Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Harvest Time

maine in fallThis seasonal shift is both the best and the most traumatic to those of us in the wildes of Maine. Harvest IS a time of celebrating the bounty of delicious, fresh food we've eaten all summer, the rooty sweetness of the fall crops (beets, carrots, etc.)and an honest yearning to not have to pull weeds. In the South, weeds grew healthiest in the spring and early summer. Here, only the most stubborn of weeds are creeping up then. But, sometime in July, someone sends the message that invasion of the weedy people eaters should begin and (literally overnight) the plants go wild and seem to grow a foot a day. This is all fine except that Harvest is a season not only of gluttonizing on what is given - but rectifying with what was not. It's like the karmic bill for those of us who are trying to work so hard to 'woo' MudderNature. You can ignore your failures in summer. But, when you've been too busy to pick beans and have a meager store of canned beans and pickled dilly beans - you know that as you shell a billionty DRIED beans. Hmmm, maybe picking and pickling wasn't the most labor intensive route. If you want to talk at our house, you have to do it while you shell.

It's all okay, though, that process of reckoning and surprising yourself with how resourceful you can be. Not enough pickles in the cubbard? No worries, we didn't ever get that root cellar built this summer, either - opting instead to add onto the house so we can actually have a heated bathroom this winter. Holymoly, did I just say winter? You should be careful how carelessly you throw that word around this time of year here in the land of 'if you don't have your wood in yet you must want to die slowly'. Some people are all ready for winter. Some are lagging behind but not so burdened by it. Some are in a sheer state of panic. That may have been us this last two weeks. I get dumber as I learn more. It took 2 weeks to recover from the fair, get ordering, posting, shipping back in order for our store, make an attack plan on the 'you won't survive winter if these things aren't addressed' list, and realize that the lack of root cellar+big ole row of beets I still haven't harvested+need for pickles can all be solved by one simple delight - pickled beets. I'll post pics and a recipe next time - promise.

seascape shawlToday, though, I have pictures out the you know what so I'll quit gabbing(okay, that may not happen) and get on with it. Whilst coming to grips with our successes (yes, for some tortured souls success is also something to be adjusted to) and our failures (or if failure is too derogatory for you - the things we might have goofed on), things have been kinda hairy. I'm making minimal progress on the red silk sweater, just about to take the sleeves off. But to REALLY knit, I needed serious inspiration. I've been looking at this shawl pattern for ages so I went ahead and got it and swiped my own yarn store for some indigo dyed laceweight as well. Still, it's cheaper than a therapist.

The other process hubster and I have been stumbling going through is in regards to our herd. Our three best ewes, two ewe yearling, and our lovely, charming, and stunningly handsome ram, Rufus (all Cotswolds)are just peachy with us. But, when we speak of the Shetlands, the mood changes. Things 1,2, and 3 don't care for them. Hubster has lost the five pounds he's gained since high school (hates him, we do) because of them. I'm not too impressed with their wool. Why are we keeping them? I was resistant to consider this because I am a sucker for obligation. The truth is - we didn't select them - they selected us and only by default. I guess I let myself get so wrapped up in wanting to do something to help my friend (who is returning to med school, going through a divorce, and leaving her homestead) that I forgot to consider that it might be okay for me to let go. We're finding them new homes as we speak and the decision has come as such a relief. My friend told us a long time ago that she wouldn't be taking them back. I kept them partly for her and partly because I really want some naturally colored fleeces. This season of studying our intentions, coming to terms with our choices, and understanding our needs (uh, I think winter is coming) - why don't I make smarter decisions as the years progress? Am I living backwards? We've agreed and made a family pact - no more babysitting other people's animals. The only animals we want to shovel poop for, work to grow food for, and freeze our fingers off assisting in lambing for are the ones we love.

You can't just stew about your harvest learnings, though. And, if you have some things to reckon with, it is best done in really good company. Spinners are my favorite. Knitters next. Farmers are always a safe bet. So, we packed up the family and went to meet a lovely farm family a few towns over. I've never been there before and I'm sorry I forgot the cam. Particularly because we passed the funniest barn door ever. It had a 'no trespassing' sign on the door. That's not too special - it was a milk barn and all of them post that on the door - it is required by the milk processors. But, spray painted next to that were the words, "this means you, Linda". We laughed so hard we had to stop at the gas station to use their bathroom. Linda, wherever you are, don't go in that barn!

You can glean a lot of valuable stuff spending an afternoon with a dairy farmer, a spinner of 25+ yrs. and a songwriter. We just about covered everything from Willie Nelson and, yes, I was at Farm Aid (not many people you can mention this to besides farmers who will not look at you like you're a total geek) to the war to milk prices, organic farming, and, of course, lots of chatting about wool. Then, there was some wool exchanged and, don't ask us how, but we pulled away with two bales of hay and three corriedale/merino cross sheep in the back of the suburban. Jeepers! And we thought Linda was weird!
DSC00275 I picked this little ewe out. She appealed to me somehow. Well, obviously natural color is part of her package but that is the case with all of them. She just seemed really intuitive. And she stood off to the side, studying us with her dark eyes while all the other sheep were trying hard to run from us. We call her Minerva.

DSC00272 This big girl appealed to all of us. Her white stripe down the nose and her perky ears make her look like she's smiling. She was a little nervous with us but her and Rufus became fast friends when we got home. That's a promising sign as Rufus is the boss around here and if he doesn't like a ewe, well, we generally know about it. This morning she let me take a picture of her, unlike her sister, who stomped her foot as I snapped and the camera made a noise. We call her Mabh.

DSC00271This little guy broke our rule - as he was literally thrown in for free. That must be why we had to chase him into the barn five times to catch him and he jumped three fences yesterday. We take our time learning our lessons around here. He has a spectacular fleece and is not a real man ram. That,coupled with his fence jumping ability, earned him the name Eunich. Can you see that crazed look in his eyes? Note to self:remember the rule! He's coming around, though, the more we feed him. It's all about trust with sheep.

Sadly, the people in my house still expect me to feed them and I have to go post some yarnie thingies on etsy so why am I drinking tea and sitting on the computer? A little rebellion never hurt anyone. Except you, Linda, those people looked really serious!