Friday, March 30, 2012

Wow, I feel honored!

I often have a love/hate relationship with writing. I can do it well, but deadlines and expectations really stress me out. For that reason, and many others, I love writing this blog.

Here, I write when I feel inspired, I write when I have the time. I write my blog for my parents and to keep other friends and family somewhat up to date with my busy life. I write to share the great things that are going on at the farm, in my workshop and sometimes at work.

Last fall, I heard about Arkansas Women Bloggers from Stephanie Buckley and I went right home and checked out the group. I really enjoyed reading through some of the blogs and getting to glimpse bit of life from other real women sharing their real lives. I put in my application to join and got accepted.

Other than work email and writing this blog and googling research questions, I don't spend much time on the web. I only look at facebook when I need to get in touch with someone, or to share out info. Pinterest still baffles me. So, I was amazed and honored when Julie Kohl of Arkansas Women Bloggers got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in being their featured Blogger of the Month for April. Wow, my blog about sheep and gardens and sheep and some craft stuff and more sheep - really?

She said "really" and so, I wrote my first post for AWB this morning. Many of you will get a kick out of this irony - the topic of the month for April is -  "Spring Cleaning - Tell us about all the ways you keep your “house” – not just your home – in order!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jeannie's new lamb

Cowslip's very large ewe lamb right after birth.

Now she's a whole day old and ready to rule the world!
The ewes bred to Dapper Dan have started lambing.

Yesterday, Jeannie's sweet lilac ewe, Cowslip had a huge ewe lamb. This new girl is bigger than Frannie's twins.

Now that she's a day old, she's testing her limits to see how far away from mommy she can go. Tomorrow she might even join the evening Lam-pede. They grow up so fast.

She's really beautiful.

Jeannie - what are you going to name her?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Edible Spring Greens

When we moved to Arkansas, money was tight. We were blessed to have neighbors who showed us how to find food on our land. Rip Bonds taught me how to find, harvest and cook poke sallet. Marion Spear showed us how to harvest and enjoy catbriar shoot and to make spring rolls with wild greens.

My fav edible greens book in a patch of chickweed and
henbit in our front yard. We carry this wonderful book at the
Homespun Gift Shop at the Ozark Folk Center.
In the years since, I've continued to expand my knowledge of harvesting, cooking and eating wild greens. This Missouri web site is an incredible reference and most of these green are native to our area of the Ozarks.

I have the Peterson's Guide to Wild Edibles and several other guides to digging, cutting and harvesting foods. Last year I discovered Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas. It is my current favorite greens guide and the one that I recommend to my students in my spring greens cooking class. There are still a few spaces left in that class on April 7 and there is room in the Spring Herb Workshop on the same day. The field trip the day before is booked full, but the workshop is an incredible overview of greens knowledge.

Today we had chickweed, henbit and dock with rice, garlic and cheddar cheese for lunch. I stirred fried the greens lightly with the garlic and served them over the rice and cheese. My family thought they were good, except I should have trimmed all the stems out and only cooked the leaves. Even as tender as the stems are right now, they were a less than stellar part of the delicious dish.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Spring

 Yesterday it rained, all beautiful day. It was a rich, green, soul-feeding rain; a rain that swells the leaves on the trees, the creeks in the hills and fills you up with spring. Flowers are bursting out everywhere, from sweet little secret flowers on the forest floor
 to showy dogwoods, redbuds, lilacs, plums, honeysuckle and so much more on the hillsides.
Have I mentioned that I love Spring!!!

Happy Spring 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Boomer's spring suit

It rained all night last night. Mostly a steady, plant feeding, green-feeling rain. There were occasional downpours and very few lulls. Still it is raining steady and I'm wondering if there will be a break for me to do chores this morning. I may just have to wear a rain coat and convince the goats they won't melt on the run to the milk barn.

Boomer's not to sure about the stand.
Yesterday, before it rained, we got a lot of shearing done. The old boys are so big, it takes two of us to get them on the stand. We wanted to shear Dapper Dan while Shawn was here to help move him through the flock. As good as he is, he's still a ram who loves his ladies - and many of them are very fond of him. I also wanted to see what Boomer's fleece was like.

Wow, it looks like a carnival!
Boomer was a gentleman on the stand. He still loves to be petted and scratched, so shearing was no problem for him. His fleece is nice, it would be good to spin, but I have several very fine soft spinning fleeces this year, so I would put it in the bedroom rug catagory - a rug that you would want to walk on with your bare feet. The colors are a wonderful true black and shiny white. A very nice fleece.

