Sunday, December 23, 2012

Counting Sheep and giving thanks for great friends

It takes a village, according to Hillary Clinton, and I sure know we get by with a whole lot of help from our friends.

This Thankgiving, our dear friends Wayne and Leesa Thompson pulled into the driveway from Leighton, Alabama, with 5 huge round bales of good, sweet, Alabama hay. That's more than 10 weeks of feed for the whole flock. And they wouldn't accept any more than a "Thank you."

Higgs and one of the hens say "Thank you!" for the yummy hay.
Thank you Wayne and Leesa, you are the most incredible friends!

This week, we made a trip to Little Rock to see a specialist for Shawn's headaches. Lena was taking a well deserved few days off, visiting her brother in Hot Springs. So some more dear friends, Josh and Missy Epperson came and fed all the sheep, goats and chickens in the middle of the worst weather we've had so far this winter. Thank you Josh and Missy!

While I was writing up the chore list for Josh and Missy, I was trying to count the number of animals in each pen. Most were easy, the chickens we count every night when we lock them in - 1 rooster and 7 hens. Dan's pen has 5 total sheep, Boomer shares his pen with just George, and we only have 8 goats. But the main ewe pen... I just couldn't figure out how many sheep there were in there (jokes about exceeding number of fingers not needed!). Finally, I wrote on the chore list - "lots."

So, yesterday, as Lena and I checked eyes and body scores, I determined I was going to figure out exactly how many sheep we had. We checked and wrote and counted. There were 12 on the list, but 14 sheep in the pen. We counted again. Still 14. We had checked everyone. The I realized that Higgs was at the top of the page, we checked her before we came into the pen. Higgs isn't really a sheep. And then Hocus nudged my leg. We had checked Hocus before we penned the sheep. She's a people, not a sheep. So that's 12 ewes, a Hocus in sheep's clothing and a Higgs particle (who is now rather large, but still goes where she wants.) That's how many sheep we have.

And that might explain why I have trouble communicating with numbers people in manager's meetings :-).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Showcase 2012

The year of raising critters, working fleeces, spinning and weaving and felting and planning and dreaming all culminated in this weekend show in Little Rock. The Arkansas Craft Guild's Christmas Showcase is an elegant show in the grand ballroom at the Statehouse Convention Center.

This year it was especially grand, as almost every crafts person went all out in lighting, building and decorating their booths. Doug and Colleen Kraatz had their delightful stained glass renaissance booth set up to greet people right inside the entrance.

Stained glass and Christmas elves set the stage.
 Our booth was in the center on the corner. I had pushed myself weaving rugs this last month and had a table, chairs and booth full of them. Shawn designed great banners that highlighted what we do. Shawn and Lena had pushed to fill their section of the booth with very artfully stitched and plaited brooms in all shapes and sizes. The booth really did look good. And we both spent all the time, that we weren't up and selling, demonstrating.  Shawn tied many cake testers and mini-wings and I spun up most of Nilly's whole 2012 fleece.

This year, Becki Dahlstedt, show organizer and potter extraordinare, had put together a "Best Booth in Show Competition". This competition was judged by advertising reps from the Arkansas Times. In secret on Friday, they went around and judged the booths. I know I saw one of them, but I'm not sure who the other two were. First prize was booth fee paid for the 2013 show. Second and Third prizes were 1/2 of booth fee for the 2013 show and a guarantee of the same spot, if you want it.
Common Threads, my side of the award winning booth.

First place went to an incredible brass art booth feature in the back corner. It was a well deserved honor for a gorgeous booth, that I didn't get pictures of! And second place was us. Third went to a wood worker who carves bowls that are beyond works of art - and last year he just had them sitting on tables. This year he went all out and built a beautiful booth. I'll add names when I've had a little more coffee and the brain kicks in.

So, we'll be back in the same place next year, knock on wood and all the other sayings.

We've packed up the booth, reconciled the books and I am on to teach a workshop at Degray Lake Resort State Park. Shawn is heading home and Lena's been taking care of things there while we've been at the show.

Laffing Horse Designs, Shawn's side of our great booth.
I'm going to reopen the etsy store this week, I promised a few people at the show that I'd post what didn't sell there. As I get things listed, I'll let you know.

Safe travels everyone!

