Monday, September 26, 2011

Whole Foods - Whole Lotta Fun

TGFD.  It stands for Thank God for Dina. 

I rushed out of church yesterday morning to get my booth stuff over to Whole Foods for the art and craft fair, and found Dina waiting for me, to help me unload and set up.  Thank God, indeed.  With her help, we had the stuff ferried in from the parking lot and set up in three shakes of a lamb's tail.  Instead of having to slap it all up by myself, I had a funny, encouraging friend right there with me. 

And we met our neighbor, Beth, whose business, Caprichos Studio features some gorgeous jewelry, hand painted fabric bags, paintings, and lots of other cool stuff.  She's a hoot, and we really enjoyed wiling away the hours together while no one bought anything from us.  (Insert silly grin.)  Dina knitted, I spun yesterday's dyed roving, and Beth and Dina talked quilting for a bit.  There's never a dull or wasted moment when several devoted crafters occupy close quarters for a spell.

Alright - it's not exactly true that we sold nothing - young Miss Janie and her grandma bought a hat and scarf (modeled above) and lots of people took business cards and farm brochures, and that makes the day a smashing success.

Our friends Judith, Burt, Rita, Lawrence and Brent, and my own sweet Ted and Emma also stopped by to cheer us on.  I even spoke to a couple of people who knew of the blog, and who had read the Allen Image article from a couple of years ago.  That's really amazing to me.

We made a couple of bucks for the Whole Kids Foundation, and we spread the word about all the wonderful gifts the farm has to offer.  All in all, a grand day, productively spent.   Another one in the win column.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Spectrum Dyeing

Laurie's hands know their jobs.  She spins with artistic abandon, knows the rules and ways to break them, and has the teacher gift that allows her to share her understanding.

Today, she shared how to make a beautiful color-transition yarn very much like a commercial brand we all know and love, but want to be able to make ourselves.

Laurie worked to find out how to do this when she happened upon a shawl pattern that took her breath away - the Lazy Katy shawl she stumbled on, on Ravelry.  She has become so obsessed with this pattern that she's made six or seven of them, using them as a palate to try out her new dyeing techniques for spectacular effects.

Seven of us gathered at the farm today to learn this mysterious method ourselves.  You'll need to talk to Laurie to find out all the details of her method, but from these pictures, you can see it's kind of a new and unique style.  We'd expect nothing less of Laurie, right?

I was just excited because I finally popped my turkey roaster out of the box for the first time.  Turns out, it's perfect for this method, because of the way the bottom is shaped.  Who knew?

Here's my bit of BFL roving perking away after I chose Aztec Gold and Teal to blend together.  It's a little like hand painting, with some important differences. 

Everybody got a chance to cook some roving in our roasters, and we tidied up our work space.  One great thing about this method - it's very neat, and hardly any dye is wasted or lost.  Everyone left with clean hands and clean clothes, all without gloves or aprons.  (GrandmaTutu wore an apron, but it turned out to be an unnecessary precaution.)  I was amazed.

And the proof's in the final roving.  These two ounce strips were dyed, rinsed, spun out in my fiber washing machine, and hung to dry in no time at all.  They were just about spinnable by the time we finished up our time together.  I'm going to spin mine at the little craft fair at Whole Foods tomorrow, where I'll have a table.  I hope we'll be able to see everyone's yarn spun up soon, so we can appreciate how this method makes the kind of yarn we really want for a particular project.  The ladies took another several ounces of this white BFL home to practice with.  That BFL is like candy for your hands -- you're going to love spinning this!

Some folks have asked me if we'll be doing this workshop again soon.  I think we can probably arrange that, since we now know how simple it is to set up the equipment in the back yard.  As we said to each other many times today: Easy Peasy.

I also want to send a big LRB shout out to all the gals who gathered just to enjoy each other's company in the barn today - Virginia, Hanane, Anela, Dawn, Rita, and Gail.  You ladies rock. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wuv U

I can haz scritches?

And supper, if it's not too much trouble?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stash Busting for Fun and Profit

We're hard at work here at the farm, stash diving to put together enough goodies for a table at Whole Foods in Fairview this Sunday.  They offered crafters a table to sell our wares, with 15% of the money going to their special kids' charity, "Whole Kids."

How could I pass up a chance to reacquaint myself with my beloved stash, sit and crochet for a few hours, spend the nice fall-ish afternoon at Whole Foods, and make a little dough for some wonderful children.  Hard to lose, huh? 

