Tag Archives: Meduseld Farm

The Biggest Little Farm Review

Yesterday we went to the Alamo to watch The Biggest Little Farm. We felt we could relate to the day-to-day activities of this pioneering couple the Chesters, who like us, are trying to develop their land into sustaining cycles of life between the plants and animals in a way that enhances the quality of both.

We bought our 230 acre farm in June, 2000 and they bought theirs about ten years later. While the sizes of the farms are comparable, they seem to have had much more investment income, being able to do very large clearing and excavation projects.

But it is on the daily trials and successes that their story is so moving. Like us, they have predator problems. For them it is mostly coyotes, in our case it is an assortment of possums, raccoons, foxes, snakes and even the periodic fisher that eats our chickens and Bantams. A blue heron even drops in from time to time to eat our fish, and completely cleaned one of our small ponds of Koi. The Chesters solves this in much the same way we do, encouraging the dogs to patrol the animals in their care, with mixed success.

When they state in the movie that they planted over 75 varieties of fruit trees I had to chuckle to myself. Our vineyard has over 20 varieties of grapes, and we have planted about 20 kinds of fruit trees on a property that when we arrived only had only apple tree. We agree with their desire for diversity. Not only do most trees ripen at different times, but some will show more resilience to the specific soil of the area. It is this trial and error process that eventually leads you to the best varieties of trees and plants for you area. Doing this means that you can limit sprays and treatments that would be needed by a weaker plant.

They have solved other problems by seeking solutions that benefit another part of their plant/animal cycle. For example, when inundated with snails that devoured their citrus trees, they released their flock of ducks into the vineyard to devour the pests. Food for the ducks, fertilizer for the trees, and no pesticides. Problem solved. Many of their processes and philosophies echo Sepp Holzer’s permaculture methods, but his name, or the work permaculture, are never mentioned.

We try to solve problems in the same way. I used to spend hours weeding the hoop house (low tunnel), or seeking a safe way to get rid of pests like aphids. Now I pick up the phone and call Moyers chicks for a batch of Broiler chicks. They eat the plants and aphids and I get a fertilized hoop house and 9 weeks later excellent quality chicken. I call this a win-win situation!

The Chesters use this method to solve many of their farm problems, including installing owl houses to control the gopher problem. They found that their farm thrived on the checks and balances of nature and achieving equilibrium. It was a delightful movie.

We have been trying to attain this equilibrium here as well, but we are fighting against the stream. The predators that we have the biggest problems with are ones that have few natural predators to keep them in balance. Snakes abound, and the DNR released rattlers some years back to keep the turkey population in check. As a result the rest of the natural bird population took a hit. We haven’t seen a grouse in years, or quail. DNR states they are concerned about a dwindling Whip-poor-will population, but I wonder if it occurred to them that the snakes might be an issue. Years ago we scarcely saw snakes but this year alone we’ve sighted over two dozen and just this morning had an almost five foot snake in our family room. Still seeking to protect the animals we raise, and always looking for more solutions, just like the Chesters.

New Yarns Inspired by the Great Sherlock

Cold weather is the perfect time to snuggle indoors with a good book or movie. This winter, we have been revisiting The Sherlock Holmes movies, especially those featuring the great Jeremy Brett. With those movies in mind, we have dyed a series of Meduseld Romney and Alpaca blend yarn inspired by the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. A link to the store follows each description.

These are all limited stock 200 yard skeins, but we may be able to take special orders for small lots.

The first is inspired by the Hound of the Baskervilles. According to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the predatory dog is covered in a luminous phosphous that makes his muzzle glow. In the Grenada movies, they show the hound in a luminous, glowing green. We have mingled this green with an earie mixture of browns and burgundy reds. Pipe is not included. Hound of the Baskervilles – Romney Alpaca


Sir Arthur was actually not happy with his Sherlock Holmes stories and tried to kill Holmes off so that he would not have to continue to write about him. He set Holmes’ passing at Reichenbach Falls. After an uproar by subcription readers, Sir Arthur was forced to resuscitate his hero. This blue variegated yarn is inspired by the water in the Reichenbach falls. Reichenbach Falls Wosted Romney/Alpaca


