Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Festivals, the Shop and Keeping Things Going

Rhododendron blooming at Greenberry House 
We've been having a typical mountain spring this year. Early in the season it was warm but we've had several cold and rainy days since. People have been getting out, though, after the long winter and it has been fun seeing everyone at the shop. This past week four of our local spinners brought beautiful yarn to add to the shop shelves; I'll be posting pictures as soon as I get a chance!

Greenberry House at Olde Liberty Fibre Faire
Knightley and I had a wonderful time at the festival back in April. Olde Liberty Fibre Faire has changed venues and it's a lovely location. A Goode View Alpaca Farm in Goode, Virginia, made for a wonderful setting for lots of delightful fibery goodness. The hosts and volunteers did a terrific job and made the day very special.

I didn't get pictures but this past weekend I attended Maryland Sheep and Wool, for the first time in several years. Knightley found the whole thing overwhelming on Saturday and when the sun came out we left to keep the boy and some rabbits transported by Chris from over at Woolybuns safe from overheating. We went back for a short time on Sunday before it got very crowded and Knightley handled the situation much better. As my hearing aid dog, he really needs to deal with lots of different situations and we have been tied down because of work and Dad too much lately. I need to make more effort with him. I did buy a beautiful Shetland fleece at the wool sale; more about it in future posts. Also more about the rabbits as well! I had a wonderful visit with Chris, and that was my main reason for the trip.

Goat girls waiting for babies
Back on the farm, we're anxiously waiting to see if the goat girls are going to have little ones. They both look very pregnant. Either that or I'm feeding them WAY too much. The little shed is all clean and ready for them, just in case, and I'm excited to think that there will be little ones. Rose, the one at the front, is really getting big.

All the traveling was fun, but it's nice to be home and get back into our routines. I've been busy with customers and the animals, plus putting books up on the Scraps of American History web site. I've been busy spinning some glorious angora that I sheared from the rabbits here and I occasionally have a few minutes to work on the Quill shawl. I'm about halfway through the final border and it has been a pleasure to knit. The pattern is well-written and I love that it's a traditional piece.

What I'm spinning: hand dyed angora for plying with merino
What I'm knittingQuill shawl by Jared Flood
What I'm crocheting: Everything is hibernating
What I'm reading: The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
Current sounds and sights for spinning along: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
How the diet is going: Let's not talk about it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring on the Farm

Forsythia in bloom 
It seems like it has been a long winter, but really we haven't had much bad weather or snow up here on the mountain. It was lovely to see the warm weather finally arrive, though, and now that the temperatures seem to have settled into spring, things are bursting with life here on the farm.

Little setting hen
Last summer I bought some chicks, late in the season because of trying to get my father settled into a comfortable living space. My little barred rock hens and "Easter eggers" started laying early this spring and I've enjoyed gathering their colorful little eggs. To my surprise one of the Easter eggers started setting about a month ago. I wasn't prepared for it and let her keep only four eggs. The older hens broke three of them but she managed to hatch out a little Buff Orpington chick. Right now she's caged up with it separate from the others because the old hens are threatening the baby.

Fresh eggs!

Some of my old hens are laying along with the new ones so I'm getting well over a dozen eggs every day from a flock of 22 hens. There were 23 but one hen was taken by a fox near one of the outbuildings. I think she may have slipped off to set on some eggs out there and I didn't realize she wasn't coming in at night. I'm back to counting heads every evening when I shut up the chicken house!

Goat girls
The goat girls are doing well and I think we may have some little ones sometime between mid-May and mid-June. I borrowed a lovely boy from over the hill to visit with the ladies back in December, planning to only leave him here for two weeks. Right at the time I was going to take him back, suddenly there was goat love going on everywhere. So I left him another couple of weeks. I think it broke Martha's heart when I took her boyfriend away. Martha is the black one and Rose is the white one.

I don't have any good pictures yet but my friend Chris from Woolybuns brought me some German Angora rabbits last fall. If you look back to several years ago on the blog, I used to keep a sizable herd of them for their luxurious wool for spinning. I love having the rabbits back and have sheared enough since they came for some dyeing and spinning adventures. Right now I'm working on a yarn made from merino and the angora. I'm planning to put up a little house for them here at the top of Squirrel Spur and will enjoy having all the animals together.

The shop is open!
Greenberry House is open for the season and I am really enjoying getting the shop all set up and ready for the summer. Hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 AM to 5 PM, with stitching group on Tuesday evening. I have some wonderful new yarns and spinning fibers from Ocotilla's Mountainside Alpacas, a beautiful farm just up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Meadows of Dan. And about this picture; I took several in front of the shop that day and this cloudy spot appeared on two of them. Do you suppose it's my resident ghost saying hello?

