Friday, October 21, 2016

Faux Fall - And The Final (For Now) Freebie

Every stinking time I think "Okay.  Whew.  All I have to do is make it three more days and it's going to rain and cool off and summer will finally be over." It teases me with a cool down and then right back into the 80s it goes.  We hit 86 the other the FOURTH WEEK OF OCTOBER!  

It  sure looks like fall...

Even sort of like a pretty fall...

But this is Baaxter hogging the fan like he does all 7:30 in the morning...on October 20th. Hershey looked so miserable the night before (how on earth could it be that humid when it's so dry and crispy?!?) that I finally had to do the ole cookie test to make sure he was okay enough that I could go to bed.  If you don't perk up when the cookie box comes out, we call the vet.  Highly scientific...but actually very accurate ;-).

These pictures were taken yesterday morning.  It's cold and raining today.  We'll see if it lasts or if it's just a fake cold down for the big neighborhood Pumpkin (Pumpkin with a P) Party this weekend.   The 10 day forecast is encouraging...but I've seen that before.  

The Punkin's (no extra P) Patch Hug a Sheep/Open Farm Day is next weekend!  I thought about trying to take a new "promo" picture this year, but how on earth can you beat last year?

Actually, that whole post is pretty cute.  I love to go back and revisit the good times.  Even some of the bad times.  The link to the Ewenice and Renny tree had me crying this morning, but it was such a beautiful gift.

You know what - leave a comment telling us one/some of your favorite old posts and that will be the third calendar drawing.  Petunia can draw for that one Monday or Tuesday.  And for anyone wanting a calendar but didn't win one, I promise I'll get the Farm Shop updated this weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What's Going On In This Picture? Another Giveaway!

I'm going to let this stand for about 24 hours and then I'll add some clues because I'm pretty sure there is no way anyone (except Auntie Reg...maybe!) is going to guess correctly the first time.  SO, make your first guess in the comments today and then come back tomorrow and make a second, more informed guess and you can have two chances to win a 2017 calendar!

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Hints And Clues

1.  The first thing you need to know is that Kate does pretty much everything with me.  Right with me.  The only reason she doesn't go to the bathroom with me is I shut the door.

2.  There are a few things though that Kate just can't abide.  Cooking is my favorite.  I don't yell and scream, throw pots and pans around and I have never even set the fire alarm off in front of her, but as soon as I turn the stove/oven on, she goes and sits in the dark pantry until the coast is clear.  Order carry out pizza though and she's right there ;-D.

3.  Kate is sitting under the Ewenice and Renny tree between the Wool House and the slightly less wooly house.  I am on the Wool House porch.  Revisit number 1.

4.  I am not spinning although that IS one of the things she can't abide.  At least that one sort of makes sense - a fast whirling wheel you could get your nose or tail stuck in or something.

What am I doing?  Leave your guess in the comments and I'll have Kate draw for a second calendar winner this weekend.

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Windswept Farm won the drawing for the first one.  Send me an email with your address and which calendar you'd like :-). 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Yarn Along: I Like My Wool Wild And...Well...Woolly

Way back in the summer (that I'm beginning to think is never going to actually end :-o) I won a Ravelry prize of some Zwartbles fiber from the awesome Meridian Jacobs group that I encourage everyone to check out because they are all super nice, very encouraging and so inspiring...and they give out great prizes ;-D.  

A sample of some Zwartbles roving was especially exciting to me because one of my all time favorite Twitter follows is Zwartbles Ireland and I am now obsessed with Zwartbles sheep and wish we could have them over here.  Maybe someday!  In the meantime I'll snuggle down under my Zwartbles blanket and enjoy knitting some fingerless mitts from my new Zwartbles yarn :-).

First, we have to spin the yarn.  I knew as soon as I opened the package that I was going to enjoy spinning Zwarbles.  Anyone who's been around me for any time at all knows I'm a Coarse Wool Girl. Unless I have to (for what bizarre reason?), you are never going to find me spinning Merino.  I wouldn't call Zwartbles coarse by any means, but it definitely wasn't "dryer lint".  Perfect.  Still, I could also tell when I opened the bag that it wasn't completely ready for a fun Sara Spin.  

I'm not sure if I'd call it "top" or "roving".  It wasn't way over processed and super straight and un-wool-like the way commercially combed top feels to me, but it wasn't loose and airy and all scattered about like fresh roving feels either.  All it needed was a little bit of steam.  Sort of like how when you go to a lot of trouble to straighten your hair and then walk outside on a humid afternoon ;-).

