Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finish Christmas Shopping Before Halloween

Here in Texas, we're beginning to enjoy that season where 100 degrees seems like a huge relief, and the prospect of a week of 94 degrees is sheer bliss.  Fall is almost here.

That means that our third annual "Share the Harvest" Holiday Gift Market will be here before we know it.  (Actually, it's October 15 from 10 AM - 4 PM, but that's really only a few weeks away.)  If you were with us the past couple of years, you know how much fun I'm talking about - scores of local artisans with beautiful hand made wares to drool over and take home, or tuck away for holiday gift giving.  Seriously - check off all your gift giving needs in one day, right here at the farm.

And have a load of fun at the same time.  A lot of your favorite vendors will be here, plus some amazing new ones.  Remember how excited the kids got with the face painting, and storytelling, and getting their pictures taken with a real sheep? 

If you are a hand crafter with some cool creations for sale, we do have a few booth spaces left and would love to have you be part of our big day.  The vendor application is up there at the top of the page, "2011 'Share the Harvest' Fall Gift Market Vendor Application."  Fill it out and send it in - it's ever so affordable.  We do a lot of vendor promotion, too, because we want everyone to know you'll be here - we've got a bunch more advertising set in place than before - the crowds should be great.

Check out our Flickr page to see all the pictures from last year.  Then mark your calendar to come hang out at the best fall craft fair and holiday stress buster for miles around.  Admission and parking are free, of course.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

On a relatively cool Texas evening in August, a great way to wind down is to wander out to the pastures and visit with the critters.  Sure, you suspect they only love you for your opposable thumbs which allow you to get into the feed cans, but it's still nice to see them run up to you with those big, adoring eyes and waggy tails.

Judah was our first guardian dog, and though he tolerates no monkey business in his pasture, and has kept us predator-free for almost 2 years, he's still a big marshmallow when his momma (me) comes in to see him and hug his neck. 

Down in the south pasture, Ruthie is enjoying a lovely quiet dinner with her pasture mate Vanni safely locked up for a few minutes.  It's bad enough having to defend your dinner from the laying hens, but Vanni can be an even worse pest when it comes to food.  Like all kids, he wants yours, but won't eat his own.

After supper, Ruthie likes to rest and tidy herself up before the night shift starts.  I have to tell you, this dog is hardly recognizable when you compare her to 16 months ago when she first got here.  She's lean and muscled,  alert and healthy.  When she sprints down the fence line to bark at a passing truck, she launches herself like a rocket, with nary a trace of a limp.  And since we trimmed off a bunch of the nasty matts that had begun to form around her ears and back end, she's looking pretty sharp, too.  Ruth is an unbelievable treasure.

The chickens help me relax after a long day, too.  You could spend a whole day studying their culture, society, communication and politics, and never run out of things that make you laugh out loud.  This is one of our friend Mea's hens that came to live here when Mea moved to Iowa.  She's a lovely bird, very dramatic in the fading sunlight -- a quiet girl, who minds her own business.  Our egg production is still down because of the heat, but I'm hoping the next few days will bring us cooler weather, and maybe some rain.  I also hope the chickens will register their relief by dropping a bunch of fresh eggs--our customers are starting to line up at the gate.

This is what all that heat and lack of moisture does to our black clay soil--this crack goes down about a foot that I can see, and undoubtedly more.  You can turn the water hose on it for a long, long time and never fill it up.  If we had horses or donkeys in the pasture, I'd be afraid of some twisted ankles or broken legs in these deep crevasses.  Fortunately, the alpacas spend most of their time close to the shade of the barn and avoid them.

I finished up my quiet time back up north, for Tella's exercise session, and to look all the sheep over to make sure all is well.  Look how huge the lambs have gotten!

This is what usually happens when I try to get a picture of Tella.  She rarely stops moving.  But she's doing better and better around the sheep, and I have some special plans for her next week, as her education progresses.

