The Simply Perfect Gift

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When I was very young, perhaps five or six,  I received a gift.  It was a homemade box that my Great Uncle Lee had made me.  It was rectangular, small, but big enough to hide candies, or photos, or pens, or whatever treasures I should encounter.  It had a picture of me on the front with a little frame.  My small fingers could easily unclasp the latch to peer inside.   Such a simple gift but such a meaningful one.  In the world of mass marketing and advertising, in a world of throw away and break easy gifts, what a magnificent gift that box was.

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I thought of this as I painted a plain box.  I needed a box to hold sacred feathers in.  I picked up one at Michael’s that was plain and unfinished.  I suppose one could easily build one, but I have never been one to build anything easily.  I painted it a lovely turquoise.  I thought a white silhouette of a feather painted on top would be striking but it turned out looking spindly and unfinished.  Emily took the box from me and properly painted on a feather.  Perfect.  I could add a clasp or a ribbon to hold it shut but it closes so that is enough for me.

A box given as a gift, carefully embellished or painted.  Decoupaged photographs on front or vintage newspaper, painted flowers or magical glitter, all depending on whom the box is meant for, is a personalized gift.  A mother might have hers filled with photos or letters or notes of appreciation.  A graduate may have a journal and a bit of cash added.  A child may have a tokens of treasure or an empty box for the imagination.  Goodness, a box has infinite possibility.  A decorated box is a perfect gift.

A Whir of Creativity

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The old clock ticks from the mantle. The tea is ready. The sun is going down in the west through the snow clouds. The light is luminescent and warm despite the chill. I am oddly, most strangely content here. I would never believe it so. A Farmgirl in an apartment?

It is as if I have not breathed in years. I awake without any trace of anxiety, without any fear. Just joy. Peace. A funny feeling of mirth and prosperity though fifteen dollars is to my name. I walk around this place and feel nothing but happiness. The cream colored walls, tints of sunshine, and creamy carpets, plush beneath my feet, all bring me joy. The stone fireplace, the view, the kitchen, the walk in closet, the huge tub, a vacation designed to bring me back to my true self and respite much needed after years of toiling. I am in my element.

There is no cable television. No internet. No plugs buzzing with chargers or surge protectors filled to capacity with this cord or that. There is only the sound of…Peace. Nothing to distract from my own thoughts.

My, this place has charged me. I finished a book I have been working on for seven months last night. I flipped over an uneventful grilled cheese and poured a glass of wine to celebrate. Doug closes most nights and I am alone more so than I ever have been. My creativity is positively overflowing.   Two books finished and three more being revised and re-released. Class ideas. Ideas for everything come flowing from my fingertips and the house is a whirl of creative smoke and untidiness until it passes.

 

How to Make Your Own Witchhazel

 

IMG_2302I held the bottle of witchhazel in my hands at the store and wondered why it was clear.  Plant extracts are never clear!  There are pigments in plants.  I decided to make my own.  That was years ago and my face wash in my shop was one of my best sellers.  It is astringent without being drying.  It clears skin.  It heals up wounds.  It works as deodorant.  It has many uses.  So, are you ready to see how easy it is to make?  Here is my recipe.

You will need 4 Tablespoons of either witch hazel bark or leaf.  If using to heal varicose veins (yes, topically it does this) then get the bark.  If you are not lucky enough to have it growing by you (it does not grow in Colorado) then you will need to order some.  mountainroseherbs.com or starwest_botanicals.com are both good sources.

Place the 4 Tablespoons in a pint canning jar.  At this point I like to add other herbs.  Calendula, lavender, and roses are all lovely on the skin.  Goldenseal and arnica could be added for wounds.  Nettle for bug bites.  Yarrow could be added for veins.  A fresh leaf of aloe.  Maybe 2 Tablespoons total of extra herbs.  It doesn’t really matter, you can’t mess it up!

Now pour vodka over the herbs leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Yes, all extracts whether in shampoo or witch hazel are indeed alcohol based.  Alcohol is what pulls the plant medicines from the plant.  Screw on lid and label what you put in it and the date.  You will likely forget, trust me!

Place in window for two weeks, shaking when you see it.  Now the base is complete.

It is important to cut this extract as it would be too strong for the skin.  1 part base to 3 parts water will make a lovely extract.  Add some essential oils and make your own face wash/deodorant.  This is a great gift.  Add aloe or a tea of chamomile and comfrey for a wound healer.  Use in a spray bottle with essential oils to make a room spray.  Or a facial spray.

