Monday, January 19, 2009

Presidents of the United States of America

For fun, check out this page with a song from NPR's Weekend America:
Presidents of the United States of America
We're getting a new president, and who better to write a song for the occasion then the pop group the Presidents of the United States of America? We hear their composition and how they wrote it.

Springsteen or the Boss it's not, but it is very entertaining. Happy MLK Day and WELCOME, MR. O!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

OT, NA and Regret

They were a pleasant-looking couple of a certain age, who happened to stop by my market stall to watch me spin for a while this morning. It was a beautiful, near-80-degree day, and we were all just loving it. I leaned back from my spinning wheel and stopped treadling long enough to smile, inhale some of the beautiful air, and say "Good morning!"

He smiled and made small pleasantries, but then just seemed to want to watch the process, so I started in again: treadle, pinch, lengthen, waaaay out there, wait...wait... wind on. He said that they had recently moved from Los Angeles to San Diego, and I asked him how he felt the two cities compared.

That was when she interjected that they hadn't actually move from Los Angeles, that they had long since moved out to "the (San Fernando) Valley".

"Too many blacks," she confided with an almost-conspiratorial air, sniffing and wrinkling her nose as though still offended at the thought.

My mind stalled. I wanted to say "My gods! You don't look like a bigot!? How are you ever managing to deal with our new president?"

But nothing came out. Instead, I just started in again: treadle, pinch, lengthen, waaaay out there, wait...wait... wind on.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Resolution #2

Here we are, a little more than two weeks into the new year and I feel surprisingly good! For one thing, I have actually started to tackle the second item on my "great list": organization.

Here are two pictures of my "loft" in the barn, shortly after it was built:
Look how neat, how organized, how peaceful!!!!

That was some years ago, years with lots of activity, with wool coming and going and being processed, but totally devoid of any attempt at organization. You know how it is when you are in the middle of a project, and you just KNOW there is more black llama here someplace --

Here is what 5 years of neglect looks like:

It isn't finished yet, but in one day I did manage to clean and sort a good bit of the mess:

I decided to sort primarily by color, from white (left) to gray, black and red (right). I think it is looking up, don't you? Just don't turn around, or you will see the boxes and boxes of roving from MFW (below) that simply won't fit anywhere.

Next step is to take inventory and start listing fiber for sale... quick ... before the next boxes arrive!

I decided to start at the top: beautiful dehaired cashmere cloud is listed for sale at:
It comes in 5 natural shades, and I am selling it for $20/ounce, including postage. You will need to click on the big picture for more info, and will need to let me know which color you want.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mad Hen and Sad Maddie

Maddie came to me as a result of an advertisement that said: "free goat" (sometimes called a rescue) last year. She was of uncertain age, indeterminate color, and even more vague heritage. I was interested in her because the person who had her mentioned the "tons of hair" that she had shaved off of her.

When I first saw her, she was a diminutive little thing in a herd of huge brown Oberhausi dairy goats. She was low goat on the totem pole, whose only friend had been a chicken, who was now living elsewhere. She seemed frightened and depressed. She had had twins, one of whom was still with her, and was just bones and skin with little spiky clumps of hair left over from her close shave. She appeared to be at least part angora. Some people are distracted by shiny things; I am totally drawn to fuzzy stuff, so of course I took her home.

She didn't fatten up one bit, despite de-worming, lots of attention and plenty of good stuff to eat. She remained low goat in the pecking order, but continued to be friendly (in a shy sort of way) and unobtrusive. The more I observed her the more I realized that she has had a rough life. She has a rather stiff walk, throwing one hind leg out in a strange manner, as though it had been broken and never healed correctly. In addition, her jaw is lopsided, skewed to one side with the bottom jaw jutting forward.

This gives her a very strange grin all of the time.

It wasn't long before she started standing up for herself a little, and even chased some of the younger goats off from time to time. But the bigger goats in the flock would have nothing to do with her.

That was when she discovered the chicken.

Mad Hen is an ancient survivor. All of her contemporaries are long gone, mostly due to old age and overly-boisterous puppies. She used to be called Mamma Hen because n her youth she raised countless broods, often not even from her own eggs, but in her old age and decripitude she started getting very cranky. We thought perhaps some new roomies would help, but she managed to kill every single chicken that we put in with her. The last one was so terrified of MH that she starved to death because she was too afraid to come down from the perch. So there she sat, blind in one eye, muttering away to herself in an otherwise-empty chicken coop.

Last spring we decided to get a few new laying hens, which meant that MH had to go somewhere else. One dark evening I picked her up from her roost and took her into the goat pen, where I carefully deposited her on a perch. I tossed off a "Good luck, old girl," and thought no more about it. She would survive ... or not. She was there the next morning, and the next, and the next. During the day she puttered around among the goats, quite happy with her new lot in life. At night she perched on the old log where I had first put her.

MH thinks she's a goat.

At this same time one of my special Wensleydale ewes had suffered an incident when the ram blasted her into a fence post. Since she was pregnant, we didn't want to take any chances, so put her in a separate pen which became known as the Infirmary.

She was soon joined by a young lamb who needed meds, and eventually old MH.

Maddie seemed to suffer sort of a set-back, and took over Tank's igloo house, to spend hours and even days on end peering out at the world with her silly, sad grin.

