Friday, December 31, 2004

dreaded locks

The holidays are a great time to visit old friends and family. They also present an opportunity to visit old creations. It is always nice to see that someone is still wearing or using an old scarf, mittens, socks or some other article that was knit up years ago. It is pleasing to know that the gift of years past is still "giving". Sometimes, I find myself looking at the item with fond recollection of moments spent working on know...the type that summons up a season of the year, or the particular music one was listening to at the time the item was being created. Other times (I hate to admit) it is as though I had forgotten I had ever made it, just vaguely recalling it, not quite sure if the memory is even correct...somewhat like meeting someone who knows your name, and you know you have met them before because they look familiar, but you cannot remember where or when, or what their name is.

But either way, fond memory or no memory, it is always interesting to see how the object is holding up. Is the wool pilling? Any holes developing? Is the object holding its shape, or is it rolling or sagging in spots. What about the colors, are they fading? Did the garment shrink?....etc. etc. etc.

This Christmas while visiting with my mother I came across one of these types of issues that I had never seen before. A phenomenon that I like to refer to as the "dreaded locks". This apparently occurs when handspun singles are used to fringe a shawl. This shawl was my first creation on the triloom. I had purchased some beautiful red merino roving and then blended some of it with a dark lavender merino roving. I spun thick and thin singles and wove them on a 5 foot triangle loom. As a beginner, at the time all I was thinking about was color and texture. Structure and function never entered my mind, and I did not consider the fact that the singles would not hold up well as warp threads. They stretched and frayed somewhat, but I was able to compensate for this in the fulling process, so that when the shawl was finished, this did not show up. However, one thing I did not anticipate was how the fringe would behave with the passage of time, ergo, the "dread lock" effect. I believe their formation is caused when the singles slowly disentwine upon themselves and other singles, while twisting onto others. They become a braid like felted matted mass, clumping together in a random fashion and looking somewhat like dread locks. An novel design element, but not what I was going for.

In order to correct this oddity, I had no choice but to clip them off and brush the ends. Interestingly enough, this is also the only remedy for those who decide they no longer wish to wear dread locks in their hair. So, the scissors did the work, and my mother was pleased with the outcome.

So here we are at the end of another year. I am a sucker for those rhyming slogans you always hear tossed around on NY Eve. So far, I have heard "Come Alive in 2005", "We will strive in 2005", and my personal favorite, "Enjoy the ride in 2005". Naturally, I have my own versions of Fiber related slogans. "Double-drive in 2005" or "Navaho Plied in 2005" and finally, "Space Dyed in 2005". Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2004

up on the house top, click click click down thru the chimney with old Glaucomys sabrinus ??

I know it is hard to see him from this picture, but there is a flying squirrel hiding behind the lantern. Not at all what I expected to come down my chimney! We had suspected that there was some critter scurrying around on the roof, or in the eves of the house...but this little guy really caused some commotion when he decided to drop in for a visit! We finally caught him and took him across the bridge to the other side of the river, just in case he decides he liked it here..hopefully he will not find his way home.

I have encountered flying squirrels many times around here. I was surprised to learn that they are endangered. I once had car trouble that turned out to be a flying squirrel living in my air filter! Since they are nocturnal, it would be asleep in my air filter while I drove around to work and grocery shopping etc. When I had trouble starting the car, I took it into the shop. They took the lid off the air filter and out ran Glaucomys sabrinus to everyone's surprise.

So, I can hang my stockings by the chimney with care, in hopes that Glaucomys sabrinus will NOT be there! Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

called to duty

World Affairs have found their way to the riverrim. Sometimes, when I walk down to the river and bask in the sights and sounds of the water flowing by, it is hard to imagine that there is a War going on. I am aware of the headlines. I listen to the news. But when I am standing on the edge of the river, and watching the water, the real world seems very far away. News came last week that brought the real world right into my backyard. The sons and daughters of some of my friends are going to be deployed for duty. Suddenly, the words of Service, Duty, Honor and Country take on a huge meaning.

My best friend's daughter will be leaving on Jan. 7th. She serves in the 228th Forward Support battalion. Her mother shared a story with me last week, and I found it to be very touching. It seems that her daughter went out shopping with 2 of her friends that will also be deployed. They were looking to purchase a lap top computer to take with them. They went to a Circut City and naturally, they were approached by a salesman who asked if they needed any assistance. They told the salesman what they were looking for, and joked about being shipped out to Iraq, asking if they could get a discount on the computers. The salesman asked his manager, who said the best he could do for them would be a rebate. After awhile, they made their selection, and a customer who had been standing nearby, told the salesman that he would be buying the laptops. He purchased all three of them. A random act of kindness. A blessing. It was something he could do, and wanted to do. An individual way to show support.

So, one persons act of support has inspired me to see what I can do. If anyone out there in blogosphere has any suggestions for links etc. feel free to email me with information that I can pass along.

There has not been to much time for fiber works lately. Most all of my projects are ready to be wrapped and I am looking forward to some nice cozy down time after the holidays to devote to new project ideas. There is a basket of Icelandic Wool sitting hearthside. It is carded up and ready to spin. I can hardly wait to get to it.

Big cold front moving into our area tonight...burrhhhrrrr! Extra flakes of hay for rabbits and chickens, and an extra blanket for every bed! Stay warm.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

chicks in the house, oh my

or never say never again!

The spring of 2003 was the last time I had chicks in the house. I promised myself that I would not do this again, mainly because of the mess they make. Not so much the manure part, because that can be managed easily, what I object to is the dropping of the down feathers. This happens when the chicks are about 5 or 6 weeks old, and they begin to get their pin feathers. At this time the down feathers drop out and fly around the house like little milk weed seed on the breeze. There is a very fine white dust that accompanies this process, and it is something that I have noticed, but I don't know what it comes from. I think I probably don't want to know. That is why I said I would never raise chicks inside again. They belong outside.

However- Ed, the rabbit guy, had been over to the house around Halloween. He said he had a little banty hen that was sitting, but because he did not have a rooster, her efforts would be futile. I offered a few of my eggs, ones that I knew would most likely be fertile from my rooster. I had forgotten all about them, when one afternoon in November, my phone rang....and it was Ed, with a favor to ask. Turns out, he was getting ready to go on vacation and had no one to baby sit some chicks...the banty had hatched them out. She was only big enough to cover three of them, but she did the job.

So, now they are getting big and bad and rowdy. I am anxious for Ed to return and pick up his chicks. I saw one of his neighbors and asked him if Ed was home yet. He hung his head and said, "no...I have to water the rabbits." Ed owns over 100 rabbits. He raises them and butchers them to sell to the fancy French restaurants in NYC. I was glad that I only agreed to watch the chicks. Ed will return soon, no doubt he will be well rested and nicely tanned. I will be glad to send the chicks home.

Yesterday was the local Holiday Sale in town, and I shared a booth again. I sold about the same amount as last year, but this year, I sold more yarn than anything else. The trade was sparse, and I made a few good connections, and appointments for demonstrations of spinning and weaving. That is all that is new around the riverrim...we are expecting 2-4 inches of snow tomorrow, so I'm off to get the chickens and rabbits all ready for a snow day, and dust off the snow shovel.

Friday, November 12, 2004

first snow

Today it started snowing around mid-morning or so. It has been snowing slowly, all day. It is starting to accumulate, but they are not calling for much. It was a good day to stay inside and weave. The small shawl pictured above was one of the pieces that I worked on today. I wove it from some of the yarn that I purchased from Autumn House Farm, at the Rhinebeck Festival. I like it well enough to go ahead and weave a bigger shawl from the same yarn. On days like today, I am glad to sit by the stove and let the warm glow of the coal soak into my bones! I spent a portion of the afternoon spinning by the stove. It was a cozy day.

I also had a nice surprise visit from my "farmer friends" who live down the river from me. They came bearing gifts in the form of pork. Not just any pork, these were their own "milk-fed" pigs. Seriously, I was there when they would mix up the milk and feed them! I have not tasted any of it yet, but I am sure it will be very good. I am grateful that they would share their efforts with us. They got two piglets and raised them this past summer. It is nice to have good meat, to know where it came from, and what it was fed. They also raised and butchered a pair of turkeys...and they are on their way to the Thanksgiving Table. I tip my hat to them for doing all the hard work themselves. If I had to raise and butcher my food, I am afraid I would become a vegan! I really think it is wonderful to raise your own food, it is just very difficult for me to get past that whole "you are eating what you nurtured" thing. Then again, I have a nasty rooster, who may be destined for the stew pot someday....

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

terrapene carolina carolina


I recently received this photo of a baby box turtle (via email) from a kindred spirit, and marveled at the size of it.

First off, I want to make it perfectly clear that no baby box turtles were harmed during the photo documentation, and the baby box turtle was released back into the wilderness (to the tune of "Born Free") from which he (or she) the way, you can usually tell if it is a male box turtle by the color (red) of the eyes.