Witchhazel is a wonderful thing to keep on hand.  Now that you see how easy it is to make I hope you will whip up a batch!

 

 

Smudging 101, Deer Visitors, and the 10%

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There is a Talking Circle at my shop the first Sunday of each month.  Not really church, just a place to be with others and pray traditionally with Native influences and customs.  This last Sunday we talked about focusing our energies on the 10%.  90% of what we worry about is what the media tells us about, world issues, family issues, and many, many things that we have absolutely no control over.  As we focus more and more on the 90% we lose track of the 10% of things we can control and our gifts that we carry that can assist in this world.  Focusing on the 90% leads to anxiety and depression and helplessness.

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Last night I felt an overwhelming sense of desperation and helplessness.  How can we possibly afford anything in the state that has the newly highest cost of living?  How can we survive?  How can we stay near our babies if we had to move?  and on and on with scenarios that may or may not exist.  I went to sleep early as slumber will renew me and oft give me answers.  I woke up renewed.

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Within the realms of the 10% I can choose my back up plan in case we cannot get the large farm.  I could very well be an urban homesteader while making a difference in a career.  The career that I would be best in (in my opinion) is teaching young adults.  So, I relooked at my curriculum choices for school with a renewed sense of purpose.  I will let things unfold naturally, while saving money, since I cannot see the future.  No matter how hard I try.  Meanwhile I call on strength from the Great Spirit and the Directions.  This is how to smudge (prayers and blessing).

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Traditionally Cherokee prayer herbs would consist of Sweet grass to renew positive energy, Sage to rid negative energy, Tobacco as an offering to the Great Spirit, and Cedar as an offering to the spirits; animal, plant, and the deceased.  In a pottery bowl (heat proof) place the herbs desired and light.  Using a feather to spread the smoke around a room, over thyself, or in the Four Directions.  Any feather will do.

We call on the spirit of the East direction for strength and hope and faith.  We give thanks to the Creator for all the things in our lives and our own life.  We thank Grandfather Sun for rising each morning and providing warmth and light. 

We call on the spirit of the South for childlike wonder and awe, for lessons, and we thank our four legged brethren for providing us with companionship, food, and clothing, and to the plants for giving of themselves for food and medicine.

We call on the spirit of the West for strength, health, and endurance.  We give thanks to our ancestors for guiding us and praying for us.

We call on the spirit of the North for calm and wisdom.  We thank the north for rain and snow, for lessons learned, and for peace and breath.

We call on the spirit of the sky (galun’lati), to the star people and Grandmother moon for protection and inspiration.

We call on the spirit of the Mother Earth (alohi)for caring for us, for her life, therefore our life as we pledge to be more careful with her.

We are thankful for the ceremonial fire as our prayers are taken upward on the smoke and carried on the winged ones’ feathers and for our connection with all around us. 

We draw the smoke over ourselves that we will have a clear heart, a love for all, and will do things in the right way. 

And as my breath and peace came forth, the beautiful deer (ahwi) came to see me.

Wishing you peace and less worries….ehmenah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Homeschooled Mama (and clever flash cards)

 

IMG_2136I believe homeschooled children have moms that have always homeschooled themselves.  A desire to learn.  A desire for knowledge.  Boredom sets in, we grab a book.  I think I loved homeschooling my children so much, and now giving my granddaughter, Maryjane, a head start because I, myself, love to learn so much.

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Losing my farm was devastating in as much as I was losing the ability to practice what I had learned and in learning new skills as it was waving good bye to my adorable sheep.  Homeschoolers get bored easily.  Homeschooling mamas are the worst.  I cannot simply relax with a novel and a cup of tea for more than five minutes.  I must continue to fill my mind with wondrous and new ideas.  And the obsession!  Homeschooling folk are obsessive in their thirst for more information.  We want to learn something?  We need to learn everything about it.

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I was the child that would ask folks at church and school if they could teach me.  I am indebted to the substitutes, church and community members, and teachers that would spend precious off hours to teach me.  I learned braille, sign language, a bit of Japanese when I was entertaining a modeling contract in Japan, a small amount of Spanish while living on the west side, and six years of French.  I do wish I had a better memory!  So, now I am learning Cherokee.  It is not a Latin base so therefore the hardest language I have ever laid eyes on.  And it fuels my need to learn something.

