Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bring on the Sunflowers!

Thanks so much to all who have entered!  The comments are now closed and I'll be back very soon to announce the winner.

Kristin Nicholas is an exceptionally multi-talented and hard working person.  She designs books and knitwear, paints the rooms in her house vibrant colors, sells Leyden Glen Farm lamb at the farmer's market, develops recipes, plants a garden and huge field of sunflowers every year.  All of this (and more) while she's being wife, mother and assistant shepherd.  Her color sense is so inspiring, she's even managed to nudge me out of my earthy colored comfort zone on occasion!  I think she's a wonder woman!

Kristin has a brand new book out that is full of so many fun little projects, it's impossible to resist.  50 Sunflowers to Knit, Crochet & Felt has flowers, birds, bees, butterflies, lady bugs and more!  It's all so clever and creative, I want to knit them all.

Now, the good news for you.  I'm giving away a brand new, autographed copy of Kristin's book, 50 Sunflowers to Knit, Crochet & Felt along with a sampler pack of 20 balls of Color by Kristin wool+alpaca+mohair blend yarn from Classic Elite Yarns.  The yarn is perfect for nearly every project in the book and the only way to describe it is luscious.  The winner of this giveaway will have many, many hours of knitting fun ahead of them.  All you need to do is leave a comment here and I'll have select the lucky person next Tuesday, April 2 at 5 pm EST.  Good luck everyone!!


This picture is inside the studio, which is the only place the forsythia is blooming.  I brought a few branches in a week ago and the buds opened up to present me with some springtime hope.  I'm hanging on here and need all the hope I can get.  I'm telling you, this weather is wearing me completely out!

(Taken from my command post at the kitchen sink - through a not so clean window and the screen)
Outside, it's been looking like this.  We're running about 25-30 degrees below normal for this time of  year and have had lots of snow coming down. We've had snow on the ground most mornings, but then it's gone by noon and meanwhile we've had snow showers all during the day.  The sheep are not amused by this (and neither am I) because they are (un)dressed for warmer weather now.  Because I thought we were expecting lambs, I wanted the sheep shorn early.  Instead it's looking very doubtful that we are having any lambs this year.  I cannot even explain how sad this makes me.  Even though I had only exposed 6 ewes and wasn't expecting the normal big bunch of lambs, it just doesn't feel right to have none.  I don't think, in all my years of being a shepherd, I've ever not had lambs when I wanted to have them.  Mr. Bates seems to have let me down.  I'm not sure what we're going to do about him now.  The plans were to castrate him as soon as shearing was over, so that eventually I could run the whole flock together in one field.  Now, I don't know whether to keep him intact and try him again in the fall or look for another ram.  One of the things I like to tell new shepherds is to expect that if you are keeping sheep for a long enough period of time, eventually everything will happen to you.  This is one more of those things.

So, a little note here about the dye workshop.  It filled immediately and I've already received payment from all but two people.  There is a waiting list and I'm happy to add anyone to it, but it's looking as though we are set for this go-round.  This might be something I would consider hosting again at a later date (if Dagmar were up to it).  There are also some other workshops I would love to host here at the farm.  I'm going to think about that after this one is behind me. Thanks so much for the response to this first endeavor

Now for something fun.  As anyone who read this blog knows, I am a big fan of Kristin Nicholas.  Her bold and brave color sense is truly amazing (and she's a fellow shepherd!). Kristin has a brand new book out titled " 50 Sunflowers to Knit, Crochet and Felt" and I'm going to be offering an autographed copy (that would be personally autographed by Kristin - not me!) to the lucky winner.  Plus, I've added a little something to sweeten the pot.  Check back here before the weekend for all the details. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Learn to Dye Naturally - (a workshop for you!)

