Saturday, December 31, 2011

Crystal Bridges

View over the museum from the drive in loop

I don't think I'll ever complain about our OFC entrance again.

Chrome tree at the entrance.
Looking from the restaurant to the 20th Century art gallery.
 We finally made it to Crystal Bridges yesterday. We had tried to get tickets for November, but  were glad to get them for Dec. 30, when my folks could go with us. Kathy Fielder and JB joined our group.

At 2:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, it was very crowded. Shawn and my dad parked three parking lots away, the parking garage and front two lots were full.

The entrance from the drive around and drop off loop or from the parking garage strikes me as strange. Everybody comes in through the elevator tower to the front lobby. It's not an inviting first look. I'm not sure that is the way they have planned for the future? Much of the museum is still under construction.

What was open is fantastic and it is well worth the visit.

I want to go back in two years, in the spring, when all the elaborate landscaping has a chance to mature. I want to go on a day when it is raining hard. I think that rain will showcase this architecture. Winter sunlight cannot do the soaring shapes and concrete terraces justice.
Cool interpretive displays making art accessible.
These need to be played up more in their advertising.
This cool room was empty.

The galleries were centered inside the "mothership",
a way to protect and display the art, while having the incredible architecture.

Dramatic outdoor sculpture with indoor viewing space.
Connecting the inside and outside.

Reading nooks with Nooks (Ok, Shawn says they
 are really i-pads), comfortable couches and lots of art books.

More indoor/outdoor collaboration

And lots of famous, real and incredible art, including this
Andrew Wyeth painting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hoop houses for sheep shelters

You need 4 t-posts;
2 8-ft. 2X4's;
 2 16-ft heavy duty cattle panels;
1 9X12 heavy duty tarp
1 4X8 sheet of plywood
 We raise Jacob sheep, colored angora goats and commercial cross dairy goats on 5 acres in the rural Ozarks.

We've been raising sheep and goats since 1982. We keep our flocks small, breed for the very best and attempt to improve our land and remain sustainable.

It rains a decent amount here. Our yearly average is in the 50-inch range. In fact, all our weather is mostly middlin'. Four good solid seasons with a good range of all weather possibilities. However, we do have infrequent wind. I'm not sure how the hoop houses would hold up in an area with constant wind.

Pound the t-posts in a rectangle so that the 2X4's fit inside
the posts and the plywood sets on top of the boards
 at the back.
So, our flocks need a bit more shelter than the woodlot provides and we do not have a barn. We try to use rotational grazing on our 1/2 acre paddocks with a plan to improve the forage quality. That's a long range plan.

To go along with this, we build shelters that we call hoop houses. They are simple to put up, taking only about 1/2 hour with two of us if we have all the materials ready. They are comfortable shelter for four of our small breed sheep or goats. If we have more than 4 animals in a pen, we build 2 or more hoop houses, side-by-side. Then we can use the V between the two shelters for a hay feeder.

Bend the two cattle panels and lift them to fit between the
two boards.
The cost for each of these hoop houses runs about $100.

 2 Cattle Panels @ $25 ea. = $50.00
4 t-posts @ $4.00 ea.        = $16.00
2 2X4's @ $4.00 ea.         = $8.00
1 Sheet plywood @$12.00=$12.00
1 tarp @ $15.00               = $15.00

Stretch the tarp over the panels. We need air circulation here,
so we leave the gaps at the bottom.
 Kitty is our construction foreman.

Tie the tarp to the panels at the grommets with baling twine.
Tie the panels to the t-posts where there is no tarp,
to keep them from blowing away. Dapper Dan and Kitty
check the quality of construction.
We usually leave them in place for a season, about 6 months. We bed them with straw, and feed hay in the shelters, letting the bedding build up to keep the animals dry. You can see the old pad of bedding and manure to the left of the new hoop house we are building. This will grow forage grasses from the hay seeds next spring.

This process works well for our flock management.
Tie the cattle panels together with baling twine.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sisters, seeds and heritage roses

I was just finishing trimming up my nutmeg scented geranium and enjoying the delicious, spicy aroma on my hands, when the coffee pot finished perking and I decided I wanted to sit down, write this blog post and drink a cuppa joe. We've been having a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. My parents are visiting from Colorado and we've been talking about family history and travels.

