Monday, December 30, 2019

3 Fiber Arts Tools That Changed My Art in 2019

I've been a fiber artist for more than 50 years. Yep, that long. My grandma Augustine taught me to crochet when I was eight, and I've been obsessed since then. In that time I've developed a style that is me, designs I like, and a few that I've published. I've taught classes in places ranging from The Wool Festival at Taos to the Ozark Folk Center State Park. And I have learned so much and moved so far ahead in my craft in 2019. Always keep learning!

Part of it was driven by changes in my body. Treadling a spinning wheel or standing at a loom can wear out your joints. I have a master weaver friend who quit weaving because, as she said, her body could no longer take being part of the machine. But, fiber arts is me, so I started looking at different tools, and that learning has opened up so many doors.

My Spinolution Firefly with the 32 oz
bobbin. Lockspun hand dyed alpaca fleece.


Spinolution Firefly - The Spinolution Firefly is an electric spinning wheel. I raise our sheep and goats for their wonderful fiber, that I spin into yarn and weave beautiful things. That's my passion. I've been spinning and treadling a spinning wheel daily for more than 20 years. My ankles and hips have joint issues, in part because of spinning. I tried electric spinning wheels off and on since 2006, and didn't like them. I love to spin from the locks, spin raw fleece, spin dyed blends, and spin lots of yarn. The Ashford Country Spinner was one of my very favorite wheels. and I couldn't comfortably treadle it any longer.

At the 2018 Arkansas Craft Guild Christmas Showcase, my dear friend and fiber cohort loaned me her Spinolution Firefly. I spun on it the whole show, and broke it! After desperate panicked calls to their tech support, we learned it was a blown fuse, and learned how to replace it. After that experience, I was sold on their tech support. And Leigh is such a dear friend, that even after that experience, she let me take her Firefly home with me to spin more.

There is a huge learning curve to an electric wheel, it's not something you can just pick up and do, even after 20 years of spinning. But I spun 3 of our homegrown fleeces, one alpaca (first, because that's easiest), one Jacob sheep (also easy), and one kid mohair (still a challenge today, but my favorite fiber) before I returned her wheel to her. Then, with my parents' help, I ordered my own. They are pricey, but for me, it has been worth it. I can spin so much more yarn, so much faster. And I have learned so much already, in just one year with this wheel. My Firefly is a good teacher.

I love spinning yarn. I love dyeing our fleeces into bright colors and blending those to make soft, luscious yarns. I've developed a unique style of yarn that I love making from our fleeces with the Spinolution Firefly. I've sold some of that yarn, but I wanted to make it accessible to people who don't do fiber arts. Of course, people can wear skeins, but that's not a real option for most people. I'm still in the process of designing yarn jewelry, look for that, maybe, in 2020. I tried crocheting scarves, and that seemed to hide the beauty of this yarn, as well as take forever. I tried big needle knitting, and just didn't like doing it. (I don't knit) I tried weaving a scarf on my 24-inch rigid heddle loom, and did a nice one, but the sizing was awkward. But that look I got from the weaving led me to looking at the "silly little starter looms." I love the Ashford products for their durability and versatility. As a weaving teacher, I try to get my students to think about where they want to go with their weaving, and then steer them to the right loom.
Kanger wishes I would spend more
time dog petting than weaving. Low
water immersion dyed/chain plied alpaca
warp, lock spun Nigel's mohair weft.

So, in taking my own advice, I knew I wanted to weave scarves. My tools need to stand up to farm life, demonstrating, teaching, traveling, and lots of use. One consideration is that I travel a good bit, and I take my fiber arts with me. A friend offered to loan me an older style small loom that she had so I could try the size, but that loom was no longer made. So, I jumped right in and bought a ten-inch Ashford SampleIt Loom. 

Sampleit Loom - My yarns are my palette and my passion. I want to share their beauty and comfort with everyone. I want to wrap people in a hug and make them smile every time they look down and see the flash of color draped down their chest. I want people to share my happiness in my fibers. The Sampleit loom lets me do that quickly. In two hours I can go from a naked loom to a scarf ready to hem and fringe. I can go from dyed and dried fiber to a finished scarf in less than 6 hours. That's lightning speed in fiber arts! I wove a scarf a day for a month and I am in love with that little loom!

I hate a naked loom, so, like most weavers, I have the next 2 or 3 projects planned while I'm finishing the one I'm working on. This solid little loom is a work horse, and I continued to weave four scarves a week on it from my handspun and dyed yarns from our critters here on Havencroft Farm.

Speaking of Dyed & Dried...

Spin Dryer - Fiber arts is a craft of lots of tools and tweaks. Many of them you create yourself, many of them exist and you just have to find them. Again, enter my dear friend and amazing fiber artist, Leigh. She is a creative explorer, maker and user of fiber arts tools. Check out her Twining Vine Designs web site here. She's a great teacher and an incredibly talented felter and jeweler. She is also very generous sharing her exploration of fiber arts equipment. When she upgrades equipment, she sometimes offers the prior one to the local fiber artists. So when she had a little spin dryer that need a new home, I thought I'd give it a try.
Scarves and dyed fiber drying in my dye room, aka the back porch.

