Sunday Homestead Update

We had a cold, wet week of snow and rain.  It is looking to be warmer this week, which we are looking forward to.  There is so much to get done outside, it is hard to be held back by weather and watch the to-do list pile up.

Garden

We got a bunch of snow this week, so our garden plans were pushed back a bit.  Hopefully we will be able to get the seedlings out this week on a sunny day under their tents and wall-o-waters for protection.  We got the wall-o-waters full and they are waiting for the plants to be ready.  I am putting the plants out a little bit each day to harden them off.  They should be ready by mid-week to move if the weather holds.

Chickens

The search for the thin-shelled egg layer (which is causing egg eating because it breaks) continues.  We have narrowed it down to 3 birds and are working at figuring out exactly who it is.  Of course, two of those three are my favorite birds – why is that always the case?  Sigh.  During the process we also figured out which hen is pecking at everyone’s backs and balding them, and which hens are eating the thin-shelled eggs.  Once we have all the information we will decide what to do next.

Knitting

I haven’t wanted to work on anything special lately, just mindless knitting with quick results.  So I have continued on the mitered squares for the scrap afghan.  Here are the 15 from last week.  I have 5 more done now as well.

School

We are almost done with our school year, which is fun and exciting.  I have been working on some plans for next school year.  It is nice to get preliminary planning done now, while the successes and failures of this year are fresh, so that I can remember the changes I want to make.  Then a couple weeks before we start again I will pull out the plans I made and do the final prep and planning.  I have also solidified our summer plans.  We do much better when we keep somewhat of a routine in summer, but with more free time and flexibility.  If we have no plan and no routine we all end up bored and grouchy.  So I have that ready for the summer and we are all looking forward to it.

Willow Creek Fiber Mill

The mill has really taken off the last few weeks and we have gone from a 6-week wait time to a 6-month wait time.  The fiber is pouring in like crazy and it is very fun and exciting.  We sorted through over 100 bags of fleece that arrived this weekend and did all the intake paperwork for them and put them up.

And the beautiful yarn pouring out is even more fun and exciting.  I love seeing what Mtn Man creates and all the different yarns.  Each fleece is truly unique and thus so is each batch of yarn.

Mtn Man only has a few weeks left running multiple businesses and then we will be living our dream of him milling full time!  What a blessing!

Sunday Homestead Update

We have spent most of the first month of the year dealing with surgeries and hospitalizations.  But things seem to be calming a bit and yesterday we were able to have a “normal homestead Saturday.”  Which for us means working on projects in the home and on the homestead.  This time it was in the home, in the basement to be exact.

Since there are 7 of us we buy a lot of food in bulk, especially our flours because we are Gluten-Free as well.  We also home-can a LOT each fall.  So in the basement we have another refrigerator/freezer, as well as a pantry area for our overflow bulk food, flours in buckets, and home-canned food.  It was previously a temporary mix of different shelves and cabinets from here or there.  But yesterday we built the real and final basement pantry.  We are very happy with how it turned out!

Normally, by this time of year we wouldn’t even be halfway through the home-canned goods.  But as you can see by all the empty jars, that is not the case this year.  That is because we didn’t can even close to as much as we usually do last fall.  Hopefully next fall it will be all full of FULL jars, not empty.

Chickens

The two old hens we put in their own pen were only laying one egg a week, so we did end up butchering them this week.  We have 18 hens, 3 chicks (we are guessing 2 cockerels and 1 pullet), and 1 rooster.  We also moved all the hens into the upper coop together to consolidate our flock to make winter barn chores easier.  So now all the hens and chicks are in the upper coop and barnyard, and the rooster is in the grow pen in the barn so he doesn’t tear the girls backs up.  The lower coop and the Mama Hen Pen are currently empty.  Come spring we will rearrange again for breeding season.

The last change we made this week was to move the water trough and set it up in a way that the birds can drink from it but not fall in.  Previously it was set up so that if they did fall in they could climb out, but in freezing weather, as we learned last week, that doesn’t work because a wet chicken is a dead chicken.  It is very convenient to use the trough with its de-icer in the winter, but we didn’t want any more chick-falling-in-freezing-and-dying scenarios like last week.  So now that is fixed as well.

