's War" series.  We watch it via Netflix and are about halfway through watching the series from the beginning, which first began on Masterpiece Mystery back in 2002.  It's excellent watching.)

The sheep have been out grazing contentedly.  We still have a fair amount of grass and I'm hopeful that it will last until Thanksgiving.  Most of the flock is still residing in the field we call the Triangle Field (so called because when we bought the farm and for several years thereafter, it was actually triangle shaped.  We long ago reconfigured the fencing and it's more of a rectangle now, but no matter....the name is stuck.)  There's a small, select group of girls being courted by a visiting boy.  My friend, Lindy,  recently acquired a lovely Wensleydale ram and he's spending just a little time here with us.  I'm really hoping to recreate a few more Wensleydale crossbred lambs with those fabulous fleeces that I've come to love. Our ram lamb, Rowdy, will serve as backup boy, so either way, there will be some nice babies arriving in 5 months or so.

The mental debate about whether to breed or not has gone on inside my head nearly all summer.  I'm just not sure how many more years I can do the work it requires.  There's a part of me who thinks that continuing to do the heavy work it takes to shepherd my flock will help me stay younger and more fit.  There's another part of me who worries that I'm causing myself to break down even faster!!  At any rate, I'm committed to at least one more year of having sweet baby lambs around when spring time arrives.  I'm for sure planning on bringing the "lamb-cam" back for one more season, so stay tuned for that!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


(glorious New England color)
This week, well actually this whole month, has been a bit of a blur and a slowdown is not yet on the horizon.  It seems we've either had some big activity going on here at the farm or we've been on the road, away from the farm, for most of October.  I'm thinking some quiet time settling into the coming winter will be a very good thing during the month of November.

Last weekend was the glory that is Rhinebeck.  Friday we drove 13+ hours to Rhinebeck, New York for a nearly perfect weekend of beautiful foliage, good food, wonderful weather, meeting new and old friends (it was so great to be reunited with my Squam cabin mates!) and the ultimate in fiber festivals.  It's surely a combination of all of the above that makes me love Rhinebeck so much.  I have gone to a lot of festivals over the years and this is the one that continues to top my list of events that I'm willing to travel long distances to attend.

(my 36 colors)
Saturday was my day to check out all the vendors and because we arrived at the fairgrounds well before the gates opened and were close to the front of the line, that was mostly accomplished before it became too crowded.  Sunday was devoted to the "36 Color Wheel Workshop", taught by Gail Callahan (The Kangaroo Dyer).  It was an eye-opening class for me and I think I finally understand the process of combining a few primary colors to achieve just the shade I'm looking for.  Gail explained and demonstrated the process in a clear and easily understandable way and then turned us loose to try it for ourselves.  It was fun and educational - the best possible outcome for any learning experience.  Gail has inspired me to be more creative in my color choices for this year's palette.  As soon as I can stay home for more than a day or so, I intend to pull out the dye pots and start working on the mountain of my "fresh from the farm yarn" that arrived back from the mill a few weeks ago.  (More on that in a later post.)

(buttons & detail of front)
My Olive "Antler" was indeed finished in time to become my 2013 Rhinebeck sweater .... just barely!  She made the drive on Friday, stretched out on top of the luggage in the back of the car,  feeling still slightly damp.  One of the best parts of the weekend were comments and questions from other knitters.  I love that walking around Rhinebeck in a handknit starts so many conversations with people you don't even know, who immediately become your friends.  For someone as introverted as I am, it's the best possible way to talk to strangers.  Even more fun, was spotting other "Antlers".  Because Olive was handspun and a little larger gauge than the pattern called for, she was somewhat different from other versions.  It's a great pattern to knit, easily adaptable and I can highly recommend it.

(the back view of Olive)
Tomorrow,  my friend Teresa and I are heading to Asheville, North Carolina for the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair.  Asheville is such a great town and SAFF is a fun place to catch up with fiber friends in this part of the country.  It's an easy drive through beautiful mountains and I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend of (more)food, (more)fiber and (more)friends!

Monday, October 14, 2013

My own "Old Kentucky Home"

(morning fog - view from our back door)
I am in love with my own old Kentucky home right now.  We have been having the most perfect autumn weather - warm (but not too warm) sunny days and cool nights (referred to as good sleeping weather around here).  We've had just enough rain to provide plenty of green grass and all the animals are still contentedly grazing in the pastures.  To my way of thinking, it just can't get much better than this.  It's no secret that fall is my most favorite time of year.  (Doesn't everyone love their birth month better than the rest of the year?)  After several summers of blazing heat and occasional drought conditions, this summer proved to be much more tolerable.  Because the weather is completely beyond my control, it feels very much like a precious gift when it's this good.

