Saturday, September 24, 2005

words about wood warblers

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I wanted to make a notation about the number of wood warblers I have noticed in the past week.  There are always many spring warblers around here...I have come to know them by their markings and even their song.  It is nice to work in the garden and hear them singing, and notice the voice of a new summer arrival.  This is not so easy with the wood warblers.  They are not as colorful, and usually we do not seem to have many passing through.  However, this fall is markedly different.  I have noticed many of them feeding around the riverrim, and the air is filled with song.  I am frustrated when I hear the beautiful and sometimes complex song of a bird that I cannot identify.  It is difficult to identify a bird purely by it song.  I have read several books on the subject, and even resorted to listening to Petersons (Birding by Ear).  I think I will have to get something that deals specifically with Wood Warblers.

I read recently, that a Spanish version of Birds in North America has been released.  One of the problems they encountered in writing this was in the translation of the voices of the birds. For instance, in English the voice of the Barred Owl says "who cooks for you", but in Spanish it says, "quien concine para usted"...and the meter is lost.  I am sure it is the same with many other languages.
But being able to identify these little birds by their song is important to me.  It increases my awareness of my surroundings, and I am able to observe them without really making a visual spotting.  Face it --not every bird wants you stalking them!
So the fall migration is underway.  And some of the death and destruction that humans experience from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, will also be felt by the birds that migrate. The affect of these storms is truly far reaching.  The comings and goings of these little birds make me aware of the connections of so many different things.
I wonder if they sense all the changes going on in their flyaway zones... most of them heading for the convergence points along the Gulf in east Texas and Louisiana.  Will the destruction of food sources for them along the way make the difference in life or death for some of them?      
Yesterday, when I went out to open the chicken run, I noticed that an oven bird was inside with the hens.  By the time I went to get the camera, it was gone.  The only thing harder than spotting a wood warbler, is taking a picture of one....which leaves me with only words about wood warblers.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

farm expo

I had a very nice time this past weekend. I joined three of my good friends and shared a booth at the Northeast Small Farm and Rural Living Expo out at the GDS Fairgrounds. What a great educational experience! Image hosted by There was a trade show and exhibits focused on all aspects of agriculture, not to mention all the wonderful livestock. The picture above shows the entrance to the building where we were spinning and weaving away. Grace brought several antique wheels for the public to try (and buy), and I spun and demonstrated on them from time to time. We had the great wheel set up just outside the building, and it attracted many onlookers each time we would spin. It is really nice to be able to demonstrate spinning on the great wheel, so many of the people comment that they have never seen one in action. I am glad to have given them that experience. I must admit that whenever I had the chance, I would spin on this beautiful piece of history pictured below. Image hosted by This is a spinning wheel that is marked "Tilden". It could be dated anywhere from about 1776 on up to 1826. Captain Calvin Tilden and his son Luther both made wheels, so it is difficult to tell which one made this one. Captain Tilden fought in the Revolutionary War. He died in 1822. His son died in 1826. I loved spinning on this wheel. Fred has made sure it is in top spinning condition, and also made several bobbins to go with it. I would love to buy this wheel, but cannot figure a way to sneak another wheel into my tiny cabin. I was content to have just had the chance to do a little spinning and dreaming about the people whose hands had crafted the wheel, and those hands who have made yarn on it. I cannot explain in words the way spinning on a wheel such as this makes me feel such a connection to the past. I met very many nice people, and was glad to see such interest in what we were doing. We made several good contacts, and had several nice invitations for future events. Since our building was right next to the livestock exhibits, we got to see wonderful animals. Just look at these magnificent horses... Image hosted by from the biggest to the smallest.... Image hosted by But the animal that caught our eye was this Highland Cattle... Image hosted by just look at the coat on this beast of can spin it! We were all examining the sample handful that my friend Judy had acquired from the owner. It was a beautiful color, and the guard hair was incredibly long and coarse, but the undercoat was very soft. I was very tired when I finally got home late Sunday afternoon, and it was nice to spend some quiet time in the garden and checking in on my rabbits and chickens. Much to my surprise, I noticed that my Aracuna rooster had dropped his spurs! He is about 3 or 4 years old now, and his spurs were so big that they made him do a sorta goose step march around the yard. I have read about how to remove spurs, but we all agreed that we did not want to attempt that. I had no idea that suddenly one day they would just fall off! Now he has little stubs again. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that he is in the middle of a molt.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

