Saturday, December 27, 2008

FO and a Hat Pattern

I got a few things completed for Christmas gifts :-)

Between battling with ice and snow, a bit of RSI on my arms (fingers, wrists, elbows... argh!), I got two hats and a pair of mittens to their giftees.

I used Knitty patterns for the hat and mitten set : Center Square hat and Matrix mittens. I thought these two patterns went well together and had a lot of fun doing the Fair Isle type knitting. I used Crimson and Grey colors for my Washington State University Cougar daughter. Sorry, I didn't get photos before she wore them off to the frigid reaches of Eastern Washington.

The second hat showcases some of my handspun yarn. It's a gathering of Lonie, our recently departed GSD, undercoat and blended with some relatively soft English Leicester wool. This was my first dog spinning, and it was a prize winner! For several years, the yarn sat around waiting for the perfect project. There wasn't much - just a skein.

So, I designed a simple hat to fit the yarn. The hat is very warm - bulky yarn, chiengora, and ribbed construction - combined to make a hat quite suitable for our current frigid weather! I like to start hats at the top, especially with a limited amount of yarn available...

...and I try to use a smaller diameter edge, as wool hats seem to have limited elasticity, and like to stretch out of shape.

It's a stocking type hat, I believe they're called "beanies" these days, and the bulk of the hat is K1, P1 rib, with the edgeband knit on smaller needles in K2, P2 rib.

So here's the pattern:

Yarn - bulky handspun. My hat weighs 2.7 ounces.

Needles - Sizes 10 and 8 (to fit the yarn - larger should make a nice supple fabric, the smaller will make a fabric that feels a little tight) - double pointed, two circulars, or one long circular, your preference

Gauge - not critical; starting from the top, you can measure for gauge after several inches, plus try on the hat if you use circular needles.

Cast on 8 stitches using a circular cast on.

I like a version of Emily Ocker's circular cast on. In my version (that I "unvented" several years before reading about other versions), I simulate the cast off for a circular thumb, hat, mitten by making a double circle with the yarn, then picking up stitches around the circle, as in a provisional cast on. Make the double circle big enough you can cast on all of your stitches along one side. Scruntch the stitches (watch out for twist!) and knit one row like an I cord (knit starting at the first cast on stitch, pulling the yarn between the last cast on stitch and the first knit stitch tight).

After your first row, you can put half the stitches onto the second needle and tighten up the circle. If you want, you can divide the stitches onto two needles before knitting the first row. It's a little more fiddly for me that way, so I like the I cord type solution.

If you use the EO version, don't knit one row after transferring stitches to the needles, start right in with Row 2.

Row 2 - Knit front and back in each stitch - 16 stitches, 8 on each needle.

Row 3 - K1, P1 around

Row 4 - K1f&b, P1 - repeat 8 times - around - 24 sts.

Row 5 - K1, P2 around (repeated 8 times)

Row 6 - K1f&b, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 32 sts.

Rows 3 through 6 repeat, with 8 increases every other row until there is enough hat to go around the intended's head. I designed in about 2" of negative ease - about 20" around for a 22" circumference head.

Here's how my hat increased:

Row 7 - K1, P1 around

Row 8 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 40 sts.

Row 9 - K1, P2, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times)

Row 10 - K1f&b, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 48 sts.

Row 11 - K1, P1 around

Row 12 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 56 sts.

Row 13 - K1, P2, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times)
Row 14 - K1f&b, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 64 sts.

Row 15 - K1, P1 around
Row 16 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 72 sts.
Row 17 - K1, P2, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times)
Row 18 - K1f&b, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 80 sts.

Row 19 - K1, P1 around
Row 20 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 88 sts.
Row 21 - K1, P2, (K1, P1) 4x around (repeated 8 times)
Row 22 - K1f&b, (K1, P1) 4x around (repeated 8 times) - 96 sts.

You now have plenty of stitches to check your gauge. 96 was enough for my hat.

Rows 23+ - Continue in K1, P1 pattern until hat measures about 7 inches, or 1.5" to 2" short of desired length.

