Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wild Rose Farm - Merry Christmas!

A few pictures from Wild Rose Farm to celebrate the Christmas season! The blue star on the barn ......

Picking out a couple of trees for the family out behind the barn .... trust me, it's cold & windy!

Yearling Dorset ewes ........

Monday, December 8, 2008

Did you miss it?

Saturday was a perfect day for Christmas at the Village. Old Economy Village was dusted with snow and everyone was in the Christmas spirit. Lighting is always an issue in these old historic structures, but we vendors do the best we can! Rambouillet combed top seemed to be the item of interest with several people buying the 4 oz popcorn size bags as gifts for spinners. Here's a look at the Wild Rose Farm table and our naturally dyed yarns in the Granery building.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas at the Village

Taking a break from packing for Old Economy Village tomorrow! Wild Rose Farm will be set up for Christmas at the Village and I think that we will be in the Granery. Look for the clock tower shown above ... I believe that the church will be hosting a "Live Nativity"!
Here's a picture from the Indigo Natural Dyeing Demonstration that I did on July 5th outside of the Community Kitchen. The Harmonists used natural dyes for their wool & silk dyeing, so this is an authentic craft for OEV. Of course, they produced on more of an industrial scale, not on a hand work scale as I do when demonstrating. The best time to arrive is just before dusk and you can enjoy going between the buildings on the candle lantern illuminated walkways in the evening.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Can't Wait for Thanksgiving Weekend!

This is the big weekend at Wild Rose Farm. We put the rams in with the ewes on Thanksgiving weekend and the lambs arrive in late April through early May in the warm weather. First we had to bring the lambs up to the barn and sort a few of them out and then return them safely to the other side of the fence where the rams won't get to them. Here they are trailing back to their paddock ....... this is the first time we've moved them without an older ewe leading them, so they need a follower sweeping behind, encouraging them along (camera conveniently in hand). Then we separated out the Dorset ewes and crossbred ewes to go in with our Dorset ram. They are in the front field and this ram is wearing a marking harness with a black crayon. When he breeds a ewe, she gets a black swipe on her backend. This way we know on which day each ewe has been bred and we can estimate her delivery date. The Dorset ram is shown here angling up to his second interest of the season, Dorset ewe #114. He already spent the first 2 hours with crossbred ewe #93 ....... things can get pretty busy some days!

Next we put our Rambouillet ram in with the Rambouillet ewes. He is wearing a marking harness with a yellow crayon. We usually use a green crayon which is easier to see, but we didn't have one today when I put the harnesses together, so we'll have to look very closely to see his mark. The rams and their respective ewes are in totally separate pastures so that we can maintain registered stock. You can never trust the rams, so note the wary eye kept on the ram as we lead the group back to their pasture. Yours truly follows with camera and pitchfork, if needed! For right now, he is newly distracted by his harem of ewes and he immediately started to get to work with #317!

Oh yes ---- the ewes are marked on the right hip with their ear tag numbers so that you can see at a distance (and in twilight after work) who has been marked by the ram. Ever try to read a 1" ear tag on a moving sheep? We use a spray paint specifically formulated to scour out of the wool. In fact, the numbers are hard to read after a couple of weeks in the weather.

More Results .....

Here's a quick post to show some yarn in process. I was baking pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and was struck by how the yarn that is being rinsed had the same shades. They'll look a little different once they dry, but here is the "one-of-a-kind" Wild Rose Farm "Pumkin Pie" colorway! This is the result of a strong bath of Somerset Sweet yellow onion skins that had been soaking for 2 months. There was no pre-mordant, but the 6 darker skeins had a 5 minute 2% tin post-mordant. The lighter skein soaked in the exhaust dyebath for 30 minutes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Results ......

Here are the 3 skeins of yarn that resulted from my red onion skin dye bath with iron postmordant ........ actually, I dyed the 2 darker skeins first and added iron (ferrous sulfate @ 2% WOG) to the dye bath. I returned the yarn to the bath and simmered for 5 minutes. Then I decided to add another skein of yarn to the exhaust bath for 10 minutes. The 3 skeins have a nice soft heather or oatmeal type of look to them. They'll look great knitted up next to each other. Come visit the Wild Rose Farm booth at Old Economy Village on December 6th & take them home with you! You'll love Christmas at the Village ........

