Tuesday, December 31, 2013

COLD! COLD! COLD!


This photo has nothing to do with the renovation, but it's really, really cute!

Today was below freezing, I had the southern door to the barn open to catch the sun. It kinda helped warm up the barn, as long as I was standing in the sun. The hens loved the fact they could scratch around in the straw and sunbathe in Chicken World.

The pallets are really hard to pull apart. It's takes at least a half-hour to get a board and maybe 1 minute to put it up, so I'm not making a whole lot of progress at any one time. However, it's steady progress, the interior looks a lot better.

I need more pallets.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Renovation Frustration



In case you, dear reader, didn't know - I'm a small woman. I claim to be 5' 5", but I'm pretty sure that's in heels.

It's really frustrating - because when it comes to raw strength - I don't have any. Everything I do has to be thought out, because where a grown man can muscle his way through a task, I have to finesse it.

When it comes to horses, a small woman needs to have leverage, and a pocket full of treats. I've learned to handle my big Quarter horses, because they trust me and for the most part go along with good humor. This is also why I don't mess around with other people's horses. I know from years of hard knocks that I'll get hurt.

My alpacas seem very, very small after a lifetime with horses. With Grumpy and Bashful, it's a matter of using the least possible pressure - they become more relaxed. Even Grumpy has started to grunt in protest instead of screaming, spitting or cussing at me. These days he's just - you know - grumpy.

I do what I can to spoil the little beasts. I only got them in November, but they've come along faster than expected. They might be smarter than I gave them credit for - I hope so, I didn't give them credit for much.

Anyways, back to the Renovation of Chicken World. Taking apart pallets requires raw strength AND leverage. I've got a bit of leverage, but I'm completely knackered out on strength. My wrists and forearms are swollen from yanking nails and banging around with with a 3 lb sledge.

When I built the first nest boxes, I used screws because I knew I was going to go back and change it all around. I just didn't know it would take me 8 years to get around to it.  The roosts got put in at an angle, which worked until I needed more space, and better access. Which is RIGHT NOW! lol I have to put up more roosting timbers which means I have to take down what's already up there.

What I find completely frustrating is that once I've started a project, it is assumed that I shall finish it - requiring no help from others. In fact, if I ask for help, I get turned down.

I think I shall stop here, so this doesn't turn into a nasty rant. The good thing about frustration is that it makes it much more fun to bang around with a hammer.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Renovating Chicken World

The last few weeks have been cold, and windy.

I've been unhappy with the fact that Chicken World is bare metal in the inside. It was supposed to have sheets of paneling against the walls to buffer against freezing wind and burning heat. But that didn't come to pass. So, I'm working on it - by cutting up used pallets and nailing the boards to the wall.

There are a lot of ways to reuse pallets. Google opened up a rabbit hole that sucked me inside for several hours.

I'm going to finish up Chicken World before I try to expand our shed using pallets. (hehehehehehehe!) Seriously, this is a very slow progressing project. The pallets have to be taken apart - not easy! Although, we did buy a crowbar/wrecking bar/nail puller and a rubber mallet, to make it a bit easier.

Still, it take raw muscle to pry the slats off the pallet. Then there are the nails - dozens of nails that can't be allowed to escape. I've got a huge plastic jar about 1/3 full of nails already.

Anyways - I'm putting new nest boxes up, and making more roosting space. Alot more roosting space. Then, if I can figure out a way to do it with a sprayer, I want to whitewash the walls.

What I've got done, so far, is a partial take down of the old nest area, and one half of one wall completed. It's been SO slow, I'm dismantling, because I want to re-use the wood and the screws. This will be the 3rd go-round for some of these materials. Nothing like recycling - saves me a buncha money.

The top third of the wall takes about 33" slats. I've got some that were already painted white, they look like siding. They are going by the window, to reflect the light. The thickest boards are going where I'm putting up nest boxes and roosts.

The center third and lower third will require 24" slats. These won't need to hold any weight, so they can be thin. I've got a few center boards in place. These slats seem to make the most difference in the temperature of the air. I think it might be because I use a deep litter - enough to heat up. Heat rises.

The window was on the outside - a couple of chickens banged into it, nearly knocking it down. It leaked air instead of keeping the wind out after that. I've tried a couple of times to put it right. Until I finally took it completely down and put it inside, I couldn't get it secure.

