Olio – 6/6/2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

The past two mornings have been spent in the garden, trying to catch up and get ahead of the weeds.  It appears that most of the “weeds’ are actually the hay sprouting, but I don’t want my garden to be a hayfield.  This is also Lambs Quarters season and though I know that it can be eaten when young, most has gotten too big and too stringy to be palatable, but still small enough to make pulling it fairly easy.  Another garden weedy problem is a mint family weed, square stem, grows erect initially with a lavendery pink flower, and then the oxalis and wild geranium.  The line trimmer cleared up around the fence edge and the taller bloom in the old compost area that is being over run by horseradish, then hand weeding of all but two beds has been accomplished.  I planted some cucumber starts from the house to fill in what didn’t germinate in the garden bed, erected a trellis for the cukes.  Planted the sweet potato slips and a row of sunflowers. The pumpkins only had about 50% germination so another sowing of them will be made later today and another row of sunflower seeds.

The chickens were providing up to 15 eggs a day for a while, but have dropped back to 8 to 10 and one Welsummer is broody, but there is no rooster in with them so she is just shooed off the nest, eggs under her collected multiple times a day.  If she doesn’t get over it soon, I will isolate her from the coop during the daytime hours for a few days and see if it will break the cycle, nothing else has worked. I am always amused at the cacophony they make when a hen lays her daily egg, wondering if it is an expression of relief or a proud announcement to the flock. Each time I fill their calcium supplement feeder, they manage to dump it with in hours.  As I was mixing up their feed today, I decided that maybe their protein level was too low, so reformulated my mix to up it by a couple percentage points. Nothing better than a child size shovel to stir the mix.

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As the weather is hot and I don’t like sitting with a heavy sweater in my lap, I am not knitting too much on it, but continue to spin the fiber for it as I realized I didn’t have enough yarn to finish it.  IMG_20180606_095758

And I recently finished this luscious 340 yards of Merino, Yak, and Silk.

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I have almost 2 more ounces of the Merino Yak spun and am spinning the remaining 2 ounces of Merino, Yak, Silk with my newest spindle, a gorgeous Golding limited edition.

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Once done, they will also be plied for hopefully another 300 plus yards, enough to make something soft and beautiful.

It is the beginning of daylily season.  I love when the gardens are filled with their blooms.

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Still loving our life on our mountain farm.

 

 

Spring Activity – 6/2/2018

Spring is fully upon us.  Instead of April showers, we had snow and May started dry then turned very wet.  June is still wet, but it hasn’t been terribly hot so the open windows and ceiling fans have kept us comfortable.

Between rains, we have resumed our fitness walks and the lovely weather has brought out the flowers and the critters.

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A box turtle assisted off the trail, just shortly after a black snake startled me but slithered off too quickly for a photo.

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A very protective goose and her gosling and another goose that seemed to want to make friends.

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Water lilies.

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Mountain Laurel.

Some evenings produce beautiful sunsets like the header above.  Next week is supposed to be cooler and drier and hopefully the much needed weeding in the garden will commence.

 

Back to the earth – 5/17/2018

Monday was the only day this week that we didn’t have at least a 50% chance of rain and I finished mowing.  Rain with slightly cooler temperatures seemed like a good recipe for planting seeds, but I didn’t get out there then. Tuesday it wasn’t raining when I got up, so I held to my 30-60 minutes of weeding plan and got a lot done, later in the day I got the monster line trimmer going and got around the house and started on the thigh high grass in the two currently unoccupied chicken runs, but I saw a lightening strike less than a mile away and wisely quit, getting back in the garage just as the first of a series of gully washers descended on us.  Wednesday it rained all day long and we took another 7 hour road trip finally finding a route for the Harley Chapter to do that didn’t have drop offs on narrow poorly paved roads that haven’t seen civilization since Moby Dick was a minnow.