One of my very favorite books is "Sisters, Seeds and Cedars" by Sarah Fountain. The book is made up of the correspondence between two sisters, Cornelia and Clara from 1850 to 1928. Starting in Alabama, where Cornelia stays, the letters share their life through Clara's move to Arkansas. They discuss family visits, births, deaths and the trivia of normal lives. At one point, Clara asks Cornelia to send her a cutting of Grandma's rose, next time Daddy comes up this way. I love old fashioned cottage roses, with strong scent and big rose hips. I imagine that's the type of rose that Clara wanted.

Rose is the 2012 Herb of the Year, designated by the International Herb Association. I want to find the right heritage rose to plant on the fence  where we stack hay. That space should keep it safe from the critters while it is getting established. Roses tend to get out of hand in Arkansas, but we have goats to keep it in line if it starts to grow out of bounds.

In a quick google search, there is a lot of info out there on heritage roses. This blog in particular caught my interest. So far, this is the rose I want, a Zephirine Drouhin, a French rose from the late 1800's. But, I have a lot more research to do and several months before I need to order my roses. And I am out of coffee, and I have a gorgeous purple wool and silk wrap on the loom that I want to finish weaving today.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the sheep at Laffing Horse Farm

Boomer greets his girls

Laffing Horse Fiona, one of Boomer's new ladies.

/Boomer puts the moves on Laffing Horse Finesse.
My christmas ram, Boomer, has settled in. It's a bit fast, but he is very healthy and has recovered from his cross-country journey just fine. He came directly from an extremely well kept herd and being the very tail end of breeding season - Boomer has his girls.
He is quite the gentleman, but did go right to work. His flock consists of Fiona, Finesse, Greta, Gypsum and George, who will be his constant companion.
Since we started allowing ourselves to keep special wethers, we assign them flock jobs. Bones and Mouse are the peace-keepers in the main flock, Nibbles is Dan's companion and George now belongs with Boomer.
Its was so sweet last night, and I didn't get a pic of it - my folks are here from Colorado for Christmas. My mom sat out on the back porch to keep me company while I did chores. Boomer and George came up to check her out. She started petting Boomer and pretty soon he laid right down next to her. A rare treat of sheepie company from a pretty special ram. My Christmas sheep Boomer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Living Nativity

 The small hamlet of Mountain View, Arkansas, which I now call home, never ceases to amaze me.

This tiny town, with a population of about 2,800, is pretty isolated in the Ozark hills. 
Mountain View is not on the way to anywhere. 
But it is a delightful place to go out of your way to get to.

The Living Nativity in the Pickin' Park in
Mountain View, Arkansas.

And the Angel spoke to Mary.

The shepherds tend their flock of one patient Demi-sheep.

Whiskey and Tango the donkey's watch over Mary and Joseph
 and the baby, while Jackie Martin's wee goat plays in the stable.

During the holiday season, there is Caroling in the Caverns, a whole host of Christmas cantatas and performance, the Christmas Feast at the Ozark Folk Center and this year, a wonderful living nativity performance in the Pick'n Park downtown.

I took sheep for the shepherds. Demi enjoyed her performance the first night and Mr. Bones and George shared the billing the second night. They got petted and fussed over and even shared a few sugar cookies.

It's a wonderful life!

