Monday, May 31, 2010

Every Fiber of our Being

Today I pulled out every fleece and bag of wool and fiber that I've been collecting through our shearings and my gleaning from a couple of other select breeders. I filled the back yard.

The shade was lovely, even though the temperatures were pretty high, and I sorted all the bags into the fiber's type and future use. Here's our Jacob and Gulf Coast fleeces, all skirted and weighed, ready for the wash:

Here's the Gulf Coast fleeces we got from Danny-the-Shearer - they need skirting and washing:

Our alpaca fleeces have been roughly skirted, but need more attention before washing:

And some pretty alpaca acquired from high quality local sources:

I fired up Wanda the Washer and took two fleeces through the wash-spin-rinse-spin routine, and here's what we got from Mordecai's fleece. You can see there's still some yellowish yolk in the fleece, and some dirty tips. This one will need some more work. (The good news is that it's very soft.) Fortunately, the Jacob fleeces don't tend to hold on to dirt or lanolin like this.

Then we spread the fiber out to dry. As we finish cleaning all this fiber, we'll pull it aside and then make some decisions about how to process it - blend it, or card it straight? The goal is to get it off to Spinderella's as soon as possible. I should also know soon if I can move people up from the 2010 CSA Shareholder Waiting List. It's looking good.

I can't wait for Lynn to work her magic with this fiber. The sooner it's shipped, the sooner we're spinning it! I think we're on track to get it back much earlier in the year this time!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mud Bugs

Taking a break from farm chores today, we accepted a generous invitation to our friends John and Alta's crawfish boil.

This is the annual event where Alta (noted food blogger) hangs up her apron and lets John take the stage. He goes all out with the traditional Cajun feast with all the fixins. And nobody goes home hungry.

Alta and stepson Brandan peeled a boat-load of crawdads for folks who prefer not to do the deed themselves. I see it as working off part of the calories you're taking in. I peel my own.

For non crawfish eaters, there was a full array of alternatives - hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and desserts. Needless to say, I fell a bit off my food plan.

I also had my first soft drink in nearly two months. Y'know, it wasn't very good to me. That's a first. Maybe this time some new healthy habits will stick.

But the meal was wonderful and I loved meeting Alta's friends and family.

Upon our return, we found Ruth lounging queen-like on the sofa. We had to break it to her that she had crossed a line. No dogs on the sofa. Even if it fits her like a glove.

I think she is adapting to this house-dog thing pretty well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Men At Work

Our friend Michael is right - a day working on the farm helps you feel like you've really accomplished something. The jobs that need doing around here usually really show, once you're finished.

Today Michael kindly lent his experience growing up on a goat farm, and his young strong back, to Ted and me as we tackled more farm chores. These are the kind of chores that don't inspire much passion, and are, in fact, at the bottom of the "can't-wait-to-get-out-in-95-degree-weather-and-tackle-this" list. But what a blessing they are to us!

First they filled the ruts in the driveway with more gravel.

They leveled the floor in one of the alpaca stalls so that it will drain better.

They helped me move the chicken coops to fresh ground. They turned and watered the compost/manure pile (you're jealous, I can feel it). The alpacas were fascinated.

They added another layer of gravel in front of the stalls to help with the mud, assuming it rains again someday.

Nice, eh?

They also replaced a dead fan in one of the stalls, and Michael helped me put up the working electric netting in the south pasture. Now I can let those ornery Jacob rams out onto grass again.

I also got to wash a couple of really nice Jacob fleeces. These are a couple that I got from Fred Horak of St. Jude's Farm. If I didn't know better, I'd think these had been coated - there's hardly any grass in them at all. Gorgeous wool.

They're full of crimp and as soft as a baby's behind. A quick wash, spin, rinse, spin and they're drying out on the skirting table over night.

Only 20-25 more fleeces to go.

Hmmm. Michael has offered to come back... Maybe he'd would like to learn how to skirt fleece??

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shear the Pyr

The heat has hit. Mid 90's out of nowhere. Time to take evasive action. The sheep and alpacas have been sheared, but our Great Pyrenees is trotting around in full fleece.

I hesitate to actually shave Judah's coat off, so I'm starting with a less drastic plan - the coat rake. This cool grooming tool pulls out undercoat and knots, and leaves the protective outercoat, mostly. Judah thinks getting the rake is the best thing that has ever happened to him.

When I started in on the job, the hair came out in HUGE wads. I thought maybe I was plucking a 100 lb angora rabbit. Puff, puff, puff - the hair kept coming out.

I am considering washing this white cloud and giving it a spin. I've never done "chiengora" before, but you know how I hate to waste nice fiber...

Tomorrow, I'll rake the RIGHT side of his body.

The Good Earth

I really think our garden guy, Adam here, likes the hot weather. His expression never changes, and he's always got open arms for anyone who stops by.

Pretty soon we'll have purple cone flower, echinacea, for some immune system boosting tea.

The herb bed is booming - basils of all kinds, and a nice green pepper plant there in the center.

Now that it's getting pretty warm, the tomatoes are putting on some nice growth. If all these start bearing, we'll be covered up in a month or two.

Instead of hand watering, yesterday I tried the twirly-whirly sprinkler. It's a trade-off: I don't use up my time just standing around, but the water goes all over the place, and a bunch of it just evaporates in the air. Hmmm. Not sure how involved it would be to design a soaker hose system. That would probably be the best. Low time-input, and low waste.