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For my learning friends out there, I found a way to use up those excess envelopes.  There are always extras from stationary and cards.  Turn them into flash cards.  Write what you want on the flap and the answer underneath the flap.  Then reuse by putting a word on the front and the answer on the back.  The Martha Stewart in me finds them prettier than boring old 3×5 notecards.  The environmentalist in me likes to see these envelopes being used.  And the homeschooler loves to see how they can be transformed into a new world.

Keep learning out there, Folks.

The Medicine Gatherer and The White Wolf

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I will be participating in an art show October 2nd-4th and wanted to get a few more paintings done.  One never knows what the artwork will look like at the end.  It is a creation of its own and I always look forward to seeing what comes to life on the canvas.

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I started by using the frame of my beautiful friend, Tabby, who was recently married.

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And from there the medicine gatherer came to life.

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If this painting doesn’t sell at the art show it will be hanging in my new shop.  A name was chosen.  Doug thought The Farmgirl Store but I imagined that folks would come in expecting alpaca yarn and zucchini.  I had thought of The White Wolf but then didn’t think too much about it until the next day.  I was recording memories and ceremonies for a very good friend of mine who said, “What do you think about calling it The White Wolf?”

Grammie School

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It used to be referred to as “Mommy School”.  That is what Andy used to call it.  He loved workbooks and extra reading.  We loved to visit museums, art galleries, and book stores.  This was when he was five or six.  He would tell his teacher all about Mommy School.

But time found us getting busier and I with three little ones and Mommy School was limited.  When after a year of high school and Andy struggling out of lack of interest I decided to homeschool all three of them.  We visited the teacher supply store and went crazy buying workbooks and educational toys and various items like stickers. (Gosh, who doesn’t like stickers?)

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Andy was fifteen, Shyanne was twelve, and Emily was eleven so their interests and levels were different so as we made our way through we became more of “unschoolers”.  Unschooling is when each kid devours every topic they love, whether it be cooking or pirates.  In each topic they learn valuable skills such as reading, writing, spelling, history, science, and math.  They also have time to indulge in arts and music.  Because they were home with us they also learned what we deemed important, not the slanted school system’s ideas.  They learned about herbalism, animals, agriculture, our ideas on spirituality and they were left to fill in the blanks for themselves.  They were able to make their own paths with a well rounded base.

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Andy went off to college and the girls felt amiss.  They wanted to try the small high school in town.  Shyanne, my socialite, loved it, thrived in it, and graduated.  Emily went back briefly but found herself unhappy in the school system and then learned she was with child so she reverted back to homeschooling pretty quickly.  I enjoyed homeschooling my children and I believe they are intelligent adults that were more realistic about the world out there then children just graduating from traditional high school.

Now, I have my first grandchild here four days a week while mom and dad work.  It is my greatest honor and profound joy.  In many cultures the grandmother is put in charge of the children’s well being, growth, and education.  These grandmothers hold the wisdom of half a life or more and tend to have more patience.  Maryjane is a special child.  When she was six months old we attended the funeral of Shyanne’s best friend who had committed suicide and the depth of sorrow was intense.  As I would approach people Maryjane would put her hand on their face as if she were trying to comfort.

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She is a bit of a wild child, the child that usually comes last, the one that has so much life bubbling forth that her parents want a nap!  She is also highly intuitive.  She has the same healing gifts that run through my family.  It is obvious even though she is only two years old.  She eats wild herbs and helps me make medicine.  She comforts those that are upset.  But she “knows” things too.  We were to meet Emily and Maryjane at the coffee shop the other day.  Maryjane started to yell, “Pa! Pa!”

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“Grammie and Pa aren’t here yet,” Emily replied.  About a minute later we pulled into the turning lane to get into the parking lot.  Emily was a little shocked.

“If you send her to school they will squash this little girl’s spirit,”  I lamented.

“I wasn’t planning on sending her to school.”

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Oh, happy day.  Emily and I will be homeschooling that amazing child.  Four days a week (depending on the kids’ schedules) we will be having the raucous event called “Grammie School”.

Daydreams of workbooks and drawing pads and finely sharpened pencils danced in my head then I realized that I am already homeschooling.  Learning doesn’t begin at age four and end at eighteen or twenty-two.  We have already begun.

