Category Archives: History

Adjustments – Nov. 6, 2018

Every time my shop has been set up at a craft event, my space has been 10 X 10 feet, my pop-up tent is 10 X 10 feet when I am outdoors.  My application for the first event for me this fall asked for a 10 X 10 foot space against a wall and paid the premium application fee to get it.  Night before last a call came in and I was informed that there were no spaces of that size available.  My options were an 8 X 8 foot space in the middle of the room or a 4 X 12 foot space in the hall.  Not wanting a long skinny spot, nor being in the hall, I opted for the 8 X 8 foot center space and requested that the cost difference be reimbursed to me.

This produced a dilemma for me.  My stall is set up with a mannequin that is free standing, 2 tables that are 2′ X 4′ each, and the wooden ladder rack that I made that is two panels each 31″ wide hinged with a piano hinge so it doesn’t open fully.  And a space for me to sit on a small stool to spin or knit.  This needed to be arranged so that the stall is open and inviting, and not knowing who or how the adjacent stalls will be set up.

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Yesterday afternoon, an 8 X 8 foot space was laid  out on the kitchen floor and the tables, mannequin, rack, and my stool arranged until it looked appealing.  This produced another issue of where to hang the shop sign so that it is visible and not obstructive.  It hangs from the tent when outdoors.  Since the products are displayed in wooden crates much like old fashioned wooden soda crates, which have some weight to them, the sign will hang from the side of one down the facing end of one table.

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The other hanging sign is one that leads with “Why Buy Handmade?”  It will hang from the end post of part of the ladder rack.   The space is a bit tighter than that to which I am accustomed, but I think  it will work.  Hopefully, it will be a good event and worth the time put in.

Tomorrow is an opportunity to don my Colonial garb, grab a spinning wheel and help teach and demo to a group of home schooled youth visiting Wilderness Road Regional Museum for a history day.

I voted, did you?

A Week on the Farm – 7/27/18

Summer is going so quickly and the weather has been so strange this year.  A foot of snow in mid April after spring like temperatures in February.  Rain and more rain in early summer, making putting in a garden a challenge, then hot and arid.  Then the rain returned, along with insect pests in the garden, first Japanese beetles eating the leaves off of the Raspberry bushes, then they were joined by bean beetles and together, they decimated what remained of the first bean crop.  Then the blister beetles arrived and defoliated some of the tomatoes.  I hand picked them, dropping them in soapy water then sprinkled diatomaceous earth on the ground around the plants to try to kill off any that escaped to earth during the hand picking. The plants are alive, not putting out new growth, but fruit is ripening.

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The tomatoes are being frozen whole but there are so many in the freezer now that I will pull them out, slip the skins off, and begin canning them this week when the rain resumes.  The cucumbers that I planted this year for pickles are small and greenish white, interesting mild smooth flavor raw.  Most of them are being lacto fermented into sour dills thick slices.  Maybe a jar or two of spears too.

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The silicone nipple lids and glass jar weights make the fermenting so easy.

There were two partial days off the farm this week in Colonial costume working with children, demonstrating the fiber arts and teaching drop spindling.  Working with kids like this rejuvenates me.

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Today, since it stayed dry yesterday and since tomorrow we will resume deck destruction, to take down the rest of the framework, I tackled cleanup.  One task that I had promised eldest son that I would get done, was to move the scaffolding that we were not using for the deck back into storage.  When we built the house, instead of renting scaffolding, we purchased it, knowing that it would be used repeatedly with staining the logs and other jobs.  On occasion we have loaned some of it out to friend.  Most of it was stacked against the house at various points and had been there for a year.  It is now back in the back of the huge garage until needed again.

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More the rotting deck wood was burned off in the burn barrel while I was working outside.

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There will be another burn tomorrow, I am sure.  To finish the jobs that I said I would get done this week was to stain the logs that were stained during construction then hidden behind the deck.  They got a coat of diluted stain today and will probably get another coat, less diluted tomorrow.  After tomorrow, we get another round of rain, so I will have to hope for a dry couple of days to get a third coat on before the new deck goes up.

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This is the last day lily bloom of the season and for some reason, it is lopsided.  This one is called Sear’s Tower and gets quite tall.

Last night while we sat on the front porch in the cool evening, a tiny ruby throated hummingbird visited the feeder.  That is the first one I have seen that really had the vivid red throat.  This morning, another little hummer decided the feeder was all his/hers, came for a drink and then sat on the crook neck to guard the feeder, not letting any of the others near it.  It guarded for about 10-15 minutes, feeding then guarding, finally flew off.  The photo isn’t great, taken from inside the house through the screen and enlarged, but you get the idea.

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The header photo and the teaching photo were taken at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum camp and used from their site.

