Busy times on farm!

Wow, it’s been a busy couple weeks here.

New guinea fowl to eventually join existing flock. Currently residing in stock tank in the garage.

Two new lambs. More on them later!

New cat. Well, she (?) has been hanging around for quite some time, moving in closer and closer. So, we’ve decided to start feeding her some. Apparently she likes it. Thinking of giving her a Gaelic name but maybe something that could work for a boy or girl cat?

New dye plants and lavender for my new knitted and felt sachets. The weld is not looking good (not your fault, Mary. I tbink I waited too long to replant!) But am hopeful they will all thrive. I am not good with plants.

Oh, and I found time to water the dog!

Published in: on June 21, 2018 at 4:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Fibershed Producer Meet-up and Mill Tour

A couple things I got to do the week after returning home from Scotland – thankfully not both on the same day! – were our annual Fibershed Producers Meeting and a tour of a local wool mill.

The Producer meeting is held to give the group – now about 150 members from all over northern California – an opportunity to meet, share product ideas and generally be inspired.

There was an opportunity to chat informally …

…and to share food and see products others are creating.

We also had some helpful presentations from members on things like how to prepare products for mailing, how to set up displays of your items at sales events, and different ways to prepare your products for sale. I learned some new things to try!

The meet-up was hosted this year by Weirauch Farm, who produce and sell cheese from their flock of East Friesian Sheep. It was great to see them in their open air barn!

A few days later I went with friends for a tour of a recently opened wool mill in our area. Valley Oak Wool and Fiber Mill is a makeover of a mill previously located on this site.

I love visiting wool mills and have now done so in several countries! There are similatities and differences in all of them. Unless the wool (or other fiber) is scoured (washed) elsewhere, they all need to do that. Here the mill owner, Marcail, shows us her set-up for scouring.

Next comes carding the wool. Today she is making sliver which is then pin-drafted to make roving. A hand spinner can work with either of these but here the roving is then spun into yarn with these machines.

At the end of the tour we got to see her picker which is actually used after the fiber is scoured and before it is carded to open it up more for the carding process. I have learned on my own carding equipment the importance of very clean and very open fiber!

I have done all of my picking either by hand or in conjunction with a manual picker. I was inspired by this visit to add an electric picker to my set-up.

All in all, a very inspirational week!

Published in: on June 10, 2018 at 10:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

HOT – again

I feel like I write a blog post on this topic every year. So here goes one for the start of the 2018 hot weather!

Today it was over 100 (37 for my Scottish and other friends who think in Celsius!) Not as hot as it will get but a taste of what is ahead. So, time to see how the animals are coping and what changes might be needed.

The chickens are panting. They seek their own share pretty well but I decided to cover their outside waterer to keep the water cooler.

Some of the flock seem to enjoy the heat. Still makes me a little nervous when they lay full out! Evangeline now asks for a shower most days. This photo is from last summer, but you get the idea.

The sheep often think the barn is cooler but I would choose shade under the trees. They apparently don’t agree.

It was time to add an extra water container. It’s about time for Paridot to start soaking his hooves to cool off. Good for him but dirties the water for drinking! Of course the sheep have to check out anything new – and appear to be using it already!

Published in: on June 4, 2018 at 5:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Back Home: It must be watermelon season….

Published in: on May 26, 2018 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Little More from Skye….

Even though sheep and all things wool take priority, there are other things of interest on Skye.

Two pottery places I visited, at Uig and Edinbane.

History evidenced by one of the many Coronation mugs on view in the Crofter’s cottage in the Museum of Island Life and a truly unusual sporran (part of Scottish traditional dress) in Dunvegan Castle as well as another view of the castle with gorse in the foreground.

Music in the form of an informal gathering of musicians at the Edinbane Inn and the wonderful variety of a choir, guitar playing soloist and young piper at a ceilidh (traditional gathering for music and dancing).

And natural beauty in the form of a rock formation, Kilt Rock, formed when molten rock forced its way between layers of Jurassic sandstone rocks and the columns – resembling a kilt – formed as the molten rock cooled. This would have been a memorable guiding landmark for Scandinavian sailors navigating there in the 10th century.

And in the beauty of the Cuillin Mountain Range.

And a few sheep not on the croft where I am staying. The very beautiful Scottish Blackface.

And back at Island at the Edge, how did I miss mentioning the donkeys, Mollie and Muffin?! Their braying was often my first indication that morning chores were beginning!

And, a last look at the sheep. Every blog series should begin and end with them, don’t you think?!

Here, I think Flash tries to pretend he is a triplet as he joins the twins and their mum.

“What! You’re leaving?!”

Yes, but I’ll be back !

Published in: on May 18, 2018 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Seals and Birds

There is a place in Dunvegan, at Dunvegan Castle (seat of the chief of the Clan MacLeod, first built in the 13th century) where you can be taken out in a boat to see the seals and birds. The boat is not big but is ably piloted, in my case, by the wonderful Trevor (also of Island at the Edge!).

The water was not rough and gradually I let go of my tight grip on the seat!

Here is a pair of black-backed gulls, the largest member of the gull family and, in the second photo at the upper right, you can see a glimpse of an artic tern who is just returning to the area.

And now, the seals. The small size of the boat lets us get in very close and even see some bobbing and playing in the water.

A very pleasant excursion and well worth putting a tip in the box!