Now, there are just little gaps around the window - can't put a finger between it and wall any more! Of course this means that the hole outside the wall needs to have some kind of framing. Don't know what yet, but I'm working on it.

The goal is to moderate the winter temperature - so cold snaps don't stop the eggs from hatching. We'll have to see how that works out. So far the window made the most difference. I'm looking forward to moving the roosts and the nest boxes. I think I can predict where the ducks will lay and where the hens will lay. The geese will lay on the ground...need to leave space for them!

Stay tuned!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Happenings

Though I didn't deck out my house this year, I did put seat to chair and spin up a mile of yarn. Including a 4 oz. braid of jewel-toned green and blue alpaca that I bought in summer, back before I could spin on a wheel. I finished that last night, it's a magnificent skein, 230 yards!

I also knitted and crocheted some lovely gifts. Hats, scarves, and a purple & white snood that was really lovely. That's counting the hat that grew wings and flew away. I'm going to need to replace it.

There are still a few more skeins to spin. Hubby and I carded three batts of fiber: white, chocolate and black, all enhanced with some firestar fiber.

In chicken world, I started a major project: Paneling the walls with wood salvaged from pallets, redoing the nest boxes and adding roost space. There's also the matter of the window that isn't flush against the outside wall. I want to move it inside so it lets in light, not the wind. (We'll see if I can pull that one off. Might be beyond my skill level.)

At present, all the nests are against a metal wall. The hens don't get any relief from the cold or the heat. It's mostly just a wind break. The warm spot is the roost across the way. But not all the chickens are welcome there.

I think this has a lot to do with my losses in the winter. The chickens who need the shelter from the cold can't get it. The eggs get chilled and will crack in the cold, which means I don't get many hatchings in the spring.

So, Chicken World gets a make-over, it might take a year to "get'er done." But it's a worthy project.

I'm not going to promise anything on the writing front, but I have been looking over my WIPs. Winter is always my best writing season. Now that I'm not at the Farmer's Market two days a week, I might just have time to finish up a story or two.

It's good to have goals.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Not Feeling the Holiday? Me, either.

I know, you expected a glowing post about the holiday - or a short story with a holiday theme. Not this year, I just don't have the energy to fake it.

I lost my faithful canine companion last week. I'm not feeling Christmas this week. There is always next week, or next year.



Instead, I'm going to write about the farm, our home.

As I've written previously, the horses aren't getting along with the alpacas. I'm a bit worried, though I know that I can smooth things over between the two species, in time. I think I'll give it a few more weeks before I push them together.

Tonka is getting a little more tolerant every day. He spits less and the tone of his grumbling is less strident. Sometimes, when I say 'touch' he will lean his neck in my direction, protesting vocally, but not physically.

The geese are fighting, yet again. It appears to be one of the yearling ganders and the gander hatched this spring. I'm getting tired of breaking them up, I started kicking the ensigator outside. My plan, as soon as I figure out which is which, is to bring the females into chicken world.

The ganders can stay outside.

The ducklings have suffered some major losses. I've got 4 little bitty ones and 2 young yellow ones in the tack room. The light bulb in the brooder burned out last night, they survived by huddling together.

There were eight or nine older ducklings, getting their feathers, but I've lost all but four. One is very bold, came right up to me and sat on my foot this morning. It didn't like being scooped up, but I didn't want the horses to step on it. They wanted OUT this morning.

The chickens are finally laying eggs in tune with the season. I got three eggs yesterday and two today. They lay just enough to fill my orders and still have enough eggs for us. I'm fine with that for a couple more weeks. As soon as the days start getting longer, production will pick up.

Which brings me to the horses. The old gelding is looking very sleek these days. I've already bought 2 round bales. The horses demolish the bales as soon as they are off the trailer. I think the bales last 2 weeks, but I'm not sure. This is really good hay, so I'm pleased to be able to get it.

The old mare is having foot trouble. She's got some nasty cracks in her front feet and a big chunk taken out of one back foot. The weather hasn't helped, the stalls are damp from outside water wicking in. It doesn't seem to matter that I've got 8 inches of gravel under those stalls and 5 inches of shavings on top. The wet ground doesn't stop at the barn walls.

I've got the hens inside the barn all day. They fluff the horse bedding and generally scratch around in the stalls. It's good for the hens and the horses. I keep throwing more shavings on top, hoping to get above the wet, without any luck.

