Attending the Texas Yarn Lovers event last month was a great experience in so many ways (you can read about that here). It was very rewarding to hear people who have been in this field for years complimenting our first batch of processed roving. We also came to the realization that while the people we met all share a common interest, this particular market is a very specialized niche and we are currently a tiny niche within that niche. If we are going to become successful at this endeavor, we are going to have to invest much more time (and money) into processing our wool even further. Here are just a few of the ways we are planning to move forward.
The spinners we have spoken with so far really do love our roving, but many of them want to spin wool that is already dyed in a rainbow of colors and patterns. There were countless examples on display at the Yarn Lovers event and we spent quite a bit of time examining these beautiful yarns and roving. The mill we had our wool processed at also had a booth at the even and it just so happened that she was doing a wool dying class. Since we had not yet colored any of our wool, she let us color one of our balls of roving in her indigo dye and it came out beautifully. There’s definitely a learning curve here, but I know we will get more interest if we put some color on our shelves.
I had seen and heard of people who do felting, but until the Yarn Lover’s event I had no idea how beautiful and versatile felting can be. One of the first things I did when we came home was dig into articles and video tutorials on both wet and needle felting. Within a few days I had already created my first piece of wet felt and we just received a needle felting kit. I’m very excited about where this could go. Now if only there were about 6 more hours in each day!
My wonderful wife who has been the inspiration for all things woolie absolutely loves to spin. But like me, there are only so many hours in a day for a busy household and farm to devote to hand spinning this beautiful Debouillet wool. She does as much as she can, but we are going to need to speed up that process if we are going to succeed at marketing our wool as yarn. Thankfully the mill that processed our wool will also machine spin it so we are planning to have a portion of this year’s wool processed into yarn. It doesn’t have quite the same look, feel, or satisfaction as hand-spun wool, but I believe this is going to be some wonderful yarn that people are going to love.
We are so very glad to have found Independence Wool and look forward to a long and happy partnership. That said, processing isn’t free and as our flock grows, so does our processing expense. We have no plans to reduce the amount of wool that we will have processed, but we are investing in our own small hoby farm equipment to process small batches of the wool here on the farm. This is yet another labor-intensive idea that also requires a not-so-small financial investment, but we think there is good reason to do some of the processing ourselves. If nothing else, the educational aspect can teach us a lot about our wool!
Further down the line is a hope to begin small weaving projects. There is so much to learn in this area that it isn’t something that either of us wants to jump in too quickly. Instead, we are going to develop the skills that we think we can master a little quicker and then slowly enter into small looms for art and craft ideas.
As you can see, the wheels of innovation are spinning wildly here on Whirl’d Works Farm! It does sound like a lot, perhaps even a bigger bite than we can chew, but then again, just three short years ago we were just moving onto the farm from our lives in the city!
We would love to hear any ideas or advice from those of you who have been involved in this “little” wool addiction for a while, so please feel free to comment on our page or send us a note on the contact page.
I realize that complaining about the weather can quickly become rather cliche’, but I happen to like a good cliche’ from time to time. It does seem almost strange to be grumbling about rain here in Central Texas considering the 5 year drought we left behind not so long ago. It is a little difficult to remember just how incredibly dry and devastating those years were for so many farmers and ranchers across Texas. Now that the rain has returned though, it seems to come in bucket after bucket. It was a sad sight to drive around the area this past winter to see so many fields still filled with wet, droopy cotton that simply could not be harvested. This season many of those same farmers have yet to be able to get cotton seed in the ground and the time for doing so has just about passed us by.
In retrospect, I think often about the farmers to our North who are dealing with an even more difficult challenge with all the flooding in the Mid-West. Thankfully, so far, the rains have only been a minor inconvenience here at Whirl’d Works Farm. When the rain is coming, we keep the sheep in the barn as it really has a tendency to mess up their beautiful wool. With shearing day quickly approaching, we are doing all we can to keep those darling sheep and their thick, fine wool fleece nice and dry. The only other issue we’ve really had to deal with was down by the creek that really flooded over during the last storm and knocked down some of our fencing. We’ve had plenty of times when the road has disappeared below the creek, but during the last downpour it was at the highest level we have ever seen it. Words alone cannot adequately describe the amount of water we witnessed draining through our property so here are a few videos to help illustrate:
On the Bright Side
As cliche’s go, with every cloud there’s a silver lining and there are some things to be thankful for. The following picture shows Texas Drought Conditions in April (On Left) and then in May (on Right). I’m not quite sure I remember seeing a map that shows the entire State of Texas being drought-free.
