Thursday, January 20, 2011

Proto-type Saddle Pad

Well, this blog is about the highs AND lows of our life here on the farm. Today was was a "so-so"!
For some time now I have been working on making a saddle blanket/pad for my horse. I saw some felted wool ones in a catalog, and as I have been doing machine felting for some time, I thought, "Why couldn't I make one? I mean, why pay someone else for something you can do for yourself? Right? So, I scrounged up some wool I had left over from another project, and got started. I did end up buying some more yarn (different type and colors, but same weight and ply) in order to finish. I just barely had enough of the left over to make the front (I knew it would have to be doubled as a single layer of the weight of yarn I had would not be thick enough) so what I bought made up the back. I crocheted it as all one piece, and then folded it over and tacked it together.

Here is the peice as crocheted, but not yet trimmed and tacked.

Here is the top after being tacked and trimmed and before felting.

Here is the back before felting.

Okay, it came out just a little bit "wonky", but that is all right. I thought that might happen as the front and back (top and bottom?) were different yarns, and because it was a double layer, I wondered if the two layers would separate a bit. I think it is still going to be usable for me, but I wouldn't try to sell any like this. That's why it's a "proto-type"! I learned a lot from making it, I thought a lot about how I would do things differently next time, and I have some ideas of how I might overcome these issues the next time.

Here's the top after felting. I think some weight and time will help "press" out some of the rumples.

And, here is the bottom side. It's a bit wonkier than the top, but softer.

Of course, I would have loved for it to have come out perfectly, but I am not unhappy with the outcome as it is. I definately think it is worth trying to make one with my Icelandic wool yarn (when I get some spun)...but with my ideas for improving the finished product.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Big Boots to Fill

I got new boots this week.
That may not be exciting news to many of you...but let me tell you why these boots mean so much to me.
Here's one of the boots on my foot.
When we were living in Africa (2001 through 2005), I came across a TV series out of Australia called MCLEOD'S DAUGHTERS. It was about two sisters who inherited their dad's sheep and cattle ranch in the Outback. Okay, it WAS a bit soap-opera-ish...and I usually don't like that sort of thing. BUT, there wasn't much else to watch in Africa, AND, this was was like real life. It was the life that, in my wildest dreams, would be my life! At the time, I never would have believed that the realization of this dream would actually be mine within the next several (less than 10) years. Okay, it's Missouri, not Australia, and it's 80 acres, not thousands, and I have 6 sheep, not hundreds, and I have one horse, not dozens, and I don't have any cows (yet). But, hey, it's MINE and I love it! And I do have "chooks"!
This is what I see when I look down.

In one episode of the first season of the show, the country sister (Claire) buys her city sister (Tess) a pair of boots. I knew at that moment that, one day, I would have a pair of those boots! Those were not just boots, those were a symbol of Tess's being accepted as a valid part of the ranch (the ranch is run by all women, by the way). She had "arrived".
Here's what the boots look like if I pull my pants leg up.

