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Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Journey of the Gotlands

Awaiting Transport in Oregon

Our quest to bring Gotland sheep to our farm in Vermont began eight months ago. Through the course of the summer, we sold some of our Romney sheep, making room to bring in a small flock of Gotlands. Our flock began with two young ewe lambs from the east coast. These two ewes came to the farm in late summer, which gave us an opportunity to begin settling in with the breed. We continued our search for high percentage, top quality breeding stock, and found a wonderful farm in Oregon willing to part with three lovely ewes and two rams. We have hired a livestock transporter out of Texas to bring our sheep to us. He will pick up and deliver other animals along the way, allowing him to afford to make the 3,000 mile cross country trip with our sheep. Today, our three Gotland ewes and two rams have been loaded onto his trailer in Oregon. Their transcontinental journey has begun. 

Follow our sheep as they cross the United States to our hillside farm in Vermont!
     -November 23, 2014-Transporter picks up 5 Gotland sheep in Oregon.
     -November 24,2014-Heading north to pick up some goats in Washington.





Home for the Next Couple of Weeks





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Felted with Love...

A young couple in our church has a new baby girl, their third child-their first daughter. Since every little girl needs at least one pink outfit-I spent the afternoon making her a nuno felted dress. Knowing the struggle of getting outfits on and off newborn babies, I made one shoulder strap that snaps for ease of dressing. A tiny clay heart holds the strap in place as a message to the new little baby: "Felted with Love".

Nuno Felted Dress

Heart Button

Silk Ribbon Stripes


Silk Gauze Lining

Felted with Love for Elianna
Cap knit with cashmere wool yarn.

Dress made with silk and merino wool.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gotland Gray Curls


Curls fall under the blade of the shearer, leaving behind a lustrous sheen on the ewe. Her first time shearing a Gotland sheep, the shearer comments on the slick black legs and lack of belly wool. Charcoal gray wool lays in a thick blanket on the barn floor as the ewe stands. Distinct curls twist and dangle as I gather the warm fleece in my arms. 

Gotland breeders tend to shear their sheep twice a year, once in the late fall and then again in spring. The fleece grows 10-12 inches within a years time allowing for two shearings. The fleece is long, fine, and lustrous. Soft to the touch, the smooth silky curls feel clean, having little lanolin. 


Dark Charcoal Gray Gotland Fleece

Snow fell overnight making the air crisp. The sun tries to peek from behind clouds to watch me as I skirt the black fleece. Beneath the outer layer of dark curls, I shake the deep charcoal gray wool to release any short cuts from the shearing. The wool makes a snapping sound as I test it for strength. I think about sending the fleece to the mill and getting our first Gotland wool yarn from our own sheep.


Curls

Sue Blacker, of The Natural Fibre Company in England, has perfected taking these lovely curls and turning them into yarn. She spins her Gotland fleece into a 4 ply knitting yarn. Upon asking why she prefers a 4 ply for the Gotland, she said that she finds that due to the silky nature of the fiber, it pulls out of a 2 ply yarn causing pilling. Sue separates her fleeces according to color in order to offer Gotland yarn from the lightest silver to the darkest charcoal gray. 

I must wait patiently until our spring shearing before sending our wool to be spun. In the meantime, I have ordered Gotland yarn from Sue so that I can knit a test swatch to determine how I would like our wool spun. I have worked with Stonehedge Fiber Mill for years, and feel confident that Deb will spin lovely Gotland yarn for us.



Outer Layer of Curls

Follow our Gotland adventure: Settling In with Gotlands

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Little Bit of Sunshine

Hollie and Phil, a young couple from England, stayed in our Farmhouse Suite at the end of the foliage season. When booking, they said they missed their four legged family, and were looking forward to spending time on the farm. Our border collie and barn cat immediately recognized them as animal lovers and enjoyed spending time with them on the porch and on walks. We shared our rural farm with them, and they in return, shared stories about their life in England.

A "Thank you" gift from a guest.


Today, I received a package in the mail from Hollie. Inside the package she sent a card thanking us for their stay and inviting us to visit them if we ever find ourselves in England. She also thoughtfully included gifts for all of us, even one for the dog and cat. Her package brought a little sunshine our way on a cloudy November day.

Thank you Hollie and Phil! We loved getting to know you and sharing our farm with you!

 p.s. A Vermont Farmstay Experience tells of another family's stay on our farm.

