Sunday, September 21, 2008

ERN Progress Report

Work continues on our new farm. (All it takes is money.... gulp!)
DH and I drove up there last weekend to pick up hay from the neighbors field. Now that's a workout! Afterwards we checked on progress. The first thing we saw was :
... a new Power Panel!!! Not to get too excited, the power isn't connected yet, but it will be soon!
Then we saw the drain field "mound". It's hard to believe all the regulations that we have to comply with. By the time it's done, the drainfield and septic system will cost as much or more than our shop building!
I'll never get tired of this view from our - someday - living room. This is Mount Baker. Washington's northern most volcano and the most active one. She was really showing her stuff while we were there.

Our not-soon-enough address - 1587 Boon Road, Oak Harbor, Washington.

- Franna

Friday, September 19, 2008

Handspinning and a little Knitting

Sometimes I enter my handspun skeins and items in the Fair. I like seeing others' items and getting inspired by them. I hope people enjoy seeing my things and get inspired, too. It takes exhibitors to keep the Fair going, and keep new entry categories available, too.

My "things" won a few ribbons:

This was the coolest - first place in handspun socks. Two years ago this yarn won Reserve Grand Champion for the handspun category. It is Shetland: Alpaca 80:20 and I dyed it as one skein by measuring stitches per row, rows per inch and sized for my feet. The white "stars" were created by wrapping the yarn at intervals, then dying that section blue. It was involved and very fun to see the results.

The socks, then, were just knitted. No changing colors, no weaving in extra ends. Now that their Fair career is over, I can start wearing them. :-)

Blue ribbons aren't easy to come by, and I am pleased to have won two this year. The skein above is a softly spun bulky yarn of Icelandic lambs wool with streaks of black and red mohair.

Red ribbons aren't easy to win either! There is only one blue, one red, one white and maybe an honorable mention in each category. My Bird In Hand mittens won second in the "small items" handspun category. The blue was a gorgeous fair isle type hat knitted by one of my Guild sisters.

I won another Red in the "other animal" fiber category. This is a sample of pygora fiber that I added to my entries at the last minute. I was impressed by the luster and softness of the pygora.

Another red - one of my favorite skeins. This is from the softest part of Electra's lamb fleece. I sold her fleece and kept the least trashy skirtings from her neck. I sorted them by color, then combed them, arranged them by color - dark, midrange, medium to light, then back again so that the 2 ply yarn would start dark and gradually change to light. The skein hasn't told me yet what it wants to be. There isn't a lot of it, so it'll have to be a small project.

Here's part of my Tour de Fleece spinning. It is from Shetland lamb blended with 20% alpaca and is a light blonde color. It turned out very soft and slightly lustrous. My "swatch" is a mini-sock, and I might make fair isle socks out of it. Competition is tough in 2 ply blended fiber, so a third is pretty nice!

This is more of the Tour skein. I natural dyed this one using turmeric, vinegar and alum - a "dill pickle" dye. When I read about someone using the left over pickle liquid, I had to try it. Unfortunately, it looks like it'll fade, since it already lost the bright yellow of the turmeric in just a few days. It didn't get a ribbon, but looks nice in the display case.

Almost always I have something spun on a spindle. This year it was a Shetland named Espresso. Poor Espresso was the victim of a bear, who also got her lamb, another newborn lamb and another ewe not long after we sold them. Her fiber lives on in my natural Fair Isle Shetland stash.

I got two Honorable Mention awards this year. Above is my crocheted Turkish Spindle bag made from Friesian wool grown by the Black Sheep Creamery ewes. It is spun in one piece with integral color changes. I like the Friesian wool, especially the black black of the black fiber.

Below is my color study yarn. It earned Honorable Mention in the 3 ply yarn category. It was a study in blending different color combinations and how to add interest by using color complements. I have two basic colors, blue and red, that I played with. This skein is another that graduates from color to color, though the technique is different from Electra's skein and the Spindle bag. This one is Navajo plied to make a 3 ply yarn. Basically the single spun ply is crocheted using big loops and twisted so that color changes stay in order within the yarn.

The hat below didn't place. Hats, especially in the knitting division, are very competitive, and this one is kind of plain. It's knit with 2 yarns held together - one a handspun Shetland wool, the other a sparkly blue novelty yarn. I like it anyhow, and it'll be nice and warm this winter.

Socks in the knitting division are also very competitive. These socks are one of my favorite items, knit using Socks that Rock yarn. I knit them for my mom, not knowing if she even likes wool socks, and she gave them back to me saying they didn't stretch enough to put on easily. Back to the drawing board on that one! They fit me, though, so I'll start wearing them once they come home from the Fair.

I hope you enjoyed the post, and maybe got inspired a little to enter your local fair. Fairs are a piece of Americana that are worth preserving. Where else can you find a myriad of quilts, rodeos, 4H and FFA displays, hot tubs, Krusty Pups, Elephant ears, sheep and cattle shows, hoop tosses, Ferris wheels, Bingo, onion burgers, ane yes, handspun, handknit red, white and blue socks, all in one place?

