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.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Promise of Things to Come...

Love is in the air! 
Gunnar, the Gotland ram from Heidi Quist's flock, arrived for duty on Saturday, December 23rd.
If all goes well, I will be inundated with lambs around May17th, right after Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival. Gunnar's getting 15 ewes in his breeding pen, so I should have lots of Gotland cross lambs in 2018.  Included in his breeding group are nine Teeswater cross ewes, two Shetland ewes (River Oaks Camille and her daughter Mystery), two Shetland/BFL ewes, Roxie, my Finn/BFL ewe, and Wanda, my Wensleydale/BFL ewe. In the photo above, Gunnar is getting to know Wanda's 2015 daughter, #123. Look as those fleeces!

Sid and I bottled up another batch of Limoncello. We gave a few bottles as Christmas gifts and have a lot left to enjoy ourselves. I hadn't ever had it before I met Sid. He had a gallon jar of lemon peelings in alcohol for months when we first started going out. I didn't exactly know what it was for, but when he removed the peelings and mixed up lemony alcohol with simple syrup I was hooked. It's great for an after or before dinner drink. Aids digestion. :-)
I always like to start a batch about 3 months before I run out. I usually make a batch using two 750ml bottles of neutral spirits such as Everclear or Vodka. I peel about a dozen lemons, being careful to just get the yellow part of skin, not the white part.
After I put the peelings in a gallon jar, I just pour the spirits on top, cover and let sit until the color is gone from the peelings. I usually let it sit a few months, but I think a few weeks would work too.
On a side note, I usually squeeze the lemons and freeze the juice in an ice cube tray for easy homemade lemonade later.
When you're ready to make your limoncello, mix up batch of simple syrup. The simple syrup should be 50/50 water and sugar in an amount equal to the lemon liquor (minus the peelings). Bring the simple syrup to a boil and simmer until it looks clear. Then let it cool. When it's room temperature, just blend it with the lemon liquor, stir and bottle.
Serve over ice. You may want to dilute it with more water for a very light, refreshing drink that still packs a bit of a punch.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas, Skinfell, and Stones

It's almost Christmas and life has been busy for Sid and I. This is our third Christmas together in our house in Ogilvie. He called the place Terrapin Ridge (for all the turtles that come up from the backwaters of Ann Lake to lay their eggs every spring) and I call it River Oaks West, since I moved my entire flock and my studio here in June of 2015.
My first Christmas here, Sid informed me that his tradition is to have a living Christmas tree. I was fine with that because I hate the thought of killing a tree for a few weeks of decoration. For several years, I used my beautiful Norfolk Island Pine houseplant as a Christmas tree. Finally it got too big for our little house and I had to rehome it. Anyway, Sid and I decided to get a Norfolk Island Pine, but when we went looking for one at the usual spots, there were none to be found except for a very expensive one at the local florist. So Sid ordered one from Amazon, it was so little and cute! This year it's at least three times the size and it holds lots of decorations. The only trouble is, it leans toward the light so I have to keep turning it.

I entered my piece, "A Wee Bit Sheepish" in the Textile Center's Common Thread member's show. Just adding my signature and care tag today and it will be delivered tomorrow.  The show runs from January 8 to March 10, 2018 at the Textile Center in Minneapolis. Be sure to stop in if you get a chance, there are well over 100 fiber artists exhibiting a wide array of fiber art.

I also had three pieces in the "Begin/Continue Exhibit" of instructor's work at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. The pieces included this eco-printed nunofelt wall piece (only in a flat presentation), a black gulmoget Shetland felted fleece and a white raw locks collar with a wax-resist eggshell brooch.

In mid-November I wound up in the ER of our local hospital with kidney stones. I wasn't sure what it was the first time it happened. That only lasted about 30 minutes and I guessed maybe I had a kidney stone because they run in my family. But the second time it happened, the pain wouldn't stop. There was no position I could be comfortable in and I was vomiting. It was horrible, like labor pains that don't stop. We finally decided a trip to the ER was in order around 10:30 p.m. The hospital staff was very nice. They confirmed my suspicions of a kidney stone. They gave me IV painkillers and did x-rays, blood tests and urine tests then sent me home with painkillers and a basket to collect the stone if it passed before I had surgery in two days.  So two days later the urologist removed multiple stones and inserted a stent between my kidney and bladder that stayed in for  2.5 weeks (very uncomfortable, more painkillers!).  Then I had another surgery to remove the stent and break up the remaining stones with shock waves. I felt much better after that, no more painkillers.

