Way Over Due – 4/18/2019

It is definitely spring cleaning time.  With two big dogs in the house, the house closed up for winter, living on a gravel driveway off a gravel road,  and recovering from the concussion I got in our accident in February, the house was in sad need of a major overhaul.  I can vacuum and dust daily and still it accumulates way faster than I can keep up.  The HVAC guy came last week for the spring service and put a new filter in, but still it accumulates.  Starting this morning in our bathroom, it got a deep clean.  The later morning and afternoon were dedicated to deep cleaning the loft and our bedroom.

The loft is our computer, TV, and my crafting area.  I recently decided that I had accumulated too many spinning wheels, and a few other crafty things that are just gathering dust.  Three wheels and some other items were listed for sale on various sites.  I want to keep my Great Wheel and one wheel that can be used at home and at historical demonstrations and have room to set my triloom up so I can use it.  The first order of business was to get 4 more cube bins for the cube storage unit.  Everything was removed from it and from the bookcase and also from a smaller folding bookcase in our bedroom.  They were wiped down with a damp rag and organization was accomplished.  The cube unit with it’s bins now holds all of my handspun yarn that isn’t for sale, the small amount of mill spun yarn that I am keeping, including a bit from a fiber and yarn dyer friend that recently passed away.  The remaining 4 bins have roving and clean fleece that are awaiting spinning.

The smaller shallow bookcase actually has the books for knitting, spinning, basket making, and Zentangle.  It is a very shallow bookcase, but it also holds a few small shipping boxes for my shop, the Shop files, and a couple of baskets that are currently not needed.

The larger bookcase has a bin of tools for making labels for the shop, one of knitting  tools and stitch marker making supplies, one of my wool samples for camps and classes to show the different breeds, and one for bags, paint for signs, and brushes.

The top of the two bigger units hold my lazy kate, skein winder, and ball winder.

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Everything has a place, it’s very own place, and I can find it.

I only have two baskets by my chair at this point, one for spinning tools and current spinning fiber and one for my Hap Shawl that I am knitting from the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em skeins that I spun.

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Everything got a good dusting including all the other furniture upstairs.  Vacuuming with the big Dyson and in tight spots with the hand held Shark.  One of the big dogs is an English Mastiff.   They are prone to drool and shake their head, so slime gets in places like walls.  The hall and stairwell walls got a thorough scrubbing as well.

My sewing area in the bedroom still needs a bit of work, but I am in the midst of a project there, so it will get done soon.

If the wheels sell, I will have room for my loom to be set up, a project using some of the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em yarns that were too bulky or too fuzzy for the shawl is developing.    Some of it will have to be dyed and some Merino top also needs to be dyed before my next vending event in May.

At last weekend’s event, a friend who with her husband are suttlers at Rev. War events suggested she could sell some of my soaps and salves.  A display box was set up that they can drop into one of their totes and will be delivered to her in a couple of weeks.  That got me organizing my products for upcoming shows and events and I took the time to update my Etsy Shop and do inventory.  Those records are now accurate.  It has been a busy couple of days.  The main floor of the house still needs a thorough cleaning and we have a couple of rainy, windy days coming up, so it will probably get done.

History is Relative- 4/16/2019

The past weekend was spent as a Revolutionary War enactor.  Our event was held at the Yates Tavern in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.  The link will give you much more history about the building.  As a spinner, using a spindle wheel/bobbin winder that may be 200 years old, I was on the porch with a friend who was making tapes on a box or tape loom.  It happens that her 4th and 5th great grandfathers were the owners/proprietors of the tavern.  The Militia group to which I belong, encamped on the grounds.

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I have always had an interest in history.  After all, I grew up between America’s Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and Southampton County, the site of the insurrection of Nat Turner.  And though I lived there and read history, I was not a particularly good history student and as a typical teenager, it might as well have been the Roman Empire on my timeline.

