Our most excellent farm intern took a variety of pictures over the past few days that pretty much sum up the tale of the farm as of late.
First and foremost, let me show you my favorite picture: Hay.
It is not my favorite for its composition or color. No, it is my favorite because it means we will actually have hay this Winter.
Last year, we bought hay for about $5 a bale. This year, because of the excessive heat and lack of rainfall, hay, if you can find it at all, is at a premium. Prices are anywhere from $7 to $10 a bale. There is such a hay shortage that Ohio has even started a hay hotline.
We were starting to go into full panic mode about scoring some hay, but luckily, we found two sources of pretty good hay and purchased all they had. The alpacas, sheep, goats and Sir Joey the Llama will be able to dine in style this Winter.
Next up on the picture hit parade is a great shot of our half share CSA baskets this week.
Corn, tomatoes, peppers, beans, zucchini -- the baskets held a variety of tasty and healthy things. I love all the colors. I want to fix this image in my mind to hang onto in Mid-February when everything we eat seems to be one color.
Some of our yarn is starting to come back from the mill. This is a bit of our new 100% alpaca yarn in black and two shades of fawn. The raspberry yarn is a bit of wool that I dyed with natural dyes; first cochineal and then overdyed with logwood.
New for us this year are alpaca felted boot inserts. Made with fiber from our alpacas leg and chest area, these insoles will save your life come Winter. I kid you not. If you spend anytime outdoors, you will want of pair of these babies for your boots. Warm and soft, you will love them and wonder how you could have lived your life without them. They will soon be up for sale on our website.
And last but certainly not least, for all you knitters that wish yarn grew on trees, we can safely tell you it does. The That'll Do Farm Magic Yarn Tree.
A few days ago, I told you that our yarn was back from the mill. Fiber we sent to Iowa in May is finally back in Ohio.
The only problem is this yarn is very loud. That's right, loud, sonorous yarn.
Can you hear it?
This is Bella's worsted weight yarn calling me loud and clear. All I did was simply stick my hand into its buttery softness and it starting yelling, "Make me into a sweater, make me into scarf, for goodness sake, make me into a shawl!" This yarn won't stop clamoring no matter how often I tell it I already HAVE enough yarn. In my firmest voice, I told it to keep its rowdy self down. That did the trick. It stopped calling me.
But it passed its rambunctious, outdoor voice on to this chunky white yarn. This one is calling, "Cowl, cowl. I want to be a cowl." Even with all the noise, you've got to admire a yarn that knows what it wants to be when it grows up.
But it is this little devil of a yarn that is the most boisterous. This yarn knows I have a weakness for dark, rich colors. This bad, bad yarn knows that it almost has a jewel tone aura about it. Yes, it knows it and it is flaunting it. But really, what did I expect? This yarn is from Charm. If you name an alpaca Charm, you should expect great things from her -- but did she have to be SO darn charming.
We tried to raise all our yarn right. We wanted nothing more than for it to be polite and well-mannered. We have no one to blame but ourselves. If you tell a yarn over and over again that it is beautiful and wonderful and that it has restored your faith in yarn, well then I guess who can blame it if it gets a big head.
I guess the only thing we can do is get ear plugs.
Fiber farming is an exercise in hurry up and wait.
The animals are bred and then we wait 11 months for crias.
We spend 99 percent of the year waiting for shearing. Alpaca and llama shearing takes place only once a year, in early Spring. The goats are shorn twice a year, once in early Spring and again in early Fall.
After shearing, its days of skirting the fleeces. Skirting a fleece involves taking out all the yucky fiber (by the way, I'm pretty sure yucky is the official term used by the professionals) and debris, thus leaving you with a beautiful, prime fleece to be sent to the mill and turned into yarn.
So after the skirted fleece is sent to the mill, it's REALLY time to wait some more. It is not unusual for fleece sent out in May to not come back until September or later.
Earlier this month, we had a great, big box waiting at the studio door -- it was a box of wonderfulness. All of our waiting was over, the yarn had arrived!
And what yarn it is!! We tried a new mill and we couldn't be more pleased with the results.
We requested most of the yarn be spun up as worsted weight.
And it is stunning. Right now, I am sitting here weeping tears of joy over the softness and shine of this new yarn.
O.K., that might be a slight exaggeration. Perhaps I am only misting tears of joy.
We did ask for some bulky yarn as well for those of you that like to knit a chunkier project.
I know I am usually giddy with happiness over our yarn when it comes back from the mill, but this recent batch truely is exceptional.
