Thursday, February 25, 2010

Free Vegetable Seeds!

Sometimes it only takes the simplest idea, the smallest offer of help to make a big impact.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know that our farm finances have been very, very tight for the past few years.  We want to keep making the badly-needed improvements to bring the place back from the run-down, fixer-upper status that we bought it in, but for the past couple of  years, it's been a struggle.

More than anything, I want to keep expanding the "farm" aspects of the farm.  I want to put in a garden and a small orchard.  I want to grow herbs.  I want to get chickens.  Eventually, maybe even a few heritage-breed pigs and a small milk cow.  I want to keep making progress toward a more sustainable, self-sufficient farm, where we grow most of our own food, and have some to share with others.

But with so many other non-negotiable demands (like mortgage, taxes, the need to replace a leaking roof, the need to buy hay for the livestock) on our already tight finances, even something as simple as starting a vegetable garden ends up getting put off.  Until now!

I just discovered The Dinner Garden, a wonderful organization with the slogan "End Hunger Through Gardening!"  They provide fruit and vegetable seeds for free to anyone who asks.  That's right.  FREE.  No charge, not even for shipping. 

Since beginning their mission in early 2009, they have provided seeds to over 30,000 families and hundreds of community gardens in all 50 states, from Maine to Hawaii and Texas to Alaska.

Here's their mission statement:

The Dinner Garden provides seeds, gardening supplies, and gardening advice free of charge to all people in the United States of America. We assist those in need in establishing food security for their families. Our goal is for people to plant home, neighborhood, and container gardens so they can use the vegetables they grow for food and income.
Isn't that a wonderful goal?  If they can make an offer like that, I figure I can at least set aside the time and labor to prepare the ground here, and get my garden started.  I sent for my free seeds today.  Won't it be fun to see what they send me?

Meanwhile, if you want to start a garden, why don't you contact The Dinner Garden too?  And, if you're in a position to do so, please support their efforts, either through donations or by passing the word along about their marvelous venture.

We can end hunger! from Dinner Garden on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Name That Lamb" Contest

Our first lambs of the year will start arriving here in less than a month. And this year, I'm having a contest because I want YOU to help me name them!

Here's why: All of my sheep are registered. The sheep registry assigns one letter of the alphabet to each year, and all lambs born in that year get that letter tattooed in their ears. Because of that, I decided I would name all my sheep with names that start with the letter of their year of birth. It's an easy way to help me remember how old each sheep is.

But it's not always easy to come up with that many names that start with the same letter. This year is going to be the hardest of all. It's the year of "X". I need your help to come up with dozens and dozens of lamb names that all start with the letter X!

So here's how the contest is going to work:


  1. All names must start with the letter X.
  2. All names must be reasonably easy to pronounce.
  3. I need both girl's names and boy's names. Semi-matching names for twins are also good. (For example, in previous years I've had Urban & Urbana, Ulysses & Ulyssia, etc.)
  4. Either "real" or made-up names are acceptable.
  1. I will collect all the name suggestions in a list, which I'll keep with me in the lambing barn.
  2. As each lamb is born, I'll choose a name from the list that I think fits that lamb. That's all there is to the judging: whether I like the name, and whether a lamb is born who seems to fit it.
  3. After each lamb is born, I'll post his or her photo and the winning name here on my blog.
  4. If your name is chosen, I will post a link to your website or blog, to give you a little free publicity.
  5. If more than one person suggests the same winning name, I'll post each person's link.
  6. Each winner will also be entered in a random drawing for a special grand prize at the end of lambing season.
  1. Email your name suggestions to me at
  2. Put "Name That Lamb Contest" in your subject line.
  3. Include your name and web site or blog address so that I can post your link if you're one of the winners.
  4. You may suggest as many names as you like, for more chances to win.
  5. Lambing season runs from late March through late May. You may enter any time before the last lamb is born, but the earlier you enter, the better your chances of winning.
Have fun! I'm looking forward to seeing all your name suggestions!

