welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

international year of natural fiber

2009 has been designated as the year of natural fibers by the United Nations. The objective is to improve the food income of poor farmers by increasing the demand for natural fibers. Natural fibers run the gamut from wool and cotton to jute, sisal, silk, flax, cashmere, alpaca, mohair and yak. 

Also, as a part of this year-long celebration, natural fiber lovers from all over the world are invited to help create the world's longest scarf. Sponsored by Keep the Fleece in partnership with Heifer International, the goal is to raise $250,000 which will be used to donate fleece-bearing animals to needy families all over the world. To participate, visit Keep the Fleece for all the information.

Personally, I think this is all very exciting! I love natural fibers - the look and feel as well as being a renewable resource rather than a petroleum-based product! And in honor of this being the year of natural fibers, in addition to the wool my sheep grow for me, I'll also be attempting to raise a tiny little patch of organic cotton. We'll see how that goes since Pennsylvania isn't exactly the right environment for heat-loving cotton. But it will sure be fun to try.

Oh, and by the way, a wonderful way to celebrate the year of natural fibers is coming up this weekend! The Maryland Sheep and Wool festival is being held at the Howard County Fairgrounds. I'm planning to go with some friends on Sunday - they will all want to look at yarn and I'll want to look at sheep - good times!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

happy earth day!

"Migration Song"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

they survived!

NEVER in a million years would I have believed that the goslings would have survived their night in the cold. Today, I happened to look out in the pasture and saw these three little beauties being carefully watched over by their parents. Amazing. There is still a fourth egg in there and Griselda went back in and spent the rest of the day sitting on it while Teague took care of the newborns. I have a hard time believing that the fourth egg is still viable, but then I had also given up on these three, so who knows?

Friday, April 17, 2009

spring woodland

I took a walk in the woods yesterday after I was done working and wanted to share some of what I found...

a beautiful orange butterfly...

tiny clumps of moss...

a salamander under a rock...

mayapples just beginning to unfurl...

a squirrel's cache of nuts...

the first fern fronds.

A happy spring day to you!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

it's a mystery

Well, things are not looking good for the about-to-be-hatched goslings. Last night at bedtime, I heard the geese calling. That was unusual, so went out to check. Griselda was not on her nest in the barn, so I checked the eggs and could actually hear them peeping through their shells. I looked out in the pasture and saw both geese, but without a flashlight couldn't see much more than that. When I went out this morning to check on everyone, I realized that Griselda was on the OTHER side of the pasture fence and apparently had been all night. Checking the eggs again, they were cold and silent. I went out and herded Gris back into the pasture and she immediately went back on her nest, but it is most likely too late. Probably the goslings died in their shells and it's doubtful Griselda will start a new batch again this year.

So what happened? In nearly four years, the geese have never gotten out, and the only way I can imagine she did was by going over the fence. But it's a four foot fence and I've never seen her achieve a lift of more than 2 feet. These are not flighty birds - they prefer to walk. Griselda is a good mother and has barely left her nest in a month. What caused her to leave her nest and go over the fence? The only thing I can think of is that she was going after a predator, a fox perhaps. But why wouldn't Teague, the gander, have been the one to do that? He's been standing guard since Griselda started sitting. Also, none of the other animals were bothered.

It's a mystery, and a shame. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

another farm and studio update

Last week I started the tender annuals such as tomatoes, melons, peppers, herbs and flower seeds indoors. Outdoors, beets, lettuce, and spinach went into the garden. So did the sheep muck from the barn - good times, folks. 

Spearmint went into its own bed in the garden paddock, hopefully to be followed by peppermint. I'd like to start drinking more tea rather than soft drinks.

The local conservancy was selling trees and so I bought 20 douglass fir which have now been planted out in the woods.

Sad to say that my winter wheat "field" that was planted last fall didn't make it. Most likely the sheep and geese grazed it down too hard - my fault for keeping them in the garden paddock for too long. And so I tilled it under and planted spring wheat in its place. Next to the wheat, a new bed has been tilled and oats have gone in - another new thing here on the hill. Hopefully these two crops will do better than the winter wheat. But hope springs eternal - I sure would like to try making baked oatmeal or whole wheat toast for breakfast from grains that were grown right here.  

Goslings are due to hatch on Saturday and Mayapple should have her lamb(s) by the end of the month. 

