Saturday, February 26, 2011

From Sheep to Yarn, On a Shoestring

Our sheep were shorn in late October. I had visions of skirting fleeces all winter long. But, it got too cold to sit more than 3 feet from the only heat source in the whole house. Even at three feet, I am usually sporting two layers (or more) from neck to toe and sitting underneath a blanket or two, often wearing gloves or fingerless mittens (sometimes both) if I'm knitting or crocheting. Otherwise my hands are tucked under my thighs, under the blanket to keep warm!
Besides that issue (which I hope will be resolved by next winter), I lost motivation to get all the fleeces skirted as I have not been able to get a spinning wheel yet. I figured I had two options: #1-have 7 un-skirted fleeces sitting in pillowcases in the cedar chest upstairs, waiting for warmer days to be dealt with; or #2-suffer the cold, skirt and wash all the fleeces, and have them sitting in pillowcases in the cedar chest waiting to be carded and spun! I went with option #1!
I did manage to get three of the seven fleeces skirted before it got miserably cold. However, I got frustrated with having even 3 skirted fleeces just sitting there and nothing I could do with them. I kept trying to come up with some way I could get some of my wool spun. I even considered sending it off to a mill to have it all done for me...but I really wanted to process my first fleeces from the sheep to the yarn myself by hand. Besides, sending it to the mill would be very expensive.
I have been searching the internet most of the winter for ideas. I've been asking friends for ideas. I've been racking my brain for ideas. Then, one day, I got an idea! I had seen some fleece combs on the internet and thought they looked an awful lot like my dog combs! And I remembered I had a spindle I had bought years ago, but never really learned to use properly, and I was sure I still had it. It had to be packed away in a box from our last move. So, I decided I would first hunt down that spindle. I mean, what would be the point of washing and preparing a fleece if I no longer actually had the spindle? Then I would just have a skirted, washed and dried fleece sitting in a bag in get the picture! Of course, it wasn't where I first thought it would be...but it WAS in the last place I looked!
Well, once I found the spindle, I had to do a little adjustment to it (it needed a hook), and then I washed up some fleece from Zinnia (the ewe I lost right after shearing to an attempted escape-gone-bad).

The fleece took forever to dry in this cold, but I took the time to watch some videos on You Tube about using a drop spindle. And, finally, I had some nice locks to comb. Here is a video of me combing some fleece.

Here's a bundle of combed fleece.

Here I am, using my newly-modified drop spindle. Okay, yes, Greg took three videos of me using it, but I was biting my tongue in every single one, so they didn't make it into my blog!

And here is my first product...a very nubbly "novelty" yarn.

It may not work well for socks, but I have big plans for this yarn!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Two New Ewes

Today Greg drove down to NW Arkansas to pick up two new, hopefully pregnant, ewes. It is always so exciting to get new additions to the farm.

Welcome to your new home, girls.

Checking out the new digs.

It didn't take long to find the sweet feed!

We have so many hopes and dreams for our homestead. Spring is just around the corner, now. Baby lambs will be coming. We're going to order some more laying hens and a couple of roosters, plus get an incubator so we can start hatching out chicks to sell. We'll be doing another shearing. Several friends are planning first-time visits. We've just talked to one of our neigbors and made arrangements for him to cut our hay for us this year. Plus he's agreed for Greg to help him with it, so Greg can learn how to do it, so we can someday do it for ourselves. And, I have my new training halter and my great new boots that are waiting to be broken in as soon as the ground dries up enough to let me get back out into the round pen with Skipper. I hope to be riding her again in no time! I'm also ready to start the next phase of training with the dogs.
There are a couple of other things in the wind, that, if they come to fruition, will just add to our many blessings and the hopes of a bright future here on Cavalli Run. I'm going to keep those close to the vest for now, though! If they come about, I will certainly be filling you all in on them as they happen!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Lowly Farm Cat

I am not a big cat lover. I don't hate cats, and there have been a few special cats in my life. But, for the most part, I can take them or leave them. My husband, however, adores cats. I have never known a man who loved cats as much as he does. I can look outside at any given minute and will see him walking around with one of our barn cats on his shoulder and, so it seems to me, having some profound conversation with it!
The cats don't get much more than an occassional mention on my blog, so I thought I'd dedicate one whole entry to them...for my husband's sake! They do, after all, perform one very important task on my farm...KILL MICE!
Mrs. Grey is a great mouser. We have had very little trouble with mice in the house since we got her. She hangs out on the deck, under the back porch, in the sheep barn, wherever she knows the nasty little creatures will be lurking.