If I can get a couple of dry days I can improve things. But there's no sense in getting the lawn mower and the manure spreader stuck in the mud until either the ground freezes or dries. It's a typical winter problem.

I can get around it by driving out the front door and spreading the soiled bedding in the lower front pasture. That's what I did today. Got the old mare's stall raked smooth, which was all it really needed. Then did some major clean up in the young mare's stall.

If tomorrow is as bright as today, I'll get some more work done in the barn.

Wednesday, the girls are coming over to bake cookies. This is the fourth year that I've invited others to come so we can have a cookie swap. I've got to pick up a bit more sugar and flour.

Still not going to put up a Christmas tree, but the house looks nice anyways.




Friday, December 13, 2013

Critter Update - Horses vs Alpacas

Update on the alpacas - my first attempt to integrate them with the horses was stunning. Mind you, they weren't harmed! In fact, they didn't appear to be excessively frightened, it was the horses who got emotional.

The old black gelding followed me in to the pen, sniffed around a bit, no big deal. He stuck by me and got lots of 'good boy' scratches. The young mare watched him, snorting, but morecurious than anything. The alpacas wandered out of the pen, towards the big round bale.

The old mare went nuts. I've never seen her move in such a controlled, furious fashion. She was so collected I could hear her knees crack as she flexed them all the way to her chin. She was floating (in mud) towards them giving a rolling snort that sounded more like a growling tiger than a horse.

I shooed her away. She gave me the 'stink eye.' I followed the alpacas around, to intervene if things got out of hand. I got in front of her a few times and shouted NO!

After several minutes of snorting, blowing, hoof stamping and assorted tantrums, I thought it was over. The alpacas went to the high ground to look around. The horses swept between me and the alpacas at a trot. The alpacas cantered away, ahead of the horses by about 3 horse lengths.

This is where I got my mind blown - the old mare let the alpacas run in front of her, switched to their left side, kept behind them and PUT THEM BACK IN TO THE ROUND PEN. Then swept around the pen, back to the bale of hay, in another of these knee snapping displays.

It was a perfect example of a horse with a lot of 'cow sense' in one respect. However, I watched the whole thing. She came up than hill with a PLAN. She put that plan into action - and put the alpacas 'back where they belong!'

The other two horses were with her, but at a respectful distance behind her.

I have always known that horses 'display' their strength and power with slow-motion, graceful movements that include high-stepping gaits, arched necks, flying mane, upright tails and lots of snorting.

The old mare seems too kicked back and lazy for such displays, except when she and I play a bit of 'tag' on warm spring days.

I got the feeling she was outraged at the intrusion and wanted the alpacas to know who was in charge and to literally 'put them in their place.' Until now, she's acted as if she was terrified of the alpacas. I know better, now.

I love that old mare! She's such a character! I base all my fictional horses on her.

Now, on the alpaca side - it was Tonka (Grumpy) who set her off. He barged over to 'her' bale of hay, and actually pinned his ears at her, first. He was very arrogant, not at all tentative as he approached her. Which he did, several times.

Once he was so close that she swatted him with her tail.

There wasn't any trouble getting the alpacas into the barn that night, they didn't act fearful. I opened the door and they took their sweet time going in. I checked them as well as I could for any sign of contact between them. There was dirt on Tonka's shoulder when she hit him with her tail. (It trails on the ground, so it gets muddy.)

Tonight I put the horses in first, before I let the alpacas free. They didn't hesitate walking passed the old mare, but - in an ironic twist - it was her who snorted at TONKA as he checked her out.

I feel as if I have been given an education in equine behavior. I'm not sure if I want to repeat this experience for several months. LOL

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What's that? Critters' Stand Off!

The horses are eating the new bale of hay. There was a lot of snorting and circling before I could coax them close enough to see what I had.

Today, the old gelding walked up to the fence near Tonka, sniffing curiously.

Tonka walked away. I'm glad he didn't spit. Poor old horse is so sweet natured, it would have shocked him.

The mares were split, the young mare is by the bale, hiding behind it, in fact. The old mare is eating a small pile of hay I used to bait her closer.

Catching the alpacas still requires a catch pen. However, I was able to get them to eat grain from the bucket. So there is hope that I'll be able to walk up to them and put a lead rope on them. Once I can do that in the pen, I can turn them loose in the pasture.

I'm not holding my breath, mind you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Another Day - Another Step Forward

The alpacas were easier to catch tonight. 

