Monday, December 31, 2007

Let it snow!

The snow stick measures 15" today, we had another storm yesterday and we are in heaven! Took the snowmobiles out this afternoon; breaking trails so we can walk the dogs, cross country ski and snomobile around the land here. We rode up to the top of the long ridge (about a mile uphill) where we celebrated out anniversary in May and had another toast to the upcoming New Year. The wind was high and waves of wind and snow squalls would come through. Deer sign everywhere as they travel to find browse. It is harder for them to get feed in this weather when the snow is getting deeper. They were eating the bark of some young hemlock saplings. The snowmobile trails pack down making nice trails for them to travel on.
Another storm due in on New Years Day....yippee!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Year end

Just a couple of updates to old posts with dangling endings!

This is Webster. We finally found a name suitable to his personality. For Christmas I got a CD that I had on my wish list which had been hard to find. It is called "Soulville" by Ben Webster. It was recorded in 1957 and Ben Webster, internationally recognized as one of jazz's elder statesmen, was a great tenor saxophonist and played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra for two decades prior to this album. He is joined on piano by Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass and Stan Levey on drums; collectively known as the Ben Webster Quintet. Why all this background information? Because if you like jazz you need to own this CD. It is smooth, cool jazz.

Jack and I had been visiting friends on Christmas evening and coming home we listened to the CD for the first time. The full moon was on the rise, the air dry, the snow covered ground basking in moonlight as we took the country road home from the next town over. It was soooo beautiful and the music so fitting.

When we got home we put it on to finish listening to it and the cat joined us as we listened. He lay in front of the speakers under the dining room table and just grooved. Then he got up and did some zipping around. He liked it and so he was named at that very moment ~ Webster. The web man. The jazz man. Webster is going to be a good name and he already turns his head to it. The picture above is Webster today. He likes Shelley, the sheltie, a lot although they haven't declared it so quite yet. He wants her to play hide and seek but she doesn't get it so for now he talks to her and flirts. She was just outside the picture. He's a cool cat.

The other update is regarding Daphne's fleece that was lost at Rhinebeck this fall. I was waiting until the checks were mailed from the fleece sale committee before I would jump to conclusions on it's disappearance. Well, my check came and it didn't include the money for that fleece. The chairman of the committee called me a week later to say they never found the paperwork or the fleece so I should consider it stolen.

Nice, huh? Imagine, walking boldly and without conscience, out of the fleece sale barn with 7#s of fleece in a big see through plastic bag! My tags had to be torn off and hidden. I wonder if the person premeditated the caper. Or was it just on a whim? I work all year on those fleeces, changing , repairing and washing coats, keeping the sheep coats fitted properly, hiring a great shearer, then post shearing, cleaning, skirting and sorting, bagging and labeling the fleeces and Daphne's was my prize fleece for the year. I saved it just for Rhinebeck. Well, as I said in the prior post I won't be selling fleeces there ever again and I hope the grease never washes out of it for that shameless robber!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night,

all is calm, all is bright.

Round yon virgin, mother and child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

No romance about farming in this weather

We are in for 1/2 to 1" of rain tonight on top of 18' of snow which poses multiple issues to prepare for. The roofs need to be raked, ditches around the barn need to be opened to let the rain flow away from the foundation and any snow that needs moving better get moved today before the cold air returns and turns everything to a snowy cement.

The drizzle started at 9AM and we spent the last 3 hours doing all that above. The sheep barn was most important to address to avoid collapse, so Jack cleared off the roof and it was HEAVY snow already. I locked them out of the barn area so they didn't panic with Jack on the roof, and they DO panic at any little unknown issue. I did my best to get the snow and mud cleared in the outside loafing area so the ground will dry off quicker, eventually. I got a ditch cleared so the inner barn doesn't flood. A few years ago , we learned the hard way that if there isn't a ditch the water all just seeps in and then the bedding and everything is soaked. We had a sump pump in there for days during that storm.

Jack did the roof raking for the summer sheep sheds, the house and cottage and one side of another barn. Thankfully he is fit! That is hard work.

Looks like we are ready for whatever happens and tomorrow it will be colder and windy with snow showers. As the saying goes, if you don't like the weather in New England, wait a minute.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A handful of dust

So now, for all you doubting Thomas', here is yet another story. We brought the new cat home Friday and were getting him settled in. Within an hour of his arrival I went upstairs as I didn't see him anywhere. As I walked into the family room there was a book laying on the floor at the base of the bookcase; A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh. The book was in the top shelf, you can see where the books slant at it's departure. The top of this bookcase is where all our deceased pet's pictures's our memory shelf and wall for our furry tried and true friends. And as you can see from the bookcase there are many different books to chose from.