There was only one person who ever got the best of Sherlock – Irena Adler. In addition to her beauty and intelligence, she was a talented singer. We’ve dyed these skeins envisioning a dress she might have worn at the opera. It has wine colored reds and hints of antique gold. Irena Adler – Sherlock Inspired yarn


In The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, the nanny is required to dress in an electric blue dress and sit in a window in order to impersonate the daughter who is being held against her will in an upstairs room. We’ve used a bold blue and a subtle variegation that hints at the shades the folds of fabric would produce when light falls upon it. Copper Beeches Wosted Romney/Alpaca


A favorite of ours is The Second Stain, a sober reminder that what comes around goes around (if you are a blackmailer) and that if you are going to tamper with a crime scene, it’s best to put things back that way you find them. If you’ve seen the movie or read it, you don’t need a description. Fittingly, this yarn is dyed a bold red. Turn the carpet at your own risk. Second stain yarn


Wisteria Lodge is our final yarn in this Sherlock-inspired set. It is dyed in shades of wisteria purple, and shades of green, and hints of blue. Much more cheerful than the plot of the story. Wisteria Lodge Worsted Yarn


Stay posted for future inspirations in Meduseld’s store.

Early Signs of Spring

Spring is still dawdling although there are encouraging signs.  A hint of green is showing itself in the lawn and pastures, and buds are forming on fruit trees. 

Buds forming on apple tree

Buds forming on apple tree

Last night we enjoyed the delightful sound of tree frogs around the pond.  Get close to that pond at your own peril, though!  The geese have made their nests and do not welcome intruders!

Inside the conservatory Spring is well advanced.  Small vegetables are already forming.  We have selected parthenocarpic (self-pollinating) varieties so that we do not need a pollinator.

Zephyr Zucchini

Zephyr Zucchini

Some vegetables, such as beans, do not need a pollinator either.  Here are some pole beans in a hanging basket, ready to be harvested.

Assorted pole beans

Assorted pole beans

The Jabuticaba berries have grown so quickly you can see the change overnight.   These were not pollinated either, showing me that they will do well in the greenhouse environment, and I won’t have to pollinate these by hand with a small paint brush.

Jabuticaba berries

Jabuticaba berries

My gardenia bush normally blooms right around Easter.  Since Easter is late this year, these beauties are already in full bloom before the holiday, filling the conservatory with its sweet fragrance.



And, our experiment with growing potatoes indoors in stacking boxes is going rather well.  Here, we are already on the third layer, and the plants are still reaching up.  Since they have not set blossoms yet, I hope they are still putting out additional tuber shoots.

Potatoes in stackable boxes

Potatoes in stackable boxes

There are only two more days to use Meduseld’s exclusive discount at Sustainable Seed Company.  Remember to use Meduseld14 at checkout to get ten percent off your order!






AT&T Travails

We are sorry for our radio silence!  While we have had to work with a “downgraded” tower for the last several months, for the last three weeks we have had NO cell coverage at all – no internet, no cell phone, no news, NOTHING!  In order to get cell I have to drive 25 miles to the nearest town.  Today I am using my friend Kate’s computer:) Please forgive the inconvenience, and if you have any influence with AT&T please ask them to fix the Cooper Mountain, WV tower!

In the meantime, best wishes for an excellent 2014!  I hope to be back online very soon with photos, recipes and new wools.  We also expect lambing to start before long!  Bundle up and keep warm!

2013 Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival

If there could be a theme for this year’s Fiber Festival in Berryville, VA, I think it would be “friends.” 

We saw so many old friends and made so many new ones.  From one moment to the next, there would be lively chatter in the booth, and surprise visitors popping in throughout the day. 

Meduseld's 2013 Booth

Meduseld’s 2013 Booth

It was terrific to meet some of the other vendors that we had not had a chance to meet in previous years.  Kellie Tatem with Lizard Toes where they make awesome drop spindles, Allegra Studnitz with One of Kind making her darling fiber angels and fairies, Connie DeLamater, Andrea Thornock (who in addition to selling wooden yarn cubbies is also a professional singing instructor), and so many more interesting and informative vendors.

I was finally able to meet Kate Blaney with Gourmetstash.com who makes punis for spinning.

