A little bit of green….

A little while back we finally got some rain. We decided to let the flock check out the front pasture which we had been keeping them out of. First, I checked out the fencing and general area to see if there were any potential problems to them being in there.

I saw our seasonal creek which was still dry.

seasonal creek


I saw some more potential natural dye materials – our red iron bark eucalyptus. See the red in the stems and the berries? I get a very nice dark yellow to orange color from it when dyeing wool.

red iron bark


Our guineas were finding something good to eat.



OK. Everything looks ok. Time to let the waiting flock out.

 "Where are we going?"

“Where are we going?”

Some got a little behind.

"Wait for me!"

“Wait for me!”

"Where'd they go?"

“Where’d they go?”

"Maybe they went this way"

“Maybe they went this way”

The flock found a little grazing, although it hadn’t greened up much.

some grazing

checking out far front


At the end of the day, the flock heads back to the barn.

heading back in

Good night.

Good night.














Published in: on March 21, 2014 at 4:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Carmen Speaks

hi. it’s carmen. marley told me this is the way you start a blog post. i miss him and have very large hooves to fill but thought i’d give it a try. (marley also told me he would have written a post more often but jackie seemed to not want to leave her laptop in the barn very often – something about dirt but, hey, we live there, don’t we? ) anyway, like i said, i will give this a try but don’t expect to hear from me very often.

it is important that i write this post as much has happened in our shetland world. i am a shetland sheep and cassie is a shetland sheep. cassie doesn’t live here anymore as her breeder wants her to have lambs at her place. i think i am glad she did not pick me for that job. i have enough work to do here, which i will tell you about.

so, cassie left and went back to her old flock.

cassie leaves


she met up with some of her old friends and waited to get sheared.

cassie waits for shearing


while she was there, she met some other special shetlands – eve…..

eve close up


and earl….

earl thinking


one morning a little later, jackie told me she was bringing us a surprise. i thought she meant a new kind of alfalfa. nope. it was these guys.

jackie should have seen that eve would be trouble. look at her climbing on earl. you will see where that leads later.

getting halters on


but she brought them home anyway.

in the vaneve and earl arrive


in yard


we first saw them through a fence. a good plan, if you ask me.

carmen meets earl


but, they had to come in sometime so i knew i’d need to show them the ropes. I explained all the rules here – don’t fight, come in at night, share the food, don’t harass the llama, try not to run into jackie…..

carmen explains the rules


hey, eve, i am still talking!

carmen chases eve


i showed them where the water is…

told them where the water is


they figured out pretty fast where to eat

lots of places to eat here


i hope they figure out how to join the flock. they still seem a little unclear about flock dynamics.

they think of leaving


and i KNEW this girl was a climber

eve climbs


eve in hay storage


hopefully, she’ll figure it out. i have to leave them on their own sometimes. i am not a yearling-sitter.

carmen leaves them


but i think they will eventually figure it all out. we all did.

marley said it was important for the flock to have a voice. i guess i am it now – being the smartest sheep in the flock. someone has to keep track of what’s going on around here.

more later.

love, carmen

final shot of carmen

Published in: on February 11, 2014 at 7:01 am  Comments (6)  

Is There Such A Thing as Too Many Fleeces?

I get asked this question periodically (and sometimes ask it of myself).

I love going to other people’s shearings – seeing all those fleeces come off the sheep is like getting to have a birthday several times a year, without getting any older!

Seeing bags of fleeces waiting to be looked at is almost as good as being at the shearing.

Fleeces at Forest Home Farms in San Ramon

Fleeces at Forest Home Farms in San Ramon

After getting help with weighing (you usually buy fleeces by weight) from my friend Patsy…

patsy helps me weigh

…the fleeces easily fit into my van.

fleeces in van

Sometimes I have to go into unusual places to look at fleeces.

in debby's wool shed

Last December, my friends Dona and Mary and I made a visit to Barinaga Ranch in Marshall to check on some more E. Friesian fleeces (wonderful dairy sheep). Yes, there were more fleeces in bags…

bags of fleeces

black fleece

Marcia has yarn and roving made from her fleeces. We were lucky to get some more of this yarn that day.

Marcia with an armload of wonderful E. Friesian yarn!

Marcia with an armload of wonderful E. Friesian yarn!

Vans are good for transporting yarn, too!

yarn going home

This yarn and these fleeces make wonderful knit-felt hot pads.

e friesian  hot pads

Of course, it is important to see the sheep that give us this beautiful wool so we had to make a quick stop to say “hi.”

sheep coming towards us

sheep group

So, back to the original question. Is there such a thing as too many fleeces? You do need to have a place to store them and it helps to have friends. Recently my friends Dona and Marni helped me create a little more organization in our “wool shed” (aka garage).

wool shed storage 1

wool shed storage 2

wool shed storage 3

I recently read something that may answer this question. Someone asked if a book lover could ever have too many books. The answer: No, just get more shelves.

