Welcome! The alpacas and farm life have become my constant teachers, and I have begun shifting my blog focus to reflect the lessons I am learning. I plan to share more thoughts and stories related to farm life in Grays Harbor County and carve out a space in the ethernet where one can stop, breathe, and think.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Fibershed Update

Several years in the making...but it's finally finished! My first item, a scarf, that I knit using yarn that was completely hand processed by me from locally purchased fleece. My first Fibershed accessory!

Several years ago I purchased a raw Icelandic Sheep fleece from my friend Selma, owner of Bone Dry Ridge in Rochester, WA, shown below hand feeding one of her lambs. This was my first fleece ever that I was going to process myself. I skirted, washed, picked, carded, and spun it into yarn. Back then I didn't have any fiber processing equipment of my own except for my spinning wheel, so I bought an inexpensive dog comb for picking and borrowed my friend's hand-cranked drum carder to make batts for spinning. Aside from the hot water for washing, no other step in the process required electricity.

To give you an idea of how long this has been in the making, I was spinning the yarn during the 2008 Presidential debates! The yarn sat for many years on the shelf, patiently waiting for the right pattern to present itself. I finally decided on the wickerwork pattern that you see here. The scarf is over 7' long - perfect for wrapping around my head and ears on our (thankfully rare) freezing cold winter days.

What are you working on right now? Feel free to share...
Ciao for now,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's in Your Closet?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately.

That statement reminds me of a famous line often uttered by my PhD advisor: "Ten minutes in the library can save you thirty minutes in the lab. But sometimes ten minutes in the lab can save you thirty minutes in the library."

So...sometimes one needs to stop and think, but sometimes it's better to just try and do. This seems to me to be a fitting description for the art of life - mastering the balance of time put into thinking and time put into doing. One without the other leads to either a lack of purpose or a lack of fulfillment. And if there was an easy answer to this balancing game, I'm guessing the phrase "time management" and all of the articles and books written about it would not have to exist.

There is much happening on our farm right now that has required thinking and decision making of a serious business-type nature. Commercial mill equipment will be on its way here shortly as we prepare to convert part of our barn space into a full-service yarn mill. We have been thinking about which equipment to buy, how to use the space we have to its best advantage, what changes may be necessitated, and where each piece of equipment should sit (when your carder weighs 3000 lbs, you can't just move it a little to the left a few days later). And that's just the tip of the thinking iceberg.

Then I came across a blog post tonight about The Fibershed Project, which got me doing more thinking, albeit along more philosophical lines.

As a knitter, seamstress, fiber artist, and alpaca rancher, you would think that I would be wearing more of my own handmade clothing. However, like most other knitters and fiber artists I know, the objects I make generally end up being for other people - either for sale, for gifts, or for charity. There's nothing wrong with that, but now I'm starting to think about how making and wearing my own clothing is more than just a utilitarian exercise.

The Fibershed Project has inspired me to become a force to start a similar movement in Grays Harbor County. The clothing we wear does not have to be produced any farther away than our own homes or the homes, farms, or businesses of our local community. You don't have to be like Rebecca and exchange what you already have for solely handmade, but let's start thinking about the next thing that enters our closets. Try to find the time to make a few things for yourself. If you haven't already, learn how to knit, crochet, sew, quilt, weave, spin, felt... If you do buy something new, pick something locally made. We have a vast resource of fiber artists and raw materials available in our area that's waiting to be tapped.

If you stumble upon this post, I hope you will think about joining me in an effort to push the 'local and sustainable' concept beyond just food. You are what you eat, but your values are also expressed by what you wear. That's what I have been thinking about tonight. Now I'm ready to start knitting.

Ciao for now,

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Pattern

As fall approaches, I will be publishing several new pattern designs. The first has recently been listed in my Etsy shop - a jar cozy to repurpose some of those canning jars sitting in your closet. It only requires 50 yards of sock yarn (another chance to repurpose some leftovers) and is a quick knit.

How will you use your 'new' vase, candle votive, office organizer, etc...?
Ciao for now,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Photo Op

Our neighbor's goat thought the grass looked greener on our side of the fence today. (Can you find him in the photo?) Of course, being the star of the show with the undivided attention of 16 girls didn't hurt - even if those girls were another species. :-)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mint Condition

I am preparing to launch a new product line this fall...my own herbal tea blends. At the moment, mint is flourishing in the garden. With both spearmint and peppermint, it smells delicious when you walk by. The rose bush is loaded with flowers, which will bring rose hips in the future, and the summer blooms of the native blackberry bushes whisper a hint of the fall harvest to come. I also have recently planted lemon balm and lavender.

I will have several blends available for purchase in time for our Schafer Meadows Fiber Arts Festival in October, including some made with black, green, and white teas. Nothing like a taste of summer in a steaming cup on a cold winter night...

Ciao for now,

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My 'Paca Pancake Recipe

Our Sunday morning menu generally includes pancakes. There's nothing specifically 'alpaca' about these pancakes, except for the fact that I get to watch the alpacas from the kitchen while the pancakes are sizzling on the griddle. However, if you get an alpaca or llama cookie cutter, you could probably pour the batter into it to make alpaca-shaped pancakes.

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup quick oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk (plus or minus, depending if you like your batter thinner or thicker)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp canola oil, plus extra for greasing the griddle

Combine the dry ingredients (first 7 listed) in a large mixing bowl. In a glass measuring cup, measure the milk, add the lemon juice, and let this mixture sit for 3-5 minutes to sour the milk a bit. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, vanilla, and canola oil, then add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir in the soured milk (you could substitute buttermilk for the milk/lemon juice mixture, but I like the taste that the lemon juice adds to these pancakes). Gently mix the batter until just blended. Lumps are OK. Over mixing will make tough pancakes, but give the batter a stir before pouring because the oats have a tendency to settle to the bottom.

I cook my pancakes in a preheated electric skillet with the dial around 370 degrees. I also coat the skillet with canola oil before pouring each batch of the batter because these pancakes have more of a tendency to stick compared to other recipes. Cook the pancakes until bubbles stop forming and the edges are dry (about 2 minutes). Before you flip them, gently go around the entire pancake with a spatula to unstick them from the pan, then flip. Cook an additional 2 minutes or so. Serve topped with warmed fruit or maple syrup. This recipe makes about ten 4-inch pancakes. Bon appetite!

Chow for now,