Dan-man, Mi-mou and Bones also had good fleeces this year, a bit coarser than some years, but far cleaner than any since we moved here to town. We are getting the cockleburr issue dealt with.

The ewes we bred to Boomer are due the end of May and they are starting to show a bit of belly. We have all of them except Finesse, sheared. Greta has a  very nice spinning fleece. Any of these fleeces that I haven't managed to use in the next two weeks will be for sale at our Shearing Days Open House on March 31.
Boomer's new clothes - very comfortable for summer.

We'll also have rugs from our sheep for sale, goat's milk soap and maybe some handspun yarn and Lena's knitting needles. I'll have goat cheese and some herb blends for tasting. Mint tea will be here to keep you from getting thirsty. And we'll be shearing sheep and angora goats throughout the day, weather permitting.

Over the next week, I'll list the lambs we currently have for sale and you are welcome to reserve yours at Shearing Days. You can also visit with the ewes still expecting and see if you might be interested in one of their lambs.

Boomer's first fleece. I'm thinking of putting it into the
green warp I have on the little loom tonight to weave
a Boomer rug.
We'll do drawings for some knitting books and audio books on cd and have lots of fun. If you have any questions about the Shearing Days Open House, email me or leave a comment here.

The rain seems a bit quieter - I'm heading out to do chores!

Mr. Bones ready to donate his mostly white fleece to the cause.

Dan-man says, "Just get it over with!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Peas on St. Patty's Day

Back in my oldest memories is the line "Plant peas on St. Patty's day." I'm not Irish, my background is German and English, so it makes perfect sense to me to celebrate a holiday by planting a food that will be a spring staple from the garden.

Everything grows well in Arkansas, but having to weed the
blueberries on March 18 seems a bit extreme.
This summer I seem to be playing with garden forms. I'm still building the hugelkulture pile with logs from Foxbriar, punky unusable sticks from broom stick hunting, trimmings from trees, soil from drainage trenches we are digging and compost from the kitchen. I'm making a keyhole garden outside the backdoor where I can dump most of my compostables. And I decided to try planting potato cages. I have no idea whether or not these will work, so don't follow the process, unless you want to experiment on your own. I will take pictures and keep following their progress here this summer.

All the blueberries are now weeded and re-mulched.
I'm still a Sunday gardener, so I can't get more done than I can create in a Sunday afternoon, but it sure feels good to play in the dirt. I do have time to weed, water and work with things when I go out and harvest for dinner each night.

Gardening is good!

It was a rock cage, now it is a potato cage.
 It's about 4-ft. in diameter.

Set where the old mulch pile was and then lined with belly
fleece, to keep the dirt in and the bugs out. Filled with
about 6 inches of dirt from the drainage ditches I am
trying to create.

Yukon Gold seed potatoes from North Arkansas Farm Supply.
I cut them so that there was one active eye per chunk.
This is three pounds.

Cut potatoes and scattered on top of dirt.

Another six inches of dirt on top of the potatoes. As they
continue to grow, we'll add another six inches of dirt
and then another six inches. I've heard that you can add
up to 18 more inches of dirt to encourage more potatoes.
We'll see if it works.

Then I planted sugar snap peas, also from Co-op,
all around the outside of the potato cage.
 I planted them one inch apart and covered
them over about one inch with ver.y wet ditch dirt

The rainbow chard bed kept us in greens all winter.
 Looks like dinner tonight.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Passing it on

Today was the dyeing day segment of my three-day sheep to shawl class. We start with spinning and shearing and fiber types and more spinning.
Having great fun with COLORS!
Then on the second day we teach spinning and dyeing (with acid dyes, koolaid and natural dyes) and spinning and carding and more spinning and fiber blending and finish up with spinning.

Tomorrow we'll start with spinning, then weaving on the triangle loom and we'll finish up with some spinning. It's my hope that every student in the class has a great time and is at the very least comfortable with the drop spindle when they finish class.

Several of my students weren't able to make this class due to health issues, but the ones who are here are having a great time. Lena is team teaching with me and that's helping me to keep up with class and a bit of work at the same time.

Teaching classes is one way I enjoy passing on my love of fiber arts and fiber animals. This winter, I had another opportunity to share that passion with a young person. Kolt is the son of our assistant superintendent at the Ozark Folk Center. He really seems to enjoy helping us do chores - everything from hauling hay to worming, trimming feet and shearing. With his parents approval and understanding of the work it was going to mean for them, I gave Kolt his choice of two wether goats or sheep for Christmas. He decided his preference is for the sheep. He gets to pick the two he wants during this lambing season.
Kolt finally has a lamb!