Edge band - Switch to smaller needles and change pattern to K2, P2 ribbing. Knit until hat is desired length.

Cast off - Using one of the larger needles as the working needle, cast off in K1, P2 pattern. Weave in loose ends. Block (or not) and Enjoy!

- Franna

Ice and Snow

We're finally warming up somewhat, here in Western Washington. The backyard is only about 80% white, and "Lake EverRanch" is back. One thing about the cold that I really like is that all the mud is FROZEN! At least the muck boots handle mud (and snow) well.

The dogs think this white stuff is great fun. Here's Thomas wallowing in the deep stuff.

The Hilton sheep - Jack's group - are wimps! Their only sheep trail in the snow is around to the fence by the garage, from whence the goodies come!
They gather by their door...

...unless they think a handout is forthcoming. Scottish Blackface, Sweet Pea and Eve, are the worst beggers.

The turkeys mostly hang out by their feeder building. I'm always amused to see them roosting in the tree. That is, unless they fly up there when I'm trying to catch them!

It's been wonderful icicle growing weather. They're so beautiful. This one's quite gnarly...

...and this one is just ominous!

I hate crawling up in the attic, but SOMETHING is going on up there! Water in the attic is never a good thing.

This icicle is in the porch overhang - a very narrow space for not-so-narrow me.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is looking forward to enjoying 2009!

- Franna

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Living Nativity Part 3 - More Photos and Videos

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Included in this Blog are photos taken during the Living Nativity Production put on by the Highline Christian Church. At the end are links to YouTube videos of the Production.

I feel so blessed to have had a small part in the Production - EverRanch Farm provided the sheep for the Shepherds to lead. Shetland Sheep EverRanch Silver Lining ("Lini") and Stonehaven Astrid ("Astrid") behaved appropriate to the occasion and their young Shepherds were very attentive.

The play was set in the middle of suburban, commercial Burien - surrounded by Denny's, Big Lots, Safeway, the Keg, the very busy arterial 1st Avenue, and near enough to SeaTac airport to hear the planes taking off and landing. All this vanished into the background once the play started. We were all transported to Bethlehem for twenty minutes at a time, and it was altogether magical. Pastor Tim gave a short sermon after each performance - and each one was different and very inspriational. We even sang Happy Birthday to Jesus :-)

Thank you to Annette deLeest and the Highline Christian Church for permission to publish these photos and share the true meaning of Christmas with all of you.

This first photo shows Mary and the Stable Boy (Girl) waiting while Joseph talks to the Innkeeper about a place to stay. Mary (the actress) is REALLY pregnant! She's expecting her baby around Christmastime - how special is that??! (An aside - in the last performance, the donkey decided to "leave" and took Mary with him - we're all willing her to stop! She's in no condition to go chasing a donkey - in the snow, no less! Stable Boy came to the rescue before the audience did ;-)

Stable Boy and the Innkeepers wife convince the (henpecked) Innkeeper to let Mary and Joseph stay in the stable, and she gives birth to the baby Jesus (played by several REAL babies! They rotated performances because of the weather.) Just look at this couple; they're so genuine.
So here are the Shepherds, waiting their turn to appear, taking great care of Lini and Astrid.
The Shepherds make their way to Bethlehem after talking to the Angel, who tells them about Jesus. They join Mary and Joseph in the stable with their two little sheep.
You have to indulge me a little - there are a few more photos of Lini and Astrid in here....
Here are Astrid and her Shepherd being attentive to the Baby Jesus...
...and Lini, checking out the audience.
The Holy Angels join the Birth celebration at the Stable. Semi-visible behind the donkey are two goats and a calf. They are real, too, and stayed in the stable during the production.

And another photo of Lini and Astrid taking care of their Shepherds. Oh, right, that's vice versa.
We can't forget the Three Kings. They come from the East (stage right) leading their very regal llamas. I don't think anyone even missed camels, the llamas were so wonderful! ...and they are camelids :-)

The costuming was fantastic. The Shepherds were clothed in plain cloth and fleece, the Kings were, well, you can see, all sparkly and royal looking... and their beards are real!

