Wednesday, January 31, 2007

CW Black Jack

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My sweet and handsome buck, CW Black Jack suddenly passed away yesterday morning.

He had the kindest and most loving personality that I have ever seen in a rabbit. He was a pleasure to know and keep. I will miss him so.

I am uncertain as to what happened to him. Perhaps a stroke? It was very sudden and sad. I am glad that I was with him to hold him and tell him how much I loved him. He was a very special creature.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

it doesn't matter

Today afforded a short respite from the arctic air, which is soon to return. Was it the January thaw? It doesn't matter, it was a chance to pause ...and something has changed.

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Perhaps it is the same unseen force that stirs the sweet potato on my kitchen counter to sprout...a quickening awakening...if you watch and listen, you will know what I am talking about...

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So is it any wonder that the day was spent outside in the garden? It didn't start out that way, but before I knew it I was raking and burning and reclaiming the grounds.

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Pruning shears in hand, I clipped, I yanked, I ignored my back and hands that warned I would be sure to feel it tomorrow if I kept up working at the current pace... it doesn't matter...tomorrow it will be frigid again, and I can stay indoors I could pretend it was springtime, and let the sun flow into me. My chickens bathed in the sun while I worked.

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There is a good deal of frost in the ground, but it doesn't matter, I know that down deeper than the frost, the roots are waking up..there is a stirring.

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My seed order is almost complete, and will be posted by Groundhogs day, as is my tradition. There will most likely still be at least six more weeks of winter, but it doesn't matter, the tide has turned.

phenological events January

5th skunk cabbage visible
12th ponds iced over
18th ice on riverrim
29th black ducks (7)

Friday, January 26, 2007

cross patch

Cross Patch, draw the latch, Sit by the fire and spin; Take a cup, and drink it up, Then call the neighbors in.”

From St. Nicholas Magazine Vol. VIII No. 6 (April, 1881)

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This really is the latch on my front door. And I do sit by my fire and spin...and I have been known to have a nice glass of rich merlot every now and again...but woe to the woman who wouldn't share any with her neighbors!

"Fast flew around the humming wheel; The steaming kettle hung Above the old wife's snapping fire, And merrily it sung."

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Cold weather can make for cabin fever and that can sometimes make me cross...but cold weather is also great for getting fleece washed and dried by the stove. I moved the rabbits grooming table inside and put the drum carder on it..I went through the first batch of finn that I had washed up rather quickly...

"The frost, the diamond window-panes Had trimmed with frozen leaves; The shining icicles hung low Beneath the cottage eaves."

The Finn wool blended nicely with the angora that I had harvested from Jack recently. I still have more to go! The blend is about 25/75...I am having better results when I card a layer of finn, then a layer of angora followed by another layer of finn. On the second pass, I split this down the middle and put the outside edges together.It is also better to distribute the angora on top of the drum...this way, it keeps it from clumping (for lack of a better word).

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"The north wind howled around the house, The kettle sang so gay; The old wife, at her humming wheel, Spun out the close of day."

To read all of "Cross Patch" go here....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

walk with me wednesday, at the wheel

I did get out for my walk today...but it was early morning, just after chores and I did not bring my camera. It was a brisk walk, off road and up the mountain where the property is for sale. I found an area of turkey feathers and what was left of the turkey. The carnage left me thinking about the harsh realities of nature in winter, and wondering who the predator was. The woods took on a different feeling, and I decided to walk on the road for the rest of the walk.

Later in the day, I made some time to "walk" again, only this time, inside, next to my wheel.I remember the first time I had the experience of spinning at a Great Wheel. It was at the Philadelphia College of Art, and the wheel was mounted on the wall. The wheel was spun and we were taught to walk backwards while drafting out the fibers. This was why they called it a Walking Wheel, I was told.

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I have read stories of how women walked over 20 miles a day while they would spin. I have read about how the children would spin the wheel while their mothers would draft, walking clear across the room. I have also seen photographs of "wool fingers" that the spinner would use to assist her in being able to walk farther away from the wheel.Now that I have my own Great Wheel, I realize that I do very little "walking" while I spin. If anything, I do more of a step back, step forward...keeping my one foot in place and moving the other. Keeping the right foot somewhat stationary is a habit I developed, so as not to trip over the leg of my wheel, which protrudes out from the bench at an angle.

