Odds & Bits

Wow! I feel like I turn away fro half a second and it’s been TEN DAYS since I’ve written a post!

The good news is I have finished dyeing the share yarn for Juniper Moon Farm.  Between working on that, homeschooling, and furiously trying to finish  a secret knitting project, I’ve been swamped.

There have been little tidbits I’ve wanted to share, I’ve just struggled to find the time to sit down at my desk and do it.  Not to mention the struggle that is Piccadilly.  Our adorable little trouble maker has entered full-on kitten mode, leaving a wake of destruction in her path daily.

Today she woke me up by knocking every single thing off the night stand, including a glass of water.  A few days ago, she greeted me with a ball of yarn dropped unceremoniously onto my sleeping face.  Yesterday we couldn’t get down the stairs because she had managed to blockade them with an impossible tangle of yarn hanging like a drunken spiderweb between the bannisters. Every day she steals something from the table while we are working on school. Is that your lunch? Not anymore!

Then there are days where she has the devil in her something fierce and jumping onto Oona’s head out of nowhere is par for the course.

But she is also the loviest of loves if you can catch her at the right moment, and it’s nearly impossible not to completely and utterly forgive her many transgressions against our property and persons.

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I mean, really.

Aside from dodging naughty kitty activity, we’ve been enjoying the serious transition into fall weather. The leaves are glorious, and the persimmons are on the trees!

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To be honest, we don’t actually like persimmons. We let the squirrels and chickens eat them, and we enjoy them as heralds of our favorite time of year. They look lovely covering the trees, and it means it’s nearly Halloween!

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This little beauty has bloomed all by its lonesome in the back garden.  I planted about 6 of them in the spring, but sadly it appears this is the only one that took. Perfect color for this time of year, don’t you think?  I may have to do more soil amendment to coax more of them to grow.  It’s been rough overcoming our terribly unfit dirt here.  My neighbor Joanne seems to have made a good job of it, however, as she recently gifted us this giant beauty from her garden:

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She explained that she put down cardboard over the winter to discourage weeds, and then had to keep adding good soil on top of the planted sweet potatoes because the soil was too hard for them to grow downwards. I say the proof is in the pudding, and I’ll be doing just that next year!

Lastly I wanted to share a snapshot from last week.  It’s not a great photo; the sun was far too bright and I couldn’t get close enough without frightening them off.  BUT, my butterfly bush was alive with Monarch butterflies.  They must have been migrating, and I was thrilled they stopped here.  I haven’t seen Monarchs in ages and ages.

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I hope this becomes a yearly thing!

Well, there you have it. A small window into our lives for the last ten days.  Soon I will be busy dyeing sock yarn (hopefully after completing my knitting!!!) and we will be celebrating Halloween!

Slow down, fall!

 

Wet Weekend Inside

The leaves seemed to have gone wild and vibrant overnight, and I’d like nothing more than a weekend being productive outside in that beautiful blaze of color.  Alas, it’s super rainy and gross out, so we’ll be spending the weekend inside.

Which is soooo much more than okay, because I have a few new toys to play with. Chief among which, is this:

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That, my friends, is a beautiful Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel. I am beyond lucky and spoiled to have some incredibly wonderful friends, because this was given to me by my friend Kris, who is downsizing in preparation for a move.   I’ve been spending a lot of time playing with my drop spindle, trying to get the hang of proper drafting.   It’s paid off in the sense that I knew the mechanics of working with a wheel and how twist works, etc.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m any good at it.  I’m still working on getting the knack of making yarn that is uniform and not too thin, too thick, or weirdly bumpy.  Fortunately there are many, many excellent tutorials on the internet and I have a whole rainy weekend in front of me to work on it.

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Neve is trying to get the hang of the drop spindle now.

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Of course we have plenty of “help” from the cutest kitten in the world.

I’ve got some yarn dyeing to finish up, but I am happy for it to rain, rain, and rain some more, because a lot of my weekend will hopefully look like this:

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Oktoberfest!

This past Saturday we headed out to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Va for their annual Oktoberfest celebration.  It seemed especially fitting this year as our dear friend Diana recently moved to Wiesbaden, Germany, and has herself been enjoying Oktoberfest.