Kate Blaney with Gourmetstash

Kate Blaney with Gourmet Stash

Here are some of her punis.

Gourmet Stash Punis

Gourmet Stash Punis

Opposite our booth was Lynn Blake with Mayhem Farm.  In this picture you can see her stunning handmade shawl creations behind her.

Lynn with Mayhem Farm

Lynn Blake with Mayhem Farm

Fiber arts were not the only skills represented.  There were also some woodworkers who had gorgeous works of art.  If you are looking for a present for your spouse for Christmas, you might want to consider one of the wooden pens handmade by Becky and Dave Lloyd of Timber and Whimsy.

Becky and Dave Lloyd of Timber Whimsy

Becky and Dave Lloyd of Timber and Whimsy

Another highly skilled woodworker was Bill Hardy of Turnstyles.  He made exquisite boxes with drawers and hidden drawers, in addition to drop spindles, crochet hooks and even ice cream scoops!   Notice the butterfly box on the left.

Bill Hardy of Turnstyles

Bill Hardy of Turnstyles

We saw familiar faces such as Emily Estrada of the  Fibretown Podcast, and Judi and Clyde DeWitt, the historic bobbin lace makers.  And, we were delighted to have a visit from Sue Groundwater who used to have the locally famous FrogEye Fiber Emporium in Winchester.  Sue gave knitting, spinning, and weaving lessons there for years and has probably instructed half the fiber artists in Winchester.  She taught me to spin and taught our son Gavin to knit.

Patricia Culver, Sue Groundwater and Gavin Culver

Patricia Culver, Sue Groundwater and Gavin Culver

It was fun to watch all the creations worn by Festival attendees.  There were so many shawls and sweaters handmade by their owners.  It was truly eye candy.  Here is one visitor to our booth in a shawl of her own creation.  In addition to being loaded with stunning fall colors, it used up ends and pieces of yarns from other projects. 

Spectacular Shawl Creation

Spectacular Shawl Creation

We also had on hand to give advice our knitting expert Kate Rabjohns in one of her diaphanous beaded creations in alpaca.

Kate Rabjohns

Kate Rabjohns

Even Miss Clark County was there with her mother.

Miss Clark County 2013

Miss Clark County 2013


Sincere thanks to all who stopped by and especially to our repeat customers.  Thanks for helping to support our farm and our dream!


Countdown to SVFF

Only 11 days to the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival.  We are excited for this years event.  There will be more vendors, more food options, and hopefully, excellent weather!  Stop by our booth to explore the wools we have gotten in this year.  Fall weather inspires us to start warm projects, and this is a perfect time to pick up yarns.  Here are some fun colors for Fall.

Monet Rowan

Frontier Culture Museum Visit

We are huge fans of the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia, one of the best museums on the east coast.  We try to get there often as an educational supplement.  We credit the museum with helping to make history interesting for our children. 

frontierculture 008b

Hop in to our golf cart for a tour of this living history museum – or perhaps estate would be a better word.  The Frontier Culture Museum is a large parcel of property that holds several smaller farms, and the buildings you see were literally dismantled from their original locations in Europe and Virginia, and carefully reassembled on this estate.  The African and Indian exhibits have been created on-site.  The goal was to show this nation’s origins, and how all these cultures combined to create America.

We decided to start at the African Exhibit, which largely demonstrates life as it would have been in Nigeria before people were removed from their homes and lives and forcefully brought here.  The African houses were surrounded by a walled courtyard of clay and palms and banana trees were scattered around the yard.  A docent was making black-eyed pea cakes over a fire.

We toured the houses with their low roofs and cool stone floors.  The temperature difference from outside to inside was amazing.  It may have been ten degrees cooler.  Goat skins and woven mats served as beds, and were comfortable to the touch.  We looked for other details and found creative solutions.  For example, looking in the photo below you can see hand carved wooden doors that are ornamental and functional.  Look closely at what they have done instead of hinges.  Brilliant.

Note "hinge" below.  In the background you can see another buiilding with its low roof line.

Note “hinge” below. In the background you can see another building with its low roof line.

