Finding calm amid chaos

After the chaos, comes the calm… but the challenge is to find calm within a chaotic situation.



In the midst of ‘re-inventing’ myself ((pure chaos)) and my workshop – soon to be studio/workshop – you can find me this weekend, September 29 and 30, 2012, vending at the 22nd Annual Mt. Bruce Station Sheep and Wool Festival, Romeo, Michigan. Follow the link here for more info.

I’m told, relaxation, humor and power of friendships are the best means of handling the stress storms of day-to-day life. So, I’ll be sitting in my booth, ‘decluttering-my-mind’, people-watching [a favorite pastime], ohhhing and ahhhing all the wonderful woolies… and hopefully, doing a little fiber’n myself!!!!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Preparing for Shearing Day

Photo courtesy Australian Wool Innovation, Ltd

Shearing sheep is a job that’s normally done once (sometimes twice) a year. Preparing your facilities and flock will make the job easier on everyone involved! For the novice shepherd, a few helpful tips:

The Sheep

Sheep must be dry to be sheared! Sheep with wet wool – including dew and/or frost – should NOT be sheared.

Sheep should be held off feed and water at least eight hours before shearing. The flock should never come straight off pasture to be sheared. Grass and hay may build-up gas and possibly back-up into the lung area during shearing and cause what is called ‘a gasper’. If the animal is not put on its’ feet right away, it could die of suffocation.

If possible, stained wet wool and manure tags should be removed before sheep are penned. Avoid penning sheep in dirty pens or bare concrete floors.

White-faced, white wooled sheep should be sheared first; dark-faced/colored wool sheep (light to dark) last.

White wool and colored wool should not be packed in the same bag. Typically, for the small shepherd, bag each fleece individually, with a name tag for easy identification.

To properly ‘skirt’ a fleece before packing, the wool should be placed cut side down on a slotted surface (to remove second cuts). Any vegetable matter (VM), manure or urine stained wool should be removed. Leg and face clippings should also be removed. The shearer should have already removed the belly wool when shearing.

After skirted and cleaned, the fleece should be folded lengthwise, a third over a third, then the other third folded over the top and then rolled from the tail to the head before being packed. If possible, pack in burlap bags; plastic bags should be stored out of direct sunlight to avoid condensation.


Plan to provide adequate adult helpers to keep the job moving. A clean, flat level surface (approx 8 X 8 feet) with lots of head room, good lighting and ventilation is best for the shearer to work on. A sheet of plywood or rubber mat makes a good working platform. If extension cords are necessary, heavy-duty cords to carry the load are recommended.

Keep the shearing area swept clean when necessary.

Keep a small pen filled and at the ready for catching sheep for the shearer. Sheep chased around a large pen/pasture before coming to the shearing floor will continue to fight while being sheared (and waste the shearer’s time).

No shearer deliberately cuts a sheep! If you wish to put disinfectant on any nicks or cuts have your spray bottle handy before shearing starts. The shearer is not going to hold a sheep for ten minutes while you try to find your spray bottle.

Have sufficient help to take the sheep from the shearer and do your foot trimming, vaccinations and worming after shearing (most shearers will assist the small shepherd, if requested). 

Happy fiber’n!

Brutus gets the royal treatment.

Brutus is my registered Pygora wether…a fiber goat…a cross between an Angora goat and a Pygmy goat. Normally, Brutus, who has Type B fleece (a combo of lustrous ‘locks’ and downy cashmere) is sheared twice a year (Fall and Spring).

But, this summer-time weather has been anything but normal! It’s been hot and humid for long stretches at a time, with not much relief during the night…and it’s hard on our pets including the barnyard menagerie!

Brutus seemed so uncomfortable in his unusually tangled matted fleece, that we decided to give him the royal treatment…haircut, bath, pedicure, massage and lots of animal crackers! Even my killer electric shears wouldn’t tackle his matted fleece! YIKES!


So, Katie and I used good old-fashioned hand-shears and we each worked on one side of Brutus! He was soooo patient and tolerant of our ‘primping’.