Time to get more shelves…….

Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 5:02 am  Comments (4)  

Marley – a true gentleman sheep

Sadly, we lost Marley this week after a short illness. Looking back through our many photos of him, we could see even more of his giant personality.

I first met Marley at Black Sheep Gathering in Oregon. He wasn’t going to be used as a breeder ram and needed a home with someone who would appreciate his wool. We became that family and he joined us in California at the age of two.




Jackie and Marley

Before we had our farm, Marley lived with our other small flock at a friend’s pasture.

marley with sid, winnie, wilma

Marley’s favorite activity by FAR was eating…..

finally where I belong!

grape leaves

hay face

i like eating inside

marley eating leaves

His least favorite activity was getting sheared. And he always had something to say about THAT!

marley getting sheared

hey, you guys are next - run!

He was halter-broke…sort of

marley isready for his next adventure!

marley in van - head

But he really just preferred hanging out…with sheep when he had to but he loved being with people.

nellie, %22marley whybaren't we in the orchard?%22

by me


where are we going says marley?I'm really interested in what Shelby's doing!

He didn’t like the heat, was curious about everything, and could get himself into some odd predicaments….

this heat is terrible says marley

Marley checking out my knittingat truckmarley stuck, #2

Occasionally, Marley asked me if he could write a post in this blog. He was always insightful, had his own way of explaining things and gave the blog a different view point. He added a unique character to the flock that cannot be replaced. We are honored to have known him for these last few years. Enjoy your new green pastures, Marley.

Marley chewing hay - head shot

Published in: on December 21, 2013 at 6:22 am  Comments (6)  

Thankful for Our Animals…..

….the chooks



who provide wonder…

baby chook











…and humor

chooks lined up


me with snow


Guinea fowl…who work on pest control…



…entertain us

guinea on fence


Dogs who provide companionship and much humor….



ringo on drying screen


And the flock

….who talk to each other

sheep who talk with each other


…who drink from hoses

carmen drinks from hose


…can do acrobatics

sheep on balancing beam


…have best friends



…and provide us with lots of wool

jacob fleece


Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!

happy thanksgiving

Published in: on November 27, 2013 at 6:48 am  Comments (8)  

One Way to Make Felt

1. Start by sorting some beautiful Merino wool from Mendenhall Wool Ranch in Loma Rica (in the lower Sierra foothills).

sorting fleeces


2. Wash fleece.

washing 2


3. Rinse fleece.



4. Dry fleece.



5. Hand pick by color.



6. Card on drum carder.



7. Remove batt from carder.

batt coming off carder


8. Make pre-felt from batts on Felt Loom.



9. Combine pre-felts to make felt piece.

felting 2


10. Trim felt.



11. Enjoy beautiful felt!

felt 1


12. Figure out something to do with all the trimming scraps – create small bags of felt and hand spun yarn (thanks, Dona, for cutting up all that felt!)

scraps in basket


Artisan made felt – individually crafted. This batch of Merino wool in natural colors now available!

felt 2

Published in: on November 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm  Comments (10)  
Tags: ,

Green Marks, Top Knots, and other Shearing Day Trivia

Hi. It’s Marley. I heard Jackie is getting complaints about not enough blog posts so I told her I’d help her out by writing One. I don’t know how it happened so fast but Shearing Day happened again. I know some of These Sheep only get sheared once a year. I want to know how to get moved into That Group.

Before I could find a way out of this, we were all put together in a Small Area.

"I feel Squished."

“I feel Squished.”

We all felt Squished.

Ingrid, "Why now? I just got my fleece looking the way I want it?!"

Ingrid, “Why now? I just got my fleece looking the way I want it?!”

Jackie and her helpers decided, besides getting sheared, we had to get Drenched. That means Nasty Medicine [ed. that keeps you from getting sick, Marley].


After the medicine, you get a Green Mark on your face. Unless you are me. Jackie says it’s to make sure they remember which sheep is Drenched. I don’t need one as no one Ever Forgets Me.

diamond with green mark

All too soon it was My Turn. John the Shearer said I behaved very well this time. Whatever.

here we go again...

Unfortunately, Jackie got busy and forgot to remind John not to shave My Topknot. I forgive you. [ed. Thanks, Marley. I won't forget next time!]

Wilma, "Don't worry, Marley, it's just your new look for the winter."

Wilma, “Don’t worry, Marley, it’s just your new look for the winter.”

