Friday, October 19, 2012

So.....It has been a couple of months...

Yeah, I know, I am not good about keeping up to date on this blog.  I have too many things to distract me, I suppose.  But I plan to do better.

First, some inspiration for a new hairdo:

Isn't she just a hoot?  I wish we had a whole flock of them!  We call her Phylis Diller - just look at that updo.  And when she does her chicken-head-jerky-thing, her do flips and bobs with her.  Makes me smile just looking at her.

Then, we had a totally unplanned addition to the farm.  No....not more sheep.  Geez.  This time it was a baby donkey!

Dexter showed up about 11 o'clock one Saturday night.  Izzy, our mini donkey, began raising a rukus, so hubby went out to check and see what all the fuss was about.  He turned on the spotlight and exclaimed "We have a baby donkey!"  It belongs to our big donkey, Taffy.  We did not even know she was expecting.  Yes, I know what can happen when you put a boy and a girl donkey together in a pasture, but we thought Taffy was just a bit chunky, she honestly did not look pregnant!  Anyway, Dexter loves to be loved on.  When you scratch his back, he moves his mouth around like he is chewing a big ole wad of Hubba Bubba.  It's hilarious!  And I have never felt anything so soft in my life.  Seriously!  This little guy has the softest fur I have ever had my hands in.  Wonder if I can spin it..........

Then, we have one more addition.  You know I lost my long time companion this summer, and how it broke my heart.  Well, I tried to make a convert of hubby's dog, Gracie, into the mama's dog.  It didn't work.  I have always wanted a Blue Heeler of my own, and we went and looked at a litter.  My goodness, I had forgotten how busy puppies are - here, there, chewing on each other, nipping at hands, running everywhere they went.  I walked away and went back home to think about it.  Well, the boys wanted him badly (translate into, "Mom, you know you want him, and we will help take care of him!"), so we went back and brought the new mama's dog home.

Meet Shadow:

He is a ball of lightning. He is so smart it is scary and he NEVER runs out of energy. Never-ever-ever.  He drinks water like a camel, but sure can't "hold it" like one.  I have never seen a more prolific tinkler in my life.  He hasn't learned that mama likes to give kisses without having her face eaten off in return, but he will.  We have yet to snuggle.  But he learned "sit" in one day, and has nearly mastered "lay down".  I can now sit and do a bit of spinning or weaving with him out and about, as long as Maverick the Terrible and Gracie are penned up.  He is a character!

One more thing - I sold the Hammett loom.  It was too big for my liking, and I couldn't get the hang of a counterbalace loom.  I found this cutie pie within driving distance, and I am happily weaving on my first set of dishtowels:

It is a Harrisville Designs 4 harness, 6 treadle jack style loom.  I love it!  I understand how it works, it takes up very little space, and can fold up to just 13 inches wide when not in use!  (like that will ever happen!)  Once I got it warped up, I can weave up a storm. 

More later...........


Monday, July 23, 2012

Before Fiber Christmas In July

This coming weekend I will once again be a vendor at Fiber Christmas in July in Kellyville, Oklahoma.  This will be our third year to participate.  Kate Lowder, of Lowder Colour Farms, puts on a fantastic show each year, and it draws quite the crowd of fiber folk from all over the place.  I am very excited this year because we will have all new display pieces for our booth.  Stan and I have been working hard building and painting, and the kids have pitched in and helped, too. 

I have more roving and yarn to take to the show than ever before - over 80 rovings and 40+ handspun yarns.  I was disappointed with my booth last year, it looked very empty and sad in my opinion, so this year I am making sure it is full to the max! 

I have been cranking along on the sock machine, too!  It is a blast to play with!  On my 5th attempt, I finally turned out a perfect sock.  Woo-Hoo!  I plan to take the little beast with me to the show for others to play with.

