Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chez Vanni

The farm hosted a bunch of amazing VIPs on this blister-raising summer day.  Lots of work got done, progress made and sweat poured.  Tonight I want to show you all the progress made on the puppy pen in the south pasture - where Vanni will take up residence soon.

My great friend Robert Morris, from the Father's House in Dallas, and two of his young friends came up to help me cobble together a very nice pen in the alpaca pasture where Vanni can hang out and learn his job, away from his sister, and under the tutelage of Ruthie the Nana Dog.

Robert, Steven and Eric worked through the heat, making it look so easy.  We anchored the pen to the large chicken coop to increase the dog-protection factor for the chickens, and also to help give Vanni some protection from the rain and sun.  It's not his permanent home, but it will be his near future home, and any enclosure is a valuable asset to the farm, now or later.  Now it's time to make Vanni's appointment for his, um... altering, and when he comes back, he'll move straight in to his new digs.

We had several other amazing visitors today, but I'll tell you about them tomorrow.  We're all plumb knackered tonight, and it's time to turn in.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Place to Connect

I love fourth Saturdays.  Especially when the air conditioner is working in the LRB.  Our awesome crowd of crafters (including a couple of husbands) was as cool as a cucumber working with their knitting and spinning fibers.  And, as is our way, we had a blast hooking people up - with fiber, with information, with new skills, and with each other.  

We met Kim for the first time, who brought her beautiful Butterfly Girl drop spindle, and who just needed a few pointers to get her going in the right direction.  Kim is one determined lady, and her yarn improved dramatically just in the time she spent in the Barn.

The barn brings people of vastly different backgrounds together, with fiber in common.  And a love for tasty snacks.  Thanks, Hanane, for the awesome chips and salsa.  We all have valuable stuff to offer each other, and share it freely.

Kris helped Dina with her brand new spinning wheel until they made it do its job better and better.   Everyone is so willing to help out a fiber sister.  Leave it to Dina to completely skip over the drop spindle part of learning to spin! 

I still chuckle when I see Anela, whose mother and I went to the same high school in Hawaii almost forty a long time ago.   Anela was working on a really lovely set of fingerless gloves on Saturday.  Better for wear around here, than back home in Wahiawa.

Rita's friend Chris was here for a visit, up from the gulf coast - and guess what?  She and Kris figured out that they had mutual friends from their high school years in New York state.  Seriously!  Isn't that amazing?

 Rita's still in high-wedding-planning mode - with her matron of honor at her side, working out the details.  She let us know that our friend Brenda will also stand up for her at the big ceremony next March.  So happy for everybody!

Burt hung around so patiently after our Native Plant presentation, while Dina worked with her new wheel and got going with her fiber.  Hanane's husband was so quiet I didn't even get a picture of him.  New inductees into the Awesome Fiber Husband Hall of Fame.

Thanks, everybody, for taking more of the books and magazines out of the barn Saturday as well.  Let's keep passing the resources around to everyone who can benefit from them.  (Peggy, there's more Yarn Storming yarn in the barn for you - come get it when you can!)

Next month?  More spinning and knitting fun, and our ART YARN CLASS!  Stay tuned for very exciting details!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My, How You've Grown

Ready for a puppy update?  Check out these sweet little fluffballs who are just over six months old:

Vanni the Magnificent, whose back hits me about mid-thigh height.  He will officially take up his new residence in the alpaca pen with Ruthie next Tuesday.  Pray for us.  He will be very sad to be away from Tella.  I've waited way too long to do this.  But we'll all get through it alright.

Tella the Dainty is slight, next to Vanni, but she has a big presence when it comes to guarding.  She is as smart as a whip, and will learn her job in no time.  Judah will appreciate her company, I'm sure, because he has missed having Ruth in the sheep pasture with him. 

Both dogs are already showing guarding behavior, and yet, they are as snuggly as kittens with me.  They are so dear to my heart.

