09 February 2015

Mini Farm Update

As usual, production has been underway in several mediums at my home. Though outdoors, it seems that everything is asleep under a deep blanket of snow, there's movement there.

My first beehive is still alive. After going wild last spring, its queen died unexpectedly in July. Under strict orders from my bee teachers, I left the hive alone for a month, and was delighted to learn find on next inspection that a new queen had taken over. Then, in the fall, I couldn't find her or any indication that she'd been at work laying eggs. Once again, my bee teachers convinced me to let the hive go, and check for her again in the spring. Last week, I opened the hive to drop add a top feeder of sugar water, and was nearly covered with bees in moments. I take this as a good sign.

Materials arrived in the mail this week for a second hive, and a friend will be housing her eight bar langstroth with me while away for the next year in New Zealand.

Our chickens, after years of not giving us eggs during the winter months, have decided to earn their keep on our little farm this year as well. We've been getting two-three each day from our elder Buff Orpingtons and our new girl, a Silver-laced Wyandotte. Though the Easter eggers dropped a couple of blue eggs over the Holidays, they have held off from joining in the egg laying frenzy of our other girls.

Indoors, I'm spinning one bobbin per week. A couple of weeks ago, I finished six hanks of red, orange, and multicolor triple plied on my old Ladybug. I'm using a little to do a framed piece, which will remain under wraps for some additional time, until I'm ready to share. Otherwise, I'm midway through spinning a triple ply with shades of blue. I need to fill one more bobbin, then a week of rest before plying.

I'm also piecing a new quilt for my mother-in-law. She was quite attached to her original bed quilt, with ranging floral pattern, pieced in two inch squares. We did a day's worth of shopping to finally go online for a fabric evocative of the original. That chosen, I'm creating large flowers with the piecing. I'll share my progress soon.

The thought of flowers returns me to the outdoors. With our high tunnel in place, we are hoping to move up the planting schedule for our veggies by one month. This, of course, means that I must move up the schedule for planting seeds indoors, meaning some planting in February.

A look at our canning pantry and some of the failed crops of last year tells me that I need to switch up our planting strategy on a number of fronts. Firstly, we were blessed with too many squash. I want to plant some different varieties and definitely not any more than last year. Also, our eggplants (30 plants) were a complete bust. They didn't ripen in time. I thought our 36 tomato plants were too much, but a look at my pantry suggests that we need that many to get through the winter, especially the crushed kind.

This year, I want to try some beans and I'd like to do a bumper crop of onions, garlic and shallots in the second 24 ft by 12 ft plot that we didn't even hit last year.

Then, there's the perennial gardens. I have a new space around the patio put in last year that will be my next canvas. I can already envision some sedge and native grasses in that spot...

28 October 2013

Steeks! Eek!

In honor of the Halloween holiday, Id like to share my recently completed project, the third in my collection of colorful vests from Medeival Knits. This project required steeking, something that still strikes fear in my heart at the mention.

The finished product. 
This is a shoulder steek, pre- snip. 
This is the inside, post snip. I have folded back the steeks and sewed them to the inside.
Here's the inside of the completed sweater. 

07 September 2013

Adventures in Dyeing

Recently, several of my dyestuff plants came into season.

I did the chokecherry dye a couple of weeks ago. My boys, 3 and 5, did much of the picking.
Dyed Pink

I also picked sunflowers and and wild coreopsis for a deep yellow. In fact, I liked it enough to do two loads, of which the first was brighter than the second.
Now, I'm finished with yarns for Jack and Betsy.


10 August 2013

Outdoor Adventures

From Spring, which starts in Laramie in June, to Fall, which also visits us early, Blake and I spend a lot of time outside on too many projects. We love to garden and landscape, but we also like to try to bring a homespun version of materials to our hobbies through our outdoor projects. I try to grow dyestuffs for my spun yarn and fresh veg for Blake's cooking.

Last summer, Blake and my big project was a garden on the side of our house between our wellhouse and our fence to the backyard. Over the years, we've come up with a good separation of outdoor duties: Blake is team leader on all hardscaping, while I lead the selection of the plants, weeding and management. To close off the space and make it feel secluded in our front yard, Blake built a pergola and we filled in the side next to the wellhouse with current bushes. (Blake was convinced that we killed them last year, but they came back this year with vigor.) Right away, this space became our little tea garden. This morning, Blake observed two hummingbirds enjoying the space too.

The view of our side garden from beneath the pergola.

Our other project last year was establishing our chicken flock. We bought four birds in the spring, two barred rocks and two buff orpingtons, and converted the goat enclosure to a chicken run, complete with cute house from our friend Annie, who had sent her birds to a no-kill farm while she went on sabbatical. Over the summer, Blake added a second larger house to protect them from the wind and cold during our frigid Wyoming winters. 
Inside our chicken run. 

The girls on their afternoon free range.
This year, most of our plants came back, after surviving a very cold winter. I still felt the need to add a few more plants, like lupine and hollyhock from seed and some annuals and new perennials from the garden store.  We also bought some pretty accents and started a fairy garden with the kids. 

Everett pointing to the fairy bridge and mini bicycle. 

Another fairy corner.

