Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Green Sweater Project: Dyeing

Another belated post, this time from August 2011.  

In July I started cleaning a Romney fleece acquired locally from a friend in the fiber guild, resulting in about 5 pounds of decently clean wool.  I had decided at some point that I wanted this to be a sheep-to-sweater event, just to say I'd done.  I decided that I wanted a rich, multi-toned green, maybe even a bit heathered. 

So I pulled out my dye sample book and newer color box, picked out the colors that made my heart sing, and set about dyeing.

First is soaking the wool in hot water with a splash of vinegar. 

I found I could comfortably work with about 3/4 pound at a time.  More than that and things got unwieldy, and the fiber didn't have much room to move in the dye pot.  I used a large steamer tray insert in a buffet server to do my immersion dyeing.

Here's a result of the primary color drying on the rack.

I processed a total of six batches over about four days.  Two of the primary green, three of other shades, and one of a fuschia that was supposed to be a bit more salmon as a contrast color.  We'll have to see how that works out during the blending.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More fuzzy babies!

At five days old, Dharma's babies were happily scampering about, so we decided they could be let out of the birthing stall.  I usually do this at around three days, but because Sprawl couldn't walk, we held off a bit.

Turns out it was really good timing.  We heard sounds coming from the pasture that afternoon, and upon investigation we found Maharani had quietly given birth around 2pm to twins.  We each grabbed a baby, dried them off, cleaned out the birthing stall and installed the new momma and babies.  She had a boy and a girl, and just like Dharma's babies, they are both fuzzy.

When all the excitement was over, we found Sprawl, Spunk and Spot piled up outside napping after their first afternoon in the pasture.

I especially love Spot's ears.  She looks like a little bunny.

We continue to give supplemental bottles to Spot and Sprawl. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

A new way to sample

I first leaned to dye samples last year with Sara Lamb and the Fiber Trash Girls.  Then Jan showed up this summer with a dye sample box, rather than a binder.  Using embroidery floss organizers, she samples small amounts of dye, keeping very accurate records of the combinations used, then wraps the small amount of yarn around an embroidery floss bobbin for easy viewing. Her idea was featured in Interweave's Fall Color ezine, Spin Knit

I loved this idea, and set out to increase the amount of sample colors I had.  I began by sampling my primary Lanaset colors: turquoise, mustard, yellow, scarlet, fuchsia, and navy and black.  I sampled each at DOS 2%, 1%, .5% and .25% to have a range of tints.  Four jam jars fit nicely into the crock pot for steaming.

I then picked my favorite two-color blends and sampled at 2%, 1%, 1% with a drop of black added, and .5%.  Here's a different selection of greens drying.

Here are a selection of my colors, all wrapped up and ready for their box.

This project is by no means even close to being finished, and it'll take me a very long time on my current schedule to fill my sample box.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kid Update

I think I'll keep posting updates about the babies, especially Sprawl, here, so check back periodically for new information at the top of the post.

We've been feeding Sprawl every 3-4 hours today.  Here he is at the 5:30 feeding when I got home.

Here he's snuggling with the most awesome housemate ever, who's helping take care of him while I'm at work.

Therapy time.  At each feeding we let him try to walk on the pebble walkway or dirt, both of which he manages better than the hay covered concrete of the birthing stall. Oops! 

He's walking/standing better today.  We believe he'll be walking within a couple of days.  He's very vigorous, and has already learned to come running towards ankles.

Sprawl has two sibs.  This is the girl, Spot.  She's got daddy's long ears, with a big, dark-colored spot on the back.  (You can tell we're being very thoughtful with the names here.)

We still need a name for the other boy, seen nursing in this photo.  We'd like to keep the alliterative theme going.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dharma's fuzzy babies

Back in January I took Dharma over to my goat-partner-in-crime's for a little goat-on-goat action.  I'd missed getting Dharma bred in 2010, and didn't want to miss another breeding season.  So when I failed to catch her again in heat, I made arrangements for her to go on an extended stay with the buck of our choice. 

She obviously came into heat after just three days of exposure to the buck.  We left them together for three weeks, which should have caught two heat cycles.  Goats have 150 day gestation periods, so I calculated out the first day to watch for labor signs as June 17, with a likely day of June 22.  The days came and went...  No babies... 