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I have been reading "Handspinning Art and Technique" by Allen Fannin, since Judy loaned it to me earlier this week. The first thing I realized that I need to do is "educate the hand" that controls the drive wheel. It has to learn to think independently from the rest of my body...and be "aware" of how many turns it is making on the wheel. I was happy to read that I had already taught myself to spin by using the same spoke on the wheel all the time, and not spin in a "free wheeling" style. Actually, it was my wheel that first suggested that I do this. I know that sounds a bit strange, but one of the spokes on my wheel is very smooth and well worn--much more so than any of the other spokes. When I noticed this, I deduced that it was because of being handled so much. I assumed that you were supposed to use just one spoke to do most of the turning.

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Drafting on the Great Wheel is becoming easier, and I have read enough to feel confident that I am building a proper yarn package. I had been having trouble with the tips of my cone shaped cops collapsing, which I now understand is due to the low tpi of the yarn. I had bit of a chuckle over this...on the one hand I felt vindicated that it was the yarn, and not the spinner causing the problem....but in the same vein, the spinner is making the ultimately the responsibility is mine! In this case, I need to change the structure to a roving build, which is the torpedo looking package. Mystery solved, both yarn packages are correct.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

tending the homefires

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We have been having cold and squally weather! Yesterday, I went out to do the chores, and got caught right in the middle of a squall that was passing through. It was the first real snow fall I have seen so far this winter.

The rabbits water is freezing continually. I need to make several trips a day, with the hot kettle in hand, to melt off the ice in their crocks, and supply them with fresh water. I have also been leaving apple and celery slices with them overnight.

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I leave the kettle on the woodstove so the water will stay warm. The stove takes center stage in weather like this. The Mr. and I are different in the methods that we practice to tend the coal fire. I am more of a "shoveler", where he is a firm believer in "pouring it on" style. The stove has been burning steadily since early has a life of its own.

I find myself devising plans to stay close to the stove in this cold weather. I made a nice batch of wedding soup and some baked apples for desert last night. Baking on the stove is a little bit of a trick. It helps to have several different for the stove pipe, one for the stove top...and one for inside a dutch oven. After a time, you get to know your stove, and how it should look and feel when you want to cook certain things... When you cook on a woodstove, things take a little bit longer....but they smell and taste really great, and pretty soon you notice that people are hanging around the stove. I sometimes move my spinning wheel near the keep my eye on whatever it is that I am making.

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Another benefit of having a stoked stove is that it makes a terrific dryer. I have been washing up wool, in the evenings again. Right now I am working my way through some Black Finnsheep, which is splendid! So, winter is good.

Oh, and I fell down a few rabbit holes ...while working on the Gunnister Man's Pouch..but that is a story for another day.

Friday, January 19, 2007


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Handspun silk ...from roving purchased from the Silkworker. The photo is for the yarn museum, which you can visit by clicking on the link on my sidebar.

If this post is successful, then it seems my change over is far, so good...


We had a dusting of snow last night...not even enough to cover the iris bed.

and the ground is frozen...and it finally seems like winter. I can kick up the woodstove enough so I can make a nice batch of soup on it...and perhaps this cold snap will give me the motivation to complete the seed order..

Blogger is telling me it is time to do the switch over from Beta. I will try to do this over the weekend. So-- wish me luck... If I am unsuccessful, it may be awhile until you hear from me again...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

of thermometers and pedometers

A front moved in and the mercury dropped...well, I don't know...maybe it isn't mercury, but whatever the red substance inside my thermometer is, it has now settled to the bottom of the tube. A check to the "how low did it go" dial indicated that we dipped down to 10 degrees. That is more normal for January around these parts. But I worry for my chickens and rabbits when it happens so quickly after it has been so mild. I worry that they have not acclimated. Even kitty shows a dislike for the drastic change, electing to spend more time in front of the woodstove.

I did walk yesterday. A short one, but I did. On cold days like this, one has to be ever mindful of the fact that however far one ventures in said direction, one will always have to consider the same distance for the return trip! I decided it would be warmer down by the water, so I climbed around on rocks and saw the prettiest ice globes taking shape from the branches that overhang the water. I took a short video of them. I don't often take movies, but the movement of the globes over the water, and the sound they made when they clinked together was unusual.

The entire riverrim was encapsulated in ice. If there was not such a stiff wind blowing, I would have stayed longer to admire and explore the patterns.

Oh, I almost forgot, I finished the Inga Hat...and happy about it! Want to see it?

The herringbone purl braid rim makes an interesting edge..wouldn't you agree? It wanted to flip up, but after blocking it behaved. When it came time to do the decreases, my knitting really slowed down.

The inside of this hat has the ends woven in- in true stranded fashion- a new technique for me, but rather fun to do. The yarn is my handspun (Great Wheel) Icelandic and some black ebay wool courtesy of Grace (thanks Grace!) It makes for a cushy thick hat, nice and warm on a day like today.