Sabre seemed to figure it out first. He darted into the catch pen, reared like a bad pony, struggled just a bit as I put the lead rope on his halter. He gives in so quickly there's no trauma.

Tonka charged into the catch pen, screamed like he was dying, then lay down so I could put the lead rope on him. I think he gets the fact that I lead them in at night, but he hates to be touched. I gave him a some pats to make sure he knew I was pleased with him. 

The horses watched with dismay as we took the alpacas back into the barn. The old gelding followed hubby to the barn, but the young mare shoved past him. Hubby got those two sorted out. The old mare peeked in the barn, acting like something was going to jump on her. I cooed to her until she walked into her stall alone. 

The alpacas are stalled next to Chicken World. Tonka watches the chickens as if they were his favorite TV program. Sabre stands at the gate, watching the action out there. They've already charged a couple of roosters who come to the round pen to peck at the crumbs.

The alpaca pages I've read talk about how smart these critters are. So far, I haven't seen it. I see some curiosity, and a great deal of 'no-freaking-way' behavior. However, even after four days, there are signs that they are going to settle in. 

Now, if the horses would only get over the alpacas, I could start integrating the herds.

Wish me luck, I'm gonna need it.

A word about the ducklings: I set up the smaller kiddie pool as a brooder and moved the ducklings into the tack room. I turned on the heater, but the heat lamp appears to be enough to keep the room about 50 degrees. They perked up immediately. 

I also caught the smallest of the loose ducks and put them into the new brooder. They jumped into the feeder and ate until they could barely waddle.

I'm glad I was able to catch the poor things.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Critters VS the Weather

This weather, a nasty cold snap, has reeked havoc on my animals. The older ones (JR and my old black gelding) and myself, are struggling with joint problems.

The baby ducklings are dropping dead from the cold, even under a heat light and covered with a tarp. I put the mother duck in with them, but she's not interested in babies, she just wants her eggs.

Dumbass duck.

The older ducklings, the ones with enough body mass to stay warm, are doing fine. But it's the tiny ones that suffer. I hate late year hatchings, they are heartbreaks looking for a place to happen.

The baby goose is only two weeks old, but it has gained a tremendous amount of weight in that short time. The little bugger is solid.

The last chick is having no trouble adapting to the cold. It isn't growing as fast as it would in the summer, no surprise there. However, it is still with Phatso, and she is just as protective now as when it was newly hatched.

The alpacas are wild creatures. I shouldn't let that stop me from training them. I might not be a good horse trainer, but there has to be a way to get through to these critters. We shall see.

I'm not sure why it's considered to be so bad to have llama's and alpacas trained. Maybe people who deal with them aren't horse people, so they don't know what's possible?

I doubt that.

Most likely they aren't as genetically programmed for domestication? Sheep aren't, so it's not unheard of.

Or it could be that being a fiber animal, nobody ever bothered to give it a shot. Not sure. I guess I'm going to find out. LOL There's nothing like being a stubborn Scots/Hungarian/Irish woman to make taming the untamable a challenge.

Sometimes, I wish I had more sense.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: It has only taken a week to go from a struggle every morning to put a lead rope on the alpacas, to a gentle pat before clicking the snap.

I'm very, very happy with the progress!


Monday, November 18, 2013

As the Year Winds Down

I've been thinking, as I wash, card and spin a big bag of llama fiber, about this year.

I got to know a great guy, a fellow artist, who was going through a tough time. Talking to him really made me think about my own life. He was on the fence about using his god-given talent or staying put.

He picked his art.

One of the things we talked about is being true to yourself. Life is difficult. Trying to force yourself into a mold that doesn't fit is painful. It's like being a plum in a banana world.

Now my friend appears to be well on his way back to the world of plums. LOL

I'm happy for him. Even though his success makes me wonder about my own life. There's so much going on. It's like I'm spinning in circles. The chaos and the drama never eases up for long. There's always something.

Truth is - I'm worn out from it all. I keep trying to find some way to relax and blow some stress. There are some physical problems that need to be addressed, and I'm getting ready to do that.

Once I'm over that mess, I'm going to take some time to rest and relax. Things are running smoothly here at the farm. Winter is the time to ease up on some things, and get around to tasks that had to wait.

I think that next year is going to see some more changes. Hopefully I'll find my own niche, like my friend did.

