Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January and the New Year at Blaine Fleece & Fiber

2016 started out very cold here on Paradise Ridge, for which I am supremely grateful! This beautiful sight, which has been our view now for a couple of months, makes my heart so happy!
We did have some interesting times with being snowed in and even nearly running out of heating fuel because of the inability of the fuel truck to make it up our driveway - but all worked out in the end, thanks to my husband's snowblower and some slightly warmer temperatures!

But what about the sheep, you ask? How have they been handling the cold weather? Like champs! They eat lots, sleep in their barn at night, and are growing out their wool like pros!
Back when we had so much snow on the ground, my husband was bothered because of the sheep trying to plow their way through the drifts - it was up to their chests in places, and he didn't think that was right for them. So he and the snowblower made paths all over our yard for them:

It was so comical to watch this process through the window - David plowing through the snow and Black Velvet keeping a very close eye on everything he did. She is so curious and interested in everything we do out there - the other day my son said he watched her follow me from the barn and she was as close to my back as she could get without running into me. She's become my sweet girl - much more friendly than she was when she first came to live here - my little Shadow!

The quiet of winter is soothing to me, and being able to watch my sheep thrive and grow wool is one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. January is usually a time of reflection and goal-setting, and it's no different for me this year. I've realized quite recently how much I want to be outside with my sheep - how much I look forward to spending time with them when the weather warms up. Which means I'm actually looking forward to two things I've never looked forward to before - warmer weather and being outdoors. But it's true, and I thank the Trio for giving me this new perspective on my life

I've also come to realize how important my fiber business is to me - how I love to share my fibery fun with anyone who is interested - how I adore hearing from people who want to learn to spin because of the excitement I show for it - and how people are interested in the fiber my Icelandics produce. When I first started out on this adventure, I set up a website on Wix, primarily because I wanted to make sure I had a domain name for my business. But with writing this blog and running the Etsy shop, I have totally neglected my webpage, and it's really something that I want to improve and spend more time on. So it's time for Sauðr eða Urðr to officially move to! This will be my last post here on Blogger, but I want to thank Google and Blogger for providing such a great service - I've learned a lot and would recommend Blogger to anybody considering a blog of their own!

If you've enjoyed reading about Sheep and Fate, I hope you'll continue to read about my adventures with the Trio at!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays from Blaine Fleece & Fiber!

This has been such a busy month - loads of updates with my Etsy shop - loads of knitting and spinning - and loads of SNOW! We were supposed to have another warm, dry winter like 2014, but we have gotten a couple of feet snow already, so we will definitely have a White Christmas tomorrow!

I hope that wherever you are you're enjoying whatever holiday you celebrate - thank you for reading about me and my sheep - I'm excited to continue sharing our adventures in the new year! In the meantime, if I don't get a chance to write again before December 31st...

Blessings to you in 2016!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I am loving this winter!

Well, the whole family has been a bit concerned about the has been so cold here, I've got my daughter wondering if there is a way to warm up their barn, and my husband wondering if they need clean, dry straw put down in their barn (my son doesn't say a lot, but he checks on them several times a day). Let me address these concerns.

First of all, we can't warm up the barn. I've heard so many horror stories about barn fires because of well-meaning shepherds trying to keep their flocks warm in the winter time. And in their wee barn, one spark and it would be all over. So David has patched as many holes as he can that were letting in wind, and at night, we close the sliding door that allows us to put hay into their feeders from the hay storage portion of the barn. As long as the doors are shut, it's not warm, but it's not unbearable for them.

As far as the straw, yes - I can and did put down clean, dry straw for them. He wondered, though, about removing the old straw first. The reason I don't do that - and the reason people don't clean out their barns in the winter time - is that the excrement and urine, underneath those layers of clean straw, actually helps to keep them warm, much like a compost pile is warm inside. Sounds gross, but they burrow down and make little hollows to sleep in, and I don't want to remove any of that organic heating material if it helps! So today, they got a new bale of fresh barley straw:

And as you can see, their hay feeder is full. I'm learning a lot about how they eat and how they prefer to eat their hay...the design of this particular hay feeder doesn't work as well as I had hoped. For this first year, it's fine - however, I'm hoping to con my dear husband into rebuilding it next summer. It's kind of hard to explain and demonstrate what I mean - but when I get some better pictures taken, I'll try! In the meantime, they get a ration of hay outside their barn everyday, which they really enjoy:

And they munch on the hay in their feeder at night, when they're locked in for bedtime. Which brings me to the most important way of keeping them warm - calories! In addition to their hay, they get veggies and sweet feed everyday, and a loaf of bread at night before bedtime. Sounds like a lot, but when you have to manufacture your own warmth, it's definitely necessary. And they are doing very well! I'm so happy to see that they aren't losing mass - they're still quite round with plenty of fat to keep them warm when we get these freezing fogs!

