Thursday, October 28, 2010

A night without Electricity and a new determination

After spending Tuesday night with no electricity, I was determined to make good use of the daylight on Wednesday.  I made another hat from my Black Shetland top and a wool/angora blend batt that I bought from Leslie Sampson at the Midwest Felting Symposium. The good thing about making a hat is that when you're done, you're done -- except for sewing in a label and maybe an embellishment. I've also been working some felt pieces for two upcoming art shows and I'm knee deep in mat board and frames.

Stan was out of state duck hunting for the past few days. Not good timing with the nasty weather we've been having.  Our yard is full of big branches from the willow trees. I suppose that a fallen tree was what knocked out the power on Tuesday night for several hours.  I'm thinking that is the first time in my life that I've been home all alone (except for the dog and two cats) when the power went off at night. Growing up the fifth in a family of eight children and then marrying and starting a family in my twenties, I really haven't been alone as much as I am these days.  And I'm not complaining, now that the boys are gone, I am free to do all the things I've always dreamed of doing. And my cluttered up house is strewn with those things. :-)

Anyway, back to the dark and stormy night -- using my digital camera for light, I managed to find some matches stowed away with my Ukrainian egg decorating supplies. And I found candles stashed away in various cupboards.   Eventually I had candle light in the living room and kitchen.  Then it was like in the horror movies, me going down in the basement holding a candle. And when I finally found a flashlight in the basement, I headed out into the stormy night to close up the geese and check on the sheep. 

Luckily there were no axe murderers in the garage or out in the barn, but it was kind of spooky with the garage door rattling and the wind and rain whipping my face.  No, my sheep were NOT standing out in the weather like some people report theirs do.  My sheep have the good sense to come in out of the rain and the near hurricane force winds. Now the geese are another story, they will stand out in the rain and the hail, heads pointing to the sky and just weather the storm.  But at least they were back inside their pen and I locked them in for safety from predators.

I am really glad to have adequate shelter for all my sheep and birds -- the calf huts, the pole barn and the lean to -- it makes me feel better knowing that none of them have to stay outside in really bad weather.

After making sure all the outside animals were locked up for the night, I came back in to my candlelit living room and kitchen.  The smell of the candles was wonderful, I got out my Louet S51 and started spinning some BFL top.  The winds howling outside, the wheel turning, the quiet repetition of the treadling, and the cats curled up in the periphery of the candle light, it was actually pretty nice!  I did my yoga and spun a little more yarn.  The lights flickered on intrusively for a second.  I was kind of glad that they didn't stay on.  I went around and made sure all the switches were set in the off position before turning in for the night around 9:45.  My 5 pound wool comforter kept me warm until the electricity came back on during the night. 

Makes me think about what it would be like to slow down, enjoy the silence and being in the moment more often.  So Wednesday the TV stayed off and the only radio I listened to was classical music as I was felting that hat.  Which, by the way, was sheer joy with the aid of the felt rolling machine. I am finally getting the hang of how best to use it.  And it's a good thing because there's lots more felting to be done around here!

I'll close with a shot of the Shetland gander. It's hard to tell what really goes on inside that little pea brain of his.  But he is kind of cute with that inquisitive nature. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Get Away to the North Shore/Harwell's Bad Morning

Here's a shot of Stan during our recent jaunt up to Grand Marais, MN.  This was taken on artist's point and I don't need to tell you that I didn't go up there myself.  I know it wasn't dangerous or hard to get up there, I'm just not a fan of heights. While I appreciate the awesome beauty of the lakeshore and the rocks, I have to say, I find that landscape cold and heartless and somewhat frightening.

