Thursday, February 23, 2012

52 things to do with an old shirt - #4 Make a handkerchief

Trim  off the seams and the hem. This turtleneck gave
me eight hankies, two produce sleeves and a dickie
to wear under my work blouses. That''ll be use #5.
This week my whole family, and half the office, went through quick head colds. I hate to imagine how many paper tissues were used in dealing with drippy noses. Now, I know all the sanitary thoughts behind disposable tissues, but how many trees are pulped just for Americans to blow their nose?

I've tried lots of different brands of tissue and have decided that my favorite thing to blow my nose with is a soft cotton knit handkerchief - as in a recycled t-shirt.

Depending on the shirt, I can get 4 to 8 nice handkerchiefs. I pick these for their feel, nice and thick and soft. I cut them about 9-inches square, just for ease of use and I do cut off all the hems and seams. I don't hem them, the edges handle washing just fine.

After use, I put them in the hamper and wash them with my regular laundry.

Not a romantic use for an old shirt, but a practical one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Elizabeth's Trips

You remember that sheep that I was telling you was going to lamb any day? Any day for the last month?

Dear Elizabeth was named for the first Queen Elizabeth. She is more of a  powerhouse than an elegant jacob ewe, but  her eye liner and lipstick are applied just so. Her fleece is the spongy, Corri-line fleece that makes such beautiful rugs.
Elizabeth finishing up the birthing process as her little girls
figure out the walking thing.

I finally gave up doing night checks on her. A watched pot never boils and some watched ewes never lamb. She kept getting bigger and bigger and by Monday she was waddling around a huge udder. Then, yesterday morning, about 5 a.m., I heard the soft grunts of a ewe in productive labor. Elizabeth is not a ewe who likes human interference in her life, so I left her alone and listened until daylight.

One of the wee ones gets a drink from mama
as big sister Hildy explains to the other two that
 as soon as they know how to walk good,
she'll teach them how to play.
Here's what I found when I went out. Three healthy little girls that are as different as trips can be. One is gorgeous and well marked, with a soft, crimpy fleece. One is long-legged, with a long, wavy fleece. And the littlest girl looks like she was thrown together from the left over scraps.Her spots are very strangely placed and her ears and legs are sort of higgledy-piggledy.

Oh, no, I can't really name these girls Higgledy-piggledy, Helter-skelter and Hullabaloo, can I?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Planting chants

We finished planting the second of the new pastures just at dusk tonight. We fenced them off yesterday and tightened the fencing today. After much research, reading and talking with local farmers, we decided to plant our soggy clay hill with annual rye grass right now, followed by a quick graze down the end of March and then an over-seeding of bermuda and chickory. I'll let you know how it works.

We had planted the first empty paddock last weekend with perennial rye. It's not up yet and I am starting to worry, but it is February and colder than ideal germination temps, though rarely much below freezing. The seed says 7-10 day germination. We're at 7...

We planted the pastures this weekend because it fit our schedule, the modern American life of work nine-plus hours per day, five-plus days per week. We planted the pastures this weekend because the weather was nice for working outside. We planted the pastures this weekend because we could buy the seed today.

But, as I was planting the pasture,
mixing the fluffy seeds with dry soil to help even out the spread of seed;
shaking the can to mix the seed evenly;
working my arm to shake the seed from the can in a wide arc;
moving my feet in a even path to make sure the coverage is complete;
working with the light breeze to spread the seed;
I realized it was the new moon - the right time to be starting new plantings.

And that made me think of the chant -
Dark of the moon, new beginnings;
Dark of the moon, plant a seed tonight;
Dark of the moon, what we envision;
will come to be by the full moon's light.

My vision, my hope for these new pastures is full green growing grasses, holding the soil on our hills and growing sweet food for our sheep.

And as I watched the seed spread over the soft brown dirt, I thought of the planting chant that I first learned for corn -
One for the coon;
One for the crow;
One for the worms; and
One to grow.

I hope we planted enough grass seed today to have plenty to grow. I'll let you know.

Do you have any planting chants? I'd love to hear them. Leave them as a comment here or email them if you're willing to share your words to help plants grow.

