Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Happy Birthday, Maisie

"Auntie Reg said I could eat some of your cake."

"She absolutely did not say that."

(She probably did ;-)

"It's MY birthday!"

"That darn cat."

11 years old.  Wow.  It seems like only a few years ago she was just a tiny baby...but also seems like she's been here forever.  

I wanted to look back to see when we first started making her a birthday crown.  A fun way to do that is to follow the drop down date menu on the right hand side of the blog screen.  Select the year and then "November" and her birthday parties are always titled in a way that you know you are at the right place.

It's fun...and a bit see all the old parties and party guests.  It's also kind of sad to see all the comments from readers over the years.  One year 90 people wished Maisie a Happy Birthday!  I wish blogging and reading blogs was still as popular as "the good old days". 

Back to the party! 

We kept Jared away from the cake as long as we could.  Of course Short Round followed him out.  Maisie had had enough "cake" by then anyway.  Everyone else joined a few minutes later and another crazy Maisie birthday party is in the books.  

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Official Party Crasher

 "Can you even believe this?!?"

Maisie had a beautiful day for her 11th (!) birthday.  I'll share some more pictures tomorrow, but couldn't wait to tattle on silly Archie :-).

Friday, November 24, 2023

Thankful For Good Friends

I just watched Jared and Short Round slowly tottering across the driveway, headed back to the barn and it reminded me of a cute picture I took the other day and forgot to share. 

These two are old and pretty frail, but they are staying at it.  Here they'd heard me messing about in the barn and got up and came around the corner to see if I might be dishing up any of the bagged alfalfa.  It's chopped up and mixed with a tiny bit of molasses and it's pretty much the only forage Jared can eat these days.  I set a little out several times during the day so he can "graze".  He frequently has to share ;-).

He still occasionally goes down along the driveway and picks some soft grass at the bottom of the hill.  Short Round always goes with him and if she's not right by his side, she's not far away.  A bit late in the game this fall he figured out that pumpkins were good and I wonder if she taught him that.  

They are like a sweet old hard working married couple and it never fails to make me smile...and snap a picture.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Just In Time

"It's about time you finished this puzzle!"

I started this puzzle during the Christmas break last year.  I had only medium trouble putting together the stone wall and the snowy part under Archie's butt and I got a little bit of the sheep done...and then it stalled out.  Who stalls out on a 500 piece puzzle?!?

I worked and worked and couldn't get anywhere...and I'm not a terrible puzzle worker.  If it had been any other subject matter I'd have probably thrown in the towel, but it was sheep.   In the snow.  Wearing bells.  And not just any sheep, but Cotswold-y crosses.  I was probably overthinking all the wool.

Working a puzzle is one of my holiday treats and much to my dismay, it's almost the holidays again.  I needed the table cleared and I was not going to admit defeat and somehow I finally placed the last piece yesterday.  And somehow, as this table is one of Archie's main hangouts, there were no pieces missing.  

I had a couple of notes about the online puzzles come with calendar orders and I love that.  I'm sorry I get in lulls and forget to make new puzzles regularly.  Stay on me!  I enjoy making them and working them myself.  And they don't tend to take me a whole year.

Here's a fun new one.  Enjoy :-).  And thank you for all the calendar orders!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Make Your Own Wool Wreaths

Something fun for the holidays (or year-round)!

Would you like to learn to needle felt?  Are you looking for a neat hand made gift idea?  How about a fun and easy make together activity?

These cute little wool wreaths are one of my favorite things to create and I think you'd enjoy making them as well.  They look harder than they are and I love the soft smooshy feel of the wool.  Can you guess which sheep this is?  It's a fun one :-).  It's not Maisie.  Maisie and sharp needles*...yeah...Not. Maisie :-o.

The kits include detailed instructions, a thick foam felting pad, felting and darning needles, vintage burlap wool sack material for backs and bows and enough wool to make two ornament size wreaths (with a little extra to stick in a tree for the birds :-).  Make one for yourself and one to gift or make them together with your best wool friend.

Once you've made your wreaths, the foam and needles can be used over and over to make all sorts of other needle felted items.  

Make your own ornaments kits $25.00

Completed (I can make them for you :-) ornaments $15.00 each

Custom (pick your favorite sheep) ornaments $20.00

If you'd like to order a wreath kit or anything else from the farm shop, just send me an email with what you'd like and where it should be shipped and I'll pop it in the mail to you with an old school invoice and a return envelope.  

* * * * *

* The needles ARE very sharp, so I'm hesitant to say these are kid friendly.  Please use common sense and good supervision...even for yourself...just saying ;-).

