Saturday, June 14, 2014

Spinning and the Central NY Fiber Festival

       I was chatting with a friend at the fiber guild and watching her spin.  Her work is gorgeously smooth and even.  She recommended that I spin every day - even if it is just 10 minutes - not just to get better, but to keep the muscle memory going.  I have taken it to heart and dusted off my somewhat neglected spinning wheel.
      At first I had to ply some singles so I would have some empty bobbins.  A couple years ago I experimented with fracturing icing dyes and loved the result.  I had two bobbins of singles from this precess, and  never plied them because I couldn't figure out what might look good with them.

The  dyed roving
the singles
Since I had no brilliant ideas, and I did not like charcoal with it, and plying it with white just looked too flat, I just plied it together and came up with this:

My "oh so expensive" niddy noddy - pvc from the Home Depot!

The greens, pinks and purples make me want to knit socks (and that's saying something as I started my first pair of socks YEARS ago and they are still not done)!
       Today I went to the Central NY Fiber Festival.  It was the first fiber festival I have ever been to and I really enjoyed myself.  I went at the suggestion of a friend, and it was good to see the way it was run, how the booths were set up, the various demos, and it was great for getting information!  I have found that people who own animals, keep bees, make things with their hands, are really easy to talk to.  They want to share information about the things they love.  I spoke to sheep people about their breeds, the uses of their fleece, etc. I talked to llama folks, alpaca people, and chatted with a sheep shearer for a while after watching him shear a merino. I took notes on how people set up their booths, what value added products they came with.  I got the information on three different "local" fiber mills - all no further than 3 hours from our farm.  A couple of people were really helpful in discussing fiber blending (llama on its own has little memory) as well as  cross breeding sheep for characteristics you like. Lisa Merian of Spinner's Hill was very generous with her time and information.  A big thank you to June of Preston's Alpacas for suggesting I start going and investigating fiber festivals. 
     Now, I am not a shopper when it comes to most things.  However, there are a few places I have NO sales resistance; a book store is one place, and any place selling wool is another.  I arrived 15 minutes before the festival opened to be certain to get to the fiber sale tent while there was still fiber to  buy.  I wanted to see about getting some raw fleece.  If I am going to have sheep, I want to learn how to wash fleece.  I found some Border Leicester that was $15 for just over 3 lbs.  There were many other fleeces that were much more expensive, but this was perfect for my first attempt to wash fleece.  If it ends up being a very large felted mess, it will be an inexpensive lesson (and might make a good dog bed).  I am hoping I am successful, as I love the grey and brown wool!
Border Leicester fleece - unwashed
I also indulged and bought a small bag of angora fur - soft as a cloud and about the same colour.
I got some beautiful green roving for no reason other than I fell in love with the colorway.
The greens really spoke to me.  And finally, as I was leaving, I stopped to talk to some women from a fiber mill near Syracuse, and saw a hank of 100% Finn wool.  Since this is the breed our sheep are, I had to get it to see what it felt like as a finished yarn.
Plus, it was a plummy brown, and I am a sucker for browns.
    After this easy introduction to fiber festivals, and knowing  that I must set and keep to my budget (I came home with four dollars to spare), I am looking forward to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival, and then Rhinebeck.  I hear Maryland Sheep and Wool is one of the country's best, but that has to wait  until next year!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

the true farming begins - and travel ends

    This past week  my husband and I spent innumerable hours at the farm until dark several nights in a row, getting the fencing up for the llamas' arrival on Sunday.  We also had to prep the stalls, get hay,  feed, minerals, etc., etc.  

The children, and indeed friends' children were on hand for the arrival.  The folks we bought the llamas from were later in arriving than originally planned, so we were lucky there was a nice fat garter snake to hold their attention for a bit.

Even our contractor and his dad popped by, ostensibly to mulch the  newly seeded field (which we had not yet seeded!) but they hung around  to see if they could meet the llamas.
    At last they arrived.

  Since our Farm is named Rivendell (with permission from the Tolkien Estate), my daughter and I have been keen to start out with names  from The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings for the animals, although Farmer Giles of Ham, and some of his less popular works may soon become resources for names. So the dark llama is now named Thorin and the white one Elrond.

     They are intended to be guardian animals for the sheep, but we will still work with them on haltering, leading, etc.  According to the family we bought them from, they had been trained to different tasks - Elrond as been a guardian for sheep before, and Thorin  did work with the public, so he is friendly  as far as llamas are friendly.  I think there is a misconception that they are sweet and as "in your pocket" as some horses can be.  They are not.  They can be friendly, but they do not want to be hugged and petted and played with.
    We all watched the  new arrivals for a while, and then Drew and I went and got fried chicken, and we all had a picnic, in the middle of the field, in the back of the pickup, watching the llamas, and watching cars slow down as they realized what was in the field.  Our daughter's boyfriend was there, and I believe this confirmed for him the fact that we are not your typical family:  we are artists, and farmers, and educators, and professionals, and hicks, and snobs, all rolled into one. But there are worse things we might be, so I am okay with that! We might be folks, with 9-5 jobs we felt trapped in, living in an apartment with no green space, and be miserable. Instead we are overworked, never stopping, always trying new things, but pretty satisfied overall.   I'm good with that!
The chickens are unimpressed!