my kingdom for an oven

Posted on 21 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

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i’ve mentioned a few times that the peaches in our area are spectacular this year. i’ve purchased several batches and have been bagging them up to put in the freezer, but the last batch i had was too green to do right away. so i cleared a corner in our temporary “kitchen” and laid them out on a cotton rug, careful that none were touching, and covered them with newspaper to ripen. it took a while but finally they were ripe enough to start eating.

by today though, i had to figure out what i was going to do with the remaining nine, poised at the perfect stage of ultra-juicy ripeness, ready to begin their descent into rot if not eaten post-haste. mmmm, so ripe, the skins came off almost in one piece. so ripe that my mouth exploded with flavor at the smallest bite.

let’s see, i believe the equation goes: nine ripe peaches = pie.

i looked at my oven

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standing unmoored as it had all summer, forlorn and useless in its corner, suffering the further indignation of serving as a cupboard for pots and pans and a support for our makeshift “pantry”. poor oven.

no, we were’t going to be baking pie together this morning . . . dang, i can almost taste it, too . . .

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so i set about cutting the fruit up into little chunks suitable for mixing with yogurt and cereal.

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nine little bowls full, mmm. i’m sure they’ll be much appreciated in february, but today, all i want is pie.

seriously though, the summer without a kitchen has not been stressful. i’m too busy to notice that we aren’t cooking much and it’s been nice to eat a lot more raw food. there have been but a few times like this morning when i really REALLY wished i had an oven, a pie dish, and some ingredients for a crust.

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the transformation in our home has been totally worth any inconvenience and david has taken on most of the fallout that there is (doing dishes in the tiny washroom sink, for instance).

the new porch windows and doors look great, don’t they? what an improvement over what we had before.

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it’s going to be even better when we don’t have a kitchen out there. we’ll paint, install proper lighting, put down rugs, and load in some new furniture. it’s about time we had real porch chairs.

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we also got new windows on the other side of the house, where someone had put in picture windows that didn’t match the originals. once these are trimmed out and painted, the whole house will have windows that match.

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from inside, the room that used to be our office doesn’t look remotely the same. its astonishing.

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and guess what? we are closing in on a finished project. this is the view from the dining room into the kitchen.

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inside the new kitchen it’s going to feel airy and roomy with lots of natural light, yay.

david has been plastering for the last two weeks and is finally in the home stretch; he should be done tonight or tomorrow. the flooring, the cabinets, the butcher block, and the lighting are all onsite (and more things i can’t remember); the stone we are using in one area is waiting at the supplier. everything just needs to get loaded in when he’s done. there will still be some odds and ends that need doing, but it looks like the rest going to pull together pretty quickly.

so what’s new in my knitting world?

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well,i have been devoting most of my knitting time to secret projects (sorry!).

but most isn’t ALL; i’m still working on my sea pearl cardigan, which isn’t a whole lot further along than when you last saw it—a situation i hope to remedy this weekend, now that a raft of pattern work is finished.

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and the finishing work on my olive tweed sticks and stones cardigan in woolen rabbit sporty is moving along well, a little at a time. i’ve been using this as my public project when i knit with friends who are in our fall knitting club and shouldn’t see my secret projects.

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the button bands are on and the sleeve caps are almost completely sewn in; once they are done, i will give everything a nice steam press before moving on to the underarm and side seams. it’s starting to look like a finished sweater and perfect timing with fall on its way. i just need to pick out buttons.

speaking of which, i decided to go with the horn buttons for the new highlander that cherie knit in stone soup DK. i’ll need to reknit a few rows of the buttonhole band to fit the smaller buttons, but that shouldn’t take more than an hour, as soon as i have one free, haha.

now i bet you’re wondering what ever happened with that book give away we had last weekend—i didn’t forget! thank you all for sharing your stories about canning and preserving; i always enjoy reading the touching, thoughtful, funny, things you write in comments—and i do read all of them!. (the winner of course is chosen randomly, not judged by their answer.)

