Wednesday, July 31, 2019

If You Want To Get All Technical About It

With enough cute corgi pictures to keep it interesting ;-).  And some stats at the end that will probably surprise you.

Even 20 looks overwhelmed with trying to decide how to decide which singles to ply to which to get the most evenly matched skeins in the end. 

Here is what we did:

We re-weighed each finished ball.  The reason?  A big fluffy pile of wool doesn't necessarily weigh the same as a compressed ball of wool.  I used my "science" scale to get really fussy technical.

I then put each ball in a water pitcher (so it wouldn't bounce all around the room) and pulling from the outside of the ball carefully wound it into a two yard skein.

Noted yardage.  I love, love, love having a counter on my skein winder*.  It's life changing...well spinning life at least...but spinning is wait, sheeps are life... ;-)

I tied a piece of yarn to the loose end of the single.  I did that so I'd easily know which end I was supposed to start with for plying.

I also tied a couple of tight bow knots to secure the rest of the skein.  I used the bows to be easy to untie but also to help keep track of the outsides of each skein.  

Next, the Jethro cipherin'.  Skein #11 actually weighted 2.024 ounces.  It is 220 yards long.  Solve for x to get the yards per ounce, in this case 108.7.

You can do the next part by hand...or use a spreadsheet.  I like math, but love spreadsheets ;-).

I sorted the skeins by yards per ounce and then paired of skein #6 with skein #17, #4 with #9, #3 with #7...  

Making sure you have the two loose ends facing the same direction...

 ...and the bows are all facing up (if facing down then the skein is twisted)...

...and your skein winder securely anchored with a corgi butt...

...ply as usual.  My skein winder has a tensioning feature and I cranked it down pretty tight so I didn't go free wheeling off into space.  

The final results?  

First I re-weighed all the plied skeins.  The yardage of each skein could only be as long as the shortest single so there were leftovers on several of the skeins.  The leftover singles were all on the thinner side (longer yardage per ounce) so when they were plied together, the resulting two ply is significantly thinner, hence separated out at the bottom.

Ply shrinkage - when you ply the two singles, the plied yard will end up shorter than the original singles because as you twist the two yarns together, the yarns are no longer straight.  The more you twist them, the shorter the yarn will become.  

That skein with the shrinkage of 14 was either plied with more twist or I wrote something down wrong.  Just looking at the finished skein I can't see a significant difference from the others so regardless it will knit up just fine.  Likewise with the shrinkage of 4 yards.  

Verdict?  I am much, much happier with my finished yarn.  The difference between skeins now is much less than any yarns I've spun previously.  Plus I found it interesting to track all the stats.  

While I was thinking along the lines of statistics, I decided to track my time spinning and plying.  It took me 27 hours to spin the singles and 6 hours to ply them.  I didn't figure in my time cipherin'.  That would have been an embarrassing number ;-).

Want to take this a little further?  If I paid myself $10 an hour, that's $330 just for the spinning work.  It costs $10 per sheep for shearing and about an hour for skirting, so another $10 there.  $24 to wash and $27.50 for processing into roving, not counting gas and time going up to the mill and back.  

Just counting BASIC yearly costs for hay, grain, bedding, vet costs us $100 to produce a fleece.  That doesn't include mortgage, insurance, utilities, fuel, buying the sheep, farm equipment... Also, spinning wheels aren't cheap.  Neither are the workshops I've traveled to take to learn to spin the yarn...

The moral of this story?  I might just print this out and hand it to the next person who can't believe I can't sell them a hand spun and hand knit sweater.  That's $501.50 Just. For. The. Yarn.  Figure in the weeks I spent knitting the Muffin sweater?  Even if it wasn't would be priceless.

*     *     *     *     *

*My skein winder is from Nistock Farms.  Even if they weren't good friends of ours, I would say this is the very best skein winder I have ever used.  It's solid and stable, easy to use winding on or off and being able to easily count yardage changing ;-).

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The 2019 Tour de Fleece

Mini Maisie and Big Maisie did a great job cheerleading and occasionally threatening the My Favorite Sheep team this year.  I loved seeing posts from people reporting in to that affect :-D.  A little power in the wrong hands - I made the mistake of letting her come out into the aisleway for a private Cheerio party one night...and have been fighting that battle every night since :-o.

I got my whole 2 1/2 pounds finished.  The last six ounces were a bit of a slog mentally, but it's summer and most everything is a slog mentally right now.  All in all it was a challenging but fun spin.

