Saturday, July 31, 2010

Spinning Spiders

Dew coated spider art.

Definitely click to biggify.

Aren't they amazing?

If you squint real hard, this one almost looks like fall.

I can't wait!

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Little Pony

This is one baby I have no prayer of picking up. Ewen McTeagle. Possibly my favorite sheep of all time (shhh), well besides Punkin of course.

Ewen was a funny little bottle lamb...with issues. He hated all the "nice" nipples and would only drink from one of the big, nasty, rubber smelling (and surely tasting) black ones. Shudder.

He didn't want any lamb food. In fact, he didn't want anything you told him to eat. He only wanted to eat food you specifically told him not to eat - cat food, dog food, bird seed... We'd put his food up on a table, almost out of reach...and he'd eat it.

Here he is with Clover Belly, while not our biggest Jacob, definitely not a small sheep. Ewen is a Hampshire/Suffolk cross and stands about waist high to me.

I have so many funny stories about McTeagle (click his name in the word cloud to the right if you'd like to see some more), but maybe my favorite is the first time I tried to trim his hooves.

If I'm working by myself, I put a halter on each sheep, tie them to the wall, pick up each foot... No problem. I got to Ewen. I put the halter on him. I tied him to the wall. He fell over like a big oak tree. No struggle, no fuss, just boom, down he went. And he wouldn't get back up.

At first I laughed at him (bad move apparently), then I started to get worried as he didn't get back up. What on earth?!? He continued to lay there. I couldn't get him up (and he was much smaller then), but he looked fine, so I went on and trimmed his feet. Still didn't want to get up. I sat down with him, he put his head in my lap, just crushed.

"Why did you do that? You could have just told me you wanted to trim my feet. I just don't understand why you did that..."

We sat there together for about 20 minutes and then finally he decided he was okay so he got up and we never spoke of it again.

It was cool(ish) this morning so I grabbed the camera and walked out back. Hank stayed by my side the entire time and lay at my feet while I took some sheep pictures. Crazy Esther had stayed back at the barn and after awhile got lonely and started hollering for everyone to come back. They were eating and not interested in doing any such thing, but Hank jumped up when he heard her and ran back about half way to make sure she was okay.

How can those sheep not love him???

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If I Pick Him Up Every Day...

Little B. Willard is rapidly turning into one of my all time favorite sheep. He's just. so. darn. cute. And while he's perfectly happy hanging out with his sheep friends, he's just as happy to come hang out in the barn with me for awhile too. Until he gets into "troubles" and then hastogobacktothesheepshedrightnow!

Someone somewhere sometime ago was teasing me about carrying around my lambs. They told me if I went out every day and picked them up as they grew, when they got to be adults I'd still be able to carry them around. That was the original premise for this post when I saw this picture come through my email this morning (thanks Phyllis :-).

As the picture loaded up on the blog though, something else caught my attention. Look at the two of us holding our babies, introducing them to each other. Awwww. I'm not sure what Isaiah was thinking, but I'm pretty sure B. Willard was hoping for a cookie.

Since grandma reads the blog, we won't vote on which baby is cuter ;-).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Um, Is She Still Pedaling?!?

No, no. I finished on Sunday. I've just been so busy that I just today got to sit down with my Elizabeth Zimmerman books and pick out some sweater designs and take some picture.

An apology to geraniums everywhere - the Dr. Suess plant is a result of Graham Lamb and Keebs getting up on the wool house porch this spring. Don't ask.

My goal of spinning every day of the tour was pretty darn close. I missed two days traveling to and from the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair which I traded for the two built in "rest days". I missed another day during the festival, but hey, I was looking at and fondling fiber and spindles and books and more that counts, right? The only other day I missed I spent carding up the last of the 2010 dark I'm giving myself a pass on that as well ;-).

Claire Bear is very suspicious of anything unfamiliar. I have a feeling she's had a run in or two out in the wilds and I suspect a snake or "badger". Take note that none of the boys have any fears of any sorts. Not much to run in with sleeping on the porch 23 hours of every day.

I had a few run ins myself during the tour. The biggest one involved trying to decide if I had enough yarn to complete the ultimate goal - a Fair Isle sweater from one of my favorite sheep, Jester. Luckily I found the leftover 2010 fleece and padded my numbers.

