Monday, December 03, 2012

F is for Fiber

(In this picture are two of our yearling Corriedale ewes on pasture this summer.  They are Hilda on the left and Hayley on the right.  Some wonderful wool on the hoof!)

In my last long-ago post, I wrote about a lovely trip I was able to make to the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival the end of September.  That was so much fun!  Well, in October I went to another Michigan festival, this time heading southeast to Ann Arbor and Fiber Expo.  What a treat and I can't wait to go back next year. 

It was my first opportunity to attend and we had so much fun that we went back for the second day.  I was on the hunt for inspiration (grin) and for some longwool to spin.  I love, love, love my soft and fine Corriedales but every once in a while I like to spin something more rustic.  This delightful festival did not disappoint!  I came home with my creative energy renewed and just enough different fibers to spin and enjoy.  Vendors were relaxed and I had as much fun visiting as I did shopping.  I came away with Romney from 3 L & S Farms; Coopworth from my friends the Wagners at Hidden Valley Farms; a really rustic Icelandic roving from Michigan Icelandic Co-Op and finally the most amazing llama yarn from Clark Farms in Bellaire Michigan.

I did get just a bit sidetracked into softness and couldn't resist some divine Angora blend roving and yarn from Keeping Traditions - not just nice product but super nice people!

The Icelandic roving is already spun and turned into slippers.  The Angora is also spun up and waiting to become part of a pair of mittens.  The Romney is on the wheel now, the Coopworth and Llama will get their turn soon!  In the meantime, two very large boxes of incredible Corriedale combed top arrived on our doorstep from Zeilingers Wool Mill. 

Hmmm, the longwools might get set aside for awhile....

ETA - Kathy and Jody, I'll try to get some photos of the combed top as soon as possible!  Thank you for asking ;)

Monday, October 15, 2012

B is for Beans, C is for Carpet

You might remember a few weeks ago when I blogged about hoping to go to the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival?  Well, I did get to go - what a great day it was!  The fall colors were beautiful, my dear friend Mary was along for the ride so I had good company.  I saw fiber friends and got to do some shopping.

For a very long time now I have been intending to buy a handwoven rug from Lona at Shady Side Farm, it just hadn't happened.  And reading along on their farm blog here, I'd been following the tale of the heirloom edible beans they've been raising (you really should read this family farm blog, it is soooo informative!)  So I knew I wanted to sample those beans, too.  Lona, Mike and daughter Sarah had a booth at the festival and so I SCORED!!!  Trying three varieties of beans - Green Flageolet, Hutterite Soup and Yellow Indian Woman.  And just look at that rug laying over the top of my ugly, ugly living room/dining room carpet (its the textured yellow/gold/orange stuff)

Everyone who has walked through the door in recent days marvels over this handwoven rug!  But my daughter made the best observation....she said "Wow, who would have thought that anything could make the old carpet look good"  LOL!  So it has a prime spot in front of my new/old favorite recliner (an estate sale find)

Now I have to tell you about this huge expanse of ugly old carpet.  It's wall to wall in our living room/dining room.  And it's in excellent shape (when my husband bought it many years ago, when it was "in style", he must have bought the best).  Its not squished, ripped, torn, worm or faded.  It takes a lot of abuse and dirt and cleans up brilliantly.  As in brilliant orange/gold/yellow ;)  So I refuse to replace it!  The floors underneath are not hard wood floor material, so we just work with it...and boy does this little rug sure help it out!  So thank you, Lona - I love my rug and will be back for another one of these days.

In closing, we brought those beans home just in time for Elliot to be studying the letter "B" in homeschool.  So Shady Side Beans are being used to educate, too.

Here they are as part of our fall display.  They are a big hit ;)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Corriedale Owls and Mittens

Maybe because we can lay in bed at night and listen to the owls call back and forth in the Burnham Woods, with the full moon shining in the window that October makes me think of owls.  And cold morning temperatures make me think of mittens.  And wool socks ;)  Anyway, I was looking on Ravelry for a pattern that incorporated an owl into a mitten to knit as a gift and came across Give A Hoot - a cable mitten that has an unusual and brilliant thumb technique.  (The cute owl tin I stumbled on in Joann's Fabrics - perfect gift wrap!)

I'm not one who usually likes animal patterns on my knitting, even for children, but I'm so glad that I gave this one a try - I totally adore it!  It's also a very fast knit.  This was actually my second pair made and I changed it up a bit from the pattern - made the owl portion a little shorter and fatter ;)  You could have made French Knots for the eyes or used beads but I like the little vintage buttons I found in my button stash.  The yarn is our Serenity Farms Corriedale "Jane Grey".  Nice warm mittens for chilly fall days.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday's Start

Been awake since 4 a.m.

