Sunday, May 31, 2009

Giveaway Interrupted

I think I caught everyone on a busy weekend. There weren't many comments from folks who were eligible for the prize, so I think I'll make an executive decision and just hold these very special super cool earrings for another time. If you wanted to comment but didn't get a chance, keep watching - it will come around again! Thanks for everyone who has chimed in and shared some really cool stories.

Keep 'em coming! You all are the BEST!

RIP Victor

Sad news tonight. I went out to lock up the chickens, just about a half an hour after I'd been out feeding the alpacas, and found evidence that Victor had been carried off by, probably, a raccoon. As much of a toot as he had become, I'm really bummed about this. All the other chickens out there in the pasture are fine, which means that for all intents and purposes, Victor saved the hens. I had just thought to myself today how happy I was that we hadn't lost a chicken in a long time. Big sigh.

It's very maddening, but it is part of the risk I've decided to take with free-range chickens. For their maximum quality of life, they need the freedom to move around, get exercise, and find the most nutritious food. But it's a dangerous life. Dang it all.
You were getting to be something of a goober, Victor. I will miss you.

Biological Warfare

Today, I unleashed the power of Nature to help me solve a farm problem. Go Mom Nature.

The flies have gotten really awful around here, and so I have engaged a three-prong offensive to combat the nasty little creeps: fly attractants, sticky traps, and my new weapon, itty-bitty wasps that predate fly larvae. Oh yeah. These have been recommended by several of my friends who swear by them. So I ordered a double batch of fly predator wasps (they don't sting) and have been waiting a day or so for them to start hatching in their package before putting them out around the farm. The fly predators are actually really, really small - like ants with wings. They don't bother people or other animals. Very cool.

Because of our free range chickens, they suggest putting them up in bags around the places where flies lay their eggs, so that the chickens don't eat the warriors before they can do their jobs. I invented these brown paper bags with holes in them to put out around the farm, hung up higher than the chickens will look for food. Of course, just leaving the bags open does the same thing, but doesn't look as rad. The idea is that the little waspies will hatch out of their cocoon things, and emerge looking for fly larvae to lay their own eggs IN. Ouch. This has a negative effect on the fly larvae's ability to survive to adulthood. YAY!

They say it will take 30 days to see any result. So somebody start the clock.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gardening for the Stout of Heart

I had planned on spending some time in the garden this morning, but internet duties kept me inside until the weather was less-than-hospitable. But I trudged out to at least put a small dent in reclaiming the garden from the weeds, vines and third-generation zinnias which were sinking their roots deeper and deeper into my soil, only to find that my biggest obstacle was a swarm of busy insects. Yes, honeybees were everywhere - busy working the buds on a couple of vines that have sprouted up and developed quite a territory all over my garden fencing. Well. It was clear that the best use of my time today in the hot sun would be cutting the trunks of those vines, allowing them to wilt in the heat, and coming back tomorrow after the bees have moved on to choicer fruit.

I think tomorrow morning before church I will give the garden a good watering, and then in the afternoon I'll come back and yank down the vines that will surely have loosened their grip on the fence. It will be a lot easier to see what I'm doing when I can get rid of that stuff. And hopefully, the watering will make it easier to lift the weeds up out of the soil. We have not walked on that soil very much so it should still be fairly loose. This neglected garden doesn't need a tending so much as it needs a healthy bit of demolition, and I can't do that with all these bees around.

Now, don't get me wrong - I love bees. Bees are vital to gardening, and usually I don't bother them if I can help it. We live together in harmony. In fact, we're talking to a shareholder about putting a hive or two up in the north pasture for honey, and to aid anyone around here in the pollination of their crops.

But there's a time and place for everything, and for the time being, these bees need to move on. When we get the dye plants in, they can come back and have at it, with my blessing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Just One More...

I can't stop giving stuff away. Tonight will be the last one for a while, but it's a doozie. And because it's so special, we'll take comments for two days. Leave a comment here before 10 PM Sunday night to enter the contest. In my hot little hands, I have a wonderful pair of sterling silver spinning wheel earrings with little blue topaz stones. These will really add some va-va-va-bling to your fiber ensemble. Good luck! Just tell me about some kind of knitting that has previously intimidated you, but that you feel inspired to tackle. Or maybe you just need a little encouragement to tackle? We're here for you! Your stories have all really touched me, and I'm sure they've touched others. Or tell us, if you'd like, about how you overcame your fear of some kind of knitting -- cables, color, lace? Then we'll all be encouraged by you. I can't wait.

But what about last night's yarn prize? The RNG says our winner is Peggy!! Congratulations Peggy - I think I have your address, so just sit back and wait for the mailman to bring you this really cool chenille yarn. And then let us know what you do with it! Well done - thanks for jumping in with us.