Thursday, December 06, 2012


I'm sitting here, this winter-dark morning, my fingers tucking, plucking and finishing the last little bits on the new batch of rugs off my Newcomb, waiting for it to be light enough to go pack the van for our trip to the big Christmas Showcase Craft Show in Little Rock.
Fantasia's newest rug.

As I measure, price and tag these rugs that I've woven from the wool and mohair grown by the delightful sheep and goats that share our farm, I'm thinking about the bills that we need to cover with the proceeds from this show. We need to pay our homeowner's insurance for the year, and set aside enough to cover the taxes, not only the property taxes, but enough to cover the rest of Shawn's self-employment taxes. He's had a good year selling brooms, and I don't think his quarterly payments have kept up. Even with the 5 bales of hay that dear Wayne and Leesa brought us all the way from Alabama, we need to set aside more cash to cover feed for the critters. My car needs tires and an alignment and we sure could use a new mattress. These rugs are beautiful, as are Shawn's brooms and the shawls that I've already finished and packed, we should be fine.

My mind begins to wander in the warmth of the fire, and I think about how very similar these thoughts and activities are to those hill folk who came before us. How many of the early women who wove rag rugs on my Newcomb in the 1930's sat while finishing rugs and thought about how the money they earned from selling the rugs they had woven would cover the money that was due in their farm and home. How many generations of folks from the Ozarks have worked to gather and shape the bounty of this land and then take  the things they've made down to the big city to trade for the dollars needed for taxes, if nothing else.

The time frame is different - we are going to load our van this morning, and then (Good Lord willing, cross your fingers and knock on wood) we'll drive the winding, but paved, roads and be in Little Rock this afternoon. We've managed to mechanize and shorten the travel time, but the process is still the same.

Well, back to measuring and tagging. Wish us luck, and maybe we'll see you at Showcase.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

And the Winner is...

We have a winner in the Country Outfitter boot giveaway.

Morgan and Regina Alonso of Lady Lake, Florida won a pair of new boots. Congratulations. Enjoy them and keep in touch. I'd love to see a picture when you get them.

And, as far as my boots. I think I'm going with one of the last comments.

They only have two or three holes in them, the soles are still fine, inserts are replaceable... I think I'll just keep them and keep on wearing them. They aren't my fancy dress boots any longer, but the sheep don't notice what I have on my feet, unless it falls off. No sense in giving up something that still works...

Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Social media workshop - will it teach me focus?

I'm spending today in a social media workshop at the National Association for Interpretation annual conference in Hampton, Virginia. Lena and Shawn are assuring me the sheep and goats are fine at home.
My traveling companions are teaching me the fine arts of traveling in the big city... like you aren't supposed to pick the kale and chard in the highway median for dinner? Who knew?
The main think I am hoping to learn today is how to create a comprehensive, focused promotional campaign. Whether I use it for OFC, Common Threads, Laffing Horse, Arkansas Craft Guild or... doesn't matter.

oooh, railway interpretation...

Yeah, like I can really learn focus in a 9 hour workshop.

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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Catching up

My friend Linda Odom said she heard of this strange new idea called "a day off." She was going to try taking a day off this weekend, I hope it works for her, she's been working way too hard.
Angora goat rugby scrum. Shirts vs Skins, er, shorn vs fleeced?

I am trying it too, I didn't go anywhere near work or my office yesterday.
Chantilly Lace with her pretty face in the woods.

Instead I -
  • sheared 4 of the angora goats,
  • plied two skeins of wool/mohair blend (natural colored)
  • finally got a picture of Hagrid. His black is so black that his face always disappears in pictures.
  • edited a picture of Gizmo, (see Common Threads new profile pic)
  • started addressing the postcards to send to people who signed up at Studio Tour
  • cut and sewed the lining for the Gizmo fleece purse, now I just have to handstitch it into the purse.
  • And did some laundry and dishes and helped Lena cook beans, cornbread and kale for dinner.

It was a very good day. I like days off!

Hagrid says, "Hi!"
I hope your day was wonderful, too.

Gamma Ray's gorgeous fleece. I want to spin it NOW!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Visit our studio and sign up to win a hand-tied broom

In July, Shawn came up with the idea to thank our wonderful visitors at the Ozark Folk Center by giving away one item from each craft shop each day. The crafts people all thought it was a great idea and outdid each other creating wonderful items to give to the lucky winner of each day's drawing.
You might win a Turkey Wing broom similar to this one if
you enter the drawing at our Common Threads Studio
September 14-16, 2012.

