A Week On the Farm – October 22, 2016


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We went from early fall back to summer and straight to winter, It was highs in the 80’s this week and it dropped to 38 last night.  Today is chilly, gray, and windy.  We still haven’t seen a frost and don’t have one in the 10 day forecast.  Until Friday, my exercise was walking outdoors through the campus or the neighborhoods near the gym while hubby went into the gym to work out.  Friday with the onset of rain and colder temperatures, I joined him inside using the weight machines and treadmill.

The week was spent knitting a hat to get gauge on the Leicester Longwool that I have been spinning and dyeing for a Fair Isle sweater for me.


This is yarn that I spun, dyed (except for the green), and knit.  Using the hat as a gauge guide, I now have the information needed to work on the pattern formula for the sweater.  I am also knitting a Christmas stocking for our newest grand daughter and garlands for Knotty Ladies for their various cancer garlands that they hang in Tennessee.  We have had too much cancer in our family, taking the lives of 2 of our parents, surgeries for my sister and hubby, scares for one of our sons and me.  This is to bring awareness.

Today we ventured out in the windy, damp cold to the Farmers’ Market and breakfast.  There are still greens, onions, turnips, peppers, carrots, and winter squash available and the meat vendors are coming each week.  We got some produce, some meat and I bought another pound of the wool for the sweater and hopefully a scarf to match the hat.

This week, I sold the spinning wheel that I had been using for a couple of years, and that I had loaned to a friend to try out.  Part of the exchange was the old Ashford Traditional wheel that I had learned to spin on.  It is back in my life and a new/used Louet wheel is on it’s way to me.  The Traddy will be used as a teaching wheel, I have a 14 year old history buff young lady that wishes to learn once my Louet arrives and I have a wheel to use while she uses the Traddy.

The cockerel culls are so randy, they are fighting each other, escaping from their pen trying to get to the hens.  The pullets aren’t mature enough to be laying yet.  The culls will be sent to freezer camp soon.

A Week On and Off the Farm


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We have had wonderful weather for the past week.  The sky has been mostly clear, the temperatures mild and seasonable during the day and cool enough for a quilt under the open window at night.  The garden, except for the peppers is winding down.  Friday afternoon, the grandkids helped me dig the sweet potatoes.   We picked a basket of 3 pounds of tomatillos, and another of peppers.

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The peppers are drying or pickling, depending on the type.  The tomatillos have been washed, husked, and frozen.

I planted two varieties of sweet potatoes,  purple and  orange.  The bed wasn’t the most ideal spot, it was too rocky, and the yield was amusing.




The largest and the smallest.  The 1 pound box of spaghetti is for size reference.  I think that one will feed us all for a meal.  They are curing and will be moved to the cellar soon. This week is mostly supposed to be pleasant, so I think it is time to cut down and mulch the asparagus, pull the tomato vines, cut down the sunflower stalks, and prepare a bed for planting garlic in a couple more weeks.  I will leave the volunteer tomatillo plants and hope to harvest a few more of them before the first frost.  My facebook memory from last year said we were anticipating three nights of frost in a row.  Our lowest so far has been in the lower 40s.

One of the young cull cockerels must be Houdini.  I keep finding him out in spite of the netting to protect them from the hawk.  He must be flying over the gate and enjoying his days free ranging.  Some nights I find him perched on the egg door of the coop and have to collect him and return him to the safety of the coop for the night.  Some nights he finds his way back in on his own.  He better enjoy his freedom, because he is only a couple short weeks from a permanent vacation in freezer camp.

After the Spinzilla competition, I have only been spinning at the two outdoor events.  The Bridge Day event ended up being a front page article with photographs in our local paper.  The picture doesn’t show how cold and windblown I was.  Today’s Harvest Festival at the historic Smithfield Plantation House was fun.  It wasn’t well advertised, so not too well attended, but the folks that did come enjoyed fresh pressed cider, music; could take a dance lesson; buy a pumpkin or some gourds; watch the blacksmith ply his trade; the weaver working on a small loom, making a belt or strap; and me spinning.


