Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sleeveless Hoodie


I just HAVE to knit this vest!
How would it look in Gotland Grey??? that a New Year's Resolution?

Pattern courtesy of Interweave's Knitting Daily and Nashua Knits.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to All

EverRanch sheep once again played supporting roles in the Living Nativity. I find the production very moving. This year, Marissa, Bessie, Electra, Snowflake, Astrid and Chloe played the part of the shepherds' flock.
Happy Birthday, Jesus. Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men.
- Franna

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

EverRanch Ice Princess

She was special from the day she arrived. Niblet's daughters tend to be extra friendly. As a lamb she'd follow us around and be content to lie by our sides in the pasture or barn. She was first to come up for scritches and a great sheepie ambassador. As a bonus her conformation was excellent and fleece beautiful, lustrous and purled - much more Gotland in character than Finn. She was an excellent mom and I was looking forward to her 2010 lambs.
If you think this sounds like an eulogy... well, it is. This morning I found her head firmly wedged through not just one, but two hog panels, where she appears to have strangled sometime in the night.
Princess, I'm sorry I wasn't there to save you. May you graze in fields of clover, rye and alfalfa with plenty of pumpkins to rustle.

Friday, October 30, 2009

EverRanch at the Kitsap County Fair

This summer I took small strings of sheep to the Island County Fair and the Kitsap County Fair. That was in August. This is October. hmmmmm. Above is the poster spread I put above our pens. ...maybe it'll biggify if you click on it. The Homeland Security poster is one of my favorites.

Above is Town Crier, one of Electra's twin rams from 2009. He was Champion Shetland ram at both Island County and Kitsap County Fairs. Below are the two Shetland ewe lambs from Kitsap County Fair. Moira is on the left, Mindy is on the right. Mindy was Champion Shetland ewe :-) They were great ambassadors for the little sheep.

The two % Gotland ewes below both went to Island and Kitsap County fairs. Daisy was Grand Champion ewe at both Fairs. Her larger size probably did it for her; I like Chloe better.

This guy is a 62% Gotland ram. Beauregard was Champion % Gotland ram at Kitsap County. His fleece is gorgeous!

Fairgoers can be rather unique. This one wasn't too out of place.

I'm almost ready to consider going to another event open to the public. :-)

- Franna

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gotland Gloves and Airplane Knitting

Two weeks ago, Dave and I flew to Denver to judge 3 days of agility trials for the Terry-All Kennel Club. It had been 70 degrees in Denver. That weekend, a big, arctic storm drove in to the Great Plains from Canada, across Montana, Wyoming and into Colorado. Sub-freezing temperatures and snow was predicted for the weekend. Of course.

We both packed for cold weather. Alas, I couldn't find my fingerless gloves, so, at the last minute I threw in a skein of handspun and a circular needle, guessing, at size 9.

This was no ordinary handspun - oh, no! It was a sample I'd taken from a Gotland/Shetland lamb fleece, before sending out the rest of the fleece for commercial spinning (for a friend). The 4 oz raw fleece became 2.8 oz of carded batts (along with a bit of blue mohair and turquoise Shetland for accent :-)

I hoarded the batts for a while, then finally spun them up at various events - Sumner days, Island County Fair.... They made a beautiful skein of yarn. And then it sat. It went to more events and got fondled whenever I could engage folks into talking about Gotlands.

Then... packing day for Denver. Arctic cold. Impending snow storms. Unheated arena. Three days of judging... and AWOL mitts.

I started knitting on the airplane. It was cozy. My (other side) seatmate marveled at how I could knit on and on... and on. "Don't your hands hurt?" he asks. Well, no. At least not yet.

I made up the pattern as I went, guessed at how many stitches, had to redo the thumb once. I wanted the top to snug my hand, but let my fingers spread (for signaling to the scribe during the agility trial), so put a wide ribbed band there. I fit checked often (!) and the yarn felt so smooth and soft against my hand. Yes!

