Tuesday, September 26, 2023

On A Wool Farm

Storing wool, raw or finished items, is an ongoing job that should never be taken lightly.  Well, it should be taken lightly...but I'll come back to that and add a few more wool storage tips in a minute.  

Most people storing wool are concerned about moths.  Opening a bag of wool to find a clump of moths inside is a terrible feeling.  As I finished skirting (finally) this spring's fleeces and started sorting through the saved fleeces from past years, I found...chicken eggs :-o.

Broken chicken eggs.

In three bags...including my last Petunia fleece.

Next pandemic I'm just going to starve to death. 

As I was picking out chunks of egg mess I came up with a better plan to keep the chickens from having access to their favorite nesting [bags].  The previous plan of a horribly annoying and apparently not effective piece of cattle panel precariously hooked across the front of the area was just as annoying as the stupid chickens.  

Luckily my friend Ed was bored enough to come out here and make the plan work.  He built a frame around the back of the left side and covered it with wire and plastic netting.  The fronts are easily removed to access the wool. The whole thing looks so neat and tidy and now I feel confident it will stay neat and tidy...and egg free.  

Side note: when I posted this picture on IG, several people commented that it looked like the fleeces were in jail.  Three people in our neighborhood have seen it and all three said it looked like either a liquor store in downtown Chicago or when they used to block off the beer aisle at the grocery on Sundays.  I'm not sure what that says about us...well, I guess I do ;-).

Moving on to the Wool House.  Twice a year I pull everything out and check each bag and basket for any sign of trouble.  This year I found lots of tiny holes in quite a few of the roving bags up in the loft.  

Nothing amiss with the wool...just tiny holes everywhere.

What on earth...


I'm not going to add plastic netting to the inside of the Wool House and if I try to limit his access to the ladder he'll just try to do something heroic like jump up there from the loom and then rack up a vet bill to add insult to injury so I'm going to just keep adding tape to cover his needle sharp claw holes.

Don't even think about it, Pecky Becky!

* * * * *

Here are some wool storage tips that have worked well for me.  This is going to be heavy on the plastic, sadly, but this is one application where I just hold my nose...

Keep everything in clear bags.  Moths are looking for dark so a black plastic bag is exactly where they are hoping you'll stash your stash.

Keep your fleeces where the light hits them. Don't store wool in your dark garage or basement.

Do not store raw wool in the house.  Get it washed as quickly as you can.  

If you aren't actively using a wool item (sweaters, coats, blankets, yarn, roving...) keep it secure in a clear plastic bag and give everything a quick check a couple times a year.

I add bay leaves to all my yarn and roving baskets.  I may not be actively using the baskets of handspun yarn or roving I have stashed around the Wool House, but I love seeing them sitting there.  Scattering bay leaves into the baskets seems to be helping keep them safe.  Definitely doesn't hurt.  

I use clear plastic tubs to store my sweaters.  I have concerns about the holes where the handles clip the lids on so I toss bay leaves in there as well.

Moths don't like to be disturb things as often as you can.  More knitting, weaving, spinning!  

When I'm doing my spring and fall 'clean up and check everything', I take my open yarn baskets outside in the sun and shake each skein out, turn the baskets upside down and refresh the bay leaves.  You can get bulk bay leaves at a good grocery or find a friend in California with them growing in their front yard ;-).

Another way I shake things up is by tossing finished items (sweaters, blankets...) in the dryer a couple of times a year, especially in the summer.  The tumbling and heat has never affected the fit of anything.  Don't do that with wet wool items though as, yes, they would shrink right up.  

Be vigilant!  Keep an eye on everything and if you find a problem, remove the item immediately and check everything else nearby.  You don't need to throw out your yarn, roving, sweater...  Just get it away from your stash and out into the sun and shake it out.  Washing it is never a bad idea either.  

I don't like using chemicals and would only use them if there was a crisis situation.  There is an aerosol dairy spray you can get at the farm store that you can spray into a plastic bag and immediately close up and hopefully not much gets out into the air.

Don't be so hard on those hard working spiders in your corners.  They may be helping keep your wool safe :-).

Sunday, September 17, 2023

"Morning, Murphy!"

I've often been asked if there is a leader within our flock here, and honestly, other than certain sheep that everyone seems to respect or sheep that take on certain roles, I've never really noticed one particular sheep that has ever truly assumed control...until this summer.

I wish I could scroll back through time and see when Murphy started bowling the other sheep over to get out to pasture first.  Has he always done this and I never paid any attention until I started locking the back gate at night and opening it each morning, watching them all head out?

At first I just thought it was Murphy being a bossy piggy, wanting to get to the choicest grass (since there's such a shortage of it here ;-) first, but then I (finally) started noticing that no one ever left the barn lot until Murphy said "Let's go!"

Murphy is frequently not the earliest riser.  I usually find a big cluster of sheep already milling around the barn lot while he waits until the last minute to get out of bed, however, no one ever makes a move towards the now opened gate to the back fields.

