Sunday, March 17, 2019

Spring can't be far off

We have a broody hen...

the sheep are sheared...

and it's St. Patrick's Day! We're heading to our friends' winery to meet with other spinners and knitters. Then we're off to celebrate at another friend's house.
We've had lots of snow and cold, but the temps are rising and the snow is melting.

Time to start some tomatoes from the seeds we saved. I always plant Brandywines and some nice little round Roma tomatoes that we got from the Amish a few years ago.

I am loving the Gotland cross lambs' fleeces. I skirted all 18 of them over the last two days. Several lambs managed to felt themselves up around the shoulders, but there's still enough for me to make some small felt pelts.

My classes at North House Folk School went well. The Cobweb Felt class was fun, we had plenty of time to complete our projects and clean up.

The Skinfeller class I took with Karen Aakre turned out to be a godsend.
My ninety-year-old dad suddenly started going downhill fast the weeks before the class. He had a bit of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace, but we knew it was more than that. They sent him home where he lives alone with only a wood stove for heat (because he couldn't use the faulty furnace). It was very stressful for us kids trying to make sure he was okay. We got him admitted to Continuing care the day before I left for Grand Marais. Sid was going to come with me, but our furnace started acting up and my farm sitter's car broke down, so I ended up going alone. I had a beautiful hotel room overlooking Lake Superior.
I kept in touch with my family and the care facility over the weekend, but it was quite stressful. Anyway, Skinnfell is like Ukranian egg decorating in that the motifs are meant to tell a message, the symbols should represent the people who are receiving the skinnfell.
So for my project, I lucked out and got a very long-stapled. light brown, Norwegian Spael sheepskin.

I gave it a bridal edging and chose the woodblocks with symbols to represent my family.
The eight-pointed stars were my mom and dad, the eight hearts around the starts represent us eight kids, and the doves represent our grandparents.  I put my mom and dad's surnames on the edges with dots representing them and their siblings. I wanted to stick with a single color, brown. I was thrilled with it. I was able to stop by the care center on my way home and show my dad. It was the last time I was really able to communicate with him. I'm so glad I stopped! He liked it, the next day, he was so out of it to respond to much at all. He passed away in the early hours of Feb. 21. I am the executor of his estate so I have my work cut out for me for a while.

And now I am working on patterns for the new class I'll be teaching at Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival over Mother's Day weekend. It's a knitting with longwool locks class. Lord knows I have lots of longwool locks!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Sheep, Ducks, Turkeys, and Coturnix Quail in the Polar Vortex

We made it through the polar vortex last week. Our air temps got down to -38F, they were below zero for several days. Thank goodness it wasn't longer. The water line to the barn froze up, our vehicles wouldn't start for a couple days, and things were getting a little testy with the sheep feed running low.

Anyway, I am so impressed with our animals and how they managed during the cold temps! The chickens roost in the barn, which is open on the south side to lean-to, where the ewes sleep. The lean-to runs along the whole south side of the barn, but only half of it is walled off. So there is plenty of ventilation. We don't want the sheep stuck in a tight barn, that's just an invitation to pneumonia.
The girls were actually feeling kind of feisty at the high temp of -14F on Wednesday afternoon when I went out to feed them.
The seven wethers have a T-post/tarp shelter and two fiberglass calf huts. They did fine.

Our ducks sleep in the barn, on the floor. But one of the cold nights they slept out in the lean-to with the ewes. I was worried about them getting picked off by an owl, but they were fine.

The Narragansett turkeys roost in their covered pen. They have a small shed that houses their feed and is equipped with roosting poles, but they never go in there except to eat; even during the worst thunderstorms and snowstorms.

And Sid and I sleep under a glass ceiling. That can feel pretty cold when temps are so far below zero. We had three quilts and several cats to keep us warm. I'm going to make some shades for those overhead windows ASAP.
Thankfully the furnace out in the shop kept up. And we kept a fire going in the living room wood stove...

We were wondering how the Coturnix quail would do in the extreme cold. In the past we've kept them in the shop or out in the barn over the winter months. That wasn't without problems, they are so messy. Last year Sid processed them all and started out fresh with eggs last spring. But this year Sid put them in the Defender chicken coop that he won last summer. It's a great pen for them.

Right before the extreme cold hit, we bought straw bedding for the wethers' calf huts and saved a couple flakes for the quail pen.

We also have a heated poultry waterer in the quail pen which stayed operational. The quail came through the extreme cold with no issues at all. So now we know!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

It's COLD Outside! Sheep, Cobweb Felt Lamp, Skinnfeller class and "Skinnfelt"

We're in for even colder weather next week with forecast highs in the single and double digits below zero. According to our neighbor with a thermometer, the temps here have been down to -25F in the overnight hours for the past two nights. The winds were bad the other day, but with my new snow pants, my sheepskin choppers, my Carhartt jacket, Columbia boots, and my handspun handknit yak/BFL hat, I've been toasty warm doing chores. 
The water line in the barn has froze up again, so I'll be hauling water for at least another week or two. With 33 sheep, 29 chickens, 2 ducks, and 6 turkeys, that's a lot of water.  Sid's got 20+ quail to take care of too.

