Friday, September 12, 2014

My Carder

I spoke to my personal carder, John Erlinger, from Frankenmuth Woolen Mill in Frankenmuth, Michigan, today.  John is shipping four of my seven runs to me so I can take the luscious blends to shows with me.  The rest will come soon.  I'm anxious to see what John has done with my fibers.   It was at least a dozen years ago that I was at my booth in Rhinebeck when I dashed out with a raw fleece to drop off to a processor.   The line at Zeilinger's Mill, coincidentally also in Frankenmuth, was a mile long.  There was not a single person in line at Frankenmuth's trailer.  I had to get back to my booth inside so I gave the wool to them.  I've been patronizing Frankenmuth ever since.  I'm very happy with John's work.  I harvest, wash, dye, wash again, and dry the different colors according to the look and feel I'm trying to achieve.   He knows just how to feed the various colors into the carding machine for a lovely variegated blend.  When the bags are heavy or light, John figures out how to distribute them evenly through the runs.   The turn around time is better than any other mill I'm aware of.  Sadly, the owners of Frankenmuth Woolen Mill have decided not to go to wool festivals anymore.   They have so much business with mattress pads and comforters they don't see travelling to shows as cost effective.   I don't get to visit with John in person and we do all our business over the phone.   He ships my wool back to me postage free.  It's always an exciting day when those giant boxes are dropped off at the farm and I can play with my newly blended fibers.  I spin them into yarns that are so much more luxurious and beautiful than commercial yarns.  An added bonus is knowing the yarns come from animals who live out their lives in comfort and are never subjected to the terror of auctions.  . 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Subtle Changes

The trees are slowly changing color.  It seems earlier this year.  It has not been dry for long periods of time.  The grass is still lush and green with clumps of clover and soft dandelion leaves.  The sheep are so fat some of them have a hard time pulling themselves up the hill.  Even the withered old ladies have a little meat on their bones.   The cold weather is not far away.  The barnyard thermometer registered 38F. two mornings ago.  I'm still doing chores in shorts and tee shirts.  What bliss!  I'm not looking forward to dragging hoses around.  Green grass and the pond provides the flock with all the water they need. When they are eating hay in the winter they are thirsty all the time.   I've been busy making soap.  Last night it was Cinnamon Leaf.  The night before I made Clove soap.  The flies fled the kitchen when I was cutting up the clove bars.  Didn't realize clove was a bug repellent.  Nice surprise.  I have several totes on the machine.  A hundred plus pounds of lovely colorful wool blends are waiting for me at the carding mill.  It's a very busy time of year.  I don't feel like I caught up from summer school.  No vacation this year as spouse used up all his sick/vacation time recovering from the two foot surgeries and subsequent staph infection.  The four days away in Maine last year will have to suffice.   The picc line was removed and IV meds were discontinued on Monday.  The surgeon says he's fine and all the numbers look good.  He's back to his exciting job, meeting with our congressional representative to discuss energy issues, and travelling around the state teaching technical certification courses.  I rush home to the farm every day and hike up to the top of the hill to let the dogs drink from the pond.  Soon it will be covered with drifted snow.   The forecast says early snow and a long, cold winter.   

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sheep in the Mist

I forgot to lock the gate and the sheep were out grazing early this morning.  Apples are starting to ripen on the trees and the few that fall down on their own are enough to keep the sheep waiting, hopefully, underneath.   I've started knocking the apples down with a big stick, which is comical to watch as my aim is not that good.  I get more results when I stand directly under the branches and shake them.  Large apple orchards have machines that shake the trees to make the apples fall down.  When I get conked on the head I wish I had a machine like that.  One would think the apples would be shaken off in the wind, but that's not always the case.  They will rot or be bug eaten if left on the branches.  I often think how lovely it would be to rehabilitate my orchard.  I don't have the manpower or the time to give it what it needs.  A team of Amish farmers would love this orchard and bring it back to it's former splendor.  They may get it someday, and that would make me very happy.  I had to leave for work and, just as I was rushing out the door, I saw them emerging from the mist, headed down the hill, but there was not a minute to spare to collect them all and lock the gate.  I know their habits and they should have gone back in the barn to sleep on the cool poo-pack, avoiding the hot sun.  Let's hope that's the case.   I would love to install barn and field cams so I could take peeks at the goings-on while I'm at school.   I'm thinking about letting my new Wensleydale ram, Louie, out with the flock.   He's very small, even at a year old, and I'm worried the big FAT ewes and wethers will knock him around, a natural thing to do with a new member of the flock.   His buddy, my new Nubian buck, Spike Lee, has to stay in his separate area so he doesn't breed the angora does.  I will put the Nubian does in with him for breeding.  He is also very small at six months old.  The Nubian does are gigantic - big strong girls.  I hope they are very fond of him and accommodating as well.  They will have to be in order for him to service them.   I'm hoping for goat milk this winter and the girls can't produce it without being bred.  That's how it works. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Colorful Weekend

