I hope this Thanksgiving week finds you all well and healthy! This holiday season is definitely a bit different from the past isn't it? I'm finding myself, well first surprised that it is already here. In addition feeling a bit less frenetic. I won't be out doing a lot of in person shopping but will instead be hunting down small businesses I can buy from online. Meanwhile Mitch has been busy hanging Christmas lights which will certainly add some holiday spirit to the air. Oh and I'm so glad to see that there are endless cheesy Hallmark-esque movies I can watch on Netflix. My favorite for knitting and spinning!
But back to last week. We headed on a quick day trip to Portland so that Mitch could work on some upkeep at our property up there. Meanwhile I made a trip just down the road (literally) to what was once the place that they used to do the wool washing for Pendleton. I love this place. This is my third or fourth visit and everytime I learn more about wool from Keith, Dan and Allen, the guys who run the facility. I have of course gone thru the building before with them, but this time I recorded and have shared some of the videos in Episode 2 of the Being Ewethful video podcast. If you'd like to see, please follow this link and check it out.
I thought I would expand on the trip here on the blog...
From the moment I drive in I get giddy with excitement. You drive around the back of this big building and there you see a sign painted on the outside "Columbia Wool" with an arrow leading you. The office is just up the stairs and I am always greeted with such a welcome from these guys. And of course, we talk wool! Getting a chance to talk with professionals with such long histories in this industry is an inspiration for me and I always try to take in everything they say. All three of them are able to class wool - classing is a way of sorting wool into different levels of fineness or microns - which is a skill all its own. They all worked here at Pendleton when the scouring mill was operational and have such stories.
As we go on our tour I can't help but put all the pieces of equipment back in there place and imagine what it would have been like. The conveyers overhead moving wool to and fro. Employees all around running the machines. And the level of noise as all the machines were doing their jobs. It is such a big impressive building that it brings me joy to think of it fully operational.
These days the facility is used for a couple purposes. One is that it is a place where local shepherds and shearers come to sell their raw wool. As Keith mentioned, most of the local wool that is dropped off is not enough quantity to fill one bale. So one of their jobs is to sort thru the wool, class it and re-bale it for cleaning. They are looking for white wool only so any other natural colored wool is immediately pulled. The reason for white wool is that it dyes up easily and uniformly.
After being skirted thru, the re-baled wool is shipped to Texas for scouring (washing). This used to be the main job of this facility. Years ago the scouring ceased happening here. The main reason being that water is expensive (I can attest to that given the business I used to own down the street!). Both the amount used and the output. And of course all that is put back out in the water is closely monitored and charged accordingly. The wool soaps, the lanolin, the debris are all taken into account. The long and short of it is that the cost to clean the wool at the facility became more than the cost to ship all the wool by trucks to a scouring facility in Texas. So that is how it is done now. Actually most of the wool scouring in our country is done in Texas. After it is clean the wool is shipped back to the facility in Portland and/or the two mills in Washougal, WA or Pendleton, OR.
In addition to overseeing the movement raw wool to and fro, this site in Portland is also where most of the wool from around the world is shipped to. The main countries that they receive their wool from are Australia, New Zealand and South America. The main reasons they are importing wool is that it is hard for them to get enough of the wool they are looking for in the US. They need very low vegetable matter as well as branding paint-free white wool (a paint is often sprayed on the backs of sheep to denote whom the sheep belong too). Apparently the wool out of Australia has only 0.1% vegetable matter. Now that is low! The reason it is so low is that they are mainly out on large pastures with shorter grass which keeps vegetable matter and mud to a minimum.
As you walk the building you are surrounded by massive bales of wool. Each bale is stamped with the grade of wool inside and it all will be used for different Pendleton products. The finer end (lower micron count and softer) is generally used for their mens shirts and other next to skin apparel. The courser wools go towards items such as blankets.
As for what I bought. I got one beautiful fine wool fleece that I hope to crack into this weekend for a bit more skirting. I'm not sure what I will do with this fleece? Play most likely! I also bought another secret batch of wool which I'll let you in on in a few weeks.
So there you have it. A little more about my trip. They do accept visitors but during the pandemic and out of respect I would advise that you call ahead first. Also you must WEAR A MASK!!!
