Saturday, October 17, 2009



I have had an interest in traditional crafts for a long time. Perhaps it is the nostalgic romantic perceptions of a slower time or the fact that many implements of such crafts - spinning wheels , weaving looms etc were beautiful and functional objects in themselves. Several years ago on a holiday trip , I eagerly purchased a weaving loom . It was a simple Ashford rigid heddle loom . It was placed into my arms all neatly boxed up  and I was delighted. I ignored the comments of others on my holiday, who suggested the notion of "white elephant" .I was instead enthralled with the prospect of lovely rough textures hand woven fabric. I anticipated the wonderful clicking sounds that a working loom makes. It was to be a long time before that loom could be unpacked and set up . But it was the start of a life long love for the loom. I have since bought several others from simple frame looms . to the rigid heddle loom and to the wonderful 4 shaft loom. I still have my eye out for an affordable floor loom with foot pedals.

I have not had the benefit of practical teachers but I have gleaned what I know from books and online weaving friends who always amaze me with their gentle willingness to teach and explain what must be for them the most simple of things. These ladies weave wonderful things on their looms of varying sizes. They are able to design wonderful patterns and create expanses of unique cloth from the work of their own hands. I simply love this notion. To take and create something truly wonderful.

I am moving towards using only my own home spun yarn - created on my spinning wheel- to use in my weaving but for the moment I am working on using up my stash of yarn scraps .I learn very much through trial and error. At the moment I am weaving a colourful runner with a pattern called hop scotch . This involves a doubling of weft thread across the warp threads. It creates a lovely closed even weave. I am enjoying seeing how this unfolds.

I still have so much to learn - but the wonderful resource books I have will lead me through this process. I have promised Greg one day an lovely handwoven cloak . Homespun yarn dyed from native bush dyes and hand woven with love.

For those of you interested- my loom in the pictures is a Teko Teko loom - made in New Zealand. This small and study loom made in beautiful native Rimu also converts into a 4 shaft and inkle loom. It is set up as a rigid heddle a the moment.

I hope you enjoy seeing what I am working on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lifes little Teachers.

We've been docking these past weeks. That very busy time where we muster all the new lambs and their mums off the hills and dock tails, castrate, vaccinate, treat for fly and count how successful lambing has been. Its a fun time even though the actual task is somewhat messy and unpleasant. Fun because we do it together, the whole family and anyone else who happens to be around and unoccupied. Fun because the whole success or failure of the farming year hinges on the number of lambs that survive to form the trading base of our operation. I always look forward to knowing the results of our decisions and management practices of the past few months. Of course some things are beyond our control and if the weather has been particularly unkind docking can be more like a disaster assesment. This year we had unseasonal snow and cold heavy rain that left a trail of dead lambs in its wake. Although unfortunate that is the challenge of farming. Doing your best and then doing your best again should things not work according to plan.
It was not however the fortunes, good or bad, of lambing that caught my attention the other day on the hill. It was something rather more attitudinal you might say.
Mustering young lambs can be a challenge at the best of times and things can easily go horribly wrong especially when approaching gateways. The combination of mis-mothered panic stricken lambs and exhuberant excitable young dogs in an ever decreasing space means the smallest of misjudgements can be the difference between a clean muster or several hours wasted regathering the escapees.
We have had our share of misjudgements by both shepherd and dogs this week, but we have had some satifiying successes too. It was while approaching just such a pressure point on a muster that had gone exceedingly well up to that point that I learnt a major lesson in life from watching what happened next.
A largish mob of ewes with triplet lambs (alot of lambs) was approaching the gate to the yards. Two shepherds with  four dogs between us had the mob in hand and our partners and another dog were holding a potential escape route around the head of a gully. Everyone was well postioned and the sheep were moving pleasingly forward. Suddenly one old ewe broke away down hill with a determined look in her eye. Everybody tensed and shifted slightly to cover the escape, and the only dog left out of the action broke free of its tie and came to 'help', running through the gateway in front of the mob. The whole mob spun around and suddenly we were faced with several hundred lambs and their nervous mothers intent on breaking the ring of dogs and people that surrounded them. Now disorientated as to the direction of the gate, our preferred escape for them, they were ready to charge at any percieved weakness. A vital moment. For perhaps five long seconds or more nobody moved a muscle. Nobody.
And this was the lesson. Nobody moved because everybody was in the right place and if you are in the right place then moving is the wrong thing to do no matter what you are faced with. Many people, myself included are fooled into rushing around trying to placate or plug the gaps or 'do' something to make life better. We do this because we are either in the wrong place, space or mind set, or we believe that we are in the wrong place, space or mindset because someone has turned life around on us.
The truth is standing still, holding your ground can be the best solution. Waiting, in the right position, although difficult, can achieve far more positive results than panic actions based on fear or insecurity, whether yours or others.
Those lambs danced on their toes and mock charged us all. But faced with unmoving opponents they turned and flowed through the gate like magic.

As we breathed or thanks and patted our dogs I reflected on how even lambs can teach us valuable lessons about living successfully. All it takes to learn is a moments stillness.