I liked my 18 two ounce bundles plan.  That was a pretty do-able daily amount of spinning and a couple days I was able to spin two and catch up from days I didn't get as much done as I planned.  The other benefit was I knew when I plied two balls together they would still easily fit on my bobbins.

This has become my basic plan any time I spin a large amount of yarn.  I spin each bundle, trying hard to match the thickness and twist of each to the next to the next...  That never happens.  Even with a measuring card and sampling, I never keep consistent throughout :-/.

In the past I've wound off each ply into a ball and marked the order number.  Theoretically the practice is ply the first with the last, the second to the second from the last...  I can't even get that consistent so I've tried to eyeball it and match it accordingly.  

That plan doesn't work super well for me either because after it's in a ball I can only see the outer wraps of yarn.  What's inside could be totally different.  Yeah...  I got popped by that on a couple of the Muffin skeins and ended up with several skeins that were thicker than the others.  

I over thought that came up with a plan to counteract that...and it worked!  This is my most consistent spinning to date.  

Washed and drying - my favorite part of spinning.

1,850 yard of worsted weight yarn, skeined up and ready to become a sweater.

Exactly what I wanted :-D. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Golden Oldies

My original paragraph started by stating "Renny is the youngest sheep in the Golden Oldies group...", but I wanted to make sure about Rebecca Boone and then started checking everyone and, yikes, time has flown.  

PPPP is 14, Ewen is 12, Billy Belly is 14, Rebecca Boone is 11, Woolliam is 11.  At 10, Renny is not the youngest sheep.  That would be B. Willard, who is just 9.


Ewen McTeagle.  It seems like just yesterday you were terrorizing the cat food on the back porch.

There's a new puzzle :-).

Friday, July 26, 2019

On The Subject Of Names

Several years ago (!) when Baaxter was a baby, it took forever to come up with his name.  A name that suited him and suited us and he could wear (or we could wear out ;-) for years to come.  In the interim I called him Lamby Lamby, which is what I call all lambs.  

Now, years later (!), if I'm trying to get his attention and he's not responding to Baaxter or Baby B, I quietly say Lamby Lamby and he immediately turns his head.  This has also been confusing for him with subsequent bottle lambs who I inevitably call Lamby Lamby in front of him.  Poor Baby B...

I should never be put in charge of names (Saint Tim comes up with all the good ones ;-).  While Big Moose is a name he can wear (and we can wear out...and already are :-o), Mini Moose...poor Mini Moose...  I think he's already learned Mini Moose and I'm not sure we could change it even if we came up with something perfect.  Poor Mini Moose...

He does seem to recognize the name Cute Lamby...but that might be confusing with subsequent lambs... ;-)

Two new puzzles :-).


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sunny, Smiley...Cheeto...?

I wish I'd never called this pretty ewe "Cheeto".  It was cute nickname at the time...but surely we can come up with something better?  Help!

*      *      *      *      *

I first met "Cheeto" back in 2014 apparently.  I recently stumbled across an old photo of her in my sheep files.  She was snuggled up with a cute white ewe lamb and I'm wondering if she was one of the early Lamb Camp Calendar models?  I'm not sure why it was in a random folder with no similar pictures around her though.  I honestly think it was destiny.

The first time I actually remember meeting her was early last spring.  That morning she was just another ewe I was watching in the lambing field.  She was resting out in the field, legs crossed in front of her, and I thought she was I took her picture.  

Later that day and into the evening, every time I turned around I'd see her looking at me.  Sometimes standing right beside me.  "Hello there! Would you like to take my picture again?" This went on for a couple of weeks until she lambed...and I took pictures of her and her pretty lambs.

This spring she picked up right where she left off last year.  I'd be crouched down helping a lamb or taking a picture and I'd turn around and she'd be standing right next to me.  "Hi there!" It never failed to make me smile :-).  

She had two beautiful lambs this year, Big Moose and a sister who is staying at Final Frontier Farm as a replacement ewe.  She probably could have lambed one more year, but she has an arthritic knee and I wanted to retire her I could see her smiley face every day. 

I don't know why we pick the friends we do or why they pick us.  I'm just glad we're friends.

"Hi there!"

"Would you like to take my picture?"

One of these is a new puzzle :-).


