Friday, November 30, 2007

phenological events November

phenological events November 07

1st Snow buntings arrive
6th potato harvest
7th First freeze
10th First snow
19th 6 inch snow
Canada Geese migrate

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

a cob for a cop

An old author says: "The action of spinning must be learned by practice, not by relation." Sung by the poets, the grace and beauty of the occupation has ever shared praise with its utility. (Home Life in Colonial Days by Alice Morse Earle)

I've started to use the dried ears of sweet corn that we grew, to feed to the chickens as a treat. They enjoy it. We ate the choice 10 inch ears this past summer, so the ones that I saved for drying are smaller, and some not fully formed. In the morning, when I let the chickens out to range, I grab a ear or two of the dried corn. I twist the cob in my gloved hands to release the kernels, and the chickens gather around my feet to snatch them up as they fall to the ground.

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I am left with a clean white dry corn-cob. I have been wanting to use a corn-cob on my Great Wheel spindle, to serve as a bobbin. Quite some time ago, I had read that this was a common practice. I didn't reference it, and I'm sorry. However, I did find this from Project Gutenberg: When the corn was shelled, the cobs were not carelessly discarded or disregarded. They were stored often in a lean-to or loft in the kitchen ell; from thence they were brought down in skepes or boxes about a bushel at a time.

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The yarn might be wound directly upon the wooden spindle as it was spun, or at the end of the spindle might be placed a spool or broach which twisted with the revolving spindle, and held the new-spun yarn. This broach was usually simply a stiff roll of paper, a corn-cob, or a roll of corn-husk.

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It worked rather nicely! There were no problems winding on, and it slid off easily. I did have to use a piece of husk as the base because the spindle didn't grip the inside of the cob. This would be a nice touch for folks to see at historical demos. I will save a few nice cobs for just such an occasion.

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In the meantime, I think I will use up the ones I have because I am running out of dpns to hold the other cops in shape until I am ready to ply. I have a bit more to go before this pound is spun.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket opening day of deer season, and there is a sense of fear around the riverrim.

the woods don't usually make me fearful, I love the woods. How can you be fearful of something you love? I guess I'm fearful for what is happening in the woods... today, there is danger involved.

I heard a few cars go up the mountain early this morning. The hunters around here are good people, good neighbors. They are careful, respectful people. I worry for them in the fog, and the rain. Will they be able to see what they are shooting? I am as worried for the hunters, as I am for the hunted.

Fear makes a heart pound. I know the deer are fearful today. They sense the impending perile, the hunters in their woods. The air is as thick with anxiety as it is with the fog. I can imagine the heartbeats and and hear the hoofbeats as they run past. Adrenaline flows. There is stress.

All day, I wonder about my friends in the woods. I hear no shots. Good. Just before dark, I see a sign. I am glad, he's still here, a bit far away, but he made it and I can now try to relax and not be so fearful.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

walk with me wed. in the kitchen

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no time for the outdoors today, but I'm doing lots of walking in the kitchen. It is time to make THE PIE. I love making THE PIE. I get to use my neat little nutmeg has a handy spot to store the nutmeg!

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I've been saving one of the best pumpkins for this pie. It is one of the Amish Pie Pumpkins that I grew earlier this summer. It is a beauty. It is LARGE. All the Amish Pie pumpkins were large. This would be a good pumpkin to grow to sell.

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It is pretty tough to cut into this pumpkin...and remove all the nice meaty seeds...

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... but once I do, I hack it into chunks that I will steam until they are soft. This takes some time, about 45 minutes...

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it might be a good idea to work on my border for the edge of the shawl that is still resting on the loom. I worked on a pattern that I found in Nicky Epstein's book, "knitting on the edge" seemed like it would be perfect, except, somewhere, I wasn't quite paying close attention, and I flipped it! Argh! The price paid for multi- tasking!

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As for the pie, it is starting to smell very good right about now... I'll let you know how I like the Amish Pumpkin Pie tomorrow...

Monday, November 19, 2007

ready or not

Looking out at the morning ...

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There are still leaves on many trees, (and in my gutters!) A seasonal juxtaposition ...

At least I was able to dig the glad corms...and transplant lettuce to the greenhouse. Turns out I didn't have to plant it, the lettuce had sowed itself. I left some in the garden, to see how long I could harvest it, and have not even had a first cutting before the first accumulating snow.