So anyway, I got to looking at this picture, and found myself thinking about this baby box turtle for days after I had received the photo. I started wondering about it...what it was doing?..(just being a turtle) many other little turtles hatched out with it at birth? (typically 3-8 elliptical, thin-shelled eggs)...where will they all go?...(some of them live a very long time and may spend their whole life in an area scarcely larger than a football field)...what would he eat?...(omnivorous..also known to eat poisonous mushrooms, which can kill whomever eats the flesh of a box turtle who has eaten a poisonous mushroom)...what would he do for the winter?...(dig a hole about 4 to 6" deep, at the base of a rock or log, and hibernate until the spring rains come) big would he get? (about 6 1/2 inches) long would it be before he made little turtles of his own?...(5-7 years to maturity) you can see, I have been reading up on box turtles.

For some reason, thinking about this little creature, whose ancestors existed about 200 million years ago, gives me a feeling of reassurance. When life seems complicated and hectic, I like to think of this little turtle...slowly, methodically going about life in its own little world..with his own little purpose...and it makes me happy to have had the chance to see something I have never seen before (even if it was just a photo in an email). I guess by now he is searching for a good place to spend the winter (if something has not eaten him skunks, foxes, raccoons, crows, snakes, owls, and hawks, coyotes, or a wild hog).

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

a poncho "fo"

I finished this gift set for a friend of mine, whose daughter just recently had a baby girl. The poncho was constructed on the 3foot triloom. I wove two tri's together, that I had spun out of merino/mohair (50-50). I had purchased the roving last Feb. from Countrywool, and had just enough left to complete this small project. I plied the mohair blend together with some light pink lambswool stash that I had left over from ...well...I can't remember when. I knit the hat and booties from the lambswool, and trimmed them out with the plied mohair. This project did not take all that long to accomplish. The "time factor" is one of the biggest things I like about weaving on the triangle loom. It took less than 2 hours to weave that little poncho, and if I had been knitting it, I imagine it would have taken me at least 2 days.

Don't for get to check out the moon tonight, should be a nice show.....

Saturday, October 23, 2004

and the winner is...

Nameless, and I do apologize for the fact that I cannot give credit to the creator of this beautiful needle felting project. To see a picture of it is nothing at all like seeing it in person. The use of color with wool was simply perfect. I have seen many needle felted projects, but this one was truly unique. It was hanging in the exhibit barn at the festival.

I am very glad that I was able to attend the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck NY last weekend. We had a wonderful time. We combined our "business" trip with a family visit, so that made for twice the fun. This was my first visit to the festival, and I now know why this event is touted as one of the best assemblies of "wool minded' people on the east coast. There was so much to see, and it was a banquet for the eyes. There were so many different colors and textures of fibers, that everywhere I looked I was inspired. I didn't know what to look at more, the vendors offerings, or the people and the fiberworks they displayed on themselves. So much variety! Some of the things people make! Just spectacular...from the very simplistic to the most intricate of patterns, it was all there.

I saw many vendors that I had only seen on-line. There is a big difference in looking at fiber on a monitor, and seeing the real thing. The colors translate pretty good, but the real texture of the yarns is something that I think one can only truly absorb from seeing the actual 3 Dimensional object.

I purchased some yarn from Autumn House, some beautiful Wensleydale from Barneswallow Farm, and some Tussah Silk from The Copper Moth. I plan to combine the Wensleydale with the silk, and knit a scarf on the bias with some really big needles. I also purchased a shed stick and two needles from the exotic wood guy from New Mexico...(sorry, I did not get his name). The needles are wonderful to use. I have already used up half the yarn from Autumn house on the 3ft triloom. One of the biggest highlights of the day was seeing Carol Leigh of Hillcreek Fiber Studios in action. She was weaving on a large square loom. There was a crowd around her, and her booth was so full I could not even wade in! What a great weekend!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

a festivus we will go

Well, I am packed and about to embark on the journey to Rhinebeck. We will be staying with Mr. D's cousins, who have graciously invited us into their home for a visit while we are in the area. I am looking forward to a wonderful weekend. The color is just about peak around here, so I think it will be a beautiful drive. I have my shopping list and my weekend project (mittens) tucked inside my felted bag...and I am ready! The excitement builds!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

hope for the hopi red dye

I have been trying to have some success with the Hopi Red Amaranth Dye from the Amaranth Plants that I grew this past summer. After 3 tries, I am producing 2 shades of yellow, and one of salmon. The plant is beautiful. At full height, it measures in at a good 5-6 feet. The plant seed heads are heavy, and I would advise anyone who grows this to provide support in the way of steaks or cages. The seed for the Hopi Red Amaranth is very small. Actually, they are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. It is amazing to me to hold this seed in the palm of my hand, and know that there is a beautiful 6 foot plant that waits to be, "unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see".

The Hopi Indians use this seed to make a ceremonial corn bread that takes on the red color of the plant. I used the entire plant, seed head-leaves-stems, to make a dye bath for my wool. The above picture show the 3 different colors I was able to achieve. As you can see, none of them are really RED. I am still trying to get a red yarn from the dye. I think I am getting close. It is difficult to find information on how to prepare a dye bath for this plant. I tried making a tea by simmering the plant pieces in water for about an hour. I strained off the vegetation, and added the wool and continued to simmer on low heat for about an hour. Then, I took it off the heat and set it aside for several days. The dye bath and the wool looked to be a beautiful red color, but after rinsing and washing, it turned a nice shade of yellow...sort of a mustard yellow. A nice color, but not what I was after. So I tried again.

The second dye bath, I prepared the same way, only this time I added a pre-mordant wool (from alum). This gave me a nice light yellow. Again, pretty, but still not red. I tried one more time, using a post mordant of vinegar. This time, I got a soft salmon I am getting close.

I have been searching books and the internet for information on how to get this plant to make a red dye. I have found one piece of what I hope to be useful information...this being the suggestion to make a sun tea from the amaranth, and to use lots and lots of vinegar. Well, the weather has turned a bit cool up here in the mountains, so I have resorted to making Amaranth Sun tea next to the wood stove. I will strain this tea off and try one more time to make a red yarn.

Monday, October 04, 2004

ursus americanus

I almost walked right into this bear the other morning, as I was heading to the hen house to let the girls out for the day. I turned the corner of the house, and came face to, well, butt of this black bear! He/she turned and looked at me over his shoulder, and I turned around and ran inside my house. I fumbled for the camera, and snapped this shot from the window. I must remember to whistle or make lots of noise when I go outside now. The bears are trying to beef up for winter now...they need to feed almost constantly...up to 20 hours a day. I have to post a picture of a bear on the front door to remind everyone to check before going outside. I am learning to respect the fact that they are here. I may even be forced to call the game commission to ask for help getting rid of them.

One of the women who comes to our spinning group, has spun Bear Hair before. She says the undercoat is similar to that of a dog. It is short, between one and two inches long, and she sometimes blends it with wool. My neighbor hunts bear, and if he gets one this year, I am going to ask for some of the "undercoat".

Saturday, October 02, 2004


or "a goody".

This is Jack's first offspring. We have decided to name her (pretty sure it is a her) "Chance". The pattern of the coloring on Chance is called Agouti. This is the same pattern that is found in wild rabbits, and most likely what they have all descended from. Domestic rabbits have several variations of this pattern, that are caused by combinations of genes and modifiers. The Agouti pattern that Chance exhibits (I think) is referred to as a Chestnut Agouti. The fur has 3 bands of color, with the fur closest to the skin being grey, followed by a tan or caramel color, and being tipped with black. She also shows white around her eyes and nostrils and inner ears. The outer ear is outlined in black. Her eyes are still a blue grey.

I am trying to determine if the Agouti pattern gene was inherited from Jack. Judging from his papers, there was a Chocolate Agouti named "Betty Boop" in his lineage, but I do not know for sure if this rabbit has anything to do with the appearance of Chance. Genetics are difficult for me because I do not have a very clear understanding of the whole "allele/locus" thing...but I am learning.

In the big picture, it really doesn't matter. I was trying to breed for nice little fiber bunnies, and I think that is exactly what I have been gifted with. She is a her daddy. It is fun spending time with her, getting her used to being handled, and watching her grow. I am already planning projects for the beautiful Angora fiber that I know she will produce.

Look how she grows...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

ivan was here

Hurricane Ivan visited this mountain region on Friday and Saturday, and caused a near emergency evacuation for us. It was expected that this storm was going to go north and west of our area, and rainfall was predicted to be a little over an inch. That was not what happened.