The first glove got finished as we taxied in Denver. The next day it was still in the 50's with ominous black clouds coming in from the North. That evening it started snowing. I finished the second glove that evening in the motel room, using a bobby pin to work in the ends (since I'd forgotten a yarn needle (!) My hands would be warm in the morning!
Well. It was COLD in the morning. In the teens. There was snow on the ground. We cautiously drove to the trial site and walked into the building where ... it was warm. There *were* heaters in the building. Four of them, and they'd been running all night. Dave and I started peeling off layers. My beautiful gloves stayed in my pack along with my handspun, handknit (Shetland) wool hat.
When we flew out the next evening, it was already thawing, and the next day it was back in the 60's.
I'm ready for the cold!
- Franna

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kemp Photos and a Few More

These are some photos I took years ago, and put on the EverRanch website to help folks evaluate their fleeces. The subject of kemp came up on one of the lists I'm on, so I'm posting a few of those photos here.

Kemp in the lock (Scottish Blackface - they're supposed to have some kemp.)
Closer of the base with some kemp fibers pulled out:

And a few other fleece faults:

Note: the dark fibers in this photo are not kemp. Are they "medulated" fibers, perhaps?

Note on the canary stain - this ewe went on to produce fleeces without canary stain. I've heard that once they have this organism, it never goes away. Not true, at least in this case.

- Franna

EverRanch Autumn Color

Here is our little Asian Pear tree. We planted it in 2001 or 2002 and it's given us just a few pears until last year. Last year it outdid itself... then someone stole all the pears just before their peak!

This year, as if trying to make up for our loss last year, it outdid itself again. I thinned quite a bit and still got 2 big boxes of fruit. We shared a few with neighbors and friends, but most went into juice for cider... hard cider :-) This little tree gave us almost 6 gallons of juice, and it is delicious juice, too. Now, it's providing eye candy for the front yard. I'm going to miss that little tree when we move.

Jennifer (DD) and I picked several boxes of crab apples in Mattawa (Eastern Washington) in September, also for cider. We're trading with Donna and Tom for more Asian pears, plus have several hundred pounds of Winter Banana apples for more juice.

Two years ago, we made 2 batches of cider. One an Asian pear, Winter banana apple blend, and one was several apple types plus some crabapples. The pear/apple blend was outstanding; better than any commercial hard cider I've tasted. The apple was okay, but could have used more flavor. So this year, we're making more. More batches, and using more Winter Bananas.

Ask me in the spring how it turned out. :-)

- Franna

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lots of Good and a Little Sad

It's all flying by. I keep waiting for good photos to write up a blog, yet the camera sits neglected and days go by. Well, today there are no photos, just a bit of verbiage.

Goodness! In August, between sheep shows, I made a trip into Oregon to deliver sheep, pick up sheep and pick up two Livestock Guardian Dogs! I got the dogs in anticipation of moving to ERN - where the eagles and coyotes play! They're from Carol Ronan of Ronan's Country Fibers in Selma, Oregon. Waaaaaay down south, and toward the Coast from Grant's Pass. Carol swears by LGD's as flock protectors. An epididymous-ectomized ram lamb accompanied me back. He's our teaser ram for the Gotland AI girls this year. "Lad" is well grown and is a son of our 75% Gotland ram, Bill.

Abby (Anatolian Shepherd) and Maggie (Maremma with some Great Pyrenees and Anatolian mixed in) have settled in fairly well, though they still need to get comfortable with our electric fence. (See why I wanted to wait for photos???)

On my way down, I dropped off Shetland Minx at Marybeth Bullington-Bury's place. Marybeth was showing goats at the county fair, so we didn't get to talk. Minx was happy to get off that trailer! Two of Tammy's ewes accompanied Minx on their way back to Shady Oaks and to Stonehaven, so she didn't get too lonely.

On the way back home, I stopped off at Michelle's Boulderneigh farm to visit and see Blackberry (who I think is an improvement on his sire, and worth using). Michelle fed me really well with homemade tomato soup, fresh zuccini salad, and my Pay it Forward goodies!! OMG!! Michelle made the most delicious mocha bars and delicious, if crunchy, walnut fudge. Michelle, both made it home, but the fudge never made it out of the truck. :-) She also made three oh, so cute, safety pin and seed bead sheep in different colors. Did I say they are cute! Oh, yes. Thank you, Michelle. (I could have inserted more photos....)

Both these ladies put me up at their homes - very nice for someone who doesn't drive well at night, and after getting lost in downtown Salem during rush hour while pulling a horse trailer. (no photo needed for that!)