Granted, there was no way our Oktoberfest experience was going to surpass hers.  Still, we had never been to the museum before, and it seemed like a perfect way to spend the first beautiful October weekend.

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We met our friends Jessie and Keith and their two kids and sampled some German food and beer before heading out to tour the homesteads.

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To be honest, the food and beer were a disappointment; there was very little to be had and the beer was all American mass-market. Thankfully, the music was fantastic and our company was fun.  The kids had so much fun wandering though all the museums that the rest didn’t matter.

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I loved this lovely stone wall and gate.  I want it at my farm!

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I also love these windows!

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Check out the chimney!  I could very easily live in this old home from 1600″s England! (You know, until it gets too hot, too cold, or too spider-y).

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The Nigerian Pygmy goats were Neve’s favorite.

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Happy Sheep!

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The 1800’s American homestead could easily make a cozy home as well! It was a little more buttoned-up against the elements than the English cottage.

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Look at that lovely wide-plank floor!

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Unfortunately the view just to the right of this, where the barn and cows stood, was marred by a giant “Cracker Barrel” sign rising up on the other side of the highway. I couldn’t manage a decent photo that didn’t include it.

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This cow was such a love!  He licked Neve’s face and let us all pet him to our hearts’ content.  I was ready to bring him home!

The kids have already asked to go back again, so I foresee a new October tradition!

Farm Dogs

I think most of you are well acquainted with the farm dogs.  Currently there are four Maremma Sheepdogs living on the farm to protect the livestock. Maremmas originally hail from Italy, where they were bred over the centuries to withstand the mountain weather and protect sheep and goats from predators. They are related to Great Pyrenees dogs, which is why they look so similar,  but are distinctly their own breed. Our dogs are big, lovey, marshmallowy fluffballs who love people and their flock alike.

Fettucine, or Cini, for short, has been around the longest.

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He’s about 11 years old, and beginning to show his age a bit.  Occasionally his joints bother him, and we keep arthritis meds for him for when he’s having trouble.  Otherwise he still loves to run and play and chase deer.

But what Cini really loves, is little kids.

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He will follow Oona anywhere she goes.  When other little kids come around, Cini is the first one to greet them and ask for belly rubs.  Being a big, 120 lb dog he can sometimes end up scaring the little ones whose feet he wants to sit at, but I’ve never seen anyone not warm up to him yet.

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Most days Cini can be found lounging on the back deck.  If the weather is really bad, we bring him inside.  A lifetime of devoted service to his flock has earned him a cushy retirement, even if he doesn’t seem to accept that he is retired.

He has fathered a few pups in his life, and we still have two: Sabine and Orzo.

Orzo is still quite a teenager.  He is rather bratty, and like his mother Lucy, prone to escape.

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Orzo, on the left, with Lucy

There’s been no keeping him and his mom inside the fence with the flock, but they do manage to do a marvelous job patrolling outside the fence, keeping away any critters who might intrude (usually deer).  During the day they stay on the deck with Cini. Orzo is 3, and is from Lucy’s last litter with Cini.  He has his dad’s love of people to balance out his mom’s brattiness a bit.

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Sabine is Cini’s daughter from Susan’s dog Biscotti, who sadly passed away when Susan  still lived in the Hudson Valley. She is one of the goofiest and friendliest dogs you could ever hope to meet.

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She has her father’s sense of obligation to the flock.  Sabine is the only dog here who stays with the sheep and doesn’t try to escape the confines of the fence.  On the rare occasion that she’s slipped out a carelessly open gate, all I need do is call her back and she dutifully comes straightaway.  Sabine is the essence of “man’s best friend”. If you’re out in the field working the sheep, you can count on Sabine’s nose to be right there at hip level, as close to you as possible.

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Recently she’s taken advantage of the goats’ chewing through the fence to the hay bales; she’s made herself a spot between two of them to snooze during the day.

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Recently when we’ve managed to convince Lucy to stay in the field, she joins Sabine in the hay fort.

Lucy is mom to two litters fathered by Cini.  All of those pups have been adopted out to other farms except Orzo, who I claimed the moment I saw him!