Now, before I sign off for tonight, I thought I'd share another picture from our Sheep Drenching (giving medicine) day this week. Here's Chris and the lamb she named: Eli. Little Eli is quite the pocket sheep, the smallest of the bunch, very vocal, and not overly shy. He has the most color of all the Gulf Coast Natives, with faded red splotches on his legs, face, and even a little in his fleece. When all the sheep gather around the hay trough to push and jockey for a good spot, Eli jumps INTO the trough, lies down, and eats at a leisurely pace. He lives the life of Riley.

Have a great Saturday, friends. Much love from the Farm. I'm going to dig in the garden tomorrow, God willing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hey, Who Won the Visor?

... You might be asking. See how foggy my brain is? I do know who won, and I'm happy to tell you that tonight's winner is continental-style knitter, SewMamaLady! Yippee! OK girl, e-mail me your snail mail address and your choice of black or pink, and I'll get your UV-busting headwear off to you pronto. ctelisak at juno dot com. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your knitting styles!

This Sassy Yarn Needs Love

Wow. I'm really getting into this free giveaway stuff. I've combed the Red Barn again and found something that you just might like. Tonight's offering will spark your imagination, and get your needles (or maybe your loom?) clicking in anticipation: 3 balls of Skacel's "Czarina." A spicy pinky-red chenille with bits of teal and yellow. Zowie! 330 yards total. Now, that's a project in the making. Till 10 PM tomorrow night, leave a comment on this post and tell us about a yarn project you created that was the most loved by its recipient: Mom's shawl? Baby blanket? Kid's mittens? Boyfriend's cardigan? You know, the one that warmed your heart for days after the gift was given. Now, this whole exercise assumes that you have knit, crocheted or woven a gift for someone else. But I feel safe making that assumption, because you ladies are true givers. It's obvious. So, tell us the tale of the much-loved gift.

In farm news, your yarn harvest got a little closer to the mill today. Laurie and I (mostly Laurie - I have a very stuffy head and foggy brain today) spent several hours picking and sorting alpaca, Jacob and Gulf Coast Native wool, evaluating it for its future use. We could just send it off "as is," but that would end up costing all of us more in the long run, either in money or in quality of the end product. This is tedious work. Work I would never get done by myself. Today, Laurie gets the "Community Servant" award. Like Chris yesterday with the sheep meds. Jacob's Reward is definitely a group project. We all get high marks for "Works Well With Others." The reward is that the icing on the CSA cake is another step closer to completion. Woohoo!

Hey, BTW, I heard Dawn's "Knit Naturally" podcast today - she is a such a hoot. Give her a listen if you aren't already a regular fan like me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Busy Day at the Farm, and a New Winner

So you won't have to wait another minute, (fanfare...) The RNG (random number generator) says Rita is the winner of the three knitting buttons I brought back from Maryland! Congratulations, Rita, they're coming your way! Wear them in good health and good knitting!

But you know, I think I am the real winner - what wonderful stories you all had about how you started knitting and spinning! Isn't it an amazing road we travelled to get to this point in our lives? Who would have guessed? I'm very inspired by you. Thank you so much for sharing those great stories from your hearts.

I just wanted to share a couple of pieces of news from the farm before we get to tonight's giveaway. First, it seems our sheepies have picked up a few too many stomach worms and need a little medicine to get rid of them. That means giving each sheep some stuff to drink that they'd rather not drink after measuring it into a large syringe. So I enlisted the help of shareholder Chris, who has laboratory experience. With skill and efficiency of movement, we turned it into a very simple operation, dosing each sheep. In fact, Shadrach thought I'd brought out Margaritas and he chugged his down and asked for more. What an.... interesting sheep. The other sheep put up appropriate protestations, but did not hold grudges - we are still good friends.

Second, I found another legless reptile in the chicken coop nest box, who was dispatched with speed and humanity by Ted and me. If you want to see the "after" picture, click on this link. I won't make you look at it unless you want to. You'd be proud - I didn't even get an adrenaline rush this time. Just killed the durn thing. If you look at the picture, you'll see that he got my egg. Grrr.

OK, enough chit chat. Tonight we're giving away a cool "Knit Nut" visor, perfect for wearing to outdoor knit sessions like last Saturday here at the farm. Also perfect vacation wear to remind you of how to spend your leisure minutes. It comes in black (pictured) or hot pink. If you win, I'll ask you for your preference.

"How do I win that fabulous visor," you may ask? Easy. Just leave a comment below, and tell us whether you knit Continental style, English (throwing) or some unique combination. There's no RIGHT way to knit, despite book titles to the contrary, and each style has its strengths and weaknesses. Which do you like and why? Do you ever switch?