Since it was his idea, Shawn took the responsibility for doing the daily drawing and over the month, he developed quite a patter. One of the early lines he came up with was, "Now ya'll know one of the conditions of the drawing is you must bring me presents to win." Then he'd pause and look over the crowd. "You didn't know that was one of the conditions?"
At that point, somebody either in the crowd, or one of the crafts people who knew the schitck would say, "No, it says here that you must be present to win."
And Shawn would go on to say how that was a typo, but he'd just have to abide by what was printed.

This is the first year Shawn will be offering his award-winning brooms at our home studio during Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour, September 14-16. To encourage people, especially those who have been here before, or (gasp) folks who aren't interested in sheep, to stop by, Shawn will be giving away one of his beautiful Ozark Turkey Wing brooms during the Tour. The drawing will be Sunday, September 16 at 4:00. You don't have to be present to win, we'll be happy to call you and you can either come by and pick up your broom, or we can mail it to you. However, you do have to physically come to our Common Threads Studio in Mountain View to enter the drawing.
Shawn also makes broom tying tables in his workshop.

So, check out the Studio Tour web site for the directions to all the fine studios and take a few minutes to swing by ours and at least congratulate Shawn on his National Craft Broom win and enter the drawing for one of his unique, hand-tied brooms.

Of course, if you want to feed the sheep, look at my shawls, handspun yards, bright dyed fibers or enter the drawing for one of my rugs, I'll be here too.

Hope to see you this weekend.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Win a Fleecyful Wool Rug

This coming weekend is the Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour September 14-16. Now in its 11th year, the tour is a free, self-guided driving tour of 30 artisans home studios within 30 miles of the Mountain View Courthouse Square. It gives visitors a rare chance to see working artisans in the environment that inspires them. And it gives you a chance to purchase unique items directly from the person who made them.

As long as the weather is good, all my Fleecyful Rugs
will be on the porch during Off The Beaten Path Studio
Tour, so you can shop for your perfect rug.
We've been doing the tour for several years now and have made many friends of the folks who visit our studio. This year, I want to say a special "thank you" to our friends.

Many of you know the rugs I weave from my sheep's wool. These Fleecyful Rugs are incredibly comfortable, durable, washable, and unique. Each rug is a one-of-a-kind, woven from an entire fleece that one of our sheep took an entire year to grow. Every dollar we get from the sale of these rugs goes back into the care and feeding of our rare Jacob Sheep and Angora goats.

Boomer says "Thank you very much for buying Fleecyful Rugs so
I can keep my girlfriends."
I've been weaving steadily this summer and have a good selection of rugs ready for buyers to choose from at the Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour September 14-16. Now I need your help to get the word out about these rugs.

To thank you for sharing the word, I'll be giving away two rugs at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 16.

There are two ways to win -

1. Come by our Common Threads Studio and sign our guest book, leave a good contact email or phone number, check the box that you want to enter the rug giveaway, and tell us who recommended you visit our Studio.

2. Be the person who is most listed in the "Who recommended that you visit our Studio" column.

So, plan a girl friend's weekend trip to Mountain View, bring your husband for a fun weekend getaway (there are lots of places to hike and fish if he isn't into crafts) or if you really can't make it to Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour, send all your friends and tell them to bring you back cool stuff.

You just might win a really awesome rug for helping promote this creative group of artisans and beautiful area of Arkansas .

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The best broom makers in the USA are mine

This year my partner Shawn and my daughter Lena were invited to send brooms to compete in the Arcola Illinois Broom Corn Festival.  Arcola is the broom corn capitol of the world, where I understand that modern broom corn was developed in 1859. It still is home to several top US broom manufacturers. The first prize for the champion broom was $600.
Shawn Hoefer, reigning champion craft broom maker. See
how he weaves the color twist up into the plait.

