Rhinebeck 2017

Another year, another Sheep & Wool festival.  Though precious little changes from year to year, it’s precisely that known-ness that brings us back. If it’s autumn, it’s time to see the familiar sights and smell the familiar smells we can only get from the Hudson Valley. The smell of woodsmoke mixed with the tang of apple cider and fried donuts on the breeze, the brightly-colored trees all around, and the sounds of baaing from the barns. We’ve come to rely on these things as part of our year, and though the weather was less than cooperative (it was far too warm out and by noon most of us had shed any and all woolens we had worked so diligently to complete in time to show off) it was still a solid success.

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Probably wins my award for best handknit at the whole damn festival.

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These honeybear hats were super cute, though.

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Look at that beautiful wheel!

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This little cutie tagged along with us for awhile. One of my oldest friends, Janet, met us at the fair and brought along a friend and her daughter.

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BFL roving that Emily bought for me. I tend to always get these same colors!

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Since I always tend toward the autumn colors, I decided to get away from that when visiting my friend Lisa Check at her Flying Goat Farm booth. Not only is she one of my favorite people, she is a dyeing dynamo. I have mad envy of her color skills!

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Finally, I grabbed a few samples of roving from Delly’s Delights, which is, amusingly enough, located just a few miles from us in Virginia.

Hopefully this will keep me happily spinning for awhile (though really I have probably 100’s of pounds of my own fleece I should work on washing, carding, and spinning!).

As we were leaving we stopped by the apple cider booth (run by a Hudson Valley orchard) and ordered some fresh cider and cider donuts. Oona wanted the cider shake, which i assumed would be like a slushy. It was actually fresh cider blended with french vanilla ice cream. It. Was. Divine.  It was like apple pie a la mode in a cup. I’m going to have to try and replicate it at home. As for the cider donuts, well. Let me just say that I’ve gotten used to the offerings here in the south, and I had forgotten just how a true cider donut is supposed to taste. I remembered once I took my first bite. If there’s one thing New York State does well, it’s apples. And Sheep Festivals.

 

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Do What You Love

Currently I’m working on trying to make more time to enjoy the things I love. I’ve been spending so much time shuttling the kids to their various appointments, schools, and activities, and I haven’t had much energy left over for much else. Slowly, though, I’ve been adding back in time in my schedule to work on my knitting and spinning, to cook and bake, and to be more present in the moment when I’m checking on the flock. And you know what? I feel more energized now, and I’m even more convinced of the magical qualities of pursuing what you’re passionate about.

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I’m still struggling a bit trying to find my rhythm with the spinning wheel and getting the twist right, but I am very much enjoying the learning process.

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I’m still working through the roving I bought at Rhinebeck last year, and I’m hoping to have it used up by Rhinebeck this year (because you know I’m going to bring home more!).

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Oona and I moved the flock up to the front pen this evening. I love seeing them out there when I look out the front window.

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I’ve decided that I’ll be looking into finding a Blue-Faced Leicester ram for breeding again this fall. The kids were sad to miss out on lambing this year, and I’d really love to add some new life to the flock.

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As for the garden….we suddenly have watermelons growing again in Oona’s garden.  I doubt they will get very big, but the late-season heatwave has seriously confused the plants that haven’t died off. It’ll be interesting to see how these little guys turn out!

Shearing Day 2017

I’ve watched our friend Emily shear our sheep for several years now, and it never stops being mesmerizing to me. Her speed has increased dramatically over the years,  and the ease with which she handles even the biggest sheep is wonderful to see.  Yesterday she arrived after shearing probably 100 other sheep and goats on various farms in the area and got ours handled in less than an hour. Which was a good thing, because it started sprinkling just after the last sheep was done. The wool was packed off on bags with her, off to be sold to the wool pool. I have a substantial amount left here for hand-spinning, and until we decide what direction we are taking this venture, I’ll be allowing commercial buyers decide where it will go.

The disappointing news is that it looks fairly certain that our ewes are not bred this year.  But, that gives me another year to prepare and plan.  The good news is that everyone is fat and healthy.

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As soon as the weather clears out and the thunderstorms (and tornado watch) have passed, I’ll be moving everyone out to the back pasture, where plenty of fresh, green grass awaits.

Felted Fleece

When you raise sheep, inevitably, you have wool.  It used to be that all the wool from my sheep were sent in with the wool from the Juniper Moon Farm sheep for the fiber CSA.

Now that the CSA has been discontinued, that left the problem of what to do with my fleeces moving forward.

I’ve been learning to spin, but I haven’t gotten around to learning how to clean and card raw fleeces yet (and, um…I still need to actually BUY some carders).  Eventually I will get around to doing just that. Even so, I’ve got a few bags of fleeces sitting her that I’ve been dying to play with.

Then I came across the idea to make a felted fleece throw. Essentially, a sheepskin rug without having to skin a sheep.

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I placed a raw, unwashed  fleece from Piper shorn-side-up on the deck. Next, I drizzled some Dawn dish soap while waiting for a stockpot of water to boil.

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Just look at that lovely fleece, waiting to be worked on!

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Working in smaller portions, I poured a mason jar full of hot water over the fleece and gently worked up a lather (while wearing thick rubber gloves, of course!), attempting to felt the side I was working on without felting the locks on the underside.