Thanks so much for all your sharing. That's how we become Knit Sisters!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

Wow, great comments for tonight's giveaway! I feel like I learned a lot about you and about the many ways we live out the creative process. We may talk more about this later -- it's really interesting. In case you're curious, I would tell you I'm a product person. I see a project and I want one of those in the finished phase. But my UFO pile would tell you that once I've worked the process for a while, I get bored and start another process. I asked my doctor once if she thought I had ADHD and she shook her head and said, "No, you're just creative." Hmmmmm - I like the sound of that. Thanks, Doc!

OK, I engaged the Random Number Generators and came up with Snake Eyes. That means that Ms. Chris is our winner tonight! (The crowd goes wild.) Your yarn and pattern will be winging their way to you tomorrow, Chris. Thanks everyone for contributing to the discussion!

Tonight, I have a smaller, but very appealing prize. I bought knitting buttons at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and I've put together a collection of three. You can put these on your lapel, your knitting bag, or tuck them away as gifts for your knitting sibs. Any way you look at it, these little trinkets are super fun, and were hand-carried to Texas from Wool Mecca.

To be entered to win, leave a comment here by 10 PM tomorrow (Wednesday) night and tell us how you learned to knit or spin. Who taught you? Why did you want to learn? How long was it before you felt proficient? There, that should get you started...

Good luck!

Monday, May 25, 2009

No More Wagering, We Have a Winner!

Wow, Ladies! Thanks to all of you who kindly offered suggestions about how to deal with hot weather knitting. I'm going to take several of those ideas to heart. Like right now.

OK, using my early 20th century random number generator (pictured), GrandmaTutu came up the winner tonight! Yay! Grandma - your prize will be winging its way to you in the morning. Just add sock yarn and teensy-weensy needles! Hope you enjoy it!

Tonight I'm upping the ante a little. Our prize tonight is a pattern for a really nice baby hat in a soft periwinkle colored yarn from Classic Elite. That's right, in addition to the cool cabled pattern, you'll receive 2 balls of Classic Elite "Summer Set" which is a blend of cotton, alpaca, polyester and lyocel.... very soft.

All you have to do is leave a comment here and tell us if you're a "product" person or a "process" person, and how that plays out in your life. I'm fascinated by the differences in people's experience and satisfaction sources. Do you knit yards of stockinette just to keep your hands busy, or do you only start projects to finish them and move on? Do you love to wash and pick fleece by the hour, or are you allergic to hand cards and demand combed top? Tell us all about your creative urgings and demands.

Again, comment to your heart's delight until 10 PM Tuesday. And remember, there's more where this came from!

Spending a Holiday

How was your Memorial Day? Here at the farm, Ted has been working outside most of the day, while I, after the regular morning feeding and barn chores, stayed inside and rode herd on the internets. Ted has much more to show for his day than I do. Actually, the day isn't over. After dinner and before it gets dark, we intend to get a stretch of electric fence up in the north pasture to give our sheep flock a larger grazing area.

I just had to show off Ted's handiwork: the new compost bin. We love to use what we have on the property, and when a big tree blew down, Ted used the larger limbs to build the two-section compost bin. But with the donkeys and all the alpacas, I had that filled up in no time. It was time for a new section. Today he used some of the scrap lumber we've gotten from a friend who was tearing down an old house. Ted's lumber pile is like my stash. It lays around and makes him feel secure until he comes up with a project for it. Ted loves his lumber piles. Which is only fair, because, I love my stash. In fact, I think I'll go pet some yarn and roving right now.

And yes, there'll be a winner tonight and a new giveaway. Let's rendezvous here later...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mini Sock-Blocker Keychain Giveaway!

I mentioned yesterday that I neglected to give away all the prizes at the Fiber Farm Meet-Up, and I really feel bad about that, so the giveaways will continue here on the blog for a couple of days. Ok with you?

Tonight we have a darling keychain made in the shape of a sock blocker, and pattern for a tiny sock that will fit right on it. My friend Jill made one for me, so I know how cute it is when it's done up.

To win this little guy, just leave a comment below, telling me your favorite fiber activity for when the weather is blowtorch hot out. Do you switch to cotton yarn? Crank up the AC? Knit in the pool? If you have a secret to enjoying wool and mohair in the dead of summer, share it with us all. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on the blog tomorrow night. Entries will be accepted until 10 PM Monday.

Let the prizes begin...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pegged the "Yippee!" Meter

To say that today's Fiber Farms Meet-Up was a success would be to significantly understate the facts. We had a rip-roaring blast.

The weather (one important variable outside of my control, dang it) was great, in spite of the weatherman's threat of rain. Periods of overcast skies gave us breaks from periods of pretty direct sun, but no rain spoiled the day's activities. I think several of us will be pink in places for a couple of days.