Back home again, I packed up the show string for Kitsap County Fair. This is another quality local fair. It was well attended and packed with friendly, down home folks. The sheep people were really nice, and anytime I needed help, someone was there to do it. We were the only Gotland sheep showing. Daisy repeated her Champion Gotland ewe award, accompanied by Beauregard as Champion ram. In Shetlands, Town Crier gained the Champion ram, and Mindy - now that she didn't have to compete with sister, Minx, won Champion ewe. (sorry Kendara, we really didn't mean to take over the Shetland show!) Kendara's lambs were rather nice, but quite a bit younger, and the judge was a "bigger is better" kinda guy. The fleece judging went similarly. Bigger was better. Some days are like that. There's no way a Shetland fleece can compete with a Romney in size/weight. Neither do they need as much space, or eat nearly as much feed. So there. ...however, the winning fleece, from a Romney, was well deserving of the win. It was a huge, silvery charcoal grey fleece, very clean, delicious handle. :-)

Unfortunately, at the show, Sherman the Shetland started feeling peaked, so went home early. He perked up at home, but never fully recovered. So sad, he died just a week ago. I guess I'll never know why. He had a dry cough, so was on antibiotics, got vitamins, another dose of wormer, etc, etc. He'd improve and eat for a few days, then regress again. I always feel like I failed them when they die.

Back to better - I applied for a job! It's the CSA coordinator for Greenbank farms on Whidbey Island, a one year long position. So as not to jinx the application, that's all I'm going to say about it for now :-)

It was a tough decision for me, but the sheep won't be going to the Puyallup Fair. Besides Sherman, several other lambs were feeling punky with a bit of cough and snotty noses. After a round of LA200, most are feeling better, but a few are still coughing. These are both fair lambs (still in quarantine) and "home" lambs. Ebby, TC's brother and alternate fair lamb, broke a horn on Saturday, so he wasn't going anywhere, and I sheared the yearling rams so late they still look bad. Not what I think would make a good exhibit. So, the sheep will stay home this year. I'm disappointed and will miss the premium money, but the sheep will be less stressed, and I have plenty of other things to keep me busy!

Coming up! LAI using the New Zealand Gotland semen, OFFF, end of the season at Take Root Farm, shearing, agility, and much more. I'll get some photos to share, too.

- Franna

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Island County Sheep Show

ERN is in Island County, so as such, our "home" fair will be the Island County Fair. For the second year, we entered sheep in the Open class show. It is a very small fair, and the Superintendent has flexibility in what classes are offered. Another Gotland breeder, Joanne Martinis, and I, offered to bring two classes worth of % Gotlands. We had a class of white Gotlands and a class of colored (grey) Gotlands. It was a lot of fun. The judge, Linda Pfeiffer, studied the GSBANA standard ahead of time, and did a great job of judging and was informative in reasons for her placements. She understood the different characteristics brought in by the Foundation breeds and the importance of selecting characteristics from both the longwool side and the Northern Shorttail side in our "final" product.

The top awards were split between Joanne and I. My ewes won Grand Champion white - Chamois - and Reserve Ch. white - Rugby - Grand Champion colored - Daisy - and Reserve Champion colored - Chloe. Joanne's rams won Grand Champion white, Reserve Champion white and Grand Champion colored and Reserve Champion colored. (sorry! I missed their names)

The photo below shows Rugby in her winning pose.

...and the white ram lamb class.

I have more news... but it will have to wait for another blog post. :-)
- Franna

Sunday, August 09, 2009

EverRanch North

Looking across our friends' driveway, and our NW corner, you see ERN from corner to corner and front to back. Click to biggify. The tip of the shop is peeking up in all its Coastal Plain green goodness at the upper right. Dave just mowed the field in front, taking down thousands of thistles. (Did I say that the "pastures" are in tough shape?). The far corner, just to the right of the center pole is the SE corner of the property - part of the 20 acres we just bought. In all, we have 40 acres here, in our little corner of Heaven, 1/4 mile on a side, 1 mile in perimeter.
:-) :-) :-)

Friday, August 07, 2009


Take This:
Plus This:

Sage Green aka "Coastal Plain"
and This:

Off White aka "Greek Villa"
and This:

Grey Accents aka "Gauntlet Grey"

With a lot of This:


And This:

Equals This:

And, Finally, This:

EverRanch North - sitting on a rocky rib near Oak Harbor, Washington, overlooking plains both north and south, whitewashed farm buildings on adjacent parcels, just awaiting our sheep of many colors, including grey, to make it complete.
- Franna

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


The Shepherd gazed across the fields and smiled. She envisioned sheep grazing and moving slowly across the coastal plain. In the distance, buildings reminiscent of a Greek villa clung to the side of a steep slope, catching the rays of the setting sun. A young Gotland lamb stood at her feet, its fleece the color of her grey gauntlets. She reached down to rub under the lamb's chin in the very spot to elicit a tail wag.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Finished Object - Woo Hoo!