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As I visit the Revolutionary and Civil War sites in the mountains of Virginia where I now reside, and have visited other sites on the Piedmont of Virginia, at my current age, I realize just how young our nation really is and how current those events are.  My great grandmother, who died in her 90’s when I was 14 years old, was born just after the Civil War in rural North Carolina.  I wish I had talked with her about her history.  My paternal grandfather grew up along the train lines in Virginia for much of his childhood, in Crewe and Victoria.  He did tell me many stories of his youth, he was a “bad” boy as he put it, putting out one of his eyes with a pen knife as a youth, riding the rails, and finally settling down with about an 8th grade education to raise two fine sons and build his own business.  My paternal grandmother didn’t tell us much about her history, though as soon as her sons were grown, she entered the work world in banking, at an age when most women her age didn’t work.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know my maternal grandparents who were raised in the area in which I now live, an area ripe with history also. They both passed before and just after I was born.  Though my mother grew up in this area, she spoke of the times she remembered and I heard none of the stories of her father’s home under the cannons on John’s Creek Mountain (our home is also on it’s flanks) just as fog rolled in saving the home during the Civil War.  The remains of that pre Civil War era home that fell into ruins after a fire in the late 20th century was torn down just prior to our moving to this area.  The old collapsing barn still survived until just a few years ago and I was gifted a signed print of that barn by a local artist.

Now I wish that I had pursued more of the personal history of my elders.  Perhaps I should share more for our grandchildren, I have lived through many events in our country, a Presidential assassination, attempted assassination of another, first space shot, first moon landing, space shuttle successes and failure, Twin tower attacks,  the Cold War, and so much more.  These events will seem like ancient history to our grandchildren, but I can remember where I was and what I was doing for each of those events and more.

Now I go to the museums and demonstrate what we now consider crafts that were life skills for the people of the period.

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Conserving rare breeds – 4/12/2019

Over the past several months, I have done several blog posts on a Challenge sponsored by The Livestock Conservancy, an organization that promotes heritage and rare (endangered) breeds of livestock.  The challenge is regarding sheep and is called Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em. A local shepherd friend that raises two of the rare breeds asked me if I was interested in such a challenge last summer to which I responded I was.  She kept me informed of the progress of the initiation of the challenge and as soon as it looked like it was going to begin and shepherds had the verification stickers for the passport for which we registered, I started buying wool and began spinning.

My nature, is perhaps unfortunate in that I can be very competitive.  As a result, I sped through 15 breeds in just a few months, completing in 3 months what they were seeking in 3 years.  It hasn’t stopped me, as I have purchased half a raw fleece for number 16, was gifted 3 raw fleeces of rare breeds by a friend which I am washing, combing, and spinning even though they are ones I had already submitted.

During the past several weeks, the Conservancy posted a series of questions to fiber providers and another series of questions to fiber artists and I responded to the questions thinking they were for statistical purposes.  This morning, I was asked for some photos of myself and my projects and what my blog URL was as I had done a couple of blog posts about the program.  With my return email of the requested information, I said I was now getting curious and the responding email was a link to the Livestock Conservancy blog, featuring me with permission to share.  Wow, what a surprise and a treat for a rainy day.

If you are a knitter, weaver, crocheter, felter, spinner and you haven’t heard about this challenge, I encourage you to join the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em facebook page, join the challenge and have fun with the various breeds.

Olio-4/7/2019

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

This week has drifted by in a dizzy dream.  It brought two Doctor’s visits,  First to the G.P. as fairly constant headache and periodic bouts of dizziness that began after our accident have continued to plague me.  This visit they confirmed that I indeed suffered a concussion in the accident and have Post Concussive Syndrome.  As I already had an eye appointment scheduled for Friday, they gave me a prescription to help with the headache and dizziness, but it just makes me want to sleep and dizziness and hypotension are side effects, so how is it supposed to help with dizziness if it causes dizziness.  BPPV therapy may be in order down the road.

The eye Doctor visit showed enough change in my prescription in a year to warrant new glasses, some increased cataract in my left eye which could be concussion caused or just time related, but not enough to do anything about it, but I failed the eye to brain testing, so more testing and possible therapy as well.  I’m pretty much over it.  Tomorrow is 2 months since we were hit.

As being on the computer, reading, and bending down all trigger the dizziness, I have not been on the computer much and really want to get the garden ready, but have to pick “good” days and limit my bending.

Spinning and knitting don’t seem to bother me, perhaps because the current knitting project is garter stitch and Old Shale Lace which is almost as mindless, so I don’t have to constantly look at it.

The shawl is a half Shetland Hap, but is being knit with the yarns I have spun for Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em.

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For my spinning, I have been washing, then combing and spinning a little Jacob raw fleece.  The skein I have worked on this week is the darker colors pulled out and spun separately.

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Last weekend, one of my reenactor friends that works with leather made scabbards to protect my baskets and self from the sharp tines of my wool combs when I am carrying them to events.

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This week, some of the soap from the many batches was packaged and delivered to two of the local museums for sale there.

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About midweek, one of the Olive Egger pullets began to lay, in 4 days we have gotten 3 tiny pullet eggs.  The photo shows one compared to a brown egg from the Farmers’ Market.

