Friday’s Farm: Meet Orion – The Jacob Merino Cross

Orion’s Story

It’s not often we have lambs on the farm. However, a few years ago Andromeda and Victor got together unexpectedly and created Orion. He was an unusually large lamb and his sister Minerva was just under a pound. Fortunately I was home because Andromeda needed assistance with the birth.

Orion, or Big Rye as he’s nicknamed, at three months old. He was already well over one hundred pounds and was the official peacemaker on the farm.

It became clear that Minerva would have to be a bottle lamb. Orion however stayed with his momma. By the time he was a month old he was our peacemaker. If anyone was picked on he was there ending the issue and comforting anyone who was upset. Our orphaned lamb would cry and Orion would suddenly appear to lick his head.

Orion has grown into an impressive wether. He’s nearly three hundred pounds, gentle, and all his flock mates seem to enjoy his company. He’s also quite handsome. He’ll never be a cuddle bug like his sister or my Black Iris. But every day he let’s me pat his head and will bob his head in appreciation when he gets corn. Even as a grown boy he follows his mom around like an oversized shadow. However, he’s taken quite a liking to is Aunt Good Night.

Orion and Good Night. Night is a solid 130 lbs. Just to give you an idea of his size. He wasn’t full grown here.

Orion’s Fleece

His fleece is interesting. It’s a little longer than the other Merinos. However, it’s ALMOST as soft as a typical Merino. I’d guess his micron count is around twenty one to twenty four. His color pattern is what’s interesting. I was surprised to find him spotted with tricolor spots. He’s produced a fleece that has grey, black, and smokey patches with white spots. However, coco brown is the main color. The other colors are sporadic and just blend into the brown. His fleece also has a more typical merino clump and dense lock structure. However there is some crimp in it. I’m experimenting with his fleece some. So far I’m pleased with both combing and hand carding his wool. His woolen is super bounce. I love bouncy sock yarn, and his fleece is perfect for it! Since my drum carder is only set up for medium to corse wools currently I haven’t tried a drum carder. His fleece comes out well as either woolen or worsted. If you are interested in his fleece, check out the Etsy shop www.kindfibers.etsy.com . All proceeds go directly to caring for our resident sanctuary animals.

My thoughts on Merino Jacob Crosses

If you are interested in a Merino Jacob cross as a wool pet I can tell you that my crosses are wonderful, hardy, healthy, personable critters. The fleece type varies. However, the quality does not. I’ve been pleased with the fleeces and with the finished products. Or, if you decide to open your land up to grazers in need of a home, this cross is a good choice. Other than minerals, winter hay, water, and a yearly shearing they require little care and are suitable for a novice. As always, if you decide to take one on, make sure it’s a life commitment. They are sentient beings with complex emotions that effect their health.

Until next time,

Craft no harm

Moriah and the flock

Friday’s Farm: Muscovy Ducks

A few years ago I was gifted with six adorable ducklings. They stayed in the house for weeks. I was sure a rat or snake would kill them in the barn or that a mink would drain them to death as one had done several of my geese. Finally, one summer day when they were up good sized I finally put them in the barn.

My little ducks turned out to be muscovys. I was thrilled. I first met muscovys in South America as a teenager. They were first domesticated by Native Americans during pre-Columbian times and I consider them an important part of true American history. Unlike many domesticated ducks these guys will actually roost on low tree branch or on roosts like chickens. They’re also bigger than European ducks, and much quieter.

In the wild muscovy ducks eat plants, little fish, frogs, and small reptiles. I’ve also found they enjoy eating ticks, mosquito larve, gnats, and will happily chase flies. While the farm does not allow the ducks access to a creek, it does have several low lying wet areas they love.

