Saturday, October 04, 2014

Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival

Take a 10x10 foot space........

Add a few props....

And fill it with yarn!

That, my friend, is how it all begins at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. Friday afternoon, vendors and shepherds arrive to the fair grounds in campers, vans, trucks, trailers, little houses (yes, one vendor pulls a little house), and cars. They spend the next few hours, turning their little piece of cement floor into mini stores offering amazing wool and fiber products. Much laughter can be heard as vendors greet each other, share stories, and help one another. Over in the pole barn, you can hear baaing from the sheep, maaing from the goats, and humming from the camelids, as they begin to settle in.
Our new Gotland ewes.

By 7:00pm all is quiet, lights are turned out, and doors locked until gates open at 10:00am on Saturday. Despite the rain today, the parking lot was full with people wanting to meet the farmers, feel the fiber growing on the animals, and fill their shopping bags with home grown yarn and roving. VT Grand View Farm would like to say "thank you" to everyone who came out to meet us and see our two new Gotland ewes!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Vermont's Change of Season

In Vermont, change marks the beginning of each new season-change in weather, change in color, and change in activity.

The beginning of winter brings smoke curling out of chimney tops, frost on old farmhouse windows, and mittens, boots, and woolen hats piled by the front door. Snow shoe trails wind up the steep field into the trees.

Steam billowing from sugar houses and smoke curling from stove pipes usher in spring as maple sugar makers scramble to fill their evaporators with sap. Green bursts forth filling trees and pastures that have laid gray and brown for 7 months. The faint sounds of lambs baaing come from the barn as new moms deliver their young.

Mud Season
Mud season sneaks its way in between spring and summer, with muddy roads and ruts. Trucks sunk up to axles and muddy boots announce winter's thaw.

Summer arrives sometime after July 4 with parades, roasted marshmallows, and smoke curling from outdoor ovens and backyard bonfires. Farmer markets burst with produce, red, yellow, orange, and green. Cows, sheep, and goats dot the countryside as they graze in the fields.

Autumn speaks color.....

The ridge across the road from our farm bursts forth with color.
Autumn sneaks in when you least expect it with an early frost, apples hanging from trees, morning mist in the valleys, and mounds of tomatoes on the counter to be processed. Leaf peepers fill the roads, stopping traffic to take pictures of the stunning foliage, and locals scurry to put gardens to bed and fill their wood boxes for the winter. There's a nip in the air, getting puppies and sheep excited. Barn kitties curl in their woolen bed, and smoke rises from chimney tops.


Distant field surrounded by autumn!

Morning mist over the mountain gives way to afternoon haze

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Signs of Autumn in Vermont

Three things tell me that autumn is upon us-

Morning mist.
Morning Mist
Sunlight through the trees.

Morning Sun Streams Through the Trees

Fallen red leaves. 

A Red Maple Leaf

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Woods Tell the Story

My spot.
This morning I ventured off the trail on my morning walk with Kai through the woods. I went in search of my favorite spot in our woods, the place where I will build a small studio one day with a sleeping loft. A moss covered stone wall marks the spot with old maples and tall pines surrounding it. 

Kai surveys the woods.
The stone wall tells of days from long ago, when cows grazed there, and when farmer's worn hands laid stones to separate their land from their neighbor's land. Over time, the cows left the farm and the forest began to creep in, covering the boundaries so distinctly laid by the stones. Kai explored while I stood and pondered the lives of those who touched each rock as they placed it on the wall.

Red blazes mark the property line.

We continued our walk to the high point of the land where the forest gives way to a neighbor's large field. The freshly mown field against the orange and red leaves behind it, tell of seasons changing. Kai and I stop to play in the field and warm ourselves in the morning sun. As we wind our way back to the trail, we pass red blazes and an iron rod, which mark the corner of the neighbor's property. Today, toppling stone walls no longer mark property lines, but rather mark a time in history. They tell a story of the land and the people who used to work and live off the land. I wonder what sign we will leave in the woods for future generations. How will they see the toil of our hands and the passions of our hearts? Kai and I make our way back to the house.

Kai and I play in the field.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Keep In Step

Shepherd to a growing flock of sheep and an extremely energetic border collie puppy, mother to a homeschooled 17 year old in pursuit of college life and two college daughters waiting for a letter from home, wife to a busy engineer, farmer to an old historic homestead with rambling house, unkempt gardens, and old barn, innkeeper to a small bed and breakfast inviting families and couples to enjoy rural living, and manager of a home-based business with one employee, juggling marketing book keeping, social networking, and budgeting.
That's me, with more jobs than any one person can keep up with. 