Though I was the spinning demonstration, I was in the pavilion behind the house and not in the Weaver’s Cottage this time and had the opportunity to not only spin and discuss the fiber art, but I got to vend.  In spite of the poor turnout, I sold some soap, salve, beard products, and a handspun, handknit hat.  I am 4 ounces closer to having enough yarn to make my sweater, still spinning Priscilla the Leicester Longwool.

My next spinning demonstration will again be at the Smithfield House for the Halloween activities on October 28 with pumpkin bowling, a historic hayride, and other activities.

Jim got to take an overnight trip with his HOG group, a handful of bikes and folks rode most of the state of North Carolina to watch motorcycle drag racing.  I am still awaiting his return home and as it has been dark for an hour now, I start to fret over his safety.  They were 3 hours and 40 minutes from home and didn’t leave for home until 3:30, so it is just in the range where he should be getting here.

Preparations, preparations


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For the past couple of days, I have tossed display ideas around, played with the wood a bit and think I have finally arrived at the most portable, most stable idea.  I returned to the easel idea and created a tabletop easel with two rods and pegs down two sides.  I need to buy two carriage bolts with nuts to keep it together, glue the two rods in place and let the pegs that were glued in dry.



I hope that the carriage bolts and nuts will keep the legs from splaying out when it is sitting on a table top.  The table will have a cloth on it that should help.  Bed Bath and Beyond had shower curtain rings that were magnetic opening.  Though I can’t imagine that they would keep a shower curtain up, they are perfect to slip through the tag loops on the hats and mitts and hook around the horizontal rods and over the pegs.  The display will end up costing me only some time, $5 for the rings, and about a dollar for the two bolts and nuts.  It is clean, sleek, and folding.

Today the costume that I ordered and hoped would arrive in time for this weekend’s Harvest Festival at the Smithfield Plantation House did arrive.  I am so excited to have it.



I guess I should get busy knitting a huge shawl for the cooler days, though I found wine red and camel colored capes in town for less than I could knit a shawl, and the capes have hoods.  As the background of the skirt is oatmeal/camel colored, one of the capes would work too.





Two more hats have been added to my shop.  More fingerless mitts need to be made prior to the holiday markets as well.

A New Day, A New Direction


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Now that the spinning team competition is done, my yardage reported, I can put that behind me for another year.  Today, for the first time in over a week, I picked up my knitting needles and resumed work on another hat; finished weaving in the ends on a hat that I finished more than a week ago; finished putting tags and labels on my knitted shawls, scarves, hats, and mitts; designed a new label for my yarn, printed the labels and applied them to the skeins.  This work is in preparation for the beginning of the craft shows.  I will be demonstrating spinning and vending my wares at the Harvest Festival at the Smithfield House Plantation in Blacksburg on Sunday.  As we were headed in to our weekly Farmers’ Market and breakfast venture on Saturday morning, I received an email that I had been accepted for both Holiday Markets at the Farmers’ Market, one in November and the other in December, so more soap needs to be made.  More yarn spun.  More hats and mitts knitted.


Handspun hat on the needles

I still haven’t come up with the best way to display the yarn, hats, scarves, shawls, and mitts that doesn’t just have them flat on a table.  Whatever my solution, it must be able to withstand some wind without tipping over, and I don’t want to spend much more on my display.  I am thinking of using some of the scrap wood in the garage, hinging it at the top like an easel, putting dowel rungs down both sides and using clips or clothespins to hold the items in place.   Perhaps a couple of T shaped stands to hold the shawls. The yarn will probably be stacked by color in two baskets, the soaps, lotion bars, and salves in their crates with the little chalkboard labels.


Freshly labelled yarn in the storage bin.


New label.

Tomorrow may be a day to make a couple of batches of soap, or to work on displays for this weekend.


Bridge Day and Spinzilla


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The village that carries the zip code in which we reside, is home to 3 old covered bridges.  Two of them are on private property, but the third belongs to the village and is maintained through donations and volunteer effort.  This year, that bridge is 100 years old and though I have never worked on the bridge maintenance or grounds maintenance, I have contributed monetary donation toward it’s upkeep.  As this treasure is 100 years old now, today we had a birthday celebration and after talking with our local historian at an event in May, we discussed what this celebration should include as far as demonstrations and displays.





