If you have a garden, then you know that right now the pumpkins are looking like….PUMPKINS! It’s so exciting to walk among the thick green, twisting vines and large lush leaves and capture a glimpse of your favorite pumpkin growing bigger every day!
Well, the same thing has been happening in the shop since mid-July! …well, sort of! We have been creating pumpkins, and more pumpkins, and even more pumpkins, of all sizes. A customer had even custom ordered an extremely large pumpkin and we just knew it would have won the State Fair Blue Ribbon, if it had been real!
Felting and creating with beautiful colors of dyed sheep wool is so exciting; however, even more rewarding is knowing the creations will last for years! The felted pumpkins themselves were adorable as just rounded shapes of orange colored wool. But when the green highlights, stems, vines, and leaves went on, they suddenly became magical for me and I expected my fairy godmother to appear at any moment and begin singing, ” Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”
This week at the shop we have quite a few private parties booked and one regularly scheduled class all taking place with the common theme: Pumpkin Felting!! I am looking forward to watching camaraderie ignited, memories made, and treasured pumpkins taken home.
No matter how busy my schedule may be, or what other commitments I may have made, when the farm’s fruit is ready for harvest, everything else stops! The season of the different fruits (or in Italy we used to say, “Frutta di Stagione, and that meant seasonal fruit, usually for dessert) on the farm produces large yields from early spring to early fall.
With all this fruit, I make many things. But the favorite of family, friends, and customers is the delicious jams !
Strawberries, Blackberries, Peaches, Apples, and Pears all grow on the farm and all have their moment to be in the spotlight!
It just happens to now be our apple and pear harvest.
A favorite jam of mine is spiced pear. It combines the wonderfully mild taste of pear with a few strong holiday spices. The taste will leave you wishing for … another jar!
Whether your favorite jam is Strawberry, Blackberry, Peach, Apple, or Pear, there are always jars of Frutta di Stagione in the shop and waiting to go home with you!!
I felt a connection this past week with Dr. Seuss’s character in “Go, Dog, Go” when I took a large collection of my wool felted hats down to the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea.
It was a scorching hot day in July when I decided to get a jump start on the winter season and begin felting my wool hats. Each hat takes a few hours to make, but I thought I would take my time; just a hat each evening when the farm work was done.
You can imagine my surprise when with just five hats done, Berea called and asked for a selection of them. I began felting, and felting, and felting!…did I mention FELTING!?
Some with bows; some were plain. Some were blue; some color of grain!
Finally, I had what I thought was a nice selection of colors and styles. So, I wrapped each hat in tissue and loaded them into the truck.
It was a HOT August day and I was certain that even though tourist season was in full swing, the thought of anyone purchasing a wool hat for mid-winter seemed a bit far fetched.
I carried boxes and baskets with the wool hats and the felting kits (more about them later) into the Artisan Center and met with the buyers…
…minutes later, I was on my way out the door. Baskets and boxes were empty!
So, I simply ask again, “Do YOU like my hat?” The answer was obviously, “YES!”
Why is it when we were a child, time seemed to move so slowly? Was it because we were moving so quickly, or because all we had to do at the time was to enjoy the moment? Now, does time seem to pass too quickly because our bodies have slowed down, or is it because we have so much to do that suddenly there isn’t enough time in each moment, day, hour, week, or year to possibly get it all done? I have been wondering about that very idea lately because there seems to be SO much to do and not a fraction of the time available to do it in
So, during this stressful yet wonderful time of year when I am moving in so many directions all that really happens is that I’ve gone in a circle, I will stop and take time to think. I will think of all that I am thankful for and reflect on all the opportunities and friendships I have made along this crazy path that life has taken me. It has been crazy, and definitely full of speed bumps and potholes. Occasionally, I have even encountered a “road closed” sign a time or two. But, all in all, it has been a pretty amazing journey and I have been blessed with a loving family upbringing, two amazing daughters, a supportive and welcoming community, and a beautiful country that I have always been proud to call home even when I didn’t live here.
