Monday, May 25, 2015

We're Moving......

..... sheep that is. The sheep are moving out to pasture. "Out to Pasture" - it is such a common phrase that I remember hearing my Mom and Dad say when I was a young girl. Until I was involved in raising sheep, I never really thought about its origins but of course it comes from the agrarian language of the past. Now it is part of my everyday language.

It's not a bad thing - For humans the term "out to pasture" has connotations of uselessness and lack of worth. For me, I think of Out to Pasture as more of a restorative part of the year and cycle. The winter is my out to pasture time of the year. During those shorter days of the year, it is time for me to restore my creative juices. To make things. To rest up until the next cycle of the year - the growing season - happens when on a farm, it is very busy. 

This past week, we sorted ewes and loaded up the handy/dandy landscape trailer - 16 to 18 animals at a time. It's a bit complicated. The goal is to only move out the ewes that have older lambs that no longer need their milk. (It takes several loads over several days - if you are sharp, you will notice that the sky is different colors in these photos.) Before, the ewes are sorted, the temporary electric fencing must be set up at the field the sheep are grazing. That is a project in itself for The Farmer.



We gather sheep into a small area in the barn using wire hog panels as a tool. Luckily sheep are animals that flock - one moves and the rest follow. It's not exactly easy but it happens. The Farmer backs up the truck with an attached trailer to the fence. (Thank goodness he is good at it - I stink at backing up anything.) We secure the panels so no one escapes. I open the gate and hope one of the ewes will remember that last year there was green grass at the end of the ride. With any luck, the ewes will go on up onto the trailer. I count as they move through the gate.

We close the trailer with about 15 to 20 ewes aboard. Off they go to the greener pastures in Leyden, MA where they will spend the summer and fall. Here they are running off the trailer at the Zimmerman Farm where many sheep will be spending the grazing season. 




The ewes run off the trailer, knowing that at the end there will be green grass to eat. They have been eating hay (which is grass actually - only it is dried or preserved in a myriad of ways). 



I like to compare the ewe's first grass to the first green LOCAL asparagus of the season. 

Alongside the road of this particular field, there is a quince tree blooming......



I must ask this summer if I can have some quince for some jam.... 

Here in western Massachusetts - aka The Pioneer Valley - aka Asparagus Valley - the vegetable asparagus is a Rite of Spring. Here at our Farmhouse, we have been eating it EVERY NIGHT for the past 2 weeks. I cook it simply - steamed and then dressed with some butter and a bit of an acid - either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. We are yet to tire of it. The season is coming to an end. 

The ewes must find this grass to be of a similar taste after all the preserved food they have been eating since November. 



I love this photo of the ewes looking at me - waiting to see who else will arrive at the field. Many of the ewes are just being separated from their lambs and will dry off to be bred again in August or September. As a Mom, I can understand their apprehension and relief as their lambs move on to live their own lives. The ewes quickly settle in to their new routine of grazing and sleeping. They need to restore their systems for breeding season which will begin again in August. 



It is a cycle of life on any farm. I appreciate the connectedness I have with the land and Mother Nature. It is a gift. 

If you are in the States, I hope you are having a relaxing Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Brand New Things on the Farm + Fabric Printing Class at Our Farm July 18/19 + More

Guess what I picked up yesterday at the Bernardston Farmers Supply? A dozen day old Ameraucana chicks. So cute - aren't they? Here's a video I took of them chirping away. Make sure you have the volume up. 

video


Just a heads-up that last night I added a second Fabric Printing Class to the "Getting Stitched On The Farm" class schedule. The dates are July 18 and 19. 

This class is limited to 6 students. It is a very personal class where I help you learn to design your very own fabric. Read about the first session HERE and HERE.

Sign up via my website here. There are 5 spaces available as of this morning. 

Below are a couple photos of a recent in process Fabric Printing Project that I did. 



This weekend is the annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair in Cummington, MA. Saturday and Sunday. Check it out here. It is a great family friendly event with sheep shows, fiber, Border Collie Herding demos, angora rabbits and lots of gorgeous textile related things to buy. About 2 hours from Boston. 



