Down on the Farm, rug to be felted

Crocheting a rug to be felted with wool yarn in the colors of autumn.

There is so much to love about autumn on the farm. The incessant bugs take a back seat, the humidity drops, the nights are crisp and cool, and it’s harvest time. But the colors of autumn are something I always treasure.

Remember springtime, when the earth shook off its perpetual black-and-white photograph look of winter and burst with color once more? Greens, pinks, yellows. How thrilling to see buds and blooms after winter. Autumn holds that magic as well, when after months of every shade of green imaginable, the world is transformed into the most brilliant reds, oranges, burgundies, and golds. While humans often bemoan change, it’s as if nature celebrates it with all her might.

Change in the colors of autumn can be seen each day, much like watching a flower bud then burst open, then fade. The west windows in the loft of our house look out across the western field, where we pasture our heritage Kunekune pigs. Each morning, I part the curtains to drink in the new scene, whether misty or sunny. The far edge of the small field is lined with mature hardwood trees — maples and oaks, with a few stately basswood trees. Lately, they look like they’re dressed for a fabulous party, nearly glowing in the morning light.

The colors were reflected today in the winter squash curing on hay wagons in our garage. With freezing nighttime temperatures in the forecast, it was time for them to transition from this curing stage into storage in the farmhouse root cellar basement. My task was to sort and pack them into boxes, pulling out any that were too blemished or underripe to store well (the pigs will be quite happy to help eat these). We knew it had been quite a year for squash, which meant this was a rather monumental task that used up every empty box we had stashed away for this task plus any others I could scrounge.

What started as a disorganized pile of orbs slowly became neat crates of soft yellows with green stripes, bulging pumpkin oranges, deep greens that were nearly black, and powder blues. There were speckles and stripes, an occasional whisp of soft pink, and that nutty tone that signals the butternuts are actually going to ripen this year. It was those glorious colors of autumn, captured in the harvest.

It took three of us to load the boxes into the basement, which is now quite full! I’m not sure where the potato crop is going to go at the moment, but I do know that there will be plenty of squash for our CSA shares!

Autumn’s hues are mirroring in my fiber arts practice as well. The saga with my studio yurt continues (we’ve successfully stopped the squirrels but are still managing the mice issue), so all the yarn remains in our house. This has given me the chance to evaluate what has been in the stash for a long time and how I might find creative ways to utilize it (instead of continuing to just store it for ... well, the next squirrel episode?).

Many years ago, we had a sheep that was given to us that was supposed to be a Navajo churro. Yay, we’d have great yarn for my tapestry work! But he turned out to both be snarky and not a churro sheep, and we rehomed him. In the meantime, I had accrued several sheerings of his fleece, which I had processed into lopi yarn. But the yarn was coarse and rough, and not suitable for weaving. What to do with it? I wasn’t sure, so the cones just sat, waiting for their moment.

Now they were in the house, saved from the squirrel attack, sitting once more. It was time to find something creative to do with this yarn! I’d been curious about the process of felted knits (a wet felting technique) but as felted crochet, and was interested in adapting a pattern for a felted rug. This coarse yarn was certainly rug grade, but would it felt well? I grabbed an oversized hook and tried making a test swatch. To my delight, it did!

The yarn on the cones, however, is all a natural gray, which looks cold and bland by itself. It needed some visual warming, so I returned to the stash and began pulling out other colors to work into the rug—those glorious colors of autumn. Deep red, pumpkin oranges, greens, browns. During the felting process, these meld together as if looking at the maple trees across the barnyard on a foggy morning. Not only is the splendor of autumn outside but it has come into the coziness of evenings by the woodstove as well.

How do you relish in the glorious colors of autumn? Do you love decorating for the season, raking leaves into piles for jumping, or setting out pumpkins and gourds on your front step? Do you have special autumn activities that you enjoy? Take time to relish in them this week, for just like the fleeting nature of springtime flowers, autumn’s glory will also fade and pass all too quickly. See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. She can be reached at northstarhomestead.com and 715-462-3453.