The cause of my stones turned out to be primary hyperparathyroidism. Parathyroid hormone controls the level of calcium circulating in the blood. For some reason, usually a non-cancerous tumor, one or more of the glands doesn't shut down producing the hormone when the proper calcium level is reached. The result is that calcium is then taken from the bones and the excess calcium in the blood eventually detrimentally affects organs like the kidneys, heart, brain, and of course the bones. 
It's most commonly diagnosed in women between 50 and 60. My blood levels of calcium were higher than they should be. The ER doctor told me to follow up with my regular doctor who did more blood testing and found that my blood level of parathyroid hormone was way too high. So he referred me to a surgeon who ordered more tests and told me I would need surgery to remove the overactive parathyroid gland(s). The test results were consistent with hyperparathyroidism diagnosis, but the ultrasound and nuclear medicine scan failed to show which of the four parathyroid glands was the culprit. So the surgeon referred me to an ENT in the Twin Cities who does a lot of hyperparathyroid cases. I see him tomorrow. I am so anxious to get this taken care of! Apparently I have had this condition for a few years already. My bones are losing density as I type this. Hyperparathyroidism if left unchecked can lead to kidney stones (and kidney failure), heart attack and stroke, osteoporosis, cancer, depression, inability to concentrate, and psychosis. Yikes! Apparently it also causes weight gain, no wonder I have been steadily adding pounds the past couple years. I thought it was all Sid's fault for being such a good cook. Once the offending parathyroid gland(s) is/are removed, the condition is cured. Yay! And then calcium and vitamin D supplements are given to help restore bone loss.

On a more cheerful note, Sid has given me my Christmas present already, it's a class have been dying to take -- Skinfelling with Karen Aakre at the Milan Village Arts School next April.  You can check it out with this link.

I first heard of Skinfell from a Swedish lady who took my felted fleece class in 2016. They sounded wonderful and I have been thinking of ways to incorporate the look of skinfell in my felted pelts.  But now Sid and I are learning how to tan our own sheepskins and skinfell would be a great way to add value and make them even more beautiful. 

If all goes well with the ENT tomorrow, I am planning to put Gunnar, a Gotland ram from Heidi Quist's flock, in with my 16 ewes this weekend for late May lambs in 2018. Gotland hides are the best for skinfell and the Gotland fleeces are wonderful for felt pelts! It all seems to come together...

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Winter Solstice, Felice Navidad, Happy Hannukah, etc. to all!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Something Fun and just in Time for Halloween

After a little trial and error, well actually a lot of trail and error -- I'll do better next time -- I came up with this nice warm and wooly sheep hood/hat.

Made of Teeswater locks with a Bluefaced Leicester base, wet felted and needle felted. I still need to add a few finishing touches and a closure under the chin, but I like it so far.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Shetland, Shepherd's Harvest and New Sheep!

It's already mid-July and I am so behind! The garden didn't even get planted until July 1st. I hope we have a late frost again this year.
I had a wonderful 11 days in Scotland in May, including 9 days in Shetland at a felting retreat with Fiona Duthie! It was an amazing trip -- such a beautiful, peaceful place.

Fiona had our days all planned out and we had plenty of time for felting in some fabulous places.
We ate so well, learned about the history of Shetland, the land, the art, the sheep, and the people. Each day was better than the one before. I would love to go back!
Colorful door at the Voxner Outdoor Center opens to the beautiful scene above.

Scalloway castle

A Shetland ewe and lamb on the island of Mousa.

Heading back to the ferry after visiting the broche on Mousa. This place felt like heaven to me.

Finishing up our felt sculptures at the Sumburgh Head lighthouse.

Some of the sculptures.

I managed to photograph these two puffins before they flew off. The cliffs at Sumburgh Head are home to thousands of birds.

Uradale farm Shetlands

I was able to purchase four natural colored Shetland fleeces from Uradale Farm. I shipped them home and I've finished one so far. The color is stunning on it. I will felt them all this summer.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by my booth at Shepherd's Harvest and/or took my Cobweb Felt Floor lamp class. It's always so much fun reconnecting with people at Shepherd's Harvest!

As you may know, I didn't breed any of my ewes last fall since I was going to Shetland. Instead, I picked out the sweetest little 87.5% Gotland ram lamb from Heidi Quist, of Prairie Willows Farm. He was such a stunner, I couldn't resist. But when Heidi mentioned how great his fleece is turning out I decided I should let her keep him so he could be registered and used to his full potential. I will lease him or his dad this fall. That way I won't have a ram pen to deal with all winter.

So, to get my Gotland lamb fix I picked out Anna, a Gotland/Shetland ewe and her wethered twin brother.  They are both so friendly and well traveled already. They made the trip to Grand Marais and North House Folk School along with their mother during June.

Sid had his knee replaced June 5th. He's doing very well. He still has pain, but he's done with physical therapy and he's getting around better than he has in the past two years.

Oh,and I can't forget to mention the ducklings and turkeys. Our old Kahki Campbell duck hatched out a clutch of 10 ducklings in June. They have grown so fast. Then the Saxony duck hatched out a single duckling two weeks ago. It's so cute to see the little one trekking around with its older brothers and sisters. Thankfully their father is fine with them (some drakes will kill ducklings) and the whole family can be seen strolling about the yard.

Sid ordered 18 heritage breed turkey poults last winter. They arrived the first week of May. We sold 8 of them and kept ten -- five Naragansett and five Bourbon Reds. But when the weather got hot, we lost 4 of them within about 10 days. The surviving six are free ranging with the rest of the poultry now. I love their voices and their cautious ways. 

Next time, more about the felted fleece classes I taught in Grand Marais and here at my studio in July. I'll leave you with this selfie of Sid and I camping in Lake Superior National Forest.

'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 bloo...