(My dye pot of madder extract)
Last summer and fall I finally got around to dyeing some of my 2012 Sheep Dreams yarn, using natural dye extracts.  I'd been dyeing with a commercial dye for several years, but had been feeling that I wanted to do a selection of naturally dyed colors with my wool/alpaca blend yarn.  To say I was happy with the results would be an understatement.  The subtlety of the colors was so appealing, I fell in love with them.  Recently, K. Crane and I were discussing how great it would be to have a workshop on natural dyeing and the next thing I knew - it was all arranged!!  It just happened that K. knew Dagmar Klos, who wrote THE book on dyeing - "The Dyer's Companion" and it also happened that K. was going to be visiting Chicago, where Dagmar lives.  So, the two of them got together and talked it over, Dagmar and I talked by phone and email and now we are set to host a fabulous, three day natural dyeing workshop on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 2-3-4, 2013.  I'm so excited about being able to offer this workshop!  It will be a wonderful opportunity to learn in a fun and relaxed atmosphere here on the farm.  We're planning on serving refreshments morning and afternoon and have special plans for providing lunch each day - all included in the workshop fee.  We'll be dyeing with fustic, osage, weld, madder, logwood, cochineal, indigo and marigolds.

(Two shades of purple logwood - naturally dyed)
I had hoped to attach the workshop flyer to this post, but so far haven't figured out how to do that :-(, so here are the details.  If you have any questions at all please email ( and I'll get right back to you.

Event:                Natural Dye Workshop taught by Dagmar Klos (author of "The Dyer's Companion")

Date:                  May 2-3-4, 2013 - 9 am to 4 pm each day

Location:           Tanglewood Farm, 4565 Cummins Ferry, Versailles, KY 40383

Workshop Fee:  $180, which includes all three days of instruction, plus refreshments and lunch.
                          There is a $15 materials fee that will include dye matter, sample skeins and printed
                          materials supplied by Dagmar. You will leave with approximately 75 sample skeins
                          of yarn that we will have dyed during the workshop.
You do not have to be experienced at dyeing to participate in this workshop.  It is for beginners and for experienced dyers alike.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn from someone who excels in the art of dyeing.   There are limited spaces available for this workshop, so please don't delay if you are interested in joining us.  Email me at -


Monday, March 18, 2013

Finished UFO's!

(Carson inspecting Miriam)
I had hoped to get some gardening done this past weekend, but spent Saturday, which was the only nice day,  in the truck driving up to Ohio to pick up some sheep equipment. Then, the rain started and it has poured nearly non-stop since.  The creek rose up, the sheep refused to leave the barn and I was very content to spend Sunday afternoon knitting by the fire, watching my very first Harry Potter movie.  (I know, you are thinking how can anyone even admit to not ever having seen a HP movie?!)

Yes, finally I have something to show besides a pair of finished socks!  I've been oh-so-slowly working on a big pile of abandoned and neglected projects (one of my goals for 2013) and managed to do some finishing and blocking over the weekend.  The first is my Miriam cardi (Carrie Bostick Hoge pattern).  I wrote about the inspiration for starting it quite a while ago , after visiting KnitWit yarn shop in Portland, Maine.  The pattern is beautifully written, but I had to complicate it by not using a yarn that gave the gauge specified in the pattern.  I wanted to use some of my own 2012 Sheep Dreams-Fresh from the Farm wool/alpaca blend, which knit up at 4.5 stitches per inch and the pattern called for 6.25 stitches per inch.  Ugh!  Math is not my favorite thing.  Anyway, after cruising through the body, I got bogged down on the sleeve shaping and put it down for several months.  Last week, I got over myself and plunged ahead.  I have to say, I'm pleased with the end result.  The yarn is a warm oatmeal color and I know I'm going to wear it a lot.  I love the simplicity of this sweater.  I added some length to the body and made the sleeves longer, which suits me better.  Now I'm thinking I'd really like to have one in a dark natural color.  I seem to be all about the natural colors these days.

(I love garter stitch)

And, there's more.  This is based on the Truly Tasha shawl (Nancy Bush pattern), named for one of my role models - Tasha Tudor.  I knit this pattern many, many years ago with my own handspun and it's seen a lot of wear, mainly as a substitute for a robe.  This version is knit with my 2011 Sheep Dreams yarn, also a wool/alpaca blend.  I fudged a little and eliminated the edging from the top edge because I just wanted to get it finished faster.  So, it's plainer, but best of all, it's finished!  I expect this one to last me a long, long time.