I also had a little trouble keeping the different colors spun to match - dark harder to see... I ran one gray way too thin, so tried out a triple ply and was really happy with that. My goal of learning to Andean ply on the "hard" day worked well too and now I have an easy way to finish plying any leftover singles.

So, here are the two patterns I'm leaning towards - from The Opinionated Knitter. Can I carry the pattern down further? Would putting a little pattern around the cuffs be too much? I'm still harboring fears of not enough white for the solid portion (the 2010 white is just a hair different from the 2008).

This pattern is a bit more open and might work better with my yarn colors. My other fear is the two grays are too close... You experienced knitters jump in with any thoughts or suggestions!

All in all, I was very pleased with the Tour de Fleece this year. I learned a lot, cleared out three bags of roving and have the yarn to knit my sweater (I hope). We had a great time on the Ravelry site, I made some new friends and really enjoyed the spinners on Team My Favorite Sheep.

Majorasue won Miss Ewenice and she's excited to be heading to Oregon where she's quite sure it must be cooler. If I had a big enough box and could swing the shipping...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lace Weight

Ever since I took the Intro to Lace Knitting with Franklin Habit, I'm seeing lace everywhere.

Don't these scallops look like the edge of a fine lace shawl? Infused with flower petals...and full of dead bugs. Okay, maybe not ;-).

I finished up the 2010 Jester white. It has just a touch of gray speckled throughout that might not 100% match the first batch of white. I'm going to use this in the pattern portion so there will (hopefully) be no inconsistency in the body and sleeves. Yesterday I decided to go ahead and spin up the remaining 2010 dark gray, so carded all those batts. Two days left on the Tour de Fleece.

Stella, Jane and I were also spinning honey yesterday - multi-tasking in the mid 90's. We've given up waiting around for a cooler day. One bee buzzed by and checked out my just washed yarn. I rinse with lavender. Maybe she could smell it? Or maybe she's saying "Hey, you got a couple thin spots here!" I really shouldn't be listening to murder mysteries while I'm spinning.

Don't ask about the strawberry plants. They were a the wrong time of year. A few toughies are making a go of it on our (mostly) shady porch. I'm kind of attached.

I always root for the underdog.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mini Me

‘A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly’.

Between rain storms the other day, Stella and I picked up the tiniest swarm. A neighbor had called - they were in his pole beans. He knew bees were in crisis and didn't want to hurt them, but also didn't want them in his garden. Completely understandable and we were glad he called.

Between the bad time of year, as small as they were and the awful weather they'd already been exposed to, we knew they weren't really worth the trouble. With another bad storm getting ready to roll through though we didn't think they had much chance of getting out of there alive without some help. Our bees have been good to us and we were happy to be able to "pay it forward".

They seemed pretty happy to find a nice dry box. I can't believe there are more than 350 bees in here and this post is mostly to document how small they were just in case they do make it. And you never know. Stella's (not quite as) small July swarm last year has produced the most honey of all our hives this year.

Because they are too small to move into a regular 10 frame deep hive body, we modified another nuc box like the one in the pictures above - 5 frames. I cut the bottom 1/2" off of the front board to accommodate a front sugar syrup feeder. I then cut a large hole in the bottom and stapled screen wire over it to simulate a screened bottom board. We built a miniature inner cover with some screen wire across that hole as well. Ventilation is our number one concern and we like to prop the top cover up with a stick year round.

Normally the hole in the inner cover is open so the bees can go in and out. With so few bees in this hive though, they are going to have trouble protecting their territory and our thinking is to give robbers fewer spots to break in until they get better established. I also stuffed some hay in part of the front opening to give them less area to defend there as well.

We'll see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Spinning Angel

I always like to learn good stuff when I take a spinning or knitting workshop. Sadly, I learned something bad in my Spinning for Mittens class last Friday. We were discussing Fair Isle mittens and how they were extra warm because of the double thickness of yarn due to the stranding for the pattern.


As soon as the words came out of Carol Rhodes' mouth, my heart sank. I didn't have enough yarn for my Jester sweater. That I've been planning for over two years. That I was so excited to finish spinning for my Tour de Fleece challenge. That I was having so much fun thinking about what pattern I wanted to use and looking at pictures. That I couldn't wait to cast on and start sampling...

