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Amazing Wool Art

Last month’s hobby portion of this blog featured Ken Vanhoy and his sustainably grown goodness business, well this month it is his partner Laura Frazier’s turn.  When I drove out to talk to Ken, Laura told me he wasn’t home and then we started talking. Well come to find out she has her own business that I decided would be a perfect topic for this blog.

Do you know what needle felting is? Or have you ever seen it done?  Well Laura, a clay sculptor originally, learned about this craft when she went looking for uses for the wool from the sheep that Ken’s family was raising.  She came across a technique where you take the wool and poke it until it becomes a more condensed material.  Of course I am sure there are more technical terms for this, but for me this is the basic concept.  What Laura can do with some reference pictures and some wool is truly an art form.  Laura started sculpting years ago and has transferred that talent into the business of sculpting animals and pet recreations that she sells today. 

Each small animal can take up to 30 hours of work manipulating the fiber, much like you would with clay, and creating a form that looks more real than not.  The wool Laura uses goes through quite a process before it is ready for her creative mind. Before the wool is sent to Michigan for washing and straightening, Laura raises the sheep, shears them, sells them and once she gets the cleaned wool back, she then spins it and sells it. As she puts it, “I’m one of the lucky folks who get to make a living at something they LOVE doing and would do anyway”.  I was witness to a horse she was working on and looking at the raw material turning into a sculpted horse leg was  amazing.  The needle used for this is barbed and as you poke at it, the wool becomes smaller and tighter.  Laura can take different colors of wool and blend them in to which ever animal she is making.  There are pictures of her work and a video on how it all happens on her website  One of the fascinating things I discovered about this technique is that the entire body is made of wool; there is no internal structure to which you adhere the wool.

Laura’s talent for this has certainly shown to be remarkable and brings a whole new outlook for a material that is usually used for commercial items.  If you would like to see more of her work, visit her website as listed above or her facebook page FarmGirl Arts.


Thank you Laura for bringing this art to my attention.

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Happy Felting 


Natural Farmer shows his stuff at Cobblestone Farmer's Market

Sustainably Grown Goodness.  Those are the words on the front of the brochure from Rail Fence Farm.  Our insured Ken Vanhoy is a member of the family that owns Rail Fence Farm and as such, he grew up raising sheep, growing Christmas trees and growing vegetables.  Ken is the subject of this month’s Hobby portion of my blog. 

I met with Ken and his partner Laura recently to learn what goes into organic gardening.  I was corrected about being an organic gardener by Ken, who says without approval and certification from the USDA, you cannot classify your produce as organic.  This is where the words sustainably grown goodness comes in.  Another word used to describe Ken and his gardening would be naturally grown or chemical free.  Ken first got into the natural part of gardening about 15 years ago.  He and his partner try to use as many naturally grown foods as they can. This includes everything from the side of beef he gets from his cousin to the chickens from his own farm to the sheep he gets from the family farm.  

Ken grows a myriad of produce every year and for the last 3 years he has attempted to be self-containing.  Times however did get tough so he took a job as a school bus driver in the winter. This is perfect because there is not much farming that needs done during the winter months.  Ken & Laura have a full time operation between all the planting seasons and greenhouse seedlings that he grows for the local hardware store to sell.  Laura raises Icelandic sheep for her needle felting business. You will hear more about her and her business in next month’s Hobby Blog. 

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Ken has recently been selling his wares at the Cobblestone Farmers Market in Old Salem.  My husband and I had the chance to go this past weekend and were very pleased to see the interest in home grown natural produce.  I did notice that Ken’s booth was one of the busiest.  He was selling everything from hot banana peppers to eggplant to tomatoes.  I know for a fact that in a short time, he will also be offering beans. I did see those in his garden.  The Cobblestone market is for growers only and most are local to Winston Salem.  The Market runs until the middle of November so it is a good bet that whatever the seasonal produce is, you will find Ken & possibly Laura there to sell their results.

Come spring if you are interested in some home grown seedlings, visit Webster Bros Hardware in Walkertown as that is where Ken sells the starter plants that have come from his greenhouse.  

I want to thank both Ken & Laura for their hospitality as well as their donation of some patty pan squash.  It was excellent, as was the eggplant we bought from his stand.  So, if you enjoy supporting local farmers, take yourself down to Old Salem on a Saturday morning and look for the Rail Fence Farm Banner.  Tell Ken that Gina sent you.

Happy farmingIMG 0794


Staying Cool in the Heat

If you haven’t noticed, today June 21, 2012 is the first full day of summer and mother nature is giving us a full blast of hot humid air.  This time of year, you are going to hear about the elderly having heat strokes, infant and children left in cars, even pets can suffer from heat.  I hope to enlighten you about some of the ways you can cool off even without air conditioning.  As most of our grandparents would say, “back in the day there was no air conditioning”, well there are still a lot of older homes out there that either don’t have AC or the families living in them can’t afford to turn the air on.  So here are some tips to cooling off without touching the AC.

One of the biggest and easiest things to do is to invest in some ceiling or floor fans.  Position your floor fan so it sucks up the cooler air from the floor and blows it toward the ceiling.  For ceiling fans, make sure that the fan is not blowing the hot air down from the ceiling.  Another REALLY easy fix is to place foil on your windows.  This will help reflect the sun off of your house.  After a recent trip to Louisiana staying with a friend, I discovered just how well this works. She has all of her windows covered and you can feel the coolness in the house.  You can also freeze water in some 2 liter bottles then place those in a


 metal bowl in front of your fan causing the cooled air to blow your direction.