Last year I took on a consignment vest. I hate to say, it was to be a Christmas present. Delays came for one thing or another, and the customer said it was okay to miss Christmas. Oops. Not a good thing to tell a procrastinator! Our own Holidays, then barn fixings, lambing, Shepherds' Extravaganza... reasons but not excuses. The design is entirely original, so there were the inevitable rippings and re-knittings. The customer supplied yarn from her own alpacas in three colors. The yarns were slightly different thicknesses, so added another challenge... and on and on.

Well! The vest is finished. Done-done. All the seams are complete, ends woven in, washed and blocked. Earlier this spring, the test fitting went well (very well! for all my worrying and nail biting)

So, without any more ado, here it is:

Design constraints were to use all three colors of the alpaca yarn, and there was a limit to the amount of each available. It was to be "warm" but not too warm, and was for a heavier, shorter woman (hmmmmm. Her measurements were very similar to mine!).
I decided on lace rather than colorwork, since alpaca is a very warm fiber, and diagonal lines to move the eye up and down. Collar and facings would just add bulk and heat, so I left them out. I kept it a bit conventional - no zebra stripes, the customer isn't a wild dresser ;-)
I wanted an easy (for me) to remember lace pattern, so chose this leaf design from... now I don't remember where! Knitty? Then followed the diagonal lines with a deep vee neck and vest points. The back also drops below the side seam for added "wrap me in it" warmth. I chose to make the back in the medium brown color in stockinette stitch, and the front in the offwhite. The offwhite and lace give a light and airy effect to the front, with good stitch definition. The darkest (coffee brown) was used to outline all the pieces and edges in 3 stitch I cord. The I cord stabilizes all the edges really well. The lower back, though, still wanted to curl (as stockinette is known to do!), so it took some care during blocking to counter the curling effect.

I chose to knit only full "leaves" or half leaves, so had some areas of plain stockinette along the neck and armhole, after trying several pattern options.

The buttonholes are a bit unconventional. I used I cord loops for the buttonholes - two on each side, just to hold the edges together. (The buttons supplied didn't work. They were very pretty and matched well, but were weak and broke with any stress. Soooo, the customer will add the buttons.)

I like the effect, although it is a little awkward to button, alternating sides. I think I'll play with this design effect some more.
This is the largest 100% alpaca piece I've knitted. The internet, again, was valuable for looking up blocking techniques. They said "don't wet block". Hmmmm. The yarn had a residue (from spinning) that was unpleasant to my hands, so I knew I had to wash it. So, I gathered the completed vest, placed it into a lingerie bag, and soaked it in warm water and a bit of Dawn soap. The water became quite cloudy. It took several rinses for the water to be clear. Then, I placed it in very hot water, followed by very cold water to give it a shock. Supposedly that will help the stitches hold their shape.
It seemed to work. After I got the vest all patted out and flattened on the towel, it was close to the proper measurements. It was a challenging and enjoyable project and I hope it is well loved.
- Franna

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More Garden

The Garden is at a fairly easily maintained place right now. No real harvest going on, the plants are big enough to out-compete and shade most weeds, and everything (...maybe) has been seeded for fall.

So, garden chores are pulling a few weeds, watering, pruning and waiting for the REWARDS!

I have lived in Western Washington most of my life. I have NEVER seen tomatoes set on and grow like this year. What a treat! At TRF, some of the cherry tomatoes are turning orange - we workers will get to sample them next week - yum!

We've been sampling peas here at EverRanch. Snap peas and shelling peas. This morning they look ready enough to harvest for a meal! (The boards in the background define my paths, and keep me from compacting the soil too much.)

It won't be too long before the beans are ready to eat. They didn't take well, but the plants that germinated and survived have grown well with many, many blossoms.

