Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cotton Picking VIP

Lisa Randolph knows cotton.  She's married to a cotton farmer and lives on a cotton ranch.  She hand picks, cleans and gins some of that cotton especially for hand spinning, so that it's as spotless and white as it can be.  Yesterday she attended a cotton spinning class down near Waco at Homestead Heritage, and brought us some fantastic samples of their class work to the LRB today.

That colored cotton is amazing - I learned today that if you boil the green cotton after it is spun, the color darkens and intensifies, permanently.  It's one of my favorite colors of all.

I asked Lisa if she'd give us just a quick tutorial on carding cotton and rolling punis (poo-nees).  I hope to practice a little cotton spinning with the pile of punis she made for me out of her pretty white cotton.

She carded the cotton very much like we would card wool, but her cotton cards have more shallow teeth, and the shape of the cards is a narrower, longer rectangle.

Once the cotton is carded, she rolls it onto a dowel to form the puni.  Some people prefer their punis tighter and some looser.  Looks like I'm going to have to experiment a bit to come up with a preference.

She finished by sort of "burnishing" the puni on the last row of carding teeth.

Carding in itself can be a relaxing way to play with cotton fiber.  I am anxious to try my hand at the spinning, since I'm much more comfortable with a long-draw style than I was the first time I tried to spin cotton.

Angela was able to join us, and brought some interesting stash yarn just to mess around with while she enjoyed some fiber-peep conversation in the LRB.  Like me, she picks up projects and then puts them down.  But she made great headway on a crocheted cotton washcloth before all was said and done.  Cotton was today's theme...

Hanane and Hassan were also able to join us and hang out.  Hassan either is one very patient husband, or he secretly enjoys all the ladies and the fiber talk.  Sure, it looks like he's absorbed in something on his iPad, but we all know better.

Rita got a bunch more rows worked on this gift for one of her bridesmaids - our own Brenda G.  Isn't it lovely?  Can't wait to see it finished and blocked.  Here's the pattern on Ravelry, so you can see one finished.

We had a great special Fifth Saturday together.  Even saw Gail for a split second - she dropped off a fruit tray and vanished.  Lisa - have a safe trip home and keep in touch!  We're still praying for rain for the Lubbock area.  Those cotton seeds need a long, tall drink of water!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fall is in the Air

Even as the landscape around me gasps for moisture and a breath of cool breeze, I'm turning my sights toward Autumn.  Our biggest annual on-site event at the Farm will be here in three shakes of a lamb's tail, and I so want you to be a part of it--the 2011 "Share the Harvest" Fall Gift Market!

Right now, we're looking for handcrafters and artisans who would like a booth in which to sell their wares at this year's Gift Market.  Happily, we've gotten confirmation that a bunch of last year's wonderful craftspeople will be coming back again - I'm thrilled.  But there's going to be room for more.  If you think your creations fit with the kinds of things that tickle and delight our Market visitors, please fill out our Vendor Application and send it in.  (If you'd rather, e-mail me and I'll send you a PDF version.)  The booth fee is only $25.  We love things like hand made jewelry, soap, candles, leather, photography, pottery, fiber (knitted, woven, raw, and ready-to-spin, etc.), primitives, paper crafts, one-of-a-kind art pieces, sculpture, and stuff like that.  Surprise us!

Last year, most of our vendors did very well financially, and all our visitors left with treasures under their arms and big ol' grins on their faces.  I'm really ready to start thinking about that, rather than this wretched weather - how 'bout you?

And looking ahead to tomorrow, remember that the LRB is open for spinning and knitting, and hanging with our friend, Lisa Randolph, visiting from the Lubbock area.  Bring your lunch or a snack to share and we'll make a great day of it.  It's cool and comfy in the Little Red Barn - perfect for working on our winter wearables...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Making the Rounds

Want to come along on the feeding rounds this morning?  It's really hot already, and I'd love some company to help take my mind off that.

As you know, I generally start on the north end of the property and work my way south.  So first up are the Gulf Coast and miscellaneous sheep.  They're all holding up very well in the heat.  It amazes me every day.

