Monday, January 30, 2012

So I Made These Mittens…

These super-bright, colorful mittens to use while I’m out shooting photos. I wanted them colorful to remind me to look for color and not just composition.


I used a pattern that included a small slit in the fabric right where the index finger on my right hand is, to make using the camera easy. I thought I would model if for you and take a picture to show you how it works… anyone noticing a flaw in my thought process? Because I sure as heck didn’t until I actually put the mitten on and grabbed the camera. Yeah. Houston, we have a problem. Uh, I can’t take a picture of the hand that is taking the picture. You’re just going to have to believe me that it is there.

Sometimes I even scare myself.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

She’s Large and in Charge

“Awe Man, somebody ate all the good stuff,” said Frankie.


“I’ll bet it was that new girl, Minnie. She’s a pig. Have you ever seen a woman eat like that? I mean come on.”


(the room grows silent)

“She’s right behind me isn’t she?”


“Oh! Hello, Minnie. I didn’t see you there.”


“Yeah, I got that,” she said, “you’d best run, boy.”


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Losing Touch With Our Farming Heritage: How Do We Stop It?

I have a dream.

At the beginning of the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s a group of residents in the rural community of Parke County, Indiana, home to the famous Covered Bridge Festival, decided to come up with a way to capitalize on the small community’s tourism. Blessed with picturesque countryside, beautiful lakes, and a bevy of state parks the county successfully brought in dollars with the many campgrounds and recreational activities available. However, this small group of people noticed how day-to-day rural America itself seemed a novelty to most visitors and thought they could do even more. They developed a living history museum encompassing a turn-of-the-century village and farmstead called Billie Creek Village. While touring the historic buildings, visitors could not only observe but participate in the day-to-day activities. The vision was for the visitor to feel as if they had stepped back in time; school was in session inside the schoolhouse, the blacksmith was busy making horseshoes, and depending on the time of year a person could participate in anything from maple sugaring to rail splitting.

rail splitting

As with so many things in society today, that wonderful vision became distorted, watered-down along the way. The Village has changed hands many times over the years and eventually started being used more as a public park hosting car shows and Halloween parties than teaching people about the way things used to be. It slowly became a victim of the changing economy; most families are now busy working two jobs so the pool of volunteers has been significantly reduced. This is where the vicious cycle began: if there is no revenue to pay employees to do the jobs, then there is nothing for the visitor to see. If there is nothing for the visitor to see, they won’t come back. If they don’t come back, there is no revenue. The facility has fallen into disrepair and the current owners have decided not to reopen this season.

I had the pleasure of volunteering at Billie Creek Village for the past two years, first in the farmhouse as the quilting farm wife and secondly in the log cabin as the rug weaver. The joy of watching children learn to weave and seeing the seed of interest being planted made the long hours worthwhile. What struck me most though, was that despite the conditions of the facility and the current economy, people are still just as interested in rural American life now as they were back in the 1970s, only they are so far removed from that lifestyle they don’t even know where to begin to learn. I was disturbed by the number of children coming through the farmhouse who thought it was the rooster that was laying the eggs. This would have been common knowledge when I was a kid, if only because we heard our grandparents speak of it. Now though, it wasn’t only the children - some of their parents didn’t know either.

The one thing that I was asked most often was, “How do I learn how to do this?” It was asked in reference to everything from cast iron cooking, to shearing sheep, to spinning and weaving. People want more than a five minute demonstration, they want a class. They want someone to show them how to build a chicken coop for their backyard, they want someone to show them how to make their own soap, they want to learn how to spin yarn, and here is the kicker--they’re willing to pay for it! This is where we who live “out here” often miss the boat. We look at those visitors and shake our heads, wondering how a person could survive for 40 years without knowing where their food comes from. Then we walk away completely missing the opportunity to teach them. The opportunities for them to learn simply no longer exist.

