Monday, August 31, 2009

the color of the weekend... tomato red.

Saturday all kitchen burners were occupied with something other than wool.


Our haul was slightly less than last year: 26 pints (actually, 13 quarts because these boys are starting to eat like horses). Given the weather conditions, I am happy we managed to get this much.


We had a bit of a discussion about whether or not we were canning earlier or later than last year, until Primo declared we needed to "check the blog"! Lo and behold, it was exactly the same time. Since this is now serving as a journal of my life, I am hereby reminding myself to OIL THE PRESSURE COOKER RUBBER RING FIRST. This will make no sense to anyone but my father, and it's really boring and not worth explaining, but you'll have to take my word for it that my lack of memory presents a frustrating delay just when we are ready to be done with the whole process.

I got the burners back on Sunday, and made up for lost time, with completely different stock pots I should add. (Seems like I spend all my time peering into steaming stock pots these days, which hopefully is doing good things for my complexion.)


Colorway "Jersey Tomato" in Coopworth roving.


Friday, August 28, 2009

the results are in

First off, thanks to all of you who voted and also commented here or on the NJFF list or called me up personally to give me your opinion/suggestions/moral support. It was all much appreciated, even if I did feel a bit like statistician Marge Innovera* with my little poll. (I was positively thrilled, however, to find out that an ACTUAL opinion professional thought my question was well-worded! I sweated over it -- who knew that it was so hard to ask a question?)

So... drumroll please... my solution actually incorporates a bit of all of the suggestions. I had forgotten how dusty this particular venue can be, so unfortunately the protection that a plastic bag offers is a must. (I thought about cloth bags but I think that the dust could penetrate them, plus then they would get dirty. Plus they cost a lot, and I did briefly consider whipping up a few dozen myself, then promptly smacked myself silly until I came back to my senses.) I compromised by ordering biodegradable bags, similar to the ones I use for my cards, but obviously a different shape. I will be leaving a little of each skein out of the top of the bag for people to feel.

I'll post a sample next week, once the bags get here; I think the scheduled date is Tuesday. I am sure the mailman is tired of all these personal trips up my driveway but he should be pleased that I am doing my best to prop up the US Postal Service and the economy, all at once. Right now I have to go start work on today's delivery: yet more roving, in a quantity that shall not be mentioned.

* If you need a little pick-me-up, take the time to read through a few of these. "Bedtime storyteller... Juan Zapata; Staff chaparone... Theresa Crowd; Swimwear designer... C. Bigby Heinz." They are even funnier when read aloud by the Tappet Brothers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

vote early! vote often!

I am trying something new on this-here blog, because as usual I am in a tizzy of indecision and I need some help. I am back to dyeing this week, and quite frankly the undyed and dyed roving is starting to pile up a little around here, and I need to figure out how to package what I have done before I go too much further.

This is where you, my select group of loyal readers, come in.

I have three choices, all coincidentally starting with the letter "B":

1. The bag.


  • Good: Easy to package, easy to toss on a shelf, easy to keep the wool clean.
  • Bad: Not so easy to see and feel the fiber. Plus there's the whole plastic-bag aspect (and as I am one who actually washes out plastic bags to use them again, I hate the thought of being responsible for sending scads of them out into the world.)

2. The ball.


  • Good: Shows off the colors, allows for touching, fairly easy for me to put together, fairly easy to work with when you are ready to spin.
  • Bad: Takes up a fair amount of room and may be harder to deal with when I am putting them out for display in the booth (I do have some of those cube thingies to contain them, though).

3. The braid.


  • Good: Braids are All. The. Rage. right now and it seems that every indie dyer worth her salt is braiding her goods. More compact and easier to store and stack.
  • Bad: My very least favorite, for several reasons: it is a pain in the patootie to make up; when I go to spin it is a pain in the patootie to undo; and I think it crushes the roving I am using, which is fairly light and airy.

