Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Visit to Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Co.

On our last afternoon in Montana -- actually on the way back to the airport -- we stopped in on a lark* at Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company.  It's just north of Bozeman, in a gorgeously verdant valley, nestled against the foothills of the Bridger Mountains.

I've been reading about them for years. Their entire operation is sustainable and conscientious.  And damned hard work, I'm sure!  Their ranch is certified organic and predator friendly (meaning, they protect their sheep with fencing and guard animals rather than killing native predators like bears, wolves, and coyotes). 

Their yarn is processed with solar heat and power and dyed with natural dyes.  Here you can see the solar hot water panels on the south face of their barn roof.  The photovoltaic panels are free-standing  -- you can see them at left in the top photo.

Inside the 1930s-era barn are the machines for carding, drafting, spinning.  The "yarn shop" is tucked into one of the old horse stalls. 

One of the unexpected pleasures of the visit was that Becky has a background in earth sciences.  It turned out that the geochemical dating techniques that she was starting to use in her Antarctic research in the '80s are what Mountain Man uses in his research today.  It was an incredible coincidence. Really incredible.  They had a grand time talking about cosmogenic Beryllium-10 isotopes (!) while I picked out my yarn.

I got swept up in the moment, you can see. I brought home three skeins of their sportweight wool in "Roma Red." The color is a rich tomato red, and it was beautiful in this landscape, picking up the reds of old barns, farming equipment, farmhouse roofs. 

For eco-minded knitters, TML&WC is a mythical place. For years I'd been reading about them in books like Shear Spirit and The Natural Knitter, and theirs was the first organic, naturally dyed yarn on my Green Knitter website (back when it was active, circa 2007 or 2008). What a pleasure to finally visit, to have this mythical place made real for me. 

* P.S.  I really did just drop by and invite us in.  Their contact page says at the bottom: "if you are in the area, stop and see us." I interpreted this very liberally.  I called that morning, left a message, then just showed up!  Becky and Dave were very gracious about it.  But if you're a more courteous soul than I am, you should arrange a visit ahead of time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

white (woolen) wedding

Mountains, more mountains! This weekend I was even further afield. Rocky Mountains. Montana.

It must look like my whole life these days is playing in the mountains.  Actually, most of my hours are spent hunched over my dissertation, scowling and stressed.  But I don't much care to memorialize those experiences.  I stick to the weekend stories. The highs, literally.

And what were the stories from this little adventure? Well, well, we were off to Montana for my friend's wedding.  And what a glorious wedding!  In a green meadow, surrounded by snow-tipped mountains, next to a roaring stream. The bride and her father -- serious Montanans indeed -- rode in on horses. There was bluegrass music and cowboy boots.

And, oh yes!, hand knits. In the cool evening, the bride wore my wedding shawl.  And I wore my Katarina cardigan.

After the wedding, Mountain Man and I had a final day to ourselves. We went just up the road to Big Sky.  It was a bit eerie to be at a ski mountain during a seasonal lull (I gather that the big summer season starts in July, when it's a bit warmer yet).  So quiet, yet with so much fallow infrastructure.

No matter. It was beautiful.  We could take a chair lift to a high saddle of Lone Peak, then hike upwards from there.

 Majestic landscapes make you feel so small.  Puts things into perspective.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

leaves on a tree

Another weekend, another landscape.  This time it was the San Jacinto mountains. Sturdy and rugged. Granite and Ponderosa Pines.

I tucked a few balls of yarn into my rucksack, and I made progress with six more leaves. The buttery yellow is an organic wool that I naturally dyed with juniper and creosote bush.  Goes beautifully with the olive green that I showed you last week.

You can start to see how the leaves fit together, how they'll be sewn together to form a blanket.  It's curved in the picture, though, because they're on a tree trunk here!!  The leaves, unblocked, curl up on themselves.  It was only by sticking them to the rough bark of a pine that I could get them laid out like this to show you.

Monday, June 04, 2012

snakes, flowers, leaves

As the temperatures climbed in Phoenix, we went climbing in Sedona. Up on the cliffs, we took in the sensory experiences: the colors of red rocks and blue skies, the metallic clank of chains and climbing gear, and the unmistakable diamonds of a rattlesnake.... 

(And yes, this was up on the cliff!  A baby rattlesnake with a full belly, curled up on a rock ledge by the top of the long first pitch.  Gave me quite a scare!)  

Back down on terra firma, we had a long, blazingly hot hike back to the car.   My brain felt addled by the beating midday sun, but at least I was still able to glory in the beauty of the desert flowers.  Golden-flower Century Plant (Agave chrysantha), standing ten feet tall.  Engelmann's Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii), nestled in a thicket of green cactus pads. 

What relief it was to get back to the house we'd rented, to cool off with a shower, pour myself an icy drink, and sit on the shaded patio with my knitting.  I was working up leaves, which will eventually be sewn into a family tree afghan.    

 This particular leaf is knit in a naturally-dyed tussah silk and wool yarn, which I helped dye during a natural dye class in Taos a couple years ago.  Beautiful texture and color.  A pleasure to knit.