Hand Spun

Hand Spun
Campfire Hat

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Spinners' Study Group

Thursday night I attended my first Spinners' Study group as a Boise Valley Handweavers Guild member. Yay! I looked forward to it all week! Since I began to spin just over a year ago, I've only spun with other spinners twice. Once I spun with Carol Dunn at TOTS last October and then in February I attended the Winter Blues Spin In in Crouch, ID.  Both of those experiences were so good for me as a spinner. I learn something new every time I spin with someone else. However, all my spinning in between and since has been a solo deal. When I looked into the Guild and read their website, at first I didn't think I'd really be a good fit. I'm not a weaver. I crochet, knit, quilt and spin but I just can't see myself picking up another craft right now. Space and expense are the main reasons. Oh yeah... and time. :) But when I read that they have a spinners' study group that meets once a month, I decided to give it a shot and join. I'm so happy I did!

There were a lot of us there. I didn't do a head count but more than 10 of us showed up with wheels and some brought bobbin lace and other projects. Because I was the new kid on the block I did lots of listening but they were all so welcoming and warm that it wasn't long before I felt comfortable enough to take part in some of the conversations going on. Right now the study group isn't actually studying anything in particular we're just meeting to spin and talk. Like a quilting bee with spinning instead of quilting. I got to feel other people's fiber and ask them about it. Peggy, one of the ladies I sat next to showed me how to do a lovely long draw with a long stapled fiber. She was sooooooo good at it!! I decided that by this time next year I will be able to do a lovely even long draw single too. Peggy made it look easy but I know it will take me practice and more practice.
There were two other new spinners there besides myself and they were both spinning on Ashford Traditional wheels. Seeing their wheels made me miss my first wheel a bit. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Rowenna and Suzannah and wouldn't trade them for anything. But my first wheel was a Traddy and to me, just looking at that wheel says "spinning wheel". Plus, their wheels were stained a lovely dark and deep brown which was very attractive. Everyone was spinning something different too. Mitzi was using a Columbine wheel and it was pretty cool to watch. Her bobbins for that thing are enormous! I just had my Concord silk/merino blend wool and kept working on that. Jeff ordered some lovely Polwarth wool for me and I'm very excited to get it and see what it's like to spin. I listened to some of them talk about their fiber stash and I was in awe. I have lots of fiber and my sheep and rabbits are growing more for me every day but I have NOTHING like some of these ladies do. Amazing. I'd better hurry and stash more if I'm to catch up. lol!
It was a wonderful time with some wonderful ladies and I'm already looking forward to next month's meeting. I'll take better and more pictures next time to shows some of the other projects and wool the others are working on. Meanwhile, I feel the need to spin coming on. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Spinning at the Fair

Spinning in the Home Arts Division area
This year at the fair I had the huge privilege of demonstrating spinning in the Home Art Division (12). I've only spun in public once before at the folk life fair at Trailing of the Sheep last fall so it made me a little nervous thinking about doing it at the fair. But once I got set up and started spinning, as always, I become calm and focused and started enjoying myself. I was surprised at how many people stopped and had questions. Most of the men were curious about the mechanics of the wheel. Most of the kids wanted to know how I turned the fluffly stuff into "string" and I had at least 5 other people ask where they could get lessons. I referred them to my teacher of course, Cleo Gallinger at the Sheep Shed in Nampa,ID. I spun for 5 hours last Sunday and managed to fill a bobbin with 4oz. of wool and start plying.  I had some folks come back several times to check my progress because they wanted to see what plying looked like.
I had a really enjoyable afternoon spinning away, trying to answer questions intelligently and referring people who wanted to know more to viable resources. On the advice of my mentor Carol Dunn, I took a few skeins of my yarn so that people could touch them. Almost everything at the fair has the "Please Do Not Touch" label on it. A lot of people were interested in touching and feeling homespun yarn. I took some of my angora/wool yarn and a small tote of the blue angora I had drum carded.
The yarn I took for "hands-on" purposes  
Blue carded angora for touching

The kids who stopped by LOVED feeling the angora and everyone said it felt like cotton candy. If I'd known then what I know now, I would have taken some home made drop spindles and a little wool and given some of them the chance to spin on their own. Many people seemed daunted by the cost of a spinning wheel but were interested when I mentioned that you don't have to own a wheel to spin. If I get the chance to demonstrate spinning in public again, I'll have some quality home made drop spindles and a big hank of wool roving with me like in the picture below.
The good quality drop spindle my husband made for me with some fiber samples spun onto it

Meanwhile, I'm still basking in the delight of seeing so many people interested in this fiber art and willing to ask questions and possibly take the next step and learn spinning for themselves.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Baby Parrots Learn Their Names From Their Parents

Truly this is amazing! More proof that parrots are intelligent creatures! Check this out and be sure the watch the video.

Baby Parrots Learn Their Names From Their Parents

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blue Ribbon Yarn

I got brave. After spinning for a year I decided to do something to "nudge" my spinning and I entered 4 skeins of yarn into our fair.  I bought bamboo fiber and camel/silk fiber to spin specifically to fill two of the 4 categories I entered. I already had skeins spun for the other two categories. Submissions were due on Tuesday, judging was Wednesday, and today the fair opened. My husband took me and we made a bee line for the home arts division in the Expo building to see how the yarn did. And in no particular order....

Bamboo yarn
The purple and pink yarn top center is my bamboo entry for the plant fiber class in the colorway "Be Mine". It was the oddest fiber I think I've spun to date and I'm not really sure I'd do it again. I have no plans for this stuff so I'll attempt to sell it more than likely unless I put it in my cedar chest. Mom would have me stash it in the cedar chest I bet. The yarn itself turned out shiny and slick and lovely but it doesn't behave at all like an animal fiber would. Still - it turned out pretty enough for a blue ribbon. :)

Wool/silk blend
Next up is the blended fiber yarn category. I entered this merino wool/silk blend in the colorway "MacKenzie"  and it won a blue ribbon. I bought the fiber from The Fiber Addict and this is just a small portion of what I got from 8 oz of fiber. It will be a prayer shawl someday I think. :) 

Sheep wool yarn
In the back center of this picture is a dark blue yarn in the colorway "Peacock" that I spun from 100% wool fiber I bought from The Fiber Addict. It placed in first place (yay!) and is actually a smaller portion of a much larger skein I produced and have already started knitting from. This yarn is making a prayer shawl for a friend of mine at work.