The corn tassles are showing! And this morning I spied some silk. I can hardly wait! Corn fresh from the garden has to be one of the best treats ever.

Below the corn lies the promise of sugar pumpkins and spaghetti squash to come.

I decided not to use black (or red) plastic mulch this year. Then it's been so hot, I wanted to put something down, at least under the tomatoes. "Junk" fleeces to the rescue! Thanks, Asa, Astrid, Razel, and Snowflake

Besides the feast for the taste buds and stomach, I added some eye candy. Barely visible in the back of the top photo is a row of sunflowers. I never knew they came in so many colors and sizes! We have yellow, red, orange, tall, medium and short ones. They were the left-overs from TRF - one of the bennies of being an employee there. :-)

The flower below is a cosmos, also a leftover from TRF. Sunflowers and Cosmos, among others, are attractive to beneficial insects, so are an asset in the vegetable garden. I think bumblebees qualify as beneficial insects - go pollinate some squash, little bee!

I find myself with an abundance of blog fodder - and even some photos - there might be a new post in the next couple of days. :-)

- Franna

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shetland Lambs!

We have Shetland lambs, of course! They are doing well and still with their moms. THAT will be remedied soon. All of these lambs are for sale, unless noted - $200 each, and we can arrange delivery. All lambs are sired by V Creek Buddy - a solid mioget, very correct Shetland, about 80 lb. Buddy's fleece is fine and crimpy with about a 3" to 4" staple - YUMMY!

Electra (Dodge Electra) has twin ram lambs. This is TC - or Town Crier. He has a strident, high pitched BAAAAA! He is our only grey lamb this year, and is full of himself, yet respectful. He is for sale.
This is Electra's other lamb - Ebbie (Electra's Brown Boy - EBB). He is quite a nice ram so far, nice presence, horns look good, fleece should be between Electra and Buddy in softness - or high 20's/low 3o's ;-) Ebbie is also for sale.Ebbie is a funny boy. He is one of two lambs that NEVER go into the creep. His weight is fine, and he's not spooky, so I'm not sure what's going on there. He just stays out when the rest come in.

Next is Sherman. Yes, for the tank. He was a very large lamb, born to a rather small yearling (Stonehaven Astrid), and stayed "biggest" for a long while. He is handsome, seems to be modified, and has nicely shaped horns. He can be a pest, so gets "tough love" lessons. Sherman has one of the softest feeling fleeces of the group and should be a nice flock sire.
Next up - Marissa's twins (Shady Oaks Marissa) - Mindy and Minx. Their bodies are very similar, yet their fleeces are very different. Marissa has an amazingly long, flowing fleece that has great hand and luster. Mindy is following in Mom's hoofprints with the addition of some bold wave. Minx's fleece is more like Dad's but without any crimp showing yet.
Mindy and Minx are both musket, but Minx is very dark...

...and Mindy is more like what I think of as "musket" - very light fawn. Mindy is for sale, and Minx is reserved.

I tried and tried to get a good photo of Blanca, and this was the best I could do.
Blanca has a very, very soft fleece with lots of crimp front to back. In my humble opinion, it is the nicest of the lamb's fleeces this year. She is pretty and friendly. Mom, EverRanch Snowflake is standing behind her. It's a terrible photo of Snowflake - sorry Snowflake. Blanca is reserved.

I had high hopes for Bessie's lambs, and she didn't let me down. Her twin ewes are both light moorit, and soft feeling. Moira has some crimp at the base of her fiber. Her sister isn't named ... yet. They are very similar, and difficult to tell apart. Moira is the puppy-dog friendly one. Below is Sister.

In the photo below, Moira is on the right. Moira and Sister are for sale.
Our last Shetland lambs are Asa's (Puddleduck Venke) twins - moorit ewe and ram. Her ewe is here on the left. Asa is now ten, and takes such good care of her lambs. They are, however, smaller than the rest, and Asa has been retired to the "auntie" role.

Asa's ram lamb is below. Both of her twins are nicely conformed and friendly, but not overly so. Her ram lamb has high, wide horns. He broke one midway down last week - far enough down to bleed plenty. It is healing well. Asa's twins are for sale.

So, there they are. They're wonderful in the flock, spunky and full of personality. Shetlands are ideal for small farms, easily handled even if squirmy, and economical to feed.
Contact us to visit.
- Franna