We're still here!

Hey everyone, it's again been forever since I posted here! As usual, I've been doing 12 thousand things, and just haven't found time to sit down on the couch for an hour and write something. Ewan finished nursing at about Christmas time, and so my sit-on-the-couch-holding-a-lightly-sleeping-baby-for-an-hour time is gone. Now, I sit down with him just like we're nursing, snuggled on the Boppy, special green blanket on, Lovey on (an old nursing bra of mine that he wears around his neck 23.5 hours a day :-) ) - except rather than nursing, he's got a pacifier, and he's out in 4 or 5 minutes (sometimes even less) so I barely have time to check my email!  So – here's a quick rundown of the more momentous happenings here over the last month and a half...

In a fairly major development, we no longer have a mini horse! We realized (or I persuaded everyone else to admit something I've acknowledged for a couple of years) that Fiona was being neglected here. While she had lots – like more than a hundred, literally – of other “animal friends”, she just didn't seem to fit in with the goats, alpacas, or cows at all. Most of the winter, when Caleb moved the animals to a new pasture, he would have to go find her, halter her, and almost drag her to the new paddock. She was just listless and uncaring, and we decided she was basically depressed and lonely, and really needed the company of other horses. Our boys almost never actually rode her, and the little friend that used to come weekly all spring and fall moved away last summer :-( So, we gave Fiona to a friend who runs a substance abuse recovery program through horse therapy – Fiona actually lived there for a winter about 3 years ago, when she was being saddle- and riding-trained, so it was a return to another home for her, in a way. While it's a bit sad and different no longer having her here, there's no doubt she's much happier over there! And if any of the boys get an unexpected desire to ride her, we can always go see her.

Lets see – I've been working with wool, as usual - some knitting (I'm almost done a sweater for myself, although it's just some free hand-me-down yarn from a friend, not something I spun), lots of carding for soap felting (although still never enough!) and a little spinning. My exciting news, at least for me, is that I finally splurged on the Very Fast Flyer for my Lendrum spinning wheel. The wheel comes with the standard flyer, with 3 drive ratios (how fast the yarn spins for how many times you treadle the wheel) of something like 8, 10, and 12. Pretty quickly, I realized that those speeds were just too slow for me – I mostly spin medium to fine yarns, not bulky/chunky or art yarns, and the finer the yarn the more twist it needs – so I bought a Fast Flyer, with ratios of something like 14, 16 and 20. Again, I pretty quickly found myself almost exclusively using the 20 whorl – the fastest I could go. That really worked pretty well for most everything I did, and occasionally I did use a slower whorl on the Fast Flyer, but I don't believe I've touched the original one since buying the Fast. So – I've been wanting the Very Fast Flyer ever since I started trying to make really fine lace yarn last year, and realized just how much of my spinning time is spent just waiting for there to be enough twist for me to continue. The Very Fast has 4 ratios from 24 to 44, and so far I've only used the first 2. I believe I've finally found my speed match, and I'm really not sure I'll ever use the fastest whorl! Apparently there are a few wheels out there that have a ratio of around 60, but I can't imagine actually using that! Anyway, so far I spun a little sample 200-yard skein of Toby's wonderfully long, gray fleece, and knitted a little scarf. I realized that a great way to make beautiful scarves is to adapt shawl patterns – I love big lace shawls with elaborate edgings, so I knitted about 8” of the body pattern, and then the edging, for a triangle scarf that displays the intricate lacy edging, especially striking on a contrasting color shirt. I'm also about halfway through spinning another lace yarn from Toby, and I'm really excited about it - this is the first alpaca fleece I've managed to dye a stunning deep red (alpaca doesn't take dye very well, so red usually comes out pink). I can't wait to knit another lace mini-shawl with the red, I will get some pictures up when I finish it, for sure!

I've also finally started using my other spinning wheel, the handmade antique I was given by a farmer's market customer a couple of years ago. Now that my Lendrum is always in the middle of making time-consuming lace yarn, I am glad to have the second wheel to quickly turn out some worsted yarn, either because I need something quickly or just because I have fairly spastic interests, and simultaneously want to make super-fine lace yarn, and, say, a chunkier purple sheep-wool yarn for some felted slippers :-) I had only briefly toyed with spinning on this little wheel, so I wasn't very familiar with it, and once I really started spinning I realized just how different it is from my Lendrum. It is a double-drive wheel, rather than Scotch tension, so it winds the yarn on differently, and in fact just operates quite differently, and has taken a little time getting used to, and I've had to learn a different spinning technique altogether. I need to name this wheel, as I said it's handmade, one of a kind - I don't even know the name of the maker, just that it was made for the wife of my customer, I believe in Missouri?, and it has the bicentennial date carved in the front. It is similar to a wheel called the Wee Peggy, made in New Zealand or Australia in the 1970's, but it's not exactly the same, so I think I should just christen it something special – if anyone has a suggestion I'd love to hear it! There are a couple of pictures of it as a photo prop in my listings for some yarn over in the Farm Stand, if you'd like to take a look for inspiration – it's really a beautiful little spinning wheel!