The 20th Annual Colorscape Chenango Fine Arts Festival was a fantastic success.  We dodged a horrific weather system which dumped rain on surrounding areas but not on the Norwich town square.  Traffic through my booth was steady all weekend.  Colorscape has many incredibly talented artists participating and I'm honored to be in their company. I received many compliments and much validation in the form of repeat visitors.  One amusing comment..."I love all this hippie stuff!"  I don't really think of my products as hippie stuff, more like farmy stuff.  Okay with me.  One woman arrived in a tizzy, having made three circles around the festival before finally inquiring at the information booth about the location of my booth.  Another woman was wheeled in with three friends in attendance.  She was covered with crocheted blankets and shawls, and looked very ill, as in terminally so.  A friend had parked her facing the bag rack, in front of a tote featuring a beach scene.  I saw her eyes melt into the picture and take on a far away look.  She said, "I want that," and pointed at the bag.  At once two of the friends reached for their wallets.  I realized they may not ever have a chance to give their friend a gift again.   The son of a colleague visited me to buy his mother a Christmas present and asked me to help him pick it out.  Many colleagues from school and our sister campus, along with former students stopped by.  People I do business with in Norwich wandered through.   A woman told me that she goes to many wool festivals and wades through the commercial yarn but, "You are the real deal."  I was reminded how wonderfully unique it is to raise my own materials, from lamb to loom.  I've never won any of the booth design awards, or prizes for my work.  I do too many different things, and my presentation is very basic.  That's okay, I'm happy with what I do.  The festival patrons loved watching me spin and  often baby strollers were parked in front of my wheel, put there purposely to mesmerize the little ones so parents could shop.  I packed up Sunday night, contented and with renewed purpose. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rainy Sunday

Warm and drizzly this morning on the farm.  The flies are about to pick me up and carry me away.  Need to make more patchouli creme, the best natural defense I have against them.  Forgot to buy fly strips in TS yesterday.  I hate the things and they fill up so fast anyway.  Market day was delightful.  I was able to visit with my friends Susanne Farrington and Candace Cain.  Several people stopped to say they were glad I was there.  One woman came to find colored fiber for making beads.  She said the Mill Artisans store in Sherburne has fiber but some of it did not felt well.  I assured her my Bluefaced Leicester/Rambouillet/Merino fibers would felt very well.  She was thrilled with the colors.  I will not be dyeing fiber on a large scale until my angora goats are clipped in a month or so.  They have three inches on them now but four would be better.  I have to get Big Jim Baldwin over here to shear a dozen or so goats.  I like to do it myself but he makes short work of it which is better for the goats.  I have to get them shorn early enough for them to grow back a decent coat before it gets cold.  The sheep were shorn late, in June, so they are fine for winter.  They already have nice fleeces coming in.  Mohair grows almost twice as fast as wool.  I'll have a lovely yearling clip this year.  On deck for today after morning the Anise soap I made two days ago and set it out to cure.  I'm space challenged for soap curing and will have to be creative.  I have several totes cut out. They were very well received at the market yesterday, but no takers.  That's fine!  I only have ten and need them for fall shows.   I brought home three varieties of tomatoes grown in Hamilton by Joyce Nevison of Hilltop Farm.  I made a huge bowl of salsa last night and we ate it with corn chips for dinner.  One more day of freedom - to work on the farm - before school starts.  Robin stopped by to visit me at the market yesterday.  We will be reunited in the classroom after two years apart.  I adore her.  She is the consummate professional, great with the students, an organizational wizard, tough in the line of fire, and a good friend to me.   Robin knows all my quirks and eccentricities and likes me anyway.  What more could I ask for?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Home on the Farm