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If Lucy were a human, we would admire her greatly. She is headstrong, smart, knows her own mind and won’t let anyone tell her what to do!

There have been plenty of times when we’ve all been so frustrated with Lucy we’ve wondered how we could possibly manage her.  As she’s gotten older, she’s calmed down quite a lot and a little more patient with us as we try to figure her out. She’s quite taken to Paul, and he is the one I call when she needs fly ointment on her nose, or when she’s stuck in the fence and mad.  She respects him in a way I haven’t seen with anyone else she knows.

We’ve stopped trying to confine her, since she’s so much happier and well behaved when she can roam at will.  It still concerns me that she may venture too far or annoy the neighbors too much, but so far we haven’t seen too much of this (knock on wood!).  She and Orzo (her constant companion) do a fantastic job of greeting all of our visitors.

Every time I walk out the door I see four big, happy dog faces and am reminded how lucky I am to be able to care for them right now, and how lucky we are to have such gentle giants to watch over the flock (and us!).

 

 

 

Dyeing, Dyeing, And Even More Dyeing!

A little while ago I received several large boxes full of Juniper Moon Farm Share Yarn. This is always super exciting for me because it’s my first peek at the actual finished product pulled off the backs of the sheep we know and love.

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My craft room overfloweth! (and my living room, and my garage…..)

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Can’t you just smell that sheepy, wooly goodness?

The Cormo feels divine, and I adore it in its natural state.

BUT.

I get to have fun playing with colors!

Susan gave me some suggestions for color idea this year, and combined with that and a look at previous year’s colors (to be sure I didn’t repeat anything too recent), I started playing around with the dyes.  I wanted colors that were rich but not overbearing, and I wanted to use colorways that I could get consistency from.  Since we dye in smaller batches I didn’t want each batch to be wildly different than the one before it. Reds are notoriously difficult (in my experience) with this, but after some experimentation I found one that worked.  The blue I loved immediately, and the purple gave enough variety in shading to be fun without looking blotchy.

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I am really pleased with the results.  I also love how nicely the yarn blooms out after a bath.

The dyeing will begin in earnest once everyone who bought a share indicates their color choice, and then it will be shipped out the very instant it is dry.

I hope everyone loves this fiber as much as I do!

Autumn At Last

Our favorite season is officially upon us!

We celebrated with a small campfire, hot cider and maple-glazed donuts, and Mad Libs, staying out until it was dark and we were too cold to stay without getting blankets.

In other words, it was perfect!

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Happy Fall, everyone! Let’s enjoy these fleeting moments while we can!

At Summer’s End

We’ve definitely noticed a shift in the weather and the light over the last few weeks. It’s ever so chillier at night now, and night itself has been arriving earlier and earlier. Accordingly, our evening feedings have been getting pushed a bit earlier every day to avoid going out in the dark.

Morning chores are so much more pleasant these days; we’ve even been wearing sweatshirts or flannels out!

Even so, the garden continues to churn out summer’s leftover bounty in the form of cherry tomatoes and raspberries.

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We’re getting a nice bowl full of raspberries every day.  This is from a raspberry plant I bought two years ago at Lowe’s (basically it was a stalk at that point!). We’ve decided we’ll put another stalk in at the opposite end of the garden and let them grow towards each other.

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I’ve also been getting bucket loads of cherry tomatoes.  The craziest part is that I didn’t end up planting cherry tomatoes this year.  These are volunteers from years past.  I think the main factor in their success, though, is that these are located fairly close to the beehives.  I’ve been getting so many I’ve taken to simply freezing them whole for later use in sauces.

The big work has been the basil.  It was starting to show signs of disliking the cooler temperatures at night and I decided it was time to harvest.  I brought two big bushes worth and made pesto. I filled three Weck jars (2 half liter, one quarter liter) and got to work making pasta.

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I ended up with 283 ravioli, distributed among 12 freezer bags.  I would have broken 300, but Pippa stole about 20 off the counter when my back was turned. Jerk.

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We love pesto ravioli, and this was an exciting sight for everyone when it was all done.

I still have another basil plant to harvest, and I can’t decide if I will make more pesto ravioli or if I will simply dry it for use as a seasoning.

Decisions, decisions.