I was a Navy dependent for years and then a civilian living overseas after that. I was born in Pennsylvania, but moved to London, England when I was only six weeks old. I’ve lived in other countries such as the Philippines, Cyprus, Italy (3 different times), Spain and the US states of South Carolina, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, and finally, Kentucky
While all that was very exciting and I usually loved every moment of it, I never developed “roots”, but I always believed that – “home is where the heart is”. During those years, I was either a child with my family, a wife with my husband, or a parent with my children. Either way, I was with the people I cherished most and I did believe that home was where the heart was. Through the years I have made many friends and left many friends in all corners of the world. And on nostalgic occasions, such as Thanksgiving, I think of each of them even more; fond memories are a wonderful function of our brain.
From living in so many other countries/places and being immersed in various cultures other than my own, I gained an understanding and acceptance of people being different from how I am. Traditions and holidays from around the world have always fascinated me, and my family has incorporated many of them into our own celebrations through the years. While this has made me feel connected to the world, I still was lacking that grounded feeling, that feeling of “roots”.
When we were living overseas and would come back to the States to visit extended family and friends, I always felt a small tug of envy that the people we saw had “roots”. They could walk through their hometown and tell a story relating back years with all the same people. I could tell stories too, but my places and people always varied. I guess they were as envious of my adventures as I was of their stability.
About 14 years ago, I decided it was time to finally be grounded. No more moving from place to place; I wanted to make sure my children felt like they were from some where in particular. Although it was a lifestyle change for me, I thought I was giving my children what I’d always been longing for.
We had owned homes other places, but when I bought in Kentucky, it was different—I bought a large tract of land (just not large when compared to farms nearby). I like to think of it as our homestead! The land had been farm land prior to my purchase. I remember asking the owner what the land had been used for. Had it ever been a dump? What had they grown on the land? The list of questions was long. And, I still remember his confused look while he simply answered that he had owned the land for over fifty years and before that it had been farmed
Perimeter fencing went up even before we moved on to the land. This was more to keep our animals in than to stake my claim on the land. Whenever I say “claim the land”, I get such a visual and not necessarily a nice one…..On this Thanksgiving Day, I will pause for just a moment to let you think of the contrast with how different the settlers had been from the Native Americans.
Our land was undeveloped grassland with a very slight gentle roll. There were no trees except at the very back of the property. We had our work cut out for us; we built the farm from the bottom up. We put in paddocks, built run-ins, plowed a garden, planted an orchard, built the home and then landscaped. It has been a long progress and one that probably will never be completed – there will always something to do.
But while the trees, shrubs, and all other plants were beginning to grow roots, and become established, I felt the same thing happening for me. Finally I had a place that I called home. I had never had that before. In the past when asked where I was from, I just always said, “Well, I was born in Pennsylvania but left for England when I was six weeks old.” Now, I had the farm. And the dogs, horses, llamas, and sheep living with us are all our pets.
My “roots” must be developing and nurturing well, because a new “leaf” has just opened up. The wool mini-mill opened this past July. It is a passion more than a job, but it is definitely a new chapter in my life and one that I couldn’t be more happy about. It is also something I can share with my daughters, now or whenever they are ready.
Each new generation should go forth, learn new things, meet new people, see the world, and gain a richer appreciation of life. One daughter has hiked from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail and then set off to hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail to raise money for the research on Lyme Disease. My other daughter is attending graduate school in the United Kingdom and is experiencing what it is like to be the different one in a group. She thinks she relives scenes from “My American Cousin” daily.
Even though they are independent, long for adventure and to see the world, I know the farm, their homestead, the wool mill, and their mother will call to them and eventually they will return home. But in the meantime, “Home is where the heart is.”
One of the most difficult things for me to face each year is winter. Days grow shorter, nights colder, hillsides browner, and skies bleaker. And yet, I love autumn! I am amazed with the changing colors of my world- the leaves, grasses, sky and sunsets. I love to hear the brisk breezes rustle through piles of crisp leaves and watch as it swirls them into the air. I love to breathe in the air of the clear, cold nights and believe that the stars are closer and even brighter than they are all summer. I love to smell hot soups simmering on the stove and hay stacked in the barn. I look forward to apple picking, pear picking, and finally… grass mowing becoming non-existent.