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The 2024 Calendar And New Note Cards

I remember back in grade school being asked to figure out how old we were going to be in the year 2000.  2000 was sooo far away.  We were going to be in our 40s!  2000 is now just as far away...but the other direction.  I can't believe we are preparing for 2024.

Once again we are offering a farm calendar for sale.  These calendars started as just a fun way to share some pictures with friends and family, but gratefully grew into a "bake sale" way to help our small flock of sheep support themselves.  

I had a good group of photos to choose from this year and I was drawn to the quiet peace in all of them, especially sweet Maggie, who starts the year.  I find her picture especially meditational and I hope it creates great ripples of calm throughout the rest of the year.

There are of course pictures of the horses and cats and I've already shown a preview of Bea's month.  There is a special guest in the B Garden and two of the biggest characters on the farm each get a feature as well and a couple other beloved characters round out the year.

Once again I added a short story to each month and even added one of those new fangled QR codes to further tell the story on one month.  Lots of mini pictures fill in the blank spaces and add extra fun and  tell further mini photo stories.  

I've had a few requests for note cards the last two years.  I'm hoping that's a sign that letter writing or at least thank you notes might be coming back in style.  I wonder if that's a holdover from the Covid lockdown as I'd had no inquiries about farm cards in several years prior. 

I love getting notes in the mail, but have been guilty myself in not sending them.  This year we made a set of note cards to go with the calendars and I really like the idea.  I hope you do as well.  Maybe pick a favorite picture (with the story on the back) and drop it in the mail to a special friend and make their day :-).

It is still unrealistic for a small farm to "upgrade" to a fancy online shop site so once again we are doing the old time ordering system where you send me an email letting me know what you'd like and where it should be shipped and I'll include an invoice and return envelope in your package.  Add an extra note if you'd like :-).  

Those notes are how I learned that several of you don't turn the calendar pages until it's time so that each month is a surprise.  I love that idea and now do that myself.  Even though I made the calendar, by about March I've forgotten who comes next.  I love being surprised.

That spoiler factor is also why I've put all the boring text up here and hidden the sneak peek calendar and card shots below.  Don't look if you don't want to!  Or you can peek...but goreallyfast ;-).

2024 Equinox Farm Calendar $25.00  

Companion Calendar Note Cards $12.50 

Buy together and save $5.00  $32.50

Extra note:  Auntie Reg and I have made up some fun 'make your own' wool wreath ornament kits.  Since the calendars are so late getting listed and the holidays are at least a month early this year (right?) there could be a postage saving overlap if anyone is interested.  I'm going to do my best to add them to the website today and share them to the blog tomorrow.

Sweet Maggie always checks in with me when I'm in the barn or barn lot.  I've mentioned before about there being some animals who look at me and she is one.  There is a difference between looking and watching.  Everyone watches me (I might have treats ;-), but only a few really look at me (if I don't have treats ;-).

She has also taken on the role of night guardian now that Maisie has moved up front to Easy Breezy.  I frequently find her resting comfortably just behind the barn at night, keeping an eye and ear to the back.  Sometimes her brother will sit with her, but he's not quite as dedicated.  She's a good sheep.

Of course Murphy got his own month.  If you'd have told me even just a year ago that I'd be featuring him in the calendar, I'd have laughed.  "Yeah, right.  That obnoxious pain in the butt?  Not a chance."  What an interesting sheep. That story line was probably the highlight of the year. 

I hope enough folks know how to use a QR code by now.  I'm so behind on technology that I figure if I know how to use it, most everyone else does as well.  If not, the box links to that amazing story about the sheep coats.

Plenty of sheep, horse and corgi shenanigans :-)

And everyone can spend an entire month staring at Archie sleeping.

"Dis my home."

I wanted to get a good high resolution picture of Pinto jumping in or out of the arena, but after an early spring drought turned into a rainy summer of good grass everywhere and Pinto didn't need to go looking for greener pastures I was worried that he'd outgrown his fence jumping days.  Not to worry :-).

This picture got moved into the calendar at the last minute after I received so many comments about it needing to be there.  I love seeing "That's a calendar shot!" throughout the year.  I had not even considered this one as I was afraid it wouldn't print well, but everyone was right.  It's a perfect choice.  It made a lovely note card as well.

If you've made it this far, you get one more story...and it's a funny one.  Tim has a machine that creases and folds items like cards.  When he brought home the box of card sets there was a loose bundle on top of the box.  "That's not a complete set.  One of the cards got jammed in the creaser."

Yep, it was Maisie's ;-).

Monday, November 13, 2023

Thanking The Tree

Back in October I gathered up a bucket of green walnuts from this tree just outside our front field.  At the time I was thinking I'd just play around with some natural dyeing and offer the dye pot to anyone else who'd like to give it a try as well.

