Monday, June 20, 2016

A Labor of Love

The days and even weeks flew by as we worked diligently to get the facility ready. The landlord had recently bought the building and was prepared to make changes, too. 

The carpeting, which would have been horrible to keep clean with wool processing taking place, came up and was replaced with linoleum tiles. 


The wallpaper was removed, the paneling was painted, lights were moved, ceiling tiles replaced, doors widened, etc., etc.   
Some changes were big, while others were quite small; however, every change brought us that much closer to opening. 


I knew I would be busy with the wool processing orders, although I also realized that the hand machines would be definitely slower going than the big industrial machines would have been! 


But, I wanted to create a retail part of the mill, too. 

A place where we would display items we had made from the sheep wool or llama fiber. 


My daughters and I found ourselves knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, and felting at a mad pace in order to stock the shelves. 

I have three looms and they were always in motion!


 As we grew closer to opening day, my older daughter left to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to raise money for and awareness of Lyme disease. 

She had been planning the hike long before I had gotten the crazy idea to open a wool processing facility! I was supportive of her leaving, but knew I had just lost an employee (or should I say, volunteer)!  

My younger daughter graduated from college and was leaving shortly thereafter to do her graduate degree in Europe.   

So, by default, my new business partner became the family dog! She accompanied me to the mill each day as we continued to prepare for the grand opening!

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Dawning of HeartFelt Fleece & Fiber

It has been a while since I have written on this blog and decided that I've missed it. I had hosted a morning radio talk show for a year, and had participated in the NaNoWriMo writing challenge, and I think my words were simply all used up!

The retail portion of the mill
But, now I am back and I have so much to share. In January 2015, I opened a small wool processing facility and fiber studio in the heart of the bluegrass region of Kentucky. I had heard that my favorite, large and wonderful wool mill in Ohio was going out of business, and that would leave me and many shepherds without a place to process their fleeces. I began to brainstorm and daydream of opening my own facility.

Just about the time when the business plan had been accepted and a facility had been found, I got word that the mill in Ohio was going to stay open. While this was wonderful for the wool industry, my dream was squelched. But, in all that turmoil, I realized that I really did want to open a wool mill and work with fiber every day! I began to look at the prospect of opening a mini-mill with all the equipment necessary to process wool and fiber, but on a smaller scale. I called small mills across our country, spoke with owners, and learned from them what was and was not working.  Bit by bit, pieces began to fall into place and I was on my way to opening a fiber processing facility.

Wool arrived in large burlap bags
In February 2015, as I began to order processing equipment, I was contacted by the Kentucky Cloth project, a project that was trying to blend hemp with wool to create a viable fabric. They were hoping that my mill would be functioning by the time shearing season came. They asked me if I'd process KY sheep wool so that it would stay Kentucky Proud. I agreed and weeks later, before anything else was in the building, the wool arrived.

The first thing into the mill was a washing machine and I began washing the fleeces. I will talk about that in another post, but it was a long and arduous task. Ha! I also got a dehumidifier and ran that around the clock to take out as much water as the wet wool around the facility was putting into the air!

More equipment began to arrive, painting was done to the wall, new flooring, and so much more. The mill began to take shape and all that wool was getting closer and closer to being ready to send off to where it was going to be combined with the hemp.
Some of the wool after washed, but not yet picked!

I will tell you that the mill opened in the summer of 2015, and we have been growing stronger each month.

The next several blogs that I write will be taking you on the first year's journey with HeartFelt Fleece & Fiber.  If you'd like to jump ahead and see what we're up to you can go to: and check out our website. Or you may stop by the shop in Cynthiana, KY and visit us!

But, I do hope you'll stay tuned and check back to see the next post.

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Wool Processing

Shearing....the first of many steps

One option is to take it to a mill.  I do sometimes, but
only after I've washed and picked it.

Carding......on a LARGE scale!

A batt for a quilt.  Much larger than I can make at the house.

If you have been lucky to sleep under a quilt with wool batting,
you have been lucky enough!!

Pindraft.....slender roving

Bobbins at a commercial mill

Bobbin on my spinning wheel

Keeping the wool separated as I spin

My bobbins for plying

Yarn that I spun and two-plyed 

With the yarn, knit a scarf. With the batting, felt something!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I lined the Yule Log with Cool Whip.
Then on one half: Crushed Mint Oreos
Other half: Raspberries
Celebrations usually coincide with religious holidays, family gatherings, national events, promotions, life's milestones, safe voyages, etc.....but, sometimes it's fun to celebrate "just because".

Last night was one of those celebrations. Maybe it was a "just because" or maybe it was really because we were all together and feeling thankful. Whatever the reason, we decided on making a Yule Log or Buche de Noel. I usually make this for Christmas Eve, but this year time had gotten ahead of me and it never was made.

