Tag Archives: Spinning

OLIO – November 12, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

This hasn’t been a particularly busy week, 2 days home with a sick almost 6 year old, daily walks the other days, fairly consistently getting the 10,000 suggested steps each day and our speed up, walking 3.7-4 miles per hour, not bad for two oldies but goodies.

Car time was spent finishing up another pair of fingerless mitts for the Holiday Markets and the shop.

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Hand spun Coopworth by me and the green is part mohair from a friend’s goats, blended commercially with merino maybe and dyed by the friend.

A few nights ago, we were threatened with our first hard freeze, we have had several light frosts, so a harvest of mint, oregano, flat leaf parsley, and lemon balm were made to dry for teas and culinary uses this winter.  They are scattered around on trays on the hutch top and shelf to dry.

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A couple of sprigs of rosemary were brought in and put in the rooter ball in the kitchen window to root before potting.  The intent was to put row cover over the plant in the garden and over the rainbow chard, but intent and action didn’t meet.

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I probably should have.  If it perks back up, I will harvest a fair amount of it and freeze it then cover the plants and see if there will still be fresh greens for a bit longer.  It looked even worse this morning when I went out to feed and water the chickens.

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It has been cold enough the past few mornings to warrant the big ugly pink hooded barn coat and gloves.  It is ugly, but it is warm and there are two pair of gloves, depending on the chore and temperature, a pair of leather rough out work gloves and a pair of thick insulated Columbia fleece gloves that used to go winter camping with me.  With the sharp drop in temperature the other night came very strong wind.  It flipped our gas grill over two half barrels of herbs in the yard, tipping them over as well.  Other than a dent, it seems undamaged, but it will be moved well away from the house before it is lit to be sure.

Recently a friend, who is also a blog friend, posted a finished beautiful shawlette/scarf called Hitchhiker.  Years ago I knit one and the grandkids said it looked like a Dragon’s tail.  Though I was pleased with the knit and the shape, I didn’t like the color that I had chosen for the yarn and it sold in a prior Holiday Market.  I commented on her blog post and she encouraged me to knit another.  It seemed like a good project to take when we travel in February as it is one that can be picked up, put down, fairly easily memorized so good for airports and planes.  I started looking for yarn and couldn’t find anything that struck my fancy.  I had been spinning a lovely colorful Merino on the Spanish Peacock drop spindles, but feared it would look muddy plyed on itself.  If Navajo plyed, it wouldn’t give me enough yardage for the pattern and would be a bit heavier yarn than desired.  I realized that the Hearts of the Meadow Farm Coopworth that I am spinning for a sweater was a great color match, so a bobbin of it was spun fine and the spindle singles was plyed with the bobbin singles to produce a 155 yard skein.

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I like it, just 350 more yards of it need to be made to complete the project.  That will be my spinning project for a bit, except for Thursday when I am at Smithfield House in costume for a large Homeschool group.  I will resume spinning the oatmeal colored Coopworth that day.

Knitting, I am working on a Wonderful Wallaby, a hooded, pocketed sweatshirt style sweater for daughter.  I have made many of them for grandkids, this is the first adult sized one.  The body is done up to where the sleeves must be attached so the sleeves were begun last night as they are knit separately and then knit onto the sweater.

In spite of the very cold morning yesterday, we bundled up and ventured out to breakfast and the Farmers’ Market.  There are still many vendors there with produce, a few with meat, a couple with coffee, candles, artisan breads, and other goodies.  We came home with some produce, sausage as the house will be brimming at Thanksgiving, a loaf of bread, and a small bouquet of flowers for the table.

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While there, I met up with the Market Manager, and Ian told me that our Holiday Market conflicts with a 12:30 home football game at the University, the last home game of the season.  Typically, home game days are not good market days as the parking around town all gets taken up by game goers, several of the larger lots that are on campus become tailgate sites, including the one across from the market where we typically park our cars and trucks, it will be closed to our use.  Jim may have to deliver and pick me up and I shouldn’t expect this market to be a good one.  December should be better.  I almost didn’t do the November market to do one at our local elementary/middle school.  Maybe that is what I should have done, but what is done is done.

After the market and the grocer and all was put away at home, we ventured to the local trail around the big pond to do our walk and it was still only in the low 30’s.  It was brisk and made us move quickly to keep warm,  Today is supposed to be a bit milder, up into the mid 40’s.

Another week on the farm, the mountain looking like winter, the leaves down, the trees barren, the little flock of finches, Tufted Titmice, and Chickadees frequenting the feeders, the chickens cleaning up what they spill and “weeding” my flower beds with their scratching.  I love life here, even in winter.  Must get some firewood though.

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.

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.

End of week 9-16-2017

This has been a crafty week ending with a good session on the tractor to beat the too tall grass back to a reasonable length.  The unused chicken run is going to require the weed wacker and this body is just not up to that this afternoon.  Our house sits on a slope that has the main floor at ground level on the front and on the second level on the back.  To mow with the tractor first requires that the gas powered lawn mower (not self propelled) be hauled out and a couple of swipes around the house along with a couple of areas that the tractor can’t reach, must be done.  The typical mowing is 4 or 5 acres, around the orchard trees, the garden and chicken runs, and the front, back, and side yards.  The area that is hayed and we usually brush hog in the fall is going to be hayed this fall, taking this task from me this year.

