Sunday, January 15, 2017

Basement Joist Work

The work has begun on the basement! Alan spent Saturday afternoon propping up the old joists so he could add support to the main beam.
Today he added a 2x8 to the main beam (he had cut away the ends of the joists yesterday) and then sistered 2x8s to each joist on the east side of this section of the basement.
The original joists were only 3x4s and there was considerable sag in the floors. We had added extra support when we first moved in and Alan had taken most of the sag out so the support added to the main beam required no shimming. The floor in our bedroom feels different already. Next up, the other side. That will be a little more difficult since all the plumbing for the bathroom is there.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Goals

I can start with the goals we are carrying over from 2016; the root cellar and other basement work, the mudroom, and the wool room.
The root cellar sounds like a pretty simple goal, but the section of the basement getting the root cellar has a dirt floor that is currently covered in black plastic. The plastic is a kitty magnet and they love to pee on it, right next to their litter boxes. But before we can get the floor poured there is some structural support work that needs to be done. The floor joists and main beam support are all undersized and need to be beefed up.

Our old Ford E150 van is nearing 190,000 miles and needs to be replaced. We love the van for it's versatility. We can put 10 foot boards in it and still close the back doors. It has served us very well when we go camping too. Ford, in their infinite wisdom, no longer makes the E series vans. Instead we could get a Sprinter type van that everyone we know who has one hates. 2014 was the last year for the E series vans so we have been looking for one in that year. But E150s are next to impossible to find. Looks like we might have to go with an E350.

My big gardening goals for 2017 are to have a flax plot and to give a quarter of my garden to my daughter so she can start a flower business. These changes, plus putting the chickens into another quarter of the garden, should make to remaining veggie garden much more manageable.

In the sheep world I really need to pare down my numbers of hair sheep. And I am building a business brand. LLC paperwork is ready to go in to the state. Next up is an EIN and business insurance. I am booked at my first fiber festival, in April, and have to get a booth ready too!

So we'll see how we go with all these goals. Hopefully we will do better than 2016!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Review

Wow, no blog posts for December. And we didn't fare too well on our goals for 2016 either!

The goals we actually met:
The ram hut for our boys for the winter was pretty smashed up by Elwood. It took a bit of work to get it back to a normal shape, but it provided nice shade and a place to get out of the weather during this hot summer.

The lambing jug I made from hog panels worked well. Now I need to figure out how to get more jugs set up in the barn since I have five ewes due in the third week of February.
Mama Sadie ended up in the lambing jug much longer than she should have been but she has a problem with letting ram lambs nurse. We would have to halter her so she would let her ram lamb nurse. Eventually she would stand still and let him if we just stood next to her and scratched her back.

The pasture seeding went well. The feed mill up in Kempton sells orchard grass and clover seed by the pound and my little seeder worked well. The pastures still need work though and I wasn't able to get any lime down this fall since it never went on sale. And when you need to by almost a 100 bags, a dollar off makes a difference.

The garage is basically finished. We still need to change the siding on the back and one side but that will get done when the rest of the siding gets replaced on the house.

And the rotting foot bridge was replaced. I can now get a wheel barrow across the stream without going around to the road.

The goals we didn't meet:
The garden was a complete bust this year due to the extreme heat we had. So no irrigation system was installed. The older I get the less I am able to tolerate the heat. Early mornings were the only time I could work outside and the garden was the loser.

The barn addition/wool storage room did not get built, but I wasn't really thinking that would get done. Another goal I didn't really think we would accomplish was the mudroom. We'll just tack these two goals on to 2017.

One goal I really did want to get accomplished was the root cellar. Again, another add on for 2017.

But we did accomplish quite a bit that was not on our list for 2016.

We managed through over two feet of snow in one day.
We continued to learn more about lambing and had a pretty successful season, only needing the vet once. But we did lose three lambs; one was sat on by her mother, one was stillborn or died at birth before I got there and one was my own fault for not feeling deep enough into the uterus looking for another lamb. We had out first Coopworth lambs born here on the farm.

We had our first visit with the shearer!

 And I decided it was time I learned how to spin.

 This whole fiber thing led to a collection of spinning wheels and fiber. And then there was the education on dyeing.

Alan learned about spinning wheel repair.

The grapes and raspberries got the attention they have been needing with the installation of the new trellises.

We welcomed Della to our flock!

So the year was busy and we did accomplish a lot of projects and we continue to grow the farm.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spinning and Dyeing at Historic Sites

Wow, I've been very lax about posting! I have been writing this post in my head for weeks, but am finally getting down in print.

In late October we went to the Bolton Historic Site's fall rendezvous. We set up a "store front" so I could get some pictures and, hopefully, sell a little yarn.
What great fun it was to spin on my antique wheel in 18th century clothing while talking to people about fiber! I sold a decent amount of fiber, considering I really wasn't trying, and made contact with someone from the spinning group that meets at the Daniel Boone Homestead. I have been trying to get in touch with that group for a while but not having any luck.

