Shop at Spinner's End Farm

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maya's Lamb

Today Maya gave birth to a strapping ram lamb with big horn buds. He looks to be a black gulmoget. He is very cute but I'm not sure he has quite got the hang of nursing yet....every time he lays down his mother tries to get him up and push him to her udder, but he doesn't look skinny at all so maybe she is just anxious!

Fortunately it isn't snowing and it isn't too cold.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lamb Watch!

This is the week.....Maya is due tomorrow (based on an observed breeding), and Elle, Gaia and Daisy were put in with Mull at a back date which puts them due anytime from this week forward.  Gaia looks ready to pop and her udder grows noticeably bigger by the day.  Who will go first?  Maya or Gaia (They rhyme.). They are all definitely pregnant....we tipped Daisy to trim her toes and around her udder (she is half Cormo and REALLY wooly, hence the need for a trim) and she is bagging up too!  Oh dear...I have meetings away the next two days so I'm hoping they can hold off until Friday.  Not to mention we are back in the single digits tonight, with even more snow due Thursday.  This feels like the longest winter ever...but lambing presses on.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Spring" Project

From April through the end of September, the Erickson Center for the Arts in Curtis is running an exhibit called "Americana Medley" which features metal working, basket weaving, quilting, spinning, metal and textile weaving. I offered to house my Harrisville floor loom there for the exhibit and to weave on it throughout the summer.

This means I needed to come up with a project. I was originally thinking lace woven table runners but when push came to shove I hadn't ordered the materials in time to get the loom up and going. I remembered I had 3.25 pounds of Polwarth wool and silk sport weight yarn so decided to weave a couple of shawls.

But what colors? When in doubt, choose your favorites! I hand dyed seven skeins of yarn- five in varying shades of green and two in shades of blue and purple. My original idea was to use the green as the warp and then weave one shawl with green also as the weft and one shawl using the blue and purple as the weft. The day I dyed was a sunny, albeit cold, day so the first drying leg was on the deck.

Since I am a beginning weaver (though I've owned this loom for about five years!), I still need help in the mysterious ritual of warping. My friend Jane, who is a remarkable woman on many fronts, came over to help wind the warp and to dress the loom. We managed to wind the warp on and only break three ends! We took turns threading the heddles (and fixing a buggered up patch of mis-threading which meant adding 14 temporary heddles-thank the gods you can cheat!) and the warp is all wound on.

I'm excited about the looks like fine strands of kelp when looking at it in the right light. I'm not so sure about using the purple and blue yarn as weft sounded good at first with all the jewel tones but I can't imagine what it will really look like so I will weave a sample. If I don't like it I just need to dye one more skein of the green in order to weave two shawls in the "solid" green shade.

The pattern is going to be a Bronson Lace, so it will be a light open weave. I'm excited to get going on it!

Yesterday I had breakfast at the Sweetwater Cafe in Marquette after an overnight meeting. This was the first time I'd eaten there and I arrived a half an hour earlier than the rest of the party. I'm normally not someone who is comfortable sitting alone in a restaurant but I had my knitting, needed caffeine, and I hate hotel rooms so I headed over. I was DELIGHTED I had done this because I was able to savor the decor without distraction for a whole half hour sipping tea. The cafe features a revolving weaving exhibit every six months from the local Marquette Yarnwinders Fiber Guild. I love the peace flags and it would be a great project using weaving samples.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lamb and Weather updates

Well things are beginning to look up for us in the EUP.  We've had a couple of days that have hit fifty and the snow is rotting.  The ducks are having the time of their lives in all the puddles and mud!  The downside is you can't walk anywhere in the yard without snowshoes, and the aged and senile Waters has had to be rescued a couple of times when he has walked off the trodden path.

Kim and her sweet brother are doing very well!  They are bouncing around and giving their mother fits.

 As you can see, Kim is growing quite well.  The sock sweater used to fit all the way down to her rump, and the leg holes had to be enlarged.  This was the last day she wore her sweater; I felt with the nasty storm we were getting she would benefit by wearing it but she doesn't need it anymore.

This guy is a serious sweetheart.  He bounds over for pats, while Kim needs to be coaxed over.

 Bouncing and pats take a lot out of a lamb so there must be recharge time.

