Thursday, May 22, 2014

Crossing it off the list .....

Good afternoon, all.  I'm able to cross a major event off the to-do list now.  The Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival was last weekend and it went off without a hitch.  The workshops were well attended, sales looked to be very good (I did my part in helping boost sales, after all, it was the least I could do, right?).  I bought some (okay, maybe a little more than some) of Anne Hanson's Bare Naked Wool and have already cast on for the Tidal Sands Infinity cowl, using BNW Breakfast Blend DK in Cocoa. Anne's patterns are perfection and the various natural shades of the Bare Naked Wool line are especially beautiful when seen displayed altogether. I could not resist!  Be sure to check out Anne's write up of her time here in Kentucky.

After the festival I had the pleasure of hosting Mary Jane Mucklestone and Dagmar and Chet Klos at the farm for overnight visits.  It was wonderful to spend time with each of them and get to know them a little better.  Regular readers might remember than Dagmar did a fabulous natural dye workshop here at the farm last May and we're doing a little thinking and planning in hopes of putting together another one in the future.

Midgie and Phaedra went to the festival with me on Saturday because they are still getting several bottles a day and there was no one at home on the farm to do that.  I set up their pen under a shade tree outside the workshop building and they got lots of visits from friendly people, had their pictures taken a bunch and even got to take several walk-abouts.  (Phaedra got lots of compliments on her beautiful fleece coloring.)  My grandson, Coleman, and I used the opportunity to train the girls to walk on a lead and they spent some time visiting at the Locust Trace plant sale booth.  Halter training them is a gift that will keep on giving because from this time forward, I'll be able to take them almost anywhere and be confident that they won't have a nervous breakdown (nor will I).  By the way, those teeny little halters are actually extra small alpaca halters and they work great on lambs.

Meanwhile, here on the farm, the grass seems to have grown about 2 feet while I was otherwise occupied.  I'm seeing a fair amount of time on the ZTR mower and the tractor in my future.  It's hard to complain about having lush grass when I know there are parts of the country that haven't had rain in ages.  Once again, it's important to be grateful for where I am.

Starting tomorrow I have the pleasure of taking part in a two day workshop Nicola Brown is teaching in Lexington.  As part of my continuing quest to learn more about natural dyes, I'm excited to have a chance to do some eco-dyeing.  We'll be printing on fabric with leaves, onion skins, flowers and who knows what else.  Workshops with Nicola are always fun so I have a lot to look forward to.

This week it's been back to my real life.  There are fleeces waiting to be skirted and fleeces waiting to be washed and shipped off to their new owners. There is grass that needs immediate attention and a garden that will soon disappear under the weeds.  I am much more interested in catching up on "Call the Midwife" and "Mr. Selfridge", reading Heather Ross's new book and knitting on my cowl.  It's not at all like me, but I may even be a little bit interested in taking a nap or two.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Field notes

We're having quite a warm week here in the Bluegrass.  It's been in the 80's and sunny and we've had the doors and windows open; listening to birdsong, peacock cries and lambs calling their mothers (or mothers calling their lambs).  Having weather this warm, when the trees are just barely leafed out, makes for lazy afternoons in the pastures.  The ewes seek shade wherever they can find it - sometimes it's in the thin shadow of a fence post for just a little while before they have to search out another spot.  These are the days I wish could last all summer, but eventually we'll get into the 90's and the sheep will lie panting under the trees until mercifully the sun starts going down. 

Evening has always been my favorite time of day and that's the time I love to go out into the pastures to sit, to just be, to just watch.  The ewes are grazing, efficiently moving from one spot to the next, focused in the way only sheep can be while eating.  Meanwhile, the lambs are running, jumping, chasing each other, trying to prove which of them is the biggest and baddest.  The brave ones and the bottle babies will come to me and nibble at my clothes and pull on my hair and a few will push at my hands, angling in for a chin scratch or ear scritches. 

That's the best time.  It's when I know that I'm where I need and want to be.

Monday, May 5, 2014


"The Girls" - Midgie and Phaedra
How does it happen that I can go two whole weeks without a post?  Well, when my life mainly revolves around appointments with various specialist doctors, having enough blood drawn to supply another person (or at least it seems that way), having x-rays, ultra-sounds, EKG's and in between fixing bottles four times a day for hungry lambs, there hasn't been much energy left over to get out and take pictures and write something readable.  I don't want to go on and on about my health issues in every post, but will tell you that I was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last week and have begun treatment, in hopes of bringing about remission.  It was not a diagnosis I was expecting, so it's taken me some time to mentally process and accept it.  I've learned a lot about auto-immune diseases lately.  I've also heard lots of encouraging stories of people who have gotten RA under control and have been able to get on with their lives, which is certainly my goal.  So, onward .....

Now, about those all those bottles.  I only bred 13 ewes this year and five of them had triplets.  Some of the first lambs were born when I was at my lowest and Mike became the strength and energy I didn't have.  The fact that he jumped in to help turned out to be good for both of us.  Usually, I'm the one doing all the care and feeding during lambing and Mike is not so involved.  This year, he's been in the thick of it and consequently, he knows the ewes and lambs personalities and is much more emotionally invested in them.  We have been supplementing some of those triplet lambs because 3 babies are a lot for most ewes to raise, although some of mine are doing it successfully.  I have two full time bottle lambs - meaning they think I'm their mom.  They've been kept in a separate pen and are just now spending some time each day in with the main flock.  Midgie (she's the all black one) is one of Teeny's triplets.  Phaedra (any Outlander fans know where I got that name?) is the mottled black and silver lamb.  She was born many hours after her two brothers and her mother decided she had arrived too late to the party and wanted nothing to do with her.  Their personalities couldn't be more different.  Midgie has a lot of get-up-and-go.  As soon as she catches sight of me, she starts to yell that she's starving and needs a bottle right now!  She's the most aggressive bottle nurser I've ever raised.  If you don't hold onto the bottle extra tight, she'll pull it right out of your hands.  Phaedra is much more gentle and just a little shy.  She takes her bottle gladly, but is calm about it.  The great thing is that they have really bonded together and are inseparable now. When Mike and I talk about the two of them, we refer to them as "The Girls".  I much prefer to raise two lambs together, rather than have one all by itself.  They always have a buddy, so they're not lonely whenever I'm not able to be with them.   As much as I love them, I'm NOT sleeping in the barn.  I'm much too old for that sort of thing.  When the time comes, it's much easier for them to be accepted and acclimated into the flock if they have a pal at their side.

Midgie - too busy to have her picture taken
The Girls may very well be coming to the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival with me because they will still be on the bottle and cannot be left at home and unfed all day.  I'm not going to be a vendor this year, but will be spending my time making sure the workshops are happening as they should.  If I can find a shady spot for their pen, you will be able to come by and visit with The Girls while you're enjoying the festival.

While I'm on the subject - please check out the workshop line-up for the Festival.  We have some really big names in the fiber community coming to Kentucky for the very first time.  Mary Jane Mucklestone, Anne Hanson, Nicola Brown and Dagmar Klos teach all over the United States and some are teaching internationally.  It's a rare opportunity to take classes here at home that would cost you more than a thousand dollars in travel expenses and workshop fees to learn from them in another location.  There's lots of different kinds of classes being offered - literally something for everyone.  Be sure to check it out.

Back soon - I promise!