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Idaho Fiber Mill Life

Fiber mill: Where we’re at now

January 2, 2015

*Note. This post was written over the course of 3 days worth of nap-times. Obviously my son felt the need to sleep little, hence the reason this post is dated Jan 2nd instead of Dec 31st. 😉

What a year. A lot has been going on and each step of the way I’ve thought to myself “I need to write a post and update everyone”, but then in the wee hours of the night I find myself editing a podcast, replying to emails or working on patterns instead of writing this. But now I sit here, in our little cabin in Idaho, with hopefully about an hour of peace and warmth in front of the fire to share with you, where we’re at now.

I have always been one to jump in head first, take on what some might say far too much and work as hard as I can to execute said work with both intention and determination. Passion is one of the drivers, but more than that, is my family. Balance has never been a strong suit of mine, however as I’ve taken more on with my career as a designer, and with Woolful, I’ve tried to be cognizant of the fact that my first love and desires belong to my family.

When I started Woolful in April, I had no idea where it would lead me or what it would become, and I still don’t really, but I have gotten a glimpse of where it’s going and I’m excited…and humbled. I didn’t expect to start a shop, but it just kind of came to be after spending time with these amazing fiber folks for the podcast. I hope in some small way I can help bring light to what they were doing and inspire fiber enthusiasts to take a closer look at and create a connection with the material they are using and creating. In the same vein, I launched a podcast which focuses on helping build that same connection, sharing fiber journey’s of some of the most dedicated, loving and passionate people I know.

And the mill. In September we closed on our 40 acre ranch in Idaho, with the plan (and dreams) to build a fiber mill. My parents and David and I bought the property together, with hopes to build a legacy for our family there. My parents live in the cute little cabin, which has it’s fair share of rough spots that we’re working through. Busted pipes, rotting subfloor, janky staircase, drafty walls and windows, etc. But it doesn’t really matter. You work through it as you do with anything in life and you come out on the other side, better (and hopefully more skilled) because of it. The truth is, we didn’t buy the ranch for the cabin, we bought it for the land it sits on. 40 acres of breathtakingly beautiful timber and pasture. Our field of dreams.

cabin

We’re up in Idaho now, and each time we are, it’s both restorative and agonizing. Restorative for the obvious reasons, agonizing because we long so badly to be here permanently, to raise our son and future kids in the fresh air and open land instead of the big city. But all in time, and there is a plan, albeit one that could very well change as many plans do. The plan is to save for the next several months and then buy a yurt. Spend next Summer building the platform for the yurt, then setting up the yurt itself and building other things such as an outhouse (a nice one, don’t worry we have expert outhouse builders guiding us 😉 and possibly a mud room. This will most definitely take more time than we anticipate, but our goal is to have it complete by the end of 2015. At what point we move and live in the yurt permanently is yet to be decided…could be a year, could be 2 or more. I’m learning to go with the flow and be flexible.

Meanwhile, we have begun the grant research and writing process for a variety of grants that will help us build the fiber mill and business. This stuff is a lot of work, and something we’re considering hiring a grant writer for, we’ll let you know what we decide. 🙂 The other thing we are working on is deciding funding. Our goal is to do this without loans. A lofty goal we know, but one we’re confident we can achieve with the support of our community, grants and lots of penny pinching. I’ll write about each of these things in more detail as we progress through the process and have helpful information to share.

We picked the site for the mill on the property! It’s a beautiful spot with great access to water and power, it sits right next to a wide creek with wide spread wooded views. When I stand outside I can see everything. The stone and log wood structure, with windows lining each side. A small front area that welcomes guests with it’s pot belly stove and rockers, baskets full of yarn and fiber ready to knit and spin. Then you walk through large french doors that lead to the milling machines. A picker, carder, pin drafter, spinning frame and more. Large canvas laundry carts on wheels helping move the fiber along through each step. In the back we’ll have a special enclosed area where all the fiber is scoured using sustainable methods, including a greywater system. Then you step out the back to a porch that overlooks the creek. Here is where the evenings end and future dreams (of sheep) will be discussed. Like I said, I can see it, can you? 😉

One of the exciting things that’s happened since we got the property is we converted an old milking parlor into a natural dye studio. We’re slowly setting it up, and by Summer it’ll be in full swing. I’ve been dyeing it in non-stop for the Natural Dye Yarn Club and it’s been wonderful, but I’m excited about some improvements we have planned, such as a small wood stove. I’ve been dyeing this whole past week in sub zero temperatures and it’s been interesting. More on that adventure in a separate post…I have lots of great photos and notes to share.

dye studio

 

natural dyeing

Lastly, I wanted you guys to know how incredibly supported we’ve felt this year, through all of our ambitious endeavors. Naturally I’m a bit of an introvert, but I realized quickly in life that if I want to help build awareness, connections, advocacy, relationships, etc…I needed to put myself out there in some way and you all have greeted me with encouragement and grace. I appreciate it more than you will ever know. And as always, please please never hesitate to reach out here or by email or wherever. I may not have the chance to reply in a timely fashion (I’m trying!) but I read everything and it keeps me humble and full of thanks.

Much love in this new year, 2015 is going to be magical. 