Tired pups 
Knightley and Emma are accompanying me to the shop every day and they've enjoyed greeting customers and getting into the routine. Emma is such a sweet and motherly girl. Knightley was sniffing at something last night in the bedroom and she growled him away from it. When I went to check, I realized that he had been investigating a dying wasp.

New hand dyed Greenberry House yarns
Tomorrow morning I'll be heading out early for my favorite festival of the year. Olde Liberty Fibre Faire is celebrating 9 years and I think I've been there for most of them. I really enjoy seeing everyone and it's delightful to see what everyone has been working on through the year. Come join us if you can!

What I'm spinning: hand dyed angora to be plied with merino singles
What I'm knitting: Quill shawl by Jared Flood
What I'm crocheting: Everything is resting
What I'm reading: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Ally McBeal series on Netflix
How the diet is going: Diet?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

And How Badly I Neglect this Faithful Page

But I do have a new project! Check out our podcast, about knitting, books, postcards and life in Meadows of Dan!

Friday, June 05, 2015

Back HOME in Meadows of Dan

Greenberry House, home at last on Squirrel Spur Road
I am so very, very happy to have the shop settled in my old house on Squirrel Spur Road. If you have been following this blog these many years, this is the house where I lived a long time and where my family lived when I was a child.

It's not good for business to bounce around from place to place, so I hope this is my last move. People seem to like the shop so far. I have a few signs to modify and lots of work to do to the yard and gardens but things are shaping up. It's amazing how much one old woman and two hungry goats can accomplish!

The goat girls and the hens
The goat girls seem to be happy here and it's fun to be able to have them around while I'm at work. Knightley is still coming along to work with me and I hope to have things set up after this weekend so Emma can join us. We've settled into a morning routine that is working pretty well. I get up and feed and walk the dogs, then I fix breakfast for Dad and Emma and I walk up Concord Road to deliver and do a few chores for him. Then I tend the goats and chickens, letting the goat girls out to graze for a little while before I transfer them from their night quarters in the chicken house to their daytime pen. If it's raining, they graze awhile and go back in with the chickens. Goats don't like wet weather!

One of our adventures along Concord Road; Emma and the snapping turtle.
Unless I'm pressed for time, I walk back with Emma home and I do a few chores there before I walk back up with Knightley to open the shop. If I don't have the time, I borrow Dad's car for the trip up and back. Usually I can do the walk. On Wednesdays and Fridays I work at Jerry and Connie's House of Collectibles so I take the car to not be so late taking Dad his supper. We're at the shop at 12206 Squirrel Spur Road from 10 AM to 5 PM Saturday through Tuesday. Thursday is my day "off" but mostly it seems like I'm running errands for Dad or doing laundry. Right after work I fix Dad some supper and gather the eggs while the goat girls have another chance to graze in the yard. In the evenings I generally walk one of the dogs back up to check on the animals after supper. This generally involves letting the goats have another graze, in addition to the time that they had right after I closed the shop. If I'm lucky friend Beth will walk with us and we do have some fun talking. It's nice to have someone along, especially since a lot of bears are around Meadows of Dan lately. When I'm alone, I talk to the dogs or sing!

Hard working Knightley
My good boy is generally pretty tired after a day at the shop. I've been keeping him in the kitchen and away from the sales floor most of the time while I get things organized. He still gets to greet people, tell me when folks arrive, let me know when the phone rings and just in general keep an eye on things. This all, along with the walking and a romp through the new-mowed fields when we get off work, makes for a tired dog in the evenings.

Nothing better than sitting with a spinning wheel, surrounded by books.
While I'm at work I'm generally cataloging books or poking through boxes to find stuff for eBay and the web sites. Sometimes I get the chance to spin for awhile, especially if someone comes in to visit or knit. The book room is shaping up to be a pleasant sitting room for our stitching group gatherings on Tuesdays and for people to drop in during the work week. The crafts and collectibles room is a riot of wonders and I'm already thinking about how I can expand the yarn and fiber space. The old kitchen is currently serving as my office but I'm thinking that the yarn and fiber may take over in there before long! There are already fleeces in the bathroom.