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The week has been mild, with some rain on Friday and more due this evening and tomorrow, but last night was nice enough to grill out and eat on the new deck.  A pleasure that I missed while the deck was down.  Ranger and I spend a part of most days sitting in the sun back there.  Soon it will be summer and too hot to sit there and we will move to the shaded front porch, but for now it is delightful.

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Life goes on here in the mountains. For the time being, posting on the computer will be infrequent, but we are improving.

Olio – 3/28/2019

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

It finally feels like spring and the weather has been fairly dry for a couple of weeks.  We had so much rain from September until mid March, we are glad for a bit of drier weather.  We don’t want to go into summer dry though.  The nice weather allowed eldest son and eldest grand to visit last weekend and they were able to get the deck rails, ballusters, and rail caps completed on the deck.

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That makes the deck a usable feature again and as soon as it is truly past freezing nights, pots of flowering plants will be added to one side of the wide steps and some corners of the deck.  For now, there are just two chairs out there for sitting in the warm sun on calm warmer days.  Ranger the beast, who is suffering from joint pain, has enjoyed a few days laying on the warm deck boards in the sun.

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Recently, I found a craft event to be held in May and because I am making soaps for two local museums, I decided to register for the event and make more soaps.  Instead of just making loaf molds, some of the soaps are being made using shaped molds, one of sheep, one with a goat, squares, bars, rounds, and smaller ones with geometric and floral patterns on them that are usually used for lotion bars.  The only one I don’t like is a pink Passionfruit Rose scented one, but I bet it will sell.

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In addition to several batches curing, there are two made this morning that are saponifying for tomorrow’s unmolding.

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Those two batches are a sheep and bar mold of citrus scented soap, and a goat and square mold of Goat milk, Oatmeal, and Honey unscented soap.  Tomorrow, I will make a batch of Lavender scented, lightly lavender colored sheep and round bars.  Each batch that has a surplus of recipe is going into the smaller geometric and floral molds as guest soaps.  Special labels have been created for the two museums,  Wilderness Road Regional Museum and Edith Bolling Wilson Museum.

When I attended the fiber retreat at Hawk’s Nest State Park the end of February/early March, I was gifted some raw fleece by a friend.  Yesterday I finally braved trying to wash one and though I have only done about 10 ounces so far, I am very pleased with the process on the Jacob fleece.

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This morning, it looks clean and is nicely dried.  I am separating the white, the darkest black, and the gray into three piles and will comb and spin them separately, hoping to be able to knit a gradient shawl from the resulting yarn.  There is much more of it in the garage for me to wash and as the afternoon is beautiful, warm, and calm, a couple more batches will be washed and set out on a screen to dry enough to bring in for the night.

The pullets have had no more visits from the Red Tailed Hawk, I hope I have foiled it’s efforts to enter the run.  They are now almost 21 weeks old and hopefully will soon start providing us with eggs.  They are a pretty flock, though 3 short of what I had hoped for this spring.

Soon it will be time to pull the mulch back from the asparagus, weed a few beds for peas and onions, the start of the planting season.  Hopefully, bending down by then won’t still result in dizziness from our accident.  It is frustrating how long it is taking to recover from the carelessness of the young lady that hit us.

Until next time.  Be safe and enjoy spring on its way.

History Day – March 20, 2019

Today was a history day.  A local elementary school brought their 5th graders to Wilderness Road Regional Museum for a field trip.

When I first started doing living history, I had no costume and didn’t want to spend a fortune on one.  At the time I was spinning a castle style wheel and spun in my stocking feet, so shoes were not an issue.  I bought a petticoat and shift from Etsy, later a kerchief, mob cap, and bodice also from Etsy and I was okay with the look as was the venue where I did most of my events.  I had gotten a bed gown from Ebay, but it really didn’t fit well and is heavy, so not good in hot weather, so I rarely wore it.  Then I joined a local Rev War militia group and my costume needed tweeking.  My petticoat was a checkered pattern cotton with a gathered waist (wrong print, fabric, and style), the shift really isn’t quite the right style, the kerchief is the wrong fabric, and the bodice is a no-no.  To work on upgrading, I purchased a couple yards of navy linen and made the pleated petticoat, it really feels better than the yards of gathered cotton.  Another half yard of natural colored linen was hand hemmed into a proper kerchief.  The bedgown was dragged out, adjusted a bit (plus I’ve lost some weight), so it was wearable.  A new handmade shift is on order from a sutler, but you can’t see it under my gown and kerchief so I went with the old one today.  The other items that needed upgrade are shoes which were ordered, but not available for 60-90 days, so my Berkeley style slipper shoes with rubber soles will have to do for now; and glasses.  My glasses are the wrong shape and size and my prescription won’t work in the small round shape that is period correct.  I can function without them if I don’t have to drive, operate machinery, or read, so I will just go without.  Somewhere along the way at an event, I purchased the flat shallow straw hat that is period correct and adorned it with a handwoven tape.

