Tag Archives: fleece

Post-Rhinebeck week

Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house
Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house

I am finally able to write about my adventures at the NY Sheep and Wool Show!  Retirement has its benefits, for sure.

Traveling to Rhinebeck, NY, with a lovely group of fiber friends is the highlight of the year.  The Hudson Valley is usually at its peak of fall color; we rent a house, bring lots of lovely food and libations, and just have a great time.  The sheep and wool show is absolutely fantastic as well!  (Not an afterthought and certainly our reason for being there).  We also get to visit with many vendor friends who are there at the show.  Sometimes this is the only visit we get.

View from the porch
View from the porch

This year our AirBnb rental got a little mixed up, and we ended up staying in a different place than usual.  Lovely, large farmhouse, with all the seating and sprawl areas that we could have wanted, and a great kitchen as well.  You never know how those things are going to work out, but it was a great choice.  With the drought in the northeast continuing, we ended up having perfect weather, too.  Sunday was almost too hot!

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Having had a lovely flock of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep and crosses for many years, I really never need anything at a sheep and wool show (I have tons of roving and yarn left from our crew).  But in the last year or two I have been loving the adventure of trying out wools from different breeds of sheep.  This year I knew that I wanted to find a Shetland fleece, as that is something I have never spun or knit with.

Foster Family Farm yarn
Foster Family Farm yarn

There were a plethora of fleeces to choose from, and I had a difficult time deciding.  I knew I wanted a dark fleece if I could find one, but a reddish-brown one was second on my list as that is a color you don’t find in Coopworth or Border Leicester sheep.  And so I came away with a lovely small fleece, just enough for me to have some fun with, and maybe spin up for a small shawl.  This hogget (or yearling fleece) came from a farm on Cape Cod, Freddy’s Farm Shetlands.  Lovely, very clean fleece.  This one is not a dual-coated Shetland, as many are (Shetlands are considered a “primitive” breed, so they would typically have a hairy outer fleece layer with very soft undercoat.  And you really want to keep those two products separate when spinning!).  So I waited in the long line in the fleece area, got to look at what everyone else around me was buying, and had a great time!

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

I also found more little treasures at the show:  some beautiful Romney/silk roving, and two skeins of Wensleydale/Romney yarn.  I bought enough of the roving to possibly make myself a sweater or a vest.  The red yarn is for a cowl, Purl Soho’s pattern ‘Cowl with a Twist.’

And so it goes.  Yesterday was so beautiful and warm that I was able to wash the whole Shetland fleece, and it was almost totally dry by dark.  I also plied up some Coopworth grey singles yarn to use for the accent color on the red cowl.  It was a beautiful day all around, and our Rhinebeck weekend was pretty spectacular!

 

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Summer ends with a fiber-filled weekend

The Mawata (multiple silk cocoons stretched into a square shape
The Mawata (multiple silk cocoons stretched into a square shape) I stretched at the workshop, then dyed with woad

Saturday, a friend and I were lucky enough to get into a workshop down at PortFiber in Portland. Taught by Robin Russo, it was a day spent learning about the history of sericulture (farming silk worms) as well as a lot of hands-on work with silk cocoons, reeling silk, pulling cocoons into “hankies,” and then spinning wild and cultivated silks. It was an absolutely fabulous workshop, and I would highly recommend any workshop with Robin! She is a wonderful teacher. She even brought in silk moths who were mating and laying eggs.

Intact Bombyx silk cocoons
Intact Bombyx silk cocoons

Yesterday was spent at Hatchtown Farm having a spinning party/end of summer blast. As usual, we had lots of food, laughter and fun. Sitting on the porch listening to the crickets and watching the crazed grasshoppers and dragonflies was very therapeutic!

Spinning party!
Spinning party!

One of our spinning friends, Chris, set up a woad experiment for us to work on during the afternoon. She grew the woad plants over the summer, and got the initial dye pot set up yesterday morning. When we got together, she continued the process and we got to put a bit of fiber into the pot during the afternoon. It was magical! The woad was a lighter blue than most indigo will dye, and it’s beautiful. Chris threw my little misshapen mawata into the pot and it’s turned fabulous shades of blue.

Some of the woad-dyed fiber
Some of the woad-dyed fiber

It was an exceptional weekend to end the summer fun. The weather totally cooperated, and of course, the heat and humidity are coming back just in time for school to begin!

Waiting

Pippi annoys HoneBea the ewe
Pippi annoys HoneBea the ewe
Spinning up Fern's fleece
Spinning up Fern’s fleece
SnowPea snoozing in the Sunday sun
SnowPea snoozing in the Sunday sun
Monday's afternoon sky view
Monday’s afternoon sky view

Another week in the life. It’s getting warmer, slowly, and of course that means MUD! That will be the new complaint flavor of the day from now until June, I am sure.

