December 29, 2015

An Ear Warmer Thingy

I don't know what you call this thing, but my husband posted this picture to my FB page yesterday and told me to "make some of these".

You know, because he's an engineer and not a knitter, it didn't occur to him to share a picture with a link to the pattern. (I don't know who you are, but thanks for modeling!) When I went on Ravelry, I couldn't find either that picture or a pattern to match.  So I wrote one with a wider rib and knit up the darned thing this morning.

It didn't take but a minute.  And because there are others of you who also probably have husbands who will want you to knit one of these ear warmer thingys instead of just wearing a cap that covers their ears because that would make far too much sense, here's the pattern: Baseball Cap Ear Warmer Thingy.  Feel free to make as many of these dumb things as you can stand (just don't copy my pattern and sell it as your own work of art because that would be both rude and illegal).

December 22, 2015

All Kinds of Unwanted Gifts

It's 3 days until Christmas--well, more like 2 and a handful of hours--and some pretty unpleasant gifts have been delivered by probably the Grinch. For me personally, there is the gift of this crazy, awful, haven't-been-this-sick-in-years flu/head cold from Hell virus that at least waited until all the work was done on the barn on Saturday to start killing me slowly and painfully. Three days in and each day has been a new set of miserable symptoms that trump those of the day before. It's safe to say that this, in combination with the fact that the 2 skeins of yarn that I needed from Knit Picks to finish what was set up to be the most amazing Penguins hockey cap ever in the history of hockey took 7 days to arrive (while the yarn I didn't need right now that was ordered later took 2 days) means the end of any expectations that I had of a Christmas FO. I finally had to just throw in the towel and order a ball cap. I'm not very merry about it, but I am too sick to kick it into high gear and the husband is going to be home through the holidays so I'd have to knit in the closet and that's not weird or suspicious at all.

The other unwanted gift is this mid-summer weather that we are about to be hit with in late December. We couldn't beg, borrow, or steal rain over the summer but now that we have half of the walls up and half of them on the ground to be put up for the main floor of the barn, we will be getting 10 days of insanely heavy rain with temps in the upper 70s (because what we all secretly want Santa to bring is hot, humid, gloomy, sticky weather for Christmas, right?)

That's not the best part. There's a threat of TORNADOS tomorrow with rain upwards of 2 inches. If there's one thing that can be counted on around here, rain or shine, it's high winds. We might as well live on the windward side of the Alps. High winds and flood water are the enemies of barn builders and Christmas revelers. It's going to be a tense next 3 days around here.

The last unwanted gift of the season, which is directly connected to the fact that Mother Nature has lost her friggin' mind, is the onslaught of summer insects. We are being overrun with, first, lady bugs and now stink bugs and house flies. What season is it again?

At least everything, and I mean everything on my list (save that one pesky hat)--I do all the shopping, sometimes even for myself, at Christmas--except for one measly gift card, has been bought, knit, hidden away, or wrapped and shipped. I've even gotten the groceries, which was no small feat of magic with one foot in the grave and a Walmart full of crazed holiday shoppers. I'm down to the wrapping of the last few packages and the praying that the most wanted gift on my husband's list actually shows up by the 24th like it's supposed to. I'm relying on the U.S. Postal Service, so chances are ... we'll get it on the 26th. 

This is not to say that we haven't had our share of blessings this year. We have had more than our fair share and we are grateful. Despite every only-in-the-movies kind of craziness that has been thrown our way, we have come out of it with more lemonade than lemons. It's been a rough year, and I, for one, am thankful to be looking at the end of it with the people who have my back and love me unconditionally to share it with. (Well, there are probably conditions like "I'll love you forever if you take me to practice, mom!"--I have teenagers.)

So tonight, I'm just going to slurp my chicken noodle soup loudly because no one is home to hear it, maybe knit something, wrap a couple things, and fall asleep watching whatever old movie I can find on the TV with my fingers crossed that Wednesday will be quiet and uneventful.

December 14, 2015

Wait, what?