"Other" yarn = camel/silk
Last but not least, I entered a skein of silk/baby camel down that I spun after buying the fiber online some time back. This yarn was going to be my masterpiece of TourDeFleece. I didn't actually spin in during TdF though because I ran out of time. This yarn was my last project completed. I loving call it "Saucy Wench" yarn. The fiber was lovely to look at, soft as buttercream to the touch, BUT IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTROL! Just like a saucy wench. lol! I really had a hard time spinning this fiber into an even, uniform single. Plying it was a challenge as well because plying a thinner section of single to a thicker section of single creates non-uniform 2-ply yarn. I had to trick this fiber over and over again to become what it finally is. I still actually have fiber left over that I may not look at again for at least another year! But Saucy Wench placed second which completely shocked me. I wasn't sure the judges would appreciate the difficulties involved spinning this fiber. Apparently either they completely understood or I completely underestimated the way the final product looks. I'm still not happy with it.

Now I will take credit for spinning these yarns. But I got feedback on which of my yarns to enter before making my final decisions. Carol Dunn looked and touched and advised and Nancy McDaniel did the same. And thanks to the advice I received from them, I will be bringing home 3 blue ribbons and one red ribbon from the fair. What I'm really interested in seeing are the judges' comments for the yarn. On every project I've entered I've always been able to come away with useful suggestions from what the judges say or even don't say on the judging cards. 
Aside from bragging rights (which I'm really trying NOT to exercise!) what will I come away with from this experience? Well first I'm a more confident spinner. While I know I have a LONG way to go and a lot more to learn, I feel better about my spinning after this and I think I will take on bigger challenges with more confidence in future spinning ventures. Tonight Jeff, the conspiracy theorist and "out there" kind of nut, asked me if I'd spin Yeti fur or chupacabra fur. I said yes to the first, especially if it's a baby Yeti and no to the second due to short staple length. LOL! See? I'm braver already. I'm now willing to spin mythological creature fur!
Secondly, I'm going to put more of my skeins in more competitions. I think I can take constructive criticism now without it discouraging me too much. Last year at Trailing of The Sheep I didn't enter the skein competition. This year I think I will. I won't enter the SAME skeins of course, but I'm thinking already about what kinds of yarn I can spin up for TOTS. I may introduce strands of glitter into some of my yarn to start. It's a small start, but it's something right?
Overall, I'm tickled pink over the judges' decisions, my improving skills as a spinner, and that I have people like Carol and Nancy to turn to for advice on which skeins to submit, how to submit them appropriately, etc. Without their help, things could have turned out differently. I had no idea to only submit with 3 ties and to make the ties the same color as the skeins. If not for Nancy and Carol, my skeins would have shown up with white kite string ties in four places and not all of them figure 8's. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is really in competition.
Another really cool thing is that when I went to admire the llamas and alpacas on display at the fair, I met breeders and owners who shear those lovely animals, have bags of fiber they don't know what to do with, and are willing to talk with me about taking some of that lovely fiber off their hands! I networked a little! Again - doesn't sound like much, but it really is - for me anyway.
Here's a picture of one of the alpaca crias.
Isn't he/she adorable??? I just LOVE alpacas!

Another side note. I didn't know we had a beekeepers' club in the valley! Yay!! I will be in touch with these folks about honey and beeswax for my soap in the near future. The fair has been very good to me this year I'd say. Now I have a whole week's worth of vacation events to blog about but that's going to have to wait for another day. It's late, I'm tired, fighting yet ANOTHER migraine, and I have church in the morning. But I wanted to share this while I'm still excited about it and it's all still fresh and new for me. Hope everyone has a great weekend!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Great end of a Very Good Week

This last week has been full of wonderful things and today was the cherry on top. First, there was the buildup to Thursday. Thursday was my official one year anniversary of spinning! A year ago I made one of the best decisions for myself that I've ever made. I met Cleo Gallinger that day and she taught me to make things with my hands that I never imagined I would be capable of. Spinning and the people who were brought into my life because of spinning changed my life for the better forever. I've grown as a person, I've learned new and wonderful skills and I've made great strides spiritually as well. Last year I remember being in a spiritual crisis of sorts. Now I'm not saying that today everything is resolved and perfect, but the journey started last year and I'm growing. What more could I ask?
Then Friday was the year anniversary of my friendship with Carol Dunn and the purchase of my first fiber animal - an angora rabbit named Neema. A gentler, sweeter bunny you couldn't find. Here she is sleeping on her back in my lap the day I brought her home. :)
My lesson to myself here is this I guess. There is A LOT of sadness in life. The world is full of it. Grief and sorrow knock on everyone's door eventually and demand an entrance. But there is also healing to be found. It doesn't all come at once and sometimes you aren't even aware that it's happening until you look backward and realize the vast difference that stands between the you who exists now and the you who existed then. The last year has held that for me. Healing. I have moments of actual joy now. There were days when I doubted I would ever feel that again. And yet here I am.
Friday was also my Quaker parrot Buttons' hatch day. Here she is just after giving herself a bath in her water bowl and looking at me as though it's my fault she got water in her nose.
Buttons turned 6 years old and I've had her since she was just a year and a half old. I remember thinking when I was researching what parrot I wanted after getting my cockatiel that I would NEVER want a Quaker parrot. They were noisy and not very pretty in my eyes. Then I met cranky, mistreated Buttons who was cage aggressive bit me every chance she got. I fell in love. And we've been learning to love each other better every day since then. Even as I brought other parrots into the house, Buttons and I have always had a special relationship.
 And now, thanks to her stellar example of parrot awesomeness, I am the proud owner of FOUR Quakers. FOUR? Yes, you read that right. On Thursday I would have said THREE. But Friday changed everything. I went into Parrots N Stuff in Boise to buy some bird food and pellets for the crew and lingered to play with some of the babies Melody has in the store. Just before checking out and leaving with the food, I heard that Melody had a blue Quaker in the back. I had to see it. I've always wanted a blue Quaker. The moment I met "Bo", I was in love. Of course. Bo had her doubts at first. She came out of the cage readily enough but proceeded to show me she wanted to boss me around by biting and fluffing up and throwing her weight around. 45 minutes later she was giving me kisses, rubbing her head on my face and mumbling in my ear. I called my husband and ended up bringing that girl home. She's a 5 year old Quaker who's had a multiple household past but I will be her 3rd and last home. She's found a forever home here with us. The honeymoon period may wear off and she may bite and act like a normal Quaker in a few weeks. But it won't matter one bit. She belongs here. I changed her name to Ellie and have been taking pictures and video like a maniac. Here she is.
Today I left Ellie at home with Jeff and my friend Susie and I went to Shelly's Birds owned by Shelley Reedy and visited baby Quakers and baby caiques. Susie did all the driving and I went along for the ride and got to know my sweet friend a bit better. She's a pretty amazing lady. She got right into playing with the baby birds when we arrived. Shelley made us at home and we got to have fun with all the babies! What clowns! Here's Susie with both of the caique babies. One is facing forward on one shoulder and the other is backward on Susie's other shoulder.
While she played with them, I messed around with the Quaker mob. Even though I had a new one at home, it was hard to resist these little ones. I have a soft spot for Quakers, what can I say?
You can just see in their eyes that they're plotting mischief can't you? Shelley raises these babies in her home hand feeding and socializing them all the while. By the time they go to new homes they're healthy, well adjusted birds who are hand tame, good natured and very sweet if somewhat mischievous. :) I like a little mischief in my birds.
Finally our visit was over and it was time to head home to my crew here. By the time I got home my awesome husband had watered sheep and rabbits and he changed the birds' waters and swept the floor and wiped it down for me. When they're out all day my crew can really make a mess so it was nice to have that taken care of. Jeff is wonderful with the birds and very good to me.
I covered everyone up and we all said our nite nites and then it was off to La La Land for the birds. Now I'm here blogging and feeling a bit sleepy myself. I just couldn't let this week end and pass into history completely without recording the great things that I celebrated and the fun things I got to have a part in. Life can be good, God is always great, and I am truly blessed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sawtooth Mountain Mama Craft Fair