Published in: on May 17, 2018 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Weaving on Skye

There is a lot of weaving going on on Skye even though I have primarily been focused on the sheep and knitting so far.

They produce a little booklet here that helps you find your way to all of the many artisan shops on the island. It is set up geographically so you can thoroughly explore each area. The area in which I was based, the north of the island, is rich in opportunities to meet these artisans and explore what they do. I managed, through my own driving (!) and a private tour to cover much of this area.

On my tour there was a stop at the Museum of Island Life, showcasing how things were done in the past including weaving.

A nice display about natural dyeing, including several iron pots I wish I could take home with me! The little piece of coverlet shown was dyed with madder, indigo and onion skins.

A weaving studio near there, Ellishader, would be the opposite in time frame showcasing many very contemporary designs. Here, Maggie Williams creates beautiful items, weaving with lambswool.

Finally, there is Skye Weavers.

Challenging to get to along a long stretch of single track road but well worth the trip.

Two small sheds house their loom and warping apparatus and another their sales and showroom.

The loom is bicycle powered and is a rapier loom. I have never seen one of these. Each pick of the weft is laid separately and cut so there is a selvedge going up the side of the weaving. Because they don’t use shuttles, which need to have bobbins wound, they are faster. You can see the mirror to the left of the photo which shows the reflection of the cone being used.

The day I was there they were just weaving with a single color but those paper strips are put on when working with more colors to feed through the correct color at the right time. Also, here is the warping creel and warping wheel used to create the sectional warp. These are housed in the second building and the warp is carried from here into the weaving building. Skye Weavers have posted a lot of information about how they do their weaving on their website and it is very informative. Please check it out. www.skyeweavers.co.uk

You can purchase many lovely products in their shop and also see a picture of the breed of sheep whose wool is used in their products. White Cheviot!

And here, back at the croft at Island at the Edge, there is a darling little white Cheviot who is playing hide and seek with me!

Published in: on May 16, 2018 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Island at the Edge – Shop, Tours and Classes

Even though it all begins with the sheep, there is lots more going on here. There is a wonderful shop where you can chat with them about the croft and see and purchase many items made from their own wool as well as things made by other artisans on the Isle of Skye.

This is a favorite of mine – a skein of wool made from their own Black Cheviot Sheep. One thing I have learned is that they do not use the word “yarn” to refer to skeins of wool yarn. Yarn here means not pure wool or not wool at all.

They knit be-spoke ganseys here as well as other woolen wear and also make waistcoats and kilts. Here is the detail on one of the ganseys, which tells a story with all the motifs created.

Island at the Edge also does tours – a lot of tours since I’ve been here! For unscheduled visitors they will take you to see the sheep nearby if you are interested. For the more planned tours, depending on people’s time and interest, they get to see the shop, learn a bit about the ganseys story and Fair Isle knitting, and get an in-depth talk about the sheep, the fleeces, and the croft, and, of course, see the sheep!

Occasionally a group comes in and is treated to an extra presentation of local artisans. Here we got to meet a spinner who shows us how she spins her wool raw ( not processed). She brought some finished product with her as well as her resource information for doing her natural dyeing of the wool. Her skeins of Cheviot and Scottish Blackface were amazingly soft!

Island at the Edge also offers classes, some taught by Yasmin herself and others by members of the community. Here is a class on Fair Isle knitting. I learned a lot and have a new skill to bring home with me!

Published in: on May 15, 2018 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Island at the Edge – Lamb Races

I suspect that wherever there are lambs, there are lamb races. I know we have them on my friends’ ranches back home. It seems no different here, varying only by the look of the lambs and the terrain. Here the lambs take advantage of the “bunds”, a mound of earth created during the building here and the natural contours of the land.

A brief halt when they come around the caravan and find me in their path…

And then off they go!

Published in: on May 11, 2018 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Island at the Edge – the Sheep

It is always the sheep that draw me to explore a new place, or re-visit an old place. This time it’s the Isle of Skye and the croft Island at the Edge. Renewing an old acquaintance with people I had stayed with in their B&B on Colonsay, a tiny island about 100 miles from where I am now, but also in the Inner Hebrides. In the 5 years since that visit, they have relocated to the Isle of Skye, the northern most and largest island in the Inner Hebrides.

I am lucky enough to be staying on the croft in a caravan, which they first lived in while building their house here. They built their house as close to the water’s edge as they could so that, when the tide comes in, they could fish from their back door if they wanted to! Set on the shores of Loch Greshornish, a sea loch so it has tides, it is a very beautiful place.

On this croft they raise Hebridean and Black Cheviot Sheep, as well beginning to breed North Ronaldsay Sheep. They use the wool for a number of products, including yarn and bespoke knitwear.

The sheep are fantastic and the positioning of my caravan right by the pasture lets me make frequent trips out to visit them. The Hebrideans are a little smaller than the Cheviots and have horns. Here are some of the rams.

Look at the wool on this Hebridean ram!

It is, of course, recently after lambing time. I am not sure I can travel any other time of the year!

The Black Cheviot lambs are more muscled and stockier than the Hebrideans, who almost look delicate in comparison.




Sometimes they come and visit me!

The ewes and their lambs are just so photogenic in this setting. There is just something about the black and white, with the occasional grey, that is very appealing to watch.


Here’s a good view of the different coloring in some of the Black Cheviot ewes.

What a magical place!

Published in: on May 10, 2018 at 8:18 pm  Comments (4)