So, what's happening besides glorious weather?  We had a big event on Saturday when my oldest son's architectural firm had their fall outing here at the farm.  Mike and I have concluded that we need to schedule some big party event (just maybe not always a wedding) every fall to motivate us to get our act together.  While the farm can never be manicured and groomed in the way a city yard might be or like one of the fancy horse farms that are around our part of Kentucky, with the right stick being held over our heads, we can spiff ourselves up a little!  Luna and Marilla had a starring role when I penned them beneath the old catalpa tree for all the little people to get close to and the alpaca boys did their part by coming up to the fence to gawk at all the cars and people.

I've not been doing much cooking or baking lately, except for an occasional loaf of no-knead bread (using the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day).  It is seriously easy and so, so good!  I nearly always have a container of the dough in the refrigerator these days.  I bake mine in one of my Le Creuset pots and it comes out perfect every time.  If you haven't tried it, you should.  What I'm really in the mood for is hearty soup, so last night I made this recipe (scroll down to the bean, kale, rice and sausage soup) from Heather Bruggeman.  Her blog is Beauty That Moves and she has terrific, healthy recipes.  This soup has become a favorite because it's delicious and good for you, plus I nearly always have all the ingredients on hand. 

On the knitting front - it's all about my Olive sweater right now.  I'm hoping to get some serious knitting time in the next few days in order to wear Olive as my Rhinebeck sweater during the weekend.  I'm so excited to be going to Rhinebeck again, after missing the last few years.  It is my favorite fiber show of the year in one of my favorite parts of the country.  The pattern is Antler by Alexa Ludeman.  It's in the book Pacific Knits and is available through Ravelry as a single pattern.  It's very well-written and I'm loving knitting all those cables on the yoke.  Of course, I'm having to make adjustments because my gauge is off, but what else is new?  :-)

So, what's going on at your house?  Any knitting or cooking to share?  Happy Autumn Days everyone!

Monday, October 7, 2013


Last week seemed to just roll over me and it's looking as though this week might do the same.  We  had a week of such highs and lows.  We gathered family together and held a celebration of my sweet mother-in-law's 90th birthday on Sunday.  There were four generations present who wanted to honor her and show her how very much she means to all of us.  She handled it all with her customary grace and good humor and seemed pleased (though she kept saying that she never expected to still be here on this earth for so long!).

On Tuesday, my 23 year old grand-daughter moved to California and my feelings about it are very conflicted.  It's an exciting adventure for her and I'm happy that she's having the opportunity to experience it, now while she is young.  On the other hand, I am, quite selfishly, very sad that she's so far away.  In the past few years, she's become more like the daughter I'll never have and I'm going to miss having her just an hour away.  It is a comfort to be able to stay in touch easily via email, phone and texts, so I can be grateful for that.

Late in the week, my youngest son's father-in-law quite passed away quite unexpectedly, after complications from surgery.   My daughter-in-law is part of a very close-knit family and it has been very sad for all who know them.  They chose to hold a celebration of his life, rather than calling it a funeral. He left a legacy of a family who never doubted for a moment that he loved them and the service was full of fond memories they have of him.

Two celebrations of life in one week - one for someone continuing to live a long and full life and one for someone gone too soon.  It's sobering to think how tenuous our life on this earth is.  None of us know what tomorrow brings or even how many tomorrows we have left.  I know I need to practice living each day to the fullest (and fullest does not mean filling it up with busyness), to avoid dwelling on negative thoughts and to tell those I love how much they mean to me more often.  Lately, I've been getting messages from different sources (even facebook, of all places) to slow down, simplify, be present and awake in my own life.  I've thought a lot about the concept of simplifying for some time now and it often feels as though the more I yearn for it, the more elusive it becomes.  Am I alone in seeking a more simple life?  I don't think I am, but I'd be interested to hear how others feel about the idea of it.  I'd love to know if you've managed to achieve a balanced life and how you accomplished it or if, like me, you're still trying to figure it all out.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Winner!

