Sunny Lea Sheep

Growing wool on a small farm in Kentucky

Learning to Eat Real Food

102_4636Growing up, I thought food was a simple thing. The grocery store was where food came from, of course, how else? That was the natural order of things.

Mom didn’t buy quite as many yummy foods as I would have liked. Eggo Waffles, chips, pop, and the like were things she bought sometimes but not often.  Grandma’s house was heaven. Chips of every flavor, cookies of every kind, Fudgesicles unlimited and pop galore. Laying  on the living-room carpet watching tv (another thing we didn’t have at home) and munching away on the forbidden food was the pinnacle of happiness.

At that time, we ate copious amounts of “soldier bread” (Roman Meal whole wheat bread)   with lots of margarine, and also quite a bit of Velveeta and American cheese. Than Mom discovered a book called Nourishing Traditions at the library, and began changing what she bought. Real cheddar instead of the processed substitute,  real butter, lots if it, instead of margarine, no more Crisco, no more vegetable oil.  She tried making sour dough bread, but we rebelled so  she gave up, and instead made homemade white bread.  There was also that one time she tried sneaking anchovies into the spaghetti sauce.

I had an aversion to anything healthy, most vegetables were gross, and I thought kids whose moms let them eat chips all the time were lucky.

Fast forward a few years, and I read a book Mom had borrowed called The Non-Toxic Avenger. This kindled my interest in more natural living, and reading Nourishing Traditions for myself convinced me to start eating the dreaded vegetables. After discovering how delicious they were (luckily Mom had many fresh from her garden, and didn’t buy a lot of frozen or canned or I may to this day think veggies are gross), I was hooked on healthier food although I still ate the junk too.

I was lucky that Mom avoided a lot of the bad stuff by cooking from scratch. Brownies aren’t exactly good for you, but they are a lot worse for you if they are from a box mix instead of a few simple ingredients.  Her gravy didn’t come from a packet, and mashed potatoes started out as whole potatoes.

As the years progressed, we had our own beef, then lamb. I decided farming was what I wanted to do when I grew up,  and I started reading books about farming, by authors like Joel Salatin, Gene Logsdon, and Wendell Berry (authors Mom had read that inspired her to start rotationally grazing the animals), and then after having a lot of “whoa!” moments branched out  to books about food, it’s history, what’s good and what’s bad.

For  a long time I continued to think that, while organic whole  foods were better for you, they were expensive, and hard to get, especially when I was working in town, so I still ate a lot of fast food, not thinking it was a big deal.

Fast forward again to the present time. The more I read, the more I see how eating these lesser quality foods makes  me complicit  in the destruction of arable land, and my own health.  Right now I am only responsible for what goes in my  body, but if I ever have kids of my own, their health will be on my shoulders as well. Pandora’s Lunchbox by Melanie Warner opened my eyes to the fact that even many of the basic staples sold in stores that I thought were simple, wholesome ingredients are not. Things like white flour, and milk.

I can’t fix everything all at once. My plan for a long time has been to continue buying whatever I needed at the store, while slowly over the years figuring out how to grow all my food myself. But now I don’t think that’s good enough.

I had thought that while it would be nice to  buy local or organic, it was just too expensive. Now I think it’s too expensive not to. The “cheap” food we have today is not cheap. The cost is just one you can’t see if you’re not looking. The real cost is the health of the land, the tax dollars we all pay that go into subsidizing corn, soybeans and wheat (you would be amazed to see how many things you eat contain corn or soybeans. They are in EVERYTHING),  and a fortune in medical expenses only necessary because of our bad diets, and sedentary lifestyles.

So now, while I can’t fix everything, I am going to make more of an effort to buy local and organic, because I believe it matters. Terribly.

If you want to help too, help the earth and help yourself and your family, here are my ideas on things I will be trying to do that you can do too.

I realize that many of these  ideas take time. One of the reasons we have sunk into this pit of bad food, is because no one is home to cook anymore. Prepacked convenience foods are necessary because we don’t have time.  What about those people who are barely squeaking by and have no money for better food? What if you are well off enough to spend the extra money,  but you don’t want to spend time cooking? Honestly, I just don’t know. But if those of us who can, and who want to, join in the fight to take back control of our food, that will help, at least.