As always thank you for reading. And now for watching too! Please be safe this holiday week. Do a lot of making and when you are out and about please wear a mask! Until next week, craft on!
Hey everyone! I didn't forget you over here on the blog. I took last week off so that I could get the first Being Ewethful video podcast up on YouTube. If you haven't had a chance to watch it yet, please pop over to the Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill channel or follow the link whenever you have time. In the first episode I talk a bit about my journey to owning the Mill. As well as a bit about the Jacob sheep breed and wool as well as some knitting and spinning of course. And finally take you on a quick tour of the Mill. My reason for doing the podcast is two-fold. One reason is to allow people regular access to what it is like to own a mill, how the process happens and of course lots of videos showing how it all works. Another reason is to get a chance to reach out and show to you all some our yarns and fibers, introduce new products and show you how I use them in my crafts. And finally I get to talk about wool! How I source it, how it behaves for processing and how using locally sourced fibers is a sustainable and natural option. So I guess there are a lot of reasons! Oh yeah, and I miss you all and thought this was one way to reach out and connect. I plan to put out a podcast every two weeks (the next one will be released Tuesday November 24th) so if you like the first one, please don't forget to "like" it, subscribe to our channel so you know when new ones are released, and please comment with questions or things you'd like to see. And thank you for all the different ways you support me, the mill, and our farm family.
It has been a bit since I did a farm update so I thought I would let you know what has been going on lately. First and foremost harvest and planting are over the year. Wahoo!!! On the grass seed farm the guys are mainly working on winter projects - fixing things that broke during the summer, clean-up, hauling seed in for cleaning and fabricating new items they hope to have for next year. Mitch gets to be around our place more which doesn't mean that he is sitting around. I'm actually not sure that he knows what that is? Any moment there is daylight, wait no, he'll work outside in the dark. Ok any moment it is dry out, wait no, he'll work in the pouring down rain. Ok how about any moment until I call him in for dinner (which is late in our house) he is out working on the property. There is always more to do, or repairs to make. We have one last pasture space that has yet to be fenced so that is the big outside goal. Then we will have 5 total pastures and since we generally run the animals in 3 pastures at a time, this will allow for some field rotation which in turn allows the empty pastures time to rest and regenerate.
Last week I sent my last foster for the year back to the Humane Society. She was actually an adult cat that had an owner which is why I didn't post any pictures. She was a McKenzie fire cat so while she has parents, they no longer have a home. Many volunteers are helping to house these cats (and dogs) while people get their bearings. If you have an urge to donate Greenhill Humane Society is always taking donations of food, money, and animal items to help shelter and disaster recovery animals.
I was so sad to see her go, but somehow one thing settles around here and the next takes its place. Within a few days of dropping off the foster, June the pony started having foot issues. She is not the most spritely horse given her old age and previous neglect, but this week she stopped letting me pick (clean) her hooves which is abnormal for her. I finally realized that the foot she was letting me get to was the one actually hurting her. She was holding it up for me because she didn't want to bear weight on it. Ooof, not good when you are the size she is. So out came the vet who diagnosed her with a very bad infection inside her hoof caused by who knows what. A massive round of antibiotics later and she is on the mends. It was a very rough couple days as her response to the meds was slow. She still has a mild limp but is getting much better and moving about the pasture again. We'll be keeping a close eye on her and hoping we don't need more medications. Hoping for the obvious reasons but also because she was SOOO stubborn about taking those meds. I can tell you we went thru a lot of applesauce!
We've also recently had a visit from the "alpaca doctor." Time for bi-annual check-ups, deworming and toe nail trimmings. They all behaved so well until our last girl Khaleesi. If they all behaved, what fun would it be right? All are in great health and definitely not underfed!
Meanwhile we moved the ewes that we are breeding back into their old pasture with the other ewes and wethers (castrated males). I think they are relieved to get away from the boys! The rams meanwhile seem quite happy to be back together. They are brothers and have always been together except for the month here and there for breeding. They love their time with the girls but after awhile they start head butting the fence between themselves in hopes of knocking it down. Oh Brothers!
