Olio-9/4/2019

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Some weeks are spent in the kitchen, others doing fibery crafts.

About a week ago, I left for a fiber retreat in the south west part of the North Carolina mountains. The venue was delightful, as was the company of the friends that gathered. It began a week that has been devoted to fibery crafts. For the retreat, I had packed plenty of fiber to keep me busy spinning, but half way through the first day, I got bored with the natural colors that I generally spin and indulged in a grab bag of sunshine yellow and heirloom tomato red Romney wool. The idea was to work a gradient beginning with the yellow, but as I pulled it out of the bag, I realized that though they looked lovely together in the bag, they would not gradient, so the slightly more than 3 ounces was spun separately and it plyed up finer than I had hoped for as I wanted to weave a shawl with the 8 ounce grab bag. Once home Sunday afternoon, I began on the red using a long draw technique and got 4.9 ounces of yarn heavy enough to weave, but not enough yardage.

At the retreat, we do door prizes and have a dirty Santa exchange and in the exchange, I got a 4ish ounce bag of Pohlworth that I realized was very compatible with the Romney.

It was spun yesterday, plyed this morning and though I haven’t measured it off the bobbin yet, it is 4.2 ounces or similar weight long draw spun yarn.

This day is too hot to garden or cook anything more than a stir fry this evening, so the morning was spent playing with other fibers as well. The last of the Santa Cruz wool was washed and rinsed for a 4th time and set to dry on the deck. It is so full of vegetable matter, mostly feed or weed seed that I may never get it prepped to spin.

Before I left for the retreat, I realized that a lovely little Jacob raw fleece that I had improperly stored had several moths in it. Hoping to save it, I put it in a black garbage bag and threw it in the deep freezer. This morning, I removed it and hung the black bag in my closed car. It is supposed to get up into the 90’s today which in the superheated car should kill off any eggs that may have been layed. The freezer should have killed any moths and larva. After it has had a couple of days in the car, I will open it and examine it for damage and wash it if I caught it in time to save it.

Though today is stifling hot, there are signs of autumn, some of the early changing trees and scrub coloring, the Autumn Joy turning pink.

At the retreat, I took a class in Rigid Heddle weaving. It is not new to me, but looked like fun. The instructor had prewarped the looms with white cotton and I grabbed a skein of Aran weight Acrylic to use as my weft. We made two mug rugs in class and after. I failed to leave enough space between my two to get good fringe, so did rough easy to remove knots until I got home. Last night I sat and hem stitched the edges after removing my temporary knots, and evened the fringe on them.

A gal never has too many spindles so about 10 days ago, I ordered a Jeri Brock Turkish spindle. It came today and is cute with it’s laser cut out. It is a bit stockier and more substantial than my Jenkins and looks like because the shaft is heavier, it might be better to carry in my bag with a bit of fiber to spin and save the more delicate Jenkins for home or when it can be securely packed in the middle of a suitcase along with my Snyder turk that I use for plying. When traveling not to a retreat or demonstrating event, I always have a spindle or two so I can still spin.

My Facebook memory of today was jars and jars of tomato sauce canned and cooling on the counter. Not this year, the tomatoes failed early and the bed sits idle. I’m still toying with buying a 25 pound box when the weather cools again and getting at least a pot of spaghetti sauce cooked down. The cost is about the same as buying the Organic store brand at the local grocer, but then I would have to “doctor” it up. Indecision.

Signs of Fall – 8/16/2019

The vivid emerald green of spring is fading to a drab green with highlights of yellow and red leaves mostly on the weedy shrub and weed trees, but the Sycamores are yellowing, several trees are shedding leaves already. Putting by is also a sign of impending Autumn season and that has been a task multiple days a week for the past several weeks. Some days it takes many hours and produces quantities of goodies to be enjoyed over the cold, non productive months. Some days a small batch or two of a sauce or jam are made. This morning, the Tomatillos gathered over a couple of days were made into 5 half pints of simmer sauce with the recipe from Canning by the Pint, one of Mellisa McClellan’s books. Some of those recipes are followed to the letter, others are a jumping off point for me as was today when I added several ground Jalapenos to the recipe to kick up the spice level of the sauce.