Itzhak is as personable as ever - always wanting a scritch and a snuggle.

The other boys are friendly, but focused on breakfast.  They're all fat as piggies, even after I cut their grain ration in half.  There's no grass in the pasture to speak of, so we go through quite a bit of hay now.

As Phineas will now demonstrate...  Notice how he's losing the wool on his legs?  That's how this poor "fine wool" sheep is able to survive the 100+ degree temperatures.  The wool peels off all by itself so that he can get rid of some of that body heat.  Nature is amazing.

Our new pullets from Allison are doing very well.  They've been here long enough that today they'll get their first full day of free-ranging.  I feel like I did the day I dropped Emma off at First Grade all by herself.  Hoping these girls have a nice time, and come home safely tonight.

So far they're sticking close to home and each other.  That's a great plan.  And speaking of plans, our plan to keep all chickens locked up till mid morning seems to be working - we haven't seen any sign of the bobcat since we lost Crazy Chicken.  The creek is nearly dry as a bone, so I hope that has also encouraged the big cat to find other hunting grounds.

Next, it's Judah's turn to get breakfast and a bit of attention.  Visitors don't usually get to see his goofy side.  He really is a world-class snuggle bug.

Now, on to the ewes and lambs - who scrap for the little bit of grain I give them like it's a free-for-all wrestling match.  These lambs are getting really big - almost as big as their mom - at only four months old. 

Little (?) Rachel

Little (?) Moses, with his teeny scurs poking through the top of his head.  Big sigh.  Scurs are a pain.

Phoebe is doing well - big and fat, but not preggers after all.  That's a relief.  She's still a wild child, but overcomes her fear of people if there's food to be had.

Hmmmm.  Time to wean, do you think?

Tella is a dear, of course.  She spends the day in her pen, but at night we romp in the paddock, and she dutifully avoids flustering the sheep as we go.  I'm very proud of her progress, and hope to be able to turn her loose with them soon.

She's a sweet peach - much daintier and more streamlined than her brother.

OK.  On to the south pasture, our first stop is our girl, Ruthie.  Ruth works hard all night and always looks very sleepy first thing in the morning.  She never has any trouble, however, cleaning her plate in seconds flat.  Soon it will be naptime with the alpacas for our Ruth.

Vanni is loving his freedom from the nasty eCollar, and is really getting the hang of life in the south pasture.  He missed his walk last night because my spinning class took my evening, but we'll get right back on track tonight.

The Jacobs are all doing well - very easy care, and no drama from their pen.  These sheep are really wonderful.  And of course, their wool rocks the house.

Tommy and his amazing freakish horns.  I'm guessing Tom is about 13 or 14 years old now.

The alpacas go through the same jockeying for food pans every morning and evening.  We have somewhat of a routine, but the pecking order is constantly changing.  Our Boaz seems to be advancing in rank over time.  Interesting.

Boaz takes over a feeding position from former boss, Jonah.  You've got to stay on your toes around here.

Our momma hen and her one remaining chick have turned out to be a bit high-maintenance.  They can't remember for the life of them which tractor they live in come bed time.  So they must constantly be herded back to their own quarters.  The chick is growing nicely, however, and I'm dying to know if we have an Ameraucana rooster or hen here.

The pair decided to stroll through Vanni's pen this morning, so I was anxious to see how the boy would react to the birds in his space.

Closer....  closer...

And.... nothing.  He watched them, but didn't budge.  PERFECT!  Yay, Vanni!!!  Did I mention how much I love this dog??

Smokey gets a scritch with her kibble in the LRB, and then, we're pretty much finished with our morning chores.  Everybody has hay, a touch of grain, fresh water, and shade.  This farmer can relax now for a few hours.

The new clique of chicks has ventured over to the front porch, but they're still hanging together.  I'm looking forward to their contribution to our egg supply, come fall.