  1. Take baby steps. First of all, don’t try to change everything at once. You’ll just get discouraged. Keep in mind that every little thing helps. Just pick one of these ideas to start with. Master one step, then commit to another.
  2. Buy better meat. In my opinion, meat is the most important. CAFO’s are an atrocity. Shame on us for allowing such things. I believe meat in essential to a healthy diet, but that the meat coming out of these places is not fit for eating. Watch the movie Food Inc. to learn more.  Find a small farmer to buy meat from. You can try  http://www.localharvest.com to find one.  If you want it to be better than the CAFO meat, in the case of beef and lamb, you want to find someone that raises 100% grass fed and finished. It may say grass-fed, but really be finished on grain. Do your research and make sure. Cows were not created to eat grain in large quantities, it makes them sick. If they are raised on good pasture that was properly managed with rotational grazing, the meat will have more nutritional value. We raise our own beef and lamb, but not chicken. We pretty much gave up eating it for a while, but have now found a farm that has pasture raised chicken. It is delicious, and it feels so good to  support a family whose mission statement is  “Our passion is building soil fertility through intense pasture management.  We believe that where there is life in the soil there will be high quality pastures which will produce healthy animals thus providing nutritious meats, eggs and dairy products. “
  3.  Buy less empty calories. Cut out the junk foods, those are the worst offenders. Chips, pop, cereal, frozen dinners, boxed desserts, candy. Just cut them out. Craving for crunch? Peppers and dip. Need some sweet? Grab some fresh fruit. It is hard to give up these foods. Why? Because there is an army of food scientists whose job it is to make these foods irresistible both in taste and texture.  Some of the ingredients are addictive, like high fructose corn syrup. That’s  in your pop, cookies, crackers, jelly, ketchup, you name it. It’s one of the ways they sneak corn into your diet. Read labels. If you don’t know what something is look it up. Here is a list of the ones you want to avoid most: https://www.foodmatters.com/article/22-additives-and-preservatives-to-avoid
  4. Eat more veggies. Eat a variety of veggies. Eat a rainbow to be sure you are getting the full spectrum of vitamins  and minerals essential to good health. Some people think they can eat badly, than supplement with vitamin pills. I believe this is dangerous.   https://nationalpost.com/health/foods-are-better-than-pills-when-it-comes-to-providing-vitamins
  5. Eat out less. Eat at home, gather your family together for the meal and all sit down at the same table and talk, and laugh and savor your food.  This has been one of the biggest blessings of my life; we all gather around the table every single night.
  6. Learn to cook from scratch.  Try cooking one meal a week completely from scratch, from whole ingredients. For example if the recipe calls for diced tomatoes, use fresh, not canned  Get your family involved or invite friends over to make it fun.
  7. Buy better ingredients. Once you’ve  gotten used to eating real food, start focusing on better quality ingredients. Go through your shopping list and see how many items you can replace with local or organic versions.  This is also very hard, because we are wired to look for the cheapest price. If we truly want to make a change, and be part of creating a better food system, sooner or later we are going to have to dig a little deeper in our pockets. It’s the nature of the beast. Visit your local farmers’ market. Consider buying things in bulk to freeze or can for the winter.
  8. Start growing things. Once you’ve simplified your food, you will notice that much of what goes into making a meal are  things you can grow yourself. A garden is great exercise, a wonderful  remedy for depression and anxiety, and gives you peace of mind about your produce.   Even a tiny yard can be transformed into a  leafy vegetable and flower paradise, and if you have a little land, chickens, sheep, a cow, the options are endless! I am having a go at growing some wheat this year. Who’d have thought you can make you own flour? Wild, huh?

 

Advertisements

Just Another Day At The Farm

Thunder rolls, and I run, one eye on the sky to see if rain is coming, one on the ground so I don’t trip, my rubber boots slapping my legs with a monotonous thwacking sound. The sheep went to the back pasture for the first time this year today, and I’ve been worrying about whether they will come back up or not. It’s been a wild day, and although it is after 7 pm its not over yet.

Rewind to the beginning of the day, When Mom and I moved the flock before breakfast.

