Just Start

You can learn a lot from chickens.

The first Saturday in April I bought my first ever flock of chickens.  We have been on a learning journey together.  In those cool early days I was a bit of a “helicopter mom”, always hovering over them, making sure they were all alive and well.

In a few weeks some friends came over and helped us build an inside pen in our Well House just a few feet from our back door.  It is large and roomy, definitely a good amount of space for my small flock of 9 growing chicks.

As much as I enjoy watching them and taking care of them, for them it was definitely NOT love at first sight.  For the most part I was the “scary monster”.  I would speak in soothing tones, handle them gently, bring them food and water.  But they all huddled as far as away from me as they could when I entered the coop.  Slowly (so it seemed to me) I evolved from the “scary monster” to the “scary monster that brings the food”.

Twice a day our routine consisted of me coming in to freshen the water and refill the food dish.  Whenever I had time I would crouch down near the food and wait quietly.  I wanted them to get accustomed to my presence and be less skittish around me.  At first they would give me the side eye (because that’s the only look a chicken can give) no doubt wishing I would go away so they could eat.  Gradually, cautiously, they would inch forward and start eating.  Any shifting movement or slight sound on my part would send them skittering away.

It wasn’t long before I began realizing their therapeutic value.  While I cannot yet enjoy the higher quality and taste of freshly laid eggs from my own backyard chickens, for me, they are already paying for themselves.  In ways I can’t explain, watching them, talking to them (yes, every time I go out 🙂 ) somehow helps to reduce the various stresses I feel.  I have begun calling them my therapy animals.

Somewhere, somehow, at some moment I didn’t recognize our relationship shifted from “scary monster/bringer of food” to “move over, human, I’m eating”.  I chuckled when I realized it.

They are of an age now where I can begin introducing them to the outside yard.  I would be willing let them simply be free range.  But we live not far from a very busy highway, on a fairly busy street, with neighborhood dogs that sometimes find their way over here.  So, an enclosure that allows them both safety and liberty was necessary.

Most people who read this blog will understand the all-too-common issues of not enough time and not enough money to do all the things we want to do.  In the the case of our chickens, that translates into our not yet having a good outdoor structure for them, although the plans are in the works.  We will be building it ourselves,  once we figure out how…we are new at this remember.

But lately they have been rushing to the coop door every time I came into the Well House.  It was as if they were saying “Can we go out today?! Pleeeeaasse!!” We knew it would be a while before we could build a proper outside coop, but I still had to find away to give them at least a taste.

To be honest, I overthink.  A lot.  I like to have EVERYthing figured out and situated before I do something.  Preparedness and excellence are fine.  But sometimes, I let it keep me from doing something, because I fear “doing it wrong”.

But in a desire to allow my flock to experience the outdoors I had to do something.  So this past weekend DH and I took the chicken wire leftover from building the inside coop, picked up a few supplies and hunted around for odds and ends in the garage, and hobbled together a small but adequate outdoor pen.  It is not ideal.  I cannot open their pen and have them walk right to it, like the permanent structure I envision will.  It is draped at one end with a tarp to provide some shade and bird netting at the other end to keep them from flying out or the hawk that sometimes frequents our back yard from making an attempt.  Because it is built on a slope we couldn’t get the chicken wire exactly flush with the ground.  This meant finding whatever materials we had at hand; cinderblocks, pieces of wood and board, to place around the spots that had gaps so they couldn’t make a break for it.  So believe me when I say, this will win no awards for design or beauty.

hobbledpen

We carried each one to the pen and placed them in.  They didn’t like this part at all, but once they were in the pen and could forage and scratch and begin to experience a life of air and sun, they seemed to think this was a big improvement.

As I sat in my chair watching them to see how they adjusted to this, they didn’t squawk indignantly at the patchwork design, or shake their heads disapprovingly.  They stretched their wings and explored and found, I know not what, as they pecked at the chickengrass.  The scene was a lovely, quiet rural scene.  In my own back yard.

My lesson from the therapy animals for that day is this:  You don’t have to have all your ducks in a  row (or a perfect chicken pen) to start.  Again with the overthinking, I can do all kinds of preparation and research to start a project or learn something new, but when it comes to the point of beginning, I hesitate.

I need to get comfortable with the idea that I WILL do things wrong!  I will also learn new and better ways as I go.  The joy of it is the learning and growing.

So, to myself and to you, dear reader, I say this:  By all means, do your due diligence as you lead up to something new, but in the end there comes a time to stop prepping and

Just Start.

Jamye

Updated shots of my studio.  Still a work in progress.  Just like me.