I had to conclude that she, as well as Maharani, were in fact not successfully bred this winter. Since they were both obviously pregnant, beginning to resemble extra-wide loads, I had to further conclude that they had gotten themselves knocked up by the Angora buck after we moved to new pastures at the end of February.  We share a barn and pasture with a big beautiful Angora buck, a couple of Angora does and their babies, and several sheep.  Well, my girls decided that they liked this big, fuzzy buck, and perhaps they'd like some fuzzy babies of their own.

So based on moving day, I recalculated the earliest possible day they could possibly deliver as July 22.  Sure enough, Dharma at least didn't take long to make friends with the new hunk in her life as she delivered triplets, two boys and a girl, this morning around 3am.  My housemates heard the commotion; I slept through it all.

And they are fuzzy.  One of the boys has long ears, not a La Mancha trait at all. We have fuzzy babies with some dairy conformation characteristics.

One of the boys, the darkest of the three, was having trouble standing, which meant he couldn't effectively nurse. Luckily I had frozen extra colostrum and milk from Dharam's first lactation two years ago.  We thawed the jars and my housemate began feeding the boy on three hour increments while I went off to work.  After the last feeding this evening, the little boy looks like he might start standing on his own soon, and we can stop the bottle feeding. Dharma is a trooper and is taking care of all three babies.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Processing the Fleece, Part I

Last year I acquired a Romney fleece from Lindsey, and there it sat in a garbage bag in my shed for the remainder of the year.  I knew I could pay to have it sent off to one of the mills to be professionally processed, but I wanted to get hands on with at least one fleece, and this was going to be the one.  I just needed the proverbial rainy day to get started.

So finding out last week that I was going to have some extra time on my hands, I decided it was time to fish out the fleece and get started.  I missed taking a before photo, but lets say that it was a yellowish bunch of wool that filled a large trash bag and weighed many pounds.

The first step is to scour, or clean, the wool, which essentially involves soaking the wool in large tubs with a bit of Dawn.  I used two 15-gallon tubs and split the fleece in two.  The first water bath is hot, to open the scales on the wool.  The water was instantly muddy brown with lanolin and dirt.  These were left to soak and cool for several hours.  The process was repeated three times, each time the water being cooler.  (Note that there are both hot and cold water taps outside the house.  Somebody was thinking ahead!)

You have to be very careful to not felt the fleece during the cleaning stages.  Hot water + soap + agitation = felt, so there is no rubbing or squeezing of the fleece.  In between water baths it was gently lifted out as a mass and placed in a giant colander for straining.

Finally satisfied that the fleece was reasonably clean, it was placed in the bottom of the washing machine for some quick spin action.  Again, no agitation.  We went straight to the spin cycle in an old-fashioned upright for some centripetal action.  Look how fluffy after just a minute!

Finally the fleece, being reasonably clean, is left to dry outside on a rack.  I occasionally shift the masses around to expose all of the fiber to dry evenly.  I suspect it will be dry by this evening, and I'll be able to weigh what I have left after most of the dirt and lanolin were removed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On a Happier Note - Spindle Camp

And to make up for the very wordy and imageless previous post, here's a short overview of last weekend's Spindle Camp.

Spindle Camp has become an annual event at a small resort/campground at Lake Francis in Dobbins.  There are a mixture of traditional campsites, RV hookups and cabins for rent. Spindle Camp itself took up an entire site where we could hang out in the shade of our pop-ups to spin, smooze and catch up. See all the happy spinning wheels waiting for their people to wake up?

There was food.  Mardi made a gluten-free strawberry-rhubarb cobbler.
And there were roasted peeps.  Yep, roasting peeps on an open fire.  

They're really incredible.  The extra sugar coating caramelizes beautifully, leaving a thin crispy shell with the gooey inside.  

This started as a funny experiment, but they are my new favorite camping food. I couldn't wait to try all the colors. 

Special thanks go out to Jan Evers for organizing the event once again, and Susan Prince for photodocumenting  everything and getting donations from some of our favorite fiber suppliers.  Everyone got a bit of swag.

