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

Friday, July 10, 2009

Five Star Diner - Lake Tapps, WA

The Chickens are gone! I always start out in wonder at the little yellow and red puffs, watch them scratch and peck, and grow. Wow, do they ever grow! By about week 8, I'm done with the wonder, and they're big and bulky and eating machines. These were Poulet Rouge type chickens, and must have some Cornish in them, as they grew large and lazy. The hens liked to get out in their yard and forage, but the roos pretty much camped by the feeders and waterers unless I shooshed them outside for some "fresh air and sunshine". (Does that sound like a mom, or what?)

Well, yesterday, I cobbled together three chicken wire and PVC panels to block the opening in the back of the pickup, spread an old bale of hay in the bed, locked the chickens in their inner yard, disassembled their outside yard, and backed the pickup up to the fence. One and two at a time, I caught and plopped them into the pickup, and we made the drive to the Meat Shop in Tacoma. This morning they processed all 83 of them! Of those 83, we've sold close to half :-)

Continuing our quest to stimulate the local economy and using 10% of the chicken sales (probably more!), we went to the Five Star Diner about a mile from our place. The Diner shares a building with a daycare business, and is set back from the road behind a Texaco gas station, dry cleaners, realty, karate school, vet office, marine dealer and storage facility.

We were met by the Chef/Owner, Geoff Peters, who welcomed us and explained a bit about his cooking philosophy. He's a fairly recent graduate of South Seattle Community College's Culinary Arts program - a second career after leaving the aviation electronics field. He creates much of the food from scratch, cuts his own meats, buys local when possible, embellishes according to French cuisine taste, BarBQues on the side, and personalizes food for the "regulars", including a Jewish family and a vegetarian.

Dave ordered the NY strip steak special, and I ordered the meat loaf sandwich special. Geoff came out and talked to us about the food. Soy products give me a queasy stomach, so I avoid them. When I asked Geoff about soy, he went straight to the kitchen and checked for me. Bread was out, most of the sides were out (made with mayonaisse - soybean oil). He offered to make the meat loaf dinner for me - baked potato, peas and carrots, meat loaf and gravy.

In one of the other 4 tables, one of the regulars was there with his two kids. We were entertained by the daughter while we waited :-) She was a cutie.

The food was delicious! The meatloaf was toothsome and flavorful, flecked with veggies, moist and seasoned just right. The gravy, made using homemade beef stock, was likewise, flavorful and seasoned just right. The peas and carrots (frozen???) were cooked just right, finished with butter, salt and pepper. Amazingly, they compared favorably to the just picked snap peas and freshly dug carrots I'd had for breakfast at Take Root Farm. There was butter for the roll, and sour cream for the potato - although the gravy was wonderful on the potato. My bite of Dave's steak was fabulous. Great beefy flavor and juicy, perfectly cooked like the rest of dinner.

As we finished, it was near closing time and Geoff came out, sat down, and we all started talking. We covered aviation, organic gardening, free range chickens, NZ and domestic lamb, big Ag trying to squash small Ag in the name of "food safety", going back to school, government crooks and helping out the neighbors. It was over an hour before we left. He still had to clean up, I still had to feed sheep - but NOT CHICKENS! :-)

The Five Star Menu is fairly simple, all kinds of breakfast items - including omelets, salads, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, sundaes. The daily specials really make the Five Star special. If you're in the neighborhood, don't hesitate to stop in. They're open Tuesday through Saturday 8:00 am to 7:30 pm, Sunday 10 am to 2 pm, and located at 18223 - 9th Street East, Lake Tapps, WA 98391. Phone: 253-862-7571

As we were leaving, I told Geoff and his staff (of two), about our Stimulate the Local Economy effort. They appreciated it :-)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gotland Sheep for Sale

Gotlands are a medium size, Northern Short Tail breed originating on the Isle of Gotland off the coast of Sweden. They were developed as a pelt sheep. We are focusing on handspinning fleeces through selection and our choice of Foundation ewes (mainly Finnsheep and Shetlands). They are generally friendly and rather inquisitive sheep, and quite calm. Halter training is a breeze, but you need to watch any supplies and tools that come within their reach!

The original Gotland color is a unique blue grey. In our flock, due to the influence of our foundation ewes, we have black, white and brown sheep in addition to the classic grey. All of the colors are beautiful in the field and spun, either natural or dyed. Gotland wool is on the fine side of the luster longwools and has wonderful luster in the mass of curls. The white Gotland/Finn cross especially tends to produce a soft handling, wavy, eye popping lustrous fleece.

EverRanch Snickers

Our Gotland sheep for sale are posted on Washington Wool dot Net. I would keep them all if we had space and resources. They are really nice!

EverRanch Angie

The ewes and rams are listed as separately. We're also offering Gotland semen from 3 rams in New Zealand - at our cost. These genetics will offer diverse bloodlines and complement those from the UK, and we'll truly have "Global Gotlands". These rams are from Hamish Black's Chocolate Wool NZ flock. Hamish selects for handspinning fleeces and sells them worldwide.

"Flash", Gotland ram in New Zealand

EverRanch Bunny - one of our 50% Gotland/50% Shetland ewes. (NFS)

We will send fleece samples, photos and/or videos on request.

- Franna

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How does your Garden grow?

This is the first year in many that I've put in a garden. It just seemed to be the "right" time. Even though I'm working at Take Root Farm and get to share in the bounty there, some things are just better from your own garden - and in quantity!

There are Peas, Beans, Carrots, Leeks, Tomatoes, Corn, Spaghetti Squash, Sugar Pumpkins, Yukon Gold and Red Potatoes. The peas (center front) and beans (left front) had disappointing germination rates, but there still should be enough for the two of us. The single row of carrots (more rows were/are planned) are in the far left front corner, leeks are in the center front between the snap peas and shelling peas. The potato "jungle" is at the right, with tomatoes between the potatoes and peas. The corn is well past my knees, and the squashes are starting to crawl :-)

Here's a closeup of the Roma tomatoes. For such wimpy bushes, they sure have nice tomatoes set on already. There are eight tomato bushes, each a different variety, cherry and regular size, red and orange, round and roma shape. The weather here has been wonderful for tomatoes this year - maybe we'll even get a decent crop!I just let the lambs out in the pasture surrounding the garden, so had to fence it off with electronet. Just imagine (Nancy...!) what havoc sheep can do in a garden! Even if they don't eat everything, those little hooves could trample everything beyond recognition. Later, sheepies, later you get the garden surplus and plants - but not tomatoes!

I bring rejects and trimmings home from the TRF sometimes. This week, the rams got turnip greens, beets, and reject carrots complete with tops. They were like wooly gourmets!

... looking forward to harvest at home,