The crafting has involved designing two new patterns for fingerless mitts for the shop. The patterns have been shared with a few friends, I am hopeful that if they knit them, that they will alert me to any miscues that might surface.  Also this week,  3 batches of Shea based cold process soap, and a couple dozen tins of salves and balms were made for the shop and the upcoming shows.

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The lower ones are for me, though I will knit a pair or two for the Holiday Markets as well.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I could make a particular hat for her grand daughter who is turning 1 soon and has yet to grow hair.  The project was quick and sent to the friend, who in turn sent it to her daughter.  The photo credit is from her daughter, they were very pleased with the results.

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And then today was Worldwide Spin in Public Day, and my new Spanish Peacock drop spindle accompanied me today as we went to our usual Saturday morning breakfast and Farmers’ Market trips.

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A busy week.  Tomorrow the garden and a batch of pickles will be the focus.

End of Week – 9/10/2017

The cruise obviously did not happen.  We are safely in our Virginia mountains, not at sea.  We will use our credit to try again in the spring when we are out of hurricane season.  Since we are home, we took advantage to make a short trip to Meadows of Dan to supply with Bent Mountain cabbages, Virginia apples, and Ashe County cheeses from the Poor Farmers Market.  This was done after our morning trip to our local Farmers Market yesterday.

Each day we try to take a brisk walk to improve our stamina and help both of us shed a few pounds.  Yesterday was a home football game, bringing thousands of extra people into the small town, making traffic miserable, especially as the main bypass road around the town is in the midst of construction, repaving great sections and a new interchange at the campus.  This has made travel even more miserable.  With no place to park on football days, we missed our walk yesterday but enjoyed getting away from it.

The apples purchased yesterday were processed today to make two batches, a total of 15 pints of spiced applesauce.  It is cooling from the canner to be labelled tomorrow and added to the shelves in the basement for our winter enjoyment.

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Two of the cabbages were slated for kraut.  One of our favorite winter dishes is pork chops seared then topped with applesauce and sauerkraut and slow cooked in the dutch over.

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Two half gallon jars are fermenting on the counter.  If I can stir up another wide mouth half gallon, the third cabbage may also become sauerkraut as one of these jars will be packed in pints or quarts and given to eldest son and his family once it is fully fermented.

Tomorrow, a couple of flats of jars will be purchased for another prep of salsa and an attempt at making Asian Pear Butter.  Once that is done, the fading tomatoes will be pulled and that bed seeded with a cover crop.  The peppers are being allowed to ripen to red before making a batch of Sriracha style sauce and for drying to use in enchilada sauce this winter.  The corn stalks are about to be pulled for fall decoration, the fall radishes and turnips pulled for salads and kimchee.  The sweet potatoes will be left until the first frost is threatened, then dug.

The young hens are now giving us 9 to 12 eggs each day.  The old hens have all but quit laying and some appear to be beginning to molt.  They have had a good life and will be humanely killed soon to be stew chickens.

On the craft front, I have spun little since I returned from the retreat, but I have been working on designing a fingerless mitt pattern.  I think I have gotten it all figured out and written up.  Here is a peek of the finished mitt.

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They should soon be in the shop.

 

Away, Far Away – 8/28/2017

Life continues to spiral away, hopefully to slow a bit now that the grands are back in school as of this morning.

The eclipse provided a great science lesson last Monday, with eclipse viewing glasses thanks to eldest son and the grands’ other grandma, reflections caught through the broken clouds in a planter saucer of water.

Daughter having to take a day off so we could do more appointments.

More canning, lots of Jalapeños.  Tomatoes being frozen to peel and process this week after more jars are acquired.

Pullets figuring out the egg deal and thus many to deliver to folks who appreciate their efforts as much as we do.

Relearning an old skill, Tunisian Crochet.  Another way to use some of the yarn I spin, but I am so slow with it still.

And a couple days of R & R away for me, friends and fiber, to my favorite fiber retreat, The Knotty Ladies (though there are a couple of guys that are there too).  It is an opportunity to vend my shop as well and yarn, stitch markers, soaps, and salves sold, though none of the knit wear, but then again, everyone in the room knits, spins, crochets, weaves, felts, or some combination of those arts.   A generous skein of sport weight Hebridean was spun and 12 ounces of the softest Merino/Alpaca blend of fiber purchased and one skein of it spun.  There may be a sweater in my near future.

Finally back home to my family and my own bed.

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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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Kitchen Alchemy and Camp – July 25, 2017

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This is the time of year that the herbs and wild plants that are used in the salves, balms, and some soaps in the shop are growing and being harvested.  Once a batch is dried, jars of the herbs and the oils that make the infused oils are started.  Sometimes they are suntea processed in a window sill for a month or so, but sometimes one or more are needed sooner than that and they are infused in a makeshift double boiler system for 3 hours.  Once the infused oils are made and cooled, they are strained into a clean jar and the portion needed measured out and rewarmed to melt the organic beeswax needed to make the oil into a salve or balm.  Before our weekend away, a kitchen alchemy session was conducted and several salves resupplied, labelled, and put in the shop.  Some of the oils are needed for the Mountain Makings camp that is in session this week.