“So what’s all this about a dream,” you ask? My dream is to teach them. To preserve the Billie Creek Village vision by converting the museum from a passive demonstration watching activity to a full-blown hands-on learning experience; a folk school akin to the John C. Campbell school of sorts, with weekend long immersion classes in everything from the lost crafts to sustainable farming practices. I think it is a brilliant idea. The only issue is that it would take a village to save the village and I’m just one person. It is a delightful, vivid dream but unless I hit the lottery soon I fear it, like so many other wonderful things about our past, will simply fade away. And as they do, a little part of us will fade with it.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Who goes there?


I think Willa might need to switch to decaf.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Black Sheep

There is one in every family, we call ours Squirrelly Shirley. She is, um, interesting. She would stand out in the crowd even on a normal day, yet she always feels the need to accessorize her goth look to the extreme. Sometimes it is a limb piercing her wool making her look like she’s wearing a wide load sign across her behind.


This week it is dreadlocks. It wouldn’t be so bad if she weren’t crazy. She is the least touchable animal on the farm. Helping her remove her accessories proves challenging; she trusts no one.


If she ever got out for a night on the town she’d come home with a dragon tattoo, I just know it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The New Girls

The weather has been less than ideal since the new llamas arrived; they have spent most of their time inside the barn. Popcorn finally had to approach them, “Excuse me. Um, you two are supposed to come out and guard us.”


They were not really interested in doing that until today, the wind has finally died down so Thelma took them out for a tour of the pastures and a bit of nibbling. Aibileen was intensely interested in the road construction crew a mile down the road.


Minnie didn’t like the looks of the porch dogs at all. Those are good signs in guard llamas.


Meanwhile Thelma snacked away completely oblivious to anything going on around her. 


There were a few intense moments at first while establishing the pecking order. “Hey, they’re eating my hay,” said Aibileen.  Thelma is very pleased to have them around now that she realizes she doesn’t have to do anything except eat.


I’ve had mixed feelings about bringing them here; I’m clearly not over the loss of Louise and I’m hesitant to become attached. We’ve made some adjustments in how we do things in hopes of preventing another choking incident. The easiest solution would be to not feed grain at all, but that isn’t possible when you’re working with rescues that need all the nutrition they can get, so a different method of feeding the grain needed to be implemented.


We threw out the plastic grain bins that are sold at every farm store across the country. Just because it’s widely marketed doesn’t mean it’s safe to use, way back when they sold arsenic pills to women so they could have a pale complexion; the bins should be banned just like the arsenic pills in my opinion. Instead, we built trays made from poplar 5 inches deep, 3 1/2 inches tall in the back, 1 1/2 inches tall in the front and about 36 inches long, then attached them to the wall. This allows the crumbles to be spread out in a long line versus a deep well preventing the animal from getting a large mouthful by forcing them to lip along the line slowly.


We also chose to place these at a much lower height in a more natural position for the llamas. The plastic bins we had previously were placed high to prevent the goats from getting to them; I now feel that was the biggest issue in causing Louise’s choke. If you watch a llama or alpaca eat while grazing a pasture, they almost always swallow while their head is below their withers (shoulders), therefore grain should be delivered the same. Of course, we no longer have the goats and we can easily put the sheep in for the night before feeding. However, we did discover we needed to adjust the height of the trays a few times to prevent certain individuals from trying to lick up any stray crumbs.  The llama crumbles have too much copper for it to be safe for sheep, a few little crumbs wouldn’t hurt them, but crumbs every day over time might. Now Popcorn can’t reach it anymore and she’s none too pleased.


Monday, January 23, 2012

This Week is National Photo Organization Week

Okay not really, I made that up. I spent all day yesterday cleaning up and organizing my photo files. I am ashamed to admit I’d been leaving them here, there, and everywhere; my laptop, an external hard drive, an old desktop pc. I thought it would take an afternoon. I realize now it will be more like a week. But in the end I will hopefully be able to find things AND have everything backed up with a system in place to continue said organization and replication. I am very hopeful.

In the mean time, look at the buried treasure I found; my dad feeding a goat in his underwear while laundry dried on the clothesline in front of the outhouse. LOVE it.

Dad feeding goat

Saturday, January 21, 2012



“Hey Thelma, remember that pink sweater I let you borrow back at the ranch in Washington?” said Aibileen.