I divided the roving/top into two equal pieces.  I set my tea kettle on and when came to a rolling boil I carefully passed the first piece through the cloud of steam.  Right before your eyes you can watch the wool crimp come back to life.  See how compressed and straight the chunk on the left looks and how much puffier the chunk on the right?

Before and after.   

This also can help if you are having trouble spinning those really pretty, colorful braids of Merino that you just can't resist at fiber festivals, but then don't enjoy as much as you hoped when you get home ;-).

Not only did it puff out, but when the straightened fibers regained their curl and bounce, the roving shortened significantly.  It didn't shrink.  It just got curly again.  I steamed the second piece and thoroughly enjoyed spinning a small skein of yarn that felt very much like the sheep it came from. 

I spun the two separate singles one day, but didn't have time to ply them until a day or so later. After sitting tightly wound on the two bobbins for that bit, the singles had what is called "dead" twist, much like if you put your frizzy hair in curlers to tame it down.  You need to take that into consideration when you go to ply.  

Putting "live" ply twist into "dead" singles could be a whole 'nuther blog post, so I'm not going to say too much about it other than than to point out how the freshly plied yarn from the not freshly spun singles looks like a mess (above), all curled up and unbalanced and twisted back on itself. Guess what you can do to wake up the dead twist in the singles after plying.  Yep, steam :-).

I don't overthink sampling for ply twist...  If, after steaming, the skein is still unbalanced, I go back and fix it then (run it back through and either add more ply twist or take some out) before I wash the yarn. This skein was right on.   While it was in for a soak I pulled out something else I'd been wanting to sample - Murphy.

Murphy has one of our fanciest fleeces.  It's a gorgeous color, very soft for a "long wool", just the right amount of sheen, definitely an "ooh ahh" fleece.  The straight Cotswolds here get shorn twice a year.  As true "long wools" they grow...long wool.  If I let them go a full year, it's too long for most carding machines.  Murphy is a Cotswold cross, so I gambled that his fleece wouldn't get too long...and lost.  

As it started to try to come off the big carding machine, my heart sunk.  I watched as our nicest fleece struggled to survive the carding process.  Hindsight being what it is, I should have had them stop the machine and pull back out as much as we could.  What we ended up's not horrible, but Murphy got sheared a second time this year.  He'll head into 2017 shearing with only 10 months growth.

So what did we end up with?  Well, it's still a lovely color.  It still has a nice soft handle with a perfect amount of luster.  It is very easy to spin and being long (mostly) it takes very little twist to keep it together.  Yarn is just some sort of fiber (wool is best ;-) with some added twist.  A softly (less twist) spun yarn feels softer and fluffier and even warmer.  Something you might like wrapped around your face on a cold day (that is probably never going to happen around here ever again :-o).

Those lumps and bumps?  Well, as I tell beginning spinners, "Those are design elements!"  Art yarn I actually like for more than just looking at.  Here is the freshly spun ball of single ply yarn.  I then took the front and back ends (from the inside of the ball and the outside) and plied them together to make a two ply yarn.

Notice how the freshly spun singles plied into a calm, orderly, well balanced yarn?

Here are both after washing.  Washing, especially on a softly spun yarn, lets the yarn "bloom". Can you see the difference in the fluffy skein of Murphy versus the tighter spun Zwartbles?  I mentioned Murphy would make a nice scarf or cowl.  For something that's going to take some abuse, like mittens or gloves, you would want a yarn with a tighter/stronger twist.

And this is what I've picked.  I think these are really pretty and I was maybe a bit swayed by the designer being Irish Girlie Knits.  Plus, her blog name We Do Not Have A Knitting Problem is too good to pass up.  I'm a bit short on yardage for these, but I am either going to shorten them a bit (they seem longer than I'd want anyway) or else start them with they'd look like a Zwartbles sheep :-D.

And I'm actually reading a paper book this week, too!  I finally picked up a copy of Knitlandia by Clara Parkes and it's just as good as you'd expect.

Joining in with Ginny...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Woolen Spun

Hopefully you can click to biggify.  It's a cool fall find!  Know what it is?  Leave a guess in the comments and I'll have 20 draw for a winner on Wednesday and send out the first of the 2017 farm calendars.  I have three set aside for a few fun giveaways.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I Really DID Live Through The Wool Festival

So it looks like I broke the internet.  I FINALLY put together a blog post yesterday and right as I was close to publishing it, a major Verizon tower went down and the entire area was without intertubes until early this morning.  Oops... :-o

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Friday?!?  I really not sure where the week went. Heck, I'm not even sure where the summer went! The Kentucky Wool Festival went really well.  We could not have had better weather, the crowd was the second largest in 34 years (somewhere around 50,000 over the three days :-o), saw lots of old friends, made some new ones, sales were good, nothing got pinched and I think everyone had a great time :-).