maybe i'm a maized

Image hosted by Today I harvested the "cutie pop" popcorn that I planted this past spring when I was spinning the "indian corn" mohair. Since I recently finished weaving the mohair into a Triangle Shawl, I thought I would photograph the corn and the shawl together...since I am not sure which one inspired the other. Was it the indian corn mohair that made me think to buy the indian corn seed, or was it the other way around...I cannot remember...but the colors in both are beautiful. Image hosted by At one point I was struck with the idea of adding little beads (that reminded me of kernels of corn) to the ends of the fringe. I guess I am happy with the way they look, but not sure I like the way they hang off the shawl. Image hosted by While I was husking the popcorn, I was doing quite a bit of thinking about how beautiful the corn was. As I pulled back on each husk to reveal a different pattern and different color I did not tire of the chore, but became more engrossed in what I was doing. Each ear was a surprise..unique..a work of art! I was thinking back on when I planted it...and over the summer growing conditions...wondering what it was that made it so beautiful. Perhaps it was just the variety, or the soil that we had worked so hard to feed. Corn is a very heavy feeder, so feed the soil to feed the plant. Corn likes rabbit manure because it is so rich in nitrogen...and we did add wheel barrows full of rabbit manure to that area this past spring while the Mr. did the tilling. Was it the timing of the planting that made the difference? Could be it was the little song I sang while I planted it..."inch by inch ...row by row..God bless the seeds I sow ...please keep them safe below..till the rains come pouring down..." Then again, I guess it could be all those things together that just made these little cobs shine like gems. Image hosted by Some summers are good for peppers, some are good for peas...this summer was a good one for corn and tomatoes....(which btw I am upwards of 120 pounds!) This popcorn will have to dry for 6 to eight weeks before we can test it for taste. You should not pick your popcorn until it is really ready. You need to check on it...wait for the stalks to turn yellowish, and then peel back a bit of husk. Try to press a fingernail into a kernel, and if it leaves a dent, it is not ready. The kernels should be hard before you pick your corn, no fingernail marks! Husk it after picking and store it between screens for drying. It is so pretty, I won't want to eat it, but to pop it you simply twist the husk until the corn falls into a bowl. You can even microwave it! To store it, pack in an airtight jar. You can remove it from the cob before packing, but it will stay fresher if you leave it on the cob.

Monday, September 12, 2005

dorflinger days

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Saturday was the Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary Festival, and we had beautiful weather for the event.  I had gone over early the night before with Judy to set up our tables and rack to hold the shawls, as well as her tent (in case of rain).  When we arrived the next morning, we found out that we were right next to the fiddle player, Laura Kortright, so we had wonderful fiddle music to spin by!  Next to Laura was artist Joann Wells Greenbaum from Milford, PA.  She was creating beautiful watercolor paintings by the lawn along the lake.  I had the pleasure of meeting Joann at the Fiber Fest in July at the Hatton Farm. She was one of my needlefelting students, and it was nice to see her again.
I did have a chance to visit with an acquaintance of mine who does exquisite Pysanky (the Ukrainian egg painting)...I had met her at a previous show where we both were vending.  I was sure to take a break from my booth to go and visit the The Lost Art Lacers (who make amazing bobbin-lace creations)-The complexity of the designs, the intricate pattern blew me away!  But there was not enough time to stay for their demonstration, I had to get back to my own booth.  I was really happy to see so many old world crafts, and I think the festival next year will be even bigger.
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In the afternoon, there was a special Native American event by FrankLittlebear, a member of the Cree Nation...that started out on the lake in a canoe where he was playing his flute.  This got all the children's attention, so they followed him like the pied piper.  His canoe came ashore, and the kids gathered around to watch him do dancing and drumming and story telling.  I really wanted to leave my booth and go down and watch with the children...
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The Great Wheel attracted people like a magnet.  Each time I would start a demo, there was a crowd of spectators within minutes.  I was a little shy about doing demos on the Great Wheel, as I have not been spinning on it very long, and feel much more confident behind my comfortable old Ashford!
The down side of bringing the Great Wheel, was that some of the children that were running around did not have respect for it.  If I was busy demonstrating at the loom or elsewhere, I noticed small children just running up and giving her a "big wheel" spin!  Several times they knocked the drive band off and I had to shew them away!  I guess I needed a sign or something that said "keep your hot little hands off of my wheel!"  ...just kidding...I really like kids...
At the end of the day, Joann Greenbaum presented me with a signed watercolor that she had painted of me spinning away...such a nice souvenir of the day!
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Next weekend I am going to be at the Northeast Small Farm and Rural Living Expo, along with several other spinners from the area....the days are just flying by!
We spent the rest of the weekend taking care of winterizing this old house..a big project, but one that needed doing...on account of Glaucomys sabrinus, who has decided that we have a nice warm log house to sleep in and has tried sharing it with us....that will NEVER do!   He found a place along the stone chimney, and entered the south wall of the bedroom.  We could not determine where he was getting inside from the outside of  the house, so we had to take the log wall down from the inside to find it.  Once we found the hole, we blocked it with wire mesh, and then we replaced the old insulation with new.  Now I will be nice and cozy, and the squirrels can find some other place to live!  Ah living...nothing like it......if you want to read more about the flying is a great link.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

said I'm going down to Yasgurs Farm....