There are 12 measly little days left until Christmas.  For the first time EVER, I will be finished with all Christmas knitting, not only before Christmas Eve, but a full WEEK BEFORE Christmas Eve. I feel like there is something so very off about that statement. I feel like I am missing something, though I have checked and re-checked and even added to the list over the last few weeks.

I have a few ends to weave in and some blocking ...

How does one block and dry a 15-foot wool scarf? I think I'm going to lay it out in the green house. No one goes in there besides me so it's probably a pretty safe place to stash a scarf of this magnitude.

And a thumb ...

There's a gansey hat that will take about a day to finish up--just needs a crown. I designed this pattern, but think I may make a change or two before I publish it.

And there's a color work hat that I expect will be quite glorious when it's finished--two days tops.

And then that's it. Gloves for my mother-in-law went to her for her birthday. I've made scarves for Rocket and Scout #1's girlfriend. This is the girlfriend's scarf.

Self-striping socks in size GARGANTUAN for Scout #2 are boxed and under the tree. And, well, that's it. The list was pretty small, but still and all, it's on the short track to being finished. I even had time to whip up a new cowl in Rocket's basketball team colors for myself.

The really crazy thing about this is ... my mind is spinning with what is going to be an unprecedented pre-Christmas cast on for myself.  Or, I could just reign in my cast-on-itis and finish the second Snawpaws mitten of this pair (done with our luminescent Moss and Natural Single Sheep).

Best of luck to you as you wrap up your holiday gift list! I'm off to finish up.

November 20, 2015

Yarn Love

If you read my last post, you saw those very marvelous Inversion Mitts.

The best part about those mitts, I think, is the yarn.  I am in love with my new sport weight yarn base Sporty Sheep.  I mean it.  As much as one person can be enamored of a yarn, I am that much romanced by it.  I like a sexy, squishy merino with a perfectly round 3-ply strand as much as the next gal, but the thing that really gets me with this yarn is the stitch definition.  This yarn makes my knitting look like something that was engineered by a machine. So, maybe it's that "perfect stitch" factor that has me hooked. Maybe it's both. Either way, I'm sitting here at my desk and ogling the line up of Sporty Sheep in those eye-popping jewel tones and thinking about what to do next with this yarn.  Oh, sure, there's plenty in the shop, so don't worry that you won't be able to get some for yourself, although once word gets out about how amazing this yarn is, it may walk out the door more quickly than expected; but I also have a pile of reserve that hasn't been dyed yet and this yarn goodness could possibly overcome my better business manager judgment and become something that doesn't get set aside for a fiber show display. In the meantime, while I'm trying to think of what to do with it next (more fair isle is a distinct possibility), maybe you want to take a look at the new label for yourself?









Now also, if there is a color that isn't being stocked on the website that you would like to have--I just had a customer this week commission some Sporty Sheep in a misty spruce sort of color for a pair of toddler socks (which turned out so very nicely!), then shoot me an email and we'll work something out. Custom orders are never a problem. Or, if you need more of a color than what is listed as being in stock on the website, again, just email me.

I hope you have an amazing weekend full of yarn goodness!

November 18, 2015

New Pattern Release: Inverse Mitts!

I've been bitten by the color work bug lately.  It began with a pair of mitts for my mother-in-law, which turned out to be worked and re-worked into two separate pair in two separate sizes in a heavy sport weight wool.  Then I thought "Hey, wouldn't this pattern be great done in my new yarn line, Sporty Sheep?!" and a quick-knit pattern was born.

Meet the Inverse Mitts.  This stranded color work mitt is designed as a woman's pattern, but I think that the medium could probably work for pre-teens and teens, as well since Sporty Sheep is a springy yarn with a good amount of elasticity.  The pattern is written for two sizes, medium (8-inch palm circumference) and large (9-inch palm circumference).

Because of the vertical stripping of the palm, the palm is going to be much warmer, denser, and more durable than your typical stranded color work pattern. The thumb is worked as an afterthought thumb, with a photo included of what yours should look like when you work it up.  Afterthought thumbs are really a cinch, but I recommend that you give yourself a life line, as it's easy to lose those top stitches among the strands on the wrong side of the fabric.