The bizarre part of this was, before I went up to see the new cat, I had just hung up the phone from the vet's office, Friday afternoon, telling me that Ursus' ashes were ready to pick up.

Yes, the new cat could reach the top shelf with a claw and pull a book...but that book, at that appointed moment, from that bookcase? We have many open bookcases in our home, two in that room alone.

May we never underestimate the power of the soul departed.

A final note, I picked up Ursus' ashes today and received the most heartfelt gift. Not only his ashes in a beautiful hand carved wooden box, but a silk rose or two, a floating candle to light and a beautiful book about losing a beloved pet along with many other soothing pamphlets. They did a wonderful job of soothing the unforgetable loss. We lit the candle tonight, said our prayers and trust that Ursus is looking at us all and feeling eternal peace. As I finish this entry, the new boy has jumped up on my desk to bask under the light of the desk lamp...and let me know he's here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The cat who came for Christmas

It was just two weeks ago today we lost our beloved Ursus. The following 24 hours were so sad and heart-wrenching. But we think Urs sent a message the morning following his death. I was convinced by some unknown force to find another Chartreux as soon as possible. Usually Jack and I go many months, sometimes years, between new pets. They are so hard to replace, the wait seems necessary.

But this day, December 4th, we started searching immediately. We went to the humane society and although there were a few cats we could have adopted, we left, needing to wait. We got on the Internet and connected with a breeder who happened to have a 2 -year old neutered male Chartreux that she wanted to re-home. His owner had to move which precipitated him needing a new home. After many emails back and forth we arranged to go meet the cat and adopt him if all looked good with our meeting. Friday, the 14th, we met our new cat and despite a couple of initial concerns we put him in his cat transporter in our truck and brought him home. It was a long drive but he rode like a champ, so much so I'd drive with him anywhere and usually riding with a cat in the car is NOT a fun time!

We haven't named him yet so presently he is called all sorts of nicknames...something will come in time. But he is a handsome, healthy cat. His first day was rather nervous, getting to know the house and Sidney and Shelley, although they didn't even bat an eye. To the dogs, Ursus (sort of) was back. By yesterday the cat was playing his own cat and mouse games, in and out of paper bags and roaring up and down the stairs...happy! He is affectionate and also independent. He doesn't get on the counters or tables, and has chosen two sleeping spots with my seal of approval!

Nothing will replace Ursus, but there is no doubt in Jack's or my mind that this cat came with Ursus' help. Call us crazy, but happy we are to have been given the opportunity at this particular time.

The top picture is Ursus, the lower is our new fellow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow on snow on snow

What a fabulous start to winter! Yes, we love the for us today's storm was an event! We had about 8" on the ground and as we awoke our snow stick attached to the flagpole read 11" and coming down hard by 8AM. Steve and Liza, our farm helpers, are also snow birds so all of us are just happpppy! Jack took a walk with the dogs and captured some of the views this morning (Sidney found a point of interest way down under)...I made batches of Christmas cookies, a turkey stew for dinner and basic Christmas fun things while Jack spent the afternoon doing chores like getting the week's hay to the sheep barn from the big barn, raking the roof edges and plowing and clearing snow as the temps are supposed to plummet this week. They have been unseasonable low this year for December, the overnights in the single numbers and highs in the 20's. And to think Winter officially starts this week! We hope this season lasts well into March!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Having a very berry time

Sidney kept me company yesterday while I made cranberry strings. He likes raw cranberries! He likes all berries, blueberries the best. I didn't give him too many but he was most fascinated as the string grew and wiggled around under his nose! Along with our living room tree, I wanted a little tree for the kitchen this year. It's decorated with animal ornaments and bobbles. It's a fun addition!

Friday, December 07, 2007


We have had a number of gray days lately so yesterday Shelley and Sidney took advantage of the warm rays. Sidney loves to lay out in the front yard pondering his universe, moreso with some warm protection underneath. Both these dogs love the snow...Sid gets such a charge out of running the fields with the snow on them and they both snuffle into the grass tufts looking for unsuspecting mice.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Free Rice

I am diverting from the horrors of yesterday. In a numbness now. I could just stare out the window all day but need to get back to my routine of the farm, work and friendships. Life without Ursus now begins.