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The shawl has been finished on the loom since last week. It is resting while I figure out what I am going to do with the border. There are several other projects in the works. I am still working up a series of small bags. They are rather organic and unusual. They are more form than functional. Someday, if I get up the courage, I will post the photos of them.

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Around eight o'clock this morning, while I was outside doing chores...I heard geese flying overhead. As I looked up I noticed huge flocks going over. More than I have ever seen before at one time. I estimate the count to be well into the hundreds. As I went about my tasks, I continued to hear and see large flocks. They are leaving. Snow birds....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

walk with me wednesday-returning

I should have been taking advantage of the warm sunny day, there are holiday lights that need to be strung, and other chores that are easier on the fingers when the weather is nice. But the ledges have been revealed, and I have not been walking there since last winter. I want to visit them, and so, I return.

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The ledges are nearby. I don't walk them for at least half of the year. They are off limits from early spring, (when the thunderstorms wake the snakes) until early fall (when the snow and frost chases them into the ground again). The ledges belong to the woodland creatures. There are dens in the ledges. These dens are homes to fox, bears, rattlesnakes and bobcats...and who knows who else? So, I am careful when I visit them.

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No matter how I photograph them, they don't look as big in the pictures as they do to me when I am climbing them. Nor do they look as dangerous. There are so many holes, and loose rocks, the moss and leaves are slippery, and there are steep "drop off's" must traverse with caution.

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I return to visit an old friend.

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This area is not as I left has been disturbed, the rocks are no longer stacked and tight, they have been pushed aside...perhaps by ice, or an animal. I look inside. There are no signs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

staying on task

Outside it was doing this...

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inside I was doing this...

I have taken to listening to Waulking Songs (Orain Luaidh) whilst working. These were not available to me a few years ago, but now I have downloaded many. I am so happy that these songs are being preserved. You can find them all over the internet, there are some great ones on YouTube, where you can view competitions with groups preforming them. For those who are not familiar with Waulking Songs, they were originally written to be sung during a "Wool Waulking", while the tweed or other woven cloth was being beaten or fulled on a table by a group. The purpose of beating or fulling was to shrink the fibers so they would lock together and finish the cloth. They sang chorus and solo lines, with words that were stories of sorts...but because they were written to accompany work (including spinning and weaving) there was attention to rhythm. So my fingers are walking down the loom, and the strand is walking up...and I am listening to a "waulking song" that was recorded at one of the Highland Sessions with Kathleen Macinnes on the vocals. The waulking songs help me keep focused and at the same time my mind wanders. I feel a connection to the songs, they stir up something I cannot explain. When listening to the recordings of the old women singing without musical instruments, I am haunted by the memories of something I could never have known.

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I wish I could speak Gaelic so I could understand the words. There are some sites on the internet that translate the lyrics...some of the songs are very sad, some are joyful. They keep the pace for me, they keep me on task.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fingerlings and Finishings to Start

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Fingerlings:

I have received some emails requesting to know the variety of fingerling potatoes that I grew, so I thought I would answer the questions here. They were French Fingerling (Solanum tuberosum), from seed that was purchased from Johnny. My husband calls them small potatoes with a big price tag...but these were a great producer, and taste wonderful alongside of other roasted veggies. I have been roasting them, lightly tossed in olive oil, along with winter squash, onions and garlic, even broccoli--and serving them up as a side dish. It is easy, fast and tasty. They are also the perfect size for throwing into the stew pot.

I wash these fingerlings before storing, and then again before I use them. Since they are grown organically, I don't peel the skins off because the skins contain most of the nutrients. Leaving the skins intact can also help to preserve the nutrients of the interior flesh of the potato...which can escape into that potato water when cooking....and wind up down the drain...wasted.

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I have finished spinning the Finn/Alpaca blend! This yarn was produced on the Quebec Wheel, and is the first pound I have spun on it....sort of my "getting to know you", or "breaking in" yarn. The blend (a gift from the Hatton's) was processed and dyed at Wooly Knob Fiber Mill. It did not have a colorway title, so I am calling it Pee Gee...that is after the name of the hydrangea it is displayed with...H. paniculata 'Grandiflora'..or Pee Gee. It was the closest way to try to show and describe the color of the yarn.