I am really proud of this machine.  I bought it back before Christmas off of ebay.  It was a dirty, grimey mess.  I spent hours cleaning off the years of grease and grime, and was well rewarded for my efforts.  It even had an amazing coat of paint under it all! 


Monday, July 9, 2012

Goodbye, Dear Friend

This past weekend was one of the hardest in my life.  I had to make the decision to have my dear sweet Lily Belle put to sleep.  She is now resting peacefully up on the hillside under an oak tree where my husband and sons prepared a very nice place for her. 

Now, I am not going to carry on and mourn like I have lost a child, but she was a member of the family.  More importantly, she was the mama's dog.  Eleven years ago we were able to able to make the transition from rent houses to a house of our own, so I could finally have an inside dog.  Hubby had long ago learned to say "okay, honey, if that is what you want."  I took off alone to the Humane Society to find a cute little snuggly lap dog.  Unfortunately, all of the small dogs had signs on the cage door that either said "Doesn't do well with children" (we have three), "Doesn't get along with cats" (we had one), or it was just plain ugly.  Sorry, there really are ugly dogs.  So I asked to go to the back and just walk through all of the big dogs.  I did not want a large dog because we already had two cattle dogs outside.  But, it couldn't hurt to look - there might be a puppy, and those are small!  Anyway, I was walking through the rows and rows of concrete block pens just looking.  All of the dogs were barking, whining, and jumping against the chain link gates to their pens, the noise was deafening.  I walked down the last row, and right near the end I walked past a pen where the dog was just sitting there.  I didn't think much of it, and headed for the door.  I hadn't seen the puppy I had pictured in my mind to come home with us, and I didn't want an adult dog.  Just as I reached for the door handle to leave, it dawned on me.  That dog was just sitting there.  It wasn't barking, it wasn't begging for attention, it was just sitting.  I decided it must be sick, so I would go back and check before I notified the front desk.  Back through the roar, all the way to the last row, and there that dog still sat.  It looked to be a basset mix, golden in color, long bodied, with short stubby legs that turned out where it sat.  Big. Brown. Eyes. I stared, it stared.  I tried to call it to the front of the pen, and it acted like it wanted to come, but was afraid.  Those eyes. 

I'm a sucker.  So I went to the front and asked about the sad dog with the big brown eyes.  They said she had been found wandering in a parking lot, covered in ticks.  She was very timid, but sweet.  So, sucker that I am, I asked to meet her.  They brought her to the visiting room and she hid in the opposite corner under a bench.  I sat down on the floor and called to her.  She wouldn't come.  For about 30 minutes I sat in the floor and just talked to her in a soft voice.  Finally, she slowly crept over and sat nearer.  Then a little nearer.  When I first reached to pet her, she flinched like I was going to hit her.  It broke my heart.  For the next half hour, I petted and scratched, and she sat still and let me.  But she was big, and an adult, and so shy, and we had three small kiddos.  This would never work, I told myself.  So, reluctantly, I got up and left.

I told my husband about her when we got home.  I couldn't quit thinking about her, so the next day we loaded up the children and headed back to see how she would behave around them.  When they brought her in the visiting room, she immediately hid behind my legs.  My legs!  Not in the corner.  She let me pet her, and slowly warmed up to my husband, but wouldn't let the kids pet her.  We decided she was not really the right fit for us, so we left.  I felt sorry for her, and on the way out I gave the front desk half of her adoption fee, hoping that would help another, more suited family, choose that sweet girl.

It was the middle of July, and so very hot.  That evening the power went out.  All over the region.  Thankfully, we got ours back quickly.  But much of the region did not.  The next night we were watching the news, and they did a story about how the Humane Society was struggling to keep the animals cool.  They were asking for fans and generators to run them.  I couldn't stand thinking of that golden girl with the big brown eyes suffering in that heat.  She was so quiet, she wouldn't get the attention the noise-makers would.   They were not allowing any adoptions because they could not do background checks without electricity, but as soon as the power was back on, I made a bee-line up there and she came home with me. 