Throughout the fall months, the animals’ coats become thicker and their colors more vibrant as the sun’s intensity dwindles and the color is no longer bleached. I usually chide myself that I haven’t shorn the sheep that final sheering in late summer when I see them seeking a shady spot rather than joining the llamas and horses basking in the fall sun.
How cruel and quickly winter can come upon us though. Sneaking in as autumn attemps to hold onto the last of the warm days and nights. It is during this time, when cold precipitation comes in the form of icy rain and temperatures hover in the low 40s, that I am the most nervous about the impending winter.
So much preparation needs to be set into place in order to face winter and all that it brings. We don’t routinely blanket the horses, but it is imperative that the blankets are clean, repaired, and easy to find in a pinch. That usually means in the dark on a blustery and frigid night with only a headlamp shining. Heaters for the water troughs need to be handy and in good working order. Hay needs to be stacked in the barn efficiently to make use of the limited space. Run-ins need to be prepped and altered for the winter winds versus the summer sun. So much to do and with each passing day there is even less daylight in which to do it!
Now, add a Wool Mill to the equation and life is suddenly extremely insane, and yet, I have never been more at ease. I have begun to enjoy life as a journey rather than hope to be satisfied with the destination. Each day brings the challenge of trying something new and doing the best you can with the resources and limitations that present themselves. I tease the sheep that even though I could’ve used more wool for increased inventory at the mill, I’d never take it from them (that late summer shearing) just when they are needing it most.
One thing I have learned though.. is that, just as winter comes sneaking in the backdoor, Spring will be peaking through the window in no time at all. “To every thing, there is a season…”
While creativity is discussed and valued in Western society, it seems as though it is the first thing to get pushed aside by our busy schedules. It’s not uncommon to hear about people who made music until they had children, people who painted until they got a full time job, or people who designed until they went back to school.
Sometimes, even in spaces that should encourage creativity, it is not given priority status. In the last few weeks, this was case at HeartFelt Fleece & Fiber. With the Wool Festival, ARToberFest, the Kentucky Artisan Center, and an open house to prepare for – and lots and lots of wool to wash, pick, card, and felt – it seemed as though there wasn’t much time for brainstorming, designing, and innovating. There wasn’t much time for creativity.
That’s changing this week, a week I’d marked on the shop’s calendar one month ago. We’ve named this week “Creativity Week,” and Mom and I are celebrating by allowing ourselves to create only things we’ve never made before. I’ve been working on new felted ornaments, jewelry, and wall hangings, and, before the week’s out, I’m hoping to try my hand at dyeing. Mom is creating a line of products using felted wool fabric.
To kick off Creativity Week, we had our first felted wall hanging class on Saturday, when community members recreated Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night with felt. It was so interesting to see how they interpreted a famous piece of art, how they brought it to life in a new medium.
Four days into Creativity Week, I love how exciting this week has been, how each day has brought new challenges to solve. I have sincerely enjoyed focusing on creativity for creativity’s sake. Because we’re having so much fun, I’d love to encourage you to make some time for creativity in your week. If you do, be sure to let us know what you create!
A Thanksgiving tradition that has been part of my family for many years is the beautiful cornucopia that is baked and stuffed with fruits, nuts, and chocolates and made available early in the day for nibbles to be had all day long!
I grew up overseas away from relatives and the traditional holiday gatherings. My parents, missing their relatives and a house full of people, invited many young, single military personnel to our home for Thanksgiving. The scene at the table, with everyone squeezing over to make room for one more chair and clenching elbows tightly at our sides so as not to jab the person next to us, recreated what we all seemed to have been missing: fellowship. It must have worked because no one ever left feeling lonely. A touch of homesickness, maybe; but, never lonely!
