Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taste the Rainbow

Hope Skittles doesn't sue me for copyright infringement.  ;-)   To be accurate it's more a case of 'spin the rainbow'.  A few years ago the spinning guild had a fun activity in which you could chip in fiber from your stash - any color and type of fiber but it had to be ready to spin - and Diane at Acorn Works recombined all the contributions into some very fun rainbow gradient batts.  The fiber I put in earned me four batts back.  One I gave away but the other three are finally being spun up.

This batt is the same shade of rainbow as the skein at right.  It's a somewhat subdued gradient with an almost gray overtone.  The singles on the bobbin at left is from a batt that was much brighter and not muted.  I only had one like that as the one that I gifted was a bright one.

The whole point of a rainbow is to preserve the color shift in the finished yarn.  I could have unrolled the batt and divided it into two shorter batts of equal size and weight, carefully pulled off strips from one edge across to the other, spun two bobbins of ROYGBIV yarn and prayed hoped that the lengths of each color were close enough that when plied together the color shift would remain pretty much intact.  I didn't feel that ambitious at the time so I just started at one edge and made strips, spinning each in order to get a big bobbin of rainbow yarn.  Now what?

I decided to experiment and ply it on a strong metallic thread.  I saw it done on a video and it looked easy enough although the glittery part is a bit out of my normal rut method of making yarn.  This skein is 570 yards, so enough to be worthwhile.  It's also now a yarn that's thinner than I'm used to working with since the thread didn't add any bulk.  I didn't think that part through too well :-/

It IS pretty to look at, though.

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with the second batt.  *Maybe* I'll do as I outlined above and try for a two-ply yarn with colors that match up well enough to preserve the rainbow. I'd have to spin a pretty consistent singles.  Hmmm.  The brighter yarn currently on the bobbin is also a question.  I could ply it with the same metallic thread or I could make a cabled three-ply yarn (aka Navajo ply) but when I tried that in a workshop last fall I wasn't jazzed with the way the yarn handled.  I found it kind of stiff and clunky.  I suppose I could ply it with plain white.....  Good thing I'm not this indecisive about everything!

In other fiber news I sent more wool off to become roving - a big ol' bag of white Cotswold....

And a smaller bag of dyed Cotswold in a fun pumpkin-pie color.

And some of the previous lots I sent have returned!  I've spun an ounce of each to make a sample and have yet to ply them.  (Just nice simple ply-back-on-yourself  two-ply.  Whew.)

It didn't even occur to me until I set them next to each other that the grouping was so patriotic!

The coming week is supposed to be snowy and cold.  Bleah.  But we stay up on the hill and do chores and wash wool and keep the fires burning and live in our own little world, like this guy.

Hopefully we won't have to literally tunnel!  :-0

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Random Wednesday

I tried to find a cohesive theme or story for today but nothing stood out.  A very nice day because of sun every moment but just a typical work-a-day, do-a-bunch-of-things day.

I'm working on accumulating enough Cotswold wool for a batch of yarn.  Last time I sent just shy of 100 pounds which was 8-10 raw fleeces.  I've gone through three so far, taking out the nicest and most uniform length locks and putting the remainder in bags designated for wash/dye/roving or quilt batting.  There will be less loss in processing if all the wool handles the same in the equipment.  Today I paused in that and skirted Cotswold lamb fleece for a lady who makes designer yarn.  The fiber is so darn pretty I have to keep reminding myself to stop fiddling with it and hurry up.

Some of the locks are wavy/less curly - this usually comes from the sides of the lamb where gravity pulls some of the curl out of the lock.

Then there are the locks that lay along the back and don't have any stress.  Those usually hold the curl better.  Still, the locks are soft and supple - after all, it's baby wool.

Holly really enjoyed the sun and spent as much time as she could on the side porch letting herself bake.  She'd get up panting, get a drink and beg snacks see what we were doing and then go back and lay down again.  I would have been right there too if I had time ;-)

Andy drew a load of hay down to the lower barn and we put it up in the mow.  This wagon holds about 90 bales comfortably and that lasts the flock about 4 days.  It sounds like a huge amount but we don't make the bales very heavy because neither of us want to handle them!  A thirty pound bale is enough, a fifty pounder just isn't necessary.  You can buy a lot of baler twine for what steady visits to the chiropractor would cost.

The first order of business was to clean off the elevator which had accumulated our share (about 6 inches) of the big blizzard that ended up not affecting NY much at all.  (Note the pale moon at the top of the picture).

This wouldn't normally be an exciting job but for the hard soled shoes plus dry snow on tilted metal!

Once we had the load of hay off he still had to bring some blocks of wood nearer the boiler to split for tonight.

The hydraulic splitter is acting up due to the cold - likely some water somewhere it shouldn't be has frozen - so he's doing a few blocks a day on an as-needed basis until we get a warmer day... whenever that will be.  Ash splits easily and on a cold sunny day like this it's not a bad task.

And finally, a bit of Kittin-sheepy love.

Next time, some fiber progress!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Sun Before The Snow

The weather forecasters are wetting their pants over a big snow storm headed up the east coast tomorrow and Tuesday.  One of them said that this will very likely go in the record books as greatest snowfall for the NYC/Long Island.  Ever.  In history.  I've heard dire predictions about loss of power, inability to travel and conditions akin to those suffered by the Donner Party.   While a blizzard is nothing to laugh at and preparations are prudent the weather people have become nearly apopleptic issuing warnings.  If the storm is less than Biblical in scale they are going to look rather foolish.

You would never know from the weather today that anything ominous was headed our way.  In fact, our area is on the northern edge of the predicted route and we may get nothing at all.  It did get a lot colder though and the sheep were enjoying sitting in the sun.