You know how the fates seem to have a perverse sense of humor sometimes? Well, here we are, half-way through lambing and every baby born has been a girl. Until Franny's twins. Finally Kolt has his first lamb! And Demi, Cowslip and Basil are due this week, so he might finally get a pick of some lambs. I'll let you know what he names his choices.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

52 things to do with an old shirt #5 - Crochet a Quart Cozy

I've decided the best way to cut shirts for crocheting is to
spiral up the shirt from the bottom, after cutting off the hem.
I'm saving the hems, etc., for stuffing material. Just keep going
around the shirt, cutting about a 1/2 inch wide strip and rolling
it into a ball.

A sized P crochet hook works best for crocheting most
tshirt rags. Shawn carves and sells these on his
website at
 I love to drink water. And my favorite water bottle is a quart glass jar. They feel right in my hand, hold enough water or coffee that I don't have to fill them all the time, and I can see that the jar is clean.

But they do break and in the summer, condensation builds up on the outside of the glass. And they can be a challenge to carry when you hands are full.

So, I designed and created the Quart Cozy.
Cut a t-shirt or turtle neck into a 1/2-inch wide strip. I spiral cut around the body and work my way up the shirt from the bottom. I do it in one long piece, so that I don't have any joins. This is a good project to do in front of the tv at night when you are tired.

To crochet your own Quart Cozy, use a size P crochet hook. Shawn makes these great wooden ones. You can find more on his web site at

Make your center loop with a draw tight. Crochet 12 single crochets into the center loop and then draw it closed.
A finished Quart Cozy soaks up condensation, gives me a
handle to carry my water bottle and cushions the jar.
Chain three, turn your work and single crochet in the top of the next sc, chain one, sc in the next sc, ch one on around. Slip stitch in the beginning chain.

Now, staying on the same side of your work, chain 2 and sc around the post of the sc in the base. sc around the post of each sc and slip stitch into the beginning chain. Chain 2, turn your work, sc in the top of each sc around the cozy. Continue to 8 rows. Turn, chain 1.
Slip stitch in the top of each sc.

Chain 15, sc in the opposite side of the cozy to form the handle. Slip stitch back across the handle. Anchor well with another slip stitch. Weave the end into the body of the cozy.

Wash with your regular laundry.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Three bags full

Demi in full poof.
It was a beautiful March day to work sheep and shear the ones that are due next.

Demi, Basil and Cowslip are due right about March 15. They are waddling about, stretching their legs over udders that are starting to tighten and easing their big bellies up and down the hill.

Demi is half Icelandic and half Corriedale.  Her multi-layer, multi-color fleece makes the most fantastic rugs. She just keeps getting more silver-tipped as she ages.

Basil's fleece is usually one of my favorite spinning fleeces, but this year, I think it will make a great rug.

Cowslip's fleece, too, all poufy and fluffy as always, is a little coarser than usual this year. It will be a fantastic, big, soft rug.

Shearing Demi

Too much Demi wool for one pillow case.

Clean and cool and ready to scratch and have babies,
in that order!

Basil says to "get on with it!"
 These fleeces and many more will be available at our farm open house, Shearing Day, on March 31 from 10 to 4. We'll also have fiber wethers and angora goats, and Jacob sheep ewe lambs available to reserve.
Cowslip, born in '03, says she'll just nap through shearing.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Putting Home back on

We checked eyes, udders and feet in both the Jacob flocks and the angora flock this morning. The routine seemed awkward. I know my old girls, but I've been away so much. The babies aren't familiar. I "know"(logical deduction-wise) which lambs go with which ewe - but I don't just "know" it. I'm not part of my flock right now.
The wonderful flower show crew.
Maybe I'm just tired. This is my first day off work since sometime in the middle of February. I just spent a week at a really fantastic conference in Austin, Texas and received accolades for my own presentations that still have me glowing. I attended several great workshops and did some networking that I think will bring benefits to my park, the Ozark Folk Center.
I got to see Tina and the garden ladies at the Arkansas Flower and Garden show in Little Rock before I left for Austin and shared a wonderful dinner with them and their friends.
Quilt Retreat went really well and yesterday's Pizza making class was good fun.
I've worked up two new recycled shirt ideas and eaten incredible Schoepf's  barbeque twice in the last week...
I'll try to catch ya'll up before I get busy :-)
But now, I'm going to go shear Demi, Cowslip and Basil. They are the next ewes due to lamb, and I really need to spend time with my flock and get grounded in being home.