It looks like she is hunting something up now!

This next cat is Tommy. Tommy is Mrs. Grey's only surviving kitten. Greg was sure he was a boy, and he reminded me of a cat we had when I was a kid. This cat had started life as a girl who we named Darling. But, as she grew older we discovered Darling was a he cat. So we changed his name to Tommy. Funny thing is, our new Tommy, turns out, is really a girl, not a boy! We checked again the other day because hubby was sure he had grown his little boy bits. Sorry, dear...but Tommy is a girl! She looks a lot like her momma.

Next is Padre. At first we called Padre, "Little Blackie". At the time we had Mr. Brown, Mrs. Grey, and Mrs. Black (his momma). So, we stuck with our pattern for awhile, but then we heard a story about a cat called "Father" because of it's all black coat except for a white spot on its "collar". Greg thought we should change his name to "Father", but I wanted to be a bit more original, so we call him "Padre"!

Next up is "Flitch". She is from Mrs. Black's second litter. Again, the only survivor of the first four kittens born here on the farm (the others came already born). She was pretty sick when we found her, so we brought her in, doctored her up, and now she is fine. "Flitch" is a combination of "Fluffy" (picked by our grandaughter, Lydia) and "Twitch" (picked by our daughter, Jessica). Her momma, Mrs. Black, is pretty wild and doesn't come too close to us humans, although we do still see her from time-to-time. Flitch, however, is pretty friendly.

This winter it got pretty cold out there in the barn, so Greg started working on putting together a variety of warmers to keep the different animals' water from freezing. He built a couple of differnt boxes and put light bulbs in them for some of the smaller waterers. He had an extra one, so he put it in his shop (where the cats hang out) and put a water bowl on top of it for them. Well, they kept knocking the bowl off and sleeping on the he built another one. One for them to sleep on, and one to keep their water thawed! I told you he loves his cats! He feeds them too much, too! I keep telling him they won't hunt mice if they aren't at least a little bit hungry! Here is their water on its warming box.

I've already mentioned in an earlier post about the cat that came in with the big blizzard. It seems to be de-clawed, and, if so, I'm gonna assume it's been fixed. I think it's a female. Or else it's a male with no bits. It's very fluffy so it's hard to tell for sure. It really likes the warming box. It's a very pretty cat, as cat's go. I've always wanted a fluffy orange cat. But, then, I'm really not much of a cat person.

Here are Tommy and the new cat enjoying the warming box together. They do look very sweet sitting there...but don't be taking me for a cat lover, because I'm not!

We haven't named the orange cat yet. I'm thinking "Fluffy", unless someone wants to offer me something better!
You may have noticed that I mentioned Mr. Brown, but didn't show a picture of him. Well, sadly, we haven't seen Mr. Brown for quite some time. He was a wanderer, but he always came back every day. We figure he must've met his demise in some way, or else he'd have come back by now. Poor Mr. Brown.
Really, I am NOT a cat lover!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Blizzard of 2011

Well,we've weathered our first blizzard on Cavalli Run.
The sheep were oblivious to it. They could have come into the barn if they'd wanted to, but they chose to stay out on the pasture instead. The sheep are those little fur balls eating off of the big things which, even though in a certain light appear to be giant sheep, are actually big, round hay bales.

The dogs are oblivious the weather, as well. All day long they wanted to run in and out, in and out, so they could go out and play in the snow.

The horse, donkey and chickens had the good sense to stay inside for the day!

The blizzard didn't hit us quite as hard as it did down south of us. However, we probably got a foot or so of snow. We didn't lose power, thankfully.

This morning it was very cold (4 degrees, not counting wind chill), but the snow had stopped and we had a beautiful sunrise.

We have some good-sized drifts from all that wind.

Not only did the storm bring in all that snow, it seems to have brought with it a new addition to the farm. We haven't seen this orange cat before! I guess the other cats don't mind sharing their food with this stranger.

Yes, I'd say we weathered our first blizzard quite well.