Sunday, February 28, 2010

To Roo or not to roo

Raising livestock for any reason requires patience. Unfortunately, I've never been a very patient person and waiting for the "harvest" of wool is really getting difficult. They will be a year old next month. It is time for them to give up their first crop.

I have waited, however, for two reasons: 1. I don't want my babies to freeze and this winter has been unusually harsh. I don't think we will actually see temps in the 50s an 60s consistently until April. Then it will need to come off or the sheep will be too hot. 2. I don't have shears and scissors just won't quite do the job.

So, I've been waiting.

I looked out the window yesterday and saw a great hunk of hair hanging down off of Alice. My first thought was that something was wrong and she had been injured in some way and part of her was hanging with the hair. So, I went out to take a closer look.

It seems she has started to roo a little bit. I pulled about 4 ounces off of her. Unfortunately, the stuff that came loose was the matted, clotted, dirty stuff near her arm pits and stomach. It was very interesting to see in those spots where she really was rooing, how the tips of the new coat is just intermingled with the old coat by about a quarter inch. She has about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of new growth. And the new stuff under the old stuff where it did pull free, is lovely and white. I will probably never see her as clean again. I was a little afraid of pulling as I thought it would hurt her, but she just stood there quietly and let me yank on her.

Now I did learn that she is happier if I pull steadily and in the direction of the hair. But I still was nervous about hurting her. She let me know when I got to spot that was not loose yet. I did clip a little with a pair of Friskers... and kept the cut at the same level of the new growth just to see if it acted any differently. The cut end on her body does not curl the same as the rooed end. In the lock cut off, I don't really see much difference.

If she was to roo completely, she will look lovely and even all over with just a bit of curl in the new growth. But I'm not convinced that she will. Large swatches (particularly the parts of her fiber I really want) is still hanging on tight.

I honestly thought the fiber I collected off of her was too nasty to fool with as I knew there a lot of other lovely fluff on the rest of her just waiting. And it is the part that is normally skirted out due to tags and dirt. The length varies from 2 inches to 6 and the tips are stained still with the red of the Staunton area soil which is where she was born. I was very pleased to find very little vm in the fiber even though it is from the underside of her and should have been filled with the stuff.

Ken convinced me to wash it anyway and I set it in a colander in front of the heating vent to dry. While it still appeared to be hopelessly matted, when it was nice and dry, I worked with it on the hand cards a little and got some nice, very soft, grey and white rolags. The scratch factor is minimal.

I spun it up on a drop spindle and went with a little thicker weight than I normally do with Shetland. I also spun it as softly as I could. Then I wound it off onto the nostipine, made a 2 pull ball and plyed it back on itself. This very few yards was then knitted on US8 needles into a 3 inch swatch and came out to a very lovely worsted weight, worsted wool which is white flecked with bits of grey.

I'm really thinking sweater.

Jerry's fiber remains a mystery at this point. He's not showing any signs of rooing at all. Figures that Mr Hyperactive would be the one I will have to shear.

I can hardly wait to get my shears. I ordered some new ones yesterday.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I thought to see if I could still put pencil to paper and come up with something artistic.

Now, I believe one should really work from life... but just getting back to this, I felt I needed a way to keep my subjects still... not wanting to do a still life (because I really like faces), I decided to work off of two photos.

The first one you might recognize as Alice:

The second is Ken.

Alice has no comment on her likeness.
Ken thinks the drawing looks nothing like him.

I think I need to practice some, but I'm pretty close.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Do you think they are spoiled? Maybe?



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Past meets present

One of my favorite things to do is to treat myself to lunch once a week at a local restaurant. While there, I eavesdrop on conversations going on near me.

Last week I overheard an enlightening conversation.

There was a young lady there who was with her mother and her grandmother. This young woman was stylishly dressed, and delighted to have a day out of school and an opportunity to spend the afternoon with her grandmother and mother.