Susie brought a wonderful dyeing demonstration, and in a very short time, we learned a lot of how she gets her wonderful yarn all those cool colors. We all decided that dyeing would be our new obsession. Everyone has their own particular way of dyeing yarn, and I picked up some great new tips for success. Can't wait to try them out!

I gave away some gifts donated by great local vendors: Khatter Vineyards, Lucky Layla Dairy Farm, Rita's Originals, Terrific Fibers, and more. I didn't get to all the cool stuff I wanted to give away, so I'll be doing that here on the blog in the near future.

Everyone brought awesome food (whatever you do, get Susie's hot pepper brownie recipe), which we enjoyed under the shade of the big Hackberry tree in the front yard. This gave us lots of company from the neighboring sheep pen and the chicken coop. And what wonderful conversation! We learned more about Susie and her CSA program (always learning, me...) and we got to know each other better. I particularly enjoyed getting to know ladies who had only been internet voices before today. And what a blast to mix my local spinning friends with Susie's shareholders, some of whom drove from central Oklahoma to attend today!

We didn't get to spend quite as much time on our drop spindle lesson as I had wanted--the day just seemed to fly by--but I think we got Susie going pretty well before she had to leave. And I think the knitters made some progress on their projects, too, as we sat around and visited.

For Susie's take on the day's activity, go here to her blog. She and my new friend Suzy from Oklahoma took some wonderful pictures. My thanks to Ted, too, who got some very fun shots.

If you weren't able to come but wanted to, I talked to Susie about coming back when her book is released for a book signing. I'll let you know when that might happen as soon as I know, so you can all plan to come back out for more fun.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm So Excited. And I Just Can't Hide It.

Okay, I've thought of everything I can think of and all those things are probably enough, and the party will be fantastic if I don't think of another thing. Now I should get some sleep so that I'll be able to enjoy everyone's company tomorrow.
I just can't get over the honor I've been given to have all these great ladies as my guests here at the farm.

From the beginning it was clear to me that though our names are on the tax rolls as the "owners" of this property, I've never felt like it was mine, in an absolute truth kind of way. This place was a gift to us, to manage and steward, for the benefit of others. After living here for four years, we are beginning to understand how others might reap some benefits. As I've said all along, this farm isn't about bargain yarn -- that's what Hobby Lobby is for. No, this farm is about love of the land, fresh air, open space, connection with friends, connection with animals, working with your hands, creating beautiful things out of natural resources, growing things out of the earth, expressing the creative passion in us that is imprinted on our DNA. It was intrusted to Ted and me, for you. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share it with you and to partner with you to make something beautiful on this spot.
Here's what it looked like just before we bought it:

A Visit from St. Nick

This will be quick - the Sandman has it in for me tonight. We just got back from our 20th anniversary dinner (sushi and sashimi) and movie (Star Trek rocks). Twenty years. Man. Good for us! We'll be signing autographs in the lobby...

Anyway, I came up to the porch to find this lovely package waiting for me. It's another door prize for the party on Saturday! Lovely spring-green batts aching to be spun! OK, it wasn't St. Nick - it was my friend Rita from Rita's Originals. She makes the most beautiful dyed batts, which in turn, make up into the most scrumptious yarns. You might have seen her stuff at the Wildflower Fiber Retreat or last year at the DFW Fiber Fest. Did I mention I have the coolest friends who offer the world the coolest products we can't live without? I'm telling ya!

Saturday can't get here soon enough.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is it Christmas?

The goodies keep pouring in for the big weekend shindig with the Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm shareholders, Susie Gibbs, and friends of Jacob's Reward Farm!

Today, I received 2 bottles of table wine vinted by my friend and neighbor Carolyn Khatter of Khatter Vineyards, to give away to lucky party-goers on Saturday. (If this is something interesting to you, Carolyn has regular wine tasting at her place every Saturday from noon to 5 PM.) She has a gorgeous home adjacent to the half-acre vineyard and fun tasting room and outdoor dining area. She'll serve you a selection of her wines with crackers and cheese, so that you can decide which of her wines to take home. And she's just down the road from me. We got to be friends when she commissioned me to make felted wine sleeves to sell in her little shop. I needle-felt a peacock, her logo, on the felted sleeves. So, thanks, Carolyn for the donations to our seriously fun party!

And what's that at the bottom of the picture? Let's zoom in.... Ahhhh, Jacob's Reward buttons! It seems buttons are the must-have swag accessory for all meet-ups, so we're prepared. They're free for the asking when you come to the farm.

Cleaning, organizing and decluttering continue here at the farm. It is spring, after all. How about you -- are you planning a big Memorial Day weekend?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Company's Coming!

There's nothing like the prospect of special guests to give me fresh motivation to tackle pesky jobs around the farm--especially ones that help make the place look a little more tidy and happy.

