Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Raspberries for Kai

Kai eats only the ripe berries.

Kai, our border collie puppy, has learned a new trick...raspberry picking. Wild raspberries abound in the old meadow across the road from our Vermont farm. You can smell their sweetness as you walk-red little gems peeking from behind the green leaves. You can not help but put your hand down to pluck one off the vine, warm and ripe from the summer sun, to eat as you walk. Kai puts his nose in the air, sniffing for the ripe berries. You know he has found raspberries when he dives into the tall grass. All you see is the white tip of his tail and the grass waving back and forth as he gently plucks each ripe berry from the cane, leaving behind the green ones for another day.

Photography & Video by Anna Goodling.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Open Studio at VT Grand View Farm

Making our dolls
The past two weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with this lovely homeschool family during our Open Studio Day. Each Monday afternoon in July, I open my fiber studio on the farm to folks ages 9-99 to come and explore fiber art. Every week, I plan a new activity to guide the group through the wonders of working with wool. Yesterday, we made fairy dolls out of all natural materials. This activity introduced them to wet felting and three dimensional construction.  Next week, we will be making flat pieces of felt and then cutting and sewing our felt into birds.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sweet Smell of Summer

Kai atop an old stone wall.
Seventy acres of woods stretch across the ridge in front of our farm. The owner promises to never build a house on the land. Instead, he wants to build a sugar house and make maple syrup and manage the timber. We enjoy the extensive logging trails that meander through the trees. The trails lead you through a red pine plantation, maple sugar woods, past long forgotten fields, stone walls of long ago, and even a small vernal pool black as night. Kai (our border collie puppy), and I venture into the woods every day.  Kai runs along the trails, darting back and forth across the path, dragging sticks, and stopping to dig in the dirt and to wait for me to catch up. I follow along drawing deeply upon the cool fresh air, the scent of pine and wild flowers, and the occasional skunk.

One trail leads you to the back side of the property where the woods give way to an untouched meadow. Wild flowers abound and the sweet smell of raspberries and milkweed flowers fill the air. Meadow grass, daisies, black-eye Susan's, and St. John's wort spill over onto the path with wild raspberries on either side. Glimpses of the next mountain range can be seen over the tree tops and an old stone wall divides the forest from the field.

Anna takes many pictures of the meadow.

Wild flowers
Chuck picks flowers for the dye pot.
Each week, we take the puppy, Kai, for a walk to the old meadow. We spend at least an hour meandering through the flowers, picking as we walk to create bouquets and dye baths-the sweet smell of summer all around us.  

Raspberries warmed by the sun

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Nights

The moon stands guard over our sheep.
Summer nights seem almost magical on our farm. A stillness settles in as the sun goes down behind the mountains leaving only a trace of pink in the sky. Only the sound of a ewe calling to her lamb can be heard or the call of the Barred owl on the edge of the dark woods. "Who cooks for you?" calls the owl from his perch in the old maple trees as if wanting me to respond. Sometimes the silence is broken by the eerie howl of coy dogs in the far distance, llama perks her ears and looks into the distance. Then lighting bugs begin to sparkle on the lawn, first here and then there. Their glow inviting you to try to run and catch them before they disappear again into the darkness. As the darkness creeps in, stars fill the sky on clear nights, countless stars forming their pictures on the horizon. When the moon is full and round, high in the sky, it casts shadows along the edges of the fields and yard, enveloping the farm and sheep in its peacefulness. The moon follows me where ever I go, hanging high on the branches of the maple trees, or perching daintily on the tip of a tall pine, or standing guard over our sheep in the meadow. I want to linger long outside, taking in all the magic, enjoying the summer night.

The Freedom of the Moon
Sheep enjoy grazing under the moonlight.
by Robert Frost

I’ve tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I’ve tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water star almost shining.
I put it shining anywhere I please.
By walking slowly on some evening later,
I’ve pulled it from a crate of crooked trees,
And brought it over glossy water, greater,
And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.
Photography by Anna Goodling.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Natural Dye Workshop

Two women joined me last week for a workshop on the farm to discover how to release amazing color from wild meadow flowers. We walked through an overgrown meadow where wild flowers grow freely, filling our baskets full of daisies, black-eye susan, St. John's wort, yarrow, and milkweed. During lunch, our pots brewed filling the barn with the smell of summer flowers. We also prepared dye pots of onion skins, avocado skins, and black walnut.

Once the pots had steamed for an hour, we lowered our wool skeins into the hot dye baths. I had mordanted the yarn and silk the day before so that the colors would adhere to the fibers. After 60 minutes of steeping, the flowers had worked their magic. Each of the women made up a sample card, labeling each color to take home with them. They also had silk scarves, purses, and head bands to take home as well as a new appreciation for the flowers that grow in the fields and along the roadsides.

Naturally Dyed Yarn Dries in the Sun

Sample Card of Dyed Skeins

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sheep Eat Leaves

Goats browse.....
Sheep graze....

Goats eat leaves, saplings, and brambles..
Sheep eat grass...

Not true...
Sheep eat leaves too!

Anna helps the ewes reach the tasty leaves.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Minding Manners-Border Collie Training

Moses and Kai
Border Collies have a strong herding instinct which makes them very sensitive to movement. When training on sheep, this desire to gather and move sheep is carefully nurtured by the shepherd. For a young pup, a swishing broom, a hoe cultivating the garden, a hand pulling weeds, a skirt blowing in the breeze, or a cat walking to the barn, will all catch their attention quickly. Keen on the slightest motion, the puppy tries to gather and herd almost any moving object. If not corrected promptly, he will develop life long bad habits. He must to learn to resist the temptation to "help" in these situations.

Kai really wishes kitty would jump down so he could chase him.
Today, Kai and Moses, the barn kitty had a fairly successful experience cohabiting on our front porch. The temptation to lunge at the kitty was almost more than he could bare, but with some encouragement from me, and some correction from the cat, Kai finally settled down. The cat realized that if he remained still and calm, then the puppy would not bother him. Moses kept his eye on Kai to be sure he was minding his manners.

Kai gives up but Moses keeps a keen eye on him.