In addition to their foraged diet the resident ducks eat a whole grain ration. I’ve tried commercially milled crumbles and they simply don’t do well on it. The hatchlings tend to grow slower, pick up diseases easier and are generally not thrifty. Instead I feed a sweet grain mixture from the local Mennonite mill intended for cattle. They love it, thrive on it, and it’s only $6.50 for a fifty pound bag. I feed about a quart per five birds in the evening during the summer and fall. During the winter and early spring I provide an all you can eat buffet. Typically they double their consumption. I use an old goat trough to feed the adults and a shallow pan for ducklings. Overall, there is little waste.

All ducks need fresh water. They are called water fowl for a reason. These none quacking quackers are water hogs. Twenty birds can easily use 100 gallons a day between drinking, splashing, playing, and bathing. I’ve found that keeping a dry pen is impossible. Hay is my bedding choice and it needs to be changed often with the ducks. I use several waterers throughout the barn lot and one thirty gallon through for the adults to bathe in.

So far every single female has been broody and a successful broody momma. The clutches are usually between nine and fifteen live ducklings.

The three ducks I kept became forty within a year. They nest in places that are impossible to reach. So far every hen wants to be a new momma every three to four months. I sat down and did the math one day. I came up with seven thousand ducks in five years starting with one drake and one hen. They are prolific layers and breeders.

The drakes are territorial. Drake (yes, I’m super creative with names) killed every half grown male duckling housed with him one night. I was heart broken. He also killed a grown gander that attacked one of his females. Does that make him a bad drake? No. It makes him a muscovy drake. They fight and will kill rivals. Unless you plan to have multiple houses, plan on one drake. Drake has since been rehomed to goose and kill free home. His Sam has taken his place. Sam is slightly smaller and I need a break in the fertility department until next spring.

20180817_172924
Sam is the white one. I kept him and the little tiny black one. The rest were rehomed to a lovely home. This hatch was unplanned. Black ducky hides her nests…

I love my muscovy ducks. Why? Good question. They are quiet, friendly, and funny. In the two years I’ve had them my flea, mosquito, and tick problem has disappeared. And the eggs. I make part of my living baking. They are awesome layer and cost much less to keep than chickens. Duck eggs make better baked goods. I also find them to be more predator savvy. And there’s just something about watching them dance in excitement every morning that takes me back to my first adventure as a young woman. They remind me to keep those fresh eyes experiencing the wonders of a greater world for the first time.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the flock

Winding up Wednesday: The Babe Production Wheel – A Review

* I am in no way associated with Babe spinning wheels. I’m just reviewing what I like and don’t like about my wheel.

In 2012 I FINALLY got my first spinning wheel. She’s an antique wheel from The Netherlands. I call her Abigail. I love spinning on her, but for serious spinning she’s just not sturdy enough.

And that’s why in 2014 I bought Josephine – my Babe Production Wheel. I decided on a Babe because it was the cheapest option for a double treadle wheel I could fine at the time. I thought about building one, but then I realized by the time I bought the racing wheel chair wheel, the pipes, etc, I’d pay almost as much for some aggravation without a return policy. No thanks.

My Babe arrived one afternoon and within half an hour I was spinning happily. Not too bad for three hundred dollar plumbing pipes and spare parts. So, let me start by telling you what I DON’T like about my wheel. (And don’t tell Josephine, it would hurt her feelings!)

The built in lazy Kate is kind of a joke. I mean, it’s great in a snap, but there’s no way to REALLY flow with properly tensions singles while plying. Over time I’ve learned to adapt, but the dollar store basket with my bobbins on knitting needles still wins.

It’s plastic. Yes. I know, I bought a plastic wheel. It’s not a major issue, but it’s not PRETTY. It’s not sustainable.

It makes an awful racket when I’m winding off a bobbin straight onto my skein winder while said bobbin is on the wheel. No matter how much oil I feed her, she still complains.

Don’t try to do art yarns on this model. They make a bulky wheel for a reason!

Now, onto the likes!

Overall this wheel spins pretty smooth. I think it’s the ball barings. It’s easy to start and stop, speed up and slow down. I like that!