This pattern has just enough color work to satisfy that color work itch, and it's completely seamless. I'm in love with this pattern, which I have now knit about 6 times in the course of the development of this pattern.  I think that you are going to LOVE both working this pattern and working with Sporty Sheep, too!

You can find the pattern on Ravelry, Craftsy, and in my Cedar Hill Farm Company online shop.

Happy knitting!

November 05, 2015

Knitter's Bias

My middle son recently had to read the marvelous book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell for his English class.  If you haven't read it or any of his other mind-blowing books, you really should. But, that's beside the point. So my son had to read this book and then he had to do a power point, which invariably means that mom had to do a power point because, well, the whole space/time continuum would probably be thrown into chaos if a child in my household did an entire project on any night other than the night before it's due. Maybe you can relate.  One of the premises of this book is that we all operate, particularly experts in their field on something called "unconscious bias".  Unconscious bias is your brain's ability to take in gobs of information unconsciously at first glance and draw an unexplainable conclusion to give you a snap judgement. We knitter's like to refer to that as the feeling that something is definitely wonky.

This brings me to the carefully planned and currently on-track execution of Christmas knitting.  I was so organized this year that I had ALL of my yarn and ALL of my projects planned, ordered, and wound into their corresponding yarn cakes by the middle of October.  I am half-way through 2 projects and contemplating a third while also whipping out that darned Floria shawl and working up 2 shawl patterns--one for December release and one for the book.  I am on the ball this year!  That is to say ... until my unconscious bias kicked in about the 3rd round of these mitts, at which point anyone else would probably have checked the yarn labels--who am I kidding? No you wouldn't have. I thought "something's wonky here" and kept knitting. All evening I kept wondering what it was. Did I have more stitches on one cuff than the other?  Nope. Exactly right stitch count. Was one yarn thicker than the other? That looks like it may actually be true. But now that I know what the REAL problem is.  It's the color.  Darn it if one isn't a little greener than the other!?! Considering this is supposed to be a "natural" color from Knit Picks, that didn't seem right.  Surely it was just bad lighting, right?

I'll bet you are looking at the picture and you might not be seeing green, but you are definitely picking up on how the left isn't the same as the right. So I went to the trash can this morning and dug out the labels and darn it if they aren't the same dye lot.  What kind of malevolent person would send out 2 different dye lots during the holiday knitting season?! The kind that deserves a 20lb bag of coal in his stocking, that's for sure!  As a matter of a fact, the yellowing of one of the two labels compared to the bright, just-printed-yesterday white of the other tells me that these two skeins may not even have been manufactured in the same decade. (Sigh.)

As I was sitting here, writing this bit of knitterly warning, I came to the (sigh) conclusion that one of these cuffs had to come off the needles. I am going to have to (gasp!) try to eke out 2 mitts from one skein.  Clearly, one is thicker than the other.

So what's a gal to do?  I probably don't need to scrap the project.  I think the best plan is to add a second color to the mix and work what was going to be a pair of plain Jane grey mitts into a pair of snazzy Fair Isle mitts.

I decided that I would simply have to get cozy with Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting.  Since my cast-on dimensions fit my mother-in-law's hands and not the prescribed patterns of what I can find on Ravelry, I'm having to improvise.  Fortunately, I have a skein of white in the same weight from Knit Picks that appears to have been an accidental purchase because I can't for the life of me figure out why it is in the Christmas knitting supplies box.  It goes with nothing in there. CLEARLY someone in the universe expected me to be in this dilemma.  Maybe it was my psychic intuition and I subconsciously knew that some not-so-crafty Knit Picks stock boy would make this kind of unforgivable mistake and so I ordered it.

The palm looks like this:

And by lunch time today I was working a thumb gusset and my improvised pattern was taking shape, though it is killing me to only be able to work one mitt at a time.  Killing me, I say!

Lesson here? Check your labels.  No matter how organized and ahead of the game you think you are, check your labels.  At least this project is happening now and not in the 13th hour of Christmas Eve and I can step back and re-group.  You might not be so lucky.