Squash seeds sprouted perfectly, and the cukes are already headed up the supports.

Meanwhile, out in the pasture, the sheep are loving their new grass. It's kind of weedy over there, but they love to eat those, too. Remember all the poison ivy they cleared last year? Remind me not to smooch the sheep for a while...

This empty bird nest caught my eye as I surveyed the new pasture. I wonder if they'll be back?

Every day there's a new discovery on the farm...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fun on the Great Plains

Yes, it was kind of traumatic to drive past my childhood refuge, my grandmother's house in Lawton, OK, and find it had been robbed of its former glory. But my Aunt Karelin softened the blow by taking us to the new Museum of the Great Plains on our way out of town. This turned out to be a really nice museum, full of some very neat stuff.

Karelin and her friend Bea had been here before, and the first stop was to check out the huge prairie dog village that surrounds the museum. It took some waiting and staring, but finally, the little rodents began to peek their heads out of their numerous burrows.

Cute little guys, but you wouldn't want them getting loose out on your lawn.

We were greeted at the museum entrance by a giant golden bison. And everyone had to stand in front of it and get silly. What is it about statuary to bring out the goofball in all of us?

Inside, they had displayed the results of a workshop on how to make cool stuff with gourds. Aren't these amazing? I'm looking for a source for longleaf pine needles, if anyone has any...

Once we had ventured into the museum proper, they had lots of nice 1860's kind of displays. After my infatuation with the "Victorian Farm" DVDs, this shed some light on what was going on here in Oklahoma during roughly the same time period. Lots of nice parallels.

Outside, they had recreated a trapper's outpost. Emma found the fake horse immediately.

A costumed interpreter told us all about the settlers trading with the Indians for beads, tea, knives, guns, and metalware. He quizzed us on our American and Oklahoma history. I wish I'd gotten this gentleman's name. He loves history and shares it with passion. Plus, he shook my hand when he found out I raise sheep... says his wife wants to learn how to spin!

You know me - I love the old stuff. I could have moved into this old cabin in a heartbeat.

There was more here as well - archeological findings to NASA simulators. We all had a really nice time here. If you're ever passing through Lawton, Oklahoma, on your way someplace important, give this museum a little of your time. In a general way, these early Oklahoma settlers are my people.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Going Home

Tonight's post isn't about the farm... it's personal. Thanks for indulging me.

First, a little history. My dad was in the Army, so we moved a lot. I went to more schools before high school graduation than I can count on my fingers. I lived in seven states, including Alaska and Hawaii. The only thing that never changed in my life during all those years, was my grandmother's house in Lawton, Oklahoma.

Until a couple of years before her death in 1989, my grandmother lived in the same tidy, split-level house on Cherry Street for something like 50 years. She and my granddad built the house, added on and remodeled it a couple of times. We spent Christmases, Thanksgivings, and lots of summer vacations at that house. I knew every inch of it like the back of my hand. The kitchen, back porch, iris-lined back yard, the attic "playroom," were all as familiar to me as my own reflection.

When my grandmother had a stroke and had to move into nursing care, I helped my aunt clean the place out, and I tucked as many little mementos into my car as I could, and shared lots of those treasures with my sisters and cousins. Each picture, figurine, doorstop, Christmas ornament, and piece of jewelry grounds me to my history, my family. I can point to old family things in nearly every room of my house.

My younger sister and I on Grandma's front porch, headed for church, circa 1962.

I attended my uncle's funeral yesterday in Lawton. I hadn't been back to Lawton in over 20 years even though it's now only a half a day's drive from here. Partly that's because there's no one to visit there any more. Everyone has died or moved away. And partly, because I don't really think of my grandmother's house as existing in time and space - it's a place to be rather than a place to go. The house and all my childhood memories exist in an isolated bubble somewhere, and part of me believes I can still get there anytime I want.

My two sisters and I, ready for the Christmas program at school, circa 1968. We're posing in front of a picture that currently hangs in my kitchen.

Now, intellectually, I realize that this notion is crazy, but it persists. The reality is that very little of my family is left on either side. I may have three cousins on my father's side, but I haven't been able to locate them. I have my two sisters and their families, who all live far away. I have several cousins I rarely see, and a dear aunt, left on my mother's side and that's it. That's. It.

And that's the fact I found myself dashed against yesterday at the funeral. Not only is the family evaporating, but the house I loved, my only real "home," is gone. We drove by to see it. Oh, there's still a structure there, but the people who have lived in it since Grandmother left, have ruined it. They planted a horrid willow in the front yard. The woodwork needs painting. The roof is in disrepair. There's junk in the driveway. The shrubs are overgrown. And that's just what I could see from the street. Dear Lord, what must the inside and the back yard look like? What have they done to my roots - my history?

Drove up to the house yesterday to find this.
Oh, help me. The Bundy's moved in.

Apparently, I have held on to the old pictures in my mind a little too closely. It's time to let them go. But I really miss them. I miss my family who have gone to their reward: my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my parents. I miss the joys of my childhood.

It's all a part of growing up and growing older I guess. And I'm sure it won't be long before I move past the sadness and back to loving and appreciating the life I've been given here in the present. You are a part of that glorious present day, and I thank God for you and the rest of my incredible life.

But just for a bit, I'll be a little sad. See you tomorrow, on the other side of this funk.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time Travel

I spent today traveling through time and space. Sorry I couldn't pick up your calls. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, but for now, I can say it involved a cemetery,

prairie dogs,

...and more.