Saturday, June 30, 2007

june phenological events

phenological events June 07

1st planted corn
2nd planted squash
3rd re-planted soy
8th blackberry set
9th re-plant corn
peas set blossom
10th mountain laurel
foxglove, sundrops
11th fawn
12th harvesting lettuce
14th harvesting beet tops
Colorado Potato Bug arrives
22nd roses bloom
24th gypsy moth morph

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

walk with me wed, and bring your berry pail

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...the red ripe Ribes are ready for the picking! ..."and make sure you wear your berry picking clothes"...I can hear my mother reminding me. As a kid, I used to go blueberry picking with my mother, she used to tie a belt around my waist, to hold the pail in place so I could pick berries with both hands.

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The bushes are laden with fruit..currants are self fertile and the fact that I had I pruned these back late last winter seemed to help them produce the most wonderful harvest that I have seen in years....well, that and the fact that I covered them this year...the birds adore the currants too! I don't know the cultivar because these currant berry bushes were a gift from a friend, who suddenly showed up with the transplants one day. Years later, I still find myself thanking her as I pick the fruit.

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See the beautiful strings, like red pearls...little jewels, translucent and don't have to pick off each berry, just pick the strig (the main cluster) between your finger and thumb...

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it is ok to get the unripe ones, they contain the most pectin, and that helps the jam to jell. Later on, after we get inside and rinse them, we can roll the berries off the stems.

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Currants always seem to ripen when the weather is hot and humid which makes harvesting them a tedious job. It is good to have someone to pick with, someone to share the beauty of the day also helps keep your mind off the work. And picking currants is work! After picking a few hundred of these gems, the sweat rolls down my back, all I can think of is the hotness of the sun, bees and other various insects buzz past my ears... my hands become sticky and smell of the currant's juice (for the rest of the day!)

There are rather a lot of seeds in each little fruit....and they are too puckering tart for me to eat from the bush. Did you know that at one time, back in the 20's I think it was, some members of the Ribes family were banned? They were thought to spread a blister rust disease to the white pine. Maybe that is the reason you don't see many currant bushes around.

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I filled the berry pail many times over, and have a great yield! I'm dirty, sweaty, covered with sticky currant juice, and feel like I have bugs in my hair! Last one to the river is a rotten egg~~ and since I'm the one who knows the path, I'm guessing that will be you!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

first flax

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So, I have been spending the evenings, and sometimes the early morning hours, spinning my flax. I have a long way to go, and much practice ahead of me, before I can spin smooth, without slub or knot. The more I work with it, the more I am amazed at how much it seems like I am spinning hair. In the picture above, my hair is to the far left...with the flax being at the bottom. Just looking at the flax ~it resembles hair, but when I am spinning it wet, it often makes the squeaky clean sound...the same sound that my hair makes whilst I am rinsing it after a good shampoo.

I think if I dress the distaff carefully, I can spin better. I don't have a "real distaff", but I am using a branch from a white pine in the meantime.

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To dress the distaff with the flax, I simply laid the flax out onto the table, and spread it thin, then laid the distaff on top of it. Next, I wound the flax, pulling it from time to time, to tighten it around the distaff.

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Once it was wound onto the distaff, I put it into the distaff holder on the Ashford Traditional, and pulled the flax from the bottom down, to begin drafting. It was a bit awkward for me, as I am accustomed to drafting with my right hand, and holding the twist with my left. I also used a small water pot to wet the flax, but my fingers soon became very cold.

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My great grandmother spun flax. I have never seen what she looked like. I wished I could ask her to show me how to handle it correctly. I wished I could sit next to her and watch her spin. I thought a lot about her while I was spinning.

I have been reading as much as I can, about the flax and the hemp. I find it to be very interesting research. One publication that I came across, by Richard Hall, was printed in 1724, and discusses the different methods used in cultivating and processing flax and hemp in Holland and Ireland.

I found out that the Great Wheel was used to spin hemp in Ireland....I also learned that the Hemp spinners made quite a bit more $$ than those who could spin flax. A good Hemp spinner was hard to find and could produce 15 to 18 pounds of hemp fiber a day!! I am amazed at that quantity. I also marvel at the ability. I wonder about the length of the fibers, because to see the old photographs of the hemp growing in the fields, the plant towers above the heads of the working men.