It's finally the time of year, isn't it, when the heat has backed off a bit and we can start getting back into our wool crafts with vigor.  Even after I thinned my stash drastically early this summer, I still have plenty of yarn to play with.  I'm thinking of working up some of my beloved hand spun for this great event--why leave it lonely on the shelf year after year?  I thought Christmas had come when I popped open that tub of hoarded yarn I had made myself.  Do I really have so much else to do that I neglect this valuable --bankable-- asset that brings me, and others, so much joy?

If you're in the area, I'd love to see you on Sunday - stop by between noon and 5 PM.  They have a great buffet at Whole Foods, plus lots of wholesome groceries.  If I leave there with more money than I arrived with, it will be a miracle.

Thank you to my sweet friend Jill who helped me decorate my hats and kept me company while I finished up UFO's today in the LRB.  Good luck on your new job, Jillers - come back to the farm soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

We Have Goats!

Today I met the four-footed, curly coated, swoopy-horned, liquid-eyed producers of the Jacob's Reward Farm mohair supply!  Ok, technically, they don't belong to me - they belong to Wanda and her five lovely children - but we've adopted them, and brought their fiber home to share with you.

You all know that over three years ago, our own Laurie began spinning a yarn that captivated everyone, and brought in big bucks for her hand spun skeins--these were in high demand.  These skeins featured baby-soft kid mohair curls tail-spun into her wool yarn in colors that made you want to eat them with a spoon.  And knitted up, they could make a grown woman drool.

Well, it's a miracle... Providence brought us another incredible affiliate farm with some of the softest, cutest goaties around, and now we have curls.  You can make some of that luscious "Laurie" yarn for yourself.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  I want you to meet Wanda and her gorgeous herd:

Laurie (my mohair go-to-gal) accompanied me to meet my new friend, Wanda and her great family.  Sweet Wanda is on the left here, with two of her human kids - Hannah and Tabitha.  These girls know how to handle goats.  They show their goats at the State Fair and at fairs across the state.

Here's one of their magnificent bucks.  He's a grand man, and he knows it.

Another wonderful buck.  Those shiny ringlets on his face just slay me.  The boy's fiber is neon-bright, shining in the sun.

These little breeding does don't like attention - much.

One little kid caught Laurie's eye, and she asked for a closer look.  This little girl, called Sock Baby, just won her heart, with her impish attitude and bell-bottom leg fiber.

Her little baby locks are just as soft as her sweet gaze...

Once we'd given her a thorough look-see and oohed and aaahed till we were blue, we let the babies gambol back to their barn for a nap.

In good homesteading style, the farm also boasts a lovely pair of ducks who followed us around the yard, making quacky commentary.

And we met beautiful Bedazzled, the half Arabian, half Pinto mare.  Love her!

Back at the house we met the boys, and had a great time talking goat lineage and fiber experiences.  These young people love working with their animals, and were such fun to talk shop with... we have a lot in common.

Wanda's family also has a wonderful treasure in their bees.  Their little hobby turned into a big family project, and their honey is winning awards and accolades.  Yes, I brought some home.  Just say the word and I'll hook you up...

Laurie and I both came away with a very nice haul of both washed locks and raw fiber.  We'll be washing this and packaging it up for sale in the LRB.  Some of it just might have to find its way into the dye pots, doncha know.

Thank you so much, Wanda, and family, for hosting us today and spending so much time making us feel right at home.  We share very common visions for our farms, which makes us instant family.  I know we'll be seeing a lot more of each other in the months and years to come.  Your critters are incredible, and we'll do everything we can to get your beautiful product into appreciative hands.   And thanks for letting me adopt your goatie brood - We LOVE them!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mud Just Strengthens Our Resolve

It hasn't really rained enough to move the little orange floaty in the rain gauge since about May -- until last night.  And this rain wasn't a frog-strangler by any means, but we got bona fide squishy mud in the pasture out of it.

So today in the LRB, several knitters braved the humidity and, finally, seasonable temperatures, for a day of visiting, snacking (thanks again, Hanane) and knitting.  Nobody minded that the coffee pot malfunctioned and we had to strain the grounds with our teeth, or that the sheep escaped their temporary pen in the yard and started eating the shrubbery.  Those things were quickly put right. 