I'd like the coming year to be a good year.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The New Kids on the Farm



The little white guys peeking over the back of a bigger llama are Sabre and Tonka a pair of alpaca geldings coming soon to Jordan's Croft.

Aren't they cute?

These little guys are going to supply me with fiber for the spinning wheel.

I've got a bad case of spinning fever!

To keep me occupied, the foster parents of the boys have given me some fiber to tide me over.

Some addictions are good addictions.

However, I'm not sure what the horses are going to think about sharing space with these smaller animals.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Good News!



I've gotten an email from Ashtabula Public Library - they would like me to do a reading and give a short talk about 'Swallow the Moon' - the paranormal set in Ashtabula.

I was planning to return for the Wine and Walleye Festival in August. They want me to come on August 18th. 2014 -- just a few days before the festival.

I hope I can schedule a few more readings at other libraries in the area. Dates and times will follow - I'll post them on Goodreads and Facebook as soon as the dates are set.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The 'Indie Sales Slump' - My 2013 Perspective

Back in September of 2011 - I wrote about what I believed was the first Indie Author Shake Out.  
"It is the law of supply and demand in action. When there wasn't a supply of 'known' authors, the 'un-known' did very well for themselves. Now with the flood of 'name' authors with new and back-listed titles the average Indie is not able to compete."
 The reading season is upon us once again. The great post-Christmas Sales Event is on it's way. This is the time of year to really push those novels out...who is kidding whom?

Yes, the mid-list has moved to e-books instead of print.

Yes, there is always a slow season - summer time - and reading picks up in fall.

Yes, there are Indie's who have 'made a killing.' There are even erotica writers who made their fortunes -- before the latest 'anti-porn' campaign. (That has yet to shake out.)

Hell, I had a best-seller in the UK in 2010 with "Let's Do Lunch" sitting in the top 25 best selling Romantic Suspense novels, and was #10 to Nora Roberts #8 for ten glorious days!

In fact, I was so sure the 'Indie Bubble' would pop that I wrote this:

This next wave of sales is going to signal the end of the Indie Author Boom. By this time next year there will more back-list titles than Indie titles. That will the end of the Indie 'Revolution' because the supply of back-list will meet the demands of readers.

The Indie market will pop, like all bubbles.
It sucks to be right.

This year, my sales have been very quiet. I ran "The Emissary" is free on Smashwords, since it came out, with record sales of....wait for it....4 free copies.

What I've noticed is that as my sales a Amazon went down, I started to sell a few things, here and there, via Smashwords. Enough to get my first ($12) payment, and be halfway to getting a second ($10) payment.

"Swallow the Moon" - the paperback - is very slowly earning out in face-to-face sales. I moved some 20 paperbacks over the summer. "Let's Do Lunch" sells an e-book or paperback copy here and there (in the world, not just on Amazon).

I'm still working on the spreadsheets to see what sales were last year. With the giveaways, I think we were in the 2k range. Not bad for a complete unknown like myself. However, the books published aren't clearing enough for me to keep publishing new ones.

The market is awash in backlist, just as I predicted.

While that's a huge blessing for those hard-working mid-list authors who worked with-in the system; its ruined the Indie market for genre fiction.

The playing field is level, and it hurts for some of us.

It's just the way the business works.

Happy Reading Season!

Putting Down Roots in the Real World AND Cyberspace?



Just before my mother passed, I wrote a piece called 'Sense of Place' that talked about my sense of belonging in this part of Kentucky.

Earlier this year, I went to Ashtabula and found that after 20 years, I could still have a sense of belonging there. I found it when I met up with my cousins at the Farmer's Market.

Now, thanks to social media, like Kindleboards, Goodreads and Facebook, I've been able to keep in touch with people who are important to my sense of place in the larger world.

My friends are a far-flung bunch who cover the major continents. Some are blood-kin, most are as dear to me as my blood-kin. They keep me feeling connected on an intellectual level, we can debate and disagree - not something you can always do with face-to-face friends.

For a couple of years, I was really worried that the majority of my life took place in Cyberspace. Now that I've found satisfying, real-world hobbies like spinning and knitting, I'm better balanced between the two worlds.

I need my far-flung friends to share my real-world adventures with, as I need my face-to-face friends to have those adventures.

I've got a general plan for my spinning and knitting (and some day for sewing) that can go in several different directions. I'm going to see where this track takes me. It could open some really neat doors in time.

