Monday, April 30, 2012

Girl Time

We're hunkering down for the next few days here at the farm, making stuff and gearing up for the annual pilgrimage to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival next weekend.  There's one new difference this year:  I get to take my daughter with me.

Em is just recently back from six months of homeschooling with my sister and the cousins in Hawaii, and we're going to take advantage of this ongoing flexible schedule.  Since she won't be missing days from a rigid public school schedule, we're going to take off on perhaps our only chance to do the big wool fest together before she returns to public school again.

She's been my best helper lately out in the pasture, working with the sheep and alpacas, scritching the dogs and herding the chickens.  She has a keen intuition with the animals and we have a great time together.  (OK, I have a great time... she comes along fairly willingly.)

Empty Hay Bunker.  Don't be fooled by that hard-packed junk in the bottom.

Full Hay Bunker.  The difference is clear.

Apparently, after you stuff yourself with hay, you chase it with some tasty dirt clods.

I'm looking forward to showing Emma all the amazing stuff at MDS&W, including more different kinds of sheep than you can imagine, and enough texture and color to choke a horse.  She doesn't think of textile arts as her future, but she knows enough to appreciate it, and she's a great sport when it comes to hanging out with her old mom's friends.

I can't wait.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vanni Owns Fourth Saturday

Fourth Saturday - a wonderful busy time with knitters and spinners coming and going from the Little Red Barn.  But it was also busy in the pasture, with a steady stream of visitors coming through the gates on this sunny and windy day.

For instance, while Mia was busy filling some bags with 'paca poo for her urban homestead, her son Levi was having a great time playing ring-around-the-rosey with Vanni.

A lovely group of girls came to visit the animals and learn about spinning wool.  They loved the alpacas, but, as usual, Vanni stole the show.

A sweet young couple came to see what alpacas look like in person, but had to deal with Vanni's... uh, curious nature.

Thanks to all the Barnies who dropped by today, including our first-timer, Debbie... Denise, Rita, Lisa, Lisa, Karen, Kris, Gail, CJ, and Anela (who'd I miss?).

Hopefully next time we get together, there won't be a huge moving van in the front yard... We'll let you know when the garage sale is on.  Some of Grandma's stuff is awesome.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Learning Something New

Sure, we could buy our socks at Walmart, but we like to knit them ourselves.  Sure, we could buy lace off a bolt, but we like to tat it ourselves.  Yes, we could find a nice shawl on sale at Kohls, but we enjoy crocheting our own.  It's not easy, and it's not for everyone, but we have chosen to slow down, apply our brains and our hands, and craft beautiful things for our own use, ourselves.

 Three awesome ladies came to the LRB last night to add a new competency to their textile toolboxes - spinning.  These gals are so good at so many other things.  But we all got the inevitable reminder that when you start a new craft, there is a period of time when you feel like you're all thumbs and not very bright.  And here's the key: this stage doesn't last, as long as you keep trying.  The truth is that you're very bright, and quite dexterous, but your digits need new training.

First, your brain mulls over the new intellectual understanding of the physics.  Then your eyes and your hands begin to experiment and try different things ("what happens if I do this?").  Then together, they begin making thousands of micro-decisions you may not even be aware of ("ah, it works better if I hold it this way") and before you know it, your yarn gets nicer and nicer. 

Getting the concept is not a very long process.  But refining the skill takes what our friend Liz calls, "time in the chair."  Practice.  Even just over the course of the evening, my new friends' yarn improved 100%.  Practice.

Are you learning something new that has you frustrated and about to give up?  Persevere.  The "AHA!" moment may be right around the corner.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Still More Fun on the Farm

I made about 100 new friends today.  Emma and I got to traipse up to McKinney again today to share the love of the farm with several busloads of wide-eyed first graders.

These are not inner city kids who've never seen a patch of grass.  These are suburban kids who have gotten separated from the source of a lot of their stuff: the farm.

Once the buses unload, groups of 20+ kids travel from station to station to learn about various aspects of farm life.  These including samples of rural life 100 years ago, dog agility (as it relates to working dogs on the farm), hands-on lessons with some amazing farm animals, and of course, I get to talk about fiber - plant fiber and animal fiber.

We start by talking about cotton, and all the amazing things we get from the cotton plant.  The kids play "cotton gin" by separating the fluffy fibers from the hard seeds.

