Monday, December 31, 2007

We iz whut we iz

I spent several hours over the last two days corresponding with a person who wanted to know exactly what she (I think?) was getting with one of Shawn's hand carved Laffing Horse crochet hooks. I could sense from the tone of her written messages that she was frustrated.

I took pictures, (these and then they wouldn't e-mail!) but you can only tell so much from pictures. This hook is one of Shawn's Laffing Horse crochet hooks. Shawn's are beautiful to look at and feel wonderful. They also work well, because I test each one. But each hook is a natural wood, hand carved individual. So, I tried with words to describe the hook.

At the end of all this correspondence, I think we were both feeling somewhat put-out and she still didn't have a crochet hook. I think Lena's analogy was best - Even in catalogs that specialize in handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items, like Deva Lifewear - they show a picture of ONE of those items. The others will be similar, but they are all made by hand. You order on faith, or you go to a craft show or local store and buy something you can touch.

I can understand the frustration of shopping. A friend and I ventured into the metropolis of Little Rock this week. It is a big, beautiful, modern city. I was pleasantly surprised. We found the East Indian grocery store and got rice and tea and curry. We found the craft store I needed. And then we went shopping. Horrors! Neither one of us shop, so it was definitely the blind leading the blind. She wanted a cotton cardigan with pockets, I wanted a yarn basket. As many stores as either of us could tolerate (I think it was 4) she settled for the right weight cotton cardigan in a sort of ok color and without pockets. I still don't have a basket.

Online shopping is a bit better - but still frustrating. You are in your own house and can drink your own coffee. You can be comfortable and there aren't other people around. But you can't touch the product, or try it on, or talk to the merchant or see how well it is constructed.

We understand the limits of our online stores Common Threads on ebay, our Google store, and our Auctiva store. We try to work around them by communicating with our customers, working to word our descriptions carefully, keeping an open mind with inquiries and if all else fails, having a fair return policy.

We enjoy what we do. We want to share our love of fiber arts and farming with anyone who is interested. We are passionate about teaching skills.

But when it comes down to it, we are just three people in very rural Arkansas working very hard to make a living by trying to make our world a better place.

We iz whut we iz.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Time off - farm style

Happy Yule everyone!

Yeah, I know, it's a few days late, but what's a few days in the great scheme of things.
It was a happy Yule here at the Spring House, with good friends - wreath making, story sharing, cookie eating, yule fire burning, critter ornament creating, rug weaving, mead brewing and all the trappings of a Laffing Horse Yule - minus all the denizens of Laffing Horse. I sure miss all you guys and wish we could fold that thousand miles between us.

This past week seems to have been a repetition of that lesson I've been having trouble getting, over and over again.

"Slow down, things will go faster."

"Relax, you'll get more done."

The fire is a good example.
A wood stove in the living room is our only heat for the whole 8 room house. Very cost efficient, wood is easily available here. Dead standing trees are everywhere and downed ones litter the forest floor.

It's been frosty the last few days. Cold enough to need a fire through the night. (Grin! Just the last few days! That is a big part of why we moved here - it's warm !). So we've kept the stove stoked through the night, but in the morning it needs to be built back up to warm the house before everyone else gets up.

The temptation is to put all the paper, kindling and logs in the stove - shut the door and go make coffee. That's what I did yesterday morning - and came back from making coffee to a still cold, smoky stove. An hour later, after blowing on coals, re-arranging wood and smoking up the house, I still did not have fire and was very frustrated.

This morning, I added one log and a handful of paper. Then I spent 10 minutes carefully feeding one stick of kindling at a time into the stove, waiting for it to catch and then adding another. After 10 minutes, I had a nice little fire going. I added another log, then went and made coffee.
In 15 minutes (a quarter of the time it took yesterday when I was in a hurry and wanted to do it fast), I had a nice little fire starting to heat up the house.

Our day off was another good example.
Sunday, Shawn and I admitted to each other that we didn't really want to do anything. So we decided to take a day off. And we began to putter around together. The together thing was really nice, we've spent far too much time working on our separate parts of the farm and business lately. After a day of relaxing fun, we had the whole sheep pen fenced!
This was one of those overwhelming jobs that had been looming on the To-Do list for a few weeks. It was a mondo job that no one wanted to tackle. Yet, by changing our focus and just playing with it and doing it together, it just got done.
But I didn't cross it off the To-Do list until Monday, because Sunday, we were taking the day off.

One of our customers e-mailed that she was using her time off this Christmas to learn how to use her triangle loom. And I have a good friend who is taking this time off to make some felt boots.
Time off, time to slow down, time to relax is important. It gives you a chance to stretch different muscles, to reroute your brain and to let those lessons sink in!

And now - It's Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oh, Glory!

It has been foggy and rainy here for going on two weeks now. It is glorious! The mist and fog have an ethereal quality, making sound and smells more intense and mysterious.
Last night, it rained all night long.
When we woke up, there was a waterfall outside the bedroom window. Scraps barked at it viciously, but it did not run away.

