Friday, July 25, 2014

Terrible me

I know, I'm terrible.  I promised to blog for the Tour de Fleece, but it's almost over and no post.  I almost feel bad about it.

Lots of spinning being done.  Alpaca wool blend, 60% alpaca from my beautiful fibre boy Beau a giant rescue alpaca, and 40% wool from Salt Spring Island.

In other news, for some strange reason, I've decided I'm going to build a yurt.  Still trying to figure out the details, but I set up a separate blog dedicated to my Quest for Yurt Love.  I feel a bit bad starting up yet another blog when the internet is already littered with useless garbles, but maybe it will be useful for future yurt builders.  I'm writing about my research, observations, evaluations, and soon my triumphs and failures.

There is also an ulterior motive to writing the Yurt Blog - I'm a person with a limited budget and a finite number of skills.  I would love to make as much of this as I can myself with as environmentally friendly approach as possible, however, I'm having trouble finding the resources.  Maybe someone out there might stumble on my blog and read about where I'm at.  They might know someone's uncle who has a neighbour who just happens to have an excess of such and such a resource ... or there is a group of enthusiastic group of people who would love to help make giant felt cloths in return for awesome lamb feast.

Who knows, stranger things have happened.

I worry about appealing to crowdfunding so I can buy what I need.  Two reasons why I don't like this - one, just buying the thing doesn't teach me anything new, and two, I don't want to beg for money without giving something back to people - but what?  If I can think of some tokens I can give in thanks, and once I get a better idea of how much the whole thing will cost, then maybe I'll investigate kickstarter.  But until then...

Other things going on here at the farm include saving seeds to return to the seed library, planting out winter veg, getting ready for fibrations fibre fest (which for some reason I've decided to enter as a vendor).

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Back to the present

I've had my computer off most of the last few weeks.  It was great, I got a lot of things done both on the farm and in the 14th Century.  The only down side is the mountain of email waiting for my attention.  400+ emails waiting for me...sigh.  This is going to take a while.

I spent most of my week enjoying cooking in the kitchen.  It's wonderful.  A much slower pace of life - Tortoise work if you will.  You know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare?  Where the two critters have a race, the Hare starts out all fast and zippity, but quickly tires, whereas the Tortoise plods along, slow and stead, and unexpectedly (or expectedly if you've heard the story before) gets to the finish line first.  That is what life is like during our week in 1371.  There is always something to do, but nothing urgent.  Just keep on keeping on, until it's done and it's time to start the next task.

Speaking of Tortoise work, it's time to get back to those emails.

Tour de Fleece is coming up in the next day or two, so expect to see me around here a lot more this month.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Strawberry Moon

Strawberry Moon on Friday the 13th, 2014
Rising over the trees, breaking through the clouds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

random pictures

A couple of random photos that I took this week.  I really like the shadow and light in the second one, a bandit sitting on tennyson.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Random animal pictures

 On the whole, I've been spending as little time on the internet as possible.  I feel frustrated by it, as it takes time away from doing actual things.  Sure it's great for instruction and information, but it takes too long to find anything anymore.  But anyway, here's some animal photos to let you know what's up on the farm these days.

geese getting nice and fat, ready for dinner
ram yearling wonders if they will try to eat his ear again

chickens dust bathing 

Abby, a Black Welsh Mountain x Southdown

And her wool
It's a real pity about her wool this year, it has a weak place in it about 2/3rds along, so that when you try to work with it, it makes little noils.

Sam, now called Larry, or when he's really in trouble Samwell Larry Spot, what have you gotten into this time?  But most of the time he's adorable and wants to eat green things - like garlic, or kale, or anything that is fenced off.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sam the Lamb

Newest member of our farm.

He's all tuckered out from his morning at church and coming to his new home.  I don't know why he went to church, but I am told he loved it and was very popular.