The amount of moisture around the farm has created the perfect environment do explore and find even more varieties of weird and fantastical fungus. I look forward to venturing into our woods sometime soon to see what new and neat varieties await our discovery, but right now it is still rather swampy back there and the mosquitoes fly in tactical squadrons! We don’t have to go far though to find new fungus as this odd, orange fungus was found growing in a flower bed near the house.
It’s just one of those funky quirks of human nature, but although right now we are all pretty much tired of all the rain, I’m pretty sure in 2-3 months we’ll be praying for it again. There’s more rain coming for now though, so if you’re in Central Texas and reading this during a downpour, here’s a few rainy day puns to brighten your day!
Rainy Day Puns
(Source: Dr. Odd)
Saturdays and Sundays
May 11 – 12 & 18 – 19, 2019
11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Stop #167 2802 Benbrook Dr. Austin, TX 78757
The Weavers and Spinners Society of Austin is happy to be joining WEST, the Austin-wide studio tour, again this year.
We will feature weaving, spinning, dyeing, and felting demonstrations, as well as exhibits of works by the Weavers & Spinners Society of Austin members including:
Sarah Monger – Handthrown pottery decorated with llama, sheep, cats. Blending boards.
Linda Yeatts – Handwoven clothing, wraps and accessories. Functional, wearable art.
Sharon Bramblett – Handspun yarns, triaxial weavings, triangle woven shawls.
Beverly Rose Studio – Functional & stylish household textiles from natural fibers.
Rachele Whalen – Debouillet merino fiber, white, very soft pencil roving.
Susan Lu – Handcrafted items from re-purposed materials. Saori style weaving.
Serena Hernandez – Unique hand dyed natural fibers from Spin and Dye in Texas.
Sidne Tiemann – Framed and unframed art work, mixed media , drawings, water colors, hand woven pot holders.
The Austin Fiber Artists – Intriguing items of fiber art: quilts, wall art, wearables, more.
WSSA is also happy to welcome guest artist John Williams, to our WEST 2019 venue
Demonstrations of weaving, eco-dyeing and dyeing, sewing, spinning textured art yarns
The Master Weavers Study Group and The Textured Art Yarns Spinning Study Group will have exhibits featuring several of the weavers we have studied, and yarns we have made.
And don’t forget Weaving and Spinning supply garage sale!
We (Whirl’d Works Farm) will not personally be attending the show due to other commitments, but our wonderful Debouillet Fine Wool Pencil Roving will be on display and available for purchase.
When my wife told me that there was a brand new fiber event coming up very near our home and that she wanted us to participate, I’ll have to admit that I was skeptical (yes, it’s a personal, life-long quirk). We have received some feedback about our freshly milled Debouillet Merino roving, but I wasn’t sure we were quite ready for “prime-time.” She did talk me into it and I can now say that I am very glad she did!
We arrived at the beautiful Blue Mule Winery in Fayetteville, Texas with about an hour to get set up. Many of the other vendors were nearly already set to go with their big tents and beautiful displays of wool, yearn and crafts. I kind of felt out of place with our little used dining fly and single table, but was also proud in what we had accomplished in just a couple short years. With full Texas pride, we set up our little shop not knowing exactly what to expect.
The crowds soon began filing into the festival and many of them walked by with a smile, which was encouraging, but not completely what was hoped for. Then, it happened…someone bought one of our balls of roving! It was a simple, small purchase, but it felt like all of that work for the past few years was actually going to mean something more even than the joy of doing it. A few minutes later, another sale, and then another. A few of the vendors strolled by around lunch time and we were getting great feedback about our wool. It encouraged me to get out from behind the counter and not only look at what others had to sell, but also to talk and share my interests in their tremendous talents, skills and creative craftsmanship.
By the end of the day we had not nearly sold out of our inventory, but we did gain a great deal of insight into many possible ways to make what he have now even better. And yes, we’ve purchased one of those nice big tents for next time!
We had big BIG plans and hopes for our gardening endeavors in 2018. We constructed a 30 foot by 50 foot perimeter fence and I set to work clearing and preparing large beds. Everything was going splendidly until the Bermuda grass decided it was time to reclaim its territory. The rest of the year was spent, mostly in futile efforts, to keep the grass at bay.