Tank, in the meantime, just made himself at home in the great outside, despite some prying neighbors.

Daisy is the self-appointed guardian dog guardian.

One morning when I made rounds, Tank greeted me at the fence with a treasure -- a ground squirrel? "Good boy, Tank!" I went back to the house to get a bag for disposal and a treat to "buy back" the carcass. That was when I realized it wasn't a squirrel -- it was a very tiny, dead premature kid. One of a pair of twins, it turned out. I walked and walked the entire pen trying to figure out who the mother could have been, and was puzzled beyond belief when I remembered that face in the dog house. Sure enough, they had been Maddie's.

We were all sad, even though they were so little I know that they had never drawn a breath or touched the ground with their tiny, soft hooves. We eventually coaxed Maddie from her "cave" and gave her a bath and some warm dinner. But then ... where to put her so that she could recover?

The Infirmary, of course, where she is to this day, with her BFF, Mad Hen.

Monday, January 5, 2009

St. Distaff's Day

St. Distaff's Day is the 7th of January. Are you ready?
Ladies with distaffs.

Our small group of knitties will meet to knit and sip and celebrate, and many spinning guilds will be holding celebrations this weekend. Check your local listings for events in your area.


According to Wikipedia, St. Distaff's Day is so called because the Christmas festival terminated on Twelfth Day, and on the day following the women returned to their distaffs or daily occupations. It is also called Rock Day, a distaff being called a rock. “In old times they used to spin with rocks.” (Aubrey, Wilts.)

Give St. Distaff all the right, Then give Christmas sport good night, And next morrow every one To his own vocatiƶn. (1657)

In England, as well as other countries the days from Christmas through Twelfth Night were considered a time of rest from the labors of spinning. The maidens returned to their work on St. Distaff's Day, January 7th. This day was also known as Rock Day, which is derived from the German word rocken, which means both distaff and woman's.
Although the maidens resumed their work on St. Distaff's Day, the ploughboys did not return until the Monday following Twelfth -Night. They used this discrepancy to no good by playing pranks on the busy spinners. The most popular of these pranks was to set fire to the tow and flax which was awaiting processing. The spinners in turn would quench the fire with buckets of water, drenching both fire and firebug.

In Chambers’ Book of Days, (a wonderful compilation of all things odd and historic) Michael Hillman has discovered what I have long suspected:

"It was admitted in those old days that a woman could not quite make a livelihood by spinning; but, says Anthony Fitzherbert, in his Boke of husbandrie 'it stoppeth a gap,' it saveth a woman from being idle, and the product was needful."

If you are interested in more about women, textiles and history, you must get a copy of Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. A scholarly yet excellent read, now out in paperback.
As for me? I never stop spinning. I realize that I can "not quite make a livelihood by spinning," but I am hoping to make up for it in volume.

This week's offerings, washed (left) and hanging to dry (right).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Farmers' Markets

For more than 40 years I have been raising fiber animals to satisfy my own gluttonous spinning habit. I have also been making weak attempts at selling some of the wool, llama, mohair, cashmere and pygora from our flocks on ebay, etsy and various other internet sources. These have met with limited success, mostly because it takes a lot of time to keep up with availability and to answer queries via email, send samples, etc., and also because it is just plain difficult to buy touchy-feely stuff (like yarn and fiber) on line.

Now that I am retired, I have hit upon a wonderful outlet: farmers' markets. We have been taking our wool, yarn and sheepskins to various weekend markets for over a year, and it is one of the high points of our week. Even if sales are slow, I get many hours to spin, meet people, talk about the animals, and share stories. The Vista Farmers' Market is one of the oldest ones in the area, and also one of the largest.

We qualify as growers because (almost) everything we sell is raised by us on land we own in San Diego County, but we can not be certified organic since processed animal products can not be certified, according to the state, and most of our wool is processed:

Dyed Wensleywold locks, millspun Woolllama yarn, and dyed roving waiting to be spun.

So we have added a few cards, like the Itty Bitty Wtty Knitty creations by Kim Cheely and her missionary brother's Project Grace knitters in Nepal. Beautiful little swatches knitted on toothpick-sized needles with wonderfully funny captions. I also carry a small sampling of Eucalan because it is what I use and swear by for washing fine wool items.

Various skeins of handspun yarn, and millspun Woolllama on cones.

We have recently added the new Bonsall Certified Farmers' Market and Open Aire Faire to our list. It is smaller, and newer, but all of the proceeds go into the local schools, so it's a good thing.

A sample of some of the washable sheepskins that we have available.

Love those red wool and silk socks!
If you are in the area, please stop by! If you are not local but are interested in any of these items (or have questions about other fiber-related things) please don't hesitate to email and ask. I take PayPal and checks, and will be happy to send a price list. My email is:

Ready for the market.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

December 2008

On the Final Day of Christmas my true love shared with me:

*A woodpecker on the phone pole

*Two snow bunnies
*Three kinds of pie

*Four lovely kids (and all their spouses)

*Five grand children

*Six llamas lunching

*Seven dogs a-leaping

*Eight lambs a-sunning

*Nine ewes a-nursing

* Ten pounds of roast

* Eleven side dishes

* Twelve goats grazing.

And a very merry New Year to all.