Ambassador Boomer

Almost the whole way home, the driving rain continued. We stopped very few times on the last leg of the trip home. At one point, I think it was in Wynne, Arkansas, we pulled into the Wendy's drive through. Boomer peered out the passenger window of the PT Cruiser at the drive through attendant.
"What's that?" she asked as she looked out to tell Shawn the total for our meal.
Shawn rolled down Boomer's window so the sheep and human could study each other. He explained that Boomer was a rare Jacob Sheep. The rest of the crew gathered around the window.
"Is he for Christmas?" one asked in a tone that implied Christmas dinner.
Shawn laughed and replied, "In a manner of speaking, he's her Christmas present. He's not for dinner, he's our new breeding ram."
"You have more of them!"  she exclaimed.
Then someone hustled the crew back to work and we got on our way with our very excellent burgers and fries. It's been years since I've eaten at a Wendy's and I very rarely eat beef. Wendy's food is better than I remember.
When we'd stopped the night before at a Subway, my usual fast-food stomping ground, I took Boomer out to walk him, try to get him to drink and let him eat some grass on the median. A man came out of the store next to the Subway with a huge smile on his face. He explained he had been a shepherd in Guatemala and had grown up raising sheep. He asked if he could pet Boomer and they shared a nice introduction.
Then another man walked across the parking lot and asked, "Can I take a picture of your goat."
From where he was crouched by Boomer's head, the first man replied, "He is a SHEEP!" and then he looked at me. I smiled back. It was so nice to have someone else make that correction for a change.
We all shared a comfortable few minutes of education, photographs and camaraderie before we loaded Boomer back in the car and got on our way.
When we got back to Mountain View it was 5:15. I was supposed to be a the living Nativity in the picking park with sheep at 5:30. I stopped to explain to the show leader that I might be a few minute late. Carl know about our trip to Georgia for our new ram and wanted to visit the famous Boomer. I thought about using Boomer in the nativity, but when I saw his travel weary face in the car as he let Carl pet his head, I knew he needed to be home.
We pulled into the driveway, and with the three humans working in concert, we quickly moved the wild ewes and Dan-man into the small sheep run next to the horse run, grabbed George from the main flock and put him with Boomer in the pen next to the house. Then Lena and I grabbed Demi, our remaining Icelandic ewe and Shawn and I went back to the park. I made it at five-past-six. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Boomer at Wayne and Leesa's

Lisa feeds Boomer breakfast in the kitchen

Boomer fits right in with the antique sideboard and Nativity.
 When we arrived at Wayne and Leesa's last night, they said it was fine to bring Boomer in to their beautiful big log cabin. They built this wonderful working house themselves back in the late 1970's.

I really didn't want to bring a ram into someone else's house, especially an unknown ram into a house full of beautiful antiques. So Boomer spent the night in the car. We left the windows partly down, so he had ventilation and he had a bale of hay and a bucket of water.

This morning it was pouring rain. Not something new for this trip. I think the sound of the rain on the roof of our very comfortable room helped me sleep in until after 6 a.m.

Leesa and I went outside and haltered Boomer to take him for a walk. He doesn't like the halter. He was too busy fussing at the thing on his face to eat or drink. She again said it was fine to bring Boomer in the house. So, we did.

He was good and calm and very careful with his horns.But the halter was still bothering him. After checking things out, I took off his halter and Leesa fed him some grain and got him to at least dip his muzzle in the water. Boomer was a very well behaved, prim and proper house sheep.

Leesa's dad makes birdhouses and she has done
 this really cute Christmas display of them on the
 mantle of  their massive fireplace
 We had a wonderful breakfast and enjoyed talking brooms and craft shows with fellow crafts people before heading out in the rain. It is such a blessing to have such wonderful friends.

Now we're on the road to home. Stay tuned for more "Travels with Boomer".

Shawn and Wayne discuss broom design as we try to wait
 for a break in the rain.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Boomer - or - What did you do on Christmas vacation?

My wonderful man, Shawn, who will drive me
all the way to Georgia for a sheep.

What Shawn's been driving through for most of the last day.

The Canoe Lake Farm Jacob flock. Boomer's folks.
 I can't say it enough. I am so blessed. Blessed to live in the wonderful paradise of Mountain View, Arkansas. Blessed to work for Arkansas State Parks at the Ozark Folk Center. Blessed to have wonderful friends and a fantastic family. And, blessed to share my life with a dear man who, among other things, gets me what ever I want for Christmas.

My wants have ranged from a chain saw, to sheep fence, to Baltic amber, to a new ram for our Jacob Sheep flock. Which is why poor Shawn has been driving through pouring rain for much of the last day, so we could pick up Canoe Lake Sonic Boom, "Boomer", just outside of Atlanta, Georgia..

Canoe Lake Farm is beautiful and the sheep they raise are wonderful Jacobs.Owners Scott and Cathy Brown have been great to work with. Scott had all the papers ready when we arrived and Boomer put up in the barn. Boomer was nice and dry, a real plus as it's been raining hard all day.

Boomer is young and nervous, but he let me halter him. He likes to eat treats out of your hand, which will do him well in our flock of treat-beggers. We scooped him into the car and headed back to Atlanta. It's heading on to 5:00 p.m. Georgia time and Boomer's settling as we drive. I've given him a few handsful of grain and Shawn and I are munching whole grain cheese-its. We have Johnny Cash on Pandora.

