Thursday, May 31, 2012

may bookstand

Still not done with the British monarchy book! My friend Peg has suggested I just give up. I'm not there yet; I have to find out if the British monarchy manages to survive as an institution! Please don't give it away.

Here's what I did get through, most of which was very light and fluffy in comparison.

Don't Forget About Me and Dream Lover, by Suzanne Jenkins
Recommend. My friend Suzanne used to own a local yarn store, but recently retired to the midwest and started writing novels. Her creativity and prolificacy blow me away. The first novel in the series was Pam of Babylon; she recently announced she is planning one more to wrap up all the character's stories. I enjoyed the third one (Dream Lover) the most so far: a very creative presentation, even though at times it rose to the level of horror.

The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland
Recommend, but it underscores my need for this bookstand project. Halfway through the book, I realized that I had read it before, because how many books involve a baby and a painting in a boat? I did enjoy it the second time around but really wish I had remembered I already read it. Unfortunately, this book was the only one I managed to take off my bookshelf.

Fireworks over Toccoa, by Jeffrey Stepakoff
Recommend. A very quick read; it reminded me of Bridges of Madison County, but I enjoyed the descriptions of time and place.

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, by Olivia Davenport
Somewhat meh. I hate to even mention this one because it was a post-Maryland Sheep & Wool recovery book, when I needed a completely non-challenging read. I will say that it fulfilled that purpose very well.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Our two rams had gotten too dangerous to keep around... to the point that Val, who is a big fan of rams, told us after sheep-sitting this February that they had to go. And for reasons of personal safety, she was right. Even the dog was having trouble handling them.

So after shearing, they went.

This past week, I went to down to the butcher to pick up the meat. We process our older sheep into ground meat for people who feed a raw diet to their dogs. Our customers are very loyal, and one in particular had been waiting a couple of weeks for a delivery. I was all set to meet her this morning.

Until I went down to the deep freezer this morning and found a suspect trail of colored water from the freezer...


Primo had loaded the meat into the freezer last Thursday, and though he swears he double-checked the door, at some point it came open.

All gone. The waste is almost unbearable. The food we lost that was purchased at the supermarket was much easier to throw away, but all that we had worked so hard to put into the freezer was much more difficult to toss. It felt like we were throwing away all our hard work along with our money.

Monday, May 28, 2012

parade 2012

It was Memorial Day... so we were in a parade.

Primo riding the float, because there was no way he could walk a scant ¾ of a mile, he is still weak (another older 4-H member graciously agreed to ride with him so he wasn't alone; I love these 4-H kids)...

Secondo carrying the banner out in front of our 4-H contingent...

Terzo riding with his buddies in the back of the pickup...

LSH driving the pickup...

And all of us honoring and remembering those who served, especially those who gave all.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

life over blog

(The title of this post was suggested by Carol's post yesterday over at Red Dirt in my Soul. So true!)

Thanks to everyone who commented last Wednesday. I had every intention of posting the give-away results on Friday as promised but then life decided it had other plans...

Primo's participation in the state sectional track meet on Friday afternoon turned into an ambulance ride and then a hospital stay that night, after he collapsed due to heat exhaustion and severe dehydration. He gave us all quite a scare. He was finally released yesterday afternoon and though he is still a bit weak and tired, has made a full recovery.

It may take the rest of us a bit longer to get back on track.

Thanks to Secondo's help (it's become a blog tradition), I managed to get the names drawn out of the hat today. The winner was Nina, but youtube is giving me fits and I can't get the video uploaded.

Congrats Nina!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

happy blogiversary to me!

Four years and counting of this blog. I can hardly believe it!

Still casting around for a theme (apart from me, me, and more me) and it's still eluding me, so I will throw it out to my readers.

What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of?


Sheep pictures?

Kid stories?

Crafting hits and misses?

Cluttered work rooms?

Any and all thoughts are most appreciated. For those of you who take the time to leave a thought in the comment section by Friday 5 pm Eastern, I will have a random drawing that night. The winner will get either:

  • An assortment of three bars of the lovely Farm Boy Goat's Milk Soap (one each of Gardener's Blend, Spinner's Blend and Beekeeper's Blend);


  • A felted pincushion.
Your choice!

