Anyone can walk into a big-box store, or even smaller craft stores and pick up a package of machine spun yarn. It’s definitely a quick and easy way to get back to your own crafts, and usually at a pretty reasonable price too. Then there are those stores that specialize in selling solely or predominantly hand-crafted yarn and other great fiber items. It doesn’t take long once inside such a store to feel that perhaps someone may be trying to take advantage of your pocketbook. There are deals to be found for sure, but the price tags on these hand-made goods can seem alarmingly high, on occasion. Let me assure you that (to the best of my knowledge) nobody is pulling in easy money through the sale of these items.
In fact, for the most part, hand-crafted fiber goods are a labor of love and there is a great deal more attention, thoughtfulness, quality, and so much more poured into them. If you are not quite convinced (as I was when we began this journey), please allow me to share the amount of work and devotion that went into what may seem a simple ball of yarn. This is a story from my wonderful wife who I have watched working diligently at this project for about a year:
There are many projects going on simultaneously around our home, but at some point I started keeping notes on some of them. We had our first batch of wool processed into roving at Independence Fiber Mill in 2018. For this particular project I noted that I started spinning 4 oz of Winton’s wool on May of 2018. The final note on this project shows that I finished spinning it on September 1st of 2019. Now, keep in mind that during this time I’ve been raising a 6 year old (now 7) and gave birth to another beautiful boy who is now about to turn a year old. We also spend a lot of our “spare” time managing and caring for our very own flock of Debouillet Sheep, several chickens and our beautiful homestead.
To be honest, I also took a few frustration breaks due to the VM in the wool and losing the yarn ends more times that I could or would want to count. In hindsight, I probably spun it finer than I should have, a bit finer than sport weight for sure, but it is part of the learning process. At any rate, I was so happy to celebrate the final spin of the wheel that brought this stage of the project to a satisfactory end. After I spun the initial roving into a single strand, I then double plied it and then measured it out on the niddy noddy that I bought at Yarnorama in Paige earlier this year. I tied of the ends and removed it from the niddy noddy ( note you are supposed to wrap one side on the arm that DOESN’T have a knob on it, so it can easily be removed.
Next I soaked it in clean, steaming hot water (to set the twist) until it cooled enough to remove it. I love the lanolin smell and even though it’s very clean just the tiniest bit of lanolin is enough to get to enjoy that smell again. Now that I think about it, I should probably save the water next time for a luxurious foot bath. Once the yarn was dried, I put it on the scale. The final weight was 2.5 oz and 595 yards, plus an additional .3 oz and 75 yards for a grand total of 2.8 oz and 670 yards!
Of all the projects I have done so far, there really is no price I could assign to this yarn that would help me to let it go to someone else. In fact, this is going into my private collection and am definitely going to make it into something very special!
Few treats are as refreshing as a cold cup of homemade ice cream on a hot homestead afternoon. Ice cream is a very rare reward here at Whirl’d Works farm, but it is certainly a hit with the entire family. If you are taken to read the ingredient labels on the things you buy at the store like we are, ice cream is one of those many things we typically steer clear of. There are a few that have simple, easy to read and understand ingredients, but most of them require a degree in chemistry to understand what is in them. We try to limit the amount of sugar that we consume as a family, but recently discovered an ice cream recipe that uses honey instead of processed sugar (and don’t get us started on the high fructose corn syrup!).
We do have a small ice cream maker in the house, but it doesn’t get used much (definitely not often enough). In fact, several of our attempts with different methods and recipes resulted in dismal and frustrating failures. Intrigued by this rather simple recipe, we set out to give it a try. There isn’t a taste bud in this house that hasn’t jumped for joy at the end product this time!
Before you begin, it is important to understand that the best result comes with patience. Trying to hurry this process along may not bring you the results you desire. Don’t expect to whip this dessert up in an hour, but instead, prepare yourself to expect about a full day to experience this sweet treat in all it’s magnificence.
Ingredients (Makes about 1 quart)
In the greater scheme of things needing to be done around the farm, digital marketing usually takes a back seat. We’ve been using essentially the same icon that we developed for our site over four years ago. I really like how the colors grab your attention online, but in recent months we have been having some difficulty with it in large printings as well as in trying to make stamps and a brand for woodwork crafts. The horizon aspect of the inside of the wheel was designed to give the feel of the sunrise over our farm, but having all that color inside just turns black when submitting art work for stamps or brands. What we end up with is a solid circle.
Since we had a little down time this summer, okay, we were simply hiding from the summer sun, we developed a new logo that incorporates the same style, but reduces the color and fill problem of the original icon. I am posting both of them next to each other below and would like our reader’s opinions on the change. Do you like the new design or do you like the original better? Chances are we are going forward with the new icon, I just thought it would be interesting to read our follower’s opinions.
You never can be sure how adding a new animal to your livestock operation is going to work out. We pushed this reality to a new limit this year by adding a donkey, a cow, and a new guard dog, all within a couple months of each other. There wasn’t any real reason for making all of these additions at nearly the same time. It just worked out that way because when a good opportunity arises, sometimes you just have to go with it and do your best to make things work.
Thankfully our new dog, Rusty, is working out very well. For a pup he is already showing signs of being a good sheep dog. Every evening we take the sheep off of their pasture and put them up in barns for the night. Little Rusty has already figured out the routine and does a good job of making sure the sheep not only know where to go, but that they get there. He’ll herd them right into the barn and then sit at the door to make sure they stay put. It really is a big help.
He has sneaked into the pasture with the donkeys and quickly learned they aren’t interested in his presence. I haven’t seen him there again. He has also sneaked into the pasture with our new cow, Ada, but he kept his distance and I think he just wanted to make sure that big animal was no threat to the sheep.