Brutus is showing-off his new ‘do’ to our Pygmy, Oreo, who doesn’t seem impressed!

Say ‘cheeeeese’ for the camera, Brutus! Hmmm…I forgot to brush his teeth?!!?

So much better (even if it’s a bit ‘choppy’). Love you, boyfriend!


Counting Sheep

I’ve been preoccupied with sheep these past few days…working on a ‘custom’ needle felting job for a friend.  But, also here on the farm, we’ve sheared the sheep (plus one ‘fiber’ goat, Brutus, our Pygora). We actually delayed shearing this year to the END of March compared to last year due to the cold weather! Even so, still too cold! Brrrr…pleeeze send warmer weather!

We had a busy Saturday at Metropark’s Wolcott Farm Annual Sheep Shearing event. While farm visitors observed the sheep being sheared in the barn, we were warm inside the farmhouse kitchen dyeing wool with Kool-Aid. We rekindled old friendships with talented fiber folk including a weaver, hand spinners and rug hookers… who were also demonstrating their fiber skills!

All the while, hubby was home cutting another hole in the barn to create another inny-outy holding pen for the lambs/goat kids.  You can never have too many pens!? On the TO-DO list…once the ground thaws, we’ll need to reinforce/re-build the dividing ‘fence-line’ between the rams’ pens which took a pounding this winter. Also, we’d like to construct a shed roof and ANOTHER turn-out area on the south wall of the ‘back’ barn.

And NO…just in case you’re wondering…you NEVER run out of chores (aka wish list) on the farm! 


Spring has sprung…

Spring is right around the corner and we’ve been enjoying unusually warm (and sunny) weather here in Michigan the past two weeks or so! What better place to celebrate Spring than on a farm? My sheepies have all been sheared in preparation for lambing – several ewes have been bred and will begin to lamb April 1 through May. Katie has been taking the yearling goat kids for ‘walks’ as she prepares them for the 4-H show at our local Armada Fair in August . My does, Schaherezade and Nelly are due to kid later April/early May. They’re enjoying leisurely strolls in the garden with me ~ helping me ‘weed’ and ‘fertilize’ ! Aahhhh…life is good! 

Yesterday, Katie and I decided to shear our new yearling wether Pygora, Brutus. His fleece was a little better than 3-inches long. This was a first for us, but Brutus behaved beautifully while on the stanchion. Pygora as well as Angora goats are typically sheared twice  a year, Spring and Fall. 

Brutus before...

Brutus during...

Brutus after...

Three things: 1) I nearly forgot Brutus had wattles! Katie and I almost had a HEART ATTACK when I barely knicked one wattle as I sheared him – from his scream, WE  thought I slit his throat!!!!!!!!  The big baby…poor thing! BTW, that was the only little knick he suffered!  

2) However, I sliced MY finger open with the shears – YIKES, they’re very sharp, but better ME than my goatie! Only problem was the paper towel I wrapped around my finger quickly became saturated as I continued to bleed all over Brutus (and the barn floor). 

3) We very quickly discovered poor Brutus had lice! EEEEKKKKKK!!!!! Thankfully it was warm enough to give Brutus a nice warm bath with some ‘medicated’ goat shampoo I had on hand from Hoegger’s ( I also promptly ran up to TSC for livestock/goat dust which we sprinkled down along his back. ‘Ya might say Brutus had a day at the spa? I promptly inspected the rest of my herd for lice, but didn’t SEE any…which I thought odd. Wouldn’t they ALL have lice??? Well, we’ll have to see how this progresses. As usual, always a new learning experience down on the farm!

Speaking of shearing, this Saturday, March 20, Katie and I will be at Metropark’s Wolcott Farm Learning Center for their annual ‘Sheep Shearing Saturday’ . We’ll be dyeing wool fleece with Kool-Aid all day (from 10 AM to 3 PM) ~~~ or until the fleece runs out! There will be plenty of family activities, so come on out and say ‘hello’. 

Have a blessed day!

Never Enough Hours in a Day…

Why is it that the older I get, it seems as if I’m always running out of time?

Speaking of time, did you know…it’s Daylight Saving Time NOT Daylight SavingS Time?

