Kimberly’s “European Tour”

“There is just no living with Kimberly since she embarked on what she refers to as her “European Tour.” She is avoiding the others most of the time and when with them tends to turn her back and look the other way. “Why are the others such boring colors?” she asked the other day with a rueful shake of the head. “And is their photo on the internet? NO!”

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“My trip began when a wonderful spinner named Nicole of PurlVerde Textiles fame on Etsy in Ohio spun my New Hampshire wool roving. I’ll let Nicole describe how she did it: ‘. . . woollen longdraw from rolags in a very relaxed and free form manner, letting the textural elements slide on through the orifice. . .’ into a lovely yarn that has a very fluffy, airy and somewhat rustic appearance. It is one of a kind yarn that has some irregularities that give some thinner and thicker places (light fingering to DK weight) which was then knit into a remarkable lace shawl by SusanneS-vV (on Ravelry) who lives in the Netherlands. When a photo of the shawl — which by the way is named Kimberly (after me, of course) was posted on line I thought well it’s about time my perfect medium grey fleece got the attention it deserves! What I mean is those other fleeces are all right, but they can’t compare with my perfect grey as I am sure all will agree.”

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“Even here, in a photo taken earlier in the season before the snows, it’s obvious that my fleece is vastly superior to the others. Maybe it’s the apples which I enjoy in the fall.  Even my son Moses, the one with the loopy horns, can’t compare. Because remember that ‘the perfect shade of grey wins the day.’”

KimMosesApplesMosesHere is the famous shawl and a gorgeous creation it is! Meanwhile, we hope that Kimberly gets down off her high horse soon as there is really no room for prima donnas in the flock. Plus the fact that her current fleece is due to be sheared and carried off in a plastic bag within the month. And we’re not looking forward to hearing her complain about that! You should hear her complain about jet-lag…

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Lovely Shetland Lace…

When Brenna heard that one of her wonderful customers, Jolynn, had created a lace shawl using her wool, she was quite pleased, to say the least. And when she saw a photograph of it she was ecstatic, rushing off to the barn to tell the other ladies.

Shetland wool is an incredibly natural and sustainable fiber, and is world renowned for its fineness and warmth. Shetland Sheep graze on the Shetland Islands’ hills and beaches (and rocky New Hampshire hillsides) eating wild heather and seaweed (Oh my, those poor dear things…). This diet, along with the not-so-great weather, makes Shetland wool soft, strong and warm. Shetland Wool is also very diverse: it’s perfect for hand-knitting both Shetland Lace and Fair Isle.

Don’t get Brenna started on the subject. Oops! Too late!

“Shetland knitters have long enjoyed a tradition of fine lace knitting, my dears, since the early 19th century. When Queen Victoria assumed the throne in 1837 it became fashionable for women to wear more dress accessories, especially lace mantles, stoles, and shawls. Presented with examples of Shetland lace knitting, the Queen immediately ordered 12 pairs of lace stockings. Within a few years Shetland lace knitting was widely available in the shops of London.”

Here, pausing to catch her breath, Brenna assumed her “I hope I’m not going too fast for you” look before resuming her narrative.

“I will quote from an article by Dr. Carol A. Christiansen available at shetland.org. the official site for Shetland tourism,” she declared.

“Shetland lace is not true lace, Dr. Christiansen writes, but is called so because of the fineness of the thread with which it is made. Fine lace shawls are sometimes called ‘wedding ring’ shawls because although they can measure nearly six feet square, they can be passed through a wedding ring. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that the yarn is usually doubled.”

Impressed, as usual, with her knowledge of things Shetland, Brenna returned to the photo of the exquisite shawl. “I’m so happy I made that lovely shawl possible,” she said.

Leave it to Brenna to try to take credit for the entire project.

 

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Musham, Mushroom, Masham, whatever . . .

I’m Billy, and I just had to break the news to the others that She has finally gone over to the dark side. It has come to my attention, from a source I trust, and who shall remain anonymous, that She has acquired several pounds of wool from some kind of weird English sheep called Masham. I managed to find a picture of one and we all agree: “Eugh! How could She?” Except Moses, who thinks “they’re really hot!” (He has his problems, which is another story entirely). I mean just take look

As if that isn’t bad enough, we now understand that she is dying the mushroom -mosham a bunch of colors, some in ombres. This while we stand over here in the winter cold growing our ombres naturally! And in lovely natural colors: browns, blacks, greys, tans. Who would even WANT to grow an ombre in red or green for heaven’s sakes!

We also hear that She really likes this Masham stuff, saying it is long staple and has a nice feel to it. Gone over to the dark side indeed!

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Something to baaaa about – The Knit Girllls

I am Beatrix, the oldest and wisest of our little group and, truth be known, most likely the wisest of any group you care to assemble. Under my guidance (I’m even named after Queen Beatrix) we’ve persevered through what has been rather a dreary winter so far, cooped up in the barn, looking at the same faces, eating the same hay day after day, rubbing one another the wrong way,  having our little tussles. But finally something really exciting is  happening – the super awesome Knit Girllls on Ravelry (and TheKnitGirlls) are hosting a February Shetland spin along. We hope some of our roving will be picked (heh, heh – that’s a little sheep pun). Our incomparable fleeces are processed at Zeilinger’s so they are extremely soft, silky and lustrous. Almost like top. They also (unfortunately) seem to remove most of our winter hay decoration. And we all work hard on that. We also learned about Etsy coupon codes. If any of you dear readers decide to purchase our roving on Etsy use: Shetland10 for a 10% discount until the end of February. Let me stress this, my dears! The best of the best at 10% off! As my daughter Hannah says:

Hi there Girllls, I’m Hannah, the littlest of the group. Here you can see some of our lovely winter coats. And no, my coat does not make me look fat. Although those two big butts on either side of me look as if they need to get more exercise. Hmrrph! They certainly could cut back on the molasses cookies that the lady makes for us.

