Thursday, November 16, 2017

Around the Farm

The weather has changed and it officially feels like we are deep into November. Chilly evenings, frost in the morning and days that go from cold to warm and then back down to cold at dusk. The light is disappearing fast. And the color is almost gone. We are left with lots of gray and bits of burnt orange in the form of leaves left on the oak and beech trees and bittersweet climbing and strangling the trees. 

Here are a few photos of my garden as it descends towards the deep sleep of winter for several months. This blog is such a fantastic place for me to chronicle our farm, the garden, my artistic and creative life and more here. I hope you enjoy seeing what it looks like outside our cozy farmhouse. 

This is the end of the sunflowers a couple weeks ago. 

Then the cold came in and darker days. The sunflowers continued to decay and will continue over the winter. I don't till them in - they provide lots of food for the critters all winter long. 

The kale doesn't mind the frost. We will eat it until the deer do it in. 

The sun sets on the hill beyond my pottery studio. I planned the orange door to pick up the autumn colors of the leaves. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sheep Shearing Video

Here's a video that Terri K took while she was helping us with shearing yesterday. You can see the three blade shearers Kevin, Doug and Jeff. The video is less than 20 seconds but gives you a look into the day. 

Read my previous post here to see more photos. 

Sheep Shearing 2017

It's been busy around the farm. We spent the past couple days shearing the sheep. We didn't exactly shear them - three blade shearers did. Our part was to get the sheep all ready and assist. It took The Farmer about a week (yes an entire week) to gather the sheep to the central location from the various grazing pastures they have been in since May. Once they were all in our wintering over location, the sheep were gathered into the greenhouse barn. They were sorted - we don't shear the lambs - only the ewes and rams. 

Kevin Ford has sheared our sheep for almost 30 years. Isn't that amazing? Kevin is a blade shearer and has been in many international sheep shearing competitions. Besides that he is a super nice man. This year he brought two friends with him. Jeff Burchstead came from Maine. Doug Rathke came from Minnesota. Both Doug and Jeff wanted to spend time with Kevin practicing their blade shearing techniques. Normally they shear with electric shears. 

Here they are after finishing up. From left to right - Jeff, Doug, and Kevin

It was a busy couple days. We had help from our friend Terri Kerner and a new farm helper Andrea. Sorry that I don't have more photos of them. The Farmer, Terri and Andrea caught sheep to pass off to the shearers. Terri, Andrea and I picked up wool, skirted it, bagged it and cleaned up the plywood for the shearers. 

In the past we have sheared in the summer. This year we switched it up so that the sheep have less wool on them at lambing time in January. The blade shearers leave a bit of wool on the animals so that they can stay warm. It grows back remarkably fast. 

I am really glad it is over for another year. The ewes and rams look in good condition going into the winter - well-fed and happy. 

Enjoy the photos. I'm sorry I won't have a lot of time to field questions - I am getting ready for our Open House and my family arrives for Thanksgiving next week. Busy time of year for all! 

Ewes waiting to be shorn

Jeff shearing a ram

Doug with a ewe patiently waiting

Kevin Ford - the pro

Kevin's toolbox

Jeff with The Farmer and Terri in the background

The line-up of 3 blade shearers - Jeff, Doug and Kevin

The Farmer watching

On top of ye olde manure pile

After their haircuts - happy to be lighter and picking around for grass

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway - Design Your Own Crochet Projects from Sara Delaney

It's been a while since I have posted an interesting new book. Fact is there haven't been many new releases that have excited me - especially in the textile craft world. So many books that have come across my desk seem to be repeats of things that have come before. Perhaps I have been around publishing and yarn too long? 

Finally, I have found a book that has just been released that is NEW - at least to these eyes. It is called Design Your Own Crochet Projects: Magic Formulas for Creating Custom Scarves, Cowls, Hats, Socks, Mittens and Gloves and it is written by Sara Delaney. That sure is one long title, isn't it? But it is pretty perfect as it tells the reader exactly what they will find inside its pages. Published just last month by Storey, this handy little book is spiral bound and will fit easily into a project bag. It has been sitting on my desk for a couple weeks now and I just have had time to crack it open and investigate. 

My first reaction to this book was - at last! Design Your Own Crochet Projects gives crocheters what they have been missing - a book to help them customize and design their own projects. This book breaks out into 7 chapters: Introduction, Scarves, Cowls, Hats, Fingerless Mitts, Mittens, Gloves, and Socks. The intro is very well done - giving the novice crochet designer what they need to begin. 

Each of the chapters introduces the specifics of what a novice designer needs to know when designing the project. It tells how to develop the project and then gives several pages of "templates" to use when designing each project. Photocopying of this template is encouraged which gives the reader the permission to design many projects of their own.