- Franna

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sheep to Shawl Competition

Every year the Moonspinners Guild participates in the Puyallup Fair Sheep to Shawl contest. We have 12 hours to warp, card, spin, and weave a shawl. We're paid by the Fair to participate in the competition and that's one way the Guild earns money for programs, and library materials and supplies.

I've tried to be part of the team every year since I first started spinning. It's great fun! This year I was the chairman; I'm not sure how that happened, but I got to choose the project. I donated two Shetland fleeces and a part of a Fresian fleece for a natural colored shawl.

Ahead of time, we got to wash the fleeces and spin yarn for the warp. I got up early enough to deliver the loom to our spot on the fairgrounds prior to the opening time. We all gathered and were ready to start at 10 am.
In this photo, we're just getting started. Georgean is putting the warp into the reed and Michelle is picking fleece in preparation for drum carding.

Rocky and Dawn are carding and picking/combing the washed fiber for the spinners. The white is from a soft Shetland ram lamb. The black is from a Fresian sheep in the Black Sheep Creamery flock. I trimmed the sunburned tips, and it spun up a very black black with great contrast to the very white Shetland.

Below, Tony helps Georgean finish warping the loom. All of the shawls and scarves on display were spun and woven or knitted by Moonspinners, many of them by Tony. The one behind Tony's head is mine. It was woven on a triangle loom using my handspun bluefaced leicester wool.

Georgean starts weaving! Here she has just a few inches done. This shawl is woven as two separate layers to start with.

This is another view of the start of the shawl. The main body is white Shetland wool from Snowflake (the warp) and Phillip (the weft). Two stripes are black, and two are made with one ply of white and one ply of black - sort of a mottled grey effect.

Here are the Moonspinners working busily on the shawl. Georgean is winding bobbins for weaving, Dawn is getting ready to take a break, Tony, Evelyn, and Jill are spinning and Rocky is plying yarn just before giving it to Georgean. The red and cream shawl in the display is the same style as the one we're making this year.

Now we're nearing the end of the shawl. At this point, the warp threads come off two at a time and are woven back through the remaining warps. This joins the two layers and creats a point at the end of the shawl. The diagonal at the left is the center back of the shawl. Notice the high tech shuttle for this task, made from a notched Skarbo yardstick. ;-)

At the other edge, Rocky is taking the warp-turned-weft threads and knotting them at the edge of the shawl. You can't see me, but my task at this point was to hold the remaining warp threads and make sure Georgean had enough of a "shed" to pass her yardstick shuttle through.

Woo Hoo! It's off the loom! ...but is it done yet? Nooooooo, still more work to do.

Below, Georgean and Robin are laying out the shawl and tying the rest of the fringe yarns into bundles. This holds the warp in place and makes a nice finish on the shawl.

Georgean again, tying bundles of threads. After this, three of us wound the fringe bundles and twisted them into cords. This took quite a while! (No photo as I was busily twisting....). Georgean took the still "raw" shawl home to complete the finishing - a little tweaking on the diagonal, and washing and fulling to finish it up.

Today was the shawl judging. I haven't heard yet how we did. The shawl is gorgeous and has wonderful hand. No wonder I have Shetland sheep. :-)

If you get a chance to watch a Sheep to Shawl competition, there are slightly different rules in different venues. We were allowed to wash and spin the warp ahead of time. During the competition we could have 5 members working at a time, and we did this in 3 shifts of 4 hours each, although some of us stayed all day. We had to make a shawl with minimum dimensions, and we had to have people working from 10 am to 10 pm, no matter how early we got the shawl completed.

As soon as I can get a photo of the fulled and done-done shawl, I'll post it!

- Franna

Lads and Ladies Lead Class

We have fun participating in the Lead Class at the Puyallup Fair. It is a class to show off and promote wearing wool. It also gives us a chance to showcase our less mainstream sheep breeds. Each contestant leads a sheep, wears wool clothing and writes a little story about the person, the sheep and the wool clothing items. Typically, there are a few entries in the lads lead, a few more in the "young" ladies classes, and 5 to 8 in the "aged ewes" class - which includes me.

Dave led Sweet Pea again this year. He likes promoting the Scotties, and with their very independent attitudes, they're not so easy to halter train. They're always a crowd favorite. Here's the Dashing Dude in his Shetland vest (spun and knit by moi) and Pendleton wool hat.

Sweet Pea stood nicely in the lineup. They earned second place this year, after having been awarded first in 2007.

Now, it's my turn to brag. After all the years of entering Ladies Lead - I finally won! - Not that winning is a big deal - that's not what the class is all about. It's still nice to win once in a while.

Contestants earn extra points for handmade articles, and more points for ones made by the contestant. This year, I "went Shetland". I wore the Shetland sweater that I designed, spun and knit, carried the Shetland/Corriedale shawl that I designed, spun and knit, led the Shetland ewe, Elora, who wore a Shetland lace sampler scarf that I also designed, spun and knit. I went over Elora multiple times to get her as clean as possible, she was fed and content before the class started.