Then we spin a little cotton thread out of the fluff, with our fingers.  Not easy, but the kids to remarkably well.

Then we talk about wool and sheep, and the process of getting that wool into garments.  Even the parents and teachers learn a few things.  Today I learned some Spanish words: suave = soft, limpia = clean, blanca = white.  That's what we get when we wash raw wool... clean, white and soft lana... um, wool.

I loved having Emma with me as a helper today, and so did the animal wranglers.  She's always had a soft spot for those mini donkeys like Victoria.

The kids get to touch some sweet farm animals and look deeply into their little eyes...

the Momma Goat...

a Jacob sheep...

More goaty cuteness ...

Big dramatic, gentle Belle, the draft pinto

Cookie, the guard llama, some chickens, and more...

After four groups of kids came through, it was time to load up all the animals back into Ms. Keeley's amazing critter hauler.

Chris loads up the very pregnant mini-zebu heifer.

The goaties wait their turn to load up.

It all fits back in, like a 3D animal puzzle.

Last aboard, Heidi the agility Corgi.

Every time I see these kids' eyes widen with disbelief about all the cool stuff they learn, I'm reminded how amazing it really is.  When their jaws drop, mine does too.  It's very easy to take it for granted, when the stuff of nature and the farm surround me every day.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to see it with fresh eyes every time we share it with a child.  Thanks for reminding me of the miracles.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

SRO at the LRB

Like bees to honey, we flocked to the Little Red Barn today, to spend time together, meet new friends, and knit and spin for all we were worth.  I think we set a new LRB record for the number of people who spent at least part of the day with us today!

My neighbor, Ilene, brought tomato plants for us to share - because her beds were full, and there's nothing sadder than a lovely Roma without a good home.

Gloria got comfy, and Joy brought a box full of Spin Off back issues for us to paw through...
(Gloria's mom, Linda, somehow evaded the camera...)

Denise, Rita, Anela, Mary, Amy and Virginia

Karen tats...


Lisa and Kris

Chiyo and Peggy share a secret...

Peggy and Greta

Baby Shannon, who was a delight all day...

Hanane and Karen

Peggy's bionic knees

Maria and her amazing double knitting.  Maria has agreed to teach a class in this fascinating technique - mark down June 9 and stay tuned for the details.

Hanane has agreed to teach shuttle tatting, too.  Flag May 12 for this class, and watch for the details.

Huge thanks to Will Hulse for helping me with some gardening chores.  He has volunteered to take on the Garden Rehab project - I am so relieved and excited I could cry.  I hate to see a neglected garden, but there's only so much we can do.  Thank you, Will, for taking this on...

In addition to the tatting and double knitting classes, we'll be starting another Beginning Spinning class on Wednesday evening at 7 (three sessions from 7-9 PM, $50, all materials included).  And we're long overdue to Dye Trying - so we'll pull out the dye pots on May 19.  You guessed it - details coming.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Needles Clicking

Breakthrough! Three new knitters overcame past challenges today in the LRB.  Dorinda, Monica and Emily succeeded where they had not before, and I'm delighted to say, left more confident in their brand new skills.  Awesome job!

Sometimes the difference between sheer frustration and victory is just a tiny little adjustment.  And having someone at your elbow helping you make minor corrections can set you on the road to a fulfilling new hobby... especially a new hobby that could well morph into a passion.  Show of hands?

Each of these ladies had tried before but were thwarted by simple things.  What an easy, fun task it was for me just to nudge them back onto the right road.  Emily took off, and picked up the Continental style with grace and ease.

Our painter, Monica, developed a wonderful rhythm very quickly.  We're kindred spirits who love earth tones.  Yo, sister.

 And Dorinda let out the secret that even though she does many things left-handed, she actually got some relief by knitting right-handed this time!  Liberation!  And she's off and running.

After class, of course, we had to make the rounds in the pasture to say hi to all the critters, and were joined by Navayah, Jessica, Asher, and the baby.  Navayah raises sheep herself and we had so much fun comparing notes and swapping stories.  She and Jessica will be back for a spindle class soon so that she can better use her own wool.

Asher was fascinated by the chickens, who are just tame enough to hang around close, and keep him engaged.

We've been blessed beyond measure with the weather this week, and it promises to hold for several more days to come. 

Now it's time for me to take advantage of this springy day and wash some fiber!