The next weekend we went to Historic Londontown in Edgewater MD and I dyed some yarn with cochineal and weld. I really wanted to experiment with 17th and 18th century techniques over a wood fire.
I forgot the cream of tartar at home so the cochineal came out more purple and the weld was very subtle. But the two colors look nice together.

I have been researching more period texts on dyeing and have found a couple from the late 18th century. The Country Dyer's Assistant from 1798 and The Dyer's Assistant in the Art of Dying Wool and Woolen Garments... from 1800 are fascinating reads. I also purchased Organic Fiber Dyeing: The Colonial Williamsburg Method helpful in dyeing larger quanities. Most of their recipes call for Glaubers Salts and I haven't found any recipes of the period using salts in the dyebath. So more research to come.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Internet Problems,,,,Again

Another tractor trailer drove down our road and ripped the phone line off of the pole yesterday. For a change the line wasn't ripped off the house. I was at work all day long, but my daughter said the line was hanging in the road and cars were driving under it. Then a school bus came along and someone lifted the line up so the bus could drive underneath. The fire police came and cut the line and coiled it up in our front yard, much to the chagrin of the tech who came today to fix the line. He said the police could have called it in as an emergency then Verizon would have dispatched someone right away (yeah right.) 

The tech who came out today was the same one who fixed the line in August. He only comes to Berks County 12-15 times a year so he was surprised to be back at our place. He was able to move the wire up the pole about a foot and that also tightened up the wire so hopefully it won't get snagged again. The only good part about having the phone line disconnected was the lack of internet on election night. It was nice to not be able to get caught up in all the political drama.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Natural Dyeing Workshop at the Hans Herr House

This morning I spent a very enjoyable three hours at the Hans Herr House near Lancaster, PA participating in a natural dyeing workshop. Marty and Jess were our instructors for the course; Marty focusing on pennsylvania german dyeing and Jess on native american dyeing. We used indigo, onion skins, blood root and the bark of the sassafrass root. The main reason I wanted to attend this workshop was to learn dyeing in a more historical setting, using a wood fire and seeing how dyes worked in cast iron pots. Well, how about this for a hearth!
The site itself was beautiful. We were in the basement kitchen of this old stone house.

We even had a very affectionate furry visitor!

 But, alas, no cast iron, just enameled and stainless steel. So I will have to do more practice on my own with some of the cast iron and brass/copper kettles I have.

Marty started by talking about some of her dye books. I think my next purchase will be a lovely looking dyeing book from Colonial Williamsburg, "Organic Fiber Dyeing."

We all brought something made of natural fiber (wool, linen, silk or cotton) to dye. I brought an off white silk blouse I had bought a while back for dyeing and had just never gotten around to doing anything with. Others brought cotton shirts, pieces of linen or cotton, a silk scarf. One woman brought a beautiful vintage young child's dress that looked amazing dyed in the indigo vat.
It's hard to see in the photo, but the cotton lace and a sort of ribbon near the hem had subtle shade variations. The whole piece was just incredible.

I realize now that I didn't get any pictures of things dyed with other colors. My silk blouse came out a very vibrant orangey mustard that is right now simmering in a walnut over dye bath. I loved the color but I didn't think I would have worn the shirt. I am hoping for a more burnt orange after overdyeing.

Marty showed us some of the colors she has dyed in the past:

And rugs she wove with some of the yarns she dyed.

And Jess talked about porcupine quills in native american decorations and had quills for us to dye.
And that orange thing that looks like a leaf in the photo above is a deer tail dyed in blood root. How cool is that!

I definitely need to dye with onion skins. The yellow skins gave a really deep color but I have seen people getting a really pretty green with red onion skins on wool mordanted with alum.

The sassafrass was a bit of a disappoinment. It was very expensive but only yielded a color that was OK.  But it smelled good!

 And here are a few more photos.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

NY Sheep and Wool Festival

My daughter and I went to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival on Sunday. Last year I wasn't able to get there but this year we were successful. The three hour ride was uneventful and the long lines to park that I had been worried about did not materialize, thankfully. My first impression was how uncrowded it was. The MD Sheep and Wool festival has always been packed when I have been there. I did hear that the crowds on Saturday were much bigger. The weather forecast for Sunday was a little iffy so that may have had something to do with the lack of crowds. This was also the first year for the equipment auction on Saturday so that may have also had an impact on which day people decided to attend.
I had three goals for the festival. The first was to not buy any fiber! And I succeeded. The second was to get a pair of combs, and there I also succeeded. I also wanted to get some Kookaburra wool wash but I found no dealer. My only impulse buy was some natural dyeing materials- logwood, weld and cochineal.
I had been told that the MD festival was more about sheep and the NY festival was a little more about fiber. I think the focus was pretty similar between the two festivals but the NY festival seemed smaller. I really missed the lamb kebobs!
But we did see lots of sheep!

And alpacas!
The weaving demo was impressive too!

I learned a lot and have a better understanding of what I need to do to sell with my Coopworth group at the festival next year.