I have put a poll thingie over on the right hand bar of the blog, and I will leave it up for three days. Please let me know what you think! Fiber addict or not, which one appeals most to you? showcases the roving the best? and most importantly, would cause you to have an irresistible urge to purchase vast quantities of dyed roving?

You don't need to answer that last one. But seriously, any and all votes and comments are much appreciated.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

stress buster

Remember the sweater I was knitting to take along on our vacation two months ago? Well, you don't really have to remember it. And I abandoned it well before our departure date.

In a nutshell, I was having trouble getting gauge with the yarn and needles. I thought I was happy with the drapey effect I was getting. Once I knit the entire back, however, and was well on my way with the front, I realized that it had gone well beyond drapey to "completely shapeless" and "lacking any sort of character at all" and, if I'm completely honest, "looking like something you could catch fish with."

Off to the frogpond it went, for the second time. Secondo had a great time helping me -- he ripped, I wound. That element of destruction is irresistible for boys.

After letting the problem stew for a while, it hit me in one of those just-waking-up epiphanies that I probably could solve all my problems by going back up to the original needle size while doubling up the yarn.


Eureka! It worked perfectly and now the almost-completed back looks like a proper part of a someday-sweater. I made stupendous progress this past weekend by knitting like a fiend while I was forcibly removed an entire state away from my dyepots. It was the only way I managed to keep my stress-levels under control.


Forget the calming properties of gently lapping waves; I'll take knitting any day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

living up to his name

Thanks to the long-delayed arrival of summer, Dusty is finally "blowing his coat." It's just like it sounds: his fuzzy, furry undercoat is coming off in chunks all over our house.

My LSH brushed him tonight, and produced a much leaner Dusty (we're not starving him by any means, just turns out he was a good percentage fluff).


So much fluff, that my LSH also managed to produce a lhaso apso (small child included for scale).


Although in my current panic mindset, I am thinking that I should have saved all that fluff and dyed it for my booth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

dying to dye

I have dabbled in dyeing from time to time. Dipped my toes in, as it were, while it didn't mean much of anything, except an abiding desire to experiment and master it once I had the time.

Of course, that last bit meant the kiss of death to my dreams of dyeing. (Careful spelling check necessary! The only dreams I have of dying are the ones where I am falling down an embankment towards the rail lines upon which a speeding train is bearing down on me... or is that my real life, after all? Jung would have a field day with me.)

Right now, the train bearing down on me is the quickly approaching fiber festival. My dreams of dyeing (and perhaps also expiring from exhaustion, but that remains to be seen) have been resurrected post haste. I had an idea of the effect I wanted to create; I did lots and lots of research to confirm my hunch on how to achieve that effect; I ordered the dye powders; I acquired the roving; I weighed and measured and pre-soaked; and finally it was time to just pull out the dye pots and get on with it.


Although it looked like a very deep dark purple while in the pot, I knew that was not necessarily the end color. Only the drying process would reveal exactly what had happened in there.


Drying in the sun the next day, I am thrilled to see the subtle color changes. I was aiming for something that would blend harmoniously while it was spun up, while not being entirely solid, so this is exactly what I wanted.


Hurray! Clematis colorway is done and ready for the booth.


Now onto something completely different.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

hay yah

One of the sweetest sights I can think of: a full hay wagon outside our barn.


Even sweeter still: a kid helping stack the hay up to the rafters.


Sweetest of all: all that hay safely in the barn, ready for winter.

DSCN1245 DSCN1242

For me, it's hard to beat that kind of peace of mind.

You know you've got a whole different outlook on life when a good night's sleep is directly related to how much hay you have in your barn. Of course, the sheer physical exhaustion from moving all that hay may also have something to do with it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

taking the plunge

Pass the paper bag, please. I have gone beyond the point of no return.

Some of you may, perhaps, argue that I passed that point a long, long time ago but I am not in the mood to quibble over details. This time, it's the real deal.

I have signed up to be a vendor at a local sheep and wool festival.