Boomer's jungle gymn

Boomer's new pen shares a fenceline with the girl's pen.
Several people have asked me for updates on Boomer. He's doing great. He spent most of January with Finesse, Fiona, Greta and Gypsum. Toward the end of the month, they went back in the girl paddock and little brother and Nibbles came to live with Boomer in the pen next to the house.

As the month went on, it became obvious that young rams need something to keep themselves entertained. Boomer was starting to explore the noises that a house makes when you bash it. Ram, the verb, is based on ram, the noun. And Boomer, like many rams loves making noise by ramming things.

So yesterday, Lena and I fenced off two paddocks for spring seeding and made pens for Dapper Dan and Boomer up in the woodlot at the top of our land. Mouse and Dan are settling in together like an odd couple of old bachelors. Boomer, on the other hand, is running back and forth between flirting with the girls and showing the trees who is boss! Nibbies and LB are just trying to stay out of his way. 

All the girls are now sharing a pen. There are still two fiber wethers in with them, George and Mr. Bones, but they are fairly quiet and low ranking, so they aren't pushy at the feed trough.

I seeded the far east paddock last week with perrenial rye. Today Lena and I are planning on tightening up the fencing we did yesterday, trimming some hooves as needed  and seeded and packing the two new paddocks. We are planning to broadcast the seed and then tamp the ground by rolling a smooth log over it. I'm hoping to pick up a rye grass/bermuda/chickory/clover mix of seeds at the Co-op this morning to plant.

We've already disbudded Harley and Henna. I left my little dairy goats with horns last year and rediscovered that dairy goats should not have horns. My trusty Rhinehart 30 disbudding iron had kept the horns off literally hundreds of goat kids before the move to Arkansas. It didn't survive some of the more primitive conditions of our early years here. So, as soon as Harley and Henna were born, I ordered a new one from Valley Vet Supply. I've been doing business with them since I lived in Fort Collins, Colorado, o'so many eons ago. It arrived in 3 days and now, we don't have to worry about this generation of little girls getting their heads stuck in the fence!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

52 Things to do with an old Shirt - #3 Make an Ozark pincushion

Rene' Riggan's applied felting class was the one class that
did not require a sewing machine.
We just wrapped up our Ozark Quilt Retreat for 2012. It was the best ever with 36 ladies in six classes -  quilting, talking and sharing fun!
I wanted to do something special for my Quilt Retreat teachers. It's February, so we are short on funds and there is a lot going on at work, so I am short on time. To top it off, we are starting into lambing and kidding time at home, so...
Now, I'm not a quilter myself, but both my parents are, and most of my friends are. They assure me that "Quilters collect pin cushions." Thinking that it was way beyond time to write another 52 things to do with an old shirt - I set out to design a pincushion for my quilting teachers.

Select a shirt from your box of old shirts.
 Silk and wool are a good combination for a pincushion. Together they will clean the pins and keep them from rusting. Silk shirts are comfortable to wear, but they do seem to wear out fast. I have a lot of them in my Shirts to Rework bag. Some just have stains or fading, others have tears. I pulled out one in very bright colors.

Gather shirt, scissors, wool, yarn, glue, a canning jar with
metal ring lid.

Cut out a square of the silk, about the siize of your hand. Cut a second section, a little smaller and irregular shaped is ok. You'll use that section to wrap the wool up into a ball. Then lay the square of silk top-side down on the table.Put your silk wrapped ball of wool in the center of the square.Pull the corners up and wrap a piece of yarn around them. Tie it tightly. Now you have something that looks kind of like a big shuttlecock for badminton.

Take an old ring of a canning jar lid and pull the tails of your silk ball through the ring. Put glue all around the top of the ring and mash the ball down into the ring.
Let it dry, then flip it over and trim the tails to make a cute rosette.
Put your pincushion lid on a clean pint canning jar and Voila' - you have an Ozark Pin Cushion.
Cut your outside wrapping piece a bit bigger than hand-sized.
Cut a second piece to wrap your wool in.
Thanks again to all the wonderful quilt ladies who gave me such a fun week!

Put your silk wrapped wool into the larger square of silk,
pull up the corners and tie with yarn.

Put any good, allpurpose glue on the top of the ring
lid and set it over the silk ball, with the tails coming
out the bottom. Mash it down so the glue sticks.
Trim the tails to make a neat rosette.

