Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Living to Give

GrandmaTutu working on the farm
 Wow, you guys are good.  You gave us so many great ideas for making the farm greener and groovier!  I hope we can do all of them!  I promised you a re-cap of all the ideas and a winner.  Some are harder than others, but if we all pitch in, we can make it happen.  Here we go.  You're going to like these:

Cindy (not me) suggested using leaves for mulch in the garden, changing our lightbulbs to earth-friendly versions, eating pie and wearing comfortable shoes.  I'm working on the last two right now, you'll be happy to know.

Judith wants me to hire out as a mobile teacher-consultant.  That's a great one.  I'm on it!

Peggy R wants us to consider rain catchment, solar panels and bagging manure - all of which seem like doable ideas.  Thanks, Peggy!

Fran says fleece makes a good ingredient in compost, and that's also an easy one.  We can do some of that today!  When I get through skirting fleeces, all the stuff that doesn't make the cut can go straight into our compost pile!  You're rocking it, Fran!

Gail tossed out the ideas of wind power (we saw a wonderful DIY version at Homestead Heritage last week), French intensive gardening, and newspaper mulch in the garden.  We have used some newspapers in the garden to cut down weeds, but, ahem, not nearly enough.  We'll get on that right away.  We'll tell you when it's time to bring your extra papers...

Ashley wants us to grow Christmas trees, and you know what?  I'm going to mull that one over.  We have a lot of property that isn't being used to its best advantage, and that's a fabulous idea.

Peggy HR had a list of wonderful ideas: Bees (we have totally been trying to make this happen), vermiculture (just found a very cool site the other day: Texas Worm Farm), solar cookers (we actually tried this once with pal Gail - you can see our attempt  here and you know I've been in the mood to cook lately), cheesemaking - wouldn't that be awesome!-- and making caps for charity.  Love it.  That's very close to my heart, and easily done.  We still have a big Yarn Storming stash that I'll be happy to dole out to anyone who wants to make hats for premies or cancer patients.  Just let me know!

E Andert also suggested knitting for charity, which tugs at me in ways that will really make something happen.  Let's mobilize on this one.

Anna echoed the solar panel idea, and Gay reminded me about the value of Paca Poo as a fertilizer.  Carol asked about our progress on the sheep hut turned greenhouse, and we will see that one through very soon as well.

The Random Number Generator chose Karen as our winner, who has the most precious idea of carrying extra scarves with her when she's out and about so that she can spontaneously gift a homeless or needy person with a handmade gift of warmth and love any time the opportunity presents itself.  I can't tell you how wonderful that idea is, Karen, and I'm happy to have some fantastic Prize Cotton to reward your generous heart.  Please e-mail me your particulars so I can get your cotton to you (ctelisak@juno.com).

This farm stands as a loving work in progress.  The whole community has pitched in to make it what it is today, and the community will see that it grows into what it can become.  I'll keep you updated on how we plan to start working on some of these ideas, and how and when you can get involved.

You Guys Rock.  Givers live lives of joy.

Yes, I believe she looks happy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Going Global

Today in the Little Red Barn, we were literally all over the map.

Brenda brought her friend, Tsigereda from Ethiopia, who casually sat and spun cotton on one of my drop spindles most of the day.  And made it look easy.

Candi made the trek from far-away Arlington, and shared very cool stories about Liberia.

Of course, Anela was with us to represent the Polynesians, and Hanane hails from exotic Oklahoma.  Brenda's a born-and-bred Texan.

Dina grew up in Panama, and spoke Spanish as a kid.  

Hassan, Hanane's husband, comes from Morocco, and speaks four languages. Five, if you count "cat."

I got to tell a little bit about my project with a new friend in Nepal, to bring wool products here to the US to sell, to benefit his church.  It's still a little embryonic project.  I'll tell you more when it gets a little bigger.

Tsigereda treated us to some Ethiopian injera bread - a personal favorite of mine.  In fact, my favorite restaurant in Dallas is The Queen of Sheba.  We take all of our out-of-town guests there, and go there on special occasions.  Ethiopian food is the bomb.

Look at her spin that cotton.  She's not even breaking a sweat.

And speaking of cotton, here is the two ounces of super wonderful cotton I'm going to gift to a lucky winner who comments here on the blog.  We've even rolled some of it into ready-to-spin punis.  (The camera made it look yellow - it's really bright white.) 