It is all in its natural color, ranging from warm browns and beiges to deep, deep black. There is also a beautiful, clear white that will take dye nicely.
Most of our alpaca fiber is mixed with 15% Merino top to give it a little memory.
Maia is currently the only recent-arrival yarn up on our e-commerce site. Over the next few days, look for Bella, Quintess, Charm, Annelise and Ember to be added.
If you're in our Northeastern Ohio area, come on in to feel it for yourself. But come prepared to lose your heart. I guarantee you will fall in love.
Every Thursday, I get to knit with a talented group of knitters. That is to say, THEY knit every Thursday. I get there when I can.
These ladies knit the big cheeses of the knitting world -- complicated sweaters, intricate shawls, and socks two at a time. It seems like they have a new project every week.
I plug along with my scarves and cowls, pumping one out every year or so. Am I intimidated by their skills? You better belive I am, but they are so much fun I throw caution to the wind and knit along side them, spending more time laughing than knitting.
At our Christmas party meeting last week, I didn't knit at all, but worked on my rug hooking instead.
The good news is that I really made some progress on my Sheep in Sunflowers rug.
The bad news is I didn't work at all on my chicken rug.
I forgot it at home. However somebody I know found it and thought it would be an ideal resting spot.
This little dog has an entire house in which to find a comfortable spot to sit and yet she picks the unfinished wool rug. I can't decide if she's smart or just really, really annoying.
Also at the Christmas party, I discovered the identity of my Secret Santa. I have to say, I had the best Secret Santa in the history of Secret Santas.
In addition to a case of Pepsi (I hear angels singing at the mere mention of the brand), my SS gave me this book:
Knit Local, Celebrating America's Homegrown Yarns has everything I love in a knitting book.
Beautiful pictures and a subject matter near and dear to my heart.
The book details small, local yarn producers across the country. Of course, I like the Midwest selection of yarns the best.
But Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont isn't far behind.
Just look at these yarns! USA-grown fiber. Milled in this country. Dyed by local artisans.
There are not many opportunities to buy a 100% American-made and grown product these days, so if you get the chance to do so, I highly recommend it! These fiber farmers and mill owners are keeping jobs in your neighborhood, in your community.
Plus, they are putting out a great, unique product.
If you're a knitter, get your hooves on a copy of this book and knit up a project or two from its pages. Stop by a local fiber farm to pick out a yarn to match the patterns.
I've certainly done my part to support small, local fiber farms! So please, go out there and buy that local yarn. If not, then I will feel the need to do it and at the rate I knit, I will soon be suffocating in beautiful yarn.
I guess it's not a bad way to go.
The fiber raising business is an exercise in hurry up and wait.
We spend the spring waiting for crias to be born.
It can be a long wait, because as we all know, Mother Nature has her own schedule. She doesn't care about our plans. She and she alone will decide when a cria will make its way into this world.
In the fall, we spend our days waiting for our yarn to arrive back from the mill. Now Mother Nature doesn't have a thing to say about this type of waiting. But none-the-less, we wait.
Mills have a busy season and, as you can imagine, late Spring through early Fall has them up to their eyeballs in fiber, spinning everything the animals spent the Winter growing.
Fiber we sent to the mill way back in early June has begun to arrive back at the farm.
Most of the yarn that has come back so far is in its natural color -- greys, black and a chestnut-y brown.
But then we got a surprise. Check out the skein, second from the right.
It's an ever-so-slightly dyed dark blue/deep, deep purple color. The mill called before dyeing it and thought the mix of our dark Suri alpaca and nylon/Merino wool would take dye beautifully, and boy-oh-boy were they every right. This sock yarn is a dream to handle and the color takes on different tones in different light.
This yarn might make a sock knitter out of me yet!
Some of our dyed roving is starting to return as well.
Check out my favorite color combination, one that we call Cherry Cola.
The dark black baby Suri alpaca mixed with a deep red makes this a fabulous combination.
But Cherry Cola is not to be out done.
Sassy Ms. Grape Creamsicle wants to enter the running for most fabulous combination.
She is developing a loyal fan base and starting to rise in the polls. We might have a race here for best-est looking roving. But if that's the case, the Art Batts want in on the action.
As the new products continue to arrive from the mills, we will update our Yarn, Roving and Art Batt page. Check back often. You never know. Your new sweater-in-the-making could be waiting there for you.
Saturday was Sit-N-Knit at the farm and, as always, a good time was had by all.
We sat and knit sweaters.
And detailed shawls.