The Farmer will be selling our lamb at the Amherst Farmers Market on the Common from 8 to 2 tomorrow - Saturday. Pick up some ground lamb and try out this recipe for Grilled Pitas Stuffed with Spiced Lamb. It's an interesting recipe and although it sounds like it will not work, it does. It would be a nice appetizer too - cut into wedges. 

This morning, some of the sheep escaped their fencing. I took this little video of them munching away on the weeds and grass. Listen to them munch and to the birds singing. 

video


There is a frost warning for tonight. If you live in New England, the traditional time to plant a garden is Memorial Day. I'm not quite ready yet but soon. For the time being, I can share the grass with the sheep. 

Hope all of you have a glorious Memorial Day Weekend if you live in the States. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It Happened Again

Every year it happens - sometimes it is better than others. It is nature and we have no control. We get to sit back and think about it. Wait for it. Wonder how it will be this year. The anticipation is half the fun.

What is it? It is the blooming of the old orchard that sits to the south of our farmhouse. It was planted probably 40 years or more. 


It hasn't been pruned or cared for properly in over 25 years. It is wild and unruly. Trees have been uprooted and lay on their sides. The orchard now is a shady place for our sheep to graze and wait out the heat of the summer.


Every other year, the orchard puts on a show. It has reverted back to a wild status - thus the every other year flat-out gorgeous show. It usually happens the second week of May --give or take a few days.

And then one day, the little white flowers pop out with the heat. I look out the porch windows and see the sea of white lollipop shaped trees from the window. It is stunning.


If I have time, I bring my camera out and go for a walk with the dogs to catch the blooms in a photo or two. The blossoms are fleeting. They are only open for about 3 days before they start to fall to the ground and are replaced by green leaves.


Sadly, the  orchard's show is over for this year. We will wait for the bounty of apples that it may bear in the fall. The sheep will enjoy the shade during the hot summer days. 


Until next year - thank you Mother Nature for the show. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sunflower Crewel Embroidery - Preview Day 3

First off - let me remind any of you local folks but the Webs Tent Sale is this coming Saturday and Sunday. I will be having a booth on Saturday at the "Fleece Sale" from 10 to 5. I will be selling our Leyden Glen Lamb and some other goodies if I can get myself organized. Here is their site for more info.

Back to my Sunflower Pillow project. The last sunflower I stitched was inspired by the maturing sunflower blooms. As sunflowers bloom and age, their outer rings become more textured. This is a Stella Gold Sunflower - another favorite variety of mine. You can see its outer ring has lots of texture. 



Here is another sunflower - variety unknown - with its center beginning to take on a rounded and textured appearance. 



This is the largest sunflower in the pillow design. It took a lot of stitching but it was fun to make over the days I was selling at the Farmers Market. The outside petals were stitched in stem stitch packed tightly together.


I used Turkeywork to give the texture to my outer ring of my third sunflower. I didn't cut the Turkeywork - just left it looped. Here is a detail, showing a side view of the looped Turkeywork. As you can see, I used two different shades of brown in the needle at the same time to give a multi-color look. Towards the center, I changed the colors a bit. Turkeywork takes a lot of thread. 




For the center of the sunflower I used French knots. I used multiple strands to get larger knots. I built a swirly pattern with the darker brown to mimic the natural pattern of the center of a sunflower. Then I filled it in with a gold color. At the very center, I used a light green color. 



For the leaves, I decided to let the fabric show through to give a little extra visual texture. I used random cross stitch. To create the jagged edge, I used fly stitch. The center vein was created with open chain stitch. 






I teach Crewel Embroidery on-line on Craftsy - use the following link for half off the price of the class because you are a blog reader: 
www.craftsy.com/ext/KristinNicholas_3938_H

I am also offering an advanced Crewel Embroidery Class here at the farm in August. Info here.) 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Spring Has Sprung at Leyden Glen Farm

Last week it was unseasonably warm and it is continuing this week too. You would think we would all be appreciating it after this past winter but it happened all too fast and furiously. Last Monday, the big old maple tree looked like this. 