When the glue is dry, put the lid on the jar
and, you have your Ozark pincushion!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Geo Rural

 As we head toward sustainability on our five acres in the Ozarks, I have to grapple with the questions of how many animals our land can support, and how many we need to live the way I want to. One of the reasons we moved to the Ozarks is because it is legal to sell goat's milk here, direct from the farm to the customer. I love my dairy goats. Milking is my morning and evening meditation. But, I really only need two milkers to supply our family's needs

Geo is a great mommy and she has the nicest udder to milk.

My favorite doe is Yampa. She is half Oberhasli and half Lamancha. She looks like a big Ober. Born in 2003, she had twins every year until we moved to Arkansas. Then, she wouldn't settle. She milked for four years and finally bred last year to Footsie, our yearling half-Lamancha, half-Saanen buck. The results were Geo and her brother, who found a new home as an infant. 

Harley is two days old. She's sure that she is big enough
now to climb up the roof like Auntie Ginger.

This winter, with hay being hard to find and time seeming to be an ever tightening resource, I decided to sell most of my dairy goat flock. I kept three does, Yampa and two yearlings, her daughter Geo and little Ginny. This Thursday Geo had two big, strong girls. We went through obvious H-names - Honey, Heidi, Heather.. and none of them fit. My son Juna suggested Hydro, to go with Geo. I've always appended "Metro" onto Geo's name, so Hydro just didn't work for me. 

Saturday afternoon, while we were fixing fence I was watching the little blonde baby, two whole days old, trying to follow her Auntie Ginny up over the roof. The little one could get up on the foundation log of the hoop house, but she can't quite reach the tarp, yet.
Harrah's quite the wee showgirl. She thinks Pequena llama
is a good, long-legged role model.

And the little red baby is so, Red. What's H for red? 
These two little girls are so independent, they are little enough that they go right through the fence, so they are as likely to be in the sheep pen or following the llama as they are to be hanging out with their mama.

Geo Metro, Honda? Nope. Suddenly, it hit, the blonde is Harley!

But red, who was visiting with the long-legged llama. What a show-off. She's a so red, Henna!

Naming is not usually this much of a struggle. Maybe it's a good thing we won't have a lot of to name this year.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

52 Things to do with an old shirt - #2 Make a produce sleeve

This project is a great one to do in the evenings. It takes tshirt or turtleneck type shirt sleeves, a pair of scissors and a little piece of yarn. There is no sewing at all!

Lay the shirt you are repurposing out flat and
 make sure this is one that you don't want to wear any more.
For those of you who are in the process of planning your market garden, this project goes right along with it. Make a bunch of these for your customers while you are dreaming over seed catalogs this winter. Or just make a bunch for yourself and your friends to use in your own shopping.

These are easy, fun and quick to make. You can use long or short sleeves, you'll just get a different sized bag. Wash them just like you wash your tshirts.

Cut off the sleeve, following the shape of the arm hole.
 If you have any questions on this project, leave a comment or send me an email.
You'll make cuts where I've marked here. I don't mark my
shirts, but, if it help you get the hang of what we're doing
here, go right ahead. It's also a way to get kids to help.

Make the top two horizontal cut first. Make sure you leave
plenty of fabric above and to the sides of these cuts. They
are your handle and lock. They will get more stress
than the rest of the bag.

Fold the sleeve over about 2 inches from the wrist end and
make your vertical cuts through both sides of the sleeve.
Make them about 1 inch apart, as shown here.

When you've made your cuts all the way up the sleeve,
stopping about 2 inches from the first horizontal handle
cut, take a piece of string and tie it around the wrist end
of the sleeve, knotting it tight.

Turn the sleeve right side out. Go shopping!

After I fill each produce sleeve, I put the big upper loop
through the other horizontal cut, to sort of lock the bag closed.
You can hang your produce in these bags, or just use them
to transport. Cut smaller holes in some bags and larger in others.

This "52 Things to do with an old shirt" may end up being a two year project!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Constructive Communication

Wow, I've spent the last few days in a brainstorming session and I've learned much about myself. I don't think that was on the non-agenda...