Two loaves of sourdough bread rising.  Tomatoes put up (canned) and waiting on the counter to go to the basement for storage.  Hoping for another glorious day of autumn weather while I enjoy the company of two five year old boys later today (my youngest grandson and his very best buddy!).  My husband's 50th class reunion tonight.  Would like to start prepping living room walls for repainting later in the week.

Looking forward to a trip to the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival tomorrow (if all goes well today, LOL!)  You wouldn't think it could be so difficult to make a trip like that from here, would you?  Three more fleeces need to be skirted today if I want to make that trip.  That's the stipulation I've put out there for myself ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pepsi ~ A Fresh Face at the farm

There's a new face at the farm ~ can you guess who or what?
She't tall (over five and a half feet just to the top of her shoulder!); she's dark (black, in fact) and beautiful.  She stands firmly on four good feet.  A Percheron draft horse mare named Pepsi.
I knew there was a reason I wanted Bill to hang on to that last set of harness and the cart!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

First Of September

Our first sunset of September, and it was a beauty! 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Yarn With Broccoli ;)

I thought this title might make you smile ;)

I've been knitting, making mittens mostly.  I'd started a pair with some commercial yarn as a possible fall project for my LYS.  It was horrible yarn!  The colors "bled" terribly (dye wasn't set and came out in a soak); it "pooled" (made ugly blocks of color in the knitting) and it split and fuzzed up.  UGH!  Besides all that, it costs a lot for a small amount of yardage.  It was a yarn our yarn shop owner was trying out, considering carrying in the store.  My vote was two thumbs down, and I didn't even finish the project.

I comforted myself by pulling out some of our own farm yarn to make a nice cable-y mitten pattern.  Ahhh, bliss!  I can't show you the mittens yet, nor can I name the pattern because they're a gift to someone who reads this blog and she might guess that they are for her ;)  Once she's received them, I'll share a picture and more details.  I can show you the Corriedale yarn, though ~

Yarn from some of our favorite white sheep, some of them still grazing in our pastures.  Yarn spun right here in Michigan from friendly people who know our name.  Warm wooden needles and happy yellow flowers in the garden,  makes me happy!  I'm reminded of the slogan "Life's to short to knit with ugly yarn", LOL!

You might be wondering where the broccoli comes into this post.  Well, the broccoli in my garden was a bust this year.  The beautiful early plants were eaten by a critter - most likely one of the zillion rabbits that roamed the area this summer.  My later plantings grew into pretty plants, but didn't form heads.  Still, they are attractive in the garden as foliage, so when I was doing the "photo shoot" for this post I had it as a backdrop for one of the pictures.  What do you think?  Still Life With Yarn and Broccoli! 

Luckily my brother had some very nice broccoli from his garden.  How about you?

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Big Red Barn

In all of her glory, with a brand new shiny green roof!

  I'd been kind of saving this post for the 4th of July.  Started writing it a while back, got side tracked and then thought it might be a nice Independance Day Post, but I wasn't able to publish anything for quite some time with Blogger.  Let's hope it works now, because I'd like to get this up before July is done and gone!

If you've read our blog for any time, you'll recognize the Burnham Barn.  The Burnham Farm is the property where the Round House is, on the other side of the woods from the house and farm where we live.  The property surrounding this is what we had to sell last fall.  But we kept the Round House, the Barn and about ten acres around it.  Our daughter's family bought the Burnham Farm House several years ago and so they live just down the hill from the barn (I'm was actually standing in their yard when I took this picture)  This majestic old barn is three stories high.  I'm not sure of the height on the high side here, but the length is 82 feet.  A few years ago, the roof on the southwest side started to give way.  At first it leaked a little bit.  Then, of course, left unchecked it got worse.  And worse, and worse.  Just like a house, when a barn roof starts to leak things below it start to rot away.  And the problem just spreads.  A dilema.  And an expensive fix, especially for folks living on a tightly budgeted fixed income!