It didn't take long until Lily Belle was well adjusted to our household.  She only had one accident in the house before she was house-trained.  She went from a scrawny 39 pounds at adoption, to over 60 pounds the first year.  She was happy, healthy, and while she loved our family, she was devoted to me.  Lily was never 10 feet from me when I was home. If I changed rooms, so did she.  She slept on her yellow blanket on my side of the bed every night.  She always got the last bite of everything I ate.  She had to stay in a huge crate when we were not home because she apparently had seperation anxiety and would drag our belongings from all over the house into the living room if she was left alone.  Years and years went by, and she slowly aged.  Her golden face turned white, and she began gaining a little more weight because of slowing down.  We often called her a speed bump because she liked to sleep right in the main walkways of the house.   Her teeth began to wear down, and she slept more and more.  About three weeks ago, I noticed she was having to go outside way too often, and was wetting multiple times when she was out.  My never-has-an-accident house dog began standing up from a nap and losing control of her bladder.  So I took her to the vet, and found out she had bladder stones.  The options were either surgery or try a medicine based cure.  She had been with us for eleven years, and I know was at least two years old when we got her, at the minimum she was thirteen.  Probably more like fourteen or fifteen.  So I opted for the much less expensive medicine.  Several years earlier we had nearly lost Lily because she had a terrible time coming out from under anesthesia, so I was very concerned she would not come out of the surgery. 

Lily got better.  She quit having accidents in the house, but was still needing to go outside much more often than usual.  Last Wednesday, I took her out, and she ignored me when I tried to get her to come back in the house.  So I went up on the hill to fuss at her.  Then I saw it.  She was passing a lot of blood.  I went cold.  Maybe it was a one time thing.  Next trip outside I watched again and the same thing happened.  I knew it wasn't related, but the next morning I called the vet and asked if it could be the bladder stones clearing up?  Is this normal? Please?  But it wasn't.  My normally sedentary dog was wandering aimlessly around the house, panting.  She couldn't get still.  She began needing to go outside every couple of hours, and having accidents in the house again.  So I sat the children down and talked to them.  Lily had been part of their lives for as long as they could remember.  Even though we live on a farm and lose animals regularly, this was different and was going to be hard.  I went to bed Thursday night crying and petting my girl, who was, as always, by my side of the bed, but panting hard.  She had accidents Thursday during the night, and by Friday morning, I had mostly made up my mind.  She had several more accidents.  It broke my heart.  I knew what had to be done.  I called the vet, and about 2:30 Friday afternoon, Lily Belle laid down on her blanket on the back porch and went off to sleep forever, hearing mama tell her how much she was loved and always would be.  Our dear vet prayed with us, and it was over. My sweet brown eyed girl was gone. 

I am crying as I type this.  I have missed her every time I turn around this weekend.  I can't bear to put her food dish away or fold up her towel in her pen.  I don't want to vacuum because her fur is all over the house.  I will likely have reminders of her on my black pants forever, and I am smiling through my tears because of that.  I cried when we came home from church yesterday because she wasn't there to let out.  Her yellow blanket that she always slept on is gone from my side of the bed because we wrapped her in it.  I convinced our shepherd mix, Gracie, to sleep on my side last night, but it isn't the same.  She doesn't snore, Lily did.  I look up and still expect to see her just a few feet from me, and I checked under my recliner before I put it down for her, out of habit.  I told the kids to take all three, I mean two, dogs outside.  My heart hurts.

 I will miss her for a long time.  She was my dog. Goodbye, Lily Belle.  Mama loves you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sure is hot!  We have just barely started July here in Arkansas, and already we have tolerated 10 days that topped out over 100 degrees.  Rain would sure be nice, too.  I am glad we already have our hay in the barn for the year. 

I thought you might like to meet a couple of my favorite animals.

