Monday, August 31, 2009

I Went to See a Man About a Dog

Growing up, my Dad was a master of the the euphemism. It took me forever to figure out that when he said he was "going to see a man about a dog" he wasn't really going to see a man about a dog. In fact, he was taking a leak. Yet another euphemism. It's a wonder I don't need therapy.

Anyhoo, today I went to see a man about a dog. Only I really did go see a man about a dog. Not just any ol' dog. A beautiful little 3 1/2 month old Great Pyrenees girl (little being a relative term).

It's the logical next step in our fiber farm plans. The sheep and chickens have been safe in their arrangement so far. But we had an experience listening to the sounds of a pack of dogs not to long ago that made the hairs on our heads stand on end. Harvest time will be coming soon and that will bring out the coyotes in droves.

I'm going to sleep better at night knowing Willa is on duty. Willamina in German means The Diligent Guardian.

She left behind an angora goat and peacocks as sleeping companions. But I have no doubt in time she'll find someone to snuggle up with here. She's already staked her boundaries and let everyone know that she's the new Head Farm Dog in Charge. I'm in love. It's going to be hard to let her do her job and not love on her too much.

Little by Little, Bit by Bit

Re-establishing a farm after forty years of neglect sometimes seems like a monumental task. But I'm plugging away at it and starting to make some progress. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes kind of stuff that goes on around here that you never know about. However, this week we're going to have some exciting additions to the farm. And I'm not just talking about Pebbles and Bam Bam here.

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 28, 2009

You Saw Them Here First Folks

We've got a shot at Vegas baby! I'm telling you, next years winners of America's Got Talent are right here on the farm. They work hard and practice every day.

May I present...The Barnyard Pirates rehearsing their own rendition of dueling banjos...



video

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Adding to the Flock

When I broached the subject of adding a few more must-have Shetland mules to our flock the Engineer strongly suggested we wait until next year. He is right. I know we should wait. But that doesn't mean I want to. Theresa says they're like Lay's potato chips. I have to agree.

But I'm not one to do what I'm told. Or to do what I should. So I added more sheep to our flock anyway. Last night I turned this,

into this.


Mwah, ha, ha, ha. Nobody can tell me I can't have something. Not nobody, not nohow.

I think I'll make it a friend tonight.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life In The Fast Lane

A conversation with Milah the other day got me to thinking about how much my life has changed over the past ten years. There was a day where I lived in the city and had a high tech telecommunications job with all of it's high tech demands. Meetings. Deadlines. Pressure.

Now that I'm a yarn and egg farmer I realize I still have meetings, deadlines and pressure. It's a tough job. Not everyone is cut out for it. I mean just watch the madness at one of our board meetings...

video

That wool growing and egg gathering business is seriously demanding. And the traffic on the way to work is just brutal. But somebody's got to do it.

(I'm just very, very grateful that the Engineer allows it to be me.)

Technical Difficulties

"It's just a bunch of half-square triangles. How hard could that be?" That's what I said to myself when I saw the quilt and decided to sign up for the class. Well let me tell you folks, it's a heck of a lot harder than it looks.

The fact that Milah didn't hold me down and pound little knots all over my head for getting us into this mess during our class yesterday is a testament to her good nature. We had our poor instructor, Kay, hopping trying to fix our blocks. In our defense we both had some technical difficulties with our machines. At first my Janome Jem was smooshing my 1/4 inch foot so it was more like a 3/8 inch foot. Then Milah's featherweight didn't want to cooperate at all.


Tell me she doesn't look like she's thinking "OMG, where did these women come from?" in this picture.

By the end of the three hour class, after resolving our technical problems, telling more than a few funny stories, eating lots of chocolate and having a few hot flashes we still didn't have a completed block. We did however notice if we combined our pieces together it at least looked like we accomplished something. We make a good team. Just not a particularly efficient one. :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photographing Shetlands

Come to find out, photographing other's sheep is WAY easier than photographing my own. You get that "Who the heck are you and what is that in your hand?" thirty-second hesitation before they come and try to eat your camera strap. The rams at Sheep Street were particularly curious about the camera. You can just tell he's wondering if it tastes good.

From the get go I've insisted that I don't want a ram. And that I don't want to become a breeder. I just wanted to have fiber pets. But seeing these guys up close in all their rugged handsomeness makes my knees weak.
This one below reminds me of a dog my Aunt Martha used to have many moons ago. Don't you just love his bi-colored horns? I wasn't just enamored with the boys either. This shy little girl stole my heart.

If I thought I would have gotten away with it I would have tried to stick her in my pocket and bring her home with me. I just love her. We bonded. We made a connection. We're meant to be together.
I'll be back my little friend. I'll be back.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Spinning on Sheep Street

It's a long and winding road for me to get to Sheep Street. But the drive is worth it.