Knitting

Here it is!  The cabled cardigan I have been working on for months.  The pattern is Let Go by Joji Locatelli.  The yarn is a special yarn Mtn Man made for me from a fleece he bought me for our anniversary.  I call it Sandstorm because that was the name of the sheep.  It is a thicker and somewhat coarse wool, so this cardigan will be perfect fall and spring outerwear.

I am really excited about this sweater and pretty happy with how it turned out.  There is only one problem…when I blocked it the length shrunk.  Probably because I was really trying to be sure the cables opened good and wide.  So I will be putting it back on the needles and lengthening it because I have plenty more yarn and if I am going to spend months making a cardigan for myself I ought to LOVE it when I am done.

I love the pattern so much that I have already cast on another one.  This one is with a much finer yarn that is a deep purple, silk/merino wool blend from Knitpicks.  It will be a much lighter, very soft, more indoor-wear cardigan.  I will have two VERY different cardigans made from one pattern.

After casting on the new sweater I noticed my pile of project bags and WIPs (works in progress) was pretty big, and that made me feel like I needed to get some of the smaller, almost finished projects done before I spend too much time on the sweater.  So I am doing a knit-WIP-down, starting with finishing my hat.

This pattern is Jason’s Cashmere Hat by Melissa Thomson.  I used 100% Alpaca yarn for the first time ever.  Mtn Man made the yarn in the mill for a customer and I liked it so much I bought a couple skeins from her (the benefits of owning your own custom fiber processing mill!).  I love, love, love the grey color with lighter and darker fibers mixed together and I am seriously considering reserving the fleece off this particular alpaca this year so that I can make a sweater.  I am just not sure how alpaca wears and washes.  Anyone know?  Does it pill easily and get worn out?  Because my life is a little too active for high-maintenance clothing right now.

Willow Creek Fiber Mill

Speaking of the benefits of owning your own custom fiber processing mill…have I ever mentioned how cool it is for a knitting-crazy gal like me to have a husband who makes custom yarn for a living?  Well it is REALLY cool.  And it is kind of funny, but also cool because he is such a burly Mtn Man that is outdoorsy and hunts and builds anything you can imagine, and yet he is really skilled at making something as soft, fine, and un-burly (new word, add it to the dictionary) as beautiful custom yarn.

As I mentioned above, one benefit is that I get to see all types and styles of yarn come through the mill, and then, when I see one I really like, I get the opportunity to buy it from the customer.  Fun, fun!

This week Mtn Man processed some of the fleece from our sheep (that we don’t own anymore, so it is nice to be able to still be using some of their fleece even though they are gone now).  This particular one is from Fiona, our white CVM/Merino, and he blended it with purple bamboo.  It is fingering weight and I am seeing socks and hats in my daydreams about this yarn.  I LOVE how it turned out and can’t wait to get it on the needles.

He only did a small part of her fleece, giving me about 900 yards of this yarn.  Now we have to decide if we want more of this, or if we want to do something else with the rest of the fleece.  I LOVE my yarn-making Mtn Man!

Sunday Homestead Update

We have been oh-so-sick this week.  Croup, strep, and pneumonia.  Very.  Sick.  But thankfully everyone is improving and the terrible part is over.  By next SHU we should be recovered and doing much better.

Knitting

Mr. Smiles couldn’t sleep in any position except on our chests in the recliner for 4 days, so Mtn Man and I took turns overnight and Sunshine and Young Man also pitched in a few times during the day.  But for the most part he was in my arms or asleep on my chest all day for four days.  Thankfully, I was able to do some knitting when he was asleep, because I was getting very antsy and bored.

Dog Yarn?

We had an interesting “first” in the mill this week.  We made our first dog hair yarn.  The hair came from a standard poodle, and was mixed 50% with wool from a Lincoln Longwool sheep.  It turned out really cool.

The dog hair definitely needed plenty of support from the Longwool, but it is indeed possible to make dog hair into yarn.  It turned out pretty and is quite soft – softer than I expected.

Snow

We got a good 15-inch dump of snow this week.  It is safe to say fall weather is gone and winter weather has arrived here in the Rockies.  Last year was a very long, mild fall, this year it was short and colder.

We still really need to get the firewood chopped and stacked for the winter, but illness put that off for now.

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel successfully hatched out 4 chicks.  That is a pretty low percentage, considering she started with 10, but that sometimes happens with hatching, especially at high altitude.  And the cold weather could have something to do with it as well.

