Tuesday, July 17, 2007

First Lambs to Leave

Sunday two lambs left the farm. They left together in a 500 size dog kennel in the back of a Subaru. They went to a family that bought two pet Shetland wethers from us, and they'll be grown out for lamb chops. yum!

This is Jill's boy, now known as "BaaaaBQ". He's a half Finn, out of our Mule type ewe, Jill - half Scottish Blackface, quarter Blue Faced Leicester and quarter Border Leicester. The other lamb was "Bullseye" another half Finn ram lamb out of a purebred Scottish Blackface ewe. They felt somewhere around 50 lbs when I lifted them into the Subaru. Nice boys. Two down!

- Franna

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fiberworks - Grey Shetland and Cotswold Edition

The Grey Shetland is progressing albeit slowly. I decided to trim off the sunbleached tips. Here is what it looks like with and without the tips. ...hint - the trimmed raw locks are on the left. There isn't a lot of weight in the tips, so I'm feeling pretty good about deciding to trim it, especially after seeing the washed result!

The first batch of washed, trimmed locks! There is a little sunbleaching evident, just enough that the finished yarn will have a warm cast to it, and be somewhat heathery looking. The different shades of grey will add to that heathery look, too.

I also weighed the washed Cotswold - 22 ounces. Now, what to make...? A vest would be nice, and 22 oz. is probably enough. Though I like to knit as much as possible in one piece, in this case, I need to make skeins that preserve the light to dark aspect of the design. My Majacraft Rose with the Wooley Winder can ply 4, 5 and sometimes 6 oz skeins. That means the singles will need to be 2 to 3 oz each... safer to be 2 oz each, then 2 plied will yield a 4 oz skein. So, one skein for each front, and two skeins for the back. I start dividing the fleece, and weighing for the singles.

The nice tissue paper from my Coldwater Creek Birthday shopping excursion became the packages for the weighed locks. Below are the locks for one side. Two ounces each, each group containing light to dark locks.

Now, the back's a little trickier, since it is slightly bigger than the two fronts, especially if I make a vee neck. These are divided light for the top skein, two groups of 2 oz each, and dark for the lower back - a little larger skein for the lower back - 2.5 oz in each group. 9 oz. total for the back

As you can see, I may be retired, but am still an Engineer... Engineering... errrr... Designing fibery projects using math. :-)

For those keeping track, I used up only 17 oz of the 22 total. I figure the other 5 oz might either become sleeves - two 2.5 oz skeins, be "in reserve" for the body skeins, and/or serve as sample skeins to determine the final grist of the yarn and knitting gage. Much more to go!

As an addendum, since finishing the birthday socks for my Mom (from Socks that Rock yarn - yummy!), I have two new projects "on the needles". Several years ago, I spun some yarn from a roving exchange intending to make sideways garter stitch gloves. Last Wednesday I finally started the gage swatch for them at my neighbor's "Yarn Arts Happy Hour" - more on this later.

I also wanted something relatively easy for the concert. A couple years ago, I bought some of the Louet Euroflax linen yarns. I even made a bag out of it in basketweave stitch, which worked okay. My intention was to make sampler washcloths out of it but I hated knitting those patterns with it! A French Market bag (from Folk Bags) sounded like it would be mindless knitting, plus be useful in picking up our CSA produce. So that's what I started - modifying the pattern so I could knit it in the round. As it happened, I only got a couple rows done on the way to the concert and between sets. That counts as being on the needles!

- Franna

Monday, July 09, 2007

Concert Report

Well, darned if we didn't miss most of Pat Green's set. We got to our seats as he was finishing up with Wave on Wave - one of my favorites! Great seats! We were on about the 50 yard line in the first row of the second section up. The front of the stage was on about the 30 yard line, so we were plenty close, and no one could stand up and block short me! Yeaaaaaa!