Sheep Street Fibers offers gads...
and gads...and gads of drop dead gorgeous yarn in every color and variation.
They also offer stunning natural colored yarn (my personal favorite) spun from their own flock of 100 Shetland sheep.

But I wasn't there to shop. I was there to spin. And spin I did. Tim and Nancy started us out slow and taught us about the history of spinning as we practiced spinning using a drop spindle. Then they sent us home with lots of homework. It was later that night that the a-ha moment happened for me and it all started coming together.

The next morning we had to turn our homework in for Pirate, the resident spinning supervisor, to inspect. If he found it satisfactory only then were we allowed to play with the spinning wheels.

Being able to sit and try all the various wheels they sell through their shop was invaluable. I certainly would have chosen the wrong wheel for myself had I not had this opportunity. Of course now I have my heart set on the Schacht Matchless which ain't cheap. I'll be selling a slightly used kidney on e-bay this week if anybody needs one...

All in all it was a wonderful, fun experience. It was nice to sit there spinning away and look up and watch the sheep grazing in the pasture just outside the window. If you're ever in the area I'd highly recommend you stop by and pay a visit to Sheep Street, they're good people with good products and good service. Doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sit-n-Spin

Think of the softest, cushiest stuffed animal you've ever felt. You know, the ones they make for infants. That's what Blanche feels like. I want to bring her inside and snuggle up with her she's so soft. The engineer isn't too keen on that idea though so I've come up with Plan B. I'm going to a spin class today. (They assured me there will be no stationary bikes anywhere on the premises. )

I'm going to learn how to spin her into something wonderful. The engineer thought this was a much better idea and even agreed to buy me whatever spinning wheel I want. Okay, he didn't really say that. Well, not in so many words anyway. There was something about golf clubs mentioned. I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention. Anyway... I'm off to sit and spin. I'll update more later.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Photograph Shetland Sheep

There are all kinds of wonderful resources out there that can help you become a better photographer. For sports photography they always tell you to find a good spot on the sideline and use a tripod. When the sports figure goes flying by you can take great action shots with your telephoto lens.

With wildlife photography they tell you to pack a lunch, take your time, sneak up as close as you can get to your subject, set up your tripod and use a huge honking telephoto lens to reach close enough to to snap a photo without spooking the animal.

These skills I had practiced. These skills I had developed. These skills I could almost say I had mastered. But let me tell you, when you're trying to take pictures of Shetland sheep you can flush all those skills right down the toilet. None of it matters.

Nope. No one will tell you that the sheep will belch in your ear while your setting up your shot. Nor will they remind you that you'll need a damp cloth to clean your lens after the sheep lick it. They don't tell you how to prevent them from chewing on your camera strap. They fail to mention that you will need running shoes instead of a tripod.

And you'd better be in good shape. Because you'll need to run ahead, turn, squat and hope to snap a few shots...before they catch up with you.


Where they will belch in your ear, lick your camera lens and eat the strap until you take off running again...

AN-I-MAL, AN-I-MAL, AN-I-MAL

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Like Slipping On Your Favorite Pair of Jeans

That's how easy and comfortable it was meeting Milah at Quilt's Plus today. Just like we'd known each other forever.

We did more gabbing than actual sewing but we still managed to trash the place. Luckily it turned out we were the only one's in the class today. I don't see how anyone else could have gotten a word in--or an elbow in for that matter--otherwise. I needed to get to a meeting at the school after class, which was probably good or else we would have still been there and they would have had to kick us out at closing time.

At first our instructor, Kay Kingsley, thought Milah was stark raving mad for signing up for a quilt class she'd never seen by the recommendation of a person she'd never met. But I don't think it took her long to figure out that we were two peas in a pod. She kept having to crack the whip to keep us on track. By the end of it I'm sure she realized we are BOTH stark raving mad and are made for each other.

Here is Kay posed with two of her quilts. She does incredibly drop-dead-gorgeous work. And I love her philosophy on quilting. She says "My dog ate my rulebook so anything goes."

We go back in two weeks for the second half of the class. I'm already looking forward to it. If it was half as much fun as today it will be a blast.

Meeting Our Destiny

Remember that quilt class I was planning to take? The one where I was going to meet Milah from over at From My Back Porch? The one we were destined to take?

Today is the day!

So I'm off to the big city to meet up with someone I met on the internet. Something I would never, ever allow my children to do. And I just wanted you all to know...

if I disappear off the face of the earth...

Milah did it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ebony & Ivory

Photographing moving objects can be challenging. Especially if they move erratically like a chicken. Then there is the whole lighting issue. You need to just happen to be out there when the light is right. Generally if I wait long enough I can take a decent shot of most of them. Except these characters. These two are SO black and SO white it throws the light meter on my camera into a tizzy. It's about as easy as getting a good shot of Sasquatch. But after months of trying I finally did it! I give you the following photos straight out of the camera, no editing.