The annual SMMCF came around again this month and my friend Karren and I had it on our list of "very important things to do." So we met in town at 7am and started to drive. It's an easy 3 hour drive from here to there but we had good company, a little music and loads of beautiful scenery to keep us busy!! The craft fair itself first of all smelled amazing. They had this bakery there that was making Navajo tacos and scones with honey and butter. Mmmmmmm!!! I didn't splurge on a scone but it was very tempting. There was a booth with dutch oven food - pulled BBQ pork and potatoes and cheese, a sno-cone booth, ice cream in giant waffle cones and a ton of other food we ended up just avoiding to keep from putting on 150 lbs each. :)
As for the craft booths, there were A LOT of jewelry booths. Some good. Some not so good. I don't wear much if any jewelry so it wasn't hard to look and not touch. There was a booth of homemade Native American flutes and a really amazing booth of these giant bells that were welded onto things like gears. They were functional art and too expensive for me but lovely to look at. I only found ONE fiber booth. Nobody was spinning either which disappointed me. Basically, as wonderful as it was to wander around and look and "oooohhh" and "aaaahhh" at things, we didn't find anything we couldn't live without. So we drove to Redfish Lake next and bought shirts. I try to get one every year when I go up. Here is this year's version.

Here is a picture of a few of the Sawtooth peaks as we were leaving Redfish Lake. Man I love those mountains!! I used to hike and backpack in them when I was younger and some days I long to do it again.

We went next to Alturas lake, got out our flip flops and towels and headed for the beach! The wildflowers up there this time of year are gorgeous too.
 Alturas was FREEZING! There is still a lot of snow in those peaks and it feels like it's melting directly into this lake. lol! Karren and I waded in until we were up to our knees and almost immediately lost feeling in both feet. My ankles started to ache and I realized why all the kids on the beach were making sand castles instead of swimming. ICE COLD WATER will do that. lol!
These gems grow just about everywhere you look. It's purple penstemon, buttercup and sheep sorrel in this picture. American bistort, monkshood, lupine and indian paintbrush grow in perfusion too. It's a wonderful area to learn about local flora and edible vs. poisonous plants. I cut my teeth on the subject up here. Just me and my field guides. There were fields of blooming blue camas up there as well. When the breeze blew it looked like a rippling lake of blue with the flower heads bobbing in the wind.
Next stop was this lovely little waterfall off the side of the road. I've driven by it a hundred times at least and never really stopped to play in it. This time we stopped. Both of us got down into the pool at the bottom and splashed around. I stood under it completely clothed and got a good soaking and I laughed the whole time. These are the things that seem ridiculous and frivolous if you think about them too long and you just keep driving by that waterfall until one day you don't go that way any longer and you've missed your chance. I'm not going to miss any more chances to enjoy something even if it's childish or frivolous. I got doused in this waterfall and even though I looked funny and even though I steamed dry on the way home, it was wonderful to laugh and feel good. The water was pretty cold but not as cold as Alturas lake was.
The Payette River was running high. Lots of groups were out riding the rapids. They looked cold but seemed like they were having fun. When we drove by the rafts when the river was calm on top the rafters were spread out on the rafts soaking in warm sunshine before they hit the next patch of cold, rough water. This picture is of a narrow area and although we could walk down to the water's edge, no amount of coaxing was going to get me in there. It's deep, fast, cold, and the undertow would be incredible I'm sure. But it was lovely to look at.
We just basically had a great time being outdoors on a warm sunny day in the middle of the woods. We had a little craft fair, a little lake time, some waterfall action, a river walk and a long drive to soak it all in. We topped it off with dinner in Horseshoe Bend at a nice little restaurant with good service. Can't ask for better than that.
Today I had to go back to work. Somehow even the grind of the normal every day activities didn't seem as onerous after Sunday's activities. I definitely need to get out like this more often.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tour de Fleece

My one year spinning anniversary is in a couple of weeks! Yay!!! This has been the best crafting year I've had in years!  I started spinning during the last week of July 2010. This year, on Ravelry, I read about the Tour de Fleece. It takes place from July 2- July 24 this year and I've joined the Namaste Farms team! My goals are:

1. Spin every day during TdF
2. Finish my blue angora/wool blend yarn and work on my yarn for the 2011 state fair
3. I will spin baby camel fleece on 7-22 since it's the "challenge" day

I finished the yarn I was working on my Sonata (Susannah) and I think I'm going to try to spin the angora on her now that her bobbins are freed up. Rowenna (Majacraft Rose) will be spinning the wool. I plyed the yarn I've named "Twilight in the Berry Patch". It was a one-of-a-kind dyed roving from The Fiber Addict. She said she didn't like the way it came out when she dyed it. I was pretty fond of it so I decided to tackle it and see what I ended up with. Here it is still on the bobbin before I put it on the niddy noddy. I have 3 skeins. One = 200 yds, one = 160 yds, one = 93 yards. So I didn't get as much out of that 8 oz braid as I would have liked but it's a nice fingering weight yarn and it will make great socks!
Basically this means I have all my tools and all the material ready to rock for tomorrow night when I officially start TdF.
I also got 8 oz of fiber from Susie Drukman in Montana in the mail today and I got 8oz of a new soap scent from Majestic Mountain Sage. So my whole holiday weekend will be spent enjoying good weather, playing with the animals and Jeff and crafting to my heart's content. Can't complain about that!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Viking Sheep

Last night I came home to loudly complaining chickens at the gate of their chicken pen. Directly behind them stood Maddie the lamb. She was not supposed to be there. Upon further inspection I realized that my marauding sheep sacked the plastic construction fence Jeff put up to keep the sheep out of the chicken area. To make the raid a complete success, they had liberally sampled the chicken water, chased the chickens around and then lolled lazily in the shade in the chicken area, thus preventing the chickens from enjoying the shade themselves. Apparently I have Viking sheep -  sacking and pillaging everywhere they go. So Jeff attempted to fix the plastic fence. I woke up this morning to sheep in the chicken area again. At this point, the chickens are getting pretty darn sick of the sheep drinking their water and hogging their shade. Today we put up a wire fence between the sheep and chickens and are hoping for better results. I had no idea sheep were so very curious! I solemnly explained to Clover,Finley, Fiona and Maddie that they are not, in fact, chickens, that they need to stay in their own sheep pen, and that the chickens don't really have anything over there that the sheep don't have too. The grass can't be greener on the other side because NEITHER side has grass. I'm not sure how much of my little talk they took in. By the end of my speech, Finley was chewing on a lock of my long hair he'd snuck from behind my shoulder, Maddie had a thousand yard stare on and Clover and Fiona were scratching and blinking the whole time. I'm not entirely sure they knew I was actually talking to THEM. *sigh* So in the morning, I hope to go out and find the sheep in the sheep pen and the chickens in the chicken pen and never the twain shall meet again. I'll let you know how that works out....

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Goings on at the Wren's Nest

Our rabbitry (OK - just 3 bunnies but STILL!) has undergone a radical change thanks to Jeff. He's amazing! He built a bunny condo. Licorice, my first angora has a ginormous cage that she thoroughly enjoys. However the baby bunnies I'm raising have been stuck in little cages in the garage on saw horses to be up and away from the cats. Kitty likes to sleep near the bunnies and Butterscotch is very allergic to cats. Yep. It's true. Anyway, Jeff built a 3-bunny condo for me to house all the bunnies in.
 Each bunny has their own compartment. Between each compartment is a small sliver of space I can slide hay into for them to self dispense. Last night Butterscotch decided to self dispense herself into Abbi's area through this compartment so Jeff is going to work on it a bit more.  But it's so nice to have them OUT of the garage and into this new space. They each get a little sliver of sunshine in their cage each day but they can move in and out of the sun at will. They're under a carport type of shelter so no direct rain or snow will get into or on their hutches and I can sweep everything out of the doors of the hutches onto the concrete floor below for easy cleaning. Licorice already misses her litter box but I was spending a small fortune on kitty litter for her. I may go back to letting her use it if she continues to pout about it but she'll be the only one.  They hay dispensers are keeping them from "nesting" in their hay and letting it mat their fur so I'll have better quality angora to spin after shearing. Hooray!!
Speaking of spinning angora, I dyed my first loose angora. Carol, my mentor, gave me some white angora a while back to practice spinning with. I needed some blue angora to match to some amazing wool I just spun and she walked me via e-mial through dyeing it before spinning it. I was so scared I was going to felt it. But I used Gaywool dye in cornflower, put it in my crockpot in the bathroom with the fan on and the window open (because it's an acid dye and would be harmful to my parrots) and let it "cook" for two hours.

Afterward I let it cool in the pot overnight. I achieved complete dye exhaust and the water was clear the next morning. I washed it all in Kookaburra and set it out to dry. Yesterday some of it was dry enough to drum card. Previously I had not had good luck with drum carding angora. Now I believe I was expecting too much from my poor drum carder because yesterday I got some beautiful batts off it. Here's my cotton candy colored angora.
Isn't it lovely? And it's a perfect match to my spun wool. I hope to start spinning it very soon. I still have about half of what I dyed left to drum card. It should be dry enough to work on more tonight. I had yesterday off and it was so nice. I could really get used to staying home and doing "farm" chores all the time. Alas, that will not happen. But it's a nice dream. My mom worked outside the home until the day she died.  If it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me. But a girl can dream!
Daisy has been making HUGE strides in learning to sing You Are My Sunshine and she's teaching Qwynn to sing it as well. She doesn't like being recorded but I managed to get a little of her song on my phone.
I love her little voice. When she first started to get her voice she sounded possessed. She's much better now. There's so much going on here right now! Things are busy at the Nest and we're all working hard and making the best of every opportunity. I am making more soap. Jeff bought me a new double soap mold for Mother's Day and I've played with it already.

It turned out some nice soap that I used the crinkle cutter on. This is what i got.