Even though it's miserable for humans to be outside in this, I still love the winter - and I'm so hopeful that because we don't have a layer of snow insulating the ground, it might mean we get a lessening of the bugs next summer. If it means fewer yellow jackets and ticks, I'm all for freezing fog! Of course, when I see the frozen fog on my sheep, I do ponder knitting sweaters for them:

Okay, maybe the husband and kids aren't the only ones who worry once in awhile!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Podcasts, Veggies, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello all and Happy Turkey Day to you! If you are in the US, then today is all about the big meal, possibly the football games, possibly the Macy's parade...but hopefully, it's also about family, friends, and gratitude! Today, I am grateful for my family, which includes the Trio and our other four-legged critters, my friends, our warm home, and everything in my life!

First off, let me share the Thanksgiving feast that I just took out to the sheep:

Today they are enjoying a large helping of turnips, potatoes, radishes, parsnips, and a huge sweet potato! What is truly wonderful is that they recognize the sound of my chopping vegetables for them - so this is what was waiting for me when I stepped outside with the bowl:

My daughter and I walked up the hill to their pasture with them, then served their dinner in three bowls we keep out there for this and their morning sweet feed. They were quite thrilled with their version of a Thanksgiving feast!

But, of course, Panda Bear has to make sure I'm not holding more food in my hand - after sniffing my camera, she did go back to eating her veggies!

In addition to being thankful for my life as a shepherdess, I am also VERY thankful to the friends I've made thanks to Ravelry. Sometimes described as Facebook for knitters, Ravelry is way more than that - it is a resource for knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers, and is the most amazing social networking site I've ever seen. If you haven't checked it out, do yourself a favor - CHECK IT OUT! Not only have I learned a ton about my favorite crafts, but I've also made my closest and dearest friends - and one of them, who goes by veganjilly on Ravelry, has a group and a podcast - The Knitting Broomstick - and it is AMAZING!  First of all, listening to Jilly talk about knitting and spinning on her podcast is a delight - it's like being able to sit down and have a cup of tea with her (as we live several hundred miles apart, that doesn't happen for real, although we did get to meet up at LeakyCon in Portland a few years ago - and oh my heck, how fun that was!!)! But her group is SO MUCH FUN - she offers KALs (knit-alongs) with prizes, encouragement to finish up our holiday crafting lists, and just a ton of conversation and fun - her positive attitude and joyous living of her life is inspirational! If you're not on Ravelry but would like to check out her podcast, you can still watch on youtube:

But if you're not on Ravelry and you're a knitter, crocheter, spinner, or yourself a favor and join Ravelry! Remember that Blaine Fleece and Fiber also has a group there!

That's it for today - the sheepies are fed, I have a pre-cooked turkey heating up in my crockpot, and a pair of socks that I'm's a good day here in our house, and I wish all the blessings in the world to you and yours - for health, happiness, and gratitude throughout the year!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Snow and Sheep

It's been snowing here, off and on...and quite often, if we get snow, it melts the next day! But every time I see those fluffy white flakes, I get this earworm stuck in my head - I absolutely adore White Christmas, so I honestly don't mind!

I think that knitters, crocheters, spinners, and the like are somehow pre-programmed to love snow, or at least to look forward to chillier temps. There is something so deeply comforting about crafting items that not only beautify our worlds, but also keep us and our loved ones warm. But I have loved snow and winter since I was a kid - long before I was bit by the fiber bug! I grew up in Boise where we actually had big winters when I was young, then after college, I lived for 4 years in Montana - and man, the winters there are awesome! Since moving to Moscow 20 years ago, we've seen mild winters and heavy winters, and right now we're in a mild-winter cycle, unfortunately. But mild still means chilly temperatures and opportunities to enjoy handknit the one I just FINISHED!

My apologies to my Ravelry friends who have seen this sweater over and over again...but I just can't get over how perfectly it fits, how snuggly soft and warm it is, and how lightweight it is!  It's made from Elsebeth Lavold's SensuAL yarn, which is baby alpaca with a smidge of polymide - I can't recommend this yarn enough! The pattern, Unn, is from her book, Viking Knits & Ancient Ornaments, and I am looking forward to making more from this lovely volume!

In the above pic, you can see a few white streaks across the sweater - those are snowflakes! And I'm sure you can see the sheepy face photobombing said picture - Black Velvet is my little shadow! No matter where I go outside, she's always right behind me. This particular snowstorm lasted for several hours, and although some melted the next day, we got hit with some seriously cold temps, so there is still quite a bit on the ground:

A couple of weeks ago, we got enough snow that the tree branches were weighted down enough for the sheep to reach leaves they couldn't previously reach - that was a very wet, but very good day for the sheep!

Today, however, we have sunshine, temps in the 20s, and snow on the ground in places - it really is lovely, and the sheep enjoy basking in the sun, absorbing the rays into their wool!

It still surprises me that the sheep are doing as well as they are in the cold - I know, I know...they're Icelandics! But seeing them in the snow makes me feel a wee bit guilty about their beautiful fleeces that are in bags in my craft room! However, I know that if they were only sheared once per year, they would be miserable - by the time they were sheared in the spring, the fleece would be dragging the ground and covered in all sorts of mess...they are much happier getting haircuts twice a year! However, because of the cold, they do need more calories in the winter time, so they get sweet livestock feed first thing in the morning, and veggies in the afternoon - I slice up carrots, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, and radishes, and they absolutely adore all of these! Their bowls are out in their pasture, and they know that when I bring a big metal bowl from the house, something is going to go in them that they're gonna love!