October 29, 2015

Finally finished.

You know how someone you know sees something they like that is really rather unique and stunning and then you think "I'll knit that for them as a gift"?  Then, you order the pattern and you order the yarn for the pattern, or maybe, like me, you think "it will be colder when this is finished so I'll go one weight heavier" and you order different yarn to work the pattern? It probably also takes you twice as long to work said pattern that someone else picked out than you thought, too. This pattern is called "Floria" (yours may or may not also be the Floria pattern, I don't know). You'll have to forgive the quality of the lighting of the pictures. It was raining, of course, when it had finally dried and I had about 10 minutes to get it in a box and over to the UPS place.

Let's have a quick run-down of the Floria pattern, shall we?  It's a shawl that fits somewhere between the typical cape pattern and the crescent shawl pattern.  It's decorative only along the outer edge, where it has a very unusual floral pattern that, in the original pattern's picture lays flat (because they had to iron it since that is the only way that it could possibly and reasonably lay flat) and looks very Victorian in nature.  In concept, it's rather stunning.

In practice, it is the shawl pattern from Hell.  There, I've said it. Well, someone had to. No point in making you think that this pattern is a walk in the park that anyone with a few skills can master.  It's so terribly not that kind of pattern.  It's two months on stocking stitch island. Knitters have gone into asylums for less. Then it's a month--mostly wasted with knitting, ripping back, swearing, re-knitting, ripping back ... you get the picture.  It's also an unreasonably large amount of lace stitches.  At the apex of the pattern, we are talking 813 stitches (and it will seem more like 8,000 because you will be pretty sure with each RS row that you will never, ever reach the end). There's a chart that, although I usually prefer to knit lace with a chart, made my eyes cross and that really, at first glance, I knew I wasn't going to be able to make heads or tails of.  Really the only thing the pattern was good for was trying to double check the written instructions which struck me regularly as being confusing.

So you make it to row 6 of the lace pattern and then you go over the cliff into an abyss of what the *#%@. Row 6 is written in such a way as to make you think that either the instructions or the stitch count is wrong.  SIX hours it took me to get row 6 correct.  If you know me, then you know that I'm a pretty darned proficient knitter, knitting instructor, and all-around speedy knitter.  Six hours, folks.  Here's the gist: the instructions suggest a 4-stitch increase in every double yarn over. The reality is that you were supposed to psychically know that the writer of the pattern meant for you to do an 8-stitch increase in every double yarn over.  I know that it is not just me, as this is a pretty prevalent question on Revelry.  Most people are more polite than I would have been because if you work row 6, which is supposed to end with 545 stitches, and you follow the instructions thinking that you've done them correctly so the stitch count must be wrong, you can actually work almost all of row 7 before you realize that you are screwed.

So let's say that you put in your 6 hours and you make it past rows 6 and 7.  You are not headed to home plate like you think you are.  No, you are headed for another 20 hours or so of double yarn overs, Sl2K1P2SSOs followed by SL1K2PSSOs (because no one hardly every gets those confused in a sequence of repeats, am I right?), and K3togs.

This is not a pattern that can be worked outside of solitary confinement, even for a knitter who can read and knit, knit with her eyes closed, or walk, talk, chew gum, and knit at the same time.

It is also not a pattern whose yardage should be given any credence whatsoever. Order extra.  Order a lot of extra.  I came in at just over 920 yards of sport weight. The pattern calls for 874 yards of fingering weight. I am a pretty tight knitter, and I don't usually require as much as a pattern calls for; in this case, however, I had what the pattern calls for and I was exactly one row and a bind off row short of yarn.  This necessitated an emergency yarn order from anywhere that I could find it because it was out of stock where I originally purchased it, and you know how you can never get the same dye lot when you have an emergency order? You also know how when it's an emergency order because the project has a hard deadline you have to pay extra?  By the time I got the yarn (the company sat on it for 4 days before shipping it out, even though I paid the inflated expedited 2-day UPS rate), it was the last day that it could ship by normal mail and it didn't arrive until 7 pm. And it was a different, lighter shade.  Yes, it was.  Even the 12 year-old, who is of the opinion that matching is for losers at the moment, looked at it and said "That's a different color, mom."