Cute little fellow, follows us around everywhere.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Animal photos because life is crazy but I don't want you to think I've forgotten you

Oh, and suddenly I have sheep

you already know my ram Asterix 

and his friend (ie punching bag) Jeff

These are my three new girls
(from back to front)
A-marry, A-minnie, and Annie
They are such a delight.  Very curious about everything.  The two at the back are pure breed Black Welsh Mountain, a heritage breed.

The Black Welsh Mountain sheep is one of those old breeds that is dying out.  There is thought to be less than 2,000 in North America and only about 10,000 left in the world.  To put this in perspective, it is estimated that there are 30,000 sheep on Vancouver Island alone - that's three times the world population of Black Welsh Mountain sheep.  I feel privileged to help preserve this friendly and playful breed.

Makes lovely yarn 

Monday, March 31, 2014

March like a lamb - mmm, lambswool... how lovely.

It's the end of March already.  That's three months of the year gone, poof, just like that.  It's amazing how fast time slips away as you get older.

This is the tail end of winter here.  There is still a chance of snow until mid May, but unlikely.  So on good weather days I've been outside, plodding away at the farm work.  There is always more farm work than a person has energy or time to complete.  It's all Tortious work, just keep working slow and steady at what needs doing, then maybe something will get done.  But, if you rush at it full speed like the Hair, things usually go wrong.

When the weather has been unpleasant, and all the outside chores are done for the day, I've been playing with yarn.   Mostly I've been spinning for sale.  I'm really excited about this yarn.  I picked up 4 pounds of fibre from the local fibre mill, these are all just extras she had leftover from the milling process - usually it goes to waste, but instead she carded them together for a random result.  I took this reclaimed fibre and made yarn.  I'm almost finished too.  Less than one pound left.  All this yarn is spun the same style and approximately the same thickness, so the skeins will make a great mix and match for weaving or maybe knitting a sweater.  I have a few of them for sale already, but the rest still need to be washed, blocked, measured, tagged and photographed - it turns out that crafting is just the easy bit of having an online store.  I'm not entirely certain if it is worth it as it gets fewer views per day than even my blog, but (shrug).  It's a fun experience.

Weaving wise, it took about two weeks to dress my loom with linen.  It's beautiful warp!  I'm not certain I want to weave it, in case I don't do the warp justice.  But if I don't weave it, then I can't weave the next things on my list.

This is my first proper experience weaving linen, and I'm not certain I choose the correct techniques.  Things are bound to go wrong, but that's how I learn.  If things go absolutely terrible, I'll cut it all off, and use it as weft for some saori weaving.

The goal of this thread is to become bread cloths.  That's cloths that I wrap homebaked bread in when it comes out of the oven... I find that bread lasts weeks longer when wrapped in cloth rather than plastic.  Linen longer than cotton.  There is also the alternative motive of learning to work with linen, as I'm very interested in working closely with the local Flax to Linen group this year.  I even have some special seeds and a bit of land put to one side to grow my own.

That leads me to other thing that's been in the forefront of my mind these last few months: what to wear.

cotton seeds, all sprouting
A lot of little things inspire me to reexamine the clothes I wear, like my sheep who make wool, the group of people are relearning old textile skills like the flax to linen group I mentioned earlier, the big collapse of the clothing factory a year ago... Anyway, still thinking what I can do about this in my own life.  Later next month is something called Fashion Revolution day, so I'm going to look more into this.  There are some amazing stores in town that focus on local textile artisans, and I'm curious to see if any of them get involved in this.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

If you love Bees...

 If you love bees... or eating food in general (without bees there would be almost nothing to eat, except maybe Soylent Green), then here's something you need to know about.

The bees are disappearing.  Even The Doctor knew it was important.  As weird as they are, bees aren't actually aliens (probably), but rather are a vital part of our ecosystem.  Not an ecosystem, but our as in the Human ecosystem that we depend on for survival.  Bees make the plants go happy (reproduce) which in turn participates to our breathing and eating abilities.  There are places in the world without bees, and they suffer.  It is unlikely that the amount of physical labour involved in living without bees could produce enough calories to sustain the population needed to produce that labour.