Each chapter then includes at least two designs with charts for plugging in your own gauge and yarn choice. The book also includes a link to an on-line calculator which will take your yarn choice with your gauge and plug them into each of the patterns given to automatically generate a pattern. Pretty amazing. 

There is even a small stitch dictionary of various crochet stitches at the end. That is such a nice addition giving new designers a chance to pick a stitch, swatch it and then jump into designing without having to purchase another stitch dictionary.

There is an excellent review over on the Crochet Concupisence blogFull disclosure here - I have published with Storey twice and I personally know Sara Delaney. That said, when I first saw this book I said to myself - YAY - newbie crochet designers now have a book that tells them how to design accessories. Knitters have had the marvelous series of "Handy Books" by Ann Budd for years but now crocheters have a great book to use to learn to design their own patterns too. Great job Sara and Storey.

Here's what I have for one lucky winner today - - their very own copy of Design Your Own Crochet Projects. Here's how you enter.....

Answer the following question in the comments: Tell me what you would like to crochet this winter season. Are you a knitter who is thinking about learning crochet? Or are you a crocheter who only makes flat things and you would like to learn to make socks and mittens and hats? 

Contest ends Sunday evening at November 12, 2017 at  11:59 p.m. Please leave an easy way to get a hold of you - Rav id, blog, or email address. US addresses only please. Good luck everyone. 

Monday, November 06, 2017

Creating in the Pottery Studio

I've been working on decorating pottery for my upcoming Holiday Open House on December 2/3. (Would love to see some of you.) I threw a lot of mugs and vases on my pottery wheel and made lots of slab platters and trays this summer and fall in my refurbished shed AKA The Little Pottery Studio

Throwing and building the pots is actually the easy part. Decorating them all is quite a process. Each piece I make is completely different. I look at the shape of each pot and then paint several motifs on each one. Each piece needs to be bisque fired and then gloss fired. There is a reason handmade pottery is expensive. It is extremely time consuming.

I might be able to cut the time down on each piece of pottery if I developed a couple patterns and then just repeated them over and over. It sounds like a good idea except that it just doesn't work for me. I would die of the boredom. I really enjoy making each piece different even if it isn't as efficient. It would drive my mind mentally mad if I had to repeat one design over and over again. I guess I have ADD but you probably knew that. For me the enjoyment of making pottery is to see how each piece turns out - the colors, the motifs, the shapes. 

My studio is in a shambles. No time to pick up and so much to do. That's the way it is in November. And we are hosting Thanksgiving! Yikes. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Movie Mad

When I was a kid, I never wanted to go to the movies. Truth of the matter was I would rather stay home and sew and create than "waste my time" in a dark theatre. It wasn't until I got older that I started to enjoy escaping to a dark theatre and becoming consumed by the big screen, the colors, the costumes and a different world that is brought to life by directors, story tellers, actors, and all the other talented people it takes to make a movie. 

Over the past few months, I have had the chance to see some lovely films at The Amherst Cinema. It is a long ride to get there but they seem to have the films that are never in Greenfield or Brattleboro. I thought it would be fun to share the trailers of three films I have really enjoyed recently here on my blog. If you can't see them on the big screen, they will probably be on Netflix soon. 

They are: 

MAUDIE - the story of folk artist Maud Lewis. I have written about her before. 

LOVING VINCENT - an amazing "animated" film made from oil paintings in the style of Vincent Van Gogh painted by 165 artists throughout the world. The whole thing blew me away. 

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN - It wasn't until I had Julia that I read the Winnie The Pooh books by AA Milne. This is the story. A bit sad but beautifully done. 

Here are the trailers for you to watch. Enjoy.

Friday, November 03, 2017


November has arrived. I don't know about you but it is always a shock when the leaves are almost gone from the trees and the landscape turns a shade of gray - almost overnight. We had some massive wind and rains here over the past week. (We didn't lose power but many people in this part of New England and beyond have been without for several days.) It has finally gotten cold - which is just about right for this time of year. When I go outside, I smell the scent of wood fires and decomposing leaves. Everything about this time of year causes changes. The time, the amount of time I spend outside, the thoughts about what I am going to do and accomplish this coming winter, the clothing I need to wear, getting the farmhouse ready for winter and the upcoming holiday season.....

BTW - I've set the dates for our 3rd Annual Holiday Open House - December 2 and 3. More info to come on that soon. Would love to see some of you here. 