But I am happy about the four.  We don’t usually hatch in the fall, and with winter cold arriving early I think it will be good for her to only have four because it will be easier for her to successfully keep them all warm even as they grow.

Sewing

I have started working on the Winter/Christmas cloth placemat and napkin set.  Once I finish them I will have all four seasonal sets done!

While I have been working on those, Little Miss and Sunshine have taken it upon themselves to make matching trivet pads with the scraps from all the seasonal sets we have made.  When I cut the placemats’ corners off, we end up with a lot of little triangle scraps from the two different placemat fabrics for each season.

We felt like it would be wasteful to just throw those out, so the girls are piecing them together (there are a million different ways to arrange 36 triangles), adding a couple of layers of batting, using the larger scraps of fabric for the back, and making these cool trivet pads that will coordinate with each of my placemat/napkin sets.

Here is a peek at the Autumn/Thanksgiving set, which we are currently using.  These are the pads they made:

Which go with these placemats and napkins.  Left is Autumn, and right is Thanksgiving:

Once I finish the Winter/Christmas set, I will do a post that shows all four different sets, and the trivet pads that go with them.  If you are interested in finding out how we make these, you can click here for the post that shows how.

Homestead Update – We are Back – Part 2

After a full month of no blogging, there is quite a bit to catch up on…the update continues…with all things fiber-related!

Willow Creek Fiber Mill

Our business, Willow Creek Fiber Mill, which we opened in May of this year, is doing very well.  Mtn Man absolutely loves processing all the different fibers into beautiful roving and yarn for customers.  It is so amazing to be able to go to work and create something beautiful and love every minute of it each day!

In the last couple of weeks we have had several large deliveries of fiber to be processed.  It is fun to see all the different fleece that come through.

We have been able to attend, and will continue to attend, several fiber festivals this fall around the western part of the country, which has been very fun.  We have met a lot of great people, picked up a lot of great fiber, and made some great business connections.

Alpaca Yarn

Alpaca Yarn

Lately, Mtn Man has been running a lot of alpaca and goat mohair through the mill.  So many beautiful skeins of yarn!  It is fun to see each fleece as it becomes the yarn it is going to be…different colors, textures, thicknesses…each is unique.

Angora Goat Yarn

We have a lot of very nice fleece come through, but occasionally there is one that I absolutely fall in love with.  One of those that I loved was called “Sandstorm” and was from a sheep raised at Notlwonk Springs farm in Idaho.  Mtn Man, being the sweet guy that he is, contacted the owner and for our wedding anniversary bought me a fleece from them and then said he would process it however I wanted it.  What a great gift for a fiber-lovin’ gal!

I perused a lot of patterns and decided to make it into a cardigan, using the pattern called Let Go by Joji Locatelli.  So I told him what weight yarn I needed and he made the yarn for me.  He just finished it this week and I ended up with 11 skeins of DK weight yarn.  The skeins are 250 yds each, so when I am done I will have enough for another project as well, or I might sell it.

I am really excited about starting this project.  I made a gauge swatch and hope to start knitting this week.  I love the sandy color of the yarn, and the luster is beautiful.  Photos don’t do it justice.  The photos with the gauge swatch in it are closer in accuracy to the color of the yarn, but the other two photos show its luster better.

Knitting

I have been playing around with the Fibonacci stripe pattern on a couple pair of socks lately.

The first pair is for my friend.  The stripe pattern didn’t show up very clearly because I used a variegated yarn as one of the stripe colors.  But I still feel like they ended up bright and fun!

The second pair started out as a basic Fibonacci stripe pattern on the leg, but since I was making them for Little Miss, and she absolutely loves toe socks, I decided to try my hand at making some toe socks for her.  I took my glove pattern and tweaked it here and there and ended up with some adorable toe socks that Little Miss is crazy about!

I have been working on making the Heel Head Scarf pattern by Carissa Browning using some yarn that came from our farm and was processed in our mill!  This will be the first item I will finish making yarn that is not only from our livestock, but also was processed here at Willow Creek Fiber Mill.  I have made items before from our own wool, but it was handspun yarn.  This yarn was made from wool from our black CVM ewe, named Violet, and white fiber from our English Angora rabbit, Oliver.  We call the yarn “Violiver” after both of them. 🙂

I have one side of the scarf and most of the hood done, I am almost to the other side of the scarf.  It is going to be SO warm and oh-so-soft!  I can’t wait to wear it this winter.  I love the simple cables that go along it.