The sheep are doing well. I have two pens to feed and water (keeping the boys and girls separated so we'll have no lambs this spring). I bought a couple of small bales of straw yesterday so the boys will have some bedding.

I am so glad we switched to feeding big round bales in HayChix nets, but we don't have a lot of wasted hay for bedding anymore. Big round bale prices are up; but pound for pound, they're still a better buy than small squares -- and a lot less work when you have a Bobcat. The best part is that the sheep can self-serve and eat anytime day or night. I feed them a grain mixture in the cold weather in addition to their grass hay.

I got some nice alfalfa grass rounds the other day at the auction in Mora. I can't wait to feed it to the sheep. They will love it. We had a flat tire on the way home though. The cold weather can be hard on mechanical things.

So now I am busy getting some pieces ready for the annual Vasaloppet Art Show coming up in Mora February 8-10. And then I'll be teaching my Cobweb Felt Lampshade class on Feb. 15th at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. There are still a few openings in that class. I will be taking a Skinfeller class on the 16-17th and a felting/wool class with the guest instructor from Norway on the 18th. What fun! I am so excited about learning Skinnfell techniques. I'm signed up to take a Skinfell accessories class at the Vesterheim in Iowa this July also.

In the meantime, I've been applying some of the Skinnfell concepts to my felt pelts and I call "Skinnfelt".

Sunday, December 23, 2018

'tis the Season!

Whoa, where has the time gone? The year is almost over and it's been quite a busy one!

My little Poinsettia from last year is blooming again.  Shown here next to the masham fleece I felted in the shower.

Handspun handknit qiviut/silk wimple. So soft and warm!

Some felted collars with the masham fleece, all done in the shower.

December 1-2nd I shared a booth with my friend Sue Flanders at the American Swedish Institute's Julmarknad in Minneapolis, MN.

Sue is a talented potter and a co-author of two knitting books (Swedish Handknits and Norwegian Handknits).

What a wonderful venue and such friendly people! I sold all my felt pelts except for this beautiful Norwegian spelseau that I just made a couple weeks ago.

I would have made more product in November, but I was a bit preoccupied with house renovations and my studio being repainted. I love how bright and open the studio feels now.

We finally got our interior doors and window trim done. It's like having a whole new house!
Our foyer now has closet doors and French doors to the spare bedroom.

French doors and laundry area doors

After Christmas we'll tackle the spiral staircase! I can't wait to see it turn into reality. No more climbing the ladder. We plan to build a bookcase in the wall behind it and create a wine/root cellar downstairs.
The ewes and ram lambs are separated, I don't want any lambs in 2019. I still have lots of beautiful Gotland cross lambs from this spring. I'm looking forward to their first shearing. This is one of my favorite ewe lambs, Gretta. She is out of my oldest Shetland ewe, River Oaks Camille. So sweet!

And this is my favorite ram lamb, Frankie, on his birthday which was just two days after my mom passed away in June. He's out of Bertha, a Teeswater/BFL triplet ewe. I'm loving his fleece!

 Now that I can make felted fleeces in the shower, I might be able to make a dent in the pile of fleeces in my studio this winter rather than having to wait until spring when there will be 33 more to  do!

 Happy holidays  and thanks so much to all my friends, students and customers who have made this a wonderful year. I am looking forward to doing more shows as well as teaching and taking more classes in 2019.
Christmas cactus blooming again this year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Great Maker's Exchange, Sheep for sale

It's been a busy summer! My mom passed away in June and we hosted her celebration of life. I taught a class at the Textile Center in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Feltmaker's Guild, and then two classes at the Midwest Felting Symposium in Madison, and  felted fleece class at North House Folk School. I had a couple small groups here to do felted fleeces also.

This weekend I'll be at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis for the 2018 Great Maker's Exchange. This is a new venue for me, I will be demonstrating in my booth. Last weekend Sid and I did a booth at our friend's winery, Northern Hollow Winery in Grasston, MN.  We've only made it to the Isle Farmer's Market once this summer. So much going on all the time!

Oh my,  I never even posted the photos of the lambs born here this spring! Lambing in May was delightful, all the ewes and lambs did well (except for a stillborn triplet, so sad). But it sure was nice to go out in the morning with coffee to be with the newborn lambs and their mamas without having to bundle up. No heat lamps or chilled lambs. And fly strike was not an issue.

So now I have 20 Gotland cross lambs of varying colors and patterns. There are 10 ewe lambs and 10 ram lambs. I have wethered four of the ram lambs already. The other six will be done next week unless someone would like a breeding ram for a fiber flock. There are some nice contenders for that job! I have two of each sex in white, black, gulmoget (mouflon), and English blue, also three Ag grey, and just one that is brown based. There were the quietest lambs I've ever had -- and so friendly!
I can't wait to see how their fleeces turn out.