And thanks for sticking with me (no pun intended!) through the last four years!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

destroyer of dandelions

A sight that never fails to amuse me... Oreo munching his favorite treat.

(I had a much better shot outside, except I had my normal problems with the camera and failed to press the "record" button until the end. Argh.)

It was almost a year ago that I found him being eaten alive by maggots, a condition known in livestock circles as flystrike. Talk about horror. Those things are disgusting. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of my LSH and Primo, who picked off untold numbers, and Secondo, who carefully nursed him back to health, Oreo pulled through. The vets who treated him were astounded that he lived, that's how bad it was.

I was paging through the blog for a different reason, and it reminded me of that horrible time. It triggered a reminder to Secondo to clean out the rabbit hutch and guess what he found? Only one to be seen in the bedding, but as we learned the hard way last year, where there's one, there are soon hundreds.

Oreo was thoroughly checked for eggs and seems to be in the clear but he is down in the basement for close monitoring and preemptive treatment. Fingers are crossed that we caught it in time.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

the results are in

Here's what I learned from my weekend at the street fair:

A street fair is a pleasant place to sit and spin all weekend, especially if you are with friends, in the shade, and the weather is good.

The other thing I learned was how well the little felted bowls work as change baskets. I even color-coordinated the copper and silver!

I was happy with the way the farm products looked on my table. None of the yarn sold, no surprise there.

The biggest seller?

Felted wool cat toys (or as Joan has taken to calling them, cat balls). As a matter of fact, that's pretty much all I sold yesterday! I had to come home last night and make more.

Good thing I spent all last week sitting in my basement!

Friday, May 18, 2012

nothing ventured

As recent posts have hinted, I am trying to rethink and reshape the entire farm business. It was stagnating, and I needed to take it in new directions.

The revolutionary thought finally occurred to me: to increase business and sell items, you actually need to be getting those items out to the general public. Having them sit in a room for all but two weekends a year is not a particularly effective marketing plan.

So tomorrow, I am participating in a street fair with certain farm products, thanks to Joan offering to share her space with me. Short notice after Maryland, but it's just dipping my toe in the water anyway.

I have been trying out items that appeal to the segment of the population that does not spin—obviously a much larger segment than the one that does. The felted pincushions and soaps were part of that effort for Maryland Sheep & Wool, and they both did well. Felted cat toys are further exploration along those lines.

I have hemmed and hawed about what else to bring along, and quite a few things are staying at home... but one thing that made the list was a few of my own handspun skeins. This will be the first time that I will be offering my handspun for sale.

I will be spinning both days at the booth, so it makes sense to bring along a little product along those lines. I doubt they will sell as it doesn't seem like the crowd for yarn, but who knows?

Thursday, May 17, 2012


My latest "use up every scrap of wool" project: felted cat toys.

These are little golf-sized wiffle balls, covered with felted wool and stuffed with dried catnip and minimally-processed sheep fleece. I found myself referring to the combination as "sheep-nip." I am sure it will drive cats wild.

As I was making them, it occurred to me that twenty years ago, almost to the day, I had just finished my first year of law school and was starting to write my article to qualify for a spot on the law journal.

Now I am sitting in the basement making cat toys. It's funny where life takes you.

I am not saying this is a bad place, mind you. It's just very, very different. I am thoroughly engaged with the natural world around me. Trying to convert the resources provided by our flock into products that will maintain the cost of their existence (turning a profit may be too much to ask) is a never-ending Rubik's cube of a puzzle. I flip and twist and turn and rethink, working on marketing and packaging and production issues on a daily basis, all the while trying to keep the sheep themselves in the best health possible.

It's not the practice of law. But it's not mindless. In many ways, in fact, it is much more mindful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

stick a pin in it

As I mentioned, I am on a mission to move wool out of this house, hopefully in a profitable manner. One of my goals was to find a use for a "problem bag" of white Coopworth roving. It wasn't good enough quality to sell to handspinners, and I had over seven pounds of the stuff.