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Idaho Fiber Mill Life Parenting

Fiber mill: A reality check

October 7, 2014
coltrane the kid

Today I had the first of what I can only assume will be many reality checks when it comes to building a fiber mill. Actually, it probably was not the first, but merely the only one I can remember. Repression, it’s a good thing for the bold and the ambitious. In my first post about our new journey to build a fiber mill in Idaho, I talked about my desire to be transparent through all the steps. Well, those steps aren’t just physical steps such as purchasing equipment or building structures. Sometimes they’re very rudimentary. Like recognizing limits and re-evaluating expectations. These are good things in their own right, helping refine process and encourage growth.

We spent this very warm weekend at Full Belly Farm for their annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival. It was our first time and we were super excited about all the incredible workshops like Soil Building, Seed Saving, Medicinal Herb walks and the one I was looking forward to the most, a fiber workshop with incredibly knowledgeable women like Rebecca Burgess and Sally Fox. Saturday was full of great food and energy, however spending the day in 100 degree weather was enlightening for us native Pacific Northwesterners. At least I had the foresight to get a hotel room instead of camp, knowing that the weekend would present enough of it’s own challenges with the heat and a toddler.

So fast forward to Sunday morning. I had signed David and I up for separate workshops, thinking “I’ve got this. Let David go do his thing and I’ll bring Coltrane in the pack to the fiber talk and tour and he’ll nap.” Yeah, right. We got to the farm just in time for David to take off for his workshop and us to find coffee. Coltrane and I took our time at the car, slathering on sunscreen, packing the back pack, and doing all those tiny little things that somehow take an obscene amount of time. We were ten steps from the car, walking on the dusty dirt road that led to the food area and he biffed it. I mean full on knees to ground, bottomed out, face plant. He looked far more like David after that spill, with his much darker, dirt covered completion. 😉 Sometimes his chubby little feet get in the way. I scooped him up, doing my best to comfort him as he let the entire farm know of his battle with the dirt. We washed him down at the car, changed and headed back in search of coffee. After successfully scoring some brew, we took off to the car to get to the fiber workshop in time. As we walked back down that dusty dirt once more, Coltrane spotted a large telephone pole log lying on the road. He ran up to it, and folded his body over it. As I got a little closer I noticed it was covered in some sort of black dirt. As he unwrapped from the log and turned towards me, covered chin to shin in dark, black dust I knew this day was destined for greatness. So back to the car, third outfit of the day and we were off.

We got to the fiber workshop only 10min late which is a small victory any parent can appreciate. All strapped into the pack and armed with snacks, sticks and small screwdriver I found in the car (Coltrane is obsessed with tools) we walked into the small county grange hall of about 15 people. Rebecca was talking and I was hoping I hadn’t missed too much of it. I stood in the back and listened intently for about 15min. Then Coltrane started chattering. I looked longingly as another mother with her young babe quietly nursed. Boob magic just doesn’t work with a toddler. It became apparent that Coltrane planned on continuing his commentary so we ventured outside to eat some lunch (leftover pizza = parenting win #12325234) in the car. After he was done I got the pack back out and looked over. He lifted one little finger and began wagging it at me. Then he shook his head no with a big grin on his face, very clearly indicating his intentions. It was too hot outside with very little shade so we played in the car for the next 45min. I’m ashamed to say that most of that time I was bummed out. Bummed that I was missing the one thing I had really come to this festival for. Then it hit me as I watched him empty my makeup bag for the umpteenth time (because who likes kid toys?). Building a fiber mill as parents is going to be a very different journey than that of others. All the learning and workshops and festivals and expos and mill visits and building trips were going to be preceded by my number one calling, motherhood.

A few weeks back I was told a story about a woman who started a mill with two young children and then soon realized her limitations and sold off all her equipment. When I heard this I began to doubt what we were doing. I was a mother of a toddler and we have plans of having more kids…was I crazy for thinking we could build a mill too? Sure. What successful venture wasn’t done involving some crazy? Whatever the circumstances of that woman in that story, I don’t know, but what I do know is this. I am a mother and a wife. I am a woman. I have strength and I have power. I am a maker, and I am a believer. Here’s believing that’s enough.

Idaho Fiber Mill Knitting Life

The beginning: An Idaho fiber mill

September 6, 2014
meadows end ranch

I’ve been waiting to spill the beans on this for awhile now. As anyone who’s purchased property before knows, it’s a long and winding process, one that can end in amazement or disappointment. I’m actually still in shock this is really happening. This past week we signed closing papers on a 40 acre property in North Idaho, complete with a charming old cabin, several old outbuildings and an enormous amount of potential. This is the very first post in what I hope becomes a regular account of the going ons of Meadow’s End Ranch and our family’s journey to get there. This is about our future and our dream. Our dream of building a thriving, sustainable homestead and fiber mill. I am so excited and encouraged by this community and hope you’ll follow and even join our adventure, getting to know us better. Just as they say it takes a village with children, it takes a village to start a fiber mill. You are our village. 🙂


We currently love and live in San Francisco. We moved here a year ago from Seattle, for an incredible career opportunity. Our plan is to live and grow here in SF as we map out and save for our future and all the work that entails. As we are quickly finding out, there’s a lot. Planning, building, sourcing, financing, networking, learning, learning, learning. This is an exciting yet arduous process, one that will take quite some time to do right, with plenty of mistakes I’m sure. We’ve made the first big step in making this real, now for the next 274,848 steps.

If you’re a part of the fiber community, I’d love to get to know you! Shoot me an email or leave a comment here.

meadows end ranch

meadows end ranch

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meadows end ranch