My rain gauge was overflowing at six inches. I have never seen the river so high. We were getting reports that the flood levels were going to exceed the "Flood of 55", the last deadly flood to this area. I watched the river rising higher and higher, faster and faster. It was a powerful force. Logs and limbs and whole trees started to flow by. Down on the road, the water was almost hitting the bridge broadside. I walked down to take some pictures. The speed of the river was awesome. I was hypnotized by the swift water. I stood there as the rain started to drench me to the skin. My clothes were becoming wet under the rain gear, and one leg from my knee down was completely saturated from the puddle I had stepped into on my way down to the river. I stood very still and all I could hear was the roar of the water, and the rain pelting against the hood of my raincoat. My river was in a mood I had never witnessed before. I watched a water heater go by. I watched living room furniture go by. There were children's Fisher Price Toys, lawn chairs, garden sheds, and even a dock with a boat still tied to it. It made me feel very sad to watch pieces of peoples lives....bobbing along at a ferocious speed, tumbling over waves, being tossed about, at the whim of the river. I just could not look away. I saw countless propane tanks from bbq grills speed by. The river took canoes and rafts from the local liveries. It swept up whatever was in its path...even wildlife...I saw a dead deer, and heard a story from a local cop, who saw a dog still tethered to its dog house, fighting to stay above the water. He said he wanted to shoot it, but there were people nearby, and he did not want to start a commotion.

At one point in the evening, they started to evacuate those folks who live on low ground. Then we heard from the fire department, that a crack had been spotted on a local dam at the head waters. They said they did not expect the dam to hold. The television continued to report local evacuations and I was beginning to accept the fact that we may loose the bridge. The water was expected to crest between midnight and two in the morning. I did not sleep well that night.

Thankfully, the dam held, and so did the bridge. The waters have now started to recede, but the process is gradual. I feel blessed that we did not suffer any damage other than washed out roads and loss of electricity, and I keep all victims of Ivan in my prayers.

Friday, September 10, 2004

jacks first

I have been playing around with some of the first clippings that I got from my new Angora "Jack" son of Countrywool Liebchen. I blended it with some unknown breed of sheeps wool that was given to me by a friend from my spinning group. First I blended it on the drum carder, and then split it and passed it through a second time. Then, I spun it thick and thin and slubby. It is very soft and cushey! I'm thinking it will make a nice hat.

Last week, Jack became a daddy. The doe kindled early in the morning on Tuesday. She had 5 kits when I checked on her. They were all licked very clean, and there was no afterbirth, so she knew what she was doing. However, only one kit was alive. I distracted the doe with some fresh broccoli clippings, and then removed the poor little kits that did not make it. When I came back to check on things a little later, I found she had delivered another kit, and was just finishing cleaning it off. It was not alive. So, we only have one little one. I guess the still born kits could be due to the fact that my doe is almost 5 years old already. But she is being a very good mama. The kit is growing fast, and fat! I will have some pictures soon.

This weekend I will be going to the 1st Annual Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival. I am looking forward to it and hope that they get a good turn out. I know they were trying for this last year, but it never got off the ground, and so I wish them luck.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

you say tomato

The common tomato, from the natural order Solanaceae and the genus Lycopersicum...also goes by the name Wolf-peach, Love Apple and Pomidor. I have been spending many hours with this South American Fruit. I am glad that another season is coming to a close. I am tired of tomatoes, but I know I will be glad that I did this. Months from now, when the snow is blowing, I shall open a jar of summer goodness, and make plans for next years crop.

Overall, this was not the best year for tomato growing. We set records for rainfall, and cool temps..and because abundant and unobstructed sunlight is essential for the development of quality "maters", I have had better results in years past. A bad growing season also makes it difficult to determine the success of the individual varieties that I tried for the first time. But, I shall do the rating anyway.

Burpee 4th of July
Was not ready by the 4th, more like the 21st. Small and tasty, and the first garden tomato of the season. Not growing this next year.

Roma VF Hybrid
Very meaty, but small. Taste was OK. Good yields..not growing next year.
Thai Pink Egg
A big disappointment! They were slow to grow, small and tasteless. No go for next year.
Blonde Kopfchen
A big success! This was a beautiful size and flavor. Nice color and grew like a champ even in the poor conditions. The roma type grows in a cluster vine like the six pack. Will be saving the seed and growing this next year.
Monte Verde
Successful plants that just keep producing nice large and firm table tomatoes. Not a one of them split, even will all the rain.
Golden Jubilee
Beautiful plants and bright dark yellow/orange fruit that looks better than it tastes. Very attractive on the plate alongside other heirlooms.
Now I know why these are one wants to grow them. They have very almost mis-shapen fruits with splits and stitching. The inside is a red flesh, but rather bland taste (could just be all the rain.)
Juliet Grape
Very tasty, abundant flowers and fruits...almost the size of a roma.

One last note here ...about yields. This year I was way below normal. I grew over 50 plants, but only managed to harvest about a bushel and a half. A bushel weighs approx 53 pounds, and I should be harvesting about 120 pounds (or close to 2 bushels) from the 50 plants. This averages out to 60 quarts or 15 gallons. This would be the amount needed for one person to have 1 cup of sauce (or juice) 7 times a week for 36 weeks.

So, I have pulled the vines, and put all the canning equipment away for another season, and stocked the pantry shelves (schwew)..and hey, I have my own supply of lycopene to last the winter...and I could not have done it without my SQUEEZO!

Friday, August 27, 2004

bear raid

Just a quick note to make reference to the fact that we have been visited by a bear for the past few weeks. I am beginning to see him (her) more and more. This makes me think that we will have an early frost. The leaves are starting to turn, and even though we have not had cool temps, there are other indicators that the summer season is coming to a close.

I saw the bear earlier in the week, at dawn, heading for the trash can. I was in the car at the time, and honked at him continually, until he turned around and went back up the mountain into the woods. Yesterday, around 8:00 am, one of my egg customers notified me that my trash can had been over turned, so I am guessing that the bear was indeed sniffing around. I have been pouring ammonia into the trash can in attempt to discourage him, as he will snap any bungie cords right off of the can. I try to keep the trash "clean"...storing any meat drippings in glass jars, rinsing off any tuna cans, or yogurt containers. Any veggie peelings go into the compost. I have learned from experience that locking the can in the garage may result in a broken garage door. So, if he is that determined, he can have the trash can, and I will clean up after him.

This is a nuisance bear. I do not mean to point fingers, but some summer visitors to the area think it is exciting to see and feed bears. They go back to the city, and the bear wants more food. He has learned where to go for food, and associates the area with a meal. So, he becomes "conditioned" and BOLD. I don't mind the trash can...but I am fearful for my rabbits and chickens. Hubby put up a trap ...consisting of a board with nails sticking up ..and we have to place that around the hutches and the coop to discourage him. I keep the trash can far away from the house, and a sign on my front door to remind us to make noise and look both ways before going outside. Like I say...NUISANCE! To read more about the black bear in my neck of the woods, go here. Written by a friend of mine, this article covers the laws in place protecting the bears, and the difficulties that one has to deal with when a bear attacks.

Saturday, August 07, 2004


This growing season has been exceptional. My Hopi Red Amaranth (pictured above) is almost ready to harvest. I have been trying to find information on how to prepare a dye bath for this, but so far, I have not found very much. There is more information avaliable about how it was used by the Hopi to color the corn bread, than there is for how to dye wool with it. I would imagine that I use the entire plant and just make a tea first. I will wait for a few more weeks before I harvest it. I am enjoying its bold presense in garden. I also grew a red beet (pictured below) that is used for dying wool. They are doing ok too, but I did not get very much seed.

Both the Hopi Red Amaranth and the Red Beet Seeds, were given to me this spring by a gardener/ spinner friend of mine, who ordered them from Pine Tree Seed Company. And both of these plants are in the Goosefoot Family, along with approximately 1298 other species. The seed from the Amaranth should be fairly easy to save, so I can grow more of it next year if I like the results of the dye. As for the Red Beet, I would have to try and "winter over" a plant or two. Beets are a biennial, and would not set seed until next spring. I have tried this before, and not been successful. I wonder what a beet flower looks like anyway?

On the fiber front, I have finished two triloom shawls. They are both off the loom and waiting to be fulled. And I am waiting for a nice drying day to full them! We have been having a good deal of rain and humidity I have put off doing this task. I am also working on spinning up skeins and skeins of plain white Finn wool. This has been sitting in my stash for over a year, and I want to have it ready to use when I do the dye bath. I am spinning singles of approx 26 wpi and plying them into skeins of about 380 yards.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

ants and grasshoppers

Some of us are ants, and some are grasshoppers.  I for one, must be an ant.  Each day I am busy preparing something from the garden for winter storage.  This week it is beans and broccoli...but the tomatoes are starting to blush, and soon I will begin working on them.  I am very thankful for such a bountiful harvest this year.  The yield has been more than I could hope for.  However, the routine of freezing and canning is starting to get boring.  Besides, it leaves little time for fiber arts.  So here is a sink full of beans that see when I close my eyes to go to sleep. 

And here is what happens after a few hours of slicing and packing and canning.


Oh yes, I worked on the "cheater" socks while the beans were being pressurized...I finally tried some of the self-patterning yarn everyone has been talking about.  What fun, one can simply knit away and watch the magic!  I purchased this yarn from the Mannings, and should have brought more while I was there.  I am surely going to make another pair, just cannot decide whether or not I really like them.  When they are all finished, I look at them and think they came from the Walmart or something.

