Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Farm Show

I was able to make it to the PA Farm Show last week. Had a blast like I always do, for the first time I finally was able to find the sheep barn. Which was totally cool while I was petting one of the sheep there buddy came over to me. So they checked me out by reaching there head up to sniff my face and for about a minute we were nose to nose. That was so cool (sorry I don’t have a picture my husband wasn’t thinking). I wanted to take home and Angora bunny I just couldn’t figure out how to sneak it out of the place. I do believe that there where more Alpacas this year they are always fun. No fiber goats though, so may be next year.

I was able to sit through two demo’s, one on honey and the other maple syrup. They where both good demos, the one on honey was more informative. Such as did you know that one hive holds ninety pounds honey and you are able to eat the wax your body is able to digest it. That was all so cool. The maple syrup demo was shorter but informative. Maple sap has about 2 to 2.3 percent sugar in it, when its reduced to syrup it has between 60 and 70 percent sugar. You can harvest the sap for about six weeks and you need to remove about eighty percent of the water from the sap to get the syrup. I thought that was all cool as well.

I did make it to the Sheep to Shawl competition when it was over. I got there a little after five and they were done with the weaving. Rat’s I don’t sit fir the whole think but I do like to watch some of it. A disappointing thing there where only five groups competing this year. I wasn’t able to get all the names of the groups but I did get final prices of the shawls as they where sold. The prices are below, I’m busy busy busy so I will talk later.

Sheep to Shawl

First place - $800.00
Second Place - $500.00 scholarship and another $400.00
Third Place - $1300.00
Fourth Place - $300.00
Fifth Place - $400.00

Fleece to Shawl

First place - $300.00
Second Place - $400.00
Third Place - $300.00
Fourth Place - $475.00
Fifth Place - $175.00

Fleece Auction

Now one of the main reasons, O who am I kidding the main reason I go to the farm show is for the fleece auction. This immediately follows the shawl auction. This year I was able to save up a little money to purchase may be four fleeces depending on the price. This is instead of my normal one or two which I usually get. Well just say I went a little crazy and got seven fleeces, O’ boy that’s a lot of fleece. I always wanted to work with a black fleece and gray fleece. This year I was able to get a black fleece but no gray, on the other hand I did get a cow fleece (a sheep’s fleece that is spotted like a cow). So if nothing else I have a lot of work to do. I have provided picture of the fleeces below for your drooling enjoyment.
Cow fleece.

The purple ribbon fleece is the Grand Champion of the colored fleeces and it's also the black fleece.

Washing Fleece

I have decided to show how I wash my fleece, since a couple of previous tries the wool felted. So this is my way of helping someone who may need help with cleaning there fleece. I will start off that my way does take a while and everyone does do it differently. There is no right or wrong way to do it just the way that best fits you and keeps the wool from felting.

The first think you need to do is skirt the fleece, which means to remove any vegetable matter and dung tags. If there are any second cuts or breakage you want to remove them as well. If you have a dryer you can use that for this step with no heat and on air fluff. If not then you have to do it by hand, I also give the fleece a little shake which helps and you may want to do this out side since it is a dirty job.

This is the first step that I do in washing fleece. I let it soak in cold water with nothing added. Some people say that there is a lot of sweat and silt that only will come out this way. Others say it will come out in the detergent wash. I doo it this way because I feel it gets cleaner and you don't use that much soap since your onlly removeing the lanolin and not the dirt as well. If you feel you don't need to do this step then don't or maybe you have never done this step and should give it a try. While the fleece is in the water cold or hot I never agitate it in any way, all I do is let it soak. This is how I keep it from felting.

Here the fleece is draing from the clear water bath.

Here I have the fleece soaking in hot soapy water. I use hot tap water that is 140 degrees to that I add a tablespoon of Borax and Laundry detergent. I decrease the amount of Borax and detergent each time I change the water. I never agitate the fleece I remove it from the water and let the water drain out, the fleece stays in the water for twenty minutes. This batch of fleece took four baths to get all the lanolin out of it. You keep changing the water till you have soap bubbles left. Then I rinse the fleece in the same manner in clear water and I decrease the temperature of the water to cool the fleece down and the water come out clear. This took about four water changes as well.

This is the nice clean fleece before I placed it in the trays I gently squeezed out the excess water. The goal is to have the fleece to look them same as when you started but clean.

This is the fleece drying to the left is the heat vent not shown. I got these crates a while back from a plant auction you typically see them at Easter time with Tulips and Lily's in them.

This is how I was my fleece if there is any thing that can help you out use it. If you see any improvements let me know. But all in all just have fun with it.


We made are first hard cheeses, a wheel of Monterey Jack and Gouda. The process from milk to pressing curd takes about three hours. Once its pressed in the mold it really becomes sold the Monterey Jack has three pounds of weight four fifteen minute on the first round. That was just enough of weight to make it a sold mass that didn’t crumble when handled for the next weight. Both cheeses take about three months to age so we won’t be eating and until Easter. The next ones we are going to try are a couple of Cheddars, cheese making is so fun.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year 2010

A very Happy New Year to everyone. One year ago today I started this blog, I wasn’t able to blog as much as I would have liked to this past year. So this year I will have to work on that.
I really never talked about the garden last year because it was a flop. It was so cold last summer that nothing really grew. So I just left it alone for the year and I’m starting to plan out this years garden. The way the winter has been thus far I am hopeful that this summer will be normal for this area.

I never got all my weaving done that I wanted to last year so I will be working on that this year as well. I do know that when I have the veggie stand open in the summer it will be much harder. Maybe I will have something figured out so that I can weave while I’m working the stand. We shall see how that works out.

I am also hopeful on getting out a little more on small adventures and blogging about them as well. I don’t have any thing planned but then the spontaneity is usually the best method. I really don’t have any idea of what the adventures maybe so we’ll wait and see.

One last thing we are working on getting some chickens. These will be for egg production and not meat. There hasn’t been any decision on what type of chicken or the total number as of yet. We are working on that as well as getting a chicken coop put together. So as that gets going you’ll here about that.

So again a Happy New Year to everyone, and may this year be fun filled, healthy and prosperous for every one.