Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

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

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

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

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

Cha-cha-changes – 4/17/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Silence is Golden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Away, back, away, and back again 3/2/2018

Finally settled back home from a couple of weeks of flurried activity, first with our cruise and as soon as the laundry was done and the dust settled, I was off to the winter version of the spinning retreat. We enjoyed a couple of weeks of very nice weather, enjoying the western Caribbean toward the end of their rainy season, so not too hot and only a few random showers. There were two nights of heavier rain, but it occurred after we had settled for the night. For the most part the seas were calm, though I tend to motion sickness and had one bad evening when I had failed to take Bonine in the morning, did a water excursion and back on the ship just as we were about to leave port. The ship store sold motion sick bands and a couple of Bonine and I was okay after a few hours. We had a great time on a much needed vacation.  And we returned to spring like weather at home.

The spinning retreat is an event that I look forward to, rejoining friends that I see infrequently, laughing, eating, spinning and knitting. The motel at Hawk’s Nest State Park lacks a restaurant at this time, but Tudor’s Biscuit World is just down the road and Pies and Pints Pizza is only a short drive away, so many of us go out for breakfast and lunch. Dinner started as happy hour and morphed over the years to a grand pot luck. This year the pot luck was so immense that one night we had 5 or 6 crockpot dishes, plus salads, crackers, cheese, dips, and desserts. Though I had not asked prior to the event to vend as I was unsure having been away, I took some soaps, salves, yarn, and knitwear and because there were few vendors, I did get to set up and was able to sell enough to pay for the weekend which is my goal.

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This retreat did take a negative twist though as I awoke each day with a few more itchy spots, unsure if I was reacting to their detergent or if I was being bitten. Sunday morning, I was pretty sure that they were bites, notified the office as I left, washed my bag and clothing in hot water as soon as I arrived home. By Monday, it was apparent, that I had had a bed bug encounter, something I have feared in hotels, but not expected there. I have always been over reactive to insect bites and have broad itchy bands surrounding the rows of bites, characteristic of bed bugs. Now a week out, I am still on antihistamines, anti itch creams, and trying not to scratch. I am hoping that I did not bring them home with me. My spinning, knitting, and vending items remained in the tiled conference room for the weekend, but traveled home in the back of my car with my suitcase, though in a plastic box crate and in trays strapped to the top of the crate.

The week remained delightfully spring like until last night. We have howling wind and woke to snow flurries. The upcoming forecast is more seasonal. We lost our power briefly last night and again this afternoon for a couple of hours. Fires have been lit in the wood stove and fireplace in case of another failure. It is supposed to go down into the twenties tonight and we want the house to stay warm.

I am continuing to knit on the new shawl that is a design on the fly that I will probably never write down.  The yarns are lovely though.  It is a mitered shawl of a Freia Ombre Shawl ball and a craveyarn Santa Fe solid.

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I am nearly to a point where I need to make sure I have a multiple of the number of stitches needed for the fancier lace that will be the bottom lace band.

Also on the needles are Log Cabin squares for a gift blanket in the works.

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The warmer weather and longer days have the hens producing generously again.  My egg buying friends were all grateful today when I was able to bring them the quantities they desire.  Each day gathering 8 to a dozen from the 16 hens.  I’m still unsure whether the two with the pale combs are laying, so I may be getting them from just 14 hens.

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The power has been restored and flickered off and back on again, so I should get our dinner going in case it goes out again.  Until next time.

And So We Endure Jan. 14, 2018

After the nearly 3 weeks of Arctic weather, we were due for a reprieve.  Daughter and family had moved  out nearly all of their furniture that had been moved in for their period of house sharing with us and our furniture that had been relocated to other parts of the house or stored returned.  Jim and I dismantled the bunk bed, storing the full size bottom bunk in the garage until they could pick it up yesterday and the twin size top bunk set up in a corner of the basement to provide another place to put family members if we have too many for the other beds.  The smaller south bedroom was scrubbed down, vacuumed, dusted, and the full size bed, tall chest, nightstand, and rocking chair returned to it.  New Navy blue curtains were hung, but once out of the package, I realized that they are not lined, so some lining fabric will be purchased and I will make the lining and sew it in.

