The First Fiber Spinning of Windhaven Farm…

One of my goals for this little farm, is to create a special blend of yarn, wool and roving from our lovely flock of Shetland sheep and Angora rabbits. We have 4 beautiful Angora rabbits and the 7 sheep and in the spring, we should have fleeces galore.

Problem is, we’ve never spun or carded wool or anything like that!! Perhaps we ARE putting the cart before the horse, but I just knew in my bones that I would like to be able to spin and create yarn as I enjoy knitting, crocheting and weaving.

We had gotten a lovely pair of Holland wool cards as well as a drop spindle. And of course, several good books to help us out. I’ve been watching YouTube videos late at night (when we have free access to the internet, instead of the measured service during the day) and watching as all manners of people spin and card and pick their wool.

Problem is, we were afraid to just get in there and try it.

We were going to spend the day putzing and cleaning, but then we did that the day before very throughly and there wasn’t a whole lot left to do! (Having half of your house locked away makes it easier to keep the active half clean and tidy!) Since we had gotten that couple inches of snow as promised and it was barely 15 degrees out, it seemed to be a good thing to stay home and stay put. So I got this little bug in my ear that today should be a good day to give it a whirl. Let’s try and create some yarn. What would be the worse situation? We would mess up. But learning is all about trying and failing and trying again until you get it right. Jessy was game, so we got started.
We have this big bag of bunny fluff that weighs nearly four or five pounds! That is a LOT of bunny wool! It is fairly clean and nicely picked free of lumps and straw and little icky bits that wool likes to gather. Mostly white, but with a little bit of Odin’s light carmel wool in there. And a little grey from Gwennie.

We began by loading up one of the cards with fiber, by drawing it across the little metal picks. It looks almost like a wire dog hair brush, but they are bigger and curved. After you load up one card, you draw the other over and start to align the fibers. Wool has this lovely feature, a sort of little barbs on it, that once aligned in the same direction, likes to attach to other fibers in the same direction. Once twisted with the aid of a spindle or a spinning wheel, or a spinning machine, the yard becomes very strong and it is called yarn. Of course, there are lots of variations in the process, but that is basically what happens. Pretty simple, yet we were really unsure of the whole process!
After you card the wool back and forth a few times and pick out any little nasty bits or clumps in the fiber, you then pull it off the card. Our first try was too thin because we really didn’t charge the cards with very much fiber. But second time was much much better. We loaded the fiber on, carded it a bit, and added more until we had a nice considerable batt of wool on it and then worked to make it lovely.

Now, you might wonder why we “card” the wool and not “comb” the wool. Well, there are cards and there are combs! Just that simple. Combing, if I understand it, is done first to some wool, to get it ready for the hand cards or a drum carder. I think we will want a pair of combs, to be honest. I saw a couple videos where people used the combs to pick the wool clean and also to blend various fibers. We might just wait and spring for a nice box comber/picker, which really looks cool and is very reasonably priced.

Once you’re ready to roll off the wool from the card, you are pretty close to getting started spinning! It’s really not that hard. You carefully roll off the carded fiber into a roll that is called a “rolag”. We think that sounds like Viking name for “roll of wool”! You need quite a few rolags to make yarn, so we carded for almost 2 hours and made up 5 nice loads of wool.

Soft fluffy rolags laying and waiting to be spun! I decided to use one of my vintage picnic baskets as a good waiting basket for the rolags! And to store the supplies when we are done.
When you are done carding, you have to create something called roving. You take a tube of wool and gently pull and draw out the fibers to create a sort of thinner long draw of the wool fibers. This is pretty important, because I didn’t do it as nicely to one of the rolags and ugh, it was not pretty. It broke and was really lumpy and just wasted one of our rolags of wool. Drawing the fibers seems to pull in the air gaps and begin the first process of basically, making yarn. We did them one at a time. Draw out a rolag, then spin it. I suppose that you could draw them all out, but we weren’t sure where to lay them to keep them from picking up cat hair or bits of stuff we didn’t want in there. I guess that might be tonight’s YouTube search!

