Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Week of Contrasts

 Sunday morning the East Friesian had a ram lamb weighing over 9 pounds. I was thinking that she had twins based on size, but nope! Just the one big lamb.
 Last night I did my final check at 8:30 and discovered that Cloudy (mom) had twin babies. Thought for sure the the ewe lamb was dead and the ram just about. They both cried when I picked them up, so I spent two and a half hours drying them with a blow dryer and waring them up. Then I finger fed them colostrum that I saved last year and got them sucking. By 11 the ram was standing. I held both of them on the mom to drink and then left them to settle in. I went back out at 1:15 and both babies were walking around and popped onto mom when she stood. I have had to supplement today. They are very small for Merino babies.The mom was in the barn and front yard area where I have been feeding grain, so I think she had them prematurely. She is a first time mom and was fortunately relaxed enough to let me handle her and her babies. I am naming them Angel and Candle in honor of the Christmas season.
 Our barn renovation is moving along. the front is almost done, the downstairs windows are in and big picture windows are behind the blue tarps.

 I plan to move my shop to the area behind the french doors, so that will be the first thing that people see when they come into the barn. I am going to turn the current shop space into a studio, so I can work in the barn and heat only a small area. We plan to put a catwalk around the upper area for roving storage.
 I am busy weaving on my Majacraft loom. I have decided to turn the piece into a vest. The back is done and I am a fourth of the way down the front.
I managed to get close up photos of the peachicks this morning and I can now tell that I have three cocks and one hen. The mother is the second from the right and the hen is to her right. You can tell by enlarging the photo that their wing feathers are the same. The cocks have speckled feathers like their father.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Upgrades, Renovations and a New Aviary

 I am slowly adding to my etsy shop: www.uniquedesignsbykathy.etsy.com and my finished goods page: www.artweaving.etsy.com. Above is a lovely supercoil in natural colors that has kid mohair and tencel. Perfect for embellishment.
 Due to all of the traveling that I have been doing, my right leg has developed serious issues. My sciatica has flared up dramatically and I can no longer spin more than half hour on a regular wheel. Since spinning is my major passion, I invested in two different electric spinning wheels. Featured above is the Spinolution Firefly. I also bought the Ashford espinner. I love both of them and will usually take the Ashford to shows since it is smaller. This weekend I am taking the Firefly to the Maryland Alpaca Fiber festival. I am already set up in the dining hall. I am so excited to be there since it is warm and a lot of the vendors are my friends. Great place to hang out for the weekend. It also has the advantage of being only 15 minutes from home, so a lot less driving.
 With six peafowl now, their own aviary became a must. This is the beginning stages. It is almost finished now. Just the door to hang on the shelter. We moved them into it last night. They are edgy, but it is better for them to not be with the chickens.
We decided to have our barn restoration begin now. The guys have almost finished replacing the doors and windows on the front. It is already warmer since the wind is no longer whistling through the slats. I love being able to open the doors by myself. The hanging doors were designed for big husky guys to open. The front is now white till they finish all of the windows. It will be repainted red once the new wood is all in place. Of course, when they started removing the bad sections, they found lots of water damage and termite damage - none current, so it will cost us more than expected, On the Mark Construction is doing the work. They are very diligent and will hopefully have the exterior done by the end of the year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

No Time to be Bored!

 There is always something that needs doing on the farm. The bunnies are four weeks old now. Their eyes are open and they are hopping around. I think they are all males. I will know soon enough.
 Charming has lost his old feathers and is now growing his new ones. I have been spinning his really short feathers into yarn. This one features 5 peacock feathers that have eyes. I clustered them close together, so they will make a nice bouquet. The smaller feather are gray with green iridescent tips. I placed them the usual distance apart on a black kid mohair single. I spun the coordinating yarn, so a longer version of the feathered collar can be made.
 I have lots of bags with Black Sussex rooster feathers. It is interesting how different each batch is. I spun these feathers onto a moorit Merino and spun a matching single.
 Fall is the time for kid goat shearing. This guy had gorgeous locks which are now drying in the barn. He is for sale until Monday, when I will send him to auction. He is very parasite resistant. We only had to treat him one all summer. Would love to keep him, but he is related to 2/3 of the does.
 Close up of his fleece before shearing.
 The angora goats have been divided up for breeding. I put the colored goats in the woods and they are getting plenty to eat since they are not interested in the hay when we bring them in for the night. They know it is time to come in, because they are all waiting at the gate.
This is the buck I bought this summer. He is not as fine as my last one, so I will only use him this year. I am looking for a dark red, so if anyone has one that will be a yearling next year, I am interested. I am also downsizing so, if you are looking for a proven doe with lovely fiber (all colors available,) please let me know soon.