Today was forecast for thunderstorms beginning around 2 p.m. so I grabbed the popcorn, beans, pumpkin, and cucumber seeds, my hoe, my gloves, put on my muck boots and finished planting all the seeds except the sunflowers which I had failed to purchase.  Just as I got back in the garage, it started raining, a nice gentle kind that settles the seed in.  As there was no chicken feed for tomorrow and herbs still had not been planted, a quick trip into town and sunflower seed, chicken feed, and herb starts for the half barrels were purchased.

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There are actually 4 barrels there, the front two are planted with wildflower and edible flower Seedles, around the corner is one with Rosemary, Parsley, Globe Basil, and Lemon Thyme.  Behind it are two gorgeous yellow bearded iris blooming profusely in spite of that being the chicken’s favorite place to dust bath when they are free ranging, then another barrel with Sage, Parsley, Globe Basil, and Golden Thyme.  Also purchased were two more pepper plants and Sweet basil that I got into the ground in the garden.

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The Day lily bed that has a large clump of Dutch Iris in it is showing many buds.

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This clump has grape Bearded Iris and blue Dutch Iris and needs to be moved as it is where the deck deconstruction is underway.  After the deck is finished, the area where the large low section is now will be a poured patio and the muddy front of the house will receive a walk at the same time.

Before tackling the barrel planting, flower bed weeding and extending the rock edge down (I didn’t finish that), I did finish going down the side of the garden and the two chicken runs with the line trimmer.  It didn’t like the really tall grass, but it is a manageable height now.  It is now after 4 p.m. and the forecast thunder storms have not arrived.  I wore out with a bit more work to do, but there will be another day.  There is still another barrel that is full of volunteer Hyssop that needs to be moved away from the deck deconstruction and a decision on whether it is going to be allowed to just stay Hyssop or be planted with flowers.

The rapsberry bed that is overgrown with wild geraniums, volunteer raspberry shoots and old canes that didn’t get cut still needs my attention too, but other than that bed, planting the sunflowers, and moving the nursery trees, the garden is in maintenance mode.

 

The Environmental Crafter – May 15, 2018

As a kid, I was bright enough to make better than average grades most of the time, but was not a very good student, homework often neglected, but major assignments always done on time as even then I was a planner.  It was a time when kids spent most of their time outdoors playing, pick up ball games, bicycles, cars in the dirt, jacks, marbles, playing in the sprinkler that was used for little else, roller skates in the two car garage as our home was in a rural county that was eventually annexed into the city of Virginia Beach and became a suburb of the city.  The houses where we lived were on 4 or more acres with woods and farm fields around 7, later 10 houses that were at the end of our rural route.  There was little time for TV, only three stations and they weren’t on 24/7 like today. Even as a kid, I wanted a garden and my Dad accommodated that, a total failure the first year, but in future years, more of a success as he got involved as well.  Each home in which I have lived as an adult has had some level of garden and recycling of everything that the center we had to go to would take.

As a young teen, crafting took over, learning to crochet, trying knitting and hand monogramming, still working with the garden and going with Mom to the farm stand in the summer for produce.  When we started having children, crocheting was still my craft, following patterns to the letter.  While pregnant with our second child, I took a Calligraphy class, having always had a very precise handwriting, that wasn’t too difficult, but my creativity with it was limited, trying some simple art work to embellish quotes or poems, but again, not original art, copying ideas and sketches.  I committed to learn to smock if we had a daughter and child 2 was, so classes in smocking and French hand sewing were taken and a number of dresses, bonnets, her Christening gown, nightgowns for all the adult women in my life were made.  I tried cross stitch and made a few gifts and household items.  I made placemats and napkins for my Mom and Dad for Christmas one year and Mom passed away in early December.  I still gave them to my Dad anyway and they were packed away.  He remarried and they stayed packed away and when daughter was married, he and my stepmom gave them still carefully packed in tissue to her.

Gardening continued and child 3 came along.  I had always liked baskets and pottery and just couldn’t get the hang of pottery, but started making baskets and started the craft show circuit, often being frustrated with the, “Why is it so expensive, I can buy one at XYZ for (insert pittance)?” and quit making them except for personal use and gifts.