Artist of the Week

I am deeply honored to be "Artist of the Week" on Hippie's Creations blog this week. Here's her interview with me.

Petra, the woman behind Hippie's Creations, is a very creative woman herself. She makes a wide variety of lovely craft items as well as her own line of bath and body supplies. And I was delighted to discover that she lives only a couple of towns away from me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Upcycled Treasure: A Crocheted Bottle

Here's a little project I just completed last night.

This beautiful, cobalt-blue wine bottle was too pretty to throw away, so I decided to dress it up with crocheted cotton lace.

The wine bottle, incidentally, was from Tomasello's Raspberry Wine, which was absolutely heavenly! :-)

Why Make Felted Soap?

Ever since I posted my tutorial on How to Make Felted Soap, lots of people have been contacting me, all asking the same question:

"WHY make felted soap?"

Oops! I guess I didn't explain that fully in the tutorial, did I? Sorry!

Wool felted around a bar of soap forms a natural scrubby, with pleasant, gentle exfoliation, like a good washcloth.

It also makes the soap easier to grip. As the soap is used, the wool shrinks to fit what is left, so you can use the whole bar, avoiding those slippery little end bits of soap that are hard to hold, slip down the drain, and are wasted.

When the soap is gone, you can even cut a slit into the remaining felt "jacket" and use it as a small pouch! Or fill it with catnip for an all-natural cat toy.

Also, if you've never tried felting before, felting around a bar of soap is a quick, easy project, perfect for a beginner.

It's easy enough for kids to do, so it makes a fun craft activity for them. They may even enjoy bath time more if they get to use the results of their project! :-)

If you would like to try it, Soap Felting Kits and finished Felted Soaps are available here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Make Felted Soap

Since one of the options in my current giveaway is a Soap Felting Kit, I thought I'd make an instructional video and post it here, so everyone can see how easy it is to make your own felted soap.

Prefer written instructions? No problem! Below are the basic soap-felting instructions that come with our kit:

Felted Soap Instructions

Felting over a bar of soap is easy and fun. Besides the soap and wool included in this kit, the only things you need to provide are a bowl of hot water and about 15 minutes of your time.

Your hands will get wet and soapy while you’re doing this, so you’ll want to work on a counter or tabletop that won’t be harmed if it gets damp. You may want to set out a clean towel to wipe your hands on, and to set your finished soap on to dry.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

1. Fill a medium sized mixing bowl with hot water. The water should be as hot as you can comfortably put your hands in. Don’t make it so hot that you burn yourself!

2. Remove the wrapper and label from your soap.

3. Take the wool out of its bag and set it nearby so you can reach it easily, but where it won’t accidentally get wet before you’re ready to work with it.

4. You’ll find that your wool separates naturally into fist-sized lumps because of the way that it has been carded. Take one lump and gently unroll and spread it so that it is fairly flat and even. Wrap this pad of wool gently but snugly around your bar of soap.

5. Take a second lump of wool, spread it out, and wrap it around your soap in the other direction. If you wrapped the wool lengthwise the first time, wrap it around the width of the soap this time. Try to spread all the fibers around so that all surfaces of the soap are covered.

6. Repeat the previous step, always alternating the direction that you’re wrapping the wool, until your soap is thoroughly covered. I usually find that 3 lumps of wool are about the right amount. You will probably have some wool left over when you’re done, so don’t feel like you need to use all of it just because it’s there.

7. Once your soap is thoroughly covered with wool, cup it in both hands to hold the wool firmly in place, and dip it into the hot water. Still holding the wool in place, lift the soap from the water.

8. Gently begin to pat and press the wet wool against your soap. Don’t use too much pressure at first, or you’ll slide the wool out of place and expose the bare soap (If that happens, slide the wool back into place before you continue). The soap will start to lather. Just keep patting, being sure to show equal attention to all sides.