I have six mixed media pieces underway in the studio, most of them very close to being completed. There are also several in my sketchbook just waiting to have life breathed into them. Winter is a tough time for me, and I'm still coming out from under the proverbial rock, or hibernation, or whatever it is. But the good news is that creativity and productivity are on the upswing as temperatures rise and days gradually become longer!

A local building is being torn down and I was able to do a bit of salvaging. In addition to some miscellaneous scrap wood, I got several old windows that I plan to use to make a coldframe for starting plants in the spring, extending the salad season in the fall and keeping tender perennial herbs in the winter. 
There was also an old piano that no one wanted because it couldn't be kept in tune, so I disassembled it as much as possible for the parts. Quite a lot of bits and pieces come out of a piano that are very interesting. I took all the piano wire, the keys, and the entire striker/hammer(?) assembly as well as some of the wood. I could perhaps have gotten more, but the building was literally being torn down around me and so I felt some pressure to hurry a bit. I use quite a bit of wire in my sculptures, so that's a no-brainer, but the rest of the piano guts may sit in my studio for awhile before they are put to good use. It felt a bit odd to take apart a piano - kind of fun, but also like I was doing something wrong, somehow - like maybe the piano police were going to come and haul me away for disrespecting a musical instrument. Anyway, with all of the front of the piano off and the soundboard and wires exposed, it looked a lot like a harp. If I ever get another chance at an old tuneless piano again*, I'd love to try to mount that whole wire assembly on a wall. It was quite beautiful.

*So if anyone out there lives anywhere near Lancaster, PA or Northern MD, and wants to get rid of an old, tuneless piano, let me know and I'll come get it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

spring flowers

The bluebells are blooming.

Monday, April 13, 2009

learning a new skill

On Saturday morning, I learned the basics of how to spin yarn using what's called a drop spindle. My motivation for learning this skill was to eventually be able to spin a bit of wool from Rose to be used as a decorative accent to the hat and hand warmers made from Jack's wool. Now normally even though I truly enjoy looking at and fondling beautiful fibers such as wool, actually knitting or sewing makes me pretty tense. And so while it was a skill I wanted to learn, I wasn't real excited about it. But happily it was quite a bit more fun than expected. Rather than being stressful, it's meditative and relaxing. Who'd have thought?

Anyway, in the photo above is my brand new "learners" spindle with my first-ever yarn wound around it. Behind it are some wool roving samples for me to practice with. Love, love, love that green!

I also learned a bit about carding as well as winding yarn into skeins and balls - all by hand using simple, beautifully crafted wooden tools. Just taking this one class took the mystery and intimidation out of creating yarn from the wool of my sheep. Which is kind of funny when you think about it - I've been using serious power tools for years, but twisting a bit of wool into string was beyond me. I suppose it's all what you're used to seeing in use. Which again, is kind of funny. Power tools such as table saws and belt sanders are a new invention compared to drop spindles, carders, and niddy-noddies (see, I'm learning the lingo!).

So if any of this sounds interesting or intrigues you, find someone to help you get started - you just might enjoy it more than you think. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

happy good friday and easter!

This little bird is wishing everyone a wonderful Easter weekend!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Etsy Easter update

Yesterday evening I uploaded several new items to my Etsy store, all with an Easter theme, so go ahead and take a look if you're the curious sort. You'll find these tiny carrot ornaments as well as several ceramic egg rattles. If you haven't checked Etsy out yet, you should. It's a fun place full of everything that is hand-crafted - no industrialized machine-made stuff there.

Have fun!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

the start of an orchard

A package arrived from the nursery last week and since it was so nice out yesterday, I decided to take a break from the computer and get outside and plant. Although there's not much to see, in the photo above there is a Concord grape vine (my all-time favorite grape), a Himrod white seedless table grape (new to me), and three black raspberries. Also in the package were two black currant bushes (photo below). All planted in the garden paddock.

Still on order are two filbert bushes. Partly because of space constraints in the garden area, the filberts, along with most of the fruit trees that are planned will be planted along the fences that divide the pasture into paddocks. There are several benefits to doing this: The trees will be able to be spread over a larger area, hopefully cutting down on pests; any fruit that drops can be eaten by the chickens, geese and sheep; aforementioned livestock will have additional shade; and it will be aesthetically pleasing. Please note that the real emphasis is on the aesthetically pleasing part of the equation. I envision these fence lines growing up in a mix of fruit and nut trees, roses, herbs, and native plants such as honeysuckle, allowing the wire fence itself to all but disappear. At least that's the plan. 

I can't wait.