After this, gardening continued, but crafting basically ended for years, three kids, their activities, a full time job, and a home to run, there just wasn’t enough time.  As the children grew and began starting their own lives and first grandchild was announced, knitting was taken up again, still following patterns to the letter, but shirts, soakers, sweaters, booties, and hats made.  As the knitting improved and I found myself in the mountains in a new job, supervising the construction of our retirement house in Appalachia while Jim was across the state winding down his career and preparing for retirement, I took up spinning, then some fiber processing, and some dyeing.

Gardening continues, a large organic garden and small orchard on our farm, chickens added for fresh eggs, recycling everything possible.  Reduce, reuse, recycle, buy local when possible.  The crafting expanded to making soap and herbal salves to eliminate the endocrine disrupting chemicals, and being more adventurous in knitting, altering patterns, even designing some of my own.   Life lessons learned and carried on through my 7 decades.  Maybe I am in the wrong era, maybe just wanting to carry on some ancient crafts.

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OK, I’m fickle or picky, maybe both- 5/14/2018

Over the years since I started knitting again in earnest and spinning, I have bought and sold much equipment trying to find the perfect fit for my pleasure.  Everyone eventually finds the equipment that pleases them the most and everyone’s favorite is equally disliked by others, or just indifferent to it.  It would be great if everything could be tried out for a while first, but like with cars, furniture, appliances, etc. sales are the goal.  With spinning, in some areas, you can find a local store or fiber fest that may have several manufacturers and models of wheels, but trying one for a few minutes in a store doesn’t really give you the knowledge you need to fall in love or dislike with it.

I have learned that I don’t like metal knitting needles and crochet hooks.  Most of the metal needles react with my skin chemistry and produce a mild odor that I find unpleasant.  Carbon fiber and wood suit me better.  I only use circular knitting needles and whether they have fixed tips or are interchangeable, the flexibility of the cable is important.  I have tried many brands and have settled on Lykke and Karbonz as my favorites.

With spindles, I have tried wood top whorl, bottom whorl, Turkish, Russian support, and Daelgan (Scottish) style again from many craftsmen.  Some I liked okay, the Turkish I have kept for the longest, though it is usually just used for plying.  Since I started spinning and went to my first fiber festival, I have desired to own a drop spindle crafted by Tom Golding.  A few weeks ago, I ordered one off of Etsy, a large spindle with the whorl looking like a flock of sheep faces with a bright bronze ring.

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I liked that it spun for a long time, but found it a tad too heavy for my use and sold it quickly for what it cost.  But I wanted a Golding and went directly to his website and ordered one that is a bit smaller and lighter.  It came today.

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The slightly smaller whorl, solid top, and lighter weight appeal to me more and allow me to spin the finer yarn that I like to spin on spindles, plus it came with some delightfully playful fiber to sample. My two spindles are here to stay, the rest have found new homes.

In the decade that I have been spinning, I used only spindles at first, then met a group of spinners and fell into the rabbit hole of spinning wheels.  Like needles and drop spindles, they have pluses and minuses.  My first wheel was a wonky old wheel that had been repaired by a friend who learned to spin on it and sold it to me to learn on.  It was a decent little wheel, but the bobbins were very small and the wheel itself slightly warped.   It went on to a friend to learn on and I bought a travel wheel, actually a large wheel that folded somewhat and fit in a huge backpack.  I liked that wheel for it’s appearance, it fit in well when re-enacting,  but there were some things I wasn’t really thrilled with and it was loaned to the friend who bought the wonky wheel which came back to me when she bought the folding wheel.  I used it long enough to find a used wheel I liked and it was probably one of my favorites, but it didn’t fit in when I was at the historic house and I didn’t want too many wheels, but I bought a 200+ year old wheel to take there and tried to make it a functional wheel.  I got it working with the help of a spinning wheel restorer, but it was hard on my knees and hips and I sold it, sold the non historic wheel, and sold the wonky wheel to a local teen that wanted to learn, and bought another that required me to assemble and finish it.  That wheel goes with me to historic events, but has very small bobbins.  Somewhere along the way, Jim bought me an old Great or Walking Wheel.  That one stays at home because of it size and is still being made totally functional.