She was complaining that her teacher was making her research and write a paper about the days when segregation was in effect in Virginia. She said she did not understand what the big deal was and why there had to be a whole month (February) for Black History Month and why everyone was so insistent that she do the work.

"It's not like it was slavery, or anything," she said.

Her mother, who was my age, said nothing. She just smiled and gave her mother the nod. Grandma took the cue and set down her utensils and leaned back in her chair. She gracefully waved her hand to encompass the dining room of the restaurant. "Do you see the people sitting here?"

The teen looked around and arched her eyebrow. "Yeah, so?"

"How many Black people do you see sitting in here?"

The young woman looked around and noted an older Black couple in the corner and then pointed to herself, her mother and her grandma. "There are five."

"Yes," said grandma, "and right up until your mother was a baby, there would have been none. Your Poppa might have been washing dishes in the back, but none of us would have been allowed to eat here."

She went on to add, "And you would not have been able to eat at McDonalds, go to school with most of your friends, and you might not have been able to shop at the Peebles or Wal-Mart."

"Where did you shop?" the girl asked.

"There were stores, whole neighborhoods just for Blacks. There were schools just for Blacks, but most did not get to complete school because they had to drop out and find jobs to help support their parents and grandparents. There were no retirement plans back then, other than your children taking you in and taking care of you."

"What about the doctors?"

"Oh, back then, the doctors would come to you," Grandma said, "but if he was busy with the White folk, you had to wait. We did not go to the hospital very often. All the babies were born at home."

The young lady looked down at her plate, "But that was a long time ago, wasn't it?"

Her grandma chuckled. She had a deep, low laugh. "It does not seem so long ago to me. And things were changing very fast when your mother was coming up. There are many of us who still remember. It's important that you do not forget."

Then the granddaughter asked, "Was it really so bad, being separate?"

"At the time, most of us tried to pretend it didn't make a difference. Then again, it was all we had ever known. It was pretty scary for us to finally stand up and insist that we be treated fairly. For many, there were serious repercussions. Some of us were killed."

The girl grew quiet. "You know there are still people who say mean things and who think we aren't good enough."

Her grandmother reached across the table and patted her hand. "I know honey, and that just means all the work is not finished yet. You just have to keep your head up and show them you are just as smart, and just as beautiful and far more mature than those people. Fortunately, there are more and more people coming around every day. But you need to do your studies and finish school with good grades and go on to college."

The granddaughter smiles a sort of crooked smile and said, "I'll work on it grandma, but you know you got one thing wrong."

Grandma tilted her head and the girl said, "There were no McDonalds back then so nobody could eat there then." The three burst out into laughter and went back to their meal.

It's good to be reminded.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pretty snow pictures

Working from Home

The snow was coming. We all knew it was coming. So before I left work on Friday I packed up my laptop, the power cord, the mouse and pulled out a bunch of files that needed attention.

They all sat snug in my rolling suitcase until this morning when I looked at the outdoor temperature and read 11 degrees. I cleared my desk, logged off of my personal home computer and unloaded the office laptop and cordage. Low and behold I was able to log in without problem and the signal was wonderfully strong and I was able to work steadily and well focused for 8 hours.

My little cell phone rang a few times. I called a few people. I emailed back and forth to my bosses. I logged down my time and worked steadily along. Most of the work was simply data entry... lots of those things that could not be entered at the time they happened because 2 or 3 things were happening at once and it was faster to jot down a note in my notebook and continue on through the various crises. So, today I caught up on about three weeks worth of notes. I felt very good about it.

I took 2 15-minute breaks. I took 45 minutes for lunch and since I started at 7:30 a.m.; I quit at 4:30 p.m. Tomorrow is reporting day during which I will meet face to face with about 1/4 of my caseload.

Another big snow storm is expected next Friday and Saturday. But I will be headed toward the Academy. I guess I will take my laptop with me for that as well... and my knitting and some spinning.