Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival, 2014

Well, its past time for a post, but we have been busy as usual. Its farming time, and the rains and strange weather have complicated and changed our plans many days. But when its Festival time, we pack up and head east regardless.

This year was one of many 'firsts'.  Having outgrown the past location, this year the Festival was in a new location - Colfax, IA, which made it a 30 minute longer drive, but the additional space was a plus.

Just for fun (and a little 'progress'), we added in a few 'new' things ourselves.
                    We added a 'new' truck to take us all, and all our things to the Festival this year.

                                           The sheep got to ride in the 'new' little show trailer.

The 'new' setup was comfortable for all, and economical too. More room, and we didn't have to drive the big 'Bertha'.  Of course, nothing about it was really new, but only new to 'Us'.

The new barn was pretty open, so we had to improvise some with the set up, but we managed to contain it all, even during the gusty winds.

We even had a 'new' sign

And some new merchandise - Hand dyed roving braids, and some hand spun yarn. Both were well received

                                                     Of course we took lots of fleeces. Which was a good thing.
We entered some in the fleece show .......

                                                     And won Champion Fleece.....

                                                      And Reserve Champion Fleece.

                                                          We were very pleased.

Another 'new' thing was the Lamb pot luck on Saturday night. The Association furnished lamb lasagna, Swedish meatballs, and fajitas, and guests all brought dishes. Of course we had to promote lamb too, so we took lamb desert -
                                               White and natural colored sheep cupcakes.

                                             Needless to say, we had no left overs to take home.

I taught 2 classes of needle felting too. Not large numbers this year, but we had fun. A skein of handspun 'Grandpa's fleece won its class, so it now sports a blue ribbon also.

We shared duties with our booth neighbors, Seelow Sheep Farm, of wool knowledge with the public.
A little cooperation among producers is a benefit for all.

So, after an exhausting but enjoyable and successful weekend, we packed up our woolies and headed west for home.

We were really glad we sold some of those fleeces. We were packed just as tight for the trip home. Christian from C&M Acres Mill brought our finished roving, bats, and needle felted sheets. I resisted the urge to pull them out while there, and was glad I did. This is the pile they made on the shop floor at home.

More than 40 lbs of fleecy fun experimenting to do.  Yes, I have plans. Now to find the time.

Time!  Right. In the meantime, the weeds in the garden are doing as well as the chosen plants. The rabbits are enjoying the broccoli, and the beets must have been good, because they're gone too. Most of the corn survived the wash outs, if we can sort it out from the crab grass. Its going to be an interesting summer, vegetable wise. At least the zucchini are trying.

The 'hayin neighbor' managed to get the first patch of hay up between rains, so we now have 7 bales tucked away for the winter. Much more is standing, and ready to mow if the weather forecast ever looked promising. Can't put up hay in 2 days with 80% humidity and showers.

So we made it through another festival. All well at home, and Dolly was glad to see us return. She tried digging a basement to her dog house in her free time while we were gone. The aged cat Stalky was well but not happy after being left alone in the house. She promptly ate, and went out for the night.

Now to work.  The garage is full of fleeces to be listed for sale. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Flock to the Farm, 2014

Last weekend was the 2nd Annual Flock to the Farm. We called. They came. They Flocked. Fiber and fun.

Spinners came, and shopped for fleece in the shop.

Charts and samples of wool grades and breeds helped sort out facts.

 Longer is not always better they learned.

And, the question of the day, "what does blood have to do with it?"

There was some seious 'spind'lin' going on.

Those girls were good at spinning a yarn.

Then Don the Shepherd got on (the) board.

Some serious shearing for the spectators.

Followed by skirting.

outside up -

Then inside up.  And explaining why.

Meanwhile - what do the small ones do while Mom is talking fleece?

You have fun with sticks in the dirt.

    And then its time for 'all hands on lamb'.

"So have some fleece for sale?"

I think so.

How do you choose from so many?

It's easier when you buy 2 fleeces, and split them 3 ways.

Yup - you get Three bags full.

So a good time was had by all.  On Saturday at least.

Sunday was windy, wet, and cold. Not a great day for the family fun day we had planned.  But a few came out anyway. and we had some fun in the barn.