Somewhere along the line I decided to try to dye a sweater quantity of yarn.  I've never dyed a sweater quantity of anything except the Renny sweater, but that had been dyed before it was carded for spinning. 

Yarn can be tricky to get dyed evenly and I was concerned about messing up some of my special yarn, but I decided there was no better yarn to learn with than the yarn made from the sheep who have taught me so many other things along the way.

I picked out a pattern and calculated colors and yardage.  The pattern is another one from the same designer as the Muffin and Pepperpot sweater.  The post I've linked to is a Wovember post from 2019 and the prompt for that day was Traceability.  It's hard to be more traceable than raising the yarn and picking up the dye stuff from the front field.  I even used rainwater collected from the barn roof.  

I can't believe I'm not participating in Wovember this year, but this entire year has honestly been a mental struggle and I just couldn't muster it. Wovember this year might just be a pile of pretty wool yarn resting under the tree who provided the natural dye for it...and that's not too shabby.  Casting on for the sweater seems like a good prize.

I was hoping there might still be a few green walnuts to be found for the photo, but most were now black and rotting.  You can still use those walnuts I believe, but the greens are where you get your best colors.  Three is always a good photo pose number...and I found exactly three.  :-)

As I walked back to the Wool House, Baba met me in the driveway and wanted to see what I was carrying.  As it has no resemblance to a box of cookies, I have to think she was truly interested in what it was.  I told her she was mixed into that yarn.  It's the Lamb Camp Bottle Lamb yarn.

I can't get the colors right on this picture, but I liked the way the skeins look like a river of color. 

* * * * *

Technical notes:

I put the green walnuts in a mesh bag and soaked them in a bucket of rain water for about a week.  I don't think you need to soak them that long, but that's how the schedule worked.

I poured the water and the bag of walnuts into a large stainless steel pan and simmered them for about an hour.  I then divided the dye evenly into three pans and divided the sweater body yarn into three even skeins.  I was able to get the three pans pretty close in color, but not perfect.  

Near the end I poured them all into the big pot and cooked them together off and on for a couple of days.  I wasn't getting the same color as the samples I'd done so I periodically pulled the yarn out and added the walnut bag back in and cooked them some more.

In the end I didn't get the main yarn quite as rich as I'd hoped, but I think that worked out fine as it makes a bigger contrast from the dark skeins and will be prettier in the pattern. 

The dark skeins were done by first using more walnuts to strengthen the dye.  I got them as dark as I could with the walnut and rainwater and then rinsed them with washing soda to further darken them. It doesn't darken it much, but every bit helps.  There is an extra skein of in between yarn where I thought I was not going to be able to pull off the extra dark, but adding more walnuts fixed the problem and now I just have an extra skein that I can use for something else.

The light tan color was created by only setting the skeins in the dye pot for about two minutes and if I remember correctly it was while it was still cold.  

You could dye a lot of yarn in the lighter colors.  The darker colors weren't hard, but it took a little extra work and a lot of walnuts.  

If you've made it this far and you live fairly close, I have two buckets (with lids ;-) of leftover dye.  One bucket is fresh dye from Auntie Reg's walnuts so you could easily get lots of color from it if you'd like to give it a try.  Free for the taking :-)

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Small, But Mighty

About a week ago I posted on IG about looking for a picture of Bea to use for a blog story about her.  That in itself became a funny story because I tried using the search feature on my phone and got not only pictures of the actual dog I was searching for, but also a "poodle dog" and a "hound dog" and both categories pulled pictures of handsome Jared (!).  I could sort of see "poodle", but "hound"?!?  Yeesh...

Between then and now things got, well, much like the entire year have been/seemed and I'm just now getting back to telling the crazy/amazing story about Bea.  I ended up just taking a picture of her calendar page and companion note card so I could dual purpose and mention that the 2024 calendars are done and I will get them up on the website soon, hopefully by this weekend.  

I'm sorry they have been so delayed and I appreciate the email inquiries.  I think I've responded to everyone.  If you haven't gotten an email back, please let me know.  The flock has been able to support itself starting a few years before Covid and have been holding their own since. The calendars play a big part in that, plus they are just nice to have around...both the sheep and the calendars ;-). 

No one will ever go without here, but it definitely helps make that call to the vet easier when it's needed...and on that note, here's an amazing story about our favorite corgi.

There were two sheep who needed to be seen by the vet and I had both penned up and ready when Dr. Bridge pulled in last week.  The rest of the sheep had been turned out into the Pumpkin Party field and were happily munching away.