We moved on to the English farm.  Represented here is a Yeoman’s estate.  Having some affluence and wealth, you find pewter plates and cups, windows, and carved furniture.  The hearth was large and functional, and upstairs, one of the residents was sweeping the servant’s room.  She took a break to speak with us about life on the farm, about raising sheep and dairy cattle, and making cheese. 

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Outside, another resident cares for the calf.

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 It was nearing lunchtime and so we found a lovely knoll with wooden and stone bridges with a meandering creek.  We ate homemade Stromboli and asian pears from our own trees.  The children found minnows swimming under the stone bridge. 

frontierculture 030b

The blacksmith forge was the next stop on our tour and we spent nearly an hour with the engaging and educational blacksmith, Jim.  Jim has to his credit reproduction work at Monticello and Montpelier and thoroughly knew his trade.  He demonstrated how to make tacks for a reproduction box.  He showed how nails, compasses, and assorted tools are made, and how some pieces such as hammers were made with both steel and iron.  The steal was stronger and could withstand that constant pounding, while iron would have dented.  It appears we will be returning for some of the blacksmith workshops that are offered during the winter.  Here is Jim explaining his craft.

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The cart brought us to the Irish Farm next.  This structure was also carefully dismantled in Ireland and rebuilt here.  The main house had only two rooms which they estimate held approximately 6 people.  It is amazing how little people’s homes where and how well they made do with the limited space.   And recycling was not a cliché – it was something done every day.  It was how you survived.  Tools, clothing, cooking utensils were all recycled without needing some commercial slogan for encouragement.  Here, Lindsey sorts through linens to find the right one to patch holes in two kitchen cloths.

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We waved goodbye to the pigs and pigeons on the Irish farm and admired its beautiful setting.

Irish Farm

Irish Farm

Turning and looking forward another lovely farm filled our view, the German farm.

German Farm

German Farm

It was laundry day here, and cabbage was being pounded for sauerkraut in the kitchen.   Here, the hearth was raised, unlike on the floor as in the Irish and English farms.  In addition, the sitting room was separate from the kitchen.  This room was still heated by a fire in the kitchen, but it radiated through a wall that had benches near so that residents could enjoy the warmth.  This kept ashes, soot and wood chips out of the sitting room.  Polish hens patrolled the yard and barns for insects.  And the garden lay beyond, still full of produce, with portions replanted for fall lettuces.

German Garden

German Garden

There was still much to see, so we boarded the cart and drove over to the Virginia Homestead.

Virginia Farm

Virginia Farm

These homes were brought from Rockingham County, Virginia.  They show within how all the cultures have now mingled to form a new society.  Taking the best and most practical solutions, applying what works best in the climate and conditions,  formed an amalgamation of the nations and created an entirely new one.  We visited the one room school-house where we could experience what that was like.  Here the teacher explains to us the routines of a one-room school-house. 

One-room School House

One-room School House

In the large Virginia house, a docent was able to show us the German influences in the older portion of the home and that with the newer additions, English traditions were incorporated.  We found the bedrooms in the Virginia houses small, but the beds themselves looked very comfortable.

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The hearth was welcoming and a meal was started.

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 Outside, there was still more to learn in the yard and garden.  Here, stones line a small dug out area where a fire is lit.  Above, a pole is suspended by two posts, provided an ideal  outdoor area to cook, keeping some of the heat out of the kitchen.  We may try this at home. 

frontierculture 080b

We also meandered through the Virginia homestead garden and were thoroughly impressed.  He had beets that were larger than some pots I own.  I was certain they were mangel beets, known for their ability to grow quite large.  The experienced gardener showed me that they were standard blood beets.  Amazing. 

Virginia Gardener/Farmer

Virginia Gardener/Farmer

A 1740’s settlement was next on our tour.   This was a much smaller house and its front yard was filled with tobacco plants, a major cash crop for the period.  Inside, tobacco hung from the ceiling.

Tobacco Drying in Settlement Home

Tobacco Drying in Settlement Home

Looking around the outside we noticed something odd about the chimney.  While the bottom was made with clay and stone, further up its construction was of wood and clay, creating a potential fire hazard.  It was also leaning precariously from the house.  When we asked, we were told this was deliberate.  If the chimney caught on fire, it could simply be pushed away, saving the house. 