I set up my ArtFire studio online for anyone who wants to buy soap or yarn. So far, no bites. But I've sold a lot of soap at work to co-workers. I finally perfected my recipe and I'm turning out some nice soap. I'm pretty pleased. When my husband calls me on the phone to tell me the soap he used that morning was awesome, I count that as a success. Jeff loves me and encourages me but for him to call me over soap is a pretty big deal in my mind. 
Well, that's it for now. New things are happening here every day and I'll write more as I can. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wild Fox at the Cabin

I went to visit my dad and Zo today at the cabin in Placerville. I took my spinning wheel and some fiber and two of my Quaker Parrots, Poppy and Buttons. We took the 1.5 hour drive into the mountains and with each mile the scenery and the scent changed. I could smell the scents of pine and woodsmoke and it made my heart happy. When we got to Dad's I took the birds inside then got my wheel and fiber and I sat on the couch and spun while visiting with Dad and Zo. The birds were very good girls. About an hour before I left, a wild fox that visits my dad's place from time to time stopped in for a brief visit and an apple that Dad or Zo had put outside. They have nicknamed her Jackie Brown. Apparently there is another fox they call Blondie who also visits but didn't make an appearance today.
It was really nice to be inside the warm cabin with Dad and Zo just visiting and chatting and spinning while it rained outside and the gloomy sky made the outside greenery seem just that much greener somehow. I love the mountains in summer! I took Dad some Scentsy for his place and he seemed to like the fragrances I picked out. Zo was sensitive to them so I hope Dad only uses the Scentsy upstairs. It was a really good day though. 3.5  hours of driving total but the company and together time made it seem like nothing. When I got home I had the new soap mold waiting so I popped in a couple batches of soap. They will be ready for cutting tomorrow evening. I made more Summer Breeze and a new scent I call Oak Forest. It smells "green" to me. Hopefully it makes good soap. I dyed it a red color just for fun and made the Summer Breeze batch a solid light yellow. I'll post pics if they turn out any good. I've found the secret to my soap. I wasn't super fatting my batches enough. I used a bar of mint/tea tree in the shower the other day and discovered I'd perfected my recipe! Thankfully I write down what I do on each batch so today I duplicated the soap batter from that batch and I'll do it in each batch hereafter. Yay!! :) It's just good, clean fun. :) lol!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Qwynn playing

My African Grey parrot felt playful tonight. I got some great video of her batting around her favorite toy while on her play stand. After I fed and changed out everyone's water, swept floors and wiped up messes Qwynn decided to treat me to a play session inside her cage. When she does this, she talks to her toys and herself and generally just gets chatty. I recorded two sessions and this one is the short one. I don't know what I would do without my birds. I'd probably feel lost a lot and more than a little lonely. Right now at my house it's cool and quiet. The ceiling fan which is off when the birds are out is now merrily working away on low speed and the blinds are closed. Cage covers are all on and quiet beak grinding and food crunching is taking place in the background. Last night I spun while all this went on too and tonight I'm reminded once again that the simple things in life are the best things. It's not what you have but who you love that counts. And there isn't much of anything better in life than loving and being loved in return. Here's Qwynn, aka "Big Girl", playing for me tonight.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sheep Coats

In order to protect the fleece my sheep are diligently growing for me, it has become necessary to put sheep coats on them. Since we're basically dry lotting them and feeding hay year-round their fleece would eventually be FULL of vegetable matter and other less savory material. Sheep coats are a great way for a spinner to get wool that she doesn't have to spend endless hours on picking vegetable matter out of before washing and drying her wool to card and spin. I looked at Rocky Sheep Suits and his stuff looks AWESOME. However... my sheep are still lambs. So I'd have to buy one coat each while they're lambs and then FOUR coats PER SHEEP after they become adults. The idea here is that you change the coats to fit the sheep as they grow their wool and then start over with the smallest coat again once they've been sheared. Sounds great. However, there's no way I could shell out that kind of money right now justifiably. Enter Cleo Gallinger of The Sheep Shed in Nampa, ID. She's the breeder that sold the lambs to me and it just so happens that she sews her own sheep coats. As my spinning mentor, she's also the one I buy my raw fleece from and who I've learned most everything "sheep" from. She very graciously took time out of her day last Friday afternoon to teach me to sew my own sheep coats. She would sew one part and then have me do the other part. She's a great mentor. So today I began the task of fitting the completed coat and sewing the other 3 coats. I have 3 completed and one not started. Maddie - the smallest lamb - is proving a challenge. Here's the coat before the leg straps get sewn on.
Sheep coat chest collar
Notice the attractive chest strap. :) Mom made me jumpers out of this material when I was a little girl. Just so happens I found some extra material. Heeheehee. I sewed the leg straps from the same stuff.
Leg Strap in pastels
The toughest part wasn't getting the first sheep coat on. Clover's coat fit perfectly. The tough part was getting Finley's on the 3rd time after 2 re-fits and even harder was getting Fiona's on finally after FIVE attempts. She was tough because it took me forever to figure out her body was shorter than the other two. She's still not happy with me and it's going to take a while to win her trust back. But they agreed, albeit reuctantly, to model the coats for me.
Finley's a bit upset still about the fitting of his coat
Clover is happy as can be. Hers fit the first try!
Here's the back end of Clover's sheep coat. Notice how the leg straps don't hang too low but are still roomy enough for her to move around and lie down without having them cut into her legs. Fiona's had to be adjusted because she kept slipping out of hers on one side.

Leg straps in the back. Just right!
I still have Maddie's to finish so my sewing machine and fabric etc. aren't put away quite yet. But I think I have the hang of it now if I'll just measure right to begin with! Not my strong suit so I'm hoping to bribe Jeff into measuring for me next time. All in all, a good day's work and well worth the effort. Three out of four are coated and the 4th will be done before the week is out. Thanks to Cleo this was virtually painless and MUCH less expensive. I spent $9.00 at JoAnn Fabric today to buy the inside of the leg straps using a 50% off coupon. The rest of the material and things I already had. All I spent was time, which, as I said, was well worth the effort.
Comparing notes about their new coats
Now I just keep an eye on them and when it looks like they're outgrowing their current coats, I take new measurements, store the coats they have on and sew the next batch. Yay! I'm not expecting any problems but with animals the one think I've learned is to count on the unexpected. I'm going to check on them first thing in the morning to see how they weathered the night's sleep and if anyone slipped out of their leg straps or their coats are causing problems. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best though! :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cowboy church

Our neighbors have these odd get-togethers where they play music loud and have LOTS of guests on Sundays and Tuesday nights. I just found out that they do what they call "Cowboy Church" on Sunday and they have a Bible study on Tuesday nights. What I thought were weird nights to party turned out to be Bible studies. It sounds like they have fun and their driveway and parking area is usually very full. This morning, for example, they have trucks all over out there parked and you can hear the music with the windows open. My lesson here - Don't make assumptions. We all kind of keep to ourselves out here in the country. It's one reason why we like to live out here. We like our privacy. But when our sheep arrived, it caused a tiny stir in the very near vicinity and when Mr. S came over to ask Jeff about them, he mentioned that we were welcome to come to their meetings if we liked. I think it was a very nice gesture and I need to remember that even though we keep to ourselves, there are still things worth reaching out over.