Rush-hour traffic in Atlanta is 14 lanes wide of stop and go. (There's a whole 'nother blog post there about lifestyle choices.) I do love to visit cities.

Our wonderful broom making friends, Leesa and Wayne Thompson have offered us their hospitality again tonight and it looks like we'll stop.there.about 9:00. 

Boomer is still not sure that sheep are meant to ride in cars.

Traveling down memory lane in Alabama

I graduated from JO Johnson High School in May of 1979. My folks gave me a horse trailer for a graduation present. As soon as I graduated, I loaded up my worldly goods and moved to Colorado. And I haven't been back to Alabama until today.

J O Johnson High School 
It was an interesting trip back in time. The glimpse of the rockets at the Air and Space museum brought tears to my eyes and a thrilled gasp from Shawn, who was driving. Huntsville is a whole lot bigger than I remembered, or maybe it's grown a bit in the last 32 years. It's also a whole lot more agrarian than I ever realized. I was fascinated with how memory works when I remembered street names and found my way from my old high school to our old house. We only lived there two years, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find any thing or recognize it. I did.

I remember sitting on the concrete under the white pillars in front of the school with Lisa Hilburn after she'd drank so much carrot juice the palms of her hands were turning orange. I remember running on the track to the left of the school in the early mornings. I remember high centering somebody's vw bug on the dividers in the parking lot. I remember getting to go up on the roof to see a fly-by of the new space shuttle piggy-backed on a 747.
Our old house on Wayne Court.
  I remember walking to school in the mornings and the smell or the little farm along the walk way...

Which got me thinking about memory paths and life choices. That's a lot longer thought train than one blog post!

However, I realized that the relative of Miss Melody's who I portray as a living history character, based on her diary, Miss Martha Mills, moved from Lancaster County Georgia to Stone County Arkansas in 1859. This is the path we are taking. To see this land, quickly through a car window, and imagine a group of young families making this journey by wagon and on foot... it adds to the depth and realism with which I can share Miss Martha's memories.

Now I really should help Shawn navigate. He'd been driving through a pouring rain for several hours. We are about 29 miles from Canoe Lake Farm and our new herdsire.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The times we live in

It's about 7:30 at night. We are cruising down the highway somewhere in Mississippi or north Alabama, listening to indie rock on Pandora radio, following directions from our GPS, enjoying the sultry night air on this winter solstice eve and each other's company. I'm writing this blog post and feeling totally amazed at this wonderful life we lead.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More modern sheep tales

This story starts somewhere back in the beginnings of this blog - or maybe way before that. When we started with Jacob Sheep, we gathered flock members from two flocks out of Colorado, Broken O and Rising Sun. We also purchased a flock out of Texas. We selected sheep that were healthy, had good wool and were true to Jacob type. Natural selection helped keep our herd's mothering ability, ease of breeding and lambing and parasite resistance.
We had good luck showing fleeces at Estes Park, Taos, Soldier Hollow and Farmington. In 2006 we took Grand Champion Natural Colored Farm Flock, Reserve Grand Champion Ewe and many other ribbons at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. We picked, bred and raised great sheep. 
When we moved to Arkansas, we sold most of our sheep. We kept 32, and discovered that was too many for our new land. So we sold many of our top ewes.
But we still kept a good ram, Beetle juice and several good ewes, including our first Jacob ewe, Thyme. In the course of things, Thyme had Basil and Basil had Dapper Dan, our current herdsire. Dan is the sweetest ram we've ever had. I have pics of goat kids riding on his back. He is also beautiful, shears a gorgeous fleece every year and  puts very nice babies on the ground. Even after this summer's sell down, we have his daughters Finesse, Fiona, Gobi, Guthrie, Gypsum as well as his mother, grandmother and sister Clementine in the flock. We need a new ram.
In October, I started looking. I wanted a registered 4-horned ram. There were several nice ones available. I wanted East Coast bloodlines, as our flock was western based. I was trying to figure out how to get transport for Unzicker Ike, when I found he was returning to his flock of origin. During the Sheep to Shawl competition at OFC  I started corresponding with Cathy Brown at Canoe Lake Farm in Georgia. She had a nice ram lamb that fit what I was wanting. His name is Canoe Lake Sonic Boom or "Boomer". I took his picture to the Sheep to Shawl and everybody agreed he was nice.
Boomer went on to show at SAFF . He came in mid-way in his class. Pretty good for a little guy who was about a month younger than the rest of his class.
My sales at shows and in the gallery were good this fall. Many of my fleecewoven rugs have new homes and I've sold more handspun shawls this year than ever before. 
Shawn set a goal for the Christmas Showcase show in Little Rock. If we reached that goal, he said, he'd buy me my new ram for Christmas. We reached it, and tomorrow morning we are leaving for Atlanta. I'll post pics and keep you updated here. 
Tomorrow night we are staying with our wonderful friends Wayne and Leesa Thompson in Leighton, Alabama. Shawn will get to see some of the north Alabama hills that I grew up in. Fun travels, fun memories - all for the love of sheep.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sheep returns

