Hues to you!

My studio is brimming with color despite the backdrop of frigid and snowy weather outside. I frequently struggle with the yin and yang between the desk and dyepot with multiple projects and deadlines in both areas. Welcome to a glimpse of what has been cooking in the studio this week. Some freshly dyed lengths of silk ribbon…

I just finished my part of a collaborative this week which was challenging but rewarding. Although the volume of yarn was nominal the work lay in the matching. I ran tests on each sample first before commiting the beautiful one of a kind skeins to the dyepot. I wanted the finished skeins to mirror the original samples with the one variable that the samples are a white base yarn and the finished skeins are a gray base. The yarn is from my CVM/Romeldales.
I will share more when the project is complete…the small butterflies atop the skeins were the original colors for me to match through natural dyeing. Accomplished!
On a personal note, I had promised a skein of sock yarn naturally dyed by me for a business associate. She wanted pink so she could knit a pair of socks for her and her baby girl. My camera didn’t do this justice but it is a lovely coral pink with subtle variegation. In the mail and on it’s way.

Nothing wasted, for fun, I put a large cotton scarf into the after-bath from the sock dyeing….yummy, warm pale coral…

The indigo vat simmered along so I could alternately dip skeins, scarves and tests I needed to run.
Here’s Luna behind the indigo oxidizing tub…clueless to my efforts but happy!

All three dogs spend time with me, although Kalie eyes the door in hopes it will open and free her for a run!

Sidney loves the studio. He is quiet old now and doesn’t need too much entertaining, he just loves to be amidst the action with nothing asked of him! This is the perfect place!

A customer arrived yesterday with 3 pounds of her hand-spun yarn for me to dye. She has posed a challenge for her color choice and I look forward to it!
I am half way through a large custom dye order…more color to burst forth soon!

Her final pasture

Ashley, our most famous, beautiful ewe has gone to greener pastures. Her health has been slowly declining since early summer and with each passing week it has been harder and harder to watch. She still ate well and grazed but she walked ever so slowly from stiffness and lost her eyesight just weeks ago and her hearing was sketchy.

A few days ago we moved her and the rest of the flock back to the winter barn and pasture for the year. Here she was that afternoon, blind and tired but happy. But in the late day when the rest of the flock headed for the barn, Ashley would still be in the pasture, alone and baaaing. She knew they were gone but wasn’t sure how to get back. She couldn’t see and her safety was in jeopardy. Each evening we would lead her back with grain, loving words and a nudge from behind. She hated coming down to the pasture sheds all summer for the night shift. Ashley loved the high life and pasture was her glory. It was a hard transition for sheep and shepherd.

The day after we brought Ashley and the flock home I happened to be outside just at dusk. I heard a round of commotion, low key, but odd. I decided to walk down and double check the barn when I heard Ashley’s big bellow baaa from the wrong direction. She should have been in the barn but she was across the lane. I looked into the dusk and saw Ashley headed into the woods.

It was pouring rain, damn near dark and she was hobbling off into the woods, blind and lame and tired. I ran up to Katie’s cottage on the farm (our dearly beloved assistant shepherd) and asked for her to help me wrangle Ashley back to the barn. Jack was away for the evening so it was girl’s night! We quickly got back to where Ashley had last been roaming and meanwhile she had wedged herself between the ledge on the right and the tree on the left and she was down.

After a good 10 minutes of pushing, pulling and coaxing with grain and halter we got Ashley back in the barn in a private suite fit for a queen. The rain hammered down and at one point as Katie and I were pushing and pulling Ashley home, I looked at Katie and said “isn’t this a scene from Cold Mountain”. We both briefly chuckled. As it turned out Ashley had blindly walked into the electric fence outside the barn, gone through it at what cost and then wandered away, not sure where she was headed. I am so eternally grateful I was there in the barnyard at the moment I heard some off beat sounds. Otherwise she would have spent the night in the woods and perhaps not survived the night predators.

The next twenty four hours we devoted to Ashley’s comfort. She had her evening alone, safe in the barn adjacent to the rest of the flock but with her own water, hay, salt and comfy bedding and during the day she was with the rest of the flock. But we knew it was a lost cause. If she couldn’t see, nothing could be safe for her. Wednesday we made arrangements with the doc to make that hard, hard final decision. It was a lovely day on pasture, all the sheep were just mellow and cruising. I “asked” the rest of the flock late-morning to spend some time with Ashley as she would be departing later in the day and as God is my witness within two hours most of the flock was resting around her. Up until this time, all summer, Ashley quite often was just sleeping alone somewhere on pasture. They know.

Ashley was a queen. I bought her when she was 8 years old as she traveled the sales circuit. To others she was a “has been”. Old and useless. I came to learn she had the most divine fleece I have ever encountered. In fact, I never sold her fleece after the second year I owned her because it was too good to be true! Soft as butter. Her cheeks were soft, her neck, her hind quarters, all of her. I chose to buy her so she’d have a good final run on life. And she did. She lived here for 8 more years and gave us more than we dreamed of in so many ways. In 2006 she gave us triplets at 10 years old!

She loved the fall when the apples fell…like an elixir.

She was a clown.

And most of all a lady.

She was laid to rest, September 29th, 2010 at Long Ridge Farm. A jewel in the crown. Forever loved, forever missed.

In Memory of David Hinman

…our shearer and friend suffered a heart attack and died Monday. He has sheared our flock for 10 years.

God speed. We will miss you.

Waiting, watching and spoiling

Lambs are due within the week so I spend a fair amount of time coming and going from the barn to spoil the girls. Here is Memphis looking quite pregnant!

Thankfully the lamcam connected to our bedroom TV allows me to keep an eye on them during the overnight without disturbing them or us. It is the best invention for lambing time.