Elena Larson's broom won honorable

So they worked all summer on their ideas for these special brooms. The brooms could be artful, but they had to be a working broom. Shawn went through several prototypes for his winding, twisted plait broom with a swash that he did with autumn colors that he dyed to match the handle that he had polished from a really nice hickory. Lena's showed off her incredible attention to detail with a blend of colors and a fine herringbone plait on a really gorgeous hand finished handle.
Detail of the fine stitching, plaiting and color blending that mark Elena's brooms

They shipped off their brooms a few weeks ago and I didn't hear any more. But yesterday afternoon, we were sitting in a Thai restaurant in Mountain Home when Shawn pulls out his iphone and says, "The broom judging should be finished." He got quiet and handed me the phone. Out of all the broom makers in the nation - Shawn Hoefer was first place. and down the line, Lena was 4th. We have the nations best broom makers right here.

I'm so proud of my broom makers. and this year, for the first time, Shawn will be offering his brooms for sale in his Studio during the Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour. Come by and see the broom maker in his native habitat September 14-16, 2012.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Feed the sheep

Tillie says "Fill the bucket for the pretty goat?"
We still do a few shows every year. I love to weave and spin the fleece from my sheep and angora goats and make beautiful rugs and shawls. Shawn is a fantastic wood carver and world-class broom maker. Lena's talents are across the board, right now she is focusing on making great brooms. All these items will be at our Common Threads studio on our farm in two weeks. Most facets of my life are now involved in getting ready for Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour. At work, I'm trying to make sure all contingencies are covered so I can be away for three days.

Fantasia says, "I'm too elegant to beg for food."
And here on the farm I'm trimming toes, seeing who needs to be sheared this fall and generally making all the critters pretty for company. I'm also mowing the paths (yes, we did get a little rain out of hurricane Isaac), cleaning up the accumulated junk, trying to decide what to do with the garden and prettying up the sights and site.

In the studio, I'm frantically finishing projects and working on getting a new warp on the Newcomb so that I can demo weaving during the tour. I have about 25 rugs finished, as well as about a dozen shawls and a couple dozen skeins of yarn. I've dyed up lots of pretty bright colored mohair locks.

We do Studio Tour for many reasons. I love to share our crafts and critters with people who are interested. I love to make things, and I don't like to accumulate things. I like to share the comfort and happiness of our farm with people through the items I make from the fleeces my critters grow. I enjoy being a part of the circle of the animals on my farm connecting through me to people in the city. And, we need to make money to buy feed for the sheep and goats. My sheep get to live long, productive, comfortable, beloved lives because I use their wool to make things that people buy. I do spin  straw into gold, it just takes a few extra steps and at least a year.
Hocus Pocus, now you love sheep.

 In an average year, we buy 300 bales of hay. This is not an average year. Every penny we make at shows, in the Arkansas Craft Guild Gallery and at Christmas Showcase goes to feed and care for our sheep and goats. This year, with feed prices so very high, we are asking our critters to be ambassadors, as well as growing fleeces. I think they can do both at the same time. They don't mind, as long as the food keeps coming.

I'm thinking of making "Feed the sheep" trading cards and running "Feed the sheep" promotions.
Which of these girls would you like to see on a trading card?
Who is your favorite sheep?
Collect all 30 sheep and goats.... What do you think?

Leave a comment here with your favorite sheep and I'll send you a trading card when I get them printed. Share the information about Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour with your friends. We'd love to see you here at the farm, and I'll say "thank you" for the sheep.

Henna and Harley, the dairy goat twins love their grain

Fritillary says, "Fluffy little butterfly
goats have to eat well to grow good fluff."

At 13 years of age, Thyme eats
special pellets. She doesn't
have any front teeth.

Finesse says, "THBbbbbbt!"

Basil is granddam to most of the flock and a loving mother.

Boo -boo is super serene, perhaps to make
up for her name.

Gobi looks so goofy she makes me laugh. Her fleece is so
soft, I'm currently weaving a shawl on the triloom with
yarn I spun from her first shearing.

Heather likes hay. Heather likes people who feed her hay.

Hanna is quietly growing into a beautiful ewe.

Higgs! Don't forget Higgs! Higgs will give you hugs.

Demi says, "look, my feed pan is empty, again!"

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Time warp; space warp; wool warp

If you're looking for a rigid heddle loom warping tutorial, our Laffing Horse site has those. And yes, that is another project in the works. We are working on redoing that site.

If you're looking for a warping tutorial for a Newcomb rug loom... I haven't written one yet. Maybe somebody else has. I can tell you it takes me about 16 hours to warp it with an 8 yard warp.