I stewed over it for a while, and finally figured it out:

Felted pincushions!

I use the washing machine to felt them, in knee-high nylons. One of the constants around here is a ton of laundry, so it is a win-win situation. Even though my washing machine is a front loader, a few trips through it felts them pretty solid.

The colored roving is the last layer. They are felted again, then the floss is tied on. The colors reminded me so much of fruit that I couldn't resist putting on a little needlefelted leaf, too.

Except for the floss, they are solid wool. The wool is reputed to keep needles sharper (as it knocks off the burrs) and rust-free—and the minimal amount of lanolin helps the pins slide more easily through fabric.

They were one of the new products I tried out at Maryland this year, and they did pretty well. The purple ones (both shades) sold out and I am busy making more. Best of all, the problem bag of roving is almost gone!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a lovely day for moms

In all regards, a lovely day in this neck of the woods. Bright but not too hot... A light breeze blowing... Wonderfully thoughtful husband and somewhat cooperative children... What more could a mother ask for?

I started the day out just right, too. I finished plying some cheviot and got it washed and hung to set the twist before anyone in the house was even astir.

This roving has been sitting around here for... hmm, I'm not even sure. Let's just say a while. The purple strand was kettle-dyed by me a while back, when I was first experimenting with dyeing. I plied it with white from the same fleece to tone down the hue a little. I am pleased with the result: 260 yards of a very lofty, light yarn. It may be taken to farmer's markets for sale, or it may be the perfect shade for a hat for my LSH's niece.

Either way, it is nice to have it in a more useful form!

It's part of my "get fleece out of the house" campaign, currently underway. Multiple projects are in the works. Just want to see a lot of it gone, though I find myself worrying that if I get rid of too much, I won't have any left. At this point I must remind myself that wool is a renewable resource. At this very moment, countless sheep are hard at work on making more. In fact, seventeen are slaving away at the task right in my backyard.

Deep breaths.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

naughty ram lambs

Thanks to complete force of habit, we keep forgetting not to let the chickens out every morning. The older ram lambs found a loose spot in the fencing and made a bee line to check out the coop.

I am pretty sure those are the triplet ram lambs in the coop, but I am not sure who is coming to join the party.

Ramp was knocked over, chicken feed lapped up (fortunately very little was left), and all scraps munched before Dusty and I shooed them back into their rightful pasture and plugged up the hole.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

festival haul

I only had one thing I was looking for this year: black Cushings dye. My parents managed to take care of that in about 10 minutes flat, though I just remembered that I forgot to pay them back for the purchase. Sorry Dad, will get to it soon!

One siren has been calling my name for some time: a sweater's quantity of yarn from Bartlett Yarns in Maine. Their yarn is a harder wool but mule-spun for loft, and I am hoping that it is less pill-prone than the "softer" yarns. My mom was most helpful in choosing a colorway.

Now to find the perfect sweater pattern.

I also couldn't resist a bit of roving. I didn't sell one fleece in the show and sale, unfortunately. Our farm has never had such disappointing results, but oh well. I picked up all the fleeces from the sale and took them straight to Ozark Carding Mill to be processed into roving, and maybe even yarn. Still thinking about that last one, but I was so tired on Sunday, there was no way I could make a decision.

While I was at their booth, this lovely blend made from scraps on their carding machines was irresistible, notwithstanding the fact that I had just put in an order for some 30+ pounds of roving (but not roving that looked like that!).

Fiber addiction: there is no reason to the madness. I can't wait to see what the finished yarn looks like.

The last purchase though... the last was the best. About 4 pm Sunday, Terzo asked for $5 to buy me a Mother's Day gift. I assumed he was going to hit the seed supplier across the aisle once again—kid can't resist a flower—but he quickly returned and told me he needed more money. At this point I was fairly sure I was getting a skein of yarn, but he was so excited and filled with such purpose that I couldn't resist.

He soon returned, bearing his gift with a face full of delight and satisfaction at his choice.

I was pretty much speechless.