I share this 40 year old recipe with you in hopes that you find a reason to celebrate "just because".

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa(leave out to make plain Jelly Roll)
1/4 tsp salt
(powdered sugar)

Heat oven to 375*.  Spray jelly roll pan (15 x 10 x 1) with Pam and then line with wax paper. 
Beat eggs on high speed until very thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes. Then gradually beat in sugar. Beat in water and vanilla now in low speed. Gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt and beat until batter is smooth. Pour into pan.
Beginning to roll it up.

Bake 12 - 15 minutes(Insert toothpick and see if it comes out clean). Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert on clean dish towel that you generously covered with powdered sugar. Once it is on that, carefully remove wax paper.

While hot, slowly and carefully roll cake AND TOWEL from narrow end.  Cool at least 30 minutes.  Unroll carefully; remove towel. Spread with ice cream, cool whip, or jelly. Now roll up again and decorate with icing, cool whip, or simply dust with powdered sugar.
The "end" of the log.

Serves 10.  If you have filled with ice cream put in freezer.  With Cool Whip, put in freezer or refrigerator, if jelly you may leave a room temperature.

My Buche!!
 I usually cut off one of the ends and put it to the side of the "log" to really give the appearance of a "branch". Now ice it. Once iced you can also "dust" it with powdered sugar to give the appearance of fresh snow falling. 

In the past I have also made meringue "mushrooms" and put them beside the log or on top of the log to make it appear more "natural". 

Please excuse the ugly serving doesn't happen too often, but I was still looking for the dish I needed (smiles). 

My favorite filling is peppermint ice cream. But, the cool whip and mint oreos/ raspberries  we used this time were pretty awesome, I must say. 

                                               CELEBRATE "JUST BECAUSE"  and ENJOY!!

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood...."

She finally made it!

On this bleak winter's evening, I thought I would write something inspirational, although I'm going to take a winding road to get to that inspiration!

In 2010, my older daughter did a science research summer internship in New Hampshire and fell in love with hiking. So, during her senior year at the university, she began making plans to hike the Appalachian Trail as soon as she graduated. 

That entire spring semester, she was consumed with planning the daily mileage to be hiked, researching gear, and trying to convince me everything would be fine. (Years before, when she was just 12 years old, we'd been planning to go out on the Trail for a few hundred miles, as a mother/daughter bonding journey. But, life's circumstances had made that impossible and now she was heading out there without me.) One of her male friends from school decided he thought it may be fun to attempt, so he made plans to accompany her. 

They were going to begin at Harper's Ferry in Virginia and hike to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  I was a bit happier that she was hiking with a friend; so, even though I had some reservation, I tried to be supportive.

The few trains that pass through our town don't stop to pick up passengers, but in a small town just about an hour north of us, they do.  The train that they needed to catch came through at 3:00 am.  We had left the house around midnight in order to get there and get checked in. 

McAfee Knob -  AT, Virginia

As the train emerged through the darkness and pulled into that deserted station, not a person was in sight.  After a hasty good-bye, the train was off again as quickly as it had come, and I was left wondering why I'd agreed to the whole plan.

To summarize this quickly, - her friend lasted only 8 days before returning home.  My daughter hiked on for almost 500 miles alone.  One morning around 6:00 am, I got a phone call asking if I'd help her get home....I was on the road north 15 minutes later.

She was very unhappy that she hadn't completed what she had set out to do, and began planning her hike for the next summer.  But, this time she planned to hike the whole thing ---Georgia to Maine.  April 14th, we drove her to Georgia and dropped her at the trail head of the AT the next morning.

And....she did hike the whole thing --- 2180+ miles.  She had a wonderful time. I had a nerve-racking time; however, I knew she was doing something that she'd had her heart set on doing. It took her several months and she met many wonderful people along the way.

My younger daughter joined her for a short time and they hiked together for about a week or so. My role during the whole hike was SUPPLIER. I spent the summer dehydrating food, packing supply boxes, and mailing them to her pre-arranged postal stops/drops.

Somewhere along the way, she got Lyme Disease and even though she wasn't bothered by it at the time, she was soon after......but that is another Post by itself.

This spring she begins her hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Mexico to Canada to raise money for Lyme Research.  To learn more about her hike, click

AT View 
What had started for her as an interest, rapidly developed as a passion, and now is impacting the lives of others.  I am proud of her for making a difference.

".....somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, -and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
                          - Robert Frost

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Greenhouse Effect!

Display set up at a local business
I apologize for not blogging for too many weeks to count!  There has been too much going on to even sit still to think about, let alone WRITE about.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and if you celebrate Christmas, then I hope it was very merry with lots of family and friends sharing the moments with you.
Felted Valentine Hearts

I received gift items to make my life easier both on the farm and for my business .