I wash all my fiber for dyeing and blending. I dye most of my fiber and wash and rinse out all my dyed yarns and fiber. I wet finish all my spun yarns and woven goods. I spend a lot of time hand washing wool, mohair, and alpaca. And it takes forever to dry in the humidity of the Ozarks.

The spin dryer has been amazing. It pulls more water out than you could get out any other way, and in 12 hours I have dry yarn, fibers or scarves. I now can't imagine finishing my fiber arts without one. Thanks again Leigh!

2019 has been an amazing year of learning and growing. Following Focus & Finish has pushed me to find tools and systems to allow me to expand and improve my fiber arts. Now I'm looking forward to building on this base by #PushingBoundaries2020.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Barn, Chicken Coop, Jug Pens & House Painting - 2019 on Havencroft Farm

A couple years ago I adopted the practice of picking a motivational phrase for the coming new year. I can't remember where I heard that idea, or if I just thought of it. My phrase for 2019 has been Focus & Finish, a much needed reminder for my creative, energetic, blonde Gemini self. There is just so much to do out there and so many opportunities and ... I can start 9 million projects, and accomplish a few. Focus & Finish has been very useful.

When I look at 2019 from the perspective of what happened this year, instead of looking at what is still left on my to-do list, I am amazed. 2019 is a year when we made family connections and our family added new people to this world. Its a year when I found practices, people, and things that I didn't know I needed, and they revolutionized my life. It's a year worth chronicling.

These will be in several blog posts, and things listed are not in order of importance -

2019 Around Havencroft Farm

Barn - I had forgotten how much I love having a barn to keep my animals safe, dry and warm. It's a place to store feed safely, keep all the tools in one place and milk the goats in comfort. It's nice to have a barn again.
During installation, before we added more gravel at the base and brought
the animals in.

In November of 2018 we had a barn installed. Over this year we've filled it in and filled it up. It's actually a 17 by 32 foot carport, with 7 foot ceilings and a 10 by 17 foot tool room at the back. We've used and loved our mobile hoop shelters for decades, and we still have them for the sheep half of the farm, but now the goats have a tight, dry, permanent shelter. That means we have to clean it out, instead of just moving the hoop shelter, but we have friends who use the deep bedding as mulch on their gardens. They came and helped clean last spring. We'll see if the barn cleaning party grows this coming spring.

The new barn is approved by the alpine dairy goat flock.
We were able to store 83 bales of hay in the barn, instead of outside under tarps. Sweet! It is my milking barn, grain room and garden tool storage. We like it so much we want to get one for the sheep side of the farm, perhaps in 2 or 3 more years. It was an expensive purchase, but should last for decades, and one that makes me happy every time I step out the back door.

Jug pens - Something in shepherding that I've always said was unnecessary with our wonderful Jacob sheep, but that I have learned to love this last year, and a product of having the barn are jug pens.

Kachina and her lambs Ophelia & Olympia in the jug pen
in the new barn during the near constant rain of the winter and spring of 2019.

These are small pens built inside the barn. Ours are 5-foot by 5-foot, for ewes or does who are about to lamb or kid. This allows the mother a clean dry place to have her babies, a quiet time to bond with them, and it gives the babies a start in a safe environment. In 40 years of shepherding, I did not use them. 

We had safe spaces for ewes having trouble, sometimes it was the farmhouse kitchen, but for the most part, they weren't needed. Instinct leads ewes to find a safe place to lamb, the other sheep in the flock give them space, and most lambs are up and about on their own with just their mother's cleaning. But, during lambing season (February and March for us at Havencroft Farm) we rotate checking the ewes every two hours. This way we can help any ewes having birthing troubles and find any babies who are struggling. We leave many of our ewes out to lamb as they please. But now, we have two jug pens in the barn, and we rotated sheep through them for the 2019 lambing season. All the first-time mothers went into a pen, then we didn't have to search the pasture for them. Any ewe who had trouble in the past went in. The littlest lambs went in with their moms during big storms. We had no bottle babies in 2019, perhaps due to the jug pens. That is a huge labor saver.

Painting the House - Have you ever read John Grisham's "A Painted House"? I love that book. Squirrel...
Havencroft Farm, September 20, 2019

I live in the rural Ozarks. I grew up as an Army brat, moved for the first time at nine-days-old, and even as an adult, I moved a lot. I love the Ozarks, the land, the water, the people, and our homestead. I live here by choice. 
When we first looked at this house, it was many colors on the outside. When she couldn't sell it, the former owner painted it white on the outside the summer of 2009. I don't think it was good quality paint, so by the summer of 2019, it looked really shabby. 
We've wanted to paint it, and fix a lot of the structural necessities for years, but with Shawn working two jobs, Lena full time in the broom shop, and me working 45-55 hours a week, plus the farm and the weaving business, and now school, it was obvious we weren't going to get it done. But the Spring rains of 2019 had exacerbated some wall rot on the west side. So, we took out a loan from the bank of Mom & Dad and hired a contractor. Picking paint was fun. We went with a slate green for the body, and a tan to match the rock walls for the trim. I like it a lot. And the homestead looks so much more groomed and cared for, just having the house painted. When I look through old photos of this place, I'm amazed by all the improvements we've made in our decade here. It's still got a ways to go, but, Focus & Finish.