When my children were younger, I again didn’t live near family, and we would save the extended family gathering for during the Christmas holiday when we all had a longer vacation. So, the Thanksgiving holiday would pose a set of challenges to me to come up with something that would be special for my immediate family, but not leave me feeling homesick for my parents and siblings. Camping was the answer for us. We spent many, many Thanksgiving weekends exploring the beautiful state parks of Florida and experiencing family bonding that has carried us through many changing family dynamics. Seeing the manatees, listening for owls, hiking in the woods at night with the special lights so not bother the animals’ eyes, and talking quietly around a small camp fire late into the night imprinted the love of the outdoors and the appreciation of nature into each of us.
A special tradition that was always present was the Cornucopia. Even when we were camping, I would bake individual ones in the box oven. (Yes, they work – each briquette of charcoal is 40 degrees.) I would then fill them with each person’s favorite things. Everything disappeared including the horn of plenty!
Since that time, I have been making and giving them as gifts to friends at Thanksgiving. It helps the holiday feel more special to me when I share something I have made with a friend. I have also been told that they, “Make the table complete and give everyone something to talk about!” This year they are available for order through HeartFelt. Stop by the shop to see (and smell) one close up and personal. ~Pat
Fifteen years ago, I thought a sheep was a sheep. They all had open, black faces and white, spongy wool, apart from that “black sheep of the family” that so often figures into metaphors and allegories.
Around that time, my family and I moved to Kentucky, and, during our first Christmas here, we found ourselves chauffeuring animals to and from the local church’s nativity scene. From these first interactions with sheep, I loved the animals, and I spent several years researching them before deciding to welcome a small flock to our farm.
Our flock of five sheep includes a Tunis, a Shetland, a Shetland/Icelandic cross, and twin Tunis/Icelandic crosses. When sheering them each spring, I’m struck by the diversity of their fleeces – some have two-layered coats, some have wool with lots of crimp, some leave us covered in lanolin while others seem to have none at all – but the diversity of our flock pales in comparison to the wide array of fleeces that we’ve been processing at HeartFelt.
In the past week alone, we’ve been working on fine wool, coarse wool, and fiber from hair sheep, let alone several alpaca fleeces.
In our collective culture, we hear about the value of Merino wool or “baby alpaca” fiber, but the truth is that each wool and fiber has something distinctive to offer fiber artists. Coarse wools like Lincoln might look scratchy and unruly, but their strength is commendable. Fine wools, such as Romney and Merino, might lack strength and crimp, but their softness doesn’t go unnoticed. Short, spongy staples, like those from a baby doll sheep whose wool we’ve been processing, might be difficult to card, but they felt beautifully.
In short, the next time you see a label that just reads “100% wool,” it might be interesting to consider what sort(s) of sheep once wore that wool.
What a week! It seemed as though we had just gotten back from a very busy weekend at Falmouth’s Wool Fest when it was time to start getting the shop put back together and ready for Cynthiana’s First Annual ARToberFest. And, in the meantime, there was lots to be done: raw fleeces to receive and begin processing, emptied shelves to replenish, and a busy fall to plan.
Before this past weekend, the last festival we’d attended was the Sheep and Fiber Festival in Lexington, Kentucky. At that time, we were taking processing orders, but our mill wasn’t open yet. It was so enjoyable to attend the Wool Fest as a full-fledged mini-mill and fiber studio. We had a wonderful time talking to fiber artists and enthusiasts from all over the region.
As much as we enjoyed the Wool Fest, our favorite part of the week was definitely the ARToberFest. There’s something so special about being part of a festival in your hometown, where you can spend the night visiting with long-time friends. Several people who visited our shop in celebration last night hadn’t been through the doors since Opening Day, and they couldn’t believe how much we’d grown in the last few months. (To be honest, sometimes we can’t believe it either!) Everyone involved in the planning and executing of the ARToberFest did a wonderful job; thank you for all your hard work!
In other news, our fall class line-up is now online. If you’re interested in learning more about the world of fiber art, please be sure to check it out.
And, for a more thorough look at what’s going on at HeartFelt, please check out our October Newsletter.