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Sneaking Up On Frogs

I am loving my little frog pond.  Do you see three frogs?  You have to sneak up on them.  They're a bit jumpy hahahaha ;-D.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Quiet Corner

I first learned about Green Renaissance back in the winter from a post on Mason Dixon Knitting.  I've since watched almost all of their videos.  I try to parcel them out one per lunch, but on days when my heart or head is so very tired, I may watch two or three.  They are something you might like.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Old Friends And Family

"Hi, my name is Salt.  I don't know why I'm here. I miss my old farm and my old family.  I'd been there a long time, almost 14 years.  This farm is okay though.  At least there are sheep here.  The other flock dog is nice to me and I've known the shepherd since she came over to my old farm and picked up a lamb named Keebler."

Salt was one of the guardians at the "big farm", where the Final Frontier Farm mommas and babies live after they leave the lambing barn.  She worked there with Old Zee and Brick and the job they did there was epic...yet standard as good flock dogs go.  

Old Zee passed away last year.  The summer farm help ran over Brick a couple weeks ago.  Taking care of hundreds of lambs was a big job for three dogs.  It would be impossible for one very old one.  The scramble to find a replacement was on.  

Guardian dogs are bred to do a job and that job is what they want to do.  The instinct even in puppies is incredibly strong, but they need many months of on the job experience with guidance and supervision before they fully ready to work a big farm with freshly weaned lambs.  Kathy needed to quickly find an adult dog, not an easy task.

Her best option was a female with four puppies on her.  She could borrow the mother until she found something else, but the puppies would obviously come with her.   Putting two females together safely would have been incredibly hard.  A female with puppies...would have undoubtedly killed Salt.

Stella, at the "lambing farm", made it perfectly clear that Salt was not welcome there either. They know each other from some past incidents.  Those instincts that make them good guardians are the same instincts that get them into trouble sometimes.  Flock dogs can be complicated. 

Salt's only safe option would be living in a kennel run. Nobody wanted that.  Guardian dogs are bred to do a job and that job is what they want to do.  We offered to try her here.  Our farm is well fenced, Hank, a male, is as laid back as they come and there are sheep.  Several sheep she even already knew.

The first night was terrible.  She was horribly confused and upset.  I slept in the barn with her and neither of us got much sleep.  The next day she relaxed a little, but as evening came she got very agitated again.   Maybe she was thinking she needed to be out working her old farm. The stormy weather wasn't helping anything either.

As the days have progressed, she's seeming happier.  She likes the barn with the cool, dark feed and tack rooms.  Tim moved the trailer (aka spaceship) next to the barn, but she prefers to sleep out in the driveway under the truck.  She hasn't made any patrols yet that I'm aware of, but she does like hanging out with the sheep.  

Hank is fine :-). 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Shouldn't You Be Spinning?

"Yes.  Yes I should.  I'll get right on that, ma'am."

The Tour de Fleece continues.  I have 12 ounces spun so far.  I'm hoping to hit the one pound mark this evening.  

I'm not sure why Maisie was the only sheep up and moving around when I peeked into the barn a few minutes ago.  Everyone else is miserable and cashed out.  The weather is hotter than H-E-double hockey sticks. I get it...

Just kidding, cute little devil ;-D.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Other Frog Pond

For the last maybe 12 years now (?) I've had a small swimming pool in the orchard.  I may have mentioned before how much I hate summer?  Yeah... Well, the pool really helped...until the last two years.  

As the orchard grew and the trees got taller, the pool became more and more shaded.  Shaded to the point that the pool didn't heat up enough during the day to be comfortable enough to jump in at will.  Sure, you could 'woman up' and get in and then it did cool you down, but it wasn't always easy to talk myself into it.

At the end of the summer last year I decided the pool dream was officially over.  Even a solar cover didn't help enough to justify the work and expense of a pool that I only used for a couple super hot days here and there.  I'd turn it over to the frogs.

Fast forward to the brutally hot summer we are having this year.  In an effort to stay out of the papers...and prison...I decided I'd try one last pool.  If I switched the deeper pool for a shallower pool, there'd be less water to heat up each day.  Maybe that would work?

In the meantime, the old pool was now full of tadpoles.  It wasn't their fault that I'd changed my mind.  I toyed with scooping them out and taking them out to the farm ponds, but I love my yard frogs.  Maybe I could create a little habitat for them and they could safely stay?