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And a month or so ago, I tried and fell in love with a tiny little wheel that fits in a large canvas tote, has huge bobbins, and is probably the favorite wheel I have owned.

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I am done.  I have my perfect spindles, needles, hooks, and more wheels than I need, but one that fits the historic spinning venues, one that looks awesome in our log home that is fun to play with, and one that travels well and that I just love.  Plus enough fluff and yarn to keep me busy for quite a while.

It is time to be satisfied with the knitting and spinning toys, uh tools that I own and spin and knit on.  IMG_20180420_124357

Sigh of relief – May 9, 2018

On Sunday, April 29th, our German Shepherd startled, broke her collar and bolted into the town neighborhood where our daughter and her family were doggie sitting for the weekend.  We arrived at her house to find her in tears, her husband out walking the streets, half their neighbors also looking.  We got there about 11 p.m., an hour and a half after she bolted and spent the next hour and a half driving through the neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods calling to no avail.  Over the next 10 days, we walked and drove, searched and talked to people. There were several sightings, some of them good sightings, but by the time our daughter or we got there, there was no sign.  Shadow is a farm/country dog and has never allowed us to socialize her very well.  She likes other dogs, cats, and children, but is wary of adults until she gets to know them, is terrified of bicycles, skateboards, people with walking sticks or canes, and the vacuum cleaner.  Thunder doesn’t bother her, but other sudden noises do.  She was lost in a very high density area and totally out of her element.

We had contacted the Animal Control and Care Center, the Humane Society, every local vet, and handed out at least 100 flyers with her photo, description, and our phone numbers.  We posted it on Facebook, Reddit, and Craigslist.   Sunday she appeared in a cul de sac where friends of our daughter live, they saw her just as two dogs chased her away, down a gully and off toward a more densely populated area of town homes.  That was the last sighting until this morning.  She showed up down in a muddy gully behind some houses with steep back yards and almost came to the woman who spotted her.  She tracked down our phone number and called me after lunch and told us to go through her yard down to the gully.  We immediately got in the car and drove the 25 minutes over there and did go down into the wet overgrown area, calling quietly as we walked in opposite directions from the yard.  There were dog tracks and lots of deer tracks until I could go no further due to the undergrowth.  Discouraged, I returned to the back of the yard where we started, still softly calling her and she came bounding out of the undergrowth, through the mud and right up to me, as relieved as were we.  Generally she doesn’t like the chain collar put on but she stuck her head right in, jumping up on both of us, a very uncharacteristic behavior and coating us in muddy paw prints.

As we couldn’t get in to see the vet for a check for 2 1/2 hours, we brought her home, rinsed some of the mud off, pulled ticks, and tried to check her for other injury.  She has a slight skunk odor, not like she was sprayed, just like she had walked through areas where they had been.  She has a few minor abrasions and a small cut under one eye, a bit of a limp and lost almost 7 pounds (she only weighted 70 when she disappeared).  The vet couldn’t find anything significantly wrong, said the cut looks like it is going to heal untreated, but gave us Rimadyl to help her inflammation and leg tenderness.  We got her spring dose of Bravecto to rid her of any fleas and kill the ticks.  She ate heartily, has an unquenchable thirst and is stretched out on the floor at home with her giant fur brother, totally sacked out.

Since she broke her collar in the escape, we stopped before the vet visit and got her some new bling, a new collar for her tags and a new matching leash.  We will probably keep her on a leash when she goes out for a day or two until we are sure she knows she is home for good.  She seemed to perk up as we drove down our long gravel road and driveway.   She has mostly stopped trembling.  Maybe in a few days we can give her a doggie shampoo and get rid of the rest of the mud and the scent.

Thank goodness for the folks who shared on social networks, looked for her, called us with sightings, and shared their care and concern.  It helped when we were stressing over her being lost, hungry, and alone.