9. As the wool starts to felt, you’ll feel it begin to hold together on its own, without you having to hold it in place. At that point you can begin rubbing the wool more vigorously. If you need to, you can wet your hands or dip the soap in the water again. Slide the soap through your hands over and over, flipping it frequently so that you’re rubbing in all directions. Keep doing this for about 10-15 minutes or until the wool has formed a solid felt pad all around your soap.

10. You’re done! Rinse the soap in the bowl of water one final time to wash off the suds, then place it on a towel to dry.

UPDATE: If you've read all this and you're asking yourself, "Yes, but WHY would I want to make felted soap?" read my followup post.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ingleside Farm Felted Soap Giveaway!

Today is my birthday, and I want to give YOU a present!

Starting today, I am accepting entries for our big Felted Soap Giveaway. On March 15, I'll choose one winner at random. The winner will receive his or her choice of the following prizes:

(1) Deluxe Felted Sheep's Milk Soap Collection: Five bars of our fabulous felted sheep's milk soap, one in each of our five natural colors. Click the link above for details.

or (2) Deluxe Soap Felting Kit: Everything you need to felt your own soap. You get five bars of our fabulous sheep's milk soap, five 1-oz. bags of pure Icelandic sheep's wool, and a set of instructions. All you need to provide is a bowl of hot water and a few minutes of your time. Click the link above for details.

There are multiple ways to enter:

1. Become our fan on Facebook (If you're already a fan, that still counts).

2. Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter, with a link to this page.

3. Write a relevant post about this giveaway to an appropriate online forum or group (Please don't spam your forums with inappropriate posts!)

4. Write about this giveaway on your blog, with a link to this page (you may use any of the photos above, if you like).

5. Post a link to this giveaway on your web site (you may use any of the photos above, if you like).

By doing more than one of the above activities, you can earn multiple entries, but only one entry per URL, please.

You must send an email to with details of your entries. Put "Felted Soap Giveaway" in your subject line.

Don't forget to include your name and an accurate email address, so I can let you know if you win!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Felted Sheep's Milk Soap (and Other New Products)

I've been working very hard over the past few weeks, developing several new lines of products for my Etsy shop. As of today, they're finally ready!

First, there are the Felted Sheep's Milk Soaps. Luscious soap made from the milk of our own sheep, then encased in hand-felted wool to form a natural scrubby, with just the right amount of gentle exfoliation, like a good washcloth. Available in five natural colors: White, Beige, Brown, Gray, and Black. You can buy them individually, or as a collection that includes all five colors.

Next, for the do-it-yourselfers out there, I have Felted Soap Making Kits. Making felted soap is easy and fun! With these kits you get everything you need; all you have to add is a bowl of hot water and about 15 minutes of your time. Included: our wonderful sheep's milk soap, hand-carded Icelandic sheep's wool from our flock, and a set of instructions. Available in five natural colors: White, Beige, Brown, Gray, and Black. Buy a kit for a single bar of soap, or a deluxe kit to make one bar in each of the five colors. Get together with a few friends and host a soap-felting party!

And finally: I'm now offering hand-carded Icelandic Sheep's Wool for felting and needle felting projects. This is the same wool that I use for all of my own needle felting. I shear it myself, wash it by hand, and card it the old-fashioned way, with hand carders. It is available in either 1-oz. or 4-oz. bags (1 oz. is quart-sized, 4 oz. is gallon-sized). Choose a single color, or buy a collection that contains one bag of each of our five colors: White, Beige, Brown, Gray, and Black.

Each bag of wool comes with an information card showing the name and photograph of the specific sheep who provided that wool!

Friday, February 12, 2010

We're Featured On A Blog!

Hey look! An interview with me about my farm and my art is featured on the Late Night Design blog this week!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How Windy Is It?

The wind has been roaring through here all night and all day. Look what happened to our icicles. They have all formed sharp bends in them because of the wind!

A Sheep in the Kitchen

I love it when the animal/human rapport gets developed to the point where you can actually have meaningful, useful communication. I had an example of that today.

