Yarn Along : Knitting and Reading

I’m joining in Yarn Along this week hosted by Ginny of Small Things. It’s a chance for those of us who love knitting and reading to share what project is currently on our needles and which book we have our noses buried in. And I personally add what music I've been listening to as well.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have already seen that last week we let go of our sixteen year old dog. I was going to do an individual post with photos and more about her but I decided against it. It's been an emotional time for me but thankfully everyday gets a little easier. I know it was the right decision and am finding peace in the fact that she is no longer suffering and is with my Dad now. With that said, I'm probably going to avoid blogging anymore until next week.

Knitting: Three quarters of the way through my October pair for the Monthly Sock Challenge, I noticed an error and started over. But since I lean on knitting during emotional times, I've made excellent progress in the last week and half. I'll share more about them next week, when I (hopefully) have them done.

Reading: The Joy of Keeping Farm Animals was recommended to me by Brandi and I'm trying to soak up as much information to help me with any future animal adventures.

Listening: After realizing who it was doing the background vocals for Andrew Bird's rendition of "So Much Wine, Merry Christmas," I've been on a Tift Merritt kick. Really loving the songs "Traveling Alone," "Train Song" and "Good Hearted Man."

What are YOU knitting/crocheting, reading or listening to this week?

3 Questions : Brandi

3 Questions is an interview-style series featuring some of my favorite bloggers. Every week, I ask one inspirational person 3 completely random questions and ask them to share three photos that represent Who they are, What they do or make and Where they feel the happiest.

Brandi is an ambitious woman with a kind heart and honest soul. Her "about me" is one seriously impressive list. (Really.) Her blog is a beautiful respite, one of the ones I save and only read when I know I have the time to devote to taking in all her musings and wisdom on farm life and the natural world. And life too, of course. In between posts, I love seeing her photos on Instagram, capturing critters, plants and adventures in the wild. Needless to say, I'm very honored to feature her here and hope you enjoy this post and check out her blog as well. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Did you ever go to summer camp as a kid?  No.  I was always a rather shy and hermit-ish child (and have remained so in adulthood).  Summers found me on my aunt and uncle's farm, baling hay, feeding calves, really delighting in whatever farm chores I could help with or take on by myself.  When we had down time, we played in the nearby woods and spring fed ponds.  We captured frogs and devised grand frog races, climbed trees, used old hay elevators as teeter-totters (you should probably not try this, I'm shocked no one broke their bodies) and rode our imaginary horses through the woods (imagine Monty Python's Holy Grail...)  We lived near a river that would get shallow in the summer months, and we would put on grub clothes and walk up river, through the river, as far as we could, climbing the rocky, now-trickling, waterfalls on our way.  Our play was bound only by the limits of our imaginations.  I think it was a rather grand way to grow up, I have a hard time imagining what more structured play would have been like.

What is your biggest accomplishment in life so far?  Perhaps, finally, at the tender young age of 36, figuring out what I want to do for a living, and really making strides to make that happen.  We've moved forward with purchasing a small farm, and I'm working at growing it into a business: pastured poultry and eggs, grass-fed meat goats, and I'm planning a large garden for possible vegetable sales as well.  Sometimes it goes a lot slower than I would like, or than I had hoped for, but I'm largely self taught and want to do this the smart and sustainable way.  We are doing this entirely on our own, no outside money or help, and I'm still working full time, so while slower, it's also all mine; the animals, the marketing plan, the travel and distribution, all of it.  I'm proud of that.  I'm proud to raise happy, healthy animals in a caring, natural, sustainable environment that honors both animal and earth, and I'm really happy that customers, present and future, are seeing value in that, too.  

Have you ever danced in the rain?  Often, which gives me another reason I'm glad I don't have any close neighbors.  I'm quite effected by big changes in weather, bodily and emotionally, and I love to see and feel a good storm coming.  When it finally breaks, I can't help but go out and celebrate it. 

Be sure to check out Brandi’s blog and Instagram.

Click here to see all 3 Questions interviews.


Everything is Heavy and Soft - An Autumn Walk

“In the wilds every season has its wonders, but there is always something unchanging: the immense, heavy sound of heaven and earth, the sense of being surrounded on every side, the darkness of the forest, the friendliness of the trees. Everything is heavy and soft, no thought is impossible there.”-Knut Hamsun, “Growth of the Soil

I hope you are finding time to be out there, in the beauty of this season.

Creative Blog Hop

I was invited by one of my favorite makers, Inge of Windward Made to join her in a Creative Blog Hop where we answer four questions about our creative process. I was very flattered to be asked by her and hope you too are interested in reading my answers. You can read her insightful and interesting post here.

What am I working on? Right now I’m trying to capture as much of this summer’s color in fiber by dyeing yarn with plant sources.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I suppose it would be that I dye directly from plants that I either grew myself or foraged for locally. Though, naturally dyeing is by no means new and although there are great plant dyers out there, the ratio of such individuals in the dye world is slimmer. In the beginning I wondered if I would be boxing myself into too small of a space. Would I have enough interesting color options in nature nearby? What about the fact that each batch is one of a kind and can't ever be replicated exactly? Is that really practical? But neighbors are now dropping bags of walnuts off on my back porch and pokeberries, promising to save their garden extras and keeping an eye out for certain plants I’m in need of so I can stay true to my desire to dye directly from my local environment. Eventually I'd like to progress forward to the point of using locally and more conscientiously sourced fiber, (perhaps even from my own flock!)