So basically, no bees quickly leads to no humans, or very few of us surviving, probably not you or me.  Even if we were only to loose the plants requiring direct bee intervention to stimulate their sexlife, then the other plants, the ones that don't need bees for all or any of their pollination would suffer.  Out of those plants we eat (or can eat) as humans, many of the ones that do not rely on bees, rely on human labour.  So reduction in food, leads to reduction in population, leads to a reduction of human labour... which will mean less food...  On top of that, the plants that don't require bees, do require plants that require bees for long term survival.  For example, bigger plants protect smaller ones from extreme weather and capture (and slow the release of) water, which limits the extremes the smaller plants need to endure.  Smaller plants die off quicker, creating better soil conditions, but they also have lovely root systems that are good for reducing erosion, protecting the soil from extreme temperature fluctuations... and so on ad infinitum.  No bees means a good chunk of that sustainable system is lost, which puts more stress on the rest of the system, which soon leads to less food for humans... It's more complex than many of these 'what if there weren't any bees' theories take into account.  We can extend the time humans survive through chemicals, however, it appears that this technique only works as a short term solution, and actually reduces the capacity of the land to support food growth over the long term... and, in theory, long term survival of our species should be important to us.

We need to do something about this.

Here's something:

This is a beehive.  What's really neat about it, and why it captured my interest is that it combines really old and really new technology together to create something more accessible and functional than the modern or ancient technology can do on it's own.

It's called an Open Source Beehive and it's plan is to provide a make your own, printable top bar beehive.  You use this mighty router table printing thing and special, bee friendly plywood to make a flat-pack hive that fits together like a piece of Ikea furniture.

Now I've been wanting a beehive like this for years.  I've even started building (not one, but) two.  Only things came up and the wood I had ready got used for other things.  It takes many tens of hours to make one of these things if you don't have the skills or tools (or in my case, neither).  So being able to 'print' a beehive in about half an hour or so, is fantastic.  I just need to find a router printer thing big enough.

The other half of this project is to monitor the health of the hive using a sensor.  This part doesn't interest me as much, I don't have wifi and cell coverage is poor here.  But for those of you who are interested in this, it attaches to the beehive and tells your smart phone (something else I don't have) if there are any changes in air quality or hive temperature.  It's really useful if you aren't talking to your bees daily.

This open source beehive project is currently in the crowd funding stage.  Basically they ask people to donate money if you believe in this project and want to support it.  You can donate one dollar or one million... they probably accept euros and yen as well.  If you go to the link and look at the right, at different donation marks, you get a reward.  The theory behind crowd funding is a lot like knitting.  Every stitch counts towards a sweater, every dollar donated adds up and make the project happen.

My motive for sharing this isn't just to rant about the importance of bees.  There is a method to my madness:

First, the crowdfunding only has a few days left and they aren't quite at their goal yet.  Even if you don't donate, maybe you could mention it to your bee loving friends.

Second, I'm searching for people in the local area interested in working together to make some of these hives, with the theory that if we buy in bulk, it gets the price down and when the bees arrive, we can support each other with advice and stuff.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What do I think about my new loom?

I've had a chance to really play with my Ashford Table Loom now, and I have to say it's great.  This loom is a perfect match for my brain, body and ability.

I drew a sketch on a scrap of paper, and challenged myself to translate it into weaving.  After a few false starts (it helps to have one heddle per warp thread if you know what I mean), I figured it out.  

This is the easiest loom to warp that I've tried so far.  I warped front to back, using the SAORI cross holder I showed you earlier.  It worked fantastically well.  Such a simple idea, and yet I've never seen anyone use it outside of a SAORI studio.  
So I took my warp threads, one at a time and put them through the reed, then I threaded them through the heddles in the order I guessed the pattern would be like.  Easy peasy.  Especially easy because there are only a choice of 4 heddles to choose from, and I can count to four pretty well most days.  