One of those jobs I've had in mind for several months now has finally come to the top of the to-do list: cleaning out the front chicken coop and lining the bottom edge with corrugated metal. The metal will serve several purposes. It will lessen the rain splashing in on the wood shaving floor. It will keep those wood shavings from spilling out into the yard. And most importantly, it will keep raccoon hands from reaching through the chain link and grabbing a comatose, sleeping chicken and (violent content edited).

I don't know why, but for months after I moved the young pullets into that nice coop, they insisted on sleeping in a pile right up against the chain link. I lost a couple of chickens before I realized the problem and blocked the dumb clucks from the predators. I blocked them with a tarp, which has deteriorated over the past several months and looked just plain trashy. It was time for a better-looking, more permanent solution. Laurie helped me cut the metal a couple of weeks ago and now I'm finally getting to the metal installation, and the replacement of the yukky old shavings with fluffy new shavings. That means shoveling the wet, heavy stuff into my trusty green wagon and dragging it to the nearest compost pile in the sheep pen. (The sheep are very curious and oh, so helpful.) I started late in the day, so it isn't completely finished, but the lion's share is done, and I'll be motivated to finish the job tomorrow. Whew. One job down. I'm not ready to face the carport or the back porch just yet.

I also wanted to give you a little preview of some of the swag I'm pulling together for the party on Saturday. We are really going to have us some Texas-sized fun.
And you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Goodies and Prizes!

Just time for a quick post to let you know the goodies and door prizes are stacking up here for the party Saturday. I'm so happy we'll have lots of fun stuff to send home with everyone - especially those folks who spent a big hunk of time traveling to get here. It's gonna be worth it - as if the Meet Up isn't enough! Five and a half more days!

Also, here's Life on the Farm Moment #239:
Mary Elizabeth gives Mordecai the universal sign for "I think you're cute" by sticking her tongue out at him. Mordecai responds with a resounding, "huh?" No word if the budding relationship is headed to the next level.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

We Went Lookin' For...

And we did it in the rain.

I rarely leave the farm for a whole day, especially on a Saturday, but sometimes adventure calls, and today, we answered. We jumped in the truck and headed south to Whitney, west of Hillsboro, to meet a friend who is trying to find a sustainable purpose for a church camp that has fallen on hard times. My friend had also invited some guys from neighboring World Hunger Relief Farm to see the facility so they could determine if the camp might work into their program in any way. We toured the very serviceable facility (I'm thinking knitting camp!...), and got pretty damp in the process--steady rain. We saw several beautiful white tailed deer, turkeys, roadrunners, and other fauna. Then upping our adventure quotient, the truck got temporarily stuck in the mud traveling back after a jaunt down to the creek and pastures. We got downright wet, and a little muddy getting back up the hill. That camp with its woods and acreage has serious potential, and I can totally understand why my friend just can't give up on the place.

After a quick lunch at a local Mexican eatery, we headed back up I-35 and stopped at the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival. Ted and I had been about 16 years ago, and always talked about visiting again. Emma was very interested in seeing it, and we wanted to see our friend Colleen, who has traveled with the Ren Fests around the country for several years. But it was muddy. Serious, hard-core mud.

Do I need to explain again how I feel about mud? I thought not.

At least the rain had stopped. We saw several really funny shows, ate some expensive food, and bypassed all the expensive souvenirs (whew). Emma's very interested in coming back next year dressed as her favorite "Legend of Zelda" character. Hey, dressing up is dressing up. She'd fit right in. That Ren Fest set is a whole 'nuther culture, and I was quite bemused by the number of people even on that late rainy Saturday afternoon who wanted nothing more than to slog around in period costume in slimy-slick mud and puddles. Wow. Amazing, it was't, think I. And PS - if cleavage was cash, I they could have bailed out Chrysler today. Yikes.

But the critters, and civilization, and actual pavement beckoned. We got home in time to feed and bed down the farm before dark. With joy, I realized that my mud was nothing compared to the mud at Scarborough.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Reaping a Harvest

So far this year, we've focused quite a bit on the animals: getting to know them and learning about their care. Lately, we've gotten to spend a lot of wonderful time getting to know each other and spread the word about the incredible CSA model. What with the Meet Up a week away and all, it's about the only thing on my mind.

But I was reminded that at the center of all this joy and hilarity and community goodness is the fruit of our labor: the fiber harvest itself. Now, I've had a shareholder describe the fiber as "icing on the cake" of the CSA experience, and that's really a dear thing for me to hear, but it's important icing. Imagine a wedding cake minus that gorgeous melt-in-your-mouth buttercream icing you almost want to rub in your hair! I rest my case.