This is the finale - Joy to the World! The Lord has Come! I can see the creche from my childhood in my mind, and it will never look the same to me.

The Star was a work of art - simple and so meaningful.

Like the Wise Men, it was the star that brought me to the church. I sort of got lost in the sea of parking lots and the dark and the rain, until I saw it suspended by a crane above the hillside. Then I could see the parking attendants and the church below me, and made my way around and into position to unload the sheepies.

These few photos have little of the power that the whole performance does. The narration and Carols, the people and animals, the whole Message. I recorded the performance twice. Once from the left (my favorite) and once from the right (much better views of Mary and Joseph, and the Wise Men). Each one is in two parts (YouTube has a 10 minute limit on videos).

I offer them as my Christmas present to you, my readers.

Don't lose sight of the true Meaning of Christmas.

Part 1 from the left:

Part 2 from the left:

Part 1 from the right:

Part 2 from the right:

Oh, and here's a little walkthrough of the set:

God Bless you and your loved ones,


Monday, December 15, 2008

Fun with Handknit Socks

Enjoy this video courtesy of Knitting Daily. Get ready for lots of toe tapping and smiles!

I like my handknit socks and reserve them for special wear. They get nicer with each washing.

I haven't forgotten about the Nativity photos - there are more to come!

- Franna

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Living Nativity - Part 2, Teaser Photos

It was Awesome.
- Franna

Friday, December 12, 2008

Living Nativity - Part 1

Well, we made it! In the teeth of the first (almost) winter storm, Lini, Astrid and I made the 40 minute trek to Burien and the Highline Christian Church. Lini and Astrid are stars and I got wet. (My Shetland sweater, hat and wool socks kept me fairly warm through the 2 1/2 hours and 4 performances in the rain, snow and wind.)

The Nativity was very well set up. They had an "Inn", the stable (of course!) and heavenly clouds (for the Angel appearing to the shepherds), plus the Star suspended from a crane above the stable. The set was against a hillside, so you could almost forget you were in suburbia. Costumes were wonderful from the shepherds in fleece and robes, to the wise men all royal and sparkly (leading regal llamas) and Mary (actually due in 2 weeks!) and Joseph leading the donkey, the henpecked innkeeper. A couple of goats rounded out the livestock.

The Shepherds who led Lini and Astrid were very good with them (and felt oh! so special that they got to lead the sheep!) The two Shetlands garnered many comments and led like troopers, baaing at appropriate intervals. Of course, the real star of the show was the baby Jesus, who took all the fussing and weather rather well. I think I heard there were 3 babies who rotated the part, from 6 weeks old to 3 months old.

The narration was recorded and Carols played a large part in the play. Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem, We Three Kings, among others.

It was very touching. It hit that Christian place within me that doesn't come out too often. I found myself humming along with the Carols and getting misty eyed with the enactment. He lived and died to save us. Let's keep the Christ in Christmas, folks.

And, can you believe it??? I forgot my camera. Both my camera and video camera. And it's snowing. Our hill can get really treacherous in the snow and ice, and my pickup doesn't do slippery well. Well, one of the last things the pastor said was that the show would go on through rain or snow or sleet or hail. Wish us luck.

- Franna

Monday, December 08, 2008

Living Nativity

Several years ago, not long after we "got sheep", we were contacted about providing a sheep for a living Nativity scene at a local church. We turned them down, and every year since I've wished that we'd done it.

Well, yesterday, we were contacted again about providing sheep for a living Nativity PLAY. They want two or three sheep that lead, as they are given a real part in the play. This church has two nights of several performances each. The sheep will be led by young shepherds, and have a pen for between performances to meet "their public". It is a very popular event garnering hundreds of spectators.