As for threading, this loom is pretty ergonomic.  Unlike a large floor loom, I didn't have any trouble with certain body parts (aka, my ahem, rather large endowment at the front) getting in the way.  I sat myself and the loom on the floor, and just went at it.  After a few hours, when my back was tired, I put my loom on my bed, which is one of those low Ikea ones, and sat on the floor in front of it.  It's the perfect hight.  

Here's the fabric I made for my sample.  As you can see, it's eclectic.  I tried different kinds of yarn from spindle spun woolen thread to cotton, to commercial purple.  The best fun was playing around with different treadling patterns including 2/2 twill, 1/3 twill, 3/1 twill, plain weave, SAORI weaving... anything I could think of.   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ohhh, Sale!

My brain is so overworked today.  Spent much of the day working on my etsy shop, improving photos (which still need work I think), writing descriptions, trying to discover this new shipping service thing they have... so on and so forth.

I did manage to successfully was create a coupon code for 30% off my items in my shop.  Pretty nifty eh?

Basically I'm feeling bad that it's taking so long  to get things up and the shop all tidy.  So I figure, for the rest of the month of March, 2014, if you enter the code WELCOMEBACK30 when you buy something from my Trampled by Geese Etsy Shop  you get 30% off your purchase. Must be entered at checkout, there's a little place you click before you pay that says 'enter coupon code here' or something like that.

Loads more stuff to list, but right now my brain is frizzled and needs a rest.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Black Welsh Mountain wool

Yesterday I visited a farm, just down the road from here.  The farmer introduced me to her beautiful Black Welsh Mountain ram.  He's a gentle fella.

More to the point, I brought home some wool in exchange for some spinning.  It's a lovely fleece, low grease, hardly and dirt or hay.  Interesting is how much variation there is in the wool.  The legs are coarse like a horse, barely soft enough for rug weaving.  The neck and yolk area are soft but a bit matted and the highest concentration of vegi matter.  However, the sides are the softest.  Even the back of the sheep, the part usually most damaged by sun and weather, is lovely to work with.

The fibre is a bit tippy.  This means that if you take a small amount of fibre in your fingers and pull on both ends, that it breaks.  So basically it means that the more I work with the wool before spinning, the higher the risk of breaking the individual fibres and creating noils (lumps) or scratchy wool.  So I decided to keep the processing to a minimum, work with the locks as they come off the sheep and spin it in the grease.

Spinning in the grease, not something I do often, but since this is so clean and soft, I thought why not.  I did it once before, and the final result was really nice.  Very different texture and drape than the same fibre prepared the standard wash then spin approach.

I flick carded the locks, that is I hold firmly with one end, while lightly tapping the other end with the flick carder (pet brush).  Then hold the other end and do the same.  That's all I'm doing before spinning.  I lay out each lock carefully so they don't get into a tangled mess, then when I spin, I pick up one handful and draft the fibre off the end.

At first I thought it was going so slowly, then I realized, no it's actually not slow at all.  About 20 seconds per lock, maybe less when I get in the rhythm.  Instead of spending all that time washing, sorting, picking, carding... yep, this is considerably faster.

When the yarn is spun and plied, I will scour it - wash it in very hot water and soap to get the grease out.  So far it's turning into a very nice yarn, well please.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Handspun Silk and Bamboo

This lovely yarn has been hanging on my wall for a few weeks now.  I'm trying to convince myself into selling it, but it's so pretty.  I spun it with the intention of using it for warp.  I simply fell in love with the fibre when I saw it in the shop, hand dyed by Ryan of Knotty by Nature.  At roughly 40 wpi, it's very fine 2 ply yarn, strong and even, and I know it will be beautiful cloth...however, what would I use it for?