And their hay feeder needs filling everyday, sometimes more than once - I can't quite describe the satisfaction of having a barn full of hay, Readers. Even if it's a small barn that only holds 14 bales, it's a wonderful feeling to know that there is food for my sheep to last a good long time. And seeing their happy sheepy faces totally makes my day!

The other thing sheep (and all creatures) need is water - and yes, the temps have dropped to the point where it was time to get a water-tank-warmer. They have a bucket that is refilled everyday and night inside their barn, and that was staying unfrozen because of being inside - however, with the drop in temps, even that one is freezing, so their big tank now has a heater in it:

My dear husband put the heater in the tank today - not that it was something I couldn't do myself, but he had to find an extension cord for it and then secure the cord inside the barn to keep it from being nibbled upon - in case I don't mention this enough, I am so grateful for having the good-natured husband that I have!

Well, dear Readers, that is all I have for now...I am loving the snow, the winter temps, the sheep (shocking, I know), and doing lots of knitting and spinning. And being grateful, as always, for our home!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Double Facepalm...when one facepalm isn't enough!

To quote myself:
Despite the busyness of October, however, I do want to get at least two blog posts written up, with loads of pictures of the Trio, Shearing Day, and maybe some of my handspun!
Yes...and now it is November 4th...

Well...October flew by in a flurry of fiber, which was totally awesome and fun! But my blogging has taken a huge nosedive, so my apologies for that. I will try to do better in future! For now, let's talk about October!

On October 9th we hosted our first Farm Day at Blaine Fleece & Fiber. I had advertised this opportunity to the homeschool cooperative that we "belong to" (I use quotes because there isn't really a membership or a joining of this co-op - it's just an opportunity for local homeschooling families to learn about classes, extracurricular activities, etc.), and although there wasn't a tremendous amount of interest, we had one family come out to meet our flock - and the cool thing was that I had previously worked with the mom, so it was a chance to catch up with a super sweet lady! Both of my kids gave talks about various sheepy-topics - my daughter discussed specifics about Black Velvet, Mikey, and Panda Bear, while my son talked about sheep care and gave a tour of the Trio's barn and pasture:

I was so proud of them both - public-speaking is never easy, and neither of them had taken any kind of speech class (which is one of the reasons I'm doing Farm Days - to give them these kinds of opportunities), but they did a great job! I talked about Iceland and how the Icelandic breed came to be, then did a short demo on preparing the fiber for spinning. And, of course, the Trio came out to meet their guests!

The next day was Shearing Day, so I'm really glad that the kids who came to Farm Day got to see all of that beautiful wool-on-the-sheep!

Shearing Day was kind of crazy - it was my first time transporting the sheep myself, and because we don't have a trailer, they rode in our Toyota!

They did just fine, riding in the van, although Panda Bear REALLY wanted to come up and sit with Elise and Iain...she didn't get to, and instead, jockeyed for position between her brother and sister most of the way! But we all made it safely to Lee's - the Trio got their haircuts and pedicures - and we made it safely home...carrying the same amount of wool, but this time, it was in bags in my front seat rather than squished in the back! Panda Bear still wanted to be up with the kids, but they held her back!

The next October event was my first Craft Fair - the Autumn Arts and Crafts Festival in Pullman, Washington. I won't go into a great deal about this particular Fair - there were several things that happened that were disappointing, but it was an awesome learning experience! I sold a few things and got to spend time with Lee and our boothmate, Monica, so I consider it two days well-spent!

So what's in store for Blaine Fleece & Fiber now? Well, I am currently offering the 3rd installment of my Vikings art batt club - for more information about this, please be sure to check out our group on Ravelry! The Vikings Club is only offered through Ravelry (not my Etsy shop), so don't miss out if you're a fan of Ragnar, Lagertha, or pretty BFF Batts!

Vikings, Episode 1.3 - Dispossessed

Another fun offering is my Doctor Who series of BFF Batts, representing Doctors 9-12 (including the War Doctor)...these batts will be previewed over the course of the next several days, and when all 5 have been revealed in the Ravelry group, I will list them in the Etsy shop - on November 15th to be exact! So if you're a fan of the Doctor in all of his recent incarnations, mark your calendar! The Trio is very excited by this...they LOVE Doctor Who and think bowties and fezzes are cool!

Well, my Dear Readers, if you've stayed with me this long, it's time for you to get a prize! I have a coupon code JUST FOR YOU to use in my Etsy shop - just plug in BLOGREADER when you check out to take 15% off your purchase. This is good through November 30th, so you could use it after the big update on November 15th if you would like! I will also be adding some lovely handspun skeins, so I hope you'll take a look at what my Etsy shop has to offer!  Thank you for reading!

Blaine Fleece & Fiber on Etsy