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Garden Therapy – 5/4/2018

It has been a rough week with a lost and finally found cell phone resulting in an extra 3 hours on the road on Sunday morning.  A sprained wrist by hubby playing basketball with eldest grandson, that seems to be healing.  One of our dogs taking off on Sunday night while she was visiting our town family and not being found.  All of this softened some by having our eldest grandson here with us for the past 4 days.  This morning early, we put him on a bus for home to play in his basketball tournament this weekend.  He very responsibly checked in at every stop on his route and is safely back with his parents.

All this required some garden therapy.  I have been slow to get the garden up and running this year with the fickle early to mid April weather and foot of snow.  I did get the onions and garlic in the ground when appropriate and they are up and looking good.  The asparagus finally broke ground just before we left last weekend and have been enjoyed a couple of times with another harvest done this morning that will probably find it’s way to our daughter’s kitchen for her to enjoy as well.

After the bus departure and the Friday morning egg delivery, we went and bought starter plants, 4 each slicing tomatoes, Amish paste tomatoes, Serano peppers, Jalapeno peppers, and spinach plants.  Once home and awaiting the arrival of the delivery and installation of our over the range vented microwave to replace the one that failed a few weeks ago, I attacked the garden.  It is still early, so most of the weeds are easy to manage, plus I put a thick layer of spoiled hay over everything in the fall.  A long bed was weeded and the tomatoes planted, the end of the long bed containing the garlic was planted with the hot peppers, another long bed cleared and two kinds of peas planted, and the spinach that I started as well as the heartier ones we bought were tucked into the end of a 4 X 4 block bed.  In a couple more weeks, the corn, beans, cucumbers, and pumpkins will go in and if I can find some Poblano peppers, they will be planted also.  The nursery said their Poblano seed was bad with very poor germination and they only have a few plants too small to sell yet.  The half barrels that used to grace the deck with herbs had to be moved off the deck in the fall when it started to fail and is in the process of rebuilding, so two of them were moved to the side of the house where I exit to the garden and coop and planted this morning with new rosemary plants, wild flower seed in one, and edible flower seed in the other and fencing around them to keep the chicken from hopping up and digging around in them.

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The tree nursery bed needs the trees removed and transplanted and one more long bed to weed.

I guess I should dedicate a short time each morning when I go to let the chickens out and each evening when I go to lock them up to weed one bed or one aisle and maybe the garden won’t get ahead of me this year.

The microwave installers kindly left me the box it came in as well as a washer and dryer box they had in their truck so perhaps I can mulch down some aisles to also make the task easier.

We continue to be saddened and worried about our country pup lost and hungry in town, but have done about all we can but keep hoping that she finally comes to someone and they can get her back to us.

There is no such thing as failure! 4/18/18

Failure is a learning event.  A reminder to pay more attention. A lesson.  One of yesterday’s batches of soap was started in the morning, then left abruptly to go to the bank, run errands, get lunch.  That shouldn’t have been a big deal as the lye water had not been added to the melted butters and oils and nothing had been stirred.  Cool oils and lye water work just fine.  But . . . in my haste and inattention, I left one of the oils (about 28% of the oil) out.  When I poured the lye water, mixed for the correct recipe into the oils and butters, it became thick very, very quickly.  So quickly that stirring the essential oils in was challenging.  I couldn’t figure out why, but poured it into the mold and cocooned it in a towel to saponify.  This morning the two molds made yesterday and the two from the day before were un-molded to cut into bars for curing and that batch when cut was hard , crumbly , and it burned my hands a bit while cutting it.  While tossing this around with a soap making friend this morning, I realized that I had left out the oil and thus my caustic batch of soap that can’t be used for personal use, but it can still be used.

I make my own laundry soap, a mixture of Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and my own grated soap, so a solution was handy, except that I just made a gallon of laundry soap, about 125 loads worth for two people washing only a couple loads a week.  Since I am about to set up shop at Heritage Day, I bought some pretty blue canning jars, grated up the soap, mixed up the batch and put it in the jars.

