Friday, August 31, 2012

Achieving Escape Velocity

My friend Diane, she of Acorn Works, shared a keen observation the other day.  No matter how urgent your need to leave a place, you have to first achieve escape velocity to do so.  For example, if you have an appointment and have to be in the car at X o'clock to get there on time, you have to escape the drag of the phone, email, person at the door, laundry buzzer, cat carrying a chipmunk up from down cellar, that bill that you must get into today's mail, take the cell phone off the charger, answer the phone again, etc. before you can get. out. the. door.

We have had a week like that, crazy busy, but at least we did get a lot accomplished.

I finished dyeing and drying the wool that will be Ferns and Moss and Beneath the Waves and handed it off to Diane at the Fiber Fest meeting along with more raw Cotswold for her to wash.

This will be Beneath the Waves.  Really.
I spent a day at the New York state fair in the Wool building demonstrating hand spinning, and also dropped off fleeces for the show.  I used the demo time to spin skeins of the two roving colors that she has already given back to me.  (Still have to ply a bobbin and wash both, though).
We ran both the ewe and ram lamb groups over the scale to check weights and eye scores and deworm as needed. 
I filled and mailed out web orders as they came in, confirmed some activities for the upcoming festival, scheduled ads in various local publications for same and answered a slew of emails about the flock, the items we have available, possible farm visits from people interested in breeding stock, etc.
Andy continued to bale second cutting alfalfa and for once we are getting gorgeous hay, although there is less of it than one might wish due to the drought.  We've seen it selling at auction for up to $6 a bale but that just seems like an obscene price to us.  Guess we're stuck in a time warp and don't realize that $6 isn't what it used to be, nor is $50 nor $100 nor $1,000.  :-/
Green gold.
We also had all the Cotswold lambs shorn - 64 in total - all in one day.
White lambs........
Silvery gray lambs...........
Really black lambs........
Lambs that were really concerned about the proceedings..........
What. Are. You. Doing??

Lambs that really couldn't have cared too much less.......
This is the gate?  Too bad.  Step over me.

Coming up, I have an overnight trip planned to pick up a new Cotswold ram I'm purchasing, two days scheduled with Carolyn to dye 45 yards of fabric,  I have to go back to the State Fair on Labor Day to retrieve the show fleeces, do a spinning demo at the Patterson Inn in Corning next Saturday, help set up the fairgrounds for the festival next Sunday, paint a shelving rack for my booth and sew a new fabric cover to span the back of it, find better lighting alternatives for said booth, do gigantic batches of laundry that have gone begging,  retrieve the fiber Diane is processing (and hopefully hand her more), assemble drop spindle kits and, and, and ...........
I don't seem to see cleaning or much cooking on the list.......  oh, darn.  I'll try to manage without it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hard To Believe

It's always amazing to see the transformation dyed wool undergoes when it's processed into roving.  I've been out of a lot of colors for way too long and am now getting some back on the shelves.

We went from this....
To this...
Honest.  That's how those colors work up when carded into a variegated roving.  There is half again as much yellow as the other colors and it really tames them. This is Misty Morn which I've been out of for some time.  I need to spin a sample skein but the roving looks to be a dead on duplicate of what I had before.
Right now I have this drying.
This is going to be Ferns and Moss, and colors for Beneath the Waves are in the dyepots right now.  I'm trying hard to get a decent stock of fiber prepared for the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival coming up in September.  And what has enabled me to increase my production so much?  The opening of Acorn Works fiber mill.  Being within driving distance (and being talented and accomodating) the mill is washing raw fiber for me in much bigger batches than I can manage then giving it back for me as just clean, unpicked wool to dye.  Once dyed, I return the fiber to then be made to roving.  So far this is working out dandy and the end result is gorgeous.  I am colon-hyphen-capital-dee happy!
"Good thing you're moving faster.  We're making more allllll the time."