Yarn, Colors, and Friends

This past Saturday I went to my first ever yarn dyeing class.  I have been itching (not dying, avoiding bad puns here) to do this for a long time.  In the last few months as a part of my knitty, fiber-loving journey I decided that this was the next stop.  As I watched podcasts and explored the many and wonderful online shops that sell hand-dyed yarn and saw all the amazing colorways and creative and intriguing names I knew that this was something I wanted to do.

My lovely pussy-hat wearing and proofreading friend Jen knew Sonya, owner of City Stitch Yarn Shoppe  who teaches a variety of classes and she arranged one to teach us how to dye.  Jen and I were joined by our friend Maggie Orr.  Maggie is a designer on Ravelry with numerous beautiful patterns both free and paid.  You can find her patterns on her Maggie Menzel page.

The day of the class was beautiful day and only a 30 minute drive to the location (music blasting).  Sonia, our teacher, was the ideal instructor, full of experience, sound information, and with a personality that kept things both calm and fun.

While the skeins of undyed yarn (100% Merino) were soaking in hot water on the stove to prep them for taking dye, we chose our colors.  Since we were working as a group we had to agree on 5 colors between us.  We settled on Gunmetal Grey, Teal, Orange, Purple, and Dark Blue.

Sonia had set up a screen laying over plastic containers for each of us.  When the skeins were ready each of us laid ours in a long oval donut on the screen just over the containers. We needed to work while the yarn was still hot so each of us began selecting the colors which were in squirt bottles, like the ketchup bottles you would see at a diner, and began applying the colors.  We would apply a color here or there, another color, step back and contemplate the look and then chose which color was needed next.  Once we were satisfied with the look, we carefully flipped the skein over and repeated the process on the other side.   We checked for sections that had not been reached by the dye and “filled in the blanks” with more color.

Once we were happy with our products we carefully squeezed the yarn with our fingers to help lightly blend colors that were adjacent to each other.

The next step took us to the sink to rinse our yarn with hot water until it ran clear.

Then Sonia said, “This is the part where the neighbors look at you funny”.  We all trooped outside and, right on a busy street, swung our brilliant lassos of yarn to spin out as much of the moisture as possible.

Jen, who lives near the shop, offered to take them all home to hang and dry and bring them back to the shop for skeining before Wednesday Knit Night.

We were all so excited to begin dyeing that none of us thought to take pictures of the class.  But we did capture the end results.

Here is a pic of mine in the drying stage:

handdyed

Now keeping in mind that, while we each chose different colors to work with, we were still drawing from the same pool of 5 colors.  Here are each of our works in the skein:

3skeinsI love how the very different results show the creativity and personality of each one of us.  So amazing the endless variety and artistry that each of us can create.

We, of course, had a great time selecting fitting names for our colorways. The top skein is my “Galaxy Dust” since it has a darker tone but with pops of color.  The middle skein is Maggie’s, it hinted at a green pool inhabited by goldfish.  This became “Koi Dreaming”.  Jen’s with its deep blues, greens,  and grays made us think of the colors of the deep ocean.  So it was christened “Mariana Trench”.

After bringing it home I caked it up and then knit up a small swatch to see how the colorway knit up.  This was my result:

cake

This lighting is not ideal, but I can say I’m really pleased with how this is working up.  It is a fingering weight yarn, but has no nylon, so I will not be making socks with this one.  I’m considering a Space-themed shawl to touch on both the name of this colorway as well as my recent shawl knitting streak.  But I’m going to sit and admire it for a while before deciding just what it should become.

I’m really looking forward to digging deeper into the art of yarn dyeing and exploring the variety of colorways that can be created.  To that end I’ve purchased :dyeingbook

I can’t wait to read, learn and experiment.  Soon I expect to see strands of color hanging from my back porch as they dry.  Oh, the joy.

In other News:

For those of you who enjoyed Yarn, Spring, and All Good Things and are wondering how our chicks are doing.  I am happy to report that they all seem to be thriving.  They have graduated from brooder to coop but have not yet made their first foray outside.  I check on them regularly and while I hope they will become more accustomed to my presence, right now I am still a big, scary monster, it seems.

Things are greening up around the homestead and I’ve been doing a roll call of herbs to see what has come back this year. So far Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Balm, and Mint have shown themselves.  I’m considering what will be revived or added to the herb garden.  Today I potted Basil, Cilantro, and sowed some German Chamomile for tea.  There will definitely be other additions, but I am still choosing just what those will be.

Since I’m still reveling in the joy of the creative process my wish for you is that you will thoroughly enjoy whatever creative outlet you claim as your own.

Peace,

Jamye