Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Working - really

I'm at the State Park Gift Show at Degray State Park. I'm working, really!
Degray mantle by OFC wood carver Bill Standard
This is a great place to network with other state park store managers and office staff. I am hoping to put together some group buying for this next year. Right now, I'm working on a big cast iron order - Dutch ovens.

The lodge is decorated beautifully, and I always love their fitness center. However, we are out on the edge of the north wing and have no internet access and our water is lukewarm. Putting Melody and I in a room with no wifi was really not a good plan. We'll survive and know next year to request a room closer to the hub.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bach'n it

Breeding season is over here at Havencroft. Sheep and goats are seasonal polyestrus, meaning, they cycle and breed in the fall and have their babies in the spring. This cycle is light induced, so humans can muck about with it, but I like the poetry of the natural cycle. This way, the momma's are having babies when the grass is coming in, we can shear before they lamb, and I can dry off most of the dairy goats so that we all get a break from milking in the dead of winter. Nature has a good plan.

Here in Arkansas, we don't want babies born too late, either, because as it gets warmer, the parasites get stronger and that can be tough on young lambs. They need to get big and strong before the bugs get going.
So, even though the boys are still willing and the girls who are not yet bred are getting desperate, breeding season is over.
Dapper Dan the Jacob ram, Sultan the colored angora goat buck and
 Footloose, the Saanen/Lamancha dairy goat buck in their bachelor pen. 

The boys have been moved to their bachelor pen, where they'll stay until February, when hormones have settled and then we'll clean that pen out, rest it a bit and have it ready for kidding and lambing. It's right behind the house, so easy to keep an eye on whatever is going on in there.

Last night about 2 am, the coyotes had me awake. The air was fairly comfortable and I sat out on the back porch for a while, listening to the night. The moon was bright, even at 1/4 full. I watched as the clouds scudded over the southern mountains behind the house and filled in the sky. The boys were all talking to their respective flocks as the storm rolled in. Now this morning, it is raining again, but still fairly warm.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Special orders

I don't take special orders. I haven't for years, probably at least since I've lived in Arkansas. I used to - but found they were so stressful and time-consuming that they didn't make sense. I am a perfectionist in my arts and a people-pleaser and I would fret too much trying to make sure that an ordered item was perfectly what the person wanted.

I still get requesst for special orders. At least a few times during Studio Tour and each show people will ask and I reply, "I don't do orders, but I will take inspiration. Tell me what you're looking for, and in the next year or two I might get it made. Check back at next year's show."

Some people aren't happy with that answer, but I pretty much stick to it. Special orders are too much stress.

Vest woven from Mr. Bones fleece
However, every once in a while, one gets through. A man called me this summer, wanting a vest for his wife. I make very few vests, they are a lot of work. Wonderful, warm, comfy and easy to wear, but a lot of work to make. I explained that I don't do orders and we had a nice chat on the phone. He has called several times this year, always polite and friendly and we have nice visits. His wife's vest is almost done and I'll drop it in the mail tomorrow.

I resist doing the vests because of the amount of work involved. Of course, there's the whole sheep care and wool shearing, loom warping, weaving and felting processes involved in producing the fabric. that's the same a making a rug, just with slightly different dimensions.

Then there's challenge of cutting and stitching fabric that is 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick - I broke two needles last night and said a word that shocked Shawn. I did find it interesting that the needles broke before the yarn. I spin good yarn! Now I'm crocheting the edging on the front and the collar and I'll run it through a quick finishing wash.
Mr. Bones, who grew the wool for the vest above.

And then its outside to enjoy some sunshine and build a few quick shelters for the lower ranked dairy and angora goats before tonight's rain comes in. The hoop houses comfortably cover all the critters, but the lower status goats are not allowed into the shelter with the top ranked girls. Just how life is in the goat herd and no use fretting about it. With rain projected at 34-degrees, nobody needs to get wet.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Multiplying my blessings

I am so blessed to work and live in such a nurturing environment as Mountain View and the Ozark Folk Center. The people, weather, land, water and spirit all work together in a way to inspire creativity, community and faith. To quote an email from my dad, "I’m glad you found such a great place to be. J ."