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Appreciated Pelt

The vast majority of items we sell go off with happy people and we never know how the purchase worked out for the buyer.  Did the roving spin up as they hoped?  Was the yarn the right color after all?  Was the sheepskin being enjoyed?  I recently received an email from friend who wanted to share with me the 'new life' a pelt she bought here is enjoying (she refers to it below as a fleece, but it's an actual sheepskin).  This glimpse into another way of  life seemed so interesting that I thought I'd pass it along.  Here, in part, is her email (reprinted with permission, of course).

.......I also kept expecting I might need it for a gift. Well, the day arrived and I wish you could have seen it -- you would have been so proud of your sheep! I am living in the Navajo nation in northern Arizona area, and was fortunate to be invited to a traditional kinalda ceremony, which I am writing to tell you about. As you know, Navajo life is still very much about sheep and tradition, and the grandmas still process their own wool from their Churro sheep and weave it into rugs.

More than anyone, I think, the Navajo can appreciate the value of sheep, and a beautiful fleece symbolizes almost everything good in their world. Every elder here remembers growing up in a hogan, with just a sheep fleece as a bed between themselves and the dirt floor. With that in mind, I brought one of your beautiful fleeces as a kinalda gift for the girl. These days, it is hard to get your hands on a fleece here, let alone such a beautiful one, so everyone was impressed and had many questions about it, and it provoked good conversation.

I expected the fleece gift to go in a pile somewhere with the other gifts, but when I entered the hogan later, there was your fleece, stretched out in the place of honor to the left of the medicine man, for the kinalda girl to sit on during the all night singing. Surrounding that spot on the west wall were other medicine objects, a sage bundle, and the girl's school certificates and awards put up to recognize the girl's achievements so far, as she takes her place in the adult world. The fleece was glowing, and the family was proud to present their daughter in such a way. Good work! I know you would have appreciated this scene even more than if the fruit of your labor were displayed in the White House. I wish I could have taken a picture for you but of course it's not acceptable to photograph such things. Trust me, there is much gratitude emanating to you and your sheep from this corner of the world!

Under supervision of the mentor, Nizhoni (the girl having the ceremony) had to grind some 50 pounds of roasted corn, which she cooked and stirred yesterday in a huge outdoor kettle to make the traditional Navajo cake. Some ceremonial herbs were added but nothing sweet, and nothing that would cause you to recognize it as cake! The cake was spread on corn husks in a wide hole in the ground, then it was covered with husks and dirt and the all-night fire was built on top.

Even in this poor and desolate country, there must have been a hundred people on the grounds eating when I arrived.  The family was prepared for all the people who would be visiting and helping over the four days of ceremony. The girl's maternal grandmother is responsible for providing the hogan, hiring the medicine man, and other preparations, but everyone can help out. As a guest, it is good form to bring special food for the giveaway that happens after the cake is brought out of the ground. I was loaded with seven pounds of candied nuts, dried peaches, and beef jerky. Lucky I had just stocked up on goodies the last time I was in Albuquerque!

Almost everyone went home after supper, but around 35 of us stayed. The younger kids ended up spreading out blankets and sleeping in the grandmother's hogan when they were done wrestling and playing. The rest of us entered the ceremonial hogan at nearly 11 PM. The hogan is round and has a dirt floor but there were thin rug remnants set around the wall for the guests to sit on. The hogan was just big enough for all of us to sit in a circle, men on the south side, and the medicine man in the west with his helper to his right and the girl Nizhoni to his left (Nizhoni means "beautiful" in Navajo). The father sat at the door in the east. There were three ancient "grandmas" and they got to sit together on folding chairs along the north wall with the women. The medicine man sings medicine songs all night, and directs the girl at times in ritual. The rest of us can sing along if we want, and try to stay awake. From time to time someone falls forward or leans sideways, overcome by sleep. I don't know the Navajo language but one of the ladies sitting next to me (Well, more like she was sitting against me with her elbow in my ribs and her knees tucked up to her chest like the rest of us, since there wasn't room to sit "Indian style!" ) told me the first song is about the hogan. Late in the night a couple of the men guests took turns singing special songs that were their gift to the girl. They can expect to take home extra large pieces of cake later for their trouble..

