It is now September and in certain ways we seem to have turned the corner and entered the beginnings of fall. Bird and butterfly migrations have begun. In other ways we seemed to be stuck in summer. It remains warm (often hot) and humid (often rainy). Getting a late cutting of hay to dry is an extreme challenge, especially with the shorter day length.

Our last brood of Barn Swallows left their nest on September 3rd. Within two days the family had left the barn. The result is a strange quiet that now permeates the barn. We truly miss them and it has only been a few days since their departure.

We have had other unexpected visitors. In the early hours of September 4th, right behind the barn, I was met by a White-tailed doe nursing a very young fawn. Based upon the fawn’s size, it could not have been more than a month old. I would normally expect to see a fawn that young in late May to early June. The little babe is going to have a potentially rough fall and winter!

Over the last couple of days a single Least Sandpiper has taken up residence in and around the very large puddle that is currently part of the manure storage.

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

The food supply of insects is good and the sandpiper has seemed quite content. My guess is that it is beginning its southerly migration and has just stopped by for a brief visit. Nevertheless, it is still there this morning, in the midst of a downpour!

Our exciting news in August was the arrival of a new, large batch of our white yarn from Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill. We had literally run out of white yarn earlier this summer, which had put off any chance of doing any natural dyeing. Beginning in late August Gretchen has been busy taking advantage of any dry day to dye as much yarn as possible. The first, early batches were primarily yellows and oranges. We used up our large collection of onion skins for the first batch of dyes. That was followed by intense yellows and oranges from a new (to our garden) variety of Cosmos flower.

yellow cosmos

Next up was a batch of dye from another new flower to our garden, Dyers Coreopsis.

 dyers coreopis

Here is a sample of the results. From left to right are first and second dye batches from onions skins, yellow Cosmos and Dyers Coreopsis. The results are stunning, especially up against the red wall of the gallery.Yarn with 3 different dye materials

The Goldenrod is now in full bloom in our fields. The blossoms produce a beautiful yellow dye. Here Gretchen is ready to insert a skein of white wool into the Goldenrod dye pot.

white yarn into yellow dye bath

A few minutes later, out comes the resulting yellow yarn.

goldenrod dyed yarn

During the Labor Day weekend, we were honored to have a group from the Art Institute of Chicago join us for a dyeing retreat. The four are the staff of the Department of Textiles. They came specifically to observe our overall operation and to be a part of an Indigo dyeing weekend. Of course they got to visit the flock on pasture. Everyone (humans and sheep) was so pleased with the visit that we did it again a second day!

The first day was spent dyeing white and grays in the indigo dye bath. Later in the afternoon, some of the previously dyed yellow were over-dyed in the indigo. Here is a sample of some of the results from the first day.

indigo dyed blues and greens

Everyone really got into the process. On the second day a number of the yellow yarns were dyed for varying lengths of time in the indigo, with some wonderful greens resulting.

yellow yarn overdyed with indigo into greens

yellow into the indigo dye bath

out comes the green yarn

By late morning of the third day the indigo bath was nearly exhausted and it struggled to produce the intense results of the previous two days. On the third day we dyed yarn that had been previously been dyed red or pink using Cochineal. The results were, as planned, purple and violet.

Red yarn overdyed with indigo into purple

The weekend was a very intense experience, but we all had a wonderful time, each of us learning a lot from the others. So here we all are assembled (minus the shepherd/photographer) when the dye pot was exhausted. The Art Institute of Chicago in front of Whitefish Bay Farm Gallery (sorry, no lions are guarding the entrance). The dyers were far from exhausted. Thanks to all!

The Chicago Art Institute group