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Here are five ways to teach a little one:

  1. Count- everything I hand the baby I count.  Here are some mullein flowers to put in the pot.  One, two, three, four, five…She now tells people she is five.  She can’t put them in order, but she can randomly sing, “one, five, nine, three, six…”
  2. Spell- Dad, d-a-d, is on his way!  I don’t spell everything we say, I would annoy myself, but she is really in tune to simple words.  Pa, p-a, Mom, m-o-m.  She has no idea what we are talking about yet but the letters stick in her little head.  She sure surprised her mom by writing D-A-D on her arm!
  3. Point out everything.  Birds, trees, flowers, dogs, coffee, books, people, cars, rain, everything.  These babies are sponges and they will remember all of these things in detail.  It is terribly sad to me that so many parents I see just set their kids in a corner and ignore them.  They just “get through” until the next stage.  Babies being lugged around in car seats instead of being held.  Perhaps it is a grandmother’s perspective to see that children grow quickly and time is so precious.  These little ones cannot be all they aspire to without nearly constant attention and guidance.
  4. Teach them about animals.  Teach them not to be afraid of animals.  The kids used to have friends come over to the house that were terrified of our cats!  A child that knows animals, speaks to animals, is gentle with animals, and who is well versed in the various kinds of animals naturally grows to be a more compassionate and gentle child and adult.
  5. Read- read, read, read!  Read labels, books, magazines, signs, and fill the child’s head full of adventures and stories.  Give them a love for reading early.  Visit the library, read to them on your lap, just read.  This is special time for the child and for you and the libraries will forever hold a place in that child’s heart.

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There are many more things, manners, cooking, chores, things that we have Maryjane do as well, but the above five are easy and effective ways to homeschool whether one chooses to send their child to school or not.  There is always the opportunity to reach out to a child and make a difference in their self-esteem and in their learning.

Picking Personas (and cookin’)

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I knew it wouldn’t be long before I came up with another hair brained scheme.  It would take awhile to institute it and I have no idea how to make it happen but I do have a dream of a type of supper club.  Whether it be at a restaurant after hours or in our home once a month I can’t be sure.  It would include no more than three tables, very romantic, beautiful music, set five course meal for one price.  Wine pairings would be included and the meal would end with one of my daughter, Shyanne’s amazing baked confections.  All housemade specialties, local and seasonal produce and ingredients, nothing artificial, everything perfectly seasoned and paired.

I am not sure how so much complexity and personas can be in one person.  How can I be just as fascinated with being a mountain mama hermit as I am a high profile sommelier?  I am as comfortable in long dresses and old fashioned aprons as I am in stilettoes and a pencil skirt.  I love the entertainment of the city as well as the old farm truck and chickens in the country life.  I am a talented herbalist, have learned from shamans over the years, love food and wine and entertaining as well as gardening and chickens too.  I have taught, modeled, danced, and owned a quaint little shop.  I devour Country Living magazine and Food and Wine magazine each month with the same intensity.  Surely these things can all culminate into one lifestyle and profession?  Which persona to choose?  The vagabond hippie?  The chef that carries truffle oil around everywhere?  The music pastor?  The shaman/herbalist?  The food critic?  The housewife hermit?  Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes if we were a smidge simpler in design?

I was walking past a restaurant that is locally owned by a man that I have done farmer’s markets with for years.  We started the same time, sold similar products for a time, quit our jobs at the same time, moved to the country at the same time, now he still does lots of markets and runs a restaurant.  As with all the roving vendors at the market we had a bit of a love/hate relationship and hearty competitive nature as well as a reverent respect for each other’s craft.

Mark walked out of the restaurant and directly towards me and asked if I would like to cook at the restaurant.  I said no because I heard he yelled.

“Are you going to yell at me?” I asked.  He replied that he could not promise that he wouldn’t.  I told him that I cry if yelled at then throw sh#t. (Maybe I have been watching too much Hell’s Kitchen.)  He said fine.  I also told him I would be the worst employee because I never know my daughter’s schedule until the last minute and don’t know when I would be able to work.

“That’s fine,” he replied again.

I start Tuesday.

Building With Cob (a Basic How-To)

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Yesterday I took you with me to tour an enchanting homestead belonging to my friends, Niko and Brandi and their lovely girls.  Niko is a cobb builder by trade.  He owns the Colorado Cob Company.  He can build anything from a chicken coop to a two story house.  I’ll give you all of his information at the end so you can contact him to make you something wonderful for your homestead.