“Heh, heh, yeah. Um, er, that’s a funny story…” said Thelma.

They were mostly happy to see each other after a few awkward moments.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Help

Please allow me to introduce…




and Aibileen.


I think they like it here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Overworked and Underpaid: The Livestock Guardian Dog

It has been two weeks since Louise the Livestock Llama passed away, leaving her partner Thelma in charge of guarding the sheep. I’ve since come to realize, unlike Cagney and Lacy, the division of responsibility was never equal. Thelma isn’t security team material, she’s more like the bad teenage babysitter who is so concerned about what the boys alpacas next door are doing she lets all the children sheep run wild. In an effort to pick up the slack, Willamina the Great has taken on the added responsibility and has been pulling a lot of double shifts.


Willa and I have had our differences over the years, and I know for a fact a few chickens have met their demise with her. She does seem to be outgrowing her wild youth though and maturing into a responsible adult. She still has the occasional outburst of energy, but now that she resides exclusively with the alpacas that are taller than her, she doesn’t seem to want to play chase as much. It seems to only be the smaller animals that trigger that impulse.

Unlike Thelma, she absolutely earns her keep around here. Each evening of late, just after I tuck everyone in for the night, I hear the blood curdling howling start; there is a pack of coyotes camped out in the ravine behind the barn. I suppose they are using the spring-fed pond as their winter watering hole. It sounds as if they are coming within feet, not yards, of the perimeter fence. Willa makes it emphatically clear where the boundaries are in case they’ve forgotten, going so far as to have created a rut where she patrols back and forth.


We are bringing another rescue llama in to keep Thelma company, and hopefully refocus her attention back to the sheep, but it is Willa who allows me to sleep at night. Bringing up a livestock guardian dog from a pup isn’t easy; they will try your patience, they will bark at harmless croaking frogs for hours, and they might even eat a chicken or two.  Waiting them out is worth it though, eventually you will wake up one day and realize they have quietly become worth their weight in gold.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Little Quilt

It was all good, I was rolling right along with my progress until the border. Then all Hell broke loose. I don’t even want to discuss how many do-overs were involved, or how I ended up one-inch short on the border fabric. Just know that by the end of the night there was wine involved, and I concluded that Operating While Intoxicated could include my sewing machine, so I went to bed. 

But it’s done. Er, well, the top is done. I’ll quilt it next week.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keeping the Momentum Going


I’d like to take this time to point out that, not only have I cleaned up and organized my office, I also finished my January knitting project when it is only half-way through the month. I finished the Vancouver Fog mitts two nights ago. I think they coordinate well with the neck warmer I made awhile back. Not an exact match, but only a knitter would notice the difference.


I also started knitting a pair of Norwegian Fisherman mittens. They are HUGE. They will eventually be thrown in the wash and intentionally shrunken to make nice air-tight/water-tight mittens; supposedly Norwegian fisherman wore these mitts on the ships in the 1800s. They’re going to have to shrink bunches or I’ll be donating them to some guy in the NBA.

I also started in on a quilting project late yesterday afternoon. I was fading fast, getting tired, and surfing the web when I noticed Kathleen Tracy’s blog post. She is doing a monthly challenge from her book, Prairie Children and Their Quilts. This month’s quilt is a mourning quilt. It seemed like a sign, right? I’ve decided to play along, and in true pioneering spirit, force myself to only use my scraps and stash; my scraps were the next area of my workspace needing a major cleaning and sorting anyway. I don’t keep large pieces of fabric, so the borders and binding might have to get creative as the year goes on.


I quickly chose fabrics, started cutting, and before the night was over had four blocks assembled. I hope to finish the top this evening. I like small quilts, I plan to cover the walls in the upstairs hall with them. I’m not sure I’ll get each one layered and quilted each month, but I’d be happy to at least get the tops made.

AND… the news you’ve been waiting for….

the mint/teal mohair will be going to live with WhiteStone! Shoot me an e-mail with your snail mail, please. 