This essay is about time and the how the perceived speed of it keeps increasing. I don't remember anything about that in Einstein's "Theory of Relativity", but it has been many years since I read that book.

This weekend is a holiday weekend. I work for the Ozark Folk Center State Park. Like anyone else in the tourism, hospitality, retail or foodservice industries, I know those green highlighted "holidays" on the pay calendar mean "extra long hours". It makes me wonder how any folks get the time off to come visit us. So, last night, as I was working the concession stand for the excellent Michael Martin Murphey concert, (we have Charlie Daniels Band coming the end of the month, on Sept. 21, check the web site for tickets), I realized it was September. I've given up trying to figure out where all rest of the months went.

September means I need to have all my October press releases written, like now, some are late. It means we need to have firm plans for our November events, February contracts need to be finalized and March class registrations are rolling in. I am working on a symposium for August 2013 and the 2014 calendar of events is starting to fill up. When I write it down, it's pretty obvious why time speeds by so fast.

In the meantime, back on the farm, we are starting on winter shelters, beginning to move animals into breeding groups, starting on the winter greens garden, continuing to search for hay and prepping for our fall shearing. Farm time flows at a regular pace. It still involves much planning and foresight, but it seems to move more like a wagon wheel, or a spinning wheel.

It's the difference between modern time and old time - between rural time and urban time. Every day I bend space and slip between the two time flows.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pondering giveaways

August 2012 is the month of giveaways here in my little corner of the Ozarks.

First, Shawn had the idea to give away an item each day in the Craft Village at the Ozark Folk Center State Park as a way to thank our visitors for coming to see us. Every craftsperson was very generous. Some created unique items just to give away. Others donated several items to give to visitors on their featured day.

Almost every item went to someone who appreciated and loved it. There was one 13-year-old-girl who was visiting for her birthday. When she won the turquoise earrings designed and created by Linda Widmer she was ecstatic. Her parents agreed to let her get her ears pierced that day as a birthday present.
Nita Reuter of Hot Springs, Arkansas, loved the broom made by Shawn
Hoefer that she won in the August Craft Village Giveaway.

Or Nita Reuter of Hot Springs who just glowed with happiness when she won the Tom Turkey Wing broom made by Shawn. "I've been praying so hard that I'd win," she said. "I've never won anything in my whole life." She hugged her broom around the whole craft village for the rest of the day.

These little presents have added a bright spot to our quiet August days.

Then along came the Arkansas Women Blogger's Unplugged (#AWBU). There were giveaways on top of giveaways. Every session started off with drawings for items donated by sponsors. Every attendee received a bag of gifts from sponsors. Every woman there got a free pair of boots from Country Outfitter and is getting another free pair of boots to give away on her blog. (sneak peak - I'll be giving mine away in October). Obviously, free giveaways are a good way to promote your business, product, web site or blog.

With this experience in mind, I am working on creating a giveaway to promote the Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour.  The tour is coming up Sept. 14-16, and I want to get as many people as possible to come to as many studios as possible - including ours. I want to get people to pick up the tabloid publication that talks about the tour and has each artisan's contact information. I want to encourage people to visit and get to know these talented artists. I'm just not quite sure how to put it together, yet.

If you have ideas for a giveaway that would work to promote the tour, let me know. I think I'll go weave a bit before bed. My brain gets its best ideas when I let it go off to play while I weave.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ten plus two ways to deal with stress eating

Stress happens. It's a fact of life.

And some of us tend to deal with stress by eating. I eat a healthy balanced diet until stress wears me down, then I eat junk food.
Junk food is easy to find, it's everywhere. It is more of a challenge to eat whole, fresh food than it is to eat processed stuff. Of course, eating sugar and empty calories makes it harder to deal with stress, so that's a pretty self destructive behavior.

I came up with this list of ways to help me get myself back on track.

1. Allow your compulsive streak to come out. Count crackers, set a timer to tell you when to drink water, write a journal of everything that goes into your mouth. There's comfort in compulsions.

2. Drink lots of water. Whether you set a timer, make it a point to take a drink every time you stand up or hit enter on your computer or you set a gallon jug on your desk and drink it all day, just drink lots of water.

