Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Fine, Fine Day for Fiber

Does it get any better than this?  Sunshine, brisk breeze, and a dozen sweet friends crafting together with fiber of all sorts - roving, yarn, delicate thread...

Anna brought new baby Ike by for his first visit to the barn.  The last time he'd been here, he was still a bump.  Now he's a doll--a gorgeous boy.

That's tough for big brother Brian to compete with, unless you blow bubbles in your water.  That makes everybody smile.

Peggy showed Leslie some spinning tips.  Leslie's going to be spinning soon.  She's already rocking the knitting thing.

Anela told her all about knitting with those mysterious double-point needles.  Nothing to be scared of...

Karen got to be with us again today, and this time, she brought her amazing Drudik wheel.  She got this wheel from the Oregonian wheel maker back when they didn't cost as much as a used car, like they do now.  It's a beautiful wheel that spins like buttah.

Her daughter, Lisa, brought her bobbin lace project with all its pretty bobbins and beads and pins, on the velvet pillow...  It's intricate and amazing, and I was fascinated watching her.

The lace formed steadily under her fingers, following the printed pattern, twist by twist and knot by knot.  Watching her helped me understand the experience of an uninitiated person watching a lace knitter or a talented drop spindler.  It's all magic, until you get the knack.

Rita took a break from knitting her wedding veil to work on knitting her lace garter.  How amazing will that be?

We enjoyed finally getting to visit with Karen and Gail, who hadn't been able to come to the LRB in a while.  Barbara came again this week, and invited her friend Linda.

Linda found herself adopted by Smokey, who draped herself across Linda's lap and didn't move for ages.

Virginia got to drop by, too, and she worked on a pretty kettle dyed wool purse.  Maybe she'll felt it, or maybe she won't.  Such are the quandaries of a fiber artist.

Leslie had really come to the farm to work, so we spent some time skirting and tumbling Solomon's black alpaca fleece.  She caught on quickly, and now has achieved the elite rank of Certified Fiber Tumbler here at Jacob's Reward Farm.  Solomon's pretty fleece is medium fine and open, so we had to spend some extra time opening the locks and blowing the dirt and grass away.  But that shiny black fiber is so, so worth it.  Great job, Leslie -- thanks!

You are always welcome at the Little Red Barn to share these days of friendship and fiber arts.  Learn something, share something, experience something beautiful in this sweet little community.  You make a difference...  At the bottom of this page is our Google Calendar.  That's where you'll find all of the goings on here at the farm.  We'd love to have you join us!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rainy Day Dog

Vanni and I seem to have the same emotional response to all the rain we got.  We keep a stiff upper lip--after all, we really need the lakes to fill up, but it does make our daily lives a little more complicated. 

I was reminded of all the low spots on the property that need to be dealt with somehow - filled in with some kind of material that's easier to traverse than clay-turned-quicksand.  This summer was so dry for so long, I was able to put off thinking about this task.  But one good rain event, and it all comes back... oh yes, the bog.  What to do about the bogs? 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The "Where's the Trunk" Show

Susie Gibbs is a trooper.  She probably had the ability to take whatever was tossed at her before she became a shepherd, but raising sheep for fun and profit will surely arm you for any kind of set-back.

Yesterday, at the Woolie Ewe in Plano, Susie put on a trunk show without a trunk.  Seems UPS has temporarily misplaced all the finished garments and accessories made out of her new yarns.  She improvised.  That's what shepherds do.

Without missing a beat, Susie began telling her incredible story of moving from New York City as a news producer to adopting the rural, mucky life of a sheep and goat raiser, to designing her own line of commercial yarns.

As usual, her animated stories full of triumphs and foibles kept the gathered knitters entranced.  We passed around yarns and ogled the beautiful pattern books.

The photos are so lovely, it was easy to imagine the beautiful knitted sweaters, hats, blankets, mitts, and other designs.  Having the yarns right there to touch and evaluate helped a lot, too.

Today, Susie is off to Knotty Girls in Tyler, TX to share the Juniper Moon yarn line.  I hope UPS comes through for her by the time the knitters show up.  But if not, Susie will manage to communicate the dream: the story of a lady on a mission who doesn't let obstacles slow her down.

A big wave to Mary Bensel, Denise Royal, (pictured here with Susie) Laurie McIntyre, Joanne Pohlman and Marybelle (not pictured) who came out to enjoy time with our pal.