1. Even though I think I am good at "going with the flow," watching and discovering and being open to what happens - I also love being productive, developing action plans and not wasting time. I wanted this meeting to be open to new ideas, not just a rehashing and rubber-stamping of concepts already developed. That would be a real waste of time. And I know (brain) the free flow of this session has been good, look at what I am learning about myself! But I am really struggling with not trying to come up with constructive actions from the session, which isn't even over yet.

2. Writing is a many edged sword. I've seen with ads and press releases that I've written that have been very effective in bringing people to events, but had people expecting something very different than what we were doing. I've written ads that inspire people to call the Folk Center in total confusion about what we are doing. Both got action, but were not constructive. I've also written and communicated in ways that got absolutely no action. I need to be much more careful to write clearly and simply, with a vision of what I want people to do when they read the item.

3. I sometimes write something to attempt to provoke people to think. Usually it is a statement, that while at it's core is true, it is the opposite of what I believe - and what I think the audience for my writing believes. I attempt to use this technique to get people to think about why these things are important. But if I then look at what I've written from an outsider's view, or from the viewpoint of someone in 20 years trying to build on what we were doing, they could get the total wrong impression. Wow. Just like I go through the writings of people I respect and admire and try to follow their vision, someone might go through my writings and ... be completely confused?

4. I need to remember that I do write good stuff sometimes, and get better at the good stuff.

Off to brainstorm...

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Groundhog day - time and again

Happy Groundhog Day.

That Bill Murray movie is one of my all-time favorite movies. I've probably watched it more than any other movie, except maybe Princess Bride.

The theme of blending past and present is one of my favorite concepts. As a renaissance re-enactor and vendor, people frequently asked questions like, "Don't you wish you'd been born back then?"
My answer was always some gentle version of "Heck no!"

I love the old ways. I am passionate about my sheep. I find peace in spinning their wool, dyeing yarn and weaving beautiful things.

I love studying wild edible greens and nibbling on chickweed or discovering that lamb's quarter is sweet even in August. I can't even describe the satisfaction of growing dye herbs and dipping a bright colored skein up out of the magical steaming dye pot after I shepherded the creation of everything that went into making that yarn.

And then I love sitting down with my laptop in my comfy chair and writing my experiences here!
I appreciate being able to research growing plants or sheep ills on the internet. I never had much use for computers until the internet became publicly accessible. Then, suddenly, I had a whole research library at my finger tips. I don't know if the internet, hot running water, or refrigeration would rank as my favorite parts of modern life. They are all right up there, along with the ease of travel. I've read many diaries from around the time of the American Civil War; accounts of the Crusades; and read historical fiction written in the late 1800's. Human beings have always traveled, but now it is so easy to go long distances.

Speaking of reading, "Time and Again" by Jack Finney is one of my very most favorite books. I've read it almost as many times as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. I love books about the romantic concept of time travel. I just read Stephen King's "11-22-63 A Novel". It was a most excellent story about what might happen if you go back and change one of the big watershed moments in history. The Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon is one of my guilty pleasures. A Scottish time travel romance, it crosses modern and revolutionary American time lines in a way that keeps me reading, and finishing, these books.

That's a long way around saying there is certainly an element of fantasy and wonder in the blending of past and present. It requires a belief in the constancy of some things and a suspension of disbelief on the part of people participating with you. But that doesn't mean it's not real. I am really a shepherd. I've had sheep and goats since 1979 and other livestock before that. I was really up three times last night with the new bottle baby lamb and I really am weaving a thick, soft rug out of Mouse's fleece.

I just need to figure out how to communicate this blended reality to other people, both in my work and in my personal life.

The whole premise of the Ozark Folk Center is perpetuating the music, crafts and herblore of the Ozarks. We learn from the past and pass it on to the future. We live, make and do these things in order to keep them alive. We share them with anybody who takes the time and trouble to travel through these hills to visit.

We are real and we do these things from the past here and now, in the modern world. So how do I answer when someone gets in my face in the park and asks, "What are you supposed to be?"

I'm not "supposed" to be anything. I am me and that's pretty fantastic. And all the other folks in the park are their own wonderful selves, too. And I just need to figure out how to communicate that so visitors, and potential visitors understand it.

That's my goal for this month of February. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment, or give me a holler.

Happy groundhog day!