From a Box to a Stock Tank to a Deluxe Coop: The Journey of 6 Buff Orpingtons, 6 Ameracaunas and 6 Guinea Keets

We were due to get some new chicks – down to four adult chickens and four Guinea Fowl. Age, predators and – we think – a re-location of a couple Guineas up the road had caused the need to re-supply the farm. The order was placed and the call came from the feed store that they had all arrived!

They came home in a very small box.

in box from Higby's

We had recently removed a stock tank from our dog run, much to Ringo’s dismay but he was getting yeasty from “swimming” in it. It was perfect for raising this large number of chicks – about double what we had ever done before.

in stock tank

They quickly figured out where to eat their feed and drink their water that had electrolytes added for a couple weeks.

figured out where to eat and drink

After about 3 1/2 weeks they were feathered out and had figured out how to fly which was making taking care of them increasingly risky. It was time to move!

is it time to move?

moving day

They were headed for a new chicken coop that we had built into the new barn last year, knowing we would eventually be adding new chicks. It apparently required inspection and approval by the sheep.

Eve inspects new waterer for outdoor run but they won't be out here for awhile.

Eve inspects new waterer for outdoor run but they won’t be out here for awhile.

Indoors, Eve gets help from Nellie and Lily. I guess they approved so we can bring in the chicks.

nellie and lily help eve inspect inside

Nellie, "I wonder where this goes?!"

Nellie, “I wonder where this goes?!”

It looks ready to us, too.

looks ready for move in

They arrived in one box from the feed store but it now takes two to get them to their new home!

"Oh-oh. We're back in a box!"

“Oh-oh. We’re back in a box!”

Welcome home!

birds in a box

better stay in a group!

"Hey - where did everybody go?!"

“Hey – where did everybody go?!”

They quickly found their new food and can settle in and continue growing!

found feeder

Thanks to my friends, Jonathan and Denise, and their wonderful chickens in the Outer Hebrides. I got the idea of adding a swinging roost after seeing something similar in their coop. I will update once the chicks and guineas get big enough to reach it!

And also big thanks to my chicken handlers, Marni and Mary. Hopefully the handling they gave them over the lasts few weeks will give us calmer birds!

Published in: on August 21, 2016 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Karakul Wool + Angora Mohair = ???

No, this is not a new cross-breed! It is a story of blending wool and mohair to make felt. For those of you, like myself a few years ago, do not know the different types of fiber that can go into felt here is a short breakdown.

Wool comes from sheep. Mohair comes from Angora Goats. We usually call what we get from llamas and alpacas “Fiber” (not a part of this story). And then there are Angora Rabbits who produce – angora! Also not a part of this story.

Julie, a friend of mine with Karakul Sheep and Angora Goats (and, incidentally, Angora Rabbits!) asked me if I could make her some felt panels for her exhibitor area at the California State Fair which was last week for sheep and goats. Julie and I got together with her fiber – natural and dyed – and discussed design plans. It was a true collaboration.

I had not blended wool and mohair on the carder before so wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. We decided on three panels that would have a base of natural colored wool and mohair – cream/white. Then an ombre look for two panels which would have an edge of mohair only (black), a blend of mohair and wool in middle and all wool at other edge.

Here is the wool and mohair on the carder belt.

karakul and mohair on belt

Here is a partially felted ombre panel. The challenge here is that the mohair alone is really heavier than the wool and kept dropping off the back of the carder and didn’t want to go onto the drum! With a little work, I got it to wind on.


Julie dyed both Karakul and mohair locks so we planned out how to use these but then Julie said just to use my own judgement. Perfect collaboration! I sorted both sets by color to get an idea of what I had to work with.

sorted karakul

Dyed Karakul


Dyed Mohair

Dyed Mohair

For one panel, I laid out stripes of Karakul color on one side of panel and added Mohair color to the other surface area.

three stripe on table

And the finished panel.

three stripe at studio

And one of the finished ombres.

mohair with blue at studio

At the fair, Julie came up with a very creative way to use the panels.

horizontal at fair

double helix at fair

other vertical panels at fair

Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without the help of the sheep and goats! Here are a couple of Julie’s Karakuls at the fair. Sorry, no goat photos.

karakuls at fair

And, as always, at home I appreciate the wool our Karakuls give us. It is very hot here right now so could only get good photos of Quentin but isn’t he beautiful?!

quentin eating

quentin by gate

And no goats (or goat photos) here either! They are smarter than I am so sticking to sheep!