Today, January 26, we celebrate "Eureka Day" here at the farm.  Three years ago today, Susie agreed to sit down with me at the Barnes and Noble in Fort Worth and tell me everything I needed to know to move our farm into the CSA model.  With no thought for personal gain, she shared lots of amazing business secrets, and encouraged me to go for it.  Her determination and creativity are inspirational.   Thank you, Susie.

NOTE:  Knitting Fever, Inc., who produces Susie's beautiful yarns, is holding a design contest using two of the JMF yarns - Willa and Chadwick.  These are gorgeous yarns crying for new ways to knit them up.  If you are interested in entering this contest, run by the Woolie Ewe and check out the yarns in person and see how they speak to you.  Buy some.  Then head over to the KFI blog for all the details about the contest.  Deadline is March 1.  Fabulous prizes.  Good luck!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Animal Magic

Our friends brought their niece, Ashlyn, to the farm on Monday to get some eggs and to visit all the animals.  A whole lot of kid <---> animal fun ensued.

Then, we went to visit the puppies...

Mama Ruthie is the perfect pal...

Ashlyn had to warm up to this Very Big Dog.

Uncle Marty, one of Ruthie's favorite people, helped Ashlyn get some confidence.

Strike a pose.

Let this be a lesson to you - when kids and animals come together, prepare to burn up a bunch of pixels.  Dang... weapons grade cuteness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Off to the Country

Two of our alpacas have graduated to their plush retirement out in the country. 

Noah and Gizmo left yesterday for the new chapter in their lives, called "Greener Pastures," as they headed south to Goldthwaite.  Our friend Barbara is populating her large ranch with some pampered 'pacas and llamas, who will enjoy lots of grass and camaraderie.  Gizmo and Jonah were Barbara's first alpacas, and they boarded here for years.  I'm so glad she gets to have them on her own place finally.  She's waited a long time for this.

Barbara's husband, Ron, picked up the boys.  He's so tall, the alpacas look really tiny standing next to him.

Ron and Barbara's brother, Paul, convince Noah to talk toward the trailer.

Gizmo and Noah settle in for the ride to Goldthwaite.

Gizmo is always up for an adventure.  He'll have familiar friends to spend the rest of his life with.

Barbara reports today that everyone made the trip just fine, and are settling in to their new digs.  I couldn't have let them go, if I wasn't absolutely sure they'd have a fantastic life on the other end.  Enjoy your new boys, Barbara!

Next week, Silver Lining Joseph will roll up from the Lubbock area.  I'll let you know more specifics as we get closer to time.  If you'd like to meet him in person, watch this space for all the details.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gentlemen, Start Your Tomatoes

At last.  I've finally gotten ahead of the calendar and started some tomato seeds indoors.  And if all goes to plan, I'll have many, many more than I can use, so there will be some to share.

I bought one of those trays pre-packed with peat pots that swell up when you water them.  I also got some Martha Stewart organic tomato seeds because, well, they were right in front of me at the store.

Those little seeds are tiny, so I used the moistened tip of a chop stick to carefully get two or three seeds into each little pot.

Yeah, there's a lot of them.

And Martha's none too generous with her seeds - I barely had enough to fill all my pots.  But we got it done.  I'll post an update when they sprout in (according to the label) 7-10 days. 

Baby 'maters!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Farm Survey

It's been too long since our last walk around the farm together, so I snapped some shots of critters who would love some virtual scritches.

Judah and Tella vie for attention

Social grooming bonds this working pair

Tella is such a beauty.  A busy, mischievous beauty.

The ewes and lambs are shaggy and plump

Rachel is brave, behind the fence

Phineas eats and dozes on Shadrach's back

Shad and Mordechai get fresh water

Ms. Smokey shadows me on my rounds

Ruthie is always alert.  Except when she's sawing logs.

Boaz enjoys the sunshine

This weather is heavenly to the alpacas - cool mornings and sunny, mild afternoons

These Ameraucanas are trying to make a break for it.  Patience, girls.

Ice overnight will give way to spring-like temperatures by afternoon

How does our garden grow?  Our patience has been rewarded.  The seeds have germinated and new sprouts are coming up in the protected environment of the greenhouse.  This provides good wind protection, and a bit of temperature mediation.  Even though it's not airtight or heated, the cover makes a big difference for these cool weather veggies.  My next plan is to get some onion starts to fill up the vacant plot in the greenhouse.  I'm also starting some tomatoes indoors.

The spinach has sprouted in the greenhouse

Baby turnips

A row of young lettuce
I'm putting together the next farm newsletter, which will be chock-full of news about the very cool plans we have for 2012.  If you're not on our list, sign up via the link in the left margin.  I think you'll like how our calendar is shaping up.