So tonight I want to remind you -- the fiber's coming. We've been working in the background doing skirting and washing so that soon, all the alpaca fiber and sheep wool will be ready to send off to Lynn at Spinderellas, so that she can work her magic. We have several colors of alpaca, and both dark and light wool. I think what I'll do is offer the shareholders a few options for the final blend and mix of our fibers, so that the roving we get back will be varied, but not broken into too many blends, so that we can actually MAKE something with the final product. I'll ask for a vote from the shareholders, and the Mix/Match option that gets the most votes will be the one we send to the mill.

Then we need to get spinning. If you are in need of a spinning lesson, let's get you going before the roving shows up. When those boxes arrive, I want you to be able to whip out your spindle or wheel and get after it! (Unless you're the kind whose stash needs a certain amount of aging time in order to come into its own, and to speak to you about what its final creation might be. I'm still waiting to hear from some of my stashed rovings.)
Comment here or drop me an e-mail and lets get some spinning lessons going. That fiber will be back here before we know it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here's the Skinny on the 23rd

Who: Friends of Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm and Jacob's Reward Fiber Farm. And their friends.

What: Meet up, potluck lunch, dyeing demonstration, farm tour, fabulous prizes!!

When: Saturday, May 23rd, 10 AM to 2 PM-ish, later if we want.

Where: Jacob's Reward Farm, 4308 Church Lane, Parker, TX 75002. Google Map here:

Why: Get real!

If you get lost, call my cell: two one four, two eight four, nine two one eight.

What you might consider bringing:
A dish to share, a chair to sit on (I have precious few), your spinning wheel, your knitting or crochet, your camera, sun screen, hat, business cards, photos of the kids... Wear your Ravelry button if you have one. There will be nametags to help us connect names and faces.

I'll have soft drinks, tea and coffee available, paper products and cutlery. I have WiFi for you bloggers on the go. What I don't have is a great septic system. We need to be kind of gentle with that if we can. Some day I hope to have port-a-potties available. When the farm goes Big Time.

Please park on the road and walk down the drive. That will give us space to hang out in the front yard.

So, if you didn't put a comment on yesterday's post RSVPing, please do so here. I'm going to use this list to get a rough idea how much stuff we'll need.

I'M SO EXCITED TO HAVE YOU ALL HERE! The sheep are practicing their curtsies.

I've Gone to the Dark Side

We did it. After months and months of research and hand-wringing, today we marched into the store and purchased our first Apple computer - a MacBook. I have several friends who have volunteered to help me make the transition from PC to the Mac, since all my computing life I've been a PC person. We're talking about years and years of archived documents generated during half a dozen careers that I'm afraid I will always need to have access to. (Don't analyze my reasoning here, just let it be.) This evening, a friend gave me a quick overview of how Macs generally operate, and I have to say, I'm smitten. The graphics, the intuitiveness (is that a word?), the cool interfaces... amazing.

So, the animal chores took a back seat to computer play today, and now it's entirely too late to be up, but here I am. Tomorrow I'm going to get back to scouring and organizing the barn, pens, feed pans and waterers - jobs I started today with gusto, before the trip to the electronics store, when all progress ceased. There was some wrestling the new machine away from Emma. She's catching on annoyingly quickly, and has nearly a whole sitcom filmed and edited on the laptop. What is it about the way synapses connect in the brains of twelve-year olds? Not fair.

I also hope to have more information about the Big Meet-Up on the 23rd. It'll be worth checking back.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Meet-Up Mania

Don't be anywhere but here on May 23rd. I'm just sayin... This Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm/Jacob's Reward community meet-up is taking on a life of its own. First we were just going to have a quiet outing here at the farm with a tour and maybe cold glasses of ice tea all around. Then we thought, hey, maybe I'll invite a few friends to meet Susie and the gang, and then I thought maybe some local food people might like to have a little display, and then the Ravelry gang wondered out loud if there might be a dyeing workshop here like they'll have in Fort Worth earlier in the week, and now I'm thinking, "what can I give away?" and I'm wondering if I know any musicians with the afternoon free... would the Blue Angels do a courtesy fly-by?... the thing is getting out of hand in the best possible way. Bottom line - just come and see what happens. There'll be folks here from as far away as NORMAN, OKLAHOMA, so don't give me any lame excuses!

So, unless your car breaks down or you're having a baby or something, I know I'll see you. OK, one more excused absence: if you're at Mary Berry's Suburban Homestead Open House in Farmer's Branch. But other than that... we'll see you here. Bring your spinning wheel, your knitting, or your bare yarn for dyeing. Heck, bring your groove thing -- why not. (Please leave your dogs at home - they can freak out the critters. Thanks!)

Do me a favor and let me know if you plan to come so I can load up the coolers. Pray for sunshine!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Lambs Wish You a Happy Mother's Day!

Your lamby love is here at Jacob's Reward Farm. Mary Elizabeth wishes you a happy, healthy, fun-filled, Mom's Day surrounded by those you love!
Pardon the alfalfa breath...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Gorgeous New Lambs Arrive!