The celebration was scheduled for yesterday, but yesterday we had cold rain and wind, so the event was postponed until today, a beautiful blue sky, lots of wind and cool.  It was pleasant when the wind was calm and in the sun.  We had our local blacksmith, basket making, chair caning, genealogy, a photo history, commemorative T shirt and sweat shirt sales, music, a birthday cake, and me demonstrating spinning.  The historic house across from the bridge allowed us to park along their long drive, set up the displays along that drive as well and opened their restored home for tours.

Bridge Day 1Quilts

It was a wonderful event, with lots of foot traffic, many questions, much conversation.  Another great time to share the fiber arts and let people see a skill that many have never seen.  It amazes me how many people share that their grandmother had a wheel, that they have a wheel displayed in their house, that they have never seen anyone use a spinning wheel.  Shortly after the above photo was taken, the area where I was spinning was cast in shade and it became quite chilly and very windy.  I spun outside for more than 3 hours, a chance to work on the last of the yarn that I was spinning for the team challenge.  It continues until 11:59 tonight, but I am done.

I came home, had dinner, and finished plying the 8 ounces of fiber that I have been working on for the past two days.  I had 4 ounces each of Targhee and Cheviot that spun very fine and plyed into 350+ yards of beautiful white yarn.  Once it has been washed, it will be dyed and put in the shop.   Yesterday, I finished a lovely skein of gray, blue, rust, and brown yarn that will also go into the shop.  Below are pictures of today’s spinning, the colorful skein, and my total Spinzilla spinning.  For this competition, we measure the length of each ply and the total length of the yarn plyed,  With this formula, in the past week, I have spun 3105.11 yards.  Now I am going to thaw out from today and rest.







Goodbye Spinzilla 2016 and Happy Birthday Clover Hollow Bridge.  Goodnight all.

Chicken fighting


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For the past 3 days, 2 of the young cockerels that are in the cull coop have escaped from their run during the day.  The first day, I was away helping out with my grandson, so gone overnight and Jim didn’t realize that the two chickens perched on the egg door of the coop, outside the runs were culls.  He caught them and stuffed them in the layer coop.  Since I was away until after dinner on the second day, they cooped up on their own in the layer coop, but not on a perch.  I went out to lock up the coops and moved them one at a time back to the cull coop.  Tonight, they were on the egg door again and SIL opened the gate for them and they strutted in and cooped up again.  When I got home from my walk and went over to lock them up, I realized that the cull coop was missing two again, so I decided to move them again, except that the only flashlight I had with me was my smartphone.  Using the light, I captured one by the feet and hung him upside down, set the phone down and grabbed in the dark for where the second one had been a millisecond before and came up with a startled young bird by the upper breast.  He took umbrage at the offence and came up clawing.



I won’t show you the result, but I am bandaged from the wrist to the elbow to keep from ruining everything that tender forearm touches.  The two cockerels are again back in their coop and tomorrow, a barricade will be installed at the end of the net roof so they can’t fly out again.

Having this type of injury is unfortunate while spending as much of my “spare” time handling fiber and spinning for the Spinzilla contest, thus the bandage.

While away, I only had my drop spindle with me and a small bump of nice fiber and I spun a small ball of a single.  Today, I spun another single of chocolate Alpaca and tonight, spindle plyed it into a pretty little mini skein that I will use in a hat for my shop and the Holiday Markets.  So far for Spinzilla, I have spun and plyed 1472.7 yards of yarn and have a nearly full bobbin of a single.


Today at spinning, I traded for a couple of weeks with a friend who is a new spinner my Kromski Sonata for the Ashford Traditional that I used to learn to spin and she bought from the gal that bought it from me.  For some reason, I love that wobbly old wheel.  Please note my giant helper with his head nearly on the foot treadle.


I have used it to ply 460 yards and that is where the nearly full bobbin is.  I still have all day tomorrow and Saturday until 11:59 my time to spin for this contest, then a photograph and record of yards spun will be sent to the team captain and compiled with the other team members for our team total.  I love to spin, but I find these competitions stressful.  I do have nearly enough yarn for my sweater spun though, so that is a plus.



