Ranch Life Marches On…..

After almost thirteen years of marriage, Charlie and I hit a milestone that we have been working towards all this time.  We are officially Debt Free!!!  Charlie had the steady decent pay job to give us the money to be sensible with and I had some mortgage/loan background and understanding of interest loans.  I started tightening down our belt years ago with Charlie’s extra income and wiped out thousands of pounds and dollars of debt on both sides of the pond.  This is us now debt free on BOTH sides of the Pond!!  WOW and DOUBLE WOW!!!

What does this mean to the ranch?  We did build a 3 stall pole barn just for sheltering our 1960 Serro Scotty Vintage Trailer, our horse trailer and one of the vintage VW bugs this fall.  Next year, we will build a large all purpose barn that will not only become the main barn for hay and animals but also include a couple of semi finished rooms for Charlie.  He will have his wood working studio so he can take his father’s Scottish lathe out of storage and start turning wood.  He will have another room that is his studio for oil painting and drying all his finished wood work creations.  Yeah for Charlie!!

360 composite of our land 1st time we saw it in 2004

Once that barn is built, the current barn and cabin will start to come down as the following Spring we will start our house build.  Building our house has been a long time coming and our original plans did NOT work out.  Having to wait for it, we did realize that the original couple of locations for the house were not THE spot for us and where our current barn is now is where the house will be in the future.  It is the most sheltered spot on the ranch from all the harsh weather we get as well as has wonderful views.  And being close to the animals for the last few years drove home that I don’t want to be a quarter mile away from them in the future.

We are NOT going to do a construction loan!!!  oh no siree!!  We have our well, septic, driveway, barns, electric, phone…..all paid for by us with cash as we had the money.  The first few years on the ranch I hauled water in a large cistern on the back of our old F150, Henrietta, Ford Truck.  I even hauled water for a year or so in 5 gallon buckets from town.  It’s a total 50 mile trip for water.  It is good to have a well and even better to know that if there was ever a problem, I could haul water from town and we would survive.  I did it before and I can do it again.

When we wanted to build in the beginning, the banks refused to give us a construction loan.  Their reasoning was that even though my credit score is in the 800’s and Charlie has a stable long term good paying job, he is a Scot.  He did not have a social security card or a green card.  The banks refused to finance us without those two cards even though we could prove his income and long term employment.  Several years after moving from Scotland to Colorado, we did apply for his green card.  Eighteen months  and about $5000 later, we had his green card.  He had a social security card a year or two before the green card.  We have the necessary documents now to please the banks.

Thing is: it does NOT please us to have the bank’s money!!  They can go jump in the lake for all we care.  When we needed a loan and could afford it, they refused.  We don’t need them now.  We were an excellent credit risk and they lost our business.  Our house will be built in a couple of years once we save up the money to build it.  Plain and simple.  Take that you evil banking institution!!

Retirement is a function of INCOME not age!!  Once the house is built, the next step in our master plan is to put away enough money into investments and bank that we can live off the interest all year long and never touch the principal.  Once that is done, Charlie retires and plays on the mountain.  He originally set his retirement age as 50 when he was only 20 years old and started off working in the offshore industry.  The world has changed greatly since that day long ago, so we feel that 57-58 is a good compromise and goal.

Taking responsibility and action for fiscal independence years ago was NOT a popular thinking pattern.  Had we not done that than, we would have gone belly up by the time the rest of the world did.  All those that made fun at that time are still up to their necks in hock and we are not.  Guess maybe they should have listened.  How did we do it?

1.  Round monthly payment amounts up to a whole amount and pay that every month all the time.  An example is a car loan that is say $276.42.  Round it up to $300.00 and pay that every month.  Get it set in your mind that car payment is $300, not that other amount.

2. Close all your credit cards so you can not increase the balance and pay the balance off.  Pay a little extra on it EVERY MONTH over the minimum.  Round the amount up to something you can handle and think of that bill as ONLY that amount due even as the minimum amount continues to drop.  You can still have the convenience of a plastic card, but it needs to be a debit card off your bank account and you need to spend within your means.

3. Do not take out new debt.  If you have to, make certain the interest rate is low and you can handle to pay extra on the payment every month from the start.

4. Cut down on the fun stuff that you waste money on all the time.  Buy a nice water bottle and carry water with you from your home whenever you leave.  Do not buy designer water for all that money.  Do not buy Bottled water.  Do not buy Sports Drinks.  Besides most of them not being very healthy for you to start with, they are so over priced that it is ridiculous.

