Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Colors of spring

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, April 27, 2009

Doin' the fiber fandango

(Warning: not all fibers shown in this post are natural.)
Baby Surprise Jacket and Karlchen Hat in Red Heart acrylic (don't gasp), Aspen print colorway (baby gift; long gone).

Hat and scarf set in uber-soft Moda Dea Wild! nylon, Spring colorway, for Joan at Mud Ranch (3rd Pay It Forward gift: check). This is the yarn a lot of you asked about when I posted a glimpse of it earlier; I had to wait until Joan received it before I could post more about it.

A second skein (the dark brown) spun from the roving sampler Sara at Punkin's Patch traded me for some Shetland roving. This is fiber was from Boudreaux, her Border Leicester/CVM/Rambouillet cross wether, and I really enjoyed spinning it. But a funny thing happened on the way to the plied yarn....

After spinning the single, I wound it into a center-pull ball to ply it with itself, and put it on top of my covered wheel. When I had a few minutes to spare, I went to start plying it and found this:Magic mushrooming yarn! I have heard of yarn moving and writhing like a thing alive when it is steamed instead of wet-finished; apparently the afternoon sun warming the dark ball of yarn had a similar effect!

That mushrooming top separated into a second little ball as I plied, making things interesting for awhile:But I managed to avoid any permanent tangles and major headaches, so all's well that ends well.

Then, as I was casting about to see what homespun yarn I had to send Barbara as her chosen prize for winning my lambing contest, I found a bobbin half-full of thick/thin grey mohair from (relatively) long ago. I also had a full bobbin of fairly fine, consistent, unidentified black wool. (Note to self: always document. You will NOT remember all that you think you will!) I decided to ply the two together, and am loving the grey/black, thick/thin two-ply I'm getting. Don't know what I'll use it for; the mohair is not next-to-skin soft, and I'm suspicious that the black single is superwash. Any ideas out there in cyberspace? As soon as I've used up all the mohair, it is back to spinning another 8 oz. of the alpaca top for the alpaca farm owner.

Most recent FOs (finished objects) and WIP (work in progress):I've been working my way through the four charity hat kits I got from Allison at Supercrafty. The yarn is Mission Falls 1824 cotton, which is nice and soft. I've played a bit with the pattern and color combinations Allison sent me.These have been fast and fun!

WIP - Waiting In Plastic:My friend Pam fell for a cute cardigan for adorable Hannah, but didn't feel her knitting skills were up to the task. I agreed to knit it if she got the yarn. Thankfully, she doesn't need it until next fall/winter, because I have two more new baby gifts to knit!

This box contained the last of Bella's and Dinah's 2008 roving. A new spinner bought 4 oz. of Bella's roving from me last November, and recently spun it up. She liked it so much that she wanted the rest of Bella's roving, and decided to take what I had left of Dinah's roving, too. I included a sample of Valentine's light fawn, a color she had expressed interest in, so soon a pound of that will wing its way to California to join the light grey and white. (Thank-you so much, Phyllis!) I am thrilled that she is so happy with what my girls grew (covered by Rocky Sheep Suits) and Leza at From Barn To Yarn processed for me! I just sent off the four recently skirted Shetland fleeces to Aunt Janet's for processing, so there will still be plenty of roving available for anyone interested.

That winds up (hee; get it?) this fiber post from . . .

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Two weeks post lambing

Yesterday was Barabbas' two-week birthday. Boulderneigh's last lamb of the season is a calm young man, neither flighty or shy nor overbold. And I've already made much of his wonderful structure and fleece!
The original Mighty Mites duo, Brava's twins Beau and Boo, were 20 days old yesterday. They both appear to be half-polled, with little horn/scur points coming in. I was hoping Beau might be a full-poll, but nope. Both of these boys will be available later as ram lambs or wethers. They have the softest handle of all the lambs!
I love the shades of brown in this photo:Aren't they beautiful? But I have to tell on myself. Back when I was trying to decide between getting a black, a fawn, or a katmoget ewe from Lois, I remember struggling with the decision because by far the friendliest ewe with the prettiest fleece was Valentine. But she was brown, and I didn't like brown! But my "yummy sheep," as I called Valentine, was too beautiful and sweet to deny, and now I have MOSTLY brown sheep and am not a bit unhappy. That said, if Franna backs out of buying Blackberry, it's going to be very difficult for anyone else to pry him out of my grasp!

That's it for now from . . .

Saturday, April 25, 2009

None finer

Isn't that an advertising slogan? To me it fits where we live here in the Willamette Valley. I do not believe there is a prettier place on earth in the spring. People talk about how beautiful Hawaii and other tropical paradises are, but how can they beat this? Add in the animals I love, and my heart is firmly anchored here - and my feet try to be. My husband is sometimes frustrated by my reluctance to "get away," but why would I want to? (Well, okay, I love the beach, but that is only an hour away; no need to be gone overnight. :-)

Walk with me around my little corner of paradise . . . .What I see coming up from the barn through the pasture. Our bedroom and bathroom windows are behind the cherry tree branches (upstairs). You can see the edge of the deck where I was skirting fleeces on the right. The bushes around the foundation are a daphne variety.

ΩWhat I see coming up from the barn using the driveway.

Looking back at that same old cherry tree, lit by the morning sun.

Straight out the front door is this double-flowered pink cherry. You can see the tilled garden spot behind.

I just love its tissue-paper blossoms!

These are right outside the door into the garage, which I use far more than the front door.

The candytuft are taking over the little bed right outside the front door; there are certainly worse problems to have.

