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!)