One of my sheep, Teasle, was sick earlier this winter. She's recovering now, but when she was still not feeling well, she ended up getting quite thin. Sheep are very pushy at feeding time, so a weaker sheep doesn't end up getting as much to eat. And it's harder for her to gain the weight back during the cold weather we've been having, since more calories are burned just staying warm.

So, whenever I get the chance, I try to sneak Teasle a serving of grain when the other sheep aren't looking. If I do it when the other sheep can see, they all crowd in and shove her away. If I make a point to round her up, catch her, and put her in a separate pen, it stresses her out because she thinks something's going to happen to her. So I try to wait until she comes up to the house by herself and give her some food then.

A couple of times I've lured her right through my back door and into my kitchen, so she could eat her bowl of grain in peace when the other sheep started crowding around. She eats quietly, then waits for me to open the door and let her back out.

So now we've developed an understanding. Sheep aren't like dogs, or even cats. They don't know their names, and they don't usually distinguish that human speech means much of anything. But they can still understand communication at times.

Today when the whole flock of sheep came up to drink at the water trough, I went out on the porch and quietly said, "Teasle! Teasle!" until she understood I was talking to her. Amidst all the commotion of the other sheep, she looked at me and said, "Baa! Baa!" just as quietly.

I showed her the grain bucket, just briefly, so the other sheep didn't notice it. She trotted right through the whole crowd of sheep and around the side of the porch to where the steps are, right up onto the porch, and slipped inside the door when I opened it a crack.

She happily ate her bowl of food, and then I let her back out. And none of the other sheep even noticed what had happened.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Indoor Dog, Outdoor Dog

Because of all the recent snow and cold weather, and the recent death of his companion Ruby, a couple of nights ago we decided to see if our remaining outdoor dog Jesse would like to start being an indoor/outdoor dog again.

I brought him into the house during the afternoon so he could get used to the change before bedtime. He's a nervous dog, very worried about trying to do the right thing, so he stuck very close by my side all afternoon. So intent was he on staying within a few feet of me the whole time, that he neglected to tell me that he needed to go out, even when he couldn't hold it anymore. Not exactly helpful, but hey, a dog makes mistakes sometimes.

We also had to deal with jealousy from our small indoor dog Leeloo, who wasn't happy about sharing her space and her people. Jesse was not interested in being mean to her, but he constantly growled at her to stay away from him, which she didn't always obey. Because Jesse could easily bite her in half if it came down to a conflict, I had to keep a very close watch on both of them.

Jesse was also having a hard time adjusting to indoor temperatures. We thought we were being merciful bringing him in from the cold, but all he could do was pant and drink bowl after bowl of water!

At night, Leeloo sleeps in her own bed, shut in our small home office. She likes a private place so she can sleep uninterrupted. In light of Jesse's accident on the floor earlier, I decided he could sleep shut in the bathroom, where the tile floor would allow for easy cleanup. I put a bed in there for him and left him settled in for the night.

Or so I thought.

In the wee hours of the morning, Jesse began to howl, long and mournfully. This caused Leeloo to start barking. It was not a peaceful night for any of us!

In the morning, when I let Jesse out for a bathroom break, he raced straight over to his outdoor pen and asked to be let into it. I took that as a sign that the whole indoor dog experiment was a failure. Whenever possible, I like to let the animals tell me what they want, and Jesse was clearly saying he had not enjoyed being inside, and he wanted to go back to his old routine as an outdoor dog.

It was still pretty cold out, but I figured he knew better than I where he was happiest. So last night, I left him outside as usual, with his big shed for shelter and his enormous fenced run.

Imagine my surprise when, first thing this morning I hear a sound on the back porch and there is Jess, escaped from his pen---something he has not done in about 2 years!---and begging at the back door to be let inside!

Apparently during the night he'd had second thoughts and decided he'd like to give the indoor dog thing another try. So now he's napping beside my chair, with one ear and one eye always cocked to keep track of where I am.

I suspect it's going to take a while to smooth out all the conflicts between him and Leeloo, and to remind Jesse about the housebreaking rules he's forgotten. But he's let me know he's willing to try, so I guess that's what we'll do!