In the summer of 2007, after we had moved the sheep to Arkansas, we realized we did not have enough grass on Foxbriar to feed them all. A lady in Fox was looking for some sheep for her daughter to show in the county fair. We sold her a small starter flock that included our reserve champion 2006 National Western Stock Show ewe, Alice.
Yesterday, she called me. Her daughter had gone off to college. She only had a few descendants of the original flock left and she did not want to keep sheep anymore. Did we want them?
Well, their dams and sire were some of our best sheep...
This girl looks like she's a Corriander daughter.

 I can certainly tell this one is Alice's daughter.

So, these five ewes are now in the quarantine pen next to the house with Dan-man.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gift Show

I just decided I want to get my camera to take an in progress photo of the baby blue rectangular shawl I'm working on for a special order when the old kitty, Halfie, settled down on my lap. She was born in 1994, right after we moved into the house in Rocky Ford, Colorado. She is now a little tottery and has a hard time jumping up into a lap. So, I guess the picture will wait for either another day, or somebody else in the house to walk by and hand me my camera from out in the kitchen.
Lena came by and handed me my camera.
This mohair shawl is a different style than I usually weave.
 It's good to stretch boundaries every once in a while.
I've finished laundry loads for this week. One good thing about traveling frequently is that you can take everything out of the suitcase, wash it, and put it back in... I think that's the way it's going to be for the next few months.

Carolyn Higgins, the Ozark Folk Center Homespun Gift Shop manager, and I are headed to the Arkansas State Parks Gift Show at Degray Lake State Park this morning. I do enjoy trips down there and always find new things to photograph. We have many ideas and concepts to go over with our marketing manager and will enjoy getting to network with other gift shop people. We are also shopping for Made in Arkansas products. It is our goal to have everything in our shop made in Arkansas. Carolyn has done a great job with the consignment program, which goes a long way toward our made in Arkansas goal.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Update and a few quick stories

Blogs aren't for updates, that's what Facebook is for, but life's been such a whirlwind, I haven't been keeping up with either one.
Thus far, this winter has been - winter. We had our first iced-over water troughs on Dec. 1. This year's lambs are always fun to watch with that new experience.
Guthrie and Little brother were intrigued. They like to play with anything new. They would nuzzle the ice and then bounce back, shaking their heads. Then they'd put their muzzles together as if discussing this new phenomenon.
Greta just shook her head and walked off. She seems to take all changes as a personal insult.
Gobi hung back, she waited for her brother and Guthrie to figure it out.
Gypsum didn't care, she always assumes that the people will make the world right for her princess-self.
Then we had the first snow of the year this Tuesday, Dec. 6. It wasn't deep, but it is still hanging around. It's been pretty cold the last few days.

Our lives have been a whirlwind of farm chores, Ozark Folk Center events, Arkansas Craft Guild volunteering, Christmas Showcase preparing, weaving, carving, booth building, web site  design, broom tying, fiber dyeing, advertising proofing, mohair carding, crocheting, spinning... It's a fantastic, fascinating, ever entertaining mix... but I think we're all ready for a bit of a winter nap.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tagging it

Every spare moment of my life right now is spent at the loom, weaving my way to Christmas Showcase in Little Rock. Not only do I feel very honored to be in this prestigious show, but Shawn and I are going to be right inside the front entrance, so our booth has to be full.

He and Lena have been tying brooms like crazy, after having a very good October, so that half of the booth will be full with colorful, creative  brooms. I'm a wee bit competitive, so I want my half of the booth to be as fully and beautifully stocked with rugs, shawls, hats, scarves, felt balls, spirit bells and maybe, if I can get to them, a few handwoven handbags.

