Monday, November 30, 2009

Back Home

So much to do now that we're back home. Four days away really knocks me off my routine and rhythms! So while I get my land legs again, enjoy another picture we took at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, this one from the Japanese Garden area:

Feel peaceful? Take a deep breath and ignore the fact that Christmas is 24 days away. Ahhhhhh.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Productive Leisure

When the usual routine is interrupted, I sometimes find that I can unjam the creative process blockage and make some stuff. As we visit with family, we're all finding "holiday" activities that captivate our imaginations. I did finish the Cat Bordhi Moebius Cowl, here modeled by my sweet sister-in-law, Lynne.

I enjoyed the knitting, equipped with nice yarn and fast needles, and the project was small enough to complete in a couple of long sittings. I do love those quick projects.

Ted likes to create in the kitchen, and turned out a gob-smacking lemon souffle.

Emma and SIL made easy chocolate truffles after dinner, too.

Earlier today we stimulated all our senses with a trip to the San Antonio Botanical Gardens -- what beautiful colors, shapes, smells and textures! From exotic tropical plants to Texas natives (my favorites) to the hundreds of types of cacti, the Gardens covered the gamut.

Though the time away has only been a long weekend, it seemed a world away, and light years from the same ol' same ol'.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I'm really resting this weekend. Didn't even get out of my slippers today! Visiting with family, moving slowly, noshing the Thanksgiving leftovers (my Number One Favorite Meal of the Year) and enjoying lots of fun knitting. I started the Cat Bordhi Moebius Cowl with a large ball of Cascade Eco Wool in green. I was using some red Lopi yarn tied into loops for stitch markers, and as I started out, it looked like I was making a Christmas wreath! As I type, the cowl is only two rows from being complete, so I should be able to give you the Big Reveal tomorrow.

And speaking of the Big Reveal, we have the first Jacob sheep named in our current contest! Our newest new shareholder, Tasha, has dubbed our black-faced boy "Jethro" - after Moses' father in law (see Exodus 3:1). It's quite a distinguished name, as long as you don't think Beverly Hillbillies. I'm hoping our Jethro takes more after the Priest of Midian, and less after the millionaire with a cement pond.

One more new sheep to be named! Who will be our next new shareholder?

An Embarassment of Riches

Like many people across the country yesterday, my extended family sat down around a gorgeous meal in a lovely home, enjoying good health and warm relationships. But it is never far from our minds that others in our neighborhoods do not know these happy circumstances. May we never take our blessings for granted, and always put legs on our compassion, to share the bounty entrusted to us.

Ted, Lynne, Emma and Carl gather round the laden dinner table,
and give thanks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Don't Turn Your Back

Some kids shouldn't be left home alone. They get into all kinds of mischief, like vandalizing the fronts of insecticide jugs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fabulous Felt

Guess it's time to start thinking about Christmas, eh? Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and the special time with family focuses me on the next holiday coming up a month hence. As I've mentioned, usually my Christmas prep is well underway by now, but this year, I've been busy with fiber. And I don't regret it at all.

That's OK, there's still time to be thoughtful and intentional. And goodness knows I have enough raw materials in my studio to keep Santa's elves busy for a decade. So here's the first project that is destined to go under the tree:

Remember the basket I knitted at the Cat Bordhi class?

That was before. This is after:

I still don't really trust my front loading washer, so I felted this in my kitchen sink by hand. It really wasn't so bad. Turn on an audiobook and set the timer for 15 minutes. Twice. That's all it took. Pretty fun, yes? The pattern is in Cat's book, "A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting." Pair the book with Cat's YouTube how-to videos (she has dozens), and you'll be set to whip out some cute little baskets of your own.

In fact, I plan to spend Black Friday up to my neck in handmade projects, leaving the shopping to those who feel called to stimulate the economy. Care to join me by the fire with your needles and a warm beverage?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yesterday's Fog

We woke yesterday to a misty landscape.... an otherworldly haze obscured from view anything more than 50 feet away. Lots of moisture hung in the air. Great picture-taking weather. I caught the sheep looking particularly forlorn in the dampness.

Check out the incredible beaded, hand-spun shawl hanging from my hackberry tree...
Last week, when all the leaves blew away, I saw again the back of my neighbors' houses and heard their lively conversation -- muffled, but audible -- without the curtain of foliage that separates us most of the year. These are the sights and sounds of autumn at Jacob's Reward. I get the opposite of claustrophobia - I am delighted at the quiet, empty spaces opened up by the wind and the naked branches.