One of the ewes highlights is alfalfa cubes broken up and drizzled with molasses. It’s a great source of energy and protein wrapped up in one.

The other highlight is individual massages from head to toe. The ewes just love their shoulders, hips and backbones rubbed. Who doesn’t?! Bea’s in the moment.

Now it’s Memphis’ turn….

and Della’s turn.

Join us for a workshop?

Workshops for the 2010 season at Long Ridge Farm are open! Three day workshops with Michele Wipplinger are featured for August. The first is Basilan: Earth Pigments and Infusions from Mali, Africa. The second is Woad: The Ancient European Blue.

Michele Wipplinger

Patty Blomgren and I will be teaching a series of one day workshops throughout the year focusing on working with fiber and natural dyeing

Patty sharing her expertise with me about my yarn order

Patty Blomgren has been a spinner, weaver and fiber artist for over 25 years. She has taught spinning and weaving at Ewe and Me in Northfield, Massachusetts and currently teaches at Margie’s Muse, Jamaica, Vermont, Maybelle Farm in Wardsboro, Vermont and is in her 13th year teaching spinning at The Putney School, Putney, Vermont as well as numerous spinning classes in the Southern Vermont area. Patty also is a spinning/fleece contest judge for the annual Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival.
For the past 5 years Patty was the master spinner at the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont where her knowledge of handspinning translated to working the Spinnery’s 1948 ~ 96 bobbin spinning frame. Patty graduated in 2001 from Mount Holyoke College with a major in Women’s Studies and a minor in Art. Her final project in Women’s Studies brought her back to her passions of the fiber arts when she was curate for a weaving exhibit at Artspace Community Art Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Teaching people to spin is Patty’s favorite obsession!

Patty Blomgren

Nancy Zeller ~ Photo courtesy of Marti Stone Photography

Nancy Zeller of Long Ridge Farm is celebrating ten years of raising sheep and particularly the most rare and endangered CVM/Romeldale. Long Ridge Farm has won numerous prize ribbons for raw fleeces, is recognized nationally for their involvement with CVM/Romeldales and continues to produce breeding stock lambs from their flock of CVM/Romeldale sheep. Nancy received a BA in Art from UNH at Keene, NH and has been immersed in natural dyeing since 2005, working side by side with Earthues of Seattle, WA. She teaches by request throughout the Northeast. Nancy does custom dye work for Green Mountain Spinnery as well as individual requests. You can visit her at fiber shows throughout the year around New England and also by visiting her studio at Long Ridge Farm.

Learn to spin, learn to dye with indigo, learn how to buy the best fleece, learn to use combs and carders properly and more…. won’t you join us this year?

Shearing…once, twice…done

Ah, shearing day, finally. Friday we got the shearing area all ready replete with hay for the sheep to eat as they were done being sheared. We don’t feed them before shearing because then their rumens would be full and it’s like eating a Thanksgiving dinner and then doing somersaults. No thanks. After each sheep is sheared we put clean, and much smaller coats back on and put them in a separate area where they can regroup, eat and wait for their comrades. Our shearer was to arrive at 9AM Saturday. Here is the flock, coats removed, no breakfast yet and waiting. We keep them pretty confined during the pre-shear, as it’s easier to get a sheep out of a tight flock then to try to catch one in a larger space. And it’s a sight to behold when a stranger, like the shearer or the vet, comes into the barn. The sheep cram into the smallest, tightest group imaginable….far, far away from the stranger.

Here’s the shearer, David Hinman, getting set up, for the first time. Yes, the first time. You see, it was like this. David brought out the first ewe to shear and we were all set, everyone in their places. We had Steve, our farm helper, ready to put coats on after shearing. Jack was sweeper(cleaning the floor between each shear) and to help Steve. I was taking the shorn fleeces away, labeling and putting them in a safe area during the process. And our friend Sandy was there to watch and enjoy. And then the lights started flickering. David was shearing away and said “what’s up with your lights?” and I said “Oh s***”. We lose power in Westmoreland on the average of once a week. But the lights kept flickering only, dim, bright, dim, bright. My toes were crossed. No please dear Lord, not now, NOT TODAY! And then, dead. No lights, no power, no shearing. The first ewe was half sheared and here we were at 10:15AM!
So David packed up his equipment and said he’d go shear another flock and come back in the afternoon. He had no sooner driven out of the yard and the power came back on…10:45AM. well, I have never been too good at the “oh well, whatever, that’s cool.” I was fit to be tied. I was ready to drive to the Public Utilities Commission office in NH but of course it was Saturday. Nothing to do but wait out the hours. We figured David would be back by 2ish. So we let the sheep have a bit more leg room in the same barn, gave them water and waited. And so did they. Sheep are good at just waiting. They didn’t like it, but they were fine. And sure enough David rolled back in at 2:30 and we commenced the process. Here is Ashley, our 13 year old ewe, being sheared. She has the most incredible fleece I have ever had the privilege of handling. And each year, the past few, I keep it for my stash…sorry! (<: This is Daisy. It is so neat to see the fleece come off their body in one beautiful piece. When I gather it up after it is shorn the fleece is still warm.
We finished up at 5PM, got the flock back to their regular barn where they had fresh hay and fresh bedding in the barns to bed down in for the night. They know the route from one barn to the other, it’s down the lane about 50 feet. we opened the gate and before Jack could lead them to the barn they took the lead and were in the barn single file and eating away,. That was a first. Who ever said sheep are dumb is all wrong. Spoiled they are but what they give back is worth all the effort! What’s most amazing is how small they are now without the fleece. Twice as many can fit along this one wall of feeders.

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