This is Daisy, our Jersey milk cow and Huey, who thinks I am his mama.  Huey is a Border Leicester/Shetland wether.  His mama is Naomi, my favorite animal on the farm.  When she gave birth this year, Huey was born first.  One of the sheep dogs apparently thought Huey belonged to her, so she attacked Naomi as she was cleaning the baby up.  After she had the second one, she abandoned Huey, so we wound up raising him.  Now he follows us everywhere, and even loves to ride in the truck - up front in mama's lap, of course.

A couple of years ago, when my oldest son hit the teen years and began inhaling food, I started noticing how much milk and butter we were going through.  I mentioned it to my husband, and we added it up and realized we could feed a milk cow for less than I was spending at the grocery store on dairy products.  The added bonus was the calf would be destined for the freezer each year (but not this year's calf - she is a beauty!).  Daisy has lived with us since she was 5 months old.  We use a small home milking machine each night to milk her, and here is what is usually in our fridge:

I have learned to make butter and yogurt, and am learning to make cheese - not  lot of success in that area yet.  I have figured out the fastest and easiest way to make butter is to shake the cream in a jar for about 10 minutes.  The butter forms almost like magic!  We don't use near the cream that Daisy produces, so much of it stays in the fridge until it gets good and thick, then it goes to the chickens.  We call it "chicken candy".  If they were large enough, they would knock me over when they saw a jar in my hand!

Speaking of chickens, this is Gonzo. 

He loves to eat grain out of my hand. He also likes grasshoppers and other various bugs my 12 year old catches for him to dine on.

Gonzo is an Araucana rooster.  He has just learned to crow.  Isn't he handsome?

And this one was just too funny not to include.  Remember I mentioned the sheep dogs?  Well, hubby gave one of them, Ginger, a haircut.  Scarlett is waiting until we make a trip to town before she gets her haircut.  Apparently Ginger's fur dulled the blades, so we have to get another set.

Almost looks like Scarlett is saying "Who are you?"  It is hard to believe there isn't more dog than that under all that fur. 

By the way - there are more fleeces for sale on the Diamond B website , and new dyed fiber in the Etsy shop.  July contest has started in the FIX group on Ravelry , with this month's prizes being good sized boxes of fibery goodness.  Any purchase from the participating shops earns you an entry, and there is no limit to the number of entries each month!  Come join us!

Till next time!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I admit. I have a problem.

I do, and I need somebody to save me from myself.  It lurks in the back of my mind, always sneaking up on me at my weakest moments.  So, deep breath, here goes......I have too many works in progress, and I can't stop myself from starting new ones.  There.  I said it out loud.  Actually, I typed it, but it still counts.  I have excuses out the wazoo for why I don't want to quit my bad habit:  "I could make that pattern, it doesn't look hard."  "I can enter it in the county fair."  "Idle hands are the devil's playground."  "I may have a lot of knitting going at once, but that means I will finish a lot at once, too!"  "What if the world comes to an end and there are no more yarn stores, and it gets really cold? I will have a head start because I have lots of warm, hand knitted things that are close to being finished!"  Ummm, I plan to be raptured out if the world comes to an end, but it is still a good excuse.  Here is how bad it is (and these are only the ones I am willing to share!)

The blue wool sweater is sitting in the time out zone in the craft room.  It is knit top down, all in one piece, which is my favorite style to knit.  Before I started, I read a couple of reviews of the pattern which said the sleeves were too tight, so add ten stitches under the arm in the body.  Now I have everything done except the sleeves.  I am halfway down the first sleeve, and it is hugemongo and needs to be ripped back because an elephant could walk through it.  I'm mad at it.   If I got busy, I could probably finish it by winter.  (That's what I said last summer, too.)

