Wind down, wind up – 11/24/2018

The first craft show is done.  It wasn’t a bust, but not a great success either.  There were many vendors with holiday decorations made with artificial flowers and purchased craft store doodads, a few nice country furniture makers, and too many vendors of body products.  My spot, though on an inside aisle corner was toward the end of the path though, so many other soap makers had already tempted the buyers.  My hand spun, hand knit wearables were out of the price market for most of the buyers.  It was an experiment and probably won’t be repeated.

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Additional hats and mitts are being knit to further supply the upcoming three weekend holiday markets.

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Two new 3 step displays have been purchased for the soaps, lotion bars, and salves.  They need to be stained and poly finished before next weekend.

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Their footprint is about the same as the crates, but raises the product to a more visible position.  As most of my soaps are vegan, I have purchased some organic soy wax and will make vegan lotion bars and salves as well and will have a vegan display and a soy free display.  They will be raised above the table height enough that men’s grooming boxes and beard/body oils can be displayed below.

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Each of my children were given a crewel work Christmas stocking that I made when they were infants and which they still use.  Each grandchild has been given one, either quilted or knitted intarsia.  Our 7th grandchild was born this past summer and she will get her stocking this year.  It still needs to be lined and some add on ornamentation sewn on and each stocking has a tag sewn inside that is a cross stitched message that says “Made with love, Mom or Grandmom, year” that needs to be stitched and added.

The afternoon of the craft show, our eldest son arrived on a bus to continue working on rebuilding our deck and reinstalling the Direct TV dish.  Toward the end of summer, he and his wife set in concrete, a metal post off the corner of the house for it to be mounted on, but it needed to set.  In the meantime, they had a medical emergency now ok which delayed further work, but he came to get more done.  His wife and son came Wednesday after work to celebrate Thanksgiving.

On one of our excursions out to get supplies for the deck and dish, we went to Rural King and they had chicks.  We came home with the lumber and hardware, set up the big rubber brooder tub and heat table with plans to go back the next day to get the chicks.  Instead, we had to go back out that afternoon as we realized that something had been left at one of the shops, so bedding, feed, and a new water base were purchased and a dozen two week old chicks were brought home for spring laying.

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The Buff Orpington and Welsummers that are almost two have not resumed laying since they molted and we have not gotten a single egg in a month.  Eggs had to be purchased for the family staying here and for Thanksgiving cooking.  We got 3 each Welsummers, Mottled Javas, New Hampshires, and Olive Eggers.  Being almost three weeks old now, they are feathering out and will soon try to fly out of the brooder.  A screen is over the top and the heat lamp that had to be added with the heat table because of the cold in the garage will hopefully thwart that attempt.  The hens will be moved to the cull coop as soon as the fence is fixed there and the coop will be scrubbed and sanitized so the chicks can be relocated out there when they are 6 or 7 weeks old.

Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated with two of our children and their families.  The almost 17 pound local turkey was spatchcocked by eldest son, the sides assembled and a delicious, hearty, mostly local meal was group prepared and enjoyed by all.  The left over turkey enjoyed again for lunch yesterday, and gallons of turkey broth made and frozen for cooking over the next few weeks.  Eldest son went home with some.

Today is our local granddaughter’s 7th birthday and we will be celebrating her birthday and her Mom’s tonight as her Mom will be away for hers.  That will end the November birthday’s for our family. Jim took me to my favorite local restaurant for my birthday last week and I had an awesome risotto with pumpkin, mushrooms, cranberries, and pecans.

During evening hours after a day’s work and knitting have worn me out, caused joint pain, or just stress from the day, I have turned to the calming, meditative art of Zentangle.  The two tiles below are the efforts of the past week, never spending more than about 20 minutes a day of refocus and calming.

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Olio- Nov. 16, 2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

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The ice storm came, half an inch of glassy coating on every surface, but we didn’t lose power.

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Followed last night by the first accumulation of snow, only a trace.  And wind, freeze your nose off cold.  The chickens think it must be my fault.  After not letting them out in the ice storm yesterday, the coop was opened this morning and the coop cleaned of “fowled” straw, new straw added.  They panicked around me as I did that and then hunkered down in the new straw rather than go out in the cold and snow.