My daughter, Jessica, who lives in Germany with her husband, James (who is in the U.S. Air Force), and four (soon to be five) kiddos, went to a bazaar at the air base. At the bazaar was an Australian vendor. The vendor was selling all kinds of Aussie stuff: hats, boots, coats (you know, those cool drovers' coats). Well, they convinced her that the boots were the ones the women wore in the series (I won't mention the brand...I'm sure they are good boots, but they were NOT the right boots...they lied). So she got me a pair. She sent me a picture and I said "Take them back! Those are not THE boots." She didn't believe me, but she was a good daughter and took them back anyway! Hey, I wasn't spending that much money on the wrong boots! I wasn't sure I wanted to spend that much money on the RIGHT boots!
Since those were not the boots I wanted, I decided I would have to start searching for a pair of riding boots. I was willing to settle for boots that looked something like THE boots, since I had no idea what kind of boots THE boots were. I looked high and low (okay, I searched the internet). I asked a couple of boot enthusiasts I knew (Dee and Dee...okay, I asked one person two times) for advice. After being pointed in the right direction, and armed with some Christmas money from my MIL, I set out to find the boots I would buy. In my search, I happened upon a picture of a pair of boots that, the moment I saw them, I knew they were THE boots. I went back to that episode of the show (yes, I have the first five of the eight seasons on DVD...working on aquiring the rest) and checked to be sure...and in one scene (I had to pause, rewind, play in slow motion, over and over again, to get a really good look) there was a great shot of the side of the boot. And, on the heel you could just make out the logo "Blundstone". BINGO! JACKPOT! I WAS RIGHT!
Just one problem: they were SOOOO expensive! They were about 40 bucks more than what I had in Christmas money (well, what I had left after buying a really cool horse-training halter and a couple of books). I'd never spent that much money in my life on a pair of boots...or on any piece of apparel for that matter...IN MY LIFE! So, NOW what was I going to do? Now that I had found THE boots, how could I possibly settle for anything less? I did the only thing a girl can do...I consulted all my facebook friends! LOL! The response was overwhelming: "Buy the boots you really want".
I even asked my friend, Nicci, who is Australian and lives in Australia, if they really were great boots. She said she used to wear that brand all the time and they were absolutely as great as all that. In fact, she couldn't remember a pair EVER wearing out.
So, I got on the internet, credit card in hand, and proceeded to buy the boots. Just before I hit the "buy these boots now" button, I noticed a "get these boots cheaper" button! "Hmmm...let's have a look." The same store had these boots for WAY (60 bucks) cheaper! The catch? Same hand-made construction, same integrity and performance, just a small blemish somewhere on the boot. Maybe a slight color variation, a scuff on the heel...something that rendered the boots not quite perfect according to the company's very high standards. This distributor only gets these "seconds" on occassion, and they don't usually have much selection available...but they must have got a good shipment of them just recently because they had quite a few available, and they had the exact style(Blundstone 62's), color (Stout Brown), and size (you don't really want to know this) that I wanted. So, with shaking hands, I did it! I went for it! I ordered my boots, THE boots!
And here they are: THE boots.

I love them! They are perfect. I love how the pull tabs make it easier to pull them on. I love how they feel (so comfy) and how they look (plain and simple, but classic). And I even love that they are pre-blemished (the only thing I could find was a tiny, barely visible, superficial spot on the side of one of the boots). I have no fear of wearing them out to the barn to work in, or going riding in, because they might get a scuff or a mark (I mean, they were pretty expensive, even with the huge discount...but it was Christmas money, right?), which would have just KILLED me...IF they were perfect and I had paid full price.
Here's me in my boots.

One of the things I liked about the show was that the women looked real. They were all lovely women, but they weren't perfect. They had crooked teeth, messy hair, dirty faces, sloppy shirts. How women who work on farms and ranches really do look most of the time! How I look most of the time these days!
So, that's the story of my boots. I am already so blessed. These boots are the icing on the cake for me. I may not conquer the world in these boots...but they do make me feel like I've arrived!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dogs On Ice

Milly and Sheba love playing on the ice. The little guy, "Jock" isn't too keen, though! He got out on it once and laid down. After that, he wouldn't get back on it for anything!
Greg loves sliding around on the pond almost as much as the puppies do!
But I prefer to keep my feet on the ground!

Jock's gonna stick with with me! Isn't he adorable?
Time to head back to the house. Such good doggies.

I Love This Land

The large pond is completely iced over now. It looks like glass. Yesterday the sun was shining, and even though it was cold, it was a perfect day for hiking down around the pond and for taking pictures. Nothing makes me happier than being out on my land.
As you can see, there are still hay bales sitting all over the place. We have heard through the grapevine they are to be picked up this week, but we will see. Even though we'd like to be paid for the hay and get them out of here, I think they look kinda cool sitting around. But, we do need them gone, and there will be more next year!
The bridge that spans the north end of the big pond is definately one of the neatest "extra" features on the place. It was so cool this past fall when some of the grandkids were standing on it with their little fishing poles dangling down in the water. Even Grandma (that's me) did a little jigging and caught a little bass!
I love hills! I knew when I saw this place it was exactly what I was looking for! I didn't really even care what the house was long as it was was all about the land for me! And guess what! Even the house has hills! Yes, the floors do roll a bit. In one of the bedrooms upstairs it's so bad you feel almost like you are walking in a fun house when you walk across the floor! LOL! But I don't care...that can all be fixed. The important thing is, I have my hills!

And check out this gorgeous sunset! What a way to end a perfectly wonderful day.