Then we come to the lavender silk summer sweater.  I got this yarn from a couple of people who were destashing on Ravelry.  The yarn is super soft, drapey and gorgeous.  The pattern is a sleeveless cowl neck sweater, perfect for summer.  And I have my fun alpaca polymer clay stitch markers from Yarn Demon Designs on each side - they make me smile every time I come to one of them.   It is a bottom up pattern, and now that I have divided the front from the back for the sleeves, I am having to knit and purl back and forth instead of knitting in the round.  Purl.  harumfff.  I hate to purl.  So I try and make myself do a few rows a day.  I really want to wear this by the end of summer.  It doesn't look like much in the picture, but trust me, it will be beautiful!

Then, I am ashamed to admit, but I actually had to search for this one.  That is really sad, because it is probably the most time consuming thing I have ever made.  It is an Elizabeth Zimmermann Adult Surpise Jacket.  It is suppose to be a knit-a-long with the FIX group on Ravelry.  Many have already finished theirs.  All of the yarn for it, well over 1000 yards, was handspun by me.  It is all garter stitch, so no purling.  Piece of cake - I can knit at lightning speed.  I planned to finish it to hang in my booth when I go to fiber shows.  I have one coming up in a month.  Don't think I will get done.  When I decided to post this on the blog, I couldn't find the project bag this sweater was stored in.  Well, after all, I did gut and clean up the wool room about a month ago, so I had "put it up" where I could find it again.  No excuses on this one.  I suppose I just lost interest.

But this:

is calling my name.  Begging to be played with.  The color...oh so rich purple!  And it is alpaca.  And I have had the pattern picked out for over two months.  And it is top down and knitted in one piece. And I am sure I could finish it by winter.  And it is too hot to play outside. 

Sooooo......maybe if I just swatch it:

And, isn't the world supposed to end in December?  I might need it!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Whatcha Doin?

"You are a stay at home mom, huh?  What do you do all day?  Don't you get bored?  It would drive me crazy to spend every day at home!"

Ugh.  I hate hearing those statements. 

Bored?  Seriously?  All you have to do is take one look at my craft room to realize I have enough projects ahead of me to keep me busy until I go home to Jesus!  Want to know what is catching my fancy right now?  Well, here you go!

First of all, I could play with fiber all day long.  This is a gorgeous Wensleydale fleece that Mama bought me two years ago at the Arkansas Fiber Arts Extravaganza

It came from Kate at Lowder Farms.  She ALWAYS has the best fleeces.  I have to stand back when I look at them so I don't get drool on her wool.  I have over 6 pounds of this gorgeous stuff. 

 First I soaked it overnight in cold water.  Then it was washed in detergent and very hot water.  Once dry, I flicked out those curls - which is almost a shame - and combed it.  Then I pulled it into rovings to spin.
I can't wait to see the finished yarn!  I will post a picture when it is done!

My other current project is a Legare 400 Circular Sock Machine.  Hubby and I bought this before Christmas, you should have seen it - I wish I had taken pictures.  It cost a pretty penny, actually several pretty pennies, and when I opened the box, I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  The kind where you feel like you are going to throw up when you realized what you have done.  It was a nasty mess.  I just knew I would never be able to use it, and wouldn't be able to sell it and get my money back.  I had messed up real bad, or so I thought.  But after becoming intimately acquainted with every crack and crevice of it, and removing more grease and grime than ought to be located in one place,  I was rewarded with this:

If you had told me all that paint and shine was under all that mess, I would have never believed you.  I really love this machine.  It cranks so softly, and now that I have everything adjusted, I am attempting to make socks.  Yesterday I spent all afternoon cranking and putting on the ribber, and following the vidoes by icandyarn on youtube.  Here is what I accomplished:

Turns out, you really do need heel forks to make a heel.  Who would have guessed?  : )  I got this far (about 4 days of knitting by hand - all in one afternoon!  Wheeeeee!!!!), and got half of the heel done, and was redneck rigging up some heel weights.  They just didn't get the job done, and I wound up with a snarled mess.  But that is okay!  I never expected to make a functional sock the first time!

I want to share more fun stuff, so stay tuned!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Welcome! All About Me!