I am off to the Art Harvest at Waterford, Virginia this weekend. I will be inside Red Barn #1. It will be cold, so I am hoping that people will be looking for yarns to keep them busy this winter and wearable art. Hope to see a few friends there.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Finishing Projects, Starting New Ones and a Lovely Surprise

 I forced myself to sit down and finish the pattern for Nadia's Shawl. It is an intermediate pattern that takes advantage of gradient yarns. I have been spinning a few and playing around with ideas. The color way is a single edition. I have others that will work up beautifully but in different color ways. I have finished the Watermelon Shawl pattern but will not publish it till I have a few sets of yarn to go with it. I have a hard time revisiting yarns, so when I publish the kits, if you want one, better not wait. I plan to only make 4 and then sell the model. Nadia's pattern is available on my etsy shop,if you are interested.
 Got some better photos of the peacocks. We got a lovely surprise when she laid an egg. We composted that one because she did not lay again for two weeks. Then she was serious and she started sitting about the 1st of September on four eggs. It would be exciting, if she has chicks. We plan to have a structure and aviary built for the peacocks, so the chicks will be less stressed. All of the birds love the small tomatoes. Marc and I don't like them and they keep showing up every year. I pick several handfuls to give them every day. Otherwise, I would consider those plants a weed and rip them out!
 This is Sleeping Beauty. The peacock is Prince Charming. Beauty and Charming for short. Their feathers are lovely - even the shorter ones. Charming has a few more short tail feathers to lose and then I will spin a yarn. Don't know whether I will sell the yarn or knit it up as a sample. I won't have any more feathers till next year.
 Rug hooking a landscape has been in the back of my mind for a year and a half. Today Marc helped me set up a board and pin the linen to it, so I could trace the farm photo that I chose onto  it. I bought a digital project years ago to do power point presentations. As you can see, I knew exactly what to do when it came time to trace my design.
 I am spinning yarns as I go. I use it as a challenge to do color ways and styles of yarn that I would not usually spin. The yarn for the barn is gorgeous. It is several shades of red. I had spun it as a single and got mad because I think it is too itchy to wear. Today I Navajo plied it and it looks luscious. The sheen and colors be just right. i have hooked one sheep and part of the silo. This is going to be a lot of fun. I can actually name some of the animals and I know whose fiber I am using for some sections.
This is our wooded area. The deer and fox have now abandoned it. They don't want to share. If you look closely at the center of the photo, you can pick out a few of the sheep. There are 47 ewes and one ram running around out there. Most of our pastures are drying up, since we have not had much rain and it is hot. This area is nice and shaded with a stream running through it. Whenever the animals get access, they are super excited.

Show season has started. I head to the GA Fiber Festival on Wednesday and have the PA Knitters' Day out the weekend after. Lots of fun places to go and friends to visit. Hope to see some of you there!

I will be teaching a pin weaving class here on September 16. I have openings for 2, if anyone is interested. Email me at jmarckathy@aol.com for details.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Shop, Rug Hooking, New Landscape and Peacocks

 My shop will stay set up all year round now since I have enough yarn to fill the racks even with yarns pulled for shows. I am starting to have some of my Merino and Kid mohair blended to create lace and fingering weight yarns, so I can design patterns and have yarns to go with them. Some of my patterns require specific yarns which will become limited editions. Seems like everyone wants the exact same yarn and color that I make my models out of. Unfortunately, it has become tedious and they are no longer unique, if I am always spinning the same yarns. So make yourselves notes to buy it, if you want it.
 We are currently waiting  on a bid for our red bank barn to be remodeled and climate controlled. I would like to move all of my fiber stuff to one place and be able to work in the barn.We have ideas for the interior being redone, but the holes in the walls have to go first!
 I went to the MAFA show in July and came home determined to try something new. I have been fascinated for a while by rug hooking and my friend, Loris Blanchard of the Wool Farm, got me started on a sample piece last year. I am now experimenting using my art yarn on monk's cloth.
 This is one of the skeins that I spun in attempts to recreate the colors for my first rug hooking project. This actually represents what our grass looks like now. I love it, but have posted it for sale on my Etsy shop, since the landscape that I have chosen is from early spring.
 I am going to use this photo for my landscape design. I will be editing out the tree shadow and simplifying the smaller details.
Last, but not least, Marc and I added peafowl to our menagerie. My uncle passed away a few weeks ago and I have decided to live my life to the fullest. Peacocks were on my bucket list. Marc always denied my request saying that they are "dirty and loud." Well, the dogs and Skyler are much louder. It is fascinating to watch their stately strut. They are currently in the aviary till we are sure that they will stick around. The male spreads his feathers when he sees me coming out with treats. He has been losing a few feathers - some big and some small. Soon I will have enough to spin a feathered yarn with the small ones. I am amazed at how many types of feathers they have beside the impressive tail feathers with the eyes.