Why did I wait till the heat of summer to start training these dogs in earnest?  Maybe the heat will take some of the edge off of the Frisky Factor, and they'll settle down to their jobs.  You'll have a front row seat for all the crazy excitement.  Stay tuned..

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Praise of Native Plants

Growing landscape plants in Texas can be a real challenge, unless you utilize plants that come from here, and thrive in this unique climate.

Fall Aster - blooms dependably in October
Fortunately, there's a large palate of beautiful plants to work with, some suited for sun and others for shade.  This wretched Texas heat teaches its plants to live with very little water, once established, and so they can save us all kinds of time and money to maintain.

Mexican Mint Marigold - smells like licorice, and makes a nice tea
 If you're interested in learning a little about your options as a Texas home and landowner, come by the farm this Saturday, June 25, at 10:30 AM to learn about some really nice plants.  I'll also let you know where you can buy these tough-as-nails beauties.

Turks Cap - shade or sun-loving, and irresistible to hummingbirds
Natives (and also some adapted-to-Texas varieties) are not only easy-care and beautiful, but most have observable bird and wildlife benefits.  Bring the critters to you...

Pavonia, or Rock Rose - sweet, care-free blossoms all summer
Strong plants, suited to the climate and soil, experience less stress and fewer problems with bugs, fungus, or other pesky problems.  Doesn't it just make sense to work with the environment we live in, rather than fight it?

Ageratum (also known as Blue Mist Flower or Boneset) - draws Monarch butterflies in the fall
Saturday we'll also spin and knit in the LRB from 10 AM to about 3 PM.  The AC repair guy is coming tomorrow, so I have every confidence that we'll be enjoying comfortable, no-sweat crafting time together.  See you Saturday!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

Looks like we got some rain after all.  And some lightning.

We woke up this morning with the power company asking if they could get into the north pasture to fix the pole that had broken off at the ground.  (They had started to go into the pasture on their own, but Judah wasn't OK with that, so they came to us for safe passage.)  After a bit of sheep and dog shuffling, we let the guys in with the big trucks to replace our light pole.

They show up with all the equipment you could want - huge auger, chain saws, cherry pickers, and who knows what else.  They'll have this fixed in a jiffy.


The guys did a great job, and even left the brushy branches behind for the sheep to enjoy.  Thank you very munch!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sweet Bedfellows

The heat has driven everyone into the barn under the fans these days.  Somehow under these extreme conditions, everybody manages to get along just fine.  I'm sure it helps that Ruthie is just the embodiment of calm and peace, so she really encourages everyone to relax.  The sight just makes me well up with joy, and love for them all.

Tonight, Ruth was out patrolling the grounds, and I just couldn't help recalling how puny she was at this time last year.  If you'll recall, she spent the entire summer in the air conditioned comfort of my living room.  But now, after eight or nine straight months on the job, she's lost a lot of that extra weight, her bum leg is so much stronger, and she is tolerating the heat very well.  We keep brushing her out, and so far, she's doing fine.  She loves her job.  The power company trucks are going up and down the road again, and she gives them a good scolding as she chases them up the fence line--I mean, she can book.  It's amazing to watch.

I grabbed a couple shots of the momma hen and her four chicks just before lock-up time.  They got to free range for the first time, and I think they really enjoyed it!  The chicks are really funny looking.  The two with slate colored legs also have funny little top-knots, and one of them has a couple of feathers on its legs.  

I happen to know there's a Silkie rooster where these babies came from...  Who can even guess their actual pedigree?

This evening and tomorrow, we may actually get rain, and top out under 90 degrees.  This could be really wonderful. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trial by Fire

Thank you to Dina, who hostessed the Third Saturday Spin/Knit In at the Little Red Barn today.  I got to attend the baby shower for a very dear friend of mine in the morning, and couldn't be both places at once (still working on that).  She did a terrific job making everyone feel at home until I could get back to the LRB after lunch. 

