Hand Spun

Hand Spun
Campfire Hat

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! :)