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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20 Comments

  • Reply Pattie in Vermont January 3, 2015 at 4:02 am

    You have already thought of this with respect to placement of your mill and the construction materials but…flash flooding dangers? A friend lost everything but her family in a flash flood. Best wishes to you. An idyllic plan.

  • Reply Leigh January 3, 2015 at 5:09 am

    Just wanted to say how much I love that you are doing this as a family. We built our home next to my parents. It has been wonderful to garden, haul wood, keep bees, harvest berries, and spend time together around the campfire. Wishing you all the best in the new year. Thanks for sharing your journey.. Cant wait to see the YURT. We have camped in them and LOVED it!!

  • Reply Charlene January 3, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Ashley, I love hearing your vision and how you are working as a family to achieve it. All the best in 2015!

  • Reply Alison January 3, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Ashley! How wonderful. Thanks so much for letting us in on your journey. I am gleefully smiling as I read you post. My daughter and her family (with 2 small ones, 1 and 3) just moved to Montana this past summer. They are currently living in an Airstream trailer (they are surviving the Montana winter, if you can believe it) with the plan of buying some land and building an alternative, sustainable home (perhaps Earthbag). When they were thinking about getting some land before this winter started, they were thinking about wintering in a yurt or even building a root cellar and living in that through the winter. As their mom I am glad they decided to stay in the trailer 🙂 I was just thinking of them and have forwarded your post to her. I know its hard to have patience, but you are really moving forward with this dream, and you’ll get there! There will be more obstacles to come–just stay focused and find your way around them. I am ready to send my sheep fleeces (I only have 3) to you once you are up and running. Again, thanks so much for your podcast as it addresses the niche of the fiber world I live in and supports me by making me aware of others out there that are raising unique/less common sheep breeds, are interested in natural processes and love the fiber as much as I. Cheers to 2015!

  • Reply Christie January 3, 2015 at 11:21 am

    What exciting plans! I work in non profit fundraising and wanted to share an amazing resource- the Foundation Center in SF (http://foundationcenter.org/sanfrancisco/). They have lots of free workshops, a lending library, and access to the online national foundation center directory (an exhaustive database of foundations, grants, etc.) I’ve gone to a few workshops and found them very helpful. The online directory is a great way to find available grants- I’m always amazed by what’s out there! I’m not a grant expert but I’m happy to answer questions/help.

  • Reply ashley January 3, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    so amazing ash, thanks for the update. there’s a lot to be said of dreaming big, and i really believe you’ve got the perseverance, dedication, and support to make your dreams come true. i love watching your journey progress! xo

  • Reply Susan January 3, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Hello, I have enjoyed your posts and was wondering just exactly where you are in Idaho, I’m in Hauser Lake which is between Coeur d’Alene and Spokane WA. In other words…northern Idaho 🙂
    Happy New Year.

  • Reply Annie January 3, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Love this, love you guys!

  • Reply lori January 4, 2015 at 9:35 am

    i’m in awe. i love my life, but a part of me is living vicariously through you. i can see it all ashley. i can.

    all blessings in the new year, happy 2015 dear amazing family.
    xxx

  • Reply Katie January 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I am loving your posts and podcasts. I’ve been wanting to hear podcast content like yours because it aligns so well with my fiber choices and interests. I can’t wait to see how the mill progresses and will definitely contribute to any crowdfunding you may do in the future. Good luck and happy new year!

  • Reply Michelle January 5, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Your story is really inspiring. My husband and I aspire to own a fiber farm in the future. We aren’t really in the place financially to take this leap but we’re hoping it is in our future. We would love to have our property in Montana. I love reading your posts because it gives me hope that our dream is possible!

  • Reply Nissa Johnson January 5, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Love it!

  • Reply Liesl January 6, 2015 at 7:18 am

    All the best to you in 2015, Ashley! I’m so excited about your plans and can’t wait to see them unfold! Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey with us.

  • Reply Tammy January 6, 2015 at 8:55 am

    I look forward to the message on Instagram when the newest podcast had been uploaded. I listen with my ear buds when I’m at my sucky desk job dreaming about wool.

  • Reply Megan January 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    This has become a regular highlight of my week, and way to dream of what my life could be! Looking forward to what new things you share this year.

  • Reply Kim Goodling January 7, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    I have always been drawn to natural dyeing. I would love to see your dye studio as this is something that I do not have. My fiber studio is unheated and has no running water, making it impossible to use most of the year in Vermont. I look forward to following your adventure in Idaho!

  • Reply Erin Yelda January 7, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    If you need any help with the grant writing, I’m a knitter originally from Idaho now in the bay area, and I’d be happy to look over/ propose some edits. Often that’s a bit easier than hiring a grant writer like myself full-out to do the work.

  • Reply Michele January 9, 2015 at 5:37 am

    i look forward to seeing how everything unfolds for you in Idaho-how exciting! Thank you for your gift of the podcasts- I reward myself at the end of the work week by settling down with my knitting, a glass of wine, and your woolful podcast!

  • Reply Polly January 10, 2015 at 10:37 am

    So grateful that I found your blog and podcasts! You vision and passion is so inspiring and all your listeners cheer for you along the way. Keep it up and don’t hesitate to ask for support. The knitting community has your back. Build it and we will knit 🙂
    Best Wishes for a Healthy , Peaceful and Woolful 2015!!

  • Reply Amber January 12, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I found you through the podcast. Your vision inspires me. Thank you for documenting everything, as I have similar dreams that seem very far away.

    Also – yay for yurts 🙂
    Now, off to check out your shop!

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