This rug of Dapper Dan's fleece has the picture of him below
on the tag. It also has the Scrappie dog seal of approval.

This is about the time before every show that I always remember, these things not only have to be designed, created, made and finished; they have to be tagged, bagged and presented in a pleasing manner.

Shawn is working on the biggest part of that equation, building a wood framed, fabric lined 10x15 foot booth that will make a great display space. And I've located and purchased several hat displays and I'll use my rug ladder and old spirit bell display. But I still have to tag everything!

For my commercial yarn shawls, I've started recycling greeting cards that I've received. I cut the front off and fold it into a triangle. Then I hole punch the corner and write a bit about the shawl, its name, the fiber content of the shawl and care instructions inside the tag. I put the price on the back.

LHF Dapper Dan, our Jacob Sheep herdsire.
For my handspun shawls and fleece rugs, I am developing a new tag. We've had several types of tags in the past. I used to have a slick, colorful tag with a picture of our Grand Champion ram Broken O Caruso on the front with Fleecyful Wool Rugs at the top and care instructions on the back. For the last several years I've used a home-printed on parchment type paper tag that has a line drawing that Shawn did of our homebred Jacob Sheep ram LHF Dogwood. Inside I hand write information about the sheep or goat that grew the fleece in the item, care instructions and a bit about my rug making process. They are nice tags and I may use quite a few of them for this show.

But I keep having people ask for pictures of the sheep and goats that grew the fleece in the item they are buying, so I've started making tags with a picture of the animal on front, printed information about them inside and care instructions on the bottom. I really like these tags, but right now it is taking me almost an hour to create each tag, and that's for the critters I already have pics of. As time goes on, I plan to do one for each piece I make, as I finish it, but there will only be a few on some of the new rugs at Christmas Showcase.

And now, back to weaving.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Java hunting

I truly believe in eating local and knowing your food producer.
Living in Arkansas and having our own small farm, that's pretty easy for us to do, for the most part.
But I do love my coffee! And the real stuff doesn't grow here.
I don't want any ground root substitutes or tea, gimmee my Java!
So, in May, I started a search for good, healthy coffee. Just coffee, no more artificial flavors or additives, just plain good coffee. Shawn tries hard to find me whatever I want, so he went out and bought a small bag of every available coffee in Mountain View. At one point, our freezer was mostly full of coffee. Did I mention that we drink a lot of coffee?
There were lots of ok coffees. There were a few good coffees. There was one coffee that was memorable only for its slogan, "Exclusively brewed for everyone." I think their slogan writers need a dictionary.

I found one pretty good organic coffee that was available at Walmart. It did concern me that the coffee was labeled "Product of Canada." Last I looked, they can't grow coffee up there, either.

I started reading and researching coffee on the web. It didn't take me long at all to decide that I wanted only organic coffees. We farm organically, we buy organic produce and yet it had never occurred to me that they use lots of pesticides and herbicides in growing coffee beans. Yikes, and I've been drinking this stuff for 40 some odd years. And where do you think all the pesticides and herbicides that get banned in the US go?

Then, walmart quit carrying my organic coffee.

I started searching on the web. I have trouble sleeping much past four in the morning. That is mostly my weaving time, some of my yoga, cheesemaking and cleaning time, but it's also my computer time.

Did you know you can spend a lot of money on coffee? Cost has to be one of my criteria. Though I wanted organic, I have a pretty limited budget.

What about Fair Trade? While I agree with their premise, and I will buy it when there are other reason's for purchasing the product, until Fair Trade applies to small farms and artisan's in the US, I'm not a big follower. I live with too many people who do not have health care, adequate heating, indoor plumbing and other "comforts" of life because they live the producer path here in the US. Take care of home first, then, if you have extra resources, you can go save the world.

Back to Java.

After reading for many mornings, coffee is quite the passion with people, there's a lot of info out there, I ordered a sampler pack from Dean's Beans and 5 pounds of their Moka  Java, which sounded like a coffee I would enjoy. I do like it - it's pretty good.

And so far, we've tried the Uprisings and French Roast. Also good coffees. The French Roast leaves a great flavor in your mouth, not something you can say of too many coffees.

this morning, I made a pot of Ring of Fire. That is awesome coffee! It inspired this whole blog post. The only problem I have with it, is I now have Johnny Cash on my head radio, but that's not really a problem, is it?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

She knew

She watched with a knowing smile as I gently folded the shawl and put it in the garment box.