No, I do not have enough product from our farm alone to fill a booth. No, I am not in any way, shape or form prepared for this.

But yes, I have gone and done it anyway. I was fully prepared to back out approximately 15 minutes after I mailed the check, but fellow shepherd Val talked me down and convinced me that I could do this.

Watch this space. The ride should be interesting, or at the very least, more frantic than usual, and as you know that is saying quite a lot.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

branching out

I have been fairly productive with my knitting this summer, thanks to all that time spent on the sofa. My latest project: Branching Out, using my own handspun (made from a batt of Lincoln-crossbred from Barneswallow Farm).

I never really understood the appeal of lace, until I started this project. It just seemed too fiddly to be worth it. However, I had admired the Branching Out pattern when it first appeared in Knitty four years ago. As part of my stash-busting effort this summer, I took another look at my handspun, which tends to get turned into skeins that just sit in a basket, looking attractive. I decided they needed a higher purpose in life, and was pleased (OK, I was positively gleeful) when I figured out that I had just enough of this lovely raspberry single-ply yarn to produce the scarf. It went on vacation with me, and I started on it on the eight-hour drive back from NC.

Perfect choice.

The pattern was exactly as billed: a gentle, relatively easy intro to lace knitting. However, as I soon discovered, lace knitting -- even gentle, easy lace knitting -- requires a fair bit of concentration. Long car rides are perfect. Early mornings on the sofa are also good. Baseball games and TV knitting, not so much.

I managed to knit 10 repeats of the pattern during that first car ride; I ended up with 30 repeats for my scarf, which I finished while taking the boys up to camp this past weekend. When done, it was a fairly lumpy, uneven bit of knitting.


I had been worried that my handspun wasn't consistent enough to do justice to lace knitting, but I had faith in the blocking process. I had seen the transformation it could render. (Yeah, I know, I wasn't getting a wedding shawl out of it, but I had high hopes for the process!) I washed and blocked and pinned and spent an inordinate amount of time patting the scarf as it dried. Halfway through, I was encouraged:


All the way done, I was ecstatic.


I have been hemming and hawing over the fate of the scarf, once completed, as I give away the vast majority of my knitted items. (To give you an idea: as I was knitting it, my LSH asked who it was for.) However, Suzie posted just the post I needed during my indecision, and the fate of the scarf is sealed. I will be keeping it for myself.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

my plan works

From an article in Time magazine today, titled "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thinner":

After we exercise, we often crave sugary calories like those in muffins or in "sports" drinks like Gatorade. A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories. If you're hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it's easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash. From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting. (emphasis mine)

So glad to hear that I have mainstream media support! Now I have no reason to feel guilty when my LSH heads out for a run early in the morning, and I opt to sit and knit in the silence instead. The article doesn't even address the stress-reducing mental benefits of my choice, which definitely tips the scale in favor of the sofa.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

toothy tuesday

With all the hoopla over getting ready for the fair, and getting to the fair, and staying at the fair, and getting home from the fair, a little milestone was slightly overshadowed.

My last baby lost his first tooth on Friday.


We convinced him not to take the tooth to the fair, because the Tooth Fairy wouldn't know to look for him in a tent at the fairgrounds. And then a tornado came and blew the Tooth Fairy off course. We realized this when he returned home on Sunday and she hadn't come yet, but as we pointed out, she also hadn't known she was supposed to come because he hadn't put his tooth under his pillow.

Secondo was sent to help him with this most important task, and all of a sudden we heard Terzo wailing the wail that can only mean his brother was inflicting some sort of mental or physical torture on him. I finally calmed him down to the point where he could tell me what was the matter, and he hysterically sobbed that his brother had told him that the Tooth Fairy only brings money.

When I confirmed that yes, indeed, the Tooth Fairy does bring money, he wailed even louder, "But I really wanted a necklace!"

Good thing the Tooth Fairy will be retiring relatively soon.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

a fair to remember

This one was definitely one for the record books. As I mentioned yesterday, my LSH had graciously agreed to take the second night's fair camp-out duty. Unfortunately, he picked the night with the torrential rain.