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This morning, all decked out with spindle wheel, baskets of breed samples and ID cards, fiber, wool combs and cards, lucets, box loom, and knitting I set up at the museum in the outdoor kitchen.  Also outside of the museum were a militia reenacter with his kit, making mini balls over his fire and firing off his muskets, and a blacksmith.  The 4 groups of kids saw a film in the museum, walked over to the old jail, spent time with each of the demonstration stations.  The kids were awesome and though the outdoor kitchen was chilly, there were breaks where I could sit in the sun and warm my fingers.

The more I do this, the more I learn from using different equipment to the history and the better I become at drawing in the audience with questions and discussion, not a lecture.  The fiber arts are fascinating, the area is ripe with history, and the audience, especially kids are awed when they realize that household linens and goods, as well as clothing were hand spun and hand woven prior to the advent of the spinning and weaving mills, and really how recently in history that was.

What an exciting and delightful experience this has become.

Peeves – 3/15/2019

Today’s mail brought two items that generated this peeve.  Item one was a letter from a security firm letting me know that an online retailer from whom I had made a purchase last year had a security breech and “certain personal information” may have been compromised.  I don’t save credit card info on sites  that encourage you to do so for quicker check out, so I’m not terribly concerned about my log in and password for that site being accessed.  They claim that there is no evidence that this information has been used, but they are offering a year free dark web service.  Now I know that at the end of the “free” year, they will be on me like stench on a stinkbug to “buy” their service for continued security or auto renew it with credit card they require me to file with them.  I’m already covered, thank you.

In the same stack of mail is a bill for TV service.  The company recently changed hands and we had to update our electronic (through our bank log in) payment to their new account number, name, and address only to find out that they no longer accept electronic payments.  The bill was dated 3/3/19, received 3/15/19, and due in a week.  Our options are to write a paper check and hope it gets there in time, let the bank do an electronic check which won’t get there in time, or accept their “go paperless” method and allow them to automatically take money from our account or bill a credit card.  To do this, we have to either have our account information or our credit card on file with them.  See security breech above to see why this is distasteful.

We prefer to have control over who can access our accounts and money and I know that our credit card company will cover us and investigate if anything looks hinky.  They have changed my card twice due to it being unlawfully used, but it is getting more difficult to keep control.  The above mentioned breech is the second one I have gotten in the past few months, the first was not even online use, it was using my debit card in a retailer whose system was hacked.  How can we remain secure when our options are to give the retailers access to pay their debt without our having to make the payment through our bank?  How does someone who doesn’t have a credit card not be late?

Olio – 3/9/2019

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Last weekend was the twice a year Fiber Retreat that I attend each February/March.  The group was a bit smaller this time, but the company was fun, the food was good (they finally got a restaurant manager that knows what she is doing), and it was a pretty good vending event.

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I came home with a Jacob pelt to sit on, especially when I am on a hard chair at Living history events or retreats.

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Additionally, I came home with a gift of 5 raw fleeces, two are Jacobs, one of my new favorites from Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em.  Some of the fleeces are going to be shared with a friend that raises Mohair goats, but at least one Jacob is going to be processed by me when I finish spinning my 15 breeds.

Prior to leaving, a new found social media friend and I were talking and she makes felted hats among other things.  Several years ago, I walked away at SAFF from a felted hat that I adored and have regretted it since.  Friend says she can make me one.  Some back and forth over style and color and since I wanted to use one of my woven tapes for the hat band, a price was set and this arrived shortly  after my return.

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What fun to wear.  Such a great purchase.

The week has been spent continuing to recover from our auto accident.  We each had another visit with our physician and each had another orthopedic manipulation done to try to loosen up the tight soreness from the whiplash and another discussion about how long the brain fog, headaches, and dizziness when I bend down will last from the concussion.  It is such a hassle to deal with the discomfort and all the insurance issues when we were not at fault.  The car is in the shop and is supposed to be ready by Monday afternoon more than a month after the accident.

