Tuesday, February 12, 2013

DIY Wool Pocket Valentine Hearts

My kids will be at a local homeschool co op the day before Valentine's day this year, and they keep wanting to make valentines, so I decided to pitch in and help the cause.  These needle felted wool hearts are super simple to make and are sort of fast.  I think it took maybe 5 minutes to make each one.  If you have a class of 30 students, you might want another idea, but if you're just making them for a few friends, this is a fun idea.  I let the kids make the valentine cards they were making, and they can give these either with them or on their own.

Wool is such a lovely feeling material...very textured and warm.  Over the years, I have made a few pairs of matching wool hearts for people I wanted to remain in prayer for, giving them one and keeping the other for myself as a reminder to think of and pray for them.  I hope these hearts will be happily carried around in pockets long after Valentine's day this year as a reminder of the friends who give them.

Here's from wool to heart:  get a lock of dyed wool (we used Jacquard acid dyes).  Card it..you can use hand carders or 2 dog brushes, or even tease it with your hands.   Shape it into a trangular shaped wad.  Keep poking with a felting needle over a cushion, turning all the while so that it doesn't stick and form the shape of a heart!
My 4 year old insisted that this plastic bead is a horse, and that it needed to be in the center of the hearts, so here it is, just for her.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This is our Life: Good Morning!

Quality testing the playdough recipe from the blog by making a fresh batch and using immediately!

I'm participating in a 52 week long photography project through Paint the Moon photography.
This is the 6th week and the theme was "Good Morning."  You'll notice I have more pictures of the littlest one...she's the one who poses the least and who still doesn't shy from the camera as much.  Here are some glimpses into our mornings over the past week.

Near our front door:  laundry detergent ingredients and boots to go do animal chores.
Some morning reading before homeschool time
Give us this day our daily bread.  One of maybe 5 or 6 batches of bread this past week, as we try to live out of our pantry and not run to the grocery.
Just after waking.  When you're the fourth child of five, you get military print sheets and flowery blankets.  
Crazy hair morning 
The baby of the family sleeping near the baby doll she asks me to tuck in at night.

Stretching to awake-ness.

A different morning with beautiful fog outside the windows.

As big as the cottonwood tree...
Teasing her doggy
Sunrise... just before the little ones wake for homeschool and after the older ones have gone on the bus.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Learning from other farmers

I'm the sort of person who learns best from seeing how other people do it, so I was thankful to have the opportunity to visit our friends'  farm.  They have Jacob sheep, along with a whole menagerie of other animals.  We had some chickens we needed to cull from our flock, and our friends offered to give them a place to live out their days without the kids needing to worry they'd be eaten.  We had planned to process them so we could have some extra meat, but it didn't work out...I sort of chickened out (haha) when I was faced with the reality of killing an animal I had saved far too many times from our three legged dog, and who was easily distinguished from the other birds.

I have since decided that if I am to process chickens for meat, I will have many of the same type, so that they would not be distinguishable from one another.  Anyway, the afternoon was a nice one, once we managed to catch the chickens we were giving away, and saved our little black banty from the insane dog yet another time.  

We went out to our friend's farm and saw how much of a real live farm it really is.  They have Dutch Highland cattle, pigs, geese, ducks, many, many chickens, peafowl, guinea hens, rabbits and Jacob sheep.  Like visiting someone else's home and getting good housekeeping ideas, visiting a farm and seeing how practically it's laid out gives me very good ideas, helping me to see how I too could do some of what they do.  

We plopped the chickens into their new pen and watched the banty rooster have a little scuffle with a fellow banty rooster, then back off, and we knew it would be just fine.  Our friends showed us how they keep predators out of their pens:  it's a simple little solar powered device called Nite Guard with a red blinking light that goes on at night.  To predators like raccoon and opossoms, it looks like the eyes of another animal, and they will avoid it.  Our friends have only had an attack from a bobcat who managed to drop into the pens from the trees.  What a simple and great idea.  I think we'll implement it eventually since we lost 3 chickens this winter to raccoons.  
A hard boiled quail egg
Our friends also have their quail and rabbits in cages, suspended in a covered area so that it's easy to gather the droppings and the animals are protected from predators.  I have seen this idea before, but I am not sure I'm ready to have such vulnerable creatures quite yet.  But the quail were so adorable, and we were given quail eggs as a thank you for the chickens.  They taste just like little chicken eggs and are used often in asian cuisine.    Our friends also keep pigs for just less than a year at a time, supplementing their diet with tortillas from the local tortilla factory in the summers, and giving them lots of feed through the winter, though they can be raised on pasture in addition.  

And the kids got to hold baby lambs.  Our friends' Jacob sheep ewe had just had them the previous week, and at birth weights of 5 and 7 pounds, they were still pretty tiny.  They looked like fuzzy little holsteins!  Jacob sheep are a heritage breed of sheep, dating back to biblical times, when Jacob asked for his father in law's speckled sheep and goats as his wages.  As a result, he actually became very wealthy.   God had seen the way his father in law had swindled him several times, and so he blessed the flocks with lots and lots of speckled sheep and goats.

The Jacob sheep wool is beautiful to work with...it's very soft, (at least the lamb's wool they gave me last year was) and you have white fiber to dye and black if you want to spin it in its natural color.  I've been enjoying using it for needle felting, but I'd like to make some yarn out of it.

It was a lovely afternoon, and I'm thankful for all we learned, and the simple ideas we can implement on our little hobby farm, hopefully making it more sustainable and productive.