So it is not surprising that I took 10 days off from posting to our farm facebook page and an entire month off from posting to our farm journal. It is no wonder that I am chronically late when it comes to mailing birthday gifts, and paying bills. It is no wonder that my kitchen has a tub with about 50 pounds of tomatoes in it waiting to be turned into sauce for the winter. It is no wonder that my laundry basket over flows, and clutter mounts. 

The fullness of life surrounds me. I feel its pulse beating and I can not escape it. I try to count each beat as a blessing. I just ask that you have patience with me. I promise that I really do think of you though your letters, notes, and calls do not arrive on time, I really will have dinner on the table, I really will find the surface of the dining room table, and the potatoes will get dug and the weeds won't close in around us. And when you see me behind my knitting needles or with hand-dyed yarn and silk in my hands, I am not being neglectful of all that needs to be done....I am replenishing my soul so I can keep in step.

Friday, August 22, 2014

From One Farmer/Artist to Another

Eco-print From Orange Cosmos & Onion Skins
From one fiber artist/farmer to another, as promised, I will share my steps to eco-printing below, so you can use your brief creative time with little trial and error.

1. Pre-mordant the fabric. Some people do not pre-mordant, but the natural dyer in me said, "pre-mordant". I first washed the silks well, rinsed them, and put them in a mordant bath with alum and cream of tartar. I use 10% of the weight of the silk for alum and  5% for the cream of tartar. Bring the pot to a low simmer and then turn off the heat. Leave the silks in the pot to cool.

Lay Plant Material on Silk
2. Collect leaves and flowers for printing. I have found that fallen leaves produce the most saturated colors. Wet your pre-mordanted silk and lay it out on a table. Arrange the plant material on top of the silk.

3. Now you will need a "resist" of some sort to cover the silk. I use a piece of 2ml plastic, but you could use a piece of white cotton fabric. The resist keeps the color more concentrated in one place rather than bleeding through several layers. When I am only printing with onion skins, I do not use a resist as I want the color to soak through all the layers of fabric.

Rolled and Bound
4. Next, I  roll the silk and resist onto a wooden dowel rod as tightly as I can and bind it with a long piece of string.

Charred Silk from a Dry Pot

5. I use my canner to steam the roll, putting a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the pot and laying the roll on top of the rack in the bottom of the pot. You do not want the roll to lay in the water but above the water. I let it steam for at least an hour with the lid on the pot. Be careful not to let the water evaporate, I learned that one the hard way.

6. Now you must wait. Resist opening that roll for as long as possible. The longest I have gone has been 2 days, but the longer you wait, the better. Once unrolled, let it air dry. Then heat set the print with an iron. After a couple of weeks, you can gently wash your silk. I did discover that if you wash the silk before you heat set it, some of the dye bleeds into other areas of the scarf. I actually liked the effect.

Most likely there are hundreds of ways to do eco-printing. This is one way, that one shepherd/artist has discovered to capture autumn colors on silk.

Unrolling the Silk From the Dowel Rod

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Enticed and Inspired...Eco Printing

Autumn Eco-Printed Scarf
It never ceases to amaze me of the many ways to capture and savor the beauty around us. This summer,  I discovered eco-printing. I know I am a bit behind the times, as most fiber artists I know have been doing eco-printing for years. Someone once told me that you can not be a farmer and an artist at the same time. I did not believe her, but now I see truth to what she said. I have wanted to try eco-printing for several summers now, but have never found the time to do it. I even passed up an opportunity to take a two day eco-printing workshop this past April so that I could stay home on "barn duty". We had lambs due the very weekend of the workshop and my priority lies with the sheep during lambing season. Summer months pass too quickly with B&B guests to tend to, endless garden work, and just life in general.

Fall Leaves and Onion Skins on Silk
My daughter, Anna, encouraged me to dive into experimenting with eco-printing before she headed back to college. We ordered a box of silk scarves, shawls, and camisoles and began collecting plant material each time we took the puppy for a walk. I have done enough natural dyeing to have a general sense of what I needed to do. We quickly encountered, however, a steep learning curve and the need for trial and error. I have kept up with a couple artist's blogs who write about their printing. I learned that they do not tell all of their secrets, but rather just give you enough information to entice you. At first, I found this frustrating as with each attempt, we had to make adjustments based on our previous results. Now, I see the value in finding your way so to speak on your own. It forces you to experiment and become even more creative.

Ideally, I would have taken small pieces of silk fabric and done trial samples, carefully recording my process and results. Unfortunately, a farmer does not have time for that. I do not have 8 hours a day to play in my studio, but must catch an hour here or there. We also realized that the same plant can give you entirely different results depending upon when it is collected. So even if I had made sample pieces, I could not have necessarily replicated them by the time I was able to get back to my studio.

I will share my secrets and discoveries in another blog post. So for now, you can just be inspired and enticed by my results.

Onion Skins and Brazil Wood