Sunday, February 26, 2012

This, I like.

At what point does it become an addiction? I feel it coming, and I am perfectly okay with it, I just want to be prepared. Maybe get one of those little dorm refrigerators for the loom room.


The alpaca shawl is off the loom; and fabulous, if I do say so myself. I saw a fellow reenactor with a similar shawl, the collar was tacked down and the ends of the shawl tacked together to make sleeves. It helped the shawl fit perfectly and kept it in place. I think I will try that and possibly shorten the fringe so I don’t set myself ablaze around the campfire.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Weaver’s Apprentice

I did it! Few things have made me more proud.


Making cloth is a very complicated process. There was a reason it would take an apprentice years to master the craft. They must learn to design a draft, calculate the project, measure the warp, sley the reed, thread the heddles, and tie up the treadles all before they even begin. Then there is the actual act of weaving, and learning to keep even tension and an even beat. I am a long way from becoming a master, but I’m making one of the most beautiful alpaca shawls you have ever seen and I couldn’t be more pleased with myself.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Story of My Life

“Clean up on aisle nine!”


It seems alpacas and llamas can perform magic. They can’t spin straw into gold, but I swear they can turn one blade of grass into 20 pounds of manure. It’s amazing.

Anyone needing garden compost? I have PLENTY.

Monday, February 13, 2012

You Can’t Fix Stupid

When I asked why there was vinyl covering the wood floors in the dining room, the previous owner said, “There was some black stuff on the floor so we covered it up.”  That might have been the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard. I was envisioning some water damage or something to that effect. Not wall-to-wall tar. 


It took about an hour to, first chip up the underlayment, then scrape off the tar of a 4 inch by 3 foot strip - and then it was still black. Pitch black. That, coupled with the fact that we know there must be a couple of huge plumbing holes in the floor since this was once used as the bathroom, means all hope of refinishing the floor is gone.

Luckily, we were able to remove the vinyl from the underlayment though and will be able to reuse it. Which is a darn good thing, because it is nailed down every two or three inches and has melded to the tar.

You can’t fix stupid.


I’m contemplating our options. Wood laminate would probably seem out of place against all the antique wood floors in the rest of the house, so I’m leaning toward putting back a vinyl. Something about the same color as the wood so it wouldn’t stand out so much as the old white floor.

In other news, the internet, once again, saved me from an impending breakdown.  Thanks to all of your suggestions, I have figured out the problem with the loom. I don’t have it warped yet, but I know what the problem is – it’s me.  I’m an idiot. It is a counterbalance loom. Counter. Balance.  As in, if you want to lower one shaft, you have to counter it with another in order for it to balance.

There are dents in my desk from where I banged my head.

You can’t fix stupid.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Calling All Weavers

So, last summer, I dragged home a heap of counterbalance loom parts that I found stored inside a shed. I painstakingly reassembled and refurbished it.


It has sat there, unused, ever since. See, I warped it and tied it up the best I could, based on what I could find on the internet, but I still cannot get a shed. I mean, none. Something is seriously askew.


The lamms are only attached on one side, unlike several I’ve seen online. Where on earth do I go to get more information on tying up a counterbalance loom? If I can’t get this figured out, I’m going to have to cut my losses and write up a craigslist ad titled, Counterbalance Loom ISO Smarter Loom Owner.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Time Well Spent

I finished another doll quilt top for the upstairs hallway. I am ahead of schedule on this one, so I hope to get it, and the one for last month, quilted by the end of the month.


I also warped the jack loom and practiced a little twill. I think I’d like to make a twill shawl with the yarn I just received from the mill. In my practice piece I was working with cotton, then switched to the alpaca blend for the last several rows. I cannot wait to wrap myself up in some of this yarn.


I have conceded that, yes, I’m going to sell some of it. I just need to determine how much, and for how much. I think I might try a quick scarf first, you know, just to test it out. In case I change my mind and decide to hoard it all again.  Smile

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hello, My Name is Christine and I am a Fiber Fanatic

Do you hear that dripping sound? It is the block of ice I put around my heart, melting. I mean, how could it not? Look at her.


Even in her rough condition, Aibileen is incredibly cute. She had some health issues that we believe she suffered with for quite some time before being rescued. She’s better now, but the long-term infection left her fiber in a rough state. That stripe on her nose is actually where the hair has worn away from rubbing on a feeder.


You can see that there is really no sheen to her fiber at all and she generally looks like she needs a day or two at the salon for a hot oil treatment. It is particularly noticeable if you compare her to Thelma, who has had about nine months of good health and nutrition.


But, I tell you, nobody does sheen better than Minnie. Her fleece also looks as if it has been frosted, like those 1990s hairstyles we all used to wear. They are all classified as heavy-wooled llamas, but Minnie adds the word extra in front of that. She’ll produce a great deal of fiber every year.


I’m looking forward to shearing. Llama fiber is generally not as fine as alpaca fiber and therefore not quite as soft. They also don’t have as much crimp. Crimp is what makes a yarn stretchy. Luckily, I happen to have some super-crimpy sheep and I can combine the two to make a very nice yarn. In fact, I just received a batch of my mill spun yarn this week from Fluery Sheep and Wool. That is Sophia, the sheep, mixed with Dino and Peter, the alpacas on the left in a 50/50 blend. On the right is Blanche, the sheep, and Sammy, the alpaca, in about a 70/30 blend.


I know that in business you are supposed to sell your products. I mean that is kind of the whole point, but after knitting up some sample swatches, I want to keep every inch of it. It is so incredibly soft. Knitters, if you have ever used Cascade Eco-Duo, this yarn is that soft.