Today was Knitting Day, by gum, and some of us made some impressive progress on our projects:

Kris started knitting with this cool lacy sparkly novelty yarn she picked up at the Woolie Ewe.  Once she figured out the system, that scarf started growing inches in minutes.

Anela brought her mom, Mona, out to the LRB to experience the fun first hand, and to try to get her hooked on fiber.  (It's working.)  On another front, Mona and I got to spend a little time reminiscing about our growing up in Hawaii.  She and I actually graduated from the same high school in the little bumpkin town of Wahiawa on Oahu.  What.  Are.  The.  Odds?  I'm still amazed.

Hanane worked on a cute top-down baby sweater in a sensible acrylic yarn.  She and her friend Denise will be two of our vendors at the "Share the Harvest" Fall Gift Market coming up on October 15th.  Can't wait to see the cute things they're making for sale.

Anela wanted to introduce her mom to Ruthie and Vanni before they had to leave for the day.  Of course the dogs were overjoyed to greet visitors - muddy faces and all.

 Too bad Vanni is so hard to get along with.  Snort.  Gonna have to face it, he's addicted to love.

Feeling uncharacteristically antisocial, Smokey spent most of the day in a cardboard box I'd left on the bench outside the LRB.  Not sure what got into her, but she needed some alone time, apparently. 

Rita managed to finish a socklette here at the Barn, between wedding planning and preparations.  She fears not the Kitchener.  What an inspiration...

Dina was here today, too, dispensing wisdom and keeping us laughing.  But with her Ninja powers, she somehow managed to escape getting her picture taken.

What did we tell you, Kris?  You're almost finished with that very cool scarf in one sitting.  Looks like I might need me some of that fancy yarn.  It's magical.

Here's the label, in case you're interested in it for yourself.  Pretty, pretty stuff that Kris says comes in lots of colors.  Hmmmmm....

Me, I still have amigurumi on the brain, and I'm working on a new creature.  You'll see it when it's finished.  Crochet is fun--it's like building with Legos.  And you know how fun THAT is!

Yes, I know it was Spin in Public Day, but (and this will shock you) we just can't do everything.  After last year's fiasco, we decided to just chill out and relax today.  Kind of a nice break from all the busy preparations for the fantastic stuff that's coming at us quickly: dye workshop next Saturday, Fall Gift Market in October, Kid N Ewe in November, and sometime in there, a CSA share harvest! 

If you spun in public today around DFW, we'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Beginnings as Fall Approaches

Good Egg
One of our new hens laid her first little egg today.  Good girl!  I'm sure it's the recent lovely weather that brought on this fresh productivity.  Today was absolutely heaven.  And I had so much work to do inside, I almost missed it.  More of that where all good weather comes from, I'm sure.

Our little spring chicken is a big girl now...
We'll be spinning together on Saturday at the Little Red Barn if you're in the area.  Not sure if it will be wet or dry out, but who cares, as long as it's not 100 degrees, Amen?

A quick word of warning - this weekend is the Plano Balloon Festival, so if you're coming to the farm from the west, take Bethany or Parker, NOT Spring Creek, which is blocked off between Jupiter and Parker.  Stop and enjoy the festivities at the Balloon Festival on your way over if you like - it's always a lot of fun.

Kris, Mary and Gail skirting Samson's Jacob fleece.
This week at the LRB, again depending on the weather, I will probably be outside at the skirting table, working feverishly on share fiber.  If you'd like a quick lesson in skirting a raw alpaca fleece, please wander over to the back yard for a little instruction.  There's still so much fiber to get through!

What a way to go...  See you Saturday at 10 AM-ish...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Need a Do-Over

Call me crazy - I'd love to do High School again.

*I forgot my camera (D'oh!) - these photos are borrowed from the school's website.
We just got back from DD's school's open house, and I'm in love.  It's a shiny new school--the current jewel in the district's crown--and man it is it snazzy.  Very modern layout, furnishings, and design.  Many classes have glass walls that look into the open areas of the school.  Every classroom has a whole wall that's a whiteboard for drawing, working out problems, or expressing thoughts artistically.  The library looks like a Barnes and Noble, with a tenth as many books.  The hallways look like the mall, only more intimate.

The teachers are young and hip (for the most part) and promote a curriculum and a style of learning that encourage critical thinking and cross-disciplinary synthesis.  And they do cool projects.  The chair of the math department tonight looked nineteen.  She wore converse sneakers, a skirt, and a denim jacket.  And she's very jazzed about Algebra.  Holy cow.  What I wouldn't have given for a math teacher like that?