Let's see, what else – oh! In January, I emailed the local alpaca farm and mill about getting a replacement stud since ours (good old Toby, that I've been spinning) will have daughters coming of age this spring. Well, it turned out they were in the middle of going out of business, and so we went down to see if we could get a black Huacaya boy, and did indeed come back with one – and a black Suri boy, a cream Suri boy, and a fawn Suri girl :-) The good news is that the boys are all intact, so we will hopefully have a beautiful cream/fawn Suri baby next spring, as well as some black Huacaya crias also. I can't wait to see what Loretta, our black-black girl, will turn out with the new black Huacaya stud! And the next year, I may try crossing the black Suri with her, and see what happens. Apparently it's fairly hit or miss with the mixes, but Loretta already has very loose crimp, so I think she may cross well with the straight-fibered Suri. If not, I've always got uses for not-so-great wool – felting, or worst case, turning into dryer balls, which I never have enough trash-wool for! The “bad” news is that, as I said, the mill is now closed! I no longer have a safety net of “if I don't get my fiber prepped and spun, I can always take it down to the mill and have them do it.” I'm looking at the bright side of that, though, as justification for an increased effort on my part to tackle my fiber stash :-) And I am doing better this year than I ever have before! It helps that I sold all of my sheep wool that I deemed sellable on Etsy. Of course, I haven't touched the other half of it, but surely I'll get to that eventually....right?

Speaking of sheep, we are trying to arrange to get them sheared any day now [update: looks like March 4], and they should start lambing around the first week of March or so. Yep, like 2 weeks away!! That means I will have to start milking in a couple weeks – I can't believe we're already that close to spring, but one look at the fields makes that pretty clear. Everything just popped green last week, we've been nicely rainy and in the 60's and 70's for days now, and it's suddenly, definitely, spring! We will certainly get a few more frosts, and there's always the very slim chance of an unexpected truly cold snap or even snow (when we do get the rare 4-6” snow, it's usually in February or even March), but I just don't think it'll happen this year (knock on wood!).

We are going to take it easy in the garden this year, both Caleb and I just have too many other irons in the fire to put enough effort into a full garden, but I'm hoping to use this summer to work on a few things that I never get a chance to, or always run out of room for. I'd like to grow lots of Luffas, since they actually did well last summer, and I hope to start some melons extra-early so we get ripe ones before September :-/ I'd like to focus a little more on herbs for drying, and Caleb would like to give more attention to the orchard, and of course I have to have some okra – and cherry tomatoes – and some spring lettuce and kale. And carrots, of course. And some giant sunflowers, I'd like to vine some polebeans on them, and use the heads to feed the milking sheep and goats. And hopefully the compost pile will produce some winter squash again :-) But other than that (and everything else I think of between now and then), no garden this year.  On Saturday, we all got out in the hoophouse and prepped and planted one bed of family-use veggies - mustard, lettuce, spinach, kale, okra, sugar snap peas, carrots, cantaloupe, and watermelon.  I'd like to get one more full bed of okra planted this next month, but we ran out of room in the bed with hoops so that we can cover it when it frosts.  We were excited to discover the first green sprout on the fig bushes - they've been doing really well in the hoophouse, and we are hoping to put in another 5 or 10 of them this summer.  It will take a lot of figs before there's too many :)  We can eat a LOT in each of the categories of fresh, dried, jam, and ice cream - in fact, we've never gotten past the "fresh" category, it would be wonderful to have enough for some jam!

Comments

scarves

I think smaller triangular scarves with the intricate lace patterns would sell well for ladies to use as accessories to tie around their necks. If they are made out of the nice lightweight yarn they will be less bulky than most of the neck scarves you see people wear.

Hi there. Be over to your

Hi there. Be over to your area in June and would like to come by. How do I make contact? I went to high school with Beth Nelson. Anyhow would like to connect. We have several common interests. Spinning knitting gardening to name a few..
Best regards, Carol

Contact!

Hi Carol,
I’m not sure if you’ll get this, but the best way to make contact with me is to use the “Contact” link at the bottom of the page - that will let you email me directly, and then I’ll be able to respond directly to your email. I’ll also check in with Beth, and pass on my contact info. We’d love to have you visit - we always enjoy meeting people with similar interests! Hope to connect soon!

Amy

great newsround up

Thanks for a wide-ranging report. Always glad to catch up on the intricacies of your farm operation. the lace scarves sound great

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