Monday, October 29, 2012

Gypsy Angst

I usually write this blog as "life on the farm" and it's written for my mom and dad, my aunt Jeannie, Robin and Summer and my other friends who I am terrible at keeping in touch with. I write many blog posts that need some serious editing, but I've only ever deleted one post. It was titled "Princess or Penguin?", and it is totally gone, though obviously I haven't managed to scrub it from my mental hard drive. I suspect this may be the second blog post I will delete.
The frost is getting heavy.

When I was born, "Traveling Man" by Ricky Nelson was the number one song on the Billboard charts. I was nine-days-old when I moved for the first of many, many times. I now look back on  my childhood as an amazing, wonderful, unique experience that made me the creative and adaptable person I am today. But I haven't been able figure out how to stop moving.

I have sheep who have lived in more homes than many people and my oldest sheep is only 13. My 18-year-old cat has lived in seven different houses, and a couple of shops. My daughter can't count how many places she's lived. I used to say, "I'll never move again," every time I bought a house that I loved. And I've loved many of the places that I've lived. I don't say that any more.

Oh heck, I don't do angst very well and I need to go feed the sheep.

I do really like this place we have now. It's no where near perfect, but it is the best of many worlds. It lets us garden, raise sheep and goats, share our working studios with visitors and still be right close to work - where we teach, craft and help other folks. I've built a lot in the 3 years we've been in this house and I have plans to build more. This house is cozy, old and funky. It won't qualify for conventional financing. And we have a balloon payment due.

Anybody out there have $76,000 that they want to invest at a good interest rate for 15 years?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stocking up

If you haven't entered my Country Outfitter boot giveaway yet click here and enter it now! If you don't need boots  (and who doesn't need boots) they would make a great Christmas present. 

We've had two hard freezes in a row now, so the garden is going to bed for the winter. The sheep are in their breeding groups and the dairy goats are starting to dry off. It's time for craft shows, indoor work and some catching up.

This mohair shawl just came off the triloom and it is divine.
Right now I'm down to doing only three shows a year, Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour; Eureka Springs Folk Festival and Christmas Showcase in Little Rock. That's way down from a high of 26. Really, my job keeps me pretty busy; pretty entertained; pretty distracted and pretty tired. But I still need to do at least a few craft shows each year.

I do shows to support my sheep; I do shows because I enjoy doing them; I do shows to keep connected with the crafts people that I know and care about; I do shows to look for new crafts people for the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village; I do shows find new homes for the things I make; and I do shows to connect to the buyers and other folks who I don't get to see any other way.

So, right now, I'm finalizing my stock for the November 3 Folk Festival Show in Eureka Springs. I seem to have stuff all over the place. I took two baskets to a demonstration at the Governor's Mansion on Monday. I have stock at the Craft Guild Gallery. I have a few baskets full in my studio and I have quite a bit of work in progress.

I try to do stock lists a week or two before a show and look for any holes to fill in. Currently I have on hand:
XX wool felt balls, undecorated @ $6.00 ea when finished
XX skeins of handspun yarn @ total of $xx.00
XX hand turned crochet hooks @ total of $xx.00
2 sets of hand turned knitting needles @ $25.00 ea
1 felted hook case, unfinished @ $25 when finished
1 felted mohair purse, unlined @ $80.00 ea when finished
3 crocheted handspun hats @ $25.00 ea
1 crocheted wool hat and scarf set @ $45.00 ea
1 crocheted mohair pouch... where is it? And should I line it? @ $25
XX finished tri-shawls @ a total of XX
XX tri-shawls in process (I want to overstitch the bamboo shawl with gold metallic, both for added elegance and to keep the twill weave from slipping) @ XX when finished
XX rectangular shawls @ XX
XX handbags in process @ XX
XX woven scarves @ a total of XX
XX finished rugs @ a total of XX

I always figure it does me no good and frustrates visitors/buyers when I don't have enough stock. People come to craft shows and studio tours to buy handmade items. I always try to have a minimum of $3,000 worth of stock to start a show and I'm happiest (and have my best shows) when I have upwards of $20,000. I don't have the time to make that much stock right now, but it is a good goal.