The road up the mountain was running fast,

And the bridge is somewhere under there.

Our wee pond has had a growth spurt.

Wonderful, wonderful water - all over the place!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Making sense (or scents)

I have fallen in love with working in the green house.
Open the door and draw a deep breath of green moist air!
It is the best place to be in the winter. The air is soft, silky, warm and damp. The smells are earthy and green. The light is gently energizing. And the people I work with there, Tina, Kathleen and all the wonderful "Herbies" are the best.

And along with my enjoyment of the greenhouse has come an infatuation with Pelargoniums.
Pelargoniums are scented geraniums. They are edible, come in hundreds of varieties, were oh, so very popular with the Victorian ladies and originate in South Africa.

The Folk Center is known for its varieties and they are what I have been working with in the greenhouse - taking cuttings, repotting parent plants, growing up the babies. They smell wonderful, mostly rosy, a bit citrusy, sort of fruity. As I pinch back the plants to get them to branch and grow pretty, I taste each variety. Currently, Lady Plymouth is my favorite.

Shawn asked me why my sudden passion for pelargoniums? And that gets me into a whole thought process of why do we like something... why does something catch our attention... why does something become a passion?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Scent mapping

Last night, as we were walking down the road looking for a missing llama in the foggy dark, a spicy, crisp earthy smell caught my nose. I sniffed deep and wondered.

We turned on the road toward the wood shop in the dripping darkness. A smell of dark rich soil hung in the air. I turned off my flashlight and let my feet feel out the stones of the road while my nose sampled the pockets of foggy air that we drifted through. Subtle changes of earth, water and plants made for incredibly different smells as we walked slowly down the road.

I listened and sniffed. Quigley walked quietly with me, doing the same. We stopped where the road forks in the big meadow, earthy, grassy smells. As we got closer to the river, its scent was as distinctive as the sound.

I turned the flashlight back on and decided that there was no way we were going to find a llama that didn't want to be found in 1,600 acres of foggy, drippy, dark wildness.

We walked back to the house, listening to the occasional soggy leaf dropping from a tree and the fading sounds of the river. The fog seemed to hold the air still, keep the sounds and smells close to their origin. The garden still smelled spicy sweet as we walked by and the crossroads in front of the house smelled like dust, even though it is soggy.

The llama came strolling down the road this morning, bringing his unique, exotic llama smell with him.

Friday, December 07, 2007

New views

I did it - I actually spent all day Wednesday down in Meadowcreek valley (thanks to Lena who went up the mountain to do the shipping and take care of the critters on Foxbriar).

Life didn't change, drums didn't roll - but maybe it is a start of trying to get out of the whirlpool and flowing in a direction.

We had planned on keeping the store in Fox as a storefront, fiber arts store, shipping drop off and my weaving workshop, but are now debating the sense of that idea. It is one more direction, thing to do, bill to pay and space to be responsible for....

Shawn has arranged to set up one of the dorms in Meadowcreek as an artists' workshop. He is starting to move his woodworking into two of the ground floor rooms.

This is an unauthorized "before" photo of his new workshop :-)

Tom and Sage Holland are setting up a bead making workshop in the common room and I hear there are a few other people looking at rooms. I found a room that I think will work as a weaving workshop, behind door #3. It has interesting lighting because of the window set up, it is open to the loft room in the front, and has a walk out door to a porch. These are views of the deck and the view from the deck off the room.

I still have no plans beyond heading up to the Post Office at the top of the mountain by 2:00 today with orders to ship. So... it will be interesting to see what develops.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Sky is Falling

In true workaholic fashion, when the going gets tough, I go to work. When life gets scary, I work harder. And when I get exhausted, I collapse and deal with life. Hmm, maybe someday I'll learn not to run around that circle. (Doubt it!)

There is always so much work to be done and there are always people who need help with their work. I am a social being, I love to feel needed and I love the feeling of working with someone on a project. And, when I am helping other people with their important projects, I can forget my own messes.

But, I realized this week that I really needed to quit running around like a chicken with my head cut off and stay home and go back to work - the real work of taking good care of our animals, communicating with friends and customers and getting our business and living space organized.

I had been using my job to avoid doing all that. It has been a rough year and I have not taken the time to deal with much of anything other than the day to day fires. Watching Shawn and Lena settle into the routine of Meadowcreek and seeing their creativity and productivity increase made me realize the circles I was running in.

Maybe the sky is falling, but I'm too tired to keep being the whirlwind that keeps it up. So, I'm going to slow down just a wee bit - today is going to be the very first day since we moved to the Spring house that I have not been out of the valley - and try to catch up in my world. This is the view from our bedroom window, and about the only thing that I am familiar with down here.

If it works, I'll be back to posting more here about life, the sheep and everything in my reality.

Wish me luck.