We don't use this barn for livestock.  We don't store hay, straw or grain in it anymore.  It's mostly storage and mostly not our stuff that's stored in it, LOL!  Bill and I talked about it, prayed about it - talked to others about it, got estimates for a new roof.  The estimate was less than we expected (though still a LOT of money).  We got another estimate.  What it came down to is that it would cost as much (or more) to have it torn down and that wasn't something we wanted to do anyway.  We're just not the kind of people, retired or not, who could willingly let "the queen of the farm" rot away.  It was hard enough to sell the land, what kind of "caretakers" would we be to let this barn just rot and fall down?  Then something happened that I won't share the details of here but will just say that it seemed like a definate answer of what to do for us.  And so, a new barn roof she has!
This is before....
This is an "in progress" picture
And then the joyful day that the work was complete, as you see in the picture at the beginning of this post!  We were afraid that the siding would look really bad with the shiny new roof, but it really doesn't and we're glad because we sure can't afford to replace that.  And I don't really think I want new siding - not quite the character!
So we hope you don't think us foolish or frivilous or that we have money to throw away on a new barn roof.  Just know that we're grateful and happy that we were able to take care of this historic building in the proper way.  Who knows, she may house livestock again one day.  She'll certainly see more bikes and tractors and lawn furniture!
She and her companion, the Round House, look pretty great together don't they?

I want to add how pleased we were with the work our contractor did!  He is local and also did work on our house.  We would be happy to share his name if anyone in the mid-Michigan area needs a new roof on their barn!

Remember this post where I told you about a list of projects we hoped to accomplish and showed you the pictures of our little falling down shed next to the house here where we live?  Well, that one still hasn't been replaced/repaired but this barn roof was another project on that list and it can now be checked off as done.

Monday, July 09, 2012

First June, now July

And the summer marches on...roses have bloomed and gone by - they out-did themselves this year, as did the lavender.  What started out looking like a bumper garden season quickly turned to punishing heat and little rain.  Weeds grew, vegetables and pastures suffered.

How have you all been?  The farmer who puts up our hay now finally got that done, so we have our first cutting in the barn.  Second cutting (and pastures) are growing back slowly (way to slow for my comfort level, but I suppose there is a lesson in that!)  I didn't think I was going to need straw this year but I might, so will probably do a trade for some if it becomes available.

We have two new lambs in the barn, new bloodlines that were purchased and not born here.  I'd like to show you a picture but haven't been able to get a good one yet.  I can tell you that one is a ram lamb and the other an unrelated ewe lamb.  Both of them carry good, fine fleeced Corriedale breeding crossed with moorit (red) colored Australian Bond sheep!  You might have heard me say before that I really desired having some moorit in the barn.  I've used CVM in the past, but the wool is sometimes just to "fuzzy" for me - I like the nice distinct crimp the Corriedale gives.  This will be fun to try.  We also have one more ewe lamb arriving from yet another farm, another moorit Bond cross sheep girl.  But of course, our main flock will continue to be the full Corriedale with our young ram "Hank" leading the way, and possibly a youngster from this years crop to grow out and see what he turns into.  Its harder and harder to find good rams, the quality and predictability I'm used to in the stock from Mar-Rita Farms.

We're surviving the heat as most farmers do - the livestock comes first and we do our best at keeping them as comfortable as possible.  As with people, we have to watch the young ones and the old ones the closest.    We're so thankful to have gotten some good rain showers in the past week and things are greening up again in our area at least.  I've been doing a little sock knitting, a little mitten knitting and during those really hot days in between farm jobs and husbands doctors appointments I sat in the shade and did some spinning!

I'll try to get those lamb pictures up real soon!  Oh, and I sat down to write this post (and another) last week but couldn't publish either of them for some reason.  Things seem to be working fine now.   Finally, here's a picture I took on an early spring walk through the woods, an old fenceline that's hidden there.  I like how it looks

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cottage Treasures

I've written about our friends at Maple Valley Farm before...did you know that one of their new ventures this year is an on-farm cottage sale?  Lots of vintage items to be had!  Some of the treasures are large, but others are small and special.  Last week, I found this one ~ a vibrant and beautiful flour sifter!  Not just beautiful but in good working order.  A new flour sifter was needed in my farm kitchen so I was thrilled to find this - happy, happy, happy.

More special, more treasured than things like these are precious friendships.  I was happy to have Bill along for the trip with me last Thursday and glad for him to be able to meet the Maple Valley family.  It stirred something in my heart to hear he and Matt discussing farming alongside the road while I shopped and visited ;)  Got to take a look at a really good farm pig and some of her babies.  Do you know how rare it is to find a good sow who can raise a large litter of piglets as that mama pig does?  We got to meet and visit with happy, healthy, confident farm children, too (grin) - a testiment to the farm Dad and Mom.