Another fave feature is the double treadle. My calves are even and if I sprain an ankle I can still spin. Considering it’s typically my right ankle I sprain, that’s a big bonus.

The bobbins are a perfect size. Four ounces is a comfortable size for an afternoon of spinning. Of course, if you’re up for a good game of bobbin chicken six ounces is doable.

The company makes spinning bobbins and plying bobbins. The plying bobbins are hard to miss since they’re bright red and bigger than the others. Since the whorl speed is determined by the bobbin size you can really control the ply twist angle easily. This creates a very consistent ply.

What I really enjoy is that in three and a half years of spinning on this wheel I’ve not had one break down, one problem, one broken drive band. I oil it regularly and spin three to eight hours daily. That’s allot of wear with no problems.

Overall, I’m pleased with my Babe. If you’re looking to get into spinning without shelling our almost a grand it’s definitely worth the investment.

That’s it for thisweek’s Winding up Wednesday.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

Monday’s Musings: Quiet Time and Balance

My family has a wonderful tradition of easing into the morning. We get up, lounge in our house clothes, drink coffee, plan the day, pray, meditate, read, and linger in the stillness. Of course, this necessitates early rising, but it’s well worth it. Four a.m. is a wonderful time.

We also have a tradition of the mid day nap. Now, I’m not big on the napping part, but I am becoming a fan of the restful part as I slowly begin to age. We also wind down and relax before sleep. We chat, read, meditate, or in my case journal and listen to music while reflecting on the day.

You’re probably thinking we don’t get much done. Quite the opposite is true. Or that farm life must be exhausting and boring. It can be tough occasionally, but not really harsh. And farm life is never boring. No, my family has self care built into its fabric. This self care carries over into other areas.

It’s so easy to over extend ourselves into exhaustion, frustration, and self harm. We become tired, short tempered, and we slowly begin to compromise ourselves. This leads to compromises in how we interact with others, our work, and ultimately our life goals and dreams.

These past few weeks have been tough weeks. The freezes meant hauling water by hand, gallon after gallon to the animals. Now that it’s warm we are hauling tons of manure to the garden one wheelbarrow load at a time. My tablet’s power port broke. I have been staving off the flu going around and my body needed extra rest. I could have pushed myself into heroic self sacrifice mode, fixed the tablet, stayed up late writing and filming. But I chose a different path.

You see, I can’t live a life of kindness and integrity while denying myself kindness through self care, nor can I practice self care while ignoring my core responsibilities. Our culture seems bent on two conflicting modes at one time.

One is a never ending drive to produce. Our cell phones are constantly attached, we respond to emails and messages at every hour of the night and day, we work late, need overtime, and just can’t seem to turn off work and enjoy our relationships and time.

The other mode is play mode. We become so wrapped up in pleasure and rest that we end up just as burnt out emotionally as when we over extend ourselves. We sleep in, lounge to the point of ignoring responsibility, and act without consciousness towards others. To me, this also is self harm.

The challenge is to become mindful of work and play. To be within the moment while still practicing compassionate awareness of ourselves and others. To care for ourselves, to play, and to be productive with balance. It’s a choice, a habit of cultivating self directed kindness each day before we head into the world.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

Sunday’s Sassy Stitch and Spin: Tramp Cat and Mittens 

*This post was started weeks ago, but due to technical difficulties it’s just now getting finished and posted. Now to figure out how to replace a charging port…

I am blessed with three good barn cats. They do their job and are sociable with people as well as the sheep. I fact, they often nap with the ewes and out tom Clive loves to go out to the big field with the flock on a sunny day. So, with the cold weather we’ve kept them in carriers in the house at night. The strange thing: we’ve heard a lot of bumps under the house.

Sophie Ann LaClaire is a hybrid someone put out. As far as she’s concerned we’re BFFs.