Published in: on July 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm  Comments (3)  
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Sheep Smile

A friend of mine, Carol of Joshua Farm Shetlands, asked me awhile back if I could make a felt banner for her with her logo on it. Carol and her family have a wonderful flock of award-winning Shetland Sheep. She wanted to have the banner done by this year’s Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon, if at all possible. Oh and she wanted it made from her Shetland wool, of course!

Time to get into gear! I washed a few fleeces that I just happened to have (!) of her wool and got them carded into batts.

Here is the logo on one of her yarn wraps.


This will be fun because I get to add some color – and because I love the smile on that sheep!

I got the logo enlarged so the finished size made sense for the 4 ft by 2 ft banner Carol wanted. Then I traced the sheep and the flowers onto heavy interfacing so I could then cut the shapes out of pre-felt (which is is wool that is not completely felted and so can then be felted onto another piece of wool felt).



I needle felted on the colors and details by hand and then placed these pre-felts onto the felted base, added the lettering and ran through the Felt Loom. Finished!


And hung at Black Sheep Gathering this past June!


As for those Shetland Sheep, we are lucky to have three of them on our farm:

Earl, an easy-going wether with very nice real black wool!


Carmen, a moorit ewe who loves her morning and evening bit of bread – and a good chin scratch….


And Eve (usually called Evie), a small ewe with a very sweet temperament and insatiable curiosity (seen here checking out what will be the new chicken coop).


They make me smile.

Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 1:56 am  Comments (2)  

Little Things….and Big Things

Returned from the islands and ready now to get back into the routines of the farm and making things.

First, however, some new things in the barnyard.

Little things….new water buckets. It has been pretty hot here since I got back so the flock gets new buckets outside – and an additional one inside as they are going through more water at night now with drier grasses to eat.

buckets outside


For the big things. we had been thinking since building the new barn that it might be hotter in there than the old barn. It seems to be true. So we ordered some gates made that would let us keep the big doors open at night so air could move around in the barn. It seems to be working pretty well. I have added some wire panels since I took these photos, just to make more predator proof.

The gates fold back nicely against the inside walls.

gate open to inside

The flock wasn’t sure they liked to see in but not be able to get in – or maybe it’s their natural curiosity, demonstrated here by Nellie (of course).

checking out gate

And by Evangeline, looking annoyed (my interpretation).

can't get in

OK. That’s better.

going in

An added bonus is being able to see the flock settle in for the night!

through gate


Published in: on June 7, 2016 at 8:32 pm  Comments (5)  

Last Hebridean Post: the Shearing of Baghasdal, the Ram

Our time in the Outer Hebrides is at an end. However, we squeezed in a couple more important activities: watching a shearing and seeing a natural dyeing. In this way, we sampled croft work of both Jonathan and Denise.

First, the shearing. Jonathan had already sheared the hogget (yearling or so) rams. But the flock sire, Baghasdal (“Valley of the Bays”) remained.


He is a beautiful ram. Because it kept raining on us on and off, Jonathan decided to move the shearing to the stone building down by the shore. He uses the hand shears and did the front first, with his little helper watching what would be in store for him in the future!


He then lays him on one side, and then the other, getting the wool off. Baghasdal is being very cooperative. He also gets his hooves trimmed and is dosed for worms.


Rhubarb and Primrose decide to take a nap. This shearing stuff is exhausting!


Returned to the group, he is inspected to see just who this guy is!


We take the fleece with us back to the Big Garden as Jonathan and Denise want to get a closer look at it and Mary and I will be seeing how Denise does her natural dyeing. I am so surprised and pleased to find that I will be able to have this beautiful fleece shipped back to the U.S. after we scour it! What a generous gift!

We give it a skirting.


Then a scouring.


Meanwhile, Denise shows us the dyestuffs we will use today – stinging nettles and Sweet Cicely.



The end result of the afternoon – dyed wool (yarn), dyed fleece, and washed Baghasdal fleece. Fantastic!


It has been a phenomenal trip – a perfect place to stay, unbelievable weather, wonderful sheep, and fun and generous hosts. What more could you ask? A return trip! Boys, I will be back!




Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trip to Tarbert

One of the things we planned to do was take a two-day trip to Tarbert which requires about an hour and a half drive north to Berneray (past the airport at Benbecula where we started), a one hour ferry ride to Leverburgh, and then another half hour or so drive to Tarbert.