5. Do not buy pop in the drive through.  I only buy a drink during happy hour at Sonic for half price.  I rarely EVER buy any drink at any drive through any other time as they are over priced and usually bad for your health to start with.

6. Pay extra and round up the mortgage amount for your monthly payment.  I am not saying to pay a lot extra.  A few dollars here and there on a consistent basis will reduce the life of your mortgage greatly.  When I worked in the mortgage industry, I advised clients that if they could make at least ONE PRINCIPAL payment extra per year on a 30 year mortgage, it would wipe out over 5+ years off the life of that loan.  And that is a huge savings in interest as well.  Most people do not understand compound interest.

7.  Anything extra that you work into your budget to pay on a monthly basis will get you just that much closer to your end goal of being debt free.  It is important to figure that into your bills and think of those bill amounts due as the higher amount.  If you wait until the end of the month to see WHAT is left over, you will whittle it away and waste it all month long and never make progress.  There will NEVER be anything left over.

8.  Very important to think about and be strategic with is which bills you pay off first.  Whenever you have a windfall of extra money or pay off a bill and have a budget amount to apply elsewhere, it is best to apply it to the loan or credit card with the highest interest rate.  That interest that you pay out on a monthly basis is money you just threw in the toilet.  You gain nothing by paying interest.  Paying off the highest interest rate is almost always the best option but there may be a time when it is more prudent for your personal situation to pay off a lower interest rate.  In one of those situations, it may be a loan or card with a lower interest rate but a very low balance.  You would have a bit extra and could pay it off and free up a LARGER FIXED monthly payment that could be applied to the higher rate loan or card.  It isn’t always black and white, you do have to look at your finances and put your extra money no matter how small of an amount where it will work best for you.

Charlie used to occasionally ask me how he could have such a good paycheck and never have any money to rub together in his pocket.  I would remind him of the thousands of pounds/dollars of debt that we had paid off.  He was many times focused on the tree in front of him and unable to step back and see the forest.  I could see the forest and sometimes didn’t see the immediate need for extras.  We worked well as a team in this aspect talking about each bigger purchase and making sure we were both in agreement to go ahead.  Did he complain and get mad sometimes..oh yes!  sometimes loudly.  Did I listen?  yes and than I ignored him and continued penny pinching.  He wanted the same thing as I did which was to be debt free and have our house built and him to retire early.  He had the job providing the income. I had the resolve to force us both to pay extra on everything constantly and consistently in small amounts over a longer period.  Slow and Steady!!  In order to make that, you have to sacrifice.  I don’t think that either of us could have done this on our own.  We needed the combination of his money, my resolve and banking knowledge, and our commitment and combined team work.

We had set backs on the way.  We made stupid impulse buys on occasion that cost us more money.  (Like the 1986 Jaguar XJS that I bought for him as a surprise without talking to him first that turned out to be a money pit and cost us a serious set back.  Yup, we were not prefect.) But we did NOT give up.  That is the key.  Keep paying extra, keep your focus, and over time you will pay things off.  Once you pay off one monthly bill, take that amount and immediately apply it to another bill.  You may end up doubling your credit card payment in a month, but do not fall into the trap of spending that freed up money.  You have been used to paying it to bills, so keep paying it to another bill.  It isn’t a case of thinking that bill is paid, now I have spending money.  Until you are debt free, spending money is only an illusion that slows you down to your goal.

You CAN spend money on things you don’t need, but you need to think about it and decide if it is worth delaying your long term goal for that immediate gratification.  This requires a change in your thinking more to what your grandparents or great grand parents may have thought.  You buy things once you have the money saved up to do it, NOT BEFORE on credit.  Sometimes it is prudent to buy on credit if you are trying to create a credit history.  We do that on occasion knowing full well we could either buy it outright or we might have most of the money to buy outright so we know that loan will be paid off WAY before it is due.

Slow and Steady.  Paying extra all the time.  Consistency and determination….Using these it will snowball and you will pay things off fast.  That is how we did it.  You can too.

Parvana Creations

I have been watching a fellow fiber artist now for a while.  Nicole does amazing felt shawls and scarves.  The other day she put up a shawl that she had “felted on a whim” the night before and my heart about stopped.  OMG this was beyond stunning.  I have been chatting back and forth with her about this particular piece and various felting ideas and she agreed to let me write about our conversation, this particular piece and to include some stunning photos.  Are you ready?