By 5:30 am our butts were numb, and I was delirious with wanting sleep. The sun would be rising soon but it was still pitch black from the stormy but rainless night when Nizhoni headed out for her final run to the east. The kids were all directed to run with her, but only the older kids could keep up as she ran about 2 miles to the east, yelling and running as directed, then running back.

 I can't imagine how tired Nizhoni would have been after laboring outdoors all day on her fourth day of ceremony, sitting up for ceremony all night, then completing the ceremony in the morning! It was amazing to see the amount of support that went into the event, from all the friends and family.

How far removed most of us are from this culture and way of life.  I may not ever get out West to look around, but it makes me very happy to think a pelt from this flock has found its way out there and is appreciated.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Deep Summer

I'm going with deep summer because at mid August I think we're a bit past mid-summer but I just cannot bear to say "late summer".  I know it's been too hot for just about every sane person and field crops have suffered , gardening has been tough and the sheep have been too hot....but I'm a summer person and just don't want to see the season sliding into fall.  At some point I will have to make the admission (probably right after spinning at state fair and seeing the school buses on the road) but for right now I'm going to stay in my little fantasy world where I don't have to wear a sweatshirt and slippers and probably won't tomorrow either.

So to cement the feeling I conferred with the field flowers who agree it's still summer, at least in some degree.

Volunteer portulaca in a crack under the eaves where last year's hanging baskets hung.

Chickory, which is the nicest clear blue color without purple overtones.

Queen Anne's Lace (aka wild carrot) with it's one black center flower.  Anybody know why that's there? 

Turk's cap lily with fun spots and curled petals.

A mystery flower.  It's growing right on the edge of the road so who knows where the seed came from.  The flowers look too full to be ragged robin and not quite right for northern plains blazing star.  Maybe a cultivated escapee?  Centauria?  In any event, it should know it's appreciated growing where it is.

And while I don't like thistles in the pasture I don't mind them around the back of buildings since they attract goldfinches when they go to seed and when in flower give little lovelies like this a place to snack.

No pictures of goldenrod yet because........that would mean it's late summer :-/

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Next Step

With the new concrete floor in place the next step in enlarging the ram area is actual construction.  To build something you need lumber.  To get lumber you need logs.  To get logs you go to the woods.  (Ahem.  Your own woods.  Not trying to suggest that timber theft is an approved method of obtaining materials.)

Hemlock number one.

Hemlock number two.

Logs cut to length and brought home on the dump trailer.

And put over the mill and sawn into the needed sizes.

Meanwhile, in the barn one of the cats has given the new floor the seal of approval.

It wasn't us.

Don't worry guys, you were never under suspicion.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


The concrete company had time in their schedule today so we got the floor poured for the new ram barn pens.

Andy had the forms built and ran down to the rental place to get a power screed for the day.  Thank you to whoever invented it.  We have done our fair share by hand and there's no particular glory in it, especially since we both have shoulder issues.  He got this one with a twelve foot bar to accomodate the wider section.

The truck arrived shortly after lunch.  Because the barn doorway is only eleven feet high Andy had to ferry the mix in with the skidder.

That worked out fine since it allowed him to put each bucket where he wanted it.  We filled the narrower section first.....

...and screed it as we went.

Then he laid down re-rod and did the wider section.

Bob, the truck operator, was really helpful and grabbed the stone rake anytime I didn't get there first.  ( He's a former farmer, it turns out.  They just won't. stop. working.)

We actually had about half a yard more than needed so Andy did some quick work with pick and shovel and leveled the ground around the box that houses the water pump.  That used up the extra perfectly.  Hopefully that will make it less enticing to the mice in winter.

We finally finished around 4 PM.  The floor looks good and should last longer than we will.  And it's got good mojo going because of the requisite good luck love note.

Written in stone :-)