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Entering the Vortex

The near nation-wide "polar vortex" has hit Western New York, and we're ready (just in the nick of time!). Mike is out of town (Florida no less), but I really wanted to get the barn completely closed up for the predicted -30 to -40 degrees and 3 feet of snow over the next two days. All the animals fare the usual elements well with our open-door barn, but this is just too extreme.

So I put my father-in-law to work! Dave is a great farm hand, and I really appreciate him bundling up this afternoon and heading out to take care of sheep. I also really appreciate Jude (my mother-in-law) for staying warm inside with Kat so I could work!

He got the black plastic weather-proofing re-stretched, and then we hung some heavy tarps. I loaded the barn up with two full bales of hay so that tomorrow all I have to do is fill up the water buckets and get back in the house! A nice, fresh layer of straw went down, and the barn was ready.

However . . . . 

Some sheep aren't all that smart.

See the snow on their faces? See the open gate behind them? They simply refused to go inside. The goat just followed me back and forth, hence the distinct lack of snow.

Shetland sheep, in particular, are very difficult to direct. They don't herd. They follow. So I got their attention and walked in. However, the tarp was proving to be an insurmountable obstacle. 

Terrifying, isn't it?

This took forever, but they finally headed in.

And llamas are smarter. They'd been enjoying the barn the whole afternoon.

At this point, I tried to edge behind them to get to the gate and close it. Wasn't going to happen. They all turned, and ran out again. I finally left to go check the mail, then went through the pasture to the back of the barn. They were all in again, and I was able to close the gate from the outside.

Everyone was finally, permanently, in. Doesn't Starr (the llama to the left) look thrilled? "Who let the stupid sheep in?"

However, sweet little Violet had been munching away the whole time, happy as a piggy. Not all sheep are stupid.

Now that the barn is all snug and cozy, we're ready to wait out the storm. I think the older kids and I will watch "Day After Tomorrow" tonight. Seems appropriate!


Happy Holidays Catch-Up!

Merry Christmas (late!) and a Happy New Year! It seems I've skipped fall all together here on the blog. It was one heck of a season. I had 2 fiber festivals, a stint of being a single mom as Mike went to Australia on business (how jealous was I?!), a bedroom make-over (including new paint!), a great farm visit from some city kids, 5 field trips, 4 school holiday parties, a few trips to various farms in the area, a full week of slaughtering rams (we slaughtered and butchered all by ourselves--Mike and I were very proud farmers), a women's retreat over a weekend, 3 classes that I taught, 1 finalized pattern that I designed for a magazine (yay!), Thanksgiving and finally the flu . . . which turned into bronchitis . . . which created lingering asthma issues.

Which brings us to Christmas! My parents came into town from Texas and we had a great visit. I got a snazzy new camera, and I can't wait to show it off!

Check out the action shot of Rose eating her hay! I can't get over how crisp everything is.

Rose and Wyeth posed nicely for me to show off the beautiful sweater that they're currently growing for me. Won't their colors be splendid together in a colorwork sweater? ("Splendid"? Mike has Top Gear UK on right now while I type)


After feeding all the animals, Kat and I took a little walk in the woods. This was really a secret mission of mine to see if I could finally capture Kat on film (disk?) without blurs. It's a well-accepted fact in our family that there are no clean pictures of her. She never stops moving.

Mission accomplished! I caught her mid-air!!!

And then the mission was over and we headed home.

Looking forward to more camera fun!


Eggs and My Buddy

All the chickens that we bought in the spring are fully mature; you should hear the roosters tell us about it! Unfortunately, the ridiculously large amount of roosters on the farm right now have kept the hens from laying in their boxes in the barn. I wasn't sure where they were laying, until I found our little golden Araucana in the hay shed.

Look what's she's hiding:

I'm going to let her sit on these and see if we can get some late-season babies. I'd really like a few more hens than we have right now.

The strange thing is that these are all brown and blue eggs, and I really thought some of the new girls would be laying white eggs. At first I shrugged and decided that they may not be laying yet, but then remembered that Jude (my mother-in-law) said she'd found a clutch in the vegetable garden. 

I went to investigate:

Not only are they white, but they're also HUGE! Almost like duck eggs. Guess the new gals are laying!

I also wanted to let everyone know that my favorite ewe, June, is still my buddy! Every time I go into the field by myself and signal to her for scratches, she comes lumbering.

Isn't she adorable?


Class Highlight: Dyeing with Queen Anne's Lace

Dyeing with natural dyes is a bit of a voyage into the unknown, and that is exactly the beauty of it. Just as each Autumn's display of color is unique or each Summer's balance of refreshing rain and smothering heat keeps us guessing, so too are we at the mercy of nature when we choose to dye with her bounty. Oh, we know, in general, what we should expect, but so many other variables come into play, that the exact depth, shade and intensity of color is truly unknown until the plants are cooked and the wool is dyed.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of leading a new group of dyers into the unknown as we prepared dyestock of Queen Anne's Lace, and plunked in some sock-weight wool yarn at the Roycroft's Powerhouse. Unlike other dyeing methods, this one is a bit slower, and we had a great time chatting and getting to know one another as we waited.

Occasionally, we checked the dyeing progress!

Everyone was shocked and pleased at the beautiful, soft yellow we produced!

And the yarn was truly stunning. . . .

A little friend hitched a ride on the Queen Anne's Lace, and watched the magic happen.

Everyone left with a hot mess of yarn that needed to cool and be rinsed. Hopefully, I'll get some great reports today as yarn is finished and dried!

Our next dyeing class is on Saturday, September 14 from 10-noon, and we'll be using acid dyes to hand-paint our yarn in beautiful Autumn colors! To register, visit the Roycroft Corporations' classes page. You can also find my upcoming knitting and spinning classes there.



Our last lamb of the season, Wyeth, is growing up to be quite the looker. I'm so sad that his paternity wasn't 100%, otherwise, he'd be my top pick for a herd sire. Love his color, love his frame, love his face. I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope that Waylon can produce a copy for next year!

EDIT: I just scrolled down and realized I've already bragged about Wyeth with this picture! Well, what can I say, I really, really like him :)