Friday, March 24, 2017

Tea Towel Feature! + Etsy Shop Update

In 2015 and 2016, I made some cotton/linen tea towels for my December Open House. They featured fabric designs of my very own. An Editor - Marykate Despres - from Edible Pioneer Valley Magazine came to the Open House. Through that contact, I am thrilled to share my first Tea Towel feature in a print magazine!

What a lovely photo. I love the colors and how my print design sets off the colors of the green asparagus. Our valley is often called Asparagus Valley because of the large amount of asparagus grown here. During the "season" we eat fresh asparagus every single night. You would think we would get tired of it but none of us do. I can't wait for this year.

Do you know the Edible Communities Magazines? They cover culinary happenings and local food in over 90 areas throughout the USA. We here are lucky to have one for our very own valley - Edible Pioneer Valley. Check out their website here. Lots of very nice recipes. 

Thanks so much Editor Marykate and Publisher Mary for using my work as a backdrop. I am truly honored to be featured in your lovely magazine. 

I have a few Tea Towels available in my Etsy shop here. They make lovely gifts. 

Oh - also if you think the shipping cost is crazy when ordering multiple items, know that I make refunds to your Paypal account if the difference on actual postage cost is more than $2.00. There is no easy way to handle the shipping because my pottery varies in weight and size and you all live in different mailing zones. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More Cute Lamb Pics

It's not that I haven't thought about blogging during lambing season. There just hasn't been time to post photos. I have a backlog of cute lamb photos so today I will share some of them. 

I hear from many people who like to paint and draw from the lamb photos so it is important for me to keep supplying the artists with new material to continue to inspire! Once in a while, someone will send me a photo of their work and I really enjoy seeing it. 

I love that the lamb's faces look so different depending on the breed. Their body shapes are also different. This is all a result of breeding. We used four different rams last breeding season (two Dorsets, a Texel, and a Polypay) so all the lambs resemble partly their mamas and partly the rams. These lambs are different ages too. They change so quickly in looks - from bodies on spindly little legs to larger more muscular frames. It is pretty amazing how fast they grow. 

The snow from the blizzard last week is melting fast although it is only going to be 8 degrees tonight so everything will stay frozen. 

I totally forgot that Monday was the first day of Spring so here is a late message to wish you all a Happy Spring! 

Monday, March 20, 2017

So Cute

Hope these photos of this sweet little lamb put a smile on your face and an upbeat start to your week. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Before the Blizzard

Yes, I wrote blizzard. Her name was Stella and she landed here on March 14, 2107. Just when we thought we were on our way to spring, the biggest storm of the year arrives. I do not have pictures of Stella yet. I will try to take some of the aftermath of her but I've been too busy shoveling out. 

The day before Stella, I managed to get my camera out after chores at the barns and took some photos. The lamb above was born to a yearling. I guess her name should be Stella. 

We have lost count of the number of lambs there are but it is in excess of 200. Lots of chaos and not a lot of time or energy to blog. Here is a photo of the inside of the greenhouse barn. Those feeders on the left have to be filled twice a day to feed the mamas. It really is my least favorite part of chores - peeling the hay off the giant bales and carrying it down the alley to fill the feeders. 

Here are some really sweet photos of some of the lambs playing on the giant manure pile. They think it is a mountain and constantly climb, run and jump on it. Great fun. 

I'm waiting for my manuscript to come back from the copy editor the end of this week. I will review it and answer questions and then send it back. I think I will only see my book one more time before it goes to print. 

Our kitchen looks a little like the Peaceable Kingdom. It has weak lambs sleeping on wool, cats waiting for the snow to melt and Sadie recovering after being hit by a car. (She is mending nicely.) I really can't wait for spring to arrive so they can all go outside and I can establish some kind of order - although truthfully there is no "order" here at our farm. 

I'm sorry that posting has been slim on the blog. I just haven't felt the blogging mojo - perhaps it is the winter that never ends. I think it is a lot of things - including all the negativity that is dragging me (and you?) down on-line these days. I'm in a bit of a funk, not feeling a bit creative and just trying to get through it. This often happens to me at the completion of a big project - I have to find my footing again and move in a different direction. I'm thinking about classes to offer this coming season and if I don't get that organized, they won't happen. I may do a survey for you all to help me out with information on what you would like to see me teach.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Hope you all are well. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mud Season is Coming

We are expecting a warm-up this week and all this snow is going to turn into mud. This is my least favorite time at the barns - mud season. The other night I woke up after a nightmare of getting my boots stuck in the mud and not being able to move. It is actually a real situation that could happen. Here's hoping all the snow drains fast. Last year mud season was very short. We'll see this year. 

Mud season also brings sugaring season. There is a lot of activity in our hills surrounding us - maple farmers tapping trees and beginning to boil sap into maple syrup.

If you follow this blog through the year, you know that we practice rotational grazing with our sheep. Because the sheep are often put out onto pastures that haven't been grazed or mown in years, there are often burdocks and all kinds of brambles that get stuck in the wool. Hence, our sheep's wool really isn't good for much. 

We do use it for alternative uses though - like filling voids in the barn where cold air might get in. Or as the lambs have discovered - as a warm bed to sleep on. 

Hope you all are having a good week. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

More Lambing

Over the past couple weeks, we had two huge snowstorms. We got 10 to 12" during each storm. Snow makes everything - especially farming - difficult. Especially during lambing season. We don't live where our barns are - they are five miles from the farmhouse, down a long dirt farm road. We drive back and forth a lot. At least there is water and electricity at the barns now so we can use heat lamps to warm up chilled lambs, heat milk replacer in a microwave and actually see what is going on at night in the barns. 

