Saturday, February 27, 2010

Makin' Hay While the Sun Shines

Today was perfect. Sunny, light breeze, 60 degrees. Today paid for all those cold, wet, sloppy days where I griped and complained. I take it all back.

Herd Health
Today we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to tackle some over-due jobs. Number one on the list: alpaca toenail trimming. Because it had been so long, the boys had forgotten some of their halter manners and the job took a bit longer than I expected. But all in all, it went pretty well. Shareholder Chris did an awesome job of taking pictures, handing us stuff, and even walking the boys around the pen after each one got his pedicure. Little Boaz surprised her, however, and sent her tumbling when he jumped up into the air during his trim. Fortunately, she is a super good sport and promised not to hold it against us.

She took Jonah on a little walk after his trim to remind him what this civilized halter stuff is all about.

Ted is known to the alpacas not only as Mr. Toenail Guy, but also as Treat Man. Moonstruck is first in line for some apple bits after his pedi appointment.

Good news for our Chicken Sponsors. The little girls aren't so little any more. They are starting to lay, and more and more of them have ventured out into the pasture to start their Free Range careers. At least half of them have spent some time on the outside. I'm a proud momma.

Photo Contest Deadline is Here
In just a few minutes we'll close the entries for our photo contest. Several more folks submitted shots today, so those will go into the judging pool. Great, great work, everyone! I'll keep you informed about how the judging goes, and we'll have a big announcement when the winners are chosen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Welcome to the Fold

Our new friend and shareholder, Wendy, joined me in the Little Red Barn today to learn the magic of the spindle. Yes, this magic takes a little practice, but competence comes with time and perseverance. We can all point to our first ball of spindle spun yarn with its lovely lumps, bumps and fuzzy spots and remember the awkwardness we felt for a while. Timidity soon turns to proficiency and we wonder why we were ever worried about making that yarn hold together.

Some of my first yarn.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Birth of a Spinner

Tomorrow morning I'll get to share our love of fiber with a brand new spinner. Brand new - remember those days? I just love that part in the lesson when the light bulb goes off and the student goes, "AHA! I GET it!" After that, it's just a few technical tips and "time in the chair," as we say. We go on improving our skills for a lifetime, but the joy begins the minute it all makes sense. Eureka! indeed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paca Pedicures

I've put this off longer than I should - bad weather, bad schedules, and lots of other obstacles kept pushing the job back. But now we just can't put it off any longer. The alpacas' toenails must be trimmed. I've secured DH's help for Saturday morning, plus some skilled assistance from some of our experienced farm friends, so the boys should be lookin' fine, come Saturday afternoon. We'll have them in halters for the first time in a while, so it should be fairly interesting. This will all be good practice before the big shearing day at the end of March.

Saturday is also the new deadline for the Photo Contest with fabulous prizes. So far we have several awesome contestants, but there's room at the top for more. Send in your digital shots by Saturday evening to be included in the judging by our Celebrity Judge: Susie Gibbs of Juniper Moon Farm. If you read her blog, you have seen for yourself that she knows a great shot when she sees one.

Critter Updates

Judah continues to be the best dog on the planet, doing his job with patience and diligence, yet he's a complete snuggle bug to his momma.
The new chickens have started laying! Yippee! Not very many, and not every day, but the eggy joy has begun!
Smokey the Barn Cat
has a new fan club in the ranks of new spinning students who have come through the Little Red Barn lately - she charms them all.
Jethro the Jacob is on borrowed time - he does seem to have been neutered incompletely, shall we say, and has a "rammy" outlook on life. This makes him a menace for me during feeding time, and I don't like it. Know anyone who needs a pretty wool sheep with an attitude?
The suri alpaca boys, Micah and Boaz, continue to grow and warm my heart. I think all that extra attention they got during their sickness made them easier to handle now, and they are so sweet and soft!
I don't want to leave out your favorite, but suffice it to say that right now, all is right in the critter world.

Make an appointment to visit soon, and give your favorite critter some special scritchy love!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No Snow Day

Gratuitous snow picture from the previous storm.
A Buff Orpington thinks twice about free ranging.
In fact, she turned around and went back inside.