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We took a little time out this past weekend and went to the Harvest Festival in Bethel Woods (near the old Woodstock gathering).  We like to take a trip out there this time of year, and shop the farmers market.  This past weekend was the Alpaca Festival, so there was wool to be had as well!

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I was a beautiful day, and you could see the construction for the Center for the Arts that they are building.  The construction is going on in the area that we used to visit for the farmers markets.  It is going to be very nice once it is finished...sometime next summer.
Besides the farmers' market, there was a craft village, children's activities, corn and hay mazes, pony rides and a scarecrow exhibit by local organizations and businesses.  They also had live music throughout the day (we were there early in the day and got to hear the fiddle player).
We brought a nice basket and filled it with goodies.  It was fun talking to the farmers...sharing information about the growing season we had, and exchanging plant varieties and seed suppliers.  We brought a nice Jade Star watermelon (only 85 days)...that is important when you live in an area where the nights are cool.  Most melons like it hot and take over 100 days to mature.  We also got a beautiful musk melon and some green peppers, some fantastic onion bread, some beautiful dried flowers and some wonderful soap from Laurie Sickley (  I also purchased a 4oz. bag of alpaca roving.  They were really not set up to sell fiber, most of the emphasis was on the finished articles of clothing.  However, there was a spinner and weaver there from the Woodland Spinners and Weavers Guild, so I met them and chatted a bit.  They encouraged me to join up...which I would love to do...but were to find the time??
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There were several local wineries but I did not come home with a bottle...I have already spent my limit this month.  Perhaps I will get a chance to go back before the end of the harvest festivals in October.
We really had a nice day.
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These dried flowers really cheered me up, there is a millet in there that is called Tapestry Millet.
I will have to grow some of this next year, it is beautiful and the birds love it -I am told!
Seasons are changing around here, you can feel it in the night air, see it in the leaves, and hear it in the songs of the crickets.  The cicadas have stopped, now only the crickets sing about the coming won't be long....

Saturday, September 03, 2005


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This is P29 Border Leicester that I purchased at the MS&W festival from Betty Levin.  This is probably the nicest fleece I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  I have been slowly working with this fleece over the summer, and it has been an enjoyable process.  It is taking time because of the way I am working with it.  When I purchased it from Betty, she told me that she personally picked it over on her dining room table...and that it took her 2 hours!  She explained to me how to separate each lock for spinning in the grease.  I tried this method and did not really enjoy spinning it in the grease.  I am not a squeamish person, I just did not like the feeling it left on my I decided to wash the locks in small batches, with as little disturbance as possible so as not to destroy the structure of them.  Betty had explained to me that I should spin the locks from the end where the lock is shorn from the skin.  So it is a little tedious lining all the locks up in a pile of about 2 or 3 ounces worth, and then gently putting them into the warm water to soak, and then gently lifting them out again on to a towel.  Once I blot most of the water out, I lay them on the screen to dry.  After they dry I can easily flick the ends to fluff out the curls and spin away. Not sure what I am making with this yarn yet, but simply enjoying spinning from the locks. 

Lycopersicon Review 2005

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it starts out innocently enough...the first picking of tomatoes provides enough to fill a plate for fresh eating...the second day provides the same and some to give to neighbors for fresh eating...the third day provides two baskets of 15 lbs each...after that it all becomes a blur, the tomatoes line the counter tops... and you are experiencing an avalanche of tomatoes!
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This year has been a wonderful year for tomatoes.  I did not grow many different varieties....last year I had so many different heirloom types, but the growing season was bad and it was a bust.  This year I grew something called "Bellestar"...for canning.  It is a very nice plant, the tomatoes are about the size of the palm of your hand...the fruit forms in a cluster fashion on the vine, with about 4 or 5 in a cluster.  This tomato was bred in Canada, so I thought it would perform well with our cool nights.  I will grow this next year.  I was also happy with black pear...this is a very tasty tomato..and pretty to look at on the vine. The deep color is evident when sliced.
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My kitchen is becoming increasing cluttered.  When I begin to harvest, the first "accessory" to appear is the hot water canner...for pickles and fruit jelly.  When the beans come in, I haul out the pressure canner.  When the tomato avalanche arrives, I bring up the squeezo food mill.
I would not do this job if it were not for the squeezo...tomatoes go in the top, seed and skin comes out one side, and pulped tomato out the other!   I let the pulped tomato sit for a time to let the water rise, but this year, I did not experience any water!  This is the last big push...when all the tomatoes are in the jars I can finally put it all away and start clean up in the garden as well.
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So far I have processed only 30 pounds of tomatoes.  Of these 30 pounds, 11 of it was skin and seed waste (well not really waste..the chickens enjoy that part of it.)  The pulped tomato measured 2 and one half gallons, which cooked down to 6 quarts...For thick sauce, an average of 46 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 28 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel yields 7 to 9 quarts of sauce.  ....there is a long way to go, and counter tops full of tomatoes to jar before I sleep.
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