With gritted teeth and held breath I finished the last two rows and yes, they did look different.  But, I was cheered when, though there was a very loud gasp from the knitter at the time, I washed the finished product and it bled like mad.  In the end, it's not so very different along the edge.  But, by the way, now I am going to be returning all of the Cascade Superwash Sport 220 to its place of origin because, well, no one wants to work a 95% white fair isle yoke sweater and have the colors of the yoke bleed all over in the wash. Or maybe you do, but I don't.

It blocked a bit larger than the original pattern, which is what I anticipated since I used a heavier yarn.  Otis was very interested in the thing on the floor that he was not allowed to lay on, walk on, or worm his way under, though attempts were made. My version came out to about 70 inches, and the original was 66 inches.  I probably would have had something wider if I had tried to flatten the lace pattern, which isn't actually designed to lay flat, though, like I said, the pattern's picture has it ironed flat.  It's really designed to make the petals stand up because of the ridge that the paired decreases create down the center of each petal.

In the end, after paying for UPS overnight shipping (which, incidentally, is $15 more expensive if you drive 3 miles to the UPS store to have them print the label than if you print the label at home and drive the package 3 miles to the UPS store), plus the emergency yarn and its shipping, I think it's safe to say that I could have made this shawl four times over.  I will not, however, be making a second one. Nope. Don't ask me.

October 16, 2015

To Dye For

Now that all orders have shipped and parcels have been received throughout Europe and elsewhere, I can finally tell you about what I did with my summer vacation. You will not be at all surprised that it had everything to do with yarn.

I was approached by Jo Milmine of (her podcasts are fabulous!), who also happens to be one of the three owners of The Golden Skein.  If you've never visited the website for this company, you really should. As one of the U.K.'s most prestigious yarn clubs, they offer a quarterly subscription (of course you can sign up for a whole year if you are feeling spunky) for one-of-a-kind, hand painted and hand dyed yarns from the international community of indie dyers.  And by "international community", let me be clear and say that I mean "the best dyers in the world".  No doubt.  You can check out their previous subscription offers and see that the yarn that they have custom dyed is GORGEOUS!  We dyers, you know, sign a contract that prohibits us from really ever re-creating that colorway again, so if you miss out on the shipment, well, you'll just never ever get another chance to get that colorway. That's enough to make a serious yarn addict like myself cry, isn't it?

But enough of that, let's talk about my yarn contribution to the Autumn 2015 collection for The Golden Skein: Poisoned Apple.

I think that I may have caught Jo a little off guard when I explained to her the reason that I named this colorway as I did. You know, a person never thinks about the cultural differences between crafters until something comes up like this. The other dyers wrote inspirational or memorial travel explanations about their color ways; not me. I was inspired by Disney.  No, I mean it.

Jo sent me this  picture of molten lava (which I at first thought was paint under a black light because my artist brain was clearly turned on at the time) and the first thing in my brain was a color association with the wicked queen in Snow White.

And then I couldn't get that out of my head.  The other dyers appeared to have seen orange and red and black when they looked at the picture.  I saw violet first, then the black and then scarlet.  I wasn't even cognizant of the orange until Jo pointed it out in her Shineybees podcast this month. I looked at the picture of lava and, in my mind's eye, I saw this:

And I also saw how just about every female Disney villain could be associated with those same colors; so that tells you how much old school Disney corrupted my youth. I may have a particular appreciation for this wicked queen, however, as more than a few times students may have referred to me, with the above picture or one similar and my name beneath, as their own wicked queen of the English classroom. (This may or may not have been a valid caricature.)

I am only the 3rd American dyer to have been invited to dye for this club, and I couldn't have been more thrilled to participate. (Insert tooting of own horn!) Previous American dyers include Susan Hayes of Desert Vista Dyeworks and Michelle Berry of Berry Colorful Yarnings.  Because the general expectation for this quarter's offering was a 4-ply yarn, Journey was the base and I used the same dyeing technique that I use for all of my Journey colorways.  As you know, the subscribers will be getting one pretty fabulous yarn just because that's Journey all over, fabulous.