As we drove away and let the family get back to their work, Bill commented "What a wonderful place to raise children"  And I would add, not just the place but the mindset - the determination to make a good home.  Surely something to be praised!

This Thursday, June 14th is a big sale date for Maple Valley Farm Cottage.  You can read more about it by checking this link - it truly is worth the drive for some wonderful finds, big or small!

Jesus said “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.    But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31, 32

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Every Hour, but some more than others

An Old Hymn that's playing over and over in my head tonight ~


I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou bless├Ęd Son

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee

Monday, May 07, 2012

How About A Retreat For The Day?

Not just any retreat - a knitting retreat!  And not just any knitting retreat, but an afternoon spent at The Maple Cottage at Maple Valley Farm!  Wouldn't you love to spend a few hours delving into the wonderful world of wools and yarns and knitting notions, with kindly instruction on how to get started knitting for yourself (or a refresher if you have knit before but know there must be more to learn!)

We're going to look at knitting in its purest form - the basics, the road that leads you in all directions I hope ;)  You'll be knitting on pure Michigan wool yarn, raised and produced right here in state from friendly sheep in friendly Michigan pastures on our small family farm.  I'm so excited that Angie and family have offered me this opportunity to share my passion!

I believe there are still a few openings for the workshop, so if you're interested in sharing the day exploring something wonderful, creative, historical, useful and just plain fun in an inspiring homestead place please contact Angie directly at this link and I'll look forward to meeting you there!  And of course, if you have any questions about the learning I'll be happy to try and answer you.  By the way, we'll even be well fed our lunch near the wood cook stove by the Maple Valley Farm crew (something you really should experience - its amazing).  The date is this Thursday, May 10 from noon till 3 pm.

P.S.  You'll be going home with a "goodie-bag" of knitting necessities, too - everything you need to take the course and more!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Until Next Year - A Lambing Update

Well, another lambing season has come and gone and I thought it time to update for those of you who check here for that sort of thing.   We have a pasture full of beautiful Corriedale lambs!

As is likely to happen, the weather didn't cooperate with our plans.   In an effort to get lambs born and growing well during the colder months (when the air is cold but dry and the ground is frozen, not wet and muddy) before going out to pasture we bred earlier than usual for us, planning to lamb from the end of February through March.  But the combination of an older ram who maybe wasn't settling his ewes like he should have and much warmer than ever recorded Michigan temperatures we ended up with something of an odd "up and down" lambing season.

One of the bottle lamb triplets
All in all, though, we're happy.  You might remember we started very early with a pair of twin ewe lambs?  We ended the second week of April with another pair of twin ewe lambs!  We had only one set of triplets this year, thank goodness, but of all the ewes to have triplets it was "Sarah", who can't count past one as it is, to have three!  Sarah, though she gives us beautiful lambs, will not be part of our brood flock next year. 

Final count is 29 live lambs from 19 ewes, so 150%.  Even with those triplets, single births (again from the old ram) in the middle of the season brought our percentage down some.  My husband cares about these things, I care about thrifty colorful lambs, LOL!   That old ram gave us lovely lambs and we were lucky to have him for two seasons.  We'll keep some of his daughters in the flock.

This is Collette and her twin ewe lambs
Another nice number is 16 ewe lambs from that group of 29, much better than the high percentage of ram lambs born last year.  Some of very favorite "original" ewes from Mar-Rita Farms gave us ewe lambs that will most likely stay in the flock as their mothers are getting older and we want to keep those bloodlines going.  I've been spoiled all these years by these beautiful and amazing sheep, their wool and their mothering abilities.  This weekend I am going to check out some new bloodlines and especially a new ram prospect - I'm pretty excited about that.  I'll keep you posted!  In the meantime, as the sun sets on this years lambing season, here are some more photos ~

The good thing about this funny weather is that pastures were ready for sheep earlier than usual!  They have been enjoying good growth, but we have to watch them carefully and rotate quickly because regrowth is slow.  I just realized there aren't any pictures of the white lambs, but we do have some here!  I'll have to make a point of getting their portraits taken next.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Projects and Plans Around The Farm

You know, most of the time I'm so caught up in the beauty and blessings of our farm life (like the glory of green grass and the morning sky at left) that I don't notice the unkept or declining parts (hmmmm, that sounds like what can happen in our spiritual life, too, doesn't it?)  I say most of the time, but I also know that every time I come down the road to the farm the first thing I see is this:

In fact this ugly old shed is what anyone coming to the farm from the main road sees!  Our last post was "Paint and Possibilities" and now I bring you "Projects and Plans".  I actually "planned" to write this post last fall, thinking about lots of different things that needed to be done around the farm.  We slowly get a few crossed off the list, but the daily chores of necessity get in the way of these other projects that would be nice to have done - but aren't really required for the farm to continue.  And truth be told, even though it's practically falling down/rotting away this little building still serves as a run-in shed for the rams when they aren't living life with the ewes.