I was blessed to grow up in the military base community, where people cared for and took care of each other. I found community in the unique world that makes up Renaissance Festival family. I've found bits of it with farm friends and through other Connections. I've looked for that in the "real world" and never found it until Mountain View. Not to say it doesn't exist, it just didn't click for me.

I am blessed to have a strong family. We may be scattered and busy, but when we get together, by phone, email or in person, we like each other! We talk, visit, laugh, share memories, hopes and dreams. I count my children among my best friends, my parents are my biggest supporters, my brothers are fascinating people and my aunt is my cheerleader. Much of my strength comes from the love of my family.

I am truly blessed to have the love of my quirky, talented, wonderful life-partner, Shawn. I will never be bored!

I could go on and on counting my blessings - friends, job, freedom, critters, love, happines and on and on...
but that wasn't even the point of this post!

I don't usually give presents, and in our family, we don't really enjoy getting them. We tend to go buy whatever we need, and if the season is right, we'll say, "look what you got me for Christmas." We have a small house, too much stuff already and we have a terrible time throwing anything that looks like it could be useful away. And we are blessed that most of our friends and family are well enough off that they have everything they need. So, we don't do presents.

But this year, maybe, I've figured out a way to perhaps make a bit of gift giving make sense. I have a friend who recently started making lampwork beads. She's got a natural talent for it, her beads are beautiful. She just started selling some with an eye towards making some income. I bought a few beads that I liked. And then, I thought, I could buy a few more for Christmas presents. That way, I'm helping an artist friend build their business, and letting the recipient friend know I'm thinking of them. And with that in mind, I could buy small things from other artists I know, giving thought to friends and family who might appreciate the items and the stories about the people who made them.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to do some Christmas shopping tomorrow during Small Business Saturday. Maybe I'll see you in Mountain View, on the Square, at the Guild Gallery or in the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village.

I am so blessed in so many ways!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The felting process

After 3 washings

Felting is what happens to wool and other animal fibers when you add moisture, change the ph, change the temperature and agitate them. It is a permanent strong process that has been used by humans since they began using animal fibers. Felt makes good strong tents (yurts).

Its what happens when you throw your favorite sweater into the washer. It is also an art form that many people use to create beautiful fiber art (sometimes using the sweater that is no longer wearable).

I've been felting my rugs for many years. It allows me to weave them fairly loose and relatively quickly with raw fleece, right off the sheep. I hate washing fleece! Then, I spend several days in the felting process with each rug. The rugs shrink, firm up and become very thick, cushiony and extrodinarily durable. And, as a bonus, they are washable. They've already shrunk as much as they are going to. They usually shrink a lot. This is Demi's rug after 3 washings. It is a little more than 1/2 the size it started out. You can see the amount of shrink by looking at it laid on the same Afghani rug in the previous post.

I don't felt just rugs, I also take those sweaters that accidentally (really it was an accident! I know you liked that sweater Shawn) get felted and make spindle bags, crochet hook cases and Christmas stockings. The one in the picture I made as a part of the Christmas give-away package that we are drawing for today at the Ozark Folk Center.

I can't decide which side I like better, but I guess the stocking's new owner can make that decision.
Stocking side A

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Off the loom

I took the Demi rug off the loom. It looks like it will be a nice runner. Now the felting process begins. First a gentle wash to rinse out the worst of the dirt and set the shape. 
Then it starts going into the front-load washing machine. Most of the rugs take seven washings and dryings before they are done. Then they are fully felted and machine washable.

Ziffer gives the new rug a roll test.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I just realized last week that I am great at research and learning things and trying to live my life by what I think is right - but I am terrible about sharing those things that I find. I just figure the information, projects and ideas I find are cool, and out there for others to find.