Mouse fleece - Mouse is our biggest sheep - rug on the Newcomb.
So, I need to quit writing this blog post and go weave... have a great day!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Building Community - Arkansas Master Naturalists

We've had a great group volunteering their time in our gardens at the Ozark Folk Center this year. The Arkansas Master Naturalists have been digging weeds, planting beds, mulching gardens and working with Tina Marie Wilcox to get some great things going.

This incredible group does great things all over the state. If you're looking for a way to spend time with some great people, get a little exercise, work in the sun and help out your community - check out this organization.

And don't forget to go back to yesterday's blog post and enter to win a free pair of boots from Country Outfitter. They have great boots for working in the garden, or building trails at Arkansas State Parks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Win yourself some boots

My old boots are tired!

I still haven't come up with a way to retire my decade-old Ariat Ropers. They are my comfort boots. But they sure are looking worn out. They really don't go with my green velvet dress any longer.

 I know it's silly, they are just an article of clothing, but these boots have protected my feet on trail rides in the Colorado mountains; training colts to run on the racetrack; on our journey across the US looking for a new place to farm; as we broke ground on Foxbriar Farm; and now, they run me through the Craft Village at the Ozark Folk Center everyday.

You can't just throw a pair of boots that anchor all those memories into the trash. And honestly, they are worn out, so I can't pass them on to anyone, either.

So, with the help of Country Outfitter, (an awesome Arkansas company) I'm going to have you all help me figure out an appropriate retirement for my beloved boots. And, along with helping me, out, you have a chance to win your own new pair of boots.

When I find something I like, I tend to stick with it.

Country Outfitter has lots of different types of boots. You don't have to just pick a pair like mine. If you win this giveaway, they will give you up to $150 towards the boots of your choice. And even if you don't win, I bet you'll find something that you want to put on your Christmas list for Santa to bring!


1. To get a chance to win your very own pair of boots from Country Outfitter, you must click this link to their boots giveaway page
and enter your email address. They may send you some promotional emails.

2. You must leave a comment on this blog post with your suggestion for a proper retirement for my old Ariats.

I am also going to set up a place for ideas on Pinterest, so read on in the next few days for how to share your ideas there, but that in not a requirement for entering. To enter, just click on the link above, enter your email address and then leave a comment here. That's it. That's all the requirements. Of course, I'd appreciate it if you'd share this out on Facebook and with your other social media friends, so that everybody has a chance to win boots and I find a good use/retirement for my old boots.

My boots are made for walking!
We'll be doing the drawing for the winner of this pair of boots and announce the winning retirement idea at noon on Sunday, November 25. You have up until midnight on Saturday, November 24th  (Small Business Saturday) to enter

 Disclosure: Country Outfitter, a retailer of Ariat Boots, gave me these Heritage Lace Ropers to review.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October - nuff said...

Caricature artist Jim Engler drew people
in the park on Saturday, including the folks
at the Sheep to Shawl. Jim will be teaching
caricature at Folk School this March.
October has always been an incredible month at the Ozark Folk Center. I've been teaching food preservation, cheesemaking, and spinning. I've been doing demo's almost everyday on some aspect of saving food or making cloth. Everybody has chipped in, we've cooked sorghum, woven shawls, sheared sheep and braided garlic.

Then, when I've been home, I've been digging drainage ditches on the new shelters, building and tarping new shelters, fencing breeding pens, sorting sheep and goats into breeding groups, planting the fall garden, , spinning yarns, weaving rugs and shawls to take to Christmas Showcase, and touring gift shops working on my Interpretive Resale Best Practices workshop for NAI National in November. Ok, is that enough excuses yet for not writing a blog post since the first?

Carolyn and I visited lots of gift shops, like this one at
Toltec Mounds State Park to learn about their interpretive
resale best practices. Here Park Interpreter Laura Lawrence
tells us about the artist who painted these wonderful
watercolors at the park and gave the park the rights
to reprint them on bookmarks and post cards to sell.
We finished fall shearing today with Fantasia and Gizmo. Fanta's fleece will be a good rug, it's going to be the next one on the loom. Giz... I might spin, but most likely will weave it into a chair cover or handbag fabric. His last fleece is a rug that Linda Odom has and his fleece before is partly a handbag I'm lining now and partly in the current shawl on my studio triloom.