The top of this hat called for 54 stitches to be pulled together. Wow. I decided to add a long tassel of fingerlooping. I'm not sure that I like the way this hat looks on me..but it is warm and I think I will put it back on my head now.

BTW, I found a really fun tool for figuring out how far I am walking. I haven't use the topo map I don't know if that works, but I will try it next time I am walking "off road".

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

gray days

Seems as if this is our 4th or 5th cloudy, rainy, gray day in a row... the river reflects the gray mood, the trees look silver and gray green. I notice lichen everywhere.

On these dull days when I am outside, most of the primary color I see takes the form of cars or houses...but amidst the lack of color there is a type of quiet beauty, serene tones of white, brown, gray, black and green make it easy for my eyes to concentrate on texture and form. It is restful when compared with the multitude of color that the landscape takes in July. So I don't mind the dullness, I rather embrace it...the season will be moving on soon enough.

Some production spinning is underway. It is enjoyable! Who would have thought spinning for speed and consistency would be so fun and challenging? I like to put on some good music and let the wheel roll with it. I keep a watchful eye on the clock, and resist the urge to stop until I have met my quota for the day. On a good day I will spin 4 ounces, but alas, there are other jobs that steal my time....

Friday, January 12, 2007

busy work

I finally got around to doing some major cleaning in my kitchen yesterday. I discovered that I have the ability to make a Mr. Clean Eraser cry for mercy.

My hands were tired after all the scrubbing, but not enough to dissuade a few rows of my stranded project. The Inga Hat by Sheila Macdonald So far, this project has taught me how to weave in my contrasting color every second stitch, do a purl braid, and a magic loop. Speed in two handed knitting is starting to develop.

Why yes, that is my seed basket the project is sitting on. It is currently out in plain sight as a reminder to me that it is time to order seed. I was over at Cold Climate the other day, and Kathy had this great Q & A that she posted by way of Carol at May Dreams After I had answered my questions, I found that my "seed habits" have changed over the years. Those of you who garden will most likely enjoy the Q & A...I hope you will play along and let me know how you answer too!

What kind of a seed buyer are you?

Do you carefully read all of the seed catalogs sent to you and then browse the Internet to compare and contrast all the options, then decide which seeds to buy?

I am a catalog buyer. I compare and contrast all the options and prices from the catalogs, and then order from them. I like to read and study the ones that speak about the cultural requirements. I cannot imagine spending the same amount of time reading it all from a computer screen.

Do you buy seeds from 'bricks and mortar' stores and get whatever appeals to you as you are browsing?

Rarely ...mostly because I think what they offer is pretty much run of the mill..but I admit to buying a tried and true variety if the price is good.

Do you buy vegetable seeds in bulk where they scoop them out of seed bins, weigh them and put them in hand-marked envelopes?

Whenever I get the chance to. ..or not enough!! There is a great one that is down in South Jersey, and I am like a kid in a candy store!

Do you buy seeds for just vegetables, or just annual flowers? Do you buy seeds for perennial flowers?

Yep...that is yes to veggies, yes to annuals and yes to perennials.

Do you know what stratification and scarification are? Have you done either or both with seeds?

Yes...stratify your columbines...scarify your morning glories...I used to stratify in the fridge...then I realized I could plant most of the ones that needed to be stratified in the fall of the year, and they would emerge in the spring.

Do you order seeds from more than one seed company to save on shipping or buy from whoever has the seeds you want, even if it means paying nearly the same for shipping as you do for the actual seeds?

I used to do this more often than I do now. Sometimes, I really ..really wanted a certain variety, and bit the bullet to pay for the shipping. Now I am more conservative and wind up dealing with the company that has the majority of what I want.

Do you buy more seeds than you could ever sow in one season?

I used to do this too. Now I only order what I know I will plant.

Do you only buy seeds to direct sow into the garden or do you end up with flats of seedlings in any window of the house with decent light?

Both! I start some seeds early to get a head start, and then when the soil permits, I will direct sow. This is esp. true with lettuce. I can never have enough lettuce.

Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers?


Do you even buy seeds?

Oh ..yes.

Do you have a fear of seeds? Some gardeners don't try seeds, why not?

I have always loved seeds. I don't know why everyone does not love them the way I do...

Do you understand seeds? I once bought seeds at a Walmart in January (Burpee Seeds) and the cashier asked me, "Do these really work? Yes, they do. "Isn't it too cold to plant them now?" Well, yes, if you are planning to plant them outside. I don't think this cashier grew up around anyone who gardened.

I think I understand seeds pretty well. It is extremely important to understand seeds if you want to grow A LOT of things.