Last week, a friend discovered the 3/50 Project and email their information to many of us. The 3/50 project is a grassroots movement that asks people to pick 3 local businesses and spend $50 each in those 3 over the year. We have a local grocery, local health food store, local restaurants that aren't parts of chains and of course, our crafts people are all independent local businesses. They have lots of facts and figures at the web site about how this simple step will help your home town, where you live. Like I'm always saying, "take care of your own first."

I hit "reply all" and pointed out the the 3/50 project has a facebook page. Then a friend called me and asked if I had any of the 3/50 bumper stickers or their pamphlets. Boy did I feel silly, I hadn't even thought to share the  existence of the group.

Then there was Small Business Saturday. It's the movement to encourage people to shop at small businesses on the day after Black Friday. Check out the link and visit your favorite crafts person or other small businesses on Saturday, Nov. 27.

So, I'm going to try to do better at sharing the cool projects, organizations and happenings I find. Have you ever heard of Real Milk?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Demi's rug

So I dipped into the yarn stash under the bed and pulled out three bags of wool yarn to do felting swatches on. I crocheted up a patch of the gold, the black and the cream and threw them in with the laundry load. The cream and black felted up beautifully and equally. So, I started to warp the loom. After 17 passes, I discovered that every skein of black yarn in the bag was a different brand!! I may regret it, but I didn't want to take the time to swatch test each one, so I just kept on warping.

The resulting warp is very pretty, though it took longer to thread on the loom than I expected. The weaving is going a bit slow, too, but the rug looks gorgeous right now.

 I'm using Demi's fleece. Demi is one of Lena's bottle babies. She is half Icelandic and half CVM. She was born black, but is now a silvery grey with black undertones - a truly beautiful fleece. We have to shear all the Icelands and crosses twice a year, because their wool grows so long and thick. 

Nilly talking to Demi through the fence

We keep a Matilda fleece cover on her, and many of the angora goats and other sheep through the winter to keep their fleeces clean while we are feeding hay. The Matilda covers fit well and are breathable, so the fiber grows well underneath and the animals stay healthy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Countdown to December 11 Studio Tour

Current shawl on the studio loom
Ok, today is November 21, so there are 20 days left 'til tour day. We decided to do a Christmas mini-tour for any of the Off the Beaten Path Studios who wanted to participate. I'm getting excited and planning the details for our studios.

Today, fix fences in the angora goat pen, dog kennel. Sort sheep by weight and check Famacha and body scores in all three flocks. Cook up green chili for dinner. Make farmer's cheese. Finish carding Frits fleece and weave on the tri shawl in my studio.Do felting test on some warp yarns while doing laundry.

Tomorrow - chores and weave a bit in the morning. Meeting at work at 10, pay bills and run a few errands in town afternoon, bring my rigid heddle home from the spinning and weaving shop. Warp with yarns decided yesterday. Would love to do some stripes. The painted warp rugs seemed to confuse people, though they have all sold except one, but how to you decide what room to put a rug in when one end has highlights of olive and the other burgundy?

Tuesday - blog, chores and maybe a bit 'o weaving in the morning, work with really wonderful people on several projects including the Ozark Christmas Carol until 5ish, then dinner, chores and spinning, hopefully finishing out Frits fleece and starting on Chantilly's.

And so on... I think I'll have the two shawls on my big looms done, along with about half-a-dozen that I have finished already, a small but good selection of rugs, several handbags, hats and scarves and lots of yarn. Lena's been working on some beautiful knitting needles. The bois d'arc ones feel like glass and are so gorgeous to look at. Shawn's backed up on orders, but he'll at least be doing some custom crochet hooks that day. We'll be ready on December 11, and I hope you'll all come join us.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our Busman's Holidays

Shawn and I started out car-pooling with each other, spent years working together, then years traveling to craft shows together, then years commuting a long distance to work together.
Now, for the last year, even though we both work at the Ozark Folk Center, we live close enough that we often don't even drive in together. We both miss our time in the car to talk, plan, chat, muse, discourse, rant and be silly. We miss that connection we made while filling up the hours and miles in the car with hopes and dreams.

