Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barclay in the office

Look at the little tongue action!

What do you mean I'm NOT supposed to be on the chair? Daddy lets me.

Wool makes a comfy bed

This is what I found in the morning on my freshly washed wool!

Yawn and stretch, wasn't that a great night's sleep?!

Spinning step 2 - flicking

So here's a nice climp of washed wool, and you can see how it naturally falls into locks.

Here's a few locks separated out. They are only about four inches long.

I have a small square of leather I put on my knee and set one lock on there.

I hold one end of it, and brush out the other end with a small slicker brush, flicking the fiber. This loosens up the wool, and gets out any remaining debris.

Here's how it looks flicked.

Turn it around and grab the flicked end, and do the other end.

Now the whole lock has been flicked.

A flicked lock compared to one that hasn't been flicked yet - you can see how loose and fluffy it is now.

All the flicked pieces go in a bag together and eventually they will be combined in the next step - carding. The flicking process separates the good wool from the broken bits, the little tufts where the shearer had to cut twice to get down to the skin, and the pieces that are just too dirty to use. Quite a bit of wool goes in the garbage at this point, but the stuff that is left is really nice. I have only washed about a third of Mom's wool, so I have quite a bit to go - and then I can start on Al's wool! There's no shortage of fiber to play with here.

Although flicking each individual lock sounds tedious, it actually is relaxing, and goes quite quickly. I like to think about pioneer women while I flick out the locks, and wonder how it felt to be working with the wool from your sheep and wondering if you had enough to make hats and mittens to keep everyone warm through the winter. We do it for fun, but our forefathers (or foremothers I should say) had to know how to spin for survival. It's amazing to me all the skills they knew that we have lost!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Charlotte's Web

We have our very own Charlotte, though she hasn't given us any messages in her web. She is hanging out on the back patio door. Luckily she managed to build her web in such a way that we can still open and close the door and go in and out without disturbing her. Of course, having to duck under her web disturbs US, because I fear clumsy spiders! But so far she has not fallen off on us.

She is a 'Black and Yellow Garden Spider', and I planned to move her out to the yard until I looked her up on wikipedia and discovered that despite her size (about 2 1/2 inches from tip to tip) she is not poisonous. Plus she does some interesting stuff, like rebuilding her web every evening, which has provided us a little 'Wild Kingdom' style entertainment.

Spinning step 1 - Scouring Wool

I've been looking forward to this project for a while, and believe it or not opening our new retail store has given me free time during the day - time when I am stuck sitting at the store with nothing to do. Time I could be working on my spinning! So I went out to the garage where Mom's wool has been airing out on a screen for a month or more - it was pretty rank! I spent a bit of time pulling off the poopy bits.

The wool that is left looks good, but it has a lot of dirt in it. Sheep also have a natural lanolin on their wool so it feels greasy. Removing the dirt and grease is called 'scouring' the wool. Luckily, one of the ladies in the llama club who has many years of spinning experience invited me to her house for a lesson in scouring and beginning spinning, so I think I know what to do!

So I put a nice square foot of it in a laundry bag. Then I filled the kitchen sink with HOT water, a splash of Dawn, and some Boraxo.

Mixed it all together and then gently set the wool in the hot soapy water.

No rubbing, I just pressed it down into the water. Rubbing will turn it into felt. I left it to soak for 20 minutes.

Eww, that water is disgusting! Who would think that wool was that dirty? I should go give my sheep a bath! Or at least give them one before they get sheared next year!

Barclay says 'mmmm, the kitchen smells like sheep...'

More hot water. Rinse and repeat. Three times until the water looked clean.

Then I had a bag of wet wool. So I took it to the washer, and set it on Spin, and let it go for three minutes. I pulled it out and the bag was two pounds lighter!

After the spin cycle the wool was just damp, so I set it on a screen in the fish room to dry. By evening it was dry and ready for step two. More on that later. Right now there's a lot more wool to wash!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The grandfather I never knew

Gravestones from Sappulpa, Oklahoma.

I am posting these photos here mostly so I won't lose them if something happens to my hard drive, else I would have to go back to Oklahoma to get them again. I have been watching History Detectives on PBS lately and it got my curiosity up about two people in my family I don't know much about. First would be James Lynn, my grandfather. He is a mysterious figure because he died shortly after his last child was born, when my father (his oldest child) was only ten. His death had a huge impact on the family in ways that could not have been predicted, throwing them into poverty, and when my grandmother fell ill with TB, and had to go to a hospital in AZ, the boys were sent to an orphanage, while the girl got to stay home with her grandparents. There is a lot more to this story, including the fact that James apparently served in France during WWI, something I didn't know until I saw his gravestone.