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Last night’s break from craft show prep to work on finishing the Christmas stocking for our 7th grand child, born last summer.  Each grandchild has a personalized stocking made with love by me.  Most given for their first Christmas, but all having one.  Now they are all knitted, but our children’s are crewel work and one grandson’s is quilted, but all handmade by me.

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Canning was supposed to be done except for enchilada sauce once the peppers are all dried, but the bag of cranberries at the grocer was huge.  I guess I could have used part and frozen part, but instead, 4 1/2 pints of cranberry orange relish were made and three of them canned this morning.  One left unsealed for Thanksgiving, the small one to be used for oatmeal.

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Eldest grandson likes Cranberry sauces and relishes, especially when I make them.  Perhaps he can take a jar home after Thanksgiving.

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My 200 pound goofy helper sunning his belly in his favorite spot, right behind where I was working.

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One of the 4 pumpkins spoiled, so the remaining three will be cooked this afternoon and the pulp frozen in 2 cup amounts for pies and breads for the upcoming holidays.  There is a tiny one in the fall table display, it may be cooked and replaced with one of the slightly larger ones so that a stuffed pumpkin can be enjoyed in the near future.  The chooks will get the spoiled one with the bad spots removed once they come out of hiding.

The header picture though several years old looks like it did yesterday after the ice and was coated white this morning.

Experiments, successes, failures – November 13, 2018

The first craft event is creeping up quickly.  The preparation is plugging along.  Last night, the hand spun, hand knit Assymetrical Scarf was finished.  I played chicken trying to use every inch of the hand spun Merino and Bamboo and failed, resulting in having to tink back 3/4 of the width of bind off stitches and an entire purled row in order to have enough yarn to bind off successfully.  There certainly wasn’t much waste, only about 18″ of the skein remained.  It is currently spread out on a beach towel on a guest bed drying from being blocked.

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It will add one more scarf to the inventory for the upcoming events.  The other one I am working on is a 5″ wide rectangle and have decided once it is 20″ long, bind off, stitch up the ends and pick up stitches along the edge, knitting upward to make a hat.  I don’t really like it as a scarf and it is hand spun superwash merino, so it will make a good reversible hat to add to the inventory.

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Other experiments have been in the soaping.  The use of cosmetic clays has been part of the chemistry as natural colorants of the soap and as the clays have very beneficial properties, but the clays have always been blended in thoroughly, giving the soap an even color.  A few days ago, I decided to play around and divided the batch in half, mixing the clay with half and dark cocoa with the other half.  Cocoa is a good antioxidant and a natural colorant.  The clay layer was poured into the mold, the cocoa layer on top and lightly swirled with a plastic spatula.  I am very pleased with the resulting product that is curing for the December events. The green tea with European clay is a success and a nice green color.  It was fairly highly super-fatted so it is soft and will require a long cure.

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The favored Goat milk, oatmeal, and honey soap did not fare so well, there is a very soft tunnel through the top quarter that even if it firms up will leave a miscolored, misshapen bar.  That one fails about a third of the time.  The resulting product are bars that get used here at home.  It is most successful if I let the sodium hydroxide solution and the oil mixture cool to room temperature before mixing and by adding the goat milk, honey, and oatmeal before adding the solution.  It takes forever to get to trace, a thick pudding like consistency, necessary before pouring it into the molds.  So that one was a failure.

The 4th batch is saponifying now.  It is a Himalayan Pink Salt and Moroccan Red Clay scented with Lavender.  It will be interesting tomorrow to see how red it turns.  The poured color is never true.

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Kitchen Chemistry – Nov. 11, 2018

The day dawned very, very cold for this time of year.  According to our local weather blogger, the last time it was this cold this early was 1995 and a couple of weeks later they had a record snowfall.  I hope we aren’t headed for a repeat of that.

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More work has been put into the Asymmetrical Scarf of hand spun Merino and bamboo, the ball of yarn is getting thinner and the scarf is getting longer.  Hopefully it will be done by Saturday for the first craft show.

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I love the colors and realized that it blends with the project bag that is containing it.

The afternoon was spent with more kitchen chemistry.  The lotion bars that were molded yesterday weren’t firm enough and there was no more beeswax in the house.  A quick trip out to resupply it and get two essential oils.  Since the metal measure that was the top of the double boiler had another batch to be poured, beeswax was added to it and remelted, the soft bars that I froze overnight so they could be removed from the silicon molds were dumped on a labelled sheet so I wouldn’t mix the scents, the molds washed and refilled with a Man bar scent and some unscented ones and while they were setting up, one of the scents from yesterday was remelted and more wax added.  This process was repeated until all had been remade with a more solid mixture.