Felted Capelet

1. What is your favorite fibers to use for felting and why?

My favorite fibers are silk and Merino. Specifically the 50/50 15micron Merino and mulberry silk roving that I use. It is so luxuriously soft and has the perfect shimmer. The high silk content is hard to felt with but the results produce a very beautiful drape in the finished product.

2. What fiber arts do you do and what draws you to each?

I am a felter and also hand dye almost everything that I create. My favorite is to take the white roving and turn it into a beautiful scarf or shawl.. then when the piece is done it’ll tell me what color it should be. Dyeing after felting gives me a better sense of control for where I want the colors to go and how they will combine.  

3. What is your felting process. You mentioned that you use the dryer exclusively. Explain how you used to do it, what has changed and why. Folks that don’t felt need to know that hand injuries can cramp your style but a dryer opens your world back up.  I struggle with hand and back injuries daily so that is important to me.

Close up of fibers in the before felt stage

My first step in the felting process is laying out my bubble wrap. Next I lay out my fibers.. deciding if it’ll be a nuno piece, a cobweb, etc. After I am all done with the design I wet it down with cold soapy water, I almost always use cold since I usually use a silk/wool mix and you don’t want the fibers to felt too fast. Then I place a thin piece of plastic over my work.. I prefer this instead of netting, as netting tends to felt into the project. It is the rolled up in two towels and tied together with stretchy pantyhose then put into the dryer for four ten minute increments. I used to roll by hand, hundreds of rolls.. but as I have a bad back it was too difficult and I wasn’t able to produce as much or as fast as I’d like. The dryer has saved me back pain and time! 

I understand not using the netting.  I have always thought that the netting would end up being felted in and that was not something I wanted.  I would use that plastic myself as well as I plan on using a power sander to do some of the fulling process and need that plastic barrier between the electric sander and my WET felt! haha

4. What inspired you for this whim? It is different than the other pieces I have seen on your page recently. I love it and wondered what inspired you to leave your comfort zone and try this?

Close view of the mohair locks, just stunning!

I think I was inspired by the mohair itself. I was looking at it and wanted to create something very organic and decided that since I didn’t have enough to make a full length shawl, a capelet would be perfect! It was my first time making one, I am hoping to create more.. getting better with each one. Sometimes I have to push myself, even though you worry you are going to waste time and fiber (which I have done before) the only way to become a better artist is to consistently put yourself out of your comfort zone.

5. How long have you been into fiber? How long doing felt?

I started off crocheting in 2009, just the basic stuff.. and using the normal yarn you would find at a craft store. I wasn’t satisfied. It didn’t speak to me in the way that I really wanted it to. One day I saw a felted piece on Etsy and instantly fell in love. From that moment on I researched and watched videos.. anything I could get my hands on to learn how to create fabric with just wool fiber, soap and water. Two years ago I bought some supplies and have never stopped felting. It’s hard to describe what felting means to me.. it is apart of me now, part of my soul and it makes my heart so happy. 

6. Can you tell me about banana fiber? What is it? Why banana fiber? What does it do or not do for felting?

Banana fiber yarn is made from banana stalks. It has incredible shine and is so soft, you can dye it any color you’d like, but you can’t use acid dyes since it is not a protein fiber. I really enjoy using it in my work, when it felts it scrunches up and gives great texture.

7. This piece from your description seems to be a medium to maybe a smallish large. How big is it when you start out?

Hmm, I can’t remember the dimensions exactly (this is what happens when you work late into the night and forget to write stuff down!). But, it did shrink quite a bit. At least 40%.

8. Merino from my own experience really felts up and shrinks. I sometimes have a 40% shrinkage on my warp when I just Full a piece. Does silk shrink as much? The shine comes from the silk, the soft as well but what does silk give to felting that just a different wool would not?

Yes, Merino does shrink a good amount, I have set dimensions I use for my shawls, but even following the dimensions they sometimes come out different sizes. Felt has a mind of its own! The silk that is in the blend will shrink with the wool, so I find the 50/50 mix will shrink just the same as if I used pure wool. The silk just allows the product to have a very nice drape, it allows the fiber to “bend” more and not be so stiff (As long as you don’t over-full). Also, when dyeing, the silk produces brighter colors so your over-all piece is more vibrant. 