Why do I create what I do? I've always been a creative individual. I know this next bit has been used by every artist ever but creating is nearly as essential as eating and breathing to me. Back in 2011, I developed a new found love in knitting. Around then, my passion for gardening as well as exploring and better understanding the natural world around me was budding simultaneously. It only makes sense that the two should crash together in the form of dyeing naturally. Now I find so much happiness and almost childlike enthusiasm in seeing how everyday plants can color fiber. It's more than just making something clever or pretty. I think a lot of "art snobs" overlook craft. True craft, the end result and the process, when done for the right reasons, like creating practical and beautiful things to brighten and ease our days and to connect us to the objects we use and see everyday, has a lot of lessons to offer. Lately I've been thinking on how the color seeps into the fiber, transforms it, how some of it won't stick around without help, and how these are such powerful metaphors for so many other things in life. 

How does my creative process work?  With these dyes, I’m very dependent on Mother Nature and I'm rolling with the limitations, opportunities and lessons that come with that. While I do freeze and dry some materials for dyeing when it’s more convenient for me, I've found using fresh picked dye stuffs often yields the best and most rewarding results. That means things like time, rain, wind, climate, etc often dictate when and what I can dye. Because of this, when I hear walnuts plunking to the ground I realize now is the time to dye, regardless of whether or not it fits in my schedule or I'm prepared. My process is very experimental and spontaneous (which is really odd for me!) Like I said earlier, I approach this with an almost child-like way of playing and learning.

Thank you again, Inge for the opportunity to answer these questions. I've nominated 3 other creatives I greatly admire and you can expect to see their posts up in the next two weeks: Casey, Kristina and Ine.

3 Questions : Jacquie

3 Questions is an interview-style series featuring some of my favorite bloggers. Every week, I ask one inspirational person 3 completely random questions and ask them to share three photos that represent Who they are, What they do or make and Where they feel the happiest.

This week I'm happy to feature a super talented jewelry designer from Australia. Her name is Jacquie. I've known her for many years now and loved seeing her grow as an artist and a businesswoman. Her work really adds the perfect amounts of charm and pops of vibrant color to any simple outfit. She has a passion for Japanese culture and design and I love the way she blends those inspirations seamlessly into her own creations. She is currently travelling in Japan (she sources some of her materials there!) and I'm enjoying vicariously travelling with her via all the updates on Instagram.

How do you think the world will end? Admittedly it's not something I think about a lot! My boys come home from school with all these theories about how the sun is going to explode in 3.5 million years and they find the whole concept quite frightening! Perhaps that is how the world will end however by then perhaps we have inhabited other planets and have created new worlds!

If you had to get a tattoo tomorrow, what would it be? I would get a red origami crane on my forearm. I love the intricacy and beauty of the design. I love Japanese culture and art and it is such a beautiful icon symbolising peace and hope. I have incorporated the origami crane in some of my jewellery designs and it is even part of my business logo. One day it will happen!

What is your favorite scent? I have been wearing Frankincense oil since my late teens. It has such a sweet exotic fragrance and although I don't wear perfume every day, when I do put it on I sometimes get flashbacks of fun times and freedom!

Be sure to check out Jacquie’s blog, shop, Facebook and Instagram. And be sure to vote for her in the Etsy design awards (as well as enter yourself in to win a Etsy gift card!)

Click here to see all 3 Questions interviews.

Experimenting With Walnut Dye

It's a little odd to be calling this "experimenting" when I still consider most of my dyes experiments. Granted, I'm getting a better understanding of dyeing in general, what I can expect from various plants and methods, but I'm still learning (and oddly enough, enjoying the unpredictability of it all.) After my last dye with walnuts, I saved the exhaust bath for "experimenting." Since I was running out of bare yarn and was never really happy with the result of the fennel dye (on a merino/silk blend,) I threw it into the pot of rich walnut juice. I also grabbed some white-ish yarn from my stash (seen on the left in the above photos.) Normally you should always pre-wet your yarn before dyeing it to ensure a more even uptake but since I was experimenting with one lone skein, I skipped that step. Which also means I skipped any mordant (which was fine considering black walnuts have enough tannin in them that a mordant isn't necessary.) And instead of just dunking it in, I poured the dye over sections of the dry skein for a variegated affect. Until the yarn is rinsed, the walnut color is such a rich brown and I wondered for a brief moment if I'd end up with a stark contrast between the colors. But I just as quickly remembered a lot of the color bleeds out (especially if you don't mordant or pre-wet the yarn!) In the end, after the rinsing water ran clear, I was left with the a beautifully subtle cream and pale caramel yarn you see above.

I personally love a subtle, soft, muted color palette. I'd never spend money on a skein of yarn in that pokeberry color for myself (maybe if I were knitting for a friend who likes bolder colors.) But oddly enough when it comes to my dyeing, I've aimed for that punch of color. I guess visually it was more rewarding and impressive to see such a rich color after my hard work. But now that I know I can get rich colors, I'm content to create softer ones.

While I was outside, making a mess, I also dunked some old doilies and a shirt in the walnut dye bath, as well as played around with painting on fabric. The results of the latter weren't what I was expecting and I definitely need to learn more about that medium before I share any results here. But, such is experimenting!

Chicken Diary : The First Egg

Early last week we started a pool on when we'd see the first egg. The birds were officially over 20 weeks which meant they could start laying any time. Guesses ranged from as early as October 14th to as late as November 15th. Turns out Friday, October 10th was the magic date! Since then, there has been an egg a day. It is such a joy to see an itty bitty egg sitting in one of the nesting boxes, a feeling that will doubt take a while to get old.