So, as the season wound down in the Craft Village at the Ozark Folk Center, we started traveling to nearby towns to check out the crafting world in those areas. When we were in Hot Springs last Sunday, the scrimshaw artist we were visiting with, said, "Oh, so you're taking a busman's holiday." I had heard and used the term before, so I know what it means, but where did it come from?

Looking it up on the web shows that it is from the 1800's (way before motor buses) and that it does mean to take a holiday that is similar to your work. But I have yet to find a story that satisfies me as to where the phrase came from. Anybody want to offer any explanations?

So far, we've gone to Eureka Springs, Mountain Home and Harrison to look at Arts and Crafts galleries, hobby stores, studios and to visit with crafts people. Thus far, these visits have left me so impressed with what we have in Mountain View.

The next towns we have on our list are Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hardy, Batesville and Hot Springs. I'll let you know if we find any real treasures.

Friday, November 19, 2010

On my soapbox

Before any one ever coined the word "locavore or localvore" (a word which I dislike. It sounds like some monster from a horror flick) I have been saying "Know you producer. Eat food grown by people you know!"

And as a crafts person in the United States and as a person who is responsible through my job and various boards for helping other crafts people, I have often written emails to groups like Novica and Kiva asking why they don't help people in the US? I know many people (mostly working artists) in our county who live without indoor plumbing, an automobile or other things that many Americans take for granted. Aren't their dreams and designs as deserving of support as someone on the other side of the globe? Take care of your own first.

Now, through the growth of internet communities, I see that support coming home. I just pledged to help a group I've followed for several years through KickStarter. I'm sure there's a lot on there that I wouldn't support, but it is a wonderful concept. And I see through articles that Kiva Bank has come to the US. It seems strange that it takes the World Wide Web to bring the concepts of community, sharing and caring for your neighbor back home.

Ok, off my soapbox and out to milk goats...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Handmade Christmas Classes

Amy's leather Christmas ornaments

Well, I got all the students settled with their teachers in their respective classrooms and I can hear the low murmur of craft classes starting. This year the Handmade Christmas Folk School classes that made were the:
Corn shuck nativity
Decorating with Nature
Frame looms, fibers and finishes
Wood Turning - spindle turning
Handmade Herbal Gifts
Reed Basket Weaving
Stained Glass Ornaments

They are all progressing happily into learning their crafts.

This session of Folk School is a hard one. It is really too close to the Holidays for most people, but we are so busy in October and early November that this is the first weekend we can open up especially for classes. So, we'll keep on holding it this weekend and gathering the students who want a refreshing change of pace before the hectic holidays begin.

One thing that has been developing from it is people booking classes at a time when it works for them. Our design-your-own workshops are becoming more popular and we keep adding teachers and subjects all the time. Take a look at the links and let me know what classes you'd like to take.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stash busting -an early resolution

My diamond shelf that my kids built for me
I love yarn. I love the colors, the texture, the drape, the weight. I love the feel of it gliding through my hands as I crochet. I love to wind it into warp for my loom. I love to look a my diamond shelf and mentally combine color possibilities for shawls. I love yarn.

And I lots of yarn. In addition to my diamond shelf full, I have an entire table top full of baskets of my handspun on the other side of the workshop. I also have 6 large gray tubs full of yarn under our king-sized bed. Shawn swears that one of the 4-horse trailer loads that it took us to move to Arkansas was full of yarn. That's not true, there were looms and spinning wheels and other large items in that load, too.

So, I've decided that this year, I am going to keep up my production for galleries, shows and studio tours - without buying another skein, cone, hank or ball of yarn for the entire year. This should stretch my creativity. I already have an interesting shawl on the home workshop loom that would not have been created if I could have gone out and bought the yarn that I envisioned to go with the yarn I had.

It's an interesting challenge to myself. I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Meet my Fritillary

This year is an F-year in our naming progression, and so we have Finesse and Freely and Fancy and Filigree and First and so on. The Arkansas State Butterfly is the Diana Fritillary. We had a huge flock of them in Meadow Creek. They are black with brilliantly colored fringes - females are blue and the males are yellow. Not only are they a beautiful Ozark native, I love saying the word "Fritillary."

