Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Day in West Marin

Christmas Eve morning, and the day dawns with barely pink clouds and crispy, crunchy frost everywhere. 

The thermometer on the porch measures 28 degrees, which means it is probably 22 to 25 degrees out in the open air.  I worried about my pipes, so last night I walked down and shut off the well, drained out all the hose bibs, and left on the taps in the house.  With the well shut down, I didn’t have to worry about the pipes freezing, but it did mean I had no water running in the house.  Better dry overnight than broken pipes and 
service calls in the morning.

When I went out to see the sheep, I was amused to see the tops of the  Shetlands frosted as delicately as if they had been to a fancy salon.  

I turned them out, and they sniffed the frozen grass, and one of them tried munching on a bit.

On the other side of the barn, the Corriedales licked at the frozen water in their tank. 

I had to take an axe to break the 2-inch thick ice.  It is winter.  

The chilling hours are good for the fruit trees, helping to insure a summer crop of apples (good to remember when your fingers are so cold they feel they are falling off.)

No water until I started the well at 10am, but I have a five gallon container I use to fill pots and pans and coffeepots until water runs again.  It is rather like camping indoors.

Wish me a Christmas present of rain, to warm up the air, nourish the grass, and start the creeks running.  I have enough water in my well so I don’t have to worry now, but not come summer.  Think rain to help the farmers, please.

Cherish your friends and family, and celebrate the lengthening days together.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter on Windrush Farm

Mornings are cold and frosty, with temperatures down in the twenties.  The sheep don't mind, as their coats are now eleven months old, about a staple length of five to six inches.  Early in the morning, as the sun is just rising through the distant eucalyptus grove, their breath come out white and steaming.  They are very hungry, as the grass stays short, what with the cold nights and little rain discouraging the growth of new grass, and so I have to block off their feeding area so I don't get trampled as I pour out their alfalfa pellets into the six different bucket containers.  I am rotating the pastures so the sheep don't eat the heart out of the grass, killing it before it has a chance to grow larger.

Frosty mornings on the farm

You can see how long the wool is on this wonderful Leichester x ewe, and I will be excited to see the whole fleece when we shear in February.  This photo was taken at dusk, and you can see she wishes to know why I am photographing instead of feeding!

Here is  Cookie, who has the wool of a CVM x, a California Variegated Mutant, with finer crimp, quite soft, and a lovely shade of brown.  Her staple length is about 4 inches

These are some of the Shetland sheep flock, and you can see the lovely colors they come in.  They were bred to furnish many tones of color to the spinner, weaver, and knitter.  More about the Shetlands later.  They are smaller than most sheep, and cry out with a very distinctive baa, quite high pitched.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Fiber Fest Sunday Oct.16

Sunday Oct .16 from 10:00 - 4:00 is Fall Fiber Fest at Windrush Farm.
There will be demonstration of carding, natural dyeing, spinning and a lot more. There will also be brick oven pizzas. This is the 6th annual Fiber Fest and each year more people join us.
For CSA Members:
This will be the first time that Local Pastures CSA will distribute the wool they had processed this year.  There are beautiful greys,  natural whites and mixes thereoff. Bulky, worsted and lace weight and single and 2 ply.  We also have roving.  Subscribers to the CSA will have first pick.
We are starting the day for the CSA subscribers with a farm breakfast at 9:30 and hope that eveyone will remain for the festivities of the day.

Come join us and check  out our website for specifics on joining the CSA.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yolo Woolen Mill visit

Yolo Woolen Mill
(Doesn't this look like Charly Chaplin's Modern Times Movie)

Mimi and I visited Jane at the Yolo Woolen Mill again.  Picked up quite a lot of wonderful yarn and brought alpaca and wool to Jane.  We are experimenting with 80% alpaca and 20% wool, in a DK weight. It has to be 2 ply and it has to have some wool to hold together.  This should be such a soft yarn, I can hardly wait to see how it comes out.

We brought home some wonderful yarns and are in the final throws of setting up the CSA. (Check out the preliminary write up at  We can see that we need to do larger lots, because the skeins go fast.  Mimi has been selling the yarn at the farmers markets and I have sold quite a lot from BMA.  I have also knit several sweaters to see how the yarn feels and works and how much one needs for larger garments. 

So our visit:
This time I took my camera.  I am always so impressed with the size of the machinery.  It truly is out of another era. This place could not survive without Jessie, who is the operator, the machinist and the mechanic for all these machines.
From roving to yarn
This is the back of the machine

This is the front of the machine
When we were there we saw fleeces from many people we know. It is wonderful to see and hear about  other shepherds and what they are doing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Marin Independent Journal Article

Check it out.  This last Thursday a fabulous article was written by Paul Liberatore of the Marin IJ about Black Mountain Artisans/Weavers. Front page picture and full page write up with many photos. Local Pastures was mentioned of course.