Spinning On



Last night at midnight, a team competition for spinning began.  The competition is called Spinzilla and the team that I am on is sponsored by Strauch Equipment Co. and the Knotty Ladies.  I know that I will not be the strength of this team, but also, I don’t want to be the weak link.  With grandchildren duties and transport, trying to keep up a level of fitness, household chores, and life in general, I know that I won’t be able to spin at an obsessive level that some of the spinners will do, nor will I be a total slacker.  I am an early to bed, early to rise person, so I won’t spin 20 out of 24 hours a day, but I am challenging myself to spin every day.  Most of my spinning will be on my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel, but on Thursday, she will be loaned to a friend to try out, and the friend will in turn loan me back the Ashford Traditional that I learned to spin on and I will use it for a while.  When not at home, I will carry one or the other of my drop spindles and some fiber to do some portable spinning as well.


So far, I have spun two skeins of Leicester Longwool from Sunrise Valley Farm, a spinning friend and vendor at the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market.  I love her fiber and love that it is local.  The little Turkish spindle has a Pohlworth, Mohair, Silk blend that will later be plyed with a Dorset, Alpaca blend.  That won’t be measured until the end of the week and I can see how much I was able to spindle spin.

After yesterday, I decided that I should indeed have a period costume for spinning demonstrations.  I do sew, but did not want to take the time to make my own.  I found just what I was looking for on the internet and though I will likely make myself an apron to wear with it at times, the basic part of the outfit will be shipped in time for the October festival at the Smithfield Plantation House.



Back to spinning.  See you later.

Back Again


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I have been silent for a while as life took over life, not due to any malady.  The season of fiber retreats is over, getting to do two great weekend get aways in a month, one to Tennessee and one to West Virginia.  At both events, I got to socialize, spin, knit, and vend some of my goodies.  The second retreat was followed by a quick overnight to help out with eldest grandson for an afternoon and evening and the return trip home to take over the routine with the live in grands.  I took very few photos at the retreats, but did get a picture of our cute neighbor in West Virginia and one of a fence lizard that I rescued from indoors.

Raccoon lizard

This week, we welcomed into our family, our sixth grandchild, a beautiful baby girl.  We hope we get to meet her face to face soon.  She is the third child, second daughter for our youngest son and his wife.  What a blessing for them.

More tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos have been harvested and stored away.  Soon the sweet potatoes will be dug, the tomato plants pulled and the garden put to bed for the winter.  We have had rain and more rain, producing some wonderful photos of cloud layers through the gaps and over the mountains.

cloud layers

You can see four ridges in this shot with cloud layers in each valley.

Today, I was granted a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the fiber arts.  It was the first of three weekends in a row of practicing my skills in front of people and getting to talk about fiber, spinning, making yarn, using it to knit or weave.  Today and on the 16th, I was at the Smithfield House in Blacksburg.  I worked in the Weaver’s Cottage, an old slave cabin that was moved from another property and placed where they thought the summer kitchen may have been.  Today was a special event and the blacksmith was demonstrating his craft, there was music, nature walks, food, and plants for sale.  Because I was in the cabin, I didn’t get to see it all, but it was a beautiful day and so much fun.

Cabin2 Cabin1

Cabin3 Cabin4

Set up with one of my handmade baskets in front of the barrier that protects the antique wheels, loom, and other fiber equipment.  The barrier ended up having to be removed as it was wobbly and in danger of crashing down.  In the cottage with me was a weaver that was using the Appalachian Rocker Beater Loom.

Next weekend, I will help our community celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Village’s covered bridge at Bridge Day, and on the 16th, I will return to the Smithfield House.  Maybe I should buy or make myself a period costume for these events.

Week on the Farm – September 11, 2016


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Today has been busy, ending a busy week.  The huge line trimmer was hauled out yesterday and Jim went after areas in need, around the well head, around the yard hydrants, patches that have too many rocks to mow with the tractor.  Today, I used it to go around the garden, woodpile, and coops.  That upset the young cull chickens who all managed to escape, one into the garden, one vanished for a couple of hours, the other four herded back into their pen.  The one in the garden was caught and returned, the errant wanderer came home and was herded back into his pen.  Last weekend, son, eldest grandson, and I killed and butchered B’rooster and Mean Girl.  I thought I would miss the morning crowing and did for only a couple of days.  One of the youngsters is trying out his voice, an immature croaking rooster crow.  As most, if not all of the culls are cockerels, we will surely hear a lot more of that before November, when they too are sent to freezer camp.