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While they were setting up, one of yesterday’s soap molds was sliced into bars to cure.  The other mold wasn’t quite ready yet.  A third batch was measured out and made, Moroccan Red Clay and Cocoa soap.  I am anxious to see how this one unmolds as it was divided in half.  One half getting the red clay, the other half getting the dark cocoa, they were then poured in two layers and swirled.  This was a new technique for me.

Once the soap was wrapped in a towel to set up overnight, the lotion bars were tinned up, labelled, and sealed with shrink bands.

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The big crate has 8 sections and seven of them have different scents of lotion bars leaving a jumble of salves in the front and a need for a way to display them.  There was a smaller deeper box that looked promising if altered.  The top part was sawed off and the slats broken apart, the two long ones cut to the length of the two shorter ones and the parts painted with the Melted Chocolate color paint that has been used on the other crates and frames.

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It is about half the size and once all the parts are dry, the slats will be glued in to provide spacers for the smaller tins of salves.  A bit of table arranging will be necessary to make it all fit, but it will work.

The kitchen chemistry for the day ended with the magic of making pizza dough and a homemade pizza with the fresh mozzarella purchased at the Farmers Market yesterday.  A jar of the pizza sauce I canned, a Farmers Market red onion and Italian Sausage, some mushrooms, and pepperoni from the grocer and again we enjoyed great pizza.  The chickens will enjoy the crust bits and the whey from the cheese tomorrow.

Back to knitting while the paint dried.

Craft season – Nov. 10, 2018

Craft season is upon us.  Today we wandered about the big show that may be in my future next year to see who had what, prices, and may have bought gifts for upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  One of my products is soap and there were at least three vendors with soap.  One had felted soap for $12/bar, one had beautifully packaged bars that you couldn’t see or smell for $4.50 each.  Another had melt and pour bars in gaudy colors and scents for $6 each.  Knitwear was scarce.  If my friend and I share a booth, we would have enough inventory of items to make a go of it, I think.

This upcoming weekend is my first show of the season, followed by the first three Saturdays in December at the Holiday Markets held by the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market.  Those are always fun, often cold and windy, but among friends.  Thermos of hot coffee or tea or soup and Hot Hands packets to go in gloves are in order.  I hope my shop apron fits over my parka.

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With it’s big pockets, it is good for cash, a pen, and the Square reader on my phone.

Once the notification came in today that those were a go, more soap needed to be made.

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Two batches were made this afternoon, the Goatmilk, Oatmeal, Honey soap which is my favorite, but has about a 33% fail rate, and a Green Tea European Clay batch.  Those need to sit wrapped in a towel tonight and labels need to be made so I don’t forget what went into them.  Tomorrow I will make a Moroccan Red Clay and Cocoa batch, and a Lavender batch.  Once the soaps are curing more lotion bars need to be molded and labelled.  The weather will be cool enough that I won’t have the melt problem I had last spring.

In order to have my sales come out even dollar amounts after collecting state sales tax, I have played with numbers to figure out how much to charge.

I have another half pound of alpaca/merino to spin and a two scarves to finish knitting.  Guess I had better get busy.

New – Nov. 8. 2018

Of late, getting to sleep or staying asleep have been challenging.  Not wanting to take drugs that have side effects including poor sleep, other options have been sought.

For starters, caffeine is out of the question after noon.  One cup of coffee in the morning, and a switch to tea, preferably herbal or decaf versions.  Putting down the screen at least an hour before bedtime and returning to real bound books, not an e-reader are other changes.  Knitting, spinning, or reading are okay.

Several of my friends have begun doing Zentangles, a mindful, relaxing, calm slowly drawing of patterns on a 3 1/2″ square paper tile.  Later other shapes can be used and color can be added.  Thinking that might help clear my mind of the daily detritus that accumulates and keeps me awake, a bit on online research was done and a simple book of instruction and patterns purchased.  Using a soft pencil and a thin microtip pen, I have been playing with this for several days.  Fearing that the shoulders would tense and my “it must be perfect” mindset would set in, I was surprised at how calm and relaxing it is.