This is my sanctuary room. It doesn't look like this right now since I have soap curing everywhere, a hedgehog cage and two different spinning wheels in there now but it's the room I craft in when I can clear a space. I think everyone should have a place to go that's just their own if they can. It doesn't have to be an entire room, but if you can swing it, it's nice. :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kisses from a shy girl

Tonight when I got home later than usual the first thing I did was grab the grain bucket and go out to see my lambs. They were lounging around in their shed staying out of the sun and the awful wind up here on the hill today. We're getting another storm in tonight with a high of 58 deg. F. tomorrow and rain so the wind is blasting away bringing it in. When the sheep saw me they startled but the minute they saw the grain bucket they already knew what was in it and over to me they came! Maddie, the tiniest, finally ate out of my hands. Clover and Fiona hogged the bucket and Finley had some grain from my hands but wasn't as interested today in grain as he was yesterday. They make these funny chuffing sounds while they eat grain. It makes me laugh when they do it. When they lost interest in grain they went to grazing and I took that opportunity to change their water and take care of the chickens. The injured chicken seems to  be doing alright and I'm cautiously optimistic. I cried for a half hour this morning because I was afraid we were going to have to put her down. Jeff, ever the encouraging rock, told me he thought she was doing better and we'd pray about it and he'd check on her every chance he could. I think she's OK today and we're hoping for even better over the next couple of days. Anyway, I digress. This is a sheep story.
I cleaned the rabbit hutches, watered the chickens and fed them and went in to turn over the hay I have for the lambs. They eat the top stuff and the stuff at the bottom just sits there until I turn it. When they saw me do that, they all rushed into the shed where I'd moved their feed buckets because of imminent rain tonight and tomorrow and started munching. I shrugged and started to leave when to my shock and pleasure, they all followed me out of the shed crying after me. I stopped and crouched down and they all came over and rubbed on me and the shyest girls, Maddie and Fiona, got right up in my face and nuzzled me and sniffed my face and let me give them kisses on their soft little noses. I was so surprised and pleased! The lambs have been making a lot of noise now that they're away from their previously familiar surroundings and flock. They stick pretty close together. Our closest neighbors have noticed their presence and have come over to see them. As if you could ignore the cute little faces, fluffy, fleecy babies and thier "baaaaaaa"ing all over the place. lol!
I'm very pleased with my progress with the little ones. I'll go out and check on them and the lame chicken once more just before complete dark to make sure everyone is snuggled and tucked in for the night. I'm really enjoying my sheep. I need to find a pattern to sew them coats to protect the wool for me though. Cleo recommended a book that has a pattern for sheep coats so it's off to the bookstore for me this weekend. Lots to learn and a steep learning curve with animals. But for tonight, it's all good! :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Lambs Have Arrived

Already I've been educated about sheep. First, they are curious but spook easily. They wanted to know what a chicken was. So they chased mine. One of my hens was injured in the chase and I'm keeping a close eye on her. Her leg doesn't appear to be broken but she's not putting weight on it. She can get in and out of her nest box and she's close to food and water so I'm giving her a couple of days before I panic. The weather is supposed to be cool and wet here so she won't overheat in the coop.
Sheep also chase cats. Kitty came out to visit me while I was on guard duty. I had to sit and make sure the sheep didn't cross the invisible line into the chicken area until Jeff got back from Home Depot and made the invisible line visible by putting up some fencing. Clover, the black lamb, saw Kitty and was curious to know what she was. So she and the other 3 lambs ambled over and gave Kitty a good sniff. Kitty didn't know WHAT to do so she ran and they followed. I've never seen a cat scale a chain link fence gate as fast as Kitty did today. Jeff brought back fencing and now the sheep are in the sheep area and the chickens are in the chicken area and never the twain shall meet again... we hope. Bet I don't get eggs for a few days. They're pretty traumatized!
 Once I had the grain, I put it in the "grain bucket" and started teaching them that the grain bucket means grain and when I clink the handle on the bucket they will eventually come to associate that with their treat. After a few hours of sitting with them and talking to them and taking pictures of them and finally bringing them grain, I got to pet them. They're all bottle fed babies except Clover, the dark ewe. Finley is a wether and the rest are ewes. Finley already let me pet him earlier today but the rest hung back until this video. It felt so nice to pet these little lambs and imagine my surprise at Clover being so happy to be touched! Without further ado, here is my little flock.
They make me think of one of my mom's favorite Bible verses.
"Fear not little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another rainy Sunday