Maybe not, you never know.

We'll see how this works out.

Meanwhile - I've put the drive band on the sewing machine. It's loose, but it works. The attachments arrived on Saturday. I'm waiting for the spool post before I start using the machine. I cleared a space for my Singer zig-zag in my den/work place. I'm willing to be the attachments for it will fit the old treadle.

If only I knew what the heck they were!

More to learn every day.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Goofed Again!

This is turning into quite a mystery.

When I ran the identification program a second time it came up different. This time it said it was a Singer 15 class.

Now, if I knew what I was doing, I wouldn't need to struggle to get this right. The bobbin that came out of the machine was a 15 class bobbin.

So I guess I'm starting over.

Crap!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Update on the Singer 66

This is what my Singer looks like, though mine is more worn. 

I found the attachments online - my first attempt at purchasing them fell through. The second attempt appears to have worked better.

The drive belt came today. I haven't got a clue on how to cut it and attach it. So that's going to wait.

The spool post shipped today. The manual should ship in a few more days. 

The machine is very heavy, yet the parts move very easily. I suspect a bit of cleaning and some grease will improve it even more. 

Singer 66



The other day Hubby and I went to an antique store to browse around.

We found a really nice treadle sewing machine, with a cabinet in good shape, that moved with surprising ease. It appeared to be well taken care of - but there were no attachments, or belt.

I was on the fence - the mechanics looked about perfect - but I didn't know if I could find the important things like a manual and parts.

I really shouldn't have worried.

When the ladies explained that the machine was half price - Hubby grinned and said "Happy Birthday."

We brought it home for less than $40.

So far, I've been able to find everything I need to put the machine back in working order. The parts are - of course - more expensive than the machine. However, I'm pleased to be able to find what we needed on eBay and Amazon.

So everything I need is on order. I've signed up for a quilting class - along with my knitting classes.

I know it's a bit weird for a Techie like me to have old fashioned hobbies like spinning, knitting and crocheting. Adding sewing on a peddle machine to this and I'm starting to look like a throwback to a previous generation.

However, I see it this way - 10k years of spinning history is in my genes. Sewing and spinning are sisters. I'm going back to an expression of my heritage. I could be spending a lot of money on tanning beds and manicures like a normal woman.

I met a British ex-patriot yesterday who commented on the name of 'Jordan's Croft'. Since he was a Brit, I focused on my Scots heritage. (Brits like the Irish about as much as red-necks like Latinos or Afro-Americans.)

We had a great conversation - I realized then I slid into my comfort zone, with one foot in the 21 century and one in the 19th century. It makes perfect sense, if you figure that my grandparents were from the 19th century and my mother was of the 20th century.

I'm one of the links - there aren't that many any more - my life is linked across 3 centuries via 3 generations. Most people can't say that. I'm very happy to have that kind of link. It makes me who I am.

Stay tuned - I'll pictures of the sewing machine when it's done.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Woolgathering

Been watching the political situation in The Land of the Lost - aka Washington D.C. It's enough to make a sane woman run in circles screaming 'the sky is falling' although I know for a fact the sky is fine.

Congress is FUBARed.

The President has given up his power so often they actually thought he'd give in this time. We'll see who wins in the long run.

On a personal front - the farm is about ready for winter. There's hay in the loft, and the pasture grass is thick and high. The hens are growing feathers, and there's a goose egg in a duck nest.

I'm making hats for friends and family. I guess I'm going to be ready for Christmas early this year.

Monday, October 14, 2013

All Tangled Up


I started out with a bag of stinky sheep wool. The odor was enough to make my eyes water.

The only thing to do was to soak it in hot water and Dawn. However, it can't be scrubbed, or agitated or it will felt into a lump.

The first bucket has been washed once, the second bucket is soaking for the second time.

Not pretty at this point. However, if you change the water 3 or 4 more times, you get something a little fluffier and nowhere near a stinky.

The bottom picture is a hat and cowl I knitted from cheap yarn in order to see if I could handle knitting the pattern with real yarn.


So far, I have 3 bats of fiber from those bags of wool. I dyed some if it. Hoping to get something called 'broken black' instead, I got gray with a pink cast.

So I decided to mix that with a light color, I tried for 'sea foam' green, but that turned out a rather pale blue.

So I've started over. I'll spin the yarn before I try to dye it. If I get the right shades. I'll spin some beads and shells into it. Give it an 'ocean at dawn' type of look.

