Monday, March 31, 2008

Savannah ~ then and now

Today is Savannah's birthday. Five years old. She was our first CVM born here. Here she is, just minutes born, sitting pretty and ready to be licked by her mother, Memphis.

And here she is this morning celebrating her birthday, sheepishly avoiding the camera.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Closing in

Looks like NH is closing in on the number 2 spot for the snowiest winter since records were kept in the 1880's. It started snowing in the late night and we have another 6 inches at this point. No one is in the mood for this anymore. It's heavy and braking branches, the power has gone out 4 times this morning and I don't hold out hope for another minute! But it is lovely, just the same.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My homework lessons

My mind and hands have been in dyepots the past few weeks. In between tending the farm and working my "day job" it's been a whirlwind! I have started a rather lengthy but useful dye study. I am studying, through dye tests, how each of the natural dyes I sell for Earthues is affected by 3 mordant variables, 2 water variables, 2 substrate variables and 4 substrate color variables. The result will be a reference guide for me and also to share when you are inquiring about "what-ifs" with your own natural dyeing. Below is the project as it began last week.

Below is a blender (not my kitchen one, mind you!) full of raw madder that has soaked and is ready to blend before adding it to the dyebath. Yummy!
The resulting skeins from the madder root which did just as I desired! I added Calcium Carbonate to the dyebath for the left skein to richen the red orange of the right skein to a deeper red. The silk pieces were treated the same the silk! Love the wool actually!
These are 5 dye tests cooling after dyeing. Left to right: Cochineal, Chestnut, Cutch, Fustic and Lac.
Here are the same tests after cooling but still wet. There are 7 variables within each dye test. When dry, each substrate will be labeled as to it's variables and dye % used and a sample will be placed in a journal for each dye. Laborious but SO useful!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Needle felting

I tried my hand at needle felting this week and was able to put together two sheep, a rabbit and some tomatoes and carrots! I followed instructions to get started and now I see the ideas are limitless! It's great to have the project available as you can needle away here and there, put it down, look at it in awhile, needle some more. Quite relaxing and fun!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Local talent

Buck and Ike are very popular boys in our neighborhood....check out their website for some good local yore. Click on "Our Videos" for some clips of the boys. The Tutorial video is a good one to see about working with oxen.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Emily's natural dye science fair project ~ Part 1

Emily took natural dyes to task for her science fair project in Wadsworth, Ohio. The following is a note explaining the project from her mom, Michelle. Great job, Emily. Congratulations!

I spoke to you back in December and ordered cochineal dye and mordants for my daughter Emily's junior year high school science fair project. You were so very pleasant to talk to and I wanted to send you a photo of Emily with her project. She loved working with the cochineal and mordants and this really showed in the project. She used metal mordants and compared dyeing silk and nylon (natural vs. synthetic). The color range was wonderful. Silk took the best but surprisingly the nylon also colored beautifully. We knew that the project came out well but were pleasantly surprised when she won second place in the chemistry category. There were just over 290 projects in the science fair. The science fair is open to the public to view and her project drew a lot of attention. The judges were very intrigued. She made sure to mention Long Ridge Farm in her presentation.

The project process ~ Part 2

I asked Emily's mom, Michelle to give a bit more detail about the project and below is her report. I was interested in Emily's use of metal mordants which are not recommended for dyeing as they are not safe for the dyer and the environment. But this was a science project after all and working with these mordants in a safe manner and setting offered Emily further learning through experimentation. I think Emily (and Michelle!) did a great job of testing the natural dyes, with the variables being the mordants and fabrics.

I would be happy to explain Emily's project.

She used 100% silk and 100% nylon pieces of fabric (weights of fabric varied from 11 grams to 14 grams). Distilled water only.
The mordants used were aluminum sulfate, iron, tin and as an extra experiment she used a bronze (copper and tin combination) bearing. She also did a dye bath using no mordant.

She did separate mordant and dye baths for each piece of fabric; which came out to a total of 17 individual baths. Very time consuming due to the fact that she gave herself very specific time lines to follow. She brought each mordant/dye pot to 180 degrees; once reached she then simmered for one hour and let sit for 24 hours. She pH tested each pot. Her notes were awesome.