We thought maybe we'd have another day of white, but alas, the flakes stayed south of our farm. OK, I can't lie - I'm happy it didn't snow. Instead of wetness (aka "pre-mud") falling from the sky, it was cool, still, and DRY.

I love that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Coaxing Up the Spring

I know the weatherman says that it will probably snow the better part of tomorrow, but the day lilies are telling me not to give up hope. They are coming up anyway.

The new sedum rosette is pushing up between the bones of last year's stems and blooms. She also knows that spring is on the threshold of winter's door.

So tomorrow, we'll bundle up and make sure the animals all have enough food to keep them snug and warm, and then find plenty of important things to do inside.

But just for fun, let's pretend that tomorrow is going to be 69 degrees and sunny... How would you spend it?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Community Grows

Yesterday was another splendid day of spinning, knitting, visiting, eating, touring and educating visitors about the farm and about the wonders of fiber. We easily fit sixteen ladies into the barn, thanks to the added floor space. Four or five families and groups of friends also stopped by briefly to get the nickle tour and see the animals. I think several of those folks will be returning for spinning lessons. They may not know what an incredible journey they have begun!

One of our Very Important Visitors was Ramblin' Bawb - the diminutive sheep who has been traveling the country visiting friends of Juniper Moon Farm, and collecting impressive adventures. We were honored to have him at the Little Red Barn to meet the Jacob's Reward Farm community!

When he went out to pay respects to his fellow sheepies, we wondered if maybe Bawb and Shadrach might not have some shared lineage? Separated at birth? Perhaps...

NOTES: Several people have requested an extension in the Photo Contest. Twist my arm. OK. One more week. Let's shoot for next Saturday night as the deadline. If you missed your chance to come out to the farm for pictures, you have a few more days. We might even have a repeat of the picturesque snow on Tuesday, if the weatherman is to be believed. (If you took pictures of yesterday's shindig, I'd love to have a copy... I got busy giving tours and didn't record the day like I had wanted. Thanks!!)

Thanks to everyone who took goodies home from the Barn Sale. We have an excellent start on the Patio Fund and I will get started on that project immediately. Enjoy your treasures!

Thanks to everyone who took bottles home to fill with change for the African water well project. God bless you big time.

Spin on!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Snow is a Memory - Let's Party!

Remember this just a week ago? It was lovely.

But now it's gone and it's time to gather at the Little Red Barn! Thanks to Peggy's article, we've gotten lots of calls so I'm expecting some new faces to come check us out. Best behavior, everyone, at least until they learn how much fun we are, and how much we care for one another.

Bring your fiber, yarn, wheels, needles, and joie de vivre! Ten o'clock in the morning until we get tired in the afternoon. Come! Come! New friends we haven't met yet!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

VIP Visitors Today

It's a red-letter day when a distant shareholder comes to town and we get a chance to meet her in person! Today Karen flew in from Arizona to visit relatives who live very close to the farm. The whole gaggle stopped by this afternoon to meet the sheep, alpacas, and chickens, and get some impromptu fiber learnin' in the Barn.

New farm friends, and neighbors to boot!

Karen is a new spinner and was able to narrate while I fired up a drop spindle to show the cousins and nieces and nephews and friends. What a lovely group of kids - some of whom may be budding spinners, too!

Karen (far right) and the kids

Have a great time in Texas, Karen - thanks so much for taking time out to drop by and become a friend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ready, Get Set....

Sync! ... your calendars. So much coming up, I need to review the list so I don't forget anything:

Saturday - spinning and knitting in the newly re-organized Little Red Barn. There will be stuff spread out on tables on the lawn that I am destashing and you all must help me find good homes for the treasures. I'm not really going to price stuff - just put your best offer in the coffee can. All proceeds will go to help us get the patio built onto the front of the barn ASAP. On Ravelry, we have a friend named Caro in the UK who would like her knitting group and ours to be "Sister Stitchers." Doesn't that sound like fun? I thought we could take a group photo and send it to her - our own Flat Fiber Pals - across the big water. Saturday night is also the deadline for photos to be e-mailed to me for our amazing Photo Contest with fabulous prizes!