Something that I'd wanted for a LONG time, but could never quite decide what type I'd use the most, is a GREENHOUSE!

Well, I got a tiny one for Christmas to allow me to begin to my seeds even earlier.  It's very, very small, but I think that in the long run I will have more success and less frustration.

It's adorable, but sturdy, and I think situated in the right location will enhance its longevity. It's going to be set up in the south-facing guest room!

I can start seeds in this!
I have decided to challenge myself----  85% of what I eat must have been grown on my farm.I won't be starting this challenge until June. At first I thought I may want to begin in March with growing things in cold frames and the greenhouse, but decided that I need to do some more research first on more items I can grow year round here in KY.

My kids have laughed and have asked if I plan to grow peanuts for my PB & J sandwiches (not to mention--Reese's Cups!) My farmer friends have begged me to add the condition "or food that my neighbor grows"! I think they think that I will starve if left to my own device! Hmmph! It makes me all the more determined to prove I can.

It's not that I don't know where my food comes from, so this isn't a "get in touch with the food chain" sort of activity. Nor does this stem from many of the other terrorist scenarios I hear frequently.  This is really just a challenge to make life more interesting for me on the farm!  (hee, hee)

Not too many years ago, most people did have a garden because it was necessary...not just a hobby! Usually, every year we grow the typical garden vegetables, plus we also have the berries and fruit trees that produce different fruits for several months. Up until now, we have mostly just eaten things fresh from the garden and canned jams, jellies, pickles, etc. But, now I plan to plant enough vegetables for canning produce to last a year.

Christmas Day (evening), I made Orange
Marmalade from organic oranges from
family living in Florida.
I have a wonderful pressure canner that will begin to get a heavier work-out! I will NEVER forget the time last year after I had canned some green beans, I asked my farmer neighbor if he had a few extra beans that I could have or buy so that I could can a few more quarts. He showed up later that day with the flatbed of his truck piled high with the bean plants!! He told me I could have them all, if I didn't mind "picking" them!
I stood there with a bewildered look on my face!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Smells of Christmas Traditions!

Gary Sandy, as Scrooge
Four days until Christmas and the smells from kitchen continue to conjure memories of Christmas past. 
(Not to be confused with the Ghost of Christmas Past!- I was just in “A Christmas Carol Live Radio Drama” with Gary Sandy, from WKRP in Cincinnati, and he played Scrooge. And I finished my NaNoWriMo novel. So I’ve been busy, even though I haven’t been blogging)

The Christmas season comes but once a year , and in that single month we cram so much: holiday activities; decorating; shopping; singing; wrapping; visiting; partying;  ……you name it, we try to do it. Sometimes in all that hustle and bustle of trying to “find” Christmas, we can actually lose it. 

Scottish Shortbread

Two completely different factors need to be present for me to create the feeling of Christmas in my home....
1) church services through the Advent season. 

2) baking (I know…..very different)! 

In all fairness to me, depending where we lived influenced what type of church service we’d hear or participate with to some extent. 

Gingerbread Houses

And, climates, Christmas activities, and local traditions are very different in the various places I’ve lived-- England, Philippines, Cyprus, Italy, Sardegna, Spain, Hawaii, California, Florida, Maine, etc., etc…..  But one thing that was always constant was our holiday baking traditions-- as a child, an adult, and parent.

The kitchen was always the place to hang out during the holiday season from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  Special Christmas cookies – such as Linzer Tarts; Candy Canes; Peanut Blossoms; Sugar Cut-outs, Lebkuchen; Meringues; Chocolate Kringles; and, many others were baked early and placed in the freezer so that I could give as gifts. 

Gingerbread Houses were made by the dozens, decorated, and then given as gifts to friends. 

Pumpkin Bread is one of my favorites to bake and give away. 

Mini Pumpkin Bread Loaves 

And, of course it wouldn’t the holiday season without Fudge! Long before I ever made it myself, I would help either Mom or Dad as they tested the sugary mixture making sure it reached the perfect temperature on the stove so that it would harden as it cooled.  They must have taught me well, because I’ve never made a batch that wasn’t perfect! (smiles!)

Advent Calendar
filled with bones.

A tradition that my younger daughter started over ten years ago is the baking of doggie bones and giving them to our canine friends of friends!  Made from freshly crushed peanuts, they smell heavenly baking and cause our favorite paw-friend to wait patiently at the entrance to the kitchen for them to cool.

One of the greatest joys that I get during the Christmas week is filling beautiful baskets with baked goods and jams and delivering to friends.  Each year the baskets hold different items, but the intent is always the same—I want to share with them something that brings such joy to me.

                                                                                            Merry Christmas!