“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”
~Henri Cartier-Bresson



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sneeking away without telling

"Farmlady is gone again, for a while. She says that she will be back next Thursday. I don't like this one bit. She needs to be here.... for us.
 Carl is behind me. He's not talking. He's got an attitude right now.
This means that until Farmlady comes home we have to let the Prospector do everything for us. Right now he is working on a shed in the backyard. We can't go out there with him because it's a big area and there might be rattlesnakes. So we get to go out in the front yard or stay inside with NOBODY to play with and no laps to sit on.
This is not a good situation for us Corgis.  Farmlady better come home soon.
This is my serious puppy face. It's suppose to get sympathy from all of Farmlady's followers.
 Please write us and make us feel better.  Love, Cutter. Woo, woo! "

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Goat and Lamb's Woolly Kind of Day

Went to our Goat Meeting on Saturday in Wilton, in the valley... to a farm I had not been to before. 
Lots of goats...
One buck that looked suspiciously like my Nubian Wether, Bart. Could it be that this handsome guy and my Bart have some shared genes? We know the same people. I bought from the same breeder.

You just have to love these Nubians... look at that face.
But, this breed (below) has a different look.

They have no ears. They are LaMancha goats and you can read about them here.  They were very curious and friendly. One followed me around the whole time we were out in the field with them. She kept rubbing against me like an old friend. She was just so lovable and cute.
Speaking of cute... Here's your "Awww!" for the day.
These baby were very reserved and keeping an eye on Mom. They wouldn't let me get too close.
But the Nubian kids (below) were falling all over themselves and being so lovable that I wanted to bring them home with me.
The "nubies" were prancing around and playing games in the sunshine. It was as if they knew just how cute they were.

Then we went to see the sheep. I was told that I could have some fleece after the shearing about a month ago. The owner said that I could have it all if I wanted it. Well....
"Baa, baa Dorset sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Fifteen bags full."
(Please forgive the adaptation of the old nursery rhyme.)
I could have brought home 15 bags of wool fleece. I chose one bag..
I don't know how much is in this bag but it's a lot. It's dirty stuff..., full of lanolin, grass and sheep poop.

"Thanks ladies"
Thank ewe (I mean you) wonderful animals. You will be cooler this summer and I will learn the process of taking sheep wool from animal to artistic endeavor.
Yesterday I pulled a big hand full out of the bag and after going online to learn how to clean raw wool, I took a small bunch of this...
 ...the dirty, lanolin laden fleece of a yearling Dorset sheep....washed it (long process that I will explain later), dried it and carded it.
This is what it looks like now. Amazing!? Yes it is.
It's clean, soft and beautiful. It's ready for a felting project or spinning into yarn. But spinning means that I need to buy some spinning equipment.. and as much as I would love to have a spinning wheel, which I have no room and is very expensive,
I think my first investment will be a small drop spindle. It won't hurt to learn from scratch. The drop spindle is the oldest way of making yarn from fleece. Here's a site that explains what a drop spindle is and does.
I love the "Warning" at the top of the link page.
I haven't gotten the "spinning" bug, yet, but I sure know what happens when the" felting" bug hits. It's like no other illness. You feel great. You don't have to stay in bed and you accomplish something while you're "under the weather". The "felting" bug is rather mild except when you find yourself hunting in the corners of you're house for fur and asking friends for their dog or cat hair. I have tried to felt everything that I can possibly think of around here, including dryer fluff and dog hair. It's just ridiculous what these passions do to you. You look at animal fur in a whole new way.
Seeing this fleece go from dirty and sticky to clean and white makes me want to spend HOURS washing and drying this stuff.
 It will probably be more like DAYS of washing and drying.... but I'm game.
Someone back in ancient times looked at a sheep or goat and thought that if the fur kept an animal warm why wouldn't it work for humans too... and so the process began.
This disentanglement from modern living has been going on for a long time with me. I don't trust the future of technology. I use it and I enjoy a lot of it, but I don't trust that it will always be here.
When I wash this fleece and make felt, I feel  connected to some ancient human who lived many centuries ago, a person that  lived close to the earth and lived his or her live with what was found in nature.. It was a matter of survival for them. For me it's a connection to that tradition,  wanting to learn what they knew. Wanting to bridge that distant time when what we did mattered and life was lived elementally.
Life was harder, physically, but the process was there. I find it hard to believe that all of this technology isn't going to collapse someday in the future and I would like to think that knowing how to make clothing by felting some fibers... or fishing in a river... will come in handy. I may never have to worry about it in my lifetime, but I want to show my grandchildren how to do this, just in case.
It's also just a lot of fun.
This beautiful animal agrees. She says, "I grow this fleece every year and you can have all you want. Just let my people know that you want some and zip, zip, zip... it's all yours. I'm ready for my Mary Jane's Farm Magazine "close up" this summer. Now, all I have to do is find a shady spot, some ice tea and and a handsome leading man. I'm all set for lights, camera.... action."
You go girl!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A River, a Gold Mine and Lunch at a Friend's

