Sunday, November 27, 2005

collecting green

Today we went to get evergreen on top of the mountain.  Today was the day to do it because tomorrow will be opening day of deer season, and yesterday was still bear season.
We hiked up the old washed out township road to an area where there are some beautiful old pines.  There is an abandoned estate up there, and the owner has given us permission to hunt or take firewood etc. 
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The first place we check out is the bear trees.  These are trees that the bear like to mark. There is little data available about why bears mark trees, but I think it has something to do with their territory.   Sure enough there were some fresh markings.  The photos are a bit dark, but the light areas on the trees are where the bear has been biting it.  From the looks of things, the bears must be standing on their hind legs to mark the trees.  They are taller than I am because I could not reach the marks with my teeth.
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We looked around and notice bear scat.  We made a lot of noise, and headed down to clip some evergreen.  We pass an old wishing well.
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We collected evergreen, shadberry, rosehips and pine cones.  On the way down the mountain, my husband was hard to keep up with...he was dragging the tarp, while I was busy taking pictures...
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I found several specimens of tree fungi (Ganoderma or artist fungus I think)
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And I took a picture of the mighty oak and its reflection in the pond.
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Now I have enough evergreen to fill the window boxes, and make some wreaths. 
Started making a mobius on the triloom.  Well, actually, I have made two 3 foot weavings, which I assembled, but now I think I need a third which I will work on tonight.  I was going to work on it last night, but wound up watching Braveheart instead.

Friday, November 25, 2005

this to these

I think it is very funny that some of my husbands co workers send home a bag of this...
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thinking it will give them some of these...
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If you cannot read the "chicken scratch" on the brown paper bag, it says, "Chicken Food".  The items in the bag usually contain someone's left over lunch morsels.  They are sent home with hopes that it will encourage the hens that devour the tasty treats and to lay more eggs.. 
At the moment, egg production has slowed down considerably.  Due to daylight hours subsiding, and the temperatures dipping down below freezing - coupled with the fact that pullets were not purchased this past spring- I'm not collecting the usual weekly supply of eggs out of the henhouse.  This is causing disappointment in some homes that look forward to getting their weekly carton.  I knew this day would come.
Last spring, I just was not up to all the work that was involved with getting new the hens that I have are busy molting.  Molting requires that their body replace old feathers with new ones.  Hence, the hens body stops laying eggs, and uses the protein to make feathers. All of the hens old feathers drop off, and new quills grow in, making them look a bit like a porcupine for a short while, but eventually, they look like a beautiful new bird!  So, cut the girls a break- even they need a nice rest once in awhile...sheeze...the things a gal goes through for beauty!
Oh, btw...notice those sharp curved objects at the bottom of the photo?
They happen to be my rooster's spurs.  While I was raking leaves one day, I uncovered them.  I could not believe I found them.  What are the chances?  They were both within a few feet of each other.  I took them inside and soaked them in bleach.  I don't know why I am keeping them.
They look like something a witch doctor would have.  I never knew that a rooster just drops his spurs.  I was under the impression that you would have to have them removed somehow.
The drive home last night was a bit treacherous as we came close to home.  A squall had moved in and the temperatures plummeted, causing black ice on the roadways.  We saw so many cars in the ditch that I lost count.  I think the tow trucks were overwhelmed.  Flashing lights and flares all around.
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Started spinning the blend that I purchased from Tintagel Farm.  Red Turnip- Dye lot 3.  146yard/ply so far... This Mohair/wool blend is nicely prepared.  I have been spinning a very fluffy, woolen long draw.
The color changes are subtle...I like that.  Not sure where I am going with this yarn yet... as I continue to spin what is left, I am hoping it will tell me what it wants to be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


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I picked the last of the gardens offerings for Thanksgiving.  I picked them yesterday... just in time.  This morning when I went to check on chickens and rabbits, there was frost in the ground.
Snow expected later today.
I will make these garden veggies for the Thanksgiving table.  I planted them in mid July....just after I lifted the last of the snow peas.  The carrots are a Danvers variety, and the turnips are Gold Ball.
These are the last offerings from the garden for this year.
It has been a very good season.
God has blessed us with a very good harvest.
So Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you for the world so sweet-
Thank you for the food we eat-
Thank you for the birds that sing-
Thank you Lord for everything.

