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.