Thursday, 10 May 2018

Wind storm productivity

The windstorm blew through our area, knocking down trees, hydro poles and creating a mess.   After a brief shudder in the electrical system, it all shut down.  We were lucky in that we were without power for just less than 30 hours.   I had someone ask me what we did and how did we survive?   Well, mainly, once the wind had died down, we went outside.   Wood was split.  Wood was stacked.   Branches were picked up.  Sticks were raked.   A quick run into town to get more gas for the generator which keeps our sump pumps running, also resulted in brunch at a fast food restaurant with wifi, so I could check my FOOL event email.   I was surprised at how many people had their tablets out while we were there.  

 Finally, tiring from yard work, I dragged out a bit of fibre that I had dyed two winters ago and only got part of it spun up.   I started spinning the rest.  I realized that I hadn't divided it into two, so when I started on the second bobbin, I made sure to use one with the same finish as the first.  Then when I was almost done, I weighed them both and divided the last of the sliver so that they equaled the same.   I was off by a couple of partial grams, but in the end that resulted in one bobbin having 2 yards more than the other, so I wasn't upset about that at all.    I plied them together, but with the busy day with yard work, I was literally falling asleep while plying.  I had to force myself to stay awake so that the cats wouldn't demolish the yarn from the Lazy Kate to the wheel.   Once it was done, I soaked it for a bit and set it to dry.  The next morning I took a good look at it and was pleasantly surprised.   Half of the yarn was spun by task light and candle light, in the near dark.   I was expecting some very noticeable inconsistency, but nope, you cannot tell that this was half spun in the dark!  Yay Me!

I love hyacinths.  I love how they look and especially the scent.    I like to take my tea and my spinning wheel or banjo out on a warm, still, spring day and watch the leaves grow while the scent of hyacinths lingers in the air.    We've had nothing but windy days so far this spring.   I've scented the flowers once, when I was on the ground taking this photo.   I fear that with the way the flowers are popping up and speeding through their growth cycle, as if to make up for this year's lingering winter, I shan't get to have my day bathed in hyacinth scent.  

Yes I realize that this photo is on a weird angle.  Just as a warning, don't get down low to take a photo when the chooks are about.  They are curious birds and like to know what you are doing.   They will walk on you, peck you gently or not so gently and generally just get up close and personal trying to figure out what you are doing, trying to slither on your belly to get that perfect shot, which won't be so perfect in the end, when you jump out of the way of Ms. Curious Hen.  (They poop indiscriminately too, so watch out for that as well)

Friday, 4 May 2018

Bobbins Emptied! Yay!

 Ta Da!  I've emptied 9 bobbins of bits and pieces of the tail end of whatever I'd been spinning and either ran out or got distracted.   The 10th bobbin is holding reeled silk from level 6, Master Spinner at Olds College.  I need to wind that off onto holding bobbins. The bobbin isn't needed immediately,so the silk is safe where it is for the moment.  It was interesting digging up all the bobbins and figuring out what was on each one.   It turns out I'd stashed the bobbins together, so the hunt for them wasn't all that difficult, once I'd figured out where I'd put them.
There was a bit of natural green cotton left on one bobbin.  It was still wet and wouldn't cooperate with being turned into a skein.  I'm pretty sure the larger white skein is Merino.  I'm not sure about the small one, because it's a little bit whiter, but it feels just as soft.   The Merino/Cashmere/Silk is easy to identify because I'd dumped a bunch of it into the exhausted vat of Japanese Indigo, just to use up the last of the dye.   I've a large zip-lock full of it. 
The Ramie isn't an end of bobbin but was a 50 gram bag that I'd spun up.  The colour is oddly called sunrise, and I'm presuming it is the sky colour at sunrise.  However if I had ordered this site unseen on colour alone, I'd have been quite surprised.  This bit of ramie shows that all commercially processed sliver and roving isn't the same.  The dark blue that I'd spun before (aptly named midnight) was long fibres, smooth and easy to spin.  This stuff was chock full of short bits and neps.  The short bits were less than 2 inches long, often only an inch and a lot of the neps just got spun in as they were well blended into the fibre.   Even when picked out by hand, they wouldn't budge.  It took a lot more concentration to spin this pale blue ramie.  If I'd gotten this bag of Ramie the first time I'd ever spun it, I'd be turned off the fibre.  However Ramie is generally lovely to spin and a nice bast fibre.