It was a quick road trip down I-45 to Bedias, TX today to fetch the three wethered Gulf Coast Native lambs I had bought from Kim Travis a few months ago. Shareholder Laurie was the only one whose schedule allowed her to get away the day before Mother's Day, so off we went with three large plastic dog crates in the bed of the pickup. We pulled out of Plano, each with a chicken biscuit for breakfast and a large cup of strong coffee to fortify us for the trip.

One of Laurie's many strengths is the ability to pick alpaca and sheep fleeces to get rid of the little bits of grass and chaff so that they are ready to go to the processor. She toted a couple of bags of wool along on the drive to help us get our fiber closer to "shipping condition." We enjoyed great conversation and a beautiful drive.

Once we arrived at the Travis' farm, there wasn't much time to just hang and visit--I was on a deadline to get back to the farm. Kim and Garth had set up an elaborate sheep handling area with small enclosures and chutes and had already caught up the lambs with their moms. It turned out to be a simple task to catch each lamb and load him up in his own dog crate for the ride home.

That ride was blissfully uneventful, and we enjoyed cooler temperatures that had begun to blow through ahead of some potentially stormy air. What a difference from the still, muggy air we had traveled through on our way south!

When we arrived back at the farm, Ted helped us move each crate into the sheep paddock one at a time. Once they were all inside the fence, we turned them out of the crates. I also moved Itzhak and Mary Elizabeth (the bottle babies) into the same pen so that they could be integrated into the flock proper. Pandemonium ensued. At least there was a lot of loud discussion among the sheep regarding, "who are you," and "where's my mother?" and "isn't it dinner time?" and each talking over the others, louder and more insistent.

The two bottle babies have glommed on to poor Lucy, who is the only adult ewe in the flock. She must remind them of their mom because they stick to her like glue. If she tries to move away from them, they chase her. All five of the lambs got reacquainted, and seem to be getting on famously. All the babies are too much for Zacchaeus, who has given up trying to bully anyone, and just focuses on staying out of their way. Besides - most of them are bigger than he.

The three new boys are very different: Mordecai was the first lamb born, and he was a singleton. He is by far the largest lamb, and truly magnificent. Ezra is the next largest, and they tell us he has quite a bit of spunk. Eli is the smallest lamb because his mom's milk dried up early and he just wasn't getting the nutrition he might have. Time will tell if he will catch up with his half brothers over the next year or so (they all have the same father).

The Jacob's Reward Fiber Flock is almost complete. In a few weeks the new suri alpacas will arrive, and we will have an incredible blend of fibers to harvest next year. Can you even stand it?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Big Weekend Coming

Hum a chorus of "Lean on Me." That's what I did today with sweet shareholder Laurie. She came over and I worked her like crazy because my energy wasn't nearly as high as the humidity, and the chore list was long. We checked off some critical to-do's and moved closer toward fiber harvest fruition. Jobs needed doing both inside the Red Barn and outside in the field. The soggy, squishy field. Muddy boot-sucking fun for everyone. Aren't icky jobs so much more bearable with a buddy? Love ya, Laurie - thank you.

Tomorrow I'll be moving fast and checking things off the list - feed store, Home Depot for new tarps, Lunch Lady duty at school, putting the donkeys on their new owner's trailer and waving goodbye (sniff), selling some eggs, borrowing a dog crate for picking up the new lambs on Saturday, and getting Em to a youth group event. Whew.

Then Saturday it's a road trip down to Bedias to meet with Kim again and take our three boy lambs home. I might have a couple shareholders with me, depending on their schedules. That will be some girly-road-trippy goodness. And adolescent sheep. How do you improve on that?

Cannot wait to see our new lamby boys. Prayin' for clear skies!

(Pictured: A very nice sheep I met in Maryland)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Girls Have Been Very Busy

This never happens. I have 15 dozen eggs ready to go to their new homes! Ted and Emma dutifully collected eggs the whole time I was in Maryland, but they were not in charge of selling them, so they have literally piled up on the kitchen counter. (They can go a week without refrigeration if need be.) So I'll need to put out the call among my regular customers, that the supply has for once, caught up with demand.

In other news, I tried very hard to produce my first podcast this evening... Emma was off with a friend for the evening, and Ted was coming home late from a meeting in Houston. However, the learning curve with Audacity was steeper than I could manage in the given time frame. Plus, the software "encountered a problem and must close." Noooooooo! I lost about 28 minutes of audio brilliance (you'll have to trust me here) and then I lost my momentum. But I will get back at it, hopefully tomorrow. I was going to tell you all the fascinating tales of Maryland Sheep and Wool, but I think we've all heard most of what was interesting to tell. Let's move on, shall we? And this time, I'll give the file a name before I start.