Sunday Homestead Update

Feels like summer around here!  Beautiful sunny days, early afternoon showers, and cool, fresh evenings.  We are enjoying all our regular summer activities – gardening, animals, popsicles, sprinklers, hiking, crafts, farm projects, reading, visitors, outings….etc.

Garden

June is the time of year for hail in the Rockies.  Knowing this, I have left my WOWs on the tomato and squash plants longer than necessary just to try to protect them from the hail as long as possible.  This week we had a doozie of a storm, and thankfully there was very little garden damage because of the WOWs, plus the pest control fabric over the cabbage, lettuce, spinach, turnips, and beets.  We were home when it happened, so we ran outside and threw sheets over the strawberry patch, the few tomatoes that were unprotected, and the celery.  So almost everything was spared from the storm.  The rhubarb and beans did sustain a lot of damage, as well as many of the herb seedlings we had just put out into the garden.  Thankfully we still have several herb seedlings indoors under the grow lights.  We will put them out in a few weeks when the major hail danger has passed.

Thankfully, somehow the grapevines didn’t get hurt.  I think the angle of the hail was slanted enough that the patio roof protected them.  The older vine is doing SO well this year.  It has about 50 flower clusters on it.  Hopefully, some of those will turn into grapes for us.  Our goal for the younger vine is just for it to grow and spread this year, it is still very small and not doing as well as the older one.

I love the purple chive flowers each year – so pretty!

The cabbage are all very happy in their tent tunnels.  The fabric and arches for the tunnels have been quite an annoyance and need constant upkeep, but they seem to be helping thus far and they definitely protected them from the hail damage.

Heritage Arts

The girls and I decided to clean out and organize the craft room.  In the process we found several half-finished projects and a lot of mending.  So we set to work on all of it.  I am teaching Little Miss how to use the sewing machine, and she wanted to make curtains for her playhouse, so we did that.  We mended several pairs of pants and a couple of shirts.  We finished the last of the Spring/Easter cloth placemat and napkin set.  And now we are left with two bigger projects that we are working on.

First, we are making some cloth bibs for Mr. Smiles.  I will post more about that this week.

The second project has to do with some leftover scraps from the cloth placemats we made.  When we cut the corners off the placemats we were left with a lot of fabric triangles.  We didn’t want to just throw them away so we have been piecing them together and have been putting together different pattern ideas to make them into hot pads/trivets to go on the table under hot dishes.  It will be nice because they will match the placemat/napkin sets for each season.

Hopefully we will get those done this week.

In addition, we have found a new hobby (like we needed another hobby!) – Needle Felting.  Sunshine was the first one to have interest in it, but now Little Miss, Braveheart, and I have joined in the fun.  I bought this kit from the Felted Dog and made this cute Christmas ornament.

Chickens

The cockerels are 17 weeks this weekend, which is usually when we butcher them.  But we decided to wait another week because a couple of the ones we need to butcher are a little smaller than we hoped.  We did assess them all (there are 8) and begin the process of deciding which will become the future breeding rooster for the flock.

LGDs

Anya has now accomplished the next step in her training – she has been allowed to meet the chickens off-leash and spend time with them in the barnyard.  We still wont leave her alone with them for awhile since she is only a year old and still has some puppy behavior, but so far she has shown no signs of wanting to hurt them and has done very well hanging out with them.

Tundra’s Defy the Fly collar is definitely losing its potency already.  It has only been a week and the flies are beginning to get at his ears again.  They have also added his nose to the menu since it is farther away from the deterrent collar.  We still have the collar on him and have also been rubbing some human spray bug repellent on him to boost the fly control.  The flies are just terrible this year already, much worse than normal for our area.  They are bothering the goat and even the sheep.  We have never had the flies go after the sheep before.

The Fiber Mill

The Mill has been getting very busy, which is such a wonderful blessing.  Mtn Man is making all sorts of amazing yarns and fun blends.  He has been working with Navajo Churro and several other types of wool, Alpaca, and Goat Mohair.  Some of the blends include silk, bison, and merino into a few of the Alpaca and Mohair yarns.  So many options…so much fun!