Due to such cold weather, Emily did her dying in our basement on an electric hot plate, with the exception of the tin mordant and dye baths. I felt the tin had the potential of being too toxic, so she had to brave the cold and mordant/dye on our screened in porch. She also wore a total face respirator when doing the mordant baths. Not happy with mom when out in the cold or wearing the respirator but oh well. I did not want her to use copper or chrome. I felt that they were far too toxic to risk a chance of inhaling. Of course latex gloves were used at all times. I do have to say that the cochineal/tin combination on both the silk and nylon were my favorites. To further the experiment, Emily used a solid bronze bearing in a mordant bath to see if any bronze would leach into the water. It did. The result was a light lavender tone to both fabrics, actually similar to using no mordant except those fabrics came out light pink tones.

Emily felt her biggest challenge was using the concentrated cochineal extract on such small pieces of fabric. She ended up putting one gram of cochineal extract in 100 ml of water. This gave her percentages less than one gram to add to her dye baths. She used a baby medicine dropper to measure out the number of milliliters to use.
Emily wanted the actual cochineal insects for her display but wanted to use the extract for dyeing. I really feel that the cochineal extract is well worth the investment. The variety and vibrancy of colors were absolutely amazing. This truly turned out to be a chemistry experiment.

The rain

Yesterday was one of miserable weather days we can all do without. We have a 20" base of snow and all Friday night and Saturday it poured buckets of rain. About 4PM we took a look in the basement and said "oh, oh". We have a typical basement for an antique home in New England, dirt floor and a granite foundation. And usually the water flows in and out in a very short time. It has never flooded for us since we have lived here. But the frozen ground trapped the rain and the waters were a risin'! We set up the only sump pump we had and within an hour it was clearly not keeping up. Thankfully when we renovated the place our plumber had the forsight to build a new pad for the furnace so it was in the high spot of the cellar. That decision paid off ten fold.

So off we went to Home Depot at 5PM, bought a pump that would push 1750 gals and hour through a 1" hose! We got back at 6PM only to find the package was missing the hose adaptor! So back to Home Depot. We got the pump going by 6:45 and at 9:30 the waters had receded. Thankfully the rain had stopped around 8PM. At Home Depot there were a few of us huddled around the sump pump section making our decisions and a man we know arrived to buy his third pump! He too, owns and old house and we all just sort of laughed and went our merry ways.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Crystal's close call

Saturday morning Jack went to the barn to do the chores and when he arrived all the sheep were out in the paddock which is completely unusual as they usually all flood the barn to say hello. Jack could hear a light pawing sound on an adjacent barn wall. He rounded to the corner to find Crystal on her back, stuck and just about dead. She was against this wall, with one leg pawing the wall, but very weakly.

This condition is know as cast and once a sheep gets on their back they cannot get up without assistance and will die within a matter of an hour.
It occurs when the sheep gets into a position, usually after lying down where they cannot get righted. It occurs more often when they are full with fleece or before lambing when they are quite heavy. Presently Crystal is sporting more than 12 pounds of fleece and she is already a large sheep, weighing 200#!
Jack swiftly rolled her over onto her knees and after a few minutes helped her to her feet. She was covered in straw around her head and visibly shaken as you can imagine. By the time Jack put out the hay she did eat some.

We had a lot of cleanup to do after the last snowstorm and while I worked getting snow off the barn roof and Jack removed snow from their loafing lot, I watched Crystal. I wanted to see her drink water and chew her cud. I didn't want bloat to set in and as an extra precaution I gave her 3cc of liquid simethicone, like you give babies for gas. It wouldn't hurt and seeing as she had been on her back, unable to process her feed through her rumen I thought it an easy treatment.

Here she is eating snow which satisfied my concern for drinking water.
As we finished up the snow removal, I looked over from the lane and she was standing on the rocks chewing her cud. She was back in the land of sheepdom. Close call.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Digging out

About the snow! We are just about out of room to put anymore here! Currently NH is having the sixth snowiest winter since the records were kept in the 1800's with a total snowfall to date of 111 inches. The grand total to beat is 122" and we could do it yet with 45 more potential snow days to go!