Here's the crumbling southside, and this is what you see up close and personal when you're pulling into our driveway.  It's literally feet from both the drive and the road.  Ugh, a poor first impression (but see the beautiful main barn in the background?)

The building is 12' wide and 32' long. It stands 8.5' tall on the high side, sloping down to 8' on the low side, with doors on two ends of the east side, pictured above (notice the hitching rail?)  This is the view I see out my kitchen window.  It has the two small windows in between the doors and they are mirrored by windows on the opposite side, though one of them is boarded over.  It's completely open on the north side as you can see in the picture below (not the best plan for a livestock shelter). It sits on a cement pad and it has electric running to it, but not water so any water for livestock up here has to be carried or run from the hydrant in the barn.

When you walk in the little door on the southeast corner, you see ~

Some beautifully weathered boards that I'd like to salvedge.  In fact, even though it can't be repaired to stand as it is, I think there are lots of great elements that might be reused/rebuilt (maybe into a smaller building on the same site?)  When you turn to your right and look out towards that north side you will see some not so salvedgeable parts ~

Years of housing first Morgan horse stallions, then Percheron draft horse weanlings and yearlings and now Corriedale rams have taken their toll on the interior wall and stall door (yes, that's a pallet helping to brace the door, lol!)

Last fall I was given the bones of a greenhouse that I'd love to incorporate into this area if we could change things up.  I dream of it being a small farm store/office/classroom building, with that greenhouse attached and handicap accessible for both Bill and visitors to our farm.  What do you think?

A farm wife can dream and plan, can't she?  (Oh, and any helpful hints and tips for carefully taking down an old building while trying to preserve all useable pieces would be greatly appreciated!)

In the meantime, I'll continue to let that beauty around the farm I mentioned before inspire me - like the magnolia tree in a late March sunset, blooming a full two months earlier than usual!  Lovely ~

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Paint and Possibilities

Its not hard to imagine endless possibilities when you are around creative, enthusiastic and energetic people!  Angela at Maple Valley Farms is just that kind of person, and whether you've visited with her in person, follow her on Facebook or read her blogs you certainly know what I mean.  Recently she went through a big spurt of painting and decorating posts that were absolutely inspiring (maybe springtime has something to do with this, too?)  Now the Maple Valley Farm family is offering some amazing Homesteading Courses to help the rest of us along that inspirational, creative road!  Be sure to check them out here

I'm honored and excited to be leading a session in Beginning To Knit (for beginners and those who might want to refresh some skills) and I hope you'll think about joining us for that - I promise you will enjoy yourself, learn something and come away with some pretty awesome knitting goodies fresh from our own farm!  I'll also be a student in several of the other classes offered.

Encouraged by possibilities, I look with a new eye on the pieces around our farm that could make their way inside the farm house.  Two that have been "teasing" me are these pieces (above and right) from the tool room in the barn...what do you think, Ang?  I don't even think these need change in paint - I love the colors on both.  The soft grey to the right  has held some of my garden tools.  The turquoise/red/white above is a really cool corner cupboard!  It currently holds nuts and bolts, nails, chains and chainsaw parts.  Certainly could be repurposed inside the farm house, don't you agree?  The Art At The Farm Homestead course would help with this project, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Back Porch Post

I'm blogging from my back porch this morning! 

As I write I can see the sheep in the pasture - they're pretty quiet this morning.  Our calico barn cat, Christy, is sleeping by my feet.  There is a pair of "twitter-pated" Mourning Doves in the magnolia tree, courting.  Quite different from that loving scene, on the roof of the barn an ugly starling and a fierce sparrow are fighting about something. 

Looking towards the woods there are streaks of blue sky in the north, but off to the west the sky is dark and heavy.  Storms are predicted for today, including hail.  I had planned to move the net fence in the pasture for the ewes and hoped to get some fleeces skirted later but I guess that might wait.