After lunch, more grapes were picked, giving me enough for another batch of grape jelly from our grapes. That recipe is from Food in Jars, another of her books. It is a low sugar recipe compared to the one on the pectin box, using 3 cups of sugar to 4 cups of juice and requiring about 20 minutes to cook, rather than the 7 cups of sugar to 5 cups of juice and the couple of minutes of cook time. I would rather spend the time and have jelly that tastes like grape, not sugar. The remaining grapes will be left for the resident critters that roam our farm at night.

It is very satisfying to hear the lids pop to seal after they are set on the towel to cool.

The pollinators are busy today, a very hot, uncomfortable day to be out. Native bees on the sunflowers and bumblebees on the Autumn Joy.

The sunflowers are Hopi Dye Seed and I hope to harvest a flower or two to try dying some wool with them. Behind them and on the edge of the Tomatillo bed are mixed sunflowers, some Mammoth, some Bronze, and one smaller flowered variety that produces masses of 6″ flowers per stalk. They are great for cut flowers for the table. Most are the typical golden yellow but one yellow variety produced lemon yellow blooms.

Most of the sunflower heads will be cut off when mature and some given to the chickens to peck the seed, others hung from the wild bird feeder pole for them to enjoy this winter. This year was a good year for sunflowers.

Unless I purchase a box of tomatoes, canning season is drawing to a close for me. I will make a couple of small batches of Asian Pear Orange Marmalade and will can the remaining Tomatillos whole as they mature. The apples are too small to make applesauce but will be pressed for cider and maybe a batch of cider vinegar made. Maybe when apples start appearing fresh at the Farmers’ Market, I will make one canning of applesauce.

Olio – 8/15/2019

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Woven trapezoid is off the loom, by daylight I saw a flaw that I will need to address. It needed an over weave to fix it and blocking but I think turned into an interesting piece. The third photo is by natural daylight and the colors show better.

The first harvest of grapes were juiced, and jelled. The second harvest is underway over the next few days. The results were so delicious that more is going to be made, then the remaining grapes left for the local wildlife that also enjoy the spoils of the garden and orchard.

Some years the garden overwhelms with tomatoes and there are no cucumbers except those purchased at the Farmers’ Market. Some years the tomatillos don’t grow or seedlings can’t be found. This year, the tomatoes are the scarce commodity in our garden, the plants never looked very healthy, the fruit output poor. Tomatoes can be purchased by the box at a local organic practices farm for $1/pound, but I’m not sure that economically it is worth the purchase. There are 21 pints of tomatoes canned, 9 half pints of pizza sauce, and I am still gathering a few tomatoes each day or two and freezing them to make another batch of some sort of tomato product; pizza sauce, tomatoes with hot peppers, or spaghetti sauce.

The fruit trees weren’t hit this year with a bloom frost and the fruit is too plentiful. The peach trees had fruit for the first time and every peach had worm damage and didn’t ripen. The Asian Pears are so heavy with fruit that several branches broke, I should have thinned the fruit. Lesson learned. Today I cut out the broken branches and picked some of the pears to hopefully prevent further damage. The apple trees look like they have a fair amount of fruit too, but the deer have eaten all that they can reach. It is going to take a ladder to get what is left unless I can reach it from the tractor seat.

We started our orchard with 3 peach trees. When I started raising chickens, I deliberately put the run around one of the trees for shade and put rocks around the trunk so they wouldn’t damage the roots. That tree did not survive the chickens scratching and possibly the hot fertilizer they produce. The largest tree got out of control and I cut it back severely a couple of years ago and have tried to keep it properly pruned since. It had the most, largest but most damaged fruit this year. The third tree near it produced some small hard peaches, but looks like it isn’t going to survive.

Winter before last I took a pruning class, but maybe I need a class on how to raise fruit organically so that the fruit is usable, or accept that I will have pears and apples only. My little fig is growing, but there won’t be fruit from it this year and the 3 year old plum keeps getting the new growth nipped by the deer, so I guess it needs a fence.

Another round of garden harvest will happen this evening and if I get enough additional Tomatillos, another batch of Tomatillo simmer sauce with jalapenos will be made in the morning.