Now for my question to any natural dyers out there ...... how do I get green out of these red onion skins? I saw a beautiful green on page 78 of the Spring 2008 issue of Spin-Off. I don't want to use up my stash experimenting, since they're hard to come by in quantity!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What we're up to .......

The latest skeins of yarn done with natural dyes ..... left to right are onion skins, sumac berries, and cochineal. I love the strength of color that comes from cochineal.
I have 2 skeins of yarn cooling on the stove right now that used some red onion skins in a medium strength dye bath. I'll finish them tomorrow with an iron mordant afterbath.
How about these fluffy lambs in the barn munching on their hay?
Update - We made another trip to Lisbon, Ohio this morning and the gas prices were low again. Today the Smith station had regular 87 for $1.66 ....... PLUS when you bought 8 gallons or more, there was an unpublicized "free 16 oz. beverage of your choice" to be had when you paid.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Surprise in the Mail!

Look at what arrived in the mail last Saturday!
Katherine, one of the Western Pa Unit - Herb Society of America members who visited Wild Rose Farm on September 21st, sent this hat. What a great surprise! The hat was made with yarn spun from a Rambouillet fleece that she got while visiting. She also did her own natural dyeing experiments to obtain the colors that you see here.

How did she get the colors? Dark brown from black walnuts on unmordanted wool dyed in an iron pot ..... rust from dyers coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria) mordanted with alum & cream of tartar ...... yellow/green from marigolds on alum mordanted wool. She dyed the fleece first and then spun the yarn to even out the colors. Katherine even sent along the leaves since they so perfectly matched the colors in the hat! I don't know if she's been reading this blog lately, but I'm going to send her some Rambouillet combed top as a thank you.

Here's the hat in a "pastoral" setting with some undyed Rambouillet 2-ply yarn and our Rambouillet ram in the background.
Of course, this reminds me that I have Rambouillet fleeces in the barn that need to be sorted and shipped to make another batch of yarn ...... now, how to find some time!?!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gas & Flushing ...... Huh?

Not a topic that I would normally share on this blog, but we encountered a gas price war in Lisbon, Ohio on Saturday, November 1st. We were on a Wild Rose Farm related chore when we pulled in to take advantage of the lowest gas price we've seen in a LONG time. The competition at the other end of town was at $1.91.
We were in Lisbon to buy shelled corn at the Agland Co-op in preparation for flushing the ewes in the upcoming weeks prior to the breeding season. We feed shelled corn to increase the energy level of the feed that the ewes are receiving. By increasing the nutrition plane of the ewes, you increase the chance of multiple ovulations and therefore increase the number of lambs born per ewe ...... here's a little more detail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Halloween!

So far the Rambouillet ram hasn't knocked any of the pumpkins off of the fence posts. Both rams are getting fiesty now. Cool weather and breeding season have them stepping lively. Last week our Dorset ram broke out a board in his pen behind the barn. I'm sure that he was banging his head right in the middle of the board and it was flexing and pushing back on him until he broke it. We've had to box in the downspouts around the barn to keep the rams from smashing them. Notice the boards around the bottom of the downspout in the picture. Just part of the routine maintenance at Wild Rose Farm, or any farm for that matter ...........

Sunday, October 26, 2008

PA Shepherd's Symposium = Roadtrip!

Off to the Pennsylvania Shepherd's Symposium on Saturday at the Livestock Evaluation Center in State College ..... The Pennsylvania Sheep & Wool Growers Association put on a good program and a great dinner. Dinner featured BBQ lamb and was it ever good! From 10 o'clock on, we were sitting in programs and attending the annual meeting. By 2 or 3pm, you could smell the aroma of BBQ lamb all over the complex and we couldn't wait for dinner. We had an update from an American Lamb Board Producer Representative about how our check-off dollars are being utilized to promote lamb. I can certainly say that I've seen more recipes than ever featuring lamb in magazines that I've picked up over the last year or so. Here are some recipe ideas:

I mention the lamb because now is the time of year that our lambs at Wild Rose Farm are getting ready for market. We have several customers for freezer lamb scheduled for December delivery and roasting lambs are popular now.
We also have some ewe lambs that are going to other flocks ..... here's what things looked like this afternoon when I got home from State College. The lambs & a couple of our yearling ewe lambs had just gotten a new bale of hay and they were just browsing around. They look very fluffy this time of year and are quite comfortable in the cooler temperatures.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

OK, we're bored .....