Daffodil, who will be 13 in a couple of months

Alexandria and some young friends

Alexandria, at 11, is showing her age.  She has lost all her front teeth and has a hard time keeping weight on despite getting grain twice a day and a private stall to eat nice hay overnight without competition.  I like the way the young ewes are keeping her company while she chews her cud in the sun.

"I was a lamb once.  That was a long time ago.  Sit down, kids, and I'll tell you a thing or two."

Coconut popped up to see what I was doing.  I really must try to get a flattering picture of her - she's cute and not at all wild like her eyes lead you to believe.

"Oh!  Hi!  I didn't know you were there!"

Gilly, down in the bred ewe group, also popped up to see what was going on.  The bedding is building up a lot, making it easier to put front feet on the edge of the hay feeder and look over the side of the pen.  We'll have to clean the barn sometime soon.  

She makes a terrible mess of her head with the hay but the rest of her fleece is pristine.  I do pick a lot of stuff off the ewes twice daily while I'm in the pen to pull the uneaten hay stems out of the lower portion of the feeder but she rarely has more than a stray timothy head on her back.

Alexi was on hand for some lunch kibble.

"Pleeze may I has some kibble?  I has been a gud cat today."


"I didn't know I had to be good.  Oh man, I'm in trouble........."


"I'm better than good.  I'm inside.  Heh heh."

Where ever you are, hunker down and stay warm.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Frost Feathers

Last night we apparently enjoyed perfect conditions to have this lovely coating of feathery frost appear on everything.  As much as I detest winter I certainly do appreciate that this kind of visual treat can only happen when it's real cold. 

The branches looked  like elk antlers covered in velvet.

Even this metal bird grew feathers overnight.

Holly still looked kind of rumpled and sleepy when we went to do chores.

"Is that a cat?  No, I guess not.  Why are we out here again?  Oh yeah, chore time.  Then I'm going back to my chair."

I'm sure that dogs appreciate winter in ways other than the scenery.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sub Zero

Minus eleven degrees F to be exact.

January has been a rollercoaster of above freezing temperatures which then drop to single digits within a day.  This morning was one of those deep cold ones.  The sky was pretty but you didn't want to stand still long to admire it.

The snow underfoot squeals and grunts with every step like angry geese.  You can gauge the temperature within 10 degrees by the tone of voice the snow uses.

We take hot water from the sink in the wool shop up to the ram barn and mix it with the cold well water to keep it liquid longer.  Some of the boys like it lukewarm but for those who don't it gets chilly pretty darn quick.  You know it's cold when the hot water bucket is empty and still steams like mad.

When it's very cold and windy we close the barn doors to keep the temperature tolerable - for us that is.  The sheep are fine with cold.

Bunny.   "Since you're here, are you going to feed us now?"

Foxy, Mickey and Fortune.  "Yes, please, yes, please, feed us now, we're starving!"

Coconut, still with the crazy eyes ;-)

It's a pretty comfortable place to spend the day if you're a sheep.  Sit around, eat, chat with friends....

Star in mid-chew and Flower

Then Flopsy charges over for petting and disturbs the peaceful mood.  She looks downright demented in this picture but it's just the way her bangs are hiding her eyes (and the crooked ear set doesn't help).  She's really very sweet and loves attention, even hugs, which some sheep find too touchy-feely for comfort.

The sunset was quite pink so hopefully we'll see an increase in the temperature tomorrow.  Banging ice out of water buckets multiple times a day is a chore we could happily skip for a few days.

Halfway through January...... at least three months to go.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tales From the Old Folks Home

AKA 'the wool shop' where I skirt, wash and dye wool from the flock.  I've waffled over how to refer to this building.  It was my father-in-law's woodworking shop before I inherited it for my purposes.  I've tried calling it the wool barn or the wool shed but it's a nicer space than a shed or barn.  Heat, lights, concrete floor, windows, electric, cupboards.... but it's not quite as grand as a certain 'wool house' I know (and drool over) so I guess I'll stick with "shop".  A utilitarian place where work gets done.

But back to the point - the wool shop is now doing double duty as a winter home for two aged barn kitties, Ivan and Natasha.  Ivan is almost 18 and while Natasha is just getting into double digits she doesn't tolerate cold well at all.  I can sympathize.  Losing weight, shivering and obviously miserable - I won't make anybody suffer that if I can help it.  She spent some time here last winter too although it was only a couple weeks of single digit conditions.  I think they are both in here for the whole winter this year, especially Ivan.

"I remember this place.  About time they brought me back here."

"Mom, they're hogging the bed again."

The sun shines on Holly's blanket most of the afternoon.  Pretty nice deal if you're an ancient cat.

Ivan has also discovered the fun of boxes.  Liking cardboard boxes must be written into the genetic code of cats or something.  He's never seen a box in the barn, but put one on the floor and he's a kitten again.  I needed something to keep the cats from having access to the front of the shop which has indoor/outdoor carpet and would not be forgiving of 'accidents' and this big box happened to fit the doorway perfectly.

I've been enjoying the warm shop too.  Washing fleece.....

And being able to indulge in a past passion - orchids.  Because Ivan and Natasha are too well mannered too old to get on the counters this is about the only cat-proof space I have that plants can exist in.  When you can get mini phalaenopsis for less than $10 at the grocery store.....

Hothouse plants and hothouse cats. :-D

Thursday, January 1, 2015


It's not a deadly sin, it's a sensible energy conservation measure.

Or maybe Holly just found learning to knit to be too tiring. 
Here's to starting the year sensibly, whatever that means to you!