I've got a nice gray and some really lovely rose that would make a great cowl and hat set. If I'm lucky, I can even make matching fingerless gloves.

This is the yarn. It's been sitting in the basket for a month, daring me to put it on a pair of knitting needles.

I almost gave in yesterday.

But I've got to finish my mittens before I tackle this lovely stuff. I'm not used to knitting - I'm a crochet person. So I've been practicing.

A friend of mine said she'd like to have a hat and scarf made out of handspun, and asked what I would sell it for. I said I'd have to make it a gift. There's no way I could sell anything made from my homespun for a reasonable price.

We're talking hours of labor - washing, picking, carding, dying, spinning then knitting it into fabric. I can't imagine what a 'fair price' would be from my end.

The gray wool cost $7 for a 4 oz bag. I bought 3 bags of it and one bag of the pink. That's already more than most people would pay for a hat and scarf set. Then it takes a couple hours to spin and ply the yarn. (Not to mention the cost of my spinning wheel.)

This is a heck of a lot cheaper than smoking - which is the measure I use for the expense of my hobbies. If it's cheaper than smoking a couple packs a day, I'm all for it. (Yes, I used to smoke two packs a day.)

The garments I make will be works of art. Kinda hard to put a price on art. So I think that giving them as gifts would make my much happier.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Festival Time!

I love this time of year. The weather's broken, so the heat that leaves me breathless is gone. So is the humidity.

I get a whole lot more active this time of year. Like today, I had my bff come by so we could tackle my weedy flower beds. It would have taken a couple of days in August, but we knocked it out in a couple of hours.

Last two weekends hubby and I went to festivals. I've got another one this Saturday. I've been selling a whole lot more books face to face. It makes up for the sales that have dropped online.

I'm also selling my collection of crocheted items. That's bags, baskets, hats and shawls. I tend to bring something with me when I'm at the farmer's market, just to keep my hands busy. Now I've got quite a collection.

Got a line on a pair of alpacas. These are little white guys who could very well pay for their keep in fiber. Here's hoping.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why Come Back?

It was a matter of practicality. My new blog doesn't get the hits, even after 2 years, that this one does when I'm not using it.

Sad, sad, sad, but true.

So I'm back, looking around and trying to figure out what I need to do to start selling more ebooks, using this blog.

Now, the rest of the story.

Let's talk about 'The Emissary' - my novella of the Zombie Apocalypse on Horseback.
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Yep, that's all the news. A blank line...for a total of ZERO sales.

What did I do wrong?

I don't know. I suppose it's because chasing trends doesn't work worth a wooden nickle. I've had a tremendous amount of fun writing the series. There are three stories on my hard drive, two are complete, one is published and the final installment is an outline. I can't afford the copy editor right now. So they will stay put until I can raise the money.

What am I going to do next?

Not sure.

My best selling novel is 'Let's Do Lunch' which says a lot about the book. I always thought of it as my experiment. Maybe it's time to re-think that novel and the one I wrote with the same themes.

'Swallow the Moon' has been updated and given a FABULOUS new cover. Same cover artist, Athanasios

This cover has all the elements of the story, but it appeals to women, unlike the other cover, which I loved, but which didn't hit the right cords with readers.

I guess I could re-enroll in Kindle Select and do a give away. But that would take 'Swallow the Moon' off the market on other venues were there have been a few sales every month.

Not a good idea this close to the Reading Season.

My trip to Ashtabula kicked up my sales for 3 months. My continued presence at the Farmer's Market and the various festivals around Elizabethtown has kept both paperbacks available to the public.

Autumn Days, a Vine Grove festival, is coming up this Saturday. I'm looking forward to going and spending the day with another author, D. A. Lawson. (The link is to her Amazon page.)

That's all for this installment.

Funny, it's so much easier to write this blog, which I think of as my 'public musings' instead of my 'professional' blog.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm Back

Things have been busy at Jordan's Croft. So busy that I gave up this blog for quite awhile.

Since the heat broke we’ve been puttering around in the yard. I still don’t have a goose free yard but the girls are penned up in Chicken World. So there aren’t as many chickens jumping on the porch to steal cat food. (Or leave proof they were there.)

Nothing going on the writing front. I’ve got to go hermit again, I guess. But with the weather cooling down I’m able to sleep better at night because I can be more active during the day.

That’s it for today.