As I open the makeshift polywire gate to let the sheep out, I spot Tabitha, a yearling ewe born last Spring, hanging back with a newborn lamb at her side. Reluctant to leave her tiny, wobbly baby, but knowing fresh grass waits at the end of the poly-wire path, and anxious to follow the others. There are a few frantic moments of untangling the fence, trying to  keep Tabitha and the other new mama, who had a lamb earlier this week, in,  and let all the other sheep out, including the two lambs who were bumming around in the barn, and got left behind. Finally everything is back as it should be, and the flock disappears into the trees and around the bend in the path, leaping,  baa-ing, grabbing mouthfuls of grass on the fly, racing to where Mom waits to let them through the gate. I’m sleepy. I’m “hangry”. But happy. The new lambs are so cute, and it’s not raining. Then it is time to take care of the chicks and one grown chicken. The chicks have recently moved into the chicken house, which Dad put wheels on so that I can move it around the pastures, a strategy to improve chicken, sheep, cow, and pasture health all in one. I peer in and count, once, twice, three times, but the number stays the same. One is missing. I move the house, and the wheels lift it high enough for the chicks to run out, and it  is a circus to get them back in. That does it. This coop has to have a fence around it so that escaping chicks can’t go far, and so that they can also have some sunlight, and room to peck around during the day. But first the sheep need water.  The tank is barely filling, a mere trickle exiting the automatic waterer.  Mom walks along where the hose runs down from the house through the woods to the back  pasture and finds multiple leaks.

After several internet searches and phone calls to farm supply stores I come up with a plan for a chicken fence. The plan does not go as planned. I’m tired. I’m hot. But happy. I can see the sheep through the trees, wandering over an emerald hillside, and I know this is the life I love despite many  failures.

Tears. Frustration. Advice from Mom and the stupendous discovery of a previously used and then forgotten fence have a rough setup ready by supper time, with a break in the middle to help Mom fix the leaking hose in the woods  (add itchy to hot and tired), and take care of my cotton seedlings. It’s so exciting to think of the chickens enjoying their new home, despite the work it will take to move them regularly

After supper, as the thunder rumbles and I run, I try to remember the weather report, so important because the shearer may come on Tuesday if the fleeces are dry. Hurry, hurry. My food hasn’t really had time to settle. I have a stitch in my side. But I’m happy. The two new mamas are shut up in their own little pens to keep the others out of their hay, and the barn behind me is like a haven as the clouds gather and the storm rolls in. Mom yoohoos from down in the woods, and I yell back to let her know everything is ready.  She opens the gate.  The sheep rush by and they are all there. Thank goodness. No searching for a lost sheep in the stormy dark tonight. They get a treat of grain, training  them  to come up every night, and Dad helps me get  everyone locked  in the barn just as the rain pours down. Dashing through the downpour to fill water buckets I’m soaking wet and cut my finger, and its stings, but I’m happy. The sheep are all safe, I am looking forward to finishing the chicken fence tomorrow, and this life that is full of work makes you feel strong and well, even though you are tired and glad to fall into bed at the end of the day. It is rejuvenating, and fulfilling. There is so much to do, and so much to learn, and it’s wonderful. I don’t always remember that when I am frustrated and things aren’t going well on a specific project, but it comes back again and again, this feeling of belonging and contentment. The magic is to remember the joy when everything goes go south.

 

A Different Kind of Farm

 

I need to stop telling people I want to be a farmer. I’m a little old for the what-do-you-want-to-be-when you-grow-up question anyway, but the subject still comes up. And when I say farming is the life for me, the picture that looms in most peoples mind’s invariably involves endless corn fields and monstrous tractors. But if I take the time to explain, I see their eyes glaze over after the first five minutes or so. I need a title that describes what I want to do so I don’t have to bore people with long speeches.

The farm I envision is, first and foremost, diverse.

I believe that the way I live now, buying the majority of my food from stores where it arrives from perhaps hundreds of miles away, is harmful to the environment; a reckless disregard for the future of the earth that God created us to take care of, and also harmful to my health, another gift from God.

Buying Organic makes me feel a little more responsible, but is it really?

John Jeavons and his team named their growing method Grow Biointensive. He describes the approach as agricultural miniaturization, an attempt to counter the problems brought on by industrial agriculture-which, he stresses, destroys the soil at an accelerated rate, losing between 6 and 16 tons of soil for every ton produced. Mechanized organic farming, according to Jeavons, is little better: it destroys the soil seventeen to seventy times faster than nature creates it. By buying food that is cultivated at the expense of destroying topsoil, writes Jeavons, we become complicit in this destruction … if we continue to destroy the soil at this pace humanity will have degraded all arable land on the planet in the next century. The biointensive method creates soil at a substantial rate.”

~ Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer in Miraculous Abundance

I want to grow as much of my food as possible; so, rather than practicing the conventional modal of producing a lot of one thing, I want to produce a little of many things. Veggies, fruit trees, nut trees, sheep, a milk cow, chickens, herbs, and so much more, and do it in a responsible manner that builds the soil, by using raised bed methods and mulching, creating silvopastures where careful grazing and maintaining of the forest mean that livestock and trees can grow together, and avoiding all use of chemicals by building the diversity and therefore the health of plants and animals.

When we eat today, we no longer listen to the needs of our body; we listen to commercials. But do shareholders of industrial agriculture corporations really care about our health? The explosion of food allergies and chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer attests, unfortunately, to the food and health drift in which our so-called advanced societies are stuck. It’s small consolation that all these diseases of modern civilization raise the GDP.

Is it reasonable to let corporations, forced by logic of profit in the short term and competition for market share, decide how our bodies are formed? Are the industrial food corporations competent at replacing natural food, which fed us for almost all of our history on earth, by food containing several thousand different synthetic molecules whose effects combined and long-term have not been tested?

When we know the suffering experienced by a cancer patient and the magnitude of the number of people affected (more than fourteen million new cases are diagnosed each year around the world, with treatment thought to cost hundreds of billions of dollars), it is surprising we do not collectively choose to prioritize agriculture and food that is truly natural.

Twenty-four hundred years ago, Hippocrates advised, “Let your food be you medicine.” More and more of us are rediscovering the truth behind this simple statement. …

Ingesting polluted industrial food is a form of assault on our bodies. An assault on life.
Giving these foods to our children can be seen as slow assassination … Healthy diets should be part of our basic education … But the important things are not taught in school. We note at the farm that many young adults don’t know how to cook vegetables,or even know the difference among onions, shallots, and garlic.

~ Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer in Miraculous Abundance

You can probably tell that I have found the Herve-Gruyers very inspiring. The picture on the cover of their book Miraculous Abundance is particularly so:

Miraculous-Abundance

That is the kind of farm I want. That is the kind of farm that provides real, nutrient dense food, while nurturing the environment at the same time. Growing food AND building soil.

So far, although there has been an almost overwhelming amount of work and some discouragements and disappointments, one of the most rewarding and exciting things about learning to farm  has been gaining new skills  that are truly useful to me in real life.

“The overall spectrum of knowledge that the small-scale farmer must acquire is awesome. He must be the proverbial “jack-of-all-trades,” and he must be the master of many of them. Aside from a fundamental acquaintance with farm machinery and its specific function, he must have a considerable fund of knowledge in the “-ologies” (biology, entomology, meteorology,  plant pathology, etc.). He needs a working acquaintance with silviculture, veterinary medicine, and basic economics, and the day-to-day requirements of working the soil require him to have a sound background in agronomy. His work also encompasses elements of accounting, surveying, and engineering, and he cannot avoid becoming a passable rough carpenter and journeyman mechanic” -Karl Schwenke, Successful Small-Scale Farming

I was never a very good student, partly because I find it hard to apply my mind to topics unless they are useful in a practical way to me. The  knowledge in the books I now undertake to read interests me greatly,  and sticks, because I am using it here and now.

To anyone aspiring to start their own small farming adventure, my first advice is read, read, read. I like to go to the library, put in a keyword, and collect all the books I can find on that subject until I can’t carry any more. Often the ones I think look the least interesting have the best information.  I am going to make a new page here on the blog, a list of books that have inspired me or been particularly helpful, so if you are looking for ideas, check it out.

It will be a long, slow process, to create a self sustaining, diverse, biointensive farm, adding a little bit every year. In the past I was never fond of gardening, this year I am very interested in learning, and will be doing as much as I can.

Right now I am super excited about some apple trees and cotton plants headed this way, and planting root veggies to see if I can grow enough to last over the winter.

It will take a long time to get to the point where I no longer buy most of my food in stores, and I may never reach the point where I don’t buy anything, but every little step in the right direction helps, if even just a tiny bit. I don’t just want a sheep farm, I want a farm exploding with a great variety of abundance, working with nature instead of against it.

I hope that someday, the picture in the average persons head when they hear the word “farm” is no longer a flat endless corn field, but a verdant landscape filled with trees, gardens,  animals, and flowers, all mixed together into a beautiful harmonious whole.

dscn7548.jpg

Lambs 2018

Welcome to Sunny Lea Sheep Hotel! Parking reserved for expectant mothers.

102_5917

I had to go out on a limb-I mean a beam- to get some of these pictures.

102_5939

No vacancies currently available.