I've never liked heights, boats, bridges, or airplanes. I just like to keep my firmly feet on the ground.  So the walk along the top of the wall out to the lighthouse had me taking baby steps and trying not to look out at the vast expanse of water on one side or down at the rocks below on the other. 
Then yesterday morning the sunlight coming through the clouds shining on the ram pen caught my eye and I had to get out there to photograph it.  The colors were amazing, but the lighting was too low and this is what I got...I'd love to do a painting of it.  That's Socks on the left, he's Lena's twin brother...on the right is Harwell, the fence jumper. 
I found Harwll Saturday morning hanging from the fence by one hopelessly tangled back hoof.  At first I thought he was dead - I didn't know how long he had been hanging there. It was awful.  I ran and got the hoof trimmer to cut the panel away from the post that was holding it up and when I did, his body flopped to the ground.  Then the panel was at an even worse angle for his ankle.  I had all I could do to position the 16 foot hog panel in such a way that I could extract his hoof without breaking it.  He was in obvious pain, only making a few groaning noises as I worked on his hoof.  Once I got it loose he just rolled onto his back and laid there.  I rolled him to one side and ran into the house for NutriDrench, Banamine, Vitamin B Complex and a quick call to the vet leaving a message for her to call me back.

When I returned he was on his back again, I flipped him to the other side and that seemed to help a lot. His head came up and I gave him some NutriDrench.  I was starting to get the Banamine injection drawn when the hussy Shetland ewes came closer to the action, I couldn't believe that Harwell got to his feet and tried to limp toward them!  I got them out of there and offered him a little alfalfa hay.  He must not have been hanging upside down long, because he had a good appetite.  The vet called back and advised Banamine twice a day for three days to keep the swelling down and to keep him separated from the ewes for a while.

I gave him one shot of Banamine and he was feeling pretty good, his limp was much better and he even jumped that same fence again as I was tying it back up!  He was after Hattie, our oldest Shetland ewe.  She was very happy to stay with him while I got the rest of the Shetland ewes safely behind a 6 foot high fence as far away from the boys' pen as I could get.  So all is well that ends well, looks like we will have some Shetland Mule lambs in March along with the BFL lambs.  I turned most of my panels so the narrow spacing is at the top now and we were able to take our trip as planned the next morning without having to worry about more Banamine injections. Harwell still has a slight limp, but he jumps between  ram and ewe pens at will. I'm just glad the Shetland ewes are all safely behind the tall fence.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lamb Stew

If only you could smell this through the computer...
We love lamb stew.  Now that the weather is cooler, we have been eating good again.

Here is the recipe I use for lamb stew, it's very easy and made from ingredients I normally keep on hand.

1 lb lamb stew meat (coat in flour - seasoned with your choice, I use Lawry's seasoning salt and brown in a small amount of hot fat/oil)
Add 3 cups water, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cover and simmer on low for about an hour.  Add 4 medium sized sliced carrots and 4 medium sized potatoes, pared and cubed, a medium chopped onion, and 1 tsp dried crushed basil (or as much as you like).  Cook uncovered for about 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Add 10 oz. frozen peas (or 1 can peas, drained) and parsley (if desired).  Cook about 5 minutes and it's done.  Yummm! 
I usually add a couple more cups of water when I add the vegetables.

No need to keep obnoxius rams around when there's lamb stew to be had!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Chickens!!!


Thanks so much to Kim for gifting me with her beautiful young flock of Buff Chanteclers.  I picked them up on Thursday last week and they are slowly but surely making themselves at home here.

I'm sorry that Kim's plans to build a new chicken coop for them to live in this winter didn't work out,  but that's where I came in.  My flock is down to just three old hens who have survived the coyotes and fox strikes. I'll try to keep these guys safe. 
There are six hens and a one-eyed rooster.  That's him and his good eye in the photo above. I am hoping to hatch out some purebred Buff Chantecler chicks next spring -- or better yet, letting them hatch out their own chicks. I've never had Chantecler chickens before but from what I've read, their claim to fame is that they are so winter hardy and lay well through the winter.  We're only getting one egg a day from the old girls right now (if we're lucky), so I can't wait for them to start laying.

Monday, October 04, 2010

BFL Breeding Group Together/New Polled Shetland ram

Harwell decided it was time to join the ewes again. As I was rushing through feeding the sheep before heading out to the exhibit on Saturday morning, I heard the unmistakeable nicker of an amorous ram in the ewe pen.  Dang, that ram had done it again!   I don't know exactly how he does it, but I'm pretty sure he just jumps over the fence.  I really didn't want him anywhere near my yearling Shetland ewes or the Shetland ewe lambs, so I had to take the time to get him and the BFL ewes into a separate pen.