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Once I felted the entire thing, I set it out to dry.

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This is the point where I was supposed to sew up any thin spots or holes that hadn’t fully felted the rug into one piece. This is also when I learned that in an attempt to not overfelt, I had in fact underfelted.

I had a lot of sewing up to do. I used a large darning needle and some scrap cormo/mohair yarn I had left from previous projects (always save your leftover yarn scraps!)

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Once the gaping spots were fixed, it was time to wash the whole thing. Once again, I was afraid to felt it, so I may have given it less of a washing than I could have. I simply made sure all the grossness was gone and the rinse water wasn’t running brown anymore.

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I’m pleased to say that most of the luscious locks are still just that. There’s certainly still some lanolin left, and plenty of vegetable matter. I pulled an awful lot of hay and twigs out during the washing process but there’s plenty of smaller matter stuck in there still that I couldn’t remove without doing damage. If I were to do this process regularly, I’d consider jacketing the sheep to avoid this.

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Either way, the cats are all insane for it.

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Pumpkin Day, and Spinning Love

After I bought a bag of wonderful fall-colored roving at Rhinebeck, I could not stop thinking about how I needed to spin it!

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Though I am still very new at spinning, one of the things I learned is that it makes it easier to keep practicing when you are spinning with fiber that you love. So, caution (and thoughts of saving it for when I am an expert) aside, I jumped in and spun that baby up into three spindles.

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Once I had three spindles of single-strand I couldn’t wait to see how it would look all plied together.

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Boy, it did NOT disappoint! I am so in love with this yarn I have made!  It isn’t a very large amount, but definitely enough for a nice autumn-y cowl. Now I can’t wait to get my wheel going again!

In the meantime, Halloween is very nearly upon us, and the kids kept reminding me of the many things that needed to be done, like pumpkin carving.

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This year I let Oona do all her own tracing and cutting. The only help I gave was removing the pieces, since it was a bit fiddly for her.

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They made such a glorious mess.

You know who wasn’t complaining about that, though? The pigs! Pumpkin day means it’s time for their annual treat of pumpkin guts.

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They loooooove pumpkins. In a few days (before total rotting can set in), they will be given the Jack o’lanterns as well. But for now, we are enjoying our day of handiwork!

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Emily’s Raven, and my “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme.

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Oona’s pumpkin

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Neve’s pumpkin.

Now that Pumpkin day is accomplished, there is only really Trick or Treating left. Tonight we’ll watch Hocus Pocus and bask in the last remaining glorious bit of October before it is done.

The Best Weekends Are Fall Weekends


It’s Monday morning, and boy am I feeling it. I packed a lot into the last few days, and I fear that the cold Paul and the kids have been dealing with may have finally reached me.

For most of Saturday I worked on baking and spinning. That luscious Blue-Faced Leicester roving was calling to me and I couldn’t tear myself away from the wheel!  I’ve got almost two spindles full; when I’ve got three I’ll ply them together. I can’t wait to see how it all blends together!

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I mean, those colors!!!! When Neve and I were wandering around Rhinebeck, I realized we kept grabbing the same colors. The colors of fall!  I had to make a conscious effort to look at other colors as well. There’s just something so homey and comforting about the golds, oranges, and reds of this time of year, though.

To match that coziness, I tried a recipe from King Arthur that I’d been eyeing for awhile: Cranberry-Pumpkin rolls.

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I left out the cranberries this time; Paul isn’t crazy about them, and I wanted to see how they’d do as plain pumpkin rolls.

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The result? Absolute deliciousness! I crammed them all into a 9×13 pan as suggested by the recipe, but I actually had dough leftover as it wouldn’t all fit. Cranberries would have been delightful in them, but in all honesty they do well enough without them as well.

That evening I met my sister out for my birthday gift from her: The Avett Brothers in Charlottesville.

It. Was. WONDERFUL.

They are so good live, I can’t even tell you. Maddie and I had such a good time; I have the best sister!

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All That’s Fit To Spin

Happy New Year!  It’s been a quiet one for us so far.

The day after Christmas Paul packed up the kids and went to see his parents in New York for 5 glorious, peaceful days. They saw the tree at Rockefeller Center, went ice skating, went to the American Girl store, and saw the holiday show at Radio City Music Hall.

I spent the entire time getting to know my new spinning wheel and catching up on my favorite shows and podcasts.  I watched Broadchurch TWICE.  I’m just that excited for the new season to start in March!

I spent a lot of time watching Top Gear and Doctor Who reruns as well.  Just me, my wheel, plenty of wool and British television.  Bliss!

New Year’s Eve we had our annual tradition of game night with friends, and we’ve enjoyed all of us being home and lazy for awhile.

We are officially back to school this week and it’s not been the easiest transition after such a wonderful holiday season.

As for my spinning, I’d say it’s going better than great!  I enrolled in a Craftsy class for beginners  (“Foundations of Spinning”) and it really made it click for me. I even plied my single spun into yarn! Real, actual yarn!

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This is a mohair blend. It made sense to start with something I have an abundance of!

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With this, I am officially hooked. It’s fortunate I have a supply of fresh wool growing outside!!!