As always, I had tons of good help.  Miss B and Miss L helped get the booth components ready ahead of time.  Auntie Reg and Stella worked in the "sweat shop" getting everything packaged and labeled. Saint Tim did his usual herculean job getting all my printing ready and the four legged family, for the most part, stayed out of trouble.

Tim covered farm duties, a Unit driving neighbor came over to doctor on T-Bone's leg (horrible dew poison this year :-o), Miss B and Always Amazing Aaron answered questions throughout the day and helped get new spinners started with their drop spindles and Auntie Reg did a great job basically tripping people coming into the tent and sending them in to buy stuff ;-).  

I am Not Good at "selling myself".  Oh, if you come in the booth and ask me a question, I talk until your eyes glaze over.  Having to go up to you and say "Hey, look at all this cool stuff I (and our sheep) made to try and support my bad sheep habit!"... I don't know why I can't do that.  And it's important.  This is what pays for the hay, straw, grain, shearing, vet bills...  Luckily I have a great team.  I appreciate everyone way more than they can even imagine!

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I figured too many days had passed to do a booth tour, but I've had several requests from friends who couldn't be there, so here goes.  I missed a few things taking pictures.  I had so many bags of roving that we pretty much had to tie the booth together to keep it from exploding, but you'd never know by these pictures.  The funny thing is two of us were taking pictures and we both missed that and a couple other things.  

I loved having the raw wool out front.  It was pretty, attention getting, folks were looking for wool at the "wool festival" (it's primarily a huge craft fair with tons of great food and live music) and didn't smell up the booth.  I personally love the smell of raw wool, but as the temps climbed on Friday, it would have been a bit much for non sheep people perhaps ;-).

The usual card display.  What am I going to do with a 13th card next year?  

Volumes 1 and 2 of the Mug Shot Mugs.  

I actually made some felted sheep!

And wool wreaths, which Miss B did a fabulous job embellishing with all sorts of flowers she gathered their garden and fields again this year :-).

I made quite a few medium size wreaths, too, and even figured out an ornament size wreath...that neither B or I took a single picture of...and there were 24 of them in the booth!  How on earth we missed them and all the roving...

Punkin's Patch swag.  I think this design is really cute, but non blog readers didn't "get" it.  That's okay.  I'd rather they were "ours" alone anyway.  If you don't know who Punkin or Miss Ewenice or B. Willard is...

You know what I just realized?  There are no pictures of the 2017 Equinox Farm and Lamb Camp calendars!  Now I'm wondering if I'm missing files on my camera card.  This just makes no sense...

Edited to add:  And while I was waiting and waiting and waiting for the internet to come back yesterday I realized that there were also 24 Maisie Orneries and 24 Ornerie kits that neither Miss B or I took any pictures of.  That's a lot of stuff in a small area to miss getting in a picture somehow!

Anyway, back to the tour...

I had a super cute vintage Ashford Traveller for sale, but it was too crowded to set it out where someone could really try it.  It belongs to a friend's mother who is down-sizing and she has a regular and jumbo flyer, extra bobbins, a copy of Paula Simmons Spinning and Weaving With Wool and it is tuned up and ready to go back to work in case anyone is interested.  

We  sold 20 spindle kits!  As I ordered another 100 wooden wheels last month to make them, I realized that I've made over 200 spindles over the last 10 years.  That's kind of crazy in a sort of exciting way. If even only 10% of those folks stayed with it (like Miss B did :-) that's 20 new spinners! Definitely not a dying craft.

These are the prettiest wool balls I've ever made.  I almost hated to sell them, but what on earth would I do with 150 wool balls?!?  Inside joke - that's my most common question "What do you do with a wool ball?"  I just consider them neat decorations, but most were buying them for dryer balls. Anyway, they were made from the tiny throw away fleeces from Levi's cousins who got shorn this fall.  Perfect! 

Once again, my favorite part of the booth was the digital picture frame.  One thing I forgot to do was update the photo file, so we re-watched the same 2000 (!) pictures I used last year.  No matter.  I was happy to see the oldies.  If you don't already have a digital frame, go get one.  Just priceless to be able to watch and watch and watch.

Punkin's Patch.  All from one little lamb years ago.  You know, sometimes the whole thing just seems unreal. As the sun set and the night lights came on and the really good bands started playing while the dinner crowd grew and I was finally able to stand still and catch my breath and look around, I couldn't help but wonder a bit.  How did all this happen?