This is Soay; she was one of Deja's twin lambs from last year (not the bottle fed one).  
She was always very shy but you could tell she wanted to be patted really.  This past weekend she finally, finally let me scratch her brisket and chin....and then she couldn't get enough!  Both she and her sister Eigg are miniature versions of their Shaela dam.  I almost sold Soay last year, but something told me to hang on to her and I'm glad I did because she has a fabulous fleece!  And a winning smile too.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A day out on the Big Town

We thought perhaps we should spend one day away from home during the kids spring break, and at their request, after doing our farm chores and the neighbors farm chores (which were made more complicated by the escaping of three cows into the barn interior where they processed to cover every surface with cow shit and eat all the grain) headed out to the children's museum in Marquette where they spent a couple of hours running around like banshees. The second kid treat of the day was the movie "Peabody and Sherman" which was pretty decent, though wouldn't have me running out to watch it a second time.

My favorite part of the day was lunch! We ate at "the Wild Rover", an Irish styled pub. I had a plate of Scotch eggs (which I shared with my family and in thought with John Gray), Poutine with fried cheese curds, and a pint of Guinness. Eight hours later and I'm still stuffed. Home again just as the last bit of light was leaving the sky. Kids are in bed and Will and I may settle down with a glass of Elderberry/plum wine a neighbor traded us for eggs. It is rather puckery but tasty!

Tomorrow onward to the Erickson Center for the Arts where I am helping set up a display of American Folk Art- my Harrisford four shaft loom is there and Jane and I have been dressing her in readiness for some shawl weaving I will be doing here and there throughout the summer. I will post some photos of the warp we put on the is polwath & silk and I hand painted it in shades of green.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Getting bigger (and deeper)

It snowed another eight inches the past couple of days; heavy wet heart breaking snow. We lost power just before going to bed last night and so I relearned how to play cribbage with Will over a bottle of wine, after Will filled every large vessel with snow to melt because we didn't think to fill up the myriad of water jugs we have. The power came back on sometime in the night and just when I got out of bed at five-ish in the morning, flickered off again. The kids had breakfast by candle light and around 9:00 the lights came back on. I was able to head out to the office after Will snow blowed the driveway and it did melt a bit during the day, though not all of the new stuff went away.

Poor Kim and her big brother still are locked away with their mum, but they should be able to be out in the sun and snow this weekend.

Kim is going to outgrow that sweater in a few days! She is nibbling on hay and nursing well.

She loves laying her head on her big brothers neck. He is adorable and they both have magnificent fleeces. I think Karen will be pleased to have them in her flock (I'll take Kim if she isn't!). Kashmir will stay here with us.

Muckle Mull, the escapee ram, went to the vets Thursday to be relieved of his "purse". I meant to take a picture of him lying in the back of the van but he was so meek and sad looking I forgot. Everyone at the vets office thought he was adorable (he was scared!) He is back in with his girls until he heals up and everyone will be rejoined after lambing at shearing time. He isn't talking to me just this moment for some reason.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Early Lambs

Doing chores I was surprised and dismayed to see that Kashmir had given birth this morning to two beautiful black lambs. Surprised because her due date is April 2nd, and dismayed because it was cold and snowing and windy. The smallest lamb I feared was dead, but when I picked her up she stirred a bit. I hastily tucked her under my shirt and Will, who is home from a nine day trip to NH, finished chores and blocked Kashmir and her larger ram lamb in the lambing jug.

I first gave the lamb to Duncan to hold while I readied a heating pad and they sat together for 20 minutes with just a faint stirring from the wee ewe lamb. I checked her mouth; ice cold and her flanks were still cold. Decided to run a sinkful of warm water and immerse her in it. I held her head out of the water and she soaked for a good 20 minutes until she started trying to get her legs under her. I hauled her out of the sink and into a towel and finally she started bleating. Ten minutes with a warm blow dryer she was looking for food! I mixed up a wee bit of colostrum powder with warm water and she took and ounce of that but was busy butting my chest looking for something better. Outside then to her mum who welcomed her with those sweet nickering noises ewes make for their lambs.

I will monitor her progress every couple of hours to make sure all is well, but she is up and nursing now so hopefully she will make it on her own.

Granny Aching would be proud of me. (If by some bizarre oversight you don't know who Granny Aching is, pick yourself up a copy of Terry Pratchett's "The Wee Free Men")

It must be spring.....lambs are arriving!



Friday, March 7, 2014

Beast Balm

I've been playing around in the kitchen again with natural oils, beeswax and herbs. My favorite moisturizing bar by far is the combination of coconut oil, shea butter, pure beeswax, and essential oils. I've dubbed these "luxury lotion bars", and these are available at my Etsy shop.

I had been given a salve of sorts that I decided I wanted to try and replicate, that was made only from olive oil and beeswax. I infused some pumice olive oil with calendula flowers to make a beautiful orange tinged oil with the properties of calendula flowers which are many: having all-around healing properties useful for a wide variety of skin irritations and conditions including wounds, insect bites, rashes, scrapes, abrasions, cuts, inflammations, and much more. Suitable for sensitive skin and babies. I then added pure beeswax to this oil to come up with a balm/salve that has the consistency of petroleum jelly, but without the nasty hydrocarbons!

