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.

September 05, 2015

The First Fleece

It's here! It's here! The very first yarn ever produced by Cedar Hill Farm Company sheep.  I could die with happiness right now!

Meet Single Sheep, our single-spun, 400 yards/100 grams, fingering weight yarn (comparable to Madeline Tosh Light). This 100% wool yarn is a blend of Corriedale, Finn, and a whole lot of sheep attitude! Kettle dyeing seemed most appropriate for this line, and it will debut in Natural, Mossy, Cinnamon Stick, Still Waters, Crocus, and Dahlia.

Although Blanche, Stella, and Oliver (RIP) are primarily responsible for these gorgeous, first run skeins, I have to also give props to my husband and my children who, despite thinking that I'm just a little bit nuts most days of the week, have supported me in bringing this little pipe dream to fruition.  Could not have done it without them. This yarn is soft with a light sheen and deep lustre that gives a complex depth to the dyes. Think shawls, lace scarves, gloves, and berets.

I will be taking most of the lot to the Georgia FiberFest next week, although a bit will be kept behind because there's a project brewing in my mind. If there's any left after the show, it'll go into the online shop.  But then, sadly, that will be it until next year about this time.

Bright side: the flock has tripled so there will be two different types of yarn coming back from the mill next September--Stanley & the boys will be something light and silky and the girls will provide a repeat of this year's Single Sheep.

I wasn't super thrilled with the mill that we used this year, so I may be seeking out something further north with more experience with spinning wool. Consequently, I can only estimate that we will have a second batch around September of next year.

And there we have it. Check one life's goal off of the bucket list!

Hope to see you at the Georgia FiberFest next week. You can't miss me; I'm right at the front door. :)


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