I stressed about this for the rest of the day. Really stressed. Well, more really sad. And then I got a little tap on my shoulder. From my spinning angel.

"Pssst - didn't you take Jester to the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival as just picked (not processed into roving)?"

"Why would I do that? That's, um, not a fleece you'd really want to showcase."

"But weren't you thinking it would be nice to have a black and white fleece set out so people could see what a Jacob sheep looked like before it's processed?"

"Yeah, but I took Henrietta for that. It's pretty and soft and silky, not coarse and scratchy."

"I'm pretty sure you took Jester too, in the back left corner, for beginning spinners looking for some "practice" fleece?"
"Wait a minute... You're right! I'm pretty sure you're right!!!"

And look what I found in the loft when I got home. Still in the lock so I could pick out all the white.

A gift of another 9 1/2 ounces.

Truly, of all the sheep I would have normally held back (without some divine intervention), Jester is just not one of them. I love his roving and always suggest it for people learning to spin as it just about spins itself. It's a lovely color too, but if you were going to look for a stunning fleece to buy, this is not it. Unless you know and love the sheep and then it's priceless.

Actually, it's not priceless. If anyone reading this bought some white from that bag in the back left corner, drop me an email. I'll buy it back from you at a stunning price ;-).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gardening Is (Apparently) For The Birds

The little sunflowers out front were not the only seeds the birds managed to sow.

A giant sunflower came up out front of the wool house.

What a crop of sunflower seeds!

And a successful harvest.

It's been a bird party for the last two days and it's almost picked clean.

With enough to share with the Adventure Chickens.

Whether you want to or not ;-).

Monday, July 19, 2010


The hardest working little peach tree. Our favorite tree on the entire farm. I love to see it bloom in the spring, watch the baby peaches start growing in the early summer and by midsummer you can almost smell the peaches from the side porch. If you go stand in the branches, you feel like you too could be a peach.

What's wrong??? We noticed that several of the peaches were getting bad spots before we left for the Midwest Fiber and Folk Fair. Didn't think too much about it because we don't use any pesticides and just accept we have some bug damage. Today over half of the hardest working little peach tree's beautiful fruits are fuzzy gray and shriveled up.

I don't think they are just over ripe. What's left are all hanging on tight and still feel pretty hard. They go from that to ruined pretty much overnight. Now that I think about it, I think the same thing happened with our plums this year.

Is there something wrong in our little orchard?

Can anyone help???

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Extra Credit

So I'm headed to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair this weekend. I've signed up for a spinning class on Friday and a lace knitting class on Saturday morning. With Franklin Habit, of everyone's favorite sheep, Dolores, fame...well, and his wonderful blog and fabulous knitting.

We were instructed to bring a ball of DK weight, light colored wool yarn and a set of size 4 needles. I ran up to the Woolery, thinking no sweat. In a bizarre twist, they didn't have any light colored truly DK weight wool yarn. I picked up a ball of the next closest yarn, but on the way home thought, well what would keep me from spinning that up myself? I mean, why on earth would I need to buy any yarn (not that that's ever stopped me... ;-).

Keep in mind that I'm no lace knitting expert (why I'm taking the class), but when I think lace, Shetland comes to mind. I just so happened to have some beautiful, light colored Shetland roving left from Michelle's visit from Boulderneigh. After my delight in the three ply Tour de Fleece yarn, I decided to try to spin a three ply DK weight yarn.

It's probably a bit too thin. I ended up with 14-15 wraps per inch, which is more of a sport weight I believe. Maybe it will fluff a bit when it's washed? Regardless, I was happy I got as close as I did with my sample and know what I need to do to fix it.

In the meantime, the reason I allowed myself to play with that yarn this afternoon was as a reward for finishing all of Jester's yarn.


Monday, July 12, 2010

No Rest For The Woolly

Even though today was a designated rest day on the Tour, I kept spinning. Mostly because I'm really enjoying "having" to sit down and spin one of my favorite sheep's fleeces, but also because I wanted to make sure I built in an extra day in case something unforeseen comes up and I have to miss a day.