Bea raced over to say hi to Dr. Bridge while we were chatting about what needed to be done, the weather, news from town...  The next thing I see is the sheep all headed back into the barn.  My first thought was how odd, since they'd just been let out into the prized area...and then I saw Bea trailing them all in.

It's a little scary to even type these words.  She knew that the vet was here and because of that decided we must need to get the sheep penned in the barn.  She didn't understand that I'd already caught the two sheep we actually needed.  She just realized that "vet here, need to get sheep" and while we watched, put everyone in the barn. 

Bea has a lot of natural herding instinct and does help with some sheep activities so it wasn't a complete shock that she brought the sheep in.  For her to think it through and do it with no cue from me, just on her own comprehension of the situation...I'm sure her Welsh ancestors were mighty proud.  

As part of the wrap up on the back of the calendar I said "[Bea's] finally grown up enough that she's actually become as useful as she thinks she's always been."  On her month, "Our farm manager is small, but mighty..."

Bossing sheep (and everyone else) around is not Bea's only strength.  I yelled at Lancelot for chewing on the fence one time and now any time the horses come near the fence, Bea runs over to remind them that someone is always watching.  She is also my ears when the coyotes start calling.  

"...We've learned to pay attention to her though because she's frequently telling us something we need to know."

Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Official Day To Hug Sheep

The actual (rather than every day) Hug a Sheep Day here is always a blur.  I never think to stop and take pictures.  Heck, I forgot to post my own hugging picture until the next day...or was it two days later.  

The weather didn't do any favors either day, but a fun group of friends still braved the drizzling, but not cold enough to wear wool, day to come out and visit the sheep.  While the sheep had mostly stayed in the barn and were "dry", wool absorbs water (but still keeps you warm :-) even just from the air and there was more nose patting and cookie feeding than burying your face into toasty warm sheep necks.  Oh well, that's what every other day of the year is for.

I used to try to follow every Hug a Sheep Day hashtag (#hugasheepday) on IG, but I'm sure I missed some this year.  I was so delighted to see so many posts from all over the world.  I guess I'm proud of Hug a Sheep Day, but I think delighted is the best word to describe how I feel.  Sheep are wonderful and I'm so happy people have a fun way to celebrate that.  I hope it carries on forever.

Jared was our all-star hugger.  He came out and visited with every single person.  He met some of them in the parking area, some in the driveway, some in the barn.  He let little kids walk up and touch him, he stood next to folks for pictures, he hugged (leaned into) people back almost to the point of knocking them down.  

Maisie, on the other hand....well, she didn't send anyone to the that was good.  Her plan for the afternoon was to come out, eat a bunch of cookies, shake her head at everyone, nip a few pants legs and then go back and take a nap to rest up for the next round. 

The best part of each day was maybe the IG Live flock walks.  Friday, Murphy led us all out and across the bridge, through the lower paddock and out to the back field where we stood for several minutes and enjoyed the grazing sheep, beautiful fall colors, bird songs and peace.

Saturday he headed out and decided to go to the right, up along the Frog Pond.  From there he moved to the dam of the big pond...and then through the gate to the back field.  As he reached each gate, everyone stopped grazing where they were and followed him to the next point.  I have just loved watching them  and to actually take the time to go out with the sheep and follow along was a real treat.

Both videos are posted below.  They are both long, but I'm glad to have them.  Luckily I don't talk the whole time.  It sometimes gets confusing because I'm answering a question that was posted while we were live. I wish I'd remember to repeat the questions out loud before I reply. 

This was Friday's walk.

This was Saturday's.

Saturday night Jared looked disappointed that there were no more hugs and I gave him more of both.  Possum was just happy things had settled back down to normal and it was once again safe to come down out of the loft.  Archie never made an appearance all day because it was raining and he had business in the house...on the couch.  

Betsy on the other hand always enjoys a party and she came out both days.  I remember her very first farm party, years ago.  She didn't hang around the people that much, but we watched her race back and forth across the barn aisle showing off all evening long, just as wound up as she could be.  She does more lap sitting at parties these days.

Happy Hug A Sheep Day....everyday!

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Happy Halloween

"Trick or Treat, Auntie Reg!"

"More treats, please!"

Maisie dressed up as The B Garden, complete with some bees :-D.

Bees seems pretty small and light until you try to put them on top of calendar binding coils.  We enjoy making these costumes, but some years we have more trouble than others.  I wondered if she was going to fuss about them "buzzing" around her head, but she didn't seem to care.  The days of her flipping her lid and stomping it into the ground seem to be over...mostly ;-).

Everyone got lots of Cheerios and then started in on the pumpkins.  Such nice treats from good sheep friends :-).

Happy Halloween!



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