The last ewe lamb got sheared, so now Don is done.

And the 'Ad Rams' did their job again this year.

We'll call it successful again this year.

Now the load of extra wool has been delivered to the mill.  And several of us can hardly wait till the bats and roving and felt come home, all clean and white - and black - and ready for the next step.  Meanwhile, I'm processing some by hand.  There is yarn and felt to be made.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Its that time....

Lots of things happening out here on the farm. I had a big birthday, but it took two weeks for the party to happen. Good to know I'm not the only slow person in the family. Or not really slow, just too much going on. Anyway, I got dinner and a cake, and this collective picture with the Grandkids just for turning 60 years old!

It's now March 23rd.   Spring is officially here, according to both calendar and barnyard.

With the art side barely under control, some farmy things have gotten done too.  Don found and borrowed a neighbors skidsteer, and the barns got cleaned out. Then the sheep-poo-poo mountains got spread onto the temporary pasture. Then the rest of the pasture got fertilized with nitrogen from the Co-op.

And the shearing got done. - see associated 'eweandus-practically' blog post for details.

And the invitation for 'Flock to the Farm' has been drawn up and emailed to most.

Seeds are sprouting (hopefully) under the light in the sun room.

Newest shawl is half done on the loom. And with 2 weeks before deadline - the Spirit Art Auction and Gala in Kearney.  Looking forward to seeing the Crane Brothers one more time, and saying farewell when they hand me the check. (I've been told it's coming).

Now the Lambs are here. Well, at least the first of them. Head count for the hour is 23.

This little one may only be a day old, but she already is on her mothers back. "Get off Momma's wool", her sister says.

Ruby (in the back pen) was our first born colored lamb. This year she had a nice ewe lamb to add to the next generation of fleece producers.

The first born lambs are getting their first day in the sun.

But its still cold.

She's a little one, but she's special. Looks like she will be gray, and a Merino-Corriedale-crossbred mix.

Here is a half blood Merino that looks like one. All those wrinkles should make lots of wool.

Sorry little ones, but I don't think you're ready for hay yet.

So - there's the lamb report for now.

More lambs and maybe some snow tomorrow. Sure glad we didn't start lambing any sooner.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

No more excuses. Look for the light.

Excuses are just words.  But when they just run through your head, they are only thoughts. Wish I had managed to get at least some of them spelled out in the last 6 months. But here we are. Groundhog Day, 2014. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing to run it through a few times before moving on. Would it give me some time to catch up?

Seriously though, we have been busy. Ewes and Us. County fairs to judge, a daughters Masters Degree, offspring selling and buying and building houses. Miles (the grandson) along the path of life. Life unpredictable, unplanned, unexplained sometimes, but never unappreciated. Just sometimes a little late in documentation.

I truly have had a blog post in mind. Intended for Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Then to herald the New Year. Will settle for Ground Hog Day. For although the bright sunny day gives predictions of shadows seen, and 6 more weeks of winter, my subject is quite fitting.

I took this picture weeks ago.

Yeah, its a plant. But look closer, and think about it.

Its just a plant in my living room. Sadly, badly neglected. It started out with two stems. I gave it a new pot long ago. It gets watered - maybe once a month or so. It has a way of calling out for help when it gets really dry.  REALLY dry. Its poor leaves sag as it closes its pores in a desperate state of conservation of moisture. And then I notice it. The experiencing and recovering from drought has left a scar not soon forgotten, and I can share its pain. But then I noticed one day this simple Croton had much more to tell than its personal wish for water. I noticed it was reaching for the light.

I knew enough I should move it to the sun room, to join the other plants on the table flooded with sun every sun-lit day. But I didn't. I waited, and watched, and tried a little harder to remember to water. And this is what I heard it say.

It started out as not one, but two. Blocked from the meager fall light by a curtain, one stem withered and died. The other thrived. Why? Same plant.Same soil. Same water.

After watching the colorful chlorophyll life and death drama  for weeks, the universal truth took root in me. It was about choice. The choice we all make.

Both stems experienced the same suffering. Deprived of life giving water and light, I had watched as one slowly wilted, withered, and died. There is nothing enlightening in that. The inspiration came from the other stem. I noticed it bend. I felt the strain as it literally reached for the light. Over the course of the weeks of fall, it grew. It reached around the darkness until it reached the full light. And so can we.