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Today was day 2 of their camp, my first of two sessions working with the young ones.  My friend, Jennifer, and I worked with them last year and again today.  The children are 7 to 12 years old and all very involved in the activities.  We had a very brief discussion of spinning and how  and why it was used in past generations.  They were each given a few ounces of hand dyed fiber and a hand made drop spindle, an improved version of last year’s with a heavier whorl.  One parent was fascinated with this portion of their program today and stayed.  She was given a spindle and fiber and followed right along with the children, making her first spindle full of yarn singles.  After the spindles were all being used without too much more assistance, they put them down and each were given a packet that contained a cardboard loom, weaving needles, yarn, and an instruction sheet for reference at home and they began a small wall hanging that they wove themselves.  Once they were all working well with that, we moved to our spinning wheels and gave each child an opportunity to spin a long enough singles to double it back on itself to create a length of hand spun yarn that they can use in their weaving.  At the end of the day, they will go home with their spindle and fiber, their loom, yarn, and weaving needles.

Tomorrow, I will return alone to take the children on a plant walk to identify some of the plants that can be wild harvested for their salve making.  They will get a handout of plants, their uses, and recipes for making the infused oils and instructions on making a salve.  We will make salves together and they will take home a tin or jar of their salve.

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Once home today, with a clear bobbin on the wheel, I tackled a one pound bag of raw alpaca locks that I had purchased at the Farmers Market earlier this spring.  I have never spun raw unwashed fiber before, but the alpaca lacks the lanolin of wool and other than picking out some vegetable matter, it is clean to spin.  The fawn colored alpaca is from “Graham” an alpaca living at Poplar Hill Alpacas, a local farm.  It will be plyed with a brown ply from another local Alpaca farm.  This yarn will be knit into fingerless mitts for the Holiday Markets.  If enough is spun, perhaps a hat will be made to match.

Whew, what a week – July 10, 2017

What a whirlwind the past week.  The garden has been neglected as the only time I was home to work on it, it was either raining or too hot to want my fair skin out in the sun.

Last Monday, eldest continued on the high lifter, staining high parts of the house while I worked on removing screens, staining the windows that tilt inside, passing supplies out the window from the upstairs to him on the lifter bucket.  We moved the lifter as night fell up to the gravel of the driveway before the predicted rain was due.

Tuesday, being Independence Day in the USA, the historic house, Smithfield House, where I go to spin in costume, held a 4 hour celebration of the day with hourly cannon fire, apple pie contest, reading of the Fincastle Resolution and the Declaration of Independence, re-enactors, the blacksmith, weavers, spinners, tours, and fun by all.

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Wednesday it rained and we stayed home with the grands, getting them to their evening Taekwondo classes.

Thursday, they were loaded in our car and off we drove east nearly 3 hours to meet youngest son and his family who drove west about 3 hours and met in Charlottesville to let the cousins play, us to get some snuggle time and to visit with our son and his wife for a late morning, lunch, and early afternoon before the trips were reversed back to our respective homes.

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The car time allowed knitting time as I rode passenger and good progress was made on the fingerless mitts to go with the Fiesta hat from the playful handspun yarn.  The second mitt was finished yesterday.  The set has been uploaded to my shop for sale.

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Friday was laundry and get my act together day as Saturday, Jim and I were taking off in opposite directions for the weekend.  He left on the BBH for a very long ride with his club.  They went way west in the state to various sights and parks and to overnight in a hotel in Norton, Virginia.  I got the groceries for the week purchased, brought home and put away and then took off north to eldest son’s house.  They were not home when I got there, though their car’s were, so I settled in the cool quiet and knitted on the second mitt and spun on a drop spindle.  Finished a novel I had been reading, but it wasn’t worth a review or the time spent reading it.

Sunday, their young one had archery day at the Isaac Walton League facility and I went with daughter in law to watch that while son went with another group from the league to pick up trash from the road into their community.  Sunday afternoon, son, young one, and I drove south about an hour and a half to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriar’s theater to see Love’s Labors Lost in that wonderful setting, the second one that I have had the opportunity to see this summer.  We were fortunate to be seated on three of the Gallants’ stools, the 12 stools on the side edges of the stage.  It was such a great experience, being right there in the action, seeing the facial expressions, having lines spoken directly to you.

After a couple of days and nights away, a drive home early this morning to help with the summer’s swim lessons for the grands and back to the “normal” routine here, I am worn out.  As I went out to secure the hens and pullets near dark, my one little pullet that wants a nightly hug awaited me outside the coop.  In the several years of raising chickens, she is the first that wants to be handled.

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Though the rest of the week is supposed to be record hot, I hope to get the yard mowed, the chicken runs trimmed with the string trimmer, the garden weeded, the onions and garlic pulled and cured and perhaps some other veggies that may have matured in our week of travel and chaos.