Now, bumps under the house are normal when Otis, the resident possum, is doing his cat impression at night. He and Sophie the cat are besties. But this is something larger, and well, doesn’t smell like Otis. All the critters have been on edge and I’ve been bracing myself, concerned the foxes had made a new den. But no. It’s a big orange cat tramping around, looking for food. Now that the mystery is solved I can rest a little netter and concentrate on my night knitting.

Cloe. When it’s super cold I let her sleep on the foot of the bed… where she actually stays.

On the Wheel

My piles of Romney fleeces are spinning up nicely. Spinning in the grease means no prep time. Usually I spin up a pound of prepared with plying included in fourteen to fifteen hours (and I’ve done it in a single insane day). When I spin in the grease my average is half a pound in eighteen hours. However, it usually takes me about twice that long to really prep the fibers. So, with the massive cold front still clinging to the country, it’s enjoyable to not scour.

Off the wheel

I completed my mitten spinning! I wasn’t sure about mixing the courser Targhee and Jacob wool with my gorgeous fawn alpaca. But I’m truly pleased. The alpaca really softened up what is traditionally sock yarn in my house.I had planned to felt, but it’s thick, warm, and comfortable just like it is.

Since the mitten yarn came out so nice I dug out the coveted Hopkins fluff left over from combing on my viking combs. Most people toss it, but, well, that’s not my style. I picked through it to get out the neps and noils, then got busy with the hand carders. I’m even more pleased with the softness of this yarn. I may snag Go Lightly’s fleece this year from my neighbor. He’s Hopkins’s son and the fleece is very similar. In short, I want to reproduce this blend for both color and texture.

On the Needles

I’m finishing up my mittens. Honestly, I’m not sure what to knit next. I know I’ll need a sweater next year, and maybe a hooded cowl, but otherwise the household is set on knit wear for a few years barring mice and moths. And, I’ve got to concentrate on spinning and weaving along with up coming farm work for spring.

Off the Needles

I made two new hats for chores. They’re leftovers from other past projects. I didn’t use a pattern. Both are knitted flat and then stitched up the side. My ears are much happier!

Out of the Pot

Last autumn when it was Kavass making season I tried dyeing with beets. I crave a red dye that’s deep and substantial. However, beets are not a color fast dye. So now I have a three pound Jacob fleece with a weird yellowish cast coupled with pink streaks. Not good.

Last week I pulled out my dye pot and cherry koolaid. Can I just say “Yummy”? I’m calling it Cherry Cola Float. The red with hints of the Jacob browns with just hints of pinks and whites is so lovely. With the puni style rolags I added a touch of firestar. When I’m done working up this batch they’ll being the Etsy shop. I’m thinking next is green, or yellow. I feel a soda themed color way collection coming on!

Weaving

My little wrap is off the loom.

Even though it’s off the loom, the work isn’t over.

I’m warping for a double width throw blanket. Frankly, I AM NERVOUS. This is my first time using only my best handspun to double width. But hey, slow and steady wins the race, and that’s my plan.

Hopefully my technical issues are resolved.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

Sunday’s Sassy Stitch and Spin: It’s all Ducky

Unfortunately, I didn’t get this week’s Friday’s Flock posting done because I rehomed a whopping thirty one ducks to a farm in Dixon, Tennessee. It was sweet seeing them meet the other geese and ducks, and a relief that the feed bill is essentially cut in two. My remaining six duck hens are with the chickens, and the drake is now bunking with the geese. Hopefully this way I’ll get to enjoy the eggs, and not have them breeding like, well, ducks all over the farm. But, I did make progress on the knitting and spinning projects.

Duckys

On the Wheel

I’m still spinning Romney in the grease. In fact, I found another fleece in my studio in what I thought was an empty bin. However, the carding on the alpaca and wool mittens is coming along well. Originally, the plan was for seventy percent wool and thirty percent alpaca. Then I  realized i want them even warmer. So, it’s a fifty fifty blend. I ran out of jacob wool, so instead I’m finishing up with black targee. It’s not as soft, and boy is it high in vm. But the color matches, and it should felt nicely.  It goes on the wheel this evening!