"It's hard for you to let go of them when you made them, isn't it?"

She was right.

Evie's Ribbon Shawl, sold 10/30/11
The shawl was beautiful on her. It looked like I'd made it for her. As I say with so many of my hand spun shawls, this one was one of my very favorite shawls. It was Eve's lacy grey mohair, some of it over-dyed with rose, mauve and burgundy, more of it natural, woven with a soft rose ribbon. The fringes were medium length with the ribbon and mohair intertwining. It is a lovely shawl.

And she loved it, it is perfect for her. But still, it is hard to let it go.

As I've grown as both as a fiber artist and a shepherd, I've learned to price things not only where they need to be to sell, but also where they need to be to comfort my heart. My head knows I can't keep all the things that my hands weave, and it knows that we need income to feed all the critters who grow the fibers I love to work with, but my heart yearns after the ones I let go.

She knew, and that made it even more special.
I did make that shawl just for her, and I'm glad she bought it today.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Real farmstead cheesemaking

I've milking goats since 1979 and I've had my own flock since 1982. When you have milk critters, you often have those times when you open the fridge and find it full of milk. That is when you make cheese. You can do some planning and scheduling, but the full milk fridge will often crop up at a time when you really have a zillion other things to do. 

As a farmer, I cannot tolerate wasting food. Right now, I don't raise bottle calves, I only have half a dozen milk customers (it's legal to sell goat's milk directly from the farm here in Arkansas, a big part of why we moved here) and I don't raise pigs, so , when the fridge is full, I make cheese.

A spatter screen makes a great cheese pot lid
 in a busy farm household.
There are quick and easy cheeses that freeze well for winter when the does are dry. There are  cheeses to make specifically for a potluck or a recipe I want to try and then there are times when I just want to make something a little more. Today, I wanted to make mozzarella.
It's not a terribly hard cheese. but you do have to pay a bit of attention to it to get it to work out. I alway s make my cheese in a double boiler arrangement of big canning pot and big stainless steel bucket. This has many purposes, it keeps the milk from scorching and makes it easier to change temperatures gently.

Smart phones have a timer app so that you can work at other projects
 and  set an alert for when you have to check the cheese next.
Set up your pots and warm your milk to no more than 80-degrees. Mix up either thermophilic cheese culture or good quality yogurt with about 1/2 cup of cold milk and add it to the pot of warm milk. Stir gently with an up and down motion. Cover and let incubate for 30 minutes (or so). If you carry a smart phone, like so many of us do now-a-days, down load a timer app. Each time you are supposed to do something with the cheese in 15, 20, 30 minutes, etc. you can set your phone and then go get your other work done, like fixing the front fence that the sheep decided was optional.
Fixing fence is a higher priority than a pot of cheese on the stove.

Back at the cheese, mix 1 teaspoon full of liquid rennet with 1/2 cold milk. In another cup, mix 2 tsp citric acid with 1/2 cold water. Stir the rennet into the milk and then the citirc acid. the milk may flake a bit, but don't worry about it. Let it set 15 minute and check to see if the curd is set. If not let rest another 15 minutes. Now is a good time to work on the weaving in your shop, or go plant blueberries. That was what was on the to-do list for today.

Planting the blueberry hedge is the thing
 that was on the schedule for today. It's been so dry
 I'm having to use a pickax to dig in the
 normally soft dirt on the east side of the house.
I got two types of locally grown blueberry plants for a hedge on the east side of the house. When I sold two of my very favorite angora goats, who had decided that they really didn't want to stay in the fence, I felt like I needed something to assuage the pain from the hard decision. I'm sure Evie and Bramble have a great new home, and I now have a baby blue berry hedge. 

My blueberry guy said to plant them in peat moss and mulch them with pine needles, so it made senxe to me to plant them under the pine tree. I hope it works. I did spend most of the day, around cheese making and fence mending, regular chores and laundry, planting blueberries.

Oh yeah, back to the cheese.