It was hard to take a picture that does the color justice. Imagine the brightest neon pink you have ever seen, then add more pink and more neon until your eyes bleed. I had seen that yarn earlier in the weekend and wondered who on earth would buy it. Now I know: 8-year-old boys.

I have pondered and pondered about what to make with it and finally figured it out. Is it any wonder that he would buy such bright yarn, when my running sneakers look like this?

Though they look positively dull when compared to that yarn... I am going to make a hat and winter gloves (luckily it is superwash merino wool) to match my sneaks. The cars will see me coming a mile away.

Better yet: they will know immediately that I am well-loved by an 8-year-old boy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

MDS&W report

What a weekend! All goals fulfilled: great time with the boys, great time with my parents (without whom I couldn't have pulled it off), great success in the Coopworth vendor booth.

Unfortunately I cannot document any of this with photos, as I had cam-nesia the entire weekend. The only proof that we were actually there is Terzo and his t-shirt this morning.

You can also head on over to Pam's blog to see a picture of me in the booth, busy helping customers, if you need more proof.

The busy-ness of the booth is the main reason I forgot to take any pictures at all! I'm not complaining, it was a wonderful problem to have. We acquired a Square-Up to process credit cards this year. Waaaay cool little gadget. Thanks to the loan of my mother's iPhone, we were in business and it made a huge difference in sales. I've been resisting for years but I will be upgrading to a smart phone as soon as I can.

The other evidence that I was actually there is the back of the car this morning:

Come to think of it, it doesn't look too different from the back of the car on Friday afternoon. It's hard to tell, but there is a lot missing!

My mind has been racing with new ideas and projects, but they'll have to wait until I get all that stuff out of the car and catch up with everything I have blown off for the last two weeks.

Friday, May 4, 2012

on our way to MDS&W

Yesterday everything started pulling together, much in the way that a picture slowly comes into focus. Projects were crossed off the list. The dining room table was steadily emptying. Boxes were starting to fill up.

Now the back of the car looks like this:

I think we still have enough room in there for the duffle bags and the boys (I think) but it's going to be tight.

Fingers are crossed for good weather and lots of sales, but most of all a great weekend with my boys and parents!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

one foot in front of the other

I am at that pre-festival point where I am start i n g  t  o    s   l   o   w      d   o   w    n   .   .   .

My remaining energy and the remaining time are decreasing at roughly the same rapid rate. With less than 48 hours left before we leave, I am starting to have to make choices about what I can realistically accomplish. I am also having to convince myself that it's OK not to get it all finished.

Today was greeting card day... quite a bit of stock to be replenished, which is always a nice problem to have. Cards were printed, little bits of fleece attached, and my LSH's maternal grandmother's punch cups pressed into service to weigh the fleece down while the glue dried.

She was the sort of person that would have gotten a kick out of the unorthodox use, I think.

Five more projects to finish up, and then there's getting everything (and everyone) into the car. That will probably be the most challenging part yet, and that's without the load of fleeces, pelts and sleeping bags already assigned to my parents' car.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

license to roam: revoked

When we first got chickens, about five years ago, I had to solemnly promise my husband that no chickens would be allowed to roam free. It was his greatest fear that patients would have to battle chickens on the ramp leading to his office, and he didn't think that conveyed a particularly professional medical image.

For the first few years of having chickens, they were strictly locked up in the coop. But we relented over time. Two years ago, we let them out for increasingly longer periods. We finally worked our way up to all day, every day. Everything was fine as long as we locked them up at night (mass carnage if we didn't). They stayed strictly near the barn and back pastures, and no patient was the wiser to their existence.

Lately, however, they have been pushing the boundaries.

It started with the patient parking lot. Patients would come in, talking about negotiating around the chickens to get into a parking spot, and I would be deputized to shoo them back towards the barn.

This morning was the final straw, however. For whatever reason, they decided to take a break perched on the lab pickup boxes right next to the office entrance. A helpful diagram for you to appreciate the problem:

Unfortunately for them, my LSH is not a vet, or their presence might have fit better with the ambiance of the office. Confinement is probably for the best anyway, as we have spotted a fox in broad daylight twice in the last week.