I've spun every day of the tour so far. That was my ultimate goal. By doing so I have almost all of Jester's roving spun, my secondary goal. Here are his three colors - the white and dark gray separated out from two years ago and the medium gray, a blend of the two colors, from last year.

I have about 7 ounces of white to go and the finished weight should be around 2 1/2 pounds total, which should be plenty to create a special sweater. I am a bit worried though about how close the two grays are and am thinking about adding in some black. My first thought was Boudreaux, but decided I really wanted it to be a pure Jacob sweater. Who's fleece do I have left with a lot of black...


I've been thinking about Sunshine a lot lately. Her soul sister has moved in behind the barn. Someone sassy and independent. Sure of herself. Someone who loves cookies and attention...on her terms. Miss Mia. Even Saint Tim has noticed. As I added a small bit of Heidi (Sunshine's momma) in to pad out Jester's medium gray wool, I feel like I could justify some Sunshine black as an accent. She would love to be right there in the mix of things, don't you think?

So what has my faithful spinning sidekick been up to?

Yep, laying her pitiful head down out in the middle of the gravel driveway.


Because Comby said so.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Stills - Shadows

If you use your imagination, you can see me and my kayak, floating down the river. Interestingly, my shadow is, what do you call it, like the reflection (upside down) is also broadcast up on the bank as a shadow. So I'm floating along upside down as well as right side up.

A clearer shot...with a poison ivy crown.

Pollen on the river is, at the same time, beautiful and ugly. The shadow of the trees of the bank add an interesting element.

On "auto" my camera wanted to brighten this shot up to something not even close to what my eye was seeing. By manually speeding up my shutter speed, I got it...and the woods are lovely, dark and deep.

For more Shadowy Sunday Stills...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gray, Rainy Day

And I was thrilled!

Aw, Keebs, you know we needed the rain.

Yeah, but why did you make us go out and stand in it? You know we hate the rain.

Yeah! You are the worst shepherd ever!

I made them stand out in the soaking rain because they were all so dirty and itchy. You can see by how white Buddy's legs are, just from walking through wet grass, how badly they needed a bath. Believe it or not, with all the lanolin in their coats, just water will clean them right up.

I'll do whatever you want me to do...for a ba-ba.

B. Willard's having a tough time giving up that bottle. And he's just too darn cute. And keeps working me hard. I've never had so much trouble weaning a lamb. Maybe this weekend.

Look how clean and white. That's Miss Ewenice napping in the center. She's having a blast being the center of attention for the Tour.

So, speaking of the tour, my medium gray spun up just a hair too thin. Surely this couldn't have been my fault for not paying attention and sampling like I knew I should ;-/. To fix this, I weighed out about 2 1/2 ounces of Heidi's almost perfectly matching medium gray roving, spun a third fine single and triple plied them all together.

I've not triple plied anything before and really liked the end result. I can totally see doing that on purpose in the future. You'll note that I did make a sample card to keep handy for the start of the white tomorrow.

Once again I seem to be mainly here to set an example for others. Sigh.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mary, Mary...

I think the garden is pretty, "cover crop" and all. I love the different shades of green. Getting close on the sweet corn - yummm! Have a few baby cantaloupes, some okra, lots of green tomatoes, zero peppers (huh?) and only one cucumber on four plants that have spread all over the entire garden and have a million blooms (double huh?). My pitiful eggplants that the bugs have just tried their best to kill are hanging in there and trying really hard.

I'm mostly quite contrary. The heat is supposed to break after today. Um, since when is 87 a COOL DOWN?!?!? Sadly I'll take it. And a little rain would be nice as well.

Cross your fingers!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rolling Along

So far, so good. I've spun every day of the Tour de Fleece - not so hard to accomplish when it's 600 million degrees outside.

I have all of Jester's dark gray spun and plied.


I haven't checked yardage yet, but there is about 11 1/2 ounces here. I'm working on the medium gray today - about 7 ounces. Starting to dream about the fair isle pattern I'm going to work on the yoke of this sweater and hoping sure EZ talks somewhere about how to figure out how much you'll need of each color.

Weaslie is not even remotely interested.

How are your challenges coming along? It's not too late to join in the fun. You should check out the Ravelry link and see what everyone's up to. Some pretty, pretty yarn!


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