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These aren’t precise directions since I was talking with folks the whole time I was there but I was so intrigued by this form of building.  If you have been following my writings for some time you know that Doug and I have a great love of New Mexico and adobe structures.  Adobe is made by taking this same formulation and drying it in large bricks.  Cob is more freeform.

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Niko started with a 5 gallon bucket of clay that he sourced from a job site in town where someone was digging out a basement.  He added a 5 gallon bucket of sand (purchased and salvaged off of craigslist from the flooding in the area last year).

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The mix was sifted by hand to eliminate any large clumps or foreign objects like glass or nails.

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One person on each side shook the tarp, folded it, stepped on it quickly and then the next person would fold it, give it a stomp until it was combined.

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Then the fun began.  A well was made in the center of the dirt and water from the hose added to the middle.  Then children and adults alike stomped in the mud to create a pudding like consistency.

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More water was added and a person on each side repeated the process of folding and stomping.

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They did this until the form freely fell away from the tarp and looked like a burrito!  Doug and Chris were on the other side of the crowd chatting.  I could just see the ideas over yonder bubbling from them.  It will be great fun building our chicken coop and bread oven and whatever else they dream up.

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Straw was added in fine layers so not to allow clumps and this too was stomped in.  This creates a network of strength throughout the clay and sand medium.

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The children had so much fun blending with their feet.  The mix is done when straw can be seen in any clump that is taken off but no thick masses of straw.  It must be all well combined.

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The cob is added over a heavy foundation of large stones and then can be blended over wood outlines and mesh.  For an example he used a large stone by the garden.  Folks helped to blend balls of clay on top of each other using a slip if necessary to moisten and bits of straw to help blend.  A stick can be employed to help blend two masses together.  They created a fun little cat goddess.  The entire batch only made the cat goddess about a foot and half high.  So for large projects a cement mixer or other large piece of machinery may be used.

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The cob is left to dry a few days then a plaster is added.  A five gallon bucket of slip (a blend of clay and water to make a thin paint-like consistency and left to sit for two weeks stirring daily) is poured through two screens into a container.  A shovel is used to sift it though the strainers.

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Sand is then sifted through a screen and once a five gallon bucket’s worth is sifted it is added to the slip mixture in the container.

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A five gallon bucket of horse manure is added to the mix.  Shovels and a giant mixer is used to blend it into plaster.

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Niko through a ball of the plaster against the house as a demonstration of its solidity.

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This will be added to the cob structure to create a more protected structure.

Cob building is a project that allows the homesteader to make affordable structures that are unique and artistic.  But also allows the participant to play in the mud!

Colorado Cob Company (click name to be taken to website)

Nikolai Woolf

719-510-7566

He also offers classes and hands on workshops for any sized project!

Spinning My Wheels- Take 2 (from fluff to fiber)

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Jill’s friend was selling a spinning wheel.  I told myself I should not be spending so much money.  She had a carder available too.  Both of them were the same price I paid for my spinning wheel two years ago and each had only been used twice.  I figured that if we are crazy enough to jump off this cliff and give this homesteading full time thing a go, then we should just jump full out and see what happens.  If I fail it won’t be because I was five hundred bucks short.

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Do you recall my story?  Two years ago I bought a spinning wheel and two alpacas with the hopes of getting sheep.  Doug termed the name PackyWoo and we were going into the yarn business.  I had trouble getting the hang of spinning and was so frazzled at the time that I didn’t have the patience to learn.  The alpacas were not friendly and kicked, at about visiting kid height.  We were not able to sell them and lost all of that money.  We sold the spinning wheel for less than we paid.  It was a heartbreaking bust.  I didn’t know I was getting sheep.

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My sheep are the two craziest, cutest, little line backers around.  They love to romp and play and hug and nuzzle and get scritched (yes, that is how we say it).  They make me want some more sheep.  They make me want to create the dream I had dreamt before.  Raise the animal, sheer the animal, card the wool, spin the wool, grow the plants used for dye, color the yarn, and use it to knit or crochet hats, and blankets, and shawls, and sell some gorgeous yarn too.  I understand that only having two sheep will get me roughly a pair of socks.  But, I do this stuff for the love of it, not for the profit.  If they could help bring in a little income, they are welcome to.  If they just want to be freaking adorable and brighten my day, so be it.

In the meantime, I have a spinning wheel, a carder, two month old lambs, and a dream.  What could be better?