What is it about all this that has me drooling at the idea of spending hours a day giving my brain a challenging workout--learning for learning's sake?

I have several theories:

First, I think I've totally embraced the Information Age.  I'm a card carrying Information Junkie.  That's why it's so hard for me to be without the internet or to push away from the computer - there's always something I need to look up and research.  Tons more information than I could ever take in, is available in nano seconds through search engines.  Yes, sometimes it's too much and my brain totally shorts out.  But still.

Second, I'm in a place in life where I could actually appreciate school on its own merits.  I could exchange ideas with the teachers as peers, and tailor the projects and homework to suit my own practical needs.  I'm a grown woman running a business, a farm and a household, and some of this stuff can actually make a difference in my daily life.  When I was fifteen, that was a bit harder to grasp and apply.  "When am I ever going to need to know how to write essays????"  Um.... nearly every day, Foolish Teenager.

And speaking of NOT being fifteen - think about all the time and energy I'd have for learning, that wouldn't have to be spent worrying about dating, or snippy girlfriends, or student government politics, or pimples ruining my weekend.  That would change everything from the first time around.

And finally, maybe my longing for another chance is just my way of wishing for that supposedly simpler time of my life when I wasn't worried about paying bills, meeting deadlines, raising children or burying loved ones.  I didn't think it was simple then, but boy, do I now.

And really, I look around, and my opportunities to learn new things keep popping up in my life every day.  They are just dressed differently.  Now they look like committee assignments, software manuals and parenting challenges.  I just don't have a shiny new classroom surrounding me while I learn.

But I wonder if they'd let me sit in on World History.  I so want to make a yurt for the Genghis Khan unit.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Limited Spaces for "Spectrum Dyeing" Class

Laurie and I have finally ironed out the details for her wonderful dyeing class scheduled for September 24th here at the farm.  I, for one, am hoping some of her wicked-awesome color sense rubs off on me, if I take this class.  For those of you who have been asking, here's the scoop:

We have room for eight folks who'd like to learn how to dye roving so that it spins up gorgeous like your favorite Noro yarn.  For $25, you'll get Laurie's expert instruction, our pre-mixed Jacquard dyes, and 8 oz. of yummy Blue Faced Leicester roving, pre-soaked and ready to go.  We'll work under the shade of the trees in my back yard, so pray for great weather.

We'll begin at 10 AM or so, with a demo from Laurie about how she sets up her wool, her colors, and her heating, and then we'll turn you loose to try her method, or do some handpainting in your own style.  Because space is limited, I'll need to know that you plan to come, with a pretty firm RSVP.  Paying ahead will guarantee you a spot.  (We heart checks or Paypal to ctelisak at juno dot com).

In the meantime, the 24th is a regular LRB spin/knit day, and the barn will be open for your crafting pleasure, if dyeing doesn't suit your whim.  As usual, the coffee will be on and the company will be spectacular. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Nine Bags Full

Aren't these pre-fall days a welcome relief?  The morning temperatures gave me the feeling I could move heaven and earth today.  In reality, getting one thing done on my list was plenty, and took everything we had to give.

The "we" here is Daniella, Dina and me.  Daniella is our new friend who came with Anela one day, and decided to adopt the farm community (friends whose names rhyme - very fun).  She's originally from Romania and had amazing tales to tell about growing up as a child in a communist country.  It's hard to imagine a life where you wait in line at different stores all day long to buy your basic necessities, and maybe when you get to the front of the line, there are no more necessities.  Next time, we'll have Daniella tell us stories about her years living in France!

Dina you know - she's the sweetheart who's capacity to give has not yet been exhausted - my, how she can pitch in!  And creative ideas...  she amazes me.

These two ladies, learning as they went, helped me push a whole lot of fiber through the process from dirty to clean, and then to dry.  We worked in the pleasant temperatures under dappled shade in a gentle breeze.  This kind of weather is too, too perfect for fiber prep. 

Next stop - mail the boxes to Lynn at Spinderellas.  A fine day's work.  There are buckets of lovely fiber left to prepare, but this was a big hunk of it.  The chickens can wait a day or two to get their coops cleaned.  Today, it's all about the fiber.

How did you spend your sunny Saturday?