Lena sheared Hagrid yesterday as a demo during the Sheep to Shawl at the Folk Center. She did a great job and I appreciate it. That let me focus on my cheesemaking students. I spent this morning studying why I am having so much trouble with mozzarella. It's the milk - when I looked at the expiration dates they were all about 2-3 weeks out, showing that they were ultrapasturized. That process allows milk to keep longer on the grocers shelf and destroys it for cheesemaking.

So, now that I have that figured out, I need to go finish planting fall chard and kale. I love greens with dinner, and while you can buy them at the store, they are so easy to grow. Here in the Ozarks, they will usually grow all winter.

But first, I need to finish this blog post. Is it attention deficit disorder - or just way too many things on the to-do list disorder?
George loves mooching from and posing with visitors
to the Ozark Folk Center. Hagrid, with his new haircut
is in the back.

While it is still October, with apple butter cooking and soap making and Beanfest yet to come, November is just around the corner. November is going to be another busy, wonderful fun month, in part, because it is full of giveaways. In just a few days, on October 23 to be exact, I'll be starting a Country Outfitter giveaway for a free pair of boots! I'll give you a few more teasers tomorrow and then all the details on Tuesday.

Tillie models the new slicked down style of angora goat.
Fantasia, far right, got her haircut this afternoon.
And then, starting November 1st, we'll be having an elf hunt in the Craft Village with lots of great free prizes. Help us find the pesky little Elf in the Shop and get a chance to win the perfect handcrafted present.

After that, perhaps like my cheesemaking students who kept helping me find my measuring cup yesterday, you could help me find where I left my sanity?

The elf, in the shop...this little guy is starting
to get into all kinds of trouble in the Craft
Village. We just caught him trying to break
into the fried pie case in the Smokehouse.
Come help us catch the elf and we just might
give you a prize!

Monday, October 01, 2012

It's Fall

Finally we got enough rain to end the summer long burn ban.
Lena trimmed the cedars and cut down a few "eye-catchers"
and we burned a lot of downed sticks that can be
trip hazards in the dark or bad weather.
Autumn means many things. Temperatures get cooler. Days get shorter. Gardens reach their

Here on the farm, it means getting ready for winter. The sheep and goats need a different type of shelter in the winter. When it's hot, they need shade and air flow. When winter comes, they need warm and dry.

Here in the Arkansas Ozarks, we do sometimes get snow, and we get wind, so the shelters need to be able to stand up to whatever weather tantrum nature wants to pitch.

Because the days are shorter in the winter, we will be doing one, or sometimes both chorings in the dark, so it's really nice to have the pens set up in a way that it is easy to feed. Also our ground gets slippery when wet, so having to climb the hill with an arm load of hay, or a bucket of feed needs to be kept to a minimum.

Shawn's still laid up from his sinus surgery, but our fall sheep and goat care still needed to be done, so Lena and I worked hard this weekend. It seemed a little like the Fox and Geese game, because everything had to happen in order to keep the rams away from each other and from the girls they weren't supposed to talk to.

First we built Boomer a nice new BIG pen, so that he can have several girls come live with him.
Dan was in with the whole flock for a bit yesterday. If we have any surprise lambs, they'll be here the end of February, about 147 days from today. But we got him into the Skinny pen with Bones and Mouse, after trimming their toes. We call it the Skinny pen because the back wall of the shelter in that pen is a plywood board that says "Skinny's Barber Shop". We tried to put Demi and Lizzy in with them, but the girls just pushed up the back fence and left. We fixed that, because I want them bred to Dan. I'd love a little ewe lamb that looks like Hagrid. We haven't put the girls back in yet.

The biggest task was moving the Dinosaur (a carport type tent that's been the sheep shelter for about 6 years, thanks to Robin and Summer) from the sheep pen to straddle the fence between the dairy goats and the horse pasture, aka the front yard. Lena cut so many tree limbs to get them out of the way, she's really sore tonight, but we got it moved. Fria, who at 30-years-old deserved comfort for her old horse bones, really likes her "new" shelter. Next weekend, or maybe the next one, we'll put sides on it.

Then we gathered all the tree trimmings of the last year or two and had a big bonfire. While it burned down, we built the new sheep shelter, a double-wide, triple-long hoop house. The sheep seem to love it, I'll take pics in the morning.

Now Lena and I are both tired and sore, but it's a good tired - the kind that comes from a productive weekend and a job well done.