Busy Colonial Day – 7/25/18

My volunteerism at my formerly beloved Smithfield Plantation has ended due to some changes that they have made.  Though the Board won’t say why, they released the Director who was “Miss Smithfield,” heart, soul, and all the toil and effort that went with her position.  This disheartened me, but she asked me to continue there out of her love for history and the facility.  I tried.  I really did, but the heart was gone and after a very discouraging attempt early this week, I submitted a letter of resignation like most of the other volunteers had already done.

Fortunately, she has moved on to another historic facility, the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in a community called Newbern farther from my house, but still easily doable.  This week, she is running a Patriot’s Camp and has 15-20 kids each day portraying local figures from the Revolutionary War, and learning about the period in fun ways, different creative activities and outlets each day.  She reached out to many of her volunteers and artisans to help with the camp and today, another spinner friend and I got our turn.  The youngest was 5, the oldest 13, with an average age around 8 or 9.  Some time was spent with the entire group talking about how fiber fit into the history, some time with fiber prep from shearing, cleaning the fleece, spinning, and weaving.  After snack and energy release play battles, the group reconvened in two parts, with my friend teaching thigh spinning and Lucet braiding while I took the other group for learning to drop spindle.  Later we switched groups.  She had made Lucets for each child and had balls of yarn.  I had made drop spindles and weighed out a half ounce of fiber per child and after they had their lessons, they went home with their own fiber tools.

Jim gets a kick out of me coming home from an event like this as I get so animated about the opportunity.  The kids were full of energy and so smart, it fills me with energy too and I so love sharing my skills with them.  Each group had a couple of helpers and one of my helpers got so into it that he asked if he could have a spindle and fiber too.

When camp was over around noon, the skies opened up and poured rain on us as we were packing up our wheels, spindles, looms, and Lucets and hurrying to load our cars under an umbrella brigade.

Several of the volunteers, dashed from camp back to Blacksburg, where a peaceful vigil was held for the director, where the Smithfield Board was supposed to enter the building for a meeting.  Though we had very good news coverage, the Board must have heard as they entered on the other side of the facility through the hotel and avoided us.  Many photographs were take, some interviews for print media, and some for the local TV new.  I was still in costume and several other volunteers were also in costume and part of my interview appeared on the evening news.  Though we don’t have local channels on our TV, a friend said I looked very professional and the costume made the interview.  The many volunteers that have left Smithfield would love for the director to be reinstated and we would return, but in the meantime, we have followed her to her new venue and will continue to support local history.

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Photo credit to WDBJ7 news.  I am 4th from the left.

 

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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Brrrr – 10/25/2017

We have had three light frost nights, ice on the car windows when taking the grands to their bus, but so far, the remaining garden is hanging in.  That may end tonight.  We had an overcast day that never got above 45ºf and tonight it is supposed to get to freezing.  I may be picking small jalapenos in the morning and  quickly chopping the for the freezer.

Each night there are two or three young hens that have escaped from their late afternoon confinement in the run and gotten in the garden.  As night falls, they have to be wrangled out of the garden and carried to the coop.  Most are “squatters” that go into a submissive squat and are easy to pick up and relocate.  One Welsummer is a runner and though she is distraught that she can’t get to the coop (she can get out of the pen but not back in), she runs.  Once caught, she is calm as she is carried to the coop.  Tonight I was later being able to get to them and it was full on dark.  The runner and the  Buffy escapee were perched on the fence in the dark.  The other side of that same fence is their run and the open pop door.  Stupid birds.

I was late because tonight was another opportunity to volunteer for Smithfield House, but not at Smithfield House.  The Director and I dressed in costume and worked an Outreach event on the university campus.  It was an outdoor event and chilly.  We did get a bit of interest in volunteerism and internships, were fed huge bratwursts and fresh pressed apple cider.  I am still trying to thaw out.  I spun, she recruited.

Friday night, Jim and I will participate in another Smithfield event, the Spirit Hayride, but as participants, not volunteers.

The Spinzilla results were released and our team was about halfway down the list of winners.  For our team, I spun the most and our sponsor, Strauch  Fiber Equipment Co. generously offered an incentive prize of one of their awesome ball winders.

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I have wanted to purchase one for quite a while was was excited to be the winner.

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To test it out, I spun a bobbin of Hearts of the Meadow Farm’s Coopworth and wound it into a center pull ball and plyed it back onto the bobbin.  The ball winder is so smooth and quiet. Thank you Strauch Fiber Equipment Co.