Kate Gives it a Go

Sheep Shearing - Second Week in March - I found out that our shearer will be traveling through our area and will come to the farm to shear the nine sheep. I'm afraid it may have to be during the week, but I'll give everyone as much notice as possible so that if anyone can come they'll have enough lead time. I'm going to have someone else do the shearing this year so that I can concentrate on getting the fiber taken care of in the best way right there on the spot. It would be awesome to get the wool skirted and ready to wash very quickly after shearing.

Handknit Socks on Parade

Wildflower Fiber Retreat - March 12-14 in Tyler. This get together is quite a tradition in the North Texas area. I'm planning to go, and I hope to see lots of our farm friends there, too. The cabins are rustic but reasonably comfortable, the food is usually really good, and the fiber activities and the chance to relax in the woods by a lake refresh me every year.

Alpaca Shearing - March 29. To accommodate the schedule of our hosting ranch, our shearing will be on a Monday this year. This is always a busy day, with hauling the boys up to Greenville and back. But it's exciting to have all our gorgeous fiber off the hoof and into bags, waiting for us to get it cleaned up and sent off to Spinderellas. I can't believe all our fiber will be sheared and ready to clean before April. We may have an early harvest this year! We can spend some of the year actually making stuff out of our wool and yarn long before the year is done.

DFW Fiber Fest is in April - this Festival in Addison is fun to attend, with plenty of classes and vendors to teach and tempt.

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival - May 1 and 2. Oh yeah, I'm planning on my yearly pilgrimage to the Howard County Fairgrounds. More on this later.

Spring Storytelling Event - May 15. Peggy H-R and I are working on developing another incredible picnic event here at the farm, since the storytelling/music day was such a smash last fall. I'm open to any ideas you may have to help us bring this together. I'm thinking of having Peggy and Gene tell us some fairy tales for spring!

There, that ought to keep us out of mischief for a couple of months. And if you need to get into mischief for some reason, please give me a call, and bring it to the Little Red Barn.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

For the First Time

New beginnings here at the farm:

For the second time, I left the door open on the Coop de Ville, and this time, several of the new chickens ventured out for their first Free Range experience. Those five chicks seemed to really enjoy the sunshine and the fresh grass, though they didn't wander far from their coop and their friends still stuck behind the wire.

Chickens aren't very smart, bless 'em, but they are creatures of habit and routine. So if we keep practicing going out to play and successfully finding our way home, they'll get better at it, and the scaredy-chickens will eventually learn from their adventurous coop-mates. (I bet they're up late tonight talking about all the cool stuff to see and experience "on the outside.") Bad news for our egg customers: it looks like we may have one rooster in the bunch. Time will tell.

And just this evening, new student Julie successfully got some wool spinning on our friendly old Louet single treadle. She survived that first awkward session when your hands and feet and eyes and fiber need to get it together to get the yarn to behave. I bet she'll be spinning in her sleep before our next lesson together.

We all start somewhere, and we all grow. It's always exciting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Alpaca's New Champion?

Meet Harley, as he is currently known. Harley's owner is looking for a new home for him because he really is good at guarding but he lost his job, and is having some interpersonal issues in the house with several other house dogs. We're going to see if he would be happy here looking after the alpacas. Today was just our introduction, but we'll be talking more seriously next week when his owner gets back from a trip.

This beautiful half Pyr - half Golden Retriever has been guarding miniature horses with great success. He has also been exposed to chickens and cats with no problems. And he's really sweet to people. Which is good, because he's a big boy. Big. Really beautiful.

His retriever side helps him love the water! Sad to say, the best we can do around here are deep puddles and mud after heavy rain. His coat looks like it would shed the mud pretty quickly, when the inevitable mud comes.

There are a few details to work out - a couple of low spots in the fence, a gate that hangs a little high off the ground, and introductions with the alpacas themselves. But if all goes well, Harley may get a new Jacob's Reward name and come to live at the farm.

You know I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hugs from the Farm!

(Hat tip: GrandmaTuTu)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Frodo's Quest

I'm very sympathetic this evening, to the struggles of the little Hobbit from the Shire. It fell to him to carry a powerful ring a long way, through many dangers, and see that it was destroyed. The ring seemed to bewitch and control everyone who came near it, with a will of its own.