102_5941

Mr. Collins came on the scene Monday morning, Sir William Lucas (below) that night, and Bingley this morning.

102_5926

Twelve to eighteen lambs are expected to arrive this Spring, stay tuned to meet the new guys, there could be more any minute.

102_5947

 

 

Grazing For A More Self-Sufficient Future

We have an on-going project, a never ending quest to improve our pastures, and learn as much about the subject as we can. We have been rotational grazing for a few years now, and it has improved the forage immensely, without our having spent a penny on fertilizers or grass seed. By dividing pastures up into small areas and moving the animals every few days, we have helped to prevent over-grazing, and encouraged new growth.

102_5434DSCN7941102_5248102_5247DSCN7945

The two pictures below were taken last summer, one from an over-grazed area of the barn pasture, another from the part we rotated. The entire barn pasture used to look like the picture on the left, the picture on the right shows how much it can improve just by a few years of rotational grazing.

 

A distant far off goal, a dream for the future, is to have enough pastures cleared, and carefully managed to stock pile grass, even for winter (Mom’s and my dream) or make our own hay (Dad’s). This would save us a huge amount of money; buying hay in the winter is expensive, and inconvenient, because we do not have a big truck or trailer for hauling it, and must either get minuscule amounts at a time or have it delivered, another expense.

“Pasture in a conventional grazing system, is often a limited polyculture, fields seeded to forage species that farmer, or more likely the extension agent or seed salesman, says are best for that area…Where prolonged, unlimited grazing inhibits or kills the existing ground cover, to the point where it will no longer support livestock, pastures must be reseeded, usually with one or a very few plant species, which will in their turn be grazed down and planted over. Grass, in this picture, is a conventional crop sown for harvest with ruminants, the profit on whose sale being hopefully sufficient to pay the cost of the grass seed and drill and finance the resowing of the pasture next season.

In pastures under intensive rotational grazing, on the other hand, native species are preferred and are generally not sown but rather encouraged…Many respected graziers, including Allan Savory, Joel Salatin, and Greg Judy, encourage a wait-and-see approach to pasture forage composition, noting that biodiversity  is favored by this hands-off attitude. Fertile soil is by definition richly diverse in soil biota, and the diversity belowground will be reflected in diversity above. If we trust our pastures, trust our ecosystems, we can put our animals on grass and watch the array of forage species unfold. “   ~from The Independent Farmstead by Shawn and Beth Doughetery

We are just beginners at this rotation thing, but to quote the Doughetery’s again,

“There is no such thing as bad rotational grazing; only good and better”

We are constantly working on this project, the type of work varying depending on the season. In the summer we are moving portable fence around, and trying to keep the weeds off the electric fence, in the fall and winter we are clearing old permanent fence rows,  cutting posts, and clearing existing pasture,  in the spring building new fence for more pasture.

The goal of this entire project being to make the farm more self sustaining. Right now we put a lot of money into keeping our livestock. Until we can grow all the food needed for them,  we just have an expensive hobby.

I don’t entertain any grand ideas of this farm ever making a lot of money. That’s not the point. I do dream of it someday producing most of  our food, without requiring  outside inputs.

“The language of artisanal farming is that of all the other arts. It is nice to make a lot of money from a book, or a painting, or a song, but that is not why real artists do it. If they can just make a modest living from their work, they are satisfied. If they can’t, they still keep on working on their art and do something else for necessary income. New garden farmers are the same. They talk about soil enrichment just like artists talk about paint. It is not about money but about beauty, inspiration, taste, and timelessness…The real reward is looking out over our gardens and farms and know that we are adding real value and beauty to the world, or at least doing no harm.”  ~Gene Logsdon

102_5467

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Web Collector

It’s the best part of the day, a time to think and slow down, and remember that this is a beautiful world, too often wasted by hours spent in buildings, toiling away to make money so we can buy food, instead of toiling away in the beautiful great wide outdoors to grow food. The ultimate irony. We purchase food that wrecks our health, and pay (!) to work out in gyms, when we could grow better sustenance, and get better exercise simply by doing what we were created to do.

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it”  Genesis 2:15

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”

 ~Wendell Berry

I am bringing up the sheep from the back pasture, herding  them up near the barn to keep them safe from coyotes, bobcats, and dogs.  The long path passes through a stand of forest, huge cedars along one side, a mixture of trees and underbrush on the other. It is growing dark, and the shadowy sentinels rustle softly, green light glowing like emerald gems through their branches. Crickets chirp and birds sing. This is where I belong. In the great wide world, where one has only to look at the detail in each living thing to know that a creator exists.

