Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pennsylvania Dreaming

Do other people go through times when they look back over their lives more than usual? This morning I find myself steeped in memories of Sunday mornings long before I came to live at Firefly Farm. What I mostly did was visit with friends with shared interests--gardening, antiquing, fiber--but if I found myself alone, my absolute most favorite thing to do was to jump in the Jeep and head out for a long ride on country roads. Voyeuristically driving by old farms, imagining life in this or that farmhouse and garden, was my idea of a great Sunday.

In time, a close friend bought a great old farm and I have so many happy memories of weekends spent puttering in her house and gardens. For the winter of 1999-2000, she invited me to housesit while she would be travelling for four months. As much as I enjoyed the serene wintry beauty of that place, and the days spent in quiet routine, it never occurred to me to dream that someday I might get to do more than borrow somebody else's lifestyle for a season. Yet, by the next winter, my world had changed dramatically, and in the Spring of 2001, I came to live at Firefly Farm and begin a completely new journey very far in every way from the place where I had been.

Today, I don't have to imagine what would be going on in some anonymous farmhouse as I would be driving by it. The old kitchen here is warmed by the woodburning cookstove, and Bob sits at the old oak table paying the bills in between trips to the barn to check on the lambs. The dryer in the laundry room hums and thumps, working its magic on faded towels and blankets that may be needed to warm a new arrival.

In Federal houses, the north parlor was traditionally the room kept for great occasions (notably funerals). But in this old Federal today, it's purpose is so much lighter--my happy studio, with books and yarns and the loom and my beloved wheel. This Sunday morning finds me dabbling at the computer here, kitten in lap, cat on desk...and I'm telling my memories and thoughts to people far away. Maybe someone who reads this is living in a city or suburb and dreaming of a farm.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lambing and Weaving

Because the weather has finally turned bitterly cold and windy, the Firefly Farm flock has decided it is time to start lambing. Last year the first lamb was born on Groundhog Day, but this year we started yesterday morning, January 24. When Bob went up to the barn at 7am one of the older ewes had just delivered a lovely ram lamb. Will post a photo shortly. "El Ninio" will be the first of the new generation fathered by our young ShetlandXCoopworth ram. My goal in bringing him to the farm has been to bring a bit of color and shine to our RomneyXTexel fleeces. Time will tell!
Getting a batch of fleece picked and ready to go to the mill as we speak. Picking is not my favorite task, hence the delay since shearing was in, uh, June. I always feel I could have picked more so I keep going back and finding, of course, more vm. I could card quite a lot of fiber here on the electric Louet, but find it well worth the expense to send the wool out instead. This year a friend wants to send some of my wool with her pygora, which promises to make a very lovely mix.
Speaking of the fiber front, not much spinning going on lately but learning quite a lot about weaving. Late last year I came into a 1963 Union 36 loom. I have always wanted to learn to make rugs of all sorts, so rag rugs are a current obsession. The learning curve here is steeper than it might seem to those who have never looked into it but like everything else, the more I do it the easier it seems to get. Made placemats this week of which I am inordinately proud. But I anticipate it will be very satisfying using them every evening. A nice farmy kind of feeling.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What else goes on here?

Something I have had a lot of fun doing is making these Orifice Hooks. I learned to make hooks from the late spinning wheel restorer Bill Ralph, but when I tried to make them on my own I couldn't get them to hold together so I added a bead to the design and next I made a bunch for my guild friends, and next somebody said they would take twelve to a festival...Before long I was selling quite a lot of them, and had an ad in SpinOff, and a little article, which led Amy Clark Moore to ask me to write a back-page essay (see SpinOff Winter 2005).
People from all around the world have bought hooks, and I never get tired of making them. So if you would like one, email me at telling me your favorite color and I will make you a hook with that color lampwork or faceted bead. If it is for an antique wheel let me know that too because I will adjust the size of the hook part accordingly. $12 includes shipping in a very nice box. If the hook is a gift, let me know so I will package the box for presentation. Multiple orders ship priority and include a box for each hook.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Greetings

One of the best things about my fiber journey has been all the nice friendships I have found along the way. A special friend is Deb Schildt, whose growing business, Handmade in the Hills, features her handpainted yarns and prolific array of high-quality goods all made by Deb herself. Although Deb has been a vendor at several juried craft and fiber shows for a few years, this was to be her first year for Rhinebeck. A few weeks before the event, I was inspired to create a garment and accompanying pattern for Deb to wear in case her booth got chilly that would showcase the finished result of the unique dye technique she has developed. We have all fallen prey to the temptation to buy a gorgeous hank or several of a multicolor roving at a festival, only to find the knitted or woven result is blotchy or otherwise garishly unwearable.
Deb's method produces a yarn that looks as good in the garment as it does in the skein. Although I have watched her dye, and frankly attempted to mimic her technique, I can't do it, and can't figure out how she does it. Must be magic.
Anyway, what I came up with was this fast and easy pattern. Deb did the photography and graphics, I did the knitting. At the festival, the patterns sold out by Saturday afternoon, and I like to think she sold a ton of yarn to inspired knitters even after that. Now we have more copies. If you would like to knit this very easy very warm very flattering piece, email me at . Pattern is $8 and can be completed in a weekend!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Here's me--five years ago this would have only been a dream! Ok, maybe not everybody's dream. This photo was taken on shearing day, when we bring in a professional who does a great job. The wool lands in a big pile, and it is my job to skirt the fleeces and sort for quality. The best day of the year!
Greetings from the farm! This will be a blog about my experience as a sheep farmer--raising animals, spinning wool, and the adventures that follow.
Lots of pictures, patterns, and stories to come.