What I'm spinning: Some blended black wool and blue bling!
What I'm knitting: Thrummed mittens with alpaca
What I'm crocheting: Everything is resting.
What I'm reading: Someday I'll be able to read again!
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Watching Warehouse 13 again.
How the diet is going: 17 pounds down!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Work, Work, Work, and Some More Work

100% Wool Batts from hand dyed and hand carded local wool

75% wool, 25% bamboo hand carded, hand dyed batt
And in between trying to tend to Dad and keep enough stuff on eBay to pay the bills, I've been taking care of the animals and trying to set the shop up for spring. It looks like late April for opening up right now. Looking forward to the festival in Bedford, Olde Liberty Fibre Faire, on April 18 and hope to have lots of wonderful stuff to offer.

What I'm spinning: Just finished spinning up the periwinkle wool yarn for Kathleen's sweater
What I'm knitting: Not much of anything; have a washcloth on the needles for when I have "free" time.
What I'm crocheting: Secret project for a friend.
What I'm reading: The Unfortunate Traveller by Thomas Nashe
Current sounds & sights for spinning along:  Midsomer Murders

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Pricing Yarn, Business Moves, and Knitting!

Hand dyed bulky wool yarn
People have been asking about price of the yarn and other items lately. Fair pricing is an issue that most artisans find complicated. As hard working people with limited income, we can understand that the cost of an item is often the first consideration when people are looking at our merchandise and considering a purchase. But at the same time we can't stay in business and produce those special items if we don't get enough money for our products to pay our bills and cover our materials. Artisans have a lot of competition in cheap foreign goods, but also we have to deal with people at craft fairs and shops that don't take their work seriously enough to price it realistically to cover costs and the value of hand made.

As an example, I estimate that I put in eight hours of work for every skein of yarn that I produce. In the yarn industry, however, there are standards of pricing that I choose to use as guidelines for my artisan yarns. This means that no matter how long it takes me to produce a yarn, there is a price limit as far as what I can charge for it, based on the industry standard. I represent about twelve spinners in my area and we all use a basis of pricing that keeps our hand spun creations in line with good commercial yarns. If I priced the yarn based on the cheaper acrylic yarns available, I wouldn't stay in business. I have to hope that my buyers understand that they are getting a high quality product that will last them for years and make their hand knit crocheted item completely unique. No, we're not as cheap as Red Heart but you're getting a wonderful yarn that will last you forever and be a pleasure to work with. You will also be supporting local farmers and artisans who care about your community.

Artisan yarns at Jerry and Connie's House of Collectibles
In other news, I recently agreed to work an extra day at the antique shop where I help out part-time. Jerry and Connie's House of Collectibles is located in Meadows of Dan next to our post office and bank on the main highway. I will be working for him on Wednesdays and Fridays, so my Greenberry House shop hours, beginning in late April, will be Saturday through Tuesday, 10 AM to 5 PM. Putting yarn in at Jerry's will give me a yarn shop presence in Meadows of Dan all year, however, so I think it will be a good move. I may be able to have someone run the shop on Fridays sometimes; we'll see how that works out. So I hope folks will visit me in both locations!

Knitting with Thrums
I'm working on a pair of mittens for me lined with fleece in a technique called thrumming. It's much easier than it looks and a lot of fun, although I think I'll use alpaca or angora for the next pair. I want to work out a pattern that I can knit for sale. I hear that these are popular. This pair is made with some hand dyed CVM wool yarn and lined with a soft fleece that I bought at some point and didn't label. 

What I'm spinning: Almost finished the Shetland/merino periwinkle yarn for Kathleen's sweater
What I'm knitting: Experimenting with thrums for mittens
What I'm crocheting: Everything is hibernating
What I'm reading: Reading? I used to do that.
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Midsomer Murders on Netflix, listening to Factory Man by Beth Macy
How the diet is going: Staying steady with this cold weather.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February Snow

Snowy woods
We've had some very cold days this year but yesterday we finally got more than a couple of inches of snow. Not nearly as much as forecast but six inches of lovely fluff is plenty for the dogs to enjoy and for me to troop through to take care of the chickens. The hens refuse to deal with the stuff and stay snug in their coop.
Snow Dog
I spent the morning putting vintage photographs up on the web site for sale. Now I'm getting ready to spin the afternoon away, looking out over the snow in the yard and watching the shadows shift through the rest of the day. 

What I'm spinning: Shetland and merino singles dyed periwinkle for a special order
What I'm knitting: Odds and ends as spinning is taking a priority. Dishcloths, mostly.
What I'm crocheting: Everything is hibernating.
What I'm readingEuphues: The Anatomy of Wit by John Lyly
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Watching Foyle's War and listening to Factory Man by Beth Macy
How the diet is going: I've lost 20 pounds since November, mostly because of walking to take Dad his three meals a day and keeping the dogs happy with their exercise. Could stand to lose more and with the spring will be walking even more, I imagine.