Cat Nip Mice and a Dog Bone


Monday, November 10, 2014

Felted Clutch Purse


Sewing onto the Clasp
My kitty wanted to help me this morning as I stitched the metal clasp to a wet felted purse I had made. Though she looks fairly innocent in the photographs, every time I pulled the needle and thread through a hole, she would reach out with her fuzzy little foot to grab my thread. I finally had to put her in her favorite sleeping spot, on top of towels in the linen closet, in order to finish my purse.

Emma thinks she is helping.

These tiny purses sold well at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival this year. Most buyers had the purse filled with cell phone, lipstick, and coins, before they had even paid for it. Some said they were going to use them in their knitting bag to hold their small scissors, stitch markers, and tapestry needles. I think of my dancing daughter every time I make one, as it is just the right size to fit inside a dance bag and hold all of the paraphernalia for making buns in your hair. There are so many different uses for a small little purse!

Watch my etsy shop over the next few days as I will be listing more little purses there.

p.s. More felting stories from VT Grand View Farm...
Felting Memories tells of family vacation memories recorded in a felted mural.
WOOF at Grand View Farm tells of a young farmer who falls in love with felting while working on our farm.
Open Studio at VT Grand View Farm tells of passing the art of felting on to the younger generation.

Felted Purse with Kiss Clasp

Perfect Size for Cell Phones
Little Sheep Grazing

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Mud Be Gone!

Our farm has a 150 year old dairy barn. Built at the low point of the property, the back of the barn becomes an absolute mud hole for about 6-8 weeks every spring. Between the snow melting and running down the hill to the paddock, and the runoff from the expansive barn roof, water pools in our sheep winter quarters. This is what Vermonters call "Mud Season".  The slowly thawing ground prevents the water from draining, and causes horrible drainage problems in the early spring. Paddocks, driveways, and dirt roads become a mire of mud.

After years of dealing with this problem, I finally decided to try to resolve it. This fall, with the help of a local quarry and a neighbor's Bobcat, we hope we have rectified the issue. All it took was a 17 year old boy with the keys to the skid loader, some geotech fabric, 16 tons of stone and 17 tons of quarry dust. Ha! Mud be gone!


Geotech Fabric


Spreading Clean Stone


Friday, October 31, 2014

The Woodsman and the Shepherd

An old stone wall marks the boundaries of the overgrown pasture.
We meet at the height of his land where the woods give way to an old pasture, he, the woodsman, and I, the shepherd. An old stone wall remembers when that pasture lay green with grass. I have my sheep dog by my side, full of exuberance, and he stands alone in flannel shirt. We talk about busy summers, and time slipped by. I ask if he found the jar of wild raspberry jelly I left on his tractor seat, and he asks if our college bound daughters have headed back to school.

Saplings and brambles fill the field.
Milkweed
We stand and gaze upon the beauty of the distant mountains on the other side of the field. The field now full of saplings and  brambles. He tells me to take it all in, to feast upon the view, for one day, that view will be hidden. He says in another 10 years all those sticks of trees will be so tall that you will not be able to see the sunset behind the mountains. The woodsman stands looking out over his land, dreaming of that day when the sugar maples have grown to full stature. He dreams of sugar taps and steam from his evaporator. He hears his chain saw, and calculates how many cords of wood those trees will provide.
Young sugar maple

I, the shepherd, stand looking out over the woodsman's overgrown field. I marvel at why anyone would want to cover up the splendor and majesty of layers upon layers of mountains. I dream of a small herd of goats clearing that land so my sheep can graze there. I remember the field full of wild flowers all summer and the scent of warm raspberries. I remember middle daughter with camera in hand, taking hundreds of pictures of that pasture and dreaming of building herself a little house, right there in the middle of the brambles.


The woodsman's firewood
For a few moments, we both stare in silence. The woodsman with his thoughts, and I, the shepherd, with my own. Then our eyes meet again in a knowing sort of way. He says he has not forgotten about his one acre open field that lines the lower part of my 2 acre field. He says we will meet one day soon, to talk, and to trade acre for acre....the woodsman's little field, for the shepherd's towering red pines. No words need to speak what our hearts know, his love is in the woods, and mine is with my sheep. We walk our separate ways, he, the woodsman, goes back to his forest and stacks of split firewood, and I the shepherd make my way back to where the woods open up to my field and my sheep.

Chloe watches as we make our way out of the woods.


P.S. More readings on the woodsman's old meadow.