The drop spindle is a curious little devise. Of course, there are top whorl and bottom whorl, Turkish, Greek, Russian and probably a ton of other styles, but basically, it’s just a weighted stick with a little hook on the end. Apparently, they are very easy to make, in a basic form. I thought, at first, that it had one function, and that was to spin yarn. But actually, it sort of does two things. One is to spin or twirl the fiber to make yarn. But then the stick part is to store the yarn that is spun. So you do these two tasks… basically, you attach the fiber bits to the hook and spin, drawing the fiber between your fingers as a sort of gauge or limiter from the yarn spinning crazy. If you’re good, you can “drop” the spindle with a hard spin and then spin your yard until it pretty much hits the ground and your arms are not long enough to hold it up higher. If you’re not good, you can twist the spindle or spin it along your leg, which is slower but a little easier on beginners.

You can see how I was doing it!

But you know what? I didn’t care. All I loved was that I was spinning the very first yardage of Windhaven Angora rabbit yarn and I just was in love with every thin, thick and lumpy bit of that 5 yards of yarn that I made. Jessy was busy trying to get a warp on her inkle loom but was intently watching as I struggled through the process.
I couldn’t believe it! We did it! It might not look like a lot, and yes, 5 yards is not very much, but it was our first yarn and we did it without having hardly a clue or really seeing anyone do it correctly. We learned all from books and the internet. I suppose we did see someone spinning and carding, but you know what I mean. No hand holding mentors to give us guidance!

Now I am totally sure that we are not doing everything book-perfect and that there are going to be TONS of tricks and special ways to do things more effectively, or consistently, but the fact remains… it took us two hours to pick, card, spin and then crochet our first little bit of bunny yarn!!! And most people will agree, that Angora is one of the hardest fibers to spin properly. Most people mix Angora with sheep wool, or alpaca, something else. I would love to try sheep wool now, but I hate to consider shearing any off my babies right now, it’s much too cold for that. And their fiber is still a little short. You need nice 3 to 5 inch locks to really do nice yarn. I think I might order a bit of fleece online, there are lots of people selling it on eBay and such. I want to be much better at this by the time we have our OWN fleeces to work with!
I almost considered just keeping that lovely little first ball of yarn as yarn. But then I thought, I just can’t wait, I need to see how it works, how it crochets! So I decided to make something for Jessy, from her bunny’s wool!!!
Yes, Jessy is probably the only Angora rabbit owner that will have a hand spun, home grown iTouch pouch of her very own!!! I have to spin another 5 yards for the back side, but I think I will wait and blend some yard with sheep wool, so we can compare the two sides!!! Aw… how cool is that?
Of course, it does make a nice Colonial wig for Luna Kitty. Don’t you think?

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Staying Warm…

The weather turned a little nippy the last couple days… in fact it got down to -4 here at the homestead and that was VERY cold. We took extra precautions with the animals, extra feed and water, extra straw and bedding to help keep the cold away. Maggie spent some time plasticing up some of the pony barn to keep the cold from Cody.

Inside the house, we’ve put up a little bit of plastic and sealed off the two offices. Since they are built actually as enclosures of the old porch, they are drafty and hard to keep nice and warm. So we figured it was time to condense the area that we were trying to heat. We moved the computers into the living room and bedrooms, just to make it easier.

The girls love to play video games and they have discovered that a good blanket helps to keep the chill away! And all the critters enjoy snuggling with them to pass the evening away. Actually it was kind of fun, playing games, watching DVDs an doing crafts. I’m working on a rag rug out of old t-shirts. We’ve been watching the first season of the Waltons on DVD and the girls are getting a big kick out of the show. I have to admit, it’s really good! We are enjoying it.

I’m surprised at how comfortable we are with just a pair of kerosene heaters and a pair of space heaters throughout the house. It was well insulated before it was lost through foreclosure, and I am certainly glad for that. It’s helping now to get us through the rest of the winter. Hopefully, by next winter we will be able to install a propane furnace. That’s the goal.