The idea of daylight saving was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin during his sojourn as an American delegate in Paris in 1784, in an essay, “An Economical Project.” At the age of 78, in a moment of whimsy and to amuse his friends, Benjamin Franklin wrote a discourse on the thrift of natural versus artificial lighting and the amount of oil used in relation to the quantity of light produced… after attending a demonstration of a new oil lamp the previous evening. Over two centuries later, nations around the world use a variation of his concept to conserve energy and more fully enjoy the benefits of daylight. Read more here  So, remember, ‘Spring ahead’ and turn your clock ahead one hour this Saturday March 13 before you go to bed.

Well, it has been an incredibly busy weekend. I’m happy to report that all nine of my Shetland sheep were sheared this past Saturday. Normally, I have the girls sheared nearer to the first of April, but since one of my ewes (Hildy) is due to lamb sooner than much later, I thought it would be safest for her and the unborn lamb(s) to be sheared now. Normally, I like to shear the pregnant ewes at least 1-month before lambing if possible…and if you saw my ‘wooly beasties’ you would understand why. It’s easier to see what’s going on at the rear-end, bagging, etc. It’s also easier for the lambs to nurse and find their mom’s teat (instead of suckling on a wool tag). They look soooo NAKED without their wooly fleece! So for now, I have 9 bags of fleece to skirt, sort, wash, etc. I’ll ‘process’ much of it myself, but perhaps that’s a subject for another post: “How to skirt and wash your fleece.”

Three out of five of my ‘girls’ that I bred are definitely pregnant. ‘Snowy’ is too early to be showing any signs…and Tinkerbell??? Well, even though she was in the breeding pen (last year she didn’t get pregnant either), I think she just eats more than her fair share.

BTW, I still have to shear my Pygora wether ‘Brutus’; I’ll shear him on the stanchion when his fleece is just a bit longer, approx 3-inches.

The weather has been sunny and unusually warm-er (near 50 degrees F), so I’m glad my sheepies can adjust over the next few days. However, the down side of the warm-er weather comes boot  suck’N muck season. YUK!!! I can hardly wait for the melting snow water to recede and the ‘greening’ of the earth to begin! YEAH!

Well, I’m also happy to report that we finished painting OUR bedroom. We all agreed (kids included) on a color, but when I opened the paint can lid…eewwwwwww! What is this…pea soup? This isn’t the paint chip we selected!!!!??? Katie was a bit more kind with her choice of words and described the new paint color as ‘green olives’. Why did I enlist hubby for an opinion…he’s color-blind!!! (Really!)

I have to admit, I was sceptical at first, but, now that the room is finished and the paint has DRIED, I’m kind of getting used to it. The ACE Hardware paint color is called ‘PRIMORDIAL’. Perhaps that should have been a clue? This is a color that looks different in natural light, artificial light, whether the sun is shining, the angle at which you’re standing…and so on. We have Shaker furniture (beautiful curly maple – ‘cherry’) and a few painted (blue over black) pieces and it kind of looks nice. Believe it or not?

I’ve been having fun scrubbing, buffing and polishing, RECYCLING collectibles and re-decorating! I purchased new bed pillows and haven’t had a good night’s sleep yet. I believe pillows are like an old pair of jeans…all broken in and comfortable!

Oh ya, my 21-year old Magic Chef stove OVEN went ‘kaput’ over the weekend! As far as I can tell, the bottom heating element blew out! I don’t know about replacement cost/repairs, but, I soooooooo want a NEW stove!!!! I was baking a batch of cookies for Matt ~~~~~ wouldn’t ya know it~~~~~Thank goodness Grandma’s just down the road! We took a look at a few GE electric stainless steel stoves with a glass top, etc. Yikes!!! $$$$$

Last, I’m happy to report, I finally finished another ‘little book’ I’ve been working on entitled “Felting and Needle Felting Tutorial”. YIPPI! It combines hints and how-to’s of both wet felting and needle felting. I’ll probably list it for sale in my ETSY shop.

Happy ~Middle of the Week Already~ Day!