(early morning fog coming up from the river)
 Alrighty then!  Today is THE day to announce the winner of Susan Anderson's "Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys".  Thanks so much for all the praise for Susan - she deserves every bit of it.  She's a special person and it's evident from your comments that I'm not the only one who thinks so. has chosen number 63 and that belongs to a comment from Ashley (ashleym103) (I eliminated any accidental duplicates).  Ashley,  I've sent you a message on Ravelry and as soon as I hear from you, I'll send your mailing information on to Susan's publicist.  You should be receiving your very own copy of the book soon.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to enter and, if you'd like to have another chance at winning, the last stop on the blog book tour is with Angela Tong on her blog Oiyi's Crafts and is scheduled to start sometime today.

(Luna's always ready for a little extra attention)
So, with the excitement of reading all those comments behind me, it's back to my real life ... which is  tending the sheep, alpaca boys and llama girls and spending my days with my hands on this year's fiber harvest.  I'm not going to be vending at any of the fall fiber festivals this year.  I'm still waiting on my yarn to come back from Echoview Fiber Mill, but I'll be making the drive up to Ohio Valley at the end of this week to have some wool/alpaca blend roving processed, then it will be into the dye pots for me.  I'm planning on an open farm day sometime later this fall and I want to have a nice selection of yarn and dyed roving available.  As always, the hardest part for me is settling on the color palette to dye this year's "Fresh From the Farm Yarn".  After hosting the natural dye workshop here at the farm in May, I'm excited to use as many natural dyes as possible.  Stay tuned for progress reports!

(definitely want to repeat these colors from logwood)
It's also time to be making decisions about which ewes will be put in with Rowdy.  I have twelve half Wensleydale yearling ewes that I think would make a fine cross, but they are yearlings and have never lambed before, which means they'll need more hands-on attention than the older, more experienced ewes. Given my plans to simplify by only breeding a few girls (and the on-going issues with my shoulder), experience may be the winner here.   I'm still mulling over all the possibilities.

Here on the farm, we're moving into another part of the yearly cycle.  In most ways, we're getting ready for the cold winter days ahead.  At the same time we'll also be looking ahead to warm spring days of new lambs and fresh, green grass coming up in the pastures.  (And, unless there's another no-show year in the lambing maternity ward, the LAMB-CAM will return!)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's a "Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out" Giveaway

When Susan B. Anderson's publisher contacted me about being part of the blog tour for "Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys" I was more than happy to do so.  As everyone surely knows by now, I'm a huge fan of Susan and her designs.  She is a rock star in the knitting world, but even better, she's one of the nicest and most generous people you would ever hope to meet.

(I couldn't help myself - I chose this as my first project!)

(and this one may be next)
I love everything about this little book.  It's cleverly designed with a pull-tab on the front cover to demonstrate how the toys work and is spiral bound (as I believe all knitting books should be), which makes it easy to keep open while you are following the instructions.  It's a great size to tuck into your knitting bag and the pages have an easy to read finish.  The very best part is the toy designs.  They are all cute, cute, cute!  I can't even imagine how Susan thought up all these precious toys.  They are designed with lots of unique features, but are not difficult to knit and Susan's directions are easy to follow and include an abundance of pictures to demonstrate exactly how to do details like the embroidered faces.  Susan answers all your questions before you can even think to ask them!  I took the book along with me to Michigan last week and spent a little while knitting up a toy.  I had a difficult time making up my mind which one to knit because they are all so unique, but in the end decided I had to start with the animals I knew best, the lamb and the bunny.  Susan used fabulous Quince & Co. yarn for her version but I decided I wanted to make mine with my natural colored handspun yarn from my own animals.  (It occurred to me, too late, that knitting the bunny with some handspun angora would be really sweet, but then concluded that since babies love to put everything in their mouths, maybe a really fuzzy bunny might not be the best choice for baby gifting.)

I've had to discipline myself to not use the word clever over and over again while describing this book and all the toys.  On the front cover it states that these two-in-one reversible projects are "Magical" and that is true.  So, here's the good news for you.  Leave a comment here and you'll be entered to win your very own copy of "Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys".  Tell me if you've knitted from one of Susan's books before or if you've ever taken one of her classes or if you're hoping for the chance to take a class from her some day!  Comments will close at midnight on Sunday, September 29th.  I'll use to draw a number and will announce the winner on Monday morning.  Good luck!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The view from here

Yes, this is the view out the back door of the cottage.  I've been looking at in wonder all week.  Could there be anything that looks less like the view I usually see out my back door?  (And, yes, the water really is that color-even more so at certain times of the day.)  All the way out past the end of that dock, it's only about three feet deep and crystal clear.  Out where the water is darker it's almost three hundred feet deep and that water is cold all the way to shore!  Apparently, July and August are the months to brave the waters without a wet suit and that's okay because I had no plans to swim, just to sit in the sun and enjoy the sounds of the water lapping against the dock.