These socks will be something to stash away for winter as well.  After all, the moral of the story is "it is best to prepare for the days of necessity".  Thinking of snowy days during the dog days of July is oxymoron-ish, but planning ahead is wise.  I heard from our coal distributor, who is urging us to purchase early, and without a discount this year!  According to him, he has never seen the market like this before.  As a matter of fact, he announced that come October, all bets are off, he cannot even guarantee that he will have any coal to sell after that!  And so, we shall start packing away the coal now, rather than waiting for the cooler months.

Many thanks to Jeanne, who emailed me with suggestions on how to adjust the other sock pattern to continue the eyelet pattern on the heel flap.  After fiddling around for sometime, I was able to adjust my stitches correctly, now must decide if I want to rip back to the cuff and start over again!

So dance away grasshoppers, as for me, back to work!

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Has anyone knit the socks from the cover of the current issue of SpinOff? I started these while on a short vacation, and I do admit that I worked on them while we were driving, so maybe it is just me, but somewhere, somehow, they did not work up quite right. The cuffs knit up just fine, and the eyelet pattern is fun to do. It is worked over 4 rows, so it is easy enough to remember. I think I took a wrong turn when I was working the heel flap, where the pattern keeps one eyelet pattern on each side of the heel. This confused me because while working the cuff, I was working the pattern in the round, and while on the heel flap, the pattern is worked back and forth on the two needles. In the pattern, it simply states to work the 5sts at the beginning and the end of the row, as established for the eyelet mock cable ribbing, and I did not take into account the fact that I would be working ONE of the eyelet patterns on the WRONG side of the sock. So, I wound up with a correct pattern down one side of the sock, with the other side looking like a screw up. If anyone knows how to work this sock correctly, let me know, because I still have one more to make. I will keep them for myself and use them as knock around socks, but since I am just starting the second one, I would love to know what it was that I did wrong, so I don't make the same mistake.

This is what five lbs. of broccoli looks like. Every other day, I take my basket out to the garden and pick and wash and freeze and pack it up. I am very happy with the harvest so far. I grew Calabrese, and a assortment of early, mid and late growers. I have found nary a cabbage worm, thanks to my wasps. A few years ago, I read about how the paper wasp is a good predator for the garden. I set up inverted coffee cans around the garden, about 4-5 feet off the ground, and found the wasps eagerly took up residence in them. When I saw one fly off with a green cabbage worm one day, I was sold! I keep an organic garden. I really, really like the idea of letting the wasps control the cabbage worms. So each spring, I set up many coffee cans in the greenhouse. The wasps always find the greenhouse early, I think they know it is warmer in there. So, once they are set up, and I know where the broccoli or Brassica bed will be, I transfer the cans out into the garden, and viola! Instant pest control.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Fini tricoter les chaussettes de lacet

I have finished knitting these lace socks from the Folk Socks book. I enjoyed working on them, but was a bit disappointed at the finished size. They seem larger than I would like. I wonder if this is because I used wool instead of linen? At any rate, the pattern is fun to work, and I am happy with the way that targhee feels. The socks are very soft, and will do nicely as a pair of bed socks. They will be a gift for someone very special to me.

The river is taking on its summertime lazy flow feeling these days. The air is still, and you can be sure to see the blue heron, or cedar waxwing or the kingfisher whenever you glance out over the hillside. The blueberries are just starting to turn blue, the peas are in, and the tomatoes are green and growing. Corn is knee high, (by the fourth of July) as it should be. And I am going fishing. See ya in a week or so...

oh, yes, and note to self-
next year when trellising peas, be sure to place netting far enough apart so that the tendrils do not intertwine! Be sure to trellis rows on different sides of the netting...and most importantly-

the freezer bags await-

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

wash day

Seems to be the time of year to wash the fleece. This fleece is not mine, but instead, belongs to a friend that lives down river from me. She has just started to spin (about 2 months ago) and is doing very well. She had started out to get just a fleece or two from a farmer who she brought her piglets from...but as chance would have it, the farmer was quite generous, and she now finds herself in possession of 20 fleece! She brought a few up to my house the other day, and we picked and scoured for a few hours in the afternoon. I believe we worked on a Southdown (the vanilla color) and a Columbia/Dorset Cross (the grey color). They both washed up quite well, but I have not had the chance to spin up any of it yet, as all of my bobbins were full.

At spinning group today, I worked on plying up the Alpaca that was on the wheel. I wound up with 310 yards of 20wpi, double ply, about 8oz. Just short of being able to fill the 6 foot triloom. My friend twisted up a piece of the Columbia/Dorset...and held it next to the Alpaca. It made a nice blend of colors. The bag was on my car seat when I went to leave, what a sweet surprise. I will have enough to spin up and put on the loom with the Alpaca, for a nice shawl.

One of the fleece she received was called a Baby Doll. I have not seen it yet, but have been reading about the breed. They are a miniature breed from a Southdown. They have the cutest faces, looking somewhat like a little teddy bear. No wonder they call them Baby Dolls! You can read more about them at this link.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

worth waiting for

Spring is late in arriving to this mountainous river valley...but it is always worth waiting for. Every where you look, new life is springing up. The birds are busy feeding their young, the deer and raccoons, the skunk and the bear, the frogs and the fish and the is all the same. Another spring and everything reproduces! Including the chipmunks! They must reproduce at a fantastic rate. I am battling with chipmunks this year. There are way to many of them. We are overrun with them. It is time to take drastic measures. Ideas anyone, anyone?
It is slow going on the fiber front. I have started too many projects at once, and therefore, have finished not a one. Now I am starting to play with something called finger weaving, or finger looping. It has been around from the period between the late 12th and the early 15th centuries. I do not yet have the hang of it, but with some decent time set aside to play, I will master it.
I spent a good amount of time with the bunnies yesterday. I have been so busy with the garden that they have not had a through grooming since I clipped them. Black Jack continues to grow, and still remains as sweet as he was when I got him. Such an outgoing disposition for a bunny. I am tempted to bring him indoors and make a real pet out of him. He has such personality!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

shhh, keep it a secret, Odocoileus virginianus

This little fawn was first noticed by the chickens! I had not seen the mother come to drop it off, but I did hear my chickens clucking that "I am telling on you" sound. It is not an alarm cluck, but it is more of a "something is not quite right" sound. I walked out onto the deck to see what was going on and I saw that several Black Stars had surrounded something on the hillside under the tree house. There, on one of the big rocks, was this little fawn. I shooed the chickens away (they will go anywhere for a bit of scratch)...and then I slowly walked down the slope to get a picture. The fawn stayed very still and allowed me to get quite close. I could have reached down to touch it. It was so very beautiful, and I marveled at how well it was camouflaged, the spots on the fawn blended remarkably with the dappled shade.

A newborn fawn has no scent (or so they say). This is to protect it from predators...mainly black bear in this area. I snapped a few pictures, and walked away. I could observe the fawn from the deck as I hung my clothes out to dry, and I continued to check on it throughout the day. I wondered if it was Sweetpea's fawn. She has been a good mother around here for the past few years, but I had not seen her lately. She is easy to recognize, as she has a broken leg that healed with a big knob at the knee. She is also quite tame because my neighbor took care of her when she was lame. She comes to him, but I try to discourage her from hanging around. She may become to used to people and this is a sure death sentence for a deer during hunting season. I waited all afternoon for the mother to fetch her baby. She did not show up. It started to rain late in the early evening, still no momma, and the fawn just stayed right where it had been all day.

After supper, we went out on the deck to check on the fawn, and it was gone! Mamma came and collected her little one, just as secretly as she had dropped it off. I saw them in the grass across the street the next day...there were two grown does and one fawn. I could not tell if one of the does was Sweetpea, because the grass was to tall, but I expect to see them again on their daily walk down to the river.

I am STILL working on the lace socks. It should not be taking me so long. I think to myself that it is because the stitches are so tiny, but I think I am making excuses. I have completed one sock, and now I am halfway down the cuff of the second one. I have also started another shawl on the 8 foot triloom. This time I am using up some stash merino leftover from an afghan that I made some 18 years ago! Think it has aged sufficiently? I have not given much thought to the design of the plaid, but sometimes I figure I just have to let it happen by itself, that is the fun of it. I wanted something to work on that was mindless...I have had to much counting pattern rows with the lace socks!

I received a nice package in the mail from CW. I had traded some Hopi Black Dye Sunflower seeds for some wool rovings to sample. She sent me some Border Leicester, Corriedale, Llama and some plucked satin that I could compare with my angora. I am so happy to get this fiber, as it will give me more experience as a spinner working with different breeds to add to my notebook. There is so much to learn, and it is so nice to have someone help me along the way. I have never met another spinner without learning something new...and that is part of the fun of this craft.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

nest building

This beautiful bird is quite endearing to watch. She has been building her nest for the past three days, and I have been helping her. At first I just put a few strands of leftover yarn out on the railing, which she readily accepted. When she used all of that, I dug around and found some more scraps. She used all of that too. I remembered reading that Baltimore Orioles like white string, so that was what I was supplying. But then I started to wonder about if she could tell the difference, and that was what started my experiment. I proceeded to place different types of fiber lined up on the railing. Some were cotton, some were flax, some wool, some angora, some llama, in short, I placed little strands of past fibers that I have spun. I had adorned the deck railing with many colors and textures of yarns for her to choose from. Now I just had to wait. When she flew down to the railing she seemed hesitant, chittering that warning call they make. Then she took a stroll..hopping from one yarn to the next...picking some up in her beak, then dropping it. It was really very funny. She reminded me of the way I feel when I shop for yarn! Very choosy, picking up one, then the other, then back to the first. I was very happy when she picked up some of the navy blue flax (ah ha! she went with a color instead of the white!) I spent way to much time watching her, but the experiment proved that she would eventually accept each and every piece of fiber I put out there! Now if I can only find the nest..but she flies way out of view into the tree tops, and down the river. She did not come for more fiber today, as the pieces I put out this morning are still on the railing, so I imagine the building is finished and she will start laying soon.