Oops, I feel rain drops and its time for Bill's shower anyway!!!  Better go....have a wonderful, blessed day where you are.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I Took Some Time Today

In the busy-ness of sickness, farm care, people care and more its easy for me to find myself just plain tired.  And then resentment starts to creep in.  Resentment and nearly as bad, apathy.  When I just go through the motions, doing the minimum of what I need to do without joy or appreciation.  And with all of the beauty and grace that surrounds me - with all that I've been blessed with - that kind of attitude is just wrong!  Forgive me Lord!

So I took some time.  I took the time when I got Bill up for the day and made his breakfast, to sit down and enjoy that breakfast together instead of rushing through it and on to his shower or getting dressed or me heading back out the door to finish chores.  We took that time together, and enjoyed it.

My lamb-watch seat in the hay mow
I took the time, after chores were finished and Bill was settled with a good book that he's reading, to pour myself a cup of coffee and go back to the barn to sit and watch a ewe we're still waiting on to lamb.  I watched the already born lambs romp and race and play, stretching their legs in the sunshine and green grass.  And instead of grumbling to myself about how many things I would like to change in my barn routine, I took the time to think about the good changes we've already made that make chores easier and even allow Bill, in his wheelchair, to come to the barn and do some things with me.  I took the time to be thankful that I still have hay in the barn to feed while we wait for the pasture to fully be ready to feed the sheep.

It was a good thing, to take that time, and the power of it remained with me through the day.  I thought a lot, and prayed a lot, about Palm Sunday and the upcoming Resurrection Sunday and the meaning of that, and how to make this time real for my grandsons.  I thought about my responsibilities and God's help and hand on my life.

I really needed that time today, that pause.  Gives me the strength to continue...

By the way, we're still waiting on those last two ewes to lamb!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lamb Bowl

You've been asking for lamb pictures and I've been trying to get them, but honestly these lambs are still in high overdrive mode and most of my photos end up being blurrrrrrrs as they race from place to place.  I just happened to get this shot of one of Carley's boys sleeping soundly in a feed pan.  He did this for several days!  He's just a day or so old here - you can see he still had his tail at that point.

We've got lots of beautiful, wildly colored lambs this year with a good balance of ewes and rams.  Twenty-five on the ground right now, waiting for two more ewes to lamb and then we're done for the season.  I'll surely get some more pictures soon...and try to get more fleeces skirted and ready to ship out, too!

Anyone else have a lambing update?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yes, a hat ;)

Thanks everyone, for the get well wishes!  That cheered me up and I hope I'm on the uphill side of it and will continue to mend.  You guys are the best!

Several of our clever readers correctly guessed that the strange item in my last post was a hat...Very good!!!  Remember back in February I mentioned that I was going to try to knit 12 Hats in 2012?  Well, even though I haven't been good about keeping them posted I have been good about getting them knitted.  Those previous photos were of the inside and outside of my version of the Elizabeth's Cap from the Winter 2011 issue of Spin Off magazine.  (NOTE, all of the links to patterns I'm sharing here are at Ravelry).  I liked the idea of it because you spin some singles yarn of various colors and then carry the singles together to make the cap.  I'm always sampling handfuls of fleece from our sheep, washing and combing it and then spinning it up so this was a perfect project.  I leave the singles right on the bobbin and knit from there, does anyone else do that?  Anyway, here is another picture of the cap:

That's dark grey; medium grey; silver and ivory Corriedale fleece from our flock in the hat.  And guess what?  It actually fits me and it doesn't look to bad!  I would definately recommend this hat, especially to hand spinners.

Another hat I did in February is the East Falls Hat from Knitscene Spring 2012.  I did some "stash-busting" for this one and used millspun alpaca/merino from my friend Maple at North Star Alpacas (the moorit color) along with Corriedale (the ivory color) .  Again, a cute design with a nice fit and interesting construction.  It used a different method of making "jogless stripes" that I quite liked.

A few more artsy shots of the hat ~

In progress

Topside, blocking

I think I've got enough of the yarn left to whip up a pair of matching mittens.  The hat pattern calls for a couple of decorative buttons on the side of the band and I have something in mind if I can find them.  Otherwise I'll leave it as is.

My first hat in March was a pattern I'd planned to make since I saw it in the Interweave Knits Winter 2010 Weekend Special Edition.  It's called the Bryony Cap and it's one of those chunky,  cable-y, fluffy hats that shout warmth and winter!  I also knew I wanted to make it with a wool-angora bunny blend, using - what else? - Serenity Farms Corriedale along with some silvery grey English Angora yarn I'd spun a while ago.  I LOVE this hat!!!  It was a fast knit, its warm and big but not sloppy and if it wasn't for the fact that it has been close to 90 degrees these past few March days, I don't think I would ever take it off! 