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Six 3+ lb jars of HE safe laundry soap that will do about 32 loads of clothes each.  Maybe it will sell.  I need to figure out what the market will handle as a price though.

Cha-cha-changes – 4/17/18

Change is in the wind and boy oh boy has there been some of that recently.  Unfortunately, it has taken out the power several times for anywhere from a few minutes to 9 hours and the start and failure have taken a toll on our appliances.  The 11 year old appliances are not as sturdy as they were new and the microwave with stove vent failed.  It has been ordered and will be installed soon.  The most used burner on the stove top failed once and elder son shifted the back small one forward then replaced the back one when the one we ordered came in.  The front one has failed again (it is actually an original as we moved it) and another replacement has been ordered.  The big scary one though is the refrigerator.  Each time the power goes out for more than a blink, it doesn’t come back on.  At first it was just a few minutes, then a couple hours, now it is staying out for more than half a day.  The contents get shuttled to the old basement fridge and I even called for repair once, but it came back on before they could come and unlike a car, it can’t be diagnosed if it is working.

But that is not where this post is going.  The Cabin Crafted Soap and Yarn shop has been seriously short on product since the Holiday Markets in November and December, followed by a vending weekend at a Spinning Retreat and no real effort had been made to alleviate that situation.  Spring and summer give me plenty of opportunities to spin at Historic Smithfield Plantation but vending opportunities are few.  Spinning as a demonstrator at our Community Open House has been scheduled in May, but that is not a vending opportunity, though sometimes a skein or two of yarn is purchased.  A couple of days ago, a young intern from Smithfield who is a local high school student reached out to me to participate in her high school’s Heritage Day event in May as a historical demonstrator and I am allowed to also vend without paying a booth fee by participating.  It is a month off and it take soap a month to cure, so the cool windy days have keep me out of the garden and inside making preparation.

First on my agenda was to finally build the display stand for knitwear, for which the materials were purchased more than a month ago and they have been on the garage floor.

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It was measured, cut, and assembled on Sunday and today, it got the first coat of polystain.

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It is going to need to be sanded down with steel wool or superfine sand paper as the dowel cross pieces roughened with the stain and a second coat applied, maybe tomorrow.

Next up to resupply soap and all 4 soap molds were put to use with 4 different soaps made to cure for the month.  That is 36 bars of soap.

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Lavender; Cedarwood/White Thyme/Rosemary; Citrus all vegan soaps and Goat Milk/Oatmeal/Honey.  They will be unmolded and cut to cure tomorrow.  When son made me the wooden molds, daughter in law asked if I wanted silicone liners and I said no but wish I hadn’t as folding the parchment or butcher paper to line them is a challenge for me.  Today I ordered a very thin silicone baking mat and I am going to cut it to line the sides and seal the pieces with a tube of silicone caulk to make unmolding them easier.

My other project is one that has niggled me for a while.  The shop name is Cabin Crafted Soap and Yarn, the logo is an ink drawing of the main part of our log home drawn by our very talented daughter in law.  The display sign is natural wood slats with black wood letters.  All of this suggesting rustic, but my table covers have been a green paisley Indian cotton bedspread that was cut and hemmed and my display boxes are wooden shadow boxes that were painted on the outside with a pale mint green color and that wasn’t in keeping with the theme, especially if I am vending in costume as a demonstrator.  With our local JoAnn’s store having a major moving clearance sale, I decided to purchase enough unbleached duck cloth to make two table covers and some acrylic paint in “Melted Chocolate” color to paint the shadow boxes.

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The feel is more natural and more rustic with the wooden sign, pecan stained wood display, and reed baskets trimmed with dark leather (probably pleather) for the yarn,  if follows the theme better.