anyway, let’s congratulate stephanie b. who wrote:
Strawberry jam…my grandmother always sent us home with jam when we would visit.  My mom canned all kinds of things every year and my sisters and I always talk about the rows of canned food in our basement, my dad even built her a whole shelving unit for one wall of the basement.  I wish the 2 of them were still around to tell me how to make it work but, I’m going to start slowly this year.

alright, i’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve but i think i’ll save most of those for next time. i do want to show you something really fun from our neighbor bret—his newest brainchild

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he gave this old golf cart a new paint job and is using it to drive around the neighborhood for cleanup duty. i think it’s a great way to get kids involved in keeping the neighborhood looking nice; they won’t be able to resist riding around with bret in the flashy cart.

anyway, he was selling ad space on the cart to support our neighborhood association and david just couldn’t resist (i was away somewhere but i agreed it was a good idea). one side has the knitspot sign and the other has bare naked wools.

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and the inside has bret; he wants YOU to keep your neighborhood clean or he’ll have to come and show you how it’s done. and i think you’ll agree that’s the last word for today, haha.

ETA: okay, not exactly the last word—patternfish, a long-time partner and supporter of my work, has published a really nice spotlight on knitspot in their august newsletter. maybe you’d enjoy reading it and checking out the rest of their website; click here to beam over . . .

BNWs Features Birchleaf

Posted on 11 CommentsPosted in designing, patterns, projects, yarn and dyeing

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Another design has popped up on ravelry in Bare Naked Wools! Bonnie Sennott, designer behind Blue Peninsula, fell in love with the fiber combination of Breakfast Blend Fingering and knew it would be perfect for a cowl. When her design was released it was an instant favorite in the Bare Naked Wools ravelry group.

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Anne and I fell in love with Bonnie’s design all over again when we ran into her wearing her cowl at Squam in June.

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Birchleaf is a texture and lace infinity cowl that can be worn several ways

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and is a perfect piece to add to your wardrobe to transition you into cooler weather.

This accessory was first designed in Breakfast Blend Fingering

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and Bonnie said it would also be perfect for Stone Soup Fingering.

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Which BNWs yarn will you choose for Birchleaf? Breakfast Blend Fingering colors can be found here, while Stone Soup Fingering colors can be found here.

pickled pink

Posted on 195 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, food and garden, projects

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the fact that we’d have no kitchen this summer led us to forego planting the garden as well—it was a good choice considering how busy we are and how much added work there is when undergoing a major home renovation. we are very relieved not to be worrying about watering and weeding or where the heck we are going to wash whole baskets of produce.

we still however, crave the sparkling flavors of fresh summer veggies and have been lucky to rely on the kindness of friends and neighbors who are sharing the overflow from their gardens. in particular, our dear friend beckie not only lends her kitchen weekly for me to prepare foods for freezing, but never sends me home without a basket of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, or even eggs for our table.

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throughout the season, we’ve been getting together at her house to bag up berries, peaches, tomatoes—all those fruits that are too sticky to deal with when one doesn’t have a sink big enough to wash them.

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in a corner of the porch we are using for our main living space right now, i eked out a little square to lay down a cotton rug for ripening peaches under newspaper. most of these will be for the table, but if they all ripen at once, i may end up freezing some.

yes, it’s that time of summer when the harvest is an unstoppable tide and it’s all we can do to keep up with it. that said, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re doing; preserving food has wonderful benefits but only if you use best practices. as an ever-evolving science, the rules of food preservation change and so should our knowledge about the topic, if for no other reason than that food itself is constantly evolving too.

it never hurts to know more about preserving food safely and efficiently, while retaining the best flavor and texture possible. everyone can use a little help in this regard and a good book on the subject can be a valuable friend.

enter a new release from the culinary institute of america, preserving: putting up the season’s bounty

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i’m sure there are many more comprehensive volumes out there on canning and preserving—big thick books that cover every eventuality. but this book has something those books don’t—it’s small size, weight, and attractive layout make it so easy to digest that i’m actually reading and using it.

why, i can pop this baby in my tote bag and take it along to beckie’s house to read to her if i want—i like that.