When Fritillary was born, she was a soft, fluffy little fluttery angora goat kid. Her mum is Bramble and Cappucino is her sire. I've often said you have to be careful when naming things. Frits has grown up to be as hard to catch as your average butterfly. She flitters and flutters around the edge of the flock, never quite alighting for feeding when humans are near. She also has these funny, sticky-outy ears that make her look like she is trying to fly. On the rare times I do manage to catch her, I call her my fat, furry little flutterby.

Fritillary's first shearing was a few weeks ago and I couldn't wait to spin her kid fleece. It was locky and fine and soft and strong. I'm about halfway through it and Shawn is tired of hearing me ooh and ahh over how wonderful it is to spin. The yarn I just finished last night is spun lace weight, plied with space-dyed mauve/maroon wool. It would crochet up into a divinely soft scarf or two. And, if the skeins don't sell at the Dec. 11 studio tour, then that's what I'll do with it.

Female Diana Fritillary, Arkansas official state butterfly, photo courtesy of the Paris Chamber of Commerce from the Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Those dilemmas you love to have

Ok folks, help me out with this one.
I am getting ready for the Dec. 11 winter studio tour. I've been spinning lots of luscious mohair and Lena's been dyeing it up for me.
Bramble and her kids fleeces are my favorite to spin right now. This is Bram and her last year's daughter and this year's twins.

This is the shawl I wove out of Bramble's spring 2010 fleece that Lena dyed with blues and yellow. The overall effect is a green shawl, like the green of the mountain behind our house in early summer.

This is the yarn I spun out of Bramble's fall 2010 fleece that we sheared the end of October. Lena dyed it for me using blues and reds. It came out a wide mix of glistening purples.

Now the dilemma - do I weave this beautiful mohair into a shawl like the one above (that so many have admired, but I don't want to sell) or do I offer the skeins for sale at the Dec. 11 Studio Tour?

Your thoughts?

The big bucks

Last night, about 1 a.m., I heard a goat crying. It wasn't a hurt cry, it was an upset, or maybe in heat cry. So I listened for a while, but it only got more strident. So I got up to check it out.

Footloose, the kid dairy goat buck was not having any luck sharing his pen with Dapper Dan the Jacob ram. One of Dan's girls was in heat and Dan was very frustrated. He was chasing Footsie back and forth across the pen. Footsie was complaining loudly. Moonshine, the Great Pyr guard dog, started to worry that his goat was upset and no human had come to fix it, so he began barking. My sleep addled brain decided that they would soon wake up the whole neighborhood and so I needed to do something.

I put on my white fluffy bathrobe and the nearest shoes I could find. I settled Moon and went over to coax Footsie past the ram and out of the pen, without getting smashed myself. Footsie was so happy to be saved, he rubbed his head all over the front of my robe and up and down my leg while I shut the gate.

If you've never met a dairy goat buck in rut, you have missed one of the truly unique odors in the world. It is a strong musk that most humans do not find pleasant. It comes from their urine, which they coat themselves with when they are in rut and from the scent glands behind their horns. My robe is now in the washing machine with some heavy duty soap. I wonder if that odor out spray works on musk?

I led the loving and happy buck over to the milk goat paddock. All the does are happily bred, so he hasn't seen the girls in a while. Normally, I would not let the buck near the milkers as his musk can taint the milk, but I couldn't figure out any other place to put him at 1 a.m. He was so excited to see the girls. Suddenly I felt something warm on my legs and across my feet. Bucks like to mark things they like and they like to show off their aim when they are happy. I stood there at the gate and thought, with some degree of sarcasm and sleep-slowed wit, "this is why I get the big bucks."