This time I said YES. Now, how do I decide which sheep to take??? All of the sheep are halter trained to some extent. The little Shetland rams are so cute, but can be rammy. Silver Lining is just as cute and leads quite well, and could go with her mom, Bessie, or with Astrid, who is more her size. Marissa and Asa are still fluffy, though they can be headstrong. Electra is a good ambassador, though, she can be challenging at times to lead. Then there are the Gotland crosses. Bossie has been a Ladies' Lead sheep multiple times, and, well, is another headstrong sheep and larger than the Shetlands. Bits is so very friendly and not quite as well halter trained. Charcoal is another former Ladies' Lead sheep, but I think she's carrying AI lambs, and don't want to jeapordize them at all! The horned Scottish Blackface ewes, Sweet Pea and Eve, lead very well and would be quite impressive. Hmmm, they might be bigger than the Shepherds, and could go just about anywhere they wanted. Better stick with Shetlands :-)

If you're in the area, please come by and say hello! We'll be at the Highline Christian Church in Burien. It's on the SW corner of First Avenue South and S 148th St. Performances are Friday at 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 pm and Saturday at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, and 8:30pm.

Friday, November 28, 2008


When Dave and I got together 9 years ago, we both had multiple dog households - "yours" and "mine". Gradually, our household has added "ours" to the mix. This morning we said good bye to the last of the "yours or mine" dogs.

Lonie came into Dave's life as a "rehomed" dog. Her original owner got married and didn't want her anymore. Dave, being the great guy he is, took her in. She is a long haired German Shepherd Dog with a beautiful carriage and was poetry in motion. She wasn't always easy to live with because of separation anxiety and her tendency to escape any and all kennels and crates. Most of the time, though, all she wanted to do was be with Dave. I became an acceptible substitute, and I always felt safe with her around.

Over several years she'd been getting weaker and thinner, though acted happy and content and enjoyed playing with the younger dogs. Just three days ago, she started picking at her food, then refused it, and last night couldn't get up from her bed. This morning the vet examined her and confirmed that she was very ill. At over 12 years of age her prognosis was poor and we decided to let her go.

Tomorrow we'll put her to rest in the (future) orchard of ERN alongside Penny and Clover.

Run free, Lonie, till we meet again.

- Franna, Dave, Clifford, Thomas and Villa

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free Range Chickens!

All year I planned to grow out a batch of broiler chickens. The days, weeks and months flew by. Finally, I ordered them to arrive in late August, hoping to get them processed by Thanksgiving. They finally arrived the second week of September. The weather's been mild enough that they've done well. They went from the garage brooder to the chicken tractor (after the turkeys vacated), then to the "tent".

The "tent" got way too wet in our deluge earlier in the month, so they again got moved. At the same time, the pigs took over more and more of the barn, and I needed to put together the sheep breeding groups. (Everything is connected.) The Hilton was left for breeding groups, yet I had to keep them separated by something more than a wimpy hog panel fence. Chickens!!!

Yes, the chickens are now the buffer between Jack's and Kibble's breeding groups.
Here are a goodly portion of the 40 some "Red Broilers" and the legs of members of Kibbles group. I'm taking the photo from Jack's group's pen. There's a good 10 feet separating them. With crossed fingers and prayers, I hope that's enough.
We believe that chickens are healthier and taste better if they've had access to green grass, bugs, and those invisible elements that chickens always seem to find in the dirt. On the right edge of the photo, the chicken's yard is visible. Quite a few of the chickens are enjoying the sunshine and fresh vegetation.

Here's another view of their yard. It's enclosed by an electric net poultry fence - yet another double barrier between Jack and Kibbles.

The chickens are most of the way grown now, as shown by this young Roo. Just a few more weeks and they'll grace our table and freezer! So much better than grocery store chickens!

- Franna

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kibbles Group

Kibbles group is considerably smaller than Jack's group. The ewe above is EverRanch Bunny, Jack's dam. Bunny is Gotland/Shetland and has wonderful Gotland character in her fleece! In this photo it's only grown out about 2 weeks. In another 2 weeks it'll have a full curl on all those locks!