The very young clerk who assisted me was told the plan was to make covers for two 24″ X 48″ tables.  We discussed the fact that the width of the fabric was only 42″ so I decided to double it and just seam up the middle. so that it hung down over the table.  I left her to cut while I went to pick up the paint and foam brushes and returned to pick up my fabric and pay out to leave.  Upon getting home to work on it, I realized that she not only did not calculate enough  fabric to hang off the ends if I cut it to give me front and back drop, she didn’t even give me seam allowance to hem the ends and still cover the 48″ length.  I decided that the backs of the tables didn’t really need drop as I generally store my crates under the table from the back and used the extra to allow side drop.  I guess I should have done my own calculations.  She said she was getting off shortly to go to her afternoon classes at the Community College.  I hope she isn’t majoring in math or fashion.

 

Silence is Golden

It has been quiet around here.  It can’t decide whether it is spring with fruit trees, forsythia, and daffodils blooming, leaves developing on the lilac and some of the shrubs.  Or still winter in April with a recent foot of snow.

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The chickens are confused.  The weather warms and they start laying lots of eggs, then it gets cold and they use all their energy just staying warm.  The past couple of days have been mild and delightful, tomorrow, the high will be at 1 a.m. and fall all day to 29ºf by night and there are snow flurries in the forecast on Saturday and again on Monday.

I took advantage of the nice afternoon and evening to plant 66 garlic cloves and 100 onion sets and then to keep the Houdini chickens out of the newly planted beds and the just sprouting asparagus, three 25 foot rows of plastic chicken wire were purchased and staked around those boxed beds to try and keep them out so growth can occur undisturbed.  Even when the chickens are allowed to free range all 30 acres if they are a mind to, they tunnel under the vegetable garden fence to dig in the spoiled hay and the compost.  With four more  8′ X 4′ and 3 more 4′ X 4′ beds to plant, a better solution than the plastic chicken wire is needed to keep them out.  After not having much luck with root crops and me being the only one who likes dark leafy cooking greens, a change up in the garden is due.  Potatoes, greens, salad, radishes, carrots, and turnips are all readily available locally grown at the Farmers’ Market, so I’m not even going to mess with them this year.  Tomatoes and Jalapenos are always canned or frozen and used up by the time the next growing season comes around, so they will be grown.  Green beans and peas if I can keep the bunnies out of them this year will be grown.  A block of popcorn with some kind of pumpkin or winter squash interspersed will be there.  I have planted sweet potatoes for the past few years and then many don’t get used, so I doubt I’ll waste the space on them, but Kirby cucumbers will be added so I can make lots of pickles.  They disappeared quickly last year the the cucumbers were pricey at the market.

The raspberries never did get thinned or pruned last fall and other than trying to control their spread into the other beds, it is too late to do anything about them this year.  I would like to dig them all up and replant huge buried pots of them to control their spread.  I also want to add to the blueberry garden and look at other fairly small fruit options.

One cold March day I took a fruit tree pruning class and though I can recite the rules, having an idea of what the finished pruning should look like still eludes me, but I have taken a stab at working on our small orchard.  One of the Asian pears has gotten really tall and is thin and compact, not conducive to picking fruit and I have no idea how to deal with it.  The apple trees and the other Asian pear have a better shape and I think I have a handle on the peach trees.

The early spring brought a trip to a fiber retreat and my first and hopefully last encounter with bedbugs.  That put me on antihistamines and anti itch creams and salves for two weeks.  Shortly after my return, a new travel size spinning wheel entered my life.  It is a fun little wheel that fits in an extra large Land’s End canvas bag and only weighs 8 pounds.

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Spring has brought two opportunities to spin at Historic Smithfield Plantation in costume before the season officially opened, a 5K and a fun run one weekend in March and an Easter Egg Hunt this past Saturday.  Both of those events brought dozens of visitors into the Slave cabin/Summer kitchen where I spin, so it was fun and busy.  When a child shows interest in what I’m doing, I will ask them if they would like to try.  If the parent agrees, knowing that the child will have to sit on my lap or between my legs, they get to treadle the wheel while I draft the fiber and once they have helped spin a couple of feet, I double it back on itself to ply it and cut it off to give the child as a souvenir.  The parents are always thankful and a bit surprised that I not only let the child touch the wheel, but help.

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Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family