This week has yielded a batch of Habeñero sauce, another batch of sweet chili sauce, applesauce, and Ginger Pear Conserve, all prepped, cooked, and canned.  Lots of goodies to add to the pantry shelves in the root cellar.

Goodies Habenero

Tonight after dinner, daughter, the grands and I went to the garden, harvested a half pillowcase full of popcorn, 5 gallons of tomatoes and hot peppers.  Once inside, the popcorn was set aside to dry out for winter enjoyment, the tomatoes were stuffed in freezer bags and popped in the freezer so they can be peeled and canned later this week, the Tabasco peppers were de-stemmed, pureed in salt water and set to ferment to make Tabasco sauce in a couple of weeks.  The jalapeños were packed in another pint jar and hot salted vinegar poured over them to begin pickling.  The habeñeros packed in freezer bags, I just can’t face more hot sauce right now.  A few anchos begin the drying process to be used in enchilada sauce once they are leathery dry.



Today, the gift was finished.  Pictures of it will have to wait until the recipient receives it.

Sometime this week, I will pull the 5 bags of Roma tomatoes out of the freezer and they will be peeled, chopped and made into canned tomatoes, chili tomatoes, and pasta sauce.  There will probably be a few more harvests of them before they quit.  The pepper plants are beginning to bloom thickly, so many more peppers are expected.  I think the Tabasco and Habeñero plants will be pulled, as we just don’t need any more of those peppers.  The Thai peppers are beginning to turn red, I need to find a good use for them. The Jalapeño and Ancho plants need more space and removing the other plants will help provide that.  The dye seed sunflowers need to be cut back before the birds eat them all and the raspberry canes need to be trimmed and weeded.  I still have tomatillos to harvest, but they being transplants are just getting going.

Today was cooler and the week ahead is supposed to be seasonable, so more outdoor work will be done.

Now I can pull my spinning wheel out and begin to spin some of the lovely fibers that have been accumulating.

I Didn’t Think I Would Get Here


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With all of the awayness last month, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated that I was so far behind that I couldn’t catch up. The grass was tall, the stick weed invading the hay fields, the apples, Asian Pears, and tomatoes ripe. Applications were due. My chickens were disappearing daily to a red tail hawk.  Usually, I can take one step at a time, but this time, I just couldn’t see an end in sight.

Jim stepped in and hopped on the tractor, mowing more than half of the fields in need of attention.  I like riding the tractor, like mowing, so I did get on it a few times, mowing the areas around the house and around the trees.  I mowed the smallest west field, the one with the rock bar.

After a couple of days at home where I awoke disoriented, wondering which bed I was in that night, I finally got a good sound night sleep and the rest allowed me to start tackling the problems at hand.  I came up with a solution to keep the hawk out of my chicken runs, harvested a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes and got them canned along with the ones in the freezer as diced tomatoes and pasta sauce; harvested apples and made applesauce.  The weekly supply of peaches was made into sweet chili sauce.  The quart of ground hot chilies, mostly habeñeros, was made into hot pepper sauce and all of the applesauce, sweet chili sauce, and hot pepper sauce canned, labelled and making their way to the root cellar shelves.  Another harvest of tomatoes await preparation into sauce.  The Asian Pears still need to be harvested and made into Ginger Pear Conserve and pear sauce, but I now look forward to working on them in days to come.

saucy  Filling shelves applesauce Drygoods

Now that the applications for fall shows are in, I need to make a few batches of soap, but that too is something I look forward to doing.

Another task that was on my plate, was making a gift that I had started twice, undid twice, and finally decided that I would not even unpack my spinning wheel until it was done.  Daily work on it has rewarded me with a gift that will be finished within a few more days.

The shelves are filling for a winter of good food.  The fields are mowed, and it has been dry for about a week, so the grass is not growing fast enough for me to watch.  I am feeling good about our efforts.