Best of all is that he gets along very well with our existing guard dog. In fact, those two get along far better than the relationship between Daisy and the guard dog we eventually had to part ways with. Rusty is still pretty small, but if his paws are any indication of his future size, we may be able to saddle him up some day in the not too distant future!
The dog days of summer are definitely in and the continual temps above 100 degrees are bringing our summer garden to a close. I wasn’t sure how well the garden would perform since we were a little late getting the garden ready this year, but we’ve managed a few fun harvests. One was quite a surprise as It seems one of our seed packets was mislabeled. Instead of big, juicy watermelons we ended up with a batch of pie pumpkins. The cantaloupe crop this year was out of this world though!
Because we were a little late in planting this year, our cantaloupe harvest would have been even better, but the summer heat brought the end to the plants before many of the melons were ready. That’s okay though as the chickens have really enjoyed their extra treats. What surprised me this year was that one of the vines produced incredibly large melons nearly the size of a basketball! So far these melons have also proven to be about the sweetest cantaloupes I have ever tasted. The seeds from this variety are already drying on a rack for next year’s planting.
If you have never tried cantaloupe in your garden, it truly is quite a sweet, healthy treat in the hot summer months. I like to bring the melons in the house for a day or two before cutting them up so that they come to room temperature. If you like cantaloupe as much as I do, the whole house smells deliciously sweet! Once cut up, they go into a bowl and cooled off in the refrigerator for a refreshingly cold treat after a day of sweating outside. We’ve also incorporated these naturally sugar sweeteners into berry smoothies for a very healthy breakfast.
Responsible livestock management requires investing time in reading and researching ways to improve upon what you are already doing. Not long ago I was reading an article on the topic of pasture management and to paraphrase what I read: “A good livestock producer is little more than an expert in grass.” Horticulture has never been one of my strong points, but we are making strides to make our wonderful pasture and even better and more productive environment for our animals.
Last year, towards the end of the season, our flock had grown and they were close to running out of healthy pasture and eating what they had to the ground. We made plans over the winter to improve on this and in the Spring embarked on the first phase of our pasture management program by fencing in several more acres to give the sheep access to a healthier rotation of grass. The result has been very positive and the sheep have had plenty of grass this year.
The issue we have run in to this year is that with so much rain, the grass has grown, and grown, and grown some more. So much so that in some of the pastures the grass is so tall that you can’t see the sheep! This may not seem an issue at first thought, but there are two major concerns, at least for us:
My initial and immediate response was to take the mower to the field and cut the tops off the grass. The problem was that with so much rain this year the grass grew much faster than I had the time to manage in this way. As we continued to read about this subject, we stumbled onto some articles mentioning the benefit of grazing cattle and sheep on the same pasture. Here are some of those articles:
We have really wanted to focus on our sheep production and thought long and hard about the financial, labor and other inputs required by adding cattle to our little operation. After much research, we made the decision to give it a try. If it does result in a positive experience, so much the better. If not, we are in Texas after all and we could actually earn a little extra from adding a small cattle operation.
We researched several breeds and settled on the British White. This past Saturday we spent the better part of the day driving through scenic Texas byways to a wonderful little ranch and picked up our first heifer (a young female cow that has not produced offspring). We let her into our pasture and she immediately began working on our little experiment.
The donkeys and the dogs weren’t quite sure what to think about the new arrival, but they are quickly adapting to their new reality. Ada (our new cow) spent the better part of the night and morning rather far away from the barn and other animals, but by lunch time she had already come up to me and eaten a few cattle cubes from my hand. I already think she has found a place in our hearts and makes a great addition to Whirl’d Works Farm.
Guardian animals play a very important role on our farm. With predators aplenty here we are continually evaluating and updating our defenses against bobcats, coyotes, owls, hawks and any other possible unseen dangers.
Several months ago we had the unfortunate need to relieve on of our Anatolians from her duties here on the farm. While she was initially a good guard for our flock, over timeDinah learned she could jump the fences. It was aggravating to see her daily anywhere but near the sheep. The final straw was broken when she tore into the chicken coop and ate a favorite hen. We made arrangements to give her to a friend and have been short a guard dog ever since.
We finally resolved the issue yesterday when we picked up a new dog from our friends at M Bar W White Dorpers. His name is Rusty and he’s a Pyrenese/Anatolian Sheperd mix. Introducing a new animal to the farm can be a challenge, but Rusty is already on the job.
Of the many hats we wear here on the farm, gardening remains one of my favorite activities. Even in this dreadful summer heat, one of the few things that can keep my interest outside this time of year is our garden.
It wasn’t very many years ago that my gardening efforts pretty much ended by the latter part of June. These days I try to keep something growing about 9 months a year.
One of the reasons I closed our garden over the summer was the very basic requirent of water. Plants need a lot of it over the summer months and not only was this a bit expensive, but the plants didn’t seem to thrive as well on water treated for human consumption.
The garden is still thirsty, but now we have a 1500 gallon tank that we use to collect rain water. The garden really loves this water source!
Of course it matters too what plants are grown in the summer. Most of what does well in the Spring won’t tolerate the Texas summer sun. The trick is to find plants that can handle it.
The plants in our garden right now are those I’ve found to do best in our soil in the summer. What is growing now are: bell peppers, cantaloupe, cucumbers, okra, and watermelon. There are a few tomato plants not in the picture, but they aren’t producing much at all right now. I like to try to keep a few plants alive over the summer for Fall tomatoes.
There is plenty of room in the garden for more beds and I look forward to getting that done over the Fall and Winter. I also can’t waig to finally get some matting and mulch on the ground between the beds so I don’t have to battle the grass all year.
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