This is my dad's mom's father, so my great grandfather. I knew my great grandmother, but she had dementia when I knew her, so it's not like I have fond memories of my time with her. I never heard anyone talk about him. I don't know why.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New hens, one less rooster

Last week I saw an ad on CL for some buff orpington pullets (that's young hens), just what I was looking for! I emailed the lady and went right out to pick them up that afternoon. She was out in the gorge, past Washougal.

That's Crown Point. Very pretty. It was a beautiful day and a nice drive, and she had a lovely farm with a lot of chickens and goats and a huge garden.

And here's my three new girls!

Meanwhile, the two roosters are hanging out by the feeder in the coop. Does the darker colored one look suspicious?

He should, I put him on CL for free and someone is coming to pick him up the next day.

A couple days later everyone is settling in, and Big Bird is the only rooster.

He's watching over his flock. Now he has 7 girls! Three wild chickens, Penny the Cochin, and three new buffs. Penny is still cranking out an egg about every other day. I think Big Bird crows less without the other rooster around.

The three buffs are getting comfortable wandering around the yard and orchard.

The whole gang goes exploring in the yard, looking for bugs. The three wild hens are almost big enough to lay, I expect I'll find an egg from them any day now. I just don't know if they'll lay in the coop. They like to sleep in a tree, so they might go lay their eggs under a bush somewhere. Maybe I can teach Barclay to sniff out eggs for me!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Stop and watch the sunset

We have been busy busy with the new store! I promise I'll catch up on my emails soon :-) Jodie, thanks for the comments, so nice to know you dropped by!

Last night we had a spectacular sunset, with what I like to call 'God's rays' shooting out from the clouds. It was a jawdropper, and a reminder to be busy, but occasionally stop and watch the sunset. I adjusted the colors a little to help bring out the rays, but it was 'all that' in person. Click on it to see it full sized.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Big Bird crowing! I tried to upload this to YouTube but they compressed it so badly it looked terrible, so I'm uploading it directly through blogger to see how that does. NOTE: Nope, they compressed the heck out of it too. Oh well...

Dinner picnic!

I got the crazy idea yesterday afternoon that I would pack a sandwich, drink, and a book, and take the dogs to the park and have a dinner picnic. My only regret in this was 1) letting Alki see me prepare the kongs I brought along for them before we left - because she spent the entire walk obsessing about when she would get the kong, and then stole Barclay's too! and 2) taking both dogs, because it was like having two little kids in the backseat on a long car ride! They cannot be happy sniffing the same bush, or one being ahead of the other. Actually, it's all Alki who had her nose out of joint. Barclay is way too laid back to be much trouble. So I spend the whole time untangling leashes and being alternately pulled forward or dragged behind.

Once we got there and I laid out a blanket and tied the pooches to opposite ends of the picnic table, I turned to grab my sandwich only to find that while I was tying Barclay, Alki pulled the sandwich out of the pack, opened the container, and was munching on my bun!

Look, she's not even sorry she got caught! Unrepentant eskimo!!

Barclay was busy watching squirels in the bushes. He didn't even care about his kong.

Alki enjoyed it once she had polished off both Kongs and there was no sandwich left to worry about. Then she could relax! Doesn't she look great for a dog who's 13 years old and survived a serious bout with cancer last year? No matter how much of a 'peskie eskie' she is, I treasure our time together even more.

I managed to read a few pages before it started to get dark and we headed back on the wooded path home.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Finally - llama packing

I've been wanting to take the llamas hiking but have not been able to afford pack saddles. I was lucky to find some for sale on CL. I can't wait for the boys to see this, I think they're going to think this is pretty cool. Packing is a great way to teach the llamas all the stuff they need to know for 4H! Here Scoops models his new pack frame.

Please note, I am NOT bigger than the llama, I am just standing closer to the camera!

Barclay and Scoops are buddies.

And Barclay loves to grab his rope and try to lead him around.

All in all, Scoops was a very good sport about wearing his pack for the first time. I'm sure he's had a pack on before though, but he was good about letting me do it to him.