We experienced a relative degree of success, but the time we had to make it a complete success simply never seemed available. With our focus on growing our sheep flock and fine-tuning our fiber production, the gardening has taken a bit of a back seat for 2019.
Gardening is still a favorite activity here on the farm so we absolutely have not given up, just scaled back and making efforts to get the garden in a much better position for greater gardening in 2020.
We reclaimed the berry patch last weekend and the blueberry bushes we planted last year are already setting fruit and we eagerly await these plump, tasty berries which will be ready for eating in a few short months. The blackberry vines are looking great, but unlike last year, we hope to get some berries this year.
Our asparagus plants have already begun to shoot up their sprouts and we’re definitely excited to harvest and eat these tasty treats again this year. The tomato transplants are doing well considering they were recently pummeled by golf ball sized hail a couple of weeks ago.
Our peach tree also seems to have survived the hail storm relatively well. There are a number of baby peaches forming and we very much hope to be able to bite into our own fresh peaches this year!
There’s more that has gone and will soon be going into the garden this year, but the weather hasn’t been cooperating with out busy schedules so far in 2019. We do hope you too have begun your gardening adventure this year. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you as well as reading about yours!
You are invited to join us at the first annual Texas Yarn Lovers event is this coming Saturday, April 26th, from 10am to 6pm at the Blue Mule Winery in Fayettevile, Texas.
How is yarn made? How is it dyed? What are the many different ways to use yarn in crafts and creative projects
If you have a love for all things yarn (or you are even just a little bit curious about it), this is a great opportunity to come out and enjoy a great time sampling, watching, and learning all about yarn.
Most of the classes are already full, but the great many vendors are sure to welcome you to their booths and share their love for yarn and fiber arts. There will also be live music, food vendors, yarn swaps, and much much more!
For more information about this fun event, check out their webpage at: https://www.texasyarnloversevent.com
Blue Mule Winery
8127 N FM 1291
Fayetteville, TX 78940
You can definitely tell when Springtime has arrived for many homestead bloggers! As the landscape turns from brown to green, the pace of work on the farm speeds up very quickly. For many of us this means far less time is available to sit down at the computer to share our adventures.
Here at Whirl’d Works Farm this has included another successful lambing season, trying to get the garden up to speed, fencing in an additional 3 acres, installing an automatic gate opener, and so much more. Among these many activities has been one I am now excited to announce to you today!
Winter time is the time for ideas and crafting. We put these two items together this past winter and have come up with a great new gift that you can buy for yourself or someone you know. We’ve incorporated our love for both wool and woodworking together and have produced our Handmade Wooden Sheep. We hand cut the wooden shape and then adorn the cute shape with wool fleece from our very own fine-wool sheep. I think you’ll agree that the end result is a cute and charming collectible piece.
You can get yours now for our introductory price of only $14.99 (plus $3.00 shipping), but as they say on those wonderful infomercials,”Supplies are limited, so get yours today!” We’ll absolutely be making more once these little lambs sell out, but probably not again until the Springtime rush gives way to the oppressive summer doldrums.
The past few weeks on the farm have been incredibly busy! It is no easy task to fence in roughly 3.2 acres, but with the help of our oldest son we were able to finish it a week or two earlier than we expected. As you can imagine, setting aside time to write has been a challenge in the midst of such a big project. Even on the days when we weren’t working late, the mind and body need time for rest.
I do have several articles in the works, but this week most of my time will be spent cleaning up after our big success as well as finding and putting away all my tools. With this in mind, I thought we’d take a little break this week and simply share with you a glimpse of our little flock.
Sheep are very much creatures of habit and they really don’t like surprises or new things very much, but the morning this video was made was their introduction to their new field. The chute and gate configuration has changed a little and they weren’t sure they were actually supposed to go through this strange new gate. The easiest way to get them there was to lure them with their favorite tasty treat. (Cameo appearance by our guardian dog Daisy).
The next quick video was taken a while ago, but it’s fun to watch and listen to the mommas and their babies. Most often once the sheep are in their pasture they won’t pay much attention to you because they are busy doing other things. But the second one of them spots you and has even the slightest hint you might be bringing treats they will follow you anywhere.
That’s all we have for you this week, but I hope you enjoyed this little look into our daily life here on Whirl’d Works Farm!
