Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 2009 phenological events

phenological events

January 2009

3rd - ring neck gulls
5th - eagles pair up
7th - ice storm
12th - turkeys roosting in white pines
hens are back with toms 16th - Porcupines in Hemlock
25th - two hens laying
28th- african violets rooting in water

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

walk with me wednesday


Have you noticed the trend? The light. We are gaining more each day. I notice it early in the mornings


It is the early day light...light that will shine its way into an April melt.


January has been an icy month around here.


You really have to look a little closer at all the white frost to find some beauty.


Tucked away under this rock is what looks (to me) like little white ferns. Winter moss.

Be warm. Try not to be too tired of winter, appreciate the beauty while it is here. Have patience for spring. I tell myself these things in the middle of another storm, another snow that ends with sleet....another trend.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

almost a prickle


There are now two porcupines in my hemlock tree (resulting in five pictures in this post). If a third porcupine joins them, there will be a prickle of porcupines. If I had more time, I would study them for hours.


They are spending both day and night in the tree. They chew the branches and litter the ground with the bits and pieces that they drop.


They are the second biggest rodent living around the riverrim, the beaver is the biggest.

I don't know if they are male or female, they look alike to me,and I'm not getting any closer to check private areas.


They sometimes make little sucking noises, or crying sounds. They are very shy. If you look at their cute button eyes, they seem as if they are kind innocent little creatures....unless, of course, you ask them to smile pretty for the camera....


did you know that porcupines have orange teeth?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

interview with a shepherdess


Last Friday it was very cold for our spinners group to meet at the library. We spin downstairs in the finished basement but it can get a little cold when the temps dip below zero. So, Grace Hatton invited us over to her farm where she raises Finnsheep and her husband Fred restores antique spinning wheels. I always enjoy a trip over to their farm.

During my visit, Grace agreed to do a short interview on my blog to share her experience of raising Finnsheep. And she kindly provided me with some photographs to go with the post!

cyndy: Hi Grace! You and I have talked recently about your wonderful Finnlandrace Sheep. You mentioned to me that the breed is in danger of dying out (here in the USA) and certainly losing genetic diversity. How many are in the country at the present time?

Grace: There were only about 340 registered in 2008.

cyndy: Can't you just import some if they go extinct in this country?

Grace: No. There are import restrictions.

cyndy: Oh my, I didn't realize that! How long have you been raising Finnsheep, and why did you choose that breed?

Grace: We have raised registered Finnsheep since 1986. We could not afford to have animals that could not pay their way so the idea that Finnsheep would have litters of lambs was very appealing.

cyndy: Would you speak a little bit about their background?

Grace: They were developed over hundreds of years ago in Finland which is near the Arctic Circle. Winters are very long. It was not practical to keep large numbers of ewes in barns over the winter, but still plenty of lambs were welcome to graze the forages that grew rapidly under the "midnight sun. Some shepherds bred their ewes to lambs twice in one year.

cyndy: I've heard you say that Finnsheep are easy to care for and fun to keep. Why do you think they have such a good temperament?

Grace: Unlike Shetland and Icelandic sheep (their relatives) that were wintered out of doors because there were no predators on Shetland or in Iceland, Finnsheep always lived close to humans. This probably accounts for their gentleness and docility. We have a similar situation here in terms of climate and predation to Finland. Black bears kill our sheep. Bald eagles and coyotes are around, but have not been a problem. yet.


cyndy: I've heard that Finnsheep have a reputation for having more than one lamb at a time. What is the record number of lambs born to one ewe?

Grace: Finnsheep usually have no trouble giving birth because their lambs are smaller since there are many of them. Triplets and quads are the norm, but the record in Finland is nine live lambs. I know of two instances of septuplets in the USA and a rumor of octuplets.

cyndy: I know that lambing time is very busy for you. What is the record at your farm, in terms of lambs from a single ewe?

Grace: The most we have ever had was quintuplets. One of our ewes had quints in the spring and quints again that same year in the fall.

cyndy: Wow, that seems like a lot of lambs for one mother to care for. Do you ever have to help a ewe take care of her young?

Grace: Obviously a ewe cannot take care of more than three lambs all by herself. The easiest system for us it to help out by providing extra bottles of lamb milk replacer to large litters. The lambs are normally weaned by six weeks old so it is not a chore of long duration.

cyndy: I have purchased some of the wool from your sheep, and I just love working with it. Would you tell my readers more about it?

Grace: Finn wool is wonderful to work with. It is known for its luster and silky hand. The American Wool Council ranks it in the fine end of the medium wool category. Finn wool does not have a lot of lanolin in it so the yield is good with around 30% lost in washing compared to nearly 50% in some breeds. While Finnsheep do not have heavy fleeces, they are often shorn twice a year. Summer fleeces are not likely to have wool breaks due to nutritional stress and far fewer bits of hay since the ewes are out on pasture. Our flock usually has about a 3 - 4" staple.


cyndy: I notice that some of your sheep are black and some are white, and sometimes they have both black and white on one sheep. Are there any other natural colors of Finnsheep Fleece?

Grace: In recent years Finnsheep breeders have explored the potential for natural colors in their flocks. Importation of moorit or red-brown Finnsheep genetics and the discovery of three types of spotting:

1.. white markings on head and feet 2.. Dalmatian spots 3.. Holstein spots
There are also several types of grey fleeces. One is a graying that happens as black sheep get older, usually evident by age two. Another type called "shaela" by Shetland breeders involves a black lamb whose fleece turns grey abruptly and there is an actual line in the staple. Still another fascinating color is badger face. A badger face has silver fleece and a black belly and black markings over its eyes.

cyndy: What would you say to someone who might be interested in raising Finnsheep?