The other two dyers were DyeForYarn (Spouting Lava colorway, far left) and TravelKnitter (Stromboli color way, center).  Spouting Lava has a bit of the orange in it that I didn't see in the picture and Stromboli is a multi-dimensional blend of reds.

Poisoned Apple is the far right skein.

And that's what I did during my summer vacation, dying more yarn on the farm (30,000 yards to be exact!) in a single colorway in a single day (7 straight hours) than I have ever been asked to do before. (Sherri of Rainy Day Yarns in Washington state is a close second with all of the Rainy Day color way that she's had me dye up over the past few months--she carries my yarn, Left Coasters so check her shop out because she obviously has impeccable taste in yarn! Obviously.)

If you want a skein or two of Poisoned Apple, hurry up and order it because you can order it separately and they are almost sold out!  If you're just not an international shopper, at least you can get Journey in several other unique color ways in the shop.  Oh yeah, and I'm having a wee sale through Sunday (10/18) so you'd better get on over there and shop before I'm cleaned out (details in the shop slideshow and on the FB page)!

September 29, 2015

And so it goes ...

Have you begun your holiday knitting yet?  I have, sort of.  I've put together the spreadsheet and filled it in with due dates that should give me plenty of time. The problem is, there are also 4 birthdays between now and Christmas that involve completion of projects, as well.  And then there's THE BOOK. The list keeps growing as my co-author/photographer and I are inspired by this or that, and that means an endless amount of knitting for me to manage there, too.  Every project on the list involves a good bit of tedious stocking stitch, except for one pair of socks, which involves ribbing.  Although I am glad that there isn't a large amount of tedious and time-consuming cable work, one does like a little bit of interest now and again. Actually, I think everything on the short list is either completely stocking stitch--how long do you think that Dr. Who scarf is, really?--or stocking stitch with a bit of lace work. Of course, I'm always happy for the opportunity to sit and knit a spell, but there's so much in the way of other demands right now that my anxiety over being able to get it all in and done is mounting. What's worse is that I can't even show pictures of anything because it's either top secret for the book or top secret because it's a gift.

And it won't stop raining. You know how too much rain makes one more than a little bit nuts in a cabin fever sort of way. This is not a summer rain or an autumn rain, but a January, misty, drizzle-y rain with intensely gray skies that make it seem like it's twilight all day.  And it just keeps drizzling.  This sort of rain calls for hot chocolate and a fire in the fireplace, but it's 75 degrees F. outside. Of course, this incessant rain is because we had a date set for the framing of the barn to begin.  Then it began to rain and the framer backed out and now we are in search of a new framer under a very tight deadline but, even though they can't work in the rain elsewhere, we can't seem to get anyone reliable to come out to do an estimate ... because it's raining.  They'll come by when it's dry.

(That's the barn floor--notice still no barn over it.)
I also have sick sheep, and we ended up losing one of the lambs, Pippi, last Friday because the unseasonal rain and heavy dews of September led to a type of parasite infestation that you just don't usually see around these parts. Of course, the medication for this can't be bought on this side of the Mississippi, and there's nothing you can put on the pasture grass to kill it, and we don't have a finished barn yet to put them in, so I've been struggling to keep my sheep from dying with penicillin and thiamine injections--and you know there's nothing that livestock enjoy more than getting stuck in the neck with large hypodermic needles multiple times a day--while some careless person sits around (and has probably been playing on his phone) instead of shipping my orders on time.  It's one thing to treat animals that outweigh you by up to 100 pounds with a team once in a while, but I've had to go it alone mostly twice each day. It's day 7 of this and I'm spent.

Can you tell how Stanley feels about needles?
Much of the wet weekend was dedicated to putting in fence posts (30 wooden posts in, 30 metal posts left to pound, and more goat fence to attach than anyone wants to put up) and dividing up what was formerly horse pasture, but it's too wet and slippery now to finish up, and that puts the most infected group of sheep in isolation in the dog pen with a make-shift shelter for probably the rest of the week.