It feels good to finally have a little knitting content on here.  I've made a bunch of hats and cowls lately, but a sweater and a shawl feels like so much more of an accomplishment!  I'm trying hard not to feel justified in casting on something new.  It's back to the UFO pile for me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

All is revealed

We had a rude awakening this morning to snow on the ground.  Where it came from, I have no idea.  I didn't watch the weather last night (which is unusual for me), but instead got straight into bed with a new copy of British Country Living magazine and drifted off to sleep soon afterwards.  The poor naked sheep are wondering if the end of the world is nigh.  It was 70 degrees on Sunday when they were shorn and there was quite a lot of frolicking about.  Today I think they are doing laps around the pasture to try to stay warm!  It actually isn't that cold, in fact, the snow is already melted away, but the wind is unpleasant and makes it feel much colder than it really is.  The younger girls have been out and about and the older ones are content to stay in the deep bedded straw inside the barn and bellow for more hay every time they see me.  I've heard that warmer temps are on the way and I hope green grass is not far behind.

Shearing went off without a hitch.  Bill Haudenschield and Gavin McKerrow were here on Sunday morning, bright and early and by 2:00 o'clock we were all done and they were on their way to their next stop.  Well, we were not completely done because I still had some fleeces to skirt and the barn to clean up.  I finally got to the house just as it was getting dark.  It's a wonderful feeling to have that task behind me for the year.  I was totally worn out and was still dragging some on Monday.  Hmmm, wonder if that's another sign I'm getting too old for this stuff?

Shearing did not reveal all I had hoped for in the way of lambs we could be expecting soon.  It appears that Mr. Bates didn't quite get the job done.  Several girls don't appear to be pregnant and the ones that probably are seem to be lagging behind schedule.  I knew there was some risk of this because Mr. Bates was on the young side, but since I was only exposing six ewes to him, I thought he'd be able to manage it.  Anyway, it will happen the way it's meant to happen, so I'm trying not to be too disappointed.  Given the situation with my shoulder, less is probably better this year.

Shearing did reveal some pretty nice fleeces.  Overall, I'm quite happy with the quality of the fleeces and the body condition of the sheep who grew them.  I'm especially pleased with the fleeces from the ten ewe lambs I kept from last spring - the ones that are half Wensleydale.  There are some beautiful, long, lustrous fleeces in the bunch and as soon as I can get a little time, I'll put up some photos (and maybe even do a little washing and sampling myself).

Friday, March 8, 2013

Complaint department, please

(Notice the supervisor up there on the tractor?)
I'd like to file a complaint with the person who made the rule that we must have awful weather in the days before the shearers come.  It's the crappy weather you can always depend on.  The shearers were scheduled to come yesterday, but as my friend Sara said, there were no dry sheep in the state of Kentucky then.  Well before daybreak on Tuesday morning the rain commenced and it poured - all day and into the night before turning to snow.  Now, I know I've been begging for snow all winter (to no avail), so the irony is not lost on me, but really ...... the timing stinks!  I hustled my flock into the barn early Tuesday morning and they were already what my grandmother would call sopping wet.  Mind you, my sheep have not been in the barn much at all this winter.  Their fleeces were so, so clean.  The operative word is were.  After three days of being held captive in the barn - not so much.  Luckily, Mike was able to scrape out the barn with the bobcat a few weeks ago and spread a nice, clean layer of rock, so the sheep have not been lounging in dirty bedding the last few days.  This morning they got to escape the confines of the barn and spend the day outside which is helping everyone's state of mind.

(This is not everyone - the others are at another feeder in this end of the barn)
Thankfully, today we are getting a good dose of sunshine and a warming spell is on the way.  Upper fifties, maybe even in the 60's this weekend, which will feel really good to my girls when those pesky fleeces are off their backs.  And, a little warmth will go a long way toward getting some green going in the grass here.  The daffodils have survived the ice and snow of the past few days and will be blooming big time by the end of the weekend.

It's funny how just a matter of days can change my perspective on things.  Two days ago, I found myself wondering what kind of masochistic person would continue to do what I do year after year. (Don't answer that, please.)  Today the sun is out, the promise of spring is in the air and all that is forgotten!

I'll be back soon with some shearing day pictures and some idea of when this year's lamb crop will finally start showing up.  I promise the lamb-cam is coming soon!