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inside, it’s filled with all sorts of useful information that we want to know. but what i like is that it gets you thinking about the endgame before you even start gardening or buying produce.

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very smart advice since the end result is only as good as the quality of the produce you have to work with.

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the preparatory chapters also discuss the concept of the pantry, how much you really need to put by, and how to store preserved goods properly. all good advice for laying a good foundation.

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because let’s face it—putting up food is a labor intensive job, often hot and messy and somewhat pricey; maybe even more costly than average store-bought brands. the big payoff is a healthier, better tasting product of known origin; important enough for many of us to pursue despite the cost. the least we can do to pay ourselves back by treating the final results  like the treasured goods they are.

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the middle chapters of the book focus on various preservation methods, each having its own pages in the spotlight. for each, the authors discuss tools and terminology, introducing basic methodology and defining the terms you need to know.

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this is where, as a beginner or someone who has limited space to work,  you can choose the tools and strategies that will work best for you. for instance, one of the reasons i have yet to pursue canning, is that for so many years i lived in city apartments with no space to store big pots and boxes of jars that i would use but one month per year—or to store rows of finished canned goods either. i took to freezing because it was quick and easy after a long day of work and ziploc bags took up much less space when not in use.

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however, freezing is not the best method for every food and it does require quite a bit of freezer space. i know i should explore canning for certain types of food and one of these summers, i will. i’ll probably get beckie to walk me through canning at some point; just not right now.

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still, i love to read about it and doing so may spur me to try it on some level, sooner rather than later.

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of course there is a chapter on pickling, along with drying, smoking, and freezing.

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you’ll probably find it amusing that even though we don’t cook meat here, i still think it would be awesome to make my own bacon if i did include that in my diet.

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i mean, it’s GOTTA be a far cry from what you’d buy in the cooler at the supermarket, right?

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even as we work away at freezing fruits and vegetables, beckie and i come up with questions we need answered. it’s always nice to read more about a method i use all the time—why not? one thing i do know is that i don’t know everything about anything.

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safe food storage is a topic that totally deserves to be revisited on a regular basis—scientists are finding out new information all the time and updating old, long-held beliefs about the “right way” to handle food.

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finally, the book ends with a chapter on homemade pantry staples such as ketchup and other condiments, with advice on filling up that pantry you prepared at the start of the season. it’s nice that they circled back to the beginning i think; it makes me feel that it’s in keeping with the growing cycle of the garden.

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here the authors discuss how to clean and assess your jars and equipment as you empty and put them away during the winter—when to get rid of pieces that won’t be useful in the future, how to keep an eye on the shelf life of preserved goods, and how to keep the pantry clean and free of pests. a lot of information for such a small volume.

doesn’t that sound like a terrific little book? wouldn’t you like to own one? well as luck would have it, our friend nathalie who is the director of publications at CIA (and an awesome knitter), has very generously offered us two giveaway copies of preserving!

here’s how it’s going to work: we’re going to give away one copy here on the blog and one copy on our knitspot facebook page. erica will mastermind how the FB giveaway will work and announce it there. the cool thing is that you can throw your name in  the hat in both places for two chances to win (though we will award only ONE book per winner).

to be included in the blog giveaway, leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm ESDT on sunday august 24th, telling us what favorite summer food you are  preserving (or wish you could). we’ll pick a winner and announce it early next week.

a big thank you to nathalie for giving us an advance peek inside the preserving book and providing giveaway copies for a late summer treat.

mrs. lincoln’s lace

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in yarn and dyeing

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please join me in welcoming to the flock our newest yarn, mrs. lincoln’s lace, which was our bare naked wools club selection in june. received with great enthusiasm by our membership, it’s been trending strongly on ravelry as well, appearing in the top ten picks on yarn board for much of the summer.