Thursday was  one of those days that California is known for and why so many of us live here. Sunny, dry, and beautiful. The temperature reached, maybe 85 degrees and there was a light wind.
I had a date for lunch at a friend's house in Wallace. It's about an hours drive from our house, if you know where you're going or have been there before.
I went the back way, across the Mokelumne River and over Gwin Mine Rd. into Paloma. It was a lovely drive. Part of my late arrival was wanting to take so many pictures along the way, but I DID GET LOST.... kind of.
The Gwin Mine is for sale if you're interested.  It was a very productive gold mine back in the day and, as they say, "Gold is where you find it." You can read the history here.
I think that these old stone foundations would make a very interesting and unique house.
I drove over to Paloma and then on to Valley Springs. I had directions to my friend's house but I had never driven down this way before so, at some point,  I thought that I wasn't going the right direction. I stopped and asked an electric line man who was very nice and knew the area. He sent me on my way with a new perspective and renewed confidence.
I was only about 15 or 20 minutes late.
I arrived at "M"'s charming home and she was waiting out front with a big smile and a wave. We had ice tea on the porch while a cow grazed nearby....
She had prepared a delicious lunch which we enjoyed while talking our heads off about all kinds of things... and then I got a tour of her farm.
There is a huge storage/ workshop that I would kill for (probably not a person... but maybe a rattlesnake.) and it was organized, as this friend always is. She is a person of perfection and an artist. There is a work "area" for every artistic endeavor, shelving and places to store everything.
This is a very useful space...

AND, a BARN too....
You will never guess who was waiting inside this barn for me.  It was the brother of the Alligator Lizard that had the near death experience with my cat, Annie. (The post before this one.) This one was waiting as we walked inside and it didn't move the whole time we were in the barn. This lizard looked right at me as if to say,
" Hey, lady! Are you the owner of that cat over near Jackson who attacked my bro' and you just kept taking pictures?. I heard about you and THAT cat."
Maybe this lizard just thought he owned the place. I don't know, but it was downright spooky the way he watched me.
The barn is empty now. "M" said her horse died a while back. She showed me the stalls, the tack and the saddle. I didn't ask too many questions. I could tell that "M" didn't want to talk about the horse.
Cows were too much for she and her husband to deal with. They both worked at the time. Not enough fencing and ... just a lot of problems. Now, she only has the black and white one on the porch.
Each of these buildings, the barn and the workshop, are bigger than her house. Now that's what I call getting your priorities straight.
This is eleven acres of flat usable land and I, having lived on the edge of a cliff for fifteen years, really appreciate the fact that ALL the acreage is usable. We own 42 acres but we live on about two acres. The rest is all up and down hill like a roller coaster.
"M" has charming little vignettes on her porch that runs the length of the house and these beautiful Cymbidiums (orchids) blooming and thriving all over the place.
They're awesome.
It was a quiet, peaceful and lovely place.. just across the street from Comanche Reservoir. The closest town is called Wallace, which only has a post office. If you want to spend some money you have to drive to Valley Springs or San Andreas or... my town, Jackson... or drive down into the valley to Stockton.
I spent the afternoon and then headed back to Jackson via ...
Passing the old stone foundation again...
I thought about the history that is so ever-present in this area and how lucky I'm an to be living in such a beautiful historic part of Northern California. I just know that  there is still GOLD around here. I can smell it.
Oh, maybe that's the Broom.

The Broom bushes are thriving with all the late rain. They may grow right over the road soon.

Even the wildflowers were still showing off along the road.
I drove on, over the bridge that crosses the wide Mokelumne and headed north. I know this road well. It's the road home.
*************************
Tomorrow.... goats in Wilton and clearing the space for the potting shed.