Cocktail parties and craft shows

Craft shows are a lot like cocktail parties for me.  I’m the awkward gal in the corner nursing a white wine spritzer, desperately hoping there is another Shepherdess with manure on her shoe to talk to.  I go because I think I should and I might be missing out if I don’t. 

Not only am I shy in social situations, but I have a secret inner moral struggle. I live a fairly simple life on  the farm.  I promote slow and simple living because I truly believe in the value of it. I don’t need a lot of things and what I have doesn’t need to be fancy. How then, do I reconcile being a seller of things?

When I lost my corporate job four years ago, I decided to make the farm my work for several reasons.  I was 50 and the last of a generation that gave their life to one company, not an impressive resumé filler in the current market.  In the week I had been out of work, I rediscovered my smile, joy, and perspective.  I spent time sitting in the pasture with the sheep, lounging with our big white dog in the hay, and thinking deeply about what was next. I had degrees in Equestrian Science, Technical Theatre and Counseling, and years of HR experience, none of which made me feel passionate. If you’ve read my bio, you’ve heard the next part, but I’ll tell it again.  I was making a batch of soap, in pursuit of a great shampoo bar.  I remember thinking about how I’d never have to buy another plastic bottle of shampoo again.  Right then and there, I realized that this WAS the next thing!  I could save the world one shampoo bar at a time, have an excuse to have (more) goats, and sit in the pasture anytime I wanted to.  I had started selling at farmers markets the spring before and the conversations I was having about good old fashioned soap were exciting.  I was talking to strangers and sharing the stories of my products.  It didn’t feel like selling, it felt like coffee with a friend.

Saving the world one shampoo bar at a time

Saving the world one shampoo bar at a time

That’s it for me.  It comes down to passion and purpose.  That sounds cliché, but it’s true.  If you ask me about my sheep at a show, I’ll light up and talk your ear off.  Totally unrehearsed, I will grab a scarf from the display and tell you about Fran and Sir, my favorite sheep who I lost tragically one winter but spun their fiber to make the scarf.  If you pick up a soap to sniff, I’ll share about India, who milked through last winter, getting a break from being pregnant to provide milk for our family and our soap.  I’m especially passionate about wool and its place as a sustainable, natural fiber.  I want everyone to know that it is soft and warm, even when wet, and that it’s renewable and compostable.  

I’m thrilled that the farm stories and goods allow me to connect with a community of people, especially if they don’t live the farm life.  I love being a resource to new small holding farmers and livestock owners, and I’m honored to provide soap and lotion to folks who are looking for honest, simple alternatives.  Top on my purpose priority list is to teach heritage skills (spinning, weaving, felting, soap making…) so that those ways are not lost or forgotten. Along the way I hope to encourage fiber enthusiasts with sheep stories, weaving classes, and beautiful yarn and weavings.

Maybe it’s a mindset change. Sharing the things I’m passionate about feels better and gives me a purpose past the commerce even when the bottom line is putting hay in front of the animals, dinner on the table and paying the mortgage.

Wow, long winded today!  I should get back to farm things- today I’m getting the emergency birthing kit together for lambs and kids who should start arriving in about a month.

Marketing strategy session

Marketing strategy session


P.S. If you run into me at that cocktail party (or more likely an artisan show), mention the goats and sheep.  I’ll be forever grateful

T

 

Amazing Wool

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Wool really is the most amazing fiber.  It's renewable, repurposable, sustainable, compostable, naturally absorbent, insulating, naturally mold and mildew resistant, water repellant, fire retardant...  The list goes on and on!

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Sheep came into my life many years ago on something of a dare.  When we moved to our current farm, I thought we needed some farm animals (other than horses and chickens).  I wanted sheep.  My partner, quick with the wit, suggested she needed a pair of hand spun, hand knit socks.  That spring we were on the road to pick up our first three ewes.  Fiber love is a slippery slope.  Sheep lead to spinning wheels and carding machines and looms that take up valuable floor space in your house.  It also brings an unsurpassed warmth and natural beauty.  It does not necessarily bring sock knitting skills.

You may have heard the term "slow fashion".  This term means a lot of different things.  We make what I think of as true slow fashion with our wool.  To me, true slow fashion means that the maker is intimately involved in every step of the process.  If animal fiber is involved, they know the names and faces of their fiber providers.  Here on the farm we do every step of the process except shearing the sheep.  I have a wonderful shearer.  He takes good care of my animals and what took me an entire day when I tried it, takes him about 3 minutes.  Happy sheep, happy shepherdess!

The rest of the process to scarf, dryerball or piece of art is all me.  It is a true S L O W process.  

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  • Skirting - removing the soiled fiber and obvious dirt and vegetable matter from the fleece
  • Scouring - small batches of fleece are soaked in buckets of hot water and special soap to remove dirt and lanolin.  *I do this on warm days so that I can bucket the water to plants and trees on the farm.
  • Drying - the fleece is dried on slotted trays in our Colorado sunshine
  • Dye - the fleece is dyed with a variety of methods.   We also take advantage of the natural colors of our fiber
  • Fluffing/carding/combing - depending on the final project each batch of fiber is prepared in the best way for its intended use
  • Spinning - after being prepared the fiber is spun into yarn. 
  • Weaving, knitting or felting - some of our yarn is sold directly to  knitters, crocheters and weavers.  Other skeins are woven or knitted into goods that we offer for sale.  Some fiber is processed into felted sheets, resembling fabric, and then sewn into bags and other projects.
  • Sustainability is very important to us here on the farm.  I collect every bit of usable but not spinable project fiber to make dryer balls.  Fiber that is not project quality is used to mulch our garden and stuff our outside dog beds.

