Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two Magnificent Days in a Row

The chores took extra long to finish today, again, because I just couldn't soak up enough of the sweetness into my pores.  I can't express how rare and treasured these days are in Texas - bright, cool, dry, refreshing.  I will ache for this day, come August.

Lots of us are wondering what this warm winter will bode for the summer - will it be even hotter than last year?  Will the bugs be worse for lack of freezing temperatures?  Until I saw my redbud tree budding out today, I wasn't sure whether to believe that spring had really come for good.  The native trees know, so I trust them.  Conversely, never trust a Bradford pear - they are gullible and easily deceived into believing winter is over, and then getting frostbitten by a freak ice storm, and waking up dead.  They ain't from around here.

Tomatoes aren't native either, and need special handling.  Mine have grown a bit spindly indoors, just getting the sun through the windows so far.  Today, it seemed mild enough for them to play outside on the front porch as the sun lowered toward the horizon.  I think they liked it.

The woolie beasts are so anxious to get out of their winter coats--literally itching to be sheared.  Joseph looks like the Michelin Man of alpacas - I really cannot wait to see him out of his fleece.

Everybody is fluffed up and ready to move on to the naked portion of the fiber year.  Tomorrow, it is supposed to get up to nearly 80 degrees, and you really don't need an alpaca coat in that kind of weather.

The hens are digging this, though.  The days have lengthened, and the girls have ramped up their laying.  I think the sight of all this new green grass has all of us a bit rejuvenated.

The bugs are waking up and providing lots of food and entertainment for the flock.  We should also be seeing nice orange yolks in the eggs, with all this free protein and greenstuff adding to the hens' nutrition.

 The guineas are, well, guineas.  Loud and crazy, like always.  They're pretty faithful that way.

I spent too much of the day inside working on stuff that just had to be done.  But I'm going to regret every minute I didn't get to enjoy of this day outside in the fresh air.  Forgive the cliche, but, I wish I could have bottled it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The End of a Precious Day

I'm not sure what it was about today that was so satisfying...

One of my favorite kinds of days - the kind where I don't have to leave the property for anything.  The knitting class was a little more informal today, so we got to share more about our lives.  Outside, the air was warm and humid, and the breeze picked up over the course of the afternoon.  It felt more like April than February.  We hit that sweet spot on the thermometer - not too cool and not too warm.  Really blissful.

I lingered over my chores because it was so nice just to be in the earthy air, studying the sheeps' eyelashes, burying my nose in Vanni's soft ruff, examining the young turnips, sorting luxurious fiber.

Inside, I took time to check in with community members on-line a bit.  These days we're all wrestling with issues political, spiritual, familial, medical, mechanical, interpersonal...  That takes energy.  I got to visit with a friend on a day she got some of the most joyous news of her life--what an honor.  That will add some richness to your afternoon, let me tell you.

And now the sun is down and the animals have settled into their nighttime routines -- the dogs to their stations, the sheep bedding down together, the alpacas dotting the pasture like sculptured topiary.  Springtime is the busiest time of the year on a farm, so these pensive, slo-mo days are gifts to be treasured.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Many Faces of the LRB

Fourth Saturday - a smashing time here on the farm at the Little Red Barn...  Dina got here early and started the coffee, but had to slip out early...

Gay arrived and I got to deliver her JRF Golding Spindle.  She promptly fired it up and made some sweet yarn on it!  It all comes back, doesn't it, Gay?

Got to meet Patricia for the first time - what an incredible blanket she's working on - a diagonal crochet project for a friend...

Carla came by the farm for the first time.  She's very interested in fiber and felting and well, soon we'll have her knitting and spinning - right ladies?

Shareholder Katy came by with her kids Will and McKenna - Ruthie made them feel right at home.

Vanni showed Carla how to reach just the right spot on the tummy for the perfect scritch.  Amy's ready to dive into farm life!

Denise and Lisa had very interesting projects to work on.  Today was Lisa's first time to the LRB, and she fit in like an old-timer.  So enjoy her company!  And Denise went home with a Golding spindle, too.  Spin on, my friend!

The other Lisa, and Linda compared notes on some knitting issue.  Linda was remaking the sweater pattern she was wearing, this time in green.  If it ain't broke...

Karen cracked Angela up over something.  It was so great to see Angela again after a long break.  Then she went out and brushed the dogs for me.  What a lovely gift!  (The dogs love to see Angela coming...)

 Karen told us that she had to put her kitty down a couple of weeks ago.  Smokey seemed to know that she needed some feline love and affection.  Good kitty.

Barbara came and brought lots of awesome snacks today.  Sorry for the blurry picture, B, but your smile was so sweet!

Virginia bought some yarn here at the barn last Saturday and returned to day with a completed crocheted scarf/cowl thing.  Beautiful and snuggly-warm!  Way to finish your projects, Virginia!

Beth and Maryann were about the last to come, so we had some catching up to do!  Hadn't seen these ladies in quite some time.

Yep, Lisa - blocking is going to make one awesome scarf out of that - so, so pretty!

