Farming

Lessons in farming: Lost and Found

May 25, 2016

I have an amazing story for you. One that I thought when I began writing it was going to end sadly, but now has a VERY happy ending.

On Monday’s very rainy afternoon, we had a special delivery, our new Moorit Icelandic ram lamb. I bought him from a special farm, a couple who are really fantastic Icelandic breeders. I met them last year, when we bought our ram Henry from their farm. They are so great to drive a few hours to deliver, being that with still working remotely full-time, it’s a challenge to make full day trips off the farm. Plus they used to live near here so they enjoy visiting the area.

We set little Cornelius up in the stable with hay and water for the day and later that evening when doing chores we opted to close the gate on half the stable and keep the main door open so he could become familiar with the other sheep and get some fresh air. The wall that separated his area from the rest is a solid wood wall about 4ft high.

So the night went off without a hitch, and in the morning David did chores and mentioned to me that the little lamb really wanted out and kept jumping, but not to worry, he was jumping nowhere near the height of the wall. An hour after David left for work, about 8am, a neighbor pulls into our driveway and asks my mother if we were missing a little brown lamb, which they had seen running down the road. I was wrapping up Coltrane and I’s morning in the yurt and heard a commotion and once I heard what was going on, I took off down the driveway. By the time I reached the road, the lamb had disappeared into the miles of national forest across from our farm. I tracked his tiny hoof prints a 1/2 mile down the road and into the woods. I stayed out there for nearly two hours, walking a mile up and down the road, calling, whistling, baa-ing for him (yes, I was baa-ing). Earlier in the morning I had read a special passage, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46 verse 1 and as we looked for that lamb those couple hours, and later in the afternoon and again in the evening, I remembered that verse and although I was heartbroken at what felt like a definite loss, I just prayed and trusted, and knew that there was at the very least, an important lesson to learn in all of this.

The day went on, with design work and stressful work meetings, some more visits outside to call for the lamb, a migraine, a sick kid and a visit to the acupuncturist. As I drove to my appt late that afternoon with a heavy heart, I found myself dwelling on the negatives of the day, I lamented why the day had to be so crappy. I recalled how I had told a co-worker earlier that day that in spite of struggles, we must find the positives and dwell on such things. So I did my best to change my attitude and it’s not that hard to find the overwhelming positives in your life when you try. Places like Instagram paint a very glossy picture of life, but life behind the photos is much more raw.

We made signs that evening and nailed them to the poles down by the road. As I laid in bed I imagined the types of phone calls we might receive from our rural neighbors…”man that lamb was tasty” and “those coyotes had a feast”. I prayed that maybe somehow, against all odds and wild animals that live in our woods (wolves, bears, coyotes, cougars), that Cornelius would find a safe place to hide.

During the night I was awakened by the coyote pack that lives near us, an almost nightly occurrence, howling and sounding eery like they do. I was settled that our little brown lamb was their 5 star dinner and went back to sleep. Around 5:30am this morning, David was out doing morning chores and I hear “Where did you come from?! Come here little buddy!”. I leapt out of bed and ran outside with tears in my eyes, giving thanks and yelling “He’s found!”. David had the biggest smile and look of bewilderment on his face. I just stood in awe, completely amazed that he had not only made it through the night, but somehow found his way back to our farm after having been here only one night and familiar with only the stable he had been staying in. David came back to the yurt for breakfast and we just reveled in the events of the previous 24hrs. If you knew our woods and have experienced runaway, you would understand. 🙂

So I’m happy to introduce our newest little lamb, Cornelius.

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Lessons learned and reinforced:

-Consider risks to lambs. Again, seems obvious, but not obvious enough. Did you know a 2 month old lamb could jump a 4ft wall? Neither did we.

-Build relationships with your neighbors. Neighbors, whether right next door or a mile down the road like ours, can be your biggest encouragers or discouragers. This is something we’re actively working on, it takes effort to overcome their ignorance of the normalcies of farming and consider them as part of your team.