I was a little disappointed in Sara Evans - I like her music but the sound system wasn't quite right and it blasted right into and through my ears... ouch. Interesting that she had 2 sisters as backup vocals and a brother on guitar. Wow! The earrings those girls were wearing! It made my ears hurt even more. One wore huge round flower outline hoops, the other wore a matrix of big circular coin looking discs. Sara wore saucer sized, but delicate looking hoops. Do these really hang from one little hole in their ears?

I went for eats during the first part of Sugarland's set. They sounded really good even in the concourses. The garlic fries are to die for, but it took me a long time to find them. I got back for the last couple songs, and it was even better from my seat - energy and well coordinated sound guys. Way to go!

Now for the best part - Brooks & Dunn. They Rocked!! Hillbilly Deluxe, Red Dirt Road, My Maria - one of my all time favorites -, Boot Scootin Boogie, and on and on. So we're figuring since they're not the headliner, they won't do an encore. Wrong! Ronnie came back out and did a tear jerking rendition of I Believe - My Oh My! They then closed with Only in America, complete with uniformed servicemen and red white and blue streamers shot out over the crowd and themselves. Kicks looked like a Maypole. And Their Sound guys did Great! They had the crowd on their feet throughout, and a rousing standing ovation to bring them back for the encore.

They changed sets really efficiently and we didn't have to wait long for Kenny. Oh. My. Goodness! He started on a stage on the 70-ish yard line, then moved to the front stage. That man has so much energy - he'd jog from side to side on the stage, out the runway to the tee and back and forth. By this time, the whole stadium was full, full, full - something like 50,000 people. This was the only time - at *any* concert - I'd heard the crowd singing - all together, in tune, and could hear all the words! We did it twice! I think Kenny was blown away by that, too. As good as it was, his sound guys weren't quite as good as B&D or Sugarland's were, and there were times it was difficult to hear him and understand words. And lights! Wow - what a light show! It must've looked really cool to the people in the airplanes landing at SeaTac - their pattern was taking them right over Qwest field. Kenny's encore was She Thinks my Tractor's Sexy - complete with John Deere green light show.

As always, it was a lot of fun crowd watching. There was a mini-Peyton Place going on in front of us. Five 20-something guys were really into the concert (and the beer!), to the chagrin of their wives(?) and dates. The wife of one finally got up and left - that made an impression. The others seemed to be picking up girls at the concert, leaving and coming back, meeting different girls... going shirtless and spinning their shirts around, high fiving, singing, standing on their chairs, spilling beer on the guy in front (then giving same guy the beer as an apology). There was a Kenny look-alike about 8 rows in front of us. At one point between sets, he got mobbed by people thinking he was Kenny (he sure looked it to us), then lo and behold, he was still sitting there when Kenny actually came on stage. During another set change a couple guys started to mix it up about 6 rows in front of us. Seattle police eventually came and took them away when they didn't back down. At least no blows were exchanged.... There is something to be said for "dry" concerts. ;-)

heh... for all that this Flip Flop Tour concert was great (and it was!)... Brad Paisley's concert was still the BEST. Even if you're not a Country fan - go to CMT.com or Yahoo music and watch his new music video titled "Online" It is soooooo funny!!! :-)
- Franna

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Update on Milking and Country Concert!

This was the third morning of sheep milking. It went a lot better without Daphne and Asa in the milking "string". The sheep still don't like the head gate, but pigs that they are, they eventually stick their heads in. I'm letting them eat sometimes without closing the gate, so it isn't such a scary thing. Tucker the Finnsheep is the only one I couldn't get in the opening. I tied her to the gate and started milking anyhow. She eventually put her head in and started eating. :-)

They're tapering off quite a bit. I got almost 8 cups this morning. That's still half a gallon, and enough for half a batch of Italian cheese, or quite a lot of yogurt. The yearlings have tapered off the most, so I'll just let them keep drying up.

Ohhhhhhhh - what a treat! After milking I had fresh raspberries with cold sheep's milk and a sprinkling of sugar. MmmmmMmmmm Good! Maybe some of that sheep's milk will become ice cream.....