And not only is she a great hostess, but she has turned my hand spun yarn into a gorgeous scarf!  She bought this sparkly pinkish yarn at our Big Barn Sale a couple of weeks ago, and has given it a life and a purpose beyond just entertaining me while I spun it.  That is awesome, and it makes me smile all over.  It has new dignity, too -- I was calling it Barbie Barf, but she has re-named it Ashen Roses.  Dina's so classy.

I missed seeing everyone who came to the LRB today, probably because the heat drove them away before I could get back.  My wonderful AC/heater unit that has served me well for years, all of a sudden can't keep up with our Texas temperatures, and it was kinda toasty in there.   Asbestos Awards to everyone who stuck it out to the very end...

Elizabeth and Hanane, who I met at the DFW Fiber Fest.

Kris visits with Ashley, who's just back from her honeymoon.

Smokey, dead to the world.

Dina and Peggy - no heat will keep them from their wool and mohair.

Kris gives her Golding spindle a spin.

Elizabeth admits to finding some hand spun yarn on the sale table.

Jill came back to the barn after a long absence - welcome back, Jillers!
Next weekend, we gather at the LRB again - hopefully with cooler temperatures inside than out.  I'll also be doing a presentation on Landscaping with Native Plants, if you'd like to join us for that at 10:30.  Just let me know so I'll have enough materials for everyone.

Summer in Texas isn't so bad - if we spend it having fun together!

Friday, June 17, 2011

New, Improved LRB - You're Invited

We're not finished yet, but I think you'll like the changes that we've been making to our sweet LRB.  There's plenty of room for everyone now, and lots of fun stuff to look at.  We're sorting, purging, thinning, expanding and honing our vision with razor-sharp focus.  And the best is yet to come.

In fact, you'll find some of the very nice things we're re-homing, out on tables in the front yard - still some goodies left over from our big sale a couple of weeks ago.  Let's keep spreading the love...

Inside, we have some things available to make your knitting and spinning life more fun, like KnitPicks needles, spinning fiber and hand made jewelry...

Hmmm - what's going on here?  This space is a work in progress.  Can't wait for the Big Reveal.

It's not really scarf or heavy shawl weather, but I like to put stuff out I've made to inspire me to make more.  Who knows?  Someone may need a special gift, and here it will be, waiting for them.

Got your official iShepherd at Jacob's Reward Farm shirt?  We have them in several colors and sizes.

Still some hand spun Jacob yarn available, marked down to sell.

Our new friend Kris is a talented illustrator, and designed these notecards for the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck a few years ago.  She still has some available, so check them out in the LRB.  Very nice Blue Faced Leicesters on the front, aren't they?  Makes me want to spin some BFL!

As always, great company, inspiration, laughter and goodies are waiting for you tomorrow in the LRB.  Hope you can join us.

Another Peek

Watch for our new logo on our new products and literature.  Thanks to my friend, spinning student, and professional designer Billy Kettler for our way cool official mark.  A few more little tweaks and it will be finished.  I recommend Billy if you need any graphic design work done.  And he's a dang fine spinner, too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Changes Afoot

Never a dull moment here on the farm -

First I want to congratulate Kristen in Georgia, who won our blog contest on Monday, and will be receiving three awesome hand dyed bumps of alpaca roving.  And she's learning to spin, so I'll include one of our cool CD drop spindle kits!  And thank you to everyone who took the time to comment - so much collected wisdom there... I hope lots of new spinners read those comments and take them to heart.

Fun with Power Tools
And if you're free, I hope you can stop by our regular Third Saturday Spin/Knit in at the Little Red Barn this week.  Can't let the cat totally out of the bag, but suffice it to say, there are exciting new developments going on.

Come get out of the heat and join us for a great day of chatting and crafting together!  There'll be snacks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We've Got the Slows

Dog days of summer.  And chicken days, sheep days and alpaca days.  This is the season where the days come in two parts: Before the Scorch and After the Scorch.  Midday is just too hot to do much at all, so we take it easy indoors.