Chicken coop - I've had chickens most of my adult life. They eat bugs, they turn the soil in the goat barn, and they lay eggs. They just fit in my life. My chickens have lived in falling down sheds, up in the top of a pine tree for the night & just loose during the day, a nice home made chicken coop with an elaborate big run, the top of the pig barn, and a cattle panel covered with a tarp. They did fine in all these accommodations. But I like to keep them safe. So I wanted a strong, solid, tight chicken coop. 

And we don't have the time or direction to build one. Talent we have, and we can all build what ever we put our minds to, but we each have other directions our time. Spending about 6 months researching and looking at coops, we finally decided on one. It took a while to get in touch with the builders, and a 6-hour evening drive to Clarksville to make the arrangements to purchase it and have it delivered. I spent hours figuring out drainage, sun, shade, access and the best place to put the coop. The couple delivering it came from Conway. It is 10' by 14' and weighs over a ton. They delivered it on a truck and had a little tractor that just lifted the coop and put it right where I wanted it. Our babies chicks were moved out of their little pen in the barn and into the coop. We clean the coop out every Sunday and re-bed it with waste hay from the goat barn. There is no way eggs will ever pay for the cost of that chicken house, but it was so worth it in ease of care, aesthetics, and peace of mind. 

That's all for today. Further recap of 2019, the year of Finish & Focus to come.

    Tuesday, December 24, 2019

    PushingBoundaries2020 or a Tale of Two Looms

    My tagline for this coming new year is #PushingBoundaries2020. A boundary is a line that marks the limits. I am comfortable within the limits of my job, my farm, and my craft. But there is more to be learned, and more to explore. Going back to college full time in September of 2018 got me back into the learning process. It stretched my ability to manage time. It reminded me that you get out of things what you put into them. And through my classes, I touched on many new ideas. My tagline for 2019 was Focus & Finish. It has served me well. More about that in some year-end wrap up posts.

    Why Pushing Boundaries? Why not something brighter, like Exploring Options?
    Well, I'm a curious person who likes to do and try new things. But, sometimes, I need a push, from myself, or from other sources, to go beyond my comfort zone and go through the process to get to a different level. Yeah, the options look interesting, but I'm comfortable, (and dog-gone busy!) right where I'm at. So #PushingBoundaries2020.

    Weaving Fleeceyful Jacob Sheep wool
    rugs with raw fleece on my Newcomb Loom
    For example, you all know my Newcomb loom. I got it from my Aunt Jeannie and have been weaving on it for a long time. It is a big part of the development of my Fleeceyful Wool Rugs. I've been weaving rugs from my raw Jacob Sheep and mohair fleeces on this loom since about 2004. I've woven about 30 rugs a year on it for the last 15 years. That's about 450 rugs. A few are in my house, many are in homes across the United States. I love that loom. It's simple, it's sturdy, and it works.
    About two years ago, when the Arkansas Craft School was in the process of moving to their new location, they had a pile of sticks and gears and metal bits that looked like something, but needed to go somewhere. My dad knew they were looms, but it wasn't clear how many, or what type. So he offered to take them home, to assemble them if possible, and see what was there. After much work on his part, the pieces were reassembled into a Union 2 harness rug loom, and a JL Hammett 4 harness loom - and lots of miscellaneous parts. The Union loom found a new home, for a donation to the school. And the Hammett hung out in my dad's shop. I asked the school if I could weave on it, and they said "Sure, for as long as you want." But I never did spend enough time in my dad's shop to even get a warp on the loom.

    Newcomb with the latest warp finished.
    The Hammett kept tugging on my mind. My home studio only has room for one big loom. The Newcomb is 54" by 48", the Hammett is 54" by 54". There is no way they'd both fit. I love the Newcomb, but the Hammett offers unexplored possibilities. With the concept of #PushingBoundaries2020 in place, I took a deep breath and asked my family for ideas on how to safely store the Newcomb, for a year at least. Shawn came up with the idea of disassembling it and hanging it from the ceiling in the wood shop. We picked up the bicycle hooks on Tuesday when we were in Mountain Home, and took the loom apart and hung it in storage on Saturday.

    The Newcomb disassembled and safely
    in storage in the wood working shop.
    I wasn't sure when we would have time to go take apart the Hammett and move it to my shop, but first thing on Sunday morning, both Shawn and Lena said, "We're going to get your loom, you're lost without a big loom." I wasn't pouting, I know I wasn't, but they were right, there was a hole in my shop, and in my heart. So right after morning chores we went over to my dad's shop and took apart the Hammett. It disassembled much easier than I thought it would. My mom came out to watch the proceedings. In only about an hour, the loom was labeled and loaded into the back of Shawn's little truck. It only took a little more than an hour to unload it and reassemble it in my shop.

    Hammett in my dad's shop

    Hammett in it's new home in my workshop.

