Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tech frustration

Ok, so I know that computers really do make my life easier. My iphone is a part of my daily life on the farm. I take pictures to record planting times, breeding dates, lambing times, and moving goats from one pasture to another. I text myself grocery lists and chat about dinner plans with family. I set phone alarms to check cheeses in progress or dye vats on the stove. And I share all this with friends from around the world via my blog and facebook.
But sometimes...
Yesterday morning, I was trying to pack a few orders before the mail carrier arrived. As I was cleaning off the table to be able to sort and pack orders, I found a package I had put together for a friend. Now, I could drive to her house, but I can't remember her mailing address. So, a few weeks ago I had searched my email for it and still come up dry. So I emailed her and she sent it to me. That email disappeared into cyber space. A few weeks later, I chatted with her and she sent it to me again. Then I got caught up in the holiday rush. So, yesterday, I decided her package had to ship first. I looked in my phone chat, no address there... then google chat and back to my emails. Finally, I remembered that the address was in Facebook messenger. And what is an overabundance of tech to me is middle of the road to many folks.

So, I went to and after entering all my information, the only shipping options were priority mail. There's no hurry on this package.  So I switched to paypal multiorder shipping and entered it all again. Paypal then informed me that it doesn't support the Chrome browser, which I was using. I decided to ignore that warning, I had entered every thing in twice already! and then it crashed Chrome.

So, I opened Firefox, entered everything again. and reminded my self that all of this had really taken less time than getting dressed, finding which car I could borrow because mine is not running, driving to the post office, standing in line and paying $3.00 more to ship this package. Really...really. I printed the label, put it on the box and looked at the time.

I had to get to the feed store before they closed at noon, so I set that box aside and figured I'll pack and ship the orders tomorrow.

So, this morning, I sit down at the computer, getting ready to ship orders. I thought I'd make edits to my Christmas blog post while I have the computer open and while I drink my morning coffee. I open blogger. No Christmas blog post...

I've started doing many of my blog posts from my phone. It's fairly easy. The pics are all right there and the blogger app is simple. I can't fine tune the posts though, so I usually edit them, write photo captions and fix the spacing next time I'm at my computer. A few times I've found that posts have not published from my phone, but it's not a huge deal, I just go back to the phone, find them there and republish them. It's just a little irritation, really. So, now my Christmas blog post is re-published from my phone and I'm done ranting.

Off to pack orders, dye fiber, do body score checks on the pregnant ewes, weave on a commissioned shawl, was the newly spun skeins of Thyme wool yarn and take a break this afternoon for coffee and kuchen with friends and family. It is really a wonderful, full life.

Have a beautiful day!

Quiet Family Christmas

Daddy between the living and dining areas.
We had a nice quiet Christmas I'm Mountain View this year. The weather was sunny and in the 30's. We did chores in the morning. The angora goats were enjoying their Christmas present, the newly fenced east pasture with new shelters for them and their llama. This pasture has been without animals for a year, so it's nice and clean for them to kid   
Then we finished the Christmas presents that needed finishing, baked pies, boiled sweet potatoes from our garden and went to my parents for a wonderful Christmas dinner and gift exchange. 

Lena created a wonderful family photo album for my parents. She had to go through hundreds of pics of goats, sheep and horses to find the people. In one late night moment of frustration, she looked at me and said, "I've only found one picture of you where you're not holding a horse, a goat, a child or a snake - in that order." 
I was amazed that there were pictures of me. I thought I was always on the other side of the camera. 
Merry Christmas from Mountain View!

My mom

Aunt Jeannie and my son, Arjuna

Their treasured Black Forest quilt hangs at the bottom of the stairs to the Quilting Loft.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Creating Connections

Craft shows are more than a way to connect with customers and a place to sell your work, they are also a place to network with other artisans and to forge lasting friendships. The Arkansas Craft Guild's Christmas Showcase is especially powerful for bringing together people and creating lasting friends.

Our booth at Showcase is right across from Leigh Abernathy's Twining Vine Designs booth. Leigh is one of the most incredible women I know, in so many ways. She is a powerful, competent professional project planner, an incredible mother and one of the most artful jewelry designers I know. I think it was at the guild gallery that we actually discovered how well her wonderful shawl pins work with my shawls. But at showcase it has become our standard to send people back and forth across the aisle to get the perfect shawl and pin pairing. 