I've often mused over why the packaging of so much fibre in 50 g amounts.  It's great for sampling, for sure, but I find it not so great for actually using in a project.  I'm going to have to just keep getting 50 g of Ramie and spinning it up until I have enough to use for a real project, instead of just decorating a bin or basket.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Catch up in the garden

 And all of a sudden, the garden is trying to catch up despite the cold, snowy, icy, wet spring we've had.   The Glory of the snow is blooming delightfully all through parts of the flower best and is sneaking into the lawn.  It's an issue here, because I love the flowers dotting the lawn before it's long enough to mow.   My sweetie, not so much.   But these are so pretty and being only 10 cm or 4 inches tall, they look like a pretty carpet when they start blooming en masse.

I was down on the Niagara Peninsula on Friday and the Daffodils were in full bloom.   Ours are just starting.  These are early ones that are in the front gardens, at least some that the chooks haven't dug up while sun bathing in the dusty soil by the house.

 The girls were thrilled when I let them out.   The animal tracks I thought were raccoon, are more likely skunk and while they can do some damage, they are less likely to attack the chooks.   They will dig up our lawn though and eat all the grubs, but they do it in the wee hours of the morning so we don't see them.  As long as they aren't startled into protection mode, we don't even smell the skunk.

The daffodils are so bright and sunny!   The Siberian Iris were just about to bloom when the ice storm hit.   They bloomed for about a day and the flower petals were all ragged and browning early, or broken and bent.  They tend to take the brunt of the chooks curiosity and foraging anyway.  Hopefully next year they will do better.
This gorgeous yellow, 6 petal flower pops up in only one spot in the garden.   I'd love to know what it is so that I could plant more.   

We have Scilla in various places around the garden.   The blue is incredible and not a common flower colour.   I love the way it is spreading wildly.   I'm thankful that our lawn is still too wet,soft and mushy to get the lawn tractor in yet, so I have time to enjoy them.   The lawn isn't really quite ready to mow, but it's already lush and green.
My son bought me a new computer mouse!  Yay!  I had a functional one that had a cord only 2 feet long, which I'd managed to adapt  to a weird contortion way of using it.   The new one is wireless and now in the more comfortable spot.  I'd totally gotten used to it with it's short cord.   This one is very nice though.

I'm spinning -   mainly trying to empty bobbins which are partially full.   However, I had one bobbin almost full and ready to ply, so I took the time to finish it.  Then I decided to make sure my little single treadle Mazurka was in working order and now will have to finish spinning up a bag of 50 g of Ramie before I can empty the bobbins for that wheel... does it never end?

Monday, 23 April 2018


This was supposed to auto post days ago, but it didn't, so I'm posting it manually, despite it being late.   We've no snow left due to a couple of gorgeous days but this was only last week!

My normal routine in the afternoons, is to fill the bird feeder when I go out to feed and check the chickens.   We have a lot of birds who like an early breakfast.   Normally by mid-April, I don't have to fill it, unless I want 47 nesting pairs of grackles in my yard.  Believe me, that is really noisy!    However, this year, when the red-winged blackbirds came to the feeder in April, I knew I need to extend the bird feeder season just a bit longer.    The past few days though, I've noticed that the bird seed that filled the feeder the evening before, is scattered about in a pile underneath the next morning.
Wondering what was doing this, I was both happy and sad to see animal tracks in our yard, heading mainly to the compost heap, but also to the feeder and across the back deck.
There were lots of these possum tracks, presumably from the beastie that we found in our yard last fall, and in the chicken coop earlier this spring.    I'd read up about them when we saw the first one and learned they were supposed to be wanderers, not staying in anyone place for long.  I guess this possum didn't read that information.   He's hunkered down behind the wood pile right now.  Since it's mainly covered with a tarp, it's probably giving him the protection from the horrible elements.

The second set of tracks worries me more.  I'm pretty sure they are raccoon tracks.  We've tried to discourage the raccoon from nesting around here not only because of the rabies issue, but because they are predators and eat chickens.   I've lost a few girls over the years to raccoons and am not happy that we have one this close.  I've had to keep the chooks locked up and even worry about just opening the door to let in sunshine, as we've had a predator attack the girls at night.  It's an easy way into the barn, if the door is open.

We laid out live traps, but these guys are sneaky and after days of trying to catch whatever it was in the barn, we pulled them so there would be no risk to other animals.     At least with the snow cover now, you can't see where the creature has been digging up grubs in the yard.  That tends to be a wandering skunk who I'm pretty sure doesn't live here, but who prefers to use our yard as his gourmet supper spot. 

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Before and During the Ice Storm

 We've had cold, snowy and generally icky weather this spring.   Until yesterday, it had snowed every day in April here.    Slowly the spring bulbs started to push forth into the inhospitable environment.   You can see the red tips of the frost bitten tulip leaves.   Finally we had a day where while it dropped a few snow flakes in the morning, by mid afternoon, it was mild and sunny.   After stacking a bit of the split wood, I grabbed my camera to document this momentous occasion.  The crocus flowers were perfect and such a welcome burst of colour outside, giving hope that maybe spring would actually come and that I could put away my parka.