We've been out and about, exploring the sweet little towns in the vicinity.  We've had excellent late lunches in Traverse City and Alden and on Mackinac Island.  Apparently, we've reached the age where we can enjoy having a wonderful meal in early afternoon and then having a light supper back at the cottage.  (It's a much more comfortable way to eat, but we can only manage it on the weekends at home.  I'm thinking that almost puts us in the "Early-Bird Special" age category!)

We've had a mixed bag of weather, but it's worked out fine.  Mike has managed to get in some fishing on three days and the weather hasn't affected my knitting, one way or the other.  Besides my vest and Olive sweater, I've been working on a little project that I'll show on Tuesday.  As part of Susan Anderson's Topsy-Turvy blog tour for her newest book, I've got a great little giveaway coming then, so be sure to check back.

This area of Michigan is beautiful.  There are acres and acres of fruit tree farms and wineries.  It's farming country for sure, with fields of rich, blackish-brown soil and a gently rolling landscape that allows plenty of sky to be in sight.  Lakes and rivers are everywhere and I suspect that if you know where to go, it's a fisherman's paradise.  Mike has taken his fishing kayak to several smaller lakes and streams and though it's taken a bit of trial and error and asking the locals for advice, he's been catching some fish, which always makes him happy.

(See that fabulous topiary on the left?)
Tuesday we drove up to Mackinac Island - a place I've heard about and wanted to visit for many years.  It's such a lovely island, but I couldn't help feeling some sympathy for the folks who call it home because of all us "tourist-types" hanging around, looking at their houses and gardens and getting in the way of their daily lives.  The Grand Hotel is impressive, to say the least.  We weren't dressed to partake of their formal tea-time, but did enjoy our walk around the grounds.  There is so much history on Mackinac and walking around was a lesson in the birth of our country.  We met up with Taylor and Crimson and baby Atticus for the day.  (They were vacationing near Mackinac.) Atticus is a charmer for sure and a great little traveler.  He's growing so quickly and is in that wonderful, smiley, everyone-is-my-best-bud stage.  It was fun to spend the day with them.

The week has flown by and early tomorrow morning we'll be loading up and heading back to the farm.  Truth be told, I miss my animals and feel ready to jump back into my routine of farm chores.  This has been a wonderful little respite and I feel ready to "strap on the harness" (as Mike likes to say) and get back to work!

(Moonrise on Torch Lake)

Friday, September 13, 2013

I-knitting and away we go

(just as the sun came up over the hill this morning)
It's been hot and muggy here for the last week or so, but last night the much anticipated cool front arrived and it's a whole new world this morning.

I've been up since well before daylight, finishing packing, making lists, printing out mapquest directions and, most importantly, considering my options for traveling knitting.  We're headed off on a little adventure for a few days away from farm chores, mowing and veterinary business.  As much as I love being here on the farm (and really, there's no place I'd rather be most of the time), we are both feeling the need for a little break from our usual daily responsibilities.  Our plan had been to travel to Scotland and England this year, but for whatever reason, we just could not seem to get ourselves organized enough to finalize plans.  (Mike has promised me that we will go next year and you all are my witnesses!)  Once I gave up on that idea, I started looking around for an easier alternative and happened to read Christine's blog post on Torch Lake, Michigan.  Mike's son, Taylor, and his wife, Crimson, had vacationed in the general area before and had also told us it was a wonderful destination.  We've rented a sweet little cottage, right on the shores of Torch Lake, and we're looking forward to some very relaxing days sitting on the dock knitting (that would be me) and some time in the fishing kayak (that would be Mike) and some time exploring the area, using Christine's write-up as our guide.  I'll be sure to report back on how it goes.

(super-simple cowl)
So, what's I-knitting?  That would be the same I as in I-cord .... meaning idiot.  Mindless knitting.  Once you get going, you barely have to think and that's about all I'm capable of sometimes.  I always have at least two (or five) of those kinds of projects going.  Right now I'm working on a super simple diagonal stitch (yarn-over, knit-two-together) cowl out of some soft and squishy yarn, for which I can't find the label.  I love the colors and the yarn is super soft - perfect for next-to-the-skin wearing.