I'm trying very hard to limit my creativity to things that I can actually use or sell to fund my future sheep flock.  So as much as I adore this subtle variation of purple,  What can I make with roughly 800 yds that I would actually wear?  I'm less than half way through spinning the fibre, so will probably have close to 2000 yds when I'm through.  I'm not a shall person, so I don't have much interest in knitting with this.  Weaving, like I said before, appeals.  Use the bamboo silk for warp, and handspun cotton thread for weft... but then what?  I'll have some ultra-gorgeous luxury fabric and nothing to do with it.

I could spin up a bunch of white silk and use this purple yarn as warp highlights, make enough fabric for a dress... but I'm not a white and purple dress kind of person.

When I look at all the angles, no matter how much I love this yarn, I just don't know what to do with it.  Then I think how much I really want my new flock of sheep and how much more I want the sheep than the yarn, so I think, okay, tomorrow I'll list it for sale... but then I look at it again and think, oh that's pretty, I wonder what I could make with it.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Spinning for sale

Been spinning lately and added some new yarns to my etsy shop.

Mostly locally sourced fibres, the orange was dyed by the people at Humming Bee Farm.  They do beautiful work and it's a dream to spin with their fibre.

I figure I might as well list the yarn for sale as I spin it.  Don't know if it will sell, but what's leftover in Novembre will go to the local yarn store.

Some more photos:

Getting ready for weaving

In effort to reduce the amount of weaving stuff I have, I bought a new loom.

Crazy?  Probably.  But it means that I can get rid of three other looms, including a very nice but large floor loom.  I've been saving up for ages  years to get this loom, and I'm pleased as punch with it.

I figure that most of the things I weave or want to weave are about 2 feet wide.  So I got an Ashford 32" four shaft table loom.  Many people seemed confused that I didn't get the eight shaft loom, as the price difference is minimal.  But I've had 8 shaft looms before, and to tell you the truth, when it really comes down to it, I can only count up to about 6 when I'm weaving.  If it's a repeat of more than 6 (threading, treadling, whatever), then I get muddled, have to stop, check, recheck, forget where I was, recheck again, then go back to weaving... every 6th repeat!  4 is my comfortable number for weaving.  There are a lot of things you can do with a 4 shaft loom, enough to keep me busy for decades.

To celebrate weaving, I received some yarn from YarnStories.  Beautiful linen yarn, though I'm nervious to start weaving with it. I have a plan of what I want to make, but a few things stand in my way.  First, I don't know my loom yet, and second, 35epi + (that's more than 35 warp threads per inch of width), in linen (one of the more difficult yarns to weave with).  So I decided to wind a more forgiveable warp to test my loom and pattern idea.

The wooden device is a SAORI tool used for holding the cross down while warping.  The cross is that X shape in the pile of yarn that helps prevent the threads from tangling while you dress the loom.  This is particularly helpful when warping front to back, as you don't need lease sticks (my arch nemesis) and acts as a third hand so you aren't (literally) tied to the loom.

I don't know what kind of yarn this is, just purple wool yarn on a tube that came from a shop.

I'm almost done setting up my loom, then I get to start warping.  Very excited about this.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Snow day

Snow's been coming down for about two days now.  It's so beautiful to have proper winter weather.  I sit and spin and enjoy the view.  However, the driveway should get shoveled, I suppose.

Actually, I did start shoveling the driveway.  It's one of my favourite parts of snow.  Making big piles of snow next to the driveway so that they last long after the rest of the white stuff has gone away.  I did start the driveway and made some paths for the chickens to walk through (the snow is higher than chickens right now).  But it's wet heavy snow, and I'm not feeling Dr Brooks today.  Besides, once I finished digging pathways, the snow had filled them in again.  ah well, that's the price of a proper winter.