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Click on the image to enlarge.

The top left is the first one, totally copied from the instruction book to learn some of the shapes,  the top middle is an altered pattern from the book.  The top right has no redeeming qualities as far as I am concerned and I have looked at it for a couple of days trying to see what to do to make me like it.  The bottom is left is a copied pattern to learn a circle and the bottom right is my first one that I did only referring back to a couple of shapes.

Some people keep all they do in a journal, I envision them as very personal note card fronts or individual bookmarkers.  We will see if it sticks, but now I feel like I understand more why one daughter-in-law always has a sketchbook with her and an assortment of pencils and pens.

The featured photo is of this morning’s visitors and a reminder that those doors needed a good cleaning, now done.  The chickens finally figured out their no waste feeder and it is indeed no waste, but the slackers haven’t laid an egg in a week, not a single egg.

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?

Fickle November, the Birthday month – Nov. 5, 2018

November rides a roller coaster, it is warm and wet one day, cold the next.  The nights dip to freezing one night and stay at 50ºf the next.  The heatpump goes on, then shuts off.  The sweaters and jackets are worn then removed and draped over a chair until you chill again.

Saturday was sunny, windy, and cold until afternoon.  Yesterday was cold in the morning, but the wind had died down and the later day was gorgeous, then it rained all night.  Today is gray so far but mild and getting up into the mid 60’s with more rain tonight and tomorrow morning.  After tomorrow the temperatures drop again, some rainy days, some sunny with rain Friday and a low in the 20’s.  Mountain snow shower weather.

With the end of Daylight Savings time, it is dark so early and sleep schedules disrupted until the senior bodies adjust to the change. Awake earlier than I want to be as I usually awaken around 5:15 and ready to go to bed way too early to sleep through the night.  We will adjust, eventually.

November is the month of birthdays, there are 6 in our family spread from the 4th to the 29th.  Daughter’s is the last of the month and one daughter in law starts the next month just a few days later, but is the only December one.

Tucked in the midst of the birthday’s is Thanksgiving.  We get our turkey each year from a local farm, fresh the day we pick it up.  By the weekend before Thanksgiving, they are huge, usually about 20 pounds.  A few year’s ago, elder son wanted to try spatchcocking or butterflying the turkey and we struggled to cut the backbone out as instructed, put a ton of herbed butter under the skin and in a very short time, like 90 minutes, the 20 pound turkey was done, beautifully browned, and juicy.

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I have done one without son’s help, but it was smaller and we should have a huge one this year as we have selected one of the latest pick up dates so it can stay fresh until we cook it.  Hopefully son’s family is coming and daughter’s family is coming, so we will have a houseful of family and plenty of good food.

November is the beginning of the holiday craft season with a big one I don’t vend, but love to attend coming up this weekend.  The first one I vend is the following weekend.  And taxes are due this month, the second half of the real estate taxes and the personal property tax on the vehicles and my shop equipment.

November is the month that a calendar is needed to just keep track of “Who’s on first!”

From Fall to Winter – November 3, 2018

Yesterday’s rain and wind blew through last night and the night was chilly, it was quite cool this morning still blowing strong making it feel colder.  Animal chores were done and after not making it to the Farmers Market in a few weeks, we headed in to town to get breakfast and shop at the Farmers Market.  We knew today was a home football game that always makes traffic worse and eating in local restaurants nearly impossible.  We didn’t know that it was Homecoming, there must have been 40 people waiting in the cold to get in to the little local diner where we often get our breakfast on Saturday.  The Waffle House and fast food places all had lines.  A little further out, not in walking distance is a bagel shop and we got there, got breakfast and sat down just as the line snaked out the door.

It was cold enough to warrant my winter coat, a knit hat, and gloves for the market, but veggies, bread, and meat came home for the week.  One stall has whole hog sausage, fresh mozzarella, and fresh cultured butter.  The Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella purchased decided dinner.

Once home, the huge 2 gallon bag of frozen red cue balls that have been in my way were dumped in the sink, some warm water run over them so the skins would slip off, chopped with the big butcher knife and seasoned with onion, garlic, and Italian herbs and set to simmer.  When started, I wasn’t sure if it would be pasta sauce or pizza sauce.  My recipes are basically the same but the pizza sauce if reduced until it is thickened.  There is 1 ripe tomato sitting in the kitchen window, it will be part of my breakfast tomorrow with a scrambled egg and a slice of toasted bread.