I wonder if this is how that cameraman felt after he captured that Bird of Paradise dance on Discovery Channel's Plant Earth show?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Raising Chickens for Dummies

It's FINALLY here! Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to keep a secret? Especially a secret that has anything to do about my chickens? I mean really, you know I can just go on and on and on about chickens. And if you don't know that you must have just stumbled upon this blog accidentally. Because everybody around here knows that chickens have consumed my life.

Luckily, via the power of the Internet, I know I'm not the only one. Nope. There are thousands of folks crazy 'bout chickens just like me. And bunches of them hang out at a place called BackyardChickens.com to cuss and discuss all things chicken. It's the mother load of chicken know how.

Recently Rob, the website owner, teamed up with Wiley publishing and Kimberly Willis to produce Raising Chickens for Dummies. Everything you ever wanted to know about raising chickens in your own backyard in one concise handbook. Brilliant!


If you're interested in starting your own flock or maybe you already have some chooks, you should buy a copy. And if you take a gander at page 93 you will see a remarkable rendition of our very own chicken garden! Yes folks. Old One-Eyed Calico Jack's bachelor pad has been published!


I must point out that other than a free copy of the book I get nothing by way of compensation. However I'm sure Rob does and he's got some adorable little girls and some chickens to feed so go buy a copy. And if you aren't already a member of BackyardChickens.com go sign up now and you can see more details about our chicken garden and lots of others.

I Have to Give Her Credit

Sure, she nearly squat them in her zealousness to care for them in the beginning. But Pearl has since proven herself to be a big help to Minnie and her babies.


She's right there ready to step in as protector any time Minnie needs her. I pity the poor fool who tries messing with these kids.

It's nice for a new Mom to get the chance to relax for a leisurely bath knowing her babies are safe.

I personally would prefer bubbles to dust, but to each her own.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Airing of the Quilts

I've been locked away in Sheville working on my secret mission project. It's now time to start the quilting. I'm at a loss. So this morning I pulled a few of my antique quilts out for inspiration. They needed airing and refolding anyway. I thought while I had them out I would share them with you in a virtual quilt show. None are highly prized for their monetary value. They each have some flaws. But I love them all the same. The sentimental value is priceless.

The Two Color Quilts

I inherited the two color quilts via my Mother. I'm hoping she will e-mail me after seeing this and remind me which of my step-dad's family members made the following two-color quilts. I need to make labels for them.

The first is one of my favorites for it's simplicity. It was well loved and used but is in reasonable shape for it's age other than some unfortunate staining. It is hand pieced and is hand quilted with a very simple diagonal lines spaced half an inch apart.

The second one I love because the maker ran out of the blue fabric yet she persevered and made do with a similar one.


It is hand pieced and hand quilted with a simple double diagonal line in the center of the quilt and a beautiful fern leaf motif in the border.

The third is a gorgeous trip around the world summer quilt with prairie points.

It is hand quilted with diagonal lines, Dresden plates and a gorgeous scrolling leafy vine in the border.


The final one is a work in progress. It was never finished. My mother-in-law tacked a back and binding on it years ago to allow me to display it until I got around to truly finishing it. Now that I'm looking at it I think I need to move it up on my priority list.


Scrappy Quilts

This is my very favorite antique quilt simply for it's beauty. It is the only one that I've purchased. It has no sentimental value. I just fell in love with it. It's tied, not quilted. All hand pieced and even has a hand stitched closure on the edges instead of binding. I think it's gorgeous. 100% my favorite style.
This 30's beauty belonged to my maternal grandfather. We're not sure where he acquired it. It's exquisite in it's workmanship both the hand piecing and hand quilting.
The Crazy Quilts

The crazy quilts were made by my paternal grandmother. She was a practical farm wife and no doubt these were scraps from their clothing. The first one is made of wools and flannels. I think it was intended for a small boy as it has cute Scotty dogs on the binding and backing.


And then the girl version. This one doesn't have all the fancy stitching. Instead it's simply tied. I can remember this one being on my bed when I was a small child.
Wedding Quilts

Another quilt by my paternal grandmother. Made for my parents as a wedding gift. It appears she had it "sent out" to be quilted by machine in a pantograph pattern. My family has gotten it's money's worth out of this one. It spent years on my parents bed and I can remember many a picnic and Fourth of July celebrations on this quilt. Unfortunately it shows all the use.

This one I received as a wedding gift. Again this one has seen many uses. But it's now spending it's time being preserved for future generations. It will be handed down to my daughter.
Whole Cloth Quilt

I only wish I could capture the beauty of this one for you. It is a queen size whole cloth quilt. Just gorgeous! A friend gave this one to me as a thank you gift. Her mother hand quilted it.

I'll never in a million years deserve such a beautiful gift. I feel guilty every time I pull it out and look at it.

And there you have it. My quilts are aired, fluffed and refolded. But the only thing I accomplished on my secret mission project is avoiding starting it yet again. Maybe tomorrow...