the whole process.

It started out looking like this…IMGP0394And slowly but surely, became this…IMGP2305From sheep to baby blanket… It’s the first time I’ve ever accomplished the whole process from start to finish in many many years of wanting it to happen! 

(The pattern is Concentric Squares Baby Blanket by Fiber Fiend, http://www.fiberfiend.com)

In between the beginning and the end, there was a whole slew of processes. If you’ve been following along with our stories in this space for some time now, you may recall the tending and shepherding of the sheep all through the cold winter months. Or even before that, my family’s trip to Pennsylvania to fetch my flock of Shetlands and then being crammed in the truck like sardines for the long haul. Then spring arrived and shearing needed to happen. Remember when the Hill and Hollow crew came to save the day with their electric sheep shears? And remember not quite as long ago when my family had an overnight stay in a hotel and as my luggage I took a dirty sheep’s fleece for scouring in the hotel bathtub? And the borrowed drum carder? And all of the spinning? And then the indigo dyeing? (Which was a whole process in and of itself with the seeding, weeding, growing and harvesting!) Finally, my favorite part of the process, the hours and hours of knitting… knitting while the kids swam in the creek, or in the early gray mornings, or while I waited for supper to cook, or while I accompanied Eric for chores (but not being able to walk and actually help out with chores because of my leg. Moral support is good too!). It is a long-winded process I will admit! But it’s also incredibly satisfying…IMGP2307(You can see the color change between dye lots… I wasn’t totally thrilled with this feature and did try to overdye the whole blanket to make the blue more consistent, but alas, there is still a definite line. Oh, well. Maybe next year when the indigo is ready, I will try again.)

When I finally finished the baby blanket, the kids asked me how much I would charge if I were to sell the blanket. I just had to laugh. 

So the blanket is all finished. Now I just need a baby to wrap up in it…IMGP2310

 

love blue? join us 8/22

my love affair with japanese indigo began long ago, dear friends showed us the magic of dyeing with a farm raised blue and i was hooked.

as with any good courtship, ours developed over many years. there was a lot of dyeing, even more experimentation, and all kinds of fun.  there is no doubt in my mind a peak moment was when i dipped the first yarn our farm’s flock of sheep produced into a farm raised indigo vat  and watched the magic before my eyes. it was my birthday and it was the best gift ever.

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now, years later, i am ready to share the magic. in fact, i am not only planing to share the magic, i am extending an invitation to share the community that has developed around me, our farm’s fiber and  our farm’s blue.

on august 22nd  we will gather here at hill and hollow farm for our fist natural dye workshop. it is a significant day just 4 short weeks away. a day when we will formally begin a totally new series of educational opportunities here.

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we are offering a full day of fiber fun.  it will be an introduction to natural dyeing offering participants the opportunity to harvest and dye with our farm raised japanese indigo.

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it is most importantly a day of community.  sharing the role of educator with me will be a skilled weaver and natural dyer herself: erin.  we met over a shared love for the highest quality of natural dyeing and fiber work. amazingly, she will travel from indiana to share the weekend with us.

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as if this wasn’t exciting enough, we have welcomed back fiber enthusiast and 2013 hill and hollow apprentice for another year of learning and sharing on the farm. deanna is a skilled knitter, spinner and dyer herself and will offer guests the opportunity to work with a raw fleece. taking it through each phase: washing, picking, carding and spinning into yarn.

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i have been secretly calling this fiber boot camp and i am so excited to create this space here on the farm. i am giddy to gather with such wonderful fiber enthusiasts and i thought i might just spread the word. y’all should join us.

anyone interested can email me for the specifics hhcsa@scrtc.com or call, i love a good chat 270-432-0567.

 

 

for the love of a lamb

sheep have grazed our pastures here since 2006. our relationship with farm animals has evolved, the learning curve has been steep, but when the sheep arrived as part of a work trade with a neighbor, we were excited and as ready as one can ever really be.

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actually, our flock chose us. and they chose wisely. we have jacob’s sheep, an old time breed whose wool is loved by hand spinners, whose meat is fine textured, and who embody the qualities of sturdy survivalism that have carried this breed through centuries and fit right into our shepherding approach.

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you see, we are pretty non intervention with our livestock here. we expect good mamas to have their babes without our help. we want animals thriving on grass as we do not feed any grain to our farm’s ruminants. we have certainly had our share of set backs with these policies, but for the most part, we have successful lambing (and calving) and have exceptional meat, milk and wool.

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needless to say, with our non intervention stance, we don’t have a flock of sheep that come running at us for attention, they follow paul, the shepherd, because he means fresh grass to them. (or hay in the winter) the rest of us can wish for a wooly cuddle, but it just won’t happen. until now. actually 3 days ago. you see,  the last ewe to lamb this season, a young ewe birthing for her first time, had twins and she wasn’t accepting one: a sweet female. this has happened many times over the years and honestly, we have let those lambs die.  we consider it a natural loss and accept it. (most often during her second lambing season such ewes successfully raise twins).

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i am not sure what happened this time around, but we saw the ignored lamb, we were on our way to town, somehow, some way, we came back with 8 pounds of the sweet powdery lamb milk replacer, sav-a-lam. (the whole way to town madeline whispered, “is dad getting soft?”)

to put this in another context, i have been a quiet but confident breast feeding advocate for nearly 15 years. i know the value of formula when a mama can’t nurse her own, but know also i am so thankful that i have been able to nurse all of mine long and well. no bottles, no formula, no mixing. honestly, i really couldn’t believe that this powder in a bag that smells like a cross of cake mix and pudding stirred with water could really nourish anything. i had to call around and ask, “does this really work?”

somehow, i was left with the final decision. i am not by the way a tremendous decision maker. the libra in me can always see both sides and i prefer to defer on things such as bottle feeding a lamb. weighing in all facts, and i won’t list them here, i ripped that bag open and went for it.

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we have yet to name her.  i warned the children “we really don’t know for sure that she is going to live”. admittedly,  we are already attached. we give lamby cuddles and love in addition to her milk replacer, those necessary gifts that usually come from mama aren’t one of the ingredients in the sav-a lam.  i have questioned the efficiency of this project. you see, for the past days i have been on a 6 bottle a day schedule (all according to the bag!). tomorrow i will shift to 4 larger feedings a day and likely settle into a routine that is slightly more reasonable. this is a love project though and i  have not once regretted my decision.

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