Along the path spiders spin their webs, great swaths of delicate sticky strands that drape me one by one, clinging to my arms and face, stretching out behind me. They are like the little worries of life; the first  you brush aside, not much disturbed, but soon they pile up, a hopeless entanglement that sticks with you long hours after they first take hold.

The sheep are sometimes waiting by the gate, sometimes away back in the trees, but always they come when I call, with the exception of a rainy night last week, when they were convinced that to be soaked by the down pour  was a worse fate then to be eaten by coyotes.

There have even been a few occasions when they have come up of their own accord, the gates having been left open. I believe sheep can be trained to certain patterns with patience and consistency. In this case, their minerals are at the barn, and they come for this reason. The lambs especially gulp  them down, leaving an amusing reddish stamp on their mouths, which appears ridiculously like lipstick.

Now I take time, though it is growing late and I must be up early, to pet the sheep and look them over. Who has foreign material tangled in their precious fleece? Is Martha any closer to having her baby? Can I convince the lambs to let me scratch their chins? Tommy is friendly, perhaps overly so, and Nutkin is getting there. Thomasina wants to be, but must keep up the pretense of not wanting to be.

The lights of the house glow warm and friendly beckoning me in. My day is much better for ending this way, a little time spent in nature to refresh and calm.  Good night sheep. Life is good.

 

 

 

 

The Bert Sweater: Chapter Two

In chapter one, you saw how a fleece is sorted, washed, and carded. All that work merely sets the stage for the magical process of spinning. Preparing the fiber is  a huge task, but in the end it  is only the work that prepares you for more work. (Which prepares you for more work, because after spinning comes knitting.) It is really a simple thing, twisting fibers into yarn, but it seems magical, and wonderfully old-fashioned;  all wrapped up in princesses and fairy tales,  pilgrims and pioneers.

Spinning is very satisfying once you can make a decently consistent yarn, and relaxing, a steady beat that reminds you the world is still turning and life goes on.

Bert is lovely to spin, very soft, and because his locks are different colors along their length, grey closer to the skin, turning to brown in the middle, and fading to fawn at the tips, the yarn is not a solid color, but a lovely heathery brown.

102_4930

I made  3-ply yarn with all of Bert’s fleece. When spinning, you take a length of carded fiber, and pull it out to the thickness you want the yarn to be (called drafting) and allow the wheel to add twist. This is called spinning “singles”

102_2449102_2448102_2451

102_5263

You then twist two or more singles together in the opposite direction (this is called plying);  in this case three singles are twisted together making a “3-ply” yarn.

102_5274Last year while spinning all my fleeces up for knitting into mittens and hats to sell, I found that while my fiber felt soft, the yarns I spun were stiff, and the things knit from them had little drape, and were not as soft as I wanted. Research in books and on the internet revealed I was spinning  “worsted” style which produces a strong, smooth,  hard-wearing yarn, and that  “woolen” style spinning makes a   fluffier yarn. It incorporates more air into the fibers, so that it is warmer, and makes a softer finished garment.  How you prepare and draft out the fiber determine whether you are spinning “worsted” or “woolen”. Currently, I spin a “semi-worsted” yarn in which the fiber is prepared for woolen style, but spun with a worsted drafting  technique. This is because I have not yet mastered woolen (“long draw”)  drafting.

Also, I was simply putting too much twist in the yarn. To help with this, I dug some commercial 3-ply yarn out if my stash, snipped off a little piece, untwisted the plies, and used them as a reference while spinning, trying to match it as closely as possible. When it came time to ply I referred to the commercial yarn again, comparing it and my yarn to see if I was plying to much or too little. This also helped me to spin the thickness of yarn I wanted, because when spinning singles, it is hard to tell how thick a three ply made from them will be.

Between these two discoveries, my yarn is now much softer and drapes nicely, although it is still not completely consistent.

After the yarn is spun and plied, you take it off the “bobbins” (spools) and make it into a big loop, called a “hank”. You can do this using  a kind person’s hands, the back of a chair, or  a “swift”,  an umbrella-like tool that makes the process quicker.

To keep the hanks neat, they are twisted into “skeins”:

 

102_5289

All of Bert’s wool is now spun, and the knitting has commenced. Stay tuned for an update on the progress!