Yesterday's lovely cool weather is giving way to warmth and humidity this weekend.  Wish I had more wool to set out and dry but I have so much at the carding mill it will cost me a fortune to get it out of hock.  That's okay, I need it.  Kimmie Cornerstone will have a coronary when she sees it all.  She loves to spin my Mother Fiber.  Celebrating my almost-last-day-of-vacation by staying home on the farm the whole dang day.  What a joy.  I have a large batch of patchouli soap to cut up and put out to cure, and lots of balls of unscented soap to roll.  I have the ingredients to make one more batch and I think that will be almond.  Oh, the joy of it.  Inhaling patchouli and almond in the same day?   There is a pile of totes to sew calling to me by the sewing machine.  Yesterday my plans to get some work done were interrupted by a long overdue trip to the cardiologist in Cooperstown.  Nice lady but she takes so much time with her patients I waited two hours for my turn.  Next time I see her I have the first appointment of her day.  Smart move.  I shudder to think that the best remedy for my particular issue might be giving up COFFEE!  What a cruel twist of fate on one hand, but, on the other hand, how lucky I am that I might benefit from something I can do for myself without even the purchase of a prescription?  More tests to follow....yuck, yuck, yuck.  I'm the healthiest person I know and I want it to stay that way.  As I write I lift up my eyes to see the sheep grazing on the hillside, the ultimate bucolic setting.  Other than a couple of old girls with bad knees everybody looks good.  With Matt still pumping antibiotics into himself  through a pic line for the staph infection he is not much help wrangling sheep and goats with me.  Just changing the sterile dressing took us a half hour last night.  He wraps an ace bandage around that area of his arm to protect the dangling orifice while at work.  Two more weeks of daily injections.  Oh, right, I have to wait for a delivery of meds for him today.  Thank you, teacher bennies.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another Day in Paradise

Monday, Lukie's Birthday, it was real hot with a clear blue sky.  Today is cloudy and cool.  No rain all week.  The clouds parted yesterday afternoon and gave us some blue sky followed by a spectacular "Key West" sunset, with dark streaks over intense pastels.  Gorgeous.  I stepped out of my barn and gasped.  I'm missing Luke and mourning for the little girl Hannah used to be when she liked long lazy summers on the farm, but they are growing up and moving on to new adventures.  Both are starting school today.  Luke will be reconnecting with his buddies.  He loves, loves, loves clothes and will surely have on a snappy outfit.  Hannah will be sporting the vintage red Coach messenger bag I found for her online.  I gave it to her for back-to-school and she loved it instantly - it matches her hair!  On the Family News front - Mia is still acting as Primary Care professional at Care Station, treating the masses who use that medical venue for every ailment under the sun.  She is learning TONS of good information she will take to whatever she decides to do next.  Father Aaron is loving active duty Army life at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  He is preaching weekly to an Episcopal congregation made largely up of officers from West Point and foreign soldiers attending a Captain's Artillery Training School.  With a staff of three to help with various programs he has going Father A. is very busy.  Number 1 son, Eric, is happy with the way his programs went at BSA Camp Hinds in Maine.  Annie taught pistol safety courses on the various ranges built by the Army Corps of Engineers Eric brought in to help renovate the camp.  Hannah was on the counselor staff and loved helping the little boys get over their homesickness and get into camp activities.  Maggie is busy working with wool and getting ready for the fall.  I took a walk up top yesterday and gosh, I wish my camera had not decided to die.  The sheep lined up so beautifully a couple of times, asking to be photographed against the breathtaking views.  If only I had not stored the point and shoot in the Cradle of Civilization so often.  The lens is fused and won't be budged.  Second time it's happened.  Will have to break down and get that smart phone to take pictures and keep in touch.  Maybe not so much to keep in touch, although it's good to have some way to call help if I step in a foot deep ground hog hole.  The dogs usually tell me where the holes are as they gather around them and stick their noses in.  Nobody is ever home as the White Boys have taken care of the critters long before.  I follow the sheep trails over the fields.  They know where the holes are and have laid down lovely meandering paths over the hillside....however, they lose all sense while gorging on the lovely, short, sweet grass I was hoping to get a second cut with.   The barn is FULL of hay, so I don't mind.  Better they go into winter nice and fat.  It will be a long wait for spring once the killing frost comes.  The forecast says another long, cold winter.  I don't have a stick of firewood, but I have HAY!  The sheep come first, so that's okay.