    Tying up the treadles, still need to balance them.
    I decided to start small, with a 26" reed and only 150 threads. I'm winding
    a 12 yard warp to start.

    The new loom is Daxie approved.

    I chose to put on the short 26" reed and I'm only winding a 12 yard warp. With time off from work and school for the holidays, I'm looking forward to having it up and weaving by the new year. The are lots of possibilities here, and I'm sure some frustrations. But I'm excited to see what this loom, my critters fibers and my hands can produce on this loom. And I wouldn't have made the change without #PushingBoundaries2020.

    Sunday, December 22, 2019

    Catching up to myself - Squirrel!

    I woke up this morning at 4:30 ready to write this blog post. It's a fairly normal time for me to get up, I allow myself to get out of bed anytime after 4 a.m., and it's the best time for me to do my school work. This was going to be a post about goals, and objectives, and pushing boundaries to get to where you want to be... when I get to it. But it's already Squirrel! kind of day.

    Squirrel - Needle felted from Demi's wool. Pictured in the Ozark Folk
    Center State Park Craft Village, Feb. 13, 2014

    Like I said, I woke up with this idea. I went to the kitchen to get my morning coffee. We've just started remodeling the kitchen. When we bought this house in 2009, the interior had just been updated with new wallpaper and paint and some new flooring (all except the bathroom, which was and still is pretty reprehensible, though I did paint it this summer!). The wall paper in the kitchen and living room is striped dark blue, gold and maroon. Not bad, but not my colors. And they put popcorn paint on the ceiling in the kitchen. Just try to clean that! So, as we just bought a new gas stove and a dishwasher (never been one in this house), and they will be delivered January 16, we need to make some changes to the kitchen. I started stripping wallpaper this week. On my way to get coffee (remember that?) I decided to start scraping the popcorn off the ceiling. I did go get a drop cloth, and scraped a decent 2-foot by 4-foot swatch clean before I got off the step-stool and made my way to the coffee pot. I cleaned up the mess while I waited for coffee to brew. Squirrel!

    Coffee in hand, I sat down at the computer to write this post. I wanted to pull some pictures of my looms that I took yesterday, the experience on which I am basing this post. Apparently, neither my OneDrive or Google Drive are backing up my phone pictures right now. But, they are going into Google Photo. But I can't get Blogger to pull from Google Photo. Don't I remember that Google photo is going away at some point? Got to go look that up. Stop that Squirrel!

    There were lots of picture of our sheep in my Google photos. I've been filing the recent ones into albums on my phone, but I don't seem to be able to access those albums from other devices. So, as one of my goals for this year is to get the registrations done on all our sheep (bad shepherd for letting those get behind!) I started creating a Google photo album with all my Jacob Sheep photos. I'm back to 2014, have 1,376 photos in the album and have enjoyed a trip down memory lane. Wow, we've done a lot of improvements on this farm! But how can I get Blogger to access Google photos? Squirrel!

    So, now it's 7:22, the sheep are starting to get vocal about not being fed yet, and I still haven't started this blog post. So, working on goals, objective, and accountability, here is a rundown before I go do chores.

    I like doing slogans, tag-lines, or whatever you want to call them for a year. 2019 was Focus & Finish, you can see that I need that one, and it has been amazingly powerful. I have nine blog posts drafted to cover my highlights for 2019 (hope I can find where I stored that draft). 

    My tag-line for 2020 is #PushingBoundaries2020. Yeah, life is all hashtags now. Why pushing boundaries? Well, when I finish morning chores, and figure out how to get my loom pictures over here, I'll explain that one. Hope to see you tomorrow.

    Tuesday, October 29, 2019

    And the Seasons, They Go 'Round-an-'Round...

    Buddha-cat keeps my neck warm these
    frosty mornings
    Fall Greetings from Havencroft Farm
     We are modern homesteaders, small holders, shepherds, and crafts people. We pay our electric bill, use the internet, drive our cars to our jobs, and store food in our refrigerator. But, we are still tied to the seasons  of the Earth. 
    It's fall now, and we've had a few frosts. The garden is tucked in for the winter and the green tomatoes are sitting on the counter ripening for a few last summer-type dinners. The cats are looking for laps.
    East Richwoods Nutmeg, our Alpine dairy
    goat buck knows he's beautiful.
    Fall is goat and sheep breeding season.
    Having seasonal polyestrous animals
    helps cement the cycle of the year.
    It's sheep and goat breeding time. I breed the dairy goats first, so we have a supply of milk in case we have any bottle baby lambs or angora goat kids. Knock on wood, we won't, but best to be safe. At this point, the dairy goats are all confirmed bred and the breeding sheep are in with the rams. I got a new angora buck goat kid this year, Whisper Hills Oberon. He may or may not be ready to work, but he lives with the girls, and if they figure it out it's a bonus. Kid mohair is my favorite fiber.
    Gibbs dog prefers to hang out in the
    studio on now that mornings are cooler.

    I spin and weave year-around, but I really seem to tuck into it in the fall. That's when I pull out my dyepots and make all the pretty colors for my yarns. We have our two annual shows in September and December, so much of my production schedule is geared around those.