This year, weather prevented showcase from happening, but people are still finding ways to make those connections and buy the handcrafted items they've been waiting for all year. One of my shawl customers really wanted one of Leigh's silver shawl pins to go with her new purchase. Email, Facebook and phone connections were made and Leigh brought the perfect shawl pins to Mountain View. 

You can visit Leigh's Twining Vine Designs etsy store at
If you want to find a shawl pin for a shawl you already have or some of her other beautiful jewelry. 

Leigh is also one of the most generous people I know. She gave me a few of her wonderful copper shawl pins to pair with some of my shawls, including a new design that I haven't tried before. I'll wear that one to work on Monday!

In the spirit of Christmas Showcase, I want to pass Leigh's gift on to you. If you buy a Common Threads shawl from me, either in the etsy store or personally, between now and the end of January, I will include a free Twining Vine Designs shawl pin with your purchase. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Common Threads Shawls

I'm working a beautiful teal, rust and peach shawl right now on my seven-foot Laffing Horse triloom. I just love the way the yarn textures are creating a secondary pattern in the color pattern I'm weaving. I posted a picture of that discovery on Facebook. I got lots of likes, compliments that made me feel very honored, and an email from someone who wanted to buy the shawl. Wow. 

I had to let her know that this one was a commission. I have two more shawls to weave after this one that are already sold, and then I can design anew. 

Now, many of you know that I don't take orders, but, I will, as I say, take inspiration. If you want a specific blend of colors in one of my triangle shawls, let me know. I like to use 5-7 colors and textures in a shawl, with one being dominant. I have really come to prefer weaving with wool, mohair and silk, but I will use synthetics on request. 

If you would like to commission a shawl, let me know what colors you would like, what fiber types and short fringe, long fringe or no fringe. 

I can let you know how long it will take. The shortest possible time is two weeks. Sometimes the answer may be six months. I weave 15 to 20 shawls a year. 
I can also tell you what it will cost. 
Generally, shawls woven with commercial yarn, no fringe range from $95 to $150. Commercial yarn with fringe are $150 to $175.

Shawls woven with my handspun yarn from our animals take longer. They cost between $225 for unfringed to $500 for kid mohair with long fringes. 

I will not take any money up front. After I get the shawl done, I will email you pictures. If it is what you wanted, then you can buy it. If not, I have a new shawl in stock. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shepherd's Crook, our current favorite multi-use tool

Lena clears the ice off the horse & dairy goat shelter.
We are shepherds and one of the tools we learned to love, long, long ago, was a shepherd's crook. We tried several styles, but we find the old fashioned steam bent hickory is our favorite. You just can't leave it out in the weather or it will straighten back out.

We also love our portable shelters for our critters. They allow us to rotate grazing, to use deep litter bedding effectively and to manage our five acres sustainably. But we do have to be careful of snow loads on the hoop houses and tents.

This latest snow came down as ice, then wet snow, then more ice. Kind-of a creamy centered snow cookie effect. It is entertaining to walk on, but has been harder than heck to get off the road and a real challenge to remove from the shelters. We had our first hoop house flatten under the load with this snow. Boomer and his girls are all fine, and those hoop house panels will now be fence, once we get them out from under the snow.

We knew the first morning we had to get the snow off the dairy goat and horse's shared shelter. Shovels and brooms didn't work. Climbing up and tugging didn't work. Finally, we found the great multi-use tool that did the job - our good old shepherd's crook.

Stay safe and warm this winter, it's starting out challenging.

Monday, December 09, 2013

When life gives you snow... Make a photo shoot!

I've been working these last several days, while we've been snow-bound, to get everything I had ready for Christmas Showcase up in the Common Threads etsy store. I've been busy taking pictures and typing up descriptions. 

Our house kitties, who never go outside, have spent the last two days exhibiting all the signs of cabin fever. They've been racing around the house, quibbling with each other and knocking things over. So, I was having a really hard time figuring out where I could set up a photo booth to take pictures of my shawls. My son, Arjuna, suggested I take them out in the snow for pictures. 

It worked great! The diffuse light shows off the weave and the whiteness of the snow lets the colors show true. I'll have to photograph my new shawls every time it snows. 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Life happens

The last several weeks have been spent weaving, spinning, dyeing, broom and fringe tying. I've been getting up between three and four and weaving for a couple hours before I head into work. Then I weave or spin in the evenings. I wove some awesome shawls and rugs in the last few weeks. 