While moving sheep around we started back into trimming hooves and deworming them all. Mitch and I both have backs that do not love the postures necessary to do this so we tend to break it up doing 4 or so each week. Slow going but we get it done and don't break ourselves in the process. Plus it keeps us in check so I don't go too breeding crazy with the ewes!
The last big thing around the home farm is that we have started letting the big dogs, ElsieMae and Cash, into the house when we are home. They used to be limited to the den and of course endless outdoor space but in an effort to keep the inside space less muddy we are keeping them in more during the winter which means they need a bit more people time. Or so my guilt thinks anyway. They are loving it! Really they are mostly loving the cats and the opportunity to try to catch falling food while I cook. They are doing amazingly well and on nice days still enjoy being outside keeping an eye on out for predatory birds and chasing squirrels.
So that is the latest on the farm update. The winter rain is here which means its time to tuck in and knit right?!!!! Do any of you have winter projects to keep yourself busy during this very weird year?
Thank you for reading. And maybe even watching! Take care, stay healthy and craft on!!!
What a week so far. I think no matter what side of this you are on - and how sad is it that this truly feels like sides - the anxiety going into this election and now having worst case happen, where it is dragging on for days, is pulling us all down.
This got me to thinking about my history of anxiety knitting. Anxiety and depression when I couldn't knit much, and now knitting as a way to relieve my anxiety. So I wanted to share a bit about my knitting history! I learned to knit years ago from my Mom. She would pick up her knitting throughout the years, generally to knit scarves or the occasional baby blanket. She is also a quilter and her crafts seem to switch pretty hard when I was younger, not necessarily overlap. So I'm sure my bits of knitting followed her cycles.
I really picked up knitting again about 11 years ago while I lived in Portland when I took a class at a local yarn shop on knitting a hat. Since I knew only the very basics this class was great as it solidified some of the skills I had and taught me knew ones. It also taught me the fun of knitting with others. Once I had that first hat knit I was on a roll, or so I thought. I believe I have mentioned that I worked a lot when I owned my old business in Portland. Like a lot! It turns out that besides feeling like I needed to work that much, it was also a way for me to deal with some of my unhappiness which when I was home smacked me right in the face. I remember vividly getting home from a long day at work and furiously sweeping the house. During my anxiety clean that night I thought to myself "maybe I should sit down and knit?" And my response to myself was "well that is stupid, what am I going to do, knit a hat? What difference does it make if I knit a hat?" And I kept cleaning.
I was in therapy at the time and soon began to realize that those feelings of pointlessness were my unhappiness and depression showing themselves. It took a lot of big life changes to get me thru that period and lucky for me knitting came along for the ride. I soon began to realize that "the point" of knitting for me was not only to make an object, it was a form of self care. A way to literally make myself sit down, be creative and just let my mind wander a bit.
It very much still is a form of self-care for me and so much more. I love the finished garments I make, I love the community I am in and I absolutely love having a craft that allows me time to sit, make and breathe. I have often said if I had as much patience with knitting as I have with the rest of my life, how amazing would that be? A girl can dream! Over the years one of our running gauges of my anxiety is that Mitch will say, "where's your knitting?" (wink wink) for those moments he can tell I need to sit. Occasionally I still have times where I think "what is the point" and I am finding them seeping in a bit more as I have become officially peri-menopausal (you guys may as well know it all!!!). The thing is now I can hear myself having these thoughts and realize that in these moments I absolutely must sit and knit or spin.
I'll finally circle back to this week. My anxiety is thru the roof. And so I knit on. I knit thru election night, I knit thru last night and sadly it looks like another solid knit night ahead. Admittedly I have done a fair amount of ripping, but that's ok, it is all part of the process.
And what about you all? Are you finding yourself still able to find comfort in your craft this week? Have you leaned in harder on making or found yourself putting it down unable to concentrate?
I'd love to hear from you about you are feeling and how you are making helps you! Thank you for reading and commenting. Take care all and stay healthy!
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill, along with my husband Mitch - my steadfast supporter, enabler, grass seed farmer, maintenance guy and all around love of my life! Visit the Mill's website for more about us and well, to shop for fiber of course! ewethfulfiberfarm.com