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This yarn was spun longdraw, soft and lofty, but there are spots where the yarn is overspun (this is where the wheel and I were breaking each other in). It weighs in at 20 ounces, and measures out to 1218 yards of approx. 14wpi. of 2ply.

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I have already started working with the yarn. Two days ago, I took the 8ft triangle loom out and set it up in front of the piano. I used to set up and work off of the stone mantle, but the Great Wheel is currently occupying that space. Friends and neighbors that stop by no longer comment on the fact that I have turned my living room into a fiber is just the visitors that do....and they only come in the summertime ;-)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

walk with me wednesday, last call

A forecast for temperatures dipping into the twenties caught my ear early this morning as I was having my coffee. I knew what I was going to be doing today. I hadn't planned it, but there is a good chance the forecast will be correct, and I wanted to take a few things from the garden before the first hard freeze does. I set my mind on the tasks before me...since I will spend the day outdoors, I dig out last years earflap hat, and my boots.

The crows were raucous this morning. I counted 15 of them. They watched me do the morning chores. I made sure that the rabbits and chickens have extra hay. I let the chickens into the garden to browse. They have been locked up with only the garden to range in, I have not let them out since the encounter with the bobcat.

Standing at the garden gate, an assessment is made: the glads and dahlias and 4 o'clock still need to be do the fingerling potatoes. The freeze would surely take the herbs, so they will have to be cut. Looking to my left, I notice a large hole in the greenhouse door. !#%*! I will have to fix it before I do anything else.

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Once that was out of the way, I moved the potted plants of sweet alyssum into the greenhouse, along with some pots of herbs. These will keep for another month- into December if I am lucky. I make a mental note to start a flat of lettuce in the greenhouse- and hope I will remember! Once the pots were safely tucked inside the greenhouse, I ventured out into the broccoli patch to cut the seed pods for hanging. I fill a gallon bag with fresh broccoli as well...the last of the heads, and most of them are quite small by this I pick some leaves and some heads with flowers on them too. I cut the herbs.

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With afternoon already upon me, I start to dig the fingerlings. There are an amazing amount of these! I planted only 10, and I cannot get over the abundant yield...there is no way I can dig all of these hills today...even with the help of Soot. Soot used to pal around with my hen Goldie (the one who was killed, presumably by the bobcat). Soot has taken to working at my side in the garden...I think she misses Goldie too.

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There is a sense of satisfaction that I feel as I look at the days harvest. And I still didn't get it all ...I will keep my fingers crossed. Maybe the forecast will be wrong....

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

spit balls and MC Escher

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I had been wanting to do a little color work project, and this Faux Isle Glasses Case Pattern that Grace designed, was the perfect size that I had in mind. I thought it would be a quick knit for should have been. It is very clever the way she arranges the colors ahead of time.

The pattern calls for you to first create 2 balls of yarn, selecting from and incorporating a palette of about 10 . Selecting the arrangement of the colors is crucial to the success of your design. The colors are then measured out and "spit joined" together. I imagine all sorts of different possibilities of results from the arrangement of colors. My first choice didn't work out so well, so Grace made these for me to get me started.

So, "spit balls" are now ready and the pattern is simple, should be a quick knit...but for me it wasn't! I must have ripped back more times than I would like to admit. I was paying too much attention to the colors and getting myself confused with the pattern. I felt as if I was lost in an M.C. Escher print! Finally, something clicked, and I was into the rhythm of the pattern and enjoying it. Now I feel ready to make another...

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To finish it, I gently fulled the outside, but vigorously felted the inside stranding. I used a wet felting method, and took a sander to it when it was dry. This created a very fuzzy inside, and one where the strands cannot hook on to the eyeglasses.

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A four stranded braid was sewn on so the case could be worn around the neck if desired.

Friday, November 02, 2007

morning spin

The mornings are crisp and cool... in the thirties now. The frost has come, gradually, killing off the summer. I don't begrudge it. It is time. There are still many leaves on the trees for the second of November, but they are now starting to fall. The light is changing.

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I don't often move my Great Wheel around, but the morning light is so beautiful streaming in through the south face windows of the cabin, it calls for me to do so.

Spinning in this type of light makes my heart sing. I've so many things to do today, but the wheel calls to me, promising the time spent with it will be rewarding in ways that will warm the body and soul throughout the coming winter. I give in. I make yarn...

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...and one of these days I will find the time to make a lazy kate to contain my bobbins....

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