The Farmer is pretty happy with his lambing percentages this year. He has had a lot of twins - more than usual and even several sets of triplets. Triplets are good and bad - more lambs but the ewes only have two teats and often do not have enough milk to support three lambs. There is usually one triplet that doesn't fight hard enough for the milk and so needs to be bottle fed. 

He has been trying to figure out why so many triplets this year.  He will never actually know why and we shall see if it continues next year. So far, he has 4 theories. 
1. The rams were put in one month later than normal. From his research, he has learned that ewes often shed only one egg on their first estrus cycle and more often will shed multiple eggs the second estrus cycle.
2. The grass was higher in nutrition because of the weather.
3. Last year, he had smaller groups of sheep in the different pastures. Perhaps they weren't fighting as hard for the best grass.
4. We have been changing up the ram breeds and their progeny in now in production. The rams we are using are Polypay and Dorsets and both breeds often have multiple lambs. (Our previous breeds have been Romney, Border Leister, Cheviot, and other cross-breds.)

Back to the snow. During the snowstorms, the ewes pretty much stay put in one place. Lots of them rest in the two barns but some choose to be outside. They huddle in one spot, get covered with snow and when the storm is over, stand up, shake it all off and move slowly towards the hay feeders. The ewes with lambs usually stay in the barns with their babies. 

The dicey thing about storms is that if a ewe decides to have a lamb outside instead of inside the warm barn, it is almost a death sentence to the little lamb. So far this year, only 2 ewes have done this - both had twins and both lost one twin to the cold. The rest of the ewes who lambed during storms or extreme cold had the sense to lamb inside. 

When a ewe lambs outside, The Farmer brings her in with her baby or babies. A good mama will follow her babies so it is just a slow walk with the mama just behind the lamb. Sometimes a mama will get confused and not recognize which baby is hers. Then we will take it slow -- putting the lamb down every couple feet so that the mama continues to follow. 

That is the report from here. 


Friday, February 17, 2017

News from the Studio

I've been so incredibly busy this past month. So busy, that I haven't been able to post here on the blog. My manuscript for my next book Crafting A Patterned Home came back to me after I re-wrote things in January. I had a week to turn it around this time. This is the last time I will see it until after the copy editor reviews it and I have to answer questions about it. It's a big hurdle I just got over and I am relieved. I think it is reading nicely. I hope you all will like it.

Next, I had to pump out about 76 illustrations for the book. I was given a week to do it. First, I do pencil sketches on tracing paper. I transfer them to watercolor paper using a light box. I hand-paint them with gouache. 

That is the fun part. Then they had to all be scanned. During a snow day, I taught Julia how to scan and she scanned almost all of them for me while I kept painting more. We have had a lot of snow and school has been called off and started late. One week Julia only went to school one day due to illness and snow. Good thing I had work for her. 

After scanning, I bring each of them into Photoshop, fix the color, tweak them some more and cover up mistakes, then re-size them for the publisher to drop into the book layout. It is a lot of work. It used to be that I would do the illustrations and ship them off to the publisher and they would do all of the work for turning them into art ready for the book. Now it is up to me to do that for them. Progress? I didn't actually get them all done in a week but I got them all done pretty done close to the deadline. Success.

Next up, after the illustrations, I had to draw all the templates for the different projects in Adobe Illustrator. Templates are different than illustrations. They are like a pattern piece and are printed as line art in black and white - no color. The process for this part of the book project is that I put each piece on my scanner, cover it with a white sheet, scan it, and then bring the scan into Illustrator. I use the scan to draw over and turn it into line art. 

There were a lot of templates for this book project. Here's a pile of some of them. 

Next week is school vacation. Luckily I am caught up with my book deadlines and hopefully will have some down time to spend with Julia and help out at the farm. It is her last February vacation before high school graduation in June. Yikes. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lambing Tales 2017

Things have been busy here at the farm. We are up to 129 lambs. This year, The Farmer decided to try lambing in February instead of January. He's getting older and the cold of January can be brutal. He's in charge - I just offer moral support and some help. And what happened in January? No snow and warm temperatures.

Lambing began in earnest the beginning of February. The ewes have been doing a good job although there are a few who aren't interested in being moms. That leads to a lot of bottle feeding, time, and expense of buying milk replacer. Bottle lambs never grow as quickly as those that are raised on mother's milk.

As usual there's been a lamb in the kitchen/bathroom for about three weeks now. The first was Boris who was on death's doorstep. His Mom rejected him - he was one of twins - and so he came to the kitchen. After a couple of days in front of the heating grate, he started to be alive. It got very cold and then we had two massive snowstorms. So he stayed here in the bathroom. No one had the heart to send him out into the real world of barns and snow and giant sheep. Yesterday it was time for him to go back to the barns. He is thriving and hass been running up and down through the kitchen, living room and library whenever he figured out how to open the bathroom door.  I hope he will do alright. He will continue to be bottle fed and will hopefully discover he is a sheep and not a cat, dog or human. 

As Boris left, Horace arrived. (Julia is having fun naming the lambs.) He is also on death's doorstep and we will see if we can help him get going. It's always something when you are farming and raising animals. 

Here are some photos of the sheep at the barns and the little lambs. I'll try to add some more in the next couple days. Enjoy everyone. 


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What You Have Been Waiting For!

And so it begins again. Lambing. 

For all of you who have followed our farm for years, yes, they are later than normal. It was planned. We put the rams in with the ewes about a month later than normal to avoid the cold. Of course now it is very cold but not below zero. Today we are expecting snow but it doesn't sound like too much. Hopefully. 

We have 19 lambs so far. Way more to come. It's going to be busy at the barns. 

Thanks to all who entered the Kaffe Fassett Coloring Book Contest. I've alerted the winner Pam H. Seems like there is a whole bunch of interest in this trend. Wish I could have procured books for you all. Have a good week everyone.