I'm looking for suggestions on how we can make the farm more sustainable, organic, charitable, compassionate or welcoming.  Leave me a suggestion by 9 PM on Monday night for a chance to win this light and fluffy, cotton-candy goodness.  Then we'll get Tsigereda to teach you to spin it.  LOL.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Contest: Rekindling the Dream

I promised you a giveaway - it's down at the end of the post.  But first, I have to show you my field trip today.

Seven years ago, back before we moved to our own farm, my family stumbled on Homestead Heritage, near Waco, TX - the beautiful home of an agrarian community much like the Mennonites.  Every Thanksgiving, they hold a huge festival over the whole weekend, sharing the fruits (literally) of their lifestyle and labor.  (So you could still catch it if you have some time.)  They live simply and intentionally, and they nurture "crafts" that most of our society has left way behind: beekeeping, horse farming, woodcrafting, metal forging, grist milling, pottery, quilting, sustainable practices, knitting and spinning, etc.  Of course, you and I do appreciate our fiber arts, and I always feel right at home in the fiber studio there.

We've been meaning to get back again for that festival for years, but it just never worked out.  But this year, I had a little added incentive to make it happen - our friend Lisa from west Texas was coming out with her husband Mike, and they were bringing our share cotton!  (Mike and Lisa have gifted the farm with some of their wonderful crop, which is a significant gift, considering the horrible drought this year.)  Lisa has worked with members of the Homestead Heritage community a couple of times, taking classes and sharing her beautiful cotton harvest.  Lisa introduced me to Sue, with the community, who is very involved with the weaving and spinning classes.

There's something about this place that points me back to True North.  Though our specific situations are very different, our philosophies and deep desires line up perfectly.  I get new energy to look at our farm with fresh eyes, and see the things we could add or change, that could help us live the life God has called us to live here at Jacob's Reward: to love him, love his creation, and most of all, to love the people he has put in our lives.

If you've never been, here's some of what you'll find at Homestead Heritage on their big festival weekend:

All this eye- and heart-candy is just the tip of the iceberg here.  Explore their website a little, and get a good look a the incredible resource we have right here within a stone's throw of the DFW metroplex.  I'd really like to apprentice there for about a month, and really get these people and this lifestyle down into my pores.

OK, so you want a giveaway?  I got yer giveaway!  Our shareholders will be receiving a portion of the cotton that Lisa and Mike brought us today, but I'm holding out 2 ounces of my special secret reserve of hand picked and hand ginned, soft-as-a-cloud cotton from Lisa.  It's too dark to get a good photo tonight, but I'll put one up tomorrow.

Now this is special stuff.  This stuff comes dear.  How can you win it?  Comment below (or on Facebook) and tell me a way we could increase our sustainability here at Jacob's Reward Farm.  How can we give more, grow more, "green" more, or generate more?  Extra credit if you volunteer to help us achieve your suggestion.  How can we better use the resources we have in our hands right now?  That's always the question I'm asking myself, and now I'm calling on the community to lend some brainstorming power.

I'll take suggestions till Monday night at 9 PM.  Then I'll recap them and pick a winner.  I'll put everyone's name in a hat and pull one out.  But all suggestions will be considered for implementation.  I, for one, would never waste a good idea!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Muddy Feet

We are all so thankful for the rain we got the other night.  Here's what it does to our little tootsies.  Mmm-mm.  Black clay.

Muddy feet can be a little awkward, but they also mean happy grass seeds and happy farmers.  Thank you, Tutu, for leaving your Crocs here for me to tramp around in on muddy days.  Sometimes I come in from chores with little muddy polka dots on the sides of my feet, but it's all good.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Hey, ya know what?  This is my 900th blog post.  Nine Hundred.  Did I have that much to talk about?  In any case, I think it's high time for a celebration.  On Friday, in my traditional tryptophan-coma, I'll post a really fun giveaway to celebrate this landmark.  See you then...

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances.  I pray the Lord's grace and mercy be with you and all those you love.  I count you as one of my most precious blessings, dear friend.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shareholders, Meet Your Farm

Betsy and Chris came by the farm for the first time today, after signing up as 2011 shareholders earlier this year.  Betsy is skilled at locker hooking, and knows her way around a ball of roving - she's definitely one of us.  The two of them got the full immersion tour:  holding chickens...

Playing fetch with the polar bear...  This was Vanni's first time to really get the game of fetch--at least the bringing-back part.

