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.