There's just something about touching every part of the process along the way, a pride and satisfaction.  And then there is the joy of sharing this collaboration between the sheep and myself with others.

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If you are interested in learning about fiber processing or purchasing fiber, contact us here.

Fiber Camp

For years I’ve dreamed about bringing people together at the farm to enjoy a week of fiber. This year brought two new wonderful and talented fiber friends into my life. The three of us have put together what we hope will be a well paced dive into the process of sheep to tapestry weaving. Here’s what we have planned:

Spend five days on the farm immersed in the fiber experience and get to know other fiber enthusiasts along the way.  Class will be limited to 10 participants.

We'll start with raw fleece from our spring sheep shearing and take it through the processes of cleaning, preparing, dyeing, spinning and weaving.

Day 1  Exploring different types of wool, skirting and scouring, natural dye lesson and setting up natural dye pots

Day 2  Natural dyeing, fiber preparation lesson

Day 3  Fiber prep-carding, combing..., spinning lesson and spinning time

Day 4  Spinning Time, weaving lesson and weaving time

Day  5  Work day for finishing up projects, additional practice time, celebration

Daily schedule:

  • 8:30-9:00    Continental breakfast and daily brief
  • 9:00-12:00   Lesson and work time
  • 12:00-1:00    Lunch break
  • 1:00-4:00     Lesson and work time
  • 4:00-5:00    Daily wrap up and clean up
  • Day 5 will conclude with a family celebration and barbecue

Dates:  May 30-June 3 2018

Although we are not offering overnight accommodations we have great local suggestions.

Registration will open on November 25. We’re running an early bird special through December 9 of $50 off the $675 registration price. 

You can contact me through the website contact page with questions. 

Lillian's Dream Home

I pass by the old run down house every time I head north to pick up hay.  I noticed it the first time I went by.  Every time I drive by I think I should stop and take a look, a photograph.  This last April after a hay run, I came home, grabbed my camera and headed back to do just that.  The experience was more profound than I could imagine.

I parked on the west side of the road where the house is situated.  It's far enough off the road and up a bit of a hill that I couldn't get as close as I thought.  Being a farm girl, I'm conscious about trespassing or disturbing livestock.  I took my fill of photos looking north to the house and decided to hike along the road to get an up hill shot and some looking south.  I'd noticed paper stuck in the fence on my drives by and marveled that that stubborn piece of rubbish managed to weather our strong winds.  As I approached I realized the whole place had weathered a life.  There on a rough hand scratched plaque:  Lillians dream home.  Age 92.  Died 17 June 2016.

I stood there tears streaming down my face, wondering...  Did she have a family?  Did her sweetheart build the home?  Did she have a few sheep, a goat, cow, chickens?  Did she look out to the foothills like I do, marveling at both how big and small our world is?  Clearly the house has been in ruin longer than a year.  When did she leave?  Why?  Did another family make a life in the house?  So many unanswered questions.  I wish I could have met her and asked.

 In this time of divisiveness in our country, regardless of your politics, we must notice and stop to connect.  Let us look into one another's eyes and ask the questions I didn't get to ask Lillian:  Who are you?  Where have you been?  Have we traveled the same path, just at a different time?

 

The absurdities of being older

I've been thinking about being older lately. Not getting older but actually being older. Every weekend when I haul my tables and displays to the farmers markets I think about it.  This spring when I realized I had packed on few pounds over the winter and they weren't shedding like usual I thought about it.  When I practice yoga and meditation and I send the breath to where it hurts and don't have enough breath for all that, I think about it. I used to be incredibly flexible. I could do the splits until I was 40 and then one day I found I couldn't. On the other hand, I'm gentler with myself now (mostly). I'm more intuitive about eating, resting and contemplating life. 

I do love this new non 9:00-5:00 life I've carved out for myself but sometimes I think I came to it a little late, learned to listen to myself a little too late.  I'm a fearful person by nature. Don't ask me why, that's a road you don't want to go down.  I am and that's that. Last week I went to a little gathering at a friends house.  Just three couples and our collective brood of 4 kids. One couple is younger than the rest of us by I'm guessing 15 years. We were talking about my business and I was saying that I'd rather be doing online and wholesale sales exclusively rather than the physical work of the markets. This younger guy asked me why I didn't just do it. I launched into my typical excuse about not being very good at promoting myself or seeking new clients. He looked genuinely puzzled and again asked my "Why?" Caught a little off guard but feeling at ease with these friends I said, "because they might say, no". And he said "So?"  In that moment the tiniest light of recognition about how absurd that argument  is dawned on me. 

I've done a few brave things in my life. I've climbed a few mountains, used to ride hunter jumper horses, put myself through grad school, had two babies, gracefully survived being fired at 50 and nearly 30 years ago I plucked up the courage to tell my sweetheart that I had fallen in love with her.  

Growing older brings the luxury of introspection and a delicate toughness.  I'm embracing it.  I'm hauling my market paraphernalia for another season and I'm preparing for the future by facing the possibility of "yes" rather than the absurdity of no.