Ruthie didn't like being left out, and lured Vanni away from his human playmate.  She knows how to get him worked up into a silly, slappy, jowly tussle.

The alpacas weren't feeling up to cuddling much, but they did consent to hanging out in the background of this pastoral portrait.

Finally, we introduced them to the community - the joint was jumping in the LRB on this Third Saturday.  Seems like such a long time ago we got to play together.  Nearly a dozen of us got to spin some yarn or knit on lovely projects, and catch up on each other's lives.

Our pal Gail was a bit under the weather, so we didn't get to start our greenhouse project after all today.  But it gives us something to look forward to, going into the holiday week.

I'm so thankful for all of the friends of the farm, local and far off, new and old.  You give this farm its life and vitality, and put the commune in community!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Autumn Joy

Yesterday I went walkabout around the property, enjoying the fresh air, the changing colors in the trees, and the silly critters that populate our pastures.  Here's some of what I came across...

Judah having his supper on a blanket of golden leaves.

The golden leaves aforementioned.


Phineas' fine fluffy fleece.


Mother and daughter, Mary Elizabeth and Rachel.


Vanni on duty while Ruth catches some z's.

Noah and Ruth.  I think there's some question about whose supper this is.

We have the beginnings of new turf coming up, and we've had a bit of rain on and off this week. 
I hope it's enough to keep the rye seed germinating.

  Tomorrow's post:  A farm project opportunity this Saturday.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Boerne Bounty

It's been quite a whirlwind so far - Dina, Laurie and I loaded the Clampett-mobile and headed down the road to Boerne, Texas, to get to work setting up one of the buildings for the Kid N Ewe Fiber Festival.  Our road trip was a giggle-fest and pie-binge, and we made great time.

When we arrived at the fair grounds, the first job was to tape out the vendor spaces in the huge room.

A team of six amazing ladies dove in with 100' tape measures and masking tape.  I tried to imagine what the building would look like twelve hours later once all the vendors were set up and doing business.

The next morning, the vendors began to arrive and turn that cavernous room into a bustling fiber market, exploding with color and texture.

 I was very pleased with our new banners and display system.  PVC and zip ties make the world go 'round. 

Our Spin-off Competition display looked very impressive - those alpaca fleece samples looked really great - congratulations to the winning fleeces!

STAR (State of Texas Alpaca Ranchers) also sponsored its first Fiber Arts Competition.  The entries were all so pretty - made of alpaca fiber, of course.

Our friend Rick Walton brought some juvenile alpaca boys to the festival so that he could show them off and answer lots of questions about them for the folks who came by.  Alpacas are always so well behaved and winsome.  Rick said he wished he was charging folks to take pictures of the little boys - he would have made a fortune...

Our Workshop area hummed with activity as well, both Friday and today.  Here's the Etsy 101 class soaking up some good information.

Laurie always draws a crowd and starts the stitching and spinning circles - wherever she is, is a party.  She taught a happy knot of crocheters how to make the Queen Anne's Lace scarf, some who'd never even crocheted before.  That's talent.

This warm congenial spirit brings us back year after year, to share fun times with each other and our fiber obsession.

And if that weren't enough, the farm received another wonderful gift... I had made the decision to invest in one of these darling (but critical) tumblers, made by hand by the cool folks at Windmill Crest Farm.  But before I could give them my credit card, I learned that the tumbler had been purchased for us by a generous donor.  I was bowled over.  How blessed can we be?  Thank you, sweet benefactor!  This will open up the fiber processing bottleneck we've discovered as we tried to clean a hundred pounds of alpaca fleeces this summer.

Now all I need is a gently used leaf blower, and we're in business.  This tumbler/leaf blower combination gets a ton of the dirt and grass out of alpaca fleeces before it goes into the wash water.  It can shave several wash/rinse cycles out of the process, and save us lots of time.  The sooner the fiber is clean, the sooner it gets to the processor.  And the sooner it gets back into our hands.

Yes, of course, we're shopping here at Kid N Ewe - here's just the tip of the iceberg of our haul to date.  (Pictured are just the small, colorful treasures.  It doesn't include the large puffy bags of delicious fiber we've amassed.)  I have set the record for the least money spent so far - $4.  I raided the bargain bin and found a few goodies, just to say I did.

But there's still tomorrow to go.  Anything fibery could still happen. There are two other buildings here at the festival that I haven't even begun to explore...