And, in case you were curious, the kid STILL has not asked why I’m wanting random numbers. I’d love to know what he’s thinking.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Greetings From My Office & Another Giveaway

I’ve made enough progress to start calling it my office, versus the giant craft closet at the top of the stairs.  For just a mish-mash of cast off furnishings, it is turning out to be pretty functional. I still have much to do, but I can actually sit and work at my desk. This makes me very happy, not to mention that all of my yarn and knitting books are organized and cataloged. Sweet!


The shipping and receiving department in the corner leaves a lot to be desired, but there is no closet in this room, and not a whole lot in the entire house for that matter, so I’m stuck with some empty boxes. At least they are broken down and not taking up the entire room. My favorite part about this space is the window that looks out onto the barnyard; I can keep an eye on everybody.


I do still have to deal with this pile. I feel confident I’ll do it today. Everything will be listed on Etsy by the end of the day. If not, check back for another giveaway tomorrow. I’m finding the possibility of giving away everything I own highly motivating.


Which brings me to today’s giveaway. That mohair. In all honesty, I didn’t buy it. It came with the loom that I bought in November. I figured I’d keep it and make it into something, I mean it is really good mohair. However, teal isn’t really my color and, well, the fuzziness of it really isn’t my thing either, but it is good mohair so I had to keep it. Then all the clutter in this room triggered a memory of my grandmother’s house. Anita was a crafter extraordinaire, she had boxes of stuff stacked to the ceiling with paths going through each room. This is where the Thou Shalt Not part of my title the other day came from. I refuse to become a hoarder, so somebody out there is going to get all this great mohair. Someone who will use it and not keep it in a box collecting dust.  Just tell me your Grandmother’s first name and what she was like. I’ll draw a winner this same time tomorrow.


Yesterday’s winner of the quilting books is Benita!  Send me an email with your snail mail address to frontporchindiana at live dot com and I’ll get your books out to you right away.

I keep asking the kid to shout out a random number and he hasn’t even bothered to ask me why. Interesting.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quilts and Another Giveaway

I received a giant box in the mail. I recently placed an order for some livestock supplies and I thought to myself, “Good grief that’s an awfully big box, how many syringes did I buy?”  But it wasn’t syringes, it was quilts!  The quilts I had sent home with Michelle after quilt retreat. She worked her long-arm magic on them and made them beau-ti-ful. I’d kill for that kind of talent. Okay, not kill, but armwrestle. Okay, with my weenie arms maybe not armwrestle either, but you know what I mean. The girl is crazy talented. Part of me doesn’t want to give you her website address because I want to keep her all to myself, but that’s not very nice so here it is

This is a full-size quilt I made for my guest room and is now my very-most favorite. The quilting she did reminds me of the old-fashioned feather quilting. It is exquisite. I can’t even describe how happy I am with this quilt.


Certain individuals around here like to claim this bed as her own, instead of using the one I provided her with.


So I made another quilt to cover the first, in order to protect it from her fur-flingin’ little body. I told Michelle it was just a quilt for the cat so she could do whatever she wanted for the quilting. It looks like a cat’s tail, don’t you think? I love it!


This next one is a throw-size that I’m afraid to admit how long ago I made. It was never my favorite. The concept was that it would be brick paths through a garden. I’m still not sure that’s what it really looks like, but now that Michelle has worked her magic,  I like it so much better.


Look at this awesome pattern. Cool, eh?


I’m going to be hand-sewing binding on until March.

Today’s giveaway is for the quilters out there. Tell me what your favorite quilt block is and why, I’ll draw a winner 24-hours from now for these two great books, Quick and Easy Projects for the Weekend Quilter and Machine Quilting: The Basics and Beyond.


Yesterday's winning number was 5, csndyrn send me an e-mail with your snail-mail address to frontporchindiana (at) live (dot) com and I’ll whisk your prize off to you.

I’m making headway on getting my office cleaned up and I’m starting to see the surface of my desk in spots. At least one more giveaway coming so stay tuned.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Giveaway Number One

I’m giving something away every day here until I reach the surface of my desk. First up…


a lovely copy of Felted Knits by Beverly Galeskas. Just leave a comment explaining which animal is your favorite here at the farm and why. Twenty-four hours from now I’ll draw a random winner.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Do They Spit?