And I see where Mama Bea mentioned a February Shetland Spin Along. What’s this February stuff? What’s the matter with the other eleven months. Why on earth would you want to spin anything else? Masham? What kind of creature is that? Gotland? Sounds like something caught in your throat. Get real folks! Shetland is the way to go! I mean Look at us! How lovely is that!

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Merry Christmas

Letty wishes all our dear and gentle readers a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Letty has declared herself the spokesheep for our flock of Shetland sheep.  And although on her better days she will admit that the accommodations and cuisine at River Farm aren’t bad, she is firm in her belief that there is plenty of room for improvement.

“They could have done a better job decorating the barn. On the plus side, the lady made some very nice Christmas cookies for us. By the way, although it may look as if I am having a bad hair day, what you see is the Halo – which is the term given to the fairy-like haze that floats above real Shetland wool, created by the extra fine fibers. Which proves that I am charming and beautiful. Never mind what Kimberly says; she’s just jealous.”

So Merry Christmas from all of us and if you happen to be in the neighborhood on Christmas Eve please drop in and we’ll have a nice chat. We get sooo bored with those two who are here every day, well . . . except for cookie time.”

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A surprise visitor!

Well it is getting late in the season so perhaps this guy was prospecting the garden for a little something to bulk him up for the flight south to warmer climes. He hangs out along the stream every summer but is unobtrusive to a fault; we rarely see him. The heron seems a contradiction, combining, as he does, an ungainly, even clumsy, appearance with a smooth grace as one leisurely flap of the wings gets him airborne and soaring.The Heron

The heron stands in water where the swamp
Has deepened to the blackness of a pool,
Or balances with one leg on a hump
Of marsh grass heaped above a musk-rat hole.

He walks the shallow with an antic grace.
The great feet break the ridges of the sand,
The long eye notes the minnow’s hiding place.
His beak is quicker than a human hand.

He jerks a frog across his bony lip,
Then points his heavy bill above the wood.
The wide wings flap but once to lift him up.
A single ripple starts from where he stood.

—Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

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Picasso Project (Part III)

The new barn doors are partly built; now, how to get them hung? They’re quite heavy, not to mention cumbersome to the point of being dangerous. The obvious solution was to call our neighbor, carpenter and haying man and ask him to do it. He arrived with a friend. Here they are shown moving one of the doors outside.

Then, after leaning the door against the bar, Neal placed the old rollers onto the rail.

Then the door was shimmed up so the rollers could be fit snugly on top. Here the first door is already hung and the second is being put in position.

Why even bother shimming it up when you have the muscle to just lift it? These men make it look easy. The rollers are reattached and tightened and . . .

Shazam!

Now to finish! Begin adding paneling. But we were unsure at the beginning of the project how much paneling it would take so we deliberately didn’t buy enough. However, at the lumberyard there was very little rough hemlock because it has been such a wet spring that hardly any lumber could be brought out of the woods. So it’s temporarily back to the tarp and hope whatever critters wander by in the middle of the night are put off by the flapping, rustling unusualness of this weird lashup.

And finally, take a look at the ladies that all this hullabaloo is about. They don’t look all that grateful.

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Hallelujah!

Wow! A sure enough sign of Spring . . . the first brave little crocus to venture above ground at the River Farm. Colorful and defiant, it gives us hope that the worst winter in many years is really winding down.

And of course the pussy willow is back. These guys are always out early so it’s an open question as to whether they are brave or just stupid. And I mean early! We are talking “Honey could you climb up over the bank and get your boots full of snow and clip the ones I yell to you to clip” early.

My old pal Frank Evans often remarked: “You have to be a masochist to live in New England because, number one, the weather, and number two, the Red Sox.” So far this year the weather is living up to Frank’s standards. As for the Red Sox, well as I write this they are last in the American League East with a record of 5/11. Meanwhile over in the barn the ladies are looking portly and perhaps getting a tad uncomfortable in their big winter coats . . . not to worry girls, the shearers are due any day.

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The Spring Dyepot!

This is what a long and bitter winter will do to you. You start out blathering about natural colors and the textures and hues of the rural autumn. Then the early flurries speak of purity and the cleanliness of the blank slate. “White,” you croon, “goes with anything. Tra-la.” Then it lasts and lasts. January omits its customary thaw. February shows no easing of the misery. March is better, but not much better. April is supposed to come “like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” Not this year! April kicks off with snow and sleet and freezing rain and more snow.

Somewhere around the second week of March it happened! Ka-blooie!! The kitchen was transformed. Steaming cauldrons appeared. The discussion turned to the number of milliliters in an ounce. Wet skeins draped from doorknobs. The carder rasped its tune. And colors appeared from out of nowhere. The colors of spring. The colors of summer. Bright and reassuring. Everything will be all right. The drab and dreary season will indeed come to an end. Spring will soon come over the ridge and save us once again.

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Emily, We Sympathize

Cold, snowy, windy, bleak! No thaw to break it up. Little sun. Plows roaring in the night. Throw down a bale of hay, schlep it along to the sheep pen, stuff hay in the feeder, haul some firewood, that’s it, that’s the day’s work. That’s the winter of 10/11 as seen on a dank early March day. Think Emily Dickinson, the recluse huddled alone by the fireplace in 19th Century Amherst, Mass., creating a remarkable body of work, wonderful poetry that few people even knew about until after she was dead and gone.

“There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.”

How very bleak. How very sad. Where the hell is spring?

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