Monday was supposed to be the first warmer day and the grand’s first day at their new school, but Ole Man Winter decided to play a trick and instead of a warmer dry day, we got an ice storm warning.  Schools closed throughout the region in anticipation and we ended up with the grands with us.  Grandson arrived in a too small knit hat that looked like a mouse had chewed it.  He helped me pick yarns and I told him I would trade him a new hat for the one he was wearing

Though initially we thought that it was unnecessary to close the schools, we did indeed get ice.   We got the grands home before it got too bad, but Monday night Jim went out to try to get the two male dogs back in and slipped, landing hard on his hip.  I didn’t hear him calling for help until he had crawled back to the front porch in pain.  As the night wore on, his more intense pain subsided, but he has continued to have a lot of soreness, not enough to keep us from our walks when weather permitted.  Tuesday the schools were to be delayed two hours to give the roads a chance to clear, but by 9 a.m., they again closed.  We were unsure we could get down our mountain road to get the grands, so SIL had to wait for the alternative care program to get straightened out and took the kids there, going in to work late.

The week did finally warm up and we enjoyed a few nice day, enough for the ice on the creeks and the blocks from the chicken watering pan to thaw.  Each day the pan was dumped and fresh water poured in and the yard and chicken run were littered with blocks the shape of the pan or the bucket.  Friday we got much needed rain, and mud.  The dogs come and go through the front door as the deck repair is still in progress out the back.  Late Friday, the rain turned to sleet then to snow and the temperature dropped.  It was 40ºf colder yesterday than Friday.  We got no more than a dusting as the snow blew horizontally until early afternoon when the wind died down, the clouds broke but the thermometer didn’t rise.  Our high yesterday was 21.  Last night to 10.

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The cold, blustery, snowy day encouraged me to continue putting the house together, the front bedroom received the same treatment that the other one got last weekend.  The walls swept down, windows and floor vacuumed and mopped or wiped down, fresh linen on the bed, the heavy quilt that has been stored for 3 years was returned to the bed and new insulated, room darkening curtains hung.

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Friday night when they came to pick up their dog and two housecats, he got his new hat, just in time for yesterday’s frigid weather.

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He had it on yesterday when they came to get the bed and a few more boxes.  I hope it keeps him warm as we endure another week of subfreezing days and bitter nights before the next break.  In the meantime, I am again accumulating blocks of ice from the water pans and buckets and though I thought I only got 1 egg yesterday, this morning when I let the hens out into the yard, I found 4 more, frozen and cracked in a corner of the coop, not in nesting boxes where they could be found.

Olio – January 3, 2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

The holidays are over, the decorations packed away, but the cold has really settled in.  Cold is relative.  There are parts of the world, even the USA that have the temperatures we are experiencing every winter and are prepared for it.  There are parts of the US that are used to very mild winters that are experiencing temperatures that we consider normal for this time of year, but they aren’t equipped for it.  It is cold here.  Our nights for the past couple of weeks have all been single digits.  The days in the teens, low 20’s if we are lucky.  But it has been dry.  There is some light snow expected tomorrow as another Arctic blast hits us, but no other real precipitation due as far as I can see in the forecast.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, if the forecast holds true, we will climb back up into the 30’s with mid 20’s at night in a few more days.

With the frigid weather, the dogs run out and back in.  The chickens have remained cooped some days and if it is sunny and calm, let out to free range on other days.  If it snows tomorrow, they won’t come out of their coop, no white stuff for them.  The shortened days and extreme cold have seriously curtailed egg laying.  Instead of 6 dozen or so a week, the 16 ten month old hens are providing less than half that a week.  The days are beginning to lengthen and the cold will abate, so hopefully they will begin to lay again soon.

We rarely go out for New Year’s Eve, but this fall, we saw a billboard for a New Year’s Eve event at Mountain Lake Lodge, the site of the filming of “Dirty Dancing.”  As soon as they were taking reservations, we booked one.  This lodge is 5 miles further up the road  our road descends from, an elevation change of about 2000 more feet and we were greeting with snow and frosted trees, a veritable winter wonderland, where though we are cold, we have no snow.