Welcome to my new blog.  Some of you may have been following my other blog, Sarah Kate Fibers.  However, I have recently changed my shop name to match my farm name.  Since there isn't a way to change a blog address (at least, in my limited knowledge!) I decided to start a new blog.

Here you can read about all of the goings-ons from the farm, my life, and my overflowing craft room.  I hope to be more faithful about posting.  I want readers to know my animals and about what mischief I am into. 

First of all, a little (really, a lot of) background information.  My name is Lori, and I am a crafter.  Sounds like a 12 step program doesn't it?  Well, I have no intentions of ever giving up my love of all things handmade!  I have been crafting since I was 6 years old when I sat on the couch beside my mother and cross stitched an red cardinal, which still hangs in her house to this day.  Besides cross stitch, I learned to crochet, sew, quilt, needlepoint, work with beads, and spin.  Not spin like hold your arms out and twirl till you throw up, but spin as in using a spinning wheel and turning wool into yarn.  More on that later.

I am married to the love of my life and we have three wonderful children.  I was able to stay home with them when they were babies, but had to go to work when our youngest was just 14 months old.  The job came in the nick of time.  We had lived on my husband's city police salary all of our early married life, but with three children, the credit bills were creeping steadily upwards every month.  We were very blessed, in that I was offered a job teaching at the local junior high school where we had both attended years before.  Many of my co-workers had been our teachers, or folks I had gone to school with.  It was a wonderful environment, and it was well known that family came first in our school district.  But, during my third year of teaching, I began to feel like I wasn't where I was supposed to be.  It was a niggling little voice in the back of my mind that just wouldn't go away.  By the end of the fourth year, I was miserable.  Not that the people or the students, or even the job made me miserable, but I just knew, without a doubt, that teaching was just not what the Lord had for my life.  For the next few years, we would end school every May, and my husband and I would go to figuring budgets out on paper to see if it would be possible for me to quit work and stay home.  The budgets would come up totally short, no matter how many things we gave up.  It became a running joke that I could either stay home or we could eat, but we would have to choose!  We began praying. We asked our Sunday School class for prayer.  Year after year, we would pray.  Every May I hoped against hope that I wouldn't have to walk those halls again in August.  Every year, I had to return.  Our budget just wouldn't function without my paycheck.

By my seventh year of teaching, I had lost my passion for crafting.  I was depressed, having constant migraine headaches, had developed severe TMJ disorder, and was struggling to motivate myself to get out of bed, much less go to work.  I continued to press on, but my attitude and health was taking a toll not just on me, but on my family.  I would rarely take medicine for my headaches, because it left me drained, sluggish, and I didn't want to become addicted to anything.  Lots of times I would go to bed with a headache, and it would still be there in the morning, and many times, still the next morning.  I couldn't miss work every time I had a migraine, so I would put on a "show" all day and my body and my attitude would collapse at night.   My sewing machine never got used, I didn't even know or care where a crochet hook was, and I sat and watched TV at night with an ice pack on my aching head, and nothing to keep my hands busy, which was unheard of.  All my life, I had never been able to sit still if my hands weren't busy - I was well known for all of the fun stuff I created.  Then I became severely anemic due to female problems.  Many times I would quietly cry on the drive home from work at the thought of still having the kids' homework to help with, supper to cook, laundry to fold, etc.   Every morning, I talked myself out of calling in sick.  I'm not kidding.  Most mornings, I won.  A few, I didn't.  Something had to give.  I hate, no, I loathe, going to the doctor, but I had to get better.  After tests, the cause of the anemia was found and I wound up several months later having some female surgery, and slowly started mending.  The four weeks I was off from school after the surgery helped to bring a lot of energy back, and I was able to get through the rest of the school year, just staying a little on the tired side. 