It was a gloomy, rainy Sunday here...again. While Jeff was busy outside getting ready for Operation Sheep Delivery which is taking place in two short days, I stayed inside with the birds and spun and knitted. Not a very fair trade I'll admit. While Jeff slaved away I got to play. My project for the day is a merino/silk blend called "MacKenzie" and I finished one bobbin and started another. It's going to make a lovely prayer shawl for someone!
I'm spinning it on Suzannah and the more I spin on her the more I love her. She's such a great little workhorse of a wheel!  She's the perfect height for my body and I can comfortably spin on her no matter where I sit. So I got a lot of spinning done and tonight I worked more on my latest prayer shawl. I'm knitting it from "Peacock 2" yarn I spun from Corriedale top. When it's done I'll post pics. For now, it's a secret surprise. My coworker keeps hinting that she'd like a shawl and I think this one will be for her. :) It gives me secret delight to be able to do something like this and I find myself smiling a lot more when I have this kind of fun secret.
Today was pretty gloomy for most of the day but there was a moment just before 7pm when Mr. Sunshine came out to play. He made a pretty picture.
But you can see the next storm coming and come it did. We're back to gloom again. But the rumor from the weatherman is that tomorrow will be better and Tuesday even better than that. I'm really excited for Tuesday because our sheep will arrive then. I've never owned livestock before. I've had horses but somehow they just aren't in the same class as sheep or cows to me. If the little black sheep turns out to be a wether, I'm naming him Caleb I think instead of Clover. We'll see. His/her name is the only one still undecided I think. Finley, Fiona, and Maddie are all named.
The birds were all very good today. When it was quiet in the house (the Quakers were napping) Daisy sang to me under her breath in just the quietest, sweetest voice and I just enjoyed spinning while she sang for me. She was making up her own words and tune and I reveled in it. I have a niece who used to sing like that when she was a tiny tot and Daisy singing to me reminded me of that. God gave parrots such wonderful intelligence! I'm so blessed to have them in my life. We don't have human children but our animals depend on us just the same for their needs and love and attention. AND, I'll never have to worry about any of them borrowing the car, staying out too late or getting boyfriends I don't like. :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Daisy sings

Daisy, with a little coaching from yours truly, is learning to sing "You Are My Sunshine". And she really IS my sunshine.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Quaker Parrots

These are my Quaker parrots, Buttons and Poppy of whom I'm extremely fond and proud. Poppy turned two in April and Buttons will be 6 at the end of July. They're both DNA tested females and for my birthday this year, Buttons laid an egg for me. I was not pleased about that. I always worry one of them will get egg bound. Jeff came home on my birthday to find Buttons at the bottom of her cage, tired and eggnant. He called me, I rushed home from work as soon as I was off and by the time I got home she had passed the egg. I gave her some calcium anyway in case she had her mind set on laying more eggs and immediately changed the layout of both birds' cages to make it unfamiliar. According to my vet, making the cage less "nest friendly" makes them less likely to become eggnant and start laying eggs. Since then we haven't had any more eggs and both girls have been much less cage aggressive.
Quaker parrots were the bird I absolutely did NOT want to have when I was deciding on what my first parrot would be. I got a cockatiel (Cooper) and decided I wanted another bird. Quakers were noisy and boringly colored according to my first impressions. It was divine intervention that put me together with Buttons over 4 years ago. Since then, my love of these birds and their HUGE personalities in such tiny bodies has only grown. I actually have 3 Quakers in my house. Jade, who is not in this video, is a bit feral. A previous owner neglected to take Jade to the vet when her leg was broken and she has a permanently twisted left leg/foot that I think gives her pain and arthritis from time to time. She has a fear of human hands which leads her to be excessively aggressive. She came to live with us when my Nanday conure was destroying her feathers and my friends who owned Jade and I jokingly started talking about bird swapping. When we actually went through with it, it turned out to be a blessing to all birds and humans alike. Marley the Nanday is happy and in beautiful feather with Carlos and Carrie and Jade is flourishing and happy and coming out of her shell with other Quakers to be around. She does not like to be filmed however. So I spared her the stress. Poppy and Buttons on the other hand are regular hams. They will perform for me but usually clam up when a phone or camera appear. I was excited to get this video. My voice is high pitched on the video but I don't normally talk like that. My girls love it when I talk like this to them and it gets them all going. Quaker parrots are illegal in some states in the U.S. and there are actually non native wild colonies of Quakers in New York and  Florida as well as a few other states. They tend to become pests because they built communal nests and the weight of these nests on tall light poles can become a problem in cities.
Anyway, I love these guys and they love me back. I hope you enjoy the video.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Merino Lambs

Well, as my dad predicted earlier this year, I will be getting sheep before the month is out! Crazy right? Dad was teasing me about it when I bought the baby angoras earlier this year saying that it wouldn't be long before I had sheep too. I laughed because I thought that sheep were at least another year down the road. Then to my surprise, things sort of just came together as they sometimes do, and I'll be taking a delivery of 4 lambs on May 31st. I'll have one wether and 3 ewes. 3 of the lambs will be merino and one will be a merino/border leichester cross so that lamb's wool will be a medium grade wool as compared to the very fine full merino fleeces of the other lambs. The problem right now is going to be finding alfalfa hay for the little beasties. Starting Monday I will be scouring the countryside, asking friends where they get their hay and checking with local livestock and feed stores to try and find at least a half ton of last year's hay until I can start buying hay this year.
So I thought' I'd update my blog and mention this momentous event. I'm sure I'll post pictures galore once they've arrived. All the lambs except the cross breed have been bottle fed so they're more like pets than regular sheep. The wether is a sweet boy who loves his head rubbed and let me give him kisses on his nose when I met him. Cleo and Duane at the Sheep Shed in Nampa,ID raised these little ones and they did a great job! My husband Jeff has planned out the shelter he's going to build and how he's going to move the fence to create a sheep pen enclosure that will keep the lambs safe from predation. We have a few coyotes out here and there are domesticated dogs as well though we see little of either type of predator around here other than our own dogs. They will be kept safely away from the lambs because I don't think our dogs would be able to resist the idea of chasing the babies.
My cockatiel Colby is sitting on the back of my chair reminding me what a pretty bird he is and that I need to change his water and put him safely away for the night's sleep. Tomorrow I'm attending a fiber fair and I'm very excited about it. Meanwhile, we have a storm rolling in and the weather has cooled down again. It was almost a very nice day all day today. What a weird year for weather it's been!!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Meet the new Soap

I am so totally excited about how my latest soap turned out. Here is Huckleberry Swirl.

Huckleberry Swirl soap
I am in love with swirling soap colors! My Plumberry Spice soap isn't color swirled because the fragrance oil caused the batter to trace REALLY FAST. I was lucky to just get it in the mold. But it smells great and still looks pretty.

Plumberry Spice soap
These are my most recent soaps and I can't wait to make more already! Maybe tonight after the birds are all in bed.... :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Navajo ply

Last night I sat down at Suzannah, my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel and attempted a Navajo ply for the first time. I had spun an unknown number of yards of wool single onto my jumbo bobbin and it was full and ready for plying. I started at 6pm. Jeff watered the birds and swept the floor at 7pm because while the video I watched to learn to N-ply taught me the process, it never discussed how to set your work aside without messing it up. lol! Here's the video I learned from. This is the best example of N-ply available on YouTube.