The chickens got to free-range again after a two-week coop incarceration.  We had been losing too many birds to the area bobcat, so I cut off his buffet for a while.  Hopefully, he's moved on down the creek and found sustenance elsewhere.  The chickens really seemed happy to be out, and sought out the coolest places they could find to rest.

The lambs are about two months old now.  I picked up Moses to show the playgroup who visited this morning, and discovered that he probably weighs about 25 pounds now.  That's just a guess, but in any case, he's growing like a little piggy.

It's hard to see here, but up close you can detect the beginnings of little scurs on top of his head.  Scurs are sort of pseudo-horns - they grow in funky ways, not firmly attached to the head.  This may point to Itzhak being his father.  Itzhak is also his uncle, but let's not press that point.  Itzhak has squirrelly scurs that sometimes get knocked off, but always manage to grow back again, weirder than before.  Time will tell what will happen to Moses.  The lambs' fleeces are baby soft, and I hope they stay that way.

Phoebe is hanging in there.  She's not looking any more pregnant than before, so perhaps I overreacted and she's not in the family way after all.  That would be just fine with me.  We've had enough lamby excitement this year.

I realize I haven't shown you the puppies lately - and today is just a peek.  I'm not sure why they insist on both shoehorning themselves into that dog crate when it's so hot, but they do.  In the next week or two, whenever I can get an appointment, they'll be going one at a time to the vet for the Big Snip.  At that time, they'll finally, finally be separated into their permanent pastures.  I've put this off because I'm a wimp, and because life has conspired against me getting Vanni's pen built in the alpaca pasture.  But I'm seriously behind schedule on the babies' training, and it can't be put off anymore. 

They are both so sweet you could overdose on them.  They both know "sit" and they know not to jump up on me.  I'm working on getting them to come when I call, or at least to get their attention.  Vanni's back is about 2-3 inches above my knee.  I can't wait to see what he weighs when we get him to the vet.  Tella is much more dainty in stature, but she's smart and quick.  I need to keep her respect, because she may be a flight risk - she's been an escape artist since she was a tiny baby.  She hasn't gotten out of the puppy pen, but the big pasture is another matter.

Ruthie reigns in the alpaca pasture.  She greets every visiting playgroup and scout troop with poise and benevolence.  She's just as much a Nana to the little kids as she was to the newborn lambs.  It's a mutual love fest.  I've brushed out about two pounds of undercoat off of her as the heat increased, and she seems to be doing fine, moving from one shady spot to another as the sun moves across the sky each day.  Always, her kind and stately demeanor set the tone for the whole pasture.

Judah's doing fine, too, but he hangs out under the rock trailer and makes it really hard to get a picture of him.  His coat is not nearly as fluffy as Ruth's, and so he doesn't take nearly as much grooming.

The good news is that the new little chicks are growing by leaps and bounds.  It looks like we have two Ameraucanas and two.. um... other kinds of chickens.  The Ameraucanas are recognizable by their slate colored legs.  These, if they're girls, will be green egg layers.  Always a favorite.  Now I'm just praying that they're not roosters.

The bad news is that the little guinea keets just up and vanished.  The third day they were here, they just, weren't here.  I have no idea if they were taken or escaped, but they're gone.  I'm really bummed.

The new hens are laying pretty well, though the heat has now slowed overall production again.  I'm not sure how many chickens we'd have to have, to keep us in as many eggs as our customers could use.  Anyone who has an interest in raising your own layers would have customers flocking to your door (pun intended).  Fresh eggs are a hot commodity.

In the heat of the day, it's only the white alpacas, whose reflective coats keep the sun at bay, who venture out into the pasture.  

The dark alpacas prefer to sit it out in the barn under the fans.

The Jacobs take everything in stride, alternately grazing and chilling in the shade.

We're definitely in full summer mode.  It's going to be like this for a long time.  We'll just hunker down and make the best of it.