Another discovery (in the same publication) was the reference made to Hemp Mills. There were 4 of them in Ireland at the time of the publication. The sail cloth factories depended on the Hemp Mills. The tow hurds were spun from the butt ends of the hemp, and it was used for warping yarn to weave the sails. The fimble hemp (or those plants that bore no seed and were longer) were used for the weft of the sail cloth. The carl hemp (that bore the seed), was shorter and was spun for twine for fishing, sailmakers thread or bedcords and packing twine.

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I really got to thinking about those spinsters. How hard they must have worked, how many hours they must have spent with their wheels! What masters they must have been! Imagine being the spinner who had to produce the knot free hemp yarn that would be woven into sailcloth, knowing that if you let a slub or a knot slip by, it would compromise the skins of the canvas- that if strained by the wind, would run into holes! And today, most of us spin for fun. How far we have come....or have we?

So, what did I do with this small bit of first flax? The tomatoes needed tying up, and it worked just fine!

Friday, June 22, 2007

friend or foe?

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This is a good guy...or shall I say good girl? Note the long ovipositor for depositing eggs outside or (ugh~) inside of a host like a cutworm or tomato horn worm. They sometimes lay their eggs inside of wood boring larvae too. The Ichneumon wasps are a beneficial bug in my garden...a biological means of "pest" control.

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the radishes are ripe for the picking....

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and the lettuce is prime. The heat earlier in the week has caused the mustards to bolt...but the corn and beans and tomatoes are loving it! I also started to thin out the beets, and have been fixing the beet tops with supper. They taste so good when they are young!

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I take the thinning's, and pinch off the bottom...I imagine I could just use them too, but was reminded that they might cook at a different rate over the greens. Once the greens are clean and have gone for a spin in the salad spinner, I put them into a pan with very little water and steam them briefly. They taste somewhat like steamed spinach, only better!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

walk with me wednesday at dusk

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summer begins June 21, 2:06 P.M. EDT

These are the days of longest light...early sunrises, late sunsets...the days are full, and dusk seems to take it's time before turning to darkness.

At this time of year, the dusk is alive and full of activity. There are moths and mosquitoes, nighthawks and bats and oh, so many bugs. Tonight when I took my walk, the bats were my escort. They were too fast to photograph, swooping and fluttery, and circling and disappearing. I wanted to know what kind they were, but they are much to fast for me to identify.

If you are interested in reading more about the kind of bats they could be, here is a link that might be helpful.

Monday, June 18, 2007

new do

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Aside from the Graduation/ Father's Day activities this past weekend (which were most enjoyable)... Lakota got a haircut.

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She is very easy to clip, very patient, but still very timid. I have tried my best to win her trust, but she is as tame as a wild rabbit. Occasionally, she will come to me, but only if I offer her favorite treat, and even that is subject to her mood.

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Despite her small size, she continues to be a good Wooler, with an average staple length of 3 inches, nothing fabulous mind you, but free of matt with a fair yield of prime fiber. I harvested 3.5 ounces of prime and 1.5 of grade 2.

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She also had her nails done ;-)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

you gotta know when to fold them....

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Friday afternoon at the library, I spun a bobbin of the wool/mohair that I dyed at Grace's house a few weeks ago. The wool was dyed with Jacquard Acid dye- color 607 Salmon- (Thanks to Audrey who let me jump into her dye bath!).

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I only dyed a few handfuls so that I could see what kind of results I would get...sort of an experiment...but I am happy with the results. The mohair took the dye readily...and is colorfast.

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I tried spinning some of the mohair from the fold, because I wanted to maintain the color subtleties of the roving... but I was getting to thin. I am trying to spin my singles a bit thicker these days. The yarn above measured 14 wpi. A discussion arose about spinning from the fold, and if there was a disadvantage of having the twist lock the fibers in half. I know it does not matter with silk, but I am wondering about wool.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

meet and greet

This morning another fawn showed up! The yearling seems very happy about having some new friends! Now the does will share the babysitting...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

walk with me wed while I wear my moccasins

My walk happened on Tuesday this week. Today I didn't get to take a walk, we had a much needed rain shower. I had my laundry out on the clothes line and it got very wet, but that is ok. It was only a washer load of bath towels, and they can do with a rainwater rinse.

And so it is late spring, and there is pause to notice the subtle changes as we move into summer. A walk around the riverrim is a perfect time to notice the changes. The ground is soft now, I can wear my moccasins. They don't make much noise when I walk. And they aren't the best shoe for providing traction, so have to keep on the deer paths, or the road.

The Foxglove are blooming, and the Mountain Laurel is covering the ridge. I had been wondering why the fawns were so late this year, and worrying about them. Usually, I see them in late May. I have seen a few young buck~ their antlers are beginning to grow, and they are in velvet...but no fawns. I saw a what I thought was a yearling doe and made a little movie of her.