The week has also been spent doing some spinning, finishing two more breeds for the challenge and spinning up a “black” Rambouilett Dorset few ounces and an orange Coopworth few ounces that I had planned to ply together, but didn’t like the way the sample looked knitted, so they were plyed on themselves.  The other two spun were Tunis, originally from Tunisia, and Black Welsh Mountain originally from Wales.  The Black Welsh Mountain is on the threatened list and the Tunis is on the watch list from the Livestock Conservancy.

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Currently I am spinning Hog Island, origin Britian and US and Florida Cracker, origin Spain, both on the critical list.  My last breed to make 15 is going to be Cotswold and it is on it’s way to me via mail.

Yesterday we awoke to it snowing and though the roads never really got bad, we had a few inches.  Some of the daylilies had broken ground and their tender tips got burned.  They will recover with spring thinking about making it’s way to the mountains.  The Autumn Joy didn’t seem to mind the snow.

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For the past couple of months, the kitchen sink drain has been sluggish.  I have tried all of the “natural” cures, baking soda and vinegar; washing soda and boiling water to no avail.  Last night while cleaning up from dinner, it didn’t drain and sat with a couple of inches of water in it all night.  This morning, I poured a cup or so of vinegar into the standing water and we went out to breakfast and the Farmers’ Market.  On the way home, a stop at the hardware store and a 15′ drain snake was purchased.

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Though I have done other plumbing repairs including removing a toilet, clearing it and reinstalling it with a new wax ring when our youngest (now in his 30s) tried to flush a Burger King Capital Critter unsuccessfully), installing a new garbage disposal in a house about 30 years ago, clearing P traps and tub drains, this was my first experience with the snake, fortunately not requiring any real contortions due to continued soreness.  There is now one in the house for future use and I feel more confident in its use.

Old Dog, New Tricks – 3/4/2019

The saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  I am trying to prove that adage incorrect.

One of the breeds that I ordered for Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em was raw Florida Cracker.  Not having much success in the past with raw fiber, I was determined and watched several YouTube videos, talked with some more experienced folks and tackled the job.  Four washings, several rinses, a good drying, and I had a box full of locks with lots of tips that were tightly and stiffly bound together.

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I don’t own combs or a drum carder, just hand cards and a blending board with an extra flicker brush.

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Last night, I tackled the box and started producing rolags.  Now mind you, I am no expert with the hand carders, I “use” them when doing demonstrations for living history as a spinner, usually only having roving on hand and pretending to prepare the wool into rolags from which I then spin.

My first card full left me with hard tips still in the rolag, FAIL.  Then I started opening the tips with the flicker, turning the lock around to loosen the cut end and filling the carder.  I was producing rolags, not very pretty, but usable.

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The fiber releasing quite a bit of grit as I card it, but is spinning into a nice even relatively fine singles.  The finished yarn is going to need not just a soak after finishing, but a good wash.

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I think my next fiber preparation equipment is going to be combs.

Lesson learned is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, but more practice is needed.  I have a raw Jacob fleece awaiting my new skills.

Fiber and Fun – 3/3/2019

This was the weekend of the February fiber retreat at Hawk’s Nest.  I went as a participant and as a vendor with soaps, salves, lotion bars, yarn, antler buttons, hand dyed Merino top, knitted, and woven wearables.  This retreat is held at the lodge of a state park in West Virginia, about 2 hours from home if I don’t stop on the way.  It is a meeting of friends, lots of spinning and knitting time, socialization as we craft together, dine together, and have social hour before dinner.

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I took several of the fibers for Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em and worked on producing yarn from part of the 10 ounces of Tunis and spun some Rambouillet Dorset wool just for a change and I think it will be plyed with the orange when it is all spun.

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I haven’t spun enough of the Tunis to report it yet, nor have I finished all of the Rambouliett Dorset and need to spin the orange.  I don’t know what that 8 ounces of yarn will become when done, perhaps a woven shawl.

My only purchase was a Jacob pelt to pad my chair or warm my feet.  Such a soft lovely little pelt from Hearts of the Meadow Farm.

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It was a rainy drive home, but the car is unloaded, though not all put away.  Most of the accounting has been performed.  Once I am ready to spin some tonight, I will work on flicking, carding, and spinning this box of washed Florida Cracker locks.  When it and the Tunis are done, breeds 11 and 12 will be reported to SE2SE.

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I had a delightful weekend in a nice room with a bed just for me, all the amenities I could desire, but it will be nice to be home in my own bed tonight.

Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family