I am still working on the lace socks. I have turned the heel (had to have complete silence and full concentration for that one) and it has formed a very unusual gusset, unlike any other sock I have made before. At this point, I have memorized the 7 rows of pattern, so the next sock should be easier because I will not have to keep checking the book to see what comes next. This afternoon I went to spinning group and finished spinning all of the Targhee. Grace was there and mentioned that Fred has made some more spinning wheel threading hooks for the antique wheels out of the exotic woods. He does beautiful work, and this time they are selling them on the house cleaning pages. The library is gearing up for a big book sale this weekend, so I had to buy a few more goodies for my shelf at home...including a great wildflower id book.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


(lacy socks) This project is from Nancy Bush's "Folk Socks", The History & Techniques of Handknitted Footwear. I am making them out of Targhee that I spun last month. The Targhee roving was a gift, so I do not know who to give credit to, but it is by far, the cleanest and prettiest roving I have ever had the pleasure to spin. This is "first time Targhee" for me, and I discovered that the that the staple is relatively short (maybe 3 inches) but soft and fine with a tight crimp. I read that most people would spin Targhee with a great deal of twist, and ply it. I broke the rule, and spun it with just enough twist to hold a fine single with about 20 wraps per inch. I had also read that Targhee is excellent for constructing anything that will be worn next to the skin (including babywear!)...and so it was my choice to use it for the lace socks.
The pattern for the lace socks can be found on page 83 of "Folk Socks", and it looks much harder to knit than it really is. I must admit that knitting these socks is both inspirational and motivational. The original sock, made of linen, can be found in the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington DC. There is no information available about who designed it, or the date etc., and so I find my imagination wondering about these things as I knit. And I will have much time to wonder, as these socks are knit on 4 size#000 double points. The pattern is worked on 102 stitches over 7 rounds.
One more thing about the targhee...I had knit a swatch to check my gauge, and when I finished, I unraveled it and cut it into 6-8 inch lengths and draped them in the Quince bush and on the fence railing. I have been delighted to watch the Baltimore orioles, Common Yellow Throat, Catbird, and Northern Parula all collecting these bits of handspun to incorporate into the nest. They used up all the targee, and I dug into my felting basket and came up with some cotton I had spun years ago. They have been using that as well. The Yellow Warbler is the snob, preferring only bits of Angora that it collects from the rabbit hutches.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Jack in a basket

Jack's Hair

Jack got a haircut because the weather is getting so warm! Now, I have my work "cut" out for me. I have started to spin a bit to test it out, and I love working with it. I am very happy with the staple length, and the color. I think I will continue spinning it without blending it with anything else. This is his "baby" hair, and so it is very downy and fuzzy. I think he is much cooler now.

Monday, May 10, 2004


Blogger offering commments testing to see if successful...

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Almost finished


with this latest weaving. I still need to take it off the loom, but at this time I am still undecided as to the edging that I want to use around the neckline. This shimmery wool is a combination of the merino/mohair roving that I purchased at Countrywool this past February, plied with the fireflash roving that I purchased at Misty Mountain Fiber Workshop last month. I must admit that I didn't really get a thrill while spinning the fireflash. It was a bit like spinning Saran wrap or something plasticky, however, it has it place when you would like to add a bit of shimmer or glitz to a project. Another added plus was the way it made it easy to weave on the loom. Usually, while weaving with a mohair, it has a tendency to stick to itself, and require the use of a shed stick or something else to clear the shed with. Not sure how it happened, but I did not have any trouble with it this time, and the only thing I can think of that I did differently, was to use the fireflash.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Equisetum arvense

Equisetum arvense, or plain old horsetail is coming up all over the place around here. When I first moved to this area, and I saw these mushroomy looking plants, I thought they were one of the strangest plants I ever did see. A quick check in my Rodales Encyclopedia of Herbs revealed that Horsetails are really really old. These plants were around 200 million years ago! (they once stood like giant fern trees). My horsetail grows about 4-8 inches high. They start out looking like the picture above. Then, inside of a few weeks, these spikes open to into a feathery frond of green. They look like soft little Christmas trees, but gather some in your hand, and they feel oh so scratchy. This is due to the fact that this herb absorbs large amounts of silica from the soil. Because it is so abrasive, I have used it to wash out the water fountains in the chicken coop, and the flats from the greenhouse, but I am told it is a "campers helper". When dried, it may be used to polish copper and brass. This herb also has medicinal and cosmetic uses due to the silica. I have heard of people soaking their fingernails and rinsing their hair with an infusion of horsetail. (WARNING: if you plan to use horsetail in a medicinal manner you should check with your physician) I have other plans for my horsetail. I will use it to yield a nice yellow green dye bath for my wool. If I choose to, I will use an iron mordant and get a deeper green. One thing is certain, I have to use it somehow! Horsetail is like a fern in the sense that it will spore on a windy day. Once it takes hold, it is almost impossible to eradicate because it grows on a thin creeping rhizome. And so, this time of year, it appears all over the place. And I will pick and use it all for something....knowing full well it will return next spring. So what if it looks a little weedy in my iris patch, it is a useful plant with a long history.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

email me

Many thanks to the good folks over at Google for offering me a Gmail account! I understand that I was eligible because of the fact that I am an active blogger. So, all you other bloggers out there in blogger land, sign up and lets see what it can do. You can now email me at my new gmail account that I have listed under "send me an email" (scroll down the side bar and the link is under the tag board.)

Monday, April 12, 2004

finishing something

I am finally finished with a project. This is the rhomney bag I have been working on.
I received this rhomney roving as a gift from a friend of mine who purchased it off of ebay. When I started spinning it, I discovered that it had many shortcuts mixed in, and so I decided to take advantage of this, and so I spun a slubby yarn that was thick and thin. After spinning it, I wove 4 separate pieces on the 3ft. triloom. I assembled these to make the pouch of the bag. Then I wove 2 other pieces on the foot long triloom. I fringed these and used them as the flap to cover the pouch. I made the straps for the bag from the lucet, and attached them using a simple whip stitch. Then, I got up my nerve, and tossed the entire thing into the washing machine to full it. The shrinkage that happened was enough to make the weave structure disappear completely! The button is from a cedar tree that had a purple heart (or core). I cut it in half, sanded and polished it with wax, and drilled 2 holes into it so I could sew it down. The finished bag measures approx. 12 x 18 (not counting the straps which would make it 12 x 24).

Friday, April 02, 2004

a triptych from my trip

This is a picture of the triptych that I made to deliver to my sister while I was away on my trip. The art history of the triptych is interesting to me, and I enjoy making them. I have been thinking about embellishing the outer panels with found objects, and will try this on the next one I make. The hardest part of the construction is finding hinges that work properly. When the hinges are so small, and the wood or paper so thin, they have a tendency to be flimsy, or not as secure as I would like. This triptych was constructed of pine, and then covered with handmade paper. The embellishment on the exterior panel is a found button, and then the entire exterior panels were foiled. The script on the interior was first designed on the computer, then embossed, then decoupaged onto the handmade paper.

Spinning Group this week was very much fun. Grace arrived late, but she brought a visitor along. It was a baby lamb, born that morning. The mother had given birth to 4 lambs (I believe that Grace raises Finnsheep) known to have multiple births. This little lamb was so small that she would not have survived on her own, so Grace will have to bottle feed her. At the time, she was feeding her every two hours! But I have since learned that she is now eating every four hours.

We also have a new member to the group. She is from India. She is learning to speak English, so at the suggestion of the librarian she joined the group to perfect her speech. She knits, so she brought her knitting along, but I am not sure what she is working on. I did not get much time to try to talk with her, as I was busy teaching someone how to do a Navaho Ply on the wheel.

I planted my tomato seeds yesterday. I have a total of 12 varieties this year. For those of you who are interested in this sort of thing, and for my own reference, I have listed them below. I am hopeful that this season will be a better one for the tomatoes than it was last year. What a bust!