On the Needles 

My mom loves handspun socks for slippers around the house. I wanted to have them done last week, but it didn’t happen.  Between hay runs, freezing weather, a ewe coming up pregnant, Christmas dinner, moving into the main house for the remainder of the winter, and ducks, they just didn’t get done. Oh, and they needed resizing in the toe. Like, serious resizing. We got a good laugh. So, this one is almost done, and then it’s mitten time!

Off the Needles 

Technically, this was done last Monday. However, it was a gift and a surprise. It was supposed to be a sheep, but I think it’s more bear than sheep. I’ve never made a stuffed animal before.  Not bad for a first go. It was fun to make, and maybe there will be more in the future.  Maybe. But he is super cute.

Digital Camera
Chesca’s Lamb turned Bear!

On the Loom

I did get the loom warped! This time I’m making a wrap. It’s acrylic, but this piece needs to be washable. It’s just a simple tabby weave, and it’s coming along quickly.

Well, I’m off on another hay run and to muck the stalls.

Until next time,

In all you do, craft no harm.

Moriah

PS. If you enjoyed this post don’t forget to like it and follow.  It really helps us out.

Winding up Wednesday: The Sacre Couer Shawl by Nim Teasdale 

This past week I made the Sacre Couer shawl by Nim Teasdale. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry. I actually started this shawl in August,  but lacking yarn, I had to make it a spinning project before it could continue as a knitting project.

Week before last I finally got around to spinning up enough yarn to finish my little shawllette. When I sat down to finish I discovered a dropped stitch that wasn’t easily corrected.  I also decided to change the colorway. So, I embraced my inner Kermit and frogged the whole thing, and bought some beads. This is my first beaded project. 

The pattern 

The pattern is very flexible. It’s designed to make anything from a small shawllette or scarf to a full cuddle up with a throw sized shawl. Since this piece was always destined for the Etsy shop, I decided on a shawllette / scarf size. 

There are two options for the cast on. The first is a garter tab, which is not my style. The second is to cast on nine stitches. So, me and the Old Norwegian cast on got busy. The beginning section sets up the correct number of stitches to begin knitting the Arch Lace section. This is one area where the shawl is flexible. I like the fact there is a chart of how many set up stitches you need before knitting the first lace chart. It took the math out, and that’s always nice. 

The Arch Lace section was easy to knit through while watching a documentary on the christening of Edward, the Boy King. I did two complete repeats, and then the first eight rows again before moving onto the Stain Glass lace chart.

Uh? What?

And that’s where this shawl took a left turn. Well, specifically it took a left turn at a downhill gallop heading into a fence with a busted bridle at row nine. No matter how many times I knitted and frogged, I just couldn’t get it to work. It became a jumbled mess. I even frogged out the Stain Glass section twice and started again. Finally I decided to stop before building a bonfire, dancing about like a mad woman, and using the pattern instructions to light shawl and knitting needles ablaze. 

I finished out the piece to row nine, and used a 3/5 picot bind off. Then I blocked the entire piece, and breathed a happy sigh of relief. 

Good Parts and Lessons 

I really do like the way this came out. I do plan to use the pattern again, up to row nine, that is. I’m wondering if there is a misprint in the pattern. Overall, it’s well written. I printed the pattern off ages ago, so it’s very possible it’s been corrected. Or, it could just be a case of my dyslexia kicking in, which is very possible. 

It was also good to try beading. Beading definitely slows knitting down. It basically doubles the time. So, unless it’s a wedding piece, beads just aren’t happening in my studio. If you do bead work,  bless you. You’re a more patient soul than mine.

My big take away is the next time I decide to do a lace pattern I’ll use an acrylic test yarn before breaking open my handspun. Test knits aren’t just for designing. Fortunately everything turned out well and this lesson wasn’t too costly. 

Until Friday,

In all you do, craft no harm 

Moriah 

Ps. Don’t forget to like our posts and subscribe! It really does help us out.