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The event included a stellar buffet dinner, a room for the night, a grand party with live band, favors, and champagne toast, and topped off with breakfast on New Year’s Day.  We met some wonderful folks, enjoyed their company, danced and partied, then walked upstairs to our lovely room for the night.  Such a great event we will probably repeat it next year.

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We got home on New Year’s Day to discover that the dripping faucet in the utility room had been turned off and the hot water line frozen.  We have kept the cold dripping, the heat turned up in there and a hot fire burning in the wood stove in the basement near where the pipe enters the utility room slab.  After three days of this treatment, the pipe finally thawed this afternoon and now both hot and cold are running at a slow trickle to prevent a recurrence.  The washing machine drain is still frozen though the sink drain is not.

I was knitting a Hitchhiker scarf and hoping to wear it last weekend as my last project for 2017, but ended up taking it with me with only 8 rows to complete.  Sitting in the tavern before dinner in front of a fire with a glass of wine, I saw an error a few rows back and had to rip those rows out to fix it.  It ended up being my first finished project of 2018.

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Knit with Freia Fibers Shawl ball

To get out of chronological order here, the past couple of weeks have been busy.  Daughter’s family has been moving into their new house a trunk full or our 5 X 8′ open trailer full at a time.  They have cleared the storage units that have held most of their belonging for the past three years that they shared our home with us, have moved toys, books, games, and shelving that held some of that in our rec room, and this past weekend, their master bedroom returning our furniture that they have stored.  They are still staying here until some flooring is laid, then they will move the kids dressers and part of the bunk bed and a few more smaller items and their pets.  The house is going to seem so empty after having the kids here.  They are close enough for us to still help out when needed, but in a different school district and closer to work.

The month of December had us on the road a lot.  We went to the coast to visit son the younger and his family one weekend, home the next for the second Holiday Market, then north to son the elder and his family, returning home on Christmas eve.  Son in law is from an Italian family and their tradition is pasta and antipasto on the eve and we arrived home to a delicious meal.  Christmas Day after gift exchange with daughter’s family and watching the children with all of their new things, I prepared a turkey and ham meal with all the trimmings.

The week after Christmas, our local yarn store closed for a week to relocate much closer to where I live and our spinning group that usually meets there on that Thursday of each month chipped in with other volunteers to help them with packing and actually moving so that they didn’t have to rent a truck.  A friend volunteered her pickup, I volunteered our larger SUV and the trailer and with a couple of other vehicles and two days, all of the fabric, yarn, and fixtures were moved in sub freezing temperatures.  They reopen on Friday and I am excited to see how all of the stuff we helped move will be displayed and so that I can purchase another Freia Fiber Shawl ball in another color way for my cruise knitting.  Our cruise is only a bit more than a month off.

I hope my readers have a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Yarn setting day – Oct. 27, 2017

After yarn is spun and plyed, it has to have the twist set.  With the Spinzilla competition, the yarn is measured before the twist is set and it was labelled with fiber type, yarn weight, and yardage and piled in a huge canvas bag.  Since Spinzilla, a couple more skeins have joined the bag.  Some of the yarn is designated for my use, some will be re-labelled and put in my shop for sale and taken to the two Holiday Market events at the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market along with the hats, mitts, soap, balms, and salves.

The canvas bag is generally the bag I use to take the 6 or more dozen eggs that I sell to friends each Friday morning but it has been unavailable for a few weeks.  This morning, with Jim off to an appointment, the grands put on the school bus, daughter and SIL at work, it was time to set the twist on all of the skeins.  To do this, the skeined yarn is submerged in a container of warm water.  Because I have handled the fiber and it has sat around, the wash pan contained a bit of wool wash too.  Some of the dyed yarns bleed a little color, some of the natural yarns aren’t as clean as you would think, sometimes turning the clear wash water the color of tea.

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Each pan with a couple of smaller skeins, sits until the submerged yarn is totally saturated, then it is gently squeezed out, placed on a clean towel and rolled to absorb more of the water.  Once done, each skein is given a gentle shake and hung to dry.