I do feel as though we are ready for the goat kids. My birthing kit is waiting on the table with the clean towels, the molasses is at hand, and the clean jug in the greenhouse is all set. The waiting is truly the most difficult part. Waiting and watching those goatie bellies and woo woos morning, noon, afternoon and night for the signs of impending labor.

We have also sold our breeding sheep and are trying to make a date with the buyers for the pickup. It’s definitely one of those ‘my schedule doesn’t correspond at all’ with theirs. We are all so busy, it’s a little crazy. As much as I am going to miss those wonderful girls, it’s time to make more room for the goats :*)  We are poised to streamline how things work on the farm and I am really looking forward to it!  But for now, we wait.

It’s all about the wind

Zelda the Curious
Zelda the Curious

The weather, again. Still. Winter and blowing. Although this past week’s promised Nor’easter blew the gale they said it would, it thankfully delivered no snow here. Yesterday morning was much warmer, (a balmy 30F), but the wind was still hanging on, with some sleety stuff thrown in.

But the weekend is upon us and I have great hopes for today. Warmer and no weather. (Unfortunately it looks like we are going to get hammered with rain tomorrow). I sincerely hope none of the goats decide to have their babies. None are actually due until later next week, but you never know. We have a lot to do today, and it looks like we may have a pleasant day to do it in!

Washed Fern fleece
Washed Fern fleece

This past week since shearing has been a full one at work, and then there were the fleeces that I cycled through the living room so each had a chance to be laid out on the nice, warm floor. Just making sure that they all were thoroughly dry. And so perhaps tomorrow after I work on the taxes (ugh) I can get some of it spun up. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to be an outside sort of day.

Shearing day, 2014

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Phew! All went well. The day began cold and bright, and is ending a little warmer and with a few clouds here and there. In between, we got a torrent of rolling giant-flaked snow followed by a little bit of rain, but we were already finished with the shearing and safely inside, gorging on a great potluck spread. Everyone who came did a lot of work, and before we got the meal going, Pam of Hatchtown Farm made an extremely lovely toast with some yummy Prosecco to our last shearing day.

I am sore and achy, but we got a lot done in a very short amount of time. Emily the shearer did a wonderful job as always, and we have 7 more beautiful fleeces to process or sell. I do not think I will ever run out of fleece! The only issue we had today was weather-related: Fern’s fleece (the big white ewe) was damp all the way through, a reminder of the downpours the other day. So the lovely ladies tagged the fleece and I already have it inside, spread out on the floor to dry. As the temperatures are due to go down in the next couple of days (down into the single digits tomorrow night, ouch), the heat in our floor should take good care of that. But as I sit here and look at these beautiful, lustrous locks (6″ average), I may just have to wash some up and do some spinning tomorrow!

And so goes the last sheep shearing at Ruit Farm North. Great excuse for a party. But I have plenty of other excuses that work just as well, no shortage there  :*)

Thursday fiber

Little India is the dark one standing slightly behind Nutkin the white ewe lamb
Little India is the dark one standing slightly behind Nutkin the white ewe lamb.  They both have such pretty faces!

It doesn’t look like August from that photo!  John has picked up some dump truck driving jobs this week so I have been messing around the house trying to get some things done that need some sunlight and a little breeze (and I also have not been able to pick up my little car yet as John hasn’t been home at a decent hour to get me over there!).   I never had gotten to skirting the two fleeces that came off of our two ewes who are out of sync with the shearing of the rest of the bunch, so I am tackling the dark fleece today.  Little India is a small ewe, which is one reason she never went to the butcher last fall, but she has such a beautiful, dark fleece that I am glad she hung around.

Gorgeous locks of fiber
Gorgeous locks of fiber

I don’t think that I will get an enormous amount from the fleece.  She was coated most of the year, but as I thought she was going to be shorn one weekend, she got tangled in her coat, I removed it, and then the shearing didn’t happen until the next, or maybe two weeks later. Which means that she does have a little more veggie matter in her fleece than I would have liked, but Coopworth and Border Leicester fleeces have such open locks that most of it will shake out as I pick it for spinning.  It’s beautiful.  I have some washing up in the sink right now.

I had hopes that it would spin up to be enough for a vest, but probably not.  It all depends on how much I end up with after washing.  We shall see!  There’s always something to do with some lustrous black fleece…

Foggy summer morning

The morning pose
The morning pose

One of my favorite kinds of mornings, when I have the chance to be home and enjoy it. Air is coming in from Muscongus Bay, bringing with it the smell of the ocean and some mist.  It really is almost August!