Well, there we have it - our first round of chores for the day, and we're only moderately soaked with sweat.  Let's do it again, maybe a couple of times today... what do you say?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fifth Saturday Special Event

O Happy Day!  This Saturday, our friend Lisa Randolph from Shallowater, TX will be in town, and it's been so long since we got to visit, I'm opening up the LRB for a special Extra Spinning/Knitting Day. 

Lisa shows off some of her alpaca's fleece samples.  Gorgeous stuff...
Lisa and her husband live on a 400 acre cotton farm out west of Lubbock where she also raises angora bunnies and alpacas.  Like us, they have been sweltering in this summer's heat.  In fact, they've been experiencing the worst drought in, oh, a hundred years or so.  Their cotton crop has tragically failed.  No cotton.  At all.  Thank the Lord for insurance, but this is not the way to get rich farming.  We had planned to add cotton to our shares this year from Lisa's farm, but Nature had other ideas.  Next year.

Some of last year's incredible cotton.
Anyway, Lisa will be in town and I want to welcome her to the LRB for some happy camaraderie and fun on Saturday.  You're eagerly invited to be with us in the cool studio with all your fiber friends.  Lisa will have just come from a cotton-spinning workshop down near Waco at Homestead Heritage (I love that place), so maybe she'll give us some cotton-spinning tips!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Banishing the Collar

Today was the day Vanni and I had been waiting--nay, aching for - the stitches were scheduled to come out, and with them, the need for the horrid eCollar.

The vet's office was a bit crowded this morning when we showed up for our suture removal.  The lady in the waiting room with the little Pekinese mix asked me why Vanni, such a big dog, was being neutered.  I told her that he was only seven months old, and she nearly dropped her teeth.  But I always enjoy a chance to talk about the Maremma breed, and explain about the wonderful job they do for the farm and the stock, and why they need to be so big.

After a little wait, the tech took us back for the quick snip, and I realized there was only one stitch involved.  Shoot, I could have done that myself.  (Oh well, Vanni got another car ride under his belt, and he's doing better and better every time.)  Off came the nasty, much-worse-for-wear-totally-trashed eCollar, and the Vanster was free.

Back home in his pen, he just couldn't get enough rolling and rubbing to make up for those ten days of imposed incarceration.  He is one happy dog.  Our walk this evening may be really exhilarating. 

Just about then, a tiny cloud passed in front of the sun, easing the scorching feeling on our skin, and we gave thanks.  It probably went from 103 to 98 degrees.  Sure, we'd love an overcast sky, or maybe a brief monsoon, but we'll take whatever blessings come our way, and be grateful.  A great day all around.

Next month, when the vet budget recovers, Ms. Tella will keep an appointment with Dr. Wallis for some re-plumbing.  I can't even imagine what it will be like to keep that crazy girl in a collar...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In the Works

The latest thing...

More information coming soon.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brave Pioneers

A small but intrepid group of spinners gathered at a new venue today - the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano.  Our friend Kris is a part-time employee there, and arranged for us to use the restored "Young House" to meet and spin together.

Now that the first spinning pioneers have been there and gotten the lay of the land, we want everyone to know it's safe to come join us.  We parked behind the grounds on a side street, had a special gate open for us, and a very short walk to the air conditioned building.  The space is perfect for our group - a nice size, restroom facilities, a place to set up snacks, and easy access to all of the neat amenities of the Farmstead.  Plus, it's old and awesome.

The old Young House
Kris made us an awesome sign.

A bit of local history...
In addition to spinning in that comfy setting, we wandered around the grounds of the museum to get a feel for life at the turn of the century, with all the vintage farm implements, old fashioned garden, beautiful farm critters, and a real experience of peace and quiet.

The matched set of draft mules that pull the farm wagon that Kris drives for visitors.

The next time we'll be at the museum will be August 6, for our rescheduled Art Yarn class with Leslie Cooper.  I do hope you can come be with us.  It's a treat...

If you're close to Plano, the museum is a fascinating educational excursion for your family or any interested group.  It's very inexpensive to get a very nice tour of the old family house (not the Young house) and the grounds.  They're also always wanting to train more folks as docents to interpret the museum and serve the community.  FYI.