So, that long-awaited day is nearly here. At the end of this month our beautiful brood ewes and lambs will be sheared of their coats in preparation for lambing this winter. This year, we will be announcing the date (closer to the time, but roughly the last week in November) so that people can come purchase their fleeces straight off the animal. If you’re a spinner you can take your fleece with you. If you would rather buy your fleece and have it spun by a mill, we can help connect you with some local choices! We have white and a range of natural colors. Ewes and lambs. Sign up to our mailing list to be the first to find out when shearing day is happening.
The last six weeks have been a whirlwind of activity here on the farm. Besides the regular barnyard and garden activities, Henny Penny Farm was finally opened to the public. The first event was a Homesteading workshop in connection with CT-NOFA. Attendees travelled from quite far away for a close-up view at the inner workings of our farm.
On September 27 Henny Penny farm had a stand at Ridgefield’s Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off. The stand was filled with all of our botanically-dyed wool, cut flowers and other fun items, some of which can be found in our online Farm Store. The remaining yarn will soon be listed there as well (once things quiet down here a bit!).
It was a significant effort to organize and prepare a farm stand so afterwards we had a party back at the farm to thank all of our neighbors and friends who helped make the farm stand, and ultimately the mission of Henny Penny farm, come to fruition.
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening, cooking up farm-fresh food outside while the happily roving band of children picked apples from the orchard and visited the farm animals.
In the beginning of October an enthusiastic bunch of students came for an intensive day of willow weaving under a glorious, bright blue autumn sky. We looked at all of the various types of willow growing in the garden and also discussed other plants that you can forage for or grow in your garden that are suitable for weaving. Everyone left with a beautiful creation that they will add to their garden this spring.
This last weekend saw two nights around 27F which served as a little reminder of what the New England Winter holds in store for us. And suddenly, the gears have switched and we are busy preparing the farm for winter, planting the garlic, digging up the dahlias and other tender perennials and herbs and harvesting the last vegetables including parsnips, celeriac and carrots. It is an exciting time as more people learn about the farm and slowly a community is beginning to grow. In the meantime, our indoor workshop space is nearly completed which is a good thing as these colder days approach!
I am taking advantage of the final lull before the spring ‘storm’ of gardening and farming. The meat chicks will arrive in just over three weeks and once the snow melts we will be getting to the outdoor preparations. In the meantime I have been preparing our yarn for dying next week. The sheep were sheared in the fall and the fleeces driven to the Still River Fiber Mill here in Connecticut. Deirdre, the mill’s owner, kindly took us around and showed us what was possible in their mill. One of the many great things about their small, artisan mill is that they can do batches as small as one pound so even the small flock owner can have several products out of one shearing. And even more fun is that we know which sheep made which yarn in the end!
So this last week I prepared the yarn for dyeing with natural dyes from flowers, roots, trees and bugs. I scoured the yarn by putting it in a graniteware pot on the stove with 1/8c. soap and 1/2lb of fiber. I took the water up to 145F for 30 minutes and then rinsed it in warm water with some white vinegar until it stopped bubbling. This removes any traces of grease before you mordant the yarn. The mordant is what allows the wool to bind the dyes.
For protein fibers (like wool) and the natural dyes I am using, the mordant is non-toxic Alum (Aluminum sulfate). The fibers were placed with Alum and Cream of Tartar in the same graniteware pot and slowly taken up to 185-190F over the course of an hour and then held at that temperature for an additional hour. Then the fibers were left to cool in the mordant bath overnight.
Now the fibers are drying and I will be preparing stock solutions of madder, cochineal, fustic, logwood purple, and weld. Then I’m going to test dye some samples before I do the large batches.
In other fiber news, last weekend I attended a wonderful two-day workshop entitled Weaving on the Go with Christine Wilkinson at the Brookfield Craft Center. In two days we became familiarized with rigid heddle looms and all the marvelous things they can do with fiber.
I particularly love plaid so that was my focus on my first scarf project. Lots of fun and I can’t wait to see a woven project with the Romney yarns we have. The Romney fiber is perfect for a woven project as it has lustre and a long staple (long length of individual fibers) so they are strong yarns as well.
The strawberry crop delivery has been delayed another week due to snow so I might as well enjoy this last bit of time to explore the wonderful world of fiber!