Do you list all your seeds on a spreadsheet, so you can sort the list by when you should sow them so you have a master seed plan of sorts?

Um, yes. I started doing this about 10 years ago. I found it to be a very enjoyable process! Once I listed my seeds, I then made a chart for planting, and then narrowed it down to the moon planting chart..with dates and temps...I save these charts, and look back over the years and compare how different the harvests were. It is very helpful to figure the timing for early and late crops.

Do you keep all the old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes, and baskets?

I keep all my seeds in one place, my seed basket.

Do you determine germination percentage for old seed?

Yes, but not as often as I would like to. Sometimes, I don't plan enough in advance, and just throw them in.

Seeds always give me a thrill. I still daydream about getting some magic beans someday....

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

walk with me wednesday

My treadmill...

stretch, warm up....

incline 3 maybe 4%?

speed..3mph or whatever is comfortable

Have a good work out!

distance just about a mile

time 20 or 30 minutes

don't forget the cool down...

Monday, January 08, 2007

distaff day

Yesterday, I spent a good portion of the day taking care of the chickens and the rabbits. I cannot recall spending so much time outdoors in the month of January! It was a lovely day. Originally, I had planned to observance of St. Distaff Day...but there were chores that needed to be taken care of, and a big rain on the way!

Jack has a great thick coat. I can hardly believe he was clipped two months ago. I have been worried about the rabbits dropping coat in this warm weather, but actually Jack's is in good shape. He had a few tiny matts behind the ears, and one big one under his front paw and chest area. After a good brushing, he had his toenails done, and ears cleaned. Lakota got a nice combing too, and will need a clipping in the next day or so. She is in full coat, and had only one matt behind her ear where a large hay seed had lodged. Each time I clip Lakota, I notice more and more grey coloring showing, but the length and quantity of her wool more than make up for it.

While combing rabbits, my mind wanders to the act of spinning, and then to distaff day. I wonder how many spinners out there use them? I really would love to learn to dress a distaff. I have never seen anyone using a distaff. I have studied many pictures, and read what I find about the topic, but I would really like some clear- step by step instructions. I have not found any that feel I can honestly learn from. I need to watch someone so I can understand.

My Ashford Traditional has a slot on the side of it to hold a distaff, but my wheel did not come to me with one. I am the third owner of this wheel, and I sometimes wonder if it originally had a distaff attached to it at one point. A few years ago, after reading Pennington and Taylor's pictorial guide, I decided I wanted a "branch type". I have never used it, and the only flax I have spun came from the Manning's, in prepared form. I grew flax seed that I had purchase from the Manning's also. It was enough to sow a 5x5 foot patch. It had a pretty little blue flower. I never did anything but harvest it, as I was unsure of the retting process.

So, I want to someday, try and work with this type of fiber. The reason is more for tradition than it is for design or function. I am a descendant of those who knew the process, and I want to at least experience some of what they knew.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Whilst visiting with my mother over the holiday, I had given her some handspun yarn to work with. It was tied in a skein, and I wanted to wind it into a center pull ball for her, so it would ready for knitting. Only I didn't have my noste! So I improvised with one of her old bobbins. It worked pretty well!

Today the weather was so warm that the old saying about the month of January didn't ring true... Janiveer — freeze the pot upon the fier. As the day lengthens, The cold strengthens.... ...far from it. Record breaker...almost seventy degrees....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

inosculation/walk with me wed

these maples stand on either side of the old garage. I don't know how old they are.

this morning, they still stood together, although one of them has been dead since the summer. By this afternoon, it looked like this...

There was a 4 foot piece of rebar inside the trunk at one point. It could not be cut down into firewood. Thank goodness it didn't harm anyone while the tree was being cut down.

I kept thinking about this today when I went for my walk. And it seemed that I noticed other trees that had bits and pieces of things still visibly embedded in them. If you ever have the pleasure of talking to a sawyer, you should ask him what is the most unusual foreign object he has ever hit with his saw.

Most answers are understandable...barbed wire, nails, electrical insulators. But there are some strange ones too...including a cow skeleton, coke bottles, automotive parts... an anvil, and old rifles and old lead musket balls.

My neighbor told me a story about a fellow who left a hunting knife stuck onto a tree, and then went into the army. When he came home, the tree had grown around the blade and a portion of the handle.

I also like hearing about finding other saws, or garden equipment like shovels, or even chains that have become part of the tree. Can't you just picture someone leaning or hanging their tool up against the tree, and then, life just happens, and the tool gets forgotten, and the tree grows around it.

Inosculation. The object becomes one with the tree. Slowly, quietly, until it just disappears. I would love to see time lapse photography of it happening.

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