    My dad and my grandbaby Zo.

    Now that we have a grandbaby in the family, it's another cue of the flow of life and the circle of time. I am luck to have both my parents and they dote on little Zo, who will not be little for long. Luckily human babies don't grow as fast as the sheep and goat kids!

    In addition to farming, shepherding, spinning, weaving, and working full time, I am in the process of finishing out my bachelor's degree. I hope to graduate in May of 2020. One of the lesson I've learned is to be ok with my own schedule and my own cycle. My early 20's was my time to experience and explore, now is my time to put it all together into a formal credential. So, while I do seem to write more here in the winter (maybe it's because I'm inside more, or not at work quite as many hours!) it may be a while before I post regularly. In the meantime, if you've found our Havencroft Farm through this blog and are interested in the happenings here in the rural Ozarks, take a look at our Havencroft Farrm Facebook page. If you're looking for brooms or shawls or our other products, try our Havencroft Farm Etsy Store.

    And, if you're just interested in a glimpse of our homesteading journey, scroll back through the archives here. Every once in a while I enjoy going back through this blog and remembering seasons past and the joy of the journey to today. Happy Fall 2019!

    Harvest moon over the barn & good
    brown dirt resting for the 2020 garden.

    Sunday, March 31, 2019

    Dryer Balls - or gnome bait?

    This batch of dryer balls is made from HCF Kachina's fleece.

    Off and on over many years, my family has made wool felt balls. When the kids were little, they were toys (medieval nerf balls we called'm). Then we made them for kitties with catnip centers and for dogs to try to teach them to play that game called "fetch." Lena's Gibbs dog loves to fetch the harder ones that bounce.

    A couple years ago I read an article in Mary Jane's Farm magazine about using wool felt balls as dryer balls. You just pop a few of the wool felt balls that we always have around the house into the dryer and they cut down on the time it takes to dry clothes and take the static out. We tried it, and they do work that way. We also found they have a far more important function in the dryer.

    Dryer gnomes love felt balls! They will happily trade a felt ball for one, or even two of your socks that they have been hording. And if you give them dryer balls, they will quit taking your favorite wash cloths. They sometimes even trade an especially nice dryer ball for one of my tie-dyed tea towels that they do so love to steal.

    I have no idea where they take them, any more than I have any idea where missing pens go. But I do think the parallel universe must be a pretty, fun place. And I bet dryer gnomes never have cold feet.

    All the dryer balls I make now are from our sheep's fleeces. This latest batch is from Kachina's wool. Some of them come out firm like a tennis ball, others are more squishy. We make them in the natural colors of our jacob sheep's wool. They are 100% Jacob Sheep wool. No fillers or inserts.

    Monday, February 18, 2019

    How to Finish Your Triloom Woven Shawl

    The last weaving pass is run, the center yarn is clipped and your shawl is done! Yippee!

    Oh yeah, the weaving is done, now there's the finishing. 

    How do you go from that triangle shaped weaving on the wall to the beautiful, drapey, shawl to wrap around your shoulders?

    Follow along on the pictures below, and if you have any questions, you can contact me via messenger from our Havencroft Farm Homestead Facebook page.

    The weaving is done! This is a twill/tabby combo pattern done with 100% Havencroft Farm grown Jacob sheep wool (Patchwork Cowboy and Havencroft Lauren's fleeces) processed into yarn at Yampa Valley Fiberworks and hand-dyed by me.)

    Pretty as it looks from a distance, there are still some spacing issues that need fixing.

    Spend time lining up yarns with your trusty weaving comb. (Not to recommend Walmart, but this is the comb I use.)

    Once your weaving is all evened-up to your liking, crochet off the top. This shawl is not fringed, so the color changes are along the top. I'll weave those in later. The chain I use to take a shawl off the loom is; pull the corner loop of the shawl onto your hook; pull a loop of your finishing color through that loop; pull the next shawl loop off the nail and through the loop on the hook; pull another loop of finishing yarn through that loop; and all the way across, shawl loop, yarn loop. You should only ever have one loop on your hook. You can see the pattern in the picture above. At the end of the top edge of the shawl, pull up your last loop, cut the thread in the middle and pull it back through, then knot the starting thread for the shawl and the ending thread of the finishing yarn together.

    The top edge is crocheted off the loom. Now to lift the bottom two edges.

    Just gently lift the yarn off the pegs, or nails, starting at the bottom corner.

    This shawl is now attached to the loom only at the top two corners. This is where you can see floats or any other issues that may need to be fixed by stitching them in. 

    Take off the finished shawl, hang up your loom and start the next shawl. I always put the next shawl on the loom right after I pull the shawl I'm finishing off. I've planned it while weaving the last one, and I'm eager to get started on it, plus I hate seeing a naked loom!

    I weave in all the color join ends with a crochet hook. Some people use a yarn needle. What ever works for you. I take out the knot that I used to join the colors (why I knot the joins loosly), make sure the yarns are crossed over so there are no awkward holes at the top of the shawl, and tuck the ends in, weaving them down their own color run.