When the curd breaks over your finger, or has sunk in a lump to the bottom of the kettle, cut it into one inch squares. Stir gently and begin to raise the heat very slowly, no more than 1 degree/minute to 113 degrees. Stir often to keep the curd from matting in an up and down motion. this process works well with weaving in the studio near the kitchen.
Heat the milk to 113 degrees. A digital thermometer is wonderful!

When it gets up to temp, remove the kettle from the fire and let set for a bit. (Go plant another blueberry or two.) Stir well before you leave.

 Learn to use tools. Just because you can pour a 3-gallon steaming
cheese pot, doesn't mean that it's a good idea.
Wash your hands when you return. Set up a large colander over another food grade bucket with a tea towel or other butter muslin type cloth. Ladle the curds into the cloth. The whey will drain off of the curds. Save this to make bread or soup. If you want to add some salt now, it is good to stir it into the curds before you tie them up to drain.

Hang the cheese to drain. We've always put a
 rack of some sort over the sink for this reason.
My kids grew up thinking that everybody had
 a sign that said "Beware the Cheese" on their kitchen sink.
Tie the corners of the cloth together and hang the cheese to drain. Now is a good time to go plant the rest of the blueberry plants.Before you head out though, make sure you drink a big glass of water.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The fibery side

The internet was down at the house yesterday morning, but I did write a blog post on word pad. I'll upload it later today.
I had a nice visit with the interpretation class at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville yesterday. They are a fun, creative bunch of kids. I look forward to seeing some of them as seasonal interpreters in our parks next summer.

I like to wake up and weave in the mornings. I weave standing up at my triloom in the quiet of the day, as the sky starts to lighten. I listen to the animals waking up and the birds beginning their songs. Sometimes I plan my day and work out issues, sometimes I don't think at all, I just weave.
The fall colors shawl currently on my "morning loom" my
 quiet weaving triloom.

 I like to weave on my Newcomb when I get home from work. This big loom makes a lot of noise as I pull the beater in to pack the fleece. It is a good workout after a day at work.
The Dapper Dan rug currently on my Newcomb, the big,
 loud, strong rug loom that I weave on in the afternoon.
Then, after chores in the evening, I love to sit and spin yarn on my wheel or crochet hats in my easy chair. The fiber artist segments of my day dovetail productively, peacefully and naturally with all the rest of my life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pogo focus

The weather is foggy soft and beautiful this morning. The crows are cawling on the hill and the garden spider on the porch is moving slow.
My brain is all over the place this morning, not an effective way to get anything accomplished.
I've thought about composing a cowboy poem for the poetry contest this weekend about riding Liya on one of our epic cattle gathers. I can feel her bouncing, mincing steps, see the steam coming from her flaring nostrils and see her tail flagging high.
I have a rug I sold on etsy that needs to be marked, packed and shipped.
I still need to finish dishes.
I am teaching an interp workshop at Arkansas Tech in Russelleville tomorrow and I need to polish off that program about crafting to make sure it will catch college students attention.
I was going to write this blog post about the chiengora yarn I just finished spinning last night that I am going o wash, set and block tonight.
I haven't done my yoga yet and it is time to do chores, shower and get to work!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Studio Tour

I read somewhere once that if you can just keep doing something for 21 days, it will become a habit. Now it is possible that I have too many habits to fit another one in, like right now, I have 5 minutes before I need to go milk the goats - and that habit has been with me for 32 years. And I really can't sleep unless I unwind in the evening by doing something fibery, the last two evenings it has been custom spinning some nice fluffy dog hair. But, I really want my writing to become a habit.

So, day one.

Erie has been hollering for 24 hours. I bred her to Footsie yesterday morning and I hope it took. She is the world's most obnoxious goat when she is in heat.
I'm headed out to milk and do chores in just a minute. The air is soft and cool this morning. We had a couple inches of rain night before last, so everything is still delightfully damp.

The east wall of my studio with shawls and my new rug rack.

The west wall of my studio, with fleeces, our farm banner, a new handspun mohair
crocheted Tillie shawl and a fall colors shawl on the loom

I spent most of the tour warping the Newcomb and talking to people about the history
of this wonderful loom, my personal history with it and the larger history.
It is now warped and has a Dapper Dan rug started on it.
Studio Tour was fun this year. More visitors than last year, many of them from the Mountain Home and Northwest Arkansas areas.

The "Not Quite Blonde" shawl has a new home, as do three of my Fleecyful rugs.

And now it's off to do chores.