Without pushing the analogy too far, I'm realizing that the thousands and thousands of little things in my studio seem to have this same power. It is my bounden duty and charge to win over the Power of the Stuff.

Here are a few of the seductive battles I've waged on my way to clean, organize, and lighten the contents of the Little Red Barn, or as I like to call it, the journey to the fires of Mt. Doom:

As I attack each pocket of disorder, I'm reacquainted with sadly forgotten projects. Each embryonic project still holds that spark of inspiration that caused me to purchase the Stuff in the beginning. I revive again to the colors, textures and potential that captured me long ago. It's hard not to lose a good deal of time reliving that potential. Maybe this time I'll make that thingy?

But I have to shake it off and ask myself hard questions: will I really ever finish this? Really? Could someone else get joy from this if I let it go? Most of the time, the little bag of preciousssss ingredients moves slowly to the "Let it Go" pile. Occasionally, it slides back into the "Save This For Later" bin. That project gets one more chance.

I feel myself making promises: I'll crank out that project quickly, to justify keeping it. If it's done, I can give it as a gift, or sell it in the shop. There's the justification I was looking for.

Some of the Stuff makes me laugh. It's so out of style. I look at it and wonder what I was thinking. So corny! Give it away. Now. The "started-and-quickly-abandoned" projects are easy to release, too. I'm glad these are few; they are easily dealt with. A little victory, and some ground won.

But small victories tempt me to sit down, heave a sigh of relief, and sweep the rest of the job under the rug. No one will notice. But I remember the goal, and I stand up again. Press on. One more pile to sort, and then one more.

The right and left brain work in concert, and it's hard work: solve how to most efficiently store the important Stuff, and how to store it most aesthetically? Back and forth. Ideas mulled over, radical options tried. Short bursts of brilliance followed by long stretches of brain cramp. Time for a cup of coffee and a sit-down.

Some of the Stuff challenges me in different areas - areas of allegiances. Some of the Stuff is old family stuff. Do I dishonor the memory of my Greatgrandmother if I pass on her cool old sewing notions? Some of the Stuff was gifts from friends. Will they be offended if I jettison their thoughtful trinkets? No, and I hope not.

And what's with all the containers? I have emptied enough baskets, bins, tins, totes, boxes and bags to stock a large warehouse. Not only am I a Stuff hoarder, but apparently I also hoard Stuff Holders. OUT. Out you go. The Ring falls into the fires of Mt. Doom and the spell is broken.

I'm bouyed by remembering the goal: visual, creative and spiritual space, order, and freedom from the siren's call of the Stuff. But "empty" will just fill up with Stuff again if I don't fill it first with what's really important. Nature abhors a vacuum, and all that.

I'm making room for our people. Our Farm Family. What really counts in this world.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blinding White

It's beginning to melt already, but the stuff is piled high everywhere. As the clumps fall from the trees, they land with a wet splat.

Note to self: White sheep aren't really white.

Under all this sweet whiteness, is horrid, black mud. Tomorrow, the mud will rule once more.

The creek looks like a postcard. Act surprised if you see these shots in next year's Christmas card.

The new fence looks nice dressed in white.

Another note to self: Wagons don't roll worth a darn through deep snow. Interesting.

Judah works stoically in the snow.

Snow shows exactly how dirty our alpacas have gotten in the last weeks.

Though, Gizmo stands out nobly against the white.

Public service announcement: Don't eat this snow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Peaceful Snowfall

Here's a little video clip of the snow around the farm this morning. Of course, the snow continued throughout the day, and now it's much deeper, and even more able to absorb unwanted sounds and cares. Enjoy.

Snowy Morning

A rare, snow blanketed morning in North Texas.

Ezra greets me after spending time in the whitefall.

Shadrach and Itzhak are more than ready for their breakfast.

Solomon spent some time outside the barn overnight. Jonah did, too.

In fact, here's where he slept last night.

The chickens don't seem too troubled by the weather. They actually seem cozy in the snow-insulated coop.

Everything wears a frosted coat.

The quiet covers the landscape. Pax.