Ever wonder what they think? Probably not much, other than "FOOD" and "ENOUGH OF THIS".

At least that's what the Wild Rose Farm lambs are demonstrating in this picture .......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Seasonal Colors!

I've finally gotten around to taking pictures of the yarn that we dyed for the September 21st "Seasonal Colors" natural dyeing demonstration here at Wild Rose Farm.
On the 9/20 post we were getting ready for the demonstration and had prepared onion skin, sumac, osage orange, and goldenrod dyebaths. On Sunday the 21st, the Western Pennsylvania Unit of the Herb Society of America descended on the farm.
What an organization! The Hospitality Committee arrived and in no time, chairs and tables were set up on the lawn and the wrap-around porch. Tablecloths, a coffee pot, coolers, and covered dishes appeared. I didn't do a head count, but there were around 25 people in attendance during the business meeting. After the meeting, the program began. We talked about the farm in general and then had a discussion & demonstration of natural dyeing techniques with locally available "vegetable dyes". With such a diverse group, we managed to have some knitters, a hand spinner, and a few folks who had also experimented with natural dyeing joining in on the discussion. After the program ended we had a great potluck meal and everyone was free to wander around while we finished the onion skin dyebath over a fire. I really had a great time with the group. Amazingly, the clean-up was so efficient that once they all departed, you wouldn't have known that they were here at all! Thanks to all who attended. The long distance travel distinction for an in state member was from Clarion County and the long distance travel distinction from out of state was Kentucky!

Looking at the picture of 6 skeins from left to right, the dye materials/mordants used for each are:
Onion skins/tin pre-mordant, goldenrod/alum pre-mordant, onion skins/alum pre-mordant, fermented sumac berries/alum pre-mordant, sassafras bark/alum pre-mordant, & osaage orange/alum pre-mordant in copper pot. Click on the picture to enlarge!
A note on the sumac berries .... I had forgotten that I left them to soak in a stainless steel pot in May. In the rush to get ready for my May shows, this dyepot was never finished. Well ...... when I opened the pot there was a nice slime on top of the dye liquor that I had boiled in May. I drained off the dye liquor and dumped out the fermented berries. The result was a brown that some would mistake as coming from black walnuts, but it's not as "sharp" as a walnut brown, it's more of a mousy brown. Bottom line is that red sumac berries don't make red dye .....
Oh yes, the red dye-bath in the 9/20 post was from poke berries. We pointed out that although most people think that they would make a good dye, they are considered a "fugitive" dye. Simply put, they make a nice stain on your shirt, but they aren't truly colorfast.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Roadtrip & Alpacas

While visiting my sister & brother-in-law last weekend in Virgina, we had a chance to visit a large alpaca farm. The farm was one of the stops on the Wild Western Prince William County Farm Tour ......... Little did I know that we were going to see one of the largest alpaca farms on the East Coast. Double "O" Good Alpacas has around 350 huacaya alpacas. We were treated to a barn tour including the large group of recently born crias. The children on the tour were thrilled to see the the "girls" and their babies. For a look at what this farm has to offer -->
I've been interested in possibly blending alpaca fiber with our Rambouillet fine wool to make a nice soft yarn ...... although I think that I'd like suri alpaca fiber ....... I'd like to find a Pennsylvania source.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Getting Ready ..........

Tomorrow we are hosting the September meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Unit of The Herb Society of America at Wild Rose Farm. The day will feature a natural dyeing demonstration that we call "Seasonal Colors" and a chance to see and learn about the sheep, lambs, wool, & yarn that we produce.

What an accumumulation of pots and gear that I've put together over the last few years! I took a couple of pictures of the preparations that are underway. Check out the second picture .... what is it and why will we be talking about it? Finally, onion skins are one of the dyes that we are using and you can see the color coming out of the skins after only 2 hours of soaking. We'll be using alum & tin mordanted yarn with the onion skins.
For more information on the Western PA Unit of the Herb Society of America:

This should be a fun day!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rain & Wind!