3. Stock up on your favorite healty treats. Fill your world with carrots, grapes, celery, vegetable juices, green beans, good foods that you like to eat. Bag them in ways that make it easy to grab a few at any time during the day.

3.5 - Give yourself permission to snack. If you're like me, you're going to do it anyway. Just try to make it easier to snack on healthy foods. Don't add guilt trips over snacking to your stress level.

4. Make good-for-you foods easily accessible. If I have to walk by the bowl of chocolates on the office manager's desk to get to my carrots in the fridge, which do you think I'm going to snack on? So take up a pretty bowl of carrots and put it on your desk.

5. Treat yourself to healthy food that you don't normally go out and buy. I buy string cheese for myself when I am stress eating. I buy three sticks at a time. Normally, I'll buy a block of mozarella and figure I can cut off chunks. It is cheaper to buy it that way. So, string cheese is a guilty pleasure.

Finding something to do with your hands other than popping food
into your mouth can help curb stress eating, too. I'm crocheting
a scarf here,with the calming assistance of Halfie and Scrapie
to keep me settled in my chair.
6. When you buy something like crackers, where you know you'll eat the whole box, also buy a box of the snack-sized ziploc bags. Read what a serving size is for the crackers, usually a funny number like 7 or 22, and put a serving in a ziploc bag. Count out the whole box of crackers into individual serving sized bags. Put all the bags of crackers in a box, or bigger bag or desk drawer where you have to get up to get them. Allow yourself to eat crackers that don't count while you are bagging the rest. Enjoy the mindless compulsive cracker-counting break from the whirlwind of life.

7. Eat enough protein. I am mostly vegetarian. I find when I don't get enough protein, I get cravings. Protein makes cravings go away.

8. Pay attention to what you are eating. Before grabbing that tub of ice cream or the sugar-loaded coffee drink, get a drink of water and take a walk around the building. Give yourself a chance to remind yourself of the consequences of stress eating.

9. Play with your food. Enjoy finding tastes that blend well. Eat a carrot in the same bite as an almond. Put two celery sticks around a cheese stick. Pop a grape tomato. Arrange cherries and basil leaves in a pretty design on a plate on your desk.

10. If you eat junk food for a day - Don't stress about it! Things will change, life will calm down and then you can get on top of what you are eating. Don't compound your stress by stressing about what you are eating.

I wrote this list for me, your mileage may vary. If you have a favorite way of dealing with stress eating, please share it here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Boot retirement

While I was in the process of preparing for the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged (#AWBU) conference and shopping Country Outfitter for my boots, my old boots developed a crack in the sidewall. Not a big crack, but a definite crack through the leather. That helped me decide that I wanted to replace them with the same make and model of boot. I love my old boots.

My beloved decade old Ariats have developed a crack
in the side.
I've worn my old boots hard for more than a decade, and I hate to admit, I don't take the best care of them. I've worn them out in the rain and not saddle soaped or oiled them. I wore them when my whole family went trail riding in the snow above Blue Mesa.
When they were almost new, I wore them riding Jahim at Parelli Camp. I galloped Nefisa, Legend, Misata, Ghoti and my beloved Aliya in those boots.

I packed with llamas in the Colorado canyon lands in those boots and had adventures around Taos while wearing them. I built many, many miles of fence in my Ariats.

When we moved to Arkansas, I wore them in self-defense against briars and ticks and copperheads. And when I got my job as Craft Director at the Ozark Folk Center, those boots carried me hundreds of miles on the pavement. I wore a pedometer for a while. One day I did eleven miles on the concrete sidewalks and wooden stairs of the Craft Village. I decided I didn't need the pedometer to tell me I walked a lot. But I did need my boots.

Old meets new - My brand new Heritage Lacers
from Country Outfitter.
I tried to replace them two years ago with a pretty pair of women's Ariat lacers. My feet are too wide for their women's boots, so the pretty new pair stays pretty and I wear them when I need to look a little more refined. On most days, when I need to stride around the village at high speed, I wear my old, faithful, original Ariats.

Thanks to the #AWBU promotion by Country Outfitter, I was at a boot party with a grand new pair of boots. I had decided as I dressed for the party in my green velvet skirt that this was going to be the retirement party for my old boots. In my mind, all these people were gathered to help me send my dear old boots off into the sunset. I wore them to the party.
Old boots went into the box, waiting for retirement.