OK, one more picture on the subject of Maryland Sheep & Wool. I'll own up to my purchases. I think I exercised some serious restraint, considering what I could have brought home. But I had a ton of room in my suitcase caused by selling all that fiber, so I had to fill it with something! (Not pictured: a MDS&W t-shirt and a sweatshirt. It got cold - what could I do?) Pictured are a MDS&W apron and ball cap, two skeins of Debbie Bliss bulky tweed yarn (40% off!), a precious skein of Bijou Spun alpaca and yak blend, some soaps from Maggie's Farm, some handpainted roving to practice my Navajo plying from Gale's Art, some coned Jacob yarn from my friend Joan, and a bunch of funny pins that I brought back for my spinning buddies who never get to come to MD. That'll keep me occupied for about - hey, look! Shiny foil! Oops, what were we talking about?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Better Late Than Never - The Maryland Recap

Wow, what a trip. Success came in waves, and on many levels. We sold quite a bit of Jacob's Reward Farm inventory; I didn't have to haul much back at all - in fact, the Jacob Sheep Conservancy booth grossed more on Saturday than they had ever made in an entire weekend. And it went up from there on Sunday. Success financially: check.

Met tons of great Ravelers who were kind enough to stop by the booth. Many used the coupon I had put on our website and enjoyed a 20% discount on JR stuff. But it was so fun to put faces and Ravatars together. Had fun being booth neighbors with Carl and Eileen of Bijou Basin - the Yak folks. What a classy product! Yes. I brought home a skein. It'll be a gift, OK? The knitted item, that is - not the skein. I also had a blast (as usual) with my Jacob sheep breeder friends who worked the booth with me and peddled their own unique wares: fleeces, felted cat toys, ornaments, yarn, roving, pelts, woven shawls, and more. Success in friendships: check.

Got to sit on the front row when Susie Gibbs spoke on adding value to and marketing farm products. I'm not exactly sure what the title of her presentation was - she was a last-minute addition to the schedule and put her talk together pretty quickly for them. She rocked. She shared a bunch of what we had talked about over coffee back in January, and she reminded me of some things I haven't gotten to in the process of marketing the Jacob's Reward Farm and CSA. I'm not sure how much sunk in with her audience. Not many of them seemed to be very computer savvy, or quite sure what to make of this young gal who gave up a TV job in Manhattan to raise goats. ;-) I got to finally meet her farm manager, Erin, who originally went to bat for me and convinced Susie to arrange our coffee meeting in Fort Worth. Thanks again Erin! Success in continuing education: check.

Of course, I was really looking forward to the big party at the Hilton sponsored by Susie, WEBS, and Tactile Travel. I had Priority-mailed a couple of my sparkly alpaca/Jacob batts as a door prize, and was anxious to get a little more exposure. The atrium lobby of the Hilton was littered with knots of knitters in little seating groups. Even several spinning wheels showed up. The lights were low which threatened to put me to sleep, but I managed to stay alert for any opportunities to hob-nob. I saw lots of people there whose blogs we enjoy or who are known fiber Rock Stars: Svetlana (of the incredible sweater a month blog), Ysolda - a lovely Scandanavian designer whose hat patterns I covet, and the Rav founders, Jess and Casey, and Mary-Heather. More details about the party later. Success in networking: check.

Squeezed in a nice dinner Friday night with my niece and her husband at a nearby Thai restaurant. Excellent Pad See Ewe. My niece Alyssa is a meticulous hostess and my stay at their house is always as comfy and stress free as an old slipper. That's a good thing. Then on Sunday evening, my cousin, Cathy, who I hadn't seen in a LONG time, was driving from PA to DC and stopped to have a soda with me outside the fairgrounds on her way south. Very fun. Success in family: check.

The trip home was uneventful - my favorite way to travel - and I managed to even knit a bit on the plane. Finished my navajo-plied Jacob mobius, and kept clicking away on the seed stitch "brainless knitting" scarf.

There is just a huge pile of stuff to tell you about the trip, but I decided that the story would make a very good Inaugural Podcast. So, you've got the highlights, and the link to my flicker set about Maryland to hold you a day or two while I work out Audacity and Libsyn. I made a bunch of notes and will have them in front of me while I talk to you out loud - whooo, cool, huh?

Big announcement and Calendar Alert: May 23. I just found out that Susie is planning a Texas meet-up of her shareholders and friends here in the DFW area. Guess where she decided to have it? Uh-huh - Our Farm!!! So, I have a bit of cleaning and tidying to do in the next couple of weeks. But what amazing fun! Put it down on your blackberry if you possibly can. I'll let you know the time later. And, remember, this Saturday we go down to Kim and Garth's farm to pick up our 3 other Gulf Coast Native lambs. Pray the storms go around us tonight. We don't need any more rain, thank you. The sheep's hooves are beginning to web.