Here we are in our finery. The white, grey and black in the shawl are the same wools as in the sweater. The dark red is overdyed grey, and the blue is Corriedale from Cary Smith's Serenity Farms flock.

If you get a chance to enter a Lead class, go for it! It's a lot of fun and a good way to showcase the great properties of wool and promote your farm. Most sheep shows have a Lead class of sorts. The Black Sheep Gathering has a Spinner's Lead where all the items have to be handmade by someone. You can often borrow a fiber animal to lead or carry.

- Franna

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bustin' More Buttons

DH entered his first model in the Puyallup Fair competition. Look what we found when we went looking for it in the display cases:

It's all detailed out inside and out. Look closely to see the EverRanch Farm logo on the front hood, and lettering on the side.

He started the model when we still owned a PT Cruiser. The PT was a lot of fun, and I'd recommend it for a great small car with a lot of room. It wasn't, however, good for carrying sheep, pulling a trailer and hauling hay. So I traded it in on the Silverado pickup.

I like my truck and I love my Guy.

- Franna

Monday, September 08, 2008

75% Gotland Ram Lambs

Meet EverRanch Jack Daniels. He's the son of EverRanch Bunny and the UK ram Daniel from Whitehall farm. Jack is 75% Gotland and 25% Shetland. He's got a masculine, expressive head, large curls, luster and beautiful medium grey fleece.

Jack is four square on his feet, a little narrow behind - like grandma Asa, and has a lovely typey Northern Shorttail Tail. He is my favorite of the GotlandX ram lambs.

On the right in the photo below is EverRanch Bill (the Bull), our other 75% Gotland ram lamb. Bill is more refined than Jack with a finer curl and darker color to his fleece. Bill is distinctly Gotland in appearance, and very close in size to Jack. He is 25% Finnsheep and Jack's half brother. The ram lamb behind Bill is EverRanch Leviticus. "Levi" is 62.5% UK bloodlines, combining all three of the rams who were collected for us in Scotland.

Below, Bill shows off his nice, wide rear. If he was a ewe, he would have lots of room to carry a full udder. As a ram, ummm, he carries that well, too.

Now here's a predicament. This is EverRanch Moose, our largest GotlandX ram lamb in 2008. His mom is none other than Hortense, the black/silver BFLxBL ewe who rules the ewe flock. Moose was sampling the tasty blackberry leaves and vines and got his lovely, long, flowing tresses all tangled up. He could still move about, but was not going far from his multi tethers. He was happy to be freed. Moose is 50% Gotland.
It was another "ram" year here at EverRanch. We've been moving out ram lambs as pasture pets and trading for pigs. Many are for sale, as we only need to keep one or two for our own use. I'll post photos of others as time goes on. Any who are still here in another month or so will be sheared for fresh fall fleeces! I'm sure looking forward to those, and most will be for sale.

- Franna

Friday, September 05, 2008

Horned Rams

This handsome fellow is V Creek Buddy. Buddy has lived with us for 2 years now, yet due to our Gotland upbreeding program, has only three lambs living here - 2 ram lambs and Lini. In 2009 we hope to have a whole passel of Buddy lambs! He has an ultra fine fleece with tight crimp and nice length. His fleece won best colored ram fleece at the recent Island County Fair. It is entered in both the Puyallup Fair wool show and handspinning fleece shows. Buddy is very well proportioned and a nice medium Shetland size.

He has a kind face and well behaved horns.
Our other horned ram is EverRanch Butch Cassidy - the recent Best in Show sheep at Island County. Scottish Blackface rams and ewes both have horns, but the rams horns are magnificent!
Neither ram "pokes" with his horns, but of course, the horns go along with head butting, shoving and pushing and the horned rams tend to be higher in the pecking order than the polled rams.

Someday, maybe, EverRanch will go polled, but for now, the horns are here to stay.

- Franna

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Rissa and Friends

This is Shady Oaks Marissa. We chose her in trade for EverRanch Franjean at the Black Sheep Gathering. While sitting with her in her sheep pen, I checked her udder, and to my surprise (and Marybeth's surprise, too) felt a small udder, even though she hadn't lambed and supposedly was virgin. Apparently someone had other ideas! Now, 2 months later, she seems a little pudgy, and I can see small pink teats from behind, but not much more, if any udder development. Soooooo, is she or isn't she???????

Rissa isn't telling.

Also from BSG, we brought home Stonehaven Astrid to fill out our 2008 show string. 'Rissa and Astrid have been close friends since. We really like the gulmoget pattern and look forward to exquisitely soft fleeced lambs from Astrid and Buddy. Maybe even another moorit gulmoget!Pastured with 'Rissa and Astrid is Bessie's Silver Lining - Lini. Lini is incredibly petite and wasn't competing well with the other ewe lambs. Due to 'Rissa's "condition" this group is getting extra groceries and Lini finally seems to be gaining. She is cute as a button and extra friendly.

Lini also has the loudest "baaaaa!" of the ewe lambs. We can hear her from any corner of the farm!

Will their group become larger anytime soon???? Stay tuned.

- Franna