This is a fun way to help feed the hungry and boost your knowledge of the English language. I got a 41 pretty quickly but then seem to have leveled off. You can save your score and come back to it later by clicking Options. Click on this link and fire away!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Our Ursus

The unthinkable and unexpected and most painful thing has just occured. I have to write, it won't help.

Our dear and loyal cat, Ursus, has been killed just moments ago. I can't breath. He was run over in the night, the dark, this snowy night. He is gone. We are in shock.

I thought we had at least 10 more years. I can't even explain the intensity of this cat and our relationship with him.

We are a mess. He was a stray cat who came to us, we tamed him and he knew how to survive here, he lived here before we arrived. We have had him 12 years and now on his own land he died, in an untimely and very unkind way.

We are sick, time will heal this but never, ever, will we have another friend such as Ursus. He was one of a kind. God rest your blessed soul, dear Ursus.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Happy birthday to me!

The past couple of days have been absolutely frigid here. It always seems colder before the snow is on the ground but that event is upon us. We are supposed to get at least 4" out of this storm which will put a nice start on the White Christmas theme.

I celebrated my birthday this weekend and had a fine time of it. My friend Debbie came up from the coast on Friday and we had lots of fun. Debbie is a fantastic chef and so Friday she cooked for me here at the farm. We had a fire, drank good wine and watched a dumb movie! Saturday we went north to Norwich, VT to the King Arthur Flour store which was great fun. Loads of baking items plus gift ideas and fresh baked goods. A chef's treat for sure. We topped it off with dinner at Nicola's resturant in Keene.

Debbie got on the road mid-day today and is now safe and sound by the sea once again. The snow has started and the sun is down, the sheep have full hay racks and a great shelter from the storm. Jack has been hunting all weekend and we look forward to his arrival! All in all a great weekend!

Friday, November 30, 2007

The too bad ending

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the NY Sheep and Wool Festival and how the fleece sale "lost" one of my fleeces. Well it's true. Not lost but stolen. I dropped my fleeces off at 8AM on Saturday in time for the judging and went off to vend at my booth. My friend, Maryann, who helped me at the festival with the booth, took a walk over at noon to see how things were going. At that point Daphne's fleece was already gone. And the staff had no record of the sale. I checked twice more, incredulous that someone would steal the fleece. Nothing ever came of it. I received the check for the sold fleeces today and it didn't cover the missing fleece. I am so shocked.

What also shocks me is the way the staff treated the situation. It was no big deal to them; I was made to feel a nuisance in their day. And I didn't even make a stink, like some might. What was the point? I called last week to check and see if they had come up with any paperwork. No return call. No nothing. I will never do business at that show again regarding fleece sales. I have shown and sold at festivals all over New England, never once losing one. And the security at some of the other festivals was looser that NY.

I was so proud of that fleece, it was the best I had this year. But 7 pounds of beautiful, soft gray CVM/Romeldale fleece is in some house somewhere at the hands of a thief. Shame on that person. Their taste is excellent, their conduct deplorable. May the grease never wash out!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Our moon

This was our view of the moon last night...the sky was basked in light purple and blue bands; we could hear the silence and peace on the farm. As incredible as this sight is for us, that we all, in the entire world, see the same moon, each night, each quarter, each full, is even more miraculous. It is universal, steady and comforting. I stood there thinking, how many others were doing the same. Not all are looking at the moon with a home, food or any money. Some are frightened, some discouraged, some clueless there is a moon. But still it shines. Give what you can to help, look up, say your prayers, be thankful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This Thanksgiving ~

~ may you recognize life's blessings for what they are, and whenever they come to you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Judith's yarn

Here are the skeins that I was dyeing last week against the sweater I needed to match. Of course I have no idea what the sweater was dyed with so it was never going to be a perfect match , perhaps I could have gone a tad darker but the request was for a medium blue so I came as close as I could! My friend, Judith, bought the yarn which was spun in a fingering weight, from our beautiful bodacious Crystal!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Onesies by Jessica

I have been working with Jessica, pictured here with her two children, Junie and Jonah, who is developing a line of "onesies" for infants and toddlers. Jessica creates different designs on the fabric and then dyes them over, under and all around. She has been using chemical dyes but wanted to move toward natural dyes as the fabric is a "green" cotton and the dyes would be along the same line, offering a truly natural product to the marketplace.