Monday, November 21, 2005

some days are for playing

This weekend provided some beautiful sunshine. The mild temperatures during the day were perfect for doing many outside chores.  We are getting ready for winter around here, and the chore list is long.  Forecasts predict a storm is brewing and it will not be long before the snow flies (imagine- we still do not have our hay yet!)  At least the coal bin has been built, and the 5 ton of anthracite is safely tucked inside. (it looks like so very much, but we shall see what it looks like in April). We have started burning the wood/coal stove, and my son has been nagging me for a big batch of stew to simmer on top of it.  And we know if I make the stew, I will have to make some bread...(sorta like the story of "if you give a moose a muffin"...)
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So we attempted to check a few chores off the list...but the river beckoned- the sunshine added to the temptation to leave the chores and take a walk.  The shadows are getting long now...and the angle of the sun seems to make a difference in the color and intensity of the light and the reflections all around me.
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Sometimes, a walk along the riverrim provides such a respite from the hustle bustle returns refreshed and restored by the sights and sounds of water rushing by.
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We enjoyed the afternoon, and decided to go out for dinner (which we do not do often). So, we never did get to all those chores...some days, you just have to play.
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I made this needle felted bear for my husband.  Opening day of (3) the season starts today.  No more walks in the wood for a little while.
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

I've finished spinning the mohair and wool blend roving...shown here with my new nostepinne that Fred Hatton made.
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The nostepinne tool is Scandinavian in origin...and I believe if you translate the word it means "nest stick".  I have been learning how to use it..but most of my center balls come out looking rather oval in I guess I need some practice.  The Nostepinne was made by Fred in his workshop.  The wood is Padauk.  There are three species of this tree, all are in the legume family and have the Latin names of Pterocarpus soyauxii, Pterocarpus macrocarpus, and Pterocarpus dalbergioides.  Mine is a beautiful color of red now, but will most likely darken with age.
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Speaking of "practice"...I have been trying to get a block of time each day set aside for me to practice spinning on my Great Wheel.  Fred just made me a new spindle, and it works wonderfully.  I decided to try the tip that Sharon Peffer told me about this past summer.  I am referring to the use of corn husks wrapped around the spindle shaft.  I found that this is helpful to the structure of the cop.  Without it, my cops lose their shape and don't hold together very well, once I have taken them off the spindle.  With the corn husk, they seem to be sturdy enough to ply.  I tried putting them on my lazy kate, but it did not work very well, they were a little bit to long for that.  So I just put them in a bowl, and plied from there.
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This picture of my finished cops reminds me of Pyrometric Cones reaching temperature in the kiln...but it gives you an idea of how the corn husk gives the cop stability.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

digging tubers and corms

a few weeks ago Marla asked how to take care of dahlias...
Around here, our winters are to cold for the dahlias tuber to survive in the ground, so you must dig them up and store them over their dormant period.  The first thing to do is dig around the base of the plant carefully to loosen the roots gently.  I use a digging fork, and then I lift the entire clump.
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These dahlias must be separated!  I think I will leave that job for spring!
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Another tuber that needs lifting is the 4 o'clock.  My 4 o'clock is over 5 years old grows like a bush, and makes lots of little grenade shaped black seeds..but I usually just dig out the tuber and store it with the dahlias.
This one is a honker!
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Next on the list is the sunchokes.  I will dig some before the hard freeze sets in.  They will be stored in the small fridge in the basement, so I can use them for salads and soup and stew, but also to supplement the chickens and rabbits diet over the winter.
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Last up are the Gladiolas.  My husband really  likes the glads, so he always buys me some each spring.  I have quite a collection (oh my aching back)...and all must be lifted.  The blooms are worth it.  The smaller corm and cormels must be removed as well (oh my aching fingers!).  The blooms are so worth it.
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After all the lifting is finished, I trim the tops down to the base of the corm or tuber as the case might be.  At this point you may want to think about attaching a label as to color etc. if you need (or want) to.
Then I hose them down and set them aside for a day or so to allow them to cure.  After that, they can be stored in a paper bag, or an old Styrofoam cooler, cardboard box etc.  I check mine every so often over the winter to make sure they are not drying out, or molding or for some other bad thing like bugs or disease.  I store them in a cool dark and dry area of the basement to let them  hibernate for a few months. Usually, they are waking up and sending out little pink shoots long about late April.   So, sleep tight little tubers and corms...see you next spring !