This afternoon we're going to the Kenny Chesney Flip-Flop tour concert in Qwest Field. I still have to pick out my knitting project for the concert. There are FIVE country acts scheduled - Pat Green, Sugarland, Sara Evans, Brooks & Dunn, and Kenny - the weather is awesome and I'm ready for a sitdown break! We've seen B&D and *know* they put on a great concert. Kenny has been voted Entertainer of the Year multiple times, and what I've seen on TV is great. Of course, it will have to be something extra special good to be better than the Brad Paisley concert we saw last month. OMG! That was waaaay cool. If you're a Country music fan, don't miss Brad Paisley.

...off to choose a knitting project. :-)
- Franna

Sheep Milking and No Rest for the Retired

Wow... That's about how I feel after my first week of "Retirement". It wasn't really a whole week with July 4th tucked in there. I have to blame Kathy L. somewhat with talking about milking sheep - Kathy did you get any of yours milked?

On July 4th, we separated all of the Shetland and Finn moms from their lambs (except for Fancy and Emmie who lambed later). It was NOISY around here with fireworks and unhappy sheep and lambs. I waited for a time (after retiring!) when I could try milking ewes twice a day, so Thursday morning I went out with my handy EZ Milker, extra bottles, washing basin and a bucket of grain. Our creep gate has a head holder in it, so my bright idea was to hold ewes in the head gate, give them a pan of grain, milk them one by one, and try to get a couple gallons of milk to try making sheep cheese.

Well, the first morning we fumbled a little, but mostly got milk. About 6 cups worth for the first try from 2 adult and 2 yearling Finns, 5 adult Shetlands and 1 yearling Shetland. Some behaved well and gave pretty good milk considering they're late in their lactation cycle, some went wild and were very difficult to get any milk from.

Thursday evening, I went at it again. Thinking to save my back a little, I took the shearing stand and placed it against the head gate. Once the sheep were on the stand and in the head gate, it worked great! It was the getting to that point that whipped me good! No one willingly led up the ramp, it was all I could do to pull and push them up. By the last sheep I was ready to quit - but they gave me 10.5 cups this time! One of the Finnsheep gave a whole pint by herself, and one of the Shetlands gave most of a pint. Good sheepies. Another of the Shetlands was such a PITA that she was taken off the milking roster. Once on the shearing stand, she collapsed and wouldn't get up. After she finally got up, she bucked and reared in the head gate, making milking nigh onto impossible. I think I got a cupfull from her.. maybe.

This morning I went back to milking on the ground, and got almost 9 cups (without Daphne's contribution). Still, it was not the relaxing experience I'd kind of expected. Sheep are supposed to learn that the milking makes them feel better - releasing the pressure of that milk buildup. hmmmmm. I guess they didn't read that part. A couple of the sheep did, and they're pretty easy, Thank you Electra, Bessie and Daisy! The rest fight the head gate, fight the EZ Milker and fight me. After tonight, I dropped another from the roster - Asa, for such a gentle sheep, you're a bear to milk. We got another 6 cups tonight.

Actually, it's part of my plan to taper them off, so the smaller amount is okay. I have almost 2 gallons in the freezer, enough to try some cheeses and maybe yogurt. My original plan was to milk them for a week or two. Unless things get much easier, a week will be more than enough for this experiment!

Even considering the "difficult" sheep, it is kind of rewarding to sit amongst the ewes, milking one while several others snuffle around and try to see what's going on. Maybe after a couple more days, we'll all be used to the routine and things will go easier and faster. heh... maybe by then I'll only be milking Electra, Daisy and Bessie and won't even need the head gate. One can wish.

Milking these few sheep twice a day, including preparing bottles and freezing the milk, is taking 4 to 6 hours out of my day. That's half or more of a regular workday! I have new appreciation for folks who milk any mammal regularly.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fibery Fruits of My Labor

Yesterday was my FIRST day of official retirement - from Boeing, certainly not from the rest of the world! One of my "first day" projects was washing an eye catching silver grey Cotswold fleece I'd bought at Shepherd's Extravaganza. One of my guild "sisters" shared this fleece with me. Thanks, Darliss! So here it is all washed up and dried outside on shelf racks.