On the farm, we will be shearing the sheep within the next couple weeks. It's a big job and I am dreading it. Kevin Ford is coming with his blade shears and he is bringing two other blade shearers with him. It will take two days. The good thing is we will know how many ewes we have going into winter. We have checked with our vet to make sure the sheep will be okay and she said they will be fine. The late shearing will help The Farmer see the body condition of the ewes easier than if they had a full fleeces. He will be able to adjust their feed if needed. Less wool on the ewes will also make it easier for the lambs that arrive in January to nurse from their mothers. 

I'm a bit nervous about being the only one to bag up all the wool. Anyone want to help? It's a long day and very physical but it is an experience you will never forget. Contact me through my email address kristinnicholas AT gmail DOT com.

Lately the mornings have been very foggy. The fog can put a damper on the mood around here but it sure is gorgeous. The photos in this post are from a few mornings here on the farm. When I look at them, they remind me of the colors in Scotland. It will take a while to get used to the new colors that are outside. By March I will be ready for them to be done. I'll just have to create with color inside while it is gray outside. 

I'm making some plans for winter making after the holiday season is over. Do you have any?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Open Studio - The First for My Little Pottery Studio

Photo by Richard Boucher
Photo by Richard Boucher


This past weekend, I joined with many other potters throughout the USA and world for National Clay Week. I had heard about this event which is in its second year on a podcast I listen to called Tales of a Red Clay Rambler. I hemmed and hawed over whether I should give it a try. Where I live - which is kind of the middle of nowhere - isn't the best place for an Open Studio event.

In my mind I said to myself "Oh no one will come. Why bother. My work isn't good enough..." Generally all the self doubt that artists have running around in their heads about taking a leap and putting yourself out there. But then I decided to go for it. I knew that - as a very deadline driven person - if I had a deadline to make a lot of pottery to show, I would pull it off. That is the confidence I have in myself when deadlines loom. I can make it happen even if I do it totally by myself and exhaust myself in the process. 

I did exhaust myself, I will admit. Besides making and finishing pottery I had to clean, organize, and make pretty my little pottery studio. I had to paint signs for the road so people could find the Little Pottery Studio in the middle of nowhere. I had to make fliers and post to social media. I had to send out newsletters and do blog posts to create excitement. I had to bake some snacks, purchase paper products and beverages, move tables, set up tablecloths, and display pottery outside, do glaze firings, price work..... The list went on and on. It's funny how when you or I get an idea and decide to do it - we may forget about all the pre-work that needs to happen. I say you or I because I'm sure some of you do this too. I also see how my mom was able to entertain so often when we were young - she had 5 helping hands to help. 

Saturday morning rolled around. The "event" didn't start until 11 so I had lots of time to organize the Lamb Farmstore, price lamb meat, sweep it out, un-load the kiln that had been cooling and then price the work. All this and I wasn't sure anyone would come. I asked my friend Alyssa if she could help for the day - not knowing if anyone would come and if her help would even be necessary. I had hoped that Julia would be able to help with sales and running the credit card sales on my phone but after some practice runs, we both decided it was too difficult for her. Her job would be to be nice to people. 

It was a two day event. It was an incredibly beautiful fall weekend with the hill behind my little pottery studio turning lovely autumn shades. Saturday was much slower in traffic than Sunday. In the time that no visitors were here, Alyssa and I cleaned greenware so it wasn't a lost day of work. I have all this greenware plus more to paint and glaze for the holidays. Greenware is the term for ceramics made out of clay that has not been fired. It is very fragile and can break easily if held incorrectly or treated roughly. 

Our first visitors were my friends Shalee, Emme, and Marlee who are long-time family friends. The girls were so excited to see the pottery studio. I gave them some clay and helped them try out my potter's wheel. They ended up covered in clay and their excitement was so contagious. It is one of the most precious memories I have of the weekend. 

Photo by Richard Boucher

Visitors came and went. It wasn't too busy that I couldn't spend time with each visitor. It made me feel good that many people enjoy my pottery enough to come out and support my work. My friend Richard came on Saturday with his wife Laurie and took some lovely photos - some of which are included here. Sadie, our Gt Pyrenees sheep guard dog was on great behavior as was Kate the Border Collie who couldn't stop eating bees (is that normal - she must have eaten 100!). The dogs were a hit with everyone. 

Photo by Richard Boucher

As were the sheep who wandered around in the background.

It was a very nice weekend - even if it was gobs of work. But seriously, isn't everything a lot of work to make it come out the way you plan it in your mind. Work is good - it keeps me grounded and focused. Photos from the weekend follow. I will think about celebrating National Clay Week next year. Over the next few weeks I have got to paint, decorate, and fire all the greenware pottery I have been throwing in order to have it ready for my Holiday Sale on December 2nd and 3rd. 

Thanks to everyone who came out and made my first Open Studio such a fun, memorable and successful weekend. XO