If you'd have asked me 25 (or so ;-) years ago what I'd be doing with my life, raising sheep and being a fiber artist teaching people how to spin yarn would never have crossed my mind.  Never. I don't really know what I would have said, but I can promise you it would not have been that.  What a privilege.  

I appreciate everything way more than anyone can even imagine!

Monday, October 3, 2016

All Creatures Great And Small

I am frantically trying to get everything ready for the Kentucky Wool Festival this weekend, so I'm  obviously sadly not doing any knitting, but I am listening to some good books while I work.

I'm quite sure I'll not have a Yarn Along post this week, so I thought I'd let these yard spiders cover for me Wednesday, but then I found out that today marks the 100th birthday of everyone's favorite author, James Herriot.

Just like every day should be your birthday or anniversary or Thanksgiving or Christmas..., Mondays can just as well be a Yarn Along day, especially if you have amazing spider webs and a good book (or a whole wonderful series) to share.

There's a part of me that still can't believe we made it to fall.  Whew, what a summer.

Listening to and celebrating All Creatures Great and Small.  Very small.  Although we did have some amazing writing spiders last month who were taking down grasshoppers big enough that I told Tilly she'd better watch her step out there! ;-)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Look Who I Found

Who is that cute lambie?

"Cute lambie?"

"Um, I guess it's me?"

"I'm 601...or Levi!"

I've been working on pictures for the 2017 Lamb Camp calendar and keeping an eye out for a certain black lambie and tadaa, I found him :-D.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cat Week

Taken through the screen door.  

This is supposed to be a Yarn Along post.  Maybe later today.  Couldn't resist sharing Comby and Eli nestled all snug in their bed.  

We made it!  Fall has arrived!!!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Betsy Calls Shenanigans

"I  can't believe Comby beat me.  I think this was rigged."

Not to worry, Betsy.  Saint Tim has come through for you.  He said he'd print two calendars this year. One with you as Miss September and one with Comby as Mr. September.  Everybody wins!

Friday, September 23, 2016

That Darn Cat

So I mentioned picking out pictures for the 2017 calendar the other day.  I had quite a few good pictures to choose from, but sadly was missing the yearly favorite....Comby.  Comby, the hardest working animal on our farm, who somehow always gets posted every year in the calendar sound asleep.


I did have a nice picture of Eli though.  He doesn't get much press around here, so that might be nice.

And of course there's darling Betsy.  There were a couple Betsy shots I liked.  One with her and Bullwinkle in the driveway when he was a baby and another with her sitting out with the concrete sheep one evening.

We decided Betsy would be the most wanted cat (in more ways than one!) so Miss September she is!
Until I downloaded pictures yesterday and remembered that I took a picture of Comby sleeping in the greenhouse the other day.

Ah, there he is.  Sound asleep.  Order restored to the universe.

Yeah, right.

Just minutes (I am not kidding) after I booted Betsy from the calendar, my Inbox started blowing up with retweets and likes and more retweets and likes and more retweets...for a picture of Betsy.

If the Cat Shepherd retweets you, you are going to get some attention.  

Which was apparently what Betsy was looking for.


Both cats both look pretty disapproving, don't they.  How on earth did she pull that off?!?  Are cats like elephants and can communicate hundreds of miles?  Do I need to check to see if she has her own Twitter account?  Is she on Facebook, too?!?  This might explain why I have so much trouble with passwords :-o.

I guess, as a democracy (not dictatorship as Betsy thinks ;-), we should vote on it.  Betsy or Comby? The poll should show up in the upper right corner.  Feel free to share this with your friends if you'd like to try to stack the votes towards your favorite candidate ;-).  

It Never Gets Old

One of my favorite blogs is The 7MSN Ranch.  I love her photography, her animal family, her frequently funny videos of, say, relocating a rattle snake from her back porch (!).  She (re)posted some gorgeous sunset pictures the other day and a stat of how many sunsets she's watched from there.

As we were coming up on our farm and family anniversary, the fall equinox, the maths were pretty easy to do for here.  I decided I'd copy her idea, go up on Stella's hill, take a sunset picture last night celebrating our 13th anniversary, take off my shoes and socks and count up the days.

Of course that didn't happen, but that's okay.  I'm more likely to take a sunrise picture anyway. Stella gets the great sunsets.  I get the great sunrises.  So, today is the 4,745th (basically) sunrise I've watched from our back porch.  Thankfully with no rattlesnakes ;-).

A happy anniversary!


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Check back later today for a funny Betsy story, an important vote and a giveaway!


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