All of our sheep (except Ewen McTeagle...who knows...) seem to prefer to drink from a galvanized tank, so I had an extra 50 gallon water Rubbermaid tank with shade cover stored at the barn. I hauled it down, added some sand and pond/pool water, some leaves and tree limbs and then scooped out and relocated as many tadpoles and water bugs as I could.

I have thoroughly enjoyed sitting out there watching them and listening to them as I go to sleep at night.  I cover them up during the heat of the day, because yes, a short tank will heat up much faster than a deep tank ;-).  

I forgot to uncover them last night, but remembered as I was listening to them calling.  I walked out in the bright moonlight to set the top aside and everyone got very quiet.  I hoped they'd eventually start back up, but..."crickets".  

I'd recorded a short video just a few minutes earlier, so I played it back to them and soon all was back well (and loud :-) in frog land and I drifted off to sleep.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Busy As A Butterfly

My Tour de Fleece spinning the first four days was...a bit disappointing. I did spin every day, but not the two ounces I'd "budgeted" for each day and I was slipping way behind.  After some encouragement from the Wool House Crafters last night, I put my "butt in seat" this afternoon and got quite a bit done.  The "butt in seat" principle may apply to other aspects of life, but I haven't fully researched that ;-).

As I worked, I watched a beautiful butterfly working the Blanket Flowers outside the front windows. I now know it's a Red Admiral.  I've seen one Monarch so far, but haven't started looking for eggs and caterpillars yet.  I've also seen a couple Swallowtails.  I planted parsley and dill to encourage more of them and milkweed for the Monarchs.  Fingers crossed :-).

Click to biggify this picture :-).

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Start Of The 2019 Tour De Fleece

As I posted last week, our team captain this year is Maisie.  She's let it go to her head just a little, but so far, so good...unless something has happened late today and I haven't heard yet.  I happen to have a small sheep in my "inside flock" that reminds me of Maisie, so I've picked her to be my spinning mascot.

She's wearing a warm jacket because I have turned the air conditioner in the Wool House on high :-o.

I'm spinning something pretty neat this year.  17 years ago, when I was just getting started with our wool flock, we were gifted five Jacob sheep from a kind shepherdess in Indiana.  I really didn't know what to do with So Much Wool (hahahahaha), so I had some processed into roving and some into quilt batts.  

I think I must have divided up the black and white wools because I remember having some light gray batts and one dark one that I kept for myself in hopes I could find someone to make a real quilt from our barn quilt. Sigh...

You know...I thought this spring...rather than just sitting in the loft, that dark batt could be re-run as roving.  Roving from our very first five Jacob sheep.  Wouldn't that be neat?  Like an historical do-over now that I'm a better spinner...and those sheep are no longer with us.

This year for the Tour I'm spinning Elizabeth, Esther, Jester, Joshua and Jacob :-).  There are 2.5 pounds of dark gray roving.  I'd like to spin all of that, but I'm off to a slow start, so I may not be able to reach that goal...but I'm going to try.

So what is Mini Maisie looking at in the picture above?

The legacy of those five Jacobs :-).

And we're off!

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Post You've Been Waiting For

Yes, Big Moose and Mini Moose now live with us :-).  Also Big Moose's mom and one of her friends.  We are still playing around with names for everyone.  Big Moose probably works, but Mini Moose seems like a name you might not want to live with for the rest of your life.  

Big Moose

I was worried that he wouldn't "tame down" very well as he's always been a bit bug eyed and flighty, but he was the first to succumb to cookies and scratches :-).

Big Moose's mom.  Also known as the "smiley ewe" from a post from last year.  She and I partnered up last year after I took her picture out in the field.  Interestingly, I have a file picture of her saved from 2014, so I must have always liked her.  I need to pull out an old Lamb Camp calendar and see if she was featured in there.

The two boys are best buds.  That's Big Moose on the left and Mini Moose on the right.  I love that he still has his distinct stripe.

We have had just miserable hot and humid weather for over a week now.  Just. Miserable.  In order to quarantine the new sheep, we had to put them in Del Boca Vista...which is really nice in the winter...and miserably hot in the summer.  I try to never put sheep in there when it's hot.

The two tents set up between the DBV shed and the barn are an attempt to add some shade for them.  The front gets blazing sun in the morning and the back/side gets cooked in the afternoon.  Everyone seems to be getting along okay, but we all wish the weather would break :-(.

Mini Moose.  I love his coloring.  It's almost like he waded in a black stream that came up to his belly while his top coloring is silvery light gray.  Both boys have lovely fleeces :-).


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