Jessica purchased a few different Earthues dye extracts and did some experimenting which I have shown above. She has some bugs to work through but I think she is on to a great product for children! Next up is weld, cochineal and indigo.

If you would like to contact her directly about her "onesies" feel free to email Jessica at and if you are in the Keene area she will be showing her products at the Best Western Annual Craft Show, Keene, NH, November 17th.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Taking care of business!

I had one of those really productive weekends. I got my office desk cleaned up on Saturday and then focused on two projects that had been pending for some time. One was to get all the sheep coats repaired from all summer. I had cleaned them but the stack grew to 15 repair jobs which took a good 3 hours. The second project was to dye a pound of yarn with indigo for a customer. So I combined the two and voila, all complete in less than 4 hours! I had already mordanted the yarn a few weeks ago. Although mordanting is not necessary with indigo, I believe it makes the color much more lightfast and I want my customer to be happy with the color for a long time to come!

I always have two indigo vats ready, one indigofera tinctoria and the other indigofera guatemalensis, so when I am ready to dye I just adjust for pH and oxygen reduction and I am ready to dye. The adjustment takes about 1/2-3/4 hour. So while I waited for the reactions to take place I sewed some coats, then I did my first dip for the pound of fiber, had to wait at least a half hour for the indigo to oxidize on the fiber, sewed some more coats, did the second dip for the pound of fiber and then wrapped up sewing the rest of the coats.

The yarn is gorgeous so far. My customer has always admired a sweater I wear and wanted to have a shade as close as possible to that, so I kept the sweater nearby and dipped accordingly. I will post another picture in a day or so when the yarn is rinsed. I now need to let the yarn set for 24 hours after the last dip before an afterbath in vinegar (1/4 cup per pound of fiber) and then a wash and rinse. I think the match will be close and I am most excited for the results!

Pictures top to bottom: the sheep coat sewing table; my winter dyeing room just off the kitchen, ready to go; the pH test of the indigo vat; indigo vat ready for dyeing with a perfect yellow/green color; and the yarn just out of the vat after 8 seconds; and then just a few moments later as it magically turns blue with the oxidation!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rhinebeck reflections

The NY Sheep and Wool Festival was a great event last weekend. It was my first year vending at this event and I was delighted to be able to attend. My friend, Maryann, came along to help with every aspect of the weekend and she was a Godsend. It is a big job to set up and tear down the booth, not to mention being on your feet for 12 hours +/-. We didn't leave the fairgrounds until 7PM Sunday night and I was grateful for her conversation on that very long ride back to NH (long only because it was dark and we were a wee bit tired!).

Friday night we got together for dinner with Tom and Diane Golding at a great restaurant right across from the fairground, The Double O Grill. It was nice to unwind with friends after the day of driving and setting up our booths plus the food was excellent!

After a very busy day Saturday, Maryann and I enjoyed evening reservations at the annual Wild Fibers event that Linda Cortright hosts. We gathered in an enclosed tent on the fairgrounds for yummy food, red wine, gifts of wonderful alpaca blend socks from Red Maple Sportswear plus samples of Unicorn Fiber Wash, Scour and Rinse products Linda gave a spirited talk with slides of her trip to Central Asia this year. A nice gathering among fellow fiber lovers.

The weather all weekend was spectacular after a rainy Friday night of setting up. A cold front set the stage for low humidity and lots of sunshine. The Duchess County Fairgrounds are beautiful and clean, right down to the bathrooms, which had the friendliest, and most entertaining attendants I have ever encountered!

My only huge disappointment was one of the 3 fleeces I submitted to the judging/sale at Rhinebeck disappeared sometime Saturday. I checked them all in Saturday AM early but by Sunday AM the people who manage the paperwork had no record of the sale and the fleece was missing. Seven pounds of the most beautiful gray CVM, gone. My only hope is that the sales slip got misfiled and they'll find it as they tally the slips in the next few weeks. If not then the fleece was stolen. I have accepted that inevitabilty with a sour taste. I have decided our fleeces will no longer be submitted to the shows. I will sell them at my booths at various festivals or through my reserve list. No more ribbons needed. I cannot allow that kind of loss more than once. It is hard work managing fleeces throughout the year to present for sale. Enough said.