And things with mind-numbing charts.
And when we were done, we took a little stroll out to the barn and pasture to visit with the alpacas.
And the goats.
And, as always, we had a wonderful time. The last Saturday of the month is reserved for Sit-N-Knit, which is open to anybody who knits, is thinking about knitting, doesn't knit but wants to spend the day laughing, or really, anybody who is alive and breathing and enjoys politically incorrect banter. Join us sometime.
Come and fondle the new yarn.
It arrived from the mill yesterday and is beautiful. Soft, rich natural colors.
We had some dyed and the result is this wonderful navy/deep purple color.
It will soon be up in the "For Sale" category of the website.
New roving and more yarn is expected back from the mill any day now. We will keep you posted.
Farmer Gal and I went back to school yesterday. It wasn't real school, with books and studying and lunch room drama, it was school for grown ups.
We were at the Paca to Product seminar in beautiful Wooster, Ohio. It was way better than real school because they gave us bagels for breakfast and sandwichs and salads for lunch. We never had that at real school!
Nor did we have vendors at real school. Vendors with glorious roving.
And really cute soaps with hand felted "covers" that act like scrubby wash cloths. Who thinks of this stuff!
And disturbingly large knitting needles with Jolly Green Giant sized yarn. I'm not sure I'm a fan of this. I think I'd have to start lifting weights first to get my arms in shape before I work with those pseudo baseball bats.
Aside from enjoying the shopping, we enjoyed the school portion of the day, too. We learned a lot about marketing, many shearing tips and some ideas for our yarn that we are excited to share with you.
Give us a few weeks to put all our plans in motion. I think you'll like what we've come up with.
Vermont. It is my most favorite-ist place on earth.
I've loved it since high school when I got to tag along with a friend and her family on their annual ski trip. Snow. Mountains. Hiking. Skiing. All really good things in my opinion.
And now I've added another really good reason to love Vermont. The Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival.
I drove up from Ohio yesterday and have been enjoying the heck out of New England.
First, I stopped at L.A. Burdock's Handmade Chocolates in Walpole, N.H. Yes, I know it has nothing to do with yarn, or sheep, or wool, or anything fiber-y, but one taste and you'll know why I stopped there.
Plus, they have little chocolate ghosts and mice. Who doesn't love chocolate ghosts and mice. This place is out-of-this-world-good. Mail order from them. Drive there. Take a bus. Anyway you can get their chocolate, do it. It's worth it.
Then I went to Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vt.
Yes, I know I'm going to an entire festival dedicated to wool and yarn today, but Green Mountain calls me whenever I'm in Vermont. Plus, they pulled me in with their sign.
Compelling, don't you think?
I picked up a few skeins of a mohair/wool blend. I'm going to show it to the goats to let them know what I expect out of them.
I want them to aim high, like this.
Today promises to be full of classes, demonstrations and perhaps a small bit of yarn buying. I really have enough yarn to outfit a small army, but that might not stop me when hand painted, hand spun yarn starts a-calling.
It's here people.
The best season of the year: Magic Pumpkin Season.
What, you might ask, is Magic Pumpkin Season? Don't perfectly normal people call this time of year Fall? Some may even say Autumn. And aren't pumpkins just overgrown squash that kids carve up at Halloween and we make pies out of for Thanksgiving? Nothing magical there.
All of that is true. But there is something about the sight of pumpkins that stirs the heart and makes it turn towards wool and fiber with a dedicated ferver.
And that is the magic. Pumpkins, magically, make me want to knit. And knit lots.
I have proof.
I may be the world's slowest knitter, but pumpkins arrived at the farm this week and look what I finished:
First, my most favorite scarf in the whole, wide world, knit with yarn from one of my most favorite companies in the whole, wide world. Briar Rose Fiber.
I bought this beautiful yarn at a festival back in March. I've been working on the scarf, off and on, since then. But one good pumpkin sighting and, voila, it's finished.
This stunningly soft yarn and hand painted matching silk scarf were purchased at a knitting show in Columbus back in June. I've been working on it, too, off and on, since then.
Same story here. One pumpkin sighting and the scarf is finished. I'm telling you pumpkins are magic.
Still don't believe me? Then how can you explain the socks??? They, too, have been in my bag since the beginning of time and are now done. The only possible explaination is the magic of the pumpkin.
If you're in a knitting rut, go out and get yourself some pumpkins. Stick them around the house. They will work their magic. Soon, you will have three -- that's right, THREE -- completed projects.
And that is magic.