Still coming down heavy, actually a lot heavier than a few moments ago when I took the photo.  Branches are breaking under the weight of the snow.  Going to go get ready incase one of them falls on the power line and leaves us in the dark.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A mountain of yarn

I had the great fortune to spin a soft mountain of yarn for a wonderful person.  Soft with subtle hints of grey and brown, I can't take a photo that does this justice.

Hate to admit this, but I actually finished spinning it a few days before I contacted the customer who commissioned it - my excuse is that I wanted to get the lighting just right so I could take photos for my blog, but in reality I simply enjoyed admiring it too much to let it go right away.

3 fleeces washed, carded, blended, spun, plyed, blocked, and counted for a total of 2530 yards in about 6 weeks.  Not a personal record for speed, but I took the time to make certain every step was done right.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Power out

The power has been going out a lot this week.  It's not usual in these parts to be without electricity, but to tell you the truth, I rather like it.  The only serious problem we have is the lack of running water (the well pump is electric), that and the lack of internet.  I'm amazed by how addicted I am to having information at my fingertips.  Doing without the net makes me wonder if I should get one of those tablets or smart phones or whatever... but then again, it would be like buying drugs to give to a drug addict.  I'm better off without.  I'm better off reminding my brain how to access information on it's own instead of running to google every time I need to know how many milliliters are in a measuring cup.

So in a way, being without power is a good reminder to myself.

While the power is out, I've been sewing cloth bags from scraps of fabric leftover from different projects.  I have decided that my reason for not using cloth bags while grocery shopping is a stupid one.  I don't like the texture or shape of commercial bags.  No use wasting energy complaining about it when I can put that energy into building a solution.

Anyway, off to feed the sheep, llamas, and alpacas their dinner, then get ready for tonight's windstorm.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

fibre blending

In part of my effort to clean up and reduce the amount of stuff I have, I started blending together small bits of fibre then using my diz to remove the fibre from the drum carder into roving.  I make a pile of colours that I think look good together, then see what happens. There are some great results, and some I'm not too sure about.

Here is a brown and white, with left over bits of onion dyed orange.  It has wool, alpaca, suri, and llama.

This is my favourite so far.  It includes wool, silk, alpaca, llama...basically a mixture of mostly home grown fibres with bits of commercial roving for colour.

And here's another one, because I was getting braver.  This one is left in batt (the big flat fibre rectangle that peels off the drum carder) form instead of being dized into roving.  I'm not certain if I like this or not yet, so I spun up a small sample.  Still undecided.

I now have all this beautiful, colourful fibre ready to spin.  However, I have so much else ahead of it in my spinning que, I think I'll measure, photograph it properly and put it on my etsy shop for a while.

Right now I have my 3 fleece blend to finish spinning, plying, blocking and measuring, then I really want to work on Mr Brown's fleece because I'm getting requests to put more yarn in the local fibre arts store (does a little happy dance - people like the thing I make and express this like by asking for more!).  I'm partway through carding the fleece and I've decided to spin it as a worsted or aran weight, single (unplyed), lopi style yarn.  I know it doesn't have a huge amount of luster to it, but I think it would make a great outerwear like a spring sweater or cardigan.  The little bit of grease left in the wool will be great for repelling the rain we get in the spring and fall, but it will breath enough it won't be too hot to wear when the weather starts to warm up.

After that, I don't know.  Maybe I'll spin a bit of colourful something for socks.  Or maybe I'll get another request for specific yarn.  Really I need to do a bit of sewing for events later this summer.  But I can still get an hour or two of spinning done in the evenings.

Then again, there is a lot of llama and alpaca in the house, I'm slowly washing it all.  With shearing coming up in a few months, and with one animal alone giving over 10 lbs of fleece a year, maybe I should start focusing on that?

lovely clouds of fibre from beau

Oh, talking about etsy and my quest for a name, how do you like Trampled by Fleece?  Not a farm name unfortunately, but it ties in with this blog.  Then again, I can only change the name once, so I have to be absolutely certain.