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with good reason too—its rich deep color and light weight make mrs. lincoln’s lace a wonderful choice for knitting the lightweight and openwork projects we prefer in warm weather. spun in wyoming from a blend of  lustrous lincoln lamb raised in oregon and chocolate rambouillet from montana, this unusual lace yarn is an american chestnut beauty.

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one of our goals in choosing fiber combinations for our bare naked club and retail yarn shop is to whip up a sense of adventure and experimentation, as well as surprise and pleasure throughout our knitspot community—ourselves included. i relish the anticipation that builds once the POs go out to place our orders and wait anxiously for word that a new yarn is ready to ship.

sometimes, my first hands-on experience of a final yarn begins upon arrival of the entire shipment. it’s always an exciting moment to open the big boxes, feel the skeins for the first time, examine the twist, and—most importantly—put my nose to the fiber to take that first deep sniff. especially when, like this one we had to forego a test batch to save on time. i was relieved and pleased to finally hold our first lace yarn in my hands.

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and the color—WOW! i love how it changes character depending on the light. most of the time i see it as a very deep, ashy black/brown, but then the sun will catch hold of it and bits of bright caramel and copper light up its surface to totally transform it.

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while spun as a lace weight, generous in yardage and with a fairly relaxed twist, being lamb and curly and blended with rambouillet, the yarn has an irrepressible springiness that comes to life as it is knit up. a wonderful time-release treat for the knitter alone to enjoy. click here take a look at all the yarn specs.

so what have we been knitting with mrs. lincoln’s lace?

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well . . . LACE! we’ve been test driving the yarn in some long-time knitspot favorites, such as wandering thymetwig and leaf, twinings, and wasp and rose. i think we all agree that the yarn knits up like a dream—while a bit hairy, it is easy to work with and the garter stitch fabric has a good, smooshy feeling. that fuzziness blooms and takes on extra sparkle after a good soak in hot water.

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the blocked fabric has wonderful stitch definition and keeps its shape really well, falling into long, light folds that pick up every breeze to flutter about. the club designs that i paired with this yarn show it off to lovely advantage

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they can be seen in our BNK 2013 collection.

and now for a word from our sponsor . . .

the lincoln sheep—also known as lincoln longwool—is one of the oldest established longwool breeds, originating more than 500 years ago in the marshy lowlands of lincolnshire, england, where it thrived by feeding on the turnip fields of the region.

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lincoln is the largest british sheep, developed specifically to produce the heaviest, longest, and most lustrous fleece of any breed (before shearing they tend to look as if they are buried in their fleeces).

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lincolns are heavy meat producers and good breeders that contribute to flock improvement on many levels. one of the four english longwool breeds—the others being cotswold, leicester longwool, and wensleydale—the lincoln has had a significant genetic impact on sheep breeding and is speculated to have had a part in the parentage of all the longwool breeds in england.

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archeological evidence suggests that the romans introduced the progenitor of all the modern breeds to england. anglo saxons were adept at spinning and weaving and there is growing evidence of a substantial wool industry in lincolnshire at this time. florentine merchants visiting england sourced more than 50 percent of their wool exports there; at that time, the native fiber was finer than it is now and lincoln scarlett was the most expensive material on the italian market.

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in the seventeenth century the longwool became significantly more important, as huge amounts of it were transported to norfolk, where worsted spinning was practiced. this marks the time of the first written descriptions of lincoln sheep—large with prodigious quantities of fairly coarse wool, which was exported to europe by the ton—telling us that the key features of the breed were set by the start of the 17th century.

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as an interesting aside, lincoln were such a sturdy, long legged sheep that they walked freely throughout the district and older sheep were often walked all the way to London to provide mutton, lanolin for soap, and tallow for candles at slaughter. the large size of the sheep meant they were docile, so big flocks could meander peacefully along the drove roads, reaching the city in less than two weeks.

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the present-day lincoln developed by robert blakewell is the result of crossing his improved leicesters with the coarse native sheep of lincolnshire. the improved lincoln provided a combination of more and higher quality meat with a higher quality of wool than the “old” lincoln. the wool of the improved breed was of finer diameter and took dye very well while retaining its strength for the combing and worsted spinning processes used at that time. it was this improved lincoln that supplied the boom in production of rugs and upholstery cloth, resulting in the accumulation of great wealth in lincolnshire and surrounding counties for many decades.