Stella & Bonnie--7 days ago, which is the last time we saw the sun.
And the fall planting of the garden has, due to the funky weather, gone to hell. So there's that.

I also can't dye yarn in the rain, or dry it even, which puts off the debut of my new silk/merino fingering gradient yarn.  It's just sitting in a box, patiently waiting for its turn at the dye pot.  Bright side:  my new steel dye pots are on their way so I will have them to work with if this rain every dissipates.

And so it goes ... another wet, grey day with much tedious knitting (and probably not enough attention to housework) and chasing of sheep in circles with hypodermic needles in hand. Ah, good times!

September 23, 2015

24 Hours of Sheep

Often people will say to me "You have sheep? How cool!" or "It's so amazing that you have sheep!" Although raising sheep has been a bucket list item for me (CHECK!), I have to say that the moments when I, too, think "Sheep. How cool!" are few and far between. There are a few moments of humor and hilarity, but more often there's hard work and worry. The more you get used to raising them, the more it seems that you've taken in the neighbor's kids, who incidentally do not speak your language, are too wary to get near to you most of the time, and have zero interest in you personally.

Certainly, last night while most of you were asleep in your beds or at least in bed watching a late show, I was not thinking anything relatively close to how great it is to have sheep.  Nope, not at all. As our normal bedtime drew closer, and Otis the cat was announcing from his perch on the back of the recliner that it was time his pre-bedtime snack, Stella was steadily becoming more ill--no one knows why she was fine in the morning and having a neurological, anemic breakdown by dinner time. I called the vet, I gave her an injection of penecillin in case this was the onset of Polio, she got an extra large dose of sheep drench in case this was a parasite, my husband raced like his hair was on fire to and from the closest feed store to get B-complex vitamins in case this was anemia and she got an injection of those,I kept putting water down her throat to keep her hydrated, and we tried to keep her wobbly self upright and calm through muscle spasms and panic attacks. And then suddenly, there we were, my husband and I, driving a panic-stricken, 98 lb ewe with an abbreviated sense of balance and temporary (we hope) blindness in the cargo area of my Ford Escape through chicken farm country to a large animal veterinary hospital. Did you catch that? No joke. A sheep in my car.  (She was too imbalanced to have safely ridden in a livestock trailer.) During the entire 20-minute drive my thoughts vascillated between "Don't die before we get there Stella!" and "What is this going to look like if a cop were to pull us over?" Farmers, you know, do really crazy things that, to them, seem perfectly normal, like putting a sheep in a small SUV.  To a cop, however, there might have been some errant thoughts of "What were these people smoking when they put a sheep in their car and drove off with it?"

At midnight, as we were dragging our tired, sheep excrement decorated carcasses into the house for much needed showers, having taken turns for two hours on the hard tile floor of the hospital with Stella in various states of anxiety and drug induced lethargy (her, not us) trying to get a catheter to stay in a vein, I wasn't thinking "Having sheep is great!".  I was tired of smelling rotten animal carcass (the very patient and determined emergency vet had just come from delivering a still-born calf that had begun to decompose in the womb), sheep poop, and sweat. 

As you can see, it looked much like war zone triage by the time that we were finished--trust me, by the time it was over, we all felt like we had been through an uphill battle! 

Eventually the catheter stayed in the vein and we slid-carried her through a maze of hallways on a blanket to get her to the holding pen. At least we all managed to keep our sense of humor.

I wish that someone would have said to me before we ventured down this road of high adventure that sheep live to die because one of my least favorite things to hear from a vet is: "It looks like she's gone blind". We are hoping this is temporary because what does one do with a blind sheep?

Also, I was not thinking "Hey, this is great!" this morning, though in hindsight if there had been a camera I am pretty sure I would have taken home the America's Funniest Videos $10,000 grand prize, when Stanley, our 200+ lb. ram threw me to the ground (ouch!) during a dispute over whether or not he was going to be wormed.  As I am laying there on my back on a pile of fresh poop with a ram hoof on my hip, pinning me to the ground and Stanley looking quite triumphant about it, Puck and Clyde come rushing over to ask "Lady, what are you doing on the ground?" I will admit, that was a little funny. 

