Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Shocking, REAL Story Behind Modern "Sheep Farming"

The secret is out.    What sheep do when we're not around.

Sheep and power equipment.  It's the future - embrace it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

After having no snow for all of December we were graced with just enough on Friday to make a greeting-card type Christmas scene.


Holly and her friend Angel had a glorious doggy play-date with lots of action.

Arrr....I'm gonna get you!

Smack down!

Wait, did you hear something?

All I hear is you going down!

Angel weighs about the same as Holly, but is taller and therefore faster, but she's so good natured that she lets Holly win the 'I'm going to eat you' part of the game.

Christmas morning was sunny, and the sheep enjoyed standing in the sun waiting to be let back inside for breakfast.

Mmm.....dis is nyce..

Nyce......but is it breakfast yet?

Yeah, we's starffing.  What's da holdup?

But eventually everyone trooped in for hay.  We give them especially nice alfalfa hay on Christmas (although they then complain bitterly about every subsequent meal for about a week until they realize that was just a special occasion and not regular fare yet).

Cleo enjoyed the chance to get her feet warm.  Yes, she's sitting on a ewe's back, but the others mobbed around her so fast it's not clear just what's going on.  These sheep LOVE this cat and want to smell her and if she licks them they just about fall down in a swoon.  It's really weird.

It's Cleo!  Hi, Cleo!  Cleo, c'mon! Lick me! Cleo!

She decided they were breathing too. much. sheep. breath. on her fur and she hopped off.

Woolly wishes to all this Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Buzzing With Activity

Although it was only 12 degrees this morning we are still without any snow to speak of.  All this open weather has allowed Andy to keep working on outside chores.  Once the basement was packed full of firewood it was time to get serious about the fuel for the outside wood boiler which supplies heat to his wood shop and my wool shop.  Heavier trunk wood was cut to length and divided into smaller pieces on the tractor-mounted wood splitter.  Now the big pile of limb wood which has been waiting since early summer is being converted into chunks sized to fit the boiler.  No more hiding place for woodies!

Working through the pile of limb wood.

Each length of wood is hoisted and carried to the faithful tractor-powered buzz rig, set in the cradle and pushed into the spinning blade.


The saw blade makes a distinctive ringing noise as each cut is completed and the rpms shoot back up with the load of chewing through wood taken away.

Making another pile of work

When the pile of cut pieces gets big enough to interfere with more dropping onto it, it's time to take a break and stack the pieces.

Closing in on 20 cords

The old saying is "wood warms twice", but in reality it's more like six times by the time it's ready to chuck in the boiler. 

I've heard that people pay good money to go to a gym and do repetitive weight lifting type exercise.  I'm thinking we should be selling memberships..........

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Guild Gifting

The December meeting of the Genesee Valley Handspinners Guild featured two holiday staples - goodies and gifts.  The cookies were varied and delicious and the gifts were so temptingly wrapped that thievery was the word of the day.  Actually, this is how it works:  Everyone wishing to participate brings a prettily wrapped gift of 8 ounces of ready-to-spin fiber.  The packages are brought in plain brown bags so that no one knows who the giver is, and your name goes in a hat.  At the appointed time, the first name is drawn and that person gets first pick from the table of packages.  The following people have the option of either taking from the table or stealing from the first person.  The first few participants tend to select the most elaborately wrapped packages, but soon people are stalking the rows of spinners looking for 'that box' that they had their eye on which someone else selected first.  A person whose package is stolen can either select from the table of also steal from another person.  The game limits stealing to 2 people in a turn, so the third person finding themselves suddenly bereft of their gift has to pick again from the table - a time limit of necessity as about 40 people participated. Some packages changed hands a dozen times before landing with a spinner for good.

I had three boxes stolen away from me and finally ended up with this promising package.

Gift from a fellow spinner

And the contents did not disappoint......


I'm the happy owner of four 2 oz. puffs of beautiful Romney batts from Longmeadow Farm in Freedom, NY.  This will be a special spinning treat for some time in deep winter when a mental pick-me-up is sorely needed.

Trust a spinner to know just what another spinner needs.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

And Now, For Something Completely Different

The corn is all picked, the basement is full of firewood, and while there is still the outside boiler to finish cutting firewood for, equipment to put away and some manure to haul out, That Andy is turning to thoughts of time in the wood shop.  He has an order for a lawyer's style bookcase of cherry from someone's property.  He sawed their small logs this spring and let them air dry over the summer.  Slow and natural drying is least stressful on lumber.  Now that he's almost ready to work with it, the lumber needs some final drying to get down to a moisture content that will be stable when in someone's house.

lumber stacked to dry

This is the small finishing kiln Andy built within the shop.  It holds more than enough lumber to complete almost any project at one time.

Heating system to dry lumber

The heat source is some reclaimed baseboard hot water runs left from a renovation project.  The hot water is pulled off the main heat exchanger he built which heats the whole shop.  The heat from the water in the pipe transfers to the fins of the heat run and radiates off, rising up through the layers of lumber, and drying the wood in a gentle manner.  The source of all this hot water is our outside wood boiler. Andy has it plumbed to heat my wool shop and his wood shop, but we also pull some extra 'free' heat off it to bring the water heater up to temp faster for washing wool, and now it gives heat to this little kiln, too.

Breathing holes

A couple of holes in the top, far corner of the space will allow for hot air to vent out and carry humidity with it.

Sealed shut, and working

Simple design, uses 'free' energy, and works quietly all the time without any input from him.

Now if I could just find a way to get wool to wash itself.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Verse, Same as the First

So, what have I been doing since moving the rams out of their breeding groups? 

Skirt, wash, dye, repeat.

I'm working through the white Cotswold lamb fleeces and doing some dyeing for a special request colorway.  A group of spinners saw Berry Patch at FLFF and wanted me to do it in lamb and add some silk as I had done for September Glow and Spring Meadow.

Berry Patch
So, I've been spending time each day doing the aforementioned skirt/wash/dye routine.  I'll have almost 30 lbs of washed fiber for processing, so I should get back 25 lbs or so.  The actual basic colors for the blend are lilac, pink/crimson and kelly green/emerald green.

Pink and Crimson, mixed

Kelly Green and Emerald Green, mixed

It always amazes me how colors that look like clown barf when sitting in bags next to each other will cozy up together and be pretty when made to roving.  Seriously.  Look at Berry Patch.  Now look at these colors.  Now look back at Berry Patch.  Really??  Yes, truly a miracle.  I'll be eager to spin a sample with the silk added and see how it looks.  Maybe similar to Spring Meadow, but that has blue and yellow and this doesn't.  So. Many. Color. Combos.

My favorite color is green and wouldn't you know that's one that gives me trouble.  I suspect it's our uber hard water, but I really have to add a good bit of vinegar to the dyebath and heat much longer than other colors and it still doesn't exhaust 100%.  Spruce goes a little easier, but these bright greens are problematic.  I had a gray fleece (Mr. Bill) that became un-reserved so I decided that I'd overdye it.  I've done blue on gray (Blue Jeans) and purple on gray (Wine Country) so I thought I'd go green, but I really didn't want to beat on it so I thought I'd make my own green by putting yellow and blue together in case that helped somehow.  Apparently, despite being thoroughly blended in the pot, the dye attaches to the fiber as though it were two colors.  I actually like this and I think it will card into a nice roving with some depth of shading that should be pretty.  At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Yellow plus blue equals yellowgreenblue

As soon as the dyed lamb is on its way to the mill I'll grab some gray Cotswold to add to this.  I like to send a batch big enough that it will have a little shelf life.   More skirt, wash, dye in my future.

And then what color shall I do?  Hmmmm.........