Saturday, 6 August 2011

Cogknitive Therapy

Occasionally all the death gets to me. I'm not complaining. The result is one nearly-full freezer, including a deer, one and a half lambs, and bunnies collected on various evenings spent in the back of the truck with a shotgun. But I know when I pick up a gun with a sigh and a heavy heart that it's time to change tack. Thankfully there's always something around here that needs attention, and I'm easily distracted.

I sheared our sheep at Easter and still hadn't done anything with the fleece. I was never going to spin all of it, but the British Wool Board buys fleece from farmers. I'm kind of a farmer, so I called and registered my flock. "How many?" the lady on the phone asked me. "Uh, Eight. No Twelve. I mean 12 sheep, 8 fleeces." She let out a little cough-like laugh. Whether that was because of my tiny flock or because I can't seem to count, I'm not sure.

The fleeces were decent quality, but fleeces live on sheep, and sheep live outside. My sheep have been scratching themselves on painted sheds and living in a hay field. I gathered up my creosote-stained fleeces, gummed up with grass seed, and put them - along with a groveling note promising to buck up my act next year - in the bag supplied. I sewed it up with bailing twine as instructed and dropped it in to our local feed merchant. I'm not waiting for a cheque, I'll just be glad if they don't call and scold me.

I've spun one of my Dorset fleeces together with one of the Romney fleeces from my shearing course, and the yarn is soft. And you can have it in the colour of your choice, as long as it's white.

Hanging wet with a weight, to set the twist

I also knitted a tea cozy.

I can't explain that one. I didn't need a tea cozy. I drink copious amounts of tea, but quickly. My tea never has time to get uncomfortable. I did read a clinical psychology dissertation from Antioch University arguing that knitting reduces stress. I'm going with that. There's a Facebook page called 'I knit so I won't kill people'. Maybe I should start one called 'I knit as a salve to my animal-killing day job.'

Besides knitting, it's the start of preserving season. Also therapeutic. So far, only some carrots have died to make relish. Preserving coincides with the Agricultural Show season. This year I’m eschewing the local village show and moving up a league. I’ve entered the Melplash Show. A slightly-larger-village village show. I'm entering the bread making and the brownie making competitions. I've already been practicing both.

Grandma Gould's Carrot Relish and two loaves of wholemeal bread, proofing

I've entered my elderflower cordial, and sloe gin too. Both are tasty, but perhaps a bit more homemade than the judges would like. I mean, how much sediment and cloudiness is permitted? The rules aren't clear. Neither is my sloe gin.

I couldn't enter any chutney as we've eaten it all. I hope to have enough eggs to enter in the Farm Produce class, but the chickens have decided to moult en masse which means egg production will be way down. Those hens not moulting are broody, or laying in the hedgerow. If I follow the dogs and I'm quick I can sometimes find a nest, but the quality of those eggs could be dubious. They don't lay them with a date stamp.

The show and five classes has cost me the princely sum of £3.50 to enter. The only thing I have to lose is my dignity and some self-esteem (what's left after my call to the Wool Board anyway). If that happens, I always have my knitting.

Does anyone need their tea cozied?


Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Seems to me that, since your dignity and self-esteem have survived being covered in sheep shit, inoculated with lamb medicine, and dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to shoot a fox in your underwear, they will survive the Shows intact. And that's if you *don't* win anything. If you do, well, I don't suppose that will matter much to a psyche as self-sufficient as yours, either. I'll be pulling for you, regardless.

As for knitting, I see the appeal, but any impulse I have to start is tempered by the thought of having to actually use whatever ghastly thing I produced. But I think your tea cozy is lovely, and your tea can wear it as a fashion statement even if it doesn't need cozying. (I also seem to remember a lovely sweater you made last year ...)

In any case, I'm very glad to hear it isn't all death, all the time.

Pomona said...

Yes, yes, yes! I love that tea cosy - and in winter I always put cosies on the teapot as the house is so cold. I warm the mugs on the Aga as well, to counteract that winter chill. I empathize with your chicken and egg issues, having spent about an hour seeking a missing hen tonight, and finding her sitting on a heap of eggs under cover of cranesbill overrun with bindweed. We thought we had cured the broodiness, but until this evening she has been deceitful and just been broody in the daytime in her sneaky nest. So lots of eggs for the dogs - goodness knows how old they are, as she has been broody on and off since the spring!

Good luck in the show - it's very brave of you to enter such a thing - I never dared.

Pomona x

Jen@M&T said...

Tamar - The worst part is that I seem compelled to share my indignities and embarassments with you all.

If you don't fancy knitting, there's always bricklaying, or welding. Ghastly creations are par for the course. A smoker, even a wonky not- straight one, would probably be more use to you than a teapot sweater.

Pomona - I'm glad to hear the chicken story had a happy ending. Those broodies are sneaky critters.

I can't believe you've never entered a show with the craft skills you have! I can muster up the chutzpah to enter a loaf of bread but I would never enter anything in the knitted classes. I read the judges comments last year and they were withering. 'NO imperfections should be tolerated' was one such gem. It's only the imperfectiosn that hold my work together - knitted and otherwise.

megan said...

'I knit as a salve to my animal-killing day job.'
Very nice. I need to find a salve - my bees are fine, but have not put up one drop of honey for my use, squash borers got my squashes, my tomato plants are all unhappy, and one of my chickens has been actively broody (I just counted) 57 of the last 90 days. I just opened up some 60 day cheese, though, and it was excellent. Not quite contest worthy yet, but a good confidence salve.

Jen@M&T said...

Megan - I like a woman who actually takes the time to calculate how long her chicken has been broody. Did you do the math, you know times one egg per day equals Damn You Chicken for being underproductive!!?

In my book the cheese would totally make up for that. Good cheese is a salve for lost squash and diminished egg returns any day.

Paula said...

I'm so behind on my reading Jen. I can't relate to your experiences, but that is one darn cute tea cozy!

megan said...

I keep their daily egg totals in a notebook - easy to see the sheer vast numbers of slackdom. Rotten chicken. And this from a "non-broody breed." Right.

From the Country Farm said...

Cute cozy!

Cynthia said...

Ha, ha -- I've *bought* wool from the British Wool Marketing Board, and not only will they not scold you, they'd be perfectly willing to ship fleeces much worse than the ones you describe overseas, never mind the shipping cost.

Jen @M&T said...

Paula - I'm relieved that you're behind on your reading as I'm behind on my posting! It's the busy season for everyone I think. And when the weather's good, well, who wants to be sat in front of a computer anyway?

Megan - If it makes you feel any better some of my brown commercial ex-layers decided to go broody. I noticed that if they reach a relatively old age (3+) the broody thing kicks in. Is yours a bit older too? They're pretty good mums if left with a clutch.

FtCF - It's not like me to knit twee things but I enjoyed it, and wrote the basket stitch roof pattern myself (I'm a newbie, so an achievement, trust me)

Cynthia - How horrible! I assumed my low grade wool went into making carpets and insulation, not enemies across the pond.

If you want a fleece, email me. I can send you Jacob or Romney, or at least put you in touch directly with a farm that has the sheep breed you're looking for.

megan said...

they are three this year, but the poor girl has been broody on a regular basis from her early days out of pullethood. Still broody, since the beginning of june now.