I enjoyed all who came to our booth to learn about Earthues natural dyes for the first time and to see familiar faces of those who already enjoy natural dyeing and want more! Thank you all for a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you next Spring, if not sooner.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wanda's Crabapple Jelly Recipe

Success!!! Here is Wanda's recipe. Good luck and it sounds like there may be another of Wanda's favorites coming along soon, just in time for the holidays....

First, I don't use pectin, so this recipe will use sugar & boil time. Also, you should know that my apples are the size of chick peas. If yours are bigger, halve or quarter them. Also I don't do the hot water boil after jarring.

Take whatever amount of ripe but tart fruit you have. Wash & stem them. Put them in a non reactive pan & add water just to cover. Bring them to a boil & then simmer until they are tender. Stir gently to prevent scorching, but try not to crush the fruit too much as this will make the jelly cloudy.

When all the fruit is soft, place them in batches in a wet jelly bag & allow to drain completely.

Again, in a non reactive pan measure your juice. If using tart apples you will be using 1 cup of sugar for every cup of juice.

Bring the juice to a boil & reduce to a simmer. When your candy thermometer gets to 220 deg. begin timing your boil. When the juice comes to a boil, add your sugar a cup at a time. Taste the juice a couple of times to check for sweetness. (Beware when tasting! The juice is HOT! ) See how clear & beautiful the juice gets?

You may need to cook at a high simmer for between 10-30 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent scorching. A cold
spoon dipped in the mixture should form a couple of glops on the edge when the liquid is tipped out.

While this is cooking sterilize your jars & lids. The jars should be warm when filled because the jelly is still 220 deg. Fill to within 1/8" of the top of each jar. With a wet cloth or paper towel wipe the rim of each jar (they won't seal properly if there is jelly on the rim. Place your lids on the jars add the rings & tighten them. Not too tight because any air trapped inside needs to escape. After a bit tighten the rings completely & wait for the pings to start as the jars seal themselves.

If you have jelly left that won't fit in a jar or fill a jar, put it in a pretty dish & eat it!


Thursday, October 18, 2007


I am just about ready for the Rhinebeck show in NY this weekend...the truck bed is already half full, the shed off my kitchen stuffed and the shed across the street has a small pile to pack. Dear Jack is in charge of packing it all in my truck on Friday AM. It is beyond my patience level to figure out how it will all fit! If I have forgotten anything, shame on me! If you need anything that Earthues has to offer; dyes, mordants, books, kits in various shapes and styles, beautiful sable and deerhide brushes for painting and much more I'll have it with me, plus lots of dye visuals and inspiration. An SUV and trailer with Tunis on the plate passed through Keene this afternoon headed west...I suspect on their way to Rhinebeck to show sheep. It promises to be good weather and always a good show. See you there, perhaps!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Self portrait of an artist

I was vending this past Saturday in Newtown, CT at the Newtown Hooked Rug show and during the morning hours Rita Buchanan stopped by to say hello and wanted to be remembered to Michele Wipplinger, Earthues owner. Many of you know Rita for her fiber arts teaching over the past few decades in every pocket of the country. She has retired from all of that and took to rug hooking of late. Rita mentioned she had entered a couple of rugs in the show. I took a break and as I walked into the display area I was taken aback instantly knowing one of the rugs had to be Rita's! Isn't is spectacular! It was hooked with yarn that Rita, of course, chose raw, carded, dyed and spun and then created the rug from a photo of herself. It is entitled "Watching birds fly south, a self portrait".

After the lecture and raffle later on, the announcement was made for the People's Choice Award and sure enough it was Rita's self portrait! As part of the award, next year's postcard for the show will feature the winning rug. Some artists just excel, even in retirement!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Weld, indigo, silk and my first shibori scarf

I had some fun dyeing this past weekend using weld on different substrates and shades of fiber. Weld is just the greatest dye to work with; read more about weld at

I also dyed and untied my first shibori piece, the ties are bound with one connecting thread giving many evenly spaced spots that will resist the dye. The top photo is a bit blurry, but you can see the ties and where I have undone, the white pointed tips starting to show. Once the piece is dyed and dried completely, the ties are carefully undone by pulling the fabric away from itself. The result is beautiful, I think. I dyed it initially with weld and then overdyed with indigofera tinctoria one quick 5 second dip.

Left to right in the picture: silk strips in weld only, dark gray wool in weld only, white silk dyed in weld and overdyed with indigo, and silk strips in weld with an indigo overdye.