My sense of humor, however, quickly waned after being butted several times in the back by Stanley and his refusal, along with Puck's, to allow me to muck out their shed. They were very insistent about getting that shovel out of their shed because, well, shovels are evil. Stanley was willing to just eat it if that would help. At least the shovel was enough of a distraction that Stanley got that wormer in the end. He's such a drama queen.

But the good news is, everyone is doing well, sheep craziness aside, except for Bonnie who misses her mama and Stella who needs another night in the hospital, though she's much better today and we expect that she'll be back on pasture tomorrow morning.

What IS great about raising these sheep, however, is that when the dirty, gross, sticky blankets of fleece for which you wrestled with those sheep come back from the mill, there is YARN! Have you seen the yarn that Stella, Blanche, and Oliver contributed a year of their lives to making?  It's luminescent and lovely. My husband doesn't agree that the best part is yarn--he's a Return-on-Investment kind of guy who reminded me this morning that the emergency vet bill for this one sheep would completely cancel out all sales of their yarn--, but to me the yarn makes all of the struggle worth it in the end. 

P.S. Buy some yarn. I have a whopper of a vet bill to pay! 

September 15, 2015

Putting on a New Face

I waited for a year with much anticipation and excitement for the Georgia FiberFest to roll around and then it was (WHOOOSH!) over in the blink of an eye! (insert sad face)

Cedar Hill Farm booth

Pam Powers in her booth

Felting Demonstration (amazing life-size horse head, no joke!)

Saori Weaving Demonstration

But coming home has been a whirlwind, too, so let me tell y'all about what's new around here. First, thanks to the whole family pitching in and nearly killing themselves in the heat this summer to make up for what the first two successive contractors screwed up and abandoned when they absconded with our money, we have ALL of the concrete work done on the barn as of this morning (so much concrete that this barn will outlive us all!) and the framers can get in here next week and get down to business. I'm sooooo excited! A finished barn means shelter for the horses and donkey and the sheep during ice storms, there will be a storm shelter for us, 2 hay lofts to store the hay out of the weather, a workshop for the husband, a machine shop to work on the tractor and the trucks, and a new dyeing area for me.

Next, you may or may not have noticed (if not, why haven't you visited the online shop this week?!) that my shop has a new face.  The old one was a bit tedious and not at all easy to shop with, so I revamped the look, the ease with which you can select your items, and the shopping cart/checkout pages.  I hope you like it.  All of the drop down boxes should be gone and you can go directly to the yarn line of your choice via the left-hand scroll bar. Here's a quick peek:

Also gone are a few of the labels that have been around for a while.  I've decided that I'm really just a wool snob, so in that vein the alpaca is mostly gone, except for Velvet.  You will no longer find Belle Luxe lace or Cielo DK in my shop.  The good people who visited the Georgia FiberFest market were kind enough to help me eliminate my stock.  You also will no longer find the Flock label (195, 225, and 335). These I could no longer get from my supplier and they were just hanging on.  They were also bought up by the good people last weekend.

You know what is in the shop that's new?  SINGLE SHEEP! Our very first fleece came back from the mill in a single-ply fingering weight and I've dyed it up and you can pick up a bit in the shop, but hurry because this was a small batch and when it's gone, it's gone!

Also new in the shop are Autumn colorways for Journey, Rocket Sock, and Rocket Sock Medium, grommet project bags of new and different fabric.  And there are MINIONS because everyone loves a Minion, especially me, and you probably need some to keep track of your projects for you.  I taught a 2-at-a-time sock class this past weekend and the ladies discovered just how useful these bags are for that technique.  You could also use them for colorwork.

Anyway, it's also round 2 of sheep vaccinations today so I have to get out there and con some sheep into letting me stab them in the neck for a minute.  That's going to be not so very fun.


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