Cotswolds are one of the luster longwool types of sheep, and can weigh 200 to 300 pounds at maturity!!! Contrast that to our Shetlands at 80 to 120lb! Cotswold wool grows 8" to 10" in a year's time. Most people let their Cotswolds fleeces grow less than 12 months because they tend to get very dirty and felted if they go too long on the sheep. This fleece had 6 months growth. The wool is very "strong" and tends to be coarser (microns in the 40's) than ideal for next to the skin wearing. It has this back and forth wave character to the staple, with a twist at the tip. Some people use the fleece for Santa beards, and it has been called "Poor Man's Mohair".
Locks up close. You can see that the "grey" is really a mix of white and grey fibers.
Without having a specific project in mind, I decided to sort the locks from light to dark, and will spin them so that I'll have skeins that also blend from light to dark. I've done this on a smaller scale and it is very unique. Below is the sorted fleece. It almost looks like it'll get up and start baaaa'ing. I wonder which is the head end??? ;-)I also finished the Orange Romney potholder on the CAMEL loom. heh... in this photo it looks like a grimacing Jack'O'Lantern. It's actually called "Star" and when it's laid out flat, you can see a four pointed star in there. I still need to cut it off the loom and hem the ends.
So, this morning I started in on another fleece - the gorgeous, soft "modified" grey Shetland lamb fleece from Linda Wendleboe - that also "followed me home" from SE ;-)
After much deliberation, I decided to trim off the tips. You see, I just love the grey color, which is next to the skin, and about 2/3 to 3/4 of the length of the fiber. Shetlands tend to sunbleach, and these tips are sunbleached. There is lots of length on the fleece, so off come the tips! There will still be some brown tint to the yarn - it'll be a warmer grey than the Cotswold. It has yet to tell me what it wants to be. :-) I'm thinking now that I'm retired... ... I could comb the locks and spin a fine yarn for lace. Ooooooooooooooooo!

Gentlemen (and Ladies) - Start Your Engines!

DH is a die hard racing fan. I've learned about NASCAR, CART, SCCA, and SOVERN. Every year SOVERN sponsors benefit races at the local race track, Pacific Raceways (the "old timers" all know it as SIR - Seattle International Raceway) over the July 4th weekend. Proceeds go to Children's Hospital, so we can have fun and feel like we're contributing something, too. We go with friends and make a day of it, cruising the booths, taking photos of race cars, watching qualifying rounds, then the races! This year we went on the first day, Friday, June 29th.

These aren't just any races, they're Vintage Car Races. The cars are all race cars from the 50's and 60's and have been lovingly restored, and are carefully (mostly) raced since some of these cars are worth in excess of one MILLION dollars.

The highlight of the Vintage Car Races (at least for DH) is the Trans-Am Class. Old Camaros and Challengers (among others) put on a big show for the fans on SIR's road course. This year was a bit disappointing because the rains came and none of the Muscle cars came out for their race. We got to see them on their qualifying runs and on display, though.

We had carefully listened to the weather forecast - partly cloudy with sun breaks and showers - and brought one of the canopies. It's a good thing, because when we went to the infield for the races, and set up for lunch, the sky opened up and dumped water all over us!! Only the die hard race fans stayed after the rain started:

Several races were complete by then. After the on again, off again showers, one event was scratched (the Trans-Am class) and one had 1 car - guess who won that one???, and one had 5. The last race, though, still in the rain, still on a wet track, had the whole field show up - 25 odd cars! The curves below us were filled with vintage cars!

The roadway and corner above us was filled with cars!

The sun tried gallantly to come out and dry off the raceway. This little car comes through some of the steam on his way down the hill.