One more hot day, they say, before our next chance at a bona fide cool front.  I'm ready.  Bring it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A New Way to Weave

Jill shows off her finished piece.
Sure, most of us made potholders as kids and understand the basic concept of weaving: over, under, over, under... And a couple of us even have more advanced weaving skills using big equipment and fancy patterns.  But the magic of tri-loom weaving is something completely different.

Judith weaves a light, airy, cotton triangle.
Our class of six ladies today caught on remarkably quickly, and everyone took home a completed weaving.  Barney Terrell's looms are lovely - light and strong - and made the work really fun.  Everyone had a different kind of yarn, and it was fascinating to see how each one took on its own personality as it was woven on the loom.

Brenda wove with a sparkly lux hand spun yarn.

Karen wove with Madeline Tosh.
Sharon worked with a pretty dark rust acrylic.
LuAnn, visiting from out of town, knits some, and helps the ladies concentrate.
Tri-loom weaving feels like playing a harp...

Kathryn adds fringe, and ...
I'd love to teach more people this very fun technique - please let me know if you'd be interested in a private or small group class on an evening or weekday.  I think the group really enjoyed themselves!

Judith's finished cotton triangle, ready to take off the loom.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saturday: Weaving in the East, Spinning in the West

More hot days ahead, but Saturday is chock full of cool fiber fun choices.

The Tri-Loom Weaving Class will go on in the Little Red Barn - we have 6-7 folks signed up, and I want everyone to have enough space to move around and weave their little hearts out.

But I don't want the spinners and knitters to be missing their time together, so our friend Kris has graciously opened up the Young House at the Heritage Farmstead Museum again for anyone who's in the market for some serious spinning and knitting collaborative time.  Just add snacks.  Kris says she'll put the coffee on.  Regular times: 10:30 to 3 PM or so.  Thanks, Kris!

The Young House is such a nice place to work with fiber.
If the tri-loom class filled up before you had a chance to sign up, don't worry - I'm starting a list of folks who'd like a second class scheduled before too long.  Please let me know if you'd like to be on the list.  Comment below or send me an e-mail.  It's so fun, and Barney's looms are such beautiful tools!  And now we have some incredible tri-loom project patterns by Midge Jackson for sale as well!  You can have your holiday gift projects cranking out right away...  it's a thought...

Is it fall yet?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rest from Her Labors

Pausing during our niece's wedding reception
My sweet mother in law departed this world last night, peacefully, and at the end of a fairly uneventful day.  She had been living with my brother- and sister-in-law in Denver, as her 91 years began to catch up with her.  Living alone in her home in Idaho just wasn't a good idea any more.  She had actually been feeling stronger and healthier than before her move to Colorado.

But when it's time, it's time.  She just took her last breath and was gone.  We're so grateful that she wasn't in the hospital, ill, undergoing procedures, or separated from her family.  God was merciful. 

I'm so grateful to have had Julie in my life.  Not only was she the matriarch of the incredible family into which I married, but she and I just hit it off immediately when we first met.  We had a lot more in common than loving her son.  Julie was the first generation of her family to be born in the United States.  Her parents had come from the Ukraine.  They brought with them all the artistic skills that we now value as crafts, but at the time were just necessary for daily life.

She's wearing the cotton wrap I made her for her birthday last summer
Julie taught me to knit and crochet.  She taught me how to braid rugs.  She made lovely quilts and was an outstanding seamstress.  She grew a lovely garden, her own arbor of grapes, and fruit trees.  Every Christmas we'd get a package of her home made fruit leather, raisins, and (my favorite) raspberry jelly. 

The sunset from Julie's back porch
Julie's house was one of the most restful and rejuvenating places on the earth to me.  Her back porch looked out over a gorgeous landscape - the Snake River, with Oregon on the far side.  Inside the house, the walls were decorated with hand made textiles and family photos.  Ted's dad actually built the house, and you can feel the love and planning, labor and effort under your feet and over your head.  I'd really be mourning the loss of that home, but I think it's staying in the family.

Roses in Julie's garden
So I'm going to knit a little tonight, and thank God for the gift of Julie, and that she taught me skills I'll use and love for the rest of my life.  I love you, Mom.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tella's Turn

While Vanni has gotten most of the recent press here at the farm, Ms. Tella and I have been working on getting her better equipped to make the move to the big sheep pasture on the north side of the property, and teaming up with Judah.  She has a ways to go.