On Friday the 12th & Saturday the 13th, we got 1& 6/10th's inches of rain. No big downpours, mostly steady, so it was able to soak in. On Sunday we did the lawn mowing under surprisingly windy conditions. Well, the wind was from the remnants of Hurricane Ike and it got really strong after dark. Winds were clocked at 79mph at the Beaver County Airport and we lost our electricity around 8:30pm. After running our generator on Monday, power was restored around 8:00pm Monday evening.
Here on the farm, the animals can get water from our spring developments in the pasture fields, but we did have to move the lambs away from a wooded pasture area because of blown down wild cherry tree limbs. The wilted leaves contain poisonous amounts of hydrocyanic acid (HCN) and can quickly kill livestock if eaten in even the smallest quantities. The clean-up has started with a couple of downed trees being cut off of the high tensile woven wire fenceline.
No pictures at this time since there hasn't been time in daylight to get everything checked out .....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A little rain falls ......

Update on the rain. Overnight ---- thunder, lightning, & 3/10th's of an inch fell here. Not much else to say, I guess!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Meanwhile, back at the ranch .....

I got a call yesterday from the fellow who sold us our Rambouillet ram at the National Show in 2007. He was calling to check on the progress of the lambs. Andrew breeds horned Rambouillets and sends along his web-site for a quick peek at some of his stock.

Here's a long shot of our ram grazing out in front of the barn. He has a 21.5 micron fleece.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

No rain yet!

Still no rain here ........ we had some mist on Sunday morning, but that's it. We took a round bale out to the "back forty" to the ewes. If you couldn't see the trees behind them, the ewes look like they're trailing along out West! They're getting a little shelled corn & "sheep balancer" each afternoon to supplement the hay. Sometimes it seems that the sheep are worse than hogs trying to get at their feed. As soon as they see the bucket, it's a mad rush to the feed troughs. If you throw out a bale of hay, they all rush to the hay ..... if you walk to another area and move some old hay around, they rush over to see what you're doing.
Note that the darker looking sheep are the Rambouillets ---- the open, chalky white faced ewes are the Dorsets or crossbreds. A red ear tag means Rambouillet, white is Dorset, & yellow indicates a crossbred ewe.

So, even if it does rain, it will be a while before we move them out to graze.

Lambs & Yearlings

The lambs and yearling ewes are separated from the older ewes now & the top picture shows the difference in size between a yearling & this year's lambs. The "TE" lambs are the Dorset x Rambouillet crossbred twin ewe lambs. The 3rd picture is one of our Dorset ewe lambs, #116 in front of a yearling Dorset ewe #113. The young ewe is a full sister to the yearling and will grow to the same size in a year. The last photo of #R838 is a twin Rambouillet ewe lamb.
We also pulled the ram lambs out of this bunch ...... we don't want them to breed the yearlings. The ram lambs are in the barn with the bigger market lambs that we pulled out for our buyers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Vacation with the lambs

Our "staycation" ends today and we've gotten some work done with the lambs. We've been getting some reservations on freezer lambs for the fall, so we needed to sort the lambs. We have 3 Dorset ram lambs and 2 Rambouillet ram lambs for sale in the barn. Our two Dorset and Rambouillet breeding rams are outside separated in pens away from each other and the ewes. The lambs are about 4 months old and they've been weaned and wormed. Their ear tag numbers have been repainted so that they're easier to sort & identify. The spray paint that we use is "scourable", so it fades in the weather and washes out of the wool when processed. We also have the reserved freezer lambs in the barn now, since the pastures are so poor due to the dry weather. It's important to keep them gaining weight and in good condition.

The morning pictures show the remaining lambs and yearling ewes moving back out to pasture. It was really too bright to take good pictures ..... maybe I'll try to take some pictures late in the afternoon. #193 is a twin x-bred ewe lamb and #832 is a single x-bred ewe lamb --- examples of ewe lambs that we have for sale. Note that I keep the tails a decent length on the lambs, not docked too short. #810 & #813 are future market/freezer lambs.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

923 lbs and you're an "also ran" ?!?

Since we're on vacation this week, we took a trip to the Canfield Fair in Mahoning County, OH today. One of the must see items at the fair is the "Largest Squash" competion. The 3rd heaviest Hungarian squash ends up on the porch outside of the building with all of the other "also rans" .......... imagine raising a 923# monster and being relegated to 3rd place. That said, here is a look at the King & Queen squashes for 2008.
Zoom in on the second picture to see the winning weights increasing over the years!
BTW, it takes a while to get any kind of picture, since folks are in a line streaming by constantly. The building is also manned so that they can answer questions and keep watch over the squash royalty.
Interested in trying this at home? for "research-based information" - ho-hum. hey, this is serious stuff!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finally ...... RAIN!