We are presented with the choices, both great and small, every day. Many aspects of our lives are constrained  by the circumstances of our rooting, and we may be justified in our resentment of being dependent on the care and keeping by forces beyond our influence. But we have a choice. To choose to live. For a plant, that means to reach for the light. And so it is for Us.

Every day now, the light lengthens. The New Year has begun, and the activity of a new season awaits. Here at the farm, the box of garden seed potting soil are ready. The wool shelves are being cleared, and weather forecasts are watched for a break in the cold. There is shearing to be done. By the time the extended winter ends, it will be lambs that are forecast.

The light of Ground Hog Day is clearly casting long shadows as I write. It does not trouble me. Because I rest in the darkness of night. And, like winter, the darkness is dispelled by the light.

Whatever you perceive to be your light, I hope you reach for it. It's your choice. Your life.

Give Thanks. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.  Happy Groundhog's Day.  Oh - and Whatever Super bowl Sunday for those who may care.

Do check back in the weeks to come. I really plan to do better. Ewe's depending on me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Last year.... gone

I recently looked back over past posts, and paused to read over "An Oasis of Green" that was posted one year ago.  I intended to post again on the anniversary date, but am a few days late.

What struck me was picture. None of  'Us' has forgotten the long dry spell of 2012. It is often referenced in thought and speech, even now, and not just by us. But I had forgotten the sight of that golden ground. Not sorry I did.

Its interesting how much color affects us. The colors that surround us are both influencing and telling. The many years spent as a painter made it obvious that you can tell a good deal about someones attitudes and outlook by the colors they choose for their living-in spaces. Likewise, the geographic location influences and is painted with appropriate colors fitting and shaping the environment which we habituate. For Us here in eastern Nebraska, summer is thought to be dominated by green. (No, red is for fall, and football) Green grass, green beans ,green fields. But last year, not so. The spring green quickly paled to an unwelcome gold.

I wanted to repost that picture here. But the demise of my computer earlier this year left the transferred  files of pictures scrambled. It is not to be found.  You will have to go back to the original post - July 18, 2012

Or maybe its not all that bad. Many things in life are best forgotten, or at least the memories dimmed. It was a tough year for everyone, but everything looks a whole lot greener this year.

Now thats better. The roses have been blooming almost continuously since May. The sheep are grazing the front patch for the second time. The garden is a few weeks behind due to the clod wet spring, and the market customers are growing impatient for tomatoes, but I don't mind. It's all green.

Yes, its getting dry.  The grass matured and begin to fade.  We  held off  planting the oats for pasture, the failure of last years planting still fresh in our minds. The cracks in the ground widened, and dust clouds trailing the few passing cars on the road became familiar once more. We watered the garden and waited. And then it rained. Only 3/4 of an inch, but enough to regain a farmers faith. And the oats were planted.

With the hay bales lined up on the edge of the field, and the pasture rotation making a second round, just a few showers will get us by. There are ewes to sell that didn't make the grade. (Wool grade, that is) The Keeper lambs are enjoying 'pasture school', being turned out to the back lot for some grazing on the playground. The Feeder lambs spend their days munching and dozing under the trees.All is pastoral here on the farm. And as for Us?  The first tomatoes and corn and green beans are official under our belts.

Here's wishing you all good Mid-summer night dream.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hay- on the 4th of July

So its already the Fourth of July.  My Mother used to remind us that meant the summer was half over. So yesterday, I took time for a quick look back at the first half.

That is, after taking care of the picking and washing of produce, as we held the Farmers Market in spite of the Holiday. Mid wash, Don announced that if I was ready, he would put up my washing station. So we did. Pictures and more on that later.

Our celebration was pretty common day. We went to Market, and a few customers showed up, so it wasn't a total bust. Then we got a sandwich, and drove around town to check out the activity. There wasn't any. At least outside of a few garage-grilling groups of friends and family. So we resigned ourselves to an ice cream cone treat, and went home. There we watched 2 fireworks shows on TV, (much quieter than live), and then a smaller live show courtesy of several neighbors from the front porch.