-Fencing. I know there’s a quote out there somewhere about fencing and farming. Good fences, multiple fences will be your biggest ally. Animals will still get out and through and over fences, but it does slow them down. We have 4 strand barbed wire fences around our property and have finished our first pasture with field fence, but someday we will have field fence around our entire perimeter, something that will greatly diminish the chasing and hunting adventures we find ourselves so frequently on. We are just beginning to electrify our fences, that helps too.

-Attitude. Attitude is everything and farming is hard. When you have a day where things just keep going awry, in spite of it all, dwell on the positive and know that tomorrow is a new day.

-Have grace with yourself and others. You will make mistakes, sometimes deadly or costly ones. It’s not a matter of if, but when. So learn from those mistakes, make changes and forgive yourself.

-Be thankful. It’s easy enough to let the tough things of farming get to you, but keep your chin up and recognize the beauty and incredible gifts you’re surrounded by. And give thanks for the lessons, the hard ones and the happy ending ones.

Woolful Podcast

Episode 58: Rachel Bingham Kessler: Plants, Ireland, Natural Dyeing and Motherhood

May 19, 2016
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Sponsor: Sunday Knits has quickly become one of my new favorite yarns to knit with. Started in 2008 by Carol Sunday, Sunday Knits is a collection of 4 merino and merino blend yarns and beautiful patterns designed by Carol. 100% extra-fine Australian merino to the French Angora, all their fibers are humanely sourced and then milled in Italy to Carol’s meticulous and caring specifications. Aside from this yarns obvious qualities, they’re a dream to knit with…so soft yet sturdy and the breadth of colors are beautiful and perfect for color work…I have yet to move beyond swatching, as there are so many great uses for this wholesome yarn. And if you enjoy knitting vests, make sure to take a look at Carol’s latest pattern, the Nancy Vest, a little warmth and a lot of style makes this classic best a wardrobe staple, and an enjoyable knit, in any of Sunday Knits’ 3-ply yarns. Visit Sunday Knits at sundayknits.com or if you can make a trip to Roscoe, Illinois near the Wisconsin state line, make an appointment to visit the gorgeous Sunday Knits studio. You can follow on Instagram @carolsundayknits

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Fiber folk: Just a few miles from Portland Maine and a short ferry ride away is Peaks Island. Here is where natural dyer, fiber artist and mother Rachel Bingham Kessler makes her home and business and explores the intricacies of natures relationship in dyeing and spinning. Rachel shares her journey with such love and thoughtfulness, and I hope you enjoy learning more about this Maine fiber maven as much as I have. You can find Rachel at 44clovers.blogspots.com and at her Etsy shop, 44 Clovers. And follow Rachel on Instagram @44clovers.

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Sponsor: Portfiber, a wonderful shop in Portland, Maine, specializing in one of a kind, hand-dyed fiber and yarn. Casey has curated an incredible collection of spinning fiber including yak, Chiri, Alpaca, Polwarth and hand-dyed blends. Portfiber offers something very special to the Portland community, helping foster the fiber arts through various classes and events and encouraging the connection between maker and medium. Make sure to visit Portfiber’s shop where you can be a part of their Maine Fiber Club each month, where you study a particular Maine sheep breed with Portfiber each month. This is the perfect way to become familiar with a variety of wools without having to commit to a large fleece. You can find the monthly wools as washed locks or batts, great for any spinner. Visit Portfiber in person when in Portland Maine and shop online and find a list of classes at portfiber.com. Follow along on Instagram @portfiber.

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In Residence: I’m excited to share a new weekly addition to the Woolful podcast, In Residence. Each quarter we’ll be joined by a farmer, designer, entrepreneur and artist in residence…discussing topics and questions asked by you the listeners. In Residence features the best of the best in business, farming, knitwear design and fiber arts and this is your opportunity to ask and learn from these incredible folks. 