As the evening progressed, I became aware that this party was something different to every person there. It was a photo shoot and promotion for boots; and adventure for many who had never tried boots; a birthday party; and most especially, an engagement party. It didn't seem right for it to be the retirement party for my boots, too.

I changed into my new boots for the photo shoot and then the jig dancing class with Clancey Ferguson. The new boots are good, they are comfortable. They look very nice and fit very well.
Gently, I tucked my old boots in to the Ariat box. Eventually, I'll find the right way to retire them. They are so much more than boots. Those soles hold a decade of my memories.

If you have an idea for an appropriate retirement for beloved old boots, please share it with me here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

AWBU, boot virgins and perceptions

"What's a blog?" asked one of the guys at the crafter's meeting at the Ozark Folk Center two weeks ago. He was just yanking my chain, because I know he reads the popular media. He might even have a television.

But I patiently explained that "Blog" was short for web log and was a form of an online magazine, often written by one person. This was important because the Arkansas Women Bloggers were having their Unplugged (AWBU) conference at the Center. As you know if you are reading this, I am an Arkansas woman blogger.

I took annual leave so that I could attend the conference. It took a bit of work to pretend to be a visitor at home, but it did offer a different perspective. Most people were happy to play along, though a few were really confused to see me in a tshirt.

The advance survey had me worried. I had never heard of Klout and was not signed up on Twitter. I use Facebook mostly to communicate with family. The survey wanted me to categorize myself as a "Mommy, Craft or Foodie" blogger. Yeah, I've been blogging since 2005, but it's just something I do for me and my family. Is there a category for that? I read through the posts on the AWB site, read the profiles and posts from the women and decided that it sounded like a useful conference. Besides, it was at home, and I could certainly learn a few things. I signed up for Twitter @jlonthefarm. I signed up for Klout.

I decided it was just a good constructive use of my time. And then the sponsors started rolling in. Suddenly I was reading the preconference posts and getting excited.

The ladies gathered in front of the Bois d'Arc Center
before the party. This is where I first heard the term
"boot virgin."
Ziploc sent cases of containers for the foodie bloggers to test and talk about. Count me in, I love Ziploc, really, especially the new Versaglass line. Yarnell's sent ice cream, Farm Bureau, Healthy Families and Petit Jean Meats sent food and treats. Mrs. Meyers gave everybody cleaning supplies and Tammy Sue sent soap.  I'm sure there's more in the swag bag that I forgot, but the crowning glory was BOOTS.

Country Outfitter, a Fayetteville Arkansas company, offered every woman attending not only a pair of boots, but also a pair to give away to her readers. As the conference neared, the Stephanies set up a Pinterest board and everybody shared their shopping experience on the Country Outfitter web site. I found several pairs that I liked and finally settled on my old fav's, the Ariat Heritage Lacers, just like the faithful pair that I've worn for a decade.
It was like Christmas when we were all finally
let into the room where the boots were
set up along the walls boxes open.

After a two days of great workshops, we all gathered together for the boot party and photo shoot. As everybody waited outside, we talked of our blogs and other things. Several ladies said they had never worn a pair of boots! They were boot virgins. Hard to imagine...

We all sat down for a nice cookout of Petit Jean hot dogs, sausages and burgers. Like the rest of the conference, there was tons of great food. It was hard to get everyone to quiet down for the presentations during dinner as the table conversations were so enjoyable. But, everybody did settle to listen. Gina, of desperately seeking {gina} started talking about how she started her blog as "desperately seeking {Thom}" to find an old flame. She was halfway through her story of love lost and found when Thom came through the door and in front of 75 women, proposed to Gina. Thank goodness she said "Yes".

 Then we all got to go into the other room and find our boots. It was really like Christmas. As I found my boots and listened around the room, I heard Stephanie McCratic say that what everybody didn't know was that she was pretending this was her birthday party. That got me wondering how everybody else was perceiving this party - engagement party, birthday party, boots-for-the-first-time party?
Each pair was nicely arranged in the box, with a nice card
with our names on them.

I had my own "story" for this party, but you'll have to read tomorrow's post to find out what it is.

Boot virgins no more! We all went outside for a photo
shoot with Joe's tractor.