The significant entertainment came from the hay. The season of grass this year has been quiet opposite of last, thankfully. The grass was tall from all the timely rains.

Yes, it was 5 foot high and rising. So tall and thick in places it was difficult to mow, and harder to get to dry.

So it was raked into windrows, and some turned once, some twice.

How good it is to see how well it has taken hold, considering the drought of last year.

In the early afternoon, we walked out to check on the drying windrows.

It was, indeed, heavy and still slightly wet underneath, especially in the sheltered spots. We rolled some of it over, glancing again at the sky. We escaped the serious rain of earlier this week, and were not looking to welcome more.

While Don continued rolling over the grass, I was checking out the Mulberries.  There are several trees along the north fork of the creek, but the winds have not been kind to the 'berry lover. There were some left, and of course I sampled them all, but found none good enough to inspire me to retrieve the buckets and stained sheets.  Sigh. Maybe next year.

Today, the baler came back, and now 12 more rolls dot the hillside.

With 8 from the smaller field, and the 20 bought en ones in the yard, and a possible 2 yet to dry, that makes a total of 42, plus the 100 small squares of alfalfa in the barn, even the prospect of an early frost doesn't seem threatening.

Just to be sure, I checked last Julys posts before I started this one. How bleak it seemed, compared to now.  Still rain chances for the days ahead. But, then, the garden has begun to beg for water. Only time will tell. The days of July and August have proved to be cruel.

But other things are progressing. The older ewes have been sorted off, and may soon be looking for a new home, and possibly a few more productive years in other folds. Today, we sorted the lambs, now divided into Keepers and Feeders. I winced when I counted the Keepers. Can we really support that many sheep?  Well, we'll figure it out as we go. We made it through the last year.

The old timers had a saying they used to apply to the aged, weak, or run down livestock during the cold last of winter. "Gotta be tough, and hang in there. You'll be ok if you can make it to grass."

It's been a tough year on all of us. But here in the hollow surrounded by fields of corn ever taller, I hold on to the hope that we've made it to grass.

Keep thinking green everyone. And make hay while the sun shines - even on the Fourth of July.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Entertainment: Farm style

I admit I should be working on something. Well, I guess I really am, because I just put a bowl in the micro to dye. 'Flower' is the color; a mix of orange and reds. And I should start some supper soon, as we are both hungry after our adventurous day out.  Where?  A few may wonder, and appropriately so, since that this the subject and purpose of this post.

We went to a farm sale.

Yeah, for most, it doesn't sound like much for entertainment. But it did have a number of things going for it. Foremost that its predecessor of a few weeks ago was a positive experience. (We made a really good haul at that one.) Plus, its June 1. No heat for sure. In fact, both of us left feeling a little over dressed for the season, but certainly not the weather. The cold wind out of the northwest and occasional drizzle made the heavy jackets and hats welcome gear. Still, there was no snow on the ground either.

Scheduled to begin at 10:00, the sheep got sent to pasture early, and shorted for time a bit, and still the auctioneers cry was heard from down the road by the time we arrived. We trudged up the road toward the buildings and sound with a few other straggling late comers, and were a little surprised at the possibly sparse crowd huddled in the farm yard.

A side note here.  Farm sales have always been perceived as almost a right of passage to those growing up in farm country. Akin, and often connected to funerals, they long have served as a gathering place for family, friends and neighbors to share memories and memorabilia collected throughout the life of the residents. In keeping with the frugality of farmers, little is passed up form being offered to those in attendance. Actual value or usefulness is a judgment left to the buyer.

The neatly kept house was old and never considered more than modestly adequate. The sale bill had stated it clearly - the couple had both passed, and the family had decided it was time to disperse the belongings. I however, noticed a few details. The carefully placed benches outside the yard gate. (Of course the yard was fenced.) The scattered rose bushes, most in full bloom, waving greetings from beyond to whomever would take time to notice. I did. They were red, and pink, and one glorious yellow. Yes, they are lovely this year, Mrs. Divis.

Don was getting a number while I watched. We surveyed the lines of equipment. A couple tractors, including one shop-made tractor. They said it was made by one of the sons, and won first place at the 1966 State Fair.  Hay rakes, trailers, mowers (I counted 5), elevators, assorted field equipment, and piles of used tires and lumber circled the farmyard. We made our way to the primary objective of the day - the fencing. The panels were not exciting. The rolls of wire held a little more promise.