FOUR HOURS later, I finished with sore fingers and a little thread burn. I'd learned several valuable lessons:
1. Use a tensioned Lazy Kate for your bobbin of single
2. Don't set the tension too high on the Kate or you will snap your single... repeatedly.
3. If I ply off a jumbo bobbin, I should probably save the project for the weekend rather than a weeknight when I have to work the next morning.
4. N-ply is AMAZING for controlling the color of your variegated yarn and I believe this is something I will do again and again and get better every time I do it.
Without further ado, here is my final product. I had just washed it in this picture and it's drying as I type. :)

Sorry the pics a little grainy. I had trouble with the lighting and of course, it's not in a skein because it's still wet in this picture.  The colorway is "African Violets". It's a roving I got from www.thefiberaddict.com and I really enjoyed this project. I've already started my next project on Suzanna. Rowenna is still tied up with my Mojave silk/merino blend that I haven't finished yet. Hopefully that will be done by this weekend.
On another high note, I received new soap scents and two new dyes in the mail today. All told, I have several new ideas to try out and my mentor Carol sent me peppermint and spearmint to add to my collection. I have plans for some new and fun soaps. More to come on that as the situation develops. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Angora bunny shear

Well today I've been ill. So I've made birdie mash, I've napped, I've had my weight in fluid intake and I still feel blah. So I've decided to blog about shearing a bunny. I have pictures too! Licorice was shorn very recently and she received two tiny cuts from me in the process. I HATE it when I cut her skin. But I keep triple antibiotic ointment handy with lidicaine to ease the sting for her and she's always so relieved when it's over. She's now naked and will be under a small heat light for a few days while it's still chilly here. Here she is a few days before her shear outside in the bunny play pen eating grass.
Here she is next on the "shearing table" which is actually an unused bird playstand with the  "U" portion removed. It's on wheels so she can move around on it but I can position the stand to position her where I need her for shearing purposes.
Looking grumpy because she knows what's coming.
I usually start in the center of her back along her spine. I grab the fur in "locks" and cut at the base using the tiny shears you see next to her in the picture above this text. I don't cut the fur on the bottom of her feet or at the top of her ears. She needs the foot fur to cushion her feet and the ear fur just looks cute. :) Here she is after we get started.

I trim  in a circular motion all the way around her back and sides. This is the best fur for spinning and it has the longest staple length usually. Not because she grows it better here but because I'm better at shearing it here. This is only her 3rd shear since she was born. I didn't use her first shear fur because it was so downy but her 2nd shear and this most recent shear are wonderful for spinning angora single strand yarn to ply with another strand of wool or alpaca.
Almost done...
Finally she can relax!

Finally she's all done and kicking back on the shearing table. My husband helped hold her for me while I did her belly and legs. Licorice is not the most patient rabbit and she's a wiggle worm. But she was so happy to have all her fur off that she just relaxed in relief when it was all over. She got nicked twice (my fault entirely!) and she has antibiotic ointment on the cuts. I'll check them for the next couple of days but they heal really fast.
Here she is after being shorn. View number 2. :)
Looks like a kindergartner who went after her own hair with scissors doesn't she? I would LOVE to have clippers but the best kind to use on angora rabbits cost around $500.00 and that's just not in my budget. I have 3 angoras right now so hand shearing with scissors isn't too bad if I go slowly and carefully and the rabbits are patient. But any more than that and I'd be hard pressed to continue doing it with scissors. Carol, the angora breeder I get my rabbits from (Rabbit Tree Angoras in Boise, ID) shears all her angoras with scissors. Lemme just say... that takes more patience than I'll ever have. And she's much better at it. I lost a lot of good fur on Licorice's most recent shear to 2nd cuts and by the plain fact that I'm a newbie at it. I hope that over time I'll be able to harvest and save more of the fur by developing better shearing techniques. Anyway, there you have it. I have a newly naked and much relieved angora bunny out in the big hutch now and two babies busily growing out their own fur so that in a few months they get to go through this too. :)
Last but not least, here is the result of our combined hard work. Soon this will be spun into an angora single for use in yarn and a knitting project.
Phew! That's 3 1/2 months of angora fur growth and about 1 1/2 hours of shearing time. But it's well worth it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lovely two days!

Today and yesterday were so lovely I just had to blog about them. The weather was warm and dry and sunny! On both days I got home from work and took the baby angora rabbits outside to play. I have a "bunny playpen" to put them in and let them bounce around and forage. They had so much fun!!
The boys all bounced on each other until they got so tired and worn out that they just HAD to nap. Little Butterscotch just napped the whole time. She basked in the sun until she got too warm and then went to lie in the shade. Isn't she cute? :)
Our trees are starting to blossom out. Here is my plum tree.
Isn't it great?
So today I got home, put the bunnies in their playpen, got my Amazon and her cage onto the deck outside by me and then brought out Rowenna to spin on for a while. I spent a good hour and a half spinning some lovely merino top called "Mojave" from "The Fiber Addict" in Donnely, ID.  I LOVE her fiber and I'm having so much fun spinning it up.
Tomorrow is Sabbath so we're going to church, taking naps and letting animals play if we can. The weather is supposed to be kinda cruddy so we'll have to see what we get.
Here is Daisy playing with some wood from her chew toy. She always has to have TWO pieces of something in her mouth at the same time. One just doesn't cut it in Daisy's book. :)

The last two days are the first time she's been outdoors to play in her cage. Once the mosquitoes come out we can't do it anymore. We have West Nile Virus here and it will kill birds. I couldn't bear that so better safe than sorry. For now, however, Daisy can safely play outside. Yesterday I think she said "Hi!" to every bee, fly, gnat and wild bird that flew by her and caught her eye. It was like watching a little kid discover something amazing for the first time. Today she was more content to just sit by me while I spun and ask me for kisses occasionally and play with her wooden toys. I love my animals!  What great weather. It's gone for a while. We'll be back to below 60 deg. F. by tomorrow and thru all next week according to the weather channel but I'm not sorry one bit for the sunshine we just had. We all soaked it up and it fortified us for sunless days ahead. :)