The first thing Murphy does when he gets up is check the gate latch headed to the Easy Breezy alfalfa stash.  Once he's sure there's nothing to pillage in the barn, he marches out through the gathered sheep, bouncing off anyone who doesn't get out of his way.

At that point everyone falls in line behind him until he reaches the threshold of the gate where he usually stops to survey the back fields.   They all stop as well.  I'm not sure if he's looking for danger or just trying to decide if he's heading towards McDonalds or Hardees.

Once he's made up his mind and starts walking again, everyone else starts walking again as well, but no one ever passes him on the way out.  Whether he goes left or right, he's always in the lead.  After they all reach open ground, everyone begins to make their own decisions.

There have been some fun series of photos of this behavior all summer on IG.  It's not really a puzzle in itself, but if you are looking for a new one... ;-).

Monday, September 11, 2023

For Fun And Fitness

Frankie and I both fall into the "fitness cookie in my mouth" camp, but we're back in the groove of working and were able to attend a Spokes and Spurs club drive at Shaker Village over the weekend.  It's a beautiful and historic area of Kentucky, south of Lexington, and it's always worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

There are miles and miles and miles of horse trails, but we stuck mostly to the paved and gravel roads.  We were allowed to drive up into the village and routed through some beautiful rolling hills with fantastic stone fences.  The weather was perfect, the company the best and we had a great day.

We headed in a little earlier than the rest of the group because I could tell Frankie was getting tired, especially on the hills.  We've mostly schooled in fairly level ground for the last few weeks as he builds his strength back up.  That carriage is heavy and I'm no lightweight...because of the cookies ;-).

I hope you enjoy taking a drive with us.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Anatomy Of A Nap

I was trying to get a picture of Short Round napping.  Her cute wrinkly nose just makes me happy.  Everything about this sheep makes me happy.  I didn't want to wake anyone up, so was trying to quietly sneak a picture through the gate and I couldn't really get an angle that I liked.  
If I crop this in to remove that big blurry blob in the foreground, the rest of the composition is me.  And what exactly is that big blurry blob?
Maisie :-)
You can use your foot and some comfy straw as a pillow...or you can use a hard plastic feed trough.  Maisie always picks the feed trough.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023


Auntie Reg has been caring for her family Night Blooming Cereus for over 20 years.  In all that time, the plant had never flowered.  The last bloom had been in 2000 in it's previous location.  After my plant started blooming a few years ago, she brought hers over here in hopes it would be happier and finally bloom as well.

I looked back through the blog to find a post to link with the story about one of my bloom(s) and can't find a single reference.  I know I've taken tons of pictures of them over the years and I think it started blooming before I got lazy with the blog, so I'm stumped.  I enjoyed looking back for a bit though and I encourage you to do that some time.

Back to the present, Reg's plant has been here for at least three, maybe four years now.  No blooms.  It's big and gangly and paired with my similar sized plant, takes up an incredible amount of room indoors throughout the winter.  I told her it needed to go back to her home this fall.

I have a huge ornamental orange (that was supposed to be a lemon) tree that I've carried with me for over 30 years.  At about year 20, both Tim and I were getting pretty weary.  We thought it was Really Big.  As we carried it out that spring, I told Tim I was going to leave it out and let it pass with the first hard frost in the fall.

After over 20 years of never even a hint of a bloom (or any other redeeming quality other than just being a tree...which is really enough if you aren't having to be carried in and out on a shipping dolly) it panicked and by mid summer was covered in blooms and has been blooming and producing oranges ever since.  It's now almost 9' tall and we know now what Really Big really is.

Back to the flower, about two weeks ago I noticed a tiny bud forming on one of the leaves!  After all these years!  Apparently plants don't need to be talked nice to.  They need threatening.  I maybe should have tried that with my pumpkins.

We watched it grow and I built elaborate fences around the front of the Wool House to try to keep naughty chickens, pillaging sheep, clumsy cats and excitable dogs from breaking it off.  Then a fluke storm blew through and sent it crashing to the ground.  Miraculously it survived.

Bloom day!  What starts as a tiny bud grows into a huge bud about the size of a fist and it hangs down about six inches from the leaf.  The bloom will start opening as night falls and continues to open for several hours.  We made a party out of it :-D.

The weather was perfect and a small fire kept us comfortable and entertained between flower checks.  20 and Pip joined us :-).  

I've seen quite a few blooms now, but they never fail to amaze.  And the fragrance!  The white above the flower is not part of it.  That's a scrap of wool felt used to pad a branch I'd tied up to keep it from interfering with the bloom.

As the bats flew out I brought Stellaluna out to join them (bottom left).

We all watched the flower and the still almost full blue super moon and listened to the night bugs and a tiny screech owl and the fire crackling and it was just a fantastic night.

20 made sure Archie didn't do anything stupid.

Pip enjoyed getting a closer look.

And one last August fog rolled in just before midnight.



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