This is a good time to visit the farm. Just a reminder - call first since I occasionally have to run off somewhere, and be sure to not wear your best shoes, since we occasionally rotate the sheep and goats on the front yard.

Monday, July 6, 2015


 It has been a very wet spring and summer. Mushrooms are popping up everywhere. I do not know whether any of these are edible and I have no interest in trying to eat any of them. These mushrooms are the most colorful and were under the willow oak tree in the front yard.
 All of the rest of the  mushrooms featured were found in the wood pile from last year's storms. The trees chopped up were all sugar maple. From my reading, certain trees have specific mushrooms associated with them.
 This is a wild looking set of mushrooms.
 These were the ugliest mushrooms. So dark.
 The mushrooms above and below were the largest ones.
 Some animal has already eaten this mushroom.
Another not so pretty set of mushrooms. I plan to walk our woods and search for mushrooms, if it does not rain. And, rain is in the forecast for today.

If anyone knows what mushrooms these are, I would love to know!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Goat Bridge, Lots of Rain and New Ventures

 Earlier this year we had the rest of our property fenced. It is a woodsy area with two streams and a waterfall. here were ways to get the animals over to our newest pasture, but a bridge would make it much easier. This week we had a bridge built over the stream just below the waterfall. One goat looked at me suspiciously and followed me over. In seconds the rest had made it over. I will have to haul a chair out next time and leave it. There are too many vines and predators in the area, so I do not feel comfortable leaving them out there by themselves until they have cleared it out some. Much cooler under the trees than in the pasture.
 Spinquest is changing their format this year. I will be going both as a vendor and a teacher. As soon as registration opens, I will let you know and provide a link. In case you have not guessed, I will be teaching a mini class on dyeing.
 We have been getting lots of rain this year. We got three inches yesterday. I took a sunset photo just after the rain last week. The barn makes a great focal point. It won't be long before we will be remodeling this barn to make it climate controlled. Then I will be working out of the barn and teaching more classes. So much space!
 Last weekend I taught a freeform spinning class. This is the yarn that I finished. It has been listed on my etsy shop: www.uniquedesignsbykathy.etsy.com.
While in North Carolina the week before I found the depression era green dish. It makes a great way to lay out my novelties before spinning. They sure make me look more organized than I really am!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Around the Farm and New Colorways

 This week the angora goats and Shetland/Merino Crosses are mowing the front yard. Next week they will move to the lower garage pasture. I hope to keep them parasite free by moving them to taller pastures frequently.
 A close up of one of the moms with her kid. It was a pain to have all of the animals in the barn  over the winter for delivery, but it paid off. All of the kids and lambs are much healthier this year. They have well formed horns, lovely fleeces and are much larger than they have been since we moved to Maryland.
 We had a fox in the newest pasture, so I hung out with the goats while they browsed. The alpacas decided to join us. You can see how tall the grass and other plants are. Five of the goats were so happy, that they refused to return when everyone else did. The above photo is of one of the streams running through our property. We have a nice soothing waterfall just above where I took this photo.

 I am listing lots of roving on Etsy. This is a different color than the previously listed fuchsia orange mohair. You have to read the specifics to know the fiber content. This one is a blend of kid mohair and Merino.
 This is a batch of wool and mohair that I just took to the mill. I carded and spun some up and really liked the combination. The Merino Shetland cross was white, gray and had white tips. I dyed it along with a white kid mohair. Can't do without my mohair. The sheen takes yarn to a new level.
 I am experimenting with a tutorial on spinning gradient yarns and how to use them. I will be publishing a pattern called Watermelon Shawl as soon as I finishing proofing it.
I still have a few Shetlands for sale. They are purebred, but I will not be selling them with papers. They are intended to be a spinning flock. They are all of the more modern style with very soft fleeces and lots of crimp. I also have two East Fresian dairy sheep for sale. Not enough time to make cheese. Email me at jmarckathy@aol.com  
I will be teaching my Spinning Freeform Yarns class on June 20. This will be the only time I offer it this summer. I teach how to spin a novelty yarn with loads of texture in it without tying knots in one skein of yarn. They are my best selling yarns. Anyone, who can spin a decent (not perfect) single, will enjoy this class.