Our new friend, Chiyo, is just as cute as she can be.  Who can resist Hello Kitty and red boots?  She's working on an incredible fair isle felted bag she learned from Alissa Barton.  You go, girl.

Also, Anela and her husband Matt dropped by to ply the alpacas with carrots and win their hearts.  Bonita and her husband Dennis got the quicky tour and promised to come back soon.  Kris from the Farmstead Museum got to spend some time with us today, but somehow avoided getting her picture taken...  It was a busy, busy day at the farm - please forgive me if I forgot to mention you.  We talked about how my memory has a thick coat of Teflon on it, and I have to write everything -- I mean everything -- down nowadays...  Who did I forget?

Regardless, we had a spectacular day today.  So warm, we kept the barn door open.  And the only downside to that was...

Uninvited guests...

 Uninvited guests with an attitude...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Many Hands Make Fun Work

Another dozen awesome kids got a thorough look at the farm today.  Even though the weather had turned a bit brisk, everyone was dressed for it, and the animals didn't seem to mind at all.

I wanted to be sure to give a great big grateful shout out to my helpers the past three days - today and yesterday, Barbara was on hand to help keep the kids (and me) focused on all the cool stuff to see and touch.  She says she's a city girl, but you wouldn't know it to see her dive in to all the jobs that needed doing.

Wednesday, our friend Jennifer added so much to the kids' education by showing off some of the amazing things she's done with wool and fiber.  They really loved her felted tote bag made from scraps of natural wool and alpaca yarns.

She helped contrast that rustic effect with our mill spun alpaca yarns in its range of nice colors.

I can't emphasize enough how this farm is a community effort.  What depth and richness would be lost without the regular, loyal, and heartfelt contributions of the people who make up our farm family.  Our farm helpers are making a difference both out front and behind the scenes, adding value to everything we do as a proponent of fiber artistry, sustainable agriculture, and meaningful community.

Ok, the animals do their parts, too.  Good job, Vanni...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Learning to See

This is Home School Week at the farm, with three groups coming out to visit in as many days.  Today was Day Two, and the group who came out today was a joy to host.  With the sunshine on our faces and a nice breeze in our hair, we learned about sheep and guard dogs and chickens and alpacas. 

Our de facto Farm Ambassador, Vanni, graciously accepted all the love and hugs he could get through the fence.  I'd let him out, but I'm not sure he knows how big he is, and he might just knock down a few kids (and moms) in his exuberance.  He doesn't jump, but his tail has a whappy-waggly mind of its own.

Ruthie is much more dignified in the way she accepts the offerings of love and doggy admiration from her fans.  She's a high-powered kid magnet.

But these kids came with a special magnetism all their own.  The alpacas, who are usually good with being ogled through the fence, actually allowed themselves to be stroked by sweet little hands.  This is a first.  Levi and Boaz are the most tolerant, but even they usually stay just out of reach when a big group of people comes to call.

 It's wonderful, because Levi is about the softest alpaca in the herd.  He has the gentlest personality of all the alpacas.  I was glad that the kids got to feel alpaca fiber on the hoof like that.

We learned about wool - the shearing, skirting, washing, carding and spinning.  The kids asked amazingly astute questions, just as I expect of kids who get a lot of practice with self-directed learning and inquiry.

Tomorrow we'll host our third group of home schoolers, and I'm looking forward to another day of questions that keep me on my toes.  I'm really grateful for the farm to be a part of these kids' growing up and growing wise.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sheep Shearing in Two Weeks!

Got the call this morning from Danny the Shearer - we're on his calendar for Thursday morning, March 8th.  He'll come by bright and early, and have all 15 of our sheep separated from their wool in about an hour.  Be here by 8 AM or you could miss it altogether...  Danny doesn't dilly-dally.

You're invited -- bring the kids, if you can!

We always have such a great time on Shearing Day - if you can be with us for the fun, you'll love it.  As usual, we'll have the skirting table up and the coffee pot on  Once the fleeces come off, we'll skirt them and get them ready to wash.  This year, my goal is to have the wool washed before the alpaca fleeces get sheared.  Our routines are becoming more streamlined and efficient, so we can handle more gorgeous fiber for our shareholders.

Pray for dry weather - wet sheep don't shear...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Putting our Heads and Hearts Together

That happy cooing sound coming from the Denton, Texas area is a group of about 80 ladies cocooned into the plush accommodations of Camp Copass on Lake Lewisville, with their knitting yarns and spinning fibers.  And each other.

We've been taking classes, working on projects, swapping stories, enjoying other people's cooking, adding new skills, and enjoying some rest from our everyday routines.

Amigurumi Class
New Spinner

Knitting Around the Circle
Making Up for Lost Spinning Time
Lots of Spinning
Knitting, with Spinning at the Ready
Big Meeting Space
Tons of Fiber Friends
And Shopping
Sharing Skills
New Treasures
Crazy Creations
Peaceful Surroundings
Posh Accommodations

Awesome Food that We Didn't Cook
We'll be back to real life tomorrow, but for now, we're off the clock.  Real Life will just have to get along without us.