Here's mine.  It's Lisa Souza merino in a color way that I love.

Other attendees have written in more detail about their camp experiences, which you can check out on the following blogs:
A View From Sierra County
In Stitches
Woven Thoughts

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Irreconcilable Differences

Turns out there are exactly three reasons one can apply for divorce in the State of California: (1) irreconcilable differences, (2) incurable sanity or (3) nullity of marriage for legal reasons (ie incestuous marriage, one member was not of a legal age to marry or fraud).

Irreconcilable differences.  We hear it a lot, but what does it really mean?  Websters defines it as representing findings or points of view that are so different from each other that they cannot be made compatible. 

I think about this a lot.  I think about the reasons for my marriage of nearly ten years to end.  I chase them around in my head. The bottom line is that when you cannot agree on an idea, fact or statement, and in fact debate the meanings of certain words in a semantic fashion to beat those differences into alignment, there comes a point when you realize this is what is meant by irreconcilable differences.  

It means we're not going to agree. Ever.  Not gonna happen.  And when it's an irreconcilable difference regarding a foundation of a relationship, at least you hope you can agree about the outcome, because there's really only one outcome if you can't agree at that point, and that's to agree to disagree. Which in this case means divorce. 

Though this was initially my decision, and even though it's been over a month, I still feel stunned as I move through the process of dividing up our property and filling out what seems like endless amounts of paperwork.  (It was so easy to get married?!)

I naively thought I'd be able to blithely file the papers, put away my wedding ring, update my Facebook relationship status and move on.  Instead I'm emotionally up and down. My future as a single woman is overwhelming.  I know logically that time needs to work it's magic, but I won't deny that there' s a small part of me that would like to wake up from this nightmare.

So if you ask me how I'm doing and I don't respond right away, well, some days just suck.  The generosity and support of friends, family and fiber are slowly working their magic.  Time will do it's thing.  Life will go on.  

And some day we'll have some warmer weather and we'll get to play in the dirt and plant out all of those seedlings we started in the greenhouse!  (Sspt, yes, spring is on it's way.  I saw blackberry bushes in bloom in Auburn today.  It's coming.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shearing Day

Last Sunday Carl the Shearer came to shear Sue's goats and sheep.  There are Romeldale and various Romeldale crosses.  The white one is a Corriedale, and the greys are fleece mutts.  Carl trimmed toes and sheared using his mobile electric shearer.  

The process of trimming a sheap or goat has been called the two-minute waltz.  Before mechanical shears, it would take six men approximately2-3 minutes to collectively shear a fleece.  With mechanical shears and using a consistent pattern to turn the body of the sheep, a good shearer can shear an entire animal in under two minutes by himself.  Mechanical shearing and the techniques that were developed by the Bowen brothers in New Zealand mean faster shearing with a more uniform cut edge and fewer cuts to the sheep, all which yield a higher value to the fleece.

Here's a short video of the shearing of Queenie the Angora goat, which gives you an idea of the process of shearing.

Here's some pics of the various wools after shearing.  These will need to be skirted (removing the poopy bits) and then sent to a mill to be professional cleaned of vegetable matter and processed into fluffy roving.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lots of changes

Where to even begin?  Beats me, which probably says a lot about why I haven't posted in months.  So lets just gloss over unpleasant things like moving in between snow storms, losing power repeatedly, having first bronchitis, then pneumonia, and discovering that the old place was infested with black mold on the walls after we moved out.

My new home includes the opportunity for most of my favorite things: gardening, fiber, a large yard for Riley, a barn for the dairy goats, and a new flock of chickens.  The new place has a greenhouse and potting shed, so we've been starting seeds weekly for the last couple of weeks. 

I'll confess that I've had trouble for years getting my own seeds started.  Too hot, too cold, not enough light...  Well, not a problem anymore.  These seeds are popping up, no problem.  Many of them are already developing their first sets of true leaves.  That's trombetta squash in the front, then lots and lots of sunflowers.  I counted fourteen dozen sunflowers and six dozen zinnias, among other things.  We want lots of cutting flowers in addition to our veggies and herbs.

Riley gives it all two paws up.  (I was trying for all four paws up, but missed the moment!)