But she really, really wants to have a job - it's in her DNA.  Slowly but surely, she's calming down around the sheep, and when she gets too familiar, the sheep correct her.  As soon as I can pull it off, I'll move her to the other side, to meet the bigger, meaner sheep (when it comes to strangers, and dogs) and also to get her on board with Judah.  So far, he's not too keen about having Tella as a pasture-mate.

We have to take it slowly.

In the meantime, here's a look at our sweet girl, in all her impish puppy glory:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fiber Oasis - Be Refreshed!

It's always really hard to describe how much fun we have when pals gather at the Little Red Barn.  Snacks, jokes, swapping knitting tips, oohing and aaahing over show and tell objects, coffee, philosophy, art, recipes, guffaws, sharing heartache and joy, and soaking up life like there's no tomorrow.  Oh, and cake.  Sometimes we have cake.

Here's just a taste:

Joanne's cool hotpads.
The earlybirds.
Hanane and Dina discussing the finer points.  Of something.
Hanane strings beads onto roving for incorporating into her hand spun yarn.  Really.
Anela starts the second pair of socks.
Knit, knit, knit.  Around and around.
Virginia builds a log cabin.
Leafing through patterns.

Rita knits Brenda's bride's maid shawl.  Yummy.
Joanne protects herself from fuzz.
Peggy spins sari silk and learns how to let the lumps go by.
Laurie is absolutely sure.  About something.
Listening with love.
First mittens!  And alpaca, to boot!
Anela and the First Socks.  You go.
Angela just soaks it all up.  We heart you, Angela!

And then, after the crowd dispersed, another Saturday treat - Barney and Joyce Terrell came by to deliver our tri-looms and easels for next Saturday's class!  What a delight those two are...  So skilled and passionate...

Smokey would like to learn to weave.  With all the looms at once.
Barney tempts me with a BIG loom and easel.
Joyce works off a finished bib-scarf in a fancy-schmancy novelty yarn.  
Even though our weaving class on the 27th is pretty much full, I will have extra looms in the barn for sale if you'd like one.  I could be talked into a private class if you weren't able to get a spot in our group class.

In the meantime, keep knitting and spinning, and remember - if you need a barn fix, just call.  The door's always open.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chain Link and Clouds

When it rains, it pours.  It's raining blessings, anyway, if not the wet stuff, and I'm exceedingly thankful.  What fun to find yourself in the right place, at the right time, with your hands open to receive them.  I actually got several gifts today, not the least of which were my friend Anela's sweet company and assistance.

Last night I got the usual influx of e-mails from my Freecycle group, which I seldom have time to scan.  This time, however, something caught my eye - eight 6' x 10' chain link panels and gates, free for the toting, if they weren't already spoken for.  I shot off an e-mail to inquire.  The lady said they were still available (JOY), so I made arrangements to pick them up this morning. 

Enter, Anela.  We had previously planned to work on fleeces together today - Anela is a budding spinner and is interested in learning all about fiber from the hoof, up.  But in light of the new development, she kindly consented to help me load up this goldmine of fencing panels.  The deal also included a small Rubbermaid storage cabinet.  Yes!

We weren't exactly sure how we would load these things in my pickup, but I had faith that we could do it.  Even if we had to make more than one trip.  So we put our thinking caps on and our shoulders into the lifting, and Bob's your uncle, the whole lot was on the truck.  A slow, careful ride home and we were done. 

Finally after a glass of cold water and a snack, we were ready to actually attack the job at hand - skirting and picking fleeces.  Dear Anela had never gotten to wallow up to her neck in alpaca fiber before, and I was honored that her very first time was here in the back yard.  I'm afraid we may have created a monster - or at least a new fiber addict.  If she didn't already adore the alpacas and sheep, she really does now.

There still may be more fiber to fondle on Saturday if you'd like to come spin/knit with us at the Little Red Barn... 10 AM, coffee's on... we'd love to see you!