Sanibel Fruit Shape: Deep Oblate Shoulders: Green Weight: 6 - 8 oz Days to Maturity: 75 Determinate Jointless stem attachment Smooth, extra-firm fruit Very high yields
Stupice (Heritage) A Garden Path favorite! An extra early potato-leafed variety from Czechoslovakia. medium-sized tomatoes. These semi-determinate plants have a long season of production - the tomatoes even increase in size as the season progresses
Burpee 4th of July H Each plant is loaded with 4 oz. fruits that bears early and continuously all summer; productive; indeterminate 44 days (can you believe it?)
Roma VF Hybrid Meaty, pear-shaped fruits and few seeds make this the one to pick for processing. Sets a generous mid-season crop. Determinate. 75 days VF-Perfect paste tomato!
Yellow Pear (OP) 75-80 days. loaded with hundreds of small 1-2 inch yellow pear-shaped fruit. Indeterminate, heavy production. An old-time favorite from Grandma's garden. F1, F2, V.
GREEN ZEBRAHeirloom 78 days Very unusual variety! The ripe fruits are bright green with light green stripes. The 2-4 ounce fruits have a delicious, real tomato flavor. Very vigorous determinate vines
Elberta Girl H, det, 100 days, bright red fruit striped in gold,3-oz plum shaped fruit this one is VERY tasty.
Golden Jubilee- Heirloom Attractive, bright orange flesh with few seeds, this tomato was the All-America Bronze Medal winner in 1943. It has a mild flavor, although a very good one. It produces well. It is a favorite among people who cannot tolerate the high acid content of most red tomatoes. 6 oz. fruit, short stemmed plants. Indeterminate. 72 days
Pineapple Tomatoes (Endangered) Heirloom An large irregularly-shaped tomato which ripens main season but is well worth waiting for. Semi-determinate bushy plants yield golden yellow tomatoes with beautiful red/gold bicolored flesh inside.
Monte Verde OP Large, indeterminate vine with non-curly foliage. Fruit is medium-large, green shouldered, firm, very smooth and very resistant to cracking. An early midseason variety that is a top yielder. Disease resistant to VFFStA. 85 days to harvest after transplanting.
I also planted Heinz 1370 and a Juilet Grape Tomato, but had trouble finding information about these. I grew Juliet last year, it looks like a combo between a large grape tomato and a small roma.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

a favorite place

I have returned from my trip to the city, and one of the first things I did was to go to one of my favorite sitting spots along the riverrim. This time of year it is mossy and clean of all tall grass and leaves etc., as the high waters of spring have cleared most of the debri and deposited it elsewhere. I like to sit and think and pray at this spot, and sometimes I just like to listen to the water and wonder where it is going.


Friday, March 19, 2004

things to celebrate

I am going away for a little while, so I shall leave you with a few things to celebrate while I am gone.
March 20 is the first day of spring! The vernal equinox will arrive at precisely 1:49 a.m. EST so you can celebrate by standing some eggs on end, or not!
March 21 is the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach. If you like classical music, you can most likely tune in to a local NPR radio station that may be playing his music. You can also check out this link
For a list of other things you can celebrate during the Month of March go here.

See you soon!

Thursday, March 18, 2004

getting all mushy about mud

With spring only a few days away, I awoke to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground this morning. I know that fresh snow in March will not be around for very long, which is why I do not reach for the snow shovel. March snow is always heavy and wet and slushy...and turns the ground to MUD.

I used hate mud season around here. It means extra mopping in the mud room. The streaking of brown smears on the bluestone floor would make me feel like the house was just plain dirty. Muddy boots, muddy cars, muddy chickens..mud mud mud. But I have grown to really like mud season. It means that spring is coming. When the Phoebe arrives, she will use the mud to build her it IS good for something. And so I have resolved to be glad during mud season- and to celebrate I went out an brought myself a new MOP! For more musings about mud click here

The rhomney bag I am working on is about the same color of mud. I am almost finished with the construction of it. I still have to add the straps and flap before I full it. I was hoping to have it ready for a trip I am taking, but that was not to be, so I will finish it when I return. I will be making the straps on the double lucet. I find that working on the lucet is a nice change of pace. It also provides a very strong cord which should lend itself nicely to a shoulder bag.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.

Monday, March 15, 2004

morning coffee

There is a busy day waiting, followed by a busy week of chores to accomplish before I go away....but these girls wanted to share a cup of coffee with me this morning.
Everyone is talking about the snow that is coming our way later this week. I wish it would not come. I have been carting seedlings out to the greenhouse (during the day), and into the house (for the night). They are getting too leggy, but the temps at night are still to low to risk loosing them. I am going to hook up a heater out there for a few nights this week.
Tried to spin yesterday, but the guys tore me away from the wheel to go to a St. Patricks Parade in the City. I was glad they did because I heard two different pipe bands, and one traditional- also saw some great step dancing and beautiful costumes with Celtic Knot embroidery.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The added daylight is giving me more than the daily dozen!

spinning group

Yesterday we had a nice meeting with the spinning group. I was working on putting together tri's that I had woven from the Rhomney that I had been spinning. I have been weaving on the small lap size tri, and assembling them in a fashion that will eventually become a bag. I am using the double lucet to make cording for the straps. I also purchased a lovely spinning wheel threadhook from a friend whose husband is making them to sell on ebay. I brought one that is made out of cocobloa wood. It is very beautiful, and Fred is a very talented master carpenter. Still no luck on the brioche stitch, as Freda was not able to attend.

Monday, March 08, 2004


I worked on finishing up a cap I have been making out of my handspun angora from my grey doe. It is currently filled with those blue walmart bags while it is drying by the woodstove. It seems a bit large to me, even though I swatched the gauge before I started.

I started flats of broccoli at the end of last week, and today I started peppers, and lavender and mesculan lettuce. The remainder of my afternoon disappeared into my seed basket, shuffling through old packs of this and that. Most of them are saved from years goneby, in little brown paper envelopes with dates scribbled on them. Some are from my garden, some from family and friends... I was reminded of a poem that a friend had given me. It is a useful poem written by Lawrence D. Hills ...

You have in your drawer since Christmas Day,
All the seed packets you daren't throw away.
Seed Catalogues cometh as year it doth end.
But look in ye drawer before money you spend,
Throw out ye Parsnip, 'tis no good next year.
And Scorzonera if there's any there,
For these have a life that is gone with ye wynde.
Unlike all seeds of ye cabbagy kinde,
Broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage and kale,
Live long like a farmer who knoweth good ale.
Three years for certain maybe five or four.
To sow in their seasons they stay in ye drawer.
Kohl-Rabi lasts with them and so does Pei-Tsai.
The winter "cos-lettuce' to sow in July.
But short is the life of ye Turnips and Swedes,
Sow next year only, enough for your needs.
Mustard and Cress for when salads come round.
Sows for three seasons so buy half a pound.
Radish lasts four years, both round ones and long.
Sow thinly and often, they're never too strong.
Last year's left lettuce sows three summers more.
And beetroot and spinach beet easily four.
But ordinary Spinach both prickly and round,
Hath one summer left before gaps in the ground.
Leeks sow three Aprils and one soon will pass.
And this is as long as a carrot will last.
Onion seed keeps till three years have flown by,
But sets are so easy and dodge onion-fly.
Store Marrows and Cucumbers, best when they're old.
Full seven summers' sowings a packet can hold.
Six hath ye Celery that needs a frost to taste.
So hath Celeriac before it goes to waste.
Broad Beans, French ones, Runners, sown in May.
Each hath a sowing left before you throw away.
And store Peas, tall Peas, fast ones and slow,
Parsley and Salsify have one more spring to sow.
Then fillen ye form that your seedsmen doth send.
For novelties plentie, there's money to spend.
Good seed and good horses are worth the expense,
So pay them your dollars as I paid my cents.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

wood thrush

the wood thrush arrived this morning. I always mark the calendar when the wood thrush arrives, and this year, the wood thrush is about 2 weeks early. I have been keeping track since 1997, so this is a new record. I love to hear his song. It will be at least 2 weeks before he will show himself under the forsythia bush, digging around in the leaves. Right now he is busy deep in the forest, but I know he has arrived nevertheless, because of the song he sings. Welcome back, wood thrush.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

happy birthday Frederic

Nothing like an early morning spar with a spunky rooster to get your heart pumping! I am really getting annoyed with the way my roo is acting lately. I need a rear view mirror keep an eye on him while he is preparing to ambush me. (seems I am not the only one with this trouble) This morning I was lucky that I was carrying the scratch pail and managed to use it to block off the attack (breaking a few eggs in the process). I guess since the temps are going above freezing in the daytime, he is feeling good and wants a little action. Next time it will be in the form of my boot. Anyway, my rooster's name is Frederic after the pirate in the Pirates of Penzance, so happy birthday!