But I will have to sell some ewes in order to retain the ewe lambs.
So that brings me to my sales list. All sheep are priced from $100 to $150.
I have five ewes to sell and two wethers as well as the 10 male Gotland cross lambs.
First of all, I have Wanda, the Wensleydale and her twin daughters and a wethered son.
Wanda is 5 years old, 67% Wensleydale/33% BFL. She has lambed twins twice without any issues. She's calm and quiet. Her fleece is wonderful for making cobweb felt or just using as locks. $100
Her 2015 twin daughters and wethered 2016 twin son, are 47% Teeswater.  They all have beautiful long lustrous locks. I just rinse and use the locks in felting projects, but they would be great for spinning art yarn too. $150 each

Cookie and Candy, 50% Shetland, 47% Teeswater, white, 2 years old, twins, both had singles unassisted as first time mothers. Their fleeces are quite soft, not as purly as their Teeswater genetics would suggest. $125 each
Arnie, is 62% Gotland and 38% Shetland, he''s a yearling wether, very friendly. I rooed him this spring. Again, Arnie's fleece is very soft blue grey, not purly. $125

And there are 10 male Gotland lambs of various colors priced from $100 to $125 each. I can't say what their fleeces will be like yet. But Curly (out of one of the Teeswater/Wensleydale/BFL ewes mentioned above) is most promising for long purly locks. I would sell him as a breeding ram only.  I will keep him for myself if he's wethered.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Classes in 2018, washing locks, and lambs on the way!

I had a great time teaching the Ecoprinted Nunofelt lampshade class at North House Folk School in February. It was my first time attending the Northern Fibers Retreat weekend in Grand Marais and it didn't disappoint.
Saturday was absolutely beautiful and we were treated to a snowstorm on Sunday. Lake Superior is stunning in the wintertime!

I had a wonderful group of students in my class. There was plenty of time and space to complete our lampshades and as well as nunofelt and bundle some scarves on Sunday while the lampshades were simmering and the snow was falling.
They all turned out so beautiful!
This is the sample I made for the class. I love the soft, warm light it gives the room.

I had surgery to remove a hyperactive parathyroid right after we got home from Grand Marais. What a relief it is to have the surgery done! I had a very stiff and sore neck for a week, but now that I'm almost three weeks post-op, the only pain is when I touch the incision area or when I forget I even had surgery and I stretch my neck too far.

Hopefully I will continue to feel better and regain my energy and focus as the weeks go by. My blood tests still show a high level of parathyroid hormone, but my calcium is normal (yes!). I haven't talked to the surgeon yet, but I think they will continue to monitor my blood calcium level and if it goes up again, there is a possibility that I could have another overactive gland or two. I hope not. I want to get back to my old self right away!

Anyway, I am keeping my schedule light for this year. I didn't sign up to teach at Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival or the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival for 2018. I am teaching a special Cobweb Felt lampshade class for members of the Minnesota Feltmaker's Guild at the Textile Center in Minneapolis on June 10th and two classes (Raw Felted Fleeces and Sheep Locks Hoodie) at the Midwest Felting Symposium June 21-24th.  I will also teach another felted fleece class at North House Folk School July 21-22.

I am still available to teach classes in my studio here in Ogilvie also. If you are interested, just shoot me an email and we can figure out a date. Sid and I really enjoy having visitors here to felt and entertain. I am thinking Sid should teach some cooking classes this summer. All the students seem to love his cooking!
I am expecting lots of Gotland-sired lambs to arrive starting in mid-May and ending June 10th. It will be fun to have lambs again and see some of my maiden ewes take on maternal roles. The last ram I used only sired white lambs, so I am excited to see some color and possibly some gulmoget patterns in the lambs this year.

We will be shearing in April, in the meantime I am washing fleeces by rinsing the locks. I found out  that my long-stapled Teeswater cross fleeces are best cleaned by rinsing well under running water and then just a quick 10 minute dip in hot soapy water before being rinsed again. Actually, it was a FaceBook post that showed how this woman simply rinsed a small group of locks clean under running water. I had always heard that you never run water over your fleece or it will felt. But I royally felted my Teeswater/BFL/Finn fleeces the first time around when I tried to wash them in the usual manner of letting them soak in hot soapy water for an hour then rinse repeatedly until the rinse water is clear. That was a disaster! Those 1/4 Finn fleeces are so beautiful and lustrous, what a waste it was. Anyway, I can wash/rinse a whole fleece in less than one hour doing it my new way. So the fleeces I have saved for washed locks are finally getting done. I still have plenty to make into felted fleeces when the weather warms up.

Spring can't be far off

We have a broody hen... the sheep are sheared... and it's St. Patrick's Day! We're heading to our friends' winer...