We received a new truck load of the most wonderful fleeces. Last Friday Mimi and I went through a lot of them and designated how they should be spun up at the mill.  Several greys and several black fleeces and many whites.

We are planning to make a trip to the mill to drop these new fleeces off and hopefully to pick up some finished goods. We will keep you posted. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

CCA Final Presentation

This last Friday Mimi and I (and alas Mimi could not make it) were invited to join the  presentation of the students who had taken the Local Fiber Incubator class as CCA.
I was stunned to see how innovative and real the ideas were.  The students created something within their field of study from  local fiber sources they had visited during the semester. They visited wool, alpaca and llama farms, cotton farmers and local wool mills.

Presented were ideas for interior architecture and lighting, wall planter decorations, gardening ideas, fashion and accessory creations and philosophical concepts.  My hat goes off to the instructors who came up with the idea of teaching this interdisciplinary class. A difficult task in an ever changing world, where exposing students to the concept of local sourcing will make such a difference for the future.

These were light boxes with a thin layer of wool stretched  over the box to create a wonderful effect.

These were plastic formed spheres with wool roving or felt stretched over them to create a wonderful light effect.

A nuno felted dress with a felted flower scarf. A beautiful presentation of how local wool is felted into silk and then dyed in rust and gall oak which gives a warm brownish red with black.  A stunningly beautiful ensemble and very craftfully made and presented.

This booklet was recorded by one of the student and incorporated all the elements from the farm and land visits to the classes to what all the other students made.  Beautifully done with hand drawings, photo shop manipulated pictures and actual material. It was sewn and bound with thread. A wonderful cooperative project that reflects the preciousness of this class.
A series of felted bracelets in all shapes and forms. All from a blend of local wool, alpaca and 2% cotton.

A logo design for Local Pastures.

A rug from felted pencil roving, then needled felted in place to fortify the whole.  It is very soft to stand on.

Felted plant holders as well as seedling pots (not shown here). They looked beautiful.

A chair (I don't know how to spell "puff") with a felted top. A beautiful ragged ridge made the simple design rich against the canvas foundation.

All of this was created from these basic local ingredients, wool and alpaca roving, yarn and cotton.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Fashion Show for the Fibershed project

This Sunday the Fibershed project will have a fashion show, dinner and get together.  This will be the first time that Local Pastures Yarn is presented the the larger public.  Black Mountain Artisans has had it in the store for a while, but because we just have a limited amount of yarn, we did not want to introduce the brand till June when we will get our next batch back from Yolo Wool Mill.

Anne's sweater vest from Local Pastures Yarn

But this Sunday is the day that we will present Local Pastures Yarn, the yarn will be for sale and there will be 2 sweaters in the fashion show made from this yarn.  The original designs are created and knit by Anne McCammon and Marlie de Swart. 

This is Marlie's sweater vest wityh Local Pastures'Yarn

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Local Pastures Yarn

For the last few weeks Mimi and I have been working on designing yarns to be mill spun.  It is actually harder to create interesting yarns within certain restrictions. When you hand spin you can do anything you like, but for a mill spun project the restrictions are many. Large machines have to handle the fibers and they have their limitations.  But Mimi and I brought 250 pounds of raw fleece to Yolo with specific instructions and the first samples have returned with great success.

Shearing at Windrush Farm of the "retired girls". They live out 
their lives in West Marin roling hills pastures.  

Eventhough the batches we have are small, they are beautiful.  We have 2 lots of 75% wool and 25% mohair in natural white and light grey and 1 lot of 75% wool and 25% alpaca in a darker grey. 2 ply worsted weight and very very soft.  Then we have 2 lots of local wool with soy silk flecks in light grey and a darker grey, these are very fine fingerling weight.

We will show these yarns and have them for sale this Sunday at Fibershed's fashion show of all locally sourced and locally produced and created garments. As well we will have 2 garments and a hat in the fashion show that were created with Local Pastures' Yarn.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Meet Lester

Lester was born in April 2011 on Windrush Farm.  He was so small that he fit in the hand of Mimi the Shepherd. He was bottle fed and taken into the house (together with his mama) to make sure he would make it.  For days even weeks  it was not clear that he would be strong enough to go into the meadow and play with his fellow lambs.  But he did.  What is so special about Lester is that he is totally white except for one totally black front leg.  The is alert and comes when Mimi calls him. He is smaller than the rest of his fellow new borns, but he will  become stronger and just as big as they are.  Mimi will keep him, she has bonded with him and so have I. 

Did you know that new born lambs have very dense soft curls on their bodies except for the bottom part of their legs.  These have long hairs to ward off water and debris.

He will become part of the Local Pastures wool CSA in the fall and next year we will have his beautiful fleece.