There are signs of spring all over the place now. The slow melt has brought all sorts of activity. One look at the river is enough-you'll notice a flock of mergansers on the river daily, diving down and popping up, working their way up river as they feast. And I have a pair of mourning doves that have decided to nest in the hemlock trees...(humm..wonder if they have met the porcupine). They startle me every time I walk over in that direction to take care of the rabbits. Their wings make a whistling noise as they take flight. I must remember to approach slowly so that I don't disturb them. I enjoy waking up to their cooing at is a soft sound that slowly draws one out of a dream instead of the buzz of the alarm clock. They are the first birds to nest, as they are capable of rearing their young on their milk crop, and do not need to wait for the warmer weather that brings the green food and insects that most other songbirds need. I see the chickadees looking into old nest boxes, house shopping early. And a sure fire sign of spring was an email that arrived from that farmer who lives down river...a picture of daffodil spears! Mine are still under the snow, but just knowing that those buds are there is like spring tonic is a promise that will show itself in April..the miracle WILL happen.."unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see". Yes, it is still winter, but the sun was out a few minutes longer today and that is enough for me.

I practiced Navaho Plying on my wheel with the Targhee I spun on Wed. Freda taught me how to do it, and I really prefer it to the regular method. Now if I can spin a finer yarn, so that the finished product is something better than 12wpi! Worked on grooming my grey doe and got a nice basketfull of beautiful combings and handplucked wool. She seemed to enjoy the attention more than usual. Maybe she was a bit jealous of the time I have been spending with the little guy?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

three inches of snow fell

yesterday, just enough to whiten up the dirty snow that has been slowly melting. The river is starting to break up now too by the signs of this iceflow. I am ready for spring! Worked on the merino/mohair that I brought at Countrywool, and took the Targhee from Judy to the library to work on today.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

growing up

it is a marvel for me to watch the growing process. so many changes can take place in a short amount of time. it is a good thing that i do not know how to take time lapse photography, i would be playing with it all the time. Jack continues to grow fast, he is loosing his baby face! and spring is on the way, a weeks worth of sunshine on the hillside and presto! i knew it was there all along!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Little Black Jack Rabbit

Well my new little bunny has been here a week now, and he seems to be adjusting to riverrim life just fine. He has a very nice personality, a little shy, but very gentle. We had a very nice day last Sat. when we went to go get him. The ride to Hudson was quite scenic. We traveled all along the Delaware for the first leg of the trip, and enjoyed seeing all of the ice jams. In some spots, it was jutting out of the water like icebergs! The ice was 3 to 4 feet thick in these spots. The view from the Hawks Nest was beautiful as always. Here is a shot that was taken last Jan.

Looking at all the ice had us thinking about the days of old, and how they used to harvest the ice for the ice boxes in the city. I have seen some wonderful pictures from around here, where the men are cutting the ice into chunks and loading it onto the sleds for the horses to cart it to the ice houses. They used to pack it in sawdust and store it until they needed it in the summer. Just amazing to think about. I have an old pair of those giant cast iron ice tongs that they used to use to handle the ice with. I use them to weight my yarn sometimes when I am setting the twist.

After about a two hour drive, we approached the Rip Van Winkle Bridge that crosses the Hudson River. Now the scenery was really getting beautiful. The Catskill mountains were so pretty with the snow all over them. They make the Pocono's Mountains look like little foothills. Finally we arrived at Countrywool. I had a chance to meet with Claudia and the other new bunny owners. We were all talking about where we lived and how far we had driven to pick up our "wee ones". I was sorry that I could not attend the shearing clinic that had been going on that morning, but perhaps another time. I had a chance to walk around the shop and see all of the beautiful yarns for sale. I brought some roving, a 50% mohair & 50% merino in a soft raspberry sherbert pink....not sure what I am going to make with it, but wanted it for Valentines Day! Then Claudia brought my little guy out, and gave me a pouch of his favorite oats blend and a bag of hay (comfort food) for the transition period. She also gave me a nice folder with papers that include his lineage on both sides, as well as instruction on feeding and caring for Angoras. All in all, it is a nice packet of information that she puts out.

On the way home we stopped to see cousins that live in the Hyde Park area. We had not seen them in a long time, so we had a wonderful visit over dinner. So nice to see everyone again..where does the time go? We drove home in the dark, and the little bunny slept in the car in his cage the first night.

And so, his full name is CW Black Jack Haslein (which means little rabbit in German). He is only 67% German, but he is a beautiful animal with a long staple. I will get pictures when I get a chance.

This week was topped off with a surprise gift of some beautiful rhomney roving and a double lucet. Judy gifted me with the roving for showing her how to weave on a tri loom...and Curt made the double lucet, just because he is such a nice guy (and talented). How blessed I am to have these kind friends. Here is a picture of the single lucet in front of the square loom sample that I made. Can hardly wait to try the double lucet....Already started spinning that rhomney!

Friday, February 06, 2004

of skunks and skunk cabbages

Both are harbingers of spring, and so it is not unusual that I would be writing about them on this icy snowy rainy day, when all I want to dream about is spring. Early this morning before the ice started falling, I trudged out into the snow that had fallen last night, to the chicken coop to look in on the girls. On my way past the rabbit hutches, I noticed little footprints in the snow. The little footprints that look like little troll toes. They can only mean one thing...a skunk has been around. I don't mind the skunk too much. After all, they were around here before we were, so I guess it is their home before ours. As long as you keep your garbage locked up, and the compost lid on tight they leave you alone. A few years ago, before I got my garden fence, I was having a feud with one because he was eating my winter sown spinach, but hey, he was hungry too.

So thoughts of the skunk (and a whiff of him) get me to thinking about the skunk cabbages that are growing below the inches of snow and ice on the ground. The sight of skunk cabbage in February can make my heart flutter. I know, a bit strange here, but until you study this fascinating plant, you may not appreciate it fully. Symplocarpus is the only plant I know of that generates it own heat, enough to melt snow around it! That is why I look for it in the Feb. snow- it is as if spring itself is pushing its way to the surface of the earth. I know from marking my calendar in years past, that the skunk cabbage is up already..only I cannot see it yet, it is still buried beneath all the snow, but it won't be here to read more about skunk cabbage

I am trying to find information about the age of a spinning wheel. I believe it is a Saxony wheel. It belongs to a friend of mine. It belonged to his mother, and was purchased somewhere around the Carolinas. The treadle is not working as it was glued down and the glue has lifted off. Also, the mother of all is broken and needs repair. I do not know if I should attempt to fix it, I do not want to de-value it if it has worth. The footman is a piece of string that attaches to a bent nail. I wish it had some sort of markings to go by. I am pretty much a novice about spinning wheels, but like learning about the history of them. I told my friend that I would try to find out about how old it was, and if it can be fixed. In addition to bringing me the spinning wheel to check out, he also gifted me with a little tri-loom and a Lucet that he had made. I have finished the first neckerchief/scarf that I made on it, using the "pinecone" shetland that I spun. I used the cording that I made on the Lucet for a loop to pass the edge of the scarf through, and hold it in place while wearing it. What fun it was to make! And so fast! Only a few hours. Will be sure to make more of these.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

outdoor chores

We finally got a break in the weather today, and I spent a good bit of time doing outdoor chores. It was nice to have a respite from the icy winds and I actually enjoyed the time in the sunshine. We cleaned out the coop and got down another few bales of fresh hay. The stream is starting to thaw and there was a little trickle of water going down the hillside under the ice.The river was beautiful today, and eagles are everywhere. With the eagles, are the eagle watchers. The towpath is becoming congested with tourists and their video equipment. I saw a pair of eagles flying into each other with their talons up, and wondered what the tussel was all about.
Still spinning and plying the angora. I will most likely start another triloom weaving soon.
Next weekend, I go to pick up my new bunny. I was busy getting his hutch all ready for him. We are due for another major storm mid week, so I figured today would be the day to be outside making the preparations.

Monday, January 26, 2004

square loom

I finished and popped off the first square of my new 12" loom. I have decided that I prefer the tri-loom over the square. The square does have some advantages, however, I enjoy working with the tri more than the square.
I let one of my friends borrow my small tri, and I think she is hooked! I tried to warn her that it could be addictive...she wound up finishing her first shawl in record time (footnote=she did not make dinner for the family that night!) What a bad influence I am!
Made four sets of the size 13 inch double point needles for a group that I meet with. They asked me to show them how to knit with multiple needles and make the holiday mitten pattern from Stasias page. When I told them the difficulty I had finding the dpns they agreed to pay me to make them a set. I got a blister on my thumb from the pencil sharpener! Next time I will send them with hubby to work, and use the electric shapener on them. I also used a grinder to sand them down initially. This was a great time saver.
Despite the fact that I have had a great deal of help trying to figure out the brioche stitch, it still evades me. I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. Somewhere, I am having trouble following directions.
I have been spinning angora the past few days. I started with some hand harvested, and switched over to some shorn when I ran out of the hand harvested. There is such a difference! The shorn is not nearly as easy to spin as hand plucked. I know this from past experience, but it is always a surprise to me just how much harder one is from the other. I wound up blending the shorn with some finn wool- just enough to make it easier. Approx a 25% blend. I did not pay close attention to weighing it out, as I intend to use this for myself. I am almost finished with the basket and hope to get to the rest of it later today.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

november shawl

The November shawl is ready to come off the loom. So I promised myself that I would take it off and full it before I start that square loom project. It is part of my FO (finished object) resoultion I made earlier this year. (OK, I admit that I started the square loom a LITTLE just to make sure I know how to do it.
The sun is shining and the temps are in the upper twenties today. Blue skies and a heat wave! My chickens are loving it! They went for a long walk over to the wood piles and the old truck. I saw them take a dust bath and roost in the sun. As far as they are concerned, all is right with the world today!
Hope this link works for the picture of the November Shawl. You have to copy + paste.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

riding the thermals

We had a bit of warm air today, and the eagles were loving it. I watched them ride the thermal updrafts until they were out of sight. A beautiful spiral of flight! They have been hanging around here because the river is mostly open water and makes for good fishing. They sure are beautiful.
I am still working on that Brioche stitch, but I have come to admit that I'm the one that is stupid (not the stitch)! Many thanks to CW over at yarnspinners tales for patience and instructions. I will keep trying.
Spent a little bit of time pounding nails into my new 12 square loom that Mark made for me this past weekend. I will be anxious to see how it works. Snow in the forecast tonight, so tomorrow might be the day to try it out.