This balm is suitable for both man and beast! It heals cracked paws, teats, hands and feet. Regular use helps heal and prevent chapping of skin exposed to sun, wind, water and dirt. My favorite thing about the salve is its moisturizing ability plus the beeswax helps keep the salve on your skin if your hands are in (non-soapy) water.

Calendula Beast Balm is available in my Etsy shop and is $5.50 for a two ounce double walled plastic jar that is safe to keep in the barn, your project bag, or diaper bag.

I will be using this on sheep udders this spring! April seems so far off right now.....


Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Long Two Weeks

I don't have much to report, but it has felt like these past couple of weeks have stretched out well over their apportioned time. First I had to pick poor Sam up from school on a Friday because he felt nauseous. He and Duncan were supposed to be spending the night at a friends house that evening and staying there all day Saturday. Sam hadn't been home for more than an hour before he started throwing up and the diarrhea started. He started feeling better Saturday morning when we got the call from Matthew's father that Duncan had thrown Will went and got him and the two boys could commiserate. It all passed in a couple of days. So far so good for the rest of us.
Lila had Valentines day off and she and I visited with a friend who met us for lunch in Manistique at the Upper Crust Cafe which is right on Lake Michigan and has the best deli sandwiches..... Joanne brought Lila some Sayklly's truffles and a teddy bear, and fiber stuff for me! Lila also had Presidents Day off and she and I were going to do something fun but.....yes, she woke up at 2:00am throwing up and woke me to say she had vomited in the sink. I won't go up into the difficulties of cleaning vomit out of a sink, but it is sufficient to say it doesn't just go down the drain. I did learn a little bit about the digestibility of asparagus and how well my daughter masticates her food.

Oh, and Mull had to be removed yet again from cavorting with the ladies. He was going over the wall launching from his dog house hide-away. July lambs indeed! I think I was stuck in the driveway once this past week and then we had some really cruddy weather that was sleety with high winds that knocked the power out for a day. And to top it all off, Duncan had a sore throat on Thursday and turns out it is Strep throat. Antibiotics for ten days. On the bright side, my Jury duty was cancelled for Monday, everyone is feeling pretty good now, we played some Yahtzee, and there was a snow day!
I did sneak in some fiber fun too.
Joanne brought me this older Pat Green production carder to try out. It makes lovely batts.
The grey fiber some of last years clip from "Lady Tamar" one of the new huacaya girls we bought.
This is the yarn I spun up from that batt. It is just over a half ounce and it is pretty. Not quite as dark as the photo, but a solid medium grey.
Joanne also gave us these two new large alpaca rugs/ wall hangings/ throws to sell to help offset the cost of shearing this spring. We have a professional shearing crew coming out to shear and trim toes and grind teeth this year. It is more expensive than what we were doing but will be worth it i think. Doing teeth is a bit formidable! The alpaca throws are just under 4' x 5'. The original price on them was $250 for the elephant and $175 for the stag (which is slightly smaller). If anyone has an interest, make us an offer! :) They are in beautiful shape and are very cool! (And unbelievably soft).
I've had to hide them away because the kittens think they are for biting...they have an unhealthy fiber fetish and I've had to take away Lila's stuffed alpaca fur bears from them many times.....a bit disconcerting to see a kitten carrying around a teddy bear and mauling it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

July Surprise?

We have our Shetland breeding group in the front pen, same as in years past. All has been well and Muckle Mull has his three girls and two additional ewes that are already bred in with him. He has had a roving eye though and has been ocularly fondling the ewes on the other side of the fence.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday I was in the main barn feeding the larger group of sheep and the camelids when I looked down and saw Mull gazing up at me with innocent eyes and what I swear was a smirk....he meekly followed me and a bucket of oats back to the breeding pen, where I fixed up where I THOUGHT he was going over with a couple of panels. Seemed to work and he stayed in there all day. This morning, however, he was back in the other pen! Grrrrrr. I picked him up and put him back over the fence (he weighs about 45 pounds and the fence is only sticking out of the deep snow about two feet). He laughed, I swear. I put more panels up.

Mr. Muckle Mull may have spent two entire nights in with the ewes I wasn't planning to breed. He may have been successful at seducing some receptive females with his flashy good looks and come hither eyes. Sheep have a 145 day gestation period so I've marked early July as possible lambing dates on the least they won't freeze!