While there is other pretty flora to see, I wanted to share a shot I took while skirting fleece on the deck. Jackson was on the lawn below chewing on a stick; he's never far from me if he can help it. Such a companionable boy - and beautiful to boot! The space he takes up in my heart has slowly compressed the gaping wound from losing Rosie to a small, more easily-ignored hole. I am thankful.

Happy Sabbath from . . .

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wool: a wonderful, renewable resource

I was going to title this post "Fleece and Flowers," since I am surrounded by both right now. But that would have made for a l-o-o-o-o-n-g post, so you'll have to wait for the flowers.

Yesterday I finally took time to tackle a pressing task. Aunt Janet's Fiber Mill is having a spring processing special through the end of this month, and I want to take advantage of it. But I haven't had the time or suitable material to skirt the four fleeces I have at present. Then, bless his heart, Rick brought home another section of horse panel and cut it to an appropriate skirting-table size, so I got to work. (Rick used the piece I had before to create a better sheepfold gate.) I set up on the deck to take advantage of the beautiful day:
First up was Browning's dark moorit hogget fleece. The first photo, taken when a cloud covered the sun, shows the color more accurately; the second photo is washed out but shows his lovely crimp (click to biggify!).
I was just finishing Browning's fleece when the clouds crowded together with purpose and raindrops fell. So I moved operations to the garage to work on my musket ram Braveheart's clip from this year:
Here's a close-up:The above fleece was coated, so skirting it was easy. Then I tackled Braveheart's hogget fleece from last year, which was uncoated and has been sitting in my office for a year. This one was NOT quick and easy - and still has more VM (vegetable matter) in it than I would prefer. :-(But it was well worth it - just look at that luscious color and crimp! How nice of him to pass it on to his son Browning. :-)

Today I tackled the last fleece I have to skirt for now - Brava's hogget clip from last year. It's another beautiful day in paradise, so it was back to the deck:You can see the contrast between the darker tips and the lighter undercoat; I do believe she is musket without the seasonal changes that a lot of Ag sheep show on their heads and legs. She also has nice crimp:
Now to find a suitable box and ship them off to Aunt Janet. (If I find a box big enough, I think I'll stuff in the crossbred ram fleece I got from my shearer a year or two ago. I washed it and started spinning it from flicked locks, but it has been sitting idle and really needs to be washed again.) I will pick up my roving from Aunt Janet at Black Sheep Gathering, and send my last two fleeces (Dinah's and Brava's, still on the sheep) with her to process. That is, unless someone wants to buy either of those raw fleeces; if so, let me know!

That's the fiber for now from . . .

Odd start to an eight-egg day

Yesterday morning when I opened the henhouse door, there was a still-warm egg on the floor. When I picked it up, I noticed how oddly round it was; not particularly small, just round.A lot of bloggers with chickens are reporting odd eggs this time of year, teensy ones with no yolk and such. I guess this is Boulderneigh's version!

At the end of the day I collected seven more eggs, making yesterday one of our red-letter eight-egg days.Thanks, girls!

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Name that color

(If you can, you know a lot more than I do!) That's right; if you came here for an expert's dissertation on the genotype (the genetic make-up) and phenotype (what the eye sees) of Shetland sheep colors, patterns and markings in all their deliciously bold and subtle varieties, you've come to the wrong place. Instead, I suggest you go to the appropriate pages on the Shetland Sheep Information website (link at right). Still, even experienced breeders like Linda Wendelboe are quick to point out that Shetland sheep color genetics are far from completely mapped out, and different genotypes can exhibit themselves in nearly identical fashion, requiring test breedings for further clarification. Plus, the colors in Shetland sheep run along a spectrum, making labeling of a color somewhat subjective. For example, one person's "fawn" may be another person's "light moorit." On top of that, Shetlands can change dramatically in color over time, so you may not know what you really have at the time a lamb may need to be registered (with its color identified) to show or sell.

Still, I have to try; that's just the kind of person I am. With that in mind, I got up close and personal with most of my lambs, looking for tell-tale signs of change and observing interesting (to me) differences.

First, the "plain brown wrapper" lambs, Beau and Barabbas. Barabbas, although out of a very pale musket ewe, looks to be Aa/Aa, or solid colored. Look at his dark nose leather and purse, below. No signs of Ag (agouti, the fading gene). If correct, this would mean that dam Owl Hill Butter is Ag/Aa, and sire Everranch Franjean is At/Aa - nice information to know.
Now compare the above to Valiant Brava's solid ram lamb Beau, below. Notice how much lighter Beau's nose leather is, and the lighter wool on the end of his purse. You can also see a few (very few) stray white hairs in his ears.So what is he? Musket? Fawn? Franjean is fawn, but I'm not sure about Brava. I registered her as a musket (Ag), but others think she is fawn instead (Aa/Aa with some sort of genetic modifier, theoretically identified as Mm, at work). Her little gulmoget might answer the question though. As I said yesterday, he is coming in quite light in the britch area, and it should soon be clear whether or not he is Ag/At (agouti/gulmoget). If he is, that would prove that Brava is Ag as well. Below is little Boo's nose:
How does his nose leather compare to the other two brown-based gulmogets'? See for yourself. Below is Bronwen's nose, followed by Bramble's:
Want me to further complicate things? I decided to look at Braveheart's and Browning's noses. Braveheart is a very light musket but carries solid (Ag/Aa) - proof of that is his dark moorit son Browning, our wether. Braveheart's nose (top, below) is predictably light, but Browning's (pictured second below) is not as dark as I expected!
So what do I know for sure? Not much. I am confident in registering Butter's son as a moorit, Bramble as a fawn gulmoget, Bronwen as a moorit gulmoget and Blackberry as a black gulmoget. But I'm going to wait awhile to make the call on Brava's twins - and I may still get it wrong!

That's it for now from . . .