This isn't the best picture for showing details.  It actually has a long ribbed brim that you roll up for double thickness over the ears and then nice, big undulating cables.  I can't wait to show it to my friend Renee this weekend (she raises Angora bunnies, so I know she'll appreciate it!)  By the way, the rooster isn't really so tiny - LOL - he's just down below me in the yard quite a ways.

So now you know more than you probably care to about my growing collection of hats and hat patterns.  I have a second hat for March on the needles, called the Shamrock Tam that I started on St. Patricks Day but I'm using navy blue yarn and it doesn't really show up in pictures very well.  I'll share that one when its done.  Then I think I'll do another crochet hat.  My friend Kathy recommended one that looks like fun.

How about you?  Are you knitting in this weird hot weather?

P.S.  A set of triplets born, two boys and a girl, all natural colored.  Five more ewes to go, if I'm counting right.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lambing, Shearing, Skirting, Knitting, Sleeping

Well, friends and readers, where have I been and what have I been doing?  The title of this blog post should give you a clue and the thing I have been doing the most is sleeping.  Sleeping because I've been sick.  Sick for over two weeks now.  The worst of the strep throat is behind me, but it was followed closely by either bronchitis or just a cold that settled in my lungs.  I don't know for sure, but I do know that I couldn't take a deep breath and I swear there was an elephant sitting on my chest ;(  Wasn't I sick at this same time last year?!?  Now I just have no strength and the lingering cough.  Its 75 degrees outside, lambs are popping out left and right (seventeen so far, or is it nineteen?) and I have twenty-some fleeces to skirt and a house that needs some serious catch up cleaning.  And I can't seem to stay alert and awake for more than an hour at a time.


Dear Lord, I'm thankful for an easy lambing seasons - the ewes have all done great.  And most of all I'm thankful for a wonderful daughter and son-in-law because honestly, the sheep might not have gotten cared for and we might not have eaten if Mark and Nakia wouldn't have been there for me like they always are.  Whether it was doctoring sheep, moving hay, bringing food or Mark taking Bill to appointments - they keep us going, bless them!  This truly is why farm families live close together ;)  Thanks, Kids!

I'll try to get some cute lamb pictures over the next few days, but in the meantime I'll leave you with a "what is it" picture ~

Any ideas?  How about from this angle?

LOL, I'll tell you what it is in my next post ;)

You know how when you're sick with a cold, nothing really tastes good?  I did manage to make a wonderful homemade chicken noodle soup during the worst of this that helped nourish us, but I could only do that because the last time we roasted one of our farm raised chickens I roasted two and spent some time picking apart the meat and putting some good portions in the freezer, ready to made into a meal.  Anyway, throughout this all I have been craving my Mom's pickled beets and sweet and sour cabbage.  The store bought won't work because they're to syrupy sweet.   Its one of the first things I'm going to make when I feel up to it.

What's everyone else been doing while I've been missing?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

If You Are A Duck

....then you love the rainy downpours of the past few days and nights.  If you are a duck or if you are a farmer.  Particularly a grass farmer, I think, knowing how vital this late winter/early spring moisture is.  I was getting dressed to go out for chores last night when I saw "Dora", our Indian Runner duck enjoying the puddles in the driveway.  Can you see the raindrops splashing around her?  If you are a duck, or a farmer or a small boy with tall rubber boots, then you love this rain.

If you're a sheep or the thin-skinned, sort of pampered riding horse you don't love the rain quite so much.  We're using a lot of straw in the barn right now ((grin))  This is the kind of weather when you realize that you can no longer ignore the small leak you've had in your chore boots all winter when you come in with soggy wool socks.

Dora does not have any of these concerns.  She's a pretty happy duck!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spinning For Sock Yarn

3-ply or 2-ply, which do you prefer for socks?
I will be leading a workshop on spinning a nice sock yarn at my local yarn shop and coffee house this Saturday, February 25th.  Instruction time will be from 10 am till noon, but we can have lunch and stay to spin and play with fibers all afternoon!

Fee for the workshop is only $12 and includes handouts and some fiber samples.  You will need to bring a spinning wheel in good working order with at least two empty bobbins (three or four is even better so bring them if you have them!) plus whatever tools you use when spinning (orafice hook, spinning oil, etc.).  You should already know how to spin, this workshop is intended to expand that basic knowledge.  If you have a lazy kate and niddy noddy, please bring those as well.  I'll have a couple of extras me, but it will just be more convenient for you if you have your own.  If you have some fiber (raw or processed) that you might want to spin for socks, bring it along for discussion (that may take place in the afternoon).