    Some shawls I crochet a decorative border, and strenghthener on the top, other shawls don't seem to need it. This one needed a bit of straightening on the top edge, which is provided by the crochet border.

    Once you are happy with your finishing on the shawl, it's time to wash it. This "wet-finishes" the shawl, allows the yarns to bloom and meld together and sets it as one garment, instead of a lot of woven yarn. It also assures me that the piece does not have any flaws that I missed in the planning or weaving. Hand wash, gently in cool water with wool safe soap. I do the same - lather, rinse, repeat that I do to wash most things. Make sure you fill the basin first and dissolve the soap before adding your garment. Take the garment out to drain while you rinse the basin and prepare the next water bath.

    After washing and rinsing, roll your shawl up in a towel and gently squeeze out the excess water. 
    Lay your shawl flat and shape it how you want it to dry. I put a king sized sheet over a few towels on our queen sized bed to block my shawls. It's a big enough space, and the door is closed to our bedroom, so it is a cat-free zone, too.

    Give it a bit to dry and then wear your beautiful new shawl. This particular shawl is for a friend, if you want to see a picture of her wearing it (give me a few days to get it delivered!) visit our Havencroft Farm Homestead Facebook page.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2019

    What to keep in your kidding or lambing kit

    Havencroft Kachina had these adorable twin ewes by Havencroft Neptune. The new barn gives us a great set up for jug pens to give mom and babies a safe place to bond .
     It's the beginning of lambing and kidding time here in the Ozarks on Havencroft Farm. That means it's time to keep the "midwifery" kit hanging by the door so we're ready to help when needed.

    I've been a shepherd since 1979. I learned from an old-time shepherd, Finley Nelson, and from my dad's stories of having goats when he was a kid. So, I do things the old fashioned way. I am happy to learn about new ways, but I still think simple is good.

    Our lambing kit is simple. It starts with towels to help mama dry off babies. Most ewes or does have twins, so if we can help her by drying off one while she goes about the business of having the second, that's good. If it's cold, getting the babies dry quickly will help them stay warm.

    Scissors, iodine, towels and clean straw are staples for planning on Havencroft Farm. 

    The next thing that's in the kit is a sprayer bottle of iodine for spraying the lamb's umbilical cord. It's vitally important. We always iodine babies. Sometimes we dip navels, but for the last few years we've been drenching them well with the sprayer.

    We also keep scissors in the bag, just in case we need to trim umbilicals that are dragging the ground, or trim wool away from udders on sheep that haven't been sheared yet. The next thing that is vital is making sure that babies nurse very soon after being born. They need the protection of the first milk, colostrum, to protect them from bacteria and to get their gut working. We check the mama's udder, making sure the colostrum is flowing freely even if we weren't there for the birth. We also check to make sure babies have full tummies and warm, moist mouths.

    If the babies are too weak to nurse, or if there is any other reason they can't get colostrum within an hour of being born, we thaw out some frozen colostrum from last year, or earlier in the year and use a bottle or dose syringe to get it down them. We always freeze excess colostrum from our dairy goats in two ounce bags for just this purpose. Colostrum and soaking navels in iodine are considered absolutely necessary on our farm.

    Something else I try to keep in the kit are recycled shopping bags. They are handy for disposing of after birth. We keep that cleaned up because we do have coyotes, raccoons and other predators that we don't want to invite with the smell of new birth.

    We also make sure we have clean, dry bedding available. Some of our ewes choose not to use it, but we try.

    Finally, we keep molasses in the kit. We mix about 2 tablespoons (or glugs)  in a bowl of warm water to offer to every new mom after giving birth. Most of them drink it down. It gives them water, sugar for energy and minerals like iron to help replace what they've lost.

    It's not much, we keep it simple. We also do regular night time barn checks during kidding and lambing season. The whole flock gets used to the flashlight as the silly humans wander through their sleeping place two or three times a night. We are respectful of their sleep and try not to shine the light hard on any ewe or doe unless something looks unusual.

    Sunday, February 03, 2019

    Shearing Time Begins with Magic

    Havencroft Magic, daughter of Havencroft Luke and
    Havencroft Hocus Pocus is due to lamb February 11.
    She's the first ewe sheared for the 2019 season.

    We started shearing today here on Havencroft Farm.

    We start shearing this time of year because it is much better for the ewes to be sheared a week or two before lambing.

    We breed our ewes to lamb this time of year for several reason, but mostly because, even though our jacob sheep are very parasite resistant, we help them with that in all ways possible. We want our lambs growing big and healthy and strong before we reach the time of year with above 60-degree nights. That's when the barber pole worms and other parasites flourish. If the young ones have some good growth on them, they are able to resist the parasites.

    Havencroft Molly
    Molly is Magic's cousin. Her mum Higgldy-Piggldy is sister to Hocus-Pocus.
    Molly and Magic are also sisters on the paternal side. They are best friends,
    and now that they are sheared, they look a lot alike. Luckily, Magic has a
    dot on her nose and Molly doesn't. Now that she's sheared, it looks like
    Molly has some freckles, too.