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Twenty three skeins of yarn of varying length hanging to dry.  It is a nice sunny day and normally I would put the drying rack on the back deck to dry, but with the deck in partial deconstruct and the deck boards hazardous to walk on, it is sitting on the hearth.  It will take a bit longer, but it will dry.  The barn kitty inhabits the front porch so I don’t want to try to dry it there.

When I started crocheting in my teens, and knitting when eldest grandson was eminent, I didn’t know much about fiber.  I bought what felt good to me and was a color I liked.  I shudder to think about some of the stuff I made afghans from.  With the pending grandson, I searched for organic wool and cotton, undyed for his soakers, tees, and sweaters.  The internet was available and so I wasn’t limited to the local big box stores.  There were fewer yarn stores then and I hadn’t fallen into the rabbit hole of fiber artistry, animal raising friends, fiber festivals, etc.

When I took the drop spindle class many years ago, the instructor brought many different types of wool for us to feel and use.  Who knew that there were so many choices each with their own characteristics?  Unfortunately, that rabbit hole has made me a fiber snob.  I have now experienced many different animal fibers and know what I like and what I don’t.  The twenty three skeins drying represent Coopworth, Alpaca, Merino, Silk, California Red, Hebridean, Targhee, and Cormo.  Some are softer than others.  Some with more crimp making them stretchier.  Some are dyed, some natural from snowy white to dark almost black brown.  I have spun Romney, Pohlworth, Shetland, Mohair, Dorset, flax, camel, and more.  I have spun clean prepared tops and roving and spun raw unwashed Alpaca.  I have even worked with washing, carding, and spinning raw wool.  My spinning started with irregular thick and thin yarn, now it is consistent and fingering to dk weight, fairly fine.  I need to practice making thicker yarn again, some projects just need a thicker yarn.

Back to the deck.  Eldest son after we took the railing down and stepped through more boards, suggested I block off the door.  It already had a small post it note that said not to use the deck due to its hazardous nature, so I used paper painters tape to tape across the half that opens.  That didn’t really slow anyone down from going out there.  Yesterday, the post it note and the tape came down.  Sturdy cotton string was tied from hinge to hinge and a “Stop” sign that says “Whoa” on it was hung.

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Soon we will redeck the portion outside of the doors, finish deconstructing the large rotting part and build new steps to the ground.  Maybe next summer, I will start on making a patio at the bottom of the steps for my kitchen herb garden and for some flowers.

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.

Olio, October 12, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

It has been a while since an Olio was posted, actually been a while since much of anything has been posted.

Spinzilla, the TNNA (The National Needle Arts Assoc.) team spinning competition ended Sunday night.  Our team had 25 spinners from across the US, sponsored by The Knotty Ladies and Strauch Fiber Equipment Company.  Most of our team has reported their yardage with a photo, it was due to our team leader yesterday, but mine was turned in before the official end of the competition by about 3 hours.  I was worn out, beat up, and generally over it by then and had finished plying a bobbin full of wool, so I quit.  During the course of the competition as my spinning wheel only has 4 bobbins and 1 of them has some pre Spinzilla alpaca on it that didn’t get finished prior to the start time, I plyed off every bobbin or two bobbins together, wound them off the plying bobbin, measured the yardage, and banded them with fiber, yardage, and weight and put the info in a spreadsheet to make the total tally easier to do.  In the end, spinning every spare minute I could on my wheel and everywhere we went on one of my drop spindles, I spun 5000.57 yards of wool, 2.84 miles in 7 days.

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Though we have often had our first frost by now, we are still experiencing daytime tempertures as high as 90, but the light drought we have been experiencing has finally broken and we have had some rain in the past week, greening up the browned grasses.  The trees are turning orange, red, and gold, some having already shed their leaves.

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The pullets seem to all be laying now, often getting up to 13 eggs from the 16 on a good day.  Only one of the old girls is still laying, though the molt seems to be winding down, it no longer looks like a chicken exploded in their coop and run.

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Normally in the autumn, we spend about 23 hours taking turns mowing our 30 acres with a 5 foot brush hog and our little tractor, but this year, we turned the task over to our retired postman and his helper and let them mow and bale the 3 big fields.  That leaves only from the house to the road to mow and that often gets done monthly anyway.  That was a big relief to not have to face that many hours on the tractor.