Grace: Finnsheep are smaller than Dorsets or Suffolk sheep which makes them easier to handle for a woman. The are not flighty. The do not have horns and have naturally short tails that do not need to be docked.

Thanks Grace! You certainly have a beautiful flock of Finnsheep, and I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. For more information on Finnsheep you can contact Grace through her blog at or

Friday, January 16, 2009

deal with it

As a fiber-artist, I collect and store materials for future projects. All kinds of materials. This does not seem like strange or unusual behaviour to is just a necessary part of the process...bits and pieces of a project being stored up in some stage of processing until it becomes a finished object. So what if there are numerous baskets of fleece strewn about the living room? I'm working! It only seems strange when someone who does not know me very well, steps into my house and has a look around. Usually, they don't say anything, but the look on their faces reveals that they are probably thinking I'm a little bit weird. Sometimes they even ask the other day when someone asked me,"Why do you have weeds hanging on your wall?" They were referring to this...


my flax stash.

Poor unsuspecting person, how would they know, that by asking this question, they would prompt me to launch into an enthusiastic explanation about the wonders of growing, processing and spinning your own flax into linen? I invite them to step a little closer and notice the difference between the color and the texture when comparing dew retting with water retting...


I explain about the before and after effects that retting has on my flax maiden...


.....their eyes begin to glaze over when I start to explain how the Dutch, or the Irish or the French would ret their flax - and I realize that I have now given them too much information in response to their innocent question. They really aren't that interested...and they still think I'm a little weird.

I have little bundles of flax about the different stages of production....hanging on the back of the door, are these bundles of flax that are still drying...


... waiting for the retting process. That is one of the beautiful things about flax, it can be stored in different stages of processing and it will not damage the finished product. And you don't have to worry about moths either.

Those who live with me are tolerant of the things that pile up, and I am grateful for that. They no longer blink an eye when large baskets of fleece from an animal weighing close to two hundred pounds- suddenly appears in the living room, or bundles of dried flax are discovered hanging behind a door. They understand that what I am doing is hard work because I constantly tell them so.

I should be more tolerant of their things that pile up, but I fail to see the purpose of dirty sweat socks and electronic accessories and numerous guitars accumulating to the point where there is no longer a place to sit down in ones own room.

It is hard to be tolerant when it is the middle of January...and the temps outside are at near or below zero. These conditions are stressful...and they create what is known as Cabin is a real thing. I know. I live in a Cabin. Wikipedia defines it as " an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in, for an extended period. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, forgetfulness, laughter, and excessive sleeping."

The best way to deal with it is to go outside--get out of the cabin for awhile...and take a walk!



Think I'll go back inside and sit by the coal stove and spin flax. Maybe I can make a dent in my stash..

Monday, January 12, 2009

can't get it out of my head

It is January, icy and snowy outside. The morning sun (when it shines) is like nourishment. I rise when it is still dark and enjoy my coffee with my spindle when the sun comes streaming in the windows. It is a delightful 10 minutes.


My eyes enjoy the way the spindle dances in the sunlight. My hands work quickly..long draw flows from my fingertips.


Later in the day, after the clouds have returned and chores like snow and ice removal must be accomplished, I see something written in the ice...and think of something else I'd rather be doing.

Do you see it too?


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

walk with me wed, an icy rock day


We are in the middle of a storm that is making it look like a glass forest outside my door.


Nature in ethereal beauty.


Better wear extra gear on your feet if you plan to try and shovel, or scrape your way anywhere. Keep the ice melt nearby. It is an icy rock day.


I don't mean this kind...

...although there are some who may think I do...

Photobucket is a different kind of rock in 'I spinne upon a rock' day.


or St. Distaff's Day!

My small offerings for the occasion....


It was a good day to sit near the fire and spin flax into linen. Happy Roc Day!!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

a restoration of color


This is an old that I knit from yarn that I purchased a long time ago. We won't focus on exactly how many years ago that was. The yarn came from Italy. It was handspun, knit up quickly on size 15 needles in garter stitch. I call it my January scarf, because I often wear it in January when I NEED color around me.

Whenever I wear this scarf, it gets comments and compliments. It's because of the wool, and the colors...The stitches and the pattern aren't anything special.

The other day it occurred to me that I couldn't recall the last time I washed it. Oh my. We won't focus on what two things that may imply about me.

The decision to wash the scarf became analytical. Aspects of the scarfs past became important. Would a good washing destroy it, Weaken the integrity of the wool? or worse destroy or disintegrate the dye? Maybe I could just wash it a little bit and lessen the risk. Maybe I shouldn't wash it at all? It had taken years to acquire the "patina"...perhaps I was acting on aesthetic impulse...and the idea that cleanliness is desirable...old and dirty compared to clean and new.

Finally, it was decided that it deserved a good soak in a warm bath. The results were amazing to my eyes, but I don't know if the camera captures it.


Like the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, the colors popped. Accretions of time and dust removed- original tonalities revealed. I can't decide if I like it as much.


But at least there is a little bit more color in my world now.

Saturday, January 03, 2009



Yesterday morning I reached into my basket of Shetland samples (from Cathy) and pulled out a handful that was marked Nikke from Shelley. I selected a few locks for inspection. Lovely crimp! Stretchy and bouncy wool! Wonderful memory! Soft salt and peppery tones with a touch of undercoat that appears like a cotton ball at the butt end of the lock.


Reaching for my combs, the locks fall into place. I spritz with a bottle of watered down creme rinse to tame the static. Then I diz. I love to diz. It feels like drafting backwards.

In the afternoon, I took my fiber over to Grace's Farm to spin for a bit. I was finished in no time at all.


This morning I put the bobbin on the kate, and plied. 42 yards. Another sample is finished.

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