    We breed to lamb in February and March, so, we shear in February and March.We do all the shearing ourselves, by hand. We also have busy work schedules, so we shear two to four a weekend. This time of year especially, we shear them in pairs, usually Mother-daughter or sisters or close friends. That way the newly sheared sheep can cuddle together in the shelter at night and keep each other warm.

    Among the reasons to shear before lambing are:

    1. There is a natural break that occurs in the fleece due to the hormones when a ewe lambs. If you don't shear around this time, you will end up with a break in your wool, a problem when you spin it.
    2. When the ewes are sheared before lambing, it is easier for the lambs to locate the udder for that all important first drink of colostrum.
    3. If the ewe is sheared, she'll know when it is cold or wet, and go into the shelter. Her lambs will follow her.
    4. If the ewe is sheared, she can cuddle and share body heat with her lambs. If she is still wrapped up in a full wool fleece, all the heat stays inside. Her lambs can freeze if they can't share her body heat.
    5. We leave tails on, and it is easier to see udder development and lambing signs on a sheared ewe.

    My daughter Lena and I do all the shearing ourselves,
    by hand, on a stand. It's what works well for us
    and gives us time with our sheep. It gives me
    good spinning and weaving fleeces. 

    We have 12 bred ewes this year, so even at only two a weekend, we'll get through them by mid-March. The other 13 sheep will get sheared around and after the ewes. The old sheep don't get sheared until the nights are staying warm. The angora goats get sheared in April and October and the three alpacas get sheared in May.

    So if you're looking for me on the weekend from now until May, and it's not raining, and I'm not in the garden, I'll be out back shearing.

    Wednesday, January 30, 2019

    The Story of Story Scarves

    I started making story scarves several years ago. I met the delightful, energetic, flamboyant Ezra Phillips at an Interpreter workshop. I always spin yarn and crochet at workshop. Ezra was fascinated. I showed him how to spin. We had fun and at the end of the week, he said, "I want you to make me a scarf with EVERY COLOR!"

    I was intrigued by the challenge. It sat in the back of my mind. I saw Ezra a few months later at a training. "Do you have my scarf done?" He asked. "It's starting to get cold!"

    I went home that day and dipped into my yarn stash. As a weaver and crocheter, I often have a bit of a skein of yarn left when I finish weaving a shawl or making a hat or...

    I came up with the idea of using these little bits of yarn, some only 10 yards long, others hundreds of yards, to make a l-o-n-g, multicolor, scrappy scarf for Ezra.

    I crocheted it as we traveled while Shawn drove. As we went north, through corn fields and farmland, I though about the stories of the yarns I was working into this scarf. Some were handspun from our critters fleeces. Some were hand-me-overs from friends who were destashing. Some were bright novelty yarns from gypsy-style shawls I wove. The stories of the yarns wove themselves into the story of our trip. And the concept of story scarves was born. 

    Ezra loved his scarf as much as I loved creating it. He shared pictures of where he traveled in that scarf. His stories added themselves to the fiber of the first story scarf. 

    It was a concept that found its home in my heart. Every time I finish a big project, the little bits of left over yarn go into my project bag. That bag travels with me everywhere. 

    I crochet story scarves at conferences, in hospital waiting rooms, on the plane, and in the passenger seat of the car. I've given them to nurses who went out of their way to care for family members. I've given them to friends who expressed an interest in the project. I've donated them to auctions for scholarships and causes. 

    My word for 2019 is "Focus"  (to me that means "be present where I am and work on the thing that is in front of me at the moment") and to that end, I am focusing story scarves on a cause. 

    Crafts people across the US are aging. It's hard to make a living with your hands. It's hard to find the time to focus in a craft enough to achieve a mastery of that craft. We have craft masters in more than 20 crafts at the Ozark Folk Center State Park. This year I am focusing on growing our exsisting apprentice program into one that will help young people connect with our craft masters, learn their skills and perpetuate our Ozark tradition of craftsmanship. 

    To that end, I'm donating 50% of the sales price of each story scarf to the Committee of One Hundred for the Ozark Folk Center. Their craft scholarships have helped create many of the master craft artisans in our park over the last 45 years. We are going to bring that tradition to a new generation. 

    This story scarf in the picture, crocheted on the plane to Winter Market in Las Vegas, and any others I create this year will be available in my Havencroft Farm etsy store, along with its story. The donation to the Committee will be in the scarf buyers name.

    The Story of this Scarf

    This story scarf was crocheted on the plane to Las Vegas in January of 2019. We were headed out on a buying trip to Las Vegas Winter Market. 

    The base yarn in this scarf is the center handspun gray, it is from Cowslip's wool. She is currently our eldest Jacob Sheep ewe. She was born in February of 2003. She is quite the pet and comes out of the retired sheep yard every morning and evening to get her own special grain mix.

    The next yarn is a bright red wool. I dyed it to make a hat for an runner friend. I never could get the hat right, and the yarn has been used in several projects. I ought to get back to that. Maybe I'll try some alpaca yarn this time.