I do take the occasional "sheep break"!

Shawn and Lena have dyed some beautiful color of broom corn. 

Spinning incredible fine kid mohair. 

This year I managed to weave up every rug fleece that our sheep grew into wonderful Fleecyful wool rugs. 

This shawl is even more beautiful in person. I really wouldn't mind keeping this one. 

I tied so many fringes last week that my fingers are still stiff. 

Shawn and Lena had more beautiful brooms than ever. And Shawn built a stunning show booth that should last for decades, showcase both our products wonderfully and win a good many best booth in show awards. 

We both hit our goals for the amount of product we needed to take to Christmas Showcase, the Little Rock show that provides half our winter income. Everything loaded as planned. Booth, stock and suitcases took less than five hours, a record!

We left on time, running ahead of the predicted winter storm. Two hours into our drive, as we were turning onto highway 67 to Little Rock we got a call that the show was cancelled. Stunned is still the best word to describe how I feel. 

The van is still packed, though we brought the food and suitcases in. Several of us tried to put together shows for next weekend. Leigh Abernathy of Twinning Vine Designs managed to pull together a show for Saturday, December 14 in Heber Springs. I'll post the address on Facebook. 
I'll spend the rest of my time off from work posting the new rugs, shawls and yarns in the etsy store and trying some new promotions. And now that we have this new booth, we will be looking for some more good indoor shows. 

Just goes to show you, no matter how prepared you are, life happens. 

Herkimer's Rug

Herki wants to know why I have
Fantasia's fleece on my head.
I've been raising colored angora goats since the mid-90's. I love the steel grays, soft oatmeal cream, and gentle brown colors. My goal was to breed a true, rich animal red doe. I have not achieved this goal, yet. 

About six years ago I had people start requesting white mohair rugs at shows. My response was that I don't breed white goats, so I can't make white rugs. Then I got my Tillie goat in a group of beautiful gray and black goats. Tillie is white. I so enjoyed dyeing and playing with the white mohair, and I am very, very fond of Tillie. She's the pretty goat on my business cards and posters. 

So, the next time I went looking for a buck, I bought a white one. Herkimer is a sweet boy. We named him after the Herkimer diamond because of his shiny white fleece. His offspring are all white, of course, and he is producing kids with a delightful variety of fleece textures. And, twice a year, he gets his hair cut and I can weave one white rug from his fleece. 

We shear all our fiber critters on a stand, using hand shears. Herki is a good boy for shearing, though he does like to tug on your clothes when he can reach them. We put each fleece in a pillow case as we shear and mark it with the animal's name, the date and the label "rug" or "spin" for the eventual process that the fleece will go through. Then we store all the fleeces on a big shelf in my shop.

Herki's fleece has beautiful locks that maintain their integrity through the weaving and felting process that each rug goes through. His is always labeled "rug" because it makes such beautiful ones.

The rug weaving process starts with considering the colors of fleeces I have and dyeing or finding the right 100% wool warp yarn for the fleeces. For this rug, I ordered several different "white" wool yarns to find the color I liked the best with his fleece. Then I measured out the warp yarns and tied them on the loom. Herki's rugs are pretty large and the weaving takes a while. 

Once I have woven the entire fleece into the warp, along with yarns to keep it stable, I take it off the loom and tie the fringes on each end. Then I start the felting process. Each rug gets its first bath in the tub, to get out the worst of the grime and begin the felting in the direction I want it to go. After rinsing well and drying for a bit on the porch rail, the rug then begins the machine washing and felting rounds. 

Locky and lovely, Herkimer's diamond rug.
I have a front load washer and each rug goes through about 7 cycles on the gentle wash with cold water. I am currently using Whisk detergent. It gets the rugs clean with our water. Most of the time, I dry the rugs on our porch railing, but when the weather does not permit, I dry them in the dryer on air dry.

This process gets each rug clean, and felts it slightly into a firm and durable rug. 
This fall's Herkimer rug is a unique treasure. It is definitely the most beautiful rug I've woven thus far. It was ordered during Studio Tour and its fond owner was going to pick it up at Christmas Showcase. Because of the storm, Showcase was cancelled, so I am making arrangements to mail this wonderful rug. 