Leaning Chimney

Leaning Chimney

Now it was time to go home.  There were still exhibits to see, such as the Indian Village, but chores at our own farm made it impossible to make the day longer.  On the good side, it is a perfect excuse to come back.  Very soon.




Maryland Renaissance Festival 2013

It’s 1520.  Henry VIII reigns in England and dissension is on the rise.  None-the-less, Henry could be found revelling this weekend, along with other nobility and courtiers.  Here were some of the sights at Revel Grove.

Henry VIII Performing a Morris Dance

Henry VIII Performing a Morris Dance

The Scotts and Irish were also well represented.  We enjoyed both Scottish Bagpipes and Irish dancers.  The Rogues perform nationally

Scottish Bagpipes and Drums

Scottish Bagpipes and Drums – The Rogues


Irish Dancers

Irish Dancers


We joined Royalty taking a modest feast.  They had bread with olive oil and grapes.  No telling what was in their goblets…..

Royalty Dining

Royalty Dining

We even rode an elephant.

Elephant Ride

Essex, the 34 year old female elephant

There were many shows and plays.  Here, three men are about to start juggling the knives in their hands.  See that they are standing on tubes and platforms that roll back and forth, making this feat much more difficult. 

Knife Juggling

Knife Juggling

We were also awed by the beautiful clothes.  These dresses may inspire future sewing projects.

Ladies in period costume

Ladies in period costume

All this, and we didn’t even have to renew our Passports. 

Henry VIII reflects on the plague, or perhaps a future wife...

Henry VIII reflects on the plague, or perhaps a future wife…



Meduseld Store Back On-Line

Ok – So it took me longer than I said to get the Store open again, and I do apologize.  I have done some inventory based on some of the items sold or given away at our Open House.  You will also find some other changes – LOWER PRICES.

maple yarn

Yes, for the next month until the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival September 28 and 29, I am lowering the prices on many of the yarns to about cost.  You will find that several of the skeins are now reduced a dollar or more each!  Some of the yarns were already so close to cost that I was not able to drop them further.

Please share word about Meduseld’s natural wool and alpaca yarns!  Buying locally and supporting your local farms helps to keep the U.S. economy strong.  Buying natural fibers is better for your health and better for the planet.  It’s good all around.

Honey reserves are not as high as last year, and we are all but out of maple syrup – there are only six bottles left.  We will not be selling any at this years’ Fiber Festival.  So if you have a sweet tooth this would be a good time to purchase honey and syrup before it’s all gone.

For more information don’t hesitate to email!

Gratefully, Patricia

Meduseld’s Open House 2013

Despite the rain and gloomy forecast, Meduseld’s open house was a well-attended and fun event!

open house 010b

The rain prevented us from putting out all the displays and products, however, people were  able to tour the nearby gardens and structures.

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People meandered through the permaculture garden where we discussed soil and pest issues and how they can be remedied without resorting to chemicals.  Attendees also viewed the conservatory, taking in the banana trees with developing clusters of fruit, the assorted citrus, papaya, and jabuticaba trees. 

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People visited and enjoyed hot dogs and good company.

People visiting and looking at yarn in the fiber tent.

People visiting and looking at yarn in the fiber tent.

Among all the wonderful people who came to the event, we were delighted to be joined by Emily Estrada, Fibretown podcaster, and her lovely family.  Emily also brought her adorable and animated dog, Alice, who promptly took up becoming close friends with our own dog, Beowulf.  The two were so animated, though, that taking a picture of them sitting still was nearly  an impossible task. 

Emilry and her family - her son ducked out of the photo.

Emily and her family – her son ducked out of the photo.

Photo-op  with the celebrity Alice!

Photo-op with the celebrity Alice!

Some of the young men in attendance took charge of cooking the hot dogs over a camp-fire and shared stories.

Around the campfire

Around the campfire

The children enjoyed other activities, including climbing trees and playing croquet.

Tree climbing

Tree climbing – Elve or girl?

It looks like this little darling won the croquet game.

Croquette game winner!

Croquet game winner!


A cowboy also attended.

A cowboy also attended.

We also had a raffle for a pineapple lace shawl crocheted with Meduseld Romney yarn.  The raffle was won by Julie Flanagan who was delighted!  Congratulations, Julie!