More Smithfield – 8/16/17

Another opportunity to educate.  The teacher may retire, but never gives up teaching.  Today was a special event on a day that Smithfield is normally closed, but was booked for a USDA event in cultural awareness.  They specifically asked to have as many of the craft volunteers available as possible.  One of the blacksmiths and his wife who assists him are retired.  The lace maker was able to get the afternoon off, and I am retired, as are several of the docents that give the historical tour of the inside of the house.  Though there are several areas in which I can sit and spin, the winter kitchen in the main house, the large shaded side porch of the house, my favorite is the slave cabin that itself has a history, having been moved at least twice and houses the huge functional Appalachian Rocker Loom, a non functional weasel, a non functional great wheel, and the accouterments of the slave household.  This location allows a sharing of slave life on the plantation as well as history of spinning and demonstrating fiber prep and spinning on spindles and one of my wheels.

Today’s fiber for prep was some of the Dorset that I washed from raw and am still carding for spinning, and it was used with the drop spindles. Combs or a teasing board are going to be needed to get that done.  For spinning on the wheel, I used some of the Hebridean from Hebridean Woolshed in Isle of South Uist.  My bucket list contains a trip to Scotland to visit them.  One skein of that wool was finished last night so the visitors could see the unspun wool and yarn from the wool.

Each visitor from the group today thanked the volunteers for giving up their day for them and at the end of the day, each of us was presented with a thank you gift, a small burlap sack with bread, honey from Virginia, Peanuts from Virginia, and a few apples.  A delightful and pleasant surprise.

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Flag Day at Smithfield – 6/11/2017

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Today was such a fun experience.  All along the fence posts were flags from various battles, regiments, units.  There were two encampments of re enactors, the Rebs above with their formations and cannon which was fired off every hour on the hour from 1 when the activity began until 4.

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The Union encampment was up by the blacksmith shop.

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Under the trees was a quilt with period wooden toys and two of the re enactor’s daughters who would demonstrate the toys and let adults and children play with them.

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Josh was in the blacksmith shop pounding with heavy mauls on hot metal on the anvils.

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I held my usual station in the Summer kitchen spinning local wool and discussing slavery, the summer kitchen, the slave cottage structure, the slave garden, and the spinning and weaving arts and how they were used on the plantation.

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Day lilies blooming just outside my door.

The house tour and all of the other activities were included in the gate fee today, including a dance and concert from 4:30 to the end.

During the afternoon, a skirmish occurred using the back and sides of the slave cabin for protection with much blackpowder gunfire.  I had several of the blacksmith’s children trapped in the cabin with me by the “fight.”  At one point, the cannon was pointed down in the direction of the Union soldiers hiding behind the cabin and fired.  It was loud when it was across the yard and pointed away from the cabin and deafening when fired in my direction.  The Rebs came down as a unit and apologized to me after it was over for not warning me ahead of time that a battle was to ensue. They didn’t know anyone was in the cabin.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the dance and concert as after leaving a fun filled day, I drove to eldest son’s house and am now sitting by the creek where I will spend the next few days prior to our backpacking trip next weekend.

History Day

Today was the official season opening of the Smithfield Plantation House, the historic home of William Preston in Blacksburg, Virginia. This is the site where I have been demonstrating spinning for the past year when there is a special event. For a while, I will be going in and spinning in different rooms of the house itself while I learn the history to become an interpreter and give tours.  Last November for their final event, I sat in the dining room and learned the information for the school room/office of the house and that part of the house, but there are 4 other rooms that I have only toured once and not an official tour, so that information must be learned.

Today, being opening day, spinning was in the summer kitchen.  The site excavation showed that the slave cabin was erected on the summer kitchen area and until this year, it has been the Weaver’s Cottage with old wheels, weasels, winders, and a huge Appalachian Rocker Loom.  All of that has been removed except for the loom and a small work table and set up with crocks, pots, and tools of an 18th century kitchen.

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Today, I was in this cottage/summer kitchen spinning on one of my antique wheels in full costume.  Because it was opening day, just inside the gate was a Civil War re-enactors encampment, they spent the night there last night and will again tonight.  It smelled so good with bacon cooking on their open fire when I arrived this morning.

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As you can see from the lack of leaves on the trees, we are still in early spring and today was an early spring day, very breezy and cool. The cottage is drafty and by the end of the day I was pretty chilled through.  One of the hazards of the cottage is the very low doorways to the outside and to the lean-to addition.  This is the warning on the inside of the door as you prepare to exit.  It is at the bridge of my nose.  The door opening is only about 5 feet.

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During one of the sunny periods, I was sitting on the steps in the sun to warm and two horses were lead through the property. They were lead down to the cottage to graze while the owner and her friend went to use the facilities, I got to hold and provide some attention to the two beauties during that time.

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The turnout today was not very heavy, there were lots of other activities on campus and around the area and the day was chilly and mostly overcast, but it is so enjoyable to have this opportunity to participate in teaching and demonstrating this ancient art, to spread out my Scottish spindle, hand carders, fiber in various stages of preparation and get to talk about something that I have come to love.  Each visit provides me with some education too.