I'm also cabling away on this vest and loving the easy, 4 row cable stitch pattern.  (Don't pay any attention to the way that vest looks in the pattern picture.  Did they forget to block it?  Instead, go to Ravelry and check out all the versions that have been knit already.  I particularly like this version.  Much better!)  Of course, I've got several other projects to take along, including my Olive sweater, which is just barely begun and has a good bit of plain stockinette to be gotten through before I can start the fun parts.  I'm planning on taking along my Hanson mini-spinner, in case the urge to spin hits, so I think I've got it all covered!  (And, we'll just see how much I actually accomplish.  Most likely, it will be another instance of being over-prepared.)

I'm feeling especially lucky to have super farmhand, Mark, farm-sitting for us.  It makes a world of difference in my state of mind to know I can leave all my animals in such competent hands.  I'm not sure how great our Internet service will be at the cottage, but I'm hoping to send a few blog-postcards while we're away.  See you soon!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Today is glorious here in central Kentucky!  Fall is coming and that makes me so, so happy!

(The Rowdy boy - 2014 lambs depend on him!)
Our regular shearers, the Haudenschield's have not had the occasion to come to the farm for summer shearing because we didn't have any lambs born this year, but we bought a new breeding ram candidate from Robin Nistock in upstate New York and I wanted him shorn so he'd stay cooler and thus eat better and grow faster.  He needs to be a little bigger in order to get the job done this fall.  I'm just a tad bit worried about the situation because of Mr. Bates failure to produce, but since I've used ram lambs many, many times in the past, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have babies next spring.  His breeding is Border Leicester/Cotswold and he has a gorgeous fleece that I'm hoping will cross nicely with my half Wensleydale girls.  I'm inclined to name the new boy Rowdy.  He's quite full of himself at the moment.  He's being chaperoned by poor old Buddy, who gets stuck with the babysitting duties for anyone new to the farm.  Strawberry and Pippi are tolerating Rowdy and trying to teach him some manners. (He's been a little slow to figure out that they do not share their food!)  Anyway, lucky for me, Mark, our very-first-ever-summer-farm-help, is an experienced shepherd and was able to shear him, so he's been cool and comfortable (if somewhat dirty!).

(Strawberry prefers to supervise from under a shade tree.)
More than a month ago, I noticed that Aslan was getting a hot spot on his neck and once we got into cleaning it up, we decided to clip him down all over.  I've heard lots of conflicting ideas about whether it is good or bad to clip Pyrenees in the summer, but decided that his comfort was more important than anything else ..... and, he's definitely more comfortable.  He's been acting like a puppy and is so much more active and happy acting.  His coat is growing back in nicely and because he always has shelter available, I think he'll be just fine.

(Aslan is not easy to get a picture of because if he sees me, he likes to come stand beside me and lean on me!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This week in the garden

(sage, rosemary and parsley doing well - thyme, not so much)
This garden of mine has been erratically productive this summer, mainly because I am an erratic gardener.  I'm always full of enthusiasm in the spring, make big plans and get most of what I planned for planted.  Then it gets hot and humid and I avert my eyes from the chaos as I walk by on the way to the barn every morning and evening.  This summer has been a little better because we've had plenty of rain and very little extreme heat, as opposed to the last several summers of heat and drought.  It's been a banner year for cucumbers and the tomatoes are finally ripe, the onions did well and it's looking as though the watermelons are going to make it.  Winter squash was an epic fail, for the first time ever.  That's a big disappointment because butternut squash is a favorite winter-time ingredient.
(Ivy - the garden thief)
I've spent quite a lot of time in the garden this week, planting for fall crops.  I've planted Swiss chard, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, broccoli, pak choi, beets and kale.  I still need to get carrots and spinach planted and hope to construct some row covers or hoops to add some protection mostly from the peacock, but also because of a certain corgi who is near and dear to my heart.  Ivy is an unapologetic garden marauder and nothing is safe if it's within reach from her short little height!

Here's one of things I've enjoyed most in the garden this year.  I planted a patch of marigolds in hopes of harvesting the flowers to use for dyeing and it's been a joy to pick off all the flowers and in just a few days, find that the plants are full of blooms again.  I'm thinking how great the garden would look next year if I planted a row of marigolds right down the middle of each raised bed (and, it would likely discourage some pest problems, too).  The coreopsis I put in, also for dyeing, has done well and I'm planning to expand the selection of dye plants next year to fill out a whole raised bed.

Those towering tomato plants (over 6 feet tall) are producing enough tomatoes that it's time to think about putting some in the freezer for soups and chili during the winter.  That mess on the right is what happens when you don't cage a cherry tomato - it becomes a corgi snack bar!  (Notice the electric mesh fence in the background - works for corgis and chickens, but not peacocks!)