9. You mentioned that you do your felting by dryer, but your fulling by hand. Why can’t you full by dryer too? Can it all be done in dryer? Fulling by hand is still the rolling correct? What about those that are disabled and have a lot of pain. Is it possible to not do by hand or do you lose too much control that way?

You know, you might be able to do it all in the dryer. I have always fulled using my hands. After something is done felting I take the felt and rub it between my hands, sometimes smacking it down onto the table, as long as it’s not supposed to be a delicate piece. My technique is felting THEN dyeing. So a lot of the times I only full a little tiny bit because I find when I dye the piece after it’s going to full on it’s own from my moving it around in the dye pot and heating it up in the microwave. At the end when it’s all dyed up I take it and shock it in cold water, which again does more fulling for me. I have learned when to stop fulling and leave it be, it has taken sometime to figure it out though. 

I would say for someone who really can’t use their hands.. maybe put it in the dryer for extra time, so it shrinks really well, then take it out and gently smoosh the felt in your hands and shock it using cold and hot water. 

Thank you so much for you thoughts and insights on your creative process, the things you have learned and what you like to use for felt.  I love this piece and it is currently for sale HERE in Parvana’s Etsy Shop.  You can also find Parvana on Facebook and follow her there if you want to know more and see more stunning felt work.

For anyone that has ever admired, drooled over, and wanted to know more about felting but never thought they could… Nicole has broken it down and let us in on how she has adapted around her physical limitations.  I know that I have been planning on felting for months now, have all my tools and fibers gathered and will be starting soon.  I had a spin job that needed to be finished first and because I was a little scared.  After chatting with Nicole, I think I am going to get over being scared and just go felt.  You might even seen some creations here soon.  Ta for now!

Hand Painted and Dyed Yarns for the Store


All 57 hand painted skeins drying in garden

I have over 60 new skeins of yarn for the online store. I did a massive dye project and hand painted 57  200 yd skeins in less than 24 hours.  They were at the Salida Fiber Festival and are now going into the Alba Shop to get ready for the Holiday Shopping.

Here is a shot of them all hanging on the line to dry in my garden.

Most are in colorways of about 6 skeins, with each skein being 200 yds.  One 200 yd skein will make a lacy scarf and 2 skeins making a lovely shawl.

Purple Mint 60/40 merino mohair

I have 21 skeins of 100% pure Angora Rabbit lace weight 2 ply yarn.  This yarn is a stunning 28 wpi!  Such a delicate fine 2 ply lace yarn.



Pure Angora Rabbit Yarn in Pastel

I have 36 skeins of a blend of 60% merino and 40% mohair.  This yarn is dyed in about 8 different color ways.  This fiber was grown here on Alba Ranch in the Colorado Mountains.  It came from 2 white merino sheep, White Mama and Crazy 208.  The 3 white angora goats were Michelle (grandma), Lucy (mom), and Sami (wethered grandson).

I also have a six skeins of Baby Woo Boo.  This yarn is 35% baby alpaca, 30% merino, 30% bamboo and 5% nylon binder.  It is a wonderful soft, stretchy boucle with lots of bounce and is still very lightweight.

WooBoo Green

I hand painted all these skeins myself and love the colorways.  I am just starting to photograph them and will be uploading them to the shop here shortly over the next week.

Red Fall 60/40 merino mohair

I have taken over 100 photographs of the yarns and all the Lincoln Long Wool Locks.  Now they are all edited and I will be uploading them in the shop as I get them done.

I have decided to include a few photos of the yarns just to tease you.  Keep an eye out here as they come your way.

How to Create Rain. Try Solar Dyeing

I dyed up some new yarn for warp last night. Polwarth Silk that is ever so yummy. Dyed it Ruby Red with Greener Shades Dyes.

Ruby Red Polwarth Silk Yarn

This will be the warp yarn for one of the sweater coats I plan on weaving this winter. I have 3 coats proposed..and this particular Ruby Red one is for me. I did dye up the Teeswater locks that I washed last night in a lovely Chartreuse Green.

Solar Dyeing

This is for the trim, cuffs, and hem of another of the sweater coats. That one will be for sale when it is finished. As soon as I got the locks in the dye and the jars moved outside, it clouded up and started with wind and rain. Oh well, they are ready for tomorrow when it will be nice and hot and sunny!!