You are welcome to visit Herki at the farm this year and see his kids. As we have a small flock, we usually only keep a buck or a ram for 3 years before finding him a new home and bringing in a new male with fresh genetics. Herki's rugs are so, so beautiful, I am tempted to keep him longer, but he is so good at his other job (making baby goats) that it will  be hard to keep him separate from his offspring. All that to say, Herki will probably only be here one more year. If you are interested in angora wether fiber goats, I have two Herki sons that will be looking for a new home next spring after shearing. And if you need a nice buck for your flock next October, let me know. I have a diamond of an angora goat buck who would love to find some new girls.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sweet potato harvest

This happened a few weeks ago, but life has been so busy, I haven't taken time to share here.

We keep an eye on the weather for frost warnings in October for many reasons. One is that we want to give the sweet potatoes as long as possible to grow, but still harvest them before the frost.
So, the second to the last Sunday in October, with frost imminent that week, we decided to break into the straw bale garden. I called my dad to see if he wanted to join us. Their house is 15 minutes away from our farm. 
The kids went out to start the harvest. By the time I got out there, they were finishing up. My dad arrived in time to help them put the harvested sweet potatoes on feed sacks on the bed of the truck to dry. Easiest sweet potato harvest ever!

Good big potatoes from our own slips from last years potatoes.
The sunny side of the straw bale potatoes patch produced much bigger potatoes than the more shaded side. Something to remember for next years garden.

This is how I'm growing all our root vegis from now on!

Arjuna lifted the mat of sweet potato vines and broke open the straw bales beneath.

Love this one.

Robin's flatbed truck makes a good sweet potato drying bed.

One of the big ones. 1.5 pounds

Bigs and littles. My favorites are the fat ones.

Friday, October 04, 2013

My cedar blanket chest

I've always wanted a cedar blanket chest. I remember as a teen, wishing I had one for my hope chest. At some point, someone gave me a little replica of a cedar chest for a jewelry box. 

It's one of those wants that went by the wayside as the years went by. So I am still dazed and amazed and bursting with thanks for what I found when I got home from working a 13 hour day yesterday. It's the most beautiful cedar chest I have ever seen in my whole life. And it was sitting under my triloom, just for me. Really. 
Thanks Mom and Dad!
It is gorgeous natural cedar with a glossy smooth finished top the sides are dovetailed smoothly. It stands on four cute little hand turned legs. Inside it is smooth sanded, open for my wool blankets (and now shawls and yarns as I've grown up to make those things) and it has a nice little lidded box on one side for treasures. 

Mary Banker told us about the cedar chests when we visited her last week. They are made in a training program by prisoners and sold through a little store in Calico Rock. The money then goes to the prisoner's family. They will take special orders. My dad is designing a desk he wants for their new home. 

And I'm sitting on my incredibly beautiful new cedar blanket chest still feeling dazed and amazed and writing this blog post. Thank you so much. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Weaving weekend

I still like reading magazines such as Inc and Fast Company, they have lots of good information for small businesses. An article they had in common recently was about the concept of distractions, and how we actually tend to distract ourselves. We can't blame it on email or the phone or people poking their head through the office door. We mostly just have a really hard time focusing on any one project long enough to get it done.

I find that a lot, especially on weekends like this one, where I have four distinct "to do" lists.

  1. One was for the farm - the angoras need to be sheared, and I don't like the current milk barn layout, so I wanted to move it. 
  2. Winter garden - I want to plant spinach, chard and kale and find what is left of the summer garden under the bermuda grass.
  3. Common Threads - weave, weave, weave and maybe dye some fiber, spin a little yarn... Since we decided to do Artisan's Market on the Square again this year, I've got to get some more stock made. 
  4. Household - Make cheese, pear sauce, decide what to do the the muscadines, check the persimmons, do laundry, sweep, kitchen counters and start finding my winter clothes.

So, as I focus on the current shawl on the loom, one that Lena says I should call Cucumber Melon, though I'm not sure that's a shawl name, I have a pot of pears bubbling on the stove. The mozzarella took one hour of complete focus, but I managed it and it came out great. I got a beautiful white warp on the rigid heddle in the 4 hours before daylight yesterday morning.
Now I have 3/4 of the last day of my weekend. I won't get it all done, though the laundry is caught up for this week. I really want to plant at least the spinach, and I want to go visit a friend. So, I'll go buy some fresh seed and visit a bit.
How can I focus when my life is blessed with such an abundance of wonderful things to do?
This shawl is almost ready to come off the loom.