The long line of tables heaped with the expected not- so-goods from the household sparked my interest. A box of ladies hats. Unused quilt bats, and wool at that. A few interesting pictures and/or frames. Wool cards.  (That was unexpected). I claimed the buyers number, and joined the few standing close to the auctioneer. Don joined the group hovering around the hay rack where the hand tools were twice the age of their  new owners.

I was just in time. A box of trinkets and macrame hangers got no bids, so another box was added. Then another. Oh no - they added the glassware I had my eye on. I hate when they do that. I bid anyway, and for $2.00 the 5 boxes were mine. A lady swooped in behind me as I shoved them further down the table.

"What were you after?" she boldly asked. "All I really wanted was the glassware," I replied. "Is there something you'd like?"

"Give you $2.00 for one of those wind chimes."  "Sold."  Actually, I let her have 2. The macrrame plant hangers 'accidentally' got moved over into the growing pile of a fellow buyer.

Moveing on down the line, I passed on a few things I really didn't need. Then the picture. It was an old print of a farmstead. The color was still good, and the frame was nice. What! They were already making a pile, and it was on top. Oh well, I could use the two little shelves. But stop already!  I bid. I got it. I added the lot to my pile. Don was watching. I knew he was taking deep breaths.

I stopped the auctioneer short when he added the wool cards to an old radio. "I'll bid on the cards alone!"  But others did too. But I won. I carried them back proudly to show my fellow shepherd.

"Did you buy that last lot for the shelving?"  It was the rival bidder on the cards.  "No, I only wanted the picture."  She picked it up. "This one?" I nodded. "Would you sell me the little shelves?"  I gazed at them thoughtfully.  "I'll give you $25.00."  "Well.... ok," I replied, trying not to appear too eager. She only had $23.00 cash. Close enough I said, before she could back out. But there were two men close behind.

"I wanted the magazines," one exclaimed. "Me too" said the other. I looked expectantly at both in turn.  "I'll give you $5.00" the right one said, and I looked to the left. "Six".  He won the bid.

Don shook his head, and returned to the equipment line.

And the fun continued. Then there was a lull in the action while they sold items of now interest to us. The fence panels brought way too much for interest. Don did get some rolls of wire, one old but still in the roll. Toward the last, our concern turned to what items would still fit in the van. I ended the bidding with an $8.00 purchase of two metal cabinets. Problem. But, I knew the guy who had bid against me. Yup. I sold him one for $4.00. The better white one slipped in over the wire, and the van door closed.

At home, I helped unpack my goods. Don got over $200. worth of wire (new price), for less than $50.00. He did well.

I got:  several glass pans and bowls for dyeing: with that purchase was:  a nice old set of salt and pepper shakers - with the red lids, but the fancy kind; an old egg timer like my Mother had, that still works; 2 old candy thermometers; a nice little nick-nack cabinet; a very nice cake plate, and possibly more.  I got a large 'original oil painting'. - well the frame was worth the dollar. A nice framed mirror with etched glass; 7 oak frames from Olan Mills, still in the boxes; and a couple other large picture frames. The wool cards, AND two wool quilt batts. Plus, a small white metal cabinet, and $35.00 in cash.

Farm sales used to be work. With Don working, finding time just to go was a major chore. Suddenly, its different. Interesting that this sale so closely follows the last couple weeks of sorting off junk and cast offs, filling the dumpster that occupied the driveway. It was intended to clear room for the construction of the cool room, but we found ourselves saying "we'll do this now, to spare the kids later." No. I won't let it become an obsession. But it was fun.

Maybe this retirement job has a few unexpected rewards along the way.

But now its back to business. The Sheep and Wool Festival is next weekend. I have goods to package, fleeces to select. Classes to plan for, and materials to gather. The sheep (as yet unselected, but I voted for the smaller lambs this year. Enough with the rams.) are to pay their visit to the vet for health papers Tues. Much to be done.

But, the rain has been good. The grass keeps growing. The peas grow by inches each day. Summer begins. And out by my own yard gate, the roses are about to bloom. I think they will be lovely this year.