Today, I scored a big hit for the farm: I found a fellow not far from here who had 60 bales of hay for sale for a very, very good price. I spent the afternoon tracking down some help for unloading, because this fellow offered to drive the hay over here. What a blessing. Got so busy chucking hay bales that I missed the photo op. We did have fun - the bales were light enough for us to toss them around and look like real hay-chucking farmers. The sight of a full hay barn gives me a peaceful, satisfied feeling. We're good for the winter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Out, Good In

The 2009 Fiber Shares that need to travel to distant points have been lovingly packed, taped and sit ready for their trip to the Post Office. This is a watershed moment for our little fiber CSA. A few more local shareholders have not yet come by for their fiber, but technically, the 2009 year is ended and the 2010 has begun!

The first Act of 2010 will be a Sheep Naming Contest.

After a week here, I've been able to observe the two new Jacob sheep and I can tell you a little about them. The one with the dark face is the more dominant of the two. He is the most inquisitive and the least shy of being around people. Oddly enough, he has not made a peep (or baaaa) since he's been here - totally silent.

The white-faced boy is much more stand-offish, but the most vocal. He also likes to hop up into the compost pile where grass has begun to grow. Not sure if he really likes the grazing there better, or if he is just pining for the Rocky Mountains, and pretending to be a Big Horn Sheep. Ah - and he has one blue eye. Cool, huh?

As you probably know, all our animals have Biblical names; Old Testament or New Testament, doesn't matter. We do prefer the "good guy" names over the notorious character names. Lord knows we don't need to encourage any notorious behavior around here.

So here's the deal: The next two NEW folks who purchase a 2010 share will have the opportunity to name either of these boys. If someone new buys TWO shares, they may name them both. This might lend itself to some interesting choices of names that go together. Makes sense, as the two boys are sticking pretty close together so far. If the new shareholder wishes not to do any naming, the honors will shift to the NEXT new shareholder.

Our shareholders last year did such a fantastic job of naming the Gulf Coast Native lambs, I can't wait to see what happens this year!

Edited to add Very Important Link to CSA page.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Everything, There is a Season

The weather tells us the seasons are changing here in North Texas. And this... is Spinach Season. We're fortunate that things still grow in the garden here, much longer than in other parts of the country. I planted some spinach almost two weeks ago, and it's coming along beautifully. I planted a ton, and intend to thin the seedlings for salad fixings, allowing the remaining plants to mature to full size.

Today the spinners gathered at the Red Barn for another day of visiting and creating. You can always tell if the spinners are holed up in the Barn because they leave clues, especially on muddy days.

We met new friends, Nancy and Evie, and were also joined by Jennifer and Claire, who had been to the farm before, but not for spinning day. Evie and Mary hit it off immediately!

Rita filled two bobbins, Brenda drop-spindled beautifully, Mary knit on her granddaughter's sweater, Jennifer worked on a very cool scarf, Peggy spun some gorgeous wool, Chris knitted along as Nancy entertained little Evie. Me? I hovered, Navajo plied some bamboo singles, and mostly relaxed. It's been a busy, busy couple of weeks, and I enjoyed not doing very much at all. There was plenty of food, so there were times when most of us were just noshing!

Most everyone got a gander at the new Jacobs, who, by the by, need names. I feel a contest coming on....

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Cat Taught Me

Yes, I indulged myself in a full day of magical knitting instruction with Cat Bordhi and fellow students in a class sponsored by the Woolie Ewe. That, in itself, is amazing. And the stuff Cat taught boggled my mind. The only way I'll even begin to think mathematically is if doing so will help me knit something cool.

Earlier this year, I had a class with Lucy Neatby, another original, out-of-the-box knitter and thinker. These two ladies are cut from the same cloth in the way they fly in the face of convention, and they happen to be friends. They even own a mismatched pair of the same shoes, thanks to a serendipitous swap. Who wouldn't want to spend the day with them?

Cat began by showing us the magical mathematical figure: the moebius. A moebius has only one surface and one edge, and endlessly twists around in a continuous ring.

She taught her inspired moebius cast-on with delightful story-pictures, and we all caught on pretty quickly. The magic starts with the cast-on. It continues as you knit.

Some of us started with a scarf project and others with a small felted basket project. I chose the basket, thinking that I could probably figure out the scarf at home on my own time. Cat took time to work with almost all of us individually, stopping for group instruction as we progressed. I finished my basket up to the felting step, in spite of starting over a couple of times for extra practice.

I really recommend Cat's books and YouTube videos, if you have any interest in a fascinating knitting technique which lends itself to endless variations and innovations. If you ever get a chance to take a class with Cat - do. You won't be disappointed.