This Dapper Dan rug is almost done. 
These two Fantasia rugs and a Demi rug are half way through the felting process

This white Herkimer rug will take a week or more to finish

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Time wishes, not bucket list

At conference I recently attended had big sheets of paper with questions written  in big letters on the top of the page, and markers for anyone who wanted to write their answer below. 

During breaks everyone wandered about to see what the questions were and write their answers one any they wanted. This generated some great discussions. 

One was "What's one thing on your bucket list?"

I thought and thought. I don't have a bucket list. I am blessed to have a life that is full to overflowing. I have a farm I love; a busy career that keeps me entertained; an art the gentles my soul; and family and friends that love and care for me. 

I grew up around the world as an Army brat and I get to travel a lot for my job. My parents always told me I could do anything I set my mind to and worked toward - and I have. 

I don't have a bucket list, but I do have an "Only if I had more time... list. "

If I had more time (or more energy within the time I have...) -

I would paint my bathroom cerulean blue. And tile its floor, and move the cabinets. 

I would be getting my winter garden ready. 

I would participate in NANOWRIMO. 

I would spend time getting together with and visiting my neighbors. 

I would write more thank you notes. 

I would get raspberries to grow. 

I learn what it is like to have a day without a to-do list. 

This list could get very long - and then it would look like a to-do list. 

So, enough musing, back to the whirlwind of my very full, very wonderful life. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Newcomb Weaver's Friend

I weave my Fleecyful Rugs on this Newcomb loom. My Aunt Jeannie found this loom when she lived in Lynn, Massachusetts many years ago. She gave it to me, well, quite some time ago, in the days before the Internet. 

So, I first set it up by trial and error. I've had it set up in several different configurations. I've taken it down moved it and reassembled it many times. Sometimes I mark the parts with masking tape to make it easier to put it back together. 

This week, I had someone message me that they had a friend who had acquired a Newcomb Weavers Friend and was attempting to assemble it. 

I said I'd be glad to take pictures of mine and how I have it set up and share them. 
I'm not saying this is the right way, but it works for me and I've woven several hundred rugs on this loom. 

If you have any questions, please either leave a comment or email me. 

And now I need to get back to weaving. 
 Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour is September 13-15, 2013. 

Thanks to the Lazy Goat String Band

Only in Mountain View...

A couple weeks ago, I was visiting with the members of the Lazy Goat String Band as they packed up after a set. The talk turned to goats. Emily Phillips is the fiddle player for this very talented group. Her mom, Christi, mentioned that they might have a few of their registered Alpine namesake goats for sale. 

Yesterday, I again visited with the group after a great set of music. Samuel Blake has a delightful new gourd banjo. I cut short my admiring the banjo to ask about the goats. (Sorry Samuel!)

Yep, they were still for sale. And I fell instantly in love when I met them. Meet Latte' and her daughter. Christi said I should let Shawn name her Isabell. 

The music of Mountain View brought me back my Alpines. I am so blessed to live here. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Herkimer's throne

I suspect Herkimer just likes the shearing stand because it is a dry place where he can relax and watch the world.

Just lately though, I've been wondering if it's his way of asking to be sheared? I'd like him the put on another few weeks growth before giving him his hair cut, and it's not very hot this summer. 

We did just shear Ishmael in my wonderful Sheep to Shawl class and I am loving spinning his fine soft kid mohair. My next Sheep to Shawl class is March 19-21, 2014 if you'd like to join us, message me for info. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Duck soup delights

This is not a post about supper or recipes. It is about the wonderful wet weather we've been having. There is water just laying all over the ground. More of that precious resource falls from the sky every day. I wish we had better ways to store this abundance for times of shortage, but for now, we'll just appreciate it. 

The sheep are enjoying their pasture between storms. We are checking the frequently for parasite issues. 

The figs, tomatoes and other fruits are splitting their skins from the abundance of water. 

The rain is dripping pink off the poke berries. 

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Color inspirations

Where do I get my inspiration for my color combinations?
Join me for a rainy morning walk in the garden. 

The world is so gorgeously green this morning. I think Oz is just short for Ozarks and we live in the Emerald City.