We have a picnic lunch in the infield watching the races. Our friend Julie always outdoes herself with dessert, and we bring the sandwich fixin's. This year Julie brought tiramisu (!!) in honor of my retirement, and cinnamon apple pie, just in case the tiramisu wasn't good enough????? We made pigs of ourselves again. ;-)

DH got all kinds of photos for his model making hobby. He has almost as much stash of models and model parts as I have of fiber! These cars have wonderful stories. He was taking photos of one of the cars and started talking to the owner. The car had been "lost" for decades. Way back, someone (known) had stolen the racing transmission and kept it hidden, afraid to bring it out for decades. Meanwhile, the car had been converted to a street car in Canada. At long last someone found the tranny (or fessed up to stealing it...) and traced the car through the VIN number. Once the car and tranny were reunited, the car qualified for the vintage races... well, that and many thousands of dollars later.... At this series, the driver was an original driver who'd won several races (DH, of course, knows all these people and names... and I know that he knows, so I don't have to remember... ;-)

We were talking to another driver/owner (DH brought a model of the driver's number 77 Green Challenger, and got his autograph - right on the roof!) and he points out the team next to him. They are the guys who run the TV Auction for old vehicles. They were just like normal dudes, and were very cool to talk to. ;-)

Pretty fun way to spend the day before my 55th birthday.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Happy Retirement to ME!

Wow. My first official day of retirement, and it's almost over. So, what did I do all day???

First off - I did NOT sleep in. :-) The sheep still need to be fed and let out, as do the dogs. Besides, sleeping in could easily get to be a very bad habit!

Next, I had made a "date" with my Mom to meet her for breakfast. She meets with a group of friends every morning for breakfast/coffee at about 9 am. So, I met them and had coffee. That was a treat! One of the things I've been wanting to do is spend more time with my Mom. At 80-something, she's lived a long and active life, and I certainly hope she's around for many more years. That's not something to take for granted.

After leaving breakfast, I went to spend my Birthday money at Coldwater Creek. They have a fun little store in a new shopping area in Kent with a lot of nicer casual clothing. I'm judging two agility trials this month and need something nice/casual/summertime to wear. I found a long denim skirt, madras plaid shirt jacket and nice tee - all on SALE! :-)

From there, I was homeward bound, and it was already after noon!

At home I went out and checked on the sheep, read email, and felt somewhat ... odd. My feelings ranged from anger (!) to sadness to apathy to excitement. hmmmmm. Now what? Do something fibery! I pulled out the pretty grey Cotswold fleece that followed me home from Shepherd's Extravaganza and started scouring it. I plied up some flaming orange Romney to use in the potholder project going around the Moonspinners Guild as a C.A.M.E.L. project. While waiting for the Cotswold to soak, I wove. (CAMEL - Creative Approach to Mobile Education Loom - one of the experienced guild members chooses a small project, warps the loom and guild members sign up and weave the project and pass the loom along to the next person - wonderful!)

DH came home while the Cotswold was still in the sink, and the potholder was still on the loom.

Monday evenings we have people in to "play" agility. Tonight we were breaking in a couple of new judges for 4H fairs this summer. My dog Clifford did okay for having very little practice over the last several months. ...okay, he wouldn't have passed even the beginner course, but by the end of the session he was paying attention and following directions, at least mostly. ;-) He gave the new judges plenty of opportunity to call faults.

After agility, the sheep got fed, watered and attention. Poor Tori, my beautiful Shetland ewe out of Island Skeld, had mastitis a few weeks ago. She had a complete break in her wool from the illness, and tonight I pulled the rest of it off of her. Amazingly, once I caught her, she stood fairly quietly while I pulled tuft after tuft off her. Beautiful soft, crimpy, white wool that wasn't long enough to do anything with.

Now, here I am blogging. After I post this, I'm going to work on agility courses for one of the upcoming trials. This trial is full - 330 runs per day and I'm the only judge! The courses are going to be fun. :-)

One thing I didn't do was take photos. Maybe tomorrow. After the potholder is done.