My Flickr set from today's class is here. Enjoy!

The Podcast is Finally Up

Look for it here, or on iTunes. It's a live recording of the Kid N Ewe Triumvirate (Mary, Laurie, and Cindy) reporting on all the fun things they did on their Boerne weekend. Hope you like it!

Tomorrow I'll be all day in the Cat Bordhi seminar at the Woolie Ewe. Don't hate me, it's a business seminar. (Knitting is my business!) Just keeping up my CEUs (snort) ...and having a ball! Full report tomorrow night!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scenes from the Day

Today we enjoyed the largest turnout for our spinning group yet. Eighteen of us in a big circle, holding five or six different conversations at the same time. And lots of beautiful fiber twisting onto wheels:

We did lots of show and tell, and recounted stories from the big weekend in Boerne.

The treat of the day: I swung a barter deal with my friend Kay of Cordova Studios for the knockout Clapotis shawl she knitted. The colors in this Noro Silk Garden wrap are good enough to eat, and it fit me perfectly!

My pictures of the new Jacobs didn't come out well today, but here's the best I could pull off. You'll notice that all four sheep are together, and getting along reasonably well! That's a big load off of my mind. Feeding time will go smoother if the species' are kept separate.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bringing in the Sheaves

The 2009 Harvest has officially been divvied up for our shareholders! This evening, four faithful Shareholders came to the Red Barn to help with the honors. Laurie, Chris, Mary and Brenda converged around the table to weigh all the fiber, label and bag it, and dole it out into sacks for the rest of our farm family.

We had such a blast. Laurie taught how to best unwind the large bumps that come from the processor. Chris, the scientist, weighed and did tricky math stuff. Mary got choked up and weepy at the sight of the fiber, but managed to weigh out shares. Brenda got carried away and tried to sneak out with fiber under her shirt and arms. And there was no alcohol in sight! We laughed and laughed, prompted only by our congenial fellowship and our warped senses of humor.

So, if you are local and want to pick up your fiber, let me know. Otherwise, I'll assume that if you're not really close to me, you will need your fiber mailed to you. It's on its way!

More photos of this raucous evening can be found on my Flickr page. Next year, you'll want to be here!

New Jacobs

The recommended way to introduce sheep (especially males) to each other is to put them in a very small enclosure, like a stall, and let them jockey for pecking order position. This way none of them can get up a head of steam and do damage to any others.

So when I looked in the pasture and noticed that our new boys had gotten into the side with all the old-timers, I realized my plans had been foiled. Somehow, they managed to get through the stall divider into the other realm. (I wish I had video of THAT maneuver!)

Here is a little footage of the "Plan B" way to introduce sheep to their new pasture mates.

I did end up putting everyone back where they started, and I may try them together again tomorrow. That is, if they don't sneak over there by themselves first.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kid N Ewe Wrap Up

Really blurry picture of a lovely six-point buck we saw right outside our hotel parking lot.
Love the Hill Country fauna!

Ruth, me and Paula - we all own Jacob sheep!

At least nine Texas Twisters traveled to Kid N Ewe this year.
A few of us were in the same place, at the same time for a photo.

Recovering today from a great time in Boerne. After packing up the booth at about 3 PM and driving up the back roads to Dallas, we pulled up to the farm around 10:45 - it was dark, but miraculously not raining.

We had a little excitement when I looked through the window of Mary's Suburban into the yard and saw that all the alpacas and sheep had escaped through a gate that had blown open. But with very little coaxing, everyone went back into their pasture - I think they were a little disconcerted about finding themselves out of their familiar spot, and were happy to go back. (No pictures of this little escapade. We had our hands full.)

The new sheep, as expected, needed to be coerced out of the trailer, down the driveway and into the pen around the back of the Red Barn. I'm so grateful that Jacobs aren't big animals. And these beautiful two-horned boys have great "handles" growing out of their heads! They spent the night in their new stall, able to meet and greet their new herd, though they were separated by the stall divider. This morning I visited with them a bit. They are ultra shy, and will need lots of socialization. But aren't they pretty?

They need Jacob's Reward Farm names. Hmmmm...

Mary, Laurie and I recorded some of the stories of our Boerne adventure on our way home, and I'll have that formatted as an official podcast episode soon. Stay tuned. Tomorrow night we'll divide the 2009 shares up, and Saturday we'll spin together!

The cold front that blew in last night is just what I needed to inspire me to launch some warm, woolly adventures - how about you?