I'm thankful for my digital camera so I no longer have to worry about how many pictures I've snapped, whether or not I have spare film and just generally being able to snap photos whenever I feel like it, without planning absolutely everything.   It allows me to capture all these glorious memories and floral delights, even if the ground was so soggy and wet that I couldn't get down to the ground without being covered in mud.

After I took all the photos that I could, I grabbed my banjo and practiced outside on the deck.  Yes, it was warm enough and nice enough outside to do that!
The next morning it started to rain.  That rain quickly turned to ice pellets, which was the only saving grace of this storm.   Instead of inches of freezing rain, we got inches of ice  pellets.   The poor crocuses were buried under the ice pellets when the freezing rain actually came.   There is nothing left of them now, making me more thankful that I got to enjoy them and photograph them for the few hours that we had them in bloom.

I'd wound off a warp and had mainly dressed the loom before the ice storm caused our power to go out.  I used the hours without hydro to play, both on the banjo and the loom.  

I wasn't sure I'd like this pattern, so I only set up for 2 scarves, both only about 5 inches wide but one at 75 inches long and the other is just about finished at about 82 inches long.   I've enough warp to tie on a second project, but I've been dithering about it.  DH says then I probably don't like it enough to bother with.   This is the silk/wool blend from the now closed carpet factory.  I do wonder how it would look in 100% wool.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Portland Sheep Fleece

A friend gave me a bag of Portland fleece.  This is a less improved breed of sheep, considered to be closer to it's early counterpart, than many modern breeds.   It is a pretty sheep, small,with a handsome face and horns.   It is known to be easy to keep,  has only a single offspring but can do so out of season.    Interestingly, it is born red, but turns white within a few months    The bit of fleece I got came from a very well kept sheep.  It had virtually no VM.  It wasn't greasy or dripping with lanolin. 
It had a nice staple length of about 4 1/2 inches and a nice, regular crimp, though it's difficult to see in the photo. 
The fleece was in lovely, well defined locks as well, and I debated whether to wash it all together or separate out the locks out into screen envelopes.   I decided that since I'd intended to hand card it into rolags and spin it with the long draw, I could just wash the fleece without separating the locks.

It took only 2 washes and 2 rinses to get the fleece sparkling white!  I let it dry for a few days on my drying rack, with screening on both the bottom and top of the fibres.   Once dry, I carded the fleece into rolags and had such a fun time spinning it.   It spun so beautifully and made a bouncy, airy yarn with little effort.

Being a primitive down breed, the fibre is a bit on the coarse side, so it is definitely not for close to the skin.   But that breeder should get kudos for producing excellent fleeces.   This would make awesome mittens or outer wear.   I probably should have saved some fibre out for a sample of worsted yarn, but the long draw was effortless with this fibre, so I went with it.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Just a little update...

 The kitchen back splash has been taking up a lot of time.  It's just plain white subway tile with white grout but it works with the already colourful kitchen.   The white lightens up the under the cupboard area.     Because the only time there's been to work on this, has been a couple of hours in the evenings, it seems to be taking a while to get done.  I think that when you just count the hours though, it's been pretty quick.

A friend just bought a new place and it is surrounded by Ash trees, which have been decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer.   He's had to take down about 40 of them, which he offered to us.   So the tile project and every other project, has been in between loads of wood.   I'm pretty sure my sweetie is happy to get to play with his chain saw.    There is still lots to get but the ground around  the area is just thawing and the truck almost got stuck - hmmmm there's a country song in that line somewhere - so we're waiting for the ground to dry out a bit. 

I'm still working on Pysanky.  That quartered oak leaf design took hours to make, though I rather impressed myself with it.   The green one with waves is an attempt at a reproduction of one of the earliest pysanky found still mainly intact.  The description says it might have had two colours as well as the white but I used only the one.   It's apparently a wave pattern.   It's a quartered pattern as well, and all those little lines took forever as well.  The original was done on a goose egg.  Mine is just a chicken egg.

The brown egg design is wobbly.   It shows what happens when you put on a video while trying to write pysanky.   It just doesn't work very well.

Other than that -  Banjo!   I had to fiddle around a bit figureing out why I was in a bit of a playing funk.   It turns out I wasn't happy with the very blue grass music my books and music had, and with a bit of effort, I found a new direction in a more melodic format, which is keeping me busy.... and happy... and waiting now for a set of new strings to come in at the local music shop as they think everyone should play with medium strings and not the princess light weight ones.  I have to order them every time I need them.... sigh...