It is almost always the first question I’m asked when I say I have llamas and alpacas. Closely followed by, “What do you do with them?”  Normally, I explain that they really only spit at each other, but from now on I’m just going to say, “Yes. Yes, they do.”


And I just washed my barn coat.  *sigh*

On a funny note, the other day, The Crazy Sheep Lady was giving me a hard time about my profile photo on Ravelry; she thought it made me look like I worked in a bank. Guess what will be my profile now?  Talk about keepin’ it real.

Thou Shalt Be Done

The small room at the top of the back stairs has become my crafty dumping station. I try to at least keep all of the yarn somewhat organized, but it was starting to overflow. The room is stacked with boxes, both full of rubber stamping and scrapbooking supplies that I intend to sell and empty boxes that are just hanging out until I need one. I can only stand clutter for so long. I need to be able to use the desk that is under all of that, because I’m pretty sure the drum carder is under there somewhere. I would like to process a few fleeces. Winter has finally come, and seems like it will stick around, so there’s no time like the present to get started. 

Yesterday I pulled out all of my yarn stash, photographed it, and categorized it on Ravelry so I’ll know what I have -- and force myself to use it. I even assigned most of it to projects in my queue; I plan to plug away at it all year leaving me with a pile of finished objects in December. I’m working on some Vancouver Fog fingerless gloves in an alpaca/wool blend right now.


I also started photographing a few items to finally get posted in my Etsy store. This, I’ve been putting off forever. The room looks worse now than when I started, but after a short break this afternoon for a class, I’m planning to buckle down and spend the weekend in there getting the job done. I like the feeling of accomplishment and hopefully I’ll find that drum carder in the process.  I see a give-away in my blog future. Teal mohair anyone?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Friend for Thelma

We could never replace Louise, but I think we’ve found a new friend to keep Thelma company. Well, an old friend really, they both came from the same foreclosed mega-ranch. She has no name and is only identified as #172.


During the chaos of dispersing a herd so large, about 18 llamas slipped through the cracks. They were not included as part of the auction; they were rescued by Llama Reserve from the slaughterhouse at the 11th hour. Number 172 was among them.


She is what they call a non-breeder, or in other words has had some issues with her girly parts and shouldn’t be out making babies. We don’t do babies here so she’s a perfect fit for us. We will value her for who she is, not what she can give us. I’ve not yet met her, (her foster provided these photos) but I’m told she is very sweet.  As soon as transportation can be arranged, we’ll give her a home here - and give her a name. I think she deserves that.

Someone asked me about making a donation to Llama Reserve in memory of Louise. I was touched by it and thought it was fabulous idea. As a fledgling organization it is in need of so many things and as Lisa Alayza of Llama Reserve said, “They can’t eat snowballs,” every dollar counts. If you feel compelled to make a donation you can click on the logo below to get to the Paypal link.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Little Chicken Therapy

I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather we are having this afternoon and decided to go in for a therapy session. “Come on up girl.”




Everyone should have a lap chicken. They’re good for the soul.

What About Thelma?

We all miss Louise. Her personality was so huge it filled up the barn, without her it seems empty. Nobody misses her more than Thelma, though. Camelids are herd animals, so their instinct is to stay with the herd. Some llamas can live alone as guard animals and get along just fine. Thelma is not one of those llamas. She is a follower, not a leader. She’s not at all independent.


Popcorn is doing her best to try to keep Thelma company, but it’s not working.


Thelma continues to stare off into the pasture where the alpacas are. She hums softly, expressing her stress at being left behind.  They see each other over a half-wall inside the barn, too, but it’s not the same as being with each other. We can’t let her join them because, of course, we don’t want babies (alpacas and llamas can breed and create a viable offspring, but that would be bad).


So we are working on getting Thelma a friend; possibly an old friend, one from the same ranch they were rescued from. As hard as it is for me to open my heart once again to a new animal, I can’t bear to watch Thelma be sad either.  The only other option would be to find Thelma a home somewhere else where there are llamas. Not exactly an easy thing to do.