By Friday, it looked like this. It is really amazing how fast the landscape can change, isn't it? And all that green just makes me happy. 


Enjoy the rest of the photos from around the farm. I set them up in chronological order from Monday to Friday. It's like you are here with me watching spring happen. Have a great week everyone! 


















Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day + Webs Tent Sale - This Coming Saturday/Sunday


Just popping in to wish everyone a Happy Mother's Day. I hope you all are having a restful day. The flowers above are Virginia Bluebells - one of the first perennials to bloom here in my garden. They came from my Mom's garden in NJ and after a few years, a nice little grouping is starting to spread. These flowers go dormant in about a month. You can move the roots to other places to make another colony. That is what I plan to do this year. 

Spring is here in full force. It is hot, hot, hot. The cats and dogs are sleeping, the sheep are looking for shade and I am sweltering under my laptop. I had better look into one of those chilling pads. Does anyone use one for a MacBook Pro 13" model that they like? 

On Saturday, I will be at the Webs Tent Sale/Fleece Market from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stop by and say hi if you are visiting Northampton. I would love to meet you. I will have our Leyden Glen Lamb with me along with some books, sample projects, and other odds and ends. Bring a cooler if you would like to try some lamb - it will be frozen. 

Hope to see some of you there. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

Fabric Printing Retreat - Wrap Up Part Two

Busy week this week here at Leyden Glen Farm. It's a few days late in coming but I wanted to show you all what the students did at the Fabric Printing Retreat here at our farm last weekend. Here is a group shot of everyone with their bags and printed fabric. Don't they look like a happy crew? And that Winston snuck himself into the photo!

I love teaching students how to design. In the beginning, most of them have doubts that they can design by themselves. As the hours progress, they are digging in deep - talking about why something works or doesn't work. It is so much fun to see their confidence progress as the day goes on. 

Robin made this bright and happy bag.


Kim made this floral bag in aqua and green tones. I love how it matched her checked shirt.


Michelle went with a heart motif in many colors and combined it with some happy circles. She started with one distinct idea, made a few stamps to print from and then it morphed into this one. I love that!


Minh designed a graphic design. She will be coming to the Crewel Embroidery Retreat in August and wanted to print a fabric to embroider upon. She made 2 different versions but somehow I missed the photos. You can see one of her prints in the photo above. When designing for adding embroidery, it meant that she had to think about space for the stitches to be added. She had to make a design that would suit the embroidery - similar to my Paisley Pillow from a month ago or so. 


Here is Nancy's bag. She began with a motif idea that she photographed in Peru. 


This photo shows the stamps Nancy used. 


On Day Two, Nancy added some black lines to define the shapes even more. 


Rosie designed and made many, many stamps. Here is a close-up of the fabric she printed. Stunning. So colorful. 


This year, I am offering both one and two day options for the retreats. It seems like the right thing to do since some people do not want to stay overnight and don't have enough time to be away from their families. I must say though -- the students who stay for the second day really do absorb more and learn more - as would be expected. I had 4 students on the second day. We got so into printing and designing that I totally forgot to take any photos. Day Two gives each student the option to specialize in a second type of printing OR to just keep going with what they were having fun with the first day. 

Cynthia finished printing this long piece of fabric. 


Then Cynthia printed this bag. 


Nancy made some new print versions using her stamps from the first day. I think she will be using these as napkins or pillow tops. 





Robin and Rosie did block-printing and designed and carved some beautiful blocks. I forgot to take photos! Here are some block-prints I carved so you get the idea. 



I will be offering the Fabric Printing Class again this summer July 18/19. I don't have the website ready yet but I will let you all know when it is ready for registration.  Mark your calendars now if you would like to come to the farm and join in the fun. The announcement will be first made on my "Once in A While" Newsletter which you can sign up for at the upper right side of my blog.