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!

 

Sunday Homestead Update

Wow, it has been 4 weeks since I did a Sunday Homestead Update!  Life is just a bit crazy around here with warmer weather, gardening, animals, tying up the end of school, the fiber mill getting busy, attending and preparing for fiber festivals, family coming to town to visit…the list goes on and on.  I am so busy living the homestead life that it is hard finding time to document it in photos and blog posts.

Gardening

The garden is going well.  Since the update I posted a couple days ago we have gotten the new pole bean arch built and up and planted the seedlings by it.

Mtn Man made this out of part of a cattle panel.

The last of the seeds and seedlings are all in the ground, so the main part of planting season is officially over.  I will still plant succession lettuce and spinach, and I also will plant a few things later for fall crops.

Fiber Mill

The fiber mill is starting to get busy, which is so wonderful!  Mtn Man attended the FiberTrain Festival in Idaho to promote our mill.  He took Young Man with him and they met a lot of great people in the fiber industry.  They also were sweet enough to bring me back something pretty:

I am beginning to dream of what to make with them.

Heritage Arts

I have just finished up the front of Mr. Smiles’ sweater.  I am now starting on the sleeves.  I am really happy with this pattern so far and think it will be adorable when finished.

Sheep and LGDs

The lambs are growing fast.  Fergus especially.  He is now as big as the ewe lamb that is a month older than him, and is getting close to as big as Tundra.  Tundra is about 55 lbs.

Tundra and Anya continue to do their job well now that the bears are out of hibernation.  We have had a couple of bear visits.  Anya’s bark seems to have a better effect on the bears than Tundra’s has – they have high tailed it out of here faster than usual.  It also might have to do with two dogs barking as opposed to just one.  But Anya does have a very deep, very BIG dog bark that would send me high-tailing it out of here too if I was the one she was barking at.

Chickens

We integrated the older hens in with the young pullets in the upper coop and are letting them free range in the barnyard while Anya gets used to them.  We also moved the cockerels down into the lower coop.

Farm Projects

We got some work done on some of our farm projects this weekend too.

We finished the ram shed, which is a three sided shelter in the ram pen that we framed with pallets, stuffed with raw wool skirtings, and sided with rough sawn board and batten from the tree we took down last fall.  Eventually, the ram will live in the back barnyard during the day and this shed will be his shelter.  At night he will be closed in his own stall in the barn for safety from predators.

The second project we did was put in the permanent fence to separate the front barnyard from the back barnyard.

It was previously separated by horse panels with wire attached.

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Sorry for the light difference in the photos, one was the early morning light before we started, and the other is the early evening light when we finished.

We built in a section of the fence to be a feeder similar to our other fence feeders, we just didn’t finish it yet.  We also built in a section where the water trough can be under the fence and thus shared by both barnyards.

An Exciting New Adventure

An Exciting New Adventure

The last few months I have often mentioned how busy we are with things “outside of our homestead” as well as with the homestead itself.  I am finally ready to share with you what it is that we have been so busy with!

Last July an idea and a dream began forming in our family’s heart.  Mtn Man has been doing construction work for over 20 years now, and the last couple years he has felt an itch to get out of it and into something new.  We wanted it to be something he truly loved and enjoyed, and something our entire family could participate in – a family business.  And last July we figured out what we wanted that business to be…a custom fiber processing mill.  We love all things wool and fiber related so much, and we have been processing our own fiber and really enjoying it…and the idea to open a mill just clicked for us.

Switching careers after 20 years, while supporting a family of 7 on a single income is no simple feat.  But over the last several months we have prayed and taken one step at a time working towards that dream.  And it has been really crazy and busy at times, and even stressful.  But we are very surprised at how quickly the dream has become reality.

We are very excited to announce that we have now opened our doors for business…and Willow Creek Fiber Mill is up and running!

We provide custom processing services for wool, alpaca, and many exotic fibers, making them into roving, batts, or yarn.  We offer washing, picking, carding, pin-drafting, and spinning services.

We have really been enjoying processing our own fibers on the new mill equipment the last couple of weeks, and I have been left with a lot of awesome yarn that Mtn Man has made me that I am excited to start working with.  My current favorite is this 50% Angora 50% CVM/Wensleydale that he made from fiber from our sheep Violet mixed with angora from our bunny, Oliver.  We are calling it “Violiver” just for fun.  I have been perusing patterns on Ravelry looking for just the right thing to knit this Violiver yarn into.  🙂  It is Oh-So-Soft!

And look at the luster on this 3-ply Lincoln Longwool yarn from our sheep Stella.  Love it!

I will share more about the machines and the process in the coming weeks, but for now go check out our new business at www.willowcreekfibermill.co!  And if you raise fiber animals, please consider giving our mill a try and seeing what we can create for you from your fiber.  And share our info with your fellow homesteaders.