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He got 20 large round bales, not too bad for a second cutting of hay after weeks of really dry weather.  His cattle will appreciate it this winter if we get any bad weather.

Each day hubby and I try to get in a good brisk walk.  Even with the rain we have managed most days.  Between our house and Blacksburg, there is a large pond in the  National Forest and it has a nice path around it.  If we park in the upper parking lot, walk down to the pond and around it and then turn around and back track, we get about 2.3 miles.  From the library in Blacksburg to the rec center in Christiansburg is an asphalt trail on an old rail grade, mostly through wooded areas, behind residential areas, and some open fields and it has several access points.  There are two that we choose, from the library to Airport Road and back which is about the same 2.3 miles and from behind the hospital toward Christiansburg, a 2.5 section.  Our 4th walk choice is to go to Radford when we are over in that direction and walk 2.7 miles of Bisset Park on an asphalt trail along the New River.  As we are still seeing various specialists nearly weekly trying to determine what is going on with hubby, we have avoided steep climbs or walks that take us out of civilization where getting help if needed would be difficult.  There is another trail along the New River that we want to check out, but it is one that will probably involve taking along a picnic and making a day trip of it as it is a bit of a drive.

My crafting since the end of Spinzilla has been minimal, but I did get my studio corner cleaned up and mostly organized and used some of my hand spun, hand dyed yarn to repair my favorite pair of jeans.

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And I have read.  The Orphan’s Tale is an excellent historical fiction set during WWII set in Germany and France and set around the circus.  A really interesting read, highly recommended.

Chaos Corner – 10/4/2017

Normally, I am a neat person.  Disorganization, dust and dirt make me very anxious, but recent events have gotten in the way of my usual routine, and the chaos is making me nuts.

First we went away for the weekend and on that trip, attended a fiber festival.  Basically, I behaved myself, but knowing that the week long spinning competition was looming, I did buy a big bag of beautifully dyed Coopworth from my friend at Hearts of the Meadow Farm who was a vendor.  I also came home with a new Spanish Peacock drop spindle (not that I needed it), and a huge skein of fingering weight hand painted superwash yarn which was designated to the very short deadline knitting of a sweater for our youngest grand daughter.  Knowing that festival season is upon me, I spent the drive north, knitting on fingerless mitts for the shows and my shop.  Recently, two mitts patterns were designed by me and another free pattern was downloaded, a simple plain one.  Knowing that the festival purchases were made on Saturday and granddaughter’s birthday was Friday, there wasn’t enough time to wait until I got home to wind the yarn, so Saturday afternoon was spent hand winding all 555 yards into a center pull ball and then casting on the sweater.  Four rows into the pattern, I found an error and had to rip it out and recalculate the pattern instructions to make the stitch count work, then start over.  Half of the drive home, I knit, the other half, I drove.  Knitted frantically Sunday evening, every spare moment Monday and Tuesday until my arthritis was screaming at me, and steam blocked, sewed on buttons, wove in the loose ends on Wednesday morning and popped it in the mail.

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All of this resulted in no clean up and organization time.  Knowing that the first festival was coming up on Sunday, meant making more salves and balms, labelling, packing and getting ready for that event.  Most of my yarn had summered in a shop on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan, Greenberry House, so a trip over there was necessary on Saturday to pick it up.  Saturday night, yarn was inventoried, prices updated, pictures taken and loaded into shop so it was on Square for the festival.  Sunday was spent in costume at Smithfield House at the Harvest Festival both vending and demonstrating the art of spinning.

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Sunday night, the car unloaded, the product in its various containers brought back to my “studio,” a corner of our loft and dumped.

Monday morning at 12:01, the spinning challenge began.  This is Spinzilla, I did it last year as well, and though our team of 25 does it mostly for fun, we are competing and I don’t want to be a slacker, so most of my “spare” moments this week will be spent spinning on one of my wheels, or one of the drop spindles.  I have several skeins of yarn completed so far, measured and labelled for the final count when it ends Sunday night at midnight.  All of this has resulted in no time to blog and no time to clean up and organize my corner.

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Monday’s priority will be to reorganize  this chaos and clean.  Fortunately, only Jim and I spend any time in the loft, it is our private space in the house.