After a month of virtually no rain, we finally got 8/10th's of an inch in the last 24 hours. No downpours, so that's a good thing!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Horsing Around

Change of subject! Maybe not the greatest photography (no one wanted to stand still!), but check out these pictures. We visited my friend Carol in Greene County today and finally got a chance to see some of their horses --- Greene Meade Belgians of Waynesburg, PA. The show string just returned from Indiana. The mares and foals turned out in the pasture were mildly curious, but you could tell that they knew we weren't the ones who fed them. Just like the sheep here, curiosity turns to boredom once you don't provide food! Look at 2008 foals video on the web-site!
I should have stood near them to show how big they are ..... I'm always impressed by how broad and deep the chests are on draft horses.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mining manure

Yep - it's another exciting day at Wild Rose Farm! We're on vacation this week and it's one of those "stay-cations"! We're getting caught up on yard work, weeding, pruning, etc. One of the "etc." jobs is digging out & spreading manure from the area where we fed the round bales of hay to the sheep over the winter. Whew --- it smells like a farm around here right now. The manure is being spread on areas where we're going to disk and do some pasture renovation seeding. We bought some hay/pasture seed yesterday and I'd like to get it spread before it rains. It actually looks like there is rain in the forecast!

Here's the "demo" fleece .....

Here is a shot of the fleece that was tied up in the "demo" blog before the fair. This fleece from ewe #103 placed first in it's class of 5 Dorset fleeces. This particular ewe has had the 1st place fleece in her class for several years. It's a classic Dorset fleece. The 2nd place fleece above it comes from our #108 Dorset ewe and is a finer micron fleece ...... also not quite as heavy.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fleeces & Ribbons

Friday arrived and the 5 fleeces have been judged at the fair .....
Here is a picture of our Reserve Grand Champion fleece from our Dorset x Rambouillet x-bred ewe #29.
The results are:

Rambouillet - 1st place in class.
Dorset - 1st & 2nd places in class.
Commercial - 1st & 2nd places in class and Reserve Grand Champion fleece at the fair!

The Reserve Grand Champion fleece has been judged to be the "second best fleece" in the entire show of approximately 30 fleeces. Yea! I really liked this fleece when I tied it up last Sunday. I guess the judge liked it too.

A couple of things about fleece judging ...... the fleeces of each breed are judged against the breeds' wool standard and against each other. Judges are looking for breed character, staple length, crimp, total fleece weight, freedom from "wool breaks", handle, etc. The judge may actually untie or open the fleece to check it for uniformity and to ensure that a heavy weight fleece is not full of dung tags or scrap wool in the middle. Sad but true ---- "if there's money or a prize involved, someone will cheat"! For the record, 1st place premiums are $8, 2nd place premiums are $7, and the Reserve Grand Champion prize is the Rosette. Heck, it buys a little hay for the flock.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Still no rain here

It continues to be dry here ..... when will one of those tropical storms swing our way and drop some showers? It's time to get the grass growing for the fall.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Getting fleeces ready to show!

Today I got 5 fleeces ready to show at the Hookstown Fair. The selection and preparation of show fleeces actually begins on shearing day. As the sheep are sheared, we take notes on the condition of the fleeces and note which fleeces are suitable to show. Each fleece is stored in a separate bag and tagged with each ewe's ear tag number. Potential show fleeces are set aside and are then heavily "skirted" right before they are taken to the fair. In the bottom picture, we see the fleece from our Dorset ewe #103 as it was dumped put of the bag. The fleece is opened up on the sorting table and areas of heavy vegetable matter, dung tags, and short belly wool are sorted off or "skirted" from the fleece. Note the pile of dirty "scrap" wool in front of the skirted fleece in the picture second from the bottom. The fleece is then rolled up and tied with paper twine for the show. In a well skirted fleece, quite a bit of wool can be skirted off to provide the cleanest possible wool for hand spinning or washing. Finally, we see the same fleece tied inside out for judging in the wool show.

This year Wild Rose Farm is showing 5 fleeces ---- 1 Rambouillet, 2 Dorsets, and 2 Commercial or crossbred fleeces. They were dropped off today at the fairgrounds, but they won't be judged until Friday August 22nd.