If there was ever one tool I could not do without on the farm it would easily be this little workhorse. I couldn’t even begin to determine just how much fence I have installed since moving onto the farm. With each new year comes greater challenges and many of those are met by putting up gates and fences. This is one of those jobs that can’t in any way be done by short cuts. Fences require considerable tension and if your posts aren’t deep enough in the ground it won’t be very long before the entire fence line needs worked on again. (Yes, I have learned this the hard way).
I do see others working on their fence lines in our area with nice 3-point augers attached to their tractors. There have been times when I’ve considered a similar purchase, but honestly, I choose not to because my little blue Seymour works so well for me. When a fence job comes up, all I have to do is walk to my tool shed, grab “little blue” and get to work. There’s no fussing with lining up the PTO, no greasing bearings, and let’s not forget the upkeep on the tractor. In fact, I am pretty certain that if I need five post holes dug, I could do it faster by grabbing this tool than if I had to fuss with a tractor and implement. Would I want to do 50 post holes, probably not, but I haven’t yet run into that scenario.
I realize I am at somewhat of an advantage in this regard due to the fact that my soil is about a foot of sandy loam on top of clay with about 1 tiny rock per acre. If my soil was the least bit rocky I am pretty sure “little blue” and I wouldn’t be quite such good friends. With our soil, it takes me perhaps 3 to 5 minutes to dig a 36-inch hole, as long as there is a decent amount of moisture in the ground. During the summer you would need something more along the lines of a jackhammer to get more than a foot deep.
The model I have is just slightly different than those available right now. The only difference is that the blade can be set on my auger from 4 inches wide up to 8, but I really find that leaving it set at 6 has been sufficient.
What this auger has that post hole diggers do not is the ability to dig very deep holes, perhaps even shallow wells. To do this, the auger head simply screws off and you can add additional shaft lengths to make your auger as long as desired. I’m pretty sure digging a 25 foot shallow well in this method would seem quite a chore, but it is an option that even an expensive PTO auger couldn’t even approach.
If you are tired of using those frustrating traditional post hole diggers that take far too long to make a decent hole and leave your hands, arms and back in pain, consider swapping that old tired tool for the Seymour Auger.
It is hard to believe that this coming Easter will mark three full years living on our farm! One of the very first tasks we set our hands to here was fencing in some of the open hay field/pasture in order to welcome our brand new flock of Debouillet Sheep.
Three years in and it appears a new annual tradition has set in and that tradition involves adding fencing.
We are very thankful that each year our flock grows and with that growth comes the need to continue adding more and more pasture. Pasture health is incredibly important to a healthy flock of sheep and with each passing year we find it necessary to add additional plots for rotational grazing.
In the Spring of 2018 we fenced in almost two acres of the existing hay field and I thought for sure that would be enough for a while. I was quite mistaken as the existing three fenced sections are proving to be slightly under sized for our now 13 sheep. There’s just not enough time to give one field suitable rest between the two groups we have them separated in right now. As a result, it will be much better for our sheep to continue expanding their plots so that a rotation plan can give each plot the rest it truly needs to support the number of animals we need them to support.
So, the Spring fencing continues. We are in the process of sectioning off an additional 3.2 acres into two added pastures. Doing so will reduce our existing hay field to a little over 2 acres which is somewhat difficult to come to terms with, but our little white fluffs really don’t go through much hay over the winter when we manage the pastures correctly. This new arrangement though is going to add a little more complexity to our operation than previous annexations.
The first being shade as our original three pasture sections all have trees in them that the sheep can find some refuge in from the summer sun. These two new pastures have nothing at all to give in the way of shade. Were going to have to build some sort of shelters for them in the very near future so that they can escape from the hot summer sun.
The second issue is that for the past several years, the farmer that has been harvesting our hay always took care of fertilizing our fields. With only slightly more than two acres of hay field left, it simply isn’t worth his time or money to manage. In doing some research to have it done ourselves, we are such a small operation that the big agricultural fertilizing operations would consider our little plot their lowest priority so they’d get to us way too late in the Spring and the cost for the amount of hay we would produce is rather upside down. We’ve chosen to solve this problem by doing it ourselves.
To accomplish this, we recently purchased a 30 gallon tow-behind sprayer. I already did a test run and we can manage to fertilize one of our fields with the 30 gallon tank so I believe the sprayer will pay for itself in just a few applications. There will be a bit of a learning curve on this activity, but we’ll post more about our experiences with that soon.
I’m sure that Spring time brings all sorts of new projects to your farm and homestead and we look forward to reading about your adventures as well!
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