My mother took up spinning early the next school year, something which she had always wanted to do.  "What a nut" I thought to myself, and may have even said it aloud.  Looking back, I am ashamed to say I made fun of her and wondered to my husband if she would get sheep next.  At Christmas, she purchased a different spinning wheel for herself and gave me her first one.  On the way home from her house, I commented "What am I going to do with this?  Dust it?"  (Let's be clear, I don't dust, so this was said in total sarcasm!)  So it sat.  I would look at it occasionally and wonder if I could spin.  Mom gave me pretty colors of wool, which I shoved in the room that used to be a craft room, but had become a storage/junk/catch-all room.  I would stump my foot on it occasionally, and grump again about this thing I had to hang onto because I would feel guilty about getting rid of it. 

Spring Break arrived, and I decided I was going to learn how to spin wool into yarn.  Now, I am the type of person who wants to sit down and do something perfect the first time.  And if I can't?  Then I guess it just isn't worth my time to mess with it.  Rotten attitude, I know.  I messed and messed with the wool, made the awful-est mess you have ever seen.  I hauled the thing out to mom's house and had her show me again.  It made me mad that she could make pretty yarn and I couldn't.  So back home, it sat, collecting dust again.  It wasn't worth the effort.  Well, I couldn't leave it alone.  It sat there, quietly challenging me, taunting me.  When summer break arrived, I was GOING to learn how to spin - it was a mountain that had to be conquered!  For a solid week I grumped and groused, and fussed and fumed, and finally turned out some half-way decent yarn.  I had done it!  I showed my best friend, and I could see in her eyes that she was humoring me when she said "wow - that's cool."  Well, what did I expect?  I had treated mom the same way.

I bought a couple of raw sheep fleeces off of the internet that summer.  I bought some already processed fiber and some dye.  I made messes left and right, and had the time of my life!  Hubby realized real quick that he could feed sheep as cheap as I could buy wool to play with, so he went on the hunt for some affordable sheep to add to our small cattle farm.  By Christmas he had located 3 ewes about 6 hours away.  Off we went, and came home in a snow storm from Barakel Farm in Alton, Missouri with Naomi, Esther and Bernice in a cage in the back of our tarp-lined suburban.  To this day, they are still my favorite girls in the pasture.

Through the next year, my eighth year of teaching, we added a few more sheep. Some were rescues, some we found on Craigslist, some we just heard about.  We were up to about a dozen.  I was still teaching, but spinning all the time.  My mom and I eventually opened an Etsy shop, Sarah Kate Fibers (for our middle names) and I began selling a little bit here and there.  Sheep are like cookies, you can't stop at just one.  Before we knew it, we had twenty-something sheep!  We travelled to a couple of fiber shows - yes, there really is such a thing! - and saw that I had been blessed with a talent by God to play with wool.  My passion had been restored.

In August, I started teaching my ninth  year.  I came home at the end of my first week of school and told my husband that I didn't know how, and it didn't make sense, but I clearly knew I wasn't going to be teaching next year.  For the first time ever, I could not picture the students in the younger grade sitting in my classroom the next year.   By now, my husband no longer worked for the police force, but was also working for the school district as a supervisor over one of the departments.  He commented that if it was the Lord's will, it would happen.  Both of us knew the chances were slim to none that I wouldn't return for my tenth year.  It was a crazy thing to say, and I know he thought the same thing.  I didn't say much about it again, but continued to occasionally try and figure a budget on paper.  If I quit work, we would be slicing our household income in half.  Literally.  Scary stuff to even contemplate, especially when you have three kiddos and a farm full of animals to take care of.  As May approached, it was clear that, on paper, I was going to have to sign my teaching contract for the next year.  It just wasn't possible for me to quit.  Every year, on the last day of school, we pick up our May paycheck and sign our contract for the next year.  That morning, when I woke and knew I wasn't suppose to sign my contract.  I didn't tell my husband.  All day long, I thought about it.  I waffled between "You are going to look silly if you don't sign it and have to turn it in later." and "What could it hurt?  You will still have time to turn it in."   After school I stood in line with my co-workers, making small talk, all the while, still debating in my head what to do.  When it was my turn, I handed my list of room repairs, my textbook lists, and all the stuff every teacher has to hand in at the end of the year.  Our dear, sweet bookeeper handed me my check and my contract.  With shaking hands and a quivering voice I asked if it had to be signed right away.  She looked at me with a puzzeled expression and said, "No,.....but I need it in the next couple of weeks."  I left her office, shaking and wondering what I had just done.  Now I was really going to look stupid when I walked back in in a few days and handed it to her, signed.