    The heathered green yarn is from a dear friend who was destashing her very delicious yarns. I let most of the bag go to our Sit & Stitch friends, and to the project basket for the Fiber Arts shop at the Ozark Folk Center, but I liked the feel of this one, and wanted a chance to work with it.

    The fall multi colored cotton is from a shawl I wove, as is the blue/green/black thick-thin, the shiny ribbon, and the pale lavendar fuzzy. And there's a light gray alpaca in the mix that Lena used in knitting a pair of socks.

    Sunday, January 20, 2019

    Sheep Farming - A Labor of Love

    I am a shepherd.
    Havencroft Higgledy-Piggledy (Higgs) grows fleeces for
    some of my best wild rugs, has awesome lambs, and loves
    to get scratched under her wool. She wags her tail when
    you get the right spot, just like a dog. She passes that
    unique trait on to her children.

    My heart, my soul and my passion are -
    • the land that supports my sheep and goats; 
    • the healthy flocks that greet me every time I look out the window or step outside; 
    • the milk, wool, mohair, alpaca, llama and dog fiber they provide for my fiber arts; 
    • the spinning, weaving, felting and crochet that I do with the fleeces from my animals; 
    • the cheese that I make from the goat's milk; 
    • the connections I make with the people who buy the things I craft; 
    • and the relationships that those folks build with our animals and land.
    It's a lot of hard work, and it is truly a labor of love.

    HF Hocus Pocus is mildly annoyed at her son for climbing on her.
    HF Finesse ("Nessie" - Thyme's last lamb and Canoe Lake Sonic Boom's first
    on our land), is on the right is with her two 2018 ram lambs. We retired her
    with those two boys. She's only nine, but she had trouble lambing.
    Our retired sheep, now six of them, ranging in age from 9 to 16,
    live in a big paddock with trees and a deep bedded shelter
    on the west side of our land.

    I frequently get asked if I make a living farming. I have learned to school my expression and not laugh maniacally at the question. There was a time when I thought I could live sustainable as a farmer, and there are people who do. I don't. As my tax preparer says, "You have a hobby farm." It's a lot of hard work for a "hobby". It is a labor of love.

    So, it's tax time again and as I was figuring things up, I thought I'd share some numbers. Every farm is different and costs vary every year. The weather is also a big factor. Some years we can graze seven months. Some years we feed hay all year.

    These numbers aren't meant to prove anything. They are just some business numbers from Havencroft Farm in the Arkansas Ozarks.

    Like many Americans, we have a mortgage, utilities, gas, groceries, medical bills and insurance. We are lucky enough to have jobs to pay for all of that. Our jobs and help from our folks cover infrastructure like roofs, fencing, and barns; and equipment upgrades like my new Spinolution Firefly, an electric production spinning wheel that allows me to keep spinning the yarns I love as my body ages.

    I love this picture of the sheep grazing out front fall of 2018.
    Left to right are HF Judith, HF Hester, HF Ipswich (Dapper Dan's last daughter),
    HF Magic, HF Nexxus, and HF Natalie.

    Our flocks of 25 adult Jacob Sheep, 4 angora goats, 3 alpacas, and five dairy goats mostly pay for their own food, supplements and medical bills.

    This last year, expenses were
    Hay - (thanks for wonderful friends in a very weird growing year), $1,350
    Grain - $4,680
    Supplements - salt blocks, kelp, selenium - $800
    Vet - (supplies like wormers and visits - and we have an awesome vet. Thanks Doc Nixon!) - $900

    Total expenses  - $7,730

    This year my goal is to weave all my
    shawls from yarns spun out of 
    fleece grown on our 
    Havencroft Farm by our beloved
    sheep, goats, and alpaca.
    That's part of the reason I've 
    enjoyed dyeing so much this winter.

    Income from sales of products I make by hand from milk and fleeces from our animals -
    Goat's milk - $384 (family drinks most of it, or eats the cheese I make from the milk, this number is just direct sales to customers.)
    Sales from the Havencroft Farm etsy store, $1,200 (I hope to build that back up this coming year)
    Sales of Fleecyful rugs, Havencroft Homestead Handspun yarns, and handwoven shawls - $4,300
    Sales of ram lambs and extra ewe lambs - $1,500

    Total income - $7,384

    So, the cost to our homestead budget of having the sheep and goats that I love so much is $346, this past year.

    They're worth it, to me, and I hope to those of you who love the things you treasure from the fleeces they grow. Its truly a labor of love.

    I love to spin yarn from the fleeces of my sheep, and to be able to watch them
    playing out the window as I spin. I love how the yarn seems to have the
    characteristics of the sheep or goat who is growing it, sometimes sweet and
    soft, sometimes michevous, sometimes elegant. This yarn is
    HF Luna's (Moose Mountain Jacob x HF Imbri)
    spun as a whole fleece, right from the pillowcase we put the fleece in after
    shearing. Luna started out shy, but she has grown to be one of our boss ewes.

    Each Fleecyful rug that I weave is from the whole fleece
    of one of our Jacob Sheep, angora goats, or alpacas.
    I usually weave with the raw fleece, right out of the bag
    it's put in a shearing, letting the natural colors of the
    animals design the pattern of the rug.