After careful directions and map annotations from Jonathan, and only one stop to ask directions, we made it to the ferry with 15 minutes to spare. Here comes the ferry!


The captain has to negotiate a series of buoys to keep us safe crossing the Sound of Harris.



Debarking the ferry we started our drive up the western coast of Harris, the island north of the Uists where we were staying. Just beautiful.



We have seen Scottish Blackface and Hebridean Sheep but here is a Cheviot for you.


We apparently began our trip at rush hour.



Ah….now it’s thinning out.


And then there was the little one who needed his mid-morning snack…






I think we can begin moving again…


We stop at an art cafe – a number of these around the islands which have artwork for sale and also provide coffee and tea. This one had beautiful paintings, note cards and other works for local artists and very good scones!


One of the reasons to come to Tarbert was to visit an independent weaver (that is one not working directly for the mills but gets their work examined and approved as Harris Tweed thus able to use the orb stamp indicating a woven good produced in the Outer Hebrides from Scottish wool). I was able to connect with Joanne at Urgha Loom Shed before our trip and arrange a visit. We drove toward Scalpay and turned off toward Urgha and then down a very steep hill which ended at the water – and her beautiful little shed studio.


The central attraction inside is her beautiful Hattersley loom – the traditional loom for producing Harris Tweed. From my reading, the “Hattersley domestic semi-automatic treadle powered loom” was developed for WW I servicemen who had lost a hand and could use the looms to make a living. They caught on on Lewis and Harris because they can create intricate patterns and produce cloth quickly – up to four meters per hour.



The shuttles come in from the side.


And the power is provided by the weaver’s pedaling.


The weft in the bobbins is held on pirns for which  Joanne has a winder that was really fun to watch!



Joanne’s studio is a wonderful mix of the old and new, classic and modern. Her inspiration wall was impressive. Thanks so much, Joanne, for letting us visit! If you would like to see some of Joanne’s creations, she has an Etsy site. Check her out at UrghaLoomShed!


Returning to Tarbert we got in some shopping and a nice evening at our hotel. Saturday we headed to the Clo Mor (Big Cloth) exhibition . From “The three main tenets of Harris Tweed are that it is (a) made from pure virgin wool, (b) hand-woven at the home of the weaver, and (c) the process takes place entirely in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is these elements, underpinned by a unique Act of Parliament, which gives Harris Tweed its unique, enduring qualities.” This exhibit is at Drinishader, heading down the east side of Harris (more about that in a minute!)


Inside, there are samples of Harris Tweed to handle and exhibits of Harris Tweed fashion.





This Harris Tweed footwear was created by Jaggy Nettle. I would wear these!


The beautiful Harris Tweed colors are created by blending the color into the wool before it is carded. This interesting slip of paper shows one example of how they are blended.


After leaving here, we make the decision to carry on down the east coast to a recommended art cafe. Fortified by cheese, tea and scones we continue on.



Now, comes the tricky part. This whole east coast has curvy, winding roads with ups and downs and “drops” to the water or rocks below. I had to spend a lot of time leaning to the right (remember, we are driving on the “other” side of the road) to keep us on the road (just kidding but it sure felt like it!) and so when Mary would point out things I should photograph, I just held the camera to the left and clicked! In spite of that, I think the following photos give you an idea of the road!




Of course, the sheep are not bothered by this and take it all in stride.


And always get in those all-important naps and snuggles.


We survive the drive and arrive at our ferry terminal in plenty of time to meet the ferry. I think I may have discovered the secret to Mary’s productive knitting, I think she knits while driving (just kidding – but it does pass the time while waiting for ferries!)


Here comes the ferry – we are off “home” to Eriskay after a lovely trip to Tarbert area.


Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 7:58 pm  Comments (4)  

Lambs and Other Animals of the Croft and An Gàrradh Mòr (The Big Garden)

We focus a lot on the sheep while we are here – who wouldn’t?! But there are many other animals where we are staying and nearby at our hosts’ home.

But let’s begin with the sheep again, shall we? We were greeted our first day here by a visit from Rhubarb (whom you have met) and the other bottle baby this year, Primrose, whom I got to hold right away.


They both come over to the croft each day. Rhubarb is now spending his days with the other “boys” – yearling rams and the flock sire, but is still getting three bottle feedings a day. Primrose comes along as she adores Rhubarb. They get a chance to play and explore while Jonathan does chores.