Monday, January 19, 2004


I have been struggling with this stupid brioche stitch that I simply cannot understand how to do. I have the pattern for the Brioche Gaiter in Camelhair from interweave knits fall magazine. I have attempted it several times over and it keeps ending in nothing but frustration! How the heck do you yarn over the first stitch on the needle anyhow?? If anyone out there can come to my rescue-please tag me! I need help! I have some nice handspun angora in grey, that I would love to make into this gaiter....but it is not going to happen unless I get some help....sending out an s.o.s.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

my basket of goodies

color theory in winter

This latest snowfall combined with sub zero temps, has given me new awareness to the world of color around me. This snow is very powdery and frosty. You can see the 6 sides of the snowflakes, and the sunlight (when it shows itself) makes thousands of little prism's over the surface of the snow. In the sunlight the snow is a blinding yellow white, but once the sun went behind a cloud, the snow turned a light blue white color. Although the landscape is basically white, gray and green, it inspires me to want to work with rich, vibrant and warm colors!
So, while I was outside shoveling (whining to myself about how I would rather be indoors and spinning), I started to think about what kind of yarn I would like to make. Naturally, I considered what wool I had cleaned and dyed and was waiting in the wings to be spun. I had the wool from the butternut dye-bath, and the goldenrod and the marigolds, and the hopi sunflower...but the colors were not doing it for me. Why had these colors seemed so pleasing and subtle during the month of October, and now, they seemed drab and washed out. Did the color fade? OR WAS IT ALL ABOUT LIGHT?? All these thoughts about color and light refractions etc. start to dominate my thoughts.
When I went inside I perused my bookshelves looking for my old copy of A.H. Munsell's "A Color Notation", hoping to find my answer. I am aware that I could be asking for trouble, this could lead me down the path of frustration and "over analysis". Attempts in the past to "understand color" have not always been satisfactory. Here are a few tidbits from Munsell that I have been chewing on.
On color balance or visual comfort:
"Color balance soon leads to a study of optics in one direction, to aesthetics in another, and to mathematical proportions in a third, and any attempt at an easy solution of its problems is not likely to succeed."
On color Physiology:
"Back of the eye lies that function which discriminates various color sensations and proceeds to act upon them. This color judgment is swayed by several factors and is liable to deception...such as freshness or fatigue of the nervous system which may cause delusions, known as retinal fatigue."
On Color Arrangement:
"A colorist is keenly alive to feelings of satisfaction or annoyance, and consciously or unconsciously he rejects certain combinations of colors and accepts others. This effort to establish pleasing proportions may be unconscious in one temperament, while it becomes a matter of definite analysis in another."
So color remains a mystery, but it fascinates me. I might even spin up some plain white finn wool and break open a bottle of the RIT DYE!!!

Friday, January 09, 2004

pour it on Gran!

That is what you will hear everyone around here yelling to the person who is tending the stove. When my husband was a young man in his teens, whenever he had time away from school, he used to stay with a family and work on their farm. He once told me that the Grandmother used to stoke the coal stove early in the morning and late at night (when the boys were upstairs in bed). They used to yell out at her "Pour it on Gran!", whenever it was extremely cold. This was to encourage her to add MORE than the usual shovel or two of coal, and pour the bucket! So, that story stayed with us and usually surfaces when the tempatures drop. And drop they have! This morning it was 3 degrees on the "how low did it go" thermometer, and a reading of 7 degrees at the bus stop.

If I did not have to go to town after feed for the rabbits, I would have stayed close to the stove today. And if I stayed close to the stove, I would have missed the beautiful scenery along the river on the way to town. I counted seven bald eagles and 1 pheasant. The sky was a bright blue and all the waterfalls have frozen solid to the rocks along the cliffs. The river is starting to freeze over in the calm spots, and the ski areas are busy shooting show all over the slopes. Tonight we are expected to dip below zero...good thing I put the flannels on the beds!

Finally finished plying the dark shetland with the oatmeal color. This was a good exercise for me, because the contrast shows just how consistent the plying is. I used a method in Amos' book, combined with a method from Patty Z. I plied slower than usual, but it was worth it to take my time and do it right. The finished yarn reminds me of pine cones. It is a brown and oatmeal barber pole kind of twist, that when taken off the niddy noddy and turned into a skein resembles pine cones for some reason. I got 186 yards with a wpi of approx 12. I am happy with it and have decided that I will make more of the same.

As for those size 13 dpns ...I finished them. Price of dowels=35cents, time invested to sand them down and stain and wax=45 minutes. Knowing I saved myself almost $20.00=priceless! Lesson learned, if you need some wooden needles, make them yourself! When they were finished, I dug out the mitten pattern that started the whole project in the first place, and tried it out. It was definitely worth it. They were soooo much fun to make and went sooo fast. I found the pattern on Stasias Place of Grace. I will be making more of these, you can make a pair in hour or two! I used some Alpaca that I had spun last year around this time. I had spun it loose and lopi and had never used it for anything because it was rather heavy for anything large. IT was perfect for the mittens. They are very soft and cushy....and warm!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

happy distaff day!

My friend Judy sent me this little fyi in an email today: DISTAFF DAY (JANUARY 7) The day after Epiphany was traditionally the one on which women went back to work after the 12-day Christmas celebration. A distaff is the wooden rod (staff) that holds the flax or wool on a spinning wheel. The word distaff came to refer to both women's work and the female branch (distaff side) of the family. The women's husbands did not go back to work until the following Monday, so they would mischievously try to set fire to the flax on their wives' distaffs, while the women, lying in wait, would douse them with buckets of water. The English poet Robert Herrick wrote:

If the maids a-spinning goe
Burn their flax and fire their tow.
Bring the pails of water then
Let the maids bewash the men.

So I guess this gives me a good excuse to do some spinning today! It is quite cold this morning. A reading of 9 degrees when I went out to feed the rabbits and chickens at 7:30am. I am so glad that I checked in the garden day before yesterday. The rain had finally melted all the snow off of everything, so I decided to take a walk around and check things out. I wandered over to the bed where the carrots and beets had been growing. I last picked the carrots just before Thanksgiving. I left a few in the ground for the rabbits (they were small and schmeily), but they must have been happy under all of the snow! I wound up harvesting a good gallon of purple and orange nantes. Some of the nantes were as big around as a door nob! They will be good in the stew!
I am looking forward to watching the PA Farm Shownext week. The Sheep to Shawl Contest is on Wed. The pa cable network will televise it again this year. I just heard from my friend that Greta Dise of Yorktown spinners and Persimmon Tree Farm, will be in the contest again this year. They have been the first place winners for the past few years! They do beautiful work...and I hope they win again.
Bundle up in your hats, mittens, and scarves and throw another log on the home fires!

Saturday, January 03, 2004

there is a porcupine in the hemlock

and he is doing damage nightly! It did not bother me too much before Christmas, as the daily chore of picking up hemlock branches and putting them in the barrel was a rather festive procedure...but now it is getting old. I have half a mind to sneak out there after o'dark hundred and shine the flashlight on old Erethizontidae, except I might shake him up and have him fall out of the tree (leaving more quills stuck in the ground to add to my collection). I suppose that I should be glad that he is not chewing on the porch door as he has done in years past.
I finished the November Triloom except for the fringe. I am happy with the finished product. I plan to start a new weaving as soon as I take this one off the loom. I am going to start a tartan plaid, so I will be researching the design. I think I will use the Graham Tartan if possible.
I have also finished the shetland hat and was not happy with the finished size. I had Mark bring home some dowels from work, so I will make some bigger needles to use. I had tried to purchase some size 13 dbl points at the Walmart, but they do not stock anything larger than a size ....if you want something around here, you best make it yourself. That is what I get for moving to the boonies.
I purchased my bunny yesterday. I have decided to call him Jack. He is black Jack rabbit seemed a fitting name. I cannot wait to go and get him. The weather has been extremely mild, but they say that the bitter cold is on the way. The river was high and misty all day, but it smelled like spring just the same. I think the January thaw has come early...happy new year!
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