Friday, November 11, 2005

prewarp speed scotty

I have finished my sample prewarp pieces on the 3 foot triangle loom.  I just tried two of them, so that I could get an idea about how they would look, and if I needed to trouble shoot any areas, and also the amount of time involved in completing them.
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This first one I tried was made from some of my first lumpy handspun (I think it is from Finnsheep, but I am not really sure).  That is what I used to warp the loom.  Then I went back and wove the weft with a blend of Finn and Angora that I dyed this past summer.  The Finn took the dye rather well, and became a rich ultra marine blue, and the Angora (in the same dye bath) turned out to be a reddish purple...but when I blended them together with my handcards I was happy when it spun up to a nice color.  It toned the purple down and jazzed the blue up.  I used Createx Permanent Liquid Fiber Dyes, and a salt mordant.  Not sure I liked what the salt mordant did to the wool, it seemed to make it just a tad brittle, compared to what it was originally, but really not enough to make it objectionable.  The bias weave shows up clearly because of the stark contrast.
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This next neck scarf was done out of the wool I spun during demonstrations and workshops this past summer.  The wool is entirely Finnsheep from the Hatton Farm.  It is so very soft.  I tried to make a chevron pattern, and it worked out ok...but because of the bias weave, the color is not consistent on both sides of the scarf.  I will need to take this into consideration when I decide future has the potential to be a good thing...or an undesirable factor.
Saw some snow flurries this morning while I was letting the chickens into the garden...MY HEAVENS!  (you say)  CHOOKS in the GARDEN!!  Well, yes, it is true.  I had no choice...we have contacted someone who not only has his furtrappers license, but also a permit to take bobcat.  Now this is extremely difficult for me, but we seem to have more than one coming around...and my chickens, the cat, and even myself are at risk.  We really have no choice...they should not be coming down the mountain and hanging around this close to the house.  Anyway, the chickens are locked in the run, and only allowed into the garden during the day.  They are cleaning up the last of the tomatoes etc, but destroying my kale :-(.
I picked the last of green peppers
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and the marigolds that I had wanted for the dyepot.  The temps are projected to fall into the upper twenties tonight, so it was time.
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A special thank you goes out to all the Veterans- (That includes YOU MOM!)--- and don't forget, tomorrow is the last day to send your packages out to the troops so they can get there by the holidays (Dec. 9th if it is priority)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

growing great wool

Image hosted by my philosophy for gardening goes something like this..."feed the soil to feed the plant". My philosophy for growing healthy angora wool goes something like this...."feed the soil to feed the plant to feed the rabbit to feed the soil" It is a very simple circle. The plants go in one end of the rabbit..the dingle berries come out the other end...and go back to the garden, to grow healthy plants to feed the rabbit! A few months ago I had emailed Claudia from Countrywool and asked about the amount of kale that one could safely feed to rabbits without worrying about causing toxicity over time. She had explained to me that it would be safe to feed small amounts, as large amounts introduce goitrogens that inhibit the synthesis of the thyroid hormone thyroxin. This goes for most members of the brassica family; cabbage, cauliflower, rape, mustard etc. They all contain high levels of oxalates (the salts of oxalic acid). Rather than eliminating them (after all- they are highly nutritious and a fun treat), I decided to limit the offerings to 1 or 2 meals per week. But the question remains, how much is too much? I embarked on mission to determine what would be a safe amount. This proved to be very confusing. I found some articles that stated flatly NEVER feed kale, and others that stated you could never give a rabbit too much! What's a mother to do?? I have completed a list of what I have determined to be ok for my rabbits. I have tried to use common sense, and also taken into consideration what rabbits would do in the wild. When left to their own, they consume mainly a diet of tough fibrous plants and lots of bark. Lots of bark means lots of chewing, and that is good for the back teeth. Due to the fact that mine have never been in the wild, I always introduce a new plant slowly and in small amounts, and watch the poop carefully before I decide if I will feed that particular plant again. One thing that makes a lot of sense to me is that fresh greens are mostly made up of a good rule of thumb is to watch the amount. I usually serve about 1 to 2 cups (depending on the size of the rabbit) every 2nd or 3rd day. I have read that some people will take away pellets when feeding greens for a day. I have always had pellets available....but I do watch the amount. Another big factor is HAY. I always supply free selection of hay...I think of it as being as important as water. I really love feeding my rabbits fresh greens...because THEY love it! I also enjoy the fact that I can take a stroll through the garden, picking tidbits, before stopping by to spoil my bunnies....I get my kicks by giving them a "taste test"...seeing what they take to first. After a while, you can tell who likes what the best. Lately, Jack really looks forward to his Grapevine. I think he loves sniffing it out of the pile, and running about with as if he found a prize. Image hosted by All in all the bottom line for me is keeping my bunnies happy and healthy-- cause happy and healthy bunnies grow great wool!

Friday, November 04, 2005

woolly bears, walnuts & wildcats

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Raking leaves, cleaning up...the weather is so unseasonable!  69 degrees is our projected high for today...amazing.  Does this  larval form of Pyrrharctia isabella know something that I do not??  What does your Woolly Bear say?

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Thanks to a generous fiber friend I have a bucket full of these beauties...I need to cover them because the red squirrels are helping themselves.
I wish I had my camera handy when I saw the wild bobcat that visited my poultry run on Monday.  We have had 2 positive sightings, and the chooks are all shook up!  Poor things, cannot go out to play.  I am looking into how to best handle this situation.  Jack was the first to clue me in that he was nearby.  Usually in the morning when I go out to open up the chicken run I stop off to give my bunny a treat and a ear rub.  That morning he was poised in a very strange position--not moving a muscle!  I was worried when he did not come over to me as I opened the sliding door on his hutch.  Suddenly I heard much commotion over at the hen house, and turned around to see a very healthy looking bobcat throwing himself onto the poultry wire.  He was amazing to see...but trouble for me


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