Jackie had to tie up Our Llama, Paridot, to keep him out of the way during Shearing. He is not a Twice a Year animal.


He didn’t get Sheared, but he did get Drenched! Tastes yucky, doesn’t it?

paridot drenching

I didn’t get to see this next part but Jackie and her friends went over to Colleen’s to help with her sheep Shearing. She has very pretty sheep, I hear. I wish they would come over here for A Visit so I could see them.


pretty faces

I hear they didn’t like Shearing any better than than we did.

they don't like it either

I heard one of them was Special and wore a Coat. I am also a Special Sheep but I hope Jackie doesn’t think about doing that Over Here!

thor in coat

I also heard Colleen’s sheep are Pretty Smart.

"Maybe we can figure out how to unplug his shears!"

“Maybe we can figure out how to unplug his shears!”

Jackie told me today she got 31 pounds of wool from our Half Shearing Day. She seems pretty happy with that. Quentin won for Biggest Fleece – 5.5 pounds! Jackie wants me to thank all her Helpers – Chris for Drenching, Mary, Janis and Polly for saving our Fleeces from getting dirty, and Dona for all the Wonderful Photos.

Well, it’s over for another Six Months. No Top-Knot but no Green Mark either. I’d call it a Good Day.

Until next time….

Love, Marley

see you next time

Published in: on October 28, 2013 at 5:35 am  Leave a Comment  

What’s in the Truck?

You may remember that I made a trip to Kentucky this summer. I wanted to check out a new piece of equipment. And, it finally arrived!

Apparently, backing in to our property is easier!

Apparently, backing in to our property is easier!

It’s a Felt Loom – all the way from Kentucky.

Looks a little to close to the edge to me!

Looks a little to close to the edge to me!

Oh-oh. It doesn’t quite fit.



Luckily, the driver was skilled at taking off the front piece of the loom and getting the door off its hinges (and back on again later).




I had to try it out right away. It is really a giant needle felting machine. Start with batts and you get beautiful felt.  I ran a batt through to make a piece of felt.



And some braided roving through to make scarves.


Lots and lots of scarves….



I have now experimented with several different wool types….



East Friesian

East Friesian



You can shade for an ombre effect (Jacob on left) or add fleece staples back in on top (CVM on right).



It’s going to be a felt-filled Fall!





Published in: on October 17, 2013 at 5:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Weaving ….and Leaving

The last time I worked with Jason Collingwood at his workshop in Nayland, I wove a rug. This visit’s goal was not as ambitious, but I am surprised at how much I got done. We decided I would work on his smaller, sampling loom and try out some weave structures, while working on rug weaving techniques such as using a temple (helps with the selvedges), carrying colors up the selvedges (a LOT harder than it sounds, at least for me!), twining the beginning and ending edges and some other finishing techniques.
Here is one sample on the loom.

..and one I was working on braiding a finish.

Here are the four samples I managed to finish (not bad for three days in my rug weaving world!). They are all done on a linen warp with wool weft. Jason helped me pick out colors and, in the blue one, blended the blues to get a transition effect. Obviously, I have a lot of finishing to do once I get home!

The workshop is next to a very interesting church, one of the “wool churches”, meaning it was built from monies raised through the wool industry of the time. The original church was built around 1204 but that one probably burned down with this “newer” one being built sometime in the 1400′s.

Here is a detail from one of the outside walls.

I had seen the church on my visit two years ago, but this time got a chance to go inside ( that happens when you weave samples instead of weaving a whole rug!). It houses a rare Constable painting (you can just see it in the front). He only did three religious paintings ( he was from this area and painted the scenery around here a lot).

But, all good things come to an end and it was finally time to pack up and leave.

I think even the cat was sorry to see me leave (or he wanted a treat!)

I did find one more sheep…on a beautiful kneeling cushion in the church (I think Jason was afraid I might smuggle it into my suitcase!)

It was time to head to London to catch my flight.

…saying “good bye” to the sheep of the U.K. …

…close the Workshop door….and head home!


Published in: on August 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm  Comments (2)  

A Return Visit

So, I left the beautiful Herdwick sheep behind, leaving from the Penrith train station…

…which is located across from the Penrith Castle ruin.

…saw some sheep from the train…

…and found that a decorated post in the train station was causing me to start thinking about weaving patterns!

After about six hours, I finally arrived at Jason Collingwood’s workshop for my weaving course. This was a return visit, having woven a rug here with Jason about two years ago (see my blog from September 2011 for details).

This time, I was here for the blooming of the hollyhocks which are just beautiful.



Jason told me that the sheep I saw before were still here down by the river, so I had to go and look.



Yup. still there. But I have no idea what they are – maybe crosses?


In any case, we were happy to see each other!


Next: on to the weaving!

Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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