Had a visit from our grandboy for the weekend which was lovely.  Got a little bit of the Corriedale fiber spun on my big Jensen production wheel, much to his delight.  He was smitten with the lovely machine and also very respectful of it, thank goodness.  I don’t know what he thinks of fiber, but he was definitely delighted with the wheel.

Little India's fleece, so dark it's difficult to photograph
Little India’s fleece, so dark it’s difficult to photograph

Today I really need to get onto skirting the two fleeces that Emily sheared for us last week.  It’s beautiful fiber.  Beezus is the ewe who had the prepubic tendon rupture just before her first and only lambing in 2012. We had not considered having her stick around so last September when Emily came to shear the market lambs I had her shear Beezus, thinking she would have to go to the butcher and become sausage.  After we got her summer fleece off we realized that her rupture had remained the size it was when it happened.  So we decided to keep her around for her gorgeous blue fleece, and hope that she remains healthy.

Beezus' fleece
Beezus’ fleece

And Little India the black ewe born in 2012 hung around as well!  No butcher for her!  Her fleece is lustrous and dark, so I am glad we kept her to be a fleece machine as well :*)

Fiber loft working

P1000593The weather over the weekend was pretty grey and nasty.  By the end of the day Sunday the wind had come up and by yesterday morning the air temps were very mild, but the wind was bitter.  We are all watching that big storm as it moves toward us, hopefully not leaving too much snow behind as it comes in tomorrow or Thursday.

P1000591I spent most of the day Sunday up in the “fiber loft.”  Actually got a lot accomplished, more than I thought I would.  But still quite a long way to go.  At least I have a setup that I think will be able to show our yarn and roving product well, should folks stop by the house.  I am going to create another more portable setup for the farmer’s market.  Thankfully that won’t begin until the second Saturday in June, after the annual Maine Fiber Frolic.

Loom under the mess
Loom under the mess

Most of the reason I am working up there is because I can’t get anything accomplished.  I am working on fighting my way to the loom on the far end of the space.  I have a project almost all planned out, and I am itching to get started.  In order to do that I need to find a spot where I can hang my warping board to measure out the warp yarn.  And before that can even happen, I need to sort fleeces (piles of fleece each still in its own sheet, clogging up the floor space) to get them out to be processed into yarn or roving.  It is coming along and hopefully I can spend most of the day this coming Sunday.  After all, I will have natural light pouring in all those lovely windows much later into the day than usual!

Rainy weekend activity

Felted dryer balls

It was quite the rain.  Inches of it, in fact.  As my hip is still not doing that well, and my doctor definitely told me to take it easy, so I had a great time reading and making these:  dryer balls!  I had not a clue about them until very recently when our friend Kris (who also owns Coopworth sheep) showed us the ones that she sells.  Apparently they are very popular!

I am always seeking ways to keep chemicals out of our lives, and this definitely fits into that plan.  Felted wool balls that are used in the dryer instead of a dryer sheet.  Add a pin into the ball, and it helps keep down the static as well.  I had begun making some of the them a few weeks ago and I thought that I would use this as a way to stash bust some bags of roving and bits of yarn that I knew I would never use for a project.

Preparing the roving/yarn balls for the washing machine

Making the balls of roving or yarn, or a combination of both, and then popping them into a stocking and throwing them into the washer with a load of laundry is a very easy way to make any type of felt ball.  Then they are thrown into the dryer in the stocking.  After that you can run them through the laundry again if the felting is not fulled enough, or just keep them for the dryer.  As I was winding the roving at the start, I sprinkled a few drops of lavender essential oil on it.  So they smell really wonderful as well as being a helpful aid in the laundry :*)

Shearing lambs, pumpkins and wonderful weather

Lambs waiting for shearing alongside the pumpkin volunteer!

It has been quite the weekend.  Work for most of the day on Friday, Bristol Area Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, and then getting ready for lamb shearing on Sunday afternoon (plus regular shopping and errands).  4 lambs are going to the butcher on Wednesday morning and I have not been dealing with the pelts efficiently, so I prefer to get the fleece.  Our lovely shearer, Emily, came over during a very busy weekend at her farm and sheared our four little darlings.  One ewe lamb and 3 ram lambs.

Emily shearing one of the lambs
Shorn lambs finally get their dinner

They have absolutely fantastically beautiful fleeces.  It was an even bigger pleasure to have Chris come by to help with the shearing activities.  It’s difficult to get the lambs out onto the shearing floor, sweep, skirt the fleeces and get the lamb into the next pen.  We got four beautiful fleeces and some very naked lambs.

During this afternoon, our friends from southern Maine came over to pick up one of our gorgeous ram lambs.  So it felt like a party!

Pumpkin on the compost pile

And our volunteer vine has set some seriously beautiful pumpkins, two of which are really orange.  One is even larger, but still green.  I am going to have to do some research on how to tell when a pumpkin should be harvested!