This summer, most of Blake's hardscaping energies haven't been available to me since he's been building a bread oven in the backyard. This is a dream of his. He still needs to finish the roof and a sandstone facade on the bottom, but we're already very close to a working oven. Next summer, we're planning a stamped cement patio, coming off of the oven, as well as surrounding pergolas and gardens.

Speaking of next summer, we are planning to fence off a space in the back of the pasture for a garden with a greenhouse and sheep shed in front.
The space. 

We got started on the garden space with our first two of four rows of wine grapes (Blake vints and brews in addition to making bread. We love yeast!) We ordered these grapes from a supplier in Iowa, who is licensed to sell Marquette and Frontenac grapes, which were developed by our alma mater, the University of Minnesota, to be cold hardy down to the negative 30s. Next summer, we're adding the Frontenac Gris varietal too.

Without Blake available to help get my back garden space going, I decided to experiment with a couple of techniques for gardening veggies. I did a lasagna garden with some plants that I hoped our ground squirrels wouldn't eat in the big ugly bed that came with the property. What a failure! Our ground squirrels may not of mowed them down, like last year, but our chickens ate everything. I gave up on this pretty early.  

I also did three square foot garden, which on the whole were most more successful. I surrounded one with chicken wire around the side leaving the top open for tall plants. I covered another completely with removable chicken wire, and I did a third in a wild area of our front yard with a tube top on that would allow for me to put on a frost/ sun cover for greens.

A square foot garden.
In the garden, I included several flowering plants for dyeing, but fortunately we also have several native and pre-McGee planted plants in the pasture that will be used for dying as well.


24 July 2013

So Many Projects

This afternoon, my husband walked into my studio, and I tried unsuccessfully to tell him about all of the projects I've undertaken as of late. A friend of mine told me that she is so good at coming up with projects and getting them started that she could do that for a career. I remember thinking when she told me that that I am quite opposite, always finishing what I begin, but I was lying to myself. I may finish projects, but it is now taking me longer and longer because I have been picking up projects like cat hair on black pants.

Currently underway:

Spinning: in preparation for a spinning class I'm co-teaching this fall, I am trying to locate several spinning wheels for participants while also boning up on the woolen draft. As a worsted drafter, this is causing stress.

Dying: I am now waiting for more plants I've planted to bloom so that more colors are possible. One can't speed nature!

Weaving: I am working on my first non-experimental project on my Cricket rigid heddle loom.

Sewing: I have three - maybe four quilts underway, while I take a break from garment construction. Two baby quilts, a transport themed quilt for Everett and a Dr. Seuss Grinch quilt for the holidays.

Knitting: I'm finishing up the entrelac neck wrap in yellow and working on the Saint's Vest.

23 July 2013

New Horizons

I've completed two of the three classes of my entrelac course for Cowgirl Yarn in Laramie, so I'm pondering my next step. After my last class, I had a short term hankering to teach entrelac, but another idea was in my mind and has only solidified since then: a class on the whole process of making a sweater using the Ann Budd sweater book, part online knit-along, part in class sessions at the crucial junctures. This class will be great for almost everyone: from the person who's pretty new to knitting, to the person who has made sweaters before from pattern but never designed, to the person who's done it all but never mastered getting the right gauge and fit.

I envision three phases:

1. Design and Fit: 2 in-person classes at Cowgirl yarn

  • Design for all using Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns 
  • Get the perfect fit: gauging and swatching
  • Use a favorite yarn or yarns for the desired effect
  • Stitch dictionaries: your new best friend
  • A quick blog lesson: the ins and outs of the online knit-along
2. Knit-along: online with in-person check-in opportunities
  • During the lengthy process of knitting garment pieces, participate in an online knit-along
  • See your classmates' progress on their knit projects
  • Share your own successes and struggles through online posts and pictures
  • Get online advice and see helpful videos and resources from the instructor
  • I'll plan to hold periodic office hours to check-in with participants who need a little in-person help.
3. Finishing: 2 in-person classes
  • Focus on seaming and finishing techniques
  • Learn several blocking techniques to provide the right finish for your project
I've been doodling the project I would complete as part of this class and have come up with a UW Letterman's sweater in brown and gold, just in time for fall. I can't wait.

Here's a picture of the sweater I'd like to make with the class:

09 July 2013

Entrelac Class

Thursday night, I start teaching my second class at Cowgirl Yarn, the entrelac neck wrap. Entrelac is a way of knitting interlocking rectangles in such a way as to make a tube or rectangle. Essentially, it's a great way to keep the excitement in one's needles while knitting  in a pretty traditional shape. I've knit baby blankets, a lace shawl and now a neck wrap using the method.

This also allows me to provide a method with a mix of intermediate/beginner techniques by writing a pattern with a standard stockinette stitch and a more complex lace variation. Of course, this involves going through my own design process, which starts with the idea, followed by me knitting, frogging, knitting and forgging some more. I finally wrote out the pattern, and then knit a second piece, trying to find the errata.

I'm also planning to post additional tips and information for the class on a private blog that participants can post in with their progress if they'd like.  (This is in part an experiment to see how this works, as I'd like to do a hybrid in person/ online class on knitting one's first sweater this fall.)

Here's the info: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e7p7x4phe838f610

Here are examples of some of my past entrelac projects:

My wedding shawl

A baby blanket