Category Archives: Healing Tree Farm yarn

The felted, matted mess

imageLast year, I purchased a beautiful Suri alpaca rose-grey fleece from a local farmer. It was the most beautiful natural colorway I had ever seen in a fleece, with hints of autumn-rose and oatmeals and grey. I handled the fleece with extra care, checking the temperature of the wash and rinse water carefully, handling it gently, quietly contemplating at each phase of the wash-rinse cycle all that might be made from these gorgeous fibers. And then I did something stupid.

I don’t like that word stupid, but it’s the word that really works here. Fiber demands its process. You can’t rush fiber. You can’t tell it to hurry up and dry or get clean. You can’t shear an alpaca and make socks within the next five minutes. If you could, we crazy fiber nuts would find something else to fawn over.

Eager to begin carding, I decided to place the washed fleece in a pillow case and put it on air dry in the dryer for a good 15 minutes. This is something I had done with other fleeces and without issue, but I did not check the air temperature in my eagerness to dry the fleece. Anyone who works with fiber knows the most fundamental of rules:

Heat + agitation = felt.

By the time I realized my error, I lifted a matted piece of felt the size of a corgi out of the dryer. And yes, there were real tears.

I tried in vain to make something useful from the felted monstrosity. I even hung on to the fiber for months, hoping I would come up with something useful to somehow make up for the error. But what I realized was that this felt was destined to compost, as beautiful as it was. And that I had learned a lesson worth 10 times the price of the fleece; that process is important and, in instances like this, vital.

It’s so easy to try to take the short-cut, or to give up when someone tries to throw a wrench in your plans, but when you look at life as a process of growing, of moving from this raw, dirty fleece to a clean, organized useful yarn, it’s easier to see that those little bumps in the road aren’t there to deter you, but to help you broaden your awareness.

There’s a reason Gandhi was so wise; he was a hand-spinner! 🙂

Farm News and Reflections

Received a wonderful donation of a beautifully crafted nesting boxes from Burning Barn Farm for our new coop in New York. I was so excited, I completely spaced on taking a photo!

This week has been dedicated to work on cleaning at the farm in preparation for our departure. Lot’s of reflection, and honestly, loads of relief. It’s simply been too much for us to manage a project like DeYoung at a distance. And as much as I love the farm, I know it will find the right person or organization to make it great again.

We breathed life into the barns with the addition of chickens, ducks, sheep and alpacas, but the farm really breathed new life into us. We are now embarking on the first leg of a journey to open a fiber mill and tree nursery in New York state.

Many people have asked us about the departure date. It’s been tough to answer because we’ve been moving belongings out ahead of the big move, so many trips back and forth right now. Tentatively, we should officially be NYers by June 14th.

In the meantime, please enjoy some of our favorite photos from the past four years.

Things to do when not farming…

The seed catalogs are piling up and it’s a constant reminder of how in flux we’ll be as of

photo 5
Identifying cool mushrooms…

June. It’s been a long time since I’ve not put in a large seed order, and frankly, I’m feeling a bit antsy about it this season. So, to take my mind off of what I won’t be doing, I’m thinking ahead to the things this extra time will provide in terms of opportunities for learning. An ever-growing, ever-bearing, zone 1-10 list of things to learn while not farming:

  • Tend to the travelling orchard
  • Improve spinning technique
  • Improve fiber processing set-up and technique
  • Experiment with natural dyes
  • Learn about medicinal herbs
  • Practice grafting techniques
  • Volunteer at school or public garden
  • Help a fellow farmer with farm chores, butchering, shearing, etc.
  • Learn old-fashioned candy-making
  • Focus on food preservation techniques:
    • Pressure canning
    • Smoking meats
    • Drying
    • Fermentation
  • Take a class in business planning for the fiber mill
  • Maybe, just maybe, learn a new knitting skill
  • Explore niche or value added markets
  • Take a botany class
  • Spend some time with growers using methods outside of your own, including conventional, biodynamic, and other permaculture or organic farmers and gardeners
  • Cut up seed catalogs to make art with the kids
  • Cut up seed catalogs to do some companion planting planning
  • Re-read Edible Forest Gardens

The list continues to grow and hope blooms eternal, so… suggestions are always welcome and may spring shine warm sunlight upon your gardens!

A Simple Twist that Launched the Modern Era

imageI had never given it much thought previously, but on numerous occasions at the farm, I’ve found myself in need of rope or string and had to twist long grasses as a temporary fix. This is likely how our understanding of the strength gained by twisting fibers grew until we began moving from plant materials like hemp, cotton, and flax to shorter animal fibers like those that come from sheep or alpaca.

That simple twist increases the durability of the fibers considerably by allowing fewer movement between (or increasing pressure and friction on) individual fibers. There’s a whole science to the ideal twist per fiber type, if you’re into that sort of thing. And to take it a step further, this simple act of twisting and plying fibers yielded some pretty significant inventions including cloth, rope, handles, sails, rigging, junkyarnnetting, etc. Try to imagine our lives without it.

Due to the recent move and our temporary living arrangement, I’m not spinning on the
wheel, nor am I processing fiber. I do, however, have the drop spindle and make time each night for some twisting and whirling which never feels like an isolated action, but one handed down generation to generation to generation, a reminder of our ingenuity as humans and our innate desire to remain connected, whether to our animals, to one another, to our ancestors, or to the earth.

 

Blue waters, my favorite kitty

imageNamed for the still blue waters of northern Michigan at dawn, and our farm cat, Watson, this skein is mostly a combination of Bree and Pecan (Suri alpaca) fibers, with one ply hand-dyed a light periwinkle. Soft and light, I picture this skein combined with our peaches-and-cream for a lovely baby blanket… Purchase today, knit through the summer, and have it ready for cooler autumn eves.

140Yd $25 Available for pick-up at farm  SOLD

Email healingtreefarm@gmail.com for more information about this, yarn, fiber-related inquiries, to talk about the weather, or to learn more about our upcoming fiber workshop on July 11th! Or visit our Etsy Shop to see more.