In two weeks time, some miraculous things happened!  Our mortgage company called us out of the blue and asked if they could lower our interest rate, with no extra payments.  What????  Who does that????  Too good to be true, right?  Right?  Turned out it was true!  No hidden agenda, no strings attached!  Several hundred dollars immediately became slashed from our monthly expenses.  We had a vehicle pay off unexpectedly.  Very unexpectedly.  Another few hundred dollars.  We turned off the cable and my cell phone.  Another large amount became available.  We just stood around with our mouths hanging open.  By the end of June, I waltzed in and explained to our principal that I wasn't coming back in the fall.  No shaking, no nervousnes.  Big ole' silly grin plastered on my face.  I learned to drive a big yellow school bus and applied for a bus route for the following year.  I was blessed to get a job, and continue to keep a little steady income coming in the house, with the ability to spend most all of the day at home.

That was two years ago.  And we haven't looked back!

Our sheep are growing gorgeous fleeces every year, and I have been blessed to have many repeat customers.  My craft room is now overflowing with wool and the toys used to play with it.  We have many healthy lambs each year, and many have gone to wonderful homes.  We have one of the larger herds of fiber sheep in Arkansas, and are slowly making a name for ourselves.  We sell fleece and lambs through our website, Diamond B Sheep Farm, and at fibers shows within travelling distance of our farm.  We also offer fiber through our Etsy shop.  Recently, a new shop, Yarnology and More, has opened in the close by historical town of Van Buren. Nearly every skein of my handspun yarn(which, by the way, looks like real yarn now, not a mess of tangled wool anymore!) goes to Pamela's shop, as well as some of my dyed fiber. 

Last year I was blessed, yet again, to find a wonderful group of ladies, and one gentleman, who make up the Fiber Indie eXperience Co-op. This is a group of independent fiber artists on Ravelry who have banded together to promote each other's businesses.  We give away prizes every month to lucky customers, along with other contests.  My business has grown by leaps and bounds since I have become a part of this group. 

 It continually amazes us what the Lord has done. Our income was more than cut in two when you factor in insurance. Our grocery budget for a family of five is now less than $500 a month. We still are able to find the money to feed over 100 animals a month, to send the kids to church camp, to occasionally eat out, and no one is wearing shoes with holes - unless by choice - or going hungry, but to hear my teenage son to tell it, he never gets full, so, according to him, that statement isn't true! No one does without what they need.    We are almost totally debt free.  We now have close to sixty sheep, a few beef cattle, three donkesy, and several goats, including three little girls who will grow up to be milk goats. We milk our own cow, raise our own eggs, grow our own beef, and have way too many dogs. We don't live in the dark ages. Obviously, we still have some luxuries - we watch a little TV using an old fashioned antenna, we love the internet, we have a very small pay-as-you-go cell phone that gets shared. Our lives are very rich in ways beyond our checkbook. 

Now that you know my story, I hope you will continue to stay tuned.  In the future, I hope to share pictures and stories of the animals and the farm.  The good and the bad, because farm life isn't always easy.  I also want to share what I am spinning, and all about fibers and tools I play with.   I might even have a contest or two going on here.  Maybe a little of ordinary life will creep in, too. 

And, yes, just in case you are wondering, I have apologized to my mother for making fun of her behind her back.  Many times.  Who's the crazy sheep lady now?