Monday, August 30, 2010

Apron Strings

It never did rain yesterday, but it was really chilly last night. I almost wore a long-sleeved shirt to feed the sheep this morning.

As I headed to the barn, I saw Zenobia race over to Jana and start nursing. Ewes usually wean their lambs between three and four months of age. By that time, the lambs are so big they have to kneel to nurse.

I was surprised Zenobia didn't knock over Jana considering how enthusiastically she collided with her. Lambs butt their heads against their mothers' udders to encourage milk flow. When the lambs get this big, I feel sorry for the ewes. The procedure looks quite uncomfortable: a large lamb (or two, in the case of twins) hurdles itself at its mother, thumps its head into her udder, and then greedily guzzles milk.

Not unexpectedly, the ewes usually let the older lambs nurse for only a couple minutes before walking off. They're definitely conveying the message that soon it will be time to move out and get their own apartments!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


It's 76 degrees at noon on August 29! What's up? That's downright brisk for this time of year. It's been really windy since last night. Rain-laden clouds are scuttling across the sky. No precipitation yet, but it looks promising.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Next Generation

Breeding season has arrived. The rams are following the ewes around in groups, jockeying for position to get closest.

The poor ewes sometimes can barely stop long enough to grab a mouthful of hay without a ram trying to make his intentions clear. Sometimes she gets a break, though, when two or three rams start pushing each other out of the way; they can get so busy proving who's "worthy" of the ewe, that she can leave the scene without the boys even noticing.

Cotswold rams can begin breeding quite young. When I started my flock, I purchased two maiden ewes and two bred (pregnant) ewes. One gave birth to a ewe lamb (Aurora); the other produced twins: a ram and a ewe (Francesco and Clare). The next year the first ewe lambed ten months after the twins were born. Sheep have gestation periods of five months. That means Francesco sired the lamb when he was five months old! I'm surprised he was even tall enough to reach!

Monday, August 23, 2010

No Power

Around noon huge dark clouds started rolling in. The wind whipped up, blowing the tree branches, and thunder boomed. Then the lights went out. The power flashed on briefly, then off. This sequence repeated four more times before the electricity stayed off.

Now not having power for the lights or the refrigerator or the swamp cooler or my computer is inconvenient but not truly a big deal (except maybe the refrigerator if the outage lasts a while).

However, to fully understand our concern when we lose power, you have to know one thing: we have our own well, and we get our water via an electric pump. When the power's out, we don't have water. This lack is a big deal.

I called APS, the power company, and they confirmed that yes, indeed, the electricity was off and said it should take about an hour to an hour and a half to restore it.

I had an appointment in Prescott and had to leave while the lights were still off. I was a bit nervous when I got home, hoping we had power again--and sure enough, we did.

We would sure like to get solar and/or wind power. One of these days....

And after all that , we didn't even get any rain!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

They Grow Up So Fast

Jana's lamb, Zenobia, is three months old already, and she's so big! Here are a couple pictures of Jana (behind the tree), Zenobia, and friend (it's hard to tell from this angle, but it might be Scout).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crock Pot Dyeing

Dyeing fiber and yarn in a crock pot frees you from the stove. You can place the crock pot anywhere you can plug it in, so you can choose an optimal workspace.

You can even dye outside, if you have an electrical outlet to plug in to. Dyeing outdoors has numerous advantages, including keeping the smell out of the kitchen. Some of those dye baths certainly reek (black walnut hulls, ugh, shudder!).

Thrift stores and yard sales are excellent places to buy used crock pots for little money. Just make sure to plug it in and test it before purchasing.

Remember: All dyeing equipment should be used only for dyeing, so never use your dyeing crock pot for food.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cast on Loosely

That's what the instructions always say, but every time I tried to "cast on loosely", my initial stitches would be uneven. If I cast on firm, even stitches, the edge of the garment was usually too tight.

There are two easy solutions to this problem, though.

1) Cast on using knitting needles two sizes larger than those you are going to knit with. So, if the pattern says to cast on using size 6 needles, grab a pair of size 8 needles and use them instead. You can pull the yarn firmly and evenly as you cast on and still not have tight stitches.

2) If you can't lay your hands on larger size needles, hold both needles together (the size 6 from the example above), and cast on as if they were a single needle. This method is a little more awkward than the first one, since you have to hold both needles parallel in one hand, and the yarn has a tendency to catch on the second needle point. However, it gives good results.

So, now you can "cast on loosely" and get an attractive, even edge without having to, oh so carefully, adjust the tension on every stitch!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Portfolio

I did it! I finally added my portfolio to my website. I've been working on it for months but kept feeling it wasn't "done enough" to go live. I've realized that my portfolio, like so many other things, is a work in progress. People will get to see it develop as I add new and old items.

I'm quite excited. Some of the photos are of pieces I made years ago, and it's fun to revisit them: a baby blanket I wove for a friend, handwoven bags that I photographed displayed on picturesque rocks bordering the neighbors yard where we used to live, my first handwoven cat. As a historian I should know--the past, the present, and the future are all linked.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Law of the Fullers & Weavers of Winchester, 1209

The hostility and jealousy of native merchants for foreign artisans under royal protection was reflected in the regulations for the weavers of the English cities. Trade was restricted to that with local merchants, full citizenship was denied them except for those who obtained wealth, nor could they dry or dye cloth.

Be it known that no weaver or fuller may dry or dye cloth nor go outside the city to sell it. They may sell their cloth to no foreigner, but only to merchants of the city. And if it happens that, in order to enrich himself, one of the weavers or fullers wishes to go outside the city to sell his merchandise, he may be very sure that the honest men of the city will take all his cloth and bring it back to the city, and that he will forfeit it in the presence of the aldermen and honest men of the city. And if any weaver or fuller sell his cloth to a foreigner, the foreigner shall lose his cloth, and the other shall remain at the mercy of the city for as much as he has. Neither the weaver nor the fuller may buy anything except for his trade but by making an agreement with the mayor. No free man can be accused by a weaver or a fuller, nor can a weaver or a fuller bear testimony against a free man. If any of them become rich, and wish to give up his trade, he may forswear it and turn his tools out of the house, and then do as much for the city as he is able in his freedom.

They have this law of the liberty and customs of London, just as they say.

From: A. F. Leach, ed., Beverley Town Documents, Selden Society Vol. XIV, (London, 1900), Appendix II, pp. 134-135, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 242-243.