Because of the morning’s purchases and because we really like pizza prepared from scratch at home now that I have a crust we like, the decision was to reduce it to pizza sauce.  Seven half pints were canned plus one left out for dinner.  I had them about half canned when I remembered that I hadn’t added citric acid or lemon juice, so pulled them from the canner and we left to take a walk in the woods and around the pond.

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The pond always had a dozen or so geese and ducks, but this huge flock must be passing through and taking a feed and rest break.  There must have been more than 100, diving and honking at each other.

The walked relieved my frustration at myself for forgetting the lemon juice and once home, each jar was unsealed and reheated, lemon juice added and re-canned with fresh lids.

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Other than enchilada sauce once the Anaheims are all dry and toasted, the canning is done for this year.  There are many jars of Rotel style tomatoes for chili, plain canned tomato sauce, pizza sauce, apple sauce, bbq sauce, and jams to enjoy this winter.

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The remaining cup of sauce with the local sausage, fresh mozzarella, Farmer’s Market red onion, our own green peppers and pizza was made.  The trouble with making it is that one pizza is too big for the two of us and neither of us like cold pizza, so we both always eat too much and one slice always goes to the chickens.

When I went to the fiber retreat last month, I came home with 2 pounds of fiber.  One pound was more of some that I had purchased at Shenandoah Fiber Festival as I decided to spin and knit myself another sweater.  The other pound was a light green alpaca/merino blend.  Almost half of that has been spun and is to be plyed.

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4 ounces

Once it is plyed, I think I will change colors for a while.  Tomorrow I am going to introduce spinning to a new wanna be spinner.  Hopefully she will fall in love with the art as I have.  And later this month, I have two new wanna be’s to teach.

 

He came and conquered – Nov. 2, 2018

The day after our mower quit, the hayman returned with his big tractor and 10′ mowing deck and made short work of the rest of the big south hay field.  The spring bales are still there, but he said his young helpers were going to come pick them up and cut up the downed tree and the dead standing tree, leaving us with part of it for our winter warmth and enjoyment.  His return allows us to delay the purchase of a new mower deck until spring, the old one to be sold off as parts and scrap.  There is probably a farmer out there with the equipment and skills to weld on some plates on the deck, rebuild the trailing wheel support, and put on a new blade.

Our county is noted for it’s rocks.  The joke around here is that the county’s main crop is rocks.  You can mow an area one year without an issue and the next year hit a rock where the soil settled or the frost pushed the rock up just enough to clip the blade.  It is hard on the blades and the play in the blade then hitting the deck housing is hard on the housing.  Brush hogs are workhorses, they take a beating keeping the Autumn Olive and blackberries from the edges of the fields and mowing tall weedy hay.  They aren’t neat finish mowers used on golf courses and large lawns.  Our mower is more than a decade old now and wasn’t a heavy duty one in the first place as our tractor is only 28 hp.

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The farm looks so neat right after the haying or fall mowing.  One benefit of our smaller tractor and smaller deck is that we can get much closer to the rock piles scattered throughout the farm, keeping the brambles from escaping out into the fields.  Since our deck is no wider that the tractor’s rear tires, if they clear without hitting rocks then the mower deck clears also.

In the couple of days since I was mowing, the woods turned autumn colors, almost overnight.

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The top picture was two days ago, the lower one a zoomed one of the same area.

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Two maples, one wild, one planted.  The wild one in back is huge and turns a beautiful shade of golden orange, the planted one a vivid yellow gold.  As you see, both have lost about half of their leaves already as have most of the other trees in the area.  The wind storms of the past few weeks have stripped many leaves before they turned colors.  Soon the woods will be bare and we can voyeuristically peek at the wildlife in the edges of the woods as they seek nourishment from the evergreen scrub, acorns and other wild nuts that have fallen.

The fields were done just in time for several cooler, rainy days.  We have yet to build a fire this year, but maybe we will this weekend.  Maybe the sack of frozen tomatoes will get cooked down into sauce and canned or frozen as sauce.  Maybe a good book, some knitting or spinning, and for sure, lessons for a new spinner.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever the weather.

Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family