Bunny is the only AI'd ewe in Kibbles group. I'm sure he appreciates that! Kibbles has actually been a busy ram this year. We used him last year as a cleanup ram, and he bred two of the AI'd ewes. Earlier this year, Kim Kerley used him on some of her sheep, looking for more softness and luster in her fleeces. Now he gets the "virgin" group of ewe lambs... every man's dream!

Amy the llama is also in the group. Amy seems to be leaving Kibbles alone to do his job, so that's a good thing! Standing with Amy is Shetland Lini. Lini is the only ewe we're trying to leave unbred this year and we don't have a good place to put her. She'll probably end up in Jack's group, or maybe we'll separate one or more ewes after they get bred. The problem is, we don't always see them get bred. hmmmmm.

The ewe below in front is Razel, Bit's daughter out of Bubba - one of the 2007 cleanup rams. Razel is 50% Gotland, 25% Finnsheep and 25% BFLxBL - another Heinz ewe. Except for the Leicester nose and ears, though, she looks alot like the 50% Gotland/50% Finn ewe lambs. The ewe standing behind Razel is Ice Princess, dozing in the mid-November sunshine. Ice Princess is 50% Gotland/50% Finnsheep from Niblet.
This ewe lamb is Glamour Queen. She is a single lamb out of Pinky. Pinky treated her like a Queen and she grew quickly and well. She is also Gotland/Finn.

The lamb on the left is Brain child (Gotland/Finn) andGlamour Queen snuck in for another photo.

Kibbles has one more ewe lamb in his group - Chardonnay. Char arrived after these photos were taken. She's Gotland/Border Leicester.
All these white ewe lambs! They're hard to tell apart from one another. Razel has the hint of Leicester in her nose and ears, Brain Child has pink eye rims, Queen is standoffish and Princess is underfoot. I think it was Queen that was bred the day I put the group together (I wrote down the tag number....). Lambs expected in late March!
- Franna

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jack Daniels Breeding group

This fine young fellow is EverRanch Jack Daniels. He is one of our two 75% Gotland ram lambs. We think he has a fairly bright future - at least for now. His dam is EverRanch Bunny, a 50% Gotland, 50% Shetland ewe who was born on Easter day, 2007. His breeding "group" consists of most of the "AI" ewes, plus one ewe lamb.

"His" ewe is on the right - EverRanch Loutoo. Loutoo was supposed to be a market lamb, but she's so sweet, and not really finished well enough for the market. She's a real "mutt" sheep. Her dam is half BlueFaced Leicester and half Border Leicester; dad is EverRanch Kibbles - half Gotland and half Finnsheep. (Kibbles will be featured with "his" ewes in a future post.)

The rest of the ewes in this group - all 11 of them - were AI'd with semen from a purebred Gotland ram in the UK - Whitehall Daniel - D72. Later this week, I'll be watching for (re) breedings with Jack, hoping for NONE!

The ewe on the left, above, is EverRanch Lou - Loutoo's half sister out of the Finn ram, Eino. The ewe below is our "easy keeper" (i.e. FAT!) ewe, Hortense. She's a half sister/cousin to Lou and Loutoo's dam, and is a BFL/BL cross. She's given us two nice half Gotland ram lambs. I really want a half Gotland ewe from her, so keep your fingers crossed!

This white ewe is one of our two white Finnsheep, The Brain. She had quads last year - one ewe and three rams! We kept her ewe lamb, Brain Child. Brain has an enormous udder that the lambs had a tough time latching onto for the first several days.

Our other white Finnsheep is Pinky (Pinky and The Brain, right? heh... sometimes it's interesting how we come up with sheep names....). Pinky had twins her first year, and had a beautiful 50% Gotland single ewe lamb this year. Glamour Queen is in Kibbles breeding group.
We're hoping for multiple lambs in April from this very nice ewe.