Then I got back into the house and discovered I had put on my favorite black leather work shoes in the dark. They are now washed and hanging on my spinning wheel to dry. If the odor remover works, I'll let you know.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hoop houses or waiting for g-barn

We've been here at Havencroft for a year now. In that year, we've moved ourselves, a woodworking studio, a fiber arts studio, a full farm of sheep, goats, horse, angora goats, llama, dogs and cats as well as all the associated paraphernalia for everything to the farm. We've built fences (lots of fences) and a full shop for Shawn. We've put in a driveway and parking lot (I love my parking lot). But we still don't have the finances or the time to put up a barn.

So, we built hoop houses. Using welded wire cattle panels and tarps and t-posts and two-by-fours, we put up  seven of these to provide shelter for all the critters and to be my milk barn this winter. They may need to last a few winters, but I think they will.

When we do decide where the barn(s) needs to go, and how we are going to build it, and actually get it built, then the hoop houses will revert to being fence panels. I can always use more sheep fencing.

Here's Dapper Dan, our Jacob ram, posing in front of his hoop house. My milk barn and the gorgeous crab apple tree are in the background.
Though slightly small, the hoop house even works for Fria. After all, Arabians are tent horses, aren't they?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chiming the change in weather

Eons ago, or maybe it was only decades, I bought a set of wind chimes at the Colorado Renaissance Festival.
They have big pipes and are tuned like church bells, a rich, low, melodious sound. I'm sitting and listening to them this morning as I wait for the coffee to finish brewing and I realized that those bells have signaled every weather change to my brain for so long, that my subconscious needs their ring to really notice the change.
This morning it is still warm, but cloudy, breezy, damp and it feels like rain.
Oh, we need the rain!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sunrise, fall and

 Dapper Dan the ram and Footloose the dairy goat buck are trying to learn how to live together. Neither of them wants to - they both want to live with their respective girls. But Dan- man has too many daughters and ladies to old to breed in his flock, and Footsie smells like a buck in rut, not something I want near my milk goats. So when Dan broke in with the sheep flock yesterday, with the help of his ladies, Lena and Shawn caught him and moved him into the high, tight, strong pen where Footsie lives.
All night long they've been chasing and scuffling and normally quiet Footsie has been complaining loudly. They haven't been fighting - if they did, we'd find other living accommodations for one of them. Rams fight by putting their heads down and charging - bucks fight by rearing up on their hind legs and crashing down on each other. The two styles don't communicate well with each other.
I just went out to start chores and the crabapple tree in the side yard is about the most beautiful tree I've ever seen. All the outside leaves are brilliant red and all the inside ones are still green. The morning sunrise is highlighting it brilliantly. I'd take a picture, but I've been so disappointed with my pictures of fall color this year. It is beautiful, like right now our neighbor's driveway is lined with blaze orange bradford pears, but it just doesn't seem to be coming across in pictures.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Seven sevens

They say, (the ever present communal memory), that our body replaces all of its cells, except brain, every seven years. So every seven years, you have a new you. That seven thing is also present in common thought with the "seven year itch" concept.
So, I'm 49. That's seven sevens. Here I have been, waiting for the great 50, which much of our society thinks of as an achievement and celebrates wholeheartedly (here in the Ozarks I might get to go beyond "young pup" stage when I hit 50) and I almost missed that I was this great and wonderful age of 49!

New Goats

Here's the new buck and two does that are joining our angora flock. We'll wait a week or so to let them settle in and then shear them. They'll be wearing Matilda Fleece covers most of the winter.
Looks like some nice fleece and I'll finally be able to make that white rug!

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They had names in the past, and maybe even registration papers.
I've been reading books from the 1800's (courtesy of the Google Library project) about the origins of the angora goats for interpretations and demonstrations that I do. The angora goats originated in Turkey. Books by John Lord Hayes (1882), S. C. Cronwright Schreiner (1898), and the March 1911 Popular Mechanics all have wonderful information about early importations and culture of angora goats in the US.
All of the goats in the antique photos are listed with their names. So, with that as solid precedent (boy I have been reading the stilted language of the 1800's!) I have named the new flock Sultan, and to his left Nasrin (wild rose) and Beyza (very white).
Come visit the Ozark Folk Center through the month of November and meet the new flock.