I calculated it, I have enough fingering weight yarn here to make 80 pairs of socks. I need 8o pairs of socks, right? That’s not unreasonable, everyone could use 80 pairs of socks. I mean, it’s not like at my age my feet are suddenly going to grow. I should keep it. Right?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Space Invader

This is a big old house, it originally had seven bedrooms. There are all sorts of places for a cat to curl up and take a nap. Yet, she insists on claiming the divot in the sofa. The divot that my butt made because it is my seat. What the heck is up with that?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lovely Llama Ladies

With their dark hair, it is difficult to capture the beauty of these girls. I see it every day, but getting it on film to share with you has been challenging.

Their big, beautiful eyes are incredibly expressive. Aibileen is an absolute sweetheart.


Minnie, aside from being gorgeous, is interesting. She came from a 7000-acre survival-of-the-fittest ranch so her social skills are not as refined as the other girls. The sheep are pretty much terrified of her. I think the poor thing is just misunderstood.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

What Might Happen if You Walk Off and Leave Your Camera in the Barn

“Hey guys, check it out she left her camera. I want to get a Facebook profile shot,” said Joey.


“Oops, I’m not centered.”

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“Better, but I’m not smiling.”

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“Okay, good smile but it looks like I have a double chin.”

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“Um, no. I’m deaf, I’m not deranged.”

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“Much cuter, the girls will like this one.”

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“Maybe I should try a come-hither look.”

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Almost Six Years Later…

Someone once told me that you can tell the difference between a real farmer and a hobby farmer by looking at their home. A hobby farmer has a beautiful, well maintained home, while a real farmer has a beautiful, well maintained barn. I guess that puts me in the real farmer category. When we moved here six years ago, the first thing I was going to do was to remodel the dining room. It was due for a makeover a generation ago; yet, six years later the wallpaper is still hanging there along with the vinyl flooring that is glaringly out of place. Today is the day.

If the project were merely stripping the wallpaper and replacing the flooring it would have happened a long time ago. Unfortunately, thanks to decisions made by the previous owners, there’s more to it than that. They had refurbished and reused the original kitchen cabinets as more or less a server. Kind of a neat idea, but this room is far too small for it and it really didn’t provide as much storage as you would think.


The two closed doors are actually old flour or potato bins; cool, but not really functional in today’s world.


The whole thing is coming out and being relocated somewhere else. Sadly, they didn’t install the flooring all the way to the wall and, even better, they glued it to the subfloor. Both the vinyl and the subfloor are going to have to come up, then we can assess how bad of shape the wood floors are in below. They also installed the electrical outlets at counter height, those will need to be moved down. And finally, a new piece of baseboard will need to be made.


Then there is also the challenge of the 10-foot ceilings. I have an overwhelming fear of falling. I have less than zero desire to get on top of that ladder with a steamer.


Luckily, I was able to convince someone else to do it by convincing him it would increase the property value immensely. Real farmers can summon all sorts of motivation when there are dollars involved.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reclaiming the Land: Making the Most of Seven Acres

There’s more than corn in Indiana, you just have to look for it. The fertile soil lends itself to growing crops so most level ground has been cultivated and is planted with corn, soybeans and the occasional wheat field. Sometimes you’ll see something else growing, but not often. Rarely do you see wide-open pastures for grazing. In Indiana, pastures are generally relegated to land that is too steep and rocky for row crops.

This old house was once part of a large farm including hundreds of tillable acres; now though, it lays claim to a mere seven, half of which are a wooded ravine, a winding creek, and a small, spring-fed pond. A century-and-a-half ago when the original house was built, it must have appeared to be the ideal location for a homestead with its water source and ample supply of wood for heating.


The pasture behind the house and just outside the barn had sat unused for generations allowing the undergrowth to take over. Last year’s drought made it abundantly clear that we need to have more space for forage. In order to renovate the pasture for grazing the first order of business is to remove some of the trees, since not much can grown in dense shade.

Just like the pioneers, the stockpile of firewood will not go to waste. It will be used in the new woodstove the guys recently installed in the workshop. Now there can be no more excuses that it is too cold to get any work done.


Obviously we cannot bring in heavy equipment to till the ground back there, so the only option for planting is overseeding. When rejuvenating a pasture by overseeding  it is easiest to let the animals overgraze the area first to clear it. Over the past year the goats cleared the bigger stuff and the alpacas came in and did a fantastic job as the finishing crew. I can assure you they’ve eaten every living thing out there and asked for more.


Soil testing is the next step to determine our fertilizer and lime needs. The local county extension service should be able to help with that, in addition to providing information on which type of forage grows best in this area. Once we determine the results, we will make the necessary amendments.

We have to factor in the nutritional needs of our animals before selecting which grass or legumes to plant; llamas and alpacas have different needs than more traditional livestock such as cattle. Availability of the seed is also a consideration. I have determined that an orchard grass/white clover blend would be ideal for our needs and this area, now I just need to figure out where to get it. As odd as it sounds, February is the proper time to start planting, the frost/thaw cycle of late winter helps the seed make contact with the soil. With any luck we’ll start seeing some lush pasture by springtime; which reminds me that I should caution readers that if you try this at home, don’t forget that chickens are birds and birds eat seeds. If you’re not careful they will follow behind you snatching up your pasture seed as fast as it comes out of the seed spreader. Don’t ask me how I know this, just trust me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Everyone Likes Snacking on Popcorn

Unfortunately, Popcorn is her name…


and she’s a sheep not a snack.




“Crunch, crunch”




She’s the only one I know who wears more of her meals on her clothing than I do.