Sip 'n Knit, the yarn shop, is located in downtown Ithaca Michigan.  If you are interested in taking the workshop, could you please call or email them to reserve your spot so I can plan for materials ;)  Click on the link to see their contact information and address.  Would love to see you there!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Colorful Lambs, Colorful Sweaters

Well, here they are the first three lambs of the season!  I actually took several pictures but like children they move around so fast and duck and play its hard to get a decent shot.  That and the shadows of the barn...

From back to front we have Imogene in the red sweater; Issac in the blue sweater and in the front is Isobel wearing her green sweater.  Isobel and Imogene are the twin ewe lambs.  And it looks like Isobel is going to be black!

It should be a few more weeks before we begin lambing in earnest with the rest of the flock.  The next big event for us is next Wednesday when we'll be shearing.  Keep your fingers crossed for decent weather.  The lambs were wearing sweaters in this picture because the temperatures had dropped very low and the winds were cold, but it has warmed up the past few days and they no longer need the sweaters.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lambs! And more sheep thoughts....

A few posts back I wrote about our sweet and gentle Bree, who I was pretty sure would be our first ewe to lamb.  Here she is sunning herself last Thursday, when the temps in mid-Michigan were close to 50! The next morning when I did chores she was preparing - she had "her" spot picked out (a quiet corner of the barn); she wasn't eating and was circling in the straw, pawing it occasionally.  I told my husband that today was the day!

When I checked a while later, she was hanging out with her mother (Violet) at the feeders but still not eating.  To make a long story short, I checked on her on and off throughout the day and sometime between the 2 o'clock and the 4 o'clock check in that dark shadowy corner she delivered her twins, both ewes (girls)!  They were mostly cleaned off and were already up and working on that all important first meal.  One is black with white face markings and the other is colored nearly identical to her mama.

This is Bree's sixth lambing and I've never yet seen her give birth.  It's the same with her mother and sister, Colette.  These ewes are from the line of VerLee family Corriedales we have, I've written about them before.  They are the most efficient brood ewes!  If I were to fault them anywhere, it would be in milk production.  They are not heavy milkers.  But they grow tons of fleece; breed and settle early; lamb with ease and are fierce mamas so I am not complaining!

Saturday, Evelyn (another VerLee line) was a little off feed and hanging back from the others.  She wasn't very big and I managed to sneak up on her and check her udder to see if it was full.  It wasn't.  In fact, I had to search around to find it, LOL!  And yet, Sunday morning the minute I opened the barn door I heard a lamb baaaaing and there she was with a little ram lamb, completely dry and popping around with a full tummy.  He seemed so frail and small, but he nurses with gusto and is very active.  My daughter came and helped me move them to a lambing jug.  Evelyn is very, very wild - here's a picture of her "sniffing the wind" earlier this winter -

Here's a tough one, though.  This is Evelyn's third lambing.  And her third single.  Not just all singles, but all very small singles.  So while she has beautiful fleece, she is not very productive in the lambing department as well as being difficult to manage in the flock - thank goodness she's very hardy and doesn't need much care, but you always have the things like shearing and vaccinations, plus she's one of those sheep where you can have everyone penned up and just when you are ready to shut the door or gate, out she bolts.  Can you see where a decision has to be made?  She has breeding that I hate to part with and again, that fleece!  This is something I have to think hard about....

Not all lambings go so well, as anyone can expect.  After these wonderfully easy births we had one sad thing happen.  A first timer lost her lamb, probably a month or more early.  We'll watch her carefully to make sure that she is okay.  She's eating well now and moving around with the flock.  It happens, but it's never easy.

We're supposed to clean barn today and the wind is bitterly cold.  The sheep are still in full fleece (that job comes next, I'm a little behind on getting it done before lambing started) so they'll be comfortable, but the humans are going to have to work hard to stay warm!

I'll end this post with another sheep picture, this one of a home bred ram lamb we kept over from last year as a potential flock sire.  He's the father of the three lambs born so far.  His face is a bit woolier than I would like, we'll see if he keeps that or not.  But his conformation is pretty good and his fleece, well you can see just a bit of it in the photo, but I can't wait to get my hands on it in a few weeks!!! 

I'm sending this post out to my friend, Carole, who faithfully reads this blog and who also has VerLee Corriedales.  She sent me the sweetest note this past week, so this if for you, Carole ;)  I appreciate all of your kind words!  Do any of your sheep look like ours?