I followed her for a little bit, walking deeper into the woods...wondering about how it would feel to be an Indian. I start thinking about Indians a lot when I wear my moccasins in the woods. So anyway...the best part of the walk was when I got home.

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I finally saw a fawn!Right out front on the road! So the circle continues...and another spring is coming to a close.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

field trip

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These are the Hemp-Mill stones from the Landis Valley Farm Museum. They were used to break the outer bark from the hemp so that the inner or bast fiber could be removed. Some of the mills were water driven...and were also used to crush flax and hemp seed for oil, as well as apples for cider. I have posted a slide show of the field trip that I took last week...there are many photos of spinning wheels and other equipment. The photos were taken at the Landis Valley Farm Museum and some were taken at The Mannings Handweaving School and Supply Center.

Friday, June 08, 2007

spinning silver and gold

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I have just returned from a 4 day "get away" that was not long enough. One of my days was spent enjoying the company of other spinners at a workshop at the Manning's, located in Adams County PA. The Workshop was entitled "Spinning in the Old Way".

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Among the many things that were discussed and played with, were flax, flax tow and hemp. The flax strict has the very golden tone to it, with the flax tow appearing to be a silvery gray. The hemp is a creamy white color. All of these fibers in the photograph above have been commercially processed. Even so, they glisten like silver and gold. The spindle contains a bit of the flax tow and the hemp, you can see the subtle differences. Both were spun dry.

I have become extremely interested in the history surrounding the growing and processing of Hemp in nearby Lancaster County, and wound up purchasing the first book in the heritage series. I hope to get a chance to post my photos of the trip later this weekend. Right now, I need to go out to the garden and replant the corn, as the chipmunks have eaten all but eleven plants. I cannot believe the severe damage that the chipmunks have inflicted on the garden this year. I may be forced to set traps.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I never tire of this video....the colors, the music, the spindles dancing...its all good!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

a day to dye for

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Once a week I usually try to go to the library and meet with a few other spinners, to spend a couple of hours together, spinning, or knitting and talking. We exchange lots of ideas, opinions, recipes, plants, laughter and sometimes tears. We are a small group, and not all of us can meet together all the time. We have been getting together for a few years now. It is a couple of hours each week that I cherish.

Once in a while, we plan a little something extra. And so it was that a dye day was planned at Grace Hatton's Farm. You may remember that not long ago, I was making reference to an article that Grace had written for Shepherds Magazine. This same article has been reprinted in this months issue of Fiber Femmes. If you get a chance, give it a read. It makes you think. I always enjoy going over to see Grace. She is a lovely hostess and a great cook, has beautiful gardens, gorgeous sheep and lambs....and SPINNING WHEELS in all stages of repair!

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I got to spin on this beauty which was for sale, but I heard it has already sold.

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And I spun on this beautiful PA wheel too. It is believed to have come from Berks County PA...and has the very wide rim typical of the area.

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And I spun on one of these. I could have spent the entire afternoon trying one wheel after the other! You cannot help but wonder about their past, and feel grateful to have spent a bit of time behind them. I wonder, how many women or men spent hours treadling on them? Fred Hatton has skillfully restored them to working condition so they can continue to do what they were made for. I always wish the wheels could talk!

While we were spinning and enjoying homemade rhubarb crunch (most yummy!)...our dye bath was cooking away in the oven. It was a great afternoon, that flew by all to fast. On the way home, I had a few moments to admire the new lambs.

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I was so excited to see that I had captured a glory over one of the lambs!

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Those are some special sheep!

Friday, June 01, 2007

slideshow (snoozer)

I made a cheezey slideshow of what is going on out in the garden... if you don't want the music to play, just click on that little speaker on the bottom left of the picture screen.

My edamamae soybeans have been eaten, by a chipmunk. Foiled again! I have ordered more, and hopefully will get a crop in that I can harvest before September frost...

And I have not forgotten that this is a fiber blog...I have been busy dyeing, and hope to have time to post results this weekend.

May 07 notes 1st bloodroot
2nd yellow warbler
pine warbler
yellow rumped warbler
black & white warbler
american redstart
common yellow throat
northern parula
ruby crowned kinglet
4th indigo bunting
5th Baltimore oriole
7th Orchard oriole
9th transplant lettuce
12th female hummingbirds
lilacs bloom
14th transplant broccoli
planted potatoes
20th caddisfly larvae hatch

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