Harwell had this same idea about a month ago. I let him stay with the BFL ewes for a week then.  They like being with him, and they look so good together, but I'm really worried about lambing out BFLs in temps of 20 below next February.  Well, we're in October now and lambs would be born in early March, so I'll let them stay together.  I realize March temps can be 20 below too, but I'll just have to hope for the best.

I'm very excited about getting Sommerang Hansel, a polled grey (non-Ag) gulmoget ram from Meghan Namaste in late November.  I saw him at Jefferson and was disappointed to find out he had already been sold (to Meghan).  Well, you just never know how things will turn out, Meghan has agreed to sell him to me after she's done using him this fall!  I have three black factored gulmoget yearlings to breed him to and one black ewe (River Oaks Hattie).  All but one of my ewes carry moorit for sure, and so does Hansel, so I should definitely get some moorit gulmoget lambs in the spring!  And hopefully some full polled boys with fabulous fleece. Fingers crossed! 

On the BFL lamb wish list, I'm hoping for lots of white lambs in the spring.  Harwell is white but carries color and so do both my white ewes, but I'm hoping the white comes through more than the color next year.  I just can't seem to get enough white BFL fleeces.  I don't mind healthy singles from the BFLs, but twins would be a nice change of pace. 

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Exposing Myself...

When one of the visitors at my FeltUnited exhibit yesterday used the above term and I knew I had the title for this blog post. :-)  Yes, the purpose of the exhibit was not only to expose myself and my work to the public, but also to expose visitors to felt and all the wonderful things you can do with it.  I have to say, felt just speaks for itself. 

Back in March, I wrote a grant application to purchase a felt rolling machine. My plan was to get the rolling machine in July, figure out how to use it in August and September and then do a community rug project for FeltUnited Day.  I really wanted to incoporate FeltUnited Day into the plan because being an international celebration of felt, it's such a wonderful way of uniting felters the world over.  But that meant that I had only one week between events to make my first rug ever and get an exhibit of my work ready for display. 

I didn't know back in March that I would be working and selling lots of things in the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers booth at the State Fair, or that I would be judging the Handspun Skeins at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival, or that I would be travelling to meetings and in the midst of serious decision-making with the Shepherd's Harvest planning committee. But in order to fulfill my grant project, that rug was getting made last week one way or another.  And I have to say, it was quite a challenge at times. Two pounds of wool and too much water added made for some technical difficulties.  Which was actually a very good learning experience. Here it is:
Yes, it's primitive, but it's a rug! I love the colors, and I love walking on it.  Not that I've gotten to do much of that yet because I don't want to get it all dirty.  It still needs to hang at the elementary school so the kids who worked on creating the pre-felt for it can see the fruits of their labor. 

The blue background was done in two sections in the kiddie pool and the other colors were cut out of the prefelts people made in the ziplock bags last weekend.  I needled them loosely onto a one pound batt of wool that I had dyed green.  The entire rug is made of  wool from my Shetland Mules (50/50 Shetland/Bluefaced Leicester).  It took the dyes well and felted well.


I wetted it down (too much) and tried to roll it up and get it downstairs without getting susdy water all over my house.
After several hours of rolling and unrolling, flipping and turning and rolling some more, the felting was done and the fulling was underway.  I love the fulling process, it involves squeezing and dropping the wet soapy felt until it shrinks down and starts to pucker up a bit.

These three worked on making prefelts last week and I was happy to see them and their mom come to see the finished rug.  There are lots of prefelts leftover, I could make a whole SERIES of rugs with them - and I just might!

 This is my friend Sue, who helped me get the exhibit set up and served the refreshments. I always appreciate Sue's help and excellent listening skills. I don't look forward to her and Toby heading south for the winter, but somehow I'll manage.

Some of my pieces were works in progress, like the nuno-felt vest above.  I just need to hem the silk and finish up the shawl collar. The fabric for this vest was one of my first projects on the rolling machine.
Thanks to Barb for sticking around for the nuno-felting demo. Thanks to everyone for coming including my aunt and uncle from St. Paul, MN.  There was even a visitor from from Hungary! 




Now that FeltUnited Day is over, I look forward to exploring more feltmaking on the rolling machine - including more garments and more rugs. 

This activity is funded, in part, by a grant from the East Central Arts Regional Arts Council with funds provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008.