It was just a little overcast at our house this morning, but as I drove up towards the fairgrounds, the calls from the fairground became increasingly dire. Our largest sheep show ever was scheduled for this morning, with many kids due to come from other counties. But we had to call off their trips, because by the time I arrived, the entrance to the fairgrounds looked like this:


Clearly impassable to livestock trailers; plus the inside of the show tent looked like this:


We were ready to pack up our animals and leave immediately, but the county agent talked us into staying. We had at least one child crying due to show cancellation (may have been more but I lost track at this point; I was also being bitten by fire ants seeking higher ground). Based upon the hour-by-hour forecast, which said the thunderstorms would hold off until the mid-afternoon, the club leader relented and we headed into the show ring. The water had receded by this point and the trophies, that had almost floated away, were recovered. A gracious substitute judge was found, and we went ahead... not noticing as the skies got darker and darker...

And then, just as the last class was headed into the ring, all heck broke loose. The rain, which had started just a few minutes earlier, was coming down horizontally. The tent flaps were being blown straight out, and lightning was zinging down all around us. It was the quickest finish to a show, ever. We fled into the livestock tent, got the sheep into the driest pens we could find, and headed into the building as a tornado warning was upon us.

That's right. A tornado. Never let it be said that fair week is dull.

Once the warning was lifted, we headed out and started loading the animals onto the trailers. As we were trying our darndest to convince reluctant sheep to cross the deep puddles and flowing water, members of the public still kept pulling up and asking us where the fair exhibits were. We explained as politely as possible, given the circumstances, that we were evacuating due to the poor weather. Of course, it didn't rain for the remainder of the afternoon, but the damage was done. Fair this year ended with a wet, soggy whimper.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

camping with the rednecks

Fair week involves a lot of lists. After all, it takes quite a bit of equipment and effort to move 8 sheep, 3 boys and 1 rabbit to camp out at a county park 50 minutes away for a three-day period. (I was also supposed to take 2 chickens but I ended up leaving them at home. Sometimes, and only very occasionally, I manage to reduce my stress load by utilizing a glimmer of sanity.)

One very important item on my list was "tent," for obvious reasons. I even thought to check if the tent had the stakes in the bag with it, and I assigned this duty to my middle child, whom I love dearly. (I had to keep reminding myself of this fact as the day progressed.) He assured me that the bag of stakes was present, we loaded it in the car, along with approximately 1,234,216 other items, and headed for the fair.

We had a rough time of unloading the sheep and their various accoutrements, as we experienced a torrential downpour as soon as we arrived. Eventually we managed to offload and the rain stopped falling, and it was time to put up the tents for the night.

And that's when we discovered that the stakes were -- you guessed it -- at home. It was also the point at which I had to keep reminding myself how much I love my middle son. Another storm was due, and the flysheet doesn't work too well without the stakes.

I had to send him away from me for a little bit, so I maybe didn't bite his head off, and then I managed to come up with a reasonable substitute. Behold, the redneck version of camping at the county fair:


Taken the next morning, with all our wet things hung to dry on the binder twine line; we used stakes that the parks department had left behind. I am pleased to report that it worked well enough.


Nothing says "farmer" like a home-made pair of cutoffs drying on binder twine.

My LSH is sleeping there tonight, so I could come home and get a decent night's sleep, a glass of wine and a long soak in the tub, not necessarily in that order. I go back first thing tomorrow morning for the sheep show, and then it is all downhill from there... All sheep, boys, rabbit and stuff should be back in our house/barn/pastures by tomorrow night, with any luck. Due to the rain-soaked ground, the fields at the fair are a morass of mud, and so far two truck/trailer combos have required tractor assistance to escape. My fingers are crossed that we are able to pull out with less problem. If not, I know where we can get some stakes and binder twine, if we can just figure out how to use them to pull a truck out of the mud.