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lincoln sheep are large, long legged, deep bodied, and sturdy, though they do require good nutrition to perform well. their wool is long and lustrous, growing to a length of approximately twelve inches per year, with each sheep producing twelve to sixteen pounds of raw wool. their versatile fleece may be white or colored in shades of gray, silver, charcoal, and black and is in great demand for spinning, weaving and other crafts.

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the lincoln was first imported into the united states at the end of the eighteenth century. never a very popular breed in america, it has played an important role in the central states, idaho, and oregon in producing rams for breeding to increase size, hardiness, and wool clip. the national lincoln sheep association was founded in the united states in 1891. during the second half of the 1800s, lincolns were exported to countries around the globe in large numbers and the breed has been generally more popular in canada than in the united states.

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during the 1900s lincoln breed numbers declined, reaching a low in great britain by 1980 of fewer than one thousand remaining purebred ewes. since then, numbers in the breed have increased due to a revival of interest in the breed’s wool. like most other longwool breeds, the lincoln is classified globally as rare and faces an uncertain future. one challenge to the health of the population is a disagreement about the place of naturally colored lincolns. the british association does not register colored sheep, causing concern among those who enjoy using the range of colors found in their fleeces. the national lincoln sheep breeders association in the united states registers colored lincolns as part of the breed while maintaining separate flock books for white and colored sheep.

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the lincoln advantages and benefits:

  • exceptionally heavy, strong, lustrous wool
  • renowned for their longevity and ability of older animals to continue to clip heavy wool weights
  • have strong, long-lasting teeth
  • have excellent hooves with high resistance to footrot
  • long cannon bone and heavy, well-muscled carcass
  • high genetic heritability for soundness of teeth and feet
  • have excellent mothering ability
  • lambs mature early
  • produces an immediate increase of up to 25 percent in wool weight when crossed with any breed
  • increased bodyweight in crossbred progeny
  • increased wool pull on top grade export lambs

 

christiane payton, owner and operator
north valley farm, oregon

life is better with lincolns—that’s my motto. i’ve been raising sheep for over twelve years now, but started with lincolns ten years ago and never looked back. they are intelligent with fun personalities, a large frame, and unique fleece in a wide range of colors. when people purchase breeding stock from me, i warn them that lincolns are like potato chips—you’ll never just be satisfied with having one or two.

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i got into sheep from a fiber perspective—i was already a spinner and knitter and had done some weaving and felting as well. with four school-aged children underfoot, i wanted to turn my hobby into a home based business. we already had some romneys, but every year i purchased a couple of lincoln fleeces from a breeder in california; she sold me her last two purebred lincoln ewes when she put together a wensleydale program. i gradually increased the number of lincolns in my flock, eventually choosing to focus on the breed exclusively in 2009.

the north valley farm lincoln flock, located in the yamhill valley of western oregon, now stands at roughly sixty brood ewes, one of the largest flocks of registered lincoln sheep in north america. lincolns are a rare breed worldwide, with fewer than one thousand animals registered between the united states and the united kingdom, their country of origin.

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i believe that the future of the breed lies with proving that it can be economically viable. to this end, the north valley farm lincoln flock brings together specialized agriculture and industry. eighty percent of the farm revenues come from direct meat sales of grass fed lincoln lamb to private individuals as well as some of the portland area’s most highly rated restaurants. we also sell breeding stock, raw fleece, roving, washed locks and pelts.

our natural colored lincolns include many solid black or charcoal animals, the rarest and most recessive of the colors in this breed. projects such as the bare naked wools knitting club help support growers of this heritage breed and allow consumers to experience its wonderful qualities. so the future is indeed bright for this rare and wonderful breed of sheep. thank goodness life will continue to be better with lincolns!

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and as we like to say around here: yarn is good food; come and get it.