Well, the weather is due to change in the next 10 days or so. Instead of these very very cold temperatures, we’re due to start creeping up into the high 30’s! Yippeee! It’s soon to be February… and then March! Can’t wait!

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Fetching Water…

This is the artesian spring that we are getting our water from right now. It runs all the time and has a pretty high flow rate. It takes only a few seconds to fill up a gallon jug.

It’s located on the side of Rt. 20, just east of Fayette, Ohio. Been there for as long as anyone remembers. In doing a little research about the spring, I discovered that Williams and Defiance and Fulton counties have lots of these little springs all over the place. The area is rich in a huge aquifer that supplies the Maumee and other big rivers in the area. They are naturally filtered through a wonderful mineral base, which has given the water crystal clear purity and reputed health rewards for drinking it. I will admit, I don’t feel all that much different in the last three weeks of drinking it, but it is good and clean.

Funny thing, we’re not the only folks at the well. In fact, it’s not uncommon to have to wait our turn to fill up! Lots of people come to the spring and fill up their jugs for drinking. The farm that this one is located on, they don’t mind at all. It’s nice that it’s so available and shared with the community. In fact, my friend Tim, who plays in our band and all, he remembers as a kid and young man, stopping there to fill up jugs on the way to hunting or hanging out at the lake. I even found a couple youtube videos about it!

He mentions a metallic taste, but we’ve never experienced that. I’ve heard that the purity was rated “excellent” by various agencies and if it were not good, I’m quite certain that the liability of having public access to the well would be so high, the landowner would have stopped folks from filling up.

I like the ice formation from the spray, on the grass. It’s always kind of cool to look at, see the odd shapes. You park right next to the spring, and then fill up. Takes very little time. We so appreciate being able to fill up our jugs a time or two at the neighbors, but to be honest, going to the spring is so simple and quick, less lugging the water and such. At 7 pounds per gallon, you pretty quickly don’t want to be carrying that stuff around! Especially our 7 gallon containers, they get pretty heavy for sure.

We knew we would be going past the spring a couple times last week, so we filled up the 55 gallon stock water tank for everyone, and made sure all the livestock water was full. That really helped. Now, when we go, we fill up about 25 gallons in our one gallon jugs and our two 7 gallon containers. It gives us about 3 days of water, if we’re not wasteful. Easily two days. One the warm, nice sunny days, we might go twice a day, and fill up that water tank and wash up, do dishes, clean up the kitchen good, mop the floors. Thankfully, we haven’t had to go in the super frigid temps, because you do get a little bit damp filling up the jugs! But with the car right there, you have it nice and warm and you just work quickly. We can get 25 gallons in less than 15 minutes.
I think on Tuesday, I’m going to get another pair of the 7 gallon jugs because I am understanding that water is a very important thing to consider in your emergency planning needs. 4 of them would give a person over 28 gallons and in an emergency, that could last for days and days if you were careful. Flushing the toilet is still one of the most wasteful things we do with that toted water. I wish it was a little warmer out, we’d consider using our outhouse more! (haha) At 5 degrees out, that trip out to the outhouse and the visit therein, is just TOOOO cold for these old buns!
We’re saving up for the repair, getting there. About a good third of the way, maybe a bit more if the repair is not as pricey as the top of the estimate. I do need to take the time and discover how deep our well it, as that really does help the whole estimating process. Perhaps this coming week, as the temperatures are suppose to rise and become much more tolerable. Right now, we’re doing fine. It’s still well in the tolerable task category and we’re adjusting to the routine just fine. I was surprised to learn that there are MANY people, even in America, that still have to bring their water in, either by tanker or buy purchasing it and toting it in. Often it’s because of contaminated water sources, or they live in areas where the water table it very very low. Or there are no public water sources and they choose to live in this manner. Convenient, easily accessible indoor plumbing is only a very recent development in the history of mankind. This whole adventure has given me a lot of insight and consideration to the generations before and all they did to have water at their command. It is a blessing for sure and I know that we will never take it for granted again.

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