The pair below are mother and daughter. Niblet the Finnsheep is on the left, and is dominant black. Her first lambs for us were Kibbles and Bits (remember sheep names - though credit for these names goes to our friend Julie, who first saw the twins). Bits, the Gotland/Finn is on the right. Both of these ewes have the most wonderful fleeces! Niblet's fleece is crimpy and soft, Bits has a looser crimp/curl and a lot more luster, and retained a lot of softness from her dam. Niblet gave us twins again in 2008, Ice Princess (ewe), and Legg's (ram).

Freckles (below) is our 4th Finnsheep. This will be her third lambing for us. We kept one of her daughters...
... Charcoal, shown below with mom, Freckles. Charcoal and Freckles also have wonderful fleeces. Freckles 2008 daughter, Moll, went to live with Donna and Tom at Schoonover farm. Her wether son, Spatz, lives with friend, Tina, nearby.
Charcoal is shown again on her own below. She has a looser curl to her fleece, gorgeous luster and a very soft, silky hand.

This ewe is Bossie. She is also a Gotland/Finn, and this is her second AI breeding. Her first breeding produced EverRanch Bill (the Bull), a 75% Gotland ram. Bill was awarded the Best Colored Ram in the Island County Fair this summer. Way to go Bossie and Bill!

The next two 50% Gotland ewes are new to us in 2008. Deepti (aka DT) is a Gotland/Shetland ewe from Susan Kimball's Owl Hill flock in California. DT's grandsire is a UK Shetland, Drum Ram, who is also the grandsire of our Shetland Midnight. Drum Ram's line tends to have wonderfully square and long bodies. DT fits that description and she has a very silky, lustrous fleece with less curl than our other % Gotland sheep. She is a sweet ewe and a welcome addition to the flock.

We bought Anneke from Carol Ronan. Carol's Gotland breeding program is far enough along that she's selling some of her 50% ewes. We got Anneke for her color genetics (AwtAgg) and longwool heritage (1/4 Lincoln). Neka is the largest of our % Gotland ewes, and has a considerable different feel to her wool. It's nice, just different.

There they are - Jack's group. Hopefully, Jack will get one breeding experience. Time will tell.

- Franna

Monday, November 17, 2008

ERN Update

Progress is steady on ERN (EverRanch North - our upcoming farm on Whidbey Island). We'd like it to be faster, and settle for what is. We'd like to have more money to throw at it, and settle for reality.

These are the folks who are building our Shop/Garage:

They're nice folks and build a more progressive pole building with laminated and cross fibered poles.

This baby is what they needed to dig the holes for the poles in our glacial till soil. ...and we thought ROCKS were hard to dig in!

The auger makes a nice hole for the laminated poles.

This was my first view of the building under construction - a forest of poles and assorted materials.

A week later, framing was started and more materials showed up! Windows...

...and more windows.

More lumber, and the important little hut.

This is what the shop looks like as seen from the house (site), looking WNW. If the hill wasn't there, we'd be looking out the Straits toward Vancouver Island!

From the other side, looking back. Dave's standing in front of the carport/RVport and next to the garage bays.

Looking out the windows and slightly to the North, here is the view. To the locals, this snow cone is recognizable as Mt. Baker.

We'd been looking forward to having a wood stove in the Shop, and bought one and all it's accompanyments on sale at the local Feed store. We optimistically brought up fitting kit, hoping to put in the roof vents during roof construction.

Whatever happened to good old wood stove heating??? Our county, apparently along with many, most?, all?? others in the US, doesn't allow wood heat as the only source of heat! So we have to rethink the wood stove option. See all the trees around? Doesn't it make sense to burn the downed and thinned trees rather than letting them rot??? Plan B is to go to a propane stove, plan C is to put in the wood stove and enough wall heaters to satisfy the "non-wood primary heat source" requirement.

Our latest trip to ERN was yesterday, November 16th. We drove up to consult on Plans B, C, D, and E (another, later, post), pick up hay and check on progress. Here's the Suburban and trailer (with hay!) coming up the drive. "Someday" it'll be coming HOME that way. :-)

This is what we saw - ROOFING! ...


Progress is good.
- Franna