This Summer quarter we welcome Entrepreneur in residence Veronika Jobe of YOTH, Farmer in residence Tamara White of Wing and a Prayer Farm, Photographer in residence Kathy Cadigan and Designer in residence Mary Jane Mucklestone. 

So now it’s up to you, these wonderful women are ready to answer your questions and discuss your areas of interest. Do you have a question or topic regarding farming, knitwear design, fiber business or photography that you’ve always wanted to know more about? Email them to hello@woolful.com and beginning in June, tune in to hear their answers. 

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Giveaway: The winner of last weeks giveaway is Sophie Bertolotti, you’ve won the Vintergronn knit kit from Spincycle and the knitter tools set from Fuzzy Goat.  Congratulations!

The giveaway this week is sponsored by Sunday Knits and they’re giving away a project kit for their newest released pattern the Nancy Vest, which includes the pattern and yarn to knit the vest. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post. 

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Music by Jónsi.

Woolful Podcast

Episode 57: Rachel Price & Kate Burge: Oil industry, tree-sitting, wannabe Amish, farmers market and Spincycle Yarns

May 11, 2016
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Sponsor: Fuzzy Goat is a charming yarn shop in Historic Downtown Thomasville, Georgia created by Cadence Kidwell in 2014. Their whimsical lodge, luxurious yarns from independent, Southern and US sources, including Spincycle Yarns and focus on attainable challenges makes them a fun and memorable place to drop in. Whether you’re new to handcrafts or an experienced knitter, crocheter or weaver, you’ll find an appealing space to build your fiber community and exquisite materials and classes at Fuzzy Goat. Make yourself comfortable and feel welcome to discover your next project, letting the yarns speak for themselves and the Fuzzy Goat team will find the right moment to help you turn an idea into a project ready to cast on. Make Fuzzy Goat a destination when near Thomasville, Georgia and find a list of classes and other info at fuzzygoatyarns.com. And follow along on Instagram @fuzzy_goat

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Fiber folk: I had a great time visiting spinsters Rachel Price & Kate Burge in their cozy studio in downtown Bellingham earlier this year. Coincidentally, the very building that their studio resides in is where I met my husband 11 years ago. It was great to be in these old haunts with new friends and to hear their personal journeys and story, from meeting and working together at the Bellingham food coop to starting a hand dyed and handspun yarn company, Spincycle Yarns. These two special ladies have created something quite amazing, and I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I have. You can find the spinsters at spincycleyarns.com and on Instagram @spincycle_yarns.

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Sponsor: Plum Deluxe hand blended organic tea is like a good friend – one that you always look forward to hearing from. Plum Deluxe was founded in the Pacific Northwest by Andy Hayes, with the intention of creating a community online that you always look forward to visiting, whether that’s exploring their blog, joining their tea of the month club or creating a rich experience with their organic tea blends. It’s all about making moments that matter, whether with a warm cup of their Hammock blend black tea or an iced glass of their Vista blend herbal tea. Just as you can never have enough yarn in your stash, the same goes with tea…at least that’s what my cupboard says. Visit plumdeluxe.com to explore all their amazing tea and add a few to your stash, and make sure to stop by their blog for lots of helpful info and tasty recipes that pair perfectly with tea. And find them on Instagram @plumdeluxe

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Update: Later this week I’ll be making some exciting announcements about some upcoming additions to the Woolful Podcast. If you’re on Instagram, make sure to follow along @woolful or visit the blog at the end of the week for this fun update. 

Giveaway: The winner of last weeks giveaway is Erin Elizabeth, you’ve won The Mayhaps Shawl Kit from Romi Hill and Elemental Affects. Congratulations!

The giveaway this week is sponsored by Spincycle Yarns and Fuzzy Goat and they’re giving away a Vintergrønn knit kit using their Independence yarn and a Fuzzy Goat knitter tools set a stitch marker. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post.

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Music by Jónsi.