When the weather starts heating up early in the morning, the best thing to do is close your blinds and curtains.  Do this as soon as the sun hits your house and avoid opening them until the cooler hours of the evening or when the sun is no longer hitting your house.  You should also turn off all heat sources, including: lights, computers, TV and some power adapters.  Try to save cooking, laundry and running the dishwasher until late into the day.  We have all heard of brownouts and blackouts because the power company gets overloaded, the reason is all of the air conditioners running.  Think in terms of a power surge in your home when a circuit is overloaded.

Now for some tips on how to keep your internal temperatures cool.  Drink plenty of fluids.  Avoid sugary or alcoholic beverages.  For a quick cool down snack try freezing chunks of your favorite fruits. Can’t sleep at night due to the heat, try placing a small pillow in a plastic bag, and then place it in the freezer.  I know I am a fan of cool or cold pillows.  If all else fails, fill a bathtub with cool water and sit down slowly so your body can acclimate.  Remember that as you age, your body does not regulate temperature as quickly as it used to, even if you are physically fit.  A temperature of 104 or higher can be life threateni

ng.  Many people do not realize they are suffering from heat stroke. Some signs include, dizziness, clammy skin, slow or confused or if they claim to be cold. Getting them out of the sun and in an air conditioned room can save their lives.

I hope this has helped. Remember to stay cool and stay hydrated.

Happy Summer


Local Artist Makes Dedication

For the newest “hobby” portion of my blog, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing our client Dot Duggins.  Dot contacted me after reading our quarterly newsletter.  She is a local artist who had been commissioned to paint 2 large paintings for the Walkertown branch of the Forsyth County Public Library system.

The former head librarian of Walkertown library had asked her to do this about 2 years ago.  Once she had them completed, it was decided to reveal both paintings at the library’s 20th anniversary celebration which was set for Saturday May 12, 2012.

In speaking with Dot, I discovered that she started painting when her children started school.  At that time, she signed up for classes at the Sawtooth Center with artist Gene Hagee.  Her desire to paint started after seeing a reproduction of Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy while in the 6th grade.  She told herself then that if she could paint anything it would be something of that magnitude.  So for 40 years, she has been painting.  Her latest project is teaching herself to do portraits.  Her favorite mediums are watercolors and acrylics and her favorite subject is flowers.  Dot also enjoys working in bright colors and leans more towards an impressionistic style of art.

To this day, Dot is a judge in the Fine Arts categories at the Dixie Classic fair, an event in which she herself has won several ribbons. There are currently 10 of her paintings in print. Those prints are used for other small pieces, including notecards.  Once a year in November she and some other local artists have a show in Belews Creek.  It is an invite only event but they do encourage their invitees to bring a friend.

Aside from her art and being a mom, she was also active in the Walkertown Town Council for many years and takes great pride in having brought sewer and water services to the small community.  Dot and 2 of her fellow council members went to Raleigh and actually wrote the bill that was passed allowing sewer service.  Being a resident of Walkertown myself, I had to thank her for this as it has given our small town the ability to attract more businesses.

In closing, if you are driving around Walkertown and see a red convertible mustang with the tags “hot Dot” then you are seeing our very own local artist. Or if you choose to visit the Walkertown Branch library then head over to the children’s section; Dot’s painting are located on the very back wall.  You can see photos of these prints on our Facebook page.

Happy Painting.

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Dixie Classic Legend

Have you ever been to a food contest at your local fair?  Well if you are from Winston Salem and been to the Dixie classic fair then you may have heard or seen the name Katie Gilbert.  Katie it seems is a living legend on the fair circuit and is the subject of this month’s hobby blog.

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Katie recently where we talked about her 2000 plus “prizes” which were  won at local and state fairs. Most recent was the Dixie                                                


Classic Fair in Winston Salem this past fall.  Katie has been winning these prizes since 1941.  Her first ribbons were won for her sea foam candy, divinity & chocolate fudge. From that first win, you could say she caught the bug. She has been entering items such as rolls, pies, cakes, jams and preserves ever since.  Based on the prizes I saw, there is not one of these areas that she has not won several times over.

Katie’s biggest crowning achievement came from her 1991 Grand Champion win for the North Carolina Apple Pie contest. She still has the picture of her, her husband and her pie on her dining room wall.  Along with that win, she has been mentioned in numerous publications from the Hanes News, the employee magazine (while she worked at Hanesbrands) to the most recent mention in the Winston Salem Journal for her recipe for asparagus on toast. In 1999 Katie won the Best Ever Bread Contest for her light rolls.

Miss Katie is full of surprises. She told me that her prize winning sour chocolate cake recipe was given to her back in 1932 by a lady in Champaign IL. She has certainly taken that recipe and turned it into her own.  Katie told me that one of her favorite recipes are her potato rolls. When asked where she gets her recipes, she told me old cookbooks and then she “switches” them up.  She has developed enough recipes for a cookbook.  This cookbook was put together and sold by the Bethany Baptist Church in Winston Salem.  They sold enough of her cookbooks to have 7 wells drilled in India. Katie is very proud of that fact and who could blame her. Her church took her love of baking and turned a profit to help others.

She has great wealth in the friends who help to make sure she has all the supplies she can handle and she will buy what they don’t bring her.  While she wasn’t canning & preserving anything while I was there, she did provide me with a jar of recently made strawberry preserves.  I am waiting for the perfect time to open them. After all, these are prize winning preserves and like a fine wine, I don’t know if I will ever get another jar. 

I look forward to this year’s Dixie Classic & Stokes County fairs to see what Katie comes up with and how many prizes she takes home. Thank you Ms Katie for a delightful interview.

Happy Canning