When Rhubarb joins the boys, Primrose is not happy. Such is the life of the little tag-a-long.


The croft also has many beautiful chickens (from whose eggs come wonderful things such as lemon curd made by our hosts!) and geese, shown here with this year’s goslings.



When Primrose isn’t visiting the croft, she is back at The Big Garden. She is rather a persnickety bottle baby and definitely has her favorite feeder.

Is it Mary?


No….Is it Jacalyn?


No….Is it Jonathan?


Maybe….and getting warner. It’s Denise!


Primrose also gets some time with the goslings who currently live here (hatched from incubator eggs). They will also move over to the croft when they are more feathered out and ready.



Then there are the “staying” animals who only live at The Big Garden – cats Tabatha, Dusky, Molly (over 20 years old and not feeling like a picture that day!), Princess Pickle, and Thomas (sorry, Thomas, no picture!) and very special Tilly, the dog.





Whether at the croft or The Big Garden, there are plenty of very well cared-for animals for us to watch, interact with, and enjoy.


Published in: on May 23, 2016 at 7:44 pm  Comments (1)  

Arriving in the Hebrides….and Rhubarb

After an early morning flight from Edinburgh, we arrived in the Outer Hebrides at the Benbecula airport. This is the airport more in the middle of the Outer Hebrides, with the other two being Stornoway to the north and Barra to the south, both of which I used on my trip here last year. This location was better suited to renting a car for where we wanted to go.



We drove from Benbecula to Eriskay, the island on which we are staying – about an hour drive. This beach area on Eriskay is so beautiful and another visitor offered to get a shot of the two of us.



As you may know, one of my concerns was driving on the other side of the road here. Mary is doing most of the driving (and doing it very well!) but I am getting in a little. We really should warn the locals.


At the croft where we are staying are the beautiful Hebridean Sheep.


One of the special ones this year is bottle baby “Rhubarb” ( so named as Rhubarb was being picked when he arrived back at the house where he would get his start).

Here, he waits for that morning bottle Jonathan has brought.


OK, Rhubarb, you can have breakfast.


He obviously enjoyed it!


He then joins the flock to hang out with the “big boys” for the day, learning how to be a sheep.



Published in: on May 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  


We ended staying in Edinburgh as a way to get between the Faroes and the Outer Hebrides. You cannot fly directly from one to the other – no matter how hard you try. So a nice couple evenings and a day in Edinburgh were ahead of us. We stayed near where we could walk to things and saw some lovely vistas and architecture.






We had no trouble finding good things to eat (food in first shot a little nibbled because Mary could not wait for me to take photo!), both a snack at a coffee shop and, later, dinner at an Indian restaurant.




We decided before we got there that we would at least look up yarn shops in Edinburgh. As it turned out, with all the walking involved, that was all the shopping we did (with the exception of finding a phone store for me to switch out my Faroese sim card for my phone to a UK one).

Here is one photos of some of the yarn. As soon as I figure out what I want to use for what project, some of it is destined for a beautiful garter ridged shawl.


It looked like the weather might be changing so we headed back to the hotel and retired early to make a very early morning flight (actually two flights!) to the Outer Hebrides.



I wonder what we will find there?!


Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 5:51 pm  Leave a Comment  


Our last stop in the Faroes was to the charming little village of Bøur. It is past the airport on the island of Vágar and down a steep little road from the main road (yay again to Mary’s driving skills!)

Our view when we arrived and parked.


A little closer and you can see the most spectacular of the sea stacks, Tindhólmur, named after the peak (tindur in Faroese) that rises to 262 meters). It was once inhabited but now is only for grazing sheep.


We came here on a recommendation from our new friend, Dorthea, who introduced us by email to a villager, Anne Sophie. She agreed to meet us shortly before our flight and, of course, invited us in for tea and cake!

She has been in the village all her life. Her family gathers sheep skins for processing into tanned hides, which is done in Poland. Here are a couple.



She also had a painting of Tindhólmur, showing it from a different angle than we could see.


The village really is beautiful with a church, dating from 1865, sheep (i think a requirement!), and a waterfall (maybe also a requirement…)




But, our time on the Faroes has ended. And we have to be on our way. See you in Edinburgh!


Published in: on May 17, 2016 at 8:07 pm  Leave a Comment